Wrestling Recap: Royal Rumble 1988

The Date: 24 January 1988
The Venue: Copps Coliseum; Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
The Commentary: Vince McMahon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura
The Stipulation: Twenty man over the top rope battle royale
Notable Competitors: “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan (Winner), Bret “Hitman” Hart (#1), The Junkyard Dog (#20), and The One Man Gang (Most Eliminations)

The Build-Up:
Considering how dominating the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has been in the industry, it should be no surprise that the company has been at the forefront of creativity; from their celebrated Superstars, impact on pay-per-view entertainment, to the creation of genre-defining match types. By 1988, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, as it was known then) had already stepped into the mainstream after taking a massive gamble with their inaugural WrestleMania event and added the annual Survivor Series event to their calendar. To see in the new year, WWF chairman Vince McMahon produced the first edition of another annual event, the Royal Rumble, which was headlined by the titular over-the-top-rope battle royale. The match concept was the creation of the legendary Pat Patterson and has since become a trademark event of the organisation, with winners now going on to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania, though this aspect wouldn’t be introduced until the 1993 event. After trialling the concept at an untelevised house show, which was won by the Junkyard Dog, there was little rhyme or reason for the match’s debut beyond producing another pay-per-view and showcasing a bunch of WWF’s superstars in one big brawl and, as such, no real storylines leading into the titular match.

The Match:
Generally speaking, I quite enjoy a good Royal Rumble match; it’s a great excuse to debut or bring back wrestlers and can be a lot of fun with the right people in there. They can be difficult to book, however, and often the middle part can get bogged down with tag teams of B- or even C-list lower-card wrestlers who no one’s ever going to believe will win the match. For me, winning the Royal Rumble should be an accolade reserved for the company’s biggest star, preferably their biggest fan favourite; the event itself marks the first step on the Road to WrestleMania and should therefore represent a significant step up in quality. That’s not always the case, of course, and sometimes it feels like the event just takes place because it’s January and that’s what’s supposed to happen. Consequently, I was intrigued to go back to the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling era and see what the inaugural Royal Rumble was like considering this period of wrestling can be a bit hit and miss in terms of match and wrestler quality and that the event didn’t have the WrestleMania stipulation tied to it. Legendary ring announcer Howard Finkel ran down the rules of the match (competitors enter the ring in two minute intervals, are eliminated after being thrown over the top rope, and the last man standing is the winner) while Bret Hart and Tito Santana were in the ring, who were introduced as though it was a one-on-one match rather than simply running to the ring and getting into it like these days.

Bret, Neidhart, Santana, and the Snake all got the match off to a pretty hot start.

Additionally, when the bell rang, the two went at it like it was a single match, pulling off actual wrestling moves as though wearing each other down for the pin fall rather than trying to heave each other over the ropes. Butch Reed came in at number three and initially targeted Bret before teaming up with him to put a beating on Santana; at least, until Butch accidentally nailed Bret. Luckily for him, fellow Hart Foundation member Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart came in next and the three of them desperately tried to force Santana out of the ring but he maintained a death grip on the ropes and refused to go over. Thankfully, Jake “The Snake” Roberts came out at number five to even the odds, dumping Butch for the first elimination of the match and attacking both Bret and Neidhart with a flurry of punches to the absolute delight of the crowd. Neidhart was able to interrupt a double DDT attempt on Bret by Jake and Santana and the former took the brunt of the Hart Foundation’s retribution thanks to a jumping piledriver from Bret. Harley Race was in next and also got in on the action against Jake, dropping a couple of elbows while Neidhart held the Snake helpless on the mat. Jim Brunzell was out next as Neidhart sold a beard pull from Jake (!); things slowed down a little as the guys tried to heff their opponents out of the ring but picked up considerably when Sam Houston sprinted to the ring and went right for the Hart Foundation but, unfortunately, Santana’s time in the match came to an end with the boys in pink tossing him out.

Things slowed and became less exciting as the ring filled up, despite Bret’s stand-out performance.

The ring really started to fill up as Danny Davis and Boris Zhukov came to the ring; slow, plodding, confused offense was the order of the day here as guys half-heartedly went at it in the corner, against the ropes, or wandered around aimlessly trying to catch their breath. There was a bit of excitement as Don “The Rock” Muraco and Nikolai Volkoff argued at ringside over the number eleven spot; Muraco simply nailed Volkoff and took to the ring to attack the Hart Foundation and, by the time Volkoff was allowed into the ring, his tag team partner, Zhukov, had been muscled out by Jake and Brunzell. Harley Race was next to be dumped and, as he was leaving and the others paired off again, the crowd exploded to life when “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan came to the ring (carrying his trademark 2×4) at number thirteen, having a brief altercation with Race along the way. More miscellaneous brawling, striking, and grappling in the corners and against the ropes followed, however, and the excitement took a nosedive as Ron Bass lumbered to the ring. Brunzell was thrown out shortly after thanks to Volkoff. B. Brian Blair, Hillbilly Jim, and Dino Bravo all joined the fray and, in the process, both Neidhart and Houston were sent packing, with the latter being muscled out by Ron Bass. The Ultimate Warrior raced to the ring and immediately started throwing chops and, in the chaos, Muraco was able to toss Bret from the ring, ending his run at almost twenty-six minutes.

In the end, Duggan outsmarted the lumbering One Man Gang to win the first ever Royal Rumble.

Again, the action slowed down and only got slowed as the One Man Gang plodded his way to the ring; the big man made an immediate impression, however, by tossing out not just Blair but also Jake Roberts with a surprising and disappointing amount of ease. The final entrant in his twenty man version of the match was the Junkyard Dog; shortly after he got into the ring, Volkoff was tossed and then the One Man Gang struck again by getting rid of Hillbilly Jim while Bravo took out the Ultimate Warrior with no fuss or fanfare. The Junkyard Dog didn’t last too long either before he was taken out by Bass, who was himself eliminated by Muraco, meaning the final four were Muraco, Duggan, Bravo, and the One Man Gang, an odd selection considering the likes of Bret Hart, Jake Roberts, and the Ultimate Warrior had been in the match. The Rock and the Gang squared off while Bravo and Duggan fought on the other side of the ring; Brave and the One Man Gang worked together to attack both men, with Muraco desperately using his speed to hold them off but a distraction from Frenchy Martin saw him on the back foot and then nudged over the top rope from a weak-ass One Man Gang clothesline that looked as though it would miss and/or take Bravo out as well, but it didn’t. Left alone in a two-on-one situation, Duggan fought back valiantly but looked to be overwhelmed following a double clothesline; however, as he was held helplessly by Brave, he managed to slip away and cause the One Man Gang to accidentally take out Bravo at the last second. Duggan and the One Man Gang brawled for a bit, with Duggan taking a beating against the ropes but, in the end, brains got the better of brawn as Duggan ducked and yanked on the ring ropes as One Man Gang charged him, sending the big man spilled to the outside and becoming the first-ever Royal Rumble winner to an explosive reaction. It may seem like an odd choice to have Hacksaw win the Royal Rumble considering some of the star power featured in the match, but the crowd were absolutely into his win and it’s not like he ended up headlining WrestleMania for winning so it was just a nice feather in the enthusiastic big man’s cap.

The Aftermath:
The main story heading into The Main Event that came out of this event was the WWF Championship rematch between Hulk Hogan and André the Giant but there was some fallout for Duggan following his big win. He and the One Man Gang went at it in a singles match at the same event, with Duggan coming out on top, though he ended up battling Bad News Brown to a double disqualification by the time WrestleMania V rolled around later that year. The Royal Rumble event ended up setting a record as the highest-viewed wrestling program on cable television and would go on to become a yearly event for the company; by the next year, the match was expanded to include the now traditional thirty men and, by 1993, the WrestleMania championship shot had been added and the match has since become one of the WWE’s most anticipated annual events.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to the inaugural Royal Rumble match? Did you like that Hacksaw Jim Duggan won the match or would you have liked to see someone else take the win? Which of the competitors was your favourite? Were there any competitors you would’ve liked to see included? What’s your favourite Royal Rumble match? Whatever your thoughts on the Royal Rumble, share them below or leave a comment on my social media.

Wrestling Recap: Elimination Chamber Match (New Year’s Revolution ’05)

The Date: 9 January 2005
The Venue: Coliseo de Puerto Rico; San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Commentary: Jim “J.R.” Ross, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and Jonathan “The Coach” Coachman
The Referee: “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels
The Stakes: Six-man Elimination Chamber match for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship

The Build-Up:
By 2005, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) was the undisputed top dog in the sports entertainment industry; having bought their competition and become an indomitable multimedia juggernaut, the company decided to split their now bloated roster into two distinct brands, with both Raw and SmackDown! receiving their own exclusive wrestlers, belts, and creative teams. Under Paul Heyman, SmackDown! became known as the “wrestling show” and delivered quality matches and storylines thanks to the efforts of the fabled “SmackDown! Six”, rising stars like John Cena, and the brand-exclusive Cruiserweight division. In contrast, Eric Bischoff’s Raw was more about over-the-top storylines and was largely dominated by Triple H’s “Reign of Terror” that saw him maintain a stranglehold on the World Heavyweight Championship, backed up by his Evolution allies (“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and Batista). Though this led to a fondly remembered feud against Triple H’s former D-Generation X running buddy Shawn Michaels and saw Chris Benoit finally capture the big one on the grandest stage of them all, it also included controversial storylines involving Kane and a disastrous main event run for Randy Orton that would lead to him adopting a “Legend Killer” gimmick but also saw his big WrestleMania coronation being usurped by Evolution’s enforcer, Batista, who gained unanimous fan support around this time. After a championship match between Triple H. Chris Benoit, and Edge ended in a double pin, the World Heavyweight Championship was declared vacant and Bischoff had the six top challengers vie for a place in an Elimination Chamber match to battle for the belt. This was only the third Elimination Chamber match so the concept was relatively new in the WWE; it debuted at the 2002 Survivor Series and forced four men to waiting in “bulletproof pods” as two others fought in the ring, with each participant joining the match at random at regular intervals, with wrestlers being eliminated by pin fall or submission until only one is left standing. The two main storylines heading into the match revolved around Triple H; Batista was showing signs of independence and had earned himself the final spot in the match, which angered The Game as he’d already been slighted by Orton and was concerned about Batista’s loyalties. Shawn Michaels being named the special guest referee also threw Triple H of as he wasn’t expected to be impartial given his bloody history with The Game. Chris Benoit’s presence was another thorn in Triple H’s side since The Game had suffered numerous losses to him and Triple H’s years of domination and oppression meant he had few allies heading into this bout.

The Match:
I remember this period of wrestling; I gather many look back on Triple H’s time with the belt more fondly now and it’s true that he eventually made some of the WWE’s biggest stars, but at the time it was absolutely frustrating to watch. What made it worse was that Chris Benoit had already knocked him off the perch (well, technically HBK and Goldberg had also beaten him for the belt but that’s neither here nor there…) and it seemed we were due some fresh faces in the Raw main event scene, but Triple H kept getting involved, basically meaning that the story leading up to WrestleMania 21 was basically the same as the previous year’s WrestleMania XX, only this time it would be the up-and-coming Batista rather than the veteran Benoit finally getting his due. The Elimination Chamber concept also hadn’t been run into the ground; the massive, dangerous steel structure had a real ominous feel to it at this point and the match is still perhaps the most inventive and interesting of the modern era despite becoming an annual event, often without any real storyline justification for it. Edge was the first man to enter a ring pod; this was the start of Edge’s push towards the top of the card and I was all for it. He had proved himself in tag team matches and runs with the Intercontinental Championship and was a much-needed fresh face in the main event scene, but he was edging into tweener territory here due to his problems with HBK. Triple H was out next and was practically livid at having to be locked into a pod by one of his worst enemies and then got into a slanging match with his former protégé, Randy Orton, when he came to the ring looking to regain the championship, though it was pretty clear that he’d lost a lot of the bite and appeal he’d had before turning against Evolution. In comparison, the crowd was much hotter for Batista, who had not only won the right to be the last man to exit his pod but had also vowed not to let the championship slip through his fingers if push came to shove. With the four sealed in their pods, it was up to Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit to kick the match off; these two were no strangers to each other by any means and could always be relied on to put on a clinic. I’ll give this to the creative team, they certainly had a lot of bad blood and crossover going on in this match; everyone had issues with each other and a reason to fight beyond just wanting to be the champion, which made for quite the powder keg as the match got underway.

What started as a wrestling clinic soon broke down into a brutal brawl using the steel trappings of the chamber.

Benoit and Jericho locked up with a series of takedowns, reverses, and tentative holds; Jericho’s attempts to take control were emphatically shut down by Benoit’s patented knife-edge chops and, when Y2J returned the favour, Benoit responded by tripping him into a Sharpshooter attempt. After fighting off the Walls of Jericho, Benoit landed a massive German Suplex, but Jericho managed to slip out of a Crippler Crossface attempt and score a couple of near falls. Benoit cut Jericho off when he went to the top rope and brought the first-ever Undisputed Champion crashing to the mat with a Superplex that saw both men struggling to recover as Triple H entered the match. Triple H went right after Benoit, beating and stomping on him in the corner and wiping out with a couple of hard whips into the corners for a two count while also taking out Jericho with his signature jumping knee strike. Jericho soon laid in the chops to The Game, though, before being taken down by a clothesline; Triple H brutally tossed Benoit out onto the steel platform surrounding the ring and ran him face-first into the thick steel chains that made up the chamber’s walls, busting him open and creating a gaping target for Hunter’s assault. Regardless, Benoit was still able to kick out at two so Triple H went for the Pedigree but, oddly, Jericho interrupted the move rather than potentially remove an obstacle from the match and then reversed another Pedigree into a back body drop that sent Triple H to the steel on the outside. Another slam continued to work over Triple H’s back and a suplex brought him back into the ring for a near fall before Edge joined the party. Edge wasted no time in taking advantage of his wounded opponents, hitting Spear-like moves on Jericho and Triple H before planting The Game with the Edgecution for a close two count and even planting Benoit with an uncharacteristic belly-to-belly suplex! Jericho tried to steal a pin, but Triple H kicked out, then Edge took a tumble to the outside courtesy of a Jericho dropkick but Y2J’s momentum was summarily cut off when Edge raked his eyes and launched him into the chain wall with a catapult and then did the same to Triple H after The Game tried to hit him with a Pedigree out on the steel!

As the match escalated, even HBK fell victim to the competitors and unlikely alliances emerged…

A diving clothesline to Benoit scored Edge a two count, then he feverishly fought out of a Crippler Crossface attempt before being knocked down by an enziguri from Jericho that was also only a two count. The bloodied Jericho and Triple H then went at it, with The Game landing his patented spinebuster for a near fall and Benoit getting the same result with a lovely Northern Lights Suplex to Edge. Triple H finally nailed the Pedigree on Jericho but was too out of it to capitalise; Orton then entered the match like a house on fire, smacking Edge’s head off the chain and leaped at Triple H with a crossbody off the top rope. Orton continued to beat Triple H down to a fair amount of applause (though they mainly chanted for his finisher…), tossing him to the outside and running him into the chain wall, slamming him with his beautiful snap powerslam, and even planting Jericho with an RKO out of nowhere! However, when he tried that shit on Benoit, he got tied up in a version of the Crippler Crossface; Triple H taunted Orton as he struggled in the hold, so Benoit hit ‘Select’ to change targets and locked a Sharpshooter on The Game, only to be hit by an RKO! Edge then tried to take Orton out with a Spear but the future Legend Killer dodged out of the way and caused HBK to take the attack instead! Consequently, there was no referee to count the pin when Edge did hit the Spear on Orton; incensed, Edge manhandled HBK and slapped him, which earned him a dose of Sweet Chin Music and left him wide open for a Lionsault from Jericho and a subsequent elimination. Benoit then saved Jericho from another Pedigree by blasting Triple H with three German Suplexes in a row; Benoit then clambered on top of a chamber pod to land a humongous diving headbutt to Triple H! He and Jericho then called back to their days as a tag team by locking in both the Walls of Jericho and the Crippler Crossface on The Game but, luckily for him, the timer ran down and Batista finally emerged from his pod after an awkward delay that I can only assume was unintentional.

Batista’s path of destruction was cut off by Orton but he was still instrumental in Triple H winning the match.

Batista’s first act was to save his mentor; he fought off Jericho and Benoit with ease, launching them out of the ring and drilling Orton with a spinebuster. He then went face-to-face with Triple H in a tense showdown that had the crowd absolutely begging for them to go at it but the two were jumped by their opponents before they could come to blows. Batista took out a camera man by Military Pressing Jericho into the poor bastard then hoisted Orton up in a wonky looking chokehold before Benoit attacked his knee and brought him to the mat. Orton and Benoit then temporarily joined forces to put the pressure on Batista before Triple H got back into the thick of it by picking each man off; he launched Orton into the chain but then got slammed into the platform by a facebuster courtesy of Jericho that properly got the blood gushing. After a bit of brawling, Benoit was emphatically shut down with a spinebuster from Batista, who then hit a spinebuster on Jericho onto Benoit that allowed him to eliminate the Rabid Wolverine. Jericho was next to go after being decimated by the Batista Bomb, meaning the match came down to a contest between Evolution! Orton struck first, tossing Triple H to the steel platform and smashing Batista off the steel before being launched into the chains from a Triple H catapult that busted him open. Triple H and Batista worked over the bleeding, helpless Orton relentlessly; despite the merciless beating, Orton continued to kick out of their pin attempts, frustrating both men. Although a lengthy onslaught clearly designed to pain Orton as a resilient underdog, this actually worked for the crowd, who were fully behind Orton as he mounted a comeback with some strikes and, indeed, when he hit a low blow and a huge RKO to eliminate Batista, the crowd came unglued! Triple H and Orton then fought on the outside, where Orton repeatedly threw him into the chain wall before hitting another massive RKO. Unfortunately, HBK was busy trying to get Batista and Ric Flair out of the ring so there was no pin fall. In the chaos, Batista blasted Orton with a clothesline; this was enough to leave Orton prone for a Pedigree that awarded Triple H yet another championship victory.

The Aftermath:
J.R said that Batista “dominated” the match but that wasn’t quite true, though it should have been; since the match went so long without any eliminations, I would’ve had Batista be the one to eliminate everyone before being upset by Orton to better paint him as this unstoppable force. Although Evolution celebrated the win, with Batista hoisting Triple H onto his shoulders, it was clear from the footage that The Game could’ve prevented Batista’s elimination and chose not to, a wrinkle that only added fuel to their issues going forward. Orton would win the right to challenge Triple H at the Royal Rumble but, where he came up short, Batista (eventually) emerged as the winner of the Royal Rumble itself. Although Triple H and Ric Flair tried to convince him to challenge JBL, Batista dramatically revealed that he’d had enough of being Hunter’s lackey and their manipulation; Batista went on to capture his first World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 21 and begin his own ascension to mainstream success that remained intrinsically linked to his former mentor. Despite the good reactions he got here, Orton’s time as a fan favourite was largely a dud; to get himself back on track, he decided to challenge the Undertaker at WrestleMania 21. Although unsuccessful and injured in the bout, he did score victories over the Deadman thanks to help from his father, “Cowboy” Bob Orton, during the feud, which took up most of his 2005. Blaming HBK for his loss, Edge got into a short feud with Shawn Michaels that was over with by WrestleMania 21; there, HBK battled Kurt Angle in a dream match and Edge won the first-ever Money in the Bank ladder match, which also included Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit; Edge cashed in the briefcase at the following year’s New Year’s Revolution to win his first World Heavyweight Championship. Although the WWE would continue to produce Elimination Chamber matches, there would only be two more New Year’s Revolution events; the pay-per-view was cancelled in 2007, though the branding was briefly revived for a series of house shows in 2020.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

What did you think to the third-ever Elimination Chamber match? What did you think to the match concept? Were you a fan of Randy Orton’s face turn and would you have liked to see him win it? Did you like the narrative surrounding Batista and were you excited to see him break out on his own? What did you think to Triple H’s reign with the World Heavyweight Championship What’s your favourite Elimination Chamber match? Were you a fan of the New Year’s Revolution event and would you like to see it revived? Whatever your thoughts on the 2005 Elimination Chamber and its participants, share them below or leave a comment on my social media.

Wrestling Recap: Hollywood Hogan vs. Sting (Starrcade ’97)

The Date: 28 December 1997
The Venue: MCI Center; Washington, D.C.
The Commentary: “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Mike Tenay, and Tony Schiavone
The Referee: Nick Patrick (with Bret “Hitman” Hart as the guest official)
The Stakes: Main event singles match for the WCW Championship

The Build-Up:
On the 27 May 1996 edition of WCW Monday Nitro, Scott Hall (the former Razor Ramon) gatecrashed the broadcast and declared war on World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He was soon joined by Kevin Nash (formally Diesel) and, together, they began interrupting WCW programming and challenging the company to assemble a three-man team to face them and their “third man” at Bash at the Beach. Though Sting, Lex Lugar and “Macho Man” Randy Savage opposed these “Outsiders” at the match, they (and the entire wrestling world) would be stunned to find the duo’s partner to be none other than Hulk Hogan, who turned his back on the fans and WCW to form the New World Order (nWo). Reinvigorated by this heel turn and rechristened “Hollywood” Hogan, the once colourful wrestling hero led the nWo in hijacking WCW’s programming and capturing the WCW World Heavyweight Championship from The Giant at Hog Wild. Tensions were raised between the WCW defenders when Sting appeared to join the black and white supergroup, leading to him walking out on his WCW team mates at Fall Brawl for being so easily deceived by the fake nWo Sting. The next night on Nitro, Sting cut a scathing tirade against his doubters and then disappeared into the rafters for almost a year, adopting a trench coat and black and white face paint inspired by The Crow (O’Barr, 1989; Proyas, 1994) and refusing to speak. As more and more names jumped on the nWo bandwagon, WCW took a commanding lead in the “Monday Night Wars” and the nWo became the hottest storyline in professional wrestling. Now a dark avenger, Sting would occasionally test the loyalty of the in-ring competitors by offering them the chance to attack him with his signature baseball bat and would often rappel to the ring and attack the nWo in an emphatic statement of defiance but repeatedly refused to re-sign with the company unless he was granted this infamous one-on-one match against Hogan at Starrcade for the WCW Championship!

The Match:
Although I’d been aware of wrestling as a kid since Hulk Hogan was just that big of a multimedia icon, I didn’t actually start properly watching it or getting into it until around 1999 and 2000, and even then my experiences were limited to the Nintendo 64 videogames since I didn’t have the channels that carried the two main promotions. Consequently, I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by WCW; while many have talked at length about how bad the company got in its latter years, I actually quite enjoy watching the odd WCW match or pay-per-view here and there when I get the chance since the presentation was so different to the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF). As a massive fan of The Crow and supernatural wrestlers like Kane and the Undertaker, Sting naturally caught my eye; his whole presentation during this time really spoke to me and I’ve always gone out of my way to try and catch up with his career highlights once DVDs of his matches started to be produced. I mention all this simply to say that I don’t have the benefit of having lived through some of WCW’s biggest or most infamous moments as they happened; the Monday Night Wars didn’t really exist for me as I could barely watch WWF programming as it was, so there wasn’t a choice for me, and they ended soon after I started watching anyway, so I generally tend to watch these old WCW matches in an isolated bubble rather than from a position of nostalgia. One of the things I really enjoyed about WCW is that they featured legendary boxing announcer Michael Buffer as the intro man for their main events; his delivery, his explanation of the competitor’s and their stories, the way he rattled off the wrestler’s accomplishments and nicknames and, of course, his signature cry of “Let’s get ready to ruuu-uuu-mblll-llle!” really helped to sell WCW’s main event bouts as a big deal.

The long-awaited clash between Hogan and Sting was a highly anticipated contest with major stakes.

First to the ring was the WCW Champion himself, the devious and sly Hollywood Hogan and, I have to say, I always hated the nWo’s theme song; though iconic, the tune is grating and annoying and probably one of my least favourite entrance themes in all of wrestling. As for Hollywood Hogan, I have to give the man props for his dramatic reinvention; Hogan was a household name, a hero to kids and fans everywhere, and to turn his back on that and take on this villainous persona was a hell of a gamble, but one that absolutely paid off for the aging Hulkster, who became more relevant than ever before simply by swapping his red and yellow duds for black and white and acting like an absolute underhanded jackass who relied on cheating, cheap tactics, and his running buddies to protect his spot at the top of the WCW pantheon. After a year away from in-ring competition, the audience was hyped to a frenzy at the anticipation of seeing Sting make his entrance; accompanied by lightning flashes, a light show of his painted face, and an ominous introduction, Sting sauntered to the ring with his trademark baseball bat, his face a stoic mask of implacability even as his pyro (and the audience) exploded around him. The commentators did a great job of hyping up how Sting, once the colourful, energetic heart and soul of the company, had been changed by Hogan’s arrival and the betrayal he suffered from the fans and his peers. Though his blank visage barely twitched during his entrance, Sting made a big show of making his intentions absolutely clear by repeatedly pointing his baseball bat at Hogan. However, Sting immediately let Hogan know exactly what he thought of him by delivering a quick bitch-slap to the Hulkster after Hogan shoved the Stinger and threw his bandana at him. This riled Hogan up so much that he retaliated by…pacing around the ring, threatening the camera crew, and hurling abuse at the crowd to further milk the anticipation for their inevitable lock up.

The match gets off to a slow, uninspired start as the two stall and plod around the ring.

Hogan further stalled for time after Sting got the better of their first exchange in the corner, but quickly became the aggressor after luring Sting in with the promise of a test of strength and blindsiding him with a gut kick that, in all honesty, Sting really should have seen coming. Hogan then started pummelling Sting with right-hands and repeatedly taunting him with growls of, “Come on, “hero”!” and Sting was quickly overwhelmed by Hogan’s patented offense of punches, eye pokes, splashes in the corner, and the ever-devastating back rake! A quick body slam took Sting to the mat, but the painted-up warrior easily avoided Hogan’s three attempts at an elbow drop and send the architect of the nWo tumbling to the outside of the ring with a sudden dropkick. After stalling again on the outside, threatening fans and really dragging this anticipation out, Hogan eventually returned to the ring and then put the Stinger in a headlock. Just as the crowd started to become restless (I think I even heard a brief “Boring!” chant), Sting got out of the hold, leapt over Hogan’s charging body, and sent him tumbling outside again with another dropkick. More stalling followed before the two locked up again; this time, it was Sting who put on the headlock right as Schiavone claimed that Sting had “never looked better”, a bold statement considering how disappointingly slow and lethargic the match had been up until that point. Although he managed to shut down Hogan’s attempt to power out of the devastating headlock, Sting wasn’t able to avoid Hogan’s clothesline; despite wasting time and energy hurling abuse at the fans, Hogan was then able to further press his advantage with a suplex…but Sting completely no-sold it, much to the delight of the fans. Stunned at Sting’s…well, I guess “resilience” is as good a word as any, despite it being a little too generous since the match was a complete snooze-fest…Hogan then found himself on the receiving end of a battering in the corner.

Although Hogan clearly wins this mess of a contest, Bret Hart ensured Sting got the big victory.

Realising that Sting isn’t to be underestimated, Hogan again went for the eye poke and then dumped Sting to the outside, where Hogan smacked his foe’s face off the ringside table and then smashed Sting over the back with his own baseball bat (which, somehow, didn’t result in a disqualification). After smacking Sting into the ring post and off the apron, Hogan wily dodged out of the way of an attempted Stinger Splash, which resulted in Sting crashing into the metal barricade right on his ribs. Winded and hurt, Sting was helpless to stop Hogan from crotching him over the barricade. With Sting little more than a lifeless sack of potatoes, Hogan easily dropped him in the ring and planted him with his patented Big Boot. Hogan then taunted the crowd, landed his patented Leg Drop, and Nick Patrick counted an empathetic three count. Despite the fact that Hogan clearly (and with a ridiculous amount of ease) just pinned WCW’s would-be saviour, the ring bell never sounded and Hogan wasn’t named as the victor (even though he clearly was…) because Bret Hart interjected himself into the proceedings to keep another screwjob from happening…even though there was no screwjob here. Hogan pinned Sting clean as a whistle; it wasn’t even a fast count, so there’s no controversy to call into question. Regardless of logic and fact, Hart used his authority as a WCW referee to restart the match; he laid out Nick Patrick, tossed Hogan back into the ring, and the match finally got a jolt of energy as Sting fired up and went nuts on Hogan. He whipped him into the corner, crushed him with the Stinger Splash, fought off the nWo’s Buff Bagwell and Scott Norton, and then hit another huge Stinger Splash in the opposite corner, all as the crowd leapt to their feet in thunderous applause. Hogan staggered to the mat and Sting wrapped him up in the Scorpion Deathlock; with the submission move firmly locked in, Hogan had not choice but to tap out and WCW wrestlers rushed to the ring to celebrate Sting finally wrestling the WCW Championship from Hogan’s hands.

The Aftermath:
Sadly, though, as exhilarating as those last five minutes were, this was a dreadfully painful match to sit through; considering all the emotion heading into it, I would have expected a much faster, more aggressive affair but, instead, Hogan completely dominated Sting and even won the damn match! Even though the crowd popped hard for the last five minutes, and the ending was framed as this big moment, the match was a complete mess of stalling and plodding offense as the two men just didn’t gel well together in the ring. To make matters worse, the botched finish meant that the WCW Championship ended up being vacated, necessitating a rematch at Fall Brawl VIII, which Sting won. Sting’s title run didn’t last long, however; he dropped the belt to Randy Savage in April, and Hogan regained the belt the day after. Additionally, despite this victory for WCW, the nWo storyline continued with a vengeance; the group even split into two factions, one of which Sting joined! Hogan would recapture the WCW Championship for the fifth time (under controversial circumstances) when the group reformed in early 1999, and this wouldn’t be the last time Sting and Hogan shared a ring together even after WCW went defunct. Both men eventually found themselves in Total Nonstop Action (TNA) and facing off in match comparable to this one at Bound for Glory 2011 and Hogan (and the nWo) even bizarrely tried to help Sting in his big WrestleMania match against Triple H during Sting’s disappointing run in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to the long-awaited match between Sting and Hollywood Hogan at Starrcade 1997? Were you excited to see Sting return to the ring at the time? Did the constant stalling and screwy finish bother you? What did you think to the nWo storyline and do you think it should’ve ended here? Were you a fan of Sting’s “Crow” persona and what are some of your matches and moments of his? Which era of WCW, or Sting’s career, was your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Sting, and this match in particular, feel free to sign up and voice them below or leave a comment on my social media.

Wrestling Recap: Whipwreck vs. Sandman vs. Austin (December to Dismember ’95)

The Date: 9 December 1995
The Venue: ECW Arena; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Commentary: Joey Styles
The Referee: Jim Molineaux
The Stakes: Three-way dance for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship

The Build-Up:
Back in the days when the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) would trade shots at each other on television, go head-to-head in a vicious ratings war, and poach talent on a weekly basis, it was hard for other wrestling promotions to stand out against the “Big Boys” but Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) certainly did its best to offer a different brand of sports entertainment. First founded as Eastern Championship Wrestling in 1992, the company was re-branded by one of wrestling’s greatest minds, managers, and promoters, Paul Heyman, in 1993. While ECW soon came to be known for its violent and controversial matches and content, the promotion placed just as much focus on delivering pure wrestling and was instrumental in inspiring the WWF’s “Attitude Era” and giving future wrestling stars and Hall of Famers a stage to hone their characters and craft. By 1995, ECW had established a cult following with the rabid Philadelphia crowd at the ECW Arena but they were some years away from negotiating a deal to air their first pay-per-view, Barely Legal; instead, ECW hosted non-televised supercard events such as this one from the ECW Arena. The primary storyline heading into December to Dismember revolved around ECW’s ultimate underdog and unlikely champion, Mikey Whipwreck, defending the belt against the man he beat for it, ECW’s rough-and-ready Sandman, and a man who would go on the achieve phenomenal wrestling success, “Superstar” Steve Austin. Prior to this event, Austin had interjecting himself into the rivalry between the Sandman and Mikey, directly aiding Mikey’s championship victory by distracting the Sandman and then attacking the beer-swilling former champion and taking his place in the previous month’s event, November to Remember, thus necessitating this three-way dance for the championship.

The Match:
ECW was basically a non-factor for me as a fledgling wrestling fan back in the day. I could barely watch WWF or WCW programming at the time and have absolutely no idea what channel, if any, ECW was broadcast on over here in the United Kingdom so my awareness of the company only really came as more of their guys showed up in the WWF. Tazz, the Dudley Boyz, Raven and the like brought with them some ECW history but I only really became exposed to it after it was absorbed by the WWF in 2001. Even now, my ECW experience is sporadic and limited so it’s quite exciting to be dipping my toe into wrestling’s first real hardcore alternative. Another thing to not here is the difference between a three-way dance (or “triangle” match) and a traditional triple threat match; for one thing, it’s contested under elimination rules and, for another, this particular match started out with Austin and Mikey going at it for a good ten minutes before the Sandman came to the ring. Austin started out by goading Mikey and patronising him with little pats to his chest and head. Mikey responded with an aggressive tie-up and then a disrespectful slap to Austin’s jaw, which Austin answered with a handshake. A headlock takedown saw Mikey being ground down by Austin’s superior strength; when Mikey finally got in some offense, sadly it was nothing more exciting than a series of headlocks and takedowns of his own. Just as the crowd grew noticeably restless, Austin turned things up a notch with a shoulder block and a series of chops to Mikey’s chest in the corner; a gut kick left Mikey helpless as Austin choked him against the ropes but Austin absolutely lost it when Mikey tried to grab a handful of his tights off a sunset flip! As he beat on the champion mercilessly, the Sandman (apparently dressed in his pyjamas?) sauntered out with smoke, a beer, his ECW World Tag Team Championship around his waist, and with his valet, Woman, carrying his trademark Singapore cane.

After being decimated, Mikey was eliminated following a Stun Gun, guaranteeing a new champion.

Austin was so distracted with goading in the Sandman that he got caught with a big spinning heel kick from Mikey off the top rope before being dumped to the outside with a clothesline. Austin responded by whipping Mikey into the steel barricade and driving him head-first into the concrete with a piledriver on the outside and the match effectively stopped for a few minutes as the Sandman took his sweet time getting into the ring. Once he did, the two immediately exchanged clubbing blows; they got so into it that, again, they forgot all about Mikey, who took the Sandman down with a top-rope hurricanrana. Austin was able to counter another into a two count but ended up spilling to the outside off an Irish whip thanks to the Sandman pulling on the top rope. Mikey then took both off his challengers out with a big senton to the outside then tossed them both into the ring and started slugging it out with both of them, dropping them with dual low blows but missing a springboard attack. With Austin and the Sandman staggering off a couple of eye pokes, Mikey scored a near fall off a crossbody pin on the Sandman but Austin was right on him, beating him down in the corner and landing another piledriver on the champion. Reeling, Mikey was easy prey for the Stun Gun and, thanks to knocking the Sandman off the ring apron, the champion was subsequently eliminated from the match, ending his title reign to the delight of the crowd (though they may have been applauding/respecting his effort?) The match continued with the Sandman pulling Austin to the outside to bash him off (and into) the guard rail; however, the Superstar shoved him off and then brained him with a steel chair handed to him from a crowd member, only to be dumped unceremoniously over the guard rail and into the crowd and hit with the timekeeper’s table!

Austin paid for his hubris and Sandman captured the belt thanks to some brass knuckles.

Whatever the Sandman planned to do with that table didn’t come to pass as Austin kinda,,,bumped into him…sending him, and the table, tumbling over the guard rail. Austin then slammed a half-unfolded steel chair over the Sandman’s head and tried to hit the Stun Gun on the guard rail; the Sandman blocked it with his arm, however, legitimately breaking his hand in the process, and floored Austin with a chair shot to the head. Though favouring his hand, the Sandman managed to slam Austin to the concrete and even went smashing head-first through the table before being choked by some wiring. Back in the ring, Austin hit that running knee strike against the ropes he always liked to do and got a close two count; he followed up with a clumsy face-first suplex before stealing the Sandman’s beer from Woman and disparagingly spitting beer in his opponent’s face while stomping at him. As Austin posed on the ropes with his beer, Woman revived the Sandman with some beer, allowing him to briefly “Hulk Up” before being struck with brass knuckles from Austin’s trunks. Somehow, the Sandman got his foot on the ropes; as Austin argued with the referee, the Sandman was able to crack him across the back of the head with the brass knuckles and score the three count, capturing his second ECW World Heavyweight Championship, despite Austin’s foot also being on the ropes. There’s not a lot to say about this match, really; it was weird seeing Austin actually wrestling and not just brawling! Joey Styles even advised against Austin slugging it out with the Sandman since he’s clearly outmatched and suggests out-wrestling him instead, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen Austin do before thanks to his neck injury changing him from a technician into a brawler. It’s also interesting seeing the similarities between Austin’s later “Stone Cold” character and the Sandman but this wasn’t the most exciting match ever; the early going was very slow, with Mikey looking like a bit of a chump, and there was a distinct lack of energy throughout the match even before the Sandman broke his hand, resulting in a pretty anti-climactic end for me.

The Aftermath:
This would basically be the end of Steve Austin’s brief stint in ECW; he made his WWF debut as the Ringmaster about ten days after December to Dismember and wouldn’t have any dealings with ECW until 2001, when he chose to side with the ECW/WCW alliance against the WWF. Despite his injury, the Sandman would continue to wrestle; however, his second championship reign came to an end when he was defeated by Raven at the end of January. Mikey Whipwreck’s championship success continued, however, with him capturing both the ECW Television Championship and the ECW Tag Team Championship (with assistance from Cactus Jack) at ECW’s next supercard event, Holiday Hell: The New York Invasion. This would be the only December to Dismember event held by the original ECW; the evet wouldn’t be included in their annual pay-per-view calendars going forward and was largely dropped in favour of the aforementioned Holiday Hell. The December to Dismember brand would be revived in 2006, however; following a resurgence in ECW popularity, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) revived ECW as a third brand, one that promised to be a showcase of new and old talent but which quickly became an embarrassing sideshow. To make matters worse, the 2006 December to Dismember pay-per-view is widely regarded as one of the worst events in wrestling history; it was so poorly booked and received that it soured relations between WWE chairman Vince McMahon and Paul Heyman for some time and the WWE’s ECW brand never received another solo pay-per-view before being cancelled on February 16, 2010.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to the three-way dance between Mikey Whipwreck, Steve Austin, and the Sandman? Who did you want to see win the match at the time? What did you think to Mikey as a World Champion? Were you impressed by Steve Austin back in the day? Did you use to watch ECW and, if so, who were some of your favourite wrestlers and what were some of your favourite matches and moments? Were you disappointed by the WWE’s revival of the company in 2006? Would you like to see the December to Dismember event make a comeback? Whatever your thoughts, feel free to leave them below or drop a comment on my social media.

Wrestling Recap: Team Hogan vs. Team André (Survivor Series ’87)

The Date: 18 November 2001
The Venue: Greensboro Coliseum Complex; Greensboro, North Carolina
The Commentary: Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura
The Referee: Joey Marella
The Stipulation: Ten-man elimination tag team match
The Competitors: Team Hogan (WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Don “The Rock” Muraco, Ken Patera, and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff), Team André (André the Giant, “The Natural” Butch Reed, King Kong Bundy, One Man Gang, and “Ravishing” Rick Rude)

The Build-Up:
Over its many decades as the dominating force in sports entertainment, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has been known for creating some of the industry’s most successful competitors, changing the face of pay-per-view entertainment, and delivering genre-defining match types and wrestling cards. In 1987, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, as it was known then) had taken their first step towards global domination with the successful gamble that was WrestleMania, a pay-per-view showcase of their greatest talent that brought the organisation into the mainstream with celebrity cameos. With the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) due to broadcast their Starrcade event over the Thanksgiving weekend, WWF chairman Vince McMahon add the Survivor Series event to the WWF’s calendar and strong-armed many cable companies into showing his event instead of Starrcade or risk losing out on WrestleMania IV. The entire event was comprised of four ten-man elimination tag team matches, with the main event pitting WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and his team against bitter rival André the Giant and his team of bad guys (or “heels”). The motivation behind the two forming teams and squaring off came from André’s heel turn earlier that year, which saw him memorably challenge the Hulkster at WrestleMania III only to be planted with an iconic body slam. Since André was managed by one of wrestling’s greatest heel managers, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, it made sense for him to ally with Heenan’s smorgasbord of man-mountain wrestlers, though Hogan wasn’t short on allies either, with the recently debuting Bam Bam Bigelow and the now-righteous (or “babyface”) Ken Patera joining Hogan’s team to get some payback against Heenan and his goons.

The Match:
Honestly, I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Survivor Series over my many years as a wrestling fan. When there’s an actual storyline behind it and the teams make sense, it can be a fun concept but, often, the WWE cobble together teams just because the event is coming up and they even stupidly diluted the concept by having a separate Bragging Rights event that really should’ve just been merged with the traditional Survivor Series card. The WWE fluctuates its focus on tag teams at the best of times and large teams (or “stables”) of wrestlers are difficult to come by in the modern WWE landscape, which can make justifying a ten-man elimination match difficult. However, when it works and is used sparingly, it can be a unique concept and, from what I can tell from my research, it made sense to form these two massive teams and extend the Hogan/André rivalry in a way that both protected the latter, whose health was deteriorating rapidly at this point, and build anticipation for their inevitable rematch for the WWF Championship. The match began with Heenan in the ring giving a special introduction to the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, who lumbered to the ring and greeted his teammates. Jesse Venture raised the question of whether Hulk Hogan could truly trust Paul Orndorff who, until recently had been more of a heel, teasing the potential for dissention within Hogan’s team but, when interviewed by “Mean” Gene Okerlund backstage, Team Hogan seemed incredibly fired up for the match. Each man made his way to the ring to an ever-increasing rapture from the crowd, which exploded into a crescendo as the Hulkster came down the aisle way carrying Ol’ Glory, his focus squarely on André (and playing to the audience).

Although Rick Rude took the brunt of the early assault, it was Butch Reed who was the first to be eliminated.

Don Muraco and Rick Rude started the match for their respective teams, with the two exchanging blows in the corner before Rude took advantage with an eye rake. A boot to the gut cut off Rude’s attack, however, and Rude tagged in Paul Orndorff, who came off the top rope with an elbow strike. A shot to the gut and a knee strike saw Rude on the receiving end of more offense before Orndorff rammed him head-first into Hogan’s boot and tagged in the champion. Hogan planted Rude with a clothesline and then dropped three elbows in quick succession before tagging in Bam Bam Bigelow, slamming Rude and setting him up for a big body splash from Bigelow, which he followed with a military press before tagging in Ken Patera. Although Patera attacked right away, Rude was able to collapse in his corner, finally allowing another heel, Butch Reed, to get in the ring. Reed didn’t fare too well, however, easily being taken down and rolled up into the first pin attempt of the match and falling afoul of a dropkick courtesy of Don Muraco. Orndorff then showed up his teammate by tagging in and delivering two dropkicks of his own and even getting a cheap shot in on King Kong Bundy before dodging a Reed elbow shot in the corner and bringing the Hulkster back into the match for a double clothesline. Hogan then hit the Atomic Leg Drop and Reed was eliminated without even throwing a single punch; Hogan was spared from tangling with André after tagging in Patera during his celebration. Since André only wanted Hogan, though, he immediately tagged in Bundy to face the Olympian.

Thanks to eye rakes and cheap tactics, the heels scored two eliminations in quick succession.

Patera went on the attack right away, even downing Bundy with a clothesline, but he was too slow to keep the One Man Gang from tagging in to lock up with Orndorff. One Man Gang initially, very briefly, actually got to show some offense but Orndorff fired back with a slew of punches that rocked the big man; a counter in the corner shut Orndorff down, however, and allowed Rude to come back in and start working him over…until Orndorff scored with a clothesline, a body slam, and an elbow drop for a two count. Muraco came back in to hit a stiff clothesline but a thumb to the eye allowed Rude to create some separation and tag in the One Many Gang but Muraco was able to avoid a corner charge, roll over to his corner, and tag in Patera, who survived another eye rake to hit an awkward running crossbody for another near fall. Although Patera hit a running knee to the corner, another thumb to the eye allowed the One Man Gang to put a beating on the Olympian in the heel corner with the assistance of his teammates. A standing front facelock slowed the match to a crawl and then the One Man Gang managed to pin Patera for the three count following an awkward “double clothesline” for an anti-climactic elimination. Hogan immediately went after the One Man Gang, throwing hands, rushing him into a corner, and then bringing in Bam Bam Bigelow for a double Big Boot. Whatever momentum Bam Bam had built up went right out the window, however, when the two big men clumsily bumped heads off a double shoulder block, which saw Rude and Orndorff go at it again. Orndorff panted Rude with a suplex, another elbow drop, and a flapjack before Bundy ran in to interrupt a piledriver attempt; this was enough for Rude to score a roll up with a handful of tights to eliminate Mr. Wonderful from the match.

After twenty-five minutes of plodding action, Hogan and André finally squared off once more.

Rude made the mistake of flexing to rile up the crowd, meaning Muraco planted him with an atomic drop and a clothesline before bringing in Bam Bam to deliver a big side kick. A big suplex set Rude up for a rare running knee strike from Hogan, who then brought Muraco in for a powerslam and that was enough to take Rude out of the match and even the odds at three-on-three. Bundy came in and started beating on Muraco, downing him with a back elbow smash, but he missed a running knee strike; Muraco targeted Bundy’s leg with a series of attacks but Bundy was able to fight him off and bring the One Man Gang back in. The Rock’s attempts to fight off the One Man Gang saw him crushed under the big man’s weight; he was able to kick out at two, however, so the One Man Gang threw him into an inelegant headbutt from André which, when coupled with a body splash, was enough to eliminate the Rock. The One Man Gang switched his focus to Bam Bam Bigelow, crushing his chest when he went for a sunset flip pin and bringing in Bundy to hit a powerful clothesline that turned Bam Bam inside out. Hogan broke up the pin attempt but Bundy stayed in control and brought the One Man Gang back in, who shut down Bam Bam’s counterattack with, what else, but a thumb to the eye before choking him on the ring ropes. Bundy came back in for a knee to the gut and a double axehandle smash before quickly tagging the One Man Gang back in. A back elbow caught Bam Bam right in the eye and Hogan, and the crowd, were absolutely desperate for the big man to make the tag as Bundy came back for some more punishment. Bam Bam managed to avoid the elbow drop, and kick out of a pin attempt, and finally made the tag after rolling to the corner and avoiding a big chop from André. Hogan attacked his rival with a flurry of punches; they exchanged strikes and chops in the corner before Hogan slamming André’s face into the top turnbuckle, but his offense was interrupted when Bundy pulled him from the ring.

Bam Bam fought valiantly but ultimately fell, leading to Hogan to attack André after the match.

The two brawled at ringside, with Hogan slamming both Bundy and the One Man Gang on the outside, but he took so long messing about with the two that he got counted out! The crowd was incensed as Hogan was forced from the ring, leaving Bam Bam all alone in a three-on-one situation, much to Hogan’s disgust. Showing no fear, Bam Bam went right for Bundy, planting him with a clothesline and scoring a two count off an elbow drop and a falling headbutt. After dodging a Bundy charge in the corner, Bam Bam finally eliminated the big man with an impressive slingshot splash from the ring apron but he was too fatigued to fend off the One Man Gang, who immediately choked and beat him on the ropes. Still, Bam Bam easily kicked out of a clothesline (that looked to give the One Man Gang a heart attack) and had the wherewithal to dodge a splash off the top rope. This one mistake cost the One Man Gang and meant the match boiled down to Bam Bam and the lumbering André, who wasted no time smacking Bam Bam around with big chops and headbutts. Bam Bam used the ropes and his comparative quickness to avoid André’s plodding attacks but a missed splash in the corner saw him taking some shoulder blocks to the spine and being easily pinned following a half-underhook, facelock slam…suplex…thing. As André was announced the winner, Hogan stormed the ring and attacked the Giant with the WWF Championship, stealing the spotlight and entertaining the raucous crowd with his trademark flexing while André seethed on the outside. I don’t really like to rag on this era of wrestling too much; things were obviously very different back then, but this was a bit of a let-down considering some of the star power and storylines featured in it. Obviously, André couldn’t really do a lot and needed to be protected but we barely got to see him and Hogan go at it again, much less really see the Giant in any kind of action. It works on the one hand to show him as this unbeatable “final boss” but…we know he can be beaten as we saw Hogan pin him at WrestleMania III so I think I would’ve preferred to see him and Hogan as the final two and them brawl to a double count out. Interestingly, this ended up primarily being a showcase for Bam Bam; he was the last man on Team Hogan and impressed the most with his athleticism for such a big man but, on the flip side, there was way too much boring, plodding offense from the One Man Gang and King Kong Bundy was barely a factor in it as well. As a first go-around for the concept, the WWF definitely put some of their biggest names into it but it’s clear a lot of them were limited in their mobility and having Hogan get counted out only to run in for the cheap heat at the end made this a pretty mediocre affair.

The Aftermath:
Naturally, the issues between Hulk Hogan and André the Giant continued to be a focal point of the WWF’s programming; André joined forces with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and the two continued to harass Hogan until he agreed to another championship match at The Main Event. This time, André came out on top, though he immediately sold the belt to DiBiase at it was subsequently held up for grabs in a tournament at WrestleMania IV. Don Muraco, Butch Reed, the One Man Gang, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Rick Rude all made it onto the WrestleMania IV card as well, participating in the same tournament, but they would all fall short. Even Hogan and André lost the chance to regain the belt thanks to a double disqualification, so the vacant belt went to “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the first time after he defeated DiBiase in the main event. As for the Survivor Series, the event continued to be an annual part of the WWF/WWE calendar, with multi-man and woman matches taking place regularly every year. The event would be shaken up somewhat by being used as the staging ground for the final clash between the WWF and the alliance of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and also saw the first appearance of the Elimination Chamber match and clashes between the WWE’s flagship shows, Raw and SmackDown!

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to the inaugural Survivor Series match? Were you excited to see Hulk Hogan and André the Giant across the ring from each other and thus disappointed that they barely interacted in the match? Who was the stand-out performer for you in this clash? Do you think André winning was the right decision? Were you also annoyed that Hogan got counted out? Which Survivor Series match or event is your favourite? How was your Thanksgiving this year? Whatever your thoughts on Survivor Series, feel free to leave them below or drop a comment on my social media.

Wrestling Recap: Undertaker vs. CM Punk (WrestleMania NY/NJ)

The Date: 7 April 2013
The Venue: MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, New Jersey
The Commentary: Michael Cole, John Bradshaw Layfield/JBL, and Jerry “The King” Lawler
The Referee: Mike Chioda
The Stakes: Singles match with the Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak on the line

The Build-Up:
The Undertaker had been a force to be reckoned within the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) ever since his dramatic debut as part of the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team on this day at the 1990 Survivor Series. After a year without any televised losses, the Undertaker was named the number one contender to Hulk Hogan’s WWF Championship belt and his victory over the Immortal One cemented the Deadman as a main event star for decades. While the WWF changed and rebranded, eventually becoming World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the Undertaker grew as a character and a spectacle; transforming from a largely mute, undead monster into a Satanic overlord, a bad-ass biker, and the conscious of the WWE, the Undertaker’s legendary career came to be synonymous with his uncanny ability to secure wins on the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania.

The Undertaker’s celebrated WrestleMania streak came under attack by a vindictive CM Punk.

By this, the twenty-ninth WrestleMania, the Undertaker had twenty victories at the Showcase of the Immortals, having put away hated rivals such as Kane, Triple H, and the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels among others. In recent years, his opponents specifically sought a match against him at WrestleMania seeking to snap this winning streak but few were able to make this into such a personal vendetta than CM Punk. After winning the right to face the Undertaker, CM Punk immediately set about disrespecting the memory of William Moody, who had portrayed the Undertaker’s long-time manager Paul Bearer and who had recently passed away. Alongside his own manager, Paul Heyman (who also had a storied history with the Deadman), CM Punk regularly called out the Undertaker, stole the Deadman’s mystical urn, and even dumped its contents over Big Evil in the lead up this match, which was the closest that CM Punk ever got to main eventing a WrestleMania.

The Match:
Before the match can even begin, there are two things that need to be gotten out of the way first: the first is another of the WWE’s excellently-produced video packages that not only works as a touching tribute to the late, great Paul Bearer but also does a fantastic job of telling the story of this heated feud up until that point and really painting CM Punk as an absolutely reprehensible dick. Since the Undertaker wasn’t around each week to help build towards the match, CM Punk fell back on his unparalleled mic skills to taunt and mock both the Deadman and Bearer specifically to wind the Undertaker up since a count out or disqualification would still count as a loss and all he was concerned about was getting that win and tarnishing the Undertaker’s winning streak. The second, and biggest thing to get out of the way, are the competitor’s entrances; by this point, the Undertaker’s appearances at WrestleMania had become a spectacle all unto themselves and his entrances often went on as long as some wrestling matches! This year was no different as the Deadman’s entrance ran around five minutes long and saw him slowly, ominously stalk his way to the ring in a shroud of smoke while shadowy figures clutched at his feet in a truly spinetingling visual! However, the Undertaker wasn’t the only one to get a big entrance this year as Living Colour played CM Punk down to the ring with a live performance of “Cult of Personality”, though of course Michael Cole and his cohorts couldn’t be stopped from offering pointless and distracting commentary once the two were in the ring.

Cm Punk’s early strategy involved goading and disrespecting the Undertaker to wind him up.

As soon as the bell rang, the two went for each other, both with their hands up and looking for an opportunity to land a strike or a grapple. CM Punk, the quicker and smaller of the two, goaded the Undertaker by dodging a strike, slapping him in the face, and slipping out of the ring in order to put a quick beating on the Deadman after a short chase. Although the Undertaker tried to manhandle Punk into the corner, he easily slipped away and continued to taunt the Undertaker, kicking himself free of a Chokeslam attempt and ended up eating a big boot to the face and being unceremoniously dumped to the outside for his troubles. On the outside, the Undertaker beat CM Punk around the barricade before whipping him into it and smashing his face off the announcer’s table. The Undertaker stripped the table down and then rammed CM Punk spine-first into the ring post before rolling him back into the ring to deliver his patented leg drop across the ring apron. Once they were both back between the ropes, the Undertaker pressed his advantage, pounding on CM Punk in the corner and intimidating the referee for chastising him; working over CM Punk’s left arm, the Undertaker went for his “old school” rope walk but CM Punk jerked him off the top rope with an arm drag and, despite the pain in his arm, stomped on the Undertaker while the Deadman was down and hit a walk rope of his own in a blatant show of disrespect before landing a side Russian leg sweep and going for the first pin of the match.

CM Punk pressed his advantage at every opportunity using his quickness and agility.

Obviously, the Undertaker kicked out; the match then slowed a bit as CM Punk locked in a ground-based submission so the two could catch their breath (while also giving Paul Heyman a chance to shout encouragement and taunts to both men, respectively) before the Undertaker went back to his game plan of beating CM Punk in the corner. This backfired on the Deadman, though, when he missed a running boot and injured his knee in the process, which allowed CM Punk to kick him out of the ring and land a big diving axehandle from the top rope to the outside. Back in the ring, CM Punk scored a two-count off a neckbreaker but his attempts to work over the Undertaker’s arm got cut off by the Deadman’s trademark strikes. Again, CM Punk scored a two-count off another quick neckbreaker and slapped on a choke hold, all while Paul Heyman shouted encouragement about him being “one second away” from victory. The Undertaker battled his way up to a vertical base and hit a suplex to throw CM Punk off, then crotched his arrogant opponent on the top rope when CM Punk tried to hit another rope walk. A single punch to the jaw sent CM Punk careening to the outside again but Paul Heyman threw himself in the Undertaker’s path to stop the Deadman doing his signature dive to the outside, almost getting Chokeslammed off the apron in the process, which allowed CM Punk to recover and hit a clothesline off the top rope for another two-count. Weary (and possibly a little out of it), the Undertaker left himself wide open in the corner for a running knee and got taken down with a clothesline, which set CM Punk up for his patented Diving Elbow Drop.

Both men survived some big moves and signature offense from their opponent.

Again, the Undertaker kicked out at two, so CM Punk prepared to hit his finishing move, the Go-To-Sleep/GTS; however, the Undertaker slipped off CM Punk’s shoulders, grabbed him by the throat, and hit a massive Chokeslam for his first near-fall of the match! The two then got into a slug fest that quickly went in favour of the Undertaker, who again pummelled Punk in the ring corner with strikes, a running attack, and his signature Snake Eyes manoeuvre but CM Punk weathered the storm and surprised the Deadman with a kick for another two-count. CM Punk then sent the Undertaker to the outside again with a clothesline and went back to the announcer’s table, which he just narrowly avoided being powerbombed through when he slipped out of the Last Ride. With the Undertaker lying prone across the table, CM Punk hopped to the top rope and hit another Diving Elbow Drop…though the table didn’t break on impact. CM Punk was aghast when the Undertaker beat the referee’s count, however, and made it back into the ring before a count of ten; distraught (and hurt following his awkward landing on the table), CM Punk was easily wrapped up in the Undertaker’s Hell’s Gate submission move. Punk, however, used his technical expertise to turn it into a pinning attempt, and then wrapped the Undertaker up in the Anaconda Vice that, for all its drama, mainly served to give the Undertaker a chance to catch his breath again. Soon enough, the Undertaker was on his feet and going for another Chokeslam but CM Punk wriggled free and hit a glancing GTS that the Undertaker completely no-sold and powered through to hit a Tombstone Piledriver out of nowhere! Incredibly, CM Punk kicked out at two, much to the delight of Paul Heyman and the crowd, who began to chant “This is awesome!”

Even an urn shot couldn’t stop CM Punk being planted with the Tombstone and becoming a statistic.

Another slugfest followed; however, when the Undertaker went for the Chokeslam, Mike Chioda was sent sprawling by an errant shot, which allowed CM Punk to smash the Deadman in the back of the head with the urn and avoid the Last Ride once again. CM Punk’s decision to mock the Undertaker with his signature pin cost him almost as much as the referee’s long count, however, as the Undertaker kicked out at two, driving Punk into a frustrated frenzy at his opponent’s refusal to stay down. The two then countered each other’s attempts at hitting their finishing manoeuvres before the Undertaker scooped CM Punk into a second Tombstone Piledriver and secured his incredible WrestleMania winning streak for another year. Showered by the adulation and respect of the crowd, the Undertaker than retrieved his urn and delivered one last tribute to his friend and manager while the announcer’s refused to keep their mouths shut and let the moment speak for itself. Ultimately, while the match was very good, I couldn’t help but feel like it didn’t quite kick into gear; the story was very traditional, with the in-ring action building and escalating to both men’s strengths and their tropes (the conniving little guy against the veteran big man) but it just felt like something was missing. Maybe if CM Punk had used some more underhanded tactics, given the Undertaker a bit of a run-around, or if the Undertaker could have had a couple of big bursts of energy it would have helped but it’s still a perfectly entertaining and acceptable match and I think the crowd probably would have bought Punk winning, though it never really seemed like he was going to as he didn’t get much of a chance to hit any big moves beyond those diving elbows.

The Aftermath:
This match put an end to the feud between CM Punk and the Undertaker; the next night on Raw, a distraught CM Punk came out to address how his historic run with the WWE Championship got cut short and he was denied the WrestleMania main event in favour of the Rock and John Cena. He and Paul Heyman eventually had a falling out when Heyman returned to the side of his old client, Brock Lesnar, turning Punk face in the process. On that same episode of Raw, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins (collectively known as “The Shield”) attacked the Undertaker as he tried to pay tribute to Paul Bearer once more. He was saved by his brother, Kane, and Daniel Bryan (known as “Team Hell No”) and the three of them went on lose to the newcomers and the Undertaker’s vaulted WrestleMania winning streak was finally broken at the next year’s WrestleMania in a pretty disappointing match against Brock Lesnar.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

What did you think to the contest between CM Punk and the Undertaker at WrestleMania? How would you rate it against the Undertaker’s other WrestleMania matches? Were you a fan of CM Punk disrespecting Paul Bearer’s memory to get heat for the match? Do you think the match should have been the main event bout of the night? How are you celebrating the Undertaker’s debut this year? What are some of your favourite matches and moments from his long and distinguished career? What dream match would you have liked to see him involved in? Whatever your thoughts, sign up to drop a comment below and or let me know what you think about the Undertaker on my social media.

Wrestling Recap: Mysterio Jr. vs. Guerrero (Halloween Havoc ’97)

The Date: 26 October 1997
The Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena; Paradise, Nevada
The Commentary: Tony Schiavone, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes
The Referee: Billy Silverman
The Stakes: Singles match for the WCW Crusierweight Championship with Mysterio Jr.’s mask also on the line

The Build-Up:
One of the many aspects that helped propel World Championship Wrestling (WCW) to the top of the wrestling ratings war back in the day was their exhilarating cruiserweight division. Although the company sold itself as being “where the big boys play” and featured a who’s who of heavyweight talent, both in and out of their super-popular New World Order (nWo) stable, WCW also separated itself from the competition by snapping up and showcasing smaller, more agile and physically talented cruiserweights on a weekly basis. Spearheaded by WCW figurehead Eric Bischoff, the cruiserweight division introduced lucha libre wrestling to mainstream audiences and gave stars like “Lionheart” Chris Jericho, Juventud Guerrera, Ultimo Dragon, and Psicosis a platform to shine with their fast-paced, high-risk offense. Two of WCW’s biggest cruiserweight stars were future World Champions Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio Jr.; both had cut their teeth in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) prior to being snapped up by WCW and both had their roots in Mexican wrestling, with Eddie coming from the prestigious Guerrero family and Rey being the nephew of the legendary luchadore Rey Misterio. After losing the WCW United States Championship, Eddie Guerrero turned heel and set his sights on the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, a belt he captured the previous month from Chris Jericho, crossing paths with Rey Mysterio Jr. for the first time on an episode of WCW Monday Nitro in the process. Since Mysterio won that match, he had a legitimate claim to challenging for the Cruiserweight Championship, something that Guerrero attempted to proactively get ahead of by taunting Mysterio and attacking him while in the guise of a masked luchador. After Mysterio pinned Guerrero again and unmasked him, Guerrero was humiliated and incensed and demanded that Rey unmask (the greatest dishonour to befall a luchador) if he failed to win the title at Halloween Havoc, going so far as to steal Rey’s mask during a match against Dean Malenko on Nitro and costing him that match. The initial plan was for Rey to lose this match as Bischoff believed that he would have a better time getting over and selling if his face were exposed; Rey, however, fought against this decision and emphasised the importance of a mask in lucha libre. Although he managed to convince Bischoff, Rey would eventually be unmasked a couple of years later, a decision Bischoff later admitted to regretting since he underestimated how important the mask’s iconography was to Mysterio, his fanbase, and his heritage.

The Match:
Since I didn’t grow up being able to watch WCW, I’m not massively familiar with much of their product, especially the peak of their cruiserweight division. I first encountered stars like Jericho, Dean Malenko, Guerrero, and Billy Kidman while watching the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) programming, where many of these smaller performers were already mid-card talents if not flirting with the main event. When the WWE first resurrected the cruiserweight division, officially adopting the term and making their inferior light-heavyweight division defunct, in the early-2000s, I was an avid watcher of SmackDown! and delighted in the high-flying action, which greatly contributed to separating the Blue Brand from the more over-the-top Raw. This was also my first introduction to Rey Mysterio, who returned to his masked persona after stupidly being stripped of it in 1999, and I was right there for his initial feuds and his efforts as part of the fabled “SmackDown! Six”. All this is to say that it’s always a delight to go back and revisit early matches in both wrestler’s careers, especially in WCW, and it’s fascinating to see the longevity Rey Mysterio has had in the industry and the consistent popularity of the late, great Eddie Guerrero. In a precursor to his later elaborate superhero-themed attires, Mysterio wrestled this match garbed in what is clearly a homage to pulp hero Kit Walker/The Phantom, an iconic, purple-themed body suit that really helped him stand out amongst his peers. Playing the part of the arrogant, sneering heel, Guerrero sauntered to the ring, bombarded by boos and chants of “Eddie Sucks!”, and carrying the belt that was Mysterio’s goal; the commentators, however, raised the question of how important winning the belt is for Mysterio compared to retaining his mask and his honour and made no bones about hyping this contest as the most important match of Mysterio’s career.

Guerrrero focused on Mysterio’s back, forcing the challenger to desperately try and fight back.

Things got off to a fast-paced, action-packed start right after the bell rang and Guerrero spat taunts in Mysterio’s masked face; Rey bounced off the ropes into a flipping arm drag, flipped Guerrero clear across the ring with his feet, and took the champion to the outside with a running crossbody attack. Mysterio looked to follow up with a somersault manoeuvre over the ropes, but Guerrero had it scouted and tripped Rey on the apron, sending him spilling to the outside, where Guerrero quickly pressed his advantage by running Mysterio shoulder-first into the steel steps at ringside. Eddie’s trademark somersault over the top rope delivered more pain to his challenger, with the champion’s early focus squarely on Mysterio’s back and ribs, which he followed up with a hard knife-edge chop and a European uppercut to Mysterio, who was little more than a ragdoll at this point in the match. Although Mysterio tried to build some momentum with an Irish whip reversal and a dropkick, Guerrero beautifully countered a handspring attack into a back body drop, which he followed with a vertical suplex and the first pin attempt of the match. After Mysterio kicked out at two, Guerrero planted him with his trademark tilt-a-whirl backbreaker to deliver more damage to Mysterio’s back, but the champion became visibly frustrated when he failed to score a three count on the following pin attempt. So annoyed was Guerrero that he started to pull at Rey’s mask, earning him the referee’s admonishment, and then locked in an abdominal stretch to further punish Mysterio’s back while also clawing at his mask. Guerrero then delivered another big backbreaker for another two count before trying to force Mysterio’s shoulders to the mat, to no avail. To make matters worse for the hot-headed champion, Mysterio was able to hop to his feet, springboard of the ropes, and hit a gorgeously smooth DDT to buy himself some much-needed time to recuperate. Both competitors showcased their speed following this; Mysterio dropkicked Guerrero to the outside and managed to adjust his momentum in mid-air when he saw Eddie slide back into the ring as he (as in Rey) was going for another high-flying manoeuvre before Guerrero returned the favour and sent Rey to the outside with a dropkick through the ropes.

Mysterio’s high-flying offense and a last-second counter saw him capture the championship.

Guerrero then viciously whipped Mysterio sternum-first into the barricade before dumping him into the ring and locking in first a Camel Clutch and then the Gory Special. Guerrero shut down Rey’s attempts at a comeback with an elevated backbreaker (that I recognise as A-Train’s Train Wreck) and another submission designed to punish his back and ribs before putting a beating on Mysterio in the ring corner. Mysterio valiantly fought back and caused Guerrero to slide crotch-first into the ring post before taking him down with a huge top-rope crossbod, flipping out of another tilt-a-whirl attempt, and surprising the champion with a hurricanrana pin for a close near fall. Guerrero attempted to regain his momentum and ended up being flung outside with a 619-like headscissor takedown from Mysterio, which Rey followed with a somersault headscissor takedown over the ropes. Eddie again kicked out from a corkscrew attack thanks to Mysterio’s exhausted, lackadaisical cover and then absolutely planted Mysterio with a massive powerbomb. Incensed that Rey again kicked out at two, Guerrero ran him into the corner but ended up eating a flapjack and a spinning heel kick. Mysterio went for his signature springboard hurricanrana pin and ate a somewhat sloppy backbreaker for his troubles and landed in prime position for Guerrero’s patented Frog Splash. Although Mysterio rolled out of the way, Guerrero adjusted his trajectory to roll through; Guerrero then attempted to hit an avalanche Crucifix Powerbomb but Mysterio countered into his hurricanrana pin to finally score the three count, with Guerrero briefly jumping him during his celebration. Overall, an intense and fast-paced match with both men delivering some slick manoeuvres; Guerrero played the wily heel, targeting Mysterio’s back and putting him in the underdog position so the fans could rally behind him and Mysterio shined with his innovative and high-risk high-flying offense. It’s only a short match, clocking in at around fifteen minutes, but they crammed a lot into it, and the commentators did a great job of selling Eddie’s mean streak and Rey’s never-say-die attitude.

The Aftermath:
This was far from the last time Rey Mysterio Jr. and Eddie Guerrero crossed paths; in fact, they had a rematch about fifteen days later on an episode of WCW Monday Nitro that saw Guerrero regain the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. They also fought at World War 3 at the end of November 1997, with Guerrero coming out on top, though both men moved on to separate storylines by the time Starrcade came around. Rey Mysterio Jr. wouldn’t recapture the WCW Cruiserweight Championship until early 1998 in another disappointingly short reign, and he fought with Guerrero again later in 1998 when Eddie attempted to induct Rey into his stable, the Latino World Order (lWo), before they joined forces for the first time as part of the Filthy Animals. They wouldn’t interact again until Mysterio was signed by the WWE in 2002 and they were involved in a series of tag team matches as part of the aforementioned SmackDown! Six; although Rey Mysterio and Edge feuded with Eddie and his nephew, Chavo, during this time, he and Eddie would come together as a tag team in 2005, culminating in an opening match at WWE WrestleMania 21 that pitted the two against each other while they were the WWE Tag Team Champions. After losing the belts the following month, Guerrero turned on Mysterio and the two reignited their feud, which eventually grew to encompass ridiculous soap opera aspects such as battling in a ladder match for custody of Rey’s son, Dominik. Following Guerrero’s tragic and untimely passing on 13 November 2005, Rey Mysterio was given a massive push towards the main event, capturing his first World Championship; though his championship reign was soured by poor booking decisions, Mysterio continued to honour the memory and legacy of one of his best friends and greatest rivals and Guerrero’s impact on the business was not only revered in his WWE Hall of Fame induction but continued tributes and celebrations decades after his passing. Additionally, Rey Mysterio Jr. and Eddie Guerrero’s Halloween Havoc match is widely regarded as one of their finest matches, one of WCW’s greatest cruiserweight bouts, and one of the best cruiserweight matches on American soil; it was such a memorable contest between them that it was recreated in the Showcase mode of WWE 2K22 (Visual Concepts, 2022) to allow fans to play it for themselves.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

Are you a fan of Rey Mysterio Jr.’s match against Eddie Guerrero at Halloween Havoc? Do you agree that it’s one of their best matches, and the best cruiserweight matches, or do you perhaps think it’s over-rated and prefer a different bout of theirs? Were you a fan of either man during their WCW days? Which of their matches and moments was your favourite and were you a fan of the WCW cruiserweight division back in the day? What’s your favourite Halloween Havoc match or event? Whatever your thoughts on Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, the cruiserweights, and Halloween Havoc, I’d love to see them in the comments or on my social media.

Wrestling Recap: Kane vs. X-Pac (Armageddon ’99)

The Date: 12 December 1999
The Venue: National Car Rental Center; Sunrise, Florida
The Commentary: Jim “J.R.” Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler
The Referee: Tim White
The Stakes: Steel cage match, personal rivalry between for tag team partners

The Build-Up:
After the relationship between Paul Bearer and the Undertaker broke down, Kane made a dramatic debut in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) on October 5th, 1997 (the day after my twelfth birthday, and which sadly clashes with Global James Bond Day) at Badd Blood: In Your House. In an effort to goad his older brother into a confrontation, Kane went on a rampage, attacking and disrupting WWF programming at every opportunity until the two finally clashed at WrestleMania XIV. Having made an instant impression of the WWF audience, Kane was quickly booked more as a no-nonsense “tweener” who attacked bad guys (“heels”) and good guys (“faces”) alike, to the point where he simply did what he wanted, setting stagehands on fire and even briefly capturing the WWF Championship from white-hot champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as part of an alliance with WWF Chairman Vince McMahon’s super stable, the Corporation.

Teaming with X-Pac humanised the Big Red Machine and demonised X-Pac after the turn.

After being betrayed by his brother following a short-lived alliance between the two, Kane found himself at odds with the Corporation and allied with D-Generation X, a stable of reprobates whose childish antics clashed with McMahon’s sensibilities. Although D-X soon parted ways, Kane formed a tag team with D-X’s scrappy underdog, X-Pac, who helped him to open up, speak without the aid of his voice box, and even secured him a girlfriend in the form of Tori. However, despite the two winning the WWF Tag Team Championships twice, their partnership tragically dissolved when X-Pac turned on Kane to re-join D-X. Kane turned into a sympathetic face in the process and this not only led to a series of escalating matches between the two (with this match being the second after Kane won by disqualification at the previous month’s Survivor Series) but also earned X-Pac a lifetime of hatred from the WWF fans for his actions.

The Match:
Prior to the match actually kicking off, X-Pac laid down a few additional stipulations for the bout in an interview with Michael Cole: basically, Kane’s only method of winning would be via pinfall, whereas X-Pac arranged it so that the cage door would be chained and padlocked shut and that he could either climb out of the cage or pin his opponent to win, and he also ended the interview by mocking Kane and asking him to get Tori to stop badgering him for sex. The crowd was emphatically pro-Kane as he made his trademark dramatic entrance alongside Tori and garbed in one of my favourite outfits of his (where it’s more black than red); Tori remained outside of the cage and at ringside, where she distracted the lecherous Jerry Lawler from his commentary throughout the match. Ever the embodiment of arrogance and smugness, X-Pac sauntered to the ring with all the confidence in the world, but the crowd was having none of it; their hatred towards him, as J.R. elaborated during his entrance, was only exacerbated by the fact that X-Pac had struck Tori a few times in the build up to the match, which went a long way to destroying his previous persona of a plucky underdog.

Kane dominated the early going until X-Pac crotched him on the top rope!

Rather than get into the ring and put his money where his mouth is, X-Pac lingered on the outside and made lewd advances towards Tori, so Kane clambered up the cage and went outside to put a beating on his former friend and tag team partner. Though initially overwhelmed by Kane’s size and strength, X-Pac briefly turned the tables by blasting Kane in the face with the ring bell but Kane quickly recovered with his patented zombie sit-up and chased X-Pac into the ring by once again climbing up the cage wall. Interestingly, J.R. pointed out that X-Pac could actually use his lead to his advantage and simply clamber up the other side of the cage before Kane even made it back into the ring; however, the match wouldn’t officially start until both men were inside of the ring and X-Pac decided to rush right into Kane’s trademark uppercut rather than try and escape. Once the match was officially underway, Kane manhandled X-Pac and no-sold X-Pac’s punches to his masked face; although X-Pac was quick enough to avoid Kane’s clotheslines and big shots, it backfired massively when he flew off the ropes looking for a spinning heel kick and got caught with a big slam. Kane followed this up with a military press and, naturally, J.R. began to relate the story of the match being that X-Pac is at a huge disadvantage and needs to think of some way to incapacitate his larger opponent and get the hell out of there, while Lawler simply cracked jokes about the size of Kane’s penis.

Kane overpowered X-Pac at every turn, leading to his D-X team mates coming down to interfere.

After weathering a methodical attack in the ring corners, X-Pac delivered a boot to Kane’s face and tried to hit a cross body off the top rope but Kane caught him and tried to ram his head into the steel mesh; however, X-Pac managed to slip off, push Kane into the cage wall, and finally downed the Big Red Machine with a spinning heel kick. X-Pac clambered up to the top of the cage and desperately fought off his pursuer with his “educated feet” and only managed to save himself from being hit with a big Chokeslam from the top by causing Kane to slip and land crotch-first on the ring ropes. X-Pac pressed his advantage by repeatedly slamming Kane’s head into the cage and then landed a big leg drop from the top rope, but Kane powered out and sat up once again. X-Pac was able to shut down Kane’s attempts to take control of the match with a stiff-looking tornado DDT but, while X-Pac was again able to weasel his way out of a Chokeslam, Kane finally shut the little bastard down with a big tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and then repeatedly tossed his former friend into the cage walls. Kane looked to be in firm control and prime position to hit his signature top-rope clothesline when the New Age Outlaws (“Road Dogg” Jesse James and “Mr. Ass” Billy Gunn, the WWF Tag Team Champions) ran down to the ring with a pair of bolt cutters; despite Kane’s best efforts (which amounted to pathetically reaching through the gap between the cage door and the cage wall), Road Dogg was able to break open the door, which Mr. Ass then slammed into Kane’s head and then tossed a steel chair into the ring to his D-X comrade.

Kane survived the X-Factor, hit a huge clothesline from the top of the cage, and won with a Tombstone.

Both men scrambled to their feet at around about the same time but X-Pac was able to surprise Kane with an X-Factor right onto the steel chair! Rather than go for the cover, though, X-Pac used a pair of handcuffs that the Outlaws also tossed into the ring to cuff Kane to the cage’s wire mesh and deliver two unprotected chair shots right to the Big Red Machine’s head! As X-Pac moved to climb out of the cage (why he didn’t use the door is beyond me), Tori rushed into the ring to stop him and also got hit with an X-Factor for her troubles. Kane managed to avoid another brain-scrambling chair shot by kicking the steel chair back into X-Pac’s face and then ripped his handcuff off, slipped out through the cage door, and intercepted X-Pac as he was making his way out of the cage! Kane then manhandled X-Pac back into the ring, slammed the cage door right in his face, and then clambered up to the very top of the cage to hit a massive diving clothesline! Kane then scooped up X-Pac, hit a Tombstone Piledriver, and scored the three count for the victory. Triumphant, and with the crowd finally woken up, Kane then left the ring alongside his girlfriend. Overall, this was an okay match; the crowd started hot but soon became a bit restless and bored with the slow pace and lack of excitement. The story of Kane dominating X-Pac and X-Pac having to use his quickness and wiles to counter Kane’s strength wasn’t told very well; Kane would go down pretty easily from a kick or a trip into the cage wall, which seemed to contradict how easily he shrugged off X-Pac’s other attacks. The highlight was clearly seeing Kane break his handcuffs and then perform that massive dive from the top of the cage but I think their follow-up match at No Way Out was probably a better overall contest.

The Aftermath:
Following Armageddon, the landscape of the WWF changed quite considerably; Triple H and his wife, Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley, were revealed to have been in cahoots to usurp Vince McMahon’s control over the WWF and, together, they started a reign of terror that saw Triple H capture the WWF Championship and matches being booked in favour of himself and his D-X comrades. X-Pac’s issues with Kane only escalated following their match; Tori dramatically turned on Kane and sided with X-Pac, becoming his valet and lover in the process, and Kane was so heartbroken by the betrayal that he returned to the mental hospital where he had spent much of his youth. Kane made a dramatic return in the build up to No Way Out, however; once again accompanied by his father, Paul Bearer, Kane furiously attacked X-Pac and his D-X cohorts.

The two would trade victories following this but a subsequent feud was cut short.

Although Kane was able to exact a measure of revenge against Tori by Tombstoning her, he lost to X-Pac in a No Holds Barred match at No Way Out. The feud between the former friends was finally put to anti-climatic rest at WrestleMania 2000, where Kane teamed with Rikishi to defeat X-Pac and Road Dogg in a tag team match. However, their rivalry was shortly reignited in 2002 when X-Pac joined the briefly resurrected New World Order (nWo); alongside the nWo, X-Pac attacked Kane and stole his mask, which he would often wear to the ring, though it appears as though this was merely a way to write Kane off of television following an injury and X-Pac left the company before their issues could be properly resolved upon the Big Red Machine’s dramatic return.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to the contest between Kane and X-Pac at Armageddon 1999? How would you rate it compared to their other bouts and which of their feuds, matches, and moments is your favourite? Were you a fan of the team and friendship between Kane and X-Pac back in the day? Did X-Pac turning on Kane sour you on the plucky underdog as it did so many other fans? How are you celebrating Kane’s debut this year, what are some of your favourite matches and moments from Kane’s long and complex career, and what dream match would you have liked to see him involved in? Whatever your thoughts about the Big Red Machine, sign up to leave a comment or let me know on my social media.

Wrestling Recap [3:16 Day]: HBK vs. Austin (WrestleMania XIV)


“Talk about your psalms, talk about “John 3:16”…Austin 3:16 says I just whupped your ass!”

With those immortal words, spoken by the legendary pro wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin after winning the King of the Ring tournament on 23 June 1996, a momentous wrestling career was about to unfold before our eyes that would see everyone’s favourite beer-swigging, finger-gesturing anti-hero become not just an industry icon but a mainstream icon as well. Here’s to yah, Steve!


The Date: 29 March 1998
The Venue: FleetCenter; Boston, Massachusetts
The Commentary: Jim “J.R.” Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler
The Referee: Mike Chioda, with “Iron” Mike Tyson as the special enforcer
The Stakes: Main event singles match for the WWF Championship

The Build-Up:
As any self-respecting wrestling fan will tell you, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) was clawing back to prominence in 1999; after being beaten in the weekly ratings by World Championship Wrestling’s (WCW) Monday Nitro in the weekly television ratings for nearly two years, the WWF’s “Attitude Era” kept fans glued to the product, many of whom were deeply invested in the rivalry between the loud-mouthed, anti-authority “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and WWF Chairman Vince McMahon. Another crucial factor in getting eyes back on McMahon’s product was the outrageous antics of D-Generation X, a group of wrestlers led by then-current champion, the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, who wielded incredible backstage influence and whose members were often involved in some of the WWF’s most controversial storylines.

The drama in the ring was reflected backstage as questions lingered regarding HBK’s professionalism.

After the infamous “Montreal Screwjob” saw Bret “The Hitman” Hart part ways with the WWF, McMahon appeared on television more frequently as the evil “Mr. McMahon” and frequently clashed with Austin’s rebellious ways. Hot off a feud with The Rock over the Intercontinental Championship, and despite McMahon’s efforts, Austin won a shot at the big belt, and a slot in the main event of WrestleMania XIV (also billed as WrestleMania X-raided) by winning the Royal Rumble event. He further raised the ire of the chairman when he publicly insulted legendary boxer Mike Tyson on an episode of Raw Is War, though the deck appeared to be stacked against Austin as Tyson revealed himself to be in league with D-Generation X. There was also a great deal of behind the scenes drama surrounding this match as, at the time, Shawn had a bit of a reputation for being unprofessional and, despite nursing a legitimate back injury that would scupper his career for some time, there was some doubt as to whether he would actually lay down for Austin as planned, to the point where the Undertaker was prepared to take matters into his own hands if necessary.

The Match:
Fans today would probably hate the promo package for this match as the majority of it was focused entirely on “The Baddest Man on the Planet” and his status as the special enforcer for the match. No doubt, Mike Tyson was a massive get back in the day and really helped to put more eyes on the product; for me, this is the kind of mainstream star you want involved in wrestling, not fly-by-night pop/rap stars, but then again what the hell for I know? Anyway, yeah, the package emphasises not only that Tyson is an absolute bad-ass but that he is D-X through-and-through and Austin barely features at all in it which, considering he was white-hot at this time, I can only assume is all part of the larger story of McMahon not wanting to put any spotlight on Austin and his rebellious ways.

The deck was stacked against Austin as HBK had every advantage going into the match.

Tyson, garbed in a D-X shirt, is the first to enter the ring and clearly seems to be enjoying his involvement with the product, which is always good to see. The crowd is, however, largely apathetic towards Tyson, especially once they catch a glimpse of Austin prowling around backstage, to say nothing of when his iconic glass shatters and he makes his way to the ring. After performing his signature rope taunt, Austin immediately gets all up in Tyson’s face, establishing right away that he isn’t afraid of or intimidated by Iron Mike. Shawn Michaels, “the greatest champion of all time” according to J.R., then makes a grandiose entrance; accompanied by some chump named Triple H (who was the WWF European Champion at the time) and Chyna and played to the ring by the Chris Warren D-X band, he expertly played the role of the cocky, arrogant heel by dancing about and wearing the smuggest grin on his face. And why not? Not only did he have the muscle in his corner, Tyson was also in his pocket so he had every advantage in the world except for the unanimous crowd support that Austin received. Tyson makes his presence known from the moment the bell rings by nonchalantly swiping at Austin’s ankles as he (as in Austin) is pacing the ring; when HBK hops about and taunts Austin, Austin gives him the traditional two-finger salute but HBK’s game plan, early on, is to wind Austin up into a frenzy by ducking and jiving away from him. Austin, however, puts a stop to that by throwing some punches in the corner, yanking down Shawn’s tights to expose his ass (much to the delight of the crowd), and finally tossing him out of the ring and into his D-X buddies.

A great deal of the match involves the two brawling on the outside.

When Austin follows to press his attack, he is assaulted by Triple H and tossed into the metal barricade. For his efforts, referee Mike Chioda has Shawn’s running buddies ejected from ringside. All of this was still enough for HBK to gain the advantage and a ringside brawl ensues that sees Shawn slam Austin with the band’s equipment and toss him into a dumpster but, the moment they get back into the ring, Austin regains control by countering HBK’s driving axe-handle and whipping the WWF Champion into a corner for Shawn’s signature flip spot. Austin starts to work on Shawn’s arm with a series of stomps; he shuts down Shawn’s speedy offense by dumping him into the ropes but, though he takes a dive to the outside and onto the table, HBK is still wily enough to avoid being hit with the Stone Cold Stunner. Austin presses his advantage, putting a beating on Shawn and going for a series of pins before wearing Shawn down with a headlock. Seems a bit early into the match for a rest hold but, considering Shawn’s injury and the bumps he’s already taken, it’s perhaps not surprising. HBK counters out of the hold and is finally able to gain some momentum by enduring a beating and walloping Austin in the face with the ring bell, which the referee conveniently misses.

The pace is a bit all over the place, possibly because of Shawn’s injury, making for quite a dull match.

Back in the ring, HBK starts working over Austin’s head despite clearing struggling with the pain of his back injury; more uninspired and slow-paced holds and moves follow before Austin springs back to life, tackles HBK, and tosses him outside again! HBK recovers and starts smacking Austin’s left leg and knee off the ring post and the steel steps, as though the match needs to slow down any more, and continues the assault when he gets back in the ring to put Austin’s leg through the wringer for a bit. Austin surprises HBK with a kick up the ass and a roll-up but this isn’t modern-day WWE so Shawn easily kicks out and continues to wear down Austin’s leg using stomps and the ring ropes. When Austin rolls to the outside for a reprieve, Shawn hits him with a baseball slide and Tyson hefts Austin back into the ring so that HBK can lock in the Figure Four Leglock. Despite HBK grabbing the ropes for additional leverage, Austin refuses to tap out and successfully reverses the hold and buy himself some breathing time. Austin almost catches HBK with a pin off a catapult into the corner and then Shawn transitions into a sleeper hold; in his desperation to get out of the hold, Mike Chioda gets squashed in the corner and taken out of the match.

Austin captures his first World Championship thanks to Tyson revealing his true colours.

The match’s pace finally picks up a bit as Austin hammers on HBK, does his Mudhole Stomp in the corner, and fires back with a flurry of offense. Shawn desperately knocks Austin down with his flying forearm/kip up spot and then clambers up to the top rope for his big elbow drop. After landing the move, Shawn begins tuning up the band for the knockout shot but, when he flies in with Sweet Chin Music, Austin ducks it, and goes for the Stunner! Shawn counters out of it, goes for the Superkick again but Austin catches his foot, spins him around, and hits the Stunner! Tyson then slides into the ring and counts a quick three count to give Austin the WWF Championship in a very sudden end to a fairly lacklustre match. Afterwards, Tyson reveals that he was an Austin 3:16 fan all along, a point he emphasises by laying HBK out with a big right hand and then leaving the ring with the new champion.

The Aftermath:
WrestleMania XIV was a monumental night in WWF history; not only was this the first of six WWF Championship runs for Austin, it was also the night that the WWF “scratch logo” became the new logo of the company; the “winged eagle” world championship belt was also replaced with a new design the following night, and Shawn Michaels took a four-year hiatus to recover from his injuries and get his shit together (which, in turn, saw Triple H succeed him as the leader of D-Generation X and truly begin his own ascent to the main event scene).

The aftermath saw some of the WWF’s greatest moments, with Austin at the heart of them.

Of course, the most prominent thing to come out of this event was Austin/McMahon feud; for the next five months or so, McMahon did everything he could to try and get the belt off Austin by either screwing him out of it or throwing challengers and obstacles his way. This led to the creation of the Corporation stable, Mankind’s transformation into Dude Love, the debut of Kane, and a series of successful title defences on Austin’s behalf before he was finally forced to vacate the belt when he was pinned by both the Undertaker and Kane. Austin and McMahon also got into a series of verbal and physical altercations, including a steel cage match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and the war between the two helped the WWF to overtake the competition and establish themselves as the hottest game in town. Sadly, Austin’s white-hot run came to a premature end when he was written off television to get neck surgery and, while he did reappear in the company some time later, it was clear that his career was winding down thanks to fatigue and mounting injuries.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think to the contest between Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV? How would you rate it compared to their other bouts and which of their feuds, matches, and moments is your favourite? Were you a fan of HBK, D-X, and Tyson? How are you celebrating 3:16 Day this year, what are some of your favourite matches and moments from Austin’s illustrious career, and what dream match would you have liked to see him involved in? Whatever your thoughts, drop a comment below and let me know what you think about “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

Wrestling Recap: Hogan vs. Undertaker (Survivor Series ’91)

The Date: 27 November 1991
The Venue: Joe Louis Arena; Detroit, Michigan
The Commentary: Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
The Referee: Earl Hebner
The Stakes: WWF Championship match

The Build-Up:
The Undertaker made his debut on this day at the 1990 at the 1990 Survivor Series as a heel; aligned with Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team and eventually partnered up with the repulsive Paul Bearer, the Undertaker was portrayed as a zombie-like force of nature who was impervious the pain, implacable by nature, and apparently at the whim of a mysterious urn wielded by his manager. Hulk Hogan, meanwhile, was several months into his third run as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) Champion, having defeated Sergeant Slaughter earlier in the year at WrestleManiaVII. However, thanks to mostly being booked into squash matches, the Undertaker went unpinned (on television, at least) for a year and this impressive statistic was enough to plug him in as Hogan’s next opponent in what was billed as Hogan’s “Gravest Challenge” to date.

The Match:
Rather than preceding the match with one of their trademark promo packages, this particular match is preceded by a couple of pre-taped promos from each of the competitors; Hogan, basically, has taken offense to the Undertaker and Paul Bearer’s threat to bury the hopes and dreams of all the Hulkamaniacs but ‘Taker stoically threatens that Hulkamania has had its day and is long overdue for a burial.

Hogan’s bombastic showboating soon gave way to slow, plodding offense.

During his characteristically enthusiastic entrance, Hogan made a point to upturn and demolish the casket that was placed at ringside but the Undertaker maintained his stoic demeanour and remained unimpressed with Hogan’s showboating and simply set out to do what he promised: destroy Hulkamania. Unfortunately, given that it was 1991 and early ‘Taker (as well as Hogan’s limitations), this meant a lot of slow, plodding offense and an abundance of headlocks, face and beck chokes, and slow, measured strikes from the Undertaker.

Bearer’s interference and the Undertaker’s indomitable nature kept Hogan on the back foot.

Hogan, of course, was all about the superhuman energy and resolve; even though he spends the majority of the match on the back foot and seemingly unable to actually hurt the Undertaker, he continually came back time and time again even after having his head slammed off the steel ring steps and being choked by an electrical cord. Of course, Hogan had the crowd firmly in his corner right from the beginning of the match and they exploded into cheers whenever Hogan mounted some offense and showered the arena with boos every time Bearer got involved behind Hebner’s back.

Undertaker’s moveset back then mainly consisted of dull choke and claw holds.

A far cry from the later brawling and high-impact offense of his later years, the Undertaker’s plan of attack mainly consisted of punches, clotheslines, and full-face chokes; his gameplay, apparently, was to wear down Hogan and drain him of his much-vaulted energy and, every time he pressed his advantage with a Claw Hold or similar move, ‘Taker would turn to Bearer to draw power from the mysterious urn, his eyes rolling into the back of his head, and my interest and excitement draining right along with Hogan’s vigour.

Hogan’s comeback meant nothing once Flair snuck in a steel chair to give ‘Taker the win.

Of course, as relentless and dominating as the Undertaker was, Hogan is still Hogan; jacked up (and blown up) to the nines and full of passion, Hogan completely no-sold the Undertaker’s Tombstone Piledriver to mount his trademark comeback. This onslaught was enough to stagger the Undertaker and drive him to his knees but, right as Hogan looked to be setting up for the finish, Ric Flair sauntered down to ringside to distract Hogan. Flair then slid a steel chair into the ring, which the Undertaker summarily Tombstoned Hogan onto, and the match ended with the Deadman being crowned the new WWF Champion to the chagrin of Monsoon, the delight of Heenan, and a brief cheer from the crowd.

Sadly, it’s every Hogan match ever and even has a screwy finish to keep him looking strong.

It’s not an especially long of exciting match, to be honest; it’s basically every Hulk Hogan match you’ve ever seen as Hogan takes a beating, pulls out sly heel moves and tactics, and spends the majority of the match either on his back or taking a beating because he’s too gassed to work a long, involved match and is simply building up for his characteristic comeback. The story was far more interesting than the actual in-ring content as ‘Taker was more about slow, boring offense and shrugging off attacks and Hogan was only ever really good for pumping up the crowd and hitting his signature moves; the entire match was about a clash of ideals and wills and the potential death of Hulkamania but, whereas Hogan was able to overcome all his previous challenges, he failed to overcome his “Gravest Challenge”. However, he arguably only lost the match due to Flair’s interference and looked set to for a win before Flair distracted him, tainting the Undertaker’s iconic first championship win in true Hogan fashion, which is a shame as the Undertaker looked so dominant throughout the match and this should have been a clean win. Still, at least it’s a short match; the WWF was a very different time back then and, while I respect Hogan and his impact on the industry, I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of his in-ring work and he didn’t seem to have a lot of chemistry with ‘Taker, who was worked a very premeditated and limited style thanks to his commitment to the zombie aspects of his character.

The Aftermath:
Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker faced off in a rematch less than a week later at This Tuesday in Texas, which Hogan, of course, won and, by WrestleMania VIII, both men were embroiled in entirely separate feuds and the Undertaker would not win the WWF Championship again until WrestleMania 13 some six years later. Despite both being in the company at the same time for many years following this match, the two never crossed paths again and would not face off in a championship match until Judgment Day in 2002, when the Undertaker defeated Hogan (then billed as Hollywood Hulk Hogan) for the Undisputed World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Championship.

My Rating:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Terrible

What did you think to the contest between Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker at the 1991 Survivor Series? How would you rate it compared to their other bouts and which of their feuds, matches, and moments is your favourite? Were you a fan of the Undertaker’s when he debuted and were you hyped for his showdown with the Immortal Hulk Hogan? Which of the two were you rooting for, given Hogan’s incredible popularity and the Undertaker’s dominant first year? How are you celebrating the Undertaker’s debut this year, what are some of your favourite matches and moments from his long and distinguished career, and what dream match would you have liked to see him involved in? Whatever your thoughts, drop a comment below and let me know what you think about the Undertaker.