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The Countdown to WrestleMania 27 Officially Begins

November 16, 2010 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

John Orton and Randy Orton are on tap for WrestleMania 27The countdown to WrestleMania 27 officially began this past weekend as the WWE (lead by legendary stars Triple H and Shawn Michaels) invaded Atlanta to promote the event that will take place in the Georgia Dome during the first week of April. The official countdown made me think of what a world of hurt the WWE currently finds themselves in despite their best laid plans to use their big guns to promote the biggest pro wrestling event of the year.

WrestleMania 26 saw perhaps one of the greatest build ups to a WWE pay-per-view that this generation of wrestling fans may ever see.

Coming off a flat WrestleMania 25 where the star power (sorry Mickey Rourke, I still love you), element of surprise, and intrigue just wasn’t there, the WWE masterfully adjusted in preparation for its annual spectacular the following year.

The WWE seemed to pull out all the stops for its Grand Showcase in Arizona. Bret Hart, who had stormed out of the WWE 12 years ago following the infamous (and omnipresent) Montreal Screwjob, worked his first match for the WWE since leaving the company and swearing to never set foot in a WWE ring again.

Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker were to wrestle in a rematch for the first time since their instant classic that served as one of the few bright spots in the aforementioned flat WrestleMania 25 pay-per-view.

John Cena and Batista, this generation’s two biggest stars and a very underexposed rivalry, were to compete for the WWE Championship.

The stars had aligned for the type of box-office and in-ring sensation that the WWE needed maintain the luster in the be all end all event in sports and entertainment. The WWE swung for the fences with the lineup for WrestleMania 26, with many pundits expecting the event to flirt with one million buys.

But the event drew a strikingly disappointing 885,000 buys at the box office.

To make matters worse, the WWE is currently faced with a quandary brought about by injuries, a lack of established names, and a youth movement that is to a box office what latkis is to a Muslim.

In WrestleMania 26, the WWE seemed to have put together the greatest build up in WrestleMania history with one of the most stacked lineups from top to bottom in recent memories, and that pay-per-view largely disappointed from a business standpoint.

Adding even more cruel humor to the legendary franchise, the WWE’s objective for WrestleMania 27 will to be to outdo its colossal ’26 lineup with a depleted roster that has been plagued with injuries.

Such is one of the many ill-effects of an overly aggressive initiative for the WWE to feature next generation stars seemingly all at once.

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The idea of a youth movement, while noble and ambitious, could have been ruled unnecessary had the WWE elected to infuse young talent while established stars (which are currently few and far between yet you couldn’t blink ten times before seeing at least one just a few years ago), were at their peak and/or the back end of their primes.

Instead, the WWE got greedy. Featuring the same, safe matchups and feuds that were sure to be attractions at pay-per-views yet were quite damning for a future that in hindsight seems to have been overlooked (ironically enough).

The pin drop that was heard throughout Reliant Stadium following the conclusion of yet another Triple H/Randy Orton Main event looked to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back when the WWE finally decided that they needed to create new stars and fast.

Yet even with ample time to build towards future WrestleMania pay-per-views, the WWE had reacted too slowly with such a realization, and is now faced with the harsh reality that Wreslemania 27 in Atlanta as a card in crisis.

Alfred Konuwa is the editor of the Big Nasty Athletic Dept. Follow him on twitter at twitter.com/ThisIsNasty

Triple H is still battling injury, and while a comeback is imminent, an inevitable feud with Sheamus would be played out if it continued into WrestleMania, and there aren’t any home run feuds for Triple H that immediately come to mind.

CM Punk is currently injured, and while he should be back in time for WrestleMania, the expected route of feuding with Daniel Bryan will only excite purists for the most part although Bryan is doing a good job of getting over with the mainstream crowd.

The Undertaker, whose legendary undefeated streak has been one of the biggest draw for WrestleMania on a yearly basis, is suffering from a shoulder injury that recently required surgery. It will be a photo finish as to whether or not the Undertaker (who has been plagued with injuries in 2010 during the twilight of his career) will even be able to compete come WrestleMania 27.

The only matches being thrown around currently involve John Cena, who may or may not be babyface, battling Randy Orton for the WWE Championship *yawn* and Wade Barrett going toe to medically-taped toe with the Undertaker, should he be healthy enough for action.

Cena/Orton had an abundance of intrigue, for a match up we’ve seen too many times, about two months ago when it looked as if John Cena may be a full on heel by the time ‘Mania rolls around.

But the WWE has given this match away on free TV so many times since the start of the CeNexus angle, that I don’t even care if John Cena finally does turn heel. I simply don’t want to see it.

As far as the Undertaker is concerned? With names like Sting, Bill Goldberg, and even Brock Lesnar being thrown and, as rumor has it, pursued as possible Undertaker opponents, it would be quite deflating for Wade Barrett (a rising star in his own right but not quite there yet) to be the ultimate choice.

When WrestleMania 27 buzz centers around talent that is not currently on the WWE roster, it’s safe to say that this is not the best indicator for a healthy buyrate.

The WWE has become its own worst enemy with its ongoing roster complications. Hell, nobody said they had to engage in a full on youth movement because they were too short-sighted to realize the pejorative implications. Band aids heal wounds, too. And a box of band aids, in the form of free agents that casual wrestling fans would recognize working almost (it’s pro wrestling, so give or take some backstage politics) exclusively to help put over younger talent.

The WWE has also caused self-inflicted wounds with constant start-stop booking of talent who could have been the stars they so desperately need today. In the interest of avoiding the electronically ubiquitous discussion of who is getting a raw deal, just go online and Google ‘WWE Pushes’. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of examples.

Unfortunately, now such free agent names are being thrown around as possible solutions to save WrestleMania 27, and while band aids do fix wounds, they can hardly heal bullet holes because this card is beginning to look more and more like it’s going to be shot.

Projected WrestleMania 27 Card

WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs. Randy Orton. Tagline: This time, it’s different…we promise. Seriously, just watch…please?

World Championship, ‘Panic Mode’ Match: Kane (c) vs. Sting. (Sting’s music will ‘accidentally’ cut out on his way to the ring, and Justin Roberts will ‘accidentally’ announce him as ‘The Sting’ while Vince McMahon accidentally laughs hysterically backstage).

The Undertaker puts his vaunted WrestleMania streak on the line in an arm wrestling match against Wade Barrett. To protect both the streak and Wade Barrett, the Nexus earn their large ‘Mania paycheck by attacking Taker just as he’s about to win.

A WCW Flashback WrestleMania paycheck battle royal: Ricky Steamboat wins the battle royal that featured established WCW names such as Arn Anderson, Dusty Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, Dean Malenko, Chuck Polumbo, Sean O’Haire, Chavo Guerrero, Diamond Dallas Page, and the Sting.

Daniel Bryan battles CM Punk to a five minute no-finish. So the WWE could avoid Internet fans telling them two ROH guys saved their biggest pay-per-view of the year. If WrestleMania’s going down, the ROH representation will go down with it!

The Three Horsemen receive the loudest ovation during the Hall of Fame acknowledgment ceremony.

Singles Match: Sheamus vs. Triple H: A match where, if saved until Wrestlmania, the WWE will have unintentionally done something right in building up a long term feud.

Money in the Bank Match: Expanded to 12 participants to accommodate those who the WWE forgot about. The biggest spot of the match sees Kofi Kingston hit a missile dropkick on Jack Swagger from the second rung of the ladder. Alberto Del Rio is your winner.

Alfred Konuwa is the editor of the Big Nasty Athletic Dept. Follow him on twitter at twitter.com/ThisIsNasty

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WrestleMania 26 Delivers Disappointing Buyrate

May 11, 2010 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WrestleMania 26 DVDThe WrestleMania 26 buy rate is in and nobody is celebrating in Stamford, CT. The biggest WWE event of the year drew 885,000 buys worldwide. The number is down from WrestleMania 25 and a huge disappointment for a WrestleMania event that featured Bret Hart, a strong card, and the end of Shawn Michaels.

The 885,000 buy rate is disappointing considering that early projections looked to be well over 1,000,000 buys for WrestleMania 26. I am not big into writing about buy rates because at the end of the day, I don’t think pro wrestling fans really concern themselves too much about buy rates. I have never seen a WWE fan go crazy over a big buy rate, although I have heard many complain about crappy shows. But I think this is big news and worthy of discussion as this is in my opinion a reflection of the current WWE climate and a big alarm for a change.

I have to admit, I was pretty surprised at the WrestleMania 26 buyrate. In my opinion, WrestleMania 26 had one of the better lineups as opposed to WrestleMania events in the last several years. I thought the promotion for Batista vs. John Cena was excellent as a main-event. The return of Bret Hart sparked enough interest that his first confrontation with Vince McMahon drew a 4.1 rating in the WWE RAW overrun. Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker are two WWE stars that have transcended several generations of fans, so the interest in a match that could end the career of Shawn Michaels should have been a big draw in itself. So why the low buy rate on a WrestleMania that should have been an easy success?

For one, Ric Flair killed the golden goose of wrestling retirements. The emotion and memories of the retirement of Ric Flair are still fresh in the minds of WWE fans. Equally fresh are the reappearances by Flair on WWE television fighting Randy Orton in a Street Fight and now wrestling on TNA Impact. The appeal of a wrestling retirement match is over. I don’t think anyone expected or expects Shawn Michaels to stay retired, other than Shawn Michaels. Unlike Flair, Shawn Michaels doesn’t look old or broken down and quite frankly, looks better in the ring than arguably everyone on the roster. Rarely has anyone other than Jack Brisco walked away and never come back in that kind of situation. WWE fans know it and they aren’t buying it (no pun intended).

The WWE also got too cute with the Bret Hart angle. The fact that they even turned this into an angle is surprising in itself because nothing here needed to be done. There was enough history here to sell this match without any gaga or soap operas. The car accident angle turned a lot of the older fans off who tuned back in to watch Bret Hart. The explanation worked but it was a bit corny. In the end, I think a lot of people had tuned out by that point anyway who would have bought this match on seeing a lot less scripted in the build to the Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon WrestleMania match.

The WWE Guest Host idea is working short term but killing the WWE long term in my opinion. I think that way too many wrestling fans have become so turned off by the horrendous comedy and endless array of D-List celebrities. It is working in the short term as a television show because you are getting some new viewers in to check out the celebrities and maybe boost the ratings. But, those aren’t people that are going to pay $50 to watch WrestleMania 26. Those people tuned out a long time ago and aren’t coming back until this thing runs its course. Stephanie McMahon recently compared it to SNL, the big difference is that when people tune into SNL they want to see comedy. When wrestling fans tune into WWE RAW, they want to see WWE wrestling.

A lot of UFC fans and writers are pumping their chests out about the low buyrate. There is a belief that by the UFC broadcasting UFC 111 the night before WrestleMania 26 that they stole customers away from the WWE. I don’t buy it at all. I really don’t think there is as big a crossover of pro wrestling and MMA fans as some think. The UFC has never done any damage at all to WWE RAW when they have gone head to head with live Monday shows. While I do think that there are some crossover fans that may opt one over the other on a particular weekend, the numbers are so miniscule that they really don’t factor into the equation.

The technology when it comes to Internet users pirating live streams of pay-per-view boxing, WWE, and UFC events has vastly improved. The UFC has been more reactive in this regard to stopping pirated streams than the WWE has. One theory may suggest that WWE fans are getting smarter and would rather find a live online stream than pay $50+. Again, I don’t necessarily buy this theory when it comes to WrestleMania. I definitely think when it comes to a B-level WWE event, a fan may choose to find a live stream rather than waste their money but this is WrestleMania. I think that if a fan wants to watch WrestleMania that WrestleMania would be the one show a year that they would shell out the bucks for to watch comfortably or with friends rather than stay in alone and watch it on some jumbled stream in front of an 18” monitor.

Finally, the booking just flat out sucks these days in the WWE. I really enjoyed the booking of the Batista vs. John Cena feud, but that didn’t make up for the rest of the show. Angles and feuds are being thrown together without reason or conclusion at a pace that even makes Vince Russo scratch his head at times. The WWE is also forcing issues and stars down the fan’s throats that they just honestly don’t want to see. It has gotten to the point where you can miss three month’s worth of WWE television and not miss a thing. Even Vince McMahon blamed the creative process for the disappointing WrestleMania 26 numbers on a recent conference call to WWE shareholders.

I hope for the sake of wrestling fans that the WWE will use this information as a wakeup call. At least for now, it sounds like Vince McMahon is looking to react to this and make some hard changes. However, if the last few WWE RAW television shows are any indication than the WWE could expect an even lower number for WrestleMania 27. Considering that Flava Flav and Jon Lovitz will be WWE Guest Hosts for the next two weeks respectively, I don’t see any changes coming in the near future.

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WWE WrestleMania XXVI DVD Set Released Today

May 04, 2010 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WrestleMania 26 DVDThe biggest WWE event of the year is now available on DVD. The WrestleMania 26 DVD will be released today. WWE fans have several WrestleMania 26 DVD options to choose from. There are 2-Disc, 3-Disc, Blu-Ray, and exclusive K Mart editions of the WWE’s blockbuster event of 2010.

What I really like about WrestleMania DVD releases is that the WWE goes overboard in offering extras with the purchase. It is almost impossible for any WWE fan to turn down the $25 purchase with the extras in addition to owning one of the most historic WrestleMania events of all-time. This year, several versions will allow WWE fans to choose how much extra they want with their WrestleMania 26 DVD.

The standard WrestleMania 26 DVD is anything but standard. In addition to the full WrestleMania 26 show, the collection will include the USA Network broadcast of the 2010 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. Retail prices range anywhere from $17-$30 for this 2-Disc edition of the WrestleMania 26 DVD.

Order the Wrestlemania 26 2-Disc DVD.

For a few dollars more, WWE fans can own the WrestleMania 26 Collector’s Edition DVD. This is really the set to buy as you get three DVDs with this set. The set includes the full WrestleMania 26 event in addition to the full unedited 2010 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, as well as the final WWE RAW and WWE SmackDown shows before WrestleMania 26. Retail prices range anywhere from $26-45 for the WrestleMania 26 Collector’s Edition DVD.

Order the WWE: Wrestlemania 26 (Collector’s Edition).

The WrestleMania 26 Blu-Ray edition will not be released until July 6. This set features the entire WrestleMania 26 event, the 2010 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, matches featuring the WWE Hall of Fame inductees, and the WWE RAW and SmackDown go-home shows.

Finally, K Mart will have an exclusive WrestleMania 26 DVD bundle. The standard 2-Disc edition will include a bonus The Greatest Superstars of WrestleMania DVD. I own The Greatest Superstars of WrestleMania DVD and it is really a tremendous collection of WrestleMania matches. I checked the K Mart website and I see nothing as far as any ordering information. I’d recommend visiting your local K Mart if you wish to purchase the WrestleMania 26 K Mart exclusive DVD.

The WrestleMania DVDs generally sell pretty well, so I’d suggest ordering one as soon as you can. Overall the event wasn’t the greatest, but you get a lot of value for your buck with these sets. I have always enjoyed the full WWE Hall of Fame ceremonies, so I will probably grab the WrestleMania 26 Collector’s Edition DVD just for the ceremony alone. The Hall of Fame ceremonies are 1,000 times better than the television broadcasts when you get to watch them uncut and unedited. Additionally, the WWE RAW and SmackDown shows were tremendous leading into WrestleMania 26.

The WWE WrestleMania 26 card…
Big Show & The Miz vs. John Morrison & R-Truth – Unified Tag Team Championship
Randy Orton vs. Ted Dibiase and Cody Rhodes – Triple Threat Match
Jack Swagger vs. Christian, Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne, MVP, Drew McIntyre, Matt Hardy, Kane, Dolph Ziggler, and Shelton Benjamin – Money-In-The-Bank Ladder Match
Triple H vs. Sheamus
Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk – If Rey Loses he Joins SES
Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon – No Holds Barred Lumberjack Match
Chris Jericho vs. Edge – World Heavyweight Championship
Vickie Guerrero, Michelle McCool, Maryse, Layla, & Alicia Fox vs. Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Gail Kim, Kelly Kelly, & Eve – 10 Diva Tag Team Match
John Cena vs. Batista WWE Championship
Undertaker vs. Shawn Micheals Streak vs. Career

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WWE Extreme Rules Preview and Predictions

April 23, 2010 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

WWE Extreme RulesThe WWE returns with its second installment of WWE Extreme Rules this Sunday night. The WrestleMania fallout will take center stage with a series of WrestleMania 26 rematches all contested under Extreme Rules. This year’s show has loads of potential but can the WWE capitalize off of its WrestleMania momentum this Sunday at Extreme Rules?

Unlike WrestleMania 26 which featured Shawn Michaels vs. the Undertaker, WWE Extreme Rules doesn’t boast of any particularly intriguing matches. There is only one match on top different from WrestleMania 26. Yet every match does have a gimmick or stipulation which ensures an action packed WWE event. Let’s take a look at some of the top matches at WWE Extreme Rules.

John Cena vs. Batista in a Last Man Standing Match for the WWE title

How could the hottest WWE feud going into WrestleMania 26 turn into one of the least interesting feuds in less than a month? I don’t know how, but the WWE has dropped the ball a bit on this one in my opinion. Cena made Batista tap out at WrestleMania so I am not sure why we are even having this match.

John Cena vs. Batista definitely wasn’t the best match at WrestleMania 26. But, it was arguably the most over with the crowd. There is great chemistry between these two and these two guys have the potential to steal the show. I really don’t like the Last Man Standing stip for this one. It seems like Cena is in one of these kinds of matches every few months.

I don’t see any way that Batista wins the WWE title here. He tapped out at WrestleMania and really hasn’t been too strong following the big event. On the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Batista win the title here with the WWE world champion being drafted to SmackDown. In the end I look for Cena to retain and Batista unable to answer the count.

Jack Swagger vs. Randy Orton in an Extreme Rules Match for the WWE world championship

This may be the most awkward main-event of the new decade for the WWE. These two guys have had issues immediately following WrestleMania, but they aren’t gelling for me. There doesn’t seem to be too much chemistry between these two. I think a big part of this is that the WWE Universe still isn’t buying Randy Orton as a babyface. Compound that with the feeling that most fans see Jack Swagger as a fluke champion and this feud is doomed.

Hopefully the Extreme Rules will camouflage all of the defaults and make this an entertaining match. Orton has had some pretty decent matches at these Extreme Rules and One Night Stand shows, but Swagger is no Triple H. Orton pinned Swagger a few weeks ago which leads me to think that Swagger will get his win back here. If the WWE is truly committed to Jack Swagger, he should win clean at Extreme Rules. That may be pushing it, but I like Swagger to leave WWE Extreme Rules with the WWE world championship.

Edge vs. Chris Jericho in a Steel Cage Match

Some will argue that these two had the better match at WrestleMania 26. They certainly did a lot of new moves and kept the crowd on their feet from the start of the bell. Unlike Swagger and Orton, these two guys have tremendous chemistry. I am really looking forward to seeing these guys in what should be their blowoff match.

If this is truly their blowoff match, I expect Edge to win. Jericho got the win at WrestleMania and it is time to return the favor. There is a big part of me that feels that these guys got short changed a bit. I think they should have left the title on Jericho at least through Extreme Rules to keep this a main-event feud. At this point the feud almost seems irrelevant, although I like their matches.

Once again, I look for Edge to take the win here. Edge is rumored to be joining the WWE RAW roster, so it could also be a case of Edge doing the favor on the way out. Looking up and down the lineup I can’t see any reason that these guys won’t steal the show. I look for an Edge win, but a Jericho win would be a tremendous boost to his heel persona on the post-WWE Draft SmackDown.

Triple H vs. Sheamus in a Street Fight Match

I may be the only one, but I am really enjoying this feud. A lot of fans were upset that Triple H won their match at WrestleMania 26. The critics felt that Triple H should have put Sheamus over in such a big spot. I wasn’t so quick to jump on the Triple H hate bandwagon. Before I criticize the booking here, I want to see how this plays out. Maybe Sheamus gets his win back after all and these two are back to an even series.

Triple H may not be the best wrestler in the WWE these days but he is still one of the best at the Street Fight. He gets it and has rarely had a bad Street Fight Match. I thought he and Sheamus had good chemistry at WrestleMania 26 and I really don’t mind seeing them wrestle again. The WWE writers have done a pretty decent job of continuing the angle and giving fans a reason to want to see these two go at it one more time. I look for lots of blood, brawling, and some tables out of these two at WWE Extreme Rules.

I will go out on a limb and predict a Sheamus win here. There is no point to having these two guys wrestle twice if Triple H is winning both of them. A win here would not only be huge, but it would also reinforce the toughness of the Sheamus character. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see Sheamus win clean. Sheamus wins and evens up the series at one a piece at WWE Extreme Rules.

The entire WWE Extreme Rules lineup…
John Cena vs. Batista…Last Man Standing match for the WWE Championship
Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk…Hair Match (If Punk is defeated he loses his hair)
Jack Swagger vs. Randy Orton…Extreme Rules Match for the World Heavyweight Championship
Triple H vs. Sheamus…Street Fight
Edge vs. Chris Jericho…Steel Cage Match
JTG vs. Shad Gaspard…Strap Match
Michelle McCool vs. Beth Phoenix…Extreme Makeover Match for the for the WWE Women’s Championship

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Flashback: Ric Flair’s WWE RAW Farewell

April 02, 2010 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

ricflairThe WWE Universe is still in shock about the retirement of Shawn Michaels. The Undertaker pinned Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 26 to send HBK into retirement. The WWE sent off Shawn Michaels in style with a farewell tribute on WWE RAW. However, as moving as Shawn Michaels’ farewell was it was the farewell to Ric Flair that still has fans and WWE superstars talking.

I thought it would be a great opportunity to look back at what some people call one of the greatest moments in WWE and pro wrestling history. It was two years ago, March 31 2008 when the pro wrestling world stood still as Ric Flair walked that aisle for what we all thought would be the final time of his career. While the moment may be slightly tarnished by Flair’s eventual return to the pro wrestling world, the night the WWE paid tribute to Ric Flair will still go down as one of the most special nights in all of pro wrestling.

It is rare that anyone does a retirement ceremony right in sports or entertainment. Unfortunately, retirement ceremonies cease to exist or usually come too late for the fans truly appreciate the greatness of the individual. On March 31, 2008 the WWE did it right with a retirement ceremony for the ages dedicated to the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.

Ric Flair wrestled what we were all led to believe would be his last match at WrestleMania 24 against Shawn Michaels. A Shawn Michaels kick to the chin theoretically ended the career of one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time. WWE Raw allowed Ric Flair to give a farewell address to the fans. The farewell address turned into one of the greatest moments in wrestling history.

Ric Flair came out at the end of the show to say farewell to the fans, his peers, and the pro wrestling business. Ric Flair gave a modest speech and looked all cried out by this point between the WWE Hall of Fame two days earlier and WrestleMania 24. The WWE for all of its issues,  showed more class than even the biggest sports organizations in the world with the way they followed Flair’s speech.

Immediately following Flair’s speech, Triple H hit the ring. Is it me or do you always have the feeling in the back of your head, “I think he may turn heel” every time Triple H hits the ring with another babyface? Anyway, Triple H hit the ring and proceeded to thank Ric Flair and pay homage to his favorite wrestler and close friend. Who knew the party was just getting started?

Triple H then proceeded to bring out several very special guests from Ric Flair’s past that wanted to pay tribute to the former world champion. For the first time in twenty-years, the combination of Four Horsemen including Barry Windham, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, J.J. Dillon and Ric Flair appeared on live television together. As someone that grew up as a big Four Horsemen fan, this was an amazing moment in wrestling history. I predicted a Four Horsemen appearance at WrestleMania 24. So I got it one day wrong, but I am glad someone got it right after all.

The Four Horsemen weren’t the only ones from Ric Flair’s past to pay tribute to Flair. Flair’s greatest rival, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat was next to walk down the stage. This was another great moment as just one hour earlier, Raw showed clips of the classic Flair vs. Steamboat match from WrestleWar 89′. Other notable guests from Flair’s past included ex-Horsemen Dean Malenko, former rival and tag team partner Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, former world champion Harley Race, and of course Flair’s family.

The show closed with members of the WWE roster hitting the ring including Ric Flair’s ex-Evolution mate Batista, John Cena, and Chris Jericho. The rest of the WWE’s roster surrounded the ring and said thanks to a man that has influenced every single wrestler in one way or another that you watch in a pro wrestling ring today. The show ended with Flair in tears, hugging his family and a unison fans and wrestlers screaming “Thank you Ric.”

Sadly, Ric Flair would tarnish this moment by returning to the ring both in Australia and on live United States television for TNA Wrestling. It didn’t come as much of a surprise as Flair started telling people in interviews shortly after the ceremony about how much he missed the ring. Regardless of how things turned out today for Ric Flair, nobody can ever take away this great moment in pro wrestling history.

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Inside The Wheelhouse: Shawn Michaels has left the building

April 01, 2010 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Shawn MichaelsAs I watched WWE WrestleMania 26 this past Sunday night I couldn’t really come to grasp at the time that it would be the last time that I watched Shawn Michaels wrestle. Maybe it was due to the fact that most wrestling fans including myself figured that HBK would lose at WM26 to The Undertaker and end up retiring. It was well known that Shawn Michaels days in the wrestling ring were coming to an end and that the spotlight on the showstopper himself would turn off in Glendale, Arizona for the last time.

When I turned on Monday Night Raw this past Monday I could not help be happy that the WWE was going to give the sendoff Shawn Michaels deserved by allowing him to come into the (naturally) main event segment and say farewell to the wrestling fans. As I watched the highlights of Shawn Michaels’ career unfold in every package prior to commercial break I could not help but begin to think the same thing that Shawn Michaels would echo during his speech this past Monday Night. That for the last near twenty years of my life Shawn Michaels was part of my life as a wrestling fan.

That’s when Shawn Michaels retirement finally begun to sink in. I’m in my mid-20s and have been watching wrestling since I could remember. My generation of wrestling fans grew up with things such as the end of Hulkamania’s run in the then WWF, the “new generation”, WWE Superstars on Saturday mornings on the Fox 5 affiliate in the New York area and the start of Monday Night Raw. Those were cherished memories of my youth as a wrestling fan and many of those memories contained “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels.

Many wrestlers from the era have come and gone, including my favorite wrestler from that era in Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Bret Hart never had a sendoff from the WWE and hence I never really got that feeling that Bret’s days in wrestling were gone, he kind of faded away for a time period only to thankfully return to write a good ending to his wrestling career. During the attitude era it was The Rock and similar to that of Bret Hart, he too never got a formal “farewell” to the wrestling fans and faded away into a movie star.

The time period that I grew up in as a wrestling fan was defined by the two remaining wrestlers on the WWE roster that was on the first Monday Night Raw back in January of 1993. Ironically and poetically it was the two wrestlers that were in the main event of WrestleMania 26. Of course I’m speaking of The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.

Despite Bret’s return to the WWE, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels were the last two keys left in my youth as a wrestling fan. I have watched them grow as I have grown over the years. Whether it is every Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Thursday or Friday, they were constantly in my life and entertaining me every time they pass through the curtain and into the ring.

Now it was time say farewell to the man, the showstopper, the main event, the icon, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. In what will go down as one of the greatest WrestleMania & Monday Night Raw moments of all-time in WWE history we got to see, feel and hear Shawn Michaels say goodbye to the wrestling fans as a in-ring performer. We got to hear him openly discuss his career, the obstacles he endured and what everything he did in the wrestling ring meant to him.

As I look back at the career of Shawn Michaels you can not help to feel that this man was a success story. There was a dark period of time in his life, where he was away from the wrestling fans, out of the spotlight that seemed to follow him for most his life and I remember during 1998-2002 that I would “pop” every second Shawn Michaels returning to the WWE. While he never wrestled during that time and we as fans didn’t know what was going behind the scenes it was great to see that “boy hood smile” appear on our televisions.

The return of Shawn Michaels in 2002 was something all wrestling fans waited for. I felt that this return (and I’m sure Shawn did too as well) was going to be short lived. That we were going to see Shawn Michaels go out on his terms and the way he should have gone out all along. Nearly eight years later and we finally say farewell to the “icon.”

The final run in Shawn Michaels’ career really defined the new chapter and life he embraced in his personal life. He came back to the WWE as a family man, a husband and a father. He found god and embraced a lifestyle completely 360 degrees different then his lifestyle during his first run in the ring. But one thing remained the same, his knack for the spotlight, his ability to wrestle at an all-time high all the time and being what he said he always was…”the Showstopper.”

Prior to leaving the WWE this past Sunday he even buried the hatchet with Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Their relationship was of much built up frustration and dislike between the two. It was amazing to see the two put everything in their past aside, embrace a new relationship as friends and co-workers. I was even happier to see Bret Hart put over HBK on this past Monday’s Raw and vice versa. You could the emotion from both was heartfelt and it was what they truly felt about one another.

Shawn Michaels has left us with countless classic matches, some that rank in my Top 10 favorite matches off all-time. Quite frankly when you think of it, whether he won or loss, most of my favorite matches of all-time include Shawn Michaels. He truly was the greatest in-ring performer of all-time.

The emotion on this past Monday Night when Shawn bid farewell was one of the most emotional moments in wrestling history. As I said before I could not help but realize as he spoke the words himself, that he was part of my life for the last twenty years. He was there on the television week after week, or on VHS or on DVD, he was there. This was his farewell to us and our farewell to him.

As a wrestling fan & a fan of Shawn Michaels I can not help but wish nothing but the best to him, to his family and to his future in his time away from the ring. If I ever get the opportunity to sit down or greet Shawn Michaels face to face I will simply say the same words that the fans in Arizona spoke at WrestleMania & Raw this past week. That is quite simply “Thank you Shawn.”

Shawn Michaels, in my opinion the greatest wrestler of all-time has bid us farewell from active competition. He will be missed but his legacy will live on forever. Whether you loved him, or you hated, you will never ever forget him. As Shawn Michaels simply put this past Monday Night, it started the same way it ended…

“Shawn Michaels has left the building.”

Farewell HBK, we will miss you.

We want you to share your favorite Shawn Michaels’ moments and matches with us as we pay tribute to “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels for this week’s edition of “The Still Real to Us Show.” Then find out of your favorite HBK moments and/or matches made the air by downloading this week’s edition of “The Still Real to Us Show” around 3pm ET on Saturday April 3rd over at www.wheelhouseradio.com!

If you have any questions or comments for Eric Gargiulo and I for this week’s “The Still Real to us Show” please e-mail us at [email protected]

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday – Thursday @ 8pm ET/5pm PT at www.blogtalkradio.com/thewheelhouse and at www.errorfm.com @ 2am ET/11pm PT

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site. There you can also download many different shows including “The Wheelhouse”, “24 on 24″ and “Lost: Smoke Monsters and You.”

If you would like to subscribe to “The Wheelhouse” on iTunes simply subscribe for free at iTunes by typing in “Wheelhouse Radio!”

You can follow “The Champ” Jeff Peck on twitter by going to www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck or you can follow Wheelhouse Radio! on Twitter by visiting their page @ www.twitter.com/thewheelhouse. You can also e-mail them @ [email protected]

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Jack Swagger Cashes In and Wins The WWE World Title

March 31, 2010 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Jack SwaggerIn an unexpected WWE twist, Jack Swagger cashed in his Money in the Bank at the WWE SmackDown tapings and beat Chris Jericho for the WWE world championship. Jack Swagger became the sixth WWE superstar to cash in his Money in the Bank and win a WWE championship. Swagger becomes the 36th WWE world heavyweight champion.

Jack Swagger’s quick WWE world title win may be the most surprising title switch in years. While Sheamus’ WWE championship win late last year was a surprise, this one is just a shocker. I don’t think anyone expected the former ECW champion to win a WWE title in the near future. Certainly, nobody expected Swagger to dethrone Chris Jericho with his Money in the Bank win. The entire scenario is as big of a surprise as they come in pro wrestling.

Jack Swagger won Money in the Bank at WrestleMania 26. The win guaranteed a Swagger a title shot whenever he wanted. Swagger tried to cash it in on Monday against John Cena on WWE RAW, but the match never officially started. Later in the night, Swagger was squashed by both John Cena and Randy Orton in a tag team match. Quite frankly, by the end of the night Jack Swagger looked like a total joke. Apparently it will be Swagger who has the last laugh on everyone.

Jack Swagger is one of the last of a dying breed of amateur wrestlers who were recruited coming out of college by the WWE. Swagger is a real All-American wrestler as an amateur standout at the University of Oklahoma. Swagger began training in the WWE developmental territories in 2006. Swagger defeated Matt Hardy for the ECW world title in 2008. While Swagger may look like a flash in the pan, he has actually been working at this for awhile and has been in the WWE plans for a couple of years now. This was a move expected at some point, but a move that didn’t look like would be happening anytime soon after WWE RAW.

The disappointment here is that we get yet another quick WWE title run by Chris Jericho. Since coming back to the WWE in 2007, Chris Jericho has had several WWE world championship title reigns. Unfortunately they have all been short, transitional title reigns. The quick title switch really doesn’t make any sense on the surface due to events coming out of WrestleMania 26. Jericho defeated Edge at WrestleMania 26, but the door was left wide open for a series of rematches for the title. The switch throws a big monkey wrench into the feud and raises a lot of questions about whether Chris Jericho and Edge continue their feud or go in separate directions with Jericho feuding with Jack Swagger.

The title switch to Swagger whether it be short or lengthy, is a bold move by the WWE. Over the last several months, the WWE has really stepped up the opportunities for elevating some of the younger WWE stars into main-event wrestlers. Swagger and Sheamus especially seem to be benefitting from a changing of the guard in the WWE. Swagger’s background as an amateur along with his charisma could turn him into a surprising success if the WWE lets him ride with the belt for awhile.

With another Money in the Bank match on the horizon, it will be interesting to see if Chris Jericho enters the match and shoots for revenge against the new WWE world heavyweight champion.

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WWE WrestleMania 26 Preview and Predictions

March 26, 2010 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Shawn Michaels vs. John CenaAll eyes will be on the WWE this Sunday when WrestleMania 26 comes to pay-per-view. Hardcore and casual pro wrestling fans will be watching WrestleMania 26 to see everything from the WrestleMania return of Bret Hart to arguably the most anticipated rematch in WrestleMania history. WrestleMania 26 on paper looks to be the biggest WrestleMania of the last several years.

Over the last few years, WrestleMania has centered around one match. Last year, it was Shawn Michaels vs. the Undertaker. The year before that was Floyd Mayweather vs. Big Show. WrestleMania 23 was all about Umaga vs. Bobby Lashley with the celebrity involvement of Donald Trump and Vince McMahon. For the first time in several years, WrestleMania 26 will feature more matches with potential to steal the show than almost any other WrestleMania event in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment.

The very first blog written on CamelClutchBlog.com was a preview of WrestleMania 25? Last year I wrote, “On paper, this year’s show is very disappointing. I was extremely critical of the lineup during the last few weeks of my radio show. When I think of WrestleMania I think of big, first-time main-events. This year’s show is the antithesis of that. This year’s lineup is a big wakeup call to the problems that the WWE have had in elevating young talent. It is definitely not a good thing when the main-event is a match we have seen several times in the last twelve months. With that said, let’s break down the top matches.” That all changes this year, so without further delay let’s break down the top matches at WrestleMania 26.

Streak vs. Career: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels. These two WWE superstars have arguably had the greatest series of matches in WWE history. Go back to their 1997-98 rivalry and I dare you to find anything but a great match between these two legends. It surprised nobody when Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker stole the show last year at WrestleMania 25.

The WWE has been shoving their WrestleMania 25 match down our throats since the day after WrestleMania. Needless to say, this year’s match has a ton of expectations that may be bigger than these two 40+ WWE legends can produce. I’d expect nothing less than another classic between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker. I also foresee another situation involving a cameraman as that seems to be a signature spot between these two. I’d also anticipate them to play off of the spot last year when the Undertaker almost killed himself crashing on the floor.

The big question here more than any other match is the result. The immediate guess is that Shawn Michaels isn’t retiring. However, there have been rumors for the last three years that Shawn Michaels has been looking to hang it up. I have talked to several wrestlers over the years that know Shawn pretty well that have indicated that they think Shawn Michaels’ retirement is imminent. Yet, it just seems like such a quick way to end such a legendary career. As much of a cop out as it is, the match can go either way.

My prediction may be a bit out there, but it is something that I have been feeling for a few weeks now. I will go out on a limb here and predict that Shawn Michaels loses this match. I will go out on a limb even further and predict that Triple H turns on Shawn Michaels and costs him the match. I have been feeling a Triple H turn for awhile now. Now that Randy Orton is a babyface, there are no top heels on WWE RAW if Batista remains on SmackDown. There is just something about things said between Michaels and Triple H on interviews that lead me to believe something is brewing here.

WWE Championship: Batista vs. John Cena. If you would have asked me two months ago about this match I would have groaned and told you that I had no interest in seeing it. Yet, after several weeks of incredible buildup on WWE RAW, I am really intrigued by this one. Out of every match on the show, I think the WWE did the best job promoting this one. Yes, the angles between Bret Hart-Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels-The Undertaker have been great. But most fans wanted to see those matches anyway. Here is a situation where the WWE took chicken droppings and turned it into chicken salad.

I don’t have high expectations for this match. Show me one John Cena WWE match that is different than the other and I would tell you that you doctored the footage. On the other hand, Batista has quietly had a tremendous string of great WrestleMania matches. Batista has said many times over the years that he takes a lot of pride in trying to steal the show at WrestleMania. Could Batista’s motivation be enough to put this one over the top?

At this point, I think Batista has the potential to be the hottest star in the WWE. They have done such a great job of turning Batista around from a stale babyface into an incredibly hot heel. I feel he has much more heel charisma than any of the other top heels new or recent. Unfortunately, WWE RAW has no champion right now if Batista remains a SmackDown star. With that said, I predict John Cena takes the WWE title in what could be Cena’s greatest WrestleMania match of his career.

WWE World title: Chris Jericho vs. Edge. For some reason or another, this one just isn’t clicking for me. In what should be one of the most anticipated matches on the show, I almost feel like this one is an undercard match. The match is many months in the making once Chris Jericho trashed Edge after he suffered an injury, which put him on the shelf for several months. The former tag team champions will duke it out for the honors of SmackDown’s top championship.

I think a big disconnect here for most WWE fans is Edge as a babyface. After over five years of being one of the most devious heels in the WWE, he just magically appears as babyface? There wasn’t any setup or anticipation here to get the minds of WWE fans simmering for that big turn. As for Jericho, as great as he is he really hasn’t been booked on a main-event level over the last several months. These two have a lot of convincing to do in my opinion come WrestleMania 26.

That said, I think the match will be fantastic. If Edge and Chris Jericho are given enough time, it is possible that they could steal the show over the Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels. Both guys have a ton of pride in having great WrestleMania matches. It has been over five years since Chris Jericho has had the opportunity to compete in a WrestleMania main-event. Both guys are good friends so the trust factor is there as well, which is big in a situation like this. I would expect nothing short of a great match between these two and if not for the Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, a show-stealer.

I really lean towards Chris Jericho walking out of WrestleMania 26 with the belt. Edge has already speared Jericho several times, so he doesn’t need his heat back. As a matter of a fact, a Jericho loss would almost make this feud a total squash. Not to mention that a loss greatly helps Edge get some much needed sympathy from the fans. Look for Jericho to cheat a win and retain the title at WrestleMania 26.

No Holds Barred: Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon. Whoever thought we would be reading that? Bret Hart will make his first WrestleMania appearance since his WrestleMania 13 classic, to wrestle 60+ Vince McMahon. It may not be flashy on paper, but I don’t think there is anyone that isn’t getting excited about seeing Bret Hart back in a WWE ring.

I expect a ton of gimmicks and gaga in this one. One could almost be assured that members of the Hart family will be involved. Bret Hart practically said so in his promo on the go-home WWE RAW show. I would also not be surprised to see an appearance by the “Boy Wonder,” Shane McMahon for one night only. Unless Linda or Stephanie is running in, Vince is going to need backup and Shane works in this situation.

I don’t expect much from Bret Hart. As nice as it is to see him back in the WWE, he looks heavier and slower. Hey, I hope I look half as good as he does at his age but this isn’t the same Bret Hart we have been accustomed to seeing over the course of the last three decades. Vince McMahon can only do so much, which is scary considering how limited Bret may be inside of the ring. I expect a lot of brawling, some blood, and a broken table or two between Bret Hart and Vince McMahon.

I have a real sneaky suspicion that this feud is far from over. I expect this one to roll over into Extreme Rules with possibly a Submission Match or Stretcher Match. I predict a major screwjob here which leads to a Vince McMahon win. Do you really think you aren’t going to see a screwjob here?

Triple H vs. Sheamus. This is a very odd match to say the least. This feud came out of nowhere and for the first time in years, Triple H is not wrestling in a main-event match at WrestleMania. For the new kid in town, this is a make or break opportunity for Sheamus. Anything less than a very good match could mean the end of the run for Sheamus. Talk about pressure!

I will stick with my theory from above in that Triple H will be turning heel before the night is over. Sticking to my prediction, I think Sheamus wins this one. For one, a win by Sheamus presents a great opportunity for the youngster to get over in a big way at WrestleMania. Two, Triple H will get his heat back at the end of the night by turning on Shawn Michaels. Three, this could set up another series down the line similar to Triple H vs. John Cena in which Trips lost the first one and thus the two were able to play off of it years later. I expect a lot of brawling, but nothing great given the time frame that they will likely get. In the end I look for Sheamus to take the win here and get his steam back for a long run in 2010.

Other Matches:
Money in the Bank: Christian vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kane vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Jack Swagger vs. Montel Vontavious Porter vs. Matt Hardy vs. Evan Bourne vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston
WWE Unified WWE Tag Team Championship: ShoMiz (The Big Show and The Miz) vs. John Morrison and R-Truth
Triple Threat match: Randy Orton vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Ted DiBiase
Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk

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