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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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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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The Top 60 Wrestling Matches That Surprisingly Happened (60-41)

December 7th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

While in the midst of dropping the ball on their epic CM Punk story, WWE put together a match between John Cena and Rey Mysterio for the WWE title with no prior advertisement on free TV. Now, while Cena and Mysterio are not my favorite guys in the company, I can’t help but think that they screwed up by not trying to siphon money out of what could have been a major money match. Not only is Cena – the guy who claims to be an underdog – taking on someone who is actually an underdog, but the whole thing is like Hogan vs. Warrior for this generation of wrestling-watching children. More than anything else, it’s one of the few fresh matches.

I looked into it and found that prior to this, they had clashed years earlier on Smackdown for a tournament. That got me to thinking about the surprising nature about wrestling’s history. There’s always plenty of trivia to be found, no matter how long you follow it. Who knew that the tag team the Blade Runners would each go on their separate ways to become two of the most popular names in the late 80′s/early 90′s as Sting and the Ultimate Warrior? At a Tribute to the Troops show, when Steve Austin entered the ring and delivered a Stone Cold Stunner in response to John Cena giving him the “You can’t see me!” gesture, who knew that this would be such a significant footnote?

There are a lot of matches in wrestling history that fit this bill. Dream matches that aren’t in the right time frame to be labeled a dream match. One man might be in the twilight of his career, facing a new up-and-comer who’s yet to prove himself but one day will. Maybe a classic matchup will take place a decade before either man is worth knowing. Two men regularly separated by story and company may have mingled ever-so-briefly on a TV match that nobody truly remembers.

With the help of Something Awful’s Punchsport Pagoda sub-forum, I’ve put together a list of the 60 matches that make me lift my eyebrow and say, “Wow. That match actually happened.” Jobber matches, house shows, C-level shows, forgettable Raw segments and more that look more interesting in retrospect. Today we’ll start with 60-41.

I should note that while I’ve been watching wrestling forever, I don’t know enough about Japanese wrestling to include it. Granted, I have some matches that take place in Japan and even a few with Japanese wrestlers acting as tag partners, but I’m too out of my element to measure matches like Inoki vs. Sid and Great Sasuke vs. Bob Backlund. For that, I apologize.

Let’s get started.

60) VADER vs. THE ROCK
WWF, 1997/1998
YouTube

Vader vs. Rock isn’t an overly rare match as it happened three times on Raw over the course of 97/98, but there’s a generational changing of the guard that makes it feel unique. The first time around, it was Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia defending against the big heel Vader, who had Paul Bearer and Mankind in his corner. The match appeared rather even until Mankind needlessly interfered and hit Rocky with an urn, getting Rock the DQ win.

Later that year, the two faced off again, this time with Vader as the face and Rock as the heel. On one hand, Rock was distracted by Steve Austin watching the match on top of a monster truck with AC/DC blaring. On the other hand, Vader was constantly attacked behind the ref’s back by the Nation of Domination and the Artist Formerly Known as Goldust. Vader completely no-sold the People’s Elbow to the point of throwing Rock off of him and then took after Goldust, getting himself counted out.

Once again, they fought, this time as a qualifying match for the King of the Ring tournament. This time, Vader got taken out by interference by Mark Henry, who splashed him on the outside and made him easy pickings for a Rock Bottom. Rock won, making it 3-0.

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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 Six

August 11th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

With Summerslam just a couple days away, it’s not hard to notice that there are so few matches announced. One of those guys who has nothing going on is the Miz and that brings up an interesting pattern. See, the Miz has never wrestled a single Summerslam in his entire WWE career. Check it out.

2011: Rey’s injured, so the possibility of Rey vs. Miz is down the tubes. Will most definitely appear on the show in some way, but having a match is up in the air.
2010: Was going to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase, but decided not to as he would be joining Team WWE in the main event. Was going to wrestle in the main event, but Cena had him replaced with Daniel Bryan.
2009: Got fired and banned from Summerslam (Summerfest?!) by one of the guest Raw General Managers.
2008: Even if he and Morrison were still tag champs, it wouldn’t matter. The only tag match on the show was a mixed tag.
2007: Is too busy feuding with Balls Mahoney to be of any importance to the big picture.

The dude just can’t catch a break. I’m pretty sure that the Hurricane never got a Summerslam match either, which is kind of weird. See, the big DVD box set of the first 20 Summerslams are split into four packages and each package has this awesome collage of stuff from those five years. Stuff like posters, Dibiase angrily pointing, Cena punching Jericho, Diesel and Michaels posing, etc. One of them features, rather prominently, a picture of a guy in a Hurricane mask in the corner. I don’t remember seeing such a thing and I can’t remember the Hurricane doing anything of note, let alone appearing, yet there it is.

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The Summerslam Countdown: Day Two

August 5th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

I guess before I continue the list, I should do some kind of filler intro thing first. Maybe on a later day I’ll go through the matches of this year’s show or whatever. I can’t really think of much in terms of Summerslam trivia outside of an interesting factoid I noticed involving Hulk Hogan. Basically, Hulk Hogan is not only undefeated, but he’s never had a single title match his entire time at Summerslam. Check it out.

Summerslam 88: Is in a tag match with champion Randy Savage against Andre and Dibiase.
Summerslam 89: Hogan is champ, but he’s in a tag match with Beefcake against Savage and Zeus.
Summerslam 90: Singles match against Earthquake while Ultimate Warrior is champ.
Summerslam 91: Is champ again, but he and Warrior are in a tag match against Slaughter and his cronies.
Summerslam 05: Is brought in for the dream match of Hogan vs. Michaels. Neither one is champ.
Summerslam 06: Is challenged by Randy Orton. Again, neither one is champ.

Now that I think of it, Ultimate Warrior’s undefeated at Summerslam too. Hell, he even showed up more often than Hogan until all the post-WCW hoopla.

Good, that filled up enough space. Back to the list!

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The Survivor Series Countdown: Day Eleven

November 25th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Sorry for the lateness. I was planning on finishing this baby up yesterday, but I was exhausted. Exhausted from MARKING! Why was I marking again? Oh yeah…

Right! Miz winning the title. Good times. But I’m sure I’ll be forgiven for finishing this list off a couple days late. Posting it on Thanksgiving sort of works, right? You’ll forgive me, won’t you, Miz Title Win Reaction Girl?

Oh. Never mind, then.

As for the PPV? I thought the first half was brilliant and the second half was below average. The Kane vs. Edge match especially. That’s a shame, since I like the angle.

Now for the top three Survivor Series!

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The Survivor Series Countdown: Day Ten

November 21st, 2010 Posted by Gavok

With this series winding down, I thought I should take a second to discuss my thoughts on the Survivor Series concept in general. I’ve found through watching these 23 shows that it would benefit the WWE to go back to the earlier concept from the first ten years. Nearly, if not every match should be an elimination tag. If you really need to fit in a title match, go ahead. The thing is, forcing your champions into these tag matches both gives even the most invincible face champion an excuse to lose for once and it keeps things from getting stale. It’s optimal to have your money feud spread out with a high-profile tag match such as this, rather than wearing out the luster with rematch after rematch in a singles setting.

Survivor Series is an awful lot like the Royal Rumble. It’s a who’s who of the roster. We get mystery wrestlers, replacements, good eliminations, bad eliminations, chaotic guessing games of who’s going to win, current feuds developed, new feuds created and old feuds rekindled. While the elimination tag matches aren’t as fun as the Royal Rumbles, they do have the advantage that there doesn’t have to simply be one winner that night. As much as I love the Royal Rumble, it’s a pain knowing that sometimes only two or three guys involved have anything resembling a chance at winning. At Survivor Series, we have multiple matches with potentially multiple winners. If somebody loses, a lot of the time, it doesn’t hurt their status. Sometimes a win can make you look great.

It is silly that this year’s Survivor Series has only one of these matches. In the past couple months, we had a 7-on-7 elimination tag at Summerslam and another one at Bragging Rights. Both were a lot more important than Rey Mysterio’s team vs. Del Rio’s team. How strange that the company insists on shoving different gimmick PPVs in our faces month after month, but doesn’t want to give any service to their original gimmick PPV.

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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 Six

November 16th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

One more Gobbledy Gooker video for you all and this one is very important to the annals of history. You see, the failed gimmick of the Gobbledy Gooker crosses paths with a man who will one day become the Shockmaster. It’s like George Washington meeting Abraham Lincoln.

Shock the turkey!
Shock the turkey!
Shock the turkey to life!

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