Archive for the 'Wrestlecomics' Category

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WrestleMania XXX: The Feel-Good Story That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen

April 12th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

Last Sunday, WWE brought us their 30th WrestleMania, which as you can guess, is kind of a big deal. It turned out to be a blast, unlike much of the last five years. WrestleMania 24 is my favorite, but the only one since that hasn’t been below average was WrestleMania 26, which wasn’t exactly spectacular. This year’s actually felt like something to be excited about going in. The writers did a great job of building up nearly all the matches, from John Cena fighting Bray Wyatt to a battle royal where the winner won a giant Andre the Giant trophy. Hell, that match had better build than this year’s Royal Rumble!

But the real story here was the undercard match of Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H where the winner got to be in the main event triple threat for the title against Randy Orton and Batista, ending in Bryan’s climactic double victory. On the surface of fiction, it’s a well-written storyline that’s been building since August. Hell, it’s one of the best main event builds we’ve seen for WrestleMania in a long time. The thing is, the real story of how this came to be is far more intriguing than what’s going on in front of the camera. This has been something built up for years between the wrestlers involved, the fans and some guys who wouldn’t be competing at WrestleMania 30.

Let’s break it up and look at some of the important players:

THE WRITERS WHO CAN’T BUILD NEW STARS

One of the major problems with WWE in the past few years is their inability to make new names. Writing isn’t long-term enough and Vince McMahon – having final say on everything – changes his mind every other minute. Wrestlers who seem like they’re catching steam all of the sudden get sidelined due to either bad storytelling or the need to feed them to John Cena. Cena is a wonderful performer and all-around good guy, but seeing him stapled to the top of the program at the expense of guys who could use a major win or two is what turns a lot of people off.

The best example is Ryback, who was getting pushed right up the card as an unstoppable and super popular face monster. They put him into the main event scene and had him compete for the title against CM Punk a few times, but they got cold feet. Sure, Ryback probably wasn’t ready to be champ, but WWE put themselves in a bad position by bringing him up so high so fast. So they had him lose. A lot. It kind of hurt his credibility, but he still had some juice. Then they turned him against John Cena, which got a great reaction from the crowd. They couldn’t have that, so they made him go out of his way to be an evil coward all of the sudden. Even though his character had a ton of legit reasoning for why he hated Cena, it was swept under the rug by Cena yelling a lot and by the end of the feud, Cena won decisively and removed what was left of Ryback’s momentum.

Last Sunday, Ryback was performing in a tag team during the PPV’s pre-show.

Other notable names to suffer from the start-stop booking style include Dolph Ziggler, Zack Ryder, Alberto Del Rio, the Miz, R-Truth, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, Damien Sandow, John Morrison and Drew McIntyre.

RANDY ORTON

For a while, Randy Orton was the secondary, more intense John Cena. He wasn’t quite as popular, but he was still a major deal. Since at the time, WWE had split Raw and Smackdown into two sort of exclusive shows with their own top belts, that meant that they basically had their own “Cena” for each show. Edge was the top name on Smackdown, but he had to retire due to injury. At the following PPV, they had his best friend Christian face Edge’s previous challenger Alberto Del Rio for the vacated title. Christian won, which was well-deserved and seen by many hardcore wrestling fans as a long time coming.

They taped the next Smackdown two days later. In it, Orton, who had just joined the Smackdown roster, was granted an immediate title match against Christian and beat him. Yes, not only did Christian’s feel-good title reign last two whole days (five in terms of kayfabe, since the show aired on Friday instead of Tuesday), but we weren’t supposed to feel bad about it because Randy Orton! Yay! In turn, they eventually made Christian turn heel over this and get his ass handed to him for his troubles.

While Orton lacked the charisma of Cena, he at least was more likely to put people over, which made him more likeable at times. Then his star started to slowly fizzle over time and he was no longer really on Cena’s level. He was still fairly popular, but just kind of there. He won the big Money in the Bank PPV match that earned him a title shot whenever he wanted, which led to the events of Summerslam…

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The WWE Network: Two Weeks Later

March 10th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

It’s been two weeks since WWE released the WWE Network. An idea that’s been around for years, WWE’s been wanting to find a way to make money off their extensive video library and the DVD releases just haven’t been cutting it. Originally, the Network was going to be an actual television channel, but cable providers told WWE to go fuck off, turning the entire concept into a running gag amongst the fans. It kept getting delayed over and over to the point that nobody really expected it to ever happen.

Then they changed the concept and made it a Netflix-like streaming channel. After the press conference to announce how it worked, I must have seen a record number of people posting that image macro of Fry yelling, “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” I had the same mindset.

The sell is that the WWE Network is $10 a month (you have to agree to six months at a time) of streaming video that you can access via computers, game consoles, phones, tablets, etc. You get every single WWE/WCW/ECW PPV, lots of old shows, replays of more recent shows, original programming and every live PPV in HD. There would always be something playing on the feed, but you can check out pretty much anything on demand. That’s an insane deal. So how has it stacked up?

It went live two weeks ago and experienced the expected rough beginning. For the first day, it was extremely difficult to sign up for the service. While the live streaming worked out fine, it was nearly impossible to get an entire show when watching the on demand material. That appeared to be a fault in their setup, which they’ve since fixed. After the second day, things have mostly run smoothly.

Mostly.

The Xbox 360 app has famously been a disaster. For a week, nobody was able to log in. Now you can log in, but it’s missing the search function as well as a ton of PPVs. You can’t access any of the WCW or ECW PPVs, as well as any Wrestlemania that isn’t 29. Hopefully they fix this soon, especially considering I like to have this on in the background on my TV.

Although they claimed that all their PPV stuff would be uncensored, that’s mostly a lie. Sure, Booker T still accidentally drops the n-bomb back in that 1996 WCW PPV, but lots of nudity and curse words are taken out. For the most part, it’s understandable. A lot of shows were already prepared due to the now-defunct WWE On-Demand service and they were all cleaned up for that. That’s why WWE is totally allowed to play old footage of people calling the company “WWF” now, but a lot of clips blank it out anyway because they were prepared years back when that embargo was in effect. Also, there’s the music issues, especially with ECW. I’ve heard that most of New Jack’s matches have been removed, mainly because he’d spend the ENTIRE match with “Natural Born Killers” playing.

Then there’s the problem with NXT ArRIVAL, the PPV put together for WWE’s developmental promotion. As an early stress test, they did the show live to see how the servers would handle it. With 20 minutes left, things went to hell and there were serious issues. Considering Wrestlemania is coming up in a few weeks with no major live shows ahead of it, it’s iffy on whether or not that show will actually be watchable via the Network on the first go.

Despite all of that, the Network is AWESOME. It is so goddamn awesome and if you ever enjoyed wrestling, get on it. As mentioned, you get hundreds of PPVs at your fingertips and a lot of random shows from the past. They put more stuff up by the day, but right now it’s mostly old Raws from the first year of its existence, Madison Square Garden house shows from the 70′s-to-early-90′s, WCCW shows, ECW Hardcore TV and that Smackdown where Arnold Schwartzenegger showed up to beat up Triple H. They’ve also been putting up the documentary stuff from the DVDs they’ve been releasing, like a biographical look at Steve Austin or a lengthy interview where Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels clear the air about their old real-life hatred for each other.

They also have Legends Roundtable, a show where a bunch of old wrestling personalities would sit around and discuss whatever topic for an hour or so. One of the ones listed now is about Mean Gene, Michael Hayes, Mick Foley, Dusty Rhodes and Pat Patterson discussing the worst characters in wrestling history. It’s wonderful. For the first time in my life, I’m able to watch the Shockmaster’s tragic debut in great quality and it completes me.

The original programming is fantastic so far. I mean, the Raw and Smackdown pre and post shows I can take or leave. A half hour before and after the shows, you can see a roundtable discussion about what’s going on mixed with backstage interviews. Usually these interviews would only be hidden on WWE’s YouTube page, which is a shame, since a lot of them are really good.

Wrestlemania Rewind is a show where each week they spotlight a different Wrestlemania match. They’d spend about a half hour in documentary style, explaining the lead-up, then they’d show the match itself. So far they’ve only done the main events for Wrestlemania 1 (Hogan and Mr. T vs. Piper and Orndorff) and Wrestlemania 3 (Hogan vs. Andre).

WWE Countdown is basically your average VH1 talking heads show ala I Love the 80′s, only counting down a topic voted on by the fans. So far we’ve had Top 10 Catchphrases and Top 10 Entrances. One of the highlights is Daniel Bryan showing confusion over John Cena’s, “You can’t see me!” catchphrase because, no, he CAN see him. He’s standing right there and wearing bright colors! He is in no way invisible!

One of the shows coming down the pipeline is Legends House, where a bunch of old wrestlers do a Real World deal. It will feature Roddy Piper and Hillbilly Jim LARPing. Lord have mercy.

All the newer footage is in HD, including the live PPVs. They’ve also been using the Network as a way to see NXT, which is something I’ve been meaning to do on a regular basis to begin with. The ArRIVAL show was pretty amazing.

The whole thing is a radical concept and I really hope it works out for WWE. Sure, their insistence of a Batista vs. Orton main event on the biggest show of the year puts a bad taste in my mouth, but at least I can go rewatch this year’s Royal Rumble where the crowd verbally shits all over Batista for ten minutes straight. Their booking has been scattershot, but this strategy should be rewarded.

If you have even the slightest interest in wrestling, join the bandwagon because it’s pretty sweet and the price is a steal. I’m finding a lot of people are using it as an excuse to relive the utterly fascinating and laughably terrible final years of WCW and I really can’t blame them.

Meanwhile, my buddy Bearnt! uploaded a clip from one of the MSG shows. Here’s Roddy Piper delivering the weakest chair shot I have ever seen in my life.

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The Wrestlemania All-Star Challenge

February 23rd, 2014 Posted by Gavok

We’re on the eve of what will be a very important date in wrestling history. The WWE Network is about to go live and a good chunk of the WWE’s future relies on its performance. Making huge risks is a major WWE thing and outside of the first Wrestlemania, people mainly remember the bad decisions that lost a ton of money. The bodybuilding federation, the football league, the political campaigns and so on. Unlike those, the WWE Network is looking like a great idea and I can only cross my fingers and hope it’s something that works out for them as they’re really burning some bridges with it.

I’m picking it up. I know many people who are doing the same. Usually a bunch of us would get together to watch a PPV that only one person ordered, so if we’re all paying $10 for the WWE Network, then maybe they have a chance to pull this off.

In honor of this situation, which will be interesting as hell whether they win or lose, I’m going to try something I saw on a forum years ago. I forgot if it had a name, but I’m just going to call it the Wrestlemania All-Star Challenge. If you have your own blog or whatever and you want to try it, by all means. Use the comments too, if that’s your thing.

Here’s the concept: You have to put together a playlist of the ultimate Wrestlemania. It has to be 29 matches with one match from each Wrestlemania. There are two roadblocks, though. One, no wrestler may get double-duty. You can’t have Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy from Wrestlemania 2 as well as Undertaker vs. King Kong Bundy from Wrestlemania 11. Not that you’d want to. Non-participant appearances are fine, so you don’t have to worry about managers or run-ins. Similarly, no title belt may get double-duty either. This is going with the idea that the WWF Championship and WWE Championship are the same thing. You can have Steamboat vs. Savage for the Intercontinental Championship or you can have Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper for the Intercontinental Championship. You just can’t have both.

It’s harder than it looks, coming off as a giant puzzle. It’ll lead to some iffy choices and you’re going to have to drop a match or two that you really like. For instance, I was going to include Hogan vs. Rock, but that caused some problems in other shows where there simply wasn’t a viable match to choose from.

Here’s my list. Noticeably absent are Batista, Chris Benoit, Mick Foley and the Big Show.

WM1: Special Delivery Jones vs. King Kong Bundy. The first Wrestlemania is filled with a lot of nothing matches, but at least this one’s kind of memorable. Bundy squashes Jones in a quick match that they insist is quicker.

WM2: Corporal Kirchner vs. Nikolai Volkoff in a Flag Match. Again, this Wrestlemania has a lot of crap matches and anything passable has somebody I’d rather use for another spot on the list. The Flag Match isn’t that bad. It’s short, but both guys make it watchable enough.

WM3: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championship. It’s the match that stole the show and acted as maybe the best singles match in the first ten years of Wrestlemania. How can I not include it?

WM4: “The Rock” Don Muraco vs. Dino Bravo. Wrestlemania 4 is problematic. There’s nothing especially good and the Jake Roberts/Rick Rude tournament match completely kills the show. Luckily, the first round meeting between Muraco and Bravo has a bit of pep in its step for such a short match.

WM5: The Brain Busters vs. Strike Force. A fun tag match that gives us one of the more memorable tag team splits of the 80′s. Now that I think of it, it’s kind of weird that they split up one of their big face tag teams while being overshadowed by the company’s top angle that was also about a big face tag team splitting up. Back then, the concept wasn’t as overdone as it is now.

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Wrestling is Weird: The Life and Times of Archibald Peck

February 16th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

Wrestling company CHIKARA has gone through some interesting stuff in the last nine months. They died and did a rebirth, partially told through a series of YouTube movies that will be shown in its full form in a theater setting in a couple months. So yes, weird.

For Den of Geek US, I’ve been working on a primer for the Death and Return of CHIKARA angle as told via a who’s who of all the players involved. While that should be going up sometime next week or so, there’s one part that I felt such joy in writing about and that’s Archibald Peck. The time-traveling marching band leader’s ridiculous storyline since starting in CHIKARA has been an absolute treasure and even summing up his recent behavior in a couple paragraphs felt wrong. So join me as I go in-depth on the man.

It all started in early 2011. CHIKARA started releasing videos hyping up that the Band was coming. The videos acted like this was a major huge deal and included black and white historical footage and the first two seconds of the New World Order theme. The timing here was key. Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and X-Pac, three major members of the nWo, just left TNA, where they called themselves the Band due to rights issues. CHIKARA was about to build up towards its annual King of Trios tournament, so were they really suggesting that Nash, Hall and Pac were on the way to compete? It was possible. Those guys did do a lot of indy appearances. On the other hand, it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea in the long run due to their personalities and the fact that only one of them was capable of putting on a decent match at the time.

As it came closer to the debut time, it became a little more apparent that it wasn’t going to be the nWo in CHIKARA. Nash just made a big appearance in WWE and Hall was in no condition to compete. Coincidentally, X-Pac would show up at King of Trios a few months later as the 1-2-3 Kid, but the whole “Band is coming!” thing was just a red herring. The band was really Archibald Peck and his majorette Veronica.

It usually takes people months to pick up on how they’re “Archie and Veronica.”

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Check out National Pro Wrestling Day 2014! Live! For Free!

January 31st, 2014 Posted by Gavok

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted anything about CHIKARA Pro Wrestling and with good reason: CHIKARA is dead. Sort of.

Eight month ago, they did a big, climactic internet PPV during the mid-point of their season. During the show, a disgruntled former referee revealed that Titor, the company owning CHIKARA, was really involved in some shady stuff. The brass got really mad about this and during the main event, a wave of security guards washed over the ring and removed both the wrestlers and the acting referee. The set was destroyed, the live feed went out and everyone was told to go home. After that, all of CHIKARA’s future dates were cancelled and the company was gone.

After a month or so of inactivity, Icarus, a longtime heel, decided that he wouldn’t let CHIKARA die and tried to find assistance in a rebellion. He got some fans to help him, but finding other wrestlers to rally on his side was easier said than done. A series of YouTube videos have been released over the past few months called Ashes that tell the story of Icarus’ search for allies, as well as other subplots involving CHIKARA talent (mainly Fire Ant and Green Ant searching for their missing teammate Soldier Ant and tag team 3.0 venturing to Parts Unknown to find time-traveling marching band leader Archibald Peck). The videos were initially released weeks apart, but have since been released weekly and several have popped up in the past week.

As for actual wrestling, there were several affiliated promotions that popped up right before CHIKARA went under. Wrestling is Intense, Wrestling is Respect, Wrestling is Cool, etc. Put them all together with Kaiju Big Battel and you spell out “CHIKARA”. These shows were pretty uneventful until they were snuffed out. Various heel factions from CHIKARA’s past would show up and end these promotions, revealing some kind of massive Secret Society of Superheels. Dr. Cube and his Posse, the GEKIDO, the BDK, Sinn Bodhi and the Odditorium, the Colony XTREME Force and the Wrecking Crew have joined together as an unstoppable army.

A lot of this is going to come to a head at National Pro Wrestling Day 2014, a free show featuring at least 7 matches that’s trying to raise money for the Against Malaria Foundation. It’s this Saturday, February 1st and starts up at 1pm. Here are the announced matches:

Colt Cabana vs. Drew Gulak
(Best 2 Out of 3 Falls)
Mike Bennett vs. Hallowicked
The Baltic Seige vs. Bloc Party
(Six-Man Tag Match)
Sonjay Dutt vs. Eric Corvis
Juan Francisco de Coronado vs. Shynron
(No Disqualification Match)
Eddie Kingston vs. Francis O’Rourke
Heidi Lovelace vs. Joe Pittman
(For Wrestling is Heart’s La Copa)

Some of those matches should be really good, but naturally, I’m more interested in seeing the Return of CHIKARA plotline move forward. Really, that’s what most people are interested in because the backlash to this whole storyline has been brutal. It looks like they’ll be coming back wholesale in May, but NPWD should be good enough for the meantime.

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Royal Rumble Megapost

January 24th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

Over the years, I’ve written much about my love for WWE’s annual Royal Rumble PPV/match. Back in 2009, I did a countdown of all the matches from worst to best. Then last year, I spent 20 days or so talking about various battle royals. This year, I decided to revisit it as an excuse to write up a bunch of stuff for Den of Geek US.

That meant having to watch all the previous Rumble matches. That’s nearly 30 matches by this point and they’re mostly about an hour. A couple months ago, I decided to use that to my advantage. I’d transfer the matches onto my tablet and make it so that the only time I was allowed to watch them was at the gym. That got me motivated to go to the gym about five times a week, just so I could spend an hour running and watching.

So here’s what I’ve ended up writing.

The 15 Best (and 5 Worst) WWE Royal Rumble One-Timers: I became kind of intrigued by seeing the wrestlers who only made one Rumble appearance. Sometimes they were really obscure and sometimes they were a big deal, but only for a limited time. I wrote a list about those who did really well during their one shot and those who lasted mere seconds.

The 20 Worst Royal Rumble Moments: A lot of stuff that irked me in my massive rewatch. A lot of it was bad booking and storytelling, but the top spots go to stuff that I found legitimately hard to watch.

WWE Royal Rumble 2014 Predictions: Me and some of the other Den of Geek guys discuss who we think will win the various matches at the PPV. Pretty straightforward.

The Top 100 Royal Rumble Moments: This one took a lot of work and effort and is one of the reasons why I’ve been so lax on this site and why This Week in Panels has been regularly delayed. Recently, I’ve been getting overtime at work, so my free time to write has been sparse. Mike, my editor, seemed genuinely concerned about me getting this done in terms of my health, but like many of my gigantic writing projects, I did it out of passion and I saw it through. It ended up being the longest single article I’ve ever written, coming in at 31 pages on MS Word. Not to mention gathering the images took an entire night to do. I’ll admit, I didn’t get as much sleep this week as I would have liked, but I got it done.

I’m proud of how it turned out and that it actually got done. That said, I think I’ve said all that there is to say about the Royal Rumble.

Actually, no! While I have you here, I should probably mention one of the more fun things about the match that I’ve recently become involved in. My friend Bob tends to throw get-togethers for WWE PPVs, especially the big ones like Rumble and Wrestlemania. For the Royal Rumble, he’s created an incredibly fun party game. If you find yourself watching the show with a handful of people, I suggest giving it a try. Here are the rules:

- Everyone picks numbers 1-30 out of a hat. Hopefully your party is made up of enough people to make it even, like how we tend to have ten people, meaning three picks each. You are represented by whoever comes out at those numbers.

- Someone has to keep a tally. The actions in the ring gain points. When a wrestler hits a signature move, it’s one point. When a wrestler hits a finisher, it’s two points. When a wrestler eliminates someone, it’s three points. Reaching third place is three points, second place is four points and winning is five.

- Once the match is over, all the points are added up to see who wins.

There are certain people you want to get in these situations, even though you know they won’t win. For instance, Randy Orton is like hitting the jackpot because he tends to do spots in each Rumble where he hits a series of RKOs. Khali is the same way, as all of his movies count as either signatures or finishers, especially his brain chop.

The first year I was involved with this, it was 2011 when they did the 40-man Rumble. There were 13 of us, meaning we all got three picks and a Macho Man action figure was given #21 (which ended up being Booker T). Before the show, we bought a crappy championship belt from the toy aisle at a store and decided that it would be the prize. One guy brought his girlfriend to watch with us and she didn’t know wrestling. She ended up getting #1, which was CM Punk.

Thanks to the New Nexus helping him out, CM Punk got a ton of eliminations and won this girl a lot of points. Then it was time for her next pick, #22. We joked that with her luck, she’d probably get John Cena. Cena’s music started playing, Bob got up, walked across the room, brought back the title belt, handed it to her and then sat back down.

One year I got zero points because I ended up with Primo, Epico and Hunico. Even if they actually did anything, none of us could figure out what their signatures or finishers were.

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The Wrestling Nerd Analysis Survey

December 8th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Recently, in a thread at Something Awful’s wrestling subforum, discussion led to a survey about how we each got into wrestling. Some started during the Attitude Era in the late 90′s. Some during the Hogan Era. Some during the early 2000′s, when things weren’t as good as they used to be. I think it’s a pretty good idea for a discussion and deserves better than being hidden in a massive forum thread that moves several pages a day. So while I’ll answer the questions myself, I suggest you guys answer it as well. Toss it in the comments or even reblog it if you have a blog to call home. Even if you stopped watching wrestling years ago, give it a shot.

The questions:

1. What is the first wrestling match you remember watching? What year did you watch it?

2. What is the first angle you remember? What year?

3. What match or angle first got you following wrestling closely? What year?

4. As a kid, who were your top three favorite wrestlers?

5. Who are your top three wrestlers today?

Here’s my take.

1. What is the first wrestling match you remember watching? What year did you watch it?

I have a vague memory of being there with my brothers to watch Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant on Saturday Night’s Main Event in early 1988. It might not have even been that night it aired, but the replay of the events on another show. The match itself was lead-up to Wrestlemania 4. Andre defeated Hogan for the WWF Championship thanks to a crooked referee and while the WWF brass let that stand, they put their foot down when Andre immediately sold the belt to Ted Dibiase. The championship was suddenly vacated with the champion to be recrowned in a one-night, 14-man tournament to take place at the following Wrestlemania.

The first match that I recall watching for reals was “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka vs. some jobber on WWF Challenge in early January, 1991. Challenge was on Sundays at noon for me, so I was already awake and active from having to deal with Sunday School. I channel-surfed into seeing Snuka walking to the ring to face a generic victim, who he proceeded to annihilate within three minutes, culminating in a Superfly Splash off the top. Some research led me to discover that the guy’s name was Spike Jones. I found the match online, which of course included commentator Bobby Heenan discussing how much he used to love his music, much to Gorilla Monsoon’s chagrin.

Monsoon also made a rather funny line in retrospect, where he said that Spike wasn’t likely the man’s real name, but it sounds a lot cooler than something like “Dwayne.” This would prove to be more true than Monsoon would ever realize.

I was a fan of Godzilla movies at that age and watching the match made me wonder why I wasn’t watching this stuff to begin with. It was choreographed, but at least everyone moved a lot better and I didn’t have to deal with hours of drama from non-fighting characters who I didn’t give a shit about. Shortly after that match, they hyped up the upcoming Royal Rumble with a look at all 30 wrestlers involved. I loved the outlandish and diverse designs and found myself immediately hooked in.

2. What is the first angle you remember? What year?

The first major angle I can recall is Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Rick “The Model” Martel in 1990 stretching into 1991. It started before I was watching, but they did a good job of showing the highlights. It all started when they were each guests on the interview segment hosted by Brother Love. Jake was talking about whatever with his massive python Damien around his shoulders. Martel, a smug narcissist constantly peddling his own brand of perfume called Arrogance, found himself disgusted by the snake. He kept trying to spray Damien with some Arrogance, which he always distributed with a big atomizer can. Eventually, Jake got in his face over it and Martel accidentally-on-purpose sprayed him right in the eye with the perfume. Medical personnel scrambled and Martel snuck off.

In a later installment, Jake and Martel were brought back. Jake was wearing sunglasses and carried a walking stick to show that he was blind. Martel proceeded to make fun of him and antagonize him even further. Soon, Jake got close enough to grab at him, but reached Brother Love instead. He dropped Brother Love with a DDT (it’s okay, he was a jerk anyway) and Jake’s sunglasses came off to reveal a gross-ass, milky eye. It was awesome.

The feud was stretched out over months because WWF had the patience to do that back then. Martel was constantly ducking Jake. It wasn’t even about having them see if Jake could beat Martel, but seeing if Jake was capable of getting his hands on Martel. They captained their own teams at Survivor Series, leading to Martel’s side getting the first clean sweep in that show’s history. Jake was the last member of his team and rather than go out fighting, he grabbed Damien and chased Martel to the back. Jake was legal and Martel wasn’t so Jake got counted out. They tangled again at the Royal Rumble, but Martel was there before and after Jake’s tenure in the ring.

Finally, Martel signed a contract to take on Jake at Wrestlemania. He didn’t realize the fine print until it was too late: it would be a Blindfold Match. The two men would be blindfolded, which added to the idea that the drama wasn’t about Jake winning, but Jake even getting to him in the first place. On an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event, Martel would get his own test version of the bout by doing a Blindfold Match against Koko B. Ware. Rather than humor it, Martel instead waited for Koko to put on the blindfold first before beating the everloving crap out of him and laughing it off. It was kind of sad to watch and made Martel that much more of a guy you wanted to see destroyed.

Their match at Wrestlemania 7 is one of the most hated matches in the show’s 3-decade history, but I’m willing to defend it up to a point. It certainly could have stood to lose about five minutes, but there were some definite fun spots and it was satisfying to see Jake finally drop Martel with the DDT, pin him and drape Damien over his body.

3. What match or angle first got you following wrestling closely? What year?

That would be the Ultimate Warrior vs. “Macho King” Randy Savage, also in 1991. When I started watching, Warrior was in the last month of his 9 month long WWF Championship reign. Years later I’d discover that it was a business failure and later after that, I’d realize that he was basically set up to fail. Warrior beat Hogan for the title at Wrestlemania 6 and they immediately said that there would be no rematch. That meant Warrior had to deal with the top heels of the time and there were a couple to play around with. Earthquake was a big deal and even made his debut months earlier by crushing Warrior. Randy Savage was a big main eventer and Warrior vs. Savage sounded like a fresh match. It didn’t hurt that the guys genuinely liked each other in real life and wanted to make each other look good.

Instead, Warrior fell to the waysides, allowing Hogan to take the spotlight despite not being the champ. Hogan got to be the one to fight Earthquake during all this time and Warrior was given feuds with guys like Mr. Perfect and Rick Rude. Guys who nobody could buy as being on his level, especially since he’s destroyed them already. Warrior even spent a while in a feud alongside Legion of Doom against the three members of Demolition. That’s not the worst idea for a feud until you remember that he’s the champion and has no reason to be there as long as he holds the belt.

And what of Savage? WWF decided to finally get around to this feud in a way that didn’t make much sense to me. WWF was finally building up some new contenders with the returning Sgt. Slaughter (now an Iraqi sympathizer) and the newcomer the Undertaker. Warrior was slated to defend against Slaughter at the 1991 Royal Rumble and earlier in the show, Savage’s manager Queen Sherri asked him via seduction whether Savage could get a title shot down the line. Seduction or not, that should be a no-brainer. By the very definition of his name, Ultimate Warrior should be a fighting champion who takes all comers. Despite the many problems with John Cena’s character, he’s at least a guy who will never back down from a challenge.

So of course Warrior screams, “NNnnnnNNnnNnNNNOOoOOOOOOooOoooooOOOOOO!!” in her face. This caused Savage to come out during Warrior’s match with Slaughter and break a scepter over Warrior’s skull. Warrior got pinned and had a reason to want a match with Savage. Savage, coincidentally, no-showed the Royal Rumble match itself because there was a berserk dude with facepaint trying to outright murder him.

Their match at Wrestlemania 7 was a Career-Ending Match and the lead-up was nothing but insane promos by both men. The match itself is entirely worth watching as it’s easily one of Warrior’s top three bouts. Warrior won, Savage was fired, Sherri screamed abuse at him and then his old manager Elizabeth showed up to drive her off and reunite with her old love.

Savage was back as a wrestler eight months later.

4. As a kid, who were your top three favorite wrestlers?

#1 was probably “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. I loved the guy’s “take no shit” attitude both as a commentator and a wrestler. Dude wasn’t built like a house and didn’t do any crazy flips, but he just had this defiant, insane energy that made him so likeable. One of the moments that always sticks out is a tag match of him and Hogan against Ric Flair and Sid Justice. Piper’s in the ring with Justice and you wonder what he’s even supposed to do to a guy that big. When Justice is taken down, Piper proceeds to strangle him and then angrily bob his head up and down the mat while sort of dragging him around the ring.

Next would be Mr. Perfect. He was one of the first heels that I genuinely liked and it made it that much better when he went face at the end of 1992. Everything from his finisher to his gun-swatting to his ridiculous high-level confidence made him the coolest guy in wrestling. His own Career-Ending Match with Ric Flair in early 93 is one of the most exciting matches I’ve ever watched and had me standing the entire time. It’s a shame they didn’t do much with him other than feeding him to Lex Luger and Shawn Michaels afterwards.

Similarly, Earthquake was another heel wrestler I thought was cool and hoped he’d turn face. He wasn’t the tallest guy, but he was definitely my favorite big man wrestler as a kid. He’d always present himself as a tense, yet quiet monster that would flatten you if given the chance, yet his promos had him angrily yelling through a soft-spoken voice. Turning him into a tag team wrestler with Typhoon was a fun twist and I was pumped when they were building up to a huge feud against Yokozuna post-Wrestlemania 10. Then he simply vanished and snuck off to WCW.

5. Who are your top three wrestlers today?

Right now it would be Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and El Generico/Sami Zayn. Wrestlers moving from the indies to the WWE has become like translating a comic book into a movie. Changing stuff is going to happen, but sometimes they change so much you wonder why they even bothered. Let them be what made them so special. It’s refreshing when CM Punk got to play on stuff that made him popular in the indies on a bigger scale in WWE.

I’m hoping it works out in that sense for Sami Zayn. As El Generico, there was never a time when he was on screen that I wasn’t entertained. So far they’ve taken away his mask and have chided him for climbing onto the ropes to get cheers, but the guy has what it takes to become a popular name if given the chance.

So what are your thoughts?

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The New 24/7 Hardcore Championship is the Best Thing You’ll See All Day

November 3rd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about inventive wrestling promotion CHIKARA and with good reason. At the end of their show in early June, which I went to, security goons swarmed the main event, destroyed the set, told everyone to go home and CHIKARA was declared finished. Many weren’t sure what the game was here, but time has shown that it’s part of some kind of crazy-ass storyline based on bringing CHIKARA back.

Five months have passed and while the events driving it forward are picking up, there’s not enough for me to really go in-depth on. A lot of stuff is happening, but what it’s actually leading to is still the big question, so I’ll table that for later. Either way, it’s interesting, especially because they’re putting so much time and effort into something where the fans can’t even pay them via going to their shows or buying their DVDs.

Luckily, there’s still stuff going on where the CHIKARA regulars can keep themselves busy. There’s a series of regional spin-off promotions called Wrestling Is, such as Wrestling Is Cool, Wrestling is Art, Wrestling is Respect, etc. Coincidentally, these are being picked off one-by-one by various villains from CHIKARA past, like some kind of Secret Society of Superheels, somehow tying into the big CHIKARA return story.

But while all of this is going on, the absolutely BEST thing in the wrestling world is Chuck Taylor’s Instagram, which is nothing but short videos of the new 24/7 Hardcore Championship. See, back in the early 00′s, WWF had their Hardcore Championship with the special rule that as long as you had a referee on hand, the champ had to defend it any time and any place. This led to ridiculous segments of champion Crash Holly being accosted while at an arcade and fighting his way through the ball pit.

The CHIKARA/Wrestling Is alumni have brought back the gimmick, only they decided to get even weirder and more hilarious with it. It all started with the Estonian Thunderfrog (whose gimmick is that he is Thor Frog as a wrestler, complete with hammer that only he may lift) winning a battle royal within seconds. Then he found out how hard holding onto it can be while talking up how he was going to buy a new car in celebration.

From there, it’s been various moment-long videos mostly in Instagram form. The ones involving Chuck tend to be the best. For instance, there’s the time where he loses the belt to Rich Swann. Then Chuck wins it back in a rather controversial and questionable way. This leads to a later title defense against Swann that gets more than a little awkward for Taylor.

Even better is when Green Ant wins the belt at what appears to be a wedding and loses it to Chuck in a way that’s even more questionable. I’ve watched this one a hundred times and it still kills me.

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Thoughts on the Current State of Mainstream Wrestling

August 29th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

A year ago around this time, I was talking up how I had stopped watching WWE and started finding TNA to be pretty fucking good. It was shocking, but just as shocking is how a year has passed and my feelings couldn’t be more opposite. As it is right now, WWE is probably at its most solid since 2001 while TNA has gotten so laughably bad that I really wouldn’t mind too much if it died.

Hey, it’s not like most of the guys are getting paid well anyway.

So what happened?

With the WWE side, it appears to be two major things. First off, Triple H has been taking over more behind the scenes and while he failed pretty badly in bringing in Sin Cara, he’s smarter than Vince in a lot of storytelling aspects and is finally able to get his vision off the ground. One of his big problems has been how he makes for a terrible face character and puts himself over way too obnoxiously (having a semi-retired guy as one of the top faces does nothing for anyone other than short-lived ratings peaks), but now that he’s a heel, it works.

The other big change came from something that’s been hurting the company for years and that’s the Who Moved My Cheese? factor. For way too long, WWE’s been in need of an era shift. They’ve been stuck in the Cena/Batista/Orton era for so long while being too afraid to move forward. Batista quit a few years ago and Orton’s been deemed too much of a risk to be top face, so they’ve been stuck making Cena super important while doing a bad job of building up anyone to be on his level.

CM Punk came really close, but they chose to instead turn him heel and ruin that momentum. Sheamus has come close, but just hasn’t been able to come off as more than Player 2 Cena. Then there’s Ryback, who got pushed to the moon, only for the bookers to realize that he’s nowhere near ready to be champion, leading to him losing a bunch of matches, turning heel and falling down from the grace of the main event.

At this point, they’ve reached the point where they have to move on or simply flail around like they have for the past few years. While they’d love to ride out Cena forever, he’s finally reached the point of having to take a vacation to recover from injuries. They’ve handled this the best way possible by pushing Punk and Bryan as top faces while NOT having them succeed at the bat, while at the same time having Bryan get the first 100% clean win on Cena in forever. Meanwhile, Orton’s turned heel, which is the best place for him.

It’s weird to look back at three of the biggest things to piss me off with WWE in the past three years.

1) That time Christian won the World Heavyweight Championship and they immediately jobbed him out to Orton.

2) Daniel Bryan losing his title in mere seconds on a huge PPV stage.

3) CM Punk beating Cena at Summerslam, only to have a Clique member attack him and the Money in the Bank holder to come out and pick the bones.

The crazy thing is, all of these basically happened at the end of Summerslam! Daniel Bryan won his big title match, Triple H laid him out and he lost the belt in mere seconds to Orton. And it worked!

WWE’s really been on a roll lately, firing on all cylinders. Watching three hours of Raw used to be a chore, but now it flies by because nearly every segment is a good time. It’s been a long, long time since they’ve had that kind of quality.

Not only that, but there’s some great talent coming down the pipeline. Sami Zayn (El Generico), Adrian Neville (Pac), Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero), Solomon Crowe (Sami Callihan) and many others are on the NXT roster, waiting to be called up. The reason they aren’t being called up? Because Triple H wants to make sure that they have actual plans for any new member of the roster. This is a smart thing.

As for TNA? A year ago, they were really damn good. Even their cheeseball Claire Lynch storyline, which had some of the worst acting we’ll ever see, was entertaining as hell. The matches were great for the most part and the Bound for Glory Series round robin tournament was super interesting to watch. After losing wrestling’s cancer Vince Russo, the writing took a huge upswing.

So what happened? The main thing that killed their momentum was their desperation to hold onto Jeff Hardy. His contract was coming up, so in order to entice Hardy into staying, they pushed him to the top. The final four in the Bound for Glory tournament were Hardy, James Storm, Samoa Joe and Bully Ray. Storm, Joe and Ray all had their build-up reasons as to why they could or should win the tournament and move on to challenge Austin Aries at the Bound for Glory PPV. Instead, Hardy won with no build. It really ruined everything. Aries had to turn heel despite his run as a mega-face being short-lived and they had to put the “Bully Ray is behind Aces & 8s” reveal on hold.

That was the worst. Aces & 8s went on FOREVER. What made it really bad was that for the first few months, they didn’t even give anyone in the gang identities. They all wore masks, so they had no personalities and no reason for us to care. They were just a bunch of generic bikers. There was nobody it could be to make it worthwhile and much of the revealed roster proved it (ie. Bischoff’s son and Mike Knox). At least when they finally showed Bully Ray was behind it, the explanations made sense. It’s just that it wasn’t very exciting while it happened.

But therein lies one of the other major problems with TNA. See, Vince Russo’s main problem was that he could come up with a good beginning to an angle, but would then just swerve it into oblivion or forget about it. Post-Russo TNA would come up with a good beginning and maybe a good middle… but then they’d stay there. For instance, last year they introduced Abyss’ “brother” Joseph Park, who went from searching for his missing brother to becoming a wrestler to having episodes where being cut open would cause him to black out and become like Abyss for a minute. The first instance of him having one of those episodes was a year ago and only now are they giving it any attention! It’s not even follow-up! They’re simply calling it out as something that happens and are letting it ride.

The company’s also been falling apart outside of the ring. They’ve been in a perpetual storm of bad publicity where they’ve treated their talent like shit and have had problems even paying them on time. One of their wrestlers Jesse Sorensen got a major neck injury and they tried to give him an office job, only to fire him from that. Not for doing a bad job, but because they needed to save the money. Meanwhile, wrestler Zema Ion contracted some kind of stomach cancer and put up a failed Kickstarter to pay for the surgery. Surgery that TNA wouldn’t foot the bill for. Vince McMahon’s no saint, but he’s smart enough to know that you take care of this kind of thing for the sake of publicity.

Now you might figure that between the fucking over of the ailed roster and the firing of many others, it would be because the company is simply in dire straits and can’t afford it. Well, maybe that’s true, but it’s also so they can afford to bring in Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz and put them on the roster. I can’t imagine how much Ortiz cost them, but considering his debut was met with complete and utter silence and confusion from the crowd, I figure they paid him too much.

And what about the Bound for Glory Series? They’re doing it for the third time this year and it worked out so well last time. Up until they panicked and made Hardy win, it was strongly booked. At the very least it should have given them focus, right? Not so much. As of right now, the tournament needs to wrap up in about two weeks and they haven’t even done HALF of the matches they need to do! Yeah, check out that time mismanagement. They most certainly had the chance to get it right, but now they don’t have enough TV and house shows to fulfill the concept and will likely have to sweep it under the rug.

Amazing.

Also funny is how TNA lets their wrestlers compete at indy shows and one indy show in particular recently featured much of the Aces & 8s roster. They all jobbed.

As it is right now, TNA appears to be beyond saving and watching them cut corners makes it look like they’re in their death throes like WCW was in their final few months. The thing is, I’m not as down on it like I was when WCW went under. Other than the showcase of some strong – if meandering – talent, it’s lost its purpose. They’ll never be good enough to make WWE sweat even a bead and will be lucky if they can ever make it a good show in general. It’s run by incompetent and rather callous people. There’s a lot of good talent in there, but it’s not like these guys are getting the most out of it. Hell, some of the younger guys like Magnus could probably find a place in WWE.

WWE is the Gallant to TNA’s Goofus. I look forward to every WWE show now to witness this new era shift that was ultimately set in motion by CM Punk’s “pipe bomb” promo, all while the most entertainment I’m getting out of TNA is watching them gasp for air. Just like WCW in 2000.

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Wrestling with Reality

July 30th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

The other day, E! started airing Total Divas, a new reality show depicting the lives of the female WWE roster. I mean, considering they’re only allowed three minutes per match on any given show, they might as well get their own showcase somewhere. This show is just the latest in a lengthy relationship between wrestling and reality TV, creating an Inception-style look at what’s real through a show that is just as fake. We’ve already had Tough Enough and Hogan Knows Best while reality shows have introduced us to the likes of the Miz and David Otunga.

Friends of mine Bob and Vinny started discussing all the other future wrestling-based reality shows we might one day see. Soon I got involved, as did other buddies Marc, John and Jesse. As a complete waste of time, here’s our list of 50 Reality Shows to Expand the WWE Universe:

The Amazing Harley Race
America’s Nexus Top Model
Ass Men
Ax and Smash Plus Eight
Big Steiner Brother
The Biggest Jobber
Brother of Love
Celebrity Fit Finlay Club
Chops
CM Punk’d
Dog the Hunter Hearst Helmsley
The Evan Bournes
Extreme Championship Makeover
Fatu Nightmares
Freakzillas
The GI Bro Schmo Show
The Iron Man Matchelor
The Jersey Triad Shore
Johnny B. Badd Girls’ Club
Junkyard Dog Whisperer
Kid Kash Cab
Kitchen Snapmares
Legion of Room Raiders
Mankind vs. Food
Master Chefs of the Powerbomb
Miami Inkface
Mr. America’s Got Talent
Mizbusters
The Mr. Kennedy Experiment
MTV’s Word Life: I’m a Master of Thugganomics
The Next Food Network Starrcade
Project Greenmist
The Real Horsemen of New Jersey
The Real World’s Strongest Man
Ryback Road Rules
Sunny Boo Boo
Super Crazy Nanny
Survivor: The Series
Teen M.O.M.
Todd Grishams in Tiaras
Total Kama Island
The Ultimate Warrior
Undercover Boss Man
Uso Think You Can Dance
White Castle of Fear Factor
Who Wants to be a Superhero in Training?
Who Wants to Marry a Million Dollar Man?
Wife-Edged Swap
The X-Factor

And that’s my limit of puns for the day.

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