We are wrapping “Women’s Week” with a young star out of AZ, Bryn Thorne. Hear all about her wrestling journey right here on the “Indy Lounge.”
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We are wrapping “Women’s Week” with a young star out of AZ, Bryn Thorne. Hear all about her wrestling journey right here on the “Indy Lounge.”
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“Women’s Week” rolls on with one of the most fun interviews we have ever done. Heather Monroe joins us in the “Indy Lounge” to talk about her wrestling career and so much more. Hear about her unique match with Jack Jameson and Bryn Thorne, as well as her fascination with true crime stories.
We are dropping a special BONUS EPISODE tonight with NWA’s own Royce Isaacs! One of the top talents on the scene hung out in the Lounge and talk wrestling and so much more!
“Women’s Week” continues as we honor a true pioneer of the industry. Madusa, also known as Alundra Blayze, was the prototype for the female wrestlers of today. She paved the way during a time when women’s wrestling was far less respected, and for that, we salute her Hall of Fame career. The guys also tackle a few current events on the back end of the show. They cover this past weekends AEW pay-per-view, “Double or Nothing.” More importantly, they make strong statements regarding the current climate of the internet wrestling community, as well as their content creators. You do not want to miss this king-sized episode of the DDT Archives!
Happy Memorial Day friends! It is a special week here on the podcast as we celebrate the very best in women’s wrestling. There is no better way to kick it off than with the “Queen of Crazy” herself, KiLynn King! Chris had the honor of chatting with this graduate of the Team 3D Academy. It was a great chat with one of the independent scenes top female talents!
On this episode of the “Indy Lounge,” we had the pleasure of being joined by a great friend of the show, Jack Jameson. “Machismo Libre” himself is here to talk about all things from pop culture, to video games, and of course his wrestling career. This is definitely one of the more unique interviews you will hear, and you will only get it on the “Indy Lounge.”
April 2nd, 1989 is a famous day in the history of wrestling. It was the day the “Mega Powers Exploded” at Wrestlemania V in New Jersey. 1,200 miles southwest of Atlantic City, another major wrestling event was taking place in New Orleans. “Clash of the Champions VI-Rajin Cajun” was held at the Superdome, and featured one of the greatest matches to ever take place. Relive the epic 2 out of 3 Falls match between Ric Flair and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. The guys break down that classic match as only they can. They also talk about the sparse crowd on hand, the matches that were left out of the broadcast, as well as the WWE Network edit.
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Hanging out in the Indy Lounge today is Houston product Will Allday! Hear all about his training with the legendary, 2-time WWE Hall of Famer, Booker T. We also talk to him about his early days as a walk-on for the Rice University football team. All that and more on the Indy Lounge! You’ll want to listen to it All. Damn. Day.
El Numero Uno. Ichiban. Number One. Those words describe Jaden Newman’s personality more than you could imagine. He swung by the Indy Lounge to talk about his life and career!
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The boys are trying something a little different on the show this week, as they do their first “watch-along” of a classic match. Fire up your YouTube and check out The Road Warriors vs. The Fabulous Freebirds from 9/28/85. Gregg and Chris provide commentary throughout the match and have some fun along the way. They also give their take on the WWE Money in the Bank match, as well as Gregg’s secret to watching crowd-less wrestling.
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Jaxon Stone is one of the most fascinating figures on the independent wrestling scene. Hear all about his unique path to the squared circle, starting with his time as a Division 1 college baseball player. Jaxon has been all over the world as wrestler, and is using that platform to be an advocate for mental health. It was a riveting interview that you will not want to miss.
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We have a KING SIZE episode of the Indy Lounge as we have not 1 but 2 interviews for you today. First up is Johnny Kove joins the guys to share his story. Then we Grey Orion was kind enough to hang out in the Lounge for a bit and talk about his budding career.
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Hanging out in the Lounge with today is a true pro wrestling veteran. Brian Blade has been in the business for 20 years, held countless championships, and worked for 100 promotions. He was kind enough to hang out with the boys to tell his story and give his unique perspective on the world of wrestling.
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It was a transitional time for the WWF in April of 1996. Wrestlemania 12 is in the books. Bret Hart is on hiatus. Diesel and Razor Ramon are about to jump ship and head to WCW. There are 5 Hall of Famers in dark matches! Gregg and Chris thought it would be fun to dive into the ins and outs of this solid, albeit forgotten gem of show during a down period for the WWF.
Some of the matches featured include: Shawn Michaels vs Diesel(No Holds Barred Match for the WWF Championship), Vader vs. Razor Ramon, and much more!
Hanging out in the Lounge Today is former IMPACT Wrestling superstar Steve Wilson, “The Man Behind Kongo Kong.” Steve has performed all over the world, and faced some of the top talent in wrestling today. He was kind enough to join us and share his wrestling journey with all of you!
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On the inaugural episode of our new interview show, the guys welcome one of the hottest rising stars on the southern wrestling scene. “The Man Under Par” Dale Springs from Elev8 Pro Wrestling joins the show. They get the inside scoop on the origins of his character, his training, and where he sees himself as his career progresses. All that and more on the “Indy Lounge.”
Click the link to check out Dale’s merchandise! https://www.prowrestlingtees.com/dalespringsmerch
E C W!!! E C W!!! This week on the show, the guys pay homage to the iconic and notorious promotion that wrestling industry upside down. They selected 4 inductees into the inaugural class of the “DDT Archives ECW Hall of Fame.” Chris and Gregg share stories, matches, and moments from those individuals that epitomized the hardcore revolution.
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This week on the show, Gregg and Chris travel back almost 35 years, and revisit a legendary event presented by Jim Crockett Promotions and the NWA. The guys breakdown all the matches including a colossal main event featuring “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair vs. “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, as they battle for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Featured on the undercard is a classic “I Quit” Cage Match pitting Tully Blanchard against Magnum T.A. Fire up the WWE Network and take an old school journey to an ultra violent and bloody affair.
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They are 2 of wrestlings most iconic superstars, and their rivalry helped define WWE’s “Attitude Era.” Over the course of 5 years, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock squared off in 3 epic Wrestlemania matches. Gregg and Chris break down those epics bouts in this latest installment of the DDT Archives!
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After 2 long years the DDT Archives is back! We return to bring you the very best in old school wrestling analysis from a die hard fans perspective. On this comeback edition, we list our Top 10 Best Wrestlers that never won a World Championship. We know this a subject of great debate, so download and listen to Gregg and Chris give their takes on some legendary performers who never reached the top of the mountain.
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This is the first installment of a series chronicling the third decade of WrestleMania, from 2004-2013.
5 years after his famous departure from WWE, CM Punk is still one of the most talked about, chanted about, and revered superstars of the last 2 decades. His unique style, and in-your-face personality resonated with the WWE Universe, and the legacy he has left is unchallenged. Just like in other sports, ultimately you will be judged by how your perform in the big games. In the WWE, no game is bigger than the “Grandest Stage of Them All,” WrestleMania. Punk, compared to some other top performers, has a relatively short resume at WM with only 7 appearances. What holds up is the level of performers he faced, and how he rose to the occasion when it mattered most. Let’s see how the “Best in the World” stacked up at WrestleMania…..
A Gangster’s Debut
CM Punk made his first WrestleMania appearance in 2006, and it wasn’t even in a match! During John Cena’s Chicago-style gangster entrance, Punk portrayed one the henchmen scoping out the arena before Cena himself made his way out. In fact, I just watched this event a few weeks ago, long before I decided to focus a piece on CM Punk, and did not remember he was part of this entrance. It was cool “Easter egg” moment for me to say the least. Punk would make his “official” WM debut the following year, and for the next 3 shows he would make a name for himself going after a prized piece of luggage……
WrestleMania 23-25: Mr. Money in the Bank
One of the most fun aspects of WrestleMania during this mid 2000s was the inception of the “Money in the Bank” Ladder match. From 2005-2010 it was a featured attraction during WrestleMania, and setting up new stories for the year to come, rather than the usual big “blowoff.” Personally, I miss having the MITB match during WM. I am not a fan of gimmick PPVs, and I always felt this was a way to catapult a new star to prominence on the biggest stage. This is exactly what happened with CM Punk. At his first WM in 2007, Punk would be unsuccessful vying for the briefcase, with Mr. Kennedy(?!) being the triumphant one that night. This was merely a hiccup for Punk, as he would participate in the next 2 MITB matches at WrestleMania, being victorious in both! This made him the only 2-time briefcase winner in WWE history. Now I would love to sit here an analyze his performances on these shows, but the MITB match is usually such a train wreck. It’s hard to focus on an individual, let alone how they fought in the match. The thing you can takeaway from these matches is simple. The WWE had a load of confidence in CM Punk early in his career. Winning the briefcase, for the most part, was like having a rocket strapped to your back as you moved up the card. It is only in recent years that it hasn’t guaranteed a World Championship victory for its owner. In fact, we haven’t seen a successful cash-in for a male wrestler in nearly 3 years. Punk would make the most of his briefcase wins, successfully cashing-in on Edge and Jeff Hardy, respectively. He would finally get a single match at WM in 2010, facing off against a high flying legend….
WrestleMania 26: Straight Edge vs. The Mask
By 2010, CM Punk was in full on heel mode, giving sermons on his substance-free lifestyle, and converting random audience members to his cult, shaving their heads as a sign of loyalty. He would form the “Straight Edge Society” with Luke Gallows and Serena Deeb, with one of their first feuds being with Lucha legend Rey Mysterio. Mysterio had taken Punk out in the Elimination Chamber match that February, and also prevented him from qualifying for the Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania 26. Punk would respond by interrupting the birthday celebration for Rey’s 9 year old daughter on Smackdown, prompted Mysterio to challenge Punk at the “Show of Shows.” A stipulation was included that if Mysterio lost, he must pledge his allegiance to Punk and join the “Straight Edge Society.” The 2 would have a fun undercard match that night in Arizona. It was a short contest, with Rey coming away with the win. They would continue to feud over the next few months, culminating with Punk getting his head shaved in their final bout. Their match at WM26 is by no means a memorable one, but it set the tone for Punk’s WM career, as he would continue to face Hall of Fame-caliber talent in the years to come.
WrestleMania 27: Staring Down The Viper
As 2011 rolled around, CM Punk had become the leader of a new group of allies, The New Nexus. At the Royal Rumble, Punk cost Randy Orton his WWE Championship opportunity against the Miz. It was revenge for an incident more than 2 years prior, when Orton punted Punk at the Unforgiven PPV, incapacitating him and forcing him to vacate his World title. The 2 would continue to clash, leading up to a match at WrestleMania 27 in Atlanta. It was a 15 minute, hard hitting affair, with Punk focusing his attack on Orton’s injured knee. Punk would meet his demise at the hands of the Viper, and his signature maneuver. He launched himself off the ropes towards his opponent, and Orton countered with a devastating RKO to score the pin. What stood out to me about this match was the timing of it all. Even though Punk had been a world champion, this match cemented him as a “made” guy in WWE. A featured match against a talent like Orton is nothing to sneeze at. Only a few months later, we would see the infamous “Pipe Bomb” promo on Raw, kickstarting Punk’s reign at the top of the company for the remainder of his run. By the end of that year he would be WWE Champion, a title he would hold for 434 days. He would have the opportunity to defend that championship at the next WrestleMania….
WrestleMania 28: The Best in the World
As we rolled toward WrestleMania 28 in 2012, CM Punk was at the pinnacle of his WWE career. He was one of the top babyfaces in the promotion, and was in the midst of one of the longest title reigns in history. Chris Jericho would be his latest adversary to try and dethrone the king. Jericho had become bitter that the current WWE superstars were just cheap imitations of him. Especially CM Punk, who had deemed himself “The Best in the World,” a moniker Jericho had used previously in WWE. This was a main event match, that was unfortunately not the main event. That honor went to the Rock vs. John Cena for obvious reasons. This is tremendous match that lived up to the build that it would decide who truly was the best. It had great back and forth action, including a ton of submission attempts and reversals. Punk would eventually get Jericho to submit to the Anaconda Vice, giving him his only one-on-one victory at WrestleMania. It was a shining moment for an already impressive resume, but it still stings that this was the closest he got to a WM main event. I suggest you go back and watch this match. There is still something special about seeing a performer compete at the top of his game.
WrestleMania 29: His Shot at “The Streak”
Punk would lose his WWE Championship to the Rock at Royal Rumble ’13, as well as the subsequent rematch the following month. Returning to a more heel-like persona, Punk would set his sights on the Undertaker heading into WrestleMania 29. His mission was to “take something away from the fans”, as he felt they cost him his championship. That “something” would be the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania. Punk would use the death of the Undertaker’s former manager, Paul Bearer, as fuel to continuously disrespect the Dead Man. They would clash at MetLife Stadium, and ultimately steal the show at an otherwise ho-hum event. This match will always hold a special place in my heart, as I attended this WrestleMania in NJ. Punk’s entrance was top notch, and included a live performance from Living Colour. He was a classic, obnoxious heel, using the Undertaker’s famed urn as a prop, throwing it in the air to mock his opponent, and piss on the grave of his friend. I hadn’t watched this match since seeing it live, so it was fun to relive it. The match itself was excellent, as Punk held his own against the Phenom in a losing effort. Looking back, this is really the Undertaker’s last great match at WrestleMania, as the “Streak” would shockingly come to an end the next year at the hands of Brock Lesnar. In the events to follow, his performances never reached the level that this match had. I came away from that night thinking I would never see the Undertaker perform again in person, and 6 years later I’ve been right so far. It would also mark the last time I would see CM Punk, as he would abruptly leave WWE the following year.
Nobody will even be able to forget CM Punk. Even its gotten a bit old, you can still here is name being chanted throughout arenas every now and then. Does he have the greatest WrestleMania resume? Of course not. The sample size is small, and with a record of 3-4, and only 1 singles match victory, you can’t make much of an argument. What you can vouch for is the quality of his opponents, especially in those singles matches. All of them are guaranteed Hall of Famers, and arguably some of the greatest to ever lace them up. You are only as good as your competition, and it says a lot to the talent of Punk that he was pitted against these names on wrestlings biggest show. If you are a fan of his, I recommend going back and watching CM Punk perform in these matches. There is a constant theme woven throughout those contests. CM Punk belonged, and he belonged under the bright lights of WrestleMania.
A while back I decided to start a binge-watching project. I wanted to go back and see the run Sting had as the “Crow” character, from late ’96 until facing Hollywood Hogan at Starrcade in 1997. I would watch every Nitro and pay-per-view to see him come down from the rafters and take on the nWo. I was always more of a WWF fan, and didn’t get to experience a lot of these shows at the time. As I took on this task, something unexpected happened. I found that there was an unsung warrior in WCW’s fight with the New World Order. As cool as Sting was, he would show up every now and again, never wrestling in match the aforementioned bout with Hogan. However, there was one man who week in and week out took on the nWo on his own, without any sense of fear. His name is Diamond Dallas Page.
Page may have had the most underrated run in what could very well be the best year in the history of pro wrestling. From start to finish he would evolve from a former manager, middle of the card-type talent, into a made man that rose to the top in an already crowded main event scene. He started the year as sort of a “tweener,” still making the transition from a heel to a babyface. You could tell the fans were beginning to respect him as a performer. Page ended ’96 with a great match against Eddie Guerrero in the finals of a United States Championship tournament. During that tournament, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash would get DDP to the finals by assisting him in his matches. It was great storytelling by WCW. The two founding members of the nWo, had both been managed by DDP earlier in their careers. It made sense that they would try and bring him into their stable. They would ultimately cost Page the US title in that final, thinking that he did not appreciate the support they were providing. This all came to a head at the January pay-per-view “Souled Out.” Page would give his answer to the nWo in the form of his devastating finisher, the Diamond Cutter. It was an awesome moment and a major blow to the nWo’s dominance. It would also cement Diamond Dallas Page as a bonafide babyface and a true “people’s champion.”
He would next begin an epic feud with Macho Man Randy Savage. These guys would have several incredible battles throughout the year. The first being the main event of the April pay-per-view “Spring Stampede.” This No-Disqualification match was one of the best of the year. Just a few short months ago he was coming to the ring chomping on a cigar, with big sunglasses on. Now he is beating one of the best of all time in the main event. It just goes to show how quickly careers can change, and how much hard work pays off. 2 months later Page and Savage would once again be in the main event at the Great American Bash, this time Savage got his revenge in a Falls Count Anywhere match. All in all he would face Savage 5 times on PPV in 1997, in both singles and tag matches, culminating in a “Las Vegas Deathmatch” at Halloween Havoc. I highly suggest going back and watching these matches on the WWE Network. They are all brutal and hard hitting. It was fun to watch two of the best characters to ever lace them up beat the hell out of each other.
The night after his match with Savage in Vegas, Page would add another notch to his belt of career making moments. On that Nitro, Hollywood Hulk Hogan would issue an open challenge to anyone in the WCW locker room. That call was answered by none other than the master of the Diamond Cutter. To put this in perspective, Hogan only had 7 matches on Nitro throughout all of 1997, and one of them was against DDP. If that doesn’t prove that by the end of the year Page was a made guy, I don’t now what will. Of course, like most matches featuring members of the nWo, it ended in a disqualification. Nevertheless, facing the World Championship, on national television is nothing to scoff at. Page would end his ’97 with one of the biggest victories of his career. At Starrcade, he faced nWo member Curt Hennig, whom Page managed in the AWA, for the United States Championship. Unlike the prior year, DDP would walk out of Washington, D.C. with his first US title. It was a fitting end to a fantastic 1997.
Diamond Dallas Page is still one of my favorite wrestlers ever. What he may have lacked in traditional wrestling ability, he more than made up for in hard work and determination. It is why he still beloved 20-plus years later. We as fans can relate to that. We will always adore the working class hero. In an era of the “cool heel,” Page was able to channel his frustrations and be a badass babyface without coming off as corny. DDP rose to the top in an already established WCW main event scene. He turned his career around in 1997, and followed on that path all the way to the Hall of Fame. That is a fact that can never be denied. BANG!!
A few months back I wrote an piece about how this era of the WWE is eerily similar to that of the “New Generation” from the mid-90s. It was a fun and introspective look into how wrestling, just like everything in life or sport, is cyclical. Recently, WWE RAW has been getting murdered by the fans for being boring and stale. Since a lot has happened over the last 6 months, I took this as inspiration to revise my previous work, and compare 2018’s RAW superstars with a few stars from days gone by. Hopefully along the way we can identify the fundamental issues with todays product, and perhaps offer some hope for the future. To get things kicked off properly, let’s get the obvious out of the way….
Dolph Zigglar and Drew McIntyre are Shawn Michaels and Diesel:
This comparison is nothing new since these guys started teaming up back in April. What separates these duos is that the bigger guy might have the brighter future moving forward. The top of the RAW roster is wide open at this point. Roman Reigns is on the shelf indefinitely. Brock Lesnar comes and goes as he pleases. Braun Strowman is dealing with injuries. There is a severe lack of legit larger than life heroes on Monday nights. Drew could stand toe to toe with Lesnar and it would be believable. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the best choice for the #1 babyface on RAW, especially with Reigns’ health in question. As for Dolph Ziggler, he is what he is. The talent is there, he rarely gives you a bad match, and he is annoying enough that he can be top heel. The real money will come down the road if these 2 guys ever lock up. I’d enjoy a Ziggler/McIntyre Universal Championship match, wouldn’t you?!
Finn Balor is Razor Ramon:
This is a holdover from my previous work, but I will attempt to freshen up my take a bit. Finn Balor, much like Razor Ramon, is one of the most talented people on the RAW roster. The problem is he gets saddled with nonsense feuds and struggles to break from the pack. What he really needs is a character change. It’s hard to believe that a guy who occasionally dresses up like a Demon, could in fact, be boring. He has the potential to be a tough, cool character just like Scott Hall was when he joined WCW and ditched the Cuban gimmick. Finn could really do wonders for his career if he channeled a gritty Irishman fighter, while still using the Demon when he really needs it.
Braun Strowman is the Undertaker:
Every generation needs the giant scary guy, and that is exactly what Braun Strowman is. The fans are fascinated by him, and want nothing more than to see him dominate the competition. This is where you can draw the parallel between Braun and the Undertaker. They both struck fear in their opponents with nothing more than their aura. Take away Taker’s first world title run that lasted only 6 days, and it took him until 1997 to taste legit championship glory. Braun is destined to climb to the top of that mountain. The main issue seems to be his health, as he has dealt with a few injuries throughout his young career. Hopefully he can shake that stigma and be force for years to come.
Bobby Lashley is Vader:
I love this comparison. Both of these guys are legit badasses who, at their best, can be utterly dominant. Vader was a multiple time World Champion in WCW, as was Lashley in IMPACT. Vader flirted with the main event in WWE, but never reached he same heights as he did down south. Lashley has that same feel. He lacks those intangibles that you need to get over in the wrestling landscape of 2018. Gaining Lio Rush as a hype man isn’t enough for him to reach the mountaintop. One of the greatest managers of all time, Jim Cornette, couldn’t help Vader either. I was a huge Vader fan back in the day, but don’t have that same affection for Lashley. He looks like he was cut out of a comic book, but thats where the fascination ends.
Dean Ambrose is Owen Hart:
In my previous attempt at this concept I tapped Sami Zayn in the Owen Hart role. Ambrose fits this role better considering his history and relationship with the SHIELD. He is angry and bitter about being his career being eclipsed by his brothers, just like Owen. A renewed rivalry with Seth Rollins could position Ambrose as a big player on RAW moving forward. I’d like to see Ambrose move away from the SHEILD sooner than later. It seems to be the easy play for the writing staff, but Ambrose can give you so much more, and work great matches with anybody. I hope he can carve his own path without the shadow of his former group.
Seth Rollins is Bret Hart:
I am going to be brutally honest here, but I stand by my assessment. Seth Rollins is a terrible babyface. He has a whiny voice reminiscent of the annoying kid from the “Polar Express”, which doesn’t do much to fire me up as fan. I felt this way about Bret Hart when I was a kid. He just always came off as a cranky bitch in his promos, and I couldn’t stand him. I think we can all agree that Rollins is currently the #1 babyface on RAW, much like Hart was for most of his career. They both are near untouchable after the bell rings. I appreciate both of these performers as technical marvels, but thats where it ends. Their personalities leave me flat, and that is such a vital part to playing the hero. Bret kept the company going as the bridge between Hogan and Austin. Seth is facing the same task in the post-John Cena world of the WWE. His brother Roman is gone for a while. It is his time now. I hope he flourishes, I just have to see it to believe it.
WWE RAW is struggling. These superstars all have the potential to turn this ship around. There must be a common effort by the writers and the performers to give us interesting characters and stories to bring RAW out of the doldrums. Until then, they will continue to play second fiddle to the more stable Smackdown. Until then, we will continue to be disenfranchised with the RAW brand.
Over the weekend a list of phrases the WWE has allegedly banned from their television programming leaked onto the interweb. It was just another dirt sheet non-story since we probably wouldn’t even notice these terms had been omitted unless they told us. This got me thinking….what are some phrases that we should stop using as fans? We are all guilty of it. Wrestling is filled with a glossary of fun words, and in an age where the curtain is pulled back so much it doesn’t exist anymore, they have all become part of our daily vocabulary. The problem is some of these words get so over or misused that it drives me insane. Every day on social media I see them spewed out all over my timeline. I decided to put together a list of wrestling terms that fans need to retire. Whenever I see these words I get a rabid case of the Douche chills and I just can’t take it anymore!! So where do I begin…..
Let’s start with some low hanging fruit. If 2 guys work for the same company, and face off for the first time, IT IS NOT A DREAM MATCH!! It’s just the first time its happened. We saw it twice during the 2018 Survivor Series with the matchups involving Seth Rollins and Shinsuke Nakamura, and later with Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan. All we heard was that they were “dream matches.” It makes no sense. It’s not a “dream match” if its actually possible, especially if the participants work for the same promotion. Leave this phrase for matches that we will never seen. I have never seen my 2 all time favorite wrestlers face off and I never will. Until I get Shawn Michaels vs. Sting, all it will ever be is a dream.
Wikipedia defines work rate as, “the in-ring performance level a wrestler puts into their matches, judged by a combination of skill and effort. A wrestler considered talented in the ring has a “high workrate”.” I never understood this ridiculous description of a wrestler. Terms like this didn’t exist when I watched wrestling as a kid. I try and base my like/dislike for a performer based on how they make me feel. So much of wrestling lies in that emotional connection fans have with the talent. Sure Randy Orton may have a high “work rate” or whatever, but I have always found him boring and awful. That doesn’t mean he’s bad, it just means he’s not my cup of tea. We need to get rid of these arbitrary phrases to describe talent, and feed off the emotions that build up when we watch these people perform. That’s the best part about wrestling.
Can we please stop with beginning every tweet of marginal controversy with “unpopular opinion”? It’s not an “unpopular opinion” if you prefer hamburgers over hot dogs, its just your preference. It’s almost like you are trying to pick a twitter fight which just makes you a dirt person. “Hey, look at me I’m saying something saucy.” Who cares if your opinions are popular or not? It only displays lack of conviction when you preface your take with a Surgeon General’s warning. Have confidence in your opinions and own them. Anything less just makes you a fraud.
I understand that “job” is a time honored term in professional wrestling. What I can’t understand is why fans seem to always use that word, or “bury”, whenever one of their favorite stars loses a match. Case in point: Last Sunday at Survivor Series Samoa Joe was the first person eliminated (in quick fashion) during the Raw vs. Smackdown match. Social media got all hot an bothered about this, questioning how could they “bury” Joe like that. He deserves better!! Of course he does, but it doesn’t mean he’s in the proverbial dog house either. Furthermore, recent reports have pointed out that Joe has been nursing some injuries as of late. Maybe thats all they needed him to do. He did his “job”, he wasn’t getting “jobbed.” I feel like every time somebody loses a match on TV the tin foil hat-wearers can’t help but vomit out that that person got “buried.” Relax. It’s a TV show and guys are going to win, and guys are going to lose. It’s not a conspiracy, its just wrestling. Which brings me to…..
Not a day goes by, not a frigging day where I don’t see fans bitch about how “creative” is ruining their favorite wrestler. They aren’t happy with their “booking”. Once again these are words that had no meaning to me when watching wrestling back in the day. I never worried about how a guy was “booked.” I just watched the show, then decided to myself whether said show was good or not. We live in a world where everybody has a platform, a podcast, or a blog. We have fallen into this trap of trying to write the programming as it happen, rather than sitting back and observing. I saw this a few times recently and it struck a nerve. During the Women’s Evolution PPV, a person who runs a wrestling web site was tweeting about the Becky Lynch/Charlotte Flair match. He said something along the lines of, “they are booking this match like Charlotte is going to win, and thats a mistake.” Dude we are 5 minutes into a match!!! How the crap do you know how they are “booking” anything before the match is over. It hasn’t been “booked” yet you Stunad!! The same thing happened during the Daniel Bryan/Brock Lesnar match. The first 7 minutes were a brutal beat down, and it had fans crying out why was this match “booked” last. They were feeding Bryan to an animal. It turned out that to be a fantastic match, and a well told story. We need to start analyzing these shows and matches by the sum of their parts. It’s easy to sit on our butts and play Monday morning quarterback, waxing poetic how we could do it better than “creative.” They will never fit your personal agenda. The best we can do is find the positives in what we are seeing, and enjoy it as much as you can. (Note: This is NOT a dig at the “Revisionist Booking” podcast with RJ and Michael Berry. They have unique takes on past shows and do a tremendous job. Keep it up guys!)
I get it. We all wish we could work for our favorite wrestling promotions, and write every segment for every show. Unfortunately the world doesn’t work that way. These terms bring unnecessary negativity to the wrestling fan base. If you have a problem with this list, too bad. I pride myself on trying to build a positive wrestling fan community. I can only hope you can join me in my journey. Wrestling, like this article, is meant to be fun. Taking yourself too seriously only leads to frustration.
Until next time friends. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
November 17, 2002.
It was a wild time in pro wrestling. WCW and ECW were dead. The WWE was the only game in town and had a “Who’s Who” of talent stockpiled on their roster. The funny thing is, the names that weren’t around were even bigger. The Undertaker was on a hiatus. The Rock had left for Hollywood. Steve Austin had quit the promotion. The “Attitude Era” was on it’s way out, and “Ruthless Aggression” was the new catchphrase floating around the company. I was 21 years old and loving every minute of it.
Now I have been to 2 Wrestlemania’s, a Summerslam, a Money in the Bank, and loads of Raw’s, Smackdown’s, and Live Events. This is by far, without hyperbole, the best show I have ever been to. The crowd was on fire from start to finish. Every match was exciting in their own way. This week I went back to relive some of the magic from that night. It brought back a ton of great memories from a spectacular night of wrestling.
I’ll never forget walking in to Madison Square Garden and seeing the Elmination Chamber for the first time. It was a real life Thunderdome. You know it’s wrestling, but when you saw that thing you couldn’t help but think to yourself, “I might see a death tonight.” We were the first fans to lay eyes on the structure, and it damn sure didn’t disappoint. MSG should be on any fans bucket list of sports venues to visit. The atmosphere is like no other. Back then(a renovation was completed in 2013), there weren’t really any bad seats there. The WWE always made their PPVs feel special at the Garden because of the unique set-up. There was a never a big stage or entrance, just the small tunnel and logo with fans literally on top of everything. I sat with my friends Chris and Greg in the last row of the 300s section, above that entrance, with the ring right in the middle. It was an incredible view for what would turn out to be an entertaining evening.
(Note: With this post I unveil my new match rating symbol, the Joker 🃏)
Bubba Ray Dudley, Spike Dudley, and Jeff Hardy defeats 3 Minute Warning and Rico-Elimination Tables Match
The night was kicked off with this hard-hitting and fast paced contest. The object was to put every member of the opposing team through a table. There was no “traditional” Survivor Series match on the card, but this more than made up for it. Jeff Hardy did his usual Jeff Hardy things, including a Swanton off one of the entrance ways. This match is best known for being the night the Dudley Boyz reunited after months separated due to the brand extension. They had always been one of my favorite tag teams going back to their days in ECW. We all rose to our feet when we saw D-Von run out to save Bubba from a 3 on 1 assault. We roared when they hit Rico with the 3-D and the victory. Great way to start off the night-🃏🃏🃏1/2
Billy Kidman defeats Jamie Noble(c)-WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Billy Kidman was one of the last holdovers from the WCW heyday of the cruiserweight. He was always one of my favorites from that generation, and it was a pleasure to see him live at this show. Noble had a solid career in his own right, and these 2 talents had a strong back and forth match. Kidman wins with the Shooting Star off the top rope, thus winning his record 7th Cruiserweight title. 🃏 🃏 🃏
Victoria defeats Trish Stratus(c)-Hardcore Match for the WWE Women’s Championship
In 2018 women’s wrestling is well respected, and no longer just for eye candy or a bathroom break. This was not always the case in 2002, but Trish and Victoria were definitely the exception at Survivor Series. This is match you would never see today. There were a ton of head shots, and Victoria even got busted open! Speaking of Victoria, I don’t think she gets enough credit for being a top talent during the early days of the Diva era. She played that psychotic character so well, and wasn’t too bad in the ring. 🃏 🃏 🃏
Big Show defeated Brock Lesnar(c) w/ Paul Heyman-WWE Championship
I remember during the stare down before the bell rang leaning over to my friend and saying, “This looks like a monster movie.” It was like watching Godzilla vs. Rodan and the fight was going to spill out onto the streets of Manhattan. What struck me about this match when I watched it again was how much the crowd was behind Brock. You have to remember this was his rookie year! He had beaten the Rock at Summerslam, and before that won the King of the Ring tournament in June. They were chanting for him. Imagine that happening now?! Lesnar was one of the hottest new talents, and you could see why with the way he suplexed Big Show all over the Garden. He would not be victorious on this night, as Paul Heyman would turn on him, helping Big Show win the title. 🃏 🃏
Los Guerreros defeated Edge/Rey Mysterio(c) and Chris Benoit/Kurt Angle-Triple Threat Elimination Match-WWE Tag Team Championship
I think it goes without saying that you know your talent pool is deep when 5 out of the 6 guys in this match either had won, or would go on to be a world champion. The Angle/Benoit pairing was sneaky great. These guys complimented each other so well in the ring, and their personalities were different enough that it worked beautifully. This match was fantastic, and how could it not be seeing the participants. Go out of your way to watch it. 🃏 🃏 🃏 🃏
Shawn Michaels defeated Triple H(c), Chris Jericho, Kane, Booker T, and Rob Van Dam-Elimination Chamber Match-World Heavyweight Championship
It is a rare occurrence when you have a 6 man match and every participant is either already a Hall of Famer or is going to be. This match was brutal. It was he first ever Chamber match, so nobody knew what to expect. When HBK hit Triple H with Sweet Chin Music the Garden became unglued. When we counted 1-2-3, that was when sound had feeling. I still get goosebumps thinking about it. I have been going to that arena my whole life. Whether it was a Rangers or Knicks playoff game, a concert, and even Wrestlemania XX, that was the loudest I had ever heard MSG. The place literally shook. It was a moment I’ll never forget, and seeing my favorite wrestler of all time win his final World title was truly special. 🃏 🃏 🃏 🃏
The night did not end for us with the main event. After the show we had a few run-ins with wrestlers. We caught Hurricane Helms and Lance Storm walking out of the arena. This story is legendary amongst my friends. As Storm walked by shaking all the fans hands, I didn’t notice that he walked right by me with his hand extended. I accidentally big-timed Lance Storm! He turned around and gave me a weird look as he crossed the street. My friends never let me live that down. A few minutes later we were waiting to get our car out of the parking lot. We saw another wrestler getting his car from the same lot. He was a seldom used rookie, you may have heard of him, his name is John Cena. He was very friendly and said hi to everybody before driving off in a beat up Jeep Grand Cherokee.
I try and watch this show once a year around this time. It always makes me smile and look back at that era fondly. I hope everyone enjoys the 2018 edition of Survivor Series this weekend! Until next time…..
The wrestling fan is a fickle creature. Yes I am talking to you, and of course, in some ways, myself when I say that. We think we always know what’s best. We have all the answers. We can fantasy “book” until we turn blue, then we stay blue when things don’t turn out they way we want. It is a vicious cycle that will go on long after we hang up our “smark” boots. Now I know the term, “most polarizing figure in the WWE,” gets thrown around a lot. It usually is attached to names such as Roman Reigns or John Cena. There is another name that needs to be at the top of that list, and his name is Brock Lesnar.
Now I am not sure if we can really call Brock “polarizing.” “Most hated” might be a better term. From some aspects I get it. It’s the usual arguments i.e., he works a very limited schedule, he makes a boatload of money, the quality of his matches are dull, yada, yada, yada. All fair points, especially in an era where being the biggest name in the WWE carries a scarlet letter. Fans always want to see their favorite wrestlers own the spotlight, and feel the part time attractions like a Brock Lesnar take those spots away from their guys. We see the Superstars of the WWE work a hellish schedule and perform on TV week in and week out. It’s natural that a performer such as Lesnar would reap a good chunk of that backlash. As much as understand that side, I can’t bring myself to jump on that bandwagon just yet. Brock Lesnar is a vital part of the WWE as a whole. Some fans refuse to believe he’s needed, but right now his role is more important than ever.
It goes without saying that Roman Reigns taking a leave of absence to focus on his health leaves a gaping hole on the RAW roster. He was the fighting champion that fans have been clamoring for since last years Wrestlemania. That has been the biggest knock on Lesnar. He’s the RAW champion and he’s never around. I never saw this as a negative. I have always been a fan of lengthy title runs, and can’t stand championship hot potato. For us fans with a little more grey in their beards, there is a precedent for this. Ric Flair, widely regarded as the greatest champion to ever breathe, won the World Championship from Ricky Steamboat in May of ’89. He would only defend the title 5 times on TV between then and July of ’90, when he was defeated by Sting. Lesnar defended the Universal Championship 6 times, between Wrestlemania 33 and Summerslam ’18. Now I know what the arguments against these numbers will be. “Flair traveled everywhere” and “it was a different time.” Look I’m sorry there wasn’t 78 hours of programming every week back in the late 80’s to fill. The idea of champion that isn’t around all the time makes it special. Don’t forget the Universal title is only 2+ years old. When it debuted the only thing people talked about was what color it was. Since Lesnar won, people only talked about getting the belt off of him! That tells you one thing, it matters now! His part time schedule and big money contract did their job. It made a brand new title relevant.
This past weekend at Crown Jewel, much to the fans ire, we saw Brock Lesnar become the first ever 2-time Universal Champion. The fact of the matter is that this was the only logical move the WWE could make. We have no idea how far ahead WWE has storyline plans in place. Roman Reigns is out indefinitely, and it came out of nowhere. It is safe to say the writing team had to throw out weeks, even months of programming in an instant. Also, reports are indicating the Braun Strowman has been playing through a few injuries. The best move they could have made was to ante up to Lesnar, and put the title back on him. It allows you to utilize the most important resource any of us have….time. Brock Lesnar will not be on TV every week, which allows the creative crew time to come up with fresh stories moving forward, and not scrambling to figure out what to do. It allows Strowman time to get healthy. It allows Drew McIntyre time to further establish himself as a main event player on RAW. Also, wouldn’t you rather have one of those guys win their first WWE world title at a major show stateside, instead of in Saudi Arabia? It’s the smart play. We can’t let emotions get the best of us.
Wrestling fans are, if anything, passionate. It is that passion that makes wrestling the best thing in the world. However, we can not let that passion blind us. We need to look at the bigger picture. Just because a situation did not turn out the way you may of have wished, or predicted, does not mean it is the wrong move. Brock Lesnar is the Universal Champion. It was the right thing to do given the circumstances. If that pisses you off, fine. That doesn’t mean that Brock Lesnar isn’t the champion RAW needs right now. I can only beg you to not look at this is a vacuum, and see the more exciting scenario that looms. Who’s going to be the guy that beats him?
When the WWE decided to put on an all women’s PPV, I thought it was a fantastic idea. Finally the talented women of the company will be given ample time to showcase their talent, and furthermore proving to the world that women’s wrestling is not just for bathroom breaks. We have come a long way in the last 20 years or so. After the Wendy Richters and Medusa’s of the world. the women’s division was treated as nothing more than eye candy. When Sable or Sunny came on the screen I didn’t change the channel for obvious reasons. I was a teenager. I liked boobs I’m not gonna apologize for that! All kidding side the “Evening gown match” doesn’t age well, but that was the era we lived in. I’m not proud of it, but we can only learn from our past, not run away from it.
As time went on so did the roles women played on WWE television. Trish Stratus and Lita began their careers as valets, and carved out a Hall of Fame resume as wrestlers. They, along with the following generation of Divas, with the likes of Beth Phoenix and AJ Lee, were able solidify their positions as commodities for the company, no longer just pretty faces. They had earned our respect as wrestlers.
Which brings us to where we are now. Long gone are the days of bras, panties, and puppies. The women play a major role in all the shows the WWE offer. Social media chatter for them is just the same as the men. Every match result and promo is overly dissected. Everyone has their favorites and wants to see them in the women’s title picture. We even complain when things don’t the way we want them to. To put it simply, the Women’s Revolution has created a level playing field in the eyes of the fans. Talent always seem to rise to the top, and these performers have it by the boatload. This was all proven during the recent WWE Evolution PPV. It was strong show from top to bottom, and I would put it up with Summerslam as my favorite PPV of 2018. These women were given an opportunity under tremendous pressure and excelled in every way, shape, and form. Now I know a lot of you are saying that this show was only put on to make up for the fact that the women cant perform in Saudi Arabia. Honestly, who cares? It still happened. It was still a success. Lets enjoy the moment for what it was instead of reacting negatively to the other goings on in WWE.
With that being said….
Whats next for these women? They have headlined a main roster PPV. Had their own Royal Rumble. Their own PPV. The star power in the women’s division is at an all time high. I would love to see a tag team title that could be defended over both Raw and Smackdown. There are enough women on the main roster now where a secondary title wouldn’t be the worst idea. With the amount of stables, and multi-wrestler matches we see anyway, a tag championship is the smarter play. The men’s roster lacks that 1 mega personality that owns the spotlight, especially with Roman Reigns on the shelf indefinitely with his health issues. The women’s division, however, is stock piled with talented and marketable performers. Becky Lynch has the fans in the palm of her hands. Charlotte Flair is a freak athlete with no ceiling to how great she can be. Ronda Rousey is the crossover mainstream superstar that brings it all together. There really is only one more hill to climb for these women, and thats the main event of Wrestlemania. Let me be clear…its going to happen! Whether it is next year in NY or not, it’ll be sooner rather than later. The fan base is ready. The company is ready. The performers are ready. Women’s wrestling has had its evolution and its revolution. Now its time for them to shine in the spotlight. We are always looking for the next Hogan, Austin, or Cena. Right now we have the first Becky, Charlotte, and Ronda. They are commanding our attention, and the only thing the men can do is sit back and watch….
When it comes to wrestling fans, patience is a virtue that does not apply to us. We think our favorite performers should be in the main event right out of the gate. If a character appears to be in a rut, we automatically want them to “turn” or something. In a society where all the information we could possibly want is available instantly at the touch of a screen, waiting on a story to build seems absurd. I see the chatter on social media all the time with fans saying, “The WWE’s storytelling is garbage nowadays.” This begs the question: Has the WWE lost it’s ability to tell compelling stories? Or have we as fans lost the ability to shut up and listen.
One of the more memorable moments from a spectacular Summerslam weekend was when Becky Lynch tore off on Charlotte Flair after losing their match. Almost immediately fans on social media applauded a new “Heel Becky!” When she appeared on Smackdown a few days later, she cut an excellent promo finally bearing her soul. Once again, almost immediately, hardcore Lynch fans were defiant in their position that they will refuse to boo the bad Becky. They would say, “This isn’t working! This is bad booking!” It took 2 shows and literally 10 minutes for Becky Lynch to show a major progression in her character. It took 10 seconds for the fans to make up their mind that this was the wrong move. This type of knee jerk reactions aren’t helping anyone, especially Becky Lynch. The sample size is too small to cast it aside so flippantly. Is Becky Lynch really a heel? Who knows?! It’s barely been a week. Give it a chance to develop. Give her a chance to grow into her new persona. Listen to the whole story, instead of just reacting to the moment.
The same logic applies to everybody’s favorite superstar punching bag Roman Reigns. When The Shield reunited on Raw this past Monday to take out Braun Strowman, that was deep rooted heel stuff. Sure the crowd popped, the Hounds of Justice are badass. But fans still seemed to question the move, spouting off conspiracy theories that its all an excuse to get fans to cheer Reigns again. A 3 on 1 attack on a popular star is not heroic, especially when its objective was to protect ones championship. Maybe the WWE are finally positioning themselves for a change in approach. Maybe the good monster will have to face the evil champion. Maybe we just need to enjoy the ride. In the long term is Reigns a failure as a babyface? To be honest I think the WWE has failed him. Think about the top guys in the company over the last 30 years and who they faced. Hogan had Piper. Bret had Shawn(and vice versa). Austin had Mr. McMahon. Cena had JBL and Edge. Who has Roman Reigns’ greatest adversary been? You could make the argument for Brock Lesnar, but his absence and lack of true sliminess pokes holes in that take. A hero is only as good as his villainous counterpart. If the WWE can’t provide Roman with a true dirtbag opponent we can all collectively hate, how can they expect us to have his back?
The fact is in this day and age the classic “babyface and heel” concept does not mean what it used to. Fans are too smart and will back who they want regardless of how they are portrayed on television. On the flip side, they seem to want to be told directly whether or not someone is good or bad. They can’t decide for themselves. Like they expected Becky Lynch to come out on Tuesday night and say, “Surprise I’m evil now.” You can’t have it both ways. Either you pick the horse you want in the race, or do your job as a fan. Cheer the hero. Boo the villain. The WWE hasn’t changed their way of telling us who’s good and who’s not. We have changed how we process that information. Let the story simmer before you taste it and decide its trash. I promise you the experience will be much more enjoyable in the end.
The dog days of summer are in full swing. It’s hot and muggy. I am in the throws of my annual birthday depression, and that can only mean 1 thing…..It’s Summerslam week! To me this has always been the unofficial signal that the season is coming to an end. It is the last thing I get excited about before football season starts, and this year is no different. The card is absolutely stacked, and unlike Wrestlemania this year, I’m actually emotionally invested in a lot of the feuds heading into Sunday. Yet as I look ahead to Summerslam 2018, I can’t help but reminisce about the first time I attended a PPV event.
I celebrated a major birthday in the summer of 2002, my 21st. There was so many great memories from that year, but the one that stands out most was my experience at Summerslam. Getting tickets was only the first part of the adventure. My buddy Chris and I drove out to Nassau Coliseum on a Saturday morning the day they went on sale. It was a little more than a hour drive from where lived. That’s right, we DROVE TO GET TICKETS!! How archaic is that?! When we got to the arena we couldn’t believe what we saw. There was a line for days! It took up almost the entire parking lot. It was at that moment we knew this was going to be a futile effort. Summerslam ’02 just wouldn’t be in the cards. Then it hit me! Let’s call Ticketmaster from the line! I guess waiting in line wasn’t primitive enough, I could pull out my 8lb cell phone and talk to a person! I got through, but unfortunately the only tickets that available were single seats a row apart. Not going to work. Then a miracle happened. There was a nice guy behind us in line that was also trying to call for tickets. His operator had 2 tickets together in the upper deck, he didn’t want them, so he handed me his phone. A few minutes later, we were on our way to the biggest party of the summer!
The card that night read like an all-star team. The “popcorn” match featured The Undertaker for crying out loud! Rey Mysterio debuted in the opening contest against Kurt Angle. There was Jericho/Flair, Benoit/RVD for the IC Title, Edge vs Eddie!! We saw Christian/Lance Storm vs Booker T and Goldust for the tag team championship. As if we hadn’t already gotten our moneys worth with this undercard, the 2 main matches were something to behold. First up, I got to see something nobody ever thought was possible. My favorite wrestler of all time was back! After 4 years away, with what we thought was a career ending injury, Shawn Michaels returned to battle his former partner Triple H in an Unsanctioned Street Fight. It was a tremendous match. HBK hadn’t lost a step. It was an inspiring performance and an instant classic. Then came the main event. It was the passing of the torch in a lot of ways. The WWE Undisputed Championship was on the line, as The Rock took on one of his greatest challenges, the “Next Big Thing” Brock Lesnar. Lesnar would be victorious that night, and at the time became the youngest WWE Champion in history. It was a fantastic event and an experience I’ll never forget. I watch the show every now and again, and even 16 years later it never loses its luster. I suggest you do the same. But enough about the classic stuff, it’s time for my predictions for the big show on Sunday!!
Let’s start off with the obvious:The card for Summerslam 2018 is without a doubt LOADED! The storylines and buildups to this event have been solid all around. I will even go as far to say that I am more into this show than I was for Wrestlemania this year. So without further ado, here’s what I think will go down this Sunday:
FINN BALOR vs BARON CORBIN: This has been a pleasant secondary feud on the RAW brand. It is a classic mismatch concept that I have always enjoyed throughout the years. As great a Balor is, I feel as if Corbin is starting to come into his own in this “Constable” role. I think Baron takes the win on Sunday in what might be a sleeper hit of the weekend.
JEFF HARDY vs SHINSUKE NAKAMURA(US CHAMPIONSHIP)- It’s shocking this match isn’t a three way dance with Randy Orton included. He has been an integral part of the build up to this rematch, but with Smackdown already having a Triple Threat title match on the card, it makes sense for him to be on the outside. I see this match being decent, then ruined by a DQ finish when Orton decides to get involved.
NEW DAY vs THE BLUDGEON BROTHERS(SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP)- Another match that has the potential to be sneaky good since everyone involved can work. I just don’t see the New Day getting the advantage here simply because this seems to be an event with a lot of title changes at the top. Rowan and Harper will continue their dominance of the SD Live tag division.
BRAUN STROWMAN vs KEVIN OWENS(MITB BRIEFCASE IS ON THE LINE)- I’ve a lot of chatter on social media about how Kevin Owens has turned into this coward during his feud with Strowman. I have to admit, this criticism baffles me. The “heel who’s terrified of the monster babyface” is a staple in wrestling. We all know Owens can fight, but honestly, who WOULDN’T be afraid of Braun Strowman! I’m taking Strowman here. I see little value in him dropping the case to KO, especially when he headlined a PPV to win it. They made merch out of it for crying out loud! I also think that after this match, Strowman won’t be holding onto the briefcase for very long. More on that in a minute….
CHARLOTTE FLAIR vs BECKY LYNCH vs CARMELLA(SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP)- This will boil down to who actually needs the title more, I just don’t see it changing hands at this particular event. Carmella has established herself as a major player in the Women’s division. She is a great heel with the perfect touch of annoying. I think she will weasel her way out of the match unscathed, and with her title in tow. Fans may be disappointed in this result, since Lynch seems to have the heart of the crowd. This match will be a stepping stone to bigger things, especially between her and Charlotte. With the Evolution PPV on the horizon, the WWE will be looking to save a little for that special event.
SETH ROLLINS vs DOLPH ZIGGLER(INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP)- I laugh to myself every time I see fans say, “Ugh Reigns/Lesnar again?!”, when we are getting this matchup for the third time in 2018 as well. The added drama this time is the addition of each combatants partner in their respective corner. As much as I enjoyed the return of Dean Ambrose, the timing of it just seemed a little off. Sure evening the odds makes sense, but I would rather see Rollins and Ambrose doing their own thing than be tied together again. I’m taking Ziggler in this one. Rollins is ready to move on to bigger and better things.
RONDA ROUSEY vs ALEXA BLISS(RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP)- It’s funny how things change in a few months. Everyone was curious about Ronda Rousey going into Wrestlemania. She put on a great performance there, and I expect no different here. Putting her in the ring with a top level talent like Alexa Bliss will only help her. Bliss will take her beating like the champ she is, and we will have a new Raw Women’s Champion.
DANIEL BRYAN vs THE MIZ- By far the most compelling storyline going into this weekend, as this is the match fans have had circled on their calendar since Daniel Bryan returned to action. In a world where everyone wants heel turns, Miz is the last of a dying breed. He is a classic despicable heel, going up against everyone’s favorite underdog. The emotion behind this match will carry it through, but I’m taking the Miz here. This is only the beginning……
SAMOA JOE vs A.J. STYLES(WWE CHAMPIONSHIP)- Given that the main event is being regarded by fans as the match, “nobody wants”(which is dumb), this is the match EVERYBODY wants. This match is the most unique, as it is the only one of the card where both men made their names elsewhere. Another potential show stealer, I will be stunned if this match is a let down. This will be Samoa Joe’s night. Styles has been a tremendous champ, but its time to move on. Heel champs are better anyway!
ROMAN REIGNS vs BROCK LESNAR(UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP)- Here we go again! Quite possibly the most controversial main event in Summerslam history. The hate these 2 guys generate is astounding. I plan on watching this match on mute. I want to see the story Reigns and Lesnar can tell, without hearing the whiny fan base make it about them. I’m anticipating another hard hitting brawl, with Roman Reigns finally getting over the hump and beating Lesnar. But that’s not all…..Braun Strowman WILL cash in his MITB contract, and send the crowd home happy. It will be the smartest play to swerve the fans, who will most likely hijack this match from the bell. One more thing….Paul Heyman will have a new client by the time this show goes off the air.
This has the potential to be a classic Summerslam. The only thing that will hold it back is its length. I hope I will have the stamina to last through this marathon, something I wasn’t able to do for Wrestlemania. Enjoy the show friends!
Back in May of 2017, an honest question from a fan prompted an honest answer from everybody’s favorite “star man” Dave Meltzer. When faced with the idea of Ring of Honor selling 10,000 tickets to a live event, Uncle Dave quipped, “Not any time soon.”. After hearing this, Cody Rhodes fired back with what may be the most pivotal, “Hold my beer,” that wrestling has seen in years. Joined by the Young Bucks, they decided to gather up all their friends, and with ROH’s blessing, put on a show. “All-In”, with it’s star power and grassroots hype machine, could very well be the genesis of something we have not seen in over 17 years….legitimate competition for the WWE.
Trust me, I am not getting ahead of myself here. As always I am just calling it like a see it. Cody Rhodes has managed to something that nobody else has been able to do. He created a big time event out of nothing. When tickets went on sale in May, they sold out in a half hour. 10,000 tickets, in 30 minutes, not a single match announced, and only a handful of confirmed performers. It may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but its a BIG FREAKING DEAL. If you don’t believe me, here are some numbers to back it up.
1997 is arguably one greatest years in the history of wrestling. It was the heart of the Monday Night Wars, and WWF and WCW were must-see TV every week for wrestling fans. Both companies put on 25 PPV events combined that year. Out of those 25, only 12 were in venues over 10,000 people. That’s less than half! Some of the biggest stars who ever breathed were active at this time, countless Hall of Famers, and they weren’t in arenas in the 5 figures. This is a significant stat that cannot be looked over, especially by the WWE in 2018.
Now I’m not naive enough to think the McMahon family(Triple H included) are shaking in their proverbial boots, because they shouldn’t be. But it would be against their better judgement not to at least sit up in their chairs. There is no true threat to the WWE right now. NJPW is an excellent product. It’s viewership in the US is growing every day, especially since it is readily available to watch or stream on their pay site and AXS TV. Yet they can not been seen as a viable competitor because of simple geography. They are half a world away, and aren’t kicking down the doors in Stamford. They are an excellent alternative when we need a break from the WWE, but that’s where it ends. “All-In”, and to a point ROH, can change all that on September 1st. Cody and the Bucks are putting together something that nobody has had the balls to do since Eric Bischoff, and they are doing it in the WWE’s backyard.
Speaking of backyards we can not ignore the ROH/NJPW Supercard show at Madison Square Garden next Wrestlemania weekend. As a native New Yorker, MSG and wrestling go hand in hand. For years it has been WWE’s home field, and I’ve seen a bunch of amazing shows in that hallowed building. Running shows Mania week is nothing new, but having one THERE, on THEIR biggest weekend, is a warning shot right across the bow of Titan Towers.
This week with the announcement of “All-In” being available for viewing on the Fite TV App adds another wrinkle to this already compelling story. The show is already a success based on the gate, and with the buzz being created, as well as matches finally being announced, it primed to be a landmark event in the history of the industry. Even if the show is bad, it won’t matter. Why? Because they were able to pull it off. The Starrcast convention being held that week is just icing on the cake. Now it’s interactive. The fans are getting what they always dreamed…a wrestling weekend that is about THEM.
As a fan I have no choice but to be excited for this event. A lot of that has to do with Cody Rhodes. He is one of the most fascinating wrestling stories of the last decade. He is on his way to being the first guy in the post-WCW era to have success in WWE, leave the company on his own terms, and be even more successful on his own. He has the knowledge, the talent, and the pedigree to change the business as we see it. Could Rhodes become the next Vince McMahon? Probably not, but that’s not what the WWE should be concerned with. From the WWE’s perspective, the scarier outcome is that he becomes the first Cody Rhodes.
In the 2006 film, “Superman Returns”, there is a scene where Superman asks Lois Lane what she hears. When she tells him nothing, he responds with, “I hear everything.” I never thought I could relate to that quote on any level, that was until I became more engaged in the toxic playground that we lovingly call, “Wrestling Twitter.” Every thought, opinion, and complaint of millions of wrestling fans at the touch of a button? What could possibly be wrong with that?! The truth is….plenty! It was not until I stopped to really think about it that I came to this chilling revelation….Wrestling Twitter was the only promotion I watched religiously, and that hurt my soul.
Growing up as a wrestling fan was like being part of a secret club. It was not, and to a point still isn’t, a socially acceptable way of spending your time. If I had a nickel for every time I mentioned wrestling around a non-fan and had to deal with, “You mean that fake stuff?”, I could retire yesterday. It’s eerily similar to the Harry Potter-verse. We are the wizards, and they are the muggles. It is why the amount of negativity that pollutes Wrestling Twitter is so baffling. I never knew there were so many of us. I never thought I could feel that sense of community outside of my circle of 2 friends that I’ve been watching wrestling with for 30 years. We used to come to each other’s defense to honor something we love so much. Now we can’t wait to jump at the chance to tear somebody down because they like a certain performer, or certain promotion, or because they don’t watch the indies. Our secret society has imploded. It has gotten so big that the worst thing that can happen to every community happened:We had turned on each other. Since summer was upon us, it occurred to me that maybe it was time to take a little vacation from this madness.
The fact was I wasn’t enjoying wrestling as much as I used to, and I couldn’t figure out why. At first I thought it was the product, but I wasn’t sold on that one right away. It was deeper than just not being engaged in a story line, or seeing a bad match or 2. Was I too old? Had I just become a curmudgeon who could not look past the glory days of my youth? Was I going through some sort of wrestling mid-life crisis at age 36? What was different about it? What was different about how I watched it? Aha! There it was! It had nothing to do with the what I was watching, it was what I was doing while watching. My phone was always in my hand. If I wasn’t watching on my iPad, it was right next to me, ready to check how all of you were reacting. Ready to make a funny observation in hopes of entertaining my fellow fans. Segments or matches I thought were good, would get obliterated on social media. That made me feel like I was missing something, or like I was out of touch. It also made me question whether or not the show was actually good. When I realized how much that influenced my experience, and the weight that those opinions carried, I knew I had to change my approach. I had to get back to basics. I had to rediscover why I loved this sport so much.
I deleted my Twitter app on May 30th. Instantly I felt that this was the right thing to do. I was excited to see how I would change throughout this experiment. I had to know if something that started out as a fun add-on to my favorite TV, had turned into an addiction. The first week of my hiatus was easier than I thought. I watched Raw and Smackdown on my own time, with no outside interference. I was able to enjoy the NJPW Dominion show relatively spoiler free over the course of 2 days. The only result that I knew of being Chris Jericho’s victory, and that was Facebooks fault. As the days turned into weeks I felt more connected to the shows, instead of being connected only to other fans. The next big WWE show was Money in the Bank, and I was able to watch that the morning after, completely spoiler free. Was it the best show ever, of course not, but for the first time in what felt like eons the product felt fresh. I simply watched. That was a big deal to me. That made me think of a question to ask all of you….How long has it been since you actually WATCHED wrestling? Because you can’t tell me you are focused on the show, and really taking in all that is going on, if you are constantly looking at your phone, and scrolling through a Twitter timeline. Your attention is on that, not what is on the television. That is a fixable problem that fans in 2018 are ignoring, and I promise taking a break will help you cleanse your wrestling soul.
Look I get it. The amount of followers you have on social media matters in the world we live in. Wrestling blogs and podcasts are a dime a dozen, and you have to do what you can to stand out in that crowded room. It is our passion, and it is important. What I do ask is that you don’t mortgage that passion for the sake of followers and downloads. Maybe take a break from “live tweeting” Raw, lock your phone away and just watch it. Ignore the opinions of others, reflect and form your own ideas. It may surprise you how much it will impact your fandom. Hell it may even improve your projects! I am ready to step back into this forum because I believe in my heart I can help bring our wrestling community back from he brink. So for the sake of your sanity please take a breath anddecide for yourself how you want to consume wrestling, as well as interact with good people who also share in your passion. Take stock in what kind of fan you are, and what kind of fan you can be. Avoid letting the opinions of others get to you. Avoid pushing your opinions on others. Talk to one another instead of argue. If we can stand together as fans once again, the wrestling community we have created can flourish. If you need help getting there, you know where to find me.
The world of pro wrestling, much like life, is cyclical. Popularity and quality of the product sometimes go from warm to cold, like the changing of the seasons. Over the last few years the WWE seems to have reached a transitional stage for the company. It reminds me a lot of what happened back in the early ’90s. They called it the “New Generation Era,” and it was one of my favorites. The were coming off the hottest period the company had ever seen, and as Hulkamania came to an end, they had to create new stars to keep the company on top. The territory system was all but dead, and as WCW grew from a regional “rasslin'” show to a national TV program, the WWE found themselves not only competing for viewers, but for talent as well.
Just look at where we are when it comes to wrestling. It is a sport that thrives on the internet, and fans all over the world know just as much about any independent wrestler as they do the top superstars in the WWE. Recently a shot was heard round the world, as the “All In” Indy show in Chicago sold out in less than a half an hour. This is indeed a great time to be a fan of all wrestling, but the more I think about it the more I see the WWE in a transitional phase. They have a tremendous amount of in-ring talent, but they lack a larger than life megastar that can carry the company into a war that is just beginning. To prove that what goes around comes back around, let’s take a look at some of today’s stars, and compare them to the “New Generation” alum that they resemble most. Starting with…..
Roman Reigns is Diesel:
I’m sure some of you were expecting the obvious Big Cass/Diesel comparison but when you break it down, outside of size, it doesn’t make much sense. I don’t see Cass as a main event talent just yet, and to be quite honest, he can’t touch Kevin Nash on the mic. Putting Roman Reigns in that spot gets clearer the more you think about it. Diesel debuted as Shawn Michaels bodyguard, Reigns as a the muscle next to Ambrose and Rollins in the SHIELD. When WWE brass saw something they liked, they were fast tracked to top guy status. Sure it took Reigns longer than Nash to win a World Title, but it was chance the WWE took to try and create a new star from nothing. What brings them together is the hate both guys garner. Diesel’s WWF Championship run is regarded as one of the worst in company history. As talented as both men are, neither ever really had the respect of the hardcore fan. Further more, there was a tremendous amount of talent behind them on the card, that many fans felt more deserving of the top spots. Even though Reigns is a better in-ring performer, it still shows that no matter what you try, sometimes the fans just won’t buy in. Reigns can definitely get his career back on track with a character adjustment, much like Nash did when he left WWE for WCW, and was one the founders of the nWo. That run put him in the Hall of Fame, we’ll see if Reigns can carve out a similar path.
Speaking of shields and Kliq’s…..
Seth Rollins is Shawn Michaels:
Comparing these 2 guys as in-ring performers is nothing groundbreaking, but their career paths are more similar than meets the eye. Both broke into the WWE as part of a group, then shockingly turned on said group in order to further their career. Except Rollins shot to top right out of the gates, where Michaels took the longer road to world championship glory. Where they set themselves apart is how they have upheld the tradition of having the Intercontinental Champion be the “wrestlers title.” Much like HBK, Rollins continues to steal the show every night, and his matches have become must-see TV. Rollins may be the next all-time great in the making, and it won’t be long before he finds himself back in the main event picture.
Every great wrestler needs a great rival…..
Finn Balor is Razor Ramon:
Tell me a bad match Balor and Rollins have had this year…I’m still waiting. The same applied to HBK and Razor. What makes the Balor/Razor comparison work in my eyes is their place on the roster. As good and as popular as Razor was, he was always a step behind his contemporaries. Same goes for Balor. He is great but I just don’t see him being at the level of a Rollins, Styles, Owens, Reigns, etc. Only time will tell if Finn can separate himself from the pack, and become what we all hope he can be.
Enough with the little guys, we need a monster…
Braun Strowman is the Undertaker:
Every generation needs the giant scary guy, and that is exactly what Braun Strowman is. The fans are fascinated by him, and want nothing more than to see him dominate the competition. This is where you can draw the parallel between Braun and the Undertaker. They both struck fear in their opponents with nothing more than their aura. Take away Taker’s first world title run that lasted only 6 days, and it took him until 1997 to taste legit championship glory. Braun is destined to climb to the top of that mountain. He has got all the tools, including a catchphrase that makes no sense! That’s all you need!
We also need an underdog:
Sami Zayn is Owen Hart:
Sami Zayn is an Uber talented wrestler, who the fans adore, and he will always be in the shadow of his best friend/greatest rival. Sound familiar? Zayn can have great match after great match, but he will always be connected to Kevin Owens, just like Owen was to Bret. The jury is still out on Zayn. As gifted as he is, like Owen, he has not been able to crack the main event consistently since his impressive run in NXT. He is on a hot streak right now, here’s to hoping he can stay on it.
AJ Styles and Kevin Owens are Bret Hart:
I know this may seem like a cop out, and it is. I couldn’t decide on which one of these guys fit the Hitman’s mold better. But the more I thought about it the more it became clear that they each embody the best of Bret Hart. AJ Styles has had to be the steadfast veteran in a period that desperately needs it. He is a true champion that puts on a great match every time he steps through the ropes. Like Hart, he can those performances out of any wrestler, any size. He is a cornerstone of the WWE in 2018. Kevin Owens shows us what Bret Hart would be if he were active right now. Babyface promos in 1993, are heel promos in 2018. Owens has a bigger personality, but his constant whining about the world being against him echoes the same sentiments Hart spoke of back in the day. Being Canadian helps too. In WWE world void of heels he is the best kind. He’s annoying. He’s whiny. He can wrestle.
All of the guys on this list may not be on the mainstream level of a Hulk Hogan or a Steve Austin, but they are the building blocks to get the WWE into their next phase. I trust these guys will get the company back where it needs to be, the next great generation.
Honorable mentions: John Cena/1993 Hogan, Elias/Jeff Jarrett, Bray Wyatt/Papa Shango,
We are only a few days removed from the end of the 2018 installment of the Backlash PPV. At least I’m assuming it ended a few days ago, as I took my old ass to bed following the WWE Championship match. It was at that point I realized that I am quickly becoming a cranky old man when it comes to my wrestling. Before too long I will be sitting on the front porch, yelling at the neighborhood children to get off my lawn, all the while waxing poetic about the “good ‘ol days” when men were men and Stone Cold Stunners were a dime a dozen. At 36, I know I am far too young to feel this way. However with the way the current product is presented, as well as the way some fans behave, I have found it is just easier to embrace it.
Up until the middle of last week, I was going to attend Backlash in Newark. My friend had purchased the tickets when the originally went on sale, and after WrestleMania 34 made him immediately regret that decision, he asked me if it was alright to put the tickets up for sale. I had no issue with this whatsoever on many levels. It is always a throwaway PPV that recycles Mania matches, and with the added “Greatest Royal Rumble” show, this year was worse than others. Not to mention from where I live, Newark is a bitch to get to. I would be much happier sitting at home, drinking not $10 beer, and being able to turn it off whenever I felt the need to. Thank you WWE for proving that I made the right decision.
Now I refuse to sit here and break down this show match for match. It would be a waste of time. My main takeaways from Backlash have a lot to do with the WWE as a whole. They seem to be ignoring the glaring issues that hamper their ability to put on a cohesive and entertaining show. The action in the ring isn’t the problem. Having never set foot in a ring I wouldn’t dare question the men who put their health on the line for our entertainment. What I will question is how these shows are constructed. I am a paying customer dammit and I’m angry and now you are going to hear about it!
A big complaint I see amongst fans is that these PPVs are too long. WrestleMania this year, if you include the pre show, topped out around 7 hours. Backlash, a non-major show, was 4 1/2 hours with pre show. Now I love wrestling, but when you factor in 6 hours of programming a week(if you include NXT), it can be a little overkill. The great part about PPVs back in the day were that they all came in under 3 hours. The fact of the matter is the WWE wastes so much time on non-essential junk in between their matches. During Backlash, 5 of the 8 matches on the main card had a video package that averaged around 3 minutes. Why do they treat the fans like idiots who don’t watch their weekly programming? Not every match on the undercard needs a hype video! Furthermore, they showed 5 commercials, mostly for the WWE Network. Who are these ads for? We are already watching you! Throw in the 20 minute segment with Elias and everybody else who didn’t have a match that night and you’ve wasted almost an hour on superfluous nonsense. This is inexcusable considering the bell for the main event didn’t ring until AFTER 11 o’clock eastern time. With no cable operators to answer to anymore these shows can go as late as they want without consequences. In a world where everybody gets neck strain staring at their smartphone, how can you expect your fans to focus their attention on the ring, when there is nothing going on in it?
So what about when there is action in the ring? One of my dear wrestling Twitter friends, Myron(from the Tapped Out Wrestling Podcast Network), made the point that the matches are too long as well. Combined with the delays between matches, watching events like this feels like a chore. I decided to put these theories to the test and compare Backlash to show from the Attitude Era. I chose the biggest event from 20 years ago, WrestleMania 14. Keep in mind this is not a great Mania, but boy was it efficient. If we take out the pre-show and it’s match from Backlash, both shows had 8 matches. Yet, Backlash clocks in at 3 1/2 hours, WM 14 was a speeding 2:45. It still had video packages and interviews before most of its matches, but they averaged about a minute less than the ones this past Sunday. My buddy Myron was right, the matches are longer! Bouts at WM 14 averaged just over 11 minutes, Backlash was over 13! 3 of those matches on Sunday went over 18 minutes, only the main event did that at WrestleMania. These numbers baffle me. You have a product that caters to people of all ages, including children. You have to speed up the show if you want to hold their attention. I fell asleep during WrestleMania this year. I fell asleep during Backlash. It must be the WWE’s fault, because I doubt I have wrestling narcolepsy.
During the Monday Night Wars, as WCW Nitro or RAW would draw to a close, it would always leave me wanting more. I hate to say it, but I now find myself waiting for some of these WWE shows to end! As fan, I want to be taken on an adventure. I want to count the hours until RAW and SmackDown start. I want to be excited for what is next to come. I love you product, but I have a life too. I shouldn’t take me 2 days to get through your biggest show of the year. The big discussion in baseball now is pace of play, and fans losing interest. WWE is straddling this fence. If they keep this up, I’ll be more than happy reliving the glory days 2 hours at a time.
Roman Reigns is the most disrespected man in wrestling. In the 30 years I have been watching this sport I have never seen a performer draw a reaction quite like he does. It defies all logic. It baffles even the most intelligent wrestling minds, especially this one. The WWE has a major league problem on their hands. A supreme talent, a marketable look, a desperate search for the next “big star”, and fans want no part of it. The WWE has can not get people to buy in to Roman Reigns. Worst of all, the evidence points to a frightening truth: They have no idea how to do it.
To further examine this we must go back to the beginning, to the exact moment the WWE Universe turned its back to the Roman Reigns experience. January 25, 2015. Philadelphia, PA. Daniel Bryan enters the Royal Rumble at #10, after nearly a year off due to injury. The rabid fans in Philly are salivating at the fact that their hero will once again shock the world, and main event WrestleMania for the 2nd year in a row. Less than 11 minutes later that dream would die, when Bryan was eliminated by Bray Wyatt. The crowd lost all interest in the match from here on out, and got all Philadelphia. They focused their anger and disappointment towards hijacking the match. They chanted and booed, deciding then and there that whoever would be the last man standing at the end of the night, would not be worthy of their adoration. That man just happened to be Roman Reigns. Since then, this phenomenon has snowballed into unrelenting hatred toward a man that has done nothing over the last 5 years except show up for work.
Injuries are a part of all sports. You can’t predict them, and you can only hope to be able to adapt without your best players being healthy. Over the last few years, there have been a slew of injuries that have plagued the main event scene in the WWE. The names on the list are a who’s who of top flight stars: Seth Rollins, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Finn Balor, etc. Every single one of those guys has missed a WrestleMania over the last 3 years. One of the big reasons why we always see Roman Reigns in a main event, is because he has managed to stay healthy throughout his run. He is not being “shoved down our throats.”
While we are on it, lets talk about those 4 straight WrestleMania main events that everyone loves to complain about. In 2015, following the aforementioned Royal Rumble, he faced Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship. We all know how that turned out. That match fantastic, but the night belonged to Seth Rollins. The year after Reigns faced Triple H, once again for the championship, and this time he would stand victorious. Yet I can’t help but wonder that if Rollins’ were healthy, would Reigns have even been in that match? I can buy the argument that he was the wrong guy to take on the Undertaker last year. What I can’t buy is the blame that Reigns gets for the match being bad. The match was hard to watch, but it was at no fault to Reigns. He worked so hard to get a good match out of 52 year old man with broken down everything. Not to mention the enormous pressure of being put in a spot where, at least at the time, we thought it was the Undertaker’s swan song. Which brings us to this year. The fans had put the WWE in a lose/lose situation. With Brock Lesnar’s contract status locked up for a while longer, and the immense hatred towards Reigns, the WWE made the smart play by keeping the title on Lesnar. They really had no choice.
So a 2-2 record in WrestleMania main events, and he’s considered the chosen one? Please. There are other interesting stats, that when examined, poke holes into the theory that Reigns is the top guy, and nobody else is given a fair shot. Out of his three WWE Championship runs, he has held the title for a total of 118 days. That puts him tied for 29th on the All-Time list for number of days as champion. To put that into perspective, Jinder Mahal has been WWE champion longer than Roman Reigns. You have to put some stock on who is your world champ. When a guy hasn’t held either one of your biggest titles in almost 2 years, he shouldn’t be getting flack from the fans because he’s the “golden boy.” It’s just inaccurate. To go down this rabbit whole even further, let’s take a look at Roman Reigns in PPV title matches. He is 4-10. Three times a Money in the Bank briefcase has been cashed in during a match he was involved in, including his first WWE Championship win. Reigns is not the superhuman fans make him out to be. So how can we change this perception?
The WWE can’t seem to find a way to get Reigns over that sticks. The sympathetic underdog is ridiculous. Fans chewed up and spit out the larger than life superhero. For years there has been a clamoring for him to turn heel, but at this point that makes little sense. He is already getting booed out of every arena. If you made him a bad guy, he would probably get cheered. I agree they need to make a change in his presentation, but the WWE has really put themselves in a bad spot. How do you do it? From my seat there is one way we can turn Roman, where it would all make sense, and fans would be able to accept him for what he should be. They need to align him with the greatest heel of them all, Vince McMahon. Play to smart marks out there. Show Reigns being Vince’s chosen champ. Show the irony of their encounter before WrestleMania, that led to Reigns suspension. Make it interesting, and see if you can cash in on giving the fans what they want. Give them a logical reason to hate a man they already hate.
It is an interesting case the likes of which we have never seen. At a different time Roman Reigns would have the fans in the palm of his hand. These days fans have an undeniable sense of entitlement. If you are one of these fans please remember, the WWE is not a restaurant. You can’t just order off the menu, then if you don’t like the meal, chant it back to the kitchen. The WWE is in constant motion. I know its hard sometimes, but its important you enjoy the ride. If you don’t like Roman Reigns, fine. Nobody is asking you to. I will ask that you don’t be disrespectful to him, or any other wrestler who puts their bodies on the line for our entertainment. I love this sport. You love this sport. Start acting like it.
The first major wrestling event of 2018 took place this past week in Japan. It goes without saying that Wrestle Kingdom 12 was an excellent show from top to bottom. Now, I could put together an in-depth wrap up breaking down all the matches into a fine powder. That is not what you are going to get here. It’s just not my style. If you want that you can listen to a hundred different podcasts, read the Wrestling Observer, or even Bleacher Report. Here at HSLB we like to have a little fun. So I put together a list of superlatives(like your high school yearbook!) highlighting the best parts of this fantastic NJPW show. Enjoy!
BEST DRESSED-Tetsuya Naito: Let us begin where the show ended. Before putting on an epic main event with rival Kazuchika Okada, Naito made an equally impressive entrance into the Tokyo Dome. He was draped in a white suit, fully equipped with a cape and mask. I can only assume he was going for the Don Fanucci look from “Godfather Part II.”
None of this, however, can take away from the incredible match Naito and Okada put on. They have one of the best rivalries in all of wrestling. It was a perfect ending to a near perfect show.
BEST COUPLE-Cody and Brandy Rhodes: Ugh I know this is so obvious, but we must give credit where credit is due. There are very few active on/off screen power couples in wrestling. The Miz has been off filming a movie while wife Maryse is on maternity leave. The Bella Twins have their own show, and haven’t been a regular part of WWE television in quite some time. Even Triple H and Stephanie McMahon do most of their work behind the scenes rather than in the ring. This has left the door open for Cody and Brandy to take the reigns at the top of the mountain. Cody’s career is red hot since he left WWE, despite back to back big match losses. The on screen addition of his real life bride has added a much needed wrinkle to his all world personality. I am excited to see where these two go from here.
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED- “Switchblade” Jay White: Full disclosure: I had never seen a Jay White match before I watched WK12. Does that make me a bad wrestling fan? Maybe, but I have a wife and a 1 year old. I can’t see everything! Needless to say I was impressed with this young man from the start. I said it on Twitter, and I will say it again here: If I were a WWE talent scout, I would call Jay White everyday until he showed up at the Performance Center. He has all of the tools to be a megastar. He has a great look. He is a physical presence in the ring, and at 25, even the sky may not be the limit. I mean look at him? He looks like the love child of Wade Barrett and Trent Reznor!
And you could have it all…….
The amount of young talent out there is astounding. We live in a wrestling world of big spots and extraterrestrial athleticism. Jay White is breath of fresh air for fans like me who love a good brawler. I am excited to see what the future holds for this kid from New Zealand. Speaking of leaping aliens…..
MOST ATHLETIC: Will Ospreay- Another obvious one, but this dude does some nonsense in the ring that can’t be understood by our earth born brains. He is a human video game glitch. Not a single thing he does should be physically possible. The man literally walks on air. I do have a few concerns about his future. At only 24, the risks he takes in the ring may end up costing him down the line. Ospreay’s unlimited agility will get him a seat at the table without a doubt. I just think he needs to slow down, and find the wrestler in him. It is there, we all know it, and it will add years to his career. I am also not a fan of his finisher. Ospreay hit it a few times during his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title win at WK12. Honestly, it is an impressive maneuver on his part, but he will always be in the ring with guys that are not quite as gifted athletically. When his opponent clearly needs to jump into the Oscutter, it looks mildly shitty. Obviously I am just nitpicking here, but details matter. I want this guy to get to the next level just like everyone. I wish him nothing but the best.
MOST TALKATIVE: Kevin Kelly and Don Callis- One of the things that made this show so good was the English commentary by Kevin Kelly and Don Callis. Callis, in particular, was most entertaining as your typical “heel” half of the announce team. It was nice having the announcers actually calling the matches, rather than being fed lines and plugs in their headsets. They also did a fantastic job of telling the stories within the matches. The team knew they were probably speaking to a good chunk of fans that may not know the ins and outs of all things NJPW. They were able to paint the necessary picture to get the casual fan invested in every single match. Kudos to Kelly and Callis for providing depth to the already impressive in ring performances.
MOST DEPENDABLE: Chris Jericho(and fine Kenny Omega, too)- The match that had everyone’s attention going into WK12 was a battle between a legend and a guy building his own legacy. The hype for this match was out of control, and boy did it deliver. I was not surprised at all. Even with the high expectations, you knew that these 2 men were going to live up to every bit of it. Kenny Omega is one of the best wrestlers in world, enjoying the best parts of his prime. The real story here is Chris Jericho. At 47, his ability to still put on main event caliber matches is unparalleled. His match with Omega will go down, and rightfully so, as one of the best of his career. Personally, my favorite Jericho match ever was against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 19. The top 2 guys on my list, facing each other on the biggest stage. To put it in perspective, Jericho was 33 at the time of that match, Michaels was 38. 14 years later, Y2J has yet to lose a step.
I hope you enjoyed this feature on Wrestle Kingdom 12. Chris and I will be back on the air in the coming weeks. Until then enjoy all of our archived shows on the website!
So now that we’ve had a little while to digest Part 1 of this letter, please enjoy the continuation:
“Chan-ting Non-sense”- Since we have already covered awful you sound on social media, it’s how you act in the arenas that is the most irritating. I wish I could pinpoint the moment that it all happened. When did wrestling crowds decide that the shows were about them instead of the action going on in the ring? People are literally paying hundreds of dollars to see if they can get the crowd to join them in some bullshit chant. It was at the previously mentioned Live Event that I had the pleasure of sitting 3 rows in front of “Yelling Guy.” We all know this guy. A guy so void of brains that he just screams ran-dom wo-ords with the hope that can go home and tell his bros that he started a chant at a wrestling show. I’m assuming his mother didn’t hug him enough. There came a point during the night that, if I wasn’t with my 6 year old nephew, I probably would have attempted to embarrass him with my own words.
During a women’s tag match that featured Alexa Bliss/Nia Jax vs. Asuka/Dana Brooke, the guy directs a, “Big and Beautiful,” chant at Ms. Jax. A chant that to me seems counterproductive. Yet when Alexa Bliss entered the ring, he starts in with a, “Short and Ugly” chant! This dude had so many rancid farts for brain cells, that he couldn’t even decide which team he wanted to win the match. All he wanted to do was, at the top of his lungs mind you, yell at some women. It is almost like we have forgotten how to cheer or boo. Sure it’s fun to turn your phone into a firefly, or swipe your arm while saying, “Delete!,” but if after the bell rings you can hear conversations across the arena, then we aren’t doing are jobs as fans. The matches actually should matter to you, especially when you are in attendance.
The main event that night was Roman Reigns vs. John Cena for the Intercontinental Championship. A pretty decent match for a non-televised event if you as me. Yet when you looked around the crowd, it looked like their heads were going to explode. Sure there was a nice buzz around Madison Square Garden, but they had no idea what to do! It’s not that hard people. You pick a horse, and you cheer for him. It’s not a battle of which guy sucks more. The negativity is palpable. If you honestly hate both guys that much, just keep your ass home. I’ve been to shows in that building, where sound had feeling. I long for those days again. We need pops. We need claps. We need to cheer again! (P.S.-Enough with the CM Punk chants. I liked the guy too, but you treat him like the first girl that touched your wiener. She doesn’t care and neither does he. Let it go, man.).
“Everyone is a Tweener”- I see this statement a lot and it always makes me chuckle. It’s the idea that babyfaces and heels don’t exist anymore, at least in the classic sense anyway. It’s the idea that the WWE has changed the way it is presenting their talent. I laugh at this because the WWE hasn’t changed a thing. You’ve changed! Somewhere along the way we as fans have stopped accepting who these characters are. We refuse to cheer guys like Roman and Cena. We refuse to boo guys like Samoa Joe or the Miz. Root for whoever you want, I don’t care. But thinking that everyone is straddling some gray area is just plain untrue. The WWE still has good guys and bad guys. There is no reason for them to change that formula. Yet when the fan base wont allow themselves to accept these terms and conditions, this is how we get the bullshit on social media, and in the arenas.
You see it all ties together. We have to collectively end the negativity that surrounds the sport we all love. Superkicks and flips aren’t “killing the business,” the fans are. If a fan says they like a certain wrestler, 15 people call them stupid. It seems liking both AJ Styles and Kenny Omega is somehow frowned upon. We should like it all! It is the greatest time to be a wrestling fan. There is literally something out there for everyone, and it is all available instantly. When I was younger, being a wrestling fan was like being part of a secret club. Now we have bouncers at the door telling us we’re stupid because we like certain people. It can’t be like that anymore. I’m guilty of things on this list. We all are. So my pledge for 2018 is to be a better wrestling fan. To bring back the days where watching wrestling was fun. Where we cheered our heroes and booed their opponents. If you are willing to take this pledge with me, I’m happy to have you along for the ride. But if you want to continue degrading your own, while crapping on the people that put their bodies on the line for your entertainment, well I think it’s about time you hide and go fuck yourself. Happy New Year, friends.
The following is an open letter to all fans who have no idea how to enjoy pro wrestling anymore. Please share!
Dear Angry Wrestling Fans,
You may not be aware of this, but you are ruining one of the few things that I hold dear. You might not think you are part of the problem, but you are. You might not think I am talking to you, but I am. By the end of this you might be a bit angry with me, but you shouldn’t be. The only person you should mad at is the mug that looks back at you in the mirror. The negativity that fuels you is killing wrestling, and it’s about time somebody called you out on it. So where do I start? How about…..
The Complaining: One of the biggest stories of 2017 was Jinder Mahal’s unlikely run as WWE Champion. Was it the greatest title run in history? Of course not! But it was not nearly as bad some of you made it out to be. While it may have lacked in mass appeal, we got to see something we rarely get in WWE: A guy who was an afterthought, improving at his craft under the brightest spotlight, up against the harshest of critics. But instead of focusing on the WWE trying to create new stars by throwing them in the deep end, you would rather sit there and rattle off names of people who “deserved” to be champion more. So that’s how it works now? You should be picking the title holders? What we need to be doing as a fan base is be more patient and let situations play out. I understand we live in a “we need it now” world, but one of the greatest wrinkles in wrestling is the payoff. If every Monday or Tuesday you got exactly what you wanted, why would we need the next match?
There are also these jackasses out there who seem to think there is “too much” wrestling for them to handle. 25 years ago, there was no Monday Night Raw. We had an hour of WWF on Saturday morning, and an hour of WCW on Saturday night(At least on my cable system). That’s it! Now we can watch whatever we want, however we want, and all at the touch of a button. Sure 6 hours a week of WWE, not including PPVs, is a big investment. I’ve gone on record numerous times about how near impossible it is for me to catch Raw, Smackdown, or NXT during their scheduled times. But that’s just it, you can watch them all whenever you want! Nobody is sitting there with a gun to your head, forcing you to watch Raw live, ignoring you family and jobs. You create your own viewing schedule based on your needs. You catch up when you can, and fast forward through the boring parts! You can create your own positive experience. This goes for wrestling podcasts too. I constantly see tweets from people crying to Conrad Thompson or Bruce Prichard about how long a particular episode is or how many commercials there are. You realize this is a completely voluntary activity right? This is not life or death people. It’s just wrestling. We live in a world where you can control your entertainment consumption. Try to remember that when you bitch tweet about a 5 hour podcast that comes equipped with a pause button.
“Ugh, I miss kayfabe!”- No you fucking don’t. Somewhere along the way you have to accept the fact that this is a TV show starring actors playing a role. This past week I saw a lot of people ripping the WWE and Braun Strowman for their “Elf” parody. “How can we be invested in Braun now after this?”, some of you opined! Honestly, what does that even mean? When the Rock played a computer scorpion in “The Mummy Returns,” not once did it cross my mind about how his wrestling character would be affected. I understand the Braun thing is a little different since it was a WWE produced video, but one has nothing to do with the other! Are you that brain damaged that you can’t comprehend the same guy playing a different role on something else? It’s damn near laughable. The same people that yearn for kayfabe to return are the same people that can’t live without their 4 dozen wrestling websites. They would burst into flames without their inside scoops on all the backstage happenings. What we need from you in 2018 is for you to take a step back. Remember it’s just a show, and shows are supposed to be fun. Continuing to cling to an ancient tradition that can’t possibly exist anymore will just fuel your hate fire. Take a deep breath. Like I said before, it’s just wrestling……
This concludes Part 1 of my “End of the Year” post. Part 2 will be arriving shortly!
“I’m a legend in this sport…if you don’t believe me, ask me.”
-Raymond Louis “Bobby” Heenan, 1944-2017
I have been a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate enough to live through some of the greatest decades in the history of the sport. I was a child of the 80s, so I experienced Hulkamania to its fullest. I was in high school from the 1995-99, so my formative years were spent discussing Raw and Nitro Tuesday mornings in Home Room during the height of the” Monday Night Wars.” During those memorable times there were countless performers that entertained me. Yet as I look back, very few made me laugh and enjoy wrestling more than Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
There will always be the great debates when it comes to the best of all time, especially when it comes to managers. If you gave me 100 ballots I would put Heenan #1 a hundred times. I will fully admit to my New York bias on this one. Growing up in the Northeast it was all WWF all the time. My earliest memories of Heenan the manager came from his time with Andre the Giant. As a kid I knew I was supposed to hate Bobby and his Heenan Family but for some reason I couldn’t. Plus Andre was awesome, how could you hate who he was hanging out with?! They made me smile too much. I still rooted for the Hulkster without question, but my Saturday mornings were always a little brighter if The Brain was on my TV. Even when he was running with Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair, in all the bleach blonde glory a Clorox factory could handle, you couldn’t help but adore him. He was the “weasel”, but I didn’t care. He represented the worst of the worst, and he managed to make you question your morality with his hijinks. He was brilliant. He was “The Brain.”
By the time I became a teenager Heenan was now a full time commentator for WCW. If you ask me, the greatest 3 man announce team ever was Tony Schiavone, Dusty Rhodes, and Bobby Heenan. They brought out the best in each other. Schiavone played the professional play by play announcer. Dusty was the expert color man who could break down a match to a fine powder. Then there was Heenan. He provided the most integral part of wrestling, the entertainment. He would crack jokes about anything and everything going on in the ring. As an announcer he poked holes in everything a babyface did. He would once again make you question, “Should I really cheer for this guy? Brain may have a point!” One of the more famous instances of this was during Bash at the Beach 1996, the notorious “Hostile Take Over” match. Everyone sat at the edge of their seat, wondering who the 3rd man to join the Outsiders was going to be. Hulk Hogan marches out, ready to save the day! Heenan was the only one to question his motives, asking, “Yeah but who’s side is he on?!” We soon found out who’s side he was on didn’t we? Over the years that comment has been a topic of debate. Did Heenan give away the finish? Hardly!! He did what he had been doing for years at that point. He made us question the purity of our beloved heroes. Only this time, he was right!! When you can manipulate an audience like that, it speaks to the ungodly talent a human can possess. Bobby Heenan had all of us in the palm of his hand. The only choice you had was to accept it, and enjoy the ride.
I got to see Bobby Heenan in person once. It was at Wrestlemania 20 in New York. He was one of the inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame that year, before that was really a thing. I hadn’t seen him on TV in a while, and I knew he had been sick. The words were slightly slurred, but that guy could soften the hardest of hearts. There was a backstage skit involving him, Gene Okurland, Moolah, and Mae Young. 4 legends mixed with the allusion of old fogey group sex was a pleasant bit of comic relief during a long night. When they brought out the entire HOF class later in the evening, you still heard a smattering of “Weasel” chants aimed at Bobby. Yet you knew it was all out of love and respect. Bobby Heenan was one of a kind.
It has been a tough week for all wrestling fans, especially for old timers like me. I avoided most of the articles and the tributes, because I wanted to remember Bobby Heenan through my own heart, not someone else’s eyes. He embodied what professional wrestling should be…..fun. Unfortunately, the “fun” is something sorely missing from today’s WWE. The announcers try too hard to be real broadcast journalists. The fans take their passion and opinions WAY too seriously. There is a severe lack of personality behind the beards and wet heads. There is a void in the world of wrestling, and it grew bigger this week. It’s time for us to have some fun again. That’s how we all can honor the legacy of Bobby Heenan. Inspire us, Brain, the way you always could. We love you, and need you now more than ever.
Thursday, August 31, 2017. 10:30am.
As much as I would love to join my wife and son for a late morning nap, I’m antsy. There are too many thoughts rolling around in this crazy head of mine. I decide to put my sneakers on get some fresh air. The only thought I had at the time, that I could understand anyway, was “Go take walk.”
It was always burned into my mind that once September hits, summer is over. This year’s installment went by faster than any I can remember. I feel like last week the Yankees were in 1st place, Aaron Judge was the MVP and Rookie of the Year, it was Memorial Day and we were about to debut on the Tapped Out Network. When I woke up this morning, the Yankees were clinging to a Wild Card slot, Aaron Judge strikes out more than I did in college, the NFL season starts in a week, and the podcast is on an island once again. What the hell man?!
I feel like this summer passed me by like a stranger in a crowd. There were no trips to the beach, no concerts attended, and no rounds of golf.(That last one hit me hard as I stroll by the 5th on the course I live near.) It was my first summer as a dad and all I had to show for it is 3 months chock full of hollow plans. Yet when I think about where I started in May, and where am I as August draws its last breath, it might have been the summer I needed most.
(At this point I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “What’s this have to do with wrestling?” Relax, we’re getting there)
It took me way too long to realize how much pain I was in, 24/7, both mentally and physically. For years I have battled anxiety and depression. This is a phrase that gets kicked around a lot these days, thankfully. When I was 12 I was just “shy” and “distracted”. At 36, it’s a legitimate illness that is a daily fight for millions everywhere, and thankfully much more socially acceptable. Stress was my downfall earlier in the year. Sure it’s the normal stuff, working 60 hours a week at my restaurant, being a new parent, and living far away from friends and family all factor in to your stress levels. It was also the pressures of turning what was once a hobby and a passion, that now had become work. Putting out a quality wrestling podcast, week in week out, is difficult enough. Having a contract with a network, meeting deadlines, as well as trying to keep things fresh in a saturated market, is a pressure unto itself. That pressure ultimately brought me to my knees, but it wasn’t the only thing.
I was physically breaking down over the course of the spring and summer. What started as the occasional sore back from 20 years in the restaurant business, was now constant and severe pain. I could barely move, yet I did nothing to take care of it. The combination of the anxiety and the physical pain was more than I could handle. I broke down. At one point, during an episode, I thought I was having a heart attack. It was at that point I knew I had to get my head right first, and the rest would fall into place. There is a line in “The Matix” given by Morpheus that says, “The body cannot live without the mind.” I was living proof of that.
I thank God every day for my wife. She is the most caring badass of a person I know. She found a medical doctor who specializes in treating anxiety and depression. Yes there are people like this out there! We put together a plan, and over the last few months, with the right medicine and diet, I haven’t felt this good in a long time. The same goes for my back issues too. The anxiety I deal with makes it difficult for me to make phone calls. Once I was able to calm those nerves, I called my chiropractor. It turns out I had a pinched nerve in my back, that was just getting worse and worse. After weeks of therapy, I am feeling great again. I am back to exercising regularly, and I am hoping pick up those golf clubs that are collecting dust in my closet very soon. I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: There are people all over the place willing to help you. They have these jobs so they can do just that. The most important thing you can do in life is ask for help. Nobody can do anything alone. With so many remarkable people in the world, there is bound to be one out there that will have the life jacket waiting for you. It’s never too late, I can promise you that.
Which finally brings us back to why you all know who I am, and listen to our podcast: Wrestling. Throughout all of my troubles, and as I mentioned before, we had a short stint on the Tapped Out Wrestling Podcast Network. We couldn’t have been more excited to work with and connect with such great people. Unfortunately, not everything you do in life works out, and my co-host, Chris, and I thought it would be in our best interest to move on and leave the network. The notion of feeling like I failed at this game killed me. I had let something that should have been fun, consume me. I wanted nothing to do with it anymore. During our hiatus, I put wrestling, something I love dearly and have tremendous passion for, off the side. I barely watched any wrestling on TV. I couldn’t even turn on a wrestling podcast. I had no desire to even record my own. It felt like I was going through a breakup. I wasn’t going to be ready, until I was ready.
Our first show back will drop this Monday, September 4th. Sure it was the second attempt at this episode, but damn it felt good to be back behind a microphone. It felt right again. I know in my heart of hearts that we will be stronger than ever, and I hope each and every one of you enjoys the ride with us. In hindsight, maybe this summer wasn’t lost after all. Maybe I just needed go through all of this muck, and come out a stronger person on the other side. I needed to find what got me into this podcast racket to being with. It all starts with a passion, a passion I had lost at some point during the Summer of ’17. Yet as the calendar turns to fall, it is a passion that burns once again.