Everything Old is New Again

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.

And finally…….

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.

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Dirty Words:5 Phrases Fans Should Be Banned From Using

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…..

Dream Match

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.

Work Rate

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.

Unpopular Opinion

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.

Bury/Job Out

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…..

Booking/Creative

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!

Survivor Series 2002: A View From the Cheap Seats

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.

The Arena

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 πŸƒ)

The Event

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-πŸƒπŸƒπŸƒ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. πŸƒ πŸƒ πŸƒ

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. πŸƒ πŸƒ πŸƒ

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. πŸƒ πŸƒ

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. πŸƒ πŸƒ πŸƒ πŸƒ

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. πŸƒ πŸƒ πŸƒ πŸƒ

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 Champ We Need

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?

Theirs For The Taking

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….