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I have started to write a blog over at

Here is part 1 and part 2 of my Re-Writing Wrestlemania series.

Part 1

I recently discovered and found a Wrestlemania encyclopaedia that was released in 2001 but was written in 2000. This is a interesting time for this encyclopaedia because Wrestlemania was synonymous with one man and that one man had now been with WWE fiercest rivals WCW, that man of course is the immortal Hulk Hogan.

This 2001 edition was published on 19-03-2001 in the lead up for Wrestlemania X-7 which would take place on the first weekend of April. Obviously timed to be released around Wrestlemania season, the book originally comes with a highlight dvd of previous Wrestlemania. The book covers Wrestlemania 1 up right until Wrestlemania 16 which of course was called Wrestlemania 2000.


Reviews of the book looks varied as Google book reviews only have one review from 2007 which reads


“This isn’t an insider’s story, as the title proclaims. There’s nothing in year that you won’t know if you’ve watched the wrestlemanias.”


Whilst a review from Amazon highly rates the book.


“This is a great book with amazingly good quality pictures and facts about all main matches and rivalries from Wrestlemania 1-16 a must have for any wrestling fan”

As I looked at the cover myself and saw that their was no sign of Hogan, the man now in 2020 is synonymous with the history of Wrestlemania and truly regarding as one of the founding fathers of the event. I also notice their are two different covers to this book that can be found. It may be a case that on the original book with the dvd their has a front cover which has been lost from my copy. I have attached pictures for reference

Whilst glancing over the copy I realised I have another encyclopaedia regarding Wrestlemania and that is the 30th anniversary edition of Wrestlemania. I thought to myself there must be different accounts of certain events in these books.

Over time I will be studying both books looking into if and maybe how WWE has rewritten history and then re wrote once again for both books. Remembering that their main players in the early years of Wrestlemania now worked for their rivals it would be interesting how they would perceive them. Would they shine good light and acknowledge the achievements of Hogan, Piper, Savage and Warrior in their 2001 edition as they no doubt will in their 30th anniversary edition?

I am interested on how the 2001 edition portrays Randy Savage as he was ‘black listed’ by WWE in 2001 and more relaxed towards him by the 30th edition published in 2014.


I have no doubt knowing they way WWE have rewritten history in the past I’m sure they will have done it here. If it hasn’t been changed completely it will have changed the narrative to suit the company stance at that time. I hope you enjoy the ride along with me.

Part 2

So we begin the look at both the Wrestlemania encyclopaedia from 2001 and the 30th anniversary edition of Wrestlemania by looking at Wrestlemania 1. As I deep dive into the 2001 edition of the Wrestlemania encyclopaedia they paint a picture that Hulk Hogan was just another guy in the main event. They mention that he held a relationship with Mr T thanks to the Rocky franchise and that he would team up with Mr T and beat Paul Orndoff and Roddy Piper. There is not one mention of Roddy Piper apart for his name mentioned in the result.

The first pages of the book begins with the authors history of his time memories of Wrestlemania beginning and then he discusses the events leading up to the very first Wrestlemania. The book says that the wrestlers were not ready for a show like Wrestlemania and were still protective over the business. But Vince McMahon couldn’t care less, the book quotes with regards to wrestling being called fake.

‘Vince wasn’t offended.’

He is quoted as saying

‘What we do is entertainment, and it’s the highest level of athleticism and entertainment you’ll ever see. And what we do is damn hard. You just don’t understand’

It describes how getting that message out to the public was difficult for the federation as their tv shows were just simply commercials for live events. So how did they create a buzz around Wrestlemania? It simply states it let the press in. It opened up Wrestlemania to the press by holding conferences and issuing press passes.

The book then shifts on to the celebrities and lists the likes of Ali, Liberace and Cyndi Lauper. It then goes into detail on Laupers involved with the war to settle the score and how MTV producer Joe Davola was panicking backstage about timings.

The book credits Howard Finkle for coming up with the name of Wrestlemania. Finkel apparently blurted out

‘There’s Beatlemania, right? Why not Wrestlemania?’

Then the books dismisses the wrestlers who are stars at this time with this sentence

‘Yet it’s fair to say that if ever a major wrestling event was less about wrestling than celebrity, Wrestlemania was it.’

The book openly stays that the celebrity involvement was the key to success before burying Mr T. They describe Mr T by saying that even though he thought he could handle himself he couldn’t keep up with the pace of the wrestlers and would make excuses not to train with them. It focuses on Ed Cohen having to buy a referee uniform for Ali and says ‘One million fans paid to see the event on closed-circlet outlets’

The chapter finishes off with a strange story of Linda McMahon face to face with biker gang Hells Angels demanding to see the show and McMahon finding the gang seats within Maddison Square Garden because she quotes

‘That’s Wrestlemania. The Idea that a group of Hells Angels would want to go to an event that featured Liberace and the Rockettes sort of puts the whole thing in perspective. Wrestlemania was an invitation to people from all walks of life.’

As we then move over to the 30 years of Wrestlemania book, it begins with a introduction and briefly discusses the rock and wrestling connection and the MTV event Brawl To End It All in the July before.
When we get to the first Wrestlemania like the 2001 edition it has match results and attendance. But in its opening two sentences is


‘With the ground still shaking from the formation of “the rock n wrestling connection,” Hulkamania running wild, and Brawl to End It All’s success’


It fails to mention the MTV special war to settle the score until it starts to discuss the McMahon family well documented gamble on holding the event. But with its one line here and another whilst discussing the main event it holds this event irrelevant unlike the 2001 edition. This edition focusses mainly on the July MTV special from a year earlier than the event held six weeks prior.


Another mention in that sentence is Hulkamania. That word is not used once in the 2001 edition as predicted. When the 2001 edition was written it in 2000, WCW was alive and well and Hogan was seen on screen back in his yellow and red Hulkamania gear. You could see they were trying not to reference him and minimising him as much as possible.


The book takes a shot at the old fashion ways of wrestling promoter while making McMahon sound even more of a visionary than it needlessly needs to make. Whilst talking about how promoters would book their supercards it says


‘By and large, they were marketed in the traditional NWA fashion of a legitimate sport, no entertainment’


It has a quote from McMahon saying


‘We didn’t want to be ‘pro wrestling’ like everybody else.’


Vince McMahon was a visionary don’t forget and this book won’t let you forget that.
The book discusses how wrestlers were apprehensive about the company going in this direction like the first book does. They put it perfectly when they describe the need for casual and prospective new fans to engage with the product. It carries on to discuss the well documented story of how McMahon put everything in to the show and also mentions how in the previous book that they allowed press to come into the company. Gave them press passes and access to the wrestlers.


The book also discusses Mr T relationship with other wrestlers and the fact he never saw eye to eye with a wrestler. They have quotes from Ed Cohen again and Roddy Piper who says that he and Mr T had never gotten on and still disliked each other 30 years later. The book also has a line regarding the Hells Angels turning up expecting a seat rather than demanding a seat like the other edition makes out. The book moves on to discuss some of the matches in detail and closes off saying that Linda McMahon had a call around 3am after the show with the numbers from the closed circuit viewing and knew they had broken even.


As predicted both books look back at Wrestlemania 1 with different perspective on Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper. The newer book gives a more equal credit for their contribution compared to the celebrities whilst the older version doesn’t mention Piper and briefly mentions Hogan but it’s main focus is on the celebrity evolvement and credits mainly the celebrities for the success of this wrestlemania.


With regard to the first Wrestlemania it seems they haven’t directly changed the history between the books but they have definitely changed the narrative on what made the biggest contribution in creating the success of Wrestlemania 1 and the main competitors.


Next blog we will be looking at Wrestlemania 2 to see if any differences are made and how they portray Hogan and Piper again. It will be interesting to see if WWE has changed the narrative again or completely re written wrestlemania history.
 

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Realised I never actually posted this on WF, but I wrote this a few months back. Just one man's opinion on the best of the 2010s, at least as far as WWE went. We knock them, but when it comes to big matches, they often deliver.

Original Link: Best of the 2010s: Top 40 WWE Wrestling Matches

In some ways, us wrestling fans are really spoiled. In other ways, not so much, but it depends what you enjoy most about pro wrestling. If you're in it for the stories and characters, that element isn't as strong in the modern day as it once was. If you're into that, you'd be best going to the WWE Network and firing up some shows from the acclaimed Attitude Era. But if you're into the jaw-dropping athletic ability and physical drama that can be provided in pro wrestling matches, I've got good news for you, buddy- we've got it in spades. The level of athleticism is higher than ever, with wrestlers going beyond what seems physically possible in order to get the fans on their feet, chanting those three magic words- "This Is Awesome!"



There was no chance in hell (hi, Vince) that I'd be able to do a top 10 matches for the 2010s. There's far too many great ones. So I upped the number a bit, and we're doing a Top 40 list! Yay! Like the music charts, but with wrestling matches! Except, we're not only dealing with what's hot now, we're spanning the whole decade, from 2010 right up to today.



Couple of disclaimers- I'm limiting this strictly to WWE matches. I do watch New Japan, but nowhere near enough to be an authority on the topic, and there's a ton of great matches that I wouldn't do justice. If I was to include NJPW, of the matches I've seen- the Okada/Omega trilogy would be there, as well as Jericho vs. Omega from Wrestle Kingdom, and Will Ospreay vs. Shingo Takagi from this year's BOSJ.



I've seen everything AEW has to offer, but for the sake of fairness, I'm not including them either. If I was to include them, Cody vs. Dustin from Double Or Nothing, and Young Bucks vs. Lucha Bros from All Out.



The other main disclaimer- even though they received critical acclaim and exceeded Meltzer's 5 star scale, the Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano matches do not appear in my list. Rating wrestling matches is a subjective thing, and while Big Dave (not Batista) loved it, to me those matches jumped the shark. Way too much no-selling and carefully choreographed spots, didn't feel like I watching a fight in any sense. I feel like 2016 Will Ospreay would have told those guys to tone it down a little. That's not to say those matches weren't entertaining... it's like, I enjoy chocolate, but the Cole/Gargano series was like getting drowned in Willy Wonka's chocolate river.



With that out of the way, it's time for List-amania to run wild! Brother.



40. WWE Universal Championship- Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins- Summerslam 2019



I spent about half this decade waiting for a proper one-on-one Rollins vs. Lesnar match. They were paired together at Battleground 2015, but an Undertaker appearance ended it before it really got going. Then they had a match at Wrestlemania this year- it lasted about 5 minutes and felt more like an angle than a true main event match. So while it might not make everyone's top lists, I was salivating over the prospect of this and they delivered. Seth came in injured, but used his cat-like agility to avoid a trip to Suplex City. Eventually, the Beast was able to throw Rollins around and cause pain, but the Architect gutted it out. Extremely underrated.



39. WWE Intercontinental Championship- The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler- No Mercy 2016



The Miz? In one of the best matches this decade? Yep. Miz was at his slimy heel best in a title vs. career match. Ziggler played the underdog in one of the best performances of his career, finally prevailing in a heart-stopping battle. And the Spirit Squad were involved!



38. WWE United States Championship- John Cena vs. Cesaro- Raw 6th July 2015



Cena reinvented himself in 2015 with the US Championship Open Challenge. It allowed Cena, as a tenured main eventer, to work with any midcard talent that wanted to step up. Cesaro has been a workhorse for WWE since his arrival in 2012, and it was clear that he has the respect of Cena, going toe-to-toe with the champ in a Raw classic. Inhuman displays of strength from both men!




37. Raw Women's Championship- Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks- Royal Rumble 2019



The former UFC champion Ronda Rousey turned heads and brought a lot of attention to WWE's women's division in 2018. She proved to be a quick study, having probably the best debut match anyone's ever had at Wrestlemania, teaming with Kurt Angle to face Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. She quickly won the title and defended it constantly, with one of her better battles occuring at the 2019 Royal Rumble. The Boss, Sasha Banks, had felt overlooked with the arrival of Rousey, and they had a physical, competitive match, where Ronda prevailed by the skin of her teeth. 10 months into her wrestling career and she held her own with a talent the calibre of Banks. Respect.



36. World Heavyweight Championship- Randy Orton vs. Christian- Summerslam 2011



Randy Orton is an excellent, excellent professional wrestler. He's so talented, and just about everything he does in the ring seems effortless. Because of the level of natural talent he has, though, sometimes Orton seems content to just do his shit and leave, not really kicking into a higher gear. That changed for the master of the RKO in 2011. Christian was motivated to prove he belonged at a main event level after his best friend, Edge, was forced to retire. He found great chemistry with Orton, and over the summer they had a series of fantastic, dynamic battles. This one stood out that touch more due to the No Holds Barred stipulation, and the finish- a RKO outta nowhere on a diving Christian- onto steel stairs. Ouch!



35. John Cena vs. The Rock- Wrestlemania 28



Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is the highest paid actor in Hollywood. He's a massive star outside of the pro wrestling bubble. There was a time there where- assumedly at the advice of his managers and agents- The Rock distanced himself a bit from his WWE past. But then he came back. And he had the biggest star in the WWE in his sights. With an entire year of build, Rock vs. Cena happened at Wrestlemania in Miami. It was a huge box offiice attraction, the atmosphere was electric, it was an incredible spectacle. After 20+ minutes, and a thunderous Rock Bottom, the People's Champ proved that he still has IT.



34. World Heavyweight Championship- Sheamus vs. Big Show- Hell In A Cell 2012



In 2012, it seemed like Big Show's best days were far behind him. Someone forgot to tell him that on one October night, though. The giant worked his ass off against the Celtic Warrior, and they had a good old fashioned HOSS BATTLE, with power moves and devastating strikes, a variety of false finishes, and an energetic pace throughout the duration. Definitely a hidden gem, but absolute quality nonetheless.



33. WWE Championship- Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston- Wrestlemania 35



One of the biggest stories of 2019 was Kofi-mania. Kingston wasn't meant to be in the main event spot. He was afforded a last minute opportunity a month prior when Mustafa Ali suffered an injury and couldn't participate in the Elimination Chamber. So Kofi stepped in- and the crowd rallied behind him like never before. Bryan ramped up his obnoxious heel tendencies, and Kofi rode the wave of momentum to a WWE Championship match at Mania... and it was lightning in a bottle. After 11 years in WWE, Kofi finally won the big one- and stole the show at Wrestlemania in the process.



32. Aleister Black vs. Buddy Murphy- TLC 2019



A late entry in the decade, but awesome all the same. It was the second match on the card- as Chris Jericho will tell you, usually a death spot on the card- and it was a match between two midcarders given a little basic build... and they proceeded to beat the crap out of each other with every strike imaginable. Black got legitimately busted open, but that only added to the intensity. Aleister Black was fairly established already as a former NXT Champion, and while Murphy had had some amazing matches as part of the Cruiserweight division on 205 Live, this felt like the Aussie's true coming-out party on the main roster.



31. NXT Tag Team Championship- Moustache Mountain vs. Undisputed Era- NXT 11th July 2018



Moustache Mountain are comprised of Trent Seven and Tyler Bate. Their relationship is a unique one, as Seven helped train the young Bate, who was the first ever NXT UK Champion. Their unique dynamic was used perfectly as an emotional rollercoaster, where the vicious O'Reilly and Fish ripped Seven's knee apart so brutally that Bate couldn't bear to watch his mentor go through the potentially career-ending agony, and threw in the towel to save him. One of the best tag matches I've ever seen- and it was on a random episode on NXT. Exhibit A for watching the weekly shows, not just PPVs and Takeovers.




30. Kota Ibushi vs. TJ Perkins- Cruiserweight Classic



The Cruiserweight Classic tournament was the re-introduction of a cruiserweight division to WWE. The company signed several cruiserweight talents to help launch the division, but they also brought in visiting talent from around the world, including NJPW star Kota Ibushi. Ibushi's match with Cedric Alexander was raved about- and it was great- but I preferred this semi-final bout. As naturally heelish as TJP can be, he showed great babyface fire and heart here, and Ibushi, for his part, put it all on the line with some high risk moves and attempted to kick the soul out of Perkins' body. A finishing sequence which had Full Sail going banana was the cherry on this sundae.



29. Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena- Extreme Rules 2012



The Brock Lesnar that returned to WWE on the Raw After Wrestlemania in 2012 was an entirely different beast to the young powerhouse that left the company in 2004. This was exemplified in his return match, a violent spectacle unlike anything WWE had seen for years. Brock decimated the franchise, John Cena, in a one-sided bloody beatdown. Fuck your PG Era, Brock was back and badder than ever.



28. Gauntlet Match- Raw 19th February 2018



This was over an hour of epic wrestling action on Monday Night Raw, and really launched Seth Rollins into the next level as far as being a babyface star. The stamina and athleticism that Rollins displayed was off the charts, and the crowd responded accordingly. One of the biggest highlights on Raw in recent years. Defeating John Cena and Roman Reigns back-to-back was a huge sign that Seth had arrived as a main eventer.



27. NXT Tag Team Championship- DIY vs. Revival- NXT Takeover Toronto



Classic tag team wrestling at its finest. Gargano and Ciampa had been chasing Dash and Dawson for months, and while they say familarity breeds contempt, it also breeds fantastic wrestling matches, as both teams had counters for counters, and were able to up the intensity to a fever pitch. DIY finally getting their moment in the sun, winning the tag titles was a moment of elation for the team shared by everyone watching.



26. Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair- Survivor Series 2018



The chemistry these two displayed was off the charts. Charlotte was a late replacement after Becky Lynch got her face broken by Nia Jax, but the Nature Boy's daughter proved that she is one of the best by taking on Ronda head on in a highly physical battle. Both ladies gave as good as they got, and the only blemish on this was the DQ finish when frustration boiled over for Charlotte, who was unable to best the Rowdy One even after hitting her best moves. If Ronda comes back, this is a match that I would LOVE to see run back.



25. WWE Universal Championship- Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg- Wrestlemania 33



This is my favourite short match ever. It proves that you don't necessarily need 20 minutes to have an epic main event match- this was two monsters hitting their best shots on each other in an absolute thrill ride. I might be a little biased since I was there in person, and I'm a huge Brock fan, but to me, this was the match that Brock and Goldberg should have had at Wrestlemania 20. Play to your strengths! This has held up on many, many repeat viewings.




24. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family- Elimination Chamber 2014



The Shield had many awe-inspiring six man tag encounters throughout their run as a trio- I was actually debating whether to put their debut match, or one of the matches they had with Evolution in this list, but ultimately this one got the nod. The Wyatt Family were established as a destructive force in their own right, so when the factions collided, it felt like a massive deal. The Wyatts had power and size on their side, while Rollins brought speed and a daredevil nature, Ambrose had his chaotic balls-to-the-wall style, and Reigns was a heavy hitter as well. Altogether, a definite recipe for success.



23. Smackdown Women's Championship- Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka- Wrestlemania 34



Asuka was booked as the most dominant force ever in the women's division, amassing an undefeated streak that eclipsed what Goldberg had in WCW. She came into the Mania showdown with that streak intact to face the most decorated champion in WWE, Charlotte Flair. Despite playing hot potato with the Raw Women's Championship, Charlotte was booked as a very powerful force as well. When the forces collided and the dust settled, Asuka's streak would be broken. This attracted some fan backlash, but at least Charlotte and Asuka can say they stole the show at Wrestlemania.



22. Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan- Survivor Series 2018



Lesnar seems to shine the most when he gets to work against a smaller opponent that he can throw around with ease. It also helps if that smaller opponent is able to score credible offence against the Beast Incarnate. Brock and Bryan hit all the high notes of a David vs. Goliath battle, and although people feared for Bryan's health going against Brock's physical style, the Goat Faced Killer came out of it fine, although it made for incredible drama in the moment. The only slight knock on this, and the reason it doesn't make the Top 20... it was structured as if Bryan was the plucky underdog babyface, but he had turned heel the week before by kicking AJ Styles in the nuts and taking his WWE Championship. So were we meant to feel sympathy for Bryan or be happy he was getting his comeuppence?




21. Smackdown Women's Championship- Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair- Evolution 2018



Evolution was the first all-women's PPV (and to date, the only). Longtime rivals Lynch and Flair were set for a Last Women Standing match, and they delivered a war that wasn't just "good for a women's match", it was great as a stand-alone main event worthy match. As physical and hard-hitting as possible, Becky and Charlotte took a lot of risks and held nothing back. It was tremendous.



20. Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro- 2/3 Falls- NXT 21st August 2013



You know the reputation that NXT has for bringing indie stars to WWE, and really incorporating that technical, fast-paced style into what they do? Cesaro and Sami Zayn were the first two to really break that barrier. It's because of the series of matches they had that NXT has the reputation it has today, and the 2/3 Falls match was perhaps the best example of that. The NXT Arrival match is better known because it aired on the WWE Network, but pre-Network, this was one of the best matches of 2013, and still holds up today.



19. NXT Championship- Sami Zayn vs. Neville- NXT Takeover R-Evolution



The previous entry was a match (and rivalry) that Zayn lost, beginning an almost two year character arc for the Underdog from the Underground. It was a very simple, yet effective premise- Sami couldn't win the big one. Challenging the dominant champion, the centerpiece of NXT, Adrian Neville, this was the culmination of that story. Neville was a face, but showing heel tendencies in disrespecting and downplaying Zayn's abilities. Zayn would get the last laugh though- with a loyal Full Sail crowd behind him, Zayn nailed the Helluva Kick and became the NXT Champion! The NXT fans lived vicariously through Sami in that moment as he overcame his demons and became the top guy on the black and yellow brand.




18. WWE Championship- Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins- Royal Rumble 2015



This was the first time I really saw something special in Seth Rollins. Lesnar and Cena were the established stars, but Rollins looked like he belonged in there. Brock was at his killing machine best, throwing around Cena, and Rollins, and J&J Security. Rollins would sacrifice his body with a huge elbow drop, driving Lesnar through the announce table, and later busted out the Phoenix Splash for the first time in his WWE career. Brock eventually retained, but Seth Rollins had arrived. For years, Vengeance 2002's Rock vs. Angle vs. Taker was my favourite triple threat match- this replaced it.



17. WWE Universal Championship- Seth Rollins vs. AJ Styles- Money In The Bank 2019



I am a huge AJ Styles fan. But I had felt like Styles hadn't been at his best for quite a while. He wasn't having bad matches at all, but they just weren't quite as... phenomenal as earlier in his WWE career. I understand he's getting older and he had a long and storied career before he officially became a WWE Superstar, but the spark was missing a little. And then Styles faced Rollins, and the fire was lit under his ass. Two of the best in the world put all their cards on the table and went for it. This also added some prestige to the Universal Championship for me as well- as much as I love Brock, ultra competitive title matches aren't always his thing.



16. Raw Women's Championship- Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks- Hell In A Cell 2019



The first ever women's HIAC was a massive let-down. Charlotte vs. Sasha, and it... sucked. Minimal use of the cage, low level bumps, and neither woman could break a table to save their life. Thankfully, Sasha and Becky got their shit together and had an impactful and innovative Cell match, using chairs and kendo sticks to build various weapons of ass destruction embedded into the cage walls. There was a heightened level of aggression which suited the heat that the Becky/Sasha feud had built, and it was highly entertaining start to finish. Honestly, probably should have main evented the PPV over Rollins vs. The Fiend, but that's another story for another day...



15. Brock Lesnar vs. AJ Styles- Survivor Series 2017



Here's a scary thought- a couple of weeks before Survivor Series, the scheduled champion vs. champion match was Brock Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal. Thankfully, someone realised what a ridiculous and shit idea having Mahal in that position was (about six months too late, but I digress), and AJ defeated Jinder in London to win his second WWE Championship. Brock vs. AJ was a dream match for me, and it delivered. At this point, Brock didn't sell for anyone not named Goldberg. He ran through Samoa Joe with relative ease. He made Braun Strowman his bitch. So, for the much smaller Styles to survive the initial onslaught of the Beast and find openings to attack- it was edge of your seat action. AJ even came close to victory with the Phenomenal Forearm! Brock eventually picked him out of the air and dropped him with an emphatic F5 for the victory, but it was the most vulnerable that Lesnar had looked in a long time.



14. WWE UK Championship- Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne- NXT Takeover Chicago



Tyler Bate was the inaugural UK Champion at 19 years old, besting Pete Dunne in the finals. Dunne would get his rematch 4 months later on a NXT Takeover. Takeovers are always extremely high quality shows, so the Brits would have to bring their A game. And just to add a little more gravitas to the situation, the legendary Jim Ross was brought in to do guest commentary just for this match! Bruh. Bate and Dunne were more than up to the task, hitting all their best moves, and some more stuff that we had never seen before. Ultimately the Bruiserweight won, to start a record-breaking title reign, but both men can say that they stole the show at a Takeover. It actually may have been the MOTY for 2017, between two young men who were relative unknowns to the WWE Universe at the time.



13. WWE Championship- Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena- Summerslam 2013



Cena hand-picked Bryan to be his opponent at Summerslam. Why that was allowed, I'm not entirely sure, but things got personal in the build quickly when Bryan called Cena "a parody of a wrestler". So, it's the main event of Summerslam. Cena has a bursa sac on his elbow the size of a tennis ball, but he didn't let it affect his performance one bit. He used his power to wear down Bryan, and showed at points that he could trade wrestling holds, but it would be the debut of Bryan's running knee finisher that would hand the YES! man his first WWE Championship. He pinned Cena clean at a time when Cena barely lost at all, but NEVER clean. A classic in the annuls of Summerslam history.



12. Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura- NXT Takeover Dallas



This was Sami's final NXT match, and Shinsuke's NXT/WWE debut. The match had zero build, really, just a quick video of Nakamura saying he would see Zayn in Dallas- but what happened next was wrestling magic. You could tell from Shin's entrance alone that he was special, but when the bell rang... Japanese strong style was brought to WWE. Nakamura was vicious in his striking attack, and Zayn appeared overwhelmed initially before calling on his trademark heart and fighting fire with fire, unleashing some stiff strikes of his own. In his first match, Nakamura made a huge statement- and it still stands today as the best match of his WWE career.



11. WWE UK Championship- Pete Dunne vs. WALTER- NXT Takeover New York



After beating Tyler Bate to win the WWE UK Championship, Dunne would hold that title until Mania weekend 2019. He had turned back every challenger with his vicious and cerebral style. Enter WALTER. His name is in ALL CAPS because you gotta put a little respek on it! He's a 300 pound Austrian who hits so hard, he might as well be shooting. He is known for his trademark chops that blast the soul out of his opponent's body. Dunne didn't make it easy by any stretch, but he would drop the title to the big man, in the best match across Mania weekend. Yep, this was better than everything on the Wrestlemania 35 card.




10. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H- Wrestlemania 30



This opened the show, and it was the best match on it. Triple H was the special guest referee in Bryan's Summerslam title win over Cena... and post-match he dropped Bryan with a Pedigree, allowing Randy Orton to cash in MITB and win the WWE Championship mere minutes after the leader of the YES! Movement achieved his dream. Triple H would explain the double-cross as "doing what's best for business" and referred to Bryan as a "B+ player". After Bryan "Occupied Raw", an enraged Triple H would vow to finish him at Mania and prevent him from ever winning the WWE title again. Of course, Bryan won, and it was only step 1 in Bryan going to the main event of Mania on the same night and beating Batista and Orton to win the gold, but the straight up singles match with The Game was the far superior match- and probably the last truly great match Triple H has had.




9. WWE Championship- AJ Styles vs. John Cena- Royal Rumble 2017



A fascinating note about this match- the entire match occured in the ring. There were zero outside shenanigans, just two of the best in the world going toe to toe and seeing who the better man is. Cena would claim the victory on this night by chaining two AAs together, tying Ric Flair with 17 world championships. Sometimes the Rumble undercard is just filler- this was anything but. A true classic.




8. NXT Women's Championship- Sasha Banks vs. Bayley- NXT Takeover Brooklyn



This was THE match that really got the Women's Revolution going, in my opinion. It was an extremely well crafted story- much like the Zayn/Neville feud, it was about Bayley's inability to let go of the hugs and the happiness and actually win big matches and championships. Although in this case, Bayley's adversary was a true heel, in all her glory as the Legit Boss, playing the uber-bitch role to perfection. Everyone was clamouring to see Bayley achieve her dream, and once it happened- following a crazy top rope reverse rana and a Bayley to Belly- the Barclays Center absolutely exploded. A classic wrestling match, regardless of gender, but it was the strides made in gender equality in WWE, as well as the great character work of Bayley and Banks, that made this pro wrestling perfection.




7. Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk- Summerslam 2013



Yeah, Summerslam 2013 was an awesome show to say the least. Two of the best matches of the decade, happening back-to-back on the same show? You betcha. It was a battle of Paul Heyman Guys, but Heyman actually turned on Punk the month prior, costing him the MITB briefcase by smashing him in the head with a ladder. When a furious Punk went looking for revenge, the Beast Incarnate was waiting. In a no disqualification match, the Straight Edge Superstar threw himself at Brock with reckless abandon, with a passion that really conveyed a desire to kick ass, size difference be damned. Lesnar had spent the last 18 months being this unstoppable force, and seeing a fired up Punk take it to him was incredible.




6. NXT North American Championship Ladder Match- NXT Takeover NOLA



At this stage, you would think just about everything that could be done with a ladder has been done. The TLC match debuted 20 YEARS AGO this year. Yet, with an eclectic mix of superstars, and a brand new championship on the line, six of NXT's best raised the bar to heights I never thought possible. It was the Takeover debut of Ricochet, who stole the match with his death-defying high-flying, Adam Cole would be the one to survive the carnage and become the first ever NXT North American Championship, and EC3, Lars Sullivan, Killian Dain, and Velveteen Dream all got moments to shine. An absolute incredible ladder match, that instantly gave NXT's secondary title a ton of prestige.




5. John Cena vs. AJ Styles- Summerslam 2016



AJ Styles shot up the ranks in WWE in record time. For all of about two weeks, he was known as the "redneck rookie", but it was soon nixed, as it seemed crazy to refer to Styles as any kind of rookie, even in the context of being new to WWE. He was just way too good. Getting a marquee match against Mr. WWE himself, John Cena, showed that AJ had an extremely bright future in Vince's world. Both Styles and Cena connected with their biggest and best moves, and after AJ hit the Styles Clash and Phenomenal Forearm in succession, Cena took his second clean Summerslam loss of the decade. With that, Styles was a made man.




4. NXT Championship- Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade Cien Almas- NXT Takeover Philly



Gargano and Almas did everything they were physically capable of doing, and in doing so secured 2018 MOTY in January. Almas was a cocky heel, backed by his manager Zelina Vega. Vega had proved to be an invaluable asset for Almas- she used mind games to mess with Johnny Wrestling. Following the dissolution of DIY, Gargano's headspace was not good. At Takeover Brooklyn the previous year, Vega threw a DIY shirt at Johnny in the middle of the match, allowing Almas to pick up the victory and get a NXT Championship shot, which he later won over Drew McIntyre. This was Gargano's shot at redemption, but after 32 minutes, Almas got the victory. This match got 5 stars on the Meltzer scale, and while I don't always agree with his ratings, I think he was spot on in this case.




3. Unsanctioned Match- Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa



The story of Gargano and Ciampa is the greatest in NXT history, and the best storytelling that WWE has done, period, in many years. They came in as unsigned indy guys, just to make up the numbers in the Dusty Classic tag tournament, but they impressed the right people and were soon signed to NXT contracts. Dubbing themselves #DIY, they were highlights of the tag division for several years, churning out classic tag matches seemingly monthly. And then, Ciampa turned on Gargano, and became the biggest bastard heel around. He attacked Johnny Wrestling after his heartbreaking loss to Almas, then cost him the re-match, which saw Johnny get fired from NXT per the match stipulation. So Gargano got a shot at revenge in an unsanctioned match, since he wasn't officially employed anymore. Gargano and Ciampa fought with a believable intensity, it was easy to get suckered in and believe these guys hated each other. The ending had a little poetic justic, as Gargano got the submission win using Ciampa's knee brace as a weapon in the crossface. With the win, Johnny got reinstated to NXT, and while the feud with Ciampa continued with more stellar matches, in my opinion, the first one holds up as the best of the lot.




2. Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker- Wrestlemania 26



Yep. Told you we were looking at the whole decade. The retirement of the arguable GOAT, Shawn Michaels, happened in early 2010. That Saudi Arabia match never happened, I tell you! I believe that HBK vs. Taker at Wrestlemania 25 is the greatest match ever, not just for the physical action, but for the characters and history involved. They were the first two wrestlers I ever saw, I've literally grown up with them, so everything that they do means so much more. In the build-up, Michaels was desperate and obsessed with facing the Undertaker and breaking his vaunted Streak after coming so damn close the previous year. Sequels rarely beat the original, and for me this was just a smidge behind WM25. But a smidge behind the greatest match ever is nothing to take lightly. HBK had a smart strategy of working over the legs, bringing Taker down to his size, slowing him down and causing his power moves to have less effect. Both legends show incredible heart throughout, and the finish is iconic- Taker appears to have compassion for Michaels, and a beaten and weary HBK rears back and slaps the Deadman in the face! This instantly blasts away any compassionate thoughts, and Undertaker drills Shawn with a leaping Tombstone, ending the career of the Heartbreak Kid.




1. WWE Championship- John Cena vs. CM Punk- Money In The Bank 2011



This match was awarded 5 stars, and it's yet another instance where I agree with the Meltz. Some matches are highly rated because of the atmosphere and the spectacle, like Rock vs. Hogan. Others get rated high due to their incredible workrate. Cena vs. Punk at MITB 2011 was the perfect mix of both. After CM Punk delivered his Pipebomb promo, he was the hottest star in the company. But in amongst all the "shoot" comments that got the Internet buzzing, there was a plan in place that gave WWE cause for concern- Punk had vowed to win the WWE Championship and leave the company. So, the reigning champ Cena had to walk into hostile territory, Punk's hometown of Chicago. On that night at the Money In The Bank PPV, the Allstate Arena treated Punk like a god. Every offensive move, massive cheers. Everything Cena did, massive boos. Cena and Punk had the crowd every single step of the way. Cena was busting out moves he hadn't done before. Punk was attacking with an enormous sense of confidence and poise. The scene got chaotic when Cena locked Punk in the STF, and Vince McMahon and Johnny Ace ran down, looking to do a "screwjob" finish on Punk (I know it sounds sexual, just, okay?). Cena intercepted Ace and knocked him out. He returns to the ring, Punk hits the GTS and wins the WWE Championship! Punk jumps the guardrail with the title belt, blows Vince a kiss and takes off into the night. That's as good as it gets.



By far, the longest blog post I've ever done. Even longer than the career retrospective piece I did on the Undertaker when I thought he retired after Wrestlemania 33 (what a sucker I was). Here's to more great wrestlers, moments and matches throughout the 2020s!



Until next time, take care,



Mick
 

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Another great column dude, I have no idea the time and effort you've put in to this.

I'm one of those crazy fans that just doesn't see the fuss about MITB 2011 Punk/Cena. The match is sloppy at times, and the finish with Cena running out to deck Ace demanding a fair fight like he's Captain America was dumb. Cena should've just put him over clean as a whistle IMO.

You must've written this before Tyler Bate v WALTER I think as that was one of the best matches I've seen in the last 5-10 years. That would be top 10 for me.
 

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Thanks so much, man! Thought this was an interesting event, being between the Attitude and RA eras, and it's a little more relevant with the 2020 HOF induction of the nWo. The WWE version wasn't great but they had a good first night here.
 

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I think the Cena/Ace thing fit Cena's character- despite his polarizing reactions, his character is the quintessential good guy, and sometimes those kind of characters are prone to doing dumb things in the quest to be good and noble. I don't know if you ever watched Dragonball Z, but Goku was prone to doing dumb shit all the time. He'd legit heal his enemies just so it could be a fair and competitive fight. Dumb as hell, but some babyfaces stick to their core beliefs really strongly, even to their detriment.

I wrote this at the end of the year, Bate vs. WALTER was a big oversight on my part! It definitely belongs in there. I'd probably take out one of the Cena vs. AJ matches to make room for it, maybe the Rumble one.
 

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A recent review today. I am scaling these back going forward, doing Mania as my last one, at least for a while. Need to sort out some things in my personal life that require a bit more attention than this hobby of writing about wrestling, as much as I enjoy it. Given that I've already written a Vault review about a Summerslam event a few weeks ago, it's likely I'll use that as my returning point in August. I'll still be around on the forum in places giving my shorter thoughts on all things WWE (and AEW) over the next few months.

Link: WrestleWatch: WWE Elimination Chamber 2020

WrestleWatch: WWE Elimination Chamber 2020

March 10, 2020




Here we go! Second last WrestleWatch review before my hiatus. Starting to get life in order, but I've got some goals I need to really attack. Anyways!

This year's instalment of the Elimination Chamber PPV went down yesterday. The final stop on the Road to Wrestlemania, as they call it. Bit of a strangely booked show. Given that the winners of the Royal Rumble matches have declared their intentions- men's winner Drew McIntyre choosing to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship, and women's winner Charlotte Flair electing to challenge Rhea Ripley for the NXT Championship, that leaves Smackdown's Universal Championship without a challenger- never mind, Roman Reigns just walked out, said "I'm next" and gets a title shot. Why bother with all those contender matches and Rumbles and Chambers when you can just walk up to the champ and say, "Gimme!"?

So the Chamber matches this year are for the No. 1 Contendership in the Raw women's division, which has been dominated over the past year by "The Man" Becky Lynch. The other is for Smackdown's Tag Team Championship. Tiny issue- Shayna Baszler has already started a feud with Lynch, making it blindly obvious who wins... you normally start the feud after the contender's match, booking 101, come on, guys. As for the tag Chamber... they tried it in 2015 and it was an absolute dumpster fire, combined with an equally awful Intercontinental Championship Chamber, it caused the whole Chamber concept to be scrapped in 2016 and re-designed the following year.

The card did get a last minute boost which heightened my hopes a little- on the Raw side, a No DQ match was made between Aleister Black and AJ Styles, and a couple of days before the show on Smackdown, Daniel Bryan challenged Drew Gulak to a match. Good times. Let's do this.

The Show

Kick-Off Match- Viking Raiders def. Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins (at 4:50)

Thoughts: Stevie Wonder could see where this one is going. The big guys throw Ryder & Hawkins around like crash test dummies, ending things in short order with the Viking Experience. Shit name, great finisher. The match was as pre-show as it gets, though. (**)

Match 1: Daniel Bryan def. Drew Gulak (at 14:20)

Thoughts: This actually did a great job of using the story built up on Smackdown over the past several weeks, of Gulak studying Bryan and knowing his weaknesses. Gulak was able to go hold-for-hold with Bryan in the early going, getting the better of the exchanges. Bryan got frustrated and starting laying in strikes to go away from the pure technical wrestling. Gulak retailiated by attacking the neck of Bryan, which included a couple of German suplex bumps that were genuinely frightening to watch. Ultimately, Bryan was able to counter into the Yes Lock for the submission victory, but he was in a war. Amazing opening match. (****1/4)

Backstage, Kayla Braxton interviews one of the teams in the Chamber tonight, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. Roode gets in his contractually obligated "glorious" catchphrase- fun fact, his theme is my alarm tone. Kinda nice to wake up to a chorus of "GLORIOUS!" in the mornings. Dolph Ziggler, that slimeball, gives a shout-out to "his babe" Mandy Rose. Screw you, Captain Ziggle-pants. Screw you.

(For those that don't follow Smackdown, Ziggler pulled some shady shenanigans to stop an Otis/Mandy date on Valentine's Day. I live vicariously through the big man, so I was devastated for him.)

Match 2: United States Championship- Andrade def. Humberto Carrillo (at 12:20)

Thoughts: Great choice to follow the opener. On paper, another excellent match, but in a completely different style. I'm not invested in Humberto as a character, but he's very good in the ring, and off the ropes, onto the outside etc. Great lucha style action. Andrade tries to spike Humberto's head on the exposed concrete again, but is unable to. Humberto hits a super rana off the top for an incredibly close near fall. The champ retains by pulling the tights in a rapid-fire finishing sequence. And still champ, and still tranquilo AF. (***)

Backstage, Charly Caruso interviews AJ Styles. She asks about the no DQ stipulation, whether it can be a fair fight. AJ says no... Aleister Black is in there with the Phenomenal One, of course it's not fair. Brilliant!

Match 3: Smackdown Tag Team Championship- Elimination Chamber- Miz & Morrison def. Usos, New Day, Heavy Machinery, Ziggler & Roode and Lucha House Party (at 32:55)

Thoughts: Okay, this was wild. You might normally get one big spot in a Chamber match, this one had many. Lince Dorado of LHP hit a super duper rana from the top of a Chamber pod, then pulled himself up to the Chamber roof on the chains and did a swinging Shooting Star Press onto everyone. The Luchas were eliminated moments later, but damn they stood out. The super heavyweights decided to show their ability to fly, as Heavy Machinery's Tucker hit a flip dive from the top of a Chamber pod. Then Otis missed on an attempt at bulldozing Ziggler through the glass of the Chamber pod door, but missed and blasted right out of the Chamber! That's never been done! Once we had all of the jaw dropping spots out of the way, it was to the business end with the top tag teams- the Usos, who hit some nice dives off the pods too, New Day, who had some fresh gear, and the defending champs, Miz and Morrison, who executed a clever double team pin holding the ropes for the win. Hey, no DQ in a Chamber match. In the moment, this became my favourite Chamber match of all time, but objectively, taking away the cool "holy shit" spots, it was a very good match that elevated the SD tag division, with every team getting a chance to shine. (****1/2)

Ooh, Stone Cold Steve Austin is returning to Raw on 3:16 Day.... that's 16th of March for us normal folk. What's the bet he interacts with Kevin Owens, who's been using his Stunner A LOT lately?

Backstage interview with Natalya. She says words about winning. No one buys it.

Match 4: No Disqualification- Aleister Black def. AJ Styles (w/ The OC) (at 23:15)

Thoughts: Styles and Black were in a tough spot, following the spot-heavy Chamber, the live crowd was a little burnt out. So the match started out quiet and not very high energy, but being the pros that they are, they were able to suck the crowd into what they were doing after a while. I'm not sure why the OC just stood at ringside until near the finish... they could have gotten around it by having AJ tell Gallows and Anderson that he doesn't need their help and is going to do it on his own, only for them to run out later when he was really in trouble. Seems weird that they made a point of saying how unfair it was for AJ to have the OC in his corner, only for them to stand and watch for 20+ minutes. AJ had a smart strategy of working the legs of Black with a kendo stick, but the striking man from Amsterdam was still dangerous at points with his feet. The match really picked up when Styles caught a moonsault attempt in what looked like a Tombstone (AJ's had issues with Undertaker), but Aleister counters and rolls him up for a convincing 2 count. Big spot of the match is a meteora off the announce table through another table, and soon after, the OC attack. Of course, the lights go out, the gong sounds, and Taker appears in the ring to chokeslam the Good Brothers. He chokeslams Styles instead, the lights go out and everyone but Black and Styles is gone- Black Mass FTW. Started slow but picked up nicely, and although the Taker appearance was predictable, it was welcome to give this show a dose of star power. (***1/2)

An ad for Raw airs. I normally ignore these in reviews, but it was significant here for hyping the return of Edge, who we haven't seen since the night after the Royal Rumble. Edge was looking for revenge after Randy Orton RKOed his wife, Beth Pheonix... by the way, Beth's a wrestler who once entered the men's Royal Rumble, her taking an RKO shouldn't be the biggest deal in the world. People checked on her like she was having a near-death experience. Wrestling.

Match 5: Raw Tag Team Championship- Street Profits def. Seth Rollins & Murphy (at 18:30)

Thoughts: This was the first match on the show to really miss the mark, for me. It wasn't a bad match, but it dragged a little. Given that the Profits just won the titles, we were fairly sure that they weren't going to lose, and we could bet our life savings that Kevin Owens would get involved. So this match really dragged and couldn't hold my attention throughout the stretches of Murphy (no longer your Buddy) and Rollins beating down the rookie sensation tag team of Dawkins and Ford. A distraction from KO, munching popcorn, allowed Dawkins to smash the Monday Night Messiah into the barricade, and in the ring, Ford hit the Frog Splash for the victory on Murphy. Average match, not terrible but not that good either. (**1/2)

Match 6: Intercontinental Championship- Handicap Match- Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro def. Braun Strowman (at 8:30)

Thoughts: Zayn, who hasn't wrestled on a regular basis in seemingly a year, played the cat and mouse game avoiding Braun. Shin and Cesaro were able to beat him down, and then Zayn got involved. After Braun took a Kinshasha to the ring post, the challenger hit a triple team- Cesaro and Nak double suplexing while Zayn hits the Helluva Kick. 3 count follows, and Sami Zayn captures main roster gold for the first time... his first title since NXT in 2014. Damn, really shocking, which elevates it slightly. (**3/4)

Match 7: No. 1 Contenders- Elimination Chamber- Shayna Baszler def. Asuka, Natalya, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan (at 21:00)

Thoughts: Well, this was certainly different. For the first time in Chamber history, one wrestler eliminated EVERYBODY. Seems like WWE were really doubling down on Shayna being the favourite here, and it was fascinating seeing her run through everyone in seemingly no time at all. One of the shortest Chamber matches ever and definitely the most one-sided. It got Shayna over as a monster, though, from swinging Liv head-first into her pod, to locking on the Kirafuda Clutch at every opportunity. Didn't make for the world's most exciting Chamber match, but it was certainly memorable, and established Shayna as a worthy threat to Becky at Wrestlemania. I applaud the balls to take a different approach here. (***)

Overall Thoughts

Overall, this show exceeded my expectations. Pure wrestling, high flying, strikes, submissions, weapons, cages... basically every facet of violence in pro wrestling was represented on this show, and for the most part it was really fun to watch. Even the stuff that didn't quite land right was clearly done for a purpose, and that purpose is working towards the biggest show of the year in Wrestlemania. So job well done on some quality 'rasslin!

Overall Score: 7/10

Until next time, take care,

Mick
 

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Writing is one of my favourite hobbies. So is watching pro wrestling. Given the state of the world currently, I thought I would delve into both a little bit more. Originally, I was set to write one more review before taking a break to focus on work- that one more review being Wrestlemania 36. But, I don't know when I'm going to be able to return to work, so in the meantime I thought I would share more of my writing after some positive feedback. I'm going to post a collection of older reviews and columns first, then I may write some more over the next couple of weeks to keep myself occupied.

Today's review sees me dive back into the Attitude Era, and more specifically, one of my favourite matches of the whole AE. Hope you enjoy!

Original Link: WrestleWatch Vault: WWF Over The Edge 1998

WrestleWatch Vault: WWF Over The Edge 1998

February 7, 2020

Back again with another Attitude Era review! Spent my holidays working through a great chunk of the Attitude Era- in between trying to make better lifestyle choices and mostly succeeding. Starting eating better and walking more, and even though my body is still giving out on me a little more than I would like, I generally have a lot more energy than I had a few months ago. So everything's coming up Milhouse.

Back to the wrestling! At the time of writing, I'm up to August 1998. We're on the road to Summerslam, and Sunday Night Heat just had its premiere episode, with Shane McMahon joining Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary. But we'll get to that a little bit later, in future Vault reviews. Today's PPV event happened on May 31, 1998, and the main event is one of my all-time favourite matches, one of the earliest WWF matches I can recall watching. It's Stone Cold Steve Austin- coming off a massive win at Wrestlemania XIV, defeating Shawn Michaels to capture the WWF Championship. His challenger- Dude Love, one of the 3 Faces of the Hardcore Legend, Mick Foley. At this time, the Dude was playing the role of a corporate stooge for the evil boss, Mr. McMahon. Old Vinny Mac wanted "anyone but Austin" representing the WWF as its champion, and to help ensure that, he was naming himself the special guest referee. And if that wasn't stacking the deck enough, he recruited THE Stooges, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco, to serve as the special guest ring announcer and timekeeper, respectively. It was looking like a bad night to be the Texas Rattlesnake.



Talk about a stacked deck!

The Show

The opening video is very cool, using old footage interspersed with a monotonous voice repeating "You must conform. You must comply." Serious 1984 vibes- the George Orwell book, not the year that Hulkamania ran wild. The teen in me that topped my Advanced English class loves this shit. Current day Mick also thinks it's pretty cool. Onto the matches.

Match 1: LOD 2000 (w/ Droz & Sunny) def. DOA (at 9:57)

Thoughts: A decent opener. Sunny was there to give some Attitude Era appeal to the legendary team of Animal and Hawk, and Droz had recently joined the WWF- you might remember him as the guy from the Beyond The Mat documentary that could vomit on command, which he did as Vince yelled "HE'S GONNA PUKE!" The DOA team of Skull and 8-Ball had been pulling off the ol' Twin Magic switch-a-roo in recent weeks, but Droz was able to thwart them, allowing LOD to get the W. Nice big boy tag team work. (**)

We are graced with the presence of The Rock! He's the Intercontinental Champion, and although he's a good year or so off becoming "the most electrifying man in sports entertainment", he's coming into his own here as the new leader of the Nation of Domination. He makes fun of Milwaukee- the host city of Over The Edge- particularly taking aim at the ugly women. The previous Nation head honcho, Faarooq takes exception to this and comes out to attack Rocky. He delivers a piledriver onto a chair (well, it misses the chair, but, just...okay?) Commissioner Slaughter basically says "tough shit". The IC title match is still on for later in the show.

Backstage, Michael Cole interviews Stone Cold. He asks Austin if this is the last night he walks to the ring as champion- what a dumb question. Austin gives the appropriate response, "Hell no, you silly bastard" and guaran-damn-tees he's still gonna be the champ. Oh hell yeah!

Match 2: Jeff Jarrett (w/ Tennessee Lee) def. Steve Blackman (at 10:15)

Thoughts: The Lethal Weapon was still pretty green at this point- this was his first PPV singles match- and he wasn't really up to task. Jarrett tried to carry him along, but it's a pretty tedious ten minutes in all honesty. Double J's manager hit Blackman with one of his twirly stick things to give his man the victory. Eh. (*1/2)

Match 3: Marc Mero def. Sable (at 0:20)

Thoughts: Really an angle more than a match, but it was a good one. Friction had been building for months between Mero and his manager/partner Sable, and this was a match where the blonde bombshell could win her contractual freedom from the bastard Mero, but if she lost, she would have to leave the WWF. It was thought that Sable would pick a representative to face the Marvellous One on her behalf, but instead she came out dressed in wrestling attire, stating that she "didn't need a man to fight her battles for her". At this, Marc seems contrite, realising what Sable was willing to do to get her freedom. He lays down, allowing Sable to pin him... but then cradles her up for the quick 3 count! He celebrates like he just won the world championship. What an asshole. (N/A)

Next up, we have a special bonus match! It involves Light Heavyweight Champion Taka Michinoku, which gives a pretty good indication of what a low priority the light heavyweight division was in the WWF, despite some quality matches during the division's inception.

Match 4: Kaientai (w/ Yamaguchi-san) def. Justin Bradshaw & Taka Michinoku (at 9:52)

Thoughts: Good fast-paced, high flying action between Taka and the Kaientai members Dick Togo, Men's Teioh and Sho Funaki, and Bradshaw played his "big brother" role well, using his power and size to negate the 3 on 2 numbers advantage. I know Taka eventually joins Funaki in Kaientai, so it'll be interesting to see how that happens- and where the hell Togo and Teioh go. The finish comes after Togo nails an awesome looking top rope senton. Definitely the best wrestling action on the show so far. (**3/4)

They show footage of Sable leaving the arena. For some reason, Sable was still in her wrestling gear, which Lawler has a justified chuckle at. Somewhere, Randy Orton is watching, going, "I don't get it, why is that funny?"

Match 5: WWF Intercontinental Championship- The Rock def. Faarooq (at 5:07)

Thoughts: Not much of a match. Rock plays the chickenshit heel and doesn't come out initially when his music is played. Commish Slaughter says that if he doesn't get his (roody-poo candy) ass out here, he will be stripped of the title. Rock begrudgingly gets out there and battles his old boss. People's Elbow gets a near fall, Faarooq gets a 3 count off a spinebuster, but it turns out Rock's foot was on the ropes. Quick roll-up gives the win to the People's Champ. (*1/2)

Post-match, Faarooq piledrives The Rock again. The Nation come out to save him, and DX come out to chase them off. They've got faction warfare coming up in a little while.

Match 6: Mask vs. Mask Match- Kane def. Vader (at 7:20)

Thoughts: Vader's past his best here, but it's still compelling to see this battle of the monsters. They brawl a bit before Kane knocks down Big Van with a top rope flying clothesline. Damn, Kane was such an agile dude for a 300+ pounder in his prime. Vader tries to use a wrench- a callback to several months ago when Kane struck him with the same tool- but to no avail. Vader misses a massive (and I do mean massive) moonsault. Still crazy to see a man that size fly. Tombstone by the Big Red Machine ends it. (**)

Post-match, Michael Cole interviews a distraught Vader. He calls himself a "fat piece of shit". Vader, not Michael Cole. This is the main thing I remembered about this show before re-watching it (besides the main event).

Match 7: The Nation (Owen Hart, D'Lo Brown & Kama Mustafa) def. D-Generation X (Triple H, Road Dog and Billy Gunn) (w/ Chyna & X-Pac) (at 18:33)

Thoughts: A marathon match compared to everything else on the show to this point. Pretty good though, given the talent involved, and DX in particular were super-over. Everyone had their moments, and in the end, Owen got the shine by hitting Hunter with his own Pedigree on the European title. Triple H was starting to progress nicely as a top-level star as the leader of DX- they were technically heels, but were starting to get significantly cheered for their rebellious nature and over the top segments. (***)

Match 8: WWF Championship- Stone Cold def. Dude Love (at 22:27)

Thoughts: This was wild. Stone Cold vs. Dude Love encapsulates everything that was great about the Attitude Era. Vince played the evil boss perfectly, Austin was an underdog due to the circumstances, but still a heroic bad-ass. Foley was willing to throw himself around the place, and they brawled around the arena in what would become an Attitude Era staple. Patterson kept announcing rules that he "forgot" to announce earlier- no DQ, Falls Count Anywhere- and it all served to ramp up the intensity. Undertaker eventually got involved, chokeslamming both Patterson and Brisco through the announce tables at ringside. A wild chair shot swing from Dude Love accidentally struck Vince, knocking him cold. Austin hits the Stunner on Foley and uses Vince's lifeless hand to count the 3. This was chaotic awesomeness, and still one of my favourite matches. (****1/2)

Overall Thoughts

The undercard wasn't much to write home about, but the main event made this whole thing worthwhile. Stone Cold and Mick Foley put together a masterpiece- with supporting roles by McMahon, Patterson and Brisco- that showed everything that was great about the Attitude Era. Incredible storytelling, awesome action, enhanced by a crowd that was hot for every move. We were on the cusp of the true explosion of popularity in the Attitude Era, with The Rock and Triple H showing that they were just about ready to take that next step into the upper echelon of superstardom in the WWF. Stone Cold vs. Dude Love, though, is a match that every wrestling fan NEEDS to watch.

Overall Score: 7/10

Until next time, take care,

Mick
 

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Realised in looking through this section that I had only posted 2 out of 3 columns in my Best of the 2010s series. We had the Top 10 Moments, and a mammoth undertaking in the Top 40 Matches (in WWE). The poor left out one was my Top 10 Wrestlers. I expect this one to ruffle a few feathers as I advocate for a few wrestlers not typically loved by "the IWC". But hey, we're all not all a hivemind, contrary to popular Twitter belief, so hopefully some of you see where I'm coming from.

So, originally written right at the tail end of 2019, here are my Top 10 Wrestlers of the 2010s!

Original Link: Best of the 2010s: Top 10 Wrestlers

Best of the 2010s: Top 10 Wrestlers

December 21, 2019
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Mick Robson



Up with the next list of the series! Best of the 2010s. Honestly, the first one of these, sorting through the top moments, was fairly easy. The moments listed clearly stood out, and I don't feel that I left out many, if any, worthy contenders for those top spots. It's symptomatic of the shift in pro wrestling. In the 80s wrestling boom, in the Attitude Era, hell, even in the Ruthless Aggression Era, there were a ton of big moments, promos and angles to capture the attention of wrestling fans worldwide. But in the 2010s- well, honestly it probably began in the mid/late 2000s- the idea of "workrate" became more prevalent than anything else. Having a killer match became more important than delivering a fire promo. Bookers and writers became prone to filling time on wrestling shows by sending great workers out to bring down the house with top-notch wrestling action for 15-20 minutes rather than scripting a segment or big angle.

I could get into the pros and cons of the modern wrestling approach, but I won't here and now. I bring it up simply to say that the Best of the 2010s posts get tricky from here on out. WWE is full of tremendous wrestlers. So is New Japan. AEW are building a strong roster of guys that can go in that squared circle. I can see myself editing this list a bunch of times before I hit publish, but here we go, from 10 to 1, the best wrestlers of the past decade!



10. Roman Reigns

Let's start with a bit of controversy, shall we? A large segment of the Internet Wrestling Community detests Roman Reigns. They think he's a subpar worker, and the epitome of everything that is wrong with WWE today. He spams moves, he's booked to be Superman... hell, I even recently criticised the booking of Reigns at TLC. It was mindnumbingly bad. But there lies the crux of the matter- his booking. The treatment of Reigns as the anoited top guy is what puts many people off him. Vince's "subtle as a sledgehammer" approach to making Reigns a star is off-putting, but if you put that to the side... Roman Reigns himself routinely has quality matches. From shining in hot tag sequences with The Shield, to his breakout year as a singles star in 2015. 2015 Roman Reigns is where I make my case for the Big Dog's inclusion in this list. Let's look at Roman's PPV opponents that year- Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar, Big Show, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, the Wyatt Family, Sheamus. A wide variety of opponents, with various shapes, sizes and wrestling styles to go with it, and Reigns had great matches with them all. If you can have a high quality match with the 2015 version of Big Show, you're an extremely good wrestler. I feel that the 2015 PPV run of Roman Reigns is one of the best and most consistent runs of any wrestler in a single year. The following year, great PPV matches with AJ Styles, then working with a green Braun Strowman in 2017 for some top notch hoss battles, and some honest to goodness wars with frequent rival Brock Lesnar. You can hate Roman's push, his character, his booking, but bell-to-bell, the man delivers with anyone you put him in there with. Except 50 year old Triple H and Undertaker.



9. Will Ospreay

Now for someone who is the antithesis of Roman Reigns, and another polarising figure in his own right- the Aerial Assassin, Will Ospreay. A star on the independent scene, and a man who calls New Japan Pro Wrestling his home, Ospreay rose to prominence with a match against Ricochet during the 2016 Best of the Super Juniors tournament. It went viral for its jaw dropping athleticism and counter wrestling sequence, which were unlike anything we had really seen in a wrestling ring before. Reactions ranged from high praise for the innovation of the action, to old school purists dismissing it as overly-choreographed and seeming like a gymnastics performance more than a wrestling match. Will Ospreay can move and flip in and out of a ring like no one else I've seen, and does it all with little regard for his own safety. He's also heard the criticism- these last couple of years, he's reigned in the flippy-floppy spots a little, and started selling more and incorporating psychology into his matches. That adjustment has led to some truly stunning matches, especially this year against the likes of Kota Ibushi, Shingo Takagi, Robbie Eagles and El Phantasmo, to name a few.



8. John Cena

Back to another polarising figure in WWE- John Cena took much of the same criticism that Roman Reigns does over being the chosen one, being booked as a superhero. But when it comes to high level main event action, Cena has mastered that WWE style. The only reason he doesn't rank higher is his limited schedule since around 2016. Hard to put a man at the top in the 2010s when he's been chasing that Hollywood dream for half a decade. If you truly look at Cena's body of work, putting aside the smarky, "Boo Cena sux" mentality, his resume of classic matches speaks for itself. At Money In The Bank 2011, he had the first 5 star rated match in WWE in years with CM Punk. A lot of that was Punk, but hey, it takes two to tango. Then the huge Wrestlemania box office attractions with The Rock. Then welcoming Brock Lesnar back to WWE and putting him over as the Beast Incarnate. Then putting over Daniel Bryan in a Summerslam classic. Then revamping his style to keep up with the younger guys from the indy scene in the US Championship Open Challenges, going balls to the wall with guys like Cesaro and Kevin Owens. Then a couple more classics with AJ Styles. We really don't see him much anymore, but John Cena is one of the best ever at delivering in those big match situations.



7. Brock Lesnar

Why do I feel like some people are absolutely going to loathe this list? Brock Lesnar is yet another WWE main eventer that gets a ton of criticism. He's lazy, he's a part timer, he does the same moves all the time. Yet, even with some of those criticisms holding some weight, he's still managed to have some of the best matches of the last 10 years. His return bout opposte John Cena at Extreme Rules 2012 was mindblowing. It was a spectacle unlike anything we had seen in WWE. He then worked a feud with Triple H that drew mixed reviews, but from there he feuded with CM Punk, culminating in a match at Summerslam 2013. In my opinion, one of the greatest matches in Summerslam history. He went on to have the biggest moment of the decade in being the man to end The Undertaker's legendary Wrestlemania Streak. Due to Undertaker suffering a concussion, it wasn't a great match or even a good match, but Lesnar would go on to rectify that the following year at Summerslam and Hell In A Cell against a healthier Deadman, giving Taker what I believe were the last truly great matches of his career. In between the Taker stuff, Lesnar had what is my favourite Triple Threat of all time against Cena and Rollins, and went toe to toe with Reigns at Mania in a brutal battle before Seth cashed in and won the gold. Brock phoned it in admittedly the following year at Wrestlemania against Dean Ambrose, but it soon became apparent why- Brock was preparing to return to the UFC. After a quick UFC fight in July 2016, Brock engaged in a feud with a returning Bill Goldberg. He put Goldberg over in 1:26 at Survivor Series, before actually having a proper battle of the titans with his old rival at Wrestlemania 33, in what is probably my favourite short match ever. In recent years, Brock has had barnburners with AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan in consecutive years at Survivor Series, and most recently finally had the proper match with Seth Rollins I've been waiting years for at Summerslam. When Brock actually gives a fuck, there's no one like him.



6. CM Punk

Much like John Cena, his inactivity in the second half of the decade hurts his ranking here. The aformentioned 5 star match against Cena at MITB 2011 built on Punk's already stellar reputation for having incredible matches. The "Best In The World" moniker wasn't some meaningless gimmick. From a character/promo standpoint, few, if any, could touch him- we all know about The Pipebomb, and to a lesser extent, his "Box With God" promo opposite The Rock. He had a couple of underrated gems with Daniel Bryan through 2012, carried Ryback to some watchable outings, and did it all as the reigning WWE Champion over 434 days. No big deal. After dropping the title to The Rock and losing the rematch (the only man besides Cena given the honor of going one-on-one with The Great One), he gave Undertaker his last great Mania match. After the Summerslam belter with Brock, Punk dropped to the midcard for the remainder of his WWE run, with his last appearance in a WWE ring being an ironman shift in the 2014 Rumble, lasting a whopping 50 minutes. With Punk being back in the fold, so to speak, with WWE Backstage, I'd be very surprised if we don't see the Straight Edge Superstar wrestle another match in 2020.



5. Seth Rollins

While Roman Reigns was given every accolade under the sun, and pushed to the moon, the real breakout star of The Shield faction was Seth Rollins. While he shone in The Shield's six man tag with his athletic ability, flying around the ring seemingly effortlessly, it was when he turned heel and aligned with The Authority that the spotlight really shone on Rollins. As WWE Champion (and also briefly US Champion), he carried the company, being an absolute workhorse... until his unfortunate knee injury sidelined him. For me, I really sat up and took notice of Seth at the Royal Rumble 2015. He was in a Triple Threat with John Cena and Brock Lesnar, and to me, he shone brighter than both of the established superstars. Once he returned from the knee injury, he continued the run of consistency. You just don't get bad Seth Rollins matches. Ever. Last year, he carried Raw, from a sublime Gauntlet match on Raw, to thrilling clashes over the IC title against people like The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre. In 2019, he was rewarded for all his hard work with a Rumble win, and Universal title wins over Brock Lesnar at both Wrestlemania and Summerslam. His Twitter game is highly questionable, but his ability as a wrestler certainly isn't. One of the best in WWE for sure.



4. Kazuchika Okada

I'm going to hold my hands up and say that I am not as familiar with Okada as I would like to be. There's only so much time in the day, and I don't keep with with NJPW as much as I would like to. I watch the major events, like Wrestle Kingdom and Dominion, and I try to watch most of whatever Will Ospreay and Robbie Eagles are doing. But Okada is undoubtedly THE GUY in New Japan. He doesn't speak English, but he has an obvious physical charisma that transcends language barriers. His ability to emote gets you sucked into his matches. The matches with Kenny Omega were among the best I've ever seen. I did watch the G1 this year, and Okada's consistency in building drama as the matches in the tournament went on, had me on the edge of my seat. Against Tanahashi, Ospreay, Kenta, Archer, Sanada, Ibushi... Okada was sensational. I'd put any of those matches up against anything done in WWE this year. I'm very excited to see Okada vs. Ibushi again at Wrestle Kingdom at the beginning of 2020!



3. Kenny Omega

Omega's run of excellence in New Japan parallels Okada's, there's very little separating the two in all truth. Omega just has that bit of a flashier style, and I feel it translates better to American audiences. Apart from his feud with Okada, Kenny also had the reunion with his old friend Kota Ibushi as the Golden Lovers- they had one of the best tag matches ever against the Young Bucks. And of course, the feud with Chris Jericho that stole the show in the Tokyo Dome at last year's Wrestle Kingdom. Then Kenny joined AEW, and had another great outing at Double Or Nothing against Jericho, and then the violent spectacle that was the Unsanctioned match with Jon Moxley. Oh, and in between those matches, a last minute bout with Pac that stole the show in Chicago. Omega is definitely finding his groove in AEW after wowing audiences for years in Japan.



2. AJ Styles

At the beginning of the 2010s, AJ Styles was waving the flag for TNA. He was their homegrown star. I never liked TNA, but when I came across an Styles DVD in the mid-2000s, I was hooked and started following his career, in between the other crap that TNA was serving up, Styles and Samoa Joe were two of the only shining lights. Matches with Joe, Daniels and Kurt Angle caught my attention, and then Styles jumped ship to Japan. Then, he joined Bullet Club. Towards the end of his TNA run, Styles started to find himself as an all-round performer. He could cut a decent promo and play a good character as well as dazzle inside a ring. Then, as a more complete package, AJ Styles finally joined WWE at the 2016 Royal Rumble. He put in a great shift, and then embarked on a feud with Chris Jericho to get himself acquainted. Styles didn't take long at all to ascend to WWE's main event scene, feuding with Reigns and Cena before defeating Dean Ambrose to win the WWE Championship. Summerslam 2016 and Royal Rumble 2017 saw him trade wins with Mr. WWE himself, John Cena. He went on to steal the show at Wrestlemania 33 against Shane McMahon, and he went on to have phenomenal battles with the likes of Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe. AJ Styles has been a star everywhere he's gone, and can go with anyone inside the ring, as he's continued to prove this year against men like Ricochet, Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio.



1. Daniel Bryan

After a long and storied career on the American independent wrestling scene, Bryan made his WWE debut in February 2010, on the original season of NXT. He immediately broke out from the pack with his performance on the first episode against then World Champion, Chris Jericho. From there, he quickly ascended through the ranks of WWE, despite being undersized and being an "indy darling". He won the US Title, he won MITB and the World Heavyweight Championship, constantly wowing audiences with his intense, hard-hitting and high-octane style. He took a comedic turn teaming with Kane to form Team Hell No, which allowed his character to shine and audiences to connect with him on a greater level. This took him to Summerslam 2013, where he was one of the only people to ever pin John Cena clean to win the WWE Championship. Then, after a few twists and turns, Daniel Bryan overcame the Authority, beating Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista in the same night to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion at Wrestlemania 30. And then... he got injured. Then he made a triumphant comeback, winning the Intercontinental Championship. Then he got injured again. Bryan made a retirement speech and his career was thought to be over. He became Smackdown GM, but couldn't engage in any physicality. And then... in 2018 he got cleared! Once again healthy, Bryan got back in the ring and hadn't missed a beat despite being out of the ring for 3 years. He's had amazing battles with The Miz, AJ Styles, Brock Lesnar, Kofi Kingston. The 2010s have been a wild ride for Daniel Bryan in the WWE. We've loved him, we've hated him, we've cheered, we've cried.. but through all the ups and downs, one constant has remained- he's the best inside that ring. No matter who he's in the ring against, Daniel Bryan will deliver.

Well, that's it, guys, thanks for reading- oh wait, I can already hear it. Oh, that guy's ranked too high! Oh, that one's ranked too low! That one shouldn't even be in the list! And where's that guy? He should be in the list! Alright... I can't please everyone. It's just my opinion... but to make a few things right, here's some...

Honourable Mentions

Chris Jericho- Jericho is my all time favourite, and it hurt me to leave him off this list. But my love of Jericho largely stems from his work from 1999-2010, and the bits and pieces I've seen of him in the 1990s. Objectively, he misses the top 10 with his drop in, drop out schedule of the early 2010s, coming in to job to a few people, going to do a Fozzy tour, rinse and repeat. It wasn't until 2016 that he had a sustained run back in this decade, and he struck character gold in late 16/early 17 with the List and the awesome Festival of Friendship segment. He was over again big time, character and promos on point, but it seemed like Father Time got the best of him until Kenny Omega came along in January 2018. And as much as I'm loving Le Champion in AEW and partaking in "a little bit of the bubbly", objectively his performances have been hit and miss inside the ring, he's definitely slowing down. Still far better than many of his contemporaries at 49... Triple H and Undertaker, looking at you.

Kota Ibushi- his body of work is right up there with Okada and Omega, he just hasn't always been at that main event level, and I haven't seen all of his stuff honestly. Loved his WK matches with Cody and Ospreay, and I'll be watching closely his match with Okada in a couple of weeks at Wrestle Kingdom 14!

Randy Orton- there's something to be said for the guy's consistency. He's been a main event presence in WWE for over 15 years, and rarely has a bad match. When's he on, he can do some tremendous stuff. Issue is, a lot of the time, Orton seems happy to coast and just do his regular spots, knowing the RKO will draw reactions for him no matter what. The guy's comfortable and getting paid big money. Every once in a while, he'll step up the tempo when he feels like it- his match with AJ Styles this past week on Raw was fun.

Well, that does it, I don't think there's any real glaring omissions there. If there is, let me know in comments or via e-mail at [email protected]

Until next time, take care,

Mick
 

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Many times I’ve checked out wrestling message boards and seen wrestling fans arguing that one wrestler is better than another, or that a certain wrestler is or is not deserving of a bigger push. Whether they’re saying that The Miz should be back in the main event scene, Kofi Kingston’s WWE Title reign lasted too long, who was better between Stone Cold and The Rock, or whatever, they’re constantly arguing points about wrestling. And often times I will see people use criteria such as crowd reactions, ratings, and merchandise and ticket sales to back up their points.

And every once in a while, I hear someone say something to the effect of “Why should I care about ratings or merchandise sales? Why should it matter to me individually how many other people enjoy a certain wrestler or how much money he makes for WWE?” And they’re right, how much money a certain wrestler draws should not affect how much they enjoy their work. But every wrestling fan should accept that they are just one person, and WWE is trying to entertain a mass audience of millions of people on a weekly basis. What I or any other one person wants to see means very little in the grand scheme of things.

I was always a big fan of Tommy Dreamer’s work in ECW and WWE. He excelled in a no holds barred environment and I really respected him for all the physical punishment he was willing to take. However, I realize that he was never a big star in WWE, and even in the original ECW there were plenty of wrestlers more over than he was. I never once suggested that Tommy Dreamer should main event WrestleMania. I personally would have liked to see it, but I accepted that most fans would not have wanted it to happen and it would not have been in the best interest of WWE from a financial perspective. I can accept that Dreamer should not be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame because he was never that popular in WWE. Wrestling fans should recognize that the best wrestlers and their favorite wrestlers aren’t always going to be the same wrestlers.

That being said, a lot of people will try to use criteria such as ratings, tickets sales, etc. to explain who they think should win certain matches or titles. That’s perfectly fine. A lot of sports fans like to analyze different sports teams and athletes, using many different statistics to do so. And many times when discussing a team that is not their favorite team, they will have no rooting interest one way or the other. It’s ok to analyze wrestling in this fashion too. Instead of statistics like touch downs or total yards, pro wrestling revolves around statistics like who’s bringing in the highest quarterly hour rating and who the top sellers of merchandise are. If someone wanted to justify Cena’s mega push for so many years, they can say he was always the top or one of the top merchandise movers in the company for so long.

If people have a hard time being unbiased when they make arguments on wrestling message boards, that’s ok too. We’re all human, we all have a tendency to argue in favor of things we like. You just should come up with a better argument than “I like this wrestler so he should be champion.” On the FS1 talk show “Undisputed”, Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe often times will have contrasting opinions on sports topics, and both of them use statistics in order to make it seem like their respective opinion is right. I’m sure there are times each of them know deep down that their favorite team played poorly or whatever, but will still argue in favor of them, using stats to explain how they played well or better than most people thought. It’s perfectly fine for wrestling fans to do this too. If you’re a fan of Bray Wyatt and you didn’t like that he lost to Goldberg, even if you think it was the right decision, there’s nothing wrong with trying to argue why it wasn’t.

To be fair, you can’t always simply look at ratings, ticket sales, or whatever and get the entire picture just from that. When someone buys a ticket to a WWE show, they are expecting a 2 to 3 hour show, and there’s plenty more matches and segments than just the main event. If a card was advertised to only have one match on it, even if it did involve someone who was a proven draw, then that event would have a considerably smaller attendance or they’d have to charge much less money for tickets. The lower card wrestlers might not mean much to the fans, but they’ll look forward to seeing everyone upper mid card and above. There are exceptions to this, as I’m sure Hulk Hogan was popular enough in the 80’s to draw a big crowd even if his match was the only one on the card. That never happened, but if it did I think Hogan could have pulled it off. Shawn Michaels should not be blamed for drawing low ratings as champion in 1996 because the roster had very few stars on it, and he had incredibly tough competition in the n.W.o.

When someone is considered for the Hall of Fame, how well they drew should be a factor but it shouldn’t be the only factor. Again, it matters what kind of undercard they had wrestling before them at shows they main evented. I agree with Jackie Moore and Ivory being inducted into the Hall of Fame. It wasn’t their fault they weren’t stars. Women’s wrestling was not taken seriously during their era and most women who were stars back then got over based on sex appeal. They can’t be blamed for women not being appreciated for their in ring skill back then.

And there is always the argument that certain wrestlers never drew well because they never got a strong enough push, and therefore never had the opportunity to be a draw. It’s acceptable for wrestling fans to make arguments like this. I personally thought Damien Sandow could have been a decent draw if he got a bigger push. But for wrestlers who get multiple lengthy World Title reigns or get several opportunities to main event pay per views and tv shows in different years, if they are truly a draw the numbers will usually reflect it in time. In most cases, people can’t say forever that they don’t have a good undercard, or that the Raw they main evented was competing with a big football game, or whatever, If a wrestler gets enough opportunities, and if they really are capable of drawing, it will usually be reflected in the ratings in time. When Bret Hart became champion, he had to deal with the stench of the steroid trial and a complete overhaul of the product with the “New Generation” being ushered in. Vince still had an outdated mindset, and in 1996 and 1997 they had to compete with the red hot New World Order on Nitro. The WWE wrestlers of the New Generation have an excuse for not drawing, and sometimes the era a wrestler competes in has a factor in how many fans will watch them. But if a wrestler is capable of drawing and they get the opportunities then in most cases they will move the needle to some degree.

Wrestling fans should enjoy whoever they want without regards to how high of a rating they draw. But they should be realistic and not expect their favorite wrestler to be champion if they are proven to not be a draw. It’s ok for fans to use statistics like ticket sales to analyze who is best for business, whether they want to be objective or not. Everyone should realize that those statistics don’t tell the entire story, but if a wrestler is given enough chances, then eventually the stats will reflect if they are a draw or not.
 

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For over a decade World Championship Wrestling was WWE’s biggest competition. They went from being the number two wrestling organization to being not only competitive, but the clear number one wrestling organization for about a year and half. One of the biggest criticisms WCW gets to this very day is that they weren’t able to create any stars themselves besides Goldberg, and that all their stars were either established there before Jim Crocket Promotions became WCW, or were stolen from WWE. Jim Ross said that Goldberg was the only guy in WCW that got a break. Many fans make this claim as well. I strongly disagree with this, and it is my opinion that WCW created a lot more stars than just Goldberg.

Before I go any further, I want to establish what I think it means to create a star. It means when a main stream wrestling organization takes a wrestler who was not a main eventer in any other major wrestling organization and makes him a believable main eventer that the fans care about. They don’t necessarily have to create their character from scratch or give them their start in the wrestling business. It takes more than a good character to get someone over as a main eventer. I also think WCW deserves credit for totally repackaging certain wrestlers who were already stars before joining WCW, because they were able to get them massively over as drastically different characters and there was no guarantee the fans would respond well to the changes.


Diamond Dallas Page formed his character in AWA, but he was a manager at first. When he first started in WCW he had the same character and was still just a manager. He eventually trained at WCW’s Power Plant to become a full time wrestler, and when he started wrestling matches he had to begin from the ground up as a jobber, rarely winning matches. People still saw him as having the credibility of a manager, so he had to start at the bottom of the ladder. He eventually started winning more matches in the mid card and won the TV Title. In 1997 he began a feud with Randy Savage where Dallas pinned him a few times and was elevated to upper mid card/main event status. He went on to main event a handful of pay per views and won the WCW World Title in 1999, a title he would win two more times in his career. Dallas remained a main eventer in WCW until it folded in 2001. WCW may not have created DDP’s character, but they took him from a manager and in time turned him into a credible, believable main eventer. WCW made him a main event star.

The character of Big Van Vader, or Vader as he was known as in WWE, was formed while wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling. It was based on a character of the same name from Japanese folklore. He wore similar tights and a similar mask to what he would wear in America and beat the living hell out of people with his stiff punches. He became a big star in Japan, wining the IWGP World Title 3 times.

When he started working for WCW, they had mentioned that he wrestled in Japan, but didn’t really talk about how successful he was. Pro Wrestling Illustrated covered Japanese wrestling and may have talked about him, but I doubt many fans were reading that, and the truth is most American fans don’t care how successful a wrestler was in another country. Prince Albert went to Japan and became a star over there, but when he came back to WWE the fans still didn’t care about him very much, no matter how much Michael Cole talked about his success in Japan. Same deal with Sin Cara having been a big deal in Mexico and failing in WWE. WCW had to get Vader’s character over with the American fans and make them believe he was a credible threat in the main event scene. And they did. He won the WCW World Title three times, beat Sting a few times, and main evented pay per views, including a Starrcade. Mick Foley said that during his run in WCW Vader was “King of the Monster Heels”. WCW didn’t create his character, but they are responsible for first making him a star in the United States.




The Giant first debuted in a mainstream wrestling company in 1995 in WCW. He was falsely billed as being 7 feet 5 inches tall and the son of wrestling legend Andre The Giant. In his first match he defeated Hulk Hogan for the WCW Championship, and would later win the title again by defeating Ric Flair. You might say it’s not very big accomplishment for WCW to make The Giant a credible main eventer considering he was legitimately over 7 feet tall and over 400 lbs. But WCW did add to his aura by exaggerating his height and falsely claiming he was Andre’s son. They also trained him at the Power Plant to be a passable wrestler for his size, and history shows that not all giants can get the hang of the in ring side of wrestling, as could be seen in Giant Gonzalez and The Great Khali. No matter how much The Giant’s biological make up helped, WCW still made him a star.

Now, we all know that Hulk Hogan was a huge mega star in pro wrestling long before he ever joined WCW. Hulkamania was a part of pop culture in the eighties, and that happened while Hogan was wrestling for WWE. It would be ridiculous to say WCW first made him a star, and that is not what I am saying. What I will say is that WCW deserves credit for completely repackaging Hulk Hogan and turning him into a drastically different character. In 1993 when Hogan was wrestling for WWE, Vince McMahon asked Hogan to leave his contract. Vince thought Hogan had peaked and that there wasn’t much more to get out of him from a financial perspective.


In 1996 WCW turned Hogan heel and breathed new life into his character. It was previously unfathomable for Hogan to turn heel, and Vince McMahon himself did not take the opportunity to do so in 1993. Instead Vince simply asked him to leave. WCW did the unthinkable and made Hogan a villain, creating Hollywood Hogan. Hollywood Hogan wore all black, dyed his beard black, talked trash about the fans, and acted like a coward. This was a stark contrast to the red and yellow Hogan who would “fight for the rights of every man” and told everyone to train, take their vitamins and say their prayers. The combination of Hogan’s heel turn and the N.W.O. storyline ignited another wrestling boom and made Nitro beat Raw in the ratings for over 80 consecutive weeks. Hogan’s heel turn would not have been as meaningful had he not been such a huge star in WWE, but they had the guts to repackage him as a heel and got him over as a mega star once again.

Although Sting was not quite a main eventer before Jim Crocket Promotions became WCW, he was a rising star and was very over with the fans. He can be compared to Ultimate Warrior from Summer Slam 88 when he beat Honkey Tonk Man for the IC Title to Summer Slam 89 when he regained the IC Title from Rick Rude. Sting was a strong upper mid carder just waiting to break through into the main event. Sting had the surfer type character he was famous for before WCW came into existence. It was after JCP became WCW that the trigger was finally pulled on Sting and he became World Champion, but I can’t really credit WCW with initially making him a star.


What I do give WCW credit for is completely repackaging Sting in the mid nineties and getting him massively over with a brand new character. In early 96 he stopped dyeing his hair blonde, got rid of his flat top and grew his natural brown hair out, as well as wearing darker tights. Not long after the famous War Games match where Sting walked out on Team WCW, he became a totally different character that was inspired by the main character of the movie “The Crow”. Sting wore white and black face paint in a different design than Surfer Sting, wore long black trench coats, and carried a black baseball bat with him. He went over a year without speaking a word, but in time he began speaking more often. When he was feuding with the N.W.O. he would hang out in the nosebleed section and silently watch things, and often times would make entrances from the rafters on a harness before he attacked the N.W.O. This version of Sting was far darker than his character that was on the rise in JCP. You can say part of the reason why this version got so over was because he was a big star beforehand, and that is true, but there was no guarantee the fans would respond so well to such a radical change in personas. The Crow character was so successful Sting never went back to his surfer character, even when he was in TNA and WWE. WCW deserves credit for repackaging Sting.


Scott Steiner initially became famous as a member of the Steiner Brothers, as they won tag team championships in WCW and WWE. Many considered them one of the greatest tag teams of all time. However, it wasn’t until 1998 when Scott first got a serious push as a singles competitor in a mainstream American promotion in WCW. A lot of people say Rick was the one who got more attention when they were together as a tag team, but it was Scott who flourished as a singles star. He joined the N.W.O., and back then one of their simple black and white t-shirts could help get someone over. He completely changed his image from the Steiner Brothers. Scott cut his mullet, grew a goatee, and dyed both his hair and facial hair bleach blond. He started calling himself Big Poppa Pump, based on his increased muscle mass, and wore sunglasses and a chain link head dress to the ring. He developed a more brash and outspoken persona than the All American college wrestler gimmick he previously had. Steiner became a credible main eventer, having feuds with Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Booker T, and Sid Vicious, and won the WCW World Title. It was in WCW that Scott first became a main event singles star and developed the Big Poppa Pump character.



Booker T was part of the tag team Harlem Heat for several years before being pushed as a singles star. He won the WCW Tag Team Championship many times, but in 1997 he became a serious singles wrestler. He won the TV Title, got a clean win over Bret Hart, and in 2000 became their World Champion. He won the World Title in WCW a total of 4 times. Booker T’s start as a main eventer in a mainstream wrestling promotion was in WCW, so WCW should get credit for making him a star.

Even though Jeff Jarrett was pushed as a main eventer, I don’t consider him one of the stars that WCW created. Numerous people in the wrestling industry have said that most fans never cared about Jarrett the way they should care about a main eventer. They tried, but it just didn’t work. I feel when WCW signed wrestlers that were on television a lot in WWE, they had a hard time giving them more credibility than what they had in WWE. Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, Jim Duggan, The Nasty Boys, Haku/Meng, and other WWE stars who jumped ship to WCW all maintained pretty much the same credibility in WCW that they had in WWE. Jarrett got an opportunity to become more, but it didn’t work out.

A lot of people claim that Goldberg was the only star that WCW created, and I don’t feel that is accurate. DDP, Big Van Vader, The Giant, Scott Steiner and Booker T all became singles main event stars in WCW. WCW may not have created all of their characters, but they still got them over as credible main eventers for the first time in a major promotion in the United States. I also think WCW deserves credit for repackaging Hogan and Sting and breathing new life into their characters. While WCW had a reputation for stealing many main eventers from WWE and using guys who were stars in JCP, they actually created a fair amount of their own stars in the 12 or so years they were in business.
 

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Great column once again. I do want to address a couple of things though:

* I think part of the reason why people think Goldberg was the only star made is because of when he was dominating was WCW's highest point - when they were beating WWF on a weekly basis. He really seemed to be the BIGGEST star that was on par with SCSA. No one else there did. The other guys that were at the tippy top of WCW during their dominant time were generally from WWF. Nash, Hall, Hogan, Savage, Piper etc (Add Sting to that of course).

Whereas the guys you mentioned such as Vader, DDP, Booker, Steiner were not on top at the same time of top WCW dominance. In the early 90s when Vader was on top WCW business was in the toilet so it was a small pond. Same token, the others were ME stars after the boat had sailed in 99/2000)

No let's go back in time to when WCW really got on the map as competition: around the time they got Hogan and started Nitro.

* Hogan, still with plenty of cache from the WWF He immediately turned business around. Then came more WWF guys at that time, most notable top card guys like Piper and Savage.

* Then WCW explodes with the NWO, all WWF made - and that was the point.

Finally it's a reach IMO to include Hollywood Hogan. His background and popular cache was and would always be him as a WWF megastar. There's no way around that. If he had been called something completely different at least then you would have something. But he was still Hulk Hogan, WWF star - WCW did not create that. The whole base of Hollywood.

They do deserve credit for Crow Sting yes. Utterly brilliant execution until it came time to get paid at Starrcade 97 and we know how that turned out. I've always thought if Hogan didn't sabotage that and they truly put the rocket up Sting after that and booked him right - he would've reached the heights of Austin.


The trouble with this whole notion of the article is the inevitable comparison with WWF and what they did to take over in that bust out 98ish period. They made Stone Cold. They made The Rock. They made Kane for example. They made Mankind. Ken Shamrock. Triple H. The Outlaws. They were all relatively new and fresh and over. WCW couldn't replicate that in any way on their side in numbers.
 

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My impression overall is his character is just in the wrong era at the end of the day. I really, really liked the buildup and firefly funhouse; the introduction of the fiend in vignettes. Then it's like once the character comes out on this overproduced, bright set, LED ring, every fucking inch branded - he seems so out of place. Like, what is this wacked out demon guy doing in a wrestling ring with all these bright bells and whistles around him?

He just would've worked so much better in the days of the Undertaker emerging, or later in the 90s at least. The curtain wasn't well and truly lifted then. Now that the fans have seen it all over and over and the WWE can't help winking at the audience not taking itself seriously - it's hard to keep the same impact.
 

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Great column once again. I do want to address a couple of things though:

* I think part of the reason why people think Goldberg was the only star made is because of when he was dominating was WCW's highest point - when they were beating WWF on a weekly basis. He really seemed to be the BIGGEST star that was on par with SCSA. No one else there did. The other guys that were at the tippy top of WCW during their dominant time were generally from WWF. Nash, Hall, Hogan, Savage, Piper etc (Add Sting to that of course).

Whereas the guys you mentioned such as Vader, DDP, Booker, Steiner were not on top at the same time of top WCW dominance. In the early 90s when Vader was on top WCW business was in the toilet so it was a small pond. Same token, the others were ME stars after the boat had sailed in 99/2000)

No let's go back in time to when WCW really got on the map as competition: around the time they got Hogan and started Nitro.

* Hogan, still with plenty of cache from the WWF He immediately turned business around. Then came more WWF guys at that time, most notable top card guys like Piper and Savage.

* Then WCW explodes with the NWO, all WWF made - and that was the point.

Finally it's a reach IMO to include Hollywood Hogan. His background and popular cache was and would always be him as a WWF megastar. There's no way around that. If he had been called something completely different at least then you would have something. But he was still Hulk Hogan, WWF star - WCW did not create that. The whole base of Hollywood.

They do deserve credit for Crow Sting yes. Utterly brilliant execution until it came time to get paid at Starrcade 97 and we know how that turned out. I've always thought if Hogan didn't sabotage that and they truly put the rocket up Sting after that and booked him right - he would've reached the heights of Austin.


The trouble with this whole notion of the article is the inevitable comparison with WWF and what they did to take over in that bust out 98ish period. They made Stone Cold. They made The Rock. They made Kane for example. They made Mankind. Ken Shamrock. Triple H. The Outlaws. They were all relatively new and fresh and over. WCW couldn't replicate that in any way on their side in numbers.
Thanks for the compliment. I guess you have a point in saying people think that way because Goldberg was the only homegrown WCW star on top when WCW was doing huge business. But I still think it's a ludicrous statement to say he was the only star WCW created.

As for Hollywood Hogan, I didn't say he first became a star in WCW, that would be redicullous. I said WCW deserves credit for completely repackaging him. Before he turned heel, Hogan was nowhere near the draw he was in the eighties. And then WCW made a gutsy move by turning him heel and giving him a radically different character than the one he had in WWE. That character change substantially increased his star power.

But your right, no matter how you look at it WCW will always look bad in comparison to WWE I regards to making stars. WWE still made far more.
 

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Original Link: WrestleWatch: WWE Wrestlemania 36 (Part 1)

WrestleWatch: WWE Wrestlemania 36 (Part 1)
April 6, 2020


What a weird and not so wonderful world we currently live in. Even if you've been living under a rock, you know that 2020 has been an absolute shitshow of a year so far. Australia got hit by bushfires, the coronavirus emerged as a worldwide pandemic, Justin Bieber released a new album, and Donald Trump is still the President of the United States. Shitshow.

But in all seriousness, the coronavirus- or COVID-19- has basically forced the entire world to shut down. Social distancing has become a thing, which is basically a polite term for "keep the fuck away from me". Also the term "self-isolation", which means "stay the fuck home". I live somewhat of a hermit life anyway, so this wasn't so bad for me at first. But now that I don't have the option of going out, staying home all the time has me a little antsy.

Why is this stuff that you all know relevant to a wrestling show review? Because, dear reader, WWE is the one form of entertainment that has ploughed forward throughout this pandemic. Concessions and changes have needed to be made, but while the NBA, the NFL, the UFC, and various other sports and entertainment shows have closed shop, Vince has done his hardest Vince-ing, and persisting with Raw and Smackdown every week, moving it to a closed set at the WWE Performance Center with very limited personnel. After some initial cat and mouse games, with neither side wanting to deliver the bad news... Wrestlemania was shifted from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida, down to the PC in Orlando- with no fans present. Everyone who bought tickets to the show all over the world got refunds, and with more and more lockdown restrictions being put in place, the show format began changing further. All of a sudden, Wrestlemania became a two-night show, with WWE giving it the tagline "Too Big For One Night!" Gotta love how they try and put a positive spin on anything. Incidentally, the word "coronavirus" has been about as welcome on WWE TV as "Chris Benoit". The dude living in the woods with his awesome Wi-Fi connection has no idea why his favourite wrestling show has made all these changes. And the final blow- with the city of Orlando tightening their laws on groups of people gathering, WWE would be forced to pre-tape the entire Wrestlemania event. How would they make this work?

I have to admit, my expectations for this show were extremely low. As a die-hard wrestling fan, I've continued to watch every Raw, Smackdown and NXT leading into Wrestlemania, even as we've gotten the taped shows in an empty Performance Center with no fans, no life and no soul. Yeah, the shows have been a slog to watch. But it's still the Road to Wrestlemania. And while the matches have suffered big time without the crowd interaction to feed off, the promos and segments have been outstanding- to the point that I think, strictly from a storytelling standpoint, that this has somehow become one of the best builds to Mania in years. But the matches have mostly been figurative fellatio.

Anyway, it's still WrestleMania. The biggest show of the year(?)

Let's do this.

The Show

Kick-Off- Cesaro def. Drew Gulak (at 4:25)

Thoughts: The no-hands airplane spin was pretty cool. Nice hard-hitting, yet technical short match. Feels weird with both guys wrestling to absolute silence. Well, apart from Michael Cole doing commentary solo. What atrocities did I commit in a past life to be subject to that torture? (**)

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Kicking off the main show, a message from Stephanie McMahon. She references "current circumstances" and says that every Wrestlemania is unique. WWE are here to provide a diversion during these tough times. From there, a very fun pirate-themed opening video package with a Jack Sparrow impersonator taking the piss out of things in a voice-over.

We go to the Performance Centre. Looks EXACTLY the same as it did for Raw and Smackdown, just with Wrestlemania signs everywhere, including a giant one behind the announce table. "Hall of Fame-elect" JBL joins Cole on commentary.

Rob Gronkowski, or Gronk, is the host of WrestleMania. God I hate Gronk. He's the most obnoxious person that's ever lived- but we're supposed to like him and think he's some super cool party boy. His friend Mojo Rawley joins him, and he's not much better. He asks Gronk to chop him for some reason. Ugh. They welcome us to the show. Whatever hype I had, those two morons just took it away. Not really, but damn they're the worst!

Match 1: WWE Women's Tag Team Championship- Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross def. The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka & Kairi Sane) (at 15:05)

Thoughts: This was fun, because all four ladies kept the energy up with both their moves and talking smack to each other, filling the void of deathly silence. Cool spot with Sane breaking up a pinfall with an InSane Elbow, and Bliss doing the same moments later with Twisted Bliss. Nikki Cross had a manic energy throughout and Cole praised it as her best performance in a WWE ring. (**3/4)

Backstage, Kayla Braxton interviews Sami Zayn, who has Cesaro and Nakamura in tow. Zayn is confident about his chances tonight as he prepares to defend the IC title against Daniel Bryan.

Match 2: Elias def. Baron Corbin (at 9:00)

Thoughts: Yeah, this was rough. Felt very much like a standard TV match, with neither guy bringing the fire and intensity you'd want for both their feud and the Wrestlemania stage. Extremely forgettable. (*1/2)

Up next, Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler for the Raw Women's Championship. I am shocked at the card placement. In the guesses I made for the card placement (for my WWE 2K20 stream on twitch.tv/robboentertainment), I had this as the co-main for Night 2.

Match 3: Raw Women's Championship- Becky Lynch def. Shayna Baszler (at 8:30)

Thoughts: Shorter than the previous match, yet both ladies brought it way harder than Elias and Corbin did. Great aggression from both and in a way, the empty arena added to this, being able to hear every solid strike connect- and there were quite a few of them! Ended kinda abruptly though, with Becky using the same roll-up counter that Kairi Sane used to beat Baszler in NXT, reversing the Kirafuda Clutch attempt. Baszler losing in such short order to The Man gives some credibility to the rumours that Vince was not impressed by the Queen of Spades on Raw. This was a good effort though. (***)

WWE Network ad airs. It's about the Undertaker, and features several wrestlers, including legends like Stone Cold and Shawn Michaels, talking about when it's time to hang them up. It's for a docu-series coming called Undertaker- The Last Ride. Oooooh.

Match 4: WWE Intercontinental Championship- Sami Zayn def. Daniel Bryan (at 9:20)

Thoughts: Honestly, I was disappointed by this. I thought it could go one of two ways- Zayn and Bryan unleash their skills and put on an absolute classic, or it becomes real crazy and character-driven, with Gulak, Cesaro and Nakamura getting involved at ringside, making noise and causing chaos. I would have preferred the former, but could see the entertainment value in the latter had they fully committed to it. Unfortunately, we got a pretty half-baked version of the character stuff, with Zayn being a weasel, Bryan dominating when he was able to catch the Great Liberator, then Zayn hitting a mid-air Helluva Kick as the outside shenanigans distracted the GOAT-Faced Killer. Eh. Didn't feel like Mania. (**1/2)

Match 5: Smackdown Tag Team Championship- Triple Threat Ladder Match- John Morrison def. Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso (at 18:30)

Thoughts: This was more like it! All three guys performed like they were in a stadium of thousands, working hard, taking risks and pulling off some impressive spots. John Morrison was the MVP, incorporating ladders into his parkour moves, including doing a corner to corner rope walk before hitting a Spanish Fly! I realise this was pre-taped and that move might have taken more than one take, but I don't care, it was still awesome. Jimmy Uso took a bump off a ladder to the outside that definitely involved some post-production trickery. I don't begrudge it at all, it's smart for them to use the tools at their disposal during this unique time to limit risk and injury. All three guys went balls to the wall, and Morrison seemed especially motivated, claiming the tag belts for his partner Miz, forced off Mania due to illness (not necessarily corona, just a precautionary measure). But this was tons of fun, kudos to all three men. (***1/2)



Match 6: Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins (at 17:20)

Thoughts: Again, these guys battled with the intensity befitting Mania. Really enjoyed this, Rollins played up his Monday Night Messiah character hilariously, coming out in a Jesus-esque all white outfit with a shit-eating grin on his face. Both men talked copious amounts of trash to each other and did some really high-impact stuff, including a Falcon Arrow by Rollins on KO that had to hurt. Ever the smarmy bastard, Rollins ends up hitting Owens with the ring bell, causing a DQ, and right as I'm about to rage about it on Twitter... Owens gets on the mic and goads the Messiah into coming back and restarting the match as a No DQ affair. In short order, they battle towards the announce table- remember that big Wrestlemania sign I mentioned behind the announce table? Yeah, so Kevin Owens CLIMBS IT, the crazy motherfucker, and hits a massive Senton, driving Rollins through the announce table! That was a Wrestlemania Moment (TM). They get back to the ring, and a wheezing Rollins begs off- nope, Stunner and it's over. That was awesome. (***3/4)



Gronk and Mojo continue to be the world's biggest douches. R-Truth shows up and Gronk tries to pin him for the 24/7 title. Mojo stops him and gets the pin himself! Oh joy. Mojo says to Gronk, "Come and get it, playboy!" in the most homo-erotic statement on WWE television since "I want a piece of Mike Tyson's ass."

Backstage, a Paul Heyman promo. It's good, what do you expect? He promises that Brock will victimise Drew McIntyre tomorrow at WrestleMania.

Match 7: WWE Universal Championship- Braun Strowman def. Goldberg (at 2:10)

Thoughts: This was terrible. And bad. And terribad. Goldberg looked like he couldn't be fucked being there, or maybe he's just getting too old for this shit. He hit 4 weak, slow looking Spears, sets up for the Jackhammer (yeah fucking right) and Braun reverses into a powerslam. Add two more. That's it. That's the match. Goldberg just doesn't have it in him anymore, and that's coming from someone who loved Goldberg back in the day. I even loved his Wrestlemania 33 clash with Brock Lesnar, but it seems clear he can't do anything like that anymore. As for Braun, I was shocked he won, because, well he was a late replacement for Roman Reigns and he lost to Sami Zayn a month ago. My guess is that WWE didn't want to pay Big Bill big bills to come back at another date to have the match with Reigns, so the Monster Among Men is keeping the belt warm until the world goes back to normal and Roman comes back. But yeah, this was the shits. (1/2*)

Match 8: Boneyard Match- Undertaker def. AJ Styles (at 19:00)

Thoughts: HOLY SHIT. This was amazing. The perfect main event given the circumstances. I haven't seen a whole lot of the cinematic style of wrestling, which is how this was produced, like if a wrestling match was a movie. I've seen bits of pieces of Lucha Underground- which I thought was pretty cool- and Matt Hardy's "Broken" stuff, which to me was occasionally cool and occasionally cringey. But what I loved most about this spectacle- because that's what it was- is that it hid Taker's limitations and made him look like a badass. Undertaker's one of my all-time favourites, so any time he can look good in a match, I'm here for it. This was just really well-produced, from the entrances, where AJ came in a coffin in a hearse, and then Metallica blaring and THE AMERICAN BADASS TAKER roaring down the road on his motorbike. I loved Biker Taker so much, and this was the perfect way to bring him back given the shoot nature of the feud, with AJ using Taker's real name and taking shots at his wife (Michelle McCool). The OC got involved, there were druids, fire, graves (not Corey) and endless amounts of trash-talk. So much fun. And while it was on, I totally forgot about the empty arenas, the virus, all the shit happening in the world... and just enjoyed one of my all-time favourites kicking ass again. (Five Stars- the copy/paste kept taking away the asterisks I was using for my star rating here)




Overall Thoughts

WrestleMania in these current times was an ambitious undertaking. Was it successful? Yes and no. Some highs, some lows, but all in all it was an escape from reality for a little while and that's why I watch wrestling. That's why I love wrestling. Highlights were the ladder match, Owens vs. Rollins and of course the absolute epic Boneyard Match between The Undertaker and AJ Styles, but honestly I'm grateful to everyone on the card for going to work in an attempt to entertain us. A solid show with an amazing finish, setting the stage well for Part 2 the following night.

Overall Score: 6.5/10

Until next time, take care,

Mick
 

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This is going to be my last column and review, at least for a while. I first dove deep into my wrestling fandom a few years ago, beginning to write columns and reviews, as a means to distract myself. Health problems took me away from work and socialising for the better part of the last 3 years- I have Cerebral Palsy and arthritis. Over the past few months, I've finally made a breakthrough health-wise and am looking to focus on work and generally having a more balanced life. I'll still be a fan of pro wrestling, and still participate in the forum to a degree, but the lengthy pieces of writing will be on the backburner. Pro wrestling has honestly saved me from spiralling into a deep depression, but it's time to live life again. At least, when this COVID-19 thing blows over.

Onto the show!

If you've read Part 1, you already know the weird circumstances surrounding this year's Mania. If you haven't, go! Read it! Do it! Now!



WrestleWatch: WWE Wrestlemania 36 (Part 1)



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The Show



Kick-Off- Liv Morgan def. Natalya (at 6:25)



Thoughts: This was a match designed to give Liv Morgan a bit of shine. Nattie led the dance with some technical wrestling and a bit of trash talk, but in a competitive sportsman-like manner. Liv held her own in the chain wrestling exchanges, and got the 3 count with a nice criss-cross victory roll after a series of pinning attempts. Nicely done all around. (**)



There was a slight bit of Twitter controversy about this, too. Several fans commented about Liv's outfit being similar to that of NXT signee, Scarlett Bordeaux. Scarlett's boyfriend, Killer Kross, also recently signed to NXT, replied to a fan, simply saying, "Good question". Nia Jax quickly butted in with a Tweet of "you better take a f**king seat real quick, dude". Ooh, drama!




I mean, Liv's had that outfit since the Rumble, I don't know why it became a thing now. All I know is that Liv Morgan is hot as hell, and you can't teach that.



Isolation got me thirsty as hell, guys.



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Main show with another message from Stephanie McMahon about putting smiles on faces. They play the Jack Sparrow intro video from yesterday again. It was an awesome package (hey yo).



Match 1: NXT Women's Championship- Charlotte Flair def. Rhea Ripley (at 20:30)



Thoughts: This was really, really good. I feel like Charlotte and Rhea essentially just had the same match they would have had at Raymond James Stadium, lack of fans be damned, and it was all the better for it. Attitude aplenty here with the cocky Queen Charlotte crowning "This is our NXT Champion?" and Rhea returning fire. Cool spot where Rhea counters the patented Flair Flip with a straight kick to the jaw, followed by the Riptide for a convincing early near fall. Charlotte begins to target the leg with surgical precision, and although Ripley shows great heart in fighting through the pain and trying to mount a comeback, she eventually fell victim to the Figure 8. Looks like Charlotte Flair is heading to the black and gold brand to lend her starpower there. (***1/2)




Commerical for The Big Show Show, coming to Netflix! The World's Largest Athlete stars as himself in a sitcom where he's a retired family man after his illustrious wrestling career. Cameos by Mark Henry and Mick Foley are seen. Eh, I'll give it a chance, but family sitcoms have never really been my thing.



Match 2: Aleister Black def. Bobby Lashley (w/ Lana) (at 7:20)



Thoughts: Not a ton to write home about here, it was an okay match. Business picked up a little when Black borrowed Kota Ibushi's triangle moonsault to wipe out Lashley on the floor. The Almighty gains control back in the ring and goes for the Dominator, but Lana yells out for Bobby to hit the Spear instead. Of course, this backfires, and Lashley charges straight into the Black Mass. Okay, that was a cool finish. And Lashley is pissed at his wifey post-match. Damn, are they breaking that act up already? (**1/2)



Backstage interview where Kayla Braxton interviews both Bayley and Sasha Banks. Bayley says their bond is stronger than ever and walks away. When Kayla presses the issue with Sasha, she smiles and says, "We'll have to wait and see".



An ad airs for the Money In The Bank PPV, live on May 10. So much for stopping shows for a while.



Match 3: Otis def. Dolph Ziggler (w/ Sonya Deville) (at 8:15)



Thoughts: This was exactly what it needed to be. My favourite midcard storyline in ages gets the big payoff with the big loveable goof getting the girl. Sonya Deville accompanied Dolph Ziggler to ringside, and mid-match Mandy Rose comes out- looking like an absolute snacc!- and hits Dolph in the nuts behind the referee's back, allowing Otis to hit the Caterpillar and get the win. Otis scoops up Mandy in his arms and they smooch, although not that passionately. Still a win for the big man, giving the rest of us hope! Otis is a treasure. (***)



Match 4: Last Man Standing- Edge def. Randy Orton (at 36:35)



Thoughts: I've seen a lot of complaining about the length of the match, but to me, it suited the storyline perfectly- two men that know each other inside and out, with decades of history, going to war. It helped that this was the match I was looking forward to most on Wrestlemania weekend, and I was behind Edge all the way, having watched his excellent 24 documentary on the WWE Network in between Night 1 and Night 2. Inventive start with Orton dressing as a cameraman and sneak attacking Edge with the RKO, and then they brawled through the whole PC, using the gym and the boardroom in creative ways to attack each other. Edge climbed a ladder and put Randy through a table with a big elbow drop, then they battled to the top of a production truck. It looked like Orton was going to hit Edge with the Punt, but the Rated R Superstar caught him with a brutal Spear on the roof! Conflict, pain, emotion etched on his face, Edge ended it with a Conchairto atop the truck. An epic encounter in my book. (****1/2)




Back in the arena portion of the Performance Centre, 24/7 Champion Mojo Rawley is getting chased by a group of wrestlers. Looks like more than 10 people to me, what about the coronavirus? Gronk does a trust fall dive onto the pile and pins his buddy Mojo to win the 24/7 Title! Eh. It was a light-hearted segment to shift the tone after the super serious and dramatic Last Man Standing, so I can't hate on too much. Besides, there are three certainties in life- death, taxes, and outside celebrities winning the 24/7 Championship. I know Gronk's signed a contract now, but to me, he's still an outsider until he proves himself. And for me, that's gonna take a lot, because as I detailed in my Night 1 review, I fucking hate the guy.



Match 5: Raw Tag Team Championship- Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) def. Austin Theory & Angel Garza (w/ Zelina Vega) (at 6:20)



Thoughts: This was a fun, high energy sprint, and a good way to contrast from the last match. Nothing overly spectacular, but Montez hit a nice flip dive to the outside- and is caught this time, unlike Raw. Finish is somewhat taken from the women's tag match on Night One- Theory appears to have the thing won after hitting a TKO on Dawkins, but Ford breaks it up with his ridiculously high Frog Splash, allowing his team to get the win. (**1/2)



Post-match, Theory and Garza attack the Profits, and they hold Montez so Zelina can slap him about- and then the music of Bianca Belair hits! The EST of NXT, and the real life wife of Montez Ford, Belair storms the ring and takes out Vega, allowing the Street Profits to stand tall after their Mania win. Cool moment!



Titus O'Neil replaces Gronk as the Wrestlemania host! A significant upgrade. Titus is a genuinely likeable dude. I don't think much of him as a wrestler, but as a personality? Salt of the earth (sorry, MJF).



Match 6: Smackdown Women's Championship- Elimination 5 Way- Bayley def. Lacey Evans, Sasha Banks, Naomi & Tamina (at 19:20)



Thoughts: This was pretty fun, constantly busy due to the amount of participants. Tamina gets time to shine kicking ass as the powerhouse, and then the other 4 gathered to eliminate her first. Good, good. Tamina might be worse than Nia Jax... who as I write this (spoiler alert) has made her return on Raw After Mania. Tamina doesn't injure people like Nia does... but she's just so boring. The little stretch of offense she got in this match might be the highlight of her career. Oh, and we had a brief moment of a Team BAD reunion. I totally forgot Team BAD was even a thing- an alliance of Sasha Banks, Naomi and Tamina when Sasha first joined the main roster, for those who don't know. Yep, WWE looked at the work of the Boss in NXT and thought, "you know what we should do? Put her with Tamina!" Naomi got to fly around the place, almost taking out both Bayley and Sasha with a double sunset flip pin, then hitting the Rear View. Naomi locked Sasha in a submission, and Bayley saved her friend. Sasha put Naomi in the Bank Statement moments later, forcing her to tap. Down to Lacey against Bayley and Sasha. Bayley accidentally hits Sasha and they get into an argument- then Lacey hits Sasha with the Women's Right, and this time, no save from the champ. Down to Lacey and Bayley, and just as it looks like the champ is going to lose, Sasha hits Lacey with the Backstabber, allowing Bayley to retain. Really good action, with so much happening, I forgot the crowd wasn't there. (***1/4)



Sasha put the Smackdown Women's Championship around Bayley's waist and raises her hand. Is the turn coming, is the turn coming... nope. To be continued...



Match 7: Firefly Fun House Match- "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt def. John Cena (at 13:00)



Thoughts: This may be the weirdest thing I've ever seen in pro wrestling, in 22 years of watching the thing. And you know what? It was kind of brilliant. Not a match in a traditional sense, more of a production, which will draw comparisons to yesterday's Boneyard Match. However, the Boneyard Match was more of a cinematic fight scene, while the Fun House was a series of wacky, but clever skits. It begins with John Cena making his entrance in the empty Performance Centre. As is his custom, he talks to the camera, saying, "Welcome to Wrestlemania!" Distorted video then interrupts, with classic clips of Vince McMahon and Gene Okerlund saying the same line. Then Cena is... teleported? to the Firefly Fun House set. Ramblin' Rabbit tells Cena that Bray has gone through the door. Cena warily opens it... and then the madness begins. We get a full career retrospective of John Cena, starting with Cena's WWE debut re-enacted. Bray plays the role of Kurt Angle, while present day Cena, seemingly out of control of his own body, walks out in the same tights he wore in 2002. Bray mocks him, then we get the Doctor of Thuganomics. Then Cena is transported to the 80s, lifting weights, flexing and cutting a cocaine-fueled promo. Then what if Cena turned heel? We arrive at WCW Nitro, with Bray playing the role of Eric Bischoff. Cena comes out in nWo gear, in essentially Hollywood Hogan's role. Then we get a do-over of Wrestlemania 30. Cena is trying to fight Bray through all of this, and finally, the scene switches to the Fiend, who applies the Mandible Claw. Cena is down, the Fiend pins him, the sweater-wearing version of Bray Wyatt counts the 3. Such a weird segment, crazy, brilliant, elements of nostalgia and a heavy dose of winking at the hardcore wrestling fan, including an absolute shocking line where the Vince puppet says, "It's such good shit!" which is a line from Jon Moxley's shoot interview after he left WWE. Definitely going to be a polarising "match", you either love it or hate it. I loved it, it was Cena willing to basically mock himself and his whole career, it was Bray's incredible creative mind on display, and ultimately The Fiend went over Cena. It seems that the "overhyped, overrated" superstar Cena was talking about ending may have been himself. A real masterpiece. Absolutely mental, but a masterpiece all the same. (*)






We go back to WrestleMania host Titus, who is speechless. Eventually he just says, "I don't know what I just saw." Fair response!



Match 8: WWE Championship- Drew McIntyre def. Brock Lesnar (at 4:35)



Thoughts: I was a little disappointed by this, I felt like it could have been much more. Could have been a real war of attrition, and it seemed like in the build that Brock was willing to put on his working boots for Drew in this one. Rumours have run rampant that Brock was extremely angry that Vince forced everyone to go ahead with WrestleMania when the rest of the world is on lockdown, so maybe that has something to do with what we saw here. They pretty much did a version of the great hoss battle between Lesnar and Goldberg at WM33, which Goldberg and Braun tried to recapture on Night 1 and failed dismally. This was far better, with Drew hitting moves with far more impact and intensity than Old Man Bill could, including a Claymore in the match's opening seconds for a nearfall. Then it was just kill shot after kill shot. Lesnar hits the F5 and Drew kicks out at ONE. McIntyre kicked out of three F5s in total and rallied back with three Claymores to become the first British WWE Champion. In the end, this was good, but it could have been great, I would have liked to see Lesnar and McIntyre kick the living shit out of each other for 20 minutes, y'know, like a proper WrestleMania main event. Both men are certainly physically capable of it. And in the opener, we saw Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley go all out in an empty arena. It's a shame these two didn't do the same. Glad to see a new face crowned as a proper main eventer though- McIntyre is the first one to truly break through since the Shield guys- besides maybe AJ Styles, who came in established from his worldwide reputation. Others have almost done it, like Kevin Owens and of course Bray Wyatt, but consistency is key. With a Rumble win and now a WrestleMania main event win for the WWE Championship, Drew McIntyre's place is solidified. (***)






Overall Thoughts



I feel like Night 2 of WrestleMania was a significant improvement on Night 1. The top matches all delivered, and the Firefly Fun House was a weird, wonderful production that I definitely won't forget any time soon. More than anything, this did a far better job of feeling like WrestleMania, with just about everybody on the show seeming determined to work their ass off to make it a success, to give us something to enjoy while the world is locked down. This was the escape I needed.



Overall Score: 7.5/10



I don't know if there will be a next time, if there is, it's a long way down the road. Thank you to those that have followed me here. Thank you to pro wrestling for saving me.


Take care,


Mick
 

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Back in 2009 Randy Orton and Triple H kick started and continued their feud that had been on and off since Randy became the youngest World heavyweight champion in history at Summerslam 2004.

It all started with Randy Orton disrespecting Stephanie McMahon and her subsequent threat to fire him, this leading to the return of Vince McMahon to WWE television. On the episode of Raw on January 19th just days before the 2009 royal rumble, With Vince McMahon and Orton in the ring alone. McMahon was about to fire Orton when Orton slapped McMahon and then delivered a brutal punt kick. McMahon was stretchered out of the arena as Orton looked shocked at his own actions.

At the Royal Rumble 6 days later Randy Orton would win the rumble match and book his place in the main event of Wrestlemania. He then moved into a feud with Shane McMahon who returned to gain revenge for his fathers attack. They squared off at No Way Out and this lead to Orton punt kicking Shane on the Raw after No Way Out to continue his demolition of the McMahon family. After kicking Shane, Stephanie came to his aide and argued with Orton. Orton delivered an RKO to Stephanie which brought out an angry Triple H to tend to his wife.

This angle and the following week brought real life and kayfabe together as they officially announced on television that Stephanie and Triple H were in fact married. On the lead up to their match at Wrestlemania we saw Orton continue his attacks on Stephanie giving her a ddt from the ropes followed by Triple H on a hunt for revenge that saw Triple H attack Randy Orton in his house. Triple H would throw Orton through the front window of the house in that exchange.

Their match at Wrestlemania would main event the show and received mix reaction from critics. Part of the problem was that it was over shadowed by what some pundits call the greatest wrestling match ever in Shawn Michaels battle against The Undertaker. For me the problem with the match is that both competitors hit their respective finishers at the start of their match taken the remaining air out of the stadium, the match never got the crowd overly into the match thereafter.

The right competitor goes over in Triple H as he gains revenge for the McMahon family but Orton was so hot at this time and on such a role that losing actually made his loss take away a little bit of that magic he had at this point. He was on fire and WWE got themselves stuck in a bad situation by booking Orton so strongly but needing him to lose. After night after Wrestlemania Batista returned after months out of the ring due to injury to seek revenge on Orton. Storyline wise Batista was out injured because of a Orton punt kick a few months earlier. Looking to gain revenge, Batista teamed up with Triple H and Shane McMahon in a 6 man tag team match against Legacy at Backlash at the end of April.
In the lead up to the match Randy Orton gained a non title match victory over Triple H in a No DQ match. Somewhat revenge for his championship loss at Wrestlemania, But Orton got the upper hand at Backlash when he got the pin fall on Triple H to win the WWE Championship. Afterwords he finally delivered a punt kick putting Triple H out of action for roughly two months.

In the mean time Batista was out for revenge against Orton and his Legacy team mates and had his opportunity in a Steel Cage match at Extreme Rules. Batista would defeat Orton and pick up the victory and the WWE Championship. The following night Batista had to vacate the championship due to injury. The story goes that WWE actually knew Batista was injured at Extreme Rules and still put the championship on him. Furthermore if Batista didn’t get injured he was going to feud with Triple H on his return with Batista turning on his friend. Where would have this left Orton in the shuffle? What if they just kept the championship on Orton who was still very over as a heel with the crowd and Triple H and Batista could have gone without the championship. Orton could have still carried on with his championship feud with John Cena over the summer and they wouldn’t have needed to hot potato the WWE Championship around different superstars.

With Batista vacating the championship, Randy Orton won the championship back only for Triple H and Vince McMahon to return and set the final battle in their war in a three stages of Hell match at the pay per view ‘The Bash’. The match included a first fall of a normal wrestling match, second fall No DQ and the third fall was a stretcher match. It doesn’t come across as hell to me compared to some other options. The Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin three stage of Hell match from No Way Out 2001 seemed a bigger and more evil way to settle a war. For me, this one didn’t cut it. It should have been a third fall of a cage match and you can’t say living in a PG era compared to the attitude era changes things, it simply doesn’t

The Bash ends with Randy Orton retaining his championship in the third fall thanks to help from Legacy but Triple H gets a final measure of revenge knocking Orton out with a sledge hammer and standing tall to end their rivalry. As mentioned Orton would go on and feud with Cena whilst Triple H would enlist his friend Shawn Michaels help and they would go to war with Legacy in some great battles.

Looking back at this feud it was headline stuff on the lead up to Wrestlemania. Randy Orton was on fire as he dominated the McMahon family all the way up to Mania and the result of the main event is what should have happened. But afterwords they could have built Orton stronger and made him more of a star than he already was. He could have beaten Triple H one on one at Backlash to win the championship, definitely beat Batista in their cage match at Extreme Rules and have this has motivation to feud with Triple H if Batista stayed or as he was injured make Orton take him out again to further build Orton as a heartless, devastating heel. As mentioned I would have changed the last fall of their match at the Bash but I think the ending of their feud was well done.

I would recommend going back and taking a look at their build to Wrestlemania 25 but after that it’s very hit and miss and something you have no need to go out of your way to see but if somehow your watching 2009 WWE, it isn’t all that bad.

This article was first published at WrestlingCulture.com and The Wrestling Book
 

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In a promo during the build up to his WrestleMania 21 dream match against Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels famously gave himself the nickname “Mr. WrestleMania” for his many spectacular performances on the grandest strage of them all. This self proclaimed title lead to many internet fans debating over who the real Mr. WrestleMania was and what criteria should be used to determine it. If certain fans thought the critreria should be whoever had the most main events (the last match of the event) combined with the most star power, then most of those fans thought it should be Hulk Hogan. If certain fans thought it should be based on a win/loss record at the event, then all of those fans thought it should be The Undertaker, who had a legendary 21 match winning streak.

And if certain fans thought it should be based on match quality at WrestleMania, then almost all of those fans agreed with Shawn Michaels that he in fact was Mr. WrestleMania by a wide margin. In this column I’m not going to debate which criteria should be used to determine who should hold that title. What I am going to say is that if the title is crowned upon someone for match quality at WrestleMania, then Shawn Michaels does not run away with it. In fact, there is someone who is very close behnd him in that regard, who may have even surpassed him. Don’t laugh, it’s actually a lot closer than you might think.

First, let me establish what I think the type of matches are that should count toward this moniker. The in ring work needs to be at a high level. There doesn’t need to be any technical wrestling or innovative high flying moves. There can be great matches with any style of wrestling. It doesn’t matter what type of wrestling is involved, the match just needs to be exciting and performed at a high level. But also, the match needs to have been at least somewhat important at the time. You can be the best in ring worker in the world, if fans don’t care about you then it doesn’t matter how good your matches are. There’s a reason Dean Malenko was never World Champion. I feel any match that counts towards this needs to have been an important part of the advertised card that night.

First, let’s look at Shawn’s WrestleMania resume. I’m throwing out his tag matches with The Rockers, because they did not have important storylines and weren’t really memorable. Then there were his WM 8 and 9 matches against Tito Santana and Tatanka, respectively. Most people forget these matches ever happened, and they both were the first match of their WrestleManias. Back then important matches didn’t go on first on a pay per view, so even though they were good matches they’re not going to be part of this conversation.

And then starting with WrestleMania 10, almost all of Shawn’s WrestleMania matches were classics with important, memorable storylines. At WM 10 he tore down the house in the first ladder match with Razor Ramon, with the famous storyline of there being two Intercontinental Champions. At WM 11 he carried Diesel to a very good match for the WWE Championship, challenging his former friend. At WM 12 he had what some consider the best WrestleMania match of all time in the Iron Man Match against Bret Hart, as Shawn chased his boyhood dream. WM 14 was an exception, as dropped the title to Steve Austin when his back was injured and he shouldn’t have been wrestling. After sitting out 4 straight WM’s, he returned with a classic against Chris Jericho. WM 20 saw Shawn as part of a Triple Threat against Benoit and Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship, and many consider it the best triple threat match of all time. At WM 21, Shawn lived up to the hype of the dream match when he wrestled Kurt Angle. WM 22 saw a change of pace from a traditional Shawn Michaels match when he fought Vince McMahon, but there was masterful storytelling involved and Jim Ross even said it was Vince McMahon’s best match. The next year at WM 23 Shawn carried a still green John Cena to an exciting match. WM 24 saw brilliant storytelling as Shawn carried a 59 year old Ric Flair to an emotional retirement match.

That’s 9 great matches at WrestleMania that were memorable and had important storylines. And no, I’m not forgetting his classic WM matches against Undertaker. They don’t count in this argument because the person that I’m saying is challenging Shawn for the Mr. WrestleMania moniker based on match quality is Undertaker. And those matches with Shawn obviously don’t count in Undertaker’s favor, either.

If you only look at Undertaker’s great WrestleMania matches, then this is very close. His first great WM match was against Triple H at WM 17 in a wild brawl where most of the action took place in the crowd. At WM 18 he carried an aging Ric Flair to one of the best matches of his second run in WWE, where the build up saw Taker attacking his best friend Arn Anderson and his son David Flair. At WM 21 the Legend Killer Randy Orton unsuccessfuly tried to break the streak in a very good match. WM 23 saw Undertaker challenge for and win the World Heavyweight Championship against Batista in a great match that was arguably the best of the night. This was one of the best matches of Batista’s career and his best match at a WM.

At WM 24 Taker again won the WHC and again had a fantastic match against Edge. At WM 27 fans were on the edge of their seats as Undertaker and Triple H told a masterful story where for a second, it seemed like the streak was going to be broken. Their Hell In A Cell match the next year was very dramatic and again told a great story, with fans questioning if a super kick (Michaels was guest referee) into a pedigree would be enough to end the streak. The following year Taker again stole the show with a very exciting match, this time against CM Punk, who had stolen his urn and was mocking the recently deceased Paul Bearer. Skip head to WM 32 and Taker had an entertaining Hell In A Cell match against the dare devil Shane McMahon. This was Shane’s first match as a credible wrestler and many did not like how Shane could be competitive with Taker, but a lot of people found it entertaining. And most recently at WM 36 Undertaker had a dramatic “Bone Yard Match” against AJ Styles in what was the first match in WM history to be produced in a cinematic way. Many fans thought the cinematic production of this was absolutely incredible.

That’s 10 great, memorable WrestleMania matches in Taker’s favor as opposed to Shawn’s 9. And Undertaker’s match against Shane is a debateable inclusion, so when you just look at the number of show stealing matches each had at WM, they’re pretty much neck and neck.

However, while this is close, I have to give the edge to Shawn Michaels based on his consistency on the big stage. Almost every time Shawn was booked in an important match for WrestleMania with an important storyline, he put on a spectacular show. There were several times at WrestleMania where Undertaker had an important match and he delivered either a bad or only average match. I’m throwing out the Snuka match and the handicap match against Big Show and A-Train, because those were not important matches. You can’t really blame him for having a bad match with Giant Gonzalez, who had hardly any in ring skill, but it was still bad, as was his HIAC match against Big Boss Man and his WM 13 match against Sid. His matches against King Kong Bundy, Diesel, and the first time with Kane were ok for two big men, but were nothing special. His second WM match with Kane was underwhelming. The night Brock broke the streak everyone was in disbeleif, but they had a dud of a match due to Taker suffering a concussion early on. His match against Jake Roberts was a squash, so nothing to write home about. The match against Bray Wyatt was good, but not great and not memorable. The WM 33 main event against Roman Reigns was nothing special.

The only time Shawn failed to deliver a great match at WM when he had an important storyline was at WM 14 against Austin. And as I said, his back was in terrible shape. He hadn’t wrestled a match since the Royal Rumble when he injured it, and would stay out of action for a few years afterwards. After he got back surgery and fully recovered, he started having magnificent matches at WM again. A much higher percentage of Shawn’s important WM matches were great as opposed to Undertaker’s.

And another good way to compare them is to directly compare their WM matches with mutual opponents. I don’t count Triple H as a mutual opoponent because Shawn never had a singles match with him there. But when you look at their matches against Diesel and Ric Flair, I’d say both of Shawn’s matches are better.

You might argue that Shawn usually had better in ring wrestlers to work with at WrestleMania, which gave him a big advantage. That’s very true. But still, when Shawn had an unskilled opponent, like Diesel or Vince McMahon, he could carry them to a great match.


However, if a dvd were made for each wrestler, and it only included their best WM matches, based on those two videos alone you’d have a very tough time determining who the true Mr. WrestleMania was based on match quality.

Again, the point of this column is not to say the title of Mr. WrestleMania should be determined based on match quality at the event. I’m not arguing in favor of any criteria to determine who should get that crown. The point of this column is that if you, the reader, want to determine the true Mr. WrestleMania based on important matches at the event with high in ring quality, then I think Shawn Michaels is the right answer. However, you can make a very strong argument that Undertaker is right behind him, and it’s actually a lot closer than you first think.
 

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Interesting column! So, ultimately, you agree that Shawn Michaels is Mr. Wrestlemania, but putting up best match for best match, Undertaker is right up there. I tend to agree.

Going to your point about making a WrestleMania DVD for each wrestler, the separation is quite evident if those DVDs included EVERY Mania match both men had. Shawn would get it on consistency, as you say. He never had an outwardly bad WM match, his worst performances would be "decent". Whereas Taker had to struggle through a rough first several years through either having squash showcase matches, or awful opponents.

I like that Taker gets his due here. Both Taker and HBK hold a special place in my heart as the first couple of wrestlers I remember seeing, and to me they're two of the GOATs and among my all-time favourites. Just because Undertaker has had some less than stellar performances in recent years, it doesn't take away from the legend he is.

I think some of Undertaker's earlier stuff is underrated too. Basically everyone says his great WM matches and the Streak becoming a big deal was from around Batista onwards. I'd argue that his match with Diesel at WM12 was ahead of its time in terms of big men actually showing some workrate, for 1996 those two went at it. His WM14 match against Kane is something I really enjoyed as a battle of the titans, and a payoff for the tremendous long-term storyline between the brothers. His HHH match at WM17 is glossed over a little because it happened on such a stacked card. I think his WM18 street fight aganist Ric Flair is the most underrated Mania match ever. And the Randy Orton match was a little short and kinda early in the show (like a midcard spot) but it was chock full of action.

Both HBK and Undertaker are awesome.
 
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