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Rey Mysterio Done With The WWE

February 27, 2015 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Rey Mysterio is free! The former WWE superstar and champion has reportedly reached a settlement which allows Rey to become a free agent. Rey becomes the second biggest Latino star to leave the company in recent months, leaving a huge void in that market place.

The Rey Mysterio-WWE contract saga has dragged on for almost a year. Mysterio has been trying to get out of his contract for several months. While Rey’s contract technically expired some time ago, the company believed that Rey’s time off due to injury extended the contract. Mysterio’s contract has officially expired, ending what some called the “Free Rey” campaign.

Mysterio may be one of the biggest overachievers in WWE history. At 5′ 6″, Rey is probably the shortest, most successful wrestler in WWE history. Rey peaked as a WWE world champion in 2008 and has been a big merchandise seller with kids throughout his tenure with the company. I think it is fair to say that Rey has probably been the most consistent performer in terms of match quality. Rarely would you ever see anything less than a pretty good Rey Mysterio match.

Mysterio has been hampered with injuries in recent years, expected due to his acrobatic style over the last 25 years. Since 2012, Rey has been on disabled list with injuries ranging from knee to wrist to concussions. Rey’s last WWE match was a match on RAW the night after WrestleMania 30 in which we was defeated by a returning Bad News Barrett.

Most recently Rey will probably be remembered as the sacrificial lamb in the 2014 Royal Rumble. Rey entered the match as number 30 and was booed out of the building. The rowdy crowd in Pittsburgh took out their frustrations over Daniel Bryan not being booked in the match on poor Rey. Steve Austin even joked on his podcast that he would have taken that spot in favor of sacrificing “Rey Rey.”

Mysterio is expected to return to the ring in Triple A and Lucha Underground. A free agent for the first time in 13 years, Rey could easily clean up on the independent circuit here in the United States if he wanted to. I am just uncertain on how much Rey wants to wrestle at this point. After years of nagging injuries, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Rey take a greatly reduced schedule, picking his U.S. spots randomly throughout the year.

Rey’s void will not only hurt match quality but it will greatly impact the Latino market. In recent months the WWE has now lost both Alberto Del Rio and Rey Mysterio, their two biggest Latino and Hispanic draws. I’ll tell you what, if you are a Latino wrestler who can work with a great look you can probably get yourself a hell of a deal these days from the WWE. I can’t recall a time in recent memory where the WWE didn’t have at least one Latino star to cater to that market. It’s a huge hole and I am not sure how they fill it.

Rey will be missed and the real shame here is that he never got a good run with the title. Sure he got the title, but Vince McMahon never believed in him, and he was booked as a fluke champion. Rey was red hot when he won the title and could have become an even bigger star if the company went with him. They didn’t and it showed in his booking as champion.

Thanks for a great 13 years of WWE action Rey Mysterio. Your presence will greatly be missed.

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Flashback: Alberto Del Rio Wins the WWE Royal Rumble 2011

January 14, 2015 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Originally published on January 30, 2011. The 2011 WWE Royal Rumble winner wasn’t who was expected and that is a good thing. Alberto Del Rio won the Royal Rumble and a trip to the WrestleMania 27 main-event against a WWE champion of his choice. Del Rio eliminated Santino Marella to win the Rumble and earn his title match.

Rey Mysterio, Kane, Wade Barrett, John Cena, Alberto Del Rio, and Randy Orton were the final six of the Rumble or were they? Mysterio eliminated Kane and was then quickly tossed out by Barrett. The announcers pushed the RAW vs. SmackDown theme of the final four.

In the shocker of the night, John Cena was eliminated by The Miz. Yes The Miz was down doing commentary and wound up running in. Alex Riley distracted Cena and The Miz wound up tossing Cena over. The ref never “saw it” and only caught Cena on the floor, thus eliminating Cena. Barrett, Orton, and Del Rio are final three. Del Rio eliminated Randy Orton, started to celebrate, and was then attached by Santino.

Santino emerged from under the ring and the place went ballistic. Santino Marella was never officially eliminated when he appeared early on. The announcers went nuts saying it would be the biggest upset of all time. For a second I kind of wanted to see it. Del Rio soon recovered, eliminated Santino and officially won the Rumble and the championship match of his choice.

CM Punk entered the Royal Rumble as #1. Punk was soon jumped by members of Corre. The RAW GM (how did he have power here?) chimed in and ordered Corre to the back. Daniel Bryan then entered as the official number two. Punk and Bryan started off which I am sure appealed to their hardcore following on the Internet.

Kevin Nash made a long awaited return to the WWE entering the Royal Rumble at #32. Nash entered as his old character Diesel with a black haired dye job and his old Diesel gear. Nash got a nice reaction but it was nowhere close to the reaction that Booker T received. Nash did his trademark Diesel moves but was eliminated pretty shortly by Wade Barrett. Nash and The Big Show walked by one another as Nash left and Show entered. It could have been a prelude to a WrestleMania match but let’s hope not. Hey Paul, don’t let him powerbomb you this time. Hey may try and finish the what he couldn’t do at Souled Out.

No Triple H for the record. Not sure what he is waiting for at this point but I have to admit that I was hoping to see him come out at #40 instead of Kane. No Undertaker either.

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Nash’s fellow Main Event Mafia partner,  Booker T also returned to the WWE. King Booker entered the Royal Rumble earlier at #21. Booker T got a huge pop and entered the ring to face four members of Nexus. Unfortunately the numbers got the best of him and Booker T’s return lasted for about 90 seconds before being eliminated. I am not a big proponent of seeing Booker T back but the fan reaction sure made it a great Rumble moment. The former TNA stars got nice reactions but were limited with short appearances in the Rumble match which was probably for the better.

CM Punk was looking like the favorite for awhile. At one point Punk and three members of Nexus just wound up eliminating everyone and continued to throw away future entrants. They just looked unstoppable after eliminating Booker T in less than two minutes. John Cena wound up entering at #22 with his Superman cape and eliminated all of Nexus including CM Punk. I was fairly certain up to that point that Punk was going to be Final Four if not the winner altogether.

John Morrison may have had the best Royal Rumble spot I ever saw. Shortly after entering the Rumble Morrison was tossed over the top rope. However, instead of landing on the floor he landed on the barricade like Spiderman avoiding elimination. Morrison than leaped from the barricade to the metal steps and returned to the ring. The spot and sequence have to be seen to be believed.

Randy Orton entered at #39 and eliminated Sheamus and Kofi Kingston. He and Cena had a stare down that was designed to get a big reaction. Guess what? Nobody seemed to care. Maybe because WWE fans have seen Cena vs. Orton on and off for the last three years. I can’t imagine anyone having any interest in seeing Cena vs. Orton in any way, shape, or fashion in 2011 (or 2012, 2013, 2014).

Overall I thought the Rumble match was excellent. I never felt like it dragged and it had some pretty cool spots. I thought that 40 guys would be too much but it really wasn’t. If you missed the show, I’d go out of your way to try and get a copy of the match. It certainly wasn’t the best Rumble match of all time but it was far from the worst.

On a totally random note, listening to 40 WWE entrance themes is a reminder at how God awful WWE entrance music is in 2011. Well, 39 because Booker T’s music is still pretty damn good.

It would appear from the WWE championship match that CM Punk vs. Randy Orton is a highly likely WrestleMania match. Randy Orton vs. The Miz ended after interference from Nexus which saw Punk nail Orton with the GTS. The Miz capitalized and pinned Orton to win the match.

On yet another random note, I think I was vindicated for everything I have said about The Miz and his inability to be a successful WWE champion. He is not over at all! I have gotten a lot of criticism for a blog I wrote entitled “Is The Miz the worst WWE champion ever?” People told me that I don’t know what I am talking about, he is awesome, and I am in the minority. I think I stand corrected. He is now a day over two months as WWE champion and if he hasn’t been able to sell anyone by now, he isn’t going to sell them by WrestleMania. Guess what happened when he came out for the biggest match of his career? Nobody cared or reacted to him like a champion and quite honestly, the match wasn’t that good. The lesson learned here is just because a guy can go out and cut a 15 minute “great” (Wow the standards have dropped enormously) promo and deliver witty lines doesn’t make him a great champion.  The point being is that nobody believes in him as a champion and the fans see right through it. Sure you can blame the booking but he is just not championship material no matter how “funny” you may think he is.

I love the decision to go with Alberto Del Rio as this year’s winner. Del Rio is fresh and one of the best characters I have seen the WWE develop in years. Unfortunately I don’t know how much interest I have an Edge vs. Del Rio match. Quite frankly I don’t know how much interest I have an Edge vs. anyone WrestleMania title match. If it ends with Del Rio winning the championship and becoming the star of SmackDown, I like it.

An early look at WrestleMania 27 probably looks like…
The Miz vs. John Cena for the WWE title
Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio for the WWE world heavyweight title
Randy Orton vs. CM Punk
Nexus vs. Corre
Big Show vs. Kevin Nash

2011 WWE Royal Rumble results:

Edge defeated Dolph Ziggler to retain the WWE world heavyweight title
The Miz defeated Randy Orton after interference from Nexus and CM Punk
Natalya and Eve Torres defeated LayCool

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Rey Mysterio and The Future of the Luche Libre Wrestler

January 06, 2015 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

According to Inquisitr.com, WWE Superstar Rey Mysterio has been off of WWE programming for months now. He has asked for his release and even stopped cashing WWE checks months ago as well. Sadly, WWE didn’t want to let the luchador go, despite his wishes. Instead, they kept adding to his contract due to the fact that he missed time.

Under a clause in a WWE contract, they have a right to renew a contract for any missed time a WWE Superstar or Diva misses. In the case of Mysterio, who has been hurt a lot, WWE has done this a few times now. WWE Chairman Vince McMahon met with Rey late last year and spoke with him regarding a comeback to the company. WWE was going to have him under contract anyway.

Vince was able to settle Rey down and Mysterio was said to have a change of heart about leaving or retiring all together.

If Mysterio does retire from the business and the WWE, he will become another star whose contributions to wrestling are innumerable and needed in a time when the Luchadore on television was still popular as ever. Mysterio – along with the late great Eddie Guerrero – helped to keep the Mexican and Latino wrestling population alive and well. As part of the wrestling in the 1970s and 1980s, Lucha Libre wrestling brought to life some of the greatest wrestlers and high flyers fans ever saw.

I remember being a youngster in Miami and watching Mil Mascaras, the Guerreros and El Gran Apollo in Gordon Solie’s Championship Wrestling from Florida and the larger than life characters they portrayed. Mysterio has helped to carry on the traditions of his forefathers.

Mysterio is known for having a high flying style, which helped kick-start the cruiserweight wrestling revolution in the United States in the late 1990s during his time in WCW, and is often regarded as one of the greatest high-flyers in wrestling history. In WCW he won the WCW World Tag Team Championship three times, and the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship once with Billy Kidman as part of the Filthy Animals.

In WWE, Mysterio is a three-time world champion, having held the World Heavyweight Championship twice and the WWE Championship once, and is currently listed as the lightest world champion in WWE history. He has also held the WWE Tag Team Championship a record-tying four times, and the WWE Intercontinental Championship twice. He also held the WCW/WWE Cruiserweight Championship a record eight times (five times in WCW, three times in WWE).

All totaled, he has won 21 titles between WWE and WCW. Mysterio was the 21st person to win the WWE Triple Crown Championship, and was the winner of the 2006 Royal Rumble.

The fact Mysterio was a cruiserweight and wrestled the “Giants” of the WWE made for great matches, storylines and helped to dispel the idea of “Bigger is Better” by Vince McMahon, who lived “hulking” champions that ran through opponents.

According to the Inquisitr.com story, Mysterio’s run in the WWE has had many highs but it has also be marred by injuries over the years. Now that he is one of the older talents in the company – he turned 40 this past December – his retirement might be a good thing for him or a shortened match schedule that could cut down on injuries.

Most WWE performers will tell you that the toughest part is the road schedule, so just being off of that is a help for any older talent. The issue is, under a full-time WWE schedule, you have to perform over 300 days a year. That can really do a number on the body. Plus, there is no off-season. You have to get hurt to get time off. Maybe Rey had the secret all along.

The decision on Mysterio may be made with one easy decision. If Mysterio is a participant in the Royal Rumble, chances are he may be back in some capacity. If he is not, then it could be a sign his career, in the WWE at least, is finally over.

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Top 20 WWE Greatest Survivor Series Teams Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Top Five WWE Money In The Bank Matches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Money in the Bank, Wade Barrett and Other WWE Thoughts

June 21, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Here’s a scenario at Money in the Bank to think about…

Seven wrestlers beat the hell out of each other for about 30 minutes, then when the WWE decides it has had enough, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton climb the ladder. The crowd yelling, shrieking to the rooftops and just when you wonder who grabs the title and is crowned the new WWE World Champion, each wrestler grabs a title. Another controversy is created that actually saves the WWE from continuing its downward spiral.

The WWE just created two brands again, figuring it was better for there to be two world champions instead of one. And all of the sudden, Vince McMahon’s pen is all over this newly created script and era in the company.

Welcome to another era in WWE history where two new champions (and it may not even be Reigns and Orton) become branded again, where Monday’s Raw program has its own roster and Friday’s SmackDown has its own roster. In this case, problem solved – at least for the next few months.

The idea of two champions and of course, controversy, makes all the sense in the world because other than a Roman Reigns outright win or a Johnny Cena/Bray Wyatt final – nothing makes clear sense with this match. I love the idea of the seven-man match (without Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus), but the spin and the dominance of Reigns of late, and the fact he did not win the Royal Rumble makes his “probable” victory all too easy.

While the WWE Universe and the IWC all want Reigns to hold the strap, they do not want an easy win or something so obvious a four-year old can figure it out. And with this being a second pay-per-view without Daniel Bryan, the show must really grab the WWE audience. Payback was nothing more than starved and wonting.

If Vince McMahon does have a major role in the success (or failure) of this pay-per-view, then this option might be the most viable for the future success of the company.

Barrett Being Misused
Leave it to the WWE to hit on something so brilliant and then fall off the ladder with a performer who should be in the MITB Ladder Match.
I am talking about Wade Barrett, who got some “Bad News” when he wasn’t part of the lucky seven in the MITB Title Match. As the Intercontinental Champion, his place in WWE history should have been cemented with this match and a possible WWE World Title shot.
Since he tore a triceps muscle over two years ago, Barrett might be the most misused wrestler in the company this side of Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler.

As a champion, there should be no question about his place in the title match. I like the fact Barrett has been a thorn in the side of Rob Van Dam and has beaten back all challenges, but there comes a time when the WWE gives the champion a chance to make history. Could he be in the position once Roman Reigns wins the title? Barrett has been an enforcer of late for Triple H and the Authority, which is a position that keeps Barrett a viable commodity in the company.

Happy 6-19 Day
Thursday was June 19th, which in some circles as seen on the Internet, was the celebration of 619 Day or a tribute to Rey Mysterio.

I thought it was a cute way for wrestling fans to pay tribute to their favorite performer and to look back on a career that proved Mysterio to be one of the greatest cruiserweights of all time. Whether his time in the WWE as a WWE world champion is over or we see his 619 finisher brings a title back to his waist remains to be seen.

Mysterio is known for having a high flying style, which helped kick-start the cruiserweight wrestling revolution in the United States in the late 1990s during his time in WCW. In WCW he won the WCW World Tag Team Championship three times, and the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship once with Billy Kidman as part of the Filthy Animals. In WWE, Mysterio is a three-time world champion, having held the World Heavyweight Championship twice and the WWE Championship once, and is currently listed as the lightest world champion in WWE history.

He has also held the WWE Tag Team Championship a record-tying four times, and the WWE Intercontinental Championship twice. He also held the WCW/WWE Cruiserweight Championship a record eight times (five times in WCW, three in WWE). All totaled, he has won 21 titles between WWE and WCW. Mysterio was the 21st person to win the WWE Triple Crown Championship, and was the winner of the 2006 Royal Rumble.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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Top 10 Matches In WWE Extreme Rules PPV History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WrestleMania 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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WrestleMania 27: Well, That Was Different

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WrestleMania XXVII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But finally……he came back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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