VS. #20 – Jake Mulligan vs. Ivan Rushfield

Welcome everyone to the next great installment of VS. – the feature that is close to being called “Can anyone beat Jake Mulligan. This week we get an attempt from Ivan R. who many of you may not know on the Pulse, but he seems to have the stones to attempt to overthrow the unbeatable juggernaut. Read on to find out if it is possible. Oh, by the way, I am Big Andy Mac and I will be taking on judging duties this week.

Question One: Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania XIV, How good was it? Explain.

Ivan R: As far as I’m concerned, pretty damn good. Note: not GREAT, but pretty damn good. Certainly, it was a complete mat classic: embarrassments such as Flair being unable to bridge out of a pin attempt by Michaels really only highlighted the fact that Flair simply was not “the man,” so to speak, that he once was. However, what was most remarkable about the match was there were several times when we, as an audience, really felt that Flair might pull this one off. Everyone knew (not thought, but knew) going into Wrestlemania that this would be Flair’s last match, and yet the two vets managed to make us believe that the valiant legend, past his prime, might be able to beat arguably the most outstanding performer in the history of the industry.

Think about it: Flair finally, FINALLY hitting that crossbody off the top, or those long figure fours where Michaels convinced the audience that he was a dead man, or Michaels hesitating, just for a moment, unable to kill his hero with a superkick and giving the old man enough time to lock on another finishing hold…moments like those kept me, smart mark and all, skeptical as all hell. Yet, what really cements this match as something incredibly special was the ending. In the waning moments of the match, Shawn hits the Sweet Chin Music, and Flair seems dead. One last time, Shawn strikes up the band, and Flair rises like Lazarus, grizzled, crying, fists in the air one last
defiant time…and Shawn mouths the words, “I’m sorry. I love you,” and a few seconds later, it’s all over. I will never, ever forget those last bits of acting by Shawn in what, I imagine, was the best final match that Ric Flair could possibly have.

Jake Mulligan: It was excellent. I mean, maybe not in the normal, “super workrate and MOVEZ” way, but it’s a WWE match, and it paid off everything and anything WWE aims for. Was the crowd into it? Hell yeah, they were molten. Did it pay off the storyline? Yes, someone finally beat Flair, while still retaining his legacy, making him look good, and giving him a classic match to go out on. And it even set up another storyline, Batista vs. HBK, that will make them MORE money. So seriously, this match accomplished every little thing it needed to, and was super entertaining the whole way, so it was definately “good”, and in my opinion great.

This is a tough one. As usual Jake’s answer lends itself towards succinctness, yet that does not take anything away from its quality and insight. Ivan on the other hand takes a little more time with his response, and the extra time pays off. Still Jake mentions the fact that what should have been a clean ending actually sets up a future angle which hasn’t been ruined with Ric Flair on TV trying to talk Batista and HBK out of fighting. I still interpret the question as looking at the match in and of itself. For that reason, Ivan takes the early lead.

Jake – 0; Ivan R – 1

Question Two: Where is this “shades of grey” storyline with Shawn Michaels, Batista and Chris Jericho eventually heading? Will this be the storyline to finally make Jericho matter? Will Batista work as a major heel in this role? Who is right in the feud?

Jake Mulligan: I see this storyline accomplishing one major goal for WWE: making Batista an absolute monster of a heel. As for where it’s heading, I see Jericho continuing to toe the line, and Batista almost holding back his viciousness this Sunday, and thus HBK will take the win. In their next match, Batista goes all out with weapons, etc, in an attempt to injure and/or kill HBK. At this point, Jericho will realize he needs to stop stirring the shit, make a point to Batista to calm down, and Batista will kill him too. The fact is, there’s definitely gas left in the tank for Jericho as a face, so no need to turn now. Then, you can alternate between Batista vs. Jericho and Batista vs. HBK, maybe blow it off in a no DQ three way for a title shot, and boom, just as Taker’s finishing up with Edge, it’s time to revisit Undertaker vs. Batista one more time. Jericho won’t matter that much at the end of it all, to be honest, because he’s clearly the sideshow attraction, but Batista, whose been stale forever, will kill as a heel because people do love HBK and Y2J. As for whose right in the feud, it’s obviously HBK. When you admit people should throw certain matches and friendships and you toe the whole work/shoot line, your opening up a whole can of worms you don’t want open, so you want to give the opinion that everyone goes all out for everything, hence why Batista will get so vicious: these guys fight for a living, and need to fight to the best of their abilities at all time to keep the illusion alive.

Ivan R: Knowing WWE, I don’t imagine it will lead anywhere. There was no real mention of it at King of the Ring, but I suppose Jericho’s dickery can have a one-week respite for the sake of the tournament. Still, what I imagine this is heading to, if anything, is essentially establishing Jericho as what he was before he left the company: a conniving, manipulative heel who can also, more or less, back it up in the ring. While this storyline COULD cause Jericho to become cemented in the main event picture, WWE has very little precedence for putting any real faith in Jericho since he was Undisputed Champ, so I figure this will just keep him in the upper middle card. Howdy-do, glass ceiling…you old, familiar friend.

As for Batista and the feud, I think Batista’s working just fine as a heel, essentially because he’s so incredibly wrong. When he talks about “doing the right thing,” did he suggest throwing the match for Flair? That’s absurd, and Flair knows it, Shawn knows it, and, frankly, he should know it. His role in the feud actually makes him seem like a bit of a fool, which I guess I’m okay with. Batista needs something real to re-energize him to make him a viable world champ again, as far as I’m concerned.

This one is all JMull showing just why he has been at the top of the VS. mountain. He avoids cynicism, although I do appreciate a good cynic and talks about how turning Batista into a monster for the first time in forever would be the right idea. He ignores the impact it will have on Jericho just like WWE most likely will. Ivan’s answer is not without its points though. Still he makes the same arguments as Jake with slightly less insight. Thus we have a tie going into question 3.

Jake – 1; Ivan – 1

Question Three: Why is Scott Steiner in the TNA World Title picture? Does this derail Joe’s momentum, since Steiner is essentially a non-contender?

Ivan R: This question is moot: Joe’s momentum was derailed a long time ago, as he should have been give the title, say, a year and change ago, when everyone believed it was his time. However, I’ll play this game; it doesn’t necessarily derail his momentum, as Steiner is just a morsel to be fed to Joe, so that Joe can get a strong win over an established (?) name. And that, in a sense, answers the first question.

Having been in a previous company in TNA is far more important that being talented or entertaining. Yes, Samoa Joe is the world champion despite never having been in WCW, ECW, or WWE, but look how long it took for them to give him this world title run. Instead, they essentially jobbed him out to Kurt Angle, and then they put the strap on the former Olympian almost immediately. Why does Billy Gunn have a job? Why snatch up Test at the earliest opportunity? TNA has always put more importance on name recognition than on actual skill. I don’t think Joe is necessarily hurt by Steiner as a challenger, as everyone knows that he’s going to beat him, but it’s more of an insult to the fans, who, as previously stated, know that Steiner has no chance of winning. Steiner, despite all of the promise he showed over the years, has never been seen as a serious title contender, even when he was given the world title in WCW. When he was the innovative Steiner Brother Scotty, showing off crazy stuff like the Steiner Screwdriver and Frankensteiners from a standing position, he was the man. But we should be honest: once he became muscle crazy, he lost any real chance of being one of the greats.

Perhaps that’s a bit off topic, but it had to be said.

Jake Mulligan: Scott Steiner makes perfect sense as a first challenger for Samoa Joe, as far as I’m concerned. Look, it’s Joe as champ. It’s been built for years, and no one buys that he’s losing it until at least the summer. They’ve been building Steiner as a challenger for a while with the briefcase thing, so that needs to be paid off. Now, as far as momentum goes, it’ll retain, because Joe and Steiner have history, an AWESOME history. I’m sure if they go the same route they went for their first match, Joe will only gain momentum. If you have Steiner calling him a half-breed and threatening to eat his kids and fuck his wife or something, and then Joe murders him in a bloodbath on PPV, it’s only gonna get Joe WAY more over as a killer, which is what they should be pushing and what the fans in Orlando clearly want. So, if done like it was the first time, Joe vs. Steiner: Great call.

Some differing viewpoints from the two competitors for the first time. I have to agree with Jake that Steiner is the most logical challenger the way they have built him up. A sure way to clinch the point would have either been to argue who would be better to take the spot as Joe’s first challenger or why Steiner is specifically better than the other choices. Also, the only people that lose to their first challenger as champion are transitional champions, a role Kurt Angle knows all too well. Regardless, Steiner is a contender whether or not his talents mean he should be. As wrestling fans we should all know that the top spot is not about talent. You can look at the army of monsters fed to Sting, or the wrestling acumen of Hulk Hogan to know that being champ or number one contender is not about having the most skill. So, point for Mulligan and a 2-1 lead.

Jake – 2; Ivan – 1

Question Four: Is the Ring of Honor Hammerstein being booked as a great show, but not a supershow, the right move? Why or why not? What match looks best?

Jake Mulligan: I’m going to have to take this space to not answer this question, but to disagree with it. The fact is, as far as I’m concerned, this is 100% a supercard going down on May 10th at the Hammerstein Ballroom. I mean, one look at the card shows that every match so far is huge and deserving of the “super” moniker. On top, you’ve got Nigel McGuinness and Claudio Castagnoli fighting for the top title. This is not a thrown together match, Claudio HAS pinned Nigel recently, and these two have a history. Also, Claudio is without a doubt the highest ranked guy Nigel hasn’t defended against yet, and in my opinion the 4th guy in ROH behind Nigel, Aries, and Dragon. Nigel’s faced Dragon tons of times, and Aries twice in the past couple months, but since they changed their styles and became main eventers, Nigel vs. Claudio has not gone down, so this is a big one, for sure.

Next up is the World Tag Team Title match, Jay Briscoe and Austin Aries vs. Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black. This, also, is a huge match. You’ve got the first confrontation between Aries and Jacobs in a real match since their beef developed. You’ve got more Briscoe vs. AOTF action. And you’ve got Jacobs and Black, whose only tag team loss in ROH has come at the hands of SHINGO and BxB Hulk, going for the Tag Titles in a pseudo-rematch of an awesome tag title match from last year, with an on-fire Austin Aries in there.

Next up you’ve got two HUGE ROH vs. NOAH matches. First up, Bryan Danielson vs. Naomichi Marufuji. Two aces of the promotions going at for the first time in about 2 and a half years, during which time they’ve both become incredible workers. Dragon is noted for hitting his current stride right after that match, and the same could be said for Marufuji, who started bulking up and changed his style right afterwards. They’ve both claimed MVP, Most Outstanding, Match of the Year, whatever awards from numerous publications, and now at ROH’s biggest show ever theyre gonna face off…this is THE biggest dream match ROH could have put together. Then you got Morishima vs. Necro Butcher. Japan’s heavy bruiser against a man whom is super duper over in NYC, and can take a bigger beating than anyone and get up asking for more. This is the most controversial match ROH has booked in a while, and it’s going down on this SUPERcard.

Past that you have a few grudge matches to wrap things up. Strong vs. Stevens vs. Necro got hella over last time in NYC, so now we have Strong vs. Stevens vs. Shiozaki in whats sure to be a hard hitting affair, and its for the FIP Title. That’s all that’s officially booked so far, but you can expect an encounter between Steen/Generico and Davey/Rocky based on the last NYC show, along with other matches. This card is stacked top to bottom, a true supercard. And as for whats best, Dragon and Marufuji are two of the very best in the world today and have the accoldes to prove it, and I’m sure they’ll go all out in front of an intense crowd and provide a top tier match of the night.

Ivan R: I’m admittedly not a huge Ring of Honor nut, but I’ll do my best. I don’t think the question is whether or not it’s the right move, but whether or not Ring of Honor can really put together what can be considered a “supershow” anymore. Let’s look at the big names: Danielson, Aries, the Briscoes, Nigel, and Morishima. Can anyone else really lay claim to being a top draw (I even think Morishima is kind of pushing it)? What else could they be expected to do? New York is one of their biggest audiences, next to perhaps Philadelphia, and I think the show is certainly strong enough that it will bring the audience out and, frankly, for a company like ROH, what more to they need?

As for what looks best, I’m going with Marafuji vs. Danielson, as I imagine a stiff American and an ultra-talented NOAH guy like Marafuji (who, lucky me, I got to see live) can perpetrate some nasty and enjoyable violence on one another. Morishima bores me, and the Briscoes wrestle like they’re playing No Mercy. Grapple, crazy move, grapple, crazy move…even with Mark out and Aries in, I just can’tget myself excited for that one.

Ivan spends too much time contradicting himself and not committing to an answer one way or another. And, as a matter of fact I agree with Jake that every match is the best match they could put on with the possible exception of a blowoff to the Dragon/Morishima feud. Claudio gets one of the best reactions out of anybody, and has not wrestled Nigel in forever. I for one loved their series over the pure title and both have come a long way since then. Just having Nigel vs. Claudio close the show will re-cement the importance of the world title regardless of who is in the match, and it could be the first time since the original Unscripted that we will see new World Champ and new Tag Champs. So, as much as I wanted to see the king fall, Jake sews up another victory with his answer here.

Jake – 3; Ivan – 1

Question Five: What is the importance of selling? What does it accomplish and how necessary is it? Who’s best at it?

Ivan R:Selling makes a match seem like an actual physical contest, as opposed to just some guys doing horrifying painful things to one another. You can choose to avoid selling in a match, but it essentially neuters it, and takes away any sense of realism in the fake sport that we all know and attempt to love. Example time!

Imagine, if you will, Jay and Mark Briscoe, darlings of Ring of Honor. Go watch one of their matches, then come back. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Okay, saw it? Now, I bet you had fun watching those guys drop people on their heads, and equal fun watching them get dropped on theirs. Wasn’t that just the best? Now, notice how they took horrendous bumps and moves, and yet they got up and ran around like nothing had ever happened to them. Occasionally holding your head does not an injury sell. It’s impossible to take any of their matches seriously when they don’t bother to show how the actions of the opposing team damaged them, and so their matches are essentially nothing more than throwaway spotfests, despite the popularity that they enjoy.

As for who was the best at it, it’s a tie between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, but I suppose since one is retired, we’ll have to go with the latter. Now, while Michaels could have sold the knee more in his match with Flair, he’s the only person that can make someone with worthless offense seem credible. Watch his match against Hogan, and how he makes it seem like his antiquated moveset is actually still dangerous. Or watch how he squirms like crazy when someone applies a submission hold on him. You just want to shout, “He’s done! He’s done!”

And now, so am I.

Jake Mulligan: Selling is ridiculously important, and the idea that it’s not is just ludicrous. What it accomplishes is the most important thing in all of wrestling: without selling, there is no danger, no risk, so why should the crowd care at all about whats going on? Without the damage caused, all it is is a 2-man gymnastics display. Selling gives the crowd something to watch, to notice, to use to get a feel for the match, and without it, theres no psychology, simply an exhibition.

As for awesome sellers, there’s a few who are awesome in different ways. Shawn Michaels never fails to bump around and get mass sympathy from the audience, and always uses size to his advantage. Bryan Danielson is known for his ability to build selling into his matches, with legwork leading to failed bridges well into the match, and other awesome payoffs. Finally, Takashi Suguira of NOAH has shown ability to fight through his selling while still, in fact, selling, an art that seems to be lost in Japan. These men’s matches are almost always over, and the selling is the key ingredient, in my opinion.

Both make a great argument to an absurd question. This question is like asking, “Is eating important?” Sure, one can live for a time without food, but the quality of life that it results in will soon wear the person down and eventually kill them. I’m looking at you Briscoe Brothers. Ivan makes the better argument, and although Jake delves into who is the best at selling in WWE, Ring of Honor and NOAH, I am going to give the point to Ivan. This is not a sympathy point here, just an unfortunate coincidence that Ivan’s best answers bookended the competition and Jake had three strong showings in the middle to take the victory.

Jake – 3; Ivan 2

That does it for another week and Jake Mulligan stand bragadociously holding his championship high above his head for all to see. Who will be able to topple this Behemoth of Better Answers. Maybe it will be the person that bribes the VS. judge with wrestling DVDs or the person that just outthinks the Giant of Great Responses.

Until next week, this is Big Andy Mac and…

I’ll see you next time…