Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Monday Night Raw - 3/24/14

We're coming up on five years of doing this blog thing. My interest in wrestling goes through peaks and valleys, let alone my interest in writing about wrestling, but the staple of this blog has always been the Raw reviews... and I hate them. I've always hated the format I use, I don't think they ever amount to much more "that was a good match, this wasn't a good match." But Raw is the centerpiece of wrestling, so if you're going to write about wrestling, you kinda have to write about Raw, but I want to break up the monotony a bit.

I'm toying with some new format ideas, including bringing back the Fair to Flair Woo/Boo format, DVRaw, where I tell you what to watch or what to fast-forward through, or one really crazy idea where I review Raw as if it were any other television show - where I would review it like it were real. Well, not real, but when we talk about Breaking Bad, we don't talk about the behind-the-scenes activity, we just discuss what's put in front of us. Performances can be appreciated, but you're really there for the characters and the story, but I feel like that's going to be tough to detach myself enough to pull it off.

But this week, we're going to go in list format, because you're on the internet and you love a good list, right?! We'll do the Top 5 moments from Raw because 5 is an emotionally satisfying number. What should we call it? The Five Count? I Got 5 On It? Raw ain't enough man, I need 5? We'll figure that out later.

5. Funny, she doesn't look Druish.
Brock Lesnar is one of my favorite things going in wrestling right now, because he makes me think everything he does is real. Not because he's particularly great on the microphone or even that spectacular in the ring anymore, but I'm convinced he thinks it's real. I feel like Lesnar is this big dumb oaf they found dragging an old Buick in a cornfield in the middle of Smallville to win a bet with a steer and told him "go fight this zombie" and his response was "RAWWAERRRWRG!"

I mean, how many times has Taker done this whole Druids wheel the casket down and Taker's not in it, but then he's in it and kicks your ass? But Brock Lesnar fell for it, because he's fucking dumb. Although Heyman shitting his pants and screaming "OH MY GOD!" when Taker popped out of the casket was pure gold and reason #297284289485958 why Paul Heyman is the best talker in professional wrestling today, if not ever.

This segment was fun, but it would've been a lot more fun if it were 5 minutes shorter. There was a lot of time dicking around with Lesnar tapping on the casket and the Druids backing away like he was asking them to make a payment on their fog machine. On a Raw that had two matches under a minute long, then padded out with Brock Lesnar nudging a casket like my dog trying to get a treat out of her Kong toy, we might need to have a talk with whoever's plotting out these shows.

4. The Shield vs. The Real Americans
Huh. The Shield work as good guys, who knew?  They're clearly shifting the dynamic a bit with Ambrose and Rollins teaming up while Reigns continues to slowly boil as the big breakout star, but for a group they've been teasing splitting up for months, I have to give kudos to WWE for backpedaling and adjusting. Usually when WWE has their mind set on a split, it's time for a split, but they seem sold on The Shield as a unit, which they should. These guys don't always have to wrestle six-man tags or even regular tag matches, let them do their own thing, but keep them always within arms reach of each other, like The Avengers.

Why does every group have to have a violent split? We don't always have to explode, collide, or put our partner through a window, let's just let The Shield be The Shield. Sometimes they're together, sometimes they're not, but when they are, they'll fuck you up, like they did to Cesaro and Swagger here.

Nice touch on the New Age Outlaws coming out in suits with Kane too. I didn't have to see Billy Gunn without a shirt on and he got that Crypt Keeper hair under control. It's also a sad commentary on the reality of Gen-X, oh sure, you could be edgy in the 90s, but you have to put on suit and go to work in the 2010s.

3. The Reulity Urruh!
Triple H continued his trolling of the internet by formally acknowledging "The Reality Era," a phrase that's been making the rounds on social media, and now taken by Triple H faster than Daryl Dixon could say "claimed" for half a rabbit.

The idea of the Reality Era is that we're now in a period of professional wrestling where the lines between the fiction of wrestling, or ugh, "kayfabe," and the reality of what happens behind the scenes are blurring together. Never mind WWE's pretty much been playing this game for the last 25 years, they just up the ante a bit each time technology improves, but what we've been seeing since at least SummerSlam, if not going back to the Summer of Punk in 2011, has been pretty unprecedented.

I was a fan in the dark days of the internet, back when you'd go to AOL Keyword: WWF and sit in WWF Chat Room 18 (because 1-17 were full with maybe 20 users in each) and watch as neon green comic sans flew at you in rapid fire. Here's an example:

DXFaN696969: SUX ITTT!!!!!!!1111!!
HBK4ever34: When is Shawn Michaels coming back? Did he find his smile?
XdXxxnWoXX: 4-lyfe
IHaveCandy96: a/s/l?
SCSAASCA: SOMEBODIES GONNA GET THERE ASS WHOOP
WannaLick1978: Press 9 for Sunny nudez!
IWanna1989: 999999999999999999999999999999999999999
Joe77Schmo: {S dgenerationx.wav
RATM1998: BREAK IT DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now imagine that every second. And I sense I've gone off on a tangent. My point being that we've come a long way in how we discuss wrestling on the internet. While that was the height of wrestling discussion in 1998, you'd have to go to message boards with 12 members to find people who could speak in complete sentences, Twitter has made us all "internet fans." The demographic that was derided by JBL in 2004 as virgins in mom's basement is exactly who WWE panders to now and not because everyone is a "smark," we're just all participating in one giant discussion.

You don't have to go to ewrestlingewz.angelfire.net to read about why Cesaro is WWE's hidden gem or why Daniel Bryan is the best wrestler in the world, we're all talking about it using hashtag #Raw. So there is no more "IWC," every fan with a smartphone is a "smart" fan and WWE is adapting to cater to that. Fine, cool, it has worked well these last few months even if they're using it to cover their tracks on how badly they fucked up at the Royal Rumble, but can we just not call it "The Reality Era?" Please. I know, I know, it's already been used on TV so it's as unchanging as scripture, but just once, can we not use the stupid phrase?

But I guess if it gets people to stop saying "Pee-Gee Urruh," I'll allow it.

2. The Fatal Four Way
Hey, give four floundering guys something to do with a clear goal and actual stakes and watch as people magically start to care about them. It's just for an IC Title match, but people were genuinely interested and it's the most exciting thing Christian has had happen to him since those five seconds he got to be World Champion.

And while I really want them to have Big E defend the title at WrestleMania, I do enjoy the attention given to Main Event since it has become a live show on the Network. Very rare for WWE to take a throwaway show and turn it into something after it's already been written off, but I appreciate it and hope they keep it going. Since going live, Main Event is now the #2 show on the company's schedule and hell, Smackdown might actually be #4 behind NXT.

1. John Cena vs. Luke Harper
While all the attention has been given to Bryan's rise in the lead-up to Mania, I think Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena is quietly casting the biggest shadow over WWE. It might actually be the most important WrestleMania match since Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair, but we also might not know the severity of it until a few years down the road. It could wind up being one of those moments that didn't seem like a huge deal at the time, but is something they point to years down the line and say that's when everything changed.

Or John Cena could hit him with the Attitude Adjustment and wipe his feet as he leaves the ring.

Either way, the build-up has been fantastic and this match last night gave me a little tingle. Harper might be the most underrated wrestler in WWE today and Cena was working his ass off like WrestleMania came early. The visual at the end with them putting Rowan's sheep mask on Cena and tying him up in the ropes made me wonder if WWE had bought the rights to make The Devil's Rejects 2.

And now, one sentence thoughts on the rest of Raw!
  • Razor Ramon is the inspiration for my name and it's about damn time he got his Hall of Fame ring.
  • The Vickie Guerrero Divas Invitational can't be worse than that WM25 battle royal, right?
  • Titus O'Neil ain't half bad, but picked the worst time to go solo. 
  • Joe Maglioli is great on OHB's Tur Blurd.
  • It's bullshit how badly WWE's dropped the ball on the Rhodes Bros.
  • Ryback... buddy... what happened?
  • Damien Sandow... buddy... what happened?
  • For a guy who makes fun of nerds, Batista's had more flubs and bloopers in one segment than I did in my entire high school career.
Only one more Raw until WrestleMania... what does WWE have left to do? Leave a comment or find me @kickoutblog.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Top 30 WrestleMania Matches - Part 2

Miss Part 1? Read it here!



20. Triple H vs. The Undertaker - WrestleMania XXVIII
This is definitely a love it or hate it match, perhaps hurt a bit by the instant reaction culture of internet commentary, but I think it will stand the test of time and be looked back on fondly in a few years. You could argue that these two were just too broken down, but for the years leading up to this climactic battle, I've looked at it as a Clash of the Titans style battle where everything these guys did to each other was just brutal. Obviously it didn't have the story, the atmosphere and the culture of a Hogan vs. Andre, but in terms of working within their limitations and making it feel like they were killing each other, it felt somewhat similar. Their match the year before seems more divisive than this one, the addition of Hell in a Cell and Shawn Michaels being incredibly effective as the referee seemed to silence most (but not all) of the critics.



The Undertaker VS. Triple H - Hell in a Cell... by SmackDown54

19. Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior - WrestleMania VI
This match is an integral part of any wrestling fan who grew up in the 90s, but I'd argue its influence has waned over the years. I love this match as much as the next guy, but it's just not as historically significant today as it was in 1990 since Hulk Hogan didn't retire soon after (as was expected) and The Warrior obviously wasn't the guy to "pass the torch" to (as was expected). Unquestionably the pinnacle of The Ultimate Warrior's career and his best match, the same cannot be said for the Hulkster (almost though), but it is a rare moment where the two top stars of the industry meet and it's everything you hoped for (at least at the time). I'm not so sure this match would work as well today, as evidenced by Rock and Cena trying to duplicate it in recent years.

18. The Undertaker vs. Batista - WrestleMania 23
Perhaps I'm biased because I was one of the 80,103 in attendance at Detroit's massive Ford Field, but I adore this match. The energy surrounding this match, the crowd EXPLODING when Taker won the World Heavyweight Title and extended his streak, it was perfect. The year before, Taker was in a very underrated match against Mark Henry, but it wasn't exactly a top tier bout, but this match was the moment that Taker's Streak became not just a big deal, but for many, the deal at WrestleMania every year. 

The following year, he headlined the show for the first time since WrestleMania 13 and then the next four were massive matches with Shawn Michaels and Triple H that overshadowed the rest of the show. While he had an enjoyable rivalry with Edge troughout 2008, this match feels like the last time The Undertaker was a regular part of the show, it's the beginning of his rise to the godlike character he is now.

17. Hulk Hogan vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage - WrestleMania V
The Mega Powers Explode! In my opinion, the two greatest wrestlers of the 1980s (for widely different reasons) in what I would say is Hulk Hogan's best pure wrestling match ever... maybe (more on that later). Randy Savage had all the tools to fill the role occupied by Hulkamania, but Hogan cast a huge shadow and it came to a boil in this 1989 main event. A tremendous match with one of the best build-ups in WrestleMania history, this was the biggest match possible for a certain five-year-old that never grew out of watching these larger than life characters.

16. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho - WrestleMania XIX
A match between two of my favorite wrestlers of all-time? Sign me up. This match is special in three ways: one, Chris Jericho lists it as his favorite match he's ever had; two, it was HBK's first WrestleMania appearance in five years; and three, it marks when Shawn Michaels made a full-time return to wrestling. Shawn had been working sporadically for seven months prior to WM19, but after this match, he fell right back into a normal routine and didn't miss a beat until his second retirement several years later.



Wrestlemania 19 Chris Jericho vs... by FrogSplashGuerrero

15. "Macho Man" Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior - WrestleMania VII
The World Wrestling Federation was just too big for both of them after the Macho Man cost the Warrior the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble months before. Their feud had to come to an end and it would do so at WrestleMania VII in a retirement match. Despite hitting The Warrior with five of his signature flying elbow drops, Savage could not keep him down, perhaps he had the advantage since they were in his hometown of Parts Unknown?

And what happened after the match, with Miss Elizabeth reuniting with Savage after years apart is the sweetest moment in the history of an industry that’s not known for even basic human decency, let alone romance. Obviously not Savage’s final match as he was reinstated months later to get his revenge on Jake Roberts for putting a cobra in one of the gifts at his wedding. And not his final appearance on this list either.

14. The Undertaker vs. "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair - WrestleMania X-8
Ric Flair is the greatest professional wrestler to ever lace-up a pair of boots, want to know one of the dozen reasons why? Because at the age of 53, after years of being told it was time to hang it up, he made his return to WrestleMania and put on an absolutely astounding match with The Undertaker and restarted his illustrious career. And Arn Anderson's Spinebuster cameo is one of the coolest moments in WrestleMania history.



13. The Ladder Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon - WrestleMania X
Not the first ladder match in history, but definitely the one everyone remembers. Michaels and Ramon laid the groundwork for what would become one of the more popular gimmick matches in wrestling today. One could argue that without this definitive ladder match, the careers of Jeff Hardy, Edge, Chris Jericho and many other stars would have never taken off like they did. I don't know what else to say about this match that hasn't already been said except that every ladder match you see today uses this battle as the blueprint.

12. Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage - WrestleMania VIII
"Elizabeth was MINE before she was yours!" Oh Ric, you played scumbag so well. It's scary that this match almost didn't happen, with Flair vs. Hogan scheduled and already promoted on WWE television, the match was changed after testing poorly on the house show circuit. The story for the switch was Sid Justice wanting a piece of Hogan for eliminating him from the Rumble, and then Flair started goading The Macho Man by saying Miss Elizabeth was his former lover... he even had pictures.



Wrestlemania.VIII - Ric Flair Vs Randy Savage... by dido67

It was a classic love story, Savage defending his bride and beating up that loudmouth asshole that besmirched her honor. Not exactly reinventing the wheel, even in 1992, but the three principle characters played it to perfection and we got a satisfying conclusion. It was one of those matches where the good guy had to win and Savage got his second (and final) WWE Title reign. 

11. Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper - WrestleMania VIII
After winning his first and only major singles title in WWE, Roddy Piper put the Intercontinental Championship on the line against the former champion, Bret Hart. Piper had been wrestling for almost 25 years at that point, but he put on arguably the greatest match of his career at WrestleMania 8. Bret Hart recaptured the IC Title and went onto become WWE Champion less than a year later, ascending to the upper echelon of professional wrestling, I like to think this match had a lot to do with that.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Top 30 WrestleMania Matches - Part 1

Welcome to our annual tradition here at Kick-Out, the Top Matches in WrestleMania History, with the number growing each year to complement that year's show. When I launched the blog in 2009, we started with the Top 25, and (obviously) here we are at the big 3-0. 

This is also the most shuffling around I've done since I started, the list has remained largely unchanged in previous years, but thanks to WWE Network, I've gone back and rewatched a lot, history has changed my perception a bit, and to be perfectly honest, my tastes are pretty fickle... new is always better! And allow me to emphasize, these are my personal tastes, so I'm not acting as any sort of authority on the subject, but if you disagree with me, you're wrong.

In all seriousness, if you do disagree, please comment, tweet, reblog, Snapchat, whatever the hell you kids do these days and let me know. It's much more fun when you disagree and I'm always up for a hearty debate, even if I do think lists are kinda silly. Not as silly as the "star" ratings system, but there's little objective reasoning to say why match #14 is better than #15, but again, that's why I preface this with the fact that it's my personal tastes. 

And I have a pretty warped idea of what makes wrestling good. I was an 80s kid who got caught up in the spectacle of WWE, a 90s smark who had a huge stack of puro tapes and constantly talked on AOL message boards about "workrate," and finally, a 00s adult who just wanted to have fun watching wrestling. All those tastes blend together and I take athleticism, story and influence into account when ranking my favorites. Part 1 of the list will take us from 30-21.

30. Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero - WrestleMania XX
I often find it difficult to write about Eddie Guerrero due to his untimely death in 2005, but this match always makes me smile. After years of being a perennial midcard talent, Guerrero finally got his shot at the big time and won the WWE Championship. 

Eddie was always one of my favorite wrestlers, but I never expected to see the day where he'd be the top champion in the biggest wrestling promotion in the world and then go on to headline WrestleMania. The match itself is absolutely phenomenal and essentially the epitome of Guerrero's "lying, cheating and stealing" character.

29. Triple H vs. The Undertaker - WrestleMania X-7
Depending on who you ask, they'll either tell you this match is overrated or underrated. Personally, I love this match and am surprised at myself for having it this low on the list. Despite being with the company since 1990 and 1995 respectively, The Undertaker and Triple H never really had their first feud until 2001 and it was somewhat hastily thrown together in time for WrestleMania. Despite that, the two unsurprisingly put on one hell of a brawl and you can add me to the "underrated" column. With WWE ignoring this match lately to make their showdowns at the more recent WrestleManias more special, I think it will continue to be an underrated classic.

28. The Big Show vs. Floyd "Money" Mayweather - WrestleMania XXIV
I’m often asked “why do you watch that fake stuff?” My response is always “because it’s fun.” If I met someone that expressed an interest in watching wrestling, but didn’t really get it, this would be one of the first matches I showed them.


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Wrestling has an iffy history with celebrity involvement - sometimes it works, and sometimes you have a disaster like Jay Leno beating up Hulk Hogan. WWE executed this crossover with perfection and the match did what it was supposed to do: it received loads of mainstream attention, entertained those watching and kept The Big Show looking strong even though he lost to a guy that's more than a foot shorter and 300 lbs. lighter. All for the low cost of $20 million to "Pretty Boy" Floyd. WWE hasn't been as quick to put a celebrity in an actual wrestling match at WrestleMania since (unless you count The Rock), and I think it's because this one is too tough to top.

27. Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XX
I hesitate even putting this match on the list every year due to the horrific events surrounding Chris Benoit's final days, but it is certainly one of the most memorable moments in WrestleMania history. I'm not one of those people who get all whiny about Chris Benoit being "erased" from WWE history, why would they ever want to associate themselves with that incident? But I'm also not going to go on some long rant about how a man I did not know was evil.

All I can say is, the whole situation surrounding the man just makes me extremely sad. With the inception of the WWE Network, I’ve just started watching Benoit matches again for the first time since 2007, but this match, as good as it is, will forever be tainted.

26. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania 23
We all agree that Cena is a good wrestler now, right? I know we had that long stretch in the 2000s where everyone insisted he “sucked,” but we’re all over that, right? John Cena is an incredible big match performer and while this match isn’t his best work – Cena’s WrestleMania resumé is surprisingly not as good as his work elsewhere – it was the highlight of his best year to date, 2007. And it’s a Shawn Michaels match, which drastically improves its chances of getting on this list. 

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The biggest problem the match had was that it got overshadowed by two other matches on the card, one a flat-out better match (more on that later) and the other being the Battle of the Billionaires between Vince and Donald Trump, which was perhaps the best use of a celebrity at WrestleMania until Money Mayweather a year later. Also, HBK and Cena would go onto have a vastly superior hour-long match just a couple months later on Raw.

25. Money in the Bank - WrestleMania 21
Featuring the birth of Edge's ascension into main event status and eventually becoming the best villain in the business, the first Money in the Bank Ladder Match is absolutely jaw-dropping and while some of the later ones may be better, but these are probably the hardest types of matches to “grade” and this one is where one of WWE's coolest concepts got its start.

24. Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin - WrestleMania XIV
Much like the Iron Man Match at WrestleMania XII, I would not consider this match to be one of the top ten for either man involved, but you can't deny its historical significance. This match marked the beginning of the Attitude Era, where WWE became the edgy, intense, hyper-sexual, pop culture icon of the late 90s. It also featured another successful celebrity crossover with Mike Tyson counting the pinfall to give Steve Austin his first World Championship.

23. Edge vs. Mick Foley - WrestleMania 22
A few months after this match, Edge and Mick Foley ran an angle saying hardcore wrestling could no longer continue because they already put on the greatest Hardcore Match in history... they were right. This match takes the best elements from the 90s “X-TREME TO THE MAXXX” mentality, but it tells a brilliant story, and it solidified Edge's status as a top player in WWE. It's also only one of a handful of times WWE has ever used fire in the confines of a match.


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22. Shawn Michaels vs. Kurt Angle - WrestleMania 21
Shawn Michaels next (and far from final) appearance on this list is a dream match of sorts. What would happen if the greatest wrestler from the 90s took on arguably the greatest wrestler of the 00s? What we got was the 2005 Match of the Year. It's a shame we never got the rubber match.

21. Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2 - WrestleMania X-7
Following the first TLC match at SummerSlam the previous year, three of the greatest tag teams in history - The Hardy Boyz, Edge & Christian and The Dudley Boyz (this was back in the day when the letter 'z' was considered edgy) - battled it out in an epic brawl featuring items that would generally belong at a Home Depot instead of a wrestling ring. Technically, they had a similar match at WrestleMania the year before, but it was only a ladder match that featured tables and chairs and not the cute TLC name. Of all the insane ladder/TLC matches these guys have had, I would say this one is the best.


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Part 2 coming soon!



 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

WWE Raw - 3/10/14


Good things come to those who bitch on the internet.

Hulk Hogan opened Monday Night Raw for his announcement that had been hyped all week, but let’s just take a minute to appreciate the fact that Hulk Hogan, a guy who has been bald for 30 years, is wearing a wig, so he can still give the impression that he has a beautiful blonde skullet underneath that bandana. I love you, Hulk, I have always had a soft spot for you through your decades of ridiculousness, but let the hair go, brother. You really don’t need to stitch hair into the bandana, unless you’re going to start selling them, because that horse hair you’re rocking looks about as authentic as something you’d pick up at the merch booth.

Hulk’s big announcement was that after watching WrestleMania III on the WWE Network, he started feeling nostalgic for ol’ Andre and announced The Andre the Giant Memorial WrestleMania 30 Battle Royal Match for Brand Supremacy of the Billionaires in the Bank Terri Invitational Tournament with a McMahon in Every Corner.

It’s a bit verbose. 

Personally, I love this idea. WrestleMania 4’s Battle Royal where Bret Hart and Bad News Brown buddy-up, only for Bad News to turn on Bret, then Bret to break his trophy, is one of my all-time favorite Mania moments. Wrestling needs more Battle Royals and wrestling needs more trophies, so this just seems like a perfect idea. Much like the Hulkster, I’ve been watching a lot of WWE Network as well and one of the things I miss most about old school wrestling is the meaningless prize. Sure, the titles are technically meaningless prizes too, but random trophies, Jesse Ventura talking about how winning matches gets you more money, $10,000 Body Slam Challenges, etc. While we’re bringing stuff like that back, let’s have Big Show vs. Big E in a $50,000 Body Slam Challenge (adjusted for inflation) too.

John Cena was out next to express his interest in being added to the battle royal and since not even the four-year-olds in the audience believed there was any chance in hell that he was actually going to be involved in something like that, The Wyatt Family quickly interrupted and set up their match for WrestleMania. Wyatt cut an awesome promo as only Wyatt does, Cena of course did his lame Rock impression and made fun of Bray’s Hawaiian shirt. 

Bray had an awesome line, “If you look up to me, you will see a friend. If you look down on me, you will see an enemy. But if you look me square in the eye, you will see a god,” Cena should’ve stole Captain America’s “there’s only one God and you ain’t him” and made the segment 100% cooler, instead he sang Margaritaville. 

Cena vs. Erik Rowan was a solid opener though, Cena looked way more vulnerable than usual and won by sneaking a roll-up. I think it was kept shorter since Cena is nursing some ambiguous injury, but it worked.

The Usos vs. Ryback & Curtis Axel was fine, Road Dogg was surprisingly good on commentary and very refreshing with his calm tone… I’d much rather hear him every week than “THE USOS ARE KICKING PEOPLE, MAGGLE! KICKING! NOW THEY’RE JUMPING OFF THE TOP ROPE, MAGGLE!” Ryback’s star has fallen to a shocking degree, but The Usos are hands down the best pure tag team WWE has had in well over a decade, so it’s nice to see them doing so well. Hoping for something a little more involved at WrestleMania than just a simple rematch with The Outlaws though.

Big E vs. Jack Swagger was just another segment to tease tension between The Real Americans and it accomplished that, but meh. I know the crowd is begging for Cesaro, so I can’t blame for splitting them up, but I like them together.

The Undertaker is my favorite wrestler ever. I’ve had many favorites over the years – Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Chris Jericho, CM Punk… even Al Snow for a brief period in the 90s, but no one comes close to The Phenom. Nothing against the aforementioned favorites, as I said earlier, my love for Hogan is undying, but each of the guys have had moments over the years that have tarnished their reputations in some way or another. 

Whether it’s returning for one more match a few too many times, walking out on the company for right or wrong reasons, having a sex tape, or just otherwise being a bit of a dickhead, wrestling is not a medium where people and characters tend to age well. But The Undertaker is a fine wine, he keeps getting better with age. Part of that is only working a month and a half a year with only one match in that time, but most of it is just the mystique of The Deadman. If you haven’t gotten caught up in the magic of The Streak since at least 2007, I don’t get you. 

So, now that we’ve established that The Undertaker is the greatest WWE Superstar of all-time, let’s talk about the greatest microphone worker in the industry today, possibly of all-time, Paul Heyman.
Heyman interrupted The Undertaker to ask him to back out of the match with Brock Lesnar in the way that only Heyman can, by making it sound like there’d be nothing wrong with it. Heyman heaped loads of praise onto Taker’s Streak, mentioning that Mr. WrestleMania himself, HBK, only won two Mania matches in a row. Aside from that confirming that The Miz is twice as good as Shawn Michaels, it showed that even the greatests of all-time like HBK, Hogan, SCSA, and I guess if you want to include HHH, haven’t even come close to what Taker has accomplished, so why put that on the line against Brock Lesnar?

Because he’s The goddamn Undertaker, that’s why. 

The Shield exorcised a demon that’s been lingering over them for months when they defeated Cody Rhodes & Goldust in tag team action. I enjoy the callback to the cracks starting to show within The Shield when they lost the tag belts, but I’m really bummed how the Rhodes Bros. have gone from the hottest act in the company to almost forgotten since they lost the titles. All for keeping The Shield together as long as possible though.

Bella Twins vs. AJ & Tamina was a Divas tag match. AJ has to defend the title against Natalya tonight on Main Event though… guarantee she’s dropping it. You can quote me on that. If I’m wrong, don’t quote me on that.

Okay, so the Daniel Bryan thing. Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first: one, “#OccupyRAW?” Really? I get that they’re playing off the Hijack Raw thing from last week, but “Occupy?” Welcome to 2011, where I seem to remember WWE doing a storyline where they buried the entire roster walking out of Raw and made Triple H look like the hero of all heroes… just so they could mock the whole Occupy Wall Street thing. It was the worst thing I’ve seen on WWE TV since Katie Vick, so let’s not drudge up any memories of that. Two, the Memphis crowd fucking sucked. Jesus Christ, you’re at one of the final Raws before WrestleMania, make some noise for fuck’s sake. The good news is, still photos of the Daniel Bryan fanatics surrounding the ring look awesome and WWE will definitely make it look great in future video packages when they tell us about how this was their brilliant plan the whole time.

Okay, bad stuff out of the way… DANIEL BRYAN IS IN THE WWE TITLE MATCH!

Well, he has to beat Triple H first, so that doesn’t guarantee anything, but for the first time yet, they’re actually presenting a path where Daniel Bryan could win the WWE Title in the main event of WrestleMania XXX. Pardon me for a minute…

YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!

This segment was extremely well done, minus the crowd. Bryan, Triple H and especially Stephanie McMahon were doing such an excellent job that I was really getting on board with the whole HHH vs. Bryan thing without the title match stip (don’t tell WWE I said that). It would’ve been the greatest booby prize in the history of wrestling, but they were really getting me invested in their match.
But then, after Triple H accepted, Bryan continued to hold the show hostage with a “wait, wait, wait, wait, wait… that’s not all that I want,” and then my pants got tight.

Ever since the Attitude Era, I’ve really hated the constantly negative gripes about WWE that come from what was once known as the IWC (Twitter rendered this concept useless). Whether you want to call them smarks, basement dwellers, or titty babies, we all know there’s a pocket of the fanbase that’s never happy… but there was this really bizarre trend after the Rumble to lump everyone in with that crowd when WWE basically told their customers to fuck off. When people are begging for Bryan and they give us a match nobody asked for instead, how could you not be annoyed? It has nothing to do with hijacking, occupying or revolting, it was just unsatisfied customers expressing their displeasure. This was unprecedented for WWE, there’d never been this kind of backlash over dropping the ball on something so obvious.

So I’m not buying that this was the “slow burn.” Please, if Batista would’ve come back to thunderous applause, Daniel Bryan would be in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and he’d be the one wrestling Christian twice a week for a month on Raw and Smackdown. This isn’t vindication for the “wait and see” crowd, this is vindication for “just fucking do it already.”

But WWE did take ownership of the Hijacking™ and totally made it their own, making it look like it was their master plan all along and good for them. Why not? Wrestling is manipulation and they manipulated the audience into handing over their “movement” and making it a part of the show. Everyone wins. Daniel Bryan is going to get his WrestleMania moment and that’s important because WrestleMania matters. It’s not coming at Battle Rights or Over the Payback or whatever throwaway event name they’ll come up with this year, it’s at WrestleMania 30. THIRTY! And they’re finally not sitting on a guy until it’s way too late, they’re pulling the damn trigger at exactly the right moment.
Finally.

Sheamus vs. Christian in a Memphis Street Fight had a tough act to follow, especially since the crowd had been sitting on its hands all damn night, but they finally got them into it toward the end, which seems to be the trend for their matches. I feel bad for these guys, two great wrestlers with nothing else to do, kicking the shit out of each other every week for completely unappreciative crowds. Since Sheamus’s skin is made of paper and every welt and bruise showed up in real-time last night, give the man at least a timid “let’s go Sheamus” chant. Winning with the Brogue Kick through a drum was so great, Animal would be proud.

Daniel Bryan & Big Show vs. Batista & Randy Orton was our main event and I think this gif pretty much sums up the entire story of the night:


What Royal Rumble?

If Daniel Bryan is Hootie, Orton & Batista are The Blowfish. But they need to be there, just like HBK and HHH were there for that other WrestleMania triple threat main event… and hopefully 10 years later, WWE will give us a moment to replace that tainted one. 

Really, it was a one-story show, but it was the story we’ve been begging for since SummerSlam and set an entirely new tone for what was shaping up to be yet another middle-of-the-road WrestleMania. Everything feels rejuvenated with three Raws to go. Keep it up, WWE.