Friday, March 29, 2019

The Ultimate Dream WrestleMania, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of our Ultimate Dream WrestleMania!  Night 1 has already been heralded as an all-time classic PPV (I believe Dave Meltzer gave both Flair vs. Bryan and Savage vs. Punk five stars), and we're only halfway through the festivities.  Strap yourselves in and enjoy the second half!


Edge & Christian vs. The Midnight Express

We open with a blazing tag team matchup, as Jim Cornette's legendary Midnight Express takes on the team that "reeks of awesomeness."  This is your classic seesaw matchup, as neither team is able to maintain an advantage for very long.  The tandem offense is plentiful and dizzying, and the referee has trouble keeping just two men in at a time.  Halfway through, the Midnights exploit a distraction allowing Cornette to wallop Christian with his tennis racket, and they take control.  After several minutes of abuse, Christian tags Edge and all hell breaks loose, with all four men in the ring at once.  At the fourteen-minute mark the Midnights set Christian up for the Veg-O-Matic, but Edge pushes Bobby Eaton off the top rope and nails the Implant DDT on Stan Lane for the win.

Eddie Guerrero vs. Owen Hart

Two of the most beloved heels in wrestling history face off next, in a bout likely to be rife with cheating.  Hair-pulling, tights-hooking, rope-holding, it's all there.  Eddie sets a fast pace early on but Owen eventually slows it down to gain an advantage.  After eleven minutes Owen accidentally knocks down the official, Eddie grabs a chair and tosses it to Owen, and feigns being hit.  The referee questions Owen about using the chair and Eddie rolls him up for a close two-count.  Owen kicks out and snares an airtight small package for the three.

Triple H vs. Killer Kowalski

It's Mentor vs. Student as the monstrous Killer Kowalski faces his greatest protege, Triple H.  This match would be a contrast of styles as Kowalski tries to brawl while Hunter isolates a leg to negate his size disadvantage.  In the closing minutes Kowalski catches Hunter with the dreaded claw hold and nearly gets a submission before Hunter lurches for the ropes.  The referee pushes Kowalski away but he charges at Hunter, who catches him with a Harley Race high knee, followed by the Pedigree for the win at 8:40.

The History of WrestleMania: 25-XXVII

Welcome to Part 9, beginning with the 25th Anniversary....of the year before WrestleMania started!

Reliant Stadium - 4/5/09

Speaking of WrestleMania cards I wasn't excited about, we now arrive at the "25th Anniversary" of WrestleMania (good lord that marketing drove me nuts - does WWE think people can't count?).  Early 2009 was an extremely stagnant time for the company, where the same 5 or 6 wrestlers were being shuffled around the same 5 or 6 spots and no new talent was breaking into the main event scene.  If you take the seven participants in the top three matches of 'Mania 24 and compare them to the top three matches of 25, swap out Flair for The Big Show and you have the same seven guys.  Couple this with very poor buildup for both Championship matches and you have a recipe for an anemic WrestleMania season.  As it turned out though, the show was pretty good. 

Triple H vs. Randy Orton took the main event slot and despite an awful, awful buildup (Explain to me again why I'm supposed to cheer for the all-powerful McMahon family just because Randy Orton beat them up?  Didn't Steve Austin make a megaface career out of beating up the McMahons?) and a suitably disinterested live crowd, they managed to salvage a solid Title match out of it.  But really the only good segment leading up to this match was when Orton handcuffed Triple H to the bottom rope and forced him to watch Stephanie be DDT'd and kissed by his arch-rival.  Then the following week all the tension was immediately diffused as Triple H broke into Orton's house and beat the snot out of him.  I thought the whole point of the PPV match was to get the audience to want to see the villain get his comeuppance.  If that happens a week before the big match, why should we care?  Also given the highly personal nature of this feud, you'd think WWE would've made the match a no-DQ match of some sort.  Instead the only stip was that if Hunter got disqualified he'd lose the Title.

Oh look, it's the only good part of this feud

The Smackdown Title match was a Triple Threat that I was equally blase about - Edge vs. John Cena vs. The Big Show.  Their feud centered around some twisted love triangle with Vickie Guerrero, yadda yadda.  Bottom line is that the match was actually really entertaining.  I was very shocked by how much fun it ended up being.

But the real standout of 'Mania 25 was of course the epic 30-minute war between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.  I honestly didn't get caught up in the build for this match either and by this point was so fed up with WWE's lack of star-building that I half-expected this to be mediocre.  I was wholly incorrect, as these two legends showed us all how it's done.  This match ended up being one for the ages.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The History of WrestleMania: 22-XXIV

We've fully entered the John Cena Era......

Rosemont Horizon - 4/2/06

'Mania 22 reminds me a little of the old-school WrestleManias, where there was a whole host of different kinds of matches and a little something for everyone.  It ended up being a much more fun show that I expected, particularly since I was less than thrilled about most of the matches going in.
WWE was fully in "I'll do what I want and you'll like it" mode in 2006, making booking decisions that were absurdly perplexing to many of the fans.  John Cena was not getting over in the expected fashion, as about half the crowd started booing him on a regular basis.  His match here against Triple H was possibly the most infamous example of this, as easily half the Chicago crowd were rabidly cheering for Hunter to destroy WWE's new posterboy.  The match itself was very solid, partly thanks to the fans in the arena, and Hunter repeated his 'Mania 20-ending tapout in the center of the ring to help elevate Cena.

This looks awfully familiar....

The Smackdown brand's champion Kurt Angle defended his Title in a Triple Threat against Randy Orton and 2006 Rumble winner Rey Mysterio, in a match that fell horribly short of expectations due to the time constraints.  I'll never understand why this match only got 9 minutes when it was supposed to elevate Mysterio to the main event.  It was an excellent free TV match but just an okay 'Mania bout, and Mysterio would go on to have one of the worst Title reigns of all time as the company seemingly went out of its way to bury him in every non-title match.

Conversely one match that got a stupidly excessive amount of time was Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon, in a glorified 18-minute squash.  This match was completely one-sided for almost the entire duration and most of the action was run-of-the-mill garbage stuff until Shawn hit an elbow drop off a 12-foot ladder, smashing Vince through a table.  Eighteen minutes for one memorable spot.  Simply stunning.

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Promotions

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at

It's WrestleMania season, which always gets me thinking about nerdy things having to do with the Showcase of the Immortals.  I previously wrote about WrestleMania Demotions, citing ten examples of a particular star going from a position of great prominence one year to an afterthought the next (poor Randy Savage suffered this fate twice).  But in the spirit of positivity let's take a look at ten examples of the opposite situation.  There have been times when a given talent either opens the show or only gets scraps at the WrestleMania table one year and is then catapulted to a potentially career-making moment the following year.  Here are ten such scenarios...

1. King Kong Bundy - WrestleMania 1 to 2

The monstrous Bundy made a statement in his WrestleMania debut, literally squashing jobber to the stars S.D. Jones in what was meant to be a record-setting nine seconds but actually went more like 24.  Still it was a one-sided, dominant appearance that helped establish the 450-pound monster with a wider audience and groom him as one of the company's top heels.  Just one year later Bundy would challenge WWF Champion Hulk Hogan in a steel cage match at the second WrestleMania, enjoying a career peak as Hogan's most forbidding opponent to date.  Bundy was sadly never positioned at that level again, and if you refer to my Demotions list, he found himself way back down the card a year after this.  But going from a 24-second undercard squash one year to a huge main event the next is quite a promotion.

2. Chris Jericho - WrestleMania 17 to 18

WrestleMania X-Seven is considered by most to be the apex of the Attitude Era, a culmination of everything the WWF product had evolved into during the Monday Night War, as well as a celebration of their total victory over WCW.  Chris Jericho arrived in the WWF late in the ratings war and wasn't yet positioned as one of the very top guys by early 2001, more a beneficiary of the WWF's dominance than a factor in getting them there.  Thus his match at WM17 was a brief Intercontinental Title defense to open the show.  But one year later he found himself the company's top champion, seemingly being groomed as one of the next class of main eventers.  On paper everything looked great; Jericho would defend the Undisputed WWF Title (just unified with WCW's version) against Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania X8.  Unfortunately egos and bad booking got in the way, and this feud was horribly botched from start to finish.  Jericho was booked as a fluke champion, and worse, he was the third wheel in Hunter and Stephanie's recent onscreen breakup, being presented as Steph's whipping boy instead of as the company's top heel.  The resulting match was an underwhelming foregone conclusion, and Jericho quickly fell down the card over the next several months.  Still, Chris Jericho went from WrestleMania curtain jerker to main eventer in the span of one year - no small feat.

3. Kurt Angle - WrestleMania 18 to 19

The same year Chris Jericho was headlining the show, Kurt Angle was thrown into the midcard against Kane, in a serviceable but fairly forgettable affair - frankly a rather shabby way to have treated one of the more important figures in the Invasion angle.  But 2002 was the year Angle really proved himself as a main event player, delivering stupendous PPV matches against Edge, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, and Los Guerreros (the vaunted Smackdown Six Era).  By year's end Angle had won the WWE Championship, and the WrestleMania plan was for him to put over WWE's newest main event sensation Brock Lesnar.  This dream match of collegiate wrestling champions was almost derailed when Angle discovered he needed neck surgery, but he opted to tough it out for the one match before going under the knife.  The result was a classic 'Mania main event (and the first PPV main event in over five years to not include Austin, Rock, Triple H or Undertaker) that showcased both men's grappling skills and climaxed with a horrifyingly botched shooting star press from Lesnar.  In just over 365 days Kurt Angle went from a secondary player to a WrestleMania elite.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

WWE Smackdown: Why Asuka Should Go To AEW

Remember when WWE would announce a big match for WrestleMania and your anticipation would build as the big day got closer?  Good times, right?  Whatever happened to that idea?

WWE Photo

I resisted the urge to begin this article with the phrase "fuck this company," so as to not sound as genuinely angry as I am.  Last night, in an effort to further load up a WrestleMania main event that didn't need further loading, Vince decided to throw out the planned Fatal 4-Way to determine a #1 Contender to Asuka's Smackdown Women's Title and just had Asuka defend against Charlotte, with no buildup whatsoever.  Oh, and she lost.  So now Ronda-Becky-Charlotte involves both Women's champions for no reason, and Asuka has nothing to do at WrestleMania.  Isn't that just fuckin' peachy.

Look, I realize Asuka's planned title defense at 'Mania wasn't going to be a featured match.  Hell, it probably would've been bumped to the pre-show, on a PPV with 17 matches.  That's fine.  It still would've been an easy, dominant title defense that would've made her look strong and she could've moved on to a better opponent later.  Now she's just one of the girls who wasn't important enough to have a real match and she'll presumably be stuck in the ever-pointless pre-show battle royal, that will be won by a comedy act anyway.  Fuck this company.  See?  There it is.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Top Ten Things: Kurt Angle Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!

Today I'll be counting down the top ten matches of probably the greatest pure athlete ever to lace up a pair of pro wrestling boots, Kurt Freakin' Angle.  Angle made easily the most successful-ever transition from the amateur/Olympic mat to the WWF/E ring, picking up the mechanics and storytelling nuances faster than possibly anyone before him.  After only a few years in the business Angle became a company MVP, delivering dozens of Match of the Year candidates during his seven-year WWF/E run.  He then very unexpectedly signed with TNA and repeated his in-ring success there, proving himself a cornerstone for the better part of a decade.

In 2017 Angle returned "home," having expressed a desire to finish his career where it started, in WWE (also accepting a Hall of Fame induction), and in just a couple weeks he'll officially end his career at The Show of Shows.  I imagine he'll transition into a full-time non-wrestling role of some kind; I for one would love to see him as a manager-type for a promising young star who needs a mouthpiece.  But whatever his role, one can't deny the tremendous impact Kurt Angle has had on the business.

So now, let's take a look back at the best matches in Kurt Angle's remarkable career....

10. Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle - WWE WrestleMania XX - 3.14.04

The billed semi-main event for the 20th WrestleMania was Eddie Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle for the WWE Title.  This was an instant classic with fantastic performances by both men, and had one of the cleverest endings I can remember (Eddie loosened his boot so that when Angle put him in the anklelock it would slip off his foot.  Then when Angle charged at him, Eddie nailed a small package for the win.  A perfect way for the Eddie Guerrero character to steal a victory.)

9. Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe - TNA Turning Point - 12.10.06

Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle was easily the greatest (and most profitable) feud in TNA history, and this was their best match together.  Only weeks after his TNA debut, Angle won their shockingly brief first encounter at Genesis, but now it was time for Joe to even the score.  After 19 minutes of spectacular back-and-forth chain wrestling and submissions, Joe finally made Angle tap out to the Coquina Clutch, ending one of the best matches of 2006.

8. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit - WWE Unforgiven - 9.22.02

The two best technical wrestlers in the company (and probably the world) at this time engaged in a legendary on/off feud from 2001-2003, and while not the apex of said rivalry (Hint: there's more Angle vs. Benoit on this list), this match is near the top.  There was no major angle taking place between Angle and Benoit, this was just a battle for dominance.  They built on their 2001 match series and delivered a blistering 15-minute clinic with nary a low point.  Benoit eventually won with a quick rollup, and these two would go on to become reluctant tag partners in the quest for the new WWE Tag Team Titles.

The History of WrestleMania: XIX

Despite a pretty bad build, WWE managed to pull off a classic show in 2003.

Safeco Field - 3/30/03

This has to be the most stacked card I've ever seen.  I can't recall any other PPV where the last five matches are good enough and/or big enough to be a main event.  'Mania 19 is really quite something.

The main event was Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title, and this marked the first WWE PPV since December 1997 wher the main event did not include Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, or the Undertaker.  For someone like me who was burned out on the Attitude Era Big Four, this was a real breath of fresh air.  Angle and Lesnar put on a wrestling clinic that featured suplexes and reversals galore, and culminated in one of the most frightening botched spots in wrestling history. 
Brock Lesnar went for a Shooting Star Press, a move he had performed dozens of times in OVW and planned to debut in a WWE ring.  Unfortunately he positioned Angle two-thirds of the way across the ring and there was no way he could've gotten both the distance needed and the rotation.  Lesnar landed on his head and ended up pushing Angle out of the way.  It's a miracle he squeaked by with only a concussion.  But they finished the match and it was a classic.

How this didn't result in Lesnar's untimely demeez is beyond me.

If Angle-Lesnar was the #1 match of 'Mania 19, Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho was #1A.  In a classic student vs. teacher-type bout, Shawn proved himself just as good as before he walked away from the ring in 1998, and Jericho proved himself just as good as Michaels (no small feat by any stretch).  This was a dazzling mix of aerial wrestling, mat technique, and plain ol' drama.  Personally I think Jericho should've won, but his kick to Shawn's junk after the match was a great exclamation point on a fantastic bout.

Say it with me: Right. In. The Dick.

'Mania 19 had a pair of huge marquee matches late in the card, the first of which was Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon's violent, bloody brawl that should've been a stinker but ended up pretty damn good, if about five minutes too long.  The match features probably my favorite evil Vince moment, as the camera zoomed in on him peeking menacingly over the ring apron while clutching a lead pipe.
The second match of this one-two combination was the final Rock-Austin encounter; their third WrestleMania match and their fifth PPV match overall.  It ended up being Austin's swan song and allowed him to pass a torch of sorts to The Rock (who also left the company shortly thereafter, but finally got a PPV win over his old rival).  It was arguably better than their 'Mania 15 match but not as good as the 'Mania 17 one.

Monday, March 25, 2019

NJPW New Japan Cup 2019 Top Ten Matches

Image result for new japan cup 2019

The New Japan Cup is in the history books and we got the result most of us were expecting.  Kazuchika Okada will challenge Jay White at Madison Square Garden for the IWGP Title.  This tourney boasted the biggest field of all time, with 32 men vying for this historic opportunity.  Overall it was a very enjoyable tour, with loads of restaurant-quality matches and some unexpected twists along the way, plus some refreshing new faces.  I won't go into detail about every match, but I've narrowed down what I feel were the ten best entries, in chronological order.  Okada is represented in four of these matches, which for me unequivocally makes him the tourney MVP.

1. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Yuji Nagata (March 8th) - ****1/4

These two grizzled bastards beat the piss out of each other and it was glorious.  What a way to kick off this tournament.

2. Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin (March 9th) - ****1/4

While not the best match these guys have had together, this was an excellent showing that left welts on Okada's chest for the duration of the tourney.

3. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shota Umino (March 10th) - ****

This Shota Umino kid has it, man.  He's gonna be a major player someday.  What a gallant performance in standing toe-to-toe with the icon Tanahashi.  From a pure storytelling standpoint this was one of the best matches of the tour.

Movies of Disbelief: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Welcome to another installment of Movies of Disbelief, here at, where I examine one aspect of an otherwise okay or even a great film and discuss why it sticks in my craw.

Today's subject is one of my favorite movies of all time, ALL TIME.  It's the action film I hold above all other action films, and the one that solidified Harrison Ford as my first childhood hero.  I'm talkin' about Raiders of the Lost Ark!

The brainchild of George Lucas, Raiders was conceived around the same time as the original Star Wars, with Lucas paying homage to the adventure and sci-fi serials he enjoyed as a kid.  Both ideas began to flourish simultaneously but he set aside the earthbound action-adventure one and concentrated on what would become the most enduring sci-fi/fantasy franchise of all time.  Once Star Wars became the phenomenon it did, Lucas then turned to his other big idea, revealing it to his buddy Steven Spielberg after Steve suggested he'd like to direct a James Bond film.  Lucas replied, "I've got something better - The Adventures of Indiana Smith!"  After Lucas finished describing the concept in detail, Spielberg said he was all-in except for the name.  Lucas then suggested "Indiana Jones," and history was made.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was a masterful swashbuckler, chock full of iconic action set pieces and led by an equally iconic lead performance from Ford, whom Lucas initially wasn't even considering for the role, fearing that the actor-director pairing would be the popcorn version of Deniro-Scorsese.  Tom Selleck was eventually chosen as the world-traveling archaeologist, but ran into scheduling issues due to his Magnum PI commitments, and Spielberg again suggested Ford.  Had it not been for Magnum we'd have ended up with a very different movie.

Mustachioed Jones

Friday, March 22, 2019

The History of WrestleMania: 2000

And we've arrived at a new millennium!

Arrowhead Pond - 4/2/00

The year 2000 saw the WWF freshen up its product in a major way.  The influx of WCW castoffs and new homegrown stars led to tremendous improvements in the in-ring product, and the absence of Steve Austin for most of the year forced the company to elevate several other uppercard talents.

That year's WrestleMania goes down as probably the strangest of the bunch, as the roster had gotten so large that everyone had to be crammed into multi-man matches and tag bouts.  In fact this edition of 'Mania featured nary a traditional singles match.

The main event saw entirely too much focus put on the McMahon Family squabbles, as each of the McMahons accompanied one of the participants to the ring.  Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Big Show vs. Mick Foley was a pretty good if overly long main event match, but sadly the company's owners took way too much of the spotlight.  This show holds the distinction of being the first 'Mania card to end with a heel Champion.

Say what you want about him now, but in 2000 Triple H was a BAMF.

Three of the WWF's newest stars got their chance to steal the show as Kurt Angle defended the I-C and European Titles against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit in a 2-Falls Triple Threat.  The match was nothing amazing, but it was a solid showing by three of the company's future main eventers.

Also on the card was a highly entertaining six-person tag match between the Radicalz (Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn), and Too Cool & Chyna. The wrong team won, but it was a fun, fast-paced bout.

The match that stole the show however was the three-way ladder match for the Tag Team Titles - The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz.  The WWF was in the midst of a tag team renaissance, and these three teams rose to the top of the division, in no small part due to their performance here.  This match took what Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon had done six years earlier and put the ladder match into overdrive.  The action was violent, explosive, and brutal, and 22 minutes later the TLC match was born.  Edge and Christian won the titles and soon after invented the comedic heel personas that took them to the next level, the Dudley Boyz became synonymous with table spots, and the Hardy Boyz established themselves as fearless daredevils for the rest of their careers.

These six men are obviously psychotic.....

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Ultimate Dream WrestleMania, Part 1

Welcome to a special presentation - The Ultimate Dream WrestleMania!

I've presented a few WWE vs. NJPW dream cards which can be read HEREHERE, HERE and HERE, but I thought I'd put together an ultimate fantasy WrestleMania card using stars of the past and present, and including a bevy of dream matches we all wanted to see but never got to.  The one self-imposed rule for this show was every match had to be something we'll never see in a wrestling ring (minus one partial exception in Part 2).  Also for the purposes of this piece, assume every competitor is in his respective prime years.

For a show of this magnitude, a) the only appropriate venue is The Pontiac Silverdome as it looked in 1987, and b) the lineup is so huge it would take place over two nights (and this column will be in two parts)!  Nearly 100,000 fans would pack this majestic stadium (TWICE!) in anticipation of twenty of the greatest and most colossal bouts in the history of our sport (Thanks Tony!).

At the commentary table is Good Ol' JR and Jesse Ventura, and the ring announcer is of course Howard Finkel.

Let's take you to the action!


Anderson & Blanchard vs. The Hardy Boyz

It's the quintessential flashy aerial babyface team vs. the rugged, no-frills veteran heels.  The Hardy Boyz would dominate the early going with tandem offense and impossibly quick tags, keeping their slower opponents off-balance.  But after several minutes Arn and Tully would find an underhanded tactic to turn the tide, isolating Jeff and working to destroy his legs.  Jeff would fight valiantly, finally tagging in Matt, and all hell would break loose.  After twelve minutes The Hardyz would hit the Twist of Fate/Swanton combo on Tully, but a distracted official would miss Arn coming off the top rope with an elbow on Jeff and rolling Tully on top of him.  The sneak attack would be good for three.

Lex Luger vs. The Ultimate Warrior

This power vs. power match would be succinct and intense.  Luger would try to counter the Warrior's ferocity with a more measured approach, slowing the pace and working the back to soften it up for the Torture Rack.  Warrior meanwhile would attempt to pummel Luger into oblivion and go for a quick finish.  After eight minutes, Warrior would escape the Rack, bouncing off the ropes with a devastating flying tackle.  Luger would regain his feet only to be leveled with a second, and a third.  Luger would stumble back up and walk into a gorilla press/big splash combination, giving Warrior the duke.

Randy Orton vs. Mr. Perfect

Possibly the two cagiest participants in this whole extravaganza are Mr. Perfect and "The Viper," both of whom would start this match very cautiously, each prepared for the other to use the most devious of maneuvers.  Orton would find a break early on and work over Perfect's head and neck with his methodical, sadistic attack.  Perfect would rally late in the match with a faster-paced assault.  After eleven minutes Perfect would take advantage of a missed Orton dropkick and hook on the PerfectPlex, but Orton would knee him in the face with his free leg, twist his body, and level Perfect with a game-winning RKO Outta Nowhere!

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Demotions

Hey everyone, welcome back to another Top Ten Things, here at

In anticipation of this year's spring extravaganza, I thought I'd go back and take a look at some of the worst WrestleMania demotions in history.  What do I mean by that?  Well I'm talking about instances where a particular wrestler either main evented or semi-main evented a WrestleMania one year, only to get the booking shaft at the following 'Mania.  I picked the ten most glaring examples of this and I'm presenting them in chronological order.  Here we go.

1. Paul Orndorff - Main Eventer to Curtain Jerker

"Mr. Wonderful" was one of the great WWF heels of the 80s.  His feuds against Hulk Hogan were the stuff of legend.  Unfortunately Orndorff was also kind of a split personality, character-wise.  Nowadays certain wrestlers turn face and heel with the frequency of an 80-year-old with incontinence (see Show, Big), but in the 80s a character turn was a big deal.  Orndorff however was unusually fickle, feuding with Hogan, befriending him six months later, turning on him again, befriending him again, etc. 

Orndorff headlined the inaugural WrestleMania, teaming with Roddy Piper against Hogan and Mr. T.  Despite taking the pinfall, Orndorff was featured in one of the biggest matches in company history.  At 'Mania 2 though, a babyface Orndorff found himself opening the show in a totally forgettable four-minute double countout with Don Muraco.  Thus the tradition of WrestleMania Stock Drops began.

2. King Kong Bundy - Caged Monster to Comedy Act

King Kong Bundy was a legitimately scary dude in 1986.  He was a 6'4", 450-pound wall of humanity with a shaved head, whose finisher simply consisted of squashing a guy in the corner of the ring.  He challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title at 'Mania 2 in a Steel Cage match (The first and only time a WrestleMania has been headlined by such a bout).  While no five-star classic, the match cemented Bundy as an imposing threat to the Title.  Fast-forward a year later, and Bundy was stuck in a goofy comedy match, teaming with two minis against perennial jobber-to-the-stars Hillbilly Jim and two other minis.  After only three-plus minutes, Bundy earned a disqualification by bodyslamming Little Beaver.  A far cry from nearly dethroning the WWF Champion the previous year.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The History of WrestleMania: 13

A "lost smile" threw a wrench into the WWF's plans for WrestleMania 13, but they managed to make some lemonade.  Mixed metaphors.....

Rosemont Horizon - 3/23/97 

1997 was the WWF's ratings nadir during the Monday Night War with WCW.  They were right in the middle of an 82-week trouncing, and their PPV buyrates reflected that - 'Mania 13 did an abysmal .72 I believe.

But early '97 was also the very beginning of the Attitude era, before the WWF even fully acknowledged that the business was radically changing.  Snow-white babyface characters were no longer cool to cheer for; instead it was a foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, redneck bully named Steve Austin who captured the fans' imagination and became their hero.  The company was about to switch gears in a major way.

The WWF's original plan for WrestleMania 13's centerpiece was a rematch of Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels from the previous year.  Shawn apparently suffered a knee injury just 6 weeks before the big show (which may or may not have been a way to avoid doing the job for Bret) and announced that he'd be taking time off indefinitely, thus relinquishing the WWF Title.  This left the company scrambling for a new main event to build the show around. 

Sucky main event, but this was a nice moment

Two title changes later, and the belt was back around the waist of Sycho Sid, who it was announced would be defending against The Undertaker (marking the first time Taker would challenge for a championship at WrestleMania).  Seemingly Taker and Sid tried to emulate the Taker-Diesel match from 'Mania 12, but unfortunately it failed to live up to that match, and a subpar main event was the result.  This match went too long and, as was often the case, Sid looked lost for much of it.  Taker finally won the WWF Title however, giving the show a feel-good ending.

The other big matchup was the aforementioned Steve Austin vs. an angry, edgier Bret Hart in a no holds barred Submission match, with UFC import Ken Shamrock as the guest referee.  The ensuing battle was nothing short of legendary.  From an action standpoint there have certainly been better matches (including Bret-Austin 1 at Survivor Series '96, IMO), but I can't think of a better example of pure storytelling in a wrestling match.  Bret went into this match the babyface and left a reviled, vicious heel.  Austin went into the match a nasty bully and emerged as a gallant, tough-as-nails hero.  The visual of Austin being trapped in Bret's Sharpshooter as torrents of blood streamed down his face became one of pro wrestling's iconic images.  Masterful work by both guys.

Is there a more violently iconic image in the history of wrestling?

The Great PPVs: WrestleMania X

Welcome to another edition of The Great PPVs, here at and!

Today I'll be revisiting another classic WrestleMania PPV, specifically the apex of the New Generation era, WrestleMania X!

'Mania 10 was the first WrestleMania I ever ordered on PPV (I'd gone to see WM5 on closed-circuit TV), and also the first WWF PPV in a while that I was urgently stoked for.  At the time I was a huge Lex Luger fan (yeah I know), and had been following his main event babyface push intently.  Vince was for several months banking on Luger becoming the next Hulk Hogan, repackaging him as an all-American hero, feuding him against the monstrous WWF Champion Yokozuna, and giving him a countout win in the main event of SummerSlam '93.  I was disappointed that he'd failed to capture the belt that night, but figured it was all building to a rematch at WrestleMania.  When Luger and Bret Hart became co-winners of the 1994 Royal Rumble (something that's never happened before or since), I thought, "This is his time, it's gonna happen!"  Due to the double winner, it was announced that Yokozuna would defend the title against one Rumble winner, and the second would face the champ later in the show.  I was sure Luger would finally unseat Yoko and then successfully defend against Bret in the main event, a match I was beyond excited to see.

Little did I know that the fans overall just weren't that into Luger as the top guy, and it was Bret who'd captured their attention and affection.  WrestleMania X would be a transformative show for me; as my childlike fascination with the already past-his-prime Luger would begin to fade, and my new appreciation for the company's two best workhorses, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, was just beginning.  Bret was one of those wrestlers I liked a lot, but he was never my favorite guy.  When he beat Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental Title in 1991 I was a little bummed because I liked Perfect better.  When he upset Ric Flair for the WWF Title I was excited at the company's new direction, but was sad that Randy Savage was no longer the focus.  By late 1993 I was all aboard the Lex Express, and Bret was probably my third-favorite babyface, after Lex and The Undertaker.  Meanwhile Shawn had caught my attention with great performances at Survivor Series 1992 and 1993 (both against Bret, coincidentally).

Bret had just begun a feud against his brother Owen, which I figured would occupy him for months and thus he wouldn't regain the title just yet.  After a coin flip that determined Luger as the first challenger, Bret would face Owen before getting his own title shot.  This was another match I couldn't wait to see, and I expected a classic.

The other bout of interest was Shawn Michaels challenging Intercontinental Champ Razor Ramon, which was changed to a Ladder Match shortly before 'Mania.  My only familiarity with Ladder Matches at this point were a pretty terrible Dusty Rhodes-Tully Blanchard match in 1985 and a disappointing Bret-Shawn bout that took place in 1992.  Thus my initial reaction to this announcement was "Dude, whyyyy??"  Keeping with this show's apparent theme of defying my expectations, the Ladder Match would prove me wrong in a profound way.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Top Ten Things: Debut WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to yet another Top Ten Things, here at!

It's WrestleMania season and that means my brain looks for 'Mania-related nonsense to write about.  You can read a few of my previous such lists HERE, HERE and HERE.

Today I'll be talking about the greatest WrestleMania debuts in history.  By that I don't mean wrestlers who actually debuted at WrestleMania; that would be a short list that more or less begins and ends with Fandango (God, they actually jobbed out Chris Jericho to that guy....).  No, I mean the first WrestleMania match of a given wrestler or tag team (or in some cases multiple stars in the same match).  Looking back at the history of this great annual tradition, there have been some quite notable WrestleMania rookie performances.  In some cases a new star was launched right into the main event of the biggest show of the year, something that's basically unthinkable in today's WWE, where WrestleMania is more often than not The Showcase of Semi-Retirees.

But enough complaining; here, in chronological order, are the ten greatest performances by WrestleMania rookies (plus four honorable mentions).  As noted, there are a couple of entries where I included every participant in a given match due to all of them being 'Mania first-timers.

Honorable Mentions

Ted Dibiase made his WrestleMania debut in the 1988 WWF Title tournament, lasting all the way to the finals and the main event, and coming withing a hair of winning the championship.

Kane's first 'Mania match was a near-show stealer of a semi-main event, as he took his onscreen brother The Undertaker to the limit.

Japanese sensation Shinsuke Nakamura made his 'Mania debut in a very good (not quite great) WWE Title match against AJ Styles, after winning the 2018 men's Royal Rumble.

Former UFC crossover star Ronda Rousey made her WrestleMania debut in 2018 as well, tagging with Kurt Angle to defeat Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and shining a much bigger spotlight on the women's division.

1. British Bulldogs - WrestleMania 2

Davey Boy and Dynamite became a WWF tag team in 1985 and pretty quickly climbed the ranks, due in no small part to the excellent matches they were having with fellow Stampede Wrestling alums The Hart Foundation.  Their tag team feud was pretty legendary and brought new levels of athleticism to the WWF tag division, which up until that point mostly consisted of informal pairings of singles stars.  The Bulldogs would challenge Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake for the straps at the second WrestleMania, stealing the show in a hard-hitting, action-packed bout that culminated in one of the more unorthodox finishes I can remember; Davey rammed Valentine's head into Dynamite's rock-hard skull, knocking both of them out, and covered "The Hammer" for the win.  It was unusual but it got the job done, and the Bulldogs enjoyed a 10-month reign before being dethroned by their old rivals, Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart.

2. Demolition - WrestleMania IV

Echoing the Bulldogs' quick rise to fame, in 1987 longtime WWF midcarder Bill Eadie was teamed with NWA import Barry Darsow to form a Road Warriors-esque tandem called Demolition.  Ax and Smash, as they were now known, instantly caught the attention of the fans, with their rugged, smashmouth brawling style and colorful, intimidating appearance.  Strong booking and solid in-ring performances helped Demolition stand out from both the other WWF teams and their inspiration The Road Warriors, and by WrestleMania IV they were challenging Strike Force for the titles.  After a 12-minute battle, Demolition's manager Mr. Fuji handed Ax his cane, which was used to knock out Rick Martel and win Ax & Smash the championship.  Their first reign would "smash" all previous longevity records in the tag team division, lasting a whopping 16 months (a record that stood for 27 years) and cementing Demolition as one of the all-time great teams.

3. Nasty Boys - WrestleMania VII

Wow, ANOTHER tag team.  I'm gonna be honest, I never got why Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags were pushed in every promotion they wrestled for.  I was never impressed with them in any capacity, and in the case of their WWF run I'm sure at least part of it was because of their friendship with Hulk Hogan.  But whatever the reason, Knobbs & Sags became number-one contenders for the tag belts a scant three months after their WWF debut (by winning a tag team battle royal), and at WrestleMania VII they captured the titles from the Hart Foundation, after which Bret and Jim went their separate ways.  The Nastys held the belts until SummerSlam when they ran into a brick wall known as The Legion of Doom.  They'd never win the titles again, and by early 1993 they were fired from the WWF.  But their 1991 rise to the top was shall we say, meteoric.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Brewery Reviewery: Cape Cod Beer (Hyannis, MA)

Welcome to another installment of Brewery Reviewery, here at, where I visit a local purveyor of craft beer, sample some flavors, and report back.  This past weekend I hit up Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis, MA, where no fewer than 15 beers were up for the tasting, plus a whole lot of other local goings-on.

Cape Cod Beer
1336 Phinneys Lane
Hyannis, MA 02601

The tasting room is located in part of their warehouse building, behind the retail store (which offers take-home growlers, cans and official Cape Cod Beer merch).  In addition to beer pours there was a slew of local vendors peddling their wares, from specialty salts to hot sauces to crafts.  The brewery also features a pop-up kitchen with rich & tasty comfort food.

In terms of beer options, Cape Cod lets you either order full-pint pours or go with a flight of five beers.  I started with the latter before settling on a favorite.  Here's the rundown:

Narrow Lands NEIPA: Soft malt character and little-to-no yeast character, juicy, double dry-hopped New England IPA is easy-drinking with a crisp, clean base that allows the hops to shine through.  Double dry-hopped with Citra and Mosaic, this easy-drinking beer has the bright fruit notes of grapefruit, guava, mango and orange rind.  The hops give this beer another level of thirst-quenching bite that is still soft and mellow.  Clean mouthfeel, juicy hops and a crisp-dry finish.  ABV: 5.9%

JB: This New England-style IPA was a little less citrusy than I could've wished, but it was balanced and pleasant, and easy to drink.  I've recently become obsessed with NEIPAs so I go out of my way to try new ones whenever I can.  This one was alright.

Big Sea Saison: Big Sea Saison is a single-hopped farmhouse ale that features Sorachi Ace, a hop that was originally developed in Japan.  This hop is cultivated from the famed Brewer's Gold and Saaz hops and is known for its lemony flavor.  The beer has a bright citrus overtone matched with an effervescent, dry finish.  ABV: 5.25%

JB: I'm a big fan of saisons and this was one of the standouts of the day, with a good mix of citrus flavor and a bit of spice.  I ended up buying a couple four-packs of this, both because I really enjoyed it and because as a seasonal offering it was 50% off.  Lovely stuff, this one.

The History of WrestleMania: X

Yeah, you know the drill.  Moving into the era of The New WWF Generation.....

Madison Square Garden - 3/20/94

For the tenth edition of 'Mania, the WWF returned to the hallowed Madison Square Garden.  This installment featured not one, but two WWF Title matches, as co-Rumble winners Bret Hart and Lex Luger each got a crack at Yokozuna's championship.

However it was the opening bout and a match where Shawn Michaels danced with a ladder that stole the show.

Since Luger won the coin toss to face Yokozuna first (not sure why that's winning exactly, but ok), Bret had to wrestle a secondary match prior to getting his own title shot.  Luckily for everyone, he had just begun a feud with his brother Owen, and the Hart brothers tore the house down in the opening contest.  Famously the brothers had worked out an action-packed, high-flying match but Bret realized the night before the event that a bunch of aerial moves would get Owen cheered instead of booed.  So they scrapped everything and started over.  No complaints from me - this match was twenty minutes of some of the finest wrestling I've ever seen, capped off by a career-making win for Owen. 

Still one of the best matches of all time

One of the weirder matches I've witnessed took place third on the card, as Randy Savage fought Crush in a variation of a Falls Count Anywhere match.  Now I'm not sure if someone in charge was drunk when they came up with this, or if they were just confused by the FCA rules, but in this case the object was to pin your opponent outside the ring, roll back into the ring, and hope the opponent couldn't get back in within 60 seconds.  There were three falls in this match before Crush finally failed to get back within the time limit, which meant that in a 9-minute match, nearly 3 full minutes consisted of one of the wrestlers waiting inside the ring for the other to climb back in.  Did TNA come up with these rules?

Friday, March 15, 2019

The History of WrestleMania: VII

It's a Star-Spangled a tiny venue....

L.A. Sports Arena - 3/24/91

The seventh installment ended up being one of the most forgettable.  What was intended to be a record-smashing supershow in front of 100,000 fans at the L.A. Coliseum was relegated to the 15,000-seat Sports Arena when ticket sales fell horribly short of expectations.  That will happen though when your main event is little more than the exploitation of a minor real-life skirmish in the Middle East.  Why the WWF thought the US vs. Iraq angle would draw big business I'm not sure, especially since the real conflict ended over a month before WrestleMania.

Sgt. Slaughter was inexplicably brought in as a turncoat and almost immediately handed the WWF Title at the Royal Rumble, all so he could face the American Hero Hulk Hogan.  Surely a Hogan vs. Warrior rematch would've drawn the numbers they wanted, so I'm still unclear why they didn't go that route.

The match was what it was.  It certainly could've been worse, but it definitely wasn't good.  It's widely considered one of, if not THE worst all-time WrestleMania main event.  Slaughter was about as unworthy a WWF Champion as there's ever been and it was a sad day indeed when Hulk Hogan is by far the better worker in a given match.  This meandering brawl lasted over 21 minutes before Hogan mercifully put an end to the proceeding with the ol' big boot-legdrop combo.

Yep.  Can't imagine why this didn't sell 100,000 tickets.

'Mania 7 was saved however by the semi-main event of Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior, with the stipulation that the loser would have to retire.  This feud had been brewing for several months while Warrior was WWF Champion, but Savage was battling nagging injuries and was thus unable to compete for a while.  Though I don't consider this match nearly as great as most do, it was easily one of the WWF's best of 1991.  This match paved the way for the overuse of finishers in big matchups (see Austin vs. Rock).  Savage hit five flying elbow smashes in a row and failed to get the pin, and the Warrior finally won after three flying tackles.  Post-match Savage's manager Sherri Martel attacked him, having lost her meal ticket due to the retirement stip.  Who should come to Savage's rescue but Miss Elizabeth, much to the delight and tears of the crowd.  Savage would spend the next several months as a commentator before returning to action that November.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The History of WrestleMania: IV

Welcome to Part 2 of's History of WrestleMania.  Today I'll be covering 'Manias 4 through 6.  Let's get to it!

Trump Plaza - 3/27/88
'Mania IV was assembled with the intent of giving us the biggest edition to date, with the centerpiece being the first-ever WWF World Title tournament, the result of a controversial Hulk Hogan-Andre the Giant match on NBC that saw Hogan screwed out of the Championship only for Andre to turn around and sell the belt to Ted Dibiase.  WrestleMania IV featured a huge roster and was expanded to four hours to accommodate the sprawling 16-match card.

Unfortunately this show suffered from simply having too much going on.  The tournament involved 14 men and all by itself necessitated 11 matches.  As a result almost none of the tourney matches, including the final, were given enough time to be very memorable.  The venue is also a far cry from the Silverdome, Trump Plaza being a rather cavernous arena where the crowd consisted largely of Donald Trump's business associates who showed almost no enthusiasm for the four-hour wrestling bonanza.

This was goofy fun

The undercard featured a battle royal (which was fun but of little importance except as a way to turn Bret Hart babyface after he was doublecrossed by Bad News Brown), Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules in a clash of powerhouses (which was so short as to barely warrant a mention), a British Bulldogs/Koko vs. Islanders/Bobby Heenan six-man tag (which was nowhere near as good as the previous year's Bulldogs-Harts match).

There were also two title matches - I-C Champion The Honky Tonk Man faced the wildly popular Brutus Beefcake in a brief and forgettable DQ loss, while Strike Force and Demolition was one of the few strong matches on the card, ending with Ax murdering Rick Martel with Mr. Fuji's cane in a finish very similar to the WrestleMania I Tag Title match.  Thus began Demolition's record-breaking title run.

The WWF Title tournament itself was fine in theory but very diluted in execution.  Only four of the 14 participants really had a chance of leaving 'Mania as the Champion, and two of them were eliminated in their first match.  The Hogan vs. Andre quarterfinal bout marked the first time a WrestleMania featured a rematch from the previous year.  Sadly where their 1987 encounter was extremely memorable and has achieved legendary status, its 1988 threequel was little more than a throwaway designed to get both men out of the tournament.  Really the only standout match in this entire tourney was the first-round match between Ricky Steamboat and Greg Valentine.  Everything else was either too short (Bam Bam Bigelow vs. One Man Gang for example), inoffensive but instantly forgettable (Dibiase vs. Don Muraco), or yawn-inducing (Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude).

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The History of WrestleMania: I

Hello and welcome to this special blog, The History of WrestleMania!  This 12-part column will discuss and dissect all 34 previous installments of the annual supercard and determine what I feel were the highlights and lowlights each year.

WrestleMania season is usually one of my favorite times of the year, and I always find myself reflecting back on the storied history of this great spectacle.  I think about some of my favorite 'Mania matches, what makes a great 'Mania card, and why some shows were so successful while others really don't deserve to fall under the WrestleMania banner.  For the record, I'm writing this piece completely from memory, which should give you some idea of how sad and twisted I am.

So without further prattling on, let's get to it.

Madison Square Garden - 3/31/85

This of course was the show that started it all.  The great McMahon gamble that paid off not in spades, but truckloads of money.  This was one of the first truly mainstream wrestling events on a national scale, and the hype allowed the WWF to break into the pop culture vernacular.

Surprisingly though, the inaugural 'Mania card more resembled a house show than a true supercard.  For one thing, having a tag team match as the main event rather than a WWF Title match seems like such an odd choice.  Hulk Hogan's ongoing feud with Roddy Piper was such a draw it seems like a singles match for the belt would be the natural main event.  However the WWF put that match on MTV that February as a way to hype 'Mania.  Clearly it worked, but it made for kind of a watered-down main event for the supercard.  Hogan/Mr. T vs. Piper/Orndorff was fine for what it was, but I hardly consider it a classic.

I always dug this poster for some reason.
These two guys together would beat Rocky Balboa's ass!

This match also began the trend of celebrities getting involved in big money matches as actual competitors.  It occurs to me that the match would've been greatly improved by swapping T out for Jimmy Snuka.  But I suppose seeing T wrestle was part of the draw.  Mr. T certainly looked like he could hang in the ring with the actual wrestlers but I've always felt that having celebs wrestle damages the business somewhat.  More on that later....

The show was also not very stacked for such a marquee event.  To be fair, the WWF's roster would expand considerably after this show (Savage and Jake would arrive, the Hart Foundation and the British Bulldogs would form).  Elsewhere on the card we had Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd in a bodyslam challenge (again, this felt watered-down since it wasn't a traditional wrestling match but ended when one man bodyslammed the other) which aside from the spectacle was just two nearly immobile guys plodding through a short match.

The first 'Mania also inexplicably featured several glorified squashes.  Tito Santana vs. The Executioner opened the show and was roughly the kind of match you'd see on Wrestling Challenge.  King Kong Bundy vs. S.D. Jones and Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne also fell into that category.  Hardly worthy of the biggest show of all-time (at that point anyway).

First match in WrestleMania history