WWE From a New Perspective

Jamie Lithgow

This post is a general critique of WWE, particularly Raw. However unlike most critiques that appear on this blog the main points do not come from myself, Craig or James. The points in this post do not even come from a WWE or wrestling fan. Instead I thought it would be interesting to note what my girlfriend thinks about WWE.

She is not a WWE fan, although will watch if I am watching. Her interest in WWE is much like my interest in Eastenders or Hollyoaks. Under no circumstances would I watch such shows if I had full control over the TV, however because she watches them I do have a general idea of what is going on and can occasionally be drawn into the stories. Her feelings towards WWE are similar, thus she has formed opinions and thoughts about its programming, Raw in particular.

The reason for this post is primarily because we are all used to hearing the opinions of other fans and wrestling journalists, but what do other people make of WWE? One of the primary goals WWE has (especially at this time of year) is to draw peripheral viewers to the product and gain new fans. With that said, what does one of these peripheral viewers have to say –

• “Why does it last so long?”
This is in reference to Raw and I couldn’t agree more. As fans we can see that the show is an hour too long, but it is somewhat worrying when someone who doesn’t know as much about the product can spot the filler material. To be honest, even if WWE had the star power to properly fill a weekly three hour show (which it doesn’t) I still wouldn’t agree with it. 3 hours is just too long, what other episodic shows last that long? I would suggest that there’s a very good reason why most TV shows last an hour, two at the most. In its prime Raw left you wanting more, now I’m just happy if I reach the end without nodding off.

• “I don’t like him, he’s like a Ken doll”
A reference to John Cena’s apparent similarities to Barbie’s man. There are the common complaints about Cena always winning, dressing like a child and generally not being a very good wrestler. However, these are all flaws that wrestling fans tend to pick out so it is particularly interesting to hear the opinion of someone that doesn’t have any prior knowledge of Cena’s win/loss record or wrestling ability. It would seem that his character is the flaw in this instance. Apparently Cena has that “captain of the football team vibe; you can just tell that he won every event at his school sports day”. He is more or less your stereotypical American good guy, but where myself and my girlfriend are from we hate that! Basically she thinks John Cena is bland, has no depth and is not interesting because you can figure out his character simply by reading his t-shirt.

• “Why are they showing this again?”
Replays, replays and more replays! Apparently these are annoying to everyone, not just us wrestling fans. This is a particular reference to Ryback beating up The Shield last week; WWE aired a replay of what seemed like the entire segment straight after it happened. Why? It just happened! If someone missed it because they were taking a piss then who cares because, as was pointed out by my girlfriend, most people watching Raw have the means to rewind live TV anyway.

• “It’s legal!”
I only noticed this when it was pointed out to me. Next time there is a no DQ match or similar count how many times the commentators remind us that using weapons or dirty tactics is “legal” in that kind of match. It gets really annoying once you notice it.

• “I know it’s fake, but it’s too fake”
This is a common complaint of professional wrestling. The calibre of performers in WWE right now is admittedly lower than times gone by, but even the very top performers of the past had a hard time making a choreographed fight look real. One of the perquisites for watching wrestling is buying into the fact that it’s a show and the aim of performers is to make everything look as real possible without hurting themselves or their opponent. Admittedly some performers could do a lot better in this area but I will defend WWE here. It’s up to the viewer to buy into the fact that it’s not MMA and just go with it.

• “It’s so predictable, why do you keep watching when you know what is going to happen?”
I get this all the time and reply by pointing out that most TV shows she watches are just as predictable. When was the last time someone got away with committing a crime or cheating on their partner in a soap opera? The truth will always come out; it’s just a matter of time until ultimately the good guys win. I do get what she is saying though; WWE is very linear at the moment. Even the supposedly unpredictable Shield, are becoming predictable because even she saw their attack on The Rock coming a mile off. Too many swerves can confuse and kill interest (see anything Vince Russo has been involved with outside WWE) but a couple of twists and turns would certainly be appreciated to keep us on our toes.

• “The acting is terrible, if they can’t be good they could at least laugh at themselves”
Another common complaint. Some of the interaction is bad but if the performers start sending themselves up too much we will lose that suspension of disbelief. I personally feel that segments and promos should be less scripted, after all these people are entertainers not actors and thus should be allowed more freedom to entertain. However, the over the top nature and general absurdity of pro wrestling is what makes it. It’s another one of those things you just have to buy into and go with.

• “I only like CM Punk, the rest of them aren’t as interesting”
This comment is owed slightly to the fact that she fancies him, but she also has a valid point. Punk is easily the most interesting character right now, and it was no surprise when I revealed that he is one of the very few superstars who have control over his promos and character.

• “I hate her, she’s so annoying, I wish she would just go away”
She has very strong feelings towards AJ. At least she is meant to be annoying these days, although that doesn’t excuse her for being so irritating as a babyface.

5 Greatest WWF/E Championship Matches in Rumble History

James Giles

Although the main draw of this Sunday’s PPV is the Royal Rumble match itself, over the years the shows have provided countless gems on the undercard too. Many of the best bouts have been contested over the WWF/E Championship, and WWE looks set to continue this tradition next week by booking C M Punk v The Rock for the gold. With that in mind, I though I’d take a look back at the cream of the crop, and present you with a list of what I personally feel are the 5 Greatest WWF/E Championship matches to ever take place at the Rumble.

5) John Cena (Champion) v Umaga, Royal Rumble 2007

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been very vocal about my dislike of John Cena and his myriad of faults; my buddies Craig and Jamie have had a fair bit to say about him too, as any long-time readers of this blog will know. But every once in a while, he pulls a genuinely excellent performance out of the bag; he did against CM Punk at MITB 2011 and again with Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules 2012 (post-match idiocy aside). And way back in 2007 he did it as well, against the now sadly departed Eddie Fatu (aka Umaga).

Fatu had returned to WWE in April 2006 under a ‘Wild Samoan’ style gimmick as Umaga, a monster heel who was also quickly given a massive push. He has previously been employed by WWE a part of 3 Minute Warning team with his cousin Matt (aka Rosey), but was green and sloppy, and was eventually released due to attitude problems. A year spent in AJPW improved his ring-work and professionalism immensely, and WWE was keen to make use of his newly polished skills. He was given a undefeated streak which lasted up until he was named number one contender and began feuding with Cena (surprise, surprise), who defeated Umaga in their first encounter at New Years Revolution 2007.

But it was their rematch, fought under Last Man Standing rules, at Royal Rumble 2007 which really impressed. During the entire bout, Cena sells both generously and realistically, and goes out of his way to enhance Umaga’s monster rep. The Samoan wild man dominates the proceedings, effortlessly chucking Cena (and the ring steps) around, cutting off most of his attacks and powering out his best moves, and busting the cartoon hero open. He also proves how damn athletic and quick he could be, at one point doing a graceful dive from one announce table to another, which unfortunately doesn’t hit target. Cena throws everything at the beast including the FU, but Umaga won’t stay down for the count. Then, in an incredibly inventive spot, Umaga’s manager unscrews the corner turnbuckle, to allow Umaga to use it for a Super Samoan Spike. Cena is able to reverse and hit the FU again, and follows it up by using the now-loose top ring rope for extra leverage on the STFU. After holding Umaga in the hold for some time, he eventually passes out long enough for a 10 count and Cena retains the belt.

Most importantly though, is that Cena sold convincingly and allowed himself to look vulnerable and as though he may well lose, which in turn meant Umaga could do the job without losing an iota of his monster aura. If only Cena took such a serious, and generous, approach to all his opponents, WWE might have a few more top flight stars right now.

4) Bret Hart (Champion) v Razor Ramon, Royal Rumble 1993

The 1993 Royal Rumble had a heck of challenge trying to live up to the previous year’s classic entry, and it failed in absolutely miserable fashion. Widely considered the worst Rumble ever, it featured the debut of Giant Gonzalez and was won by Yokozuna, which ought to tell you everything you need to know about it. But terrible Rumble bout aside, the undercard did actually provide a few shining moments; first was the IC Title match between HBK and Marty Jannetty, and second was the WWF Championship bout between Bret Hart and Razor Ramon.

After Bret had captured his first WWF Championship from Ric Flair in November 1992, WWE originally planned for Bret to defend against the Ultimate Warrior at the Rumble. But when Warrior left or was released (it is still disputed what exactly happened) shortly after, WWE was forced to change their plans. Razor, who had debuted in August 1992, got over very quickly thanks to his cool heel gimmick and association with Ric Flair, was selected as a replacement and began trash talking Hart and the Hart family. To further intensify things, Razor also attacked Bret and later, his brother Owen; the stage was then set for their showdown at the Rumble.

At the bell the crowd is pretty hot, and while both men are over, Bret is clearly the favourite. When The Hitman does his standard face routine of giving his shades to a little kid, Razor follows this up in brilliantly heelish fashion by flicking his toothpick at the same kid! An angered Bret flies at Razor but the Bad Guy quickly turns the tables and pounds Hart down with big punches and knee lifts. Ramon misses a running knee lift in the corner, and Bret goes straight to work on it, in preparation for the Sharpshooter. After a few minutes of this, Razor manages to reverse an Irish whip and send Bret ribs first in the ring post; this creates a target point for Ramon too, he makes the ribs his focus. The Bad Guy dominates the match for some time now, using holds such as the abdominal stretch and a bear hug, whilst cutting off Bret’s comeback attempts. Bret eventually manages to dodge a clothesline and sends Ramon to the outside, and then follows up with a plancha. Ramon is able to fumble his way out of The Hitman’s first attempt at the Sharpshooter, but he gets too cocky when he has a weakened Bret in the tie up position, and Bret pulls a neat reversal into the Sharpshooter for the win.

It has always felt like a big shame to me that Razor was never able to get a hold on his demons long enough for a sustained main event push, because this bout (amongst others) shows that during 1992-94, he had all the tools necessary to be WWF Champion. His charismatic heel persona was so entertaining, and he the ability to work an exciting and engrossing match with someone the calibre of Bret Hart. Thoroughly engaging from start to finish, this rarely mentioned bout deserves a place amongst the top WWE matches of 1993, and in Royal Rumble history.

3) Shawn Michaels (Champion) v The Undertaker, Casket Match, Royal Rumble 1998

Although they have only clashed half a dozen times over their legendary careers, every time HBK and The Deadman have locked horns they have produced something special. And Royal Rumble 1998 was no exception. Here they managed to take the frequently lousy Casket gimmick and turn it into the most exciting match on the show. Having already battled in a wild brawl at Ground Zero 97 and their classic Hell in a Cell at Badd Blood 97, Taker and Michaels had a lot to live up to, but they managed to pull off something unique in it own right.

Many people remember this for being the match in which HBK suffered a back injury that sidelined him for 4 years, and made him miss basically the entire Attitude Era (as an in ring-performer anyway). What some forget is that Michaels sustains the injury only a few minutes in, whilst taking a back-drop onto the casket, and continues on for a good 20 minutes without barely showing a sign of it; he still performs at the peerless level that is expected of him. As ever when Undertaker and HBK meet, every move, spot and sequence is expertly timed, and sold for maximum drama. The storytelling is simple but super effective in their hands; Michaels plays the cocky super-quick mover and thinker, and Taker the powerful bruiser with an epic sense of determination, with Michaels having to use more brutal and underhand tactics to put The Deadman down before he can get his hands on HBK for long. The bout goes back and forth pretty evenly, with both men seemingly having it won but getting foiled for various reasons. Undertaker eventually manages to hit a Tombstone from the ring apron into the open casket, and the crowd goes wild sensing impending victory. But then the New Age Outlaws and Los Boricuas hit the ring and pound Taker down, allowing Michaels to escape; the lights go out and the audience goes nuts, anticipating Kane coming out to help his brother.

Kane does drive off everyone else, but swiftly turns on The Deadman, chokeslaming him into the casket and sealing victory for HBK. In the weeks leading up to this bout, the WWE had teased a Kane turn face in order for him to side with his ‘brother’, but in the infamous post-match angle, Kane makes his heel stance clear as day; he takes the casket (with Taker supposedly still in, smashes it with an axe a bit (…?) and the sets it on fire! Equally as gobsmacking and plain bonkers now as it was back in 1998, it helps make this match a classic of the Attitude Era, encapsulating most everything that made that era so damn brilliant, mental and fun.

2) Kurt Angle (Champion) v Chris Benoit, Royal Rumble 2003

The 2003 Royal Rumble is chiefly remembered for two things; the epically awful cluster-fuck of a match between HHH and Scott Steiner, which single-handedly derailed Big Poppa Pump’s WWE main event career, and the masterful display of technical wrestling genius put on by Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit. A lengthy description of this bout isn’t really going to do it justice; all I can really say is it is one of finest display of athleticism, skill, intelligence, precision and determination ever on a WWE PPV. Take my word for it you’d be much better off just watching it here:

1) Triple H (Champion) v Cactus Jack, Street Fight, Royal Rumble 2000

2000 was a seriously awesome year for WWE, with seemingly everything it touched turning to gold. The talent roster has never really been better and the writing team seem to be firing on all cylinders. Every single PPV that year ranged from good to excellent and the Royal Rumble was no exception; in fact the Rumble was the trend setter, the first show of the year and a heck of way to kick it off. From the impactful debut of Tazz (who the New York crowd went nuts for) who rolled over Kurt Angle and ended his undefeated streak in impressive fashion, to original and exciting Tables match between rising stars the Hardy Boys and Dudley Boys, the fans were treated to masses of action, drama and violent thrills. But nothing else quite delivered those like the main event between HHH and Cactus Jack, the now-legendary Street Fight for the WWF Championship.

It’s hard to imagine now, but back in 2000 fan anticipation leading up to the match wasn’t actually super high (in spite of some fantastic angles on RAW and Smackdown); the general consensus seemed that HHH hadn’t really proved himself as a top liner yet (he’d only ascended to the peak a few months prior) and Mick Foley’s best days as an in-ring performer were behind him, due to a catalogue of injuries. Amazingly, early on you can even hear a scattering of ‘boring’ chants, as Hunter and Cactus start of kind of slow. But then things spill to the outside and they both take a few hard bumps, and then when they do get back in the ring, the barbed-wire 2×4 comes out. And then shit kicks off. The brutality escalates through bat shots, chair shots and even more bumps on the outside, and on the announce table (made more brutal but the things refusal to break). Before long the audience realise Cactus and HHH have been telling a dramatic and engaging story, and they are completely drawn into it and Foley’s quest to become WWE Champion. When Mick kicks out of the Pedigree, the roof of The Garden almost comes off; but when The Game follows it up with a Pedigree onto thumbtacks (!!), the crowd is shocked and stunned. And when this manages to keep Foley down for the three, HHH has suddenly gained a whole new level of respect.

As well as being a skilfully paced, expertly executed and emotionally involving brawl, this bout is also deserving of the top spot on this list for two more reasons; it made the Game a bona fide main event heel superstar and it allowed Mick Foley to prove he still had what it takes headline a PPV and that he was, and probably remains, WWE greatest star maker.

Raw Rewind: 21 January 1997

raw-old-shadowCraig Wilson

Part three of the #Rawrewind see’s us in Beaumont Texas for the Raw after the 1997 Royal Rumble, held in the Alamodome in San Antonio Texas. The two big things coming from that event were Michaels beating Sid to win the WWF Championship and Steve Austin winning the rumble match by last eliminating Bret Hart after officials failed to spot Austin having himself been eliminated. Continue reading

Sunday Sermon: Memorable Royal Rumble undercard matches

Jamie Lithgow, Craig Wilson & James Giles

In another Royal Rumble related Sermon today we look back at the memorable matches and moments from the events history, out with the actual Rumble match itself.

Jamie: When you look back over the years The Royal Rumble event has played host to more than its fair share of memorable moments. I mean a lot of stuff usually goes down at this event! Why there are a lot of twists and turns is understandable, the Rumble is where the top matches for Wrestlemania start to form. However, having said that, a lot of the 2000 event sticks in my mind purely because it was awesome.

Firstly Taz(z) made his much anticipated debut and demolished the previously unbeaten Kurt Angle. Granted it was all downhill from this point but it was one hell of debut for the human suplex machine. Next the Hardy Boyz and Dudley Boyz contested a stunt filled tables match, with Jeff Hardy inevitably supplying the high spot. In terms of a memorable moment how’s about this; Mae Young got her boobs out! To finish off Triple H and Cactus Jack had one of the most brutal matches in WWE history as they contested the WWE title under street rules. We really were spoiled with this show.

Craig: A brilliant topic, Jamie. Naturally all the attention is on the Royal Rumble but it’s fair to say that this year is the first where the main event is actually bigger than the Royal Rumble match. I’ll throw in a curveball for great undercard match, The Jumping Bomb Angels (Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki) defeated The Glamour Girls (Judy Martin and Leilani Kai) in a tag match at the first Royal Rumble in 1988, in a bout that has to be one of the best ever women’s matches, particularly in the WWF/E.

Much in the same way that early Summerslams were synonymous with 6 man tags being on the card, the Royal Rumble really did host some great tag matches in the early days. The Bushwackers v The Fabulous Rougeaus from 1990 is probably the best match the Bushwackers had in the WWF whilst also on that undercard we got a previous ‘Matches from History’, the awesome Ronnie Garvin v Greg Valentine which, as the video below shoes, is nothing like anything you’d see in the WWF at the time.

James: The 2007 event sticks in my mind for hosting the brilliant John Cena Vs Umaga Last Man Standing Match, which is still probably the finest match of Cena’s main event career. Going back quite a bit further, Undertaker and HBK had another entry to their classic series of bouts at Royal Rumble 1998, in what must be one of the few great Casket Matches ever.

I think there is a lot more milage here than just a Sunday Sermon discussion, we could all do a Matches from History each, and each select one or two of our favourite non-Rumble bouts. There is so many good ones to choose from, and we’d get a few posts out of it that way.

Jamie: We appear to have unearthed an Aladdin’s cave of fantastic matches with this topic. Some classics including the ladder match between Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit from 2001 and The Rockers vs. The Orient Express from 1991 need a mention too. The Rumble also plays host to some memorable non-wrestling moments, a lot of which involve The Undertaker and caskets. I distinctly remember him ascending to heaven in 94 and being set on fire by Kane in 98, shit goes down when ‘Taker gets locked in a casket!

There really are too many matches and moments to mention in this one discussion. The conclusion I can draw from this is that history has shown that we shouldn’t just watch the Rumble match because chances are the entire event will be well worth watching.

What wrestling taught us this week

Jamie Lithgow

In a new weekly Saturday feature on Ringthedamnbell, we share with readers what wrestling taught us this week. In the inaugural column, Jamie tells us what all he learned from watching wrestling in the last seven days.

• That a crazy old man elbow dropping his own jacket gets more of a reaction than Brodus Clay, 3MB and the entire Divas division combined.

• Speaking of Brodus Clay it would appear that he’s never too angry to dance. After cutting one of his most serious promos to date (on CM Punk) he proceeded to dance his way to the ring as per usual and lose in convincing fashion. I would normally complain about such contradictory behaviour, but I’m not so bothered this time because I really dislike the Brodus Clay character.

• The Miz does a really good “woooo!”

• Big E. Langston is far more interesting standing in silence than AJ is when she’s cutting a promo. The whole time AJ was speaking on Raw I was focused on Big E’s facial expressions. He reminded me of The Rock in his Nation of Domination days whenever Faarooq was speaking.

• Dolph Ziggler will never be a main eventer. Some may feel that Ziggler is receiving a push by feuding with John Cena but what good is losing two matches in two weeks to Super Cena, all the while receiving help from AJ and Langston and still having Cena kick out of all his signature moves? These matches have achieved nothing positive in the slightest for Ziggler and what has John Cena gained from this experience? Does it make him look any stronger than before as he prepares to win the Royal Rumble? Nope, he was already pretty much invincible. Is the prospect of him winning the Rumble completely predictable? Yes. However, I would instantly get back on the Ziggler bandwagon if his reward for losing these matches was to eliminate Cena from the Rumble. Think about it, everyone is so certain that Cena will win that we would surely hear one of the loudest pops ever if Dolph Ziggler lobbed him over the top rope next week!

• Courtesy of Bob Bamber from Wrestlezone.com  I learned that the best match WWE could book for Wrestlemania is John Cena vs the Undertaker in an ‘I Quit’ match. The man that never gives up against the man that never loses at Wrestlemania, sounds slightly harder to predict than Rock vs Cena II.

Matches from History: The 1992 Royal Rumble Match

Jamie Lithgow

Royal_Rumble_1992The Rumble match is that odd commodity on the wrestling calendar that remains unbelievably popular, even though the actual action can be pretty rubbish a lot of the time. In fact I would go as far to say that the Rumble match is probably the most popular element in WWE’s entire arsenal. I am speaking purely from my perspective of course because I have friends who do not follow wrestling at all, other than the Royal Rumble match. For them it is a bit like watching sports highlights or a film preview. Within that one hour they are presented with a large chunk of the WWE roster and can establish who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, who’s a jobber and who might actually win. With the Rumble match they are presented with a simple concept that is easy to digest without being overly long. Wrestlemania on the other hand can last up to four hours and requires more of a context; how many non-wrestling fans could be bothered with that?!

Anyway, let’s move on to what I and many people consider to be the best ever Rumble match. The action in this match was great, but I’ve seen better, the list of possible winners was long, but I’ve seen longer. The reason I love the 1992 Rumble more than any other is because it is the only Rumble match to ever offer the WWE Championship as the prize to the winner. Prior to 1992 the only reward on offer was bragging rights, while from 1993 onwards the prize was a title shot at Wrestlemania.

Background

The reason for the title being on the line was due to The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan trading controversial title wins at the Survivor Series and Tuesday in Texas PPVs. On screen president Jack Tunney decided to vacate the title and put it up for grabs in the Rumble match. To me that always sounded a little harsh on Hogan and ‘Taker, they could have just booked a cage match between the two. However this was acknowledged and The Dead Man and The Hulkster were granted Rumble entries between twenty and thirty.

The Match

Onwards to the match and The Fink kicks things off by telling us the rules. Incidentally this is another reason why The Rumble is so appealing to non-wrestling fans; the ring announcer goes out of their way to explain the rules. Every wrestling fan watching knows the rules, this is only beneficial to people who do not normally watch wrestling. Next up the charisma starved Jack Tunney explains the title situation to the audience, really badly! With that out of the way we kick things off with the two unluckiest men in the draw, The British Bulldog at #1 and The Million Dollar Man at #2.

Million Dollar Ted starts swinging as soon as he enters the ring and the action, albeit far from scientific, is kept at a good pace. Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan makes a good point on commentary, he advises DiBiase to take a walk and relax. A good point, why would DiBiase and Bulldog go at each other so hard? It’s not like they were feuding at the time, they should be pacing themselves because they have the longest journey if they want to win. Ah well, that’s wrestling logic for you. Gorilla Monsoon then mentions that DiBiase lasted a long time in the previous Rumble, which almost acts as a cue for The Bulldog to send him over the top rope.

Next out of the traps to some intense heel heat is The Nature Boy Ric Flair, accompanied by Mr perfect. The heat on him is intense and Monsoon rips a dismayed Heenan (a firm Flair supporter/associate) telling him that “it’s all over”. This is a great moment in Rumble history but my attention is firmly on Mr Perfect’s fantastic black and salmon shell suit! Things slow down a little and when Jerry Saggs enters at #4 The Bulldog finds himself on the wrong end of a two on one beat down. However, Davey Boy soon deals with him. Haku then enters to once again make it two against one in favour of the bad guys, but oddly the notorious hard man enters into the ‘every man for himself’ spirit and gives Flair a slapping too. Haku then executes a picture perfect piledriver right in the middle of the ring. I’ve noted this because you don’t often see the now outlawed piledriver these days, although I’m not sure about the logic of using such a move in a match like the Rumble.

Yet another heel enters the match, it’s the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels. The heat for him is second only to Flair as this is just days after the infamous Barber Shop segment aired on TV. In it he superkicked long term partner Marty Jannetty before throwing him through the Barber Shop window in one of the greatest heel turns in wrestling history. Just after entering the match HBK proves himself worthy of his push (as if there were any doubt) with a fantastic save to keep himself in the match. The Bulldog hits him with a full force clothesline that one would think was required to carry his momentum to the floor, but Michaels grabbed the top rope at the last second to save himself. He even managed to recover and nail Davey Boy in the chops with a superkick, classic HBK.

Tito Santana then The Barbarian enter to fill the ring up a little. Not too much goes on at this point as the ring is filling up to allow the likes of Flair and the Bulldog to take a breather. We also gain The Texas Tornado, Repo Man, Greg Valentine and Nikolai Volkoff without losing anyone so the ring is looking pretty full and as result the action is pretty slow and plodding. Interesting to see that even though Volkoff is being presented as a babyface he still elects boos from the crowd. Old habits die hard I guess.

An injection of life is needed and it comes in the form of The Big Bossman, believe it or not. He runs to the ring and starts throwing right hands at everyone, some of them look quite stiff too. The fat is then trimmed from the match to leave popular babyface The Bossman and Flair to square off. Bossman gets the better of the exchanges until he charges at Flair, who ducks, and literally throws himself over the top rope. Sounds like a standard elimination only Bossman was so far away from the ropes that this looked ridiculous.

In keeping with most Rumble matches one of the top contenders finds himself as the only man in the ring half way through the match, cue big name superstar. It’s Roddy Piper, who gets a massive pop and has some wild exchanges with Flair. However, Piper oddly opts to use his trademark sleeper hold, really? In the Rumble match?! To keep the momentum going Jake The Snake Roberts enters to some serious heat. There’s some good exchanges before a babyface I didn’t like even like when I was a kid enters; Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Brandishing a plank of wood as usual he looks like a complete twat!

IRS is next and does nothing of note other take ages to reach the ring. Why don’t more wrestlers do this?! We all know it’s scripted, but it’s these little things that help us fans suspend our disbelief.

It would appear now that the name of the game is to refill the ring. Superfly Jimmy Snuka comes out next, but he doesn’t last long because he is followed by The Undertaker who promptly lobs him out of the ring. Next is one of the high points of the match with Macho Man Randy Savage entering and making a b-line for Jake Roberts. These two had been embroiled in a bitter feud with Savage wearing a bandage to sell a bite he received from Jake’s cobra. Roberts hides outside the ring but by the time Savage can find him The Undertaker has started hammering the Macho Man to allow Jake safe passage back into the ring. Of course Savage fights back and eliminates Roberts, however Macho Randy gets carried away and appears to eliminate himself by jumping over the top rope to follow Jake. The two have a pull-apart brawl at ring side with The Undertaker getting involved too. For some reason Macho Man is allowed to re-enter the match with the commentators surmising that because he wasn’t thrown over he is allowed back in. Another case of crazy wrestling logic as the Bossman’s own momentum carried him over the top rope just minutes earlier.

From this point until The Warlord enters at #30 not a lot happens other than Hulk Hogan arriving at #26, ripping off his shirt and choking Rick Martel with it, what a babyface! Sid Justice makes a bit of an impact at #29 but nothing to shout about. For the record your entrants are #22 The Berzerker, #23 Virgil, #24 Col. Mustafa, #25 Rick Martel, #27 Skinner and #28 Sgt Slaughter.

It seems we are plodding along until we get down to the inevitable final four of Hogan, Justice, Savage and iron man Flair, and when Sid eliminates Piper and Martel simultaneously we get our wish. Hogan and Flair continue to brawl while Sid targets Savage, whose time is up when Flair charges into Sid causing his momentum to be carried to Savage.

Now for the final sequence, as Hogan has Flair on the apron Sid (who is a babyface at this point) sees an opportunity to eliminate The Hulkster and dually sends him over Flair and the ropes to the ground. Nothing wrong with that in my book, this is how many wrestlers get eliminated from the Rumble. However Hogan, showing himself to be a terrible loser, grabs Sid’s hand and attempts to pull him over the top rope. Sid puts the breaks on, however Flair recovers to scoop the big man up and dump him out, with assistance from Hogan. The fact that wrestling legend Ric Flair has just become WWE Champion for the first time is somewhat brushed over because, as with every WWE PPV of this era, it’s all about Hogan. Flair and Perfect disappear down the aisle leaving Hogan and Justice to have a shoving match in the ring. As referees and officials intervene, the pair, rather oddly, take it turns to pose for the crowd. The crowd reaction is quite surprising because Hogan is booed while Sid is cheered. This is surely in relation to the heelish tactics Hogan employed during the match. You will be able to find versions of the match where the crowd’s reaction has been tampered with while Gorilla Monsoon also dubs over new commentary where he paints Sid as the villain, somehow.

So that was the 1992 Royal Rumble, in hindsight it was fairly obvious that Flair was going to win. Undertaker had his early brush with success, Savage was still focussed on Jake Roberts, Sid wasn’t quite at the Championship level while Hogan had won the previous two Rumble matches. All signs pointed to Flair, but because Flair was The Man there were times in this match where it looked like anyone but The Nature Boy would win.

Raw Rewind: 13 January 1997

raw-old-shadow

Craig Wilson

Part two of the #Rawrewind see’s us at the Knickerboker Arena in Albany New York for the WWF Raw episode broadcast on 13 January 1997, the final show before that year’s Royal Rumble.

Champion Roll Call:

WWF Champion: Sycho Sid
WWF Intercontinental Champion: HHH
WWF Tag Team Champions: Owen Hart and the British Bulldog

We start with a recap of Sid powerbombing Jose Lothario’s son from last week’s edition of Raw. Vince informs us that HBK is joining us from San Antonio for an interview as we see clips of Stone Cold attacking Bret Hart on Superstars.

Your hosts are Vince McMahon and the Honky Tonk Man.

Match 1: HHH & Jerry ‘the King’ Lawler v Goldust and ‘the Wildman’ Marc Mero : Lawler and Trips are in the ring as the show starts. Honky Tonk Man joins Vince on commentary as cover for Lawler. Mero’s music hits to a good pop as he hits the ring with Sable. The golden robe-clad Goldust makes his way down to the ring next and clearly means business as he goes straight for the Intercontinental Champion HHH.

The faces clear the ring as the referee tries to impose order on the match. Mero and Lawler start this one. We get informed that tonight we’ll see Crush v The Undertaker and Rocky Miavia v one-half of the tag team champions, the British Bulldog.

Test of strength in the ring which Lawler sells before being dropped with a right hook. Double team move backfires as HHH cracks Lawler across the face with a fist. HHH is tagged in and Goldust fires across the ring to attack him.

Big back body drop has HHH on the mat and Goldust tags in but HHH leaves and Lawler is the legal man. Yet another double team move backfires as Goldust reverses Lawler into HHH’s boot. Some joined up thinking now from the heels as they work over Mero in the corner.

Goldust is in now as HHH refuses to tag in but finally makes his way in for a double team move but again hits his partner. This is the last Raw before the 1997 Royal Rumble and we learn that on next week’s show the winner of the Rumble will face the loser of the match between Sid and Michaels. Goldust finally gets his hands on HHH but the referee breaks it up and gets HHH out. Mero is in and locks up with Mero before HHH reluctantly tags in.

We return from a break as HHH works away on Mero before a flying head scissors from the Wildman has both men down. Goldust is tagged in and attacks HHH. HHH is tied up in the ropes and Goldust keeps attacking forcing a DQ.

Your winners: HHH & Lawler by DQ: A decent enough match here and great booking keeping HHH away from Goldust as long as possible. The only point in this match was to further build to the HHH v Goldust match at the Royal Rumble for the Intercontinental Title.

We’re soon speaking with Michaels but first we hear pre-recorded comments from Sid inside the Alamodome, the venue for the Royal Rumble. Predictably incoherent stuff from Sid, talking about Michaels’ family and friends having to look on as Sid beats him.

Michaels is up now as we see a highlight package of what led to the match between him and Sid at Royal Rumble 1997. Michaels talks about how dirty Texans can fight and that he’s going to take the fight to Sid.

Bret Hart’s music hits as he limps down to the ring. We see more footage of Austin’s chair attack on his ankle. Bret is joining the commentary team for the next match which we get after an advert for the 1997 Royal Rumble.

Match 2: The British Bulldog v Rocky Miavia: Rocky hits the ring to a good pop, something that will soon change. Dissention in the ranks between Mero and Sable is showed in a video package before Miavia saves Sable from the Honky Tonk Man. This results in Maivia and Mero fighting it out.

Anyway, we start with a tie-up that the Bulldog comfortably powers out of. Bret Hart goes into a rant about the WWF being a lawless land. Rocky takes the Bulldog down with a number of deep arm drags.

Bulldog powers back and takes control with a side headlock. A dropkick sends Davey-Boy to the outside and it takes Clarence Mason to stop him making his way to the back. Owen makes his way down to ringside and gets in his brother’s face.

Rocky gets a near fall with a flying bodypress. Bulldog hits back with the hanging suplex and a legdrop for a two of his own.

Rocky fights back and a clothesline takes them both to the outside. Miavia is whipped into the guardrail as Austin attacks the Bulldog. Owen and Bret make for Austin as Miavia gets back into the ring at 9 to win via count out.

Your winner: Rocky Miavia by count out.

Another match used to advance a feud – this time between Austin and Bret Hart.

The Nation are Backstage as we hear from Farooq ahead of the Rumble and from Crush on his upcoming match with The Undertaker.

Match 3: The Undertaker v Crush: The lights go out as The Undertaker makes his way down to the ring for this week’s main event. Crush is rapped down to the ring by JC Ice and Wolfie D and is accompanied by Farooq and Clarence Mason. The ‘taker attacks Crush in the aisle and sends him into the ring steps.

The Undertaker hits a big DDT on Crush and then a slam and leg drop. Crush fights back but is dumped to the outside by the ‘taker but counters by dropping him on the top rope. Back in the ring Crush punches away on the Undertaker and attacks away in the corner before running into a big boot.

Crush is momentarily distracted by a “jailbird” chant which refers to his brief stint in jail for possession of drugs and a handgun. The Taker is dropped onto the guardrail before being thrown into the ringsteps.

Back in the ring and Crush continues to work away on the Undertaker as Vader looks on from the entry way. The Undertaker fights back and goes for a Tombstone but Crush fights out and sends the ‘taker down with a belly-to-belly suplex before signalling for the heart punch which is blocked and The Undertaker hits a weak looking chokeslam. The Nation interfere to stop the three count and Vader joins the fray to help in the beat down of the Undertaker.

Your winner: Via DQ, The Undertaker.

Post match the Nation and Vader continue the beatdown before Ahmed tries to make the save with a 2×4. However, he is also outnumbered and the show closes with The Undertaker down after two Vader Bombs and Ahmed being hit by Farooq with a 2×4.

Overall: Bit frustrating that we didn’t get a single clean finish on the card at all. As you’d expect with the last show before a PPQ, all the matches were about furthering feuds ahead of the card but, still, the show left a lot to be desired.

Sunday Sermon: Classic Royal Rumble returns

Jamie Lithgow, Craig Wilson & James Giles

Today we are looking towards The Royal Rumble and an eye on what has become a staple over the years, the surprise entrant. The Royal Rumble almost always throws up at least one surprise, but what have our favourites been?

Jamie: The easy option here is to jump to the surprise entrants who actually went on to win the match, John Cena in 2008 and Edge in 2010. Both were sidelined leading up to the event with long/medium term injuries with returns more likely towards Wrestlemania. However, when WWE wants to keep a secret they certainly know how. Much as I hate to admit it Cena’s return still sticks in my mind as an iconic moment. Nobody expected to hear his music hit and with everyone in disbelief he just stood in the middle of Madison Square Garden and struck his trademark pose. Edge was even more of a surprise. Coming off an Achiles tendon injury nobody in their right mind expected to see him anywhere near a wrestling ring before Wrestlemania, but sure enough WWE kept things quiet and fooled us all. For me this was a double surprise because unlike Cena once Edge was in the match I didn’t actually pick him as a winner. This double surprise, and the fact that Edge is one of favourite ever wrestlers, makes his entry in the 2010 Rumble hard to beat for me.

The other surprise that sticks in my mind, purely as a WTF moment, was seeing Kevin Nash in full Diesel attire enter the 2011 Rumble. We kind of suspected that Booker T might show up but fewer people predicted seeing Nash, let alone in his Diesel gimmick!

Craig: A great topic. Diesel was cool, especially with his old gimmick and music. Without doubt one of the quirky side joys of watching the Royal Rumble has been to see which legend appears. Easily my favourite, however, has to be the ‘Perfect Return’ in 2002 of Mr. Perfect. Although billed for a few weeks prior to the event – which I’m glad they don’t still do – his return was still cool and great to see him make the final three and throw in a few Perfect-plexes as well.

Another stand-out for me was from last year’s Rumble with the return of the Road Dogg. Quite unexpected and a great trip down memory lane. Which leads me to potential returns this year, reckon we’ll see the other Outlaw – Billy Gunn? Recently signed by the WWE as a trainer and the New Age Outlaws have been making a few house show appearances.

Jamie: I feel like Goldust may have been a surprise entry in 2002 Rumble too. I may be mistaken because he has popped up at random points in WWE history many times. Another really random surprise entry was Haku in the 2001 Rumble. I don’t remember thinking “cool, Haku is in the Rumble” my reaction was more “is that Haku, what’s he doing in the Rumble?!”

Craig: Goldust was 02. Am positive there was another surprise entrant too. Haku returned with epic hair and, unless I’m mistaken, the WCW hardcore title…

Jamie: He did have awesome hair, although I don’t think he brought the hardcore title with him. I do still think he was recognised as champ, but he didn’t have the belt with him. I remember his appearance because this was the moment I realised that Meng from WCW was Haku in WWE, yeah, I’m slow! I can’t think of the other surprise in the 2002 match though, maybe someone returning from injury?

Another good surprise was Mankind in 1998. This was the year that Mick Foley entered 3 times with his 3 different gimmicks, and still didn’t win. The reason Mankind was surprising because he was the second of the three gimmicks to appear. For me this was basically cheating, but entertaining all the same.

Craig: Just checked about 2002 Rumble. Sean Morley returned with his old Val Venis gimmick. He’d been in Right to Censor for a few years before that.

I’d be surprised if we didn’t see at least one of the legends that interacted with Heath Slater ahead of Raw 1000 as well. They’re clearly on good terms with the WWE after all.

Other names circulating online are Shelton Benjamin and John Morrison. Both would be quite welcome returns to the roster.

What about current roster guys returning? Christian and Mark Henry being obvious ones. The Undertaker perhaps? Or is his return post Rumble?

Jamie: Shelton Benjamin is a good shout, I think he’s finished up with ROH so that could very well happen. John Morrison would also be welcomed backed with open arms. However, as much as I would welcome them back can you really see WWE doing anything with them? Brilliant wrestlers, fans respect them, both have great presence and good promo skills but WWE will just waste them. Don’t believe me? Look at the equally outstanding Kofi Kingston. I think Christian is a good call, I’ve heard that Mark Henry might be further away though. A cheeky shout for a legend entering could be Ricky Steamboat, that’s where my money is.

James: The 2001 Rumble, which is still one of my favourites, had Honky Tonk Man as a surprise entry. His interaction with Kane was pretty funny, with the Big Red Machine wiping him out with his own guitar, after an impromtu performance. Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller has made a few random comedy appearances too, but i forget which years.

After his appearance on RAW last year, I’d like to see Vadar make an appearance. He got a big pop and loads of chants, and he could do the typical big man role of clearing the ring before he gets eliminated.

Craig: Here’s a curveball, what about Jake ‘the snake’ Roberts? Both Colt Cabana and the excellent Shining Wizards have interviewed him recently and by all accounts he’s in good shape. What a pop he’d get. Been working with DDP to get healthy. Could lead to a well deserved Hall of Fame entry but that’s probably a discussion for a future Sunday Sermon.

Jamie: That’s the kind of surprise legend entry I would quite enjoy. I get pretty bored with seeing the likes of Roddy Piper and Sgt. Slaughter being wheeled out time and time again. I would put my money on Mick Foley making an appearance. He’s the first inductee into the Hall of Fame this year, he’s been around Raw for a few months and the Rumble is the kind of match that allows old timers with limited mobility a chance to get in some offence and not have to worry about taking bumps.

Craig: Foley did last year, be surprised if he returned this year. I’d be happy to wager on Billy Gunn, a legend that took on Slater ahead of Raw 1000 and a random other – Jake ‘the snake’ Roberts being my pick.

Jamie: Did he? Shows how much I was paying attention. I think we might see a good two or three surprises this year, purely because all members of 3MB managed to get into the match without needing to qualify by competing in a match. Clearly WWE is struggling to make the numbers! I don’t have anything against 3MB, but they are a modern day Job Squad! I like James’ Vader suggestion, they could even through Sid in there, just for a laugh.

Wrestlemania 29 Match & Results Predictions

This post is originally from January 2013 as Jamie gave his predictions on what would be the Wrestlemania 29. You can read his follow up post here.

Additionally, you can read our full Wrestlemania 29 predictions here.

Jamie Lithgow

Today I’m going one step further than most wrestling bloggers by not only predicting what the card will be on April 7th but the results too. As I write this it is January 12th 2013 and CM Punk vs The Rock is confirmed for the Royal Rumble. Having that match officially locked in and the news that John Cena will be in the Rumble match I have all the information I need to start piecing Wrestlemania together. Let’s get cracking…

WWE Title Match – The Rock (C) vs John Cena

Much as I despise the prospect of this match being booked again I think it is nailed on. The Rock will win the WWE title, if not at the Rumble then at Elimination Chamber. I don’t agree with it, but he will, it’s obvious. WWE made so much money from Wrestlemania 28’s ‘once in a life time’ match that they are desperate to book it again. The problem is they booked encounter number one as ‘once in a life time’ so they need the rematch to happen by “accident”. Therefore The Rock being WWE Champion and John Cena winning the Royal Rumble means they are duty bound to face each other in a Wrestlemania rematch, what a coincidence that would be eh?!

As for the match, simple wrestling logic says Cena wins. Top level wrestlers trade wins and Rock owes Cena. Also, Cena is a full timer and will be around after ‘Mania while Rocky will be heading back to Hollywood. Thirdly, how daft would it be for WWE to book part time wrestler/full time movie star The Rock on three shows and have him defeat it’s top heel once and it’s top babyface twice?! If The Rock isn’t used to put someone over, even if it is Cena, then he will have done more harm than good since he returned last year.

Winner and new WWE Champion – John Cena

Brock Lesnar vs Triple H

Brock Lesnar will of course return for Wrestlemania, but he is on a limited date contract. So, with limited time to build a match does WWE have a superstar who has unfinished business with him to make booking a match as straight forward as possible? Of course they do, plus Brock owes Triple H a win. This match is even more predictable than Rock vs Cena II.

Winner – Triple H

CM Punk vs The Undertaker

With the other big guns occupied this match is also fairly simple to predict. Undertaker only faces big names these days and the only big name left is CM Punk. Also, if Punk is dropping the WWE title just before a potential Wrestlemania pay cheque then they better have a good consolation prize for him. Far from a consolation, these days most wrestling fans consider The Undertaker’s match as the true Wrestlemania main event. The set up for this match is easy enough to write; The Dead Man could take offense to something Punk says and Punk, bitter at his title loss, could look to top his mammoth reign as champion by claiming something even more prestigious; the streak. As for a winner, need I ask? If The Undertaker were to ever lose at Wrestlemania it would be in a retirement match, and may I say that would be the ultimate way to put someone over. However, Taker will surely make it to Wrestlemania 30 at the very least, therefore the streak lives and CM Punk will join Taker’s list of victims

Winner – The Undertaker

World Heavyweight Championship Match – Sheamus (C) vs Randy Orton

I am predicting that the World title will get passed around like a joint on the road to Wrestlemania. Del Rio is the Champion now, Big Show is due a rematch and Ziggler still hasn’t cashed in his briefcase. I’m not sure about all the twists and turns but my guess is that Sheamus will end up with the title while a heel Randy Orton will try to take it off him at ‘Mania, and I think he will succeed. These two are the biggest stars you would associate with the WHC so they are a logical choice. Also,  The Viper has been very quiet for a long time, although rather vocal about wanting to turn heel, so I expect 2013 to be a big year for him.

Winner and new World Heavyweight Champion – Randy Orton

Sin Cara vs Rey Mysterio

WWE have wanted to present this match ever since they signed Sin Cara. The fact that they are currently a tag team is no coincidence, Sin Cara will be turning heel on Mysterio shortly. I could easily see the seeds of dissention being sewn in The Rumble match. Picking a winner could be tricky, but with the WWE as it is I have to assume the babyface will win.

Winner – Rey Mysterio

The Shield vs The Miz, Alberto Del Rio & Kofi Kingston

There is always some kind of multi wrestler match at Wrestlemania these days and this is my conservative guess. The fact that The Shield keep to themselves makes me doubt whether they would form part of a bigger team, therefore I think they will face a team of babyfaces on their own. By this time The Shield will be long overdue their comeuppance so I am going for another babyface win.

Winners – The Miz, Alberto Del Rio & Kofi Kingston

Ryback vs The Big Show

I feel like Ryback has peaked too early to make a massive impact at Wrestlemania, you can already hear crowd reaction for him fading. I would guess that WWE will stick with him, because he has big muscles of course, but use him just underneath the main event bracket until he finds his feet. By then Big Show will have concluded his stint in the main event picture and be ripe for a Wrestlemania defeat. I would suggest Ryback delivering Shell Shock to the giant could be one of the Wrestlemania moments from this year.

Winner – Ryback

WWE Tag Team Title Match – Team Rhodes Scholars (C) vs Team Hell No

They should have already broken up but I think WWE are milking Team Hell No for all they are worth. I can see them imploding during this match to hand Rhodes Scholars the win. Incidentally I expect Rhodes and Sandow to win the titles very soon, thus they will retain in this match.

Winners and still WWE Tag Team Champions – Team Rhodes Scholars

Dolph Ziggler vs Shelton Benjamin

How’s this for a random shout? Sounds like a hell of match though. If I had my way Ziggler would be way up this card defending the WHC but we have seen so many falls dawns with him that I have lost faith in WWE to push him with any conviction. As for Benjamin, I hear he might be coming back so he should be fresh enough to warrant a match on the big card.

Winner – Dolph Ziggler

I would also expect some kind of pre-show battle royal and a blink and you’ll miss it Divas match, possibly featuring a useless celebrity.

So this is how I think Wrestlemania will look. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not what I want it to look like but it’s what I would put my money on. The undercard is mainly guess work, given that WWE probably haven’t thought about it yet, but I feel confident about my predictions in the top three or four matches. Speaking of which I would expect Rock vs Cena II to go on last, but I ask you; is anyone excited about the prospect of not only this match but the build up to it? Their original feud was pretty conclusive with The Rock getting the clean win, while promo-wise both men had fired all their shots with a good two weeks to spare before the match. Granted, this time it will be for the WWE title, but there is no heat between the two anymore. This feud is concluded, with Cena pretty much admitting that the better man won. With both men in the exact same position i.e. top babyface vs part time top babyface I don’t see the need to book this match again. If someone were to turn heel however…..

Speaking of matches that we’ve seen already, Brock Lesnar has already defeated Triple H, cleanly too. So we will get another rerun from last year’s PPV schedule, although in contrast to Rock vs Cena I would be more welcoming of this rematch. With that said however, I really hope Wrestlemania doesn’t look like this, it’s just too obvious and predictable. Yes, some matches should be strongly hinted at to help build anticipation, but WWE’s options are so limited right now that once one match is set the rest of the card starts falling into place in a rather predictable fashion. Part of me would be very satisfied if I managed to correctly predict say 50% of the card, but the other half would be deeply saddened that I, a mere fan (not even a professional writer or journalist) could predict the best work of WWE’s professional television writers months in advance.