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Evolution Appears in Nick of Time as WWE Savior

April 15, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Don’t look now, but it appears the WWE has gotten it together and put the members of Evolution back into circulation as the new villains of the company to go along with the wilting “Authority” angle.

I applaud the efforts of the WWE giving this a go instead of taking a planned program like “The Authority” and shoving it down our faces. At least with Evolution, the WWE can use a basic premise of the past and apply it to the current unstable situation of new “Attitude” era.

Evolution is a villainous professional wrestling stable in WWE. They originally were apart of WWE’s Raw brand between 2003 and 2005. At the height of its original existence, the group consisted of Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Batista. Each of the members represented “the best in: “the past” (Ric Flair), “the present” (Triple H), and “the future” (Randy Orton and Batista) of professional wrestling.

While Flair was not part of the “reunion” on Monday night, it was surely a sign that Triple H had taken over the wizened veteran role. Now, Orton and Batista represent the “now” part of the foursome, a group designed to model the Four Horsemen. But I must ask, “Who takes the fourth place as the futire of this group?”

Evolution was designed in the image of the Four Horsemen, who are still in my opinion the best stable of wrestlers to this day.

Here are a few names the fearless should consider as its newest member.

Roman Reigns

This might be the most logical solution. Reigns is a beast and could be the “future” of this company, I think he fits the role well in the same way Barry Windham came in and joined the Four Horseman when he realized he wsa not going to beat Ric Flair for the NWA World Title.

Curtis Axel

There is a good thing going on between Axel and Ryback, but in the end, the son of Curt Hennig should be a singles star, He fits in fine with the other three in an Arn Anderson-type of up and comer. If Axel is to get another push with the WWE, this might be the best way for it to happen.

Cody Rhodes

Another young star who has been around the business his whole life. Rhodes could be a world champion, but will never be given a push. He fits the original Randy Orton role to a “T”. We all know at some point, Rhodes and his brother Godlust are going to feud and dissolve their tag team partnership. Leaving to join Evolution makes for a great storyline.

Wade Barrett

The big, burly Brit could be the “brawling enforcer” Batista used to be. He is certainly able to hold his own in the ring. Barrett was once considered the future heel of the entire WWE. Now, he is mid-card at best in this company.

Drew McIntyre

For once could someone please cast him in the right circumstances? McIntyre was supposed to be the future of the WWE – but that fell through. Cast as a misfit in 3MB, it seems the company forgot about his talent and made him act the fool.

If Evolution is to now take the place of The Authority, it means other feuds will have to either dissolve or heat up. It apears Kane will come back to the ring and feud with Daniel Bryan. That might leave Brock Lesnar out 0f the title picture.

John Cena will most definitely continue his feud with Bray Wyatt into Extreme Rules. And we all need to watch as Cesaro moves up the championship ladder. From the looks of things, everything is beginning to look whole again. Thank Evolution for evolving into the same cast of bullies that kept the WWE in tact. Now, more than ever, it looks like the past will certainly aid the future.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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WrestleMania XXVIII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

April 04, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXVIII
From SunLife Stadium in Miami, FL
April 1, 2012

BACKGROUND
It’s been purported that each WrestleMania event is generally planned a year in advance, and the booking is written backwards to support what they want to present on the grandest stage. While recent WrestleManias seem a bit more thrown-together at times, owing to an increasingly frenetic Vince McMahon being known to make constant changes, WrestleMania XXVIII was an event where a year-long plot was used, this time as an actual storyline.

One night after WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta, John Cena called out The Rock. Rather than thrash the previous night’s guest host for costing him his World Title match against The Miz, a calm and happy-go-lucky Cena simply challenged Rock to a match at next year’s big event, giving both men one year to prepare for the clash of the ages.

The idea was unique for a modern time frame in which that $45 secondary PPV that you’re being offered has but two matches booked sixteen days before the event. It’s a little hard to get up for those shows (and buyrates seem to agree), but a WrestleMania where the main event is entrenched in everyone’s brains for 363 days?

Those “in-the-know” fans who balked at WWE’s most overexposed star, and most overexposed part-timer, getting a full calendar of non-stop billing would be rewarded by the successes of their heroes.

WWE was becoming a different place, as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, who’d each passed through Philadelphia’s Murphy Rec Center on the way to the top, won the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships in 2011.

In spite of all of the social media blitzes, irksome moments from Michael Cole, and use of gimmickless FCW/NXT castoffs, it seemed WWE was crafting a WrestleMania unique among the pack. Between a year-long main event build, and two “workrate” champions, the everyday mold was finally being broken.

THE EVENT
Cena and Rock crossed paths prior to the WrestleMania main event, as Rock’s movie schedule allowed him to wrestle at Survivor Series 2011. That night at Madison Square Garden, he and Cena formed a super-team that annihilated The Miz and R-Truth. Afterward, Rock dropped Cena with a Rock Bottom as a reminder that, in four months, they’d each engage in a defining match in their careers.

After Cena was sidetracked by a hard-boiled feud with Kane through early 2012, he and Rock criss-crossed on the remaining road to WrestleMania, insulting each other in their typical juvenille fashion. Rock would host one of his trademark “Rock Concerts” laden with entendres and jibes toward the current company flagbearer, while Cena reinstituted his “Doctor of Thuganomics” persona, ripping into Rock with some lines that would make the kid-friendly sponsors cringe.

The match was even given a TV special on USA Network to promote the history of the icons, giving this match, dubbed “Once in a Lifetime”, a super fight feeling like no other in recent memory.

As if the dream match wasn’t enough to churn buyrates, the “end of an era” was also promised. The Undertaker, 19-0 at WrestleMania, wasn’t happy with how he barely eked the win out over Triple H one year earlier, and demanded a rematch with COO of the company.

Hunter initially balked, but The Dead Man persisted, eventually goading the man technically his boss into a fight. The Game agreed on one condition: that it be a Hell in a Cell match. Shawn Michaels, who’d had his career ended by Undertaker, was made guest referee as one last twist of the screw.

Sheamus was the winner of the 2012 Royal Rumble, last ousting a quizzically-acting Chris Jericho. The Celtic Warrior waited three weeks before deciding which championship to challenge for, ultimately deciding on the World Heavyweight title held by an increasingly-self-indulgent Daniel Bryan.

Bryan was an anomaly, winning the title as an underdog hero on December 18 via briefcase cash-in, but slowly took on a portrayal as an egomaniac jerk. Not only did he ignore the affection of girlfriend AJ Lee, but Bryan began to praise himself more and more for minor victories, many of them tainted. He even allowed AJ to be injured by a stampeding Big Show, all just to keep his title.

As for the WWE Championship, anti-hero CM Punk would face the winner of a ten man battle royal that took place on February 20. Jericho would win, and thus be afforded a chance to continue his vague “end of the world” crusade via the company’s top champion.

Jericho first began the mind games with Punk by claiming the “Straight Edge Superstar” had stolen his “Best in the World” moniker, which Punk gladly challenged Jericho to try and take back. With the champ not fazed, Y2J resorted to revealing the ugly family history of Punk, complete with the addictions his family members all once had. Jericho promised to lead Punk down the road of self-destruction en route to taking his title.

Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler were the evening’s commentators, joined by a now-goateed Jim Ross for the Hell in a Cell match. For the third time, Lilian Garcia performed America the Beautiful. The Hall of Fame Class of 2012 consisted of Edge, The Four Horsemen (dual induction for Ric Flair), Ron Simmons, Yokozuna, Mil Mascaras, and celebrity inductee Mike Tyson.

THE RESULTS
World Heavyweight Championship: Sheamus def. Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds to win the title
(And we stumble out of the gate. Boy the fans at SunLife dumped on them for this decision. I’ve said it in other mediums: it’s not the treatment of Bryan that made this moment suck; it was the belief by the company that Sheamus was going to look stronger as a result. The people who run WWE couldn’t find the pulse of the fans if they had a GPS)

Kane def. Randy Orton in 10:56
(I don’t know who this “Daniel Bryan” fellow is, but he sure got a lot of chants during this match. Decent contest that ended with a flying chokeslam)

WWE Intercontinental: Big Show def. Cody Rhodes in 5:18 to win the title
(The build was entertaining, with Rhodes showing film of Show’s WrestleMania embarrassments to psyche him out, but the match was all too brief. Rhodes actually reigned as champion for eight months)

Maria Menounos/Kelly Kelly def. Eve Torres/Beth Phoenix in 6:49
(All of these women are gone from WWE, which is a commentary on how women would rather do “something else” than work there. But I’d take a stinkface from Miss Menounos, at least)

Hell in a Cell/”End of an Era”: The Undertaker def. Triple H in 30:50
(Opinions of this one are a little divided. Some call this the greatest match in the history of the galaxy. Others think it was stupid to have Triple H assault Undertaker with basic moves, and have Michaels nearly “stop the match” because Taker couldn’t continue. Because Hunter’s so bad ass. Eh, 20-0 is 20-0, even if was slower and more plodding than Heaven’s Gate)

David Otunga/Mark Henry/The Miz/Dolph Ziggler/Jack Swagger/Drew McIntyre def. Kofi Kingston/Santino Marella/Great Khali/R-Truth/Zack Ryder/Booker T in 10:38
(As a result of this, John Laurinaitis won complete control of Raw and Smackdown from Teddy Long. Oh, and Zack Ryder looked like a useless tool. That’ll learn em)

WWE Championship: CM Punk def. Chris Jericho in 22:21
(A highly physical and intense battle that took some time to find second gear, I still found it to be the best match of the night. The battle at the end over the Anaconda Vise, with Punk refusing to give up on the hold, despite Jericho’s vicious struggle, was a nice touch)

“Once in a Lifetime”: The Rock def. John Cena in 33:34
(Nice throwback to the big-time WrestleMania main events of old, even if it was preceded by a six hour concert featuring Flo Rida and anorexic Shannon Moore. Cena’s undoing came as he tried a People’s Elbow, only to be Rock Bottom’d. Some said it was boring, but I actually liked it. Whether Rock has the endurance for another 30 minute match is another story)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
It’s hard to argue with 1.22 million buys, a WWE record, so some would say that a year-long build is the way to go. Rock would remain a part of WWE in a limited capacity, sticking around to challenge for the WWE Title at the 2013 Royal Rumble, but we’ll get to that next year.

The show began disastrously, and the fans largely didn’t come out of their anger-induced coma until the Hell in a Cell match. As many people who remember that match, and Rock and Cena’s epic showdown, equally remember how the show opened with the misstep of Sheamus and Bryan, possibly the worst WrestleMania booking since Hogan went over a tired Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX.

It wasn’t a terrible show, but it wasn’t a home run in any way except financially (undoubtedly important, despite our gripes). For the official “portrait” of the show, my pick will be a split screen. On one side is Shawn Michaels and Undertaker holding up a semi-conscious Triple H on the stage, while The Rock stands tall on the other side. WWE more than ever lives off of the past, as it can’t create an exciting present. Logically, their imagery should make you think you’re in 1998.

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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Top Five Worst WrestleMania Moments

April 04, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Hello loyal readers and welcome back for yet another WrestleMania countdown article. Yes, spring is in the air, the snow has melted away, birds are singing, and the internet is full of articles counting down every kind of WrestleMania list imaginable. Best matches, worst matches, top moments, etc. Well, never being one to miss getting on the bandwagon, I have compiled my own list.

Every year there are those special matches that you just can’t wait to see at WrestleMania. Maybe it’s the culmination of a feud that has been simmering for months or maybe a long gone star has returned to the spotlight. Of maybe there is even a historic first ever clash between two icons of the sport. Whatever the situation, there is always immense hype surrounding the biggest event of the year. But sometimes the moment doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Sometimes the wrestlers can’t deliver on the expectations of the fans. Here are the top five worst WrestleMania moments that had a lot of potential, but for one reason or another missed the mark, in my opinion.

5 -WrestleMania XXVI – Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon

This was it. The moment wrestling fans had waited over ten years to see. Bret Hart back in a WWE ring. And not only in the ring, but taking on the man that had basically ruined his life. Bret would finally make Vince pay for the “Montreal Screw Job”. Any even though Bret did get the win, it somehow felt empty to me. It just didn’t feel like McMahon suffered enough for all the pain he caused Bret.

And there was also this little devil in my ear wondering if Vince would have the stones to screw Bret again. Even though everyone wanted to see Bret come out on top, a small part of me was hoping for some kind of double cross again. Now that would have been a moment.

4 -WrestleMania XXV – Triple H vs. Randy Orton

I know what you’re thinking, “Who was looking forward to this match”. Well even though these two have fought about 100 times over the years now, this match actually had some decent build up to it. In the months leading up to the match, Orton had attacked both Vince and Shane McMahon, Triple H’s father-in-law and brother-in-law. While that alone wasn’t enough to generate enough heat, when he RKO’d Hunter’s wife Stephanie and then kissed her in the ring, which sent “The Game” over the edge. This was a personal feud along the lines of Savage & Flair at WM VIII. But the crowd had seen this match up too many times before. And following an epic battle between HBK vs. The Undertaker, this match never stood a chance. This just ended up being another routine match for these two, and a lost opportunity for us.

3 – WrestleMania X – Yokozuna vs. Lex Luger / Yokuzuna vs. Bret Hart

This had so many possibilities to it. The unstoppable champion Yokozuna against Lex Luger, with the winner to face the former champion Bret Hart. Back when there was only one World title, a double main event title match was huge. Throw in the match up of Bret having to face Owen also and this had the chance to be really special. The night started off great with a true classic between the Hart brothers. Then Luger finally gets another chance at the title, against the monster he body slammed ten months before. The set up was there for a stirring win and then a battle between the two men who eliminated each other together at the Royal Rumble. Instead we get a screw job finish by Mr. Perfect that was intended to start a feud that never happened. The match between Yokozuna and Hart was okay, the image of Bret celebrating and Owen fuming is classic. But since this was such a unique scenario, a DQ win for Yokozuna over Luger didn’t ring true for me.

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2 – WrestleMania IV – WWF Title Tournament

Talk about wasted potential. One year after the epic WM III main event, the WWF needed to up the ante. What better than a tournament to crown a new champion where anything could happen. And it did, just not in a good way. Rick Rude and Jake Roberts boring the fans for 15 minutes and ending in a time limit draw. The long awaited rematch between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant ends in a double DQ. The One Man Gang gets a bye to the semi-finals. What kind of tournament is this? The 1995 King of the Ring bookers must have watched this tape the night before the show (Mabel vs. Savio Vega in the finals…UGH). The end result, with Macho Man winning against Ted Dibiase was a nice touch. But the ends couldn’t justify the means in this case.

1 – WrestleMania XX – Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar

Talk about an all time stinker. Here was a matchup of two monsters that turned out to be a matchup of two kittens. Say what you will about Goldberg, but I found him damn entertaining in WCW. I loved that he would just come to the ring and steamroll people. And even though he looked like Stone Cold I never considered him a rip-off because there styles were so different. And Brock Lesnar could actually wrestle in addition to being a total beast. Unfortunately for both men, word leaked out that this was the last match for both in the WWE. The crowd was against them from the start.

Throw in the fact that neither was all that interested in getting hurt in their final match and this turned into a glorified pillow fight. The two could have done some epic damage to each other but instead wound up getting booed out of the arena. The only saving grace was the presence of Austin as the referee. But not even Stone Cold could save this all time turkey.

So there you have it. Do you have any WrestleMania moments that didn’t quite meet your expectations? Or maybe you feel I missed the mark on one of my selections? Leave me a comment; I would love to know what you think.

Vince DeHoratus lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two kids. He has been a life long wrestling fan and he has passed that love onto his son. Though not quite yet “middle aged and crazy”, he is fast approaching it.

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The Triple Threat at WWE WrestleMania 30 Will Turn Into a Fatal 4-Way

April 02, 2014 By: Category: Uncategorized

There is no doubt in my mind that the WrestleMania XXX main event for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship will move from a Triple Threat to a Fatal 4-Way. Recent events in The Authority storyline mandate that will happen.

It’s been building for weeks now. Not only has Triple H, the storyline COO of WWE, had heat with top good-guy Daniel Bryan, but he also has had heat with current champ Randy Orton and Batista, the number-one contender. All that heat has to explode somewhere, and it will happen in the top match at the top pay-per-view event in WWE.

It’s just the latest in WWE’s rekindling of the old “top guy wants the spotlight” plot. Remember in years past how evil chairman Vince McMahon would insert himself into the top stories and how many of those stories would climax with him squaring off in the ring against whomever?

This time around, exit McMahon and enter Triple H. He is climbing into the ring with Bryan to put an end to the mega-popular “Yes” movement spearheaded by Bryan. And there is an extra caveat to this match – the winner joins Batista and Orton in the main event.

We all know that Bryan is going to win that match and move into the main event. Even WWE does not want its crown-jewel telecast to be headlined by three heels.

But do not be surprised if power-drunk, egomaniacal Triple H waves off the loss and executes a little “executive privilege,” deciding to insert himself into the main-even scene. It’s a move straight out of Vince McMahon’s playbook.

Usually, WrestleMania is the end of a feud. But every once in a while, a feud will continue in an effort to build some steam toward SummerSlam, the number-two PPV in the company.

I’m not saying this will happen, but I have a gut feeling that somehow, someway, Triple H will walk out of New Orleans with the title. In the PPVs between WrestleMania and SummerSlam, Triple H will dispose of the other two WM challengers, Orton and Batista, to set up the showdown with Bryan at SummerSlam.

Since it was SummerSlam 2013 that launched The Authority angle and Bryan’s storyline of corporate disrespect, it would only seem right that the plot come full circle at SummerSlam 2014 and end with Bryan capturing the top prize.

I think even that would be something to which even Vince McMahon himself would be saying, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Bill Atkinson is a contributor to Camel Clutch Blog and the owner of WrestleWatch, a family-friendly wrestling web site. Follow Bill on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963 and visit WrestleWatch at www.wrestlewatch.com.

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WrestleMania XXVI: Somehow, Some Way, I Made It

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

-We are LIVE from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2010 for WrestleMania XXVI. Well, not me. I’m inside a one story house with a decently-furnished living room in South Jersey that belongs to my brother Josh, and we’re joined by friends Dave and Rob for this historic evening. Funny that our childhood heroes are all wrestling: Undertaker for Rob, Bret Hart for Dave, Shawn Michaels for me, and Vince McMahon for Josh (don’t ask).

-It should be noted that my feelings on this show may change in six months, as I’m writing this while coming off of the fumes of adrenaline from having just watched the show live. It’s like on IMDb when the users go see a hit movie, and then all run home to vote “10″ on it immediately. So tune in this September when I re-review the show and go back on everything I said.

-Fantasia Barrino does America the Beautiful, although she’s merely billed as “Fantasia” on her title card. Good to see the rules of one-name WWE divas also apply to guest singers. You could apply this logic to any diva from American Idol: Fantasia, Kelly, Katherine, Carrie, Clay….

-Missed the opening video, because our food just arrived. Mmm, buffalo chicken wrap….

-I should note the ominous Aztec-ish tower that makes up the entrance way. Very chilling, in a sense. One year, they should have a giant wicker man at the entrance way. Then they can invite Nicholas Cage and attack him with bees. That’d just be epic.

- Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Matt Striker helm the desk this year. Presumably, Striker’s there to explain to Lawler what the storylines on Smackdown are. Hey look, the Spanish Announce Table’s back! You know what THIS means.

-The show kicks off with ShowMiz defending the Unified Tag Team Titles against John Morrison and R-Truth. I would assume that if Truth wanted a surefire tag team partner, he would have just gone with Pacman Jones, since Jones was undefeated in TNA. Besides, WWE can overplay the kiddie element and dress Big Show as one of the ghosts from the Pacman game and….alright, I’m rambling.

-They’re really rushing through this, which is the perils of a 10 match show with lots of downtime being squeezed into four hours. On an up note, at least The Miz made it onto the actual show this year. I’d think after a year of stabbing a Kid Rock voodoo doll with pins, he’s earned this showcase.

-After hearing the story that John Morrison went into some online chat and called John Cena a boring champion, I was ready to lay some odds on who was getting pinned. Will Justin be right?

-Big Show pins Morrison with the KO punch. Hey, Justin was right! Match was rushed, not even four minutes long. I think that was the fastest opener in WM history to be honest. Eh well, at least Miz got a chance to shine. He came to play, you know. Good to Show win a match at WrestleMania, since that happens about as often as TNA making through a show without production gaffes.

-AXXESS footage. Seeing Bret Hart at the annual WWE fan fest just seems….wrong.

-Next is the triple threat between the members of Legacy, they being Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, and Ted Dibiase. You know you’re the jobber of the group when you’re demoted from your normal theme song to a stock theme that you haven’t used in two years. Poor Cody Rhodes. His creamsicle go-go dancer look just isn’t going to cut it.

-This reads like a handicap match, as Rhodes and Dibiase are united against Orton, who, despite playing a borderline psychotic for about two years, gets the big face pop. Then again, the fans pop whenever a female heel gets beaten up, regardless of the who the attacker is. WWE: making antisocial behavior acceptable since 1958.

-Orton does his best to fend off both men, and the crowd’s getting kinda lukewarm to this. I think it’s partially because no one’s ever taken Rhodes and Dibiase seriously as heels, despite their great matches with DX last year.

-Legacy has a miscue on a high-low on Orton. Is it just me, or could Dibiase’s father have afforded to buy him some coordination and timing training? Dibiase’s about as awkward as a Fritz Von Erich Father’s Day card.

-Dibiase and Rhodes have the inevitable rift and have a fight outside the ring that vaguely resembles the slap fight that Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch had in the movie Dick. They were playing Woodward and Bernstein, which means that Orton better make like Ben Bradlee and interject himself before this thing falls apart.

-Orton spikes both of his former flunkies with the double rope hang DDT, which Cole has never seen before. Damn it, Cole, what were you doing at WrestleMania 24 during the Raw matches? Have a VINTAGE FLASHBACK and let me know.

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-Punt for Cody, and an RKO for Dibiase ends it for Orton. Decent match, but it was hard to take Rhodes and Dibiase seriously as threats. Orton’s got the face momentum now, so it’ll be interesting to see where they go with it.

-We get a backstage segment involving Santino Marella where Mean Gene Okerlund winds up in a dress. I knew Mean Gene’s Burgers was a money pit, but how low WILL Okerlund stoop to recoup his lost funds? Call the hotline to find out!

-Next up, the sixth annual Money in the Bank ladder match, with ten, count em, ten participants: Christian, Kane, Matt Hardy (back to regular pants due to his waistline expansion), Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston (who did…..something…..with his hair), MVP, Shelton Benjamin, Drew McIntyre (thankfully without overdone entrance), Jack Swagger (only missing “Living in America” for his song), and Dolph Ziggler.

-Is there a kayfabe reason for Kane’s black eye? Or did he get accused of breaking up Randy Savage’s marriage to Miss Elizabeth?

-Match begins with a mad scramble up the ladders, looking like a TNA X Division match. Except in the X Division rendition of such a match, you’d have to hang the briefcase, pin 3 people, and then recite the alphabet backwards to win. Oh, TNA, you wacky innovators.

-Swagger, it occurs to me, looks like Charlie Haas if Haas was Corky on Life Goes On. I apologize to all mentally challenged people. I didn’t mean to compare you guys to Jack Swagger.

-Dolph messes up a Zig Zag off the ladder, and shortly after Kane powerbombs Kofi onto a leaning ladder. This is a rather ambitious MITB match, as we’re hoping to set a new standard for collective amount of nerve damage.

-In a swank spot, Swagger gets impaled under a ladder by Christian and Hardy wielding ladders, and Christian, Hardy, and Bourne try to climb, but Swagger manages to bring the tower down. Well, innovative, if nothing else.

-Kofi Kingston decides to top everyone by using a ladder that was broken in half, and tries to use it as a pair of stilts to walk toward the briefcase, but sadly it was not meant to be. Man, how high do you have to be to come up with THAT spot? Well, it IS Kofi….

-Kane and Hardy fight on the ladder, as I wonder if the hand of Lita is once again at stake between these two brooding Romeos. Christian helps Hardy take Kane out, and then Matt goes by the wayside, and Christian goes for the goods, but Swagger belts him with the briefcase, before taking forever to unhinge it and….gets the win? If you had Swagger in your pre-show prediction list, congratulations you LIAR. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes. My guess is he’s going to try to get his ECW Title back from Ezekiel Jackson in a match that would kick off just about any decent edition of Smackdown. Great spots, but lacking connection. Still, I loved it.

-I’d like to thank Drew McIntyre for his 48 seconds of participation. No wonder the office has faith in him.

-The Hall of Famers get their due: Stu Hart, Wendy Richter, Mad Dog Vachon, Antonio Inoki, Bob Uecker, Gorgeous George, and Ted Dibiase. The viewing party is convinced that Stu’s actually still alive, and just made sure that Smith Hart went to the ceremony just to get him out of the house so he can change the locks. It’s a good theory as any.

-By the way, Howard Finkel…..#26! Go Howard!

-Triple H and Sheamus is next, and Hunter’s entrance is longer than the opening match. Take that Morrison, you entrenched midcarder, you. Lawler mentions that losing at WrestleMania to Triple H has the power to change your life for the worse. Finally, Lawler and Booker T can agree on something.

-Triple H manages to slap on a figure four, and Michael Cole even talks about how Hunter learned that from Ric Flair. He can say Flair’s name?!? I think Vince is too busy warming up, so Jim Ross is on headset feeding these things to Cole and is trying to get him fired.

-Sign in the crowd: “HHH FEARS DIVORCE”. Why, wouldn’t he want custody of Lucy, the chronically crapping dog?

-Just before Triple H hits Sheamus with a face-to-knee buster, a fan screams “FACE BUSTER!”. It’s like that TV show Early Edition, except people under 35 are actually watching this match. Crowd’s really divided too, which is a bit shocking, since they haven’t booked Sheamus right. Maybe it’s all just sympathy cheers? Maybe.

-Sheamus manages to land the pump kick, but it’s not enough, as Hunter rallies with the Pedigree to win. Decent match, even if the Great Satan did win. Maybe Hunter should put his career on the line against Taker’s streak next year. Wait, no, then Taker won’t have a streak left! Think, Justin, think. Don’t make rash suggestions like that!

-I truly think Sheamus’ next step is to form a tag team with Rikishi called Potato Salad. The kids will love it!

-Slim Jim ad, which features the two kids turning into ninjas. Were they the same ninjas who kidnapped Samoa Joe on camera? Tune into Impact and find out!

-CM Punk and Rey Mysterio is next, and Punk preaches on the way to the ring. Always a good listen. Rey’s costume du jour: Avatar. But if he was truly Avatar, wouldn’t he be engaged to Tiffany and display no sense of human emotion whatsoever? I know, I’m mean.

-Rey gets caught in a tree of woe, but Punk slides in and winds up splattering his crotch against the ring post. Punk would regain the upper hand, however, and cover Rey for what should have been a three count, if not for a timing miscue. Crowd’s starting to die off a bit, which is a growing trend for these stadium events. If you’re not a real fan and you’re not into the characters, then maybe you just shouldn’t go. Hey, if I plunk down hundreds of dollars on a ticket, I’m gonna be screaming during Zack Ryder vs. Santino Marella, ok?

-Where was I? Ah yes, Punk nails Rey with a sick roundhouse kick. Always good to hear the sound of boot on vinyl mask.

-Rey manages to springboard off the ropes and land a DDT on Punk, although it was botched as Punk’s head got flattened too much. They show it on replay twice, and Lawler comments on how “beautiful” it was. Hey, if the man thinks that botches are beautiful, then certainly I’m not one to argue.

-Despite the best efforts of the Straight Edge Society, Rey gets the 619 and falling headbutt to finish Punk off. Match was abbreviated, but still really good. At least Rey doesn’t have to pledge to a straight edge lifestyle now. BRING ON THE QUAALUDES!

-Next up, Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon in a no holds barred match. I always loved that the fans who love Bret the most bring signs for him, and then spell his name “BRETT”. Way to show your devotion and appreciation, you miscreants.

-Vince brings out the Hart siblings and the Hart Dynasty as lumberjacks, since he’s paid them all off to help screw Bret over. Legendary loser Bruce even gets to be the referee. Great, expect about 15 low blows in this one. At least Bruce finally found work in WWE after, what 20 years of campaigning?

-In a twist, Bret reveals that the Harts are all on HIS side, and that Vince has been conned. Let the beatdown begin!

-So Bret proceeds to beat the crap out of Vince, and the current generation gets their shots in on the floor. David Hart Smith and Tyson Kidd land a modified doomsday device on the outside, and Kid BOUNCES Vince’s head off of the floor. Tyson Kidd, we wish you well in your future endeavors. I look forward to seeing him in TNA with his new name Holyfield Mann.

-The match is slow, but who cares? It’s Bret beating up Vince. The only way to make this more entertaining would be if the Harts pulled a Blue Blazer costume onto Vince and then threw him out of the rafters. Wait, is that wrong? Screw it, I’m enjoying myself. Perhaps too much.

-Bret gives Vince about 58 low blows and then slaps on the Sharpshooter for the win. If the match isn’t going to be any good, then it better cater to my base instincts. In this case: Bret beating Vince up. Five stars, Justin’s happy, onward we go.

-Justin “Softspeak” Roberts announces the crowd at 72,219. Nothing’s going to top the drawing power of WrestleMania III, let’s face it. Hercules and Billy Jack Haynes is just too strong from a historical standpoint, anyway.

-Edge-Jericho highlights. We even get footage of renowned sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews as he works on Edge. Do you think Dr. Andrews watches TLC and Money in the Bank and Hell in a Cell matches with glee, knowing that he’s one botched move away from some wrestler going to Birmingham and financing his next house? I’ll bet he subscribes to Botchamania on Youtube. What a sadist.

-It’s just a weird premise for this feud, basing it around Edge saying “spear” to Jericho to try and get into his head, and then getting the fans to play along. Chanting “spear” would be good right about now, since the crowd’s more reserved than my room in Hell.

-The fight spills outside and Edge slams Jericho into the table. I think our Spanish co-horts are in for a shortened evening, like always.

-Back inside, Jericho manages to apply the Walls to try and weaken Edge’s bad leg. The last time Jericho defended a World Title at WrestleMania against a muscled up blonde babyface with a bad leg with a dead crowd….well, it didn’t end well for Chris.

-After Edge won’t give in, Jericho tries a lionsault, but lands on his feet, only to eat an Edge-o-Matic for 2. Good spot.

-Jericho’s spear fails, and then Edge tries one, but flies right into a Codebreaker. Jericho goes back to the Walls, and applies a single leg version on Edge’s bad wheel. Crowd’s finally coming to life through sheer will of the performers.

-Both men fall to the outside off of an Edge clothesline and, after Edge accidentally hits the ref while on the apron, Jericho waffles him with the belt for 2. A Codebreaker, however, ends it and Jericho shockingly retains. Afterward, an irate Edge sets up Jericho on the American announce table, and then runs off the Spanish one to spear him into the timekeeper’s pit. What a sore loser. Match was really good, best of the night so far.

-You know you’re insane as a fan when you think Jack Swagger’s gonna run in right now and win the belt from Jericho. Sadly, the moment is lost.

-Highlights are shown of the pre show battle royal, which was won by…..Yoshi Tatsu? Man, Linda McMahon’s really aching for that Asian-American vote, isn’t she? The last time a Japanese born wrestler won ANYTHING at WrestleMania, Funaki had a 2 minute reign as Hardcore Champion. Sad, really.

-Time wasting ten diva tag is next, with Mickie James, Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim, Kelly Kelly, and Eve facing Michelle McCool, Layla, Alicia Fox, Maryse, and Vickie Guerrero. About time, we’d waited all night for this.

-After a sequence of nothing but finishers (some of which almost hit properly), Vickie lands a frog splash onto Kelly Kelly, who can’t even take a pin properly. Thankfully, Vickie does get the pin and becomes the third Guerrero to win at WrestleMania. Junk match, but who cares? In a moment of blind hysteria, Josh, Dave, and I ran around celebrating Vickie’s big moment. Because that’s what WrestleMania does to us civil, working-class folk.

-Still, thank you, WWE, for Mickie James in jeans. I won’t complain as much this coming year, I promise.

-Cena/Batista video. All it was missing was Batista’s immortal “HUGGING FAT GIRLS” line. Cena should have hugged Vickie Guerrero, just to drive the point home.

-Cena’s super special entrance: an Air Force crew performs an honor guard routine. The fans boo, and I think it’s funny that fans in Arizona boo military personnel in a city where Pat Tillman is such a hero. If you’re going to boo Cena, wait till he comes out. Show some class, please?

-Signs in the crowd: “NORWAY HATES CENA”. Things I know about Norway: it had the Olympics once, and it’s way the hell far away from my house. So there you go.

-Slow start to a match I was really looking forward to. Cena tries to Adjust Batista’s Attitude, but Batista spikes him with a sick DDT for 2.

-We get the boo-yay-boo-yay spot, and of course Cena’s on the losing end of it. Hey, it’s not Cena’s fault that Santino Holmes got both feet in the end zone last year. Deal with it.

-Batista spinebuster = one of the most underrated moves there is, especially when he does his sudden stand up after hitting it. Good stuff.

-Cena lands a Five Knuckle Shuffle off the top, which could be a tribute to Shawn Michaels and his flying fistdrop as a Rocker. I’d like to think so.

-Batista lands the Batista Bomb for 2, and makes the greatest face in the history of faces. Cena then lands the Attitude Adjustment for another 2 count. Another Batista Bomb fails, and Cena hooks the STF to make Big Dave tap and to give Cena his ninth World Title. Really good match, up to the standard of the Summerslam match. Cena cheeses next to a fan in the front row who’s wearing an anti-Cena shirt. Say what you will, but John Cena knows how to roll with the punches. It’s why I like him.

-Shawn-Taker video is next. I’ll bet the crowd’s fully awake now.

-Shawn makes his standard HBK entrance, and the fans are behind him almost 100% The question is, can they have enough guts to have Shawn end the streak? Either way, it’s going to be talked about for a very long time afterward, I can assure you.

-Undertaker rises up through the stage, wearing a hood like some giant, gothic version of AJ Styles. All Undertaker needs is Ric Flair to show him how to cut whacked out promos.

-Taker and Shawn have a staredown. If Taker’s going to win, he’d BETTER say “I’m sorry….I love you” before the final Tombstone. I repeat: he’d BETTER say it.

-Taker manages to land Old School early on, which plays into the usual theory of “get everything out of the way that’s minor, so that the slate is clear for the REALLY heavy stuff”. Brace yourself, folks, history’s about to be made.

-Shawn attempts a Crossface on Taker. I’d make a tasteless joke, but I’ll just say that it’s already been proven effective in the real world, so you know it’s just as deadly in the kayfabe planet as well.

-Taker gets a legdrop on the apron, prompting what I believe is Cole’s first “VINTAGE” of the night. Shawn does get a Figure Four though, paying homage to the man whose retirement apparently isn’t sacred. Just saying.

-Shawn lands the forearm and the kip up, but Taker drops him with a chokeslam for an early near fall. Shawn begins to work Taker’s leg, and even manages to snare him into an ankle lock. What, is Shawn going to do the finishers of everyone in TNA? If Shawn hits the Gringo Killer on The Dead Man, I’m a fan for life.

-Taker kicks off the ankle lock with two boots. The first kick straightened Shawn’s eyes, and the second one distorted them again. Shawn’s eyes are like a demented snow globe.

-To the outside, where Taker manages to spike Shawn with a Tombstone on the concrete. First one since I believe Jake Roberts ate one at WrestleMania 8. Trainers try to tend to Shawn, but Taker’s having none of it. He brings Shawn in for 2. Taker tries the Last Ride, but Shawn counters into an X-Factor for 2. It’s TNA Appreciation Night! Someone come up with some kooky stipulations!

-Taker applies the Hell’s Gate, and Shawn counters it into a pinning predicament for 2. Once up to their feet, Shawn pastes him with Sweet Chin Music for 2. Shawn tries for another one, but Taker turns it into a Last Ride for 2. I’m starting to sweat, and I’m not the only one in the room.

-To the outside for what could be Shawn’s last deadly spot ever. He lays Taker out on the table with Sweet Chin Music and then goes up top, coming off with a moonsault to put Taker through. SICKNESS. If Shawn’s going out, he’s doing it the only way he knows how: stealing the show.

-Back inside, Shawn gets another Sweet Chin Music, and can only get 2. Shawn tries for yet another superkick, but Taker clasps the throat and sends Shawn to Hell with a chokeslam. No pinfall attempt, as Taker scrapes HBK up and drops him with a Tombstone for 2, just like last year. Taker’s livid and frustrated and this place is unglued.

-Taker drops his straps, but stops, as he’s now hesitant to finish Shawn off, due to the respect involved. Taker implores Shawn to stay down, but Shawn mocks him with the throat cut gesture, and then hauls off and smacks Taker across the face. Taker goes into beast mode, lifting Shawn and hitting a deadly leaping Tombstone for the win and the end of Shawn’s career. After a slow getting-up period, Taker embraces Michaels and the crowd, of course, eats up this moment.

-Taker leaves so that Shawn can have his curtain call, and he does so mostly with a smile, as, unlike most, he has no baggage left. He’s the best at what he does (or did), and has a family at home waiting for him, with plenty of money in his savings. If this is the end of Shawn Michaels as an active wrestler, then it’ll be a long time before any single performer comes along that can top him in this line of work. When that happens, my grandkids may be in a nursing home.

-CYNIC SAYS: Again, I’m completing this review just hours after the show ended, so there’s nothing to look back on with stern 20/20 hindsight and definitive judgment. From a live perspective, a good time was had by my friends and I, which is positive. The two World Title matches featured great story telling, Shawn and Taker may have hit ‘five stars’ (ask me again in six months), Money in the Bank was exciting, Rey/Punk and Hunter/Sheamus were both good matches, and Bret beat the crap out of Vince. For the most part, as of the morning after, I feel like I’d gotten my money’s worth.

Again, time will tell on WrestleMania XXVI. But for right now, let’s call it a thumbs up show with a smile.

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 XXVI: A Portrait in Wrestling History

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

WRESTLEMANIA XXVI
From University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ
March 28, 2010

BACKGROUND
One of the biggest differences between WWE and TNA is that when WWE utilizes older wrestlers, it’s to their maximum.

In the fall of 2009, TNA went ahead with a considerable end-run to bolster their roster, with the target of running a monster three-hour episode of Impact, live on Monday, January 4, up against Raw.

To sweeten the pot and lure in casual fans not familiar with TNA, the company brought in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff to be major players, while negotiating with Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, Ric Flair, and Jeff Hardy, as well as other familiar faces.

WWE, knowing that TNA was going to bring their best laid plans to that Monday night, countered with something that would shock fans all over the world.

On January 4, 2010, for the first time in over twelve years, Bret “The Hitman” Hart would return to Monday Night Raw.

WWE Fans didn’t know what to think. Bret Hart, really? The same man who, while he’d done a few side ventures with WWE in recent years, had a rocky relationship with the company that embarrassed him on PPV with the “screwjob”? The same Bret Hart that locked horns with the company when the two sides became embroiled over who was responsible for the death of Bret’s brother, Owen?

Indeed, Hart showed up on January 4 in Dayton, OH, where he’d won the 1993 King of the Ring tournament.

To add to the surreal nature of Hart even standing in a WWE ring, he called out longtime nemesis Shawn Michaels. Hart had Michaels removed from the 2006 Hall of Fame ceremony, not wanting him there to witness his speech.

On this night, Hart and Michaels shook hands, and then embraced with a hug, dropping the jaws of fans around the world.

Only in WWE.

THE EVENT
Edge made a surprise comeback after a near six-month injury layoff, and won the 2010 Royal Rumble from the #29 spot. Edge waited to pick the champion he would face, and it paid off when he selected Chris Jericho, who won the World Heavyweight Championship three weeks later at Elimination Chamber.

Jericho and Edge had won the Unified Tag Team Titles in the summer, and then Edge bowed out with the mentioned injury. Jericho chose Big Show as his replacement, and then would off-handedly slag Edge for his shortcomings. Edge would taunt Jericho with threats of spearing him, getting the fans to yell, in Pavlovian fashion, “SPEEEEEEEEEAR”. Jericho’s improbable title win on February 21 meant he might have to eat his words at WrestleMania.

On the opposite brand, John Cena won the Raw Elimination Chamber match, winning Sheamus’ WWE Championship. Immediately after the grueling contest, Vince McMahon, who was on bad terms with Cena after he’d stood beside Bret Hart (explanation forthcoming), sent Batista to the ring for an immediate title match. Batista mauled Cena to win the belt within seconds.

Cena had a chance for a WrestleMania rematch if he could beat Batista in a non-title rematch the next night on Raw. Batista got himself disqualified intentionally, due to his hatred of Cena, his success, and what he stood for. In fact, Batista made it clear that when the two men had their skyrocketing career paths parallel each other just several years earlier, Cena got more love and Batista admitted that he was jealous.

Batista also made it clear that Cena had never, ever beaten him, and promised that WrestleMania, in front of the world, would be no different.

But back to Hart, Vince McMahon had assaulted him at the end of the January 4 Raw, continuing the bad blood that had existed since 1997. McMahon would spend over two months ripping Hart for hanging onto the past, claiming that he’d made “The Hitman”. Bret, however, would get a chance at revenge as he’d challenged Vince to a street fight.

McMahon accepted, but after Bret attacked him, Vince would renege. After Hart was then injured in a car accident backstage, McMahon would accept, thinking Bret was too hurt. However, after Vince signed the contract, Hart proved that his injuries were merely a ruse to get Vince to agree, and that the accident was all a set-up. Hart would have his chance to get 12 years worth of revenge after all.

Speaking of revenge, Shawn Michaels had some in mind as well.

Michaels lamented not ending The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak one year earlier, and became obsessed with doing so.

Shawn Michaels had cost The Undertaker the World Heavyweight Title at Elimination Chamber, doing whatever he could to get a rematch at WrestleMania, so that he could end the streak. After weeks of hounding “The Dead Man”, Michaels finally got Undertaker’s attention. However, Undertaker would only accept the match if Michaels agreed to put his career on the line.

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Michaels implied acceptance, saying “If I can’t beat you….I have no career.”

Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Matt Striker called the action from ringside. Fantasia Barrino performed “America the Beautiful”. Entering the WWE Hall of Fame were Ted Dibiase, Antonio Inoki, Wendi Richter, Mad Dog Vachon, Gorgeous George, Stu Hart, and Bob Uecker.

THE RESULTS
Unified Tag Team Championship: The Miz/Big Show def. John Morrison/R-Truth in 3:24
(Miz and Morrison get a “make up call” from one year earlier, and get to be on the actual show. Of course, it gets 1/3 of the time as their dark match from last year. Life’s just not fair)

Triple Threat Match: Randy Orton def. Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase in 9:01
(This was decent, and did what it was supposed to do in elevate Orton, but Rhodes and DiBiase’s slap fest was so horribly goofy that it became hard to take either man seriously. Some Mania debut for both)

Money in the Bank: Jack Swagger def. Kane, MVP, Christian, Dolph Ziggler, Matt Hardy, Shelton Benjamin, Kofi Kingston, Drew McIntyre, and Evan Bourne in 13:44
(Swagger was an interesting choice for a winner. And by “interesting”, I mean “odd”. He’d become World Heavyweight Champion two nights later in one of the most forgettable reigns in recent memory)

Triple H def. Sheamus in 12:09
(Ever feel like Orton and Hunter were punished for their crappy main event from last year by being stuck in the first half of the show? Match was pretty good, actually. Sheamus deserves more love)

Rey Mysterio def. CM Punk in 6:30
(Damn good match, but way short. Mysterio had to go “straight edge” if he lost, as if that were a heelish thing to have to do. “How dare that villain infringe on Rey’s right to take HGH! That cad!”)

Lumberjack Match: Bret Hart def. Vince McMahon in 11:09
(All of the Hart siblings, as well as the Hart Dynasty, surrounded the ring for a match in which Bret slowly and meticulously stomped Vince and beat him with a chair for eleven minutes. Well, it’s fine by me. By the way, look at the match’s time. What date was Montreal again? 11/09! CREEPY!)

World Heavyweight Championship: Chris Jericho def. Edge in 15:48
(Like Jericho’s previous WrestleMania World Title match, this had no heat, seemed a bit awkward, and is not often remembered. It’s a shame, because it was a pretty good match, but Edge’s entire face schtick centered around him bellowing “SPEEEEEEEAR!!!” which does nothing for anyone)

Michelle McCool/Layla/Vickie Guerrero/Maryse/Alicia Fox def. Mickie James/Beth Phoenix/Kelly Kelly/Gail Kim/Eve Torres in 3:26
(The last major WWE appearance of Mickie “Lesbian Stalker” James. I’ll always have the memories)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Batista in 13:31
(A bit abbreviated, but still a damn good outing. Cena and Batista have pretty good chemistry when they’re not bogged down by pointless stipulations, as they were in subsequent rematches. Batista’s face when Cena kicked out of the Batista Bomb is a sight to behold)

Career vs. Streak: The Undertaker def. Shawn Michaels in 23:59
(Not quite as “epic” as last year’s match, but epic nonetheless. Gah, I’m splitting hairs here. This was a great match, and a great way for Shawn Michaels to go out. I hope, unlike Flair, he stays retired and lets his tremendous legacy tell the story of how amazing a performer he was. I hope when Undertaker retires one day, he has the sense to do the same. Great ending to the show)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
I never would have guessed, in 2010, that we’d see Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels wrestle on the same show ever again. Hart and Michaels were, at one point, both retired simultaneously, until Michaels found the itch to wrestle again in 2002.

Hart’s match wasn’t really a match as it was a slow beating. Michaels’ match was an enthralling epic, considered the best match of 2010.

But for both men, WrestleMania XXVI was about closure.

For Hart, it was about giving the fans “one more match”, the one he’d wished for at his Hall of Fame speech in 2006. Sure, it wasn’t anything great, but it was one more Sharpshooter in front of millions of fans, as a way of putting some of his bitterness into his past.

For Shawn Michaels, it was one last great performance. The most talented wrestler the world has known stole the show once more, from peers young and old. He could now rest his battered body forever.

A photo surfaced one day after WrestleMania with both Hart and Michaels smiling, congratulating each other after the show had ended.

If you can think of a more appropriate portrait for this show, I’d like to see it.

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 XXV: Miz Gets Bumped? Not Awesome!

April 01, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-And so, I come to the end of this journey. Twenty four in the bag, and the most recent example sits before me, waiting for either my venom or my coddling. I think back to one year ago when I watched this show with my usual crew of my brother Josh, our childhood friend Dave, and my schoolyard chum Rob, so this rant will try and conjure up some memories from last year’s party. After all, since we all disliked this show so much a year ago, maybe one year will give us more time to be appreciative?

-Probably not.

-Anywho, let’s go back a year to April 5, 2009, as WrestleMania XXV takes us to Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX. This year, the show reverts to a simple three man team of Jim Ross, Michael Cole, and Jerry Lawler covering the event. If there’s something in this world that isn’t “reliant”, it’s the idea of Michael Cole working an entire four hour show.

-Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls sings America the Beautiful. I think the remaining members of the Dolls, as well as the Black Eyed Peas and Destiny’s Child members not named Fergie and Beyonce should form a support group. I think they’re all headed that way.

-On the pre-show, Carlito and Primo defeated The Dirt Sheet Duo of John Morrison and The Miz to unify both sets of Tag Team Titles. I like all four men, and I was primed to see it happen on the actual card since, after all, it was booked for it. However, because of time constraints, this got bumped, and none of us figured it out until we saw the promo for the main event. Well, if we couldn’t get a tag team match featuring four wrestlers I like, and I’m footing a serious chunk of the cable bill, let’s see what was deemed more worthy of PPV time, shall we?

-We open with Money in the Bank, as we’ve returned to eight men this year, since nobody pissed purple into the cup. We have Christian, Kane, CM Punk, Finlay, Shelton Benjamin, MVP, Kofi Kingston, and Mark Henry as the crew this time around. I won’t lie, when I try to recall each participant in this match off the top of my head, I remember that there were four white guys and four black guys and that makes it easier. Does that make me a bad person? I hope not.

-After Henry and Kane take everyone down due to their hossiness, Christian and Benjamin use a ladder to clothesline them down, and Kingston high jumps over it, and then dropkicks the ladder into both men. Could be a coming out party for Kofi.

-The little guys climb and Kane and Henry knock the ladders over. This is called “establishing the pecking order”.

-Onto the traditional ‘dive parade’, where even Mark Henry teases one, but Finlay stops him. Oh come on, Finlay just didn’t want Henry to overshadow everyone with his Shooting Star Press. I’ve seen it, it’s epic, really. Shelton tops them all with a senton flip off of a painter’s ladder in the aisle. Crazy stuff.

-Oh look, Hornswoggle’s here to fill my veins with coursing rage. He dives onto the pile and knocks everyone over, despite weighing maybe 120 lbs tops. Again, if you ever laugh at midget antics, I will eviscerate you on sight.

-Kofi’s mission: steal the show. First he uses a ladder for a jungle gym kick on Finlay, and later he climbs a ladder that Henry holds while closed. If ever somebody was obviously doing everything in their power to become a main eventer, it was Kofi Kingston. I’m pulling for em too.

-Punk and Christian both get involved again, and Christian takes Punk off of the ladder with the Unprettier, although they mess the landing up. When two of your four or five favorite wrestlers blow a spot at the biggest event of the year, prepare for the worst.

-Then Benjamin climbs a ton of interlocked ladders and tries to sunset powerbomb MVP off, and they blow that as well. Not a good sign.

-Finally, Kane chokeslams Christian off, and Punk kicks Kane off to claim his second briefcase in a row, although the crowd is less than enthused. I love that they boo an ending because they all assumed somebody else would win (Christian?), but then over the next year, Punk reinvents himself as a hell of a heel, and is more entertaining as a result. Of course, the catalyst to all that was winning this match. Eat it, know-it-alls. Match was good, but probably the worst MITB to date.

-At this point, my DVD edits out Kid Rock’s concert, which was around ten minutes long and, well, sucked. Much like the instance of Mickie James playing grab-the-trout with Trish Stratus being edited off of WM22′s DVD, I was going to go to Josh’s and demand the original tape so I could watch it and provide an accurate look back but….ummm…no.

-As Kid Rock finishes “So Hott”, the divas for the 25-diva battle royal make their collective entrance. They don’t even get formal introductions, which I think is a little sexist and insulting, and are just herded out there. Well, ladies, here’s your moment of recognition: Beth Phoenix, Melina, Maryse, Michelle McCool, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, Alicia Fox, The Bella Twins, Eve, Gail Kim, Jillian Hall, Katie Lea Burchill, Layla, Maria, Natalya, Rosa Mendes, Tiffany, as well as past divas Jackie Gayda, Molly Holly, Sunny, Victoria, Torrie Wilson, and Joy Giovanni, not to mention one other participant that I’ll reveal. Soon. In this next paragraph.

-A weirdo in drag dumps out Beth and Melina to become the winner, which is….Santina Marella, the “sister” of Santino. From the fall of 2007 until this moment, Santino Marella became the funniest, and most original, performer in the entire business, making me laugh at least once a week when he’d appear. But now, being shoehorned into this lame attempt at comedy, this was the end of Santino as far as an unbreakable entity was concerned. Unfunny, lame, and contrived. A dark cloud was definitely hanging over this show.

-At this point, the viewing party and I agreed: at least there’s still the Tag Team Title match to look forward to. Oy.

-Jericho-Legends recap is next, with spliced footage of “The Wrestler”, starring Mickey Rourke. I’m shocked that WWE Films didn’t create their own version called “The Sports Entertainer”, where the performer never gets hurt, lives a clean life, and lives happily ever after. You know it’s not beneath Vince, right?

-Mickey Rourke is spotted at ringside with fighters Frank Shamrock and Josh Barnett. Shame Barnett never transitioned into wrestling, because he has the look. Sadly, history showed that the look may conflict with a wellness test.

-So Chris Jericho is in a three on one handicap match against Rowdy Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, and Jimmy Snuka, and he has to pin all three of them to win. The legends are backed by Ric Flair, which would be an impressive array of talent if this were 1986.

-Piper insists on starting, and swears so loudly and brazenly that the censors are really earning their pay here. Has anyone in wrestling history ever been so insanely, car-wreck-esquely entertaining as Roddy Piper? Methinks not.

-Jericho gets tired of having to work with Snuka and Piper, who are just awful. He makes Snuka tap out with the Walls, which Snuka sells by tapping his hand as if he were patting a child on the head. Piper goes about a minute later after Jericho’s running enzuigiri. But that wasn’t before Piper threw one of the worst dropkicks in recent memory. Even Droz can do a better one these days.

-Steamboat gets in there and, at age 55, he’s so incredibly fluid. Steamboat lands a crossbody, his trademark lightning fast chops, a skin-the-cat, and even a pescado to the floor. The horridness that took place when Piper and Snuka were in there has been washed away.

-Steamboat counters the Walls, but Jericho lands the Codebreaker for the win. Bad first half, fun second half. After Jericho beats up Flair in a post-match skirmish, he gets punched out by Mickey Rourke to give the world its Entertainment Tonight/Access Hollywood video byte. Hooray for that, I guess.

-Hardyz video recap to hype their feud, which was basically “Hey Jeff, I burned down your house and killed your dog, so there’s no way we’ll ever like each other again, unless business lags and there’s still a market for Hardyz merchandise a few months from now, in which case we can forget all of this ever happened”. So yeah.

-Matt Hardy makes his entrance first, with Tommy Dreamer’s body and Edge’s tights. Wow, did Matt ever put on the pounds or what? Well, I guess when you have a lot of hate mail from past co-workers to respond to and post blogs about, there’s a lot of downtime and a lot of Taco Bell to eat. Anyway, this match is under “Extreme Rules”, which reader Hanzo helped explain the intricacies of. Thank you, Hanzo.

-Jeff gets an early stair assisted dive on the floor, but tries a similar version in the ring to no avail. He then tries Whisper in the Wind, but Matt nails with a chair on the descent. NICE. I mean, ouch.

-Matt pulls a Shop Vac out from under the ring, which I’m sure Jeff could find a creative use for. Alas, it makes a handy weapon. Matt also stretches Jeff against the post, because Matt is a repressed 35 year old emo with love handles. All he needs are the teardrops painted on his cheek.

-Jeff soon after makes his comeback, placing a trash can over Matt’s head, and then smashing it with a crutch. I thought Matt WAS his crutch?

-Swanton misses, and Matt lands the Twist of Fate for two. Matt goes up top, but Jeff suplexes him off. In terms of their WWE history, this is by far the best match these two have had with each other. Really, it was either this or that pungent crap at Vengeance 2001.

-On the outside, Jeff lays Matt out on a table, places another table over top of him, and then dives off the top rope, sandwiching his brother between the two tables. I wonder if there were any repressed childhood memories fueling the rage of each man, like Matt flushing Jeff’s body paint down the toilet, or Jeff calling Matt pretending to be Lita and asking him if he was free Saturday night. You know, stuff like that.

-Jeff brings in his typical gi-normous ladder to do a crazy dive onto Matt instead of, you know, just going for the pin. Of course, Jeff wipes out and misses the leg drop. Then Matt gets ingenious and wedges Jeff’s head through a chair to hit the Twist of Fate for the win. Sick ending, and a damn good brawl. I liked it better than MITB personally.

-JR on the ending: “Matt has ruined another moment at WrestleMania for his brother!”. I dunno, Jim, when Jeff eschews the pin so that he can do a crazy dive in order to wow the fans, I think he ruined his own moment. That whacky Jeff, always living for the moment.

-Meanwhile, Randy Orton is backstage engaging in mental preparation, while Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase stand there to earn their paychecks. “And…..cut! Good work, checks are in the room”.

-Next up, the first Intercontinental Title match at WrestleMania in seven years, as JBL defends against Rey Mysterio. Mysterio comes out dressed as The Joker, which prompts Jim Ross to make the inexplicable line “I think Rey’s career is alive and well” in regards to Heath Ledger. Ross would apologize later, but MAN was that quote weird.

-For those of you excited to see the IC Title return to the big dance, you had 21 seconds to enjoy it as Rey lands the 619 and diving splash in about 20 seconds to win the title. Why so short?

-JBL retires after the match, and has so far kept his word. I have to admit, I miss the big lug. He was a perfect heel, and I respect a lot of his politics as well. But, then again, he’s too smart to have to spend another day in the industry, so good on him.

-So let’s recap: worst MITB to date, bad Kid Rock concert, worse divas battle royal, ancients looking ancient, and a short IC Title match. So tell me why Carlito, Primo, Miz, and Morrison were relegated to being there before the curtain was jerked?

-Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker highlight package. With my crew getting a little restless, we knew that this match was to be counted out to save the show. We just didn’t understand the far reaching circumstances that it would create.

-For their special entrances, Shawn Michaels descends from Heaven with angelic music blaring. Once grounded, “Sexy Boy” kicks up and Michaels makes his way to the ring. If you’re watching a Shawn match, and you keep telling yourself that it’s the greatest match you’ve ever seen, then, nine times out of ten, he’s losing. Shawn has to steal the show in a losing effort always, in order to justify his next push. And you know what? I have no problem with that.

-Undertaker makes his entrance by rising from the depths of Hell, which is carny for “under the ramp”. I wonder if he found one of Gangrel’s discarded chalices under there.

-Shawn’s attempt to beat the streak begins as you’d expect with him playing David to Taker’s Goliath, getting in his shots and then moving quickly. Taker soon powers him into the corner and begins to maul, even as Shawn tries to feign a leg injury to bide some time. Taker plants him with a gorilla press to shut him up, however.

-I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you know you’re in for an epic match when they get all of their classic spots out of the way early. For instance, Taker just drilled Michaels with Old School. Not messing around tonight, I see.

-Taker misses a corner charge, and tweaks the knee, so Shawn goes to work on it, getting his figure four. Taker manages to break free, however. I’d probably laugh if Taker tapped out not five minute into the match to end the streak. What the IWC do? Probably catch fire.

-Taker mounts a comeback, dropping Michaels with snake eyes and a charging boot. A chokeslam, however, is countered into a Crossface by Michaels. If Shawn represents Heaven and Taker represents Hell, which one do you think Benoit sides with? Sorry, sorry, I should know better. Sidewalk slam finally breaks it.

-Shawn goes into his routine, hitting his flying forearm, kip up, and Manhattan drop. Shawn tries for the big elbow, but Taker sits up and catches the throat. VERY nice. Shawn breaks free and tries for the SCM, but Taker drops down to avoid. So Shawn goes for another figure four, but Taker pulls him down into Hell’s Gate. Well played, zombie man. Shawn makes the ropes, however.

-To the outside where the cat and mouse game continues, and Taker ends up eating the guardrail off of a baseball slide. Shawn’s attempt at a moonsault to the floor misses as Taker side steps. Then comes one of the most infamous moments in a famous match in wrestling history.

-Taker goes back inside and tries for the super zombie dive, but Shawn pulls a cameraman (actually Sim Snuka aka Deuce in disguise) into the path of Taker. However, they miss the mark and whereas Deuce was supposed to break Taker’s fall, the Dead Man ends up head-planting like a javelin. All of us in Josh’s living room went deathly quiet, because I’m sure we all thought Taker broke his neck, at the very least. Scary, scary moment. Deuce would never appear on TV again, and was actually future endeavored in June, but I really don’t see how that spot was his fault.

-Shawn implores the ref to begin counting Taker out, which is a good heel move, but Taker rolls in on 9. The match continues.

-Taker avoids the SCM and gets a chokeslam for 2. Shawn avoids another chokeslam, but then gets the intended Sweet Chin Music for 2. Shawn then counters one Last Ride, but not a second one, as Taker just SPIKES him. However, Shawn gets out of it on 2. I’m in amazement, even a year later.

-Taker misses a diving elbow, but manages to chuck Shawn over the top. Michaels skins the cat, but Taker clasps onto his body and gets the Tombstone, but Shawn gets the shoulder up on 2! The place comes unglued, and Taker’s look of abject shock is an iconic moment, almost on the level of Austin’s bloodied face from WM13. I’ll go that far, yes.

-Shawn counters another Tombstone into a DDT. Shawn lands the big elbow and then a Sweet Chin Music, but Taker kicks out now. Shawn can’t believe it and begins exchanging the soup bones with Taker. Taker knocks him into the corner, but Shawn counters the charge. Shawn tries a desperation moonsault, but Taker catches him and drops him with one last Tombstone for the win, and to extend his record to 17-0. Just an incredible match from start to finish, and one that won’t be soon forgotten, thanks to the efforts of both men. Having seen this again, I hope they learn their lesson for this year and put the two men on last. It’s only appropriate, given the hype and the implications.

-What do you mean the show’s not over?

-Hey look, Evander Holyfield’s in the crowd. Anyone think the day would come where Mike Tyson would be more coherent than him?

-World Title match hype, with Edge defending against John Cena and Big Show. The crux of the angle is that Vickie Guerrero was two timing famed two timer Edge in favor of Big Show, and thus the alliance to bring down Cena was looking weak. In other words, this was the ‘Shampoo Commercial’ of World Title match builds.

-Cena’s special entrance: hundreds of Cena clones come out to “Basic Thuganomics” and line the aisle in a nod to Eminem’s performance at the MTV Awards in 2000. Hey, Vince is up to 2000 in terms of comprehending pop culture! I look forward to this year’s show when Cena does something involving Confessions by Usher, just to show that 2004 isn’t TOO far out of Vince’s grasp.

-Standard triple threat stuff ensues, but it’s hard to get into when the angle is so bad. I mean, after Show gets tied in the ropes, Cena and Edge should just do the rest of the match themselves. Without an atrocious angle, it’s a license to make the fans content, right?

-Edge spears Vickie by mistake. Ugh.

-Show knocks Cena out with the Skillet Hand, and then tries to chokeslam Edge through the announce table, but Edge DDTs him on the floor. Finally, something of substance. Then Edge leaps off the steps and spears Show through the retaining barrier. NOW we’re talking.

-Cena manages to get Edge into the STF, but Show helps Edge make the ropes. Cena manages a Throwback on Edge, and then goes up top, but Show shoves him off into the path of Edge’s spear. Edge is singlehandedly making this match watchable.

-Edge tries a sleeper on Show for some inexplicable reason, and this allows Cena to get all 700 pounds onto his shoulders. Edge falls off and Cena drops Show with the Attitude Adjustment. Then Edge gets one onto the prone Show, and Cena covers Show for the win and the title. It just felt so anticlimactic after Shawn and Taker’s match, which is the danger of having such a great match go on early like that. However, it was more than solid, and Edge held it together well enough. Call it ‘decent’.

-Hall of Famers get their spotlight, with the Funk Brothers, Bill Watts, Koko B Ware, Howard Finkel (#25!), the Von Erichs, Ricky Steamboat, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin then rides his four wheeler to the ring and toasts JR to basically signal the end of his days in wrestling, as he has it in him to go into action movies. I love Austin, so more power to him.

-Crowd is announced at 72,744. Ever seen 72,744 people silent before? Get ready.

-Hype for HHH-Orton. I’m going to get very annoyed reviewing this, so I figure I’ll just warn you in advance. Such a brilliant storyline that got Orton over as a slimy punk who assaulted everyone in Hunter’s extended family, including his father-in-law (with the best Punt EVER), his brother-in-law, and his wife and mother of his children. You’d think a match like this would be overbooked to the gills to include the two months of drama that took place, but hey, we all make dumb assumptions, right?

-HHH had a solemn moment with Vince and Shane backstage before the match, and then makes his entrance by throwing his sledgehammer through a mirror. Oh, Hunter, you bad ass, you.

-Early on, the ref tries to prevent Hunter from going too far, and Orton lands an RKO. He doesn’t cover, however, because he wants to look cool and nail him with the Punt. The number of wrestlers badly influenced by Jeff Hardy is staggering.

-Hunter hits a Pedigree and both men are out. Well, there goes the exciting portion of the match. It’s been real, yo.

-Hunter aggressively takes over and the fans just die off. It’s like they’re waiting for something drastic and tense to happen, given the nature of the angle, but for now, Hunter and Orton are just going through the motions of a normal wrestling match. Weird strategy.

-Orton takes over, but not from a heightened, dramatic moment. He just methodically takes control and the crowd continues to die off. What am I watching here?

-Orton hits a powerslam to give the match some life. Then he applies a chinlock. In math equations, 2 + 2 = 4, but 4 – 157 = a freaking negative. Good one, Randy.

-The two exchange counters and try for their finishers, which is fine, except it’s not enough to revive the fans. The only thing the crowd seemed to like was Orton hitting HHH with a dropkick as he came off the top.

-On the floor, Orton counters a Pedigree by backdropping Triple H onto a table. At the very least, I had Orton winning to look forward to. I was hoping, anyway.

-The ref is bumped inside and Orton hits the RKO but, hey, no ref. Orton gets Hunter’s Sledge and tries to bring it in, but Hunter manages to hit his own Punt. After cracking Orton with the weapon and discarding it, Hunter pounds Orton into oblivion and then lands the Pedigree for the win. Wow, really? The most anticlimactic 20 minute match that I’ve ever seen at a WrestleMania, and not a sense of any soap opera fun with the McMahons or Legacy possibly wreaking havoc. The crowd doesn’t even care that Triple H won, either, and he’s supposed to be the big babyface star. What a mess.

-AC/DC, get us the hell outta here.

-CYNIC SAYS: So the tour of twenty five ends not with a bang, but a whimper. There was quite a bang NEAR the end, with Undertaker and Shawn Michaels stealing the show, and there were some redeeming qualities in the early going with Money in the Bank and the Hardy Party, but for the most part, WrestleMania 25 felt like an exercise in Murphy’s Law.

The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania was actually the 24th anniversary, so the show’s miscues and errors begin with the promotion of the name. There was enough to salvage it as a memorable event, but not enough to make it live up to it’s usual standard of excellence. Still, it’s an enjoyable 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 XXV: A Portrait in Wrestling History

April 01, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXV
From Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX
April 5, 2009

BACKGROUND
There have been many to criticize WWE for not knowing their history, often distorting facts and erroneously relaying anecdotes with the frequency of a con man on the witness stand. But this time, WWE is going to be taken to task for its poor math skills as well.

WrestleMania XXV was dubbed “The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of WrestleMania”, which implies that WrestleMania began in 1984. While one may argue that the idea for event’s inception may have come from the year of Ronald Reagan’s re-election, the first event, clearly, took place in 1985.

“The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of WrestleMania” was a repeated phrase, used dozens of times per broadcast in the weeks leading to the April 5 bonanza. It seemed almost apropos that a company would get something wrong, and then to their guns, continuing to get it wrong night after night, week after week, in every medium in which WrestleMania was advertised.

WWE can make its audience run a gamut of emotions, from “high satisfied to the point of pledging lifetime loyalty” to “wow, what made them think THAT was a great idea?” A misnomer in advertising would merely be the tip of the iceberg for a show that held high expectations.

Since WWE was demonstrating their ability to make continued miscalculations, it makes sense that they would bungle a number of other roads to their grand spectacle.

In the two world title matches, one would feature a nonsensical home invasion incident that would serve to take the story’s villain and reduce him to being a weakened oaf. The other would see the hero reveal a love triangle that featured the champion, his shrill authoritarian wife, and a seven foot monster.

Thankfully, there was one historically great match that would keep the show out of the landfill of wrestling’s mismanaged atrocities.

THE EVENT
Randy Orton would win the 2009 Royal Rumble, adding another brick to his well-built newer persona. Orton had ditched his generic “evil jock” routine, and was now bent on playing an unstable creep, whose deplorable random acts of violence were facilitated by intermittent explosive disorder (IED). The condition came to the forefront six days before the Rumble when Orton, about to be fired by Vince McMahon for insubordination, struck the boss, and then delivered a vicious punt to his head.

Orton would then target the McMahons further, horribly injuring Vince’s son Shane, and then dropping daughter Stephanie with an RKO. The latter act was done as a message to the WWE Champion, Stephanie’s husband Triple H.

After Hunter broke into Orton’s house and attempted to maim him with a sledgehammer, Orton one-upped the champion by DDTing Stephanie a week later, while Hunter was handcuffed to the ropes. Then, to punctuate his misdeed, Orton kissed Stephanie’s lifeless face while Triple H could only scream at him helplessly.

Over on Smackdown, Edge had finagled his way into becoming World Heavyweight Champion the same night he lost the WWE Title. After being eliminated from Smackdown’s Elimination Chamber at No Way Out three minutes into the match, Edge attacked Kofi Kingston and took over in the Raw match, outlasting champion John Cena and others to win the title.

In order to keep Cena out of the title picture, Vickie Guerrero inexplicably announced that Edge would defend the World Heavyweight Title against Big Show at WrestleMania. Cena, however, interrupted the signing by whispering something to Vickie, who then canceled the signing abruptly. Cena then was inserted into the match, as it was revealed that Vickie and Big Show had been having a discreet affair, and Cena had used video proof to extort his way into the match.

Speaking of depravity, Matt Hardy had double crossed his brother Jeff, costing him the WWE Title in January. Hardy had tired of Jeff stealing the spotlight designed for both Hardy Boyz, and would sign to face him in an Extreme Rules match at WrestleMania.

Also on the demented side, Chris Jericho’s obsession with the movie “The Wrestler”, starring Mickey Rourke, had brought him to rail against legendary figures who hang on for too long. Jericho would violently assault Ric Flair, Jimmy Snuka, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and Ricky Steamboat, leading to him signing for a three-on-one elimination match against the latter three Hall of Famers. Rourke would be in attendance as well.

On February 16, Shawn Michaels def. JBL in a match where the winner would have the right to challenge The Undertaker for WrestleMania, with a chance to end his streak at stake. Michaels would try to outduel Taker with the mind games, pointing out how “The Phenom” never once pinned him, and also tried to get in his head with religious overtones. Michaels was content to break his nice-guy facade, one upping The Undertaker with sneak attacks in the winding weeks as well.

Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Michael Cole called the entire event as a trio. Nicole Scherzinger performed “America the Beautiful”, while Kid Rock performed a song medley. The Hall of Fame saw inclusion of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ricky Steamboat, Cowboy Bill Watts, The Funk Brothers, The Von Erichs, Koko B. Ware, and Howard Finkel

THE RESULTS
Money in the Bank: CM Punk def. Kane, Shelton Benjamin, MVP, Finlay, Christian, Kofi Kingston, and Mark Henry in 14:24
(The fans actually booed when Punk, still a face, won. That may have been the catalyst for one of my all time favorite heel runs in wrestling history. Match was solid, but nothing great, thanks to some very awkward spots)

25 Diva Battle Royal: Santino Marella won, last ousting Beth Phoenix and Melina in 9:26
(I refuse to dignify this crap any further. You can’t make me)

3 on 1 Handicap Elimination Match: Chris Jericho def. Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, and Ricky Steamboat in 8:53
(Jericho’s point about legends needing to go away was vindicated by Piper and Snuka wrestling like, well, Piper and Snuka. Steamboat looked amazing for having a 15 year layoff, and he and Jericho salvaged a crap match with just four minutes of work)

Extreme Rules: Matt Hardy def. Jeff Hardy in 13:13
(An underrated match sees both men have as violent a spotfest as possible. Hilarious moment: Jeff misses a pointless ladder leg drop, Matt hits a chair-wrapped Twist of Fate (which looked SICK), wins, and JR screams of how Matt has ruined the moment for Jeff. Uhh, Jim? Matt’s trying to win too)

WWE Intercontinental: Rey Mysterio def. JBL in 21 seconds to win the title
(The first time the Intercontinental belt is defended in the “WWE” era at WrestleMania, and it goes twenty one seconds. What a way for JBL to go. I did enjoy Rey’s “Joker” tribute though)

The Undertaker def. Shawn Michaels in 30:41
(If not for this match, we’d be talking about WrestleMania XXV the same way we talk about WrestleMania IX, or even an orphanage burning down. Just dramatic as could be throughout, and it deserved all the accolades that it received. It’s one of the five or ten greatest WrestleMania matches ever, and it saved the show)

World Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Edge and Big Show in 14:42 to win the title
(It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, as it did have a number of creative double teams and wild moments. But Cena winning (again), Show jobbing (again), and much of the action just seemed so derivative. It was alright)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: Triple H def. Randy Orton in 23:34
(They decided to blow off one of their hotter angles with a slow, awkward, punch-filled alleged brawl in which the crowd, all 70,000+ of them, was totally dead. Orton losing failed to get any kind of reaction, and you’ve noticed that Triple H hasn’t been involved in a major World Title program since)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
There was a Tag Team Title unification match scheduled for the show, with John Morrison and The Miz taking on Carlito and Primo, but due to time constraints, the match was relegated to the pre-show. Those fans who didn’t check the internet during the show didn’t realize the match had already taken place until near the end of the night.

It seems about right that WWE would take four hard working young talents and excise them from the main card in favor of the Divas Battle Royal, which had a 10 minute concert that no one liked, followed by 10 minutes of insulting “wrestling”.

This is one of those nights where WWE seemed to not know what the fans wanted. Triple H won to no reaction. John Cena won, again, to the misery of his detractors. Piper and Snuka waddled through the motions while the two aforementioned teams got pushed aside.

But at least, with Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, the fans were treated to a half hour of no pointless swerves, no cutesy self-congratulation, and no overbooking to build to another show. Instead, two of the greatest wrestlers in history wrestled, and they wrestled well.

So at least we had that.

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 XXIV: And We Never Saw Flair Again

March 31, 2014 By: Category: Boxing, Sports, WWE | Pro Wrestling

-It had been 15 years, but WWE had to get back on the horse and have an outdoor PPV again. Following the debacle that WrestleMania IX, I know that it had to be tough to repress the memories of bad matches and a horrid appeasement of Hulk Hogan’s ego. So here we are, at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL, on March 30, 2008. After years of watching TNA, I had no idea that more than 900 people were allowed to attend wrestling events in the city.

-So after JBL went back to being an active wrestler, our teams became Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (Raw), Michael Cole and Jonathan Coachman (Smackdown), and Joey Styles and Tazz (ECW). The Smackdown team has the most legit news experience by far, yet want to be hung by their Adam’s apples for atrocities committed on headset, courtesy of the smark community. From this, I can infer that smarks hate news people.

-Kane won a 24 man battle royal before the show to earn a shot at the ECW Championship on this show. I still wish Val Venis had gone to the brand with him to form my dream team: “The Libertarian Extremists”. They could hold Tea Party protests over administrational tyranny and everything. They’d have my support.

-John Legend performs the America the Beautiful. When watching the show with my viewing party, I believe my exact reaction was “Oh, so that’s what he looks like.”

-The show opens with a “Belfast Brawl”, which I believe is actually a hardcore match, aka extreme rules match aka no holds barred match aka street fight. In other words, you can use weapons with total impunity to settle your blood feud, but just don’t aim for the head. Anyway, Finlay’s taking on JBL in this contest, which was centered around one of the most bizarre and non-sensical storylines in the annals of WWE history. I don’t even think I wish to recount it.

-Or maybe I do.

-Long story short, Vince found out that he had an illegitimate child in a case where the mother never revealed herself. The son was revealed in a convoluted game of process of elimination to be Hornswoggle. So Vince was dismayed, as you might expect, but eventually, Finlay kept coming out to save the little bugger from certain harm that Vince would create for him. Some “deal” between Finlay and Vince was tossed around, albeit vaguely. Finally, JBL somehow has this inside knowledge and he reveals that Finlay is Hornswoggle’s actual father. How he acquired such knowledge is anyone’s guess, but this led to a match between Finlay and JBL for this event.

-Yeah.

-JBL attacks early and manages to hit Finlay with a trash can that the Irishman threw into the ring. He hit em in the head, but hey, we can ignore that for the sake of a Senate run.

-After reversing a piledriver, Finlay wallops JBL with a cookie sheet. Anyone have any earthly idea how cookie sheets get under the ring in the first place? Maybe if they had those old five minute intermissions in mid show and they’d serve some Toll House cookies to the announcers, that’d be one thing. As it is, makes no sense.

-Just to exacerbate the horrible story arc, here comes Hornswoggle with a kendo stick. Sure enough, he hits JBL with it. Anyone who’s ever taken comedic pleasure in the mere sight of a midget should be hanged. Because of you, we have moments like this.

-Finlay attempts a suicide dive, but JBL smashes him with a trash can in mid air. It’s important to keep in mind that both men are north of forty years of age. Just wanted to note that.

-JBL throws a trash can hard onto a prone Hornswoggle on the floor, thus earning him the official ranking of “Jesus Christ Almighty” in my book. Thank you, John. I will never mock your man-boobs ever again.

-After whacking Finlay’s legs with the kendo stick, JBL lands the Clothesline from Hell for the win. If you take out the horrid angle and the involvement of a freaking leprechaun, then you’re left with a rather decent brawl. JBL and Finlay have known each other for years going back to their alliance in the CWA in Germany, so it makes sense that they’d have some chemistry. Good Belfast Brawl or hardcore match or street fight or whatever it was….

-Backstage, Mr. Kennedy has words with guest hostess Kim Kardashian. Ah, Kim. There’s a potential Raw host I could get behind. And I’d support her bid to host as well.

-Up next, we have the fourth annual Money in the Bank ladder match, featuring seven participants. That’s because Jeff Hardy decided to be El Violator de Wellness and get him excised from the match. So while Jeff’s at home living for the moment, we’re left with Chris Jericho, CM Punk, MVP, Mr. Kennedy, John Morrison, Shelton Benjamin, and Carlito. All in all, a pretty stellar cast.

-MVP manages to come into possession of a ladder early, and uses it to ward off the other opponents like some blinged out pong paddle. I take pride in knowing that I’m first person to ever type those four words in that order. Unfortunately for Mr. Porter, Jericho gets a bigger ladder and phallically out-duels him. So much for that.

-Jericho tries to put Kennedy in the Walls, but ends up slingshotting him onto the ladder, allowing last year’s winner to try and climb. However, Morrison and Benjamin end up joining him near the apex and it leads to a tower of doom sunset superplex spot. Not wasting time, I see.

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-Shelton tries to top his usual insanity by springboarding to an empty ladder, but slips off without anyone to counter balance it. You mean WWE can’t find ANYTHING for Shelton to do? Really?

-Punk nails Benjamin with the GTS. Well, they found something for him. Unfortunately, it’s a role as “guinea pig for other guys’ finishers”. Well, it’s something.

-Shelton gives it one last go, but is dumped off the ladder, flipping through a table bridge at ringside in a truly scary spot. How scary? Carlito couldn’t hide the look of horror on his face, even though he’s one of the guys who pushed the ladder. Amazing.

-Jericho, Carlito, and Kennedy all make a run for the contract, but MVP dumps them all. Then MVP eats a ladder to the face from Morrison.

-Jericho, Carlito, and Kennedy again find themselves up on the ladders, with Punk as well, but all of them end up crashing, leaving MVP as the last man standing. He goes to climb with no one in sight to stop him, until Matt Hardy jumps the rail and asks us to buy his brother’s DVD to help pay his legal costs. No, sorry, he takes MVP out with a Twist of Fate. My only question: why is Matt in the audience without a shirt on?

-Two ladders get wedged together and Jericho drops Carlito onto the contraption, causing it to project one ladder vertically. Morrison tries climbing this oddly-positioned ladder, but gets pushed off and crotched on the top rope. Ouch.

-Carlito and Kennedy wipe out, leaving a finale between Jericho and Punk. They meet at the top and Jericho gets the upper hand, but Punk pulls Jericho’s leg through and hangs him out, leaving CM Punk to pull down the briefcase and earn the contract. Good stunt show featuring some really innovative stuff, especially Morrison’s climb up the doubled ladder. Plus, it pushed Punk up the ladder (pun intended) to becoming a featured player, which helped lead him to where he is today. What more can you ask for?

-The Hall of Fame Class of 2008 is introduced by Howard Finkel (#24!): The Briscos, Gordon Solie, Rocky Johnson, Peter Maivia, Eddie Graham, Mae Young, and Ric Flair, who is represented by his family. Moments after this recognition took place, Reid and Ashley were arrested for beating up Megan, and Ric was disappointed in David for being David.

-Backstage, Snoop Dogg, Festus, and Santino Marella ham it up. Maybe Snoop’s part of the reason why Luke Gallows got so messed up. Punk should rail against Snoop next.

-Teddy Long and William Regal provide the intros for the next match between Batista and Umaga, which is the “Battle for Brand Supremacy”. Man, when you can’t come up with a solid angle for Batista to work within, you must not have your priorities in order.

-Yes, Regal does call Umaga “Youmanga”. That will never get old, even if the guy is dead.

-Slow paced hoss fight with no story at all, and the crowd is all over Batista for some reason. Seriously, Umaga nails him in the throat at one point and the fans all cheered.

-Boo. Yay. Boo. Yay. The punch sequence we’ve all grown to love, except Umaga’s getting the yays. It’s like Hogan vs. Rock, but without the intrigue and imagination-capturing fun.

-Umaga has the Samoan Spike blocked, and Batista goes into the final sequence, botching the Batista Bomb en route to victory. Not good at all, and uncharacteristically stale for two pretty good brawlers. Batista would recover from this and Umaga….well, unfortunately, not so much. Last Mania match for the big man, who is sorely missed.

-JR and Lawler give us the tale of the tape for the Mayweather-Show fight. They should have included Show’s WrestleMania record, just for a laugh.

-Highlights of Kane winning the battle royal, thus dampening my spirits as I was pulling for Snitsky. Truth told, I was hoping that “bad teeth” Snitsky was a ploy to bring Isaac Yankem back through Kane, and create the most epic feud in the history of civilization. Sadly, the moment was wasted.

-So here’s Armando Estrada to do ring intros for the ECW Title match, and he’s wearing arguably the greatest hat in the world. Why not just make HIM Raw GM? He’s Cuban/Palestinian Slick!

-So here’s Chavo Guerrero to defend the title….and it’s over. Yep. Not even fifteen seconds and Kane chokeslams him to Hell for the gold. I wish Kane had been in the original ECW, just so he could set people on fire with more gusto. The match didn’t suck because, well, it wasn’t a match.

-Raven Symone promotes her Make a Wish charity to grant wishes for 50 kids in 50 states. WWE was so touched by the humanity on display, that they totally forgot to send Michelle McCool and Layla out there to call her fat.

-Shawn-Flair highlights to build up this historic match, and Mike Adamle gets Ric’s final thoughts. To Hell with Adamle, we should have Peter Vescey doing interviews. He could ask “So, are you retiring at age 59 because you finally have your finances in order and aren’t evading your taxes anymore?”. It’s a burning question, I think.

-Before we go any further, I’d like to state for the record that I, in fact, don’t have the same level of invested emotion in this match as many other fans do. Those who still love Ric Flair and voted this as match of the year for 2008 over, say, Shawn’s match with Chris Jericho at No Mercy, were free to have done so. However, given that I believe that Flair is a sycophantic lush who blew all of his money and sucks up to his current employer just to keep his remaining assets safe, I could not wait to see Ric go. What follows is a really good match, but I shed no tears over Flair’s departure.

-Anywho, it’s Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels in a match where Flair has to retire if he loses. Former WWE writer Seth Mates was right: they should have done it the opposite way. Have Flair lose to undercard guys like MVP and Kennedy, etc, with the edict being that Flair can’t retire until he WINS a match. In order to go out on top, Flair has to put on the performance of his life against Shawn, whom he tells not to lay down. Flair ends up beating Shawn in a possible classic, and then rides off into the sunset. Works better, I think.

-Technical exchange to start and Flair lands a hip toss, followed by his Flair strut. Flair’s not going down easily. The Internal Revenue Service learned this.

-Hey look, a chop fest between two men that Bret Hart doesn’t like, and they’re doing his least favorite move back and forth. If Bret goes to Hell, this move will be on loop for all eternity.

-Hey look, Flair hit a top rope move. It’s a cross body on Shawn, and cross bodies are played out, but hey. Better late than never for Naitch.

-Then we get a moment that’ll make ya cringe: Shawn attempts a moonsault to the floor with Flair in his path, and Shawn kinda gets em, but also slams his ribcage on the commentary table. It looked a lot worse than it would end up being, but geez. Flair shoulda just pinned him in a shoot and said “Ha ha, Vince still has to pay me! I’m out of debt forever!”. Just because.

-The match seesaws from here, which is fine because you can’t really have a heat segment for this kind of match if Flair’s going out, and I get that. So you have a game of one-upsmanship which I’m sure Michaels and Flair are willing play, since they’re buddies and all.

-Figure Four locked on, but Shawn gets to the ropes. As much as I disliked Flair here, I was enjoying the drama.

-Pinfall reversals and Flair gets a second Figure Four. C’mon, Shawn, tap out, his finances depend on this. Crap, Shawn gets the ropes. Oh well, maybe next time.

-Shawn lands the SCM, but a slow cover gets only a 2. Shawn tries another, but Flair goes low, since it’s one of the few moves he can execute now without giving himself a hernia. I have to admit, dramatic as it is, two years removed it, it’s just looking like any other match.

-Finally, the well known ending, where Shawn gets a second SCM, but is hesitant to cover. Finally, Flair tells him to bring it, and Shawn mouths the “I’m sorry….I love you” comment, before landing the third Sweet Chin Music to win and end Flair’s career. Shawn hugs the unconscious Flair and kisses him in a nice moment, before leaving him to have his spotlight. Flair embraces his kids at ringside, whom are all crying (“Crap, Dad’s going to be home more!”) and Flair leaves to a thunderous ovation. If you love Flair, then this was your Graceland. If you’re like me and you think he’s a scumbag, then it was merely a “really good match”.

-Goodbye, Ric. It’s a shame that we’ll never see you wrestle another match, since you’re a man of your word.

-Edge assures us that tonight, the fans will leave disappointed. Shoulda waited till next year to use that line, Mr. Copeland.

-Snoop Dogg is the guest emcee for the LumberJills Playboy Challenge Gala Thingie-ma-bobber. Beth Phoenix and Melina vs. Maria and Ashley while Mickie James gets to watch from ringside again. Lucky her.

-Mmm….Maryse and Layla dancing up on each other on the way out. Victoria dancing….well, not so much.

-And here’s a highlight: the lights went out during the match. And there’s your highlight. Thanks for taking interest in the match!

-Anyway, Santino Marella interferes on behalf of the heels and Beth pins Maria with her Fisherman’s Buster. Then Snoop takes out Santino and makes out with Maria. When you have 15 women out there and you’re just happy to see Santino Marella, there’s a good chance that WWE didn’t pique your sexual interest properly. Match was lame, as you’d expect.

-Hype for the triple threat WWE Title match. The viewing party was torn: one half hated Cena, the other half hated Triple H. Regardless, we received our Randy Orton Fan Cards in the mail days before, so our allegiance was set.

-Randy Orton vs. Triple H vs. John Cena was indeed next, and Cena’s special entrance is a college marching band playing his theme. I’ll admit, this is probably my favorite of the collection. How would the marching band play a theme like Isaac Yankem’s though?

-Cena tries to end it with the FU early on Orton, but HHH goes low on him to put a stop to that. Then HHH and Orton hit a cross body version of the Doomsday Device on Cena. Well, Hunter hates doing jobs, so that WOULD make him Animal. And they’re both related to Johnny Ace, either by blood or….I’ll just stop right there.

-Orton drops Cena and HHH with a dual rope-assist DDT. I really can’t believe I wasn’t an Orton fan sooner. If you get past his real life aggressive behavior, is there any heel that’s so perfectly slimy like Randy Orton has been? Even Jericho’s too likeable as a weasel. Orton just has the right amount of gusto for his character.

-HHH begins to work Orton’s knee, because the match could use a story other than “three muscleheads beating each other up in shifts”. Good call.

-Orton manages an RKO on Hunter, which knocks him to the outside. Cena gets the STFU on Orton, but Hunter pulls the pile to the ropes. Clever spot. Basically, the match turns into HHH and Cena taking turns wearing Orton out while disrupting the other man’s attempts to win. Makes you forget that Orton has a chance.

-Cena with another STFU on Orton, and Hunter locks Cena in the Voldemort Crossface. There’s a good way to wake the crowd up, imitate a disgraced murderer. Of course, Triple H is the smartest man in the business, you know.

-Hunter avoids the FU and Pedigrees Cena, but Orton comes flying in out of nowhere to Punt Trips’ head into the third row. With Hunter incapacitated, Orton covers Cena to win and to retain the title. It was a really good match, and my friends and I actually marked out like idiots when Orton actually won. And really, isn’t that what matters?

-Hype video for Big Show vs. Floyd Mayweather. I believe the original concept for the match, before Rey Mysterio got hurt, was to have Mysterio and Oscar de la Hoya face MVP and Mayweather, which would have been far more interesting. At least, that’s what a couple of outlets revealed, so take it with a grain of salt. Poor Big Show. He’s always the consolation prize that nobody wanted.

-Mayweather’s entourage consists of about 8 large men and a promoter who looks like MVP if MVP went on the Kirstie Alley diet. Those sixty pounds that Show lost during his layoff had to go somewhere, geez.

-What follows is incredibly worked stuff, since Mayweather has to sustain as little damage as possible. Being an active boxer who draws millions of dollars on PPV, it would behoove you to work as light as you can. With the crowd kinda lukewarm on Mayweather, who doesn’t exactly have the most endearing personality, the fans seem lost.

-Show dominates for a few minutes and the entourage tries pulling Mayweather to safety. So Show lays out the crew and brings Mayweather back. Fans still have no idea who the face is here. Neither do I.

-After the crew helps Floyd avoid the chokeslam, Mayweather takes Show down with some chair shots, and then knocks him out with a pair of brass knux. Show cannot answer a ten count, so Mayweather is declared the winner. Weird spectacle of a match that wasn’t boring, but it was just badly booked. At least the Vince-Trump saga from one year earlier had a good story to it, with the characters better defined. This was just there.

-Kim Kardashian announces the attendance at 74,635. That’s also the number of things I’d love to do with her. Oh, don’t give me that look, you’re in the same boat with me.

-Undertaker-Edge highlight package. At this point, it was a bit uncomfortable watching Vickie Guerrero play a heel who was so sickeningly intimate with Edge, given that her husband, a hero to many, had just died two years before. At the same time, I feel like WWE has to go over the line when trying to get heels over, because there’s too many heels like Jericho, Punk, and others who the fans cheer and admire so much that it’s hard to get the vehement hatred that they desire. So, on the one hand, I understand using Vickie to cement Edge as a heel that you hate with all your heart. On the other hand, just….ugh.

-It’s funny how Teddy Long keeps getting reduced to minor roles, like “guy who pushes Vickie’s wheelchair”, when he’s possibly one of the top two or three most charismatic authority figures that WWE’s ever had. Between doing menial tasks, making weird deals (MVP’s contract when he debuted, for one), and relying on The Undertaker to be his main enforcer, has any authority figure been as misused as Teddy?

-I’m done being a bitterhead, I swear.

-Stand up brawl to kick things off, with Taker getting the better of it. There’s a good litmus test for main eventers. If you can’t have a decent brawl with Undertaker, then you’re probably not going to make it far in the company. Just saying.

-Taker tumbles to the outside after hitting a running knee into the corner, and the tide turns. Edge goes outside and slams Taker into the apron. Inside, Edge lands a beautiful neckbreaker, and the Dead Man falls back to the floor. Good build so far, but they have their work cut out for them after the Mayweather-Show debacle.

-Edge is knocked off the buckles, and Taker lands his super dive onto him. Finally, the fans are coming around.

-Meanwhile, Taker can’t hit the Last Ride due to back pains, and Edge takes him outside, slamming him into the rail with a back suplex. Even then, I don’t think any of us thought the streak was in jeopardy, even though Edge is that good of a heel.

-Edge works the leg to little avail, and Taker comes out of it with Snake Eyes, but runs into a dropkick on the rebound strike attempt. Taker tries a chokeslam, but Edge lands the Edgecution for 2. The two take turns countering moves, and it ends with Taker attempting Old School, only to get crotched. Edge lands a superplex for another 2 count. Good stuff.

-How often does someone outright kick out of the Last Ride? Edge just did. Then the champion counters the Tombstone attempt with the Edge-o-matic for 2. Nope. Still not buying the streak being in jeopardy.

-Taker misses a big boot attempt and takes out the ref. I’ll bet there’s going to be run-ins and/or chicanery. What do you think?

-Sure enough, Taker lands the Tombstone with no referee, and here comes Charles Robinson sprinting 165 MPH to the ring, but it’s only a 2 count. THAT was awesome.

-The Edgeheads of Curt Hawkins and Zack “WOO WOO WOO” Ryder hit the ring, but Taker takes them out easily. However, Edge manages a couple of Spears, but soon falls victim to Hell’s Gate, and submits after a struggle to give Taker his sixth World Title. Really good match, but the Smackdown matches seem to suffer compared to Raw in terms of telling the story, since Monday night is the “wrestling night”. I barely remembered the issue between the two men and I follow wrestling very closely. Even then, I still think the match was better quality than Michaels/Flair.

-Chili Peppers, Rev Theory, play us out.

-CYNIC SAYS: Kind of a weird show, but it wasn’t terrible. You had 4 matches to hang your hat on, but there was a share of crap as well. Finlay and JBL was the only “middle ground” match, so other than that, either it was really good, or it was really bad.

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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