Archive for the '20 Days of Battle Royals' Category

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 20

January 26th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: August 16, 2011 (aired on August 19, 2011)
Company: WWE
Show: Smackdown
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: #1 contender for World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions
Roster (19): Trent Barreta, Wade Barrett, Johnny Curtis, Ted Dibiase, Justin Gabriel, the Great Khali, Mark Henry, Tyson Kidd, Ezekiel Jackson, Jinder Mahal, William Regal, Cody Rhodes, Zack Ryder, Sheamus, Sin Cara, Heath Slater, Yoshi Tatsu, Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso

As we hit the last battle royal of this one-a-day series, we end on one of my favorites. It’s from the first Smackdown after Summerslam 2011. At that Summerslam, Wade Barrett defeated Money in the Bank holder Daniel Bryan. Sheamus’ sense of honor cost him when Mark Henry slammed him through a barricade and won via count-out. Randy Orton had finally ended his feud with Christian, meaning he needed a new contender for his World Heavyweight Championship.

And so, a battle royal was put together. It was meant to be a 20-man battle royal, but Daniel Bryan chose to challenge Alberto Del Rio earlier that night and got his arm destroyed. Too destroyed to compete again that night. Also, one of the angles of the time had Jinder Mahal more or less owning Great Khali, due to his status as brother-in-law. It’s a complicated Indian thing.

You can tell that they’re trying to make Mark Henry a big deal because when he walks to the ring, resident strong face dude Ezekiel Jackson is all, “Uh… shit.”

The bell rings and Henry stands in the center of the ring. With the exception of Khali guarding Mahal in the corner, everyone pounds on the World’s Strongest Man. He decides that it merely tickles. It tickles and Mark Henry isn’t a man who enjoys laughter.

“ENOUGH!”

He immediately removes Trent Barreta and Yoshi Tatsu. The minutes that follow include your usual filler of guys working each other over with nothing happening. Stuff comes alive when Ezekiel Jackson throws his rival Cody Rhodes over the top and he holds on by skinning the cat and pulling himself back in. Then Big Zeke just sends him back out with a massive clothesline.

Khali is still guarding Mahal in the corner and is commanded to take care of Ezekiel. Ezekiel stuns Khali with a running clothesline, steps back for a second one and runs right into a Brain Chop. Khali flings Ezekiel out of there and Henry decides to step up.

You might recall that Khali/Henry was a showdown that wouldn’t be in that 2007 battle royal I covered a few days ago and while they tangled in the Monster Mash, their interactions were barely of note. Finally, they’re going to go at it and I’m ready for it to be terrible. Khali chops Henry down and prepares for the Vice Grip. Henry powers out and then decides, fuck this, I’m the World’s Strongest Man!

Whoa! That’s kind of awesome! Extra points for most everyone else in the ring hanging back to see how this fight plays out.

Sheamus runs into Henry with an axe-handle and sends him rolling to the outside. He’s still in the match, but just angry. Also, champion Randy Orton is watching the battle royal unwind as he sits near the announce table with Henry angrily roaming around.

Whenever somebody gets eliminated, Henry proceeds to grab them and throw them around like a ragdoll. Just ask the Usos.

His rage not quite satiated, he returns to the ring and helps take the number down to four finalists: Henry, Sheamus, Wade Barrett and Sin Cara. You can tell Sin Cara is the fan favorite because of all the chants they edited in in post-production. Barrett, Sheamus and Sin Cara go at Henry together, but Barrett’s greed gets to the best of him and he turns on Sheamus. The two Europeans end up brawling on the apron after each going over the top rope. Sheamus wins the brawl with a kick to the chest and Barrett falls to the floor.

Sheamus and Sin Cara have a nice little battle that ends with Sheamus preparing to Brogue Kick him out of the ring. Henry gets up from the earlier beating and washes his hands of the big Irishman.

Now we’re down to Sin Cara vs. Henry. Sin Cara does a crossbody off the top and Henry falls over after catching him. It’s hard to tell if it’s a botch or not, but my gut says yes. Sin Cara is unable to move Henry with a couple hurricanrana attempts and goes for a crossbody off the second rope. Henry catches him correctly this time and crushes him with the World’s Strongest Slam. Then he presses Sin Cara’s sin carcass over his head and dumps him out of the ring like he’s nothing.

Mark Henry is the #1 contender and ends the show staring down Orton, taking a second to get a whiff of him.

“YEAH, I SMELL YOU. THAT’S FEAR. THAT’S FEAR I SMELL!”

After a career of being a jobber to the main event, Mark Henry would be rewarded for being suddenly awesome after 15 years by going over Orton cleanly and decisively. Twice! He proceeded to have the best heel title run in forever that sadly got derailed by an injury. Part of me will always lament that we never got the correct ending to the Rocky III Balboa/Clubber angle they were setting up with Daniel Bryan and Henry. But hey, said injury also led to Bryan’s heel turn and the whole, “YES! NO!” thing, so it all evens out.

Enjoy the Royal Rumble, everybody.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 19

January 25th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: November 23, 2009
Company: WWE
Show: Monday Night Raw
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: #1 contender for WWE Championship at TLC
Roster (8): Ted Dibiase, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston, Randy Orton, Montel Vontavious Porter, R-Truth, Cody Rhodes and Sheamus

2009 to 2010 was a dark time for Monday Night Raw thanks to the guest host gimmick. Every week, there’d be a different guest host, originally in the form of a GM with power over the roster. Sometimes it would be a wrestler who wasn’t active at the time like the injured Batista or long-retired Dusty Rhodes. Sometimes it would be a B or C-list celebrity. Any given week, you’d be in store for a crapshoot that usually depended on how into it the guest was. Sometimes you’d get Bob Barker spinning straw into gold with the Price is Raw. Then you’d get Dennis Miller hosting the Slammys, which was just head-shakingly bad. I recall him making a “joke” that was just him going, “Hey, global warming isn’t real, am I right?” And when people didn’t react, that led to some insisting that the wrestling audience wasn’t smart enough to get that comedic genius. Ugh.

One guest host was former Governor and current nutjob Jesse Ventura. He started up a little controversy about John Cena as WWE Champion, pointing out how sick a lot of guys backstage were of him. Ventura decided on a series of qualifying matches between those who haven’t been champion before, meaning we’d get a much needed break from the never-ending Cena/Orton series of matches. The winners would advance to what he called the Breakthrough Battle Royal.

Throughout the night we had Kofi Kingston defeat Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus defeat Finlay, the team of R-Truth, Mark Henry and MVP defeating the team of Jack Swagger, Chavo Guerrero and Chris Masters, Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase defeat Cryme Tyme and a match between Primo and Evan Bourne took a strange turn. Orton was so angry about not being allowed into this match that he attacked Primo and took his place, having little trouble in beating Bourne. Since Ventura loves cheating, he let it slide. Meanwhile, smarks had someone to outright root against for this match because if WWE was stupid enough to let Orton win… Jesus Christ.

A backstage segment had Ventura rant at Vince McMahon in a way that almost seems off-script due to bringing up Vince Sr., something that’s usually a big no-no. Ventura wanted to make a little trip to the past and insisted that the commentary for the Breakthrough Battle Royal be done by he and Vince. Whoa. Now that’s something.

Now for the match. Ventura comes out to nearly zero reaction and Vince not only has his old 80′s theme song “You’re My Obsession” by Human League playing, but he has this swank bowtie picked out by Ventura.

The commentary is very weird. Familiar, but different. It is a trip to hear Vince talk at length in that tone that sounds like he’s thinking to himself aloud, plus Ventura telling him, “Shut up, McMahon!” It’s just that age and development has changed them. Ventura is an asshole face and Vince is a doofy heel when the face/heel alignment should be switched. Plus Vince is just plain grumpy at times, calling this a rotten idea.

There’s some interesting faction stuff going on in the lineup. This is the night after Survivor Series, which included a team that had Kofi, Henry, R-Truth and MVP against a team with Orton, Rhodes and Dibiase. So Sheamus is the odd man out here. At first, it’s the four guys from Team Kofi ganging up on Legacy while Sheamus hangs back and does nothing. Eventually, Orton slinks out of the ring and walks around, surveying the action. Henry and R-Truth start fighting each other to make things fair.

Nothing happens for quite a while, but at least the commentary is entertaining and there’s some nice tension with Sheamus and Orton each staying to themselves. Eventually, Sheamus snaps out of it, grabs R-Truth, clotheslines him down and then flings him easily out of the ring. Shortly later, Sheamus waits for the perfect opportunity to catch MVP off-guard.

Easy pickings, bringing us down to six.

Henry goes for Sheamus and almost has him out of the ring until Rhodes and Dibiase attack. Henry ducks a double clothesline from them and sends them both out over the top with a pair of clotheslines of his own. Sheamus clobbers him from behind and throws him out, giving us Sheamus vs. Orton vs. Kofi. By this point, Orton’s finally returned to the ring.

Sheamus hangs back for the most part, but when he does get involved, Orton makes short work of him. Orton sends Kofi over the top rope, but Kofi hangs on and takes out Orton via skinning the cat.

When Kofi gets back up, Sheamus is ready for him with a running axe-handle, sending Kofi to the outside. Sheamus wins and gets his title shot against John Cena at TLC. Not only are we saved from another Cena/Orton fiasco, but we also got that sweet Orton facial reaction above.

In the following segment, Sheamus and Cena have a contract signing where Sheamus annihilates Cena and puts him through a table. Ventura announces that their PPV match will be a Tables Match. Sheamus would go on to win that match and have a rather interesting feud with Cena. While Sheamus never got to outright defeat Cena decisively, the same can be said about Cena beating Sheamus. All in all, Sheamus looked plenty strong around this time until the Nexus showed up to make him run away in fear, thereby hurting his monster persona.

Kofi and Orton continued their feud. Kofi was looking like he was ready to ascend into the main event at times, but then he fucked up a spot, Orton RKO’d him, had an in-ring tantrum and the feud practically died right after. Since then, Kofi’s been stuck in the position/gimmick of “generic good guy who gets cheers”.

I haven’t heard much from Ventura after he was on Opie and Anthony and Jim Norton verbally destroyed him to the point that Ventura stormed out of the interview. Norton rules.

Tomorrow’s the last day and we’re going to be ending it strong.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 18

January 24th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: January 14, 2008
Company: WWE
Show: Monday Night Raw
Rules: Elimination does not have to be over-the-top
Stipulation: None
Roster: Batista, the Great Khali, Hornswoggle, Kane, Mr. Kennedy, Mankind

I talked about how injuries have a tendency to change the course of wrestling history to a dramatic degree, but it isn’t just injuries. In late 2007, a list was released of wrestlers who had been using an online pharmacy for certain items that were against the wellness policy. All of these guys (except Randy Orton) were suspended for 30 to 60 days depending on previous suspension records.

At the time, WWE was in the midst of an exceptionally stupid and never-ending story where Vince McMahon found out that he had fathered an illegitimate child and said child was on the WWE roster. This was meant to set up an angle where Mr. Kennedy was going to be revealed as Vince Jr. and feud with his “brother-in-law” Triple H. That didn’t happen because not only was he on that pharmaceutical list, but he had just done a big interview talking up how competent the WWE’s wellness policy was. So on Raw, Kennedy tried to say that he was Vince’s kid, only to be shut down and suspended. They’d find out the real answer the week that followed.

Backed into a corner, they revealed Vince’s son to be Hornswoggle, the undercard comedy act leprechaun whose only crime so far was becoming the Cruiserweight Champion and destroying the last remnants of that division for the sake of comedy. I’ll say that I wasn’t too opposed to the idea. I suppose the possibility of Hornswoggle becoming a Mini-Me version of Vince and barking orders in the form of vocal nonsense could have worked in some kind of surreal way.

The main story they went with was that Vince was embarrassed by his tiny son and out of either spite or insane parenting wanted him tortured in the ring as “tough love”. This meant putting him in matches that Hornswoggle would somehow come out of unscathed, either due to luck, guile or the help of Finlay, who disagreed with Vince’s behavior. These matches led to one of the most annoying aspects about Hornswoggle’s character, being the weird double standards about him being a competitor that continues to this day. If he gets the best of someone, then good for him! Way to go! If he is in any way attacked, even if it means being shoved over, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler will act like they just watched a puppy get run over. How can they let this happen?! He’s just a defenseless child (who has a beard and is in his twenties). Of course, if Triple H murders him, that’s different. Haha, that Triple H! He sure taught Hornswoggle a lesson! That’s what you get for messing with DX!

With the Royal Rumble coming up, Vince decided to enter Hornswoggle into the big match. Backstage on Raw, he talked to his mute son and suggested a warm-up to get him ready. A “Mini Royal Rumble” that would feature a handful of guys scheduled for the PPV match. Hornswoggle went off to the ring, ready to prove himself.

Out comes Mr. Kennedy and… wait a minute. When Vince said it was a “Mini Royal Rumble”, he wasn’t kidding.

Yes, we’re about to get a Royal Rumble of vertically-challenged doppelgangers. Should I be offended? Maybe. Probably. Am I entertained? Probably. Definitely.

At the very least, it’s kind of a nice thing to do for Hornswoggle who himself is a trained wrestler who rarely gets the chance to wrestle guys his own size. The other guys are wrestlers who know what they’re getting into and they’re getting a payday for this, so it really isn’t the worst thing.

Mini Kennedy tries to do the intro bit where he announces himself from the middle of the ring, but the suspended microphone doesn’t reach that far down and he proceeds to jump up and down in a failed attempt to grab it. The bell rings and Kennedy gets a cheapshot in. They fight it out until Mini Mankind shows up.

He pulls out Mr. Socko and Hornswoggle saves himself by kicking Mini Mankind in his mini-er Mankind and throwing him through the ropes. Then Hornswoggle presses Kennedy over his head and throws him over the top.

Having cleared the ring, Hornswoggle awaits his next opponent, Mini Batista. Not only does Mini Batista perform the Batista entrance sequence…

…but his timing on the explosion is better than the actual Batista.

Mini Batista Spears Hornswoggle and shakes the ropes. He sets up the Batista Bomb, but Hornswoggle backdrops out of it. Soon after, Mini Kane enters. While he is the smallest man in the match, he certainly goes 100% into the gimmick by pulling off Kane’s uppercuts perfectly. Despite being the fresher one, he still fall prey to the Batista Bomb.

Hornswoggle again goes for a kick downstairs and flings Mini Batista out of there. Mini Kane starts to take him apart and does a jumping clothesline off the second rope. He goes for a chokeslam and we suddenly remember the size difference.

Hornswoggle hits the Celtic Cross and then slides Mini Kane out of the ring. I should note that probably the funniest part of this whole segment is how when Vince was suggesting it, he said that it would include Mr. Kennedy, Batista and maybe a mystery opponent. This is a subtle joke in how Kane has been the go-to mystery opponent for the past 15 years.

Hornswoggle awaits his final opponent and Great Khali’s music begins playing. Unfortunately for the leprechaun, it isn’t Mini Khali. It’s the actual Khali. He steps into the ring, ready to crush the little guy, but then Finlay appears with his shillelagh and goes to town on the giant. Like I said a couple days ago, Finlay beating the shit out of Khali with his shillelagh is a wonderful thing to watch. It’s like watching a lumberjack going to town on a tree with an axe before, during and after it falls. Khali ends up rolling out of the ring to evade the punishment, meaning that Hornswoggle wins the match. Also, Finlay gets a piece of Ranjin Singh, but lets him off easy with a simple clothesline.

The angle came to a head prior to Wrestlemania, where JBL helped Vince beat Hornswoggle to the point of hospitalization while Finlay was handcuffed and could only watch. JBL revealed to Vince that Hornswoggle was never his son after all, but was Finlay’s. JBL ended up going over Finlay at Wrestlemania in a Bellfast Brawl and Hornswoggle proceeded to star in some terrible, terrible storylines in the years that followed.

Way to go, Kennedy.

Tomorrow we return to the past to build for the future.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 17

January 23rd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: October 30, 2007
Company: WWE
Show: ECW
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: None
Roster: Big Daddy V, the Great Khali, Mark Henry and Kane

I will defend WWE’s ECW reprise to my grave. While there were some tremendous missteps, the show was my favorite part of WWE every week. Once it found its groove, it was a place where new wrestlers could debut and make a name for themselves, old wrestlers could get a new lease on life, guys could have awesome matches with simple-yet-effective booking and once somebody got popular, they’d be drafted away to a wrestling show that people actually watched. So really, it was a lot like the old ECW.

Today’s topic is something that I really can’t defend as part of that. In attempts to get ratings early on, WWE would put high-profile wrestlers in the main events. The main example was Big Show’s ECW title reign where he’d take on the likes of Ric Flair and Batista because of his fighting champion status. Today’s match takes place the night before Halloween from a show that features both Nunzio trick-or-treating with some kids while dressed as Dracula and Tommy Dreamer wrestling while costumed as Paul Heyman.

Because of the Halloween theme, the powers that be decided on a Monster Mash battle royal. The idea is that it would feature four “monster” wrestlers going at it: Kane, Mark Henry, Great Khali and Big Daddy V. There were a lot of other guys they could have included at the time, like Snitsky, Umaga and the Boogeyman, but I guess they figured not to go overboard on it.

I should note that Kane is the only face in this match and while all four men were on the ECW roster at some point before or after this, Big Daddy V is the only ECW guy at the time of the match. He’s also gross as hell due to his various manboobs flopping around.

There is one thing about this match that I absolutely love and redeems everything about it. Throughout the night, they’d hype up the match with a series of vignettes for each competitor (barring Kane, who got to cut his own promo). Each one was overly dramatic and narrated by a Boris Karloff impersonator who proceeded to make each guy sound pants-shittingly scary.

“A leviathan creature driven by malice, the Great Khali yearns to crush all who stand in his path.”

Holy shit. Why couldn’t they do more promos like this? They should have Fake Boris hyping up Ryback matches.

As the match begins, it really isn’t all that terrible. Sure, they’re moving in slow motion, but it starts out strong enough. The three heels try to corner Kane and he evades them, then fights back. Henry and Big Daddy V blame each other for this and go at it with a series of strength-testing running shoulders. Then they both bounce the ropes and collide like two trains.

SWEET!

So, hey, this isn’t so bad. Henry briefly holds up Kane in an almost Angle Slam-type position and almost gets him out. Kane goes back to fighting everyone and the match finally jumps the shark when Henry shoves Kane into Big Daddy V for a Black Hole Slam. Maybe it worked on paper, but…

Wait, wait! He can do that better! Give Viscera a mulligan!

Eh, never mind.

Henry and Khali grapple in the corner, allowing Big Daddy V to crush them both with an Avalanche. He tries the same on Kane but misses, allowing Kane to clothesline him into the ropes and lift him right out of there. Hey, it at least looks impressive.

Khali puts Kane in the Vice Grip, then turns his attentions to doing the same to Henry. Kane and Henry team up and send Khali out of there with a double clothesline. A very slow double clothesline, but an effective one nonetheless. Now we’re down to Kane vs. Mark Henry. On one hand, they’re the two best workers in the match. On the other hand, that’s really not saying a lot.

The two go back and forth for a bit and Kane seems to have things in the bag. He climbs to the top to do his leaping clothesline. Of course, the #1 rule when fighting Mark Henry is that you NEVER. EVER. JUMP AT HIM.

Henry seems pretty into his victory and being crowned King of the Monsters. Not that this match really means anything in the long run. It’s never mentioned ever again and isn’t used to springboard Henry into anything. Granted, his return to ECW down the line would lay the seeds for his build to relevance, but the Monster Mash battle royal is independent of that.

Still, the match was only four and a half minutes, so at least it was short. Speaking of short, check back in tomorrow for the next battle royal.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 16

January 22nd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: October 14, 2007
Company: TNA
Show: Bound for Glory
Rules: 16 men race to climb into the ring (over the top rope) until 8 make it in. Then it becomes a battle royal until there are two left. From there, it becomes a singles match.
Stipulation: The 8 that enter qualify for the Fight for the Right tournament. The order of eliminations creates the seeding system for the brackets.
Roster (16): Sonjay Dutt, “Wildcat” Chris Harris, Havok, Lance Hoyt, BG James, Kip James, Jimmy Rave, Junior Fatu, Kaz, Robert Roode, Chris Sabin, Shark Boy, Alex Shelley, “Cowboy” James Storm, Petey Williams and Eric Young

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the time of Jim Cornette in TNA. It was the time of Vince Russo in TNA. Boy, is that apparent in this match.

To build up a new #1 contender, TNA decided to put together an eight-man tournament with sixteen guys to start. To cut the list in half, they’d have to earn their shots by… entering a wrestling ring. What the hell?

Yes, the Reverse Battle Royal. The same concept that millions of wrestling-loving kids came up with on their own, only to decide that, no, it’s too stupid and would never work. Our competitors surround the ring and then go at it, each trying to climb onto the apron, over the top rope and reach the inside of the ring with all the refs. Once they’re in, they’re in. After it’s down to eight men, the tournament roster is written and they fight in a battle royal over the seedings. In other words, the reverse part in the beginning is the only thing that truly matters.

Exciting stuff right there.

Junior Fatu (Rikishi) smacks aside fellow over-the-hill, ass-based wrestler Kip James and steps over the top, nearly unopposed. That’s one. Kaz and his rival Robert Roode go at it on top of one of the turnbuckles. Kaz wins out via hitting the Flux Capacitor.

Advertent or not, Kaz just introduced Roode into the tournament as well. Alex Shelley hops in. Eric Young makes a go for it and Lance Hoyt stops him. Standing on the apron, Hoyt presses Young over his head and prepares to throw him onto the other wrestlers below, but Young rolls out of his grip and falls into the ring. That’s five.

Chris Sabin jumps in just as easily as his Motor City Machine Guns partner Shelley a minute earlier. Hoyt prevents Havok from entering and steps in himself. That leaves one spot open. Kip James and Chris Harris fight over the last spot, but we see that James Storm has been camped out alone during the entire proceedings, picking his spot. With everyone beaten down and Harris and James busy with each other, Storm enters unopposed and gets in there a second before Harris. Harris is told by the refs that he doesn’t qualify for the Fight for the Right tournament and has to get out of there. That he got tricked by his former partner only proceeds to make him more irate.

Storm’s victory is short lived. At the start of the bell, Young steals his beer, ducks a haymaker and throws Storm right out of the ring. Junior Fatu lays waste to everyone else until he and Young accidentally back into each other. Young is filled with fear and tries his hardest to befriend Fatu, even going so far as to offer him Storm’s beer. Young’s attempt at creating new friends goes a little too far.

Fatu is cool with Young until Young makes the mistake of trying to lift the big man. Fatu continues taking everyone apart, including a spot where Young, Hoyt, Shelley and Sabin are propped into the corner and get crushed by his gigantic posterior. This is followed by a Stinkface on Young and Hoyt at the same time. Angry, Hoyt springs into action and drops Fatu with a running boot. Everyone gangs up on Fatu and it seems like they might have him. The Motor City Machine Guns hedge that bet.

Hoyt becomes the dominant one until the Machine Guns silence him. They maneuver Young into putting Roode in a submission hold, then add their own, creating a neat human knot.

As they go back to double-teaming Hoyt, Kaz puts an end to their reign by eliminating Shelley and knocking Sabin out with a plancha DDT into the ring. Kaz and Roode end up fighting on the apron and Roode wins out with a Rock Bottom out of nowhere. We’re down to the final four with Roode, Hoyt, Young and Sabin. Hoyt climbs the top rope for a moonsault, Roode runs over and shoves him to the floor. Although both faces try to team up on Roode, he’s able to use them against each other, quite literally, by hiptossing Young into Sabin as a way to knock Sabin off the apron.

Now that it’s Young vs. Roode, we have a singles contest. The mini-match is less than two minutes long and comes to an end when Young misses a moonsault, gets picked up for a suplex and rolls it into a pinning combination. Young wins the #1 seed and the crowd goes nuts for him. Though throughout this, the commentators are mostly paying attention to how the seeding system via the match has made it so that Sabin vs. Shelley is an opening round match.

The match is actually extremely fun and well-booked, so I’m glad I watched it. I have to blame that on Cornette, insisting that he took a crappy Russo concept and turned it into something enjoyable.

The tournament that followed was a gigantic mess, sad to say. Wrestlers kept getting removed and replaced mid-tournament and things were incredibly overbooked to say the least. Despite his #1 seed, Young was gone in the first match. The finals came in the form of a ladder match between Kaz and Christian Cage (who wasn’t even in the original 16). Kaz won and challenged Angle on the main event of a random episode of Impact. Angle retained and then a million run-ins happened. Naturally.

When you get to tomorrow’s update, tell them Boris sent you.

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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
Khali!

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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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.

Beautiful.

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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