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WCW/nWo Revenge

revenge

Released October 26, 1999

The late 90s was a great time to be a fan of pro wrestling and especially pro wrestling video games. World Championship Wrestling had been riding high with its New World Order stable, a collection of heels (bad guys) largely culled from the roster of competitor the World Wrestling Federation. It was a meta angle as it blurred the lines for fans between what was real and what was fake. When performers Scott Hall and Kevin Nash arrived for Monday Nitro it was unclear if they were still employed by the WWF. Of course they were not, but it was a surreal moment in wrestling history.

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If you saw this before your wrestling game you knew you were in for a good time.

1998 was the apex of the Monday Night Wars. WWF’s Raw is War had been on television for years before it was challenged by WCW’s Monday Nitro. Eager to be the king in the ratings war, WCW went all out to topple WWF by signing major stars away from the brand and occupying the same timeslot as Raw. Eventually, WCW added a third hour to its broadcast making it start a full hour before Raw. Fans would tune into Nitro at 8 EST, and if the product was good enough they might just hang around until 11 ignoring Raw all together. This was the era before DVR and on demand viewing so wrestling fans had to make a choice each week and stick with it, or tape one of the programs.

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The intro to this game is some bonkers stuff.

1997 was the nadir for WWF. The stars Vince McMahon was able to hang onto and invest in were failing him. Shawn Michaels had injuries and substance abuse problems which kept him off television for long stretches. He also didn’t get along with Vince’s chosen top guy, Brett Hart. So paranoid was McMahon that he would lose Hart to WCW like he had so many others that he signed him to a massive 20 year deal. Vince then had to back out of the deal, either because he couldn’t afford it or felt he had made a mistake, leading to the infamous Montreal Screwjob and another WCW defection.

Basically saving WWF was the unexpected rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Cast aside by WCW, Austin took his talents to Extreme Championship Wrestling where he did enough on the mic to get WWF’s attention. He initially was wasted on the roster as The Ringmaster, but when times got dark and things desperate, WWF basically turned to its talent and told them to “go to work.” Having creative freedom allowed performers to show off their real talents. Some got over, some did not, but certainly the biggest benefactor was Austin. Unfortunately, his ascension was put on pause when an accident at Summerslam 97 caused him to miss time with a serious neck injury. By early 1998 though, Austin was the new champ and WWF was back in the ratings lead.

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Late 90s wrestling was all about sex appeal, even in polygons.

WCW’s counter to the rise of Austin was another fresh face. Bill Goldberg somewhat looked the part of Stone Cold:  black trunks, black boots, goatee, though his character was quite different. Goldberg was a no nonsense battering ram who took down all challengers usually in less than 2 minutes. He basically had two moves, but they were two moves that looked pretty nice on TV. Crowds went nuts for him, and so desperate was WCW to maintain its hold on the ratings crown that it pit Goldberg vs Hollywood Hogan on cable television for the World Heavyweight Championship rather than using that match to sell a Pay-Per-View.

That was basically WCW’s last hurrah. After that it was mostly all downhill, but arriving at retail during Goldberg-mania was WCW/nWo Revenge. The sequel to WCW vs nWo – World Tour, Revenge was a much anticipated wrestling simulation for the Nintendo 64. The video game landscape had become just as competitive as the television one and WCW was the clear front-runner, until 1999, much like the shows. THQ was the license holder for WCW and while the games it produced for Sony’s PlayStation were pretty lackluster, the N64 games were much celebrated. By comparison, Acclaim had held the WWF license for the better part of a decade and was struggling to remain relevant. The games of the 16 bit era had been okay, but were extremely similar to each other and had grown quite stale. Acclaim would try to revamp its process with WWF Warzone, but most felt that WWF had the inferior game when compared with WCW.

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This was the video game debut for Goldberg, who has looked better.

THQ turned to the AKI Corporation and Asmik Ace Entertainment for development of its N64 WCW games. AKI would come up with a tremendously accessible system that it would use for its flagship Virtual Pro Wrestling series in Japan and adapt it for WCW games in the US. The approach to a match was fairly simple. Players controlled their chosen wrestler with the controller’s d-pad, as opposed to the analog stick, and had two primary modes of attack:  strikes and grapples. Both were context-sensitive in that pressing the strike button resulted in a quick strike, while holding it down resulted in a slower, but stronger, attack. With the grapple, wrestlers would enter the classic tie-up position. Whoever initiated the grapple would then select a move. Pressing either the grapple or strike button resulted in a move, as would pressing one in conjunction with a direction on the D-pad allowing for each wrestler to have a wealth of available maneuvers. Reversals were possible with the R button and a key to mastering the game’s CPU. The C-buttons were used for running, opponent selection, and entering/exiting the ring or ascending a turnbuckle. It was easy to learn and pick-up and proved quite addicting.

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AKI really injected some personality into the game giving wrestlers like Scott Hall their signature finishing maneuvers instead of something more generic.

World Tour, released in 1997, was a blast, but its clear shortcoming was the lack of bells and whistles. Revenge largely sought to rectify this with a refreshed roster and an injection of personality. The new arenas were modeled after the actual television arenas and looked pretty good, all things considered. AKI was also able to add-in all of the major championships including minor titles like the Cruiserweight belt and Television title. There was a lengthy intro added to the game, and the whole presentation just screamed WCW.

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The visuals get the job done in that you mostly know who is who just by looking at them, but they’ve certainly aged.

Visually, the game also looks better. Wrestlers are easy to distinguish from one another and if you were at all familiar with the television roster then you knew who each character was. Though it should be pointed out, this was never a great looking game even in 1998. It was functional, as the characters are quite blocky and the faces a bit weird. There was at least a difference in height between the really tall and the not quite as tall, though the cruiserweights in general look a bit too large compared with most. Technological limitations also prevented the game from including entrance music so everyone just enters to a generic theme. Entrances are also largely limited to the talent just doing their taunt on the way to the ring and upon entering. Some enter with a manager or valet, which is a nice a touch. There’s a stable system in place too so there’s nWo red and white as well as Raven’s Flock. Affiliated wrestlers will sometimes receive help from a comrade during a match too without the penalty of a disqualification.

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Allies will sometimes rush to the aid of a buddy, which can get a bit annoying when it happens every match in your opponent’s favor.

In the ring, everyone basically moves at the same speed and with the same weight. Super heavyweights can’t ascend a turnbuckle, but nothing will stop other wrestlers from suplexing them. The whole goal of a match is to ware your opponent down and get the crowd on your side. Once your spirit meter fills you’ll gain access to a Special status for a brief moment of time allowing you to unleash your wrestler’s signature move, or steal your opponent’s. Usually there’s enough time to hit your move twice, unless your wrestler has a long animation for it. Sometimes just hitting this special move is enough to score a pinfall, but most of the time just one won’t do unless your opponent is on the ground and twitching. Repeated blows to the head will also bust your opponent open, no weapons needed, which is a nice badge of honor. Taking the action outside the ring opens up the possibility to yank weapons out of the crowd. They’re not nearly as effective as they would be on TV, but it’s still fun to assault your opponent with a chair or baseball bat.

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Some guys even start matches with weapons. Lucky for them, there’s no DQ.

The in-ring action is all around solid, but does show its age. Collision detection was always a problem for this game. It’s not terrible, but there are moments where characters will partially pass through each other and you’ll have to time your attacks to avoid invulnerable animations your opponent may be in. There are no running grapples, and submission moves aren’t particularly effective making guys like Brett Hart and Chris Jericho a little less fun to use. And as simple and effective this gameplay is, it can be argued it’s not particularly realistic when compared with the televised product. How many matches consist of dozens of collar and elbow tie-ups leading to moves? None, really.

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Match types aren’t very robust and are limited to singles, tag team, battle royal, and handicap matches.

As far as game modes and match types go, Revenge definitely feels lacking and it always has. World Tour wasn’t robust either, and it’s a shame Revenge didn’t really do anything to rectify that. You basically have your choice of Championship and Exhibition modes. In Championship, you select the title you want to go after and then battle through 9 grapplers and become champion. It’s fine, but can get a little annoying as the CPU often gets outside assistance which lengthens the matches without making them really much harder. The order and grapplers faced are also a bit random as I encountered Sting in the US Title hunt when one would assume he’d be in the World Heavyweight Championship ranks. The opponents get harder as you go along, though what makes an opponent harder than the next is largely just how successful they are at reversing moves. This is something that always annoyed me with AKI games as it’s not something you have any control over, you just have to answer with reversals as well and hope to get lucky that your moves will stop being reversed.

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You can go after basically all of the major titles, but you have to win the minor belts first before the bigger ones open up.

In the exhibition mode, you have the option to compete in single and tag matches and there’s also an option for Special matches. These are just the battle royal and handicap matches. Battle royals are fine and most fun with four human players in a local setting. You can select as many as 40 entrants, but are limited to just 4 in the ring at once. Handicap is just two on one or three on one, if you like a challenge. When it comes to match types, it’s more about what’s missing. It’s kind of weird to have the ability to do a battle royal, but not a triple threat. Cage matches were also becoming a common match type in games so there being none in this game was a disappointment. And on TV, hardcore elements were all the rage so a lack of things like tables was always disappointing, though at this point in time ladder matches had yet to become a thing in games. This game also came before Create-A-Wrestler was a standard feature, but you can at least edit the attires of the existing guys.

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In terms of visuals, the arenas hold up better than expected.

WCW/nWo Revenge is a superior game to its predecessor. It was also better than WWF Warzone even if that game had more match types. It also had a shorter shelf life though since it’s a game that really relies on the gameplay alone. And it’s a good thing that an individual match against the CPU or a friend is quite fun, but there does come a time when you decide you can only topple a champ so many times. Back in 98, it was fun to try and keep up with the TV product so when Kevin Nash beat Goldberg at Starrcade 98 you could go into the game and battle your way with Nash to the title. Of course, game development being what it is, there were plenty of missing wrestlers. In 98, the biggest omissions were Ric Flair and The Warrior. It’s still weird to have a WCW game without Flair, though from a 2020 perspective I can’t say I miss Warrior since his WCW run was terrible. It’s a harder play through now since it’s missing so much of what modern games have. There’s still a lot of nostalgic fun in coming back to this old, flawed, yet beloved gameplay system. And if your nostalgia for wrestling in 1998 is slanted towards WCW, then this is the game for you.

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Over 20 years later, this game is still the best celebration of WCW you’re going to find in video game form.

If your nostalgia is for WWF though, then you’re probably playing either WrestleMania 2000 or No Mercy. Not long after Revenge was released, THQ’s agreement with WCW came to an end and WWF pounced. It was a crazy time as Acclaim still had a game in development in WWF Attitude. That game would arrive on the PlayStation in July 1999 with the N64 version following in August. Just a few months later came the AKI developed WrestleMania 2000 giving Attitude an incredibly short run of just two months as the newest WWF sim on the N64. WWF basically cannibalized one game in favor of another, but that’s how popular these AKI games were. It’s something we’re not likely to ever see again. Hopefully AEW can land a killer licensing agreement with someone so we have more options for wrestling games. For now, we’ll always have 1998-2000.


WrestleMania XXXII Preview

wwe-wrestlemania-32WrestleMania is once again upon us. This year the flagship show of the wrestling year is coming live from Dallas, TX in front of what could be a record-breaking crowd at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. This should be the most exciting time of the year for wrestling fans, but this year’s edition of WrestleMania has a different feel. Injuries, always a factor in sports and wrestling, have played a huge role in shaping this year’s card. None of last year’s title winners will be able to compete this year due to injury. Daniel Bryan, who last year won the Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match, was forced to retire due to injury. Other competitors who can’t compete include Seth Rollins, who won the WWE Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXXI, John Cena, Cesaro, Sting, Randy Orton, Nikki Bella, and others. This makes booking the show a real challenge, but there’s also opportunity. It’s been a pretty good year for NXT graduates, and some of them will be putting their talents on display Sunday. Still, there’s mounting criticism that this show has not been booked well and expectations are probably lower than they’ve been for a WrestleMania in a long time. I’ll get to those issues and more as I walk you through the card for WrestleMania XXXII. I’ll make a prediction on who I think will win as well as include the “opposite momentum” prediction. If you’re not familiar with the concept, opposite momentum refers to the character who looks weakest on the most recent episode of Raw (e.g. – Rock blasts Stone Cold with a chair to close-out Raw only for Austin to win on Sunday) who often ends up winning at the Pay-Per-View. Determined wrestling fans have tested the theory out and it’s usually right in about 80% of matches. As always, card subject to change.

3029093-20160307_wm32-keyart_match_kalistoryback_1920x1080--983d76314f9262b3c351e91fbcefe253Pre-Show: United States Championship Kalisto (c) vs Ryback

This year’s edition of WrestleMania has three pre-show matches scheduled. The pre-show is two hours long (ugh) and one of those hours will be shown on the USA Network and both hours will be on the WWE Network. The first match, as of this writing, pits the US Champion Kalisto against the bruising Ryback. The story-telling for this match has mostly resided on the lesser shows like Smackdown and Superstars. Kalisto, after trading wins with Alberto Del Rio, has been a mostly quiet champion. It’s hard to understand what the future for him is. How much is the WWE behind him as a champ or is he just a place-holder? Meanwhile, Ryback has made a slight heel turn and traded in his air-brushed attire for black trunks prompting chants of “Goldberg” from the audience. The lack of real story development is what probably landed the match on the pre-show. It also raises questions as to why this match isn’t the big ladder match for a minor title instead of the Intercontinental Championship match. I think a lot of behind the scenes guys have always envisioned big things for Ryback, so a win here seems likely for the big guy. Who knows if the program between the two will continue beyond WrestleMania? Match-wise, this one could surprise. Kalisto, for all of the questions around his character and story direction, is a great in-ring talent and Ryback has come into his own (when he’s not trying to wrestle like a cruiserweight). I don’t think they’ll be given enough time to be a true show-stealer, but I expect a solid bout, though the threat of a squash win is always in place in this type of match-up where one guy has such a huge size advantage.

Opposite Momentum Winner:  N/A

Prediction: Ryback

Wrestlemania-32-10Pre-Show:  Brie Bella, Paige, Natalya, Alicia Fox, and Eva Marie vs. Lana, Naomi, Tamina, Emma, and  Summer Rae in a 5 on 5 Tag Match

This is a classic “It’s WrestleMania and we need to get everyone involved” match. Basically, all of the women wrestlers on the main roster (plus two who mostly wrestle on NXT) not involved with the Divas Championship match are in this one. As a fan, these matches kind of suck because the storyline leading up to it is nonsense, or nonexistent, and the matches are usually filler. As a human being, it’s understandable why the WWE wants to get everyone involved. For a lot of wrestlers, being left off the WrestleMania card is devastating for multiple reasons. Unfortunately for Brie, this is probably her last match before she heads off into retirement (unless she decides to wrestle one more match the next night on Raw) and it’s probably going to be a lackluster one. Including Eva Marie with the babyfaces is also bizarre as everyone hates her. I don’t know if it’s bad story-telling or if if she’s supposed to be hated by her teammates. Anyways, the prevailing storyline leading up to this match is Lana vs. Brie. As such, I expect Brie to “do the honors” (the tradition in wrestling where an outgoing star puts over a rising one) and take the pin here with maybe some treachery from Eva being involved. It’s also possible Brie and Lana face-off in a one-on-one match on Raw to close things out, or she takes on Eva Marie if there’s a double-cross at WrestleMania.

Opposite Momentum: Lana, Naomi, Tamina, Emma, and Summer Rae

Prediction: Lana, Naomi, Tamina, Emma, and Summer Rae

HDGdNr4vPre-Show: The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz

Our last pre-show match pits the babyface duo of The Usos vs. the newly anti-table Dudley Boyz. Borrowing a bit from Mick Foley’s old anti-hardcore gimmick, the Dudleys have given up on tables and turned heel determined to be perceived as something more than a mere nostalgia act. Meanwhile, The Usos are just The Usos and have been in and out of the tag team title picture for years now. Not much is expected from this match, and if it is indeed the final match of the pre-show, it could be pressed for time. If the WWE wants us to take the Dudley Boyz seriously, then they could really use a win here as they’ve mostly been glorified jobbers since they made their return. Longterm, I have no idea what the plan is for this feud, but it seems like The Usos are better equipped to handle a loss than the ECW vets.

Opposite Momentum: The Dudley Boyz (though it’s pretty flimsy)

Prediction: The Dudley Boyz

The Main Card

28aaf_wrestlemania_32_andre_battle_royalThe André The Giant Memorial Battle Royal – Various

This is the male match designed to get everyone not involved in a feud onto the card. Debuting at WrestleMania XXX, the Andre The Giant Battle Royal seemed like it was going to be a one-time thing and also a stepping stone for the victor, Cesaro. Instead, Cesaro’s post-Mania push fizzled and the giant trophy awarded to him was rendered a silly prop. The following year, The Big Show emerged victorious making it kind of a lifetime achievement award for the modern era Giant. This year, I expect the match to also be a reward for an aging wrestler looking for one last moment of glory. Aside from that, there’s not much to say about it. WWE has left the final few slots in the match a mystery, so there could be some surprises or maybe Legends cameos. Regardless, expect a pretty mundane battle royal that lasts ten minutes or so that has no longterm storyline implications.

Opposite Momentum: Not Big Show and not Kane.

Prediction: Mark Henry, who is expected to retire at some point in 2016.

20160324_WM32-keyart_MATCH_8man_1920x1080--70dc5220e7bb48fa403c6d116518156aLadder Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Kevin Owens (C) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder vs. Stardust vs. Sin Cara vs. The Miz

This is another “get everyone involved” match, but at least the participants and the gimmick may lead to an above-average match, potentially a show-stealer. Expect these guys to go all out and try to make this a memorable match. Pretty much all of them are still looking for that “WrestleMania Moment.” While Ziggler, Miz, and Stardust have been here before, Ryder has been with the company for years but never given a chance to shine at a WrestleMania outages of the battle royal at WrestleMania XXX. For the incumbent Owens and challenger Zayn, this is their first go at WrestleMania (in Zayn’s case it’s his first PPV with the main roster), for the longtime real-life buddies this will probably be a big moment for them in front of the biggest crowd they’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, I can’t help but think that this match would be far better as just a one on one bout between Owens and Zayn, continuing their NXT feud which was cut short by Zayn’s real life injury. The US title match would be better off in this spot as the big cluster-fuck match. As it stands, four of the competitors here are extreme long shots to win and a program between Zayn and Owens seems inevitable. It’s possible WWE views that feud as one that doesn’t need a title involved, but that would be a mistake. Zayn got the best of Owens on Raw, so he’s the opposite momentum long shot. Poor planning aside, I am looking forward to this match though I also know that the current climate in WWE means this ladder match has no chance of approaching the Attitude Era ladder matches but it should still be fun. This match should tell us how behind Owens the creative staff is. Owens seems like a future main eventer, and by future I mean soon. A big win here at WrestleMania could help to solidify his standing. A loss in such a chaotic environment could also be seen as a win for him as it frees him up to chase the big one, though like I said earlier, a program with Zayn seems like the next step.

Opposite Momentum:  Kevin Owns

Prediction:  Kevin Owens

wwe-rumors-wrestlemania-32-matches-final-card-ladder-match-intercontinental-title-match-order-kickoff-main-event-styles-jericho-670x377AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho

This would normally be a classic blow-off match if not for the fact that there isn’t a classic feud-ending gimmick involved. No cage, no unique win conditions, it’s not even no DQ. This is a feud that has been going on basically all year, with the two trading victories before the newcomer Styles picked up a rubber match win. That lead to a brief pairing of the two that last just long enough for WWE to print “Y2AJ” t-shirts before Jericho turned on Styles. There’s no real opposite momentum prediction here as no one really got a leg-up on the other on Raw in a convincing fashion, but expect Styles to come out ahead as he’s the guy expected to hang around while Jericho probably goes back to podcasts and Fozzy gigs. These two guys have a chance to steal the show with a mat-classic on par with Savage/Steamboat, but absent a title, I don’t expect the two to be given enough time to deliver that good a match. Hopefully they’ve held back some spots just for this occasion to elevate this one beyond something we’d see on Raw.

Opposite Momentum: N/A

Prediction: AJ Styles with The Styles Clash

20160315_WM32-keyart_MATCH_NewDay_LON_1920x1080--716572d60de9dac6f4d7d0b626de49e9Handicap Match:  The New Day vs The League of Nations

The New Day enters this match as Tag Team Champions but the belt will not be on the line unless a change is made last minute. It’s also a 3 on 4 handicap match presently but there’s always the possibility of a surprise entrant. The League of Nations debuted earlier this year as a stable and seemed like they were primed for success as a powerful heel faction. Instead, they’ve been afterthoughts ever since Sheamus dropped the WWE Heavyweight Championship and Del Rio the US Championship. An injury to Wade Barrett has mostly kept him on the sidelines but it’s strange it’s taken them this long to get involved with the Tag Team Championship. Meanwhile, The New Day has been one of the hottest acts in the company even though they’re supposed to be bad guys. The audience has latched onto them and started cheering them and they’ve embraced those cheers and become a true baby face squad. Since the titles aren’t on the line, and the League of Nations needs a big credibility boost, I expect them to prevail. If not, they’ll be effectively buried absent a creative finish if they can’t take advantage of the numbers.

Opposite Momentum:  The New Day

Prediction:  The League of Nations

Dean-Ambrose-vs.-Brock-Lesnar-WrestleMania-32No-Holds Barred Street Fight:  Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar

While the majority of matches preceding this one have suffered from some creative missteps, Ambrose vs. Lesnar is not among them. While one could argue that one, or both, participants should be in the main event this rivalry has been rewarding and this match is perhaps the most intriguing. Lesnar has been billed as unstoppable, often only losing when a triple threat stipulation keeps him from being a part of the decision. When Ambrose has challenged him physically he’s been unsuccessful, which is why this one is being sold as an anything goes match with Ambrose loading up his “red wagon of doom” with various instruments of destruction on Raw. They’ve kept these two from getting physical leading up to the event, so no one has an edge or non-edge heading into this one. I expect a very physical confrontation, and hopefully WWE lets them get as hardcore as they want to otherwise all of the build-up will look silly. With the way Lesnar is booked, it seems unlikely that Ambrose can win here without some outside interference. The Wyatt family lurks, and they don’t have a match anywhere on the card. A Bray Wyatt vs. Lesnar feud has been teased several times so it would make sense for him to cost Lesnar a match here. Perhaps with Lesnar getting decimated so he can be off TV for awhile, per usual.

Opposite Momentum:  N/A

Prediction:  Ambrose

wrestlemania-32-the-undertaker-vs-shane-mcmahonHell in a Cell for Control of Raw:  Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker

The match that came out of no where. I was pretty excited to see Shane come back a few weeks ago, like apparently everyone else, but I was not happy to see him booked against The Undertaker. This is a spot that could be used to elevate a younger guy, especially if rumors of Undertaker’s imminent retirement were true, but instead it’s just a quick and cheap way to add some star power with a returning Shane to a card decimated by injury. Hell in a Cell is also a match I’d like to see put on hiatus for awhile. The creative aspects of the match have been exhausted and few have come close to matching the original Hell in a Cell match and its follow-up. The stipulation here is that if Shane wins he gets control of Raw, and effectively control of the whole company. If Undertaker loses then this is his last WrestleMania match. That part of the stipulation is an empty threat as if Shane gains control of the WWE there’s nothing stopping him from reinstating The Undertaker. And since he’s just doing what Vince tells him to do, Shane really has no reason to hate Undertaker. That stipulation was just a last ditch effort to add some motivation for Undertaker and it failed. As far as the ending of this one goes, it’s anybody’s guess. It seems far-fetched to expect Undertaker to lose to a non-wrestler at WrestleMania, but since his streak ended a few years ago, perhaps it’s in the cards. After all, who cares if he has one loss or two at WrestleMania? The number people cared about was zero. Undertaker could pull a fast one on Vince and allow Shane to pin him, a returning John Cena could somehow get involved, a returning Cesaro, the Wyatts, etc. And no one would be surprised if it turns out Shane and Vince are in cahoots and maybe this was a way to force Undertaker out? That wouldn’t make any sense, but that has never stopped WWE in the past. Maybe the best outcome would be Reigns getting involved on Shane’s behalf, with Shane doing the same in the main event to create a Shane-Roman alliance going forward. I do hope for a Shane victory that keeps him as a baby face because the era of the heel controller of the show has been around way too long. In the end though, I think this match is what it is, a one-off for Shane to liven things up for WrestleMania only.

Opposite Momentum: The Undertaker

Prediction: The Undertaker

20160308_WM32-keyart_MATCH_charlotteshasha_1920x1080--eb9510721be038b7c73cef69ecd758a0Divas Championship Triple Threat:  Charlotte (C) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch

I am not one for hyperbole or prone to exaggeration, so it’s saying something to call this the most important match in the history of women’s wrestling as far as the WWE is concerned. For as long as I’ve been alive, the women’s division has either been an after-thought or a way to inject some sex appeal into the show. Ever since NXT proved the women could be just as entertaining as the men, there’s been a push for the main roster to showcase the women in a legitimate way. It should come as no surprise then that all three participants are graduates of NXT. Charlotte is the heel, daughter of The Nature Boy, she’s had a nice little run with the belt. Banks is the heir apparent and one of the most over stars in the company. Like The New Day, she’s basically a heel that the crowd adores, making her a baby face. Confused? Becky Lynch is the wild card. Every bit as talented as the other two, she’s never held the NXT Women’s Championship and has been riding in the backseat while Charlotte and Banks drive the bus. If rumors are true, this will also be the last match for the Divas Championship as it will finally be tossed aside in favor of a new WWE Women’s Championship. The ending seems too obvious, but oftentimes WrestleMania is fairly obvious as WWE likes to have its fan favorites emerge victorious on the biggest show of the year. For that reason, I see a Sasha Banks victory. She will be the one to carry the Women’s Division into the future and it seems like WrestleMania XXXII is the best way to spotlight her and get the Sasha Era started (especially since the main event seems destined to disappoint). My fantasy booked hope is to have Banks win with a rematch occurring the next night on Raw in the main event to further drive home the fact that the Women’s Division is an important part of the card. In truth though, I could see any of the three women emerging victorious Sunday night.

Opposite Momentum:  Becky Lynch

Prediction:  Sasha Banks

maxresdefault-1200x675WWE World Heavyweight Championship:  Triple H (C) vs. Roman Reigns

It’s possible this match isn’t the main event as the crowd revolt against Reigns continues. Triple H is supposed to be the heel in this one, but the crowd’s disgust with Reigns being forced upon them for over a year now just seems insurmountable. Reigns is not a bad wrestler, but his character is kind of bland. I don’t detest the guy, but he’s not my pick for champ. Still, I wouldn’t go so far as to boo him, and that makes me a part of the minority, I suppose. The dilemma facing the WWE with this match is if it stays on script and has Reigns go over Triple H they risk having 100k people ending WrestleMania with a rain of boos descending on the ring. That’s fine when a designed heel prevails, but the joyous celebration in the ring would not mix well with such a scene. The alternative is to have Triple H win, but I don’t think that’s really in the company’s best interests either. Last year, with the same problem, WWE inserted Seth Rollins into the main event at the last minute to have him steal the belt from Brock Lesnar by pinning Reigns. There’s no Money in the Bank briefcase this year to save them, making the most likely outcome some kind of a crazy finish that sees other baby faces get involved to maybe give Reigns a rub. However, when WWE tried that last year with The Rock, of all people, the crowd still unleashed the boo-birds on Reigns. It would seem a heel turn for Roman Reigns would be best, but is WWE ready to give-up on Roman Reigns as the top baby face in the company not named John Cena? Probably not.

Opposite Momentum:  N/A

Prediction: Roman Reigns

 

There you have it, my picks for the entire WrestleMania XXXII card. Honestly, it doesn’t look like a great show on paper but maybe low expectations will help. The only matches I’m looking forward to are the Women’s match, the Ladder match, and Ambrose/Lesnar. The card is so loaded that there’s going to be some victims of time. I’m interested in the outcomes of the main event and the Hell in a Cell match, but I don’t think either match will be exceptional. Here’s to hoping that WrestleMania will be the start of a new era, one where creative actually listens to the audience and gives them more of the wrestlers they really want to see, and less of the ones they don’t.


WrestleMania XXXI Preview/Predictions

WM31PosterIt comes every year along with the spring. The “Showcase of the Immortals,” the grand-daddy of them all:  WrestleMania. Ever since WWE Chairman Vince McMahon concocted the idea for a wrestling (ahem, sports entertainment) show with the same prestige as the NFL’s Superbowl it’s been an annual tradition. The event has had its ups and downs over the past 30 years. WrestleMania III famously set an indoor attendance record in Detroit with Hulk Hogan taking on Andre the Giant in the main event, and yet, the wildly popular Attitude Era, was kicked off with Stone Cold Steven Austin defeating Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship in front of a modest crowd of 19,000. The massive stadium shows have really only come back in the last ten years, and along with it, WrestleMania’s prestige. WrestleMania XXX was the best of the WWE Pay-Per View events in 2014, and that’s how it should be.

WrestleMania XXXI is arriving with a little less pomp than it has the last couple of years. The card for WrestleMania XXVII was not spectacular, but The Rock was hosting and had some real heat with John Cena. The following year, the two locked horns in the main event of WrestleMania XXVIII and would do so again at WrestleMania XXIX. Last year, Daniel Bryan was red-hot as he road into the Superdome for WrestleMania XXX, though arguably the event will forever be associated with The Undertaker and his loss to Brock Lesnar, his first loss at WrestleMania in 22 appearances. This year, the main event is champion Brock Lesnar taking on the up and comer Roman Reigns. The WWE fanbase is not as behind Reigns as the company probably expected they would be, with fan favorites like Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, and Dean Ambrose trapped in the undercard. Despite that though, the card has come together pretty well and there’s a chance for some classic WrestleMania moments. There’s also the chance the whole thing could blow up in WWE’s face. This is an important show for WWE as the company needs to keeping adding subscribers to its WWE Network. There’s a strong chance a lot of people jumped on board for WrestleMania season and plan to cancel after March (last year, a six month commitment was required to keep this very thing from happening but that restriction has since been removed) and a good showing could keep people around a little longer. I am cautiously optimistic about WrestleMania XXXI so let’s get onto the card and how I see things unfolding (note: I avoid online “dirt sheets” so I’m insulated from what is rumored to happen).

The Andre the Giant Battle Royal – Pre-show Match

NXT star Hideo Itami will make his WrestleMania debut during the Andre the Giant Battle Royal.

NXT star Hideo Itami will make his WrestleMania debut during the Andre the Giant Battle Royal.

Last year, the WWE debuted the Andre the Giant Battle Royal and the win went to Cesaro, who stole the spotlight by slamming The Big Show over the top rope. This year, the match has been moved to the pre-show and given that Cesaro quickly found himself buried on the undercard following his victory there’s less enthusiasm for the match this year. The biggest storyline going into the event is the growing rift between The Miz and his personal assistant, Damien Mizdow. There’s also a minor feud between Kane and Big Show while Ryback has been showcased as a potential winner on Raw and Smackdown. Sheamus has had numerous teasers air over the past month advertising his imminent return to the main roster and it’s possible he’ll be a surprise entrant. NXT star Hideo Itami won a tournament on Thursday that puts him in the match as well.

Prediction: Mizdow turns on The Miz and eliminates him, but he eventually is eliminated by Ryback who picks up the win. Itami gets a chance to shine while Curtis “Axelmania” Axel gets taken out before he enters the ring.

Tag-Team Championship Match: Tyson Kidd and Cesaro (C) vs The Usos vs Los Matadores vs The New Day

Cesaro and Kidd have been one of the few bright spots in a lackluster tag division.

Cesaro and Kidd have been one of the few bright spots in a lackluster tag division.

The tag-team division has been rather bland for the past year+ as The Usos dominated 2014 with little competition to play off of. Some of that has been poor writing and booking as there’s talent in the division, but with so much time devoted to long-winded promos on Raw focused on the main event talent, a lot of the undercard has suffered. Even though 2014 didn’t go well for Cesaro in singles competition, he and Kidd have made for a pretty entertaining tag-team and they have good chemistry in the ring. The New Day has been a flop, Los Matadors a side-show, with The Usos seemingly representing the only threat. There’s been no flow to the tag-team division all year, so given that, the match has a bit of a chaotic vibe. This match could be a nice opener for the show if given enough time (and really, that shouldn’t be an issue considering the show is booked to be four hours long), but it also could come across like a typical Raw match. If a match is to be squeezed for time, it will be this one.

Prediction: WWE could put the belts on The New Day in an attempt to jump-start a program that the promotion spent a lot of time hyping. The safe bet, and most likely outcome, is for Tyson Kidd and Cesaro to retain.

AJ Lee and Paige vs The Bella Twins

Apparently WWE couldn’t settle on an opponent for Divas Champion Nikki Bella so we’re getting a tag-team match pairing her with her sister Brie against former champs Paige and AJ. Paige and AJ spent much of 2014 feuding with each other and they enter this match on rocky footing. Much of the build-up has been focused on those two at the expense of their opponents as well as on the Give Divas a Chance social media movement. Because of that movement, it seems likely these women will be given a solid amount of time and a legitimate chance at having a good match, as opposed to being a five-minute after-thought. I’d rather see a traditional one on one bout where two ladies are given the chance to steal the show, but we may have to wait until WrestleMania XXXII when (hopefully) NXT stars Charlotte and Sasha Banks are on the main roster.

Prediction: I’d actually love it if the nefarious Bellas took-out AJ before the match and one of those aforementioned NXT ladies took her place. That’s no slight on AJ, she’s just been a part of WrestleMania’s past, unlike Paige. The NXT women, and their incredible matches throughout last year, are the driving force behind the whole Give Divas a Chance thing and it would be great to see one of them be showcased at the event. Absent that though, I’m predicting Paige and AJ’s inability to cooperate leads to defeat, setting up a feud going forward while Nikki is free to focus on Charlotte, who I expect to debut on Monday’s Raw.

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Bad News Barrett (C) vs Daniel Bryan vs Dolph Ziggler vs R-Truth vs Dean Ambrose vs Stardust vs Luke Harper

The mega-popular Daniel Bryan will be looking to win his first Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania XXXI.

The mega-popular Daniel Bryan will be looking to win his first Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania XXXI.

Barrett defeated Ambrose at Fastlane, the PPV event that preceded WrestleMania, and following the conclusion of that match, Ambrose made off with Barrett’s belt. Since then the belt has traded hands amongst the competitors in this bout despite no one actually winning the belt from Barrett. It was funny at times to watch, silly as well, but it’s hard to argue with this outcome. All of the guys in this match, even the often forgotten R-Truth, are extremely talented and if one match is likely to steal the show it’s clearly this one. Toss in the chaotic nature of a ladder match and this easily becomes one to get excited about. Some fans are ticked that a guy like Daniel Bryan is suddenly battling for a lesser title than the WWE Heavy Championship, but with Brock Lesnar being a part-time champ it makes sense to elevate the prestige of the mid-card belts.

Prediction: And that’s just what WWE wants. Bryan wins and becomes Smackdown’s fighting champion and a feud with Ziggler seems imminent. Those two could bring the house down if allowed and perhaps finally the Intercontinental Championship will seem like an important title, which it really hasn’t been for years.

Randy Orton vs Seth Rollins

This one is a classic grudge match between two personalities who hate each other. Orton was off of television for months to sell an injury at the hands of Rollins. Following a return at Fastlane, Orton played coy with Rollins before finally snapping a couple of weeks ago. Orton is a good worker, not a great one, but he’s fully capable of having a great match when paired with a complementary talent. Rollins definitely qualifies as he’s become one of the most electric competitors in the business. Strangely though, he’s still largely untested on the big stage when it comes to singles competition, with his best work often taking place in six-man or triple threat settings. Since the stakes in this match are so low, it’s also possible this match gets is a victim of time constraints if any of the earlier matches go on longer than expected.

Prediction: This one is hard to predict. Orton could use a big win, but Rollins could too. The wildcard is Rollins’ Money in the Bank contract which gives him a title match whenever he chooses to exercise it, meaning he could potentially end the night as WWE Heavyweight Champion. If that were to happen, then I could see Orton winning kind of like Owen Hart beat his brother Brett to open WrestleMania X, only for Brett to go on and defeat Yokozuna for the WWF Championship in the main event. I think the likelihood of Rollins ending the night as champ is low, so I expect him to go over Orton here.

United States Championship Match: Rusev (C) vs John Cena

For the past year, Rusev has been the unstoppable monster heel of WWE. No one has pinned him or made him submit yet, and his anti-US rhetoric makes him kind of a throwback heel. He’s fought mostly lesser stars, until last month when he took on, and defeated, John Cena. Cena has shown off a mean-streak since in getting Rusev to agree to a rematch at WrestleMania. Oddsmakers think this one will go Cena’s way, but I’m not sure.

Prediction: It seems hard to fathom that John Cena could lose twice in a row to Rusev. Last year, he was in a similar situation as he took on an up and coming monster heel in Bray Wyatt. Cena won that encounter, but it just doesn’t make sense to me for him to beat Rusev. Cena does not gain anything by beating Rusev, I’d prefer to see WWE save Rusev’s first loss for a less-established guy who can gain instant credibility. Someone like Adrian Neville, who’s expected to be promoted from NXT, would make sense. Cena does not. I expect Rusev to win, possibly by DQ so Cena can save some face.

Bray Wyatt vs The Undertaker

The last time wrestling fans saw The Undertaker it was following one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history.

The last time wrestling fans saw The Undertaker it was following one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history.

The Undertaker losing at WrestleMania XXX was one of the most shocking moments in WWE history. At the time, I wasn’t sure it was the right move to have Undertaker lose to an already established guy like Brock Lesnar, but credit WWE for handling Lesnar well since then. Undertaker, meanwhile, has not appeared on WWE television since then even during the build-up to this match with Wyatt. Last year’s match with Lesnar was not a good one, due in part to Undertaker suffering a severe concussion during the match, but also due to Undertaker being 49 years old. It remains to be seen what he has left in the tank, even with a year off. And as much as I like Wyatt, I’m not sure he’s the kind of talent that can carry a hobbled Undertaker through a match. Expect a lot of posturing in this one.

Prediction: WrestleMania XXXII will be held in Dallas, Texas. Even though Taker has been famously billed as being from Death Valley, it’s fairly common knowledge that he’s actually from Texas. Therefore, I expect Undertaker to compete next year in what may very well be his retirement match. As such, Undertaker losing here and heading into next year 21-2 seems unlikely. I expect either an Undertaker win or a non-finish. If Wyatt and Taker deliver a great match, it’s possible next year we’ll get a rematch where Wyatt gets the win. Or it’s possible that Undertaker competes against another Texan, like a returning Stone Cold, or we could get The Dream Match which pits Undertaker against one of the guys competing in the next match…

Triple H vs Sting

After years of waiting for the right moment, Sting will make his in-ring debut for WWE against Triple H at WrestleMania XXXI.

After years of waiting for the right moment, Sting will make his in-ring debut for WWE against Triple H at WrestleMania XXXI.

After flirting with WWE for years, Sting finally appeared in a WWE ring this past November at Survivor Series, foiling the plans of Triple H’s Authority stable in the main event. Since then he has appeared sporadically, but the last month has been a busy one for the Stinger as he and Triple H have built up this match. Unfortunately, the wait for Sting to appear in a WWE ring has been so long that he’s now past the age of 50. These two men, combined, are over 100 years old and the quality of this match is very much in question. Hopefully, the prestige of the match-up is enough for them to feed off of because it would be a shame if Sting’s first, possibly only, WWE match was a poor one. Triple H, despite being a part-timer himself, has continued to look good whenever he does lace up his boots. He’s in great shape, and his ability to carry Sting through a match is likely the main reason why he’s in this position as opposed to The Undertaker.

Prediction: It seems almost pointless for Sting to finally appear at WrestleMania only to go down in defeat. Even though the opposite momentum rule, where wrestling often follows a predictable booking pattern of having the guy who looks strongest leading up to a big match lose, strongly favors Triple H, I still envision a Sting victory. Because these guys are as old as they are, it’s possible there will be a lot of interference in this one to slow things down. In the end though, Triple H taps to the Scorpion Deathlock. And if all goes well, maybe we see Sting next year against Undertaker.

WWE Heavyweight Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (C) vs Roman Reigns

Uncertainty clouds the main event of WrestleMania XXXI, which is how it should be.

Uncertainty clouds the main event of WrestleMania XXXI, which is how it should be.

Much to WWE’s surprise, Roman Reigns’ victory in the Royal Rumble was greeted with boos. Even a rare appearance by The Rock couldn’t change things. Since, WWE has tried to repair Reigns’ image with the fanbase, pitting him against Daniel Bryan in the main event at Fastlane and by limiting his mic work. Reigns has done well in this role and he is an up and coming talent. Maybe the spot will prove too big for him, but he and Lesnar make for a pretty solid pairing. The issue there is that “solid” isn’t what you want for a WrestleMania main event. Lesnar has been the absentee champion. His part-time contract with WWE means he’s been booked as an attraction. It was a risk putting the title on him, but he’s been so good in his role that it’s hard to argue with the results. The belt has real prestige, and whoever knocks off Lesnar is going to get a big boost in credibility from such a feat. I think these two are going to have a very good match, probably not the match of the evening, but a damn good bout.

Prediction: Up until this past week, Lesnar’s status with the company was very much in question. His contract was going to expire after WrestleMania, making his defeat at WrestleMania XXXI seem almost guaranteed (which is one reason why so many fans were upset when Reigns won the Royal Rumble as the perception was whoever won that match would be the next WWE Champion) as he teased a return to UFC. Speculation about Lesnar’s future ended though when he announced on ESPN that he had resigned with WWE and was closing the door on his MMA career. Now, it seems, the tide has turned completely and many now expect Lesnar to retain at WrestleMania. There remains the possibility that WWE will turn those jeers aimed at Reigns into a full-fledged heel run having Lesnar’s manager, Paul Heyman, turn on him helping Reigns claim victory.  I don’t think that will happen, but it is a possibility. WWE has spent so much time building up Lesnar this past year that it just doesn’t feel like the right time to have him go down in defeat. Lesnar retains at WrestleMania.


The WWE Network: The Review

WWE-NetworkIt has been nearly a year since WWE launched its streaming, on-demand network and even longer since the company originally announced it. First conceived as a standard television channel, the WWE Network would go missing for the duration of 2012 and 2013 despite teases prior to that of a nearing launch. When it finally did make it to consumers it was as the on-demand network present today. Consumers are able to access the network, for a monthly fee, through various external devices such as gaming consoles, Roku, and smart TVs much like other on-demand networks such as Netflix and Hulu. Priced at $9.99 per month, the cost is right around the same as other similar networks but with the obvious difference being this one appeals solely to fans of professional wrestling. Are there enough fans of professional wrestling, and specifically WWE, to sustain a pay-per-month service?

That question has largely gone on unanswered since the Network’s launch in February 2014. I posted back then about my initial impressions and have kept my subscription active ever since, despite some early problems and a lack of original content. I am happy to say that the WWE Network has improved immensely in less than a year, but subscription numbers are reportedly still not where the company needs them to be in order to insure the long-term viability of the WWE Network.

The overall strategy of the WWE Network seems to be something along the lines of giving wrestling fans everything they could possibly want at a low monthly price. The WWE Network is loaded with content ranging from old editions of forgotten television shows such as Saturday Night Main Event to original documentaries of wrestling’s biggest stars. Each month, the WWE airs a pay-per-view event that is free to subscribers of the Network and there’s also new wrestling shows such as Superstars, Main Event, and NXT; WWE’s developmental show. Current episodes of WWE’s main cable programs, Raw and Smackdown, do not air live on the Network but many older editions are present. Joining them are old episodes of WCW Nitro and ECW Hardcore Television. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s also every single pay-per-view ever aired by the big three, along with lots of archival cards from the 70’s and 80’s before the wrestling television boom. Since there’s so much content to cover, I decided I would list out and elaborate on the biggest pros and cons of the service to give my own personal take on the WWE Network.

NXT

The NXT events have been light-years ahead of the WWE events.

The NXT events have been light-years ahead of the WWE events.

NXT used to air on cable but ever since the launch of the WWE Network it has become a network exclusive. When it was on television I never checked it out, but strong word-of-mouth and the ability to watch the programs whenever I want turned me on to the product and I couldn’t be more impressed with what I’ve seen. NXT is recorded in a small arena at Full Sail University in Florida. There’s a weekly, hour-long show as well as quarterly “event” shows that are structured like a typical WWE pay-per-view event. What makes NXT so special is its incredibly talented, focused, roster. The best workers in WWE right now are at NXT. Grapplers like Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn, and Charlotte are supremely gifted, dedicated, in-ring workers who are honing their craft right in front of our eyes. The women’s division is so strong it’s stunning given the quality of the “Divas” matches that take place on Raw. And even though each show is only an hour long, there’s probably still more time devoted to actual wrestling than what takes place on Raw, where three-minute matches are common-place and long-winded Authority-led promos often dominate the show. NXT is simply a breath of fresh air and each one of the “pay-per-views” it’s put on have been better than every WWE pay-per-view that aired in 2014. The only bad thing I can say about NXT is that it makes the main roster look like crap making it even harder to tune into Raw on a weekly basis.

Beyond the Ring

Beyond the Ring is the section of the WWE Network devoted to biographical programs often focused on one wrestler. These should be familiar to WWE fans who have ever purchased a DVD set on one of their favorite wrestlers as these biographies are first released through that medium. Buying every DVD put of by WWE would be both costly and cumbersome, so it’s pretty cool to have them all here on the Network. There’s also wrestlers and personalities I was interested in learning more about, but I wasn’t quite willing to throw down cash on a set. There’s no set amount of time in place between release and when a biography will show up on the Network, but there’s already a healthy mix of new releases (the newest being the Paul Heyman feature which first hit retail shelves last summer) and older ones. Some of the wrestlers featured thus far have been Stone Cold, Rock, John Cena, Roddy Piper, Brett Hart, the Road Warriors, and many more. There’s also some “countdown” style features (not to be confused with the Network show called Countdown) that look at the best wrestlers of the 2000’s or top finishing moves. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed each of the features I’ve watched (the only one I really didn’t care for was Brock Lesnar’s) and often I learned something I didn’t know before.

The Monday Night War

Consisting of twenty episodes, The Monday Night War has easily been the best original program put out by the WWE.

Consisting of twenty episodes, The Monday Night War has easily been the best original program put out by the WWE.

The Monday Night War is WWE’s anthology series focusing on the mid to late 90’s and the ratings battle that took place between WWF Raw is War and WCW Monday Nitro. Consisting of twenty one hour episodes, the series looked at the start of both shows, the key moments and players within the rivalry, and ultimately its conclusion. When the WWE Network was first unveiled, this show was one of the few mentioned and promoted and was a factor in my signing up. It didn’t arrive until the fall, but it has mostly proved worth the wait. Considering it’s rather tight focus, the show did repeat itself at times but as someone who experienced the phenomenon that was the Monday Night War in the 90’s I found it really entertaining to go back and re-examine it. One could potentially criticize the program for painting too flattering a picture of the WWE in comparison to WCW, but considering WCW really only competed for so long because of the nWo and Ted Turner’s checkbook, the show is probably fair. Narrated by Keith David, the presentation of the program is handled well despite having to rely on television footage from before the HD era. All of the major players one would expect receive their own featured episode including Bischoff, Austin, the nWo, Degeneration X, Rock, Mick Foley, and more. It’s just a shame the show had to end.

The Other Original Programs

NXT, the documentaries in the Beyond the Ring section, and The Monday Night War are all strong parts of the WWE Network. Unfortunately, the other original programming is somewhat lacking. The latest, and likely intended as a replacement for The Monday Night War, is WWE Rivalries which focuses on one historic rivalry in a documentary style program. The first episode focused on Austin and Vince McMahon and was extended to two-parts, each one being an hour. After already focusing on the rivalry in The Monday Night War, this one felt too familiar. Other rivalries, such as Edge and Christian vs The Hardys, just didn’t feel all that compelling. The show isn’t bad, but it needs to focus more on rivalries not already covered extensively elsewhere, which may be hard to pull off. “Reality” shows, like Total Divas and Legend’s House, are not my thing and have never been viewed by me. Countdown is an okay time-waster if you want to see current wrestlers list their favorite trash talkers, high-flyers, and so on. Legends of Wrestlemania is basically a one-hour show where a Wrestlemania match is highlighted and then shown. It’s not a bad way to pass the time, but considering every Wrestlemania is already included on the WWE Network it hardly feels necessary. The two other WWE roster programs, Main Event and Superstars, are just as bland as they were on cable. Nothing ever happens on these shows, but if you’re a big David Otunga fan, it’s probably the only place where you’ll see him compete.

The Pay-Per-Views and Current Television Product

Vince McMahon needs to make some changes if he wants to regain his reputation as a visionary in the world of professional wrestling, or sports entertainment, as he likes to call it.

Vince McMahon needs to make some changes if he wants to regain his reputation as a visionary in the world of professional wrestling, or sports entertainment, as he likes to call it.

Really, the WWE Network is actually pretty awesome. It has almost everything from wrestling’s past that a fan could possibly want as well as some pretty entertaining new shows to go along with it. And at ten bucks a month, with the original six-month required commitment now abolished, it’s pretty easy to talk yourself into subscribing, especially considering that the monthly pay-per-views are included. Unfortunately, it’s those events that are lacking the most, and in general, the current state of WWE programming. WWE Raw is a pretty bad show at this point. The storylines are stale, the main event talent too predictable, and the tone is just off. Which is frustrating, because the current roster, from an in-ring perspective, is quite possibly the most talented ever assembled by the WWE. It compares rather favorably to those early 90’s rosters that featured major up-and-comers like Shawn Michaels, Brett Hart, The Undertaker, and so many more. I love watching Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Cesaro, and Bray Wyatt work a match, it’s just that they aren’t always allowed to work a compelling one. The Divas division and tag team division are bad, and there’s little importance placed on the mid-card belts. This has lead to pay-per-view cards that are just plain boring, and WWE’s reliance on The Authority angle, where a heel personality (in this case, Triple H and his wife Stephanie) are in control and make life miserable in an illogical way for the “good guys”, is just plain boring. Everything has a “been there, done that” feel to it, and I often can’t stomach more than a few minutes of Raw before I inevitably switch-over to whatever Simpsons marathon is airing on FXX. The only pay-per-view event from 2014 I truly enjoyed was Wrestlemania XXX. If I had spent the fifty bucks or whatever the cable rate is for any of the other pay-per-view events in 2014 I would have been furious.

The WWE is at an odd place right now with its network. The company is coming up on one of its biggest events of the year, The Royal Rumble, and also planning on airing its annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony exclusively on the WWE Network. And there’s also Wrestlemania XXXI to think about in March. Right now, there’s enough content on the WWE Network that focuses on the past to keep me entertained, but I wonder how willing I’ll be to keep it once that content drys up. The Network does such a good job of high-lighting the glory days, specifically the Attitude Era, that it really harms the current PG Era by shining a light on just how bad it’s become. The Monday Night Wars program was very thorough in pointing out how silly and cartoony the WWF was in the mid-nineties before turning things around with a bold, new approach. Only the most ardent supporters of Vince McMahon would be unable to draw parallels between the WWF of the mid-nineties and the WWE of today. Sadly, McMahon had a sit-down with Stone Cold Steve Austin as part of a WWE Network exclusive in which he seemed to suggest that everything was great, and no one was worthy of a “promotion” to main event status(even singling out current superstar Cesaro, as being someone he was particularly down on despite most fans raving about him), demonstrating just how out of touch he is with the WWE audience. So long as he’s running the show, it’s hard to imagine things getting better.


Ranking the WrestleMania Main Events: The Top 3

We are now just a little over 24 hours away from WrestleMania XXX. Considering it’s the 30th edition of the WWE’s flagship show we should expect something grand and whether we get it or not will surely be debated come Monday. What has come before it has been a mix of good and bad, immortal and forgettable, but these last three main events have all been great, for one reason or another. Though as a sort-of final thought on the WrestleMania main events on the whole, I would offer that they do not represent the best of WrestleMania. In doing this feature I realized that most of the greatest matches of all time occurred during the undercard. I’m not sure what that says about the event, other than that Hulk Hogan was a pretty poor and predictable wrestler, but I suppose it doesn’t matter much in the long-run so long as the entire show is good. That said, these last three matches actually do represent the best of the card from their respective WrestleManias and the fans should have been sent home happy after witnessing these three.

wrestlemania153. The Rock vs Stone Cold Steve Austin (WrestleMania XV)

The main event for WrestleMania XV is your classic good guy battles through adversity and comes out on top at the biggest show of the year. It’s a pretty common formula for the industry and that’s because it works. WrestleMania often has the good-guy challenger come out on top in the main event with successful title defenses being pretty rare. Successful heel title defenses are even rarer. For XV, The Rock was the undisputed top heel in the business, and fresh off a long feud with Mankind, he was set to take on Austin. Austin and The Rock had previously battled over the Intercontinental title so a match between the two wasn’t foreign to wrestling fans, but by 1999 both were so huge that it felt like an all new feud. Austin was coming off of his feud with Vince McMahon which had finally resulted in an actual match between the two at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre the previous month. The feud would carry-over in the next pay-per view, Backlash, but was at long last starting to wane.

Austin and The Rock put on a great show for the fans with lots of outside the ring work and humorous character spots. This match strikes a nice balance between wrestling and entertainment. The Rock’s character was so over-the-top that his main event matches needed to have something special added to them to take advantage. Their follow-up WrestleMania match at XVII had a little more of this extra-curricular stuff, but the finish to it was too drawn out and I disliked Austin’s heel turn, which is why I rank this one ahead of it. Hopefully we one day get another match-up between two huge superstars like this in a WrestleMania main event (some would argue we did with Rock and Cena, but Cena’s love from fans is not universal like Austin and Rock’s was in 1999) because it is awesome when the crowd is this into it.

Two of the best.

Two of the best.

2. Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker (WrestleMania XXVI)

Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker stole the show at WrestleMania XXV in what many fans consider the greatest WrestleMania match of all time. WWE recognized how well-received it was so they did it again at WrestleMania XXVI only this time in the main event and with Michaels’ career on the line as the match stipulation. Other than the career vs streak booking, there were no actual titles on the line in this main event and no one cared. At this point, Undertaker’s “streak” is bigger than any belt when it comes to WrestleMania. Maybe next year I’ll rank his best WrestleMania matches and that way I can find out just when the streak became a major plot device for the WWE. It’s now the only time The Undertaker even wrestles giving WrestleMania this video game vibe where Undertaker is like the final boss of the last level.

I believe I am in the minority when I say the rematch between Michaels and Undertaker is actually my favorite of the two. They’re both excellent, but I enjoy the added drama of Michaels’s career being on the line (though I also love the moonsault-tombstone ending of the previous match) which helps add even greater weight to the whole thing. This match seemed quicker with fewer pauses for rest holds and such (aided greatly by Undertaker not botching a suicided dive to the outside of the ring). Undertaker and HBK just work exceptionally well as opponents. HBK has always been able to effectively sell his own offense despite often being much smaller than his opponents. Michaels is also the perfect size to sell Undertaker’s more high impact offense as he can carry Michaels around the ring and toss him like a rag doll, if he so pleases.

The two go all out, which is something a superstar can do if he knows it’s his last match or that it will be his only match of the year. There’s a nice diving moonsault to the outside by Michaels and plenty of stiff shots. As I mentioned earlier, the storyline ending is just icing on the cake and Michaels gets the send-off he deserves as one of the greatest of all time. This one was a strong contender for greatest WrestleMania main event of all time, but it comes up just a little bit short to the next one.

Michales and Hart would battle for over an hour to determine the WWF Champion.

Michales and Hart would battle for over an hour to determine the WWF Champion.

1. Shawn Michaels vs Brett Hart (WrestleMania XII)

The Iron Man Match. That’s all that really needs to be said to any wrestling fan and they’ll know what you’re talking about. Iron Man Matches had occurred before but most fans had never heard of it. Even today, it’s not a common match type as it requires its competitors be willing and able to wrestle for an hour. I think many guys could pull it off, but not sell it as a great match. Even two guys in excellent physical shape like Shawn Michaels and Brett Hart had to stop for rest holds and such, but the vigor at which they’re able to go at each other impresses me every time I view this match.

For those unaware, an iron match is a timed match in which the competitor who scores the most “falls” in the allotted time limit wins the match. For this contest that meant pinfalls, submissions, count outs, and disqualifications were all on the table. The beauty of this match was that there were no falls recorded during the sixty minute time limit. When it seemed like the match would end in a draw, Brett Hart was ordered back to the ring to continue into overtime where Michaels eventually won via pinfall for his first WWF Championship. The finish is great, but getting to it was better. Yes, there are the previously mentioned rest holds and slow parts, but the match really takes off during the middle stages and the two competitors somehow keep it going. There are great moments of aerial superiority from Michaels, while Hart is able to sink in a  sharpshooter at one point as well. Michaels and Hart worked so well together that it’s a shame they didn’t have more main events at WrestleMania (they were supposed to main event WrestleMania XIII, but Michaels pulled out due to injury). Their chemistry in the ring is unrivaled as they’re able to realistically sell each other’s offense and pull off what should be unrealistic counters. They have a flow like two expert dancers and their contrasting personalities help to elevate the show side of the match. The Iron Man Match is not only the greatest main event in WrestleMania history, it’s also the greatest match in WrestleMania history and it will take one-hell-of-a-match to knock it off the top of the mountain.


Ranking the WrestleMania Main Events (19-12)

The year long feud between Macho Man and Hulk Hogan came to a head at WrestleMania V.

The year long feud between Macho Man and Hulk Hogan came to a head at WrestleMania V.

19. Hulk Hogan vs Macho Man Randy Savage (WrestleMania V)

The clash of the Mega Powers!  The WrestleMania V main event was another early WrestleMania main event that wasn’t much to write home about, but one thing it did have was legs.  The main event for WrestleMania V was unofficially booked at the conclusion of WrestleMania IV when Savage won the WWF Championship to close out the night with the aid of Hogan.  For the next year the two would tag team and feud with Dibiase and The Giant until conflict would surface between the two.  With both guys being pretty popular with fans, the WWF needed to turn one heel and it unsurprisingly went with Savage, who despite being the champion, was not as over with the fans as Hogan.  When the two finally collided, it was a case of excellent booking with a good pay-off, the type of thing that doesn’t really happen in today’s world of short attention span fans.   As I alluded to at the start, the match itself was rather poor.  Savage was a real in-ring talent, but there was nothing he could really do to elevate Hogan and the match ended up being a typical Hulk Hogan match.

18. Triple H vs Batista (WrestleMania XXI)

Batista was a real throw-back superstar.  The only things separating him from guys like Hogan and The Warrior were tattoos and a crew cut.  He had the look of the behemoth and the grace to match.  His matches never did much for me and this encounter with Triple H was a dud.  The two would go on to have better match-ups centered more around gimmicks (maybe someone realized a straight wrestling match just wasn’t playing to their strengths), but never any real classics.  Triple H has also been a pretty good worker and he has the reputation of being a technical wrestler.  Personally, I’ve always felt his reputation was forced.  Great technical wrestlers can elevate their opponents and find a way to have good matches, I don’t think Triple H has ever been that guy and he certainly wasn’t able to pull a good match out of Batista at WrestleMania XXI.

17. The Undertaker vs Sycho Sid (WrestleMania XIII)

This is a match that really has no business being as good as it is.  That’s not to say it’s a classic by any means, but before I sat down to re-watch it recently after all of these years I was expecting the worst.  My preliminary thoughts on this list had this match coming in at around number 27 or so, but here it is at 17.  Sid Justice, at the time going as Sycho Sid, is not much of a wrestler.  He was a big guy and could do some big moves, but when it came to selling a match he was awful and that part of his game is on display in this one.  Despite that, there were some good moments and he and Undertaker were able to tell a pretty decent story.  By contrast, Undertaker has always been a big guy who was a plus worker, a hard combination to find, and both guys aren’t so big that they can’t take each other’s big moves and make them look good.  The match does suffer from too many interruptions (I’m not sure if Sid was balking at losing clean to Undertaker or if the Brett Hart run-ins were just meant to setup a new feud), but otherwise is solid entertainment.

16. Triple H vs John Cena (WrestleMania XXII)

With these last few matches, we’ve entered into the part of the list where the matches aren’t bad matches, but they’re not exactly main event at the biggest show of the year quality matches.  This is another match that kind of surprised me when I watched it recently.  I’m not a John Cena fan.  Like Batista, he’s a throwback to the eighties.  He’s a superman like Hogan was where he’ll take a beating and then suddenly kick-out of a big move and hit his finisher for the win.  He’s an attraction as he was in his match with Big Show years earlier where he got the giant up onto his shoulders.  This match though is a pretty hard hitting affair with some good pacing (after a slow start).  It’s nothing to write home about, but the fact that it’s not one of the worst matches is an accomplishment I wasn’t sure it would have.

The Rock loomed large at WrestleMania XXVII despite not even being on the card.

The Rock loomed large at WrestleMania XXVII despite not even being on the card.

15. John Cena vs The Miz (WrestleMania XXVII)

As a match, this one is probably worse than the previous two.  I’ve already shared my thoughts on Cena, but The Miz is no better.  He’s Cena without the look.  As a heel, which he was at the time of this match, he was pretty good at getting heat.  In the ring though he’s sloppy, lacks polish, and has a pedestrian arsenal.   The build-up to this match though had almost nothing to do with The Miz, who was actually the champion heading into WrestleMania!  No, the storyline centered around John Cena and the host of WrestleMania XXVII:  The Rock.  When The Rock returned to Monday Night Raw he almost immediately began picking a fight with John Cena.  Their feud would carry over into the next year’s WrestleMania, especially after The Rock played a role in the outcome of this match between Cena and The Miz, and it’s the buzz that surrounded this match that helps elevate it.  Otherwise, this was a main event more befitting of Raw than WrestleMania.

I'm pretty sure there's a law somewhere that says I have to post this picture if I'm going to talk about WrestleMania III.

I’m pretty sure there’s a law somewhere that says I have to post this picture if I’m going to talk about WrestleMania III.

14. Hulk Hogan vs André the Giant (WrestleMania III)

In terms of build-up and anticipation, there is no equal when it comes to Hogan vs The Giant.  This is the main event that shattered the all-time attendance record and would stand for a long, long time.  The Giant was a huge attraction and was billed as being undefeated over his career.  Hogan was Hogan, the biggest current attraction in the wrestling world. André had also never wrestled for the championship, mostly because promoters didn’t need him to and allowed for them to have two big matches on a card: an André the Giant match, and a world championship match.  Of course, come 1987 André was a shell of his old self and nearing the end, and Hogan was…well, I think I’ve ripped on him enough at this point.  This match is awful.  The Giant can barely move and Hogan is forced to try to sell his limited offense.  The only part of the match worth watching is “The Slam” at the end.  That was a huge moment and the crowd reaction sells it perfectly.  If this were a list of best moments from a WrestleMania main event, that would be the easy choice for number one.  It’s a big enough moment that it elevates a garbage match up to number 14, which isn’t too bad if you ask me.  It was one Hell of a slam.

13. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XIV)

Transitioning from the original mega stars of wrestling to perhaps two of the biggest in recent memory, here we have a match that really could have been something special.  It is special, but only because it marked the first time Austin won the WWF Championship and the added Mike Tyson factor at ring-side.  Unfortunately though, this was when Michaels was in tremendous pain following a serious back injury at Royal Rumble.  The injury would force him into retirement for four years before a comeback, but during the match it’s clear that Michaels isn’t right.  Some of it is a sell-job since play-by-play man Jim Ross wasn’t hiding the fact that Michaels was hurt, but a lot of it is legit discomfort.  Because of this, the match is real slow-paced with lots of rest holds and a feeling of restraint throughout.  It’s disjointed, but the finish was strong and the crowd certainly didn’t seem to mind once Austin hit the stunner.  Still, it’s hard to watch this and not wonder what could have been.

12. John Cena vs The Rock (WrestleMania XXIX)

Cena and The Rock ended their three year long feud at the conclusion of WrestleMania XXIX.

Cena and The Rock ended their three year long feud at the conclusion of WrestleMania XXIX.

The most recent main event, and part two of the Cena/Rock feud (unless you count their confrontation at WrestleMania XXVII as part one, then it’s part three) and at this point it was starting to run out of steam.  As much as people loved The Rock, myself included, it was hard to disagree with Cena’s assertions that at least he was a full-time wrestler, unlike The Rock.  The Rock was coming off as disingenuous, but he was still making people laugh.  In the ring though, it was becoming clear that Rock wasn’t the same guy as he was years ago, which is understandable.  This version of The Rock was really bulky, and since he wasn’t a full-time wrestler, he really didn’t have the stamina to carry a one-on-one match.  The two made it work the prior year, but come WrestleMania XXIX it was clear they were out of ideas as both guys resort to hitting their signature moves over and over.  Having a wrestler kick out of another guy’s big move can be a really effective way to sell the enormity of a match, but three times?  Four times?  It just loses impact.  In defense of The Rock, he did get injured during the match which may have affected his performance.  The enormity of the feud and star power of the characters is what elevates this match to this spot, not the in-ring performance.


Ranking the WrestleMania Main Events (29-20)

images-202It’s that time of year when WWE programming is officially declared as being “on the road to WrestleMania!”  This year, WrestleMania will be on April 6th and the main event will likely be a triple-threat match consisting of WWE Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton, Batista, and Daniel Bryan.  I say “will likely be” because technically Bryan needs to defeat Triple H in a one-on-one contest earlier in the card to secure his spot in the main event, which feels like a certainty considering the hostile crowd reactions of late towards the original main event of Orton and Batista.  No matter who is in the main event, this WrestleMania will be historic for the simple fact that it’s WrestleMania XXX.  Back in 1984 when the first WrestleMania hit pay-per-view it was considered a huge gamble for the then World Wrestling Federation.  The fact that we’re approaching the 30th edition of this event is remarkable.

WrestleMania is the big one.  For the WWE, it’s the Superbowl of professional wrestling.  And as we’ve learned over the years, just because the Superbowl contains the top two teams in the NFL each year, it doesn’t mean we’re about to see the best game of the year.  WrestleMania, and its main event in particular, is guilty of that same phenomenon.  WrestleMania has been host to some of the best matches in professional wrestling history, some of which have been main event matches, but there have been a whole host of bad ones too.  The early events are particularly guilty of this as the main event was dominated by Hulk Hogan.  Hogan is arguably the most popular wrestler in history.  Kids loved him because he was basically a super hero in the ring, but from a wrestling perspective he was awful.  His arsenal of moves was pedestrian and his no-sell antics were cartoonish.  For wrestling fans, particularly modern ones, his matches are terrible.

Hulk Hogan was involved in some capacity with the WrestleMania main event a record nine times, all of which occurred within the first nine WrestleManias.  WrestleMania IV was the only one he did not compete in, while WrestleMania IX was billed as Bret Hart versus Yokozuna, only for an impromptu match between Hogan and Yokozuna to come together after the fact (it lasted for all of a minute).  And in those eight matches Hogan participated in, he only would lose one.  Yes, Hogan dominated the early period of WrestleMania.  Since his departure, other wrestlers have come close to matching the amount of main events that Hogan amassed.  Triple H has logged six main event appearances while Shawn Michaels has managed five.  John Cena, who currently is very much active in the WWE and not likely to quit anytime soon, has also managed five giving him a legit shot at matching, or even surpassing, Hulk Hogan for main event appearances.

Hulk Hogan was synonymous with WrestleMania for the better part of its first decade.

Hulk Hogan was synonymous with WrestleMania for the better part of its first decade.

As far as the WWE is concerned, Cena or Triple H probably already holds the record.  That’s because the WWE often likes to declare multiple main events for WrestleMania (which is why when discussing Stone Cold and the Rock you will often hear it said that Austin vs Rock is the only match to be included in the main event three times at WrestleMania, even though it was the final match of the night only twice).  As far as I’m concerned, the main event is a singular phrase, and therefore, there can be only one per card.  For this feature, I’ve decided to rank the final matches on each WrestleMania card one through twenty-nine to name a best match.  It should be said that a list of the twenty-nine best WrestleMania matches would likely look very different.  After all, some of the most talked-about matches in the history of the event did not occur in the main event.  I’m talking about matches like Steamboat vs Savage, Undertaker vs HBK, or any of the many ladder matches that have taken place over the years at WrestleMania.  Coming up with the thirty or so best matches would just be too daunting a task for me, but with the help of the brand new WWE Network, revisiting and ranking the best main events is a task I think I can handle.

29. Lawrence Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow (WrestleMania XI)

When it comes to WrestleMania, one thing fans are certainly assured of is a celebrity appearance or two.  Vince McMahon seems to love it when he can get a celebrity to participate in his events as a way of legitimizing what the WWE does, even if most of these appearances are looked-down upon by his hardcore fan base.  This trend began with the very first WrestleMania and continues today.  When a celebrity takes on the form of a guest ring announcer or valet most fans can excuse it, but when they get in the ring?  And when that celebrity is in the main event?!  It’s nothing short of awful.  To his credit, professional football player Lawrence Taylor doesn’t embarrass himself in the ring against Bam Bam Bigelow, but the two hardly put on on a match worthy of occupying any main event, let alone the main event at WrestleMania.

28. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff (WrestleMania)

The very first WrestleMania was the riskiest, and to make sure the event was a success, McMahon recruited any celebrity he could and even found one to include in the main event.  Mr. T, star of The A-Team, made numerous appearances for the WWF and was able to attract a lot of attention from the mainstream media.  Piper was able to get legitimate heat and people genuinely wanted to see Hogan and Mr. T kick he and Paul Orndorff’s ass.  The crowd was into it, which is the only good thing I can say about this main event.  Other than that, it’s awful.  Mr. T looks the part of a wrestler when he’s standing still, but when he tries to get involved he’s sloppy and out of place.  The other guys are unable to direct him and coach him to a decent match.  Hogan and T come out on top, but it’s not a fun ride getting to the finish.

Hulk Hogan vs King Kon Bundy at WrestleMania 2 has never been confused with a "classic" Mania match.

Hulk Hogan vs King Kon Bundy at WrestleMania 2 has never been confused with a “classic” Mania match.

27. Hulk Hogan vs King Kong Bundy (WrestleMania 2)

It’s somewhat surprising that WrestleMania has been the success that it is considering two of the first three matches on my list are occupied by the first two WrestleMania main events.  Hogan was able to avoid being in, what I consider, the worst main event in WrestleMania history, but the next few spots aren’t going to be too kind to the Hulkster.  This match appears in this spot not because it’s awful, but mostly because it’s so uneventful.  It took place in a steel cage and I can’t decide if that helped or hurt it as it limited what the already limited competitors were able to do.  Bundy was a mountain of a man whose size limited what Hogan could do to him.  He was also too big to scale the cage walls, not that he and Hogan were likely to orchestrate a big spot from up high even if he could.  At least Hogan won by going over the cage instead of out the door, because it always sucks when a cage match ends without someone at least climbing over it.

26. Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice (WrestleMania VIII)

If you wanted to find a silver lining for the previous match, at least it was for the WWF Championship so that gives it some buzz.  This match between Hogan and Sid Justice was a non-title match, but the fans didn’t seem to care as they were pretty loud and solidly behind the Hulkster.  Sid is about as limited in the ring as Hogan, and when two big men with limited arsenals clash there just isn’t much room for a good match.  By now, Hulkamania was nearing its expiration date and the Hogan formula was well-established which meant there were no surprises, aside from the match ending in a DQ victory for Hogan.  This was a pointless main event at a forgettable WrestleMania.

25. Hulk Hogan vs Sgt. Slaughter (WrestleMania VII)

The main event for WrestleMania VII was supposed to mirror the conflict in Operation Desert Storm with the American aligned Hulk Hogan taking on the champion and Iraq sympathizer Sergeant Slaughter.  Slaughter was portrayed as a turncoat and traitor to America, which helped get the crowd into it.  In the ring, it was just another Hogan match where two guys wail on each other for ten minutes or so before Hogan “Hulks up” and takes care of business.

WrestleMania VI was hyped as The Ultimate Challenge by the WWF.

WrestleMania VI was hyped as The Ultimate Challenge by the WWF.

24. Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania VI)

Some things that seem awesome when you’re a kid appear totally different through the eyes of an adult.  By WrestleMania VI, Hulkamania was running wild.  The super hero thing was working for Hogan, so why couldn’t it work for someone else?  Enter the Ultimate Warrior, who was basically an even more cartoonish version of Hogan.    He did everything Hogan did but just seemed crazier and looked more wild with his flowing locks and wild tassels.  He was impressive looking to me when I was a kid, but when I look at him now he just looks like a steroid junkie.  In the ring, he was arguably worse than Hogan as his arsenal consisted of clotheslines, shoulder tackles, and slams with the guerrilla press followed by a running splash being his version of Hogan’s big boot and leg drop.  He would even “Hulk-up” like Hogan, often running in place or grabbing the ropes for power, according to the announcers.  The whole show of the Warrior was ridiculous, and it’s no surprise he didn’t have the lasting power that Hogan did.  This match is now mostly just notable for being the only time Hogan lossed clean as a baby-face to someone.  Considering how much of a rip-off the Warrior was, it’s almost shocking that Hogan agreed to it.  The match itself is terrible, with Hogan either teasing a heel turn at one point or just plain forgetting that he was supposed to sell a leg injury.  Warrior even botches the press slam, but at least his splash looked okay.

23. Brett “The Hitman” Hart vs Yokozuna (WrestleMania IX)

Vince McMahon, and the rest of the wrestling industry, seems to love big men.  They’re viewed as attractions on their own and usually don’t even need an interesting opponent to be a draw.  Unfortunately, they’re also usually terrible in the ring due to their size.  Yokozuna is one such big man.  Billed as over 500 pounds, he’s every bit that and more.  He was supposed to be a sumo wrestler, though like most gimmicks, this was untrue but it didn’t matter because he looked the part.  He was huge and fat, and as a result, he couldn’t do much in the ring, and when he did, he became winded pretty quickly.  Brett Hart, one of the all-time great technical wrestlers, deserved better for his first WrestleMania main event.  Hart’s the type of performer that can elevate a poor opponent, but there was no elevating Yokozuna.  You either liked the spectacle or did not.  I did not, and this match is a series of clotheslines and rest holds.  Hart did manage to apply the sharpshooter, though it was kind of silly looking.  After the match ended in a Yokozuna victory, his manager Mr. Fuji quickly challenged Hogan to a match that the Hulkster would win in less than a minute.  This ridiculous finish is why I rate this match as slightly worse than the next one…

Yokozuna was a very big man.

Yokozuna was a very big man.

22. Brett Hart vs Yokozuna (WrestleMania X)

A rematch of WrestleMania IX, only with the roles reversed with Yokozuna now the defending champion.  Both guys had to wrestle a match on the undercard, and the short-of-breath Yokozuna had even less stamina than usual for the main event.  This match is actually probably worse than the one at WrestleMania IX, but without the stupid finish.  Instead Hart wins and a bunch of wrestlers come out and celebrate with him.  Yokozuna, mercifully, never appears in another WrestleMania main event.

21. Triple H vs Randy Orton (WrestleMania XXV)

This was a joyless match.  Both guys are solid technical wrestlers, with Triple H probably being the better of the two.  Neither guy is so good that on paper this would be expected to be a classic, but a good, solid match was certainly likely.  I don’t know why these guys didn’t try to put on a better showing.  It was the main event of WrestleMania XXV for crying out loud!  Instead, this was a main even fitting of television.  They just don’t do anything to make it feel special, and adding to the lack of atmosphere is the fact that the crowd isn’t into it.  Both guys immediately blow through their special moves and a lot of the early part of the match consists of both men laying on the canvas.  It picks up slightly in the second half, but never to an exciting level.  This match just sucks, and for now, is the last main event Triple H has appeared in at WrestleMania.

20. Macho Man Randy Savage vs The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase

Randy Savage spent the better part of the 80’s playing second fiddle to Hulk Hogan, even though he was clearly the superior wrestler.  His match with Ricky The Dragon Steamboat at WrestleMania III is one of the all-time classics.  Come WrestleMania IV, the WWF finally saw fit to put the strap on him, but of course, Hogan was involved.  DiBiase was one of the great workers of his generation and a classic heel.  Given different circumstances, these two could have had a great match, but the format for WrestleMania IV was not conducive to that.  WrestleMania IV consisted of a tournament for the vacated title (Hogan and André the Giant battled to a double DQ which is why he wasn’t in the main event) which meant both Savage and DiBiase had wrestled multiple times already.  As a result, the main event was pretty conventional, with both Hogan and The Giant getting involved on the outside.  Savage would get the win with the flying elbow drop, setting the stage for a year-long storyline that would lead into WrestleMania V.


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