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15 Best WWE Matches of the First Half (Jan 1- July 1) of 2015

July 07, 2015 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

At the midway point of 2015, WWE is struggling creatively, but has produced a number of excellent matches, a handful of which vie for honors as 2015’s true match of the year. Here are the fifteen best from both the main roster, as well as the popular NXT developmental center.

15. John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose (WWE United States, Monday Night Raw, March 30)

Inception of the enjoyable US Open Challenge stuck the landing straight out of the chute, showcasing a side of Ambrose often lost when he’s typecast as comically-unkempt street urchin. Cena and Ambrose set high expectations for a formula that would give aimless performers something to do, and opened the door for some NXT performers to make their big debuts.

14. Bad News Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan vs. R-Truth vs. Stardust vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper vs. Dean Ambrose (WWE Intercontinental/Ladder Match, WrestleMania 31, March 29)

While the prior match served as the creation of a new playbook, this seven-man scramble was in many ways a rehash of the perfected parade of chaos that multi-competitor ladder matches have been for WWE for over a decade. Bryan’s win is now a bittersweet one with his litany of devastating injuries, but as a match, it set the pace for a great WrestleMania.

13. John Cena vs. Neville (WWE United States, Monday Night Raw, May 11)

The US Open Challenge comes with the black cloud of predictability – you know Cena’s somehow going to escape with the title. This time, Neville did win, albeit by disqualification, after Rusev attacked him following his landing of the lights-out Red Arrow. Neville hardly had to slow his roll for Cena, who’s proven with the challenge his compatibility with any worker.

12. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Becky Lynch (NXT Women’s, TakeOver: Rival, February 11)

Banks’ coming-out party was really at R-Evolution in December, when she held her own with a rapidly-improving Charlotte. Despite playing a materialistic minx of a villain, she, next to the amiable Bayley, were the crowd favorites to win the four-way. Banks pinning Charlotte to capture the title demonstrates a hefty show of faith in her own in-ring improvements.

11. Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton (WWE World Heavyweight, Payback, May 17)

This one followed the pattern of most WWE fatal four ways, two guys get bumped while the others duke it out until someone breaks a pin, but it hardly felt as such. A dramatic final stretch coupled with some moments of invention earlier on put it above standard fare. The Shield triple-powerbomb, with subsequent scorning of Rollins, is a true calendar highlight.

10. Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins (WrestleMania 31, March 29)

One of the main reasons that WrestleMania was so acclaimed stems from the one-two punch that kicked off the show. Following the chaotic ladder match, Orton and Rollins cut a frenetic pace, not even thrown off the rails by the excessive interference of J&J Security – in fact, they enhanced the match. The ending “RKO Outta Nowhere” rates as the move’s pinnacle.

9. Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose (Non-Title, Monday Night Raw, May 4)

It was one of Cena’s US Open Challenges minus Cena – just send two high-class performers out there and have them put on a helluva bout. Ambrose earned entry into the Payback main event by pinning Rollins here, and the Montreal crowd was hanging on every one of his comeback strikes. Will WWE ever realize that Ambrose is the babyface they direly need?

8. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch (NXT Women’s, TakeOver: Unstoppable, May 20)

The recurring trend of NXT quarterly specials: “That may have been the best women’s match in company history!” A year ago, that was Charlotte and Natalya earning that rave, while today, this is the ladies’ outing to beat. A story of determination and grit centered around submission attempts supersedes the putrid main roster schizophrenic booking of the “Divas”.

7. Finn Balor vs. Adrian Neville (No. 1 Contender’s, TakeOver: Rival, February 11)

They were given thirteen minutes, so barring one performer tanking it like a lottery-minded NBA team, you knew this would rule. Besides, Balor is incapable of mediocrity when caked in intimidating war paint. The match was a blend of what they do best with ‘corrective’ WWE style, concluding with a Balor Coup de Grace, match of the night on *most* shows.

6. Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose (WWE World Heavyweight/Ladder Match, Money in the Bank, June 14)

A divisive pick due to the Heaven’s Gate-length of the match (36 minutes!) and the dragged out ending with angsty Ambrose watching a dazed Rollins celebrate for an eternity. Aside from that, it was a tremendously told story of hatred and heart, two wrestlers with something to prove outside of the tiresome “build my legacy” WrestleMania-time narratives.

5. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens (NXT Heavyweight, TakeOver: Rival, February 11)

The ending of a classic match should come to define the combatants. This one further galvanized Zayn as the never-quit hero (far more subtly than superhero Cena) while casting Owens as the opportunistic prick that would sooner beat his old friend into a coma than leave the arena without championship gold. There’s simply no villain like Owens in the business today.

4. John Cena vs. Kevin Owens (Money in the Bank, June 14)

Far-too-immediate sequel to a landmark match just about equaled the original’s unpredictable charm, though this ending was much more expected. Cena and Owens once more cut a hellish pace en route to the Cena victory, following the third of three AA’s. Owens’ post-match attack, with obnoxious heckler’s laugh, capped off another masterpiece.

3. Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins (WWE World Heavyweight, Royal Rumble, January 25)

The saving grace of an uninspired, maddening night in Philadelphia was this triple threat pitting three pros of differing characteristics. All three got their shine, with Lesnar as unkillable monster, and Cena as the valiant brawler, though it was Rollins that shone brightest in defeat. With his performance, his main event ticket was indelibly punched.

2. John Cena vs. Kevin Owens (Elimination Chamber, May 31)

The finish damn near broke social media, which is a testament to the positives of Cena’s inability to lose cleanly: when he *is* defeated, it means the world. Cena and Owens cobbled together an evolutionary version of Sting vs. Vader and turned the new monster into a made man with a concrete victory. The rematch should have been further down the line.

1. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins (WWE World Heavyweight, WrestleMania 31, March 29)

To say this was a surprise classic is something of an understatement. Lesnar’s matches defy the paint-by-numbers main event style, and what followed was a thumping beatdown of a resilient Reigns, who dramatically turned the tide when Lesnar began gushing blood. The final five minutes, including Rollins’ cash-in, are deservedly etched in ‘Mania lore.

WWE Money in the Bank 2015 Results and Recap: Sheamus Wins, Rollins Retains

June 14, 2015 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-Ahh, Money in the Bank. The show that’s almost impossible to screw up; just book a couple of scintillating ladder matches and ta-da, it’s a thumbs up show on simple merit. Except this year, we have about two weeks of build after WWE thought it’d be a great idea to space out ‘Network specials’ two weeks apart. I guess you could look at it as Elimination Chamber is like UFC Fight Night, while MITB gets the number designation. I guess the impromptu King of the Ring in April is like one of those “UFC on Fuel TV” specials comparatively.

-Remember, if Reigns wins, we create a hashtag that we stick by for all of three days.

-Live from Columbus

-On the call, Cole, JBL, and Lawler

-We get a ten bell salute for Dusty to open the show, with the entire roster (sans Cody and Dustin, whom I imagine are home) in front of the entrance way. “Common Man Boogie” plays to end the segment, and I was hoping we’d get a ‘Dusty Finish’, with Rhodes emerging from the entrance way, alive and well. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Thanks for the memories and the inspiration, Dream.

MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH: Sheamus def. Randy Orton, Neville, Kane, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston and Roman Reigns in 20:33

The match is basically divided into two classes: the pizzazz (Kofi, Dolph, Neville) and the designated shine (Reigns, Sheamus, Orton, Kane). You can figure out how each guy was placed into each group. The match pares down to a series of one-on-ones after Kingston gets punked out early, with nothing notable aside from Neville and Kofi’s acrobatics. Reigns took over to the residual chorus of boos, powerbombing Kofi onto a ladder, and then Neville onto him, diluting some of the boos with awed cheers. Orton’s RKO spree, concluding by puling Neville off the ladder into one, fared much better with the onlookers. I propose that when he RKO’s Kingston, it be referred to as the Stupid Driver ’09. The match runs pretty slow, with would-be studs like Orton and Reigns playing dead far longer than they would in a normal match, stretching the credibility a bit thin. Reigns livens things up by diving onto a pile of opponents at ringside, which leads to Big E and Xavier Woods out to try and aid their partner toward victory. The crowd isn’t happy, so Reigns, needing every opportunity to gain love and cred (love-cred?), wipes both of intruders out, and powerbombs Kofi onto the fray outside. Reigns spears Orton and goes to retrieve the case, only for Bray Wyatt to appear and upset the ladder, which everyone seems to love. Sheamus and Neville end up as the lone combatants, and Sheamus claws him off to claim the case. Very slow in parts, but enough goodness to at least be worth watching. The “everyone lay around” stuff gets a bit grating, but it was fine otherwise.

Rating: ***1/2

WWE DIVAS: Nikki Bella def. Paige in 11:25

Merely a backdrop for Lawler to parrot McMahon’s “All women hate each other!” missive as the two work what’s a little better than their standard Raw fare. Crowd at the very least was very into Paige, though Ohio’s proven to be an underrated capital of wrestling appreciation anyhow. The match picked up a bit with some finisher teases and Paige even landed the RamPaige, getting only two, which took the crowd out of it and telegraphed how it would be ending, more or less. Both women took a bump outside off the top rope, allowing for the Twin Magic switch. Paige pinned Brie after a cradle reversal, only for Brie to quickly reveal that she was actually the wrong Doink. Instead of calling a DQ, the ref allowed Nikki to hit the Rack Attack and actually counted the pinfall. Okay then. Match was fine before the irksome finish, which killed off the crowd. The announcers even harped on the referee not calling the DQ, so even Vince had to be thinking it was a dumb finish. Better late than never, I suppose.

Rating: **

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL: Big Show def. Ryback by disqualification in 5:28

We got Miz on commentary for this one, which is like Jesse Ventura 1986 compared to having to sit through the Bellas. Ryback beats him up in the early going, another example of telegraphing what would be involved in the finish. Ryback gets a clunky version of the Del Rio armbar about three minutes in, then he kicks out of a chokeslam a minute later, more accelerated than Cliffs’ Notes. WMD knocks Ryback to the floor and Miz teased involvement, to the interest of nobody, before clocking Show with the microphone. That drew a mixed reaction: half the fans hated the finish, the other were glad it was over. That’s two straight PPVs with a garbage IC Title match. Gee, thanks Daniel Bryan (sarcasm).

Rating: -**

NON TITLE MATCH: John Cena def. Kevin Owens in 19:24

Fans may be taunting Cena, but they’re just happy to have something to sink their teeth into after a night of disappointments so far. Owens played the psych game early, doing Cena’s signatures (diving shoulders, spin-out powerbomb, Five Knuckle Shuffle) before Cena rebounded with an STF, and then a nifty deadlift reverse suplex for two. Fans are at least partially distracted in spite of the match at hand, in part because of the crowd-killing booking beforehand, but also they’re probably following the NBA Finals game (who expected a team from Cleveland to still be alive, thinks WWE). Owens senton hits Cena’s knees in a nice spot with well placed camera angle, and Cena follows THAT with an electric chair drop. Anytime Cena’s compelled to update the moveset, you’re in for a treat. Owens powers out of a pin following an AA, prompting a long Cena bitch-session to the ref. A top rope AA is countered by Owens, who drops down, and electric chairs Cena into a spinout blue thunder bomb for 2. Crowd became thoroughly hooked after that. Cena countered a pop-up powerbomb with a decent rana, then runs into a superkick for another 2. Into All-Japan mode we go with big move-two-big-move-two. Owens missed a moonsault and Cena countered with an AA, getting another 2 count and sending Cena into “I can’t beat this guy” mode a la WrestleMania 28 with Rock. The announcers played up the count, questioning if Mike Chioda erred at all in getting into position. Still reinforcing that Cena is infallible after all of these years. Owens fights his way to the ropes after another STF, and that’s followed by Cena, after some overt maneuvering, getting Amazing Red’s Code Red leg-trap sunset bomb, to the shock of all, for 2. Owens pops him up for a powerbomb right afterward, and the crowd is now hooked completely. A bad springboard stunner follows, and Cena wins with a third AA. Just about as good as last month, not quite the full monty, but still awesome. Just wish they’d waited til SummerSlam for the rematch rather than have it two weeks later. They do the handshake deal afterward, and naturally Owens attacks him, hitting the powerbomb on the apron. Owens’ Pee-Wee Herman laugh while holding up both belts almost bumps this to five stars. Almost.

Rating: ****1/2

WWE TAG TEAM: Prime Time Players def. The New Day in 5:43 to win the titles

It was an uphill battle following that last match and an in-arena re-airing of the Dusty tribute video. Big E sufficiently managed to get the crowd against him with an Ohio State probation rant, while Xavier’s passive-aggressive, borderline-about-to-snap clapping while the crowd taunts him is a five-star performance unto itself. Young played face-in-peril in what’s clearly filler before the mainer. Crowd played along with the tropes well enough, popping adequately when O’Neil tagged in. O’Neil even busted out the Monty Brown Pounce on Woods, and Big E speared Young through the ropes. O’Neil finished Woods with Clash of the Titus, making Young the first openly gay titleholder in WWE since Orlando Jordan was US Champion in 2005, I believe. Fine match, got a lot in for its brief frame.

Rating: **1/4

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT/LADDER MATCH: Seth Rollins def. Dean Ambrose at 35:42

I feel like opinions of the show will hinge on this match. The best match to this point featured jorts vs. gym shorts, with jeans vs. leather pants as worthy competition. Tights are for suckers. Match began with more urgency than the Chamber title match, thankfully. The ladder finally got involved after a somewhat light sequence that ended with Rollins trying a suicide dive and taking the ladder to the forearm, made worse by a camera zoom in. Kevin Dunn, the ruiner of illusion. Ambrose makes sure to add the Flip, Flop, and Fly to a vertical elbow from the ladder, spelled out by JBL for the slower viewers. Rollins introduces a chair to Ambrose’s knee during a climb, adding a story point to what’s mostly an insta-match. The crowd didn’t much care for the psychology, however,instead hoping for the stuntshows of the WWE days of yore. A Rollins ringpost figure four draws a “CZW!” chant from one distressed fan, which I presume is encouraging Rollins to attack Jon Moxley with a skilsaw. I’ll note that Ambrose’s Bionic Elbow vs. Rollins’ Figure Four, in a feud that pits rural grit against undeserved privilege, resonates on a day like this. Nice spot during Ambrose’s comeback attempt, where the rebound clothesline is countered by Rollins leveraging a ladder into his face. A somewhat shocking moment as Rollins headed up toward and Ambrose threw a chair hard at his unprotected head. Eesh. Rollins left Ambrose for dead in the aisleway as the fight spilled out that way, only for Ambrose to limp back in, take an enzuigiri, and still come back with the rebound clothesline. The two brawled into the crowd on the timekeeper’s side with Rollins sending Ambrose into a wall, and trying once more for the ‘leave him for dead’ finish. Ambrose appears from nowhere and strikes as Rollins fetches a second ladder. That ladder serves to bridge the apron and announce desk, and Rollins takes a sick backdrop onto it, a call back from last year’s MITB. Rollins prevents Ambrose’s slow climb and tries for a throwing powerbomb, only for both men to tumble over with a hurrachanrana. Crowd’s tense, either because they’re into the match, or word’s spread of Golden State pulling away from Cleveland. The fight on the Spanish Announce Table concludes with Dirty Deeds. Rollins runs in during the climb and bashes Ambrose’s bad knee with a table monitor. Rollins begins his slow climb, and Ambrose manages to pull him down. Rollins quickly Pedigrees him. It’s the good kind of slow, very tense. Rollins climbs again and Ambrose manages to hook the leg again. They fight down and Ambrose sends Rollins through the ropes, leading to a sequence where Ambrose is sent into the bridge ladder, and then powerbombed into the rail. A more vicious throwing powerbomb into the barricade follows. Finally, Rollins retrieves a ton of chairs and another ladder, dropping Ambrose with a running sitout powerbomb onto the pile of metal. Crowd is now officially lifeless after both that and the Warriors’ win. Ambrose fights to his feet somehow and climbs the same side of the ladder as Rollins and they fight over it, and come down with the belt together, but Rollins pulls it away, ending a great match but royally annoying the crowd who didn’t get any of their winners otherwise. Doesn’t take away from what a great match it was, though.

Rating: ****1/2

OVERALL: You can say that, yes, there were two match of the year candidates, and there were indeed, but Sheamus, Nikki, and Rollins’ unheralded wins and Cena going over Owens (despite Owens’ post-match beatdown), will leave a bad taste in a lot of mouths. It’s a thumbs up show on the matches themselves, but thumbs down for the payoffs themselves.

WWE: Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes! Yes! Yes! on Amazon.com

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WWE Elimination Chamber 2015 Results: Rollins Retains, Owens Wins

May 31, 2015 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-So the word is that WWE creative is high on the idea of running these sort of Sunday specials every two weeks, because it’s easier to do two-week stories instead of four-week sagas. Keep in mind, ‘creative’ is in their job title. I’m in the wrong line of work, apparently. And forget my annoyance; did Jim Cornette ever address this on his podcast? I’d love to hear his retort for the statement, so long as it doesn’t lead to him having the aneurysm we all fear is inevitable.

-Regardless, it looks to be a decent show on paper. I’d just rather not be covering No Way Out in a month, and Great American Bash two weeks after Battleground, and a Sunday edition of Raw Roulette two weeks after Summerslam….

-Live from Corpus Christi

-On the call, Cole, Lawler, and JBL

WWE Tag Team Championship Elimination Chamber: The New Day def. K-Swiss, Prime Time Players, The Ascension, Lucha Dragons, and Los Matadores in 23:21

Yes, the teams were crammed into the standard-size pods. New Day were permitted to compete as a trio, and comically, they were all stuffed in one pod. I have to say that these six teams, plus The Usos (Jey is still injured) and Harper/Rowan actually give WWE a respectably-deep tag team scene.

The Lucha Dragons and The Ascension kicked off, giving us our second match between participants in an NXT Title change (Neville/Dallas). The Ascension are LOD ripoffs in a War Games match ripoff. It can’t end until one of them digs a spike into JJ Dillon’s arms. Sin Cara flew off of a pod with a swanton onto Viktor in a daring spot, while Kalisto was crotched in the chain link atop New Day’s pod (who proceded to do the Lucha arm-thrust dance in celebration)

K-Swiss hits the ring after a four-minute interval and destroy The Ascension, and Cesaro nails Kalisto with a leaping Swiss Death while Kalisto was still trapped on his Chamber. Superplex off the pod leads to a Kidd elbow for 2, broken up by Sin Cara. Crowd’s periodically disinterested, despite the wild spots scattered about.

Los Matadores are in fourth with no eliminations yet, and El Torito (stationed on the pod) hits Cesaro with a diving rana. Meanwhile, Kalisto climbs to the apex of the Chamber roof and gets a swinging suicide dive onto a pile of guys in a spot that wakes the crowd up, at least. Fall of Man finishes Fernando at 10:14. Another finishes Kalisto at 11:11. Hey, they’re actually making the Ascension look dominant! Who knew that kicking ass worked better than bad promos?

Prime Time Players enter fifth and quickly finish Viktor at 13:10 with a Gut Check. A unique Tower-of-Doom spot with a Cesaro gutwrench superplex/Titus powerbomb occurs, and some vocal fans get a minor “This is awesome” chant going. It mostly turns into laying around as they wait for New Day, who predictably enters last.

Swinging kick lays out Kofi, but Young rolls up Cesaro for the surprising elimination at 18:09. Crowd doesn’t much care for that, but since it came down to New Day and the Players, Young becomes defacto babyface for escaping the Midnight Hour and sending Big E headfirst into a plexiglass door. Young gets two off a Gut Check on Kofi that Charles Robinson stalled noticably on. Titus gets finished at 23:21, following a Big E clip and a Woods Shining Wizard, followed by a three man pin.

The crowd found it hard to get into with the lack of distinguished stars, but was gradually sucked in by the hard work of everyone involved. It’s a fun match with a lot of dead spots diluted by some admirable creativity

Rating: ***1/4

WWE Divas: Nikki Bella def. Naomi and Paige in 6:03

Naomi’s light-up sneakers are blue tonight, for those that find such information pertinent. They’re beautiful compared to Nikki’s springboard kick that missed by such a mile, even the reverent, Bella-admirous announcers have to admit that it shot wider than an Alex Henery field goal.

Not much story to the match, aside from the competitive nature of triple threats resulting in a mad dash to break up fall attempts. Paige seemed to be hurt legit on a Nikki Alabama Slam, favoring her head for the remainder of the bout. A couple of decent spots (Rear View breaks up the Rack Attack, a Naomi reverse rana), but not much else. Nikki finishes Naomi with the Rack Attack, and that’s that.

Rating: 3/4*

Kevin Owens def. John Cena at 19:54

Considerable cheers for Owens upon his entrance. Funny how a soldier of WWE’s corporate facade (Cena) restores cred to a belt, and an IWC stud (Owens) takes a dump on it. Owens actually mines some quality heel heat out of a WWE crowd pre-disposed to hating Cena on sight. Some IWCers will question why such fans would boo Owens, and yet it’s like currency to him. He’s happy to be hated.

Also of note was Lawler’s rapt interest in this match. Not only did Lawler put over that he’d faced Owens before in a previous life, but brought some of his old attached focus out of the mothballs, extolling his no-frills brawling style. Point being, if you can get bored Lawler’s attention in this modern age, you’re worth your salt.

Conversely, it’s still disarming when someone like Lawler (this isn’t being cast as blame on him) has to note that Owens likes to fight. Shouldn’t that be standard in any WWE wrestler? They’re there to compete physically, though it seems each WrestleMania season, it’s all about ‘building legacies’. This is why we love Brock so much, even though he only shows up when they’re electing a new Pope.

Owens did well adapting to Cena’s rigid main event formula, though Cena did break form a few times in the slugfest sequences, allowing for Owens to shine as a stoic scrapper. Cena kicked out of a pop-up powerbomb, which isn’t surprising. To paraphrase RVD, that doesn’t mean Owens sucks; it just makes him like everyone else, unable to beat Cena with one finisher.

Owens actually missed a turnaround moonsault (stunning everyone), and kicked out of the ensuing AA, so the shine goes both ways. Truly, Hunter didn’t miss this match’s production session, taking up for his project. Owens even tried for his own Five Knuckle Shuffle and was pulled into the STF. Upon escaping, he hits Cena with his own AA and gets two, and the commentators sell admiration more than disgust, which is unusual in today’s perpetual rah-rah Cena world.

Cena dug into the well he went to with his matches against Rock, selling genuine frustration at being unable to finish, no matter what the circumstances. Both kicked out of one innovative move after another, including Owens busting out a modified Steenalizer (Owensalyzer?) and a reverse superplex, and the crowd, while quiet in parts, it was a respectful silence. As in, what the hell will they do next?

Cena’s frustration with being unable to finish Owens led to some angry clotheslines, the last one walking into the pop-up powerbomb to give Owens the shocking clean win. The announcers play it up as perhaps the most startling upset ever, followed by Owens cutting a spiteful promo, giving Cena ‘veteran advice’, imploring him to quit wrestling, and then ripping off “THE CHAMP IS HERE”.

Rating: ****1/2

Neville def. Bo Dallas in 8:53

Didn’t anticipate this topping the previous match, though I’ll note that except for Sami Zayn, every NXT Champion (Rollins, Owens, Neville, Dallas, Big E) performed on this show. Beating OVW’s track record, anyway.

Neville’s daredevil antics keep the crowd into it, and Dallas at least plays his insincere heel bit to the hilt. Actually reminds me of The Mountie and other villains of that ilk. In other words, they’ve done a fine job carrying the crowd through when the previous match most certainly drained their emotions.

Sadly, Dallas works a chancery for what feels like an eternity, prompting the announcers to argue about football and baseball called shots in light of Owens’ win. Gets Dallas some good heat, but it doesn’t make for an exciting match. Neville’s comeback, littered with his usual flash, can’t get them back to any real degree.

Neville countered the Bo-Dog, hit a high kick, and finished with the Red Arrow, which popped the crowd enough. That could have used about three less minutes and 20 less chanceries.

Rating: *

WWE Intercontinental/Elimination Chamber: Ryback def. Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, Mark Henry, King Barrett, and R-Truth in 25:06 to win the vacant title

Henry was Rusev’s replacement, failing to even get a home state pop. That, or Dallas killed the city worse than an ancient plague. He, along with Truth and Sheamus, really give the match a musty 2011 feel. All we’re missing is an Alex Riley semi-push.

Barrett and Ziggler open, probably rightly so, guaranteeing a period of quality wrestling among some of the clunkier performers. Even then, the opening sequence was fairly uninspired, and R-Truth’s entrance third into the match doesn’t change that. Even Ziggler’s comeback attempt and Barrett’s posturing fail to electrify. It takes a sick superkick to Dolph’s mouth to draw some revulsion sounds.

Barrett sends Ziggler into Henry’s pod prematurely, breaking it, and Henry’s allowed to enter for some reason. Ryback joins the fray seconds later, so I’m guessing they felt they were short and time, and found a workaround to get everyone involved quicker.

Barrett ends up being the first man gone, losing to R-Truth’s Moment of Truth, of all things, at 10:59. Sheamus has a problem with his pod upon final entry.Ryback gets Truth with Shell Shock at 13:53 while Sheamus remains stuck. JBL: “Who’s doing our equipment, the Patriots equipment guy?” Well, WWE does inflate their attendance figures…

Sheamus finally answers after picking the lock with his cross necklace, and puts Ziggler through another pod window, which naturally doesn’t draw blood or anything. Those WWE video games are liars. Brogue Kick finishes Henry at 17:12. Ziggler then eats one at 20:19 after an awkward sequence, taking the air out of an already deflated crowd.

Ryback gets some courtesy cheers from fans sick of Sheamus. Even his gutsy kickout after White Noise on the mesh can’t spur a loud response. The rolling senton on the mesh shortly thereafter gets near silence, and is a sign that the gimmick overuse has taken its toll. Ryback does finish with two powerbombs (one into the Chamber wall) and Shell Shock. And you know what? Good for him. After gutting it out with a busted rib since Payback and beyond, he should be rewarded for his grit. Shame the match was a colossal disappointment, more awkward than a Duggar therapy session. Could be the worst match of the year to this point, topping the Paige/Tamina slog-fest from Monday. At least that was short.

Rating: -**

WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Dean Ambrose def. Seth Rollins by disqualification at 21:47

At this time 17 years ago, to this exact day, an anti-social hellraiser (Austin) faced long odds against a hand-picked corporate avatar (Dude Love), for the WWE title. That was a five star match, so I was holding high hopes for this one through calendar osmosis. This is also the first time in WWE history that a PPV/special ends with two men in their twenties going one on one for the WWE Championship, so there’s history here.

The match actually begins very slowly, despite building up Ambrose as hellbent on ending Rollins for the Shield split a year prior. Lots of mat wrestling from Ambrose in the first five minutes, sort of betraying the story. The crowd is into it insomuch as chanting negative remarks at Rollins, but it’s a long time before Ambrose looks like the true babyface. A pinfall reversal sequence ten minutes in triggers this.

Ambrose lands a suicide dive shortly thereafter and the crowd is now sufficiently invested. Of course, a more long-term story building to this would help, but with two weeks between ‘specials’ (which are hardly special), they’re kinda handcuffed. Otherwise, this just feels like a TV match at the 10 PM hour.

A beautiful spot late sees Ambrose hit the rebound clothesline, with Rollins executing a picturesque shooting-star sell. Ambrose gets another rebound clothesline off of Rollins’ trademark corner powerbomb spot, and dives out onto Kane and J&J to try and prevent further interference. There ends up being a ref bump when Rollins pulls John Cone in the way of Ambrose’s vertical elbow smash. An exchange naturally leads to Dirty Deeds with no ref. But look, Chad Patton hits the ring and makes the three count, and wouldn’t ya know it, Ambrose wins.

Ahh, but it’s a disqualification. Well, there’s your new #CancelWWENetwork campaign, with an hour to go before the end of the free month. I think it’d have been better just to hotshot the belt onto Ambrose and have Rollins win it back at Money in the Bank, but I’m not one of the beancounters here. Reigns helps Ambrose clean house and Ambrose absconds with the belt, but it doesn’t bail out the crap finish and the mostly average match.

Rating: ***1/4

OVERALL: Owens/Cena is worth going out of your way to see, and would’ve bolstered a thumbs up on its own power had much of the remainder of the show not been so disappointing.

It’s a thumbs-in-the-middle show, and I’m hoping this bi-weekly special experiment ends with a thud, like this show did.

WWE: It’s good to be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story

WWE: Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe

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Top 30 Worst WWE Pay-Per-Views In History

May 06, 2015 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

WWE PPVs are thirty years old this year. WrestleMania I was not the first (it aired on closed-circuit in theaters), rather Wrestling Classic was. In those thirty years, WWE has provided fans with countless moments from numerous historical events.

This list will not be celebrating those moments.

Instead, we’ll be looking back on the thirty worst WWE PPVs ever, as there have been plenty of barrel-scrapers. You can certainly think of a few off the top of your head; events that robbed you of $30, $40, upwards of $65-70. Or, perhaps, just events you wish you hadn’t illegally streamed in the interest of your own sanity, either or.

In the interest of some positivity, I will select a redeeming quality from each PPV, just to show that I’m not all about the negative. This could go a long way in reducing some potential, “But, but….” feedback.

Away we go.

30. THE WRESTLING CLASSIC (November 7, 1985 – Chicago, IL)

WHY IT SUCKED: More bad finishes than possibly any other show, including The Junkyard Dog counting his own pinfall, Davey Boy Smith losing via stoppage when he crotched the ropes, Terry Funk getting counted out after attempting to sucker Moondog Spot into just such a countout, among others. The Wrestling Classic was a tournament that crammed a number of colorful stars of that exciting era into one show, and put together a card that has aged as well as acid-washed jeans.

REDEEMING QUALITY: The Macho Man proved his early worth to the company by having two excellent tournament bouts with Ricky Steamboat and The Dynamite Kid, both sadly relegated to five minutes or less.

29. KING OF THE RING 2002 (June 23, 2002 – Columbus, OH)

WHY IT SUCKED: The final incarnation of King of the Ring as a standalone PPV went out with a whimper. The Undertaker/Triple H main event for the Undisputed Title ranks among the worst title bouts of the modern era, thanks to both men working through serious injuries. Ric Flair and Eddie Guerrero had themselves a disappointing bout of near twenty-minute length, almost entirely heatless with the sudden absence of Steve Austin from the storyline. The bloom was off of Hulk Hogan’s nostalgia comeback, as he lost by submission to Kurt Angle in a virtual comedy match.

REDEEMING QUALITY: Aside from Brock Lesnar’s continued ascent via winning the crown, Chris Jericho and Rob Van Dam put on an enjoyable semi-final match (which sadly led to an online Jericho tirade when some fans felt the match was lacking).

28. NEW YEAR’S REVOLUTION 2005 (January 9, 2005 – San Juan, PR)

WHY IT SUCKED: Muhammad Hassan and Jerry Lawler put on a hideous match, made duller without commentary (Jim Ross worked Lawler’s corner). Eugene and Lita suffered debilitating knee injuries in the first two matches, casting a pall on the event, and cutting Lita’s potentially-good title bout with Trish Stratus understandably short. Maven stalled for almost six minutes in his Intercontinental Title match with Shelton Benjamin, and was then immediately pinned, rendering the entire match pointless.

REDEEMING QUALITY: The Elimination Chamber match for the vacant World Heavyweight Title was excellent, helping make Batista into a bona fide star, and is possibly the greatest Chamber match of all time. Makes sense why the show was bad: every main eventer was in this match.

27. BATTLEGROUND 2014 (July 20, 2014 – Tampa, FL)

WHY IT SUCKED: A bait-and-switch was put into play, removing the highly anticipated Dean Ambrose/Seth Rollins match from the show. Perhaps because of Ambrose’s jettisoning from the show, much of the card suffered from an annoyed vibe that resulted in a lack of heat, even for matches like Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt, and the Intercontinental Battle Royal. In the latter, Miz’s screwjob win was met with more apathy than fan anger. John Cena’s win in the closing fatal four way was as predictable as a sunrise. From the Network pre-show, Adam Rose vs. Fandango and Cameron vs. Naomi were each awful.

REDEEMING QUALITY: The opening PPV match pitting the Usos vs. Luke Harper/Erick Rowan, two out of three falls for the WWE Tag Team Titles, was a sleeper match of the year candidate, and qualifies as Harper’s breakout performance.

26. SURVIVOR SERIES 1991 (November 27, 1991 – Detroit, MI)

WHY IT SUCKED: Functioned primarily as a commercial for an unsuccessful attempt at running weekly PPVs, marking the first year Survivor Series ever felt secondary to anything. Great opening match pitting teams captained by Ric Flair and Roddy Piper was cut short when five wrestlers were disqualified. The following bout, with Jim Duggan’s team toppling Col. Mustafa’s team, was clumsy and butt-ugly. Despite hinting at a Randy Savage return to fill in for Sid Justice, his beef with Jake Roberts ended up being held off until the following week in a cruel tease.

REDEEMING QUALITY: The Undertaker’s WWF Title win over Hulk Hogan, in which fans were 60-40 in favor of Taker, truly marked a paradigm shift as the definitive end of eight years of Hulkamania. Whether you like Hogan or not, it’s a historical benchmark.

25. OVER THE LIMIT 2011 (May 22, 2011 – Seattle, WA)

WHY IT SUCKED: WWE Championship bout was SuperCena at its most convoluted, as the champion withstood a two-on-one beating from The Miz and Alex Riley and almost instantly made Miz tap after an STF following a match restart. That restart was borne of a crap finish, where Riley played a cell-phone recording of Cena ‘submitting’ to hoodwink the official (Rock/Mankind redux). Most of the remainder of the show was horrid, with CM Punk wasted in a plodding Tag Team title match, Brie Bella and Kelly Kelly stumbling around the Divas title match, and Sin Cara continuing his inauspicious debut by going over Chavo Guerrero in uninspiring fashion.

REDEEMING QUALITY: Randy Orton and Christian delivered another awesome World Heavyweight Title bout, with Christian playing the Flair or Steamboat to Orton’s Luger perhaps better than anyone else.

24. ROYAL RUMBLE 2015 (January 25, 2015 – Philadelphia, PA)

WHY IT SUCKED: Not even for undesired Roman Reigns winning the Rumble match itself, but for the uninspired booking of the actual match, with aging relics Big Show and Kane slowly wiping the floor with a number of younger favorites. Daniel Bryan’s early elimination opened the floodgates of relentless fan outrage. Most of the rest of the show boasted uninspired tag team matches, with The Ascension looking weak in victory over the New Age Outlaws, a DQ finish in a Tag Team title match, and the Bellas beating Natalya and Paige with a simple forearm smash.

REDEEMING QUALITY: The World Championship bout revealed Seth Rollins’ true main event value, and the match itself with Brock Lesnar and John Cena was chaotic and exciting, a potential match-of-the-year.

23. SURVIVOR SERIES 2013 (November 24, 2013 – Boston, MA)

WHY IT SUCKED: “Big Show was my childhood friend” storyline with Stephanie McMahon came to a merciful end, but not merciful enough without the heatless World Title match with Randy Orton that ended the night. The seven-on-seven Divas elimination match was full of the clunky wrestling you’d expect from some of the lower-tier entrants, essentially an amateur-hour commercial for Total Divas. Big E Langston’s Intercontinental title win over Curtis Axel was short and dull, as was Mark Henry’s pointless win over Ryback.

REDEEMING QUALITY: “Make Roman look strong” served its purpose in the opening PPV bout, in which Reigns made four eliminations in powerfully understated fashion, becoming sole survivor of a damn fine Survivor Series match.

22. SURVIVOR SERIES 2008 (November 23, 2008 – Boston, MA)

WHY IT SUCKED: Popular Jeff Hardy was removed from the WWE Championship triple threat for creative reasons, coming under the guise of an attack at the hotel, which was presented as semi-legitimate, and upset many fans. Triple H and Kozlov then plodded through maybe the most boring title match in recent memory before Edge ran in to replace Hardy, after three months away, and won the belt. The women’s elimination bout was accelerated sloppiness, while Undertaker’s casket match with Big Show was very underwhelming compared to their surprisingly good match at No Mercy one month earlier.

REDEEMING QUALITY: A pair of decent-enough traditional Survivor Series matches took place, so at least the fundamental portion of the show held up its end.

21. WRESTLEMANIA XI (April 2, 1995 – Hartford, CT)

WHY IT SUCKED: No matter how many celebrities were crammed into the event, the bloom was explicitly off of WrestleMania’s rose in this dark period. Bret Hart and Bob Backlund shambled through a boring submission match, under orders to use virtually nothing except submission holds. Undertaker and King Kong Bundy’s match was as dull as you’d expect, while The Allied Powers’ opening win over Eli and Jacob Blu hardly felt WrestleMania-worthy. Diesel’s comeback in the World Title bout was met with derision, a portrait of where the company was in 1995.

REDEEMING QUALITY: While Diesel’s match with Shawn Michaels was the expected quality showing, it was Lawrence Taylor’s fiery competence against Bam Bam Bigelow that really kept the show from plummeting to rock bottom.

20. ROYAL RUMBLE 1997 (January 19, 1997 – San Antonio, TX)

WHY IT SUCKED: The company’s drawing power in 1997 was made a tad clearer when Shawn Michaels received a World title shot in his hometown, and one-fifth of the Alamodome had to be papered. Michaels worked through the flu and regained the belt from Sycho Sid in a poor match by his standards. An attempt to co-opt lucha libre, as WCW had, pretty much died out here, after a plodding trios match where only Hector Garza looked star-caliber. The undercard saw three big feuds highlighted in underwhelming matches: Vader over Undertaker, Triple H over Goldust, and Ahmed Johnson over Faarooq by disqualification. All six men were in the Rumble match as well, so they were all likely pacing themselves.

REDEEMING QUALITY: Stone Cold Steve Austin’s rise to the top accelerated with a tainted Rumble victory, and the fans responded more than favorably to his honed anti-hero act.

19. SUMMERSLAM 2007 (August 26, 2007 – East Rutherford, NJ)

WHY IT SUCKED: There weren’t too many storylines headed into the show, and a pall still loomed from the dark cloud hovering over WWE following the Benoit murder/suicide (wellness suspensions would come en masse the following weekend). Batista and Great Khali had a spectacularly bad World title match that ended in a DQ, while a Divas battle royal completely lost a lukewarm crowd, especially after Mickie James was eliminated. CM Punk blew his third straight chance to become ECW Champion in defeat to a not-yet-over John Morrison. Triple H made his return after seven months away, beating King Booker in a short match, and getting a way-too-put-on standing ovation from Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

REDEEMING QUALITY: John Cena and Randy Orton had a decent enough WWE Championship match, even if the crowd was more apt to cheer for Orton or, well, anyone else.

18. UNFORGIVEN 2003 (September 21, 2003 – Hershey, PA)

WHY IT SUCKED: Early on in the split-brand era, Raw PPVs and storylines were shockingly dim, lacking the fun of the only-recently departed Attitude Era. Goldberg won the World title from Triple H in a match that lacked drama, or even quality action thanks to the champ having a bum leg. Shane McMahon was booked to almost dominate revamped-monster Kane in a last man standing match for the better part of 20 minutes before losing. Test won Scott Steiner’s services as some vague type of slave after a match only made interesting by Stacy Keibler standing around. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler actually had a match with Heat announcers Jonathan Coachman and Al Snow that was garbage.

REDEEMING QUALITY: Shawn Michaels did make Randy Orton look like the main eventer he would eventually become, and their match was certainly more than decent, if not great.

17. ROYAL RUMBLE 1996 (January 21, 1996 – Fresno, CA)

WHY IT SUCKED: When Bret Hart and The Undertaker are incapable of having a good match with each other, it’s probably been one of those nights. The fact that their show-ending World title match ended in a cheap DQ on interference from Diesel just tossed dung onto a mounting pile. Goldust and Razor Ramon’s Intercontinental title match was one of Goldust’s typical plodfests from the era. The Rumble match itself was loaded up with one-nighters such as Doug Gilbert, The Headhunters, Takao Omori, and aging Dory Funk Jr in order to aid the dwindling roster of the time, and it’s arguably the least interesting Rumble match ever. Kama (The Godfather) was the next-to-last man to be eliminated, and he went out on a pie-face.

REDEEMING QUALITY: Shawn Michaels looked good in winning the Rumble match, beginning his road to WrestleMania XII at a time in which he was clearly the right man for the spot, even if hindsight numbers don’t back him up.

16. TABLES, LADDERS, CHAIRS, AND STAIRS 2014 (December 14, 2014 – Cleveland, OH)

WHY IT SUCKED: Coming just days after the universally-acclaimed NXT Takeover: R Evolution, it was reported that the WWE roster tasked itself with topping the developmental output. What ensued were uninspired gimmick matches, as Erick Rowan failed to entertain with a stack of ring steps, and Kane and Ryback swung chairs to less and less reaction. John Cena and Seth Rollins’ table match was marred with several overturned finishes. Dean Ambrose looked like the world’s biggest goof after blinding himself with an exploding television to end a lackluster evening. The roster hoped for Great American Bash ’89, and gave us ’91.

REDEEMING QUALITY: The opening match, Dolph Ziggler vs. Luke Harper in a ladder match for the Intercontinental title, paid off a then-hot crowd with insanity and a well-told story.

15. GREAT AMERICAN BASH 2005 (July 24, 2005 – Buffalo, NY)

WHY IT SUCKED: After the 2004 Draft, Smackdown exponentially degenerated into its possibly-intended B-show designation, producing a handful of putrid events. For starters, Road Warrior Animal became a Tag Team Champion, invoking deceased partner Hawk in a storyline to sell DVDs. The Undertaker ‘killed off’ Muhammad Hassan, following an order from UPN to remove the character following a storyline that depicted a mock attempt at a terror-related beheading. That was worse, but not by much, than the beginning of the involvement of Rey Mysterio’s son Dominic in a story with Eddie Guerrero, which hampered the duo’s match. The Batista/JBL World title bout ended in a DQ, a hasty change as Hassan was supposed to beat Undertaker and advance to a SummerSlam title match, necessitating JBL’s win after a long, boring match.

REDEEMING QUALITY: Christian and Booker T had a fine, workmanlike match a ways down the card, unencumbered by the gas station fire that Smackdown had become.

14. WRESTLEMANIA XV (March 28, 1999 – Philadelphia, PA)

WHY IT SUCKED: The poor quality of the show was kinda overlooked at the time, since most fans were just satisfied that Steve Austin regained the title to close out the night, and scathing criticism of in-ring work was less so in the Attitude Era. Chyna turning heel twice in one night, Road Dogg and Billy Gunn swapping storylines (that involved belts) two weeks prior as to render their matches moot, and the pointless team of D-Lo Brown and Test going for the Tag Team Titles were all bad enough. Now add Big Bossman being hanged after a bad Hell in a Cell match, and Tori looking 400 types of awful against Sable, and it’s a crummy Mania for sure.

REDEEMING QUALITY: Steve Austin regains the WWF Championship in an overbooked, but still incredibly fun, match with The Rock. You could always count on these two.

13. BRAGGING RIGHTS 2010 (October 24, 2010 – Minneapolis, MN)

WHY IT SUCKED: If you expected John Cena to be emaciated at the hands of The Nexus upon his forced joining, think again. Not only did he and David Otunga needlessly win the Tag titles in an impromptu match over Drew McIntyre and Cody Rhodes, but he got Randy Orton DQed in the WWE Title match against challenger Wade Barrett. See, Cena would have lost his job if Barrett didn’t ‘win’, wink wink. Undertaker and Kane had themselves a horrid Buried Alive match that really showed each man’s age. Even the Bragging Rights elimination match itself went on for nearly a half hour, and was more uninteresting than anything, due to a lack of interest in the diluted ‘Raw vs. Smackdown’ narrative.

REDEEMING QUALITY: The champion-vs-champion bout between Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler goes a long way in explaining why fans clamored to see it at WrestleMania five years later. Sadly, this was the opener, and it was all downhill from here.

12. ARMAGEDDON 2003 (December 14, 2003 – Orlando, FL)

WHY IT SUCKED: A painfully-bad 2003 limped to the grave with this poor showing for the Raw brand, though December PPVs traditionally bite balls. The best match of the night may have been Chris Jericho and Christian wrestling two considerably-smaller performers in Trish Stratus and Lita. Molly Holly vs. Ivory was a bad match. Booker T vs. Mark Henry was a bad match. A Tag Team Turmoil seemed to drag on for eons. Triple H regained the World Heavyweight title in a three way over Kane and Goldberg that was twenty slow minutes long. Not the finest hour for a brand that needed a jump start.

REDEEMING QUALITY: The four Evolution members ended up with the World, Intercontinental, and Tag Team gold by night’s end, making the faction look utterly powerful and credible for probably the first time.

11. ROCK BOTTOM (December 13, 1998 – Vancouver, BC)

WHY IT SUCKED: See what I mean about December PPVs? A lousy Steve Austin/Undertaker ‘Buried Alive’ match was made worse with Michael Cole’s illogical commentary (not that it’s exclusive to this match). It was an evening of awful tag team matches, including Headbangers vs. The Human Oddities, an interminable battle between the New Age Outlaws and Ken Shamrock/Big Bossman, and a disappointing six-man pitting The Brood against The JOB Squad. Truly, this show felt like space occupied between Survivor Series and The Royal Rumble.

REDEEMING QUALITY: The Rock and Mankind delivered an enjoyable enough WWF Title match, but even that was marred by an agonizing Dusty Finish after it appeared Mankind had captured his first World title.

10. BATTLEGROUND 2013 (October 6, 2013 – Buffalo, NY)

WHY IT SUCKED: Fans were getting sick of the jerkaround centered on Daniel Bryan not being allowed to the hold WWE belt longer than a Ferris wheel ride. You can imagine they were they fuming when his match with Randy Orton for the vacant gold ended with no winner, thanks to Big Show wiping out both men. While the event is most remembered for the maddening end, there was a whole lotta bad elsewhere. CM Punk won a long, dull match over Ryback, while undercard title bouts pitting Curtis Axel vs. R-Truth (IC) and AJ Lee vs. Brie Bella (Divas) were slightly worse. What else can you say about a show where the Real Americans are saddled with Santino Marella and The Great Khali?

REDEEMING QUALITY: Goldust and Cody Rhodes’ win over Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins was precisely the kind of old-school storytelling that WWE seems to eschew more and more, and yet it’s all people want to remember from bad shows like this.

9. WRESTLEMANIA IX (April 4, 1993 – Las Vegas, NV)

WHY IT SUCKED: The consensus choice for the worst WrestleMania ever had that standing solidified by the BS ending where Hulk Hogan ‘helps’ a wounded Bret Hart, only to be challenged by new WWF Champion Yokozuna, and then cashes in his Money in the Bank Yappapi Strap to beat him in 20 seconds. Hart’s loss betrayed his standing as the flagbearer of a new class, but the problems didn’t end there. Undertaker couldn’t drag Giant Gonzalez out of the maligned ‘negative star’ range, while Hogan and Brutus Beefcake looked anachronistic against Money Inc in a disappointing Tag Team title bout. The only good thing about Doink vs. Crush was the delighfully silly ending with an impostor clown.

REDEEMING QUALITY: The Steiner Brothers win over The Headshrinkers featured some insane highspots for 1993, including Rick Steiner powerslamming Samu while sitting on Fatu’s shoulders. Best match of the show, which is like being valedictorian of summer school.

8. GREAT AMERICAN BASH 2004 (June 27, 2004 – Norfolk, VA)

WHY IT SUCKED: People who watched it couldn’t help make comparisons to WCW in its decay, given the event’s name. For crying out loud, The Undertaker killed Paul Bearer in a tomb of cement to end the show, moments after beating Tag Team champions The Dudley Boyz in a handicap match before a confused, silent crowd. The undercard fared possibly worse, giving us back to back sludge in Billy Gunn vs. Kenzo Suzuki, and Sable vs. Torrie Wilson. Mordecai vs. Bob Holly was a bit better, but didn’t belong on PPV. Ditto a directionless Charlie Haas vs. a lukewarm Luther Reigns. Smackdown by this time really felt bush league compared to the inspired greatness on Raw.

REDEEMING QUALITY: While some do count this as a negative, JBL winning the WWE Championship from Eddie Guerrero in a gruesome bullrope match was indeed a great showing.

7. D-GENERATION X (December 7, 1997 – Springfield, MA)

WHY IT SUCKED: Four weeks after Montreal, and this time, the PPV buyers were the ones that got screwed. The Triple H-Sgt. Slaughter boot camp match moved molasses-slow, like a wade through waist-deep mud. Butterbean and Marc Mero engaged in a badly-worked boxing match. Undertaker vs. Jeff Jarrett was bad enough before Kane caused a DQ ending. The Legion of Doom continued their slide into the abyss in their Tag Team title match against a still-gelling New Age Outlaws. Goldust came out and read Green Eggs and Ham for whatever reason.

REDEEMING QUALITY: Steve Austin driving a truck to the ring and destroying the Nation of Domination en route to beating The Rock in a brief Intercontinental Title match is about the only thing worth remembering from this show.

6. ROYAL RUMBLE 1999 (January 24, 1999 – Anaheim, CA)

WHY IT SUCKED: The excesses of Russo’s booking drowned the Rumble match in a sea of convoluted muck. Most of the undercarders were sequestered to the first half of the match, creating an unrealistic imbalance. Vince McMahon wins after spending 90 percent of the match as an observer. Despite there being a $100,000 bounty on Steve Austin’s head, wrestlers only attack him in randomly-timed portions. If the Rumble match was a joke, at least it was a vigorously-paced one. Same can’t be said for Big Bossman vs. Road Dogg and Billy Gunn vs. Ken Shamrock, two rather lengthy matches in which the heels went over. Sable and Luna Vachon’s Women’s Title bout wasn’t going to stem the tide of a lackluster PPV.

REDEEMING QUALITY: This one is a lot more polarizing after the extent of concussions became better understood, but Rock and Mankind’s dramatic I Quit match for the WWF Championship remains a scintillating brawl, though much harder to watch today.

5. IN YOUR HOUSE IV: GREAT WHITE NORTH (October 22, 1995 – Winnipeg, MB)

WHY IT SUCKED: Story goes that Vince McMahon, at the event’s conclusion, slammed his headset down and barked “HORRIBLE!” He wasn’t wrong; the Diesel-Davey Boy Smith WWF Championship match was the cure for sleep disorders all of kinds. Perhaps more embarrassingly historic was Shawn Michaels forfeiting the Intercontinental belt to Dean Douglas, only for Douglas to get his jaw jacked (at some points, it looked literally) by Kliq-mate Razor Ramon in an awkward match. Yokozuna and Mabel trudged to a frustrating double countout that was probably for the best. Goldust’s debut, while unique, failed to electrify with his methodical style.

REDEEMING QUALITY: Not much of high value, the Tag Team title match with The Smoking Gunns and Razor/123 Kid was enjoyable, further sowing the seeds of Kid’s impending turn.

4. ARMAGEDDON 2004 (December 12, 2004 – Atlanta, GA)

WHY IT SUCKED: Great American Bash 2004 is hailed as the worst PPV of that year, but Armageddon was twice as bad; it’s just nobody buys PPVs around Christmas. Where to begin? The boxing match between Daniel Puder and The Miz? Kurt Angle beating up Santa Claus to try and get heel heat? Charlie Haas’ refereeing an alleged match between Jackie Gayda and Dawn Marie? Big Show squashing Angle, Luther Reigns, and Mark Jindrak in a handicap match? If it wasn’t bad, it was dull (Haas/Bob Holly vs. The Bashams, Spike Dudley vs. Funaki). Heidenreich causing a screwjob in a 26 minute four-way main event put a ragged bow on this one.

REDEEMING QUALITY: Rob Van Dam and Rey Mysterio took part in a really good formula Tag Team title bout with Rene Dupree and Kenzo Suzuki, a worthwhile opener.

3. KING OF THE RING 1999 (June 27, 1999 – Greensboro, NC)

WHY IT SUCKED: You would think that a time frame that produced a lot of break-neck excitement couldn’t provide such a tedious tournament, but here you go. Big Show and Kane’s first round match, with an endless, science-defying chokehold, was the absolute pits. Road Dogg and Chyna’s match was just as interminable. Ken Shamrock succumbed to his patented ‘internal injuries’, and by the time it was over, nobody was buying into X-Pac’s underdog story when he lost to ill-received king Billy Gunn. The tournament was bad enough, and a WWF Title match between Undertaker and The Rock failed to provide a positive spark otherwise. Just a dreadful show from top to bottom.

REDEEMING QUALITY: Although not a great match, Steve Austin’s handicap ladder match for ownership of the WWF against Vince and Shane McMahon did provide some expected entertaining moments.

2. DECEMBER TO DISMEMBER (December 3, 2006 – Augusta, GA)

WHY IT SUCKED: The real ECW died five years earlier, so this was more of a dumping of manure onto the grave. Bobby Lashley’s unheralded title win in the Elimination Chamber generated more annoyance from fans who preferred Rob Van Dam or CM Punk. Lots of downtime in the latter half of the match didn’t help either. Four of the six matches weren’t even announced ahead of time, and that was probably for the best, as none were any good. Among the worst were Kelly Kelly and Mike Knox’s clunker with Kevin Thorn and Ariel, as well as the FBI serving as chump fodder for Elijah Burke and Sylvester Terkay. The Georgia fans took the spiritual form of their Philly/New York counterparts and booed much of the event, especially when Tommy Dreamer lost suddenly to Daivari. The show barely went two hours and ten minutes.

REDEEMING QUALITY: The Hardy Boyz kicked things off with MNM in a tag team match that featured two heat segments and plenty of creative double-teaming. Its 23-minute length was absolutely needed.

1. KING OF THE RING 1995 (June 25, 1995 – Philadelphia, PA)

WHY IT SUCKED: Near rock-bottom for a failing WWF, the hostile Philly crowd gave Vince McMahon the business a full generation before Reigns won the Rumble. Mabel winning the tournament was bad enough, made worse with two awful matches on his part. Savio Vega worked four matches and gained little underdog sympathy from a frustrated crowd, who openly chanted “ECW!” during his final against Mabel. At an event with no title matches, a WWE first, DIesel and Bam Bam Bigelow won a droning main event against Sycho Sid and Tatanka. The only real heroes of the night, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, were stuck making Jerry Lawler kiss his foot and going to a draw with Kama, respectively. It’s the hallmark of badness, a self-parody that left even McMahon speechless at points.

REDEEMING QUALITY: The Roadie and Bob Holly’s first-round match was probably the best worked match of the evening, and even that had a messed up finish.

WWE: It’s good to be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story

WWE: Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe

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Top 50 Moments of the WWE Attitude Era

April 14, 2015 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

It’s still unclear what Monday’s addition of Attitude Era content to WWE Network exactly entails. Hopefully, it’s enough to satiate the subscribers that have been holding their breath for 1997 episodes of Nitro for close to a year. The uploading schedule has the regularity of asthma attacks, and it seems once the Network is on a kick (ECW week! 16 months of Nitro! A new classic Raw every Wednesday!), the idea is quickly left in a roadside ditch in favor of some other hastily-concocted idea.

Whatever Attitude programming makes its way to the Network on Monday, I thought it’d be nice to put the actual era in perspective and sift through the top moments with the benefit of hindsight. I do enjoy my listmaking; you may have noticed.

In picking the 50 most memorable moments of wrestling’s most unpredictable and fun era ever, I adhered to a few guidelines.

1. The time frame for the Attitude Era isn’t exactly etched in stone, so I went with the timeline used on WWE2K13 for their Attitude Era mode: the moment Shawn Michaels hit Undertaker with a steel chair at SummerSlam 1997 through Steve Austin and Vince McMahon’s handshake at WrestleMania X7. Some say the era didn’t begin until Austin beat Michaels for the title; others will say it was when Austin broke into Brian Pillman’s house in 1996. Mileage varies; I think my choice of dates is fairly acceptable.

2. Wrestler deaths (Pillman, Owen) and serious injuries (Droz) are omitted completely. Each entry on the list plays into the realm of fiction to some degree, and it’s not fair to say that one man’s death was more memorable than another, even if Owen’s was the public relations nightmare from hell, based on the circumstances. The Attitude Era had its share of dark moments from the bowels (perhaps literally) of creation, and this list only honors those birthed by the writer’s pen.

Off we go.

50. Michaels Smashes Undertaker with a Steel Chair (August 3, 1997)

Hey, we were just talking about this, weren’t we? Michaels shed his put-on company charm for good with the errant strike, weaving the overwhelming dislike against him with the ‘blame’ he received for the incident. Cutesy, praise-singing Michaels of 1996 had to go away, and as far as catalysts go, this was perfect.

49. Austin Throws the Intercontinental Title into a River (December 9, 1997)

And you thought the belt was disrespected today. Austin lost the belt via voluntary forfeit to The Rock, then beat him up anyway, absconded with the title, and chucked the strap into a freezing New Hampshire stream out of spite.

48. Double People’s Elbow (September 27, 1998)

The Rock had just freshly turned face, and was pitted with fellow fan favorites Ken Shamrock and Mankind in a blue-barred cage match in Hamilton, ON. The Canadian crowd solidified Rock as a true superstar when he ripped off both elbow pads, dropped his signature elbow in duplicate, and receiving his biggest cheer to date in doing so.

47. Halftime Heat (January 31, 1999)

A novel concept to be sure, Rock defended the WWF Title against Mankind in an empty arena match, and it aired at halftime of John Elway’s final game. The camera angles showing the finish were hokey, but Mankind winning trumps sitting through Gloria Estefan’s warbling.

46. Linda’s Off Her Meds (April 1, 2001)

Since Vince demanded a divorce in December, Linda McMahon fell into a near-vegetative state (which wasn’t an acting stretch), and Vince, via power-of-attorney, kept her doped up while he cavorted with Trish Stratus. At WrestleMania X7, Linda emerged from a now put-on comatose state and kicked Vince in the balls to a massive cheer.

45. Austin Gets Run Down (November 14, 1999)

It was the beginning of an intriguing whodunnit. Austin chases Triple H through a Detroit parking lot at Survivor Series and gets run over by an unknown assailant. Austin was written out for almost ten months (he needed spinal surgery), and speculation ran rampant as to the driver.

44. Triple H Revealed as Mastermind of Austin’s Accident (November 6, 2000)

The initial payoff of the rundown was Rikishi, who ‘dih dit for da Rock’, and that seemed less than satisfactory. A month after the reveal, Triple H struck Austin after a tag team match on Raw, and worked in tandem with Rikishi to bust Austin up. The payoff for the rewrite was Austin dropping Triple H out of a crane at Survivor Series. Ahh, simpler times.

43. Triple H vs. T-800 Model 101 (November 9, 1999)

Arnold Schwarzenegger, pre-Gubernatorial run, appeared on Smackdown to promote the insipid End of Days movie, and ended up waylaying Triple H at the commentary desk. This was pretty well-received from the optimistic Attitude-era fanbase, and it beats the hell out of the “Rise of the Torn Quadriceps” entrance at WrestleMania 31.

42. Nuclear in Dallas (February 7, 2000)

Triple H, X-Pac, and The Radicals took on The Rock, Mick Foley, Too Cool, and Rikishi in an excellent ten man tag with one of the wildest, hottest crowds you’ll ever hear. The heels won, but Kane made the big save afterward with a returning Paul Bearer, spurring an even louder crowd response. Rivals a post-WrestleMania Raw crowd in volume.

41. Ventura Has the Power (August 22, 1999)

After leaving WWF acrimoniously nine years earlier, now-Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura officiated the main event at SummerSlam in Minneapolis, and even graced Raw with some commentary 13 days prior. Ventura even got to beat up Shane McMahon on a lark.

40. Finally, Austin vs. McMahon, with a Debut (February 14, 1999)

McMahon took a spill off the side of a steel cage at the hands of Austin, and Stone Cold spent an extended time-frame busting him up to the crowd’s delight. That’s when Big Show made his debut, billowing through the canvas, and assaulted Austin before inadvertently giving him the win by throwing him into the cage. The structure came apart, allowing escape.

39. Big Red Machine vs. Big Red Monster (March 29, 1998)

Nobody realized at the time that a running gag was being born. Pete Rose appeared at WrestleMania XIV to insult the then-suffering Boston fans, prompting Kane to dismantle Rose upon arrival. This tradition continued for several ‘Manias following.

38. Love Her or Leave Her (August 22, 1999)

The storyline was Shakespeare with the aggro-rock twist; Shane McMahon forbade his sister Stephanie from dating blue-collar Test. To settle the issue, Shane and Test competed in a startling show-stealer at SummerSlam with Test winning, but not before Shane busted out his first ever Leap of Faith elbow through the Spanish announce table.

37. Garden Street Fight (January 23, 2000)

Cactus Jack reared his ugly head into WWF Champion Triple H’s life, and the two warred in a street fight for the title at the Royal Rumble. A barbed-wire 2X4 found employment for the first time in WWF history, and Helmsley bled more than he ever had before. Cactus taking a Pedigree face-first onto a pile of thumbtacks cinches the match’s place in insanity’s lore.

36. The Highway to Hell (August 30, 1998)

The Crash-TV elements of the era killed off slow-burns and meaningful build in a lot of instances. However, the three-month story of miscommunication and alpha-male posturing between Austin and Undertaker en route to their SummerSlam title bout, complete with AC/DC’s iconic tune in music video form, was a well-rounded, well-received saga.

35. Birmingham: The Original Montreal (September 20, 1997)

Bret Hart wasn’t the only non-American beaten for gold in their own country by Shawn Michaels in dubious fashion. Michaels won the European Title from Davey Boy Smith in England at the ‘One Night Only’ PPV, while Michaels heeled it up to the hilt. The controversial match was witnessed by Smith’s dying sister Tracy, seated ringside with Diana Hart-Smith.

34. DX Invasion (April 27, 1998)

Not the end-all/be-all moment that WWE likes to claim, a fatigue-clad D-Generation X drove an Army Jeep to the Norfolk Scope, where WCW was running Monday Nitro, and the group was filmed interviewing fans with comped tickets, and demanding the release of ‘hostages’ Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Not that WCW needed help in looking uncool.

33. Triple H’s Most Important Turn (March 28, 1999)

Other than Austin regaining the WWF Title, this was the most important part of an awful WrestleMania. Triple H Pedigreed X-Pac in his European title bout with Shane McMahon, going corporate in the process. From this turn spawned wrestling’s most unkillable character.

32. Rikishi Goes Superfly (July 23, 2000)

It surely hurt Don Muraco enough getting pancaked by Jimmy Snuka’s steel cage leap in 1983, but imagine poor Val Venis’ plight. Venis was absolutely squashed by Rikishi, all 400 pounds with an anchoring ass, horrifically recreating the plummet at Fully Loaded 2000

31. “I Need to Beat You” (March 22, 2001)

The build to Austin and Rock’s WrestleMania X7 title match was enhanced in video form with Limp Bizkit’s melancholy “My Way” as the soundtrack. Giving the face-vs-face clash that extra push was Austin’s statement during a sitdown interview with Jim Ross, telling Rock he needed to beat him, with chilling matter-of-factness. Nobody had a clue what lay ahead.

30. This is Your Life, Rock (September 27, 1999)

The 8.4 Nielsen rating, still a Raw record, warrants the inclusion on this list, even if the segment doesn’t exactly hold up comedically. So Mankind hosts a dorky love-in for Rock, complete with cameos from Rock’s past. Highlight is Rock’s high coach pricelessly entering to Lex Luger’s “I’ll Be Your Hero” 1993 hype theme, before getting dressed down.

29. Austin Evens the Odds (April 30, 2000)

You’ll never believe this, but the Corporation stacked the odds against a babyface challenger. The Rock was down and out against Triple H after tons of interference, when Stone Cold hit the ring with a chair, putting down the champ, along with Vince, Shane, Patterson, and Brisco. The crowd response to the signature glass-shatter is some electric energy.

28. Judgment Day is Now (May 21, 2000)

For 58 minutes, Rock and Triple H executed one of the most well-thought out and dramatic Iron Man matches in wrestling history. With the score tied, The Undertaker made his grand return, reverting to real-life motorcycle man roots, assaulting Triple H in the waning seconds to give Helmsley the gold on a fall-ending DQ. Cheap ending aside, everything else ruled.

27. Ladder to Success (August 30, 1998)

While the previous two entries occurred at the culmination of Rock and Triple H’s success, one match revealed their respective potential: a ladder match for the Intercontinental Title at SummerSlam. It was each man’s greatest match to date, and the MSG faithful approved of their valiant effort. There was little doubt in each of their bright futures.

26. Austin’s Four Weeks of Destruction (September 28-October 19, 1998)

Lumping four moments of Stone Cold-brand mayhem in one entry: the Zamboni ride to the ring, rectally assaulting Vince with an enema, filling Vince’s Corvette with wet cement, and finally holding him hostage with a flag-loaded prop gun after Austin had been fired. All silly and over-the-top, yes, but it’s hard to remember Austin without these incidents.

25. The Year of Angle (October 22, 2000)

Exuberant Angle was really the first star since The Rock to begin essentially as a WWF pet project and blossom into a no-doubt-about-it main event superstar. In less than one year, Angle was made European and Intercontinental Champions, as well as King of the Ring, before going over on Rock to become WWF Champion at No Mercy. It’s true.

24. Vegas Wedding (November 29, 1999)

Test and Stephanie McMahon were in the midst of what seemed like a touching wedding ceremony, when Triple H appeared, producing footage of himself marrying a drugged, unconscious Stephanie at a drive-thru chapel in Vegas that weekend. Stephanie was proven to be in on the ruse at Armageddon, but the Raw payoff made for good shock TV.

23. Bang Bang! (September 22, 1997)

A nice little surprise for the ‘home crowd’ at the Garden. Triple H thinks he’s getting Dude Love in a falls count anywhere match, but is instead treated to a video of Dude Love and Mankind both passing on the bout. In comes Cactus Jack, his WWF ‘debut’, to accept, and Foley lives out his dream of shining brutally in his favorite arena.

22. Double Screwjob (November 15, 1998)

The Survivor Series ‘Deadly Game’ tournament for the WWF Championship played out with a pair of well-booked swerves. In one, Shane McMahon, estranged from his father, screwed over Austin in a semi-final match with Mankind. Mankind was then screwed over, via Sharpshooter, to The Rock, who captured his first World Title as a corporate centerpiece.

21. Chair After Chair (January 24, 1999)

The I Quit Match at the 1999 Royal Rumble became infamous, thanks in large part due to Barry Blaustein’s “Beyond the Mat” documentary. The Rock pelted a handcuffed Mankind with an endless barrage of unprotected chair shots while Colette Foley and children Dewey and Noelle, both extremely young, cried in horror from the crowd.

20. Star-Crossed Lovers (September 24, 2000)

One of the biggest draws for female fans in the year 2000 was the love triangle that played out between Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and a seemingly platonic Kurt Angle. The story ended hastily at Unforgiven with a Triple H win, but the layers of deceit and miscommunication (namely Triple H’s misgivings with Trish Stratus) were wholly new to WWF television.

19. DX Version 2.0 (March 30, 1998)

Shawn Michaels’ back injury led to Triple H stepping out of the shadow and commandeering the group following WrestleMania XIV. Joining Triple H and Chyna were X-Pac (returning that night following being let go by WCW, which was addressed by Sean Waltman in a vitriolic promo) and The New Age Outlaws, all in the span of one evening.

18. Four New Stars in One (October 17, 1999)

The Terri Invitational Tournament with a sack of money at stake was hardly relevant. Edge, Christian, and The Hardy Boyz stole the night with a ladder match for the ages, elevating each other from midcard driftwood to crowd favorites through intricate stunts, and a violent disregard that didn’t require a gruesome blade job.

17. Tables, Ladders, and Chairs (April 2, 2000, August 27, 2000, April 1, 2001)

On the foundation of that No Mercy ladder match came three epic battles with the aforementioned teams, plus The Dudley Boyz, each upping the ante of showmanship and high-risk suspense. Edge and Christian won all three matches, but the teams would all ride the momentum of the matches to extensive success in their careers.

16. “By My Hand Only” (May 31, 1998)

If you have the Network, just watch Over the Edge 1998 from Vince’s backstage promo, through Pat Patterson’s hysterical ring intros, through the entire Steve Austin-Dude Love WWF Championship brawl, all the way to the satisfying finish. It is the greatest overbooked match in wrestling history, and you’re nuts if you don’t give it five stars.

15. Evacuees of a Falling Empire (January 31, 2000)

After Vince Russo’s WCW reassignment, many concerned parties in the midcard decided they wanted out if Kevin Sullivan got the book. Four of those individuals, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, and Perry Saturn, immediately jumped to WWF and became known as The Radicals. Benoit even handed back his newly won WCW Championship just to leave.

14. End of an Era (April 1, 2001)

Is there any better physical representation of Attitude’s disintegration than Steve Austin having Vince McMahon help him beat The Rock to become WWF Champion, and then shaking hands with him afterward? It was a helluva match to close WrestleMania X7, and the unthinkable alliance was as palpable a page-turner as any.

13. Heartbreaking Farewell (February 27, 2000)

Yes, Mick Foley’s wrestled matches since his loss to Triple H at No Way Out inside Hell in a Cell, but the moment itself was gutting for the many fans that willed him to the top of the wrestling world. In an era where title changes and alignment-turns were so frequent as to mean nothing, seeing Foley exit meant entirely everything.

12. A Hellish Debut (October 5, 1997)

Hell in a Cell lived up to its hype, with The Undertaker bloodying Shawn Michaels in an oddly cathartic fashion. The payoff to the two-month feud looked to be nigh when the lights suddenly dimmed. Kane had arrived, led by Paul Bearer, to avenge childhood scores with Undertaker. A Tombstone later, and Michaels went over in the epic melee.

11. Taking Over Thursdays (August 26, 1999)

Although the original Smackdown broadcast was a standalone pilot four months earlier, WWF was greenlighted a Thursday showcase to double the output of a red-hot product. WCW was was already in its tailspin, but Smackdown’s high profile on second-tier UPN led to the moving of the abysmal Thunder to Wednesday nights.

10. Raw is Jericho (August 9, 1999)

This entry is somewhat maligned for Jericho looking like a colossal dork by the end, thanks to his decision on how to sell Rock’s putdowns. However, the build with the countdown clock, and the anxious, exultant Chicago crowd, made the initial debut an unforgettable scene, with Jericho striking his now standard T-pose on the Raw is War stage.

9. Birth of a D-Generation (August 18, 1997)

It was wacky, mismatched partner night as The Undertaker and Mankind would be teaming up to battle Shawn Michaels and Triple H. The deal with the latter duo became a regular gig, with the Kliq buddies forming D-Generation X, the breath of fresh air needed to counter a stale, overcrowded nWo, and give WWF some necessary controversy in its programming.

8. Putting Butts in Seats (December 29, 1998)

Airing six days after the listed date, Mankind winning the WWF Championship from The Rock was an underdog triumph which any fan could, and did, relate to. Over on the other channel, Foley’s taped title win was mocked by Tony Schiavone (under duress), shortly before Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash’s infamous ‘fingerpoke’ swerve. Guess what fans liked better?

7. Austin Stuns McMahon (September 22, 1997)

Oh sure, Austin’s beaten up McMahon a million times, but there had to be a first time. McMahon tried to reason with an ornery Austin when Stone Cold was confronted by a group of arresting officers, but the stubborn Austin shook off the well-wishes and gave McMahon, still merely an announcer, a Stone Cold Stunner that would become the first of many.

6. Tyson-Austin, Tyson-Austin! (January 19, 1998)

An important keystone to WWF’s pulling past a near-idling WCW was mainstream acceptance. Getting Mike Tyson to play a part at WrestleMania XIV was a deft move. The masterstroke was instituting a confrontation between Tyson and Austin the night after the Royal Rumble. The spirited skirmish made headline news on ESPN and other major media outlets.

5. The Simulcast (March 26, 2001)

Three days earlier, it was announced that WWF was acquiring WCW for under three million dollars. The final episode of Nitro opened with a surreal image: Vince informing us that the fate of the company was now in his hands. That was before the real-life major story became cartoon-world storyline, as son Shane buys WCW from under his father’s nose.

4. “Will Somebody Stop the Damn Match?!” (June 28, 1998)

Words don’t accurately paint the picture of watching Mick Foley take two unexpected falls off of Hell in a Cell: one planned, the other a heart-stopping accident when the cage roof caved in. Mankind vs. Undertaker became one of those bouts where the loser was remembered much more, and it endures as the defining moment of a wrestler’s relentless spirit.

3. Austin Conquers the World (March 29, 1998)

It was as inevitable as the sunrise that Steve Austin would be WWF Champion at WrestleMania XIV, once the match with Shawn Michaels was set. Michaels’ gutsy performance on a ravaged back remains secondary to the rise of the Attitude Era’s biggest star, kicking off the Austin Era on the fast count of an excited Mike Tyson.

2. Montreal (November 9, 1997)

It’s been rehashed more times than anyone could count – it’s professional wrestling’s Kennedy Assassination. Bret Hart falls victim to Vince McMahon’s deception on the way out of WWF, and the aftermath, unseen by public eye, becomes just as much part of the fabled moment. Most important: it gave WWF the villain it so direly needed: Vince himself.

1. 4.6 to 4.3 (April 13, 1998)

For the first time in nearly two years, WWF Raw beat WCW Nitro in the ratings, surging ahead on Austin’s challenge to a bewildered McMahon for a title match that night. This was so unheard of in 1998, and slack-jawed fans almost refused to change the channel for fear of missing this unprecedented event. From it came the era’s most defining feud.

The Attitude Era: Volume 2 [Blu-ray]

The Randy Savage Story DVD

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Do It Live! F–k It! Pro Wrestling Alternatives Pile On To RAW’s Woes

March 18, 2015 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Imagine if your annual Christmas parade was routed to circle the same two block radius for three hours, with each marcher shot to the gills on Xanax. Now imagine if the parade took place every week, and Santa only showed up six times a year.

Monday Night Raw is the only weekly wrestling program that airs live, and I’d say that the real-time aspect has become the only thing ‘live’ about it.

The March 16 episode was just another cut of the same old dreadful cloth. If it’s not JBL cantankerously grousing about some non-sensical point in his glossy-eyed stupor, it’s another video package railroad-spiking something we saw in hour one. The only real decent action came in the six-man tag of Intercontinental Title contenders, but we’ve been fed the same combinations of otherwise-aimless talents for the past number of weeks. That perpetual void is rendered dumber by R-Truth’s oblivious thief gimmick, which has the shelf-life of a carton of milk in a Cancun tool shed.

Making matters worse is that this is WrestleMania season, the stretch of calendar where WWE historically creates its most anticipation. Forget the complete apathy toward Roman Reigns in the main event, at least he shows up. An absent, Streak-stricken Undertaker has yet to be seen (and probably won’t be until the event itself). Brock Lesnar and Sting show up only on specific dates, relying on Paul Heyman and video packages respectively to usher their stories forward.

I think one of the biggest differences between Attitude-era WWE and the current product is that back then, it seemed as though everybody wanted to be there. Monday nights were the place to be, and Raw was the barometer of the business at its hottest. Nowadays, part-time contracts and wrestlers grimacing through uninspired characters (New Day, among many others) have turned Raw into something that’s more depressing than anything. It’s become a monument to the waste of obvious potential. It’s space occupied with sweat in order to justify $160M in annual rights fees. Don’t like the show? They’re telling you to blow ’em.

In the Attitude Era, it was necessary for Raw to go live, since WCW loved to toss out spoilers for shows so deep in the can that mold was evident. Live TV meant anything could happen. Actually, anything still *could* happen on live Raws, but the sterility is so overwhelming. Of the first ten Raws of the year, just three of them topped a 3.0 rating. There was a point in 1998 where if Nitro slipped to a 3.5, Eric Bischoff had to wear a dunce cap at Turner offices.

I’d argue what the point of Raw going live every week is, when it feels like nothing happens over the course of three mind-numbing hours. This question gets its legs from the fact that there are three better shows right now that tape their wrestling in compressed blocks of time.

One of them is in-house: NXT. As if the comparison between the December Takeover special and WWE’s TLC just days later wasn’t a wide-enough trek, the developmental group puts on shows that breeze by in the span of an hour. Not every impact player is on every week, something that plagues Raw, though it can be argued that the part-timers benefit from their infrequent visits. Regardless, how much less special are even Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler, and Dean Ambrose as compared to Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn? Especially since the latter three have yet to be corrupted by uninspired storytelling.

Because WWE seems so set in their ways in terms of their excruciating TV production beliefs, NXT is such a breath of fresh air, even aside from the indy-ringers they hired. Jason Albert and Corey Graves provide on-point announcing with not too much time wasted on tangents and obnoxious arguing. The women are given room to work, and some have very accessible characters, be it Charlotte the confident athlete or Bayley the gradually-self-empowering fangirl.

These are the winds that could possibly cleanse the dull Raws, though I will say that the March 16 episode featured thirty seconds of true excitement. Sadly for WWE, it was in the form of a Lucha Underground commercial.

If you’ve seen Lucha more than once, the noir-ish vibe of the vignettes and the dizzying action are probably what hooked you. Name-brand talents like those formerly known as John Morrison and Alberto Del Rio probably helped. Even announcers Matt Striker and Vampiro, over-the-top as they sometimes can be, are putting over the wrestling with a fanboyish enthusiasm. It beats putting over themselves. In other words, everybody feels like they want to be there.

Above all, Lucha Underground just feels *different*, much like NXT. If WWE Network didn’t have an on-demand function, I’d be torn which one to watch each week. The Wednesday Night Wars!

Speaking of wars, it’s been five years since TNA got trounced in the laughable sequel to the Monday Night Wars. Though 2014 looked like the company death march (and 2015 could still be, they’re far from turning a profit), Impact on Destination America has turned into inspired programming.

Recent stories with Bram trying to deconstruct old friend Magnus, The Beatdown Clan muscling others down, and Ethan Carter III’s unbridled run of self-inflation have far more bite than current WWE fare. In fact, Carter’s bloody, hate-filled match with Rockstar Spud that aired this past week is easily the best match either Impact or Raw has produced so far in 2015. I’m as surprised as you, but less so in hindsight as Carter has blossomed into arguably the best heel in the business right now. I’m sure all he misses about being Derrick Bateman is keeping company with Maxine.

NXT, Lucha Underground, and Impact are all taped in marathon sessions. Their results are readily available on any two-bit news site. There is nothing to be gained in watching these shows in terms of expecting news-breaking swerves that would rival Scott Hall kicking off a hostile takeover.

On the other hand, in each of their current forms, they’re wrestling shows. And appreciating each for both their simple and bold charms beats the hell out of the three hour weekly road to nowhere.

WWE: The Destruction of the Shield

The Randy Savage Story DVD

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WrestleMania 30: A Portrait In Wrestling History

March 16, 2015 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WrestleMania XXX
From Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA
April 6, 2014
BACKGROUND
There’ve been angry crowds before in wrestling, but none quite like the hostile horde that was the city of Pittsburgh for the 2014 Royal Rumble. The imaginative and vindictive chants toward Randy Orton and John Cena’s benign World Title match (televised battle no. 6,237 in their lifetime series) were mere child’s play compared to the Royal Rumble match that lay ahead.
A perfect storm flourished from the components of two whirling entities: Daniel Bryan’s exclusion from the 30-man gauntlet, and just-returned (though wholly unwanted) Batista winning the match. The fans in the Steel City unleashed a torrential downpour of anger once Rey Mysterio, the no. 30 entrant, hit the ring, signaling Bryan’s non-participation. Famously, Mick Foley wrote a Facebook editorial following the Rumble, asking unironically if WWE legitimately hated its own fans, the ones who had made Bryan the most unconditionally beloved star arguably since the Attitude Era.
Batista vs. Randy Orton would be the on-paper WWE Championship bout, but the disgusted crowds didn’t end with Pittsburgh. Minneapolis fans at Elimination Chamber booed alleged hero Batista throughout his match with Alberto Del Rio. Crowds across the country relentlessly chanted “CM PUNK”, a callous acknowledgement of the man who walked out of WWE, likely for good, following the Royal Rumble, owing to creative and medical negligence.
With one darling of the discriminating fan benching himself, that left WWE with just Bryan if they wanted to make up for lost goodwill. WWE Network would be finally launching in February, and the pay-per-view model would undergo a significant paradigm shift. To ask jaded fans to drop ten dollars a month for not only a treasure trove of classic wrestling content, but also the monthly pay-per-views at an astronomically-reduced price, was no longer an easy sell.
With WWE fans at their most discontented, and with a very real threat that WrestleMania could be ruined with caustic fan rage, the company had to act.
THE EVENT
Never let it be said that WWE doesn’t listen to the fans. Oh sure, there are times where they completely disregard viewer sentiment, but rarely when staring the lucrative WrestleMania down the loaded barrel.
On March 10, Bryan staged an in-ring demonstration of a couple hundred random fans wearing his t-shirt. At this point, Bryan’s entire story centered around his anger toward Triple H and the Authority for wrecking his main event run in 2013, and the bearded hero was campaigning for a match with “The Game.” When Helmsley and wife Stephanie were unable to quell the vociferous Occupy-esque protest, Bryan was able to goad Triple H into a WrestleMania bout.
Bryan wasn’t finished making demands, and inserted the request that took on the voice of most fans watching: if Bryan beat Triple H, said he, then he wanted to be put into the World Championship bout with Batista and Orton. Past the point of keeping his cool, Triple H agreed to the demand, signaling to the fans that their wish was likely coming true.
A week later, a less-heroic Batista joined Orton in questioning Triple H’s motivation for potentially changing their match on short notice. Angry that the two would even think that Bryan had a chance at being him, Triple H lashed out at his ex-proteges for their whining and lack of faith, and amended the stipulation for his own WrestleMania match: if Helmsley beat Bryan, *he* would be entering the World Title match, thus guaranteeing a triple threat match no matter what.
The day WWE Network launched, another angle would launch itself for WrestleMania. Paul Heyman, on behalf of his client Brock Lesnar, openly lamented that Lesnar wouldn’t be receiving a World Championship match at WrestleMania, and thus put out an open challenge for any wrestler to take on the former UFC Heavyweight Champion on wrestling’s grandest stage. There was even a contract-signing table in the ring to underscore the importance of the challenge.
With such formality at hand, a major opponent was required to answer the call. As is his annual wont, The Undertaker magically emerged from ten months in seclusion to accept a match with Lesnar. A mostly-stoic Lesnar would sign the contract and aggressively shove the pen into ‘Taker’s chest. This led to Undertaker stabbing Lesnar’s hand with the with pen, and then chokeslamming him through the table. No mention had been made of their brutal battles in 2002, though this was the first time Lesnar would be facing ‘dark side’ Undertaker.
In another first, John Cena would take part in his first ever WrestleMania match that wasn’t a) for a title or b) the official main event. The opponent would come in the form of relative newcomer Bray Wyatt, whose raspy, eerie promos evoked memories of Jake Roberts and Kevin Sullivan. Wyatt, along with cult flunkies Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, randomly attacked Cena in a few World Title matches in accordance with Wyatt’s new infatuation: proving that Cena’s upstanding superhero identity was merely a facade.
Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and JBL performed commentary duties. The first pay-per-view to stream live on the WWE Network featured Hulk Hogan as guest host, as well appearances from Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, plus other legends in backstage comedy bits. Mark Crozer and The Rels performed Bray Wyatt’s theme, while Rich Luzzi of Rev Theory performed Randy Orton’s. The Hall of Fame class included The Ultimate Warrior, Jake Roberts, Lita, Razor Ramon, Carlos Colon, Paul Bearer, and Mr. T. Warrior, tragically, passed away several days later at the age of 54, but not before finally making peace with the wrestling world.
THE RESULTS
Daniel Bryan def. Triple H in 25:58
(Behind Bret and Owen Hart’s epic WrestleMania X clash, this is by and far the second-greatest WrestleMania opener ever. Helmsley was game to keep up with Bryan’s fast-paced physical style, and the result was a surefire match of the year winner for 2014 until Sami Zayn and Adrian Neville topped it, only barely, in December)
The Shield def. Kane and The New Age Outlaws in 2:56
(A simple squash to put the new class over the fogies, which most swear never happens. This would also be one of the last times fans considered Roman Reigns a hero)
Cesaro wins an Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, last eliminating Big Show in 13:25
(What looked like a way to shoehorn thirty upper-midcarders and forgotten-abouts into a match ended up a great vehicle to get Cesaro over as a true star. Sadly, 2014 wouldn’t be this sweet again for him, thanks to a failure to grab some mythical ‘brass ring’)
John Cena def. Bray Wyatt in 22:25
(The morality play at hand saw Wyatt trying to goad Cena into cheating, embracing some sort of inner demons. Cena’s mortal stock proved to be too much, and many felt the wrong guy won. One match later, Cena’s win would be virtually forgotten about)
Brock Lesnar def. The Undertaker in 25:12
(Hands down the most shocking in-ring moment of this millennium. The startled crowd reactions were a story unto themselves as Lesnar felled The Streak clean as a whistle. The entire sequence from Lesnar’s final F5 to Undertaker’s pained exit is forever rewatchable, maintaining its staggering punch. Quite simply, it’ll never be forgotten)
WWE Divas Championship: AJ Lee won a Vickie Guerrero Invitational in 6:48
(The crowd was still catatonic following Undertaker’s loss, summoning only enough strength to dully boo a Nikki vs. Brie Bella confrontation)
WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan def. Randy Orton and Batista in 23:20 to win the title
(And WWE makes good to their fans. Of course, the shock of Undertaker’s loss was still reverberating to a heavy degree, but that didn’t stop the fans from coming alive for each of Bryan’s comebacks and hope spots. Every ten years, it seems a WrestleMania ends with a beloved technician breaking through: Bret Hart, Chris Benoit, and Daniel Bryan)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
For the first time since WrestleMania 2000, there were no winners on the show over the age of 40. Cena ended up being the oldest victor, just shy of his 37th birthday.
Of the event’s losers, Attitude Era throwbacks like Triple H, Kane, the Outlaws, Goldust, Mark Henry, Show, and yes, The Undertaker all went down in defeat. In a sense, it felt as if a new beginning was at hand, with yesterday finally losing its footing in the face of Bryan, The Shield, and Cesaro, among others.
The freshness would fade quickly. Bryan needed multiple neck surgeries, the World Title would go missing when Lesnar won it, the Authority angle choked the phlegm out of Raw and PPV, and the ‘Brass Rings’ statement crushed all goodwill. Thank God for NXT.
Ordinarily, the defining moment would be Bryan celebrating, but it isn’t here. Fans knew the ending was coming from the March 10 Occupy segment. Instead, Lesnar standing tall over a crumpled Undertaker gets the nod. Rather than celebrate their chosen one getting what he’d earned, the internet punditry shifted focus toward why they felt The Streak ending was BS.
Any chance to mark out for Bryan’s victory was traded in for the right to hyper-analyze a finish that stunned even the smartest fan. Better to bare your brains than your smile, I suppose.

WWE: The Destruction of the Shield

The Randy Savage Story DVD

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Victory in Defeat: 10 Wrestlers Who Won By Losing at WrestleMania

March 12, 2015 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

There’s nobility in victory through defeat. The fans don’t dismiss the loser of a wrestling match as merely the lesser man, but a new side of that wrestler is seen. Something about their performance, or the circumstance of the loss, captivates fans of all ages and walks, giving that wrestler the kind of cemented credibility that cannot erode.

Over three decades worth of WrestleMania have had many instances where the scripted loser has become a made man in one form or another. Above all else, the names below came out ultimate winners when all was said and done.

Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania V)

From the time a young Jim Hellwig bulldozed the treacherous Honky Tonk Man in under 30 seconds to win the Intercontinental Title, it seemed that WWE had a true star on their hands. The victory over Honky came after nobody, not even Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, or Brutus Beefcake, could wrest the gold from the Elvis impersonator for fifteen months, a record that holds today. Warrior being booked to forego caution, instead plowing through the bandy-armed Honky as though he were a tackling dummy in near-record time, played a big part in establishing him as a main-eventer waiting in the wings.

The only question regarding Warrior as a potential brand leader had to do with the shortness of his matches. Warrior’s act in 1988-89 was considered all pomp and skyrockets, with little substance should he end up exposed. The match with Rick Rude at the fifth WrestleMania went just under ten minutes, and is something of a forgotten classic, overshadowed by the Hogan/Savage main event. In that ten minute frame, Warrior sold for Rude, showing a humanity he would need to succeed in longer matches with deeper stories than “Grrr, clothesline, rowr, splash.”

Warrior lost the title, getting an out via Bobby Heenan’s interference, but the experiment was a success. Warrior proved he could hang in a match of respectable length; in fact, the two had a match that was seven minutes longer at SummerSlam (with Warrior regaining the belt), and the two bouts are comparable in quality. By the time Warrior won the “Ultimate Challenge” over Hogan the following year, he’d proven that with the right opponent, he could deliver dependably in the main event.

Macho King Randy Savage (WrestleMania VII)

Speaking of Warrior epics, while the win over Hogan is an indisputable all-timer, this bout, with both men’s careers on the line, rates a little closer to perfection. There are two reasons nobody ever complains about the ending, in which Warrior sent Savage into retirement with three standard shoulder tackles. Such a quizzical finish gets a free pass because 1) the match itself was an awesome overture of psychology and head games, and 2) the aftermath made you forget that you witnessed a near five-star classic. In the good way, that is.

It’s the closest wrestling’s come to mixing Shakespearean tragedy with fairy tale romance. Savage was two years removed from pushing away virtuous Miss Elizabeth for whorish harlequin Sensational Sherri, and with Macho’s career at stake, Elizabeth inconspicuously sat ringside by the aisleway to watch the proceedings. When Savage lost, she subtly sold heartbreak, as deep down, she still loved him in spite of his bombast and insecurity. When an irate Sherri, having lost her lone wrestling client, attacked a pained Savage, the usually low-key and pacifistic Elizabeth jumped the rail and sent Sherri careening to the floor with one empowered throw. Kind of like Marge Simpson aggressively steering Ruth Powers’ car away from the state police, complete with immediate resumption of their prior meekness.

Savage was initially bewildered by Elizabeth’s presence, but we all know how the fairy tale ends: the two embraced, and the crowd in Los Angeles wildly cheered, some actually wiping away tears. Savage meant to settle into retirement for real, but Warrior’s real-life firing that August led to Vince McMahon coaxing the Macho Man back. For a time, Savage was accompanied by Elizabeth, who he now treated chivalrously, instead of with his oblivious misogyny at one time. The face turn led to a few more good years of Savage magic, hailed as an honorable hero. Though cheered as a heel in the past by hipper-to-the-room fans, Savage’s restoration as babyface won over the entire audience.

Bret Hart (WrestleMania IX)

If you believe “The Hitman”, the day that McMahon decided to put the World Title on him in 1992, Vince told his star wrestler he intended to keep him champion for a year, though he noted that plans weren’t set in stone. Good thing for that last disclaimer; Hart’s reign ended a week shy of six months, losing to the massive Yokozuna, who’d debuted around the same time Hart’s long road to the top culminated. Yoko, of course, immediately dropped the belt to Hogan in a farce of an impromptu match, and Hulk disappeared for two months, taking time during a New Japan guest spot to call the WWE Championship a ‘toy’.

Putting the championship around Hogan’s waist was a desperate move by McMahon, one that didn’t pay off in the least. Hogan fled after a European tour that summer, barely moving ratings or drawing houses in his abbreviated return. McMahon attempted to have Lex Luger pick up Hogan’s fumbled ball, painting him in streaks of Americana, while Hart toiled in the upper midcard, putting out acclaimed feuds with Jerry Lawler and brother Owen.

Despite McMahon’s desire to have chiseled strongman Luger be his new lunchbox-and-poster hero, the fans wildly cheered the authentic Hart instead. Every McMahon vehicle after Hart’s loss at WrestleMania IX blew up in the boss’ face, with Hogan and Luger both underachieving. Truth be told, it was dark times for the company no matter what, and houses would stay diminished for more than a spell. Still, McMahon turned back to his Canadian workhorse by having him win the title back from Yoko at WrestleMania X. The reign would be Hart’s longest at eight months.

Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania X)

Two prior reigns as Intercontinental Champion already had the dynamic Michaels fast-tracked toward certain stardom. An ever-thinned roster, especially one jettisoning the weight of suspiciously-muscled wrestlers, made it easier for Michaels to ascend company ranks. The career ascension would take on something of an interpretive play in the first ever pay-per-view ladder match, with Michaels battling Razor Ramon for the IC strap (two straps, actually; Michaels wagered a bogus IC Title he carried around in dispute of Razor’s reign), where literally ascending steel was in the name of victory.

Blow by blow isn’t necessary here; it’s the greatest ladder match (without cumbersome frills like tables or chairs) in wrestling history, equaled only by their 1995 sequel, and Michaels’ war with Chris Jericho at No Mercy 2008 (a forgotten five-star epic). What should be emphasized is that this match was the match where Michaels indisputably arrived. The bumps he took off of Razor’s hellacious offense, and from his own daring attacks, are especially impressive when you remember the time-frame. Even today, despite what the ADD-spotfest crowd might mutter, Michaels’ performance here remains historically scintillating.

Shortly after WrestleMania, Michaels took a bit of a sabbatical, serving mostly as segment host (“Heartbreak Hotel”) and as second for Diesel. Much of 1994’s summer carried on with Michaels deactivated, which worked to his advantage. The dearth of true talents outside of Ramon, 123 Kid, and the Harts was a gaping hole that could swallow a continent. When Michaels, his ladder match performance still fresh in mind, took up a heavier schedule again, it coincided with a main event push that saw him win the 1995 Royal Rumble from the starting spot. Michaels received thunderous cheers along the way, despite being a heel, and out-popped mild hero Davey Boy Smith when Smith was first thought to have won. Fans know star quality when they see it.

Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIII)

If I were ranking the entries and not doing them chronologically, Austin would be number one for certain. In fact, I’d expand the list into a top twelve, and leave spots two and three blank, because that’s the disparity between Austin in this aftermath, and whatever the second most important example is. Not only did the spotlight over Austin shine astronomically brighter, but the fog separating WWE and a then-winning WCW dissipated. McMahon’s company now had the visibility and the momentum to chase Eric Bischoff’s decadent empire and seize the lead (which took another year, in fairness), with proud Austin standing defiantly on the warship’s bow.

In one sense, Austin’s submission match with Bret Hart had potential for disaster – either man losing by definitive submission could be damaging. Hart says he suggested the now-famous ending, inspired by Jack Nicholson’s struggle to pick up a therapy sink and hurl it through an asylum window in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The premise would be the same: Austin would be faced with insurmountable odds in trying to break Hart’s air-tight Sharpshooter, all the while gushing blood like a busted faucet. Austin, per the story, nearly muscled Hart off, but virtually passed out after the mighty push, with Hart quickly resetting the hold.

When special referee Ken Shamrock stopped the match, Hart finished off his bubbling heel turn by attacking the unconscious Austin, and backing off of a fired-up Shamrock when the two were toe to toe. Austin, for his part, cemented one of the greatest face turns ever by, ironically, attacking referee Mike Chioda for trying to help him. The Chicago crowd chanted Austin’s name as he hobbled on a bad leg, skull drenched in blood, up the aisleway. McMahon’s solemn, awed narration, testifying to Austin’s pride and grit, was the icing on the cake, and Austin was soon on his way to becoming the Attitude Era’s unblinking avatar.

Kurt Angle (WrestleMania 2000)

Caveat: this one’s quite the underwhelming entry after Austin’s foray into greatness. In fact, this entry is all too subtle, literally the tenth entry I came up with for the list. Still, it’s a notable way of booking a relatively new character, one with enough faith behind him to hold two championship belts simultaneously. Angle was Intercontinental and European (or simply, Eurocontinental) Champion headed into WrestleMania 2000, where he would defend both belts against Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho.

The trick to this match was that it was actually two matches: one fall for the IC gold, and one for the European belt immediately after. Such complexities were the bane of the card, a head-scratching misfire during one of WWE’s most scorching periods. The booking here, however, was certainly clever: Angle lost both belts without actually losing: Benoit landed a diving headbutt on Jericho to capture the Intercontinental title, while Jericho pinned Benoit with a Lionsault to win the European title. Angle pitched a disgusted fit afterward, emphasizing how the stipulation came to bite him.

In reality, bigger things were ahead for Angle. Throughout 2000, his already surprising mic skills would improve even more, exponentially improving with his wrestling acumen, a world-class hybrid of WWE main event style and and his unique blend of uber-grappling. By year’s end, Angle was reigning King of the Ring, as well as WWE World Champion, going over on The Rock at No Mercy. While losing either of the falls wouldn’t have killed Angle off, giving him frequent outs such as this, in blend with his standout character and his top-notch wrestling talent, made his run to the top believable, and more than acceptable.

The Hardy Boyz and Dudley Boyz (WrestleMania 2000/X7)

From the time Matt and Jeff Hardy concluded their No Mercy 1999 ladder match with Edge and Christian, nobody cared that the Hardyz won both the managerial services of Terri Runnels, and a bank robbers’ sack of cash. What mattered is that four new stars had arrived with literal crashes and bangs, previously existing in a one-dimensional midcard void. A 1999 that lacked truly great matches from a crash-TV preoccupied WWE suddenly had its match of the year. The Hardyz’ table match with Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley at the 2000 Royal Rumble continued this resurgence of tag team excitement within a burgeoning undercard.

All three teams would meet at consecutive WrestleManias, not to mention the 2000 SummerSlam, in three matches of a kind: a ‘Triple Ladder’ match, followed by the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match (which the ‘Mania 2000 contest is incorrectly labeled, not that it matters much). Edge and Christian would win all three matches, capturing the Tag Team Titles in both WrestleMania encounters. The win and the gold didn’t do much to elevate them above the other two duos, however.

All six men became synonymous with the wild stuntshows, a hallmark of early-2000s WWE, long before the match types became watered down and overdone. All six men could stake their careers to these matches, with four of them (Edge, Christian, Jeff, and Bubba) winning WWE, World Heavyweight, or TNA Championships eventually. All but Edge wound up in TNA down the road, and those five were given some form of rock star treatment by the inferior brand. Perhaps in no other case can you say a gimmick match made midcard wrestlers as virtually indispensable as these ladder matches did, no matter who won and lost.

Hollywood Hogan (WrestleMania X8)

When it was announced that the New World Order would be invading WWE in 2002, reaction was somewhat split. Some fans were eager to see if WWE could capture the magic of the nWo’s 1996 attempted coup d’etat of WCW, while the cynics pointed to the failed WCW Invasion, as well as the ages of the nWo trio, as reasons for their dismay. The WWE locker room wasn’t thrilled, given the trouble the group had caused politically in WCW. The younger, fresher, hipper WWE didn’t need the same old geezers they’d once thwarted, and had since surpassed. But McMahon felt WWE needed a shot in the arm, and injected the ‘poison’.

In early 2002, WWE was still focused on the present, and not the past as is the case today. That changed when the Chicago crowd at the February 18 Raw expressed reverence for the iconic Hogan, just before The Rock challenged him i a battle of the generations at WrestleMania. The Toronto crowd trumped anything Chicago or any other crowd could done, treating Hogan as if he were a conquering hero returning from nine years in some unknown war zone halfway across the globe. Rock became de facto heel that night, even conceding his poise to sell horror and fear at Hogan’s Hulk-Up routine late in the match, and 68,000 fans turned back the clock to 1987.

The implications of that night, you could argue, have hurt WWE creatively. The reaction Hogan received gave WWE carte blanche to reach into the past and push some part-timer on name, as opposed to a modern star on current merit, a trick that would become more common as time shunted forward. Hogan would become WWE Champion a month after the match, striking while the iron was hot, and boosted Raw and Smackdown with a bit of good-natured nostalgia. The run was short-lived, but it did make for another positive: the “Hulk Still Rules” DVD released that August, kicking off a run of WWE filling video releases with loads of rare matches and moments among the special features, a product line that still thrives today.

Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXIII)

Speaking of good-natured nostalgia, that brings us to Michaels, who made his big comeback just months following Hogan in 2002. Including his WrestleMania 23 match, a tense bloodbath with WWE Champion John Cena, on this list may seem funny to some, given that Michaels’ wrestling ability and big-match deliverance was never in question during the previous five years. If you listed the top five WWE matches of each year from 2003 to 2006, chances are that Michaels is in at least two or three of them, if not more. The 2002-07 stretch for Michaels was an interesting one, which saw him shift once and for all into a certified legend, cemented by this match.

It’s somewhat hard to believe in hindsight, but Michaels was hastily booed in two straight WrestleManias as a face: the triple threat at XX (New York pulled with all its might for Benoit) and against Angle at XXI, for reasons not entirely clear. Both were hard-stamped five-star classics, so it’s not as though Michaels had lost his fastball in the least. Yet it feels like there was a disconnect between Michaels and the audience, despite his body of work. Even in feuds with Chris Jericho and Edge during the stretch, there were instances where the crowd sided with the villains. That’s not to mention Michaels’ appearances in Montreal, in which he was most assuredly booed.

He needed Cena to ‘turn him face’ in a sense. Promising for weeks to double-cross Cena at just the right time (everyone forgets the two were Raw’s Tag Team Champions for some reason), Michaels kept teasing a superkick to the delight of the first wave of fans that had tired of Cena’s act. Michaels pulled the trigger six days before WrestleMania, and then carried Cena to what was the best match of the champ’s career for all of three weeks (Michaels and Cena topped it with a wrestling classic in London), most notable for a piledriver on the ring-steps that gorily split the back of Cena’s head open. Michaels lost via submission, but I would go so far as to say this as the feud where Michaels’ icon status became indelible.

Daniel Bryan (WrestleMania XXVIII)
The list ends with this resounding thud. It’s also a disturbing indicator, as with the exception of my iffy Michaels entry from 2007, there hasn’t really been a WrestleMania match in years that has captured the hearts of fans to the extent in which the loser gained as much nobility, if not more, than the winner. Comparing 2012 Daniel Bryan to 1997 Steve Austin is fair when you wanna talk popularity (it’s at least arguable, since neither had reached their zenith), but comparing the way in which each went down at WrestleMania is no comparison whatsoever.

Eighteen seconds, you know the story. Sheamus runs out and Brogue Kicks a posturing Bryan, fresh off of kissing then-flame AJ Lee, and pins him to win the World Heavyweight Title in the opening match. The fans reacted with confusion and incredulity, and McMahon may have been surprised that Sheamus wasn’t made into the big babyface star he was hoping. If the plan was to make Bryan look stupid and have fans give up on him (hey, it worked against Zack Ryder), it backfired in the worst of ways against the company.

Resolve for Bryan became stronger, even as creative called for Bryan to scream “NO!” at the fans who chanted his infectious “YES!” his way. For the next two years, the groundswell only continued, Bryan lionized by the fans to a begrudging acknowledgement from the office. The 2014 Royal Rumble was the tipping point for fans who demanded Bryan get a push in proportion to their outpouring of support, and they would get their wish at WrestleMania XXX. As for Sheamus, the Irishman is living proof of what happens when McMahon and the modern mode of creative puts all of their resources behind you: you get watered down and hackneyed faster than an eighteen-second atrocity.

WWE: The Destruction of the Shield

The Randy Savage Story DVD

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Ignorance Is Jericho

March 05, 2015 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

This week, a flood of accusations have come out against NXT trainer Bill DeMott from a number of people once tied in with WWE’s developmental system. There are a litany of allegations that could fill both sides of the old Berlin Wall, falling into generally two categories: physical abuse and verbal abuse. In one alarming instance, one former trainee, Kevin Matthews, alleges that DeMott smacked him on the head after it was known he’d sustained a concussion.

The impetus for the public outage is former NXT talent Judas Devlin revealing the contents of a 2013 letter sent to several corporate officers in WWE, including former talent relations head Jane Geddes (interestingly, it was revealed Wednesday that Geddes had been let go within the past six weeks, oddly under the radar). By now, if you haven’t read Devlin’s list of allegations, the original post can be found here. (https://www.reddit.com/r/SquaredCircle/comments/2xphrq/bullyingneglect_in_wwenxt_medical_staff_must_read/)

It’s one thing to call Devlin a bitter ex-employee with an ax to grind, but the contents of that two-year-old letter are very specific and detailed.

Other wrestlers, such as Joey Ryan, Ethan Carter III (Derrick Bateman in WWE) and Trent Baretta have spoken out in support of Devlin’s whistle-blowing. Ryan remains active on Twitter, re-tweeting and linking everything he can find on the matter, while Baretta tweeted Thursday, “This isn’t about who’s tough and who’s cool and who’s bitter and who’s not. It’s about a sh—y person doing sh—y things.”

WWE released a statement in response to Devlin’s revelations, saying they found no sign of wrongdoing on DeMott’s part following a thorough investigation. Dolph Ziggler’s younger brother Ryan Nemeth, who was with NXT at the time, claims he was never questioned in the alleged fact-finding.

Bob Holly, no stranger to claims of roughing up youngsters in wrestling, added that some former NXT prospects were participants in a wrestling seminar of his a couple months back. According to Holly, they personally corroborated these horror stories to him.

MVP, via Twitter, responded to Joey Ryan’s linking of Devlin’s account, noting, “Damn. That s–t is STILL going on?” Assuming MVP means the methods allegedly employed by DeMott as trainer and not the actual claims against him, that’s pretty scary, considering that MVP rose through the developmental ranks of WWE a full decade ago, during DeMott’s first company go-around.

Among the gathering of claims and the outcry on social media against DeMott, from wrestlers and fans alike, Chris Jericho made his voice heard. He would come to regret it.

In a since-deleted tweet, Jericho said the following:

“Hey @BillDeMott is a good friend & great trainer. If u can’t handle it then quit. My training at #HartBrothers camp was 10,000 times worse!”

Make no mistake, Chris Jericho is a pretty tough guy. Working through a fractured forearm at a major Smoky Mountain Wrestling event, while gushing blood, attests to this. Other incidents stand out, such as working through a ripening knot between his eyes during the 2003 Royal Rumble, sustained when Tommy Dreamer whacked him a little too hard with a kendo stick. Ask Jericho himself, and he could rattle off countless other times in which he’s gutted it out in extreme circumstances.

Nobody will question Jericho’s toughness. His thought process on the other hand is undergoing considerable scrutiny.

As evidenced by the tweet being deleted, Jericho either rethought his stance toward his friend, couldn’t handle the deluge of angry tweets toward him from outraged fans, or both. It wasn’t just fans, either. Carter tweeted shortly after Jericho’s remarks, “A Hart can stretch me any day. A know nothing dips–t slapping me when I’m concussed is different.”

Jericho details his training in his first book, A Lion’s Tale, in which he notes nothing more than the rigors of discipline-testing stretches and the grind of understanding wrestling fundamentals, mixed with Jericho’s own light-hearted take on the personalities he encountered. The only instance of anything resembling bullying is his claim that Keith Hart roughed him up after Jericho asked him a question he couldn’t answer. Aside from that, there’s nothing in there about Ed Langley, Jericho’s primary trainer, telling Lance Storm he hopes he dies, or kicking Jericho in the groin, nor did Jericho detail any of the trainees being referred to as a pedophile by Langley.

Storm himself is now a respected trainer, churning out NXT talents such as Emma, Tyler Breeze, and Sylvester LeFort at his Storm Wrestling Academy. Thus far, none of them, nor any other Storm alumnus, has accused Storm of doing any of the things Jericho’s friend DeMott is accused of committing. Storm and Jericho came from the same school, which means whatever grind Jericho was subjected to, so to was Storm. I’m sure it’d make the dirt sheets if Storm grabbed an injured trainee by their neck and berated them beyond purpose.

Even if DeMott is completely exonerated, Jericho’s word at this time wouldn’t trump anything the former students claim, unless he was there every single day to provide a concrete alibi. The entire ignorant tweet boiled down to two things: DeMott’s my friend, and it was hell when I trained. It was completely oblivious to anything that was claimed, which is to attempt to invalidate potential truths on the merit of ego and personal annoyance.

His recent house-show loops and his occasional runs to put over the next big heels in WWE are there for a man who likes to wrestle at his luxury, and you can’t really say he hasn’t earned it; he’s one of the most accomplished and skilled wrestlers in any generation. Because he’s afforded this luxury, Jericho’s a WWE guy through and through, and thus he’ll say WWE things, even under the guise of dismissive third-hander. If it was an attempt at damage control, it clearly failed, since the tweet’s been removed, and the caustic responses are numerous.

In A Lion’s Tale, along with the many hilarious anecdotes, Jericho rails against the old-timers, grouches, and outright assholes that, from time to time, made the business less fun for him as an idealistic youngster.

It’d be sad to think Jericho, at one time as hip to the wrestling room as anyone, has turned into one of those people he once made fun of.

WWE: The Destruction of the Shield

The Randy Savage Story DVD

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Top 10 Rey Mysterio WWE Matches

March 04, 2015 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Aside from Bruno Sammartino and Tito Santana, there aren’t many wrestlers who can say they enjoyed a decade-plus run in WWE without once turning heel. Sure, Rey Mysterio was booed more out of fan annoyance than genuine hatred (Eddie-sploitation, being the 30th entrant in the 2014 Rumble instead of Daniel Bryan), but Mysterio was the consummate pro: a man who broke new barriers for undersized high flyers as oftentimes the most exciting performer on a given show. His runs in ECW and WCW set the stage for a lengthy stay in WWE, land of the giants, where he broke the glass ceiling several times though his daring leaps and well-honed underdog persona.

Going through Mysterio’s long run with WWE turns up the expected stockpile of captivating matches, boasting the sorts of dives, jumps, and crashes that explain a timeline of knee surgeries that has cruelly been mocked by armchair sloths each time he goes on the DL. In between those sideline stints, here are Mysterio’s ten best matches under the WWE banner.

10. The 2006 Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble, 01/29/06)

Not even in the upper echelon of greatest Rumbles (1990, 1992, 2001, 2004), but needs to be on this list for two obvious reasons: Mysterio breaking the longevity mark (1:02:12, a record that still stand today), and actually winning the match itself. Mysterio’s entire 2006 became a sour blur of him almost literally becoming the late Eddie Guerrero in his quest for, and run with, the World Heavyweight Title, and his co-opting of Guerrero’s low-rider prior to the match reeks of button-mash pandering (moreso when we saw where the story went). Still, his endurance was most impressive, and the ending with him overcoming Triple H and Randy Orton to win was quite satisfying.

9. vs. Kurt Angle (SummerSlam, 08/25/02)

From the time the Filthy Animals faded into oblivion to Mysterio’s WWE debut, it seemed fans had forgotten just how special this athlete truly was. Upon his debut for the company at age 27, Mysterio reminded everyone of his world-class agility and precision, wowing Smackdown crowds en route to the SummerSlam bout with Angle, who famously called him a 12-year-old boy out of anger. Angle and Mysterio kicked off the greatest SummerSlam of all time with a bout laden with innovative counter-attacks and high-impact wrestling, what you’d expect from both in their primes. Angle won by countering a rana into the Ankle Lock, but what was packed into nine minutes was something else.

8. vs. Dolph Ziggler (SummerSlam, 08/23/09)

Mysterio’s fireball presence makes him a natural show-opener, and he would open SummerSlam four times in his career. This Intercontinental Title defense against a then-untested Ziggler was thought to either to be a formula win for Rey, or a way to get the belt on an unproven developmental call-up in order to falsely justify him to a too-hip-for-that audience. Mysterio did win, and in the process used the twelve minutes to piece together a sleeper of a bout, exchanging heart-pounding near-falls down the stretch. If you’re looking for the moment where Ziggler began turning heads, look to this match here. Mysterio did what he does best, elevating the guys he works with.

7. vs. Eddie Guerrero (Judgment Day, 05/22/05)

The 2005 feud with a soon-to-depart Guerrero started out enjoyable enough, rooted in a haunted Guerrero finding himself unable to cleanly defeat his good friend. It degenerated into a farcical custody storyline in which Eddie claimed to have helped inseminate Rey’s wife in creating son Dominick (and you thought PG-WWE was bad), but this B-show match did without that silliness. Continuing the original story, Guerrero threw everything including the metaphorical kitchen sink at Mysterio, and still couldn’t beat him. Interference from nephew Chavo still can’t close the deal, and Mysterio just about wins until Eddie blasts him with a steel chair. For once, a DQ finish didn’t even feel cheap – it just reinforced the angle that Guerrero couldn’t beat Mysterio.

6. vs. Eddie Guerrero (Smackdown, 03/16/04)

Times sure were different one year earlier – Guerrero was WWE Champion and Mysterio the on-again/off-again Cruiserweight Champion (off at this point). Mysterio won a gauntlet series earlier in the night, earning an immediate shot at Guerrero’s title, and damned if this match wasn’t Smackdown’s best in a dreary 2004 for the brand. The action is literally non-stop save for some arm-work in the earlier stages, and is only a couple shades off of their Halloween Havoc 1997 all-timer. Guerrero avoided the Dime-Drop, and cradled Mysterio to retain the gold after a wild near-twenty minutes of duration, and ended up being the apex of Guerrero’s doomed title reign.

5. with Billy Kidman, vs. The World’s Greatest Tag Team (Vengeance, 07/27/03)

Perhaps the most underrated WWE PPV ever (this match along with Benoit vs. Guerrero, Cena vs. Undertaker, and Lesnar vs. Angle vs. Show), Vengeance was a snapshot of what Smackdown in 2003 was: a bold and fresh alternative to the one-note wankfest Raw had become (Smackdown’s only hindrance: wretched McMahon involvement). Mysterio and ex-Animal comrade Kidman took on Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin for the Tag Team Championship, and were given fifteen minutes to put together a lost tag team classic in an era rife with them. Haas and Benjamin retained with a modified Doomsday Device on Mysterio, but not before the faces teased the crowd to its nerves with a near victory.

4. with Edge, vs. Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle (Smackdown, 11/05/02)

Frequent use of the “Smackdown Six” (these four plus Los Guerreros) in interchangeable bouts left the brand new Tag Team Titles ripe to be watered down. This ended up basically true, even if it gave us these classic matches. Sixteen days after Angle and Benoit got the gold, they lost the belts in a two-out-of-three falls match to Mysterio and Edge in a sadly-overlooked encounter. Benoit was pinned to end the first, and Edge tapped to Angle to even it up. The third fall seemingly ended with a Mysterio victory roll, but Angle being in the ropes led to a restart. Mysterio blasts Angle with a 619 on the floor (using the ringpost as a wraparound point), and Edge spears Angle after nearly a half-hour to capture the titles.

3. vs. Chris Jericho (The Bash, 06/28/09)

Long before Cody Rhodes and Dean Ambrose made all-too-plain their intentions to restore legitimacy to the IC Title, here were Mysterio and Jericho doing just that, understated in words, explicit in action. Jericho had just won the belt three weeks prior at Extreme Rules, and Mysterio put his mask on the line for the rematch. Crowd was living and dying on a million and one crazy counters, including Mysterio escaping a torture rack with an intricate DDT. Jericho, who made his obsession with Rey’s mask clear, ripped it off, only for there to be a second one underneath. Mysterio won shortly thereafter, culminating a feud that was an oasis in a desert that was WWE’s 2009 in decline.

2. vs. John Morrison (Smackdown, 09/01/09)

Shortly after the earlier-mentioned sleeper epic with Ziggler, it was announced that Mysterio would be out for thirty days after testing dirty in the company’s Wellness Policy. On the way out, Mysterio would have to drop his Intercontinental Title to someone, and rising babyface star Morrison (no stranger to the situation, given his passing the ECW Title to CM Punk two years earlier under the same circumstances) would receive the torch. If the match was an attempt to rehabilitate his image in light of the bad news, Mysterio made the match count, taking up almost a quarter of TV time in a hyper-driven babyface clash, losing clean as a sheet to Starship Pain.

1. with Edge, vs. Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle (No Mercy, 10/20/02)

The tournament final for the new WWE Tag Team Championship was hailed as 2002’s match of the year by many outlets (it’s neck and neck with Shawn Michaels’ comeback against Triple H for me), and its string of crisp sequence after crisp sequence makes it hard to argue against. You know WWE has high hopes for a match when there’s two heat segments, one each for Mysterio and Edge to play hero-in-peril, paid off with multiple near falls in the homestretch. Angle made Edge submit to the ankle lock to close out the lengthy battle, with Wrestling Observer, Pro Wrestling Torch, and RSPW each selecting the match as the best of 2002.

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