20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 17

January 23rd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: October 30, 2007
Company: WWE
Show: ECW
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: None
Roster: Big Daddy V, the Great Khali, Mark Henry and Kane

I will defend WWE’s ECW reprise to my grave. While there were some tremendous missteps, the show was my favorite part of WWE every week. Once it found its groove, it was a place where new wrestlers could debut and make a name for themselves, old wrestlers could get a new lease on life, guys could have awesome matches with simple-yet-effective booking and once somebody got popular, they’d be drafted away to a wrestling show that people actually watched. So really, it was a lot like the old ECW.

Today’s topic is something that I really can’t defend as part of that. In attempts to get ratings early on, WWE would put high-profile wrestlers in the main events. The main example was Big Show’s ECW title reign where he’d take on the likes of Ric Flair and Batista because of his fighting champion status. Today’s match takes place the night before Halloween from a show that features both Nunzio trick-or-treating with some kids while dressed as Dracula and Tommy Dreamer wrestling while costumed as Paul Heyman.

Because of the Halloween theme, the powers that be decided on a Monster Mash battle royal. The idea is that it would feature four “monster” wrestlers going at it: Kane, Mark Henry, Great Khali and Big Daddy V. There were a lot of other guys they could have included at the time, like Snitsky, Umaga and the Boogeyman, but I guess they figured not to go overboard on it.

I should note that Kane is the only face in this match and while all four men were on the ECW roster at some point before or after this, Big Daddy V is the only ECW guy at the time of the match. He’s also gross as hell due to his various manboobs flopping around.

There is one thing about this match that I absolutely love and redeems everything about it. Throughout the night, they’d hype up the match with a series of vignettes for each competitor (barring Kane, who got to cut his own promo). Each one was overly dramatic and narrated by a Boris Karloff impersonator who proceeded to make each guy sound pants-shittingly scary.

“A leviathan creature driven by malice, the Great Khali yearns to crush all who stand in his path.”

Holy shit. Why couldn’t they do more promos like this? They should have Fake Boris hyping up Ryback matches.

As the match begins, it really isn’t all that terrible. Sure, they’re moving in slow motion, but it starts out strong enough. The three heels try to corner Kane and he evades them, then fights back. Henry and Big Daddy V blame each other for this and go at it with a series of strength-testing running shoulders. Then they both bounce the ropes and collide like two trains.


So, hey, this isn’t so bad. Henry briefly holds up Kane in an almost Angle Slam-type position and almost gets him out. Kane goes back to fighting everyone and the match finally jumps the shark when Henry shoves Kane into Big Daddy V for a Black Hole Slam. Maybe it worked on paper, but…

Wait, wait! He can do that better! Give Viscera a mulligan!

Eh, never mind.

Henry and Khali grapple in the corner, allowing Big Daddy V to crush them both with an Avalanche. He tries the same on Kane but misses, allowing Kane to clothesline him into the ropes and lift him right out of there. Hey, it at least looks impressive.

Khali puts Kane in the Vice Grip, then turns his attentions to doing the same to Henry. Kane and Henry team up and send Khali out of there with a double clothesline. A very slow double clothesline, but an effective one nonetheless. Now we’re down to Kane vs. Mark Henry. On one hand, they’re the two best workers in the match. On the other hand, that’s really not saying a lot.

The two go back and forth for a bit and Kane seems to have things in the bag. He climbs to the top to do his leaping clothesline. Of course, the #1 rule when fighting Mark Henry is that you NEVER. EVER. JUMP AT HIM.

Henry seems pretty into his victory and being crowned King of the Monsters. Not that this match really means anything in the long run. It’s never mentioned ever again and isn’t used to springboard Henry into anything. Granted, his return to ECW down the line would lay the seeds for his build to relevance, but the Monster Mash battle royal is independent of that.

Still, the match was only four and a half minutes, so at least it was short. Speaking of short, check back in tomorrow for the next battle royal.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 15

January 21st, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: July 17, 2007 (aired on July 20, 2007)
Company: WWE
Show: Smackdown
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: Winner becomes World Heavyweight Champion
Roster (20): Batista, Deuce, Domino, Kenny Dykstra, Eugene, Fit Finlay, Sho Funaki, the Great Khali, Chavo Guerrero, Matt Hardy, Mark Henry, Kane, Jamie Knoble, Brett Major, Brian Major, Chris Masters, Shannon Moore, Montel Vontavious Porter, Dave Taylor, Jimmy Wang Yang

I wouldn’t wish injury on an active wrestler, but it’s hard not to admit that injuries make things interesting in the long run. By-the-numbers storylines are suddenly shaken up and the writers scramble to make sense of things and make a show worth watching. As intriguing as it can be, it doesn’t always work out for the better. Today’s entry, for example.

Recently, World Heavyweight Champion Edge had defeated eternal #1 contender Batista in a match where if Batista lost, he wouldn’t be allowed to challenge Edge for the title again. Edge moved on to starting a feud with Kane while Batista answered an open challenge from heavily-pushed and still fresh monster the Great Khali. Two matches set up for the upcoming Great American Bash. Unfortunately, Edge got injured about a week before the PPV. Teddy Long had no choice but to strip him of the title and being that this is Teddy Long, he decided to put the vacated title on the line with a battle royal, playa.

The battle royal has only a few viable names in it, which explains the winner. All in all, it’s a pretty entertaining set of segments.

Once the bell rings, Batista goes right for Khali, then gets distracted by fighting Mark Henry. Everyone just kind of wanders around getting into fights and our first elimination comes a minute in when Henry does away with both Major Brothers.

Goodbye, pre-Ryder.

Henry and Khali both go to town on their opponents, laying waste to the entire ring. Soon there are only two left standing.

So much for that showdown. Most of the wrestlers team up to hoist Henry out of the ring. They even celebrate, which JBL points out is a stupid idea because they still have Batista, Kane and Khali to contend with.

Batista shows off his own impressive strength when being attacked by Deuce and Domino. They have him choked into the second rope, but he grabs them by the heads and is able to throw them both over the top rope from his unfortunate position. Not bad.

Batista and Kane have a showdown, not unlike Henry vs. Khali in the sense that it doesn’t go down. Instead of having everyone rush them, it’s just Jamie Knoble, whose angry strikes are rewarded with a swift elimination. Eugene thinks this is awesome, but his enthusiasm doesn’t help him.

At the time of the match, Chavo and Jimmy Wang Yang are feuding over the Cruiserweight Championship. They have a cool moment where they save each other from the wrath of Chris Masters and eliminate him together. Chavo turns on Yang, but gets eliminated by the Asian cowboy in response. Yang ends up lasting quite a while until being pulled out of the ring by Hornswoggle. Yet again, Hornswoggle ruins everything.

Batista and Kane briefly team up to get Khali out of there, but they’re out of luck and he powers through, shoving both across the ring. He takes apart both mega-faces, but then the only other competitor left in the match, Finlay, shows up with his shillelagh. 2007/2008 was an awesome time when it came to this. Back during the Finlay/McMahon angle about Hornswoggle being Vince’s son, Smackdown was filled with matches that ended with Finlay beating the everloving shit out of Khali with that shillelagh. It ruled every single time.

Kane puts an end to this by choking him. As he lifts him up for the slam, Batista rushes out of nowhere and Spears Kane down. Batista flings Finlay out of there and continues his duel with Kane. The two grapple while leaning against the ropes, Khali comes by and takes them both out in one go. The Great Khali, the immobile man given a push because he’s really tall, is the World Heavyweight Champion.

Um… You’re… You’re holding it upside-down. Khali? You’re—eh, forget it.

I suppose it makes sense. They couldn’t give it to Batista after spending all that effort on that “no more title shots against Edge” stipulation. They couldn’t give it to Kane because injuring the champ and suddenly becoming champ in his place is really not face behavior. Mark Henry wasn’t as over as a top heel, Finlay was never going to reach that plateau and Matt Hardy was feuding for a lesser title. Khali at least gave Batista something to chase after.

And chase he did. Batista and Kane had a #1 contender’s match later that night. There was a draw, so they had a Triple Threat against Khali at the Great American Bash (two days after this battle royal aired, remember). Khali retained and had a celebration on Smackdown. It was a strange segment, as Khali danced around with some Indian women and Batista showed up to angrily annihilate everything and attack Khali. If you showed it to someone who didn’t follow WWE and didn’t listen to the crowd reaction, you’d swear that Khali was the good guy with Batista out to destroy fun.

A couple months later, Batista defeated Khali in another Triple Threat Match, this time with Rey Mysterio as the third man. They had a rematch in the infamously silly Punjabi Prison Match, where Batista finally won the feud.

Khali is a unique one. While I don’t like that he became champ, I don’t hate him as much as everyone else. I consider him to be a challenge for people to put on decent matches. Khali can only do so much in terms of mobility and variety, but it is possible to carry him into something watchable. Hell, Sheamus got a good match out of him once, if you believe that. He’s not so much a wrestler as he is a human obstacle course.

Plus whenever I hear that one song by Blondie, I always like to pretend she’s singing about the Punjabi Playboy.

Khali! (Khali!) On the line
Khali, Khali, any, anytime
Khali! (Khali!) My love
When you’re ready we can share the wine

Anyone else do this? Can you start so I can feel less awkward about it?

Tomorrow is keeping it in 2007. In fact, we’re just going to hang out in 2007 for a while if you don’t mind.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 13

January 19th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: October 7, 2005
Company: WWE
Show: Velocity
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: Winner gets a Cruiserweight Championship title shot at No Mercy
Roster (7): Funaki, Juventud Guerrera, Brian Kendrick, Paul London, Psicosis, Scotty 2 Hotty and Super Crazy

My choice for this update was going to be one of two matches. Either an X-Division Royal Rumble type match from 2004 TNA or this 7-man battle royal from Velocity. While the TNA one had some pretty cool spots and LA Park was there, I didn’t find there to be all that much to talk about. Velocity, on the other hand, gives me an excuse to talk about Tazz and his best commentary.

Velocity was a wonderful shelter away from Vince McMahon’s meddling, especially in the commentary sense. Just about everything terrible on WWE commentary these days is because of McMahon talking into Lawler and Cole’s headsets. Cole burying the roster, Lawler making jokes about Vickie Guerrero’s weight, the blatant fake laughter as a way to insist that Hornswoggle is so damn funny are all McMahon’s doing. At the same time, there’s always going to be the D-list show that he gives zero shits about, meaning he doesn’t find himself micromanaging. These days, that would be NXT.

That means you got a show that featured awesome matches alongside Tazz and Josh Matthews talking about God knows what. Their banter was absolutely weird, but entertaining as all hell. Did you know Tazz hates the solar system? Tazz can’t stand the solar system.

Unfortunately, I found that Tazz isn’t doing commentary for this match. Ah well. That doesn’t change his stance on the solar system, though. This is during a nearly forgotten time in WWE history where the Raw/Smackdown roster separation was in such full swing that they had PPVs that were independent from each other, outside of the usual big shows like Wrestlemania and Survivor Series. You can tell because Josh Matthews is trying to hype up a PPV match that involves Simon Dean.

At the time when the Cruiserweight division is healthy, the champion is Nunzio, heeling it up with Johnny the Bull as his enforcer. Interesting thing here is that of the seven guys involved in this #1 contender battle royal, three of them are in the same stable. Super Crazy, Psicosis and Juventud are the Mexicools, one of the all-time most racist gimmicks in professional wrestling.

As everyone makes their way to the ring, Nunzio and Johnny the Bull show up to watch the proceedings. The bell rings, everyone starts pounding on each other and over the next few minutes, it becomes apparent why I enjoy this one more than the X-Division showdown. With the bigger ring, these guys have more room to do their thing and it’s far less sloppy. Every elimination as well as plenty of spots are incredibly crisp and easy on the eyes.

Amidst the chaos, the first elimination comes from Brian Kendrick as he and Psicosis go back and forth with some high-flying offense and counters. Out of nowhere, Kendrick forces Psicosis into the ropes, steps back and then lariats the HELL out of him to the outside. Despite Kendrick’s size, Psicosis makes him look like a Serpentor-style clone made out of JBL, Stan Hansen and Nigel McGuiness’ DNA.

Now we’re at an even number and we get everyone pairing off. The next elimination comes a few minutes later when Funaki tries to do a Tornado DDT on Super Crazy. It doesn’t work out for him.

Kendrick throws Scotty out, but Scotty skins the cat and comes back in. Super Crazy sees this from the other side of the ring, runs around the others and nails him immediately with a clothesline, finishing the job. We’re down to four men in the form of two tag teams. London whips Juventud at Super Crazy, who instinctively backdrops him over the top. Juventud saves himself and is notably pissed at his apologetic partner. It’s okay, though, as Super Crazy gets his.

The final three fight it out and Kendrick and London have no problem going at each other. There’s not much of a team-up aspect here. Just a couple minutes of sweet every-man-for-himself action only with less gravity involved. Kendrick sends Juventud into the corner and does one of those running backflip moves, only London sees it coming, dashes over and shoves him in mid-air, sending Kendrick flying. London shrugs at his buddy as Juventud stands in the opposite corner, pointing at his final challenge.

This is a little over a year before Undertaker and Shawn Michaels had their legendary finale to the 2007 Rumble, so it was still pretty new to see the finalists in a battle royal have a lengthy back and forth tussle where either side can win. As Nunzio watches in amazement, London and Juventud are completely evenly matched. Lots of cool spots that lead to the two both staring up at the lights at the same time.

The final moments come from the two fighting in the corner. London tries to throw Juventud out, but he holds on, powering through London’s kicks. He tries suplexing London out, but London saves himself and the two brawl on top of the corner post, both in danger of an easy elimination. Superplex and powerbomb attempts go nowhere and London ends up stomping down on Juventud, trying to drive him to the floor. Juventud gets up onto the apron, the two collide and both wrestlers hang with both hands on the top rope. As they dangle, London keeps swaying and kicking Juventud in the stomach.

Juventud simply picks his spot.

Juventud wins and goes on to defeat Nunzio for the Cruiserweight Championship at No Mercy. Juvi would lose and regain the title over the next couple months and unfortunately get released in early January. Apparently, he didn’t listen when they told him not to keep doing that flippy move that broke Paul London’s face.

Tune in tomorrow as we see the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection that didn’t work out so well.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Prelude

January 6th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Later this month, it’ll be time for WWE’s annual PPV the Royal Rumble. Despite the Rock/CM Punk main event, the real draw for me is – and always will be – the 30-man Royal Rumble match. No matter my feelings on the current WWE product, I’ll always be game for this annual match. I’ve already shown my love for it with a big list of my favorites, so it’s not like I can visit that well again.

Instead, I’m going to talk about the pie that the Rumble is a piece of. It’s an offshoot of the whole battle royal concept and while the “one man enters every two minutes” thing makes it the best version of the battle royal, there’s much to be said about the match type. I have no idea when the first battle royal started, but there’s something so fun about a gigantic match of every dude in the area fighting it out at once to see who’s the best. It gives a real feeling of unpredictability as even though a couple guys in there may have a real shot at winning, the idea that it’s anyone’s game from the very beginning is appealing.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to begin 20 Days of Battle Royals. No list of worst-to-best like I’d usually do. Just a look, in chronological order, of notable battle royals from the various big wrestling companies. A lot of these I’ve seen and recall fondly. Some are terrible pieces of wrestling history that are worth poking fun at. A couple I’ve never even seen before, but recognize them as notable enough to discuss.

Some honorable mentions that I won’t give full entries to because I’ve covered them in some way before over the years:

– The Royal Rumbles, natch. This includes the 15-man Rumble they had on Smackdown in 2004 to create a #1 contender for Brock Lesnar at No Way Out.

– The ECW King of the Hill Battle Royal, which was like a Royal Rumble only tag teams were allowed to enter together under the idea that if they won, they’d split the winnings. Coincidentally, the first episode of ECW TV I’ve ever seen.

– A ridiculous 108-man Royal Rumble put together on New Year’s Eve by Big Japan Pro Wrestling, Dramatic Dream Team and Kaientai Dojo.

– The Wrestlemania battle royals. I’ve also covered these in my old Wrestlemania Countdown and while I suppose I could touch on the dark match battle royals they’ve done, none were notable enough to make the final cut. Though Heidenreich and Hurricane briefly befriending each other sure was fun.

Look how pumped Simon Dean is!

– The Immunity Battle Royal from Survivor Series 2001. With the main event being WWF vs. the WCW/ECW Alliance with the winning side getting complete control, they had a battle royal of midcarders where the winner was immune to being fired. Alliance member Test winning made the main event even more obvious than it already was.

– The 15-man Brisbane Cup Battle Royal in 2009. I haven’t mentioned this one before and I really don’t know who won and there’s no footage of the entire thing. I only mention it here as an excuse to post this clip.

I’ll start it off tomorrow as we go all the way back to 1987.

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

July 1st, 2012 Posted by Gavok

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

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

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

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

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

Hot damn, this actually isn’t bad!

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

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

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Wrestling History (From My Recollection): Conclusion

May 16th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Yesterday went from the early-mid 00’s to the beginning of this decade, meaning we’re just about done.

As WWE hit the 2010’s, it became pretty hard to endure for two reasons. One, it became more and more apparent that their storylines were written on an hour-to-hour basis instead of being agreed on in advance. This is mainly due to McMahon being a mentally questionable dude. The sloppy storytelling had led to such promising and exciting storylines as the Nexus – the contestants from the first NXT season, who had become united against the Raw roster – petering out into a mess of bad ideas. Or Sheamus, a badass and dominant heel who became champ in record time and then went on to become a coward at the drop of a hat, ruining much of his appeal.

The other reason, which was arguably worse, was the idea of turning commentator Michael Cole heel. It started with the first season of NXT, which involved the debut of Daniel Bryan, who as I mentioned before was a big name in the indies. Cole would constantly rag on him for being worthless in every way possible. It’s hard to say if this was punishment for being semi-famous elsewhere, a way to set up Bryan giving Cole his comeuppance or a mix of both. Either way, it didn’t matter because comeuppance means very little when it’s a wrestler attacking a non-wrestler unless it’s an authority figure of some kind. Especially when this non-wrestler has an hour a week to rail on you verbally. Cole went from just hating Bryan to hating everyone on the roster other than a select few. This was entirely problematic. He rarely ever got his much-needed retribution and it didn’t stop him from going off on everyone on the roster for 4-7 hours a week. They seriously had a guy making fun of everyone to the point that WWE’s forcing you to hear about how they’re a company of worthless jokes. He was the antithesis of hype and outright made watching WWE a chore.

Eventually, they realized their folly and gradually brought him back to being a kind of okay commentator. Bryan himself endured several losing streaks, Cole’s constant barrage of insults, a temporary situation where he was fired for a really stupid reason and the issue of being a small man in a big man’s business. He won one of the two major championships, turned heel and slowly began to show how much personality he really had. He’s reached the point where McMahon seems to respect him for tolerating his mistreatment without a single complaint and the crowd has embraced him as a huge heel who’s fun to hate and even more fun to like.

As for Punk, he never got to be much more than a punching bag for whatever major face they were trying to push. He spent about a year or so losing nearly every major match and Punk himself was getting pretty tired of it. His contract was coming up and he wasn’t intent on keeping on. Since the general rule of thumb is for the guy leaving to go out defeated, WWE set up Cena (champion) vs. CM Punk at the PPV Money in the Bank 2011, which was in Punk’s hometown of Chicago. Punk publicly brought up that he was on his way out and threatened to leave the company with the championship, thereby making it a callback to his exit of ROH, only this time he was threatening to leave WWE for ROH. He even MENTIONED ROH on WWE TV during a planned segment where he got to get a lot of genuine opinions on the company and its fans off his chest. The story became huge and behind-the-scenes, agreements were made that Punk wouldn’t be leaving after all, despite appearing to in the storyline. He ended up winning the title and skipped town, leaving the company without a champion.

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Wrestling History (From My Recollection): Part 4

May 15th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Last time, I went from the dying days of WCW to the beginning of John Cena’s seemingly endless run as WWE’s top guy.

A big name I haven’t talked about in a while is Triple H. While Austin, Mick Foley/Mankind and Rock left the company in the early 2000’s, Triple H continued to rise to the top. A storyline marriage to Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie led to the two getting together and becoming married for real. Triple H spent most of these years as a heel and became rather unbearable as a top name. He was champion for most of the time, would drone on for about 20 minutes at the opening of every show and when tasked with feuding against rising faces who really needed the big win to make them superstars, Triple H instead used his backstage pull to stay on top and win the matches. The most notable is his match against Booker T at Wrestlemania 19, where the lead-up featured Triple H heavily insinuating that black people don’t get to become champion. Logic would dictate that Booker would HAVE to win in the end, but Triple H beat him rather decisively and Booker’s career never really recovered. Other people who have feuded with Triple H and had their careers hurt in one way or another include Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Chris Benoit, Kane, Randy Orton and Sheamus. When confronted about this in interviews, Triple H would reflect on how much he was buried due to his Ultimate Warrior match and the year following the MSG Incident and still became a top guy despite not having to beat anyone major… willfully ignoring everything Mick Foley did for him. Triple H was sneaky like Hogan, but smart enough not to ever let it bite him on the ass, while also a far better performer. Hogan burned too many bridges while Triple H is set to run the WWE when McMahon steps down for good.

Speaking of Hogan burning bridges, I have to hit a tangent and mention one of his funnier moments. Hogan made the occasional appearance for a special feud now and again as he and McMahon were still under good terms from the post-WCW run. Shawn Michaels had returned from a lengthy back injury after four years and a story was set up where he begged Hogan to come out of retirement for one last match. They teamed up a couple times and Michaels attacked Hogan out of nowhere so set up Hogan vs. Michaels. The idea was that they’d have two matches as faces with Michaels winning one and Hogan winning the other. Once it was in motion, Hogan nixed the plans and used his political power to make it so that Michaels was the heel so that Hogan didn’t have to worry about a crowd that would either be split or even booing him. Then he finagled it so that there would only be one match, taking place at Summerslam 05, and he’d win before leaving for another year. The thing about Michaels during all that time he was injured is that he had found God and became a better man, working to undo the asshole he was during the 90’s. He’d eventually even make peace with Bret Hart over their mutual hatred and the Montreal Incident. That said, based on what a turdburglar Hogan was being, Michaels went back to his old ways when the match happened and in this case, two wrongs made a right. Sometimes a wrestler would mess with an opponent he outright hated by going off-script and acting unaffected by the offensive attacks. Michaels went the other direction, acting as if everything Hogan did to him was equal to being hit by a speeding truck. He flew all around the ring and flopped across the mat like a fish at every punch and kick, making Hogan look like a complete fool.

The John Cena backlash increased the more his endless title reign became unbearable, coming to a head when conniving heel Edge won the belt off of him through an unfair-yet-amusing way. The ratings suddenly spiked in reaction to this momentous shift, but it was quickly smacked back down. The company was insistent on setting up John Cena vs. Triple H at Wrestlemania 22, so they almost immediately had Cena win back the belt. Amusingly, Triple H was very critical of Kurt Angle, who feuded with Cena months earlier and couldn’t get the fans to boo him over Cena, even when he referred to himself as a Jesus-hating racist. Despite Triple H’s criticisms, he too ended up getting cheered like crazy at the show despite being the heel. With Edge no longer in the title picture, the ratings dropped back down to normal.

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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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Dictator vs. Wrestler: Vega and the Vegan

March 29th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Wrestlemania 28 is a couple days away and I feel the need to write up something on it. So let’s see… wrestling… wrestling… I could always talk about—no, I did that already. Um… Oh! I can talk about my favorite wrestler, right? Sure! Right now my favorite would probably be current World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan. Second favorite, actually, but I’ve already written at length about Mark Henry, so I’ll go with the American Dragon.

Daniel Bryan’s really come into his own as Smackdown’s top heel. He’s also garnered quite a smark following to his recent heel catchphrase. Whenever he wins, survives a match with the title or even stands in the corner during an AJ victory, he begins to loudly celebrate and scream, “YES! YES! YES! YES!”

It didn’t take long for the internet to put 2 and SF2 together by merging it with a meme about M. Bison during the Street Fighter Saturday morning cartoon from the 90’s. In a scene, Bison reacted a little too happily to seeing Guile get beaten up by a mutant and the show went to commercial on a dramatic cliffhanger of him screaming, “YES! YEEEEESSSS!” Maffew from Botchamania had his own version, but here it is simplified.

That got me thinking. The similarities between M. Bison and D-Bryan go further than that. You just have to dig deeper and see that the villain of Street Fighter and the villain of Smackdown exist more as counterparts than you’d think. For the hell of it, here are some comparisons between the two.

M. Bison was originally named Vega, but when Street Fighter 2 came to America, they had to change him to M. Bison due to legal reasons.

Daniel Bryan was born Bryan Danielson and wrestled under that name until coming to WWE. Then they changed his name so they could hold onto the marketing of his image. According to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla canon, Bryan’s true name is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, which happened to be the same real name of opponent Kenny Omega.

M. Bison claims that, “This place will become your grave!”

Daniel Bryan got buried for 90% of his WWE tenure.

In Street Fighter x Tekken, M. Bison is accompanied by Juri, a pandering minx of a fighter who should by every reason want to kill him for all the abuse he’s put her through.

Daniel Bryan is accompanied by his GIRLFRIEND AJ, a pandering minx of a wrestler who should by every reason want to kill him for all the abuse he’s put her through.

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