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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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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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The Path of Mark Henry: An Inspirational Story of Splitting Wigs

October 7th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

I’ve always said that professional wrestling is the most fascinating of all businesses to the point that a lot of the times, the goings on behind the curtain are more intriguing than what’s going on before the audience. Unfortunately, the business is also marred by being incredibly scummy and petty, giving us stories very much like that of the film the Wrestler. Because of that, it’s always nice to see a story that actually gives us a happy ending. Recently, one of the big stories to put a smile on my face is that of Mark Henry.

(Gifs by Jerusalem who is the coolest of cool dudes, except for the Matt Striker one by Klauser, but he’s okay too)

Since I’ve been watching WWE through his entire career, I thought I’d take a second to go over what’s been a pretty interesting and endearing story. Mark Henry competed in the Olympics in 1996 to pretty big fanfare, known for being a record-breaking power lifter. WWF signed him to a major contract of $10 million for ten years, figuring him to be such a big deal that he’d easily be worth the money. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out so well for them. Mark Henry ended up losing at the Olympics due to injuring his back while trying to pick up too much weight. Still, there was much potential in a guy they could label “The World’s Strongest Man”.

Henry made his WWF debut at Summerslam 1996, where he joined the commentary table with Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Mr. Perfect to watch a match between Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Jerry “The King” Lawler. Henry got involved and it led to him making his wrestling debut against Lawler at the next In Your House PPV. Henry won and proceeded to singlehandedly fight off Marty Jannetty, Leif Cassidy and Hunter Hearst Helmsley. The guy was made to look like this unstoppable patriot who was easy to get behind. Then, in preparation for Survivor Series, Henry got injured. Well, shit.

Henry came back and joined the company’s resident militant black stable the Nation of Domination. His only positive note during this time is that the company booked him to destroy Vader on more than one occasion, causing Vader to experience internal bleeding. Killed momentum aside, there were other problems with Henry. The guy just wasn’t very good in the ring, his weight was starting to balloon a bit and he was getting lost in the shuffle. In 1996, when the company was in dire straights, WWF believed he could give them a push against WCW. But when he was gone, the company began to find itself and new stars rose upwards. Henry simply wasn’t needed.

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The Summerslam Countdown: Day Nine

September 3rd, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Well, I needed a bit of a writing break to recharge my batteries and that pesky hurricane gave me little choice in the matter. Anyway, I’m back and I’m ready to finish what I’ve started. In other wrestling news, Rifftrax has released a new video on demand where they tackle the Jesse Ventura early 90′s movie Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe. It’s like a cross between Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, only completely and utterly boring. And with Jim Belushi as a principal only because the lead woman was his wife at the time!

Highly recommended.

Now back to the list.

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The Summerslam Countdown: Day Four

August 8th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Um… hm… This post is late as it is and I’m still having trouble figuring out an intro to show before the link jump. Lesse…

Austin Roll it is!

Austin discovering the beauty of the internet is an exhibit of evidence that God exists.

Now back to the regularly scheduled list.

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The Survivor Series Countdown: Day Nine

November 20th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

I am officially a day behind. The fatigue finally hit me, mainly due to real life scheduling and sleep sounded a lot better to me than writing about the Goodfather. I’m going to try to have the rest of this up before leaving to watch Sunday’s show, but I’m sure I’ll probably tap out and finish the last installment the day after despite my best efforts. Boy, I suck.

And speaking of people who suck, as well as Thanksgiving, I want to direct your attention to Luther Reigns. He’s a hoss from the mid-00′s who is featured in today’s update. For that, I bring you this clip, which features one of my favorite quotes in all wrestling.

He’s had peas before. That… That’s good to know, Luther. Thank you for sharing that.

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The Survivor Series Countdown: Day Four

November 14th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

How about that? Day Four and I haven’t broken stride yet. This is promising. So far I’ve neither JMS’d this series nor Billy Gunn’d it. Let’s celebrate with the Gobbledy Gooker.

All right!

Now onto the list.

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This Week in Panels: Week 35

May 23rd, 2010 Posted by Gavok

This week’s update took me longer than it should have because my scanner was being a dick. Everyone join me in yelling at my scanner for being a dick.

Age of Heroes #1
Kurt Busiek, Marko Djurdjevic and many others

Atlas #1
Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman and Ramon Rosanas

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The Wrestlemania Countdown: Day Twelve

April 5th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Better late than never, I guess. For those of you who haven’t read up on the site in the past few days, I hit a snag on writing this entry thanks to a mixture of fatigue and sickness. The lack of sleep even led to some actual paranoia where the slightest sensation in one of my legs or arms would lead to my frantic belief that I was suffering a heart attack or diabetes or whatever. Anyway, I got over all that, but it completely killed my writing momentum. Now it’s time to right that wrong.

People have been wondering about Wrestlemania 26 and how it ranks on the list. I have a lot on my plate as it is, so I’m not going to go into too much detail. A lot of the matches were simply good or pretty good, but not great. The main event is phenomenal and I’d consider it better than Wrestlemania 25’s Michaels/Undertaker match. Batista/Cena is pretty good, outside of the completely cookie cutter ending. Vince McMahon vs. Bret Hart is not only horrible, but I can definitely say it’s the worst male match at any Wrestlemania. I’d even rather watch Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzales.

Using my rating system based on how I remember liking each match, it ends up ranking at #11 1/2. It’s worse than Wrestlemania 14, but better than Wrestlemania 21. Though to the show’s credit, it did help lead into this.

And the world has been a better place since. Thank you, Jack.

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The Wrestlemania Countdown: Day Seven

March 23rd, 2010 Posted by Gavok

It’s Tuesday, meaning NXT is on tonight. If you are a wrestling fan and you aren’t watching NXT then you’re doing it wrong. You should fix that immediately. It’s the best show the WWE’s put on in years.

For the remaining days of this countdown, I’m going to do something called Tales of Wrestlemania. The events of consecutive Wrestlemanias have a way of telling an abridged story of some wrestlers’ careers. Their matches act like stepping stones to greatness and links to a higher profile. Or perhaps they show a decline in one’s career. Let’s start it off with Tito Santana‘s profile.

Wrestlemania 1: Not only does Tito Santana open the show, but he wins the very first Wrestlemania match. Later in the night, he helps out Junkyard Dog by convincing the referee to reverse his decision in the JYD/Valentine match. Valentine keeps the Intercontinental Championship, which will allow Tito to eventually win it from him. Things are looking good.

Wrestlemania 2: Tito and his good friend Junkyard Dog are now working together as a tag team against the Funks. Junkyard Dog gets clobbered by a megaphone to the head and gets pinned. Oh well. At least Tito wasn’t the one pinned.

Wrestlemania 3: Tito finds himself in another tag match. He and the British Bulldogs are up against the Hart Foundation and Danny Davis. Davis? He should be easy pickings. Unfortunately, Hart’s megaphone gets used again, this time on Dynamite Kid. Crap, another loss. Still, Tito didn’t take the fall. There’s still that.

Wrestlemania 4: Tito’s found a better partner in Rick Martel. They’re even the champions! They lose those titles to Demolition because YET AGAIN, Tito’s partner gets hit with the heel manager’s weapon. Goddamn it.

Wrestlemania 5: Okay, Strike Force has been on the shelf for a few months, but things are back to normal. They’re going to beat the Brainbusters and… where is Martel going? Well, great. Not only is Tito alone, but he has to be the one who gets pinned. This tag team stuff is for the birds.

Wrestlemania 6: All right! Singles match! Against the Barbarian, who has also broken away from the tag world to do singles matches. Maybe Tito has a chance– nope. Clothesline off the top rope turns him into an accordion.

Wrestlemania 7: Okay, certainly Tito can defeat the Mountie, right? Nope. Taser to the gut after about a minute in.

Wrestlemania 8: Tito’s back with a revitalized gimmick. Maybe that will help him beat this Shawn Michaels guy. Nope. Not only does he lose, but it’s a stinker of a match. Seven losses in a row at this point.

Wrestlemania 9: Yes! Tito Santana finally gets a win again! It’s against Papa Shango! …Unfortunately, nobody sees this, since it’s delegated to a dark match. Sorry, Tito.

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