WWE Battleground 2015

So it’s another WWE pay-per-view. Depending on how you classify Beast in the East, it’s either been two weeks or five weeks since our last offering. I could write a big introduction here, but there isn’t a ton to say. Brock Lesnar is back gunning for the title. John Cena and Kevin Owens are facing off. And there will be some other matches that no one really cares about.

Randy Orton vs. Sheamus

Randy Orton is still super over. Admittedly, they’re in his hometown, but the pops are big for the guy no matter where they are. Doesn’t matter that he hasn’t done anything interesting for months. Got to be honest, before they showed the pre-match package I had no memory of why this match was happening. And I’ve watched all the Raws since Money in the Bank. This has been about as generic a feud as it gets. Appropriately, it’s between two guys lacking direction and purpose. In a match-up we’ve seen a number of times before.

There should be some stakes to this match. The winner should be closer to a WWE Championship match, or at least should seem victorious in their personal rivalry. But the rivalry barely exists, and there’s no sense that the winner is actually going to get anything. There’s nothing wrong with this match. It’s a perfectly good contest, and that’s not surprising since these two are excellent in the ring. But I can’t think of a reason I should care about the outcome, and that’s a problem when we have a match between two of WWE’s bigger stars.

I appreciate that they didn’t have Orton kick out of the Brogue Kick and instead just had Sheamus not be able to make the cover. Finisher kickouts have been terribly overused in WWE this year. Finish was fine, both men came out looking like equals.

Rating: **½. Went a bit long, probably had time added due to the IC Title match being canceled. Orton getting the win in his hometown makes sense for the opener. Fine match, but like I said before I couldn’t find a reason to care about it.

Normally I’d complain about a long recap on a pay-per-view, but re-showing the women’s segment from Monday helped show that it was a big deal. So I can live with that. As for the segment, I enjoyed it. Unlike some, I had no problem with Stephanie being part of it. I feel like she elevated the segment beyond what it would have been without her. I hope it’s the start of Stephanie taking a larger role in the diva’s division.

I was thinking they should do a Steph promo, and then it turned out the writers agreed with me. Holy shit is JoJo tiny. Stephanie being so gigantic is kind of weird because she towers over all the women’s wrestlers. Babyface promo from Stephanie. I’d dig the idea of Steph being a face managing the women’s division while remaining a heel overall. I think fans can handle a bit of complexity and it would make sense for her character to be interested in promoting women’s wrestling.

WWE World Tag Team Championship: The Prime Time Players (c) vs. The New Day

I like PTPers. Both guys have talent. They make a solid team. But there was no justification for them getting the belts, and especially not taking them off New Day so early in their run. New Day is only getting better despite getting less airtime than before. WWE seems to have lost the idea of a title chase. Everytime they get a team they like they throw the belts on them right away rather than building up to it. PTPers would have been much better off chasing New Day for three months, getting screwed at every turn, and then finally getting their big win. Doing the big win first took away any reason for the crowd to care about them.

Are those “New Day Rocks” chants? Come on, they were the only real heels on the roster! Modern wrestling fans ruin everything. Boo the heels if they’re doing a good job.

Redundant, but Xavier’s antics were probably the best part of this match. Man, that hot tag to Titus was excellent. I borrow from the Attitude Era Podcast and rate it on the Nando’s Scale: Spicy. And then PTPers won. I’m not really sure why.

Rating: **. Meh. Pretty straightforward tag match. Like both the teams, but this was uninspired.

Backstage segment with Paige, Charlotte, and Becky. It was awkward. I think WWE’s backstage segments all range between awkward and cringeworthy.

Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns

Two of WWE’s top young stars. Both of them lacking in direction and momentum. So put them against each other? Not the typical booking approach. This feud was going in a really interesting direction with Bray talking about Roman’s daughter. And then they dropped that, I assume because they were worried about Bray seeming like a pedophile. So instead we’re back to the same feud Bray always has. Same mindgames, same shenanigans. It’s only been going on two years but it’s a tired formula by now.

People still boo Roman Reigns. At this point I have no idea why. He’s not overpushed. He’s been doing great work the last few months. It’s time for butthurt smarks to get over themselves.

This match was decent, not special. It was physical and intense, but definitely dragged a bit. I was surprised that Bray won, but I’m pumped for The Wyatt Family reuniting. Breaking them up was a huge mistake and they’ve all been worse for it. The question is, who is Roman going to get as his teammates?

Rating: **. Decent match, a bit disappointing.

Brie Bella vs. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks

Alright, welcome to the new era. This is one of the most important women’s matches in WWE history. These women are expected to raise the bar. Brie isn’t someone I would pick for this particular match, so that’s a tough start. But there are a number of skeptical fans and people backstage that need to be won over.

And the match was okay. Not special, not a disaster. Brie was a weak point. Just not on the same level as Charlotte and Sasha. Or anyone else involved here, really. The part where the Bellas were surrounded and everyone just stood there was awkward. Match really could have used a breakdown brawl there. Anyway, Charlotte getting the win was the right call and the response was great. This is just the start of a new era in the women’s division, and I still have high hopes.

Rating: **. Not a great match by any means. Better things are ahead.

United States Championship: John Cena vs. Kevin Owens

One month later, this remains the best thing in WWE. Not a lot has been added to the story since Money in the Bank. The one wrinkle has been the playing up of how rigorous Cena’s schedule has been and how the constant defenses must be wearing him out. I hope they capitalize on this. It’s just like the Batman storyline “Knightfall,” where Bane broke all of Batman’s enemies out of Arkham, watched him wearing himself out catching them all, and then broke Batman’s back.

I could watch these two wrestle for hours. They mesh so well it’s unbelievable. They keep adding new moves to their repertoires, they re-work spots so as to reference their previous matches. And though they fall a bit too much into the “Big move/kickout formula,” they do it better than just about anyone else in wrestling.

Kevin Owens does not only the AA better than Cena, but also the STF. Warms my heart. That top rope Cradle Brainbuster from Owens looks amazing, but also safe. On the other hand, Cena’s Hurricanrana seems like it should have resulted in a broken neck by now. Most dangerous Hurricanrana since Ken Shamrock circa 1998. Also, the Springboard Stunner has to go. Nice try, but Cena just can’t hit it well.

My stomach was churning watching this match. I was invested in the outcome. I was reeling on every AA/Pop-Up Powerbomb attempt. This is what wrestling does in its purest form. Turns us back into marks. I might as well have been watching a Detroit Lions game, I was so invested in the outcome.

Holy Jesus, Kevin Owens kicked out of the Super AA. I mean, finisher kickouts are overdone but that one worked. It’s not an exaggeration to say no one has ever kicked out of the Super AA. And I was heartbroken to see Owens tap out. He’s not hurt by the loss. It was a great match. But I desperately wanted to see him get the win there. Hope WWE has big things planned for him from here.

Rating: ****½. Think I liked that the most of their matches. Elimination Chamber had the shocking outcome, but that was just downright nerve-wracking. Possibly the best WWE match of the year so far. Can’t praise these two enough.

Personally, I would have gone with Owens passing out in the AA. Yes, that’s a babyface finish, but Owens is essentially a babyface already. Cena not being able to pin Owens or make him tap would have given Owens a leg to stand on and set up a final battle for Summerslam.

Not much to say about the Miz segment. A little weird to have Big Show knock him out. Unless Big Show is going to turn face now. Which wouldn’t be a big shock, because it’s been about eight months since he last turned.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Brock Lesnar

It was a weird path we took to get here. Triple H decided to bring Brock back because…Rollins needed to prove himself, I think. That seemed like a bombshell turn on Triple H’s part, but then it was never really mentioned again. And then the writing team decided that Seth, Kane, and J&J were an unstoppable forced together and they were able to smash Lesnar. Even though they’d been a total joke for the months before that. Brock murdered a car and nearly killed someone with the door. And then Brock killed Kane, Noble, and Mercury.

So there’s no reason to think Seth Rollins should be able to do anything against Lesnar. Brock has destroyed Undertaker, John Cena, and Roman Reigns. Seth isn’t anywhere near the level of those guys in kayfabe. Maybe they could have shown Seth to be more of a bad ass in the last month, give him some big wins, but they didn’t do that. He’s a weasel heel with no backup. He should really just get squashed here.

I love that Brock’s matches are totally different from the rest of the roster. He exists in his own, super-realistic, minimalistic world. He doesn’t do fancy shit, he just Suplexes people. And when his opponents get going, they have to go full force. No time to taunting or posing. Of course, Seth’s fight was all for nothing, because he’s fighting the Baddest Man on the Planet. Brock comes back, destroys Seth with the F5, and…


We knew it was a possibility. But I didn’t expect it like this. Taker interrupts the match and murders Lesnar. Low blow(?!), Chokeslam, two Tombstones. Utter destruction. He’s back. And he’s back for everything.

Rating: ***. I mean, it was Brock killing Seth and Undertaker showing up. Hard to complain about that.

So I guess we’ve got our Summerslam main event.

Overall: Kind of a weird show. Unlike Money in the Bank, which felt like less than the sum of its parts, this one feels like more as a whole than it did in pieces. Maybe it’s just my anticipation for Lesnar vs. Undertaker, but I feel a lot more excited coming out of this than I did after Money in the Bank. I have no idea who is going to face Seth Rollins at Summerslam, and that’s a good thing.

Grade: B

WWE Battleground 2015

WCW Great American Bash 1989

Let’s continue our summer of great wrestling with one of the forgotten gems of all-time: The 1989 edition of the Great American Bash. 1989 was a phenomenal year for WCW in terms of on-camera product, which unfortunately didn’t translate to big business the way it should have. This show features WCW’s stacked roster at its very best: Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, Sting vs. The Great Muta for the World Television Championship, Lex Luger vs. Ricky Steamboat for the United States Championship, and a loaded War Games match. Let’s get it on:

Great American Bash 1989: The Glory Days
July 23, 1989
Baltimore Arena
Baltimore, Maryland

When we last left off, Ric Flair had just defeated Ricky Steamboat in a classic match to win back the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He turned babyface after showing respect for Steamboat. Immediately, he was challenged by Terry Funk. Flair declined Funk’s challenge, stating that he had not been in wrestling and had not earned a shot. Funk took this poorly and ended up Piledriving Flair through a ringside table. Flair demanded to fight Funk, and thus he was granted a shot at Flair’s title.

Lex Luger won back the United States Championship from Michaels Hayes and turned heel shortly afterward, insisting that he deserved a shot at the NWA Championship before Ricky Steamboat or Funk. He beat down Steamboat to make his point. Steamboat was granted a shot at the U.S. Title for this show.

The Varsity Club was stripped of the tag team championship after attacking the referee at WrestleWar. A tournament was held to crown new champions. The Fabulous Freebirds ultimately won the tournament by defeating the Midnight Express in the finals. Rivalries developed among the Road Warriors, Midnight Express, Freebirds, and Samoan SWAT Team over the course of the tournament. This led to a WarGames match between the Road Warriors, The Midnight Express, and Steve Williams facing The Freebirds and Samoan SWAT Team. Let’s get to the action:

Jim Ross and Bob Caudle are our hosts tonight.

We start with a cheesy opening video package featuring a synthesizer and clips of wrestling interspersed with graphics of the American flag. Pure 80s.

King of the Hill Two Ring Battle Royal

Participants: Bill Irwin, Brian Pillman, Dan Spivey, Eddie Gilbert, Kevin Sullivan, Mike Rotunda, Ranger Ross, Rick Steiner, Ron Simmons, Scott Hall, Scott Steiner, Sid Vicious, Steve Williams, Terry Gordy

Lot of future big names in this one. The winner wins $50,000. There are two rings side-by-side, but they will all fight in one ring. Eliminations take place when someone is thrown into the other ring. Then there will be an ongoing second battle royal in the second ring, where eliminations take place over the top rope. Then the two survivors fight each other. Got all that?

A predictable mess of a fight to start. Apparently they had 14 of these in the lead-up to the show. I assume they took place at non-televised shows, because that would be staggeringly boring to see on TV over and over. Ranger Ross is the first man thrown into the second ring. Ron Simmons is thrown second, so he and Ross go at it. Simmons is ultimately eliminated by Ranger Ross. A blonde Scott Hall is thrown into the second ring, followed by Bill Irwin. The second ring is quickly filling up. Spivey hits a Powerbomb on Ranger Ross. We’re down to two in the first ring: Sid and Pillman. The crowd is really into Sid, who had only recently debuted. He and Spivey are tag team partners, known as the “Skyscrapers.” Pillman tries a Body Press, but Sid ducks and Pillman flies into the second ring. Sid is the winner of the first ring, so he’ll stand around and wait for someone to win in the second ring.

The second ring has already winnowed down to Steve Williams, Mike Rotunda, and Spivey. Williams has left the Varsity Club, so it’s two on one. Rotunda misses a Clothesline and flies over the top. Williams unsuccessfully tries to Clothesline Spivey out. Rotunda distracts Williams, who is then thrown out of the ring. So it’s down to Sid and Spivey, tag team partners. Teddy Long, their manager, quickly interrupts and says they’re not going to fight each other. Instead, they’ll just split the money.

Result: Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey

Analysis: *1/2. Run of the mill battle royal.

We get pre-recorded comments from Terry Funk. He talks about endangered species, referring to himself as the most endangered, because he’s one of a kind. He promises to beat Flair tonight.

Brian Pillman vs. Bill Irwin

Nice pop for Pillman. He’s Flyin’ Brian at this point, long before his psychotic character had taken hold. Irwin is thick, so it’s his power against Pillman’s quickness. If you’ve only seen Pillman’s work in the WWF in 1997, you’ve missed out: he was amazing before injuries destroyed his athleticism. He controls early with fast-paced offense. Pillman works on the arm for a bit until Irwin takes over. Irwin works a generic heat segment consisting of punches and rest holds. Pillman starts his comeback with a series of Dropkicks. A Splash gets two. Pillman misses a Dropkick off the top rope. Gordbuster by Irwin. Irwin throws Pillman into the other ring. He argues with the referee while Pillman goes up top. Pillman hits a nice Flying Crossbody for the win at 10:18.

Result: Brian Pillman by pinfall

Analysis: **. Not bad. Pillman was a lot of fun to watch and they did a good job building up to his comeback.

Gordon Solie interviews Paul E. Dangerously, who will face Jim Cornette in a Tuxedo Match later tonight. He’s not here to win tonight, he’s here to take Cornette out. He promises to work on the knee that Cornette blew out at Starrcade 1985. Good promo from Heyman, as you would expect.

Skyscrapers (Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey) vs. Dynamic Dudes (Johnny Ace and Shane Douglas)

Skateboarders versus monsters. Spivey starts against Johnny Ace. Spivey works his methodical offense, interspersed with Dropkicks from Ace. Ace makes a tag and he and Douglas both get their asses kicked by Spivey. Spivey eventually tags in Sid, who gets a pop. Unfortunately, Sid quickly tags back out. Big Boot by Spivey sends Douglas to the floor. Sid tags back in. Sid plays to the crowd while not doing much in the ring. Sid tags back out and Spivey hits a Sidewalk Slam. Ace ends up mounting a comeback and getting a two count after a Flying Clothesline. That’s for naught, as Sid and Spivey hit a double Spinebuster for the pin at 9:14.

Result: Skyscrapers by pinfall

Analysis: *. Long and dull squash. Could have been done in three minutes.

Gordon Solie interviews Jim Cornette, who is typically hysterical. He promises to beat Dangerously, even if he breaks both of his legs.

Tuxedo Match: Jim Cornette vs. Paul E. Dangerously

Huge pop for Cornette. To win, you have to strip your opponent. Dangerously gets Cornette with powder to the eyes. He grabs his massive cellphone and beats on Cornette’s knee. Dangerously screams like a mad man while ripping off Cornette’s jacket. Dangerously works on the knee. Good selling from Cornette here.

Dangerously chokes Cornette with his cummerbund. Cornette mounts a comeback and chokes Dangerously. Cornette’s knee gives out and Dangerously stomps on him. Cornette hulks up (basically) and takes down Dangerously with a right hand. Cornette gets Dangerously’s shirt off. Dangerously tries the powder to the eyes again, but Cornette counters and throws the powder into Dangerously’s eyes. Cornette rips off Dangerously’s pants and wins the match at 6:22.

Result: Jim Cornette by stripping

Analysis: **. That was actually quite entertaining. Great heat, and right to the point. Both guys know how to work a crowd and it made up for their lack of technical prowess.

Solie interviews Gary Hart, manager of the Great Muta. He’s challenging Sting for the Television Championship tonight. Hart points out that Muta is undefeated and says that won’t change tonight.

The Varsity Club (Mike Rotunda and Kevin Sullivan) vs. The Steiner Brothers

This is the pay-per-view debut for the Steiners are a tag team. The Steiners enter to “Welcome to the Jungle.” They are accompanied by Missy Hyatt and get a nice response from the crowd. This is tornado rules, no tags. Sullivan and Rick brawl on the floor and Rick no-sells a chair shot to the head. Atomic Drop on the guardrail by Sullivan. Scott hits a ten punch in the ring. Scott gets thrown to the floor and Rotunda and Sullivan double team Rick. Overhead Belly to Belly Suplex by Rick. Powerslam by Rick. Rick gets dumped to the floor during a ten punch. Double Clothesline on Scott. Rick gets back in and drops Sullivan with a Steiner Line. Double Backdrop on Scott. Sullivan goes for a slam on Rick, but Scott flies off the top with a Crossbody for the win at 4:22.

Result: Steiner Brothers by pinfall

Analysis: ***. That was a really fun brawl. Very short, but it was non-stop action. Hardcore wrestling wasn’t very common at this point, so this was a nice novelty.

Solie interviews Sting. He’s excited for his defense against Muta tonight. Eddie Gilbert will be managing Sting tonight.

NWA Television Championship: Sting (c) vs. Great Muta

Muta is undefeated in the NWA. Hart distracts Sting, so Muta hits him with a flying chop from the top rope. Muta hits a Tumbling Body Press into the corner. Scoop Slam Back Breaker by Muta. He goes up top and misses the Moonsault but lands on his feet. Muta knocks Sting to the floor with a Thrust Kick. Plancha to the floor by Muta. Damn, they’re flying. Sting goes to the top and hits a Flying Clothesline. Dropkick by Sting sends Muta to the floor. Muta drops out of Suplex and locks on the Sleeper. Sting breaks it and connects with a Military Press. Sting misses an elbow and Muta apples a chinlock. He transitions that into an Abdominal Stretch.

Muta rolls into a cradle for two. Muta shuts down Sting’s comeback attempt with an eye rake. Muta misses a corner splash and eats a pair of Clotheslines from Sting. Dropkick. Bulldog by Sting. Dropkick sends Muta to the floor. They run the ropes and Muta accidentally Mists the referee. Sting misses a Stinger Splash. Muta hits the Moonsault, but Sting kicks out at two on a delayed count (new referee Tommy Young ran in to replace Nick Patrick). Muta misses a kick and Sting hits a Back Suplex for the pin at 8:40.

Result: Draw

Analysis: ****. Great match. Both guys went all out and played their roles excellently. Sting was the high-energy, all-American babyface and Muta was the cocky foreigner.

Turns out both referees counted the pin for different men. Muta takes the Television Championship. The title would be vacant for several months after this until Muta defeated Sting in September to become the champion.

Solie interviews Lex Luger, who is scheduled to face Ricky Steamboat in a No Disqualification match tonight. Luger says he won’t compete unless they wave the No DQ stipulation.

United States Championship: Lex Luger (c) vs. Ricky Steamboat

Steamboat enters to “Sirius” by the Alan Parsons Project, best known as the entrance theme for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Steamboat is carried out on a platform and holds a Kimono Dragon in his hands. Cool entrance. Luger gets on the microphone and repeats that he’s not competing unless the get rid of the No DQ stipulation. Steamboat agrees, and we have a normal contest. JR acknowledges that the fans are still cheering Luger. They were trying really hard to get him over as a heel and it wasn’t working. The story is Steamboat’s speed and technique against Luger’s power. Steamboat hits Dropkicks and chops early. Steamboat continues to control on the floor. Atomic Drop by Steamboat. Luger catches Steamboat with a big knee and takes over. They continue to fight on the floor. Steamboat’s chops are so stiff that even Luger has to sell them. Steamboat goes up top for the big chop but takes a shot to the stomach. Back Breaker by Luger. Luger lifts Steamboat for a Military Press.

Luger argues with the referee and gets rolled up for two. Luger hits a series of Clotheslines. So far, his power has proven to be too much for Steamboat. Powerslam by Luger. He follows that with an Inverted Atomic Drop. Luger telegraphs a Backdrop and is hit with a Swinging Neckbreaker. Luger tries a Clothesline and ends up going flying to the floor. Luger goes up top but gets thrown off. Steamboat goes the top and hits a big chop for two. Steamboat charges Luger but is Backdropped into the second ring. Luger goes outside and grabs a chair. Steamboat manages to get it away from him and hits him with it for the disqualification at 10:26.

Result: Lex Luger by disqualification

Analysis: ****1/4. Damn, that was really good. I don’t think there was a single rest hold in this entire match. Both guys just went at it the whole time. Luger’s power kept him in control, but Steamboat wouldn’t quit. Luger ultimately took the easy way out to keep his title.

Steamboat beats on Luger with the chair after the match. Steamboat chases Luger to the back.

We hear from the Freebirds and Samoan SWAT Team, competitors in the upcoming WarGames match. Quality coked up promo from the Freebirds.

We then hear from an equally coked up Steve Williams. To cap it off, we hear from the Road Warriors, who can yell louder than anyone in wrestling history.

WarGames Match

Stan Lane, Bobby Eaton, Steve Williams, Hawk, and Animal vs. Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, Jimmy Garvin, Samu, and Fatu

So, to recap the rules of WarGames:

  • Two men start, one from each team. They fight for five minutes at the start of the match.
  • After five minutes, a coin toss determines which team gets to have a man enter the match first. From there, they alternate entrances every two minutes. In practice, the heel team always wins the coin toss and gets the advantage.
  • After all ten men have entered the match the contest continues until someone submits. The match is won only by submission, no pinfalls or disqualifications. The first submission wins.
  • Cages surround both rings. Competitors can move about the rings freely.

“Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd appropriately plays as the heel team enters. The faces enter separately. All ten men will be at ringside during the match. They huddle to determine who will start the match. Garvin is selected by the Freebirds. Bobby Eaton is picked for the faces. They have a new innovation this year: a camera inside the cage. That was big technology at the time. Eaton and Garvin go back and forth, neither man getting much of advantage. Terry Gordy is the second man in. As always, the heel team won the coin toss and got the advantage. Gordy and Garvin control their two minute advantage period. Steve Williams is in next. He goes house on fire on Garvin and Gordy. Williams bench presses Gordy into the cage roof repeatedly in an incredible display of strength. Samu is the next entrant. He swings the advantage back to the heels.

Garvin is stretching Eaton’s face. Meanwhile, Gordy and Samu beat on Williams. Animal is in next. Animal beats on all three men in an exciting segment. He even hits an impressive diving Shoulderblock from one ring to the other. Fatu is the next entrant. The Samoans double team Animal. Garvin works on Eaton. Gordy and Williams brawl in the other ring. Stan Lane is the next entrant to even things up. Lane beats on everyone, sending them all into the cage. Hayes is the final entrant for the Freebirds. Hayes DDTs everyone. He then prances around the ring to huge heat. The heels are in control. Hawk enters as things look dire for his team. Double Clothesline from the top rope by Hawk. Hawk and Williams double Clothesline Gordy. Garvin gets slammed. Hawk turned the tide. Eaton starts DDTing everyone.

All ten men are brawling in the same ring. Everyone seems pretty gassed at this point. Hawk gets Garvin in a Hangman and he gives up at 22:18.

Result: Road Warriors, Midnight Express, and Steve Williams by submission

Analysis: ****. Great brawl. No blood, but plenty of good violence. Lots of big guys throwing their bodies around the ring. Not the best WarGames match, but very good nonetheless.

We hear from Ric Flair in the back. Solie wants to know why he’s wrestling even though he’s risking serious injury to his neck. Flair says he can’t do anything other than wrestle. With knowledge of his later financial problems, that’s poignant and true.

NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ric Flair (c) vs. Terry Funk

Funk is out first, accompanied by Gary Hart and a large contingent of police officers. Flair is second, complete with fireworks. They start off brawling outside the ring. Flair gets control and beats on Funk. In contrast to the Flair/Steamboat series, this is not a technical contest. Instead, they just beat on each other. That’s good, because I always hate it when two guys are supposed to hate each other and then just come out and wrestle a normal match. Obviously, these guys are capable of having a great scientific match. But that wouldn’t fit the storyline. Funk gets control with a Vertical Suplex. Flair tries to Suplex Funk from the apron to the floor, but slips and they both tumble. Not sure if that was a botch or not.

Back in the ring, Funk tries a Piledriver but gets Backdropped over the top rope to the floor. Flair cranks Funk’s neck. Revenge. Knee Drop by Flair. Flair Piledrives Funk! He does it again! Funk tumbles out of the ring. Flair chases him down and throws him back in. Surprising domination from Flair so far. Flair locks in the Figure Four. Hart hands Flair his branding iron and he hits Flair in the face. Hart had distracted the referee. Flair is busted open. Funk goes outside and throws the mats up. Funk goes for the Pildriver on the concrete! Flair Backdrops out of it. The announcers speculate about the state of Flair’s neck. Swinging Neckbreaker back in the ring by Funk. Another one. The announcers want the referee to stop the match to protect Flair. Back Suplex by Funk. Funk yells at Flair to give up.

Hart distracts the referee again and Flair hits Funk with his branding iron. Funk rolls out to the floor. Flair drags him back in. Funk is busted open too. Flair misses a knee strike in the corner and Funk applies the Spinning Toe Hold. Flair picks the leg and goes for the Figure Four, but Funk cradles him with a Small Package. Flair reverses into a Small Package of his own and gets the pin at 17:23.

Result: Ric Flair by pinfall

Analysis: ****1/2. Awesome match. Great intensity and storytelling from both guys. Funk worked on Flair’s injured neck and Flair assaulted Funk like a mad man out for revenge. That felt like a real fight. The finish was smart because it sets up a re-match, as there’s obviously more money to be made with these two. Fantastic match to cap the show.

Flair is attacked by Muta. He spits the mist into his face. Funk and Muta double-team Flair. Hart gets a chair. Funk goes for a Piledriver on the chair but is interrupted by Sting! Flair and Sting clear the ring and stand tall. They chase Funk and Muta into the crowd and the brawl continues. Flair says he’s just getting started with Funk, and promises to wear his ass out. Sting and Flair celebrate together. Hot ending to a great show.

Overall: Excellent show. One of the best pay-per-view events I’ve ever seen. The undercard wasn’t anything special, but those last four matches were all great. Four four star matches? I don’t think any other show has ever matched that. This show also had great variety, with brawls, technical matches, high-flying, power moves, everything you could want. If you haven’t seen this show, track it down. You won’t regret it.

Rating: A

WCW Great American Bash 1989

WCW Bash at the Beach 1996

This is a night that every wrestling fan remembers. It’s the night that set professional wrestling on fire, made WCW the top wrestling company in the world, and put them in a position to come closer to defeating Vince McMahon than anyone in history. WCW had already taken the lead in the ratings battle, with June 10 being the last time Raw won the ratings war. WCW wouldn’t give that lead up until April 1998. And what happens tonight is the reason why.

In one corner, we have the invaders. They’re still unnamed, but everyone knows who they are. They’ve promised their third man will make his debut tonight and fight along side him. Their opponents? Sting, Randy Savage, and Lex Luger. Those names were selected from a kayfabe random drawing that also included Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Giant. Who is the third man? That question loomed over WCW at this time. Another WWF defector? An inside man? Could it even be someone in the match? No one could be trusted. Let’s get to the show:

Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan, and Dusty Rhodes our are hosts tonight.

Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Psychosis

These two had some pretty legendary battles in Mexico and ECW. If you’ve never seen their Mexican Deathmatch from ECW, check it out. Mike Tenay joins the commentary team for this match, so we have a four man booth here. Tenay fills us in on the history between these two. Nice of WCW to admit that wrestling exists elsewhere in the world. Surprisingly, this starts as a mat-based match. Now Tenay is talking about how big a deal masked wrestlers are in Mexico. I seriously think he played a huge role in making the cruiserweight division what it was.

Rope-running sequence ends with a Spinning Heel Kick from Psychosis and then a no-hands Plancha over the top to the floor. Psychosis slams Rey and hits a top rope Guillotine Leg Drop. Then he puts Rey’s throat across the bottom rope and drops a leg. Psychosis locks on a Headscissor. They go to the apron, and Mysterio Monkey Flips Psychosis off into the ring post! Holy shit. Hurricanrana off the apron by Mysterio! Wow. Back to the ring, Springboard Hurricanrana by Mysterio. Mysterio Dropkicks Psychosis’ knee and applies a Step Over Toe Hold. Psychosis comes back with a Drop Toe Hold and a Headscissor submission. Psychosis Hot Shots Mysterio on the top rope and then hits a Reverse DDT.

Psychosis drops Mysterio on the guardrail. Top rope Senton Splash to the floor by Psychosis. That made me cringe, because it’s hard to see how it wouldn’t hurt. Back in the ring, Psychosis hits an Enziguri. It’s also notable that Tenay is actually calling these moves correctly. Camel Clutch by Psychosis. A really exciting sequence I can’t transcribe ends with a Hurricanrana by Mysterio. Springboard Dropkick by Mysterio, then a Flying Hurricanrana off the apron! That’s an incredible move. Back in, Mysterio bounces his body off the top rope for a Moonsault. Springboard Dropkick sends Psychosis to the floor, then Mysterio hits a fucking crazy Springboard Corkscrew Moonsault to the floor! He hit his leg on the guardrail coming down. Psychosis rolls back to the ring and counters a Mysterio Springboard Hurricanrana attempt with a big Powerbomb! Psychosis tries for Splash Mountain off the top rope, but Mysterio busts out one of the greatest counters I’ve ever seen: a Hurricanrana in midair. Amazing finish and Mysterio gets the pin at 15:18.

Analysis: ****3/4. That was fucking amazing. Just insane action from these two. I enjoyed them trying to out-wrestle each other in the beginning, but then the gloves came off and things got completely insane. One of Mysterio’s greatest matches, and one of the best cruiserweight matches ever in the United States. That was the standard by which other WCW cruiserweight matches were judged up until Eddie/Rey at Halloween Havoc 1997. Mysterio would go on to defeat Dean Malenko and win the Cruiserweight Championship the next night on Nitro.

Gene Okerlund interviews Konnan and asks him what happened in this match. Yeah, ask the Mexican guy about the other Mexicans. Konnan stumbles over his promo putting over how great Ric Flair is.

Carson City Silver Dollar Match: John Tenta vs. Big Bubba

Okay, now for something completely different. Why is this a “Carson City Silver Dollar” match? The event is not taking place in Carson City. This match involves a sock full of silver dollars being hung from a ridiculously tall poll that neither of these guys can plausibly climb. As soon as I stop laughing at how ludicrous and stupid this concept is, I’ll recap the match. Okay, I’m ready. It’s really just two big fat guys fighting. These guys aren’t slugs, but they’d both seen better days. That poll is like 25 feet high. Bubba winds up comically long to throw a big punch. Bubba gets up top and is thrown off. Tenta gets on the top and gets Back Suplexed off.

I still can’t stop laughing at how stupid the concept of this match is. Tenta crotches Bubba on the top. Atomic Drop by Tenta onto the turnbuckle. Bubba chokes Tenta with his belt. Bubba takes out a roll of tape and tapes one of Tenta’s wrists to the top rope. This moronic, because he leaves the other arm unsecured. Meaning Tenta can just reach over and untape his hand. Heenan points this out, sounding legitimately annoyed. Why is this match still going? Bubba whips Tenta with his belt. Now Bubba is shaving Tenta’s head. He Headbutts Bubba in the balls, then tears himself lose. Front Spinebuster by Bubba. Bubba finally gets a clue and has Jimmy Hart climb the poll. Tenta slams Bubba, and Tenta takes the dirty sock full of quarters from Hart and smacks Bubba with them. Tenta gets the win at 9:00.

Analysis: Dud. What a hilarious disaster that was. They actually worked hard, but the match concept was so stupid that it didn’t matter. And why the fuck did that go almost 10 minutes? It’s hard to believe the same company that produced that Rey/Psychosis match also gave us that piece of shit match.

Gene Okerlund interviews Team WCW: Sting, Savage, and Luger.

Taped Fist Match: Jim Duggan vs. Diamond Dallas Page

It’s a night of horrible gimmick matches, apparently. Duggan Shoulderblocks DDP to the floor. Page trips Duggan and tapes his legs to the ring post. Repeating a spot from the last match. The referee undoes the tape while Page beats up Duggan. Page cut the tape off Duggan’s hands. Does that make the punch hurt more or less? I guess he can punch harder without breaking his hand when the fist is taped, but the fist with no tape would hurt more. Duggan is kicking Page’s ass right now. Page performs an Armbar Takedown to counter a Suplex attempt. DDP goes up top and gets crotched. Duggan slams DDP’s face into the mat. Duggan Clotheslines Page over the top rope. Diamond Cutter out of nowhere gets the pin for DDP at 5:39.

Analysis: 1/2*. At least it was short.

Hacksaw beats up Page after the match. Stupid, counterproductive booking.

Okerlund interviews Giant, Jimmy Hart, and Kevin Sullivan. Kevin Sullivan is still a little fat bald guy from Boston who doesn’t seem even remotely satanic.

Lee Marshall interviews Anderson and Benoit. Typical great Arn promo.

Dog Collar Match: Public Enemy vs. Nasty Boys

Man, this show has really gone downhill since the opener. These two have been feuding for awhile at this point. This is tornado rules, no tagging. Knobbs is collared to Grunge and Sags to Rocco Rock. I don’t understand why the Public Enemy are heels. And the Nasties faces. They all fight to the floor right away. Lots of weak shots with the chains. Weapons shots too. Those wrestling trashcans make great sounds when someone gets hit with them. They’ve fought to the top of the ramp, where someone gets hit with an inflatable shark. Which wouldn’t hurt at all. Some really weak surfboard shots. Then some really stiff chair shots. Rocco hits a Front Flip Senton off a lifeguard chair. This is horrible. Sags hits Rocco with a Piledriver on the concrete floor, which should end the match and have Rock taken off on a stretcher. Instead, he kicks out at two. More stuff happens, then Rocco puts Sags through a table. Eventually, Knobbs Clotheslines Grunge with the chain and pins him at an excruciating 11:25.

Analysis: Dud. Just horrible garbage wrestling with no meaning or story. A few decent spots, but with a bunch of crap in between. And why do the Nasties go over? They’re old. They’re washed up. Put the new team that the fans like over. Bad all around.

Gene Okerlund tries to get into Razor and Diesel’s locker room, but he’s stopped by security.

WCW Cruiserweight Championship: Dean Malenko (c) vs. Disco Inferno

So Disco Inferno loves to dance. So much that he keeps interrupting Dean Malenko’s matches to dance. And Dean Malenko doesn’t like that. So he’s going to kick Disco’s ass and teach him a lesson. That’s actually a really good, simple, and entertaining wrestling story. Reasonable characters with logical motivations work. Malenko comes down the aisle looking super pissed and just beats the piss out of Disco. Dean is just smacking Disco around. Brainbuster by Malenko! To the shock of everyone, Disco kicks out at two. Malenko locks on a Headscissor, then puts the boots to Disco. Back Suplex by Malenko, then a Leg Grapevine. Malenko is just crushing Disco’s leg here. STF by Malenko. Disco mounts a comeback in the corner and the crowd is actually starting to get into him. Disco levels Malenko with a Clothesline, then hits a Hot Shot! Front Russian Leg Sweep by Disco. Malenko comes back and throws Disco to the floor. He slams Disco into the railing, then applies a Crucifix Submission in the ring. Disco fights to the ropes. Nice Leg Drop by Malenko as he springboards off the middle rope. Disco comes back with a series of elbows in the corner.

Malenko comes off the top with a Double Ax Handle, but Disco blocks it and hits a Neckbreaker. But the inexperienced Disco doesn’t realize Malenko is too close to the ropes. Backdrop by Disco, then a Swinging Neckbreaker. He goes to fix his hair, then realizes he has to make the pin. Springboard Dropkick by Malenko. Great move. Disco rolls up Malenko for a really good near fall. Disco follows that with a huge Lariat for another two count. Malenko blocks a Hip Toss and knocks Disco out with a big Clothesline. Disco grabs the ropes to dodge a Dropkick and then tries a Backslide, but Malenko blocks it and hits a Tiger Driver! Malenko locks on the Texas Cloverleaf for the submission victory at 12:04.

Analysis: ***3/4. What a shockingly good match. Just a simple and perfectly told underdog story, as Malenko came in determined and probably overconfident, toyed with Disco for too long, and ended up having to battle to keep his title. Malenko was perfect as the ice cold veteran who realized that what was supposed to be a show was actually a fight, and Disco actually did a really good job as the plucky and inexperienced underdog. The crowd really got it, and was going crazy by the end. Hidden gem right here. Unfortunately, I don’t think WCW ever really followed up on this. There was actually a really good potential odd-couple storyline of Disco seeking out Malenko as a mentor here, but they didn’t bother with it. Instead, Disco was just a dancing jobber for the next few years.

Steve McMichael vs. Joe Gomez

Who the fuck is Joe Gomez? Actually, his Wikipedia page is incredibly detailed and tells you about every match of any significance he has ever had. Which is not very many. This match should not be happening on pay-per-view. If they need someone to make Mongo look good, they could have used any of 100 other people on their roster. So this should be a squash match, but it actually ends up going on for awhile. And because Mongo is so green, he can’t be on offense the whole time, so it ends up being a bizarrely competitive match. Anyway, Mongo gets the win with a Tombstone at 6:44.

Analysis: Dud. I pretty much said my piece up there. Also, there is no fucking way I would ever let Steve McMichael give me a Tombstone Piledriver.

In the back, Mean Gene interviews Ric Flair. Woman feels up Okerlund, making him very uncomfortable.

WCW United States Championship: Konnan (c) vs. Ric Flair

I really don’t know why Flair is going after the U.S. Title. Konnan’s not in the Dungeon of Doom (yet), so it’s not part of the Horsemen/DoD feud. Flair spends a long time messing with Konnan before locking up. Konnan gets a Dropkick, then slaps Flair. Methodical match, as Konnan works a Headlock. Konnan reverses a corner whip and Backdrops Flair. Surfboard by Konnan. Konnan breaks and Military Presses Flair. Cactus Clothesline sends both guys over. Konnan hits a Diving Clothesline off the apron and knocks down Elizabeth in the process. Konnan goes to the top, but Woman shakes the ropes and he falls off. Knee Drop by Flair. Flair distracts the referee and Woman kicks Konnan in the balls. Dusty: “She kicked him lowwwwwwwwwwwwww!” I loved Dusty on commentary.

Elizabeth gets on the apron to distract the ref so Flair can throw Konnan over the top rope. Flair Suplexes Konnan back into the ring. Konnan breaks Flair’s Chinlock and mounts a comeback. Flair gets thrown to the corner and does the Flair Flip, the Konnan knocks him off the apron with a Springboard Dropkick. New version of an old spot. Flair blocks a Sunset Flip, but Konnan counters the Figure Four with a Small Package. Konnan locks Flair in the Figure Four. Flair makes the ropes and gets Suplexed back into the ring. Flair catches Konnan with a back elbow, then goes to the top and gets thrown off. Bulldog by Konnan, then a Clothesline.

Konnan has Flair beat with a roll-up, but Elizabeth has the referee distracted. Backbreaker by Flair, then Woman weakly hits Konnan with her shoe. Flair wins with the dirty pin at 15:39.

Analysis: **1/2. Decent match. I definitely enjoyed Flair’s antics and the absurd amount of cheating.

Gene is creeping outside The Outsider’s locker room. He says he can hear a third voice, but can’t tell who it is. Also, Eric Bischoff is missing. They’ve been talking about that on commentary all night but I haven’t cared enough to mention it.

Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit vs. Giant and Kevin Sullivan

Giant and Sullivan jump the Horsemen on the ramp. Sullivan smacks Anderson with a chair. Mongo hits Giant with the briefcase, so Giant chases after him backstage. That allows Benoit and Anderson to double team Sullivan. Benoit and Anderson work Sullivan over for a couple minutes. Finally, Giant returns from backstage. Sullivan can’t make the tag as Anderson and Benoit cut the ring in half. They beat on Sullivan for a really long time. Sullivan counters a Piledriver with a horrible Catapault that sends Anderson into Benoit. Sullivan Back Suplexes Anderson and tags in Giant. Sullivan and Benoit fight up the ramp as Giant Chokeslams Anderson and pins him at 7:59.

Analysis: *1/2. Pretty boring.

Benoit beats the crap out of Sullivan for awhile until Woman comes out and begs Benoit to stop. Giant comes back and Benoit takes off. Background: Woman is, at this point, married to Kevin Sullivan in real life. No one knows this. Her and Benoit have only interacted on screen to the extent that they are both in the Horsemen. At some point, Benoit and Nancy have an affair both in real life and in kayfabe. She subsequently divorced Sullivan (in 1997) and became engaged to Benoit. They got married in 2000, and you know the rest.

We get a really poor video package recapping the events of the invasion thus far.

Hostile Takeover Match: Sting, Randy Savage, and Lex Luger vs. Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and ?????

Michael Buffer is here for the introductions. No entrance music for Hall and Nash. No third man yet. The announcers finally refer to Hall and Nash by their names, the first time that has happened to date. Okerlund comes out and demands to know who the third man is. Hall and Nash just say that he’s in the arena. Sting, Luger, and Savage enter together. They’ve all painted their faces in solidarity. This feels like a big match. Crowd is on their feet. Hall and Luger start. Hall throws his toothpick in Luger’s face and gets slapped. Forearm by Luger and he decks Nash. Hall gets him from behind, but then Savage comes off the top rope with an Ax Handle. Sting knocks Nash off the apron, but Luger goes down too. Savage slams Hall into the railing. Luger’s out of it and is carted off. So now it’s two on two. That’s a nice tease that Luger is going to be the third man.

Hall slaps Sting. Sting goes wild and beats Hall down. Inverted Atomic Drop, then a Face Slam by Sting. Savage tags in and comes off the top with an Ax Handle, but Hall catches him with a shot to the gut. Snake Eyes by Nash. Savage comes back with a reverse Bulldog. Nash tags in. Dusty repeatedly yells “who be bad now?” It’s a little goofy, but fits the tone of the match. Nash slams Savage but misses an Elbow Drop. Sting tags in and gets pummeled by Nash. Knees to the gut, back elbows in the corner, then a boot choke. Sting lands a Dropkick, but Nash blocks a Sunset Flip and double choke lifts him. Hall tags in and goes to work on Sting. Fall Away Slam by Hall. Tag to Nash, then a Big Boot. Nash is beating Sting down. Sting comes back with a Dropkick to Nash’s knee, but Hall cuts off a tag attempt. Sting has Nash pinned with a cradle, but the referee is distracted. Hall’s still in control. Abdominal Stretch by Hall and Nash grabs him for leverage. Nash tags in and locks in his own Abdominal Stretch. Hall tags in and works Sting over. Hall throws Sting over the top behind the referee’s back. Savage gets a chair and goes after Hall, but the referee holds him back. Big right hands by Hall. Nash tags in and hits a Sidewalk Slam.

Nash telegraphs a Backdrop and Sting kicks him in the face. Sting starts his comeback with a series of punches, then levels Hall and tags in Savage! Savage hits an Ax Handle from the top on Hall, then does a meeting of the minds on Hall and Nash. Savage throws Hall over the top, then hits an Ax Handle from the top to the floor. Back in, Nash low blows Savage. Everybody’s down. HULK HOGAN makes his way down the aisle! But whose side is he on? Hogan tears his shirt as Hall and Nash bail. And then, in one of the greatest moments in the history of professional wrestling, Hogan hits Savage with the Atomic Leg Drop. The crowd is shocked at first, and then the boos rain down. And they don’t stop. More Leg Drops on Savage, then Hogan pins Savage (counted by Hall).

Analysis: ***. Pretty good match, though the angle was much better. Nash and Hall really kicked Savage and Sting’s asses, and Savage’s comeback was really exciting. All of this pales in comparison to what they accomplished by turning Hogan heel.

Hogan, Hall, and Nash pose in the ring. Okerlund makes his way to the ring. Let me transcribe what follows:

Gene: “Hulk Hogan? Excuse me, excuse me. What in the world are you thinking?”

Hogan: “‘Mean’ Gene, the first thing you need to do is to tell these people to shut up if you want to hear what I’ve got to say.”

Gene: “I’ve been with you for so many years. For you to join up with the likes of these two men absolutely makes me sick to my stomach. And I think that these people here, and a lot of other people around the world, have had just about of enough of this man and this man. And you want to put yourself in this group? You’ve gotta be kidding me!”

Hogan: “Well, the first thing you’ve got to realize, brother, is that this right here is the future of wrestling. You can call this, the New World Order of wrestling, brother. These two men right here came from a great big organization up north and everybody was wondering who the third man was. Well who knows more about that organization than me, brother?”

Gene: “I’ve been there. I’ve done that. You have made the wrong decision, in my opinion.”

Hogan: “Well, let me tell you something. I made that organization a monster. I made people rich up there. I made the people that ran that organization rich up there, brother. And when it all came to pass, the name Hulk Hogan, the man Hulk Hogan, got bigger than the whole organization, brother. And then billionaire Ted, amigo, he wanted to talk turkey with Hulk Hogan. Well, billionaire Ted promised me movies, brother. Billionaire Ted promised me millions of dollars and billionaire Ted promised me world caliber matches. And as far as Billionaire Ted, Eric Bischoff, and the whole WCW goes, I’m bored, brother. That’s why these two guys here, the so-called Outsiders, these are the men I want as my friends. They’re the new blood of professional wrestling, brother. And not only are we going to take over the whole wrestling business, with Hulk Hogan, and the new blood, the monsters with me. We will destroy everything in our path, Mean Gene.”

Gene: “Look at all of this crap in this ring. This is what’s in the future for you, if you want to hang around the likes of this man, Hall, and this man, Nash.”

Hogan: “As far as I’m concerned, all of this crap in the ring represents these fans out here. For two years, brother, for two years, I held my head high. I did everything for the charities. I did everything for the kids. And the reception I got when I came out here? You fans can stick it, brother. Because…and if it wasn’t for Hulk Hogan, you people wouldn’t be here. And if it wasn’t for Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff would be still selling meat from a truck in Minneapolis. And if it wasn’t for Hulk Hogan, all of these “Johnny-come-lately’s” that you see out here wrestling wouldn’t be here. I was selling out the world, brother, while they were bumming gas to put in their car to get to high school. So the way it is now, brother, with Hulk Hogan and the new world organization of wrestling, brother, me and the new blood by my side. Whatcha gonna do when the new world organization runs wild on you? Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do?”

And as we play out, Schiavone utters a great line: “For Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, for Dusty Rhodes, Gene Okerlund… I don’t know. I’m Tony Schiavone. Hulk Hogan, you can go to hell. We’re out of here…straight to hell.

Great, great promo. One of the best and most important in the history of professional wrestling. If Hogan bombed that promo, this storyline doesn’t take off like it does. And if Hogan hadn’t turned out to be just as amazing as a heel as he was as a face, this storyline doesn’t go where it did. What a great moment. Perfectly executed by everyone involved.

Overall: Kind of a hard show to grade. Some really great stuff and some really horrible stuff. I guess I’m just going to look at this from the perspective that if I had ordered this show in 1996, I definitely wouldn’t have come out of it disappointed. And watching it now in 2013, I’m not disappointed. We got a couple great matches, a few other decent ones, and one of the hottest and most important angles in wrestling. Hard to complain about that. This was the spark that started the fire. And the fire rose. Stick around kids. Things are getting good.

Grade: A

WCW Bash at the Beach 1996

WWE: Beast in the East

The show instantly feels different. Tiny stage, smaller arena with a different structure than most that WWE runs. Feels more like an ECW show.

Chris Jericho vs. Neville

Perfect choice for the opener, love this as a special attraction match. Got to appreciate Jericho coming back just to work house shows. And even if his last few runs have been weak, I’m still happy to see him here.

The commentary here is worlds better than normal. Was Vince not on this trip? Or did he just not care what they were saying because it’s 5:30 AM? But Cole and Saxton are talking about the match and running through each man’s history in Japan. No forced banter or canned one-liners. Refreshing.

I was expecting Jericho to fall into the role of cocky veteran here and play the heel, and though it took awhile he did start to towards the end of the match. Fans were mostly still cheering him though. Jericho’s huge in Japan. They really turned things up in the ending sequence here with Neville rolling through the Red Arrow, Jericho catching Neville in the Walls, Neville’s Somersault Plancha, Jericho scoring with the Lionsault, ect.

The finish was jaw-dropping. Don’t really agree with having Jericho win, but having him break out the Lion Tamer was tremendous.

Rating: ***¼. Great opener. Both guys busted their asses. Loved a lot of the counters here.

I’m a fan of the production style here too. More minimalist, fewer lights, no big stage, different camera angles than normal. The venue is set-up differently than most WWE arenas too. Like I said before, feels more like an ECW show.

Diva’s Championship: Nikki Bella vs. Paige vs. Tamina

Seems clear to me that Nikki’s reign is only continuing so that she can beat AJ’s record. Petty and stupid, but WWE can be both of those things at times. I feel like this match is how a Triple Threat is taught in wrestling school. One person knocked down out of the ring so the other two can wrestle each other, a few double-team moves to break it up. They did make Tamina look strong, which I liked (got to get someone other than Nikki and Paige over).

This match came and went without much of note happening. Nikki wins again.

Rating: *. Not much there. This division needs a shot in the arm. Time to start bringing up the NXT girls.

Brock Lesnar vs. Kofi Kingston

Brock deciding to work this show so that he could write his trip to Japan off his taxes is the most Brock move ever. Kofi seemed like a sacrificial lamb, and even more so when he came out alone. I was wondering about the response Brock would get in Japan after the IWGP Championship fiasco all those years ago, but sounded like that’s water under the bridge now.

This was a total squash, and I loved it. Brock murdered Kofi. That’s exactly what should have happened. Kofi got a few shots in, but was totally overwhelmed by the monster. No complaints about that at all.

Rating: *¼. Yes, I enjoyed this more than the women’s match.

NXT Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Finn Balor

Feel like this should have gone on last. Much bigger match than the Cena tag. Kevins Owens vs. John Cena is the best thing going in WWE right now, and John Cena is probably the only guy doing better than Owens at this point. Never doubted his talent, but I never thought they’d push Owens this far this fast. He’s been a highlight in a pretty boring stretch for WWE the last few months.

The flowers and girls are a great touch for championship matches in Japan. And Owens throwing the flowers away made me laugh out loud. Owens makes such a great dick heel. Damn, Cole just made a Prince Devitt reference. And now mentioning his Japanese accomplishments. How is this show so much better than Raw?

Shouldn’t be a surprise that this match was tremendous. These guys are both going to be big stars, and this is far from the last time we’ll see them fight on the big stage. They had me on the first Coup de Grace from Balor. I was sure that was the finish, and wish it had been. I’m getting tired of finisher kickouts. Man, this referee counted faster than any I’ve ever seen. This is the guy they should have had referee Starrcade 1997 instead of Nick Patrick.

Kevin Owens does ridiculous things in the ring. A man that size doing a Swanton Bomb is unfathomable. It seems like the guy taking it should be dead, even if he gets his knees up like Balor did. I legit popped for Balor winning. Loved the match, great moment. Perfect all-around.

Rating: ****. Loved it. No surprise that NXT stole the show. Can’t wait for Takeover in Brooklyn.

King Barrett and Kane vs. John Cena and Dolph Ziggler

I’m actually disappointed we didn’t get to see the other two matches. Cesaro vs. Diego and Lucha Dragons vs. New Day both sounded fun.

I couldn’t summon the desire to watch this match. Super generic tag match featuring Kane and King Barrett the Jobber. And apparently they went 25 minutes and it wasn’t very good. So yeah, passing on this one.

Overall: I enjoyed this show. Ding it for the main event being lame and women’s match, but the rest of it was fun and different from the usual WWE stuff. The atmosphere, presentation, and matches were relatively fresh and that’s something WWE desperately needs right now. Their product is extremely stale, so mixing things up is an imperative. I hope we get to see more of these kinds of shows on the Network. I appreciated the low-key nature of it but also that we got a quality show.

Grade: B+

WWE: Beast in the East

Money in the Bank 2015

Wrestlemania was March 29. Here we are two and a half months later, and this is our fourth pay-per-view (or whatever, not counting King of the Ring) in the time since. It’s been a bit of an exhausting period to be a fan of WWE. The product hasn’t been bad, but there’s no spark to it. It feels like everything is just being held in place until Brock comes back. Really, if someone turned off WWE after Brock’s meltdown the night after Wrestlemania and didn’t turn it on again until tonight, the only big thing they would have missed would be Kevin Owens debuting on the main roster. Everything else would look about the same.

And so we have this show, which has a fine card, but doesn’t excite me at all. Such is life as a WWE fan in mid-2015.

Didn’t watch the pre-show, so no thoughts on the match. R-Truth winning makes sense from the perspective that babyfaces usually win opening matches, but having Barrett take so many losses is genuinely confusing to me. On one hand, they seem to value him and keep repackaging him, on the other hand stuff like this happens.

Happy they started with the ten bell salute for Dusty. Hope we get some remembrances on Raw tomorrow night as well.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Kane vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Neville vs. Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns vs. Sheamus

I completely fell for the R-Truth gag on Raw. Just assumed he was in the match and I had forgotten about it. Seven feels like the sweet spot for these matches where there are enough guys to spread the bumps out but not so many that guys start disappearing for absurdly long periods during the match.

Dolph looks so ridiculous in that outfit and his pairing with Lana is not working. Sheamus had momentum when he came back as a heel, but if feels like that has all subsided now. In fact, the only guy in this match who has much momentum is Reigns, who has been on an upward swing since he started hanging out with Ambrose.

To an extent, there’s nothing new to be done in these kinds of matches. There have been so many of them over the years that it seems like every imaginable spot has been done. And with WWE putting more emphasis on the safety of their wrestlers, the bumps are smaller than ever.

That said, this is a fine match. Everyone gets their stuff in: Reigns is a monster, Orton RKOs everyone, Neville can fly, Sheamus is a tank and a dick. Mostly, the match exists to showcase Reigns, which is both logical and entertaining. Watching Roman Reigns crush people is one of the best things in wrestling today. The Awesome Bomb on Kofi to the floor is great, as it looks tremendous but probably isn’t especially painful or dangerous.

It’s all going according to plan and Reigns is about to win…and then Bray Wyatt shows up and costs Roman the match. Didn’t see that coming. It’s like Bray just selects names at random.

Sheamus wins, which is out of left field. Seems like a surprise just for the sake of it, no idea what the plan would be for Sheamus with the briefcase.

Rating: ***. I liked it, wasn’t in love with it. Some fun spots, but nothing we haven’t seen before.

Diva’s Championship: Nikki Bella (c) vs. Paige

Strong pre-match promo from Paige, loved the Dusty shout out. The booking of the women’s division is just so hard to follow. The Bellas seem to be heels again after inexplicably turning face after Wrestlemania. Paige returned, seemed heelish at first, and now is a face. I don’t think there’s any deliberate strategy here, I think the bookers are just changing their mind from week to week.

I like Nikki being a female version of Billy Graham and showing off her physique all the time. These are probably the best two women on the main roster, so it’s not surprising that they produce a quality match when given some time here.

They pull the same Twin Magic gimmick as always, but Paige is ready for it and pins Brie. Then we do a Dusty Finish, because how else would we honor the man? Nikki retains. I don’t hate it, because I think they’re going to start getting a lot of heat now. Eventually, Paige is getting the title.

Rating: **1/2. Good stuff. Let’s have more matches like that.

Intercontinental Championship: Ryback (c) vs. Big Show

The only thing I like here is seeing a multi-way feud. I’m happy Miz has stayed involved. Having him interfere here and the match end that way is a little boring. Not a ton to say here. They did what they could, but it’s tough to pull off a match between two guys this size.

Rating: ¾*. Glad they kept it short.

John Cena vs. Kevin Owens

Damn, this rivalry. I love how they’ve brought Owens up to the main roster. He shows up, he punks out John Cena twice. And then pins him clean in the middle of the ring. They want to make Owens a star, that will do it. He’s more than holding up his end of the bargain, cutting his typical great promos.

As we’ve seen with Rusev and Bray Wyatt, getting a win over Cena isn’t a guarantee of future success. But I see Owens as more equipped to handle the spot than those two were. He got a great pop here and had the crowd chanting “Fight Owens Fight.”

And unsurprisingly this match was outstanding. Both guys busted their asses, bumped all over the ring. They both broke out new moves we hadn’t seen from them before. The counters were insane, the near falls had me on the edge of my seat. Absolute ass kicker of a match. No real complaints. Both guys came out looking great.

Rating: ****1/2. Match of the year candidate. Big things in store for Kevin Owens.

Loved the post-match angle too. Owens is such a dick.

Tag Team Championship: The New Day (c) vs. The Prime Time Players

Shocking title change here. This was meant to be a cool down match before the main event, never expected them to change the titles here. I was loving New Day, seems like way too soon for their reign to end. Maybe they just wanted some good guys to win tonight. Or maybe they don’t see any promising rivalries for New Day and want to do PTP vs. Harper and Rowan.

Rating: *¼. Shocked by the title change. Hope PTP prove to be worth it.

Ladder Match for WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs. Dean Ambrose

Glad they put these guys against each other. This probably should have been Seth’s first rivalry as champion. These two bring out the best in each other, both in and out of the ring. The hijinks with Dean stealing the title have been fun. Seth has done a decent job as a weak champion, though I continue to have issues with The Authority storyline and feel like it has run its course.

This was a different style of ladder match, and I appreciate that. Not many big stunts. Instead, lots of psychology and selling. You don’t see a ton of body parts worked in WWE anymore, so having both men brutalize the knee here was unique. And it made total sense within the context of the match. Great selling from both men, but especially Ambrose.

I was surprised the crowd wasn’t more into this match. Several times Ambrose was climbing the ladder to win and there was barely any response. That was in definite contrast to the reaction Ambrose got for his entrance.

Anyway, enjoyed the match but found the finish strange. No sizzle at all, just Seth climbing and winning. Also a little curious to have Rollins the chickenshit champion get the win all by himself. I guess they want to build him up before he has to fight Lesnar.

Rating: ***. Strong psychology, great selling. Lots of drama before an anticlimactic finish.

Overall: Seems like a show that was less than the sum of its parts. I liked most of the matches, but I don’t come out of the show feeling overly positive. The booking was weird, a number of the finishes were anticlimactic or just strange. We’re all still waiting for Lesnar.

Grade: B-

Money in the Bank 2015

Dusty Rhodes (1945-2015)

Note: Sorry for radio silence the last few weeks. Regular coverage will resume with Money in the Bank on Sunday.

Dusty Rhodes was one of the greatest and most popular professional wrestlers ever, and I’m not sure he’d make it in wrestling today. That’s a paradox, but Dusty was always paradoxical: He was one of the greatest talkers in wrestling history, but he spoke with a speech impediment. Even at peak physical condition he was at best chunky, but made his living as a professional athlete. And he was simultaneously a creative genius and responsible for some of the worst ideas ever in wrestling. A confusing legacy, but an overwhelmingly positive one.

Dusty was a football star before he was a wrestler. He was a star at West Texas A&M, good enough to get a tryout for the Boston Patriots. While in Boston, he was offered a chance by a local wrestling promoter to wrestle. Dusty accepted, looking to make a few bucks. In that coincidence, he found his calling and passion.

According to Dusty, he was never trained to wrestle. It was all just natural. But really, watching Dusty’s matches, he didn’t do much that a typical athlete couldn’t. He didn’t do fancy, acrobatic moves or complicated submission holds. He fought like a tough man, with unparallaled charisma. And that was all natural.

Dusty’s sheer charisma is unmatched in wrestling history. He could just talk. A lot of what he would say would be pure nonsense, but it wouldn’t matter because just by the act of speaking he would have the audience hanging on every word. He’d throw in rhymes, make nonsensical analogies and references. No one else could have made these promos work, but Dusty had a special talent.

You know his accomplishments. Great tag wrestler with Dick Murdoch in the Texas Outlaws. NWA World Heavyweight Champion three times. Two Starrcade main events against Ric Flair. The creator of Starrcade. Longtime booker and creative team member. Announcer for WCW in the late 1990s. He did it all.

But what made Dusty special was the way he connected with the fans. I’ve compared Daniel Bryan to Dusty Rhodes many times in recent years, and I think the comparison has merit. Daniel Bryan represents internet wrestling fans in the same way Dusty Rhodes represented blue collar fans in the south in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a simple man. No bodybuilder physique, no amazing martial arts skills. He looked like a guy you would see mowing his lawn on a hot summer’s day in Georgia. Dusty Rhodes was the people, and they gave him the fire to keep fighting.

I can’t imagine there being another Dusty Rhodes. It just wouldn’t and couldn’t happen in today’s wrestling environment. Sure, there are wrestlers who are big fat guys. There are wrestlers who don’t have any technical or high-flying skills. And there are wrestlers with speech impediments. But combine all three? And add in a difficult personality to boot? No promoter today would deal with that. But in the wild world of wrestling territories, Dusty grabbed a foothold and made his mark. The wrestling world never was the same again.

Dusty Rhodes (1945-2015)

NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable

Welcome back to another NXT special. These are the WWE shows I look forward to most outside of the big four pay-per-views at this point. The NXT product is consistently the strongest WWE produces. Let’s see how they did:

#1 Contender Match: Tyler Breeze vs. Finn Balor

Awesome entrance for Breeze with the selfie girls. Only thing missing was his selfie stick. Unfortunate injury for Itami. Would have been nice to have him in there. And speaking of awesome entrances…it’s Finn Balor. The man with the best entrance this side of the Undertaker. This might be the coolest to date, and it helps convince me that Balor can hit it big on the main roster. An entrance is a huge part of getting over. And he’s got it all: the theme song, the gear, the mannerisms, the smoke. It’s an epic presentation befitting a world champion.

This match is fine, nothing too special. Tyler Breeze never really blows me away. Nothing wrong with him technically, I just find his matches to be very basic. His wrestling style doesn’t really fit his character. It seems like his moveset should be flashier than it is to play up how narcissistic he is.

Balor, on the other hand, is tremendous. One of the biggest qualities a babyface needs is fire, and Balor has plenty. When he gets going you believe he’s putting the hurt on his opponent, no matter how much bigger they are.

The near falls at the end were excellently done. They had me sold on a few of them, especially Breeze hitting the Beauty Shot coming out of the corner. Balor getting the win was definitely the right call.

Rating: **½. Decent match, nothing special. Balor has a lot to offer. Breeze would be a useful midcard heel in the vein of The Miz. Annoying, gets lots of heat, isn’t going to go too far up the card.

Dana Brooke and Emma vs. Charlotte and Bayley

This is an interesting group of wrestlers. Charlotte, clearly the next big thing in the main roster’s diva division. Emma, who got up to the big show and flopped. Dana Brooke, who’s just learning how to wrestle. And Bayley, who I can guarantee is going to be insanely over. If you don’t love Bayley, you’re a terrible person.

Emma turning heel is one of those things I love about wrestling. She was a nice girl, and it failed. So she turns bad. 100% reasonable and logical. And her having a problem with Bayley, who reminds her of her old persona, makes sense too. Simple, smart wrestling booking. Something that’s in short supply today.

This is a basic match, but that’s not a bad thing. The tag formula is well-worn, but that’s because it works. Bayley should be the one to take the heat, because she engenders so much sympathy from the crowd. And Charlotte should be the one to take the hot tag because she can dish out so much damage. Brooke’s role is kept to minimum, because she’s still learning. I wished they had more time, because it felt like the hot tag came too soon. I thought it would have made a little more sense for Dana and Emma to win, but it’s not a big deal.

Rating: *½. It was okay. Could have used more time. Hard to have a good tag match in seven minutes.

Baron Corbin vs. Rhyno

I’ve never been a huge Rhyno fan, but he’s had a nice run in NXT. It makes sense to have a few veterans on the roster. Only way for the young guys to get better is to work with experienced people. I’m waiting to see more from Corbin. He has everything a wrestling promoter could want: Size, athleticism, look, presence.

This was probably Corbin’s best match to date, although that isn’t saying much. Rhyno looked good, Corbin didn’t do a whole lot. The two highlights were Rhyno taking that big bump off the top rope down to the floor and Corbin hitting End of Days. That move is always impressive, but especially on a guy as heavy as Rhyno.

Rating: *¾. Progress for Corbin. More than just a squash, took a few bumps, made a comeback. Babysteps.

NXT Tag Team Championship: Blake and Murphy (c) vs. Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady

I love Enzo. Cass makes a good partner for him, but Enzo is the show. I have no doubt that Enzo and Cass should be on the main roster right now. They’re ready for it. No doubt they’d get over. It’s impossible to watch their entrance schtick and not get hyped. Blake and Murphy? Just two dudes.

Blake and Murphy are probably better than they get credit for. They’re an adequate heel tag team. They could use a gimmick upgrade and a team name, but they play their roles. Cass is a physical specimen who is well-served as part of a team because he’d probably get exposed in singles. But he’s perfect to just come in and clean house off the hot tag. This was a decent tag match, but I thought the finish was kind of weak. That Powerbomb/Back Stabber combination would have been a much better finish than Enzo getting pinned after falling off the top.

Rating: **. Decent tag match, not much beyond the standard formula.

NXT Women’s Championship: Sasha Banks (c) vs. Becky Lynch

Things I love about NXT: the women’s championship being the sub main event.

Praise heaped on the NXT women’s division at this point seems superfluous. It’s basically a given that any of their matches will be better than anything that happens on the main roster in the diva’s division. This match is hampered a bit by Becky’s face turn having come a bit soon and her not really getting over as a face. That said, Sasha worked so nasty that it generated some decent sympathy for Becky. Becky’s escape from the armbar by lifting Sasha off the group into a slam was amazing. Deserved the obnoxious “this is wrestling” chant that it received. They brought physicality, intensity, and drama that hadn’t been seen in any of the previous matches on the night.

They worked their asses off. Excellent match.

Rating: ****. Outstanding work from both women. Loved the working of the arm. Incredible intensity, super physical. That felt like a world championship match. Set a high standard for Owens and Zayn to try to live up to.

Also, the “Suplex City” chant was baller.

NXT Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Sami Zayn

And here we have the best story in WWE, and probably all of wrestling. Kevin Owens is a monster. An evil, petty man with no moral center. Sami Zayn is as good a guy as there is in wrestling. Does he have the edge to beat a son of a bitch like Owens? It remains to be seen. As a side note, I love Zayn getting the shot against Cena two weeks before Owens did. It’s the exact reason Owens hates Zayn. Always cutting to the front of the line. It’s a personal issue between two real people with understandable stakes. They’ll fight until there is a winner. They’ll fight until one man can take no more.

And they bring the intensity. Zayn isn’t going to let Owens get away with stalling this time. They fight. All over the floor, into the crowd. Zayn hangs in there, but Owens is just too powerful. We get an extended beat down, and then an absolutely vicious Powerbomb onto the ring apron. Owens is relentless, and keeps going after Zayn. He won’t be stopped. Not by referees. Not by William Regal. But by one man…


And he’s called “Samoa Joe.” And he’s treated as a monstrous bad ass. A man who even Kevin Owens would back down from. Joe vs. Owens. I’m down with that.

Rating: **. More of an angle than match, and I don’t have a problem with that. The final chapter here has yet to be written. I hope this Owens/Zayn/Joe issue bleeds over onto Raw. I’d love to see NXT matches on the pay-per-views.

Overall: Another strong offering from NXT. The women’s match was the best of the night, Joe’s debut the big highlight. This show is a bit of a step down in overall quality from Rival, but it’s still strong, much better than the typical offering from the main roster.

NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable