So you’re a casual or former wrestling fan who has decided to watch Wrestlemania with your friends. But you don’t want to appear completely out of the loop. What’s a guy/gal to do?

Here is everything that you need to know that has led up to this years “showcase of the immortals”:

The new players

These superstars are either brand new or were not significant a year ago:

The Shield (Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollinshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBOTKq5x5uo

The Shield were around at last years Wrestlemania but they’ve since turned face and were fairly new at last years ‘Mania. Seth Rollins is the high flier, Dean Ambrose is the psychopath and mouthpiece, Roman Reigns is the tank. They’re all future champions, and will face off in six man tag action against Kane and the New Age Outlaws at Wrestlemania. Yes, those “New” Age Outlaws.

The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan, Luke Harper) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XYE_kGhqOI

Luke Harper (black beard) and Erick Rowan (red beard) are the tag team, Bray Wyatt is the cult leader. Erick Rowan is just a big guy, who isn’t really anything special physically. Luke Harper is a tremendous performer. Bray Wyatt writes all of his own promos, often basing his monologues on Charles Manson interviews. His character is that of a backwoods cult leader who speaks in riddles and makes sense only to his brainwashed minions.

Bray Wyatt will be facing John Cena in what will be one of the more interesting Wrestlemania matches. They’ve been cutting great promo’s back and forth. Bray Wyatt had an early match of the year candidate with his tilt against Daniel Bryan at the Royal Rumble.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnER0zmcQY8

The Main Storyline

The Main storyline this year has been amazing, but in all the wrong ways.

Daniel Bryan has been on fire for well over a year now: and started to get some of the biggest reactions for a wrestler…ever. Hardcore fans who normally cheer for the heels cheer for him because they respect him, and the fans who normally cheer for the good guy cheer for him because he’s the underdog.

John Cena had the option to pick his opponent at Summerslam, and was warned against picking Daniel Bryan. Bryan was, however, the only logical choice as he was the hottest thing going. Cena picked Bryan, and in a decent match Daniel Bryan ended up winning the WWE title from John Cena. Triple H, who was the special guest referee for the match, then double-crossed Bryan, hitting him with a pedigree and allowing “money in the bank” holder Randy Orton to run out and pin Daniel Bryan, ending his title reign at around two minutes.

This is the point at which the storyline began to take a turn for the worse. One screw-job builds heat and isn’t terrible. The fans are now even more behind Daniel Bryan to support him in regaining the WWE title. It is kind of silly that Triple H turns heel out of nowhere and just makes fun of Daniel Bryan for being small with no real motivation, but set that side. We move on to Night of Champions, the next pay per view.

At Night of Champions, Daniel Bryan defeats WWE champion Randy Orton to win his second WWE championship in as many months. The three count, however, seemed slightly fast. This was not referenced at the time. The next night on Raw, Daniel Bryan was stripped of the WWE title and Triple H alleged that Daniel Bryan paid off the referee, Scott Armstrong, to get a “quick count”. Armstrong, eager to get a large severence, agrees to play along. We’re up to two screw-jobs. At the next pay per view, Battleground, Daniel Bryan and Orton fight to a no-contest. It’s announced that at the next pay per view, a third Orton-Bryan match will determine who the real champion is, this time inside the Hell in a Cell structure with Daniel Bryan’s mentor, Shawn Michaels, as special referee. Can you see where this is going yet?

At Hell in a Cell, Shawn Michaels super-kicks Daniel Bryan after Bryan knees an interfering Triple H in the head. Orton pins Bryan and we’re up to three screw-jobs and a no finish. To be clear, it’s not even as if Michaels MEANS to screw over Daniel Bryan. He didn’t turn heel. He “acted out of reflex” because Bryan hurt Shawn’s “best friend”. Not even a good screw-job.

It’s now announced out of nowhere that the two titles, the WWE and World titles, will be unified at TLC. Orton won the match cleanly to become “WWE World Heavyweight Champion”.

It was announced in January that Batista will return at the Royal Rumble. Daniel Bryan was left out of the Royal Rumble altogether and Batista won it, as the 28th entrant. It was at this point that CM Punk walked out on/quit WWE because he was so frustrated with the creative direction. Fans can now look forward to a Batista-Orton main even at Wrestlemania.

WWE pushes Batista as a face and the fans boo him relentlessly while chanting for CM Punk and Daniel Bryan whenever he wrestles. The fans even cheer for a heel Alberto Del Rio who is supposed to be one of the most disgusting bad guys in WWE.

This continues to get worse and worse and WWE finally wakes up, turns Batista heel, and starts a weird four way feud with Triple H, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, and Batista.

It was finally announced that Daniel Bryan will face Triple H, and the winner of that match will be inserted into the main even to make it a triple threat match. So here’s the main card:

Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. TBD Triple Threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship[56]
Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H Singles match for the third spot in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Triple Threat match[57]
The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar Singles match[58]
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt Singles match[59]
The Shield (Dean AmbroseSeth Rollins and Roman Reigns) vs. Kane and The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn) Six-man tag team match[60]
André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal [Note 1] 30-man battle royal for the André the Giant Memorial Trophy[61]
Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational[Note 2] 14-Diva single-fall match for the WWE Divas Championship[62]
Advertisements

We did it. The #YesMovement did it!

The WWE did it. They finally fixed months of bad booking.

In one of the best segments in recent WWE history, Daniel Bryan brought dozens of “fans” into the ring with him to “occupy” Raw. This was so great for so many reasons, including the conclusion. First, it was one of the most overtly political segments on Raw in years. Bryan, the everyman, staged a sit-in in the WWE ring a week after “The Authority” said that not only do they own the ring, but they also own Daniel Bryan and the WWE universe. Bryan responded emphatically this week that THE PEOPLE own the WWE, THE PEOPLE own the ring, and THE PEOPLE own themselves.

Daniel Bryan demanded a match with Triple H at wrestlemania. This only got a lukewarm response from the fans, because what we really wanted Daniel to get was a title shot in the main event. Bryan would go on to demand that if he beats Hunter at Wrestlemania, he should get a title shot later that night. And the crowd goes wild.

I haven’t been so riveted to WWE programming in years. It was a euphoric experience for everyone involved. We may be witnessing the start of the greatest Wrestlemania moment…perhaps ever. We’ve gone from Wrestlemania having a main event that nobody wants to see and potentially leading to a riot or a walkout to becoming one of the most must see events in a decade or more.

I’ve gone from not even wanting to watch Wrestlemania to needing to book the day off work to enjoy the experience of a lifetime with my friends and my fellow #YesMovement  brothers and sisters.

The WWE has now righted the wrong with the tag titles by finally giving the Usos the belts, has righted the wrong of debuting Batista as a face by making him the more natural heel, and now righted the biggest wrong of all by fixing Wrestlemania.

First, an admission.

I am not a long term TNA fan. I can’t actually say that I’m really a current TNA fan. What I am is a wrestling fan who has just recently started watching TNA.

TNA is the most frustrating thing in the world for a wrestling fan: a roster full of talent that has flashes of great wrestling surrounded by a sea of bullshit and nonsense. Every day, TNA more closely resembles latter day WCW. For non-hardcore wrestling fans, that’s not a complement.

The opening match for this years Lockdown consisted of a japanese team featuring the legendary Great Muta, Yasu, and the new TNA X Division champion Sanada facing off against Bad Influence (Christopher Daniels and Kazarian) and Chris Sabin. First, the bad. While it was great to see the Great Muta in North America, his age is fairly obvious. This dragged down what could have been an incredible match. Sanada is suddenly the X division champion because he defeated then-champion Austin Aries at a Japanese show that was not televised in North America. Non-televised title changes irritate the hell out of me anyways, as title-changes should be reserved for large events and the odd televised event. But this is particularly terrible considering: A. Nobody knows who Sanada is, and B. The main storyline consisted in large part of MVP and Dixie Carter courting Austin Aries for their perspective teams because he was the X division champion. Then suddenly we get to the big event and a no-name Japanese wrestler defeated him? Terrible booking.

The good is that Chris Sabin continues to be one of the most consistently entertaining performers in the industry. He’s also a great heel. Push this guy.

Samuel Shaw vs. Mr. Anderson was ok. Shaw pulled Christy Hemme into the cage through the camera hole, trapping her inside with him. This was moderately interesting as a cage-match twist. I’m not impressed with Shaw as a wrestler but his character is somewhat interesting and the way he delivers his creepy promos is alright.

The next two matches, Tigre Uno vs. Manik and James Storm vs. Gunner were both moderately entertaining tilts. Storm and Gunner in particular put in very impressive performances. In terms of wrestling, this was the best match of the evening.

We’ll skip over the knockouts match.

What should have been the main event, the TNA world title cage match between Magnus and Samoa Joe, was incredible for all the wrong reasons. TNA is infamous for coming up with stupid and over the top twists to their matches, and they lived up to their reputation here. Just when Samoa Joe appeared to be winning the match, a hand reached up through the ring and pulled Samoa Joe “to hell”. This hand turned out to be attached to “The monster” Abyss, who interfered in Magnus’ favor. By the way, Abyss hit Samoa Joe with his nail-studded weapon called “Janice”. Joe was punctured in the stomach with 10 nails but didnt bleed at all and didnt need medical attention. Riiiiiiight…Good booking TNA.

Abyss is supposed to be an uncontrollable monster, and one who has nothing to do with either of these performers or Dixie Carter in the current storylines. He had no business interfering here. In theory he shouldn’t be working for anyone. He’s a monster, not a stooge. But TNA does their best to make a nonsense booking here, while also ripping off the WWE and making Abyss their “corporate Kane”. Just terrible. And TNA wonder’s why their world title means nothing?

Then the awful “lethal lockdown” main event. Jeff Hardy returned, but not as Jeff Hardy, instead under a mask as “Willow the wisp”. Good job TNA, take your most popular babyface and make him a weirdo under a mask so you can’t in any way benefit from his name and face recognition. Seems like a good plan. The ending to this match, which was for control of wrestling operations in TNA between Team Dixie (Bobby Roode, the Bromans, Austin Aries) and Team MVP (MVP, Willow/Jeff Hardy, and the Wolves), was perhaps the worst bit of booking I’ve seen since….the ending of Samoe Joe-Magnus a few minutes prior. Bully Ray was introduced by Dixie as the special referee two seconds before the match despite having nothing to do with the storyline or any of the competitors. He then went on to apparently turn face by screwing Dixie and attacking Bobby Roode to end the match in MVP’s favor. TNA actually expects Bully Ray, a man who was threatening Mr. Anderson’s wife and newborn twins two weeks prior, to get over as a face suddenly.

To recap Lockdown: This is why people don’t take TNA seriously.

Pro versus Pretender (episode one)

Posted: February 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

This is the first installment of a little series called pro versus pretender,  where I will be looking at who in professional wrestling is delivering and who is not.

For the first episode I’ll keep it simple and stick with the February 24th episode of Raw.

This week’s episode of Raw opened with the return of Hulk Hogan. Hogan is always better on the mic than in the ring, but he fumbled the delivery of his WWE network promo by mixing up “WWE network” and “WWE universe”. Without missing a beat, Hogan fixed his mistake by saying “we launched the WWE universe… and the WWE universe launched the WWE network”. This is what a real professional does. Nobody remembered Hogan’s mistake except those who took note of how adeptly he fixed it.

Contrast this with Batista, who stumbled his way through a 20 second promo that felt minutes long, after his loss to Alberto Del Rio. As usual with Batista’s matches since his return, most of Batista’s offense consisted of Del Rio doing his best to jump around and over sell Batista’s weak moves. Batista’s best offense consisted of Del Rio throwing himself off the apron. Still,  Batista was breathing heavy following the match. Contrast this with Big E, who at 280 lbs. was barely breathing heavy after his 15 minute match with Cesaro.

Batista tripped over every line, to the point that he tripped up Orton as well. Batista got noticeably frustrated at this and continued to act like a heel despite in theory being as face.

So let’s recap: Batista is out of shape, a can’t deliver a very basic short promo,  and can’t stick with his face/heel identity. He’s lacking even the most basic professionalism.

The Elimination Chamber is always one of the more entertaining pay per views of the year. Along with Extreme Rules, Hell in a Cell, and the Royal Rumble it’s one of the few pay-per-views that features an interesting gimmick match: in this case the six man elimination chamber match.

This year, the undercard for the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view was lacking, to say the least. Unfortunately one of the more interesting divas matches (one of the only ones in recent memory) was cancelled when the much improved Naomi had her orbital broken by a botched knee from Aksana. The funkadactyl has been one of the best in-ring performers in the divas division recently, combining amazing athleticism with her significant, um, assets. Instead we were treated to a lackluster bout between the lesser funkadactyl, Cameron, and dominant divas champion AJ Lee. Despite some decent eye candy courtesy of Ms. Lee, the match was worthless.

The tag title match wasn’t much better. I haven’t been a big fan of The Usos in the past, but their battles with The Shield, The Wyatts, Cody Rhodes and Goldust, and others has them established as quality midcard performers in today’s WWE. That said, I’ve been hoping that WWE would just put the tag titles on them already. The New Age Outlaws are STILL the champions a full month after inexplicably winning the titles against Cody and Goldy? The WWE already dropped the ball by not having the Outlaws win by screwjob, which could have further established “the authority” as the top heels in WWE. Instead they had the Outlaws win cleanly and retain cleanly, despite being too old and out of shape to perform well. The Usos lost as well, and we can only hope that the WWE rights this wrong tonight on Raw so that we can have the matchup that everyone wants: The Wyatt’s vs the Usos, at Wrestlemania.

In the shocker of the night, the Intercontinental title match between Big E (formerly Langston) and Jack Swagger. Look, I’m not a fan of Swagger. He injures more talented superstars with shocking regularity, and too often looks awkward and sells poorly. However, he and Swagger had a thoroughly enjoyable back-and-forth tilt in which Big E successfully defended the title. E has established himself as one of the top performers in the company. He’s earned a spot alongside the Shield and others as the bright lights of wrestling’s future.

Titus O’Neill and Darren Young had a completely forgettable match and Titus continues to lack any charisma or any ability to sell being a believable heel.

It’s rare that a match looks like it will be great, and then completely lives up to expectations. The Shield vs. The Wyatts was entertaining from start to finish and all members of both factions (maybe minus Erick Rowan who is just kind of a big guy) have established themselves as legitimate stars. Seth Rollins was turned loose better than ever before in his WWE career. Roman Reigns continues to be a fast-rising star. Dean Ambrose is still only scratching the surface and is criminally underutilized. This match deserves second and third watches. It’s nice to for once get what is promised by the WWE.

Which brings us to Batista vs. Alberto Del Rio. It takes an amazing level of failure on the part of WWE to turn heel Alberto Del Rio into a face. WWE fans mocked WWE creative by chanting “Boo-tista” and every superstar from “CM Punk” to “Daniel Bryan” to “Y2J” and “RVD”. Everyone but Batista. Batista’s offense was booed the entire fight, while Alberto Del Rio’s kickouts (and kicks) were cheered.

The WWE dropped the ball to fix the Wrestlemania main event here. It would have been so easy to have Batista destroy Del Rio, then attack Del Rio’s old manager Ricardo Rodriguez, who was ringside at the spanish announce table. From there, they could have set up for a Daniel Bryan vs. Batista matchup in the Wrestlemania main event.

Which brings us to the Elimination Chamber match: Randy Orton vs. John Cena vs. Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Christian vs. Antonio Cesaro.

How predictable and horrible can WWE be? Cesaro was amazing as usual. Christian AND Sheamus brought their ‘A’ games. And the ending ruined the entire PPV. Anyone who has watched a single second of WWE the past six months could have predicted that Kane would cost Daniel Bryan the match. This is now approximately….6 straight pay per views where Bryan has been screwed by Kane or the Authority.

So now we can look forward to a main event at Wrestlemania between two wrestlers that nobody likes, including a part timer who is supposed to be a face but gets booed worse than most heels, and it also happens to be a matchup that we’ve seen a million times before and nobody wants to see again.

Batista looked horrible in his match with Del Rio just like he looked horrible and out of shape in the Royal Rumble. If WWE doesn’t fix this by inserting Bryan or removing Batista tonight on Raw, Wrestlemania will be a disaster. I hope they recognize this before Wrestlemania 30 goes down in history as the worst ever.

 

A lot, apparently.

At least according to Vince McMahon.

Recently ROH stalwarts and top level indy stars Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards, aka the American Wolves, debuted on NXT as John Cahill and Derek Billington, aka the American Pitbulls.

When I heard them announced, my mood dropped considerably. These are not single names, and especially not a team name, that is designed for a sustained, large push. The Pitbulls don’t exactly have good connotations as a team name, and the singles names don’t exactly roll off the tongue. I thought when I initially heard the names that perhaps this was a temporary name, and after this initial tryout they would be re-packaged with better names for a push on NXT television.

Oddly,  “The Pitbulls” were featured as the team that answered The Ascension’s “worldwide open challenge” and their match that was expected to be a dark match was televised. The NXT commentary team talked them up while referring to their indy work. This is an interesting trend that has picked up recently, with the commentary team referring to other promotions, if vaguely, We’ve seen this with Sami Zayn, Antonio Cesaro, and and Kassius Ohno. 

And speaking of those guys, they also were repackaged for WWE programming with new names, with mixed results. Sami Zayn is a good wrestling name. Antonio Cesaro works as well. Kassius Ohno? Not really, as much as I like the name Kassius.

All of these name changes underscore just how rare CM Punk is. Even Bryan Danielson became Daniel Bryan. Jon Moxley became Dean Ambrose (another good change). Tyler Black became Seth Rollins (a sidestep, imo). 

Lets hope that these names grow on us, and they drop the “Pitbull” moniker. Hopefully this change is more Sami Zayn and less Curtis Axel.

WWE viewers are a jaded bunch as of late – but as Bray Wyatt would say – the devil made me do it. WWE has shattered any sort of faith fans may have had in story-lines and resolved finishes, screwjob after screwjob. After seemingly giving fans what they want with the big Daniel Bryan push, the regressed into this disaster of a story-line involving the corporation. I mean, “the authority”.

WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs seems to be a reset of the story-lines that is occurring appropriately at the end of the year. Where the last few PPV’s have consisted of sub-par matches and inconclusive screwjob endings, TLC was mostly consistent and provided entertainment throughout.

The Main Event:

Let’s start with the main attraction, a title unification bout between WWE Champion Randy Orton and World Champion John Cena. For weeks I thought that this match would end in either some sort of screwjob, or that the champions would switch titles and this feud would continue all the way to Wrestlemania. This hunch was only intensified when it was announced that there would be two titles hanging above the ring, and not one unified title.

WWE threw us a curve-ball by not throwing us a curve-ball. After months of inconclusive endings, they provided us with a clear winner and a unified champion in “WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton”. The match was reasonably entertaining as both men took decent bumps. At one point, Orton got creative by handcuffing Cena to the bottom rope. Cena then one-upped Orton, proceeding to take the bottom rope off of the turnbuckle and climbing the ladder with the rope still handcuffed to his wrist. Ultimately, the handcuff would prevent Cena from grabbing the titles and Randy Orton would become champion.

I don’t agree that Orton is the right choice to be champion, and I can’t say I’m tremendously interested in seeing him in a title feud with anybody.

The one guy who most benefits from this match, besides Orton, is Big E Langston. He now holds the second most significant title in the WWE. Expect bigger things from the Intercontinental title in the near future.

On the Undercard:

In the first of two handicap matches, CM Punk managed to do the impossible and defeat all three members of the Shield. After strongly hinting at a Shield break-up on Raw – through Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns interrupting each other constantly, Ambrose saying “you’ll never see us nominated for double-cross of the year”, Reigns and Ambrose fighting for who will say the winner, and Ambrose sending the other members of the Shield back to the locker room and subsequently losing to CM Punk, it seemed as though a Shield break-up was imminent. WWE has actually managed to make this story-line more interesting by not giving it all away in one angle. Roman Reigns (kayfabe) hurt his eye when he missed a spear on CM Punk, and the match ended with Reigns accidentally spearing Dean Ambrose and not CM Punk. I think we can expect to eventually see a Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns feud, but it remains to be seen what direction they take the third Shield member, Seth Rollins. It should be noted here that Michael Cole mentioned Rollin’s twitter account and activity on social media on commentary, and he has been playing up each member individually more and more. I think we can take this as a sign that all three members are going to go their separate ways, rather than having Rollins pick sides in the coming feud.

Side note: It’s worth the price of admission alone just to see the expressions on the face of Dean Ambrose as he wrestles. He’s got the expressiveness of Jim Carey in the body of an all-star wrestler. Dean Ambrose is a future WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

AJ Lee defeated Natalya in another good divas title match. If AJ keeps this up, she’ll be a hall of famer. She already has a great gimmick, and is far and away the most attractive diva on the roster. Combine that with superior in-ring ability and you have a truly great champion. WWE needs to keep booking her against the Kaitlyn’s and Natalya’s of the world and she’ll continue to have great matches.

Big E Langston defeated Damian Sandow to retain the Intercontinental championship. This match wasn’t as good or as long as I expected, despite the fact that I’m a big fan of both wrestlers. They need to figure out something to do with Sandow. He’s so good on the mic and he’s underrated in the ring. Give him a feud with a top level guy (Cena, Punk, hell even a REAL feud with Ziggler) and let him prove himself. Plus, I want that new Sandow shirt (I > U, the “Sandow Equation”). Langston is a beast. Enough said.

The Rhodes brothers defeated Big Show and Rey Mysterio, Antonio Cesaro and Jack Swagger, and Curtis Axel and Ryback.

I took too many Rybaxel’s for back spasms once and it made me stiff, uncoordinated, and incapable of speaking with any charisma.

I digress.

This was a solid match, as it seems all of the Rhodes brothers matches are. WWE needs to figure out what to do with Cesaro. Much like Sandow, he’s being wasted at the moment. Either give the Real Americans the tag titles or get Antonio Cesaro away from that botch-machine Swagger. Nevertheless this was a good match. WWE should do more elimination matches. They’re entertaining, and particularly cool when they end in two face teams or two heel teams fighting.

R-Truth picked up the surprise win over the now monstrous heel version of Brodus Clay.

Seriously WWE, what the hell were you thinking? If you look up idiotic booking in the encyclopedia, you’ll find this match. You need to build Brodus up as a monster, so you have him flatten Xavier Woods, who you also want to build up, on Raw. Brodus destroys Woods in a minute. Then you have Woods mentor, who is going nowhere fast, R-Truth, pick up the big win on the PPV? Why not have Brodus crush R-Truth on Raw, and have Woods get the big victory? With this booking they managed to build up an old comic relief veteran and make the two guys that they want to push look worse. Fire whoever booked this series of matches.

Xavier Woods is the future. What a talent. Don’t squander him like you’ve done to other up and comers.

Kofi defeated the Miz in a match that nobody cares about.

The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Bray Wyatt) defeated Daniel Bryan in a three-on-one handicap match. This was a great match. Luke Harper is a tremendous talent. Everything he does looks like it could kill his opponent. Bizarrely, he and Daniel Bryan have a kind of chemistry in the ring. Bryan always puts on good matches versus big brawler types like Harper as we have seen in his matches with Dean Ambrose. Bray Wyatt hit “Sister Abigail” on Bryan and pinned him to get the big win. The PPV cut away from the match with Wyatt holding Daniel Bryan in his arms and laughing/crying. The Wyatts continue to be creepy and fascinating. They are the best thing going in WWE right now, and hopefully WWE creative sees this as a sign that they should take more chances with gimmicks (although the recent repackaging of the great Leo Kruger gimmick suggests that they haven’t learned this lesson.

All in all, this was a much better pay per view than the past three. Hopefully this pay per view does serve as a reset, and we get a whole new set of story-lines in the coming weeks and months. I’m much more optimistic for the Royal Rumble than I was TLC.