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Figure Four Weekly 3/13/2017: Impact Wrestling's identity problem

Impact Wrestling's Identity Problem

by Joseph Currier (@josephcurrier)

With the departure of The Hardys and the beginning of a new era, the promotion formerly known as TNA Wrestling is once again trying to establish a new identity.

That began on the first episode of Impact under the new regime, where they officially ditched the name TNA in favor of Impact Wrestling and promised to make the company great. Changes in ownership and creative as Anthem Sports & Entertainment took over meant that a rebrand was inevitable, but the timing comes just as TNA was finally starting to carve out a unique place in the pro wrestling landscape.

With their "Broken" characters and the creative freedom they were given, Matt and Jeff Hardy brought a much-needed buzz to TNA. While spectacles like the Final Deletion, Delete or Decay, and Total Nonstop Deletion weren't for everyone, they were at least different and gave TNA an identity that helped separate the company from its competition.

The ratings success those shows brought was limited after the initial interest in the Final Deletion, and it was difficult for The Hardys to fully prove their worth to TNA's business when the promotion didn't run house shows or sell tickets to their TV tapings. But The Hardys had undeniably become the faces of TNA before failing to come to terms on new contracts.

Whether Matt and Jeff end up in WWE and if they'll legally be allowed to use their Broken Matt and Brother Nero personas remains to be seen, but Impact Wrestling is now tasked with finding another way to stand out in a wrestling scene that is already loaded with options.

Going by first impressions, Impact is fighting an uphill battle to appeal to new fans and those who have tuned out. The beginning of the announcer feud between Jeremy Borash and Josh Mathews was lame and overbearing, even if it was effective in getting the audience to dislike Mathews even more than they already did. Bruce Prichard and Dutch Mantell cut tired promos about how things are going to get better without that improvement being apparent. Alberto El Patron debuted and was treated like a far bigger deal than he actually is.

Rebrands always sound better in theory than they actually are. Vowing to make Impact great feels hollow when most of TNA's recent problems were financial or behind the scenes. There are definitely better days to look back on when Impact was on Spike TV and TNA had some of the stars who have since left, but it's insulting to viewers who have stuck around to bash a product that they didn't have an issue with while a handful of prominent wrestlers are leaving.

Despite that, it's entirely possible that Impact will be a watchable show going forward. There are plenty of talented workers on the roster, with returning wrestlers and new additions being given the opportunity to replace those who have left.

But just being watchable isn't enough in 2017. Plenty of places have wrestling that is worth watching. Having good matches and not being WWE can't solely define your promotion anymore.

Even WWE itself has had trouble making some of its programming feel important. 205 Live features smaller wrestlers having pretty good matches, which can be found on every other show that WWE produces. And NXT has felt less like a must-watch show as people have moved up to the main roster and SmackDown has become a more effective alternative to Raw.

Outside of WWE, Ring of Honor has had some difficulty standing out now that NXT exists and WWE has been more accepting of wrestlers they would have turned away in previous eras.

Smaller promotions like PROGRESS Wrestling have had success cultivating a group of diehard fans, especially those who attend shows regularly, who are invested in the company and its wrestlers, while Revolution Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and a few others have also catered to live show attendees by putting on great matches that can't be seen anywhere else.

Impact Wrestling still has its place in the pro wrestling world despite its repeated failures. Even though it's only on Pop TV, another viable product on cable in the United States can only be a good thing. But making Impact great won't be done by talking about it or repeating overused slogans. The new regime needs to show an ability to create an identity for the company that is actually better than what came before it.

Mexico Notes

by Dr. Lucha Steve Sims (@DrLuchaJr)

Two big shows in Mexico this weekend; neither we will be available live. CMLL's Dos Leyendas show will be held Friday night 3/17 at 10:30 pm EDT (US is in DST now but most of Mexico is not), it should end about 1:15-1:30 am Saturday morning EDT, and become available on VOD shortly (as in minutes/hours, not days/week) thereafter. Last week's issue included a preview of this event and its main event, which may become legendary historically for basically a lot of wrong reasons.

Two days later – Sunday 3/19 in Monterrey, AAA will produce its annual Rey de Reyes show. This year, so much promotional attention has been placed on Triplemania this coming August that every show, even the big ones, is a "Road to Triplemania" show. Still, for the promotion, because they promote this show directly themselves, it's a very important one fiscally – and with new booking ideas apparent at the last TV taping, there is some uncertainty about this show.

Within the past month, Vampiro was named AAA Director of Talent and now appears to be on the booking committee as well. At the go-home TV taping held March 5th in Apizaco, almost every match announced on AAA's own poster ended up not taking place, or not taking place exactly as listed. None of the changes seemed to be ones made to build up Rey de Reyes with the possible exception of the mask/hair match.

In short, the go-home show in Apizaco was an "under new management" kind of card. That raises the question, will the same happen to the announced matches for Rey de Reyes? Well, no changes have been specifically announced at press time, so let's preview the card as listed on AAA's own poster:

· The first two matches (unless there is an opener of locals, which is actually likely) are designed to determine the AAA Reina de Reinas Championship. The current champion is Taya Valkyrie, and she will face the winner of the prior match, a four-way dance in which Goya Kong, Fabi Apache, Big Mami, Mari Apache, Lady Shani, La Hiedra, and maybe 1 other luchadora will square off. Best guess here is that Lady Shani wins the first match but loses to Taya in the second bout. Two other notes here, as always with AAA: The show is scheduled to start at 8:00 pm EDT but can be expected to actually start 30-60 minutes late; and, the match order as listed on the poster (which is the order being sued for this preview) does not necessarily mean they will occur in that order at the show itself, that would be an understatement.

· Next up would be a tag match with Pagano and Mesias facing Dark Cuervo and Dark Scoria. The winner would be the official number on contenders for the AAA World Tag Titles, now held by Angelico and Australian Suicide. Until the creative changes in the front office, this one was set up to be the match to turn Pagano face on Mesias, and frankly that's probably still the case here – with The Dark Family getting the win.

· Third from the top would be the mask versus hair match as rudo Super Fly bets his hair against the mask of Aerostar, the very man who took his mask in the first place. At the TV just before the 3/5 go home show, Aerostar "seriously injured his arm" and at the last TV was "unable to wrestle." This might just have been to give the fans, expecting an Aerostar win here, reason for drama and doubt. Still, Aerostar has become in the last two years a star at a whole other level above Superfly, and this one is still hardly in doubt.

· The semifinal continues to Road to Triplemania main event; in a "falls count anywhere" match, Psycho Clown and Dr. Wagner Jr. will team up against Murder Clown and Monsther Clown. In this one, the actual winner of the match is much less important than the need to continue the blood war between Wagner and Psycho. Don't know how Vampiro will lay this match out to do that, though, having to run everything by Dorian and Joaquin first, but for sure we can expect "trampas y sangre."

· The main event, on the other hand, will indeed a match in which the result is the point. The three AAA men's singles champions – Texano Jr. (Mega), Johnny Mundo (Latin American), and Hijo del Fantasma (cruiserweight) will battle for the Rey de Reyes sword. The Mega title is the biggest of the three, and Texano Jr.'s losing here would not cost him that belt, so it seems a good time to have a heel beat him and issue a title match challenge for later this year. I'd expect Mundo to win and set just such a match up.

On the whole, this will be a fascinating card, to see what happens and to try to parse out for what reasons. That story and the story of Dos Leyendas will be right here in next week's issue.

Europe Notes

by Oliver Court (@AnotherOli)

I have just returned home from wXw 16 Carat 2017, after one of the most fun weekends of my life. With five shows over four days, the 16 Carat weekend was a feast of wrestling; at times fatiguing but mostly an absolute joy to experience. The weekend started with Inner Circle, a low-key event at wXw's Training Academy in Essen. Getting there proved difficult for a foolish Brit like myself, but once the show began, I was impressed by all the wrestlers' effort levels for what could have easily come across as a throwaway show. 

Walking into the Turbinhalle in Oberhausen for 16 Carat Night 1, I was immediately impressed by the production setup, particularly the spectacular video wall that is second only to WWE's, and provided some brilliant visuals over the course of the weekend. The main event of Night 1, WALTER vs David Starr, was highly emotional and a testament to how well Starr has gotten over in wXw. 

Saturday started with the AMBITION shoot fight tournament, where Timothy Thatcher won me over with his nuanced performances; seeing him live has given me a newfound appreciation for his work. AMBITION was all about Matt Riddle though, as he killed Bobby Gunns in 1 minute and had the best shoot style match I've ever seen against Mike Bailey on the way to winning the mini-tournament. Night 2 saw Jurn Simmons win back the Unified World Wrestling Championship in an exciting match against Axel Dieter Jr., before we all headed to the afterparty, where ACH shined on karaoke and a massive conga line danced to Absolute Andy's theme, amongst over drunken frivolities.

But above all those great moments, the main event of Night 3 stands out above all of them, as Ilja Dragunov walked through hell against WALTER to win 16 Carat after receiving the most brutal chops that have likely ever been dished out in a wrestling ring. Words can't do the drama justice, only Dragunov's horrifically torn chest can. Everyone needs to watch that match, if nothing else. 

I was lucky enough to participate in the first ever 16 Carat Media Center, getting to interview wrestlers and staff and gain an insight into just how much effort went into making this weekend possible. On top of that, the people I've met and spent the weekend with made it a truly special one. If you're a European wrestling fan, you need to make the trip to Carat at some point, because it's a wrestling experience that's absolutely like no other.

Japan Notes

by Alan Counihan (@Alan4L)

After spending the past four days in Germany for wXw 16 Carat Gold, I'm a little out of touch with what's been happening in Japan this weekend. The New Japan Cup is in full swing and there have been some major upsets. But we will cover that tournament as a whole next week when it's wrapped up. For now, however, I'd like to use this piece of the newsletter to talk about the link between Japanese pro wrestling and the match discussed by Oli in our European section – the 16 Carat final.

The traditional Japanese wrestling style molded by men such as Shinya Hashimoto, Jumbo Tsuruta, Kenta Kobashi and many others still has in many ways an influence on modern Japanese wrestling. New Japan, the top dog, definitely goes about it's business in it's own way but many times during the year you will see them go back to their roots of straight ahead pure wrestling. As notable for it's intensity and hard hitting nature as it is it's simplicity.

Many times in the past two decades this Japanese style has influenced wrestling in the West. However these days it seems to be less than ever. WrestleMania weekend in Orlando is stacked, no doubt, but even if you watched every match on every show I don't think you're going to see many matches that could be compared to an old school Japanese wrestling battle. It's not a dying art at all, but it's an art that is not tapped into near enough anymore. Well, the finals of 16 Carat Gold 2017 certainly tapped into it.

"Der Ring General" WALTER representing Team Ringkamp, also represents the Riki Choshu dojo where he was trained by the likes of Choshu, Tatshito Takaiwa and Tomohiro Ishii. WALTER the wrestler, and Walter Hahn the man both have the history and legacy of Japanese wrestling flowing through them. Walter brings it into the ring with him every time and he instils it into his trainees at the wXw Academy which he runs full time. Ilja Dragunov is quite simply a warrior. He doesn't have a social media presence and you don't see him selling merch at shows and chatting to fans (not that there's anything wrong with that at all). He just gets in the ring and fights people.

The match these two men had yesterday in front of 850 fans packed into the Turbinenhalle was one that Hashimoto, Jumbo or Kobashi would have been proud to call their own. In fact, it was at times reminiscent of the famous Kobashi vs. Kensuke Sasaki Tokyo Dome match where they chopped each other's chests into hamburger meat. It had so much passion, it had so much ferocity and it sucked everyone in the building into it. Every wrestler on the show had their eyes glued to the match and were going just as crazy as the fans. It was quite the scene. This was Japanese pro wrestling in it's purest form – it just happened to take place in another country. 

TV Reviews

by Bryan's Friend Vince (@FO_VVerhei)

NWA Starrcade 1983 (11/24/83)

Ric Flair vs. Harley Race in a steel cage match for the NWA world heavyweight championship with Gene Kiniski as special ref. There are entire matches on Raw that go by in the time it took Kiniski to give these men instructions before the bell rang. There was an intensity here missing from almost everything else on the card, or any other card. They didn't do much early. Flair balled up his fists once but Kiniski immediately stopped that. Then they worked a headlock on the mat, then a facelock, and just those two holds took up several minutes and nearfalls. Race hit a suplex and took over. When guys wanted to get cut off in the 1980s, they almost always missed an elbowsmash, and they put their all into missing these elbowsmashes. Race was working Flair over in the ropes and Kiniski had to pull him off. Flair made a comeback, and announcers were criticising Race for not putting Flair away when he was in trouble. Race upped the violence, throwing Flair into the cage. Flair gigged, of course. Kiniski had to pull Race off again, and as Race's arms were held back, a bloody Flair hit a cheap shot and started his comeback. Then Kiniski held Flair back, and Harley hit a sucker headbutt. Flair made his real comeback, and unlike modern matches the pace didn't really change, Flair was still methodical. He hit a piledriver and a double underhook suplex for a nearfall. Somewhere in there he appeared to just deliberately break Race's neck. Race was going into the cage and bloody now. Race took over and was hitting headbutts, and Flair would pop up and hit chops. Flair made another comeback and hooked the figure-four to a huge pop. Race escaped, but when the tried a suplex his leg gave out and Flair fell on top for a nearfall. Both guys were exhausted now. Race kept hitting headbutts. Flair was on fumes, on his knees, throwing weak punches to the belly. Kiniski had to pull Race up by the hair at one point. Flair was able to hit one suplex, but immediately missed an elbow. Race grabbed a headlock, but Flair pushed him forward, and Race headbutted Kiniski, who went down. I think it was supposed to look like an accident, but it didn't. So they stumbled around a bit and Flair hit a bodypress. He was supposed to trip over Kiniski, but they weren't in the right position, and instead Race pretended to trip while almost dropping Flair on his face. Gene slowly rolled over and slowly counted to three to end the match in a very anticlimactic manner. Up to that point, that felt like a five-round heavyweight UFC fight, with two guys working very cautiously to not blow themselves up or make the one mistake that would lose them the fight. And the longer it went, you could feel the more desperate they were getting. I have no idea what your average 2017 wrestling fan would think of this. I strongly suspect many of them would be bored. But I enjoyed it quite a bit. (***1/2).

All the babyfaces came out to celebrate with him, and his wife came into the ring to kiss him. He cut a promo. "Jesus," he began. He said this was the greatest night of his life, and he couldn't have done it without the fans, and he thanked them. Then Schiavonie interviewed Flair backstage. Flair, on the verge of tears and still covered in blood, thanked all the babyfaces and fans and promoters for standing by him and having faith when he was at his lowest. Ricky Steamboat congratulated him and Flair said he owed Steamboat a favor. Everyone used champagne to wash the blood off of Flair's face. Are there no towels in North Carolina? Dusty Rhodes showed up and offered Flair congratulations, but warned him they would meet down the line.

Retro NWA 3/7/87

They showed Ole Anderson smacking JJ Dillon and brawling with Tully Blanchard last week.

They had a brand new graphics package that was still ten years out of date.

Dick Murdoch and the Russians came out for a promo to hype up the Crockett Cup. Ivan vowed that both Dusty and Nikita would be punished. Murdoch in the background barking at the fans was the best. Then they gave him the mic and he plugged matches against the SuperPowers all over the country. He referred to the fans as "melon farmers" and just kept screaming. He may have called the fans "kayfabers.".

Lex Luger vs. Rocky King. Lex beat him up forever in a boring manner. He hit a couple of very easy backbreakers, then the torture rack for the win. Luger and Dillon then joined the announcers as the fans chanted "WE DON'T WANNA HEAR IT!" Actually we do. Shut up you melon farmers. Dillon said he had done as much for Ole as he had for any other Horseman, and Luger had done nothing to ask for special treatment or push Ole out the door. Luger ran down his qualifications to be a Horseman in and out of the ring, and vowed he would be one before all was said and done.

Shaska Whatley came out for a promo. I forgot about this guy. He plugged some shows in Florida and called out Ron Simmons, because of course in any promotion or territory, when you have two black men, they must feud or team. He talked about beating up hillbillies and HEATHENS. That's an insult that needs to come back.

Mod Squad vs. Mitch Snow & George South. Bill Dundee was managing the Mod Squad in his purple spandex bodysuit. I need one of those. Mod Squad was just two big ugly dudes that was just competent enough to be boring. They were big and ornery and nothing they did looked bad, but nothing they did was very good either. Like a low-rent Nasty Boys with no charisma. Crowd actually chanted they wanted Lawler to annoy Dundee. Mod Squad won with a top rope elbow.

They went to Sabatino's Italian restaurant in Baltimore to reveal the top seeds in the Crockett Cup. AWESOME. Tony Schiavonie stood in the street in front of one of the truly outstanding restaurants in the country. They went inside and talked about what a great meal it had been. All the promoters were there, plus JJ Dillon, Paul Jones and Jim Cornette. Mrs. Crockett made a speech, then the seeds were revealed, via lifting a blue curtain up over a sign. This was SO low-rent. So the seeds were: 10. Ivan Koloff & Vladimir Petrov; 9. Mod Squad; 8. Tully Blanchard & Lex Luger; 7. Ole & Arn Anderson; 6. Midnight Express. At this point Cornette got pissed and stormed off. 5. "Japanese entry," to be determined by a New Japan tournament. 4. Rock & Roll Express; 3. Road Warriors; 2. SuperPowers; 1. Awesome Twosome. This made Jones VERY happy and proud. They also announced Barry Windham challenging Ric Flair for the world title.

Mike Rotunda vs. Thunderfoot No. 1. They plugged Rotunda's challenges against "Sir Oliver Humperdink and Ed 'the Bull' Gantner" for the Florida title. They wrestled a while and then Rotunda hit an airplane spin for the win. AIRPLANE SPIN. Tim Horner cut a promo hyping up the Crockett Cup, where he would team with Rotunda. Rotunda was a much, MUCH better promo than Horner. He plugged the Crockett Cup and his Florida matches.

"IT'S THE BIG TIME, AND IT'S ALL FOR YOU!".

Dundee and the Mod Squad were proud of being the 9 seed, and added that Dundee was teaming with the Barbarian in the tournament too. Mod Squad talked about being cops who got fired for being too brutal, and all they could do with a million dollars.

Arn Anderson vs. Mike Jackson. Mike Jackson used the Frankensteiner/punches combo, so now you know where Shawn Michaels got it. Arn worked over the arm for several minutes. Jackson made a comeback, punching with his other arm while clutching the bad arm to his side, but then ate a spinebuster for the win. I want a match with Mike Jackson.

Tully, Lex, and JJ did a promo. Tully started talking about all the times Ole wasn't there for them in this business, which hurt their revenues, which was the only reason they did any of this. Ole wasn't there in the corner or on TV when they needed him for a long time, and when he was there, he was letting them down because he hadn't been training hard enough. He was appalled Ole had cheap-shotted him at the podium, and not in the ring where cheap-shotting should be done. I love Tully SO MUCH. He insisted that Ole was no longer a Horseman, and would soon be poor.

Arn joined them after the break to speak his mind. For a week now, he said he had been asked where he stood. He said he had shown up in this company two years ago as an unknown, and proven that he was worthy of the name Anderson. Ole had seen him as a tool to carry his own name to glory. Then at Starrcade Ole had been beat, and Arn could forgive that, but afterwards he had not seen the fire in Ole's eyes, and he couldn't stand that. He couldn't understand how Ole had claimed to be a family man, but turned his back on him. He vowed to prove himself worthy all over again, starting with Nikita Koloff and the US title. He vowed that he would always be an Anderson, and he would always be a Horseman. This fucking promo was so golden that Lex literally applauded. All the Horsemen embraced Arn and said they would be his family now. THIS PROMO WAS OUT OF THIS WORLD GREAT.

Denny Brown vs. Lazor-Tron. YES! LAZOR-TRON! A guy doing a LASER TAG gimmick. This was what he lived for in life, playing laser tag. He had the patch on his chest where you would velcro the target and everything. He was like Sid with softball, only wrestling to collect funds to support his TRUE passion. He also called himself the PROTECTOR OF CHILDREN. He will protect children WITH LASERS. He must have been good at it, because they did chant "BEAT HIM UP, LAZOR, BEAT HIM UP!" One guy also shouted "COME ON HECTOR!" under the mistaken impression it was Hector Guerrero under the mask. AS IF. He did THE SLOWEST spinning headscissors of all time. Then he did it again. A surprisingly high percentage of this match was spent with Lazor-Tron on his back, feet up in the air wrapped around Brown's head. Match went about an hour. Brown tried a backdrop, but Lazor-Tron landed on his feet and TIP-TOED up behind Brown. A few minutes later Brown tried another backdrop, and Lazor-Tron landed on his feet again, then hit a flying cross chop to win the match and the WORLD JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP. LAZOR-TRON! WORLD CHAMPION.

Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express came out for a promo. Yes, Dennis Condrey was back. Cornette ran down every team seeded ahead of them in the tournament. Whatever he said about the Japanese entry got muted. He also ran down the Garvin Brothers, threatening Jimmy with another cosmic fireball, and said women were good for cooking and cleaning, and "I can't think of another use for a woman any time in life." Oh, this was great.

Awesome Twosome came out for a promo. LOOK AT RICK RUDE. Mullet, moustache, gold anchor medallion, leather jacket, and no shirt. THIS IS A MAN. They knew as the top seed, teams would try to take them out before the tournament, but that was OK because they would just cripple anyone who tried. They vowed to win the Cup, and also win title defenses against the Rock & Roll Express and Road Warriors. This was such a great, great team.

Jimmy Valiant vs. Tommy Angel. Jimmy cheated and won with the Boogie Woogie Elbow.

Bill Dundee and Barbarian cut a promo. Well, Dundee did. He promised Barbarian would beat Valiant.

Barbarian vs. Randy Mulkey. Your basic squash except that Barbarian busted out this awesome flying knee, then hooked a sharpshooter. New moves! They plugged a West Coast team called the Gladiators for the Crockett Cup. Barbarian hit a tombstone and diving headbutt for the win.

SuperPowers came out for a promo. Nikita talked about wrestling in Alabama and Tennessee and going to Graceland. Dusty promised to get his hands on Murdoch and win the Cup.

Wahoo McDaniel & Baron Von Raschke vs. Rick Sullivan & Randy Barber. The grumpy old men beat their opponents up for a while and won with one big chop and the brain claw.

Baron and his badass cauliflower ears cut a promo running down everyone, especially Murdoch for turning his back on all his friends, calling him "Lee Harvey Murdoch." He roared about facing Murdoch in a cage in Jacksonville.

Ivan Koloff & Vladimir Petrov & Dick Murdoch vs. Alan Martin & Zane Smith & Cougar Jay. Fans were chanting that they wanted Dusty, so Murdoch lef the ring to kill him. Petrov at one point grabbed a man by the head, lifted him up a few times, then just threw him down. He won with a sickle so violent both announcers screamed.

Barry Windham vs. Chance McQuade. Barry won quickly with the lariat. He then cut a promo hyping up his title match against Flair.

Brad Armstrong cut a promo hyping up a TV title match against Tully Blanchard.

Garvin Brothers vs. Larry Stevens & Darrell Dalton. Ronnie's facial burns were healing nicely. Ronnie out there in black trunks and Jimmy wearing sequined white pants was so awesome. Ronnie put on a wacky submission and Jimmy turned to the announcers and declared "THAT'S NOT MY FAULT! THAT'S REALLY NOT MY FAULT!" So this Darrell Dalton fucker. Fat. Pale. Hairy. Rat-rail mullett. One horrible tattoo. They kept him on the apron the whole time, then when he finally tagged in Jimmy just grabbed him and manhandled him to the mat, wanting NOTHING to do with working with this guy. Ronnie quickly punched Dalton and pinned him. Garvins then cut a promo saying that the best part of teaming with his brother was watching Ronnie tie people in knots. He promised that Cornette's lawyers wouldn't be able to postpone that cage match forever. Ronnie ran down Cornette a while and vowed to beat him in the cage. And that was that. A fun show as always.

Retro NWA 3/14/87

Show opened with the Horsemen celebrating a tag team win when Ole Anderson came out to confront them. Horsemen wanted nothing to do with him. Jim Cornette volunteered to have Big Bubba solve this problem for them.

Ronnie Garvin and Barry Windham came out for a promo. They were defending the US tag titles today against Dick Murdoch and Ivan Koloff.

Jimmy Garvin vs. Randy Barber. For once Jimmy Garvin was not the worst-dressed man in the match. Barber was out there in flesh-colored tights. Well, they were the cover of Garvin's flesh. They were much darker than his own pasty white skin. Last week I said Garvin was no shooter. Perhaps he heard me 30 years in the future and wanted to prove me wrong, because he was doing all sorts of junior high level stuff. He won with a scary-looking brainbuster.

SuperPowers came out for a promo. Nikita talked about defending the US title against Tully Blanchard, and they both talked about winning a million dollars and the Crockett Cup.

They showed Bubba and Ole's brawl. Well, they showed one punch and Bubba going over the top rope.

Barbarian vs. Zane Smith. Barbarian teased press slamming Zane to the floor until Bill Dundee frantically told him to throw the other way. Din't want to get disqualified, you see. Zane fucked up something to an unforgivable degree but Barbarian was polite and did not murder him. Zane can't run the ropes. Good god end this. There was like a two-minute sharpshooter here. Barbarian used a tombstone and announcers acted like they had never seen this move before. Barbarian finally won with the diving headbutt.

Francis Crockett did a video package on Baltimore, home of the Crockett Cup. It was terrible. I'm almost positive that she said the "deteriorating roadhouses" were a key attraction.

Ivan Koloff & Dick Murdoch vs. Barry Windham & Ron Garvin. A new chant: "FIGHT BACK, RONNIE, FIGHT BACK! (clap, clap)" They were teasing hot tags maybe three minutes in and the fans were into it. They got him so close he had to make a superlative effort to NOT tag out. Then Windham tagged in right before they went to break, which of course caused David Crockett to scream his fool head off. When they came back Barry had Ivan in a sleeper and Crockett was still screaming. Then Barry got cut off and they worked him over for a while. Getting the heat on this big fucker in that tiny ring and keeping him out of the corner couldn't have been easy, but he was also great, so they pulled it off. He made his own comeback and got a nearfall with a powerslam, then Murdoch tagged in and they just started over. As much as I complain about every match following the exact same formula these days, it's jarring to watch these old matches when they do something different. We need to bring the atomic drop back to pro wrestling, just so we can get heels selling their ass in a comical manner. They went to another commercial break, and when they came back Murdoch had Windham in a sleeper. By the way, there was a fan with a sign reading "MERDOCK IS A YELLOW SUCKING DOG." So he's a dog who sucks yellow things? Murdoch hit a 747 for a nearfall, then Ivan hit a sickle for one. Ivan went up top, but got crotched. Barry finally hit a lariat and was able to rag Ronnie. Ronnie punched out Ivan, and Petrov for good measure, but then Jim Cornette and Bobby Eaton popped out through the side curtain and waffled him with the tennis racket, and Ivan rolled on top of Ronnie to win the match and the titles. The new champs, exhausted, cut a promo saying Ronnie and Barry couldn't touch them, and they were the new champs and ready for the Crockett Cup.

Cornette and the Express came out for a promo, feigning complete ignorance as to what had just happened and wishing they had been there to see that. He said he had a gift for Precious, and presented a box of dog biscuits. He ranted and raved and flapped his gums as the Midnights just stood there in silence, looking around at random things.

Brad Armstrong vs. El Lobo. This was every Brad Armstrong squash ever. They showed college basketball player Winston Garland watching along with Craig Sager to plug the NCAA tournament. Garland would go on to play in 511 NBA games, and I bet every one of them was more interesting than this match. They went to break with Brad holding the arm, and when they came back, he still had it by God. They kept saying the Crockett Cup was an offensive tournament. Are there that many defensive teams in the NWA? Are there time limit draws around the country I'm not aware of? They announced that the Japanese entry would be Giant Baba and Isao Takagi, a name that gave Crockett all sorts of problems. Brad eventually won with a legsweep, then he and Bullet Bob cut a promo hyping up the Crockett Cup.

From another show, Ole Anderson joined Tony Schiavonie for a promo. He said he had not heard from Ric Flair and Arn Anderson was confused and not thinking straight. He said Lex Luger had a promising future, but not if he hung out with JJ Dillon or the outsider Tully Blanchard. He said anyone who put business ahead of family was making a big mistake, and he wouldn't tolerate anyone talking about his boy. He called out Big Bubba. He admitted he was nearing the end of career, but vowed he was not done knocking heads or breaking arms, and everyone needed to watch out, because Anderson was coming. This was a great fucking promo.

Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson & Lex Luger vs. Randy Mulkey & Alan Martin & Larry Stevens. This wasn't much until Arn started shouting about family into the camera and the fans started chanting Ole's name. Arn won with the spinebuster and gourdbuster.

JJ Dillon cut a promo saying the Horsemen were back on one page and as tight as ever, and he promised a major announcement in the future.

Horsemen came back for another promo after the break. Arn said Ole was talking about family, but Ole was the one who had turned his back on Arn, leaving a tag team to go watch his son compete in an individual sport. Instead it was Tully picking him up in the morning, pushing him to train harder in the gym, then go eat at the fancy restaurants. He said they were not tag champions, and Ole wasn't a Horseman, so he hoped all that time watching his son wrestle was worth it. Now his mind was clear, and he warned Nikita he was coming for the US title. Dillon then announced that Kevin Sullivan would be replacing Ole as Arn's partner in the Crockett Cup. Arn was happy to hear this.

Lazor-Tron vs. Tommy Angel. They announced Lazor-Tron would be teaming with Jimmy Valiant in the Crockett Cup. My GOD what a team that is. "The leader of the people Jimmy Valiant, and the protector of the children, Lazor-Tron!" I love when there's nothing going on and there's like a minute of silence and then the announcers will throw out a "still has that leg" just to remind you they're still alive. Lazor-Tron with the flying double chop.

Midnight Express vs. Mike Jackson & Dexter Wescott. DEXTER WESCOTT is one of the great wrestling names I've ever heard. Shame it's wasted on this guy, who was NOT a star. Jackson hit a rollup for a two-count and Cornette was so shocked he shouted "HOLY MACKEREL!" Wescott tagged in, and the Express just stopped because they wanted nothing to do with him. Eventually they started, and oh Lord almighty he was terrible. Express then began to have some fun with him. Eaton made a cover and then rolled Westcott on top of himself just for fun. Eventually they brought Jackson back in and worked him over for a while. Express eventually pinned Wescott, who the announcers called John Todd, for the win. And when I looked up the match online, the jobbers were listed as Mike Jackson & John Todd. Well this is confusing.

Rock & Roll Express came out for a promo. Gibson actually spoke this week, admitting that the Awesome Twosome were world champs and deserved the top seed, but they were going to win the belts before the tournament, and then win the Crockett Cup too.

Rock & Roll Express vs. Randy Mulkey & Darrel Dalton. Wasn't Dalton like unwatchably bad last week? Dalton tagged in and couldn't stop laughing and so the Express hit him with the dropkick and got the hell out of there.

JJ Dillon and Lex Luger came out for a promo. Dillon said he was there to make his big announcement, and said normally the Horsemen liked to handle things in private. But now Ole had been airing dirty laundry in public. He talked about all the mail he got from Horsemen wannabes, and then one man had the guts to step up and say it publicly. He said they would have a party next week when Ric Flair returned, but to set things straight for the record, he wanted to publicly make Lex a member of the Horsemen. Lex was grateful to hear this, and said he didn't need Ole to fall on his face, he would have been a success one way or another. But now that this opportunity was being granted, he was proud to be a member of the family. Fans were chanting Ole's name and throwing him off his game, and Dillon had to help him get back on track and threatened to have all the fans thrown out.

Paul Jones and the Awesome Twosome came out for a promo. I've never seen a wrestler any happier than Manny Fernandez was when this started, just so excited to be himself and a part of this great team. Jones ran down their schedule across the country this week, and said they wouldn't just be defending the titles, they were looking to eliminate the competition from the Crockett Cup. Rude called themselves the Paul Jones Protection Agency. PJPA?.

Mike Rotunda vs. Thunderfoot #1. I went to the bathroom, and when I got back Rotunda hit the airplane spin for the win. Rotunda cut a promo vowing that he and Tim Horner were ready for the Crockett Cup. He was also challenging Ed Gantner for the Florida title tomorrow night. He said in the NWA, if you had the credentials and worked hard, you would get title shots, and it wasn't like that everywhere. Did Vince Russo write this promo? And that was the end of the show. Arn and Ole's promos were the best thing.

WWE Retro Raw 250 (3/9/98)

Rock & Faarooq vs. Steve Blackman & Ken Shamrock. They claimed Rock was the "self-proclaimed" IC champ. Isn't he the legit champ? He's got the belt. So they're doing this match, and suddenly there were weird lines running across the screen a strange humming sound, and then it went away. Announcers seemed caught off guard and stopped talking, then moved on like nothing had happened. A few minutes passed, then it happened again, and Ross apologized for the technical difficulties. Match was fun while it lasted. Shamrock got a hot tag, then the Nation attacked for the DQ. They isolated Shamrock in the ring, but Rock pulled them off saying he wanted Shamrock for himself. So Faarooq said OK, tough guy, and ordered everyone to leave. Shamrock made a comeback, and Faarooq stopped the Nation from going back to the ring to save. Even as Shamrock had Rock in the ankle lock at the bottom of the ramp, Faarooq kept pushing the troops backstage.

Triple H and Chyna came out for a promo. Hunter's hair here needs its own separate Hall of Fame induction. They showed Shawn superkicking Austin last week, then introduced a Shawn promo that was apparently filmed in a hockey-themed restaurant somewhere. The tables looked like hockey rinks and there were painting of skaters on the wall. Where the hell is this place? Shawn just said that he had "prior commitments," then bragged about recruiting Mike Tyson into DX. He said Austin was a fad, but he (Shawn) would be around for the long haul. He guaranteed he would win at Mania. And then, history, as for the first time Hunter said he had two words for us, and then they bleeped "Suck it.".

They showed an empty backstage area where Steve Austin would soon eventually be, and there were more technical difficulties.

Owen Hart vs. Barry Windham. Owen tried to get in Hunter's face, but Hunter hid behind Chyna. More technical difficulties. Hunter made fun of Owen's big nose and Ross noted the hypocrisy. They asked Hunter what he would do if Windham won the European title here and Hunter said he wasn't worried about that. Chyna caught Owen with a low blow in front of the ref. This made Windham the winner via DQ, but Owen kept his title. Hunter was cackling at Owen's fate, but ran for his life when Bradshaw ran out to attack Windham.

They showed a slow-mo replay and then freeze-frame of Owen rolling his ankle during the match. OW.

Jerry Lawler interviewed Paul Bearer and Kane backstage. Lawler started to ask about Undertaker, but Bearer cut him off and started talking about how Kane had destroyed Vader instead. A bench behind them opened and then slammed shut a few times, then a whole row of them. Bearer and Lawler ran for their lives. Kane just looked on in confusion.

Aguila vs. Brian Christopher. They noted Aguila had been dealing with the flu and a 100-plus-degree fever all day. Well I'm sure Christopher was thrilled to be in the ring with him. They couldn't have given him the day off? It was critical that Aguila wrestle Brian Christopher on this show? The lights started blinking in the arena. Christopher used the exact same sitting tombstone that nearly killed Steve Austin at SummerSlam. This got a shocking amount of time. Christopher hit a sunset flip powerbomb to the floor, then took a shot at Taka Michinoku, who was in Aguila's corner. Aguila made a luchariffic comeback, including a wacky lucha submission. Lawler jumped on the apron. Taka went after him, and Lawler easily kicked his ass. Yes, the light heavyweight champion just got manhandled and abused by an announcer. Shocking this division didn't get over. Anyway, the ref caught Lawler interfering for the DQ. Christopher kept up the attack until Taka dropkicked him off the apron into Lawler. What a mess this was. The lights kept flickering several times, by the way.

Steve Austin arrived and came down to the ring. They said he had had a confrontation with WWF officials at an airport and also skipped a photoshoot. Austin had them show Vince calling Mike Tyson the baddest man on the planet several times, then said this was an insult to him. He tossed a chair into the ring and said he was going to sit there all night until Vince came out to talk to him. Steve Austin is the only man ever who could look badass in a fanny pack. Gerald Brisco and Jack Lanza came out and tried to get Austin to come backstage with him. He refused, so they let and Sgt. Slaughter came out. "Ladies and gentlemen," Austin explained, "this is a rib." They showed an exasperated Vince trying to figure out what to do backstage. Austin pointed out that Mania was just around the corner, he was in the main event, there was no way they were going to fire or suspend him. They went to commercial, and when they came back Pat Patterson came out with the shortest, fattest, oldest security guards you ever saw. Austin threatened to kick their asses, and they left too. Vince finally came to ringside. Austin said that he had called himself the world's toughest son of a bitch, and then Vince had pulled the carpet out from under him by blowing smoke up Mike Tyson's ass. Vince, who appeared to be wearing Andre the Giant's jacket and a shirt collar right out of the 1970s, said that "baddest man on the planet" had just been a figure of speech. Austin asked if Vince wanted him to be champion and Vince refused to answer. He started to leave when Austin called him back and dared him to fight. He offered Vince a free shot, then grabbed the jacket and started tearing it apart. Well now we know where this jacket came from. Vince clearly went to his closet and picked the ugliest jacket in there. Austin gave Vince 10 seconds to hit him or get out of the ring, and Vince left. Austin said Vince, DX, and Tyson were all in this together to make sure he was never champion, and threatened to kick Hunter's ass tonight, then threatened to kick Shawn's ass at Mania. Well, Steve Austin cut great promos, everyone. Not breaking news.

Quebecers vs. Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie. We outright lost visual of the screen at one point. Didn't feel like we missed much. They also explained that due to Austin's hijacking, the NWA tag title match was being moved to Superstars. Jack got a hot tag and made a big comeback, then broke down into a four-way. We had moonsaults and top rope ranas from these big, old men. Crowd didn't care. Quebecers missed a corner charge and Jack hit a double-arm DDT for the win. Just a mess of a match. Road Dogg came out with his arm in a sling. He dared them to come fight and Jack obliged, but Billy Gunn came through the crowd, wacked Charlie with a chair, and ran away. He cut a promo warning Jack to never leave Charlie's side again.

Paul Bearer and Kane came out for a promo. Bearer went off about what a mistake Taker had make by returning, warning him that he had stepped into an inferno and this was not a game, when the lights went out and Taker's gong sounded. They came back up and Taker was in the ring. Kane went after him and the lights went out again, for a while this time, and when they came back Taker was gone. Bearer warned again that this was not a game, and at Mania Taker would face his brother eye to eye, then go back to the dark side, never to return.

Goldust vs. Marc Mero. Goldust came out this week in his normal Goldust gear, no goofy imitations or gimmicks. Luna and Sable were handcuffed to the posts in their respective corners. Mero was chasing Goldust around the ring when Luna tripped him for the heat. They were stressing that when you called your cable company, you needed to order WrestleMania on PPV by name. Are you telling me there were fans ordering WCW PPVs on accident? Actually, I can totally imagine wrestling fans doing that. Ref got bumped. Goldust hit Mero with the curtain call, then leg-dropped the ref and stole the key to the handcuffs. He teased un-cuffing Sable, who was dumb enough to fall for it, then released Luna instead. Luna attacked Sable by grabbing her from behind and smearing makeup all over her face. They finally un-cuffed Sable, who went screaming (literally) backstage as refs and Mero tried to hold her back.

Goldust and Luna did a promo backstage, challenging Mero & Sable to a mixed tag match at Mania.

Mike Tyson video package, focusing on all the mainstream press they got. This included future YAMMA ring announcer Scott Ferrell. Then Ross interviewed Tyson backstage. Tyson admitted that Austin had pissed him off pretty bad by flipping him off. Ross asked how Tyson could be fair not that he had associated himself with DX and Shawn Michaels. He said life wasn't fair, nobody treated him fairly, and fair was winning. And he stormed off.

Triple H vs. Savio Vega. Yes, this was the alleged main event. Officials and the Boricuas were at ringside to defend the wrestlers from Austin. Ten seconds in, Austin hit the ring and stormed through security and stunned a ref, a Brisco, and Savio, but then Shawn Michaels appeared and dropped Austin with a superkick. DX triple-teamed Austin, and the show ended with Shawn literally in the middle of swinging a chair to cave his head in. Much better than last week's show, that's for sure.

WCW Monday Nitro 130 (3/9/98)

They opened with a clip from Thunder with Randy Savage warning Hulk Hogan that half the guys in the nWo couldn't wait to stab Hogan in the back, and his phone was blowing up with guys wanting to jump ship and join him. Well what's stopping them? Liz said that Savage, not Hogan, was the real man. Savage added that if Hogan wanted to hear that again, he could go ask his wife. Hogan didn't take that well.

The Cat vs. Damian. THE CAT VERSUS DAMIAN. Only on Nitro. Cat was out there in full Muay Thai gear and stance. They called Damian a youngster from Mexico. He was 37 here. Short match, basically a squash for Cat. He won with a running kick off the top rope.

Bischoff and Hogan came out for a promo. They talked about Savage's family only having a roof over their heads because of what Hogan had done in this business. Hogan said Savage had dragged his family into this, and then said the following: "It was your choice to drag your wife into this business, your choice to drag your, excuse me, ex-wife into the dressing rooms, to mingle with the boys, to act like one of the boys, and believe me, she DID the boys!" Bischoff had been just smiling and nodding this whole time, playing a role, and then two or three seconds later the gravity of what Hulk Hogan had just said on live TV hit him and a look of sheer horror wiped over his face. This was the funniest thing I've seen on a wrestling show in I don't know how long. So Hogan said now Savage was alone on an island, and the nWo was laughing at him, and Hogan would prove in the cage that Savage couldn't hang with him.

Mean Gene and the Nitro Girls were on campus at Duke University. A guy got right on screen with a "coed naked wrestling" sign.

Sick Boy vs. Lenny Lane. Sick Boy did one of the worst lockups I've ever seen. I watched it like five times. Lodi had "GO HEELS!" written on his back, a great basketball and pro wrestling in-joke. Lane did a dive onto both Sick Boy and Lodi and somehow nobody caught him. Then he hit a horrendous missile dropkick. What an awful match this is. Sick Boy hit an F5. Really. Apparently, for the record, this show was in Wake Forest country. Sick Boy missed a top rope elbow and it looked like he landed right on the point of his elbow. Lane made a HORRENDOUS comeback. How in the HELL did this match make TV? Lenny botched a springboard stunner worse than John Cena ever has, and then Sick Boy won with a pedigree of all things. This was an all-time horrible match right here. Worst match of the year for 1998 was Hollywood Hogan vs. Warrior, which, OK, that was worse than this. But my GOD this was awful.

Mike Tenay brought Giant out for a promo. Giant came out in a neckbrace, looking from one side to the other. Well that neckbrace sucks. Giant noted he had a bad neck, but now Nash had a bad back, so they were even going into the PPV. He said Nash was yellow and hiding from him. He brought out a few friends, and out came Sting and Randy Savage. Sting was carrying the world title for once. Savage ran his mouth as Sting attacked turnbuckles with a baseball bat. Savage challenged Hogan to find two partners and face them in a six-man tag. By the way, the Sting sabotage continues, as he is now THIRD on the card behind Savage and Giant even as world champion.

Barry Darsow vs. Goldberg. Imagine Krusher Khruschev wrestling shirtless on national TV in 1998. He didn't look bad, but he didn't look very good either. He actually got offense after Goldberg hit the post. After a minute of this, Goldberg no-sold a turnbuckle shot and hit the spear and jackhammer for the win. Place went nuts for that.

Back at Duke, Kimberly plugged the Nitro Girls in bikinis on the website. I'm sure this caused thousands of modems around the country to crackle and buzz.

Scott Hall came out and ran down Savage, then volunteered to team with Hulk later. He called out Sting. They're having a title match at Uncensored. I literally had no idea. Saying Sting was third from the top might have been giving him too much credit.

Kevin Nash came out for a promo and also pledged loyalty to Hogan. Yes, this needed to be two segments. With a commercial break in the middle even. He said he still felt pain in his back from when Giant powerbombed him, but he was going to fight through it and would hurt Giant worse at Uncensored. He rallied the crowd behind him and said he'd be willing to fight anytime. Great heel.

Kidman vs. Dean Malenko. These guys had such great execution but nobody cared. Chris Jericho came out to watch. He had a chat with the Flock. Malenko won with a gutbuster off the top and a cloverleaf. Jericho led the Flock into the ring to confront Malenko, but they attacked him instead. He ran for safety. Reese sure was huge.

Hogan and Bischoff came back out. Even the announcers were like, man, the nWo is all OVER this show. They said Savage was stupid, and they would have no trouble beating him up in a six-man later.

They showed the Tar Heels football coach, who was literally sitting next to the Flock.

Earlier today at Duke, Goldberg and Disco Inferno were signing autographs. One of these things is not like the other.

Brian Adams vs. Kaos of High Voltage. How did Adams rate the main nWo theme and not the B-team music? Crush hit a hundred moves in a row. He did press the dude and carry him around forever, which was amazing. High Voltage, I guess the babyfaces, cheated to give Kaos some offense. Then nobody cared about his comeback I wonder why. They blatantly tried a double-team in front of the ref but Adams destroyed them both and hit a tilt-a-whirl slam for the win. He hit one on Rage as well, and demanded a three-count there too. Great heel. This fucking sucked and was stupid.

Konnan came out for a promo. Now the annoucers were asking how many times they'd have to hear the nWo music in this show. He refused to wrestle Juvy tonight, but said he found someone who would, and Juvy could get a match against Konnan if he won. "He's got something up his sleeveless shirt," Heenan noted. Juvy came out, then the nWo theme played again.

Juventud Guerrera vs. Scott Norton. Juvy tried a dive and some chops but Norton ignored everything and killed him. This went on for a while and eventually Norton pinned him with a shoulderbreaker. Announcers tried to push this as a win for Juvy because he had not submitted. Yeah, good one.

Benoit-DDP-Raven video package.

Chris Benoit & DDP vs. Raven & Saturn. Raven and Saturn had not been with the Flock earlier. They had a lot of time and a good match. Page, the biggest dude in the match, was still a great Ricky Morton. Saturn hit about as big a top rope legdrop as you'll ever see. Benoit finally tagged in and whipped everyone's ass in a great display. He locked Raven in the crossface, but Page hit a diamond cutter on Saturn that landed on Benoit. So Benoit and Page brawled with each other and got counted out. Crap finish, but it makes sense, and everything up to that had been very good.

Goldberg and Disco spent some time at Duke children's hospital. Back at the party, everyone said that Domino's was the best pizza they had ever had. Remind me to never order pizza in North Carolina.

Konnan vs. Davey Boy Smith. WHAT? Yes, that's what they've booked. They mentioned doing a Nitro on April 27 in Norfolk, Virginia, DON'T BE FOOLED, WE'RE IN THE SCOPE. Well that's going to be a fun show. And again, how dumb did these people think their fans were? Davey Boy fired up the fans and announcers assumed someone was coming down the ramp or through the crowd. They worked much better together than I expected, but fans weren't into it. Davey Boy won with a powerslam off the ropes. Weird finish that almost looked like Konnan got hurt on the move and just stayed down.

Tenay brought Ric Flair out for a promo. Flair sucked up to the Carolina fans and vowed to beat up Curt Hennig later.

Disco Inferno vs. Chris Jericho. Announcers spent way too much time trying to figure out Jericho's "Monday Night Jericho" t-shirt. They had the people believing that Disco had won the TV title with a rolling neckbreaker. Jericho cut him off and won with the Boston crab. Well this was a success.

Back at Duke. Everyone kept rubbing Gene's head and he was getting pissed.

Chavo Guerrero Jr. vs. Booker T. Eddie came out to argue with Chavo about something. Booker stuck his nose in their business and shoved Eddie aside, but the bell rang and Chavo jumped him from behind. Eddie, by the way, was out there in jeans and no shirt even though he had not wrestled on the show. They were on different pages and tripping all over each other here. Booker won with the missile dropkick. Well this was no good. Eddie consoled Chavo, then dropped him with a brainbuster.

Curt Hennig vs. Ric Flair. Flair cut a promo promising that this would be for Winston-Salem, for WCW, and for every Horseman that ever walked the aisle. They brawled a few minutes. Flair hung Hennig in the tree of woe and laid a chair on his face when the nWo attacked for the DQ. Bret Hart hit the ring for the save. There's times watching this show that I forget Bret extsts, that WCW recently signed away the guy who never legitimately lost the championship of their rival promotion.

Scott Steiner & Scott Norton vs. Lex Luger & Rick Steiner. Rick came out with a doberman pincher. "They brought their sister!" Heenan cried. "The missing Steiner!" Story, of course, was that Scott Steiner refused to get in the ring to wrestle Rick. Watching Rick throw Norton around, I'd have refused to get in the ring with him too. And finally he tagged in when Rick was already down, then tagged back out the instant Rick showed signs of life. Eventually all four men brawled to the back and got counted out. Well that was fucking lame.

Hulk Hogan & Scott Hall & Kevin Nash vs. Sting & Randy Savage & the Giant. Schiavonie pointed out this was virtually a rematch of the match that started the nWo in the first place at Bash at the Beach. Giant was apparently prepared to wrestle this match in street clothes and a neckbrace. And throw headbutts. Same deal here, where each heel was reluctant to tag in against his respective rival. Hogan accidentally tagged Nash in against Giant and was apologetic. They got the heat on Giant and his bad neck. Savage hadn't even tagged in yet. They trapped Giant in the corner for like three or four minutes and just took turns choking him and hitting him in the head and neck. They were triple clubbering him in the corner and he made a comeback so violent even Sting went flying. Savage finally tagged in -- and the action just stopped. Giant, who had just tagged out, chased Nash to the locker room. Savage and Hogan had a staredown, then finally Savage ran wild on him. Sting ran wild on Hall. Brutus Beefcake appeared and wiped out Savage with a stunner, and Hogan made the cover for the pin. Weird finish, but at least we GOT a finish, and the match had been very fun up to that point.

WWE Monday Night Raw (3/6/17)

Chris Jericho came out for a promo. They were in Chicago, which is always a hot crowd, and they loved him. He was still doing jokes, saying Owens had stuck a knife in the back of Jericho, and twisted it in, man. He called out Owens to explain why their friendship had ended. Owens said Jericho was never his best friend and the crowd gasped. Sami Zayn HAD been his best friend, and he stabbed Sami in the back, and he'd do it again. But Jericho had just been a tool, and then he outlived his usefulness by accepting the match against Goldberg on Owens' behalf. They went back and forth for a while. Jericho sucked up to the fans and challenged Owens to a match at Mania. Owens said he had Universal title rematch coming, but that could wait, he wanted to take Jericho's title away. Oh yeah, Jericho's US champ. Jericho immediately agreed to a title match. Jericho dared him to come fight now and Owens obliged, but then Samoa Joe hit the ring to make it a two-on-one. Sami Zayn ran out with a chair to make the save. He still got beat. What a geek. Jericho got the chair and cleaned house. From the moment Owens hit the ring, to the moment Jericho and Zayn were standing alone in the ring, I counted 48 camera cuts in 70 seconds. People are going to have seizures watching this show.

Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn. Match was booked and started during the break. Owens hit a pop-up powerbomb out of nowhere, but couldn't recover in time to make a cover. So he beat Sami to death and hit another pop-up powerbomb for the win. Well OK then. Can't say they didn't put him over strong here.

Neville vs. Rich Swann. Pretty sure this is the first cruiserweight match on Hulu this year. I don't know what the hell they were trying, but Swann basically got backdropped headfirst onto the apron. Jesus. Neville threw his head into the LED screen on the side of the ring for good measure. Very intense, super-fast paced match. Swann missed a corkscrew 450 and Neville hooked a Rings of Saturn for the win. Fun for the three minutes we saw. Austin Aries then got in the ring to interview Neville, asking him how it felt to be on top of the mountain. Neville couldn't respond because the crowd was chanting Aries' name. Aries thanked them and repeated his question. Neville talked about beating all his challengers and how there was nobody on 205 Live who could hold a candle to him. Aries worked the "WHAT?" chant into his question, saying the people couldn't hear, are you sure nobody's on your level? Fans chanted his name again. Neville said Aries couldn't seriously be suggesting himself. He warned Aries to go back to the announce desk and make his jokes, before he broke Aries' orbital socket again. Aries removed his sunglasses and said he was just doing his job. Neville dared him to do something. Aries said he had just one more question. Actually, not a question, a statement, and he decked Neville with the mic and sent him packing with a discus elbow. He teased something off the top, but Neville ran away. THIS SEGMENT WAS FUCKING AMAZING. Both guys were great, but Aries in particular has just been OUT OF THIS WORLD on the mic lately. Remember when he didn't make Tough Enough?.

Goldberg came out for a promo. He was wearing the Universal title around his waist, over his street clothes, which always looks funny. Decidedly mixed reaction from the crowd. He said the title belonged to the people as much as him, because he could not have done it without them. Crowd interrupted with chants for CM Punk, which Goldberg acknowledged. He said he was about to reveal information that he had never revealed publicly when Paul Heyman interrupted. He said he had not come alone and introduced Brock, who was (ahem) universally cheered. Brock and Goldberg had a staredown while Heyman cut a promo for them. He promised that Brock would win the title at Mania, and Brock smiled and offered a handshake. Goldberg just smiled back. Heyman slowly made his way behind Goldberg, then said at Mania Goldberg would be Brock's bitch. This made Goldberg take his eye off Lesnar for just a second, and Brock grabbed him and laid him out for an F5. The next month leading up to this match is going to rule.

Rick Rude Hall of Fame video. Much to my surprise, they included some WCW stuff, including his win over Ric Flair for whatever version of the world championship that was. It really sucks that Rude and most of his best friends are long dead.

Women's History Month tribute to the Trish-Lita feud. They showed Lita folding in half in that Raw main event and I screamed in pain 15-plus years later.

Mick Foley brought Bayley down to the ring for a promo. She said she did not feel like a champion after asking Dana to stay backstage last night, and then having Sasha interfere. Wait, they're going right back to this storyline about whether she is a worthy champ or not? She gave a half-hearted promo about being on her first Mania card, then said it didn't feel like it should. Foley said it didn't matter how you got here, it only matters that you're going to Mania. What great heels these two are. Sasha came out and said something about how you couldn't trust Dana to stay backstage, then challenged Bayley to a Mania match. And then Charlotte, the one who has actually been screwed in this storyline, came out. She explained how this was all a plan by Sasha to get another title shot, because she wasn't supposed to get another one after losing at ROADBLOCK END OF THE LINE. She accurately said she was the victim of a conspiracy scheme. Steph came out, and the crowd exploded in chants for CM Punk. Everyone stood in a semicircle facing the camera in the phoniest, most unnatural manner possible. Steph said whatever the fuck she was saying and the chants for Punk nearly drowned her out. She booked Bayley-Charlotte for Mania. Foley suggested Sasha wrestle Charlotte with the winner getting a title shot next week. Steph refused to put Charlotte's title shot at stake, but agreed that Sasha could join the match in a three-way if she could beat Bayley right now. Bayley and Sasha were reluctant to fight. Why? Sasha JUST CHALLENGED HER ten minutes ago!.

Bayley vs. Sasha. They started out like they were going to be out there for an hour. And maybe they were, because they went to break and it had clearly been edited when they came back. Charlotte and Dana went to ringside. Match kept going and nobody really cared, because it was two heels against each other. Sasha hooked the Banks statement. Dana took the ref. Charlotte tried to interfere, but Sasha kicked her away, and Bayley tapped. Got about no reaction for the win. Charlotte laid her out afterwards.

Charlie interviewed Roman about Strowman. Wait, what? ROMAN WON LAST NIGHT! WHY IS THAT FEUD CONTINUING?.

Rollins-Hunter video package. Then they showed Seth going through rehab for is knee injury. The facility had all kinds of sports memorabilia in the wall, including a Triple H poster. Nice. Then Hunter did a "live via satellite" promo, talking about how great it was that WWE provided such great care for its athletes. He said he had never thought of nicknames like Cerebral Assassin or the Game or King of Kings. I laughed. He again warned Seth not to show up at Mania.

Chris Jericho vs. Samoa Joe. They wrestled about three minutes, then Joe hooked the choke on the floor, put Jericho out, and rolled back in to win by countout. Yay. Jericho hit a codebreaker afterwards as Graves said this was a big win for Joe. So, you know, the usual WWE bullshit where nobody gets over.

Braun Strowman came out for a promo. He challenged Roman to come fight. Roman's music started, but was quickly cut off by Undertaker's entrance. Taker came out, which took a few minutes, and stared down Braun. Braun eventually backed away. Then Taker's music played again and he was about to leave when Roman's music interrupted. His entrance also took a few minutes, and he had a staredown with Taker. He informed Taker that this was his yard now. Crowd told Roman he sucked. They looked at THE SIGN, then Taker hit a chokeslam. And the show ended. Well OK then.

WWE NXT 3/8/17

They were out of Full Sail and on campus at, I think they said, Central Florida. It was a vast improvement.

Tye Dillinger vs. Eric Young. As promised, Eric ordered the rest of Sanity to the back to face Dillinger by himself. Some geek who was sitting way too close to a mic was singing Oh Canada like this was TNA again. Then, before the match could start, Sanity dragged Roderick Strong's limp body out by the entranceway. This was Roderick Strong lying there in street clothes, which means he was unrecognizable from 5 feet away and the crowd had NO idea what was going on. Jose came out looking like No Way Jose and the place went nuts. Young was shouting "YOU DID THAT!" repeatedly. Officials helped Roddy to the back and Tye and Jose charged the ring. They were soon overwhelmed and got laid out. It took a while. This all took about ten minutes and when it was done, nothing had been accomplished. There was no match, and the result of the quote-unquote angle is that Sanity still doesn't like Tye and his pals.

Peyton and Billie had a Breakout Star of the Year award they wanted to hang in the performance center somewhere. They saw Ember Moon working out and insulted her, then she charged and they ran away. Seriously, that was the whole thing.

Candles went out in an abandoned warehouse. A tattooed man said he was neither saint nor sinner, because no man was good or evil. "Fade to black" were his last words.

Ho Ho Lun vs. Andrade Almas. Complete squash for Almas, who decided to wrestle like Andre the Giant here because Ho Ho is so tiny. I mean, he is. Almas never left his feet until he hit his convoluted DDT for the win. Best part was Nigel cackling when Almas hit a big lariat.

Billie Kay vs. Ember Moon. Peyton interfered for the heat because neither of these women is ever allowed to stand out from each other. Ember made her comeback and went up top. Peyton went to get her, but Ember stared her down and Peyton backed down, and Ember hit Billie with the eclipse for the win. Ember remains really good. Billie was down for several minutes after the match. She was moving her arms and legs, but holding her neck and head. Nigel said he had seen TWO women go out on stretchers after taking this move at the performance center. Billie sat up and they all circled her while still facing the hard camera, then she slowly walked out on her own, basically pushing the medics away and looking annoyed.

Kayla interviewed TJ Perkins. He said he traveled the planet in search of competition, and he was here to face Nakamura. Shin had accused him of stealing the flying armbar, but he didn't steal moves, he stole moments.

Revival vs. Ealy Brothers. Ealys are two big twin brothers. They jumped on the apron when the Authors of Pain attacked them from behind, yanking one off the apron and he fell at a wacky angle and nearly broke his leg. Revival headed for the hills and Authors left.

Backstage, William Regal told Ember that she would be challenging Asuka at Takeover. Ember said the championship would be entering a new PHASE. You know, because she's Ember MOON.

Tom Phillips did a sitdown interview with Kassius Ohno at the performance center. He talked about being there when they were just unloading stuff in an empty warehouse, and now he was back in this big fancy place. He talked about wrestling and winning championships all over the world, and how being in NXT was the first time he ever doubted himself, and that doubt would be there until he was NXT champion. Plus, being NXT champion would allow him to main event Takeover on Mania weekend. Then we got Roode speaking "via satellite" from his home in Toronto, which was decorated with a framed photo of himself. He said as champion, he had a responsibility to mold NXT in his image, and how the champion should look like him, not a long-haired hippie from the '70s. He promised to win next week and main event Mania weekend.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. TJ Perkins. A good match that was missing something. Maybe I was wrong about this place being better than Full Sail. But it was largely two dudes doing cool moves in a silent building. There were dueling chants, but they were half-hearted. They did a big series transitioning back and forth from MMA submissions to pro wrestling finishes, and TJ hooked his kneebar on Nakamura's bad knee. Perkins was able to avoid Nakamura's comeback once or twice, but Shinsuke eventually hit the kinshasa for the win.

Regal made an announcement backstage that whoever won next week's Roode-Ohno championship match would defende against Nakamura at Takeover. Well there you go.