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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 10

January 16th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: October 18, 2000
Company: WCW
Show: Thunder
Rules: Royal Rumble with 30 second intervals
Stipulation: Winner gets a title shot the Nitro after Halloween Havoc
Roster (29): Brian Adams, “That 70′s Guy” Mike Awesome, Big Vito, Booker T, Bryan Clark, Crowbar, Disqo, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, David Flair, “Lieutenant Loco” Chavo Guerrero, Don Harris, Ron Harris, Jeff Jarrett, Mark Jindrak, Billy Kidman, Konnan, Kwee Wee, “Corporal Cajun” Lash LeRoux, Ernest “the Cat” Miller, Rey Mysterio Jr., “Coach” Kevin Nash, Sean O’Haire, Chuck Palumbo, “Above Average” Mike Sanders, Shawn Stasiak, Scott Steiner, Sting, Lance Storm, Alex Wright

I think during WCW’s final months, the quality was getting almost as good as when everything started to go wrong a couple years earlier. It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good either. It wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that with a little effort, WCW could have been turned around to being halfway successful before a Turner higher-up decided to pull the plug.

Take the Countdown to Armageddon, for instance. The main event of a Thunder in late 2000, only five months before the company would become McMahon’s new set of action figures, is head and shoulders above that guerrilla warfare idea from yesterday’s update and is almost well-booked at times. Almost.

The Royal Rumble knockoff is a 29-man battle royal for a shot at the champ the night after Halloween Havoc. Goldberg isn’t allowed to be in it, I think because his storyline is that he needs to equal his old winning streak before being allowed another title shot. The match has 30-second intervals, meaning the whole thing blazes through.

Unfortunately, whoever booked it must have been in a real rush because the “random draw” barely even pretends to exist. Our first two entrants are “Above Average” Mike Sanders and the Cat, two wrestlers who happen to be feuding over full rights as Commissioner of WCW. Having these two start it off isn’t too weird, right?

The next two are Shawn Stasiak and Chuck Palumbo. They and Sanders are all members of the Natural Born Thrillers and work on the Cat, though Stasiak – “the black sheep” – has some problems coexisting with Palumbo. Again, it isn’t too off. That stable has a lot of wrestlers.

Then Disqo (a renamed Disco Inferno) comes out, followed 30 seconds after by his partner Alex Wright. Shortly after, Ron and Don Harris come out consecutively. Even the commentators can’t make sense of this. It’s briefly suggested that maybe one of the co-commissioners created the order, but why would they be the first two, then?

Speaking of commentary, it’s the best of times and the worst of times. Joining Tony Schiavone are Stevie Ray and Mark Madden. Stevie is so bad he’s great while Madden is so bad he’s terrible. There’s something so weird about both guys from Harlem Heat being the two most awesomely bad commentators in wrestling history.

Canada-loving turncoat “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan enters the fray. Just want to remind everyone that this was a thing.

With 11 in the ring and no eliminations yet, the Natural Born Thrillers’ leader “Coach” Kevin Nash is out at #12. They go right to commercial and time seemingly freezes. Once they’re back from commercial, Nash enters the ring and there’s been zero entries in the past two minutes. Uh huh.

He proceeds to clean house until the only ones left are Nash, Palumbo, Stasiak and David Flair. Stasiak finally strikes Palumbo and knocks him out of the ring. Afraid of Nash’s wrath, Stasiak hops the top rope and runs off. That leaves David Flair to lay into Nash with zero success. Nash, the big, tough guy he is, takes out Flair with an eye-poke.

Nash plays the same role he did in the ’94 Royal Rumble that got him over: clearing the ring and taking out every new challenger. The one to stop his streak is Rey Mysterio. Sadly, this is late WCW, meaning it’s unmasked Rey, wearing stupid devil horns and looking like a 12-year-old boy.

My thoughts too, Big Sexy. My thoughts too.

Rey slows him down and our next guy out is Booker T! …What? I didn’t notice this when rewatching it as the WCW title picture is confusing as hell as is, but when I looked up who the winner would be facing… well, Booker T is the WCW Champion. He’s in a match to earn a shot against himself! And nobody on commentary seems to notice this! What the fuck?

Sting and Mike Awesome come out soon after and the four faces take apart Nash before eliminating him. Out next are Jeff Jarrett and Scott Steiner. I don’t mean in consecutive order. I mean that Steiner rushes the ring early just for the sake of laying into his upcoming PPV opponent Booker T. Yes, he too is trying to earn a shot at a title he already has a shot at.

Sting and Jarrett eliminate each other and Awesome removes both Booker and Steiner at the same time, leaving him against Rey. The ring fills up some more and our final spot goes to both members of Kronik at the same time, playing into their upcoming handicap match against Goldberg. Once things whittle down, we have Mike Awesome (face) against Kronik, Jindrak and O’Haire (heels). The four beat on him and prepare to dump him out when Goldberg’s badass Viking theme starts blaring.

Goldberg rushes in and is almost immediately taken down by Kronik. Still, the diversion is enough for Awesome to trick Jindrak and O’Haire into eliminating themselves. In a rather cool ending, Goldberg Spears Bryan Clark as Adams sneaks off to fetch a chair. Goldberg throws Clark out of the ring and Awesome grabs Adams’ chair, opening the Kronik member up for a second Spear. As Adams struggles to stand, Awesome holds the chair and warily keeps an eye on Goldberg. Is he here to take out his frustrations on everyone else allowed in this match? Is he planning to Spear Awesome next? Goldberg sees the chair and things get tense.

But clearer heads prevail and they take out Brian Adams together. Mike Awesome gains his title shot and gets a bit of a rub from Goldberg.

It’s a shame things didn’t work out for Awesome. I always enjoyed his work and thought his role as “That 70′s Guy” was criminally underrated when they subdued the gimmick enough that it wasn’t so in-your-face. He worked the same way John Morrison’s “Palace of Wisdom” gimmick worked, at least in my opinion. Which is fitting, since Awesome looked like a beefed up Morrison with Roddy Piper’s face.

That’s our last look at WCW. We’re halfway through the list and tomorrow we’ll continue on with WCW’s reincarnation.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 9

January 15th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: May 3, 2000
Company: WCW
Show: Thunder
Rules: I… I don’t know
Stipulation: Winner gets a WCW Championship shot at the Great American Bash
Roster (43): Tank Abbott, Brian Adams, Asya, Mike Awesome, Buff Bagwell, Big T, Big Vito, Bam Bam Bigelow, Chris Candido, Cash, Brian Clarke, Disco Inferno, Shane Douglas, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Ric Flair, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Don Harris, Ron Harris, Bret “Hitman” Hart, Curt Hennig, Horace Hogan, Hulk Hogan, Jeff Jarrett, Johnny the Bull, Chris Kanyon, Billy Kidman, Konnan, Lash LeRoux, Lex Luger, Medusa, Ernest “the Cat” Miller, Mona, Hugh Morrus, Diamond Dallas Page, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Norman Smiley, Shawn Stasiak, Scott Steiner, Stevie Ray, Sting, Vampiro, Van Hammer and the Wall

During the two years before being bought off by Vince McMahon, WCW was a mess of comedic proportions. It was usually in one of two states. Either Vince Russo was the head writer and things were hilariously out of order, or he was thrown to the wayside and some other writer made the shows just as inept, only extremely boring. Usually, Russo gets the blame for most of the stuff that went on during this time, either because his garbage was more memorable or because it’s just an easier blanket statement.

Today’s battle royal entry comes from a magical time when WCW decided to have both Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo run the company together. On paper, the idea was that their good concepts would wash away any bad concepts. Buuuuuuut this is also when David Arquette is WCW Champion.

Also just want to take a second to thank Greg Merritt, who suggested I write about this match, which itself inspired me to do this daily series. He calls this battle “fascinating and terrible” and Great Zampano, he’s right!

The big storyline is that Bischoff and Russo have started a stable called the New Blood, made up of the younger wrestlers on the roster who are mad at the older, more popular wrestlers for holding them down. The older wrestlers, which include the likes of Hogan, Sting and DDP, are referred to as the Millionaire’s Club and in no way come off as devious, despite Russo’s supposed intentions to make this a “shades of gray” situation. In fact, his New Blood stable comes off as a big collection of whiners.

It also gave us the most cringe-inducing segment where Bischoff and Russo decided to reboot the title picture and that meant WCW Champion Sid had to give up the belt. Bischoff, making a sly reference to a real-life incident that only a very small fraction of viewers understood, taunted Sid by asking, “Did you forget your scissors?! …I said, did you forget your SCISSORS?!” The complete lack of reaction from the live crowd speaks volumes.

So anyway, this match. Near the end of an episode of Thunder, Bischoff and Russo are in the ring with a bunch of New Blood guys, most of them brandishing weapons. Bischoff calls out the Millionaire’s Club and invites them into some “guerrilla warfare”. I don’t know if that’s just a term here or if that’s what this match is supposed to be called. Either way, Flair accepts and brings some of his super-popular friends with him, demanding that they’ll have an over-the-top-rope battle royal and the last man standing gets a title shot at the Great American Bash. Bischoff accepts and points out that the men standing with him in the ring are the future of the business.

That might be the saddest part of this because that’s not true for a single guy in there. Guys like Ernest Miller, Buff Bagwell, the Wall and Shawn Stasiak fail to set the wrestling world on fire and the only guys involved who do all right are established wrestlers Jeff Jarrett and Scott Steiner. Yes, Steiner insisted upon being with the “young and hip” New Blood.

The challenge accepted, the Millionaire’s Club kind of jogs, then walks to the ring and we have 11-on-11, only the New Blood guys have weapons. Remember, these guys were supposed to be seen as being morally on the same level as the Millionaire’s Club.

In what seems like forever, there’s not a single elimination. Just dudes brawling. Then maybe five minutes in, some more guys run out. Konnan, Bam Bam Bigelow, the Harris Boys, etc. Commentary claims that they’re there to back up the New Blood. Then the Harlem Heat music plays and we get Stevie Ray, Cash and Big T, reminding me that there was an angle where Ahmed Johnson defeated Booker T for the right to have “T” in his name. Soon after, Tank Abbot comes out, being put over by the commentators as being a mercenary for the New Blood. It’s hard to really tell if these guys are supposed to be entrants in the match or not, but they succumb to the basic rules where being thrown out of the ring means leaving, so I’m going to say yes.

Finally, guys start getting eliminated and Millionaire’s Club members are able to get some weapons. It seems that everyone who comes out is on the New Blood’s side until Hacksaw Jim Duggan storms out with a 2×4 and lays waste to the ring until eliminating himself. Some of the WCW ladies come out and join the fray.

Then a limousine pulls up and someone with silver pants walks out. The camera refuses to pan up and we watch the man step to the arena in mystery. Who is this Pokemon?

OOOH YEAH! Savage helps clear the ring of some of the New Blood guys and tries to eliminate himself by jumping out, but Shane Douglas screws that up for him and Savage has to leave the ring between the ropes. Soon after, Bret Hart comes out and SHOCKS THE WORLD by hitting Hogan with a chair and leaving. Note, this is one of Bret’s final appearances.

DDP eliminates himself and Jarrett, which is just as well since they’re in a #1 contender’s match despite both being #1 contenders for the upcoming Sunday’s PPV already. We’re left with Kidman vs. Hogan and Flair vs. Douglas, which happen to be two of the upcoming Slamboree matches. Hogan is eliminated by going under the top rope and it seems that they’ve already changed the rules to reflect that. That puts it into question how Flair is still in the match, considering he spent a few minutes outside the ring earlier beating on Douglas with a bat.

The final two are Flair and Douglas and Flair wraps him up in the Figure Four. Russo runs in with bat in hand and accidentally hits Douglas instead.

Let me just repeat that for you.

Flair has Douglas in the Figure Four. Russo comes in and somehow accidentally hits the wrong guy.

Flair eliminates Douglas and wins his title shot. Or does he? I checked Wikipedia and Flair spent Great American Bash fighting his son while Nash got the title shot.

It’s not over. Hogan prepares a suplex spot on the outside, but Bischoff hits him in the knee and Hogan falls through a table. Savage ignores this for a minute so he can celebrate with Flair in the ring. Elsewhere, DDP and Jarrett climb a scaffold for no reason, punching each other all the way.

Savage finally chases off Kidman and Bischoff, then helps up Hogan. Savage’s very last WCW appearance is the Mega Powers buddying up.

In a final bout of incompetence, DDP does a huge bump off the scaffold, but it’s not shown. They’re so focused on Hogan/Savage that we just get a shot of DDP laying in some debris and a final shot of Jarrett celebrating on top the ramp.

Holy shit.

I’m going to do another WCW battle royal from 2000 tomorrow, but I’m going to leave with a couple quotes from this very match.

Tony Schiavone: “This has been nuts. It’s been absolutely nuts. Everything logical you can think about WCW over the past year thrown out the window.”
Mike Tenay: “Logic? Word doesn’t even exist in World Championship Wrestling!”

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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 4

January 10th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: December 28, 1992
Company: WCW
Show: Starrcade ’92
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: None
Roster (8): Van Hammer, Danny Spivey, Big Van Vader, “the Natural” Dustin Rhodes, Great Muta, Barry Windham, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams and Sting

I didn’t watch all that much WCW in my childhood and I especially didn’t see any WCW PPVs. The concept of Battlebowl always had me interested, though, and it’s something I’d love to see WWE bring back. The first step to it is the Lethal Lottery. A bunch of wrestler names are picked out of a hat to create very random tag team matches. For instance, at this show, Big Van Vader and Dustin Rhodes had to team up to face the Barbarian and Kensuke Sasaki. Vader and Dustin won, each advancing into the big battle royal to end the show. In Vader’s case, it also softened him up a bit for a scheduled match against Sting that he ended up losing.

Sting is the last entrance into the fray and as they hype him up as last year’s winner, Vader rushes out the ring and collides into him. He goes from repeatedly clobbering him to trying to choke him out while Harley Race cheers him on. Refs try to separate the two while the other six go at it in the ring.

Sting and Vader eventually find their way in there and for quite a while, a big pile of nothing happens. It’s made a bit more boring from the fact that whoever’s directing this feels the need to hold back on changing any camera angles. It’s just the same hard camera shot of eight men brawling for far too long. Eventually, they show two more screens of other camera angles, which makes an 8-man brawl look more complicated than it really needs to.

Dr. Death eliminates Van Hammer about five minutes in and finally we’re onto something, but it’s barely noticed as the focus is more on Dustin giving Windham a bulldog on the walkway to the ring. With the eight guys involved, the only two feuds that have any meat on them are Sting vs. Vader and Dustin vs. Windham, who were partners before Windham turned heel. Sting soon after eliminates Spivey and that too is rather underwhelming.

With six guys left, Vader cuts it down quite a bit by diving into Sting and taking them both out in one go.

That leaves Muta vs. Dr. Death while the Dustin/Windham fight keeps on keeping on. Once it’s time to reach the end, Dr. Death repeats the same exact spot as Vader and accidentally eliminates himself along with Dustin Rhodes. That brings us to Windham – who is bloodied from that earlier bulldog – and the Great Muta. The crowd suddenly wakes up at this point and there are huge chants in support of Muta.

Windham works on Muta and holds the advantage for a few minutes. After a nice dropkick, he figures it’s time to finish it and throws him over the top rope. Muta holds on, does the “skin the cat” spot and saves himself from elimination.

He bombards Windham with a couple dropkicks and sends him over the top, thereby winning the Battlebowl Ring in what Jesse Ventura insists is an upset. The place goes nuts and fireworks go off for our Japanese victor.

Keep in mind, this is a pretty mind-blowing finish for the time. Shawn Michaels made it memorable at the 1994 Royal Rumble, but that’s still just over a year away by this point. So that’s cool.

Speaking of Shawn Michaels, tomorrow is all about his absence and the need for a replacement.

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31 Things That Make Me Happy: Part 3

May 31st, 2012 Posted by Gavok

21) Flash vs. Luthiac

Justice League (Unlimited) is to animation what Avengers is to film. Just this perfect chain of world-building that escalates more and more, delivering all the while. While the first season of Unlimited was quite fantastic, it had one glaring flaw: no Flash. Wally only went as far as showing up a couple times with no lines in group shots. It wasn’t until the following season that he even got to do anything.

Everybody stopped being mad about that after the episode “Divided We Fall”, where the core members of the Justice League are taken apart by the hybrid of Lex Luthor and Brainiac. The villain prepares to kill off Flash, a prophecy set up throughout the season. Flash – the comic relief of the team – frees himself and runs off scared.

…or does he?

I don’t even care about anything after he vanishes. It’s the limit-breaking beatdown that I go back to. The beautiful way the score starts to creep in the moment he hits his first surprise punch. The way Luthor seems so taken aback that he doesn’t even try to come up with any plan, which, if you look at it, means that Luthor’s idea of merging with Brainiac is their undoing, since Brainiac wouldn’t have been so distracted by ego. Flash is someone who’s been ignored from episodes because he’s so hard to write and they’ve even nerfed his powers so much that he had a hard time catching up to a van one time, so his existence on the cartoon is vindicated in this moment where he kicks ass with such speed that he vibrates in place, Zoom-style.

22) It’s the YETAY!

When you ask a wrestling fan about the funniest and most absurd concept in the history of the business, they’ll give you one of two answers. One is the Gobbledy Gooker, a much-hyped and mysterious giant egg that finally hatched to reveal a dancing guy in a goofy turkey suit. Then there’s the Shockmaster, a complete failure of a segment where a new wrestler meant to be the next big thing proceeded to trip on live TV, knocking off his mask and causing the entire scene (as well as his career following) to fall apart.

For me, nothing is as gleefully silly as the Yeti.

The Yeti was born from a storyline involving Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage against the Dungeon of Doom, no doubt the silliest of all major factions in wrestling history. It was made up of an old, fat man barking orders at his “son” Kevin Sullivan and a collection of henchmen wrestlers, all goofy as all get out. The whole thing is such a clusterfuck that I’m going to bypass most of it, but the main conflict is Hogan vs. the Dungeon’s biggest and newest threat, the Giant. The Giant is billed as being Andre the Giant’s son, wanting to avenge his father against Hogan. On an episode of Nitro leading up to their big PPV match at Halloween Havoc, they show a huge block of ice. Kevin Sullivan refers to the figure inside as the Yeti, only he insists on pronouncing it “Yeh-tay”.

At the end of the final show before the PPV, Hogan fights off the Giant in the ring and some crazy lights start going off. The crowd is excited and with only a second of airtime left, the ice on the stage explodes to reveal… a seven-foot-tall guy dressed as a mummy.

And if that doesn’t tell you to purchase the PPV, I don’t know what does.

The match itself continued its clusterfuck ways and by the end, Randy Savage and Lex Luger come to Hogan’s rescue. Soon after, the Yeti follows, accompanied by Tony Schiavone on commentary screaming, “And the YETAAAAY!” Yes, even he’s insisting that not only is this giant mummy a yeti, but it’s pronounced exactly the way Sullivan insisted. Somehow, it’s that little detail that acts as the lynchpin to why this is so wonderfully ridiculous. Hell, they’re so focused on the YETAY! that it’s a footnote that Luger has already turned on Hogan and Savage in the ring. During this beating, the Yeti and Giant bearhug Hogan from each side and Yeti moves his hips back and forth in a way that makes him look like he’s raping Hogan. When he isn’t attacking anyone, he wanders the ring with his arms out like Frankenstein. Despite being in the ring for only two minutes, his bandages have already torn a bunch and we can see plenty of his skin, showing how flimsy a concept the mummy wrestler idea was to begin with.

As far as I know, there was no follow-up to Yeti fighting Hogan. Instead, he faded rather oddly into obscurity with no fanfare. First he started dressing like a ninja instead of a mummy. Then he kept that look and changed his name to Super Giant Ninja. He immediately lost to the One Man Gang and was repackaged for another day.

YETAY!

Read the rest of this entry �

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Wrestling History (From My Recollection): Part 3

May 14th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

In yesterday’s installment, I told the tale of how WCW took over the wrestling industry with their triad of successful ideas: the New World Order, the concept of a heel Hulk Hogan and the rise of Bill Goldberg. They ended up squandering all of this through a whole lot of hubris and ego. I can go on and on about the stupid mistakes WCW made, but you might as well just read the book Death of WCW by RD Reynolds and Brian Alvarez. WWF fell on its ass and got itself back up by finding its new identity and putting everything behind Steve Austin and the Rock. Their head writer Vince Russo, fed up with a lot of stuff, decided to take a hike and become WCW’s savior.

A lot of Russo’s success in WWF came from having a filter to take out some of his worse ideas or reshaping them into something better. With no filter and a bit of an ego trip, Russo’s time in WCW can best be described as a Dadaist dream that involved professional wrestling. Nothing made sense and stories would simply vanish completely with no explanation on a weekly basis. Worst of all, he had an obsession with trying to cater to fans who followed backstage goings on (like guys who write overly long history of wrestling blog posts), which was only a small fraction of the audience. He’d write the show so that everyone was just about admitting it was fake, except from whatever they were doing. Like during a match, Goldberg would leave and the commentator would scream about how he’s going off-script. Russo tried to add some kind of meta realism that instead came off as faker than the regular stuff. He ended up getting fired after the brass found some of his ideas too stupid for even them.

In the transition, wrestler Chris Benoit won the WCW Championship on a PPV. Benoit was a staple of sorts in WCW as a shorter guy who could wrestle an incredible match, but wasn’t so good at talking or showing charisma. Basically, he was the anti-Hogan and represented everything that original WCW fans loved. It’s just that with Russo out, the new head writer was Kevin Sullivan. Kevin Sullivan, a former WCW wrestler himself, was the head writer during Hogan’s initial WCW days (would it surprise you that Sullivan made himself the top villain against Hogan during that time? No?). Back when he was writing, Sullivan put his wife Nancy in a storyline with Benoit and decided that they needed to travel together and share hotel rooms on a regular basis to really drive home that on-air chemistry. Long story short, she left Sullivan and went on to become Nancy Benoit. Damn. Benoit and his friends were understandably afraid of what it would be like to have the scorned ex-husband writing the storylines, so they wanted out. Luckily for them, the guy who temporarily replaced Bischoff in terms of being in charge of WCW had no clue about the business and was fine with letting them go with no strings attached. Even though Benoit just won the title hours earlier! The four of them – Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko – showed up on Raw very shortly after and each went on to shine in that company to different extents. Just like other misused talent in WCW like Chris Jericho and the Big Show. Little by little, WWF was siphoning away WCW’s potential.

WCW was also able to bring in an underutilized mid-card wrestler from the competition and push him to the top. When Russo made the jump to WCW, he brought his good friend Jeff Jarrett with him. Jarrett could never break into the upper echelon of the WWF’s names and he spent his days in WCW being shoved down everyone’s throats as a big deal, winning the championship multiple times with few caring. No matter what they tried, it still showed that WWF was right. He wasn’t a big deal. But on the subject of bad choices for world champion…

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Wrestling History (From My Recollection): Part 2

May 13th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

In Part 1, I lazily glossed over the first century of pro wrestling and stopped at the early-mid-90′s. WWF was focused more-or-less on Bret “The Hitman” Hart, though they shoved him in the background to push a badass, near-7-foot-tall trucker named Diesel as champion. As a heel, Diesel got popular due to his ruthless and cool demeanor, but when they turned him face and made him champion, they wussed him down by making him a smiling good guy with no edge. His year as champion was a financial failure as his presence simply failed to draw money. Bret was eventually made champion again.

WCW wasn’t doing much better. This was a company where Hulk Hogan was being dry-humped by a giant mummy that the commentator kept insisting was, “THE YET-AAAY!”

ECW had brought in Steve Austin, fresh off his firing from WCW. He was injured at the time, so he could only do interviews for a while, but good gravy, were they good interviews. It was a weird fit because on one hand, he spent all of his time ranting and raving about how badly WCW treated him, which we were supposed to like. But he’d also run down ECW for being garbage, which we were supposed to hate. It was a definite prototype for what would change the business in the near future. He was soon scooped up by the WWF.

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Wrestling History (From My Recollection): Part 1

May 12th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

I talk about wrestling a lot. I’d like to think that in my 20+ years of following it, I know at least a thing or two. I’ve said it a million times before, but to reiterate, it really is the most intriguing and fascinating business. Maybe that’s why I shrugged off the whole Before Watchmen/Alan Moore controversy going on in the comic world because honestly, that’s nothing compared to the petty and deplorable stuff I’ve seen in the wrestling business and I’m too jaded to care. It has its ups and it has its downs, but ultimately, the history of it all tends to be more entertaining and worth paying attention to than the scripted stories they’re portraying. After all, it’s a business run by power-hungry egomaniacs who act like man-children with many of them either delusional or on drugs.

Just because I thought it would be fun to write about, I thought I would go through the basic history of wrestling in the United States. Something to educate the outsiders looking in, the new viewers who are curious, the people who’ve skipped around, those who stopped watching years ago or the longtime fans who wouldn’t mind sitting back and enjoying a refresher. I want to make this accessible, so I’m going to stray from most insider terms. Since it’ll annoy me, there are some exclusions, so let me get these out of the way:

Face: good guy
Heel: bad guy
Turn: go from good to bad or vice versa
Push: promote and move up the card
Bury: drop down the card or make someone look foolish
Booker: writer

I should reiterate that this is my take on everything. I’m sure it isn’t accurate, but I figure it’s close enough. Again, I only intend to cover the US stuff, since I don’t know the slightest about Mexico, Canada, Japan or Europe.

Professional wrestling started up in the late 19th century, usually in the form of a carnival sideshow. At first, it was a legitimate fight, usually between the wrestler and anyone who thought they could take him, but over time, the brains behind the operations realized that if the challenger was in on it, they could make more money with less risk. The popularity spread across the decades enough that federations were built up, each with their own championship and everything. The territory days made it pretty easy for a wrestler to keep himself fresh, as once things got sour, they were able to simply move on to the next territory and start anew. For instance, a wrestler could gain a reputation as an unbeatable monster villain, eventually make a couple other wrestlers look better by beating him. Eventually, he’ll lose his fictional luster and is no longer considered much of a threat, but then he can travel elsewhere and be seen as an unbeatable monster again, starting the cycle over.

The first wrestler to truly catch the public’s eye was Gorgeous George, a heel who decided to add an excessive amount of flair to his pretty boy character to the point that the fans were in a frenzy whenever he showed up. He was rude, vain, pampered and insulting and the fans paid hand over fist for the possibility of seeing someone shut him up. With the advent of television, he became a media superstar and would be credited for inspiring Muhammad Ali’s charismatic personality.

With the territory system, many federations were able to coexist without too many problems and they even did business with each other regularly. Vince McMahon Sr., who ran the World Wide Wrestling Federation, would rent out his superstar Andre the Giant to other territories and bring them huge business. In the early 80′s, Vince Sr. sold the WWWF to his son Vincent Kennedy McMahon, a genius in his own right who has more issues than Time Magazine. Soon after Vince Sr.’s death, his son went against the big territorial truce and decided to dominate professional wrestling. While wrestling companies were shown on local TV, Vince made his renamed World Wrestling Federation national and overshadowed the rest of the market. He bought off the biggest names from different territories and stacked up the WWF to the point that it was like the Yankees.

The WWF’s poster boy was Hulk Hogan, an entertaining big man who became a breakout star after appearing in Rocky 3 as Thunderlips. McMahon started a partnership with the then-new cable channel MTV as a way to team up and play off each other in the name of promotion. The Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection was created, pushing both sides harder into the media limelight. McMahon incorporated as many celebrities as possible, leading to the first installment of his big event Wrestlemania. While the show is a bit rough to watch due to today’s standards, the main event, which featured Hogan teaming up with Mr. T, helped it do gangbusters.

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The Top 60 Wrestling Matches That Surprisingly Happened (20-1)

December 18th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Before I finish the countdown, here are some honorable mentions.

Bob Backlund vs. Shawn Michaels happened after Michaels initially went heel and before Backlund went all crazy. I was told that in IWA-Mid South, there was Austin Aries vs. Mr. Anderson in a match where CM Punk was on commentary ragging on how terrible Daredevil was. For comedy entries, there was the time Carl Winslow and Steve Urkel fought the Bushwackers as well as a masked Mr. Ernst vs. Captain Lou Albano on Hey Dude. Brock Lesnar and Ron Waterman vs. Rico and Randy Orton as a Raw dark match is an oddball encounter, but I thought Lesnar and Orton were better represented elsewhere on the list. Umaga vs. Kamala on Raw was a cool generational gimmick pairing in the same light as Hall vs. Carlito, but their encounters were set up strongly enough on TV that there’s not enough obscurity in there.

To refresh your memory, 60-41 is here and 40-21 is here.

Now let’s get to the good stuff.

20) ESSA RIOS vs. SAMOA JOE
WWF, 2001
YouTube
Suggested by Dr. Video Games 0055

This one’s a bit of shock to me, not for the appearance by Samoa Joe, but the knowledge that Essa Rios was around in 2001 WWF. I have no memory of that. For those who don’t recall, Rios was a highflyer with an amazing moonsault who’s biggest claim to fame is introducing Lita as his manager. Once Lita split, he faded into obscurity and unemployment. His match with the wonky-looking-compared-to-how-we-remember-him Samoa Joe was good for the in-ring stuff, but only if you watch it with the sound off. The commentary had Coach and Michael Hayes not only discussing the XFL for way too long, but discussing the storyline between Jesse Ventura and Coach Rusty Tillman. God, that was one of the saddest things. McMahon really wanted some kind of on-air rivalry, so he had Ventura try to overly criticize Tillman. Ventura got into it, but Tillman refused to care. He just wanted to coach football and leave this soap opera crap out of it. Yet you had this awesome match going on and the commentators were forced to talk about this made-up hatred. Even when they got to actual wrestling angles, their dialogue came off as extremely forced.

With the actual match, we got some really keen spots, including a Samoa Joe powerbomb reversed into a DDT. Essa Rios won, but Samoa Joe looked pretty good for a guy taking the nameless jobber role.

19) ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER vs. ZEUS
WWC, 1990
YouTube

Normally I wouldn’t have cared about this match if it wasn’t for how brief Tiny “Zeus” Lister’s wrestling career even was. The guy was an actor whose role in a bad movie spun off into a feud with Hulk Hogan that lasted about four months. So what the hell was he doing against Abdullah of all people? What made WWC think he was worth bringing in other than his status as having main-evented Summerslam?

Not only was it a bad match, but it was bad and way too long. Zeus was only able to do four things: flail his arms around like windmills as a way of punching, bearhugs, strangleholds and pounding his chest while looking intimidating. The last thing was the only one he could do believably. While Hogan and Beefcake were good enough performers (yes, I’m serious) to work around Zeus and make him seem almost acceptable, Abdullah had none of that magic. He just stood there for the 12 minutes and absorbed the punishment while looking bloody and dazed. When Abdullah got offense in, the only reason Zeus sold any of it was because he looked like he had tired himself out more than anything else. The match ended with the two brawling to the back and being counted out. Throughout the match, the Puerto Rican crowd rained garbage into the ring and I think at one point some of them left the building to gather more garbage from neighboring buildings so they could throw that too!

Front row kid in the pink shirt loved that shit, though.

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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.

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