Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wrestling Six Packs: Folks Who Should Be Managers

Grating as an announcer, but great as a manager?
Photo Credit:
Delayed from last night because I was trying to concentrate on Smackdown. Anyway, WWE seems to be trying to bring back some old tropes. Tag teams are one thing, and managers are looking to be another one. Vickie Guerrero is courting Jack Swagger, and although it will come at the expense of her business relationship with Dolph Ziggler. Dreams of having a stable of wrestlers dashed, but at least WWE is acknowledging that the managerial itch is one that needs scratching. Here are six people who are ideal for being managers in WWE.

1. Michael Cole

This is the easiest thing to do in the whole company right now. Cole has the annoying bombast down, but it's not getting anyone over from the broadcast booth. The only thing he's doing is making people tune out. A change in role would do a world of change for Cole. As an announcer calling Daniel Bryan a NERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRDDDDDDDDD, he's only reinforcing the narrative that Bryan is a nerd and really isn't worth anything. By calling him that as a manager for, say, Tyson Kidd? He's giving Bryan extra incentive to kick Kidd's ass and possibly get his hands on Cole as well. Simple things.

2. Matt Striker

He's another guy who was a misfit. As an announcer, all he did was bluster and pump out his pomposity. He never developed chemistry with any of his broadcast partners, and whether that manifested itself in snarky replies or dead air, it was bad. However, as a manager, it's that kind of bluster that can generate heat for his charges. Plus, as a former wrestler, he can take a bump and deliver a resolution in that regard.

3. Bob Backlund

I know what you're thinking. Backlund really wasn't known for his mic work as much as he was known for his acumen in the ring and his crazy, emotive action outside of it after he turned on Bret Hart in 1994. However, I think there's value in having him as a good guy manager in the vein of Jose Lothario for Shawn Michaels. Lothario didn't say anything, and really didn't need to. He was there to add gravitas to Michaels as a legitimate wrestler. Backlund, with his success in two different eras as a wrestler, could provide that kind of equity for someone who's clawing up the card and needs to "improve" in the ring.

4. Sunny

Cougar war! Sunny used to be a manager, and she has kept her looks over the years. Bringing her back as a counterweight to Vickie Guerrero would provide a great idea for an intermediary feud. Imagine the two in an arms race. Team Vickie vs. Team Sunny at Survivor Series. Competitions over which stable can accrue more gold. It virtually writes itself.

5. JBL

A Million Dollar Man for a new generation. They teased him being a financial manager with his Shawn Michaels-owes-him-money angle, but they ended it with the end of the angle. Again, he's a guy who can bump, and he has a LETHAL weapon in the Clothesline from Hell.

6. Mike Sanders

This one seems out of left field. Sanders? Where has he been? Didn't he leave WWE under dubious circumstances before? Well, none of that matters because when I see Sanders, I see a guy who could fit the Shane McMahon managerial archetype without bringing back Shane-O-Mac in an active role, the spry, bouncy manager who was always moving, always looking to cheat for his charges. Plus, he has the mic skills, which is a huge plus for a manager.

Christian Vs. Orton: The Weirdest Feud Ever

A feud that shouldn't have worked, but strangely has
Photo Credit:
As we were reminded last night, Christian and Randy Orton have wrestled six times. Twice they went at it on Smackdown, four times on PPV. All six times, they produced critically acclaimed singles bouts. I was able to view four of those, and yeah, they were all the goods. If you looked at the feud in the context of just the match results, you'd wonder why it continued. Orton kept winning and doing so in relatively definitive fashion, excepting Money in the Bank. If you looked at it through the out-of-ring stuff, it started out great when they were both babyfaces and then deteriorated as Christian was continually degraded as a chickenshit heel rather than someone who deserved Orton's respect. However, just watching each match, it was clear why both of these guys were slotted against each other.

Even last night, when it was obvious that Orton was going to win, they both played off the match so tensely and so perfectly that there were spots where I really thought Christian might have won. They made me forget about the overarching storyline, of Mark Henry lookin' to split him the wig of a Viper and the past history of the two where Orton always won and that was that. I think that's the mark of a good feud, that the two guys get along in the ring and make it look like it could go either way.

That's the thing, this feud isn't a good feud. It's a WWE-classic, warmed over, babyface-almost-always-wins (and when he doesn't, it's due to an EXTRAORDINARY circumstance), milquetoast feud where it's clear that it's just a placeholder until someone else, whether it's Cody Rhodes or Wade Barrett or whomever else is ready. (even then, the way that Barrett was treated last night doesn't really bode well for him) By any other sane metric, Christian/Orton has gone on too long and is pretty much a failure. But for the reason that the matches are so damn good, it becomes less and less infuriating that the two are announced together as opponents.

It is weird, but I think it's worked overall. Christian really hasn't been enhanced other than being moved into a token main event heel spot. I mean, you could argue he's at least getting shine and promo time, and that's good, but it really hasn't been as entertaining as a lot of people, myself included, would want it to be. But every time he's in there with Orton, at least I forget about everything else.

I guess it's what good wrestling can do for a tepid at best feud. It can spark legitimate interest. That's why I feel that the Christian/Orton feud in the long run wasn't as bad a failure as it may seem even in the light of context. It's weird, but then again, this whole year has been weird in WWE so far. It's just par for the course.

The Best Part of Smackdown Last Night

Screen Grab/Gif credit: Brandon Stroud

Brandon Stroud did a Best and Worst of Super Smackdown. He also did some mighty fine work .gif-izing the best part of Smackdown last night, Christian deking out Randy Orton on a RKO attempt. Christian is such a master worker, and no matter what, he's going to give you a good match. Here's hoping for an extended program with Daniel Bryan coming up.

Punk Vs. Waltman - Is It Viable?

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
He's still got the chops, but is he worth the risk?
Kevin Nash's figuring so prominently in WWE television the last couple of weeks has caused a rift in the WWE fanbase. Some like it, others hate it for varying reasons, one of which being that Nash can't work a match. In fact, he's not medically cleared to wrestle, forcing the company's hand and putting Triple H in the ring with Punk. The logic behind the move makes sense - bring back someone with ties to the new COO to provide either a henchman for his use when he reveals himself as evil or a great misdirection by the person really behind the texts. From the standpoint of getting someone to spar with Punk on the mic, Nash was probably the best choice. What about from an in-ring standpoint though? Assuming that Shawn Michaels would stay retired for the time being, who'd be the best option to wrestle Punk in an actual match? There's only one answer to that question:

Sean Waltman

Waltman has cleaned his act up over the years, and at King of Trios earlier this year, he proved he could still go, gradually building up to an epic Rey de Voladores final where he lost to El Generico in what is many people's match of the year to date. You'd think it'd be a no-brainer to bring him in as a foil for Punk, especially since the match quality would ostensibly be on par with the affairs the Straight Edge Savior had with John Cena. However, there'd be two stumbling blocks. One is his hepatitis. There's no guarantee that with his condition he'd be cleared medically to wrestle in WWE. Two is that even if he was cleared? Punk might balk at wrestling him out of the odd chance that Waltman did get busted open hardway and put him at risk for contacting the disease.

The upside to this would be that WWE has scaled back its style over the years so that stuff like blading has forcibly become antiquated. Guys bleeding in matches has become somewhat of a rare occurrence anymore, and thus transmission of bloodborne pathogens is reduced to the point where maybe a guy like Waltman would be alright to compete in a one-off match.

However, for a company that is trying so hard to forge a public image of safety and accountability, how risky is too risky? Even something that's relatively "safe" might not be worth it if the end result could be taking out one of the building blocks of its future before he even had a chance to give all he could give. All it would take is one tooth knocked out of Waltman's mouth, one errant punch to bust him open (and even the most careful wrestlers make mistakes) or one botched elbow to the face causing a bloody nose that would create a severely hazardous working environment.

So while I myself was excited for the prospect of what would be, even today, a PHENOMENAL match between one of the best wrestlers in the company and a solid worker who can still go, I'm not sure this is ever going to happen. I'm also not sure I'd blame Punk or WWE for nixing it from the get go. While I think there'd be nothing to worry about, I also don't want to be wrong and have Punk end up with a disease that would put him on the shelf and endanger his life. So yeah, this is a match that'd be best left up to video games and fantasy booking, because I don't think it's happening for good reason.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography

Your Midweek Links: Oops, I Think Ric Flair Just Sued Us Again

Flair, lawsuit happy as ever!
Photo Credit:
It's hump day, so here are some links to get you through the rest of the week!


- Me, Butch Rosser and Ken Borsuk get silly and fantasy cast a WWE Films remake of Blazing Saddles, among other things, on the podcast this week. [Episode 17: Mellow Goldust]

- Why do we care about ratings? My latest Fair to Flair piece [Why Do We Care About Ratings?]

- Calling Impact to the carpet for their lack of action concerning a true drug policy. Latest Camel Clutch Blog piece. [TNA Impact Needs to Do More than Just Fire Matt Hardy]

Wrestling Links:

- Shane Ryan writes a long history of the decline of Ric Flair. In response to this, Flair is attempting to file a lawsuit. America! [Grantland]

- We Watch Wrestling on why they watch wrestling. [We Watch Wrestling]

- Razor's Super Smackdown running blog [Kick-Out!! Wrestling]

- And hey, his running RAW blog too! [Kick-Out!! Wrestling]

- Best and Worst of RAW for this week, including the best description of a dirtsheet ever. [With Leather]

- Jeff Peck argues it's time to end brand extension permanently [Camel Clutch Blog]

- A return of the New World Order? Editorial note: Jeez, I really fucking hope not. Let it die. [Cageside Seats]

- A treatise on the nWo music. [International Object BONUS PODCAST: Int'l Object, Ep. 30 w/ David Shoemaker]

- Jason Mann discusses his quest to discover the essential WWE matches from 2011 thus far. [Wrestlespective]

- Lioness Asuka, in her own words. [Dirty Dirty Sheets]

- Speaking of fantasy casting movies with wrestlers... [Unreality Mag]

- Tara talks about a bunch of stuff. [Diva Dirt]

- Becky Bayless talks about her departure from Impact [I Want Wrestling]

- Speaking of Impact, why Vince McMahon NEEDS to buy the company. It's not for the reason you might assume someone would urge the man to buy his "competition". [The Smoking Section]

- The newest Sin Cara? [Tom Watches Wrestling]

- Thoughts on the lucha candidates for the WON Hall of Fame [Luchablog]

- Your obligatory Hulk Hogan parody porn post [Kentucky Fried Rasslin]

- Flashing back to 1981 AWA, Nick Bockwinkel being awarded the World Title [South Atlanta Wrestling]

- Wrestling memories of the Hart Foundation [Wrestle Guy Blog]

- ROH Tag Team Turmoil DVD review [The Harrison Analysis]

Jamie Dobson Interviews:

- Kekoa the Flying Hawaiian

Non-Wrestling Links:

- Don Cheadle is CAPTAIN PLANET in this Funny or Die video. It's way better than the crappy cartoon was. [Funny or Die]

- The Phillies produce an "It Gets Better" video. I like that MLB is getting in on this. Diffuse the bullying by setting an example for the stereotypical bullies. [The Fightins]

- What the Phillies and Rays learned about BABIP. Hint, it's a statistic, not a delicious Asian treat served in stone pots. [Crashburn Alley]

- Why do the Angels keep winning? [Grantland BONUS PODCAST: Grantland Network Ep. 1]

- Castro and Plichter eat at the best pizza joint in Philly, Tacconnelli's. I co-sign their review 100000000 percent. It's that good. [Doughboys]

- The annoying things your co-workers do while eating lunch. [Bites]

- The candy of the literary world. Someone alert KSP! [McSweeney's]

- A nice recipe for chicken spring rolls, with pictures! [Cogyddes]

- That new Pioneer Woman show in Food Network is just as awful as it sounds. [Food Network Humor]

- How you can tell the weather from the forecast. Sounds about right. [The Oatmeal]

- Matt Ufford is going to dress up as Tobias Fünke and do a hellish workout for charity. Donate! Donate! And donate some more! [Kissing Suzy Kolber]

- An ode to the most thankless job in fantasy football - commissioner. [The Go Route]

- Like the Dugout? Wish they did one for the NFL? Well, wish granted. Presenting Football Guys. [SB Nation]

- Does it matter if Michael Vick is white or black? [Wide Left]

- Stuck on whom you should root for? Justin Henry's got a primer just for you. [Camel Clutch Blog]

- It's never too early for a mock draft, is it? [Huge Upside]

- The 10 most useless women in video game history. [Ranker]

- In this link, a girl who cosplays as the far-from-useless characters from the Zelda series. [Unreality Mag]

- The Department of Defense actually spends money on something called a "spiritual fitness" test? No, but let's not cut spending anywhere, ever. [Huffington Post]

- It's official, Texas A&M is gone from the Big 12. [Dr. Saturday]

- Some STONE COLD LOCKS for the upcoming college football season. [Your Best 11]

- Hey, football is starting up again. That means SHOVE IT about conference realignment. [Campus Union]

- Having the dog that wouldn't leave the side of the casket of his former owner who was killed in action in Iraq leading the football team onto the field? Someone tell U of Iowa that this needs to happen, like now. [With Leather]

- Hurricane Irene? Stop this college football game? I SAY THEE NAY. [Every Day Should Be Saturday]

- Drew Magary did a live Funbag yesterday. TWB superfan TheRick711 got a question answered for it too! [Deadspin]

- Mad Libs for pro football [Sports Pickle]

- Bruce Dickinson flying people out of NYC stranded by Irene? As if the Iron Maiden frontman couldn't get any cooler... [UPROXX]

- 10 bands who overcame questionable debuts. Sort of the opposite of bands like Creed (fuck you, My Own Prison was pretty good). [Flavor Wire]

- Tupac's entourage smoked his ashes... or did they? BECAUSE TUPAC'S NOT DEAD [NME]

- "Space Oddity" as a children's book... beautifully depressing. [Badass Digest]

- Monta Ellis, the poster child for the misunderstood "scorer" [Court Vision]

- Angels and demons beloved by nerds. Not listed? The Dan Brown novel. [Topless Robot]

- 4 accidental sequels to 80s movies [Badass Digest]">Cracked]

- Lil' Wayne, absurd lyrics? Nah, can't be. [The Smoking Section]

- This week in movie posters. [Film Drunk]

- Perspective: u has none [Buzz Feed]

- Two chatbots arguing with each other. Are both their arguments invalid, or just yours? [Gamma Squad]

- Science... ruining supervillainy since 1543 [Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal]

- The very definition of "butterface" [Skull Swap]

- Will the NHL ever relocate into Kansas City? [Puck Daddy]

- I told you the dog was going to take over your room [Imgur Gallery]

- Nancy Grace on Dancing with the Stars. So's Ron Artest. Can we take up a collection for Artest's bail so he can elbow the shit out of the shrill young white girl murder exploitation expert? [Warming Glow]

The Best Moves Ever: QuackenDriver III

I appreciate all wrestling moves and holds that look good. Submission wrestling is awesome, so awesome I created a tag and a failed social media movement for it. High-flying moves are spectacular to look at. However, as much as I love all those moves, my wheelhouse is, and always has been, head dropping moves. Granted, you don't see them as often anymore with concussion safety coming more and more into the minds of folks everywhere. I'm fine with that. Just leave the head drops in my video games and bust them out in key, sparing spots, and I'll still love 'em to death. For all his lucha libre wizardry, Mike Quackenbush's four finishing moves that bear his name, the Quackendriver suite, are all sublime head drops. I tried looking for IV, which was the closest one to my primary e-fed finisher, the Russian neck drop from WWF No Mercy, but I couldn't find an iso. Instead, here's Quackendriver III, an off-leg spinning fisherman's driver. It's still freaking awesome.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Instant Feedback: Okay but Still Not Super

Smackdown was promised to be super tonight. It was live, it was co-branded, it had a loaded lineup. Other than two parts of the show, it was anything but super. That being said, at least the two parts that were really good were the two most important parts of the show. First, there was the contract signing between Triple H and CM Punk. IT was really, really good. Punk had his A-game back after being off the last two editions of RAW. Last night, he came off as a smarmy asshole who begged to get his comeuppance. Tonight, he acquitted himself better as the folk hero he needs to be to be a fan favorite. He was pitch perfect and with his speech about loving WWE and wanting drastic change, he totally rehabbed the damage on his cred when he went out and imitated Chris Jericho, circa 2000. Triple H was really good here too, a perfect counterbalance to Punk. He was sympathetic in his own right, and he had his own narrative. The more I think about it, the more I think the logical move here is going to an alliance between Punk and Trips, but since that is obvious, it's probably not happening.

The other really good part to tonight's show was the main event. It started off slowly, and it was looking like it wouldn't be the best work between Christian and Randy Orton. However, in the last segment of the match, things really picked up. Christian's avoidance of Orton's signature moves was amazing. The best play came when he hopped on the second turnbuckle to go for his diving European uppercut. It looked like Orton would hit him with the RKO, but Christian stopped short and dodged it. That was fucking cool. This was clearly the least best of the matches between the two I've seen, and the narrative from the announcers about it being a scintillating rivalry was just annoying because it was anything but in retrospect. However, it was still good enough to put a positive spin on the show. Well the match plus Mark Henry splitting wigs afterwards. Dude is rough 'n tumble. I really hope they strap him, let him run to WrestleMania and have the story be the smallest but most skilled man on the roster, Daniel Bryan, be Smackdown's last hope. That won't happen, but hey, it's nice to dream.

Speaking of which, while the Bryan/Sin Cara match was one of Bryan's weakest of the year, it bears noting that with the kick to Bryan in the post match? I really think we're going to see a dueling Sin Cara feud. Could be good.

Other than that, there really was nothing to write home about. John Cena reared his ugly head tonight, not only trying to crack wise, but coming off as utterly unlikable. He suckerpunched Ricardo Rodriguez, and then when Wade Barrett called him on it, he claimed he still owed him payback. Really John? You don't call dropping a million chairs on the man payback enough? The writers and/or Cena really must not think all that highly of the fans for us to forget what happened at the end of the TLC PPV in December. Ugh. The match was a turd too. Too short and too one-sided. I'm not saying this as a pedantic smark who thinks that Wade Barrett should be booked to look STRONG ZOMG. I'm saying this from a standpoint that when I see a match billed as a "MAIN EVENT", I want to see more than just token resistance and squash-like results. Compare to the real main event. No one thought Christian was going over. No one except maybe the most deluded Christian fanboys. Okay, but I think they did a really good job of selling the fact that Christian might just win. Barrett and Cena? It was like the people who laid the match out knew that the crowd knew who was going to win and told them to phone it in because they had to get more plugs, recaps and trailers in.

Yep, when you have a co-branded show, you definitely need more trailers and plugs, right? I mean, it's not like there were guys like Cody Rhodes, the Awesome Truth, Justin Gabriel, Ezekiel Jackson and Vickie Guerrero's traveling dysfunctional circus who could have been there instead of the trailer for Trips' next shitty movie or a recap for the most one-sided main event feud in WWE history... oh wait, there was.

Smackdown was better than RAW was last night, but it still felt very warmed over, not befitting the Super Smackdown label. I felt like I was bored for half the show, but thankfully, the other half of it that was worth watching was at least good. All I have to say though is that the magic WWE had over the summer is disappearing rapidly. Hopefully, this is just a hiccup and when RAW rolls around Monday, we get back to the awesomeness that we've been treated to in July and most of August.

Chikara Photos! Fun Times! Bryce Remsburg!

US Ant! US Ant! View this picture and more!
Photo Credit: Zia Hiltey

Do you like independent wrestling, Chikara in specific? Do you appreciate good photography? Do you want to hang out with luminaries such as Bryce Remsburg, Ophidian and possibly myself? Then you're in luck! My shutterbug pal and fellow Chikaraphile Zia Hiltey will be putting her photography on display at Benna's Cafe in South Philly starting September 9th at 7:30 PM in DARK MATCH: An Espectactular Wrestling Themed Photo Show. It'll run through October 13th.

I posted a sampling of Zia's work, and I've actually used her photos on the blog before. Please go out and support her work, because she's cool beans. Plus, who knows whom you might see. Check it out if you're in Philly.

Live Smackdown Tonight: Why I Hope It's Permanent

Smackdown goes live tonight in what the WWE is promising to be a historic event. If RAW last night is any indicator, the only way it makes history is if it's historically bad. Then again, WWE has a tendency to be schizoid in how they produce shows. One week, they can be knockout great, and another, ehh, not so much. Maybe they have all their A-material planned for tonight. Who knows.

Either way, I hope tonight is a great success. As you might have noticed in the last month or so, I've been sporadic in my DVR watching. It isn't because I don't WANT to watch the wrestling I can't watch live. Except maybe Impact, because some weeks, it's a fucking chore to get through that slop. But no, I really want to watch Smackdown. Sometimes though, I get too busy. I'm a married man, and I do like spending time with my wife. We do stuff on the weekends, and sometimes, it precludes me from being able to watch the contents of my DVR. It's life.

That being said, I rarely have anything going on Tuesday nights. I CAN watch wrestling live at that point. I think most people can too. It's why networks put their best shows on nights like Tuesday (or Monday or Wednesday or even Thursday). Friday is a social night. People go out, eat dinner, have drinks, dance, bowl, watch movies. By and large, they don't watch wrestling or much TV at all, even. Sure, there are people who do watch Smackdown live who have otherwise fine social lives and make Friday nights appointment viewing, but at the same time, there's a reason why four million people watch RAW each week and maybe two million watch Brand Blue. Odds are, two million people are like me. They'd like to see the travails of folks like Christian, Cody Rhodes, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton Wade Barrett live, but they'd rather not give up one of their free nights.

That's why I want this to be a huge success. I want to be able to watch wrestling that matters on a night that's convenient for me. I'm not alone in this either. Plus, it keeps up a really good momentum for our wrestling fandom, especially on a PPV weekend. Three straight days of wrestling with another five to chew on what happened seems to be a good thing for me at least. With Smackdown moving to live viewing, I'll probably be more apt to shift into the other room on Thursdays to watch Impact live too, and then maybe watching NWA Hollywood, Superstars and when it begins to be streamed on the web, ROH at my convenience as well.

But that's only if tonight does well. So yeah, I know I really don't care about the ratings as much anymore, but for the love of all that's good, let tonight break SyFy's ratings records and force them to put Smackdown live. It would be better for everyone involved.

It's Time to Start Paying Attention to Wrestling Revolution

A member of the Revolution
Photo Credit:
If you haven't been paying attention before, and trust me, while I've been gung ho about this project since my colleague Razor of House Kick-Out!! interviewed Jeff Katz for his podcast, I can understand why, Wrestling Revolution is a new concept in pro wrestling, looking to combine the artform we all love with episodic, three-act storytelling. Okay, all the podcasts in the world and all the hype from one guy who you may or (more likely) may not even know won't mean a thing without the talent involved. Well, over the last week, they've started to reveal the actual cast. So far, it looks pretty impressive:
  • Colt Cabana

  • MVP

  • Kenny Omega

  • Kenn "Kenny Dykstra" Doane

  • Sami Callihan

  • Alex Reynolds

  • Dr. Luther

I'm not familiar with the last two names, but the first five have a decent at least pedigree. The fact that Cabana and MVP are involved really excites me. The thing to remember though is that you're not going to see anyone of the above in their known characters. They'll be coming in with new personae, which is something that Katz was adamant about in describing the project. That being said, the pedigree of talent behind those new characters is undeniable.

The concept is good, the players so far are good, and the guy behind the screen is a dyed-in-the-wool wrestling fan who wants something better. If I wasn't fully on board with this before, I'm totally on board with it now.

Idiotic if True: How an Impact Burnout May Have Screwed over the Young Bucks

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Were these guys wronged by the competition?
Cageside Seats has a pretty good summary of the scuttlebutt surrounding the Sin Cara hood and the two men who play it, especially the original. It's a good read, but in describing one of the reasons why Mistico has become persona non grata in WWE right now, they brought up this nugget on a recent controversy involving two decidedly non-Sin Cara related wrestlers:
The Young Bucks shouldn't have bothered turning up for their recent WWE tryout, their chances were shot as soon as Rob Van Dam gave them the rep of dodging veteran's handshakes. In a predictable development, RVD's good friends Booker T and Goldust made sure to concur with his assessment via Twitter that they were a couple of disrespectful young punks and thus the Bucks could kiss their WWE chances goodbye.
First, a disclaimer, I don't assume that this is 100% truth here. Dave Meltzer (the source for the Cageside article) may have an element of truth to that slant on how things happened. He may be talking cynically. I don't know.

That being said, if there is any element of truth to this... what the fuck, WWE? Really? Really? I purported not even to want to judge how the WWE backstage culture was, and if the Bucks did "wrong" Booker T, then it's one thing. It's a personal beef, and they handled it the way that they handle those kinds of things backstage. However, if what Meltzer is insinuating is true here, then it's a clear case of a guy who works for another company influencing policy. Regardless of who the guy is, that seems pretty fucked up to me. The guy basically is using his influence to make sure that two guys who might have a future in the industry can't get ahead. Isn't that kind of blackballing considered unethical at the very least?

Furthermore, let's look into the guy who's starting this bullshit. Rob Van Dam. Apparently, if the insinuation is true, he cares about respect and petty bullshit, which is fine and dandy if you're into having your ego stroked, but let's look at some of the things he doesn't care about. He doesn't care about showing respect, since he mouths off about Impact in the media if he's unhappy (and regardless of whether you agree with him or not, you take care of that shit in house). He doesn't care about following drug policy obviously. He also doesn't care about co-worker safety, since his well-documented sloppiness hasn't abated over the years. In fact, I'd say it's gotten worse since his most egregious offense against protecting his fellow workers happened within the last six months, i.e. his amateur dentistry on Abyss with his foot. So now, WWE HR policy is going to be directly impacted by a burnout working for the struggling competition? That is hilarious.

That also isn't to say that RVD and his cronies Booker and Goldust would be totally at fault here. If WWE really is going to not sign the Bucks due to that backstage fracas without further investigation, then what does that say about them? It's one thing to have a guy in the doghouse in Mistico because of behavior that's widely observed, but wouldn't you think it funny that the Bucks, who apparently shook hands with everyone else, had a problem with only two guys, guys who were friends of a habitual drug user with a massive ego? If the reports are true, then doesn't this make WWE look fucking stupid for siding with a guy who ultimately is part of the organization that's most competing with them, whether they know it or not?

But that's the kicker. I keep going back to the disclaimer. There's no way to gauge whether any of these reports that are based on non-primary sources and conjecture are 100% factual. While I have my reasons to believe Meltzer over anyone, including his colleague Bryan Alvarez, wouldn't have an axe to grind, it's entirely possible that he has a journalistic bias against the WWE. It's not that big a negative. It's human nature. There's entirely a chance that this whole post is bluster, and within six months, the Young Bucks will be in WWE, and who knows, maybe Mistico will be Sin Cara once more. That being said, there's too much smoke in the form of wrestler chatter about this kind of thing for there not to be fire. If it was just something internal, then yeah, maybe I wouldn't have wasted any more words on it than I did back when I reacted to it first. But the fact that someone working for Impact may have something to do with the Bucks not signing WWE contracts seems stupid at least, unethical at the midpoint and illegal tampering/collusion at the very worst. It's so mind-bogglingly awful that even the very specter of it doesn't pass the smell test.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography

Punk/HHH Is a Lot of Things, but Not a Hotshot

Is Punk a folk hero or an unlikable dick?
Photo Credit:
There were a lot of differing criticisms about the end of RAW last night and the announcement that it would be Triple H taking on CM Punk at Night of Champions instead of Kevin Nash challenging the Straight Edge Savior. The one that seems to come up the most is that it's a hotshot. The announcement was abrupt, yes. They were building towards Punk/Nash since SummerSlam, yes. However, despite all that, this is not a hotshot. If you think about it, they've actually been building to this match since 6/27. Yeah, remember? Doofus son-in-law? Two months, Punk has been taking shots at Triple H, and for the most part, Trips took the shots in humor. Last night was his breaking point. There's nothing to suggest that this was the hotshot.

Now, that doesn't mean it's a good idea. Again, if Triple H was the endgame for Night of Champions, why misdirect with Kevin Nash of all people? Maybe it was a way to get everyone's hopes depressed for the prospect of Punk having to carry his 51-year old carcass around the ring for an extended period of time to the point where Trips would seem like an improvement. While there's reason to believe that this was the story all along (although the reasoning on the surface seems flimsy at best), it comes off so much like swerve storytelling, stuff that gets a company like Impact lambasted (rightfully so, by the way).

Secondly, and most importantly, the narrative is screwed up. How's Punk getting underneath Trips' skin. He's insinuating that his wife keeps his balls in her purse. While that's good for occasional ball-busting among friends in a fratboy douchebag sort of way, the longer it's kept up, the more people are going to want to see Trips deck Punk, not for Punk to prevail over his "evil" boss (who's totally not being portrayed as evil).

Again, the story isn't flawed because it's being rushed. Hardly. Unless the endgame is Punk/Trips at WrestleMania, then a two-to-three PPV arc between the two should start right now if that's the case. Hell, it could end up that the two bury the hatchet and join forces because they're being set up by whoever it was who sent the text to Nash in the first place. The story is fatally flawed because it's a bad story in the context of the direction they've set forth.

Punk is supposed to be a folk hero, right? While this course he's on makes him a folk hero by the very definition of the word, those kinds of niche characters don't get over the way that wrestling characters are SUPPOSED to get over. Wrestling caters to a specific audience, and usually the kinds of people who gravitate to a caustic troll (which is what Punk's character is) don't gravitate to wrestling. Steve Austin was a folk hero, but he was an oxymoronic folk hero who had broad appeal. He raged against his corrupt boss. Triple H hasn't proven himself corrupt, so Punk comes off as a dick. Yeah, he's a dick who got screwed over, but until/unless Triple H is revealed as a liar, the more he goads the Game, the more he seems like he deserves to get screwed.

But as badly framed as the narrative is, it's not too soon for a match between the doofus son-in-law and the pipebomb-wielding future star of the company. To call this a hotshot is to do the same thing that people accuse WWE of doing all the time, ignoring longer-term history. That doesn't mean you have to like the story, but at least be honest in criticizing it instead of using smark buzzwords to frame an argument that doesn't fit the thing you're raging against.

KANA Has a Sword

Photo Credit: SMASH Website, via John Hyperion

This may not mean a whole lot to you now, but KANA, set to make her US debut in October for both Chikara and SHIMMER, has a sword. For whatever reason, I just think there's something badass, sexy and whimsical about that picture all at the same time. Something about a joshi megastar in hipster glasses with a weapon she could use to destroy you (although she obviously doesn't need it) that just gets to me.

Alberto del Rio Missed RAW to Take Care of His Visa

Photo Credit:
Via PW Torch

For those of you, myself included, who were wondering where the WWE Champion was last night, well, there was a good reason he missed RAW. Alberto del Rio was at home taking care of visa issues, which apparently will be resolved "very soon". He was scheduled to wrestle Sin Cara tonight, but oddly enough, WWE has scrubbed any mention of the match from ads. He is expected to be back for the weekend house show run.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Instant Feedback: Super Dud

It appears brand extension has ended with a whimper rather than a bang, or at least it's been put on hold. Funny, but it makes almost total sense for it to end this way, because it seems some old habits are hard to break. Tonight's show seemed like a placeholder in every sense of the word, but instead of those places being held being current, they felt like they were out of a RAW from last year rather than this year. I understand that it's not really feasible to expect them to launch it out of the park every week, but tonight more than any other show between Money in the Bank and now felt like regression.

For one the sense of dread that I had when CM Punk and Kevin Nash were officially announced to have a match at Night of Champions actually materialized. I thought I'd be alright with it, but really, Kevin Nash wrestling in 2011 is just a losing proposition anymore. So you'd think I'd be alright with them switching out to Punk/Triple H, right? Well, only slightly. From a match quality standpoint, it works, but I don't know. I'm starting to get flashbacks to late 2010 with them rushing the story again. Punk/Trips feels like something that could be stretched out a bit, but then again, I get the feeling that after Night of Champions, the two are going to be aligned. Call me crazy...

Also, no Alberto del Rio on the show? C'mon now. I want to know how you're going to have a supershow and not have the WWE Champion. I don't know. I really don't know about most of this show. IT was just so confusingly and befuddlingly boring and uneventful. Like, how am I going to comment on something that felt so warmed over? Then again, at least the wrestling was good. It's a big saving grace, and I'm glad that they are really focusing on providing a decent in-ring product. That being said, if you make me feel like I'm wasting my time out of the ring, then it's just so draining as a fan. Ugh.

Was Mistico a Mistake?

Was Mistico fated from start to fail?
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When Triple H signed Mistico to a contract, most people who knew who he was were excited. He was one of the biggest standout wrestlers South of the Border, worked an exciting style and seemed to be a perfect fit for a company that seemed to take to high flying wrestlers very well. The fans loved him as Sin Cara too. He sold merchandise and got wows from the live audiences for all his acrobatic moves. The botches didn't seem to matter too much either.

The untold story to most fans was that Mistico was a headcase. There was a steady stream of reports from dirtsheets and C&P sites that noted he had a huge ego and brought down the brunt of management and the locker room for everything from those aforementioned botches to claiming that his matches in Mexico were shoot fights. Granted, none of these reports came from primary sources, so it's unclear how much of them were true. Still, the steadiness of said stream was troubling at the very least. That being said, his problems reared a more public head when he was suspended for violating the Wellness Policy.

One would assume that he'd sit out his thirty days, come back and feud with Sheamus, the guy who put him out in storyline with a vicious powerbomb through a ladder at Money in the Bank. That wasn't the case, as again, nebulous reports without primary sources surfaced that Mistico would not be back. More gas was thrown on that fire when the Sin Cara character was brought back two weeks before Mistico's suspension was up, only with masked FCW wrestler Hunico in the rule. A fake/real Sin Cara angle was teased, but ultimately it was dropped when Mistico took over the role again on house shows.

Then, the biggest kicker, Mistico was apparently sent home last Tuesday, with Hunico being placed back in the Sin Cara mask (which, oddly enough, got off to an inauspicious restart when he had to redo a match with Heath Slater twice before it was fit to air). Honestly, I'm not sure what the deal is here. Again, the reports say that he was sent home because of a combination of ego, sloppiness and frustration with the man himself. I'm not going to rule out this being the beginning of that aforementioned dueling Sin Caras angle, but then again, who knows at this point. I'm not sure who's getting the right information, but as of right now, it does seem plausible that the Mistico experiment was poisoned from the start.

The premise behind bringing him up to America was simple. He'd be a guy who'd wow the Anglo audiences, while providing a hometown hero for Mexican fans, a base that is a major growth sector for WWE (growth sector... shit, I feel so dirty for typing that, my apologies). Honestly, the former didn't need to be filled by a Mexican at all. Evan Bourne, for example, is a guy who is massively over with crowds despite being limited to bumping his ass off for bigger guys and doing the Air Bourne for a huge crowd reaction. If they'd turned him loose earlier, maybe he's the guy who'd have made it possible for Rey Mysterio to get his surgery before it became necessary thanks to injuries exacerbated by holding out.

But then again, he didn't fill the other void. You could argue Alberto del Rio did, but at the same time, would Mexican crowds cheer for a rudo in a company of gringos if he was the only one? It's a very good possibility he could have. I mean, WWE may try to keep heels heel in their hometowns through dastardly actions, but money spent on merchandise and tickets is a neutral language. CM Punk proved that at Money in the Bank. Bret Hart proved it in Canada in 1996-97. My guess is the fact that del Rio was crowned Champion so close to their next big tour of Mexico leads me to believe that they didn't necessarily need to have Mistico to have a Mexican draw.

That being said, it'd be nice to be able to have one on the RAW tour and one on the Smackdown tour as well. Again, the WWE could really expand in Mexico, so I guess you can't blame them for wanting to have as many. But why Mistico? Why couldn't they have put Hunico in the Sin Cara mask all along? It would have cost them less from the get go, and he would have been well-adjusted from start having been "broken" by FCW so to speak. It's easy to say that in retrospect, but the truth is, the Sin Cara role was created for Mistico. It wouldn't have existed if the Mexican superstar wasn't signed up in the first place.

The truth is, I really can't blame WWE for trying to sign the guy in the first place. They hit a home run with Dos Caras, Jr. Maybe they thought they could do better by having an established name come in and do business for them. However, what worked for the middling-to-struggling Caras wasn't just his heritage. It was a year in FCW, vignettes heralding his arrival as Alberto del Rio and working a generally less risky style that made him a success.

It's easy to look at this whole ordeal in retrospect and say what a terrible idea it was, but the fact is that it wasn't so much a mistake as it was a gamble. Triple H, in his first move, swung for the fences and yeah, he may have apparently struck out (remember, no one knows Mistico's status now), he's thinking enough outside of the box that his father-in-law has built that he's going to bring in new and eclectic guys. You live, and you learn, but you won't know if Mistico will be the guy for you unless you sign him (and really, if you divorce his ego from his in-ring, he was looking to be really huge).

Going forward, Hunico being in the Sin Cara mask is probably the right call, as long as nights like last Tuesday are aberrations rather than the norm. That being said, even if it didn't turn out as planned for WWE, bringing in Mistico was the right call. Sometimes though, the right call can turn out bad.

The Struggles of Green Ant: A Coming of Age Story

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Green Ant: Chikara's Holden Caulfield?
Once upon a time, there was a man named Kenta Kobashi. He still wrestles, yeah, and he's known very much today as one of the most legendary performers in puroresu history. He even no-sold cancer. That's badass. However, he wasn't always known for being perhaps the manliest wrestler this side of Stan Hansen. He was known as a loser. When he first broke into AJPW, his role was to lose a bunch of matches. I've written about the Kobashi Push in here. He lost and lost and lost and kept losing, but with each match, he looked more and more game. They turned this losing streak into a wave of momentum where crowds wanted to see Kobashi break through and finally win his first match. When he did, he was a made wrestler.

When I look at Green Ant's run in Chikara, especially in the last few months when he rode into the last two Chikara weekends a heavy favorite to stand tall, only to be knocked back a couple of pegs, I'm very much reminded of Kobashi. Semantically, the two aren't like each other because Greenie gets wins; he won four times Saturday in five matches. It was that fifth match, though, that was the defining one not only for the event, but for Greenie's oeuvre. He gets the fall in tag matches, and he's always competitive in singles matches, but it always seems to be in the big spots, he falls short. Whether it's because his spunk can only take him so far against an opponent who overmatches him like in the two bouts with Mike Quackenbush over the last two years, or whether it's due to underhanded tactics from people not scheduled to be involved in the match like at Chikarasaurus Rex against Tursas, he always falls short.

Regardless of this, Green Ant is very much one of the most supported members of the roster, and not just because of his association with The Colony. Actually, I'd say because of this inability to come up in big moments, Green Ant is verily one of the most supported members on the roster. See, everyone loves a good coming of age story. These stories don't unfold by the protagonist dominating and displaying his awesomeness. They're told though struggle and hardship. The main character suffers a lot, but he or she learns lessons and uses them to find some sort of triumph at the end.

To that end, the original Kobashi Push may have been the best coming-of-age story ever told in wrestling, at least through a journey of wins and losses. That's also where I feel there's value here for Chikara. Green Ant's failings have built him up as a man who is learning, who struggles and who comes painfully close before having something befall him at the end. He remains competitive, and thus people continue to pull for him. Whether it's winning Cibernetico, felling Tursas at High Noon (an obvious jump off point), defeating Quackenbush finally or even taking out Eddie Kingston for the Chikara Grand Championship1, when he finally comes through in the clutch, the reaction will be off the charts, provided they don't wait too long to pull the trigger.

People who say wins and losses matter only get it half-right. Winning all the time isn't the only way to build equity with the fans. Losses in the context of telling a story can be just as important as a winning streak can be. I think it was proven in Japan with Kenta Kobashi, and Chikara is attempting to prove it here. With each shortcoming, the initial disappointment is met with the tempering of the spirit of the fans to want to see Green Ant prevail hugely. When it does happen, no one will remember the failings, at least in a pedantic sense. They'll just revel in the glow of a kid who finally made it, who finally got the happy ending, who finally came of age.

1 - I intentionally left off defeating Tadasuke for the Cup in Japan. The common logic is that someone from Chikara will bring home the Young Lions Cup when they tour Osaka Pro later on this fall. If Green Ant is the one to do it, then it's a wasted opportunity, I think, given that it wouldn't happen in front of a Chikara audience

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography

Weekend Wrap-Up: Hurricane Tadasuke

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Your Young Lions Cup IX Champion
- Not really a whole lot to report on this weekend in terms of shows, but what did happen was a good one. Then again, Chikara weekends are always fun, even if this one was truncated by Hurricane Irene. The Young Lions Cup tournament saw Tadasuke surprisingly take the trophy back with him to Osaka Pro after defeating Green Ant in the final. Greenie rode a wave of momentum into the final, eliminating all three of his opponents in his first round match and then taking out Jakob Hammermeir in the semifinal. After the match, Tursas squished him, which I'm sure figured into the final. Tadasuke dispatched Archibald Peck in his semifinal.

In 12 Large Summit action, Claudio Castagnoli gave perhaps the biggest proof yet that he's heading elsewhere other than the indies by dropping a match to... Icarus. Yep, I think losing to Icarus prevents you from winning your block or something like that. With two points and only one match left to go, it's safe to say he's not going to be challenging for the Grand Championship. Sara del Rey was tripped up by Hallowicked, losing via La Majistral cradle. Fire Ant summarily dispatched Vin Gerard in the only Block B match during the weekend.

Other matches included the Young Bucks pulling double duty. Nick wrestled in one of the eliminators, and Matt beat Johnny Gargano in a singles match. Later on in the night, the Bucks teamed up to give the Batiri More Bang for Their Buck. It's unknown whether they shook hands during the event, but my guess is, no one would have cared if they did or not. Finally, UltraMantis Black defeated Pinkie Sanchez and then summarily continued his calling out of Ares. Grizzly Redwood was backstage, but apparently he spent his time whittling, via his Twitter, that is. Not sure why I listed that, except I think it's a total Grizzly Redwood thing for the guy to be doing.

- Goldberg is apparently going to be wrestling for charity in Africa. Regardless about what you think of the guy, that's pretty cool if it materializes. Read more about it at my home slice Dave McKinney's blog, South Atlanta Wrestling.

- Ayumi Kurihara joins KANA, Ayako Hamada, Hiroyo Matsumoto, Yuki Ohka and SHIMMER Tag Team Champion Tomaka Nakagawa as a joshi guest star for the next run of tapings. This isn't really surprising news, but it's welcome, as Kurihara has become ingrained in the fabric of the promotion. Just in case you didn't know, Hailey Hatred will be appearing too, which is pretty huge since she apparently went to Japan and powered up to max level. The tapings will take place October 1 and 2 at the Berwyn Eagles Club. Tickets still available through the SHIMMER website.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Aaron Rodgers' Hulkamania Moustache

Screengrab Credit: 30FPS


Yeah, I got nothing else this morning. Happy weekend, and be safe if you're on the East Coast, even if Irene turns out to be a dud.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Your Favorite Wrestlers Ever: Bill Dempsey

Now that my own favorites list is out of the way, I posed the question to some of my colleagues in the fan/writer community. Who are your favorite five wrestlers?

Yes, I'm still taking submissions. So yeah, if you want to send in a list, feel free. If you don't have my e-mail, well, now you do. tom DOT holzerman AT gmail DOT com. Just sub the DOTs out for .s and the AT out for a @ and you'll be fine. Anyway, this unordered list comes to us from one Bill Dempsey, one of my oldest running buddies on the 'Net. We started out together in e-feds, and when I tell you he was one of the two best handlers I've ever come across, he's one of the two best handlers I've ever come across. Bill now works for HBO, and he's met some pretty cool celebs, but he still gives lil' ol' me and TWB the time of day. Here are his five favorite wrestlers ever. Enjoy!

Two of the best, two of Bill's faves
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Steve Austin - When thinking about the Austin era I got a little hung up on who my favorite guy was from those years. Strong cases can be made for The Rock, Angle, Jericho, Benoit (I know) and several others. But the fact is that when I consider it I still think of it as “The Austin Era” and that says it all. Not that it’s easy to leave Rocky off the list, as I look back on his contributions with a lot of joy, but Austin was always more fun for me, because he was an ass kicker who could force some comedy from time to time whereas Rock excelled with humor, but I didn’t always buy his ass kicking. Chalk it up to personal preference. Then there is the physical aspect of Austin, where, beyond his frankly limited moveset (post knee surgeries) he was one of the best bumpers I have ever seen. The guy bounced around like a rubber ball and always made things look like they hurt, which is a really under-rated skill, I think. The great thing about anyone on this list is that by the time they are in the discussion you can look back at the early parts of their career and appreciate them more than you did at the time. Not that Stunning Steve was ever not fun to watch but knowing what he would become, I find it really cool to go back to the Dangerous Alliance Era and watch him knowing what he was growing into. He was a guy that excelled at two vastly different characters and also bridged the gap between those two characters with a masterful run as half of one of the greatest tag teams in history. Once he got to WWE the record speaks for itself. Yes, in the later years he became sort of a caricature and things got repetitive, but I appreciated that he tried to go heel and wish we had seen where that was going minus the Trips injury and the Invasion angle. And the fact remains that starting with the Bret Hart feud right up through WrestleMania 17 I don’t know that I’ve ever had more fun watching a single guy, and that is despite Russo booking a ton of that stretch.

Bret Hart - If I were putting these in order I might have Bret Hart listed as my favorite wrestler of all time. He’s just so good at everything. He certainly doesn’t have the promo skill of Flair, but minus that, I think he is everything we all think of when we talk about Flair, just better at most of it. Like Flair, his matches definitely have a similar feel and flow about them, but I find them much easier to go back and watch again, despite the fact that Flair’s super high end stuff is probably better than Bret’s if I’m being honest. But seriously, name a bad Bret Hart match. Even if you can come up with one or two (and the McMahon thing from a couple years back doesn’t count) you’ve gotta admit it’s not easy to do and the fact that he was such a consistent guy with so many different opponents is unreal. He bumped great, his offense was always crisp and tight, and his psych almost always made sense – the perfect triple threat. Again I find myself heaping a lot of the same praise on Bret that is usually reserved for Flair, but where Bret gets the edge in my eye is that he stopped before becoming a total joke (notwithstanding that it wasn’t really his choice). We have the benefit of not having to have had to watch Bret decline the way we did with Flair. In fact, if not for the move to WCW, who horribly mismanaged his career (he’s still got good matches there, but the whole period feels like a bore, minus that one match with Benoit and maybe some Goldberg stuff), I think Bret might be in the discussion as a unanimous Best Ever guy.

Vader - I’m very comfortable listing Vader as the best big man I have ever seen if we’re talking straight peak. Other guys have lasted longer (Taker comes to mind & we can argue other names depending on how we want to define the term “big man”) and it’s impossible to ignore Vader’s almost immediate fall from grace when he showed up in WWE, but at his best, he was clearly in the conversation for best in the world, big man or not. Obviously the matches with Sting are legendary, the Starrcade match with Flair is nearly perfect and the Cactus Jack stuff was way ahead of its time. Beyond that he was able to pull off remaining a scary no nonsense badass in a particularly goofy time in WCW in the days before and just after Hogan’s arrival and right up until Hogan killed him dead. Even after his WWF debut he had a few standout matches (vs. Bradshaw at Breakdown, Michaels at SummerSlam, & the Fatal Four Way come to mind) but he was clearly done by then and just got fatter and less motivated. But for 5 or 6 years before then he was absolutely must-watch and his matches tended to make everyone else’s look that much worse in comparison, which is a pretty good gauge of talent in my book.

Brock Lesnar - I went back and watched the Iron Man match with Angle last night, which is my first exposure to Lesnar in years. He totally holds up. Definitely the most natural and gifted wrestler I can think of. Just completely fluid and instinctual and a guy that just looked like he knew what he was doing at all times, not only throwing guys around like a gorilla, but actually wresting smart matches. Even the infamous botch at WrestleMania was something he went for 100%, just believing he would nail it. I can’t imagine how good he would have been if he actually liked wrestling and stuck to it. He couldn’t really talk, but he didn’t need to, and who knows if he would have developed that skill or not. Either way, I think we’d be talking about him as a GOAT as far as in-ring is concerned, and as mentioned above, depending on your definition probably calling him the best big man ever. Sadly, his run was way too short, but even with just those few years we have incredible matches to look back on with Hardy, Undertaker, Rocky, Angle, Big Show, Benoit (yeah, I know) & Guerrero. Just thinking about this now as I write it a Lesnar/Vader match with both guys at their prime would have been fucking ridiculous (and arguably we never even saw Lesnar in his prime). Not to mention how incredible a Lesnar/Mike Knox match would have been (I think Knox may seriously be my favorite guy from the past 5 years, although there are clearly guys more talented).

Randy Savage - Like everyone else, I remembered how much I loved Randy Savage when he died. My only real beef with him is I don’t think he had a single match worth watching once he left the WWF (and didn’t have many after his “retirement” match with Warrior, although the Flair match at WM8 is the clear exception). That said, even as he got older and less mobile and his matches all started blending together, he remained an exciting guy to watch just because he was so insane. The intrigue surrounding whether he would join the NWO was incredible right up until they had him join and become totally irrelevant. Still, he’s clearly the best that the WWF had in the WrestleMania era leading up to his departure and his resume in those 10 years is incredible. If he only had the two years between WrestleManias 3 & 5 he would be in the discussion as the best guy in the 80’s (with the year long Hogan feud being possibly the most perfectly booked main event program ever), but there is so much more to it than that, and as I get older I really enjoy his shitty weasely scumbag pre-WM3 heel act from a lot of the MSG and Boston Garden shows with him being the best wrestler on the card, moving at about 100 coke induced miles an hour at all times, blowing everyone’s minds collectively and cheating like hell without needing to. The guy was totally electric and it was so obvious that he had to be moved up the card. Just an all around great, with the only real complaint being a slightly repetitive offense, which he made worth watching by being completely crazy at all times.

C'mon, Irene: Chikara Young Lions Cup IX Preview

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Is Green Ant this year's YLC Champion?
Hurricane Irene, she's a real bitch, isn't she?

Already truncated from three days down to two this year, Chikara's annual Young Lions Cup Tournament has gotten the shortening treatment down to one day thanks to the burgeoning menace that is this year's major hurricane. So, instead of two days of mirth, merriment and new wrestlers making splashes to the Easton audience, the entire proceedings will be compressed into one day at the Palmer Center, Saturday at 4:30 PM (note the change in time from your tickets). Tickets for both days will be honored, and if you can't make it, or you have tickets to BOTH events, then you can get a refund by contacting the promotion at their website.

The only thing that's been announced so far is that all scheduled Cup tournament matches will happen. Other matches, like the 12 Large Summit tournament matches, the Countdown Showdown and the like, don't have clear statuses, although the Website lists other bouts to take place in addition to the seven match tournament to crown a new Young Lions Cup Champion.

So, what's the deal with this tournament anyway? Frightmare is still the Champion, and he's not even involved, right? Well, to understand the nature of the Cup would be to understand why they hold a YLC every year. The Cup is defended as a regular Championship among anyone in the promotion who is under the age of 25. The stipulation is that once you've held the title, you can't challenge back for it, and each "year" is an iteration of it. It's a title that embodies youth, hungriness and the constant turnover that happens in the wrestling business. Frightmare's reign is considered a great success since he went wire to wire as the YLC VIII Champ. Player Dos, for example, wasn't as lucky, as his reign was ended in January of 2010 by Tim Donst.

The tournament format, as foreshadowed by the initial decrease in days, has changed. In years past, it was set up as a 24-man fray with 12 "qualifier" matches, two big six-man eliminator matches and then a final on the third day. This year, there are only 16 men in the tourney. There will be four quarterfinal four-way elimination matches and then one-on-one matches from there on out - two semifinals and one final. The four matches shake out as such:

Green Ant vs. Will-o-the-Wisp II (there was a first one?) vs. Robbie Eagles vs. Kobold

Greg Iron vs. Chase Owens vs. Wil Maximo vs. Jakob Hammermeir

Nick Jackson vs. Mark Andrews vs. Tadasuke vs. Sean South

Archibald Peck vs. MK McKinnan vs. Milo Shizo vs. Mat Fitchett

That is an impressive list from the guys that I do know. The guys I don't? Well, that's a big reason why I look forward to YLC weekend each year. There's always an introduction to people you normally don't get to see. Mike Quackenbush is very much a student of the game, and he's always looking to bring in new talent, whether it's people known to the wrestling world like Manami Toyota or those who are wild cards, like Sindarin or Kaio last year (the former having appeared off and on for NWA Hollywood) and this year, folks like Sean South and Mat Fitchett.

Let's break down each match though as best as I can. The first match, there are roster regulars Green Ant and Kobold. Both are known quantities. In fact, with the Flex Express angle behind him, I'd say not only is Greenie a heavy favorite in this match, but in the entire tournament as well. Kobold is probably the least exposed member of the Chikara roster, but he's under the evil influence of the Batiri, so you can expect some shenanigans on his behalf. Will-o-the-Wisp II is a complete unknown to me, although he does have a neat looking mask. Robbie Eagles is from the Land Down Under, and as you can expect from his last name, he is related to current SHIMMER Champion and hiatused-Chikara roster member Madison Eagles. He's her brother-in-law. That pedigree bodes well for him, and hopefully, he'll be a better representation of the Australian males than Kabel and Percy T were at King of Trios. I expect Green Ant to win this match, but look out for Kobold, as he looks to stake his claim as more than just "Evil Midget Hydra."

Match two has three known names in it. Greg Iron was the new hotness in indie wrestling after CM Punk put him over after an AAW show in Berwyn. He truly is an inspiration, becoming a cult favorite despite being limited by cerebral palsy. His main roadblock in this match will be Jakob Hammermeir, or to be more specific, Hammermeir and the rest of his BDK backing. We actually saw seeds be planted for their tension at Chikarasaurus Rex, Night 1, when in the surprise match, Iron and Hammermeir locked up. Iron got laid out by the BDK after a ref bump, but won the match thanks to UltraMantis Black saving him from the announce table. I figure these two will be the main focus of the match. I see either Iron winning despite shenanigans or Hammermeir winning because of them. That's not to say that Wil Maximo or Chase Owens are dogmeat. Maximo impressed me enough King of Trios weekend. He's a serviceable high-flying type, and he'll provide some fireworks. Owens is someone that I'm completely new to.

The toughest match in which to pick a winner is the third one. Nick Jackson seems like he's the obvious choice because he's the most known one, but then again, that hasn't always been Chikara's MO. Tadasuke is making his first appearance for the promotion since King of Trios '10 when he teamed with Atsushi Kotoge and Daisuke Harada. He's known to bring the pain, and is a counterbalance to Jackson's high flying style. That being said, both Jackson and Tadasuke both like to play the villain, which could be a good thing for Sean South and Mark Andrews, both guys who are unknown quantities to me. If I had to flip a coin, I'd say Tadasuke takes this match, but again, I have no clue.

Finally, there's the last match. Archibald Peck is the marquee name here, although technically, he's too old for the competition. That being said, he gave a call to his lawyer, the Barrister RD Evans (totally two different people, I swear!) and argued that in metric years, he was eligible to compete on the count that he is Canadian and they go by the metric system. I think picking him in this match might be a bit too easy though. The problem is, I don't know enough about the other three guys in the match - Milo Shizo (a Delirious protege/clone), MK McKinnan (British star), Mat Fitchett (appeared for ACW and given rave reviews by Brandon Stroud) - to make an educated guess.

Regardless of how those matches turn out, I really feel like this is going to be a fun, if compacted, event. The stock of the guys I can vouch for is pretty high, especially with natives such as Green Ant and Marchie Archie populating the ranks. If you're in the area, and you want to do something before you get blown away by Hurricane Irene, stop by Easton and buy a ticket. I think the Cup this year is going to have a special atmosphere given how chaotic things are surrounding it.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography

From the A1 Message Boards: Me and Jerseyboy on the Money in the Bank Buyrate

Don't worry 'bout Punk
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Normally, I hate talking about things like buyrates and ratings. Like Jason Mann said, they're boring. However, sometimes, you get dragged into conversations with people who take those sorts of things seriously. In addition to my post on why I don't think they need to be taken seriously at Fair to Flair, I got into it a little bit at A1-Wrestling with the people reacting to ratings and getting a bit in a tizzy because ratings haven't shot up.

I posted the now-determined-to-be incorrect buyrate for Money in the Bank, which was actually really good, before I was corrected by poster and sometimes TWB commenter KoppoKick bringing up Meltzer's analysis of the sheets bringing the number down a bit. The correct number, 185K as compared to the erroneous number of 276K, was still pretty good, at least I thought. Here's the passage of three posts over there that I think dictates why, regardless of how "good" or "not good" the numbers are, why, again, we shouldn't really worry about the business side when it comes to what they're going to do on the side we SHOULD care about, i.e. the shows themselves. Two of my posts will sandwich one by poster and regular TWB commenter Jerseyboy, with whom I may disagree from time to time. Despite that, he really is smart when it comes to this kind of thing, and I'm glad he reads and comments.

Yes, this will be directly C&Ped from the A1 board, but I think it's worth sharing. At least I hope you think it's worth sharing.

[Referring to the discrepancy between the originally reported 276K and the real 185K] It just goes to show that wrestling journalism has a long way to go, and wrestling fans such as myself have a long way to go before trusting any of these sites. My bad.

That being said, 185K is still a good number.
I agree. To me, it meant that Punk/Cena had some juice.

The big thing that people need to keep in mind is that if there's going to be business turnaround with Punk as the centerpiece, it isn't going to happen overnight. Again, the things to look at over the next 3-6 months aren't the TV ratings so much, but to see if there's a bump in PPV buyrates and house show attendance and merchandise sales. If Punk means something, that's where the initial bump's [sic] going to come from.

Of course, the WWE might look at ratings and a less than expected PPV number and decide Punk needs to be shunted back down the card. But I'm thinking at this point that they're pretty much out of options and will go all the way with him.

Because if you move Punk back to the mid-card, who do you move up in his place? Exactly.
Me again:
Yeah, I think you're right in that they won't move him back down for whatever reason. They're already seeing the initial bumps in merch. MitB was slightly up, from this time last year, which is still up. Ratings are ratings, but in the last two months, they've been mostly stable. Plus, as Triple H gets more influence, I think the decision making might turn more rational over the long term. I think Punk will be fine.

Normally, I don't care about this kind of thing, but I posted the number just to try and allay concerns (before I found out that I had bitten on a bad one, again, my fault there) that something that we found good was going to continue to pay dividends and that really, we should probably stop worrying about the business end of things. 10 million people watch the Jersey Shore. Is that a measurement of how enjoyable that program is going to be to you? Hardly. Therefore, why should it matter how many people consume wrestling if what the company is producing is good? And unlike Fatty, there really isn't a consensus on this angle being good or bad (although most people I interact with have loved the last two months with hiccups here and there).

If WWE was proving to be reactionary, then they wouldn't have put Punk over Cena at MitB, they wouldn't have put him over Cena again at SummerSlam, and they wouldn't have programmed him against someone who is so obviously hateable and polarizing the other way that everyone, not just the "Attitude Era holdovers", men and anti-Cena crowd, would cheer him. Say what you want about Nash and Punk being programmed against him, but again, the logic there isn't to bury Punk or put him out of mind. It's to get everyone to cheer the man, and it's a prelude into a potential feud with the boss. Whether you think Nash should have been the segue into that or whether you think that a boss/employee feud in 2011 is a good idea is one thing, but I think it's undeniable that Punk is a priority to WWE right now.

This is program #1 or at least #1a (with Cena/del Rio being #1). The moment that Punk gets thrown back to the Dolph Zigglers and Kanes of the world is when we start panicking, at least in my estimation. But again, I'll be utterly shocked if that happens. Call me myopic. Call me overly optimistic. Call me a "WWE fanboy" (like that means anything among adults in 2011, even if there wasn't a shitload of evidence to prove that I come down on what I feel is bad wrestling regardless of company) even. Just don't call me late for dinner. But I have a really good feeling about the direction of WWE right now, and when it's all said and done, I really feel like come WrestleMania time, CM Punk is going to be fully integrated into the main event firmament.
I think that's a passage worth relaying. Again, numbers are numbers, and even if they do affect what they put on the screen, you always have the option to vote with your own remote control and not watch. Life's not long enough to the point where worrying about the performance indicators of WWE is worth it.

Also, I encourage you, like I always have, to sign up for an account at A1-Wrestling and post there. It's a really good community with great discussion for wrestling and so much more.

Quick Hits: Rise of the Planet of the Quick Hits

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- Chikara announced three more wrestlers for their North Carolina/Tennessee swing in October. Joining KANA will be Jessie McKay, Atsushi Kotoge and Daisuke Harada. I think McKay has wrestled for Chikara before, but she hasn't appeared since I started following the fed in 2009. Kotoge and Harada not only have been at the last two King of Trios tournaments, but they also amassed three points at Night Three this year, which means a title defense by the winner of the QuackSaw/Team FIST match in September. Just three more reasons for me to be jealous of you Southerners, well, at least until y'all remind me that I live in Philly and get a lot more than you do on a regular basis in terms of indie wrestling. So yeah, shame on me?

- Shane Helms obviously learned a life lesson from Matt Hardy this past weekend. No silly, it wasn't not to drive impaired, it was that if you end up getting caught driving impaired, make sure you don't crash into a tree first. Helms got popped for DWI Wednesday morning in Johnston County, NC. Honestly, I'm not sure how stupid someone could be, but hey, whatever, he clearly doesn't value his own life. For the people who do value his life, for their sake? I hope he gets help.

- In future endeavored news, Impact and Becky "Cookie" Bayless have parted ways. No details have been discerned yet, but the disgruntled former Knockout and manager of Rob "Robbie E" Eckos left a Twitter message relaying that she was indeed gone from Impact. I may be in the minority, but I really thought they had something with The Shore. They didn't have the charisma of Zack Ryder, but at the same time, I thought they were a good pairing. Of course, they went out and hotshotted a big moment early on by having J-WOWW punk out Cookie in one of the latter's first appearances with the company, but hey, no one has ever accused Impact of being a smart company. She'll be back on (i)PPV for WSU in November.

- In Future Endeavors (the podcast) news, they had Chris Masters on yesterday. Give the interview a listen.

Friday Five: Natural Disasters

We're in the middle of a natural disaster sandwich on the East Coast here, so why not a Friday Five on the tag team the Natural Disasters!

1. Buy or sell, Earthquake was the most underrated big man of all-time.

2. When did tripping over the set as Shockmaster effectively kill Fred Ottman's career?

3. Favorite Natural Disasters match?

4. Tugboat - cheesiest gimmick ever, or something fun for the kids?

5. Do you think Earthquake should be in the WWE Hall of Fame?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Impromptu Mailbag!

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My top tag team today, but who are their dream opponents?

I'm bored, so I took to social media to solicit questions. Here they are!

Tom Warren of Tom Watches Wrestling asked...

Which tag team from the 80's would you want to see have a match with a current tag team that's going now? Both teams in their prime, of course.

Good question. Tag teams are on the verge of becoming the new hotness in WWE, but we have yet to see where they can go. The Ghan-Am Connection, The Awesome Truth and the Usos are all good (and the New Nexus isn't as bad as you think), but the real established teams are in the indies and in Impact. Among those teams, I'm going to go with the Kings of Wrestling because I'm an unabashed superfan of Claudio Castagnoli. Chris Hero's pretty damn good in his own right.

So, who matches up with them? There are a few teams that stand out, but only one that seems perfect. Rick. Scott. The Steiner Brothers. I think you have two teams in the same milieu, only in different eras. They're both big teams that have really good wrestling chops. The Steiners obviously bring the amateur style, and the Kings go with the indie strong-style (although the Steiners in Japan certainly hung with the puro legends). Tell me you wouldn't love to see a pre-blown up Scott and a pre-insanity Rick go up against Claudio and Hero right now? That's the biggest dream match for me.

Next up, Tommy Siegel wanted to know...

Where do you see Punk going angle-wise after he's done with Nash?

The thing about WWE right now is that it's so unpredictable. No one knew that Nash would even show up, so maybe they're proving that they have aces up their sleeves. Here's the overarching point. This is leading up to the reveal of the person behind the text. That's where the angle will go next probably. Now, who'll end up behind the text? It could be Triple H, which might lead to a match between him and the Straight Edge Savior at Survivor Series or WrestleMania. It could be Stephanie McMahon, Larry Middleman or even Vince McMahon.

I talked about it on the podcast, and it's doubtful because he has hepatitis C. However, if they're bringing people from Triple H's past back, Sean Waltman would be the best option from a match quality standpoint. However, if I'm going to put my fantasy booker hat on, I'm going to guess that there'll be some kind of resolution in time for Punk to win the Rumble and claim his first really long hero's title reign at WrestleMania.

Andre Harrison of The Harrison Analysis up next, and he asked...

Do you think Night of Champions is going to fall flat after the big hypes for MITB and Summerslam?

Depends on falling flat. I mean, if you think they're going to do huge buys or have as much buzz for this event as the last two, well, then no, it's not going to measure up. Punk was the new hotness, just breaking through. Him being away from the title and having a distraction may or may not be necessary from where you sit. Personally, the chase is better than the catch, and having a big momentous title win would be way better for Punk at WM than at, say, Night of Champions, ESPECIALLY when it's the culmination of an 8-month story where Punk finally sticks it to the man and gets back what was wrongfully taken from him.

If you're talking match quality? I wouldn't say it's a lock to be worse. That being said, it's not as much of a slam dunk as Money in the Bank was. Cena/del Rio could be great because they're both great workers. That being said, Cena was a lock to have a great match with Punk because the narrative was that the two had so much respect for each other. With Cena blatantly showing disrespect to del Rio in character, there's the fear that we get a SuperCena title win, or some screwy finish where SuperCena is thwarted by MASSIVE interference. Orton/Henry could be alright, but then again, it might fall flat. There'll be some kind of tag team thing, whether it's a straight up tag match or a gauntlet like what is being rumored. I don't know, but generally, WWE has delivered on PPVs from a quality standpoint. So I'll say, if you order it, there's a good chance you'll be happy with it. And that's all that matters.

Jeff Paternostro of Amazin' Avenue chimed in with...

Who's the wrestler on the indy scene right now that you think has the best chance of being successful in the WWE?

This is hard because of all the rumors swirling about the Kings of Wrestling coming to WWE. Obviously, Claudio and Hero are super ready for WWE, so if they're not coming to WWE soon, they're my answer. But for the sake of expediency, let's assume they're coming. Also, Austin Aries is a valid answer, but he's in Impact, and depending on what you think of Impact, well, they have national television on a grander scale than limited syndication.

So, with those guys disqualified, I'm going to have to go with Chuck Taylor. The Kentucky Gentleman is one of the most gifted people at getting fans to hate him that I've ever seen. He's a natural at making children cry, and WWE is keying in on kids. He'd pretty much get boos from the skirts-'n-tykes crowd, although his antics might make him a hit with the CM Punk crowd. His facial expressions too, especially when he's scrunching his face up to look like he's reacting to a smelly fart, are just primo. He's a solid worker as well, and about the only knock he has against him is his bulk. He's 6'1" though, so adding muscle or mass is an easy task.

Plus, I'd totally pay money to see him shank Alex Riley for stealing the idea of working a grenade into his moveset...

Jamey "FATSEXY" Litton came up with this one...

Do you feel sorry for Ric Flair?

He's referring to this article at Grantland today. Anyway, no, I don't feel sorry for him, because he made his own bed and had to lie in it. That being said, while I don't feel sorry, I do feel sad. I mean, it's pathetic to see a guy who is a legend dodder around because he needs cash. I feel for him, and I wish he could just hit the lottery or something, but there's no denying that it is his fault.

Finally, bookending with a question from Twitter user @OkoriWadsworth...

Dream Campeonatos de Parejas match for Chikara?

An a propos finish for the first question. If we're talking about the current Campeones, Mike Quackenbush and Jigsaw, then I'm going to have to say the Young Bucks are a dream match for them. Much in the same way that the Steiners and Kings would be great matches for each other in that first question, the Bucks are very much a similar team to QuackSaw, except that the Campeones are a bit more grounded in terms of the basics. I think you'd get a lot of really cool fireworks in this match, and the Bucks have proven that they can totally go rudo to give the affair an added measure of heat.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography