It’s easy to boo Roman Reigns but the Royal Rumble fiasco is symptomatic of a bigger problem. The Reigns revolt caps off a decade of consistently poor creative and ignorance that has produced absolutely zero new superstars and has done more to damage careers than enhance them. It’s time for this department to start taking some accountability and it starts right at the top with the Chairman of the Board and his hand picked successor.
WWE fans find themselves in the same spot they were last year. Frustrations are peaking once again as the company has sealed themselves into a bubble, isolated from the fans, forcing a superstar on its customers. Many bloggers and pundits are looking for answers, most accusing the WWE creative hierarchy of ignorance while I tend to look at more at the obvious. This writing team and it’s commanders in chief are inept at their jobs.
It’s easy to sit back and criticize booking based on personal tastes. Whether you were a fan in the 80s or last month, no booking period has ever given you everything that you wanted. This isn’t even a case of the company getting its top guys wrong. That isn’t the issue. The issue here is that an objective look at this writing regime and its process over the last several years concludes that this writing team has done more harm in elevating talent and creating elite superstars than any other in the history of the WWE.
Stone Cold Steve Austin was the first guy to my knowledge to question the writing process to the head cheese, Vince McMahon. Austin asked Vince why it took so many writers, some with no pro wrestling knowledge, to book a company that was successfully booked by less than a handful of guys for decades. Vince gave him the “Oh Steve the business has changed” line and he’s right, it has changed. The WWE business model no longer elevates talent to the top of the card and has not been able to figure out how to do it since about 2010.
The current state of the WWE is full of guys that are what many in the business would call great hands. As a supporting cast, this may be the most talented supporting card that the WWE has ever produced in my lifetime. From bottom to the middle, it is hard to argue with the quality of most WWE talent yet there is a gap and it is a big one from middle to top. That gap continues to widen and Roman Reigns is the latest example of a company that continually fails to put guys in the right positions to make that leap.
I don’t know what it is because as many have said, it’s not rocket science. Booking pro wrestling is not that hard and elevating guys to the top is a lot more simple than Vince McMahon wants you to believe. Yet for whatever reason the WWE Creative department continue to muddy up the process with their terribly scripted promos, illogical storyline progressions, 50-50 booking, lack of continuity, and cartoon-ish character development. The more they tinker the bigger the misses and there is plenty of evidence to back that up.
The Miz, Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, Christian, Mark Henry, Dean Ambrose, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, CM Punk, Ryback, and Bray Wyatt all come to mind as misses. Hear me out before you argue CM Punk. These guys were all identified at some point as guys the company wanted to elevate to the top. Everyone here at some one point garnered some momentum and were on their way to the top of the cards. All of these guys were able to create some buzz, acquire fan support, and appeared poised to fill one of those coveted top spots. That was of course until the creative team started to work their magic (I’ll call it black magic in this case), get cute, and successfully booked these guys all back to the middle and lower cards where they started from. At the end of the day the creative team did nothing to put these guys in a position to succeed, yet there has been minimal accountability for these failures.
But there have been some hits! Yes, there have been some hits. CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and even Ryback for a short time were able to breakthrough and reach the top of the cards. In the case of Punk, if you look back at his pre-pipe bomb angle he was positioned a couple of times to move up the cards yet wound up in an eventual descend each time. The difference between all of these guys and the above is that their rises came about organically. Their success had absolutely nothing to do with the writing. Ironically the only thing that kept these guys from staying in those top spots was the creative team. It was the crack creative team that got cute and tinkered with an entity that was already appealing to fans. In the case of Ryback, he was never able to get his momentum back and was eventually sent back to the openers. Punk was talented enough to withstand it, yet even Punk never fully reached his potential thanks to the meddling of Vince, Hunter, and friends. Daniel Bryan is still a question mark. He already withstood the tinkering of the fall of 2013. We won’t know for a few months whether he’ll get past this phase.
And then of course there is Roman Reigns. Reigns has been groomed for the last year and a half for his WrestleMania spot. There were always questions around the pick, but Reigns had the buzz and the fans loved him. That was until the creative team started to spend more time with him. Reigns as a character has not been the same since creative made him a priority. His scripted promos are awful, his character choices lack logic most of the time, and the persona he has morphed into over the last several months is a complete 180 from the persona that got him over. He is just the latest victim of Vince’s writing army and the next miss on the list of victims.
The answer is obvious. Whether it is Vince, Triple H, the writing army, or the process, something has to change. Everyone always says that Vince signs off on everything so I’ll put the blame there. Vince doesn’t even know who he is writing for anymore. He is completely out of touch with the majority of his fan base and all you need to do is look at the current economics of the company to support that. None of his superstars sans Brock Lesnar invoke any of the passion past top guys both heel and babyface have received from the fans. The creative just isn’t connecting and the lack of successful ascensions (no pun intended, well maybe a little) is all of the evidence you need to see this.
It’s Roman Reigns this year, it will be somebody else next year. Until Vince and his writers learn how to adapt and react instead of dictating to its fans, no new talent will be able to sustain a top spot and that is very disappointing. At some point the creative team needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and accept some accountability. Nothing will happens until the process changes and that is unfortunate for the next “chosen one.”
The snow storm in the northwest may have been the best thing that could have happened to the WWE after the fallout of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view from Sunday night. The impromptu “Raw Review” did a lot to confront some of the major issues form the events of Sunday night, but did not completely reverse the fact hundreds of thousands of fans, whether in the arena in Philadelphia or hose who bought the WWE Network or a cable buy, are not happy with the Rumble match, the ending to the night and the fact the first PPV event of the year left us all feeling a bit empty inside.
It’s unfortunate the brunt of the backlash has been thrust toward Roman Reigns after he won the Rumble match to a chorus of boos and chants for the Russian Rusev rather than the man who was passed over for Batista last year for reasons we all still scratch our heads and ask, “Did that really just happen?”
I guess if there was no Batista and a fraudulent Rumble win last year, there would not be a “YES” movement like there was and no Daniel Bryan title win in The Big Easy.
Like someone said to me the other night, there is no veteran to come in and save the WWE from itself right now. Those days when a Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin grabbing hold of an arena and holding it hostage until the fans in their seats and at home are delirious with excitement and hope are gone.
The WWE’s coverage of Brock Lesnar and his interview with Michael Cole was potentially the best of Raw, bringing the events of WrestleMania XXX full circle with what the company hopes will be a colossal confrontation with Reigns at the company’s signature show in 63 days.
Right about now, Vince McMahon and his cohorts (including Triple H and Stephanie McMahon) are praying for forgiveness and hope the next two months can lead to enough buildup that fans will acquire cases of amnesia and forgive the three-headed monster for not reaching deep enough to see problems that could exist for not having Plan B and Plan C in their hip pocket.
This used to be a trademark of McMahon back in the days when sports entertainment was new and fresh and the Internet was not the watchdog of the industry and bloggers and media types like myself couldn’t voice their opinions about the death of kayfabe.
When asked, Lesnar said he hoped Reigns was ready for the challenge of facing the man who is currently the baddest ass on the planet and the man who self-promoted himself as being on a roll. The WWE should think the wrestling gods right now for that “roll” because along with Seth Rollins and John Cena, Lesnar saved the pay-per-view from becoming the worst piece of paid-wrestling viewing we have seen since he later stages of WCW’s death.
The people laid the Smackdown on the WWE this time – not the other way around.
Please understand that in light of what has taken place in the last 48 hours, the events are not the fault of Reigns. He is just the puppet that the WWE wants to try to get past the Cena Revolution and the carnage left behind by management and creative writers trying to escape the problems that exist from continually placing a gold strap on the should of Cena, Randy Orton and anyone else that has a 10-year ring license (Daniel Bryan, excluded) that for some reasons means they know what it is to sell at the gate and keep the green machine flowing into WWE coffers.
The WWE is slow playing its hand when it comes to WrestleMania, probably because Vince McMahon has no idea how he really wants the event to breakdown. Reigns had all the momentum in the world before a hernia operation sidelined him. The symbolism of The Rock getting in the ring and passing the torch to the younger Reigns couldn’t work with the Philadelphia crowd, some of the hardest fans to please in the country in any sport.
Add to the fact that we saw this between Rock and Cena a couple of years ago and it proves that McMahon likes to go to the well more than once too often. It is more than possible McMahon at 69 years of age is finally losing his magic stroke?
Maybe the WWE should go back to its “TV-14” rating and get more familiar with chair shots and blood and potentially more violent content. It would bring back the masses, but not solve the issues that exist with programming, script writing and fan dissention. That comes with time and the belief the WWE really does support a changing of the guard and will work to make WrestleMania the best it can be.
Sting should have been in Philadelphia. He should have been the veteran to get the crowd delirious with excitement. The Rock getting in the ring was the most electrifying failure in his Hall of Fame career. And it made no sense. McMahon sent him out there – hoping to change the temperature of the climate in the arena. It did not work. The WWE now has a Batista-like situation on its hands.
While Batista was visibly pissed off in the Rumble match at the way fans reacted to him, which made matters worse, Reigns has been the heir apparent for some time. The WWE brought him along with The Shield for the ride and now, he must balance Disney World on his shoulders – like it or not, ready or not.
It isn’t Reigns’ fault the WWE universe doesn’t want him in the main event. It’s not his fault the fans wanted to see more of the Triple Threat Match between Seth Rollins, John Cena and Brock Lesnar. It isn’t his fault wrestling sensibilities have changed. Blame it all on McMahon and Triple H and the idea of the Authority.
But by the same token, Reigns must stand up after what happened at the Royal Rumble and help fix it by getting better on the mic and in the ring. And most of all use the experience as a lesson that will ultimately make him the champion the champion needs him to be.
It is official! WrestleMania 32 is coming to AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas. The WWE made the official announcement on Tuesday with some heavy hitters in attendance to answer questions. Check out the video and the press conference below.
The WWE will need to lock up some heavy hitters for this one. The WWE will be looking to break its own attendance record for WrestleMania. I can tell you now that the current roster of talent aren’t bringing 90,000 people in the way it is presented today. There are a lot of rumors surrounding Stone Cold Steve Austin and a match on this show. We’ll have to wait and see.
Check out the breaking news announcement and the press conference featuring the legendary Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, John Cena, and more.
George Lucas is one of the most prolific storytellers of his generation. The Star Wars franchise is much more than a series of films; it’s become modern mythology, completely ingrained into the American consciousness. The long lasting impact that his work has had arguably puts Lucas on par with Mark Twain and perhaps even Shakespeare; that’s how important Star Wars has been and how much it’s meant to so many people.
But these days, Lucas himself doesn’t really have that much of a fan following. Star Wars is still a monster of course, with billion dollar licensing deals and a new trilogy of movies on the horizon. Lucas though is not really viewed all that much as the groundbreaking creator that he once was. He’s basically become out of touch with his audience and a caricature of himself.
Sound familiar? The fact is that many pro wrestling fans have been saying the same thing about another creative genius, Vince McMahon. At first glance, the only thing that Lucas and McMahon have in common is that they share a fairly large percentage of the same audience. In other words, fanboys be loving some Star Wars. And yes, I’m one of them.
But as the years have gone by, it occurs to me that some very interesting parallels can be drawn between the careers of Vince McMahon and George Lucas. I can’t lie here, when I realized there was a connection between the two universes happening, I geeked out a little. Okay, I geeked out a lot. Told you I was a fanboy.
Both men began with nothing but a vision. Lucas was fighting the established system in Hollywood, while Vince was fighting the territory system in pro wrestling. Each man could have done fairly well just by falling in line and accepting how the world was. But they wanted more. They believed there was more to be had, that settling for the status quo was not the answer.
And neither man would stop until he got what he wanted. Star Wars was released and Lucas was seen as the visionary that he was. WrestleMania happened and McMahon was labeled a genius. They were both ahead of their time, able to see the future and they made it happen. Doors opened for both men that had previously been sealed shut. The world was their oyster and they became gods among men.
But now McMahon and Lucas have something else in common. Now, they’re seen as being separated creatively from their audience, unable to reconnect with what the fans really want to see. The success of the original trilogy did nothing for the second trilogy; Star Wars fans were not impressed. The content was not as cutting edge, it was more kid friendly and the story was more diluted. Somewhere along the way, Lucas lost his magic and now his creation is being handed off to the next generation.
If this does not perfectly describe Vince McMahon, I’m not sure what does. McMahon’s WWE was a monster hit throughout the years, especially after the end of The Monday Night Wars. His company was seemingly on the right track and he had conquered the wrestling world. But since then, WWE has lost quite a bit of its luster. Now, fans want something more and they don’t want it from Vince.
Lucas and McMahon are seen as arrogant, stubborn and pretentious. Instead of truly listening to the fans and trying to produce material to make them happy, Lucas kept making movies that seemed to entertain only him. Vince keeps producing TV that is doing much the same right now. And fans on both sides are none too happy about it.
But the problem is no one seems to listen. WWE fans have been dealing with this for years but it has grown exponentially worse recently. And the argument can be made that it doesn’t have to go down like that. After all, Vince would be nothing without the fans right?
Therein lies one of the major similarities between these two brilliant minds; each man has let his own genius get in the way of common sense. The prevailing notion among fans of both genres is that without them, neither man would have two pennies to rub together. Only, they don’t see it that way. To them, their creations are so good and so groundbreaking that just the storytelling itself is enough to carry it through and be successful.
But all of that Star Wars merchandise has not sat on store shelves for nearly 40 years gathering dust. And theaters had to fill up for each film before the next one could be made. Lucas didn’t make that money on his own; the audience had to embrace the material and fall in love with both the story and the actors for him to become stinking rich. WWE fans had to fall in love with the talent and the product for McMahon’s family to be financially secure for years to come.
And both sets of fans have basically been told their opinion doesn’t mean much. The Star Wars franchise is moving ahead with new films and a new director in JJ Abrams. And he’s surely feeling the pressure to deliver because the message from fans is clear; don’t screw it up worse than George did.
You have to believe the same will be said if and when WWE is handed to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. The question is can they fix it? Will they be able to get the company back to its former glory and move past the era in which WWE has stood still and become stale? Or will Vince’s vision that once saved the company but now has it in a time warp prevail?
It’s been said that George Lucas went from being an independent filmmaker to being what he hated the most; an all-powerful established commercial and corporate entity. In essence, he has become Darth Vader. Vince McMahon is also Darth Vader and the only thing standing between him and force choking the entire WWE fan base is Triple H. He may not be Luke Skywalker, but he’s all we’ve got.
With the recent announcement of Randy Savage being inducted into to 2015 WWE HOF, and the recent inclusions of Bruno Sammartino and the Ultimate Warrior, the HOF seems to be more and more complete. However, there are still some glaring omissions. I’ve left out some of the more obvious ones (Sting, Undertaker, etc) and added some names people normally overlook.
Bill Apter Apter is someone that is never mentioned on any WWE HOF lists. Though never really an integral part of the WWE, Apter’s contribution to wrestling, more specifically wrestling journalism, cannot be overlooked. If you read a wrestling magazine in the mid 80’s to early 90’s, odds are Apter was reporting or photographing for it. Apter opted to protect the business, not letting people in on what happens backstage. If there is ever going to be a physical building for the HOF, Apter would be the perfect curator for it.
The Fabulous Freebirds The night Michael Hayes slammed the steel cage door on Kerry Von Erich’s skull is a moment that lives in infamy. It started one of the most heat rivalries in professional wrestling history. This feud was arguably some of the best wrestling of the 80’s. The Von Erich’s are synonymous with Texas wrestling, but they needed a heel factor, and that was the Freebirds. Though they didn’t spend a significant amount of time in the WWF/E, their time in World Class Championship Wrestling is hall of fame worth on its own.
Demolition Demolition is often overlooked for induction, as are many tag teams. Initially, and sometimes still considered to be Road Warrior “rip-offs”, Demolition carved a niche of their own. No team has had a single WWE tag team title reign longer than their record 478 days. During the 80’s, the WWF had larger than life characters. Demolition stood out amongst many of those characters with their S&M themed ring gear of leather and spikes. Definitely one of the most intimidating tag teams of all time.
Bam Bam Bigelow In many people’s eyes, Bam Bam Bigelow was the best “big man” in the business. Bigelow spent time in all 3 major use promotions (WWF, ECW, WCW) and had great success. His matches in ECW with Taz still hold up today. Bigelow even headlined WrestleMania XI with NFL great Lawrence Taylor
Vince McMahon Sure, this one may seem obvious. It probably will not happen for years, but Vince McMahon needs to be in the HOF. Lots can be said about him, but he took wrestling from the dimly lit VFW’s and armories to big arenas with his national expansion in the 80’s, survived the Monday Night Wars in the 90’s, and the WWE still stands today. Wrestling as we know it would not be the same without Vince McMahon. He has been against being inducted, let alone doesn’t appear on camera during induction ceremonies. So, it may be awhile before we see this come to fruition.
The nWo The New World Order is quite possibly the most influential group/storyline in the history of professional wrestling. Formed at a time when WWF had characters that were garbage men, hockey players, and a pig farmes; the n.W.o ushered in a more mature and adult product in wrestling. The angle gave wrestling a sense of realism that had never been felt, and never has been duplicated sense. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were perceived to be invaders in WCW from the WWF, giving fans a glimpse of something they always wanted to see; WCW vs WWF. Hulk Hogan joining the Outsiders in 1996 is a Hall of Fame moment in itself. Fans in 96 and 97 were glued to their tv’s to see what was going to happen next. Would more people from the WWF join ? Who was going to defect from WCW? What would happen next? The n.W.o would eventually appear in the WWE in 2002, though never recapturing the magic of 1996.
Vince McMahon’s WWE is a company in a peril. Clinging for dear life to a John Cena shaped lifeboat and hoping to avoid drowning in the turgid sea of bad booking decisions and cringeworthy storylines which will lead to its inevitable demise, there’s little anyone -Triple H and his NXT crew included- can do to save it.
At least, not if the current general consensus among wrestling fans is anything to go by.
Scan through the message boards, plough through the tweets or browse through comments on your favourite online Raw recap, and you’ll find pretty much the same opinion: The WWE is in trouble, Vince McMahon is out of touch with his audience and, oh, did we mention how much better life would be if Cena would just turn heel already?
Yes folks, if popular opinion were all we had to go on, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to believe that one more failed Dolph Ziggler push will spell the end for McMahon’s sports entertainment empire.
Thankfully, that isn’t all we have to go on.
Indeed, whilst a large portion of fans are clamoring for the WWE’s downfall, the rest of us are busy dealing with a weird sense of déjà vu.
Haven’t we heard all of this before somewhere?
Indeed, as a wrestling fan for the best part of 25 years, the news that McMahon is out of touch with modern audiences certainly doesn’t come as much of a surprise to this writer. From the cartoon days early 90s to the Pirate Paul debacle and at every point in between -yes, including the beloved Attitude Era- it’s been well documented that the man in charge doesn’t exactly have his finger on the pulse of pop culture.
Despite this, he’s remained at the helm of a company which has weaved its way to the forefront of that very same pop culture on more than one occasion.
Sure, the mainstream has always fallen back out of love with pro wrestling eventually, though rather than bring about the end of WWE as a whole, it has instead ushered in something of a transitional period for the company, a bridging of the gap between boom periods where things weren’t always rosey.
Hell, you think things are bad now? Go back 20 years to 1995, a time when attendances figures plummeted, King Mabel reigned in the main event scene, and certified legend Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart was left stumbling through the midcard, doing battle against kleptomaniac pirates and demented dentists in the process. Whilst you’re there, watch another Big Daddy Cool vs. Psycho Sid main event and tell me that things weren’t far worse then than they are today.
Bare in mind too, that this was only three of four years after Hulkamania had finished running wild, and just two short years before the likes of Steve Austin and DX began to slowly usher in the Attitude Era.
Sandwiched somewhere halfway between two of the then-WWF’s most profitable and creatively-inspired periods was a company well and truly on its ass, spewing out more fodder for RD Reynolds and his Wrestlecrap chums than it has at perhaps any other time in history and making nowhere near the kind of money it does today.
Yet somehow, the company survived, and did so without the kind of financial reserves nor the kind of global reputation they have today.
If they survived 20 years ago, through possibly their biggest financial and creative drought to date, there’s no reason the WWE won’t survive well beyond 2015, a time when the company enjoys much financial stability in spite of whatever issues the launch of The Network may have caused.
Good news for McMahon & Co. then, though perhaps not so much for those fans clamoring the company’s demise.
Oh yeah! The Macho Man Randy Savage will finally get the honor he so rightfully has deserved from the WWE. According to several reports, Savage will be announced tonight as the first inductee to go into the 2015 WWE Hall of Fame.
TMZ.com and several other sources have reported on the news. The WWE Network is also promoting this, along with the fact that Savage will be inducted by Hulk Hogan. The induction by Hogan is interesting in that Hogan and Savage didn’t always see eye to eye and had several falling outs. However, according to Hogan the two mended fences shortly before Savage’s untimely death.
“Oooooh yeaaah … “Macho Man” Randy Savage is FINALLY going to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame … TMZ Sports has learned.”
Fans have been asking to see Savage in the Hall of Fame annually for about the last ten years. Savage is probably the last of the “blacklist” to get into the Hall of Fame. Bruno Sammartino was the first to unfreeze hell a couple of years ago. Last year it was the Ultimate Warrior who made peace with the WWE and now it appears that Savage will hop into those unfrozen waters. Unless I am missing someone I believe he remains the last of that list.
Savage’s name had been reportedly suggested to Vince McMahon for several years as a possible Hall of Fame inductee. Many former employees reported that Vince would sneer at the idea and it was well known that it was best to bring up Savage’s name. Whatever the origin of these feelings were, it was obvious that Vince still had them when Savage passed away as he received a nice but minor video tribute as compared to the Ultimate Warrior who had a lot of programming dedicated to him after he passed away.
The rift between Savage and Vince has turned into an urban legend. There is a rumor that Vince’s anger has something to do with an inappropriate incident between Savage and Stephanie McMahon. Nobody has confirmed that nor denied it. The WWE recently released a documentary on Savage and if it wasn’t true, that would have been the place to address it. It wasn’t addressed, although Dusty Rhodes did allude to it in the DVD.
Savage had his own personal issues with McMahon. It was documented in the documentary that Savage was irate at McMahon for the “Nacho Man” parody that the WWE produced when Savage left. Savage was irate at the balding jokes but even more upset about what he thought was a loose reference to Elizabeth leaving him for Hulk Hogan. After Triple H mocked Savage in a WWE magazine interview, Savage called him out on a website video. However, both sides cooled off as Savage appeared in the WWE All-Stars video game and promotional campaign on WWE television.
Lanny Poffo has said that Savage would never go into the Hall unless the whole Poffo family were inducted, similar to when the Von Erichs went in as a group. Lanny said the family would support Savage’s decision after he died, yet he has softened on it in recent months. He has said that the WWE could do whatever they want, but the Poffo family wouldn’t support it. Considering that Lanny and his mom appeared in the DVD, I would not be surprised to see them at the ceremony.
The big winners here are the fans who grew up with Savage or appreciated him years later through videos, YouTube, and now the WWE Network. There is no question that he belongs in the Hall of Fame. The only disappointment is that we can’t hear a classic speech from the icon when he finally takes his rightful spot.
Almost 30 years ago I was a boy screaming for Hulk Hogan to punch Paul Orndorff in the face at the Spectrum. Mr. Wonderful played me and 20,000 others like puppets. I just hoped the WWE Hall of Fame wrestler didn’t remember those death wishes when we sat down for an extended interview with Paul Orndorff.
One of the most memorable wrestling heels of the 80s was “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. Orndorff had the physique, the talking, and the in ring skills that allowed him to contribute great things to the 80s WWF wrestling boom. “Mr. Wonderful” was truly ahead of his time.
In watching back videos of Orndorff 29 years later, his greatness becomes immediately evident. Orndorff was such a great heel, that he could get 20,000 fans on their feet by simply taking off his ring robe. As a wrestler, his grasp over the crowd would continue and whether he was in there with Hulk Hogan or S.D. Jones, Orndorff turned his opponent into the biggest hero of the night.
After watching some recent videos that reminded me of how great Mr. Wonderful was, I reached out to interview Paul Orndorff in 2008. I called Paul and he was resistant about doing interviews. I went on to tell him about how great I thought he was from watching the DVDs and how much I admired him as a heel. After a moment of silence Paul Orndorff he said, “I agree with everything you just said. Let’s do it!”
Ironically what I expected to be a brief yet fun wrestling interview turned into an hour long in depth conversation or what some may call an extended Shoot Interview. The WrestleMania 1 alumni was just as brilliant on the phone as he was 26 years ago when I made my dad take me to the Spectrum and watch him go toe to toe with Hulk Hogan.
Eric Gargiulo: Paul, it is truly an honor to speak with you. As I have said to you over the phone, I really do feel that you were one of the greatest if not the greatest heel of all-time and it is an honor to be speaking with you.
Paul Orndorff: I loved that introduction. Everything you said. Eric, see you’re a man that knows, and there are people out there that know the truth. There is no doubt about it, I should have been the world heavyweight champion of the WWF and you are exactly right.
Eric: You really should have been. I have been watching a lot of old tapes recently and watching your matches from a different perspective, a mechanics perspective, and a psychology perspective, I really think you may be the greatest heel of all time.
Paul: Well I appreciate that and people don’t know the energy, the work, the blood, that I put into it. I wasn’t an entertainer. I tried to go out there and do it as real as it could possibly be done, better than it could be done by anybody else, none of the showboating, no golden robes, all this stuff when you walk out and whoo this and whoo that. I didn’t work that way. I was a street fighter, always had been when I was growing up, played high school football, junior high football, college football scholarship, drafted by the New Orleans Saints, I was the real deal. It just goes to prove to you people out there and a lot of you other guys out there, you young people that just because you are the best at something you don’t always get what you want. That was very frustrating to me, to work so hard, to be in the gym, to be you know, have it all. Looks, I didn’t have to dye my hair. I wasn’t bald headed, I wasn’t fat I mean I should have had it. Yet, you have people, these promoters that do the opposite because somebody stands up for what they think are right or wrong, and that’s where I stood at. I’m too serious I guess.
Eric: You bring up an excellent point because when I watch your matches they do look as if you are in a fight. I want to bring up something one of your peers, Tito Santana said about you in an interview. Tito thinks that the problem with Hulk Hogan was the first time around, he didn’t draw money like Bruno (Sammartino) and (Bob) Backlund did on the rematches. However, when Hogan was wrestling Paul Orndorff, you guys drew so much money. You were the best drawing opponent for Hogan because you were the only one that had the credibility where people realized and knew you could beat him. What are your thought on what Tito had to say?
Paul: Well, I’ve said this many, many times about Tito Santana. Probably the best matches that I have ever had with anybody were with Tito. Tito was an ex-Kansas City, drafted by the Chiefs, Tito had the same attitude that I had in the ring, same attitude. I felt the very same about him and those comments, Tito’s a school teacher now, he’s a coach, Tito’s very intelligent. Back then Tito had a smart head on him you know, Tito knew how to play the game and I just wish I could have played the game like Tito did, and also keep his honor, and Tito did that, and to his people.
Eric: I remember back at the time you were hot, Tito was hot, and as a fan I always wanted to see you guys feud for the Intercontinental title. As a fan I would watch your matches and you were constantly go, go, go, and I would watch Tito’s matches which were also go, go, go, and it was a match I always wanted to see.
Paul: Well you know I wish they had but they didn’t. We did wrestle against each other but I would have loved to have done that. I think that probably it would have taken away from everything else because I wrestled Tito in a couple of places and one of them was in California, L.A., and I’m telling you when I picked Tito up they were throwing oranges, they were throwing eggs, I had a guy when I had him in the piledriver, had him picked up for the piledriver, a guy jumped, literally jumped in the ring, went by security, and jumped on my back. If it hadn’t been for that guy Tito Santana would have been piledrove. The police came and it just happened to be a mess. When the guy came in the ring, just as he was there I gave him a really good kick right in the mouth, that kind of laid him out there and they got him out. Still, it interrupted our match and we really didn’t get to finish it. That was the God’s truth, what I just told you wasn’t no lie, it was true, that really did happen. We were made for each other, Hogan too. I had good matches with him (Hogan) and it is no reflection of his talent or anything, he was chosen, he was the chosen, and he did it. No disrespect to him he drew money, he drew a lot of money, he drew money with everybody, but I also think that there was a time where that if they had it done (him beating Hogan for the WWF title) and done it the right way, he would have been on a different level, even higher than he was. Maybe he would have drawn the second time around with other people, who knows? It would have been better for everybody, but yet they didn’t.
Eric: I don’t have the numbers in front of me but I have to guess that if you take into account inflation, on the grand scale you and Hogan both times around had to draw more money together than just about anybody?
Paul: I think so too and that’s because we did it everywhere we went. We didn’t just do it the first time, the second time, we drew consistently and our matches got better. Really I made Hogan (laughs), that simple, I made him and he knows it. But then again he made me too in a way. It was good for wrestling. It was a lot better for Vince McMahon and Hogan than it was for me financially. That’s life. I like to do these interviews like this, that way I can express the way that I feel, and my attitudes with some things, and people. To have somebody Eric as knowledgeable as you are because I don’t do this to everybody, I’ll be honest with you. Just to feel your talk, the way you said, and the way you approach, if you’re pulling the wool over my eyes you did a good job. I kind of believe in the way you talk, and what you said, and that’s why I honor you with doing this.
Eric: I have such a great respect for you that it is truly an honor to hear that. I have been saying these things about you on my radio show before you agreed to the interview.
Paul: You know I hear this from a lot of people, a lot of people even to this day and you know people say all these good things about certain things. People that are really knowledgeable, you can tell some of them and I agree with them. I’m not going to say something like, “I didn’t this” or “I didn’t that” but you know I feel the same way. I worked too hard. I worked so hard for it that it was unreal. I went overboard.
Eric: The thing I notice most about your matches is that the second you walk through the curtain, you were entertaining the audience. Just by the way you looked at the crowd, by the way you moved, by the timing of the way you moved, and you were so great at not only getting the audience to hat you, but to cheer your opponent like crazy no matter who he was. Whether you were wrestling Hogan or Salvatore Bellomo, the fans just wanted them to beat you, and beat you. My question is can you credit anyone for mentoring you along the way as to how be a great heel?
Paul: What I did was this. Physically, the physical and the attitude, the viciousness, the meanness, and all these things, I had. Nobody gave that to me, that’s just God’s gift to me. I played football the same way. If I could knock your head off, I did, I would, and I felt good about it to tell you the truth. That’s the way I was. I can’t help that, it was just the mentality that I had. But what I did was I picked a little from this guy, a little from that guy, I listened to Bob Orton, Sr., Bobby’s father. He told me, “What you do is you get everybody to watch you. You want the focus to be on you when you get in the ring. So whatever you do you want everybody to be watching you, not the other guy.” That’s what I did, so I would do things and I knew that nobody had that type of endurance to go out there and to do this and to do that without I mean, just aggression, aggression. All of the time, aggression, and things that just made people mad. It came natural, ask my wife. My God I could do anything to make her mad, or anybody else mad. Just a little of this, a little of that, the way you move your body, and the little things that would just make the average person or anybody mad. I was good at it, too good at it.
Eric: In today’s wrestling do you find that to be a lost art? I recently spoke with Sid Vicious and he was telling me that he got so much out of his career by just being able to stand there and look at a crowd. He thinks that the young guys today go out and do so much that the fans don’t even get a chance to absorb a second of it. What do you think of those sentiments from Sid?
Paul: He’s absolutely right. Listen, I don’t care what generation it is, this or that, you could take Red Skelton or some of these older comedians, and you watch the timing that they had, and what they said and everything, and today they could do the same thing. You don’t have to say a bunch of cuss words, you don’t have to say this or say that to get the attention of the people. What you do is that you learn what you do, learn the art of what you are doing, and the people will get with it. What’s happened is that the promoters have let this go on because it’s easier. It’s not so much their fault, but I challenge anybody to go out, grab a hold, and work it. But I mean to work it viciously. I’m a big fan, a big fan of Mixed Martial Arts. I love that stuff, watch some of that stuff. Listen, Vince better not worry about somebody else getting into wrestling. He’s got to about UFC, that’s who he needs to worry about because they are just packing them, and that’s all that they are talking about. Because of all these off of the ceilings that they are doing now, through ladders, it’s just too much. You’ve taken the response out of the people and they sit there and watch them do a bunch of a moves, a bunch of aerial stuff, acrobatic stuff and you are doing nothing to get them into the match, to make them mad, to do this or to do that. Something that really gets them into the match, you have taken them out of the match and the only thing that they applaud on is if someone does an unreal move, it’s crazy.
Eric: I have spoken a few times with Bruno Sammartino about the period in the mid-eighties when he came out of retirement. He has consistently said that you were the only wrestler that he enjoyed wrestling during that time period, and went out of his way to say good things about you. What are your thoughts and memories of wrestling Bruno?
Paul: I’ve got a lot of respect for Bruno from the first day that I met him. He’s a man that says what he feels. He doesn’t back up to any of these guys, promoters and whomever else and he says what he thinks. You know if it’s wrong he will say, “Let’s try this, try that,” and hey I’m all for him. The guy drew nothing but money. Bruno Sammartino man, he’s up there with the old boxers, the old legends. His name is synonymous with anybody in the wrestling world. Madison Square Garden you think of Bruno Sammartino and I was in awe when I worked with him. We worked several shows and I could not believe it. Pittsburgh, we sold the place out. The people almost rioted, I had to have one of the agents come to the ring and get me out of the ring. Yeah, because it was getting bad because I beat Bruno’s son up and he still had it! I had so much respect for him I went in there and had a good match with him, that’s what I wanted to do, and that was the way I operated. I wanted to have good matches with anybody unless they were jerk, and then I didn’t.
Eric: Did you get into any trouble when you would make references to Hogan’s lack of hair in interviews?
Paul: Get in trouble? Who am I going to get in trouble with? I said what I thought. Hey, was it the truth? Case closed.
Eric: You made the news following the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony when you refused to shake Hulk Hogan’s hand. Why didn’t you shake his hand?
Paul: I never cared for him, you know? I don’t hate him. There are very few people that I hate. The older you get, you let that go you know? I may not like certain people, and we are all that way, we’re all different. If we were all the same we would all be living in each others houses but we’re not. He took care of himself. He was a BS’er like the rest of them and I told it like it was. Look at nowadays these interviews. You’ve got script writers that tell these guys what to say. Nobody told me what to say, I could say whatever I wanted to say. I did say what I want and if they didn’t like it, I still said it. What are they going to do, fire me? (Laughs) Turner and them would have jumped on me so quick it’s ridiculous. I would have made more money too.
Eric: Why do you think people aren’t tuning in to watch pro wrestling today like they did in your era in the WWF?
Paul: Talent! No Talent! Vince McMahon has no competition. Listen, competition is good. Whenever you have no competition, you can throw whatever at the people and if you don’t like it, so what? I’ve been telling people this and they have been telling me how bad the matches are and that they don’t even watch wrestling anymore. When you see a lot of people out there, supposedly a lot of people, they cut the arenas back to about ¼ of what they normally are, and you only see what they show you, and the tickets are free. We never gave away tickets! Good gracious. So, he’s got the people out there and no competition. I wish that Fox, Murdoch would get out there and start wrestling. Because if he did, with the older talent and the people out there that know about wrestling, they know how to get it back are out there. I don’t mean in the sense that they would have to wrestle but they know how to put on a wrestling show and to get the right people and it’s going to continue to be this way until these guys learn the art of the trade, and learn how to work these people. Hey, I could still go out there and make these people mad at me. It doesn’t make a difference if they know it’s phony or this or that, it’s how believable you make it look.
Eric Gargiulo: What have you been up to since WCW was sold?
Paul Orndorff: I have been loving on my grandbabies. I’ve been changing these poopie diapers. Listen, I have children, I have grandbabies, I’ve got great grandchildren I’m a great granddad now, I’m loving it. I love being at home, but I’m bored in a sense too. I’ve gotten hurt, all of these injuries are coming back, all in all thank God I’m okay and my family is doing great. I’m doing great.
Eric: I interviewed Bill Watts a few years ago and he said a lot of great things about you. He told a great story about you and Ted Dibiase worried about being booked to wrestle for one-hour. What do you remember about that night?
Paul: Oh yeah, Jackson, Mississippi, I’ll never forget it. Bill, I like Bill Watts. A lot of people didn’t like Bill Watts, a lot of people didn’t like Ole Anderson, but I liked them. They told it like it was. They treated you like you were an athlete and I liked them. I had words with both of them. No big deal, but at least they let me say what I thought and they didn’t fire me because of it, or didn’t knock me down, mess with my pay, or this or that, he (Bill Watts) didn’t do that. Bill, he put me and Dibiase together and we were two guys that just wanted to go at it man. I mean, it was me and it was him and we went at it for an hour straight. I’ll tell you what, with the amount of time that I had, the experience I had, because Ted was ahead of me. We didn’t think that we could do it and I’ll be darned if we didn’t do it, we did do it. Here again, I worked with Harley Race many times and he would go an hour. I went an hour and fifteen minutes with Harley. Just that experience to work with somebody like Harley, the experience he had, the knowledge he had, and then when you had to go out like me and Ted, you had two young bulls that went out and did it. That was how you learned, and I learned that, and I remembered that, and I remembered this and that, about that match. We just tore it up, we tore it up man, one of the best matches that I ever had. Thanks to Bill Watts. I love Bill Watts, he gave me such confidence, he let me grow, Ernie Ladd was there as his booker, first angle that I ever had was with Ernie Ladd. Ernie has passed away now and I really had a lot of respect for Ernie Ladd, I really did. That’s how you learn, I wasn’t different from anybody else, I just worked harder.
Eric: You were in the main-event of the very first WrestleMania. How surprised are you that WrestleMania has turned into the Super Bowl of professional wrestling?
Paul: Well you know Bill Watts had that same vision when he ran the Super Dome, and I was in the main-event of two of those and worked with Bruiser Brody and I can’t think of the other go. That’s got to mean something when you are in the first WrestleMania, out of all of the people there that they could have picked. I was one of them, and that’s who they wanted in it. Then well I don’t need to get into this thing you know, the belt. The belt, you know I should have had that belt. There’s no doubt about it.
Eric: I don’t think there is any doubt that there was a lot of money left on the table with you not getting a run with the WWF title.
Paul: Right, right. Exactly.
Eric: One thing you did that I want to ask you about is using your robe as part of your wrestling psychology. The way you slowly took the robe off, the way your opponents would grab the robe and put it on for heat, the way you touched the robe, it was just such a great tool and you were masterful with it.
Paul: Well yeah you’re right, I was a master. That’s because I watched everybody else and I wanted to be different. I wanted to be different in the ring, what I’ve done, what I said, and how I went about doing my job, and that’s it. If you did it the old, conventional way, I can tell you that I wasn’t going to, because I didn’t want to be like everybody else. I didn’t want to be like Gorgeous George. I wanted to be like him a little bit, but I didn’t want to be him the whole way because everybody had robes, and everybody had done this, and everybody had done that, you can’t help it if you weren’t born yet, but I did mine different because I had the whole deal. I had the body, I had the interview, I had the looks, I had it all, there was no where that I was weak, nowhere. That’s what made promoters mad because they couldn’t control me.
Eric: I heard a story that the WWF booked you in Japan for awhile when they first signed you. Is that true?
Paul: Well I was sent over there with them for about seven, eight months. At that time I was with Turner, Georgia Championship Wrestling. At this time this big feud was getting ready to happen with Vince taking over the world. The Grahams, Watts, all these places all over, all these, everywhere. The territories were having meetings, and this, and that, wanting to know what they were going to do, and they were pushing some of us to signing contracts. With Georgia, they wanted me to sign a contract but no guaranteed money or nothing, just to sign a contract. I went, “No! I aint signing no contract,” and then I get this call from Vince McMahon Senior, and we talked. I like gambles, I like to do something that’s different, the idea of Vince’s son taking over and having all of the big shows, all this and the visions they had, and to be a part of it. If it worked it’d be great, if it didn’t, hey listen, they’re going to hire you regardless if you are good. Of course I might have been blackballed, I don’t know but I know this. I would have still had a job up there in New York since Vince had such a strong hold up there and there was nobody going to take that territory away, he was just too strong politically and everything else. I thought it was a win, win but it was a gamble me leaving the South, but I did. And he said “I’ll send you over to Japan until we start up.” In an agreement he guaranteed me that I’d make more money than I had ever made, he guaranteed it, and I did it. That’s what happened, he kept his word.
Eric: Why do you think you weren’t given such a big push when you went to WCW in 1990?
Paul: Well I had gotten hurt you have to remember that I had gotten hurt. I still had to work, I still worked. I worked in the office, I did both, after getting hurt the way I was hurt it took a lot out of me. I never was the same after that to be honest. I don’t hold that against them or anything at all, although I could have been in a better position, I could have been, and I should have been. That’s okay, it’s no big deal, I have no qualms over it.
Eric: How did you get hurt?
Paul: It was one specific match, it was in Canada. I got kicked under the chin, out of a stupid mistake on somebody else’s part. I don’t know if it was out of stupidity or what, but it was really a stupid mistake that this person made.
Eric: What do you remember the fight you had with Vader in WCW?
Paul: The last thing I remember is that I was kicking him in the face with my flip-flops on and it hurt.
Eric: Is it true that Meng/Haku had to pull you off?
Paul: Yep. Well they had a lot of people there. It was one of those unfortunate things that happened. The only thing that I am thankful for is that if my body wasn’t hurt and I didn’t have all of that nerve damage on my right, God knows I might be in jail for killing him. I am not taking anything from anybody.
Eric: Paul, it seems like we just started this interview a minute ago. What a fast hour?
Paul: Well, we need to do it again Eric. Thank you, if it hadn’t been for the people I wouldn’t have been anything. I truly mean that. That’s why I worked so hard in the ring, so they got their money’s worth.
As a lifetime pro wrestling fan, the past 30 years have indeed been a rollercoaster of emotions (25 of which I can recall vividly). We have witnessed the highest of peaks and the lowest of valleys. The monopolization by the WWE, and their vision to eradicate pro wrestling while transitioning it to “sports entertainment” has indeed brought us to that deep dark valley of nausea. Luckily for us WRESTLING fans the days of our intelligence being insulted are vanishing, and fast. Buckle yourself in, this year is going to be an incredible ride. Here are my top 5 pro wrestling predictions for 2015.
1.) A NEW WWE ERA
Unlike most forums and blogs may have led you to believe, I see this year as a giant crossroad for the WWE, and one they will succeed at. Vince and company have always seemed to have this notion that they can put whatever product they want to serve out, and their loyal fans will always be there to feed on. Sure, to a degree that has been true as with any monopoly. However, 2014 gave the WWE a cold hard slap to their face when it came to loyalty and reality. The WWE Network subscription numbers were atrocious and the WWE clearly had no plan B. This reality check had to have been humbling for Vince McMahon. When the ego is as gigantic as his, it’s a very difficult circumstance to swallow.
It all culminated in a perfect storm. Between the subscription abomination, Vince calling out the roster, the emergence of NXT, lack of talent utilization, the uprising of new competition, paycheck cuts, and the dismal moral in the locker room, the WWE is headed for a new ERA. While Vinnie Mac may want to “shake things up again”, the truth is, they actually have no alternative. They must choose to give the fans what they want, otherwise, we will start to see the crumbling of the empire known as WWE. They have the talent, they have the $$$, they have every opportunity to succeed. I see this year as a significant marker for the company. When push comes to shove, Vince always comes through, and I for one believe in his creative skill sets.
2.) A REVOLUTION RISING
Do you feel it? There’s something spreading like a wildfire in the industry, and it’s not the WWE. The old school fans called it territories. The new school fans called it “the Indys”. But we’re seeing a revolution of something new and special. Now is the time to be a wrestling fan ladies and gentlemen. The WWE is no longer the only big fish in the USA pond. Sure, we’ve seen companies like ROH and TNA tread those waters for years, only to become minnows swallowed up by the great white shark known as the WWE. But while the WWE has become lazy in creative, the other fish are getting bigger and more ferocious by the day. These companies in my opinion have the best wrestlers in the world today.
Yes, I am a huge fan of stars like Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar, Cesaro, Damien Sandow and Dean Ambrose. But then Sunday Jan 4th happened. NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 9 was perhaps the best PPV I’ve ever seen. (A MUST SEE IF YOU ARE A WRESTLING FAN) And I’ve seen plenty. With the call by Jim Ross and Matt Striker (Ross’s call of the main event gave me chills that I haven’t felt since the Attitude Era) it became clear as crystal, the best wrestlers on the planet are NOT in the WWE. These companies ALL have their own unique vibe, and also have seemed to no longer try to model their companies like the WWE. With the likes of NJPW (opening more to the U.S.A. audience), ROH, Lucha Underground, PWG, TNA (pushing the reset button), and the emergence of GFW…. WATCH OUT. These companies are hungry, with their wrestlers even hungrier. By this time next year don’t be surprised if the WWE has some serious threatening competition. Can’t wait!
3.) THE EMERGENCE OF THE NXT STARS
If you’re reading this, you probably are well aware of the talent the NXT has. Hand selected wrestlers from all around the world have landed in WWE’s developmental pool. I think HHH has realized they weren’t going to groom any talent anytime soon from scratch. Selecting some of these talented and already established individuals is PURE GOLD. Talents such as Finn Baylor, Adrian Neville, Sammy Zayn, Hideo Itami and of course Kevin Owens, are the future of the WWE. I just hope the company doesn’t try to “WWE mold them”. These dudes were the cream of the crop BEFORE coming to WWE. And lucky for us, most of them are entering the prime of their already stellar careers. These 5 stars will not only break out in 2015, but they will also be WWE main eventers and wearing gold around their waist by years end. In my opinion NXT is already a better show than RAW…. And the company knows it too.
4.) DOLPH ZIGGLER BECOMES WWE CHAMPION
Is there anyone on the current roster that is more deserving of the “strap”? Short and sweet answer….NO. His focus and passion is clearly higher than anyone else in the company right now. For whatever reason the powers that be have held him down long enough. His dues have been paid and he WILL be WWE champion in 2015…. Guaranteed and “here to show the world”
5.) WRESTLING PODCAST INFLUENCE
The podcast “explosion” took place in 2014, the influence and impact has been bigger than people may realize. From originals like Colt Cabanas, to the crew on MLW, to the Podcast One group, 2015 won’t disappoint… the beauty of these podcasts is that the wrestlers (former and current) have the opportunity to speak their minds. Lots of “internet” rumors surface and these stars have a chance to clear the air and speak from the heart. I think this is critical for not only to set the record straight, but also for their well beings. Seeing what happened to Bret Harts life after the Montreal Screwjob was very sad. He let things be built up inside him and it nearly killed him. If someone like him would have had a podcast and had guests like Shawn Michaels, or Vince, who knows what sort of emotional baggage all three could have erased.
Many pro wrestlers are indeed paranoid. By being a guest on the podcasts these wrestlers have the opportunity to squash any incorrect rumors as well as open their hearts to the millions of fans that listen. That creates a connection with fans that they may or may not be able to achieve on screen. No acting, no scripts just the real human speaking to all of the listeners. Hearing shows like the Ross Report and all the plethora of info that took Jim Ross 40 years to gain, and is thrown out for all of us to absorb is wonderful. Just look what it did for Ryback.
Without his Talk is Jericho podcast, we many never of gotten a chance to hear about his wonderful true story. Or what about Stone Colds Podcast that provided the infamous Vince McMahon “call out of the WWE roster”. And who could forget Colt Cabana’s podcast with CM Punk. It was the single most talked about podcast in the history of professional wrestling. I’m sure wrestling companies (like WWE) are also listening and gaining insight as well. Perhaps even being influenced as well. This can only help their product. 2015 will be the year of the podcasts.
2015 is sure to be one the greatest years in pro wrestling history. Are you ready? I am. What are your 2015 predictions? Would love to hear what YOU the people that make this business tick, have to say.
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.