Archive for January, 2013


20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 15

January 21st, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: July 17, 2007 (aired on July 20, 2007)
Company: WWE
Show: Smackdown
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: Winner becomes World Heavyweight Champion
Roster (20): Batista, Deuce, Domino, Kenny Dykstra, Eugene, Fit Finlay, Sho Funaki, the Great Khali, Chavo Guerrero, Matt Hardy, Mark Henry, Kane, Jamie Knoble, Brett Major, Brian Major, Chris Masters, Shannon Moore, Montel Vontavious Porter, Dave Taylor, Jimmy Wang Yang

I wouldn’t wish injury on an active wrestler, but it’s hard not to admit that injuries make things interesting in the long run. By-the-numbers storylines are suddenly shaken up and the writers scramble to make sense of things and make a show worth watching. As intriguing as it can be, it doesn’t always work out for the better. Today’s entry, for example.

Recently, World Heavyweight Champion Edge had defeated eternal #1 contender Batista in a match where if Batista lost, he wouldn’t be allowed to challenge Edge for the title again. Edge moved on to starting a feud with Kane while Batista answered an open challenge from heavily-pushed and still fresh monster the Great Khali. Two matches set up for the upcoming Great American Bash. Unfortunately, Edge got injured about a week before the PPV. Teddy Long had no choice but to strip him of the title and being that this is Teddy Long, he decided to put the vacated title on the line with a battle royal, playa.

The battle royal has only a few viable names in it, which explains the winner. All in all, it’s a pretty entertaining set of segments.

Once the bell rings, Batista goes right for Khali, then gets distracted by fighting Mark Henry. Everyone just kind of wanders around getting into fights and our first elimination comes a minute in when Henry does away with both Major Brothers.

Goodbye, pre-Ryder.

Henry and Khali both go to town on their opponents, laying waste to the entire ring. Soon there are only two left standing.

So much for that showdown. Most of the wrestlers team up to hoist Henry out of the ring. They even celebrate, which JBL points out is a stupid idea because they still have Batista, Kane and Khali to contend with.

Batista shows off his own impressive strength when being attacked by Deuce and Domino. They have him choked into the second rope, but he grabs them by the heads and is able to throw them both over the top rope from his unfortunate position. Not bad.

Batista and Kane have a showdown, not unlike Henry vs. Khali in the sense that it doesn’t go down. Instead of having everyone rush them, it’s just Jamie Knoble, whose angry strikes are rewarded with a swift elimination. Eugene thinks this is awesome, but his enthusiasm doesn’t help him.

At the time of the match, Chavo and Jimmy Wang Yang are feuding over the Cruiserweight Championship. They have a cool moment where they save each other from the wrath of Chris Masters and eliminate him together. Chavo turns on Yang, but gets eliminated by the Asian cowboy in response. Yang ends up lasting quite a while until being pulled out of the ring by Hornswoggle. Yet again, Hornswoggle ruins everything.

Batista and Kane briefly team up to get Khali out of there, but they’re out of luck and he powers through, shoving both across the ring. He takes apart both mega-faces, but then the only other competitor left in the match, Finlay, shows up with his shillelagh. 2007/2008 was an awesome time when it came to this. Back during the Finlay/McMahon angle about Hornswoggle being Vince’s son, Smackdown was filled with matches that ended with Finlay beating the everloving shit out of Khali with that shillelagh. It ruled every single time.

Kane puts an end to this by choking him. As he lifts him up for the slam, Batista rushes out of nowhere and Spears Kane down. Batista flings Finlay out of there and continues his duel with Kane. The two grapple while leaning against the ropes, Khali comes by and takes them both out in one go. The Great Khali, the immobile man given a push because he’s really tall, is the World Heavyweight Champion.

Um… You’re… You’re holding it upside-down. Khali? You’re—eh, forget it.

I suppose it makes sense. They couldn’t give it to Batista after spending all that effort on that “no more title shots against Edge” stipulation. They couldn’t give it to Kane because injuring the champ and suddenly becoming champ in his place is really not face behavior. Mark Henry wasn’t as over as a top heel, Finlay was never going to reach that plateau and Matt Hardy was feuding for a lesser title. Khali at least gave Batista something to chase after.

And chase he did. Batista and Kane had a #1 contender’s match later that night. There was a draw, so they had a Triple Threat against Khali at the Great American Bash (two days after this battle royal aired, remember). Khali retained and had a celebration on Smackdown. It was a strange segment, as Khali danced around with some Indian women and Batista showed up to angrily annihilate everything and attack Khali. If you showed it to someone who didn’t follow WWE and didn’t listen to the crowd reaction, you’d swear that Khali was the good guy with Batista out to destroy fun.

A couple months later, Batista defeated Khali in another Triple Threat Match, this time with Rey Mysterio as the third man. They had a rematch in the infamously silly Punjabi Prison Match, where Batista finally won the feud.

Khali is a unique one. While I don’t like that he became champ, I don’t hate him as much as everyone else. I consider him to be a challenge for people to put on decent matches. Khali can only do so much in terms of mobility and variety, but it is possible to carry him into something watchable. Hell, Sheamus got a good match out of him once, if you believe that. He’s not so much a wrestler as he is a human obstacle course.

Plus whenever I hear that one song by Blondie, I always like to pretend she’s singing about the Punjabi Playboy.

Khali! (Khali!) On the line
Khali, Khali, any, anytime
Khali! (Khali!) My love
When you’re ready we can share the wine

Anyone else do this? Can you start so I can feel less awkward about it?

Tomorrow is keeping it in 2007. In fact, we’re just going to hang out in 2007 for a while if you don’t mind.

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This Week in Panels: Week 174

January 21st, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Hey, folks! It’s time again for This Week in Panels. Time to take the comics that Gaijin Dan, Jody, Was Taters and Space Jawa and I have read this week and condense them into a panel each. How would we describe these comics to the unfamiliar? Maybe it’s Spider-Woman making a plea for the Hulk’s humanity. Maybe it’s a group of Demon Knights seeing the one non-immortal member of their team after three decades of being apart. Maybe it’s a horse being on fire. Or maybe it’s a shirtless dude with a face drawn on his belly. I don’t know. Either way, it’s fun.

Let’s get it on.

All-New X-Men #6
Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez

Avengers Assemble #11
Kelly Sue DeConnick and Stefano Caselli

Batman #16 (Jody’s pick)
Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, James Tynion IV and Jock

Read the rest of this entry �

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 14

January 20th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: February 10, 2006 (aired January 30, 2007)
Company: Wrestling Society X
Rules: Royal Rumble where after the final man enters it becomes a Ladder Match
Stipulation: The two wrestlers who grab the contracts suspended from above the ring challenge each other for the WSX Championship the following week
Roster (10): Alkatrazz, Justin Credible, Chris Hamrick, Teddy Hart, Kaos, New Jack, Puma, 6-Pac, Vampiro and Youth Suicide

Wrestling Society X is this wonderful little hiccup in professional wrestling history. It didn’t last long and very few people saw it, but it was certainly memorable in its uniqueness. Back in the mid-00’s, MTV put together a wrestling series pre-taped well in advance featuring a roster of three dozen guys, mostly made up of promising indy talent. You had the likes of Joey Ryan, Scorpio Sky, Human Tornado, Matt Sydal (Evan Bourne), Arik Cannon, Matt Classic and many more. Unfortunately, a lot of the established talent weren’t the kind of guys you’d go running to the TV for, but whatever.

Taking place in some kind of warehouse, WSX was incredibly over-the-top and everything exploded. And I loved it. Each episode was only a half hour, meaning that many matches were just a bunch of flippy indy moves one after another with zero psychology (to be fair, Teddy Hart was on the roster) when we weren’t getting live musical performances, but there were also additional matches online. Much like TNA, the first episode took the first steps in crowning a champion for the promotion via a Royal Rumble variation.

Unlike most Royal Rumble matches, there are tables and the like set up around the ring. And by “and the like” I mean a pile of electrical wires and a fence cage filled with explosives. Chekov’s gun, indeed. After #10 is in the ring, two contracts will be lowered down and some ladders will be slid into the ring. The first two to get the contracts will be penciled in for a match to decide the company’s first champion.

Pre-match, we get some neat quick promos from backstage. You’d see Justin Credible talking up how he’s going to win and then it would cut to New Jack shoving Chris Hamrick while threatening what he’s going to do to him in the match. The camera pans around the hand-picked MTV crowd, they go over the rules and Justin Credible walks out at #1. One thing that works really well with WSX’s style is how during entrances, they’d pause the footage to do a little stats card to hype each guy.

#2 is Teddy Hart. Cool thing is that there doesn’t seem to be a single entranceway. Teddy just kind of shows up from a corner of the warehouse and climbs his way down to ringside. Teddy is able to get the best of Credible with his high-flying style, but his ego goes to his head and he begins to showboat a little too much.

Once Kaos comes in there, Hart and Credible put their differences aside and work on the new guy. Vampiro comes out next and begins to clean house. As he stands tall, they go to a commercial. As shown when they come back, Puma had entered and was immediately thrown out of the ring by Vampiro and through a table. Alkatrazz is next and stops Vampiro’s momentum. 6-Pac (Syxx/X-Pac/1-2-3 Kid) steps in and momentarily knocks out Vampiro with an X-Factor.

When it’s time for Chris Hamrick to come out, New Jack chases him. New Jack ends up knocking him off the apron and through a table. Not finished with Hamrick, he exits the ring and the ref tells him he’s disqualified. New Jack breaks a guitar over that ref’s head. Considering the guitar looks shoddy as is and explodes with confetti, it looks like an incredibly tame spot. That doesn’t stop the commentators – which includes rock legend Zakk Wylde – from acting like they just watched someone get run over by a train.

Chaos reigns as New Jack sets Hamrick up on another table, climbs up a balcony and jumps off. Meanwhile, Vampiro superkicks Alkatrazz into a table and Kaos gets knocked into a box of wires. All within the same ten seconds!

The final entrant in is Youth Suicide, showing up with a bucket. He reveals it’s filled with thumbtacks and pours a pool of them on the mat. You can tell that they’re really good thumbtacks and in no way super fake because when he gets powerbombed onto them, there’s not a single one lingering on his black shirt.

In a weird editing hiccup, Teddy Hart is simply gone from the match. He does a Tornado DDT to Vampiro, Youth Suicide does his entrance and there’s suddenly no sign of him for the rest of the episode. Huh. With his sudden disappearance, we’re down to 6-Pac, Justin Credible, Vampiro and Youth Suicide.

As Youth Suicide and Vampiro go at it, 6-Pac climbs the ladder unopposed and gets his contract. He walks off, victorious. Youth Suicide climbs back up and Justin Credible eliminates him the best way possible.


Vampiro and Credible climb up the two sides of the ladder and trade punches. Vampiro grabs the contract as 6-Pac enters and shoves the ladder over for the sake of being a dick. Vampiro falls to the mat with contract in hand and the episode literally ends right there. Just cuts to the production company’s logo and we’re done.

Vampiro ended up winning his match against 6-Pac… BY TOMBSTONING HIM INTO AN EXPLODING COFFIN! I seriously love this show.

WSX wasn’t long for this world, especially after MTV cut it off at the knees. One of the episodes was to feature Ricky Banderas – the shows’ disfigured top heel and eventual champion – attacking Vampiro and throwing a fireball into his face. Now, fireballs in wrestling have been around for years. Just toss some lit flash paper and it looks cool. Unfortunately, MTV had a cow over it and pulled it from its original airdate. It aired maybe a month later, only with some crazy-ass editing that made it look like Banderas’ fireball was some kind of Dragonball Z attack that made Vampiro’s body blur and ripple as he agonized. It was a total improvement, but still.

If the show wasn’t already doomed from the start, this act killed its momentum. MTV didn’t even air the final episode and it instead got left to the DVD box set release. Which I own. You should too.

Vampiro may have his detractors, but hey, there could be worse champions for your promotion. And if that isn’t an obvious segue for tomorrow’s battle royal article, I don’t know what is.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 13

January 19th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: October 7, 2005
Company: WWE
Show: Velocity
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: Winner gets a Cruiserweight Championship title shot at No Mercy
Roster (7): Funaki, Juventud Guerrera, Brian Kendrick, Paul London, Psicosis, Scotty 2 Hotty and Super Crazy

My choice for this update was going to be one of two matches. Either an X-Division Royal Rumble type match from 2004 TNA or this 7-man battle royal from Velocity. While the TNA one had some pretty cool spots and LA Park was there, I didn’t find there to be all that much to talk about. Velocity, on the other hand, gives me an excuse to talk about Tazz and his best commentary.

Velocity was a wonderful shelter away from Vince McMahon’s meddling, especially in the commentary sense. Just about everything terrible on WWE commentary these days is because of McMahon talking into Lawler and Cole’s headsets. Cole burying the roster, Lawler making jokes about Vickie Guerrero’s weight, the blatant fake laughter as a way to insist that Hornswoggle is so damn funny are all McMahon’s doing. At the same time, there’s always going to be the D-list show that he gives zero shits about, meaning he doesn’t find himself micromanaging. These days, that would be NXT.

That means you got a show that featured awesome matches alongside Tazz and Josh Matthews talking about God knows what. Their banter was absolutely weird, but entertaining as all hell. Did you know Tazz hates the solar system? Tazz can’t stand the solar system.

Unfortunately, I found that Tazz isn’t doing commentary for this match. Ah well. That doesn’t change his stance on the solar system, though. This is during a nearly forgotten time in WWE history where the Raw/Smackdown roster separation was in such full swing that they had PPVs that were independent from each other, outside of the usual big shows like Wrestlemania and Survivor Series. You can tell because Josh Matthews is trying to hype up a PPV match that involves Simon Dean.

At the time when the Cruiserweight division is healthy, the champion is Nunzio, heeling it up with Johnny the Bull as his enforcer. Interesting thing here is that of the seven guys involved in this #1 contender battle royal, three of them are in the same stable. Super Crazy, Psicosis and Juventud are the Mexicools, one of the all-time most racist gimmicks in professional wrestling.

As everyone makes their way to the ring, Nunzio and Johnny the Bull show up to watch the proceedings. The bell rings, everyone starts pounding on each other and over the next few minutes, it becomes apparent why I enjoy this one more than the X-Division showdown. With the bigger ring, these guys have more room to do their thing and it’s far less sloppy. Every elimination as well as plenty of spots are incredibly crisp and easy on the eyes.

Amidst the chaos, the first elimination comes from Brian Kendrick as he and Psicosis go back and forth with some high-flying offense and counters. Out of nowhere, Kendrick forces Psicosis into the ropes, steps back and then lariats the HELL out of him to the outside. Despite Kendrick’s size, Psicosis makes him look like a Serpentor-style clone made out of JBL, Stan Hansen and Nigel McGuiness’ DNA.

Now we’re at an even number and we get everyone pairing off. The next elimination comes a few minutes later when Funaki tries to do a Tornado DDT on Super Crazy. It doesn’t work out for him.

Kendrick throws Scotty out, but Scotty skins the cat and comes back in. Super Crazy sees this from the other side of the ring, runs around the others and nails him immediately with a clothesline, finishing the job. We’re down to four men in the form of two tag teams. London whips Juventud at Super Crazy, who instinctively backdrops him over the top. Juventud saves himself and is notably pissed at his apologetic partner. It’s okay, though, as Super Crazy gets his.

The final three fight it out and Kendrick and London have no problem going at each other. There’s not much of a team-up aspect here. Just a couple minutes of sweet every-man-for-himself action only with less gravity involved. Kendrick sends Juventud into the corner and does one of those running backflip moves, only London sees it coming, dashes over and shoves him in mid-air, sending Kendrick flying. London shrugs at his buddy as Juventud stands in the opposite corner, pointing at his final challenge.

This is a little over a year before Undertaker and Shawn Michaels had their legendary finale to the 2007 Rumble, so it was still pretty new to see the finalists in a battle royal have a lengthy back and forth tussle where either side can win. As Nunzio watches in amazement, London and Juventud are completely evenly matched. Lots of cool spots that lead to the two both staring up at the lights at the same time.

The final moments come from the two fighting in the corner. London tries to throw Juventud out, but he holds on, powering through London’s kicks. He tries suplexing London out, but London saves himself and the two brawl on top of the corner post, both in danger of an easy elimination. Superplex and powerbomb attempts go nowhere and London ends up stomping down on Juventud, trying to drive him to the floor. Juventud gets up onto the apron, the two collide and both wrestlers hang with both hands on the top rope. As they dangle, London keeps swaying and kicking Juventud in the stomach.

Juventud simply picks his spot.

Juventud wins and goes on to defeat Nunzio for the Cruiserweight Championship at No Mercy. Juvi would lose and regain the title over the next couple months and unfortunately get released in early January. Apparently, he didn’t listen when they told him not to keep doing that flippy move that broke Paul London’s face.

Tune in tomorrow as we see the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection that didn’t work out so well.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 12

January 18th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: February 24, 2003
Company: WWE
Show: Monday Night Raw
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: #1 contender for World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 19
Roster (20): Batista, Booker T, Christian, Tommy Dreamer, Jeff Hardy, the Hurricane, Jamal, Chris Jericho, Kane, Rodney Mack, Maven, Randy Orton, Steven Richards, Rosey, the Rock, Al Snow, Scott Steiner, Lance Storm, Test and Rob Van Dam

The Rock’s final years of wrestling, including this last year, are rather interesting when lumped together. It all started with the return of Hulk Hogan during the mostly ill-fated WWE/nWo angle. Hollywood Hogan grumbled about how the fans turned on him and Rock came out to confront him, telling him in one of his all-time best deliveries, “They LOVED you! They BELIEVED in you! And damn it, THE ROCK BELIEVED IN YOU!” Then he explained that Hulk got extremely stale and everyone got sick of him, which is accurate.

Their match at Wrestlemania 18 showed how absence makes the heart grow fonder. The crowd loved Hogan and jeered the hell out of the Rock. Hogan was fresh nostalgia. Rock was the same stuff they’ve been tuning into for years. He had one last title run months later that culminated in a Summerslam match against super-heel Brock Lesnar. Lesnar was the new hotness and Rock was the same old shit. Rock vanished for a time and came back in a new persona: Hollywood Rock.

Disgusted at the People for turning their backs on him, the Rock went on to follow Hogan’s footsteps. Just like Hogan, it worked in the meta sense too. By turning heel, he became completely reinvented and more entertaining than he had been for years. He was cool again and remained just as funny as ever, just with the ability to garner boos when necessary. He also knew that this was his last hurrah in the company and did the honorable thing of using his status to put people over.

With Brock Lesnar winning the Royal Rumble and choosing to go after Kurt Angle’s WWE Championship, that put it up in the air over who would face Triple H at Wrestlemania for the World Heavyweight Championship. Rock had just cut a promo about how he was gone from the Smackdown roster and was all about Raw, announcing his spot in the big battle royal that would crown the #1 contender. They had been laying the seeds for a Rock/Austin battle, but what nobody expected was who would visit the Rock backstage.

Referring to the Hurricane as the Hamburglar, Rock gets into it with the WWE’s resident superhero in one of my all-time favorite promos. Such topics discussed include Aquaman and Brendan Frasier. The two proceed to get under each other’s skin and Hurricane warns the Great One that during that night’s battle royal, Rock would be doing some flying of his own – right over the top rope.

The battle royal itself is very dull. Probably the dullest one on my list for this series. The beginning has Jericho eliminate Test, then eliminate himself and run off out of fear, but outside of that, there’s not a lot that goes on. Having Orton and Batista in there raises questions, since they weren’t at the point of hinting that either would want a title shot against their Evolution boss Triple H. They wouldn’t be on that track for almost two years, but it’s not like them having roles of spoilers makes sense either since SOMEBODY had to win.

It would have been kind of funny if they had someone like Scotty 2 Hotty in there and Batista and Orton’s job was to protect him at all costs so he’d win the match and give Triple H an easy Wrestlemania.

Hurricane does have his promised confrontation with the Rock, but despite his flurry of offense, Hurricane doesn’t do as well as he had hoped.

The match doesn’t really kick into gear until Rock and Booker T brawl to the outside without getting eliminated. Rock beats him down, then decides to walk off. He goes up the ramp, making it look like he wants no more of this battle royal, but instead joins Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary. As more and more wrestlers are eliminated, Rock talks up how smart he is in letting them do the dirty work. Soon the ring is down to Kane, Booker T and Christian. Once Rock sees Kane chokeslam Booker T, he leaves the commentary table and rushes the ring. He eliminates Kane and Christian at the same time, then sees that the hurt Booker is all that’s left.

Booker fights back, but it doesn’t do him all that well. Rock dominates the fight, but at the last second, Rock shifts the momentum and sends him flying.

Rock is left sitting on the ramp, bewildered. He shows some begrudging respect to Booker by clapping and gesturing as if to say, “Well, there you have it,” but he’s taken aback by his inability to understand how he lost.

Rock went over Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 19, which made sense because it was Austin’s final match. Otherwise, Rock spent his last month in the company putting over the Hurricane and newcomer Bill Goldberg.

Despite what Rock did for them, Booker T, Hurricane and Goldberg all got their pushes derailed in one way or another by Triple H, which many would say was the biggest flaw of the era. Booker got it the worst, setting up his title shot by having Triple H act outright racist to him and dress him down, then beating him so decisively that it was a complete burial.

Since then, Rock’s appearances had become sporadic at best and he’s reached the point of being over as a face no matter what he does. And yet he would return to tell Cena exactly what he told Hogan: the fans loved you, but then you got so stale that all that’s left is to boo your tired act.

Tomorrow is about flippy guys.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 11

January 17th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: June 19, 2002
Company: NWA-TNA
Show: NWA-TNA Weekly PPV #1
Rules: Royal Rumble where upon there being two survivors, a singles match breaks out
Stipulation: Winner becomes NWA Champion
Roster (20): Apolo, Bruce, Buff Bagwell, Steve Corino, Scott Hall, Chris Harris, Jeff Jarrett, Justice, K-Krush, Konnan, Brian Lawler, Lash LeRoux, Malice, Del Rios, Rick Steiner, Ken Shamrock, Slash, Norman Smiley, Devon Storm and Vampire Warrior

I’m going to level with you. I know tremendously little about the first couple years of TNA. I practically know enough to fill a short paragraph. When coming up with the list for this battle royal series, I was told about how the very first TNA show had a Royal Rumble variation called the Gauntlet for the Gold, meant to crown the new champion. Without doing a single piece of research, I watched this match for the very first time last night.

TNA (which I’ll just say instead of NWA-TNA) is the unofficial sequel to WCW. About a year after WCW folded and got bought into WWF as their biggest instance of a ball being dropped, Jeff Jarrett and pals came together to create a new promotion where the shows would be weekly 2-hour PPVs. A radical idea with enough gas to get them off the ground. Dixie Carter’s money didn’t hurt either.

This match is absolutely surreal to watch as someone who didn’t follow TNA back then. Every entrant is a complete surprise to me outside of Jeff Jarrett. Being forced at #1, I’ve heard many stories about his dominance of the product despite the fact that nobody cared. He was like a mix between Cena and Triple H without the charm. Just a mid-carder insisting on being the dominant top guy out of spite for all the top guys who insisted that he’d never be more than a mid-carder.

I’m getting away from my point. Memories of WWE in mid-2002 can be hazy and what we have here is a roster made up of guys who weren’t in WWE at the time. A lot of them are WCW and ECW veterans that WWE had no taste for. Some of them are recent castoffs from WWE, especially because of substance abuse. Looking at Jeff Hardy, it’s good to see that some things never change. Then you have a couple instances of wrestlers who are familiar in hindsight as they’ll go on to become well-known.

Jeff Jarrett is at #1 and #2 is Buff Bagwell. Bagwell lasts almost as long as he did in WWF and he’s gone in about a minute. Jarrett proceeds to take apart Lash LeRoux and Norman Smiley one at a time, dominating the ring. At this point, I’m 80% sure that he’ll at least make the finals. 70% sure he’ll win.

Apolo finally stops the momentum. I’ve never heard of Apolo, but a look at his history shows he had a decent enough career in TNA and a cup of coffee in WWE developmental. He’s attacked by the following entrant, K-Krush, otherwise known as K-Kwik and currently R-Truth. He represents one of the more noticeable patterns of the commentary. Well, other than Ed Ferrera (or is it Don West? I can’t tell) constantly using the term “chucking” to an annoying degree when discussing eliminations.

A lot of the more famous wrestlers get their old promotions namedropped, something WWE has almost always refused to do. When Norman Smiley comes out, they bring up his WCW career. When K-Krush is out there, they mention that he was K-Kwik in the WWF. When Vampire Warrior is there, it’s mentioned that he used to wrestle in WWF as Gangrel. Same with Brian Lawler being Brian Christopher and Devon Storm as Crowbar. Yet at the same time, there are guys who they try to play off as new and refuse to discuss their past. Like at one point, ECW’s Joel Gertner shows up as the manager of a stable that includes Lodi and Lenny Lane, who are fresh off their rather over Ambiguously Gay Duo gimmick from WCW, as well as “Bruce”. Bruce is most obviously Kwee Wee from WCW and yet the commentary team acts like this is some mysterious, brand new guy they’ve never seen before.

The same happens for a couple guys who aren’t as noticeable. They have a guy named Del Rios, whose gimmick is that he’s a Scott Steiner knockoff in a company that doesn’t have Scott, but does have his brother Rick. I didn’t find out until afterwards that this guy was also Phantasio, the Wrestlecrap/Are You Serious staple gimmick who lasted one match in WWF in the 90’s. More interesting is when a guy named Malice shows up at #13. Chokeslams all over the place!

The guy looks very new to me and it surprises me because while he isn’t great, he’s kind of good for a big guy. He’s played up as a pretty big deal throughout the match as a monster heel. I didn’t find out until after the match that he’s WCW’s the Wall after losing a ton of weight! Whoa!

The match goes on and on and while there are eliminations here and there, nothing is too memorable. It is kind of crazy when a really in-shape guy named Justice starts going to town on everybody and after looking at him closely and seeing him perform a Black Hole Slam do I realize that this is the man who will one day be Abyss and Abyss’ doofy brother Joseph Park.

Things pick up with Scott Hall, fresh off of being fired from WWE for being his usual drunken self. He beats up the tired Jarrett and drops him with the Outsider’s Edge.

I should note that most of the time, they’d show the 90 second countdown in the bottom corner. I like that touch. Makes things come off as more legit. To go against the “more legit” claim, Hall sees who’s coming out next and welcomes him with open arms. It’s none other than unintentional parody of America himself, Toby Keith! Yes, the country star played a live performance earlier that was interrupted by Jarrett. He gets his revenge with a little suplex action.

Jarrett is out and I’m relieved. Hall adds a lot of charisma to the proceedings, like when he sits on the top rope and takes a breather, watching everyone else go at it. A few names down the line, we get Ken Shamrock and I do a double-take. Ken Shamrock! I forgot you even existed! I thought he was like Jenny Sparks from the Authority. Once the 20th century ended, he ceased to exist! I remember for years hoping that he’d return to the WWE so we’d get the feud with Kurt Angle that would have written itself. Alas…

Shamrock’s house of fire entry is snuffed out by Malice catching him and doing a powerbomb variation. A nice piece of foreshadowing. Brian Lawler is the last guy in there, although the guy in charge of the countdown clock doesn’t realize this for a few moments and prepares for the nonexistent #21. Whoops.

Our last five are Lawler, Malice, Shamrock, Hall and Apolo. Malice chokeslams Lawler and the other three begin to corner him. Malice demands they bring it on, but Shamrock decides that it would be better to simply toss Lawler while he’s half-dead. As Shamrock hangs back, Malice fights off both Apolo and Hall. First he backdrops Apolo to the outside. Then Hall does that stupid-ass spot that takes me out of every one of his matches.

He’s done this since his days as Razor Ramon. He sets up the Outsider’s Edge right in front of the ropes, as if he’d do the move in a way that would cripple or kill 99% of its victims. It never, ever hits and always leads to the same output: Hall gets backdropped over the top rope. Here is no different. We’re down to Shamrock vs. Malice and Ricky Steamboat comes in as the referee.

The brief match isn’t so bad, all things considered, outside of a moment where the two are so blatantly calling spots in front of the camera. It’s Malice’s size, resilience and heel manager interference vs. Shamrock’s relative freshness and submission skill. Shamrock can’t get him to tap with an armbar or ankle lock, but a belly-to-belly suplex out of nowhere catches the big man with a three-count. Shamrock is the champ. Malice looks strong here and it’s even more unfortunate that he’d pass on a year and a half later.

And what better way to end this very first TNA show that crowns its champ than cutting to Jeff Jarrett and Toby Keith being separated by security? God…

Tomorrow, we finally return to the WWE. To describe the next update in two words and a bunch of ellipses: “………………….is cooking.”

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 10

January 16th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: October 18, 2000
Company: WCW
Show: Thunder
Rules: Royal Rumble with 30 second intervals
Stipulation: Winner gets a title shot the Nitro after Halloween Havoc
Roster (29): Brian Adams, “That 70’s Guy” Mike Awesome, Big Vito, Booker T, Bryan Clark, Crowbar, Disqo, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, David Flair, “Lieutenant Loco” Chavo Guerrero, Don Harris, Ron Harris, Jeff Jarrett, Mark Jindrak, Billy Kidman, Konnan, Kwee Wee, “Corporal Cajun” Lash LeRoux, Ernest “the Cat” Miller, Rey Mysterio Jr., “Coach” Kevin Nash, Sean O’Haire, Chuck Palumbo, “Above Average” Mike Sanders, Shawn Stasiak, Scott Steiner, Sting, Lance Storm, Alex Wright

I think during WCW’s final months, the quality was getting almost as good as when everything started to go wrong a couple years earlier. It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good either. It wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that with a little effort, WCW could have been turned around to being halfway successful before a Turner higher-up decided to pull the plug.

Take the Countdown to Armageddon, for instance. The main event of a Thunder in late 2000, only five months before the company would become McMahon’s new set of action figures, is head and shoulders above that guerrilla warfare idea from yesterday’s update and is almost well-booked at times. Almost.

The Royal Rumble knockoff is a 29-man battle royal for a shot at the champ the night after Halloween Havoc. Goldberg isn’t allowed to be in it, I think because his storyline is that he needs to equal his old winning streak before being allowed another title shot. The match has 30-second intervals, meaning the whole thing blazes through.

Unfortunately, whoever booked it must have been in a real rush because the “random draw” barely even pretends to exist. Our first two entrants are “Above Average” Mike Sanders and the Cat, two wrestlers who happen to be feuding over full rights as Commissioner of WCW. Having these two start it off isn’t too weird, right?

The next two are Shawn Stasiak and Chuck Palumbo. They and Sanders are all members of the Natural Born Thrillers and work on the Cat, though Stasiak – “the black sheep” – has some problems coexisting with Palumbo. Again, it isn’t too off. That stable has a lot of wrestlers.

Then Disqo (a renamed Disco Inferno) comes out, followed 30 seconds after by his partner Alex Wright. Shortly after, Ron and Don Harris come out consecutively. Even the commentators can’t make sense of this. It’s briefly suggested that maybe one of the co-commissioners created the order, but why would they be the first two, then?

Speaking of commentary, it’s the best of times and the worst of times. Joining Tony Schiavone are Stevie Ray and Mark Madden. Stevie is so bad he’s great while Madden is so bad he’s terrible. There’s something so weird about both guys from Harlem Heat being the two most awesomely bad commentators in wrestling history.

Canada-loving turncoat “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan enters the fray. Just want to remind everyone that this was a thing.

With 11 in the ring and no eliminations yet, the Natural Born Thrillers’ leader “Coach” Kevin Nash is out at #12. They go right to commercial and time seemingly freezes. Once they’re back from commercial, Nash enters the ring and there’s been zero entries in the past two minutes. Uh huh.

He proceeds to clean house until the only ones left are Nash, Palumbo, Stasiak and David Flair. Stasiak finally strikes Palumbo and knocks him out of the ring. Afraid of Nash’s wrath, Stasiak hops the top rope and runs off. That leaves David Flair to lay into Nash with zero success. Nash, the big, tough guy he is, takes out Flair with an eye-poke.

Nash plays the same role he did in the ’94 Royal Rumble that got him over: clearing the ring and taking out every new challenger. The one to stop his streak is Rey Mysterio. Sadly, this is late WCW, meaning it’s unmasked Rey, wearing stupid devil horns and looking like a 12-year-old boy.

My thoughts too, Big Sexy. My thoughts too.

Rey slows him down and our next guy out is Booker T! …What? I didn’t notice this when rewatching it as the WCW title picture is confusing as hell as is, but when I looked up who the winner would be facing… well, Booker T is the WCW Champion. He’s in a match to earn a shot against himself! And nobody on commentary seems to notice this! What the fuck?

Sting and Mike Awesome come out soon after and the four faces take apart Nash before eliminating him. Out next are Jeff Jarrett and Scott Steiner. I don’t mean in consecutive order. I mean that Steiner rushes the ring early just for the sake of laying into his upcoming PPV opponent Booker T. Yes, he too is trying to earn a shot at a title he already has a shot at.

Sting and Jarrett eliminate each other and Awesome removes both Booker and Steiner at the same time, leaving him against Rey. The ring fills up some more and our final spot goes to both members of Kronik at the same time, playing into their upcoming handicap match against Goldberg. Once things whittle down, we have Mike Awesome (face) against Kronik, Jindrak and O’Haire (heels). The four beat on him and prepare to dump him out when Goldberg’s badass Viking theme starts blaring.

Goldberg rushes in and is almost immediately taken down by Kronik. Still, the diversion is enough for Awesome to trick Jindrak and O’Haire into eliminating themselves. In a rather cool ending, Goldberg Spears Bryan Clark as Adams sneaks off to fetch a chair. Goldberg throws Clark out of the ring and Awesome grabs Adams’ chair, opening the Kronik member up for a second Spear. As Adams struggles to stand, Awesome holds the chair and warily keeps an eye on Goldberg. Is he here to take out his frustrations on everyone else allowed in this match? Is he planning to Spear Awesome next? Goldberg sees the chair and things get tense.

But clearer heads prevail and they take out Brian Adams together. Mike Awesome gains his title shot and gets a bit of a rub from Goldberg.

It’s a shame things didn’t work out for Awesome. I always enjoyed his work and thought his role as “That 70’s Guy” was criminally underrated when they subdued the gimmick enough that it wasn’t so in-your-face. He worked the same way John Morrison’s “Palace of Wisdom” gimmick worked, at least in my opinion. Which is fitting, since Awesome looked like a beefed up Morrison with Roddy Piper’s face.

That’s our last look at WCW. We’re halfway through the list and tomorrow we’ll continue on with WCW’s reincarnation.

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Milo Manara: Sometimes Great Isn’t Good Enough

January 16th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

drawn by Milo Manara, yapped from Marvel Unveils Milo Manara “Uncanny Avengers” #2 Variant – Comic Book Resources)

Milo Manara is like Frank Cho, in that he’s very good at one specific thing and really good at a few other things, but he got so good at that first thing that the rest of the work sometimes suffers.

Frank Cho draws great busty women and decent thick women. That’s his thing, and I feel like only one of those dudes that draws Cavewoman — I think I’m thinking of Budd Root and early Devon Massey, and even that’s a reach — could go bar-for-bar with him in that very specific race. But Cho’s storytelling and focus has suffered as a result. The sexy girls seem like crutches, immaculately drawn though they may be, and nothing else in his stories has been clicking half as well as the girls do. That’s part of why Liberty Meadows works for me while his later work hasn’t — he could indulge the funny animal/dumb joke side of himself in addition to the carnival boobs, so there was something more to read the series for beyond “What unlikely-but-sexy pose is Cho going to draw a hot girl in this time?”

Manara’s similar. He’s fantastic at drawing a specific type of woman. His women possess a smoldering sexiness, one that’s probably best typified by Megan Fox these days. It isn’t entirely my bag, maybe because it isn’t as close to being in line with my tastes as Cho’s trunked out girls are, but I can still recognize how unbelievably talented he is sometimes. He tends to draw women who are (often literally) two panels away from being in full erotic ecstasy, with their head thrown back and hair blowing in the wind and mouth a perfect O.

It sounds familiar and lazy, but there’s an art to it. A lot of the empty cheesecake we complain about in cape comics is approach Manara’s throne, but it gets screwed up at the most basic level. Manara knows what he’s doing, and it shows.

But, as near as I can tell… that’s about all he does. I mean, he’s still an incredible draftsman, but like Cho, his women have a certain gravity. They feel like the real focus of the story to me at this point, like each story is a vehicle that exists just so that you can see Manara (or Cho) draw pretty girls.

Which is fine, on a certain level… X-Women was interesting, if neutered, and Cho’s Shanna was pretty okay, but again, felt neutered. But it gets old so fast. Their new work feels like echoes of their old work, but without the swing and passion that made the old work so interesting. You know that these guys can go in, but it just feels like a book that was created on autopilot.

It’s one thing to see something familiar done well, but seeing something done well in the exact same way over and over and over… it gets boring, no matter how solid it is. So you end up with things like this shot of the Scarlet Witch, which is drawn very well but uninteresting beyond the weirdness of one of the greatest porno artists ever drawing Marvel characters. When you expand it to include the rest of his covers, which are similarly vacant… I dunno. It ain’t working for me.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 9

January 15th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: May 3, 2000
Company: WCW
Show: Thunder
Rules: I… I don’t know
Stipulation: Winner gets a WCW Championship shot at the Great American Bash
Roster (43): Tank Abbott, Brian Adams, Asya, Mike Awesome, Buff Bagwell, Big T, Big Vito, Bam Bam Bigelow, Chris Candido, Cash, Brian Clarke, Disco Inferno, Shane Douglas, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Ric Flair, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Don Harris, Ron Harris, Bret “Hitman” Hart, Curt Hennig, Horace Hogan, Hulk Hogan, Jeff Jarrett, Johnny the Bull, Chris Kanyon, Billy Kidman, Konnan, Lash LeRoux, Lex Luger, Medusa, Ernest “the Cat” Miller, Mona, Hugh Morrus, Diamond Dallas Page, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Norman Smiley, Shawn Stasiak, Scott Steiner, Stevie Ray, Sting, Vampiro, Van Hammer and the Wall

During the two years before being bought off by Vince McMahon, WCW was a mess of comedic proportions. It was usually in one of two states. Either Vince Russo was the head writer and things were hilariously out of order, or he was thrown to the wayside and some other writer made the shows just as inept, only extremely boring. Usually, Russo gets the blame for most of the stuff that went on during this time, either because his garbage was more memorable or because it’s just an easier blanket statement.

Today’s battle royal entry comes from a magical time when WCW decided to have both Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo run the company together. On paper, the idea was that their good concepts would wash away any bad concepts. Buuuuuuut this is also when David Arquette is WCW Champion.

Also just want to take a second to thank Greg Merritt, who suggested I write about this match, which itself inspired me to do this daily series. He calls this battle “fascinating and terrible” and Great Zampano, he’s right!

The big storyline is that Bischoff and Russo have started a stable called the New Blood, made up of the younger wrestlers on the roster who are mad at the older, more popular wrestlers for holding them down. The older wrestlers, which include the likes of Hogan, Sting and DDP, are referred to as the Millionaire’s Club and in no way come off as devious, despite Russo’s supposed intentions to make this a “shades of gray” situation. In fact, his New Blood stable comes off as a big collection of whiners.

It also gave us the most cringe-inducing segment where Bischoff and Russo decided to reboot the title picture and that meant WCW Champion Sid had to give up the belt. Bischoff, making a sly reference to a real-life incident that only a very small fraction of viewers understood, taunted Sid by asking, “Did you forget your scissors?! …I said, did you forget your SCISSORS?!” The complete lack of reaction from the live crowd speaks volumes.

So anyway, this match. Near the end of an episode of Thunder, Bischoff and Russo are in the ring with a bunch of New Blood guys, most of them brandishing weapons. Bischoff calls out the Millionaire’s Club and invites them into some “guerrilla warfare”. I don’t know if that’s just a term here or if that’s what this match is supposed to be called. Either way, Flair accepts and brings some of his super-popular friends with him, demanding that they’ll have an over-the-top-rope battle royal and the last man standing gets a title shot at the Great American Bash. Bischoff accepts and points out that the men standing with him in the ring are the future of the business.

That might be the saddest part of this because that’s not true for a single guy in there. Guys like Ernest Miller, Buff Bagwell, the Wall and Shawn Stasiak fail to set the wrestling world on fire and the only guys involved who do all right are established wrestlers Jeff Jarrett and Scott Steiner. Yes, Steiner insisted upon being with the “young and hip” New Blood.

The challenge accepted, the Millionaire’s Club kind of jogs, then walks to the ring and we have 11-on-11, only the New Blood guys have weapons. Remember, these guys were supposed to be seen as being morally on the same level as the Millionaire’s Club.

In what seems like forever, there’s not a single elimination. Just dudes brawling. Then maybe five minutes in, some more guys run out. Konnan, Bam Bam Bigelow, the Harris Boys, etc. Commentary claims that they’re there to back up the New Blood. Then the Harlem Heat music plays and we get Stevie Ray, Cash and Big T, reminding me that there was an angle where Ahmed Johnson defeated Booker T for the right to have “T” in his name. Soon after, Tank Abbot comes out, being put over by the commentators as being a mercenary for the New Blood. It’s hard to really tell if these guys are supposed to be entrants in the match or not, but they succumb to the basic rules where being thrown out of the ring means leaving, so I’m going to say yes.

Finally, guys start getting eliminated and Millionaire’s Club members are able to get some weapons. It seems that everyone who comes out is on the New Blood’s side until Hacksaw Jim Duggan storms out with a 2×4 and lays waste to the ring until eliminating himself. Some of the WCW ladies come out and join the fray.

Then a limousine pulls up and someone with silver pants walks out. The camera refuses to pan up and we watch the man step to the arena in mystery. Who is this Pokemon?

OOOH YEAH! Savage helps clear the ring of some of the New Blood guys and tries to eliminate himself by jumping out, but Shane Douglas screws that up for him and Savage has to leave the ring between the ropes. Soon after, Bret Hart comes out and SHOCKS THE WORLD by hitting Hogan with a chair and leaving. Note, this is one of Bret’s final appearances.

DDP eliminates himself and Jarrett, which is just as well since they’re in a #1 contender’s match despite both being #1 contenders for the upcoming Sunday’s PPV already. We’re left with Kidman vs. Hogan and Flair vs. Douglas, which happen to be two of the upcoming Slamboree matches. Hogan is eliminated by going under the top rope and it seems that they’ve already changed the rules to reflect that. That puts it into question how Flair is still in the match, considering he spent a few minutes outside the ring earlier beating on Douglas with a bat.

The final two are Flair and Douglas and Flair wraps him up in the Figure Four. Russo runs in with bat in hand and accidentally hits Douglas instead.

Let me just repeat that for you.

Flair has Douglas in the Figure Four. Russo comes in and somehow accidentally hits the wrong guy.

Flair eliminates Douglas and wins his title shot. Or does he? I checked Wikipedia and Flair spent Great American Bash fighting his son while Nash got the title shot.

It’s not over. Hogan prepares a suplex spot on the outside, but Bischoff hits him in the knee and Hogan falls through a table. Savage ignores this for a minute so he can celebrate with Flair in the ring. Elsewhere, DDP and Jarrett climb a scaffold for no reason, punching each other all the way.

Savage finally chases off Kidman and Bischoff, then helps up Hogan. Savage’s very last WCW appearance is the Mega Powers buddying up.

In a final bout of incompetence, DDP does a huge bump off the scaffold, but it’s not shown. They’re so focused on Hogan/Savage that we just get a shot of DDP laying in some debris and a final shot of Jarrett celebrating on top the ramp.

Holy shit.

I’m going to do another WCW battle royal from 2000 tomorrow, but I’m going to leave with a couple quotes from this very match.

Tony Schiavone: “This has been nuts. It’s been absolutely nuts. Everything logical you can think about WCW over the past year thrown out the window.”
Mike Tenay: “Logic? Word doesn’t even exist in World Championship Wrestling!”

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 8

January 14th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: January 11, 1999
Company: WWF
Show: Monday Night Raw
Rules: Royal Rumble
Stipulation: Winner gets the #30 spot in the 1999 Royal Rumble
Roster (10): The Big Boss Man, Chyna, “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn, Kane, Vince McMahon, Road Dogg, Ken Shamrock, Test, Triple H, X-Pac

Ah, the late 90’s. The Attitude Era. The Monday Night Wars. A golden age of talent, even though Vince Russo was the guy writing the show. Swerves and over-booking all over the place during his latter days in the WWF. That’s the main reason why I consider the ’99 Royal Rumble to be the “least best” Rumble in that it’s just too busy. But hey, at least it’s better than the mini-Rumble that precedes it.

Vince McMahon has been stuck in his highly-successful feud with Steve Austin, not to mention a side-feud between his Corporation and the stable D-Generation X. McMahon made sure that Austin’s role in the Rumble would be automatically at #1 and penciled himself in at #30 to make sure Austin had no chance in Hell. Commissioner Shawn Michaels finagled with that idea and made it so that McMahon would be #2.

Amidst this big Corporation/DX feud, McMahon decided to put together a Corporate Royal Rumble. A smaller-scaled Rumble featuring only members of both stables where the winner would earn the #30 spot. We know we’re in for some bad times once we see that Shane McMahon is doing commentary.

If you’ve never experienced it, Shane’s commentary is as bad as his punches.

We’re off to a wonderful start when Corporation member Ken Shamrock eliminates himself immediately by jumping over the top rope to get at entrant #2, Billy Gunn. It isn’t a total loss of logic, as Shamrock spends the next minute or so beating the crap out of Mr. Ass, slamming his head into the steps repeatedly until the Big Boss Man is out next. Shamrock leaves and allows Boss Man to continue the beating. At #4, the New Age Outlaws theme plays, but it’s Test who runs out to help out Boss Man. Whoops.

Things finally start to go DX’s way slightly when X-Pac comes out. Then Test eliminates Gunn and we’re back to square one. Road Dogg comes out to even the odds, but then Kane – representing the Corporation – puts it back in their court, eliminating Road Dogg and making it 3-on-1. Triple H runs out next and while he’s overwhelmed, he still tricks Test into clotheslining Kane, who doesn’t budge, but isn’t very happy.

The ring gets cleared until it’s just Triple H vs. Boss Man. On paper, we have all of our announced entries, but then Vince McMahon comes out as #9 and causes Triple H to stop working on Boss Man. Boss Man gets up and the two grapple near the ropes. Vince rushes in and eliminates both at the same time. Boss Man is confused at first, but then celebrates his boss’ victory.

Vince is happy because he’s cheated the system. Now he’s #30! …Or is he?

Chyna comes out last, showing that DX also has some surprises in store. Patterson and Brisco try to prevent her entry, but she takes a swing at both. We don’t get any real Vince vs. Chyna battling as Steve Austin walks out for the sake of getting in Vince’s face. Vince is distracted by this and Chyna takes advantage.

Chyna wins a spot as the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble, doing so at #30. It didn’t really do her much good. In the Rumble itself, she eliminated Mark Henry and then Austin immediately threw her out. The whole thing was a convoluted mess that ended with Vince McMahon winning at #2 and Austin getting the Wrestlemania title shot anyway.

That’s what you get when you play with Russo. Speaking of him, the next update is another one of his babies, only off in WCW. Come check it out.

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