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Wrestling History (From My Recollection): Conclusion

May 16th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Yesterday went from the early-mid 00′s to the beginning of this decade, meaning we’re just about done.

As WWE hit the 2010′s, it became pretty hard to endure for two reasons. One, it became more and more apparent that their storylines were written on an hour-to-hour basis instead of being agreed on in advance. This is mainly due to McMahon being a mentally questionable dude. The sloppy storytelling had led to such promising and exciting storylines as the Nexus – the contestants from the first NXT season, who had become united against the Raw roster – petering out into a mess of bad ideas. Or Sheamus, a badass and dominant heel who became champ in record time and then went on to become a coward at the drop of a hat, ruining much of his appeal.

The other reason, which was arguably worse, was the idea of turning commentator Michael Cole heel. It started with the first season of NXT, which involved the debut of Daniel Bryan, who as I mentioned before was a big name in the indies. Cole would constantly rag on him for being worthless in every way possible. It’s hard to say if this was punishment for being semi-famous elsewhere, a way to set up Bryan giving Cole his comeuppance or a mix of both. Either way, it didn’t matter because comeuppance means very little when it’s a wrestler attacking a non-wrestler unless it’s an authority figure of some kind. Especially when this non-wrestler has an hour a week to rail on you verbally. Cole went from just hating Bryan to hating everyone on the roster other than a select few. This was entirely problematic. He rarely ever got his much-needed retribution and it didn’t stop him from going off on everyone on the roster for 4-7 hours a week. They seriously had a guy making fun of everyone to the point that WWE’s forcing you to hear about how they’re a company of worthless jokes. He was the antithesis of hype and outright made watching WWE a chore.

Eventually, they realized their folly and gradually brought him back to being a kind of okay commentator. Bryan himself endured several losing streaks, Cole’s constant barrage of insults, a temporary situation where he was fired for a really stupid reason and the issue of being a small man in a big man’s business. He won one of the two major championships, turned heel and slowly began to show how much personality he really had. He’s reached the point where McMahon seems to respect him for tolerating his mistreatment without a single complaint and the crowd has embraced him as a huge heel who’s fun to hate and even more fun to like.

As for Punk, he never got to be much more than a punching bag for whatever major face they were trying to push. He spent about a year or so losing nearly every major match and Punk himself was getting pretty tired of it. His contract was coming up and he wasn’t intent on keeping on. Since the general rule of thumb is for the guy leaving to go out defeated, WWE set up Cena (champion) vs. CM Punk at the PPV Money in the Bank 2011, which was in Punk’s hometown of Chicago. Punk publicly brought up that he was on his way out and threatened to leave the company with the championship, thereby making it a callback to his exit of ROH, only this time he was threatening to leave WWE for ROH. He even MENTIONED ROH on WWE TV during a planned segment where he got to get a lot of genuine opinions on the company and its fans off his chest. The story became huge and behind-the-scenes, agreements were made that Punk wouldn’t be leaving after all, despite appearing to in the storyline. He ended up winning the title and skipped town, leaving the company without a champion.

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The Genesis of the Countdown of the Top WWE NXT Eliminations

April 8th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

WWE’s NXT experiment has been going on for a bit over a year and despite its ups and downs, it still draws me in with its uniqueness. For those late to the party, the show is about 6-8 wrestling “Rookies” who are trying to earn their way onto the main roster by being paired with their “Pros”. A group of established wrestlers mentor these new guys and it’s turned into a fake reality show where these guys are voted off based on internet popularity and the consensus of the Pros. It’s a mess of a show, but one that I watch regularly. When it’s good, it’s good. When it’s bad, it’s usually so bad it’s good.

Currently, it’s in its fifth season. The first season, which aired on SyFy, ended with Wade Barrett winning decisively. He would go on to lead the Nexus in a storyline that was plenty awesome until they wrote themselves into a corner and “fired” John Cena despite his continued appearances on the show. The winner of the second season was Kaval, an indy wrestling darling whose victory was short-lived. WWE has a boneheaded tendency to shove popular acts down the card to see how they react. If they take their burial in stride? They’ll be pushed stronger later. If you’re like Kaval and you complain about it on Twitter? You’re gone. The third season was an all-female roster and was renowned for being a gigantic train wreck. By this time, it stopped airing on TV and became broadcast on the internet only (SyFy started airing Smackdown as their lone WWE show instead). The winner was Kaitlyn, who has gone on to do nothing since she really isn’t prepared to be on TV yet in the first place. For the fourth season, the winner was Johnny Curtis, who has gone on to do absolutely nothing, boggling the mind of anyone following the show.

Sometimes it isn’t the winners who matter. I want to talk about the losers. One of the more interesting parts of the show is when they have to vote off a Rookie. The way it will usually go is that all the remaining Rookies will line up outside the ring and the host Matt Striker will direct their attention to a roulette-like graphic that stops on the one the fans and Pros decided was the least impressive. That doomed wrestler will then look all bummed and will be given the opportunity to give a farewell promo. With a couple exceptions, there’s value to find in all of these. Sometimes they’ll give a promo so good that you might wonder, “Why didn’t this guy act this awesome before he got voted off?” Sometimes they’ll mumble through some embarrassing tirade that makes you shake your head in disbelief. Sometimes fights will break out. Sometimes the Pros will mess with them. Either way, it’s always a highlight.

So here’s the top 25 goodbyes in NXT history. How can there be 25 when there were 24 losers? I’ll get to that in time. Keep in mind, these aren’t listed from worst to best. No, that would be another list entirely. These are in order from how entertained I was by them.

25) NAOMI
Season 3
Date: November 30, 2010 (Week 13)
Rank: 2nd
Pro: Kelly Kelly

Naomi reacted to the news that Kaitlyn is the next breakout star by shrugging, calling it bittersweet and spending five seconds talking about how everyone worked hard. Yep, that’s it.

Not only are the women lacking in the last name department, but most of them lack the personality as shown in this list. Let’s get the other two out of the way.

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Summerslam for Comic Fans

August 15th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Tonight we have what I guess would be considered the WWE’s third most important show of the year, Summerslam. I mean, on paper, it’s supposed to be the secondary Wrestlemania, but everyone and their imaginary friend loves Royal Rumble more. I look forward to the show despite the roadblocks it sets up. There are only six matches signed. One of these matches is a throwaway Divas match I couldn’t care less about. One of the championship matches is Rey Mysterio vs. Kane and while I love Kane and don’t mind Mysterio, I don’t need to be reminded of their abysmal, “Is he alive or is he dead?” feud.

So why am I so jazzed about the show? Team WWE vs. the Nexus in an elimination tag match. The Nexus has been one of the better wrestling storylines in past years, despite its own set of roadblocks (Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson being fired, Wade Barrett’s visa problems, Ricky Steamboat’s injury). I can only hope the storyline doesn’t get killed as of the end of Summerslam, yet at the same time, I don’t want them to last long enough to get destroyed by a returning Triple H. God, I really don’t want to see Triple H involved with this in any way.

For those new to the big main event, here it is laid out DC Comics style.

(click for bigger version)

Let’s see who we got on here…

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8 NXT Rookies; 1 Dream

June 9th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Quite a bit has happened since I last wrote about NXT. We had the season finale, which came across as rather strange and anticlimactic at first, only to be retroactively interesting based on recent events. Wade Barrett is the favorite to win the entire night with virtually everyone agreeing that he’s the most well-rounded of the finalists. When the NXT losers are interviewed in the crowd, even Darren Young – the one who had something resembling a feud with Barrett – sings his praises. As if hinting you with a swerve and swerving that swerve, there is no twist and Barrett is voted over both Justin Gabriel and David Otunga.

Then six days pass. On last Monday’s Raw, Barrett gives a seemingly generic, yet somewhat enigmatic interview about how the winds of changing and how something big is about to go down. The main event is John Cena vs. CM Punk as voted by the fans (which came off as the best choice, though you just know the company was hoping Cena would fight Mysterio or Swagger). Barrett arrives for what appears to be your usual spot where the heel messes with the champ as a way to informally challenge him and psyche him out. Then we see this…

…and all bets are off. What follows is the coolest 15 minutes of WWE action in years. Please don’t fuck it up, wrestling writer guys. Please don’t fuck it up.

With the fan discussion that’s followed, there’s been a lot of fun things to come out of the NXT/John Cena beatdown. There are a bevy of nWo parodies, like this one done by Renaissance Spam. Also came the Tubedubber mash-ups with this one by Gonz being my favorite. Give it a minute or so to get going, but the Otunga/ref punch syncs perfectly.

My favorite fan response has come from a guy by the name of Jerusalem. He’s a guy I know from Something Awful’s forum, in this case more specifically the Wrestlehut 2K sub-forum. The guy is witty, a class act all the way and always goes the extra distance by making animated gifs based on just about every wrestling show that doesn’t have the stink of Vince Russo’s never-ending failure.

With the NXT Invasion segment, Jerusalem made a bunch of gifs, but added a little extra. I very much dug his text-based mash-up and thought I’d share it with the rest of you. Enjoy.

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WWE’s NXT: Outside of the Box and Refined

May 30th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

In a few days, the WWE’s latest show NXT ends its first season. This new experiment is reaching the end and I thought it would be a good idea to look back at this idea. The short of it is that I think NXT started out strong, got borderline unwatchable for a while, then started getting good again towards the end.

But looking a little deeper into it, I notice what a brilliant show it’s been, at least in concept. The concept of a mistake is an interesting one in wrestling because most of the time, you can only see it in hindsight. A lot of the time, the wrong aspect gets blamed and allows for the same mistake to be made again and again. That’s a lot of what makes TNA so sad, in that it’s run by Vince Russo, Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan – three guys who couldn’t own up to a mistake if their lives depended on it. Those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it and TNA is proving that right.

The WWE machine has the occasional ability to see what went wrong and modify it in future attempts. For instance, Vince McMahon had the idea of having a handicapped wrestler. He thought it would make for the ultimate underdog hero and hired Zach Gowen, a trained wrestler with only one leg. The “handicap = underdog” idea was sound, but the execution failed. Gowen wasn’t exactly the most threatening individual and his one-legged offense stretched the suspension of disbelief to the utmost breaking point. A short while later, the WWE tried the same concept, but made the handicap something that’s fictional to the man portraying the wrestler. Hence, Eugene, a mentally-challenged wrestler whose drawbacks only existed within the story. Despite some flaws (hotshot booking, writing themselves into a corner and the wrestler letting himself go), he was a bigger success than Gowen.

NXT is a big amalgamation of different WWE ideas into something new and mostly fun. You see aspects of what they were trying to go with the first time around, but they’ve improved their process. Let’s take a look.

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