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Figure Four Weekly 6/26/2017: Cody Rhodes' bet on himself continues to pay off

Cody Rhodes' bet on himself continues to pay off

by Joseph Currier (@josephcurrier)

Cody Rhodes may have already completed most of the goals that he famously listed in a tweet after leaving WWE, but his biggest accomplishment since wasn't something that was mentioned then.

Rhodes defeated Christopher Daniels to win the Ring of Honor World Championship in the main event of Best in the World last Friday night. In doing so, he became the first member of the Rhodes family to win a significant World Championship since his father held the NWA title in 1986.

The ROH title win took place almost 13 months to the day after Rhodes announced that he was leaving WWE. He noted then that he was given both large and less-than-ideal opportunities when with them, but cited unhappiness with his placement in the company and wanting more in his profession as a reason for leaving.

Given that he left willingly, Rhodes' situation is different than most others who have departed WWE. He presumably put some thought into his decision and had some kind of plan before leaving. But what he (and people like Drew McIntyre) has done is still really impressive. Even in an era with so many quality places to work internationally, a lot of ex-WWE talent simply rest on their reputations and show up for their bookings and appearances without putting in much effort.

Rhodes has instead fully invested himself in his career. He's been so absurdly motivated and has found a ton of places to work. He's a regular in ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling now. He spent some time in Impact Wrestling. And he's traveled across the United States, the UK, and seemingly everywhere else in his time on the indie scene.

There have obviously been advantages for him. His WWE credentials and family history alone make him a commodity, but he's worked harder than could have been expected to find his place in the pro wrestling world.

His in-ring ability is the weakest part of his game, though he's clearly made himself worth it to promotions despite that. While indies are thriving in part because of the monetary difference that social media makes, he's worked hard to maximize his already high worth by promoting himself and the companies he works for.

The path that he's taken is the exact opposite of most of WWE's recent high-profile signings. While they built their names and progressed as workers by traveling the globe, Rhodes left the comfort of WWE with one of the most recognizable names in the industry and having only worked within their system. He'll need to continue to work hard and open up his mind as he gains more experience.

The match against Daniels probably topped out as just being good, but Rhodes is close to the ideal ROH World Champion for where the promotion is at right now. They need someone who can help sell tickets in their regular markets as the face of the company.

Rhodes' biggest in-ring test will come this Saturday in Long Beach, California as he gets a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Kazuchika Okada. Whether he has an actual chance to win and become a double champion is probably doubtful. NJPW has made bold booking decisions before (like AJ Styles winning the IWGP title in his first match after signing with the promotion), but they've been reluctant to put their top title on someone who isn't full-time with them. Kota Ibushi didn't even win it when he was working for both NJPW and DDT.

But no matter the result, it will be another huge step in Rhodes' post-WWE life. Having a WWE background and coming from an iconic family may have helped him get the match against Okada (especially since Billy Gunn is getting an IWGP Intercontinental title shot that weekend solely because of his fame in the US), but when Cody Rhodes makes his entrance at the Long Beach Convention Center, he'll be able to do so knowing that he's done everything possible to put himself in this position.

Mexico Notes

by Dr. Lucha Steve Sims (@DrLuchaJr)

AAA … Word from the past week – bizarre. Their TV taping June 19th was, while not illogical and may well be helping greatly towards the undercard for TripleMania, was nothing like advertised, in terms of card, and had a starting beisbol team of missing wrestlers. Gotta think that this is already starting to bite them (in areas such as crowd attendances, match interest, and talent's confidence in the promotions) and that once the calendar turns to September, the issues that are leading to these problems will have to be fixed quickly. A. Peña's gone, J. Roldan's gone, Konnan's gone – the backbone of the organizational structure for the promotion's first 25 years is gone. D. Roldan, M. Peña, and Vampiro are the block leading the office and its in-house planning and execution. I had noted on these pages after J. Roldan's death the concern that the new powers-that-be might not be ready for their new tasks and responsibilities. What I sense, what my gut feels, is happening here is a repeat of the UWA post-Francisco Flores business cycle.

CRASH … Word from the past week – resigned. They promote great matches with great talent, including international talent of high regard, actually some of the very best in the whole world. It's not catching on at the rate I and many others expected; there's no TV, no general-interest buzz plus-or-minus two days of the match itself, and the promoters have 2-3 cities they can go to each month to draw a house, but for the talent they have, matches they have , and the creative forces behind the scenes they have (in each of those three areas probably the best in Mexico), they should be doing far better and their business should be far more successful than it has been to date this year. From time-to-time, TV is said to be close, but nothing yet, and what else (other than a paying sponsor) could they offer a TV station beyond they have. WWE had better production values and giant stars and, after great initial success eventually failed. El Hijo del Santo's Todos x Todos had, for a while, one great show a quester, which is equal parts complement and criticism., and is now Gone. Perros Del Mal had main events with talent the likes of which really no Mexico promotion has had this century, and may have sold out at most two shows in the multi-year attempts at running a promotion (don't ask about their stab at TV). ELITE has great and well-known talent and failed. No-TV small-budget independents throughout Mexico do very well the past 18 months, albeit on a much smaller economic scale than I suspect the CRASH was aiming for (I suspect they wanted to be either the biggest or at worst 2nd-biggest national promotion). "Resigned" is the word for I'm coming the conclusion that, overall, what AAA and CMLL bring to the table these days is simply what the market is for lucha libre in Mexico.

Lucha Underground … Word from the past week – worried. Me: I am enjoying the Cueto Cup tournament. The 3-4 non-lucha fans I know who have watched Lucha:Underground from day 1: totally uninterested. A wrestling tournament is not what they want from this show. They really enjoy the violence, the matches, the titles, the feuds, and the story sci-fi parts of the show. They love that. They have little no interest in its being presented as sport like a March Madness. I am worried about what the ratings will show 3-4-5 weeks from now.

CMLL … Word from the past week – intrigued. Actually "very intrigued." It has become most obvious since June 1 that they have the Friday night shows at Arena Mexico for the time frame of about April 25 to October 1 booked out about as intricately as Gedo books things for New Japan. This is not very CMLL-like. This is intensely organized, with some hugely effective things done (Soberano Jr. push) and some things we grit our teeth over (Vangellys/Pierroth upcoming hair match), but there's much evidence they have set their Anniversary show matches goal, worked the calendar backward step by step, and programmed out every Friday night's main takeaways to a T. This coming Friday night begins the CMLL Universal (Champion of Champions) tournament, the one I hate as 15 of their 16 World or National Champions will do basically 5- or 6-minute clean jobs. Still, in CMLL's eyes, it's the big one of all their non-bodybuilding tournaments, and it's way, way early this year. Don't know why. Very intriguing. The result (and any major feud, if any, furthered during the early rounds) should be very interesting, even if the matches themselves are likely to be as frustrating as ever.

AAA has one match on one card on one night that fans are going to give them well over $1,000,000 USD to see what happens. That's great, without qualification. But CMLL may have a quarter coming up that may make them $2,000,000 USD just from the next 13-14 Friday night show, to see one major thing happen and a few lesser things to boot. That would be great too.

Europe Notes

by Oliver Court (@AnotherOli)

If it wasn't already apparent that Chris Brookes is the breakout star of BritWres in 2017, then it certainly is after this weekend. Brookes won the Fight Club Pro Championship in an impromptu title match main event on Friday, then won the PROGRESS Tag Team Championships with Kid Lykos in the main event of Chapter 50 on Sunday. Brookes now holds a title in PROGRESS, RevPro, FCP and Attack, as well as being the No.1 Contender to RevPro's British Heavyweight Championship too. Every company clearly wants him in a feature role, but he's also cemented his personal brand too, with CCK being the hot ticket on the merch tables at every show they're on. Brookes' success is so heartening to see because he's done it the 'right' way, through a lot of hard work in many different promotions and evident effort put into his look and image as well as his in-ring skills. He also gives back to the fans that support him and interacts with them in a genuine way, whereas some wrestlers can come across as aloof and uninterested. It's been an excellent 6 months for Brookes, and with his singles title shot against Zack Sabre Jr. coming up in August, it looks like the second half of the year is just as promising.

This weekend sees wXw run their Royal Rumble-style show Shortcut to the Top on July 1st. While the Shortcut to the Top match itself is obviously a major feature of the show, two announced singles matches are probably the most interesting on paper. The Unified World Championship match with Jurn Simmons defending against The Avalanche (FKA Robert Dreissker) may well see a title change, as Avalanche has been built up strongly with a win over former Cerberus stablemates Ilja Dragunov and Julian Nero at Superstars of Wrestling, and may well be promoted to the main event of wXw here after Axel Dieter Jr.'s departure. This show also sees Ilja Dragunov take on Matt Riddle in a match with very high expectations attached. The pair missed each other at 16 Carat but get to clash here, and we're all better off for it. Dragunov is a major component of wXw's future, and he can prove himself once again with an amazing match here.

Japan Notes

by Alan Counihan (@Alan4L)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of checking out a very special match on the DDT Universe streaming site. It was a match from April 29th pitting KO-D Openweight Champion Konosuke Takeshita against his old tag team partner Tetsuya Endo.

There are a couple of reasons why this is a pretty remarkable match. The first is that it went to a one hour time limit draw. The second is that if a certain match didn't happen in Osaka two weeks ago then this would very likely be the best hour draw of the decade in wrestling. The third reason is the most startling – these two wrestlers have a combined age of 47. Yes, Takeshita (22) and Endo (25) delivered performances so far beyond their years in this match. They wrestled with a level of composure and crispness that most don't reach in their whole careers.

Takeshita has proven himself on many occasions already but this was a real coming out party for Endo who whilst extremely talented, often loses concentration or slips up at some point in his big matches. Here there was nothing of the sort. He held it together for an hour and didn't put a foot wrong. He was also the one pressing the action for most of the match and he took some incredible bumps.

Given the ages and experience levels it's completely unfair to compare this to Okada vs. Omega, but it's a feather in the cap of the DDT stars that it's absolutely a worthy exercise. Like the New Japan match, this did not feel long at all. The hour raced by and they went at a similarly impressive pace with as many huge impactful manoeuvres. The most jawdropping here was an overhead belly to belly suplex on the apron with looked amazing. The one noticeable thing which kept this from hitting that sky high level was that neither Takeshita nor Endo have the inherent natural timing for when to do things or switch gears at the exact right moment. With Okada and Omega they drove the car perfectly and every corner was timed to perfection. That skill will come with time for the younger wrestlers and when it does, watch out.

To me, Konosuke Takeshita and Tetsuya Endo are two of the most interesting wrestlers in the world right now. The reason being is that I watch them and I laugh because I know I'm watching the two best kept secrets in the business. With so many promotions worldwide scrapping for every piece of upcoming talent, these two might be the shiniest diamonds out there. But outside of super hardcore fans, NOBODY knows about them. DDT boss Sanshiro Takagi probably says a prayer every night that it stays that way because right now he's got a promotion that's doing great business in Japan and these two are crucial to it.

TV Reviews

by Bryan's Friend Vince (@FO_VVerhei)

Retro NWA (6/20/87)

They re-aired the false finish of the Rhodes-Blanchard TV title finish. Announcers were running down the show when Jimmy Garvin interrupted for a promo. He said he was so excited about the Great American Bash and just couldn't wait. He promised it was just a matter of time for Ric Flair, stopped to kiss his squeeze, and said there was no chance Flair would get to his woman. So HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS, because for the next two hours you'll see THE GREATEST PRO WRESTLING IN THE WORLD.

Barry Windham vs. Brodie Chase. I don't know if they miced the crowd differently or what, but they were LOUD. Barry beat the crap out of him for a while. Much longer than he needed to, actually. And then Brodie was making a comeback. Barry finally won with the lariat. He went to cut a promo saying the Bash was the greatest thing to ever happen to professional wrestling. He called out Tully Blanchard and Big Bubba Rogers.

Jimmy Valiant & Lazer-Tron vs. Thunderfoot 1 & Thunderfoot 2. Not the Thunderfeet, mind you. They were listed separately. One of them appeared to drop Tron on his head immediately, then Teddy Long got in the way as Tron was trying a double-headscissor spot. We're off to a hot start tonight. Valiant was actually wrestling this week. I mean, it was just arm wringers. But still. Tron did a standing frog splash. There is a reason that move died in 1987. He started bumping his ass off for the fucking Thunderfoots. Then he just hit a kick and went on offense. This thing just went ON. Even Valiant got bored. "BEAT HIM LAZER! RIGHT NOW! PIN HIM!" Instead the Thunderfeet went on offense AGAIN. Finally Valiant hit the boogie woogie elbow for the win. Longest Valiant match ever, I'm sure.

Magnum TA and Dusty Rhodes did a sitdown promo. Dusty said he did not do many promos, because he was a special person. He announced he was getting a rematch with Blanchard with Dusty's stolen money hanging in a sack above the ring, with the ring surrounded by barbed wire. He talked about Magnum's accident and how doctors had said he would never walk again. At this point the video froze but the audio continued. Usually when this kind of thing happens they'll put up a note about how this was the original broadcast error, but not this time. Magnum promised that just as he had re-learned to walk, Dusty would re-gain his title. And he had big plans for Blanchard, and promised to return to the ring and take care of business.

WARGAMES HYPE VIDEO. SO FUCKING AWESOME. "THE WAR GAMES!".

Nikita Koloff vs. Hal Moore. Hal was a pretty terrible fat guy. I like when he hit the ropes flat-back, with both arms down by his sides. Nikita beat him with the sickle.

Schiavonie was running down Bash dates when the video kept freezing again. Over and over. Jim Crockett then stepped in to address the Rhodes-Blanchard controversy. He said they had canceled the $50,000 check he had written to the Four Horsemen to guarantee they would show for the barbed wire match. Then we got a promo from Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer plugging the Bash. Well that was fucking weird. It's not even like Jim Ross was on this show.

WarGames hype video aired again. "THEY'RE BUILDING A DOME OF STEEL IN ATLANTA." How did anyone not watch that show?.

Mod Squad vs. Mike Jackson & Alan Martin. Well the jobbers are the more talented team here. At least Jackson is. Jackson, by the way, is still working and doing dives here in 2017. More video freezing. I did like when Basher caught Martin like he was going to do a reverse atomic drop, then just suplexed him onto his face instead. This went on for a while and Squad pinned Martin with a big elbow. That was the superkick of the 1980s, apparently.

Ragin' Bull & Ivan Koloff vs. Todd Champion & Denny Brown. Bull was awesome here. Making fun of Brown's height, then bumping his ass off for him, then pointing at him like, how is this little fucker doing this? The video kept freezing so we tried watching on Bryan's phone, chrome-casted to the big screen. That failed. Denny could work and Champion was big, so they got way more offense than a lot of teams would have gotten against Bull and Ivan. Heels won with an elevated Russian sickle.

Four Horsemen and their fanfare cut a promo. Never fails to make me laugh. First Tully pointed out that Dark Journey was again looking good and JJ Dillon was always making them money. He said it didn't matter what Dusty said, he was still TV champion, then started running down Magnum for making threats from almost beyond the grave. He was appalled that Crockett had canceled his check, and Dillon couldn't believe they were calling HIM a thief when Tully won the money fair and square. I've never seen Dillon so fiery as he was talking about bank tellers telling him the check had been canceled. He was appalled they now wanted to tear Tully's body to shreds. They wanted to make sure this time, the $100,000 would be in cash.

Nikita Koloff cut a promo. He promised somebody would get hurt in WarGames, and he hoped it would be him, because when he got hurt, he got mean. He said Lex Luger wanted to "go to bar and PARTY PARTY PARTY ALL OVER.".

Ron Garvin vs. Jon Hardy. Hardy was a big dude who didn't have the first clue of what he was doing out there. The first thing Ronnie did was try an amatetur waistlock takedown, and Hardy didn't go up for it at all, and Garvin got him up and down with all his might and shouting "OH, SHIT!" Then Ronnie put him in an armbar, then let go, and Hardy just lied on the mat with his arm sticking straight up in the air. At this point Ronnie gave up and decided to spend several minutes stomping, slapping, and punching the holy hell out of this guy, occasionally pausing to stretch the bejeezus out of him. At one point Teddy Long started a five-count because Garvin was standing on the dude's hand, but Garvin insisted this was legal, and they had a lengthy and spirited debate about this. Announcers noted several times that Ronnie was beating this guy up. Indeed. THIS WENT THROUGH A BREAK. There were headbutts and stiff-ass chops and finally the knockout punch and a win. "Thank you for ending the misery," Crockett noted. Think about this, DAVID CROCKETT had too much of this beating. Garvin then cut a PISSED OFF promo, saying he respected professional wrestling and he wanted to wrestle A MAN, he didn't want to get paid for doing nothing. He promised that we would see MEN fighting throughout the Bash, and the Garvins would be right in the middle of it. This was an AWESOME promo, and these five minutes of TV were ridiculously great.

Jimmy Garvin vs. Terry Jones. Good luck following your brother there Jimmy. Well, he tried, slapping the piss out of this man. Garvin was wrestling in sequins, and Precious had her perfume can sequined up too. Fans spent several minutes chanting for the brainbuster, and finally they got it and Garvin won. Then he kissed his wife.

HORSEMEN FANFARE~! Dillon and Lex Luger cut a promo. Dillon said two things would make Bash 87 better than Bash 86: WarGames, and Lex Luger. Lex screwed up the Four Horsemen hand sign. He fixed it quickly. He was very sick of being the only guy in the Horsemen without a title and promised to take Nikita's US title. He flexed a couple of times as the women ogled him.

Ricky Morton came out for a promo. Yes, by himself. They didn't even bother sending Robert Gibson out there. He said Jimmy Cornette had been running down their families, but they were going to beat the Midnight Express and shove the US tag belts down their throats.

Kendall Windham vs. Tim Hardy. Oh lord. Kendall wasn't satisfied with being the skinniest wrestler of the 1980s, he had to go out and get the skinniest kneepads to. It was like he taped cottonballs to his knees. He beat this geek up in a boring manner for a while. Fans were chanting for the bulldog for a while but then gave up. Kendall finally won with the shittiest bulldog ever.

WARGAMES HYPE VIDEO FOR THE THIRD TIME.

Road Warriors came out ofr a promo. They kept switching the cameras on these guys, but they figured it out right away every time. They ran down the Horsemen for being soft, and talked about how violent and vicious WarGames would be. Hawk promised the Horsemen would go up into the cage and down onto the mat over and over again, and at the end the Horsemen would be looking up at them. Dusty and Nikita joined them, and OH MY GOD the reaction for this. Fans were so excited to see these four stars all at the same time. This was awesome. Apparently these four men are called "The Other Team," which does leave room for improvement.

Lex Luger vs. Dexter Wescott. Fans were demanding a bearhug. About five minutes in they got one and they were SO happy. Now they wanted a backbreaker. People are never happy. Lex gave them one for the win.

Horsemen fanfare, then a Ric Flair promo. He said he was the best, and he could be a Road Warrior if he wanted to shave his head and put a Halloween costume on. He said none of The Other Team had a world championship like he did. He described himself as "a glory-happy mother," and said he was going into that cage seeking nothing but victory. Twenty-six Bashes, he said, in 26 cities, and the best wrestlers would be there. He called out Larry Bird, and said he would make more money in July than Bird made all year. He called out the Warriors, the Garvins, and Ricky Morton. He called out a woman who was, well, whatever they called cougars in the 1980s, and she and her cleavage confirmed he was all man. He promised that the Horsemen didn't chase girls, girls chased them. This was great.

Italian Stallion vs. Tommy Angel. Really? Two geeks having a totally pointless match out there in white trunks and white kneepads and white boots. Stallion won in three minutes with a powerslam.

Midnight Express vs. Mike Force & Larry Stephens. The best thing ever happened here. They worked over Mike Force for a while. Then Stephens tagged in with his fists balled up. Eaton backed up and demanded he open the fists, this was a wrestling match, not boxing. This happened a few times. Then Eaton pushed him to the ropes and called the ref in for a clean break, and then he hauled off and punched Stephens in the face. Midnights won with the gravedigger (an avalanche spinebuster), then Cornette cut a promo on the Rock & Rolls. The tech crew tried to wrap Cornette up, and all three of them were like, naw, we'll go as long as we want.

Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson vs. Darrell Dalton & Rick Sullivan. One of them, Dalton I think, was a big flabby fat guy who should have been wearing a shirt out there. He had his trunks pulled up over his waist, which just emphasized his gut more. They beat Sullivan with a spinebuster and slingshot suplex.

HORSEMEN FANFARE~! They congratulated Blanchard and Anderson on their win. Arn talked about having intensity at every hour of the day, because the Bashes were here, and without intensity you'd get beaten by all the great wrestlers on tour. He refused to let himself or his companions down. He may not have a belt on his own, but they would defend the world title or TV title collectively. They had a four-way handshake and that was that. A must-see episode due to Ronnie Garvin.

WWE Retro Raw 265 (6/22/98)

Vince McMahon came out for a promo. This is becoming like Nitro where it's the same opening segment every single week. The Cell was over the ring again. He brought out Kane, calling him the next WWF champion. No Paul Bearer, because Taker had killed him last week. So thank god for that continuity. He promised Sunday would be the greatest day of Kane's life, and Kane's tortured childhood would be gone forever. He said Kane was dedicating the match to Paul Bearer, then said Kane was challenging Austin to the first first blood match in WWF history. Kane, using a voicebox, vowed that if he failed to win the WWF title, he would set himself on fire. They showed Paul Bearer, somewhere, freaking out. Vince then added that Kane would not just set himself on fire, he would breath his last breath. Vince and Dario Cueto are the same person.

Ken Shamrock vs. Mark Henry in a King of the Ring match. I love Rock in the Hawaiian shirt tucked into khaki shorts with loafers. The Nation got ejected before the match. Henry clobbered and squeezed Shamrock for a while. This was a long, LONG bearhug. Shamrock dumped Henry out of the ring with a rana, then Vader ran down and laid out Henry on the floor. Henry returned to the ring and Shamrock hit a belly-to-belly for the win. So Shamrock is in the final four, which will be held at the PPV. Kelly then interviewed Shamrock, who said there was one more hill to climb and he would be on top when all was said and done.

They showed Edge bebopping in the crowd, then showed Bearer lounging around on his couch.

DX did a wacky video dousing a director with super soakers.

X-Pac vs. Dustin Runnels. X-Pac used an X-factor a minute in, but that wasn't his finish yet. They got way more time than you would expect and had a good match. X-Pac totally got cheered coming out, but then Chyna hit Dustin with an elbow on the floor for the heat. Then he was making his comeback and she tripped him while he ran the ropes. Dustin forgave her, then turned around and ate a kick for the win. Hunter came out to congratulate X-Pac. Dustin offered a handshake, but X-Pac crotch-chopped him and left.

Paul Bearer did a promo from his home via satellite. Bearer vowed to be in his son's corner at the PPV to make sure he won and would not have to light himself on fire and die.

Jerry Lawler cut a promo on Al Snow in the ring. He claimed Snow was disguised in a dress somewhere in the building trying to attack him. "If you see a little old lady with two heads, that's Al Snow." Al appeared in his old lady disguise. Paul Bearer was so concerned about his son lighting on fire and dying that he was watching the show and eating peanuts. They did some really stupid bullshit and then Lawler said Al could get his meeting with Vince if he returned Lawler's crown. Al accepted, but then was surprised to realize it was a WWF contract, signed by Vince. Al did more stupid bullshit, then said it was for a tag match pitting Al & Head vs. Too Much at King of the Ring. Al yelled at Head for a while. THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE WORST. Al talked about "doing the J-O-B at the P-P-V" then laid down and said "pin me, pay me," and talked about "counting lights." Too Much ran out and he laid them out with Head. This was appallingly awful.

King of the Ring match: Marc Mero vs. Double J. They said there was a gag order that stopped them from talking about Sable, then they talked about Sable. Oh god, how they got the heat. First, Mero hit a powerbomb. Then Jarrett tried one of his own, but fell backwards and dropped Mero's legs into the ropes, and Mero fell awkwardly on his head on the mat. That was their plan! That's what they were trying to do! Otherwise, it was a perfectly fine Raw match that nobody gave two shits about because it pitted the lamest heel on the roster against the other lamest heel on the roster. Jacqueline tripped Jarrett, Tennessee Lee was distracted, and Mero hit a low blow and TKO. Ref was still distracted. Sable strolled out in her catsuit, tits bigger than ever. Mero was distracted and Jarrett hit a DDT for the win. Kelly interviewed Jarrett, who vowed to prove that in addition to being the king of country music, he would be king of the ring too. These postmatch promos are good stuff.

Road Dogg vs. Kane. Billy Gunn got sent to the back. Road Dogg's bumping and selling was so awesome. Kane just hit a big boot like we have seen a thousand times from a thousand guys, but Dogg went down and grabbed his face and you just knew this poor fucker was in bad shape now. Kane took 80 percent of the match. Road Dogg broke up a chokeslam with a low blow, but Kane shook it off and hit a chokeslam, then a tombstone for the win. Hey, you've got to make the title challenger look unstoppable on the go-home show. Bearer was shown on the TitanTron watching his son walk up the ramp. He vowed again to be there for his son on Sunday. He said Taker had tried to kill him last week because Taker didn't want Paul telling the world about his SECRET PLAN. The lights started flickering in Paul's house, but Paul no-sold that and said Taker wouldn't shut him up. Then Taker appeared in street clothes and destroyed Paul and his furniture. Taker was dressed nicer here than he had been for weeks on Raw. They lost signal, and I think we were supposed to think Paul went through a table or something.

Edge vs. Jose Estrada. Edge had been out in the crowd all night, then came out through the crowd here even as his music and video played. This was his in-ring debut. Jose cut him off coming into the ring, but Edge fired back with a spear, a dropkick, and a huge flip dive. Jose was dead and Edge won by countout. I watched this on replay and it didn't look like anything unusual, so I'd guess this was the finish they had planned. Well it gave Edge a reason to be pissed, which was his character. OK, I take it back. They showed a replay and Edge's leg came down right on Jose's head. Well, Jose was way too close to the ring for what Edge was doing. So this was a fuckup. Estrada was stretchered out after the break. He broke his neck and was out for a year, though he was wrestling in Puerto Rico at least as late as 2007.

Kane was throwing a tantrum backstage and Mankind was trying to calm him down, telling him everything would be OK. Well Kane sure came off like a babyface here.

King of the Ring match: Dan Severn vs. Owen Hart. No heat, but they had a fun MEAN GUY MATCH, grappling for position and suplexing each other. Finish fucking sucked. Owen was in control, but left the ring to throw a chair inside. This distracted Severn and the ref. Owen then put himself in position for X-Pac to run down and wack him with a chair. He threw Owen in the ring, and Severn hooked the pec stretcher for the win. Nation ran down to check on Owen, who was bleeding from the back of the head. This fucking Attitude era.

After the break, Nation was still out there and Rock was calling out DX to come fight. DX obliged, but geeks came out to separate them.

King of the Ring match: Rock vs. Triple H. DX cheated to win and then screwed Owen on this show, but Hunter was still cheered. Rock's matches sure were boring here. Ref was tending to Hunter on the floor when Chyna hit Rock with a DDT. Hunter returned and made a cover, but Rock kicked out. They did sleepers for a while. I was going to sleep myself. Then Chyna distracted the ref, and Rock hit a low blow and fisherman's suplex for the win. Way to go, Chyna. What geeks DX were here. Then they ran out and attacked Rock for winning. The Nation came out to even the odds. So at the PPV, it will be Shamrock-Jarrett in one semifinal, and Rock-Severn in the other. Lawler teased a Shamrock-Severn final, but said no, Rock would be in the final instead.

Kane was still beside himself backstage and Mankind promised that Uncle Paul would be all right. Poor Kane! I feel so bad for Kane!.

Mankind was in the ring cutting a promo as the Cell started to lower. He said he had hoped that one day he and Taker would find piece, but then Taker had attacked Uncle Paul, and now Mankind wanted to survive to urinate on Taker's grave. Taker had cowardly attacked a non-wrestler, and they could have him put behind bars, but Mankind wanted him behind THESE bars, and he promised a surprise for everyone in the Cell match. Yeah, I'll say. It was a good promo.

Billy Gunn vs. Mankind. Mankind was running wild until Chyna jumped on his back and started laying in punches. Ref ejected her. Mankind hit the elbow off the apron, and Jim Ross said this showed he would not fear a trip to the hospital after the Cell match. Indeed. Mankind picked up the stairs, but Billy dropkicked them and started his comeback. Mankind cut him off and hooked the mandible claw for the win. Well, a clean finish at least. Mankind scurried to the back to make sure Kane was OK, but Kane was nowhere to be seen.

Sable came out for a promo, and immediately brought out Steve Austin. Austin took the mic from her and knew she was out there for a reason. He showed her how to do a middle finger, and told her to go show that to Vince McMahon. Sable was fine with this. Taker dared anyone to come fight, checking if there was anyone under the ring. He accepted the first blood stipulations, saying he wasn't afraid to bleed again, but with the title on the line, Kane's ass was his. If Kane wanted to set himself on fire, then Austin would bring the marshmallows, hot dogs, and beer. Kane came out, but he raised his arms, and blood dropped from the ceiling and doused Austin. Kane cut a promo that I couldn't understand one word of, but Ross translated and said the blood on Austin on Sunday would be for real. Well, they set up and pushed the big matches at the PPV, so I can't complain about this show much.

WCW Monday Nitro 145 (6/22/98)

They talked about Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone and showed Rodman attacking Dallas Page a few weeks ago again. Mean Gene then brought DDP out for a promo. Gene, I think for the first time, formally announced Hogan & Rodman vs. Page & Malone at Bash at the Beach. You'd figure they'd make a bigger deal out of that. Page hyped up the match and promised that Malone wasn't there because he was training to make sure he could tear Rodman apart. Simple and effective.

Dancing Nitro Girls and Nitro party clips.

"Lynn Denton" vs. Disco Inferno. This was not a squash. They went 50-50 and it was awesome. I'm sure people were confused, but they were totally into and getting into Disco's comeback. Disco hit a piledriver out of nowhere for the win and danced as everyone cheered. Well this was a win.

Mean Gene brought out Kevin Greene for a promo. Greene was very excited and ran out, long hair flowing. He took the mic from Gene and congratulated the Jacksonville fans on their football team, adding that Mark Brunell was a damn good quarterback. Indeed. He added that the Jaguars had great fans. Gene asked him about re-signing with the Carolina Panthers, and the Jacksonville fans booed. Why is this happening on Nitro? Kevin started plugging all the great players Carolina had signed. The Panthers went 4-12 that year. Eventually he talked about his ex-teammate and ex-roommate, Bill Goldberg. Curt Hennig and Rick Rude came out and told Greene to get out of there. Greene asked who these punks were. Hennig eventually found a mic and said Green was just a musclehead trying to make a name for himself. It was a trap so Giant could jump Greene from behind. They triple-teamed him and left him lying. Greene fought to his feet and called Giant fat boy and called them to come back and fight, then chased after them.

After the break, they showed Greene being held back from the nWo backstage. I like that Mongo, his old enemy, was one of the guys holding him back. It got totally lost in the Malone-Rodman undercard, but Greene and Giant did end up doing a singles match at Bash at the Beach. In fact, JJ Dillon arrived and booked that match for tonight.

"Tokoyo Magnum" (I swear to god, that's what it said) vs. Yuji Nagata. This was Magnum's debut. A short version of your classic Japanese veteran-youngster matchup. Nagata took three-quarters of the match. Magnum got enough offense to show he was not a joke, but Nagata cut him off and hit an exploder and the Nagata lock for the win. Crowd was chanting "USA!" for the two Japanese wrestlers and the Japanese manager.

They cut backstage where Stevie Ray had laid Chris Benoit out.

Raven video package, showing him walking through the sticks as they showed images of literal trainwrecks in the skies. He said you had to be cruel to be kind. Well this was pointless.

Public Enemy vs. Sick Boy & Horace. Welcome to WCW's filler division. Announcers were outright saying, don't turn the channel, Goldberg's coming out soon. Match was just as bad as you would think. I like when Grunge tried a Japanese arm drag, a move where you take your own bump, and Horace did about a quarter-rotation and just jumped and landed on his face. There was some heat on Rocco, and some terribly timed four-way spots, and oh it was all so awful. And it just kept going! Inexplicably, crowd was buzzing for the hot tag. And then Grunge slowly walked into the ring and killed the heat. Then he immediately got laid out. This is a fucking travesty, but a hilarious travesty. A stop sign got involved and guys were falling down right and left. Grunge was supposed to dodge a stop sign shot, but Sick Boy didn't let him go and Horace just waffled both of them. Rocco came off the top and just went right through Horace and the stop sign and the ref counted three. This was the Three Stooges in a wrestling ring. Unbelievably awful. (-***, maybe worse).

Mean Gene brought Bret Hart out for a promo. Bret had the Hogan shirt, leather jacket, and sunglasses, of course, but paired them wth short shorts, sneakers, and mid-length white socks. Bret was wrestling Benoit tonight, and was outraged WCW was pitting one Canadian against another. Then he ran down Benoit as a snot-nosed punk who only had a career because the Harts had given him a chance. He promised Benoit would lose.

Goldberg vs. Rick Fuller. Everyone was standing from the moment Goldberg's music started. Goldberg was more patient than usual this week, sizing up the man who was even bigger than he was, then took him down with technique, hitting this great rollin kneebar. Fuller hit a couple of kicks. Goldberg hit the spear. Fuller wasn't ready for it and didn't move, so Goldberg muscled him up and spinebustered him. Crowd still loved it. Goldberg finished him off with the jackhammer.

Footage of fans being geeks. This was so cringe-worthy.

Wolfpac came out for a promo. They showed middle-aged men in the crowd wearing baseball caps with wolf ears on them. Have you no dignity? Nash said that in the back, "Goldberg killed Kenny." I don't know if this was a South Park joke or if Goldberg got in a backstage fight or what. They had a blow-up doll out there for whatever reason. They goofed off for a while. Sting issued an open challenge to any team that wanted a title shot. Then he just shrugged and said "That's it!" and stood there for a while. Nash said they were too sweet. Jesus, they were literally told "go out there and talk for five minutes and it doesn't matter what you say.".

More embarrassing fans.

Alex Wright vs. Eddie Guerrero. Alex forcibly kissed one of the ring crew girls. She laughed about it. Sure hope she knew him well. Chavo came out and patted Eddie on the ass. Eddie sent him to the back. Both guys were working heel, with Alex teasing a walkout at one point, and Eddie taunting the fans while he was gone. Alex did a normal vertical suplex, but with a neckbridge so it was a pin. That was weird. Eddie hit a brainbuster, but then Chavo came out with a mic cheering Eddie on. "Do it the Guerrero way!" Alex hit a neckbreaker. "That's not the Guerrero way!" So Alex won. Chavo told Eddie to keep his head up, he was still Chavo's favorite wrestler. Alex left. "Bye German guy!" This was the best performance of Chavo's career. He started talking about Monopoly and singing his own name and finally Eddie just left.

Still more embarrassing fan footage, though to be fair, the more they show, the less embarrassing these fans get.

Konnan vs. Scotty Riggs. Konnan was trying to do some chain wrestling but Riggs had zero idea how to flow with it. It looked like he was actively resisting, and not in a good way. He did have a dope dropkick though. Then Konnan cut him off and all his offense got fucked up again. Just falling down left and right. Lodi interfered and Riggs took over again. OK, feel free to end this match at any time. Riggs missed a missile dropkick and Konnan hooked the tequila sunrise for the win. A very bad match.

Clips of the Hogan & Rodman/Page & Malone press conference at Planet Hollywood. They had tons of reporters and photographers there and they were all laughing like it was a big joke. Then the four hated rivals had to stand next to each other smiling for photos. They had the least tense shoving match ever. People bought this show?.

Stevie Ray vs. Mongo. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!! Are they TRYING to book the worst matches they can? Dude, this fucking SUCKED. I like when Stevie grabbed Mongo's arm and put it around his own neck, and Mongo stood there for like eight minutes before realizing he should put on a choke. They quickly went to commercial to that as little of this match as possible would actually be seen. They went to a long chinlock and at least you can't fuck that up. Crowd figured out this sucked and was letting them know how boring it was. Mongo made what I guess you'd call a comeback. It was no better. They brawled on the floor. HOW LONG IS THIS GOING? Mongo went into the stairs head-first. Deliberately. Stevie grabbed a chair, but Benoit ran out and grabbed it away. Then Booker T arrived and took the chair from Benoit. Harlem Heat bickered, then left together. ARE YOU SERIOUS? I HAD TO SIT THROUGH ALL THAT JUST TO GET A WALKOUT FINISH? FUCK YOU!!!!!! (-***1/2).

Hulk Hogan and company came out for a promo. Hogan told Savage to go break a leg and laughed forever. Hogan said "DDP, the little peepee" was only famous because he was Kimberly's husband, and Karl Malone was the biggest loser ever to make the playoffs. Fact: Karl Malone lost 95 playoff games, second all-time behind Derek Fisher's 98, and Fisher didn't break the record until 2014. So at the time Hogan said this, it was technically true. Anyway, Hogan ran his mouth for a while. They showed Hogan and Bischoff taking a chair to Savage's knee in a cage somewhere and breaking his leg.

They showed a clip from Thunder with Bret Hart trying to recruit Benoit into the nWo.

Bret Hart vs. Chris Benoit. Bret coming out to the nWo music was weird. I don't want to alarm you, but they had the best match on the show. I mean, the gap between what they were doing and goofs like Public Enemy or Stevie Ray could hardly have been any bigger. This was put together like Nagata-Tokyo, with Bret the multi-time veteran world champion taking most of the match, and Benoit the youngster who wouldn't quit or stay down. Benoit made a big comeback with suplexes. Bret's face right before Benoit hit a dragon suplex was so great. Benoit hooked a crossface, but Bret got the ropes. Stevie Ray distracted the ref, so Benoit laid Benoit out from behind. He pulled Benoit on top of him to fool the ref, then kicked out and hooked a sharpshooter. Benoit was out cold and Bret won. I missed this, but Bret had knocked Benoit out with a gimmick. Very good TV main event, even if it wasn't the main event. Seriously, one of the biggest gaps between the best match on a show and the show you'll ever see. This is even better, as on replay Bret clocked Benoit with the gimmick, then stuffed it in Benoit's tights during the fake pin attempt. This was so beautiful.

Kevin Greene vs. Giant. Greene waited for Buffer to finish his intro, then ran down like the Ultimate Warrior and jumped the Giant from behind. Giant cut him off with a lariat, and this was a COLLISION. Green hit a couple of tackles and Rude and Hennig attacked for the DQ. Well that sucked. The rest of the black-and-white joined in. No Hogan. Goldberg came striding out to make the save. He speared Vincent in the aisle, then double-speared Disciple and Brian Adams in the ring. Everyone else just left. Greene recovered and challenged Giant to a tag match at the pay per view. It turned into a singles match between Greene and Giant at the show. This show ended with Greene and Goldberg celebrating as the whole crowd chanted Goldberg's name.

WWE NXT (6/21/17)

Peyton Royce vs. Ember Moon. Clever spot for the heat. They were fighting on the top rope and Peyton got knocked off and into the ref. He wasn't knocked down, but he did get tripped up and turned around, which was just enough time for Billie Kay to attack Ember from the floor. I would like to point that Ember's hair is dyed silver. She made her comeback and went up top, but Billie pulled Peyton out of the ring. So Ember wiped out Billie with a dive. Ember and Peyton traded cradles in the ring. They went back and forth a bit, then Ember hit the diving stunner for the win. Turned into a pretty fun match there by the end.

Hideo Itami and Kassius Ohno had a wacky meeting backstage. Itami admitted he had not had the success in NXT that he had in Japan, and that was getting to him, and he had taken it out on Kassius, and he was sorry. Kassius accepted, and said people were expecting a lot from the both of them, but they weren't done yet, and he would show it tonight against Aleister Black. I love that the story is that LOSING SUCKS and makes guys pissed off.

Ealy Brothers vs. Sanity. A squash. Ealys got a hot tag that resulted in exactly zero offense and Sanity won with an assisted neckbreaker.

They showed the Asuka-Nikki Cross brawl last week, and announced the two would face off in a last woman standing championship match next week.

PUT YOUR HAIR UP AND SQUARE UP.

Rachel Evers vs. Sonya DeVille. They've got DeVille watching her Shibata tapes. Not just the MMA gimmick, but the focused, intense way she carries herself out there just in between moves. She got the win with a chickenwing.

Earlier Today Bobby Roode was doing a photoshoot when Roderick Strong and his family passed by. He said something about Marina needing a real man and Roddy attacked him. They had a great pullapart. Well this was simple and good.

Kassius Ohno vs. Aleister Black. Several minutes of swank chain wrestling to start. Nigel called it a "delight to see," and he was not wrong. Kassius was the first to throw a strike, a big chop in the corner. Black responded with one big kick, then they went back to headlocks. Soon they were hitting the hell out of each other and were both down. They continued to beat each other after the break. Kassius was working Black over and standing over him, and Black just shot out and punched Ohno in the thigh. I laughed my ass off and watched it like five times. Ohno hit a senton with all his weight landing on either Black's chest or the back of his own head. He mocked Black's cross-legged pose and made fun of his theme song. Black made his comeback and it was awesome. They went back and forth trading kicks and nearfalls. Both these guys, especially Black, are among the more unusual, non-cookie cutter workers in the company, which made this extra fun. Ohno had Black in trouble for several minutes but couldn't put him away. Finally he went for the rolling elbow but Black hit the rolling superkick for the win. Tremendous TV match. Just awesome wrestling. Capped off a good show.

Lucha Underground Season 3: Family First

Fenix was in his dope Firebird (of course). Melissa Santos was out there flirting with him. He promised to win the Cueto Cup for her. The lesson: chicks dig muscle cars.

Marty the Moth was going crazy in a warehouse and put his head through glass.

Cueto Cup match: Vinny Massaro vs. Cage. Cage had a real-life leg brace on that looked bigger and more immobilizing than his big costume gauntlet. I swear to god he couldn't bend his leg at all. I've never seen a guy wrestle this immobile. Match was all brawling and no-selling so Cage didn't have to run or bump at all and barely had to lift him. Vinny made a comeback and Cage took one bump, for an STO. Then Vinny went for the gauntlet, but Cage cut him off and won with a screwdriver. On one leg, that is still a big scary mofo. Cage put on the gauntlet and started clubbing Vinny in the head, and Vinny gigged and was bleeding all over the place. Then he chokeslammed Vinny off the apron to the floor. Good god almighty. Remind me not to be Vinny Massaro.

Rey Mysterio training video. He was shadowboxing in the streets as Michael Schiavello did voiceovers and some guy painted a giant Rey portrait. Rey said the mask did not make the man, the man made the mask. He was running through the streets, surrounded by adoring fans. Meanwhile, Johnny Mundo was in the dojo absorbing a series of cane shots and shouting "NO PAIN!" Then he grabbed a stick of his own and laid out his training partner. They showed him winning the Lucha Underground now. He talked about his HATERS, then said he had beaten the Mack, Sexy Star, Prince Puma, and Alberto, and when he beat Rey everyone would have to admit he was the best. THIS WAS THE BEST. That is all I have to say.

Cueto Cup match: Marty the Moth vs. Saltador. So you've got the crazy stalker guy against the crazy drug guy. Google Translate says the English word for Saltador is "Jumper." They did some weird chain wrestling, then some weird spots in the ropes, then Marty caught Saltador on a dive and powerbombed him into a guardrail or something. Match then got boring until Saltador made his comeback. Saltador began to slap his leg. Marty pointed and laughed. Saltador superkicked him. What the hell was that? Every time either guy sold anything, Striker assumed it must be broken. Saltador kept stopping during the match to dance or whatever. Marty finally hit a codebreaker thing to win. This sucked.

Mascarita Sagrada was lifting weights when the White Rabbit tribe approached him. They asked him to lead them. He declined and strutted out. They still worshipped him.

Marty was hanging out under a light backstage. He had a shrine devoted to Melissa, then pulled a picture of her out of his trunks. He started playing a music box and pulled out a lock of hair and began to sniff it. Then Mariposa confronted him. She reminded him it was always family first. She vowed to meet Marty in the tournament and hurt him. They taunted each other. She slapped him and walked away. GOD this sucked.

Pindar vs. Mascarita Sagrada. Pindar grabbed him by the head and threw him like a frisbee. OK, that was great. Sagrada made a comeback that defied all laws of physics. Fans loved it though. Pindar cut him off and things just slowed down for a while. Sagrada did more headscissors and armdrags. Cobra Moon tried to interfere and got slapped a few times. Sagrada hit a diving rana from the post to the floor, which was amazing. Pindar finally won with a powerbomb into a facebuster.

Cueto Cup match: Mariposa vs. Fenix. Early on, Fenix was reluctant to kick a woman. He got over it quickly. They had a really fun lucha match. Then Fenix hesitated again, and Mariposa offered a handshake, but Fenix kicked her in the head. They went back and forth a while, and finally Fenix hit a Rikishi-style sitting piledriver for the win. Marty ran out and attacked Fenix. Fenix made a comeback and wiped them both out with a dive. So in the second round it will be Cage-Pindar and Fenix-Marty. Melissa blew Fenix a kiss, and Fenix pointed at her. Not a bad show.