Subscribe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

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

WrestleMania XXVI: Somehow, Some Way, I Made It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

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

WrestleMania XXVI: A Portrait in Wrestling History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only in WWE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But for both men, WrestleMania XXVI was about closure.

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

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

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

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

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

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

WrestleMania 30: Following Vince McMahon’s Ebb and Flow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection DVD

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

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

WrestleMania XXIII: Cram It, Cena Haters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-However, there’s a problem.

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

-Wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Austin stuns Trump. Hey, crowd liked that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Bring us home, Saliva! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!

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

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

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

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

WrestleMania XXIII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

I guess the answer’s up to you.

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

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

WrestleMania XXII: Oh Cena, You’re So Gangster

March 29, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-Imagine my delight when I discovered that Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” was the primary theme for this show. It’s cheesy, it’s campy, it reeks of the eighties, and thus it conjures up many great memories of my youth watching wrestling. It’s the perfect little ditty to get myself into the wrestling spirit, especially an event as grand as WrestleMania.

-And so it was, the 22nd version of WrestleMania, taking place at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, IL, on April 2, 2006. For the fourth straight (and final) year, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handled Raw and Michael Cole and Tazz did Smackdown, crossing over for one match. In two months, there’d be a third child born in the Brand family, although it’d be dead before age 4. But the kid was an outmoded concept anyway, so no need to shed tears.

-Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child sings the National Anthem. If Destiny’s Child was Legacy, she’s definitely not the Randy Orton of the trio.

-The show kicks off with the Show. Big Show, that is, as he and Kane defend their World Tag Team Titles against Carlito and Chris Masters. Laugh all you want, but three of these men were in the same World Title match just three months before at New Year’s Revolution. No, I don’t need to put the hash pipe down, this actually happened.

-Question: Why does JR always compare Big Show’s hands to skillets whenever he lands a chop? My guess is that he can hold six egg yolks and six sausage links in one of his mitts. He’s probably seen it, too.

-Since the only worker of the four I really like is Carlito, I had low expectations going in, but it’s actually a fun match. Kane lands a nice diving clothesline to the floor on Carved Apples and the crowd seems to be enjoying themselves. Really, that’s all that matters.

-Show lands a nice double suplex on the heels. I think Carlito and Masters would be great bumbling henchmen in some WWE film. They fit the bill, I think.

-Finally, after a miscue, Kane takes out Carlito with a chokeslam to retain the titles. Fun enough opener to set the pace for the card, even though it’s not a match I particularly get excited about seeing over and over. But for what it was, it was a welcome opener.

-Shawn Michaels assures us that tonight will not be a classic match when he faces Vince McMahon. So his match in 1993 with Mr. Perfect was a guaranteed five stars, but his match with Vince tonight isn’t. Using the law of opposites, that means tonight’s match will be the greatest match ever. I’m excited.

-Next is the second annual Money in the Bank ladder match, and this time it’s an interbrand affair, with Shelton Benjamin, Rob Van Dam, and Ric Flair for Raw, and Matt Hardy, Bobby Lashley, and Finlay for Smackdown. So, in other words, it’ll be 50% spotty.

-As per usual, we get the “dive parade”, which is just two dives this year: An RVD diving cross body, and a Benjamin leap off of the ladder ramp. Must have been a low budget this year for percocets.

-Hardy superplexes Flair off of the ladder and Flair suffers an “injury” to his leg, which actually looked legit this time. Although when the referee does an over exaggerated “X” signal with his arms, it kinda hurts the effect.

-Let’s face it, Lashley just wasn’t ‘ready’ yet. The tentative look on his face every time he climbs the ladder resembles a man who fears that one of the rungs has a land mine full of hydrochloric acid. Though being a burn victim would give him his first layer of character interest ever. Though the three man powerbomb spot off the ladder was nice.

-Speaking of ‘let’s face it’, this match was not in Ric Flair’s wheelhouse. He returns and the most interesting thing he can do is throw chops. A shillelagh from Finlay ends his night. Remember when Flair was an iconic main-eventer? I ask that question now.

-After RVD lands a Five Star on Finlay, he begins to climb, but Benjamin tops his own insane ingenuity by springboarding onto the opposite side of the ladder in a spot that has to be seen to be appreciated. Hardy climbs an additional ladder next to RVD and Shelton’s, but Benjamin steps over to repel him. That’s the final undoing, as RVD kicks it over to send both men crashing to the floor, and RVD snags the briefcase to earn a World Title match. Solid match with some great spots, but not quite up to last year’s standard. I was definitely pleased to see RVD win, though my Spidey sense figured he’d somehow blow it. I was half right.

-Meanwhile, Randy Orton scares Mean Gene off, and an injured Batista talks down on Orton. Remember when Batista getting a long term injury was a new concept? Was this really just four years ago?

-Howard Finkel (#22) introduces the Hall of Famers: Bret Hart (not here), Mean Gene Okerlund, Sensational Sherri, Tony Atlas, Verne Gagne, William Perry, The Blackjacks, and Eddie Guerrero, who is represented by Chavo and Vickie. Vickie actually looked elegant here, and this was well before her character run, so the fans are happy to see her. I feel worse for nobody in this business than Vickie Guerrero.

-Chris Benoit defends the United States title next against JBL, who makes his entrance until the steel ramp. At this point JBL had Jillian Hall with him, who was his “image consultant”. How far gone must you be as an image consultant that you develop a hopeless need to become a pop singer? Of course, she’s consulting a man who went from cowboy to drunken bodyguard to Wall Street guru, so anything’s possible in WWE lore.

-The most annoying part about this match is that JBL continuously has to resort to using Eddie Guerrero’s mannerisms to draw heat from the crowd. Here’s the thing: we know that it’s fake. We know JBL liked Guerrero. Guerrero’s death is a sore point for a lot of fans. What these acts say is that you can’t find a better way to draw heat for this match. It’s a testament that there wasn’t a bigger uproar about this match, which shows that a lot of people tuned out the antics. I say good.

-Decent enough match, but every time JBL gains control, he’s doing the Guerrero shimmy or trying to rip off the Three Amigos. God, enough already.

-Finally, Benoit latches on with the Crossface, but JBL rolls through and grabs the ropes for the cheap win and the US Title. Well, I guess that means that JBL’s smarter than HHH. Decent match, but enough to leave a sour taste in your match. Sadly, JBL isn’t even the most deplorable man in the match.

-Since Joey Styles did his homework and ate his vegetables, he gets to do commentary on the forthcoming hardcore match between Edge and Mick Foley. We need an arbitrator to determine once and for all the intricate differences between a hardcore match, a street fight, an extreme rules match, and a no holds barred match. You know, just to have it written down somewhere.

-The match begins with a tribute to hardcore matches circa 1999 with cookie sheets and road signs. All we’re missing are run-ins from Test and The Mean Street Posse.

-However, we up the CVQ (Creative Violence Quotient) when Edge tries to spear Foley, only to come away in serious pain, as it’s revealed that Foley has wrapped himself in barbed wire! And to think, Vince could have saved on Foley’s appearance fee and hired some moronic backyarder to do it for free.

-As Foley gets Barbie (his barbed wire bat), Lita jumps on his back, and it leads to all three individuals tumbling over the top rope. That would be a nifty Royal Rumble elimination.

-Ah, there’s a classic: Edge grabbing Foley by the hair and bouncing his skull off the entrance ramp. Oddly enough, I think it was Triple H who brought that to prominence in WWE by doing it to Mick. Yes, I’ll give Satan credit sometimes.

-Edge pours lighter fluid all over Mick Foley. I’m pretty sure that was in day six of Tony Condello’s camp. Then Foley fights back and hits a piledriver, getting two. You know what’s sad? Piledrivers are banned in WWE due to the neck injuries, and Foley does one and I’m stunned….just minutes after the man had LIGHTER FLUID doused on him. I’ve watched wrestling WAY too long.

-Edge does a number on Mick with the baseball bat, and then gets the magical bag of thumbtacks. Meanwhile, Joey Styles acts aghast, like he’s seen none of this before, and he called every Tommy Dreamer match from 1993 to 2001. Was Joey blinded by a particle beam thingie moments after he signed his WWE contract?

-Edge, in a cruel twist of irony, not unlike rain on one’s wedding day, is the one who lands on the tacks. Then Foley wraps Socko in barbed wire, because he’s completely insane, and shoves it into Edge’s mouth. Then Lita tries to interfere, so he shoves it into HER mouth. Great, now Lita’s going to have sores all around her lips. Er, new ones.

-But this just leads to the coup de gras (coup disgrace?) as the table at ringside is set on fire and Edge spears Foley off the apron, through the ropes, with both men landing in the giant fireball. Edge covers Foley for the win, because only two men could kick out of that: No one, and Stu Hart (Ehhhhya fire ain’t got ter uh nuttin on me, ya bum). Oh. My. God. That was absolutely crazy. Edge and Foley can barely move, and Edge is twitching, looking like Beavis after a stunt gone wrong. One helluva match that helped solidify Edge as a player, but that’s some cost. Foley does it again, making a new star.

-Meanwhile, Goldust takes the opportunity to freak Booker T out one last time. I don’t ask for much.

-The best way to describe the next match between The Boogeyman taking on Booker T and Sharmell is this: I would rather have sex on my back on a vibrating bed of nails than to try and comprehend the booking. Sharmell runs off, and Booker eats the Boogeyslam to give the Pit dweller the win. Yep, bed of nails, bring it on.

-And now, the greatest feud of all time, as Mickie James’ obsession with WWE Women’s Champion Trish Stratus led to a title match at WrestleMania. The feud was wrought with so many lesbianonic overtones that I’d love to show this to Linda McMahon’s male detractors. Because they’d probably end up supporting her. It’s THAT AWESOME.

-The crowd is 90% behind Mickie, who was the heel. Hey, if there’s one thing that’ll make the fans sympathize with you, it’s when Trish spurns your advances. How dare Trish, that hussy! Look, you can see her roots!

-Mickie works the knee and we get a “LET’S GO MICKIE” chant. I wholeheartedly concur.

-After Mickie dominates (and nearly drives all of Chicago to a flood-creating smarkgasm), Trish takes over and manages a headscissors. The crowd boos. How could WWE surprised? When you have a crazed lesbian in a revealing top and loose skirt, she could be fighting a 10 year old with leukemia and that kid is going to be the villain, whether his sickly bloodstream likes it or not.

-Mickie blocks the Stratusphere by dropping Trish’s injured leg across the ropes and then lets out a guttural scream to a huge pop. This is like watching a hybrid of “Carrie” and a women’s prison flick.

-Trish attempts Stratusfaction, and then, we get my favorite part in wrestling history as Mickie grabs—wait, what the Hell? Why did they edit that off the DVD? Hang on.

-(At this point in the story, Justin drove to his brother Josh’s house, since he has the original tape of the event. Justin knocked on his door at 8:45 at night, uninvited, with his foot. Josh answered and Justin, perfectionist that he is, bloodcurdlingly screamed for Josh to put in his copy so that they could watch a mere 15 second clip. Josh was unamused, but did as he was told. Finally, after rewatching the clip 57 times to make sure they understood the relevance, Justin thanked his brother and drove home.)

-So yeah, Mickie grabs Trish’s nether regions to break the hold, and then licks her fingers in a V-shape to indicate something naughty. God, these cushions are sticky….

-After a botched Stratusfaction by Mickie, she finishes off Trish with a weird looking Chick Kick to win the Women’s Title. You know the crowd wants to jump your bones when they ignore the blown spots in the ending just to cheer like crazy. Fun match, although certainly not PG. Not that I care.

-Vince McMahon, with enough spray-on tan to win the George Hamilton lookalike contest, leads the McMahons in a prayer for Shawn Michaels. There’s just something oddly amusing about Linda as a heel.

-Up next, we get a casket match where Undertaker puts his streak on the line again….my cousin, Mark Henry. Asking “Who will win at WrestleMania between Undertaker and Mark Henry?” is a lot like asking “What will happen when it rains, you get wet or a safe falls on your head?”.

-DRUIDS!

-It’s your typical hossfest for Taker, who has to slow down his generally amiable style just so Henry can keep up. A lot of clotheslines and a lot of clubbing down. I never understood Henry’s appeal, other than the fact that he was a former Olympian, and can possibly generate positive press. In WWE, he’s just been a fat and lazy mook who had about 3 combined months in 14 years where he was interesting. I think it’s time to cut the cord on him.

-Usually, when you face Undertaker in a casket match, one of two things is implied: either it’s a major storyline and the casket gimmick is a way for Taker to lose with a ton of interference to keep him strong, or it means that the only way Taker’s opponent can build heat is have the casket lid opened and try to stuff Taker in. Guess which category Henry falls in?

-Punch. Kick. Headbutt. Punch. Splash. Club. Kick. Punch. Good to see Mark Henry is a proficient follower of Dance Dance Revolution: Andre the Giant edition.

-Just to add a little bit of life to the match, Undertaker hits his super dive onto Henry. If this match was a conveyer belt at a pickle factory, you saw about 200 mundane jars of pickles before getting one with a bag of really awesome fireworks in it. That’ll catch your eye everytime.

-Taker manages to get Henry up for a Tombstone, and then rolls him into the casket to end it. Wasn’t terrible, but I wouldn’t call it good either. If the streak was full of Batman villains, Mark Henry is definitely The Puzzler. I’m puzzled as to why he got a match with The Dead Man in the first place. Let’s just move on.

-Highlights of the Shawn Michaels-Vince McMahon saga. Get ready, kids. Vince is going to bleed and get beaten up for the amusement of all. Frankly, I’m excited.

-Indeed, one of the first moments out of the gate is Shawn smashing Vince with a portrait sized picture of Vince’s Muscle and Fitness cover that was at ringside for some reason. You just don’t get these moments in UFC.

-For a bonus, Shawn beats the crap out of the Spirit Squad, including a young and relatively unknown Dolph Ziggler. Shawn lays them all out, which anoints him for sainthood next to Mickie James for her performance earlier tonight.

-Vince mounts a comeback and chokes Shawn with his belt, and this leads to an attempt at Sweet Vin Music, but Shawn catches the boot and goes back to annihilating the boss. As he gets ready for Sweet Chin Music, son Shane arrives on the scene and whacks HBK with a kendo stick. Just for fun, they go to induct Shawn into the Kiss My Ass Club again, but Shawn shoves Shane’s face into his own father’s sphincter. I’m enjoying myself far too much.

-Shawn cuffs Shane to the ropes and then mocks his Shane-O-Mac dance before beating him senseless with the kendo stick. Shawn Michaels is once again my favorite wrestler ever and, if he retires after WM26, there’s still no topping his legacy. Hell, how can he even top HIMSELF?

-How about bashing Vince’s head in with a chair? Because he just did that.

-So the story is that Shawn keeps teasing a finish with the SCM, but opts not to, instead placing a trash can over Vince’s head, laying him on a table, and then climbing a 12-15 foot ladder (or 35 feet if you’re Tazz), and then dropping the big elbow off of it. At this point, Vince’s head looks like someone poured a bucket of Dutch Boy Red #4 on him. This is awesome.

-Shawn pulls Vince up and yells at him before hitting the Chin Music for the win. In terms of an actual match, it was nothing. As an absolutely comedic AND horrific beating, it was awesome. Just as awesome is Vince giving Shawn the finger from the stretcher as he’s taken away. I hereby dub this “the worst five star match ever”. Just good times.

-World Heavyweight Title recap. Rey Mysterio’s first legit chance to become a World Champion and it was marred by the ridiculous exploitation of Eddie Guerrero’s death. Sigh, let’s just get this over with.

-POD plays Mysterio out, and Rey decides to dress like a tropical hawk. Yep.

-Kurt Angle defends the World Heavyweight Title against Randy Orton and Kurt Angle. Did I mention that Rey, whom all the crowd sympathy was shuffled behind, isn’t even the hero here, as the in-the-know fans have rallied behind Angle, who ISN’T exploiting a dead guy? True stuff.

-Spoiling the ending a bit, this match was only nine minutes long. With three participants, there’s not enough time for Rey to tell his story of his quest to win one for his friend. Why not just have Orton beat Angle for the title, then do Angle-Taker II, have Rey beat Orton here, and have Mark Henry sit home and order Dominos? Who loses?

-Rey tries for a 619 on Angle, but Kurt gets the ankle lock and the crowd cheers. See what I mean?

-Angle gets Rey with the Angle Slam over the top and then locks Orton in the ankle lock. This is all well and good….if they were trying to turn Kurt into a machine again, but the POINT was Rey’s quest. Remember that?

-Orton gets Angle with the RKO, but can only get 2. Then, just to turn this into a bigger train wreck, Rey blows a 619 around the post. Way to rise to the occasion, Rey Rey.

-After Angle is arm dragged to the floor, Rey gets Orton with the 619 and Dime Drop to win his only World Title to date. If that match was any more rushed, it would have collided with Dagwood Bumstead’s mailman on the door step. Rey celebrates with Vickie and Chavo, and my lone consolation is that Mysterio got the big prize for his years of hard work. It’s a shame it was clouded by the garbage. Decent match, but yeah, rushed.

-Cena and HHH are seen warming up, and JR tries to convince us all that Cena’s going to get booed tonight because he’s controversial. Yeah, and Chicago fans cheer the Cubs because they’re convinced they’re going to win it all one day. Oh wait, they really believe that?

-Another waste of time match, as Torrie Wilson wins a Playboy Pillow Fight over Candice Michelle, wherein the loser was doomed to receive 12 catastrophic injuries over the next three years. Then for fun, Torrie rubs her dog’s butt on Candice’s face. I think Torrie has issues.

-Main event time. Hoo boy, get ready for this one.

-Triple H enters first, via through the stage, on a throne, dressed as Conan the Barbarian. Around this time period, a list of WWE wrestler salaries and perks was leaked to the net, and one of Hunter’s perks was that he got 10 free uses of the corporate jet per year. My brother and I theorize that he took ELEVEN trips, thus sending Vince over the edge and making him wear this outfit as punishment. There’s no other possible explanation.

-To top that, a video about Al Capone and various Chicago thugs plays to precede Cena’s entrance. Then out comes a thirties style car, complete with various OVW guys dressed as gangsters on it, including….CM PUNK! Wait….Punk’s fighting AGAINST prohibition? Punk, what the hell! YOU CAN BE SAVED!

-Then Cena comes out dressed in a trenchcoat and fires off a gun to the loudest booing I’ve EVER heard. Seriously, I cackle everytime I see this. Vince is the first aid room, getting stitched up with his fingers in his ears, going LA LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU.

-Remember, Cena’s controversial, and the fans don’t like controversial people. Which is why they cheered Al Capone when he showed up in the video. Good one, JR. WWE Title’s on the line, so let’s enjoy the insanity.

-HHH outwrestles Cena in the early going. Hey look, the crowd’s chanting Cena’s finisher name, only they’re not saying the initials, they’re saying….well, nevermind what they’re saying.

-Cena gets a chinlock, and then out comes the “YOU CAN’T WRESTLE” chant. I’m sure Cena’s crying himself to sleep at night over that one. Unless that big pile of money he has keeps him awake at all hours.

-The fight spills outside and Cena backdrops Hunter onto the ramp, but screw it, the wrestling is not the story here. This is one of the most fascinating crowds I’ve seen in ages. This isn’t like Hogan/Rock where Toronto was caught up in the nostalgia of Hulk’s comeback, but this is just sheep mentality of booing a guy because they don’t like how he’s booked. And yet, the Allstate Arena will still sell out for PPV’s and Raw, even with Cena there today. Funny.

-The match is good, but unspectacular for a main event. The story is that HHH planned to outwrestle the decidedly showy Cena, and that Cena had to prove capable of outwrestling the cerebral assassin. Between the elementary story and the far gone crowd, this was too weird to be the main event. But hey, at least no dead bodies were exploited.

-After a ref bump, HHH manages to introduce a sledgehammer and nails Cena in the gut, which delights the fans. Cena should’ve brought Steve Bartman out as his cornerman.

-After HHH kicks out of the FU, the challenger tries the Pedigree, and is taken down into the STFU for the shocking submission loss. As I mentioned, it was a pretty basic back and forth match, but the crowd made it seem more grand than it really was. It’s a fun atmosphere, and I love how Cena just takes it all in stride.

-Shinedown and Peter Gabriel play us out. Brent Smith couldn’t wax Peter’s jock.

-CYNIC SAYS: There’s a whole lot of good on this show. Both World Titles matches, Money in the Bank, the hardcore match, women’s title match, and Shawn vs. Vince were all quality affairs in their own right. Everything not mentioned was not mentioned for one reason or another, either because it was too bland or it just outright sucked. But hey, every WrestleMania has a blemish or three. No harm, no foul.

It’s a forgotten classic because, other than Edge vs. Foley, it didn’t have the blowaway match of the year candidate. As it stands though, it’s a great show overall. Big Time indeed.

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

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

WrestleMania XXII: A Portrait in Wrestling History

March 29, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XXII
From The All-State Arena in Chicago, IL
April 2, 2006

BACKGROUND
A scant fourteen hours before he would have won the World Heavyweight Championship from Batista at a rare Sunday SmackDown taping, Eddie Guerrero was found dead in a Minnesota hotel room at the age of 38.

Despite beating the alcoholism that plagued much of his life four years ago, Guerrero’s weakened circulatory system, a body worn down by the rigors of the ring, and a life numbed by drugs, both prescription and elicit, all came back to haunt him at a time when his diligence and courage were heralded as one of wrestling’s greatest fairy tales.

Guerrero’s death was a blow to not only his family, friends, and fans across the globe, but to WWE itself. Guerrero’s rise to the main event scene in World Wrestling Entertainment wasn’t just a reward for cleaning up his life. Statistics showed that Smackdown’s TV ratings were ballooning, heavily so in Latin markets. With Guerrero, his nephew Chavo, and the dynamic Rey Mysterio, Smackdown was able to cater to the fastest growing ethic demographic in the United States.

It was Guerrero’s natural charisma, however, coupled with his silky-smooth in-ring performances that made him a standout to fans who couldn’t, in any faith, boo his “cheat to win” heel act. Instead, the gimmick was retooled to make him into a cunning and clever hero, outwitting villains left and right to remain on top.

With Guerrero’s death, the company was losing a considerable lifeline to a market that didn’t explode until “Latino Heat” helped WWE tap into it.

However, all was not lost.

Except for WWE’s sense of decency.

For the next six months or so, Guerrero’s name was used by Rey Mysterio in infinite tribute, while Mysterio’s opponents actually defamed Guerrero’s name just to further storylines.

Sadly, the Eddie Guerrero exploitation would grow more disturbing.

THE EVENT
With “Eddie Guerrero” becoming a buzz phrase after the man’s demise, coupled with Mysterio’s constant evocation of his name, Mysterio dedicated his performance at the 2006 Royal Rumble to his deceased friend.

Rey Mysterio would enter the match at #2 and set the longevity record, lasting over one hour to surprise #30 Randy Orton with a hurrachanrana elimination to win. Mysterio could now further his tribute to Guerrero by winning the World Heayweight Championship at WrestleMania XXII.

However, Orton goaded Mysterio into putting his contender’s spot on the line at No Way Out, getting Mysterio to agree by declaring that Eddie Guerrero was in Hell. Tasteless as it was, the match was signed, and Orton cheated to win. However, GM Teddy Long made a concession: since Orton had to use nefarious means, the match would now be a triple threat between Mysterio, Orton, and champion Kurt Angle.

Over on Raw, John Cena was WWE Champion, and not a popular one. Fans were either heavily divided on his goofy superhero schtick, or they outright booed him out of the arenas. After winning feuds with heels who were cheered over him (Angle, Chris Jericho, Edge), Cena was locked in to face Triple H, who won a tournament to earn the shot.

The Game, for reasons unclear, was allowed to declare Cena a bad champion due to a lack of wrestling ability, as well the unfavorable crowd reactions.

Oddly enough, none of this did anything to improve Cena’s cracked image.

In one of the more bizarre builds for a marquee match, Shawn Michaels had confronted Vince McMahon late in 2005, after McMahon attempted to publicly embarrass Bret Hart. Michaels, from whom Hart was estranged from after a litany of controversies, came to the ring and told Vince “move on”.

McMahon didn’t take the perceived insult lightly, and became hell-bent on ruining Michaels’ life. This included enlisting Shane McMahon to toss Michaels out of the Royal Rumble match after a distraction, and then later trying to force Michaels’ former partner Marty Jannetty to join his “Kiss My Ass” club in exchange for employment. Michaels intervened, and took a chair to the head from Shane. Then, while Shawn was out cold, Shane lifted Michaels and forced him to perform the kiss unwittingly.

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

McMahon and Michaels would then sign for a street fight, McMahon’s typical style, in which Michaels promised that it wasn’t going to be one of his five-star classics.

Speaking of brawls, Edge and Mick Foley had fallen into a skirmish. After Edge won the WWE title in January by cashing in his Money in the Bank chance on a wounded John Cena, Edge lost the belt three weeks later back to the man he’d felled. Foley refereed a rematch between the two and Cena won, prompting Edge to cry foul. He agreed to lock horns with Foley in a hardcore rules match to create his own WrestleMania moment.

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler called Raw’s action, while Michael Cole and Tazz brought us Smackdown. Joey Styles filled in for Ross during the aforementioned hardcore match. Lillian Garcia sang “America the Beautiful” to kick off the show. As for the Hall of Fame, 2006 saw Bret Hart, Eddie Guerrero, Mean Gene Okerlund, Sensational Sherri, The Blackjacks, Verne Gagne, Tony Atlas, and William “Refrigerator” Perry inducted.

THE RESULTS
World Tag Team: Kane/Big Show def. Carlito/Chris Masters in 6:41
(Wasn’t expecting much out of it, but it turned out to be a decent opener, all things considered. Besides, it was Big Show’s first win in WrestleMania history. So there’s that)

Money in the Bank: Rob Van Dam def. Shelton Benjamin, Matt Hardy, Finlay, Ric Flair, and Bobby Lashley in 12:21
(Not up to the level of last year’s, but still featuring some craziness. Lashley and Flair seemed out of place, but everyone else was game. Shelton’s springboard onto one side of the ladder still amazes me to this day)

WWE United States: JBL def. Chris Benoit in 9:44 to win the title
(This would have been a fine enough match with a normal face/heel dynamic, but JBL had to mock Eddie Guerrero with his arm swivel taunt about fifteen times. Just not necessary)

Hardcore Rules: Edge def. Mick Foley in 14:37
(The earliest a “match of the night” has ever occurred at ‘Mania, I believe. Lita taking barbed wire to the mouth was crazy, but Edge spearing Mick Foley through the flaming table was beyond insane. Edge going into the flames makes me think he was telling Vince “Gimme the belt back, or I’ll kill myself on your show.” Looks to have worked)

Handicap Match: The Boogeyman def. Booker T/Sharmell in 3:52
(Much as I like both men for different reasons, the less said about this match, the better)

WWE Women’s Title: Mickie James def. Trish Stratus in 11:48 to win the title
(It’s the best women’s match in WrestleMania history, and perhaps Mickie’s finest hour as a character. Sadly, the DVD release omits Mickie’s finest moment, but it’s burned into my brain forever anyway)

Casket Match: The Undertaker def. Mark Henry at 9:26
(That’s fourteen. That’s also Mark Henry’s second WrestleMania match in ten years with the company. Makes you think forces have conspired against him. Or maybe he’s just that bad?)

Street Fight: Shawn Michaels def. Vince McMahon in 18:28
(One of Vince’s most entertaining matches ever, and it’s fun to watch Shawn beat the hell out of him for about fifteen straight minutes. The highlight was Vince McMahon being stretchered out, giving Shawn the finger while near death and bloodied on the gurney. It’s worth watching for the belly laughs)

World Heavyweight Championship: Rey Mysterio def. Kurt Angle and Randy Orton in 9:18 to win the title
(All of that forced build with Guerrero’s exploitation for a nine minute match? And it didn’t even finish the show? Chavo and Vickie Guerrero coming out to celebrate with Rey just made a decent match muddled by a bad angle worse. I was just glad that the angle was finally over….sort of)

Playboy Pillow Fight: Torrie Wilson def. Candice Michelle in 3:54
(Much like the Booker/Sharmell/Boogeyman fiasco, the less said about this, the better)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: John Cena def. Triple H in 22:02
(Forget about the match, which was decent and enhanced by a virulently anti-Cena crowd. The highlight was Triple H making his entrance dressed as a Nordic barbarian, and Cena trying to suck up to Chicago with a fleet of faux gangsters while dressed like Al Capone. One of those gangsters was CM Punk, which begs the question: why would the straight-edge Punk associate with anti-prohibitionists?)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
Rey Mysterio, for his contributions to the business in terms of opening doors for smaller athletes to thrive on an international level, deserved very much to win a World Championship at an event the caliber of WrestleMania.

However, the ham-fisted, intelligence-insulting fashion in which WWE paved his road to said title will go down as perhaps the most jaw-droppingly insensitive booking that WWE has ever used to sell an event of WrestleMania’s standing.

I truly believe that, to this day, when WWE mentions Guerrero in reverent terms, or when they showcase him as part of a positive video package, it’s to deflect any negative thoughts one may have about the undignified manner in which Guerrero died, as well as to try and make fans forget about the horrible way in which WWE bungled the aftermath of his passing.

But Mysterio, Chavo, and Vickie to this day have more detractors than they’ve ever had, and much of it is kneejerk. Their direct involvement in a year (a YEAR) of exploitation is something that hasn’t washed off easily.

WrestleMania XXII was a decent show, one that is stained by feeling the need to tie in a real death to a fictional production.

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

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

WrestleMania XX: A Portrait in Wrestling History

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

WRESTLEMANIA XX
From Madison Square Garden in New York, NY
March 14, 2004

BACKGROUND
Poor WWE. Despite being the most lucrative, proliferative, and memory-composing wrestling entity to ever be seen, it feels like that they sometimes can’t win.

On the one hand, fans criticize World Wrestling Entertainment for clinging to the past like rats to the hull of a sinking ship. In recent years, the likes of Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin have been “brought off the bench” to star in an occasional segment wherein they usually wind up destroying somebody who could use a victory to solidify himself.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, WWE also takes it in the shorts when things change TOO much. The company’s innovative experiments of the past decade, such as the brand extension, guest hosts on Raw, the Diva Search, having two world titles, and other concepts were met with flat-footed resistance.

So to score this, hardened WWE fans don’t like it when Vince McMahon relies on the same old tricks and characters be the support pillars of his programming, but the same fans also detest it when McMahon tries to reinvent the wheel with his own magnanimous spin.

See what I mean by “poor WWE”?

WrestleMania XX’s tagline was to be “Where it All Begins Again”. The slogan seemed somewhat vague as it wasn’t explained what “it” was. Would WWE begin relying on the past again? Would the company begin to churn out foreign concepts to a rigidly inflexible audience again?

Or would the company rekindle fan interest, both general and ardent, with a show that would set new standards in quality and story-telling?

Going into the event, WrestleMania XX put together a blend of developmental stars on the rise, cherished veterans in prominent roles, and beloved underdogs who were on the verge of greatness.

What would ‘begin’ at MSG on that night?

THE EVENT
In a twist served to reward longtime fans for their dedicated fandom, Chris Benoit was the winner of the 2004 Royal Rumble. In story canon, Benoit believed he couldn’t get a fair break from biased Smackdown general manager Paul Heyman, which caused Benoit to leave the brand, jumping ship to Raw.

Chris Benoit’s title shot remained intact, and thus he would challenge World Heavyweight Champion Triple H at the big dance. Shawn Michaels, then Helmsley’s nemesis, had lobbied for a rematch after he and the champion fought to a double knockout in a last man standing match at the Royal Rumble.

At the would-be contract signing for the World Heavyweight Title match, a frenetically desperate Michaels pleaded with Benoit to give him the match with Triple H, as if his very life depended on settling this score. Benoit flatly turned Michaels down, since he fought for one hour to win the Royal Rumble. Michaels responded by blasting Benoit with Sweet Chin Music, and added his name to the contract before Benoit could sign. GM Eric Bischoff’s solution was to make the match a triple threat between Helmsley, Michaels, and Benoit.

On the Smackdown side, Eddie Guerrero provided wrestling with one of its truest comeback stories when he put behind his alcoholic past in February 2004, felling Brock Lesnar to become WWE Champion. Guerrero would then be challenged by #1 contender Kurt Angle, whose attitude soured on the bitterness of Guerrero reigning, due to his past troubles with substance abuse.

Angle, with the blessing of GM Paul Heyman, proceeded to rail against Guerrero’s demons, while proclaiming himself to be a better role model, and, thus, better champion. Angle even taped his fists and beat a defensless Guerrero bloody, all while Guerrero was handcuffed (Guerrero was to have faced Heyman, agreeing to handcuff himself as a handicap, making Angle’s attack easier).

While Benoit and Guerrero were being groomed for their unlikely ascents, a squad of Attitude-era heroes and villains would make up the remainder of the upper card.

The Undertaker was taken out at Survivor Series by Kane, buried alive under a mountain of gravel. As Kane cackled loud and often about driving his brother away for good, hints of The Undertaker’s presence between to surface. From Undertaker’s classic “gong” blaring through the arena, to Kane being fronted by a casket and an urn, it was clear that the Undertaker was due back, and no longer as his highway-carousing biker self.

Stone Cold Steve Austin would appear at WrestleMania XX to moderate a match between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, while The Rock and Mick Foley ended their exiles to face Randy Orton, Batista, and Ric Flair of Evolution, after Orton and Foley had been a “legend killing” war. Chris Jericho would also settle a score with longtime cohort Christian, who had chastised Y2J for trying to romance Trish Stratus.

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

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler would call the Raw action, while Michael Cole and Tazz covered SmackDown for this five hour event. The WWE brought back its WWE Hall of Fame for the weekend, inducting legends like Bobby Heenan, Jesse Ventura, Big John Studd, Junkyard Dog, Tito Santana, Greg Valentine, Harley Race, Sgt. Slaughter, Superstar Billy Graham, Don Muraco, and celebrity Pete Rose. The Harlem Boys Choir kicked off the show with “America the Beautiful”.

THE RESULTS
WWE United States: John Cena def. Big Show in 9:14 to win the title
(Once upon a time, John Cena was opening shows and warming up the crowd. Highlight was him mimicking Ultimate Warrior’s “questioning God” routine when he couldn’t put Show away)

World Tag Team: Rob Van Dam/Booker T def. The Dudley Boyz, La Resistance, and Garrison Cade/Mark Jindrak in 7:51
(Ahh, the classic “get everybody involved” match. Surprised nobody thought to name Van Dam and Booker “Tokin’ Black Guy”. Too offensive?)

Christian def. Chris Jericho in 14:52
(Christian’s prize for winning was to spend several months paired with a now-heel Trish Stratus, while Jericho’s reward was getting to feud with the both of them. I like all three, and this match was rather excellent, if underappreciated)

Randy Orton/Batista/Ric Flair def. The Rock/Mick Foley in 17:03
(An insanely fun match with Rock, Flair, and Foley running through their body of tricks, including Rock and Flair just going back and forth with humorous antics. The match served its purpose though, with Orton going over strong by RKOing Foley. Just fun)

Evening Gown Match: Sable/Torrie Wilson def. Stacy Keibler/Miss Jackie in 2:33
(Were you aware that Sable is undefeated at WrestleMania? She’s 3-0, which makes her the female Undertaker. Come to think of it, she is bony and corpse-like….)

WWE Cruiserweight: Chavo Guerrero won a Cruiserweight Open over Rey Mysterio, Tajiri, Akio, Billy Kidman, Jamie Noble, Nunzio, Funaki, Ultimo Dragon, and Shannon Moore in 10:28
(Eight falls (Akio was never actually eliminated) in just ten minutes, and the WWE couldn’t figure out why fans didn’t take the cruiserweights seriously. At least it was fast paced)

Goldberg def. Brock Lesnar in 13:42
(And here it is: the greatest “bad match” in WrestleMania history. I can’t even do it justice. Just watch it sometime. Trust me)

WWE Tag Team: Rikishi/Scotty 2 Hotty def. APA, Basham Brothers, and The World’s Greatest Tag Team in 6:01
(See the earlier tag team title match for perspective. Highlight: Rikishi’s ass being so fat that he has to suck his gut out before giving Charlie Haas the stinkface. Time to lay off the butter sticks)

WWE Women’s vs. Hair: Victoria def. Molly Holly in 4:53
(And thus Molly Holly was shaved, giving us her best V for Vendetta tribute. I actually liked shorned Molly. Made me want to take her to a tanz-metal club)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: Eddie Guerrero def. Kurt Angle in 21:36
(Great, great back and forth match between two of the finest athletes in wrestling history. Eddie Guerrero was in his element as the clever babyface who finds ways to win that are outside the box. In this case, Guerrero untied his boot so to render Angle’s ankle lock useless, with an easy escape. How can anyone hate this match?)

The Undertaker def. Kane in 7:45
(Undertaker indeed returned to his “Dead Man” roots here, complete with Druids, Paul Bearer, and classic symphonic score for his music. A chill-inducing scene, even if the match wasn’t really any good)

World Heavyweight Championship: Chris Benoit def. Triple H and Shawn Michaels in 25:10 to win the title
(And there you have it: the last time a wrestling moment actually made me misty-eyed. Benoit making Triple H tap out to the Crossface was a dream come true, as was Benoit’s tearful celebration with Guerrero, as the ultimate “we made it” moment. Sadly, real life events have diminished this moment some, but I’ll never forget what it meant to have witnessed it live)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
A somewhat morbid joke sees wrestling fans talking about Undertaker and Kane as if it were the main event of WrestleMania XX. This is, of course, because of WWE’s policy of outright ignoring Chris Benoit in the wake of the double murder-suicide that claimed him and his family.

Is it unfair? Well, some fans still can’t bring themselves to like Chris Benoit for his past contributions due to the actions in the last two days of his life. Perhaps it’s best that WWE keep their safe distance from the “Canadian Crippler”.

But for those of us who watched WrestleMania XX, repeat viewings are unnecessary. If you watched Benoit ascend wrestling’s peak on that night, and share his accomplishment with the also-deceased Guerrero, with sweat and tears mixing on their faces, then you don’t need to see it again.

In my mind’s eye, as is the case with many other fans, having seen it live is a privilege. It’s one of the last few times that a moment in WWE required no caption, no more words to be said.

Parts of WrestleMania XX may be long since buried. But what happened that night is so special, our memories will keep it alive.

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

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

Wrestling’s Greatest Disappointments: WWE WrestleMania XIX

March 26, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Once again, I am starting a new series of columns. This time, each column will focus on an event, wrestler or angle that should have been all-around more successful than it was, but for whatever reason, didn’t live up to expectations. For my first installment, I will look at one of my favorite PPVs, an event I happened to be at in the front row, and at the same time, a let down to many, that being the 19th installment of WrestleMania.

Now, after reading that first paragraph, you might be wondering how it could be such a letdown if it’s one of my favorite events? You raise a good question, one that I can and will explain over this column.

WrestleMania XIX, which took place in Seattle, WA on March 30th, 2003, and in all honesty, had the makings of one of the best ‘Mania events in history. The building was a legitimate sell-out and broke the attendance record for Safeco Field as nearly 55,000 fans packed the place to see what was, from top-to-bottom, a very loaded event. There was a little bit of something for everyone: a good (albeit short) Cruiserweight title match, matches featuring legends, a main event between two of the best technical wrestlers in the world, an awesome Women’s title match, the continued streak of the Undertaker, etc. In a rare occasion, an event that looked great on paper turned out to be great when put into practice.

When I say this card was loaded, I don’t mean strictly from an in-ring standpoint, although that was definitely present. The card was loaded in all the ways a wrestling fan could want. It featured plenty of star power and drama, in addition to the aforementioned in-ring product. Not only that, but you got two arguable dream matches. The first, Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels, was easily a show stealer, and a match that both combatants have cited is one of their all-time favorites. The second, while not as great from an in-ring standpoint, was still a marquee match that many paid to see as Hulk Hogan took on Mr. McMahon in a street fight “20 years in the making”. Despite the combined age of the two men being over 100, they beat each other in a wild, bloody brawl that not only satiated those wanting blood, but was something special for the old school fans as well as those who prefer the legends. We even got a run-in from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, a man who had not been with the company in nearly a decade.

We also got an added bonus, as this wound up being the very final match of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin took on the Rock in what was their third ‘Mania match, with the story that Rock had never beaten Austin in ‘Mania matches in the past. Rock finally got the duke in this third encounter. Although it was not nearly as good as their two previous bouts, considering that Austin went into the match after spending the previous day in the ER, it was much more than you could ever ask for from wrestling highest box office draw of all-time.

Overall, the event is considered by many to be one of the very best ‘Mania installments from a pure in-ring standpoint, and that’s a fair assessment. Aside from Undertaker beating Big Show and A-Train in a lame handicap match (his partner, Nathan Jones, was taken out earlier in the night by the FBI. Jones, BTW, I will most definitely get to in an future column) and a sadly lopsided affair between Triple H and Booker that was the culmination of a very racist angle, the show had some of the best wrestling WWE had put on in years.

After all this, you’re probably still wondering how or why the show is considered to be a big disappointment. Well, unfortunately, despite all of the critical acclaim and great action from start-to-finish (save for a couple hiccups, as well as a pillow fight I will never mention again), when the final rating came in, it didn’t bode well for future ‘Mania installments like this. After all was said and done, WrestleMania XIX drew only a 1.40, or roughly 560,000 buys, making it the fifth lowest buyrate in ‘Mania history and the lowest of this century thus far.

Obviously, it’s debatable that WrestleMania XIX was a sign of things to come, but at the same time, it’s telling when can see that the overall match quality at ‘Mania installments has been lessened in favor of celebrity tie-ins, pointless backstage segments or filler matches that are seemingly thrown together and lack fan interest. Obviously, WrestleMania has still produced some great matches since that year, so before you lynch me for trashing every event since then, I’m not saying the event always sucked; this is merely my viewpoint, and a trend I’ve noticed since then.

WrestleMania XIX should have been a huge success. For those fans who understandably complain about match length/quality on today’s PPVs, this event should have been a dream card. Instead, it got a very low buyrate, possibly giving the WWE the idea that maybe we as fans really don’t want good, long matches at the biggest show of the year. Whether that is true or not, WWE seems to feel that way, and for every year that the show gets longer, we seem to get shorter, lesser quality matches simply there to stuff the card.

Fortunately, this year’s installment is shaping up to break that chain with 2 great title matches, the first ‘Mania Hell in a Cell in 13 years and a dream match between John Cena and the Rock. Hopefully, fans respond the right way, and open their wallets for what could be one of the better ‘Manias in recent years.

Time will tell, though. Time will tell.

Dustin Nichols is a freelance writer, and you can keep track of all of his work on his Facebook page, which can be found at www.facebook.com/DustinNicholsWriter. Oh, and if you like bodybuilding, check out his mom’s official site by clicking the banner below:

WrestleMania XIX: End Of The (Bottom) Line

March 26, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

-What I wouldn’t give to relive the WWE WrestleMania 19  era. I was 19 years old and making insane money delivering pizza for just 25 hours a week. Seriously, the tips I made were great, given I live in the midst of middle class suburbia. I had few bills, not a care in the world, free from the restraints of school, yada yada. The only thing missing was a quality WWE product. At this point, you had a better chance of getting chlamydia from Paula Deen than getting three straight good weeks of Monday Night Raw.

-Speaking  of the promotion, it was March 30, 2003, and we go way out to the land of Wozniak, Seattle, WA, in the confines of Safeco Field. This is the first time that we have two commentary teams covering WrestleMania, with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handling Raw duties, and Michael Cole and Tazz overseeing the Smackdown side of things. Would you believe that in 2002 and 2003, the voters for the annual RSPW Awards declared Cole to be a better play by play man than JR? I swear this happened. Of course, JR was a bitter shell at this point, taking pot shots at heels he didn’t care about, and was generally miserable after the talent relations job he held was usurpsed by Johnny Ace. If you wanna see how bad JR could get, just wait until later in this show.

-Ashanti performs America the Beautiful, and we never heard from her again. Also, on the pre-show, Rob Van Dam and Kane failed to win the World Tag Team Titles from Chief Morley and some guy whose name escapes me. If he was important, I’m sure I’d remember it.

-Quick note: for this show, my brother Josh invited over some kid he worked with who may or may not have been homeless. It bears no relevance otherwise, but it’s my rant, so there you go.

-By the way, I can stop typing WWF now. This should get the pandas off my lawn.

-To kick things off, Matt Hardy Version 1.0 defends the WWE Cruiserweight Title against Rey Mysterio. Mysterio’s superhero motif du jour: Daredevil. How it reminds me of 2003. How it reminds of Ben Affleck. How it reminds me of Gigli. Damn it, Rey.

-Mysterio lands a nice twisting plancha to take out both Matt and Shannon Moore. Always good to see the Filthy Animals and 3 Count go at it. It’s like the Hatfields and McCoys for the twelve people that watched WCW at the end.

-Moore’s sycophantic interference was hilarious. Hell, Matt’s entire V1 shtick was amazing before he became a deranged self parody and gained 50 pounds after Lita cheated on him. Hey, Matt: you had six or seven years to put a ring on her finger. You didn’t do it.  Besides, given that her sexual history could fill the book of Genesis, consider yourself a survivor.

-It’s funny: at this point, I really liked both performers. Though when one becomes a deluded emo crybaby, and the other endlessly promotes his dead friend for sympathy, that tends to come to a screeching halt.

-Rey hits the 619 and tries to drop the dime, but misses. A victory roll attempt by the challenger leads to a Matt drop down and rope pull for the cheap win. Way too short, but fun while it lasted. The two would have a much better match two months later on Smackdown where Rey finally got the belt. Anyone else miss Smackdown in the era when the great workers got time to work, and the whacky characters got equal time to balance the card? I know I do.

-And now for a handicap match, since those never get old. Undertaker puts his streak on the line against Big Show and A-Train, or as I call them: “Fat Albert”. This was supposed to be a tag team match with Taker teaming with Australian muscleman Nathan Jones, but Jones was unable to wrestle. Actually, that WAS the reason he was pulled: because he couldn’t wrestle. The man had the coordination skills of Stephen Hawking doing a downhill slalom.

-Limp Bizkit performs “Rollin” to bring Taker out. Taker even hugs Fred Durst. When would THAT ever happen if neither man was famous? Can you imagine Johnny Cash posing for a picture with the Icy Hot Stuntaz?

-Here’s food for thought: given all of the start-stop pushes that Show and Train have had over the years, especially in this time period, wouldn’t we be more apt to take them seriously if they dominated Taker? I mean, two big men beating up Undertaker doesn’t hurt anyone, and all three men get some measure of cred from it. So, of course, Taker dominates from the outset. So much for taking their pushes seriously.

-Taker with a fujiwara armbar for Show and another armbar for Train. This is like a production of Hamlet being performed by the special needs class. Show and Train are just stumbling around for Taker, who had lost his mystique by reverting to his biker gimmick. So it’s no fun for anyone.

-After ten minutes of boring tripe, Nathan Jones hits the ring and knocks Show out with a spinning heel kick in the aisle. Then he gets Train with a running foot inside the ring, which sets up the Dead Man’s Tombstone, pushing the streak to 11-0. Bad match, but thankfully the worst we’ll see tonight. You know, if WWE was so serious about getting Show or Train to main event status, why not have one of them pin Taker and wreck the streak? They’d be a heel for life, and always have something to hang their hat on. Alas.

-Stacy Keibler, Torrie Wilson, and the Miller Lite catfight girls have a pow-wow. If you can name both of those latter ladies without consulting Wikipedia, then you’re probably not welcome near school bus stops.

-Up next, the WWE Women’s Title is up for grabs, as Victoria defends the gold against Trish Stratus and Jazz. This match is an upgrade over last year in terms of placement, workmanship (Trish was much improved), and participants. I’ll take Victoria over Lita any day. Man I miss that TATU music and crazy titan tron. Hey Vince, Victoria’s now 39 years old and is still one of the hottest women in wrestling. I don’t care about Kelly Kelly, give me crazy Victoria please. Oh, wait, TNA has her. Well, that’s one area that the Orlandophiles win at.

-I miss Jazz too. She was like Stone Cold. Except black. And female. Ok, so she was the female Bad News Brown. She just wails away on everyone in sight, which is more fun than “faces don’t attack other faces”. I remember when Victoria turned face over a year after this and she saved Stacy from elimination during the Taboo Tuesday battle royal. Disgusting.

-Jazz putting Trish into an STF = hot. I need to stop watching prison movies.

-Trish cradles Victoria and pulls down the back of her tights, exposing her crack to the world. Let’s hear it for DVD freeze frame! Speaking of pervy, I think we can all agree that the only reason Jazz ever did that double chicken wing move to Trish was to make her chest stick out and the fans could pop. Classy.

-With Jazz out on the floor, Trish avoids interference from Steven Richards (Victoria’s henchman/boyfriend/pet) and knocks out Victoria with the Chick Kick to win the title. Good, compressed match that livened things up after the hossfest bored everyone. It takes a lot to cheer people from Seattle up, so good on the ladies. Though if Seattle was rooting for Victoria, we’d have to hear years and years of complaining about the officiating. Damn Seahawks fans.

-Rock is backstage with Coachman, and Mr. Dwayne Johnson is so disillusioned with the fans these days that he can’t even properly abuse Coach like he used to. Way to drain the life from my hero, guys. But he WILL beat Stone Cold tonight. We’re all rooting for ya, Rock! Especially Debra.

-And now WWE will let some of the tag teams get air time, as The World’s Greatest Tag Team defends the WWE Tag Team Titles against Los Guerreros and Murder Horn (Chris Benoit and Rhyno). If TNA sticks six men with talent all in the same match, they get lambasted for squandering good wrestlers. Just saying.

-Benoit blisters Eddie with chops. In 2003, they met in a meaningless undercard showcase. In 2004, they ended the show with a surreal celebration. In 2008, neither of them was there because they were both dead. Sigh.

-The main issue I have with this match is that….there IS no issue. Haas and Benjamin were largely goons for Kurt Angle who became tag champs due to crowd heat osmosis, and they have no real character qualities except for “We do Kurt Angle’s bidding”. The Guerreros are known for being chronic cheaters with a penchant for partying, but you don’t see that. Benoit and Rhyno are intense competitors and it makes sense for them to stick to the wrestling, but what was their beef with TWGTT, other than Benoit hating Haas and Benjamin through Angle? Sometimes, you need to expand the story a bit.

-That’s not to say that the wrestling sucks, because it’s solid, but look who’s involved.

-A fast tag frenzy near the end and Rhyno gores Chavo, but Eddie pulls Rhyno to the floor and Shelton steals the pin on Chavo to retain the gold. Match was good, but largely forgotten in the backdrop of the marquee matches that were ahead. It didn’t give Haas and Benjamin much traction, but at least it was fun to watch.

-The four aforementioned useless hot women argue over who made WrestleMania: Vince McMahon or Hulk Hogan. My answer: Howard Finkel. Did I mention that the Fink is here tonight? #19!

-Video package for the Shawn-Michaels-Chris Jericho feud. You know, the first one. This was Shawn’s in-ring WrestleMania return and, although I was a huge childhood fan, I was pulling for Jericho here. Shawn had a total of 4 or 5 matches since his return seven months before, and I felt that for Jericho to lose would be a BS political move. In other words, I was a smark, but I was also a mark.

-On the way to the ring, Shawn fires off some confetti guns for some reason. A number of them don’t work, and won’t shoot at all. Kevin Nash used to have that problem, but they began making pills for that.

-Extended stalemate sequence opens the match, and after thinking Shawn wouldn’t be able to keep up, I was surprised that he did. Remember, seven years ago, we thought Shawn was only capable of like one match every two months and, even then, it wasn’t always guaranteed to be a classic. This is where Jesus walks in and kicks me in the balls for being Agnostic. Thank you, Jeeze.

-Shawn slaps on a figure four and begins to work Jericho’s leg. I remember once watching Raw with my friend Dave (fan of Bret Hart, hater of Shawn) when Michaels was facing Trevor Murdoch. Shawn grabbed the legs to apply his modified figure four and Dave thought he was attempting the Sharpshooter. Dave began to swear at the TV and then stopped when he realized that he wasn’t mocking Bret. It’s these little things that make us fans.

-The fight spills outside, and Jericho snares Michaels in the Walls of Jericho in the aisleway. Jericho releases after a certain amount of punishment, and then runs back in to break the count. Jericho continues to assault the back, break the count, and repeat. Jericho’s such a tremendous jerk of a heel. He’s like Tully Blanchard, except he doesn’t hide behind religion to cover his past.

-After Jericho hits the Shawn forearm inside, he kips up and does the slant-leg pose to mock HBK, but then Michaels kips up behind him. It’s these little things that keep TNA from becoming a true break-out promotion: you need moments that make the fans smile without resorting to inside jokes or overkill. Shawn’s such an established character, that the fans get it when Jericho rips off part of his shtick, and then they love it when Shawn makes them cheer with the counter-act.

-Jericho continues the acidic ‘tribute’ by landing Shawn’s elbow smash, stomping the foot to tune up Fozzy, and then hits Sweet, eh? Chin Music for 2. Good psychological stuff.

-Shawn mounts the comeback and tries for his SCM, but Jericho ducks the leg and gets the Walls. After Shawn fights it for an eternity, he finally makes the ropes. After Jericho nearly comes to tears in protest, he walks right into Shawn’s Chin Music, but the slow cover can only get 2. Great match.

-Finally, after Jericho jars the spine with a forearm, he tries a back suplex, which Shawn turns into a backroll press for the win. Afterward, Jericho tries to man up and embrace Shawn with a hug, but changes his mind and kicks Shawn low. It’s ok, Chris, you still have your rocker hair until you get with the times and cut it in 2006. Tremendous match with a real big time feel.

-Sylvain Grenier, then an evil referee, goes into Vince’s locker room. He must be mistaken. Pat Patterson’s green room is a few doors—oh, don’t give me that look. I haven’t made a Patterson joke in at LEAST three or four rants!

-Miller Lite Catfight crap. Coach loses his pants. Limp Bizkit performs “Crack Addict”. I’m intoxicated by Turkey Hill iced tea. So all is good.

-Triple H and Booker T for the World Heavyweight Title is next. The storyline here is that Triple H made a few racially charged remarks to the Bookerman, which you’d think would lead to Book shutting him up and winning the title. You’d think that, wouldn’t you, Senor Ignorencia?

-You know, this match kind of annoys me, since it was Hunter slowing things down to a crawl, just to do some make-believe Ric Flair heel champion routine, and it stunted Booker’s momentum as a performer. Let’s just say Hunter works the knee, Booker fails to make enough of a comeback, and Hunter sends him spiraling back to the midcard with the Pedigree. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to two more interesting points.

-First, Jerry Lawler spent the match hamming up Triple H’s rhetoric about Booker being a lifelong criminal. It’s one thing to make a joke or two, as the heel announcer, but it’s another to keep on keeping on, which is what Lawler did. Jim Ross gets so sick and tired of Lawler’s spiel that he openly responds with hostile verbiage, and Lawler actually seems taken aback. It’s way more interesting than the match. What I also love is at Bad Blood a few months later when Lawler tries to bury Booker again with the prison jokes, and JR makes a comment along the lines of “You know, I wonder how different things would be if some OTHER people had been convicted of certain crimes”. And Lawler NEVER made fun of Booker’s criminal record again. Great stuff.

-The other thing: I will defend Hunter winning here. As much as I loved Booker, imagine this: if Hunter never drops the belt to Goldberg in September, then he holds the belt for over a year, right? Sure, it infuriates us, but, as the smarks are huge Benoit fans, what would it mean to us if Chris Benoit took out Triple H to win the title after Hunter spent 15 months as champion? It’d mean a LOT. I can defend Hunter as a heel dominating, because it means just that much more when he loses. Ask Batista.

-Moving on to something else that’s criminal. Criminally fun, that is. Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon will do battle in a street fight that was twenty years in the making. That’s AMAZING. I never knew Vince was clamoring for this fight when Hulk was champion and Vince was skinny, Reagan-esque commentator. And I thought I knew everything.

-Typical geriatric Vince brawling, complete with funny faces and comical selling. I never get enough of watching Vince wrestle. He could have a match with a dead ferret and I’d be entertained.

-Vince realizes his dream of dominating a test of strength. Hulk realizes his dream of bashing Vince with a chair and busting him open. So everyone’s happy.

-Just to show that he’s more hardcore than the useless wusses that he employs, Vince dives off the ladder with a legdrop through Hogan and the Smackdown commentary table. Then to top THAT, after rolling Hogan in, Vince pulls a lead pipe from under the ring and slowly raises his face over the apron with a crazed expression that I still laugh at to this day. Dixie, you’re no Vince. There I said it.

-After both men are down, Rowdy Roddy Piper hits the ring and is apparently doing the Adrian Adonis tribute diet. He spits on both men, but then hits Hogan with a pipe before dropping a couple F-bombs on camera. Just when you think you have all the answers, Roddy forgets the questions and then relapses.

-Long story short: Sylvain Grenier tries to do some shady run-in refereeing, gets taken out, and Hulk drops three legs on Vince for the win. It’s longer than I made it seem, but it’s fun the entire way. Seriously, just watch it. You won’t regret it.

-And now, for something bittersweet. The Rock takes on Stone Cold Steve Austin in….well, if you don’t know, I’ll get to it at the end of the match.

-Rock was full blown Hollywood villain, and Austin is still Stone Cold, albeit with a neck worn down to nothing, and a lack of the same crowd energy that made him Stone Cold in the first place. I’m going to get very sad watching this.

-Tribute is paid to their X7 match as Austin attacks with a flurry and the fight spills outside. Austin is just hammering Rock all over ringside. This is like Rick Fox getting those garbage points in game five of the 2004 NBA finals, in case it was the end for him.

-Rock shifts the tide by working the knee, and the crowd seems reluctant to boo him. Hey, he was such a fun character with this pro-Hollywood slant. My biggest regret is not seeing it last longer. But hey, the movies were calling his name.

-Just for a goof, Rock puts on Austin’s leather vest and continues the fight, and the slugfest continues. Then Austin runs through the classics. There’s the Thesz press. There’s the middle finger elbow. There’s the mudhole stomping. HE’S WALKING IT DRY! That’s it Steve, round the bases one last time. Crap, I think I’m actually getting misty.

-Then we get another staple of their classics: the dueling finishers. Rock gets a stunner. Austin gets Rock Bottom. Neither one finishes the other. Good stuff.

-Then comes the heart-wrenching finish: Rock lands a spinebuster and People’s Elbow for 2. Then Rock lands one Rock Bottom. Austin kicks out on 2. Rock attempts a second one, but Austin desperately tries to elbow his way free. Rock hangs on and spikes him for a second one. Austin writhes on the mat in a fashion that is truly harrowing, but he kicks out on 2. For the third attempt, Austin doesn’t even fight it, and he eats a final Rock Bottom to give The Rock his much-deserved clean win over Stone Cold.

-Afterward, Rock breaks character and sits next to Austin, telling him he loves him as Austin lays hurt on the mat. Only four moments in wrestling get me choked up: Savage and Liz reuniting, Shawn winning his first World Title, Benoit making HHH tap, and this: The Rock throwing his character aside to make sure his real life friend was ok and to express his support. After Rock celebrates with his family at ringside, he leaves so that Austin can do the final walkaway, as his in ring career ended after one hell of a fourteen year journey. There will never be another Stone Cold Steve Austin. Much like Shawn and Taker should have ended XXV, THIS should have ended XIX. Austin and Rock, the two men who carried the Attitude era, in their final chapter. I love it.

-Still one match to go, and it’s going to take a lot to top this. Don’t worry, what’s on tap has a chance.

-If you thought Austin’s neck was bad, Kurt Angle’s was just as horrid, as he prepared to defend the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar. Angle was in dire need of surgery on his spine, but chose to go through with this match. This wouldn’t be the last time we worried about Angle’s health or sanity.

-The two men begin with a feeling out process, as both men are among the most accomplished amateur wrestlers-turned-pro in the world. At first, I thought that it would just remain at this pace due to Angle’s bad neck, but hey, I was wrong again. Did I mention I was fairly dumb at 19? I’d just met Eric Gargiulo months before this show and I think I was I was still in a mental haze. It’s like a fifteen year old girl meeting Miley Cyrus. Eric’s just that special.

-Angle lands a German suplex and Lesnar soon nails him with a clothesline. If this was Kurt’s last match for a while, he was damn sure going to kill himself doing it.

-Angle then sends Lesnar hard into the buckles with a German suplex. Here Brock, share some of my pain, you musclehead.

-Angle wears Lesnar down further, taking the time to get his bearings, which is the smart thing to do. Then he hits an overhead belly to belly on a 300 pound man, then does four rolling Germans on Lesnar just for fun. When Kurt Angle lives to be 400 years old and is a cyborg, no one better be surprised, you hear me? NO ONE.

-Here’s a good sequence for you: Angle tries for the Angle Slam, Lesnar counters with an F5 attempt, which Angle rolls into the ankle lock. After Lesnar gets free, Angle gets the release throwing German suplex for 2. Jaw. Dropped.

-Through the remainder of the match, Lesnar manages to drop Angle with a pair of F5s and Angle really should be dead by now. I mean, come on, he was facing surgery that was due to keep him out for a YEAR and he’s going full gore with the future UFC Champion. Angle is crazy, ya’ll.

-Speaking of crazy, here comes some Mania lore: Lesnar tries for a shooting star press, but lands on his head and nearly breaks his neck in the process. After improvising a pin for 2, Angle tries for an Angle Slam, but Brock finishes with the F5 for his second WWE Title. They do the respect hug afterward. Tremendous match that made me cringe every time Angle did something the least bit physical. With Austin retiring due to his spinal damage, I certainly didn’t want to see Kurt end up a crippled vegetable. I loved the match, but it’s like a car wreck: hard to watch, but hard to turn away.

-Limp Bizkit plays us out. Speaking of played out, Limp Bizkit, folks!

-CYNIC SAYS: At the time, I wasn’t sure what to think. WWE was in a major rut creatively, and couldn’t please anyone. Yet time has been kind to this show, as everything seemed to set up a future development. Hunter stayed strong to make his losses mean more. Shawn stayed strong to begin his full time comeback. Lesnar went over to become the future (sort of). And Austin went out with a great final performance.

WrestleMania XIX is a blossoming flower in a turd garden that is 2003 WWE. But you won’t regret having sat through all four hours of this tremendous show.

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

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

WrestleMania XIX: A Portrait in Wrestling History

March 26, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WRESTLEMANIA XIX
From Safeco Field in Seattle, WA
March 30, 2003

BACKGROUND
The waves of time were eroding WWE’s familiar image away, aggressively eating away the dunes of chic and hip. Beneath the devoured sands were levels of desperation that, now unearthed, would only serve to further deface a once-effulgent company.

After WWE split into two brands, Raw and Smackdown, in the spring of 2002, fans used to edgy television were now being force-fed the notion that Hulk Hogan was still hip in the 21st century, and that the Stamford-approved version of the New World Order was as potent as it was when Kevin Nash and company ran roughshod over Atlanta six years prior.

With WWE fans, having been conditioned to accept a younger, fast-paced centrum from WWE’s brain trust, were suddenly staring down a slower, intelligence-insulting WWE that also featured, among other things, a watered-down, unhappy Steve Austin (soon to walk out, and then be accused of spousal abuse), a slower Triple H, a midcard with little chance of advancement, and the addition of a largely-unasked-for Eric Bischoff.

With ratings declining in the summer months, WWE put its Undisputed World Championship around the waist of new sensation Brock Lesnar, a frightening grappler with amateur credentials and no professional ceiling.

Despite the infusion of other new talents (John Cena, Randy Orton, and Batista), WWE sunk to unseen depths, trying to lure in audiences with gay weddings, lesbian decadence, and the act of necrophilia.

By the time WrestleMania season rolled around, WWE was far removed from its trendy nucleus of just two years prior.

The biggest show of the year would feature, in major roles, Kurt Angle (in dire need of neck surgery), Stone Cold Steve Austin (on his last legs as an active wrestler), The Rock (returning to Hollywood), and Brock Lesnar (main eventing at his first ‘Mania).

Could WWE pull this off?

THE EVENT
The actual main event of the show was Kurt Angle defending the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar. Angle had used Lesnar to help him regain the strap at Armageddon in December from Big Show, and then reneged on giving him a promised shot.

Brock Lesnar would then enter the 2003 Royal Rumble and toss out the Undertaker for the win. For the next two months, Angle’s new lackeys, WWE Tag Team Champions Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, as well as Lesnar’s ex-agent Paul Heyman, would serve as roadblocks and spike strips to try and slow down the monster Lesnar as he fought to regain the title he felt he never lost.

In the other main championship match, Triple H would be defending the World Heavyweight Championship on Raw against Booker T. Booker had won a battle royal one month prior to earn the shot, last ousting The Rock.

However, the angle took a rather controversial turn when Triple H accused Booker of being “too much of an entertainer” to be champion, and that Booker’s “kind” weren’t good enough to hold top honors. As a matter of fact, “The Game” asked Booker to “dance” for him. All of these remarks had faint racial implications, and cast a cloud of unnecessary shock to the storyline.

Triple H also brought to light Booker T’s criminal past, including his arrest and incarceration for robbing a Wendy’s in the 1980′s. Booker was given very little heroic momentum in what was a peculiar build-up.

Speaking of peculiar, Hulk Hogan returned to WWE in January, after a five month hiatus, and immediately entered into a feud with Vince McMahon.

McMahon claimed that bad blood had been brewing between the two men for years (even referencing his own 1994 steroid trial, in which Hogan had testified against him), and the two agreed to face off at WrestleMania XIX, in a match hailed as “twenty years in the making”. The bizarre feud would even net the participants as the lone faces on the event’s DVD packaging, in a somewhat common case of McMahon’s ego superseding the needs of his company.

Stone Cold Steve Austin had returned to WWE in February, and was immediately pitted against old friend/rival The Rock. Rock had fully embraced Hollywood conceit, and was rubbing his new lifestyle into the faces of the fans who built him up, and then began booing him. Austin’s involvement seemed to be minor, as real life neck injuries were hindering one of the greatest stars in WWE history.

In a match designed to capture the imaginations of fans who love being dazzled, Shawn Michaels would compete at his first WrestleMania in five years to face Chris Jericho. Jericho had claimed to have idolized Michaels, and was now ready to surpass a man whose standard Jericho now felt he was above. Y2J would go as far as to admit Michaels’ influence on his career, and indicated that evolution would take place on wrestling’s grandest stage.

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler would call the Raw brand matches, while Michael Cole and Tazz covered the ones from Smackdown. Ashanti performed “America the Beautiful”, Limp Bizkit performed a pair of songs (including “Rollin” for the Undertaker’s entrance), and Miller Lite models Kitana Baker and Tanya Ballinger recreated their famed catfight commercial on the entrance set.

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

THE RESULTS
WWE Cruiserweight: Matt Hardy Version 1.0 def. Rey Mysterio in 5:39
(Abbreviated for some reason, but still a really good match. Rey Mysterio dressed as Daredevil for this event, but wasn’t so blind that he couldn’t see that Jennifer Garner is a really lousy actress)

Handicap Match: The Undertaker def. Big Show/A-Train in 9:45
(This was to be a tag team match with Australian weirdo Nathan Jones as Taker’s partner, but Jones was scrapped for his poor abilities. Why did this get almost ten minutes? Oh, that’s eleven for Taker)

WWE Women’s: Trish Stratus def. Victoria and Jazz in 7:17 to win the title
(Dignified women’s wrestling at its finest. Dignified, that is, except for Trish pulling Victoria’s tights down on a roll-up to show off some crack. Er, not that I’m complaining)

WWE Tag Team: Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin def. Chris Benoit/Rhino and Los Guerreros in 8:46
(Anytime you have a three way match on pay per view that isn’t a marquee match, what you’re saying is “we can’t think of any storylines for these guys”. This is one of those times, sadly)

Shawn Michaels def. Chris Jericho in 22:33
(One of my personal favorite matches, and it was portrayed just the way I thought it would be: two men of great stature trying to one up each other, ending on an out-of-nowhere pinfall. Jericho’s post match fake embrace into a low kick on Michaels ranks as a forgotten, yet classic, moment)

World Heavyweight Championship: Triple H def. Booker T in 18:50
(Matches like this are the reason Triple H got a bad rap for years: slow and made the hero look weak. The only highlight was Jerry Lawler making crime jokes about Booker, and JR getting legit pissed. Funny stuff)

Street Fight: Hulk Hogan def. Vince McMahon in 20:48
(You know, a typical Vince match: table spot, Rowdy Roddy Piper run-in (waddle-in?), Vince jumping off of a ladder, and the true highlight: McMahon, covered in blood, slowly raising his face over the side of the apron with a sadistic grin. Gets funnier with every viewing)

The Rock def. Stone Cold Steve Austin in 17:53
(Rock finally gets a clean win over Austin, and it comes as the last truly great match either man would have. In fact, it was Austin’s last match ever, and wrestling hasn’t been the same without him. Rock’s pause before the final Rock Bottom, with Austin showing no resistance, seemed appropriate: Austin was no longer willing to fight, after 14 years of kicking ass. I still get chills watching Rock push Earl Hebner away so that he can break character and check on Austin’s condition afterward. I love this match)

WWE Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar def. Kurt Angle in 21:04 to win the title
(I don’t know what was more amazing: the fact that Angle pretty much had a wrecked spine and still carried this to the subjective “four star” territory, or that Brock Lesnar landed on his head during that shooting star press and somehow lived. I literally have no idea who’s the tougher man. Great match)

ITS PLACE IN HISTORY

WrestleMania XIX was a mirage in the desert that was WWE in 2003. The drastic changes in Vince McMahon’s cash cow going into 2003 were rather alarming. Once a self-assured, well-booked company was now a mostly depressing product, centered around developmental stars that made no head way (Three Minute Warning, Chris Nowinski, and Batista (yet, anyway), as well as stars that the fans loved, but got no love from WWE (Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Dudley Boyz, etc).

While WrestleMania was one of only two exceptionally good pay per views in 2003 (the other being Vengeance in July), the show simply felt out of place, not quite fitting of the “grandest show of the year” title that is bestowed on it.

The last four matches filled out the marquee. Two of them featured wrestlers who were hospitalized the night before the show (Angle and Austin), one with tasteless racial overtones (HHH-Booker), and one between two men in their middle age, fighting for fictitiously-contrived reasons, trying to sell the show on little-known “real life” drama, as opposed to a compelling angle.

The in-ring action was more than enough to save WrestleMania XIX, dragging the horrid build out of the self-made muck.
To do that, he brought in the original three members of the New World Order: Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hollywood Hulk Hogan.

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

WWE: The Greatest Wrestling Stars of the ’80s

Wrestlemania 30 DVD

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