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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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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 7

January 13th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: November 22, 1998
Company: WCW
Show: World War 3
Rules: 60 men compete in three rings. Once it’s down to 20, they all converge into one ring.
Stipulation: #1 contender for WCW Championship at Starrcade
Roster (60): Chris Adams, Chris Benoit, Bobby Blaze, Ciclope, Damien, El Dandy, Barry Darsow, the Disciple, Disco Inferno, Bobby Duncum Jr., Bobby Eaton, Mike Enos, Scott Hall, Héctor Garza, the Giant, Glacier, Juventud Guerrera, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Eddy Guerrero, Hammer, Kenny Kaos, Kaz Hayashi, Horace Hogan, Barry Horowitz, Prince Iaukea, Chris Jericho, Kanyon, Billy Kidman, Konnan, Lenny Lane, Lex Luger, Lizmark Jr., Lodi, Dean Malenko, Steve McMichael, Ernest Miller, Chip Minton, Rey Misterio Jr., Kevin Nash, Scott Norton, La Parka, Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker, Psychosis, Scott Putski, Stevie Ray, The Renegade, Scotty Riggs, Perry Saturn, Silver King, Norman Smiley, Scott Steiner, Super Caló, Johnny Swinger, Booker T, Tokyo Magnum, Villano V, Vincent, Kendall Windham, Wrath and Alex Wright

I didn’t get into WCW until sometime in 1998, shortly before this event. I actually didn’t start watching WCW simply because I’m a wrestling fan, but because I was a huge fan of the Nintendo 64 game WCW/nWo Revenge. Me and my best friend rented that game so many times that it gave us enough familiarity with the product to want to start checking it out. While I didn’t watch this match on PPV, I did watch it scrambled, back when that was a thing.

World War 3 was a rather short-lived match gimmick in WCW that sounded outright epic to someone who hadn’t seen one before. Royal Rumble has 30 men? World War 3 has 60. Royal Rumble has one ring? World War 3 has three rings! Having watched them all a few years ago, I discovered that sometimes bigger isn’t exactly better. The ones for 95, 96 and 97 were complete clusterfucks. Like with that Battle Bowl match, there’d be picture-in-picture, only for that we’d see the different rings while so much battle royal brawling is going on that you can’t even keep track of what’s what and who’s who. There’s no drama and nothing worth paying attention to.

Then when you get to the end of it, there’s always some kind of dumb swerve that kills it. Real life situations makes this edition of the World War 3 match infamous, but yet it’s still easily the best one. It’s too bad that it’s the last one because they really started to get a good handle on things. No picture-in-picture. Just constant focus changes with it explicitly saying which ring it is on the screen and a tendency to not have anything too important going on in two rings at the same time. There’s a counter of how many guys are still in the rings at any given time, making things easier to follow.

Not only that, but there’s actual story going on throughout the match instead of only getting interesting once there are 20 left.

Prior to the match, we get over five minutes of introductions as nearly the entire WCW roster empties out the back and into the ring. There’s one Turnertron video playing throughout that zips through all 60 names in different fonts. The commentators keep bringing up that Hollywood Hogan isn’t there. Cute thing in there is that some of the guys had matches earlier in the night and this includes Jericho, who’s selling his match against Bobby Duncum Jr. from minutes earlier.

Finally, the rings fill up and we’re off. Ring 2 is a ring where nothing is really going on, despite being where most of the big names are. They’re just killing time so most of them can stick around for the final round. Ring 1 is made up of a lot of smaller wrestlers with name value, such as Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Alex Wright and Disco Inferno as they share the ring with the Giant. Giant remains in the corner for most of the match, choosing to stay to himself. Then you have Ring 3, where it’s Kevin Nash and 19 jobbers. Nash decides to just go to town and clears the ring in less than three minutes.

Before he gets around to that, there is a funny moment where El Dandy and La Parka eliminate Tokyo Magnum. Then La Parka leaves El Dandy hanging.

Who are you to not high-five El Dandy?

Van Hammer is the last challenge to Nash and puts up enough of a fight, but he too is thrown out of there. That allows Nash to sit back for the next fifteen minutes or so, hanging alone in Ring 3 to catch his breath. Amusingly, his nWo Wolfpac comrade Konnan gestures to him from the second ring that they’ll catch up on things later.

Neat moment in Ring 2 is when former long-time tag partners Stevie Ray and Booker T cross paths. They decide that it isn’t even worth the effort in fighting.

Wow, Alex. Way to show some effort. You’re like me when I’m helping someone lift a couch.

Meanwhile, back in Ring 1, Giant starts going to town on everyone. This leads to everyone in the ring going after him all at once. It doesn’t work out so well.

Disco Inferno tries to rally the troops, but Chris Benoit figures he’d be safer in attacking Disco and hoping that they survive long enough to be in the final 20. Ring 2 whittles down enough that they get that. Everyone converges onto Ring 2, although Saturn and the Cat get themselves disqualified by leaving the ring and fighting to the back. A lot of the smaller guys are removed in one fell swoop and soon we’re down to various factions sticking together. nWo Hollywood has Scott Steiner, Scott Norton and the Giant. nWo Wolfpac has Kevin Nash, Lex Luger and Konnan. The Four Horsemen has Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Mongo McMichael. Scott Hall is out on his own. Then you have other independent wildcards like Booker T and Wrath.

One of the stories going on in the match is the status of Scott Hall. He’s been kicked out of nWo Hollywood and they’ve been doing some awesome teasing of he and Nash getting back together. One of the better instances is when they team up to beat on the Giant together and would have him out if not for the interference by the other Hollywood members.

When they’re down to ten, WCW newcomer Bam Bam Bigelow runs out and tries to enter the ring. The survivors fight him off until security pulls him out. Soon Goldberg rushes out and they start going at it until a dozen or so security guards pull them apart. During all this, the competitors in the ring take a break a watch on.

With only a handful of guys left, Nash steps forward and points at the Giant, who has since lost his Hollywood allies. Giant is ready to fight them all off on his own, but he’s overwhelmed and gets thrown over the top by his remaining enemies. Scott Hall makes sure to wave him off as he leaves the ringside area.

Our final three are Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Lex Luger. Nash and Luger make a friendly, “What happens happens,” gesture and it becomes a three-way brawl. Luger is the first person to knock Nash over the whole match and it allows him to take apart Hall. For this final World War 3 match, they added a stipulation that pins and submissions are allowed. On one hand, it’s a moot point as nobody is shown getting pinned or submitting, but I guess it’s just there for the sake of having Luger pick up Hall in the Torture Rack. That opens him up for Nash to get back up and take both of them out with a running boot. Nash is the last man standing and wins a shot against Goldberg at Starrcade.

Did I mention that Kevin Nash was booking this? Because he was. Nash wrote that he should dominate this 60-man match so that he could go on to main event the biggest show of the year and end Goldberg’s streak. It’s something that in hindsight it’s easy to gnash at the teeth about (no pun intended, seriously), but at the time, I was all for it. People talk about how nuts WCW was to ever end Goldberg’s streak, but here’s the thing: Goldberg’s streak was boring as hell.

They refused to ever book him properly in the first place and only put him in midcard matches against guys who had zero chance. His streak and ho-hum title reign started to make him a borderline heel because they were running low on interesting challengers and whenever he fought another face (ie. Sting and DDP), it was too easy to root for them. Personally, I thought that when it was Nash’s time to step to the plate, the whole streak concept had run its course.

Unfortunately, they went about it all in the most convoluted (AKA “WCW”) way. The match ended in a clusterfuck and led to the amazingly stupid Fingerpoke of Doom where the nWo came back together under Hogan’s leadership. And that was the beginning of the end for WCW.

Tomorrow, we return to the WWF for Vince McMahon’s foolproof plot to escape Steve Austin’s wrath.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 5

January 11th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: October 4, 1993
Company: WWF
Show: Monday Night Raw
Rules: The surviving two competitors will wrestle a week later
Stipulation: Winners to compete for vacated Intercontinental Championship
Roster (20): Adam Bomb, Bam Bam Bigelow, Bastion Booger, Bob Backlund, Diesel, Giant Gonzalez, Irwin R. Schyster, Jacques, “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, Mabel, Marty Jannetty, Mr. Perfect, the MVP, 1-2-3 Kid, Owen Hart, Pierre, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Razor Ramon, “the Model” Rick Martel, and Tatanka.

Shawn Michaels was a very scummy guy in the 90′s and one of the things that shows it off is how insistent he was to not put people over when it came to dropping titles. When it happens once or twice, you can give the man the benefit of the doubt, but over the years, he’s dropped every major title he’s held in some ridiculous fashion that doesn’t involve losing an actual match. One of the first major instances is in late ’93, where as Intercontinental Champion, he is briefly fired from the company. The reasoning has never been clear (rumors include steroids and posturing for a jump to WCW), but in the storyline, he had to vacate the belt due to not defending it within 30 days.

On this Raw, they make the first step in crowning a new champion via a battle royal. 20 men enter and go at it until instead of one winner, there are two. Whoever they are, they’ll have a match the following week on Raw. This is during a time when Raw is only an hour long, so this match actually takes up literally half of it. Strangely, this is chosen for the first half, leaving the rest of the show for squash matches. Why have a half hour battle royal for a major title as the main event when you can just throw on Doink the Clown vs. some guy?

It’s a pretty packed ring in terms of names. It’s arguably a better roster than most Royal Rumbles around this time. While certainly not the best name in there, having Giant Gonzalez in the battle royal is certainly a notable thing due to how his size makes him a kayfabe favorite. Randy Savage enters the ring last and notices how Gonzalez is standing near the corner, facing everyone else while playing it up how ready he is. Savage plays it smart by going right for him.

A bunch of guys help him out and out goes Gonzalez within seconds. This would be his final televised appearance in wrestling. The other 19 make the following minutes without elimination plenty entertaining, most notably when Mabel has Tatanka in the corner, looks straight into the camera and yells, “EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!” while drooling. Mabel would be the next big threat and his opponents choose to gang up on him. Diesel is the next favorite, though he hasn’t made a name for himself yet in Royal Rumble ’94, and he screws himself over by running full-steam at Mr. Perfect, missing and sailing over the top.

Interesting moment comes when Razor Ramon throws out IRS and starts leaning over the top ropes while pointing at him to leave. If he was a heel, this would be a prime moment for him to be dumped over due to his own stupidity. Instead, it’s used as a perilous moment where Jacque of the Quebeccers almost dumps him out, but Razor barely holds on and gets back in with the help of the 1-2-3 Kid and Savage.

Bam Bam throws Razor out through the middle rope and celebrates, not realizing that he needs to send him over the top. Razor slides back in and takes him out with one hell of a bump.

Things begin to thin out after the third commercial break. One of the competitors is newcomer MVP (also known as Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz), who would go on to do a big pile of nothing in the WWF. Here, he lasts quite a while until Owen Hart flings him out. Owen’s done away with shortly after and we’re down to six. On one side, we have Randy Savage and Razor Ramon. On the other side, we have Rick Martel, the Quebeccers and Adam Bomb. The heels choose to team up together and play the numbers game. There’s some nice commentary by McMahon and Heenan, who come up with reasons as to why these guys would work together. For one, Adam Bomb and the Quebeccers are managed by Johnny Polo. Also, Martel and the Quebeccers are French-Canadian, so there’s a kinship there.

While the French-Canadians triple-team Razor, Savage is able to fight back against Adam Bomb and fireman’s carry him over the top. Bomb is pissed and grabs Savage by the ankle. Bomb’s allies rush him from behind and are able to easily dump him out. Now it’s them against Razor. Personally, I think it would make sense in-story for Martel to try and betray the Quebeccers as due to the rules of the match, he’d be at a huge disadvantage once Razor’s gone, but that never happens. The three proceed to beat down on Razor repeatedly, no matter how many times he fights back.

The three have fun messing with him, like having two hold him back while the other smacks him around. Razor kicks down Martel and the Quebeccers go back on the assault. Jacques holds him back while Pierre tries a clothesline. Razor moves, Jacques takes the hit and gets propelled out of the ring. As Pierre reacts to this, Razor grabs him from behind and eliminates him too. He turns right around and gets ready for Martel, doing his angry stomp taunt. The refs won’t allow it.

The match is over. Razor Ramon and Rick Martel are the winners. The following week has them wrestle for the vacated Intercontinental Championship and to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Razor wins. Regardless, it’s a pretty awesome match. This would be the last hurrah of Martel, who immediately falls back into obscurity and does nothing for the next few months until his release.

Shawn Michaels would come back weeks later and get injected into a Survivor Series match against the Hart Family due to Jerry Lawler’s legal issues. It made little sense and it sucked, but whatever. He starts a feud with Razor based on how he never lost the Intercontinental Championship, culminating in a legendary Ladder Match at Wrestlemania 10. Razor would win and show himself to be the undisputed Intercontinental Champion.

For tomorrow’s installment: Shawn Michaels is still a piece of shit.

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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.

Read the rest of this entry �

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