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Dolph Ziggler Establishes Himself as Go-To Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Daniel Bryan Talks Injury and WrestleMania 31 Return

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

Daniel Bryan has remained relatively quiet over the last several months. Bryan has been sidelined since May with an injury. The former WWE champ gave an update recently and according to Bryan, he won’t be back in action any time soon.

Bryan’s story may be one of the most heartbreaking I can recall in years, sans death of course. Bryan ascended on the independents as arguably the best worker outside of the WWE for years. Released twice, Bryan got a third chance and organically became the hottest star in the company. Weeks after Bryan finally got the push we all waited to see, he had to relinquish his belt, his push, and maybe even his career due to a terrible injury.

Since relinquishing his belt months ago, Bryan has remained relatively silent and has all but been banished from WWE television with the exception of mentions during Brie Bella’s matches. Rumors have been spreading for weeks about Bryan’s future and the American Dragon has finally set the record straight on a SI.com podcast.

Bryan told Sports Illustrated that while he is doing okay, he just does not have the strength in his arm to get back into a WWE ring.

“The funny thing is that I actually feel fine. There is nothing wrong with how I feel and the pain is fine. The problem is weakness.

“But given what we do and its entertainment, people rely on us to be stable for each other. It’s just dangerous right now for my opponent and dangerous for me to not have that strength.”

“Before my neck surgery and even after it, I have had a lot of weakness in my right hand. It’s kind of funny because if I was an MMA fighter, the weakness wouldn’t actually be that bad, it would just be an advantage for my opponent,” Bryan continued. “I’m not in a lot of pain, we just can’t figure out how to get the strength back.”

The good news here is that Bryan isn’t suffering with pain as some had thought he was. Bryan appears to be fine and it would seem that he could live life pain-free as a non-wrestler. Unfortunately you don’t work as hard as Bryan did to reach the top and accept this. I am fairly certain from a psychological standpoint it must be a terrible thing to live with.

The big question everyone in pro wrestling is wondering is whether Bryan will return in time for WrestleMania 31. Bryan was WrestleMania 30, even if the WWE wiped away his appearance on the NBC special. A return at Mania would be absolutely huge and let’s be honest about Mania. It isn’t looking like anything special this far out. A return at Mania, even in a match with a mid-card could be huge for everyone, especially Bryan since Mania is close to his favorite city.

“Oh my god I hope I will return by then. I would be so disappointed if I wasn’t back. I would be heartbroken if I couldn’t wrestle in San Francisco next year.”

The one takeaway I have from this podcast is why was this scoop given to SI.com and not the WWE? The WWE is struggling right now with the Network and instead of promoting a Sheamus vs. Rusev match, why not promote “the first live interview” with Daniel Bryan? The company could get the scoop and even invite fans to send in questions through social media. I think it is fair to say that the company is doing whatever it can to keep Bryan away from their fans and that is just a damned shame for everyone. The WWE blew a big opportunity here in my opinion.

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Daniel Bryan’s Career In Serious Jeopardy

October 31, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Pro wrestling’s Cinderella story of 2014 may not have a happy ending. A recent reports suggests that Daniel Bryan will miss an extended amount of time due to surgery. Even worse, Bryan’s absence could be indefinite.

Dave Meltzer broke the story in the latest issue of the Wrestling Observer. Meltzer has been right out front in recent months with Bryan reports and updated. Meltzer’s latest update is a big punch in the gut to Bryan fans that were holding out hope for a miracle. According to Meltzer, Bryan’s future is in major question.

“We were told there is no timetable for his return nor a guarantee he will return. There have been reports that he’s going to get Tommy John surgery, an elbow procedure common among baseball pitchers, which has a long recovery time. WWE officially has been quiet about his situation publicly but wrestlers have talked about him needing major elbow surgery.”

That is just devastating news. According to Meltzer on a past podcast, Bryan could have had surgery months ago. Doctors told Bryan he should hold out and give therapy a try before opting for surgery. The therapy didn’t work and Bryan will now have to have surgery. The kicker to this is that if Bryan would have had surgery months ago as he originally intended, he would be back in plenty of time for WrestleMania, if he could return.

I can’t remember many other wrestlers in Bryan’s spot who finally ascended to the top and faced a career-ending injury just as he started his push. Magnum TA would probably be the closes comparison, although the circumstances are entirely different. Plus, you would have to have had Magnum finally beat Ric Flair to become NWA champion and then suffer his accident in order to give this an accurate comparison.

There is certainly a major void without Bryan. The WWE babyface roster is probably the most shallow it has been in years. John Cena is it with Dean Ambrose now bumped back down to the upper mid-card with his Bray Wyatt feud. Sure there is the Randy Orton turn in the works but that is no answer. The company is counting on Roman Reigns to be the next Cena but Reigns is on the shelf due to an injury as well. CM Punk is gone and not coming back anytime soon. You can’t tell me that the company doesn’t miss Bryan.

It’s a shame because we may never know what could have been. The company gave Bryan the ball at WrestleMania 30, at the expense of Batista who was promised the WWE title upon his return. The working plan all along appeared to be a Brock Lesnar vs. Bryan match at SummerSlam but what would have happened if Bryan remained hot? The Yes Movement was at its peak. I don’t think it is illogical to think that the Yes Movement could have grown and Bryan could have thrived as the top WWE dog.

At this point the most important thing is to get Bryan back in the ring. All you can hope at this point is that Bryan can rehabilitate his arm and get back to work at some point next year. The booking will take care of himself and whether Bryan is buried or mismanaged doesn’t make a difference as long as he is back in the ring leading the Yes Movement.

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WWE: Bryan Injury, Punk Deal and Other Thoughts

October 31, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

How will the WWE deal with news that Daniel Bryan will need more surgery on his already surgically repaired neck that will still sideline the superstar indefinitely? The latest Daniel Bryan news has the WWE and its fans wondering when Bryan will get back in the ring.

The former WrestleMania headliner went out with an injury this past summer. He ended up having a very low risk neck surgery that would allow him to get issues repaired. Surgeons found a few problems, but they were able to help Bryan with the issue. The problem was that this surgery seemed to cause Bryan an issue with his UCL.

The Ulnar Collateral Ligament is a big part of one’s arm. It helps us in picking things up, and when damaged, it can affect our strength and motion in our arm. The best and really only surgery to have for this issue is Tommy John Surgery. The surgery is popular among baseball pitchers who throw out their arm. Bryan had issues with his UCL more than he should have after the surgery so doctors, who didn’t want to put Bryan through another surgery, sent him to physical therapy where he had reportedly done well, according to his wife.

Bryan was, and to some extent, still is, the best thing to come along in the WWE in some time. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt have all shown moments of greatness, which gives the company hope, but when it comes to the fans and their support of faces within the WWE, Bryan and his “YES!” mantra may be the biggest thing to come along since the days of Hulkamania and the bet character to make his appearance in a WWE ring since Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock.

Yes, that is my opinion.

PUNK SIGNS (MERCHANDISE CONTRACT) WITH WWE

While the WWE Universe (if that title is still used) deals with the news of Bryan, the WWE made an announcement that it had reached an agreement with CM Punk on merchandising of the former WWE superstar.

According to an Oct. 27 report from Wrestling Inc,  CM Punk is back in the good graces of the WWE as the promotion has reached a deal with him and his legal team to sell merchandise bearing his name and likeness. The WWE has not released financial figures on the historic new agreement with Punk, and it should also be noted that Punk has not signed any kind of new performer contract to return to the ring.

Last month, the WWE pulled all CM Punk-themed merchandise from their online shop, after the former superstar served them with a 22-page letter from his legal team. The letter essentially asked the WWE to pay Punk for the royalties he felt he was owed for the merchandise the promotion sold with his name and likeness on it. In response, the WWE held a clearance sale on all Punk items, and then stopped selling his merchandise at all just a few days later.

Because this is a contract with Punk’s name on it, I am sure there is plenty of speculation as to what happens next. We really do not know. There is no word about anything else being discussed between the company and Punk. While his wife AJ Lee remains the center of the Divas Division and fans continually cheer his name in arenas, Punk appears to be enjoying life away from the ring.

WHAT TO DO WITH SURVIVOR SERIES

When I heard about the traditional Survivor Series match to be held at the pay-per-view event, I was almost giddy like a school kid watching Saturday Night’s Main Event.

There is some real potential in this match.

The company is still dealing with how to work with a small quantity of faces, almost if it was twisting in the wind. Currently, John Cena, Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler the three main faces of the company at the present time. Bryan is hurt, Roman Reigns is recuperating from hernia surgery and the company has not brought in new talent to bridge the gap. Ryback came back last week and looks to be a face who could gain momentum again with the fans. He is not the answer – yet. Sheamus is now a mid-level talent who is being used ineffectively in a program with The Miz. Personally, I would love to see Damien Sandow get a push as a face.

I like the potential of Cena and Seth Rollins, but only if Cena puts Rollins over. The feud brewing between Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt will be nothing like we have seen before. But there is still a disconnection between the current feuds and how they build up to Cena saving the company in “Sting-like” fashion.

This is where someone like Punk or Bryan coming to the aid of Cena makes the most sense and would make for a killer pay-per-view.

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Can Daniel Bryan’s Body Make it in the WWE?

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

Injuries and professional wrestling go hand-in-hand. Professional wrestlers sacrifice their bodies for the fans and the passion of the sport. Their high flying moves from the top of the turnbuckles to flying over the top rope onto an opponent outside the ring. With risk comes reward for some. For others, their bodies are too brittle and they injure themselves a lot to the point where they’re never the same again. Which leads to my question: Can Daniel Bryan & Wade Barrett’s bodies last in the WWE?

In the NFL, teams draft quarterbacks to lead their respective franchise. They represent the franchise. They’re paid millions of dollars to lead their team to success. If you have a quarterback like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Philip Rivers they have had success and were healthy during the primes of their careers. Yes, Brady & Manning had a serious injury but they were already established quarterbacks.

n the other end of the string, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford hasn’t been so lucky. He suffered another year-ending injury during the preseason. Two season ending injuries since he was drafted in 2010. His body is not built for the NFL. It’s a shame because he had potential but can he come back and be successful? Nobody knows but the reality of the situation is the St. Louis Rams have to plan for the future and consider drafting a quarterback.

To me the Sam Bradford situation is similar to Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett. These two wrestlers still have potential to become bigger stars. The WWE fans love them. He’s had injuries prior to the “Yes Movement” that kep him out of action for a while. Daniel Bryan was still popular but arguably mid-card wrestler at best at that time. The “Hell No” tag team phase with Kane was one of the best angles I’ve seen within the past decade. 2014 came around and out of nowhere his popularity sky rocketed. I had never seen a crowd reaction so passionate with the “Yes!” chants. The WWE needs new faces to follow behind and eventually into John Cena’s shoes. Daniel Bryan could be one of them. He’s had the crowd in the palm of his hands as well as the national media. The dream became a reality winning the WWE title at Wrestlemania 30 last spring for Daniel Bryan.

Unfortunately, the momentum crashed when Daniel Bryan was sidelined with a neck injury. Now there are rumors that he needs Tommy John surgery that would put him out of commission for a while. That means he may be out not only for the Royal Rumble but quite possibly Wrestlemania 31. Bryan’s also considering alternative medicine to remedy his health issues; acupuncture.

The WWE Brass has a dilemma on their hands. How do you handle Daniel Bryan going forward when he’s finally back at 100%? He’ll still have his following who expect to see the WWE title back around his waist. But does he have to change his wrestling style? No more high flying moves? Rely on scientific low risk maneuvers? Hopefully someone within the WWE creative team, management, and Daniel Bryan himself will figure that out. He’s a top star and the WWE want to make sure their top stars are healthy. Knowing Daniel Bryan from watching Raw and behind the scenes he won’t give up mentally but how much longer can his body last?

Let’s not wish Daniel Bryan a speedy recovery but let’s be patient and wish him thorough recovery however long it takes. Daniel Bryan’s a WWE star. We want to see more him. And it will definitely be worth the wait to see Daniel Bryan back in the ring. Yes!

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No CM Punk, No Daniel Bryan, No Roman Reigns: Who Steps Up in the WWE?

September 30, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Like many other wrestling fans, I am at a loss over the lack of superstar talent in the WWE right now. The reuse of wrestling angles, the misguidance of the Authority program, the lack of a tag team division at the moment and the disrespect shown to Randy Orton has me scratching my head of late. Maybe that is why it is past 2 am and I am writing this to you now. Or maybe I need some hobby to keep interest past midnight like SLEEP.

The WWE is about to embark on what appears to be something new for John Cena. While there needs to be a new challenger to Brock Lesnar and the WWE World Title (Randy Orton), the 15-time WWE Champion twists in the wind, waiting for another destiny. With the crop of current talent that still includes Bray Wyatt, Sheamus, Cesaro, The Miz and Dolph Ziggler, it will be the two of the younger minions in the company who will do battle with the WWE’s cash cow – John Cena.

Can both Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose take the money maker over the edge?

As fans, we never want to see our favorite stars get injured and lose time from the ring. We never want to see our heroes leave the company due to injury or retirement and when they do, we are all too quick to try and replace them. We hope out loud that Dolph Ziggler becomes Shawn Michaels or Randy Orton becomes as good as his father was or that Chris Jericho becomes Roddy Piper.

In a perfect world, those wrestlers move right into place and the world carries on as if nothing ever happened.

No one has replaced Ric Flair and no one has become Harley Race. I think the WWE has a while to go until someone can actually replace the wrestling greats we grew up watching at noon on Saturdays.

But in reality, if there is no CM Punk, No Undertaker, No, Roman Reigns and no Daniel Bryan wrestling in the company at the moment, who in the hell or the WWE for that matter, takes the stick and moves forward.

Sting has not “arrived” yet and the thought of Wyatt winning world gold left the building when the hourglass ran out of sand. This is a sad time for the WWE. It needs Rollins and Ambrose now more than ever.

The question remains, however, can two young and exciting superstars coexist with a crowd favorite, the most recognized WWE superstar ever, and still get over. Cena is not the easiest guy to work with and we all know when it comes to changing stripes, The Champ has a hard time playing with all the kids in the sandbox.

Facts are facts.

Cena once said that CM Punk was the only wrestler in the company that was worthy of being in the same ring as him and the only one who could give him a solid match. While it was a huge statement, almost cavalier (ok, totally cavalier), it may have been true. Matches with The Rock were awful. He and Orton put on a great show. Daniel Bryan’s matches with Cena have been very good. But for now, who else is going to give him a push to put him over in some regard?

It must be both Rollins and Ambrose.

For all the talent these two have, they have to give more. Ambrose could actually take the Punk character (the voice of the voiceless) and run with it. Rollins could be another Edge – if not better. The WWE is drowning in poor storylines (Rusev vs. Everyone) and the Divas with Bella vs. Bella and Paige vs. AJ can only get you so far.

It all falls on Ambrose and Rollins. If the two former mat mates can produce as much with Cena as they do against each other, then the WWE can feed off of the adrenaline for the remainder of the year until the Royal Rumble. If not, then the company will have proven once again that it has destroyed something great – Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage great. That cannot be recaptured, but it sure can reused, repackaged and redistributed so it looks fresh.

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Batista Talks Failed WWE Run, Daniel Bryan Rumors and WrestleMania 30

September 02, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

I can’t imagine anyone as frustrated with the WWE in 2014 as Batista. His return at another time would have been big, yet timing wasn’t on his side this past January. Batista spoke on his frustrating six-month run to Chris Jericho on a recent podcast.

Put yourself in Batista’s skinny jeans for a second. Here is a guy that left the WWE at the top of his game and had a superstar run for several years before leaving for movies. Anyone else in that position would have been poised for a big return. That didn’t happen. Batista’s run and subsequent run will go down as one of the most disappointing in WWE history and he isn’t happy about it.

Batista is currently a star in the gigantic movie smash, “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Life is much better for Big Dave in Hollywood as opposed to the WWE where he received loud “Boo-tista” chants from large crowds. Batista has now had a couple of months to shake it off, but that doesn’t mean he has forgotten it.

Daniel Bryan got red hot as Batista returned. The fans saw Batista is an obstacle in front of Bryan’s ascension. Batista was originally scheduled to win the WWE title at WrestleMania. When plans changed to Bryan he says he was okay with that. What he wasn’t okay with is how the 24 hours between Mania and the following RAW went down.

This is what I was bent out of shape about. I loved the match and we put him over in the best way. I mean, you couldn’t… we threw out all the bells and whistles, everything up to the point of me tapping out. But the next night he came back and they didn’t want him selling.
It wasn’t his fault, Daniel’s an incredible worker, he knows what he’s doing, he totally gets it. But they didn’t want him to come back selling, which drove me nuts, man, because we beat the hell out of the guy. The guy is getting pulled off on a stretcher, he gets off the stretcher, comes back and wins but is somehow mysteriously is all healed up the next night. But they didn’t want him selling and even at the end of the night we ended up giving him a bunch of finishes but he was right back up.

That kind of stuff irks me to no end, man. It’s crap to me. It’s garbage. That’s not what we know, man.”
He has a very valid point whether you like him or not. Quite frankly what he proposes here about Bryan selling those injuries would have helped everyone. Bryan would have seemed tougher to fans who saw this guy push through broken bones and sore body parts to win the title, and Batista and Randy Orton are kept strong. I can’t disagree with what he is saying at all here.

Batista also addressed the rumor that he refused to put Daniel Bryan over at Payback in what some reported was the planned main-event.

It’s like, what else can I do, man? I was still getting grief from a lot of fans. There was even some rumor got started that I wouldn’t put Daniel Bryan over over the next PPV and they were pissed at me about that. ‘Who do you think you are?’ And I was like, ‘I just tapped out to the guy at WrestleMania, are you kidding me?!?‘”

I blogged extensively about what went wrong with Batista’s comeback. I said numerous times he should have returned as a heel. Many people forget how awesome his heel run was that capped off his last WWE tour of duty. On top of that you had the Daniel Bryan factor and anyone could have seen that Batista wasn’t the hero fans were looking for. Well anyone but Vince McMahon and Triple H.

They thought it would be better if they advertised it (his return), not sure if they thought more people would tune in. That’s why I actually made my comeback the week before in Dayton, Ohio. Ha ha ha, that’s where you want to make your return. (Sarcastically) ‘I want to make my big comeback in Dayton, Ohio’. They could have cared less, they cheered for like two minutes.

It was just bad right off the bat. They had me coming back… ‘so, we want you to come out and do this thing with Hunter and Steph and Randy’ and I was like, ‘it’s my first night back, you can’t give me five minutes in the ring by myself, me and the fans’?

Yeah, and I told them from the beginning (bringing me back as a babyface) was not going to work. ‘Oh, yeah, they miss you, they miss you, they love you’. I was like, ‘no, that’s going to last for like 30 seconds. They want to hate me and I’m good at that, you know, I’m good at being the guy they want to hate.’ It was a struggle creatively, like right off the bat. It went on for a while and then they finally started working with me a little bit.”

One thing I can say about Big Dave in the way assessed his run is that the guy has a great sense of self-awareness. I can almost guarantee you that most guys in Batista’s position would not have been this honest on such a failed run. Maybe that changes next time he comes back? Maybe he doesn’t come back? All I know is that I still think there is money in him yet it’s up to the WWE to use him right and at this point I have no confidence that it will happen.

The entire interview is worth a listen to so check it out over at Podcast One.

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Daniel Bryan Not A Fan Of The Brie-Megan Miller Storyline

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

Daniel Bryan is not known for rocking the boat yet even he is not happy with his current angle with wife Brie Bella and he isn’t afraid to tell you. Bryan was recently asked about the angle and the former champion spoke for most of us when he called the storyline flat out “stupid.”

I can’t imagine watching RAW last Monday night who didn’t groan at the new twist in the Stephanie McMahon-Brie Bella feud. The new twist was a revelation that Daniel Bryan is having an affair with his physical therapist Megan Miller. Immediate comparisons were drawn to TNA’s Claire Lynch angle although I think that is a bit of an exaggeration. Regardless, the new layer was not well received within social media and it shouldn’t surprise you that Daniel Bryan found the whole thing downright silly.

Bryan was recently interviewed by IGN.com about his wife’s Brie main-event push and her rise to the top of RAW. Bryan is incredibly proud of his wife but when it comes to the Megan Miller twist, he isn’t on board. Bryan called the storyline “stupid” and was asked to expand on that by the interview.

Yeah, to me, it’s groan-worthy. I don’t think it added anything to the story. It was just like, “Ugh!” But, you know, they do what they do, and you just gotta roll with the punches. It’s funny, because I feel like sometimes you just have to overcome these things more so than anything else. Like, Brie and Stephanie have to overcome that flaw. To me, that was a flaw in the story. The story was so good, and then here’s this flaw in it. But it’s whatever. It doesn’t hurt my feelings or anything, you know? It’s entertainment. It’s not real, so okay.

He’s absolutely right. This is yet another case of the WWE getting too cute with a compelling story. In defense of the WWE, the angle was losing RAW viewers by the week so they did need to do something. However, I can’t imagine that anyone really thought this was the answer. It’s a big flaw in the story and while it may be a bit unfair to judge the angle after one week, I can’t imagine how it could improve other than ending.

That said, Bryan is very proud of his wife and he should be. She has grown immensely as a performer in recent months and has far exceeded expectations since returning to the WWE last year.

Oh my gosh, I’m so proud of her. Her and Stephanie – the main event to RAW, two weeks in a row! That hasn’t happened with Divas in years. Now she’s in what’s, in my mind, the second-biggest match in SummerSlam, and Divas just don’t get that opportunity very often. So I’m really happy for her, really proud of her. She’s worked really hard. A lot of people don’t understand how hard the girls on Total Divas work. They’re on the road, the same as the rest of us, and then when they get home, they’ve got to be filming this whole time. So it’s a very hard life with very few days off, and she’s finally getting rewarded for that, so that’s really nice.

He also talked a bit about the irony in her wrestling Stephanie at SummerSlam and Steph being one of their bosses.

Yeah, and it is funny, because there is something borderline-therapeutic about being able to slap your boss, I think. And because there are so many frustrations we have as wrestlers, it’s like, THWACK! You can see, when Stephanie and Brie slap each other, it’s like, “Holy cow!” [Laughs] I’ve been on the opposite end of a Brie slap on WWE Television before, and I was like, “Holy cow! Why would you do that?” I have a ruptured eardrum in my left ear — it happened in 2007 from a Japanese wrestler named Kenta, who WWE actually has signed. So we were doing a story where I had kind of been dating the Bella Twins, but then they found me with Gail Kim or whatever, and then Brie slapped me. I just asked her, “Okay, please, just don’t slap me in the ear?” The first thing her little hand does is, WHACK! Right in the ear. I was like, “Oh my God!”

The entire interview is a fun read. Unfortunately he reveals that he has no timetable for his return and it appears there are still a lot of questions surrounding his health. Check out the entire interview over at IGN.com for all of the details.

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50 Greatest WWE SummerSlam Matches Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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