Friday, May 29, 2015

A look back at the Lucha World Cup

It has been twenty-one years since the last time AAA broadcasted a pay-per-view in English, back at the illustrious When Worlds Collide, which most fans will remember as the show WCW built the Cruiserweight division from. But that changed on May 24, 2015 with the broadcast of the Lucha Libre World Cup on internet pay-per-view.

It’s a bit crazy that AAA never held a major trios tournament until this event, almost as if they’re taking a page from Chikara’s book for their return to English language action. Lucha Underground’s Matt Striker and Vampiro called the action, although both were a bit less polished than their El Rey appearances. It’s been awhile since I’ve heard Vampiro be quite this lecherous.

The Chikara connection actually received a call out in the very first match as the Dream Team took on Team NOAH. The NOAH unit featured the legendary Takayama alongside captain Taiji Ishimori and former King of Trios standout Atsushi Kotoge. The Team Osaka Pro alum was allowed lots of time to shine against the superstar trio of Alberto El Patron, Mysteziz and Rey Mysterio (the only carryover from When Worlds Collide.)

The other teams all brought it. The workrate was surprisingly deep based on the roster, but Team AAA and Team ROH/Lucha Underground brought a ton of great in-ring work. American fans already know how good El Hijo Del Fantasma is (with his Lucha Underground alter ego getting a subtle nod from Striker) and that El Texano Jr is a solid guy in-ring, but most everyone probably saw Psycho Clown for the first time. Perhaps Los Psycho Circus as a whole would have been more fun, but the three men put on an amazing battle against ROH’s Moose and ACH and Lucha Underground’s Brian Cage. Cage still strikes me as a man WWE missed the boat on in a huge way, as shown by his excellent work here and in the American tie-in.

Team All Japan took on the Mexican Legends Solar I, Blue Demon Jr and Dr. Wagner Jr. Against a team with 99 combined years of experience, Kenzo Suzuki (whose in-ring time was very limited), Tiger Mask III and Masamune didn’t accomplish very much. They were perhaps the most disappointing team of the eight in the tournament.

The final first round match was my favorite of the night. Team TNA Underground brought some good star power with Mr. Anderson, Matt Hardy and Johnny Mundo (otherwise known as John Morrison.) They took on the most intriguing team of the night, the thrown together Team Rest of the World. Drew Galloway (UK) and El Mesias (Puerto Rico) teamed with arguably 2015’s breakout talent of the year Angelico (South Africa). It seemed impossible that Team TNA wouldn’t make it to round two but the worldwide team gave them a run for their money. And again, Striker and Vampiro give another sly reference to one talent’s Lucha Underground alter ego.

With the four teams left, round two felt a bit telegraphed. As set up, the Dream Team vs. Team ROH and the Mexican Legends vs. Team TNA were solid battles, but they telegraphed the finals a bit.

The format of the tournament involved sudden death overtimes after the 15 minute time limits, which equaled one on one fights for five minutes. The third place match was ran only as such and it lasted all of seven minutes. But with AAA pushing Brian Cage hard, it made sense to give him a very decisive showing here.

The finals featured the Dream Team and Team TNA Lucha Underground. Anderson, Hardy and Mundo worked as great heels for the finals. The story of Rey Mysterio’s Mexican return played a huge part in this story and they revealed their purpose for doing so as the match moved into its third Sudden Death overtime. The final period pitted Mysterio against Mundo. Everyone that knows Mundo knows he’s an excellent base for the assault of someone like Mysterio. In a fast paced blast of action, Mysterio reverses an End of the World (or Starship Pain for WWE fans) into a Victory Roll for the finish.
The pay-per-view ran a little long in typical Mexican fashion with over four hours and a lot of pageantry between battles. The show did have some issues with silenced promos, which was especially annoying for the English language talk. But the in ring action and great commentary made up for the slow points.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen no word of replays or purchasing rights for the show in perpetuity. The PPV replays are only available for a week. But if it does become available against stateside, I recommend it.

And hey, Mysteziz works thirty times better here than he ever did in WWE.

How I'd Book Sting

I came back to watching wrestling at the same time it was announced that Sting would join the WWE. Since then I've tried to familiarize myself with his history and his greatest matches. I've known who Sting was since the 80's, when he seemed like a younger, less cool version of Hulk Hogan. When Hogan went to WCW, I watched Sting in a few matches during that era but that was it. The only time I can say I was a Sting fan was early on when he started his whole "Crow" gimmick and the NWO was formed. Most of those matches were incredibly disappointing. Sting's matches never had grit, they always seemed to end in someone interfering. When Sting joined the NWO/Wolfpack with Kevin Nash, he was at his peek as far as being entertaining went.

I've always been a WWE fan first and a wrestling fan second. As I've gotten older I've come to appreciate the talent that exists outside the WWE universe, but back when I was a kid they were always the #1 wrestling company. Sting was the perfect person to represent WCW because he was, at least in my eyes, a perfect representation of what WCW stood for: Second Rate Wrestling. He had the ability to fire up the crowd, but not as good as Hogan. He had style and flair, but not as much as Randy Savage. In other words Sting always seemed like a B-level player who just wasn't able to convince me that he was a legend in the making.

While watching a DVD of his greatest matches, I realized that there were many flaws: For one, he got dragged into some of the worst storylines in WCW history. Secondly, his matches rarely ended with a bang, often his finish would be an old-fashioned roll-up pin or something similar, I am not even sure when he started doing the Stinger Drop or the Sharpshooter but I am pretty certain it wasn't for years into his career. It always seemed as if there was someone better than Sting, no matter how hard he tried. His mic skills weren't very good and his in-ring style was traditional but without style. Without Rick Flair to put him over, I am not sure how far Sting would have gotten on his own.

But hey, let's give the guy some credit for such a long career without Vince McMahon's help.

So how do you bring this guy into the WWE and actually make it relevant and entertaining? Well TNA fans already got a glimpse into what Sting can do, as the Joker-inspired Insane Icon.

With the Authority in charge, everything on the WWE seems very organized and controlled. This hasn't hurt the storytelling, but eventually order breeds boredom. Throwing Dean Ambrose into the championship mix was a good start, but bringing the Insane Icon into the WWE would be absolutely nuts.

All it would take would be one more pay-per-view match against Triple H. Sting loses the match and starts to go nuts. Week after week he starts acting more and more unpredictable until one day. . the WWE network is hijacked. Stephanie McMahon is missing. And Sting appears, still thinking its 1995, still thinking WCW has a chance. He can work his way through the roster, painting the faces of those he defeats, laughing and dancing like a maniac until . . the Big Event. Perhaps the final match against Triple H, or the return of the Undertaker. . . you could take it in any direction. Throw Stardust in as a groupie and you'll have a storyline that can carry Sting into retirement.

Imagine an Insane Sting forcing Rick Flair and Hulk Hogan to fight. . . beating them and tossing them back into the ring like a lunatic referee. Or sitting front row at NXT. . . there is no limit to how far it could go. Hell if they buy the broadcast rights from TNA, they can show the first appearance of the Insane Icon on the WWE network. The WWE has an incredible production team, if they released the TNA stuff through their media channels, both companies would make a LOT of money. There is no reason for the WWE NOT to help smaller companies when it works in their favor, not when it will make them money and cross-merchandise their product. TNA might not want the help in production and distribution, out of some kind of weird sense of individuality, but you can always work around that. I'd easily watch the Insane Icon take on the Wyatt family, or the Authority, or the SHIELD reunited just to put down the Stinger. . .

Now is the only time this gimmick would work. Hell, imagine Sting against Brock Lesnar, the insane one taunting, teasing and manipulating Brock, the least funny guy in the WWE roster. It's magic, just waiting to happen. He's the craziest character in their roster right now and the timing couldn't be better. If Sting waits too long, he's not going to be able to come back in any real capacity, fans have a lot of wrestling to watch that's really good right now and if he isn't back in the ring soon, he will be forgotten. One great storyline at the end of his character could be his final legacy, because let's face it, he still owes us one for that Robocop debacle.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Japan statues and figures heading to American shores

One of the things I love almost as much as pro wrestling is action figures, so it is with some happiness that New Japan statues and toys are on their way to American shores.

First up is a super-detailed line of PVC statues featuring detailed likenesses of New Japan wrestlers. The only announced and revealed figure so far is Kazuchika Okada, but the Rainmaker is absolutely gorgeous in his trademark pose. Now here's hoping that one Mr. Nakamura will follow soon after.

In figures with articulation news, New Japan also has a series of super-deformed mini-figures on the way. These guys were actually released a couple years back but are only making their way over here recently, probably due to New Japan’s rising international popularity.

Each figure stands about 2.5 inches in height with a whopping three points of articulation. But they come with accessories like half a wrestling ring, Tenzan’s mask and title belts. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan will never be this cute again, folks.

Like most import toys, these will cost you a penny to pick up but all look pretty awesome, so if you are collector inclined check them out at your favorite import toy store.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wrestle-1 can bring the action

Wrestle-1 experienced a massive down turn in business after their big TNA crossover show last year. The problems cost the company its link with the American brand, as both companies seek ways to improve their fortunes in 2015. But just because TNA and Wrestle-1 no longer have a working relationship doesn't mean that Wrestle-1 isn't able to put on good matches. In fact, they can do so while featuring TNA talent still.

As shared on his own Youtube feed, Matt Hardy had an excellent appearance at Wrestle-1 in a great three way match against former TNA standout Sanada and ECW/WWE cruiserweight legend Yoshihiro Tajiri. They put on a great battle that showed Sanada could hold up against the twenty-plus year veterans.

Monday, May 25, 2015

NXT is Unstoppable!

You gotta love an audience that chastises the referee for not doing his job.

NXT Unstoppable was my first NXT pay-per-view and only my second viewing of a NXT show. To keep it organized, I'll do a run down of the results and give my impression of the matches and the wrestlers.

Tyler Breeze VS Finn Balor

This really seemed like a battle of the gimmicks match. Both men had very well produced entrances, although if I were to pick which one of them had the better intro, I'd go with Tyler Breeze. Something about seeing Finn crawling around on the ground with dragon wings on seemed silly to me. Balor's make-up, the first time I've seen it in ring, was incredibly well done, especially the Eye of Sauron, sorry the Eye of Balor, painted on his back. My wife thought Finn was ridiculous, she doesn't see the sense in painting yourself up just so it smudges off in five minutes. I am kind of intrigued by the idea of a wrestler who SOMETIMES lets the beast out but other times wrestles without it. It's an interesting angle, if that is what he is doing. I saw him once in a show at ring side and I thought he was rather slim for a wrestler, but I guess if he is a high-flyer that's alright.

Tyler Breeze is looking a little . . . . aged. I am not sure how long he can pull this gimmick off, unless he just pulls an Adrian Adonis (man, was that guy ugly). I'd watch Tyler Breeze in the WWE, he might make a perfect foil for Stardust.

Not sure how Finn manages to double foot stomp people without hurting them. It looked painful, which I guess is the point, I just didn't think you could DO that in wrestling.

The way that Hideo Itami was taken out was poorly put together. Asian guys just can't catch a break in the wrestling industry.

I'd watch either of these guys again.

Dana & Emma VS Bayley and Charlotte

So Bayley is the one responsible for all those "I'm a Hugger" shirts?

It was a mixed bag match, the only thing I can say was worthwhile here was finding out Rick Flair had a daughter and seeing Charlotte and Bayley strut Flair-style at the end of the match. Just not enough here to judge them on.

Rhyno VS Baron Corbin

At 6'6, 273 lbs, Baron Corbin is a big dude, one of the biggest I've seen in NXT. He's a little slim for a big man, but he makes up for his lack of bulk with speed and precision. I am not a Rhyno fan, the guy is way too old to be in NXT and seeing him there was kind of a disappointment. Yeah, I am sure there are Rhyno fans who are going to blast me for this one, but the guy is a walking reminder of all the terrible and out of business wrestling promotions he's worked for over the years.
Here's what I'd do with Baron Corbin: Build up some more muscle and have the Undertaker bring him in as his Under-study. Let old Undertaker teach him the ropes, the way he did with Big Show when he arrived in the WWE. Then put Corbin up against the Wyatt family members and display how powerful he really can be. He doesn't really need to be on the mic yet and he isn't ready for any kind of title, but he's got a lot of raw potential. Perhaps we'll see him face Finn Balor soon?

Rhyno, as always, was forgettable. The Rhyno is extinct.

Blake & Murphy VS Enzo Amore & Big Cass
SAWFT was so bad I don't even want to talk about them. Enzo was every bad gimmick in wrestling all in one body. Big Cass had all the charm of Test, whose greatest contribution to wrestling was dying. Yeah I went there, that's how much I disliked these guys.

Becky Lynch VS Sasha Banks

I am really not sure why Sasha Banks is so well loved by the NXT crowd. I think the entire Divas division is ten times better than it was a decade ago and it continues to get better, but Sasha's personality just got on my nerves. I guess that makes me a member of the Lynch Mob. It was an impressive match and it was sad to see Becky lose, but I believe she's got a good shot at the WWE Divas division.

Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens

I still say KO is the most oddly shaped wrestler out there, although his chicken legs were less noticeable than on RAW. Zayn controlled the match up until a pop-up power bomb on the ring apron but him out. I am not a fan of matches ending without a winner, and certainly don't like matches that end with someone making their appearance on the show. Samoa Joe, in my mind, is a lot like Rhyno. I've watched his ROH matches and a couple other appearances and I just don't get Joe's appeal. If this guy is on his way to the WWE, I hope he runs right into Roman Reigns, the real Samoan champion.

I have to give Owens a thumbs up for the John Cena shirt. Is he going to drop the belt to Joe and move on to face Cena?

Not sure how well Owens heel power is going to stand up to guys like Kane or Brock Lesnar if he moves up the ladder to the WWE. We shall see.

My favorite part of the show is the crowd, what a rowdy, outspoken audience! I love the way they engage and influence the action in the ring. I also really like the yellow and black ring set-up, I immediately went and added an NXT show Wednesday night in my WWE 2K14 universe. Now I need to find a custom made KO. . .

As a young, starting point for wrestlers, NXT is doing a fantastic job. Even just streamlining and training some outside wrestlers in how the WWE works is a good idea, I just don't want to see the washed up wannabes, or the guys who blew their opportunities, hanging around NXT for a second chance. That's what TNA is for, NXT seems to be a hot, new, way for fans who maybe want a more real wrestling experience but still want to stay in the same WWE universe.

I'd like to see more interesting NXT venues in the future, maybe in some of the smaller, stranger, venues you can't take a big show to, or even an outdoor NXT bash at the beach.

I've got one complaint, one thing that is currently bothering me about both WWE divisions: The announce table. All of these guys, except for Michael Cole, Jerry the King and JBL, are horrible. Even the King isn't giving his best work, it's almost as if without JR he can't hit the same beats. Everyone else is terrible. Booker T is decent enough when he talks, but he doesn't say enough, he doesn't sell the in-ring action either. These guys need to know ahead of time which side they are on and play that up. They need to know the histories of every wrestler and use that to sell them in the ring. It's really that simple. Hell, fly me down there and I'll coach them for a couple hours, make them watch old JR footage.

That's it for this week. Cheers!

Friday, May 22, 2015

It's time to give the Divas a chance

#GiveDivasAChance trended on Twitter a few months back and with it came an increased attention on how WWE treats the women of its roster. WWE accepted the message with a promise that things would change, but in the months since that time, little has. Admittedly, the women of WWE are treated as athletes far more now than ever before and often get more than five minutes at most pay-per-views. But we all know WWE could do better. And I am here to help with that. They have a simple solution to up the level of attention played to the WWE Divas and they can do it at their very next pay-per-view. That one big first step can come in the form of this:

The massive structure that is the Elimination Chamber will be used for both an Intercontinental and a Tag Team title defense, but if you really want to show the value of your Divas, let them have their own twenty minutes inside the steel. While a three way match between Naomi, Nikki Bella and Paige is already set for the upcoming show, WWE could easily implement the change between now and next Sunday. A simple angle with the involvement of the three women alongside Brie Bella and Tamina instantly can set up five women for the match. Involve Natalya or NXT standouts Charlotte and Sasha Banks to round out the card. Suddenly you have six solid female wrestlers in a battle over their prize.

It’s a simple equation: if you want the women of WWE treated by the fanbase as more than eye candy, you have to book them as more than just that. Letting the Divas show up for a brutal battle inside the most foreboding structure in wrestling history seems the simplest of solutions. With only five matches announced for the card, they should have plenty of time to fit it in.

If you like my suggestion, let WWE know with a tweet of #GiveDivasAChance in the #EliminationChamber" and this link. Or just click on this link to populate the message directly in your Twitter account.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Payback, Raw and Kevin Owens

Payback was another good pay-per-view, in what I consider the best run in wrestling history. Every pay-per-view I've watched since getting back into wrestling has been far superior than anything I used to watch back in the day. As a writer and creator myself, obviously there are some things I'd have done differently, but isn't that how fans always feel? I mean when are we really ever satisfied? Especially when we've dreamed of working in the industry. (I'd be an amazing booker!)
So, first up, Payback, then some thoughts on the Raw follow-up.

I didn't watch the pre-show, so I missed the Stardust match. I have to agree with Nick on this one; Stardust is poorly booked. Jerry Springer ran a segment on Too Hot For TV focussing on Goldust and seeing some of his over-the-top antics from years passed really made it apparent how badly they are using Stardust. They aren't thinking outside the box enough, they aren't getting weird enough. Goldust had a classic match-up with the Undertaker, maybe we could get a Bray Wyatt/Stardust match? The Dean Ambrose/Bray Wyatt match was a good addition to RAW, maybe have him and Stardust go head to head for a while, see what kind of crazy stuff they can come up with? I'd love to see Stardust try to join the Wyatt family or something along those lines.

I don't like R. Truth. Not one bit. How the hell he got into the Elimination Chamber is beyond me.

Sheamus and Ziggler is played out. Glad to see Ryback challenge him on Raw, even though he was bandaged up. The two men have put on some good matches but I don't see much use for Sheamus at this level. I'd rather see him step up and get dirty with Roman Reigns or even some of the other big guys in the middle card level, like Erik Rowan.

The New Day. They are getting over well as heels, which is good because the tag division needs some fresh ideas, and I really want to see them get beaten. I am guessing Big E will start the Elimination Chamber match, there is no way they are squeezing him and Kofi into a chamber cell together.

Okay I confess, I fell asleep during the John Cena match. Had to go back and re-watch it the next day. It was a good, old school brawl. I've never been a Cena fan but I love the hard work he is putting into the title. I firmly support the idea of the US title being a title of opportunity, what better representation for the United States could you ask for? It is going to be a sad day when Cena loses that title. My only complaint was how they handled Rusev quitting. I get that no one at the match may have known what was said, but you'd think that by Monday night, they'd have found one person who spoke Bulgarian, but I guess the point was for Lana to leave after telling us what he said and embarrassing him. Since the two of them are a real life couple, it is going to be interesting to see how the new Ziggler angle is going to play out.

Tamina looks like a giant next to the Bella Twins. I was really hoping Daniel Bryan would come out with his wife, I've been pushing for it on Twitter a lot.

King Barrett got himself counted out. Not cool. I am not a fan of matches that end without a winner and this felt like a cheap cop-out. Barrett was just starting to grow on me. Still not a Neville fan, he looks like Jeff Hardy if he got beat up by English gangsters. This could easily have been called the Weird Ears match.

As for the final fatal 4-way match, I have to disagree with Nick's view on this. I knew going into it that Seth was probably going to retain the title, I don't see him losing it for a while. The point of this match was to move forward from Wrestlemania. The Orton/Rollins feud is basically over, Roman Reigns will announce his plans on Smackdown and it seems for now Dean Ambrose is going to be the one pissing on Rollin's parade. Putting Orton down with a pedigree was outstanding, but Randy hasn't been selling these moves very well lately; just look at the badly done Dirty Deeds during last weeks Raw (I believe).

I have to admit, I thought my predication of a SHIELD reunion had come true, I got all excited thinking I was right. Good move guys, you got me good there.

I can't stress enough how impressed I am that the stars of Payback were back on Raw. It can't be easy to do a big pay-per-view and then another live show the following night. I know they only work in ring for like 20 minutes but still, the endurance to travel and work in the WWE is something that requires a certain amount of fortitude. Especially John Cena, who has worked pretty much every show since he winter.

Ryback was back with his ribs taped. Glad to see him face Sheamus but I am not sure if like Ryback or not. His in-ring work has no pop but he seems to get over well with the crowd. Maybe book him against Stardust, let Cody teach him a thing or two. Stardust's antics with Ryback rigid, straight face style might be interesting.

Bo Dallas. I hate you. I am speaking directly now to Bo Dallas, dude I really, really don't like you. My wife finds him hilarious and loves to quote him just to piss me off. His voice is like a train full of transvestites, all screeching and howling. Not sure where they are headed with this, not sure I can stand it. Thankfully the rest of the show was good. If this was 2004, Bo would be GM and I'd be in tears.

Ambrose vs Bray Wyatt. Great match. Hate to see Ambrose get pinned and Wyatt getting rescued by the Authority was just plain strange, but they did great. I was kind of hoping to see Wyatt spider-walk and Ambrose do something crazy like ride him around the ring, but it was not meant to be. Maybe next time.

Kevin Owens. This is the second time I've seen the guy, I watched last week's NXT and he seems to get over with the crowd even though his voice and delivery lacks power and threat. As Cena said, he doesn't seem passionate enough. Also, he's got to be the most out of shape looking athlete on the roster. Chicken legs Owens. I am intrigued by his audacity and commitment and I will give him a shot, because I believe he must be incredibly talented, all the previous NXT champions are, but I kept thinking he was more like Kevin Smith than John Cena. We shall see. I don't think he deserves the spot, so hopefully he will put on a hell of a show. I loved the bit about experience, I know the feeling. As my wife pointed out though, Cena came up from small shows too, just not the NXT. Cena had tougher competition too, he came from a graduating class that featured Orton, Batista and the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar. Those OVW kids are all legends now and not just in wrestling. OVW was a beast of a promotion back when it was the premiere training site for future WWE stars. NXT has proven itself, but it still has a ways to go yet.

Fandango. I don't know. I just don't know about this guy and whether he deserves to stay. I'd prefer more Adam Rose, to be honest. At least I know Rose needs the money.

Okay, I am now a big fan of the Bella Twins. Great move by Stephanie to raise the stakes. Still not going to be happy until Daniel Bryan comes out with them. Paige is back and Nikki scored a win by DQ. More Bellas, please!

I was going to praise Cena for his back-to-back victories, but he never defended the title. Instead he got laid out. Too bad Cena, but at least Rusev is gone. Owens is a little softer around the gut.

My only real complaint is the constant flashbacks to Daniel Bryan. Everybody knows what happened now guys, you can stop showing the clips.

What needs to improve: The announcers . They are missing good promos, they aren't hitting the right notes in the story and they aren't embellishing the matches with a rich sense of history the way they are supposed to. What was with Michael Cole giving a play by play of how the match came about during Bray Wyatt's intro? They don't talk when they should be talking and they go on too much on things that don't pertain to the match. They need to sharpen up and tighten their game up.

More Titus O'Neil, he needs to be in the Prime Time events! More Stardust, let's get a good feud going!

Now, in honor of Daniel Bryan, who left before I came back, who earned a huge thank you from the crowd, a baby photo.

Next: A review of NXT UNSTOPPABLE and NXT in general.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dreamwave showcases some great Midwest talent

I have wanted to show off a few of the great wrestlers I see grace the Scott County Wrestling ring. Unfortunately, a lot of their action isn't always available on Youtube. But the fine folks at Dreamwave Wrestling have a pre-show every month and now they're using it to present their Dreamwave Showcase series online.

The first show features two solid matches featuring Connor Braxton, J.J. Garrett, Gunner Franks, Harvey Bowers and one Stephen Wolf, who will feature on the next SCW show. So check it out and let me know what you think of the great talents coming up in the Midwest today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A look at SCW Revival.

I made my way out to my second Scott County Wrestling show last weekend. This time around it was Nevin Knoxville and Shane Hollister in the main event with the SCW title on the line. And just like last time, I somehow forgot to take any photos of the talent in action. So you will have to settle for just this image again:

Mallaki Matthews and J.J. Garrett kicked off the show in a solid opener. I commented in my preview that it would be interesting to see these two get a chance to shine. They did just that with this match, really showing why they deserve more recognition in midwest wrestling.

The tag team champions went on second at “Revival”. Connor Braxton and Eli Machete have started to make waves on the midwest indies, with appearances in AAW, Dreamwave and 3XW already signed. The two young men deserve the attention as even a few months into their career, they are really gelling in the ring.

This time around though they take on some fellow Black & the Brave graduates. The team of Fabian and Bodie Van Zandt were two of the five men that turned on Marek Brave last month. While Fabian’s weird face painted gimmick didn’t quite fit with Van Zandt’s biker-crossed-with-Hardy look, they worked surprisingly well as a team. What didn’t work as well was poor booking as it pertains to poor referee John G. The match ended up in a double countout, despite the legal man Van Zandt being on the outside for about five minutes. The fans made sure to let poor Mr. G know he messed up.

Bison Woods made his in-ring debut in an absolute squash of Biff Malibu. The final evil Black & the Brave student seems to be taking after the late Bison Smith, but he’s going to have to put on a bit more muscle weight to make the monster gimmick work.

Bobbi Dahl and Tyler Priegel battled for the Quad Cities Cup again this month, albeit in a singles match. I’m not sure I’m a fan of Dahl’s gimmick, as the old school gay guy that violates his opponents gimmick doesn’t really work as well in 2015. However he does go well in the ring despite his size and Priegel has the chops to keep up.

Krotch and Bucky Collins versus Tank Roberts and Johnny Wisdom showed off all four men’s talents in the ring. Nasty Krotch (as the audience around me dubbed them) have a great combination of high flying and mat wrestling while Mark Storm’s charges are built around power and pain. Tank works the big man gimmick really well, while Wisdom is a stupendous indie heel. It would be great to see both spread their wings farther. Storm’s shenanigans cost the face team a win after he restarted the contest as a no disqualification match.

After intermission, Latin Thunder picked up another victory, this time over the returning Gunner Franks. Gunner has a weird style to him: I can best describe him as an evil comedy wrestler. But he worked well as a base for Thunder. The long time Iowa independent stalwart has a great look and style in the ring.

Marek Brave wrestled in the semi-main event for the second month in a row, but this time he had a bone to pick with his second graduating class of students. This brought out Austin Ellis, but Ellis refused to take Brave’s open challenge alone, instead bringing in Adrian Alexander as his partner. Ellis and Alexander got in some solid offense, but Brave showed them he didn’t teach them everything he knew. Both the students are natural heels and worked well as a team. We will see if they continue to act as one in the future.

The main event was the big title match as Shane Hollister returned to singles action to take on Nevin Knoxville for the SCW championship. Hollister looked strong against the much larger Knoxville and with SCW commissioner Sean Morrow as ref, his chances were improved despite Mark Storm making it a lumberjack match (with Wisdom and his new Black & Brave charges as the lumberjacks). Ultimately a ref bump would lead to the finish as with Morrow down Tank Roberts ran out to piledrive Hollister on to a chair. Tank pulled off his coat to reveal a ref shirt before making the count to allow Knoxville to retain. Marek Brave ran out to save Hollister from more damage and Morrow set next month’s main event: Hollister and Brave versus Roberts and Knoxville.

“Revival” was a solid show overall, albeit a bit weaker than last month’s “Epic”. But with tons of great wrestlers in action, it proved to still be tons of fun.

A couple complaints as I continue to visit shows:

The company needs to build more storylines, preferably ones outside the nefarious actions of Mark Storm. Latin Thunder, J.J. Garrett and Mallaki Matthews all could use more focus on future shows as all seem ready for more attention from the Walcott crowd.

The second is merch! While a lot of SCW’s talent is young or local, I’m a guy that wants to support these guys. A few so-so t-shirts and 8 by 10s left me disappointed. With the advent of Pro Wrestling Tees, now is the time to strike the merchandise fire. I let Machete know then and there that I’m ready for his shirt.

The lack of great merch did leave me room to pick up some old shows though on DVD, including a Vader guest shot show car trouble kept me from attending a couple years back. I’ll have some reviews up in the near future.

Their next show is on June 27 and I plan to head down to Walcott once again for “Unbroken”. Keep up the excellent work, SCW.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A few thoughts on Payback

Let’s be honest: going in, Payback felt like something of a filler show with only one big feud ender wedged between a lot of one-offs and storyline builders. In action, that is what it really was as it became a solid show designed to extend feuds. 

The pre-show was lackluster at best with R-Truth going over the perennially misbooked Stardust in a bonus match. Stardust is perennially misbooked and has been since his days under his former “dead” name. He should be a solid upper-midcarder but instead seems stuck in a jobbing role to people like Truth, who has no momentum behind him at all.

The other pre-show match was built around the comedy of the Mega-Powers going in, but the real story is the rebuilding of The Ascension as a threat in the tag team division. I’m not sure we will see them in an Elimination Chamber, but it’s good to see WWE hasn’t given up on them yet.

The main show kicked off with another Sheamus/Dolph Ziggler match. While good overall, the result was wholly predictable with Ziggler getting some comeuppance but taking the loss. WWE plans to keep this storyline moving forward, probably into the Intercontinental match at Elimination Chamber.

The tag team two out of three falls match was a great contest between two teams of great big men teaming with great smaller guys. Much like the Usos vs the Wyatt Family of last year, the teams of Kidd & Cesaro and The New Day are built to wrestle as many times as WWE wants and give a great performance every time. With a little more TV focus, they could also establish a strong role for the tag titles, something WWE desperately needs.

Ryback vs Bray Wyatt continues the Wyatt push towards nothing, with another pointless clean win over a face that serves to help neither man. For someone built around his mental manipulation, Wyatt seems to do little of it in his matches, but can win clean way too often for an evil villain. This was meant to continue a feud, but Ryback’s potential injury might end it sooner than planned.

Ow. (Image from

The I Quit match between John Cena and Rusev, ostensibly for the United States title, was the clear focal point of the booking and the strongest match on the card. The two men channeled the best extreme matches of the Attitude Era to compete in an amazing brawl that reached ECW levels of insanity as they made their way around the entire arena. The ending being built around the fact that Cena couldn’t quit if the Accolade caused him to pass out, but shenanigans with whether or not Rusev said I Quit or not will keep him a focal point on television even as he moves past Cena. The smart booking should keep Rusev strong even in the aftermath of his great Cena feud.

The Bellas battle with Naomi and Tamina as well as Neville versus King Barrett were built around clearly designed as feud extenders. Neither really blew me away, but if the Neville and King Barrett feud sets up a Neville Intercontinental title reign, I’m all for it. As to the women, my personal hope is they will receive a third Elimination Chamber match at the pay-per-view. I don’t think anything could show WWE cares more about the Divas than giving them a marquee match at the show.

The main event was wrestled well but was a disappointment booking wise. Outside of one momentary Shield reuniting for a triple powerbomb on Randy Orton, the Kane storyline failed to move forward, Ambrose and Reigns were given little momentum and the Orton/Rollins storyline seems ready to stretch out for another month. Of course, Rollins also debuted his third finisher of the last two months, as he has now adopted the Pedigree.

Turns out Ambrose & Reigns don't need Rollins for the powerbomb. Image from
As far as WWE’s B-pay-per-views go, Payback was honestly pretty solid. But with two more shows in the next four weeks, one has to wonder how long it will take for most of these storylines to come to an end.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Wrestlemania 31 and the Art of Losing

I recently read somewhere that Triple H has the most losses at Wrestlemania, which I think currently stands at 10. If I'd have known that before Wrestlemania 31, I probably wouldn't have been so surprised by Sting's loss. One of the talents that makes Triple H a legend, one of his greatest skills, is the ability to lose strategically.

Wrestlemania 31 was the greatest wrestling pay-per-view I've ever seen. The main event match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns was one of the most realistic matches I can recall since the days of Mick Foley. It was as rough a match as your going to get from the PG era of wrestling and it worked so well because of who lost, not who won. We all know wrestling is fake, the entertainment for us old fans is in seeing who puts over the other guy best. Wrestlers play characters, usually characters with big egos, so seeing which wrestler is going to swallow his pride and take the loss is part of the entertainment. Before I watched Wrestlemania 31, I went back and watched 30, the year of Daniel Bryan and I knew once I'd finished it that Roman Reigns was not going to win the title. Wrestlemania 30 was the year of the underdog, the chances that the WWE would repeat the same type of story the following year was very slim.
Strangely, I'd never actually seen anyone cash in a Money in the Bank case. As much as I hated the idea, I felt it was going to happen. What other possibility was there? Once Brock Lesnar announced he was going to stay with the WWE, Roman's chances went up in smoke. That's not a bad thing, a lot of people felt he wasn't ready for it, I personally think his in-ring moves need a bit of work but I genuinely like the guy. It was painful to watch him give so much of himself in his match against Brock only to lose it all in the last couple of minutes. But that is what wrestling is all about, not just the art of combat but the art of losing as well. I'm sure it was a lot easier for Brock Lesnar to lose, with his new contract locked up tight, but Roman was so close to the ultimate prize and opportunities like that, even in a sport with a fixed winner, is a rare thing. Which brings me back to Triple H and the history of losing at Wrestlemania.

Great matches are made of up two things: A winner and a loser. But it is a precarious perch to be on; win too much and you put yourself out of the game, lose too much and you lose the support of the fans. That is why every match needs to be a good story and why every match needs to be the most important match of a  wrestler's career; because you can never tell for certain when you might get another one. The reason WCW fell apart was because nobody wanted to lose, everybody joined the NWO and there was no one left to put the NWO over. Any time they had a big competition, every time two giants met in a WCW ring, somehow there was never a clear winner or loser. They would pull out every angle they could to avoid a clear 1,2,3, victory. Nobody would put anyone else over and so young talent never got a chance to develop. Vince McMahon always had the brains to think ahead and Triple H is an even better creative director than Vince because Triple H understands better than Vince how to build a champion. Vince McMahon knows how to build superstars, but he doesn't know how to maintain them over time, at least not as well as Triple H.

Which brings us to Wrestlemania 31. Every match was exceptional and in every match, a story was told. Cena finally triumphed over Rusev, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar fought a hard match and a new Intercontinental Champion was crowned. In fact the only person who didn't shine at WM31 was Dean Ambrose, who took a bad slam through a ladder and left the six man IC title match. Nice to see Dean is back on track and fighting it out for the WWE World Championship.

Triple H holds the record for Wrestlemania losses. Big Show has never won a Wrestlemania match. Yet both men are titans of the sport, mainly because of the fact they aren't scared to take one for the team. When Triple H loses, its always in a grueling, physical competition where both men give all they have to conquer the other. Same applies to Big Show, when he is beaten it is to make his opponent look stronger, to give the other wrestler and edge and a future. If no one is willing to take a loss, then no one can win a victory. Every time Triple H lost, it was for the fans, every time any wrestler takes a loss it is for us, the viewer, the audience, the WWE universe.

Wrestlemania 31 was a grandiose spectacle that hit all the right notes and gave fans everything they asked for. The title match was one of the most entertaining matches I've ever seen and even though both Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar were forced to take a loss to Seth Rollins, they still gave it everything they had. That right there is what defines a champion. Roman's got time for another shot, so does Brock. This is Seth Rollins era and both men put him over, and continue to put him over, every week because that is the story that WWE thinks we'll enjoy the most. But here is something to think about:

What if the Triple H is setting himself and the Authority up for a loss at Payback? What if Seth Rollins has been lying this whole time and Payback sees the reformation of The Shield? If the Shield reforms and takes out Randy Orton, they will have every WWE superstar on the roster after that title. Now that would be one hell of a swerve, wouldn't it? It's been a long time since anyone screwed the people in charge, its been a long time since we saw a Stone Cold style rebellion, maybe Triple H is taking the ultimate fall to put over not one, but three superstars?

Can't wait to see what happens this Sunday at Payback.

Next week I'll be posting a Payback run-down with some thoughts on Extreme Rules and my thoughts on Daniel Bryan. Cheers!

(EDIT): I am currently pushing a social media campaign to have Daniel Bryan as the manager for the Bella Twins! Use the hashtag #maledivas and let the WWE know that even if he can't wrestle, he can still be a force in the WWE, helping his wife Brie Bella take out those damn Amazons!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

In an alternate timeline, Justin Bieber wrestled in a WWE main event

Last week, one of the strangest stories in wrestling came out on former WWE writer Kevin Eck’s website. It seems in 2014, work was done to possibly book Justin Beiber for the SummerSlam main event.

WWE's resident Beiber fan Ricardo Rodriguez was sadly not involved.

According to Eck, Bieber would come in as a wrestling wannabe and friend of John Cena. This would set up a three on three tag team match as Bieber would team with Cena and the Big Show. (Is there some requirement Show gets every celebrity crossover match?) Their foes would have been the Wyatt Family in an extension of the then feud between Cena and Wyatt.

Of course, any rational fan would guess this would instantly turn the Wyatts face as they take on the mixed reactions to Cena and what would almost certainly be absolute hate for Bieber. Eck’s solution follows the Steve Austin Formula: have Cena lay out the increasingly annoying Bieber post match.

Thankfully none of this ever came to fruition in our quantum dimension, but somewhere out there is a world where Bieber snuck a win at Wrestlemania 31 to become WWE champion. Definitely makes Roman Reigns look a lot better, doesn’t it?

For the full story, check out The Eck Factor.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Global Force Wrestling makes a stop in Eastern Iowa!

Global Force Wrestling listed several minor league ballpark house shows as part of their rollout this summer. One of those shows is coming to Clinton, Iowa, a small town of about 30,000 on the Iowa-Illinois border. It is a strange venue until you consider it is a healthy distance from the major Iowa cities and much of Illinois.

The ticket page rolled out on May 8 and it is a bit sparse on details for the show. It includes announcements for the Bullet Club and for Moose to be in action, but it also gives news of a new Global Force Wrestling signing...

Big Poppa Pump from earlier this year at a Canadian Wrestling Elite show.

Yes, Scott Steiner promises to be the old man of the GFW roster. But even at 52, he still has a certain insane charm. He may be a bit too old and jacked to ever be as good as he was twenty years ago, but he does bring some name power to the show.

The site promises an expanded announcement of the card in the future, but it should be interesting to see what kind of action the new promotion brings to Eastern Iowa.

SCW Revival preview

This Friday night I will be heading back to the Walcott Coliseum to take in my second SCW show. Revival only has a few matches set, but it looks like it has quite a good card lined up with the announced matches.

The main event features midwest sensation Shane Hollister challenge Nevin Knoxville for the SCW title. Shane never lost the title, instead stepping down due to injury and this will be his chance to rest it away from Nevin and the forces of Mark Storm’s Fallen Angel Army. Knoxville is a big, imposing guy and hopefully Shane will pull a better match than we got with Knoxville’s petty victory over Marek Brave last show.

Speaking of the Fallen Angel Army and Marek Brave, Brave’s own students turned their back on Marek in their debut to align with Storm. With the betrayal of his second five graduates, Brave now faces the challenge of his next step against Storm and the turncoats. His previous students Connor Braxton and Eli Machete, the SCW tag champs, seem likely allies, but have yet to be announced for the show on Friday. Could they make an appearance to help their teacher for a three on five battle at Revival? Or will Brave face down his five new foes alone?

Krotch and Bucky Collins appear to also still be at odds with Mark Storm’s legion, as they face down two of their opponents from last month: Tank Roberts and Johnny Wisdom. This one will not only continue the blood feud, but may also have implications for tag team contendership in the future.

In lower card action, Mallaki Matthews will take on J.J. Garrett. I do not know either star outside their showings at last month’s show, but they both looked good in their matches. It should be interesting to see them against each other on Friday.

Also, in opening action, the QC Cup will be defended by Bobby Dahl as he defends against Tyler Priegel. I haven’t seen enough of these two to make an opinion known on them, but I look forward to seeing where this one goes.

Latin Thunder will also be in action as will (I assume) Bodie Van Zandt and the rest of the second Black & Brave class. No word on other talents in action, but Matt Cage and Christian Rose both make regular appearances (though may be on another card on this packed weekend) and I personally hope that Harvey Bower will be in action after his impressive showing last month.

If you are in the Eastern Iowa or Western Illinois (or even southern Wisconsin) area, I highly recommend making the drive out to what promises to be a great show. With admission at only $8, it promises to be another great night filled with some excellent wrestling action!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tough Enough gets staffed

So WWE finally announced the wrestling staff that will work on the new season of Tough Enough. One exciting thing for me is that the judges and the trainers are separate as of this season, something they desperately needed to do since the beginning. Now the talented in-ring guys can do the training while stars of today and yesterday can serve as judges.

The new judges!

I know some folks groan when they see his name, but Chris Jericho really is the perfect guy to host any non-wrestling show from WWE. He has tons of charisma, knows how to keep the narrative moving live or recorded, and has a fanbase outside WWE television. His times at the top make him a strong judge, second only in legacy to Hulk Hogan.

Hulk Hogan as a reality judge show might give some folks flashbacks to this, albeit with less Brian Knobs or Brutus Beefcake. But while Hogan is out of touch with the modern wrestling audience, he does have tons of credibility with his charisma and his insanely natural ring presence. And thankfully the new format doesn’t force him to stand at the edge of the ring and act like he is actually training anyone. (Looking at you, Steve Austin.)

Daniel Bryan is probably the biggest fan favorite in WWE. But like Eddie Guerrero before him, the fandom’s absolute love for him makes him hard to carry a storyline these days. Coupled with his mounting injuries, it might be best for him to more regularly take non-wrestling roles in order to save himself for higher profile matches. Days off the road to work Tough Enough will only elongate his career.

Paige seems an odd choice personally for the final judge, as she is such a young competitor. But on the WWE roster, she also has close to the most experience thanks to her legacy as part of the Knight family. No offense meant to Trish from last season, but I think she also brings a greater understanding of the squared circle than the admittedly great Ms. Stratus.

Booker T is the sole returning trainer this season, although Billy Gunn is a superb back-up. Billy can still go in the ring and has all the skills to help hone a new champion. I am a bit worried about Lita being the third name in the trainers as she hasn’t wrestled in over half a decade, but what she might not have to share in ring can certainly be made up for in helping the young talents find a way to move forward as characters as well as wrestlers.

Overall, the new format complete with promised live segments and fan interaction creates a Tough Enough far more interesting than previous seasons. It will also avoid the blindspots of previous seasons (Matt Cross, anyone?) while opening up the Performance Center in new ways to fans.

Here’s hoping we get a great bunch of young superstars to make the show a true winner.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Seth Rollins gets some local press!

Here in Iowa, we pretty much have a single wrestler that ever made it to the big time. (Heck, we count Big E as one of our own because he warmed a bench for the University of Iowa football team for a couple years.) Of course, that person is the current undisputed WWE World Heavyweight Champion, the focal point of WWE television and an all-around wrestling superstar.

Image via Des Moines Register.

During his recent return to the Quad Cities for a Smackdown taping, the Des Moines Register followed him around for the day. The result was a feature piece that delves into the mindset of a man on the road 250 days of the year. I personally love this quote especially, on why he moved back to Davenport last year: “This is a place where I can go to completely disconnect from the character I play on TV, and I need that. Mentally, that is crucial for my health. You just can't be someone else all the time, you just have to be you sometimes.” It is rare to see a talent talking in that much detail about the ins and outs of the business and his career in it, at least not while they are still active on the roster.

He also gets into a bit about what it means to be a modern televised wrestler.

Overall, it is an exceptional read and a great look into a talent that truly deserves all the attention he currently is receiving. Read it here.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Global Force Wrestling gets a roster!

After over a year of nebulous promises and only a replay of a stupendous Japanese wrestling event to their credit, Global Force Wrestling has finally moved one step closer to becoming a real entity. On Wednesday, they finally announced the first ten names on their roster, as well as revealing Chael Sonnen will be their color commentator.

Now you can bounce all over the internet for opinions on how good the ten talents announced are, but I honestly think they have built a very solid start from the independent talents currently available to them for use. While it does rely heavily on the gaijin side of New Japan Pro Wrestling, GFW's healthy relation with New Japan should cause little trouble there.

Here is a few thoughts on the announcements:

Chris "The Adonis" Mordetzky and “Darewolf” PJ Black (formerly Justin Gabriel) are two solid former WWE stars that both have shown they were more than what WWE ever gave them. With very different styles in the ring, these two men could set the standard for the singles wrestling style of GFW.

Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows will represent the Bullet Club in GFW, but I am sure if Jarrett gets this way they would not be alone. A very solid heavyweight tag team, they have tons of upside, and can really be introduced to American audiences in a new way. Certainly having AJ Styles or the Young Bucks would help their credibility as a unit, but the Bullet Club could be a very dominant heel unit in the US soon as well.

Davey Boy Smith Jr and Lance Archer, a.k.a. The Killer Elite Squad, have their own NJPW pedigree, but they may actually have even more of an upside to Anderson and Gallows. The KES is already heating up the Texas area and with work in New Japan and NOAH right now, they might be awfully busy for too much GFW work, but they will bring a dominating style to Global Force.

Seiya Sanada is probably the least surprising announcement as the recently departed TNA star announced he would remain in the US with an unnamed promotion just a few days ago. But Sanada will now have the chance to show why he wowed fans last year in TNA before stupid gimmicks and some horrible time under James Storm derailed his run completely. Just the chance to see Sanada versus Black should sell at least one of the TV episodes on GFW's slate.

Moose was under contract to Ring of Honor, but that may not be the case as he moves to GFW. He is still green, but his style shows he has a great upside. He has the same mix of power and speed that made Uhaa Nation such a great signing for NXT, although he will need to work harder to get to Uhaa's level in the ring. All of that said, Moose could very well be a major force for GFW's growth the way AJ Styles was for TNA.

Thea Trinidad and Lei D'Tapa both have TNA pedigrees, but they were both critically underused there, so it is anyone’s guess what they can bring to the GFW roster. Hopefully, more announcements will bring a larger women's roster to GFW, as with a few choice signings they could easily change the shape of women's wrestling in the United States today.

Personally, I think these are a solid ten folks that will help brand GFW as a great mixture of underutilized talent and future superstars of wrestling. Now the question remains whether or not they will be able to show it on any major scale. While TV tapings have been announced, no television partner has been, so these could be ten great talents with nowhere to show their skills.

That being said, with Toby Keith helping fund GFW, they could have inroads in places new to the wrestling business. Could CMT be in the future for Global Force?

The Road to Wrestlemania

During the weeks leading up to Wrestlemania, a lot of opinions on the new generation of wrestlers changed. Every episode of Raw and Smackdown was excellent and they did a fantastic job revealing the Wrestlemania card. Sure, the IC title theft story was a bit silly, but at least you got to see a bit of the personality and skill set of the wrestlers involved. Except for R. Truth. He's the kind of guy you see once and never want to see again.

Watching Daniel Bryan and that beard drove me nuts at first, I couldn't stand watching that grimy beard flinging itself around the ring. But I found a two disc set of Ring of Honor matches featuring the best of Bryan Danielson, the real guy before he became a WWE star, as well as the documentary of his rise to Wrestlemania 30. The guy has a huge amount of in-ring talent, even better than Bret Hart in his prime. I am sort of glad I missed his rise, because now I can appreciate his talent, I didn't have to see Bryan get fired (was it twice?), I didn't have to see him lose over and over again at the beginning of his career. Bryan is an amazing talent and totally deserves the love he gets from the WWE universe. I'm even a fan of his wife, Brie Bella, and I hope the Bella twins hold onto the Divas title for a long time. Bryan is a lot like Macho Man; his moves aren't all that devastating but they are beautifully simple in their execution. I'd love to see a Bryan/Rusev match-up.

My opinion of Dolph Ziggler changed over the weeks as well. At first I thought he was Miami Vice character, a left-over Billy Gunn wannabe, but he proved himself to be a talented scrapper in every match he was involved in.

I just discovered today while researching for this blog post that Ziggler's a two-time world heavyweight champion. I'm surprised, because he really doesn't seem to be at that level yet. Being champion isn't about being the best, its about being able to create the best matches. Ziggler's not at the point where I can see him squaring off against the other top tier stars, not unless he can manage to channel the crowd the way Shawn Michaels used to, get them behind him. We'll see, I am sure he'll be around for a while.

Seth Rollins. Another darling of the underground wrestling scene. I don't know much about Rollins, which in this case is a good thing. Let me explain:

The more you know about wrestling, the less you can enjoy it. Let me explain:

As I watched old matches and read the rumors and blog posts, I realized that Seth Rollins is the guy they are grooming for the top spot. I know a lot of fans felt like the WWE was pushing Roman Reigns, but after watching Daniel Bryan's epic run and victory at Wrestlemania 30, I knew Roman's chances were slim to none. Wrestlemania 31 was not going to be the story of another underdog rising to the top; whether Brock Lesnar stayed or not, I knew that Seth was going to cash in that briefcase. So I've done everything I can to avoid seeing old Seth Rollins matches, I figured I'd see him enough in the coming months.

I really like Roman Reigns. I think he's a good looking guy with a lot of in-ring talent he's yet to harness. I'm glad to see the fans are coming around to him, but I couldn't help but feel bad for the guy. First, he had to deal with the crowd, then he has an ass-kicking at the hands of Lesnar to look forward to.

Paul Heyman, a guy I used to hate, has become one of the greatest pitch men in the business. His microphone work is a perfect match for Lesnar.


Basically during the weeks leading up to Wrestlemania I did my best to get caught up on what I'd missed. Here are some of the highlights, the stuff I am glad I never saw and I hope to never, ever see:

CM PUNK's career: Never liked this guy or anything he stood for. He always came across as a whiny, ungrateful, loser. I don't know how he ever became a champion, I sure as hell can't understand how he headlined a Wrestlemania. His absence from the sport gave better wrestlers a chance to shine and allowed a brighter, more positive attitude to come through. I've been saying this for over 25 years: Never trust a straight edge. The guy had 400+ days as champ, one of the longest runs I've seen in modern wrestling, he had everything given to him that the WWE had to offer and it still wasn't good enough. Well I hope the UFC pays him well for the beating he's going to take, because I believe that PUNK is just a punk and hasn't faced reality yet.

There was a point on Tough Enough where Bob Holly beats the hell out of Matt Cappotelli, where coach Bill DeMott tells Matt that every man has to swallow shit in his career in wrestling. I totally believe that, I believe that those horrible, shitty, matches that pop up every now and then are what a champion. Triple H would not be the man he is today without that "Pig Pen Match". CM Punk never understood this. He saw his rise to fame as something he earned himself, not something the fans gave him. Fans hated him in the WWE because he had no respect for the WWE or its history. I could go on about this guy for another page or two but I won't, I am just glad he is gone. The comic industry is full of toxic, arrogant, people. He'll fit right in there, take it from me, the comic industry deserves a guy like PUNK. It was always sour grapes with that guy, you know why he is gone forever and John Cena is still the man? Because he respected the sport, he respected the fans and he paid his dues. I am not a fan of Cena, but Cena works harder than CM PUNK ever did. The guy couldn't even be bothered to stand up while he dropped his "pipe bomb" crap on Raw.

I'm glad to have missed the Vickie Guerrero years. And Thedore Long. And John Laurinaitis. Just a bad, bad set of years. I feel like I've come into a party just as its starting again, with Wrestlemania 31. I do wish I'd seen Team Hell No in action though! I'm going to look into finding some of those matches today.

I believed in Roman Reigns. Hell, the man played Canadian football!

 It was just too late though, the tide was against the Samoan.

Stay tuned for the next blog post on the greatest event in sports entertainment, WRESTLEMANIA!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

VICE takes a look at the insanity of Chikara's disappearance

VICE Magazine recently profiled Sara Del Rey in a great article, but that isn't the first time the online institution looked at her involvement in wrestling.

Official movie poster for the lost season.

In September of last year, they did a profile on the Ashes of Chikara era of the promotion, where the company fell off the map due to the works of Condor Security and The Flood. It was a grand and odd storytelling element in a company known for the weird and woolly. Writer Tom Breihan captures it well.

Read the full article over at VICE.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

NJPW opens up... a bit

Sunday night as part of their Pro Wrestling Dontaku show, New Japan Pro Wrestling did something they have not done in over a decade. They let women into their ring.

It was a three on three tag team match as the current IWGP Tag Team Champions Matt Taven and Mike Bennett joined with Bennett's fiance Maria Kanellis to battle it out with the Bullet Club trio of Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows and Amber Gallows. The feud between the Kingdom and the Bullet Club has been burning for several weeks now, but this is the first time the significant others at ringside have come into play. And it is a shocking change for a company that has never been very female oriented.

To be fair to New Japan, few Japanese promotions integrate women's wrestling with men's wrestling. Tajiri's organizations SMASH and Wrestling New Classic are the only bodies to regular do so on their cards and both are now defunct. And while other promotions occasionally will add a women's match as a special attraction or throw a women on the card as an oddity, it is rare for them to be built into a storyline in the way Maria and Amber have been in New Japan.

Whether or not this is a softening of NJPW's segregated booking stance is still up in the air. I am not going to hold my breath to see Manami Toyota join CHAOS (though I can only imagine how awesome her and Shinsuke Nakamura would be as a team), but this is a great first step in the evolution of a brand crying out to go worldwide.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Eddie Kingston tries out for Tough Enough?

Brian Myers is probably most familiar to folks as one Curt Hawkins in WWE. He never really was given much time to shine in the big leagues though. Since going independent again, he has worked hard to make a name for himself again without WWE’s money behind him. Making Towns is his webseries focusing on his adventures on the indies and is almost certainly the best show shot from Brian Myers’ telephone available today.

The most recent episode features none other than Chikara’s first Grand Champion Eddie Kingston. And Myers might just be trying to get Eddie to put his hat into WWE’s relaunched series. Check it out.

Monday, May 4, 2015

FINALLY! The Raven Has Come Back to Wrestling!


Okay, I know you all are wondering why my first wrestling blog post is about a pay-per-view back in February. Well it's because I've come back to wrestling after a long time away and I thought you all might like to see it the way I saw it. After this post I'll move onto Wrestlemania, until we're caught up to date with the shows. Sound good?

In February, simply out of boredom and nostalgia, I decided to check out WWE FASTLANE, the first wrestling pay-per-view I'd seen since... I don't even know. It's been at least 10 years, perhaps even more than 15, since I'd last watched wrestling. Once I'd moved out of my parent's house, I no longer could afford expensive cable packages that included wrestling, which used to be on TSN on Monday nights. In Canada a basic cable package only gives you channel 2 to 30, you have to pay extra for channels 30 to 50. I really couldn't afford it and there really wasn't anywhere to watch it online in the days before YouTube and torrents. Most of my focus at the time was on learning the ins and outs of the comic business and so wrestling became another part of my childhood I left behind for adult things.

There were only two wrestlers on the card that I recognized: John Cena and Randy Orton. Both men had started their careers right when I'd stopped watching, but I'd seen enough of them over the years to know who the both were. It was interesting to see how the two wrestlers had evolved; John Cena was no longer a rapper, but more of a Hulk Hogan-esque All-American, whereas Orton had cemented his reputation as the viper, the eternal heel, the one you can never trust and must always keep an eye on.

Here's what I knew about wrestling before I watched Fastlane: Brock Lesnar had come back a few years earlier and was probably going to leave again. Sting was set to make his appearance at his first ever WWE event. I think it was Sting's appearance that piqued my curiosity. I was never a Sting fan, but I'd been a WCW fan for many years, up until Vince Russo made himself a character on the show. I respected Sting, I knew he had a lot of in-ring talent, even if his "Crow" gimmick was a little too 90s grunge for my taste. I kind of hoped he'd return to his old look for his big WWE return, but of course the Crow look sells more merchandise. Can't argue with the coolness of a big black bird.

I am calling this the "Authority Era", the first era of pro wrestling without Vince McMahon in charge, starting with Brock Lesnar's return to the WWE and the completion of the training center. I still played the video games so I knew most of the names on the roster. I knew that the company had gone public. They now had shareholders to answer to so I had low expectations, because I knew this was a very corporate company putting out a very specific product. I count the performance center as the beginning of a new era because it radically changes the landscape of professional wrestling. We're seeing those changes now with NXT and talent like Neville, who might never have been able to showcase his talents on the road shows.

The first thing that surprised me in the new Authority Era were the beards. Beards everywhere. Sandow, Lee Harper, Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan, Erick Rowan, Seth Rollins... I am sure there are more. I know there was a tradition of goatees in wrestling, but very few legends of the sport were bearded. I don't count Hollywood Hogan's black paint as a beard. These bearded guys weren't c-list goons or comic relief, they were top star contenders! I guess somebody at the WWE stopped enforcing the shaving rule (although ironically many of these guys seem to have NO body hair!) Other than the legendary Macho Man Randy Savage, I can't think of any bearded champions.

Feel free to post some in the comments section if you know of any.


Seth Rollins, Big Show and Kane vs Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and Erick Rowan. 

Obviously Ryback stands out, just the sheer size of the dude means you'll remember him. I didn't like Dolph Ziggler much, he reminded me of Billy Gunn. Big Show was the same guy I remembered, just with much less hair. It was strange to see Kane stripped of all the gimmicks, but I was impressed with his physique, he looked good considering how long he's been playing that character.

Goldust vs Stardust

Of all the matches on the card, this was the one I was most looking forward to. I'd always liked watching Goldust's antics in the ring and young Cody Rhodes had a great gimmick in the freaky Stardust. One of my favorite matches was Goldust VS Ahmed Johnson, in which Goldust sexually assaulted a big black dude so bad that the guy's reputation never recovered. I have no idea what happened to Ahmed.

What a big letdown this match was. It seemed like Stardust was barely getting started when the match was over. Goldust looked old and tired. This should have been a passing of the torch match, where the older Goldust helps put over his younger brother, but instead it was boring. A match with two guys in face paint should never be boring. There was no flash, the crowd was bored and the match failed to live up to expectations. Not surprised they dropped it soon after, although I am still waiting for Stardust to get his big push. Guys like him are needed to give the rising and falling stars someone to bounce off of. Guys like Goldust, or the Undertaker, or Bray Wyatt, are what I call "The Dues", the guys you have to beat to take that step from the b list to the big time. It took ten years for Undertaker to move up to a title bout, because he was so damn good as a "gatekeeper". This is the role Stardust needs to fill.


Cesaro/Kidd vs The Usos

Having just come back to wrestling, I really had no interest in this match. At least the Usos had a theme, but all I kept thinking was "both these guys look just like the Rock".

Nikki Bella vs Paige

Nice to see how the divas have evolved. No more hair-pulling and rolling around, these girls know how to wrestle! Paige looked like an albino out there, but once I learned she was English it made perfect sense. I like the Bella twins, both as a team as a singles wrestlers.

Sting Appears

Well his appearance wasn't worth the price of admission, but I guess if you are going to announce a once in a lifetime match for Wrestlemania, the pay-per-view is the place to do it. Sting looking old made me feel old.

Bad News Barrett vs Dean Ambrose

Okay,  I know NOW that Ambrose is a fan favorite, but at the time I thought someone let the road crew wrestle. He reminded me of all those greasy WCW wrestlers from Raven's Flock in the 90's. Decent enough match, no complaints, but since I didn't know either wrestler I wasn't really cheering for either of them. Nice to see an English wrestler who wasn't a "regal". You can never have too many tough guys from the UK.

So the Undertaker is coming back. Didn't realize he left. I knew Brock broke the streak, but I didn't know Brock broke the Undertaker too. Bray Wyatt didn't impress me here, it was a classic bait-and-switch, the kind that drives fans nuts. As my wife said when we watched it together the second time: "Why wheel the guy down to the ring if he isn't going to wrestle? He could have talked from the stage and the audience behind the coffin lid could see him."

Rusev vs John Cena

This was as classic, old-school wrestling match, with John Cena as the All-American and Rusev as the latest in a long line of hated European heels. John Cena's face was showing some mileage, but who isn't? Unlike those big mean Soviet machines of the bygone era, Rusev is surprisingly agile and rounded as a wrestler. I was expecting some kind of slow mean thug, not a in-ring specialist that reminded me of the Iron Sheik. It was a perfectly executed match with a surprise ending I didn't see coming. I'd love to see Rusev tackle some other opponents; Bray Wyatt or Stardust for example, maybe I missed them as Rusev rose to the top?

Roman Reigns vs Daniel Bryan

Thanks to other wrestling fans, mainly Nick's posts, I've kept up to day on some of the wrestling news of the last 15 years. I knew Roman was the new golden boy and fans hated it, and that Daniel Bryan was the fan favorite. It was an impressive match but neither competitor dominated.A wrestling match is like watching two surfers, as the big waves come in they take turns riding it and when two veteran wrestlers have a match, and they hit the waves, you get a legendary match. What Daniel Bryan and Roman are missing is the ability to ride the waves, to generate the pops as they switch roles. Both men have tremendous in-ring talent, but they need to learn how to re-up when the momentum changes; its not just about switching moves, but riding the crest of the way all the way into the beach. I was glad to see Roman win because at the time I couldn't honestly see Bryan facing a man like Lesnar. Mainly because I'd never seen Wrestlemania 30.

Overall I had a nice experience watching the pay-per-view. The next day I asked my wife is she wanted to watch Raw and I discovered that she used to be a wrestling fan, so now we watch it together. I ended up watching Fast Lane again just before Extreme Rules so she could see it, so now we've got the whole family involved!


There was a lot more real contact, you can see the MMA influence in a lot of moves and holds now.

A lot less sexuality. I think this is for the better. I hated the ham-fisted way they used to use sex.

Very few gimmicks. It seemed everybody was just trying to be exaggerated versions of themselves, but other than the Rhodes brothers, there were no dentists, rabbits or roosters.

It was a nice welcome back and a nice warm up to Wrestlemania. Unfortunately like many things these days, I have to avoid the internet because people spoil shit with their rumors and complaints. I downloaded Daniel Bryan's Ring of Honor work a week or two after watching it as well as the Road To Wrestlemania documentary he did. Bryan still needs some work in-ring, but his skills are the best I've ever seen since Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect.

Come back in a week or so for the next post, where I share my first Wrestlemania experience since... well somewhere around Wrestlemania 18.