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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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Wrestling History (From My Recollection): Part 4

May 15th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Last time, I went from the dying days of WCW to the beginning of John Cena’s seemingly endless run as WWE’s top guy.

A big name I haven’t talked about in a while is Triple H. While Austin, Mick Foley/Mankind and Rock left the company in the early 2000′s, Triple H continued to rise to the top. A storyline marriage to Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie led to the two getting together and becoming married for real. Triple H spent most of these years as a heel and became rather unbearable as a top name. He was champion for most of the time, would drone on for about 20 minutes at the opening of every show and when tasked with feuding against rising faces who really needed the big win to make them superstars, Triple H instead used his backstage pull to stay on top and win the matches. The most notable is his match against Booker T at Wrestlemania 19, where the lead-up featured Triple H heavily insinuating that black people don’t get to become champion. Logic would dictate that Booker would HAVE to win in the end, but Triple H beat him rather decisively and Booker’s career never really recovered. Other people who have feuded with Triple H and had their careers hurt in one way or another include Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Chris Benoit, Kane, Randy Orton and Sheamus. When confronted about this in interviews, Triple H would reflect on how much he was buried due to his Ultimate Warrior match and the year following the MSG Incident and still became a top guy despite not having to beat anyone major… willfully ignoring everything Mick Foley did for him. Triple H was sneaky like Hogan, but smart enough not to ever let it bite him on the ass, while also a far better performer. Hogan burned too many bridges while Triple H is set to run the WWE when McMahon steps down for good.

Speaking of Hogan burning bridges, I have to hit a tangent and mention one of his funnier moments. Hogan made the occasional appearance for a special feud now and again as he and McMahon were still under good terms from the post-WCW run. Shawn Michaels had returned from a lengthy back injury after four years and a story was set up where he begged Hogan to come out of retirement for one last match. They teamed up a couple times and Michaels attacked Hogan out of nowhere so set up Hogan vs. Michaels. The idea was that they’d have two matches as faces with Michaels winning one and Hogan winning the other. Once it was in motion, Hogan nixed the plans and used his political power to make it so that Michaels was the heel so that Hogan didn’t have to worry about a crowd that would either be split or even booing him. Then he finagled it so that there would only be one match, taking place at Summerslam 05, and he’d win before leaving for another year. The thing about Michaels during all that time he was injured is that he had found God and became a better man, working to undo the asshole he was during the 90′s. He’d eventually even make peace with Bret Hart over their mutual hatred and the Montreal Incident. That said, based on what a turdburglar Hogan was being, Michaels went back to his old ways when the match happened and in this case, two wrongs made a right. Sometimes a wrestler would mess with an opponent he outright hated by going off-script and acting unaffected by the offensive attacks. Michaels went the other direction, acting as if everything Hogan did to him was equal to being hit by a speeding truck. He flew all around the ring and flopped across the mat like a fish at every punch and kick, making Hogan look like a complete fool.

The John Cena backlash increased the more his endless title reign became unbearable, coming to a head when conniving heel Edge won the belt off of him through an unfair-yet-amusing way. The ratings suddenly spiked in reaction to this momentous shift, but it was quickly smacked back down. The company was insistent on setting up John Cena vs. Triple H at Wrestlemania 22, so they almost immediately had Cena win back the belt. Amusingly, Triple H was very critical of Kurt Angle, who feuded with Cena months earlier and couldn’t get the fans to boo him over Cena, even when he referred to himself as a Jesus-hating racist. Despite Triple H’s criticisms, he too ended up getting cheered like crazy at the show despite being the heel. With Edge no longer in the title picture, the ratings dropped back down to normal.

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Wrestling History (From My Recollection): Part 3

May 14th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

In yesterday’s installment, I told the tale of how WCW took over the wrestling industry with their triad of successful ideas: the New World Order, the concept of a heel Hulk Hogan and the rise of Bill Goldberg. They ended up squandering all of this through a whole lot of hubris and ego. I can go on and on about the stupid mistakes WCW made, but you might as well just read the book Death of WCW by RD Reynolds and Brian Alvarez. WWF fell on its ass and got itself back up by finding its new identity and putting everything behind Steve Austin and the Rock. Their head writer Vince Russo, fed up with a lot of stuff, decided to take a hike and become WCW’s savior.

A lot of Russo’s success in WWF came from having a filter to take out some of his worse ideas or reshaping them into something better. With no filter and a bit of an ego trip, Russo’s time in WCW can best be described as a Dadaist dream that involved professional wrestling. Nothing made sense and stories would simply vanish completely with no explanation on a weekly basis. Worst of all, he had an obsession with trying to cater to fans who followed backstage goings on (like guys who write overly long history of wrestling blog posts), which was only a small fraction of the audience. He’d write the show so that everyone was just about admitting it was fake, except from whatever they were doing. Like during a match, Goldberg would leave and the commentator would scream about how he’s going off-script. Russo tried to add some kind of meta realism that instead came off as faker than the regular stuff. He ended up getting fired after the brass found some of his ideas too stupid for even them.

In the transition, wrestler Chris Benoit won the WCW Championship on a PPV. Benoit was a staple of sorts in WCW as a shorter guy who could wrestle an incredible match, but wasn’t so good at talking or showing charisma. Basically, he was the anti-Hogan and represented everything that original WCW fans loved. It’s just that with Russo out, the new head writer was Kevin Sullivan. Kevin Sullivan, a former WCW wrestler himself, was the head writer during Hogan’s initial WCW days (would it surprise you that Sullivan made himself the top villain against Hogan during that time? No?). Back when he was writing, Sullivan put his wife Nancy in a storyline with Benoit and decided that they needed to travel together and share hotel rooms on a regular basis to really drive home that on-air chemistry. Long story short, she left Sullivan and went on to become Nancy Benoit. Damn. Benoit and his friends were understandably afraid of what it would be like to have the scorned ex-husband writing the storylines, so they wanted out. Luckily for them, the guy who temporarily replaced Bischoff in terms of being in charge of WCW had no clue about the business and was fine with letting them go with no strings attached. Even though Benoit just won the title hours earlier! The four of them – Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko – showed up on Raw very shortly after and each went on to shine in that company to different extents. Just like other misused talent in WCW like Chris Jericho and the Big Show. Little by little, WWF was siphoning away WCW’s potential.

WCW was also able to bring in an underutilized mid-card wrestler from the competition and push him to the top. When Russo made the jump to WCW, he brought his good friend Jeff Jarrett with him. Jarrett could never break into the upper echelon of the WWF’s names and he spent his days in WCW being shoved down everyone’s throats as a big deal, winning the championship multiple times with few caring. No matter what they tried, it still showed that WWF was right. He wasn’t a big deal. But on the subject of bad choices for world champion…

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Wrestling History (From My Recollection): Part 2

May 13th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

In Part 1, I lazily glossed over the first century of pro wrestling and stopped at the early-mid-90′s. WWF was focused more-or-less on Bret “The Hitman” Hart, though they shoved him in the background to push a badass, near-7-foot-tall trucker named Diesel as champion. As a heel, Diesel got popular due to his ruthless and cool demeanor, but when they turned him face and made him champion, they wussed him down by making him a smiling good guy with no edge. His year as champion was a financial failure as his presence simply failed to draw money. Bret was eventually made champion again.

WCW wasn’t doing much better. This was a company where Hulk Hogan was being dry-humped by a giant mummy that the commentator kept insisting was, “THE YET-AAAY!”

ECW had brought in Steve Austin, fresh off his firing from WCW. He was injured at the time, so he could only do interviews for a while, but good gravy, were they good interviews. It was a weird fit because on one hand, he spent all of his time ranting and raving about how badly WCW treated him, which we were supposed to like. But he’d also run down ECW for being garbage, which we were supposed to hate. It was a definite prototype for what would change the business in the near future. He was soon scooped up by the WWF.

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The Top 60 Wrestling Matches That Surprisingly Happened (40-21)

December 9th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

No snazzy intro to take up space this time. Let’s go right back into the list of crazy wrestling footnotes.

Picking up where we left off yesterday.

40) EDGE vs. MENG
WCW, 1996
YouTube

Someone suggested including Owen Hart’s very brief WCW tenure on the list, but the truth is, he didn’t do anything interesting. He didn’t fight anyone worth talking about. On the other hand, Edge – or should I say Devon Striker – got to face the Taskmaster… who is also not worth talking about. I can’t think of a more sorry main event villain than Kevin Sullivan. The guy looks like his gimmick shouldn’t so much be “top heel” but “drunken uncle who also wrestles”.

Luckily, young Striker got to take on Meng. Meng, unlike Sullivan, is awesome and is worth talking about. Striker was an ill-fitting jobber for Meng to squash, considering he was a little bit taller and didn’t do such a good job making him look like a monster. Then again, he didn’t do a good job of wrestling either. He’s so green that his attempt at a crossbody is more like him telling Meng, “Hold on. Give me a sec. I’ll get there eventuall—there we go!” The only thing he did a good job on was, well, doing the job.

39) UNDERTAKER vs. RAZOR RAMON
WWF, 1992/1993
YouTube

Undertaker vs. Scott Hall is one of those matches that didn’t seem like a big deal until I thought about it. Hall spent most of his time in WCW and when he came back to the WWE as part of the nWo, the two never crossed paths due to both being heels. When he was in the WWF as Razor Ramon, he spent most of his tenure as a face, so there was no reason for him to take on Undertaker. Even when he was a heel for his first year, he was so protected in their attempt to make him a star that the idea of putting him up against the more-protected Undertaker was unlikely.

Yet the two did have a couple matches. The first time was in 1992 during a European Rampage tour. The second one happened months later as part of a Coliseum Home Video release. The second match is like the first one, only far better due to better chemistry, booking and commentary (Jim Ross, Bobby Heenan and Randy Savage). Both included the same lame ending where Razor decided that he was getting nowhere and simply walked off, getting himself counted out. Like I said, he was protected.

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