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Stone Cold Steve Austin Tempted By Brock Lesnar WWE Match

April 17, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Leave it to the world’s greatest master manipulator to goad one of the biggest stars in wrestling history into one more match. Paul Heyman may have done the unthinkable which is entice Stone Cold Steve Austin to get in a WWE ring for one more time.

The Steve Austin WrestleMania rumors have just started to die down as fans have become resolved with the idea that the Texas Rattlesnake is never coming back. While Austin has never said the word “never”, most assumed after Austin passed up a Mania match with CM Punk that he was indeed done. That was until Austin’s former manager Paul Heyman laid out the perfect scenario.

The former ECW mastermind was a recent guest on Austin’s podcast. The conversation ended with both fawning over Brock Lesnar. Heyman than brought up that he and Lesnar have had an interest going back to Lesnar’s UFC days in a match with Stone Cold. Heyman proceeded to lay out the scenario, billing the match as the Baddest Man on the Planet vs. The World’s Toughest S.O.B. Austin sat silent until Heyman put him on the spot. After dodging the question as to whether he would be interested he finally admitted to Heyman that he is intrigued.

It didn’t take long for word to spread throughout the Internet about Austin’s interest in such a match. It should be noted that all Austin said was that he was interested with Heyman doing most of the talking. That was enough for pro wrestling fans to get excited. But the question is, should you get excited? Is there a real possibility that this match is going to happen?

My gut says no. Austin has remained retired from active competition for over a decade. Austin is still in great shape and as we saw a few years back on Tough Enough, he could get in the ring tomorrow and go. As a matter of a fact the WWE were so convinced that Austin could be tempted to come back that they even penciled in a match with him and Triple H at WrestleMania 30. It never happened and most presumed that by this point he was done. Maybe he isn’t done after all?

How big would the match be? I think the match would be gigantic. In terms of money it is hard to say because more people will have the WWE Network next year and the buyrates are bound to decline. However, a match like this could still do big business. I would imagine there would be a ton of casual fans that would gladly pay $70 to see this match, yet have no interest in subscribing to the entire network for $10 less. I think you would draw in so many crossover fans that haven’t watched in awhile or don’t buy shows that you’d have the biggest match of our lifetime in Brock vs. Austin.

How good would the match be? I think it could be pretty damned good. I think the styles of both guys would mix real well inside the ring. It is tough to say at Austin’s age and ring rust how crisp he’d be in the ring. The only thing I can go on was his workout on Tough Enough and he looked pretty damned solid during that little workout session with Luke Robinson. Brock is Brock and I think a mix of a wrestling/brawl kind of a match, kept under 20 minutes would be the perfect recipe for these two to knock it out of the park.

There is always the additional backstory here of Austin’s walkout. Austin walked out of the company in 2002 after he was asked to put Brock over on RAW in a King of the Ring qualifier. Austin has said many times since then that walking out over this was one of the biggest career mistakes he ever made. Everyone knows the story so using it as part of the hype for the match only seems like a a natural to me.

But could it really happen? Unlike last year when everyone expected Brock vs. Undertaker at Mania, there is no clearly defined path for him to 31. The Rock is reportedly the working idea but I honestly think you’ll never see a Brock vs. Rock match. There is just too much physical risk to Rock. Cesaro is the other rumored opponent but let’s be honest. With all due respect to my old friend Claudio, I don’t think anyone would expect the WWE to pass on Austin in favor of Brock.

Oh hell yeah!!!

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What Cesaro’s Move to Heyman’s Side Really Means

April 09, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

I am not sure what shocked me more form Monday night – the fact that Daniel Bryan remained the WWE World Champion after the show, or the solid move by the company to have Cesaro turn on Zeb Colter and become the newest “Paul Heyman Guy.” This is a move that will undoubtedly move Cesaro – although still a heel – toward stardom and a potential title.

My only question about the move is whether or not he will have to go through that other “Heyman Guy,” Brock Lesnar to do it?

The possibilities are now endless that Cesaro – the best performer in the WWE this side of Daniel Bryan – is now locked with the company’s greatest asset.

Brilliant, I tell you.

Cesaro was mired in the muck as a member of Colter’s team. While he and his partner Jack Swagger were tough and rugged and a bullying tag team, Cesaro is much better on his own as a singles specialist. The Swiss import, who defied everything dynamic and took the Big Show out of the Ander the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, will prove to not only be one of the best and brightest stories of 2014, he will also prove that he should be a true title contender for Daniel Bryan or Randy Orton or even Lesnar – should he hold the strap.

And has anyone thought of this? While many said to me right after WrestleMania that they could see Heyman and Lesnar facing Bryan for the WWE World Title at Extreme Rules, what would happen if Heyman pushes Cesaro toward the World Title, setting conflict within the Heyman Alliance?

That’s just something I thought of. Feel free to use it if you want to.

With the sudden changes in the company on a most thrilling night following a thrilling WrestleMania, the WWE proved over and over again it could still wow the crowds and shock the world. A change will do you, the fans, the WWE Universe and the company a little good.

Cesaro already has a blood line for success prior to coming to the WWE. He is a two-time ROH World Tag Team Champion with his partner Chris Hero as the Kings of Wrestling (where their 364 day reign as champions was the longest in company history), as well various independent tag team titles both with Hero and with Ares as Swiss Money Holding.

He has also had success as a singles wrestler, having won the WWE United States Championship along with numerous independent singles titles, most notably the PWG World Championship.

But the thing that sets Cesaro apart is the rugged style in the ring. While he is not the best on the mic or in a promo, his actions in the ring speak for him. He is a throwback, showing skills of a Billy Robinson, strength of a Ken Patera and in-ring acumen of Dory Funk and Bob Orton, Jr. And the fact he gets over with the fans even with as a heel is something rare. True Wrestling fans appreciate good wrestling and shear power – all things Cesaro possesses.

While the first man on his agenda is obviously Jack Swagger, there could be others who will be standing in his path. Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Ryback (which was an awesome display when Ryback was a face), E. Langston, and John Cena.

Since Cena appears to have excised the demons of Bray Wyatt (in other words did not put Wyatt over with the WWE fans), this would be a perfect scenario. It would help Cesaro get over with the WWE Universe without Cena having to lose.

In the coming months Heyman will do his best to sell his newest client. It will be the WWE Universe’s responsibility to buy what he is offering.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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WrestleMania 30: The Undertaker Will Win the Battle, Paul Heyman Will Win The War

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

There are a few things you can count on come Sunday at WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans.

There will be a few surprises. Tamina will win WWE Divas gold and Paul Heyman will walk out of the “The Crescent City having been the highlight of the battle between he WWE’s longest tenured wrestler and the man they call “The Beast.” While this may be the biggest chance that Undertaker finally sees his record of 21-0 far, it still won’t be enough to unseat The Dead Man.

And after last year’s performance, the verbal assault by both Heyman and CM Punk, you thought Taker couldn’t walk out of New Jersey under his own power. So much is at stake in this match, that you cannot help but think the Streak ends in the cultured south.

You can guess again.

When it comes to “The Streak” and ‘Taker and his confrontation with Lesnar, like I have said in other posts, the wrestling will live up to its billing because both men will push each other to the limit and then some. You figure Heyman is somehow involved in the match and you also figure the verbal confrontation and the in ring confrontation has been built properly like a master plan. While CM Punk came within an eyelash of winning the match last year, both wrestlers will sell this like it was the greatest battle of all time.

But when all is said and done, Heyman will still have the last laugh and here is why.

Heyman is the central piece in this puzzle. Each of the wrestlers involved – ‘Taker and Lesnar – are part-timers, they come and go like the wind. The poor booking by the WWE of Lesnar makes it hard to get behind a player like this – face or heel – because we all know he has a short shelf life.

Undertaker is a little different in that he us a character with defies time. Fans know his pace, his schedule and when to expect him. They know he comes in on the red eye and leaves before the end of the school year. His booking is not an issue because he does a few spots, puts wrestlers over then leaves for higher ground to heal.

Until we see him again.

The Internet, the IWC and all the top wrestling writers have been teasing this confrontation for months. WE first thought it would be John Cena. Then Roman Reigns’ name popped up. I have been pulling for Kane in one final match. But this all makes too much sense to allow the fans into a crazy sense that yes, the Streak could come crashing down because of Lesnar’s size and ability.

And yes, we have all been fooled before. In this case, size matters because it has been a long time since Undertaker has met someone with the size alone to stand toe to toe with him. Lesnar towers over almost everyone in the WWE with a few exceptions. Same holds true for ‘Taker.

Vince McMahon loves with big men beat the hell out of each other. On Sunday, that is what is going to happen. Undertaker will win his match. Heyman will win the verbal confrontation, and move on.

Disclaimer: For the next 30 days, this will be an ongoing series of stories as we move down the Road to WrestleMania. Follow Camel Clutch Blog writer/blogger David M. Levin as he talks about the history, the pageantry and the success and failures of the past when it comes to wrestling’s biggest events. The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of Camel Clutch Blog, and this series is intended to ramp up the excitement that is associated with WrestleMania XXX and the Crescent City of New Orleans. Please enjoy this new feature and any comments are most welcome.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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Paul Heyman Talks CM Punk and Chicago RAW Promo

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

CM Punk’s sabbatical remains one of the biggest mysteries of the WWE Universe. Nobody within the inner circles of that universe has spoken about Punk…until now. Leave it to Paul Heyman to cross that line and speak freely on the taboo topic.

The WWE has Heyman on the public relations scene doing a lot of media over the last week or so to promote WrestleMania 30. It’s a double edged sword for the WWE. The great is that Heyman is a promoter at heart and probably the best man available to hype the show. The risk of course is that Heyman is a straight shooter and isn’t going to take the company line in exchange for his credibility on mum topics which is why I am not surprised that he is the first to break the silence on CM Punk.

Heyman wound up as a piece in the Punk puzzle when he came out on RAW in Chicago and talked at length about Punk. The promo was brilliant, gutsy, and controversial in that some fans and media still don’t quite understand why the WWE would give time to a guy who walked out on the company. Even more controversial was what was said and what wasn’t said. Bill Donnelly of the This Infamous asked Heyman about it and offered new insight into one of the strangest moments on RAW in 2014.

The easiest interview I’ve ever done in my entire career. Because I knew the task at hand. Think about this. I didn’t say one disparaging thing about CM Punk. It’s because I have nothing disparaging to say about him. I said, “If CM Punk were in this ring tonight, he would prove to everyone that he is what he always claims to be: The best in the world.” And I believe that to be true! I said everything about CM Punk that I felt in my heart and at the end of the day, we don’t have that television show on the air to sing the praises of those who are not with us or just heap praise on people because we like them. The television show is a promotional vehicle to entice the audience to purchase the network or the individual pay-per-view. My task at hand is to elicit the response from the viewer that they find the Brock Lesnar versus Undertaker match compelling enough to purchase the pay-per-view or get involved with WWE Network to see the match. So when I went out in Chicago, I knew my responsibility was to sell you on Brock Lesnar vs The Undertaker any way that I had to, which included sitting there for the first ten minutes and discussing the 800-pound elephant in the room, which is why CM Punk wasn’t appearing in his hometown.

That was an interesting answer out of Heyman, especially crediting Punk as the “best in the world”. What I found fascinating is Heyman calling it the easiest promo of his career. That is why he is one of the best ever and the only manager to adapt to four decades of changes in the industry. Think about that one for a second. What other manager who was on the national scene in 1988 has been able to adapt as successfully as Heyman? The man is truly a genius.

Even more taboo than the interview is the question about Punk’s future with the WWE. Heyman was asked about it and offered rare insight from someone on the inside.

You know, there were only three people in the room that night, and that was CM Punk, Vince McMahon and Triple H, and none of the three have talked about it. So whether CM Punk will ever or won’t ever appear in WWE again is truly only known by the three people that were in the room on that given evening. Anything else that is stated about it is merely speculation.

I was struck by his comment about Punk, Vince, and Hunter being all in a room. That is the first I have ever heard about that one. All reports indicated that Vince and Punk had a meeting. Keep in mind that Heyman is tight with Punk so this may be a scoop Heyman got directly from Punk. If that were true than this story becomes a whole lot more interesting in that you had Punk telling Vince and Hunter that he was leaving because he felt working with Triple H was something of a downgrade.

Just when you think you have heard everything about the Punk story another layer unravels. Leave it to Heyman to stir things up once again. E-C-dub!

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WrestleMania XXIII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

March 30, 2014 By: Category: Entertainment, WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXIII
From Ford Field in Detroit, MI
April 1, 2007

BACKGROUND
Being World Wrestling Entertainment has its share of diverse ways in which it can present its product. With an impressive active roster, a tremendous amount of classic legends willing to appear, expansion into wrestling-starved foreign countries, and a stranglehold on social media and merchandise licensing, even when the product falters, WWE still manages to thrive.

In 2006, WWE found itself spinning its wheels. John Cena, while a popular champion to youthful audiences, was getting choruses of boos from the more “time tested” fans who were used to wrestling being more coarse, bloody, raw (pun intended), and risqué than a near-thirty year old man in rainbow-ish t-shirts, trucker caps, and sneakers running his mouth as if he were the Disney Channel’s version of Eminem.

Since WWE was keen on keeping Cena champion long term (a strategy that has paid off if you consider merchandise sales and Cena’s cross-promotions), Vince McMahon needed something to keep the “hardcores” happy.

And the answer WAS hardcore. Well, rather, Vince’s definition of “hardcore”.

In June 2006, WWE opened a third brand, resurrecting the five-years-dead ECW, complete with Paul Heyman in charge. Joining Heyman were Joey Styles and Tazz on the stick, as well as classic stars of ECW’s past, such as Rob Van Dam and The Sandman. While the new ECW (dubbed WWECW by smart alecks) lacked the unpolished feel of the previous incarnation, ECW would serve as a nice alternative to Raw and SmackDown, creating a number of new stars in the process.

Also in the spring, WWE brought back another uncouth concept: D-Generation X. Triple H turned face for the first time in four years, reuniting with Shawn Michaels to recreate some old mayhem, albeit with less controversy.

With this mix of classic chaos and modern marketing, WWE was on the road to Detroit.

THE EVENT
For the first time since WWE allowed for two world titles to exist, the two title matches at WrestleMania would be exclusive to babyfaces only.

The Undertaker, after a decade and a half of raising Hell in WWE, finally could add a Royal Rumble victory to his resume. Being the first #30 entrant to win the January classic, Undertaker brawled with Shawn Michaels for the final eight or nine minutes, ousting his legendary counterpart by avoiding Sweet Chin Music.

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Undertaker now had his pick of opponent. Choosing between WWE Champion John Cena, World Heavyweight Champion Batista, and ECW Champion Bobby Lashley, “The Phenom” settled on Batista, who reigned supreme over Undertaker’s home show, SmackDown.

With SmackDown’s main event locked in, Cena’s opponent was determined by a triple threat match between Shawn Michaels, Edge, and Randy Orton. Michaels managed to beat the former World Tag Team Champions to earn the spot.

Making this match interesting was the fact that, long before Michaels had become Cena’s #1 contender, he and Cena had beaten Orton and Edge to become World Tag Team Champions. This marked the first time in WrestleMania history that tag titlists would fight over a singles belt.

Orton tried to stir the pot between the two men, showing a video of how Michaels had turned on every tag team partner he’d ever had, including Marty Jannetty, Diesel, and Hulk Hogan, among others.

Michaels tried to smooth things with his unlikely partner by saying that “this time is different”, but Michaels would still taunt Cena with a feint attempt at a Sweet Chin Music.

At No Way Out in February, Undertaker actually teamed with Batista to face Cena and Michaels in a non title match. The Raw brand team won, and things looked to still be copacetic between the two men.

Six days before WrestleMania, however, the two teams would have a rematch. This time, Michaels came through on Cena’s paranoia by blasting the WWE Champion with Sweet Chin Music. Michaels left Cena laying, and his partner fell victim to the loss. Michaels’ well-timed double cross fueled the fire for the main event match at WrestleMania XXIII.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to build mainstream interest in his annual money-making machine, Vince McMahon began a feud with real life media mogul Donald Trump. The two had a disagreement after Vince used an actor playing Trump (indy wrestler Ace Steel) to beat an actress playing Rosie O’Donnell on Raw. The match was so ill-received, that Trump himself taunted McMahon by saying that Vince didn’t know what the fans wanted.

The two bickered further, each picking a man to represent him at WrestleMania. Vince chose WWE Intercontinental Champion Umaga, while Trump chose ECW Champion Bobby Lashley. Stone Cold Steve Austin would be the guest referee, and the losing cornerman (Trump or McMahon) would have their head shaved bald after the match.

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handled Raw, Michael Cole and JBL called Smackdown, and Joey Styles and Tazz covered ECW, with all six men coming together for the opening match of the night. Aretha Franklin performed “America the Beautiful” as she had twenty years earlier at WrestleMania III. The Hall of Fame inductions saw the inclusion of Ross, Lawler, Dusty Rhodes, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Fuji, The Wild Samoans, The Sheik, and Nick Bockwinkel.

THE RESULTS
Money in the Bank: Mr. Kennedy def. Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Edge, Randy Orton, King Booker, CM Punk, and Finlay in 19:05
(Highlights including Kennedy’s annoyed face at Hornswoggle when he tried to interfere, as well as Matt encouraging Jeff to do a crazy dive onto Edge through a ladder. “Do it Jeff! He stole Lita from us! Now no one’s there to make you ramen noodles!” Second best MITB match in WrestleMania history)

The Great Khali def. Kane in 5:31
(I like how Kane slamming Khali was juxtaposed with Hogan’s legendary slam of Andre from twenty years earlier in the show’s closing highlight package. As if they had the same memorable value)

WWE United States: Chris Benoit def. MVP in 9:19
(This, of course, would be the final WrestleMania for Benoit, as three months later he…..well, we all know what he did. It was a good, not great, match to go out on, and I still miss the man)

World Heavyweight Championship: The Undertaker def. Batista in 15:48 to win the title
(That’s fifteen. This match was a pleasant surprise, as Batista and Undertaker have this weird chemistry that simply cannot be explained. The two men exchange crisp power moves and ramp up the intensity with their above-average brawling. Great match, and the best feud of a dismal 2007)

Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, and The Sandman def. Matt Striker, Marcus Cor Von, Elijah Burke, and Kevin Thorn in 6:25
(Seven men had their first WrestleMania match here. Those seven also had their last WrestleMania match. Oh, don’t act so surprised)

Battle of the Billionaires/Hair vs. Hair: Bobby Lashley def. Umaga in 13:04
(If Undertaker/Batista was a good surprise, then this was the opposite. Lashley was given a feud with McMahon and an endorsement from Austin and Trump, and still brought none of the energy or personality needed to make it to the next level. Lashley was overpushed, plain and simple)

WWE Women’s/Lumberjill Match: Melina def. Ashley in 3:13
(The bad news: this match was about 3:08 longer than Ashley is capable of working. Good news: Mickie looked great in her tight jeans at ringside. Shame she wasn’t wrestling)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Shawn Michaels in 28:20
(The fact that Cena won turned a lot of fans off, but this is up there with the greatest matches in WM history. Michaels brought a more reserved, but grinding, personality to this, which included the awesome piledriver on the ring steps on Cena. Cena and Michaels worked their asses off here, and both of them deserve for this match to get a lot more credit than it does)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY

The two World Title matches, as well as Money in the Bank, featured twelve men who worked their hardest to make WrestleMania as special as it’s meant to be. However, most of the hype going into the show revolved around Donald Trump‘s involvement, as well as his feud with McMahon, who was seriously getting out of control at this point regarding on-camera time.

When you have the three aforementioned matches on your show, you should walk away feeling great. But when you watch that Battle of the Billionaires, and you see how the fans barely reacted to Vince being shaved bald, and how they barely got behind an anemic talker like Lashley, who never looked like he wanted to be there, you feel a bit sour.

It’s like a concert. If you hype up Guns n Roses as the headliner, and you have three popular, but not yet legendary, acts (say Disturbed, Godsmack, and Saliva) performing, what if those three bands (who got less hype) rocked, and then GNR came out and absolutely sucked?

Do you hate the show because GNR sucked, or do you love it because the other bands owned it?

I guess the answer’s up to you.

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

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WrestleMania XX: A Portrait in Wrestling History

March 27, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XX
From Madison Square Garden in New York, NY
March 14, 2004

BACKGROUND
Poor WWE. Despite being the most lucrative, proliferative, and memory-composing wrestling entity to ever be seen, it feels like that they sometimes can’t win.

On the one hand, fans criticize World Wrestling Entertainment for clinging to the past like rats to the hull of a sinking ship. In recent years, the likes of Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin have been “brought off the bench” to star in an occasional segment wherein they usually wind up destroying somebody who could use a victory to solidify himself.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, WWE also takes it in the shorts when things change TOO much. The company’s innovative experiments of the past decade, such as the brand extension, guest hosts on Raw, the Diva Search, having two world titles, and other concepts were met with flat-footed resistance.

So to score this, hardened WWE fans don’t like it when Vince McMahon relies on the same old tricks and characters be the support pillars of his programming, but the same fans also detest it when McMahon tries to reinvent the wheel with his own magnanimous spin.

See what I mean by “poor WWE”?

WrestleMania XX’s tagline was to be “Where it All Begins Again”. The slogan seemed somewhat vague as it wasn’t explained what “it” was. Would WWE begin relying on the past again? Would the company begin to churn out foreign concepts to a rigidly inflexible audience again?

Or would the company rekindle fan interest, both general and ardent, with a show that would set new standards in quality and story-telling?

Going into the event, WrestleMania XX put together a blend of developmental stars on the rise, cherished veterans in prominent roles, and beloved underdogs who were on the verge of greatness.

What would ‘begin’ at MSG on that night?

THE EVENT
In a twist served to reward longtime fans for their dedicated fandom, Chris Benoit was the winner of the 2004 Royal Rumble. In story canon, Benoit believed he couldn’t get a fair break from biased Smackdown general manager Paul Heyman, which caused Benoit to leave the brand, jumping ship to Raw.

Chris Benoit’s title shot remained intact, and thus he would challenge World Heavyweight Champion Triple H at the big dance. Shawn Michaels, then Helmsley’s nemesis, had lobbied for a rematch after he and the champion fought to a double knockout in a last man standing match at the Royal Rumble.

At the would-be contract signing for the World Heavyweight Title match, a frenetically desperate Michaels pleaded with Benoit to give him the match with Triple H, as if his very life depended on settling this score. Benoit flatly turned Michaels down, since he fought for one hour to win the Royal Rumble. Michaels responded by blasting Benoit with Sweet Chin Music, and added his name to the contract before Benoit could sign. GM Eric Bischoff’s solution was to make the match a triple threat between Helmsley, Michaels, and Benoit.

On the Smackdown side, Eddie Guerrero provided wrestling with one of its truest comeback stories when he put behind his alcoholic past in February 2004, felling Brock Lesnar to become WWE Champion. Guerrero would then be challenged by #1 contender Kurt Angle, whose attitude soured on the bitterness of Guerrero reigning, due to his past troubles with substance abuse.

Angle, with the blessing of GM Paul Heyman, proceeded to rail against Guerrero’s demons, while proclaiming himself to be a better role model, and, thus, better champion. Angle even taped his fists and beat a defensless Guerrero bloody, all while Guerrero was handcuffed (Guerrero was to have faced Heyman, agreeing to handcuff himself as a handicap, making Angle’s attack easier).

While Benoit and Guerrero were being groomed for their unlikely ascents, a squad of Attitude-era heroes and villains would make up the remainder of the upper card.

The Undertaker was taken out at Survivor Series by Kane, buried alive under a mountain of gravel. As Kane cackled loud and often about driving his brother away for good, hints of The Undertaker’s presence between to surface. From Undertaker’s classic “gong” blaring through the arena, to Kane being fronted by a casket and an urn, it was clear that the Undertaker was due back, and no longer as his highway-carousing biker self.

Stone Cold Steve Austin would appear at WrestleMania XX to moderate a match between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, while The Rock and Mick Foley ended their exiles to face Randy Orton, Batista, and Ric Flair of Evolution, after Orton and Foley had been a “legend killing” war. Chris Jericho would also settle a score with longtime cohort Christian, who had chastised Y2J for trying to romance Trish Stratus.

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Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler would call the Raw action, while Michael Cole and Tazz covered SmackDown for this five hour event. The WWE brought back its WWE Hall of Fame for the weekend, inducting legends like Bobby Heenan, Jesse Ventura, Big John Studd, Junkyard Dog, Tito Santana, Greg Valentine, Harley Race, Sgt. Slaughter, Superstar Billy Graham, Don Muraco, and celebrity Pete Rose. The Harlem Boys Choir kicked off the show with “America the Beautiful”.

THE RESULTS
WWE United States: John Cena def. Big Show in 9:14 to win the title
(Once upon a time, John Cena was opening shows and warming up the crowd. Highlight was him mimicking Ultimate Warrior’s “questioning God” routine when he couldn’t put Show away)

World Tag Team: Rob Van Dam/Booker T def. The Dudley Boyz, La Resistance, and Garrison Cade/Mark Jindrak in 7:51
(Ahh, the classic “get everybody involved” match. Surprised nobody thought to name Van Dam and Booker “Tokin’ Black Guy”. Too offensive?)

Christian def. Chris Jericho in 14:52
(Christian’s prize for winning was to spend several months paired with a now-heel Trish Stratus, while Jericho’s reward was getting to feud with the both of them. I like all three, and this match was rather excellent, if underappreciated)

Randy Orton/Batista/Ric Flair def. The Rock/Mick Foley in 17:03
(An insanely fun match with Rock, Flair, and Foley running through their body of tricks, including Rock and Flair just going back and forth with humorous antics. The match served its purpose though, with Orton going over strong by RKOing Foley. Just fun)

Evening Gown Match: Sable/Torrie Wilson def. Stacy Keibler/Miss Jackie in 2:33
(Were you aware that Sable is undefeated at WrestleMania? She’s 3-0, which makes her the female Undertaker. Come to think of it, she is bony and corpse-like….)

WWE Cruiserweight: Chavo Guerrero won a Cruiserweight Open over Rey Mysterio, Tajiri, Akio, Billy Kidman, Jamie Noble, Nunzio, Funaki, Ultimo Dragon, and Shannon Moore in 10:28
(Eight falls (Akio was never actually eliminated) in just ten minutes, and the WWE couldn’t figure out why fans didn’t take the cruiserweights seriously. At least it was fast paced)

Goldberg def. Brock Lesnar in 13:42
(And here it is: the greatest “bad match” in WrestleMania history. I can’t even do it justice. Just watch it sometime. Trust me)

WWE Tag Team: Rikishi/Scotty 2 Hotty def. APA, Basham Brothers, and The World’s Greatest Tag Team in 6:01
(See the earlier tag team title match for perspective. Highlight: Rikishi’s ass being so fat that he has to suck his gut out before giving Charlie Haas the stinkface. Time to lay off the butter sticks)

WWE Women’s vs. Hair: Victoria def. Molly Holly in 4:53
(And thus Molly Holly was shaved, giving us her best V for Vendetta tribute. I actually liked shorned Molly. Made me want to take her to a tanz-metal club)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: Eddie Guerrero def. Kurt Angle in 21:36
(Great, great back and forth match between two of the finest athletes in wrestling history. Eddie Guerrero was in his element as the clever babyface who finds ways to win that are outside the box. In this case, Guerrero untied his boot so to render Angle’s ankle lock useless, with an easy escape. How can anyone hate this match?)

The Undertaker def. Kane in 7:45
(Undertaker indeed returned to his “Dead Man” roots here, complete with Druids, Paul Bearer, and classic symphonic score for his music. A chill-inducing scene, even if the match wasn’t really any good)

World Heavyweight Championship: Chris Benoit def. Triple H and Shawn Michaels in 25:10 to win the title
(And there you have it: the last time a wrestling moment actually made me misty-eyed. Benoit making Triple H tap out to the Crossface was a dream come true, as was Benoit’s tearful celebration with Guerrero, as the ultimate “we made it” moment. Sadly, real life events have diminished this moment some, but I’ll never forget what it meant to have witnessed it live)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
A somewhat morbid joke sees wrestling fans talking about Undertaker and Kane as if it were the main event of WrestleMania XX. This is, of course, because of WWE’s policy of outright ignoring Chris Benoit in the wake of the double murder-suicide that claimed him and his family.

Is it unfair? Well, some fans still can’t bring themselves to like Chris Benoit for his past contributions due to the actions in the last two days of his life. Perhaps it’s best that WWE keep their safe distance from the “Canadian Crippler”.

But for those of us who watched WrestleMania XX, repeat viewings are unnecessary. If you watched Benoit ascend wrestling’s peak on that night, and share his accomplishment with the also-deceased Guerrero, with sweat and tears mixing on their faces, then you don’t need to see it again.

In my mind’s eye, as is the case with many other fans, having seen it live is a privilege. It’s one of the last few times that a moment in WWE required no caption, no more words to be said.

Parts of WrestleMania XX may be long since buried. But what happened that night is so special, our memories will keep it alive.

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

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WWE WrestleMania X-Seven: A Portrait in Wrestling History

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

WRESTLEMANIA X7
From The Houston Astrodome in Houston, TX
April 1, 2001

BACKGROUND
After two straight WrestleManias in which the WWF held a sizeable lead over WCW in the Monday Night Wars, the Monday before WrestleMania X7 would see Vince McMahon pull the plug for good.

On Friday, March 23, 2001, McMahon purchased selected assets of World Championship Wrestling from parent company AOL-Time Warner, ending WCW’s 13 year existence. After gutting the corpse of talent contracts and the film library, McMahon left WCW for dead, effectively monopolizing the wrestling industry for himself.

On Monday, March 26, wrestling fans were treated to a surreality of Vince McMahon being the first face seen as Nitro hit the airwaves for the final time. Raw and Nitro would be simulcast , with the WWF overseeing both shows. As Nitro came to a close at the 10 o’clock hour, Shane McMahon revealed, in story terms, that he swooped in and bought the WCW entity from under his dad’s nose. The WCW acquisition by Shane would lead to a faux-interpromotional war between Vince’s WWF and Shane’s WCW, which, while highly anticipated by fans the world over, fizzled to an unsatisfying conclusion.

Meanwhile, McMahon’s ill-fated Xtreme Football League was limping to its demise after one lone season, due to poor play, a lack of name players, and generally polarizing publicity stunts.

However, in the World Wrestling Federation, life remained grand. After taking their programming to Viacom in September 2000 (Raw on TNN, Heat on MTV), the WWF was helped along by Stone Cold Steve Austin’s return that month, after a ten months injured.

The main event scene was clogged with the usual pieces like Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and Undertaker, while clearing space for the likes of Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho.

As WrestleMania X7 was built to perfection, few knew that things would change drastically afterward.

THE EVENT
Stone Cold Steve Austin won the 2001 Royal Rumble, becoming the event’s only three time winner, and earning a main event match at WrestleMania. The Rock, one month later, would defeat Kurt Angle to regain the WWF Championship, setting the stage for a highly-anticipated encounter between he and Austin, would both men as faces.

The two men did a sitdown interview weeks before the match, giving legitimate compliments to each other, while throwing in some backhanded remarks to heighten the tension. In a curious tidbit that was overlooked by the majority of fans, Austin repeatedly stated that he “needed” to win this match. Austin didn’t elaborate too much on why victory was of the utmost necessity, but the phrasing seemed to be his central point.

Rock and Austin would spend the waning weeks saving each other from double team assaults featuring the likes of Angle, Rikishi, Haku, and others, while using each other’s vulnerable state to plant each other with their finishing moves, as well as lifting the other man’s move (Rock performing the Stone Cold Stunner, Austin the Rock Bottom) to try and gain a psychological edge on the other man.

Although built up as a match of equals with a mutual respect in spite of their over competitive meddles, Austin’s “needing” to win would lead to an unforgettable decision.

Shadowing the main event was an encounter between The Undertaker and Triple H, ten years before they’d face off at WrestleMania XXVII. At this point, however, Triple H was more of an inconsiderate hatemonger, while Undertaker had put his ghoulish attire away in exchange for his biker duds. The story began when Triple H lamented not being in the WrestleMania main event (after beating Austin one month prior at No Way Out). “The Game” claimed to have beaten everyone in WWE there was to beat, drawing Undertaker’s ire.

The two men would exchange instances of brutality over the next several weeks, with Undertaker being busted open with a sledgehammer shot, and then returning the favor by destroying Helmsley’s limo with a lead pipe. Undertaker even had brother Kane hold Stephanie McMahon hostage, threatening to toss her from a balcony, if William Regal wouldn’t give him Triple H for WrestleMania. The commissioner relented, and the match was on.

As mentioned earlier, Vince and Shane McMahon were in the midst of another spat over WCW’s ownership, and the two would sign to face off in a street fight. Mick Foley, whom Vince canned in December, would return to be the guest referee.

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The underlying saga at hand was Vince’s intent to divorce wife, Linda, during a fit of anger in the same time period. Linda was stricken by grief and shock, and lapsed into a catatonic state, resulting in institutionalization. McMahon then began cavorting around with Trish Stratus, while embarrassing her as well at will, and promised to bring wheelchair-bound Linda to ringside for the street fight.

Jim Ross and Paul Heyman (fresh from the wreckage of ECW) would call the action in WWF’s first domed Wrestlemania in nine years. Members of the WCW roster such as Lance Storm, Mike Awesome, Stacy Keibler, and others would appear in a skybox as onlookers. Legendary metal warriors Motorhead would also appear, to play Triple H to the ring with his popular theme “The Game”.

THE RESULTS
WWF Intercontinental: Chris Jericho def. William Regal in 7:08
(Jericho lamented this match in his latest book, thinking it was too short, but it served the purpose of getting the show going. Jericho would be repaid for his hard work later, obviously)

Tazz/APA def. Right to Censor in 3:53
(You know what’s amazing? Everyone on the face team can claim a World Title. And two of them became good color commentators, while the other became known for “DAMN!”)

WWF Hardcore: Kane def. Raven and Big Show in 9:18 to win the title
(Insane fun, especially the golf cart chase, as well as Jim Ross’ cryptic remark at Big Show: “Show has all the potential in the world, but you can’t make a living off potential! You gotta get it done!” That means you’re useless, Show)

WWF European: Eddie Guerrero def. Test in 8:30 to win the belt
(It’s depressing that both men are dead, so I’ll just lighten the mood by complimenting Perry Saturn and his awesome furry hat. I want one)

Kurt Angle def. Chris Benoit in 14:02
(The first true technical classic since Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels faced off five years earlier in the Iron Man match, and this one was merely one quarter the length of that. Good wrestling is always welcome in the eclectic blend that is WrestleMania)

WWF Women’s: Chyna def. Ivory in 2:39 to win the title
(If you hate Chyna, fear not: she won’t appear in these WrestleMania portraits anymore)

Street Fight: Shane McMahon def. Vince McMahon in 14:12
(Geez, where to begin? Well, there was a kendo stick, a cat fight between Trish Stratus and Stephanie McMahon, Shane missing a flying elbow through a table, Linda coming out of her pseudo-coma to kick Vince in the nuts, and Shane hit the Van Terminator to win. Overbooked insanity at its finest)

WWF World Tag Team/Tables, Ladders, and Chairs: Edge/Christian def. The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz in 15:53 to win the titles
(Rarely would a TLC match have its work cut out for it after any match, but Vince and Shane pulled out all the stops. TLC did as well, adding each team’s respective ally (Rhyno, Lita, and Spike Dudley) to up the ante. Next to Summerslam 2000, this is the greatest TLC match ever. All six men would still have greater career heights ahead of them as well)

Gimmick Battle Royal: The Iron Sheik won, last eliminating Hillbilly Jim in 3:05
(Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan were on commentary, Repo Man showed up, and Iron Sheik humbled his way to victory. My cable could have went out after this match, and it still would have won “Best Show Ever” from me)

The Undertaker def. Triple H in 18:17
(That’s nine. Crazy brawl that featured an improbable ten minute ref bump (after a frigging stomp and elbow drop from Taker), but it was still intense throughout. Undertaker also kicked out of a sledgehammer shot, so there were still traces of his zombie gimmick there)

WWF World Heavyweight: Stone Cold Steve Austin def. The Rock in 28:06 to win the title
(And then it happened: a classic back-and-forth war between two of the greatest ever sees Vince McMahon storm the ring and assist Austin in bloodying and battering Rock, leading to Austin winning the title, shaking hands with McMahon, and turning heel. Mind blowing at the time, head scratching in hindsight, the show ended with Austin and McMahon aligned, ending the Attitude Era)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
At this time, the WWF began to use music from contemporary artists as the themes for their pay per views. For WrestleMania X7, Limp Bizkit’s “My Way” provided a goosebump-inducing soundtrack to one of the most dramatic and exciting events in wrestling history.

“My Way” is appropriate, because that’s what Vince McMahon had to do to get to this point. His way brought WCW to its knees and made wrestling mainstream, after all. But on the other blade of the double edged sword, McMahon’s penchant for not listening to naysayers saw him curiously turn Austin heel, sending a shockwave through the industry.

Austin’s neutering into an non-confident, insecure villain, not to mention The Rock’s hiatus to film The Scorpion King, resulted in a WWF that felt drastically different. When Triple H tore his quadriceps in May, and that was followed by the horrid Invasion angle, the WWF had completely lost the aura of “cool” that Attitude afforded them.

As a show, it’s the greatest single event that the WWF has produced from a quality standpoint. The ending, however, is like a black mark on a white wedding dress. It’s glaring ugliness stands out just as much as the quality event.

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

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WrestleMania 30: The Real Story is Undertaker vs. Paul Heyman, Not Brock Lesnar

March 12, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

If you have not already figured it out, the war between Undertaker and Brock Lesnar is just part of the side show the WWE has planned for the WrestleMania XXX event in New Orleans. The real match is the war of words between The “Deadman” and Paul Heyman, which was showcased this week on Monday Night Raw. The verbal battle waged between the two icons of the company proved once again sometimes the promos and wars waged before the event are more important than the event itself.

Heyman’s greatest gift to the WWE is his mouth and his promotional work. He is a master and perfectionist – whether it is a program with Triple H, CM Punk or even The Undertaker. It has almost become common place to want to see the work of the manager over the work of the performer in the ring because we know what we get with a Brock Lesnar or CM Punk in the ring. When you can captivate an arena by sitting in a suit, pondering the future of the wrestlers you market, you have stepped into another plane most wrestlers and “ley men” cannot seem to grasp. Bobby Heenan got it. The Grand Wizard got it. Even Gary Hart and Jimmy Hart got it and to some extent, and today, after all this time Heyman understands the importance of the fans and their reaction to his shtick.

The greatest thing about the Undertaker’s shtick is that the aura of the man and the character overwhelms the ability or the lacking ability with age there is in Mark Calloway. Ate the first of the year, the watch begins.

Where is he?

Is he healed from last year?

Is he willing to make a few appearance?

Who will the challenger be?

Can he take his game to another level?

Is the opponent worthy?

Will we remember this WrestleMania because of him or in spite of him?

Whether fans notice it or not, Heyman is that same kind of character. The legend is truly bigger than the guy who started out with this idea of being a promoter and grew into one of the greatest managers of professional wrestling of all time.

Who will he face off against?

Can Brock Lesnar back up the words of his manager with an equally good performance?

Does Heyman get in the ring?

How does the confrontation change the program?

Will there be more to the event than just a one-time encounter?

How far does Heyman have to go to get the reaction from the WWE Universe the company needs?

One of the greatest things Kevin Sullivan did as a manager and wrestler was personal feud about the fans and nothing else. He would rise to the occasion, use the crowd and the mystery behind his cult-like following and make it an adventure of sorts. Because of his sinister style, his cryptic dialect and the fact he was as far off the beaten path as a wrestler could get (Luna Vachon before Luna Vachon. The Brood well before The Brood) Sullivan was the kind of man who could offer Heyman a path of disruption he could use in the future – and he has. At some point, it will be the same road Bray Wyatt will travel.

This match in 25 days is not about Undertaker and Lesnar. It is not really about the Streak. It is about Undertaker and Lesnar. It is about a word of wills and words, not moves and punishment. And in the end, it is about a mindset both performers have perfected over the years. It is about how two men will come together to create WWE gold – through a microphone, not within a ring.

Disclaimer: For the next 30 days, this will be an ongoing series of stories as we move down the Road to WrestleMania. Follow Camel Clutch Blog writer/blogger David M. Levin as he talks about the history, the pageantry and the success and failures of the past when it comes to wrestling’s biggest events. The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of Camel Clutch Blog, and this series is intended to ramp up the excitement that is associated with WrestleMania XXX and the Crescent City of New Orleans. Please enjoy this new feature and any comments are most welcome.

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The WWE Cannot Be a One Trick Pony in 2014

December 13, 2013 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

If impersonation is the best form of flattery, then the WWE must be gushing all over itself for a year that has been more recreation of older, adaptable programs that generated tremendous success in the past, only to flop or lose its steam in the honeymoon phase of production.

While I get the idea behind much of what the WWE did this year with the “Year of Heyman” and the return to gold for John Cena and the attention paid to the growing depth of Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton, the idea that was is old is new again is not the basis for which Vince McMahon built the WWE in the first place. There is reason to like an older program or spot or series that worked “back in the day.”

But now, the WWE being such an assortment of mixed candy, the company must come out and “wow” the fans with new and exciting feuds, make new faces and heels the focal point of programming and respect the veterans in the locker room and the mid-card that has to grow.

While Cena winning the WWE Title again and Randy Orton finally turning heel was a highlight for the company this season, the emergence of Daniel Bryan has stolen this year’s show and the brilliance of Paul Heyman has shown that you need not be in a ring all the time to make everyone stand at attention wanting more.

I often joke or make it known that I am an NWA apologist and love the old school feel of ring competition – the need for loser leave town matches and the mystique of the Midnight Rider. Those images and matches with Ric Flair and Harley Race and the Funks and Jack Brisco were “real” and when I see Ricky Steamboat and Flair go at it for an hour and never lose a beat, I know something special just happened. Dave Meltzer has stated on many occasions how he felt Steamboat vs. Flair was the quintessential series and that the moves of the 1970s and late 1980s were pure magic.

The WWE needs to find that again. Everything we see to day with a cross-face, a Thesz Press a Cloverleaf – it can all be traced back to the golden age of the NWA and the WWWF.

Jim Crockett, Sr. and Vince McMahon Sr. must be smiling down on us. But they also must be saddened by the idea that the ways of mat wrestling is pitiful and downright embarrassing.
The one-trick pony that the WWE has become in some cases has been magnified by the fact Bryan did not get the run he deserved and the power both John Cena and Randy Orton command with management. Is that fair? No, but it happens and it continues to be a sticking point with wrestlers in the main event picture and with the mid card wrestlers, teetering on the brink of extinction or superstar status.

The Shield can still move mountains and should be more of a factor as solo acts in 2014. The Miz, Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler and Curtis Axel had better pray there is a changing of the guard where more emphasis is placed on mid range belts and more opportunity for other championships (TV Title, Hardcore, Divas Tag Titles).

If the WWE continues on the path it is now, and the Authority continues to take command of the company, then it shall run its course until WrestleMania XXX where I suspect a CM Punk/Triple H match would be part of the program. And the company cannot continue to preach the gospel of a possible John Cena/Undertaker match with the streak coming to an end.

And most of all, it cannot rely on the past with the hope of making the future better. It just won’t work.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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