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Repost: The SmarK Rant for WCW Clash of the Champions XXXIII (08.15.96)

(Not a new post, as I did this one while going through the entire run of Clash shows last year after they got added to the Network.  But since we’re at that point, might as well post it again.)  The SmarK Rant for Clash of the Champions XXXIII (August 1996) Dedicated to the memory of Mark “OfficerFarva” Haas.  (I will also just add that I was going through my inbox tonight to continue my quest of cleaning out stuff that no longer applies or is too dated to answer, and I was saddened to have to archive a bunch of stuff from Mark, because he always had really good discussion material to add but I just couldn’t get to all of it.)  Live from Denver, CO Your hosts are Tony Schiavone & Bobby Heenan Into the nWo era now, shortly after Hogan won the title at Hog Wild, and it’s an entirely different promotion from the last Clash we saw. Hall and Nash are here, Hogan is a heel, Luger is 100% babyface and so are the Four Horsemen. Cruiserweight title: Rey Mysterio v. Dean Malenko Ever notice that Rey and Dean’s music are basically the same thing? Malenko attacks before the bell with a suplex and dumps Rey, but he slides back in and hits Dean with the rana off the apron. Back in, they trade acrobatics and Rey gets a moonsault for two and kicks Dean to the floor. Back in, Dean drops him on the top rope via a powerbomb to take over, and goes to a chinlock. We take a break to shill the official Hog Wild denim jacket (only $89.95!) and return with Dean flinging Rey around the ring until Rey flips into a rollup for two. Rey used to be so fun before all the steroids. Dean goes to the legbar and then launches him into a faceplant for two. Rey tosses Dean and follows with a somersault dive, then moonsaults off the railing in a spot that could have went horribly for him. Back in, springboard dropkick gets two. Rey reverses a tilt-a-whirl for two. West Coast Pop gets two. They fight on top and Dean gets the SUPER EXPLODING GUTBUSTER for the pin, but Rey’s foot is on the ropes. The ref rings the bell, but then takes it back and Rey rolls him up for the pin at 14:20 to retain. This is the time when the cruiserweight division launched into the stratosphere. ***3/4 GLACIER is coming, muthafucka! Keeping in mind this is August 1996 and he didn’t even show up on TV until, what, mid-97? VK Wallstreet v. Hacksaw Jim Duggan The VK Wallstreet gimmick was of course another oh-so-subtle dig at Vince McMahon and his mainstream aspirations. We all know who got the last laugh on that one. Wallstreet immediately makes the mistake of pointing to his head to indicate intelligence, resulting in Duggan beating on him in the corner. Wallstreet bails and gets a cheapshot to take over, and goes to the chinlock. Duggan fights out with a slam and tapes up the fist, but VKM rolls him up and grabs the tights at 3:46. ½* Meanwhile, the Nasty Boys are upset at getting passed over for title shots and people talking shit about them. Well, they can rest easy knowing Sags would soon get forced into early retirement anyway. Konnan v. Ultimo Dragon This could be ugly. Konnan slugs him down and wraps him up in a cloverleaf, but Dragon dropkicks him to the floor and Sonny Onoo gets some kicks in. Back in, Dragon with a moonsault into a cradle for two. German suplex gets two, but Konnan rolls him over and pulls the tights at 3:00 to finish. What agent let them do the same finish two matches in a row? * Meanwhile, Scott Norton attacks Ice Train to break up a Compuserve chat. He’s the ultimate internet troll! Meng v. Randy Savage Macho appears to be a no-show due to nWo beatdown, so Meng wins by forfeit. They show replays to emphasize the point, and Hogan’s chairshots didn’t improve any after WWF mercilessly mocked him on the Billionaire Ted skits. So with that out of the way, Mean Gene interviews the new improved Dungeon of Doom (Sullivan, the Faces of Fear, Hugh Morrus) and Kevin points out that he was trying to destroy Hogan all long and thus should be thanked by everyone. Oh, and then the Leprechaun runs around ringside (not to be confused with Hornswoggle) because WCW. Madusa v. Bull Nakano At least Bull had little worry about getting fired for doing coke in WCW. They practically gave it out at the door. Madusa misses a dropkick and gets tossed around the ring by the hair, but then gets greedy and beats on her with nunchuks. Somehow the ref misses this and the match continues. Madusa comes back with a bad bodypress, but Nakano sits on her for two. Bull goes up and Madusa dropkicks her to the floor and follows with a dive on Onoo. Onoo tries a kick to retaliate, but hits Nakano and Madusa rolls her up for the pin at 2:30. Really, three rollup finishes in a row? *1/2 Meanwhile, Ric Flair and his harem are ready for Hogan’s nonsense. Flair gets a great play off Hogan’s previous promo about how Hogan beat up his best friend by noting that he can’t beat up his own best friend, and neither can Hogan. Diamond Dallas Page v. Eddie Guerrero Last run for heel DDP before the nWo started courting him to lead to his face turn. Eddie gets a headscissors into a dropkick, but charges and hits the post to allow DDP to take over. Gutbuster and tilt-a-whirl slam gets two. Eddie fights back and hits the springboard senton for two, but Page powerbombs him for two. They fight to the top and Eddie shoves him off and finishes with a frog splash at 4:20 to win DDP’s Battlebowl ring. DDP offers a handshake, but then turns on him with a pair of Diamond Cutters to spoil Eddie’s glorious moment. ** Meanwhile, Hogan notes that Flair will be known in the ratings as the stupid little man who couldn’t get the job done. That would be some pretty specific quarter hour information. GLACIER is still kicking stuff! ROADHOUSE! Chris Benoit v. The Giant Very morbid on the Horsemen side, as Benoit and both his valets are gone. Giant was rapidly improving at this point, but this was a quick dropkick and chokeslam at 0:25. It is insinuated that Woman accidentally cost him the match, but I don’t think that went anywhere. This whole period is a blur for me, so I forget if she ended up turning on the Horsemen. WCW Tag titles: Harlem Heat v. The Steiner Brothers v. Sting & Lex Luger Luger gets beat up in the Heat corner but returns fire on Stevie Ray, then Rick Steiner lays both guys out with clotheslines and bulldogs Stevie for two. The Heat takes over on Rick and we take a break. Back with Rick powerslamming booker, but Sting tags himself in and hits a flying chop on Booker for two. Sting with a press slam for two. We get a shockingly boring heat segment with Luger pounding on Rick and nothing of note going on, until Scott comes in with a belly to belly on Lex and it’s a six-way donnybrook. In this commotion, Hall and Nash join us while Scott hits the frankensteiner on Booker, and Nick Patrick calls for the DQ in the middle of his count to screw the Steiners over at 13:00. So I guess it’s a no-contest? Who do you disqualify in a three-way match? *1/2 Nick Patrick gives an interview with Mean Gene afterwards, explaining his actions and sounding like Kenny Powers. WCW World title: Hulk Hogan v. Ric Flair So in the bizarre after-effect of Hogan’s heel turn, people are now cheering him again since the act was so incredibly hot and thus fresh again. Flair works a headlock and they trade taunts, but Hulk goes to work on the arm and Flair fights back with chops. More stalling from Hulk and they do a test of strength before Flair gets tossed out now. Geez, they’ve wrestled each other a zillion times, you’d think they could get something going here. Hogan slugs away in the ring, but Flair suplexes him and Hogan hulks up. The crowd goes nuts for this, so thankfully Hogan phased it out pretty quickly. Legdrop misses and Flair gets the figure-four, so Hogan throws the ref down and the Outsiders run in for the DQ at 8:04. Pretty brutal. * The Pulse Bunch of short, bad matches and TERRIBLE finishes here. Strong recommendation to avoid.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–08.12.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 08.12.96 I was flipping through the channels at work and noticed that on the guide WWE Network was playing Great American Bash 91 tonight, and I thought “What a world we live in where you can just randomly find Bash 91 on a Sunday night”. 20 year old me would have had his mind BLOWN. 40 year old me is like “No wonder they’re losing so many subscribers.” Taped from Seattle, WA. God, even if they would have switched to a 2-week cycle at this point it would have made these shows so much more bearable and gave them more leeway to deal with stuff like Ahmed blowing out a kidney and basically ending his push. Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler. For those keeping track of the downward spiral, this was one of the lowest rated episodes of RAW in history and Vince pretty much went nuts over it. I think at 2.0, it might have been THE lowest up until that point, although the Germany show eventually beat it out. Faarooq Asaad v. Skip So this is Faarooq’s wrestling debut in the WWF, and he just totally no-sells everything from Skip and beats on him in very laid-back manner. The headpiece just looks completely ridiculous for someone who was supposed to be a serious threat. Faarooq with a powerslam and he cuts off a brief Skip comeback with another powerslam, and then finishes with the Dominator at 4:35, which had no name at that point. Just a total squash of poor Candido. I’d say the writing was on the wall at that point, if his girlfriend being higher on the totem pole wasn’t enough of a clue for him. DUD Savio Vega v. Crush Our future Nation of Domination theme continues as Crush debuts his jailbird look, many years before ripping off Sons of Anarchy probably would have made him a star with that look. New look aside, this is the same old Brian Adams. He beats on Savio and tosses him outside the ring for a slam into the stairs. Back in, he goes to a lengthy neck vice and we take a break to cool off this crazy train of action. Back with more restholds from Crush as Clarence Mason has a ridiculously inane conversation with Vince on commentary about legal matters and you can practically see the crowd leaving for the bathroom by the dozens. Savio misses his leg lariat and Crush finishes with a full nelson at 7:50. Who the fuck would give this guy a job after that match? -** Meanwhile, we get a silhouette of Sunny behind a screen, which was hyped up all show long as “The naked truth” as though they were going to have full nudity on the show or something. Meanwhile, new guy Kevin Kelly has a sitdown interview with Ahmed Johnson at his home following kidney surgery. Now there’s a job I wouldn’t envy. You could literally edit this however you wanted and Ahmed’s responses would probably all sound the same anyway. The Godwinns v. TL Hopper & Who 2.0 rating, ladies and gentlemen. Bob Backlund joins us on commentary to really ramp up the trainwreck factor here from “mildly offensive” to “coal car full of dynamite running into a fireworks factory and the earth caving in from the explosion.” Just to recap, we have Backlund running for President while Lawler makes jokes about Jake Roberts and Vince does the “Who” routine. When the guy who carries a plunger to the ring is the dignified one, you’re watching some bullshit. Who and Hopper double-team Phineas while Backlund rants about whatever the fuck he’s going on about this week. The highlight is people stopping AIDS with condominiums and even Vince gives up trying to rein him in. The camera just totally ignores the match and watches Backlund yelling at Vince instead. The upshot of this, by the way, is that Backlund is bringing someone into the WWF, which ended up being Fatu repackaged as The Sultan. And then Gorilla pops in to vacate the IC title as everyone just totally pays no attention to the match going on. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Someone finishes someone else with a Slop Drop at 5:40, if anyone gives a fuck. DUD Meanwhile, Bret Hart chats with Mr. Perfect on the WRESTLE VESSEL, and his career might be over. Or not. Give him a couple of months to make up his mind. I mean, maybe if Vince offered him a 20 year contract or something… Shawn Michaels v. Owen Hart By this point the crowd is noticeably emptying out on the wide shots and the canned heat is ridiculously overdubbed. Shawn dominates with his wacky babyface offense to start and works a headlock, as I check the Observer and find this week’s notable newsbite: “There’s nothing at all to the rumors of negotiations with Too Cold Scorpio. Simply a story that had no truth to it, not that it couldn’t happen someday.” Didn’t he debut as Flash Funk like two or three weeks after this? It was pretty soon because he was at Survivor Series. Shawn controls with an armbar while Vince stresses that Vader is a MASTODON so many times that I wonder why he didn’t just change the name like he wanted to. Shawn reverses Owen into the turnbuckles, but walks into a belly to belly and Owen takes over as we take a break. Back with Owen working on the back and hitting the leg lariat for two. We take another break and return with Shawn making his comeback with the flying elbow before Vader runs in, at which point Shawn pins Owen with two superkicks anyway at 13:41. The overdubbed cheering for the messed up finish is just ludicrous and sounds so fake. Usual Shawn TV match. **1/2 I have to say, if Shawn was going over at Summerslam on Sunday anyway and getting beat up by Vader after this match, why not just have him do a job to Owen? I mean, I KNOW why, but no wonder fans were turning on Shawn in droves at this point. The Pulse Well, next week the IC title tournament starts, and you know how I feel about tournaments. Unfortunately we’re getting close to some dark, DARK times for this promotion. This show was a completely throwaway hour of junk.

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro–07.29.96

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro – 07.29.96 True story: I have a friend who named his son LeBron James. Man I bet he feels dumb tonight. Live from Orlando, FL, one last time before they switch back to regular arenas again. Your hosts are Tony & Larry Mike Enos vs. Jim Duggan Amazingly, not only is Enos using a terrible (TERRIBLE!) ripoff version of The Ecstasy of Gold (which should be one of the all time great heel entrance pieces) as his entrance music, but apparently they’re already breaking up Rough & Ready after less than a month as a team! Thank god the Faces of Fear are still around. Duggan dumps him with a clothesline right away and slugs away, but gets low-bridged because he’s a moron and Enos takes over. Legdrop and Enos goes to a chinlock, then blocks a blind charge with a boot for two. Well, as his chaps say, he is “Ready”. I wonder if he recycled those chaps from the time when he was the Mysterious Masked Skyscraper with Mean Mark? What a team that was. Hey, more chinlocks and choking from Blake Beverly, that’s great. Collision for the double KO, but Duggan comes back with a sunset flip (called a backslide by Tony) for two, but Enos turns this around again with a neckbreaker for two. Enos goes AERIAL and misses by a mile, allowing Duggan to make the comeback, but Enos actually cuts him off and pounds him down in the corner. Finally Duggan has had enough of this terrible fucking match and finishes with the taped fist at 7:30. This was everything you’d expect out of a Jim Duggan vs. Mike Enos match and then a little less. -** Sting, Lex Luger & Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair, Chris Benoit & Steve McMichael So after leaving Flair off the show last week to tease his possible defection to the nWo, he’s right out here and they just drop that thread cold. Everyone gets into a crazy brawl immediately and we take a break…but not before some GLACIER KARATE ACTION first. Back with the match under control and the ref just restarts it. Sting gets a backdrop on Benoit to send him running away. I should note that the combination of Sting’s primary colored gear and Savage’s neon green might actually rupture my poor plasma TV. Come on, WCW, I’ve had this thing for like 5 years now and they’re not made anymore! Flair attacks Savage by the VIP table (is that gag STILL going?) to take over, but Savage fires back with the 10 punch count in the corner and Flair actually walks behind the bleachers to hide. Holy cow, if he had done a Flair Flop after taking that walk this would be the only six-star match not involving Joe Gomez. Back to the ring for the showdown of suck between Luger and Mongo, and thankfully Flair comes back in for his usual match against Luger. Luger throws him around and yells a lot, and a suplex gets two. Benoit comes in and the Horsemen sucker Savage into the ring to tie up the referee, allowing them to beat on Luger in the corner. Luger no-sells it and it’s over to Sting, however, and he does the usual with Flair. Superplex gets two. Flair tosses him and blocks a sunset flip to finally make Sting the face-in-peril. Benoit with a back elbow for two and a backdrop suplex (called a “back body drop” by Tony as the cracks in his commentary start to show already) gets two. Sting slugs it out with Flair and they do the pinfall reversal sequence before Benoit saves. Flair goes low and gets the figure-four, but Sting reverses it. So it’s over to Benoit with a snap suplex for two and a Liontamer, but Flair comes back in and suddenly Jimmy Hart runs out and pleads with the cameraman to come with him. Jimmy screams at everyone in the ring to stop fighting and come with him, and the match just ends at 13:00. Really fun before the non-finish. *** So in the back, the Outsiders have laid out the American Males and Arn Anderson, and Rey Mysterio dives on Nash from a trailer and gets LAWN DARTED into the side as a result in one of the most famous bumps of all time. The Outsiders leave in their limo and Savage dives onto the roof and hangs on like an action hero as it drives away. We take a break and return with everyone going nuts and calling for medical attention while Rey yells about FOUR GUYS laying him out. We get a very extended segment of chaos and minimal commentary, while everyone gets treated by paramedics…including Rey having his mask removed while covering his face with his hands. That shit is SERIOUS. In discussing the show in the Observer at the time, Meltzer notes that although this stuff might have been flaming ratings death in the short-term (which is was), it would absolutely have a payoff later on. Which it did, a thousand times over. In fact, I don’t think it’s overstating things to say that this one episode of Nitro changed the business forever and basically created the Vince Russo Crash TV format, where sometimes the script gets thrown out and Everything You See Is Fake Except For What You’re Watching Right Now, Which Is Real. Speaking of which, back from another break with the second hour, and Bobby Heenan has a frank discussion with Eric Bischoff and walks off the set because of his history of neck injuries and his fear of getting another one. So… Your hosts for the second hour are Eric, Tony and Larry. And you’d think they would try to go right back to the ring, but NO, the segment continues unabated while the fans turn on the show, and now the Males get loaded into the ambulance. It’s kind of like the theory of comedy where you have the joke that’s initially funny, then goes on too long and becomes unfunny, and then goes on even LONGER and becomes hilarious as a result of going so long. They just kept riding out the crowd’s boredom and let the angle go to the super-serious extremes that it needed to without undercutting it by immediately jumping back to some fake match in the ring. The Steiner Brothers vs. High Voltage Finally back to the ring with the clash of future tag team champions Rick Steiner and Kenny Kaos. Everyone’s all distracted but not High Voltage! They’re amped up on horse steroids and Red Bull (was Red Bull a thing in 1996? I didn’t start mainlining energy drinks directly into my heart until about 2005) and excited to be here! These two aren’t exactly streets ahead. Although they don’t mention it here, for some reason the Steiner Brothers ended up with a random tag team title reign between the last show and this one, trading the belts with Harlem Heat on a pair of house shows in a switch reminiscent of their WWF run. So Scott distractedly slams Kaos around while there’s a fireworks show in the background. I’m reminded of The Naked Gun every time they do the fireworks at these Orlando shows while the fans are supposed to be paying attention to the match. High Voltage beats on Rick in their corner while Bischoff is basically like “If these two geeks beat the Steiners no one is seriously going to count that as a win anyway” and Rage gets a nice flying shoulderblock for two. The Steiners finally wake up and start beating on Rage at will, and OH SHIT it’s the Steiner Screwdriver to finish him at 4:45. I feel like they might have been in a bit of a mood here. Maybe they’re Cleveland fans? ** Standby Contest: Big Bubba vs. Eddie Guerrero Eddie dropkicks him out of the ring and ponders a dive, but Bubba comes back in and overpowers him to take over. Bubba pounds away with a variety of thrilling stuff and gets a clothesline for two. Bubba chokes like he’s from Cleveland and goes to a bearhug that turns into a spinebuster for two. Bubba continues taking the whole match and goes to a chinlock as this match seemingly goes on longer than that entire nWo attack segment did. Finally Eddie comes back with a rollup to win at 10:45. DUD THE FOLLOWING ANNOUNCEMENT HAS BEEN PAID FOR BY THE NEW WORLD ORDER! So yeah, this is the first black and white nWo promo, featuring Hogan rambling for hours and somehow getting cut down to 5:00 or so by the editing team in something of a minor miracle. This marks the Nitro debut of the nWo logo, the porno music, Nash cackling “WHAT DO YA BENCH, LEX?”, the crazy camera angles, and poor Scott Hall trying to hold it all together on his own. THE PRECEDING ANNOUNCEMENT WAS PAID FOR BY THE NEW WORLD ORDER! Tony and Larry discuss the doin’s that have been transpirin’ and replay the initial attack from what feels like hours ago. WCW World title: The Giant vs. Greg Valentine Valentine is subbing for Arn Anderson, who fell in the Battle of the nWo earlier in the show. Hammer attacks and gets nowhere, as Giant casually beats him down, chokes away in the corner, and finishes with a pair of chokeslams at 1:35. DUD The Pulse As a show this was complete and utter garbage, but it was incredibly historic and immensely influential in a million ways, so take from it whatever you wish.

The SmarK Rant for WWE Money In The Bank 2015

The SmarK Rant for WWE Money In The Bank 2015 (06.14.15) We get a very classy ten-bell salute to Dusty Rhodes with the entire roster on the ramp to start. Live from Columbus, OH Your hosts are Michael Cole, JBL & Jerry Lawler Money In The Bank: Randy Orton vs. Neville vs. Kane vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns Dolph immediately loses cred for his 80s hair metal jean jacket by spelling “Megadeth” wrong on it. COME ON, DOLPH. Rather mixed reaction for Roman, which has actually been a change from shows as of late. Everyone sprints for the briefcase right away in a nice bit of business, but Kane manages to clean house. Sheamus gets rid of him in turn and fights off the field with a ladder, but Kofi climbs while Sheamus is busy. Sheamus breaks that up and beats on Kofi, but Neville comes back in with a missile dropkick. Kofi takes out Sheamus with the Trouble in Paradise and we get a nice sequence with Kofi and Neville before Reigns breaks it up to a chorus of boos. Tough crowd. Reigns powerbombs Kofi onto a ladder, and then powerbombs Neville onto HIM, and that finally earns him some respect. Kane takes Reigns out with a chokeslam, but Orton returns from the ether and hits the RKO OUTTA NOWHERE on both Kane and Kofi. Neville climbs and Orton gives him more of the same. Next up, Sheamus and Orton continue their insomnia cure feud and slug it out until Sheamus hits the Brogue Kick to end Orton’s run. Sheamus and Ziggler fight on top of the ladder for some near-finishes, and Dolph takes him down with a Zig Zag off the ladder, kind of. Neville adds the Red Arrow onto Sheamus, which has the crowd chanting for NXT. That’s a dangerous thing to do. So now Neville and Ziggler fight on the ladder, but Kane breaks that up and disposes of them like a couple of jobbers. Back to Roman, the real star, who gets rid of Kane with the Superman punch and then takes everyone out with a dive. Hey, the man’s doing his best, no one ever accused him of being lazy. The New Day heads out to assist Kofi and Roman beats them up as well, then tosses Kofi onto everyone, spears Orton, and looks to claim the briefcase…but Bray Wyatt appears out of the dark and takes him out. And with everyone else done, that leaves Sheamus, who wins the briefcase at 20:30. Jesus, they had Roman blow ANOTHER one? They’re gonna Luger this poor guy if they don’t let him get a big win soon. I’d call this a huge waste of the briefcase considering how directionless Sheamus has been and the groan that his win got. Like really, does any human being on earth believe that they’ll actually have SHEAMUS cash in and win against someone? Usual good MITB match, built more around the drama of the climb rather than the crazy ladder spots this time, but nothing special. ***1/2 Also, what’s the point of having Lana come out as Ziggler’s new manager and then having him do nothing and lose? Meanwhile, Paige vows to end the Bella Twins’ reign of terror. Wait, are they heels again? She also dedicates the match to Dusty, which is probably not a good sign for her chances. Divas title: Nikki Bella vs. Paige Paige gets some boots in the corner and tosses Nikki, then follows with a somersault off the apron. They fight on the floor and Nikki does some pushups while we cut to the other women watching the match in the back. Why punish the rest of the division? And really, the only other person with any kind of cred is Naomi, the rest are just there as managers and TV actors at this point. Paige comes back with a Shining Wizard, but Nikki goes to a lengthy bodyscissors on the mat. Paige fights out and now Nikki goes to the chinlock and hits a spinebuster for two, but a blind charge misses. Paige wraps her up in an STF, but Nikki quickly makes the ropes and gets another spinebuster for two. Paige escapes the Rack Attack and gets the Rampaige for two. She stops to cry about it and the announcers are like “Oh man, she hit her one move and didn’t try anything else and that didn’t work, what is she gonna do now?” Truly a conundrum. The twins switch off and Paige pins Brie, who quickly reveals that she was stuffing her bra, and thus the match continues. Nikki then finishes with the Rack Attack to retain at 11:16. So was that our tribute to Dusty? What kind of an idiot referee would not only mistake Brie for Nikki at this point, but then allow the match to continue after someone else interfered? Boring match, stupid finish. *1/2 Also you have to love that the top babyface is portrayed as friendless and the champion is portrayed as being unworthy and dragging down the entire division. Intercontinental title: Ryback vs. Big Show Glad to see Ryback at least wears the belt instead of carrying it around like a prop. Ryback flies out with a spinebuster, hits the lariat and dumps Show to the floor right away. He stops to beat on color commentator Miz, but walks into a spear in the ring. They slug it out and Ryback actually takes him down with a cross armbreaker, but Show makes the ropes. Ryback with a suplex and a splash for two, but he walks into the chokeslam for two. Ryback tries the Shellshock, but Miz runs in for the DQ at 5:40. That was no good, a crappy RAW match with a crappy RAW finish. DUD The Biggest Rematch In The History Of Our Sport: John Cena vs. Kevin Owens To be fair, Cole downgrades it a bit to “one of the most anticipated rematches in recent memory”. Clearly a pro-NXT crowd tonight. They trade shoulderblocks to start and Owens works a headlock while laying down the trash-talk, but Cena escapes with a clothesline. Owens fires back with a dropkick and senton for two, but Cena gets his own dropkick, so Owens fires back with Cena’s usual sequence of offense, including a five knuckle shuffle. Cena reverses him into the STF and gets an inverted suplex for two. Owens with a codebreaker for two. Cena escapes the powerbomb and hits his own, but Owens counters the FU with a german suplex and cannonball into the corner for two. Sideslam gets two. Owens tries a swanton bomb and lands on Cena’s knees, and that had to hurt. Cena with a faceplant out of an electric chair for two, and the FU gets two. Cena actually argues with the ref over that one, then tries a superplex and gets reversed into a powerbomb for two. We get the “This is awesome” chant, which I always hate. Cheer the babyface or boo the heel to show your support, but don’t break the fourth wall like that. Owens tries a powerbomb, which Cena turns into a rana, but Owens drops him with a kick for two. Cena goes back up with a flying shoulderblock for two. Cena goes up again and misses the guillotine legdrop, and Owens gets two off that with a powerbomb. Owens goes up and misses a moonsault, and Cena gets another FU for two. Cena tries another superplex, but Owens reverses into a fisherman’s buster for two. Yikes. Cena gets the STF, but Owens makes the ropes and Cena is getting angry now. Cena gets a sunset bomb for two after a fight for the move, and Cena is finally showing some real emotion. Owens takes advantage with the Pop Up Powerbomb for two. Owen slugs away, but Cena comes back with the stunner and FU to finish at 19:13. Cena wins, LOL. Like really, they seriously beat Owens ALREADY? Incredible match, but why waste the rub that Owens got from the first one? ****1/2 Cena offers the respect handshake, but Owens thankfully turns on him and puts him down with the apron powerbomb to redeem the loss. And then mocks Cena from the ramp. Just make this guy the champion right now. Doesn’t matter which one, all of them really. Dusty Rhodes tribute video, which is pretty great. WWE tag team titles: The New Day vs. The Prime Time Players This feels like it’s going to be the death slot before the ladder match. Funny bit with the New Day getting mad at the crowd’s lack of positivity, as Xavier almost tells them that they suck before Big E cuts him off with some therapeutic clapping. The champs quickly work Darren Young over in the corner and double splash him for two. Big E with an abdominal stretch and belly to belly for two, and Woods goes to a sleeper on the mat and gets a clothesline for two. Big E with an STO for two to keep Young in the heel corner, but Young sends him into the post and makes the hot tag to Titus. He throws the champs around with his usual grace and precision, but Big E spears Young through the ropes and Woods rolls up Titus for two before Titus comes back with Clash of the Titus to win the titles at 5:47. There are some weird booking decisions tonight. Titus is just awful, but I guess they need some kind of babyface stars with the Usos and Tyson Kidd both out. *1/2 WWE World title, ladder match: Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose Rollins pounds away in the corner and tosses Ambrose, and they fight on the floor, where Ambrose gets the first dive. At this point I actually get the first glitch in the Matrix from the Network tonight, as the stream has been impeccable and crystal clear up until now. Must not be anyone watching. Rollins tries his own dive, but Ambrose blocks it with a ladder to the head. We get the first climb as they both go up the ladder, but Dean brings him down and suplexes him onto the ladder. Ambrose drops an elbow off the top of the ladder and makes another climb, but Rollins breaks it up with a chair and goes after the knee. That’s pretty smart. That goes on for a while, actually, and Rollins gets a figure-four before Ambrose reverses out. Finally he goes for a climb, but Ambrose saves and fights back before accidentally walking into the ladder on his rebound clothesline. Rollins goes back to the knee, but goes up and gets crotched and clotheslined off the top. Ambrose makes another comeback and takes him to the floor with a Cactus Clothesline, but Rollins goes to the knee again and heads back in to climb. He changes his mind and tosses the ladder at Dean instead, but gets hit with the rebound lariat. And it’s back to the floor again for a brawl into the crowd. Did they go really short on this show and just decide to stretch this out by having nothing happen for the first 20:00 or something? So Seth wins that brawl and heads back to pull out another ladder, but Ambrose returns from the crowd to stop him again. The ladder gets put between the apron and the table, and Rollins takes a backdrop through it, so Ambrose has to find yet another ladder. Seems unfair that the MITB match has 18 of them strewn around the ringside area but these poor guys have to dig them out from under the ring. Dean does the dramatic slow climb, but Rollins saves and they tumble to the floor again. Their next victim is the spanish announce table, as Dean hits Dirty Deeds on the table and fails to break it. Ambrose tries another climb, but Rollins saves with Ambrose’s mortal enemy: A TV set. Rollins adds a Pedigree and climbs, but Ambrose pulls him down and tosses him again. Rollins has just had enough of this shit and sends him into the ladder and then powerbombs him into the railing in a sick spot…and then does it again. You’d think that would sufficient, but Rollins is nothing if not thorough, so he pulls out a pile of chairs and powerbombs him on THOSE. Cole calls it a “symbolic burial” as Rollins dumps a pile of chairs on him. I think that word does not mean what you think it does, Michael. So Rollins climbs, but Ambrose somehow manages to revive from THREE POWERBOMBS on the floor and comes back to fight on top. That’s a little silly. They fight for the belt and both fall holding the belt, but Seth holds on for the win at 35:45. Weak ending after a setup that should have been a clean win for Rollins. I wasn’t a huge fan of this one, as they took too long to get where they were going, but it was a great effort from both guys and at least Rollins won by himself. ***3/4 The Pulse Everything mostly delivered, although the booking was really weird tonight and there was some epic garbage in between the great matches. Thumbs up, but nothing I’ll want to watch again as a whole.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–07.29.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 07.29.96 You know, for everyone complaining about how shitty these RAW shows are, they still do twice the pageviews of the Nitro reviews. #justsayin Taped from Seattle, WA Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler Sid vs. Justin Hawk Bradshaw The crowd of course goes apeshit for Sid, and he responds by kicking the crap out of Bradshaw and absolutely squashing him dead with a chokeslam, so Bradshaw responds with the cowbell to the head for the DQ at 1:00. Sid shrugs off a double-team attempt from the heels and powerbombs Bradshaw anyway. So why not just have that be the finish? This is the same shit they’re still doing today! If you wanna beat the guy, just beat him! DUD Meanwhile, Faarooq Asaad challenges Ahmed to an IC title match at Summerslam. Unfortunately, he already ruptured Ahmed’s kidney and so the match never happened. I actually recall really looking forward to seeing that one and being disappointed that it fell through. They eventually wrestled at Royal Rumble in a disappointing blowoff, didn’t they? Marc Mero vs. Vader Vader overpowers Mero in the corner and apparently spits on him, so Mero comes back with clotheslines and a koppo kick. Vader blocks a crucifix with a samoan drop and slugs away in the corner, just beating the hell out of him. Mero fights back and hits a dive on the floor, and back in for the flying sunset flip, but Vader evades that. Mero goes up again and Vader catches him with a powerslam for the pin at 6:21. This was quite energetic and both guys looked good. Circumstances would of course work out very well for Mero soon despite the loss. *** Jim Cornette has a face to face with Jose Lothario, and goes off on a crazed rant about how Vader is going to win the title and what a legend that Lothario is. Cornette is of course great at that sort of thing, and we cut to the back, where Shawn Michaels is watching the interview until Mankind lays him out with the Mandible Claw. The British Bulldog vs. Henry Godwinn The other subplot here is that Jerry Lawler will be facing Aldo Montoya next week in a rematch of a match from Superstars, because Aldo is Jake Roberts’ protege and all. So many possible jokes to make there. We even get Aldo promo time! Also, BREAKING NEWS, because Sunny will be live in the WWF AOL chatroom for reasons, according to a crawl at the bottom of the screen delivering like a weather warning. Henry gets a facefirst slam for two and Bulldog bails to regroup, then comes back with the clubbing forearms before running into a boot in the corner. Bulldog goes to a chinlock while commentator Owen Hart clarifies Bret’s status during his absence: He’s a loser and a coward and a crybaby and a quitter, so leave him alone and get lost. So there you are. He also further clarifies that his doctor has let him know that in “a few more months” they can look at taking the cast off his wrist, which has Vince disgustedly telling him that it takes six weeks for a bone to heal. What a heartless jerk. ARE YOU A DOCTOR, VINCE MCMAHON? We take a break from this boring match for some reason and return with Owen continuing to bury his brother. Henry sets up for the slop drop, but Owen steals his bucket and Bulldog powerslams him for the pin at 9:43. I know if someone stole MY bucket of compost, I’d be upset as well. Match was crap, commentary was hilarious. 1/2* Meanwhile, Olympic hopeful Mark Henry lifts some stuff. Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker Taker throws him into the corner and works the arm, and you can really start to feel Austin heating up as a character at this point. Austin makes a quick comeback and Taker no-sells for a great reaction from Austin. Taker goes old school, but Austin crotches him and chokes away to take over. He stomps a mudhole, perhaps the first one, and Lawler even coins that phrase for it! Austin drops the elbow for two and slugs away in the corner, but Taker ties him up in the ropes and beats him down again. Austin clips him, however, and works him over in the corner while we take a break. Back with Austin holding a chinlock, and he counters an UT comeback with a piledriver, but Taker does the zombie situp and crotches him on the top rope. Taker follows with a chokeslam off the top rope, but Mankind comes out for a distraction and Taker is counted out at 12:00. And Undertaker just comes right back in and tombstones Austin anyway. That’s twice in one show they did the same type of screwjob finish! Decent match, as Austin was way more comfortable with his character now. **1/2 The Pulse Nothing either offensive or impressive on this outing. Still a good crowd and the show breezed by, though.

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro–07.22.96

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro – 07.22.96 Oh boo hoo, so I left Nitro for a bit and went back to RAW. RAW gets me in a way Nitro doesn’t! I talked for hours with RAW on the phone the other night about feelings and Joe Gomez and stuff, and I’m lucky if Nitro calls me back after a night of drinking. I’m a human being too, you know. But that’s fine, back to Nitro. Joe Gomez better be on this show, hopefully in a super-creepy beach video. Live from Orlando, FL Your hosts are Tony & Larry   Scott Norton vs. Squire Dave Taylor Taylor fires away with forearms, but Norton no-sells them and sends him to the floor. Back in, Norton misses a blind charge, but tosses Taylor again and this time it’s a DQ at 1:45. Oh yeah, over the top rule. 1/2* They brawl on the outside while the timekeeper frantically rings the bell. Because that’s ever worked before. Meanwhile, the Horsemen are chillin’ at Flair’s fancy table, preparing for the main event tonight. VK Wallstreet vs. Konnan They trade armbars and Wallstreet tosses him and works the leg back in the ring. VK uses the ropes, but gets rolled up for two. We hit the chinlock as Tony talks up the awesome win streak that Wallstreet is on: One win over Jim Powers! And if he wins tonight, that’s TWO. Samoan drop gets two, and Konnan rolls him over for the pin at 5:18. Dammit, the Reddit guy lied to me about putting money on Rotundo here. HE WAS ON A WINNING STREAK! * I feel like Rotundo should take this gimmick back to TNA and manage the Wolves. Meanwhile, WCW’s failed babyface trio are ready to chomp on the Horsemen tonight. They all want Hogan and don’t care for him very much. It’s GLACIER, and he’s all doing karate and shit. And then the most WCW thing ever, as we get a video of the awesome team of Joe Gomez, the Renegade, Alex Wright and Jim Powers walking on a beach and taking their shirts off in what looks like the trailer for a gay porn film. Joe Gomez is so above this. And yet it stirs strange feelings in me. Things I’ve never admitted to myself about Joe Gomez. Joe Gomez, The Renegade, Alex Wright & Jim Powers vs. Hugh Morrus, Kevin Sullivan, The Barbarian and THE LEPRECHAN Not to be confused with Hornswaggle. The camera immediately ignores this bullshit and heads to the back while Alex Wright gets beat up. So in the back, the Outsiders have hijacked the truck and start messing with the broadcast, which gives us a rare glance of directing legends like Keith Mitchell and Craig Leathers. Hall and Nash keep sending the camera to the crowd, apparently looking for a friend. Nash: “Everyone back to the trailers for pot pies and Mountain Dew!” Sounds good to me. Anyway, after this gross disrespect of the legend that is Joe Gomez, we finally return to the match with Teddy Long giving Jim Powers a peptalk. So Powers’ HGH shots finally kick in and he runs wild, but Giant runs in and just chokeslams everyone like a bunch of geeks at 5:42. Clearly he was terrified of Joe Gomez going on a win streak and getting a title shot. Frankly they should talk Joe Gomez out of retirement and have him face Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania because it would be the only guaranteed 200,000 ticket sellout in history. If they played that beach video beforehand, it might be 400,000. The Giant declares himself the cancer of WCW that no one can cure. I thought that was Hogan? Also, I’m pretty sure Joe Gomez could cure cancer in between bookings. Diamond Dallas Page vs. Prince Iaukea The epic clashes continue. The Prince gets a dropkick in the corner, but DDP lays him out and follows with a sideslam. Iaukea comes back with a pair of springboard bodypresses for two, but Diamond Cutter outta nowhere finishes at 1:25. Dean Malenko vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr. This is Chavo’s Nitro debut, and Meltzer is immediately busting on him in the Observer, noting how green he is and how he’s been unable to adjust from the lucha libre style. Poor Chavito. Malenko pretty much dismantles him, but Chavo gets a brief comeback with a dropkick. Malenko drops him on his head with a backdrop suplex and totally ignores Chavo’s comeback, then throws him around the ring while we switch to HOUR NUMBER TWO. Your hosts are Eric & Bobby Chavo uses the distraction of the fireworks to get a sunset flip for two, but Malenko holds a headscissors on the mat and more boring holds. A brainbuster and powerbomb follow while the bored crowd messes around, but Chavo gets a pair of cradles for two. To the top, but he whiffs on something and the Cloverleaf finishes at 8:05. WAY, way too long for what was basically a squash. *1/2 Meng vs. Ice Train Well this should save the show. Meng attacks to start, but Train gets a bodypress for two while Teddy Long looks on his second segment of the show. What, the Craig Pittman revival worked so well that guys are lining up now to be managed by Long? Train works on the arm and gets a terrible sunset flip for two, and they slug it out in ridiculous fashion as this somehow gets worse by the minute. Ice Train escapes a nerve hold and comes back with a clothesline for two, but Meng slugs him down and goes to a chinlock. This match is the very definition of time-wasting garbage. Train makes the comeback with a pair of corner splashes and a powerslam for two, but he goes up and lands on the KICK OF FEAR. And then Scott Norton runs in for the DQ at 6:17 and beats up Meng for reasons that aren’t immediately clear. Then Norton stops and cuts a promo about how he’s going to protect Ice Train until the PPV so he can beat him up himself. That makes…sense? I guess? DUD But who will protect us, the fans, from shitty Ice Train matches? Eddie Guerrero vs. Psicosis Apparently the WCW agents like Terry Taylor were really high on Psi at this point, calling him one of the best workers ever, but not high enough on him to, say, suggest that he ever win a fucking match. They trade some armdrags and we take a break, returning with Psi missing a blind charge and wiping out. Psi recovers with a dropkick, but Eddie monkey-flips him onto the top rope and dumps him to the floor, following with a dive that looked like some mixed signals. Psi seemed like he was trying to catch Eddie whereas Eddie just wanted a straight bodypress. Just looked awkward. Back in, Eddie gets a suplex for two, but Psi puts him down with an enzuigiri and goes up with a flying spinning leg lariat. Eddie bails and Psi follows with a suicide dive that sends Eddie into the geeks in the front row, and back in for the flying legdrop. Eddie rolls him up for two and snaps off a rana, and a backbreaker gets two. Psi with a West Coast Pop for two. Powerbomb and a twisting senton from the top gets two. Eddie fights back with his own rana from the top and finishes with the frog splash at 9:00. Not the best for either guy, but thankfully miles better than everything else on this particular shitty show. *** Sting, Lex Luger & Randy Savage vs. Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit & Steve McMichael This was supposed to be Flair leading the Horsemen team, but he’s not here as they tease him as the fourth member of the nWo. That of course went nowhere. Finally the poor Disney crowd gets some real star power tonight with Randy Savage in the main event, and they immediately go crazy for him and literally everyone is standing. Sting cleans house on the Horsemen to start, but quickly gets railroaded on the floor and sent into the post. Back in, Benoit with a backdrop suplex for two and Mongo gets a neckbreaker for two, but Sting hits him with a bodypress for two. He follows with a dropkick that’s about 0.5 Erik Watts and Benoit comes in to beat on Sting with chops. We get a hilarious cut to the mysterious limo in the parking lot, the one that no one can figure out or open, as some WCW suit gets caught on camera and just casually opens the door and looks inside to talk to someone. D’OH! Meanwhile, Sting gets worked over in the Horsemen corner, but fights back with a suplex on AA and it’s hot tag Luger. It’s BONZO GONZO and everyone is just missing their cue like crazy, but now Savage steals the briefcase of money back from the women and nails Benoit with it to give Luger the win at 6:15. So Savage gets his money back to finally put that storyline out to pasture. This was a mess. *1/2 The Pulse RAW was a way better show this week. I don’t expect that trend to last long, so enjoy it while you can.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–07.22.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 07.22.96 Season six of Sons of Anarchy finally wrapped up this weekend in our household, and MAN did that finale suck. Someone should have told Kurt Sutter that just because FX offers you a two-hour slot for the finale, you don’t have to take a 40 minute episode and stretch it out by having everyone make dramatic pauses in between lines. And quite the downer for the season to end on, as well. I found most of it pretty rambling and low-stakes once the whole Lee Toric thing was dealt with and I’d call it the second-worst season after the Belfast one. Especially with every episode being overly long like they were. But hey, we’ve got one season left, so hopefully it wraps up nicely. Live from Seattle, WA. This is actually shot like a full arena setup, even with only a 7000 seat capacity for this taping, which gives the show a much bigger feel than it’s been having lately. Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler WWF tag titles: The Smoking Gunns vs. Shawn Michaels & Ahmed Johnson It’s Shawn’s birthday, so Sunny brings a cake with her to celebrate. She likely gave him another birthday present in the locker room beforehand as well, if you know what I mean. By which I mean a nice watch. The Gunns attack on the floor to start, before Shawn can even get his pyro, so Sunny tries to throw the cake in his face and suffers the fickle hand of irony when Ahmed dumps it on her instead. I’m sure he probably dumped another load of something onto her in the locker room, if you know what I mean. By which I mean he had sex with her. So this doesn’t happen, although Gorilla announces after the break that it will be delayed until later in the show…OR ELSE. Marc Mero vs. The Goon The next great uber-jobber gimmick debuts, as apparently Bill Irwin REALLY needed the cash. The Goon attacks with some hipchecks in the corner and an elbow. The touches with the character are kind of funny, actually, like the faux-Devils jersey and skate-shaped boots, but man what a stupid idea overall. Goon with a clothesline and high knee in the corner as Goon takes a ridiculous amount of the offense here and Jake Roberts calls in for an interview while Lawler mocks him on commentary. Mero finally comes back with a dropkick and a rollup for two. Meanwhile, Steve Austin on commentary gets an epic burial of Lex Luger and the time they “painted a school bus red white and blue so someone could go around kissing babies”, and he suggests giving HIM a bus so he could go town to town and whip everyone’s ass. Meanwhile, Goon goes to the chinlock, but Mero comes back with a sloppy headscissors that they manage to mess up, but Goon cuts him off AGAIN and dumps him to the floor. Goon charges and slips on the remains of the cake, and Mero hits him with the somersault plancha and finishes with a slingshot legdrop at 7:15. This was a DISASTER. -* Meltzer details a story about then-wrestler Scott D’Amore doing the same gimmick and making the mistake of telling the WWF about it, only to see them never call him back and then debut the exact same gimmick two weeks later. Meanwhile, Clarence Mason presses Gorilla Monsoon to allow a mysterious former convict to compete in the WWF again. Mankind vs. Freddie Joe Floyd And here’s Tracy Smothers, the next in the line of goofy jobbers. Mankind with the usual dismantling of Floyd, but he misses a charge and Floyd makes the comeback with the enzuigiri and a flying elbow for two. Rollup gets two. Floyd goes up again and Mankind brings him down with the Mandible Claw at 3:49 to finish. Energetic little squash. ** Goldust vs. Barry Horowitz Brian Pillman is on commentary and promises to say the “seven words” at some point. Well Russo wasn’t booking quite yet, otherwise he might have. Goldust finishes quickly with the Curtain Call at 2:10. Pillman is quite excited for the prospect of a three-way with Marlena and Sable before Vince quickly cuts him off and moves on. Vader announces that he’s getting a title shot at Summerslam, and he’s the bully who’s gonna steal Shawn’s lunch money, and by lunch money he’s metaphorically referring to the WWF title. WWF tag titles: The Smoking Gunns vs. Shawn Michaels & Ahmed Johnson Take two. Shawn slugs Billy down to start and clotheslines him to the floor, and Ahmed comes in to work on the arm as we take a break. Back with Bart getting a cheapshot on Ahmed to take over, but Shawn comes in and runs wild on Billy until Bart clotheslines him on the top rope to slow him down again. Press slam onto the top rope follows. Shawn bumping around the ring as face-in-peril is the role he was born to play. The Gunns beat on him outside and Billy gets two in the ring, and we get the classic cutting the ring in half heel tactics from the Gunns. And it ALWAYS WORKS. The fans in the front row are just enraged as we take a break. Back with the wide shot of the arena, where you can see it’s scaled to just the one side like a low-level concert bowl setup. Why ruin the illusion? Billy with the corner clothesline for two and he goes to the chinlock, but Shawn fights out and noggins are knocked. HOT tag Ahmed, as the asskicking babyface half of the tag team is a role that Ahmed was born to play as well, and he cleans house in impressive fashion until FAAROOQ debuts in his gladiator gear and attacks Ahmed on the floor for the DQ at 16:00. I have no idea who thought that look would be a good idea. ***1/2 Also, why would Ron Simmons let himself balloon to 300 pounds like that just before getting a big contract and push? The Pulse Big crowd and hot main event make this is a much easier show to sit through than recent weeks.

The SmarK Rant for New Japan on AXS–05.29.15

The SmarK Rant for New Japan on AXS – 05.29.15 Still a week behind, but the show is a year out of date anyway so no big whoop. Taped from Osaka, Japan (June 21 2014) Your hosts are Mauro Ranallo & Josh Barnett IWGP Junior tag titles: The Young Bucks vs. The Timesplitters (Kushida & Alex Shelley) I bet there’s some superkicks here. Josh gets an immediate laugh with “Do they really need pockets on their tights? Don’t they have space for their possessions in their locker?”. Barnett has a pretty good ratio of funny lines in the shows I’ve watched so far. Nick stomps away on Kushida and gives him assorted crotch chops (DON’T TELL SHAWN MICHAELS!), but Matt tags in and gets caught in the time travelling corner. I feel like they should never lose because they’d just go back 10 minutes and fix their mistakes. If we were booking realistically. Matt ducks away from a superkick and heads out, but Kushida wipes him out on the floor and the Splitters follow with stereo dives. We’re clipped ahead in time (OH THE IRONY), which Mauro actually acknowledges, and Kushida clears the ring again and this time hits a crazy swanton bomb to the floor. Back in, more insane double-teaming from the babyfaces as they do a hit a Shelley Sliced Bread off Kushida’s electric chair on Nick. Nick comes back with a tornado DDT on Shelley, but Matt blocks Kushida’s Hoverboard lock with a tombstone for two. Matt with a turnbuckle powerbomb on Kushida and Nick hits a 450 while Matt drapes Kushida on the ropes, but that only gets two. Bang For Your Buck misses and Shelley sends the Bucks together in the Tree of Woe, and Kushida follows with the Hoverboard on Nick to win the titles at 8:41 shown (16:50 total according to the graphics). This was just ALL crazy action the whole time. I’m really quite enjoying Kushida on these shows and I hope he wins the BOSJ this year. ****1/4 Takashi Iizuka & Minoru Suzuki vs. Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba Suzuki is just the grumpiest bastard on earth and he’s awesome in his role. Mauro and Josh manage to back all the backstory here into the introductions because they are GREAT and understand how to get stuff like this over for new viewers. LOOKING AT YOU, every other promotion in the world. Iizuka was best known in the US, sort of, for having the piss beat out of him by Rick and Scott Steiner on a WCW show in 1991, but has basically reinvented his career as a batshit crazy old guy with a finisher called the IRON FINGERS. Mostly comedy stuff to start as Iizuka attacks Yano from behind and Suzuki grabs a flying armbar from the apron before everyone goes brawling to the floor. Suzuki chokes Sakuraba down with the bell hammer and they fight into the crowd as we take a break. Back with Iizuka choking himself out with the microphone cord, which Josh attributes to 20 years of concussions, and finally Sakuraba gets a cheapshot from outside to make Iizuka the face-in-peril. The term “babyface” is quite possibly the least apt description for either Iizuka or Sukuzi, perhaps the two ugliest men in NJPW. Suzuki quickly tags in and gets a running boot on Sakuraba, then punts him for two. They trade armbar attempts and choke attempts as an MMA match suddenly breaks out until Iizuka breaks it up with his tag rope. The heels undo the turnbuckle, but Yano ends up going into the steel in a funny sequence. Yano goes low and cradles Suzuki for two, but Iizuka pulls out the ref with relish. Iizuka’s nutso act is so entertaining here. Suzuki nails Yano with a chair, Iizuka pulls out the IRON FINGERS FROM HELL, and Suzuki finishes with the Gotch Piledriver at 10:29 shown (15:13 total). The announcers openly bury the match and how shitty it was afterwards, which makes it all the more hilarious. Important distinction: They don’t do it WHILE you’re watching the match! Looking at you, MAGGLE. Come on, you have to love a match where guys are doing faux-UFC sequences while Iizuka is breaking up pins with wacky Memphis wrestling nonsense at the same time. Was it terrible smoke and mirrors horseshit? Of course. Was I entertained by all the terrible smoke and mirrors? Hell yes. ** IWGP Junior Title: Kota Ibushi vs. Ricochet There is too much beautiful here for one match to contain, like the plastic bag floating in the breeze in American Beauty. But without stupid Wes Bentley. I guess it’s only fair that if I can watch NXT on Wednesday and watch Alexa Bliss and Carmella on a totally superficial level, my wife has the right to ogle these two. Ricochet sends Ibushi to the floor with kicks, and back in for a Zig Zag and standing SSP for two. But, you know, WWE already had one high-flyer with Neville, so that’s enough. Low kick gets two. Ricochet tries something like Konnan’s Tequila Sunrise, but Ibushi makes the ropes and they trade chops in the corner as we take a break. Back with Ibushi dumping Ricochet and following with a running springboard moonsault to the floor. Back in, Ricochet fires back with a springboard missile dropkick to put Ibushi on the floor, then follows with a NO HANDS somersault dive over the corner post. Holy COW. Back in, GTS gets two. They fight to the top and Kota hits a top rope rana, but Ricochet lands on his FEET and then follows with a pair of brainbusters for two. But, you know, already had one high-flyer, so why would WWE need another one? They hit each other with simultanous high kicks and Ricochet wins that one, but Ibushi hits a lariat with a 360 sell from Ricochet. I am of course a huge mark for anyone that does that. Ibushi with a Last Ride powerbomb for two. Phoenix splash misses, however, and Ricochet gets a Shooting Star Press for two. And we take a break on that note. Back with Ricochet trying the finisher, but Ibushi reverses into a rana for two. Ibushi drops him with a high kick and finishes with the Phoenix-plex (a package powerbomb setup into a bridge suplex) at 13:37 to retain. Just tremendous, jaw-dropping stuff from start to finish. ****1/2 The Pulse Some shows just make me happy to be a wrestling fan, and this is one of them. I actually subscribe to New Japan World, but the commentary of Mauro and Josh actually makes the shows even BETTER to watch. If you’ve got an hour to watch some wrestling, this is the episode to check out.

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW–07.15.96

The SmarK Rant for Monday Night RAW – 07.15.96 Back to RAW, because why not? Taped from Green Bay, WI, thankfully for the last show from this cycle. Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler Intercontinental title: Ahmed Johnson vs. Bart Gunn Pretty long stall to start and Ahmed controls with hiptosses until Bart cheats to take over. Bart goes to work on the arm and man isn’t that thrilling. Ahmed fights out of the hammerlock and misses a charge, which gives Bart two. Aaaaaaaaand…Bart goes back to working on the arm again. Ahmed gets a powerslam for two and we take a break, returning with Bart back in control with a flying bulldog for two. However, Ahmed has had enough and finishes with the spinebuster and Pearl River Plunge at 13:40 just like that. Frankly I’m shocked they had enough “highlights” to put together a replay at the end. It was literally all Bart lying on the mat working on an armbar for 10 minutes. * Marc Mero vs. TL Hopper Yes, it’s the RAW debut of Tony Anthony, the wrestling plumber. Astonishingly, they actually have footage of Hopper going over Duke Droese, which must be the only win the poor guy ever had on record. As noted many times by smart-ass online fans at the time, a plumber would be making WAY more than a low-level WWF guy at the time would be making, so why would he care about being a wrestler? They trade headlocks and Hopper beats Mero down off a cheapshot and works him over to a dead silent crowd. Meanwhile Lawler and Vince make butt crack jokes like it’s the funniest thing ever. I know this character was never intended to get over, but this has to be an epic low even by 1996 RAW standards. We take a break and return with Hopper hitting a legdrop for two, but he misses a splash and Mero comes back with a flying headscissors and the KO punch for the pin at 10:25. This RAW crowd might be one of the worst ever. Nothing as a match, but Hopper was at least trying to do his best with a shitty gimmick. Pun intended. *1/2 And now, a special look at Undertaker, as they need to stretch this show out for another 5:00 to make up for the Ultimate Warrior bits edited out. WWF World title: Shawn Michaels vs. Billy Gunn Vince offers condolences to Bret Hart on the death of his nephew Matt, who died about the worst way that a human being can: Flesh eating bacteria. I would not wish that shit on my worst enemy. So obviously Bret had a lot of heavy stuff on his mind at this point. They trade headlocks to start as Billy really starts to develop the cocky heel persona that would get him over a year later, but Shawn dumps him and gets a sunset flip for two. Billy runs away from a superkick and Shawn chases Sunny around the ring, pretending to be a sex-craved pervert. Yeah, pretending, that’s the ticket. Shawn comes off the top rope and gets caught coming down, but Shawn takes Billy down and posts him. Slingshot clothesline and Shawn slugs away on the mat, but Billy clotheslines him to the floor to take over. We take a break and return with Shawn fighting out of a chinlock, but Billy elbows him down for two. Billy works the back while Vince tries to take another break but has to argue with Sunny and Lawler for a minute instead, and then we take our second break as Billy hits a bulldog. Back with Shawn making the comeback with his usual stuff and a flying elbow to set up the superkick. And indeed, that finishes at 15:24. The crowd at least got a little bit excited for Shawn at the end. **1/4 Meanwhile, they insert a new pre-taped segment in the back, with Camp Cornette attacking Shawn before Sid drives in to make the save. This was actually supposed to make us buy a PPV. The Pulse Yes indeed, this was the go-home show for International Incident, which I believe set the new record low for PPV buys or close to it. Thankfully, more interesting things happen next week.

The SmarK Rant for WWE Elimination Chamber 2015 – 05.31.15

The SmarK Rant for WWE Elimination Chamber 2015 – 05.31.15
Live from Corpus Christi, TX
Your hosts are Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler & JBL

WWE Tag titles: The New Day v. The Ascension v. The Prime Time Players v. Cesaro & Kidd v. Los Matadores v. The Lucha Dragons
The New Day gets to compete with all three guys in the match, because of reasons. We start with Ascension v. Lucha Dragons, and the Dragons quickly dominate with double-teaming and a pair of sentons on Konnor. The Ascension tries to work Kalisto over, but he jumps on top of the New Day pod, where they grab his leg and beat on him. Both Dragons fight off the heels and Sin Cara hits Viktor with a swanton from the top of the pod, but New Day keeps pulling Kalisto down. Well, that was lame. So the Brass Ring Club is the next team in and they beat on Konnor with a 3D and Cesaro goes flying up to the top of the New Day pod to hit Kalisto with a forearm. He brings Kalisto down with a superplex into a Kidd flying elbow that gets two. The Ascension and BRC trade some stuff and Kidd gets the Sharpshooter on Viktor, but Konnor saves. Kalisto plays Spider-Man on the fence for some reason while Konnor hits a Dominator on Sin Cara for two, and the Matadores are the next ones in. Kalisto hangs from the very apex of the cage while everyone pools in the center, and he dives onto them in a really dangerous spot. I’d call that really needlessly reckless. And then the bull also climbs up the cage, but he lands on the Ascension and gets torpedoed out of the ring. Fall of Man finishes a matador at 10:33. Fall of Man finishes Kalisto at 11:24. This is some weird ass booking. Prime Time Players are in at 12:44 and they too fall victim to the, uh, awesome dominance of the Ascension, until Young suddenly hits his double knees finisher on Viktor to finish at 13:35. So what was the point of the Ascension running through 2 other teams? So Cesaro slugs it out with Young and hits a top rope gut wrench while some poor bastards try to start a “this is awesome” chant. It’s really not, guys. New Day is in with the other teams all beat up, and we get a wacky suplex with all the babyfaces suplexing all the heels. Cesaro tosses Woods into his pod and locks the door, evening things up, and we get the Giant Swing on Kofi into the dropkick, but Young rolls up Cesaro for the pin at 18:34 to suck the life out of the crowd. New Day chokes out Titus, but Young comes back and sends Big E into the pod and the Players make the comeback. Titus throws guys into the cage and Young hits his finisher on Kofi for two, but Big E suplexes Young onto the steel grating and the New Day triple-teams Titus to retain at 24:00. Yeah, this kinda sucked compared to most Chamber matches. **1/2 It was really disjointed and didn’t build to anything in particular that people wanted to see. Like why give the Ascension all those shine spots and then beat them a minute later? There were some good spots, but it wasn’t really a good match.
Meanwhile, Lana (who is rapidly losing her accent) wishes Dolph luck in the main event tonight.
Divas title: Nikki Bella v. Naomi v. Paige
Naomi hauls Nikki out to get rid of her right away, but misses a cross body on Paige. Paige hits the clotheslines and a fallaway slam for two. Nikki comes back in and we get some really awkward missed stuff, including Nikki trying a high kick and basically swinging at air two feet away from either girl, but Naomi dumps her and comes back on Paige. They pile up in the corner and we get a Tower of Doom powerbomb spot, but Naomi hits the butt-butt on Nikki for two. She does a really sloppy backwards rana on Paige and gets two, but Nikki hits her with the Rack Attack to retain at 6:00. Apparently we are supposed to cheer this development. It feels like they should have just put the title on Naomi here because she’s getting over. Usual women’s match but dragged down with ridiculous botched moves that they shouldn’t even be doing. *1/2
John Cena v. Kevin Owens
Hey, thanks to everyone who immediately e-mailed me after this match and spoiled it for me. My phone going crazy in my pocket probably should have tipped me off to something big happening. Jerry Lawler, on a roll of brainfarts tonight, calls him “Kevin Steen” during the ring introductions. Owens beats him down in the corner to start, but Cena comes back with the bulldog, so Owens whips him around the ring. Owens with a chinlock, but Cena tries to power out, so Owens hits the DDT for two. Owens slugs away, but Cena rolls him up for two, so Owens puts him down with a senton for two. Cena fights back, but Owens gets a version of White Noise for two. Cannonball in the corner gets two. Cena makes the comeback, but walks into the Pop Up Powerbomb for two. Owens to the top, but Cena trips him up and hits the FU for two. They slug it out and KO puts him down with a superkick, then stops for some mockery, which earns him an STF. Owens powers out and hits own FU for two, but Cena gets a tornado DDT for two. Guillotine legdrop gets two. Owens with the powerbomb for two. Owens slugs away, but Cena gets the stunner for two. To the top, but Owens reverses to a fisherman’s suplex in mid-air for two, then goes up again with a swanton for two. Cena puts him down with a lariat, but the Pop Up Powerbomb out of nowhere finishes at 19:55! The icing on the cake is the shots of all the horrified Cena fans in the audience crying. Even my wife, who was sitting there mocking both guys during the match, suddenly goes “HE BEAT JOHN CENA?!” And the announcers made sure to play this up as a huge deal. Everyone immediately compared this to Cena v. Brock, but this was more like Sting v. Vader with Cena getting a bunch of offense and constantly fighting back, but getting overwhelmed in the end. ****3/4 This would have to rank up there with the best examples ever of a new guy getting turned into a top level star in one night, done deal.
Meanwhile, the panel of idiots is in SHOCK.
Neville v. Bo Dallas
Neville works the knee and flips into a moonsault to the floor, which gets two. Bo dumps him to take over and hits a clothesline for two while we get a weird transition to the Chamber graphic out of nowhere. That seems like it might have been a mistake. Bo with a lengthy facelock while the announcers continue their inane bickering, but Neville throws him out to CREATE SEPARATION. Neville makes the comeback and finishes with the Red Arrow at 8:55. Going nearly 10 minutes with Dallas shows you the level that Neville is on now. *
Meanwhile, HHH informs Roman Reigns that, sadly, he cannot sanction Reigns being at ringside for the World title match tonight.
Intercontinental title: Sheamus v. Ryback v. R-Truth v. Dolph Ziggler v. King Barrett v. Mark Henry
Rusev injures himself so they put Mark Henry in there instead? That’s like having Jake Roberts as your AA sponsor. Ryback has dedicated this match to some kid at a gas station, in case you were wondering about his motivation. So we start with Ziggler and Barrett, and Dolph gets a pair of wacky rollups for two, but Barrett beats on him in the corner for two. We hit the chinlock and Dolph fights back with a corner splash and elbow for two, but gets clotheslined to the grating. R-Truth is next in, but Barrett won’t even let him leave the pod. Barrett beats on both babyfaces, but Truth comes back with a dropkick for two. Barrett catches him with the Bossman slam for two, but Dolph rolls up Barrett for two. The crowd could not care less about these three midcard geeks trading near falls. Barrett throws Ziggler into Henry’s pod and manages to break the door, so Mark Henry comes in early and beats on Barrett, followed “officially” by Ryback. It’s probably best that they speed this one up. Ryback overpowers Henry for two and hits Barrett with a spinebuster for two, and Ziggler gets a crucifix on Barrett for two. Barrett with the Wasteland for two, but Henry breaks it up for some reason. Well that’s stupid. R-Truth has literally been laying around doing nothing for like 3:00. Everyone gangs up on Barrett and Truth finally does something, hitting Barrett with the Little Jimmy or whatever it’s called now and eliminating him at 11:15. So the babyfaces all pair off, but now Sheamus’s door is stuck. Now everyone gangs up on Mark Henry, but Ryback turns on Ziggler and finishes Truth with the Shellshock at 13:55. Ryback with a very delayed suplex on Ziggler and the crowd is still really bored by all this. Sheamus finally emerges due to something dealing with his necklace, in that he either fixed the door or was jamming it the whole time or something. They did a terrible job explaining what that was supposed to be about or why it was important for him to be stuck in there the whole time. Like, shouldn’t someone have called attention to the necklace earlier? Brogue Kick eliminates Mark Henry at 17:20. The boredom continues as Sheamus suplexes Dolph for two, but Ziggler gets a DDT for two. Fameasser on Sheamus, but the Brogue Kick eliminates him at 20:31. Ryback comes back and pounds away in the corner, but Sheamus bails to the grating to escape. White Noise on the outside gets two. They fight on the other side and now Sheamus gets the Regal roll on the grating, but Ryback catches him with a powerbomb back into the ring. Shellshock wins the title at 25:10. They seriously put a title on RYBACK? This was easily one of the worst Chamber matches ever, with a slow pace and a bored crowd, long stretches of nothing, and poor Dolph having to bump for four other guys. ** At least it was someone different winning, I guess. Daniel Bryan presents him with the title afterwards, which was kind of a tip-off that a babyface was winning anyway.
Meanwhile, at Wrestlemania, Seth Rollins runs down to cash in the briefcase, then [something happens], and he’s the champion! Just to be clear, it’s OK to watch masked superhero Kalisto jumping from the ceiling of the cage and nearly dying, but stomping on another guy’s head is too hot for TV.
Kevin Owens v John Cena II at Money in the Bank, because they just can’t let anything build for a while before going right back to it. Also, the Money in the Bank match will feature Ziggler, Reigns, Kofi (?), Randy Orton, Sheamus, Neville, and more! The purpose of at least three of those guys is pretty transparently clear.
WWE World title: Seth Rollins v. Dean Ambrose
Ambrose controls with armdrags and Rollins bails for some support from the stooges. Back in, Ambrose puts him down with a chop and slugs away on the ropes, then follows with a guillotine legdrop for two. They fight to the top and Rollins gets a double stomp in the corner to take over and goes to the chinlock. The continue having a really dull match until they collide and Ambrose comes back with a powerbomb for two after some near-falls. J&J pull Rollins out of the ring to save him, but Ambrose follows with a dive and they go crashing into the tables. Back in, Rollins with a backslide for two, and a superkick for two. Now the crowd is doing “this is awesome” chants after sitting on their hands for 10 minutes. Not cool, Texas. They head up and Rollins tries a powerbomb out of the corner, but Dean slugs out of it and they hit the floor. Rollins sends him into the railing with a powerbomb and gets two off that, and the flying knee gets two. Curtain Call gets two. I kind of which they’d stop with having guys kick out of finishers in EVERY match. I mean, he powerbombed the guy into the RAILING! That should have been a months-long injury angle ala Sami Zayn. No wonder they can’t get any of this stuff over. Ambrose makes the comeback with a tornado DDT for two. Dean tries the guillotine again but misses this time, then comes back with the rebound lariat for two. Flying elbow gets two. Rollins puts him on the floor and follows with a dive, then back in with a turnbuckle powerbomb, but Ambrose no-sells and knocks the stooges off the apron. He hits them all with a dive, but now the ref is bumped on the way back in. Seth goes up and misses a dive, and Dirty Deeds gets the pin from a second referee at 21:55. No way this stands. Like this is the clearest Dusty Finish possible. And indeed, the first referee revives and it’s reversed to a DQ win instead. That’s a shit finish to a pretty good match. *** The Authority tries the beatdown, but Roman Reigns makes the save and Ambrose steals the belt. THEY JUST DID THAT STORYLINE. Nice to see some new faces in the main event, though.
The Pulse
Clearly this is a one-match show, but it’s a HELL of a match. Just subscribe to the network for June because you’re getting your $10 worth out of Cena v. Owens and the main event was pretty decent. The Chamber matches are both really disappointing, though, so be warned. Thumbs up regardless.  It’s a free show, what do you want? 

TIMELY REPOST: The SmarK DVD Rant for The Elimination Chamber Anthology

The SmarK DVD Rant for Satan’s Prison: The Complete Anthology of the Elimination Chamber
Setting aside the fact that the title sounds like a bad Tarantino B-movie homage, you had to figure that they’d be coming out with this collection sooner rather than later. This is basically just a collection of the matches in chronological order, hosted by Todd Grisham. A quick word on video presentation, as much of these matches are from the HD era and thus presented in 16×9. However, the older stuff is 4×3, and just like on the Ricky Steamboat DVD, the matches are presented window-boxed with “Elimination Chamber” graphics on the sides of the screen to fill the space. Either leave it black or let the DVD player handle it, production monkeys.
Anyway, I never thought this was such a hot idea for a match in the first place, but they sunk a LOT of money into developing and building the equipment, so you knew it was going to be a yearly thing whether we liked it or not. The one thing that REALLY bugged me, however, was the series of nicknames given to the match, none of which any fan ever has ever called it outside of the WWE marketing offices.

Disc One

RAW World title: HHH v. Shawn Michaels v. Chris Jericho v. Booker T v. Kane v. Rob Van Dam. (Survivor Series 2002)

I would be remiss in not noting how gay HBK is looking tonight, complete with his girlish haircut, tights-and-cowboy-boots look, and 120 pound frame. I mean, seriously, I’m not one to advocate drug use, but sometimes you need to shoot up with roids in order to give the match SOME degree of cred. I’ve seen Jeff Hardy look more butch than Shawn. HHH and RVD start the match, with five-minute intervals for the other guys. The small bolt holding the main door shut reminds me of the Rhino cages on the Simpsons. Rob gets a leg lariat to start, and kicks away. HHH comes back by USING THE KNEE, and gets backdropped onto the grating while trying the Pedigree. Rob stomps him down and sends him into the main door a couple of times, breaking the high-quality lock clean off. So much for craftsmanship. Rob monkey-flips him onto the grating (it kinda detracts from the intensity when you do three flips before a move), and gets Rolling Thunder onto the grating. Back into the ring, Rob climbs above Jericho’s cage (you have to question THAT wisdom) and of course gets tripped up as a result. They head back down again as Rob gets a sloppy somersault dive off the cage, only making contact in a general sense. HHH eats the cage again and they head back in, as Jericho joins us after the first interval. Rob hits him with a leg lariat and a standing moonsault for two. Springboard dropkick and Rob dumps Jericho, then follows him out with a dive that misses. He grabs the cage like Spider-Man (as noted by JR and King), and follows Jericho back in. HHH nails him with a lariat, however. Jericho hits RVD with a backdrop suplex, but Rob fights back on both heels. Jericho hits him with a senton for two. HHH tosses Rob again and they ram him into the cage and generally beat him down. HHH whips Jericho into Rob, but it misses and Rob hits both of them with kicks to come back. HHH DDTs him as we await the entrance of Booker T to hopefully get this thing moving a little faster. Booker cleans house and stops for a Spinarooni, then does a sequence with RVD that ends with a spinkick that gets two for Booker. Rob spinkicks him for two. Blind charge misses and Booker sidekicks him for two. HHH comes back in, but gets axe kicked. RVD goes up to the top of an empty cage for the frog splash, but physics is NOT his friend, as he runs out of room and blows the move, driving his knee into HHH’s throat as a result. Hebner gives the dreaded “X” sign to indicate legitimate injury, and HHH takes a breather while Booker hits Rob with a missile dropkick for the pin at 13:39. I think RVD blew out his knee on that move, too. Booker covers HHH for two. Jericho chops away on Booker and bulldogs him, but misses the Lionsault and gets hit with a MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER. Booker gets two, and Kane is in next. Weird thing: The order of entrance into the ring is the same as the order of entrance into the match. Kane gives Booker a corner clothesline and tosses Jericho into the cage. Next stop: The plexiglass, which turns out to be less bulletproof than advertised. Kane pounds on HHH and blocks Booker’s sidekick, then chokeslams him. Jericho Lionsaults Booker for the pin at 17:40. Note to everyone still holding out hope for a Booker push: Give it up. Kane and Jericho fight on the cage and Jericho gets slammed back into the ring, while HHH lies around and bleeds. You know, if HHH was injured, he should have just been a professional and bowed out of the match early and actually put someone over rather than waiting to give the Almighty Rub of God to his best friend. Kane slams HHH off the top, but Jericho goes low and gives him a missile dropkick. Shawn arrives on the scene and cleans house (which is a pretty ridiculous visual given the size difference) and hits Kane with the flying forearm. JR’s assessment: “He’s not quick, he’s sudden” Well, that certainly clears it up. Kane chokes Jericho down and chokeslams everyone, but goes for exactly zero pins. A superkick, a Pedigree and a Lionsault later and Kane is gone at 22:52. Poor Kane is always booked to look like an incompetent boob, and they wonder why he never gets over. Jericho sends Shawn into the cage a few times and opens a cut (using verbal encouragement for good measure), and HHH tosses Shawn. Some cheese grater action results. Back in, Jericho abuses Shawn while HHH does nothing, but looks REALLY INTENSE while doing it. Shawn fights back and goes for a piledriver on the grating, but Jericho backdrops out of it. Back in, Shawn hits HHH with his forearm (time to update the moveset, Shawn, it’s the 21st century), but gets Lionsaulted for two. Shawn gets a moonsault press for two. He puts Jericho in a Boston Crab, but HHH DDTs Shawn to break it, and Jericho gets two. The heels fight over the pin and HHH uses the knee for two. Pedigree is reversed to the Walls, but Shawn superkicks him to break it, which was a pretty obvious spot. Jericho is gonzo at 30:44. HHH & Shawn slug it out, and HHH gets the MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER for two. Shawn charges and gets dumped, but they fight over the Pedigree and Shawn gets catapulted into the plexiglass. Back in, HHH gets two. They slug it out again and HHH gets yet another facebuster and dumps Shawn. I think they’re running out of spots to use tonight. Another Pedigree attempt is reversed to yet another catapult, which is like the fifth one in the match. Nice bald spot, Shawn. Back in, Shawn goes up and drops the big elbow off the cage, almost adding his contribution to the “kill HHH fund” in the process, and the band is warming up. He passes a move to HHH via Hebner on-camera, telling him to tell HHH to block the first one. And indeed, HHH blocks it and hits the KICK WHAM PEDIGREE, but doesn’t go for the pin. He finally gets two. Another try is reversed by Shawn to the superkick, and he wins the title at 39:21. A good first effort, but it didn’t seem like it would be enough to justify the cost of the apparatus in the future. ***1/4

RAW World title, Elimination Chamber: HHH v. Randy Orton v. Chris Jericho v. Goldberg v. Kevin Nash v. Shawn Michaels. (Summerslam 2003)

They don’t even bother to explain the rules this time, which is pretty stupid. Goldberg is so pumped that he slips on the way to the ring. Jericho starts with Michaels in the ring while the other four are locked away. Shawn elbows out of a hammerlock to start, but Jericho rolls through a cross body for two. Shawn backslides him for two. They work off a headlock and into a pinfall reversal sequence (possibly for Flair’s benefit at ringside) and Shawn tries a sunset flip, blocked by Jericho for two, and reversed by Michaels for two. They slug it out and Michaels backdrops him, but Jericho goes for the Walls. Shawn reverses for two. Jericho bulldogs him but misses the Lionsault, and recovers with a clothesline. Again with the goofy title lineage, as JR notes that this title has only changed hands once in Arizona – the Halftime Heat match in 1999. But that’s the WWE title, which is the one held by Angle, not HHH’s made-up belt. They’re totally different things. Randy Orton is in next and dropkicks Shawn out, but gets chopped down by Jericho. Orton takes him down with a neckbreaker for two. Jericho with an enzuigiri on Shawn for two. Orton dropkicks him down and stomps away. He sets up for the RKO, but gets backdropped out and Jericho stomps away. JR notes that with flesh on steel, steel wins. I’d like to see Yu-Gi-Oh cards to back that assertion up. Jericho gets the Walls on Shawn as Big Blondie is next in, and he slugs everyone down. Jericho gets speared into the cage a few times and eats COLD, UNFORGIVING STEEL. Sideslam on Orton gets two. Short-arm clothesline on Shawn gets two. Big boot for Jericho sets up a Poochiebomb, but Shawn superkicks him over for the pin at 8:09. Nice to see Big Kev earning his pay out there. However, just because he has to be a role model for children everywhere, he throws a tantrum and powerbombs everyone to keep his nonexistent heat. Next in: HHH, sort of. Shawn immediately superkicks him, and it’s such a powerful one that he ends up unconscious for about 10 minutes. This match is like a grade school primer on how to play political games in wrestling. Everyone is dead and buried from the awesome power of the Poochiebombs, but they manage to crawl back to life and slug it out. I’m surprised they weren’t instructed to stop and cut a promo about how lucky they were to not have Nash in there to beat them up any longer. Goldberg is the last man in and he kills everyone, which shockingly, SHOCKINGLY, gets him over with the crowd. Press spinebuster on Orton, but Jericho and Michaels try a double-team and get clotheslined. Spear for Orton gets rid of him at 13:01. Jericho tries a missile dropkick and gets two, but Goldberg presses him into the cage. Shawn gets in Goldberg’s face and gets whipped into the corner for his troubles. Goldberg then deals with Jericho, spearing him through the mini-chamber, albeit not very cleanly. Shawn tries making a comeback, dropping an elbow and prepping the superkick, but the stomping only gives away his position and the spear and Jackhammer send him back to meet Jesus at 15:21. Jericho is dead and buried already, and the spear and Jackhammer are academic at 16:05. HHH hides in his chamber, as Flair goes nuts trying to prop the door closed and kick him out, but Goldberg kicks in the plexiglass to break him loose. He never learns about punching and kicking glass, does he? Goldberg pounds on him for a bit, but sets up for a spear and falls prey to the SLEDGEHAMMER OF DOOM and gets pinned at 19:15, thus sucking all the life out of a previously-hot crowd. Match was more energetic than the first EC thanks to shorter intervals, but as a match wasn’t as good and didn’t tell as good a story. ***

RAW World title, Elimination Chamber: Chris Jericho v. Chris Benoit v. Batista v. Randy Orton v. HHH v. Edge. (New Year’s Revolution 2005)
So our first two guys are Benoit and Jericho. Benoit takes Jericho into the corner to start and they fight over a lockup, and Jericho takes him down. They trade headlocks and go back to the lockup. Jericho breaks with a knee and pounds on him, but Benoit fires back with a chop or two or ten, and so does Jericho. Benoit takes him down and gets reversed to the Walls, but fires back with the german suplex, and when Jericho blocks that he tries the crossface. Jericho blocks that and Benoit counters by taking him down for a beating, but Jericho escapes. Jericho hits him with the Flashback for two. Backdrop suplex gets two. Jericho goes up and Benoit follows, and the result is a superplex, and 5:00 is up. Next in, it’s HHH, and he lays out Benoit and slugs away in the corner. He whips him into the other corner and then hits Jericho with a high knee and gets two on Benoit from another whip. Jericho starts throwing chops in response, but eats a lariat out of the corner. They head to the outside, where HHH sends Benoit into the chains and then goes after Jericho. Benoit starts an admirable gusher. Well, when in Rome. HHH sends him back into the chain, and gets two. Jericho saves him from a Pedigree, and then backdrops HHH onto the steel surrounding the ring. Out there, he drops HHH backfirst on the steel, and then suplexes him back into the ring again. That gets two. Benoit reappears with a neckbreaker on Jericho for two, and the (late) timer counts Edge into the match. Quick story about Edge: The original plan for the first Chamber match in 2002 was for Edge to get eliminated from the three-way tag title match early, jump to RAW mid-show, and replace Shawn Michaels (who would be injured by HHH) to win the title from HHH in his place. Anyway, Edge cleans house on everyone, but gets dropkicked by Jericho, and Jericho chooses to cover HHH for two. Why he’d do that, I dunno. He hits Edge with a springboard dropkick and goes back to Benoit, hitting him with a knee to the gut. HHH lays out Edge with a knee of his own and tries a Pedigree on the steel, but Edge reverses to a catapult into the steel and goes up with a flying clothesline on Benoit that gets two. Jericho starts bleeding elsewhere as Benoit takes Edge down with a crossface attempt that gets blocked. Jericho comes back in with an enzuigiri on Edge for two. HHH hits Jericho with a spinebuster for two. Benoit gets a northern lights suplex on Edge for two. HHH hits Jericho with a KICK WHAM PEDIGREE, but Randy Orton is in to save before he can make the pin. Orton goes up with a high cross on HHH and hammers away, and then stomps a mudhole in the corner. He dumps HHH and tosses him into the chain, as everyone else lays around. Jericho tries to intervene and gets RKO’d, but Benoit goes for the crossface to counter another attempt. HHH taunts Orton, so Benoit releases and puts HHH in the Sharpshooter instead. Man, there’s a time and place for the badmouth, and we just learned what it WASN’T. Orton breaks that up by RKO’ing Benoit. Edge, still fresh, sets up Orton for the spear, but misses and hits Shawn instead. He gets another one on Orton, but there’s no ref. He probably lost his smile. Edge argues with him and gets superkicked. That doesn’t seem legal. Lionsault gets rid of Edge at 19:21. Next victim looks to be Jericho, but Benoit breaks up the Pedigree with the rolling germans (en Espanola) and he climbs to the top of the cage and hits the diving headbutt on HHH. Jericho then puts HHH in the Walls and Benoit adds the crossface for the MOST AWESOME SUBMISSION MOVE EVER, but Batista is in last. HHH hangs on until he can be saved by Batista, and Dave is ON FIRE. He tosses everyone with a pulse and hits Orton with the MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER, and then the crowd goes nuts when HHH is the only one left standing. However, it gets broken up by Benoit and Jericho, so he kicks their asses. Then, in the coolest spot I’ve seen all year (sure, it’s only 10 days old, but…) he press-slams Jericho into the CAMERAMAN. Now that’s badass. He chokes out Orton until Benoit clips him to save, and the faces all work Batista over until Jericho rolls up Orton for two. HHH sends Orton into the chain, but then gets bulldogged by Jericho while Batista makes Benoit his bitch. Figuratively speaking. Benoit fights back and sends Batista into the cage, and HHH starts bleeding next. Things really slow down at this point, as Batista then saves things by getting the spinebuster on Benoit, then a spinebuster on Jericho, ON BENOIT, and pins Benoit at 26:17. That’s two unique power moves from Big Dave tonight. Jericho is game to fight back, but gets powerslammed, powerbombed, and powerpinned at 27:39 to leave Batista, Orton and HHH, aka the Wrestlemania main event. Batista’s next victim is Randy Orton, and he sends him into the cage, and HHH catapults him into it as well. Orton does a girlie blade job (it’s PUERTO FUCKING RICO, you wuss) and Evolution starts working him over. Batista gets a powerslam for two. HHH adds a spinebuster for two. HHH stands him up and knocks him down with a nasty lariat for two. Batista hammers away as the match kind of grinds to a halt again, but Orton fights back on his own. He tries the RKO, but HHH shoves him into Batista. Orton goes low and gets the RKO for the pin at 32:33, however. Beating Batista is a really bad idea right now. The crowd totally turns on Orton for that, in fact, since Dave’s the guy they believe in right now. Orton and HHH battle by the cage and HHH eats cage a few times before eating an RKO, but Batista is still in the ring and kills Orton dead with a lariat before KICK WHAM PEDIGREE gives HHH World title #10 at 34:57. Orton is booked like such a loser now it’s not even funny. Well, kind of funny. Match was lots of fun and the best of the series thus far, but needs about 10 minutes of dead spots shaved off it to achieve the kind of instant classic status that the WarGames matches all had until the 90s killed them off. ****

Disc Two

RAW World title: John Cena v. Kurt Angle v. Shawn Michaels v. Kane v. Carlito v. Chris Masters. (New Year’s Revolution 2006)
Joey Styles endears himself to his core audience, I’m sure, as he declares that this match is more hardcore and brutal than anything he’s seen in 7 years as ECW’s voice. He must be a ventriloquist, because otherwise it’d be impossible to talk with Vince’s cock wedged down his throat all the time. Michaels is course the first guy in, and he starts with Cena, who gets an amazingly bitter reaction. Shawn works the arm to start, but gets slugged down, which draws MEAN boos. Not even good-natured jeering, but real hatred. That’s cold, man. It takes some specific hatred to even boo individual punches. Shawn whips him into the corner for two. Shawn then calls a reverse into the corner, while standing in front of the camera, and lo and behold that’s what happens. You’d think he would stop doing that after all these years. Cena clotheslines Shawn out of the ring, as Carlito is next into this thing. He attacks Cena to a babyface reaction, but dives at Shawn and misses. He comes back with a Flatliner on Cena for two, and slams Shawn off the top for two. Carlito suplexes both guys to control things by himself, but Shawn rolls him up for two. Cena slugs away and now I think the crowd is just booing him because everyone else is doing it. Cena & Shawn double-team Carlito with a flapjack, giving Cena two. Another double-team and now it’s Angle time! German suplexes for everyone! It’s a Boxing day sale! Do Americans get that reference? Anyway, Shawn gets suplexed onto the steel, as does Carlito, and Angle catapults Shawn into the cage. Blood results. Angle sends him into the plexiglass for good measure, but Cena makes the comeback. Angle suplexes him to the delight of the crowd, and then goes after Carlito. The Angle Slam is reversed, but the anklelock is not, and Carlito has to hang on until Chris Masters enters the match to save him. He cleans house and tries the Masterlock on Angle, but that’s not smart. Anklelock time, but Cena breaks, so Angle puts HIM in the move instead. The crowd goes apeshit for that, but Shawn superkicks Angle to break…and pins him at 13:39? What’s up with that bullshit? Carlito and Masters work Cena & Michaels over with their lame offense, and Shawn eats cage as the Shitty Wrestler Alliance beats on Cena. The match is definitely feeling a gaping void already without Angle. Kane is last into the match and cleans house, but gets caught by Masters on the top. He gets the clothesline anyway and chokeslams both victims. Carlito and Masters continue their guerrilla warfare and overwhelm him, but he no-sells it. Finally Masters presses Carlito onto Kane, and they dogpile him for the pin at 19:26, beyond even Kane’s zombie powers to save himself. I should note that most of Shawn’s output thus far has been lying around and bleeding, which is why the match isn’t great or anything. Carlito & Masters work Shawn over, but he comes back with the flying forearm and fights them off. Flying elbow for Cena, but he’s got nothing left. And indeed, hitting the superkick takes the last out of him, and Carlito & Masters again jump him and quickly hit Carlito’s finisher on him for the pin at 23:36. Interesting strategy there, actually. Sadly, it leaves John Cena against Carlito and Chris Masters for a major title. Cena comes back against all odds, as usual, and now the crowd is cheering Chris Masters to win the WWE title. Think about THAT. Cena tries the FU on Carlito, but Masters breaks. He DDTs Cena on the steel and they go to work on him with a double suplex and double backdrop suplex off the middle rope. It appears to be Masterlock time, but Carlito turns on his partner with a low blow for the pin, and then Cena rolls up Carlito for the pin to retain at 28:27. I hate rollup finishes in major matches, especially when there’s TWO of them. Shawn did nothing here and Angle didn’t have a chance to do anything, so the results weren’t great. **3/4
Speaking of not great…
ECW World title / EXTREME Elimination Chamber: Big Show v. Rob Van Dam v. Bob Holly v. Test v. Lashley v. CM Punk (“ECW” December to Dismember 2006)
So we start with RVD v. Holly, and Rob clotheslines him before walking into one of Holly’s. Rob slugs away, but gets whipped onto the STEEL walkway, where he does the Spider-Man spot by clinging onto the chains, before missing a dive at Holly and clotheslining himself on the ropes. Holly sends him into the chains and goes up, as though anyone would expect him to hit a splash onto the steel like that. And indeed, Rob gets his foot up in the spot I hate so much. Rob follows with a nice Rolling Thunder over the top and onto the steel, but Holly suplexes him back into the ring. That gets two. Holly gets the dropkick for two, but CM Punk is the next guy into the ring. He springboards in with a clothesline on RVD to wake up the crowd, but Rob hits him with the chair and monkey-flips him onto it. Punk ducks a spinkick and legdrops RVD onto the chair, albeit in an awkward spot. He puts the chair in the corner and sends Rob into it, but goes after Holly and gets sent into the chains outside. That gets two for Holly. Back in, sideslam gets two for Holly. Holly suplexes Punk on the top rope and turns his attention back to RVD, but then superplexes Punk, which allows RVD to sneak in and get two. And Holly gets two as well. Punk isn’t exactly getting much offense here.
Next into the trainwreck: Test and his crowbar. Punk takes more abuse as a result and Test works on Rob’s cut with it, but Rob keeps fighting. He superkicks Holly and gives Test an EXTREMEly protected chairshot, then dropkicks the chair at Punk, who is looking like the extreme jobber. Frog splash gets rid of Punk, and the crowd is PISSED. Test boots Holly for two, but Holly disappears so I guess that was a pin. Rob hits Test with a dropkick and goes up on top of Big Show’s pod, which allows Test to hit him with a chair and bring him down the hard way. Test also goes up onto the pod and drops an elbow to finish Rob at 13:58. And if you thought the crowd was pissed before, that’s nothing. Who booked this crap? I guess the idea is supposed to be Lashley fighting against all odds against Heyman’s goons, but C’MON.
Next up, it’s Lashley and his table, but Heyman’s hired goons prevent him from coming in. Fine by me. Lashley comes in via the top of the pod and goes after Test, and he’s a house of fire! He whips Test into the pods, but Test comes back with the choke in the corner. Lashley boots a chair back at him and throws his dizzying array of clotheslines, then grabs a crowbar. Uh oh, black guy with a crowbar. Spear finishes at 19:46, and we’re left with everyone standing around while we wait for Show’s pod to open. Why even wait for the rest of the minute? It’s not like it’s some big shock who’s coming out last.
And yes, Big Show is the last guy out, and he’s got a barbed wire baseball bat. Lashley blocks the BAT OF RAGE with a chair, but Show gets his bat caught in the chains and loses it. Lashley sends him through the pod’s “glass” and Show starts bleeding, but he tosses Lashley back into the ring to take over. Clothesline and AAAAAAAAAAAAHchokeslam, but Lashley reverses into the DDT. They slug it out and Show misses a charge, and Lashley spears him for the pin and the title at 24:47. *1/2
Show could barely even move out there, and Lashley was never really put in any peril, as all the work was done for him by the other guys. Even worse, the rest of the match was disorganized and poorly booked, with people that the crowd had no interest in seeing. This was supposed to be a big deal, but the crowd is so burned out that they barely even pop for it.
Undertaker v. Batista v. Finlay v. MVP v. Big Daddy V v. The Great Khali (No Way Out 2008)

Sadly, I never saw this PPV, so this is my first exposure to this match. It doesn’t look promising. Winner faces Edge at Wrestlemania for the Smackdown World title. Or ECW World title if an ECW guy happens to win. Yeah, I know. Batista starts with Undertaker and pounds him with shoulders in the corner, but Taker tosses him over the top and into the cold unforgiving forged steel fence. Or, as those of us who aren’t Michael Cole would say, the chains. Back in, they slug it out and Taker puts him down with a big boot and chokes away in the corner. Batista fights back and wins a slugfest, then puts Taker down with an elbow for two. They knock each other out with a big boot as the first 5:00 period comes to an end, and Big Daddy V is next in.
He hits both guys with chops and samoan drops Taker, but doesn’t go for a pin. Instead, he decides to chops at Batista in the corner as Cole questions the conditioning of V. I hope they pay him well for insight like that. V headbutts Taker on the apron and the sell is so dramatic that Taker goes right through the door. I question the physics of that. Avalanche on Batista in the corner as this boring segment continues, but Batista gets a spinebuster out of nowhere in a visually impressive spot. He clotheslines Big Daddy out of the ring and pins him at 9:00. He tries the same thing on Taker, but only gets two. And next in is Great Khali, as the crowd groans again. So it’s the same story again, with the monster beating on both Batista & Undertaker and giving UT the tree slam for two. Same deal with Batista. He follows with the KONA KRUSH on Batista, but the Animal goes low and spears him to escape. Taker makes the comeback and finishes Khali with the Gobot Ladder. So it’s back to UT & Batista again. Taker gives him a boot on the apron and gets two. Nice spot as he drags Batista across the steel apron. That’s slightly uncomfortable!
Finlay is the next cannon fodder into the match, but he manages to dodge a charging Undertaker and tosses Batista to the apron again. Celtic Cross gets two on Undertaker. Another Cole-ism: The steel grating around the apron is “concrete-like”. I’d say it’s more like steel. Back in, Undertaker clotheslines Batista and Finlay sneaks in for two. He fights with Taker out to the apron and rams him into the fence, and that gets two. He runs Taker into the unbreakable plexiglass, which breaks, but Batista suplexes Finlay back into the ring for two. MVP is the next guy in, and Undertaker immediately destroys him, before he even gets out of the pod. Batista pounds on Taker in the corner, but MVP sneaks in with the running kicks on both of them and gets two on Undertaker. He chokes Finlay out for two. Coachman’s turn for stupidity: “Even though everything is legal, I don’t think anyone expected MVP to use that chain!” Yeah, that’d be CRAZY for him to choke a guy out with the giant gold chain around his neck. MVP gets arrogant and jumps to the top of the pod, but Taker chokeslams him off the top and Finlay pins him to get rid of him.
Undertaker misses an elbow off the top, which allows Hornswaggle to throw the shillelagh in for Finlay, and that gets two on Batista. Taker has had enough of these Irish shenanigans, however, and chokeslams Finlay for the pin. So that leaves Undertaker and Batista, and they slug it out until Batista is able to get the Batistabomb for two. But then he stupidly hammers away in the corner, and it’s Last Ride for two. Undertaker uses some ground-and-pound on Batista, but Batista tosses him and then drives his head into the chain. However, in a spectacular reversal, Taker pulls himself back into the ring from Batista’s shoulders and reverses into the chokeslam for the pin at 30:00. I’d have much rather just seen an Undertaker-Batista match than have the four dead weights in there, so this kind of fell in into the middle of the road for me. ***
HHH v. Umaga v. JBL v. Jeff Hardy v. Chris Jericho v. Shawn Michaels (No Way Out 2008)

This would be the RAW half of the Chamber matches for this show, and the potential looks much better here. Jericho starts with HBK, back when Jericho was a babyface with long tights and referees still had names. How times have changed. They trade chops and Shawn gets a sunset flip for two, which turns into a cool series of reversals and a northern lights suplex from Jericho for two. Shawn bridges out of that and into the backslide for two. They trade chops and a chunk of commentary is edited out for some reason, before a slugfest leads to Shawn going up with a flying elbow that hits knee. Jericho with a Lionsault that is blocked by knees in turn, but Jericho one-ups Shawn with a Lionsault attempt. Shawn reverses to a Sharpshooter, and Jericho reverses that into a small package for two. Hey, they should put these two together in a program, it might win Feud of the Year and produce some **** matches. The first period is up, and Umaga is the next guy in.

He runs through both Y2J and HBK, hitting them with a double clothesline, but Shawn saves Jericho from the samoan drop by diving on top. But then Umaga just hits both of them with the samoan drop, which is pretty awesome. Umaga gets rid of Shawn and concentrates on Jericho, beating him down before going outside to buttdrop Michaels on the steel. Back in, Umaga slugs Jericho down, but misses a splash, and Shawn goes up with the flying elbow on him. Jericho tries to capitalize with the Walls, but Umaga threatens to power out, so Michaels puts the crossface on the other end of Umaga, and how does that not get the submission? More importantly, how do you not immediately make Shawn and Jericho a tag team and have that be their finisher? Either way, JBL is the next one in. JBL was feuding with Jericho in a totally forgettable program at that point, so he goes right after him, while Umaga beats on Shawn outside. And there’s blood! Quick, someone make a Youtube video and use it against Linda McMahon! Call Mattel! So the heels are absolutely kicking the shit out of the babyfaces as HHH is the next one in.

He hits JBL with a facecrusher and runs Umaga into him, then it’s a spinebuster for anyone standing and a DDT on JBL for two. He runs Umaga into the corner and up into the pod, but Jericho hits HHH with a bulldog. Lionsault misses, but JBL hits HHH with the clothesline from hell. Codebreaker on JBL finishes him, however. That was a great sequence. JBL is nothing if not reasonable and fair, however, and returns with a chair to murder everyone in the match with shots to the head. Everyone bleeds, as we get blood AND chairshots to the head in the same match. Umaga was the only one dumb enough not to protect himself, though. After all that, Jeff Hardy is the last one in and he goes on the offensive with all his stuff on everyone. Umaga ends the run with a thrust kick, and hits Jericho with that stupid spinning uranage that was all the rage a few years ago. He hangs HHH in the Tree of Woe and whips Shawn into him. Jericho is recovering against the pod, so Umaga hits him with the running butt splash and breaks the plexiglass. Again. That would be much cooler had they not wasted that spot in the Smackdown match. Umaga rages in the ring, but superkick, Codebreaker, Pedigree, and Swanton Bomb in sequence all combine to give Jericho the pin. Shawn superkicks Jericho and Hardy pins him in turn. Hardy hits Shawn with the Twist of Fate and finishes Shawn with KICK WHAM PEDIGREE. So that leaves Hardy v. HHH.

HHH tosses him to the apron, but Hardy comes back with a DDT out there and rams HHH into the chain a bunch of times. He dives at HHH and gets caught, but backdrops HHH into the ring again and goes up. Swanton misses, and it’s KICK WHAM PEDIGREE and HHH gets…two? So he grabs a chair and tries again, but Jeff reverses out. HHH reverses again and KICK WHAM PEDIGREE finishes to give us yet another HHH v. Randy Orton match at Wrestlemania, albeit with John Cena thrown in. And that was it for Hardy’s main event push until late in the year, when they suddenly pulled the trigger and put the belt on him out of nowhere. This was a hell of a deal, the first real example of a Chamber match that lived up to the potential. ****1/2

Disc Three

Smackdown World title, Elimination Chamber: Edge v. Undertaker v. HHH v. Jeff Hardy v. Vladimir Kozlov v. Big Show
So we have Edge and Jeff Hardy starting as JR stumbles all over explaining the rules. It’s been 7 years, you’d think they would have it down by now. Jeff gets a pair of clotheslines, but Edge puts him down with a big boot for two. A splash on the ropes gets two. Edge smacks Jeff around in the corner and mocks Big Show, but Hardy takes him down with an atomic drop into the low dropkick. Twist of Fate and Jeff goes up already, but misses the swanton. Edge sets up for the spear, but Hardy rolls him up for the pin at 3:05. Huh. Surprised we’ve never seen that finish before. Edge is shocked at losing his title, but given all the title changes I’m sure he’ll get it back soon anyway.
So next in is Kozlov and he pounds away on Hardy in the corner and puts him down with a headbutt. He runs Hardy into the cage a few times in the gentlest manner possible, then tosses him into the ring for two. Headbutts in the corner and he follows with a blockbuster slam for two. Note to Kozlov: Sneering before every move isn’t the same as charisma or ring psychology. Backbreaker gets two. Kozlov bearhugs him on the mat and elbows him down, but Hardy dropkicks him into the corner and follows with the mule kick. Whisper in the Wind and finally it’s time for someone who isn’t awful to come in. Oh, wait, it’s Big Show, never mind. Show and Kozlov double-team Jeff and pound him down, giving us cute series where they each try to abuse Hardy with more impressive stuff. Finally Kozlov takes his moment and puts Show down with the headbutt, and they slug it out. HHH is next in and he fires away on Show and puts Kozlov down with the high knee, then hits the spinebuster on Show. Hardy tries to sneak in with a Twist of Fate, but HHH puts him down again with a clothesline. 3-on-1 is NOTHING to HHH! He runs Kozlov into the cage and tries the Pedigree out there, but Show breaks it up. I agree with JR — why bother stopping him? Back in the ring, Show gets a sideslam for two. Meanwhile, Kozlov drops elbows on Hardy. HHH escapes a chokeslam, but walks into a press slam instead. Show runs him into the cage and splashes him against it, then runs Hardy into HHH as well. Sadly, he misses another charge and puts himself down.
Back in the ring, HHH and Hardy team up with a double-team suplex on Kozlov, and it’s Undertaker time. He drops Kozlov with Snake Eyes and follows with the big boot, then hits Hardy and HHH with corner clotheslines. Show attacks him from behind, however, and Taker comes back with a DDT on the steel outside the ring. Finally Kozlov puts him down with a headbutt and pounds him in the corner with elbows, but it’s Last Ride from there and Vlad is done at 23:00. OK, he’s been pinned, he’s not undefeated, so shut up about it announcers. HHH recovers and tries to Pedigree Show again, but he gets backdropped to the steel. Show tosses Hardy onto HHH for good measure. Hardy climbs to the top of the pod to escape and Show follows, but you have to think that’s a bad idea. And indeed Undertaker brings Show down with a superplex. Show’s still moving, so KICK WHAM PEDIGREE and a swanton from the pod put him out at 26:12.

Hardy misses a Whisper on Undertaker, so HHH and UT slug it out in the corner and HHH bumps to the steel as a result. Taker goes Old School on Hardy, but HHH brings him down to break it up. Hardy catapults himself off the recovering Undertaker and hits HHH with a plancha, but Undertaker is having none of that shit and tombstones Hardy out of it at 28:35. Note to self: Never launch off Undertaker when he’s laying on the mat. Apparently it upsets him. So we’re down to HHH v. Undertaker, which we actually haven’t seen in so long that it’s interesting again. Taker boots him down as JR dubs this match “Satan’s vacation house in Hell.” That’s uh, quite the metaphor. Taker charges and crotches himself in the corner, allowing HHH to ram him into the cage, but Taker comes back with the chokeslam. That gets two. Taker follows with Snake Eyes, but runs into the spinebuster and HHH gets two. HHH sends him into the cage and tries a Pedigree, but Taker catapults him into the cage to counter and they trade tombstone attempts before Taker gets it. But HHH’s foot is on the ropes at two. From a kayfabe perspective, you have to have huge balls to do that. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE gets two. They slug it out in the corner and the crowd doesn’t really know what to do here. Taker puts him down, but HHH fires away in the corner. Don’t people KNOW not to do that? Last Ride, but HHH escapes and KICK WHAM PEDIGREE wins him the title at 35:58. I kinda want to see HHH v. Undertaker at Wrestlemania now. Without the Kozlov stuff it’s an easy Match of the Year, but it’s still excellent even with it, especially once it was down to the last four guys. ****1/2

Elimination Chamber, RAW World title: John Cena v. Chris Jericho v. Rey Mysterio v. Kane v. Mike Knox v. Edge
Edge attacked Kofi Kingston and took his place during the ring entrance, which actually draws a good reaction from the fans. Probably because he’s smarter and cooler than everyone else right now. So the match starts with Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio. Jericho takes Rey down with a headlock, but Rey monkey-flips him and sets up for the 619. Jericho escapes that, but Rey somersaults into him and they go into the cage. Rey slugs away in the corner, but misses a blind charge and hits the post. Jericho with a suplex for two and goes to a chinlock, but Rey fights up. Jericho tries to catapult him into the cage, but Rey grabs on in the Spider-Man spot and hits Jericho with a rana from there. Butt splash gets two. Bulldog and Kane is the next man in. Kane puts both guys down and hits Rey with a sideslam for two. Low dropkick gets two. Kane goes after Jericho and clotheslines him to the steel outside, then rams his knee into the floor. Rey attacks Kane from behind and baseball slides him, but Kane pounds him down again. Rey fights off both Kane and Jericho, but Kane sets up for a chokeslam on Rey. Rey reverses that to a 619 on Kane and Jericho hits Kane with the Codebreaker, allowing Rey to hit the flying butt splash and pin him at 9:47.
Next in, Mike Knox. He goes after both Jericho and Rey and drops a knee on Jericho for two. Jericho backdrops him out of the ring, but tries a bodypress and gets rammed into the cage as a result. Rey sneaks up and dives at Knox, but he goes into the cage too. Back into the ring and Knox uses the clubbing forearms on Rey, but walks into a Codebreaker to thankfully get rid of him at 14:40. So next in is Edge, and Rey attacks him before he can even leave the pod. Rey with the high kicks, but he runs into a Jericho clothesline. Jericho puts Edge down with a bulldog and elbows Rey down, but Lionsault misses. Edge-o-Matic gets two on Jericho. Edge tries the spear on Rey, but misses, and Jericho’s attempt at another sneak Codebreaker misses this time. Rey and Jericho fight to the top, and Edge follows, giving us a Tower of Doom spot that doesn’t get over as well as they were probably hoping. And finally John Cena is the last man in and he hits Edge with a belly to belly suplex and Jericho with a fisherman’s suplex. Backdrop suplex for Edge sets up the Five Knuckle Shuffle, but a Codebreaker breaks up the FU, and Edge pins Cena with a spear at 22:22. HUGE face pop for that.

Rey fights off both heels and gets a rana on Jericho, then hits a 619 on Jericho and runs Edge into the post. West Coast Pop is blocked by the Walls, but Rey rolls up Jericho for the pin at 23:55. So it’s Edge v. Rey Rey, and Rey dodges a spear and gets a rollup for two. Bodypress gets two. Low kick gets two. Tornado DDT gets two. Edge puts him down with a big boot and tries a powerbomb on the steel, but Rey reverses to a facebuster and gets a rare inverted 619, hitting the move on the back of Edge’s head. He charges again, however, and Edge launches him into the pod, and that should about do it. Spear, new champion at 29:45. First 20 minutes were shit, but everything past Cena’s entrance made up for it. ****

RAW World title: Sheamus v. John Cena v. Ted Dibiase v. Kofi Kingston v. Randy Orton v. HHH (Elimination Chamber 2010)

Kofi starts with Sheamus and gets a crossbody for two, and a dropkick for two. Kofi slugs away in the corner with forearms, but gets put down with a shoulderblock. Sheamus hiptosses him onto the apron, but Kofi lands on his feet and comes back with a high cross for two. He tries a sunset flip, but Sheamus blocks it and pounds him down for two. They fight onto the apron and Sheamus rams Kofi into a pod, and back into the ring for a backbreaker that gets two. Sheamus chokes him down as HHH is the next one in. He slugs it out with Sheamus and puts him down with the high knee, and the kneedrop gets two. Corner clothesline for two as Lawler reminds us that you can only pin someone inside the ring. Since when? Sheamus comes back and tries the Razor’s Edge, but HHH escapes with a neckbreaker for two. Kofi, who was apparently dead all this time, returns with a high cross on Sheamus for two. He pounds on Sheamus in the corner and follows with a clothesline, then hits HHH with the springboard boomdrop on the apron. “Not the BOOMDROP!” declares Cole. He hurts himself in the process and Sheamus gets two. Randy Orton is the next one in and goes right after Kofi, then adds a Garvin Stomp on Sheamus. DDT on HHH gets two. Quick question: Randy Orton and Junior Dos Santos are twin brothers split up and sent to different families at birth, right?

Orton pounds on Sheamus outside the ring, and blocks a Kofi springboard dropkick with a dropkick of his own. HHH comes back with a facecrusher, but Orton catches him with the powerslam and sets up for the RKO. That misses, and Kofi kicks Orton into a Pedigree attempt. Orton backdrops out of it and then backdrops Kofi to the apron, but Sheamus runs him into the post. Next guy in is Ted Dibiase, and he hits HHH with the family fistdrop and then goes to Orton…and helps him up. So Legacy works together and goes after HHH in the corner, then they tie Kofi into the fence by his dreads. That’s unique. They ram HHH into the fence and Orton gives him the middle rope DDT onto the apron, then they go trash-talk Cena until he enters the match. He cleans house on Legacy and FU’s Dibiase onto the steel, but Orton saves and attacks from behind. Should someone get an EMT to check on Sheamus? He’s been gone forever. Cena slaps the STFU on Dibiase, but Orton saves and sets up for the RKO. Cody heads out and gives Dibiase a steel pipe, but he hits Orton by mistake and then decides to pin him, because why not? That ended up being a whole big steaming pile of nothing when all was said and done, which is a shame because the pop for Dibiase turning on Orton was pretty good. Kofi recovers and hits the wacky kick on Dibiase to eliminate him right after.

Sheamus puts Kofi down with the bicycle kick and finishes with the Razor’s Edge. He goes after Cena next, but walks into an FU, which he reverses into a backbreaker for two. He hangs Cena in the Tree of Woe and pounds him with knees, but HHH goes low on him. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE and the champ is done, leaving us with Cena v. HHH for the title. Yes, again. Cena puts the STFU on HHH, and he taps to give Cena the title yet again. Kind of slow in the middle, but generally enjoyable. ***1/2

BUT WAIT! One last twist, as Vince McMahon offers congratulations, but makes an immediate title defense against Batista. I don’t like Cena’s chances here.

RAW World title: John Cena v. Batista

This was the proper start of an awesome heel run for Batista. Cena acts like he’s half-dead, but you just don’t buy Cena’s selling, especially with the announcers upping the elapsed time of the Chamber match with every sentence. But indeed, Batista spears him and finishes with the Batista Bomb to reclaim the WWE title and set up a damn good rematch at Wrestlemania.

Smackdown World title: Undertaker v. Rey Mysterio v. John Morrison v. Chris Jericho v. R-Truth v. CM Punk (Elimination Chamber 2010)

So we’ve got Punk and Truth starting out here. Punk gets a quick backdrop suplex for two. Truth comes back with the flipping high kick to put Punk onto the apron, and he follows with a somersault plancha off the top. Not really much room to move there, but still nice. Punk eats the cold, unforgiving steel and they head back in, but Truth misses a spinning body attack of some sort, and Goes 2 Sleep. Please let Punk cut a promo now! And yes indeed, that’s what he does, talking shit to everyone who is locked behind the glass. Rey Mysterio is the next one in, and he immediately flies in with a springboard bodypress for two. Low kick gets two. Punk misses a blind charge and Rey sets up for the 619, but Punk counters into a powerslam for two. Rey reverses the GTS into a rollup for two, and Punk bails to the apron. Rey follows with an attempted rana, but Punk swings him into the fence in one of those Wargames-style spots. That gets two back in the ring.
Punk continues abusing Rey by running him into the pod, and they fight for the superplex on top. Rey brings him down and climbs to the top of the pod, but Punk tries for a GTS from the top. Rey escapes from that and takes Punk down to the apron with a rana instead, then eliminates him with the flying splash. So it’s over to Jericho, who clotheslines Rey for two. Faceplant sets up the Lionsault, but it misses and Rey gets the 619. Jericho escapes to the apron and Rey dives out for the Spider-Man spot on the fence, but Jericho hauls him down facefirst. It’s kind of a boring heat segment on Rey as Jericho works him over, but Rey spins into a guillotine choke (which Matt Striker calls a “dragon sleeper”) and Jericho reverses into the Walls with John Morrison in to make the save. Quick rant: Morrison is one of the most clear-cut recent cases of a guy who I was starting to get invested in as a character completely getting lost in the shuffle and seemingly losing all focus. And yeah, a lot was the fault of the booking, but there was also something to be said about his stupid finisher and terrible interviews. Anyway, Morrison gets his highspots in to mostly silence from the crowd, but he misses a charge and ends up on the apron. He hits both Rey & Jericho with a diving clothesline and back in for a standing shooting star press that gets two. There’s another example of my disappointment in him – something that even 10 years ago would have been a killer finish has become nothing more than a lame spot for a near-fall. He does a freakin’ SHOOTING STAR PRESS and can barely get the crowd to pop for it. By contrast, Miz took a severely limited toolset (to be diplomatic) and is on the verge of being a major star.
OK, enough on that. Rey sets Morrison up for the 619, but walks into a backbreaker from Jericho that gets two. Morrison hits Jericho with his springboard kick (another killer finish 10 years ago that means nothing now) and follows with Starship Pain on Mysterio to eliminate him. I would not have guessed that. Morrison gets distracted by the Undertaker, however, and Jericho puts him in the Walls as a result. Undertaker is the last man in, and makes the save, going right for Jericho. Snake Eyes and big boot set up the legdrop for two. Jericho and Morrison come back with a double suplex on UT, then team up to clothesline him out of the ring. Morrison turns on Jericho and rolls him up for two, but gets backdropped onto the grating. Jericho slaps the groggy Undertaker around , and then runs like hell for a pod to hide. What a great coward heel spot. So with Jericho hiding, Taker goes after Morrison exclusively, only to walk into the springboard kick. Morrison follows with Starship Pain, but lands on the knees because he’s a MORON who should have gone for the pin.
Taker comes back and runs Morrison into the pod so as to prove a point to Jericho, and then tries to powerbomb him on the grating, but Jericho chooses to leave the pod now and save, running Undertaker into another pod. In the ring, Morrison hits a Shining Wizard on Jericho for two, but walks into a chokeslam on the grating from Undertaker. And that about does it for Morrison. And here I thought he might be going to Wrestlemania to defend the World title. So that leaves Undertaker v. Jericho, which the crowd is surprisingly subdued about. Taker pounds away in the corner, but misses a blind charge, allowing Jericho to superplex him. That gets two. Another quick rant since this is boring: Matt Striker really is as terrible as advertised. The whole match he’s trying to get himself over as some kind of Gordon Solie and it gets increasingly obnoxious. Jericho reverses a chokeslam into the Walls, then fights off a LadyGaga attempt into the Walls, which Undertaker fights out of again. Jericho bails and Taker hauls him back in for a tombstone attempt, but Jericho turns it into the codebreaker for two. Jericho stupidly pounds away in the corner and falls victim to the Last Ride. Undertaker goes for the finish, but Shawn Michaels pops in from under the ring, superkicks Undertaker, and Jericho pins him to win the World title. That reign proved to be disappointingly short and uneventful. I was also pretty disappointed with this match because the crowd was dead and the elimination of Mysterio kind of sucked the life out of things, but the finish proved to be the best one for business. ***1/2
So not a great DVD set, but it’s one where the quality is strictly limited by the quality of the original matches. It promises a complete collection of Chamber matches, and that’s what you get. I’m pretty indifferent to the gimmick as it really only produces great matches if there’s great workers, and you can generally say that about most wrestling matches in general. The only two un-screw-up-able gimmick matches remain the Royal Rumble (unless you’re Vince Russo) and WarGames, and hopefully we get an anthology of the latter. As for this one, much like the Hell in the Cell set, 9 hours is a LOT of Elimination Chamber to take, so buyer beware. Mildly recommended.

The SmarK Rant for NJPW on AXS – 05.22.15

The SmarK Rant for New Japan on AXS – 05.22.15
My DVR found two episodes of the show on AXS tonight, so we’ll start with last week’s show and proceed from there. And yeah, I can watch it on NJPW World with the original commentary, but not on my TV and not with Mauro Ranallo.
Taped from YOYOGI NATIONAL GYM, June 2014. This would be the Best of the Super Junior 2014 finals.

Your hosts are Mauro Ranallo & Josh Barnett, who are clearly by leaps and bounds the best wrestling commentary team in the world right now. Like, 5 minutes of them and you’ll wonder how you put up with Michael Cole or the rotating geeks of NXT.
Semi-Final: Taichi v. Kushida
Taichi, apparently a very poor sport as part of those wacky Suzuki-Gun hooligans, attacks Kushida with a chair and runs him into the post, then does the old “breakaway chair over the head” gimmick in the ring. Japanese fans love that shit. Taichai and TAKA beat on Alex Shelley on the floor as well, which has Mauro questioning whether “WWF referee Danny Davis” is the official tonight. The match finally starts for real and Taichi gets two, then he follows with a clothesline in the corner, but Kushida fights back with a pair of kicks from the apron and a SPRINGBOARD CHOP. Taka cuts off a dive like a dick, so Kushida hits both heels with a super dive instead. Back in, Taichi with a high kick into a sitout powerbomb for two and the LEATHER PANTS ARE OFF. Now shit is about to get real. Kushida comes back with an enzuigiri , but a moonsault hits knees and both guys are messed up from that one. Taichi grabs a microphone and throws it into Kushida’s hands, then does the old Eddie Guerrero sell to try for a DQ. No dice from the ref, and Kushida comes back before the ref gets wiped out now. Finally Shelley has had enough and superkicks both heels, allowing Kushida to roll into a kimura and finish at 5:18. Some good stuff, but this was way too much nonsense and interference. **1/2
Semi-Final: Ricochet v. Ryusuke Taguchi
I still don’t get how WWE could seriously pass on Ricochet. Just goes to show that not every decision from HHH’s brain is gold. Ricochet flips into a headscissors, but Taguchi dumps him and flattens him with a somersault dive. Back in and they trade forearms, and then trade dropkicks into the corner before Taguchi gets the Blue Thunder Bomb for two. Taguchi with a pair of rolling suplexes, but Ricochet fights out, so Taguchi hits a front suplex for two. Ricochet with a front rollup for two and he lands on his feet out of a Tiger Suplex, then hits a superman punch and Benydriller kick to finish at 3:40. Well that was brisk. ** They edited about 3:00 out of the match, but damned if I can see where.
Best of Super Junior Finals: Ricochet v. Kushida
Kudos to Kushida for the Marty McFly entrance gear, by the way. Test of strength to start and Ricochet gets to flip around out of that, but Kushida holds him down with an armbar. We take a break and return (with no edit) with Ricochet backflipping into a headscissors as my wife is busy cracking jokes until she actually watches the match and suddenly decides she loves Ricochet and never wants him to get hit in his beautiful, beautiful face. And again, WWE PASSED on this guy. Kushida tosses him (not the face!) and works on the arm back in the ring while the tournament losers all watch at ringside. Barnett has a nice touch, saying that they need to be out there wondering why they’re not in the ring right now and what they have to do to make sure they are next year. Because wins and losses DO matter. Kushida throws kicks at the arm, but Ricochet puts him on the floor with a high kick and follows with the SPACE FLYING TIGER DROP. If I was ever going to start a band, that’s what we’d call ourselves. Back in, Ricochet throws some stiff kicks and gets a low kick for two, into a springboard senton and flying forearm for two. Spinning forearm off the middle rope gets two. Ricochet tries a handspring elbow, but Kushida dropkicks him in the face in mid-move, and then puts him on the floor for a swanton bomb off the top to the floor. Well that was crazy. Kushida dropkicks him on the way in and follows with a moonsault for two as we take a break. Back with Kushida hitting a kick, but Ricochet counters with a GTS variation for two. That was more like a gutbuster followup, which actually looked more impressive than Punk’s usual version. Springboard SSP misses, however, and Kushida rolls him up for two. They slug it out and Kushida kicks the hell out of the arm and follows with a handspring elbow into the Hoverboard Lock (kimura), which has Ricochet frantically making the ropes. Kushida kicks him in the face for two. Dragon Suplex gets two. Kushida misses a corkscrew moonsault (“No water in the pool!” declares Mauro because he’s AWESOME) and they slug it out from their knees, which leads to Ricochet hitting a superman punch into a northern lights suplex for two. To the top and they fight over a suplex until Kushida goes down, but he fights back with a handstand kick. Ricochet catches him with a GTS from the middle rope, however, and gets a 630 (!!!!!!!!) splash for TWO. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. We take another break and return with Ricochet probably wondering what more he has to do to win this thing, but now Kushida gets an enzuigiri as Mauro is just losing his shit and it’s great. Kushida handsprinngs right into an electric chair, but reverses into the Hoverboard Lock from there somehow. Ricochet rolls him into the Benydriller, however, and wins the tournament at 23:16. The commentary made this into an epic. ****1/2
Afterwards, Kushida is pretty bummed, but he’ll get back to the top next year.
Ricochet cuts his victory promo in the ring, and lays out the challenge to Junior champion Kota Ibushi, which will be the featured match on next week’s show. So much beautiful in one ring!
The Pulse
Yeah, you know I’m all over this show now.

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro–07.15.96

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro – 07.15.96 Overwhelming sentiment seems to be that I should continue on with Nitro since they were getting incredibly hot and I’ve never seen these shows before anyway. So we’ll plow through until the end of the archived material in December 1996! Live from Orlando, FL Your hosts are Tony & Larry Let us take you back to a magical time called two weeks ago, when Hulk Hogan betrayed WCW and kicked off the hottest period in wrestling history. Fire & Ice v. The Steiner Brothers Norton throws Scott around to start while the announcers discuss the friction between Fire & Ice. Their name is LITERALLY “Fire and Ice”. This is somehow coming as a shock to them? You might as well call a team “Oil and Water”. Which begs the question: Why was WCW in 1990 so retarded that they never teamed up Curtis “Big Cat” Hughes with the Junkyard Dog? They could have been The Big Lazy Black Guys! Norton chokes away, but misses a blind charge and takes an overhead suplex. Rick throws Ice Train around with a suplex for two and an inverted DDT for two. Tony and Larry are just all over this “New World Order” catchphrase, and now they think more people might be joining. Norton comes in and takes over on Scott with a middle rope clothesline, but lands on a foot and it’s back to Rick. And surprise surprise they go right back to beating the hell out of each other and throwing suplexes. Powerslam gets two. Fire & Ice double-team Rick , but Train is so useless that he manages to splash his own partner and Rick throws another suplex for the pin on Ice Train at 10:00. They had a million matches and it was all big dudes throwing down. **1/2 Glacier is now coming at an indeterminate time again instead of the previously promised July 1996. Perhaps they need better time management at their ninja training center. Meanwhile, Fire & Ice split up despite the best efforts of Teddy Long. Holla playa, no more tag matches for them. Dean Malenko v. Billy Kidman This would obviously be a much more competitive match years later. At this point, Malenko clobbers him and puts him on the floor, but is unable to successfully execute a powerbomb on Kidman. Somehow I’m not surprised. Kidman comes back in with a missile dropkick for two, but Malenko takes him down with an anklelock and goes to work on the leg. Tilt-a-whirl slam gets two. Here’s the balls on WCW at this point: Tony openly brags that Sting, Giant, Flair and Savage are all absent from the show tonight, and they still beat RAW by a bazillion viewers. Give or take. Malenko chokes away and goes to a headscissors, then hits him with a whiplash slam, which Kidman reverses to a jackknife pin for two. Kidman with a bulldog out of the corner for two and goes up, but the Shooting Star Press misses and Dean kills him dead with a brainbuster and this time he CAN powerbomb Kidman. Butterfly bomb into a Texas Cloverleaf finishes for shizzle at 5:13. Remind me not to upset Dean Malenko, because he just destroyed him like the computer AI in No Mercy on Hard with a Special. ***1/4 Meanwhile, Kevin Greene is also pissed about HOLLYWOOD Hulk Hogan turning on his fans. They wasted no time in trying to ditch the “Hulk” name and replacing it with “Hollywood” so they could cut Marvel out of the deal. In fact when Hogan was originally signed they attempted to have him introduced as Hurricane Hogan for the same reason. Interesting because at the time Marvel was a pretty low point and Turner could have bought and sold the entire comics industry 100 times over. Now of course Marvel makes more off one movie than WCW ever did in their entire run, and more than WWE has ever made in a single year either, for that matter. In fact I wouldn’t be shocked if Disney bought WWE one day and added them to their IP empire. WCW tag titles: Harlem Heat v. Rough & Ready That would be Mike Enos and Dick Slater in the most generic tag team name ever. Every time I hear them I think of “Shake & Bake” from Talladega Nights. Kind of a major downgrade from Jimmy Golden for Slater. And they couldn’t spring for the $50 it would cost to get Wayne Bloom? Stevie Ray overpowers both Rough as well as Ready, but Slater tosses Booker and beats on him on the floor while a young Dean Ambrose takes notes at home, I assume. Thankfully we get clarification thanks to the embroidery on their chaps: Slater is “Rough” and Enos is “Ready”. Thank god, that one was gonna keep me up nights trying to figure it out. The Heat beats on Enos in the corner while Sherri and Parker argue over who is actually managing who here, but Sherri gets involved and kisses Dick Slater, allowing Booker to roll him up to retain at 7:38. I have no idea what the deal with the Parker-Sherri stuff was supposed to be. Did that even have a payoff? Because I remember Parker accidentally costing them the tag titles to the Outsiders in October but I don’t even remember where they went with the whole thing. ½* Meanwhile, Kevin Greene is also really upset with Mongo, and he’s literally the only person in the building who still cares about that feud with the New World Order about to overshadow everything ever. Madusa v. Malia Hosaka This is pretty random. Hosaka puts her down with a spinkick and chokes away, then goes to a chinlock. Neckbreaker and she goes up, but misses whatever as we’re under a minute to Hour #2 so you know someone is screaming at them to go home NOW. And of course Madusa finishes quickly with the german suplex at 4:08. This was no good. * HOUR #2! Hosted by Eric & Bobby. Anyone see that picture of Bobby from the convention with Ted Dibiase and Roddy Piper that was posted recently? Man that was sad. Meanwhile, Hall and Nash hang “NWO” letters over the WCW sign on the roof. You could tell this was gonna explode into the stratosphere soon. Arn Anderson v. Meng Meng puts him down with the Tongan Martial Arts and pounds away while there’s literally a fireworks show going on in the background. That’s pretty hard to compete with, even for Hour #2 of Nitro. Arn takes him down and goes after the leg. Meng comes back with those devastating back leg front kicks, and Barbarian joins us as we take a break. Back with Arn choking away and stuff while the crowd chants for Razor and Diesel. Meng with a suplex for two and he chops away, then Barbarian sneaks in for a double-team with Jimmy taking the ref, and Meng gets the pin at 10:50. Holy crap was that terrible. Just a boring, sloppy match with no heat segment or climax, and the crowd was literally distracted by the Outsiders AND a fireworks show at the same time. -* Eddie Guerrero v. Chris Benoit Benoit fires away with chops in the corner and grabs a chinlock, but Eddie reverses out of a powerbomb and hits him with a dive to the floor. Springboard senton back in and Eddie follows with a backbreaker. Benoit puts him down with a backdrop suplex and follows with a rare press slam before going to a camel clutch. Powerbomb with MUSTARD gets two. Backbreaker and Benoit works the back while Heenan questions why someone from WCW doesn’t go up and rip down the nWo banner if they’re not afraid of the Outsiders. Fine question, Bobby, and the cowardice from WCW would only get more pronounced. Benoit goes up, but Eddie catches him with a superplex. Bischoff notes that the question for WCW is “When, and whom, and where, and how many”. That’s more accurately about four questions, Eric. Eddie comes back and tries a rana, but they tumble to the floor as Dean Malenko runs down and sends Benoit into the post. Guerrero wins by countout at 9:40 off that. Bischoff notes that Benoit’s brains are scrambled from that one. Um…yeah. Usual great TV match from these two. ***1/4 Glacier is coming, OK? So just lay off him. He’s got shit to do. Ninja shit. And errands to run. Ninja errands. What are you, his mother? WCW TV title: Lex Luger v. Big Bubba I had literally forgotten that Luger was still TV champion. He’s gotta drop it to Regal pretty soon, right? Lex uses the power of grunts to dominate, but Bubba goes to the eyes with a cheapshot to take over. Luger’s doctor said he’s not supposed to get anything in his eye! Bubba continues pounding away while the Outsiders join us via limo and we take a break. Back with Bubba biting in the corner, but Luger comes back with the STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM and the Outsiders run in for the DQ at 9:34. We get our first ever nWo beatdown finish as Hollywood Hogan debuts the black outfit, and then they offer membership to Bubba before turning on him and tossing him out as well. Hulk finally does his post-turn interview, and he reiterates that the fans can stick it. And also Macho Man’s divorce was his own fault because he couldn’t “rise to the occasion”. And then the crowd starts PELTING the ring with garbage as Hulk promises that there’s more members to come. He promises to take the WCW title from the Giant at Hog Wild and make it into the nWo belt, which is of course exactly what happened. There was no “cool heel” heat for this, this was a crowd that was PISSED at Hogan. Talk about a money promo, as he basically talked himself into another World title reign just with this one. The Pulse A much more even show than last week, and man was that Hogan promo at the end something to behold for sheer hatred coming from the crowd. But I mean, it was no DX riding a tank or anything.

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro–07.08.96

The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro – 07.08.96 I’m skipping the BATB redo because RAW is already getting added a rate where I’m falling behind anyway. I’m strongly considering just motoring through one show or the other to finish off 1996 rather than alternating, which would probably make me lean towards RAW because it’s faster. Live from Orlando, FL, at the Disney Studios outdoors. Now THIS is exactly what RAW is lacking. The arena looks and feels like nothing else they had done to that point, like something FRESH. Your hosts are Tony & Larry. Cruiserweight title: Dean Malenko v. Rey Mysterio Jr. Hearing their entrances back to back just makes you realize that they both have exactly the same song. Tony encourages us to call our non-wrestling fan friends and tell them to tune into the second hour of this wrestling program for still photos of an angle from a PPV on the previous night. Somehow I don’t think that’s realistic. In fact, my girlfriend at the time called me DURING the heel turn and quite pointedly didn’t give a shit that she was interrupting one of the most stunningly important moments of my wrestling fandom. Luckily I was taping it. And she was cheating on me anyway, so in the grand scheme of things we were both happier. Although to be fair, she was cheating on her previous boyfriend with me. Women, am I right? Rey gets a quick springboard dropkick for two, but Dean hits him with a wheelbarrow suplex for two and a backbreaker, and we take a break. Back with Dean faceplanting Rey and a powerbomb gets two. Poor Rey gets suplexed to the floor and Dean goes to a bodyscissors. Back to the floor and Dean drops him with a goddamn brainbuster on the floor. WCW was definitely starting to clue in that having Rey take a shitkicking was a ticket to money. Back in, Rey reverses a slam for two and takes Dean to the floor with a rana, then follows with a moonsault that kind of misses. Back in, Rey with a flying rana for two. Springboard moonsault gets two. They fight to the top and Dean brings him down with the exploding gutbuster for two. Overhead suplex gets two. Dean keeps pulling him up, which seems like a bad idea to me. Just a hunch. And indeed, Rey snaps off the West Coast Pop to finish and win the title at 11:45. **** Meanwhile, Glacier is coming to WCW, but no longer has a set date to do so. Apparently our world changing forever is TBA. Hugh Morrus & Big Bubba v. Lord Steven Regal & Squire Dave Taylor The Bluebloods dominate Bubba, but Hugh goes to the eyes while John Tenta attacks Bubba. Bluebloods hit a double suplex on Morrus in all the chaos and get the pin at 3:00, of which 1:30 or so was stalling. DUD Psicosis v. Eddie Guerrero Nitro debut for Psi, who has one of the most annoying names to type. They trade armdrags and reach a stalemate, but Eddie dumps him on a monkey flip. Back in, they trade headlocks and Psi dumps him, then follows with a somersault dive to the floor. Back in, Psi works on the arm with some good stuff, but Eddie reverses to a rana for two. Psi goes up and lands in an atomic drop, and Eddie misses a blind charge and hits the post into his bad arm. Psi with a top rope rana for two and they fight to the top again, where Psi gets a sunset flip for two. Back to the top, but Eddie catches him with a superplex and follows with the frog splash to finish at 8:30 for the big comeback. ***1/4 Unlike Rey, Psi kind of got slotted into the jobberweight slot after losing both his PPV and Nitro debuts. The Nasty Boys v. The Steiner Brothers Winners get the tag title shot at Hog Wild, and holy crap it must be humid out there at that point because you see the guys just dying before they even start the match. The Nasties unleash some CLUBBERING in the corner on Scott, but he fires off a butterfly bomb on Sags and damn near looks like he’s going to expire in the process. Crowd is obviously tiring of this wrestling thing at this point as well and dying off fast. Rick comes in and gets double-teamed in the corner for two, but comes back with a powerslam on Knobs. Scott gets taken down and put on the floor, and Sags hits him with a nasty chairshot as we transition to Hour #2, the hour that set the standard for all other hours! Your hosts are Eric Bischoff & Bobby Heenan Continuing on, this match still sucks. Scott with a suplex on Sags while Parker and Sherri look on, but Parker accidentally hits Sags with the cane and Scott gets the pin at 6:05. Total shit. DUD The Nasty Boys bitch at Mean Gene about getting no respect the way that Luger and Sting do, and tease joining the nWo. That proved to be an idle threat. US title: Ric Flair v. Jim Powers Thankfully Flair saved us from the Konnan era last night, making John Cena proud by bringing the US title back to America through ridiculous cheating. Flair is nice enough to give Captain Steroid some offense, but casually sidesteps a dropkick, clips the knee and finishes with the figure-four at 5:03. I know it’s Flair and that’s what he does, but giving so much shine to Anabolic Billy Kidman is a waste of everyone’s time. * Chris Benoit v. Craig Pittman Pittman gets a suplex, but that just annoys Benoit and he beats on him in the corner. Benoit hooks in the Crippler Crossface (still unnamed at this point) and Teddy Long throws in the towel at 2:39. Total squash. Sting v. Arn Anderson We get a bunch of nothing much and take a break with Arn stalling. Back with Arn choking away and using the abdominal stretch, but Sting fights out and then misses a splash. Arn with a Boston crab while the nWo limo pulls up, but Sting makes the comeback while the Outsiders join us at ringside. Sting with a flying clothesline for two while security geeks intercept Hall & Nash, and the Scorpion Deathlock finishes at 11:35. * Sting cuts a hell of a promo on Hulk Hogan afterwards, and then Randy Savage follows with a bunch of rambling nonsense. We take a break and the Outsiders promise that Hulk Hogan will join them next week. We finish with pictures of Hogan’s historic heel turn, and we’re all quite disgusted by his actions. Especially Bobby Heenan. The Pulse Super hot first hour (literally), but without a Hogan appearance to build towards and the stifling heat, the show just kind of dragged to a finish. Still, a very cool change of scenery this month.

The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover: Unstoppable–05.20.15

The SmarK Rant for NXT Takeover: Unstoppable Belated happy birthday / drunken bachelor party wishes to my compadre Zen, who is now on the wrong side of 40 like myself and soon to be married. Finally. Good on ya, and welcome to old age. Live from Orlando, FL Your hosts are Rich Brennan, Byron Saxton and Corey Graves #1 Contender: Tyler Breeze v. Finn Balor Sadly, Hideo Itami was attacked on the pre-show and suffered a shoulder injury, which the company obviously knew nothing about beforehand. Because why would they advertise this as a triple threat for weeks beforehand unless they were totally ignorant of the injury? That would just be silly. Kevin Owens is suspected due to making a sarcastic remark on the way out of the shot. It’s CSI: WWE. Finn Balor is portraying a dragon tonight and usual gets a monster reaction just by walking out. Like basically Balor is the closest thing the company has to a larger-than-life superhero right out of the comics at the moment. The crowd is so jacked for him that they chant “This is awesome” just for the entrance! They trade headlocks to start and Balor dumps him, but can’t get the dive in time. Back in, Breeze hits the springboard dropkick to put Balor on the floor and stomps away in the ring. Some jackass in the front row has a “We Want Riley” sign. Who is “we” in this situation? Doesn’t that require more than one person to hold an opinion? Breeze with a neckbreaker for two and he works a chinlock, but Balor fights out and puts him on the floor with a seated dropkick. Double stomp from the APRON follows. Ouch. Back in, Tyler rolls away from the finisher, but runs into a mule kick in the corner that gets two. Sadly the tweet scroll for NXT is just as idiotic as the main show version. “Did Kevin Owens attack Hideo?” YA THINK?! Balor walks into a Supermodel Kick and Breeze gets two off that, but he stops to loosen a turnbuckle and pounds away in the corner. Beauty Shot misses, but Breeze gets a rollup for two. Blind charge misses and Balor rolls him up for two, but Breeze sends him into the exposed turnbuckle and hits the Beauty Shot for two. This prompts a tantrum in fine heel fashion, because these guys actually CARE about wins and losses. Breeze bails to the floor to regroup, but Balor hits him with a forearm from below the ramp, and then dives off the ENTRANCE SET while the fans chant “Please don’t die”. I concur. Back in, corner dropkick, Coup de Grace, and it’s good night Irene at 11:00. Hard work, great near-falls, crazy finish, this was fantastic for an opener. **** Meanwhile, Kevin Owens is typically unimpressed by his new challenger. Dana Brooke & Emma v. Charlotte & Bayley Bayley is actually a really interesting character now, because they haven’t had anyone to appeal to young girls for a long time and that’s exactly the demo she’s hitting. Dana immediately gets double-teamed by the babyfaces and tags out to Emma, who gets greeted with an “Evil Emma” chant. She hides behind Brooke and gets wiped out by Bayley anyway, but Bayley goes up and gets hauled down for two. If there’s anyone born to play face-in-peril, it’s Bayley. To the heel corner for some double-team stomps as this crowd really hates Brooke. Emma Sandwich gets two. Emma stops to mock Charlotte, however, and Bayley gets the hot tag. Charlotte hits Brooke with a neckbreaker as Dana’s gear malfunctions a few times, and hits a double DDT on both heels. That gets two on Emma. Emma comes back with a flying bodypress, but Charlotte rolls into the figure-four and then bridges while holding it, which is the Figure Eight. Bayley gets rid of Brooke and Charlotte finishes Emma with the Natural Selection neckbreaker at 6:50. Fun little match and thankfully Brooke didn’t do much and let Emma carry the workload on live TV. **1/2 Rhyno v. Baron Corbin I love it, no bullshit, just ripping right through to the next match. Someone e-mailed me asking if the Sons of Anarchy theme would work for a wrestler, and while I don’t think Corbin is QUITE right for it, he could totally use “John The Revelator” from the end of season one. Rhyno tosses him and they brawl on the floor, but Rhyno goes up and Corbin sends him to the floor again. Back in, Corbin takes over and slugs him down, then pounds away in the corner. Sliding punch gets two. OK, this is already too long. They collide in the corner for the double KO and Rhyno comes back with elbows and a spinebuster for two. Belly to belly sets up the GOAR, but Corbin counters with a clothesline and finishes with the End of Days at 7:10. Baron is definitely still a work in progress. They need to go back to short matches again for him. Not particularly bad per se, but Corbin was totally lost out there. *1/2 Meanwhile, Greg the idiot interviewer interrupts Kevin Owens in the locker room, even though he’s really sorry to do so, and asks him how his week was. WHO WRITES THESE QUESTIONS?! Owens takes this moron in stride and points out how dominant and awesome he is, and promises that tonight is the last time we’ll see Sami Zayn. NXT tag titles: The Dubstep Cowboys v. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady I love the champions if only because they have their names on their tights so I can tell them apart. Enzo gets a quick bodypress on Blake for two, but Cass comes in and the champs back off. Cass slugs Murphy down for two, and Enzo comes in with a flying bodypress for two. He bails to the apron and Murphy clotheslines him to the floor so that Enzo can take his god-given place as face-in-peril. Blake with a backbreaker and he works a chinlock. Over to Murphy for his own chinlock, and they cut off an Enzo comeback with a Blake abdominal stretch. A cool powerbomb into a backstabber from the champs gets two. They fight to the top and Enzo comes back with a tornado DDT on Murphy and it’s hot tag Cass. Cass clears the ring and lays out Blake with a big boot and SAWFT elbow drop for two. Sideslam on Murphy and he puts Enzo on the top rope (while still half-unconscious) but Alexa Bliss heads down and attacks Carmella, then turns on Enzo to knock him off the top and allows Murphy to get the easy pin at 9:00 to retain. Well you knew the Jersey crew was coming up short here one way or another, and now we actually have a tangible direction for this feud again. **1/2 Match was nothing special, but served the purpose. Meanwhile, they cut to Eva Marie from Total Divas in the audience, and no one gives a shit. That was legitimately great. Like, what exactly is that girl’s role in the company? Wrestler? NXT Women’s title: Sasha Banks v. Becky Lynch Becky is apparently steampunk tonight. Because, hey, why not? They trade rollups to start and go right into the pinfall reversal sequence, and Becky goes for the arm before Sasha bails to the ropes. Becky with a springboard kick to put Sasha on the apron, but Sasha yanks her to the floor. Like a boss. Back in, that gets two. Sasha works on the arm, but Becky cradles for two. Sasha wraps her up with a straightjacket hold into a backcracker, but Becky makes the ropes. So Sasha hits the double stomp in the corner for two. Sasha twists Becky’s arm in a way that nature did not intend, which gets two. Sasha with the SHORT ARM SCISSORS, and of course we get the power spot to break. Haven’t seen that one in a while, actually. Becky makes the comeback and goes up with a missile dropkick for two. Sasha hits her with a pair of running knees in the corner, which gets two. They slug it out and tumble to the floor, where Sasha meets the post, and Becky gets a hammerlock suplex and goes to work on the arm. Backdrop suplex gets two. Sasha tries a suplex, but trash-talks first and gets wrapped up in an armbar as a result. Only talk shit when you’re in control, Sasha! That’s basic heel strategy! Sasha thankfully makes the ropes as the crowd freaks out, and she tosses Becky to take a breath, but hits Becky with a dive and gets caught. Becky sends her arm into the stairs and they head back in, but Becky goes up and gets brought down in the Bank statement at 15:30 to keep the belt on the Boss. SHOW STOLEN. ****1/4 I am 100% Team Sasha at this point, although my wife thought that Becky’s shorts and hair were cuter. Thankfully the crowd gives Becky the standing ovation for a job well done afterwards, even though she came up short. This was pretty much everything great about wrestling that we love. And finally… NXT title: Kevin Owens v. Sami Zayn Kevin Owens has a John Cena shirt tonight because he’s the best. As usual, he walks away to start, so Sami attacks on the floor and slugs away, then sends Owens into the stairs and into the crowd. Owens tries to escape and Sami chases, so Owens catches him in a powerbomb and Sami grabs the railing to block. That would have been scary. Back to ringside and finally in the ring, a Blue Thunder Bomb gets two. Tornado DDT is countered by Owens, as he drops Sami on his shoulder to take over. Sami keeps coming with a suplex into the corner, however, and Owens escapes the ring again. Sami chases again and suplexes him on the floor, but charges one time too many and gets powerbombed onto the apron. Owens pounds away on the floor while the refs try to pull him off, but Sami won’t quit. So Owens hauls him into the ring as dead weight while a gaggle of refs run interference, and finally William Regal himself gets involved and gets headbutted out of the ring. Owens grabs a chair…but SAMOA JOE debuts and shit is about to get real. Owens chooses to walk away from that one. I presume this was a no-content somewhere about the 8:00 mark. Hard to rate as a match, but it was tracking at about *** before the Zayn injury angle ended it. So now Samoa Joe on WWE TV is a thing that has happened. Poor Sami, though, getting destroyed again. The Pulse Can’t argue with a pair of **** matches, including another classic from Sasha Banks, and the WWE debut of Samoa Joe! Not the blowaway show that some of these have been, but I was entertained for two hours and that’s all I want out of these. Thumbs way up.