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Top 10 Things: WWE King of the Ring PPV Matches

April 30, 2015 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Welcome one and all to a special edition of Enuffa.com’s Top Ten Things! Thanks to Eric and CamelClutchBlog.com for having me!

In light of the return of the WWE King of the Ring tournament this week (with little hype and even less fan enthusiasm) I thought I’d assemble my list of the ten greatest matches to take place at this once-historic PPV event.

The King of the Ring tournament was originally a special house show attraction held annually in New England, before the WWF decided to add it to the PPV schedule in 1993. At the time the WWF calendar only featured the Big Four PPV events, so creating a fifth was a pretty huge deal. The inaugural edition was built around making Bret Hart a top babyface again after WrestleMania IX hurt his stock somewhat. Bret carried the show, working three good-to-excellent matches and winning the tourney before Jerry Lawler abruptly attacked him during the coronation ceremony. It was an uneven show but featured some excellent work from “The Hitman.”

The KOTR PPV history contains quite a few highs and lows. The ’94 edition only had a few matches worth seeing while 1995’s had none. But the ’96, ’98 and 2001 PPVs were all varying degrees of excellent (2001 is one of my all-time favorite PPVs). King of the Ring would run a full decade before sagging buyrates prompted the company to discontinue the series and replace it with Bad Blood.

The tournament itself would return to free television in 2006, 2008, 2010, and of course this year, with generally very little impact on star-building. The ’06 winner Booker T made the most of the “King” gimmick, adopting an obviously phony English accent which was amusing for a while. William Regal’s tourney win in 2008 led to precisely nothing of value, while Sheamus’s victory in 2010 actually hurt his career for about eight months as he free-fell down the card. Hopefully 2015’s winner Wade Barrett will be able to transfer this into a meaningful, injury-free push.

Truth be told I do miss the KOTR PPV. The tournament itself was rarely presented well; if it was a one-night bracket most of the matches got shortchanged, and if only the semis and finals were included on the PPV the tourney felt less important. But several rising stars were able to use the tourney as a major stepping stone, and when the PPV was good it was great. If they were to bring it back now I’d suggest using the New Japan Cup tourney as a template. Announce that the winner of the tournament will get a PPV Title match of their choice, have the first two rounds on episodes of RAW and Smackdown the week before the PPV, and have the semis and finals on the PPV itself, with the finals ALWAYS being the main event. Then the King of the Ring would actually mean something again. Announcing the 2015 edition literally 24 hours ahead of time with zero buildup was just plain stupid.

But let’s go back and look at some of the in-ring classics to come out of this once-important event.

10. Undertaker vs. Mankind – KOTR ’96

This is the match that began one of the best feuds of the 90s. For years the Undertaker was the super-popular character babyface who generally only feuded with cartoonish heels in forgettable brawls. His shtick was mostly about his entrance, and few of his opponents were presented as much of a threat to the invincible Dead Man. But in 1996 Mick Foley appeared on WWF television as the deranged psychopath Mankind, and he instantly targeted Taker, rendering him unconscious with the fearsome Mandible Claw. Their first bout took place at the King of the Ring PPV, and was a chaotic brawl in which Mankind kept pace and proved himself Taker’s first true archnemesis. After an errant urn shot from Paul Bearer, Mankind scored the upset victory. These two would outdo themselves multiple times over the next two years, but this match still holds up as a great fight.

9. Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin – KOTR ’97

In June of 1997 my two favorite wrestlers were Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin. I was beyond thrilled when they became unlikely Tag Team Champions, and even more thrilled when it was announced they’d be wrestling each other at King of the Ring. This PPV was pretty weak, but the Austin-Michaels match was the one standout of the show, going to a 22-minute double DQ after too many ref bumps. The two anti-heroes expertly played into the “uneasy allies” story, and my favorite moment is their long walk back to the dressing room, each man keeping one suspicious eye on the other. While this was no five-star classic (and due to Shawn’s 1998 back injury they’d never have one), this was a very entertaining match that saved the 1997 PPV from being a total loss.

8. Steve Austin vs. Marc Mero – KOTR ’96

The 1996 KOTR tournament was of course the long-awaited arrival of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as a major force in the WWF. His “Austin 3:16″ promo stands as one of the greatest and most impactful in the history of the business, and is a major reminder of how much more effective non-scripted promos are in wrestling. Were Austin active today he would’ve been handed a poorly-scripted paragraph likely containing no useful catchphrases or spontenaiety. As for his in-ring performance that night, the highlight was this semi-final match against another potential rising star, Marc Mero. This was a superbly worked 17-minute athletic contest, with Mero bouncing around the ring like crazy while Austin played the stalwart bully. What this match is probably most remembered for however is Austin taking a kick to the mouth, splitting his lip wide open. Gushing blood, Austin was taken to the hospital to get stitched up before his appearance in the finals. It all added to the mystique of this tough-as-nails future megastar.

7. Bret Hart vs. Diesel – KOTR ’94

1994 was The Year of Bret Hart, his WWF Title win at WrestleMania X cementing him as the “Leader of the New Generation.” Waiting in the wings though was the guy Vince really wanted to push as the future of the company, Diesel. Kevin Nash was brought in the year before as Shawn Michaels’ heater/bodyguard, and after a shaky start was portrayed as an unstoppable brute who dismantled smaller opponents. After winning the I-C Title from Razor Ramon, Diesel next targeted Bret, resulting in this rare Champion vs. Champion match. As an in-ring performer Nash was still largely unproven, but as always Bret brought out the best in him, and the two combatants assembled the first of a splendid trilogy of matches that spanned 17 months. Bret spent most of this match wrestling from behind and after 23 minutes the returning Jim Neidhart ran interference for a disqualification. It was later revealed that Neidhart was actually working in tandem with Owen Hart to preserve Bret’s Title and allow Owen to challenge him. The ’94 PPV peaked early with this match going on 5th of 10. The rest of this show is mostly skippable.

6. Steve Austin vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho – KOTR ’01

The 2001 King of the Ring PPV was the denouement to an eighteen-month stretch where the WWF product was absolutely blazing on all cylinders. The influx of new and familiar faces joining the roster, coupled with a renewed focus on the in-ring product, made 2000 and the first half of 2001 just an amazing time to be a WWF fan. Chief among the debuting ring generals were Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho, who had recently formed an alliance to take down the heel WWF Champion Steve Austin. Each man had unsuccessfully challenged Austin on free TV with pretty amazing results, and now they’d be given one last Title shot simultaneously. The main event of the 2001 PPV was an epic Triple Threat, with Austin barely managing to survive the odds, stealing a win at the 28-minute mark. The match was unfortunately hurt by a rather anticlimactic ending, but it’s still a helluva 3-way.

5. Bret Hart vs. Bam Bam Bigelow – KOTR ’93

As I said earlier, the ’93 tourney was all about spotlighting Bret Hart. All three of his matches that night had some charm, but the semis and finals were the two standouts. After two grueling matches, Bret found himself against a well-rested Bam Bam Bigelow who received a bye in the semifinals. The match was a classic big man-little man war, with Bret’s grit and atheticism proving an equal match for Bigelow’s massive size advantage. After a false ending teasing a Bigelow win, the match was restarted and Bret got the duke with a victory roll. Bret considered Bam Bam the best superheavyweight he ever worked with, and thanks to this match it’s easy to see why.

4. Undertaker vs. Mankind (Hell in a Cell) – KOTR ’98

There’s not much more than can be said about this one. Simply the most infamous match of all time, aside from the Montreal Screwjob. Taker, and especially Mankind, wrote a new chapter in pro wrestling brutality. After two death-defying falls from the top of the Cell (one planned, one frighteningly accidental), Mick Foley delivered a superhuman effort in going another 12 or so minutes and completing the best match these two ever had together (Keep in mind also that Taker was working on a broken foot). Concussed and delirious, Foley famously approached Taker backstage when it was over and asked “Did I use thumbtacks?” to which Taker replied, “Look at your arm Mick.” It’s an uncomfortable match to view now, but at the time it probably exemplified the WWF Attitude more than any other single bout.

3. Shawn Michaels vs. British Bulldog – KOTR ’96

I love most of the work these two did together. The combination of Shawn’s agility vs. Davey Boy’s power produced numerous classics (one of which I saw at a house show in 1995 and it blew me away), but this was their finest hour together. Shawn was still a fairly new WWF Champion and Davey was only his second PPV challenger. Their first match at In Your House: Beware of Dog failed to live up to expectations, partly due to a power outage that blacked out over half the show and left the crowd lethargic. But Michaels and Smith got a chance to redeem themselves at King of the Ring, and they delivered big. Shawn supplied an almost balletic performance, showcasing innovative offense to keep the larger Bulldog off his feet, while Davey portrayed the well-rounded dominant heel to a tee. After 26 minutes Shawn retained in one of the best matches of 1996.

2. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect – KOTR ’93

The other masterful Bret Hart match from the 1993 PPV (and a rematch of the celebrated SummerSlam ’91 bout), this semifinal between two consummate technicians stole the show and blew away every other match of ’93. Now a babyface, Mr. Perfect temporarily reverted to his morally ambiguous in-ring approach, playing the de facto heel to….well, perfection. For nearly 19 minutes these two traded holds both in and out of the ring (At one point Perfect knocked Bret from the apron onto a hard water cooler next to the security railing, in a spot that looked positively brutal by 1993 standards), until Bret reversed a small package into one of his own for the three-count. This is probably my favorite Mr. Perfect match, and definitely one of Bret’s finest as well.

1. Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon – KOTR ’01

Simply put, one of the wildest matches I’ve ever seen. At King of the Ring 2001, Olympic Wrestling Champion and Vince McMahon’s Son tore the roof off the Continental Airlines Arena in the most unexpectedly awesome, best garbage match in the history of the business. While the overarching storyline was the beginning of the most disappointing angle of all time, these two delivered an amazing, startlingly violent spectacle that on more than one occasion actually made me fear for Shane’s life. Angle dominated early with his wrestling acumen, but Shane’s fearless scrappiness kept him in the match. Then the action spilled out of the ring and into the entranceway, where Kurt Angle nearly murdered his boss’s kid. Angle attempted an overhead belly-to-belly suplex through the glass staging area, but there was a problem – the glass didn’t break. And Shane landed on his head. So Angle did it again, this time successfully, and with sickening results. They continued fighting behind the glass, where Angle attempted the same move and once again the glass didn’t cooperate. So Angle simply rammed Shane through headfirst, resulting in the striking image of a bloodied Shane exploding through an opaque plane of glass. And that wasn’t even the end! After 26 minutes Angle set a piece of plywood atop the turnbuckles and Olympic Slammed Shane to the mat for the three-count. Thus concluded the superlative King of the Ring PPV match the like of which should never again be attempted. This was the best match on the best KOTR PPV, and in my opinion the best match of 2001.

Well that’ll do it for this special CamelClutchBlog.com edition of Top Ten Things – you can find many more such lists, plus all kinds of other wrestling, movie, music, and comic book features over at Enuffa.com! Thanks for reading!

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

WWE: Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe

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Kurt Angle Dishes On Why He Did Not Return to the WWE

April 10, 2015 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

In 1985, Hulk Hogan graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as the craze of professional wrestling had exploded on the mainstream consciousness of sports readers and in entertainment circles. There was something about a man who had a receding hair line, was bigger than most football players and preached to the masses to “train, say your prayers and eat your vitamins.” Hulk Hogan did his best to bring some legitimacy to the business at a time when Kayfabe walls were being torn down and the last bastion of a “sport” shrouded in secrecy was starting to crumble in each promotion amongst the NWA, AWA and WCCW.

If not for the heavy promotion of Vince McMahon, and his vision of taking the business to another level, there would never be this constant see-saw of emotion between what is real and what is scripted and in the simplest terms “fake”.

In 1998, Kurt Angle, a decorated Olympic wrestling hero and champion walked into the then WWE as a new hope to add more “reality” to the business. What Angle delivered was “wrestling” to a business that moved further away from the days of Bruno Sammartino, Buddy Rogers and Pedro Morales. It was another attempt at showcasing the business as entertainment. It was also a move back toward the roots of what McMahon’s father and grandfather had built over the years before the wide-eyed promoter came in always wanting more, preaching bigger is better and living on the concept that professional wrestling is a production, not just a show.

For those reasons alone, it still shocks me that Angle did not re-sign with the WWE when his contract with TNA Wrestling was about to expire. And to show you how wrestling has come full circle, the man who went from grappling on a mat to performing super-human feats in a ring for thousands every night, was candid as he could be in an article in Sport Illustrated.

Angle spoke on many topics ranging from his out of the ring feud with Brock Lesnar, another decorated college wrestler, to his desire to wrestle other performers, to his desire to come back to the company where it all started and was stopped short of the front door. In this business, there may be times when wrestlers go off script and voice their opinions (whether it is a work or not) and then there are times when they are just plain real.

This is one of those times.

As read in the article in the “Extra Mustard” section of SI.com, by Justin Barasso

Instead of wrestling every Friday night on Destination America, the 46-year-old Angle’s original plan was to finish up his TNA contract last September and re-sign with the WWE to finish out his career.

“I haven’t spoke openly about this,” said Angle, “but I opened up my options and was going to decide between TNA and WWE. I wasn’t going to leave TNA unless WWE was offering a fair deal.”

Angle, who lost his father when he was only 16 years old, developed a close friendship with Vince McMahon during his eight year run with WWE from 1998-2006. Yet, when Angle called McMahon, he was informed that a different man now runs the day-to-day operations.

“Paul [Levesque] is in charge,” said Angle. “I found that out when I contacted Vince. I’ve always had a good relationship with Paul, so I didn’t consider that a problem. But he decided they had enough talent.

“For the Vince McMahon who I knew, enough was never enough. He always wanted more. I don’t know what was going on over there, but they even canceled our meeting. I never went to see them. They didn’t even sit me down and talk to me.”

The experience was extremely humbling for Angle.

I consider Kurt Angle to be one of the best wrestlers of all time in this business. A throwback to the days when Ed “Strangler” Lewis was winning world titles and Vern Gagne was using his wrestling skills to promote his new creation call the AWA. A man who came to the business at the right time, to show there were “real” wrestlers out there who could excite and entice viewers and create a new genre of fans. For those reasons alone, finishing where he started was simple a formality in my mind. Guess I was wrong just like Angle. It also shows the fan of today just how different the WWE is from just a few years ago. There are return engagements for The New Age Outlaws, Lesnar (who Angle talks about in the first part of the interview) and guest appearances by Hogan and Ric Flair, DX and The Outsiders. But Angle is stopped before he reached the door of the WWE’s corporate offices. I find that to be one of the unkindest cuts of all.

The credentials of his career speak for themselves. Angle is the only wrestler in history to be a Triple Crown winner in both WWE and TNA, as well as the only one to have held the WWE, WCW, TNA, IWGP, and World Heavyweight Championships in his career. Angle is also a two-time King of the Mountain winner, winning at the 2007 and 2009 Slammiversary pay-per-view event, making him the only wrestler to have been both King of the Ring (WWE) and King of the Mountain (TNA). Between WWE, TNA, and Japan, Angle has won 13 world championships and 21 total championships. In 2010, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter named Angle the Wrestler of the Decade of the 2000s, and in 2013 he was the second inductee into the TNA Hall of Fame. It does not get much better.

The man Angle is now is certainly not the man he used to be. His body is beaten. His demons have affected him. His personal life has changed over the years. But when he is in the ring, Kurt Angle is still golden and in terms of the business, he is money.

Oh, It’s True. It’s Damn True. And the WWE, in its desire for change cannot see what it is missing or will miss once Angle finally decides enough is enough.

WWE: Ultimate Warrior: Always Believe

The Randy Savage Story DVD

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

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

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

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

Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania V)

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

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

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

Macho King Randy Savage (WrestleMania VII)

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

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

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

Bret Hart (WrestleMania IX)

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

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

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

Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania X)

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

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

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

Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIII)

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

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

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

Kurt Angle (WrestleMania 2000)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hollywood Hogan (WrestleMania X8)

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

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

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

Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXIII)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Top 10 Rey Mysterio WWE Matches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kurt Angle’s Impact on the Business and Sport of Pro Wrestling

December 10, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

You cannot talk about the success and progress of professional wrestling without talking about Kurt Angle’s impact on a post-Kayfabe era of the “sport.”

When wrestling had finally achieved true mainstream status – even with the understanding by the masses of the unrealistic nature of reality television, Angle was just what the WWE needed to help balance its Attitude Era.

After graduating from Clarion University, he won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 1995 World Wrestling Championships. Angle then competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, where he won a gold medal in heavyweight freestyle wrestling. He is one of only four people to complete a Grand Slam in amateur wrestling (junior nationals, NCAAs, World Championships and the Olympics). In 2006, he was named the single greatest shoot wrestler and one of the top 15 college wrestlers of all time by USA Wrestling.

Angle made his first appearance at a professional wrestling event in 1996, with his in-ring debut following in 1998. He had previously turned down an offer to join the WWF, but signed a multi-year contract with the company that year, and participated in his first televised storyline in March 1999. After months of unaired matches, Angle made his official debut that November and received his first major push in the company in February 2000, when he held the European Championship and the Intercontinental Championship simultaneously.

Four months later he won the King of the Ring tournament, and not long after, began pursuing the WWF Championship, which he won in October; this capped off a rookie year which is considered by many as the greatest in sports entertainment history. Throughout his tenure in the company, Angle was a six-time world champion (a four-time WWF/E Champion, a one-time World Heavyweight Champion, and a one-time WCW Champion).

He also held the WCW United States Championship, Intercontinental Championship, European Championship, Hardcore Championship and WWE Tag Team Championship once each. He is the tenth Triple Crown Champion, and the fifth Grand Slam Champion.

After leaving WWE, Angle joined TNA, where he became a five-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion, a two-time TNA World Tag Team Champion and a one-time TNA X Division Champion, the second Triple Crown winner in TNA history and the only one to hold all the required titles at once. While in TNA, his then real-life wife Karen began accompanying him to the ring and playing a part in his on-screen storylines

Between WWE, TNA, and Japan, Angle has won 12 world championships and 20 total championships. In 2010, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter named Angle the Wrestler of the Decade of the 2000s and in 2013 he became the second inductee into the TNA Hall of Fame.

Now that he is toward the twilight of his career, where he matchmaker/general manager of Impact Wrestling, it can be argued that Angle’s “impact” is far more reaching than Flair, Triple H and Randy Savage – icons in the business who helped to create superiority in different eras of the business.

The addition of Angle to the business added legitimacy – where a “wrestler” in freestyle wrestling could make the transition to something people follow as cult figures and a nomadic trail of fans who bounce from town to town to support their favorite stars. Angle did not want the WWE in the first place, but came to accept it as performance where he could use his true wrestling skills.

Wrestlers like Brock Lesnar followed as did Shelton Benjamin. If there wasn’t a Kurt Angle, neither of these two mayhave enjoyed success in a business geared more toward predetermination than thinking on their feet.

There has been plenty of talk about Angle finishing his career back where it all started. Whether that becomes a reality is unknown, but having already been where he has been is enough to put Angle among the greats of all time.

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Top 25 WWE Survivor Series Elimination Matches

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Top 20 WWE Greatest Survivor Series Teams Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Top 10 WWE Hell In A Cell Matches

October 25, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

The Hell in a Cell match has become one of the most brutal matches in WWE history. Started in 1997, the HIAC match features blood, drama, action, and intensity. Today I celebrate this classic by looking back at the ten best in WWE history.

Like anything else, Hell in a Cell has had its ups and down. Fortunately for most WWE fans, there have been more ups than downs. The concept has been watered down a bit since over the years with the reduction of blood and excess matches. Lucky for us, there are plenty of classics that remind us why this one is just that good.

I always like to remind redears that like any top ten list it is all a matter of opinion. If you agree, disagree, or feel that I left one off the list, let me know and leave a comment. Until then, here are my top ten WWE Hell in a Cell matches in match history.

Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker, Badd Blood 1997 – Some of you may argue between this and number two and I can certainly respect that. For me, this match was not only the greatest Hell in a Cell match ever, it is also one of my top ten favorite matches overall of all-time. This was Shawn Michaels at his best and in my opinion and arguably the best match from The Undertaker’s storied WWE career.

Mankind vs. The Undertaker, King of the Ring 1998 – It is hard to argue with this one not being at the top. I went back and forth several times. The drama in this match is second to none. However, I just felt that Michaels vs. Undertaker was a better match overall. Mick Foley set a dangerous standard here which has never been repeated. It was historic, physical, and a masterpiece in a lot of ways. I still liked Michaels vs. Undertaker slightly better when watching these two back, but I have no problem with anyone arguing this one number one.

Triple H vs. Batista, Vengeance 2005 – To me this is an often forgotten about classic. For as much criticism that Triple H and even Batista have gotten at times, this match really should silence any and all critics. I also remember the finish being a shocker at the time as nobody expected Hunter to lose all of those matches to Batista. This one even featured some cool weapons including a chain contraption. The match and storyline here behind the feud were some of the best of all-time.

Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels, Bad Blood 2004 – One recurring theme you’ll see in this blog is that you’ll see a lot of names more than once. Triple H and of course Shawn Michaels are repeat offenders and with good reason. The storyline of both being undefeated in HIAC matches also created great drama in this one. How good was this match? An epic 47 minute masterpiece is how good it was. You Tube has plenty of highlights but you really owe it to yourself to check out the full match if you get that opportunity. The chemistry between these two guys here was unreal.

Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker vs. Triple H vs. Steve Austin vs. The Rock vs. Rikishi, Armageddon 2000 – This match is probably better known for Rikishi’s bump than the actual match itself. However, in looking back at the videos this was one of the most fun HIAC matches. How can you go wrong having all six of these superstars in one Hell in a Cell match? The answer is simple, you can’t.

Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker (No Mercy 2002) – This is a really interesting match in that you have some fans that will argue that this was one of the best HIAC matches ever where you have a whole other set of fans that don’t even remember it. I am in the middle. I thought this one had a lot of fun spots, not what you’d expect from two big men. Lesnar retained in a match that was one of his best of his entire first WWE run.

Edge vs. The Undertaker, SummerSlam 2008 – Like several matches on this list, this one is another forgotten classic. Edge and The Undertaker I thought had one of the most underrated feuds a few years back. They had tremendous chemistry and SummerSlam 2008 may have been their finest moment. This match had it all including Edge’s specialty; tables, ladders, and chairs. Quite frankly this was one of the most thrilling Hell in a Cell matches of all.

The Undertaker vs. Triple H – WrestleMania 28 – Once again, Triple H pops up on the list. This one is still fresh in our minds and in terms of drama, it doesn’t get much better than this one. Shawn Michaels was the referee and while the match didn’t have your usual Hell in a Cell theatrics, it told a hell of a story. This one was bloody, brutal, and intense and arguably not only one of the best Hell in a Cell matches, but one of the best WrestleMania matches in Mania history.

Triple H vs. Mick Foley, No Way Out 2000 – This would have been higher up on the list if it served as the true retirement match for Mick Foley that it was promoted to be. The emotional sendoff at the end of the match could have gone down as one of the best ever if it stood. The bloody match had some thrilling moments battling at the top of the cage as well as a flaming barbed wire bat. They tried to replay Foley’s sick bump from King of the Ring but it wasn’t quite the same. Nonetheless it was certainly a great one and a match that belongs on any Hell in a Cell list.

The Undertaker and Steve Austin vs. Mankind and Kane, RAW Is War 1998 – This was one of the most exciting matches on RAW during the Attitude Era. The match was held right before King of the Ring to build up the two main-events. The big moment of this action-packed match came when Austin climbed the cage and attacked Kane on top which saw the crowd just got absolutely nuts. Jim Ross in particular is fantastic with the call here.

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Kurt Angle Reportedly Turns Down WWE Return

October 13, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Kurt Angle is currently the hottest free agent in pro wrestling. Angle has talked openly about a return to the WWE yet numerous reports have indicated that the E were not interested. That may not be the case after all according to a new report.

Mike Johnson over at PWInsider.com broke a story over the weekend regarding Angle and the WWE. According to Johnson’s sources it was the WWE that wanted Angle back and Angle who turned them down. Johnson reports that Angle wants a part-time deal yet the WWE offered a full-time (on the condition he can pass a physical) deal which Angle turned down. Deal or no deal, this does indicate that Vince McMahon has softened his stance on Angle returning.

This is big news on a few levels. One, it had been reported elsewhere that McMahon did not want Angle back. Those reports actually quoted Vince as telling sources that he didn’t want “an Olympic hero dying on his watch.” According to Johnson’s report, Vince must be convinced that Angle has turned his life around and those past skeletons are buried deep in a closet.

That said, it is ironic that the WWE would only extend Kurt Angle a full-time deal. At Angle’s age and injury history, there is no way that the company could seriously think that Angle’s body could survive a full-time schedule. Regarding Angle’s recovery, it also shows a gross lack of sensitivity to his struggles as a full-time schedule would surely end badly for Angle. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in this situation.

I can understand the WWE being hesitant about offering a part-time deal. What is the point of investing television time into someone who isn’t going on the road? However, I think limiting Angle to television is perfectly fine in this day and age of the WWE Network. The house shows are important, but not as important. Angle could even go on the road as a special referee, M.C., etc.

Dave Meltzer gave his spin on this on his most recent F4Wonline.com podcast. Meltzer believes that if they did indeed give him the ultimatum of going full-time or no deal that they may have been doing it to save face, knowing that he could never survive a full time schedule. Meltzer doesn’t even know if he can go part-time at this stage in his career.

I think that Vince or Triple H need to close this deal immediately. Angle is still one of the best performers in the business. Even outside of the ring the man is an asset. He has more personality than 90% of the WWE characters. He is recognizable and yes he is still an Olympic hero. With all of the problems of star-power depth, the WWE would get an instant star back that could make an impact immediately.

At the same time it is a business. Vince McMahon nor Triple H are dumb guys. They see the writing on the wall. Angle is a free agent with only one serious bidder in TNA Wrestling. That serious bidder has no television deal as things stand today when 2014 comes to a close. There is not a whole lot of leverage that Angle has here. I can see why they’d play hardball but at the end of the day bringing Kurt Angle helps everyone.

Angle would fit in perfectly in the WWE. He could have programs with Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar, and even John Cena that would not only tear the house down, but possibly bring some more fans back into the fold. There is a ton of potential here and with few options heading into 2015, part-time or not, Angle would be a welcome addition back to the WWE in my opinion.

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WWE: Yokozuna, and the Kurt Angle Conspiracy

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

Even with the “changes” that are ongoing in the WWE, there are few things we all can count on. When it comes to the idea of “Sports Entertainment) and the theory that bigger is better, McMahon will continue to press or hammer the idea that the bigger they are, the bigger their star can be.

None were bigger than Yokozuna, who would have been 48 today.

Rodney Agatupu Anoaʻi was best known for his time with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) where he wrestled under the ring name Yokozuna. The term yokozuna refers to the highest rank in professional sumo wrestling in Japan. Although the “Yokozuna” character was portrayed as a champion sumo wrestler, Anoaʻi had never competed as an actual sumotori. Though Yokozuna wrestled as a representative of Japan, in real life Anoaʻi was Samoan-American and was accordingly billed as hailing from Polynesia (although he was managed by Mr. Fuji, who would follow Anoaʻi to the ring with a wooden bucket of salt, and waving a Japanese flag).

In the WWF, Anoaʻi was a two-time WWF Champion and two-time Tag Team Champion (with Owen Hart), as well as the winner of the 1993 Royal Rumble. Anoa’i was the first wrestler of Samoan descent to hold the WWF Championship as well as the first Royal Rumble winner who as a result of a direct stipulation received a world title shot at WrestleMania. He defeated WWE Hall of Famers Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan, in consecutive pay-per-view victories in the main event of WrestleMania IX and the 1993 King of the Ring, to win his two WWF Championships, and also headlined WrestleMania X against Hart. Anoaʻi was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012.

The Yokozuna angle and character was perfect blend of the old guard (Hulkamania) facing the newer establishment of Hart, Shawn Michael and Steve Austin, While the huge attraction of the Samurai was well accepted by the masses, Anoa’i’s death was unexpected and his loss dealt a huge blow to the WWE and its plan for the main event within the company.

Angle Should Retire in the WWE

Kurt Angle has not been secretive about his desires as his career winds down – and the fact he will leave TNA. But where the former Olympian and world champion ends up is still in the air.

I believe – as many do – Angle should complete the circle and retire as a member of the WWE.

A recent interview with Alternative Nation reveals there are a few WWE performers Angles wants to get into the ring, most notably, Bray Wyatt, and Roman Reigns. Rusev is one of the top ones, and last but not least, he thinks he and Daniel Bryan would probably have the greatest match of all time.

Recently, Angle took to the Internet to tell fans and the online community to say Triple H is now in control of the WWE. When he placed a call to the corporate offices to inquire about a potential return, he was referred to Triple H, who now runs the company.

The inquiry was met with haste as Triple H was now warm to the idea of a return, and Angle moved over his head to get to McMahon.

Currently, there is no plans to bring him back, but who knows and who is bluffing?

After multiple teases and interviews, Angle says that he’ll be holding a press conference soon to finally announce which mystery company he’ll be signing with.

Jack Swagger is another wrestler Angle has talked about out loud as a potential future rival.

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