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Dolph Ziggler Establishes Himself as Go-To Star

November 24, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

As we older wrestling fans bitterly walk into our thirties and forties, we have this tendency to slip on rose-tinted sunglasses. This is done in an attempt to view today’s wrestling world through old lens, as much of a chore it is to try and build parallels to the two.

In particular, we sometimes champion a wrestler in today’s field by dressing them in the repurposed shell of a wrestler we heralded about an era or two back. Daniel Bryan became the bearded, jovial reincarnate of Chris Benoit, one that nobody would feel guilty about enjoying. Bray Wyatt’s manner of speech invoked memories of Jake Roberts and Kevin Sullivan, the calm savage. CM Punk at one time had seanced the spirit of Stone Cold Steve Austin, through profanity, blunt honesty, and defiance. When Punk’s walkout in 2014 too eerily matched Austin’s 2002 vacancy, Dean Ambrose stepped in to be the unconventional, office-scorning rebel.

What about Dolph Ziggler? Before, Ziggler was a more convincing offspring of Curt Hennig than Curtis Axel is, flailing like a fish out of water off the simplest of offensive strikes, curly blonde locks scattering like the frills of a pom-pom. Salesmanship aside, Ziggler’s legitimate athletic background, like Hennig’s, was oh-so-perfectly melded with a willingness to portray the preening-douche-turned-punching-bag for so many. Imbued with these traits, Ziggler is indispensable.

Ziggler also shares similarities with other Hennig fashioner, Shawn Michaels. In the 1990s (hell, up until his 2010 retirement), Michaels could steal the show as either a face (drawing sympathy for the comeback, telling a story equally through emotion and athletics) or a heel (for the same qualities as Hennig and Ziggler). Michaels will forever have tenancy in wrestling’s penthouse suite for his ability to take the most jaded know-it-all, the ‘I wouldn’t have written the story THIS way’ grouch, and reduce him to a bright-eyed believer through sheer will. It’s a skill nobody can duplicate.

This isn’t to say Ziggler is scraping insulation in Michaels’ ceiling at present time, but after Survivor Series, there’s a new inkling of just how sky-high Ziggler’s ceiling may be.

It’s a role Michaels nailed eleven years ago, the hopeless hero. Michaels needed to survive against Chris Jericho, Christian, and a less-inked Randy Orton in order to save Steve Austin’s job. The fact that Michaels had lost enough blood to fill a fish-tank only upped the drama several rungs. Looking like Carrie White, Michaels lucked his way into eliminating Christian and Jericho before Orton ended the miracle run after Batista interfered. Anyone who watched that match will tell you while catching their breath that it’s typical, by-the-book HBK, while exhaling, “And it’s f–king incredible.”

Sunday night, Ziggler was in the same predicament, with some wholly moving twists.

In the match to determine whether The Authority would be vanquished or whether some upper-midcard babyfaces would be fired instead, Ziggler, once canon fodder so far wedged into the sole-grooves of WWE’s shoe, was the last hope for the good guys. This was especially shocking, given that the usual Superman, John Cena, had been disposed of through Big Show’s annual heel turn midway through the bout. Across from a weary (but not bloody, per Mattel’s humble invective) Ziggler were Seth Rollins, Kane, and Luke Harper. Alas, it’s a parallel.

Knowing that only Cena could take out the 82nd Airborne without assistance, the St. Louis crowd began looking for the run-in. Given that Randy Orton was recently spurned by the heels, and that the Gateway City is Orton’s home, the natives earnestly chanted for him while Ziggler was bounced around by the corporate ladder. Not a good sign when you’re so far down the caste, fans believe more in the savior than the worker.

Then it happened: Ziggler won over the crowd. Repeated kickouts, subtle appeals through relaying of agony and exhaustion, and the fans were pulling for Ziggler to complete the comeback. If Daniel Bryan didn’t belong in Ziggler’s generation, I’d say that Dolph usurped the underdog schtick from him.

There weren’t any YES chants, but the fans popped fierce when Ziggler downed Kane cleanly with the Zig Zag. The cheers were louder when Dolph managed to roll up Harper and rid him from the bout. JBL was angrily stunned. Michael Cole, in a rare moment of intense focus, sold Ziggler as a warrior, running on empty for the sake of his job. Ziggler and Rollins engaged in a tremendous series of near falls in the lead-up to the Sports Entertainment Finish, well-executed and welcome for all of its convolution.

‘Holy crap, it’s Sting!’ will trump ‘holy crap, Dolph pulled it off!’ when panning for website clicks, but Ziggler’s story is needed long-term. The match has absolutely made Ziggler, Sting’s deus ex machina help or not. WWE has needed organic heroes more than it’s needed accurate dates on its WWE Network content. Punk said see ya, Bryan’s out long-term, Ambrose is there if they truly want him, and Roman Reigns’ biggest feud may be the one he’s having with the teleprompter.

Ziggler was dead, an afterthought. His outspokenness had cancelled out his world-class athleticism, and if a PPV in 2013 or 2014 passed by without him, nobody blinked. His demotion was accepted; his scripted wins these days more startling than appreciated. Whoever shook their head in the office and said, ‘wait, why aren’t we doing MORE with Dolph?’ may be a one-eyed-prophet in the land of the blind, but that one eye understands the man’s value.

I’d argue that Ziggler’s survival trumps Bryan’s WrestleMania wins. We all knew that Bryan was getting those victories as an apology for a winter’s worth of short-sighted booking, and angry fans weren’t to be denied. Ziggler’s rise from fodder is more notable because in less than 20 minutes, he won over the crowd that wanted Orton, and busted his ass for each ounce of renewed appreciation.

Writing out of Hunter and Stephanie aside, this is why we all loved last night’s match. We all believed because Dolph Ziggler made us believe. Shawn Michaels chuckles knowingly.

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Top 25 WWE Survivor Series Elimination Matches

November 19, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Survivor Series just ain’t what it used to be.

First, it was Thanksgiving night. Then it was Thanksgiving eve. Then it moved indiscriminately to just any old Sunday in November. When it started, it was all about the elimination matches. Now it’s about the typically-rushed storylines that are often back-burnered in favor of whatever Cena or Orton are doing, with maybe an elimination match or two shoehorned in there somewhere.

Well, forget about senile Vince McMahon and lack-of-fun Kevin Dunn for a minute. Let’s journey back to when the event MEANT SOMETHING, and let’s share some fond memories of some of the greatest elimination matches that have ever taken place at the Thanksgiving night/eve/located in proximity to the holiday tradition!

After all, it sure beats “John Cena and The Rock vs. what’re-their-names.”

Enjoy!

25. The Holly Cousins and Too Cool def. Edge, Christian, and The Hardy Boyz (11/14/99, Detroit, MI)
Survivor: Hardcore Holly
Gotta admit; that face team would be pretty cool in any era, despite the real life problems of the brothers Hardy. For what it is, it’s a fast paced match between WWE’s “X Division” of 1999; a match in which the second oldest person (Crash) was only 28 years old. When does that EVER happen? Edge being the first one gone was a surprise, as was the heels going over. Then again, since Edge and company were made men after their spectacular ladder match the previous month, why not give some rub to the then-relevant “Big Shot”? Christian’s near-comeback from a three-on-one was fun to watch.

24. Bertha Faye, Aja Kong, Tomoko Watanabe & Lioness Asuka def. Alundra Blayze, Sakie Hasegawa, Kyoko Inoue & Chapparita Asari (11/19/95, Landover, MD)
Survivor: Kong
This was probably the first time since 1988 that WWE had more than three women involved in the same match, and boy, what a comeback for women’s wrestling. Of course, the entire division was scrapped a month later, when Blayze rechristened herself as Madusa and threw the WWE Women’s Title in the trash on WCW Nitro. Alas. The match was a ten minute infomercial for Aja Kong to show how scary-dominant she could be, dropping her fellow Joshi performers on their heads and necks before waylaying Blayze with a spinning back fist to become the sole survivor. Now we get Kelly Kelly rubbing her bony ass in Natalya’s face. Alas.

23. Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, John Cena, Bradshaw, and Hardcore Holly def. Brock Lesnar, Big Show, A-Train, Matt Morgan, and Nathan Jones (11/16/03, Dallas, TX)
Survivors: Benoit, Cena
Lesnar built a team of brawny monsters to take on GM Paul Heyman’s “most wanted” list. It was notable because, unlike today with Cena and Randy Orton, the two men getting the biggest rub (Angle and Lesnar) were eliminated before the finish, thus making whoever survived look pretty damn special. Indeed, the soon-to-be-megapushed Benoit and the being-molded Cena upended Big Show in the end, after Benoit had made Lesnar tap out. Of course, this is essentially the match that kicked off Cena’s interminable face run, so maybe some of you will want to curse this outing.

22. Shawn Michaels, Triple H, CM Punk, and The Hardy Boyz def. Edge, Randy Orton, Johnny Nitro, Gregory Helms, and Mike Knox (11/26/06, Philadelphia, PA)
Survivors: the entire team
One sided as it was, this match provided some decent crowd-pleasing action, as well as a number of comedy spots. Mike Knox being eliminated by Shawn Michaels in under a minute, and then Shawn asking his team, “Who was he?” is never not funny. “I think he’s on ECW.” “Oh, so we’re doing GOOD then?” Too hilarious. Also of note was Punk outpopping the entire team during the pre-match DX intro, despite having only been in WWE for three months. It’s stuff like that that drives Vince McMahon even more insane.

21. Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, and Hunico def. Randy Orton, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston, Sin Cara, and Mason Ryan (11/20/11, New York, NY)
Survivors: Barrett, Rhodes
It was a pretty good way of putting over Intercontinental Champion Rhodes and soon-to-be pushed heel Barrett (before his arm injury in February). Orton dispatched a drained Ziggler early before Barrett’s team rattled off 4 straight eliminations, leaving Orton alone against 4 men. Swagger went quietly, then Hunico was RKOed out before the Viper was outsmarted, losing to Barrett’s Wasteland.

20. The Miz, Sheamus, Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, and Drew McIntyre def. John Morrison, Matt Hardy, Evan Bourne, Shelton Benjamin, and Finlay (11/22/09, Washington, DC)
Survivors: Miz, Sheamus, McIntyre
Other than McIntyre’s push stalling in 2010, that heel side is like “Team Groom for Greatness”, as the other four men would all go on to hold a World Title. Whereas the face team features three men no longer in WWE, one suspended for ingesting synthetic ganja, and a captain who is a kitty-whipped laughingstock. Regardless, the match was a tremendous showcase of midcarders soon-to-be big deals, which gives Survivor Series (as well as the Royal Rumble) its ochre of flavor. The highlights were McIntyre nearly breaking Bourne in half at the neck with his Future Shock DDT, and Sheamus definitively crushing Finlay in the “Battle of the Brogue.”

19. Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, Doug Furnas, and Phil Lafon (Team Canada) def. Vader, Steve Blackman, Marc Mero, and Goldust (Team USA) (11/9/97, Montreal, PQ)
Survivor: Smith
Team Canada, it should be noted, featured only one actual Canadian in Lafon. On the night where Bret Hart would be excommunicated from WWE canon, it seemed appropriate that a hastily-assembled team of America haters would be on display. The match was merely a backdrop to begin a feud with Vader and the increasingly-erratic Goldust, who walked out without ever tagging in, but the match was an exciting wrestling exhibition when Vader, Mero, Smith, Furnas and Lafon were involved. Having a pro-Canuck team in an enthusiastic Canadian setting provided a hot crowd as well, even if the match was overshadowed at night’s end by…..well, you know.

18. Ted Dibiase, Rhythm & Blues, and a Mystery Partner (The Million Dollar Team) def. Dusty Rhodes, Koko B Ware, and The Hart Foundation (The Dream Team) (11/22/90, Hartford, CT)
Survivor: Dibiase
Assuming that Honky and Neidhart are future Hall of Famers, as well as the mystery partner, you have eight Hall of Famers in one match. Impressive, no? Anyway, you probably know by now that said mystery partner is The Undertaker, making his WWE debut in grand fashion by obliterating Ware and Rhodes before taking a countout loss to save his mystique. Hart lost his brother Dean the day before to kidney failure, and Roddy Piper (on commentary) declared “The Hitman” had dedicated the match to him. Foreshadowing his eventual singles push, Hart came back from three on one to tussle with Dibiase at the end, losing when the Million Dollar Man rolled through his cross body.

17. Randy Savage, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, Ricky Steamboat, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan def. Honky Tonk Man, Ron Bass, Harley Race, Hercules, and Danny Davis (11/26/87, Richfield, OH)
Survivors: Savage, Roberts, Steamboat
The first Survivor Series match ever had one of the more intriguing stories ever seen at the event. Honky, Intercontinental Champion for six months running and an unlikely champion at that, was versed by five challengers, all of whom capable of beating him for the gold, if not for Honky’s perpetual luck and knack for cheating. Honky’s teammates weren’t able to go the distance, as Honky found himself stuck with the three men he had feuded with through 1987, and they all still held a grudge. After trying his best to hang with Savage and his cohorts, Honky took a walk for the countout loss. By the way, wouldn’t YOU have loved to see Savage and Steamboat as a semi-regular team? Me too.

16. Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Koko B Ware, Hercules, and Hillbilly Jim def. Big Bossman, Akeem, Ted Dibiase, Haku, and The Red Rooster (11/24/88, Richfield, OH)
Survivors: Savage, Hogan
Koko and Rooster main evented a WWE PPV not called “Royal Rumble” or “Irony-Mania”. The Towers were positioned as holdover threats to Savage and Hogan before the “Mega Powers Exploding” months later. Hogan being handcuffed late in the match while Savage had to try and fend off Bossman and Akeem provided some tension to a well-worked, albeit predictable, affair. The sad part was Dibiase, the hottest heel when the year started, reduced to working a nothing angle with former “slave” Hercules, and then floating around with nothing to do for months until he was handed the Jake Roberts feud. Other than such quibbles, it was a fine main event to the Series’ second incarnation.

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15. The Ultimate Warrior, Jim Neidhart, and The Rockers (The Ultimate Warriors) def. Andre the Giant, Haku, Arn Anderson, and Bobby Heenan (The Heenan Family) (11/23/89, Chicago, IL)
Survivor: Warrior
I love when you look back at old matches like this and realize that WWE and Vince McMahon were giving experimental runs to those deemed to have “future prospects.” This particular match was the closer for the 1989 Survivor Series, and Warrior was given a chance to shine as the final act, foreshadowing his World Title run the following year. In addition, Shawn Michaels lasted quite a while in the match for a 24-year-old tag team wrestler, getting to pin Haku before succumbing to Anderson’s spinebuster. Surely with Marty Jannetty eliminated, the match became something of a singles audition for the future Heartbreak Kid. For those wondering why Heenan was in the match, check Tully Blanchard’s drug test results for an explanation.

14. Kofi Kingston, Christian, Mark Henry, MVP, and R-Truth def. Randy Orton, CM Punk, Cody Rhodes, Ted Dibiase, and William Regal (11/22/09, Washington, DC)
Survivor: Kingston
Quite the anachronism in 2011, Orton pinned Henry within the first minute, Orton and Punk worked in tandem, eventual main eventer R-Truth bit the dust early, and Orton Punk were both reviled villains to Christian’s virtuous good guy routine. But rather than expose the fallacies of WWE’s breakneck booking change, let’s look at the upside: Kingston was made with this one, withstanding seven minutes of Punk and Orton breaking him down, to score what should have been a career-boosting victory. Instead, he blew the finish weeks later in a triple threat involving Orton, and Orton had an on-camera freakout that got Kofi punished, but not Randino. Weird.

13. Razor Ramon, 123 Kid, Davey Boy Smith, and The Headshrinkers (The Bad Guys) def. Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, and Jeff Jarrett (The Teamsters) (11/23/94, San Antonio, TX)
Survivor: Ramon
You can be made in a loss, and Diesel was a made man after this performance. After lots of early action in which everyone but Michaels got involved, Diesel said “enough of this” and went on a rampage. Fatu bit the dust with a Jackknife, followed by Kid, then Sionne, and then the Bulldog took a count out loss. With Razor remaining, against 5 on 1 odds, a loss seemed inevitable when Michaels FINALLY tagged in and accidentally superkicked Diesel. In a silly finish, all five heels were counted out when Diesel angrily stalked Michaels. Razor became the only sole survivor in history to never eliminate anyone and, three days later, Diesel beat Bob Backlund to become WWE Champion.

12. Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy, Rick Rude, One Man Gang, and Butch Reed def. Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Paul Orndorff, Don Muraco, and Ken Patera (11/26/87, Richfield, OH)
Survivor: Andre
Sorry, Jim Crockett Promotions. When cable providers had to choose between airing Starrcade ’87 and the inaugural Survivor Series, with the lure of Hulk and Andre in the main event, facing off eight months after WrestleMania III, WWE won out in spades. After the sides whittled down to a three on two, Hogan and Andre finally locked horns, but the Hulkster was counted out after Bundy and Gang kept him from re-entering the ring. Bigelow managed to eliminate Bundy and Gang and would have defied the odds Cena-style but, well, it was Andre. The Frenchman flattened Bammer for the final fall, giving himself a just cause to petition a rematch against Hogan for the WWE title. And that’s a fascinating story in itself.

11. Doug Furnas, Phil Lafon, and The Godwinns def. Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and The New Rockers (11/17/96, New York, NY)
Survivors: Furnas, Lafon
After a cup of coffee in ECW in the fall of 1996, Furnas and Lafon debuted in the opening match of Survivor Series 1996, and what a debut it was. Once Marty Jannetty busted his ankle prior to being eliminated, and then both Godwinns went, WWE was in store for action that they’d never seen before. Leif Cassidy (known better as Al Snow) took a header with modified reverse superplex from Lafon, and the well-traveled veterans were made to hold off Hart and Smith, then WWE Tag Team Champions. Bulldog was cradled for elimination, and Furnas planted Owen with an absolutely vicious release German suplex to give Furnas and Lafon the win with a crazy standing ovation from the Garden crowd.

10. The Rock, The Undertaker, Kane, Chris Jericho, and Big Show vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, and Shane McMahon (11/19/01, Greensboro, NC)
Survivor: Rock
It was an abrupt end to what should have been a money-maker for WWE. The WCW/ECW Invasion had sputtered to a poorly-booked finish, but at least we got a great finale out of it. With the future of the company at stake, and the losing side being forced to disband for good, drama built over the forty-five minute coda. Once down to just Rock and Austin, after Jericho attempted to selfishly maim his own partner, the two icons of the Attitude era put on a dramatic finish, ending with Angle proving to be a mole, as he clocked Austin with a title belt. One Rock Bottom later, and the Alliance was dead, leaving Stephanie to scream like a banshee in tears backstage.

9. The Powers of Pain, Hart Foundation, The Rockers, The British Bulldogs, and The Young Stallions def. Demolition, The Brainbusters, Los Conquistadors, The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, and The Bolsheviks (11/24/88, Richfield, OH)
Survivors: Powers of Pain
When was the last time WWE had ten teams, REAL teams, under lock and key like this? This would be the second time a match with ten teams would take place (I do believe this spoils a later entry), and it was full of great action and well-told stories. The climax was an inexplicable story turn in which Mr. Fuji intentionally caused Demolition, the World Tag Team Champions, mind you, to be counted out, just so he could manage the Powers of Pain for some reason. In other fascinating notes, the Conquistadors, perennial jobbers, lasted over forty minutes, and the Rougeaus were eliminated early due to a very tense real-life feud with Dynamite Kid.

8. Randy Orton, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and Maven def. Triple H, Batista, Edge, and Gene Snitsky (11/14/04, Cleveland, OH)
Survivor: Orton
Kicking off one of the greatest five-month story arcs ever seen in WWE history (I’m serious), Orton led his team to victory in a match where the winning side got to run Raw for one month while Eric Bischoff took a long vacation. In the end, it would lead to Batista realizing he could beat Triple H and thus slowly turned on him before brutalizing him for the World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania 21. Sadly, though, this match didn’t make Orton the top babyface star that Vince McMahon was hoping for, but lord knows they’d try again year after year. Highlight of the match is Maven busting Snitsky open with a stiff right hand, and Gene getting his revenge with a chair shot that just about killed the Shop-At-Home star.

7. Ric Flair, Ted Dibiase, The Warlord, and The Mountie def. Rowdy Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and Virgil (11/27/91, Detroit, MI)
Survivor: Flair
What a great beginning, what a lousy finish. Talk about your impressive lists of talent for one match, with the exception of Warlord, who at least provided a musclehead to throw people around and create “ooooh” moments with. Even Virgil in 1991 had hit a nice stride. Smith and Warlord are both eliminated after a Flair cheapshot causes Bulldog to go, and then Hart duplicates the act on Warlord, allowing Piper to pin the big man. The match then ends in a bizarre multi-man count out, with Flair being the only man to beat the count back inside, thus cheaply becoming the sole survivor. It was a shame, because the match was turning into something AWESOME, aided by a white-hot crowd. What a pity.

6. The Shield and The Real Americans def. Rey Mysterio, Cody Rhodes, Goldust, and The Usos (11/24/13, Boston, MA)
Survivor: Roman Reigns

Easily the best elimination match in nearly a decade, WWE gave a Booking 101 demonstration on how to portray a wrestler as a killer. After Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, and Jack Swagger bit the dust, Reigns went ballistic, thinning the field of Rhodes and Jimmy Uso. Seth Rollins bounced Jey Uso out before getting downed by Rey. Down two-on-one, an undaunted Reigns plowed through Goldust and Mysterio in a 30-second span to stand tall. The action along the way was the fast-paced fare you’d expect, given the entrants, but letting one man, one not named Cena or Orton, obliterate so many opponents gave hope that Reigns would become a power player.

5. Skip, Rad Radford, Tom Pritchard, and 123 Kid (The Bodydonnas) def. Marty Jannetty, Barry Horowitz, Hakushi, and Bob Holly (The Underdogs) (11/19/95, Landover, MD)
Survivor: Kid
Imagine in 2011 if they put the likes of Daniel Bryan and other barely-seen, improperly-used talents in one twenty minute match and told them “go nuts.” In this opening match to the 1995 show, fast-paced athletes like Hakushi, Jannetty, and Kid wowed the crowd in spectacular fashion with action that Vince McMahon wasn’t exactly used to putting on. Let’s just say Vince bellowed “WHATAMANEUVER” a lot. After Jannetty finished Skip off with a top rope powerbomb (unheard of in WWE at the time), Kid used help from new stablemate Psycho Sid to finish Jannetty, continuing his remolding into one of Ted Dibiase’s corporate players.

4. Batista, Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, Bobby Lashley, and JBL (Team Smackdown) def. Shawn Michaels, Kane, Big Show, Carlito, and Chris Masters (Team Raw) (11/27/05, Detroit, MI)
Survivor: Orton
The in-ring action for this one was superb, as you had wrestlers who didn’t even LIKE each other railing off creative double teams for the greater good of brand supremacy (you know, when the brand extension WASN’T a bastardized concept meant to make people care about a draft from year to year….). But as fun and different as the in-ring action was, the action at the commentary desks was even better, as Michael Cole and Tazz sniped with Joey Styles (remember him?), Jerry Lawler, and Jonathan Coachman for the entire match in between calling moves. For once, it seemed like Vince McMahon stepped away from the headset and just let their barbs come naturally, and it was FUN. In the end, Michaels took out Mysterio and JBL, but the RKO got him moments later. Then The Undertaker returned. Great stuff.

3. Razor Ramon, Macho Man Randy Savage, Marty Jannetty, and 123 Kid def. IRS, Diesel, Rick Martel, and Adam Bomb (11/24/93, Boston, MA)
Survivors: Jannetty, Kid
A major substitution took place before the card, as Savage was called in to pinch hit for Mr. Perfect, who either bowed out due to recurring back problems or alcoholic issues, depending on which source you believe. Regardless, the action was raucous for the first fifteen to twenty minutes, with Diesel, Savage, IRS, and Razor, the four bigger players involved, being eliminated. Once down to the monstrous Bomb and wily Martel against two smaller competitors, it seemed that Kid and Jannetty had little chance. This was especially true after Bomb gave Kid a sickening slam on the concrete after a plancha gone bad. However, after a half hour of action, Kid and Jannetty ended the contest with matching sunset flips on both men to become unlikely survivors.

2. Strike Force, Young Stallions, Killer Bees, British Bulldogs, and the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers def. Hart Foundation, Demolition, The Islanders, The New Dream Team, and The Bolsheviks (11/26/87, Richfield, OH)
Survivors: Stallions, Bees
The original twenty-man elimination contest features WWE talents at their most innovative. In a match with Bret Hart, Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith, Tito Santana, and others, this should not be a surprise. Hard to say what was better: Haku nearly decapitating Dynamite with the savate kick, or Paul Roma saving Jim Powers with a top rope sunset flip on Valentine to eliminate him. This match has literally everything: crisp finishing sequences, top-notch wrestling, good swerves (Strike Force, the champs, were eliminated not fifteen minutes into the forty minute match), and a nice underdog finish, as Jim Brunzell pinned Bret Hart, allowing the Bees and Stallions to outsmart the brawnier Islanders en route to victory. If you love tag team wrestling, hunt down a copy of this event, because this match will be your Graceland.

1. Chris Jericho, Christian, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, and Scott Steiner (Team Bischoff) def. Shawn Michaels, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, and The Dudley Boyz (Team Austin) (11/16/03, Dallas, TX)
Survivor: Orton
If Austin’s team were to be victorious, he, as co-GM of Raw, would be allowed to use martial law to keep order on the show (i.e. beat people up). However, if Bischoff’s team won, Austin was out as co-GM. The match began innocuously enough, with Henry, Booker, Steiner, and RVD going, and then Michaels hit a gusher outside the ring, with blood spilling everywhere. Seriously, it looked like he was going to die any second. Jericho and Christian finished off the future Team 3D, and Austin’s hopes were now pinned on a crimson-soaked zombie. Oh, the drama! A fluke Sweet Chin Music took Christian out, and a cradled reversal of the Walls doomed Jericho. Michaels heroically hung in there against a fresh Orton, and the ref was soon knocked out. Austin and Bischoff interjected themselves, and Austin chased Bischoff to the entrance set and thrashed him good, but Batista then jumped the rail, pancaked Michaels with the Batista Bomb, and the ref came around to count Orton’s pinfall, leaving a stunned Austin in the aisleway. Had Austin been gone for more than four months after this, and not returned as the “Sheriff”, it’d have meant a lot more. Instead, it was just a great match, one in which the drama and story meant more than any chain-wrestling sequence could ever mean.

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Jim Ross Remains Wrestling’s Most Beloved Voice

November 18, 2014 By: Category: Videos, WWE | Pro Wrestling

The blindly-devoted WWE fan and the ‘things were better back in xxxx’ gallery of cynics seem to find consensus on one thing: Michael Cole is awful. Tragically for our ears, he’s meant to be awful, because his strings are pulled through the earholes of his headset by Vince McMahon, whose modern-day ailing of paranoia-breeds-control-freakism would make Richard Nixon shake his head.

The list of Cole’s annoying quirks is plentiful, from gun-to-his-head product shilling with all of the faux enthusiasm of a car salesman hawking invisible rust inhibitor, to wooden, almost-disinterested match calls that make him sound like Joe Buck calling a football game while responding to text messages at the same time. These problems seem to stem more from the man in his ear than the voice in his heart, but that seems to be the other problem: Cole lacks heart. For the numbers on his paycheck, and his lack of wrestling experience outside of WWE’s partition, he’s never going to question McMahon.

The fact that Jim Ross’ blogs, mere written words on a plethora of subjects, amplify louder and resonate more than Cole’s robotically-strung-together bowls of word soup makes it a crime that Ross was shunted down so far in favor of Cole in the first place. It’s most likely that passion of Ross’ that clashes with the sterilized outlook of corporate McMahon, which makes Cole Vince’s preferred avatar: no questions, all obedience. Ross clashed with McMahon numerous times when they shared the office, and likely Ross would defer to his own instincts in the booth.

The irony is that with Cole entrenched as the crony-ized ‘Voice of WWE’, it’s his duty to overpromote the very WWE Network in which the most desirable content is a virtual video-history of North-American wrestling’s last thirty to forty years. A sizable chunk of that retro content has Jim Ross in the soundtrack, screaming through fiery breaths the names of Ric Flair, Steve Austin, Sting, and Mick Foley, among scores of other classical heroes and monsters. His folksy demeanor plays like an acoustic guitar when telling stories, but wails with thrash-guitar forte when the action calls for it.

The demotion, and attempted devaluing through humiliating storylines, of Ross has had zero payoff in six years, unless you count Cole’s gallant attempt to be a snarky hybrid of Andy Kaufman and Jimmy Hart in 2011 (credit where its due, Cole made a wonderfully punchable villain).

Regardless, Michael Cole is indeed the voice of a generation; a generation that parrots the unrelated press release when prodded by legitimate and thoughtful questions.

Jim Ross is the wrestling fan’s uncle. No matter how much Cole, via McMahon, has worked to undercut him with pointless tales of ‘anal bleeding’ and awful battle raps, his journalist’s gravitas melds with the humble historian to be an authentic, believable voice, one that doesn’t extinguish easily.

Even while playing the salesman seated ringside, the onus being on him to sell you on the matches and pay-per-views, Jim Ross maintained an integrity that outsized the sometimes-poor product he had to sell. If Ross were TNA’s voice, you might willingly pay cash while Ross wheels the Orlando dumpster fire up your driveway.

I’ve never actively watched a live New Japan event in my life unless you count Starrcade 1995’s World Cup of Wrestling. In conjunction with Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling, an American airing of WrestleKingdom IX on Sunday, January 4 will pretty much be allowed access to my wallet.

This will be the first time I ever purchase a wrestling event on the primary basis of who’s calling the action.

This isn’t to disrespect any of the actual combatants on the card. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada’s duel for IWGP Heavyweight Title can probably be assigned a five-star rating seven weeks in advance, and New Japan as a whole generally delivers from the discriminatory “workrate” standpoint. The event doesn’t need Jim Ross to be enjoyable.

But there’s that something extra that Ross adds, namely a bridge between an exotic, non-standard (in America) product and the American consumer. I’m not alone; viewers of a YouTube video weaving Ross into the WrestleKingdom lure are pledging to see the show because of Ross’ involvement. Fans from the UK and elsewhere abroad are tweeting Jeff Jarrett, desperately asking if the event will be available in their homelands. A jovial “Double J” is promising to make those announcements in a few weeks; he already delivered on the JR announcement, so he’s rungs above Dixie Carter’s mismanaged futility from the word ‘go’.

A lot could change in the next month and a half. Maybe the giddy voices that excitedly say they’re ordering the show will forget about GFW, New Japan, and thus Ross’ return to the booth. Could certainly happen; wrestling fans tend to be an ADD-riddled lot (I say this with love and respect). For the time being, the news of Ross’ involvement has sparked all of this hoopla, all of it needed by a company like GFW whose business model still looks like a barely-kneaded ball of clay from the outside.

In 2002, TNA sprung up as a low-rent ‘national’ stand-in for the deceased WCW, essentially promising an ‘alternative’ to a slowing-down, increasingly-stale WWE. That was twelve years ago, with WWE holding off the charge only half-heartedly. There were times in 2003, as well as a strong run from 2005-08, where TNA was a viable, enjoyable product. And yet, something was missing to keep it from really threatening WWE, who half-assedly churned out a lather, rinse, repeat product, while using the other cheek to press the ‘rely on our library of nostalgia’ button.

There’s no guarantee that Global Force Wrestling could ever surpass what TNA has accomplished (yes, said without sarcasm) in their lifetime, or if they will ever push WWE in any meaningful way. A new venture versus a time-tested establishment favors the reigning the champion, but there’s no harm in checking out a product of tomorrow.

Especially when they’re bringing back a key element from yesterday that everyone seems to miss.

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Top 20 WWE Greatest Survivor Series Teams Ever

November 13, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

After a quarter century-plus of WWE Survivor Series matches, wherein teams of 4, 5, or even 10, try to outdo one another in the name of survival bragging rights, certain teams have stood out above the fray as being the most powerful and memorable. Here’s 20 of the all-time greats, with no real criteria in place, except the gut feeling of “how awesome were they?”

20. Owen Hart’s Team (1996)
Members: Owen Hart, British Bulldog, The New Rockers
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivors: Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon)
Why They Were Great: For the most part, this was just a hastily thrown together team that had but one purpose: make Furnas and Lafon look like the world-beaters they could be.

But as far as “workrate” battles go, Hart, Bulldog, and Leif Cassidy (Marty Jannetty was gone early) made proficient tackling dummies for Furnas’ suplexes and Lafon’s strikes. Cassidy was floored by an insane inverted superplex from the Frenchman, and Furnas nearly decapitated Owen with a throwing German suplex, giving two new faces the best WWE debut you could ask for.

19. The Royals (1995)
Members: King Mabel, Jerry Lawler, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and Isaac Yankem DDS
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivors: The Undertaker, Fatu, Savio Vega, Henry Godwinn)
Why They Were Great: Another “patsy” team whose only objective was to get killed by The Undertaker one by one until Mabel, who crushed The Dead Man’s eye socket weeks earlier, ran away in terror after becoming his team’s last hope.

What was most impressive of this team was its lasting power. In the Attitude Era, Helmsley and Yankem would be rechristened Triple H and Kane, and become among the era’s biggest stars. Lawler and Mabel (then Viscera) would stick around as well. Amazingly, all four men would be in WWE in 2008, the year of Big Vis’ final release. Perhaps no other team has had the longevity of the Royals.

18. Team Miz (2009)
Members: The Miz, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger
Result: Won (Survivors: Miz, Sheamus, McIntyre)
Why They Were Great: I admit to being a fan of teams that feature a host of breakout stars before they broke out; the ‘before they were stars’ squads. Miz’s team was comprised of himself (then-United States Champion), and four men who, outside of some developmental false starts, had really all debuted in the past year.

Miz, Sheamus, Swagger, and Ziggler would all be World Champions within the next year and a half (Sheamus the following month), while McIntyre would go on to become Intercontinental Champion for over five months. The team they beat was, appropriately, built from stars that had seen good runs already (John Morrison, Matt Hardy, Finlay, Shelton Benjamin, and Evan Bourne), so “putting over” the new class made sense.

17. The Heenan Family (1989)
Members: Andre the Giant, Bobby Heenan, Haku, Arn Anderson
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: The Ultimate Warrior)
Why They Were Great: Perhaps no other team would be as deserving as the moniker of Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Team in the World. There isn’t a single boring personality on display here; no wasted space.

If the four men were to collectively write a book about their life’s experiences, what would be the best section: Andre’s drinking stories and Hollywood run-ins, Arn’s days of partying with the Horsemen and other wild characters in Atlanta, Haku’s tales of maiming idiots who dare test his toughness, or Heenan’s take on the sport, laced with his one-of-a-kind spit-take-inducing humor?

16. Hardy Boyz/Dudley Boyz (2000)
Members: Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Bubba Ray Dudley, D-Von Dudley
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Jeff Hardy)
Why They Were Great: WWE had two undeniably-great tag team runs: the latter half of the 1980s, and the early 2000s. In the second example, the Hardyz and the Dudleyz represented two-thirds of the division’s most renowned pairings, thanks to their participation in several breakthrough ladder, table, and ladder/table/chair matches.

At this respective ‘peak’ of their tag team careers, the quartet faced off with the other representative of their pantheon, Edge and Christian, as well as Right to Censor members Bull Buchanan and The Goodfather. The current TNA World Champion found himself remaining with Christian and Goodfather, overcoming interference from Val Venis to eliminate the former pimp, and survived.

15. The Shield/Real Americans
Members: Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Antonio Cesaro, Jack Swagger
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Reigns)
Why They Were Great: Never before had one Survivor Series team been so rooted in the cyber-savvy indy scene, with Ring of Honor and Combat Zone Wrestling well-represented. The rec-center crowd could beam proudly, seeing Tyler Black, Jon Moxley, and Claudio Castagnoli plugged into classic WWE fare, while CM Punk and The American Dragon tagged elsewhere on the card. Makes Kevin Steen’s signing this year less surprising.
The match was more about putting over the killer edge of Reigns, and did a finer job of making the Shield’s muscle into a superhero as a heel than anything they’ve done since the group’s June 2014 split. Still, all three Shield members are treated like a big deal, all rightfully so, no matter how you feel about Reigns’ rocking chair-wooden dialogue. It’s essentially a dream team for the cool-heel lover.

14. Team Austin (2003)
Members: Shawn Michaels, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, The Dudley Boyz
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: Randy Orton)
Why They Were Great: Had this team existed in 1998, its cultural impact would have been even greater than it is here. Between Attitude pioneer Michaels, crowd-favorite Booker, and ECW cornerstones RVD and the Dudleyz, Stone Cold Steve Austin had five fine representatives for an elimination match with high stakes.

In what would end up being, in this author’s opinion, the greatest elimination match in Survivor Series history, Austin’s group waged war with a fivesome selected by Eric Bischoff. In the end, a hopelessly-bloody Michaels eliminated Christian and Chris Jericho, and then nearly ousted Orton before Batista (not in the match) illegally attacked him. Orton scored the pin, and Austin, as a result, was fired (albeit temporarily).

13. Team SmackDown (2005)
Members: Batista, Rey Mysterio, JBL, Randy Orton, Bobby Lashley
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Orton)
Why They Were Great: It was the only elimination match at the underrated 2005 event, but it was one of the most fun ones of its kind. Smackdown’s group faced a team of five representing Raw; one which had a little less star power (Shawn Michaels, Big Show, Kane….then Carlito and Chris Masters). The end result was a wildly fun match, where even the sniping commentary between the two tables helped steal the show.

As for SmackDown’s team, talk about some impressive star power. Raw had the disadvantage of some of its stars taking part in other matches (John Cena vs. Kurt Angle, Triple H vs. Ric Flair), so Smackdown had the quality advantage. Batista was World Champion at the time, JBL and Orton were part of the main event scene, and Mysterio, after Eddie Guerrero’s passing, was on the verge of being a main eventer himself.

12. The Radicalz (2000)
Members: Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn
Result: Won (Survivors: Benoit, Saturn)
Why They Were Great: The foursome represented one particularly rusty nail pounded into the coffin of WCW. Their collective release from the company 10 months earlier not only cost WCW its backbone of hard work and crisp wrestling, but added that backbone of hard work and crisp wrestling to WWE, fortifying perhaps their most impressive roster ever.

Although the fate of the group as a whole has changed the opinions of certain members (only Malenko has made it largely unscathed), in their collective prime, The Radicalz represented wrestling’s in-ring elite. WWE made them even better by shading them in with personality, whether it was Benoit as a ruthless competitor, Guerrero as a comical womanizer, or Malenko as a stoic ladies man. As for Saturn, well…what do you know about Moppy?

11. Team Piper (1991)
Members: Rowdy Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Virgil
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: Ric Flair)
Why They Were Great: Admittedly, the quality of Survivor Series had dipped from previous years, as evidenced by a putrid contest between teams captained by Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Colonel Mustafa, as well as a drag-asstic four-team match notable only for planting the seed of Shawn Michaels’ heel turn. This match, however, saved the show, along with Undertaker’s first World Title win.

The team, Virgil included, largely represented WWE’s babyface upper midcard of the time period, as Bret was Intercontinental Champion, Bulldog was a capable competitor, Virgil had his best run, and Piper always had that star quality. Even their opponents were a damn fine team, making them entry 11b on this list: Ric Flair, Ted Dibiase, The Mountie, and The Warlord. Shame the match ended with a cheap disqualification.

10. The Teamsters (1994)
Members: Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, Jeff Jarrett
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: Razor Ramon)
Why They Were Great: Speaking of cheap endings, after Ramon’s four partners were eliminated by Diesel, “The Bad Guy” became the first wrestler to be his team’s sole survivor without eliminating a single opponent. That’s because a miscue between Michaels and Diesel led to all five villains being counted out in the most unique Survivor finish to date.

But what a roster The Teamsters boasted. Michaels and Diesel were then-Tag Team Champions, and just months away from co-headlining WrestleMania against each other. Owen was wrapping up a feud with brother Bret, and Jarrett was on his way to becoming Intercontinental Champion. One has to wonder where the “Teamsters” name came from. It wasn’t as if they were a union threatening to shirk their duties or anything.

9. The Alliance (2001)
Members: Stone Cold Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Shane McMahon
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: The Rock)
Why They Were Great: Despite representing a storyline that would infuriate smarks and marks alike with its dullness and lack of drama, given its magnitude, the WCW/ECW hybrid group was reduced to basically Booker and Van Dam in starring roles, with the infusion of established WWE icons that “jumped ship”, thus killing the specialness of the invasion.

But still, on paper, The Alliance was very well represented. Austin was WWE Champion, Angle was his fiercest rival at the time (revealed to be a mole at the match’s conclusion), Booker and RVD saw significant time on Raw and Smackdown as the standouts of the 2001 acquisitions, and even Shane had credibility as a bump machine that freely got his ass whipped against the likes of Angle and Rock that year.

8. Team Powers of Pain (1988)
Members: Powers of Pain, Hart Foundation, Rockers, British Bulldogs, Young Stallions
Result: Won (Survivors: Powers of Pain)
Why They Were Great: Here’s a good argument for the proliferation of tag teams and a solid division: in 1988, there were ten tag teams that competed in this one match, and none of them had names like “(Blank) and (Blank)”. They were all legit duos, many of them over with the crowd, but most importantly, they ended up creating stars.

On this one team, you had Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, and Davey Boy Smith, who would all help carry the company during its darkest times in the mid-90s. Out of these tandems came the stars of the future, and working tags only made them better rounded performers. Factor in Dynamite Kid and Marty Jannetty, and that’s some pretty impressive technicians on one team.

7. Edge and Christian/The Hardy Boyz (1999)
Members: Edge, Christian, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy
Result: Lost (Opposing Survivor: Hardcore Holly)
Why They Were Great: As I said in the previous example, tag teams round out performers and create better wrestlers out of them. You’ll find no better example of this in the Attitude Era and beyond than the men who made the tag team ladder match famous. All four men would go on to hold some form of a World Title, or top brand title, in their careers.

Coming together out of respect, this foursome absolutely made themselves with both their daredevil antics, and their youthful vibrance. Edge and Christian would turn heel shortly thereafter, and complete their personas with their self-deluded “gnarly dude” act, while the Hardyz would ride their life-on-the-edge bend to equal stardom.

6. Team DX (2006)
Members: Shawn Michaels, Triple H, CM Punk, The Hardy Boyz
Result: Won (Entire Team Survived)
Why They Were Great: If I could have the collective sum of all five men’s merchandise sales throughout their five WWE careers, I’d never have to work again. Also, I could buy TNA and make Repo Man champion, just to amuse myself. Talk about your collection of diverse, while altogether similar talent that each won over scores of fans.

Even WWE must’ve known the lure of Punk and the Hardyz; usually Shawn and Hunter would’ve remained standing on their own against Edge and Randy Orton’s team. Yet there’s the Straight Edge Superstar and Cameron, NC’s most famous brothers, helping rid Gregory Helms and Johnny Nitro. Shawn Michaels’ elimination of Mike Knox ranks as the funniest moment in the history of the event.

5: The All-Americans (1993)
Members: Lex Luger, The Undertaker, Steiner Brothers
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Luger)
Why They Were Great: The team reads like the upper midcard of a WCW show in early 1990, but things changed with the former (and future) Turner talents under WWE’s banner. To battle a cliched team of evil foreigners (from horrid places like Japan, Canada, Finland, and Hawaii), Luger amassed a team of two collegiate athletes and a zombie mortician.

But jokes aside, given the limitations of WWE’s roster at the time, this was a pretty impressive team. Undertaker replaced Tatanka, who was injured by Yokozuna and Ludvig Borga, but it was done for the better, in my eyes. Luger/Taker/Steiners was kind of a poor man’s equivalent of Hogan/Andre/US Express 1985, but at least this team was aided by Taker’s super-sweet Colonies jacket. LET FREEDOM RING.

4. Team WWF (2001)
Members: The Rock, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, Kane, Big Show
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Rock)
Why They Were Great: It made sense for Vince McMahon to program the best possible group against The Alliance with the futures of both warring sides on the line. After all, when the opposing team featues Austin, Angle, Van Dam, and Booker for a killer blowoff, you need all the star power you can get as a counter punch.

On this team are five men who will all, most assuredly, be in WWE’s Hall of Fame, provided they don’t do anything irreversible to their loved ones. The match also had the benefit of furthering the budding rivalry between Rock and Jericho, which provided us with a number of awesome matches between two of the era’s most charismatic stars. The benefit of less Survivor matches is more star-studded teams.

3. The Hulkamaniacs (1989)
Members: Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Demolition
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Hogan)
Why They Were Great: For the most part, each team in 1989 had some weak links that would prevent them from making this list. Yeah, Roddy’s Rowdies had Piper and Jimmy Snuka, but the Bushwackers are grounds for disqualifcation. The 4X4’s boasted Jim Duggan and Bret Hart, but Ronnie Garvin and his upside-down toilet brush hairdo (credit: Bobby Heenan) were a dealbreaker.

Not the case with Hogan’s team. Jake Roberts was at his peak as a babyface, feuding with Ted Dibiase after the Million Dollar Man injured his neck. Demolition were the WWE Tag Team Champions on their last great run, and Hogan was the company’s lead dog. He would finish off Zeus here, and in a cage match shortly thereafter, before putting on one of his finest performances ever against the Ultimate Warrior months later.

2. Team Savage (1987)
Members: Macho Man Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Result: Won (Survivors: Savage, Steamboat, Roberts)
Why They Were Great: If WWE had a midcard this sustained and deep today, you’d hear far less complaints from know-it-all fans. Savage and Steamboat on the same team is always a win, but factor in Roberts, Beefcake, and Duggan in their physical primes (as well as arguable peak of fanhood), and you can understand the high ranking.

Amazingly, Savage would feud with each of his teammates in high-profile fashion at some point. His legendary issue with Steamboat is a given, but he also feuded with Roberts in 1991 in one of WWE’s raciest stories ever. Macho Man would also battle Duggan in 1989 over the “crown”, and Beefcake was was Hogan’s ally in the post-Mega Powers explosion.

1. The Warriors (1990)
Members: The Ultimate Warrior, Kerry Von Erich, Legion of Doom
Result: Won (Sole Survivor: Warrior)
Why They Were Great: Here’s a case where the team name befit all of the members: Ultimate Warrior, Modern Day Warrior, and Road Warriors. Had Von Erich not been a worn-down shell of his once Greek God self, this team would have been flawless from head to toe. As it is, it’s still the greatest Survivor Series team of all time.

Just the combination of Warrior, at his peak as WWE Champion, and the LOD, the most popular tag team ever, is enough to warrant a top spot. Fans of all ages appreciated the three face-painted gladiators that ripped opponents to shreds with ease. Factor in Von Erich as Intercontinental Champion, and you get a team that has no lack of prestige.

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The Ride Continues: Tessa Blanchard Carries On The Horsemen Legacy

November 11, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

You may not know Tessa Blanchard, but a wrestling fan assuredly recognizes the last name. For over sixty years, the bloodline has been an integral part of professional wrestling lore, beginning in 1953, when 24-year-old Kansas State football star Joe Blanchard started began career between the ropes. The wrestler-turned-promoter brought a son, Tully, into the world the following year.

Through the lasting legacy of the Four Horsemen, despite Tully being a group capo for under three years, the surname ‘Blanchard’ is an indelible name in wrestling’s annals. While Ric Flair and Arn Anderson are certainly the two most iconic Horsemen through tenure and impact alike, Blanchard complimented the duo as something of their basement-lab hybrid: Tully epitomized the perfect blend of Flair’s gloss-toothed, high-rolling arrogance and Anderson’s stoically-relentless mean streak. The quick-to-bleed Blanchard is best remembered as a paradox: down-and-dirty brawler who turned tail to show a yellow streak when things got too heavy. In other words, Tully was the ideal villain for the territorial era.

In the starkest contrast, Tessa Blanchard lacks the self-indulgent indifference her gifted father played up before Mid-Atlantic and Southwestern US audiences throughout the 1980s. Yet there rings a natural charisma all the same.

Diminutive in height, with a virtuous cheerleader’s smile, you wouldn’t think Tessa to be in the wrestling business if you didn’t know of the blood connection. The congenial, all-American-girl demeanor can throw spectators and greeters off, even those who understand the legacy she carries on.

“I’d say it’s about 50/50 in terms of fans approaching me at these shows,” Blanchard related this past Saturday night in Voorhees, NJ at WSU Breaking Barriers. “Maybe it’s a little bit more that they recognize me as the daughter of Tully because they do bring it up quite a bit, but there’s also those fans that simply walk up because I’m a women’s wrestler.”

In her brief career, which really began this year, Blanchard has already been featured as a member of Adam Rose’s “Rosebuds” entourage, and even worked a tryout match for WWE with fellow indy talent Chasity Taylor. Her last name proves to be valued currency, landing her in a match with Taylor at the NWA Mid-Atlantic Fanfest in Charlotte this past August.

On Saturday, Blanchard took part in what has become standard fare for Women Superstars Uncensored: the core troupe of performers and a cross section of recognizable women’s talent from around the country, continent, and globe. Sharing the card with the likes of LuFisto, Kimber Lee, Leva Bates, and Solo Darling, Blanchard performed as a babyface against WSU Spirit Champion Niya Barela.

Further tapping the history button, Blanchard made her entrance to familiar strains; her remixed entrance theme was preceded with the Four Horsemen’s 1998 signature, the galloping hooves and emphatic stallion’s neigh. Tessa knows, however, that a name only mean so much, and she has eons to go before she reaches her father’s lofty place in the business’ history.

“Sometimes there’s a perception that being my father’s daughter, that I come into the locker room thinking I know it all,” Blanchard reveals. “That’s definitely not the case; I’m still very much new to this business with a lot to learn. Once those in the locker room get to know me a little bit more, that perception is easily shed, and they understand that I’m just trying to get better, and find my way. It’s probably the perception of a lot of second-and-third generation wrestlers.”

Blanchard worked from underneath in the bout, Barela playing the nefariously wily veteran aggressor. There’s definite irony in seeing the daughter of Tully be ravaged by an arrogant villain, one who knows how to get away with every little cheat. If you wanted to look at it that way, Tessa’s opponent channeled the spirit of Tully, if not necessarily in symmetry. The spirit was there, Barela’s heel mannerisms an appropriate mimic of the brand of rule-breaking Tully aced once upon a time.

Tessa was floored by a hard charging kick to begin the bout, building sympathy from a decent-sized crowd that cat-called the decidedly stuck-up Barela. Through the course of the match’s give and take, the third-generation wrestler had a generally cynical audience entranced, performing both a backstabber and a rope-walk bulldog, decidedly modern maneuvers in contrast to the nostalgic flavor she invokes.

“My biggest influence in the ring has been Leilani Kai,” Blanchard claimed, after her performance. “She didn’t train me; I trained under George South, but Leilani is who I’ve tried to pattern my work inside the ring after.”

As the script called for, Blanchard was soon felled by Barela, via a double arm DDT with extra snap. Tessa would become secondary to a post-match save, as WSU regular Nevaeh cleared the unsportsmanlike Barela from the ring, building to a future title bout.

If Tessa Blanchard ever returns to WSU, it’ll be with open arms. Her match was textbook, yet well-received from an enthusiastic crowd, one that hung with her from the start of the updated Four Horsemen refrain through her exit from the ring. Elsewhere, she continues to build her reputation and skill-set as a budding talent.

Some would say the template is set; fellow Horsemen offspring Ashley Flair reigns as NXT Women’s Champion under the ‘Charlotte’ moniker, and has received raves for her in-ring performances, namely against Natalya in a match for the vacant belt in May.

Tessa’s more than taken notice of Charlotte’s success.

“I’ve known Ashley for such a long time, and I’m so happy to see her become a success down in NXT. That’s a big goal; to make it down there, because that’s obviously the step before making it to WWE. That’s a long ways away, but I would love to have the opportunity to work with her, wherever it may be. She deserves her success and I hope to someday enjoy the same.”

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Vince Russo Is Right For Once

November 05, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

When I’d read that Vince Russo had written an open letter to Vince McMahon regarding the booking of this past Monday’s Raw, I braced myself.

For as much I tire of Michael Cole’s portrayal of RoboShill, the lifeless entity that invariably says whatever Vince McMahon is thinking at that moment, as well as the begging for Network pledges (we don’t even get a tote bag?) and rehashed matches, I sense it could be worse with Russo holding the pen. For instance, the Big Show-Mark Henry insta-feud could end with a miscarriage.

To be clear, Russo isn’t the worst booker that ever lived. Whatever hand he had in cultivating WWE in 1997-98, when guided by a steady hand, it worked well. His 1999 run with the company, while successful financially and still wildly popular, started drowning in its own excess (Higher Power, poorly booked Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, and King of the Ring, et al). The bloom was off the rose in WCW, without the reining of his superiors, and it showed.

Still, if Russo is nothing else, he does seem like a man that just honestly wants to help. Granted, if I were a choking victim, his idea of the Heimlich might be to bury an ax into my chest, but still, he had the best intentions. That, to me, sums Russo up: he’s not perfect, but he puts his best foot forward, however fractured it is.

In his well-intentioned missive to McMahon (which I’m sure will be taken under the same amount of consideration as fan cries for a Zack Ryder push), Russo highlighted which segments of the show he felt were successful, and which weren’t. In the positive column, Russo listed two matches, both of which involved Seth Rollins: the Intercontinental Title match with a suddenly-appropriately-used Dolph Ziggler, and the blow-off-some-steam match with Randy Orton.

I do agree, both Rollins matches were enjoyable, as much as they are an extension of the man involved. Ziggler’s tremendous and Orton can have a great match with a capable opponent, but Rollins never has a bad bout, does he? His natural sliminess (he’s a surprising conductor of heel heat in spite of his Ring of Honor heritage) and world-class in-ring acumen could make him this generation’s Eddie Guerrero if his promos weren’t so cue-card-clipped.

But I digress; Russo heaped love on the two Rollins matches, along with the opening bit where Vince McMahon upped the ante for Survivor Series, as well as Ziggler’s repartee with The Authority, and Damien Sandow’s antics. He did, however, levy one nitpicking criticism of the Rollins matches, which many would disagree with. He said, summing up his positive picks:

“Now, even though I don’t believe in any match going more than one segment (that’s just my opinion), I would consider these seven segments in the POSITIVE COLUMN.”

Go figure that the man who popularized the two-minute match with seven or eight guys running interference would take umbrage with matches running more than ten minutes on his TV show. Russo probably wondered where the ref bump and blood bath were when Ryback was squashing Titus O’Neil.

In this case, playing Devil’s Advocate on Russo’s behalf isn’t that hard for me, because he’s actually making a point that I’ve believed for quite some time: Raw has too many long matches.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lengthier match, but in certain contexts. A PPV bout that’s been built well could sustain me for 15 or more minutes. A battle of the icons at WrestleMania with a million false finishes is great. An indy match with two fine mat technicians busting their ass for a half hour can be highly engaging. In those contexts, I appreciate the longer match. Even the once-in-a-blue-moon Raw classic (Cena vs. Punk, February 2013, for one) is welcome.

But on Raw every week? A three hour show with lots of company back-patting, Smackdown rematches, and enough filler to stuff a school cafeteria hot dog really doesn’t have the platform to give us 15 minute matches, especially when they rarely solve anything.

I’ll read reviews of Raw episodes in which the writer insists (probably correctly) that Ziggler and the Usos had a ***1/2 match with Cesaro and the Brothers Dust, because it went 15 minutes and was enjoyable throughout. That’s great and all, but why wasn’t it on PPV? One of the biggest reasons the PPV market diminished so much before the Network’s advent was that the events rarely offered anything new, other than the odd Brock Lesnar or Undertaker match that you can’t get on free TV.

The Usos and Brothers Dust faced off on Raw; why spend $54.95 on it? No wonder the announcers basically call their viewers dumbasses if they actually ordered the PPV from their cable provider: for (say it with me) nine-ninety-nine, you get the match PLUS every single WrestleMania ever.

Besides, there’s so few fresh match-ups involving wrestlers that they’re willing to allot 15 minutes for that Raw itself becomes stale. Orton, Ziggler, Rollins, Cena, Cesaro, and so forth, they’ve all faced each other countless times. There’s rarely a story that gets paid off because they want you to order the PPV/subscribe to the Network, and free TV is merely a red herring to satisfaction. Oh yes, the workrate is great, but where’s the payoff?

Repeat Match Hell aside, it detracts from the story element of Raw, where characters and arcs are shaped. At three hours, there should be better defined players than what’s there. Credit where it’s due, the likes of Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Rusev, Bray Wyatt, and even The Miz and Damien Sandow either have a well-defined role or straightforward consistency. Most others are either stale or playing a one-note act (Rusev is fine until he’s beaten). With 180 minutes plus overtime to ‘tell stories’, you have more space to fill in the blanks, but also so much time that you run out of ideas. Then you get guys like Cena, Orton, and the like who are stretched so thin, you can slide them under a door.

We’re not getting a two-hour show anytime soon, but Raw needs to manage its three hours better. Russo gets this one right, indirectly: longer matches on Raw are only watering down the potency of the stars.

You know what they say about broken clocks.

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A Tale of Two WWE Cage Matches

October 28, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Can a band release more ‘Greatest Hits’ compilations than actual new studio material? You can if you’re Randy Orton and John Cena. Both Orton and Cena are far more capable performers than their exhausted detractors would care to admit, but it’s a case of too much, too often for the duo.

Their lengthy Hell in a Cell match was preceded by a nearly-as-stretched video package, making a case for their ‘rivalry’ being among the all-time greats in WWE’s annals. Granted, it may have also been a subliminal commercial for the Network’s “Rivalries” series that debuts this week, and I’d argue it served better as advertising than as stating of legitimate fact.

The most solidified roots of Cena vs. Orton really date back to about 2007, with only a few notable occurrences: Orton attacking Cena’s father (in both 2007 and 2013, the latter presented as fresh and neoteric), Orton pinning Cena in a WrestleMania triple threat match, a forgettable game of ‘catch’ with the WWE Title in late 2009, and the World Title unification in 2013. In all, their prolongated issue lacked the sort of twists and definable incidences of feuds past.

That’s in part because their characters have never grown. Cena has been the do-gooder charity robot for a decade, incapable of conveying the brilliant pathos and raw emotion that heroes of eras past have needed to add depth. Randy Savage, Cena isn’t. The Supermannequin exterior won’t allow it.

Orton is only slightly more deeper a character, only because he has two masks instead of one: the irrational hero prone to violence, and the justified villain prone to violence. One has a maniacal grin, the other wears an entitled smirk. Otherwise, it’s the same Orton, just standing (mostly) clearly on either side of the fence.

It was hard to connect with WWE’s sales pitch that this feud belongs with Hulk vs. Andre or Austin vs. Rock or Michaels vs. Hart, because the principals themselves have no connectable virtues. When I wrote the ‘Greatest Hits’ line, that’s exactly how Sunday night’s match played out: the same benign finisher reversals we’ve seen since 2007. Same song, different edits toward the chorus, coin flip for the coda.

By the time Cena won with the Attitude Adjustment through a table, no new ground had been broken, and no definitive blowoff was palpable. Still, to hear the three announcers tell it (no doubt with a scratchy voice imploring via headset), it was the perfect climax to a bedazzling novel. Even theater of the mind doesn’t imbue Cena and Orton with compelling characters, but that’s an extension of WWE itself: by making their chosen commodities as basic as possible, they don’t necessarily ruin them. The counter to that is that by not taking chances with a shift in presentation, the fizz goes out of the cola much faster. Stale soda does leave a foul taste.

Contrast that to Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins’ closing Cell match, which has yet to be so foul. While surprising to find Ambrose and Rollins as the final act, there is perhaps some credence to some Twitter user’s theory that Cena/Orton went on at 9 PM to try and keep fans from flocking to The Walking Dead. Given Michael Cole’s gushing platitudes for both men, and the ‘historical value’ video package that was equivalent to road head with feeling, it’s hard to argue against WWE’s possibly strategical match placement.

Even without crudely-woven history at their back, the former Shield allies have compelling recent history: the shocking turn by Rollins, their forking paths into their well-defined roles (Rollins is effective as a pretentious snot, while Ambrose has spent years perfecting his hellbent sociopath schtick), and the fact that Rollins used the turn not only to profit (Money in the Bank briefcase, the use of any and all of The Authority’s flunkies), but to injure the man he wronged (Ambrose getting planted through the cinderblocks). The revenge story is easily digestible.

The fans in Dallas genuinely wanted to see Ambrose shred Rollins for his wrongdoings. Never mind that Rollins was beloved in the Shield for his exuberant ring generalship and Hardy-esque stunt work; when he turned heel, he turned on a beloved character in Ambrose, and the two worked to make us cynics believe that they truly want each other dead. Even briefcase slime, hot dog carts, and mannequins couldn’t low-bridge the want to see their collision course inside a mega-cage, despite neutering by a lack of blood.

The Cell match was indeed a bloodless melee, one that didn’t need to shred a drop of red. It was an unconventional bout, less contrivance and more of the pathos that Orton and Cena lack, with Ambrose gleefully torturing the social-climbing scum that Rollins had turned into. Anything unlike the modern WWE norm is sought after and appreciated. The fact that two wrestlers the fans (ingrained and casual alike) had hand-picked for a push were acting out this slice of something fresh only made it better.

Sadly, Ambrose and Rollins’ studio collaboration was left incomplete. Much like season three of Chappelle’s Show, we got to see the brilliance of the minds involved, but without satisfaction. Bray Wyatt, an individual wildly cheered for disrupting an unwanted Cena/Orton bout at the Royal Rumble, attacked Ambrose in a rivet-gun-tacked finish, putting more focus on the swerve ending than all of the goodwill Ambrose and Rollins had built in five months.

That’s the shame in all of this: for once, the fans had bought stock in a feud without ham-handed prodding from the firm, and it just….meanders into something else. We wanted Ambrose to kill Rollins for five months of selfish acts. Nobody wants to see Ambrose kill Wyatt for interfering in a match like any other member of the roster has done at any given time.

Fresh took a backseat to the company crutch, a storytelling shift without purpose. Nobody was talking Ambrose/Rollins once Wyatt was inserted, despite the noise for the two before. Far fewer were talking Cena/Orton before and after it happened. It would have been hard to get a word in edge-wise anyway, with Cole, Lawler, and JBL telling us everything we’re supposed to think anyway.

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Petey Williams Speaks On TNA, Injuries, Retirement, and His Career

August 14, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Petey Williams was perhaps the most understated member of Team Canada in TNA. Williams wasn’t as profoundly obnoxious as Scott D’Amore, as comically demented as Eric Young, or as imposing as Alastair Ralphs. Williams is shorter than the chiseled, camera-friendly Bobby Roode, and he doesn’t have the natural, arrogant smirk of Johnny Devine.

Despite that, the two-time former TNA X-Division Champion gets his name chanted at wrestling cards he doesn’t even appear at, thanks to a spectacular invention.

One week after Williams, 32, performed in his retirement match against X-Division doppelganger Chris Sabin, independent wrestler Alex Reynolds executed the Canadian Destroyer, the prodigious flipping piledriver, during a CZW tag team bout. After a roaring beat, over 500 fans in Voorhees, NJ chorused with “PE-TEY WILL-IAMS”, an homage to the hold’s master.

The Destroyer is synonymous with Williams in the same manner that bringing a python to the ring is the calling card of Jake “The Snake” Roberts. This past May, Buff Bagwell, of all people, performed the move at an AIW event in Cleveland. As video surfaced, and Bagwell became a trending name, Williams’ name also escaped viewers’ lips in conjunction with the sight.

“Everybody thinks I get upset (to have others do the move), but you know what they say, that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” Williams jokes. “I’ve done something in pro wrestling that a lot of people can’t say that they’ve done. I’ve created something that’ll live past when I’m dead and gone. When I’m 70 years old, I’ll be sitting on the couch with my grandkids, and there’ll be some wrestler doing the Canadian Destroyer, and I’ll say hey, that was me.”

On May 5, 2004, Williams stood out from a new-plastic-scented, identity-seeking Team Canada stable by performing the Destroyer before a PPV audience. In an eight-man tag, Williams spotted up Sabin in the hijacker-clasp, and sunset-flipped Sabin into a perfect, Memphis-outlawed piledriver that astonished the TNA Asylum upstate in Nashville.

“The first person I did it to on television was Chris Sabin, but the first person that had ever taken it was Evan Bourne, back when he was Matt Sydal,” recalls Williams. “I explained the move to him, having no idea how it was going to turn out. He just goes ‘Okay!’ So I set it up, we did it, the place went nuts, and the rest is history.”

“Ten years ago, wrestlers were afraid of it, but now they’ve seen me perform it so much, and they trust me. It’s not that I was trying to talk anyone into it, but I just had to assure them that I wasn’t going to break their neck. I think now, people are lining up, like, ‘I wanna take the Destroyer tonight!’ Sonjay Dutt didn’t even want to do it, and I finally managed to assure him. After we did it, he was like, ‘Petey, that was so easy!’ For that reaction that we got, he said he’d rather take the Destroyer than a bodyslam.”

Safety first for wrestlers whose acrobatic, smack-echo’ed styles induce as many winces and cringes as they do cheers. Williams’ recent decision to walk away from wrestling is, in part, due to the accumulation of such aches and pain over his twelve-year career.

“I hear about all of these guys getting concussions and neck injuries, and I watch their wrestling style, and I realize my wrestling style’s a little bit harder than that, because I’m taking German suplexes on the neck, and piledrivers and whatever. I’m like, ‘Man, I’m gonna be 33 years old; maybe I’d better get out now, and not have to be in a wheelchair when I’m older.”

My wife’s due with my next daughter in a couple of weeks or so, and I just didn’t book any shows in or around this time. Then I just said, ‘You know what? I just gotta start doing different things in life.’ You kinda have to look at your future, and ask what’s really more important: providing for my family, being there for them, or pro wrestling?”

Health concerns aside, Williams recognizes TNA as among the most secure places he’s worked, knowing that he could put his body in the hands of the experienced professionals there, and come out as fresh as possible in such a physical vocation. In the indies, however, that luxury isn’t always available.

“You lay faith in the promoter to pair you up with somebody trustworthy, because you may have never met this person before. In a match last October, I was doing my basic opening moves, and one of them was a second-rope hurrachanrana. My opponent’s like, ‘Oh, that’s easy; I can do that okay.’ And when I went for that, he for some reason ducked his head, and I totally landed on my own head. I pop up, and my shoulder felt really weird.”

“I had an MRI, and the doctor told me I had a torn supraspinatus (rotator cuff muscle in the upper back). He tells me the only way I can really fix this is through surgery; there’s no amount of rehab that’s really going to make this better, nothing you can take, no injections, etc. He tells me I can’t wrestle for the next couple of months. I look at him like, ‘Well, that’s not going to happen,’ because I’ve got shows booked.”

“Right now, it’s feeling better, but it’s been probably about ten months, and I still feel it every morning.”

Several months before the October 2013 injury, Williams had another scary moment, this time in a special appearance at TNA’s Destination X in Louisville. Williams was booked in a triple threat match with fellow X-Division pioneers Sonjay Dutt and Homicide.

“Homicide suggests to me he’ll do the Gringo Killer (vertebreaker), and from there, Sonjay will give him the moonsault double stomp. I’ve never taken it from Homicide before, as many times as I’ve worked him. He assured me, ‘I’m really safe with it now. Before, I used to kinda kill guys,’ and I told him I was fine with it, that I wasn’t even questioning it.”

“Then the way we did it wasn’t the way we practiced it – he was supposed to kick me, set me, turn me up, then down. Instead, he just grabs me from behind and says, ‘Oh, let’s just go with it this way.’ When he flung my legs up, he had my upper body trapped, and it kinda compressed by body, and I really couldn’t move. It felt like a lightning bolt went through my upper back and chest area. I rolled out of the ring, so I was at least able to move.”

“The ref came over to check on me, and he made the “X” gesture. I literally couldn’t even sit myself up; I couldn’t use my core muscles to pull myself up, it was too much pain in my neck. I asked him to just lift my body up, to get me into a sitting position, and then I managed to get up, so I was able to walk to the back. The doctor told me he thought it was just a bruised spinal cord, and I thought, ‘A bruised spinal cord? That’s it?’ I iced it, took some anti-inflammatories, and it didn’t get any worse, which I’m happy about, but I couldn’t do certain things in the gym for a while.”

Constant pain has been a motivating factor for a number of wrestlers to leave the industry. With a family at home, and the opportunity to get out with what are now just nagging pains, Williams is, so far, handling the adjustment to ‘civilian life’ well enough. It appears, though, the man once known as “Maple Leaf Muscle” won’t be a civilian for long.

“I’m going to become a US citizen, probably within a month. I’m probably going to work in law enforcement now. That’s what I went to school for while training to be a pro wrestler, so that’s been my other area of passion. It’s a career where I don’t have to travel, don’t have to leave my family, and I can earn a pension. My wife’s a police officer, and that’s how we kind of came together.”

Jesse Ventura once opined, “You get into wrestling to get out of wrestling”, and “The Body” accordingly found his calling in politics and movies. Williams’ escape route allows him to keep it far more local, where family, both biological and acquired, will be his constant.

“It’s about being a Dad, and also stopping by some local shows to say hi to the guys. I still wanna keep up with wrestling, and I’m actually enjoying it a little more, following it casually as a fan. It reminds me of back when I was younger, and I love being a fan of the sport.”

“I went to the Ring of Honor show in Dearborn (July 19), near where I live, and I got to say goodbye to a few guys I hadn’t gotten to say goodbye to, like Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Jay Lethal, Tyson Dux, and it was Kevin Steen’s last match, and it was good getting see all of that. I really, really enjoyed it for the first time since becoming a pro wrestler, sitting in the back of the crowd, watching the show. I didn’t have to stress out about most the stuff you’d usually stress out about when you wrestle.”

“It would have been nice to be on that show, but I didn’t bring any of my wrestling gear, so even if they’d asked me, I would have said no,” Williams laughs. “But I do miss it, of course.”

Somewhere down the line, Williams isn’t against the idea of donning the tights and doling out another Destroyer. In his words, the time would have to be right, because in wrestling, never ever means never.

“You know, I never really said I’m ‘retiring’, because who ever really retires? How many times has Terry Funk ‘retired’? I think he may still be wrestling!” Williams jokes. “I just like to call it my ‘last match’, because I may never, ever wrestle again, but I could have another match in a year, five years, ten years. Who knows, right? I think every wrestler I’ve seen retire come back, so I don’t want to say that.”

Williams at least offers a bizarre scenario, declaring with a chuckle, “I would break my retirement if I could wrestle Buff Bagwell with Scott Steiner as the referee.”

Dueling Canadian Destroyers? It’s more enticing than even a WWE contract to Williams now, who said regarding the company, “Even if WWE called me and said “We’d like you to move to Florida for NXT,” I wouldn’t because I have a family, I have a daughter with one on the way. I’m married, I have a mortgage. I’m set to where I am in life right now; I’m totally content with it.”

As it stands, Williams’ last match (not ‘retirement match’) was with Sabin in Clinton Township, Michigan for XICW on July 5. Williams put over the man whom he’s shared his personal and professional lives for over ten years in an emotional walk-off.

“I’ve had two people I’ve wanted to have my last match with. One of them was this guy named Gutter (Caleb Stills), a local independent wrestler in Michigan, who was actually my first match over 12 years ago. I’d talked with him about it for years, having my last match with him as well.”

“He was actually on the show that day, and I asked the promoter if he’d put me against Gutter, or Chris Sabin. He said he wanted me against Sabin, which is fitting, because Sabin’s my best friend in the professional wrestling world. We’d always travel together, trained together, and we’re both from (Scott) D’Amore’s school. It was the right way to go.”

Sabin is just one X-Division icon that Williams will miss taking to the mat with. His list of favorite opponents reads as a Who’s Who of the division’s finest.

”I loved working with Alex Shelley, of course. At the end of his TNA run, I liked working with Low Ki. At the beginning of his run, I didn’t, because he was not easy to work with. Maybe he felt uneasy, that he had to prove himself, but when we started hanging around with him, he really eased up, joked around with us, which he didn’t usually do. But after that, I was having really good matches with him and everything, and I was really sad to see him go!”

“I really liked when I had my run with Frankie Kazarian, with a really good Slammiversary match. We had a bunch of house show matches as well, including one where I was ‘married’ to him for about a week straight. I just had good chemistry with him. All of the X-Division guys pretty much. I don’t think there was any that I didn’t like working with. I liked Sonjay, Lethal, AJ Styles, Daniels, Kazarian. I never really got to work with Samoa Joe, never had a singles match with him, which is kinda weird. But yeah, I could work those guys every single day for the rest of my life.”

The world will have to deal without the authentic Canadian Destroyer, but imitations are welcome. The cover-versions conjure up the image of Petey Williams in all his glory, and that’s the fitting legacy for Williams: an understated man paid tribute with an enthralling act.

“Any time I’ve been at shows, I hear, “Petey, you’ve got the best finishing move ever,” and person after person says it to me. People might think it gets old, but it really doesn’t. I appreciate everybody saying that, and I thank everyone for all of the support.”

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50 Greatest WWE SummerSlam Matches Ever

August 05, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

So here it is! The ultimate compilation of great and historic SummerSlam WWE matches. Here are the 50 greatest matches ever from the biggest party from the WWE summer extravaganza.

50. MILLION DOLLAR CHAMPIONSHIP: TED DIBIASE VS. VIRGIL (August 26, 1991 – New York, NY)
One of the most underrated matches in WWE history, and Virgil’s greatest match ever, sees Virgil pay off years of indifferent abuse from Dibiase, knocking him out on an exposed turnbuckle, all while Rowdy Roddy Piper, Virgil’s motivator, did one hell of an acting job at the commentary table.

49. ROCKERS/TITO SANTANA VS. FABULOUS ROUGEAU BROTHERS/RICK MARTEL (August 28, 1989 – East Rutherford, NJ)
Go ahead, find the weakest worker in the match, I dare you. Just a tremendous back and forth contest with three skilled faces, and three heels who knew the formula. Just think, if Strike Force never broke up, this would have been an amazing TLC match.

48. WWE INTERCONTINENTAL: DIESEL VS. RAZOR RAMON (August 29, 1994 – Chicago, IL)
Four months after dropping the title to Big Daddy Cool, Razor got a measure of revenge with Football Hall of Famer Walter Payton as his back-up. Shawn Michaels’ miscue in accidentally hitting Diesel with Sweet Chin Music set up the eventual split between the two men.

47. WWE INTERCONTINENTAL: REY MYSTERIO VS. DOLPH ZIGGLER (August 23, 2009 – Los Angeles, CA)
Before this match, Ziggler was considered by many to be an overrated product of the developmental system. After a furiously paced battle that opened the 2009 show, Ziggler proved he belonged with a flawless heel effort in defeat, and more than earned his forthcoming push.

46. WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT: CM PUNK VS. JBL (August 17, 2008 – Indianapolis, IN)
This one’s a bit forgotten, but it’s historical in that it was Punk’s first successful defense of a World Title on PPV. There was a sick moment in which both men landed in a fashion where JBL’s head landed on the back of Punk’s, legit knocking Punk silly, but he had enough bearing to finish the match, and win.

45. BRET HART VS. DOINK THE CLOWN/JERRY LAWLER (August 30, 1993 – Auburn Hills, MI)
It was a better angle than it was a match. Lawler faked an injury to get out of facing Hart, whose family had been tormented by Lawler for months. Bret won by DQ after Lawler, not injured, interfered. Then Lawler was forced to face Bret, where he was then mauled. Lawler won by DQ on a technicality.

44. WWE HEAVYWEIGHT: JOHN CENA VS. CHRIS JERICHO (August 21, 2005 – Washington, DC)
The anti-Cena backlash was just beginning to pick up steam at this point, as Jericho proved to be the crowd favorite in the nation’s capital. Cena would win with the then-called FU, and would drive Jericho out of the company for two years one night later on Raw.

43. WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT: KURT ANGLE VS. BROCK LESNAR (August 24, 2003 – Phoenix, AZ)
Sadly, this might be the worst of the Angle/Lesnar matches, due to the overbooking and involvement of Vince McMahon (wearing an uncharacteristic Hawaiian shirt), but it was still good enough for the most part. Lesnar tapped out for the first time, proving that Angle is as good as Frank Mir. *cough*

42. WORLD TAG TEAM: STEINER BROTHERS VS. HEAVENLY BODIES (August 30, 1993 – Auburn Hills, MI)
With family in the crowd, and their home state behind them en masse, the Steiners put on a variant of their classic NWA/WCW ‘technical spotfests’ with Jimmy Del Ray and Tom Pritchard, both quite game to play at the Steiners’ level. One Frankensteiner later, and the Steiners prevailed in their backyard.

41. WWE INTERCONTINENTAL: CHRIS BENOIT VS. ROB VAN DAM (August 25, 2002 – Uniondale, NY)
The story was Benoit (Smackdown) was attempting to bring the belt to the blue brand, whereas RVD (Raw) was fighting to keep it on Eric Bischoff’s show. It was the usual tooth-and-nail show of aggression, and Van Dam recaptured the gold from the “Canadian Crippler”.

40. WWE HEAVYWEIGHT: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN VS. MANKIND VS. TRIPLE H (August 22, 1999 – Minneapolis, MN)
This match was heavily hyped with then-Governor Jesse Ventura donning the referee stripes, and the media blitz was quite a coup for WWE. Mankind scored an upset by pinning an injured Austin, but Mick Foley would drop the gold to Triple H the following night to give The Game his first reign.

39. WORLD TAG TEAM/2 OUT OF 3 FALLS: DEMOLITION VS. HART FOUNDATION (August 27, 1990 – Philadelphia, PA)
I was there! Demolition scored the first fall, but their final reign ended in a DQ in the second stanza, followed by their three man hoodwinking (Ax was not supposed to be at ringside) being foiled by the Legion of Doom, allowing for The Hitman and The Anvil to double team Crush to win.

38. WWE HEAVYWEIGHT: EDGE VS. JOHN CENA (August 20, 2006 – Boston, MA)
Cena got booed out of his hometown arena, and the Bostonians couldn’t have been happier to see Edge retain. It was the typical “main event style” match that the two do so well, and Edge’s brass knuckle shot sealed the victory, prompting Jim Ross to curse up a storm at ringside.

37. WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT: CHRIS BENOIT VS. RANDY ORTON (August 15, 2004 – Toronto, ON)
Even Benoit’s countrymen seemed enthralled by the notion of Orton becoming the youngest World Champion in WWE history, and it happened after one of Orton’s more stellar efforts to date. Say what you will about Orton, but seeing him bawl his eyes out in victory was a nice, real moment.

36. WWE HEAVYWEIGHT: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN VS. UNDERTAKER (August 30, 1998 – New York, NY)
As great a match as this was, it would have been even more epic had Austin not been knocked silly on a backdrop counter spot earlier in the match. As it was, it was the culmination of a summer’s worth of storylines, and had the satisfying ending of Austin beating the Dead Man cleanly.

35. WWE INTERCONTINENTAL: RICK RUDE VS. THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR (August 28, 1989 – East Rutherford, NJ)
If not for Randy Savage, I’d say nobody got better matches out of the Warrior than Rude, who added both a musclebound-rival perspective, as well as a ragdoll for the Warrior to throw around. After Roddy Piper distacted Rude, Warrior got his gold back in convincing fashion.

34. WWE HEAVYWEIGHT: THE UNDERTAKER VS. BRET HART (August 3, 1997 – East Rutherford, NJ)
Bret Hart would never be allowed to wrestle in America again if he lost, and having Shawn Michaels as the referee stacked the deck against him. However, an errant Michaels chair shot felled the Dead Man, and Hart was able to salvage his US career with a reluctant count from Michaels.

33. CHRIS JERICHO VS. DOLPH ZIGGLER (August 19, 2012 – Los Angeles, CA) WWE planted a red herring, making fans believe Jericho was losing prior to his leaving the company. Instead, Y2J won a highly-intense opening match with the Walls of Jericho. Jericho would leave the following night, when Ziggler beat him in a ‘briefcase vs. career’ match, but came back at the Rumble

32. WWE INTERCONTINENTAL: LANCE STORM VS. EDGE (August 19, 2001 – San Jose, CA)
Take a technically proficient bad guy, a formula-driven, yet energetic good guy, and give them the opening match in which to set a killer pace for the show. Done and done! Edge, despite Christian’s questionable failed interference, put away his Canadian counterpart to capture the gold.

31. ELIMINATION MATCH: TEAM WWE VS. THE NEXUS (August 15, 2010 – Los Angeles, CA)
Considering the lack of experience on the opposing team, this match turned out pretty damn good. Bret Hart’s Summerslam return was also a welcome addition to the match. So what if John Cena managed to win using his Superman formula? It was still a good forty minutes, wasn’t it?

30. I QUIT MATCH: RIC FLAIR VS. MICK FOLEY (August 20, 2006 – Boston, MA)
For a feud that began over petty comments made in an autobiography, this bloodbath stole the show for a lackluster Summerslam. Melina, as Foley’s ally, was great in her role of concerned friend, and Flair drawing a submission from Foley by threatening to main her was great theater.

29. STREET FIGHT: TEST VS. SHANE MCMAHON (August 22, 1999 – Minneapolis, MN)
Test’s greatest match ever, and it may have been Shane’s as well. Test was fighting for the right to date Shane’s sister, Stephanie, and the two beat the hell out of each other in an overbooked, but fun, skirmish. Test won, but Shane stunned everyone with his diving elbow through the table.

28. DEGENERATION X VS. LEGACY (August 23, 2009 – Los Angeles, CA)
This was quite a coming out party for Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase, and they were made to hold their own against a reunited DX, who tend to dominate anyone that’s not a main eventer. Although Legacy lost, they looked pretty damn good, but it’s a shame the momentum didn’t last.

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27. KURT ANGLE VS. REY MYSTERIO (August 25, 2002 – Uniondale, NY)
It may have been under ten minutes long, but it was still an exciting way to open possibly the greatest Summerslam ever. Mysterio’s WWE PPV debut saw no wasted motion, as he and Angle found instant chemistry. Angle prevailed with the ankle lock, and the fans needed to catch their breath.

26. WWE HARDCORE/LADDER MATCH: ROB VAN DAM VS. JEFF HARDY (August 19, 2001 – San Jose, CA)
WWE fans were warming up fast to the Alliance’s resident daredevil, as he and WWE’s enigmatic freak tore down the house, setting new standards for ladder match insanity. Van Dam would retrieve the title, and his rise into an eventual babyface star was coming to fruition.

25. LION’S DEN MATCH: OWEN HART VS. KEN SHAMROCK (August 30, 1998 – New York, NY)
It was WWE’s attempt at UFC, before UFC was the rage with every tatted-up blowhard in your neighborhood. Held in the confines of the theater inside MSG, Shamrock and Hart stretched and slugged each other until Owen could prove no match for Shamrock’s anklelock.

24. WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT/TLC: JEFF HARDY VS. CM PUNK (August 23, 2009 – Los Angeles, CA)
One of Hardy’s final contributions to WWE, before his life began its free fall, was this exciting, innovative, and spotastic TLC match that closed the 2009 event. Punk won by a hair after taking his lumps, but Undertaker was there at the end to ruin the moment with a chokeslam.

23. WCW HEAVYWEIGHT: BOOKER T VS. THE ROCK (August 19, 2001 – San Jose, CA)
It’s a shame the feud was so one-sided toward The Great One, because he and Booker would rank in the top ten of all time most charismatic performers. The match was a great main event showcase, but Booker T spinarooni-ed his way right into a Rock Bottom, wounding the Alliance’s windfall.

22. DANIEL BRYAN VS. WADE BARRETT (August 14, 2011 – Los Angeles, CA)
A sleeper classic between the best technical wrestler in the world, and his former NXT alum, no wrestling slouch in his own right. Bryan and Barrett exchanged science and stiff shots for the duration of this forgotten battle, with Barrett narrowly winning.

21. WWE HEAVYWEIGHT: MACHO MAN RANDY SAVAGE VS. THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR (August 29, 1992 – London, England)
The confusing storyline of Mr. Perfect attempting to manage whoever won did little damage to the body of the match. It lacked the intensity of their WrestleMania VII epic, but Savage and Warrior told their typical icon vs. icon story very well up until the disappointing countout finish.

20. JOHN CENA VS. BATISTA (August 17, 2008 – Indianapolis, IN)
Two of the prized prodigies of WWE’s early developmental days were engineered to tell main event stories with a larger-than-life feel. Both men have spent their careers doing just that, and the result was this great match, wherein Batista put Cena out for months with a riveting Batista Bomb.

19. WWE HEAVYWEIGHT: THE ROCK VS. TRIPLE H VS. KURT ANGLE (August 27, 2000 – Raleigh, NC)
One of the more intense matches in Summerslam history saw Kurt Angle get his brains scrambled on a table Pedigree gone wrong. In the midst of the Angle-HHH-Stephanie love triangle, there was enough heat, plus The Rock’s “it factor” to give Summerslam 2000’s finale a sound ending.

18. NON TITLE MATCH: BRAIN BUSTERS VS. HART FOUNDATION (August 28, 1989 – East Rutherford, NJ)
The booking may have been suspect (Busters leaving in the fall, titles not on the line), but the match was just old school tag team wrestling from four experts on the matter. Bret Hart nearly left WWE after this show, and if he had, he’d have gone out with a tremendous opening match.

17. WWE HEAVYWEIGHT: SHAWN MICHAELS VS. VADER (August 18, 1996 – Cleveland, OH)
There was some interesting discooperation in the middle, where Michaels legitimately chewed out Vader for messing up a spot. That flaw aside, what you get is a great “killer monster vs. hearty underdog champion” dynamic, with Michaels winning to continue his first World title reign.

16. UNDISPUTED HEAVYWEIGHT: THE ROCK VS. BROCK LESNAR (August 25, 2002 – Uniondale, NY)
Who could forget those awesome training vignettes in the weeks before the match? Those well-done videos were paid off with a heavyweight clash for the ages, where Lesnar shook off Rock’s offensive toolbox, and sent him back to Hollywood with a roaring F5 to the cheers of the crowd.

15. WWE INTERCONTINENTAL: OWEN HART VS. STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN (August 3, 1997 – East Rutherford, NJ)
Up until the final two or three minutes, Hart and Austin were engaged in an absolute classic, but it was the final moments that made it legendary. Austin was temporarily paralyzed after a botched piledriver, and still found the willpower to ease Owen into a roll-up to score the win. Simply chill inducing.

14. HELL IN A CELL: THE UNDERTAKER VS. EDGE (August 17, 2008 – Indianapolis, IN)
After screwing over The Dead Man for over a year, Edge finally got his when he was locked inside “Satan’s Structure” with Undertaker himself. One of the first “violent” matches in the PG era, Undertaker won, and then vanquished Edge into a smoldering pit to settle the score.

13. 2 OUT OF 3 FALLS: CHRIS JERICHO VS. CHRIS BENOIT (August 27, 2000 – Raleigh, NC)
The match was somewhat abbreviated, perhaps due to time constraints, but leave it to the “Calgary Kids” to pack a lot of action into a short frame of space. Benoit would take the contest two falls to one after cheating in the final frame, but anyone who watched it was satisfied enough.

12. WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT/STREET FIGHT: CHRISTIAN VS. RANDY ORTON (August 14, 2011 – Los Angeles, CA)
This may well be Randy Orton’s greatest match ever; an all-out war where his demented “Viper” persona got revenge on Christian’s underhanded title win one month earlier. Both men pummeled each other with chairs and canes until an RKO on the stairs ended it.

11. WWE INTERCONTINENTAL: MR. PERFECT VS. BRET HART (August 26, 1991 – New York, NY)
And with that, The Hitman was a made man. Perfect was on his way out with back injuries, and in defeat, he made his real life friend look like the world-beater Vince McMahon needed. After kicking out of the Perfect Plex, Hart would snare Perfect in the Sharpshooter and force the submission.

10. WWE UNIFICATION: CM PUNK VS. JOHN CENA (August 14, 2011 – Los Angeles, CA)
It was going to be hard to top their five star effort at Money in the Bank, but damned if they didn’t come close. Punk’s relatively clean win (with Cena’s foot on the ropes) was only undone by Alberto Del Rio’s cash-in of his Money in the Bank privilege afterward.

9. WWE HEAVYWEIGHT: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN VS. KURT ANGLE (August 19, 2001 – San Jose, CA)
Angle kicked out of three Stunners and was suddenly no longer the goofy, milk-loving Americana nerd that Austin remembered. If not for a BS ending wherein Nick Patrick disqualified Stone Cold, his boss, and saved his title, this match might be number one. Alas.

8. NO DISQUALIFICATION: CM PUNK VS. BROCK LESNAR (August 18, 2013 – Los Angeles, CA)
Could’ve been the match of the year for 2013, if not for one entry still to come. In many ways, this clash follows the template of a Vader/Sting battle, but with weapons and WWE Main Event-style pacing. It’s maybe Brock’s best WWE match, and Punk’s last classic.

7. WWE INTERCONTINENTAL/LADDER MATCH: THE ROCK VS. TRIPLE H (August 30, 1998 – New York, NY)
By the end of the match, two main eventers were born. Rock’s People’s Elbow, done while Triple H was lying on a ladder, brought Madison Square Garden down. In the end, Hunter ended Rock’s nine month reign as IC Champ, but bigger things were ahead for both.

6. WWE HEAVYWEIGHT: JOHN CENA VS. DANIEL BRYAN (August 18, 2013 – Los Angeles, CA)
It’d take eight winding, agonizing months for the true conclusion of Bryan’s ascension, and even then, the broken neck sadly deflated it. Still, this is an incredible match, lauded as the best of 2013, and Cena laid down cleanly, without his typical out.

5. WWE INTERCONTINENTAL/LADDER MATCH: SHAWN MICHAELS VS. RAZOR RAMON (August 27, 1995 – Pittsburgh, PA)
It was a tough task to try and outdo WrestleMania X’s standard-defining match, but the Kliq running buddies were game to try. The story of this one centered around Michaels having his leg hammered, but Razor ate some Chin Music off the ladder, and Michaels wound up retaining the gold.

4. WORLD TAG TEAM/TLC: EDGE/CHRISTIAN VS. HARDY BOYZ VS. DUDLEY BOYZ (August 27, 2000 – Raleigh, NC)
Conventional wisdom had the Hardyz winning, since they were the “home team”. But there was nothing conventional about this stunt show, in which Jeff Hardy swantoned off a ladder, nearly killing him and Bubba Ray Dudley. Edge and Christian ended up retaining, and celebrated with a 37 second pose.

3. NON-SANCTIONED STREET FIGHT: SHAWN MICHAELS VS. TRIPLE H (August 25, 2002 – Uniondale, NY)
Michaels’ first match in over four years opened a lot of eyes. The eyes opened realized that, after such a layoff, Michaels was capable of outworking just about anyone with no rust evident. The Heartbreak Kid scored the win, and provided closure to his career over the next eight years.

2.WWE HEAVYWEIGHT/STEEL CAGE MATCH: BRET HART VS. OWEN HART (August 29, 1994 – Chicago, IL)The greatest sibling rivalry in wrestling history hit its apex with a bloodless, but quite exciting, steel cage challenge with the entire Hart family at ringside. After dozens of near escapes and dramatic moments, Bret left brother Owen hanging and dropped to the floor to keep his championship.

1.WWE INTERCONTINENTAL: BRET HART VS. THE BRITISH BULLDOG (August 29, 1992 – London, England)
Bulldog was the native son with 80,000 fans behind him, but he should be grateful that Bret had his back. In this babyface can-you-top-this war, Hart led Bulldog, who spent the summer drugged up and burnt out, to the best match of his life, putting his brother-in-law over before a raucous crowd.

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WWE Should Recognize Ted DiBiase As A Former WWE World Champion

July 24, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

If you’re like me, first of all, I’m so, so sorry. Secondly, it means you’re getting lots of mileage out of the recent Saturday Night’s Main Event uploads to the WWE Network. I’ve already rhapsodized at length about the greatest moments in the history of the show, and seeing them again only affirms my love for the greatest 90 minutes you could ask for in professional wrestling.

In a previous column, I didn’t include anything from SNME’s sister-spinoff The Main Event, a Friday night annual designed to steer the march toward WrestleMania. Though I stuck with the Saturday motif, the Friday special produced quite a few historical moments, namely its original incarnation.

On Friday night, February 5, 1988, WWE Champion Hulk Hogan battled Andre the Giant in a colossal WrestleMania III rematch on free television, drawing a 15.0 rating and over 33 million viewers that champed at the bit to see the much-hyped showdown. No wrestling program before or since can sniff that audience number.

If you don’t know the further significance of the match, it was the end of Hogan’s four-year (yes, year) reign as champion, via an incredibly convoluted plot twist where Ted Dibiase, employing Andre as a mercenary, had a complete stranger undergo plastic surgery to make himself look like referee Dave Hebner (in reality, it was Dave’s twin brother Earl, fresh off jumping from Jim Crockett Promotions), and this evil ‘impostor’ counted Hogan down, even though his shoulder was up.

The moment was a shock to everyone that had witnessed it; Hogan had been champion since before WWE even aired on NBC, and the superhero had been screwed over by a treacherous faction. Making matters worse to a largely still-real-to-me audience in 1988 was that Andre, adhering to the villainous plan, immediately surrendered the title to Dibiase, who had bought Andre’s contract from Bobby “The Brain” Heenan for a million dollars, solely to get the belt off of Hogan.

The stunning sight of Andre and the ‘evil’ Hebner raising a cackling Dibiase’s arms, after Virgil applied the gold around his waist, is an indelible image in WWE lore.

Soon after, the tournament for WrestleMania IV would be booked, after President Jack “On the Take” Tunney (credit Heenan for that gem) declared the Andre handoff to Dibiase invalid. As such, WWE’s own title histories and all others don’t recognize Dibiase as a champion.

Now, for the sake of indulging in the wrestling I love on something other than a hyper-critical, hard-to-please level, I’m going to let my own inner mark out, for an exercise in playful advocation. Something tells me a number of you will be agreeing with me, even if you worry about my sanity in providing an argument for a ‘fake sport’.

Indulge me, will you?

I think, for the sake of making wrestling history better than it already is, WWE should recognize Dibiase’s reign as WWE Champion.

FACT: Dibiase was officially recognized in arenas as champion. The following day, WWE ran two shows, both televised: a matinee in Boston on NESN, and a nightcap in Philadelphia on PRISM (Motto: we’re CSN without Ben Davis’ turgid hair). At both events, Dibiase teamed with Andre against Hogan and Bam Bam Bigelow. In both cases, Dibiase was recognized as WWE Champion, and brought the belt with him to the ring. In fact, at the Philadelphia event, it was announced that Dibiase would defend the strap against Hogan when WWE returned to the venue on March 12.

FACT: Dibiase actually defended the belt. On February 8, three days after The Main Event, Dibiase is known to have put the championship on the line against Bigelow in Los Angeles, winning via pinfall after Virgil knocked out Bammer with the belt. While doubtful that the match was recorded by any video means, the match is on record as having happened.

SIDE-FACT: Although the Rockers’ WWE World Tag Team Title reign in October 1990 is whitewashed by the top-rope debacle, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty did indeed defend the belts at subsequent house shows against Power and Glory. But that’s a column for another day, if I feel like writing it. Michaels and Jannetty had bigger title reigns ahead, but Dibiase’s being robbed of true glory in this instance. I intend to right this wrong, damn it.

FACT: The following men are recognized World Champions under the WWE banner: The Miz, Jack Swagger, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, and The Great Khali. The fact that any of these men were entrusted with a major belt is more far-fetched than Dibiase’s evil referee plastic-surgery scheme. Granted, title changes were less frequent in the 1980s as opposed to the oversaturated present day, but given the above evidence, wouldn’t further validating a consummate and important wrestler like Dibiase be worth it, especially in the face of the ones listed here? I mean, the Charlotte Bobcats couldn’t come up with a worse starting five than that.

FACT: WWE is not adverse to ret-conning history, especially in the name of a work. Just watch the 2009 Saturday Night’s Main Event DVD, where Mean Gene Okerlund tells the viewers that WWE jumped from NBC to FOX in 1992 as part of a bidding war, instead of being honest and admitting that NBC dumped WWE like John Mayer would after three or four dates. Lying to the audience is nothing new for this company; what would it hurt to call Dibiase a former World Champion?

This whole article is merely just a half-baked, silly argument anyway. Maybe it’ll spur some sort of underground movement that WWE will recognize in order to garner some good press. Maybe it’ll be flushed into the commode of history like Dibiase’s phantom reign, the Rockers’ phantom reign, and the reigns of every women’s wrestler that beat Fabulous Moolah between 1956 and 1984 (whoops, not supposed to bring that up…).

Maybe I’m just worked up because that episode of The Main Event was the best wrestling I saw this past Monday.

WWE Network: defibrilating our Mondays, and our memories.

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WWE’s Ten Best Matches Of The First Half Of 2014

July 10, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Through questionable booking, a stock market crash, fan discontent, and the unfortunate loss of JTG, WWE has provided audiences with, if nothing else, a lot of great in-ring action. Here are my personal picks for the ten best bouts so far in 2014.

10. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena vs. Cesaro vs. Christian vs. Sheamus (WWE Elimination Chamber, February 23)

As long as the performers cut a watchable pace in the epic-length Chamber matches, and there’s some creative mayhem taking place between the chain-link walls, it generally adds up to a great match. This was no exception, and it even came with some added drama: would Bryan avenge his exclusion from the Royal Rumble match and become WWE Champion? A spurned Twitterverse, led by a bat-wielding Mick Foley, glued their eyes to the action.

Bryan, of course, didn’t win here, succumbing to Corporate Kane (RepubliKane?) in a screwy finish. Cena also didn’t win, as a Wyatt Family teleportation cost him Orton’s gold as well. It was Bryan’s portion of the story that received the most focus, with him taking a beating (being whipped through an empty pod by Cesaro), and valiantly clawing his way back before the heart-ripping finish. That only made the WrestleMania payoff more enjoyable.

9. Charlotte vs. Natalya (NXT Takeover, May 29)

This was certainly surprising. You’d expect a good match from Natalya under required circumstances (read: a match of reasonable length where she’s not selling for the trade show model du jour). But Charlotte? She never really impressed me in NXT, and it seemed her push was based on that she was tall, blonde, and the offspring of wrestling royalty. To say this match was incredible might be the understatement of all of 2014.

In a match to determine the new NXT Women’s Champion, Charlotte held her own in what ended up a highly intense match-up, most notable for the Sharpshooter/figure-four spot with determined reversals and realistic selling. Perhaps having Ric Flair and Bret Hart at ringside was a heaven-sent dual muse? Charlotte capped off the match with the win, which many predicted, but the story in getting to that point was something no one saw coming.

8. Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt (WWE Royal Rumble, January 26)

Forget the aftermath of the night, which consisted of two hours of fan anger the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the 1991 Great American Bash. Contained within its frame of time, Bryan and Wyatt held their own in a match that essentially saved the Rumble from being one of the absolute worst PPVs of all time. Even with the match, the night retains its unfathomable infamy, but at least you can say, “Well, one match was awesome.”

Bryan and Wyatt’s match opened the Rumble, and was pretty oddly structured for an era bent on mechanical pacing. Bryan worked Wyatt’s legs early with a series of kicks, and the match didn’t really hit the WWE Main Event Style until well into the proceedings. That was for the better, because different can be highly enjoyable. The finish was memorable, with Wyatt catching a Bryan dive into Sister Abigail against the crowd barrier, very suitably slick.

7. Tyler Breeze vs. Sami Zayn (NXT Takeover, May 29)

Takeover’s a serious contender for the best WWE show of 2014. The women’s match makes this list, and the NXT Championship bout between Adrian Neville and Tyson Kidd was a viable list candidate that just fell short. Breeze and Zayn’s number one contender match was the best of a well-executed card, hardly surprising given Zayn’s general Midas touch. However, the match served as Breeze’s coming-out party, making him one to watch.

Making anyone this generation’s Shawn Michaels is a risky proposition, equal to calling any NBA player “the next Jordan”, but WWE’s all in with making Breeze the risk-taking pretty boy incarnate of today. He was game on exchanging crazy moves with the experienced Zayn, including a weird reversal sequence that ended in an improvised powerbomb. The ending was also a creative bit of screwiness, involving a questionably-blatant low blow.

6. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn (NXT Arrival, February 27)

Nothing better than a feud over who is simply “the better man.” Strange concept to some in power, but for my simple eyes, the Zayn/Cesaro rivalry was some of the most enjoyable wrestling over the past several years. After a two-out-of-three falls match that Cesaro won in August (hailed by many as the 2013’s best match), the story was Zayn was bent on avenging the loss, and challenged Cesaro to a final battle at WWE Network’s first major special.

The cat-and-mouse nature of the match, with Zayn’s eager risk-taking and Cesaro’s defiant power response, built feverishly to Cesaro gaining the definitive upper hand, and Zayn looking the beaten man. Cesaro even begged Zayn to stop kicking out, but Zayn countered the Neutralize. That led to Cesaro brutalizing him with Swiss Death, a discus uppercut, and the punctuating Neutralizer. Afterward, Cesaro gave Zayn the gesture of respect he’d wanted.

5. Randy Orton vs. Batista vs. Daniel Bryan (WWE WrestleMania XXX, April 6)

Nostalgia always feels best when its employment seems natural. There was no shoehorning of classic Attitude Era elements into the WrestleMania main event, which saw the use of a crooked ref, even more crooked authority figures, and a teased stretcher job for Bryan that turned into a Willis Reed comeback special. Add to it the legitimate want of the audience to see Bryan prevail, and the elements were there for a tremendous ‘Mania finale.

It took a lot to get the crowd back into it after The Undertaker’s streak was startlingly ended less than an hour earlier by Brock Lesnar, but all three performers held their own, even the maligned Batista. The bomb/neckbreaker combo on Bryan through the table was memorably sick, and Bryan’s forcing of Batista to submit erupted the Superdome appropriately. If this were the Newlywed Game, WWE held up cards that had every fan answer correct in this one.

4. The Shield vs. Evolution (WWE Extreme Rules, May 4)

The Shield coming to Bryan’s rescue the night after WrestleMania kicked off a highly enjoyable run against the reformed Evolution (until Rollins was swiftly turned, apparently in response to low Memorial Day ratings if you believe the sheets). A rematch at the June 1 Payback event, under elimination and ‘no DQ’ rules, was pretty great in its own right, but the original from Extreme Rules remains the superior exhibition, with its faster pace and livelier crowd.

Rollins continued his campaign to become the modern WWE generation’s Jeff Hardy, doing so by leaping off of the upper deck at the IZOD Center onto Triple H, Randy Orton, and a sacrificial Dean Ambrose. Say what you will about Batista, but he’s been a good sport since the poorly-received comeback, putting over Roman Reigns clean as a sheet by eating the Superman punch, and the emphatic spear. WWE has issues creating stars, but got the Shield 100% correct.

3. John Cena vs. Cesaro (WWE Monday Night Raw, February 17)

If you’re given twenty minutes on free television to work with John Cena, and you’re still kicking around the midcard or upper midcard with little in the way of promising direction, chances are this is your litmus test. WWE seemed to be flirting with a true push of Cesaro in the preceding weeks, sticking him into the Elimination Chamber match, and even put him over champion Randy Orton in a non-title bout. So far so good, but the real test was at hand.

The win over Orton raised the possibility that he *could* beat Cena, instead of having it be the obvious “LOL CENA WINS” trope, and Cesaro held up his end. The most notable spot was the deadlift superplex, now a Cesaro staple, which was used on the B-shows before its unleashing on Raw. Cesaro did end up losing clean to Cena, but everyone had to be encouraged by what they saw, especially when the crowd went crazy for the Cesaro Swing attempts.

2. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family (WWE Elimination Chamber, February 23)

Pretty good sign when the fans are chanting “THIS IS AWESOME” before any of the six have even made contact with one another. Then again, it raises the bar pretty high for a group of men, none of whom have been truly juiced-in main eventers yet, that are being counted on to deliver in a prime spot. It was hailed as a match-of-the-year candidate before it even ended (and indeed while it was still going), and remains in the running four months later.

The Shield weren’t particularly babyfaces in the run-up to the match, aside from not backing down in face-to-face confrontations, but the trio took to the good guys formula with the sort of timing and pacing that made it seem like they’d been faces for years. The chaotic end-run of the match, which was a star-maker for the kamikaze Rollins, puts it above most other spotfests by having logic and organization behind each stunt. The Wyatts won, but really, so did the Shield.

1. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H (WWE WrestleMania XXX, April 6)

After “The Game” made Brock Lesnar slow down to his pace for a trio of matches, and needed Shawn Michaels to play rodeo clown in the overrated “End of an Era” match, I went into his match with Bryan with lowered expectations. I’d figured Bryan would have to slow down to allow his 44-year-old boss with two bum legs to keep up. Lo and behold, the Fountain of Youth resides in New Orleans, as Triple H had his greatest match in probably a good decade or so.

As if he was determined to prove he could still go with the best, and maybe feeling slighted that CM Punk brushed off a match with him, Helmsley wrestled a beaut with the best technician in the company, mixing pure wrestling with the sports-entertainment transition spots you’d expect out of his matches. In the end, Triple H put Bryan over 100% cleanly, and allowed him to kick out of the Pedigree in the process. And we all though Hunter didn’t know how to elevate.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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The 25 Greatest Moments From WWE Saturday Night’s Main Event History – The Classic Years

July 07, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

With WWE adding Saturday Night’s Main Event to its Network archives this week, fans of that age are no doubt thrilled. I speak for myself as well when I think of the joys as a kid of staying up late on the weekends to catch headline wrestlers in marquee matches on free television.

Sure, Monday Night Raw’s diluted the allure of that by running through matches with name wrestlers week after week until there’s nothing special about anyone, but things were different in 1980s. The weekends were filled with jobber matches, while the top guys were held apart from each other. Pay-per-view encounters were one thing, but the five or six times you got Saturday Night’s Main Event, you were provided with 90 minutes of must-see television, with Vince McMahon’s carnie drawl, Jesse Ventura’s cartoonish gravitas, Mean Gene’s hype-filled inquisitions, and the best of the 1980s WWE roster playing it all out.

Paring down a list to just 25 awesome moments excises much of the good-natured, smile-lame bits, like the 1985 Halloween party, 1990’s Oktoberfest episode, and McMahon and Ventura riding horseback. It also excluded my favorite bit of silliness that was Mr. Fuji singing a country song to prove that he was more of a redneck than Dick Slater. Really, you have to see it.

Listed below are 25 of the moments that made the show the spectacle that is still fondly remembered today, and provides a bit of an itinerary for the younger fans to see what’s worth scoping out from the bountiful archive.

NOTE 1: This list does not include anything from The Main Event, the five Friday night specials that aired between 1988 and 1991. Otherwise, “twin referees” and Savage walloping Hogan would clog the top of the list (in a good way). This is all Saturday, all the time.

NOTE 2: By ‘classic years’, that means only the SNMEs from 1985-92. Nothing from the forgettable 2006-08  run makes it – not that anything outside of Mickie “Single White Female” James betraying Trish Stratus merits consideration.

NOTE 3: I’ve chosen to list the airdates of each show, rather than the day they were taped. Since there’s OCD-historian types out there reading this (my favorite demographic), and those folks may ask why I chose airdates, it’s strictly for the magic of the Saturday connotation. For the rest of you with little time to worry about this sort of silly thing, please disregard.

25. DEATH OF THE SUPER NINJA (November 26, 1988)

Rip Oliver looked like your typical 1980s territory heel: bleach-blonde hair, non-ironic beard, and sleepy eyes that complimented a slop-eating grin. In many ways, Oliver looked like fellow Portland fixture Matt Borne, and appearance wasn’t all they had in common. Turns out, both men’s most famous runs in WWE came as mysteriously cloaked villains.

While Borne gained notoriety as the heinous Doink the Clown, Oliver’s stake was a one-night run as The Super Ninja, a masked fiend imported by Mr Fuji to try and thwart The Ultimate Warrior, and win the Intercontinental Championship. Like most generic masked baddies of the time, Ninja was dispatched in about two minutes, quick work for a rampaging Warrior.

24. THE MOVIE COMES TO LIFE (July 29, 1989)

In the Oscar-winning masterpiece that is No Holds Barred, Hulk Hogan (er, “Rip”) finally fights the menacing Zeus after “The Human Wrecking Machine” nearly kills Hogan’s brother, played by Jacob from LOST. Sadly, Jacob wasn’t imported into the WWE-world storyline along with Zeus, but another actor of similar renown would fill his shoes: Brutus Beefcake.

During a forgotten classic of a match between “The Barber” and Randy Savage, Sensational Sherri fetched Zeus on The Macho Man’s behalf, and Zeus helped Savage beat down Beefcake. Naturally, Hogan made the save, most notably whacking Zeus with a chair, only for the eventual Dark Knight actor to no-sell it. Hogan selling bug-eyed fear is always a hoot.

23. SNAKE HANDLED (May 2, 1987)

WrestleMania III remains memorable, largely for four reasons: Hogan vs. Andre, Savage vs. Steamboat, the crowd, and Piper’s farewell before leaving for Hollywood. The Honky Tonk Man and Jake Roberts had a decent match a ways down the card, which was amazing, given that it had to follow the Savage-Steamboat all-timer. Honky won, but the feud didn’t end there.

Roberts was squaring off with Kamala, who had Mr. Fuji and the masked Kim Chee (Kamala’s “handler”) in his corner. Late in the abbreviated bout, Kim Chee struck “The Snake” behind the referee’s back, and enabled Kamala to win with his patented splash. Kim Chee revealed himself to be Honky in disguise right after, but the feud fizzled, due to a Roberts injury.

22. SID WALKS OUT (February 8, 1992)

WWE’s sound-doctoring of 1992 Royal Rumble footage has always been laughable, even when I was 8 years old. The crowd clearly cheered when Sid Justice dumped an unsuspecting Hulk Hogan, although WWE added heat-machine effects (and re-did Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan’s commentary to call Sid a cheater, for some reason) to repaint history.

Hogan and Justice were slated to face The Undertaker and new champion Ric Flair on the first FOX edition of SNME, and it resulted in a decent formula match, with Hogan being imperiled instead of his partner. There’d be no heroic comeback, as Justice walked out on an ailing Hogan, and threatened to strike an injured Brutus Beefcake, which Heenan delighted in.

21. ANDRE’S LAST GOOD MATCH (November 25, 1989)

Through rose-colored lens, the Hulk-Andre WrestleMania III epic comes closer and closer to a five star rating with each passing year. His matches since don’t get the same consideration, as an aging, creaking Andre the Giant was sad to watch, with all due respect. It’s rare to find a truly enjoyable match in his WWE homestretch, with this bout as the rare exception.

Andre clashed with Heenan Family nemesis Ultimate Warrior for the Intercontinental gold, and what ensued was a shockingly quick-paced eight minute match, ending with a DQ win for the Warrior. Warrior’s 2014 DVD collection includes this match, and hindsight has been much kinder to not just Warrior’s workrate in general, but especially this gem among the dust.

20. FIRST STRIKE (March 14, 1987)

The road to WrestleMania III was paved by the lure of Hulk/Andre, and this Saturday edition was recorded from Detroit five weeks before the PPV (airing just two weeks before the big money showdown). To sweeten the pot, Hogan and Andre were entered in a 20 man battle royal, all but guaranteeing that the icons would lock horns before the championship bout.

Earlier in the battle, Andre bloodied “Leaping” Lanny Poffo to the point where the eventual Genius was gurney’d out of ringside. After Hogan eliminated turncoat Paul Orndorff, Andre landed his mammoth headbutt on the champion, and astonished fearful children nationwide by easily dumping their hero over the top rope. A simple twist to fuel the big match.

19. MACHO MAN AND THE HITMAN GUT IT OUT (November 28, 1987)

Bret Hart was merely a tag team wrestler, and Honky Tonk Man-flunkie, when “The Hitman” was programmed against the penthouse-level Macho Man Randy Savage. The two were given an impressive duration of time for 1987 (12 minutes) to work a story centered on Hart attacking Macho’s leg. This would be Hart’s biggest litmus test in WWE to that point.

The match was tremendously executed, but with a caveat: both men were injured during the bout. Hart cracked his heel on a bump to the outside, and in return (though obviously not intentionally), Hart slammed Savage’s bare foot/ankle into the ringpost as the story called for, and badly hurt Savage as well. Both consummate pros carried on to a great showing.

18. HARDCORE HARLEY (March 12, 1988)

Perhaps it’s a bit inappropriate to list an eventual career-ending injury among great moments, but the spectacle deserves mention. Harley Race’s status of one of the toughest individuals in wrestling history often goes unquestioned, and is playfully referenced, often to Chuck Norris and Bill Brasky levels. Race proved said toughness against Hulk Hogan.

The story was that Hogan was beyond irate after the screwjob that cost him the WWE Title, and engaged in a frenzied brawl with Race. As the battle wore on, Hogan lay prone on a table, and Race leapt at him, but the Hulkster moved, and “The King” took the bump with his abdomen, sustaining a severe hernia. Still, Race finished the match, with none the wiser.

17. HOBBLED HOT ROD (October 4, 1986)

By 1986, Rowdy Roddy Piper had shed his image as the most reviled bad guy of WWE’s mainstream rise, and was now a revered icon, about on the level of old rival Hogan. Even with the change of alignment, it was still a weird image to see Piper make the save for Hogan, when The Hulkster was being assaulted by Paul Orndorff and “Adorable” Adrian Adonis.

Adonis was Piper’s new target, following an assault by Adonis, Cowboy Bob Orton, and Don Muraco on the set of Adonis’ “Flower Shop” talk segment, and Piper sustained a leg injury. Despite being hobbled with the injury, a now-galvanized Piper was made to not only save Hogan, but also defeat Iron Sheik in under a minute the same night, all on just one good leg.

16. NINE WILD MINUTES (March 11, 1989)

Talk about a match made in heaven. Take The Rockers, wrestling’s most spectacular aerial combo of the day, and pit them with Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, the epitome of brawn, science, and ring psychology in one nifty package. Tell them to pack their best material in about nine minutes of time, and watch as they blow everyone away.

It’s possibly the greatest match from a star-rating standpoint in the show’s history, with false-finishes, relentless action, and the expected creativity (a pinfall reversal sequence that would become standard in eras future). The bout ended with a double count-out, and the feud wouldn’t be blown off until November when the Busters left, but this was its pinnacle.

15. MURDEROUS ANDRE (January 2, 1988)

When booking someone to be a giant, it’s imperative to make him look as infallible as possible. Building to the Hogan-Andre rematch on The Main Event, Andre stood ringside for fellow Bobby Heenan-heavy King Kong Bundy in a match with the champ. Hogan won with the ‘Atomic Leg’ after sustaining two Avalanches, a mere prelude to the real fun.

With “Real American” blaring, Andre stormed the ring and began assaulting Hogan, applying his vicious chokehold. The British Bulldogs, Strike Force, Jake Roberts, and Junkyard Dog attempted to rescue Hogan, all unable to free Hulk. Jim Duggan struck Andre with a 2X4, allowing the faces to pull Hogan to safety, but it made Andre look like a true killer.

14. THE DRAGON LIVES (January 3, 1987)

The fuse of the Randy Savage-Ricky Steamboat Intercontinental Title feud was lit when Savage wounded Steamboat’s larynx, via usage of the metal guardrail, as well as the ring bell. Steamboat was put out of commission, and the caustic Savage whooped it up that he’d apparently ended the career of the biggest threat to his title. Or so he thought!

During a title defense against George “The Animal” Steele, Savage was as astonished as anyone when Steamboat made an unannounced appearance, making clear his intent to exact revenge. Steamboat also prevented Savage from injuring Steele with the bell, and the confrontation set the stage for WWE’s match of the decade at WrestleMania III.

13. BEGINNING OF A SHORT-LIVED FRIENDSHIP (May 11, 1985)

And you thought Kane and The Undertaker had a complex relationship. Take away the ghoulish and macabre elements of their on-again/off-again bond, and it’s fairly similar to Hulk Hogan’s connection to “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff in the 1980s. After Orndorff was blamed for losing the WrestleMania main event, Hogan reached out sympathetically.

On SNME’s maiden episode, Hogan retained the WWE Championship by DQ over Bob Orton when Roddy Piper interfered. Mr. T tried for the save, but the heels beat him down as well. That left Orndorff to hit the ring, clearing it of his former friends. The sight of “Mr. Wonderful” posing with Hogan and Mr. T remains an unusual image thirty years later.

12. ACCIDENTAL CLOTHESLINE (January 27, 1990)

Days after Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior, the company’s singles champions, had a time-stopping confrontation in the Royal Rumble match, the two were teamed against Mr. Perfect and The Genius. Hogan scored the pin on Genius, and that seemed to be that, but the post-match activity would set the stage for what was termed “The Ultimate Challenge”.

While the good guys celebrated before their fans, Perfect and Genius attacked them. Hogan went down, but Warrior went on a rampage, clotheslining everyone in sight, including Hogan by accident as Hulk stood back up. The miscue led to a confrontation between heroes 1A and 1B, with WrestleMania VI in Toronto tabbed as the site of their winner-take-all match.

11. REIGN-BUSTERS (July 29, 1989)

On the NBC version of the show, spanning 34 episodes, this was the only title change. Demolition had reigned as World Tag Team Champions for nearly 16 months, a record that remains unsurpassed. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, the Brain Busters, were granted a shot in a two-out-of-three falls match, after a DQ win on the May 27 edition of the show.

The Demos won the first fall after Ax pinned Anderson, but they were then disqualified in the second fall for excessive double teaming (the DQ ruling didn’t nullify the title change). With fellow Heenan Family charge Andre the Giant now looming at ringside, the Busters took the third fall after Blanchard struck Smash with a chair thrown in by the Giant.

10. SAVAGE LETS HOGAN TWIST (January 7, 1989)

As the Hogan/Savage “WrestleMania Rewind” episode on WWE Network demonstrates, Savage’s subtle facial tics and manic gestures on the road to turning on Hogan were a thing of beauty. All of the hints of paranoid reaction were there, and a viewer could sense that the WWE Champion didn’t really like Hogan, or his proximity to the lovely Miss Elizabeth.

Hogan was wrestling Akeem with Elizabeth ringside, when Big Bossman intervened after a ref bump, and the Twin Towers pummeled Hulk. Mean Gene Okerlund implored Savage to save his friend, but an oddly-calm Savage insisted Hulk would be alright. When Bossman grabbed Liz, only then did Savage spring into action, saving her, and not so much The Hulkster.

9. WHO HIT FIRST? (January 3, 1987)

Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff finally settled their acrimony inside the Blue Bar Cage, with the WWE Championship contested. Standard for WWE fare, the winner would be the one who escaped the structure, as opposed to pinfall or submission. While the NWA-nostalgiaphiles would call this the sissy way of winning, here it produced a pretty creative moment.

Hogan began an ascent early in the match, but a refreshed Orndorff took to climbing the other side of the cage. It turned into a foot-race, with both men jumping off the cage wall simultaneously. One official declared Hogan the winner, while the other claimed Orndorff was the new champion. The match restarted and, yeah, Hogan ended up retaining.

8. THE ULTIMATE DUO (November 2, 1985)

One month earlier, Andre the Giant teamed with the incomprehensibly-fascinating Tony Atlas in a DQ victory over King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd. The massive duo double-teamed Andre after the bell, prompting Hulk Hogan to make the save. Teddy Long wasn’t there to institute a tag team match, but the dots connected themselves, and a match was made.

Hogan and Andre are arguably (nearly inarguably) the most imposing tag team in wrestling history, and it was a treat to see two stars of their magnitude take on Bundy and Studd in a Halloween-themed edition of SNME. The match ended in another disqualification via double-teaming, but Hogan and Andre would clear the ring in standard babyface fashion.

7. THE HARDCORE TITLE IS BORN (November 25, 1989)

Hulk Hogan was in the midst of an oddly-entertaining title defense against perma-midcarder The Genius. The bout consisted of Hogan mock-prancing around the ring in a manner that would draw angry diatribes from those clean-conscience souls at Gawker today. While it seemed that another Hogan victory was in order, a swerve finish came to pass.

Mr. Perfect struck Hogan with the championship belt outside the ring, and the Genius would win via countout. Perfect then absconded with the title and was filmed destroying the center plate with a hammer, his message to Hogan to give him a shot, or else. That fractured strap would be taped together, and fashioned as the Hardcore Championship in 1998.

6. HBK GETS THE GOLD (November 14, 1992)

SNME only ran on the FOX Network twice, but it featured one very significant title change. Mirroring the push of Bret Hart as a tag wrestler-turned-singles stud, Shawn Michaels took to his preening pretty boy role with ease, fusing much of heel-Ric Flair into his own unmatched athletic style. It was Michaels’ destiny to be pushed up the card, and it wouldn’t take long.

Already slated to wrestle Hart for the WWE Title at Survivor Series, Michaels was booked against soon-to-be-axed Intercontinental Champion Davey Boy Smith. The angle was that Michaels spent the match working on the British Bulldog’s back, and got him to strike an exposed turnbuckle. Michaels countered a superplex into a crossbody to get the title.

5. DRAGON FEELS THE BITE (May 3, 1986)

The injury angle that Ricky Steamboat worked with Randy Savage wasn’t even the most devastating-looking incident involving “The Dragon” in 1986. Jake “The Snake” Roberts jumped Steamboat before their scheduled bout on the show’s near-anniversary edition, and doled out one of the more devastating blows yet seen on WWE television.

Roberts jumped Steamboat at ringside, and proceeded to plant him with a DDT onto the bare concrete floor, which purportedly cracked the skull of the Dragon legitimately. Either way, Steamboat was definitely dead weight when Roberts threw his limp carcass into the ring, and allowed a freed Damian to writhe all over him, while Bonnie Steamboat watched in horror.

4. BUNDY MAKES HIS MARK (March 1, 1986)

King Kong Bundy dispatched of lower-level opponent Steve Gatorwolf (nice name, though) in under one minute, and then declared that he wanted Hogan’s championship. Immediately after the squash, Hogan defended the title against Don Muraco, managed by Bobby Heenan instead of a purportedly-ill Mr. Fuji. Heenan, of course, was primarily Bundy’s manager.

Heenan caused the disqualification, and then Bundy ran in, unleashing an assault on Hogan that consisted of three Avalanches, and two splashes on the prone champion. To build the lure of WrestleMania II, Hogan sold injured ribs as a result of the incident, and for the first time in his two-plus year World Title reign, it seemed as though Hulk was vulnerable.

3. HEEL VS. HEEL (November 29, 1986)

Macho Man Randy Savage was the company’s most interesting villain, and his Intercontinental Title reign reflected his higher card status. Jake “The Snake” Roberts just concluded a violent feud with Ricky Steamboat, and established himself among a swelling WWE pack. The two were pitted against each other for the title, with a surprising result.

Vince McMahon declared that fans would probably cheer the flamboyant Savage over the icy Roberts, but he and Jesse Ventura expressed surprise as the Los Angeles crowd cheered loudly for Jake. The two worked to out-heel and out-cheat one another before this slice of something different ended in a double-DQ, and a face turn for Roberts was drawing close.

2. HULKA-PLEX (May 27, 1989)

And they say Hogan didn’t bump. While your favorite springboardin’, rope-clearing daredevils put it all on the line with without any regard, there’s Hogan mechanically running through his safe moveset, while making the big bucks. Not such a bad thing, is it? In fact, when Hogan *did* take a risk, I’d argue it meant that much more. Like this particular cage match stunt.

Hogan was defending his regained WWE Championship against the Big Bossman within that Blue Bar Cage, and it seemed the hefty prison guard was safely on his way to escaping. Hulk climbed the cage, dragged Bossman to the apex and then (off the top rope, not the cage itself) superplexed Bossman back into the ring in a visual that’s still impressive today.

1. THE MANIA MEETS THE MADNESS (October 3, 1987)

Macho Man Randy Savage was centimeters away from regaining his Intercontinental Title from the Honky Tonk Man when the Hart Foundaton broke up the pin for the DQ. Afterward, the trio engaged a beatdown of Savage, but Miss Elizabeth intervened as Honky went for a crowning guitar shot. Honky then threw her down, drawing shocked gasps from everyone.

Elizabeth fled to the back as Honky landed the six-stringed smash, but wrestling’s first lady returned with a somewhat perplexed Hulk Hogan. Hogan saw the three-on-one, and then hit the ring, helping clear Jimmy Hart’s clients from the fray. Savage was reluctant to express gratitude, but finally did to Hulk, kicking off the Mega Powers with the famous handshake.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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