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The WWE Brass Ring Is An Illusion

December 09, 2014 By: Category: Videos, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Vince McMahon was critical of roster on the Steve Austin podcast for not grabbing the brass ring like Austin’s peers in the Attitude Era did. Maybe it is time for Vince to take a hard look at himself for failing to give his roster the opportunity to grab those brass rings?

Vince made a lot of waves with remarks made during the Austin interview. One segment in particular came when he was asked about guys being afraid to step up in his locker room. Vince took this opportunity to blast his roster for failing to step up and grab opportunities like Austin and his buddies did in the Attitude Era.

Well, don’t piss anybody off. … You have… this is a different group of guys and gals — it’s millennials. They’re not as ambitious, quite frankly. And they’re not trepidatious at all. I just don’t think they necessarily want to reach for that brass ring. The last person to really reach for that brass ring, in all likelihood was John Cena. There are others coming up now who definitely want to reach for it: (Dean) Ambrose is one of them, Seth Rollins is another one, Roman Reigns is another one, Bray (Wyatt) is another one. So I think you’ve got some people here chomping at the bit to make a difference but when you’re walking around backstage you don’t hear as much camaraderie perhaps and laughter as in your era. But then again there are some other things they do. … I would suggest (this locker room is not as ambitious as the one you were in), correct. It’s a different… Again, I said it’s millennials. It’s a different point of view. If you reach for that brass ring and you fall on your butt… no one wants to fail and there’s this feeling, this insecurity, that if you fail you’re exposed. I think that’s largely pretty much what it is. Because you give everybody the opportunities, you give everyone resources, which you never had. The things that we do now from a television production standpoint, social media. Oh my god, social media is huge. It helps talent in so many different ways. It gives them the tools that you did not have, and other people like you didn’t have. It’s the utilization of those tools that’s very important for talent to use. And they do use them but not in the way you did.

The ironic part about this statement is that it is Vince who is the one stifling his locker room and failing to provide an environment in which talent can take chances and go for that proverbial brass ring. The fact is that no such brass ring exists today and nobody on today’s roster would be able to take advantage of it even if it did.

Let’s start with scripted promos. Austin 3:16 would never happen today because Stone Cold would be reading a script. Think about that one for a second. The biggest boom period in company history would have never happened if Austin was cutting that promo today. Not Austin 3:16, not any of The Rock’s clever promos, not any of Austin’s money promos, all of that magic would be contained in a bottle today. How in the world can anyone take risks and cut heartfelt promos in today’s WWE world? Maybe if the scripting was good it could work but even the scripting is terrible. The wrestlers aren’t believing it, fans aren’t buying it, and it just isn’t working. The legs are being cut off immediately with the lack of creativity.

What about these ridiculous names guys are getting out of developmental? Is it just a sheer coincidence that the guy who came the closest to grabbing that brass ring in recent years was CM Punk? Punk didn’t have to endure a name change and he was also given more freedom on promos than most are today. Steve Austin, The Rock, CM Punk, are names you’d never hear or see under today’s system.

The parity is pathetic. Nobody is given the chance to go on a win streak or elevate themselves as something special, separating him or herself from the pack. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Perception is reality. Fans see guys losing for so long that they can’t wrap their heads around that guy or girl being a top star or champion. Look at guys like Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, and Daniel Bryan. Ziggler had momentum cut off immediately by jobbing him out. Ambrose lost on RAW to Randy Orton just as he was starting to catch fire. Somehow by a miracle Bryan survived as if you look back at when Bryan first started catching fire, he was being jobbed out. He won Money in the Bank and was immediately losing every match. This is a repeated pattern among the writers. Even CM Punk recently commented about how Triple H cut off his momentum in 2011 when he was at his hottest. How boring would sports be without elite athletes? Nobody is ever promoted as elite in this current environment, it’s even-Steven booking for everyone.

It’s easy for Vince to blame his roster for not getting over but there is only so much that his talent can go. Vince has created such a restricted environment that anyone with the hunger or desire to think out of the box generally winds up frustrated and exhausted by the restricted process. If Vince wants his guys to go for the brass ring, he needs to give them one that is within reach. Unfortunately you have a better chance of seeing the PG-13 rating come back.

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CM Punk Calls B.S. On Vince McMahon Apology

December 04, 2014 By: Category: Videos, WWE | Pro Wrestling

It didn’t take CM Punk long to respond to Vince McMahon’s apology. If you expected Punk to have a change of heart after hearing the CEO say he is sorry, you better think again. Not only is Punk still irate, he is calling the apology “bullsh*!”

CM Punk returned for another interview on Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast. This week’s podcast featured less pipe bombs but did address two highly anticipated topics. Punk addressed Vince’s apology and Vince’s feelings that Punk would be back in the WWE someday. Vince is sorry that Punk received his termination notice on his wedding day as he told Stone Cold Steve Austin.

“I would like to do this. I would like to apologize. Sometimes in a big corporation, the legal people don’t necessarily know what talent relations are doing and conversely. Punk got his severance papers moreover on the day he got married. That was coincidence. So I want to personally apologize for that.”

Vince also went on to say that he thinks they can work out with Punk as he did with Ultimate Warrior, Bruno Sammartino, Bret Hart, and Hulk Hogan. Now most immediately accused the Chairman of the Board of lying through his teeth. CM Punk is one of them. Punk isn’t buying it and wants to assure all of those fans chanting his name that he isn’t coming back and is closing the door on the WWE.

Me? I’ll go work the fu*cking Young Bucks at PWG. I don’t give a fuck. See, the thing (is) if I say it’s not off the table you’re going to have these people that are holding on to hope that I’m coming back. I understand and it makes interesting conversation, right? I think there’s plenty of guys out there that think they know. Jericho, I think, is one of them. Jericho thinks that I feel exactly how he felt in 2005 and he left for two, two-and-a-half years or something like that. So from his perspective, he felt in 2005 that he was never going to come back. And now he sees me saying that and he’s probably like ‘ah, just wait three years, you’ll feel like it will come back.’ I can see his point of view but then in turn I go ‘motherfu*cker, they didn’t fire you on your wedding day. They didn’t purposely and maliciously try to ruin a day that is supposed to be special to everybody. It’s your wedding day.’ I don’t want to hear ‘oh, it was a coincidence. I don’t want to hear ‘oh, the lawyers didn’t talk to talent relations.’ I talked to Hunter on the 11th, on the 13th Fed Exed overnight I got a document that was dated the 12th. My wife asked for that time off so she could A) get married, B) go on her honeymoon. The weekend after her honeymoon she was back on TV. They knew. I don’t want to hear ‘oh, it was a coincidence.

And you know what, I’ll address it: if the apology was sincere you wouldn’t use it as a publicity stunt on Austin’s podcast. You have my phone number, you have my address. You could text, you could call, you could show up when you’re a 10 minute fu*cking drive from my house and apologize to me like a man. That’s the fu*cking reality of it.

That’s the fu*cking timeline, ladies and gentlemen. I was sick and fu*cking hurt, and sick and tired, and I walked out. And I can do that because I’m an independent fu*cking contractor. And then I was suspended and then nobody contacted me after my suspension to be like ‘you’re unsuspended, we need you at Raw.’ I got those phone calls ‘we need you at TV’ a day after elbow surgery. I got that phone call a day after knee surgery. They weren’t afraid to do it then. So where the fuck was my phone call. Oh, I’m suspended, fine, great, I’m suspended. You know what? Maybe in the two months I’m feeling better and I’m going to come to my senses. But nobody ever found out because nobody ever reached out, you know what I mean?

He also wants to make it clear, he is never coming back.

“Every six months, we had a new head of talent relations, whether it was Jane Geddes, whether it was Sean Cleary. They were all these people who had no business being the head of talent relations. Every six months, somebody new. And you’re supposed to relate to the talent and nobody knew how to talk to these people. I’m a wrestler. I don’t know… The head of the HR department doesn’t know anything about taking bumps, he doesn’t know what a payday is. If I said ‘hey, I’m a blue eye’ he wouldn’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. So it’s hard to relate to these people, you know? I don’t want to hear it was a coincidence. I’m sorry. It was a publicity stunt. You’re sorry. Great. Be a man and call me. I’m sorry. It’s the fu*cking way it is, though, man. It’s the fu*cking reality. And if anybody out there thinks it was a coincidence, come on. Come on.”
“People are asking me like ‘do you accept Vince’s apology?’ And I’ll say I appreciate the sentiment but that was not a sincere apology and he knew about it since June. Why didn’t he apologize in June if he really felt bad about it? He just wanted to make sure a TV camera was on him so he could kind of damage control it and be like ‘oh, I’m really sorry.’ Well, if you were you would have apologized earlier, and if you were, if you really wanted to talk to me, you would have responded after I got a hold of everybody in the office. You would have said ‘you’re unsuspended.’ You would have said ‘we need you back on TV’ like you did when I was walking out of the hospital still anesthetized. … So, yeah, it’s done. We’re closing this chapter of my life.

So one thing I continue to fail to understand here is why he was both mad and surprised. He walked out of the company, injured or not, and was not in any communications with the office. He does mention that he spoke with Triple H but curiously he fails to leave the details of that call out. I think those details are very important. Is it his fault or theirs? I think a bit of both and it surprises me that he can’t see that. What are they supposed to do?

Now as far as being terminated on his wedding day, that is certainly spiteful and intent to hurt. However, here is a guy that leaked weeks before this that he wasn’t coming back when his contract was up. Here is a guy that walked out of the company and wasn’t talking to anyone. It would appear to me, especially from all of the rumors you heard about him being disgruntled, that he wanted to leave. Again, I would think he’d see this as a gift! Let’s face it. The guy is reportedly set for life so it isn’t as if he is going to have to worry about paying his bills. I am not sure what Punk’s end game here was if he was that upset about being terminated, even if it was on his wedding day. From all indications he wanted to leave and they could have extended his contract indefinitely until he returned from injury. The other thing is, he could have had his job back the next day if he wanted it! Yes he was fired but if he was that upset about losing his job, he could have it back in a second. Sure it was caddy, but I just think there is a bit of a drama here that isn’t making sense.

Punk is clear and he isn’t coming back. I think it is time to stop the chants and leave the guy alone and let him move on with his life. Many will disagree but I still think that the door could reopen although that won’t happen for years. Who knows where he will be in his life in 2-5 years? I doubt it but it wouldn’t shock me at all to see him back, but not for several years.

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Steve Austin and Vince McMahon Podcast: Art Imitates Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CM Punk Will Wrestle Again

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

I’m going to make a prediction that many of you WWE fans are going to roll your eyes at as if this was a known secret in the business…

CM Punk will return to the WWE.

It may not be immediate and it may come when we least expect it, but the “Voice of the Voiceless” will spout off again in a WWE ring in the future, much to the delight of fans across the globe.

An arc of sorts was created the other night when WWE Chairman Vince McMahon publicly apologized to Punk for being served with termination papers by the company on his wedding day. The wrestling mogul said he hopes there I still an opportunity to work with Phil Brooks, the man behind the Punk persona again.

“I would like to apologize,” McMahon said on a special episode of the Steve Austin Show on the WWE Network. “Sometimes in a big corporation, the legal people don’t necessarily know what talent relations are doing and conversely and Punk got his severance papers on the day he got married. And that was a coincidence. So, I want to personally apologize for that.”

It was the first time McMahon spoke publicly following CM Punk’s now infamous podcast interview last week where he torched the WWE for how he was treated during his time with the company. Considering CM Punk’s wife, AJ Lee, is still on the active roster, McMahon’s apology about the wedding snafu makes sense.

And yet, despite all of the damming comments and accusations, McMahon would still like to work with CM Punk one day.

“Other than that, the only thing I want to say about Punk is there have been a number of individuals in the past that have been disgruntled, said a lot of things about the organization and I’m not going to wash the dirty laundry in public. I don’t think there’s any reason for that. I think there are a lot of things he may say that he may regret one day in terms of looking back at it. But nonetheless, I hope that one day we will be able to get back together again.”

The reason for my optimism about a change of heart – although Punk has admitted time and time again about how happy he is to not be in a squared-circle, is the fact that wrestlers, regardless of the generation and the promotion, wrestlers return to the scene of the crime. Ric Flair returned to WCW, Bret Hart has reconciled with McMahon and is part of the WWE again. Hulk Hogan has made appearances within the company and helps to promote the WWE Network and marketing events. There are even reports that Kurt Angle is trying to decide between staying with TNA Wrestling and making a return to the company he got his big break with.

On Thanksgiving Day, Punk was quoted in a story on the Sporting News website as stating, “CM Punk had a lot to say about his final few years with the WWE when he opened up to Colt Cabana on the Art of Wrestling podcast. He talked about the injuries he was dealing with over the past few years, the money issues he had with the company and how it all built up to him walking out on the company this past January.”

I wonder if that all changed once Punk heard the conversation between McMahon and Steve Austin, one of the most rebellious faces the business has ever produced.

“They kept saying ‘your client is going to TNA, he’s going to TNA, and the brand is going to be ‘f*** WWE and this and this'”, said Punk. In an interview with Brian Fritz. “And my lawyer was like ‘I’ll tell you right now, my client is not going to TNA. He absolutely despises professional wrestling and he wants nothing to do with it. He says he’s never going to wrestle again.'”

”There’s no working relationship and there never will be ever again. That wedding day thing, you know, is pretty ridiculous.”

While you can never-say-never in the wrestling business, Punk returning to the WWE is about as close as you can come. So despite the outcry from fans and chants at WWE shows, it’s not going to change anything.

Punk still appears determined to stick to his guns, but should the itch come back and McMahon remains open to the former WWE Champion returning, the door will always remain open, even if it is only cracked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CM Punk Speaks On WWE Departure, Will Never Return

November 27, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

You knew he wasn’t going to keep his mouth shut forever. CM Punk has finally broken his silence and speaking up about what led him to quitting the WWE. I think it’s safe to say you can cross Punk back in WWE off of your wish list for 2015.

Ten months after walking out of the WWE 30 minutes before a RAW broadcast, Punk has given his first wrestling interview where he opened up and told his side of the story regarding his WWE exile. Punk gave the exclusive to his old buddy Colt Cabana on the Art of Wrestling podcast and what an exclusive it was.

Punk said the reason he quit was all due to his deteriorating health. He told Cabana that he had been wrestling with broken ribs, bad knees, and suffered a concussion at the Rumble. It had been widely reported that Punk was badly beat up around that time but I don’t think anyone realized how badly he was hurting. Punk said that he had a fever and no appetite for months. Punk also took a shot at the company and made a dig about his paychecks shrinking.

I think the most damning thing Punk said about the company was in regards to his concussion. Punk said he suffered the concussion in the Rumble. Punk said he finished the Rumble with the injury. Punk said that he passed the WWE concussion test the next day, which had also been reported. Punk then said what I think could be the most damaging thing of the entire interview in that he questioned the credibility of the WWE concussion test. He called it “bullsh*t.” Punk also noted that the company showed no concern over his concussion and were more worried about him obtaining Visas and taking a drug test for upcoming tours.

That is big. Keep in mind that this allegation comes just several weeks after the company evaded a potential public relations fallout from the Alberto Del Rio firing. The WWE proudly take credit for their head-injury and concussion program. Punk also brought up several instances where the company pressured him to work injured. Punk is the first major star to come out and question the authenticity of the program. It will be very interesting to see if any of the media or any of the WWE’s partners follow up on this. Maybe not, but there is potential some real fallout here.

Punk took credit for the Shield. He said he came up with the idea. He said it was proposed that he be with Daniel Bryan, the Big Show, and Seth Rollins. He didn’t like that. He proposed Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Chris Hero as the Shield. Vince said no to Hero and Roman Reigns wound up in the group. He is happy for their success but was upset that all of the credit has gone to Triple H in putting the Shield together.

Punk also said that he had an idea about reinventing his character. His new character would wear fighter shorts with sponsors. He said he had a big sponsor lined up that would have made him a lot of money and opened up opportunities for the other wrestlers to get sponsored. He went to Vince and Vince told him no, citing the current sponsors would get upset. As luck would have it Brock Lesnar came in a few months later with sponsors on his fighter shorts/trunks. When he went to Vince and told Vince it was his idea Vince laughed at him. He didn’t understand the difference between he and Brock and told Vince that he should have been let go if he wasn’t a superstar.

He was also upset that Vince wouldn’t let him walk out with Chael Sonnen on a UFC show. He said that Vince said no and said that UFC was barbaric, he was appalled that women were fighting in the UFC, and told Punk that someone was going to die in there. Punk told Vince that Owen died in his ring. He said a week later that Triple H walked Floyd Mayweather out for his fight. Punk was not happy.

He said he tried to get the finish changed for his match with the Rock at the Royal Rumble 2013 and tried to ride the title reign through Mania. Punk didn’t want to turn heel at the time but Vince told him he needed to turn heel to work the Rock. He didn’t want to turn heel so his choices were either Daniel Bryan beating him for the title or him turning heel and wrestling the Rock. He said he suggested that they go into WrestleMania with a Triple-Threat Match with Rock vs. Cena vs. Punk. He offered to get eliminated quickly but he called it a “mind f*ck” never being in a Mania main-event. He also suggested that he retain the title and go to WrestleMania for a Streak vs. Streak match with the Undertaker. Vince turned that down. I actually blogged on that at the time and pointed out the missed opportunity between the streak vs. streak gimmick. He is also still angry at losing to the Rock and the Undertaker.

The WrestleMania main-event or lack thereof seemed to be a real problem over his last year. Punk told Colt that he did a lot of favors for Vince, including coming back early to work Jericho and do the program with Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar. He said that Vince would constantly tell him, “we owe you one.” He felt that by doing a bunch of favors that he would get his Mania main-event. He said that when he watched Mick Foley’s DVD and Vince said that he felt bad he never gave Foley a Mania main-event and he did, that Vince would have the same feelings for Punk. He obviously didn’t and wasn’t going to get it and the repeated theme throughout the interview indicates it really played a big part in his decision to leave.

He was also upset about a movie project falling through. He said he signed on to do the 12 Rounds movie that Randy Orton did. He said he agreed to it  but had a conversation with Triple H about a conflict in his schedule. The European tour was on the schedule and he felt as champion he should be on tour. He said that Hunter didn’t think the schedules conflicted. He said that Hunter said he would check the schedule and get back to him. Punk said he then found out online that Randy Orton got the part and nobody ever informed him about it.

Punk went into detail about his last hour or so in the WWE. Punk said he told Vince McMahon and Triple H he was going home. Punk then told Cabana that he told off Triple H for stifling his momentum in 2011. He also said that he complained to Vince for killing his creativity. He said he told them both that it was garbage that Daniel Bryan wasn’t in the WrestleMania 30 main-event.

Punk said that he was actually fired from the WWE and he never quit. Punk said Vince was in tears when he left and hugged him goodbye. Punk said he never heard a word from him and then a few weeks later Vince text him and told him he was suspended. He then said he was delivered termination papers for a breach of contract on his wedding day. He said that the WWE were afraid he was going to go to TNA. He said that eventually both sides settled on a settlement that gave him more than what he wanted. He also said that he despises wrestling and would never go back. He said that he refused the WWE’s request to issue a joint statement on their settlement.

This certainly gives a different spin to the story that was coming out of the WWE side the last several months. According to the WWE side, Punk was upset about his place on WrestleMania, didn’t want to work with Triple H and so he quit. He did confirm that it was true but it was only a part of the problem. Nothing has ever been said about his health other than he passed a concussion test the night he quit. Hearing Punk’s side of the story certainly gives me a different take on the whole situation.

One thing I will say is that Punk recently blasted his fans on Twitter asking him to come back. He compared himself to Barry Sanders and said something along the lines of fans don’t care about his health. Let’s call a spade a spade here. Punk probably treats his fans worse than any other WWE superstar on the roster. There are all kinds of reports of Punk being rude to his fans. Punk himself even told fans to stay away from him in a Comic Con Q&A whereas you have a guy like Randy Orton who said on TMZ that he wants fans to know he is approachable. To each their own but he clearly separated CM Punk and Phil Brooks from his fans and when he is outside of the ring he doesn’t want to be bothered, so why should they care about Phil Brooks?

At the end of the day I think it is clear that no matter what anyone wants to think, Punk is not coming back now, next year, or ever. I think it is time for WWE crowds to stop the chants and appreciate the years you had with him. Maybe he changes his mind in a few years but it would appear at this point in time that CM Punk is officially retired and retired for good.

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Top 5 WWE Survivor Series Moments

November 17, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

The WWE will present its 28th edition of the Survivor Series this Sunday. Some of pro wrestling’s most memorable moments have taken place on the WWE’s grand November stage. In celebration of 28 years of Survivor Series I present my top 5 memorable moments in WWE Survivor Series history.

5 – The Gobbledy Gooker…Survivor Series 1990. If you ever want to see the epitome of the crazy, corny, character-driven wrestling of the 80s and early 90s, watch the debut of the Gobbledy Gooker.

The Gookler was hyped for weeks on television. Without the advantage of the Internet, nobody was quite sure what to expect. Mean Gene Okerland hosted the segment which featured a large egg and a rabid crowd. Moments later the Gobbledy Gooker “hatched” from the egg and in a rare moment at the time, the WWF was booed out of the building.

The Gooker was played by Hector Guerrero and has been rarely seen since hatching at Survivor Series. While this is anything far from great, to leave this off of a memorable moment list would be ignorant. The Gobbledy Gooker is a Wrestlecrap.com favorite and even made a return at the gimmick battle royal at WrestleMania 17.

4 – Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin…Survivor Series 1996. This is one of my favorite matches of all-time. This match was historic and memorable on a lot of levels. Number one, it was the biggest match in the WWF at the time for the man who would later go on to carry the company to number one. Second, this was the first match back from a lengthy layoff for the WWF’s top gun of the early 1990s. Third, a bad match or bad reaction may have stifled the rise to the top of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Last this was the first in the series that would take the WWF into the Attitude era.

Steve Austin and Bret Hart tore the house down and arguably stole the show. The feud couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. The story on this night ended with Bret getting the win in a close match. Any other feud would have ended there, but as Austin said in promos building up the match, “Bret it will never end.”

The two would go on to steal the show at Wrestlemania 13 and have arguably the greatest Wrestlemania match of all-time. The moment the two locked up , solidified Steve Austin as a money player and a main-event WWE wrestler. This match meant just as much, if not more to Austin’s career as any other that he ever had.

For Bret, the match was equally huge. Bret left the WWF to pursue acting, in the meantime giving Shawn Michaels the ball to carry. Shawn’s success caused bitterness and jealousy in Bret that motivated him to return to the ring. Bret talked a big game coming back and a let down at Survivor Series against Austin would have turned him into more of a laughing-stock than anything else.

The match exceeded expectations and was the start of the Attitude era. The the intense build up in promos between the two going into the match was on another level of anything that the WWF/WWE had going at the time. A forgotten match by many, but one of the most memorable moments in Survivor Series history was the night Bret Hart returned to Madison Square Garden and answered the challenge of Stone Cold Steve Austin.

3 – The Rock wins his first WWF World title…Survivor Series 1998. The Rock was not the movie sensation, crowd favorite, buyrate-busting superstar that he would later be at Survivor Series 98. However, the writing was on the wall and you would have to be ignorant to miss the ascension of the Rock.

The Survivor Series 1998 featured a tournament to fill the vacated WWF title. The tournament was fantastic and every match was filled with crowd heat and emotion. Steve Austin was the runaway favorite to win the tournament, yet the fans would be swerved and the first chapter in history would be written.

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The Rock had started as a flop, shoved down the fans throats as a babyface when coming into the WWF. Shortly thereafter, he was repackaged and joined the Nation of Domination. This is where the Rock developed the People’s Elbow, the People’s Eyebrow, and his persona. I remember going to a WWE RAW taping in 1998 where the Rock was wrestling the opening dark match of the night.

The Rock was far from a favorite to win the tournament, but wound up stealing the show. The Rock went through Big Boss Man, Ken Shamrock, the Undertaker, and Mick Foley to win the title. The Rock entered the tournament as a favorite but ended the tournament turning on Foley, joining Vince McMahon’s Corporation, and winning his first WWF title. This was truly a coming out party for the man that would arguably become the WWF’s biggest superstar in history.

2 – Hulk Hogan vs. the Undertaker…Survivor Series 1991. Who would have known that since this match the Undertaker would not only last longer in the WWE than Hogan, but go on to become a true wrestling legend.

This match was the first of many big-time matches for Taker and one of the most anticipated matches of Hogan’s peak as champ. Hogan last beat Sgt. Slaughter for the title but the WWF was starting to change. New wrestlers from the NWA were jumping over including Sid Vicious and Ric Flair, fans were tiring of the corny monsters, and Hogan was without a real threat as champion.

Enter Ric Flair and the Undertaker. By all means, this should have been Flair’s win over Hogan. The match was made and a young, athletic Undertaker was bumping all over the place for the elder statesman. The match was going the Hulkster’s way until Ric Flair made his way down the aisle.

Flair would make his presence known by coming down to ringside and trying to steal Hogan’s belt. Hogan was able to fight him off but also had to contend with Paul Bearer. The two man interference was too much for the Hulkster. Flair wound up tossing a steel-chair inside the ring which would be the deciding factor. Undertaker tombstoned Hogan on top of the steel-chair leading to a 1, 2, 3 and winning his first WWF title.

Today, this wouldn’t be a big deal but back then it was a huge deal whenever the world title changed hands. This was only the second time since the pay-per-view boom that the world title changed hands on a show other than a WrestleMania. This was the first time a non-elimination-style match was held on a Survivor Series. This was Hogan’s third title-loss if you don’t count Andre the Giant’s non-sanctioned win on Saturday Night’s Main Event.

This was one night, one match, and a lot of history. The Undertaker was still a new kid on the block yet the new kid shocked the world by beating Hulk Hogan for the WWF title.

1 – Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart…Survivor Series 1997. Fifteen years later, still one of the most talked about matches, angles, and moments in wrestling history is Hart vs. Michaels from Survivor Series 1997 or what is commonly called the Montreal Screwjob. The match is secondary to the story and tale that this legend has grown into since the bell rang that ended the title reign and WWE career of Bret Hart.

The match had been built up theoretically since Shawn Michaels beat Bret Hart for the WWF title at WrestleMania 12. The backstage heat and animosity between the two had become well known in and out of wrestling circles. The two not only loathed each other, but had a well know fight in the locker room which resulted in Shawn Michaels losing clumps of his hair.

The short story behind the scenes is that Vince McMahon told Bret Hart several weeks before the match that he would not be honoring his 20-year contract. Vince allowed Bret, who was his WWF Champion at the time to negotiate and sign a deal with WCW.

Going into the match Vince asked Bret to drop the title to Shawn. Bret refused to do it because the match was in Canada and he considered it an insult to lose on his home turf. Bret agreed to drop the title but had repeated arguments with Vince over the how, when, and to who he would lose the title to. Bret’s obvious hatred for Shawn influenced his decision making for better or worse.

The match itself was good, not great and a far cry in a good way from their forgotten Survivor Series 1992 main-event. The intensity between the two was very good and the atmosphere took the match to another level. The match ended with the supposed “screw job ending.” Michaels had Hart in a sharpshooter, and the referee signaled for the bell even though it was obvious that Hart didn’t give up. Bret was screwed, Shawn was the champ, and one of the most talked about moments in wrestling folklore was born.

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Happy 17th Anniversary WWE Montreal Screwjob

November 09, 2014 By: Category: Videos, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Seventeen years ago today history was made and an entire pro wrestling industry changed forever. Shawn Michaels defeated Bret Hart at WWE Survivor Series 1997 in the most controversial finish of our generation in what is now known as the Montreal Screwjob.

Some people thought that Vince McMahon and the WWE were finished after seeing the way Bret Hart was screwed live on pay per view. Yet ironically a finish as simple as a sharpshooter submission was the catalyst for arguably the biggest boom in WWE and pro wrestling history.

Screwjob finishes weren’t so rare in the early days of pro wrestling. Pro wrestling champions were often picked on their ability to shoot in the ring or handle themselves in these kinds of predicaments. It wasn’t out of character for a territory promoter to go rogue and have their local wrestler attempt to beat the champion and go against the script. What made this one so legendary were the people involved, the soap opera leading up to the match, and the fact that millions of people have been able to watch it.

The issues between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were legendary in and out of the ring at the time. I worked for ECW as a ring announcer at the time and it was pretty common to hear some of the boys who had worked for the WWE (or WWF) talk about Bret vs. Shawn and choose sides. More often than not it was Bret Hart who had the support of his fellow wrestling brothers and sisters. Yet nobody had any idea that the biggest villain in this entire mess was the puppet master himself.

Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels have both talked about their issues publicly for years. The best perspective came in 2011 when both sat down together for a WWE Home Video to talk about what had happened, what led up to it, and why it happened. Both more or less agreed that while the original intent of planting the rumors of outside of the ring heat was to stir up an angle for a WrestleMania rematch, it was their own inability to separate fact from fiction that let this one spiral out of control.

The documentary Wrestling with Shadows gave fans an incredible perspective from Bret Hart’s side after the Survivor Series. The documentary chronicled the weeks leading up to Survivor Series 1997 and the fallout after the match. In a nutshell the documentary portrayed Bret as conflicted over signing a multi-million dollar deal with WCW and the tensions he had with Vince McMahon leading up to his big match.

Of course Shawn and Bret have since written books going into great detail about the legendary night but it was Dave Meltzer in a series of Wrestling Observer newsletters that gave more detail than anyone into the background leading up to Survivor Series. What happened more or less was Vince McMahon making the ultimate pro wrestling promoter mistake by allowing his world champion to sign a contract with a rival promotion while at the same time giving his world champion creative control of how he was booked. It was arguably the biggest mistake in Vince’s tenure as WWF promoter.

Business was not good for the WWE that year and Vince had to make a decision. Vince had given Bret a 20-year contract a year earlier that would roll into Bret working behind the scenes after he retired with the WWE. Vince wanted out of the deal and allowed Bret as champion to see if he could still get a deal with WCW (Bret negotiated with both in 1996 and chose the WWE over the WCW deal). The landscape was different, WCW revenue was up, and Bret landed a deal that Vince couldn’t match. Bret gave notice and this is where everything fell apart.

Vince wanted Bret to drop the title to Shawn at Survivor Series 1997. Bret used his creative control and refused. Bret has since said that the only reason he said “no” was because Shawn told him that he wouldn’t put him over. Bret offered several alternatives including dropping the title to Ken Shamrock in the United States. Vince insisted on Shawn which Bret refused. Bret also was stern on not dropping the title in Canada. The resolution was that everyone agreed on a DQ finish in Montreal and that Bret would relinquish the WWE title to Vince McMahon on RAW the next day, which included Bret giving some kind of a shoot interview on RAW explaining his heel actions and praising Vince.

Vince was still on the fence, influenced most notably by the night Alundra Blaze showed up on WCW Nitro and dropped the WWE women’s title in a trash can. Eric Bischoff has said numerous times that he would never had done that with Bret, specifically citing legal issues between WWE and WCW. Bret has also said numerous times that he never would have allowed it. Yet it was a phone conversation between Vince, Shawn, and Triple H that changed Vince’s mind on the DQ finish. Triple H has taken credit in as being the one to speak up and protest the idea of Bret leaving as WWE champion. The plan was apparently put in place to set Bret up in a Sharpshooter, ring the bell, and change the championship on Vince’s terms. This is how Meltzer described the planned finish in the November 17, 1997 edition of the Wrestling Observer.

As they were putting their spots together, Patterson came in. He had a suggestion for a high spot in the match as a false finish. There would be a referee bump. Michaels would put Hart in his own sharpshooter. Hart would reverse the hold. Hebner would still be down at this point and not see Michaels tap out. Hart would release the hold to revive Hebner. Michaels would hit him when he turned around with the sweet chin music. A second ref, Mike Ciota, would haul ass to the ring and begin the count. A few paces behind, Owen Hart and Smith, and possibly Neidhart as well, would run down to the ring. Ciota would count 1-2, and whomever got to the ring first, likely Owen, would drag Ciota out of the ring. While they think they’ve saved the day on the pin on Bret, suddenly Hebner would recover, 1-2, and Bret would kick out. That would set the pace for about five more minutes of near falls before it would end up in a disqualification ending. Before the show started, both Vader, with his Japanese experience, and Smith, told Hart to watch himself. He was warned not to lay down and not to allow himself to be put in a compromising position. He was told to kick out at one, not two, and not to allow himself into any submission holds. Hart recognized the possibility of the situation, but his thoughts regarding a double-cross were more along with lines of always protecting himself in case Michaels tried to hit him with a sucker punch when he left himself open. The idea that being put in a submission or one of the near falls while working spots would be dangerous for him would be something to worry about normally, but he put it out of his mind because he had Hebner in the ring as the referee.

We all know what happened from there. The November 9 match was fascinating to watch as the problems between Bret and Shawn outside of the ring were legendary. Would Bret hit Shawn? How would they work together? Surprisingly to some, they worked together like pros. It was more of a brawl early on than a match but it worked. The memorable finish came when Bret climbed to the top rope to come down on Shawn, but Michaels pulled Earl Hebner in the way who took Bret’s double sledge. Michaels looked at McMahon who was at ringside and put Bret in the sharpshooter as planned. In the famous final seconds Mike Ciota ran in as Hebner was down, Hebner got up, Shawn locked in the hold, gave Bret his leg for the reverse, and Hebner quickly looked at the timekeeper and screamed “ring the bell!” Vince elbowed the timekeeper and screamed “ring the f***king bell!” The bell rang and it was all over.

The aftermath is as legendary as the sharpshooter itself. Bret spit directly at Vince McMahon in the face. Bret then went on the warpath and destroyed WWE monitors. Bret finger painted “WCW” in the air to all four corners of the ring. In the dressing room he confronted Michaels who pleaded ignorance, obviously lying to his face. According to several reports it was The Undertaker who demanded that Vince McMahon that he needed to apologize to Bret. Now in the Wrestling with Shadows Vince is shown entering Bret’s dressing room but the cameras were not allowed in. This is reportedly where Bret told Vince to leave or he was going to punch him, in addition to calling him a liar. Reportedly Bret finished getting dressed and a scuffle broke out which saw Bret drop Vince with a punch to the jaw. Shane McMahon reportedly jumped on Bret’s back at which point Davey Boy Smith pulled Shane off and hyperextended his knee in the process. Bret reportedly asked Vince if he was going to screw him on money at which point Vince said no. The documentary cameras then caught Vince groggily walking out of the dressing room.

Now there have been skeptics in the business that have for years doubted that this was indeed a screwjob at all. I have talked to at least a handful of wrestlers that have sworn the whole thing was a big work between everyone. The only piece of evidence that always had me doubting the validity of all of this was the punch. The documentary cameras caught everything but the punch, which to me is the most pivotal moment in the story. I always doubted whether this punch really took place because if it didn’t, this whole thing was a sham. Fifteen years later these guys have all done a great job of convincing me that this was all real but I have always been skeptical of why everything was on tape but the punch.

To show my ignorance at the time, I presumed that Vince McMahon was done at this point. “Who could ever trust that guy again?” I remember having a telephone conversation with Chris Jericho a few days after the incident. Jericho was on the verge of becoming a free agent in a little over a year. I asked that same question to Chris who explained to me that it would become irrelevant when it comes to guys negotiating deals. Now this was at a time where it was rumored that Chris already had some kind of working deal in place with the WWE down the line. Coming from a guy who was a close friend of the Hart family really opened up my eyes at the big picture.

The fallout from this was ironically great for everyone involved. The WWE didn’t run away from this story, they embraced it. The story became the catalyst for the Vince McMahon heel character which some would say was the greatest drawing heel in pro wrestling history. That heel character became the villain in the biggest feud in WWE history between Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. The story turned business around and would eventually put WCW out of business and launch the Attitude Era into full motion.

Bret wound up going to WCW and earning millions of dollars over the next couple of years. Bret also participated in a spinoff angle at Starrcade 1997 involving Hulk Hogan and Sting. Bret’s career in WCW was never what it was in the WWE but at his age, but it was the money that was the biggest coup. Unfortunately Bret suffered several tragedies outside of the ring which have been thoroughly documented. I always thought that Bret would return to the WWE when his WCW deal was up, wrestle Shawn Michaels, and draw the biggest WrestleMania buyrate in history. It was never to be.

Shawn Michaels had a great career and was never impacted at all by that infamous night. In fact, Shawn returned to the ring after a lengthy layoff and became one of the most popular WWE stars during his final run. New fans had no idea about the Montreal Screwjob or seemed to care about the villainous act Shawn Michaels portrayed in 1997. Even brief references to that night weren’t enough to damage the enormous fan support Shawn gained over the years.

Bret Hart eventually returned to the WWE as a performer in 2010. Bret returned earlier to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame but it was a one-night appearance. Bret signed on to return at the start of a TNA-WWE Monday Night War which lasted only a matter of weeks. Bret made peace with Shawn on his first night back but would eventually wrestle Vince McMahon at WrestleMania. For a number of reasons, the match never lived up to the hype. A goofy car accident angle leading up to the match certainly didn’t help. Bret wrestled a few more matches and actually won the U.S. title. Bret continues to pop up from time to time and is in the process of working with the WWE on launching a new DVD.

Who was right and who was wrong? It is really tough to say. For me, I always thought that Vince McMahon as the promoter had the right to do what he thought he needed to do for business. His biggest mistake was allowing a guy with creative control to win his WWE title and freely negotiate as champion. Many have come out and criticized Bret Hart as taking his role as a pro wrestling champion too seriously, citing that wrestling is a work anyway. I have always felt that Bret bordered on just being overall obnoxious about this over the years and failed to take responsibility for his part in it. Bret’s father was a promoter and should have understood more than anyone that Vince had the right to do what he felt he needed to do with his championship. At the same time he was savvy enough to negotiate creative control so it was in his right to exercise it.

Regardless of who was right and who was wrong, everyone came away as winners after the Survivor Series. At the end of the day pro wrestling is a business and if the idea of business is to make the most money, than everyone involved capitalized on the controversy. Many have tried to script finishes to play off of the Survivor Series but the authenticity of that infamous night in Montreal is virtually impossible to duplicate which is why that we probably won’t see a finish as legendary as this in our lifetime.

Happy 17th anniversary Montreal Screwjob. You changed the business forever!

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Vince McMahon’s WWE Return Could Lead To WrestleMania Angle

November 06, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Vince McMahon returned to WWE television for the first time in months and it was a welcomed surprise. While it appeared that McMahon came back to set up the Survivor Series main-event, many are speculating that this was all the start of a long road to WrestleMania 31.

McMahon came back seemingly out of the blue on Monday Night RAW as part of the angle to set up the Authority’s team vs. Team Cena at Survivor Series. Vinnie Mac didn’t stick around long as he left after a vignette with Stephanie and Triple H. Stephanie and Triple H were excited to see him go and the dynamic is leading some to think that there are much bigger plans here than a Survivor Series headliner.

The timing is what has people talking. At the very same time last year, Vince was booked to return to television. He was advertised as appearing on the television events and yet never appeared. Vince was set to take center stage in a huge WrestleMania 30 angle. The angle would have played out with Triple H and Stephanie fighting Vince for control of the company (an original angle of course). The story would have peaked at WrestleMania with a match between Triple H and either Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Rock. For whatever reason, the angle was scrapped and McMahon never made those appearances. Are we about to see this angle delayed?

One thing is for sure. If we are seeing the angle, we aren’t going to see it peak with a match between Austin and Hunter at Mania. Austin has made it clear that while he is open to the idea of coming back for one more match, it won’t be in California. Austin said recently on his podcast that his schedule would prohibit him to train properly for a return this spring. Enter The Rock!

Was it coincidence, a cute vignette, or the start of something big when The Rock and Triple H issued WrestleMania challenges back and forth on SmackDown 15? My takeaway from that skit was that the two were laying the groundwork for a match at WrestleMania 32. They clearly made it a point to mention stadium and attendance and that seemed more in line with the goals of 32 than 31. At the same time, many others observed that they were setting up a match at 31. It looks like I may be wrong…again.

As for the angle, it sounds like I am reading a booking sheet for a RAW in 2002. I am sorry, this whole heel authority angle has been so played out that none of these stories get me excited anymore. Logically, it makes zero sense in the WWE from a continuity standpoint since you had the board remove Vince and Hunter a couple of years back for bad behavior, but that was a different lifecycle. Also, I find it hard pressed that fans are really going to be sympathetic to Vince McMahon in his fight for his company.

I also can’t think of a bigger waste of money than booking The Rock against Triple H. I am not opposed to seeing that match again but when you have such limited dates on The Rock, I’d think you can make better use of his drawing power against a newcomer like Rusev or a big-match situation like Brock Lesnar. Seeing The Rock fight for Vince McMahon against Triple H is probably the last idea I’d have on my list of booking plans for Dwayne Johnson.

Unfortunately it looks like this angle is coming and there is nothing we can do about it. The positive is that we will probably get a lot of fun Rock interviews come this spring. The downside is that we will be bored to death with a McMahon vs. Authority feud before we get there.

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Vince Russo Is Right For Once

November 05, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

When I’d read that Vince Russo had written an open letter to Vince McMahon regarding the booking of this past Monday’s Raw, I braced myself.

For as much I tire of Michael Cole’s portrayal of RoboShill, the lifeless entity that invariably says whatever Vince McMahon is thinking at that moment, as well as the begging for Network pledges (we don’t even get a tote bag?) and rehashed matches, I sense it could be worse with Russo holding the pen. For instance, the Big Show-Mark Henry insta-feud could end with a miscarriage.

To be clear, Russo isn’t the worst booker that ever lived. Whatever hand he had in cultivating WWE in 1997-98, when guided by a steady hand, it worked well. His 1999 run with the company, while successful financially and still wildly popular, started drowning in its own excess (Higher Power, poorly booked Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, and King of the Ring, et al). The bloom was off the rose in WCW, without the reining of his superiors, and it showed.

Still, if Russo is nothing else, he does seem like a man that just honestly wants to help. Granted, if I were a choking victim, his idea of the Heimlich might be to bury an ax into my chest, but still, he had the best intentions. That, to me, sums Russo up: he’s not perfect, but he puts his best foot forward, however fractured it is.

In his well-intentioned missive to McMahon (which I’m sure will be taken under the same amount of consideration as fan cries for a Zack Ryder push), Russo highlighted which segments of the show he felt were successful, and which weren’t. In the positive column, Russo listed two matches, both of which involved Seth Rollins: the Intercontinental Title match with a suddenly-appropriately-used Dolph Ziggler, and the blow-off-some-steam match with Randy Orton.

I do agree, both Rollins matches were enjoyable, as much as they are an extension of the man involved. Ziggler’s tremendous and Orton can have a great match with a capable opponent, but Rollins never has a bad bout, does he? His natural sliminess (he’s a surprising conductor of heel heat in spite of his Ring of Honor heritage) and world-class in-ring acumen could make him this generation’s Eddie Guerrero if his promos weren’t so cue-card-clipped.

But I digress; Russo heaped love on the two Rollins matches, along with the opening bit where Vince McMahon upped the ante for Survivor Series, as well as Ziggler’s repartee with The Authority, and Damien Sandow’s antics. He did, however, levy one nitpicking criticism of the Rollins matches, which many would disagree with. He said, summing up his positive picks:

“Now, even though I don’t believe in any match going more than one segment (that’s just my opinion), I would consider these seven segments in the POSITIVE COLUMN.”

Go figure that the man who popularized the two-minute match with seven or eight guys running interference would take umbrage with matches running more than ten minutes on his TV show. Russo probably wondered where the ref bump and blood bath were when Ryback was squashing Titus O’Neil.

In this case, playing Devil’s Advocate on Russo’s behalf isn’t that hard for me, because he’s actually making a point that I’ve believed for quite some time: Raw has too many long matches.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lengthier match, but in certain contexts. A PPV bout that’s been built well could sustain me for 15 or more minutes. A battle of the icons at WrestleMania with a million false finishes is great. An indy match with two fine mat technicians busting their ass for a half hour can be highly engaging. In those contexts, I appreciate the longer match. Even the once-in-a-blue-moon Raw classic (Cena vs. Punk, February 2013, for one) is welcome.

But on Raw every week? A three hour show with lots of company back-patting, Smackdown rematches, and enough filler to stuff a school cafeteria hot dog really doesn’t have the platform to give us 15 minute matches, especially when they rarely solve anything.

I’ll read reviews of Raw episodes in which the writer insists (probably correctly) that Ziggler and the Usos had a ***1/2 match with Cesaro and the Brothers Dust, because it went 15 minutes and was enjoyable throughout. That’s great and all, but why wasn’t it on PPV? One of the biggest reasons the PPV market diminished so much before the Network’s advent was that the events rarely offered anything new, other than the odd Brock Lesnar or Undertaker match that you can’t get on free TV.

The Usos and Brothers Dust faced off on Raw; why spend $54.95 on it? No wonder the announcers basically call their viewers dumbasses if they actually ordered the PPV from their cable provider: for (say it with me) nine-ninety-nine, you get the match PLUS every single WrestleMania ever.

Besides, there’s so few fresh match-ups involving wrestlers that they’re willing to allot 15 minutes for that Raw itself becomes stale. Orton, Ziggler, Rollins, Cena, Cesaro, and so forth, they’ve all faced each other countless times. There’s rarely a story that gets paid off because they want you to order the PPV/subscribe to the Network, and free TV is merely a red herring to satisfaction. Oh yes, the workrate is great, but where’s the payoff?

Repeat Match Hell aside, it detracts from the story element of Raw, where characters and arcs are shaped. At three hours, there should be better defined players than what’s there. Credit where it’s due, the likes of Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Rusev, Bray Wyatt, and even The Miz and Damien Sandow either have a well-defined role or straightforward consistency. Most others are either stale or playing a one-note act (Rusev is fine until he’s beaten). With 180 minutes plus overtime to ‘tell stories’, you have more space to fill in the blanks, but also so much time that you run out of ideas. Then you get guys like Cena, Orton, and the like who are stretched so thin, you can slide them under a door.

We’re not getting a two-hour show anytime soon, but Raw needs to manage its three hours better. Russo gets this one right, indirectly: longer matches on Raw are only watering down the potency of the stars.

You know what they say about broken clocks.

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