WCW Monday Nitro/PPVS: 1995

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I’m finally watching WCW and I could not be more excited for my eventual descent into madness. Since Nitro started in September of 1995, this post is going to be pretty short and basically just my brief, random thoughts about my introduction to actually watching WCW. I’m just going to outline the PPVs quickly, since that follows the majorly storylines and then just tack on random thoughts at the end.

The first PPV is Fall Brawl where the heavyweights of the company (literally and figuratively), Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger and Sting, take on literally the biggest four geeks you can think of compared to those guys in Kamala, The Zodiac, The Shark and Meng. Literally my first WCW PPV and that being the main event is the most WCW thing ever, it’s amazing. Even in the WarGames stipulation, which doesn’t do anything for me, it was amazingly lackluster. Really just a means to an end to jumpstart the Hogan/Giant feud with the Giant interrupting at the end.

Halloween Havoc has another of the most amazing WCW things ever, and in theory I’m a newbie to all this, where Hulk Hogan and Giant face off in monster truck battle, as in they actually ram actual monster trucks against each other for five minutes before their wrestling match. They of course scrap afterwards which leads Giant to follow off the dang building and plummet to his untimely death. Except that doesn’t happen and he just shows up on time for his match later in the show with no explanation of how he recovered and looking no worse for wear. This company is amazing.

World War 3 has a 60-Man battle royal that encompasses three rings because goddamn does this company love gimmick matches. This was the biggest cluster I’ve ever seen where you literally could not focus on anything. They had a split screen showing all three rings, including separate commentary, but it only really made the whole thing that much more confusing. Randy Savage won for some reason.

Starrcade was pretty cool because of the whole Americans vs. Japanese world cup thing, where giving us Jushin Liger vs. Chris Benoit as an opener pretty much is tantamount for nothing ever being able to top that. It’s also crazy to see Tenzan wrestle here in 1995 as me in 2016 is watching him in what probably will be his last G1 tournament. He’s so young then! The Ric Flair vs. Sting vs. Lex Luger match was entertaining, and especially because it got Flair the title later which is all I ever want to see.

Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Brian Pillman are so awesome in their own similar and unique ways and I could watch them all day and am so looking forward to their actual good matches among the terribleness that often surrounds it all.

Disco Inferno is the greatest gimmick ever because it’s dated as hell in 2016 and even in 1995 it was dated as hell.

I love watching Ric Flair on my TV screen no matter what he is doing. His promos are the best and him just being a heel all the way through is the greatest.

I’m relatively unfamiliar with actually seeing Lex Luger and his character, body, matches and all that and oh my god it’s so apparent right from the jump that he just doesn’t have IT to be the star that people thought he could be. Obviously, he has the insane body, but his mic skills and work in the ring is just so subpar. He’s just the most bland dude who always seems bored and like his mind is always half somewhere else.

Hulk Hogan is John Cena and John Cena is Hulk Hogan where dude will be main eventing one week and then he’ll just disappear off TV for a couple weeks then reappear like nothing happened. I can’t stand Hogan, but it’s entertaining watching him through all this.

I’m well on my way into 1996 now as I write one, so hopefully I’ll have more to say for that write-up, whenever I finish it, and hopefully I remember to take notes.

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Fastlane: Review/Recap

RESEM50037fastlane2016MEBecky Lynch And Sasha Banks Defeated Team B.A.D.:

Don’t really have much to say about this. It was actually a pretty good match, all things considered, from both teams and did a decent job kicking off the night and managed to avoid any kind of gaffs (unfortunately the latter women’s match wouldn’t be so lucky). This thing is obviously just a way to build up the feud of Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks going after Charlotte and the Diva’s title. I’d presume it’ll be a three-way for the belt at WrestleMania, or just a straight up Sasha/Charlotte match. I’d be more keen to the Sasha/Charlotte match because you know that both the company and the women want a star-making match of not only showing off the skills of the women on this huge stage and they can be just as good if not better than the men, but they also want to make huge starts out of these women as the torchbearers for the division for the next decade+. So, it’s easier to make a great singles match with planned ideas, spots and fluidity (the latter part which often plagues divas matches) than to create a great triple threat match which often includes dealing with a lot of timing issues and having to eliminate one person so much that it always seems like a revolving singles match. Anyways, I’m not complaining either way, and I’m sure either match will be great, I just sense that this is a match execution that they’ll want to pull off in spades to further benefit and lend credence to the division as wrestlers.

Kevin Owens Defeated Dolph Ziggler to retain the Intercontinental Championship:

This was your prototypical Kevin Owens/Dolph Ziggler TV match that was really no different than the last 567 times they faced off. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad by any stretch. They’re basically the king of kicking off shows, and if it wasn’t for that extra women’s match that’s what they would’ve been doing, although this was basically the same. Owens was obviously going to win, since he just won the belt and WWE seems like they actually have and want Kevin to do stuff (not that it’s apparent lately) and Ziggler has been doing nothing since that whole Rusev/Lana thing that we’re probably just better off forgetting.

I have no clue what Kevin Owens will be doing for WrestleMania. I’m thinking either a program with AJ Styles for the title, which I’d love, or maybe a program with Chris Jericho for the title, which would be fine, especially since Owens/Jericho worked a bunch on house shows over the past year and their dueling promos would be a lot of fun. I mean, a Sami Zayn feud would be awesome, but I don’t think that’s happening so soon, especially with Zayn dealing with NXT stuff, but I wouldn’t fret since I’m sure we’ll be getting a lot of it over the next decade.

Big Show, Kane and Ryback Defeated The Wyatt Family:

This wasn’t even all that bad! I was surprised! I couldn’t even think of a match I’ve been looking forward to less than this one (although, I feel like I say that on ever PPV review I do). I mean, it makes absolutely no sense why didn’t give the Wyatts the win, as that seemed a foregone conclusion. The booking on the Wyatts is the most schizoprenic, they’ll languish in the background and lose to everybody, then they’ll be pushed like they finally want to build them as legit monsters who win and dominate, but then they’ll just get pushed down again and back to scrape the doldrums. In a perfect world it would be cool to see the Wyatts as legitimate threats and not just glorified jobbers in the skins of people who in theory would be a lot more successful.

Charlotte Defeated Brie Bella to retain the Divas Championship:

Oh, man, this thing was terrible. Not too many other ways to put it. The whole match both Brie and Charlotte seemed to be on a completely different page. This is where that fluidity thing I mentioned in the Sasha, Becky/Team B.A.D. thing comes into place. Often in women’s matches they’ll seem so stiff and so hesitant of the next move and spot that it becomes so blatantly and painfully obvious that this is staged and everything is pre-determined. There’s no seamless back-and-forth, but rather waiting and stumbling around to set up the next move, or wait an unrealistic amount of time to do something or just do something so strained and removed that it looks painfully manipulated. This match was that idea in a nutshell. There was countless times where Charlotte would have to do some many unnatural delays or moves to make sure she and Brie were in the proper position to do a move that it was so blatantly stunted. It wasn’t just Brie, where I think the problem lies in both women being not having much experience with each other and neither really taking charge. The whole thing culminated in a finish apropo of the entire match with Brie having Charlotte in a single leg crab, until she decided to seemingly launch herself into the ropes and give up the move only for Charlotte to magically recover put her in the figure-8 and win. What you were supposed to know is that Brie’s leg was injured and thus the pain of putting pressure on her leg in that move launced her out of the move? I dunno, it was a bad match and a bad finish. Charlotte will redeem herself at Wrestlemania with some more worthy competition, and Brie I’m sure will have a better showing as she winds her career down and remains thankful that this wasn’t her goodbye match.

AJ Styles Defeated Chris Jericho:

Looking back Chris Jericho was pretty much the perfect fit for AJ’s first feud in WWE. They’re both decade+ vets in the business, are of similar sizes and can put on great matches with seemingly anybody. In the end I never got that classic match I expected from the two that I know is in both of them, but instead we just got some really, really good matches, which especially on this show shouldn’t be anything to complain about. I think, funnily enough, that this match was similar to the Brie/Charlotte match (I know.. hold on, let me explain), but on the opposite side of the spectrum. As good as the matches were and this one was, both men just seemed to slightly be on different pages. Whether it was AJ still getting used to the new ring and relative new style (yet he’s still better than 95% of the roster being this new to the company) or if it was Jericho’s age and style not being able to keep up with AJ. Sometimes you’d see them just off on a spot, like that AJ springboard off the ropes to Jericho drop kick, where to anyone less skilled than them it would look blatantly obvious, but instead these guys are so good that slight misses go largely undetected.

I also had a pretty big issue with having Jericho kick out of the Styles Clash, especially when he was just going to give up the submission to Styles, anyways. I would’ve loved to have seen them build up the Styles Clash as this great move, maybe not Japan levels of building it up, but at least have it built up enough to help out another guy that could use the rub rather than wasting it on Jericho a week in. Especially when they have AJ using the calf slicer as his main finisher now and the Styles Clash could’ve been used as a “big match” move that AJ only busted out when absolutely necessary. We’ll see, though, I guess I should just be happy they gave AJ the win over Jericho and actually made him tap out.

The Cutting Edge Peep Show with The New Day:

I rolled my eyes at first because it just seemed like a lame time filler to pimp the new Edge and Christian show, and it was that, but the dreaming side of me actually thought they’d use this to debut Enzo and Cass on the main roster to feud with The New Day into Mania. But, nope, as soon as The New Day started talking about the League of Nations I knew this thing was only destined to get worse. It makes total sense in retrospect that they’d go with this feud since neither has nothing to do, but I could care less. The New Day act is sooo played out with me and always goes on about 5 minutes longer than it should. As if things couldn’t get much worse on this show…

Curtis Axel Defeated R-Truth:

Yep, you read that correctly, the co-main event match on this show was Curtis Axel with the Social Outcasts beating R-Truth in two minutes when a Goldust accidental distraction led to the pin because we absolutely needed that story continued on this show. How this makes it on, even as a dumb time filler when Kalisto/Alberto Del Rio languished on the pre-show is beyond me, because you know full well they could’ve just shifted things slightly and had that match on here to at least bring up the mean.

Roman Reigns Defeated Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar:

The theme of this show really was if you came into it expecting exactly what everybody knew was going to happen (which it did) then it probably didn’t bother you too much. As much as you might’ve wanted Ambrose to win and how fun it would be to throw a wrench in everything, you knew WWE wasn’t doing anything to mess with the story they had of Roman and Triple H with Roman gunning after that belt yet again, he’s already won it twice somehow! The match was good, nothing amazing and pretty serviceable to all. It will never get old watching Brock get built up like the monster he is and just destroying guys left and right.

I’m writing this after RAW, so WrestleMania is becoming a lot more clearer. We got the match that nobody say coming with Shan McMahon coming back to the company to face Undertaker in a Hell In A Cell match to win the rights to Monday Night Raw. I’m sure there will be a lot of strings pulled from now until then and the match itself will probably be a cluster in terms of guest spots and smoke and mirrors towards whoever will win. Regardless, I’m excited for the match and at the very least the idea of it because it sounds like the most fantasy booking thing ever, especially in 2016.

Dean Ambrose is facing off against Brock Lesnar in a street fight, which sounds amazing and has the potential to steal the show. The street fight stipulation is a good idea, because it’s the only way that things can sway in Ambrose’s favour towards a fair and believable fight, because realistically Lesnar should mop the floor with the scrawny Ambrose. I’m much more excited about this than I am the before rumoured idea of Lesnar/Bray Wyatt which was seemingly being set up at the Rumble. I was looking forward to the legit Lesnar/Wyatt match, but not the tedious month+ long build up of boring promos and attacks.

I don’t know what’s truly happening with the tag belts outside of New Day/League Of Nations feud, but don’t know how that’ll play into WrestleMania. They’ve been putting together a few tag teams of late like Social Outcasts, R-Truth/Goldust, plus the Dudleyz and Usos feud that seems to be happening and now it seems like Styles/Jericho are going to be a team which I’m not the biggest fan of. So maybe they’ll do a big multi-team match like they did last year?

It seems like the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal will be back, as it’s now just an easy match to throw all your leftover guys into, and especially since a ton of the big guys have nothing to do like Big Show, Kane, Ryback, the Wyatts etc. I have no clue what this means for Bray Wyatt as I can’t see anyone relatively big or decent for him to feud with that he hasn’t faced already. Who knows.

Of course you got John Cena posting cryptic things on Twitter about him pushing hard to make some certain goal. Hmmmm. This is the same dude who posted about him struggling to regain the mobility in his weak arm and then two days later posted him squatting 300 lbs. The dude is a freak, so he’ll probably be back, but I have no clue facing. The fantasy booker in me wants John Cena vs. AJ Styles for the dream match we’ve always wanted over the past decade.

And, oh yeah, that whole Triple H vs. Roman Reigns for the title thing. It’s hilarious that WWE thinks that continually putting bigger and bigger things in front of Roman for him to “overcome” to win the title will somehow get people to like him, yet it’s having the opposite effect where it gets comical how much he beats out to get what he deserves. I’m sure there will be a special ref or special enforcer or people in each of their corners or whatever, but I don’t think much will work and the fans are just too far gone on Reigns in this iteration to see him win like this.

I was getting pretty skeptical of Mania with all the injuries, lack of big matches and the mess the world title picture is, but the whole Shane/Undertaker thing has really piqued my interest and the Lesnar/Ambrose thing is bound to be a lot of fun. Plus, I’m sure they still got a few surprises up their sleeves since it’s the “biggest WrestleMania of all time” (haven’t you heard!?!?), and given we’re still more than a month out a lot is bound to change, but I’m back excited for Mania, and hey, we at the very least get an NXT Takeover special to look forward to, no matter the Mania card.

WWE Ruthless Aggression Era: 2003

WWE Ruthless Aggression

Honestly, this year wasn’t very noteworthy, judging by the fact that I write hardly even wrote notes during this year (that being said I’ll probably blab like normal in this and it’ll end up being just as long as the past ones). It’s all just pretty run-of-the-mill stuff with nothing amazingly good, but not too much that’s horrible, just kinda bland maybe. Both shows are fully set in their ways of being separated, especially with the split pay-per-views now where one show gets a PPV and they alternate and only come together at the big events. I always said I’d try to make it to WM20 to match up with when I started watching back in the day and maybe stop there, but I got here a lot quicker than I thought, so who knows. Things are getting increasingly clear that the product isn’t what it used to be in the true Attitude years or even the ones following, and now it’s just in kind of a boring and un-flashy groove. People complain about the HHH reign of terror, but I like him generally and as such him always on top doesn’t bother me as much. Anyways, I’ve been thinking it’s time to go back and watch all the Attitude era WCW Nitros and stuff since I’ve never seen them. But, before all that, let’s get into this thing…

The first two pay-per-views were pretty void of anything special. Lesnar wins the Rumble, of course, not only because it cements him of having one of the greatest first years in WWE history with winning the King Of The Ring, beating The Rock at SummerSlam for the title, main-eventing with Undertaker and just generally being on top, to the Rumble win now. It has been telegraphed for awhile that he was going to get his big match against Angle, with their whole shared background of amateur wrestling, so it worked good in storyline as well.

Royal Rumble is also where Scott Steiner got finally had his top feud with HHH for the title, and as expected this whole thing was a mess and not really engaging at all. They had dumb little test of strength competitions because of course Hunter is self-conscious about that going against Steiner. Steiner had no chance of winning and after he had this little program, Steiner would wallow in the mid-card doing worthless stuff with Stacy Kiebler and Test, which somehow they stretched for, like, the whole year. Not like he was that great in the first place, but WWE seemed to be placing him for something good coming into the company, and nothing happened, as should really be expected for their track record.

No Way Out was centered around the return of The Rock and his rematch with Hulk Hogan from last year, which was really just a set-up for the Vince/Hogan match at WrestleMania. The Rock comes in with his new Hollywood Rock heel gimmick and it’s a lot of fun since Rocky hasn’t played a heel in a long time, and it actually works well with his real-life persona of being an actor now, the conceit that he’s this major actor only concerned with himself and thinks that he’s better than everyone else now that he’s making movies. He gets some heat, mainly when he directly insults the fans, but mostly he still gets cheers. The most hilarious thing was Hogan getting screwed out of the win by The Rock and Vince and WWE played it up like it was at the level of the Montreal Screwjob, since the PPV was in Montreal. Also, I had no clue Sylvain Grenier had his introduction (before the La Resistance thing) as the French ref that screws over Hogan. I always love seeing in WWE when guys you know from their major gimmick actually have debuted earlier in some two-bit role.

Alright, so the WrestleMania build:

HHH/Booker: This feud just makes no sense and has NO business being a Mania-pseudo main event or world title match. I mean, I love Booker and all, but I still didn’t think he was main event level at this time and for sure not enough to go against HHH at this time. I’m obviously looking at this from the far future, but it just seems so unmatched and random. Like, it would be more than fine for any other PPV, but for Mania it’s so underwhelming. Also, it’s SOOO goddamn racist, like overtly, not even subtle. When HHH saying people like YOU don’t get to be in my spot etc. It’s was so dumb because with all this overtly racist stuff you would assume that they did it all to have Booker get his comeuppance over HHH at the biggest event of the year, but nope, HHH goes over and it all just falls beside the wayside. I heard the original plan was indeed for Booker to go over, but HHH nixed it, and thus it doesn’t make much sense, besides HHH always wanting to win here.

Rock/Austin: Rock is super fun as the Hollywood Rock and his whole heel business. It at least brings some more interest to his character who is just so sporadic in his appearance anyways that it provides another angle and isn’t just boring face Rock popping up. Also, it’s a cool way to play off him being this whole big Hollywood star now and he is always good at gaining heat. Austin is doing really nothing at all, but I guess it’s to be expected as this would be his dipping of his toes back into WWE before he was out again. It’s basically him feuding with Bischoff. Also, the Rock/Hurricane stuff was fun, giving a guy shine like that in the main event. The match was pretty fun in the end, it was short and almost like a greatest hits of their previous Mania matches, not that it was close to any of those, but just both guys giving everybody all their hits for their last match together.

McMahon/Hogan: This was fine enough, at least it had some real world history so there’s weight to it that had been building for all these years, although it just started in storyline very recently. But, for the love of god, keep Hogan off the mic, he was always fumbling his words. The match was surprisingly good and it’s always hilarious to see Vince McMahon, the supposed non-wrestler and boss of the company, with his buff body looking way more muscular and in shape than the flabby supposed greatest wrestler of all time.

Lesnar/Angle: This was obviously the most hyped match and the one with an actual lengthy backstory and heft to it. They’ve been feuding since, like, November of last year, and although it seems like it’s going on forever, there is at least the goal of Mania which you know will be a grand culmination of it all. I can’t wait for it. They did have a match on SD, but Angle won it sneakily, so it wasn’t that much of a takeaway from the Mania match. Benjamin and Haas is a good addition, giving Kurt his collegiate stable or whatever you wanna call it. The match was fantastic as expected and really I think the best thing to main event the show, since they had several options and were supposedly wavering about what to put on last. The Brock shooting star press botch that has him land on his head will never be easy to watch, and I always yell at my TV for Brock to drag Angle closer to the corner so he wouldn’t have had all that pressure to make that huge distance while flipping, but he never listens.

Taker/Jones vs A-Train/Show: Before all this stuff I was wracking my brain to think of Taker’s match for this and thought it was Show, but then I remembered it was A-Train and then this tag match pops up that I never heard of happening before. I’m almost certain it doesn’t happen, though? Because I only recall Taker facing A-Train and never heard of a tag match around it. Off that, I only sparingly have heard of Nathan Jones and thus he must be around for such a short time, but surely I would’ve heard of him being in a  Mania match, or maybe this match is just that unforgettable. I think he gets gone fast somehow. Also, it was so so stupid how they were building him up in the vignettes as being this Australian prison badass ready to rip someone’s face off, and he comes in and turns face right away and becomes Taker’s little delicate padawan who needs wrestling lessons. It was so bizarre and sudden and took everything away from what he was seemingly built to be. I guess they just lost their luster on him. I really should do some actually research into him and why WWE soured on him so quickly, I mean, it’s so obvious that he sucked in and out of the ring. But, it was hilarious how quick they pushed him high up the card, only to yank him back down just as quick.

Jericho/HBK: I was really looking forward to this match, as they’re both fantastic wrestlers. The build was pretty lame with each basically just interrupting each other’s matches and randomly attacking each other.

Goldberg coming into WWE finally happened and one of the last debuts I was waiting for and I was super stoked to see, as I’ve seen none of his short WWE stuff, besides WrestleMania 20 (ugh). The Rock stuff was the perfect feud and one for The Rock to go out on, for now, and put Goldberg over, not that he needed it. I don’t know how much The Rock has left even beyond his part-time player thing, because I know his Mania 20 match is like his last match for a whole long while. Goldberg actually got a bunch of boos, but I think that was mainly because how much people liked The Rock.

The Evolution stable stuff was weird to start the year. They were establishing it right before WrestleMania, but all of a sudden Orton and Batista disappeared, like not wrestling or just hanging out ringside for HHH, only Flair. Is it because of the Nash thing? I knew they came back later in the year as that’s when it really kicked off. But, it’s weird they were establishing/introducing them as this group and then half of them vanished.

I couldn’t believe that John Cena actually won the tournament Smackdown was having to see who would face Brock for the title. I know we look back at Cena now and be like, duh of course he wins, but I didn’t think he’d win here this early before his MAJOR push. I guess watching all this, though, it’s clear that Cena was pushed from the very beginning as soon as he started. And now especially with his hip-hop gimmick. And it was an actual match too, I thought Brock might squash, but Cena actually dominated for most of it until Brock surprised and hit him with one F5 and got the pin. It’s hilarious to see this mini-feud between the two, looking back with 2016 eyes and how much they’d fight and feud over a decade later. It’s crazy to think that in theory, the seeds for their 2014 feud were planted all the way back in 2003.

Also, they have Roddy Piper being Sean O’Haire’s manager type guy to try and get him over, but it’s not even close to working. O’Haire is just so boring and not engaging at all. They tried to reignite the feud with Rikishi where years ago when Piper hit Snuka with the coconut. Boring, and short match.

Judgment Day was pretty lame. I can hardly remember stuff from it. The Battle Royal was fun for the IC title. And I love Christian like this, he’s perfect as the smarmy heel which he’s been playing forever with no need of a face change.

The classic short singles match for the world title with HHH that ends in a DQ just to keep extending the feud and get to the big gimmick match. So pointless.

Lesnar/Big Show in a stretcher match was at least a fun change of pace as this was the first one in forever. They fought a ton outside the ring more than I thought and thus it wasn’t the most high paced match, not that these two would give that, but it was good enough.

Bad Blood was better. The HIAC match was pretty good, but there was no need for Foley to come back to guest referee. Just another dumb gimmick every year for Foley to pop back up.

Michaels/Flair was good. And Goldberg/Jericho was fine enough for a little stop gap feud for Goldberg. But, you can already tell that Goldberg is just always getting the short-shrift and he’ll never do anything of actual note in the company.

Vengeance was fine enough, I guess. I could care less about Zach Gowen and the whole Vince angle. Undertaker/Cena is a pretty great feud and decent match. Guerrero/Benoit single match, enough said. The triple threat title match was decent enough, but I was shocked Angle won, but it becomes clearer later when Vince turned on Angle and aligned himself with a heel-turned Lesnar.

So, without me looking it up, I never really understood the Zach Gowen thing. Vince must’ve just had a huge crush on the idea of a kid with one-leg who always wanted to be in the WWE, just so he could constantly squash him and beat him up. Dude had zero charisma and is just a bore, especially when they focus sooo much on him. But, then they just got sick of him and turned on him, as it always happens in this company, and eventually just used him as someone for Brock to destroy on his mean streak.

The Kane unmasking was so dumb, there was zero build to it, just one week Bischoff saying if Kane loses against HHH he’ll lose his match. They weren’t even feuding, it would seem better to have it at the end of an epic feud or something, but nope just off the Hell In A Cell against Nash. Obviously they probably wanted something of note to do since it’ll be awhile until their next PPV with them alternating with SmackDown now. It definitely adds a new dimension to stuff, but it’s really just oooh Kane is crazy and a monster, but I guess it does give his character some teeth since he’s been pretty neutered and de-monsterized over the years.

I do like that since each brand doesn’t have a PPV each month to build to that they have to spread things out and have semi-big events like this and later SmackDown has the Angle/Lesnar Ironman match to provide some spark in the downtimes between getting to that next pay-per-view. At least WWE back here was able to stretch together some decent stories from week-to-week and it wasn’t completely aimless like nowadays.

Kevin Nash like Goldberg just seems to have fizzled out so quickly after their one big feud that entered them into the company. It’s such a pattern with the company where their one big obvious feud that kicks them off onto the show will be fun, but once it ran its course they just languish behind-the-scenes. Just like Scott Steiner, too. They didn’t even give Goldberg/HHH its due and buildup and quickly turned it into the Chamber match, but I guess their singles feud would resume later in the year.

Elimination Chamber match was alright. I was semi-surprised that Goldberg went over for the title and thought he would destroy everybody until HHH, then HHH would cheat for the title, but I guess they decided this would be the best time to give Goldberg the title, for at least a couple months. Hey, at least he got one up on the likes of Nash and Steiner.

It’s crazy that leading into SummerSlam in August the WWE title has only been contested by Lesnar/Angle and Big Show since like Survivor Series in November. It’s legit just the same dudes contesting for it. I mean, it doesn’t feel that long, but dang it would be nice if they spruced it up and brought in some new guys.

I can hardly keep track but Angle is heel leading into Mania, Brock face. Brock reigns for a bit as face, then Angle comes back after a few months all face and buddy-buddy with Lesnar which lasts for a couple weeks. Then on a SmackDown Lesnar on the side of Vince turns on Angle and is now heel with face Angle and being the Champ heading into SS.

The match itself was pretty great, as expected from what Lesnar and Angle always deliver. I love to that Lesnar tapping was built into the storyline for the coming months, as this huge thing that not only did he lose but he tapped, and the crowd would chant it at him.

John Cena is now fully in his rapper gimmick to the point where he has a full handle on it and you can begin to see him getting over and the popularity of it with the fans that skyrockets him. I’m a sucker for his raps.

I barely remember anything that happened at Unforgiven.

Oh, yeah, and so Evolution gets established with their theme and all. Which I fucking love. It’s weird because at the beginning of the year it was Orton-less with Batista the guy in the mix, and then it was Batista nowhere to be found and Orton is around. They never mention it either, so I dunno what was up. But, Batista would come shortly after.

No Mercy was pretty unforgettable, too, as these Pay-per-views were back then at the end of the year, outside of when Survivor Series was actually relevant. There was probably no match in recent memory that I could’ve cared less about than the Vince vs. Stephanie “I Quit” match and it was just as terrible as expected. It was all just an excuse to get Stephanie out of the GM chair and put Heyman in.

Lesnar/Undertaker in a Biker Chain match was pretty decent. I always have hated the concept of a weapon on a pole match, as they make a big deal about the first person who retrieves the object off the pole, but it’s not like they automatically win once they get it, or the other person can’t use it. It’s just the weapon is now fair game for both, and isn’t really much of an advantage getting it first, because it’s not like they ever win right after getting the weapon down and using it.

I love watching Survivor Series pay-per-views back in this time, because they actually have Survivor Series matches with a built in storyline and a reason to have them, and not just thrown together today. The RAW one considered the ongoing Austin/Bischoff GM feud that would eventually get Austin kicked off and the SmackDown one was the continuation of the Angle/Lesnar feud. The Lesnar team was hilarious because they somehow got Nathan Jones back from the dead and had the slightly less of a bore of Matt Morgan.

Also, I know Chris Benoit wins the Rumble in a couple month here and I was thinking about it around this time how it seemed so random that they hadn’t even been building Benoit up and was in zero story to speak of. But, then they had Benoit make Lesnar tap out, which was a pretty big deal, and so begins his subtle climb into the serious main event picture and eventually to where he explodes and wins the Rumble and the title (except it was HHH’s).

On the same theme I’ve been paying attention to Eddie Guerrero and his treatment as he’s the one to take the belt off Lesnar in a few months, similar to Benoit, but his rise isn’t quite as apparent. Sure, he’s super over with the fans, but not much is happening storyline wise. I knew he was give up his United States title to Big Show, to clear his way for the WWE title, and for Show to give the title up to Cena at Mania to really get Cena cooking.

Also, it was hilarious how they bring Hardcore Holly back and immediately push him into feuding with Lesnar, like he comes back with these vignettes about being mad that Lesnar was the one to injure him, yet I’m pretty sure nobody remembered that or even cared or knew that Hardcore Holly was gone. I guess they just needed a a stop-gap feud for Lesnar for the Rumble.

The Vince/Undertaker Buried Alive match wasn’t anything special, and obviously just a set-up for Undertaker to return in his Deadman gimmick. This was a pretty underwhelming year for Undertaker, and really had no top feud or main-eventing match, beside the one at No Mercy. The Biker gimmick was getting a bit stale, even though I kinda enjoy it more than most, but it was time for the Deadman to come back.

And then Armageddon was all about putting all the belt on Evolution, because of course. I was so stoked, though, because it’s the beginning of the Randy Orton push and when they start establishing his Legend Killer moniker. I never got to see this stuff and I love this Randy, especially the early days when he was my favourite wrestler when I started watching in 04/05, so I can’t wait to see him keep getting pushed and the eventual Evolution fracturing, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Triple H got his title match, with WWE simultaneously satisfying both needs by getting the title off Goldberg and onto HHH, while also giving Kane his shot at the title, which you woulda thought they were going towards earlier with the unmasking, but they kinda just threw it away here. Then to add to the craziness, HHH and HBK would start feuding again after this, with Michaels actually winning the belt over HHH on the last RAW of the year, which I didn’t think they’d actually do, even though it was in his hometown of San Antonio. And so the build to the Rumble and WrestleMania 20 begins.

It is bonkers to me to think that I’ve watched seven years of WWF/E from the beginning of 1997 to the end of 2003 in the real-time frame of a year. I never thought I’d actually watch it this fast, but it’s been a lot of fun (if a bit less so the last few years) to see all this stuff I’ve known bits and pieces of and especially how it all leads into when I started watching. I first started watching right after WrestleMania 20, and while it’ll kinda suck when I eventually get there since I know all the major storylines and where everything goes, I’m looking forward to seeing it with my 2016 eyes and seeing how I remember it.

TLC: Tables, Ladders And Chairs: Review/Recap

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The New Day Defeats The Usos and the Lucha Dragons to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship in a ladder match:

This year the ladder match opens the show once again and once again it steals the show right out of the gate. Originally, I thought and expected the ladder would go to the Owens/Ambrose Intercontinental match, which would’ve been great in its own right, but after seeing this I’m glad it went here. I can’t even remember the last time WWE had a multi tag team ladder match and that alone provided a fresh aspect to a match we haven’t seen in awhile. Of course, as expected, this thing was just a gigantic spot-fest with all three groups utilizing their high-flying abilities (+ Big E) for some fantastic moments. Highlighted by the incredible Solina del Sol delivered by Kalisto to *insert name of the correct Uso* off the top of a ladder in the middle of the ring, collapsing down through a ladder wedged in between the ropes. I can’t remember a move in recent memory that made me jump out of my seat like that. Big E also did a pretty cool move where he was trapped under a ladder and bench pressed it off him while the Lucha Dragons were climbing the ladder. I’m always amazed that people still find new and inventive things to do in ladder matches after all these years and this thing definitely delivered.

I think the New Day are getting a bit stale, due in large part to their constant long-winded promos that they deliver each time they’re out, but it was no question they were going to retain. It’s hard to tell when their time will run out with the belts, I’d imagine sooner rather than later, but still expect them to be a major player in the tag division for the foreseeable future. It seems like only a matter of time until the Lucha Dragons get a run with the titles, hopefully only pushing Kalisto’s stock even higher, because that dude has star potential.

Rusev Defeats Ryback:

This is just a dumb, filler of a feud that was pretty meaningless and lacked any teeth whatsoever. They tried to to this whole thing of Lana feigning getting attacked by Ryback and such, but it’s all just so boring and pointless. I remember they tried doing this feud a few months ago and nothing happened to it, unfortunately they actually went forward to this. I find Ryback pretty boring and he’s pretty much lost in the shuffle nowadays after his Intercontinental reign went down in flames. Rusev on the other hand is a better worker than he’s given credit for on the card, and has been wallowing in sub-standard stuff to what he’s capable of since he got run over in the Cena feud from earlier this year. It wasn’t a noticeably bad match or anything, just wildly forgettable and unnecessary.

Alberto Del Rio Defeats Jack Swagger to retain the United States Championship in a chairs match:

Del Rio obviously was going to retain over Swagger, who only got this title match because of the connection of his former manager Zeb Colter being Del Rio’s manager now. Except for the fact that Del Rio broke things off with Zeb the previous week, possibly hinting of interference or an appearance by Zeb in this match to return to Swagger’s side, except nope, none of that happened. Del Rio won in this chairs match (which might be the dumbest gimmick match currently used) with little fanfare, with the most noticeably dumb thing to happen in the match was when Swagger had Del Rio in his ankle submission Patriot lock move where Del Rio proceeds to get out of the move and no-sell it, walking around perfectly fine, but not only that it leads directly into the finish where Del Rio’s does his stomp off the top rope, driving his supposedly injured foot into Swagger, but showing no effects, and getting the 1-2-3. So, Del Rio keeps the belt, until presumably Cena comes back in the ensuing months and takes it back. You don’t just get to keep your win over Cena.

The Wyatt Family defeats The Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno in a tables match:

This feud was presumably made because a. Like 90% of why the Dudleyz came back is so they could compete in a tables match at this PPV and b. to get the Wyatt’s a win in a feud, even if it’s against some 40-year-olds. That’s the biggest thing to come out of this thing, the Wyatt’s actually got a win over somebody, whether it actually means anything. It’s funny because WWE always projects the Wyatts as this immovable faction full of creepy ass-kickers, except for the fact that they lose to pretty much every body they’re in a feud with. It’d be nice to see them actually get meaningful wins and put some tangible cred behind their names to book them into an actual top force, not just glorified jobbers. This one was at least a step in the right direction with the Wyatts dominating having only Erick Rowan (the Wyatt family member that I think the other family members couldn’t care less about) be eliminated while the rest of the team stood strong the rest of the match.

Dean Ambrose defeats Kevin Owens to win the Intercontinental Championship:

This was really the only surprise of the night for me, Ambrose finally getting a win and getting the taste of some gold as he was on fire for a lot of the year, but never got anything done. Owens with the title was great, as he has been in every storyline, and I just don’t think we were close to telling the end of his story with the belt, granted I’m sure he’ll be chasing his rematch down. Not really sure what this means going forward for both men, there was always the rumoured Sami Zayn feud for Owens now that he’s coming back and looks less and less destined for NXT in the long run. Does Dean Ambrose settle in as the Intercontinental champion and try to give his U.S. title reign a run for its money?

Charlotte defeats Paige to retain the Divas championship:

I’ve never been invested in this feud, but I don enjoy the how it seems WWE doesn’t even know who is heel or face in this thing anymore. Charlotte literally plays the full out heel in this match for her first time, and thus Paige is playing the babyface role, where just a few weeks ago she was heel and a few before that she was face. Then in a post-match segment Charlotte is being a dick to Becky Lynch, along with Ric Flair, but then she seems to be legitimately regretful to things she said to Becky while her father keeps yapping away. It doesn’t make much sense, especially when Charlotte as a full-out heel is a lot more interesting and fun, anyways.

Sheamus defeats Roman Reigns in a TLC match to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship:

This thing went as expected with wins teased for both until the inevitable run-in by the League of Nations members to beat down Roman to help Sheamus score the win. There were a few moments where they got me and I thought Reigns might overcome all the odds against the interference and Sheamus’ sure win and take the title, but nope, at least not for another 24 hrs. or so…

That would’ve been the expected WWE ending and have the show close out there, as they’ve done time and time again. But, nope, this time Roman had enough and snapped on Triple H spearing him, beating him down, slamming him on a table, elbow dropping him through said table that didn’t break on the first go around, spearing him again after deciding he just wasn’t done after walking up the ramp. Reigns beat HHH down, HHH sold hilariously flopping around like a fish for some bizarre reason and for once Reigns actually looked like a beast that his look so much demonstrates he should be. This silent ass-kicker who just destroys with no regard for consequences or repercussions that could come. It looked like a step in the right direction for Reigns.

So, since I’m writing this after the Raw that followed the PPV, it would be kinda foolish not to talk about that since it’s directly follows from the events of the PPV and includes something pretty big. Nope, Reigns wasn’t taking the title from Sheamus on the Sunday night PPV, instead he took it on Raw completing a mini-arch for Roman over the two nights that actually genuinely seemed to cash in on a storyline with him that seemed relatively unforced.

Stephanie opens Raw with Reigns saying she’s not going to fire him because Triple H didn’t want to (I have no reason why he didn’t want to, and I hope they actually explain this when Triple H comes back), but she claims some guy named Vince McMahon is coming to the arena and he of course has the superseding end-all opinion on Reigns’ employment. Then because Stephanie is Stephanie she slaps Reigns a couple times. Later in the show Vince comes out lambasts Reigns, Reigns calls him an old man and just because of that he gets a world title match that night that if he loses he gets fired but if he wins he gets the title(?), and then Vince kicks Reigns in the balls and then it becomes crystal clear that Reigns is winning the title since Vince and co. backstage would never have their golden boy Reigns get doubly humiliated by Steph and Vince that way without him achieving something memorable in the end. So, in the main event Vince tries to provide a distraction to the ref, only to receive a Superman punch from Reigns which Vince sells beautifully, a brogue kick hits Sheamus that he amazingly kicked out of, into the spear for the win. Then cue the Philadelphia fans cheering Reigns in this rousing coronation of the man finally winning this title. Yeah, you read that right, the same city that booed Reigns out of the building this past January when he won the Rumble and his right to the WrestleMania main event and world title shot, cheered this man because for the most part things actually worked this time and the dude had enough crap piled on him, just give it to him and let him run with it already. Plus, people seemed to have rather wanted to put the tile on a dead fish than have Sheamus continue to run around with it.

Now where they go with it I have no clue. Obviously at least up until the Rumble Reigns and Sheamus will continue to feud with it, but after that I have no clue. It seemed like Reigns would be winning the belt at Mania with his celebration on that grand stage, but looking back now I think there’s no way WWE could last that long keeping the belt off Reigns, and really they couldn’t have kept it on Sheamus much more than they have. So, who wins the Rumble to go against Reigns. Realistically there’s only like three options Lesnar, Cena and Undertaker. Who legitimately else has a shot that they would let main event what they are attempting to make their biggest Mania yet. That’s it, and I doubt it’ll be Taker in the title picture. Lesnar seems like the best bet, since they could do the rematch since last year, even though I don’t think there’s a single person clamouring for that. It’s been rumoured WWE would like to do the whole Cena vs. Reigns Mania match with Reigns going over and Cena passing the torch, but is it time for that now? Who knows, but it seems like WWE doesn’t have the most varying options what to do with the title since their roster seems thinner and thinner by the day. Hell, at the end of Sunday night it seemed like it was going to be a Reigns/HHH feud going forward whether that would be at the Rumble or stretched to Mania, but now Reigns has the title, so what now. Killing two birds with one stone and having HHH go for the title would be hilariously amazing and I probably shouldn’t joke about. I look forward to looking back at this in four months and laughing.

Anyways, that’s where things stand and I’m semi-excited to see where things go, even if I’ll probably be let down. I was actually really optimistic for the PPV, and while it ended up being pretty disappointing, the Raw angle with Reigns winning the title on TV (something unseen in over four years) has my interested peaked. I’ve never hated Reigns as much as most, I definitely had my problems with him, and he’s definitely much better now, even if his promos do suck. But, I’m glad they finally stuck the belt on him and hope they just run with it and I hope it’s as great as they think it’ll be. I think Regins will get better just with the belt around him through some sort of osmosis, but we’ll see.

WWE Ruthless Aggression Era: 2002

WWE Ruthless Aggression

Another year down and what a trip it was. It was truly a random and weird year that had so many new and unique elements from the past year, good and bad, and definitely was a worthwhile direction after the disastrous year that 2001 was. From countless new superstar debuts that would could continue to define the company to this day, to the brand split, returns, high-concept matches and Triple H having sex with a corpse. It was quite the year to say the least. Let’s get into it…

The year starts off with the return of Triple H, someone who I thought was still months away from returning, and of course this is all leading to his MIRACULOUS recovery and OVERCOMING THE ODDS to take the belt off Jericho, oh yeah, he’s still somehow the champion. I always keep coming back to how things would’ve been different possibly in with the invasion if people like Triple H, Benoit and Guerrero were healthy and how if any things would be different. Anyways, Triple H is back, and as demonstrated by the constant video packages of him getting stronger and fighting to get back, he was going to be shot to the moon when he got back. As a face, nonetheless, which is often weird to see him play.

It’s nice that they actually made the Royal Rumble match a storyline. This is like the first time since I’ve started watching in 1997 that they’ve actually had super stars really talking about entering and winning it. In the past the lead up to it has been non-existent. It helps to easily give guys storylines. And it’s big important guys, too, like HHH, Taker, Angle, Show, Kane. Really provides some heft to it and makes the Rumble match that much more interesting.

Vince McMahon and Ric Flair have a little feud going on how they’re basically co-owners of the company now, with Flair getting Raw and McMahon Smackdown. It does help to elevate Smackdown as a more equal brand, especially since this is before the eventual brand split, and provides Vince something to do, which would be his last major on-air thing for the year.

Goldust and Val Venis are back, one of many of the random superstars that just disappear and you go “oh, yeah, they were gone.” Bringing back some Attitude Era nostalgia. Billy and Chuck are also a thing now, with Billy Gunn trying his best to stay relevant however he can, and this one works surprisingly well for a bit, and they actually get over for a small while.

Anyways, on to the Rumble that Triple H wins, of course, because he’s just gotta win the title at Mania. Jericho beats Rock to retain the title through about 3346 different ways of cheating. Jericho is just a transitional champ, basically. Feels so unimportant, especially with Rock, Austin, Angle, HHH, Taker, they all seems so much better and main event than Jericho who still kinda feels like he doesn’t belong and too early. It seemed like a big deal when Jericho won to became the first undisputed champ, and he got a rub, but especially being a heel it didn’t really give him the push to the next level of top-tier talents like I’m sure they wanted to. Especially when he was just destined to lose to one of them very soon, ie. Triple H.

Triple H is face, of course for now, he turns on Stephanie after she was lied about having a baby. Sets up a no. 1 contender’s match at No Way Out that Angle wins to get the chance at the tile, but, nah… of course Triple H just wins his opportunity back at the next Raw. Because it’s Triple H, and of course he’s going over.

The Rock and Undertaker have a pretty fine match, which is really just a stop gap for them until their WrestleMania feuds get kicked off. Also, oh yeah, Stone Cold Steve Austin is still a thing, remember that guy? The most popular and over star in the company’s history or something? I can’t remember. Anyways, Austin is pretty much lost at sea in any storyline, due basically to his unhappiness with the company at the time and not really wanting to work. It’s crazy how his in-ring tenure just begins to disappear like this and how he hardly becomes a thought, just a few short years after he was carrying the company on his back.

So, finally a few months into 2002, Vince gets some of the top WCW stars that he so desperately needed during the invasion angle to make them seem relevant in Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall as NWO. It’s unfortunate it turned out as it did, but there’s few things I’ve been looking forward to more than the Rock/Hogan Mania match. Even though this iteration of NWO looks so boring and not harmful when it’s just three old dudes trying to remain relevant and badass.

Undertaker and Flair spar on their way to their Mania feud in so many different ways. This was actually one of my favourite builds of the year as both men seemingly held nothing back and everything descended into very personal attacks, like with Taker targeting David, Ric’s son. Flair cut some amazing promos, too, which really played off how emotional he gets and they felt painfully real.

The WrestleMania X8 card itself seemed pretty lackluster with a ton of filler matches. Matches like RVD vs. Regal, DDP vs. Christian, Angle vs. Kane, Edge Vs. Booker T (well, besides this one, because Edge and Booker were fighting over a Japanese shampoo commercial, yep.) and so on had very little build and were obviously just there to fill out the card and give some people something to do.

Stone Cold vs. Scott Hall seemed like it might have some potential, but it actuality it was short, boring and didn’t really seem to accomplish much with neither man seeming that into things. Triple H vs. Jericho was fine, but so uneventful and really containing nothing memorable of it in and of itself, besides the unofficial begin of Triple H being THE top guy without the likes of better guys like Rock and Stone Cold blocking his way. The build up with comedy bits between Stephanie and Jericho did nothing to lend credence to the feud and neither did the HHH/Stephanie split.

Of course, the biggest match, which somehow didn’t main event, although in nowadays booking totally would, the Rock/Hogan match didn’t disappoint. The crowd was nuclear and you could just feel the electricity radiating out of that ring. It’s almost surreal to think about these two top stars of their own begone generations facing off in one of the biggest contests of all time and thankfully Hogan didn’t go over.

Post-Mania dealings are all about the brand split and subsequent draft, which might be one of my favourite WWE things of all time, as well as the brand split which desperately needed to make something of Smackdown and which eventually exceeds amazingly well.

The draft was hilarious because it varies so much, as WWE often does, in strictness of rules and regulations when it comes to superstars being drafted and later traded or whatever. Like, Flair was somehow allowed to draft NWO, a group of three, with one pic. In the coming months they’d make a big deal of orchestrating a trade between the two brands, but then superstars would just defect to the other brand, with no repercussions, so it’s like it didn’t really matter where you got drafted, there was no actual checks and balance system, just whatever they felt like at the time. Like, later Batista and Randy Orton would go to Raw and the commentators were like “oh, yeah, they’re on Raw now, for no particular reason.” I mean, I know this is fake, scripted wrestling and the WWE rarely has concise continuity, but it’s just hilarious how little any of it really matters.

Also, a little someone who would become the dominant force of the year and would have an impact that few probably thought it would be as big throughout the years, Brock Lesnar debuted, and in the most Brock Lesnar way. He would literally just show up during random matches and just own everybody with F5’s and then leave. When he actually settled down and became a part of the actual roster he feuded with the Hardyz to start off with, which I guess was kind of a nice way to introduce him with a team he could go over and destroy.

So, Backlash happens which is pretty uneventful minus a great no. 1 contender’s match between Undertaker and Stone Cold that Taker cheats to win and the whole main event picture. So, it’s Hulk Hogan vs. Triple H for his newly won title and I really just assumed that Triple H would continue to keep getting the major rubs as the guy on top, go over the old Hogan and continue his ways. But, nope, Hogan won the title off Triple H who didn’t even survive a pay-per-view with it. It makes sense, though, Vince probably wanted that big shock and have Hogan carry around the Undisputed belt for a bit with the whole nostalgia factor until he gave it up shortly after to an actual worthy competitor, as he eventually did.

This also feels like when Undertaker finally got a true hold of who and what his American Bad Ass character really is. Where he just became this ruthless, asshole heel who was someone you didn’t want to mess with, and really encapsulated the bad ass biker look.

Randy Orton debuts and it’s so funny to see him all shaggy haired and wet behind the ears as a rookie compared with how we know him now. He’d pop up in random tag matches and have a mini-feud with Hardcore Holly. Later in the year he was put on Raw where he was subsequently injured, but they kept him relevant with this curious bit where he would pop up as this breaking news video where he heeled it up as a smug, smartass thanking the people for wishing him well during his recovery (which no one was doing) and they obviously had big plans for him if they wanted his face on TV every week or so, even though he was injured.

Batista debuts, too, in more bizarre terms than Randy (later Evolution mates), becoming a disciple of newly gimmicked D-Von’s preacher role as basically his muscle and a new dude for him to tag with. It didn’t last long, Batista would eventually end up on Raw where he would be groomed by Ric Flair, sowing the seeds for Evolution.

They had some really good momentum going into Judgment Day with the Underaker/Hogan feud that would eventually take the belt off Hogan at the PPV, which included Hogan doing literally the worst sell job to the chokeslam ever. The continued Triple H/Jericho feud was becoming a bore to me, but putting the match in Hell in a Cell at least provided some spark, although the match itself was pretty unmemorable, hmmm, sensing a theme in their matches. Most importantly, though, we had the Edge vs. Kurt Angle hair vs. hair match, in the culmination of an awesome feud that was based around comedy that both men do so well. I had never actually known how Angle went from hair to bald, and for some reason never assumed storyline reasons.

It’s funny because I’ll often forget about the brand split and be like “wow, Angle wasn’t even on this episode of Raw… wait, oh right, there’s an entirely different show.” It’s so crazy to think of the depth of talent they have to fully stock two relatively equal shows, in their own ways, of course. They each would have their own strengths, with Raw having some of the more traditional big names, but Smackdown would become the show to watch WRESTLING with the likes of Benoit, Angle, Guerrero, Mysterio and so forth. It’s just kinda crazy to think they were literally running two shows, that would only become more separate and were both very WWE, but created and re-ienforced their own identity.

Continuing with the randomness of the year, Shawn Michaels returns after, like four and a half years to seemingly little fanfare and joins with the NWO with him just doing random poses and stuff. It was a very weird position to bring him back as, but likely things would later get better with him, and he’d actually be wrestling, again.

Chris Benoit returns after his long injury, and of course they bring him back in his hometown of Edmonton and of course Vince being Vince they turn him heel in his hometown, which is sorta fun. Eddie Guerrero returns, too, and everything for the eventual rise of Smackdown in the latter part of the year is starting to fall in place, even though they were still on Raw.

Booker T is so funny, like, he can get to Kurt Angle levels of comedy, he’s so good. His partnership and schtick with Goldust is so perfect and they’re the perfect combination of randomness to put together.

Brock Lesnar continues to own and absolutely demolished the King Of The Ring tournament to take the crown. They do a smart thing this time around, which makes a lot of sense, giving the King Of The Ring winner a championship match.

The Rock, apparently, gets down promoting The Scorpion King or whatever Hollywood thing he was doing and comes back, obviously in prep to face Lesnar at SummerSlam. The past two years really The Rock is basically just a part-time player, doing his Hollywood stuff and only popping up at a few of the big events to have a big match, then he literally disappears again without WWF mentioning a word, and then repeat.

The Raw right after Vengeance Vince literally calls this time period “Ruthless Aggression,” so I don’t think there’s much of a doubt this is very much the first year of that era and nowhere near the Atittude Era. And then just like clockwork, who appears? John Cena, of course. On the following Smackdown Cena debuts with his infamous match against Angle. I’ll never get tired of seeing early Cena with his nerdy looking hair and plain appearance. The company was obviously super high on him at the time, as he featured in a ton of matches on following Smackdowns, including main-eventing some of them, and even had a mini-feud against Chris Jericho that would lead into Vengeance that he’d win.

The Undertaker vs. Jeff Hardy ladder match was just as epic as it was hyped to be. And in the loss totally made a star out of Hardy as a single competitor and one who could believably compete on his own. What a coming out party. I love the storyline that preceded Hardy taking on Taker. Where he was basically just bored living this easy, comfortable life of flying city to city wrestling and repeating. So, he needs a spark in his life something that matters, so he challenges the big dog, and eventually gets beaten down, but gains the respect of Undertaker and Flair and sets the roots of his singles career.

The Hardyz along with Edge & Christian actually managed to split them up from their tag teams and work them pretty successfully as single stars. Jeff was great, and would only get better, as that high-flying, risk-taking star, Matt had the V1 gimmick, which I’m not sure what the general consensus was, but I loved it for some reason, especially how technologically dependent and wringed in dry humour it was. Edge only gets better as a singles star and is a focal point of the Smackdown rise, while Christian enjoys some fun as part of The Un-Americans with Lance Storm and eventually Test, who just get constant rise out of all the Americans. I can’t believe I never heard of this tag-team/stable before, because it was a perfect gimmick for all of them, with guaranteed heat that they were all so good at getting, even when it wasn’t this easy. On the other hand, the Dudleyz split was pretty unsuccessful, Bubba was, uh, just his crazy self still, but hanging around with a girl occasionally, and D’Von’s preacher gimmick fizzled out fast. It’s no surprise they put them back together at Survivor Series, as it’s obviously how they work best.

Eric Bischoff comes in as general manager of Raw and I couldn’t be happier to see him. When I first started watching wrestling, a few years after this, he was GM and I absolutely love his smarmy asshole-ness and he fits perfectly as the authority figure. I’m too young to have experienced WCW, so I literally knew of Bischoff as Raw general manager before I knew anything about him and WCW, so I’m in a weird place. I can’t imagine how weird it must’ve been for people back in 2002 to see Bischoff randomly appear like this on WWE programming and become a focal authority point for it.

Stephanie McMahon is a great choice for Smackdown GM as well, she provides a nice foil to Bischoff, someone who’s like a thorn who constantly gets stuck in his side when she steals superstars to her show. She shifts back-and-forth between face and heel mannerisms, but it’s refreshing to see her out of the constant Triple H storylines, for the time being.

So, yeah, The Rock takes the title at Vengeance because it makes sense putting the belt on him being a grade A talent, his popularity as a movie star, heading into the number 2 show of the year, and the prospect of putting him against a Brock Lesnar character who seems unbeatable.

The only thing that could be bigger than that, though, is the wrestling return of Shawn Michaels. I’ve been waiting for his SummerSlam match with Triple H ever since he left all those years ago (months in my real life time, but still). Man, it’s almost surreal having HBK back, I know I’ve watched all these years in just a few months, but it really does seem like forever. It’s crazy to think that he literally went out right before/as the Attitude Era was commencing and is now coming back after it ends. Like he missed a whole era of wrestling. I can’t even imagine how things would be different with throughout the whole thing.

Triple H as a face, or psuedo-face wasn’t meant to last, of course, so he eventually turns on HBK during Michaels’ recruitment of HHH into NWO, which makes so little sense, especially since they were former DX members, but anyways. I mean, honestly, it doesn’t take much to build this feud with them, with all the shared history, but they do a good job, especially with HHH getting to turn back into his sadistic side.

This SummerSlam PPV gets hyped up a lot as being one of the best the company has put on, it’s really good, but I don’t think it’s anything fully amazing or anything, though. Rey Mysterio joins the Smackdown fold, finally, and puts on a classic with Kurt Angle to kick off SummerSlam. It’s literally not in Angle’s DNA to put on bad matches. Ric Flair faced off against Chris Jericho, another of Flair’s random feuds of the year as a wrestler, and one of Jericho’s, too. Chris Jericho had kind of a down year here, especially coming off his monumental one of last year, and never really got to be in the main event picture, but was just stuck in small, random feuds and the tag-team scene. Undertaker also feuded with Test for some reason, just to give him something to do, I guess, which he easily won.

The Shawn Michaels/Triple H street fight was a lot of fun and lived up to the years of hype surrounding the return of HBK. They went long, and even though I was sure Michaels was going over, it still told a pretty good story and had many spots where it seemed like Triple H would believably go over.

The Brock coronation begins when he defeats The Rock in a relatively one-sided affair and one that was a lot more shorter and succinct than I expected and just like that Brock Lesnar is the Undisputed champion of the company and The Rock disappears without a word.

Oh, my god, l I never really fully understood the “Triple H didn’t want to work Tuesdays things” and so they legit just brought back the Heavyweight title and just gave it to HHH because he didn’t want to work Smackdown and fight for the supposed one Undisputed title. I mean, I guess it makes sense to have two separate titles with the brand split, but it’s listed as the UNDISPUTED title and it hardly had any time to breath, and they just gave it to HHH. Amazing. Like, Bischoff just gave Triple H a world championship, no tournament or anything, and now all of a sudden each brand has a world title, which I like, but it’s hilarious how randomly and low-key they do it.

Unforgiven was a pretty boring placeholder PPV with Triple H easily defending his title against RVD, of all people. At the very least, it was used as a way for Ric Flair to turn and align with Triple H, which at the time is kinda fun, giving Triple H someone to bounce things off, and also gives Flair some direction, which he desperately needed these past few months ever since being ousted as GM. The Lesnar/Undertaker feud is a lot of good work, though, especially when Brock and Heyman use Sara against Taker, makes them even more slimy.

Finally, the HHH/Kane/Katie Vick storyline. This was actually a ton of fun and random and so not what they’ve done recently and was a such an Attitude outlier of a storyline. It was actually so nice to have someone feud with Kane and he actually got to be a part of the meaty story and had a backstory and not just some silent, grunt who beats people up for no reason, except for being a DEMON FROM HELL. HHH prodding him was the best and so slimy and dickish of him. At least it wasn’t your same old title match, where it’s the ol “I’m better than you, no I’m better than YOU.” Their title match at No Mercy was pretty boring and didn’t match the build-up, and obviously HHH won. I don’t fully understand why they used it to get rid of the Intercontinental title, making it title for title was cool, but just completely getting rid of the mid-card title seemed weird.

Smackdown needed their own tag belts, so they had a tournament that concluded at No Mercy with Benoit and Angle winning the title. It was pretty clear they were winning ever since the storyline started with them being begrudgen partners, but they’re fantastic wrestling and in a storyline together, so it works all the way around. Especially, with the calibre of tag teams like Los Guerreros and Edge and Rey Mysterio, my god. The Smackdown 6, what a time to be alive.

If that wasn’t enough, No Mercy was capped with a brutal, epic Hell In A Cell match between Brock Lesnar and Undertaker that completely lives up to its hype. This was another of several matches this year that I couldn’t wait to get to, and it delivered and more. Such an even bigger rub for Lesnar to take out Undertaker in the match that made him famous.

Hey, you remember the Big Show who literally has done nothing of note and has been in no storyline at all in, like, two years? Yeah, well, he literally complains about this basically to Bischoff, Bischoff does nothing, so Show defects to Smackdown and gets a title match with Lesnar at Survivor Series. Huh? It’s hilarious how they do this because Big Show has literally not been a factor in anything in sooo long and they just plug him into this feud with Lesnar from 0-100. I guess they probably wanted someone who looked imposing towards the insane mass of Lesnar and Show definitely fits the bill. So, of course, after all of building Lesnar up from destroying everyone in his path, winning King Of The Ring, taking the title off The Rock at SummerSlam, defeating Undertaker in Hell in a Cell, after all of that, at Survivor Series Lesnar owns Big Show, but Paul Heyman turns on Lesnar and Big Show gets the win and the title thanks to a little steel chair action. It’s kinda dumb, I would’ve liked to have seen Lesnar keep being built up as a monster, but springing him on his own and having him be a sort of babyface to take revenge on Heyman and Big Show works decently enough.

The Raw part of Survivor Series was, oh, just the introduction of a little match called the Elimination Chamber. I completely forgot it debuted this year and was so excited when I found out. It’s crazy to see Bischoff hype it now with us looking back, but it must have seemed crazy and out of this world at the time. The match itself more than lived up to the hype and must have been a relief since it very much have devolved into a cluster with the newness of it and all the people. Rob Van Dam was the star of the show, creating amazing moves and just generally being a rag doll, even though he was the first one out. I couldn’t remember if HBK or HHH won or not, but Michaels going over works, gives him his moment with the title and allows the feud to be stretched on, as it would to the next PPV.

Leading into Vengeance, Angle won the no. 1 contendership for the title against Big Show, as Brock couldn’t get his rematch and was eventually later suspended. This led to a weird thing where instead of just a Lesnar retaliation of Big Show, Angle was injected into this feud, with Lesnar helping Angle win the title of Big Show at the PPV. But, Angle would eventually become an adversary of Lesnar’s when he teamed with Heyman, so now Heyman had Big Show and Heyman. It’s a little convoluted, but I guess they just want to stack the deck as much as possible against Lesnar, so his overcoming of those two and regaining of the title will be that much greater.

The Triple H/HBK feud concludes, I believe, for now in another great match and just another top-tier effort following their other big matches at SummerSlam and Survivor Series. I knew they faced off in this epic Three Stages of Hell match, but I had no clue it was so soon, and didn’t think they’d put it on maybe their weakest PPV generally, the one in December. Anyways, it was an enjoyable match, even if the first street fight stage went on wayyy too long and subsequently the last stage with the ladder match was vastly under-used and was a letdown. It’s actually kind of crazy, too, the amount of bumps HBK took in this match, the SummerSlam match, and the Elimination Chamber match, especially due to the hardcore nature of all of them, given his situation with his back. Like, he went all out and didn’t seem concerned at all about an injury that put him out for over four years, it almost makes me cringe seeing him put all that pressure on his back, but I guess things worked out relatively well in the end.

So, that’s basically it, at least with storylines that are largely contained to this year. All in all I had a ton of fun with this year and it was so needed and the perfect antidote to the staleness and sub-par 2001. There was just sooo much jam packed into this year from returns, debuts, epic stipulation matches, the breadth of the draft and brand split, fun storylines (I didn’t even talk about the whole Dawn Marie, Torrie Wilson, Al Wilson storyline, although, I wouldn’t really classify it as fun), and really just the start of a whole new fresh direction that was divorced from the Attitude Era and bred out of the ashes of the invasion angle of the last year.

Through all this I’m really looking forward to 2003, especially because it’s one of my biggest blind spots of WWE. I’m aware of broad things that happen from the Rumble to WrestleMania 19. But, don’t really know or recall much that happens from then into 2004, so I’m really looking forward to it and hoping it remains fresh to me. I first really got into wrestling right after WrestleMania 20 and subsequently know everything about the next couple years after that, so I’m going to relish in this next year being somewhat in the dark and hope that the fun of 2002 only continues.

Hell In A Cell: Review/Recap

Hell In A Cell Banner

Alberto Del Rio Defeats John Cena to win the United States Championship:

So, if you’ve been reading the dirt sheets for the past couple weeks you’ll know that John Cena is set to take some time off, supposedly until close to the end of the year, so it seemed like a foregone conclusion that whoever was Cena’s mystery opponent they would take the belt from him, and that he did. And, also, if you’ve been reading the dirt sheets over the past couple months you’ll know that Del Rio was heavily rumoured to be coming back to the WWE, seemingly sooner rather than later, and that he did. Realistically, he was probably the best person they could’ve got to do this, outside of Daniel Bryan, but nobody truly knows his condition anymore it seems and I’m sure WWE would want to promote the hell out of D-Bry returning and not just have him randomly appear. I really don’t like the idea of having Del Rio returning with Zeb Colter as his manager, it doesn’t seem needed at all, besides the fact that I can’t stand Colter, and Del Rio can more than work by himself. I just hope they don’t give him the short stick, even with his probably stipulation heavy contract, Del Rio can still fill a top role in the company, especially with Cena out. As for the match itself, it was anti-climatic the whole way through, it was some, like, barely over seven minutes and Del Rio just did a couple random kicks to Cena’s head and pinned him, because of course Cena isn’t tapping to Del Rio with his regular finish. It was like Cena wanted to start his vacation extra early and, hence the quick match and that it was the first match on the card. Anyways, it was pretty dumb that Cena is built up as never losing and when he does cleanly like this it’s so pointless and doesn’t make much sense continuity wise, but eh, that’s just par for the course really.

Roman Reigns Defeats Bray Wyatt in a Hell In A Cell match:

This was probably low-key the match I was most looking forward to of the night, and unlike the other Cell match actually had some current build-up to it. Plus, Bray and Roman are great young talents who have some nice chemistry together. The match was a good brawl fest, with some nice use of kendo sticks and tables and positioned both men quite strongly, even if it was constantly clear that Roman would come out on top. I just really hope this is the end to the Reigns/Wyatt family feud that seems to have stretched for a year basically when you throw Ambrose’s feuding with Bray from late last year. I like Bray Wyatt and think he has sooo much potential, but it’d be nice to see him come out of a feud on top for once, I know he never was going to against Reigns, but it seems like Vince and co. like him and the Wyatts, yet they’re always stepping stones for others. We shall see.

The New Day Defeats The Dudley Boyz to retain the Tag Team Championship:

Man, I’m so sick of this feud already, and with the thought that they’d culminate it at TLC in December with a tables match, I don’t know if I can last that long. This thing is dead in the water, especially when they gotta keep up dumb finishes so that The Dudleyz don’t win and so that there’s a limp thread of a reason for them to keep feuding with The New Day continually retaining. They did some fun stuff with a framed DQ job from Kofi, but everything else largely falling flat, especially when The Dudleyz look so sloppy with their wrestling, missing out on simple moves, that take away from the supposed fidelity of the match. I prey they inject some new blood into this thing, or just cut bait early and have The Dudleyz work somebody else and The New Day do something else as they’re consistently part of the main event picture on RAW’s, so who knows.

Charlotte Defeats Nikki Bella to retain the Divas Championship:

This match was pretty uneventful and seemingly just Nikki’s rematch that she loses to get her out of the picture so probably Paige comes in and feuds for the belt next. Nikki looked really good in the match, and even though people were rightfully sick of her, she’s underratedly one of the best female wrestler on the roster, even with all the new NXT influence. I like Charlotte, too, and she might actually be my favourite overall, but I’m curious to see how long they keep the belt on her, even with the Flair pedigree and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her getting screwed out of it or something sooner than later.

Seth Rollins Defeats Kane to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship:

This was a pretty meh match and really exactly what was expected. It’s pretty telling when the World Championship match is a distant afterthought behind the two Cell matches. Hell, this thing probably could’ve been spiced up by putting it in the Cell, but here we are. I’ve never really like Rollins and Kane’s chemistry in the ring, they’re different styles obviously, but everything often seems so clunky and hemmed down with the two, and Seth’s been pulling out great matches with everybody, but this was a down moment for sure. At least this limited to a one PPV feud, we hope.

Kevin Owens Defeats Ryback to retain the Intercontinental Championship:

Damn, and I thought the Cena match was short just to get the belt off him, this one was the semi-reverse where Owens retained in, like, five minutes because I can only assume that’s how quickly they wanted this Owens/Ryback feud to be over so they can move Owens on to bigger and better things. I’m glad they didn’t stretch the feud out because Owens just murders Ryback in the ring and on the mic that Ryback never even seemed close to being a formidable opponent of Owens, even though they tried to make the story of how Owens cheated to win each time. There’s really not much of Ryback I can stand, he’s terrible on the mic and a poorer wrestler than he thinks he is and as much as he thinks otherwise, he just doesn’t have a good look. I’m looking forward to an actual feud with Owens and someone who can hang with him believably.

Brock Lesnar Defeats The Undertaker in a Hell In A Cell match:

Now I was pretty sure that this was going to be a good match, seeing as how their SummerSlam match was pretty fantastic (minus the finish) and that it’s supposedly the last time they’ll ever fight (this is the WWE, though, so you know to never fully believe anything they promise.), but damn if this thing exceeded expectations. Now, of course, this Cell match was going to be in the shadow of their classic blood-fueled duel inside the Cell at No Mercy in 2002, and this one being in the PG-era how could it compete, but oh, man, was their blood. Now, who knows if we’ll ever know if Lesnar and /or Taker purposely bladed (I’m going to guess no), but this match was as bloody as I’ve ever seen in a long time. I really think Brock’s just a bleeder and has some thin skin, because he’s constantly getting busted open, and pretty early in the match. It looked like they were working pretty stiff, too, so the unplanned blood seems pretty likely that way. But, otherwise this was a great match with a ton of brawling and and a kick-ass ending that most importantly saw Lesnar going over cleanly and getting the win as he should have. This is definitely a match I’m looking forward to going back and watching and if this is indeed the end to their decade-plus of feuding, it was a pretty worth conclusion. Generally, that would be it, but it’s no secret that Undertaker’s 25th Anniversary is coming at Survivor Series, the next PPV, so the Wyatt family (also in need of a new feud to start) come out and beat the hair extensions out of Taker and abduct him. Which was actually kind of badass for the Wyatt family to do, especially with their history. Obviously, this will lead into some kind of match, probably a Survior Series elimination match somehow at the PPV. Unfortunately it’s hard to see the Wyatt’s coming out on top again this time, but maybe Undertaker’s fully in his “putting others over” phase, but we’ll see. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Night Of Champions: Review/Recap

Night Of Champions BannerSo, I’ve been back in the WWE and wrestling game for officially a year now after my decade or so of an absence. Technically it was marked by SummerSlam, but Night Of Champions last year was the first PPV I specifically set out to watch and saw the build towards. What’s that old joke about wrestling, you never stop being a fan, you just go through periods where you are completely smothered by it and others where you can’t stand it, it’s like a life-long disease. So, it’s a year later and I still watch so much it from WWE each week, TNA, ROH, NJPW, Lucha Underground and not to mention my whole Attitude Era watching and various other stuff. I don’t know what I did with all my time before I got back into wrestling, oh yeah, just watch other random TV. Anyways, I ramble and go on wayyy too long in these wrestling articles, so basically I’m gonna write about each current pay-per-view each month as a way to get my thoughts out about the current product and such. Let’s see how this goes.

Kevin Owens Defeats Ryback to win the Intercontinental Championship:

I am just the biggest Kevin Owens mark and love everything about him. He’s Canadian, has a unique look, prides himself on his family, is a badass, has a brutal moveset which also features a ton of agile moves for his build, is fantastic on the mic, and so on and on. He’s probably my favourite thing in wrestling right now. And Ryback… let’s just say I feel the complete opposite. Ryback just seems like a child, he has this ridiculous physique that is so far gone that it’s comical, he is horrendous on the mic and it’s hard to take anything seriously with him. It was destined that Owens would take the belt off Ryback once they got into this feud, but I’m surprised they did it this quickly, although it was the right move. Ryback’s reign has been dreadful and was barely treading water and doing the title a major disservice. Owens is gold and him having the belt will definitely help its credibility and provide a better angle for their feud. I’m curious to see how it’ll play out since Owens promos murder Ryback and it makes him look not even in his league, but I’m looking forward to it, mainly as a way to see more Kevin Owens.

Dolph Ziggler Defeats Rusev:

WWE’s version of what they think is a juicy soap opera tail. Where nobody knows who the “good” guy is in this and pretty much everybody in this is awful. From Rusev’s treatment of the women by his side, to Ziggler playing two women even though he’s supposed to be the good one, to Summer and Lana’s cattiness and TOTALLY STEREOTYPICAL WOMEN STUFF WHERE THEY’RE ONLY GOOD FOR ONE THING. It just needs to end and has no drawing power and people just don’t care. Lana, one of the few good parts, generally, is off TV with a legit injury, so I don’t even know what’s happening here anymore. It seems like there might be some kind of swerve with the Ziggler turn or whatever, but it’s so far past caring at this point.

The Dudley Boyz Defeats The New Day:

The New Day are at peak overness and The Dudleyz are a perfect foil to combat their goofiness. The match wasn’t that great, but we all know it’s leading to a tables match, whenever that may be, such as Hell In A Cell, or however long they stretch it for. The Dudleyz will obviously get their tenth reign sometime during their return, but I don’t know if it’s the right move to do now since The New Day are so hot and capable of getting such a reaction no matter who they’re with. And The Dudleyz are an easy team to help put over others, given their history and in-ring skill so them working to strengthen the tag divison in other ways would be great. The Dudleyz feuding with the Wyatts would be so much fun.

Charlotte Defeats Nikki Bella to win the Divas Championship:

Nikki gets her record and then drops the belt less than a week later so now everybody’s happy? I thought they would give Nikki the win here, just so it totally didn’t seem like she got the record then the belt taken off her as quickly as possible, but eh. Can’t say I really enjoyed the match, even though I love Charlotte and am actually a pretty big fan of Nikkie Bella’s in-ring work. They had Nikki work Charlotte’s leg, continually going after it and largely dominating the match by targeting her leg and making it the focal point of her offense. It was a fine storytelling move, but one completely obliterated of credibility when Charlotte without having put much offense in gets the figure four (a leg submission) on Nikki then bridges into her figure eight modifier, putting pressure on Charlotte’s legs which are the main source of the move and she pulls it off effortlessly with no pain and Nikki taps out to lose. A body part that had been worked the whole match just magically healed and was of nothing to Charlotte and she showed no signs of struggle. This just bugged me so much when they put such an emphasis on Nikki working that leg, and it was just thrown out the window and thus the storytelling became pointless. I’m optimistic to see what happens with the title picture in the wake of the ugh Divas Revolution ugh and with Paige’s heel turn. There’s a ton of talent there to give good matches with Charlotte, Nikkie, Paige, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and even Naomi in spots. So, in theory the future should be bright, but let’s see if the booking agrees.

The Wyatt Family Defeats Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho:

This is another feud I’m sick of, even though I individually enjoy Ambrose, Reigns and the Wyatt Family, but it just seems like it’s been going on forever, especially when it just seems like yesterday that Ambrose had his singles feud with Wyatt. Chris Jericho was the mystery partner, and eh, I like Jericho but I wasn’t to moved with him being the partner, especially because it doesn’t really push that particular story. Sure, he cost them the match, but he isn’t booked seemingly to continue this and really just seems like to set up a possible feud with Ambrose somewhere down the line when Jericho wants to come back to TV. I didn’t really like the ending especially when they’re not going to continue that storyline with Jericho immediately, so why even book it like that. I honestly don’t know how much longer they can stretch this thing, because everything just gets repeated. It’s the same Wyatt promo every week, the same Reigns or Ambrose match that gets interrupted by the Wyatts each week. Like are they going to try to push to Survivor Series for an elimination match, because I can’t handle that. I’d love to see Reigns, Ambrose and Wyatt moved on as they’re all great talents just getting bogged down now. I also wish Reigns and Ambrose split and maybe they even did go with that rumored Ambrose turn. I just want all Shield members separate from each other, so they’re eventual feud and then reconciliation will be that much more special.

John Cena Defeats Seth Rollins to win the United States Championship:

John’s gotta get back his win and title, of course. It was fun while it lasted with Rollins being the dual champ, but by whatever way they weren’t going to have both titles on Rollins for that long. Cena’s good as the U.S. Champ, he has great matches with everybody and can pull good matches out of lesser people and at least provides a vessel where other superstars can show off their stuff on the John Cena level of attention, not that they’ll ever win, but yeah. This was another great match between the two, not as good as SummerSlam, but surprisingly high energy given Rollins had another match right after this.

Seth Rollins Defeats Sting to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship:

Unfortunately this match is now overshadowed by the injuries sustained to Sting when he took those turnbuckle powerbombs, but it was a really great match between the two and Sting gave it his all and did not hold anything back, which I guess unfortunately lead to his injuries. I wasn’t sure if it was scripted or not when the doctor was attending to Sting, but I was surprised to see the bumps he was taking especially the turnbuckle powerbombs that he took twice. I don’t think it’ll be the last we’ll see of Sting, but it’s really unfortunate for a seemingly great guy and one who even in injury put Rollins over exceedingly. And then, oh yeah, Demon Kane comes back to start the long-gestating and inevitable Rollins/Kane feud that we’ve all been clamoring for. That’s what’ll turn around the plummeting ratings! Now Demon Kane is fun and it’s nice to see him again, but I don’t have that much hope that the story will be that justifiable, plus a Rollins/Kane match just doesn’t inspire much from me. I hope it’s done with Hell In A Cell and Rollins gets to move on, someone mentioned it and I agree, a Rollins/Sheamus match has the potential to be a lot of fun. It kinda seems like Rollins days as champ are numbered, given the slumping ratings, the need to switch things up and a general malaise on him it seems nowadays. I always just assumed it would be Reigns to take the belt off him, now that he’s gained a lot more luster versue earlier in the years with the chorus of boos that greeted him, and he’s definitely a lot better on the mic now and is underratedly a good in the ring. Now that I think about it, they haven’t really done the Rollins/Reigns feud one-on-one especially due to the WrestleMania aftermath, so that very much could be a direction they go to soon, which would be a lot of fun. I think WWE is just counting the days to have Reigns, a strong babyface champ, go have a long run as Heavyweight champ and be the face of the company.

Overall it wasn’t that great of a show and has no matches that I’m fiending to rewatch, outside of possibly the Rollins matches because everything he puts on nowadays is usually gold. And of course the biggest news to come out of the event was just the randomly booked, oh, hey, by the way Undertaker/Brock Lesnar are blowing off their feud at Hell In A Cell inside the steel structure. No big deal. I was dreading them setting up their blow off match for WrestleMania 32 and it wasn’t something I was looking forward to seeing them waste on the event when there is so many better options for both of them to do at the biggest event of the year. And putting it at Hell In A Cell obviously is a response to the slumping ratings to book possibly the biggest match you can nowadays, Taker/Lesnar in a cell, and thus frees them up to start new feuds. I just hope they put Lesnar over cleanly like he deserves and should, there’s no reason for Taker at this stage to come out of this on top, especially since the Brock as that illustrious Mania victory over him. Undertaker does not need this feud victory to remain strong, neither does Lesnar since he’ll always be a beast, but Lesnar is still probably wrestling for a couple more years and is a legitimate option for the title picture and longer feud, while Taker is a special attraction once or twice a year and though seemingly on the brink of retirment, he seems content with working sporadically for the foreseeable future, which is good for WWE as long as his health stays up.