The Year of the Diamond Cutter

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!!

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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.

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….

Knee Jerk to the Face(Or Heel)

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.

Summerslam:Predictions and Memories

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!

β€œAll-In”: The Dawn of Wrestling’s Next Great War

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.

Leaving Twitter:How I Saved My Wrestling Soul

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.