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31 WrestleMania Backstage Stories and Urban Legends

March 17, 2015 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Some of the best WrestleMania stories weren’t necessarily told inside of the ring. Disagreements, controversies, and changes in plans behind classic WWE matches were kept behind the scenes and kept in the locker room…until now.

31 years of WrestleMania events have produced plenty of headaches for Vince McMahon. It isn’t always easy trying to get WWE stars to do business and it’s even more difficult when you throw in the component of WrestleMania. How Vince McMahon still has a full head of hair is remarkable when you look back at the fires he had to put out.

I thought it would be fun to look back at the stories that never made it to the ring. I have heard plenty over the years through shoot interviews, books, podcasts, and locker room talk. In no particular order of importance here are 31 of what I found to be most the fascinating. Some of these are urban legend, some of these are alleged, most of these true and all are fascinating.

The Big Show vs. Floyd Mayweather WrestleMania 24 - This classic has a few interesting backstage stories behind it. First and maybe the most interesting, the original match was booked to be a mixed tag team match. The original plans had Big Show and Floyd Mayweather penciled in as a team  to wrestle Rey Mysterio and Oscar De La Hoya. De La Hoya turned them down and the match was changed to Rey Mysterio and Floyd vs. Shane McMahon and either Big Show or MVP. Finally the match was changed again when Rey got hurt to the Show vs. Floyd singles match. One more interesting anecdote is that Mike Tyson was furious that Show lost, feeling  that a boxer should not have beaten a wrestler in a wrestling match.

Triple H vs. Sting WrestleMania 31 - The original plans for Triple H were for a WrestleMania rematch with Batista. Batista was supposed to leave in the summer and return for a big Mania program with Triple H. Batista wound up getting a part in an upcoming James Bond movie and pulled out of the match, thus setting up Sting for the spot.

Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan WrestleMania 30 – At one point the WWE had penciled in a match featuring Steve Austin vs. Triple H. The idea would be that Austin was representing Vince in a match to win control of the company. Austin wound up kiboshing the idea when he told the company he wasn’t interested in wrestling. Hunter was then scheduled to wrestle CM Punk while Bryan was penciled in to wrestle Sheamus. Punk walked and thus one of the greatest WrestleMania matches was booked.

Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice WrestleMania 8 – As most know this was originally booked to be Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair in the ultimate dream match. The match was even announced at a mock television press conference. Vince wound up changing his mind after the Hogan-Flair match did disappointing house show business.

Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin WrestleMania 14 - The WWE Network just did a whole documentary on this so the problems here aren’t exactly a secret. What some may not know is that The Undertaker reportedly had a conversation with Shawn in the locker room regarding rumors about Michaels not wanting to put Austin over. Taker reportedly taped up his fists and made it clear to Shawn that Michaels do what is best for business and put over Austin.

Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart WrestleMania 10 – Arguably the greatest opener in WrestleMania history never would have happened if Bret didn’t go to bat for Owen. The original plan was scripted to program Bret vs. Bruce Hart in the brother vs. brother series. Bret went to management and fought hard for Owen thus sacrificing one brother for another in the spot.

Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan WrestleMania 3 – There was a serious fear that Andre’s health would prevent him from doing the match. Andre’s health was deteriorating badly at the time and the WWE needed a backup plan. Paul Orndorff was plan B. This is why Orndorff turned on Hogan at the time. Orndorff wasn’t booked in anything on the card just in case he needed to be a last minute sub for the giant.

Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage WrestleMania 3 – I don’t know if this goes down as controversial but Steamboat once told me in an interview that Savage had the match scripted out move for move by the time they got to Pontiac. Steamboat said that Savage laid the match out over several pages which was something Steamboat was unfamiliar with as he preferred to call it in the ring.

Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper & Bob Orton WrestleMania 1 – There was fear that Mr. T would not show up for the match. He was getting cold feet before the match coming out of a confrontation he had with David Schultz at a Los Angeles house show. Piper claims to have cinched up a front facelock which almost passed T out. Piper also flat out refused to put T over. Most speculate Jimmy Snuka was not booked in a match just in case he needed to step into T’s spot if T didn’t show up.

Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart WrestleMania 13 – There are a couple of interesting stories behind this match. The first is that neither Austin nor Bret knew in advance it was going to be a submissions match. Austin said he was red hot when he heard the stipulation announced on television and was worried about having a great match. The other interesting tidbit is that the match was never supposed to happen. Bret was originally booked to wrestle Shawn Michaels in a WM XII rematch. Michaels of course lost his smile and went home thus making himself unavailable for the match. I think things worked out well for everyone in the end.

Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T WrestleMania 2 – Piper took off several weeks to go train with Lou Duva and get in condition for the boxing match. Mr. T obviously did not. Piper’s hands were taped in a fist underneath his gloves. Piper alleges that he was made to tape up his wrists because T didn’t trust him. This was a problem as Piper was supposed to grab the ropes as he went to the floor. Go back and watch the match and you’ll notice Piper awkwardly falling to the floor through the ropes and that was why. His fists were taped in a clench and thus he couldn’t grab the ropes.

The Rock vs. John Cena WrestleMania 29 – What many casual fans don’t know is that The Rock suffered a serious injury in the match. He tore one of his abdomen & adductor muscles off the bone in the middle of the match. Mick Foley remarked in an interview that this was one of the most painful injuries a wrestler could suffer.

Randy Orton vs. Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio WrestleMania 22 – Randy Orton was originally booked to win this match and the WWE world heavyweight championship. He did not and that was because he was allegedly caught blatantly smoking a substance that was banned on the wellness policy backstage. He was suspended for unprofessional conduct right after the match.

Roddy Piper vs. Goldust WrestleMania 12 – This legendary match was never in the cards for WrestleMania 12. Goldust was feuding with Razor Ramon at the time. Godlie defeated Ramon for the intercontinental title at the Royal Rumble with the idea of putting a rematch on Mania. Razor wound up unavailable as he was suspended for a Wellness Policy violation before the show and thus the switch was made to Piper.

Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga WrestleMania 23 – The Battle of the Billionaires allegedly almost featured two different wrestlers than Umaga and Lashley. At one point the plan was to pit Booker T vs. Shawn Michaels in the match. Michaels would represent Trump and Booker would represent McMahon. I can only speculate that plans changed when Hunter got hurt and they needed HBK for the main-event against John Cena.

Triple H vs. The Undertaker WrestleMania 27 – This was never the plan going in which is why the storyline came out of nowhere. Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker was actually on the books for WM 27 when Brock was still in the UFC. Vince McMahon was confident Brock could get permission from the UFC to wrestle at Mania. The idea was to put the streak up against the UFC champion. Unfortunately not only did Brock lose his UFC title but UFC president Dana White made it clear that he had no intentions of letting his top draw lose a fake wrestling match at WrestleMania.

Chris Jericho vs. Fandango WrestleMania 29 – Jericho came back at the Royal Rumble as a surprise in what was supposed to lead to a heel turn. The turn would transition him into a high profile match with Ryback at WrestleMania. Vince McMahon allegedly fell in love with the Fandango character and changed plans on Jericho. Jericho was very upset but wound up turning it into a positive and used it as motivation to try and get a great match with Fandango.

Triple H vs. Mick Foley vs. The Rock vs. The Big Show WrestleMania 2000 – Remember how odd it was to see Mick Foley come back for this match just a few months after announcing his retirement? Well that was because it wasn’t necessarily the plan. The original match had booked Chris Jericho in the spot. Vince and company got cold feet about putting Jericho in such a big spot at the time and wound up luring Foley out of retirement for the spot instead.

The Undertaker vs. King Kong Bundy WrestleMania 11 – The streak may have ended here if Vince McMahon had his way. Vince was very high on Bundy at the time and was hesitant on beating Bundy here. The original idea was for Bundy to win with interference. Cooler heads eventually prevailed and Undertaker won but the streak was reportedly in jeopardy here.

Steve Austin vs. Scott Hall/The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan WrestleMania 18 – The original plans here were to book Austin vs. Hogan in a battle of generation icons. Austin wasn’t interested and refused to do the match. Austin worried that the match wouldn’t be good due to Hogan slowing down in the ring. Austin was also concerned with who would do the job. The Rock stepped up and offered to work with Hogan, thus bumping Austin down the card to a forgettable match with Hall.

The Undertaker vs. The Big Show and A-Train WrestleMania 19 – This match changed plans several times thanks to Nathan Jones. Some on the WWE creative end were enamored with Jones’ size while others were scared to death of his inept abilities inside of the ring. The match was changed several times from Jones teaming to not teaming with Taker. Eventually Jones was held out but did make an appearance where he looked every bit as clumsy as some had feared.

Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle WrestleMania 19 – Both of these guys paid a heavy price for this WrestleMania classic. A botched shooting star press reportedly left Brock unconscious for a short portion of the match. But it was Angle who would suffer most as he wrestled with an injured neck throughout the match. Angle was in so much pain that he reportedly collapsed by the time he got to the locker room after the match.

Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena WrestleMania 23 – I remember at the time thinking how odd this match seemed. It didn’t appear to have that genuine organic build that most Mania championship main-events received during this period. That is probably because this wasn’t the original idea. The original idea here was reportedly a rematch between Triple H and John Cena. That was scrapped when Hunter tore his quad in January. It should also be pointed out that the plan the following year was to do the rematch but the company was worried about putting Cena in such a physical match coming off the torn pec so they went with a Triple Threat Match instead.

John Cena vs. Randy Orton vs. Triple H WrestleMania 24 – According to Hulk Hogan, he was scheduled to wrestle Cena that year at WrestleMania. Take it with a grain of salt because it is Hogan but he claims that he was negotiating a 25-year deal with the WWE that would have included this match. Hogan says that his back went out as he was negotiating and the match fell apart at that point. Hogan has used this story as part of a lawsuit against the surgeons who operated on his back.

Diesel vs. The Undertaker WrestleMania 12 - One urban legend behind this match claims that Nash was supposed to win the match when it was originally booked. The booking was changed of course when Nash told Vince that he was going to WCW. If Nash would have stayed there is a very good chance that the streak would have ended at WrestleMania 12.

Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase WrestleMania 4 - Savage defeated DiBiase in the tournament to win the WWE championship which also started one of the greatest builds in WWE history towards a Mania 5 headliner with Savage and Hogan. Was that always in the plans? According to Ted DiBiase it wasn’t. DiBiase claims that he was supposed to win the WM 4 tournament and the title. Savage was supposed to win the intercontinental belt months earlier but the Honkytonk Man refused to put Savage over. Savage wound up going over at 4 as a consolation prize of sorts with DiBiase getting the Million Dollar title to makeup for the change in plans. Ironically DiBiase was also promised the NWA world title at one point and got screwed as well.

Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter WrestleMania 7 - Hogan headlined a memorable WrestleMania match against Slaughter but that wasn’t in the original plans. The original plan was to give the Ultimate Warrior a full year with the WWE championship and rematch Hogan and Warrior at WM 7. Warrior unfortunately did not get over as Vince had expected as champion and called an audible somewhere along the way. This is why Slaughter’s win at the Royal Rumble seemed so sudden.

Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior WrestleMania 6 - I am not sure I buy this one but one urban legend says that this match was not in the original plans. The original booking would have had Hogan vs. Zeus in the Mania 6 headliner. Tiny Lister who played Zeus in No Holds Barred was the first to drop this bomb and has even given interviews telling reporters how much he was supposed to be paid for the match. Imagine how different wrestling history would have been if this plan came to fruition?

Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels WrestleMania 14 – According to one urban legend it would have been Bret Hart, not Shawn Michaels doing the favor for Steve Austin if Hart had stayed. The original plan would have had Austin not only getting his win back but getting the WWE championship in the process. In retrospect there is no doubt that things worked out for the better between Mike Tyson and the heel Vince McMahon character coming out of the Montreal Screwjob.

Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage WrestleMania 8 - There is one very important person that wasn’t a fan of this great match and that was Vince McMahon. Blading was not allowed at the time in the WWE and if you remember, Flair bled buckets in this match. Vince reportedly went ballistic on Flair for blading when the Nature Boy got back to the locker room. McMahon was so irate that he came very close to firing Flair on the spot.

Kurt Angle vs. Kane WrestleMania 18 - According to a former WWE writer this was not the original plan for Kurt Angle. The original plan was to book Sting vs. Kurt Angle for WM 18. Sting was negotiating with the WWE and a deal was so close that the writers were told to write him in to the show. Sting was booked to wrestle Kurt Angle who wound up wrestling Kane instead once negotiations fell apart between the Stinger and Vince McMahon. This story explains the quick setup for Angle vs. Kane going into Mania.

WWE: The Destruction of the Shield

The Randy Savage Story DVD

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

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

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

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

Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania V)

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

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

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

Macho King Randy Savage (WrestleMania VII)

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

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

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

Bret Hart (WrestleMania IX)

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

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

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

Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania X)

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

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

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

Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIII)

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

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

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

Kurt Angle (WrestleMania 2000)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hollywood Hogan (WrestleMania X8)

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

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

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

Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XXIII)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Rock: The Most Electrifying Man – WWE DVD Review

March 06, 2015 By: Category: Entertainment, WWE | Pro Wrestling

There is little doubt that the biggest mainstream star to ever come out of the WWE is The Rock. The Rock has been able to parlay his eyebrow raising wrestling career into mainstream movie stardom. The WWE has finally taken advantage of Dwayne Johnson’s grassroots with The Rock: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment DVD.

This set of DVDs from the WWE pays tribute to The Rock’s eight year run with the company inside of the ring. The compilation is a story in itself about The Rock’s ability to take the bull by the horn and run with it. The Rock’s road to stardom in the WWE certainly wasn’t paved for him. The Rock had to earn every step he took on his way to greatness.

Unfortunately, the DVDs don’t include any new interviews with the People’s Champ. The DVD is voiced over between matches, similar to an old NFL Films piece. It is understandable that the WWE could not get The Rock to lend his voice to the DVD. However, they could have taken past interview clips as well as new interviews with WWE stars. I didn’t mind it, but they could have done a little better to appeal to wrestling fans.

The set is broken down into three discs. The discs predominately contain nothing but matches featuring The Rock. All of the matches are complete except for one. I will say this about The Rock and his matches and that is there aren’t any boring Rock matches. All of his matches are entertaining and different in some way from the other. The extras feature a ton of promos from The Rock which was far and away the best thing about the set.

The matches are interesting because I am sure a lot of The Rock’s fans aren’t familiar with “Rocky Maivia” Most fans are familiar with The Rock from the early part of the decade. However, The Rock first began his career in the WWE in 1996 with a few familiar faces. The DVD traces all of the Rock’s steps to the top beginning with the kid with the goofy haircut, Rocky Maivia.

The first disc is quite an eye-opener considering the state of the business today. The early days of The Rock-Triple H rivalry are revisited beginning with a 1997 Intercontinental title match. The rest of the DVD features The Rock’s rise from the Nation to the Corporation, to WrestleMania. In retrospect, I wonder sometimes if The Rock-Triple H doesn’t get its due as one of the great WWE rivalries of the 1990s. Most people think of Austin-Rock, but Triple H-Rock feuded often at various stages of their careers. The matches tell a story in itself about two guys battling each other for the top position, ultimately with The Rock taking that mantle.

The second disc features The Rock and pro wrestling during one of the hottest periods of business for the WWE. The Rock’s rivalries with Triple H and Mankind are followed over to this disc. There are some fantastic matches on this DVD featuring The Rock against Booker T, Chris Jericho, and a great match from No Way Out against Kurt Angle. In watching this disc back, it is amazing how different the WWE fan base is today as compared to then. Nobody in years has gotten the reaction that The Rock or any of his matches received during his prime. It is truly an indictment on the WWE’s inability to create superstars over the last decade. The WWE created many stars, but none were as super as The Rock.

Disc three is The Rock at his all-time high in the WWE. Disc 3 kicks off with arguably The Rock’s most famous WrestleMania encounter against Hulk Hogan. The Rock’s WrestleMania XIX showdown with Steve Austin not only holds up, but blows away anything from the last few years. A rare 2002 match from RAW against Eddie Guerrero is a nice gem to the set. This really showcases The Rock in his prime. The Rock is most confident during this era and it shows in the ring. Once again, never a dull moment in a Rock match.

It is obvious that the WWE didn’t put the kind of extra work into this that they did with Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, or Triple H’s DVDs. I can’t blame the WWE for wanting toget something out there to capitalize on The Rock’s current fame. The DVD could have used a little more attention, yet I found it to be enjoyable. I have always liked The Rock and in this day and age, any time I can sit down and watch a few hours of The Rock is a pleasure. This is a great DVD and a perfect stocking stuffer for the wrestling fan on your holiday shopping list.

Disc 1

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Rocky Maivia
RAW (13/02/97)

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
Owen Hart vs. The Rock
RAW (06/04/98)

King of the Ring Quarterfinal Match
Triple H vs. The Rock
RAW (22/06/98)

WWE Championship Match (Final Round)
Mankind vs. The Rock
Survivor Series (15/11/98)

Last Man Standing Match for the WWE Championship
Mankind vs. The Rock
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (14/02/99)

Ladder Match for the WWE Championship
Mankind vs. The Rock
RAW (15/02/99)

WWE Championship Match
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock
WrestleMania XV (28/03/99)

Disc 2

Steel Cage Match
The Rock vs. Triple H
RAW (05/07/99)

WWE Tag Team Championship
The Rock / Mankind vs. Undertaker / Big Show
RAW (30/08/99)

No Holds Barred Match
The Rock vs. Kane
SmackDown! (30/12/99)

WWE Championship Match
Triple H vs. The Rock
Backlash (30/04/00)

Steel Cage Match for the WWE Championship
The Rock vs. Shane McMahon
RAW (01/05/00)

WWE Championship Match
Kurt Angle vs. The Rock
No Way Out (25/02/01)

WCW Championship Match
Booker T vs. The Rock
SummerSlam (19/08/01)

WWE Undisputed Championship Match
Chris Jericho vs. The Rock
Royal Rumble (20/01/02)

Disc 3

The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan
WrestleMania X8 (17/03/02)

Triple Threat Match for the WWE Undisputed Championship
Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker vs. The Rock Vengeance (21/07/02)

The Rock vs. Eddie Guerrero
RAW (22/07/02)

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock
WrestleMania XIX (30/03/03)

Extras

Promos
– Heat July 11, 1999 – “Billy’s Prayer to God”
– RAW August 9, 1999 – “The Big Slow”
– RAW September 6, 1999 – “My Name is Kane”
– RAW November 15, 1999 – “Doughnuts”
– SmackDown! August 10, 2000 – “Hermie”
– RAW December 4, 2000 – “Armageddon Opponents”
– RAW August 13, 2001 – “Thomas Jefferson Sucka”
– RAW September 10, 2001 – “The People’s Strudel”
– SmackDown! September 20, 2001 – “Great Balls of Fire”
– SmackDown! January 3, 2002 – “Copacabana”
– SmackDown! January 17, 2002 – “Camera Man”
– SmackDown! January 24, 2002 – “The Charleston”
– No Way Out February 17, 2002 – “NWO”
– SmackDown! July 11, 2002 – “Busta Rhymes”
– RAW March 10, 2003 – “The Superhero”
– RAW June 21, 2004 – “Miami Dolphins”
– The One-Liners

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10 Wrestling Angles That Started Hot & Ended Flat

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

The intrigue of how a hot pro wrestling angle ends is more exciting than the matches for most of us. Yet you don’t have to go back further than Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins for examples of pro wrestling angles that started off as hot and ended flatter than a pancake. It doesn’t get much disappointing than that.

It is important to keep in mind that more times than not, pro wrestling bookers tend to over-think these things and get all caught up in trying to fool fans as opposed to doing what is best for business. Even when it seems so easy, they routinely miss the mark. Remember how great the Summer of Punk started and how badly it ended?

So off the top of my head here are ten pro wrestling angles that I thought started out hot and ended flat, disappointing wrestling fans. These aren’t in any particular order of importance. These angles are moments I remember watching live thinking how great they were that failed to live up to expectations for a variety of reasons, generally the fault of the bookers or writers.

The WCW Invasion, 2001 - We have been down this road many times. WCW invading the WWE after the sale in 2001 should have been the biggest angle in pro wrestling history. Instead, most point to this angle as the biggest booking blunder of the 21st century for Team McMahon.

Let’s face it. This one doesn’t take a whole lot of rocket science to book. Yet Vince McMahon got cute and due to ego and bad business, never gave this angle the tools it needed to succeed. Instead of picking up the big WCW stars, the WCW invasion was originally led by Shane McMahon, Booker T, and Buff Bagwell. You can figure out how this thing ended without even reading on.

All of the WWE vs. WCW matches ended with the WWE crew coming out on top with none of the WCW originals looking strong. The underlying theme here was obvious. WWE is and always was better than WCW. That is how this thing started and that is how it ended.

The irony here is that Vince McMahon later signed the bigger WCW superstars like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Bill Goldberg, and Scott Steiner. Unfortunately those signings came after the invasion, thus costing the company millions of dollars and some potentially historic moments of pro wrestling fans.

Lita, Matt Hardy, and Jeff Hardy defeat Triple H, Steve Austin, & Stephanie McMahon on RAW, 2001 - Do you remember the night that the Hardy brothers and Lita defeated Austin, Triple H, and Stephanie on RAW? You probably don’t, but if you did you remember one of the most exciting moments in RAW history at the time of the match.

The Hardy brothers and Lita had become a hit around this time with the younger WWE audience. It was time to bump the trio up from their feud with Edge, Christian, and Kurt Angle to the Two Man Power Trip. This match resulted out of a brief meeting earlier in the show between Lita and Linda where Lita showed her support for Linda in the middle of a “divorce” with Vince. The punishment, a match with the WWE champion Stone Cold Steve Austin, the WWE intercontinental champion Triple H, and Stephanie.

The match was exciting, full of action, and told a fantastic story of the underdogs finally getting their opportunity. The match ended with Lita pinning Stephanie. Austin and Hunter obliterated the Hardy boys and even Lita in an absolutely tremendous RAW moment. It appeared that the Hardy brothers were in full feud mode now with the McMahon alliance.

Sadly that feud lasted all of about a week. Jeff Hardy defeated Triple H on the next edition of SmackDown to win the intercontinental title, only to drop it back to Hunter four days later on RAW. The Hardys and Lita had one more match against the pair as part of an eight-man tag team match but fell out of the main-event picture in the blink of an eye.

This had the potential to be a really exciting feud that never went anywhere when all was said and done.

Nexus Forms, 2010 - Up until CM Punk’s promo on RAW Roulette, this was the most memorable moment of the decade in the WWE. The night without warning that several WWE rookies jumped John Cena and CM Punk in what many described as an “n.W.o. moment.” Unfortunately that great moment never materialized the way most fans had hoped that it would.

Daniel Bryan was immediately fired from the company which took the best worker of Nexus out of the mix. So for the next several weeks Wade Barrett carried the crew with some of the best promos of the year in the WWE. Nexus destroyed everyone in their paths for about a month including several WWE legends. It appeared that nobody was stopping Nexus.

Sadly, everyone stopped Nexus. The first big WWE vs. Nexus match took place at SummerSlam 2010. This was the turning point for the angle because from here on out, Nexus were never able to regain the momentum they had when they jumped Punk and Cena back in June. Cena standing tall as sole survivor of the match completely brought this angle to a screeching halt.

Yes I know, Wade Barrett defeated John Cena at Hell in a Cell and got him in Nexus. However, Barrett and Nexus were made to look like fools and Cena never took the stips or the loss seriously. One year later Barrett is far removed from where you would have expected him to be at this point and most of Nexus are just bouncing around. I hate to say it but I have little faith that the same guys that dropped the ball on Nexus will be writing the CM Punk-Money in the Bank storyline at Money in the Bank.

Tazz debuts in the WWE, 2001 - Taz as he was known in Extreme Championship Wrestling was the franchise player of the company in 2000. That is why many were surprised, yet excited when they heard Taz (now Tazz) had signed with the WWE.

Tazz came into the company with a ton of promotion. He had several articles written about him on the website and a ton of vignettes before his debut. Tazz debuted at the Royal Rumble in New York as Kurt Angle’s mystery opponent. Tazz ended the winning streak of Kurt Angle to a huge reaction in just slightly over three minutes of dominance.

You would have expected big things for Tazz after debuting with such fanfare in the WWE. Unfortunately that never happened. Chalk it up to politics, but the Tazz was never fully followed through. The writing was on the wall when Tazz as ECW champion lost to Triple H on SmackDown for no apparent reason other than spite. From there, Tazz wound up in the intercontinental title mix and was one of only a few not to get a run with the belt during that time period. Tazz would wind up disappearing due to injury and returning months later.

Unfortunately the WWE never pushed Tazz as hard as they did before he arrived as they did when he showed up in the WWE disappointing a lot of fans who hoped to see Tazz suplex and choke his way to the WWE main-event picture.

The Radicalz invade the WWE, 2000 - If you read the wrestling newsletters or called hotlines back in 1999 and 2000 you knew what was coming. After years of being held down by politics and petty booking in WCW, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero (along with Perry Saturn) were going to get their shots in the WWE.

It all started off fantastic. All four guys appeared at ringside without warning on the January 31, 2000 edition of WWE RAW is War. The fans went crazy and immediately recognized the men and the N.W.O. moment that the WWE injected back into the Monday Night Wars. The Radicalz as they were called were “invited” guests of Mick Foley.

The Radicalz made their presence known by the end of the night. A cheap shot by the Road Dog resulted in the Radicalz jumping the guard rail and beating down the New Age Outlaws. They were instant stars in the WWE, something they had to work for in WCW over the course of a few years. Unfortunately the parade would soon come to an end.

A few days later Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko, and Saturn were offered a chance to “win contracts” if they could win three matches on SmackDown against Degeneration-X members; Triple H, X Pac, and the Outlaws. Can you guess what happened next? The Radicalz lost all three matches, including Triple H pinning Benoit who left WCW as the world champion. The air was taken out of the balloon in less than a week.

Benoit and Guerrero eventually fought their way to the top but Saturn and Malenko struggled. It took the WWE months to ruin the Nexus angle in 2010. It only took them a few days to ruin the Radicalz angle in 2000.

ECW invades the WWE, 1996 - Yes before ECW One Night Stand there was WWF Mind Games in Philadelphia, PA. The WWF was struggling to find its way while ECW became something of an underground sensation with a teenage market that the WWF couldn’t reach. In order to reach that market, the WWF partnered with ECW, giving ECW an opportunity to expose its product to a national audience. And oh yeah, WCW was kicking the WWF’s behind at this time with the start of the n.W.o. angle.

It all started in ECW when threats were issued towards the WWF for coming into ECW’s home base, Philadelphia, PA with Mind Games. A few weeks later ECW (& future WWE) stars the Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, Taz, and Paul Heyman were in the front row of the Mind Games pay per view to enjoy the show and cause a little trouble.

It didn’t take long for the fans to notice and “ECW” chants quickly broke out live in pay per view. In the pay per view opener, Savio Vega wound up outside the ring in front of the ECW crew. Sandman threw beer on Vega and a pull-apart erupted between all parties at ringside. Vince McMahon on the announce team dismissed the ECW crew as a “local, up and coming promotion.”

This should have been the start of something great. The WWF had their own invasion angle right in front of them but nothing of real relevance materialized. The ECW crew were given matches on one episode of RAW and appeared from time to time to cause trouble but that was it. A memorable debate between Jerry Lawler and Paul Heyman that resulted in nothing else is about the only real highlight here.

Ironically it was ECW that really capitalized off of this angle. ECW booked Jerry Lawler and Lawler immediately became one of the biggest heels in the company. Yet Vince McMahon and the WWE never pulled the trigger on an all-out invasion between companies. In retrospect it is interesting to think what could have happened if he did.

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The Ultimate Warrior confronts Hulk Hogan in WCW, 1998 - How could I write a blog like this without bringing up this nugget? Eight years after giving pro wrestling one of the most memorable matches in WWE history, Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior attempted to rewrite history in WCW. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t Vince McMahon holding the pencil and writing what would become a bomb of a program.

Warrior’s debut was great. Some fans were surprised, some expected it, but all went crazy when the lights went out and returned with the Warrior in a WCW ring. Warrior cut a great (but lengthy) promo on Hogan and Bischoff. It was certainly an electric moment but sadly for Warrior fans, someone turned the power off pretty quickly on this memorable moment.

See the fun part about the Warrior is watching him talk but unfortunately at some point he is going to have to wrestle. He did and his long awaited singles match with Hogan is regarded by many as one of the worst WCW main-events in history and boy does that say a lot.

Warrior only resurfaced one more time in WCW after the Halloween Havoc disaster. Depending upon who you believe either the Warrior held out for more money after the match or WCW simply stopped calling him. Either way, WCW finally moved on and spared their fans of another Warrior vs. Hogan match.

The Four Horsemen turn on Ole Anderson, 1987 - I remember watching this as a kid and getting excited seeing Ole Anderson slap J.J. Dillon moments after Dillon made fun of Anderson’s kid. Ole was always something of a bully and a bad-a$* so seeing Ole get his revenge on the Four Horsemen was a moment I was ready to pay $20 to see.

Instead, Ole wound up in a bunch of tag team matches and singles matches against Arn that never went anywhere. The angle fell completely flat and Ole bombed as a babyface. Maybe he was just too good of a heel that even when fighting the Horsemen, nobody wanted to cheer Ole? Whatever the reasons were, Ole retired less than a year later and the angle became a forgotten moment after an intense start.

Ronnie Garvin turns heel, 1988 - Ronnie Garvin never particularly clicked as a babyface to justify the push he received by Dusty Rhodes in 1987. However, Garvin was always seen as a gritty, tough guy and a pro wrestler that could hold his own against anyone. That is why I, like many were surprised when he helped the Four Horsemen at the expense of Dusty Rhodes.

The start of this angle was fantastic. Garvin entered the ring during a match at the Great American Bash 1988 featuring Dusty Rhodes vs. Barry Windham. The referee was knocked out, J.J. got up on the apron, and Garvin appeared to even the odd for Dusty. Instead, Garvin clocked the son of a plumber with his famous right hand to a huge reaction from the Baltimore crowd. The feud was on…and off.

Garvin quickly left the promotion for the WWE after the turn. Garvin vs. Dusty never got off the ground, failing to deliver on what was one of the most exciting moments in wrestling at the time.

Randy Orton is kicked out of Evolution, 2004 - This certainly won’t go down in history as the greatest angle of all time but at the time this was huge. After running around with Triple H, Batista, and Ric Flair, Randy Orton for two years, Orton was kicked out of Evolution. The thumbs up/thumbs down was a WWE moment for the ages. Unfortunately the excitement ended there for Orton.

Orton lost all of his singles matches with Triple H, thus taking steam right off of the kid who was touted to be the next big babyface of the WWE. Instead, Orton turned heel a couple of months after his final match with Triple H at the Royal Rumble, completely abandoning his big push to be the next WWE hero.

In other words, the WWE wasted an entire year building Orton’s turn just to squash Orton, and turn him heel again a few months later.

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WWE Tough Enough Returning to the USA Network

January 22, 2015 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

One of my favorite WWE shows is coming back to television. Tough Enough will be back for a new season and will air on the USA network. The show will take a different twist on the contest, with hopes to finally produce a true superstar.

USA Network announced that the show will be coming back after WrestleMania. The show is scheduled to be an hour and will likely air after RAW. Unlike the last season, the show is expected to have a different twist on the competition. One of the rumors circulating is that the contest will feature strictly wrestlers currently under a developmental deal with the winner being evaluated to the main roster.

The biggest question I have is whether Stone Cold Steve Austin will be back. To me, Austin’s promos at the end of every Tough Enough last season were some of the best in the wrestling business. Austin was a show stealer and his promos blew away anything the WWE had on TV then or even now. Dave Meltzer reports that Austin was expected to come back, however Austin’s name has not been mentioned thus far by the USA Network.

The reboot comes after the show was canceled shortly before production last year. The show was scheduled to return as an exclusive to the WWE Network. Once the Network subscriptions didn’t meet expectations, the show was cancelled as a cost-cutter. The show was scheduled to be taped at the developmental center. Those plans appear to remain intact.

As great of a show as Tough Enough can be, the show has a horrible track record when it comes to winners. Last year’s winner Andy Levine struggled in developmental and was shortly gone after violating the WWE Wellness Policy. The biggest stars to come out of the show have ironically been cast members that didn’t win. In one of the craziest bits or irony, Cameron is without a doubt the biggest star to come out of the last season. It’s ironic because Austin made a mockery of her before eliminating her in the first week of the show. Yep, the first wrestler eliminated was wrestling on WrestleMania a few years later. The Miz and Ryback are also former Tough Enough castoffs that didn’t win their seasons.

Meltzer also reported that there are ads on Craigslist.org looking for independent wrestlers to try out for the show. That would appear to be a conflict with the plan of using WWE developmental talent. Meltzer also reports that talent close to graduating to the main roster will not be on the show. I can understand the idea of the WWE skewing the odds of getting a good winner by placing all of their talent in the cast. I just hope this isn’t presented as if these are guys and girls walking in off of the streets, insulting our intelligence.

Quite frankly I don’t care how the contest is run as long as Steve Austin is back. Let’s make that happen USA and WWE!

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Top 10 WWE Greatest Feuds In History

January 07, 2015 By: Category: lists, Videos, WWE | Pro Wrestling

There is nothing more memorable in professional wrestling than a great rivalry. The WWE has produced some of the all-time best over the last several decades and I thought it would be fun to look back and countdown the ten best WWE feuds of all-time.

Wrestling fans will probably go through their lives watching a lot of wrestling. Yet it will be the memorable angle and great feud that resonates with them for generations. Those dramatic moments and intense matches will live on and be passed down through legend to future generations. Over the course of my lifetime, the WWE has produced some of the all-time best.

Keep in mind that I am not ranking this as a greatest feuds blog, I am specifically looking at feuds that happened within a WWE ring. While I grew up with classic feuds from territories all over the United States, only those within the WWE were readily available to be reviewed for this blog. Fortunately you can catch most of these great matches and/or moments on the Network or YouTube so even if you weren’t watching them live, you can still appreciate the chaos.

In no particular order here is the breakdown of what are in my opinion, the 10 greatest feuds in WWE history.

Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon - Let’s start with an easy one. Austin vs. McMahon is arguably the greatest feud in WWE history. If the criteria for this list was simply revenue, Austin vs. McMahon would probably top the list. Unfortunately the WWE has gone to the well so many times in recent years with heel authority figures that I don’t think we will ever see anything like this again. The timing was just right in 1997 with Vince coming off of the Montreal Screw Job, competition from WCW, the popularity of the n.W.o. bringing pro wrestling back into the mainstream, and the emergence of this biggest anti-authority hero you will ever see in a wrestling ring.

Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper - Next to Austin vs. McMahon I may call this the greatest feud in WWE history. It was certainly the biggest of my lifetime as a fan up until Austin vs. McMahon. The legacy of this feud cannot be understated. These two guys were pivotal in taking pro wrestling and breaking it out into the mainstream in 1984 and 1985. Sure Hogan was a great babyface but there was no other villain in the company that could transcend popular culture like Piper. The timing was absolutely perfect for these two to take the country by storm and they did. The same can’t be said for their rivalry years later in WCW and again in the WWE unfortunately.

Bruno Sammartino vs. Larry Zbysko - This one was a bit ahead of my time but the legend of this rivalry has sustained several generations of pro wrestling fans. I can’t begin to explain why this one became so much bigger than others for Bruno because Bruno had plenty of allies turn on him throughout his WWE career. Yet for whatever reason, Zbysko’s defiance hit home with the fans. Zbysko breaking the chair over Bruno’s head has become iconic in its own right. The heat for their matches was ridiculous and while Hogan may take credit for it in his book, it was this match that drew a monster house to Shea Stadium in an era before pay-per-view.

CM Punk vs. John Cena - It’s funny because the best angle this feud had is arguably the least memorable, which was the night Punk got up from the commentary booth and turned on Cena. Their 2011 summer series remains the biggest feud/angle of modern day era of WWE. Punk’s pipe-bomb promo was believable and fans ate up the idea of Punk leaving the WWE as world champion. Their Money in the Bank match was rated five stars by Dave Meltzer which is incredibly high praise. Whether it has the sustainability of the others on this list remains to be seen, but on this date it was one of the all-time best.

Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage - The WrestleMania V rivalry remains an iconic feud from the 1980s era of pro wrestling. Fans today still talk about the great match and classic angle which saw Savage turn on Hogan on prime time television. The year-long build is patience that could pay off today if the WWE had a different mindset as opposed to the hot-shot angle and match. Hogan gets a lot of criticism for his work rate but all you need to do is check out their WrestleMania V match and others in the 80s to see Hogan and Savage for that matter at his best.

Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels - This is a feud that probably doesn’t get as much due as it should. The angles and series of matches throughout this lengthy rivalry remain some of the best from the last decade of WWE wrestling. Their Ladder Match in particular still sticks out as an all-time favorite. Between Jericho punching Michaels’ wife and almost blinding the Heartbreak Kid you won’t find many better heels in the last decade than Jericho was during this historic period.

Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart - Austin vs. Hart remains one of the greatest rivalries which produced arguably the greatest WrestleMania match in history (my favorite anyway). What made this one so good? I think it goes back to the Survivor Series 1996 hype and Austin telling the world that no matter what happens in New York City, the feud will never end…and it didn’t. The feud was intense, believable, dramatic, and the two just had such great chemistry that it wouldn’t have worked with anyone else. Both guys had chips on their shoulders with Bret obsessing over Shawn Michaels and Austin obsessed with proving WCW wrong after he was released. The hunger and desire out of both guys is evident in everything they did which is why it was all so great.

The Rock vs. Steve Austin - How can you go wrong with three WrestleMania main-events? While you would riot today if you saw Randy Orton vs. John Cena three times at Mania, every match was bigger and better. The timing and worlds aligned for these two to make beautiful wrestling music together. Unfortunately I don’t think this one paid off nearly as much as it should have with Austin leaving after their final match at WrestleMania 19 and never following through on his revenge. Yet there are plenty of great angles leading up to 15 and 17 readily accessible on the Network that will make you a believer if you have any doubts about how fun and memorable this feud was in its heyday.

Mankind vs. The Undertaker - One of quite possibly the most underrated feuds in WWE history would be The Undertaker vs. Mankind. Sure, this one will always be remembered for Hell in a Cell but there was so much more. For over two years these two guys waged one of the most brutal and bloody wars ever seen in a WWE ring. Mankind debuted and immediately jumped into a feud with Taker. Mankind wasted no time targeting the Dead Man as he picked a fight with Taker on his first night in the company. The next two years saw dozens of vignettes and matches showcasing the brutality of this deadly rivalry. Pick any match on the Network between these two and I can guarantee you that it will be just as exciting now as it was almost 20 years ago.

Triple H vs. Batista - It still amazes me that someone who was involved in a legendary rivalry like Batista was crapped on by the new generation of fans so badly when he returned last year. I think the WWE could have helped him out quite a bit if they went back and showed old footage of his rivalry with Hunter. What made this so good is that it had been brewing for months. Batista would shoot these subtle looks at Hunter for months prior to their match that let the fans know that it was coming. This allowed the rivalry to simmer for months before it finally boiled over into one of the greatest segments in RAW history (right up there with their contract signing). Batista won three straight matches and yet the fans couldn’t get enough of this rivalry. Again, this is another case in patience paying off at the box office for the WWE.

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The 25 Lamest WWE PPV Endings Ever

December 23, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

It didn’t take long for Dean Ambrose’s exploding-television mishap (Magnavox Overdrive?) to become subject of ridicule. The fact that Ambrose is winless in all pay-per-view bouts post-Shield split (that’s since June 2) only makes an incendiary monitor more the source of caustic feeling.

The ending of a WWE pay-per-view is generally the lasting impression left on viewers. There may have been some enjoyably crisp match in the undercard (certainly the Dolph Ziggler/Luke Harper ladder match from TLC fits this profile), which may have to yield in the face of a thudding finish. Ambrose being defeated by technology, an incident more likely to do in Cosmo Kramer or Kenny McCormack than wily-whackjob Ambrose, is such a thud.

Over the years, harebrained ideas have punctuated these events, earning their rightful place in negative lore. Your mileage may vary, and with all matters wrestling among distinct fan tastes it will, but I’ve concocted a list of what I feel are the 25 most absurd final acts in WWE pay-per-view history.

CAVEAT 1: this list doesn’t necessary include instances where ‘the wrong guy went over’. That’s certainly subjective. You’re better off writing, “25 times I think Triple H and John Cena should have put someone over.” Now THAT’S a subjective list. But there are a few examples littered in here.

CAVEAT 2: Montreal is disqualified. No incident that turns Vince McMahon into the grandest of villains for Steve Austin to combat with weekly, spurring wrestling’s vaunted Attitude Era into the highest of gears, can count as lame. Unfair to Bret Hart? You can pick a side. Lame? Hardly.

CAVEAT 3: Chances are, you’re going to see something on this list that you personally enjoyed. That’s what friendly debate is for. I once inducted WrestleMania XXVII into WrestleCrap and I still get raked over the coals from time to time for it. Once again, this is all subjective. Just play along, if you would.

CAVEAT 4: For those who DO take offense to anything written, keep in mind it’s almost always written with a playful grin than with a scowl. So many of these moments provided unintentional bits of comedy, how *can* you hate them? Wrestling is fun, even when it’s garbage. Sometimes it takes years to see the humor in these happenings, and other times it’s instant. But hey, it’s why we still watch.

And now, here go the list.

25. THE WHAT GENERATION? (King of the Ring, June 19, 1994)

In 1994, WWE earnestly promoted its hard-hitting, fast-paced “New Generation”, with prime talents like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels leading the way. To contradict this fresh sentiment, the King of the Ring closed with Jerry Lawler wrestling Rowdy Roddy Piper, both men well into their forties. While both men have forged storied legacies, this match is best left out.

Piper fought the insipid Lawler for the right to donate his ‘winning money’ to a Toronto children’s hospital, and Lawler was set on stopping him, like something out of a Marx Brothers movie. The match felt just as aged, and the slow finish didn’t help: Piper hitting a slow-motion back suplex with an awkward bridge that Lawler somehow could not escape.

24. A GRADUAL BURIAL (Rock Bottom, December 13, 1998)

Stone Cold Steve Austin could do no wrong in 1998. It goes without saying that bits like whacking Vince McMahon with a bedpan, or humoring McMahon’s attempt at making him over in corporate stylings, could have bombed with a performer of lesser personality. Austin’s cool factor buoyed many moments, even ones that were just beyond his control.

Closing out 1998, Austin would defeat the increasingly-Satantic Undertaker in a Buried Alive match. While Undertaker lay prone in the grave, Austin instructed a backhoe operator to pile on the dirt. After fidgeting with the controls, to noticeable crowd groans, the driver managed to dump the soil on after what felt like an agonizing hour, with a possibly comatose ‘Taker.

23. MONTREAL: THE SEARCH FOR MORE MONEY (Breaking Point, September 13, 2009)

While Montreal, polarizing as the moment remains, was undeniably the source of great growth for a blissfully-seedy WWE, attempts to rip it off have been lacking. Survivor Series 1998 gets points only for the Rock-Mankind double-turn. Other occurrences of ‘ringing the f–king bell’ since only make the home viewer want to smash their monitors, a la Bret Hart.

At WWE’s lone Breaking Point event, highlighting submission matches, World Champion CM Punk defeated Undertaker in a criminally short match when that bell f–king rang as ‘Taker was in the process of countering the Anaconda Vice. The sort-of explanation: a galvanized Teddy Long orchestrated the screwjob to impress Vince McMahon. Well, it WAS in Montreal….

22. PAY IT OFF ANOTHER TIME (Unforgiven, September 22, 2002)

One major change from the Attitude Era’s closing was, to a degree, serious slowing down of storylines. The good: an exciting story has time to breathe and build (see: Jericho vs. Michaels, 2008). The bad: you’re liable to get a screwy finish on pay-per-view, with the rematch coming the following month. At $45-55 a pop, this can be very irksome to tight-budget viewers.

A fresh-faced Brock Lesnar had just become WWE Champion, and warred with Undertaker in a decent brawl that ended after 20 minutes with a double-DQ that was simply rare in post-Attitude, re-education-filled 2002. The Los Angeles fans blew a gasket in response, and rightly so. The Hell in a Cell rematch a month later is legendary, though the road there had this pothole.

21. TV TAPING (Extreme Rules, April 25, 2010)

There’s two ideas that clash like oil and water: the concept of violent wrestling, and the Bugs Bunny-like comic mischief of John Cena. Hey, Hulk Hogan did plenty of goofy stuff in his matches (many of his Saturday Night’s Main Event moments are beautiful in their intricate silliness), and Cena certainly runs to that well in order to ‘create smiles’, per company mantra.

Cena and Batista put together a pretty good Last Man Standing match for the WWE Championship, and Cena did emerge as ‘last man standing’. That’s because Cena duct-taped Batista’s ankles around the ringpost, taking just long enough for the 300-pound Batista to look foolish in his inability to kick his muscular legs free. Admittedly, that stuff is potent.

20. THE RIGHT/WRONG MAN (In Your House: Triple Header, September 24, 1995)

Bait and switch, thy name is Titan. Immediately following SummerSlam 1995, WWE went into hype overdrive for the third In Your House, booking a true rarity: a match in which the World, Intercontinental, and Tag Team Titles would be on the line. Diesel and Shawn Michaels would defend their respective belts against tag champs Owen Hart and Yokozuna.

Hart would end up making the PPV late following the birth of his daughter Athena, but that only triggered an obvious escape clause. Davey Boy Smith, freshly-turned heel on Diesel, substituted for his brother-in-law. Late in the bout, Owen ran in from out of nowhere, and was immediately powerbombed and pinned by Diesel. The title change was nullified the following morning.

19. WWE LOSES CONTROL (Cyber Sunday, November 5, 2006)

Any sort of celebrity endorsement of WWE is gratefully accepted like a sandwich by a beggar. There is literally almost no D-or-E-lister that WWE won’t latch onto for a quick sniff. These days, middle-of-the-road TV stars are the preferred wagons to hitch to, though WWE has a history of scraping Hollywood’s barrel base for some sort of bad-boy connection. Enter Kevin Federline.

Remember Britney Spears’ ex-husband? At this time, ‘K-Fed’ released a unanimously-panned rap album, Playing With Fire, and WWE’s Attitude-lite product was attempting to make him their new Mike Tyson. Federline cost John Cena the World Heavyweight Title in a triple threat match via distraction, beat him on Raw two months later, and then vanished forever.

18. GASSED CHAMBER (SummerSlam, August 24, 2003)

The case against Triple H from diehard wrestling fans can be extensive, but give the man credit: his pedigree, pun intended, of great matches is a lengthy one, and he’s capable of delivering a believable main event. This wasn’t always the case; in 2003, as World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H reached a career nadir with Raw in a slump, and he quite literally couldn’t carry things.

By SummerSlam, Triple H was badly out of shape, thanks to a serious thigh/groin injury that kept him from working out to his overzealous liking. This meant in SummerSlam’s Elimination Chamber title defense, Helmsley (in garish bicycle shorts) watched Goldberg pulverize everyone before pinning “The Man” with a solitary sledgehammer blow, doing two minutes of work.

17. PULLING THE STRINGS (King of the Ring, June 27, 1999)

One of the en vogue story tropes of the Attitude Era was the “WHODUNNIT” mystery. Who ran down Austin in the parking lot? Who hit Kevin Nash with the Hummer truck? Who is the Higher Power? After Vince McMahon was hastily revealed as that last shrouded figure, the mysteries lost their luster considerably. At least the Higher Power, though, had a payoff.

Steve Austin battled Vince and son Shane for total control of WWE at King of the Ring in a ladder match, with the ownership certificates suspended in a briefcase above the ring. Austin had the match won, and made his climb, when the briefcase was suddenly jerked out of Austin’s reach. The McMahons won full power, and the assailant was never, ever revealed.

16. THIS IS A RECORDING (Over the Limit, May 22, 2011)

John Cena doesn’t quit. Period. Wisenheimer fans will note that Kurt Angle and the redacted Chris Benoit have made Cena tap (for $9.99, you can watch Angle do it at No Mercy 2003), but those are bits of buried history in the primary narrative. Cena, unless he turns heel, is never submitting. Otherwise, those hand-towels he displays are worthless. Well, even more so.

After tormenting WWE Champion Cena in an I Quit match, The Miz managed to draw a submission with a chair-shot beating. The referee then deciphered that it was a recording of Cena previously saying the words in a promo, via Alex Riley’s cell phone lying near Cena’s head. Cena came to life, chased Miz up the rampway, and made him submit seconds later.

15. HELP ME, OBI-WYATT (Hell in a Cell, October 26, 2014)

If the feud between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins has not truly ended, then this entry wouldn’t be so bad. As it stands, it’s a detour for WWE’s best feud of 2014 (assuming it picks up in 2015 sometime). That doesn’t extinguish the randomness of the moment, as well as the all-too excessive nature of what took place. It did take away from an enjoyable brawl.

As Ambrose and Rollins concluded their violent-minus-blood Hell in a Cell bout, Ambrose was about to win when *gasp* the lights went out. Some sort of plain-spoken Middle-Eastern chant was played on loop for what felt like hours. Then a hologram of Bray Wyatt appeared over a smoking lantern in the ring. Wyatt appeared, randomly attacked Ambrose, and Rollins won.

14. SOME PARTING GIFT, BROTHER (WrestleMania VIII, April 5, 1992)

WWE began something of a free-fall in 1992, in regards to a major roster purge. By year’s end, The Ultimate Warrior, Davey Boy Smith, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts, Legion of Doom, and Sid Justice would all leave the company. Hulk Hogan, the biggest star WWE had known by a country mile, was finishing after WrestleMania VIII, a fact that the company vaguely hyped as true.

Hogan headlined against Sid in what was a pretty bland match, building to the Hogan Formula Finish. That’s when Sid kicked out of the legdrop in a shocker, purportedly because an interfering Papa Shango was late. The fact that WrestleMania ended with a disqualification was a considerable letdown, even with Ultimate Warrior making the save in a startling return.

13. OH, THAT’S WHY THEY…. (Royal Rumble, January 29, 2006)

In the 1990s, the company experimented three straight years with putting the World Title match on after the Rumble match. WWE soon figured out that nothing could follow the one-hour tradition, and by 1999, they reverted back to closing the event with the signature gauntlet. An exception has been made twice since: 2013, so Rock could close, and this mind-boggler.

In 2006, the 30-man classic went on fourth out of six matches. Kurt Angle and an ice-cold Mark Henry went on last for the World Title in a plodding affair, headshaking until Angle’s victory celebration. Undertaker arrived on a chariot and caused the ring to collapse as a means of challenging Angle. Boy, good thing WWE changed the match order before that supernatural act.

12. DEAL WITH IT (Royal Rumble, January 26, 2014)

A rare entry on this list that exclusively criticizes the choice of winner than an actual convoluted finish. You won’t need much reminding: Daniel Bryan was by the time the most popular wrestler in the industry, shaking off pointless refuge in the Wyatt Family by destroying the trio in a memorable conclusion to Raw, with the thunderous crowd “YESes” shaking the venue.

Two weeks later, WWE excluded Bryan from the Royal Rumble match, having him put Bray Wyatt over cleanly to start the show. As the crowd gradually grew more sour, an unwelcome Batista ended up winning the Rumble match. When Rey Mysterio entered at No. 30, the realization of Bryan’s absence drew the sort of caustic rage that every heel dreams of.

11. STEP ASIDE, JABRONIES (WrestleMania XXVII, April 3, 2011)

When The Rock made an unexpected return on the February 14 Raw, shockwaves coursed. It’d been seven years since “The Great One” made any sort of meaningful appearance in an actual WWE arena. The Attitude cornerstone would take on the dreaded ‘guest host’ role at WrestleMania, though his diatribes against John Cena were positively right out of 1999.

Problem: Cena wasn’t facing Rock. Instead, Cena was challenging WWE Champion The Miz, with whom he had as unspectacular a main event as you could have on the biggest stage. Miz wound up retaining after Rock cost Cena the match. Then Miz would ‘know his role’ by getting Rock Bottom’d in the aftermath, leaving Rock, a non-wrestler, as the only man standing tall.

10. GREAT MAIN EVENT? NO CHANCE (Royal Rumble, January 24, 1999)

As the previous entry suggests, a bad main event is made much worse with a ridiculous ending. A bad match that lasts one hour and has an equally insulting finish? Much worse, as you’d probably guess. When a bad Royal Rumble came down to the first two entrants, a barely-active Steve Austin and Vince McMahon, jaded fans half-heartedly expected a swerve, which they got.

After Austin beat McMahon half to death, with a World Title match hanging in the balance, he didn’t eliminate the boss, choosing to inflict more damage. This brought The Rock out to distract Austin, giving carte blanche to years of distraction finishes. A suddenly stupid Austin fell under Rock’s spell and tangled with him, allowing the cadaver of Vince to dump Stone Cold.

9. SPONSORED BY JIMMY-JOBS (Extreme Rules, April 29, 2012)

Brock Lesnar’s return following a bountiful UFC run created plenty of excitement. His post-WrestleMania arrival, in which he F5’ed John Cena, nearly blew the roof off of the arena. The vignettes hyping their match four weeks later at Extreme Rules were a paradox of simple, and outside-the-box. Lesnar was now a crossover star, the magnitude of which WWE covets.

So then after bloodying Cena with stiff blows, and nearly breaking the man’s arm with a kimura lock, Lesnar would lose the high-profile bout cleanly. Making matters more confusing was a post-match Cena promo, in which he claimed he may be going away for a while to rest. Not only did Cena not go anywhere, but it undermined the marquee return of beastly megastar.

8. CRANE POSITION (Survivor Series, November 19, 2000)

When topping a heinous act with a measure of revenge, never underestimate WWE’s ability to veer too far into the realm of the absurd. One year earlier at Survivor Series, Steve Austin would be struck by a car in a plot masterminded by Triple H (with Rikishi as the driver). Austin and HHH would war one year later. In Attitude Era WWE, they knew they had to top a speedy rundown.

The match spilled all over the arena, and into the parking lot. Austin fought off the interfering Radicalz, while an ill-tempered Triple H started up a nearby car. As he started it up, Austin appeared inside a crane, lifted the car a few stories off the ground, and let it drop with Helmsley inside. Instead of being, well, dead, Helmsley reappeared not long after with nary a scratch on his body.

7. PLOD DEVICE (No Way Out, February 20, 2005)

One of the common elements on the list: the sudden stupidity of babyfaces. For many of these ideas to ‘work’, the purported hero has to lose 50 IQ points at the worst possible time. Take the barbed wire steel cage match for the WWE Title between JBL and Big Show. On many occasions, Show has played the ogre-like fool, but none moreso than the ending of this No Way Out.

The bloody affair saw Show chokeslam JBL off the top rope, through the actual canvas. Instead of dragging JBL out of the pit and pinning him (Nick Patrick was officiating in the ring), Show slowly kicked open the locked door, walked 1.3 MPH out of the opening, and slowly walked down the steps. Surprise: JBL won when he crawled into the pit, and out from under the ring.

6. TV IS BAD FOR YOU (TLC, December 14, 2014)

I feel fairly confident with the high placement of this entry. Factoring in that Dean Ambrose hasn’t won a pay-per-view bout since June 1, in spite of the favorable reception he receives for his masterful selling, mannerisms, and presentation, WWE has yet to really throw him a bone in his singles run. The ending of TLC has become a new running gag, rightfully so.

Branching off the “sudden stupidity” theory from the previous entry, Ambrose had Bray Wyatt beaten following a car-crash of a TLC match. That wasn’t enough, so Ambrose brings in a plugged-in monitor from under the ring, admires himself in it, and tries to nail Wyatt, only for the plugs to explode and blind him. Say it with me now: Sister Abigail for the pin.

5. SHOW STOPPER (Battleground, October 6, 2013)

Battleground wound up earning the honor of Worst WWE PPV of 2013 across most outlets, and it’s easy to see why. Other than the Rhodes Brothers taking on the Shield, everything else ranged from dull to downright bad. The PPV was the third paying installment of the Daniel Bryan/Randy Orton/Abeyance World Title angle, so at least there’d be a payoff, right?

After 20 minutes of wrestling, Bryan had Orton enveloped in the Yes Lock, only for Big Show to jog down, pull the ref, and lay out Bryan with the WMD, at the behest of Brad Maddox. Show pulled a second referee after a change of heart and then KO’ed Orton, who he was supposed to be helping. Sixty of your dollars later, and the belt remained vacant until the next PPV.

4. EARLIER SHOW STOPPER (Over the Limit, May 20, 2012)

This one features all of the elements of a bad finish: hacky comedy, a plot hole, a bad match, and a worse ending. John Laurinaitis was forced into action against John Cena, with his job on the line. Anyone who interfered would be fired. There’d be no disqualifications otherwise, allowing Cena to drag the former Johnny Ace through some ha-ha-larious predicaments.

Days before the match, a surly Laurinaitis had fired Big Show on Raw. After 15 minutes of Cena pounding Laurinaitis (he could have pinned him at any time), the VP tries to escape, only to conveniently run into a loitering Show. Show brings him back, and then KO’s Cena in a swerve. You know, after Laurinaitis nearly lost a bunch of times. Ace wins, and Show was rehired.

3. GET EM, HULK! (WrestleMania IX, April 4, 1993)

Anyone shedding tears over Hogan’s half-hearted farewell one year earlier will either be overjoyed at the end of WrestleMania IX, or be further appalled. As WWE’s roster shifted into promoting gifted workers with realistic bodies, Bret Hart became its flagbearer and World Champion. A match with portly Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX would put him over strongly.

Hart lost, somehow knocked unconscious by salt to the eyes. This brought out a suddenly-slimmer Hogan to protest this great injustice. Then Mr. Fuji stupidly challenged Hogan to a title match on the spot. Seconds later, Hogan beat Yokozuna to become champion, wiping The Hitman off the slate completely. Hogan then devalued the belt while touring New Japan.

2. STARS AND SWERVES FOREVER (SummerSlam, August 30, 1993)

After Hogan vanished following his title loss back to big Yoko, WWE did not reinsert Hart back into the picture. Instead, they stripped Lex Luger of his ho-hum Narcissist persona, costumed him in all colors Americana, effectively trying to make him the new Hogan. Luger slammed Yokozuna in a public challenge on the Fourth of July, and seemed poised to win the gold.

After Yokozuna’s spokesman Jim Cornette deemed this Lex’s *only* shot at Yokozuna, the two proceeded to actually have a good match. Luger would indeed win, but by countout. Using the steel plate in his forearm, Luger blasted Yoko and knocked him out cold, but through the ropes. Luger celebrated with other babyfaces while balloons and confetti fell, but without the title.

1. LEGACY CEMENTED (Great American Bash, June 27, 2004)

The Undertaker has had his share of unrealistic storylines, many unworthy of equaling the supernatural grace he so easily portrays. In 2004, Undertaker reassumed his ‘Dead Man’ image after a few years performing as an amped-up version of his real life grizzled biker self. With the return to the Dark Side came the package deal of far-fetched incidences as well.

At this event, Undertaker faced the Dudley Boyz in a handicap match with Paul Bearer (back on Taker’s side) sitting in a clear cubicle. If Taker didn’t lay down, Paul Heyman would authorize dumping wet cement on him. The goop built, but Taker won anyway. Then, for reasons unknown, Undertaker himself filled the cubicle, presumably killing Bearer. This wasn’t a heel turn, by the way.

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Steve Austin and Vince McMahon Podcast: Art Imitates Life

December 03, 2014 By: Category: Videos, WWE | Pro Wrestling

There is a delicious irony in the midst of Steve Austin hosting Vince McMahon on a special WWE Network edition of his no-holds-barred podcast. Austin, for whom tiptoeing is a sin both in character and out, objectively grills his old boss on a number of topics, one of which being the interminable yammering sessions that open Raw. Austin professes to being a wrestling guy, and he wants to see wrestling. The irony, of course, is that Raw began its ascent to its greatest heights when Raw set aside 15 to 20 minutes at Raw’s entrance to allow for interminable yammering (although with more salable talking points), with Austin himself as master blue collar orator.

For one hour and nine minutes following Raw, Austin pressed McMahon on common criticisms, such as Raw’s length and the lack of a Network in the United Kingdom, before getting into meatier topics, such as a Hall of Fame induction for the legendary Randy Savage, and of course, life without CM Punk and the most recent fallout.

Most of the internet turned their ears to McMahon’s apology to Punk for firing him on his wedding day, and here’s where we get diplomatic Vince. His remarks about Punk being a loner that may have some regrets about the way he did things were far from backhanded. It’s here that we see the McMahon as I understand him: a businessman who will employ ruthless tactics, yes, but feels a nagging sense later on, and wants everyone to be happy.

McMahon most often puts his happiness first, absolutely, but you get the sense that he hates loose ends in spite of his F-You fortune. When you see the likes of Bret Hart, The Ultimate Warrior, and Bruno Sammartino participate with the company after mending fences, I get the feeling that, from afar, McMahon is not so much thinking, “Suckers; I can buy anyone back,” but rather genuine happiness that he was able to reach these disgruntled’s, human to human.

The biggest takeaway I got from the podcast wasn’t even anything Vince said, but rather his early demeanor. Going in, McMahon seemed sober to the fact that Austin wasn’t going to dull his blade any, and was bracing himself for anything and everything. To watch the first ten minutes of their back-and-forth, McMahon’s eyes are deer-like, and the light of the Buick hasn’t even been flashed at him. It’s the look of a man who finds himself in a real situation, no plastic-coating. It’s not a seat McMahon likes to sit in.

He’s seated across from a man whom brought him to new, uncharted heights, and vice versa. Much of Austin and McMahon’s current fortunes were stacked by the other, and this is an ally who’s preparing to ask the tough questions. This isn’t Bob Costas or Armen Keteyan or even Sean O’Shea, the prosecutor from the 1994 steroid trial, holding the gun. It’s Steve Austin with a paintball projectile. Those things can sting.

And yet, there’s McMahon, apprehensive, sober as a Quaker. A few nervous chuckles early on, that patented yuk-yuk laugh, only momentarily distract from the tension. The McMahon who purportedly gets angry when he sneezes because he couldn’t control his own body (Chris Jericho’s book is the most credible authority that reports this urban legend as legit) is in a place where he has no control. Short of lurching forth and slitting Austin’s throat, the boss can’t control the words that emanate from Austn’s lips. With a three-camera set-up trained on them, and millions of eyes dying to see and hear the boss in this environment, McMahon was in quite a spot. That debonair Vince that charms with a defiant stride was checked at the door.

McMahon clearly trusts Austin just as he did in 1998, when he put his body into Stone Cold’s hands for a number of rating-spiking thrashings. Even then, McMahon looked a bit ill at ease when chaos reigned all around. When Austin or Undertaker or Foley or whomever was instituting some malevolent act, McMahon’s bug-eyed grimace was only half-worked. The control freak can’t control the outcome of the stunt that he’s a bystander to or, better yet, the victim of. That’s why McMahon remains a hands-on despot; ceding control makes him fidgety.

It’s through this discomfort that we get McMahon at his best. The boss becomes an open book on a number of topics, the most reported of which was the apology to CM Punk. He also asserted, his own words, that Savage needs to be in the Hall of Fame, that the UK fans have been done dirty by the Network delays, that Cesaro isn’t connecting with crowds (that one may be a bit off base). Most fascinating was McMahon’s plain-speak statement that today’s locker room is full of ‘millenials’ that don’t aggressively reach for the brass ring, aside from Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Bray Wyatt, all of whom he referred to by name.

Austin dropped McMahon into a raging river to see if he would swim, and McMahon absolutely did. Vince was kicking and flailing his feet before Austin relinquished him into the choppy waters, but once in there, McMahon was doing the backstroke against the current, gaining strides a placid look painted on that jowly kisser.

I think it’s fair to say that it’s more than just the locker room that doesn’t push themselves at Vince; it’s the company at large. When Raw, SmackDown, and PPVs feel like the same thing over and over and over again, and each day in the wrestling sphere is Bill Murray passively sitting up in Groundhog Day, that sort of stagnancy either drives zealous fans to watching other TV shows, sticking to old school wrestling or, worse, rooting for WWE’s demise, even if they don’t mean it.

To win the Monday Night Wars, McMahon needed to step out of his comfort zone and put his faith in a man he silenced under the name The Ringmaster just two years earlier. It was plenty of risk with a lifetime’s worth of reward, and it only came about when the establishment was challenged by, well, the establishment.

Leave it to Austin to once again be the one to get McMahon out of that insulated box and make him swim. It may only be a one-off bit, McMahon’s participation in this podcast, but it did more to engage the weary viewer than almost anything McMahon’s cookie-cutter presentation has offered in these paint-by-number times.

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Vince McMahon and Steve Austin Talk CM Punk, Undertaker Streak, and More

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

Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin got back together for a unique venture on the WWE Network. Austin interviewed McMahon on a live podcast and in classic fashion, combined for a fun and entertaining production.

Steve Austin has quickly made a reputation as one of the best celebrities gone podcaster. Austin was the first of several former colleagues to jump into the podcast fray and just like his days as a pro wrestler, continues to improve with every outing. Austin has interviewed many big names in pro wrestling but his biggest catch was Vince McMahon.

You knew it was going to happen. The Vince McMahon interview was a natural and Austin has said for months that Vince agreed to it. In typical Vince McMahon fashion, Vince took it up several notches by broadcasting the interview live on the WWE Network.

I’ll give Vince some credit. Sure he gave his corporate speak but he appeared to be as brutally honest as he thought he was. In other words, he believed everything he said. He also appeared to have a great time talking about his past and reflecting on old stories, which is a side of Vince you rarely see. Austin also did a great job of asking hard questions and never seemed intimidated by the situation. Austin asked Vince most of the questions we have been dying to ask and here are some of the highlights of the momentous event.

CM Punk just recently came out and blasted the WWE. Among other things, Punk said that the WWE sent him his termination papers on his wedding day. Vince blamed it on clerical and personally apologized to Punk. Vince said he’d love to have Punk back. Vince cited disagreements he has had with Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, and Ultimate Warrior and how they were able to work it out. He is confident that with the right communication he and Punk could work it out. Vince and Austin then discussed the time Austin walked out of the WWE. Vince said that Austin was a better communicator than Punk. Vince said he could use someone like a J.R. to bridge that gap.

Austin asked him why the streak ended at WrestleMania 30. Vince said that it was time. He said that there was nobody on the roster like Brock Lesnar who fit that spot. He said that the Undertaker loves giving back but it was his decision.

One of the more interesting conversations occurred right at the start of the podcast. Austin asked Vince about the current roster. Vince said that he feels nobody wants to take the brass ring. He said he can only do so much with the guys but they have to want it. He said that he feels nobody is as hungry on the roster today as they were in Austin’s era. He said that John Cena is the only one who had the drive to be the top guy. It was very interesting and strong criticism on the entire roster, sans John Cena.

Vince talked about the writers and the differences in writing today. Vince told Austin that times were different and they needed the large amount of writers. Vince reminisced about booking with Pat Patterson at the side of his pool. Vince told Austin that they can’t book like that anymore.

Austin asked Vince why Brock couldn’t be on television more. Vince had a great response when he said, “How many more guys can Brock Lesnar beat up?” Vince said that less is more with someone like Brock and that if he had him on television more, he wouldn’t be as special.

All in all it was a great interview and I’d highly recommend checking out the rest. One of the best discussions was Austin and Vince talking about why they worked together so well and the magic they had. They also talk about Austin walking out and what it was like to work with Austin from Vince’s standpoint. The interview went over an hour and moved real fast. Check it out on the WWE Network.

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Top 25 WWE Survivor Series Elimination Matches

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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