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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 8

January 14th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: January 11, 1999
Company: WWF
Show: Monday Night Raw
Rules: Royal Rumble
Stipulation: Winner gets the #30 spot in the 1999 Royal Rumble
Roster (10): The Big Boss Man, Chyna, “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn, Kane, Vince McMahon, Road Dogg, Ken Shamrock, Test, Triple H, X-Pac

Ah, the late 90′s. The Attitude Era. The Monday Night Wars. A golden age of talent, even though Vince Russo was the guy writing the show. Swerves and over-booking all over the place during his latter days in the WWF. That’s the main reason why I consider the ’99 Royal Rumble to be the “least best” Rumble in that it’s just too busy. But hey, at least it’s better than the mini-Rumble that precedes it.

Vince McMahon has been stuck in his highly-successful feud with Steve Austin, not to mention a side-feud between his Corporation and the stable D-Generation X. McMahon made sure that Austin’s role in the Rumble would be automatically at #1 and penciled himself in at #30 to make sure Austin had no chance in Hell. Commissioner Shawn Michaels finagled with that idea and made it so that McMahon would be #2.

Amidst this big Corporation/DX feud, McMahon decided to put together a Corporate Royal Rumble. A smaller-scaled Rumble featuring only members of both stables where the winner would earn the #30 spot. We know we’re in for some bad times once we see that Shane McMahon is doing commentary.

If you’ve never experienced it, Shane’s commentary is as bad as his punches.

We’re off to a wonderful start when Corporation member Ken Shamrock eliminates himself immediately by jumping over the top rope to get at entrant #2, Billy Gunn. It isn’t a total loss of logic, as Shamrock spends the next minute or so beating the crap out of Mr. Ass, slamming his head into the steps repeatedly until the Big Boss Man is out next. Shamrock leaves and allows Boss Man to continue the beating. At #4, the New Age Outlaws theme plays, but it’s Test who runs out to help out Boss Man. Whoops.

Things finally start to go DX’s way slightly when X-Pac comes out. Then Test eliminates Gunn and we’re back to square one. Road Dogg comes out to even the odds, but then Kane – representing the Corporation – puts it back in their court, eliminating Road Dogg and making it 3-on-1. Triple H runs out next and while he’s overwhelmed, he still tricks Test into clotheslining Kane, who doesn’t budge, but isn’t very happy.

The ring gets cleared until it’s just Triple H vs. Boss Man. On paper, we have all of our announced entries, but then Vince McMahon comes out as #9 and causes Triple H to stop working on Boss Man. Boss Man gets up and the two grapple near the ropes. Vince rushes in and eliminates both at the same time. Boss Man is confused at first, but then celebrates his boss’ victory.

Vince is happy because he’s cheated the system. Now he’s #30! …Or is he?

Chyna comes out last, showing that DX also has some surprises in store. Patterson and Brisco try to prevent her entry, but she takes a swing at both. We don’t get any real Vince vs. Chyna battling as Steve Austin walks out for the sake of getting in Vince’s face. Vince is distracted by this and Chyna takes advantage.

Chyna wins a spot as the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble, doing so at #30. It didn’t really do her much good. In the Rumble itself, she eliminated Mark Henry and then Austin immediately threw her out. The whole thing was a convoluted mess that ended with Vince McMahon winning at #2 and Austin getting the Wrestlemania title shot anyway.

That’s what you get when you play with Russo. Speaking of him, the next update is another one of his babies, only off in WCW. Come check it out.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 6

January 12th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: February 16, 1997
Company: WWF
Show: In Your House 13: The Final Four
Rules: Pins and submissions allowed
Stipulation: Winner becomes WWF Champion
Roster (4): Bret “The Hitman” Hart, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the Undertaker and Vader

The 1997 Royal Rumble ended with some controversy. Bret Hart eliminated Steve Austin while the refs were too busy dealing with an eliminated Mankind. Despite the crowd and cameras seeing everything clearly, nobody official noticed Austin was gone, so he got back in, threw out the Undertaker and Vader at the same time, waited for Bret to finish off Fake Diesel, then eliminated Bret to win the match. Bret was understandably pissed and Undertaker and Vader weren’t so happy either. For the next In Your House PPV, it was decided that they’d redo the final four (minus Fake Diesel, who was eliminated fairly) and the winner would become #1 contender against champion Shawn Michaels.

Plans change. Michaels made this big announcement that his knee wasn’t up to snuff and that he “lost his smile”. He gave up the WWF Championship and walked off into the sunset. Because of that, the Final Four match became for the vacated championship.

Really weird to have a PPV main event that’s just a four-man battle royal, but at the time, there’s a real feeling that any four of these guys could come out the winner. Remove the battle royal aspect and make it pin/submission only and it’s suddenly far too big for just an In Your House show. One cool little aspect of this match is that there’s no battle royal teamwork that you’d usually see, other than a brief instance of Bret holding back Austin so Undertaker can get a shot or two in. Our two heels are so independent that at no point do they want anything to do with each other.

The match goes a full 25 minutes and it helps that the weak link in terms of workrate is Undertaker. It’s a ton of brawling that’s mostly focused on Bret vs. Austin and Undertaker vs. Vader. They do mix it up quite a bit and the brief Austin vs. Vader heel/heel stuff is intriguing to watch, but we’re mostly treated to two matches going on at the same time. There’s a lot of guys going under the bottom rope for the sake of brawling on the outside.

Very early into the match, Vader runs at Undertaker with a chair and gets it booted right into his face. Vader’s eye pretty much explodes at this point. He doesn’t have a gusher, but it’s open enough that by wrestling for another 20 minutes, his face gets increasingly grosser to the point that it eventually looks like his face is a volcano.

Towards the end, he gets very wobbly and even removes his mask for the sake of vision.

Nearly 20 minutes in, we randomly see a shot of Bret holding Austin across his shoulders and he drops him out with a fireman’s carry. Since we don’t see any lead-up to this, it comes out of nowhere, but Austin is gone. Bret and Undertaker trade headbutts until Vader clips Undertaker’s knee and rolls him to the outside. As Undertaker gets to his feet, Paul Bearer – Vader’s manager at this point – smashes his skull with the urn. Bret wins out against Vader and puts him in the Sharpshooter, but Undertaker gets back in there and breaks the hold just because.

Soon Austin comes back and continues fighting with Bret, leaving us with more Undertaker vs. Vader. Vader takes down Undertaker and sets up for the Vader Bomb in the corner. Undertaker sits up and exploits the open advantage.

Out goes Vader, who later wanders around ringside screaming while covered in a disgusting amount of blood. We’re left with Undertaker vs. Bret, but Undertaker notices Austin is still stomping down on Bret. Undertaker clotheslines him out of the ring and begins to finish Austin’s job by chokeslamming Bret. He holds him up for a Tombstone, but Austin still wants a piece of Bret, so he pulls him off Undertaker’s shoulders. Undertaker keeps getting distracted by having to punch down Austin and after the third time, Bret is able to catch him with a clothesline, sending Undertaker over the top.

Bret Hart is champion for the fourth time while Undertaker wonders what the fuck just happened. Of course, this was originally supposed to be Bret winning a title shot for Wrestlemania so he could get his win back against Michaels, but that guy has a bad knee (which appears to be just fine shortly after) and he lost his smile and… well, what I’m saying is that 90′s Michaels is a jerk.

If anything, this match is an entertaining prelude to the infamous Montreal Incident.

Speaking of taking trips to WCW, tomorrow I’ll cover that company’s three-ring circus.

Oh! Oh, wait! Before you go, I almost forgot. One of the things talked about was that the winner would have to face Sycho Sid on the following Raw. To illustrate that, they’d occasionally show Sid backstage watching the match. Here’s a gif of Sid being King Galoot.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 5

January 11th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 3

January 9th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: January 28, 1991 (broadcast on February 16, 1991)
Company: WWF
Show: Superstars
Rules: One man being eliminated counts for his partner as well
Stipulation: #1 contender spot for WWF Tag Team Championship at Wrestlemania 7
Roster (14): The Bushwhackers (Butch and Luke), Demolition (Smash and Crush), the Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal), the Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags), the Orient Express (Kato and Tanaka), Power and Glory (Hercules and Paul Roma) and the Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty)

Here we go. I started watching wrestling in early 1991, so this is one of my earliest WWF memories. At the time, the tag champs are the Hart Foundation and we’re in the final days of the company having a great tag division. It’s been said that the Legion of Doom were the last time Vince really cared about tag teams and this is the first step in their rising up the ranks.

With the exception of Haku and the Barbarian and, naturally, the tag champs themselves, we have the entire tag division duking it out here for a chance at the belts. Kind of cool to see a battle royal for tag teams being used for #1 contenders in a stipulation they still weren’t using for the Royal Rumble by this point. In fact, the first time someone became #1 contender via Royal Rumble, it was also for the chance to dethrone Bret Hart. Huh.

After two minutes of clusterfuck clobbering all over, the Rockers take out Demolition. First they stagger Crush with a double superkick, then they do a double dropkick that sends Smash to the outside. Crush is annoyed that he has to leave and attacks the Rockers for a moment until accepting his loss. Soon after, the Bushwackers are out. What follows is something I’ve always wondered about as a kid. Jannetty holds Knobbs and Michaels goes for a dropkick. It misses and Jannetty goes flying out.

They get over it, but I was never sure whether or not they were trying to lay down the groundwork for the Rockers split-up at this point. Keep in mind, they spent MONTHS building it up through all kinds of screw-ups on either side. Was it just a cool spot or was this the first step in Shawn Michaels’ amazing singles career? I can never figure out just how long-term that booking really was.

Four teams become three once the ever-forgettable Orient Express are done with. That leaves the Legion of Doom, Nasty Boys and Power and Glory. Despite the heel dominance in the ring, Roma spends the last few moments running from Animal, even getting chased out of the ring, only to be thrown back in. His fate is sealed when Hercules throws Roma at Animal and fails to take him down.

Power and Glory are now out, leaving the Legion of Doom to take apart the Nasty Boys with little problem. As Animal sets up the Doomsday Device, Hawk climbs to the top rope. An annoyed Roma gets on the apron and shoves Hawk’s leg, causing him to fall to the floor. Despite Power and Glory no longer being in the match, that still counts as an elimination and the Legion of Doom are done. The focus appears to be more on Animal angrily glaring at Roma and Hercules as they walk off than on the fact that the Nasty Boys are Wrestlemania-bound.

The Nasty Boys would indeed go on to defeat the Hart Foundation, allowing Bret to go off on his own budding solo career. On the same Wrestlemania 7 undercard, the Legion of Doom got their hands on Power and Glory, destroying them in a fit of swift vengeance less than a minute in length. Said match also gave us the most cringe-worthy Hawk quote of all, “Power and Glory? POWER AND GLORY?! When we’re done with you, you’re gonna be SOUR… and GORY!”

Hawk and Animal earned their right to challenge for the belts and their climactic battle with the Nasty Boys took place months later at Summerslam. The Legion of Doom won their first WWF title victory and the wheels started rolling with this match.

Tomorrow, we’ll have a tag team battle royal of a different sort.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 2

January 8th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: October 6, 1987 (broadcast on October 31, 1987)
Company: WWF
Show: Wrestling Challenge
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: None
Roster (10): Bam Bam Bigelow, Boris Zhukov, Cowboy Bob Orton, “the Rock” Don Muraco, Hercules Hernandez, Junkyard Dog, Nikolai Volkoff, the One Man Gang, Outback Jack and the Ultimate Warrior

I found this piece of WWF history too interesting not to include. It’s probably the shortest televised battle royal in WWE history at just about four minutes and the roster is a peculiar list of who’s who for the 80′s. Seeing a match between two named wrestlers on Challenge was always a rarity, so despite the short length and the fact that it has nothing to do with anything, this would still be considered a treat, all things considered.

What draws me to this is just how interesting and random a cast of midcarders we have here. All of them are memorable in some way and to see them all in one ring is slightly surreal. From Ultimate Warrior, the newcomer who would pin Hulk Hogan years later, to Outback Jack, a poster boy of Wrestlecrap from that era, the thing is a who’s who of WWF in the 80′s. I should note that Outback Jack was also a replacement for an injured Hillbilly Jim.

Even though he’d be the runner up at the first Royal Rumble months later, the massive One Man Gang is out within seconds thanks to the teaming up of Outback Jack and Junkyard Dog. Then Outback Jack is ousted because he sucks. Already less than 30 seconds and we’re down to 8. Despite the shortness, there’s nothing outright bad about the match. It’s entertaining for what there is. The ring gradually shrinks down over the course of the next minute or so and Ultimate Warrior shows off his super strength by pressing Zhukov over his head and flinging him out of there. Though while he’s doing that, Orton has no problem in sneaking up from behind and throwing him out to join Zhukov.

That leaves Bam Bam vs. Orton and Hercules. Yeah, Hercules reaches the end of two battle royals this year. The two heels corner Bam Bam and prepare to waste him. What they aren’t prepared for is CARTWHEELS!

Outside, Don Muraco has decided to stick around for the sake of cheering Bam Bam on. Eventually, Orton and Hercules get their hands on Bam Bam and work him over. After a moment or two of beating on him and nailing a double-clothesline, the two set him up in a corner and do that bit that never seems to work where someone tries to lift out a guy very slowly against their will. It’s usually a stall tactic for any battle royal, especially the Royal Rumble, but here it’s an excuse for Bam Bam to free himself by conking their heads together via his legs. They release the grip and he takes care of them in one fell swoop.

And Bam Bam wins! It’s kind of amazing how strong the company was behind him before he needed knee surgery. A few weeks later, Bam Bam would be part of Hulk Hogan’s team in the main event of the very first Survivor Series. The match ended with Bam Bam left alone against Andre the Giant, King Kong Bundy and One Man Gang. Bam Bam took out Bundy and the Gang, only to hang in there briefly against Andre before being snuffed out. Still, that’s a damn nice boost. Too bad they never did anything with it. The kids in the crowd for this match were crazy into him.

Tomorrow we’re heading into the 90′s for some tag-teaming.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 1

January 7th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: March 14, 1987
Company: WWF
Show: Saturday Night’s Main Event
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: None
Roster (20): Hillbilly Jim, Outlaw Ron Bass, Sika, Haku, Tama, Lanny Poffo, Hercules Hernandez, Butch Reed, Paul Orndorff, Billy Jack Haynes, Koko B. Ware, Nikolai Volkoff, Blackjack Mulligan, Demolition Ax, Demolition Smash, Honky Tonk Man, Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan

Our first battle royal is a bit of a surprise to me. This was before my time and while I vaguely recall seeing a brief clip of this during the hype video at Wrestlemania 3, WWF never really seemed to bring up this Saturday Night’s Main Event bout. Taking place about two weeks before Wrestlemania 3, the big storyline is that Andre the Giant has turned heel and is gunning for Hulk Hogan’s championship after years of friendship. The two are part of this match, making it the real first battle between the two in a WWF ring. What we get is Hogan vs. Andre with everybody else getting in the way.

I should note that Hogan is champ here. It was nice back in the day when people could have a battle royal just because. It didn’t push you into an automatic title shot or give you a role as GM or anything like that. It was all about bragging rights.

It begins with Hogan and Andre closing in and ready to go at it, but then they’re both swarmed by the other 18 guys. From there, the battle royal has four factions: Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, 9 faces and 9 heels. All the heels pile on Hogan while all the faces pile on Andre. For Hogan, he takes a bunch of punishment and occasionally has a spurt of energy that allows him to throw out someone like Honky Tonk Man. Andre, on the other hand, refuses to be overwhelmed and destroys everyone in his way. At one point he even takes Blackjack Mulligan and Hillbilly Jim and effortlessly clobbers them together. The biggest victim of his onslaught is poor Lanny Poffo, who eats a mighty headbutt that splits his head open. He’s tossed out and left on the mat, lying in a pool of his own blood.

Once nearly half of the competitors are done away with at the hands of Hogan and Andre, Orndorff and Hercules get their hands on Hogan. Whether they realize what they’re doing or not, they whip him across the ring and right into Andre, knocking the Giant back a couple feet.

Right there, the two begin to stare down and finally trade blows. Hogan seems like he might have an edge, but Orndorff and Hercules attack him. Though Koko does go after Andre during this, which is hilarious because Andre gives him no notice and smacks him aside. With Hogan distracted from fighting off two of Bobby Heenan’s goons, Andre pulls him in for a headbutt, flings him out of there and gestures a wave of disgust, as if to say, “Good riddance!”

As he taunts the leaving Hogan, who is pulled back by security, Andre is yet again attacked by Koko. Yet again, Andre gives zero fucks.

Once Hogan’s done with, the match loses its flavor because now all the remaining faces and heels join together and overcome Andre. They heave him out of there and it’s down to just a handful of midcarders. It whittles down to Koko and Billy Jack against Hercules and Smash. Koko’s done away with easy enough because he’s Koko, allowing Hercules and Smash to double-team Billy Jack. Ventura laughs at this on commentary because for once, heels are able to beat on the face 2-to-1 and Vince McMahon isn’t allowed to cry about it. Hercules sets Billy Jack up for a double-team attack to soften him up more, but he hops over Hercules and dives into Smash with a clothesline, sending him flying out of the ring.

That leaves it as Billy Jack vs. Hercules, who happen to have a Wrestlemania 3 grudge match set up. Their brawl is very short-lived as Heenan jumps onto the apron. Billy Jack makes a run at him, ends up empty-handed and Hercules uses the opening to flip him out of the ring. Hercules and Heenan celebrate his win, just as they’ll celebrate his eventual victory at the upcoming PPV.

It’s a definite fun match, although it really loses its steam once the main eventers are gone. It’s weird booking to see now, though. I can’t help shake the feeling that if this match happened these days, people would be crying all over about how WWF totally messed up their Hogan/Andre main event by having Andre lose. By showing him to be weak against eight or nine other guys, they’re totally burying Andre and ruining his mystique or some shit.

Tomorrow I’m going to keep it in 1987, only with a far shorter and less important exhibition.

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Crossover Celebration Part 2: The A-Team and the WWE

October 11th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

The big urban legend says that a long-lasting fight between Muhammad Ali and virtual unknown Chuck Wepner inspired Sylvester Stallone to write the screenplay to Rocky. Some say that that isn’t true and that he was inspired by Rocky Graziano’s autobiography Somebody Up There Likes Me. Whichever is true is a pretty heavy incident as like a prime event in a butterfly effect, it had major ramifications on pop culture. I’m not even joking. The creation of Rocky led to the sequels. The third movie springboarded the career of a former bouncer trying to make his way into acting, as well as a lesser-known professional wrestler who would become a household name after a fairly small role in the opening minutes.

As much as I love Mr. T, I’ll concede that his budding career isn’t exactly the most important thing in the world. The rise of Hulk Hogan, on the other hand, is a pretty big deal that may not have happened had he not been given that role opposite Stallone. Mr. T’s fame would increase as part of the ever-so-popular A-Team and he’d have a major role in the World Wrestling Federation’s increasing prominence, including the first two Wrestlemanias. Such a major output was created, possibly because a man refused to go down so easily against the greatest boxer in the world. It’s crazy to think about.

In the mid-80′s there was a time when Hogan and Mr. T seemed inseparable. Mr. T joined Hogan in his war against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, but that was as his stage self. When Hogan would return the favor, he wouldn’t be teaming up with, “First name: Mr. Middle name: Period. Last name: T.” No, he and the world of the WWF would step into the reality of the A-Team.

The A-Team shouldn’t need an introduction, as the opening credits explains things so perfectly. It was probably the manliest of all shows, giving dudes four characters we wish we could be. The calculating genius, the suave ladies man, the lovable lunatic and the take-no-guff badass. All of them helping people while sticking it to a corrupt government. What’s not to love? Well, other than some of the first season and most of the fifth season? Luckily, when Hulk Hogan shows up, it’s during the fourth season when things are still going strong.

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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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