This is the start of a four part series chronicling Hulk Hogan’s first two years in WCW.
This year we’ve celebrated the birth of Hulkamania and the event that was built on the shoulders of Hulkamania. Now, we look back at the moment that shifted the wrestling industry and the way the big two signed talent. We look back when WCW shocked the wrestling industry and landed the biggest fish of them all: Hulk Hogan
In 1993, after disputes with Vince McMahon over the direction of his character and booking, Hulk Hogan would leave the WWE. Hogan had been the face of the organization since 1984, the headlining act for eight of the nine WrestleMania events. Hulk was a headliner of countless PPV’s and the man the WWE PR golden boy that the company sent everywhere. Need somebody for Regis and Kathy to promote the Survivor Series? Send Hulk. When the average person heard and still hears the words WWE, their minds would probably show them one image, Hulk Hogan. So, for Hogan to no longer be associated with the WWE that was something that people couldn’t believe.
One person, who couldn’t believe it, was Eric Bischoff. Bischoff an ambitious television announcer had secured the position of Executive Producer for WCW in 1993. Depending on who you talk to, Bischoff is either a genius or a one hit wonder. He famously pounded Vince McMahon against the ropes for two years and could never put him away. When Vince started to pound back, Bischoff could put never McMahon against the ropes and pound on him again. What’s my opinion of Bischoff? While he famously went from the top man in wrestling to a cautionary tale, he did do some good in my mind. While many criticize him taping blocks of television at a theme park and at Centre Stage/CNN Center, I can counter that WCW’s live event attendance including television tapings were never WCW’s strong suit. He did famously let go of Austin, Foley and many of the players that helped to build WCW but he also recruited some of the best talent from the US and overseas. For every good move that Bischoff made, there will always be a “Yeah, but” counter from the other side. He did beat Vince in the ratings war, but WCW’s pay per view business was never that great is an example.
WCW rarely made a signing this large, sure the company had acquired big names every now and then but it was nobody on Hogan’s level. Plus, none of the big names still had the star power and exposure that Hulk had, even with being gone from wrestling for a year. Rude had been out of the spotlight for almost a year, working the occasional independent along with touring Japan. Steamboat had been through a demeaning run as a literal dragon, Sid disappeared for softball after WrestleMania VIII and Davey Boy Smith was never a huge star. Before you guys point out Flair, he was pretty much the exception to the rule.
Bischoff had a new vision of WCW that of which didn’t gel with many of the folks whom took a previous shot at running the company. While the Bill Watts and Dusty Rhodes saw WCW as southern style wrestling driven with blood and guts, Bischoff saw WCW as a WWE-style company, WWE South you could call it. Bischoff knew that he needed the man who helped to build the WWE and went about doing so. There was a certain convenience of having Flair as head booker whom Hogan got along with from their WWE days. Bischoff threw in everything he could to get Hogan signed: A cut of pay-per-view revenue (Anywhere between 600k to 1.5 million a year), a nice cushy schedule and most of all control over his entire character.
Wooing Hogan would be difficult however as Hogan had some reservations about coming to WCW. I can understand why if I was in his shoes, the company had never proven itself to have stable management and it had yet to turn a profit since being bought by Turner. If Hulk does sign and his run is a disaster, he could lose his bargaining chip with Vince for a possible return when his deal was up.
While Vince and Hogan’s relationship had been strained, this is a big and I mean big MIGHT, but there might have been a possible chance for Hogan and Vince to reconcile. Once the steroid heat died down, I could have seen Hulk and Vince having a secret meeting at a hotel and patch things up. They keep Hogan’s return on the down-low until the fall, where Hogan fills in for Bret at MSG after Survivor Series 1994. Hulk drops the leg on Backlund and the company preps the new big monster for Hulk to slay at WrestleMania, maybe a KOTR rematch with Yokozuna. What happens to Bret? Most of all, would Savage stay around?
In reality, Hulk could have stayed retired probably since he was still working the big dates for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Also, Thunder in Paradise probably didn’t cost a lot to produce so it could find life on syndication. There was also Hollywood (Don’t laugh) and cameos playing off his image in comedies.
Oh well, we’d never know as Hogan would come to a deal with WCW in the spring and WCW played it off rather well. Hulk’s first major appearance came in an on-set interview with Mean Gene in-which Hogan played coy about returning to wrestling. Heenan then barged in and demanded that Hogan give him an update on his status, citing a PWI cover that had Hogan and Flair meeting:
Hogan would sign with contract on live television at Disney-MGM Studios, with a ticket-tape parade and all. Mean Gene would sum it up: Get ready for the ride of your life. Truer words were never spoken.
Robert Goeman has been writing for CamelClutchBlog since 2014 and has written for FiveOuncesofPain and What Culture. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertGoeman. After every article, Robert usually does “Talking Points” on twitter, bringin up points that didn’t make the article.
Bill Goldberg appears to be eyeing a WWE comeback. Daniel Bryan – the WWE champion is injured, which puts the title reign in doubt. John Cena is falling back to the mid card and is not a true championship contender anymore. But most of all, Vince McMahon is bleeding money.
This is not a joke and certainly not some form of Karma, however there is some concern about the wrestling and sports entertainment mogul losing over $700 million dollars in a time frame that is slightly longer than one of his wrestling feuds.
Should the wrestling populous be worried that the once iron-covered owner of wrestling’s giant promotion is bleeding green, not red?
In a story on yahoo.com, it was reported that the WWE’s shares had ascended in the early months of 2014, gaining 89 percent in value. That helped McMahon amass a fortune on paper of $1.6 billion in mid-March. But a variety of negative factors chopped away at that valuation. WWE’s new online streaming network has picked up only an estimated 700,000 subscribers, and WWE conceded that it could lose as much as $52 million this year. That announcement cost McMahon another $325 million in March.
While McMahon has pockets deeper than most businessmen in the world, losing that kind of cash is still huge and detrimental for the man, his ego, his family, the WWE and the business in general. With a less than enthusiastic pay-per-view on the horizon on Sunday (Payback), what happens if McMahon’s losses reach $100 million?
One of the key downward forces was the announcement of a new TV deal between the WWE and NBCUniversal. Analysts estimated the $150 million deal was a 50 percent increase from the previous agreement, but had expected the deal to be double or even triple the prior one. The announcement of that agreement forced WWE’s share price from a high of about $20 to the $11 range, where it remains to this day.
The story of McMahon’s rise in the business is the stuff of lore and personal success.
Throughout the 1970s, McMahon became the prominent force in his father’s company, and over the next decade, Vince assisted his father in tripling TV syndication. He pushed for the renaming of the company to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The young McMahon was also behind the Muhammad Ali versus Antonio Inoki match of 1976. In 1979, Vince purchased the Cape Cod Coliseum, where he promoted hockey games and concerts in addition to pro wrestling, as he began to prove that he was capable of running the WWF after his father’s retirement.
By 1980, McMahon had become chairman of the company, and Titan Sports was incorporated; in 1982, a 37-year old McMahon led Titan’s acquisition of the Capitol Wrestling Co. from his ailing father (who died in May 1984), as he and his wife Linda took control of the World Wrestling Federation.
With the company in limbo like it has never been before, it can only be inferred there will be more loses.
Bryan is on the mend. CM Punk is MIA. The Undertaker is not a viable everyday competitor. Brock Lesnar is lurking somewhere – but not on television and the idea of Kurt Angle coming back to the company is not one McMahon wants to examine. Since the end of the “Attitude Era,” wrestling has not been the popular reality program it once was. This can be attributed to cross branding, lack of competition and the retirement of good talent (Shawn Michael, Edge) and the continual use of veterans on a part-time basis (The Rock, Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Lesnar). Everything had a price.
Whether McMahon can stop the bleeding is not known. It cannot happen with just one band aid. And while money still drips out of McMahon’s wallet, it will a decent period of time before the hemorrhage will stop. The question is can McMahon make it stop and can he reinvent himself as the billionaire without a fear in the world?
The summer months look like their will be hotter than wrestling match in an arena near you.
For a man who lost over $300 million and is reeling a bit, the last thing Vince McMahon needs to do is shut the door completely on the idea of a return by Kurt Angle to the WWE.
Triple H, Kevin Nash, Chris Jericho, Batista and Goldust have all made a return to the ring in the last two years, with the idea that bringing back veterans to the company will promote the company more and bring back the fans to the arenas and improve pay-per-view buys.
So far, those attempts and rehashing the past have only left the company looking a bit foolish and unsure of itself. McMahon, as reported in What Culture, has stated he is not totally open to the idea of the 1996 Olympian returning to the company that made home an even bigger household name.
Angle has spent his entire wrestling career in the WWE or as a prominent fixture in TNA Wrestling. Angle is currently on the TNA roster but is out of action because of injury. It is not known if he can return to action before his contract with the Tennessee-based company runs out. There has been speculation that Angle could re-sign with his current outfit, or take a run at the WWE before he retires from the business.
The latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter casts doubt over Kurt Angle’s potential for a WWE return this Autumn. Angle’s TNA contract is expiring but Vince McMahon isn’t too keen on the idea of bringing him in.
“Vince McMahon made the call that no matter what, there was not going to be an Olympic gold medalist dying on WWE’s watch,” the report states about the last time Angle’s contract came up. Vince McMahon simply doesn’t want to take any risks on a man whose health is considered a liability.
While reports of Angle being on death watch before he left WWE in 2006 may have been exaggerated, he was certainly someone who Vince McMahon was worried about, even before the Chris Benoit tragedy exacerbated those concerns of wrestler wellbeing. Angle’s body has only became more worn since that period and he is currently on the shelf with a major knee injury.
Add to the fact that former owner of TNA, Jeff Jarrett is promoting his new promotion and may be interested in bringing in Angle to boost marketing makes the contract status of Angle more than a little interesting.
During Angle’s time in the WWE, he was a six-time world champion (four-time WWF/E Champion, World Heavyweight Champion and WCW Champion), he also held the United States Championship, Intercontinental Championship, European Championship, Hardcore Championship and WWE Tag Team Championship once each. In addition, he was the winner of the King of the Ring tournament in 2000, the tenth Triple Crown Champion, and the fifth Grand Slam Champion.
He is considered one of the most gifted athletes and gifted athletes in the history of the sport. Angle had no prior experience in the business before joining the WWE.
After leaving WWE, Angle joined Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), where he became a five-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion, a two-time TNA World Tag Team Champion and a one-time TNA X Division Champion, the second Triple Crown winner in TNA history and the only one to hold all the required titles at once. As part of TNA, Angle has also made appearances for New Japan Pro Wrestling as well as Inoki Genome Federation, where he held their version of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Angle and Jarrett feuded on screen in TNA as part of a storyline involving Karen Jarrett, Jeff’s current wife who was married to Angle before the two divorced.
The number one way to make money in pro wrestling is with a great feud. Nothing draws bigger at the box office than an exciting rivalry pitting good vs. evil. Some rivalries are based on hatred, some are based on championships, and some are based on nothing more than a motivation to be the best. Today I spotlight one of professional wrestling’s greatest feuds.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon
It is funny because most of the feuds I have highlighted in this series over the last five years have come from my childhood. I am that annoying older wrestling fans who will tell you, “They don’t make them like they did in my day.” Yet I could agree that the most exciting feud I ever watched as a wrestling fan came long past my childhood. That feud was Stone Cold vs. McMahon.
Sometimes you look back at pro wrestling history and you see a trend with some of the biggest money drawing rivalries in wrestling. As great as they were, they were unplanned, generally an audible, and a situation where a negative was turned into a positive. I think that sums up the planning of Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon.
This was never a feud that was planned. This was a feud that fell into place due to a number of different circumstances in the WWE. Business was starting to pick up when everything came to a halt at the end of the summer of 1996. Steve Austin was starting to pick up steam when he became sidelined with a career threatening injury at SummerSlam 1997. An injury suffered at the hands of Owen Hart stopped Austin’s momentum right in its tracks. Steve Austin’s career was in serious jeopardy.
Vince McMahon was not having a whole lot of luck either. Vince found himself in one of the strangest situations where his world champion had signed with the competition, while holding the belt. Not only that, but everyone seemed to know about it. WCW was crushing the WWE and Vince seemed to be a few steps behind a new era of Attitude in the pro wrestling business. The stress that Vince McMahon must have been under at this time had to have been enormous.
The first seed was planted when McMahon stripped Austin and Dude Love of their tag team titles and Austin threatened McMahon. The seed was watered on September 22, 1997. RAW was live from Madison Square Garden for one of the biggest RAW shows of the year. Austin, still not cleared to wrestle, attacked Owen Hart, violating a restraining order. Vince tried to talk some sense into Austin and was rewarded with a Stone Cold Stunner. The crowd went insane and you could start to smell a money feud in the air.
McMahon turned the Bret Hart/Survivor Series 1997 fiasco into a positive and slowly began to morph into the heel maniacal CEO we would eventually see. We saw glimpses of it when McMahon yelled at Austin for ruining Mike Tyson’s appearance on RAW. Once Austin won the WWE championship from Shawn Michaels, Mr. McMahon was unleashed! It became Vince’s personal crusade to either turn Austin corporate or take the title away from him.
What proceeded was one of the most exciting years in WWE history. Every week McMahon would try and outwit Austin only to get outplayed by the Texas Rattlesnake. The chemistry between these two is unrivaled. They could turn even the silliest situations into some of the most entertaining moments in WWE history, such as Austin attacking Vince in the hospital.
The storyline was so simple in retrospect that you almost wonder why nobody did this sooner. Austin was the blue collar man who stood up against his rich boss and didn’t give a damn about the ramifications. What fan couldn’t relate to that? I remember going to house shows during that time and Austin was like a rock star coming out. Fans whether smart to the business or not didn’t like Vince. He was the perfect foil in this story. It was magic!
The key to this entire feud is that it took almost a full year before Austin would get his shot at McMahon in the ring (sans a match on RAW that saw Dude Love jump Austin). It is funny that in today’s environment Vince rarely lets anything simmer, yet his biggest money feud didn’t even see a match for almost a year. It’s a different time and there is more television to fill but there is certainly something to this formula that is lost in today’s WWE booking.
The Royal Rumble 1999 remains one of my favorite Rumbles ever simply due to the interaction of McMahon vs. Austin. The vignettes with Vince and Shane leading up to the match were priceless. Austin and Vince starting 1 & 2 was brilliant. The entire match was pure intensity as somehow or another you knew Austin was going to get screwed, yet he got the better of Vince for most of the night. The open with Austin stomping a mud hole in Vince was just tremendous.
But it was the steel cage match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre that is the gem of the feud. This is a match you should fire up and watch immediately on the WWE Network. How would McMahon survive against Austin in a cage? The match was a one-sided affair but it was one of the most fun matches you’ll ever see on the network. Austin got screwed again by the debuting Big Show but the match certainly paid off in excitement after such a long wait.
The feud would play out for many years in many different forms but it was this period between the fall of 1997 and 1999 that was what I’d call the golden period of the feud. This feud singlehandedly turned the entire WWE business around and only a couple of years later Vince would wind up buying the same company that tried to put him out of business. No matter what WCW tried, there was just no way to compete with Austin vs. McMahon.
Even today I really enjoy seeing Austin and Vince interact on television. They haven’t done it in a while but there is always this fun tension between them whenever they are a few feet apart. It is a feud that defined an era and maybe had more impact on the pro wrestling industry than any rivalry in the history of the business. The feud sustained for several years including helping draw one of the biggest events in WWE history in WrestleMania 23.
Again it is interesting when you look back at the events that led up to this feud and quickly realize that Vince and Austin wound up stepping into something historic by accident. In the end they both needed each other. As fast as the Austin train was moving, he needed a dance partner. The unlikeliest dance partner wound up being the guy signing his pay checks. Austin would have been big, but would he have become arguably the second biggest star in pro wrestling history?
Without this feud there may not even be a WWE today. Would Vince have been able to compete against WCW and the n.W.o. angle? Would the company even be in business today? Take a look at the roster at the time and while the supporting cast was great, nobody was going to light the world on fire like Austin did with McMahon. I think it is fair to say that this feud saved the company.
And for that reason alone, Austin vs. McMahon is not only one of the greatest feuds in pro wrestling history, it may be the greatest.
So…let’s talk about what happened on Friday in the best way that a guy with barely any knowledge of the stock market can do.
The WWE’s much hyped announcement of a television deal with NBCUniversal fails to impress the market. While the WWE did receive a nice $160 million for US television rights, the deal doesn’t look so well considering the last deal was for $95 million (Adjusted for inactive programming) for US television rights. This does sound great until you realize that those numbers pale in comparison to some of numbers that sports leagues are getting. Major League Soccer’s new television deal went from netting them $27.9 million dollars per year to $90 million dollars a year. Last year, NASCAR landed a 10 year deal with NBC and Fox that netted them $8.2 billion dollar deal (Going from $560 million a year to $820 million). Many in the company believe that the WWE was going to get a large NASCAR like deal. Not exactly a billion dollar deal but still somewhere in the high hundred millions, but that obviously did not happen.
Along with the less than stellar Network numbers (670,000 subscribers) which caused a stock tumble (Twenty percent), things were not looking good. According to Forbes the company needs about 1.3-1.5 million subscribers to justify breaking away from PPV. The network still has to launch overseas, so they may be able to hit that number in the end. The biggest problem is that the WWE is going to take a big hit this year, with an OIBDA loss of $35-$45 million and a net loss of anywhere from $45-$25 million.
Today, all this resulted in the WWE’s stock plunging a resound 43.45 percent down to $11.27, down from $19.96 the previous day. At one point, the WWE’s stock was up to $31 so this is a massive purge for the company. You know that scene in Cabin in the Woods, the Purge scene specifically? I’m just going to presume that it was something similar to this. We all know that Eric Garguilo, our deathmatch commentary overlord is a holder of WWE stock and I actually considered investing at one point. This is what happens when you put Kane in a main event people.
The biggest news was the fact that Vince McMahon himself, the company’s biggest shareholder lost $357 million today, a third of his fortune. The biggest problem in all of this was Vince and others talking up how he was expecting to double the previous numbers; Vince even referenced a NASCAR like deal for the company. So, one could presume that the company knew that NASCAR money was a no go but they didn’t do anything to calm any expectations of a super deal. It should be noted that the company has set up a conference call for 11:00 AM to try and sort out the current mess they’re in.
Well, the mess has gotten messier, and the biggest heel in company history has now arrived on the scene.
Wrestling Inc. reported today that Lemelson Capital, a private investment management firm has bought a major stake of shares in the company. The group first received notice in the wrestling world when they declared the value of the WWE’s stock was actually between eight to eleven dollars. This of course was at the point when WWE stock was higher than it has been in a long while. The company cited the numbers that I cited from Forbes and has also decreed that the company misled people in the hype for the network, and that drastic changes are needed based off the current financial losses among other aspects cited by the group. What are those changes you may ask?
Well…they want the company to sell or the replacement of executive management. Which would mean that the group is pretty much calling for the head (and grapefruits) of Vince McMahon. Now, before you laugh at the thought of this, the group made a rather cunning move waiting for the stock to bottom out. Vince owns 87 percent of the shares so while I highly doubt any type of hostile takeover are in the plans.
Monday will be an interesting day for the WWE, maybe the stock stabilizes and we all have a good laugh over this. Heck, it gave me a reason to write something like this up. Maybe the company announces that it’s going back to a private company, but this is a rather muddled situation that may involve possibly having to put the company up for sale. We really don’t know, but I presume many people in the industry are going to be watching the webcast and calling in. This could be the start of the darkest timeline for all we know.
So I pretty much did a substandard Chris Harrington impersonation (Follow him at @mookieghana) on short notice. See you next time.
Robert Goeman has been writing for CamelClutchBlog since 2014 and has written for FiveOuncesofPain and What Culture. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertGoeman. After every article, Robert usually does “Talking Points” on twitter, bringin up points that didn’t make the article.
“Why have a Merry Christmas, WHEN YOU CAN HAVE A NO HOLDS BARRED CHRISTMAS?!”- Vince McMahon after snorting two bricks of cocaine.
Am I really talking about No Holds Barred of all things for the Robert Zone? Seriously? Does Gargiulo have some dirty pictures of me and a prostitute that looks vaguely familiar to Stephanie McMahon? *Talks to guy off-screen* He does? Well, shit. Alright, No Holds Barred might be absolutely awful and should only be enjoyed under the influence of uncontrolled substances but the film has some benefits. First, Kurt Fuller chews every piece of scenery he can as Brell, the evil RIVAL channel owner. Seriously, the character is essentially a stand-in for Ted Turner and since I presume that Will Forte wasn’t acting in 1989, he’s perfect. Bruce Dern who would be my pick for an evil Ted Turner type after seeing Diggstown, but that would be a no-go for him since he wouldn’t touch this film with a ten foot pole.
Seriously, I know that people think he’s supposed to be a shoe-in for Vince, but Brell is Billionaire Ted. He’s crazy evil and wants to see REAL WRESTLING with blood and shit compared to those humble people at that other TV channel. The channel head probably has nice kids named Shane and Steph and nice wife by the name of Linda. Seriously, Ready to Rumble making Jimmy King a straight-up inside joke about Jerry Lawler’s personal life is more subtle than Brell. Now you why Vince famously rewrote the entire scrip with Hogan in a hotel room and by god, I would kill to be a fly in that room. The amount of drugs, alcohol and steroids ingested could probably kill six members of 83 Raiders. So, what else is good about No Holds Barred? Joan Severance! That was one sexy woman, my readers and she still looks good for her age. Seriously, hot damn it’s one of the very few redeeming factors in this movie whenever Fuller isn’t chewing shit up. My crush on her would peak when I would inadvertently stumble onto her Playboy spread in 1990 in my grandpa’s collection. Boy that sounded just awful typing that out. We didn’t have Google back in 199 frigging 5 so give me some damn credit. That’s about it besides Stan Hansen showing for about five minutes and being all crazy and rednecky. It’s funny; I had No Holds Barred on a tape with the 1989 Great American Bash with none other than Heavy Metal bringing up the rear. BEST VHS TAPE EVER…if you’re twelve years old discovering animated nudity for the first time. Overall, the film was critical miss barely made enough to be deemed a success and you’d presume that Vince would want to sweep it under the rug.
Then Vince had an idea. It may not be up there with “Mabel: Main Eventer” or even “Kane: Necrophilia Enthusiast” but it was up there in the valley of stupid ideas. Vince would decide to merge reality with the big screen and Zeus would actually come to the WWE to challenge Hulk Hogan. Now you see, Vince needed a hook for his upcoming Summerslam card. The first card made a nice amount of money, but coming off of a rather successful WrestleMania, it could be viewed as a disappointment. In any ordinary case, it would have been Hogan vs. Savage probably in a cage or some type of other gimmick match. Now, if Savage brought Zeus in as muscle to back him up and Hulk beat him up after the match, it would be looked at as not much of anything. Instead, Vince came up with the idea that Zeus would actually wrestle. And do you know what happened?
The fans bought it. Summerslam 1989 drew 20,000 fans to the Meadowlands with a $350,000 gate and 566,591 buys on PPV. Hogan and Beefcake vs Savage and Zeus ended up being a decent watch thanks to Savage and Hogan carrying a good majority of the match. They kept Zeus limited to what he did in the ring so he wasn’t exposed. Hulk slammed Zeus, won the match, assaulted Sherri like any good 80’s good guy, everybody got a good laugh and all was right with the world!
Until Vince got greedy…well more so than usual. Zeus was to not only come back, but Vince was hatching up a new vision: No Holds Barred….FOR REAL! That’s right; we would see Hogan against Zeus and what better of a place than WrestleMania? It was one of the many ideas, but you know just read my article on WrestleMania matches that never happened. Savage would be placed in a feud with Jim Duggan over who is an actually a king and Ted DiBiase was slotted in to the feud. DiBiase had been in a weird spot; aimlessly feuding with most of the mid card guys while the company was waiting for Jake Roberts to clear some legal issues. DiBiase would bring Zeus in as an insurance policy for an upcoming bout with Hogan setting the stage for the Survivor Series. It would be DiBiase, The Powers of Pain and Zeus against the Hulkamaniacs or as I call it: THE GODDAMN SUPERTEAM. Hogan, Jake Roberts and Demolition and that would seriously be my award for most bad-ass Survivor Series team ever. Once again, people lined up for Hogan vs Zeus round two. It drew a nice 426,417 buys, 15,294 Chicagoans came to the Rosemont Horizon who paid $239,917.
Now around this time, Vince realized that the film was going to be a bust or not the super hit he was expecting. In fact, Vince only got a paltry $2.5 million for the video rights and while it did make sixteen million on an eight million dollar budget, it wasn’t a mega hit at all. Vince had a new idea….that would pretty much piss off everybody in the PPV industry in the process. A PPV special that would take place during the Christmas break for all the kiddies: For $11.95 fans could get to see the movie and a special live (Taped actually) rematch from Summerslam 1989…INSIDE OF A CAGE. Oh boy, were the PPV companies pissed. Fans would get the movie plus twenty minutes of build-up, then a steel cage match that you could later get on tape three months later at Blockbuster for $5.99.
Now you have to remember that PPV was still rather fragile in this time period and PPV companies were already pissed about NWA and WWE trying to sabotage each-other previously. For McMahon to even try and air another PPV (What would be third PPV in a row), it was considered oversaturation and that was with the Turner/McMahon war already going. You don’t think that Vince trying to get the Illinois State Athletic Commission to call of SuperClash III since Kerry Von Erich only had one ankle was an act of concern about Kerry? It was because Superclash III was going to be on PPV and could hinder profits for his upcoming Rumble event. Since PPV was still looked at like a special item and rather pricy, most people would only buy one PPV every few months.
Viewers Choice (inDemand now) and Request TV were willing to carry the PPV but they wouldn’t carry the Rumble. Vince would embellish it by claiming that they were considering not carrying WrestleMania either. In-fact, Vince would dedicate the last few moments of the special towards the possibly of the Rumble not being carried and had Hogan cut a promo on those evil PPV carriers. The reality was that Vince got a teeny bit big for his britches and wanted a bigger cut of the sales. McMahon even had Jesse Ventura go on television and cut a promo declaring that he fought for this country and to him it was un-American that fans wouldn’t get the PPV. Yep.
In the end, the WWE and Viewers Choice would come to a deal about a week before the Rumble. It was a deal that would run through 1996 and Vinny Mac would learn when to back down in a fight. Yet, there was another problem during this whole period; nobody was really being built up to face Hogan in this period. You have to remember that the Warrior match wasn’t set in stone for a good while, so Hogan needed an opponent going into WrestleMania. Hulk didn’t want to work with Rude because Rude worked a bit stiff, Earthquake wasn’t ready, Andre was being phased out, Boss Man was being prepped for a face turn, and Perfect was getting there but wasn’t ready. Savage was getting killed off in all of this so you really couldn’t continue the feud. DiBiase who needed some serious rebuilding had also been knocked off and was going to be jobbing to Jake going into Mania was a no-go. Barry Windham was being built up as a threat to Hogan, but the issues with his dad and brother killed that off. Perfect would be picked to be the guy to go against Hogan. In the end, all of these problems would eventually hinder the hand-picked successor to Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior. You know, just read that article too.
In the end, one little PPV special would result in an ugly stand-off between McMahon and PPV companies, and the complete screwing up of the world title scene.
At least we got Kurt Fuller’s overacting.
And Joan Severance.
Can’t forget about that last one.
Robert Goeman has been writing for CamelClutchBlog since 2014 and has written for FiveOuncesofPain and What Culture. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertGoeman. After every article, Robert usually does “Talking Points” on twitter, bringin up points that didn’t make the article.
Chances are, if you wrestled your final WWE match at the tender age of twenty, you’d mope about it bitterly for years following.
Not if you’re Zach Gowen.
For a five-month frame in 2003, the pre-booze-age Gowen lived the dream of any fan, coming to the aid of Hulk Hogan, scoring pinfalls on The Big Show and Matt Hardy, and even had a pay-per-view battle against wrestling’s most powerful figure, Vince McMahon. That’s plenty to take in for someone barely out of grade school.
“I was overwhelmed; you would be too!” Gowen merrily recalls. “My reaction (to getting signed) was shock and amazement when they called me. I was a bag boy at a local grocery store when Johnny Ace called me. Becoming a WWE superstar wasn’t even a thought in my head.”
“The first day on the job, at a Smackdown taping, here I was having a conversation with Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and Vince McMahon before the show. I loved wrestling Vince. It was so cool for me to see just how freakin’ dedicated and hard working this man is. He’s truly a pioneer and is up there in the same ranks as a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.”
For anyone to be in any position to rub shoulders on a national stage with such storied icons is unfathomable, triply so when you’ve got only one leg.
To know of Gowen is to know that, following a cancer diagnosis, his left leg was amputated at age eight. This made the pipe dream of finding success in any physical vocation, let alone touring as a professional wrestler, even more exceedingly daunting.
Yet to see Gowen perform, compensating for the missing limb as imaginatively as his mind and drive allow, is a thing of beauty. Running the ropes with a striding hop, and skipping up turnbuckles, represent two parts of a spectrum: artistic grace, and defiance toward hindrance. Now 31 years old, Gowen feels he’s perfected his act.
“The obstacles themselves have become almost obsolete. I was signed and put on the road after having less than 20 matches,” Gowen reveals. “It’s crazy to think about the idea of me being in WWE was a live experiment being played out on TV in front of millions on a weekly basis!”
“I didn’t know what I had, and the WWE didn’t fully comprehend how to get the most out of me, so there was a lot of throwing s–t against the wall to see if anything would stick. It bothers me a little bit that some fans think what they saw on TV is what my act is all about. That’s why it’s always a treat to wrestle at these independent shows for kids who have never seen me before, *and* for the fans who think they know all I’m capable of!”
Zach Gowen would last less than a year under WWE contract, but rather than chalk up the parting of ways as a failure, he instead looks at the positives of the reality check he received at a young age.
“I learned many lessons in the ring, but the biggest lessons learned were life lessons. Unfortunately for me, I had to learn most of these lessons by dealing with the repercussions of doing the exact opposite! Show up on time, how to conduct yourself as a professional, be kind to everyone, be helpful, etc. Wrestling has really laid the foundation for my life in a lot of ways.”
Post-WWE, Gowen lent his services to a number of high-profile organizations, including TNA, Ring of Honor, and even the Insane Clown Posse’s cult-status JCW promotion. Perhaps as he was destined to do, Gowen found his kindred spirit in Gregory Iron, a popular independent star most notable for overcoming his own affliction, cerebral palsy.
Together, Gowen and Iron perform as “The Handicapped Heroes”, serving to both inspire and dazzle onlookers across the globe. They even took on a manager, a young woman named Jill Dials, who’s confined to a wheelchair thanks to spina bifida.
“To have had, and to continue to have, the impact on the lives of fans with disabilities worldwide, Greg and Jill included, is absolutely astonishing and mind-blowing to me. I appreciate that more than ever now. I’m blessed.”
Gowen openly embraces this lot in life, to be seen not as a sideshow act, but as a real person making the most of life’s hand, showing others that anything can be achieved. By mining success and reward out of each day, each performance, and each appearance, it’s more than within reason that others can do the same, disabled or not.
“After disappearing from wrestling for a number of years, I came back stronger. I’m fully engaged and living life on my terms. I’m a father and a husband. I wrestle full time on the independent scene, speak full time to the youth of America, and just released the most in-depth piece on my life ever made: a documentary called “Finding Zach Gowen”.
The documentary timelines Gowen’s life and career, featuring testimonials from peers such as Truth Martini (Gowen’s trainer), Rhino, Jimmy Jacobs, former WWE official Jim Korderas, along with Gowen, his mother, and numerous others. Within, Gowen opens up about not just the obstacles of his cancer diagnosis and subsequent life adjustments, but also the drug use that plagued him in adulthood.
Gowen makes no excuses for his choices, and puts them on par with his childhood illness: just something else to defeat.
“I believe the sole purpose of my existence is to be of maximum service to God and to my fellow human travelers on this planet. One way I do that is by sharing my story through various platforms, in this case, professional wrestling.”
With many opportunities ahead of him, and many more souls to reach, Gowen would change seemingly nothing of his past. Incidentally, he’d change nothing of his present either.
“I have no goals in wrestling except to shine inspiration on whoever needs it when they see me in action. I would be an asshole if I asked for anything more, not only in wrestling, but in life. Wrestling has provided me a life beyond my wildest dreams and for that, I’m eternally grateful.”
The WWE paid tribute to the Ultimate Warrior last week with a full week of specials on the WWE Network. Yet it was their documentary, Warrior: The Ultimate Legend that was truly nothing short of ultimate.
The WWE outdid themselves last week, producing arguably the best documentary in company history. The new documentary chronicling the Ultimate Warrior’s career paid an honest, fair, emotional, and classy tribute to the fallen WWE icon. Even more impressive is that the WWE put the production together in just a matter of days.
The documentary takes a lot of clips from the new Ultimate Collection DVD as well as clips from an unseen interview, blending them with candid footage of Warrior’s Hall of Fame, WrestleMania, RAW appearances and commentary from his wrestling peers. There are a few wrestling clips in there but it was the emotional tribute by his colleagues that captivated me from start to finish.
Sting is included quite a bit in the documentary. Sting was able to give some context into Warrior’s early days as the two broke into the business together. Sting also gave some insight into Warrior’s failed WCW run. One of the more revealing and honest thoughts from the video came when Sting admitted he was jealous when Warrior wrestled and beat Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI.
Vince McMahon is arguably the star of the documentary. Vince offers insight throughout the documentary about the ups and downs in his relationship with Warrior. From my standpoint he came across probably more honest than he has ever been in one of these documentaries. The one thing that was painfully clear was that Vince was hurting. I still don’t know why this one hit him so hard but it has really taken a toll on him. Vince says at one point, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone” in reference to Warrior. Quite frankly the man seemed heartbroken.
Warrior’s relationship with the McMahon family was chronicled extensively in the doc. Warrior talked about visiting the McMahons whenever he was in town and staying over at their house whether the family were home or not. He talked about his relationship with Shane McMahon as brotherly and even refers to Vince at one point like a dad. You can’t help but watch and think about the huge weight lifted off of Warrior’s shoulders when he finally buried the hatchet with the McMahons and made peace with the family.
Another relationship that was strained and repaired was Hulk Hogan. He and Hogan have had said some brutal things about each other in the press over the years. Warrior says the root of their heat is from a deposition that Hogan gave when Warrior sued the WWE over the Self-Destruction DVD. Warrior said that Hogan refused to admit to anything. A very cool clip is played of the actual deposition with Hogan in which Hogan calls Warrior a flash in the pan. Hogan gives his side of the story which is that he was ambushed when he came into the deposition by Warrior’s team and quickly chose his side which was the WWE. Triple H says that he told Hogan not to approach Warrior until after the Hall of Fame. The cameras catch Hogan and Warrior making amends at WrestleMania with Hogan telling him how sorry he is and how much he loves him. I know the Hogan cynics will never buy it but he seemed very sincere about it as far as I could tell.
The cameras followed Warrior throughout the Hall of Fame which was very cool. There is some great footage of him and Vince McMahon hanging out before the ceremony. Vince was beaming and looked like he was having such a great time with Warrior. It should be pointed out that when they were talking about his speech Vince told Warrior to say whatever he wants, even negative words in which Warrior responds saying that he wouldn’t do that and it will be all positive.
You can’t help but have your heart break for his family as you watch the documentary. The man is a proud family man and his daughters were real proud of him. Say what you will about Warrior and you know what, some of the criticism is fair, but no family deserves to lose their father this young. My heart goes out to those girls.
It was hard to ignore the health of Warrior during his WrestleMania weekend of appearances. Warrior looked noticeably more tired that weekend than he did when he was filmed at earlier times during the documentary. Warrior looked tired and almost short of breath at times when talking to Sgt. Slaughter and Vince McMahon. At times he walked and looked like he had just finished a 20-minute wrestling match. In comparison to other interview clips with Warrior that were taped months before the weekend, he did not look healthy. This brings me back to those theories many have of Warrior knowing that his time was up, quoting the interview from RAW and his speech. Nobody will ever truly know the answer to that but a keen eye reveals a lot about his well being the last few days of his life.
There is talk about the WWE working with the USA Network to air the documentary. The consensus is that the movie is so good, that it needs to be seen by more people outside of the WWE Network. I can’t agree more. The world needs to see these sides of the Warrior and the McMahon family and get the true story of this WWE Hall of Famer’s career. Hopefully a deal can be made and more people can see the doc.
I still scratch my head at the numerous tributes that the McMahon family are giving Warrior but one thing is clear coming out of this movie. Their intentions do appear to be sincere. Why Vince is so heartbroken over this is another question. The fact that we got this classic documentary out of this tribute makes it alright regardless of the intentions.
I know I am not the only one thinking it so I’ll just say it. The WWE’s reaction to the death of former champion Ultimate Warrior is one of the most bizarre things I think I have ever seen in over 30 years as a pro wrestling observer.
Vince McMahon has poured his heart out through WWE programming in honoring the late Jim Hellwig. The tributes to the Warrior are unprecedented in company history as the WWE has spent almost two weeks memorializing Warrior through content on their website, television shows, social media, and network. Classy yes, but it makes absolutely no sense at all.
It hasn’t even been a year since Vince McMahon welcomed Warrior back into the WWE family. Warrior returned first through promotion of the WWE 2K14 game and later officially at the Hall of Fame. The return ended close to a 20-year absence from the company. If you followed any of the tributes to the Warrior, you would never know that he and McMahon spent more time fighting outside of the company than he actually did wrestling for the WWE.
I don’t mean this as any disrespect to the Warrior but I can’t figure out why he is being treated as if he had the impact on the WWE and the business that Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Graham, or even Ric Flair had. This is a man that headlined only one WrestleMania (two by his logic), held the WWE title for less than a year at a time when short babyface title reigns wasn’t good business, and had numerous outside of the ring issues with the company. He certainly was a big star and he is unquestionably iconic, but these tributes are painting a picture that just didn’t exist.
If you take a look at Warrior’s WWE timeline in and out of the company you will see that his first and biggest run was only four years with two other runs that lasted under a year each. Yet he spent five years in court on one occasion against the WWE and had several other disagreements along the way. Think about that for a second. He spent more time fighting with Vince McMahon than he did wrestling for him. Granted he had every right to defend himself but hundreds of loyal WWE employees have passed away since the company’s inception with none getting this kind of treatment. It makes no sense.
Either one of two things are going on here. Vince McMahon is older and somehow or another relates to how the Warrior passed away. Vince certainly practiced a similar lifestyle and maybe he is seeing himself in all of this. I am certainly no psychologist but try and give me a better explanation. If Vince has turned into such a softie over the years than why wasn’t Randy Savage given more than a 5-minute video on television? I am sure he has softened a bit but he certainly hasn’t turned into a pushover.
Now the cynic in me thinks otherwise. The WWE recently released numbers on the WWE Network and those numbers were met with the stock absolutely plummeting. I hate to say it and I hope this isn’t the case but maybe Vince is using this as some kind of marketing ploy. All of the attention paid to Warrior would certainly connect with some fans that probably aren’t watching the WWE anymore. A full “Warrior Week” on the network doesn’t come cheap. As much as I would hate to accuse anyone of capitalizing off of someone’s death, quite frankly that is the only thing that makes sense and hey, maybe it isn’t even done intentionally. There is also a brand new Ultimate Warrior DVD to promote (produced and set for release way before his death). This is just how Vince McMahon’s promoter mind works.
I don’t know if we will ever truly know the motivation behind these tributes yet unfortunately it will take the deaths of more legends to unravel the real agenda. We’ll see how the WWE pays tribute to the next fallen icon. Does someone like a Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Bruno Sammartino, or Steve Austin get a bigger tribute or is this the standard? I hope we don’t get those answers any time soon but there is now a standard that the WWE has set with the Warrior.
Once again I am not saying it’s wrong because he certainly was an icon and a big star, it’s just strange. Whatever the motivation, I am glad Warrior’s fans, friends, and family have this final opportunity to memorialize their fallen hero. It just may be the weirdest thing I have ever seen and I know I am not the only one thinking it.
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.
-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.
-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.