Sunday Sermon: Turning John Cena Heel

Jamie Lithgow & Craig Wilson

"You can't see me" but Jamie hopes to see him turn heel

“You can’t see me” but Jamie hopes to see him turn heel

For this week’s Sermon we are spinning-off from a point raised last week. The prospect of a John Cena heel turn is always in the back of most wrestling fan’s minds. Well, those over the age of 12 at least. Articles written on the back of these thoughts are usually treated as wishful thinking. However, over the last year or so feelings of hope have slowly started to turn to expectation in some circles. These feelings come from Cena’s dealings with The Rock, whom he faces for a second time at Wrestlemania next week.

In terms of refreshing his character and creating a wealth of new potential scenarios and feuds there is no doubt that most people would be in favour of a Cena heel turn. However, from a business point of view babyface Cena makes a ton of money. So, with our business hats on, should WWE turn John Cena heel at Wrestlemania 29? Continue reading

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What wrestling taught us this week

Craig Wilson

Covering Jamie’s column for him this week as he’s away for a few days to the “land of no internet” to quote him.

Anyway, so what has the wacky world of wrestling taught me this week:

WWE learned from previous week’s episode: An overrun and a show filled with trailers for the WWE’s fairly poor attempts at movies makes for a woeful episode. The three hours is often tough enough to last through, an overrun is brutal!

This Jericho return won’t amount to much: After all, he’s stuck in a Wrestlemania match with Fandango. That said, he was able to pin Ziggler. For Jericho to give Fandango the rub he has to be able to show that he’s not moved that far down the card. I fear that’s impossible with this one… Continue reading

Back to Where it all Began: Wrestlemania 1 review

Craig Wilson

What better way to look ahead to this year’s Wrestemania than by going back to where it call began, back in 1985, at the Madison Square Garden for Wrestlemania 1.

wrestlemania1

The show starts with photos of those competing in each match with a picture of the New York skyline in the background set to, obviously, a very 80s generic soundtrack. We also see images of the celebrities in all their glory.

Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura.

Gorilla introduces us to Wrestlemania before sending us straight to Howard Finkel as he announces that Mean Gene Okerlund will start the show by singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’.

Match 1: Tito Santana v The Execution: The Execution is a masked Buddy Rose, a former AWA Tag Team Champion. Lord Alfred Hayes, clad in a cream tux, introduces pre recorded comments where Mean Gene speaks with both Santana and The Executioner.

Santana is back after a stint out thanks to an injury caused by WWF Intercontinental Champion Greg Valentine in the pair’s feud over that belt. Santana gets, as Gorilla correctly states, an incredible ovation from the crowd.

A lock up to start and a criss cross before a back body drop and a dropkick sends The Execution to the outside. Side headlock applies pressure and Santana uses the turnbuckle to gain the advantage and gets a near fall.

Executioner breaks the hold with a shot to Santana’s previously injured knee before Santana rams him headfirst into the mat. Executioner is able to take control with a boot to the gut but taking Santana down with a knee to the gut after whipping the former Intercontinental champion into the ropes.

A figure-four leglock attempt is countered but Executioner keeps going for the injured knee. Executioner slams Santana twice but is caught attempt ing to come off the top rope and Santana slams him from the top. Executioner then gets his knees up to counter the splash. He then tries to attack the knee but Santana kicks him out of the ring before bringing him back in where he hits the flying forearm and the figure-four leglock for the win.

Your winner: Tito Santana via tap-out. So Santana wins the first ever Wrestlemania match and it really wasn’t a bad match. A solid opening match and the crowd were hot for Tito in this one.

Lord Hayes is backstage again as he builds up to King Kong Bundy v S.D. Jones and we again get pre-recorded comments.

Match 2: King Kong Bundy v S.D. Jones: SD Jones charges get caught with a charge in a bear hug and is slammed into the corner. An Avalanche follows before the big splash and the pin for the three count.

Your winner: King Kong Bundy via pin. Not quite the 9 seconds advertised but still a squash. This served the purpose and amusingly the replay at the end is the entire match.

Mean Gene catches up with Matt Borne – the future Doink the Clown – backstage and he states that Steamboat is just too nice.

Match 3: Matt Borne v Ricky Steamboat: I forgot to mention that in a bright pink tux, Ventura is running Alfred Hayes close for who has the worst tuxedo on. This isn’t “The Dragon” yet, it’s a quite generic looking Steamboat in white trunks, white kneepads and white boots.

Chops and a snapmare puts Steamboat in control before he flips out of the reversal attempt and keeps the headlock applied. Borne then sells the atomic drop but is able to gain some advantange with an inverted atomic drop and a series of clubbing blows.

Steamboat comes off the second rope with a chop to the head then one to the chest sends Borne down. Gut wrench suplex and a snap suplex only gets a one count. Back suplex sends Borne down as Steamboat regains control. Spinning neckbreaker and a knee drop secures a two count but borne rakes the eyes.

He misses a clothesline but Steamboat connects with a flying chop to the chest before a cross body from the top rope secures the win.

Your winner: Ricky Steamboat via pinfall. Borne was able to get in some offence but essentially a squash and a victory for Steamboat although not quite the “sensational” one that Monsoon stated.

Mean Gene catches up with David Sammartino, who is with his father Bruno as Bruno warns Johnny Valiant, Beefcake’s manager, not to get involved. Beefcake botches a promo, showing exactly why Johnny Valiant does all the talking there.

Match 4: Brutus Beefcake (w/ Johnny Valiant) v David Sammartino (w/ Bruno Sammartino): Unsurprisingly great pop for the Sammartino’s, considering how many times Bruno sold out this venue. It takes an age for Beefcake to remove his ring attire and he gives the fans a strut that would become his trademark when he gained the barber gimmick.

The two run trhough some mat based wrestling to start before David digs out a front-face lock, a move made famous by his father. Way to move out of your old man’s shadow, David. The problem for him was that he may have used many of the same moves, but lacked virtually all the charisma that made his Father such a big name.

Brutus hits a backdrop and Brutus punches and kicks his opponent all over the ring. Sammartino is able to make a comeback with punches and knees and a big suplex for two. David is thrown to the floor and is slammed to the ground by Valiant. Bruno rushes to his son’s aid and throws Valiant into the ring and the four men brawl in the ring as the referee calls for a DQ.

Your winner: No contest. First non-squash but also the first non-finish on this card and, of course, in Wrestlemania history. This match lasted some 12 minutes but felt a lot longer than that. Brutus was a very boring performer whilst Sammartino was far too green and that combination never leads to a good match, as this one demonstrates. The crowd really only cared about this one when Bruno was in the ring…

First ever Wrestlemania title match as Hayes introduces comments from WWF Intercontinental Champion Greg ‘the Hammer’ Valentine and The Junkyard Dog.

Match 5: WWF Intercontinental Champion Greg ‘the Hammer’ Valentine (w/ Jimmy Hart) v The Junkyard Dog: JYD comes out to Grab Them Cakes his song from ‘The Wrestling Album’ released in November of this year. This is the anthology edition of the show and sounds dubbed… Sure it was ‘Another one bites the dust’ by Queen that played as he made his way to the ring.

JYD catches a boot attempt and clubs Valentine to the ground. A knee lift regains control but he misses a falling forearm and JYD hits the headbutts on all fours. Test of strength and Valentine uses a shoulder block and a big fore arm to gain control.

Valentine then works on the legs, softening them up for his patented figure-four leglock. Single leg crab attempt is blocked and JYD kicks out before the two trade clubbing blows in the corner. JYD wins that battle and hits a series of headbutts, keeping hold of his opponent, and Valentine does t he trademark Flair fall to the mat.

Hart jumps up the apron distracting JYD but he ducks as Valentine attmpes a forearm shot and Valentine knocks Hart to the ground. The two fight into the corner and Valentine gauges the eyes and picks up the win with his feet on the ropes.

Santana hits the ring to explain to the referee what happens and the referee reestarts the match but Valentine is gone so JYD wins via count-out.

Your winner: The Junkyard Dog via count-out. Good enough match spoiled by the silly ending. Furthers the feud between Santana and Valentine but matches on Wrestlemania shouldn’t really be used for the purpose of furthering a feud.

Freddy Blassie tells Mean Gene that he’s confident that he’s managing the next WWF tag team champions before Lou Albana says they’ll do their best – not the most confident of promos from the reigning champions, that’s for sure.

Match 6: WWF Champions The U.S. Express (Mike Rotunda & Barry Windham) (w/ Captain Lou Albana) v Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik (w/ Classy Freddy Blassie): Of course Volkoff starts with an out of key rendition of the Russian national anthem as fans throw rubbish at the heel tag team.

The champions, making their way to the ring to a dubbed pastiche of ‘Born in the USA’ by Springsteen, hit the ring to great cheers from the crowd. In the original, it was Springsteen’s track that the team used as entrance music.

Rotunda, who would achieve further tag team gold later down the line as I.R.S, starts with Sheik. Shoulder block from Sheik to start but a huge hip toss, dropkick and slam puts Rotunda in control. Windham comes off the top with a big elbow and drops the leg to Sheik’s lower abdomen.

Windham is backed into the heels’ corner but miscommunication from them and Sheik hits Volkoff with a dropkick. They make up and Volkoff enters the fray. He takes the advantage with a headbutt to the gut but Windham is able to make the tag and Rotunda knocks his opponent down with a back elbow and a falling elbow for a 1.

We get another entrance from the top rope for Windham, as he nails Volkoff with a flying elbow. He tagsin his partner who also hits a flying elbow. Volkoff fights back and drives Rotunda into The Sheik’s boot, who back body drops Rotunda and hits an elbow drop for a near fall.

Volkoff is back in and drops Rotunda over the top rope and clubs away on the champion. Rotunda gets a two with a sunset flip but Volkoff gets out easily and hits Rotunda with a big knee. Windham finally gets the hot tag hits the bulldog but Sheik saves the three count and four men brawl in the ring. In the confusion The Sheik hits Windham with Blassie’s cane and Volkoff covers for the three count and to win the belts.

Your winners: And new WWF Tag Team Champions The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. A great old school tag team match with a very surprising, and deeply unpopular, ending as new WWF Tag Team Champions are crowned.

Match 7: Big John Studd (w/ Bobby ‘the Brain’ Heenan) v Andre the Giant: This is the $15,000 bodyslam match. If André slams Studd he wins $15,000 but if Studd wins then André retires.

Studd attacks at the bell but André comes back with chops and a head-butt forcing Studd to retreat to the outside. He comes back into the ring to a huge choke on the ropes before André continues to beat on him in the corner

We get treated to a lengthy bearhug from André as the restless crowd chant “slam” in an attempt to inspire André to do just that. To no avail, Stuff gauges away on The Giant’s eyes in the hope of breaking the hold.

The bearhug is eventually broken but André remains in control as he beats on Studd before slamming him out of nowhere for the win before handing out the money he won to the fans in attendance until Heenan sneaks off with the bag of money

Your winner: André the Giant via the slam. A boring squash match but it did create an early iconic moment of André slamming Studd.

Match 8: WWF Women’s Champion Leilani Kai (w/ The Fabulous Moolah) v Wendi Richter (w/ Cyndi Lauper & David Wolff): This is all about the rock ‘n’ roll wrestling connection rather than the in-ring action. The WWF had successfully used, and there’s no better word for it, MTV ahead of this event to boost flailing sales and Cyndi Lauper played a huge role in this.

Wendi is in control from the start as she tosses Kai around the ring in a hammerlock. Kai takes control with a snapmare and picks up a two count. Kai uses the hair to take, and reams in, in control of this one.

Wendi gets a series of nearfalls but Kai fights back with a kick to the gut and snapmares Richter using the hair. Richter catches her running into the corner with knees to the face and picks up the two count before backing her into the corner where Moolah attacks. Lauper and Moolah go at it before Kai drops Richter with a boot to t he chest.

Kai gets a near fall with a backbreaker and Kai goes up to the top rope for the cross body but Richter rolls through – well just about – and picks up the win and becomes new WWF Women’s Champion.

Your winner and new WWF Women’s Champion Wendi Richter. A horrible match to watch. A very boring encounter filled with rest holds and a near botched finish.

Match 9: WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and Mr. T (W/ ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka) v Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff (w/ ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton): Pre-match we’re introduced to the special ring announcer for the main event Billy Martin, the guest time keeper Liberace – with the Rockettes – and the special guest referee Muhammad Ali.

Whilst Ali is the guest referee, it’s more of an enforcer role he has with Pat Patterson handling in-ring duties. Piper and Mr T eventually start this one and after trading slaps they trade amateur wrestling holds.

After regrouping in the corner, Piper runs into a fireman’s carry and then a brawl ensures which prompts both Snuka and Orton to get involved. Piper briefly hightails out of there after Ali takes a swing at him.

It returns to normal with Piper and Hogan in the ring and They trade eye-rakes before Mr. T is tagged back in. He slams Piper and hip tosses Orndorff, who had charged in.

Hogan is back in and he kicks Piper over the top rope to the outside. Orndorff then clotheslines Hogan over the top where Piper nails him with a chair which results in even more action on the outside involving Muhammad Ali, Piper and Orton.

A distracted Pat Patterson then misses a number of double teams on Hogan until Ali gets in the ring to help Pat Patterson regain order. Orndorff then misses a top rope knee drop that allows Hogan to make the hot tag and Mr. T is back in.

However, it is a short lived advantage for them as Orndorff and Piper overwhelm him. They work over him until he makes it to his corner and tags in Hogan but the heels soon regain control with a backsuplex.

Bob Orton then attempts to enter the fray but Snuka hits him with a head-butt. Orndorff locks in a full nelson as Orton comes off the top but Hogan moves and he hits Orndorff with the cast allowing Hogan to make the cover for the three to give the victory to Hogan and Mr T.

Piper then knocks Pat Patterson down and leaves with Bob Orton as Orndorff is left in the ring, turning him face.

Your winner: Hogan and Mr. T. A humorous enough match and entertaining, despite the distinct lack of wrestling ability being on show.

Post match Hogan, Mr. T and Snuka discuss their victory here.

Overall: Historically vitally important to the history of professional wrestling. Sure, major cards had been done before but not on this scale, with the amount of crossover appeal generated by the celebrities nor with the wide reach obtained through the event being broadcast on closed circuit television to theatres across America.

With any card, there are some low points as well as high points. Such a number of squash matches always tends to leave a sour taste in the mouth as did the David Sammartino v Beefcake match but the entertaining tag title match and the main event more than made up for it.

An enjoyable event and from a viewers standpoint, a great portal into the world of the WWF in 1985.

The Origin of Gimmicks – WWE’s Most Evolved Wrestlers

Jamie Lithgow

evolutionhumans
 
 
Every living organism evolves over time, wrestlers are no different. I can’t name one successful professional wrestler who has not made alterations to their character or introduced new moves to their repertoire. Even John Cena, who’s only change over the last 6 or 7 years has been the colour of his t-shirt, started life as a bland babyface who struck gold with a heel white rapper gimmick born from a Vanilla Ice Halloween costume. It is this kind of evolution that I will be looking at today, as I take a look at WWE’s most evolved gimmicks.
 
There are a few ground rules before I start. Firstly, I am considering gimmicks that have drastically evolved and even seen a name change or two, Rocky Maivia’s transformation into The Rock for example. I am not considering wrestlers who have portrayed multiple gimmicks, such as Glen ‘Kane/Isaac Yankem/Fake Deisel’ Jacobs. Isaac Yankem did not evolve into Kane, within the WWE Universe these are two separate characters. I am also not looking at alter egos. Mankind did not morph into Cactus Jack who did not then transform into Dude Love. These were three distinct alter egos of Mick Foley which existed in parallel with each other. This is starting to sound confusing so let’s get down to business, you’ll get the idea soon enough…
The Godfather
The Godfather evolution
Kama = Kama Mustafa = The Godfather = The Goodfather = The Godfather
Charles Wright’s first stint with the WWE saw him play the part of Papa Shango; however this voodoo doctor character is of a different Lineage to his other gimmicks. Kama ‘The Supreme Fighting Machine’, a shoot fighter character, debuted in early 1995 and made little impact away from stealing Undertaker’s urn and turning it into a Run DMC style chain. He would return a couple of years later with a new look and surname as Kama Mustafa, member of the Nation of Domination. He would slowly adopt the moniker of Godfather of The Nation, which brought about The Godfather character. WWE’s resident pimp (they even used the term “ho” to describe his lady friends) was then brainwashed by the ultra conservative Right to Censor where he was redubbed The Goodfather. After RTC disbanded he returned to pimping before disappearing from our screens
John Morrison
John Morrison evolution
John Hennigan = Johnny Nitro = John Morrison
On Tough Enough he went by his real name of John Hennigan, and rightly won the series, along with Matt Capotelli. After spending some time growing his hair and honing his skills in OVW he made his debut as Johnny Nitro, Eric Bischoff’s apprentice. He actually trialled a couple of names, but Nitro stuck. He then went on to form the hollywood inspired tag team MNM with Joey Mercury and Melina. Fake Paparazzi would even try to snap them during their ring entrance. After MNM split he headed to WWE’s version of ECW where he re-christened himself John Morrison, inspired by his resemblance to legendary Doors front man Jim Morrison. He played a cocky heel and then a cheeky babyface before leaving WWE in late 2011.
Triple H
Triple H
Hunter Hearst Helmsley = Triple H
It’s pretty striking to the see the transformation from the pompous Hunter Hearst Helmsley to The King of Kings. He slowly ditched the Connecticut blue blood gimmick in 1997 when he formed Degeneration X with Shawn Michaels. However it would take until ’98 for him to completely ditch the gimmick by changing his ring gear. From here he steadily dropped the dick jokes, switched to short tights and rose to the top of the WWE as Triple H, The Game, The Cerebral Assassin, and The King of Kings.
Tensai
Tensai
Prince Albert = Albert = A-Train = Lord Tensai = Tensai
Prince Albert was Droz’s piercer, Albert was a nondescript big man and A-Train was a nondescript big man with a new name and a push. After developing his skills in Japan Matt Bloom returned to WWE as Lord Tensai, and that was pretty much his gimmick; a guy that used to work for WWE but became a big deal in Japan. It didn’t get over; he dropped the ‘Lord’ part and became Tensai, who is currently lower on the totem pole than Albert ever was.
Road Dogg
Road Dogg
The Roadie = Jesse James = Road Dogg
This was a simple evolution. The Roadie was Jeff Jarrett’s, erm, roadie. When Jarrett left WWE in 1996 The Roadie also left, however the latter would return shortly after. He was then billed as Jesse James, the real Double J. His country singer gimmick didn’t catch fire so James recruited another name on this list, Rockabilly aka Billy Gunn, to form the New Age Outlaws before adding the Road Dogg handle to his name. It’s hard to describe the Road Dogg gimmick because it comes accross as a guy largely being himself, which is a staple of all good wrestling characters.
Ron Simmons
Ron Simmons
Ron Simmons = Faarooq Asad = Faarooq = Ron Simmons
He made his WWE debut by attacking Ahmed Johnson while dressed as a Gladiator. In this debut he was named dropped as Ron Simmons by JR. We would learn that Simmons (a recognisable face to fans due to his time in WCW) had changed his name to Faarooq Asad. Very shortly after he ditched the awful ring attire and began to assemble The Nation of Domination, a Nation of Islam inspired gang. While all his was happening he also ditched the Asad part of his name, becoming simply Faarooq. After being kicked out of The Nation by The Rock, Faarooq floundered before being scooped up by first The Jackyl and then The Undertaker to form The Acolytes with Bradshaw. The Acolytes morphed from Undertaker’s henchmen to beer drinking ass kickers as The APA (Acolyte Protection Agency). Since retiring Simmons now goes by his real name and occasionally says “Damn”.
Viscera
Viscera
Mabel = Viscera = Big Vis = Big Daddy V
As a youngster Nelson Frazer entered WWE as Mable, one half of hip-hop inspired Men on a Mission (or a third if you count Oscar). Turning heel and ditching Oscar the tandem became a generic heel tag team. After winning the King of the Ring in 1995 Mable disappeared only to reappear in early 1999, when he was kidnapped and brainwashed by The Undertaker, who re-christened him Viscera. From here the big guy floated about in the low/mid-card for a few years. Wearing his pyjamas he borrowed Mark Henry’s old Sexual Chocolate gimmick to become Big Vis, The World’s Largest Love Machine. When ECW was re-launched so was he, as Big Daddy V. He was basically original Viscera (a generic bad guy) with a push, except he was topless, yuck!
JBL
JBL
Justin ‘Hawk’ Bradshaw = Blackjack Bradshaw = Bradshaw = John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield
Managed by Uncle Zebekiah (Zeb Coulter) Justin ‘Hawk’ Bradshaw debuted in early 1996 as a tough guy cowboy type. By the end of the year he was being billed as Blackjack Bradshaw in the New Blackjacks tag team with Blackjack Windham (Barry Windham). The team didn’t last long but Bradshaw held onto the blackjack cowboy gimmick until he began teaming with Faarooq in late 1998. Ditching the ‘Blackjack’ moniker Bradshaw, along with Faarooq, became a member of The Undertaker’s Ministry of darkness. Along with Faarooq he slowly transformed into a beer drinking, for-hire ass kicker. When Faarooq retired Bradshaw began using his real name as John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield. JBL, the sharp dressed capitalist, was the exact opposite of the character he had played for years. I can’t explain why this worked, it just did. JBL would become WWE Champion, something Bradshaw could never have been.
Crush
Crush
Crush
He was always called Crush but, he went through various phases. Firstly Demolition Crush was, erm, a member of Demolition. After they split he became Kona Crush, the brightly coloured man from Hawaii. He then turned heel and joining Mr Fuji, which of course meant that he became Japanese Crush, the heel version of Kona Crush with different coloured tights. After a stint in jail (for real, not in storyline) he returned as a member of The Nation of Domination gang. Splitting from the group he formed his own splinter stable, biker gang the Disciples of Apocalypse (DOA). He wouldn’t stick around for long after this as he jumped ship to WCW’s packed mid-card where he used his real name, Brain Adams. He would later achieve moderate success in the Kronik tag team with Bryan Clark, which actually appeared on WWE TV during the invasion angle. However his WCW and final WWE runs are beside the point, the Crush character ended when he left WWE in ’97, his previous run was never recognised when he returned in 2001.
Mideon
Mideon
Phineas I. Godwinn = Dennis Knight = Mideon = Naked Mideon
Pig farmer Phineas I. Godwin and his “brother” Henry O. Godwinn (PIG and HOG respectively) were a staple of the WWE tag division from 1996 to 1998. They were then repackaged under their real names as Southern Justice, Jeff Jarrett’s security team. Henry aka Mark Canterbury suffered a recurrence of a serious neck injury which ended his career. Phineas aka Dennis Knight was left to flounder before, like many on this list, being poached by The Undertaker to join his Ministry of Darkness. Like Viscera he was brainwashed and repackaged as Mideon, a soothsayer type who would bring an eyeball (in a jar) to the ring. With the last breath of his career Mideon became Naked Mideon in 2000, WWE’s resident streaker.
Hardcore Holly
Bob Holly
Thurman ‘Sparky’ Plugg = Bob ‘Spark Plug’ Holly = ‘Bobacious’ Bob = Bob Holly = Hardcore Holly
Debuting in 1993, Nascar inspired Thurman ‘Sparky’ Plugg soon became Bob ‘Spark Plug’ Holly, probably because it sounded slightly less stupid. He spent much of his time as a-low card attraction but did manage a Tag Title run with the 1-2-3 Kid. As ‘Bobacious’ Bob he would go to form the New Midnight Express with Bart Gunn. This bottom of the barrel tandem was part of the NWA stable that appeared and quickly disappeared in ‘98. From there he cut his hair and became simply Bob Holly, member of the aptly named JOB Squad. Finding his niche in the Hardcore division, he would continue his moderate levels success as supposed tough guy Hardcore Holly until he was quietly released in 2009.
Billy Gunn
Billy Gunn
Billy Gunn = Rockabilly = ‘Bad Ass’ Billy Gunn = Mr. Ass = Billy G = ‘The One’ Billy Gunn = Billy = ‘Bad Ass’ Billy Gunn
First he was a cowboy alongside his “brother” Bart in The Smoking Gunns tag team. He turned heel on Bart and achieved nothing, so he was given The Honky Tonk Man and the Rockabilly gimmick, which also achieved nothing. He was then recruited by Road Dogg to form The New Age Outlaws. ‘Bad Ass’ Billy Gunn was the pinnacle of his career; he would also adopt ‘Mr. Ass’ as a nickname around this time. When the Outlaws split for good he experimented with being Billy G before opting for ‘The One’ Billy Gunn, both sucked. He then joined up with Chuck Palumbo to form the infamous are they/aren’t they tandem Billy & Chuck, which at least attracted attention. He then quietly disappeared until resurfacing recently as a road agent and occasional performer in his most successful ‘Bad Ass/Mr. Ass’ gimmick alongside Road Dogg.

The many faces of Glenn Jacobs

KaneCraig Wilson

To those familiar only with the current WWE product, the name Glenn Jacobs is synonymous only with ‘the big red machine’ Kane, but in fact he is in his 21st year as a professional wrestling that has seen him compete in the USWA, Smokey Mountain Wrestling and, since 1995, the WWF/E.

Of course, such a lengthy career in most fields would include both highlights and lowlights and that is the same for Jacobs’ wrestling career. From the highs achieved during his stint as Kane to the lows during the run as Lawler’s dentist and the Fake Diesel. Few can doubt, however, that Jacobs is a shoe-in as a future induction into the WWE Hall of Fame when he eventually hangs up his mask. Continue reading

Matches from History: Undertaker V HBK from Wrestlemania XXV

James Giles

the-undertaker-vs-shawn-michaels-wrestlemania-xxvOverall Wrestlemania XXV is probably not the most fondly remembered edition of WWE’s annual super-show; the Triple Threat between Edge, Cena and Big Show was hastily thrown together and ill thought out, the HHH Vs Orton bout received months of build up, but fans never really warmed to their feud, whilst Rey Misterio captured the IC Title from JBL in a 21 second insult. But in spite of all these disappointing elements, WM25 did manage to produce one true classic match to add to WWE’s Wrestlemania highlight reel – the superb battle between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.

Amazingly, when Wrestlemania XXV took place on April 5 2009, it marked the first time Taker and HBK had locked horns since Royal Rumble 1998, a whopping 11 years previously. Michaels won the right to challenge the Streak after defeating JBL and then Vladimir Kozlov in consecutive weeks. During the build up, Undertaker attempted to intimidate HBK by reminding him that while Taker had never beaten him one-on-one, the last time the clashed Taker beat him up so bad that Michaels spent 4 years on the bench recovering. HBK made his own attempts to psyche The Deadman, by cutting a promo from the Undertakers graveyard, and managing sneak attack him with the Sweet Chin Music twice. WWE was fairly subtle when it came to their roles in rivalry; both were portrayed as ultra-determined anti-heroes, with one being guided by light and divinity and the other by darkness, neither being a clear face or heel.

This was further emphasised by their spectacular entrances, with Michaels descending from above in a Heavenly glow while the Undertaker rose from depths in smoke and purple light. When the bell strikes, HBK is initially able to avoid Taker blows with his speed, but The Deadman does gain the advantage and pounds Michaels with a press slam and Old School. Michaels though switches focus to Takers knee and wears it down with the Figure Four and a dropkick. Taker reveres an Irish Whip and hits Snake Eyes followed by a big leg drop. He sets up for a chokeslam but HBK reverses into a Crippler Crossface. By this point the crowd is very loud and supporting both men and the noise doesn’t die down for the rest of the match. After some more back and forth action, Michaels goes for the Figure Four again but Taker turns it into a Hells Gate. The Deadman misses a big leg drop on the apron but when Michaels tries to capitalise with a moonsault, Taker dodges that too. Seeing the opportunity to hit his famous top rope plancha, The Deadman soars but the wily Michaels pulls the cameraman in the way instead, sending Taker careering into him. Well, at least this is what is supposed to happen; unfortunately the cameraman’s position is just off, meaning Taker goes head-first into the floor in a terrifying moment. Thankfully Taker appears ok, if slightly shook-up. The remainder of the match is spent trading finishing moves and near falls; Michaels hit’s Sweet Chin Music three times and delivers a flying elbow to no avail, while the Undertaker has to use a chokeslam, The Last Ride powerbomb and two Tombstone piledrivers to finally put Michaels down and extend the Streak to 17-0.

Almost non-stop action from start to finish and packed with dramatic near-falls and a genuine sense that either man could actually win, The Undertaker Vs HBK is certainly one of the finest, if not the very best, straight singles match ever contested at Wrestlemania. After a string of quality matches in 1997-98 and waiting 11 years to see them clash again, it proved more than worth the wait, rescuing an otherwise mediocre Wrestlemania and demonstrating exactly why Undertaker and HBK are the two most important performers in the shows history.

Raw Rewind: 24 March 1997

Craig Wilson

The night after Wrestlemania 13 where Bret Hart turned heel and Austin turned face during their bloody braw and The Undertaker defeated Sid for the WWF Championship. This is a hugely significant show, largely for the promo that Bret Hart cuts that’s full of quotes we’d hear throughout that year and for years to come, particularly in regards to Shawn Michaels.

Champion Roll Call:

WWF Champion: The Undertaker
WWF Intercontinental Champion: Rocky Maivia
WWF Tag Team Champions: Owen Hart and the British Bulldog
WWF European Champion: The British Bulldog

Raw Is War Logo (1998)

Raw is War from Rockford Illinois

Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry ‘the King’ Lawler.

Vince advises us that we have a new WWF Champion, JR informs us that Mankind is the number one contender and we learn both HBK, Bret Hart and Sid are in attendance.

Match 1: The WWF Tag Team Champions The British Bulldog & Owen Hart v The Headbangers v :The Headbangers became number 1 contenders at Wrestlemania last night in a four team match also featuring The Godwinns, Furnas & LaFon and The New Blackjacks.

Both amusingly creep infront of each other during the intros to hog the limight as the commentators play up the divisions within that team. JR announces The Legion of Doom will face the tag champions at the next In Your House.

Owen and MOsh start this off and they trade blocks and reversals until Owen grabs the advantage with an arm drag then a leg drag until The Headbangers double team but Bulldog is tagged in and the champions double team Thrasher and the Bulldog hits a big slam then press slams Owen onto Thrasher for the two.

Double feature with LOD in the back, Animal tells us that they came to the WWF with one purpose. In the ring Mosh gets a nearfall following a double team but he misses a charge to the corner and Bulldog is back in.

A big spinbuster and flying elbow from Owen off the top gets a two count. Thrasher is back in and they hit a double clothesline on Owen. Owen fights back and tags in the Bulldog who hits the hanging vertical suplex but he gets caught coming off the ropes with a knee to the gut and Thrasher applies a reverse chinlock.

Bulldog runs into the ropes but connects with Owen – ala Owen & Bret at Survivor Series 93 – and Thrasher gets a two with a rol-up. Bulldog and Owen argue at ringside before Owen goes to the back. We return from the break and Owen has returned to the ring but he’s refusing to tag in.

Another nearfall for the challengers as The Headbangers continue to work away on the Bulldog. Mosh & Thrasher double team Bulldog, much to the jeers of the crowd. Bulldog makes it to the corner but Owen makes no effort to get the tag. Thrasher pulls Bulldog back and gets another near fall.

A running splash from Mash gets yet another near fall for the challengers here. Bulldog telegraphs a a back body drop and hits a sunset flip for a two. He then telegraphs a double back body drop with a double DDT and Owen is in and knocks down both Headbangers with spinning heel kicks.

Overhead belly to belly suplex takes Thrasher down for two and Bulldog is back in who icks up a two with a powerslam. Owen is angrily tagged in and he hits a gut wrench suplex followed by a dropkick off the top rope. He telegraphjs a Thrasher dropkick and locks in the sharpshooter but Mosh breaks it up. In the ring Bulldog hits the running Powerslam on Thrasher and the champions argue as he tries to put Owen on the prone Thrasher.

The Headbangers pick up the DQ in here when Bulldog throws the referee to the mat in the height of their argument before they start trading blows as the referees hit the ring.

Your winners: The Headbangers via DQ A surprisingly good match here, the dissention in the ranks storyline continues here as the two fight at the end of the bout. Post match Owen grabs the microphone and states that he’s sick and tired of carrying the team. He then demands a European title shot. Bulldog then grabs the microphone and said that he beat Owen fair and square in Berlin but accepts the challenge.

A Wrestlemania 14 highlights video airs next as we see Ahmed & LOD defeat NOD, Austin refuse to tap out and The Undertaker raise the WWF Championship. Mankind joins the action for an interview and he’s sat in the back. Quite a creepy interview that starts with Mankind stating that “Uncle Paul has gone”, JR asks if he’s passed away before Mankind pulls out his own hair.

WWF Slam of the Week featuring some of the lucha six man action from last week.

Match 2: Bart Gunn v Triple H (w/ Chyna): Bret Hart is on the titantron pre match as he wants to address American fans and demands all the time he needs to get issues off his chest which Vince promises him later in the show.

They trade side headlocks to start until Bart gets a 1 with a shoulder block. HHH reverses Gunn into the ropes where he hits three cshoulder charges but a shoulder block knocks HHH back down. They trade blows in the corner with Bart taking the advantage and sending Hunter spinning into the other turnbuckle.

Press slam from Bart GGunn then a hanging suplex – shades of the Bulldog with both moves. Gunn then attempts a flying elbow from the top rope but HHH moves. Double feature with an interview with Goldust, minus Marlena, as HHH hits the big knee and a neckbreaker.

HHH stomps away on Gunn in the corner as Goldust challenges HHH to a match on next week’s Raw is War. HHH picks up a two fall with a running knee drop before taking Gunn down with a high knee for a two.

Running elbow drop secures him another two count for HHH with a nonchalant cover. Bart is backed into the corner and hammers away with punches until Gunn drops him across the top rope. Bart then fights back with a series of clotheslines then catches HHH with a back elbow and a huge powerslam. He signals for the running bulldog but as he hits the ropes, Chyna pulls the top one down and Bart is sent to the outside where Gunn is slammed to the mat.

As Gunn attempts to make his way back into the ring, Chyna slams him face first into the turnbuckle. Hunter then drags him back into the ring and drops him with a Pedigree for the win.

Your winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley via pinfall. OK match that showed just how important Chyna was to become in Tripe H’s success in the coming weeks and months.

Slammy Award highlights next, from the Friday before Wrestlemania. Rocky Maivia got “the New Sensation” award, Sable got “dressed to kill”, The Undertaker got “tattoo you”, Shawn and Bret got “match of the year”, Triple H got “Hair of the year”, Mankind got “loose screw”, Austin got “Freedom of Speech”, Sable picked up “Miss Slammy” and Arnie SKaaland got “lifetime achievement award”.

Match 3: El Mosco, Hysteria & Abismo Negro v Venum, Super Nova & Discovery: Another six man match from AAA.

Double feature as Bret Hart is back demanding time to give his promo. This match suffers the same as the six man last week did, the commentators seem more keen to discuss other issues rather than call this match. Venum hits a series of flying head scissors on Hysteria but is sent to the outside where Hysteria misses a plancha.

This match really is fantastic, with plenty of high flying action and high spots. Just generally the sort of action that you seldom saw in American wrestling at the time. Super Nova picked up the win with a Hurricanrana as Vince acknowledges the fact that their commentary didn’t do this match any justice, indeed it did not.

Your winners: Venum, Super Nova & Discovery. Great high flying action here that the commentators showed such disregard for.

Taped interview with Rocky Maivia and his father Rocky Johnson where Johnson promises never to interfere in his son’s matches again.

Honky Tonk Man has joined the team for commentary for the next match.

Match 4: Flash Funk v The Brooklyn Brawler: Honky is still on the search for his protégé so I guess he’s still scouting superstars, or at least that’s the justification for him taking in this match.

Brawler attacks Funk as the Funkettes attempt to leave the ring. The two trade blows in the corner before Funk takes him down with a Hurricanrana and a corner charge. Suplex sends Brawler down but he gets his knees up to block the standing moonsault. He then drops Funk throat first over the top rope.

Back body drop is reversed with a dropkick and Funk sends Brawler to the outside and hits a cross body block over the top rope and one off the top rope for a two count.

Brawler caught charging into the corner with a superkick and Funk hits the back suplex and 450 splash for the win.

Your winner: Flash Funk via pinfall. Squash match victory for Funk. I liked Flash Funk, great athleticism but the WWF didn’t really have anything to do for him and he’d eventually end up joining the JOB squad.

Interview time, this time it’s the turn of Ken Shamrock to be interviewed on the titantron where he answers questions on why he stopped the match between Austin & Hart at Wrestlemania.

Bret Hart is shown pacing in the background as Vince informs us that we’ll hear next whatever Hart has got to get off his chest.

We’re now in “The Warzone”. I forgot all about the fact they did this split in the show back then…

Bret Hart’s music hits as he makes his way to the ring for an interview with Jim Ross, who is already in the ring. Hart grabs the mic and apologises to all his fans in Germany, the UK, Europe, Japan & far East, middle east, South Africa and especially those in Canada. He tells his American fans that he apologises for nothing. He states that no matter how hard he tries for his American fans they don’t care and prefer a “gutless creep” like Austin, who the fans treated like the winner of their bout.

I loved this stuff and it would eventually lead to one of my favourite angles in WWF history where the Canadian Hart Foundation were treated as heroes in Canada and zeros in America while the opposite applied for their American opponents.

In this promo Hart alls his ills when it comes to the WWF: from being screwed at Wrestlemania 12, being begged to come back and given promises that never amounted to anything, being screwed out of victory at the Royal Rumble, being screwed after winning The Final Four. He talks about how he’s never forfeited a title after losing a smile. Bret states that there is no place in America now for heroes, they’d rather cheer for Charles Manson & O.J. Simpson and that respect no longer exists. He tells American fans to kiss his ass.

This prompts Shawn Michaels to make his way to the ring where he hits the “just because I chose to live my life the way I do does not make you a better man” speech. He accuses Hart of living under a façade. Shawn cites the first amendment as why the fans are entitled to give Hart whatever reaction they see fit and tells Hart to “love it, or leave it.”

Bret attacks Michaels from behind as he tries to leave and applies the figure four leglock round the ring post as officials hit the ring. Hart eventually breaks the hold as Sid makes his way to the ring which forces him to retreat to the back.

Match 5: WWF Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia v Leif Cassidy: The matc started during the break and we return with Maivia hitting a cross body on Cassidy from the apron to the outside. Hart now makes his way to ringside as Cassidy hits a powerbomb of sorts on Rocky.

Hart joints the commentary team as he continues to lambast the fans and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Cassidy stomps away on Maivia in the ring but misses a frog splash but Rocky fights back with a series of punches to the face.

Rocky then hits a belly to belly suplex for a two count but Cassidy fights but Maivia counters a clothesline with a spinning DDT and a high cross body for the win.

Your winner: Rocky Maivia via pinfall. A short victory for Rocky over Cassidy here. Nothing much to it really. Post match Hart attacks Maivia and gives the finger to various kids in the crowd.

Match 6: Ahmed Johnson v Savio Vega (w/ NOD): Savio attacks at the bell as NOD wait on the stage. Ahmed misses a corner charge and hits the post shoulder first. We learn that Farooq has a separated shoulder from the brawl last night.

Vega stomps away on Ahmed in the corner as Crush looks on. Vega kicks and stomps the prone Ahmed before slamming him to the mat. Vega whips Ahmed into the ropes but puts his head down and Ahmed catches him with a kick but Vega blocks a corner charge with a big boot.

A snapmare brings Ahmed from the corner and Vega chokes away. Ahmed fights back with an atomic drop before dropping Vega groin first on the top rope and shoulder blocking both Vega and himself out of the ring.

Back from the break and Ahmed blocks a suplex attempt and hits a hanging one of his own to the cheers of the Rockford crowd. Senton from the top rope catches Vega but he misses the running elbow follow up and Vega superkicks him down.

Vega applies a sleeper hold in the middle of the ring as Ahmed drops to his knees. Ahmed fights back and hits a spinebuster as the Nation make their way to ringside and pull Vega from the ring.

Your winner: No contest. Post match Ahmed offers NOD a deal where if he can beat one of them they all disappear from the WWF. They salute before leaving the ringside area as Ahmed makes his way to the back complete with 2×4.

Backstage and Paul Bearer is standing by but refuses to talk to Vince McMahon.

WWF Rewind shows highlights of Bret Hart’s earlier attack on Shawn Michaels.

We return as Vince introduces the new WWF Champion The Undertaker to the ring. McMahon congratulates ‘taker on his victory before the WWF Champion congratulates Sid on his courage. The Undertaker states that Mankind is the most dangerous individual in the WWF.

Paul Bearer then makes his way to ringside, complete with an urn. Bearer has a microphone and asks The Undertaker to listen to him as Mankind is calling out for “Uncle” Paul on the titantron as the show comes to an end.

Overall: Very important show owing largely to the Bret Hart promo which includes a number of sound bites we’d hear time and time again, particularly in the feud with HBK. Annoying that the show ends in the way it did, running out of time, but we know the explosive secret that Bearer had in store for The Undertaker at this point.