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Thoughts on the Current State of Mainstream Wrestling

August 29th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

A year ago around this time, I was talking up how I had stopped watching WWE and started finding TNA to be pretty fucking good. It was shocking, but just as shocking is how a year has passed and my feelings couldn’t be more opposite. As it is right now, WWE is probably at its most solid since 2001 while TNA has gotten so laughably bad that I really wouldn’t mind too much if it died.

Hey, it’s not like most of the guys are getting paid well anyway.

So what happened?

With the WWE side, it appears to be two major things. First off, Triple H has been taking over more behind the scenes and while he failed pretty badly in bringing in Sin Cara, he’s smarter than Vince in a lot of storytelling aspects and is finally able to get his vision off the ground. One of his big problems has been how he makes for a terrible face character and puts himself over way too obnoxiously (having a semi-retired guy as one of the top faces does nothing for anyone other than short-lived ratings peaks), but now that he’s a heel, it works.

The other big change came from something that’s been hurting the company for years and that’s the Who Moved My Cheese? factor. For way too long, WWE’s been in need of an era shift. They’ve been stuck in the Cena/Batista/Orton era for so long while being too afraid to move forward. Batista quit a few years ago and Orton’s been deemed too much of a risk to be top face, so they’ve been stuck making Cena super important while doing a bad job of building up anyone to be on his level.

CM Punk came really close, but they chose to instead turn him heel and ruin that momentum. Sheamus has come close, but just hasn’t been able to come off as more than Player 2 Cena. Then there’s Ryback, who got pushed to the moon, only for the bookers to realize that he’s nowhere near ready to be champion, leading to him losing a bunch of matches, turning heel and falling down from the grace of the main event.

At this point, they’ve reached the point where they have to move on or simply flail around like they have for the past few years. While they’d love to ride out Cena forever, he’s finally reached the point of having to take a vacation to recover from injuries. They’ve handled this the best way possible by pushing Punk and Bryan as top faces while NOT having them succeed at the bat, while at the same time having Bryan get the first 100% clean win on Cena in forever. Meanwhile, Orton’s turned heel, which is the best place for him.

It’s weird to look back at three of the biggest things to piss me off with WWE in the past three years.

1) That time Christian won the World Heavyweight Championship and they immediately jobbed him out to Orton.

2) Daniel Bryan losing his title in mere seconds on a huge PPV stage.

3) CM Punk beating Cena at Summerslam, only to have a Clique member attack him and the Money in the Bank holder to come out and pick the bones.

The crazy thing is, all of these basically happened at the end of Summerslam! Daniel Bryan won his big title match, Triple H laid him out and he lost the belt in mere seconds to Orton. And it worked!

WWE’s really been on a roll lately, firing on all cylinders. Watching three hours of Raw used to be a chore, but now it flies by because nearly every segment is a good time. It’s been a long, long time since they’ve had that kind of quality.

Not only that, but there’s some great talent coming down the pipeline. Sami Zayn (El Generico), Adrian Neville (Pac), Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero), Solomon Crowe (Sami Callihan) and many others are on the NXT roster, waiting to be called up. The reason they aren’t being called up? Because Triple H wants to make sure that they have actual plans for any new member of the roster. This is a smart thing.

As for TNA? A year ago, they were really damn good. Even their cheeseball Claire Lynch storyline, which had some of the worst acting we’ll ever see, was entertaining as hell. The matches were great for the most part and the Bound for Glory Series round robin tournament was super interesting to watch. After losing wrestling’s cancer Vince Russo, the writing took a huge upswing.

So what happened? The main thing that killed their momentum was their desperation to hold onto Jeff Hardy. His contract was coming up, so in order to entice Hardy into staying, they pushed him to the top. The final four in the Bound for Glory tournament were Hardy, James Storm, Samoa Joe and Bully Ray. Storm, Joe and Ray all had their build-up reasons as to why they could or should win the tournament and move on to challenge Austin Aries at the Bound for Glory PPV. Instead, Hardy won with no build. It really ruined everything. Aries had to turn heel despite his run as a mega-face being short-lived and they had to put the “Bully Ray is behind Aces & 8s” reveal on hold.

That was the worst. Aces & 8s went on FOREVER. What made it really bad was that for the first few months, they didn’t even give anyone in the gang identities. They all wore masks, so they had no personalities and no reason for us to care. They were just a bunch of generic bikers. There was nobody it could be to make it worthwhile and much of the revealed roster proved it (ie. Bischoff’s son and Mike Knox). At least when they finally showed Bully Ray was behind it, the explanations made sense. It’s just that it wasn’t very exciting while it happened.

But therein lies one of the other major problems with TNA. See, Vince Russo’s main problem was that he could come up with a good beginning to an angle, but would then just swerve it into oblivion or forget about it. Post-Russo TNA would come up with a good beginning and maybe a good middle… but then they’d stay there. For instance, last year they introduced Abyss’ “brother” Joseph Park, who went from searching for his missing brother to becoming a wrestler to having episodes where being cut open would cause him to black out and become like Abyss for a minute. The first instance of him having one of those episodes was a year ago and only now are they giving it any attention! It’s not even follow-up! They’re simply calling it out as something that happens and are letting it ride.

The company’s also been falling apart outside of the ring. They’ve been in a perpetual storm of bad publicity where they’ve treated their talent like shit and have had problems even paying them on time. One of their wrestlers Jesse Sorensen got a major neck injury and they tried to give him an office job, only to fire him from that. Not for doing a bad job, but because they needed to save the money. Meanwhile, wrestler Zema Ion contracted some kind of stomach cancer and put up a failed Kickstarter to pay for the surgery. Surgery that TNA wouldn’t foot the bill for. Vince McMahon’s no saint, but he’s smart enough to know that you take care of this kind of thing for the sake of publicity.

Now you might figure that between the fucking over of the ailed roster and the firing of many others, it would be because the company is simply in dire straits and can’t afford it. Well, maybe that’s true, but it’s also so they can afford to bring in Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz and put them on the roster. I can’t imagine how much Ortiz cost them, but considering his debut was met with complete and utter silence and confusion from the crowd, I figure they paid him too much.

And what about the Bound for Glory Series? They’re doing it for the third time this year and it worked out so well last time. Up until they panicked and made Hardy win, it was strongly booked. At the very least it should have given them focus, right? Not so much. As of right now, the tournament needs to wrap up in about two weeks and they haven’t even done HALF of the matches they need to do! Yeah, check out that time mismanagement. They most certainly had the chance to get it right, but now they don’t have enough TV and house shows to fulfill the concept and will likely have to sweep it under the rug.

Amazing.

Also funny is how TNA lets their wrestlers compete at indy shows and one indy show in particular recently featured much of the Aces & 8s roster. They all jobbed.

As it is right now, TNA appears to be beyond saving and watching them cut corners makes it look like they’re in their death throes like WCW was in their final few months. The thing is, I’m not as down on it like I was when WCW went under. Other than the showcase of some strong – if meandering – talent, it’s lost its purpose. They’ll never be good enough to make WWE sweat even a bead and will be lucky if they can ever make it a good show in general. It’s run by incompetent and rather callous people. There’s a lot of good talent in there, but it’s not like these guys are getting the most out of it. Hell, some of the younger guys like Magnus could probably find a place in WWE.

WWE is the Gallant to TNA’s Goofus. I look forward to every WWE show now to witness this new era shift that was ultimately set in motion by CM Punk’s “pipe bomb” promo, all while the most entertainment I’m getting out of TNA is watching them gasp for air. Just like WCW in 2000.

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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 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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The King of Trios Retrospective: Day 3

August 26th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

King of Trios 2007: Night 2

On Demand
DVD

Match 1
Gran Akuma vs. MASAMUNE

We’re shown a MASAMUNE promo, but it’s entirely in Japanese so… yeah. Thing to note about CHIKARA is that usually the commentary is really good. UltraMantis Black, Larry Sweeney, Bryce Remsberg, Mike Quackenbush, Leonard F. Chikarason and later Gavin Loudspeaker are all at least bearable. For this match, we’re given the team of UltraMantis and Icarus. Oy. Icarus and commentary do NOT go well together. He mumbles, tries too hard to play it straight and any jokes fall completely flat.

On the other hand, Akuma vs. MASAMUNE itself is pretty good. The two are very similar in style and it seems that MASAMUNE is supposed to be just as much a heel as Akuma. It’s brought up that MASAMUNE is a tag champ in Osaka Pro, adding to the idea that the two of them are evenly matched. In a good opening bit of grappling, Akuma gets the best of the exchange and armdrags MASAMUNE out of the ring. MASAMUNE angrily throws a chair, making it a point that he isn’t any more virtuous than the despised Akuma after all. Akuma doesn’t play face either, as once MASAMUNE reenters, he knees him with a cheap shot. While the chemistry is definitely there, the match appears to go into a pattern. They do a strike war against each other (chops, kicks, forearms), then one gives the other an elaborate submission hold that won’t take. Akuma goes for the Yoshi Tonic, MASAMUNE escapes and then hits Akuma with an Ace Crusher. While grappling with Akuma from behind, MASAMUNE briefly shoves the ref out of the way out of annoyance. During that diversion, Akuma gives him a mule kick to the balls, rolls him up and puts his legs on the ropes to get the pin.

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The Wrestling Fed That Cried Wolf: 7 Reasons Why I Currently Enjoy TNA More Than WWE

July 1st, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Sorry for the lack of updates on my side, especially comic-related. I’m in this weird funk I get in every now and then when I’m writing pieces of different articles all at once and can’t commit to one, meaning I end up doing a whole lot of nothing and there’s no output. Hopefully this will at least get me through it.

A couple months ago, I wrote about the history of pro wrestling and had very little positive to say about Total Non-Stop Action, otherwise known as TNA. Even when they had something cool going for them, they were always washed over with more that was terrible. This got worse when Vince Russo was brought aboard and fell deeper once Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff were given roles in creative.

I tried giving them a chance time after time, especially when they tried to go to war with Raw on Monday nights because if anything, that would be the time when they’d be trying their hardest. Everything was a mess and continued to be a mess and I couldn’t bring myself to watch anymore. Part of the nightmare ended a few months ago when they finally fired Vince Russo. WHY they waited so long to do that when the fans were actually chanting for them to do so for years whenever something stupid happened is beyond me.

Not that they were in the clear. Hogan and Bischoff felt the need to include their children. Brooke Hogan was given an on-air role and Garrett Bischoff was put in a story about becoming a wrestler against his father’s wishes. Brooke can’t act and Garrett can’t wrestle, so this is problematic. At least it gave us former employee Scott Steiner’s Twitter rants, which went on forever until TNA’s legal dudes told him to stop.

Interesting thing happened, though. Over the past couple months or so, the online wrestling circles I spy into haven’t really been complaining about TNA. In fact, they’ve been kind of shrugging it off and pointing out that it’s been pretty good. Great, even! Their last few PPVs have been completely solid and it’s been overall really watchable. Now, on one hand, fool me once, shame on you, etc. On the other hand, WWE has been boring the hell out of me lately, even when they’re giving us a feud based on Daniel Bryan vs. CM Punk with AJ Lee doing a Harley Quinn gimmick in the background. I want to believe that there might be some kind of good mainstream wrestling out there, so I gave the past few weeks a watch.

Hot damn, this actually isn’t bad!

It could be blamed on a lot of things, from what I understand. Russo being gone, for one, as it’s now written by someone who knows that stories are supposed to have beginnings, middles and ends, plus make some semblance of sense. Bischoff has been hands-off lately, meaning that his storyline is forgotten about. For a limited time, the show is live instead of taped, so there’s this overall drive for the performers to do better. I keep hearing that for the first time in years, Samoa Joe is actually motivated! Of course, it could also be blamed on a broken clock being right two times a day. Latter-day WCW had that and WWE tends to have that.

For the moment, not only am I digging TNA, but I’m finding it just plain better than WWE. And I’m not even talking about the talent. Each side has great wrestlers and crap wrestlers. It’s what they do with them that counts.

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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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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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