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Alberto Del Rio Tells His Side Of The Story

August 19, 2014 By: Category: Videos, WWE | Pro Wrestling

The controversial WWE firing of Alberto Del Rio is getting interesting. Alberto Del Rio spoke out for the first time since his release and the former WWE superstar’s recap will certainly not help relations between the WWE and the Latino market.

Alberto was fired a couple of weeks ago seemingly out of nowhere by the WWE. Rumors circulated and details were quickly confirmed regarding the incident. The short story is that the social media manager of the WWE made a racist comment about Alberto which got back to Alberto. ADR confronted the employee who refused to apologize and was slapped for it.

Things heated up over the weekend when Alberto made an appearance at Triple Mania. What does this mean for Alberto’s non-compete? With Triple A coming to the United States, can Alberto be their franchise player? What happens next? Will there be a lawsuit?

Alberto appeared recently on a Mexican morning news show and gave his side of the story for the first time. Transcripts of his Primero Noticias of Televisa appearance have finally become available and here are just some of the details from the lengthy interview.

“Yes, I continued being one of the top guys in USA. But there was an incident in which there was an altercation with a WWE employee. I won’t give all the details just yet. I’m still assessing which is the best way, legally, so that nothing that I say can be used against me. You know that US laws are completely different than the ones in Mexico. It was an incident in which I was offended. I was completely the victim. I have not spoken or said anything due to the same situation. They went ahead and said that I had unprofessional conduct. It’s true. Yes, I slapped this WWE employee because, I always say, that you can take my job, but no one will take my dignity, or my pride. And I won’t let anyone offend or humiliate my homeland, which is Mexico. I don’t forget my roots. Like I said, I am defending myself. This problem led to the end of my contract with them in one of the moments where I was at the top of the tier, just like I have always been throughout my 6 years with them.”

Alberto was then asked whether he was a victim of racism. “Yes, yes. These were comments that this guy made. And I reacted in an inappropriate manner. I will never say that someone should conduct themselves the way I did. I slapped him, and I feel completely embarrassed of my attitude and my reaction. But in that moment, after his comment, I demanded an apology. I didn’t just stand there and slap him outright.”

What may be the most damaging part of his side of the story to the WWE is that there was an incident prior to this one with the social media manager. I” had an incident with him in the past where he pretended, I think, to read his computer. He said “Alberto is a such and such.” And I was like, “What did you say, man?” He stands up and says, “No, it’s something from Twitter.” He then wants to give me his hand, and I just said, “Don’t touch me.” And I left to the ring, because I was on my way to the squared circle. This was about 7-8 months ago. When he says this comment, the same person again, I’m like “What’s this guy’s problem?” So I stand up, and don’t think I’m going to come to blows with him. I stood up demanding an apology.”

Alberto tells the interviewer that he did indeed slap him. “He was already standing up. He was about to leave when he said that comment. The only thing he does after his comment is, with his face as close to me as mine is to yours right now, he does a douchey smirk with one side of mouth. And then I hit him. I’ll say it again, I will always be embarrassed of the way I reacted. I’m not regretful. Sure, it costed me my job. But they are the ones that lose more in this situation.”

Now according to Dave Meltzer in a recent podcast Alberto didn’t just slap this employee. Alberto slapped the heck out of him. Meltzer compared the slap to the David Schultz-John Stossel slap.

Alberto said that he spoke with Vince McMahon after the incident. He said Vince told him he understood what he did and suspended him. Alberto said that Triple H called him later and told him he was being fired. Alberto said that Triple H claimed it hurt WWE more to release him due to the time and money they invested. Telling a guy who is getting fired for standing up for himself after a racist remark that the company is hurting more is a bit absurd and arrogant if you ask me.

Meltzer speculated that the social media manager threatened to sue the company if Del Rio wasn’t fired. Thus Del Rio was fired. It’s a real tough one here. I am sure the guy has a case but I can’t imagine how the WWE can keep a guy who is making racist remarks openly within the company. That seems like just-cause to me.

Alberto told the reporter he is suspended for a year. He isn’t sure whether he is going to fight that. Now keep in mind that the WWE has fired him. I am not sure that they can legally prevent him from making a living without paying him. They tried to do the same thing to Brock Lesnar years ago and they lost in court over their non-compete.

The revelation that Alberto had a previous incident with this guy is very damaging to the WWE. The fact that the WWE kept this employee on staff after such an incident is remarkable. That part of the story is going to hurt if this story blows up in the press. The Latino market make up a big part of the WWE audience. This is a story the WWE will probably want to keep quiet. It will be interesting to see who moves first in the upcoming weeks.

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Strange Circumstances Surround Alberto Del Rio’s WWE Release

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

The more details that emerge surrounding Alberto Del Rio’s WWE release, the more strange this story gets. New details have garnered ADR some sympathy and are putting the WWE in some real hot water.

The wrestling was stunned last week when Alberto Del Rio was released by the WWE. Guys at Alberto’s level aren’t often released without good reason by the WWE, especially at a time when the company is razor thin on heels. Now that the dust has started to settle, accolades are quickly turning to criticism and anger towards the WWE.

Here is what we knew at the time. Alberto was reportedly released after a physical altercation with a non-wrestler employee. Alberto reportedly got physical with someone who worked on the social media end of the company. Rumors were swirling but none of the earlier reports had ample detail or confirmation to be taken as facts.

A few days later details were reported by several sources which gave credence to some of the earlier reports and painted a better picture on others. It was at this point fans and media took a step back and wondered why this was playing out as it was.

According to some reports, a social media manager was asked to clean off his plate in catering, which says a lot to me about how this employee conducts himself at work. The employee remarked that it was “Del Rio’s job”, an obvious racial slur aimed at Del Rio’s Latino ethnicity. The “joke” got back to Del Rio who confronted this employee and demanded an apology. Allegedly the employee didn’t apologize and was slapped by Del Rio. ADR was released shortly thereafter.

While nobody can condone Del Rio physically assaulting anyone, it is hard not to empathize with him. I can certainly understand why the WWE needed to take action but if these circumstances are true, dismissal seems like an overreaction although to be fair their hands may have been tied legally. Even stranger is that this employee is allegedly still with the company. Where I come from, a racist joke is grounds for suspension or termination, especially when it is directed towards one of the guys keeping the lights on. What is even stranger is that the WWE Twitter account took shots at Del Rio after this happened, retweeted by Triple H. Considering the actions of the social media manager, those actions are just downright strange.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I think Del Rio’s contractual status had something to do with action. Del Rio’s contract was coming due and he reportedly was planning on leaving the company. The WWE were well aware of this and have had an axe to grind with him over it. I wonder what would have happened if Del Rio was planning to stay?

F4WOnline.com reported that Del Rio has immediate interest from Triple A and of all places TNA Wrestling. Del Rio could be a last minute Hail Mary attempt by TNA to create buzz and interest in hopes that Spike either changes their minds to renew or another network takes a shot. Otherwise it makes absolutely no sense to me why they would pursue someone at high dollar knowing that their future is in serious jeopardy.

Regardless, this is turning out to be a much bigger story. The WWE is slowly starting to get media attention for the story. Unfortunately for them the media attention is for the racist joke and apparent tolerance and not for SummerSlam or RAW. Keep an eye on this one. If the wrong group decides to make a cause out of this, it could get ugly quickly for the WWE.

Be a star!

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Jack Swagger, Tag Teams and Other Wrestling Thoughts

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

It’s a good thing to have someone in the wrestling business fighting for Old Glory again. The idea to make Jack Swagger a “Real American” in terms of fighting for his country and having the thousands in attendance each week cheering for the USA is one of the trademark spot of the older wrestling generation.

Whether it was Hulk Hogan or Sgt. Slaughter or Jim Duggan, there has always been someone to jump at the chance to fight for the country he loves and create controversy. But what happens when the man who fights for our country doesn’t have anyone to fight anymore?

The program between Swagger and Rusev has been good for the WWE over the past month, but it should end at SummerSlam. What happens to Swagger then? Fan support in this case is not as much for Swagger as it is for Zeb Colter, who has tugged at the heartstrings of the WWE Universe. What combination or individual comes in and takes Rusev’s role as antagonist? Wrestling used to be famous for that. The Iron Sheik. Nikolai Volkoff, and Ivan Koloff were famous for challenging America and challenging the faces of promotions – generating heat from the crowds during the era of Kayfabe – and guaranteed bank at the gate.

Unfortunately, I do not see Swagger doing that for the WWE, mainly because there is not as much charisma in his talent and act as there is in his manager. Maybe a program with Kofi Kingston, who we finally may see turn heel, or Big E makes more sense. If the WWE wants to tweak Swagger’s character more, that would make plenty of sense.

TNA Rewind
This coming week, the Hardy’s and Team 3D will meet again in another historic tag team match. Whether you want to admit it or not, if you want to see “good” tag team wrestling outside the Uso’s or Rhodes brothers, turn the channel on your television on Thursday nights.

While the contract with Spike Television does not run out until October, Impact wrestling has turned up its game in the tag team division and has brought two great matches in three weeks to Thursday night.

If the match with Bully Ray and Devon is half as good as the match between the Hardy’s and The Wolves, there may still be some hope for TNA keeping its contract with the current cable channel.

Goodbye, Farewell
I am not going to rehash anything that has already been said about the release of Alberto Del Rio other than I am not bothered by his release. What I can say is this, the WWE is a business and a publically traded one. It acted like a business and did what was best for business.

Personally, I did not like the character from the start and thought Del Rio was stale and boring and dropped from a heavyweight to a lightweight in a nanosecond within the company. Part of that problem became evident when Del Rio became a world champion first and did not work his way up the WWE food chain.

Happy Birthday Hulk Hogan
And finally, a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Hulk Hogan. The 61-year-old Hogan continues to be part of the center of the wrestling world. This past week Hogan announced that he would entertain the idea of wrestling at WrestleMania 31 – his opponent none other than John Cena.

While this would be the ultimate “passing of the torch” I beg the WWE and the wrestling world to not allow this to happen in any way, shape or form.

If this is the WWE’s idea of replacing Undertaker on the card with a match like this, then the ultimate “jumping the shark” event will take place and ruin everything the company is doing to change the culture of the business. JUST SAY NO!

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Alberto Del Rio’s WWE Release Is Good For Everyone

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

For those of you who haven’t heard, former WWE and World Heavyweight Champion Alberto del Rio has been released by the WWE.

Rumor has it (according to Ring of Honor founder and RF Video President Rob Feinstein’s Facebook page) that Del Rio was “100% let go” because of an incident that took place at Tuesday’s Smackdown! tapings in Laredo, Texas.

Apparently, Del Rio had a run-in with a .com employee. Things were said and Del Rio reportedly slapped him.

This has fueled rumors as to why it happened – the biggest being that Del Rio wanted out of his contract early since he has been doing nothing of note anyway and this was his way of getting it – but the prevailing thing to take away from this is that it’s for the best.

As I said above, Del Rio has been treading water for the last little while. He shows up, has his match, hits his spots and he’s gone again. He hasn’t had a significant storyline in ages and doesn’t seem like he was going to get one any time soon, either. Unless you count “holding the cross arm-breaker for too long” as doing something of note, that is. In which case he’s been doing that all day, every day.

This is for the best. Del Rio is a fantastic performer…in the ring. He has the capability of putting on a fantastic match with anyone at any time and is probably one of the more underrated in-ring performers going today simply due to his lack of a push or any real storylines.

But the simple fact of the matter is that Del Rio was too boring to really elevate in the WWE. Even during his greatest feuds, he struggled to make an impact on the mic as basically the Hispanic JBL. He could get his point across just fine, but conveying it an interesting manner was not his forte. Think about it for a second: Dean Ambrose can turn “I want to destroy your face, Seth Rollins” into a compelling, passionate and interesting promo that leaves you clamoring for more. Del Rio could cut that same promo, but it would be missing the passion and the over-the-top attitude WWE’s best have on the mic. Del Rio is just there to tell you “I don’t like this guy” in so many words before he can get to doing what he does best.

And really, how was he ever supposed to be a character people would clamor for (or to hate) if he can’t convey his message in a way that captivates the audience? In wrestling, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a heel or face: if you can make yourself interesting and different, fans will love and appreciate you whether they’re supposed to be booing or cheering you. With Del Rio, fans just had an appreciation for his in-ring abilities but could never get behind the character. He was just Hispanic JBL until the bell rang. We get it, you’re a rich jerk. Now add some layers.

All of that is leaving out the fact that he pretty much wrestles one guy for months on end even without a story in place. Want to see Del Rio vs Kofi Kingston? Here you go, 400 times in a row. Liked Del Rio vs Sheamus? Good, because that’s the only match you’ll get for the next six months.

Ultimately, Del Rio’s departure works out for everyone. He didn’t need the money, really – he was wealthy already thanks to his success in Mexico – and wasn’t being used in a way that justifies his in-ring talent. Meanwhile, we’re spared from another boring “paint by numbers” ADR promo and a match ending featuring him holding the cross arm-breaker after the bell because grrr, he’s a mean guy.

I wish Alberto the best in his future endeavors and thank the heavens that I won’t have to see him wrestle Dolph Ziggler 14,000 more times.

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WWE Fires Alberto Del Rio For Unprofessional Conduct

August 07, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Ricardo Rodriquez may have a chance to reunite with Alberto Del Rio sooner than he expected. Unfortunately it won’t be in the WWE as the company officially parted ways with Del Rio on Thursday.

News broke late Thursday afternoon that Del Rio had been released from his contract. WWE.com put up a brief statement that reads as follows.

“WWE announced the release of Alberto Del Rio due to unprofessional conduct and an altercation with an employee.”

There aren’t a whole lot of details out about the alleged altercation but there are a number of rumors floating around. According to several unconfirmed reports, Del Rio had a physical altercation with someone who works on the website or in social media for the company. At some point the altercation turned physical which resulted in Del Rio being terminated.

On the surface this seems like an overreaction from the company. At the same time the WWE is a corporation and corporations have zero tolerance for that kind of behavior. This could also be as a result of a lawsuit a former employee brought against the WWE last year which alleged that he was attacked by the Big Show.

Del Rio spent five years with the WWE. He came into the WWE in 2009 with a big contract and high expectations. Del Rio immediately started off his tenure with a bit of controversy. Del Rio had told media upon signing that he would go directly to the main roster, yet he did wind up going to FCW and spent some time in FCW before heading to the main roster.

Del Rio received a mega-push when he came up to the main roster. Del Rio was reportedly Vince McMahon’s favorite wrestler on the roster during that time period. Del Rio won the 2011 Royal Rumble and went on to wrestle Edge at WrestleMania 27. Timing worked against him here as Edge got hurt and plans to put the WWE world heavyweight title on him were scrapped and he wound up moving to RAW while the company figured out what to do with him. Unfortunately bad timing would be Del Rio’s biggest obstacle and rear its ugly head again.

Del Rio finally bounced back and won Money in the Bank. He was just starting to get his momentum back when something happened nobody expected. The Summer of Punk knocked Del Rio right out of his spot. The company hit on something that summer with CM Punk and Del Rio was once again an odd man out. Del Rio eventually won the title but the fans wanted Punk and Del Rio’s momentum had finally come to a screeching halt.

Unfortunately for Del Rio he was never able to capture that magic he had on his way to WrestleMania 27. Numerous start-stop angles and feuds relegated Del Rio to just a “regular guy” on the cards. Even his big babyface turn was botched when after turning him babyface the company booked him in a match against John Cena, turning him babyface again but this time against perennial jobbers 3MB. Many have called this one of the worst booked babyface turns in WWE history.

Del Rio has bounced around from mid-card to headliner in recent years yet again never reaching the level of success he had when he arrived. Somehow he managed to creep back into the main-event recently at Money in the Bank. It had been rumored that Del Rio was planning on leaving when his contract expired in the near future. Some are already citing that was the reason for the WWE’s short leash on Del Rio as a result of this incident.

I really enjoyed Del Rio during his initial run but never felt he lived up this potential in the ring. I can’t recall many Del Rio matches that I thought were very good or show stealers. I did enjoy his matches with Dolph Ziggler and his Mania 27 match with Edge, other than that all of his matches were pretty bland.

That said it is a big loss to a company who is struggling to find top heels. Del Rio may not have been a top guy but he was a heel you could plug in at any time. It should also be pointed out with Rey Mysterio’s career winding down, the company is now even more desperate for a Latino star.

Don’t be surprised to see Del Rio and Rodriguez hit the convention circuit in the near future.

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Top Five WWE Money In The Bank Matches

June 26, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

The WWE Money in the Bank match has produced some of the most exciting moments of the last ten years. The glorified ladder match features daredevil heroics, extreme punishment, and intense action. Today I look back and celebrate the top five Money in the Bank matches in WWE history.

I don’t think anyone realized in 2005 when the WWE announced the first Money in the Bank match the significance this match would have on wrestling history. Stars were made, history was written, and memories have been cemented forever thanks to this innovative match. With two new matches around the corner I thought today would be a great time to look back and count down the top matches in MITB history. Since we aren’t quite ten years into MITB I went with a top five as opposed to a top ten. Leave a comment if you agree, disagree, or want to mention your favorite Money in the Bank match memory.

Edge defeats Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Benoit, Christian and Kane – WrestleMania 21

I can’t think of another MITB match that was more exciting than the one at WrestleMania 21. I think the big difference here was that it was the first. The match just had more intensity and crowd emotion than any other due to the fact that nobody knew what to expect. The match was full of crazy spots that fans hadn’t seen before or lumped into one match. It is hard to replicate the element of surprise that the first match had at 21. Spots like the Benoit diving headbutt and Benjamin running up the ladder had fans stunned in amazement at this new kind of match.

Not that this should be part of the criteria but it also had the biggest impact in regards to elevating a star. Edge won and once he cashed in became an established WWE elite superstar for the rest of his career. No other winner has taken as much away from this match as Edge did in 2005.

Mr. Kennedy defeated CM Punk, Edge, Finlay, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, King Booker and Randy Orton – WrestleMania 23

I liked this match a lot and even though it was one of the longer MITB matches, it kept me interested from bell to bell. Edge and Orton bumped up the star presence here while the Hardys brought a ton of excitement to the match with the anticipation alone of what these guys would do in this environment. In terms of MITB moments, the spots between Jeff and Edge were some of the best in MITB history. Jeff’s jump on Edge is arguably the greatest spot in MITB history. What those guys did alone made this match great, yet it was a great effort from all back at 23, and the surprise winner in Kennedy was a nice touch.

CM Punk defeated Shelton Benjamin, Carlito, Chris Jericho, Mr. Kennedy, John Morrison and Montel Vontavious Porter – WrestleMania 24

I was surprised at how much I liked this match when I went back and watched all of the old MITB matches. On paper it looks pretty average but these guys went far beyond anything I expected going into the match. It did get a little spot-crazy at times but that is to be expected in such a match. Shelton Benjamin really stepped it up here and John Morrison was in his element, delivering a moonsault with a ladder in his hand at one point. Matt Hardy’s spectacular 20-foot Twist of Fate remains the highlight of this match for me.

Alberto Del Rio defeated Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston, Alex Riley, R-Truth, The Miz, Evan Bourne and Jack Swagger – Money in the Bank 2011

I debated a bit about the four spot here but in the end I went with the RAW MITB match from last year’s memorable show in Chicago. This match delivered on a lot of levels with the guys going out of their way to give fans plenty of breathtaking memories. Between Evan Bourne’s shooting star press 20 feet in the air, The Miz falling off the ladder, Mysterio and Kofi’s double leap, and Rey Mysterio getting unmasked, this was one of the more fun Money in the Bank matches. The hot Chicago crowd certainly didn’t hurt this one from entering the top five either.

CM Punk defeated Shelton Benjamin, Christian, Finlay, Mark Henry, Kane, Kofi Kingston and Montel Vontavious Porter – WrestleMania 25

I struggled quite a bit with the final spot here. I went back and forth between this one, last year’s MITB match, and the SmackDown match from the Chicago 2011 pay per view. In the end, the MITB WrestleMania 25 match was just too good to leave off the list. Shelton Benjamis was the show stealer in this one giving fans some of the best spots of the night in this match. One moment in particular saw Benjamin leap off the ladder placed in the aisle onto his MITB opponents. Watching these MITB matches reminded me how good Benjamin was and had me wondering why he isn’t the WWE today! Kofi also had his moments, one in particular had Kofi deliver a kick through the side of the ladder and climb the ladder while it was closed. Another saw Kofi run up the ladder and fall into a World’s Strongest Slam. Christian also had his moment hitting an Unprettier to Punk off the ladder. This match had a lot of great moments and is often one of the more underrated matches of the MITB series.

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WWE Money in the Bank 2014: The Seven Wrestlers Who Hope to Win WWE Gold

June 18, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Now that we all know the seven participants in the Money in the Bank Ladder match for the WWE World Title, let the handicapping begin.
Everyone has their favorites and why. Include me in that process. But my thoughts may be different from those who put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Here is a look at the seven wrestlers and how they should fare in the Money in the Bank match.

John Cena
He won’t win – it would be too easy and the WWE Universe would hate it. A 15-time champion is nice, but it’s Cena and the fans want a new champion. If it cannot be Daniel Bryan, it should be someone new. The WWE’s mantra need to be “Anybody but Cena.” I see him playing the role of spoiler, making sure Bray Wyatt does not walk away with the title.

Cesaro
He has the potential to be one of the best WWE champions of all time. Cesaro has been involved in other pay-per-view events where he has proven he is title worthy. If he wins the title (and here is where it can play to the advantage of the WWE), this could be the opening for Brock Lesnar to return to face Cesaro and his former advocate. SummerSlam would be huge and ratings would jump through the roof. Lesnar as a face certainly saves the WWE.

Roman Reigns
Now that Reigns got himself into the Battle Royal on Monday night and won the match by sweet talking Vickie Guerrero into giving him a slot, it means two things. First, this is probably the last time we see Guerrero on television. Second, Reigns wins the title and challenges the Authority, setting up a war with Seth Rollins, thus leaving Dean Ambrose in the cold. Reigns was screwed at the Royal Rumble by Batista. The WWE should not make the same mistake twice. Put the strap on the big man.

Sheamus
This works if Sheamus turns heel. The Big White is more aggressive lately. I think the WWE has done us a great justice by having him face Cesaro on a weekly basis because the two work very well together. But something tells me in the end, what is best for business is for Sheamus to turn heel and either join Paul Heyman or become a tag team partner with Wade Barrett. That would be some bad news for the WWE roster.

Randy Orton
The Viper was “given” a spot in the MITB match because of his dedication and loyalty to The Authority. Randy Orton is a contender, but he will not win the title. It would be too easy to put the briefcase back in his hand, which would lead to another Orton/Cena or Orton/Bryan feud. The ratings would be good, but in the end, people want to see more matches, new blood and a different feud from this pay=per-view.

Bray Wyatt
Wyatt is the one who makes most sense other than Reigns. Wyatt’s charisma and the high he is on right now is something the WWE needs to take and continue. I can see John Cena and Wyatt trying to eliminate each other in this contest, but Wyatt has real potential to be a WWE champion. If the masses flock to him in Kevin Sullivan-like fashion, not only should he have the whole world in his hands, he should have the World Title for a long run.

Alberto Del Rio
The wild card in all of this madness. I was not sure why he was included in this group, but he makes perfect sense, mainly because the numbers are thin for real superstar talent. I don’t think he stands a chance in hell, but stranger things have happened. My fear is Del Rio Wins and there is a feud between Bryan and the Mexican Aristocrat. That is bad news for the WWE and ratings.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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5 WWE Superstars Who Could Transition To MMA

May 15, 2014 By: Category: lists, Sports, UFC | Mixed Martial Arts, WWE | Pro Wrestling

30 years ago the debate would be which pro wrestler was the toughest of the locker room. Today, it is about which pro wrestler could jump over to the UFC. So I thought I would have a little fun and take a look at 5 WWE superstars that have the intangibles to fight in the UFC.

Please keep one thing in mind with this entire list. I am certainly not saying that all of these guys would jump into the UFC or MMA and have the success that Brock Lesnar. All I am saying is that these five guys have the background and skills to at least attempt a jump to MMA without embarrassing themselves.

So with that said, let’s dive deep into the resumes of your favorite WWE superstars and take a look at who has a shot…albeit a long shot of jumping into the octagon. Whether they would be Brock Lesnar or Bobby Lashley will always be up for debate until the day comes when they bite down on the mouth guard and throw down in the world of MMA.

Wade Barrett - For those of you unaware, Wade Barrett is probably one of the most street-tough superstars in the WWE. Barrett is a former bareknuckle boxer. In other words, Barrett boxed for years in his native England…but without gloves. I have no doubt that Barrett could jump into the octagon tomorrow and at least be competitive on his feet.

On the ground is another story. Barrett has no amateur wrestling in his background as far as I know. This would make him vulnerable to the ground attack of almost any MMA fighter. This isn’t to say that Barrett wouldn’t have a puncher’s chance of catching someone shooting in with an uppercut or right hook. It just means that Barrett would have a lot of work to do if he ever decides he’d like to try his hand in MMA.

Santino Marella - How ironic is it that one of the toughest guys in the WWE is portrayed as one of the wimpiest? Forget about the guy you see on RAW and SmackDown (well barely), Santino is one tough dude. Santino also has minimal experience in MMA which makes you wonder about how well he’d fare at this stage of his career.

Santino is well experienced in judo, practicing judo for over 20 years. According to one report, I saw that he had a 6-1 record but I haven’t seen much else. Santino said in an interview awhile back that the only reason he left Japan and MMA was that he overstayed his Visa. If that is the case, he is one guy that could do some serious damage if he was to jump back into the world of MMA.

Dolph Ziggler - You would never believe it watching him in the ring but Dolph is one of, if not the most accomplished amateur wrestler in the WWE. Dolph was a standout high school and collegiate wrestler. Even better, he was teammates with Gray Maynard who appears to have done pretty darn good with his transition into MMA.

How good was Dolph as an amateur wrestler? Ziggler scored an unbelievable 82 pins which is a record in high school. At Kent University, Ziggler holds the second most wins in school history at 121. He is as legit as they come. He would certainly have to work on his standup and submissions, but the guy appears to be a prodigy of sorts. Even better, imagine the fun confrontations between Vickie Guerrero and Dana White!

Alberto Del Rio - Alberto like Santino, is the only man on this list to actually have MMA experience. Unfortunately Del Rio’s success in MMA wasn’t quite the same, going 9-5 overall. However, I think it is fair to say that he has more actual MMA experience than anyone in the WWE right now. Who knows how well he would do if he returned to the sport.

Alberto’s amateur wrestling background is one of the most impressive in pro wrestling history. Alberto is a Mexican national champion freestyle, won the Greco-Roman bronze medal teenage world championships; 1997, and placed 5th at 214 pounds Pan American Games.

Well quite frankly I don’t think he’d do that well at all. He does hold a record of 7 wins by submission which is none too shabby. He even put together a six fight win streak before joining the WWE. However, at 34 and after a few years inside the WWE, he probably has the least shot of making any real waves than anyone on the list. Ironic because if there was anyone that could certainly give it a go tomorrow, it would be him.

Jack Swagger - If Jack Swagger jumped into the world of pro wrestling 30-40 years ago, he would probably have had several NWA world title reigns by now and be regarded as a pro wrestling legend today. That is because Swagger is boasts an outstanding amateur wrestling record and with his size, he would have been a top draw for years throughout the territory.

Swagger was a two sport athlete in college, and this wasn’t just any college. This was the University of Oklahoma. At Oklahoma, Swagger took part in both wrestling and football. He concentrated on wrestling full time after his freshmen year and became one of the most successful wrestlers in school history. Swagger was a true All-American and set a single season record for most pins at 30.

With his size and his athletic background, Swagger could conceivably be a powerhouse in MMA. Of course he would have to train hard and develop a standup game, but he could certainly hold his own on the ground. His background shows a guy that is great at anything he sets out to do athletically. He’d also be fighting as a heavyweight, which doesn’t always have the best athletes. At 6’6, 263, and 29 years old he has all of the tools to jump into the octagon with some training and make some real noise in the MMA world.

Will any of these guys make the leap to MMA? I don’t think so. But it would be interesting if they did.

Note: This was originally published on October 13, 2011

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Top 10 Matches In WWE Extreme Rules PPV History

April 29, 2014 By: Category: lists, Videos, WWE | Pro Wrestling

WWE Extreme Rules is now several years old and it has had its share of great matches. With the 2014 edition looming, I thought it would be fun to take another look back and expand my top five to a top ten list of the best matches in WWE Extreme Rules history.

As always these are my favorite matches in Extreme Rules history. Yours may be different, so if you think I missed one leave a comment and let me know. The beauty of this list is that with the WWE Network, you can go back and watch every single one of these and relive the extreme memories. Otherwise grab a chair, lay out a table, and climb the ladder because these are the top ten matches in Extreme Rules history.

Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena Extreme Rules Match (Extreme Rules 2012) –  I don’t know if it was the hype, the intrigue, or just the excitement of seeing Brock back but this worked on every level. The match played out in the ring exactly as you’d expect a match between a former UFC fighter who knows how to wrestle would against an experienced WWE wrestler. It was one of the most brutal matches of either man’s careers and blew away Brock’s other matches with Triple H since returning. I know Cena won and I know that has tarnished the match for some, but for me it didn’t get better than this in Extreme Rules history.

CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho Chicago Street Fight (Extreme Rules 2012) - I originally put together a top five list and received a lot of cricticsm for leaving this match off of the list. So when I decided to expand the list this was the first one I went back to watch on the WWE Network and I am glad I did. I still don’t know if it makes a top five but it certainly belongs in a top ten list. The spot of the match was Punk dropping a flying elbow from the top to Jericho on the table. Another highlight of the match was Jericho getting in Punk’s family’s face and getting slapped by Punk’s sister. Having the match in Chicago was just icing on the cake.

CM Punk vs. Randy Orton Last Man Standing Match (Extreme Rules 2011) - I went back on forth between this one, Bryan vs. Sheamus 2/3 Falls, and Orton vs. RVD in a Stretcher Match and after watching all three back to back I came away enjoying this one best. This was a great match, maybe the best out of Orton in a while at this particular point in his career. If ECW fans like kendo stick shots, you’ll love this one. Tommy Dreamer was probably watching somewhere and asking himself, “Thank you may I have another.”

Jeff Hardy vs. Umaga Falls Count Anywhere (Extreme Rules 2008) - This may be one of the best WWE PPV openers in history. It’s unfortunate that most of us forget what a heck of a worker Umaga was for his size. Purists probably didn’t like this match, than again purists probably don’t like any of the matches in this blog. This match featured a ton of action and brawled everywhere including the parking lot. The win here by Hardy was a critical piece in getting Hardy over for his eventual title run. If there is one match on this list that you should track down on the network to watch it may be this one.

CM Punk vs. Rey Mysterio Hair vs. Hair Match (Extreme Rules 2010) - I have to admit that I liked this match a lot better watching it for research on the blog than I did the first time. For whatever reason I never gave it the credit it was due. This was a real fun match. This reminded me of the old Tommy Dreamer vs. Raven ECW matches which featured a ton of interference from Raven’s Flock. There was a ton of drama here and a lot of action. Punk should have had more momentum in retrospect coming out of this yet for whatever reason he didn’t.

Jeff Hardy vs. Edge in a Ladder Match for the WWE world heavyweight championship (Extreme Rules 2009) – I sat here and tried to think of a reason not to rank this one at the top of the list and just couldn’t think of any. This match is probably remembered for the aftermath which saw CM Punk cash in. However, before Punk cashed in, Hardy and Edge had one of the great matches of this past era in WWE history.

Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio in a No Holds Barred Match for the WWE Intercontinental championship (Extreme Rules 2009) – I was a big fan of this feud as it featured a great storyline, strong promos, and some fantastic matches. This one may have been the cream of the crop for these two former WCW superstars. The finish of the match is still one of my favorites with Jericho countering the 619, tearing off the mask, and rolling up Mysterio when he tried to cover his face. This was just a fantastic match and a real showcase of their talents.

John Cena vs. Batista in a Last man Standing Match for the WWE championship (Extreme Rules 2010) – I may be a little biased here because this was one of my favorite feuds of the last couple of years. The dynamic between Batista and Cena was awesome and it worked like a charm at Extreme Rules. The big spot was John Cena hitting Batista with an Attitude Adjustment through a table. Batista worked over Cena’s leg throughout the match. The finish was a little goofy with the masking tape, but otherwise I thought they had a heck of a match.

Sheamus vs. Triple H in a Street Fight Match (Extreme Rules 2010) – This is probably a dark horse as opposed to some of the other matches you were expecting but I loved this one. This was one of the hottest matches of the event. I loved the finish here. Sheamus wound up pinning Triple H after a series of bicycle kicks. After the match, Sheamus continued attacking Triple H. As security walked Triple H to the locker room in a neck brace, Sheamus attacked him once last time. In the end, Triple H was stretchered out. Sheamus came off as a ruthless killer here, especially attacking Triple H as he was being helped to the back. I know some Triple H-aters may disagree, but this was a great one.

Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio in a Ladder Match for the WWE world heavyweight championship (Extreme Rules 2011) – In my Extreme Rules 2011 recap I listed this as my favorite match of the night. Looking back I wish that these guys had more time to feud because they had tremendous chemistry on this night. The highlight of the match was Christan getting knocked off the top rope, flying onto a ladder on the outside, readjusting, and hitting a reverse plancha on Del Rio on the outside. This was just an absolutely great match and probably one of the most underrated matches of 2011.

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WrestleMania 27: Well, That Was Different

April 03, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-Another day, another running diary. But I keep coming back to entertain all (sixteen) of you that read my work. And, unlike certain hosts of certain PPVs, I will NOT phone it in via satellite!

-I’ll phone it in right here, in person.

-We are looking LIVE (Trademark Brent Musberger) from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, where fingerpoking and NFL playoff choking are all the rage. I’m joined at my brother Josh’s domicile by Josh himself, and jaded buddies Dave and Rob for some good action and, hopefully, some unintentional comedy to offset the cost of this shindig. Also, Domino’s Pizza is the order of the day, because if you’re going to pay to see Snooki, you should at least get fat on Cheesy Bread doing it.

-Keri Hilson performs America the Beautiful, and is the latest contestant in the “Are they Black or White?” game with Derek Jeter, Latoya Jackson, Alicia Keys, and Jason Kidd. Black seems likely, for those wondering how I’d score.

-The Rock is out here to waste time, you know, because the biggest show of the year needs talk. Rock assures us, through his self-intro, that he still eats pie, which must confuse twelve-year old kids in the audience who see a muscular athlete that LOVES to indulge in pastries. But you can see why Daniel Bryan and Sheamus would get axed.

-Rock further validates their excising by leading the crowd in a chant along. Here’s one for you: When I yell “RE!”, you yell “FUND!”. Ready?

-I never thought I’d see the day where four longtime wrestling fans shake their heads in exasperation, wondering when Rock is going to stop talking. I thought April Fool’s Day was Friday.

-Wait, wait, wait, wait…..The World Heavyweight Title match….is OPENING? The prize for winning the Royal Rumble is to open WrestleMania? Well, it’s Atlanta, and Vince probably thought “You know….I wonder how I could devalue the World Heavyweight Title more than WCW ever did”.

-So it’s Edge, with Christian, defending against Alberto Del Rio, with Brodus Clay and Psicosis in a tuxedo. Del Rio takes a nasty slip to the floor, indicating that perhaps Del Rio wants to steal the show and make Vince pay for his error in judgment. Or, maybe he just slipped.

-Del Rio hooks the cross-armbreaker, leading to a false finish. Del Rio then ups the ante with a springing enzuigiri. You’re telling me it was necessary to not make room for this guy later in the night? I thought WWE was all about putting over the future? You know, that outmoded concept that TNA seems to not seem to buy into? Did Russo book this?

-Edge’s spear misses, and it leads to a cross-armbreaker, which Edge refuses to give into. If Edge tapped in the opener to lose the title, then it’s proof Russo WASN’T booking. My money would then be on David Lynch.

-Edge gets the Edgucator, and Del Rio won’t give up. The challenger finds his way out, and Edge merely spears him to win. Really? All that “destiny” chatter and this is the payoff? It was a good match, with few flaws (you know, other than being the opener), but why have Del Rio fall short in what was, basically, a throwaway? I’m not mad, just confused. A lot of us are, really.

-Meanwhile, Michael Cole taunts Jerry Lawler from inside the Cole Mine. He shows off his Slammys and calls himself a “broadcast journalist”, which makes him half Owen Hart/half Bobby Heenan. No wonder I like him so much now.

-Cody Rhodes is out next, Vinny Del Negro face shield and all, to take on Rey Mysterio, who is dressed as Captain America. Interesting that WWE took their two top “lucha” stars and put them at the bottom of the card. Know what other company used to do that? Hint: they were based in Atlanta, and aren’t in business anymore.

-Well hey, Cody’s bringing the energy. It’s like he wants to steal the show all for himself, as he’s keeping up with Mysterio all the way. Not only does Rhodes bust out the Alabama Slam (finisher of ex-partner Hardcore Holly), but he even borrow’s CW Anderson’s delayed superplex. There’s even faint “CODY” chants in the Georgia Dome. Good on you, kid.

-Rhodes tries going into Mysterio’s pant leg, which makes me think he’s trying to find evidence of drug muling, but he’s merely going after Mysterio’s knee brace. Rey responds by taking off Cody’s facemask (“WE CAN SEE WHO IT IS! IT WAS CODY THE WHOLE TIME!”), putting it on, and then headbutting Cody with it. Isn’t that a DQ?

-Rhodes goes an eye for an eye by bashing Rey with his own knee brace, and then hitting Cross Rhodes for the win. I enjoyed the match, and Rhodes proved who the real dead weight of “Legacy” was. No wonder Triple H embarrassed Junior Dibiase so handily. Welcome to the food chain.

-To further urinate in Sheamus and Bryan’s faces, here’s a pointless talent contest backstage. Just know that Rowdy Roddy Piper does a pretty good impression of Jeff Hardy at Victory Road.

-I’m going to give the eight man tag as much time and effort as WWE gave it. I don’t think I physically saw Justin Gabriel. I’ll also bet Vince couldn’t pick him out of a police line-up.

-Eve tells The Rock that she’s enjoying the show. She also believes that, as Divas champion, she’d valued more for her brains and ability than looks, so her credibility is somewhat questionable. Mae Young shows up, because Vince loves her, and then we get an Austin/Rock staredown for old times’ sake. Ok, that was enjoyable. Just glad Austin didn’t strike Eve.

-Randy Orton and CM Punk, the match I was looking forward to the most, is next. Just a classic cat and mouse heel vs. face feud, with very few weak spots. Except for the acting of Randy Orton’s “wife”. This should be an annual tradition: find a fitness model with zero personality, and make her Orton’s designated wife. It’s like “Rock of Love” with fewer degrading skits.

-It needs to be said: CM Punk is about as complete a heel as you’ll find in wrestling these days. He was born about twenty years too late. Take away the excessive tattoos and couldn’t you see him in the old NWA, attacking babyfaces in the parking lot? He’s like Tully Blanchard, except you won’t find him repenting tearfully over the days of sniffing lines out of the belly buttons of ring rats.

-Punk is carrying his end swimmingly. I think he and Cody Rhodes are playing “can you top this” in terms of bringing their A-Game to the night. Punk’s arrays of kicks, as well as the kick-to-the-face counter to the RKO, are keeping the viewing party entertained. In other words, we like Punk.

-ANACONDA VICE! ORTON HOLDING ON BY A THREAD! Hold my coat while I forget that this is fake for a little while!

-After Punk avoids a few defeat attempts due to Orton’s injuries, Punk springboards into the ring and eats a vicious RKO. Great match, best of the night so far (edging the Cody-Rey “feelin’ it” fest). For as badly structured as the backstage stuff is, the ring work is carrying the card.

-The Rock talks to Pee Wee Herman. I go for more cheesy bread, to find none left. I’m sad twice.

-Howard Finkel! #27! THE REAL STREAK LIVES!

-Hall of Famers are then introduced: Abdullah the Butcher, Sunny (YOWZA!), Legion of Doom (Man, Hawk got small….oh, that’s Ellering), Bullet Bob Armstrong, Drew Carey, Hacksaw Jim Duggan (complete with tuxed-up 2X4), and Shawn Michaels, whose presence on these shows is definitely missed. Now we have to be more selective with our “FIVE STAR” declarations.

-Booker T is out next to commentate as is, wait for it…..GOOD OL JR! And Jim Ross said on Twitter that he WOULDN’T be commentating! Using Twitter to deceive people? When did JR become Dixie Carter?

-Michael Cole is dressed as a mildly-less retarded Rick Steiner while Jerry Lawler is, well, Jerry Lawler. Steve Austin, the referee, nearly runs over Jack Swagger with his ATV. What if Swagger DID get hit? Could they have tousled Drew McIntyre’s hair and given him a singlet in time?

-Cole’s having the time of his life, performing like a modern Andy Kaufman. Meanwhile, Swagger busts out the ankle lock on Lawler. Question: if Kurt Angle was a real Olympian, is Swagger WWE’s “Special Olympian”? Question two: am I going to Hell for making this joke?

-Cole seems to have no concept of applying holds, which may lead one to think he doesn’t watch ROH. And why would he? Working ROH style leads to you having your US Title match scrapped.

-Match slows down as the crowd chants “DORING” in the hopes that former ECW Tag Team Champion Danny Doring arrives to spice things up. No dice, sadly.

-The match breaks down into a typical Austin showcase (Stunner for Swagger, babyface comeback), with Lawler applying an ankle lock for the submission, with Cole tapping forever, and Austin delaying the bell ringing. Just for fun, Booker T jumps in for a beer and eats a Stunner, because Austin remembers when Booker stole his truck and cost him the Undisputed Title.

-But WAIT! The Anonymous GM, per Josh Mathews, announces that Austin overstepped his bounds and that the virtually dead Michael Cole wins by DQ! So Austin beats up Mathews, just because. Maybe Austin’s just mad because they’re making Expendables II without him.

-Meanwhile, at AXXESS, Sheamus fans flew from Ireland to see him! Just slap em in the face, why don’t ya, WWE….

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-No Holds Barred is next, and while I’m fearful of Zeus returning, it’s actually the heavily-hyped Undertaker-Triple H match. Hear that buzzing? That’s me. I’m abuzz.

-Triple H immediately endears himself to me by using “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, my favorite song from my favorite band of all time, Metallica. The booking staff could use “Frayed Ends of Sanity” themselves. He then switches to Motorhead after a redux of his Conan entrance, and then The Undertaker arrives to Johnny Cash. Metallica, Motorhead, and Johnny Cash? Sounds like the contents of Triple H’s iPod. Can we work some Warrant in there somewhere, just for laughs?

-Of note, this is Triple H’s first match in almost a year. In most cases, the man’s gut might sag. Not the case here, but his forehead’s sloping to the point where he could become a GEICO pitchman.

-The brawl goes outside and they end up destroying the Cole Mine, near the Spanish announce table. Rob points out that the last time he saw a mine collapse in the presence of Latinos was in Chile. So Rob takes my coveted title of “most tasteless joke told in a Justin diary”. I couldn’t hold it forever.

-Match is a damn good brawl, and Hunter takes a SICK backdrop off of the announce table, landing right on his hip. Gotta respect the man for taking so much abuse when he can just sit back.

-Jerry Lawler mentions that Undertaker’s never faced someone quite like Triple H, except when he faced…..Triple H. Of course, Lawler missed that WrestleMania when he protested alongside a woman that would later desert him for another man, so I can excuse it.

-HHH lands a Pedigree for 2, and then another which doesn’t finish. Hunter is now screaming “STAY DOWN”, which seems to indicate that Undertaker isn’t following the script that Hunter carefully wrote. Had Hunter yelled “JOB!”, that would have been my undisputed WrestleMania 27 moment. Hands down.

-Hunter decides to violate company policy by bashing Taker in the head with a chair, and then adds a Tombstone, which still isn’t enough. Finally, he gets the sledgehammer, but Undertaker applies Hell’s Gate. Hunter can’t swing the weapon, goes limp, and then lightly taps out. Wow, insanely epic brawl. Perhaps it’s not of the caliber of the Taker/Shawn matches, but best match of the night anyway.

-Note: Hunter tapped three times in big Mania matches. Who says he doesn’t lay down?

-Undertaker, near death, is carted off with the help of several officials, including IRS. Didn’t IRS once repossess headstones just to mess with Taker? Wrestling sure is full of forgiveness.

-Hey, Vickie’s here to shriek! Fan sentiment: “if we keep booing her and giving her insane heel heat, maybe she’ll go away!” Yeah, sure, maybe.

-John Morrison, Trish Stratus, and Snooki are facing Dolph Ziggler and LayCool, which seems to be a recipe for disaster, especially when Trish and McCool fall awkwardly to the floor from the top rope. Then McCool accidentally almost takes Layla’s face off with a blown kick meant for Trish. WWE does strong style better than the indies!

-Morrison adds a Starship Pain to the floor. Bad ass.

-Snooki gets booed after a tag, but amazes all with a handspring back splash that puts Great Muta to shame. Flip splash pins McCool to give us a pleasant surprise. Ya know, take away her drunkenness, her annoying personality, her burnt skin, and her overexposed celebrity, and what do you have? A short girl with some shapely thighs and is quite bottom heavy. Give her a normal life where she’s just “Nicole”, and I’d be shamelessly lusting after her like George “The Animal” Steele.

-(The above statement was made without a trace of irony)

-The Tough Enough contestants are in the crowd and, as Dave points out, they got better seats than the WCW roster did ten years ago at X7. Shows you where WWE’s priorities are.

-Miz’s opening video for the main event, with him “taking over production”, while “Hate Me Now” plays, is one of the freshest presentations WWE has yet done. Makes The Miz seem like a big time performer.

-Alex Riley, by managing Miz in the main event, is the Harvey Wippleman to Riley’s Sid Justice. It’s official.

-John Cena‘s entrance of the year: a church choir, singing over a montage of Cena photos and videos of his youth. If you’re going to do a church choir, can’t you get a James Brown impersonator to sing in preacher garb while Cena yells “THE BAND, ELWOOD! THE BAND!”? Is that too much to ask?

-Slow opening to the WWE Title match. Fan with a sign reading “PLEASE GIVE UP” in one of Cena’s fonts makes us laugh. Not a good sign.

-Cena and Miz seem to be rushing through this, due to time constraints. I dunno, maybe giving Rock 4 hours at the start of the show to cheerlead wasn’t such a good idea.

-For a WrestleMania main event, this is resembling a match in Stu Hart’s basement: no heat, and it’s not exactly visually pleasing. Oh, and there’s a ref bump! This just gets better by the second!

-Riley bashes Cena with a briefcase, which IRS seemed to have left at ringside, and Miz still can’t finish. So the two men brawl to the floor and Cena takes Miz over a pair of railings. Mike Chioda counts both men out which means….MIZ RETAINS! The crowd, which booed Cena all match, boos Miz retaining the title. And this is why smart-ass fans can’t have good things.

-But WAIT! Rock is out here to restart the match! The crowd doesn’t know how to feel.

-But it’s okay, because Rock gives Cena Rock Bottom as a receipt, and allows Miz to pin him and retain. Ballsy ending, I’ll give em that. Not a great match, but it’ll be fun to see where they take it from here.

-Oh, and Rock gives Miz a beating as well, because Rock’s the star. The prodigal star.

CYNIC SAYS: I didn’t HATE the show, but the structure was definitely weird. Taker-HHH was a match of the year candidate, Rhodes-Rey and Orton-Punk were both excellent, and the World Title matches were solid enough (yes, even Miz-Cena was “okay). Lawler-Cole was also fun for what it was.

There was nothing outright terrible, but not a whole lot of “blowaway” for the biggest show of the year. Call it a thumbs in the middle, leaning up, pending further review some day.

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

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WrestleMania XXVII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

April 03, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXVII
From The Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA
April 3, 2011

BACKGROUND
WrestleManias these days are more like the Super Bowl than ever before. In the NFL’s biggest annual game, while the outcome determines a champion, thus making the game the most relevant part of the weekend, the lure and aura of the halftime show, commercials, and interminable pre-game shows loaded with puff pieces draw in the casual viewer.

With WWE’s ratings and buyrates waning incrementally from the Attitude Era’s ending, Vince McMahon has discovered other ways to appeal to the casual viewer, especially come “WrestleMania season.”

In the last year and a half or so, World Wrestling Entertainment has dove into the deep end of social networking. You can’t sit through more than five minutes of Monday Night Raw anymore without Michael Cole prattling on in his cacophonic shriek about “hashtags” and “trending” and whatnot. Wrestlers tweeting threats to each other on off-days, usually in character, have begun to replace traditional story elements of tag team miscues and title shot demands as a means of fueling feuds and grudges.

With Twitter and Facebook as prime means of communication, it’s no doubt that WWE would exploit any chance to reach potential viewers.

Of course, WWE also continues the time-honored tradition of immersing past stars into the present story world. In recent years, we’ve seen Chris Jericho run afoul of Hall of Famers like Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat on the Road to WrestleMania. One year later, Vince McMahon and Bret Hart modified their years of bad blood into a three month story arc that culminated in one of WrestleMania’s most unlikely matches.

With a Georgia Dome to fill, and fans to get talking, WWE brought somebody in off the bench to help ensure the likelihood of both. It had been nearly seven years since he was last seen….

But finally……he came back.

THE EVENT
On February 14, 2011, a day devoted to love, wrestling fans jilted by the loss of WWE’s classic spontaneity and assertiveness were greeted to the sports entertainment equivalent of John Cusack standing below their bedroom window with a boombox.

One week after Vince McMahon announced a special guest host for WrestleMania, The Rock showed up in Anaheim, to an ungodly ovation from fans who had missed one of the sport’s greatest heroes. Dwayne Johnson systematically riffed on The Miz and John Cena, the two would-be main eventers, the latter in particular for some scathing public comments. Cena had derided Rock for leaving WWE completely behind in his pursuit of Sunset Boulevard, and now “The People’s Champion” was back to dress down his verbal attacker.

For weeks, Rock and Cena exchanged jibes back and forth so often, you’d think they were facing off at WrestleMania. Instead, Cena (who won #1 contendership at Elimination Chamber) would be challenging The Miz for the WWE Championship. Miz became a secondary figure to Rock and Cena’s trash talk, even while Michael Cole was championing Miz as “the most must-see WWE Champion in history.”

Ahh, Michael Cole’s heel turn. That ties into WrestleMania as well, as Cole, now pro-heel to the hilt, kept getting under the skin of Jerry Lawler, his longtime partner. When Lawler attempted to become WWE Champion in his only-ever shot, and felt short vs. The Miz, Cole rubbed it in to Lawler in antagonistic fashion. Emotions spilled over when Cole let slip that Lawler’s now-dead mother watched her son lose, and “The King” finally put his hands on his partner.

Soon enough, a match would be signed, with Jack Swagger as Cole’s trainer, and Stone Cold Steve Austin (what did I say about classic acts?) as the guest referee.

We haven’t even mentioned the Royal Rumble winner yet. Alberto Del Rio won the only 40-Man Rumble in history, and selected Edge, the World Heavyweight Champion, as the hilltopper he wished to knock off the summit. This feud had the added advantage of involving Christian, whom Del Rio put out of action in the fall of 2010. The reunited brothers (not friends, screw you WWE) banded together against Del Rio, his servant Ricardo Rodriguez, and protégé Brodus Clay.

To add more star power, The Undertaker’s streak of eighteen WrestleMania wins would be put on the line. Rumors swirled about who would try to end the mark. First, former UFC Champion Brock Lesnar was considered, but a deal never occurred. Then Sting was to jump from TNA, but re-signed with the company in the eleventh hour. Finally, Triple H stepped in, and engaged in weeks of tremendous dueling promo monologues with The Dead Man. The one from March 28 involving Shawn Michaels was some of WWE’s best TV to date.

CM Punk would face Randy Orton in a war over some of Orton’s past acts of aggression. And speaking of aggression, Orton would take out each of Punk’s Nexus flunkies on the road to their showdown.

Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Josh Mathews provided commentary, with Jim Ross and Booker T joining in later. Keri Hilson performed America the Beautiful. The Hall of Famers included Shawn Michaels, The Road Warriors, Paul Ellering, Sunny, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Abdullah the Butcher, Bob Armstrong, and Drew Carey.

THE RESULTS
World Heavyweight Championship: Edge def. Alberto Del Rio in 11:10
(Not only did the Royal Rumble winner open the show, but he also lost, looking like quite the “chumpstain” in the process. This would be Edge’s final match before retiring due to spinal injuries, but at least it was a really good opener. But still, why did it have to open?)

Cody Rhodes def. Rey Mysterio in 12:00
(This was quite an important match, as not only was it really good, but it showed that Rhodes can shine in a role outside of being Randy Orton’s lackey, or Ted Dibiase’s co-conspirator. If you wonder why Rhodes is trusted with a serious push, look here)

Kane/Big Show/Kofi Kingston/Santino Marella def. The Corre in 1:35
(As of this match, Santino Marella is 2-0 at WrestleMania, and Big Show is 3-8. Let that sink in)

Randy Orton def. CM Punk in 14:48
(If the crowd wasn’t so restless by this point, and if the night didn’t have a sour tone overall, this would be remembered as something more. Damn good match, but greater things lie ahead for both. Especially Punk about three months later….)

Michael Cole by Jerry Lawler by DQ in 13:42
(Why yes, this got more time than the first two matches. Coupled with The Rock wasting fifteen minutes at the start of the show with a cheerleading session, and you see why Sheamus and Daniel Bryan’s US Title match was bumped. The only good this match provided was getting Jim Ross to do commentary for the rest of the evening. Watching Cole on extended offense is like watching a midget do a caber toss)

No Holds Barred: The Undertaker def. Triple H in 29:26
(Not the five star classic some were hailing it as, but still a match of the year contender, surpassed by Christian/Del Rio a month later, and then Cena/Punk at MITB and Summerslam. Just a wild brawl with an insanely intense last few minutes. Undertaker springing back from the dregs of death to make Triple H tap out was heart-stopping excitement, and it pretty much saved the show. 19-0)

John Morrison/Trish Stratus/Snooki def. Dolph Ziggler/Michelle McCool/Layla in 4:00
(I’ll say it: Snooki + WWE’s make-up team = mildly attractive. She filled out those shorts nicely, even if I find her repulsive otherwise. Morrison snubbed Trish for much of the post-match, out of protest for Melina not getting to be on the show, and would fall out of favor with WWE entirely, leaving by year’s end. Actually, factoring in Layla’s near year-long injury, and Dolph is the only one still there)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: The Miz def. John Cena in 16:10
(If there’s one thing Miz doesn’t know how to do, it’s put on an epic match. Pedestrian, Raw-like, and building to nothing exciting, the match ended in a double countout before Rock restarted it, just so he could screw Cena with a Rock Bottom. Then Miz, after winning, got one too, and Rock celebrated to end the show. Really, that was the ending. The Seinfeld finale was better conceived)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
Rock and Cena would immediately begin to hype their one on one match for a year later, but the fans were still coming to grips with the show that they’d just been fed. Bryan/Sheamus bumped? Edge opening? Rock rambling in horrible segments? Cole wrestling for fifteen minutes? Snoop Dogg hosting a sing-off? No title changes? SNOOKI?!?!

Four of the matches (Edge/Alberto, Rey/Cody, Punk/Orton, Taker/HHH) were all WrestleMania worthy, and keep this from being a complete clunker. That said, there were so many head-scratching decisions involved with WrestleMania XXVII, you’d think Vince McMahon was bound and gagged backstage while Vince Russo and Herb Abrams ran amok with the booking sheet.

As for the show’s most enduring image, it has to be The Rock. It was supposed to be, theoretically, a night for Cena and Edge, two longtime heroes, to wage war with two upstart villains, Del Rio and Miz, in championship matches, but they were mere appetizers. Rock leading the fans in a chant exhibition, and then cavorting around with Mae Young and Peewee Herman…..this was somehow necessary, according to WWE.

Rock standing tall to close the show is the official portrait, and that pretty much sums up the show’s downfall.

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

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WrestleMania 27 Results – The Rock Gets Revenge, Triple H Taps

April 03, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

It was the old guard that stole WrestleMania 27. The Undertaker vs. Triple H will go down as a WrestleMania classic. The Rock made a WrestleMania moment of his own to close the show and Stone Cold Steve Austin delivered a pair of stunners that had the sold out crowd rocking!

The Rock was introduced as the Guest Host to open up the show. No need to wait to see the Great One right? The Rock left his suit at the press conference and hit the ring in full workout attire. He didn’t get the insane reaction he has been getting on RAW but that could have been the acoustics of the big arena.

The Rock rallied up the crowd with his promo. Rock chanted “wrestle” and the crowd chanted “mania” (Guess he wasn’t in on the recent meeting.) The Rock cut a brief promo on John Cena who the crowd booed big time. No real mention of The Miz. The gist of the promo though was The Rock being a cheerleader and cutting a very standard “Rock promo” and telling the fans how great WrestleMania was going to be.

This was fine for an opening segment but definitely the weakest promo he cut since his return. Nothing of substance here, just the usual catchphrases to hype the crowd.

Edge defeated Alberto Del Rio to retain the WWE world title. This was the first match to kick off the show (Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan actually opened the show but it wasn’t televised). Wow, that was different. This was the first time a WWE world title match was ever slotted first on a WrestleMania. Most reports had Sheamus vs. Bryan opening so this must have been changed. Also, it should be noted that Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were on commentary which was kind of weird. Cole was in his Cole Mine box.
At one point Michael Cole points out that Edge rarely puts himself in danger. Has he seen those TLC matches?

Edge pins Alberto Del Rio after a spear. This was a great opener with lots of action. There were a lot of near falls in this one, especially for an opening match. I would have liked to see Alberto walk away with the belt here. However, as I pointed in my preview he has been struggling a bit lately. Honestly I think that low rating in a match against John Cena on RAW a few weeks ago sunk him.

There was also no Christian heel turn either as expected. That one surprises me. Why bother have him go over on Del Rio the last few weeks if a) Del Rio list and b) he didn’t turn. At one point after the match Edge and Christian each had lead pipes and destroyed Del Rio’s car. It looked like Christian was going to turn around and nail Edge but nope, business as usual.

Cody Rhodes pinned Rey Mysterio with Crossroads. Rey Mysterio came out in a real cool Captain America outfit at WrestleMania 27. There was a really cool spot in the match where Cody held Rey up from the second turnbuckle in a vertical suplex for what seemed like over a minute. Cody tried to work over the injured knee for most of the match but never seemed to get a great opportunity. Cody did remove the knee brace. Rey hit a real nice moonsault block during the match for a near fall. The finish Rey go for a tope, Cody removed his mask outside the ring and nailed Rey behind the referee’s back which set up the Crossroads and the pinfall. This was another great match and the guys got a lot more time than I expected.

Snoop Dogg did a backstage segment “auditioning WWE superstars” to go on tour. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper made a cameo otherwise his was a real momentum killer. I’d be pretty angry if I paid three figures for a WrestleMania ticket and had to sit through this. I am pretty angry at paying $55 to see this. The finale here was Hornswoggle rapping.

Kane, Big Show, Santino Marella, and Kofi Kingston defeated The Corre (Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Justin Gabriel, and Heath Slater). The Big Show pinned Heath Slater. Kofi Kingston was a late (and pleasant) replacement after the Corre took out Kozlov in an angle during AXXESS. This one was over quick. I was hoping to see Wade Barrett get the fall but it wasn’t to be.

The Rock was back and had a conversation with Eve Torres. Mae Young was back and The Rock made some old jokes at her expense. Then The Rock turned around and was face to face with Steve Austin. This was a pretty cool yet uneventful moment which saw the two end the segment by shaking hands.

Randy Orton pinned CM Punk with the RKO. CM Punk worked over Randy Oron’s injured leg for most of the mach. An odd spot saw Randy Orton suplerplex Punk after having his leg worked over for 10 minutes. Even stranger is that nobody acknowledged Cowboy Bob during the spot. The wrestling psychology here was just awful as Orton would go from selling the leg to no selling between moves. I guess the apple fell very far from that tree. This was an okay match, nothing great, very deliberate and slow paced at times. There was a cool spot that saw Orton go for the RKO out of nowhere and Punk avoid it. The next one got him and downed him for the pinfall.

The Rock was backstage again and met “John Cena’s number one fan” who turned out to be Pee Wee Herman. This was actually pretty good. Gene Okerlund was back there with both of them in full Cena garb. The segment ended with Pee Wee disowning Cena and joining Team Bring It.

Howard Finkel made it 27-0 and introduced the 2011 WWE Hall of Fame class. Bob Armstrong got a really nice surprising pop. Abdullah the Butcher looks like he dropped about 60 pounds. HBK of course got the best ovation although nothing close to what Stone Cold got at WrestleMania 25.

The anonymous G.M. chimed in after the match and awarded Michael Cole the win via disqualification. Swagger and Lawler wrestled early on as Cole sat in the Cole Mine. Cole in that Cole Mine was actually pretty damn funny. Cole’s selling was also great. Lawler climbed into the Cole Mine and beat on Cole. He finally dragged him out and ran his head into the G.M. post. Swagger finally took Lawler out as Austin had his back turned.

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Cole’s first move was a baseball slide as Lawler laid on the ring apron. Swagger applied the ankle lock outside the ring on Lawler which set up Cole’s offense. Cole worked on Lawler’s leg. It got pretty stale midway and the crowd started to boo and turn on the match (reminded me a lot of Bret vs. Vince). Cole even pulled the strap down to mock the King and applied a version of the ankle lock.

Swagger threw the towel in when Lawler pulled the strap down and Austin used the towel to wipe himself down. Swagger got in Austin’s face and got the stunner. Cole got in Austin’s face and Austin pushed him into Lawler’s right hand. Lawler even pulled out the dropkick, which had great height. Lawler dropped the fist, had the three count, but pulled Cole back up. Lawler finished with the ankle lock. Austin called the match and awarded the win to Lawler which would be temporary.

Michael Cole wrestled in amateur wrestling gear which was pretty freaking awesome! Cole actually came out cutting a promo on Lawler and JR with no music which was different. Steve Austin came out on his four wheeler to a huge pop. Austin chased Cole into the Cole Mine. Jerry Lawler got practically no reaction walking out which is really odd following Cole’s great opening promo.

Jim Ross finally made his way back to the WrestleMania broadcast booth for the first time since WrestleMania 25. It couldn’t have come any sooner as the commentary was really awful tonight thanks to the Cole-Lawler dynamic. Booker was a bit rusty but a welcome change indeed.

I was really surprised at how little the crowd seemed into this match. They were way into Stone Cole but nothing else, which surprises me after their highly rated segments. At one point in the middle of the match the crowd started to boo and I even heard a few “boring” chants. I’d be shocked if they brought these two back.  This was definitely not a WrestleMania classic and was easily the worst of the night.

Booker T came in after the match and Austin wound up giving him a stunner. Well they did feud back in 2001 and Austin isn’t a forgetful man. Remember that supermarket brawl?

The G.M. chimed in during the celebration and reversed the decision and awarded Cole the win via disqualification citing Austin being a partial referee. Austin wound up giving Josh Matthews a stunner after he made the announcement. The good news here is that this leaves only Lawler and JR to call the rest of WrestleMania. There is a God!

The Undertaker defeated Triple H in a No Holds Barred Match. Triple H came out to Metallica “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in a very cool ancient king costume. I know he has a ton of haters but the guy still has one of the best entrances in the business. The Undertaker wasn’t outdone and had a real cool entrance himself. Triple H got the second biggest pop of the night up to this point besides Austin and that includes The Rock. The crowd was really into this one.

The match started off as a brawl, just like their WresleMania 17 match. Less than a minute in and they hit the floor. Triple H tackled Undertaker through the Cole Mine so I guess that angle is officially over. Both guys went back into the ring brawling. For all of their injuries both guys looked really mobile early on.

The Undertaker went “old school” but Triple H took a page out of his mentor Ric Flair’s WrestleMania X8 game plan and reversed it. They went back to the floor which saw Triple H toss the dead man into the barricade. Five minutes in and both announcers’ tables were in play. The Undertaker reversed an attempted pedigree on the table with a big back drop. Hunter flew off the table to the floor in what will probably be the WrestleMania moment of the night. Lots of action for the first five minutes.

The Undertaker hit an awesome suicide dive onto Hunter which will give their previous WrestleMania moment a run for the money. The match slowed down quite a bit at this point. These guys are throwing everything out there. Triple H reversed a charge and gave The Undertaker a cool spine buster onto the table. This is probably the best WrestleMania match Triple H has ever had.

The Undertaker got a close fall back in the ring with a chokeslam. Triple H caught The Undertaker with a second spine buster in the ring for a close fall. Triple H brought a chair into the ring which was countered by Taker. Taker used it and nailed Hunter on the back. Hunter nailed a pedigree out of nowhere that got a count so close I thought the match was over.

These two never slowed down. Undertaker got a real close fall with a Last Ride powerbomb. Fifteen minutes in and The Undertaker slashed the throat calling for the end. Triple H kicked out of a tombstone and the place went crazy. He is really Superman isn’t he? Well JR says it is “amazing will” so we’ll go with that.

Triple H changed the tide with a DDT on the steel chair. Triple H was definitely on the receiving end a lot more than The Undertaker in the match. Hunter nailed a second pedigree which saw Taker barely kick out to another pop. This match has definitely stolen the show.

The announcers started putting over damage to The Undertaker’s neck. Could the streak be ending? Taker kicks out of yet another pedigree. No, HE is Superman! Trips returned the favor and nailed The Undertaker on his back with the chair. JR wants to nominate the chair to the WWE Hall of Fame. No less deserving than Drew Carey so why not?

Both guys finally slow down at around the 25 minute mark. Triple H yelling at The Undertaker to “stay down!” Triple H nails The Undertaker on the head (now that is how to take a protected chair shot) in the center of the ring but doesn’t cover. The Game continues yelling at Taker to stay down and tells him to “just die.” The Undertaker responds by grabbing Hunter’s throat. The Undertaker can barely stand.

Triple H his a tombstone on The Undertaker and yes, Taker kicks out. I admit I thought it was over at that point. Triple H in shock. This is good but at the same time it is getting a bit ridiculous. Out comes the sledgehammer from underneath the ring at about the 28 minute mark. Taker instead catches a hesitant Hunter with the gogoplata out of nowhere. Triple H can’t find the hammer. He finds it and drops it. The Game taps at around 30:00!

This match rivaled both HBK vs. Undertaker WrestleMania matches and was arguably better. Some will argue that the amount of near falls got a bit ridiculous and it did, but it was no different than HBK vs. Undertaker from WrestleMania 25.  This was just a tremendous match and I would be absolutely shocked if they don’t come back with a rematch next year with Career vs. Streak. The Undertaker had to be taken to the back with a cart without moving.

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Trish Stratus and John Morrison defeated Dolph Ziggler and LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool). Good luck following that one kids. Vickie Guerrero announced her group. Snooki got a very tepid reaction coming out. It looked like half the crowd went to the concession stands. In all fairness to these guys and girls, anyone would have had a hard time grabbing the crowd after the last match.

At one point Stratus and McCool fell off the ropes to the outside and it didn’t look like a planned spot. It ended up well but that is something that could have turned ugly.

Snooki was booed big time when she finally tagged in. She came in doing a hand spring elbow that believe it or not looked pretty good. She pinned McCool with a cartwheel into a splash. Snooki actually won back some of the crowd with the hand spring. This one was over pretty quick.

The Miz defeated John Cena to retain the WWE championship. Cena came out to a gospel choir and had a video longer than the last match about God and praying. The cynic in me thinks that the WWE pulled this thinking fans wouldn’t boo a guy coming out to a gospel choir and a video about praying. Think again WWE! Cena was booed and booed worse than Snooki. It should also be noted that Cena has dropped the purple colors in favor of a more masculine red.

The crowd argued quite a bit early on who sucked more. The Miz does his best Triple H imitation and tells Cena to “stay down” in the early going.  Back and forth basic stuff between both guys early. The crowd isn’t into this one at all early on. Cena and Miz turn it up five minutes in as Cena nails a leg drop off the top rope.

The guys missed a horrible spot in the middle of the match with Cena seemingly falling out of nowhere. I can’t recall seeing a botched spot that bad in a WrestleMania main event. Hey, it happens but talk about bad timing. And yes, this match is really disappointing in terms of WrestleMania headliners but let’s face it, the best is yet to come.

Cena escapes an Attitude Adjustment 9 minutes into the match. Cena going for all of his finishers at the 10 minute mark and The Miz has avoided them all. The Miz removed the top turnbuckle. Cena finally gets an STF at the 11 minute mark but The Miz uses the ropes to break the hold.

Miz hits the Skull Crushing Finale after Alex Riley throws Cena into the exposed turnbuckle. Cena kicks out. Miz goes for another  and Cena reverses and throws him into the referee by accident at about the 12 minute mark. Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment but no referee. Alex Riley nails Cena with the briefcase but Cena kicks out. Crowd starting to come alive. Miz kicks out of a big Attitude Adjustment. The announcers are trying to put over his resilience. Good luck.

Both guys outside the ring. Cena clotheslined The Miz into the crowd. Cena proceeds to tackle him and the two hit the floor, although the WWE cameras missed it. Both guys are counted out and The Miz retains. I smell something cooking!

The Rock finally returns and the crowd is happy to see him. The RAW G.M. chimes in. The Rock reads the email and mocks the G.M. The Rock says WrestleMania is not over. The Rock as Guest Host restarts the match and makes it No DQ. The Rock says it is time to give the people what they want. The match is back on!

The match restarts and The Rock gives John Cena the Rock  Bottom! The fans go nuts chanting “Rocky!” The Miz takes advantage and covers John Cena for the win. A predictable, yet exciting finish to the match. It seemed as if the fans were just waiting for The Rock to come out and do something.

The Rock and The Miz had a staredown which saw The Rock hit the ring and lay the smack down on the WWE champion. The Rock dropped a People’s Elbow on The Miz and then hit the turnbuckles to celebrate.

Overall I’d say it was a pretty good WrestleMania. The WWE definitely made a mistake not closing the show with Triple H vs. The Undertaker. Even with The Rock, the main-event still felt flat having to follow Hunter and Taker. The undercard was pretty good with Cody vs. Rey being particularly fun as well as Edge vs. Del Rio. Cole vs. Lawler was terrible and went way too long. John Cena is a lost cause right now and either needs to go full heel or rescue a few babies from burning buildings on RAW to get some fans back.

As great as I think the stuff has been with The Rock and Cena I think they overplayed their hand just a little bit. I think fans expected the finish and Rock Bottom which really killed a lot of the match. In my opinion, Cena and Rock should have been kept separate until WrestleMania. That way the fans wouldn’t know what to expect.

The Rock is scheduled for RAW tomorrow night. This all has to end at some point with The Rock vs. John Cena. I hope they don’t water it down with a 3-Way and throw The Miz in. At this point I don’t think there is any way out of this other than the big match. Maybe Cena can do something drastic tomorrow to buy some time and “injure” The Rock until he comes back. Either way tomorrow night is going to be a very interesting night.

The ending really did kill for the show for a lot of people. I have talked to a few friends that hated it purely on the way the show ended, last match, etc. I get it and I agree that it sucked. I just think that if you look at the entire show it really wasn’t that bad and was probably one of the better ones in recent memory.

Finally I can’t say enough about The Undertaker vs. Triple H. As stated above, I think it may be slightly better than any of the WrestleMania Michaels vs. Undertaker matches. It was easily Triple H’s best Mania match. The finish left the story wide open for a rematch next year. The prospects of a year long build similar to HBK vs. Undertaker WrestleMania 26 are very enticing.

And their WrestleMania 28 rematch can’t come soon enough.

Full WrestleMania 27 results
Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan ended in a no contest (dark match)
Edge retained over Alberto Del Rio in a WWE world title match
Cody Rhodes pinned Rey Mysterio
Kane, Big Show, Santino Marella, and Kofi Kingston beat The Corre (Wade Barrett, Ezekiel Jackson, Justin Gabriel, and Heath Slater)
Randy Orton pinned CM Punk
Michael Cole defeated Jerry Lawler via disqualification
The Undertaker defeated Triple H in a No Holds Barred match
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Trish Stratus and John Morrison defeated Dolph Ziggler and LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool)
The Miz pinned John Cena to retain the WWE championship

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