Sunday Sermon: Considering each promotion at its peak which did you prefer; WWE, WCW or ECW?

Jamie Lithgow & Craig Wilson

Jamie: Firstly, let’s agree when each company hit its peak. For WCW it is without doubt the nWo era, WWE’s has to be the Attitude era while ECW was probably at its best from 1995 to 1998.

The only ‘era’ that I experienced at the time was the second half of the Attitude era, and primarily being a WWE fan I naturally lean this way. However, this doesn’t necessarily make it better. I feel torn between two, so firstly let’s eliminate the third wheel. Sadly first to go is the company that actually provided the highest highs; ECW. Like most wrestling fans I went through an ECW phase and even then I rarely managed to sit through an entire show. When they were good they were great, but when they weren’t great it made it all too difficult to block out the low budget, second rate feeling.

So it’s between WWE and WCW, and to be honest I think WCW’s nWo era trumps the Attitude era. The Attitude era gets all the credit for making wrestling cool and less like a cartoon show, but frankly it just carried on from the nWo era. WCW grew up when the nWo was formed. All of a sudden the absurd characters from The Dungeon of Doom were replaced by the likes of Scot Hall making statements like “you know who we are, but you don’t know why we’re here”. Fans weren’t being led by the hand anymore, the nWo made WCW more mature. In the ring the action was still good too. For most of its existence it is generally accepted that WCW put on a better wrestling show than WWE. The big angle may have been the nWo, but the under card was ram packed with fantastic wrestlers and matches. Compare this to most of the Attitude era and there’s no doubt where the better matches took place. Yes, WWE was pushing the limits in terms of content but in the ring the wrestling was generally poor, until 2000 when WWE exploded and the match quality went through the roof. However for me the nWo era just pips the attitude era, I simply find re-watching shows from this era more interesting due to the match quality.

Craig: For me, in order: WWE, WCW and ECW. Don’t get me wrong, I see what ECW to change the landscape of wrestling – and I’d argue that attitude era was more influenced by what was going on there than a reaction to WCW etc – but I just couldn’t get into the promotion at all.

I always thought it was just needless violence in most cases to disguise the fact that the guys themselves either weren’t all that good or not over – sometimes both. The odd bump or chairshot etc helps get something over at times but it was all a bit too much.

As for the WCW, it was always second for me. I watched WWF a lot as a kid and a wee bit of WCW as well but always preferred the WWF product – looking back, based on re-watching WCW now, the wrestling in WCW is much much better and more innovative but it was the cartoon characters that attracted me to the WWF at the time.

Mostly through your prompting, Jamie, I’ve been watching a lot more latter WCW and some of it is great. The NWO stuff, like you say, is revolutionary but it’s still the WWF for me.

Jamie: Don’t get me wrong, having been brought up on WWE I do have a certain allegiance to the Attitude era. However it would be unfair of me to judge this era having witnessed much of it as a kid while judging WCW’s nWo era in hindsight. Had these two eras happened simultaneously when I was younger I think I probably would have still opted for WWE’s shock tactics, although it’s a tough call. However in hindsight both eras do battle for my attention when I want to watch some old school wrestling and I can confidently say that WCW’s nWo era sees more action than WWE’s Attitude era. There was a time when I could put this down to simply being less familiar with WCW but I’m fairly up to speed these days. I simply find WCW’s peak period more enduring and interesting to watch.

Craig: One negative about attitude era is how difficult it is to go back and watch the matches now as in most cases you really need to have seen the storyline develop as the matches themselves often make no sense.

Re-watching NWO though is great though. Really innovative and wish id seen it live at the time.

We didn’t really get much chance to see all that much ECW though. Think we only got the one hour shows on Bravo. Did anyone show their ppvs in the UK or did we have to rely on getting the videos when they came out?

Jamie:  Before the days of YouTube and torrent files my ECW fix came from Bravo showing Hardcore TV and buying videos from Amazon. WCW wasn’t much better, but at least we got Nitro on TNT on a Friday night. Much as I loved certain aspects of ECW it was more or less just a phase for me, as it was in the wrestling industry as a whole to be honest. It was of it’s time, but when I want to watch an old school wrestling show I never really give ECW much thought. I feel like I’ve been there and done it and I don’t need to do it again. With WCW and WWE I have no such problem re-watching matches and shows, they just seem to offer me that little bit more these days.

From Extraordinary to just Ordinary: The History of Hell in a Cell

James Giles

During the Sunday Sermon, I mentioned how one of my bug bears was WWE’s diluting of several of it most effective gimmick matches. None of these has been reduced of its excitement and significance worse than Hell in a Cell; formally the only place that the most personal and enduring feuds could be settled in suitably brutal fashion, it now exists solely because there is a PPV named after it. This primarily happened because since 2004, buy-rates for WWE B-level PPVs have been slowly dwindling and WWE sought a quick fix for the problem. The reason for this was WWE’s inability to create enough marketable stars, and to write enough compelling material for them, to fill 13 or 14 PPVs a year. WWE instead believed it was the format of the shows which had grown tired, and since 2004 has tried all manner of gimmicks to make them apparently more appealing. They have done a submission centric show (Breaking Point), ‘interactive’ events (Cyber Sunday) and mid-week PPV’s (Taboo Tuesday), to varying success, some grossing only the same or less than their regular format predecessors.

Most of those formats no longer exist (although WWE has built on the interactive theme in other ways), but one has endured is the gimmick PPV. On WWE’s current annual super-show roster there is Hell in a Cell, TLC, Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank PPV’s, all centred on different match styles popularised during the 1998-2004 period. Arguably Elimination Chamber and MITB are the successful examples; they only feature two of the matches on shows, and the do serve a purpose, with MITB winners gaining a free title shot, and Elimination Chamber winners getting a Wrestlemania shot or an actual World Title itself. The two bouts on each show and routine nature of the PPV calendar has no doubt watered their appeal still, but at least the have storyline purpose. TLC is a younger gimmick than HIAC, and before its self-named show was mainly used in Tag bouts. Now it is being used in one-on-one and triple threat encounters, and the fact there is more scope of usable short-cuts, means that it still has mileage and appeal. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Hell in a Cell; putting people in there just because it is next on the PPV list, rather than to end a long withstanding grudge, makes it seem like any other stipulation and not something special. The ban on the blade has also stripped it of its most effective shortcut and heat builder. It didn’t always use to be like this though….

WWE first created Hell in a Cell to be the climax of Undertakers feud with Shawn Michaels in 1997, which had started at Summerslam that year when HBK cost Undertaker his WWF Championship bout with Bret Hart. Allegedly conceived by Jim Cornette as a combination of a Memphis cage which surrounded the ring, and JCP/WCW War Games roofed cage, it was (storyline) designed to keep out any kind of interference. During the bout at Bad Blood Oct 1997, Taker and Michaels laid the groundwork for all future Cell matches; brutal brawling, convincing selling and logical back-and-forth storytelling, a gruesome blade job and a shocking fall from the roof (Michaels seems to rarely get credit for taking such dangerous bump). Maybe most notable here though was the incredible chemistry between Taker and HBK, their perfect timing adding considerably to the drama. The end came, as foreshadowed by the set-up, from interference from the debuting Kane, who tore off the cell door and flattened Undertaker with a Tombstone as fans looked on a gape, allowing the virtually spent Michaels to take the pin. A stone-cold classic from its era, awarded a rare 5 Stars by Dave Meltzer in Wrestling Observer, and still widely thought of as the best Hell in a Cell ever.

Many wresters over the years made impressive efforts to live up to legacy of this match, most notable among them probably Mick Foley. So intimidated by the reputation of the original was Foley, that during his HIAC with Taker at KOTR 1998 he went to insane lengths to put on something equally memorable. And boy, did Foley achieve that, their clash being the most famous match of the Attitude Era and creating moments that would be included in basically every WWE clip-reel ever. It came at a price though; Mick’s reckless bumps off the roof and then through it, caused him a catalogue of injuries (broke several ribs, was badly concussed, dislocated his shoulder, lost a tooth etc), and he was knocked so dopey that he was barely able to put together the rest of the match. Despite it status as a classic amongst many fans, it is very unsettling to watch now knowing how badly hurt he was and after the two bumps, the rest of bout is pretty flat. For me personally, Mick’s efforts as Cactus Jack Vs HHH from No Way Out 2000 are much more rewarding; the match is longer and better worked, and the first time viewed, filled with emotion as many believed Foley would actually, you know, retire when he lost. The bump through the roof is better set-up, with the gimmick foam part of the ring (mercifully) absorbing the impact, and Foleys subsequent kick-out is heart-stopping. It is for these two bouts that he is as closely associated with HIAC as The Undertaker and HHH, who are the most frequent competitors in it.

It isn’t just Foley who has made an impact with HIAC and many other have contested excellent matches in there; Undertaker lost to Brock Lesnar in an utterly blood-drenched and hard-hitting war at No Mercy 2002, HHH defeated HBK in a near-50 minute epic entry to their brilliant series at Bad Blood 2004 and also defeated Chris Jericho in a forgotten gem from Judgement Day 2002. Also Kurt Angle defeated The Undertaker, The Rock, Stone Cold, HHH and Rikishi (who bumped from the roof to a lorry in a slightly weird spot) in the first and only 6 man HIAC at Armageddon 2000, which is an immensely action-packed and exciting match, which was built up wonderfully through some great vignettes. Of course, it wasn’t all great pre-PG era; not even HHH could get much out of Kevin Nash in their bland battle from Bad Blood 2003, DX Vs Vince, Shane and Show from Unforgiven was pure farce and the less said about Takers clash with Big Boss Man from Wrestlemania XV, the better. But for the most part, Hell in a Cell meant no-holds-barred, violent action, and a definitive end to whomever the feud was between.

The rot has begun to set in during the PG era, from 2008 onwards, but specifically with the debut of the Hell in a Cell PPV in 2009. Unbelievably featuring three Cell matches on the show, only one of which (Cena Vs Orton) had the necessary history and intensity of emotion between the combatants. Worse though was the Undertaker Vs CM Punk Cell bout opening the show; which is tantamount to opening the Royal Rumble PPV with the frickin’ Royal Rumble match. The match itself was middling, with Undertaker largely squashing up-and-comer Punk. Things didn’t improve the next year at HIAC 2010; the Orton Vs Sheamus bout was throwaway but still better than the embarrassing effort between Kane and The Undertaker, which really should have happened many years earlier to have any chance of being decent. Sadly, it was just another entry in their series, which was marked by memorable promos but abysmal matches. In 2011, Orton was lumbered with another lemon, this time in the shape of Mark Henry, and there wasn’t much he could do given the circumstances. The triple threat main-event made for an interesting change in dynamic, but it was overshadowed by the post-match angle. Allowing the post match to be more important than the actual bout would never have happened pre-2008, but that is illustrative of WWE habit of trying to ride on its previous successes without truly realising what made them successful in the first place.

If I’m being completely fair, not every HIAC of the PG era has been a disappointment; Undertaker Vs Edge cleverly worked around the no-blood rule and still managed to be exciting and engaging, and Undertaker Vs HHH from Wrestlemania XXVIII is the only thing close to a classic that WWE has put on this year. It was a genuine masterpiece, relying on storytelling and selling, and all manner of inventive short-cuts, to which I was glued to from start to finish, my disbelief suitably suspended (something which is very rare for me these days). But that featured two legendary superstars whose careers are as good as over (save maybe a few more amazing WM moments) and who will unlikely ever participate in the Cell ever again. If it had been up to me, I would have called that Hell in a Cell’s swansong, and retired the gimmick for good afterwards.

Sadly, I feel that as long as WWE goes on promoting a Hell in a Cell PPV, especially without the short-cuts and superstars with the skill to make the most out of it, the once infamous gimmick will lose all lustre; the PPV numbers continue to fall year in year out, and that may cause WWE to retire the gimmick altogether. Should that happen, then a whole generation of wrestling fans may never get to know what an extraordinary gimmick Hell in a Cell could be when used well.

To Be The Man, You Gotta Beat The Man – WWE win/loss records

Jamie Lithgow

Following on from our Sunday Sermon it’s safe to say that we’ve been waiting a while for Dolph Ziggler to shatter the glass ceiling and become a bona fide main eventer in WWE, but alas that day has yet to come. On the surface he appears to have everything; the look, the ring work, the charisma and even the will from the fans to succeed. He is even the current Mr Money in the Bank and we hear stories about him being held in high regard by WWE officials. So it just doesn’t make sense that he is still a whipping boy for the main event crew. That is until you remind yourself that running parallel with the PG era is the era of nonsensical booking.

We know that Dolph gets jobbed out left right and centre, primarily because he does such a good job of making his babyface opponents look good. However, I’ve had a look through his results from this year to see just what the damage is. So far in 2012 Dolph Ziggler has competed in 9 PPV matches, he’s won 2 and lost 7. That is a shocking record for someone who WWE are planning on putting the World Title on sometime in the next year.

That is a poor record but on looking for Dolph’s stats I also found the same stats for every other WWE superstar who has appeared on PPV this year, and it makes interesting reading. Like a lot of other websites we at RTDB often criticize WWE for being boring and predictable. I get particularly frustrated by the way babyfaces are protected in order to maintain a marketable image, thus making booking options extremely limited. Let’s look at the records of these babyfaces –

Sheamus 8-0. The big man from Dublin never loses, making his matches rather predictable.

CM Punk 8-0-1. As a babyface he was 8-0 but as soon as he turns heel he starts to look vulnerable with his NOC draw.

Randy Orton 2-1. Nothing dramatic here, I’m just surprised at how little he’s wrestled.

John Cena 4-3-2. For once Cena is not the main offender, although there are some dodgy booking decisions within this record.

Ryback 4-0. Another babyface without a loss.

Brodus Clay 3-0. He’s not a major player but is a prime example of a performer being protected for reasons other than for the good of the show.

Now to the records of the company’s top heels –

Alberto Del Rio 0-4. Yes, Alberto del Rio, one of WWE’s top heel wrestlers has the worst PPV record in the company. Even Zack Ryder holds a better record, he’s only lost twice!

Brock Lesnar 1-1. This should be 2-0. He’s the special occasion, special attraction monster heel…….. who couldn’t beat John Cena.

Dolph Ziggler 2-7. “ To be the man you’ve got to beat the man”. What a shame poor Dolph isn’t allowed to beat anyone. Even his old mate Jack Swagger holds a better record; believe it or not he’s 2-1.

Big Show 1-6. His win came at Wrestlemania, when he was a babyface!

Chris Jericho 1-4. His win came at Summerslam, when he was a babyface!!

Cody Rhodes 1-6. He may be a mid-carder but it’s still worth noting the woeful record of someone who could and perhaps should be at the top of the card.

Daniel Bryan 4-5. WWE’s most entertaining performer also has the closest record. Bryan’s record is one of the few positives. He is WWE’s most entertaining character and it’s hard to predict if he will win or lose in his matches, coincidence?

These records really highlight where WWE is going wrong. It’s hard to see where a company making as much money as WWE is failing, but in terms of producing a compelling wrestling product there is no doubt, WWE are doing the wrong thing.

WWE is just not competitive. Vince McMahon can dress his shows up as entertainment as much as he wants but at the core of this entertainment is a contest. If the audience can easily predict the outcome of this contest then what’s the point of having it?

To highlight my point let’s have a look at the win/loss records of the top players from WWE’s most entertaining year, 2000 –

Triple H 7-5-1
Undertaker 3-3-1
The Rock 8-6
Steve Austin 0-2-2
Kane 4-5-1
Kurt Angle 9-8
Chris Benoit 6-8
Chris Jericho 5-11

Granted these figures are from the full 12 month period, but look how evenly spread the wins and losses are. That was part of the beauty of WWE in 2000; you couldn’t predict the outcome of the matches to anything like the accuracy of today. One other thing from looking at these stats is the amount of genuine main event talent on the books. This is without even adding in the likes of Edge, Christian, Eddie Guerrero, Bradshaw and Jeff Hardy who would eventually compete in main events. With this lies the WWE’s problem, they have a pathetically thin roster. Yes, they have the numbers but they don’t have the stars, which makes the continued negative booking of Dolph Ziggler so perplexing.

The year 2000 is widely accepted as WWE’s best year in almost every respect, so why not try to copy it wherever possible? Ok, they don’t have the star power, but whose fault is that? Dolph’s? This guy is doing all the right things, but in the current WWE model he will never succeed. He may win the title but he won’t become a genuine main eventer. He should be beating the likes of Orton because being a genuine main event performer means beating other main event performers.

Maybe we’ve got it wrong and Dolph isn’t next in line to the throne, so who is? WWE hasn’t replaced Edge, but before that they still need to fill Batista and HBK’s spots too. Beggers can’t be choosers, WWE needs to build some stars. It needs to bite the bullet and start sharing out the wins and losses because the ‘heels always lose’ approach isn’t entertaining anyone.

Smoky Mountain Wrestling 26 September 1992

Craig Wilson

As I continue to get more and more nostalgic about old school wrestling, I thought I’d check out some Smoky Mountain Wrestling shows especially when I noted one was held twenty years ago today. So here we go:

Smoky Mountain Wrestling House 26 September 2012

That week’s show was from Pikeville College Gym, Pikeville,Kentucky and your hosts were Bob Caudle and Dutch Mantell. Bob informs us we get to the Rock and Roll Express and Killer Kyle in action while hearing from Jim Cornette, the Heavenly Bodies and Mr. Ron Wright and also there’s more news on the man with a bounty for Brian Lee. In the main event, a $10,000 bounty match, Paul Orndorff will lock horns with Brian Lee.

Match 1: Robbie Eagle and Matt Samson v the Rock n Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson)

Eagle and Samson get the jobber entrance and are already in the ring. Rock and Roll Express get a huge pop from the crowd as you’d expect. Morton and Samson start things off but as you’d expect with Express, it’s regular quick tags. A highly rated tag team but it’s fair to say that Morton is the better in-ring performer.

The crowd are totally into this one, presumably because it’s really all Rock n Roll Express with the jobbers get very little offence. The Rock n Roll Express win this one on the four minute mark with a double drop-kick.

Typical tag team squash match but the crowd lapped it up. We cut backstage to an interview with the team as they talk about getting another SMW Tag Title shot.

We then get a strange promo for SMW informing viewers that if they want to raise some money for their community etc they should contact SMW about getting them to perform in their local town.

Back to Bob Caudle interviewing SMW Commissioner Bob Armstrong as we see ‘Prime Time’ Brian Lee being attacked by the Stalker. Brian Lee bears more than a passing resemblance to Crush at this point. The stalker in question was the Mongolian Mauler.

We then get an interview with the SMW Champion Dirty White Boy. He’s better known to wrestling fans worldwide from his stint in the WWF from 1996-1997 where he initially played TL Hooper, a wrestling plumber, and was involved in the free for all skit ahead of the 1996 Summerslam. After a brief hiatus he returned as Uncle Cletus to manage the Godwinns.

Match 2: Newton Steffey v Killer Kyle (w/ Jim Cornette)

Kyle’s gimmick is that he was Cornette’s bodyguard. Steffey makes a reasonably positive start but is taken out by a big boot and nearly gets an early win with a big leg drop but pulls Steffey’s shoulders off the mat.

Another squash match. Killer Kyle is awful here, really slow and lumbering offence. He wins on the four minute mark with a reverse bear hug type move. Rubbish match.

Backstage interview with the SMW Tag team Champions the Heavenly Bodies (‘Sweet’ Stan Lane & Bruce Pritchard).

After the commercial break we’re back with ‘Down with Dutch’ with Dutch interviewing the Stud Stable of Robert Fuller and Jimmy Golden. Fuller would later go on to achieve fame as Col. Robert Parker in WCW while Golden was Bunkhouse Buck in WCW and played Jack Swagger’s Dad in WWE more recently.

After another commercial break, Bob Caudle is interviewing Ron Wright the manager of the Dirty White Boy which is interrupted by ‘White Lightning’ Tim Horner. Horner had wrestled Dirty White Boy the week before and Dirty White Boy attacks Horner with a chair. Horner is then handcuffed and hung by a noose from the turnbuckle until the Rock n Roll Express make the save.

We get a backstage from Ronnie Garvin who rants against Paul Orndorfff for a while.

Main event: Brian Lee v Paul Orndorff

Orndorff of course had runs with WWF and WCW while Lee was the fake Undertaker in 1994 and returned in 1997 as Chainz, part of the Disciples of Apocalypse and is known from his time in ECW as well.

A fairly predictable main event with the crowd firmly behind Brian Lee with Orndorff getting hit with chants of “Paula, Paula”. Match ends when the referee calls for the DQ as Orndorff tries to piledrive Lee onto the ring bell, a move that Lee reverses and misses Orndorff with the bell post-match.

Even for someone that enjoys the olden days of wrestling, this seems really dated especially when you consider it was from 1992. SMW is famous for its old school approach – a clear belief that the good guys are good and the bad guys are beyond evil. It’s a niche market alright – especially when you consider where other promotions were and going – and it’s not that much of a surprise that it didn’t catch on to any great degree.

I’m going to stick with it for a few weeks at least. It’s cool seeing the Rock n Roll Express as well as some former WWF stars in action and future stars.

A trip down memory lane certainly and a reasonably interesting one too.

Random Wrestling Reviews: WWF at MSG 21 September 1990

Craig Wilson

So I randomly came across an old WWF tape of a show at Madison so I thought I’d give it a little review comparing what it was then to what it was now. So here goes…

The tape quality isn’t great at the start and as things clear up Dustin Rhodes is making his way into the ring. This show lasts almost two and a half hours so this should be fun.

WWF at Madison Square Garden (22 September 1990)

Your hosts are Bobby ‘the Brain’ Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon.

Match 1: Dustin Rhodes v Paul Diamond

To many wrestling fans Diamond is best known as half of Badd Company with Pat Tanaka but is probably best known to WWF fans as one half of the Orient Express, again with Pat Tanaka, with Diamond playing the masked Kato. Once that fizzled out he briefly competed, again under a mask, as Max Moon. Dustin Rhodes, who is making his MSG debut here, is of course the son of WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes and would make more of a name for himself later in his career as Goldust.

It’s worth noting here that Diamond has great hair – looks like the long hair on a wrestling figure and barely moves throughout the match. Incredible use of product, I can only imagine.

Gorilla really hypes Rhodes on commentary whilst at the same time Heenan questions if Dustin is really Dusty’s son which leads to various Big Bossman jibes. It is all pretty standard stuff but all very amusing nonetheless.

Pretty standard lower card match here with a lot of rest holds and it never really got going. Rhodes wins in the end with a flying clothesline and an elbow drop.

We then get a chat with Lord Alfred Hayes who has just spoken to The Ultimate Warrior and the Legion of Doom who take on the 3 member Demolition in the main event. Hayes tells the viewers what Warrior said in the promo, which is probably not a bad idea considering how incoherent the Warrior was on the mic.

Match 2: Nikolai Volkoff v Sgt Slaughter

This isn’t long after Slaughter returned to the WWF and turned into an Iraqi sympathiser. His entrance is unsurprisingly greeted with jeers from the crowd. We get the pretty standard Slaughter promo calling the crowd “maggots” and “pukes”. It does draw cheap heat, though.

Volkoff is a face by this time and makes his way to the ring with the stars and stripes. He recently “defected” and would captain The Alliance (Volkoff, Santana and the Bushwhakers) against The Mercenaries (Sgt. Slaughter, Boris Zhukov and The Orient Express). After that match Volkoff would disappear before a return for the 1992 Royal Rumble then a full time return in 1994 as part of The Million Dollar Corporation.

I’m not expecting too many hurricanranas and drop toe holds here – this will be too big guys battling it out. It starts pretty slowly with Slaughter going through the full repertoire of heel antics. We get the “irresistible force meeting the immovable object” line from Gorilla which is pretty standard in matches featuring big men.
Pretty poor match up that Slaughter wins on the 8 minute mark with a Camel Clutch. It’s blindingly obvious that both men were past their peak by this point yet less than four months later Slaughter is WWF Champion.

We then get a promo for seeing the WWF live with a Vince voiceover over The Ultimate Warrior’s music.

Match 3: Tito Santana v The Barbarian (w/ Bobby Heenan)

Heenan subs out of commentary here and is replaced by Lord Alfred Hayes. The Barbarian is in the ring in full gear. Santana has no entrance music and is still sporting the white ‘Strike Force’ pants and a red t-shirt which he’d wear until he became El Matador.

Hayes says on commentary that a win for Santana will put him in contention for any of the WWF titles. I always like The Barbarian as I thought his offensive moves always looked brutal. I suspect Santana will end the evening looking up to the ceiling.

Santana makes a quick start with some high flying offence. He clearly heard Monsoon say that he couldn’t match power with his opponent. I love Monsoon on commentary but you really can play ‘Monsoon Bingo’ when he’s behind the mic and it isn’t long before he’s expressing his delight at having retired.

The Barbarian wins this on the eight minute mark when The Barbarian rolls through a crossbody attempt from Tito for the three count.

This was a reasonably poor effort as well. Started OK but the crowd lost interest during the really lengthy bearhug from The Barbarian in the middle.

Match 4: Paul Roma (w/ Hercules) v Marty Jannetty

A coin toss from the match official determined which member of Power & Glory (Hercules and Paul Roma) faced Marty Jannetty. Paul Roma won the coin toss.

Despite a positive start, and a cracking finishing move, Power & Glory didn’t achieve much and were glorified jobbers within months – see their quick squash defeat to the Legion of Doom at Wrestlemania 7. Roma would go on to become a member, albeit fleetingly, of the Four Horsemen.

This was during the spell that Michaels was out with an injury hence the bizarre stipulation as opposed to it being a tag team match.

Roma won on the 14 minute mark when Hercules swept Jannetty’s feet from under him as the Rocker attempted to slam Roma and Hercules held his leg down during the pin.

Bit better this time around and the higher paced action least got the crowd off their seats and making some noise. The end protects both teams as well.

We then get a strange advert for the WWF Warehouse Sale. Wonder what that was all about. Selling old merch etct I guess.

We return from adverts to Sean Mooney backstage who hypes the next MSG event which features a quadruple main event: Tugboat v Dino Bravo, Dusty Rhodes v Million Dollar Man, the tag team champions The Hart Foundation v Rhythm and Blues and Mr. Perfect against the Intercontinental Champion The Texas Torndado.

More adverts and we’re back to some of the participants of the next MSG event further hyping the event.

Match 5: Ronnie Garvin v Bob Bradley

Garvin hadn’t been seen on PPV since his Royal Rumble match at the start of the year, and would be gone before the turn of the year. Bob Bradley was trained by Jimmy Snuka but never amounted to much more than enhancement while with the WWF although did briefly appear under the fairly woeful Battle Kat gimmick. He was still being used as enhancement talent by the WWF in 1998 as well.

An utterly rubbish match that lasted over 12 minutes with Garvin getting the win with a roll-up.

We then get a promo for the Survivor Series which is described as “eggciting” which is, of course, a reference to the Gobbledy Gooker.

Match 6: Ravishing Rick Rude (w/ Bobby Heenan) v Hacksaw Jim Duggan

Lord Alred Hayes back on commentary again. This was Rude’s last MSG appearance for 7 years as he left in October of this year, ahead of a planned feud with the Big Boss Man. Duggan has music by this stage, albeit quite generic music. The crowd are totally into Duggan at this point and Lord Alfred Hayes described him as the most charismatic wrestler in the WWF at this point. Blimey…

No wonder Rude left, from being Intercontinental Champion and battling the Warrior for the WWF Title to fighting this idiot at MSG. To make matters worse, Duggan wins this one by DQ on the nine minute mark when Rude pushes the referee to the ground.

Cut to Mooney again who is still promoting the next MSG show.

Before we get the main event, Heenan interrupts Howard Finkel announcing with an important message where Heenan deals with the fact that the Big Boss Man is unhappy with what Heenan’s being saying about the Bossman’s Mum. This is all setting up the feud with Rick Rude that never happened. For no apparent reason Duggan chases Heenan out of the ring and to the back.

Main event: WWF Champion the Ultimate Warrior and the Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) v Demolition (Ax, Smash and Crush).

No Mr. Fuji with Demolition as they hit the ring. Regular readers will know just how much of a fan I am of Demolition. The Legion of Doom are then introduced to a huge ovation which I expect will be eclipsed by that of the WWF Champion.

Hawk and Crush start but the place erupts when the Warrior gets the tag in. It’s only when looking back now that I see just how old Ax looked back then and to think he competed in ROH with Smash the other week.

The good guys win this one when the Ultimate Warrior pinned Smash at around 13 minutes after his trademark shoulderblock/big splash combination for the three count.

Conclusion: Pretty standard house show fare here only really lifted by the chemistry between Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan on commentary. It certainly seems the next MSG show that they hyped throughout this event had the better card.

That said, couple of interesting things here: Dustin Rhodes MSG debut and Rude’s last appearance at the venue for 7 years for starters. Tag team wrestling fans will always enjoy the match pitting Demolition against LOD and the Ultimate Warrior. The rest, however, is largely forgettable.

Revisiting Halloween Havoc 1995

Jamie Lithgow

(Image courtesy of

(Image courtesy of

Recently we’ve revisited WCW’s Fall Brawl PPV and taken a look back at the Wargames match. As we head towards October I feel it only right to look at another WCW tradition which yielded many a gimmick match itself; Halloween Havoc.

I loved Halloween Havoc. Having a Halloween inspired show in the outrageous world of professional wrestling makes perfect sense to me. I’ve always wondered why WWE chose not to revive the concept. It may not be Vince’s own idea but that didn’t stop him using The Great American Bash name did it? Anyway, the event in question for this post is the 1995 instalment. To set the scene I should inform you that in 1995 we are still very much in the cartoon era of wrestling. The nWo is many months away and the main feud within WCW is Hulk Hogan’s battles with The Dungeon of Doom. This was a stable led by The Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan, under the tutelage of The Master. It comprised many weird and wonderful members over the course of its existence, most of which were actually ex-WWE wrestlers (i.e. Hogan’s pals) under different gimmicks. However the member with which Hogan had his biggest battles with, and whom he battles on this card, is WCW original creation The Giant. Better known to you and me as The Big Show, The Giant is as green as they come at this point. In fact his match with Hogan on this card is his first official televised match. That’s enough background; let’s have a look at this show – Continue reading

Sunday Sermon: What turns us most off about the WWE product

Craig Wilson, James Giles and Jamie Lithgow

In this week’s Sunday Sermon, we look at the things that turn us off most about the current WWE product.

Craig: Ahhhh, perfect, a chance to revisit a number of bug bearers with the WWE product. It’s probably fair to say that it’s too straightforward just to say the whole PG era and to ditch the PG stuff would solve all its problems. It wouldn’t plus with Linda’s senate race and the WWE being a PLC, it’s unlikely that PG will be ditched any time soon.

I think my number one gripe though is in relation to the titles. Not just the number of them but also the way that they are being used. It seems at times lazy booking dictates the use of titles to get people over but it will take a lot more than a run with a belt to get certain superstars over. I’m also not at all convinced that the WWE really knows what it is doing with the tag team division, not better exemplified than by Kane and Daniel Bryan winning the belt. It seems that the WWE tag titles are now a pawn in this angle. Not entirely sure I feel good about that notion…

Jamie: I’m with you on the PG thing. It is a major gripe of mine too, and almost goes without saying for most fans like us. However, there’s more turning me off than just the lack of grown-up talk and scantily glad ladies.

I agree with your other points too, but the major gripe for me is the booking. Most matches are booked to comply with the merchandising strategy first, with wrestling and television logic a secondary concern. I can think of no other reason why Dolph Ziggler keeps losing. This guy is a top talent who often works with the top babyfaces. However the top babyfaces are not allowed to lose because WWE thinks this might hurt their image. So even though wrestling logic points to Ziggler shattering the glass ceiling and certainly television logic would point this way (he’s so over, did you hear the support for him at NOC?!) he will continue to lose because WWE still has boxes of Orton and Sheamus t-shirts to sell.

James: I agree with the PG thing and especially the bizarre booking, but it has become endemic in WWE now, so i almost don’t expect anything else. I think we were spoiled by eras where WWE got a lot more things right than wrong. The balance is more even now, so it is frustrating to us, but most of the newer fans probably don’t know the difference, which is a shame. Given that I rarely watch any of the TV shows, the booking issues are less annoying for me personally (only cause i chose not to sit through them though).

It is mostly a bunch of smaller things that bother me more than a few big issues. One is the diluting and devaluating of many of WWE’s former marquee gimmick matches, most notably Hell in a Cell and Elimination Chamber. It stems from the ridiculous idea WWE had a few years back to feature more than one of these matches on a single PPV, in the more-is-more school of thought and no doubt influenced by TNA’s Lockdown (all cage PPV, for those who don’t know). Unfortunately, this watered down the appeal of them, as previously WWE only brought them out to settle long-standing conflicts, often serving as main events on big PPVs, such as Survivor Series and Summerslam. Now they turn up in the same spots every year, HIAC even having a PPV named after it. Overkill has bread complacency. Elimination Chamber has at least been given a useful function (often deciding WWE Champ or challenger going into WM), but HIAC mean nowt to me anymore.

Craig: I know what you mean, the PPV calendar is virtually the same year in, year out. As for Elimination Chamber they end up having to work the booking around the event rather than book towards the event as best exemplified by the odd choices of guys that find their way into these matches at times. I mean your T-Truth and Kofi Kingston were never going to win the Raw match at this year’s Elimination Chamber PPV, were they?

The same goes for Money in the Bank. It started out as a match on Wrestlemania but now it has its own card too. And look at the entrants this year. For all Tyson Kidd’s many qualities, he was never going to win that match, was he? In fact, out of the eight guys – Ziggler, Christian, Tensai, Santino, Kidd, Cody Rhodes, Sin Cara and Sandow only Ziggler and Christian were likely winners.

Everything seems too regimented for my liking. You shouldn’t need gimmick matches to get feuds over; perhaps part of the problem is that there’d be no interest in many of the feuds otherwise.

James: Yeah, it is annoying that they have to shoe-horn performers into matches that they realistically have no chance of winning. When they first created EC, they would have six superstars that all had a reasonable chance of winning, and they would be built up this way. Now they have set matches on set PPV’s, they have to put performers in whether they are suitable or not. Much like what you said about MITB, you know there is only going to be one or two people who may win the Chamber matches, which makes them boring and predictable. Throw in WWE’s ‘no blood’ rule and means EC has totally lost its lustre.

No blood rule, which is caused by PG era, also is detrimental to other matches. I’ve no desire to see a return to the blade-happy days of Attitude era, but certain matches would benefit from it. HHH vs Lesnar could have drawn more heat and been more exciting if HHH had done one of his impressive blade-jobs, but for me (and the live audience) it seemed to lack the necessary drama. Consequently, the reaction to it was pretty flat.

Jamie: Agreed. I can’t think of a single active gimmick match that interests me. I could make an exception for The Royal Rumble, but even that can feel like a formality. Like Craig said, some of them still hold a purpose and the action can be exiting, but the story of these matches is so predictable. By the end of the Rumble most fans have pieced Wrestlemania together based on who is feuding with who. This past year in the WWE title Elimination Chamber match we had 6 guys, why? It was already clear that the title would be defended in a Punk vs Jericho match, so obviously one of them would be champion at the end of the Chamber PPV.

I would like to know just how much business WWE would lose by cutting the B PPVs? There’s too many. We don’t need a WWE title match every month, let alone a World Title match too. Raw is three boring hours long and then they hold PPVs where nothing of significance happens. As fans we should be asking for more, but frankly I’m more than happy to live with less.

Craig: It’s also pretty difficult to get up for a PPV when you’ve seen the main event played out so many times on Raw in the weeks beforehand. I’m not suggesting going back to the days such as in 1993 when the Champion only appeared on the occasional Raw etc but we do get overload.

Jamie: I think TNA handle things really well in this regard. Austin Aries is on Impact most of the time, but how often does he defend the title? At the last PPV he was involved in a fight rather than a match while the main focus in terms of competition was on finding his next challenger. TNA title matches are earned, WWE title matches are just handed out on a month to month basis. Just watch and we’ll see both Cena and Del Rio be gifted yet another title shot at HIAC.

Craig: Alberto Del Rio has to be one of the most boring superstars on the roster and it’s hardly a roster jam packed with charismatic superstars. Ricardo Rodriguez is more entertaining!

The WWE have been hurt by the failure to create new superstars and have had to rely on legends previously but once they are gone there is nothing to step up. Look at Dolph Ziggler, for a potential next champion his win/loss record is mighty grim as he seems to spend much of his time staring up to the ceiling.

Is WWE right to push Ryback?

Craig Wilson

Regular readers may be confused by this post as I continue on from yesterday in my praise of the promotion, this time in praise of them pushing Ryback.

Ryback is a man that unsurprisingly divides opinion amongst the internet wrestling community. One side see him as a powerhouse with high impact moves that fits the mould that Vince McMahon likes his wrestlers to fit whilst the opposing side see him as a Goldberg rip-off and believe that the big guy stuff ended years ago.

Those that grew up watching the WWF product are well aware of just how into big muscle bound men Vince McMahon is. Heck, had it not been for the original steroid scandal that engulfed the WWF in the early 90s, then the small guys may never have gotten the break they did.

The Hulk Hogans and Ultimate Warriors started the fad and were joined later by Kevin Nash, Ahmed Johnson and more recently Brock Lesnar. Few observers could fail to notice the emphasis Vince likes to place on a big jacked up guy.

The latest in this long line seems to be the aforementioned Ryback. Ryback isn’t terribly new to wrestling fans, debuting on our screens in 2004 when he was part of Tough Enough. His stint was viewed as successful enough for him to be signed to a development deal with the WWE.

He moved to the full roster in 2008 as part of NXT and then latterly as a member of the Nexus stable. He returned from injury reasonably recently and has been on a winning streak since, drawing comparisons with Goldberg although those were started by fans due to similarity in appearance.

But is the WWE right to push Ryback? I think so. On Monday Night’s edition of RAW, Ryback interrupted the new Miz TV feature and destroyed the set in the process making it quite clear that The Miz’s Intercontinental Title is the target.

It’s certainly not a bad start for him as, after all, it really is the belt to test to see if guys can make the jump to the next level. The Ultimate Warrior’s first gold was the very same belt and Goldberg first lifted the comparable US Championship in WCW.

It’s also good to see the WWE looking to create a star of tomorrow and judging by the crowd reaction, there are more “feed me more” chants than “Goldberg Goldberg” chants now, he can get over well with the fans. Even the Subway skit on Raw was quite funny where he amusingly lifted a second sandwich.

As much of a fan as I am of more technical based wrestling and the spots fans see in the high flying matches, I realise there is definitely a place on cards for the power stuff and Ryback is a very impressive athlete. In terms of a pay-off for his feud, that’s the tricky part.

I’m sure some would see Ryback v Sheamus as a good pay-off whilst I’ve even seen some people suggest Ryback ending the Taker’s streak at Wrestlemania 29. I think we can rule out the latter though.

The most important thing that the WWE should do is not push Ryback down the throats of the fans. To date we’ve not seen much more than him beating unnamed jobbers – often two or three at a time – and it’s important that the transition is made well between this and wrestling actual superstars.

In the coming weeks I suspect we’ll see him involved in tag team wrestling with The Miz on the opposition side. That will be a test of his in-ring skills and how well he can work a match. It’s good to see the WWE pushing someone new and there’s every chance this Ryback will be a serious player within 12 months.

Is the WWE tag team division finally hotting up?

Craig Wilson

It’s fair to say that this is a drum I’ve been banging away on for quite a while but finally the WWE have begun paying some attention to the tag team division.

The team of Kofi and R-Truth are good but almost seemed lumbered with the belts due to the lack of any real competition. Heck, at times it felt there wasn’t even a tag team division of sorts in the WWE.

However, u-turning from my position in the Night of Champions prediction thread, I think that Daniel Bryan and Kane winning the tag belts will elevate the belts and add a bit of prestige to a division that was so lacking in that.

A spoiler alert, Smackdown had a tag team title match headlining the event with Kane and Daniel Bryan defeating the team of Damian Sandow and Cody Rhodes by DQ. The most interesting aspect of the match were the lumberjacks who were The Usos, The Prime Time players and International Airstrike (Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel).

Now, whilst I disagree with the ending of the tag champs dishing out so many chair shots to the lumberjacks post-match that Mick Foley would wince at, the WWE at least seem to be looking to start a series for the tag titles which is a welcome start at least.

With The Prime Time players being so enraged at losing their shot Kofi and R-Truth at Night of the Champions, it’s fair to say that they are going to be the main players, forgive that pun, in this one and are a good in ring team that seem fairly over. Their actions on Raw show a change in attitude from them and an ‘any means necessary’ approach to get their shot at the belts. It also bodes well to have two other teams, both of which are very impressive in-ring performers, in The Usos and International Airstrike.

It’s difficult to see Kane and Bryan being anything other than transitional champions. I envisage they keep the belts for a while continuing to win despite their tumultuous relationship almost costing them. Eventually it will cost them and they will restart a solos feud.

That said, Kane and Bryan winning the titles have moved the belts further up the card and that can only be a good thing. It’s up to the other teams to up their respective ante and grab the belts when the chance is presented to them. For the first time in a while it bodes well for the tag team division in the WWE.