Subscribe

Zach Gowen Talks About Adversity, Vince McMahon, & Inspiring Others

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

Chances are, if you wrestled your final WWE match at the tender age of twenty, you’d mope about it bitterly for years following.

Not if you’re Zach Gowen.

For a five-month frame in 2003, the pre-booze-age Gowen lived the dream of any fan, coming to the aid of Hulk Hogan, scoring pinfalls on The Big Show and Matt Hardy, and even had a pay-per-view battle against wrestling’s most powerful figure, Vince McMahon. That’s plenty to take in for someone barely out of grade school.

“I was overwhelmed; you would be too!” Gowen merrily recalls. “My reaction (to getting signed) was shock and amazement when they called me. I was a bag boy at a local grocery store when Johnny Ace called me. Becoming a WWE superstar wasn’t even a thought in my head.”

“The first day on the job, at a Smackdown taping, here I was having a conversation with Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and Vince McMahon before the show. I loved wrestling Vince. It was so cool for me to see just how freakin’ dedicated and hard working this man is. He’s truly a pioneer and is up there in the same ranks as a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.”

For anyone to be in any position to rub shoulders on a national stage with such storied icons is unfathomable, triply so when you’ve got only one leg.

To know of Gowen is to know that, following a cancer diagnosis, his left leg was amputated at age eight. This made the pipe dream of finding success in any physical vocation, let alone touring as a professional wrestler, even more exceedingly daunting.

Yet to see Gowen perform, compensating for the missing limb as imaginatively as his mind and drive allow, is a thing of beauty. Running the ropes with a striding hop, and skipping up turnbuckles, represent two parts of a spectrum: artistic grace, and defiance toward hindrance. Now 31 years old, Gowen feels he’s perfected his act.

“The obstacles themselves have become almost obsolete. I was signed and put on the road after having less than 20 matches,” Gowen reveals. “It’s crazy to think about the idea of me being in WWE was a live experiment being played out on TV in front of millions on a weekly basis!”

“I didn’t know what I had, and the WWE didn’t fully comprehend how to get the most out of me, so there was a lot of throwing s–t against the wall to see if anything would stick. It bothers me a little bit that some fans think what they saw on TV is what my act is all about. That’s why it’s always a treat to wrestle at these independent shows for kids who have never seen me before, *and* for the fans who think they know all I’m capable of!”

Zach Gowen would last less than a year under WWE contract, but rather than chalk up the parting of ways as a failure, he instead looks at the positives of the reality check he received at a young age.

“I learned many lessons in the ring, but the biggest lessons learned were life lessons. Unfortunately for me, I had to learn most of these lessons by dealing with the repercussions of doing the exact opposite! Show up on time, how to conduct yourself as a professional, be kind to everyone, be helpful, etc. Wrestling has really laid the foundation for my life in a lot of ways.”

Post-WWE, Gowen lent his services to a number of high-profile organizations, including TNA, Ring of Honor, and even the Insane Clown Posse’s cult-status JCW promotion. Perhaps as he was destined to do, Gowen found his kindred spirit in Gregory Iron, a popular independent star most notable for overcoming his own affliction, cerebral palsy.

Together, Gowen and Iron perform as “The Handicapped Heroes”, serving to both inspire and dazzle onlookers across the globe. They even took on a manager, a young woman named Jill Dials, who’s confined to a wheelchair thanks to spina bifida.

“To have had, and to continue to have, the impact on the lives of fans with disabilities worldwide, Greg and Jill included, is absolutely astonishing and mind-blowing to me. I appreciate that more than ever now. I’m blessed.”

Gowen openly embraces this lot in life, to be seen not as a sideshow act, but as a real person making the most of life’s hand, showing others that anything can be achieved. By mining success and reward out of each day, each performance, and each appearance, it’s more than within reason that others can do the same, disabled or not.

“After disappearing from wrestling for a number of years, I came back stronger. I’m fully engaged and living life on my terms. I’m a father and a husband. I wrestle full time on the independent scene, speak full time to the youth of America, and just released the most in-depth piece on my life ever made: a documentary called “Finding Zach Gowen”.

The documentary timelines Gowen’s life and career, featuring testimonials from peers such as Truth Martini (Gowen’s trainer), Rhino, Jimmy Jacobs, former WWE official Jim Korderas, along with Gowen, his mother, and numerous others. Within, Gowen opens up about not just the obstacles of his cancer diagnosis and subsequent life adjustments, but also the drug use that plagued him in adulthood.

Gowen makes no excuses for his choices, and puts them on par with his childhood illness: just something else to defeat.

“I believe the sole purpose of my existence is to be of maximum service to God and to my fellow human travelers on this planet. One way I do that is by sharing my story through various platforms, in this case, professional wrestling.”

With many opportunities ahead of him, and many more souls to reach, Gowen would change seemingly nothing of his past. Incidentally, he’d change nothing of his present either.

“I have no goals in wrestling except to shine inspiration on whoever needs it when they see me in action. I would be an asshole if I asked for anything more, not only in wrestling, but in life. Wrestling has provided me a life beyond my wildest dreams and for that, I’m eternally grateful.”

(Mr. Gowen is available for speaking engagements through http://www.coolspeakers.net/, and accepts bookings through his website, www.zachgowen.com)

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

Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection DVD

WWE The Paul Heyman Story

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

Warrior: The Ultimate Legend Is A WWE Masterpiece

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

The WWE paid tribute to the Ultimate Warrior last week with a full week of specials on the WWE Network. Yet it was their documentary, Warrior: The Ultimate Legend that was truly nothing short of ultimate.

The WWE outdid themselves last week, producing arguably the best documentary in company history. The new documentary chronicling the Ultimate Warrior’s career paid an honest, fair, emotional, and classy tribute to the fallen WWE icon. Even more impressive is that the WWE put the production together in just a matter of days.

The documentary takes a lot of clips from the new Ultimate Collection DVD as well as clips from an unseen interview, blending them with candid footage of Warrior’s Hall of Fame, WrestleMania, RAW appearances and commentary from his wrestling peers. There are a few wrestling clips in there but it was the emotional tribute by his colleagues that captivated me from start to finish.

Sting is included quite a bit in the documentary. Sting was able to give some context into Warrior’s early days as the two broke into the business together. Sting also gave some insight into Warrior’s failed WCW run. One of the more revealing and honest thoughts from the video came when Sting admitted he was jealous when Warrior wrestled and beat Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI.

Vince McMahon is arguably the star of the documentary. Vince offers insight throughout the documentary about the ups and downs in his relationship with Warrior. From my standpoint he came across probably more honest than he has ever been in one of these documentaries. The one thing that was painfully clear was that Vince was hurting. I still don’t know why this one hit him so hard but it has really taken a toll on him. Vince says at one point, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone” in reference to Warrior. Quite frankly the man seemed heartbroken.

Warrior’s relationship with the McMahon family was chronicled extensively in the doc. Warrior talked about visiting the McMahons whenever he was in town and staying over at their house whether the family were home or not. He talked about his relationship with Shane McMahon as brotherly and even refers to Vince at one point like a dad. You can’t help but watch and think about the huge weight lifted off of Warrior’s shoulders when he finally buried the hatchet with the McMahons and made peace with the family.

Another relationship that was strained and repaired was Hulk Hogan. He and Hogan have had said some brutal things about each other in the press over the years. Warrior says the root of their heat is from a deposition that Hogan gave when Warrior sued the WWE over the Self-Destruction DVD. Warrior said that Hogan refused to admit to anything. A very cool clip is played of the actual deposition with Hogan in which Hogan calls Warrior a flash in the pan. Hogan gives his side of the story which is that he was ambushed when he came into the deposition by Warrior’s team and quickly chose his side which was the WWE. Triple H says that he told Hogan not to approach Warrior until after the Hall of Fame. The cameras catch Hogan and Warrior making amends at WrestleMania with Hogan telling him how sorry he is and how much he loves him. I know the Hogan cynics will never buy it but he seemed very sincere about it as far as I could tell.

The cameras followed Warrior throughout the Hall of Fame which was very cool. There is some great footage of him and Vince McMahon hanging out before the ceremony. Vince was beaming and looked like he was having such a great time with Warrior. It should be pointed out that when they were talking about his speech Vince told Warrior to say whatever he wants, even negative words in which Warrior responds saying that he wouldn’t do that and it will be all positive.

You can’t help but have your heart break for his family as you watch the documentary. The man is a proud family man and his daughters were real proud of him. Say what you will about Warrior and you know what, some of the criticism is fair, but no family deserves to lose their father this young. My heart goes out to those girls.

It was hard to ignore the health of Warrior during his WrestleMania weekend of appearances. Warrior looked noticeably more tired that weekend than he did when he was filmed at earlier times during the documentary. Warrior looked tired and almost short of breath at times when talking to Sgt. Slaughter and Vince McMahon. At times he walked and looked like he had just finished a 20-minute wrestling match. In comparison to other interview clips with Warrior that were taped months before the weekend, he did not look healthy. This brings me back to those theories many have of Warrior knowing that his time was up, quoting the interview from RAW and his speech. Nobody will ever truly know the answer to that but a keen eye reveals a lot about his well being the last few days of his life.

There is talk about the WWE working with the USA Network to air the documentary. The consensus is that the movie is so good, that it needs to be seen by more people outside of the WWE Network. I can’t agree more. The world needs to see these sides of the Warrior and the McMahon family and get the true story of this WWE Hall of Famer’s career. Hopefully a deal can be made and more people can see the doc.

I still scratch my head at the numerous tributes that the McMahon family are giving Warrior but one thing is clear coming out of this movie. Their intentions do appear to be sincere. Why Vince is so heartbroken over this is another question. The fact that we got this classic documentary out of this tribute makes it alright regardless of the intentions.

Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection DVD

Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection [Blu-ray]

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

WWE’s Tribute To The Ultimate Warrior Is Bizarre

April 18, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

I know I am not the only one thinking it so I’ll just say it. The WWE’s reaction to the death of former champion Ultimate Warrior is one of the most bizarre things I think I have ever seen in over 30 years as a pro wrestling observer.

Vince McMahon has poured his heart out through WWE programming in honoring the late Jim Hellwig. The tributes to the Warrior are unprecedented in company history as the WWE has spent almost two weeks memorializing Warrior through content on their website, television shows, social media, and network. Classy yes, but it makes absolutely no sense at all.

It hasn’t even been a year since Vince McMahon welcomed Warrior back into the WWE family. Warrior returned first through promotion of the WWE 2K14 game and later officially at the Hall of Fame. The return ended close to a 20-year absence from the company. If you followed any of the tributes to the Warrior, you would never know that he and McMahon spent more time fighting outside of the company than he actually did wrestling for the WWE.

I don’t mean this as any disrespect to the Warrior but I can’t figure out why he is being treated as if he had the impact on the WWE and the business that Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Graham, or even Ric Flair had. This is a man that headlined only one WrestleMania (two by his logic), held the WWE title for less than a year at a time when short babyface title reigns wasn’t good business, and had numerous outside of the ring issues with the company. He certainly was a big star and he is unquestionably iconic, but these tributes are painting a picture that just didn’t exist.

If you take a look at Warrior’s WWE timeline in and out of the company you will see that his first and biggest run was only four years with two other runs that lasted under a year each. Yet he spent five years in court on one occasion against the WWE and had several other disagreements along the way. Think about that for a second. He spent more time fighting with Vince McMahon than he did wrestling for him. Granted he had every right to defend himself but hundreds of loyal WWE employees have passed away since the company’s inception with none getting this kind of treatment. It makes no sense.

Either one of two things are going on here. Vince McMahon is older and somehow or another relates to how the Warrior passed away. Vince certainly practiced a similar lifestyle and maybe he is seeing himself in all of this. I am certainly no psychologist but try and give me a better explanation. If Vince has turned into such a softie over the years than why wasn’t Randy Savage given more than a 5-minute video on television? I am sure he has softened a bit but he certainly hasn’t turned into a pushover.

Now the cynic in me thinks otherwise. The WWE recently released numbers on the WWE Network and those numbers were met with the stock absolutely plummeting. I hate to say it and I hope this isn’t the case but maybe Vince is using this as some kind of marketing ploy. All of the attention paid to Warrior would certainly connect with some fans that probably aren’t watching the WWE anymore. A full “Warrior Week” on the network doesn’t come cheap. As much as I would hate to accuse anyone of capitalizing off of someone’s death, quite frankly that is the only thing that makes sense and hey, maybe it isn’t even done intentionally. There is also a brand new Ultimate Warrior DVD to promote (produced and set for release way before his death). This is just how Vince McMahon’s promoter mind works.

I don’t know if we will ever truly know the motivation behind these tributes yet unfortunately it will take the deaths of more legends to unravel the real agenda. We’ll see how the WWE pays tribute to the next fallen icon. Does someone like a Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Bruno Sammartino, or Steve Austin get a bigger tribute or is this the standard? I hope we don’t get those answers any time soon but there is now a standard that the WWE has set with the Warrior.

Once again I am not saying it’s wrong because he certainly was an icon and a big star, it’s just strange. Whatever the motivation, I am glad Warrior’s fans, friends, and family have this final opportunity to memorialize their fallen hero. It just may be the weirdest thing I have ever seen and I know I am not the only one thinking it.

Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection DVD

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H Can Be This WWE Era’s Austin vs. McMahon

April 07, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Daniel Bryan finally ascended to the WWE world championship at WrestleMania 30 in one of the most memorable moments in Mania history. While Bryan may not be a draw on his own, the chemistry he has with the Authority rivals one of the greatest feuds in WWE history.

Triple H is one of the most polarizing pro wrestlers in WWE history. Most fans on the Internet despise Hunter for actions outside of the ring, reported and speculated upon by wrestling media over the last decade. Some of those accusations may be a little exaggerated but one thing that I cannot argue with is that not only is he the best performer on the WWE roster but he has also never been more valuable to a babyface than he is to Daniel Bryan.

The rivalry is so simple that it would be a crime not to do it. The corporate politician, hated by most Internet Wrestling Fans opposing the IWC’s hero and unlikely superstar Daniel Bryan. The feud kind of reminds you of a rivalry that changed the entire business over fifteen years ago and that was when the WWE CEO Vince McMahon did everything he could to prevent Stone Cold Steve Austin from becoming the face of the company.

The dynamic is very similar with a few differences. One, Bryan is a much more humble character than the cocky, arrogant Stone Cold persona was. Two and this is critical to one working and not the other, the WWE have not fully embraced pushing Bryan in his role. Yes he capped off WrestleMania with one of the most memorable moments in our lifetime of Manias. Yet you still had commentators throughout the broadcast referring to him as “goat face”, “mismatched”, “lucky”, etc. Bryan got the big push in NOLA but subliminally the WWE gave it to you with a wink and a nod.

There is so much potential here with Bryan, specifically vs. Triple H that the WWE would be fools to continue this winking and nodding. This program could reach higher levels and drag on to a big rematch at WrestleMania 31. The best could be yet to come if the WWE writers, specifically Vince McMahon embrace Bryan as opposed to subliminally letting you know he isn’t really that good.

The first piece of this puzzle is to give Bryan a strong title reign. Bryan needs to go over on everyone and anyone clean in the ring. If I were booking Bryan as champion I’d look at his next four pay-per-view matches like this.

  • Bryan vs. Randy Orton in an Extreme Rules Match
  • Bryan vs. Batista in some kind of gimmick match
  • Bryan vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank
  • Bryan vs. Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam

By the time Bryan gets past Brock at SummerSlam you’d have a new scenario where Hunter is just incensed that nobody is able to stop Bryan. Somehow or another you need to keep them apart for the remainder of the year. Once the people truly buy in and the WWE let go of their inhibition and give Bryan the run he needs, a matchup with Hunter vs. Bryan could be epic.

I remain skeptical that the WWE will truly embrace what they have. Remember that Bryan was originally booked to wrestle Sheamus at WrestleMania. The events of WrestleMania 30 only fell into place due to CM Punk walking out on the company. It wasn’t as if the company was smart enough to read its own fan  base and call an audible. If Punk never walks out we’d be talking about Bryan held down once again the day after WrestleMania.

Will the WWE fully commit to Bryan vs. Triple H/Authority? The economics are different now with pay-per-view on the Network so who knows. The company has lucked into something magical and the more they try and mess it up, the bigger it gets. At some point that is going to give. Before we get to that point the WWE needs to see the enormous story laid out in front of them and embrace Bryan vs. Hunter the same way it embraced McMahon vs. Austin.

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

WrestleMania XXVI: Somehow, Some Way, I Made It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the full Camel Clutch Blog Pro Wrestling and MMA store for videos, t-shirts, books, and more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

WrestleMania XXVI: A Portrait in Wrestling History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only in WWE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the full Camel Clutch Blog Pro Wrestling and MMA store for videos, t-shirts, books, and more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for both men, WrestleMania XXVI was about closure.

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

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

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

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

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

WrestleMania 30: Following Vince McMahon’s Ebb and Flow

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

The best and worst thing about the WWE is that Vince McMahon has never been able to tell Vince McMahon, “No.” The owner of the WWE and its Chairman of the Board has been the cocky owner wrestler, and character he has always wanted to be – thus it has been his success and failure that has made the company other wrestling promotions have come to hate over the decades.

To steal a phrase from Dan Patrick, Vince is “En Fuego” and wrestling outfits couldn’t stop him, they only hoped to contain him.

Now that we have gone through our little ESPN and Sports Center shtick, let’s just face facts, if WrestleMania 30 is to succeed in New Orleans, it will live and day by the covenant of the McMahons – the way ti should always be.

Over the last decade there has been such an ebb and flow of uneasiness of the event that it can all be linked to McMahon’s fertile and aging mind. Everything with the 68-year-old wrestling owner and sports entertainment mogul that he is actually betting against himself with every pay-per-view, every movie he produces with WWE superstars and the current reality series “Total Divas.” At some time, Vince is going to have to tell Vince to slow down – he’s moving too fast or in the wrong direction.

WrestleMania propels the worldwide commercial success of the WWE through media, merchandise and shows. All of the events produced, except for WrestleMania 13, have been sold out within a short period of time, with recent editions being sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale. The first WrestleMania was held in Madison Square Garden in New York City; the 10th and 20th editions were also held there. WrestleMania III in the Detroit suburb of Pontiac, Michigan was the highest-attended indoor sports event in the world, with 93,173 fans in attendance.

At least when the NWA and WCW was running hot and blowing everything up at the hands of Jim Crockett and Dusty Rhodes, it could be said there was a level playing field between both organizations. Not anymore, my friends. So much rides on the fact Vince and the McMahons bought WCW, eliminating competition and creating a huge roadblock that maybe Vince did not foresee in the future, but it is the reason the current state of the company stinks and programs like “The Authority vs. Daniel Bryan” is not as demanding at it could have been had competition led to better writing and a sense of urgency that was once a staple of wrestling that we never talk about.

I have made the claim before that a wrestle chasing a title is often better at the moment of attack than the one holding the time title – mainly because the champion has to be beaten. There are many ways (and we all know them) of how a wrestler loses a match and retains the title. Most of them refer to a “Dusty Finish” or the “Flair way” or we can now call it “The Authority’s Way.” Either way the WWE is still in a spot because the fans are not getting what they want, but McMahon and his stable of writers and promoters are.

McMahon has no competition within his own company and “Red vs. Blue” branding only made us made in the end. The unification of the WWE World Title did nothing to show two operations could work within one wrestling promotion. Not enough storylines, not enough titles and not enough cross-promotion. It’s the way Vince has wanted it. It’s what Vince is left with. And it is what we the fans and the WWE Universe, have to deal with.

If the events of WrestleMania 30 do not live up to the hype, then the fans will continue its mass Exodus and the professional wrestling will continue its tumble.

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

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection DVD

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

WrestleMania XXIII: Cram It, Cena Haters

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

John Cena was victorious at WrestleMania 23-You’d think that by now, I’d be out of witty ideas for introductory paragraphs. Turns out that yes, I am. In any event, the 23rd installment of WWE WrestleMania took place on April 1, 2007 at Ford Field in Detroit, MI. Funny to note that after this show, there would be many instances where WWE would boast that they drew more fans for this show than have ever seen a football game in this stadium. I dunno, I would think that in a football game, having all those seats on the floor level may interfere with the plays.

-This year, the commentary teams consist of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler (Raw), Michael Cole and JBL (Smackdown), and Joey Styles and Tazz (ECW). This was back when ECW kinda sorta felt like the original ECW, except for the part where the employees got paid and Tazz not being 350 lbs.

-Speaking of 350 lbs, Aretha Franklin performs “America the Beautiful” twenty years after doing so at WrestleMania III. One nice touch is they dub over Vince’s 1987 introduction for her. One not so nice touch is her standing up at the end, which lends credence to the “weebles wobble” theory. I don’t wanna sound mean, but they do make 2% milk now.

-On the pre-show, Ric Flair and Carlito teamed up to beat Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms in a lumberjack match. Carlito was a last minute fill-in for Lance Storm, as this was supposed to be a “WCW 2000 Reunion” match. Lance turned it down flat, sadly. C’mon, Lance, you know all about dark matches!

-By the way, the “All Grown Up” videos? I’m SO ignoring them.

-The show begins with the first ever eight man Money in the Bank ladder match, with a rather impressive array of talent on display: Edge, Randy Orton, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Mr. Kennedy, CM Punk, Finlay, and King Booker. My tarot card reader thinks this will be the TNA roster of 2014.

-I’m a bit torn on this. On the one hand, if you’re going to do MITB, you want to have the right people in there, and I’m fine with all eight of them. On the other hand, cramming so many true talents in one match kinda spreads the rest of the show thin. I mean, you could pull Edge and Orton out of here and have them go one on one to break up the team, while keeping MITB at six guys, and you can bump Kane vs. Khali or the Women’s match. Not that I’m discriminating against hosses or women…..

-LUCHA FINLAY! There’s a guy who never gets his due.

-Edge builds a bridge by placing a ladder on the ring apron and guardrail. His attempt to suplex Punk on it fails. I’ll bet it comes into play later!

-Booker takes control and then gives us a regal Spinarooni (not a REGAL Spinarooni, because that would just be too awesome) and gets a ladder concierto from The Hardyz. Go ahead, Lawler, make your joke about ex-cons celebrating too much, you know you wanna.

-Kennedy tries for the Kenton Bomb, but hits his head on a ladder. Hey, look, the first cringeworthy spot tonight. And we haven’t even gotten to Khali’s match!

-After everyone fulfills their contractual obligation to each get hit by a ladder at least once or twice, Edge brings the giant painter’s ladder out from under the ring. I’ll bet something extreme and/or hardcore is forthcoming.

-Well hey, I was right. Matt lays Edge across the ladder bridge, and Jeff jumps off the top of the ladder, putting Edge THROUGH THE LADDER. Of course, he did so at the encouragement of Matt and at the expense of his chances of winning the ladder match and earning a title shot. That whacky Jeff, always living for the moment.

-So Edge and Jeff are finished, and Orton gets the RKO on most of the survivors. Someone as character defined as Orton should be more prominent I think, but hey, that’s the problem with such matches having eight high level guys in it.

-Booker takes Orton off the ladder with the Book End and tries to climb, but Matt holds Sharmell hostage, threatening a Twist of Fate if he pulls down the briefcase. Booker, in a truly babyface move, opts to save his woman. JBL is flabbergasted that Booker didn’t ditch his lady for the win. JBL also can’t believe his buyrates when he champion. Man’s in disbelief a lot.

-Hornswoggle tries to climb the ladder on injured Finlay’s behalf, but Kennedy takes him off the ladder with a Green Bay Plunge. I hereby nominate Mr. Kennedy for God.

-In the end, Kennedy knocks Punk off of the ladder with his own ladder, and climbs up uninterrupted for the retrieval and win. Really awesome and really fun way to open the show. Right there you see the advantage of the best of the best in a match all in the same match: you get a great performance just about every time. Great opener.

-Highlights from the premiere of The Condemned, which earned such glowing praise as “When did they remake “Surviving the Game”?” and “A bad choice for leading man Woody Harrelson”.

-Mr. Kennedy opines on his Money in the Bank victory. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Hardcore Holly have more career World Title matches than Kennedy? Wow, that’s quite the weird side note to their personal hatred.

-And now for the polar opposite of that opening match: Great Khali vs. Kane. I can’t even remember what the issue was here. Maybe Kane got beat out for the part of the death row inmate in the Longest Yard remake or something.

-Kane avoids the Skull Chop. Good thing, because that mighta broken the SD Jones record.

-Pretty non-descript hoss fight, until Kane finds his See No Evil hook and uses it as a weapon. With the referee too oblivious to call for the bell. Maybe he’s just a big fan of the movie and is starstruck? I mean, seriously, does WWE need to tie in their movies with the matches? You don’t see Cena having to overcome the odds against a large number of opponents like he did in The Marine, do you? Oh.

-Finally, Khali’s all “I’m winded” and plants Kane with the Punjabi Plunge for the win. Truth told, it wasn’t the worst match that either man would ever have. That’s not a compliment.

-Man, I hate these pointless backstage segments that are alleged comedy. I mean, it’s Cryme Tyme hosting a dance party for Eugene and Extreme Expose is there, Mae and Moolah show up, ha ha, we get it guys, very funn—

-SLICK! SLICK! MOFOING SLICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-Slick busts out the funky dance moves and we get a whole host of classic characters: Dusty Rhodes, Howard Finkel (#23!), Mean Gene, Sgt. Slaughter, Jimmy Hart, IRS, Ricky Steamboat, Gerald Brisco, and Ron Simmons. The ending, of course, isn’t in doubt. But still, SLICK! Nuff said.

-Members of the Detroit Tigers are seen in the crowd, including Gary Sheffield. I wonder if him and Triple H are “workout partners”.

-Next up is the United States Title match, as MVP challenges the champion, Chris Benoit. Yes, this is sadly the end of the road for Benoit, as he would create infamy less than three months later. In brief, lemme just say that while I think he senselessly damaged his body for an unforgiving business and it cost him everything in the end, I will always admire Benoit’s work ethic and dedication to his life’s work. It may not mean much now, but before I go back to making snide jokes about this and other tragedies in wrestling, Chris…..thank you. I was a fan.

-MVP is accompanied by enough cheerleaders to satisfy a JV squad. The quantity requirements, not the actual….oh, never mind.

-Match is a pretty decent technical contest, wherein continued a subtle yet well-carried storyline if MVP always having a counter in mind for the Crippler Crossface. Everytime Benoit and MVP fought, Porter would always have a counter to the move. Benoit had to beat him in other ways, but in that sense, MVP had the move scouted to a fault. I like that.

-MVP superplexes Benoit, but Benoit reverses into a cradle for two. Crowd’s dying off a bit, because the opener was so exciting, and the hoss match was nothing to get excited over. So they have to win the audience back, and a mat wrestling clinic isn’t going to do that, especially when MVP was still getting established.

-I think MVP’s been hit by about 15 German suplexes in this match. I’ll bet there’s days where MVP wishes he was serving the other half of his sentence.

-Benoit finishes with a diving headbutt to retain. Good, if unspectacular, title match. Really sad to look back on now, but hey, that’s life. And it goes on.

-The Boogeyman tries to creep out Donald Trump and Tara Conner. Without resorting to Wikipedia, go ahead and guess why she was famous. I had to STRUGGLE to remember her controversy, and this was three years ago. Why hasn’t she been on Dancing with the Stars yet?

-The crowd is announced at being 80,103. That’s a lot of fans for Bobby Lashley to kill off! Can he do it? They don’t call him The Monotonous Battletoad for nothing!

-The 2007 Hall of Fame class is introduced: Dusty Rhodes, Mr. Perfect, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, Mr. Fuji, The Sheik, The Wild Samoans, and Nick Bockwinkle. My favorite WCW PPV of all time was the one from 1998 in which they all competed. It was a great show, except the Ben Gay kept wafting through my TV screen.

-Undertaker-Batista highlight package. I’ll never forget when Taker was choosing between the three champions as to which one he wanted to face at WrestleMania and Bobby Lashley, classically trained actor that he is, was confronted by the Dead Man himself. Instead of getting in his face like any other musclehead monster would, Lashley sold it like he was stand-offish and afraid. Man, no wonder even Vince couldn’t get him over.

-Teddy Long does ring intros for this match. It’s funny how Long’s entire run as GM revolves around Undertaker. How many times has he ordered some ornery heel to face Mr. Callaway anyway? Then again, this may also explain Michelle McCool’s unearned push. Anyway, this is for the World Heavyweight Title

-This would end up having far reaching consequences, as most of assumed the match would be one of two things: 1) A chance to get Batista over by having him be the one to end the streak or 2) A way to extend Taker’s streak with an important title win. It ended up being 2, but with a footnote: this is the match that demonstrated the inexplicable chemistry that these two men had.

-The two exchange power stuff early, and the fight spills to ringside as it would tend to do with these two involved. Once back in, Batista hits a diving shoulderblock. This became a big part of Botchamania lore, as at Survivor Series, Batista did the same move to King Booker, and Cole made a big deal about it. When Batista did it here, Cole exclaimed that he had never seen Batista do that before. Do I even need to comment?

-Tremendous stand up brawl so far. When Batista’s motivated, he’s one of the best big men in the business. Other than being injury prone, there’s very little of the man to complain about.

-Batista swings things his way by powerslamming Taker through the ECW table. See, Tazz? Good World Title matches feature SELLING.

-Back inside, Batista drops Taker with a belly to belly. I’VE NEVER SEEN BATISTA USE THAT BEFORE! Vince, my resume’s on your doorstep.

-Spear and Batista Bomb, but Taker’s up on 2. Yeah, I don’t think the streak’s ending tonight.

-Taker avoids Batista’s version of a Tombstone, but Taker pushes him off and immediately counters with his own Tombstone for the win to go 15-0. This was a tremendous power brawl from two men who would spend the next year improving upon their newfound formula. Think about that: of their many matches, this may have been the WORST. And it was GREAT. I earned a new respect for Batista after this, and Taker was his usual great self. Loved it.

-The same person who installed cameras in the bathroom stalls at King of the Ring 1997 to catch Brian Pillman receiving a swirlie has installed a camera in Aurora Levesque’s stroller, because we’re able to see its POV as Vince McMahon talks his granddaughter about Donald Trump. Odd.

-Next up is ECW’s contribution to the show, as The Originals (Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, and The Sandman) face The New Breed (Elijah Burke, Marcus Cor Von, Matt Striker, and Kevin Thorn). The Originals make their entrance through the crowd, because they’re apparently not allowed in the building. That’s still better than Elijah Burke’s ring attire, which I think did more to kill his push than simply falling through the cracks.

-I’m kinda sad watching this, because the ECW guys can’t even do the things that make them unique, or that made ECW unique for that matter, and it could be those spots that took The New Breed and made them stand out. Mick Foley theorized that WWE didn’t want the second One Night Stand to succeed, and I think he has a point.

-RVD finally gets in there and goes crazy with his usual arensal of kicks, which lifts the match from “good but dull” to “good but less dull”.

-After Sabu dives onto Cor Von and Sandman helps clean house, RVD lands the Five Star Frog Splash on Striker for the win. Match was alright, but it just didn’t stand out. No one really cared about the heels, least of all Burke who’d go on to TNA to prove that WWE sometimes can be blind to a good thing. The opposite of a sure thing that gets no push is a bad thing that gets a big push. There’s one forthcoming, so get ready.

-Recap is shown of Vince McMahon and Donald Trump’s challenge. Anyone else disturbed by two rich white guys making a bet and having two hulking minorities do their fighting? Is this really the 21st century? It’s like Trading Places, except Lashley has about 4% of Eddie Murphy’s wit.

-Fun side note: Remember when Donald Trump was so excited about this match that he went on the Howard Stern show, gushing about his representative in this match, a young up and comer by the name of Bobby Lindsey? Geez, forget about the fans not caring about Lashley, what about the man who chose you as his representative? Man, this was doomed from day one.

-So it’s Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga where the losing man’s billionaire endorser (Donald or Vince) has to have his head shaved. You’d think the crowd would be behind Lashley 100% just to see Vince get shaved. You’d also be an idiot.

-Stone Cold Steve Austin is the guest referee, because even for seven seconds, a beam of light pissed all over Vinnie’s noggin and said “Hey, there’s no way the crowd will get behind someone as dull as Bobby Lashley!”.

-Did I mention that the barber’s chair gets its own entrance? Seems like a good thing to mention.

-What follows is unbelievably boring and incredibly dull. Any time Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin are involved in something, let alone something with media implications (the involvement of Donald Trump), they would go to any length to overbook the Hell out of it to make it as exciting as possible. We as fans tend to appreciate this, because what usually ensues with Vince involved is a grandiose and over-the-top production that we’d never forget.

-However, there’s a problem.

-Bobby Lashley, with all of his physical skills, is somehow more dull than a flattened pencil point. He has zero charisma, as well as a voice that makes him sound like a lost child inside a department store. The fans scapegoated him after he became ECW Champion because it came at the expense of Rob Van Dam and CM Punk’s fan following, as well as the death of the ideals of the brand. So with Lashley the fall guy, a pair of PPV matches with Test and Mr. Kennedy are abysmal. However, since Lashley’s apparently a nice guy and he has this impressive body, as well as a good grasp of stand-up technical wrestling, Vince decides to make something of him. After all, if ANYONE can get Lashley over, it would have to be Vince, right?

-Wrong.

-Bobby Lashley, as of this show, officially joined Zach Gowen on the short list of “People who feuded with Vince and couldn’t draw heat against him”. Here’s the story.

-Umaga dominates the early going, which is fine. He’s a monster and John Cena proved you can tell a good story by overcoming his dominance gradually.

-During his attempt at a comeback, Lashley knocks Vince off the apron to the floor. Cheers? Anyone? No? Well, maybe next time.

-Austin gets taken out by Umaga, and Shane McMahon runs in. Now would be a good time for Lashley to overcome the odds and destroy the hated McMahons en route to putting Umaga away, leading to Vince getting his head shaved. Right? RIGHT?!

-Shane hits the Shane Terminator, and Umaga lands a top rope splash, but it can’t finish Lashley off. Mostly because Lashley isn’t allowed to make his own heroic comeback, since Austin does it himself. You know, if the goal was to get the unover mook over, they’re kinda doing it wrong.

-Austin stuns Umaga, and Lashley spears the Stunned Samoan for the win, at the cost of Vince’s hair. Now comes the part that tells the story.

-Austin holds Vince in a chair while Lashley and Trump (remember him?) shave Vince’s head. With Vince bald, some corny screwball comedy music from the 1950′s plays, and Lashley shows Vince his face in the mirror. At this point, the crowd should be cheering and laughing at Vince, but no. Nothing. So Vince does a comedic fall out of the barber’s chair and he sulks away. What a waste. Vince spent the Spring trying to turn Lashley into a monster, to no avail. He’d be persona non grata by summer’s end and would wind up in MMA and TNA. Again, what a waste.

-Austin stuns Trump. Hey, crowd liked that.

-Next up, to bring the crowd down off of their adrenaline high, we have a LumberJill match for the Women’s Title. So Mickie James and Jillian Hall and Victoria and others can stand around while WWE Women’s Champion Melina can defend against…..Ashley Massaro. Yeah. Well, if it’s any consolation, Ashley can dedicate the match to her sick daughter or niece or orphan or cockatoo or whatever excuse that was that covered up the real reason WWE threw her to the curb.

-On the bright side, Mickie’s wearing some really tight jeans at ringside, so maybe it’s better that she’s not wrestling.

-Why’s Melina wrestling herself? Where’s Ashley? Oh wait, Ashley’s in there. So wait, why’s Melina wrestling herself?

-Melina wins it by reversing a rolling cradle. Well, that was certainly worthwhile. I mean, if it helped them sell any more Playboys, then, you know, good for them. I can just do without Ashley, though. If Kelly Bundy woke up one day and said “I’m going to be a wannabe Lita and fake smile my way through life”, then you get the cut of her character’s jib. Whoever she knows that was apparently sick, I’ll guess that viewing this match only made her sicker.

-Recap for Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena for the WWE Title. Originally, this was to have been a triple threat match with Triple H inserted, but Hunter’s quad injury from New Year’s Revolution halted that. As it was, Shawn and Cena won the World Tag Team Titles from Rated RKO in February, and Shawn and Cena now had each other on a short leash, with Shawn openly teasing a turn every chance he got before finally pulling the trigger six days before WrestleMania. I dug the build, even if it was kinda hard to rally behind Cena for being so unguarded.

-So Cena’s grand entrance du annum: riding a Ford Mustang into the arena. Did you know one of my exes left me because I hated The Fast and Furious 2? Usually, when I see someone in a Mustang, I assume they have never read Atlas Shrugged. Or showered three days in a row.

-For a bonus, a fan tries to run in during ring intros and take his shirt off, but security’s all over him in a hurry. Shawn’s sarcastic goodbye wave still slays me.

-The story of the match is a contrast between Shawn’s ring generalship and Cena’s overpowering style, with each man jockeying for control with their definitive craft. Sometimes that’s all you need to carry the World Title match. Russo, feel free to write that one down.

-Shawn gets his quebrada to the floor, knocking Cena into the announce table. Business is picking up.

-Back inside, Shawn begins to work the leg of Cena. Weird, usually when Cena fights from underneath, it’s after he’s been unfairly jumped or is against a larger opponent. In this case, it’s just him getting plainly outwrestled. It was one thing last year against a heel (Triple H), but against a babyface who’s getting way more cheers than him? Some of the booking on this show raised a lot of eyebrows.

-Cena keeps fighting off the leg pain as he and Shawn hammer away on each other, until the tide turns when Shawn dives at Cena and ends up smashing into the post, busting himself open. If Shawn retires after Mania 26, I think it’s out of protest for Vince not letting him blade anymore. That’s like David Stern telling Michael Jordan that he can’t hit clutch shots.

-Cena hits his usual shoulderblocks and spin out powerbomb, before dropping the Five Knuckle Shuffle. After Shawn avoids the FU, in the struggle, Shawn takes the official out with Sweet Chin Music. Well, this isn’t very good, now is it?

-This leads to one of my all time favorite spots, as Shawn takes the top half of the ring steps off and then piledrives Cena on the bottom half, busting the back of Cena’s head open. Sick. Ness. A new ref hits the ring, but Cena still kicks out.

-Shawn avoids the FU again and tries for the SCM, but Cena avoids, then struggles with the STFU. Shawn cradles him for 2, but Cena eventually gets the hold. Shawn makes the ropes though. Tense.

-Shawn finally lands the SCM, but can’t cover. He finally does for 2. Cena tries again for the FU, but Shawn comes down and Cena locks on the STFU out of nowhere. Shawn fights it, but ultimately taps out to make Cena retain and continue what would be a one year plus reign as champion. For those who say Cena can’t wrestle, sure, Shawn carried his half, but Cena carried his. People need to really get over themselves and make a better argument, because John Cena is a true main eventer and he proved it here.

-Shawn won’t shake Cena’s hand in the aisle. And he said Bret needed to get over Montreal.

-Bring us home, Saliva! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!

-CYNIC SAYS: It took a little bit of perspective and time to really appreciate this show. After the Lashley debacle, as well as the rabid hatred of Cena by many, this show actually got a bad rap early on. But hey, you have three great matches, as both World Title matches and the Money in the Bank match delivered.

2007 was looking great for WWE before the Chris Benoit tragedy in June. But this show signals what could have been if not for the controversy and fall out. Enjoy it for what it is, though.

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com

WrestleMania XXIII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the full Camel Clutch Blog Pro Wrestling and MMA store for videos, t-shirts, books, and more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

I guess the answer’s up to you.

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

Grab discounted WWE DVDs, merchandise, t -shirts, figures, and more from the WWE Shop on Amazon.com