Last week was interesting. Most of you seemed to be under the impression that I had been using the specially scented air freshener hanging from the mirror in Rob Van Dam’s car but, no. The truth is, I lied. It was all written whilst completely sober and in a completely usual weird mood. This probably puts me in contention for ‘crazy’ status, along with everything else that everybody does, ever. Good for me, beneficial for all.
This week has the shiny bonus of a Brand New Feature that we’ll get to in due course. I think you’ll like it, particularly if you’re willing to participate.
There was a lot more crazyweird too but my laptop has taken a coma, so it will have to wait for another day. Probably the day after never. The damn thing has been temperamental for months, throwing diva tantrums about having to actually do what it was made to do and randomly switching off. Now it has difficulty figuring out what it’s meant to do when I press the ‘on’ button and demands more proof than I can offer it that it really does have a hard drive.
All that beautiful porn, lost forever… *tear*…
So I’m writing this on the large, clunky old machine, the one that really doesn’t like Azureus and runs screaming into the limbo dimension whenever it appears. So now I can’t get the DCP releases (not that I would, you understand; Comics Nexus staff are a noble people) and there’s no hope in hell of me being able to download the Bash on Monday. Some might think that’s for the best but they don’t understand the beauty of a truly effective car wreck, let alone one that comes with the golden nugget that is Finlay vs. Regal.
Okay, let’s go.
GREAT AMERICAN BASH (ONE OF THOSE WORDS IS MISLEADING)
From Rhodes, Blanchard, Flair, Koloff, Magnum T.A., the Andersons and the like in ’85 to The Undertaker killing Muhammad Hassan and battling terrorists as any patriotic living-dead American should in ’05, it has been one hell of a varied journey for the Great American Bash. This year’s event didn’t even want to wait until it started to bring out the dissenters. When WWE brought back the event the consensus was that the seemingly inexplicable booking and dire card was a colossal rib on WCW’s legacy, such as it is, and that Vince McMahon was but one more drink away from touring a new show through Georgia called Starrcade that would consist mainly of racing babies, playing charades, counting Lego bricks and, as always, naked man-ass. Nowadays he has a new toy called ECW to play with, must appear regularly on Raw or else the world will end, and clearly couldn’t give two shits about Smackdown, which is clearly anything but essential despite somehow still being the best wrestling show on TV right now (calm down, that’s the faintest of praise). With him out of the way it somehow seemed within the realm of possibility that they might be able to make this into a decent show. Okay, they weren’t exactly going to trump the Glory Days or anything, but it still could have worked. Booker T is more entertaining now than he has been since he called Hulk Hogan a nigger during a promo, the last two tag teams standing are actually comprised of four very good performers, the three remaining cruiserweights are all more than capable of surpassing average, and the sheer presence of an active DAVE was enough to make Mark Henry’s sustained supply of oxygen seem somehow fair.
And then someone filled a blimp with shit and it fell towards a stupidly large fan on the ground.
First, Henry succumbed to his own fat arse at Saturday Night’s Main Event and will be out for at least six months. Try not to think about how tempted WWE will be to push Batista/Henry as the Smackdown main event at WrestleMania 23.
Then it was Bobby Lashley who was pulled from the event after he was found to have an elevated enzyme count in his liver. Some are speculating that this might be linked to hepatitis, which of course raises questions about Bob Orton, who else he might have infected, how such a transmission might have occured, whether or not Randy and/or The Undertaker are infected, how WWE could possibly hope to defend itself should somebody decide to sue them, and on and on. Furthermore, it needs to be tied into Lashley dropping the US Title to Finlay on TV two weeks before their planned encounter on PPV, a move that made no sense in this post-Russo world. Dropping the title when he did was clearly a punishment on Lashely for something, since he was originally scheduled to have a long, long run with the title, which is exactly what the belt needs considering it has changed hands five times this year already. It seems rather far-fetched to have them punish someone for contracting hepatitis, although after the Orton fiasco they would naturally be rather angry at anybody working with such an infection that didn’t let the office know about it. However, if that were the case, they would not have continued to book him for the PPV even after the title switch. Perhaps the hepatitis theory should be laid to rest. Other possible causes of elevated liver enzymes include “excessive use of vitamin supplements”, probably vital for someone built like Lashley after the Wellness Program kicked off, “or certain herbal supplements”, which sounds like a rather fancy way of telling RVD that he should get his liver checked out too. It can also be caused “by drinking too much”, which leads to the suggestion that Lashley, a young man out on the road under the impression that the company was going to do everything it could to make him succeed where Lesnar failed and Batista can’t stay for much longer, was partying too much and his behaviour became increasingly RKO. This lead to the humiliation of having to drop the title far earlier than planned on a TV match, only that wasn’t enough of a wake-up call to Lashley, who was apparently nothing but resentful at the move, which led to the extreme measure of pre-PPV suspension. That seems to make the most sense right now but it’s all speculative at the moment, of course.
Finally, Khali was also found to have liver problems and was pulled from the Bash as well, to be replaced by The Big Show. As of now, the plan was for Show and Taker to still have the Punjabi Prison Match, which makes little sense and would be akin to turning the Hooliganz/Pitbulls match into a Casket Match. Just let them have an Extreme Rules Match, chuck in a load of ECW2 subordinates and end it in the schmozz we know it really is. We won’t mind, we’ll just be sitting there thinking “my, I truly have to see The Big Show in person to appreciate just how big he actually is”. Right? I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Khali doesn’t have any serious medical issues and Vince simply saw the light at long last, realised how truly awful the man is at wrestling, had one of his trademark changes of hearts and, on a whim, sent him home to get paid for doing nothing until his contract expires. Probably just wishful thinking on my part, since people of Khali’s size rarely get through life without a great many physical complications. I’d be surprised if his condition had anything to do with drinking or hard-living of any kind, since by all accounts he tries hard to stay healthy and advocates exercise and clean living to young people in Punjab. So maybe there is something going around the Smackdown locker room…
So, barring any more complications, the card now consists of Mysterio/Booker, Batista/Kennedy, Taker/Show, Finlay/Regal, Hooliganz/Pitbulls, something with the Divas and a Helms/Crazy/Psicosis match that WWE.com isn’t actually listing at the moment. Last year’s event managed 233,000 buys somehow. You might think that this year’s offering will do less than that due to all the commotion and the general malaise about Smackdown coming from a great many directions, yet Judgement Day managed an initial estimated buyrate of 238,000, which is far beyond what anybody would have expected the final number to look like, let alone the first (and these estimates almost always increase). That’s more than the previous year’s event, headlined by Cena the Boy Wonder rather than the jobbed-out Mysterio, drew. That’s more than Raw’s Backlash drew, with Vince McMahon’s memorably controversial/boring encounter with God. All that despite the diminishing TV ratings. The international audience is clearly more important to Smackdown than ever, particularly with Mysterio’s appeal to the Spanish-speaking demographic.
As though all of the above booking confusion wasn’t enough, it seems that WWE still cannot decide whether to have Mysterio drop the title at the Bash or not. That was the original plan, and hopefully they have actually gone back to it by now, but it had been changed to Booker winning the belt on Smackdown a week or two later. Surely they’ll just go ahead and do it at the PPV now. However they play it, we’ll be looking at Booker/Batista for the title at SummerSlam, with Mysterio moving onto the Chavo Guerrero feud. Well, he might move onto the Chavo Guerrero feud. People have been expecting him to take time off for knee surgery ever since last year but then it was just one thing after another: Eddie’s death, Batista’s injury, Orton messing up, winning the title, carrying Smackdown in a most unorthodox fashion, and now they’ve lost three of their major stars to boot. They need all the help they can get in the build up to the CW launch, which isn’t really that far away, so will Mysterio be able to hang on until at least October? Depending on how long the recuperation period is that could be the best time for him to be absent, coming back in a major way at the Rumble to gear up for Mania. As for the Chavo storyline, they’ve had to delay the heel turn because Chavo is apparently getting (or might already have) hair plugs. It seems that both him and his father are getting the treatment from the Medical Hair Restroration company, which also treated Jimmy Hart and will soon be treating Larry Zbysko. Certainly an unusual step for a WWE wrestler on the active roster to take, but then I guess that not even Vince is going to start hassling a Guerrero these days.
The real question is what Smackdown should aim for at WrestleMania. DAVE will inevitably be champion again pretty soon, although it would be nice to think that they could drag the Booker T reign out for at least a little longer and save Batista’s win until, say, Survivor Series. However, I doubt that WWE would be quite so patient. They’ll probably have Batista get the belt back on the inaugural CW show on the 22nd September, with a rematch at No Mercy in October. You just know that Vince has sweet/disturbing dreams about the ‘spectacle’ that would be a Batista/Khali match, so, depending on Khali’s health, we’ll tentatively have that lined up for Survivor Series, where it would at least not be expected to headline. JBL should be back in action by this point, if not sooner, though Batista probably wouldn’t be interested in working another title program with him. As he said in this interview about their feud last year, “It was very difficult and I was a little disappointed with our matches. JBL and I have absolutely zero chemistry. Enough said about that.” Truer words have never been spoken. Besides, JBL is far more of an asset to Smackdown as a colour commentator than he is as an actual wrestler, so perhaps all the unsensible people will see sense and let him stay behind the desk instead. They could always move Kane over to Smackdown and have him challenge for the title at Armageddon. It’s looking likely that he will retire next year anyway, so it would be an easy segue into one last feud with Taker (because, really, there’s no better way for him to leave than by having a third and final Mania match with his ‘brother’… no, he won’t win it, shut up). If Henry’s back in time then they can use him for No Way Out and get it out their system. If not, they can do a ‘respect’ match between Batista and Mysterio. If they’re totally desperate they can nick somebody from ECW2, most likely Big Show again but possibly Sabu.
But for WrestleMania? The pickings are very slim indeed. As much as we might want it to happen, there’s no way that they’ll move Finlay that far up the card. As much as the stupid people might want it to happen, there’s no way Hardy will get that far up the card – and it’s unlikely, hopefully, that Kennedy will get there by next April. The only realistic choice is the one they were going to do until a few days ago – rushing Lashley, pushing him too far too soon and trying to turn him into the next big thing. There’s a huge question mark over that happening now. It’s entirely up to him whether or not he can act professionally, stop whatever affected his liver so much, and work hard on improving when he gets back from suspension. The other option that people have speculated on since the day Batista won the title is re-signing Brock Lesnar. He’d certainly have no difficulty in getting over as a massive heel, yet if they were to bring him back they’d be far more likely to put him on Raw and let Triple H pin him with his pinkie. He might even pee on him a little, just to establish dominance. Also, Lesnar’s recent treatment of NJPW hasn’t won him any favours. It seems that Laurinaitis spoke with Inoki about Lesnar’s latest spat and heard nothing but bad things about his behaviour, attitude and drawing power – to such an extent that now not even Vince “I Heart Big Boys” McMahon wants to bring him back. Lesnar’s now pissed off the North American and Japanese wrestling scenes and wants to retreat to MMA rather than try to make amends, which is fair enough – though he’s fooling himself if he thinks he’ll actually achieve anything there.
I guess that trying to predict anything long-term for Smackdown at the moment is practically impossible. They can’t even make their minds up about the result of the main event of the PPV this week, so this is hardly surprising. We have heard many times that the CW launch will make WWE management pay more attention to the show than they are currently doing, yet if this happens and the show does gain a direction more substantial than “give DAVE the title”, then the product will inevitably suffer. They’ll take JBL off of colour commentary when he’s fit, and the other names mentioned when Tazz left were Simon Dean and Al Snow, neither of whom will be anywhere near as effective. They’ll stop giving Finlay and Regal so much attention. They’ll go ahead and break up the two tag teams, just because. They’ll decide that what the world needs now is more Tatanka. They’ll turn it into Raw Lite, because that’s clearly worked wonders for ECW2. They’ll trash it, because that’s all they seem to know how to do and they have to be seen doing something otherwise Vince gets mad.
Then again, Raw doesn’t really have much more of a direction than “convince Austin to work with Hogan”. It would make sense to wait until WM23 before giving having Cena start his third reign but it is probably beyond them to conjure up non-title feuds for him to do for that long (much as they’ll no doubt struggle to make Edge look like an effective champion after SummerSlam). Hell, they currently want to do a Cena/Umaga feud for Unforgiven, regardless of whether Cena has the belt by then or not. That would probably be the most useless WWE Championship PPV match since Bret Hart and The Patriot at IYH: Ground Zero, though both would at least be more useful than promoting Brooke Hogan’s record and a VH1 TV show. The sheer irritance of this might actually be enough to finally turn Randle straight. Um, I meant turn face. And, even though the penny has dropped for practically everybody else about how over-exposed dX is and about how they should really just have been a short-term thing, Stephanie wants them to ‘carry the show’ through the fall instead. That’s a scary thought. Perhaps she can tell the baby stories about how mommy convinced grandpa to let daddy bare his arse and chop his crotch when he went to work today.
“You’ll never watch your life slide out of view, and dance and drink and screw, because there’s nothing else to do…”
Let’s go and moan and see if we can’t irk Steve Murray a little.
I’ll bypass his Top 5 Wrestlers Of Our Time list. I have limited patience with such matters and right now it’s all being saved for this year’s Top 50, which is drawing ever closer though you’ll have to wait until September for it.
Safer to stick with the theme and see what his positive points about Smackdown were…
1. Hmm, I suppose so, but the victory remains meaningless since they didn’t actually capitalise on it. Kennedy went straight into a match with Batista, which may have been a last-minute decision but is apparently being billed as a #1 Contender’s Match despite Kennedy just losing. Meanwhile, Hardy doesn’t even have a match on the card. Had they kept Hardy/Kennedy on the PPV and simply shipped in somebody fairly random to face Batista (perhaps Kane, which they were going to do for No Way Out before Batista’s injury) then it might have mattered that Hardy beat Kennedy on Smackdown.
2. I agree with you about Beth but that’s no excuse to actually pay attention to anything to do with the Diva Search that doesn’t involve Superboy Prime punching them out of existence.
4. Oh, okay, this one is about the Diva Search and #2 was about the existing Divas. They’re all blending into one skinny, blond, silicone smear that no amount of scrubbing can erase.
5. That’s more certainty than WWE, to be certain. Fair enough point about Mysterio. Pity that they had Batista beat Booker at SNME, since it kinda disrupts the flow towards their SummerSlam encounter somewhat…
I’ve not been pessimisticalist enough this time around. You got me on a good day, despite the hangover.
DESERT ISLAND MATCHES
Okay, here we go. If you can’t figure it out for yourself, here’s the general idea, in the rather splendid form of a question:
If you were stranded on a desert island, cut off from the world, and you were allowed to have one wrestling compilation with you, what eight matches would you want to put on it?
I couldn’t possibly pick my own, at least not at the moment, so feel free to send me your choices and I’ll use them in a future installment. Bear in mind the anecdotal makes your choices more distinctive than just the technical.
The first person to choose his matches is our very own Will Cooling, who is currently experiencing the joys of being an unemployed student bum on his summer holidays. Git. In between naps, he is the author of The Nexus Files, one of the most well-written comics columns currently available on all of the internets.
Over to him…
“Good morning Sue, thank you for letting me pick the wrestling matches I’d like to take with me on some hypothetical desert Island.”
Nobody said anything about ‘hyopthetical’…
“1. Royal Rumble 1992
Okay you should all know the drill; the WWF title is vacant so the original Captain Charisma Jack Tunney makes the Rumble match for the belt itself. One of the favourites going into the match is the REAL World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair, however his chances are dealt a cruel blow when he draws number 3.
Okay there is so much that is brilliant about this match. Firstly, it is Ric Flair’s finest hour, with Flair taking on all comers and delighting in the chance to finally show the WWF fans what he’s made of. Compare Flair’s marathon performance to Benoit’s or Rey’s and you see what makes Flair superior, Flair never gets lost in the shuffle and the match is almost always focused on him. Secondly, the match is superbly booked, having Flair, as the underdog heel champion, using all his wiles to finally triumph was a truly inspired decision. Thirdly, the Rumble participants really are a who’s who of professional wrestling with the likes of Piper, Roberts, Hogan, Savage and Undertaker fighting out for the belt. Fourthly and finally, you have the wonderful commentary of Monsoon and Heenan that really puts the match over. Heenan is brilliant as he has several nervous breakdowns willing Flair to win, whilst Monsoon is forever needling him. The two of them do a great job sucking you into the action, and convincing you that every fall is real and that Heenan really will lose a ton of money should Flair fail. This is a superb match with great action, tons of heat and the best commentary ever done for a wrestling match.”
It really is superb, in every conceivable way, and it’s available on the Flair DVD for those that don’t already have it. The post-match interview is also brilliant, with Flair high on everything legal that a man can be high on, yelling about how proud he is to win the non-NWA, non-WCW, World Title “with a tear in his eye” and all the rest. And especially Mr Perfect’s orange-striped shellsuit. Don’t forget the shellsuit. In fact, here it is:
“2. Bret Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin I Quit Match Wrestlemania 13
Now this my friends is wrestling perfection. In wrestling there are matches that advance great storylines, there are matches with great in-ring action and there are matches that make a ton of money. However, there are none that do all three things so well as this match. Bret Hart vs Steve Austin is one of the great wrestling feuds ever, and this is undoubtedly their best match as the two of them just let it all hang out with a viscous bloody brawl that was quite unlike anything seen in a WWF ring since ‘Vinnie’ bought out his old man. What elevates this above the bloody brawls that dominated the Attitude era is that like great eighties’ brawls, the fundamentals are still there. This isn’t a ‘hardcore’ spot-fest where story and coherence is sacrificed at the altar of violence but a real match with two supreme wrestlers telling a story. And what a story it is, the descent of the virtuous hero Bret Hart as he finally snaps juxtaposed with the emergence of Steve Austin as a gusty, never say die working class hero. Hell, they even get the special guest referee Ken Shamrock over as a babyface before the night is over. “
It’s funny how most people will mention this as one of the greatest matches of all time and yet Vince is still reluctant to take WWE into the MMA-influenced direction that this match went to. I guess the wounds of the Brawl For All have yet to completely heal. I suppose it would in many ways involve taking more than a few cues from the NWA’s ’80s product, which Vince vehemently fought against and destroyed and can never praise. The closest would be the Heyman-directed Smackdown Six days and they were short-lived in the extreme. Still, Hart/Austin truly is one of the greatest matches of all time and, thankfully, is on the Bret DVD (we’ve yet to get a proper Austin DVD, unfortunately). I think that most people tend to forget just how exciting it was to see the WWF begin to morph into something different back in 1997, with most people simply remembering the Survivor Series and overlooking the riveting product they were putting on. DX back when they mattered; Austin becoming a star and not being immediately thrust to the title as he would be today; The Undertaker having the best run of his entire career; the Three Faces of Foley; the faltering, fumbling attempt to incorporate ECW elements; the Hart Foundation generating such substantial and unique heat in a way even the nWo couldn’t emulate… which brings us to your next pick…
“3. Hart Foundation vs Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust, LOD IYH: Canadian Stampede 1997
This is a doozy of a match, and really should’ve been on the Bret Hart DVD. Firstly, the crowd heat for this match has to be seen, you have never seen a group of babyfaces as over as the Hart Foundation in your life. I mean seriously, not even Hogan or Austin in their primes were this open. And the great thing is, they don’t screw up as all the wrestlers (with the exception of Kenny who looks a bit dazzled) play their roles to perfection. Austin is particularly enjoying himself as he spends some 40mins winding up the whole of Canada. Aside from the heat this is a great match that as anything in the Bret/Austin feud has a compelling and coherent storyline and terrific action. A seriously awesome match that is one of the great ‘lost’ classics of wrestling.
(Btw, you owe it to yourself to get Canadian Stampede, the most perfect PPV the WWF has ever put on. I mean, for Christ’s sake the worst match on the card is Vader vs Undertaker, which is probably the best North American big man match before Brock Lesnar came onto the scene.)”
If he knew how, Steiner might claim that his match with Goldberg at Fall Brawl 2000 was a better big man match than Vader/Taker.
Everybody out there should certainly get their hands on a copy of Canadian Stampede though. It’s available on this Tagged Classic along with IYH: Final Four, which was largely forgettable up until the unforgettable Bret/Vader/Taker/Austin main event. There are only four matches on the card, which is unfathomable for a PPV these days, but the show itself was only two hours long (this was back when the diddy PPVs were available cheaply) and overflowing with quality. The main event is everything you say it is. Jim Ross and Michael Cole like to ramble on about how the “roof has come off” and “the crowd is exploding” but here it really did feel like that was going to happen. If I had a time machine I’d definitely go to the Saddledome for that show. It was a phenomenal experience just watching it on TV.
“4. Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka Heat Wave 1998
My favourite ECW feud is undoubtedly Awesome vs Tanaka. These two just couldn’t have a bad match; they were just made to have matches together, bringing the best out of each other. Their matches are not the usual big-little man matches, sure there’s a fair bit of Awesome making Tanaka his bitch but Awesome was more than willing to sell for the much smaller Tanaka. This is my favourite match of theirs I’ve seen, with both being on top of their game with Tanaka doing his thing (i.e. taking sick chair shots) whilst Awesome is willing moving round the ring with scarily impressive agility for a man of his size. The best spot in the match is a seriously scary powerbomb from the ring to a table outside that Tanaka gives Awesome. Honestly, it looks like the poor guy landed right on his neck as opposed to his back. A great match, that is easily superior to the match they did as ONS1*. I also must comment on the great commentary by Shane Douglas, his gruff, match based commentary gets across the match as a serious athletic contest very well. He really should be a colour commentator somewhere at the moment; I think he would be perfect alongside JR.
*I haven’t seen their much longer title match at N2R99, which I’ve heard is superior to this.”
Well the only one I’ve seen was at One Night Stand One, which was kinda fun but probably not up to their previous levels. They don’t appear to have put it on any of the ECW DVDs so far but no doubt there will be another compilation along in due course. Strange to think that Awesome made his name as a big agile hardcore brawler yet WCW, after being so desperate to sign him, turned him into some ’70s reject that liked fat chicks. Russo must have had one hell of a dealer in those days.
Good point about Douglas, although if I had to pick one TNA person to turn into a permanent colour commentator it would be Raven. Then again, I just recently watched an old Michaels/Jannetty match from ’93 with Johnny Polo on commentary, singing “Light My Fire” to Gorilla Monsoon, so what do I know?
“5. Chris Benoit/Dean Malenko vs Raven/Perry Saturn: Spring Stampede 1999
This is quite simply that last great Horsemen tag match, and so with ends a great tradition of southern tag wrestling that had outlasted JCP and NWA. This is an underrated and little noticed classic that has somehow got lost in the wider Chris Benoit cannon. This match came about four months after WCW reintroduced the tag team titles after a three year hiatus and is in the middle of a staggeringly well-booked tag team feud, as we had the Horsemen beat the impromptu team of Raven and Saturn via Dusty Finish. The Flock V.2.0 then take their revenge by costing the Horsemen the tag titles to Rey/Kidman. Come this PPV we see the tag champs square of for the Cruiserweight Title whilst these teams duke out.
Anyway to the match, and yes this is the last great Horsemen tag match, with Benoit/Malenko building on a slightly tepid reception throughout the match with some great heel tag work. The two of them run through many of the best elements of the heel tag formula with extended ‘face-in-peril’ sequences, beatdowns when the ref’s back is turned, false tags and of course the cheating manager. All of which helps get both teams over, with the Flock V.2.0 getting more and more over as babyfaces due to the Horsemen’s top draw heel-work. The ending is brilliant as well, with a superb diving headbutt onto a chair by Benoit bringing the match to a close. A great match, featuring two teams that never got the chance to really achieve all they could in WCW.”
Not only was this the last great Horsemen match, it was part of the last great WCW show as well. They had some decent moments after this, like Bret winning the title, but they never again managed to put together an entire card that worked as well as this one. Then again, WCW never came up with Moppy.
“6. Chris Benoit vs Bret Hart: Owen Hart Tribute Match: Monday Night Nitro
This was shown just at the point where WCW Worldwide had started to be shown on Channel Five (and I think Nitro wasn’t currently being shown on SKY Digital due to disputes between TNT and SKY). Naturally, this being the Nash/Russo reigns of terrors in WCW/WWF there wasn’t much (okay none at all) great wrestling on at the time. Indeed since I had got back into wrestling following a length hiatus in May 1999 I think the best match I had seen on TV was either Test vs Shane at Summerslam 1999 or Hogan vs Savage on an edition of Worldwide. So you can imagine how much watching a proper wrestling between two great athletes was a welcome shock to the system. Now the wrestling is great in this match, but what elevates (and what has caused me to put this above Angle vs Benoit at RR03) is the sheer emotion of this match. Obviously there’s the stuff concerning Owen, and seeing the wrestlers, Harley Race and the fans remember one of the in-ring greats of the nineties is incredibly moving. However, there’s also a definite feeling that this is Bret’s last bow. Sure he’d have a brief return to form in Russo’s opening days but this was Bret turning the clock for one night, to show the world what wrestling once was and what it should still be. In addition, you can’t help but see this as an attempt by Bret to past the torch to Benoit, something that’s extremely classy of Bret. Take all this, with an understated and respectful commentary and you have a match that not only provides great matches but gets you right here.”
Agreed wholeheartedly. Kudos on continuing to watch Worldwide, I struggled to make it through the first episode and promptly lost interest. Had no idea they actually showed this match on it. It’s on the Bret DVD and the Benoit DVD and makes for strange viewing. It’s not just a tremendous wrestling match but, as with your last pick, there’s a palpable sense of noting just how removed from its NWA roots WCW had become and that it was just now becoming apparent that not only did they have no way back, they had run out of ways to continue to move forward as well. They defeated Vince at his own game yet couldn’t maintain the performance for umpteen-gazillion well-known reasons and realised what they could have been doing instead, had they only been given the chance. And there’s the Owen factor on top of that. Truly a one-of-a-kind match.
“7. HHH vs The Rock: 60-Minute Iron Man Match: Judgement Day 2000
Oh boy, this has to be THE wrestling match of the 2000s. We all said it couldn’t be done, fresh in our minds was the overbooked clusterf*ck that was their Backlash encounter whilst many fans pointed to the overbooked mess of their 30minute Iron Man Match just two years earlier. We all said it couldn’t be done, and we were all dead wrong. HHH and The Rock proceeded to put on a wrestling clinic, in one of the best-booked matches ever. Every bit of action, every pinfall, every little detail showed how much thought and care had gone into putting this match together and ensuring that it didn’t disappoint ala Bret/Shawn Wrestlemania 12. What’s more the two wrestlers excelled themselves, at this point Rock still regarded as a top-level worker whilst some still insisted Foley had carried HHH to their ***** brawls early in the year. After this match, such foolishness was forgotten, as the two of them, in their sixth and final PPV singles showdown showed the world that they were the two wrestlers of the moment. The best thing about this match was the fact that with the near-perfect build up it was one of the few none-Big Five Title bouts to have that ‘big fight atmosphere’. The fact that against all our predictions they delivered made it all the better*
*I also fondly remember this match because it allowed me to put one over my Dad. Sitting downstairs at 3am waiting for this match to start, my Dad came down to tell me to go to bed. I told him I’d go to bed after watching one more match. I of course neglected to tell him that this one match was an hour long J. “
The brief glory year(s) of Triple H really were quite something. When they get around to giving him the three-disc treatment they should just include everything from 2000-2001 – Foley, Rock, Benoit, Austin, Angle, Taka, Jericho, Hardy, all of it – and pretend that he retired after the quad injury. Sure, he’s come back to have some decent matches again recently but back then he was phenomenal. There really weren’t enough snowflakes after a while. This one is still probably his finest hour – and probably the finest Iron Man match the company has ever had. It’s hard to imagine any of the younger stars being able to have a decent one. There’s C.M. Punk of course, but if you think he’ll ever get the chance to have one then you probably think Lex Luthor’s evil scheme in Superman Returns was a really good idea.
“8. Brock Lesnar vs Undertaker: Hell In A Cell: No Mercy 2002
This is probably going to be a controversial choice, but screw you guys this is my list. Yes, this is my favourite HITC match, more so than the UT-HBK one or any of the Foley ones. What this had over them was that it was just two big bad ugly bastards pounding the holy hell out of each other. Like the Iron Man Match, nobody was expecting much from this match; the build-up suffered from some typical Steph soap opera bullshit, their bout the previous month had been nothing special and HITC was struggling to escape Foley’s legacy of insane bumps from the top of the Cell. The two of them of put on a hell of a show, with Brock taking some impressive bumps for a man of his size, Undertaker actually pulling off a tremendous blade job for once and the two of them just delivering action in spades. In addition, this match had expert psychology with the focus on the Undertaker’s broken arm/cast and whether Brock’s inexperience would cost him dear. And all credit to Undertaker, he puts over Brock big time here, allowing Brock to physically dominate him in a way nobody has or probably ever will again. All of this adds to a genuine classic that has somewhat been lost amid all the praise of the Smackdown Six.”
It isn’t controversial at all in my opinion, it’s simply a great match. I might not rate it quite as highly as you do but, hey, screw me, it’s not my list. All I know is that this one was terribly under-rated at the time, probably because most people (quite rightly) hated their match the previous month and the no-contest finish, not to mention the amount of grief that Undertaker was getting that year after his terrible work with RVD, Flair, Hogan, Hardy and the ageing process. This one was just absolutely epic, brutal and relentless and helped to establish Lesnar as a credible champion more than anything else had done at that point. Perhaps TNA are taking notes for a bloody Joe/Abyss clash in the near future. You can find this one on the Taker DVD, but you will have to sit through a lot of dreck if you watch the rest of it.
“So there you have the eight matches I’d take with me on the desert Island. I once again thank Captain Morphine for allowing me to pick them. “
Yes, well, thanks for picking them!
In an update on the James Mitchell situation, the story about him contacting WWE, looking to get into ECW as Sabu’s manager wasn’t true. He’s sticking with TNA and Abyss and never actually got in touch with WWE management. There were conversations with WWE wrestlers, the idea came up there and some of them wanted it to happen, but he’s happy in TNA and is under contract anyway.