Figure Four Weekly 3/21/2016: Hulk Hogan awarded $115 million by jury (Sort of)By Observer Staff | firstname.lastname@example.org | @WONF4W
The trial of Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker Media, Nick Denton, and A.J. Daulerio (who we’ll collectively call “Gawker” unless we need to be more specific) turned out to be quite possibly even more of a circus than anyone even could have imagine, as of this writing, it resulted in Hogan being awarded $115 million in compensatory damages with punitive damages still to come. The jury split the compensatory damages as $60 million in emotional damagers and $55 million in lost wages, with the latter number determined in large part from how much Hogan claimed he would have made if he had decided to market the video. He most likely won’t get close to that, if anything. There’s a question of exactly what Gawker will need to do to appeal, as Florida has various laws relating to posting a bond to secure the award when filing an appeal. There are alternatives, but the options including Gawker trying to stay the bond with the trial judge (unlikely given Judge Campbell’s rulings up to this point), posting the maximum allowed $50 million bond, or having to hire a bond company and paying about $12 million so the bond company can post $50 million.
The prevailing belief is that Gawker would win an appeal. To boil it down, Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeals (colloquially referred to as the 2DCA) is very media friendly, and their past rulings in the case suggest that they heavily favor Gawker’s arguments. Specifically: Back when Hogan first got an injunction to remove Gawker’s video and article from Judge Pamela Campbell, the trial judge in Pinellas County Court, the 2DCA reversed it on First Amendment grounds. When Gawker then filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit citing the 2DCA ruling on the issue central to the case, Campbell denied it, which they felt was ignoring the appellate ruling. When Gawker then filed a writ with the 2DCA, asking them to take up the cause of dismissing Hogan’s entire lawsuit on the same First Amendment grounds. The 2DCA dismissed the writ without weighing in...meaning they didn’t deny it, which suggests that the court would rule in their favor when the verdict is appealed. Which means Hogan will either get nothing or a dramatically reduced award.
In the long-term, the legacy of the case may be much more than what Gawker did originally, in large part thanks to a nearly 2,000 page release of previously sealed documents released the day of the closing arguments and verdict by the 2DCA. As noted in much of our coverage of the case, a large number of filings had been sealed, with anything relating to the FBI investigation into the attempted extortion of Hogan (and by extension, his racist comments) being “Attorneys’ Eyes Only.” The Tampa Bay Times and various other media organizations cried foul, but Judge Campbell, of course, denied their intervening motion asking to overturn her ruling keeping certain items sealed. Last week, the 2DCA reversed all of that, resulting in all of the named motions, exhibits, and so on being released shortly after 4:00 p.m on Friday. Given the ruling’s language, it was expected that there would be an attempt to get all of the sealed documents in the case released, including those filed after the original rulings. That motion was literally filed right as we went to press.
The central issues to what was revealed (at least from what myself and other reproters have read so far) pertained to something covered her in January: Gawker’s feeling that Hogan’s emotional distress was actually rooted in fear that the Gawker post would lead to his racist comments popping up somewhere. Only the details that Judge Campbell chose not to redact from an unsealed version of Gawker’s December motion to dismiss and motion for a final screening of the unredacted Hogan/Heather Cole DVDs really had any substantive details before Friday. Now, we know that Hogan’s conversations with lawyer David Houston early on focused on the racist comments more than the sex, as did his text messages with Bubba Clem. He’s angry about his trust being violated, but you never see comments about his embarrassment over the whole world seeing him naked, having sex, etc.
At least so far, I haven’t seen anything from Hogan’s attorneys arguing any of this was taken out of context, and that there are statements from Hogan to Bubba or Houston expressing frustration at the actual sex tape part. But it certainly seems like it’s relevant to the idea that he deserves $60 million in damages for emotional distress.
Between additional depositions as well as FBI records and references thereto, it certainly seems as if various involved parties lied either under oath during deposition testimony or while giving statements to the FBI. That could lead to charges of perjury or giving false statements, respectively. In her deposition testimony, which finished off Gawker’s case, Heather Cole claimed that she had no idea she was being filmed during her sexual encounters with Hogan. The problem there is that she told both the FBI and the Tampa Police Department otherwise. The latter appears to be the true version, as the video with the racist comments shows her and Bubba talking plainly about what just happened being recorded. Bubba told the FBI that Hogan knew he was being recorded, while he testified otherwise in his deposition (which is probably why he fought testifying and promised to assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination). Bubba also testified that Hogan and Heather were only on video once because there was only one sexual encounter (there are believed to have been four, with three on video).
Hogan does appear to have given accurate statements to the FBI, but under oath, both at trial and in his depositions, his stories included not knowing if Andre the Giant would shoot on him and refuse to put him over at WrestleMania III, telling a variation of the “I quit wrestling to work on the docks in Tampa” story, and speaking of his presidential bid as legitimate. As in he outright said he did polling which showed him winning against Bill Clinton by a two to one margin. Of course, Clinton wasn’t legally able to run for re-election in the election in question. He also claimed that he didn’t end up running because of concerns about assassination and the pay cut. This actually happened, and it was actually Gawker that asked the question about Andre the Giant as part of a line of questioning about what a work is, to set up the idea that maybe the whole lawsuit was a work on Hogan’s part to get publicity.
Expect this to drag on for a while, especially with all of the side issues like theoretical perjury or making false statements charges.
Before the AAA Rey de Reyes preview, here’s a recap of last week’s big non-AAA news items:
CMLL ran El Homenaje a Dos Leyendas before roughly 13,000 fans (about 80% full, which I would consider a bit of a disappointment for a lineup this good for their second-biggest show of the year). Good: Rush won the hair of Maximo. Volador Jr. won the hair of Negro Casas. Mexico beat Japan in the 8-man tag. Thunder was not mentioned. Bad: 20-25% empty seats. Oro Jr. stuck out badly as not-ready-for-prime-time in the opener. Pierroth Jr. (Rush’s dad, finally acknowledged as such) is the new Ingobernable to replace Sombra. Cibernetico vs. Ultimo Guerrero is a thing now. Minor iPPV feed troubles, especially in the last 10:00. Overall – major thumbs up; great matches.
Elite, a partner promotion to/with CMLL, obtained TV through TVAzteca, one of two national broadcast networks in Mexico – and promptly announced Brian Cage to face Rush in the main event of their first taping (which airs the first weekend of April). It’s not difficult to believe that for the next few months, Elite might be the most new-filled promotion in Mexico. Lots of rumors and guesses flying around (along the lines of … who’s in charge, which wrestlers will work for the promotion, what their big shows will be, US internet access, and so on), most of which will be confirmed or disproven one with thing pretty quickly. This would bring us to…
Konnan and the Lucha Underground wrestlers – what does the above mean for them in Mexico, and what does the above mean for them, and even L:U itself) – Konnan, no longer with AAA, would seem to have some definite influence in at least one project about to start (even including rumors of a Monterrey-based regional territory, though I’m not sure that’s a viable option generally speaking in the current lucha marketplace)
Well, finally, after all these months, AAA is set to run a big show on which their main title, voluntarily relinquished by Alberto el patron, will be filled. This Wednesday, 3/23, it’s Rey de Reyes – and as of press time, no internet access to a live stream (pair of free) has yet been announced. Let’s go through the matches, with the advisory that AAA could logically decide to run any of the top three major matches in any order once the card starts. And let’s pray it doesn’t rain again like last years’ Rey de Reyes.
AAA Mega Title – The man Alberto el Patron beat for the title, Texano Jr., will wrestle the man Texano Jr. beat for the title, El Mesias. Both are nominal rudos going into the match. I may be America’s biggest Texano Jr. fan, and I’d put the title on him, but my guess is the current front office leadership see Mesias as a bigger draw for the rest of this year’s Mega Show, and will want Mesias defending the title on those shows.
Mano a Mano – Dr. Wagner Jr., the fan-favorite rudo, faces a very popular tecnico in Psycho Clown. It has been reported that these two are headed to a mask match at TripleMania. I had anticipated this as a singles match, the WON has reported it as part of a tag, but most agree that these two are slated, at least as of the moment, for the TripleMania main event. Accordingly, I expect this match and nay other big-show bouts these two are in to be booked accordingly, as set-up matches in a major feud with a blow-off within 6 months. Either could win here, this is just a refueling station on the way to the final destination.
Rey de Reyes Final - Old tecnico La Parka, old tecnico Blue Demon Jr., old rudo Villano IV, and Young rudo pentagon Jr. are the final four. If the TripleMania tag match includes V-IV and Demon, as one report has stated, then these two should double-eliminate here. That would leave multi-time sword winner La Parka and one of the future stars of the promotion, my choice to win, Pentagon Jr. If these two are the last two, who wins will tell us a huge amount about the new AAA booking strategy of relying once again on the veterans to sell tickets. One curveball here is that Pentagon Jr. is a major force in Lucha Underground and close to Konnan; if AAA suspects that Pentagon Jr. is headed to Elite (which is a scenario to consider, and even if he isn’t, they may choose to book as if), then Parka would go over here.
AAA Trios Titles – The Three Horseman (Zorro, Cuero, and Scoria) defend against young flyers Drago, Fenix, and Aerostat. Were I booker, the young flyers would be champions. I suspect the current regime thinks the exact opposite.
AAA Tag Titles – Champions Averno and Chessman defend against two team of rivals: Jack Evans and Australian Suicide and also Daga and Joe Lider, these latter two the main remaining legacy of Perros de Mal in the company. With the show coming pretty close to the one-year anniversary of Aguayo Jr.’s death, I can see a Daga and Lider win; add to that the renewed possibility that Averno, going nowhere with AAA at the present time, might find in his email any day now an offer of work with his buddies at the Elite promotion, well, that might be another reason to change titles.
AAA Relevos Atomicos de Locura – You know you care. Don’t try to hide it. You thrill to yet another big-show match up of Mamba and Pimpinela. It’s okay, we all do. Anyway, this match on this card is to set up a match late this year in which Fabi Apache will challenge Taya Valkyrie for the women’s crown here, and the finish will be whatever is needed to push that storyline along. Overall, not nearly the card that Dos Leyendas was, but there could be quite a few highlights and there should be some real news coming from the show; AAA is in a tough battle not to be relegated to 3rd place of 3 national promotions by the end of this year, something with which their Televisa business partners would not be pleased, to put it mildly.
wXw’s 16 Carat Gold Night 1 was released on their Vimeo On Demand service this week. Night 2 and Night 3 are still to come, so we’ll only cover those once they are released too. The best matches of Night 1 included the tournament opener; Big Daddy Walter vs Zack Sabre Jr., and a fantastic high-flying affair between Will Ospreay and Shane Strickland. Walter and Sabre Jr. have a very strong rapport and displayed it wonderfully here, with Walter dominating the early going by using his size to ‘lean on’ Sabre and never let him lock in his own holds; a very simple but logical tactic to build the match around. Sabre had to switch up his style and threw out some lucha-inspired moves in order to throw Walter off and get some space to work with. Sabre eventually managed to hit his penalty kick and hook Walter in a bridging roll-up pin to win a very exciting and intriguing match that set a high bar for the rest of the matches to try to clear.
However, Ospreay vs Strickland managed to clear that bar in an absolute world-class showcase of athleticism. The first few minutes were light-hearted, including a dance-off to Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long’ (sadly dubbed over on the VOD), but after a while the one-upmanship of moves between the pair took a more competitive turn, and the intensity of the match really rose. Top rope reverse rana attempts, Matrix-style counters and general craziness were all heightened by a raucous crowd, and the match certainly left an impression, with Drew Galloway saying how great it was later on in his own post-match promo.
RevPro announced that they are now working with Pro Wrestling EVE, a London-based all-female promotion. EVE-branded matches will now take place at RevPro shows, and EVE shows will be part of RevPro’s new subscription On Demand service. The deal helps both companies, with RevPro being able to put on high quality women’s matches and allow their trainees to work with more experienced wrestlers, while EVE gets major exposure that should improve their business and bring more attention to women’s wrestling in Europe.
PROGRESS’ Chapter 27: The Lost Art of Suffering takes place this weekend, with a stacked card main evented by a 9-man Thunderbastard match for the PROGRESS Championship, and featuring a Losing Team Disbands TLC match between the London Riots and Sumerian Death Squad, Tommaso Ciampa and Zack Sabre Jr. vs The Origin for the PROGRESS Tag Team Championship, and Jack Gallagher vs BritWres legend Johnny Kidd.
Big Japan are currently in the middle of their "STRONG CLIMB" tournament which will be running into April, and the opening night from March 6th aired recently on Samurai TV. It was one of the most fun shows so far this year, and would serve as a fantastic intro to anyone who hasn’t checked out the promotion. There were three short matches on the undercard that weren’t particularly notable (although the opener was a lot of fun) but the meat of this were the four tournament matches. All were different and all were fantastic.
The first bout pitted Hideki Suzuki against Shinobu. Suzuki comes from a shooter background and is a big guy capable of playing the dominant fighter in his matches. He faced Josh Barnett on a New Years Eve MMA show in a worked match a few years ago and it was fantastic. His run since he became a full time pro wrestler has been patchy with his lack of charisma regularly being pointed at as a downfall. This was his best match yet. Shinobu, an undersized stalwart of the indy scene, got the absolute best out of Hideki and made him look like a killer. The finish was one of the best submissions you’ll see all year.
Yuji Okabayashi is the Strong World Heavyweight Champion, and currently the top man in the promotion. Here he came up against a mountain of a man who’s had his number in singles matches previously – Shuji Ishikawa. Shuji is one of the stiffest wrestlers on earth and this was a bruising battle to say the least. The champion took all sorts of punishment before mounting a huge comeback. Just when it looked like he was going to get the scalp that has eluded him, Ishikawa caught him with a sickening headbutt and then debuted a new finisher to get the win and cement himself as a future title challenger regardless of how the tournament plays out.
Daisuke Sekimoto vs. Seiya Sanada was a match which recommenced one of the hottest feuds in Japan in 2011. Sekimoto & Okayabashi were working regularly for All Japan at the time and had an incredible series against the young team of Sanada and Manabu Soya. Sanada has been all over the place since then but has never looked as good. This match was like putting on an old shoe that just fits. They worked it in a cat and mouse style at times with Sanada flying around to avoid the heavy-hitter. But then Sekimoto would bust out a huge tope or something equally as impressive for a man his size and throw that dynamic out the window in the best way possible. The match was just beautifully crafted from start to finish and ended with a perfect sequence leading into Daisuke’s deadlift German Suplex.
Young Hideyoshi Kamitani was in a tough spot in the main event following all that, but he and veteran Kohei Sato did a great job building a really simple story. Sato, who’s about as grimey and grizzled a man as you can imagine, just laid a beating on the youngster for the whole match, wearing him down in the process. But Kamitani fired back and got the biggest singles win of his career after hitting two Backdrop Suplexes which has been put over strong as a bigtime finisher. Simple but excellent.
On a personal note, boy did this get me excited for March 31st when BJW will have their next Strong Climb show at Korakuen Hall – the first show I will ever experience live in Japan!!! More on that in the next two weeks!!!
NWA Championship Wrestling (3/22/86)
For assorted reasons I have missed a month of this show. Sad... The heat for the Black Bart-Sam Houston clip at the beginning was louder than anything you will see at WrestleMania this year. BLACK BART AND SAM HOUSTON... They announced that Bart had beaten Houston for the Mid-Atlantic championship, and promised to reveal the 24-team field for the Crockett Cup tonight. They brought the Rock & Roll Express out for a promo. They vowed to win the Crockett Cup and beat the Midnight Express for the tag titles, and said Ric Flair surrounded himself with pretty women to keep him company while he fell asleep. Crowd loved that one... Jimmy Valiant vs. Kent Glover. Valiant’s entrance included grabbing the head of a young child and rubbing it against his sweaty belly. He cheated some, brawled some, shouted some, and won with the boogie woogie elbow, then clapped his hands... Tony Schiavonie interviewed Ron Garvin. He hyped up a cage match against Ric Flair. Or challenged Flair to a cage match. I’m not sure... They showed Houston having Bart pinned several times, but the ref was down. Bart then threw Sam over the top rope, and Sam sold his head upon hitting the floor. Bart caught him coming in with a legdrop and rolled him inside to pin him. Announcers then talked about this more as Jim Cornette was there, telling them to wrap that up. He said it was absurd that his world champs were seeded No. 3 in the Crockett Cup when the Road Warriors were No. 1. He compared the Warriors to dinosaurs, with giant bodies and tiny brains. He ran down the Rock & Rolls for a while and said they should get a cup for being goofs. That’s a hell of an idea... Midnight Express vs. Ray Traylor & Phil Brown. Announcers explained that the Crockett Cup matches would be 20 minutes, which would reward offensive teams, which is why the Warriors were seeded higher than a defensive team than the Midnights. Eaton hit Traylor with a scary suplex. Cornette called Traylor a “fat slob” who weighed “575 pounds.” Phil Brown was AWFUL. And the Express knew it. He was fighting and fighting to keep his singlet on over his man-boobs and the Express said no, and pulled his straps back down. Express finally won with an enormous rocket launcher. Man Eaton could fly... They quickly rattled off the top 10 seeds in the Crockett Cup, including Rick Martel and Giant Baba, then fired off the other 14 teams: Wahoo McDaniel & Mark Youngblood, Black Bart & Jimmy Garvin, Hector & Chavo Guerrero, Barbarian & Baron Von Raschke, Buzz Sawyer & Rick Steiner, Jimmy Valiant & Ragin Bull, Fabulous Ones, Fantastics, Nelson Royal & Sam Houston, Bill Dundee & Buddy Landel, Bobby Jaggers & Mike Miller (from the Pacific Northwest, woo!), the Batten Twins, and two others I missed. They went really fast and there were no graphics... Leo Burke vs. Don Graves. Burke beat him up and bullied him for a while and then won. I missed it, I was busy recapping tag teams... Jimmy Garvin cut a promo faking being out of breath because he had been chasing Wahoo McDaniel all over the country. He cackled at himself and said Wahoo had turned down all his money AND his big gift of beef jerky because he was a coward. Now Garvin had a match signed with another man, and NOW Wahoo showed up so Garvin couldn’t fight him. He apologized to all his fans for not beating up Wahoo tonight. JIMMY GARVIN RULED... They announced that Leo Burke had used a piledriver in his match, apparently unaware that it was illegal in the NWA, and so Burke had been disqualified. I guess the ref had also been unaware the piledriver was illegal in the NWA... Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin vs. Bill Mulkey. Garvin was running down all Indians as he beat Mulkey’s ass. Mulkey made a comeback consisting of two punches and a failed hiptoss. People went crazy for it. Garvin was like Kevin Owens, talking and shouting throughout his match. This went on way too long until Garvin won with a brainbuster. Garvin the promo was GREAT. Garvin the worker was a guy... Schiavonie interviewed Dusty Rhodes. He was wearing a Michigan State jacket and talked about the Spartans having titles taken away. Amazing coincidence there. He talked about Flair, cages, Wahoo, Jimmy Garvin, New Orleans, and the world title. He was almost whispering this whole promo, and then a woman in the crowd said she loved him and he shouted he loved her too, then rambled on about the Horsemen and Magnum TA... Wahoo McDaniel vs. Bob Owen. Owen was a fine jobber, tall, but pail and skinny-fat with a horrible haircut. Wahoo was smothering him amateur style and they cut to the LSU basketball coach. Wahoo finally hit a bunch of chops and won... Schiavonie interviewed Craig Sager of TBS Sports, who brought in Dale Brown, who wanted to book one of his basketball refs against Nikita Koloff. The basketball coach said he was impressed with the wrestlers’ bodies and “sincerity.” They talked about a cameraman and Brown’s history as a high school wrestling coach in North Dakota. Jesus, is this going anywhere? And the answer to that question was “No.” They left and Paul Jones arrived, along with Baron Von Raschke and the great TEIJO KHAN. He promised to keep bringing in talent and keep building his army, and started screaming about how he had so much power he could go anywhere, including the back yard of LSU, the Crockett Cup, and walk through there like “the man walked through Atlanta.” The whole time he was screaming and sweating and his veins and eyes were bulging, and then as soon as he was done spitting out his last sentence he just turned and walked off screen. This was hilarious... Baron Von Raschke & Teijo Khan vs. Italian Stallion & Tony Zane. Your standard squash match, with plentiful interference from Jones on the outside. Tony Zane was big and jiggly and he and Khan did the worst powerslam ever and it was all his fault. Baron beat Zane with the claw. The two teams then had the most hysterically awkward confrontation afterwards... Schiavonie interviewed Flair, who started wishing condolences to all the girls on Spring Break who woke up every day wondering if there was such a thing as life after Ric Flair. He talked about making a million dollars a year, and pulling himself out of the tag team tournament to defend the world title against Dusty Rhodes. He finally threatened to slap Ricky Morton the next time he saw him... Schiavonie interviewed Joe “Nighthawk” Coltrane, a former serviceman and amateur athlete. Nighthawk, a black fellow, said he was proud to represent his race, then talked about how great athletes like Magnum and Dusty were when Cornette interrupted, calling him “Joe College” and telling him to get out of here. Nighthawk told Schiavone that he was new here and thought this was his interview time, and he apologized and left. Cornette was so stunned by this that he actually had nothing to say, laughing and shaking Tony’s hand and shrugging and leaving. I have no idea what was going on here but it was fucking funny... Rock & Roll Express vs. Larry Clarke & Paul Garner. Express did some stuff for three minutes or so and won with the double dropkick... Flair did another promo plugging a tour through the Northwest, then Florida, then Kansas, in that order, all in one week, and I’m sure that was true. Being a wrestler in the 1980s sucked. He then said Tully and Arn would be the favorites in the tag tournament... Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson vs. Mike Simani & Ron Rossi. So is Ole done? Seems like it’s been six months since he’s been around. Flair was on commentary talking about how cage matches were unfair, and Ricky Morton’s fans were wearing training bras while Flair was looking at 36DDs every night. Horsemen damn near killed themselves hitting a double-team top rope gourdbuster for the win... Wahoo did a quick interview with Schiavonie saying he was finally back, and he wasn’t afraid of Jim Garvin... Magnum TA vs. Dave Dellinger. Schiavonie was rambling on about whatever when David Crockett shrieked “BELLY TO BELLY!” and Magnum won. Schiavonie then interviewed Wahoo and Magnum. Wahoo said he wanted a strap match with the Horsemen. Magnum said he and Wahoo had done battle before and wanted no part of each other any more, but he called out Nikita Koloff and said a Russian chain match would be fine with him. Wahoo also mentioned Dusty’s bullrope, so any way two guys could be linked together was mentioned in this segment... Russians did a promo. They ran down Magnum TA for a while and threatened to do horrible things to him in a chain match. They also called out the Warriors for a series of cage matches in the Northwest, vowing to beat them so thoroughly they would back out of the Crockett Cup... Ivan Koloff vs. Rocky Kernodle. They had a terrible squash. Good Lord, Kernodle made a comeback. END THIS. Ivan wanted to hit a middle-rope clothesline, but Kernodle wouldn’t get to his feet, so Koloff hit an elbow and just kept wrestling. He climbed the ropes again and hit an axehandle. Then he put on an abdominal stretch. AAAAIIIIGHGHHH!!!! Ivan’s WWWF title reign may have been shorter than this match. Kernodle made ANOTHER comeback. Ivan threw him outside. Nikita hit a clothesline out there and they teased a countout, but Nikita threw him back inside and Ivan finally pinned him... Jimmy Garvin returned in a different sequined outfit for another promo. Awesome. He said it was obvious that Wahoo had been eating the wrong kind of food, and a lot of it. He said Wahoo’s headdress was made of shabby feathers, and he was so dirty Garvin didn’t want to wrestle him, because GORGEOUS JIMMY GARVIN HATES GERMS! So awesome... Cornette was back ripping on the R&Rs and the Road Warriors. Nighthawk returned and cut him off. He warned Cornette not to interrupt his TV time again. He started to intimidate Cornette until the Midnights arrived, but then the Rock & Rolls showed up and they fled... Ron Garvin vs. Brodie Chase. I enjoyed Garvin putting this man in an abdominal stretch and slapping him in the face, then hitting a shoot back suplex. Dude totally dead-weighted him and Garvin muscled him up anyway. Garvin went on to win with the punch... JJ, Tully, and Arn cut a promo saying they should be the 1 seed, not the 4, but it didn’t matter because they were going to win the tournament anyway. Arn was running on about Dusty when Tony said “We’ll see you next week!” and that was that.
Retro Raw No. 201 (3/17/97)
Legion of Doom vs. Crush & Savio Vega. I love that the Roadies were introduced as “Road Warrior Hawk, Road Warrior Animal, the Legion of Doom.” I guess they just couldn’t say “Road Warriors” with the “S.” Ahmed Johnson and Faarooq had both been banned from ringside. They started brawling in and out of the ring right from the get-go. We got inset promos from Ahmed and Faarooq. Faarooq made an Ebonics joke, but the truth was it really was impossible to tell what Ahmed was saying. It settled down into a regular tag match. They also had footage of the Nation jumping Ahmed at Madison Square Garden the night before. Nation got the heat on Hawk. They went back to Faarooq for ANOTHER inset promo, but his locker room was mysteriously empty. They showed Ahmed still watching the match and alerted him that Faarooq was missing. He said he was not concerned. Then Faarooq jumped him from behind and laid him out before geeks pulled him away. Well he deserved it for not seeing that coming. Warriors were about to hit Savio with the Doomsday Device when Faarooq hit the ring with a nightstick to lay them out, and the whole Nation joined in. Ahmed ran out with the 2x4 and chased them away. Wolfie D took a Pearl River plunge and D-Lo Brown took a Doomsday Device. Crowd was going nuts for all this. If ever there was a time when a DQ finish made sense, it would be when you’ve already got a street fight booked down the road anyway... Announcers addressed rumors that the Sid-Bret cage match tonight might be non-title after all, and that Gorilla Monsoon was headed to the building to clarify things. He couldn’t just give them a phone call? Lawler said he had heard a rumor that Shawn Michaels would be there tonight. All this on-screen talk of rumors is awfully prescient, considering the state of journalism in 2016... Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Flash Funk. Chyna was now in Hunter’s corner, called by that name by the ring announcer. I couldn’t believe the time and pyro dedicated to Flash’s entrance. Chyna got in Flash’s face and he reared back his fist, and Vince said it wasn’t right to hit a woman in any circumstances. Clearly he has not seen Lucha Underground. Hunter was pointing out that Chyna was taller than Flash. Vince McMahon used the word “obsequious.” Also, “pompicity.” They tried a spot where Hunter would catch Funk on his shoulders mid-leapfrog and, well, things don’t always work out as planned. Vince was sure to clarify, they weren’t saying the cage match would NOT be a title match, only that Gorilla Monsoon would soon clarify things. Funk appeared to have the match won with a top rope legdrop, but Chyna grabbed him by the leg and yanked him off. Hunter hit an ugly German suplex for a nearfall. Funk was about to go up top again when Chyna jumped on the apron to distract him, and Hunter then hit the pedigree for the win. They put the boots to Flash afterwards until refs pulled them away... Shawn Michaels arrived backstage... Mini Mankind & Mini Vader vs. Mini Goldust & Mascarita Sagrada Jr. They showed WWF officials including Linda McMahon and the Undertaker in New Jersey to celebrate “the death of a tax bill” that would allow them to do shows in the state again, complete with SummerSlam. I believe this was the deal where they formally acknowledged they were entertainment, not sport. Sagrada was giving up at least a foot in height to everyone else in the ring. Sagrada Jr. is freakin’ awesome, and he very quickly got the crowd on his side. Mini Goldust was also flying around whipping ass. Sagrada pinned Mankind with a victory roll. This match freakin’ ruled and the crowd loved it and it deserved WAY more time. Sagrada then chased Vader up the ramp and hit a MONSTROUS dive off the stage. Crowd was pissing themselves with glee. They showed another angle of the dive after the commercial. HOW DID THIS DIVISION NOT BECOME A PERMANENT THING?... Gorilla Monsoon said yes, of course, it’s a title match tonight, even though “the timing stinks.” Vince said that Undertaker fans were protesting that this was unfair, because if Bret won the title, Taker would miss out on his Mania title shot. He added that Bret had had plenty of title matches and had used some influence to get another match. Gorilla basically said up yours, and that’s not a quote, but the sentiment was there... Kevin Kelly brought Bret Hart out for an interview. Bret said look, I won the Royal Rumble, I won the Final Four match, I deserve a title rematch, and that’s just too bad for Undertaker. After I win, Taker will have to get in line with everyone else. Then he hyped up his Mania match with Steve Austin, vowing to win that too... Sultan vs. Mike Bell with Rocky Maivia on commentary. I like that Sultan’s hometown was just “the Middle East.” Sultan looked awesome in this 30-second match, hitting a piledriver, top rope splash, and camel clutch for the win. He got in Rocky’s face afterwards. Rock was sure to call the IC belt “the people’s belt” and was about to start something when Tony Atlas appeared and held Rock back. Tony got the biggest chants in the whole segment... Shawn Michaels came out for a promo. If I haven’t mentioned this, Vince was no longer wearing a suit and was out there in red mock turtleneck and black denim jacket. He announced that he had found his smile where he left it, in San Antonio. I was getting all kinds of buffering this week. Very annoying. He thanked the fans for their cards and letters, and for being patient with the world’s most emotional wrestler. Shawn cut this entire promo staring at himself on the big screen. He said he knew he could be hard to deal with, and thanked the fans again, particularly those who sent cards to his parents’ house. Wait, what? There were women weeping over this man and his speech. He said his knee was coming along, and he would see Dr. Andrew in Birmingham next week, and hopefully be back in a few months. He promised, when he returned, that his clothes would be coming off again. He said Vince had not invited him to WrestleMania, so he was inviting himself. He promised to sit right next to Vince and make sure he called the championship match right down the middle. He also said he’d be at the Slammies this upcoming Friday. Shawn was clearly having fun here and seemed more coherent than usual... They showed Undertaker backstage trying to destroy the steel cage so the title match would get canceled tonight... Vader vs. British Bulldog. They wrestled like HOSSES, bouncing into each other with neither man willing to go down. Bulldog hit the mastodon with a delayed vertical suplex. Him strong. Vader cut him off for a bit, but Bulldog hit a bunch of clotheslines and a big bodyslam. He went for the powerslam, but Mankind interfered for the DQ and Owen joined in too. Bulldog eventually got the urn and clonked Vader and Mankind with it, and that was that... Billy Gunn vs. Aaron Ferguson with Ken Shamrock on commentary. Gunn was trying to show off to Shamrock, first using a heel hook, and then THE WORST ARMBAR OF ALL TIME for the win. Hulk Hogan has never done a figure-four as bad as Billy Gunn did this armbar. Shamrock lied and called it “a pretty good armbar.” Billy then got in Shamrock’s face, saying he didn’t look that tough, and he didn’t think Shamrock could live up to his hype. Shamrock said he had never backed down in his life, and he wasn’t backing down from this chump. So we got Shamrock squaring off with Gunn. You forget sometimes how enormous Billy Gunn is, but he dwarfed Shamrock here. So Shamrock very quickly caught him in a Fujiwara armbar. He released the hold with his point made. Billy dared Shamrock to do it twice, so Shamrock caught him in a rolling ankle lock. He released the hold again, saying he could easily have broken the ankle if he wanted. But, you know, he’s not a dick. Billy grabbed a chair, but the ref held him back. Shamrock never backed down. Billy finally gave up and left, saying they would get it on some day, and this wasn’t over... Steve Austin did a backstage promo. He said Shamrock hadn’t done anything impressive, just trying to take advantage of Billy Gunn after a grueling match. He called Shamrock overrated and said one day they would square off, and if Shamrock screwed up reffing the submission match, Austin would knock his lights out. He vowed that one way or another, Bret Hart would be champion tonight. He said Bret, on his best day, couldn’t lace his boots, and he would beat Bret’s ass at Mania. God DAMN Austin was a great promo... They started setting up the cage. I had forgotten, it was the blue cage with the giant bars and spaces... Sid did a backstage promo, warning Austin to stay out of his business. He vowed to powerbomb Bret right to the floor and walk out of the cage as champion... Sid vs. Bret in a steel cage match for the WWF title. Jim Ross suggested that Sid’s best strategy was to hit a bunch of powerbombs. Duly noted. Both guys teased trying to leave a couple of times, then Austin ran down and made sure the door was closed so Sid couldn’t try to leave. After the break, much to Austin’s chagrin, Sid hit a powerbomb and tried to climb out. Austin climbed the cage to brawl with Sid. So much for the cage preventing interference. Austin was clearly the crowd favorite here. Bret recovered and climbed the cage, and he and Austin started double-teaming Sid. Crowd knew this was bullshit and booed. Undertaker then ran out and attacked both Bret and Austin, making sure Bret was unable to climb out. All four dudes were on top of the cage in one corner. Austin was finally knocked to the floor, and Bret hit Sid with a top rope superplex. Austin jumped Taker on the floor and laid him out with a chair. Bret was walking out the door and had the match won, but Taker came running over and slammed the door in his face. Sid then climbed over the cage on the other side of the ring to win. Hardly a classic wrestling match, but this was one hell of a crazy spectacle... And then it was time for some history. Bret was pacing in the ring as the cage was still being taken down. Vince tried to interview, saying he must be frustrated. Bret grabbed the mic and shoved him down. “Frustrated isn’t the goddamn word for it. This is bullshit!” He really, really put his heart into that last oath there. “You screwed me, everybody screws me, and nobody does a goddamn thing about it!” Vince just rolled out of the ring and made his way back to the announce desk. “Nobody in the building cares! Nobody in the dressing room cares! So much goddamned injustice around here, I’ve had it up to here! Everybody knows it, I know it, everybody knows it, I should be the World Wrestling Federation champion!” They showed Vince’s face on the floor, angry and dissapointed in Bret’s childish behavior. “Everybody just keeps turning a blind eye to it, YOU (Vince) keep turning a blind eye to it, I got that Gorilla Monsoon, he turns a blind eye to it. Everybody in that goddamn dressing room knows that I’m the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be! And if you don’t like it, tough shit!” Austin then appeared on the big screen saying that all Hart ever did was cry like a baby. He tried to help Bret win and Bret still couldn’t get the job done, because he was a loser. They shouted at each other a while, then Austin disappeared and Sid came out to fight with Bret (Sid also cursed coming down to the ring, but he had no mic). Taker then came out and Bret wiped him out with a dive. Austin came out and jumped Bret as Taker and Sid brawled in the ring, parts of the cage still set up along the ropes. Bret was being dragged away and punched out Pat Patterson. Vince was outraged. “That dirty rotten son of a—” before catching himself. This brawl just kept going as Vince said they were asking USA to stay with them. Shawn finally came out in street clothes to survey the scene. Vince was screaming Shawn was still hurt and had no business out there. Shawn finally passed by all the combatants, and as everyone brawled on the floor, Shawn grabbed a chair and, well, walked around as the show went off the air. Well, THAT was a great, great, great finish to a TV show, hyping up not only the two big Mania matches, but also setting up multiple rematches for the months to come. In fact, with five dudes, you could theoretically do ten different one-on-one matchups, so that’s two possible Mania rematches and eight other fresh encounters. More importantly, and this is subjective, but this notorious profanity-laced promo (which was a great fucking promo, by the way) has always stood out to me as the symbolic beginning of the Attitude Era. Not everyone agrees with me on that, but as far as I’m concerned, starting right now, anything goes.
WCW Monday Nitro No. 76 (3/17/97)
Show opened with the end of Uncensored, with the nWo and Dennis Rodman tagging Lex Luger... Psychosis vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. They showed the Spanish and Japanese announce teams backstage, including Ultimate Dragon unmasked and hiding his face from the cameras. As usual, they had a good match filled with spectacular dives that had the place going nuts. Finish was Rey trying a springboard rana which Psychosis sold by driving his own head into the mat as hard as possible. Bad times... Gene Okerlund interviewed Arn Anderson on the ramp. Gene noted the other Horsemen weren’t out there, and that it was time for Arn to share his injury status with the people. Arn noted that last night had been historic, because it was the night that Sting came home. No explanation from Arn or anyone else what that meant. Arn explained that months back he had suffered a neck injury and he needed spinal fusion surgery. He talked about his grandmother fighting cancer and surviving long enough to see him grow and become a man. That was why he had been putting off this surgery, because the Horsemen were his family, and he wanted to make sure they were fine before he left. And last night, even in defeat, they had shown they could work together. He talked about Kevin Sullivan’s life and how screwed up it was with lots of references that went over my head. He vowed that we had not seen the last of Arn Anderson, and he would be back... They showed pictures of Diamond Dallas Page doing a promo during the pay per view when Kimberly came out, apparently spray-painted by the nWo. Savage then jumped Page and laid him out, and Savage and Liz tagged Page and Kimberly again... Maxx vs. Diamond Dallas Page. I’d have had Page hit a diamond cutter and win in ten seconds here, but they let Maxx get the heat for a bit before Page came back and hit a horrible top rope splash. Maxx actually came back from this, but Page slipped a full nelson and hit the cutter and won. What a weird match. Okerlund then interviewed Page on the ramp, repeating all the terrible things Savage and Liz had done the night before. Page said yeah, Kimberly’s my wife, and if Savage wants to make it real, that’s fine. He threatened to make Savage a chalk outline and called him a dead man walking. He started to leave, but Savage appeared in the stands to rebut. He said he was a superstar, an icon, and Page was the wrestler with no name. Savage teased giving Page a match now, or later, and finally Page flipped and furiously scrambled up through the crowd to get to him, as Savage and Liz fled in terror. This was good stuff... Konnan & Hugh Morrus vs. Joe Gomez & Renegade. Help me lord. I guess the lord heard me, because Eric Bischoff and the Outsiders came out to interrupt before the match could start. Long story short, they announced the Outsiders would wrestle tonight. And then the match in the ring went on anyway. I got to watch Joe Gomez selling his leg for a while. WHO COULD CARE ABOUT THIS? IN 2016 OR 1997? Konnan used a half-crab. YOU’VE GOT HIM! YOU’VE GOT JOE FUCKING GOMEZ IN THAT GODDAMNED HALF CRAB! Renegade got a hot tag and ran wild, then tagged Gomez back in even though Gomez couldn’t stand. Morrus quickly pinned Gomez with the moonsault. Well this accomplished nothing. Gomez and Renegade bickered in a feud that literally no human beings ever could care about... Scotty Riggs vs. Dean Malenko. They showed Riggs losing a strap match to Buff Bagwell when Bagwell touched a turnbuckle with his ass. Fun while it lasted. Riggs took 80 percent of the match and played a great babyface, but Dean cut him off and won with a rolling bodyscissors... Lex Luger & Giant vs. Knuckles Nelson & Tarantula. Tarantula was an odd choice of name for a guy who was taller than Lex. Maybe because he’s got back hair like a tarantula. These guys were jobbers in the classic sense. No bodies, bald-spot mullets, zero offense. This was more entertaining than Joe Gomez. Giant took the whole match, chokeslamming Knuckles and tagging Lex in just to hit a powerslam and the torture rack on Tarantula. In fact, Giant pinned Knuckles before Lex could even get the rack on. That was weird. Gene then interviewed Lex and Giant on the ramp. Giant said he was happy Sting had come back home. Lex said he believed in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, because Sting had dropped from the ceiling the night before. That’s a hell of an inspiration for a guy lowering on a cable. He talked about how proud he was of how the Giant and Steiners had fought, win or lose. He rambled a bit and said, I think, Sting is back and that’s all that matters. That’s what I got out of it, anyway. So they showed Sting working over the Outsiders with a baseball bat and threatening Hogan. I guess this happened after the main event? I think? It’s pretty confusing... They showed pics of Glacier defeating Mortis at the PPV, only for Wrath to make his debut and help Mortis double-team him to death... Ultimate Dragon vs. Bobby Eaton. Bobby hit some punches and a clothesline and went up top. Dragon met him up there and hit a rana and won. Seriously, that was the whole match... The whole dang nWo came out for a promo. Everyone ran their mouths a bit. Outsiders challenged Steiners to a match in Mississippi in two weeks. A soda came flying in and pegged Scott Hall right in the head and he totally no-sold it... Alex Wright & Mark Starr vs. Jeff Jarrett & Steve McMichael. Mark Starr actually got a hot tag and ran wild in this match, but Mongo cut him off with a pair of chop blocks and Jarrett hit the figure-four for the win. Public Enemy then came out to brawl. Debra got involved, wacking Grunge with the Haliburton, but it led to nothing. Horsemen eventually sent the Enemy packing and then joined Gene on the ramp for an interview. Debra let us all know she was beautiful and intelligent and had a lot of money. That’s a great catchphrase. They talked about how the Horsemen were finally a united faction, and they would beat Public Enemy at Spring Stampede. Mongo declared he was going to eat Public Enemy tartar and then patted Gene on the head. So now you know where Dana Brooke got that... Lee Marshall did the Road Report. Lee spoke for a few minutes like he was at the announce desk, and then somebody remembered to hit the “make him sound like he’s on the phone” button... Scott Norton vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr. Norton chased him a bit, then Norton caught him on a dive and pressed him back into the ring. Norton toyed with him a while like Godzilla playing with tanks and then won with a very violent powerbomb. So this was fun... Clips of Hogan and Rodman cutting a promo backstage together... Outsiders vs. Buckhouse Bunk & Mike Enos. Um. Wat. Hall hit a bulldog so ugly Schiavonie called it an elbow to the back of the neck. They actually got the heat on Hall and nearly pinned him with a powerslam. Hall hit a back suplex and made the hot tag to Nash. Yes, the founders of the top heel faction just decided to wrestle as babyfaces tonight for no reason. They both hit their finishers and Hall pinned Enos. Best match since the opener, weird though it may have been... They showed Roddy Piper cutting a crazy promo from the PPV. I have no idea why... Chris Benoit vs. Billy Kidman. Not that Benoit ever took it easy in the ring, but they must have had their time cut because he was on full throttle from the get-go here. He won with the crossface in a minute. Gene then interviewed them, but the whole thing came to a halt when Ric Flair came out. Place sure loved him. Benoit cut a long, rambling promo about how Kevin Sullivan’s life had fallen apart. At last it was Flair’s turn. He addressed Piper, saying that even with the Horsemen’s help, Piper had dropped the ball. He was screaming about babies and beer, then said Piper shouldn’t go home to his family, he should party with the Horsemen. What a strange show this is... Harlem Heat vs. Steiners. Michael Buffer made his Nitro debut to introduce the main event. Hard not to enjoy the Steiners throwing dudes around. Eventually the nWo ran out and killed all four men. Luger and Giant ran out to even the odds. Team WCW cleared the ring and held the nWo off when there was a pyro burst and Sting descended from the ceiling. Hogan was terrified as his men tried to hold him up. This was one of the very, very, very rare times when a TV show ended with WCW holding advantage over the nWo, and by FAR the best thing on a lousy show.
WWE Raw (3/14/16)
New Day came out for a promo. They bragged about making fun of the League of Nations on Twitter. They also pointed out how absurd it is that you can get their t-shirt in a cereal box. I don’t even know what to say about these guys anymore. But they said they’d be champions for a long time... New Day vs. Rusev & Alberto Del Rio. So Wade & Sheamus failed to win the belts at Roadblock, and their teammates get a chance tonight. Cole read some Tweets aloud. I get that the New Day are supposed to be dorks and so I can deal with them being so Twitter obsessed. But Rusev is supposed to be a man, a BRUTE, and BRUTES should not be taking shots on Twitter. Xavier was actually wrestling in place of Kofi this week. They got the heat on him for a while. This set up Big E getting the hot tag and suplexing Rusev all over the place. This, obviously, was cool. All four dudes did stuff everywhere. Woods kicked out of a Rusev superkick. Rusev was about to put on the camel clutch when Kofi jumped on the apron to distract him. Rusev casaully motioning for his buds to take care of this pest was great. Long story short, this didn’t work and Rusev was still distracted, and Woods pinned him with a schoolboy and the trunks. Everything after the hot tag was fun. LON then quadruple-teamed the New Day and beat them into submission. I assume the New Day are just straight-up babyfaces now. This went on for a while and the League all hit their finishers. In fact, it went WAY too long. Oh, my god, we get it, they’re dead. Jesus Christ. The actual League of Nations was not around for as long as this beating lasted... Dean Ambrose came out and put himself over for barely losing to Triple H. I realize that sounds snarky, but really, that’s what happened. Crowd still loved him. He was talking about how people shouldn’t underestimate him when Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman interrupted. Brock looked ready to hit the ring, but Heyman was doing his best to talk him into staying on the stage. Heyman talked tough for a while. Ambrose made fun of Brock a little, but quickly dared him to come fight now. Heyman refused, saying this was the real main event of Mania, and they were not going to give it away for free. Well, they were, but only to Network subscribers. Heyman went to leave, but Brock started to go to ringside. Ambrose pulled out a tire iron. Heyman was begging Brock to leave, but Brock stoically circled the ring. He made one charge, but Dean charged with the tire iron and Brock backed away. This was a good angle... Hunter and Steph came out for a promo. They buried the fans for being losers stuck in dead-end jobs with no hope of escape or improvement, so their wives and children hated them and had no respect for them, and so they hung out with their loser friends. And so 30 years go by and the wife left them and the kids never visit, and they sit their drooling on themselves alone. For the record, I believe much of this is true for most Americans, and it’s still a vast improvement over what 99 percent of humanity in the history of the world have gone through. So I enjoyed this promo because Hunter was speaking the truth. And as Hunter was burying people for being stuck in dead-end jobs forever, Dolph Ziggler interrupted. OK, this segment is brilliant. So Steph and Dolph bickered a bit, and Dolph said she had threatened to fire him over a Tweet last week, and he was threatened with firing every time he showed up, but he was going to show up and do his job as best he could every week and would never quit. He said he and Dean were not failures, they were screwed by the system. Hunter said people liked Dolph, so they wouldn’t fire him. They jibber jabbered awhile and Steph slapped him. She offered Dolph any match he wanted at Mania (save a title match) if he could get a win tonight. He said sure, admitting that whatever match she suggested would be totally unfair. So she booked him against Hunter. Hunter did the best subtle acting ever here, glancing at Steph briefly like this caught him off guard, and then turning to Dolph and staring him down. Haven’t had a bad segment on this show yet... Sami Zayn vs. Miz. Kevin Owens was on commentary. He was tremendous, funny and engaging and also making it clear he didn’t like this Zayn fellow. Match seemed edited. Owens got in Sami’s face, then Miz jumped Owens from behind. That is not a typo. Apparently they had a dust-up on Smackdown or something. Zayn then hit the mafia kick for the win... Renee interviewed the League of Nations. They accepted a challenge to face the New Day at Mania, promising it would be a tragedy, not a comedy... They showed a bit celebrating Connor’s Cure working with the V Foundation and becoming a national charity... Naomi & Tamina vs. Brie Bella & Alicia Fox. Before the match could start, Lana came out to annoy Brie, apparently. Brie made her comeback, Lana distracted her, and Tamina and Naomi hit something very similar to a big ending to pin Brie. Lana got in Alicia’s face for good measure, but Naomi and Tamina killed her too... Dean was hanging out backstage when Mick Foley appeared. Foley was jolly, but he said they both knew this was a bad idea and Brock was going to hurt Dean very badly. Foley asked why Dean was going through with this. Dean asked if Foley had been scared fighting Taker on top of the Cell, and Foley said yes, I was terrified, but I kept going because I was Mick Foley and that’s what I did. So Dean said that’s the same reason I’m doing this. Foley said in that case, you’re going to need this. And he took Dean’s crowbar and gave him a gift, saying this was a passing of the torch. And he said BANG! BANG! and left. The gift was a barbed wire baseball bat. Dean smiled... Triple H vs. Dolph Ziggler. This was the most old school match ever, full of headlocks and hiptosses. Eventually Hunter got the heat with a back elbow. That’s it, a simple back elbow. And once he had the advantage clearly established, he cranked up the intensity and violence, throwing Dolph into the barricade outside. I was totally loving this and was very sad to see that it appeared to be edited after the break. Dolph got a flash nearfall off a superkick, but Hunter took back over and tried to win via countout. He barely beat the count back and in and Hunter tried the pedigree, just like he did to Dean at Road Block, but this time Dean escaped. He tried a zig zag, but Hunter grabbed the ropes to maintain his feet, and Hunter then hit the pedigree for the win. Hunter might be my favorite wrestler in the company right now. As Hunter was celebrating, Roman’s music played and he appeared on the ramp. They had a long staredown, then Roman charged the ring and they brawled. Pretty mixed reaction, probably 60-40 against Roman. He laid waste to Hunter as Steph fled to the back. Hunter got repeatedly slammed into and then thrown over the announce desk. Roman started taking out refs for good measure. The fight continued into the backstage area and away from the cameras for a while. Hunter ended up bleeding from the back of his head. Jamie Noble and I think Road Dogg were back there trying to get Hunter to safety, but Roman was like a movie monster and couldn’t be stopped. He started wacking Hunter with a TV, which was on. That’s a new one. Eventually the Usos (Roman’s cousins), Mark Henry (the strongest man in the world), and Jack Swagger (probably the legit scariest guy on the babyface side of the roster) were able to get Roman to calm down. Another winner of a segment here... Vince McMahon came out for a promo. He was not satisfied with his reaction, so he had Lillian announce him again. This is becoming a pattern. He was bragging about how after Mania, he be big and proud and successful and Shane would be a beaten, broken, failure. He proceeded to bring out Undertaker. He warned Taker to never touch him again, and when Taker gave him a mean look, Vince apologized for bringing it up again, then talked about all the mean things Taker would do to Shane. Shane then came out and tried to intimidate Taker with his boxing steps. Jesus Christ look at this. I watched a 1980s horror movie the other day called Pumpkinhead. Taker is starting to look like the monster in that movie. Shane promptly flubbed his lines, saying that Taker was going to hit him, “and I’m going to miss.” Everyone laughed at him. So the first step in Shane’s plan, seriously, was to wear Taker out. Seriously, he thought he’d be the one with better cardio. Taker said he’d defeat Shane by punching him. I’m paraphrasing, but this is seriously the points the two men were making. Shane said Taker was Vince’s puppet, but Taker said nobody controlled him. Shane called him Vince’s bitch and they started fighting. Shane’s offense was as cringeworthy as you’d expect. Vince shoved Shane into Taker and Taker hit a chokeslam, but then chased Vince out of the ring. Well, this had been a really, really good show. And then this segment happened. Alas.
WWE NXT (3/16/16)
Sami Zayn came out for a promo. He said he had come up short against Samoa Joe last week, but he wasn’t embarrassed because he had given it his all and narrowly lost to a great wrestler. He started to talk about Takeover: Dallas, and what a huge show it was going to be, and he was about to say that he was dissapointed he wouldn’t have a big match on the show, but William Regal interrupted said it was true, Sami Zayn deserved to face a great opponent at Takeover. And so at Takeover, you will face THIS MAN and gestured to the screen. There was static, and then we got a selfie promo by Shinsuke Nakamura. He said he’d be coming to NXT and he’d see Sami in Dallas and that was it. Well that was underwhelming. I was expecting a dope music video. Crowd knew who he was though and popped huge. Sami sold this like he was honored, but he also knew he had his work cut out for him... Hype Bros vs. Two Geeks. Angelo Dawkins and I believe Trevor Crawford was the other dude’s name. Mojo Rawley is a giant jacked-up Bushwacker. The new extension of his gimmick is to get the crowd to chant “HE AIN’T HYPE.” Yeah. They won with the elevated leg lariat... Highlights of the NXT appearance at the Arnold Classic. Looked like everyone had a good time... Emma and Dana were walking backstage when they ran into Deonna Purrazzo or however the hell she spells it. They laughed at her for getting beat by Asuka a few weeks ago, and they were going to beat her up even worse tonight. She gave a wooden delivery about how she was going to stop Emma. They laughed at her and patted her head... Deonna Purrazzo vs. Emma. Match was mostly Emma beating her up and bullying her. Deonna made a brief comeback, but Emma cut her off and hit a tarantula and the bridging Indian deathlock for the win... They showed clips of the NXT tag title match at Road Block... The VaudeVillains were warming up backstage in an old-timey manner... Tommaso Ciampa vs. Jesse Sorensen. Ciampa came out intense, even by his standards. Sorensen busted out a SWANK dropkick. Ciampa found a very wacky way to trap Sorensen neck-first in the corner. Is that a wise thing to do to a man who almost died of a broken neck? Ciampa got the win with an armbar... American Alpha were warming up backstage... They promised an interview with Austin Aries, calling him NXT’s newest superstar. No he isn’t. He used to be, but now Shinsuke Nakamura is... Nia Jax & Eva Marie vs. Asuka & Bayley. Eva Marie remains the best heel in all of wrestling. Corey Graves is starting to get really good on commentary. Particularly his growing irritation with Rich Tom Phillips’ inability to shut up. Crowd really, REALLY liked it when Asuka got her hands on Eva and laid in the round kicks to the implants. Asuka was not going easy on her. Nia blind tagged herself in and laid out Bayley with a Samoan drop. During the heat, Eva walked over and slapped Asuka. Crowd couldn’t believe her audacity there. Asuka took the ref, which should have given the heels a chance to finish Bayley off, but they are BUMBLING HEELS and so they couldn’t do anything right. Bayley suplexed Eva, and then Nia accidentally leg dropped Eva for good measure. Bayley kicked Nia out of the ring, Asuka kicked Eva from the apron, and Bayly hit the belly-to-Bayley on Eva for the win. THAT MATCH RULED. The babyfaces celebrated, though Asuka clearly wasn’t satisfied. Regal then returned and put over both women for all they had accomplished, then said that Asuka would be challenging Bayley at Takeover. Now Asuka was extraordinarily pleased. Bayley, less so. I expected a split reaction, but the crowd was quite solidly behind Asuka here. Well, nothing lasts forever... They showed Baron Corbin wiping out Austin Aries a few weeks, then interviewed him from backstage, on a couch. Austin first said that he had offers from all over the world, but NXT was where he wanted to be. He said after Corbin had attacked him Regal had apologized, and Aries said no, you should feel sorry for Corbin. Throughout his career, he had dealt with big insecure guys like Corbin, and nobody handed him a contract because he was 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, he had earned it by being the best at his job for 15 years. He said at Takeover, Corbin, “it’s going to be a bad day to be you.” A very good promo, though nothing special by Aries’ standards... American Alpha vs. VaudeVillains. Watching Gable school dudes on the mat will never get old. Gotch actually hung with him for a while. Alpha have clearly been watching their Rock & Roll Express tapes, with some classic babyface double-teams. This is a good thing. They eventually got the heat on Gable. Jordan’s big suplexy comebacks are so awesome. Things went back and forth a bit and Gable hit the GREATEST CHAOS THEORY OF ALL TIME. He suplexed English so high he almost lost his grip on him. Then Jordan sent Gotch flying with a suplex on the floor. English powerbombed Gable for a nearfall. Alpha finally hit English with their double-team suplex for the win. THIS MATCH WAS GREAT. Jesus Christ. That was better than anything at Road Block. Best episode of NXT in — well, that Balor-Neville match two or three weeks ago was awfully great. Whatever, I loved this show.
Lucha Underground (3/16/16)
Catrina confronted Fenix backstage and said she had tried everything to destroy him, but he kept rising from the ashes. She said she wanted his powers to give her life again, and Fenix offered his hand. She said she thought the might have made the wrong choice, and she should have stayed loyal to him and rule the Temple together. And they made out like crazy. He stepped in for more, but she said that had been their final kiss, and tonight Mil Muertes would destroy the Fenix once and for all — “and then you will bring me back from the dead.” And then she teleported away, leaving Fenix frustrated in every sense of the word... Ivelisse & Angelico & Son of Havoc vs. Disciples of Death in a Careers vs. Titles match. Team Dysfunction isolated the Disciples in corners and took turns charging at them. Vampiro was talking about how the crowd was cheering for Ivelisse, and how Striker knew how that could motivate you in the ring. Like anyone ever cheered fro Matt Striker. Cool triple dive spot, but then Catrina tripped Havoc off the ropes. Disciples tried a Killer Bees-style switch, but Angelico kicked out of the small package. He followed with a razor’s edge into the turnbuckles (FUCKING OW) and Son of Havoc followed with a shooting star off the top rope to win the match and the titles. Fun enough, but nothing close to the night they won them the first time, and in hindsight I don’t think the Disciples’ title reign accomplished much of anything... Prince Puma was working a heavy bag when Johnny Mundo interrupted. He was being all chatty and annoying, and said unlike last year, when he took it too easy on Puma in Aztec Warfare, he was going to win Warfare this year, win the LU title, and send Puma “and your little giraffe tights” to the back of the line. He walked out, leaving Puma so angry he started putting his fist through the heavy bags... Rey Mysterio Jr. was pouring shots of tequila when Dragon Azteca arrived. Rey announced that Dragon’s training was complete, and he had something to give to Dragon. It was an invitation to compete in Aztec Warfare. Dragon asked if Rey was coming with him. Rey hesitated, then revealed that he had an invitation too. They agreed that the best man should win and toasted each other. Excellent... Chavo Guerrero Jr. vs. Texano Jr. in a bullrope match. Chavo came out with the Crew, but they immediately walked out on him. They were brawling on the floor in a boring manner, then Texano got thrown into the seats. They went back in the ring and the boredom continued. Highlight was Vampiro noting “When I’m on my meds I’m good, dog.” Chavo went up top and Texano used the rope to yank him down. That looked like they had to save it in editing. Texano won with a sitout powerbomb. Well that was lame... Mil Muertes was backstage killing the Disciples of Death. Perhaps literally. One of them had the temerity to fight back and Mil was about to kill him. “Spare him” Catrina ordered, but Mil slammed to the ground. Lighting shot over the Disciples’ body, and his eyes faded to black. “Or not,” Catrina said. So I guess just this one is dead... Meanwhile, 375 miles from Boyle Heights, Dario Cueto was smiling at the screams of the innocent men his brother was murdering. He said that should do it, he was ready, and it was time to take back the Temple. He paused, then unlocked the door to his warehouse or whatever, and MATANZA APPEARED ON SCREEN. He looked like Jason Voorhees’ scarier, bigger brother, in a jumpsuit and scary mask, covered in blood. And they walked away... Mil Muertes vs. Fenix for the Lucha Underground title. They were not shy about hitting big moves out of the gate. One minute in Fenix had tried two Lethal Injections, hitting one. Muertes responded by spearing Fenix off the apron to the floor. Fenix tried some jumping thing and Muertes caught him with a cutter for a two-count. We got some mask-tearing. Fenix was going for a tope and Muertes caught him coming through the ropes with a chair right to the head. Jesus, really? Must we, in 2016? Fenix was bleeding Muertes bit the cut, and Vampiro said forgive me, I love cannibalism, it brings back good memories. I don’t know if he stood up or what, but the crowd started chanting Vampiro’s name. They brawled up through the crowd, and a big fat guy got in Fenix’s way. So Fenix bled on the guy, I guess. Fenix hit a rather ridiculous tightrope-walk dive off the railing, which Vampiro described like so: “Oh shit oh shit oh shit OH SHIT!” The beating continued at the announce desk, with Mil powerbombing Fenix onto the desk and Vampiro saying he was covered in blood now. Fenix caught Mil with kicks coming back into the ring and made a comeback, then started tearing at Mil’s mask. Educated lucha crowd went crazy for that. Mil, enraged, hit a huge spear and laid in the ground-and-pound. Fenix grabbed the chair and hit Mil in the head, though these were safer, angled shots that at least would slide off and not just sledgehammer blows. Not that I needed to see them. Fenix hit a double-jump 450 for a nearfall. Mil followed with a massive uranage for a nearfall of his own. Fenix hit another flurry of kicks and then a German suplex for a nearfall. He went up top, but randomly started selling his leg, which gave Mil a chance to recover and hit a super DDT or flatliner or something. Bad camera angle, it was hard to tell. He looked pissed, so maybe that’s why they picked a bad camera angle. He set Fenix up for a flatliner, but Fenix turned it into a bodyscissors rollup to win the match and the title. Crowd went NUTS, and they mobbed Fenix when he hit the stands. Catrina then cut a promo telling Fenix to celebrate while he could, because next week, Fenix’s title would be on the line in Aztec Warfare, and Fenix would be the first man in while Muertes would be No. 20. This briefly harshed Fenix’s buzz, but he gathered himself and he celebrated through the crowd. Good match, but I liked the NXT main event better.
ROH on Sinclair (3/19/16)
Tomohiro Ishii vs. BJ Whitmer. Before the match could start, Veda Scott came out to congratulate Ishii. Then she attempted to buy off Whitmer to surrender his title shot to Cedric Alexander. Whitmer took the offer. Fans chanted that he sold out, which is undeniably true... Tomohiro Ishii vs. Cedric Alexander. Veda interfered right away for the heat. Things were going fine for Cedric until he started attacking Ishii’s head. Ishii no-sold all of these, leaning in to Cedric’s elbow strikes, then making his comeback. Good nearfall where Cedric turned the sliding lariat into a cradle, but Ishii recovered and hit a brainbuster for the win. Fun match!... The Addiction came out for a promo. They showed Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley reuniting as the Machine Guns last week. Kazarian ran the Guns down for a while and demanded that Sabin apologize to them, but Daniels said they were past the point of an apology and vowed to take the Guns out. Machine Guns came out to answer. Sabin called them bitter, delusional douchebags, which is why he was teaming up with his best friend again. They hit the ring but the Addiction bailed. Daniels ran his mouth for a while and finally said the Guns did not deserve their attention... Reno Scum vs. Briscoes. Reno Scum are a temporal anomaly, an anachronism, a 1980s tag team yanked from the timestream and dropped in 2016. Two big jacked up tattooed mohawked men. Well, one had a mohawk. Back and forth early, then a basic tag match with the heat on Mark. Mohawk dude used his spiky mohawk as a weapon on headbutts. They did a good job teasing the tag before Jay hit the ring. Mohawk hit a big Mongolian chop, which Mr. Wrestling III and I both appreciated. Un-Mohawk kicked out of a Razor’s edge/neckbreaker combo, which was pretty ridiculous. Mark finally hit a DVD, rolling through to his feet like a cartwheel, and the frog elbow for the win. Plenty of cool moves, that’s for sure, but this felt like a four-minute highlight reel of a great 20-minute tag match... Dalton Castle cut a promo on Silas Young. He noted the Boys were not there, because he did not want their sensitive eyes or young ears to be exposed to the violence that would ensue in the Fight Without Honor... Young Bucks vs. Michael Elgin & Hiroshi Tanahashi. Yes, a full one-hour show devoted almost exclusively to tag team wrestling, and the champions (War Machine) weren’t even on the show. The New Japan contingent got the heat on dark-haired Buck and told the blonde one to suck it. Tanahashi also played air guitar. Heat continued for a while, and this was much more slowly paced than most Bucks matches. Dark-haired Buck finally hit a superkick on the floor to start their comeback. Things went back and forth and Elgin started throwing them around at the same time. Bucks hit some double-teams that I literally have no idea what they were supposed to do, then went with the standard barrage of superkicks and top rope flips. We got some Elgin and Tanahashi double-teams, then a bunch of superkicks, then some plain old powerbombs and a high fly flow for the win. As usual for a Bucks match, plenty of big moves, very little drama. Still, a fun show, and you have to love the way they devoted it to the tag division.