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Figure Four Weekly 12/4/2017: Looking at WWE's match of the year candidates

Looking at WWE's Match of the Year candidates

 

by Joseph Currier (@josephcurrier)

While there's still some time for WWE to shape how the company's 2017 will be remembered, the beginning of December marked the end of this year's Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards calendar.

The insane output of high-end matches New Japan Pro Wrestling had during the voting period will rightfully lead to a strong showing in the Match of the Year category, but WWE's in-ring year shouldn't be forgotten. Though a full year of brand-exclusive pay-per-views and not having the Cruiserweight Classic may have led to a decline from 2016, WWE produced their fair share of matches that deserve to be in contention for best of the year.

Here's a look at my top five WWE matches of the year:

1. Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne for the WWE United Kingdom Championship (NXT TakeOver: Chicago, May 20th)

Despite not being regularly featured on WWE programming, Dunne and Bate produced two of the company's best matches of the voting period. They started 2017 strong in the finals of the United Kingdom Championship tournament and managed to top themselves at NXT TakeOver: Chicago.

Their bout at the UK tournament finals was about establishing Bate as the top babyface and Dunne as the top heel for whatever is to come of WWE's plans in the country. While Bate became the inaugural champion then, Dunne won the title from him in Chicago and may be champion when things get up and going. It felt like he and Bate were going all out on the biggest stage they've ever wrestled on, producing a highlight of their young careers.

The 24-year-old Dunne and 20-year-old Bate should both be future superstars in WWE. They're good enough to lead WWE's UK brand, to be top stars in NXT, or contribute on the main roster immediately if WWE needs them.

2. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe for the Universal Championship (SummerSlam, August 20th)

Being there live in the building, this had the potential to be an all-time classic after only a few minutes. And while it didn't quite reach that level, it still ended up being pretty great. The crowd went crazy for everything and reacted huge for every big move -- even at the end of a really long show. Taking Lesnar out for a portion probably hurt things, but the story worked and helped to set up the eventual Lesnar vs. Reigns meeting.

If there was a match that embodied WWE's 2017, this was it. Lesnar being champion for so much of the year kept him at the center of the storylines on Raw despite him not always being there. Reigns, Strowman, and Joe all vying to take the title from him produced stronger-than-usual episodes of Raw, leading to the show improving over its 2016 episodes.

3. Brock Lesnar vs. AJ Styles (Survivor Series, November 19th)

Though the SummerSlam match is a spot higher, this was Lesnar's best performance of the year and his best singles match in some time. His results were mixed prior to facing Styles, having had a great sprint with Goldberg at WrestleMania, a good match against Samoa Joe at Great Balls of Fire, and a disappointing showing against Braun Strowman at No Mercy.

Styles was a perfect opponent for Lesnar. He wrestled like he was trying to prove he's the best in the world, and Lesnar made Styles' offense look great. It's impossible to put into words how much of an improvement this was over the planned Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal matchup. And with it being something of a non-title exhibition, WWE could always come back to Lesnar vs. Styles down the line.

4. AJ Styles vs. John Cena for the WWE Championship (Royal Rumble, January 29th)

January was a strong month for WWE. Both the Royal Rumble PPV and night two of the UK tournament were strong contenders for their best show of the year, and Styles vs. Cena and Kevin Owens vs. Reigns at the Rumble were two of WWE's strongest title matches of 2017.

Styles and Cena probably topped their match from SummerSlam the year prior, but it was close and not remarkably different. Cena matches are too patterned to be anything groundbreaking, though they built on their previous meetings to produce something that will still be remembered. With his time in the ring getting more and more limited, hopefully Cena is able to be on these types of lists for years to come despite not wrestling as much.

5. Asuka vs. Ember Moon for the NXT Women's Championship (NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III, August 19th)

Asuka's last match in NXT may have been her best since signing with WWE. The result of this may ultimately be what's most remembered about it, but this was a joy to watch live. Asuka kicking out of The Eclipse was an incredible moment, and Moon earning the crowd's respect as the match went on after being somewhat rejected by them at the start was great to see.

The decision to have Asuka leave NXT undefeated and without losing the title made plenty of sense. If the NXT women's division had to take a momentary hit to get her more over on the main roster, it was a small price to pay. Asuka came off as above the division even when she was there, but Moon still has a lot to prove after winning the vacant title.

 

Mexico Notes

 

by Dr. Lucha Steve Sims (@DrLuchaJr)

What a busy week last week in Mexican lucha libre! It is not normally this but the last week of November, but things were fairly nuts last week.

CMLL: It seems everything is now on hold until the 12/25 Christmas Night show and 1/1 New Year's Day. They have done all the steps to set up a Negro Casas-Sam Adonis hair match, a second-match-guys cage match with a mask to be dropped, and maybe a minis feud too. As the card for 12/8 is out and while the card is promising, nothing major is on it. This is the week of the all-Monterrey finals for the Fall Mexican Soccer League, a calendar-point at which normally this is when CMLL would dial back to Christmas. Oh well. Only big news from last Friday is that Niebla Roja is not dead, nor paralyzed. Miraculously.

AAA: AAA is wrapping up too. Their penultimate TV was last Saturday night, selling out Arena Xalapa. They have a big "benefit for Mexico" show this Saturday in Mexico City, likely to do well. Then, one more TV in December (12/16) and it's just house shows until Guerra de Titanes roughly 1/20/18 in Mexico City with Johnny Mundo and Dr. Wagner Jr. possible settling it all for the AAA Mega Title. Unless, that is, Mundo's storyline feud with Vampiro built up for so many months earlier this year finally comes to a boil.

The CRASH: They continue to do mega-business in Tijuana and hit-or-miss elsewhere. The grand plans are still there, and the possibilities are endless, but it would now seem that to be more than a small touring indy, they really need to a sponsor to wrest that Televisa slot away from AAA. Interesting to see how little interest there is for their roster, the most modern and technically proficient in Mexico, in some of the interior markets.

ELITE: Back, at least in name, but without (apparently) the time slot on Azteca, such as it was as often as it changed and that often with little notice. Older, smaller-name stars than The CRASH fill the roster, as for the moment they trying to get by on the Ciberneticos and Sharlie Rockstars of the world. Smaller and less-TV-friendly arenas than before. With AAA downsized from its recent past, with The CRASH not catching fire outside its home base, with CMLL not doing much the admittedly large stuff at Arena Mexico, with none of the small indies doing much better than running in place, it's hard to predict success from ELITE this year.

WWE: They came, they saw, they conquered (good attendances and gates for a once-a-year appearance by this crew), and they left without leaving more than anything of weight or note behind. They came to Mexico last week, and it was strictly house show fodder, the faces going over as needed and the wrestlers basically doing a convert tour, bringing out all their greatest hits, individual routines, and old-time memories. None of the matches meant a thing, they were never intended to. They delivered on what they promised and the fans went home happy.

Lucha:Underground: As details leak out, the return seems smaller and smaller. The name of the show may be the same, and a few top-level and may second-level characters will remain, but with, so far as we can tell, no temple, no Dario Cueto, no Prince Puma, no lots-of-other-top-level talent especially if the rumors are true that wrestlers can opt out of contracts if they wish, lesser budget (for talent and skits), others gone overseas or injured, what exactly can the show be expected to be

 

Japan Notes

 

by Alan Counihan (@Alan4L)

New Japan's tag league tournament has passed the half way point and as is often the case, it's not been the most eventual tour of the year for the company. However it has been a tour which has seen some fresh faces, fresh match-ups and some interesting booking which may give clues as to which direction certain undercard performers are headed in the New Year.

The most recent show at Korakuen Hall was highlighted by a fantastic bout pitting two teams of regulars and newcomers, as Trent Baretta & Chuck Taylor defeated Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb. It was a match that highlighted the strengths of all four men. Cobb & Big Mike looked like monster, Chuck's charisma came through and connected with Japanese fans for the first time (he's had tours of BJW and Dragon Gate previously) and Trent looked amazing as the glue that held it all together and through his selling.

Both blocks are very much open with no team running away from the competition yet. The winning team will get the IWGP tag title shot at the Tokyo Dome and the rest of the card should start to fall into place once we know that.

Dragon Gate have entered their busiest month of the year, kicking things off this past weekend with a tag team tournament spread over three days in Sapporo. They will hit Korakuen Hall on Tuesday for the first of two shows in the building this month. In what is likely to be a great singles match, Ryo Saito takes on Shingo Takagi with the stipulation that Saito will have to join Verserk as it's lowest ranked member if he loses. That show will also likely set up Masaaki Mochizuki's next challenger for the Open The Dream Gate.

In two weeks they're back at Korakuen for the always brilliant Fan Appreciation Show, and then on the 23rd it will be Final Gate in Fukuoka which is one of their biggest shows of the year. It's a great month to get in on Dragon Gate as they usually close out their year in style with several great match and overall fun shows.

 

TV Reviews

 

by Bryan's Friend Vince (@FO_VVerhei)

World Wide Wrestling Federation in Madison Square Garden (6/30/73)

Blackjack Lanza vs. Lee Juan. Vince McMahon was doing commentary. Lee and the ref were TINY. The top rope was at the ref's throat level, and Lee was only 3 or 4 inches taller than that. This of course made Lanza look as big as possible. I miss ring announcers identifying every single official from ref to timekeeper to bellringer to judges by name. I also miss ring announcers saying "BLACKJACK LASAGNA!" It may have been La-Zanza, but either way it was funny. Blackjack kept giving clean breaks and getting booed. Finally Lanza went full in with a wide variety of rakes and chokes. He attacked Lee with his own flip-flop. I am not making this up. Lee fired back with chops to the belly. Because he's short. At this point, seriously, we just stopped and skipped ahead an hour. Bryan could take no more.

Dottie Downs & Peggy Patterson vs. Jan Sheridan & Joyce Grable. All four women had giant platinum blonde beehive hairdos. It was amazing for that alone. Peggy was the biggest of these ladies, maybe 6 inches taller than anyone else. Hard to tell with the hair. And her gear didn't fit right and she had to keep pulling her straps up to keep them from falling down. In a spot I've never seen before, one of the babyfaces was all set for an armdrag, windmilling her arm and shouting at the crowd, but when she went down Peggy just fell on top of her and SHE grabbed an armbar. Well that failed. They all traded toeholds for a while. Crowd loved watching the babyfaces crank away at these. Ref suspected the heels were cheating. "ARE YOU CHOKING HER?" he asked. But they said no and he let it go. Then the ref got distracted and the heels both started choking Jan in the corner and these fans were just screaming bloody murder. Joyce got a hot tag and ran wild with chokes of her own. Wait. Is that Joyce? Joyce and Jan had matching hair and matching tights and it was very difficult to tell them apart. Vince was not helping, with his tendency to go silent for several minutes at a time. So this match was like five minutes old or more and then they just started over. Everyone took turns running in and pulling somebody's hair. This went on for seriously like three minutes. They did a horrible kick spot off the ropes, and I guess they knew how horrible it was because they tried another one, and this one was a little bit better, and whichever babyface this was hit a terrible dropkick to win the first fall. Yes, THE FIRST FALL. They're going for two more falls. Babyfaces opened things with a double slingshot, then one of them put on THE WORST ARM WRINGER OF ALL TIME. There was more hair pulling and armbars. They lied there for a while. The ref determined the babyfaces must tag for some reason, so they did, then just tagged again. Then one of them missed a dropkick and got pinned. See? Continuity. Third fall consisted of more hairpulls, armbars, slingshots, and arm wringers, and then a babyface won with a victory roll, and OH MY GOD THE REACTION OF THE GOOD WRESTLING FANS OF MANHATTAN IN 1973. Jesus Christ almighty. Steve Austin wishes that just once in his career he had gotten a pop like that. Well, that was something.

George Steele vs. Pedro Morales. Vince noted that George had no hair on his ugly head, "but wait till he takes off his sweatshirt -- COVERED in hair!" Well, he was. He went after Pedro at the bell, but Pedro fought him off and threw him into the corner, and George took a great bump over the ropes to the floor. Like Sgt. Slaughter kinda. George pulled out an object right in front of the fans, but he was able to hide it from the ref and jab Pedro in the gut with it. Pedro made a comeback, and you should have seen George's panicky reaction to this. I can't even say he was selling. He was just terrified and didn't know what to do. I am gaining a newfound appreciation for George Steele here. So he used the foreign object to take over again. They took turns throwing each other into the turnbuckle -- not the pad, but the actual buckle between the ropes and the post. George gigged, and Pedro went after the cut with punches and even a bite. Crowd loved this. And finally the ref decided George had had enough and declared Pedro the winner. Yes, Pedro won via ref stoppage. With the match over, George just openly went after Pedro with the gimmick, but Pedro got the gimmick somehow. Now it was George's turn to circle around the ring in fear and throw himself wildly out of the ring and scamper to the back for safety. I LOVE GEORGE STEELE. This was awesome.

Chief Jay Strongbow vs. Mr. Fuji. Fuji spilled some salt during he prematch ceremony and so "Mrs. Krieger, always around that ring," came out to wipe it up. Match was all armdrags and headscissors early, then Strongbow hit the ropes three times just to hit one "judo chop." And then, just like in the last match, the heel took over with a foreign object. New York crowd tried to encourage Strongbow with Indian war cries. Fuji tried something off the top rope and looked so uncomfortable up there. This move failed, obviously. Strongbow hit a big backdrop. Fuji went to use salt, but Strongbow grabbed it and rubbed it in Fuji's own eyes. During the match, they went back to show "instant replay" of what had just happened. When they came back, Fuji had Strongbow in a titty twister. I swear to you. I'm sure they would claim he was working pectoral pressure points, but come on now. Strongbow would fight out, and Fuji would go right back to twistin' dem titties. This is two grown men doing a titty-twister before a paying crowd of several thousand people. Like, five minutes of titties being twisted. Did I mention this was going on after a WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH? It just went on and on and on and ON. Finally they started wrestling again. Fuji had the pin after a JUDO CHOP, but Strongbow got a foot on the ropes. Fuji went up top but got yanked down. Strongbow did his war dance and a couple of kneelifts. Then he crossed his arms tightly across his chest, bumped into Fuji, and pinned him. This was allegedly a double tomahawk chop. I see. This was a so-bad-it's-good match, that's for sure. They announced it at 13:58, which means at least 12 minutes of titty-twisting.

Moondog Mayne vs. Haystacks Calhoun. Haystacks was announced at 601 pounds, but looked to be about 450. I have seen him much fatter, that's for sure. Moondog jumped him from behind, and Haystacks went down and lied there as Moondog choked him. And I mean LIED THERE. Dude may have fallen asleep. He made a comeback and Moondog took some phenomenal bumps for the big fella. Haystacks hit a bunch of punches and Moondog wobbled but wouldn't go down, so Haystacks put him down with a running (!) kick to the gut. He dropped his butt on him a few times, then stood on him against the ropes. Haystacks finally hit some avalanches, a shoulder tackle, and a big splash for the win. This wasn't very good, but Mayne's bumping made it watchable. Well this was different, that's for sure.

Retro NWA (10/3/87)

They opened with the finish of Ron Garvin's title win against Ric Flair in Detroit from the week before.

Announcers were giddy as they welcomed everyone to the show. They also announced that Ricky Morton had suffered a separated shoulder and a concussion and the Rock & Roll Express had lost the tag belts. OK. So, um, who are the new champs? That seems like an important detail they left out.

Road Warriors vs. Clement Fields & Ed Franks. Hawk started throwing Franks around. Franks wasn't just dead-weighting him, he as actively resisting going up. Didn't matter. Hawk pressed him for reps and threw him down, and the Warriors pinned Fields shortly thereafter with an elevated top rope clothesline. Guess there wasn't room for the Doomsday Device in the studio. Hawk then cut a promo saying they, the Road Warriors, were Neo Maxi Zoom Dweebies, and everyone else was clamheads. I swear to god he said this. He referenced the Horsemen, including "Ex-Lax Luger," a reference that caught Schiavonie totally off guard. They started plugging Starrcade, saying the Warriors had a number of open contracts, but they wanted to challenge Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson for the tag titles. Well there you go.

They showed the graphics -- just the graphics, mind you -- for each of the previous Starrcades. Then Schiavonie opened things from the STARRCADE CONTROL CENTER. He noted that 1987 had been a huge year for pro wrestling, "all throughout the months." Jim Crockett was there to announce Chicago would be the host city for Starrcade this year. They discussed the THEMES Starrcade had used in the past, such as "Flair for the Gold" or "The Gathering," and said this year's theme was "CHI-TOWN HEAT." And on the heels of that major announcement, they went to break.

Terry Taylor vs. Terry Jones. Terry beat the hell out of Terry and kept teasing covers, then picking him up at two. It got to the point where Taylor should have hit his finish and won, but instead he decided to WORK THE LEG. So we got a bunch of boring toeholds and shots of random women in the crowd and Terry finally won with a figure-four. This was better than the promos he and Eddie Gilbert had been doing but still did nothing to make me think Taylor was on Nikita Koloff's level.

WORLD CHAMPION RONNIE GARVIN came out for a promo. He showed off his belt and said it was the greatest moment and greatest feeling of his life. He had to stop for a bit the fans were chanting his name so loudly. He said he would defend the belt "anywhere on this green planet of ours, I don't care if it's a blue man, purple, black, yellow, or white." He said Flair would get a return match, but it would be on Garvin's time, and there were plenty of other wrestlers who deserved a title shot first. He promised he would remain world champion for some time. I had heard this promo was terrible, but I dunno. It was just a Ron Garvin promo.

Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson vs. Mike Force & Tommy Angel. Arn was out here in red and yellow, no doubt signaling a secret alliance with Hulkamania. Tully must have liked Tommy Angel, because he kept giving him offense throughout the match. Or it may have been that they were out there forever and he knew if it was nothing but Horsemen on offense it would get old. They did make Angel pay, throwing him outside and rubbing his face in the cement. Then Tully picked him up for a piledriver, and it looked like he couldn't decide whether to drop him on his head like a piledriver or on his face like a pedigree. So I'm not sure exactly how Angel landed, but I am certain it sucked. He probably was legit knocked loopy, because they threw him into his corner to tag out right away, then pinned Force with a slingshot suplex. That finish was something else.

JJ Dillon and Lex Luger cut a promo. JJ said just when Flair lost the world title and the Horsemen looked like they were falling apart, Tully and Arn had won the tag titles and proven the Horsemen were as strong as ever. Lex said he had gotten to know Flair as a friend, a man, and a competitor. Ronnie Garvin had wrestled the match of his life, but he shouldn't bother getting his nameplate on the belt, because Flair was going to get it back sooner rather than later. Finally he turned to Dusty Rhodes, saying he would never be US champion. So Dusty had resorted to an illegal hold, an out-and-out chokehold. He promised to wrestle a long list of contenders, and beat them, but would not defend the title against Rhodes until he knew the refs would stop him from using his illegal finish. JJ said he was retired from wrestling, but he was getting sick of Johnny Weaver.

Schiavonie interviewed Jim Crockett. He begged fans to stop calling about ticket info, and said tickets would go on sale Monday October 12, and next week they would give info on where you could buy them. "Computer locations," he specified.

Lex Luger vs. Mac McGiver. I am not making that name up. MAC McGIVER. He was tall, and thick enough where he looked like he could take a beating, but also pale and a little flabby and totally generic. A perfect heavyweight jobber, in other words. He did about die trying to take a bump through the ropes. Lex determined he did not need the backbreaker and won with a bearhug instead. Which is funny, because it would actually be easier to get a guy up in a torture rack then it would to just carry him around in your arms.

Flair may have lost the world title, BUT HE'S STILL GOT HIS RANDOM MUSIC VIDEO.

Dusty Rhodes came out for a promo. He talked about WarGames being a Jim Crockett original, and anything else was a bad copy. WWF was about to do Survivor Series, you see. He congratulated Garvin on his win, but warned him to train harder than ever, because now he was the hunted instead of the hunter. He was sure to add that Garvin was on the short list of men who had defeated Ric Flair, but of course Dusty himself had beaten Flair TWICE. He threatened Luger, and also warned Dillon not to mess with Weaver. He hyped up Koloff-Taylor a bit, then threatened to bust Luger up in Charlotte tonight.

Ivan Koloff & Warlord vs. Keith Steinborn & Bob Riddle. These jobbers sure were horrible in every way. Speaking of horrible, Paul Jones was doing commentary and threatening the debut of THE MIGHTY WILBUR. Bob Riddle out here in zebra-stripe tights and a white top like an in-shape Sandman. Warlord won with a powerslam. Warlord was very clearly the second-best wrestler in the match, which should tell you a lot. They beat the hell out of Steinborn afterwards and nobody made the save because Steinborn sucks and everyone hates him.

Flair came out for a promo. He was subdued, but he promised he was not a changed man. "All the medals and honors you won in the past won't buy you a drink in this country," he noted, a lesson that is likely painfully clear to him 30 years later. He promised to win the world title a fifth time. He knew what it was to pay $100 for a manicure or a cigar, and being world champion was part of my life. He congratulated Garvin on his win, but said now we were talking about the future. Now Garvin had to wrestle Animal, Hawk, Nikita, Dusty, and of course the Four Horsemen. Now instead of eight hours of sleep, Garvin would get two or three, because he'd be up late wondering whether he'd still be champion the next day. Every promoter in the world had a surprise for the champ, a cage match here or a chain match there. And he vowed to kiss the girls and make them cry. Well this was a direct look into the heart of Ric Flair if every there was one.

Dusty Rhodes music video. It was just him doing entrances, walking down aisles.

Terry Taylor came out for a promo. He said he had come all the way to Nikita Koloff's backyard to get his attention. He blamed Nikita for hiding behind NWA executives and Jim Crockett and refusing to sign a contract to face him.

Nikita Koloff vs. El Negro. Schiavonie was sure to point out the WORLD TELEVISION CHAMPIONSHIP was on the line here. Nikita won in 30 seconds with the sickle. He dared Taylor to get in the ring, and they brawled. David Crockett was living and dying with every punch in this brawl. They did some spots off the ropes and their timing was AWFUL. Nikita was prepped for the sickle when Eddie Gilbert attacked him from behind. Eddie was late, which forced Nikita and Terry to stand there for a while. They whipped Nikita's ass and left him lying. They also stole Nikita's title belt to prove "we" our the world's television champion. Where the hell is Dusty? What a shitty friend. Nikita came out and demanded to know who it was, and "WHERE DAY GO?" He repeated this two or three times and started throwing furniture around. Well, I still don't think Taylor is any kind of threat to Nikita, but I am starting to want to see Nikita beat his ass, so at least there is finally SOME mojo in this feud.

WWE Retro Raw 288 (11/30/98)

Headbangers and Insane Clown Posse came out together. Hey remember last week's show when Bryan blamed the Insane Clown Posse for cutting Luna's hair too close to her head? It was the Headbangers doing the cutting. So before anything else could happen, Steve Austin came out with a shovel. Headbangers and Clowns were applauding him, like idiots, and so he stunned them all. Austin said he was not going to wait 13 days till Buried Alive, and Undertaker would be wearing the shovel upside his head before the night is over. Well OK then.

They plugged Steve Austin and Undertaker appearing on TV Guide, and warned fans not to buy the covers with the retired Hulk Hogan or "the Stone Cold Steve Austin wannabe" Goldberg.

Austin was patrolling the hallways looking for Taker. He asked a young, unidentified Stephanie McMahon if she had seen him.

Brood vs. New Age Outlaws. They showed clips of the McMahons trying to recruit the Outlaws on Heat. Gangrel spat blood in Billy's eyes right in front of the ref. Not a DQ. Then Billy immediately recovered and cut Gangrel off. Well that was pointless. I think Christian crotched Billy but the camera missed it. Edge hit a top rope rana on Road Dogg and tried one on Billy, but Billy hit a top rope powerbomb instead. This match is one minute old. The Corporation came out and everyone called them assholes. Gangrel got a hot tag and it broke down into a four-way. Christian hit Billy with a title belt for the DQ. The Corporation ran out and attacked the vampires. Outlaws left with the Stooges. Go back over all that happened here and realize it all happened in less than two minutes. I'm already exhausted.

Austin was still hunting for Undertaker. They jumped him from behind and locked him in a cooler or something.

D-Lo Brown was prepping Mark Henry for his date with Chyna. Henry asked D-Lo to tag along to boost Henry's confidence. D-Lo did not want to be a third wheel but he reluctantly agreed.

Undertaker came out for a promo. He said he would deal with Austin at Buried Alive, but tonight he wanted to deal with Kane so one of them could face eternal darkness. Kane came out and they brawled, and Taker hit a tombstone 30 seconds in. He signaled to the back and Paul Bearer came out with orderlies in white with straightjackets. They hit the ring but Kane fought them off and fled through the crowd. This all took one minute.

D-Lo and Henry were at a limo. D-Lo protested that he was underdressed, but Henry had a jacket and sunglasses all ready for him. He also had a chauffeur's cap ready. D-Lo protested again, but agreed. Henry tried to give some orders but D-Lo wasn't having it.

After the break, Chyna came out in jeans and a leather halter top. She wanted to get this over with and didn't want Mark to touch her. She was appalled that D-Lo was the chauffeur but got into the car.

X-Pac came out for a promo. He addressed the Outlaws, but said you'd have to ask them what they were up to, he wanted to talk to Shawn Michaels. Out came Shawn in his suit. He ran down X-Pac with the classic line "I've had chunks of guys bigger than you in my stool." X-Pac replied -- I am not making this up -- "How wide must your butthole be then?" Yes, this made air. Shawn ignored this and threatened to send X-Pac back to that money pit in Atlanta. If X-Pac wanted a fight, Shawn would give him one, and booked him against Ken Shamrock. But the match would not be for Shamrock's IC title, it would be for X-Pac's European title. He said he was DX before DX was cool and left.

Mark and Chyna arrived at their date. She was not impressed with his $2 flowers.

Austin had broken out of the cooler.

Jeff Jarrett vs. Goldust. Owen Hart was on commentary insisting he was still retired. Goldust hit a curtain call and Debra put Jeff's foot on the ropes. This match is a minute old. Owen said it was expensive flying himself all over the world to see his friends and fans. Goldust went for the punt to the nuts, but Debra got in his way and offered up her cleavage. Goldust offered his ass. Owen jumped Goldust from behind for the DQ. The Blue Blazer arrived to help Owen, but then laid him out. It was Steve Blackman, looking as happy as he ever has before.

Big Bossman vs. Mankind in a ladder match for the hardcore title. Shawn was on commentary running Mankind down as a guy who had to destroy his body because he couldn't wrestle like Shawn could. He was also giving out grades like Granny. By modern ladder matches, this was totally tame. They did a few spots off the ladder and threw each other into it, but that was about it. They were brawling on top of the ladder and Foley hooked the Socko claw up there. I guess Mankind found Socko. Rock ran out and pushed the ladder over and Mankind got necked on the ropes. He tried to come back against both men, but Rock hit a rock bottom and set up the ladder, then held it as Bossman climbed the ropes and grabbed the belt. Shawn joined in Rock and Bossman as they put the boots to Foley and celebrated for a while. They replayed Rock tipping the ladder over and Foley caught his leg in the thing and nearly broke it.

Kane and Taker were brawling in a poorly lit conference room or something. Taker laid him out with a chair. He started to put Kane in a body bag, telling Paul to go get the orderlies. Austin appeared and broke the shovel over Taker's head.

Marc Mero cut a promo saying Duane Gill, the light heavyweight champion, was from right here in Baltimore. And if he couldn't beat this moron, this jobber, this would be the last time we would see Marc Mero.

Marc Mero vs. Duane Gill. Duane came out with 9-year-old football players. Marc beat him up for a minute and hit the TKO when the Job Squad came out. Mero went up top when the BLUE MEANIE ran out and pushed him down, and Gill made the pin. I had completely forgotten that Blue Meanie in WWE was ever a thing. So Gill wins and Mero has to retire. And I believe he really did.

Paul found the orderlies and led them through the building.

Mark was trying to woo Chyna. Whatever music they were playing, they had to crank up the generic music to cover it up, and you could barely hear what they were saying. Mark said dinner was done, it was time to go dancing. Chyna reluctantly agreed.

X-Pac vs. Ken Shamrock. Both guys out here in red and black. In the middle of the match they cut backstage to show the McMahons chatting with the Outlaws. To be fair, match was boring, and I'm sure we didn't miss much. X-Pac finally made his comeback. Shawn had been burying X-Pac and DX the whole time but marked out for the bronco buster. Then he pulled the ref out of the ring, so no ref when Pac hit the X-Factor. Big Bossman ran out and clotheslined X-Pac, but then Triple H returned for the first time in months and attacked Shamrock for the DQ. This was totally played up as a moral win for DX, but Shamrock won the match, so they played his music, dammit.

Paul and the orderlies found a bodybag. Bearer unzipped it, saw Kane's mask, and zipped it back up. They put him on a gurney and wheeled him away, much to Bearer's delight.

Mark and Chyna were at some bar and grill and he was trying to get her to dance. The goof getting down on the stoll behind them was the best part. All the white people in the bar tried their hardest to clap along. Mark said he was going to powder his nose and asked her to watch his jacket. The biggest goofs of ALL TIME came in and hit on Chyna. One called her a bitch and she dropped him with an elbow. Henry returned and destroyed the other two as everyone cheered. Chyna pulled Mark away.

Val Venis vs. Tiger Ali Singh. Val came out with Godfather and his wimmins. Val cut a promo saying he had fucked Tiger's girlfriend. He called Babu a "little monkey" and told Godfather to "spank that monkey" if he got out of line. For the record, Tiger hit a cool suplex, so he was not totally worthless. Godfather sent the women to seduce Babu. Terri and Jacqueline came out, and Terri hit Val with a nutshot for the DQ. Faarooq and Bradshaw appeared and destroyed Tiger and Babu. Jackyl was there. What in the holy fucking hell is happening here? I need a nap.

Paul said goodbye to the ambulance. Austin and Kane were shown watching this on a monitor.

Shane McMahon came out for a promo. He brought out Sable. She modeled the WWF cologne. Shane wanted a sniff and got too close so she sprayed it in his mouth. Yeah.

Al Snow vs. the Rock. Another week, another shitty new song for the Rock. They kept trying new music for him and it always sucked. Why can't HE get the Nation theme and make D-Lo and Henry get new music? I mean, this was their WORLD CHAMPION and he's coming out to a generic drumbeat and hand claps. And then the world champion went 50-50 with AL SNOW. They brawled on the floor. Al missed a moonsault off the barricade and went splat on the floor. He missed a clothesline and took out the ref. Rock hit the Rock bottom and teased the corporate elbow, then stopped and gave it to Head instead. Al recovered and laid Rock out with Head, but still no ref. Out came Shamrock and Bossman. Al was distracted and Rock hit rock bottom again, this time for the win. Mankind ran out but got attacked by Shamrock and Bossman. Job Squad ran out to make the save. Rock was smart enought to not even let himself appear on camera with these goofs and got the hell out of there. Mankind ran him down and they brawled on the stage and backstage.

Bearer was searching for Undertaker but found Austin and Kane instead. This made him sad.

Austin and Kane came out with Bearer. There are 15 minutes left and apparently no matches. I'm scared of how horrible this is going to be. Austin said Taker wasn't there to save Bearer, and he was upset they had tried to bury him and embalm him alive. He told Kane to go get his gas can so they could light Bearer on fire. Then he changed his mind and pulled out scissors. He started cutting up Bearer's shirt and tie Bearer begged for Taker. "JESUS TAKE ME HOME!" Austin teased murdering Paul with scissors, then had Kane take Paul backstage again. Why is Kane following Austin's orders? They went into the parking lot, where Kane opened up a manhole. Um, he's really fat. He won't fit in there. Well, I was wrong, they stuffed him in, headfirst even. Kane put the cover back on and Austin's music played. And that's how Raw officially ended. Jesus.

EXTRA ATTITUDE. Austin went back to the ring. No Kane. Rock showed up and attacked him. With no announcers, it was funny to listen to them call spots. Austin hit a stunner and Rock took his wacky rolling bump. Austin started drinking beer. There are still seven minutes left. Rock spent like a full minute getting back to his feet and Austin immediately stunned him again. OK, that was great. Austin left. Rock crawled to the mic and reminded the crowd he was still the world champion. So Austin came back out. He grabbed a couple beers and admitted the ass-beating was over, and he just wanted to share a beer with Rocky. Rock agreed but then tried a sneak attack. Austin ducked and hit a third stunner. He left again, but now Shane was in the ring making sure Rock was OK. So Austin came down and stunned Shane, then gave Rock stunner No. 4. He helped Shane to his feet, raised his hand, hugged him, and then gave him another stunner as well. Well this turned out to be by far the best thing on the show, and man, I bet being Stone Cold Steve Austin was fun.

The finishes on this show were: DQ due to outside interference by belt shot; DQ via interference by retired Canadian; interference to decide a ladder match; pinfall after outside interference; DQ due to interference by degenerate; DQ due to nutshot by woman not involved in the match; pinfall after distraction.

WCW Monday Nitro 168 (11/30/98)

The nWo arrived. Announcers questioned what they would do with Hulk Hogan retired from wrestling. They went to the ring for a promo and took their sweet time getting there. Show was six minutes old by the time they started talking. Bischoff proclaimed "Big Poppa Pump" the heir apparent to Hulk Hogan. Steiner said Hogan had invented the 24-inch pythons, so it's no surprise he had dubbed Steiner the new leader of the nWo. He said their first order of business was taking care of Scott Hall, and he challenged Hall to find a partner to face himself and Horace. Giant was still there, by the way.

Konnan vs. Chris Jericho. Crowd was totally hot, and Jericho had a lot of support. Then he made a comeback and hit a big dive and started using furniture. This must made people like him even more. He came off the top and his face hit Konnan's boot, and Konnan made his comeback. They went a little long, and they lost the crowd a bit and Konnan got good and blown up. Jericho hooked the boston crab, but Konnan got the ropes. Jericho tried a belt shot, but Konnan ducked it and hit an X-factor onto the belt for the win. So he's the new TV champion, and these people popped like it was an Olympic gold medal. They just went NUTS. This tertiary title meant more than any of the belts in WWE today.

In celebration, they aired Konnan's rap video again.

Mean Gene brought Ric Flair out for a promo. Flair, still trying to fit in in the Attitude era, was wearing black jeans, a button-up shirt, and a black leather jacket. He name-dropped Wahoo McDaniel, Ricky Steamboat, and a ton of modern stars, saying the wrestlers were the ones who made Bischoff what he was. He called Bischoff an asshole. He called himself an old man, but this old man was calling Bischoff out.

Scott Hall came out for a promo. He said he didn't have any friends, but he'd fight Steiner one-on-one. Out came Kevin Nash, who said he'd be Hall's huckleberry tonight. Hall accepted.

Raven & Kanyon vs. Scott & Steve Armstrong. Raven out here in an Inhumans t-shirt when the Inhumans are getting a TV show soon in 2017. Raven started to cut a promo about not getting affection from his mom, but Kanyon cut him off and said we had been hearing the same shit for two years. Armstrongs attacked Kanyon. Steve was out there in his Young Pistols trunks. I honestly forgot he was in that team. Kanyon cut them off and hit a bunch of finishers. Raven was sulking in the corner, then he just left. Kanyon hit a flatliner and had the match won, but stopped to look at Raven, and Scott pinned him with a cradle.

Mean Gene brought Bret Hart out for a promo. He claimed Dean Malenko had tried to fracture his groin, but the people couldn't understand because none of them had groins. He insisted doctors would not let him fight with this groin injury. DDP came through the crowd. Bret repeated the doctors, "educated people," wouldn't let him wrestle. Page called him a DAMN LIAR. But if Hart was telling the truth, that would mean he had been excellently executed. Bret said he didn't have his gear there. Gene said it was easy to get a gearbag there. It is? From Calgary? Finally Hart said that if Page wanted to defend his title in a no-DQ match against a cripple, Hart would take it. Page agreed to those terms.

Eddy Guerrero vs. Kidman. They brawled on the floor and Eddie took over. They went through a commercial. Lots of SUB HOLDS. Kidman made his comeback and they traded nearfalls. Ref got bumped out of the ring. LWO ran out. Kidman wiped out Juventud. Rey Jr. wiped out Eddie, then threw the ref into the ring. Kidman made the pin and the ref counted two, then the bell rang, then the ref counted three. Jesus. Kidman and Rey fled and the LWO chased them. Well this fell off a cliff.

Bam Bam Bigelow was shown sitting in the crowd.

Eric Bischoff and Barry Windham came out for a promo. Eric cut a promo about how the world needed a hero and called out Dean Malenko. The Horsemen appeared and agreed to send Dean down to the ring alone. Bischoff booked Malenko vs. Windham, and if Malenko won, Bischoff would agree to wrestle Flair. In a very wooden manner, Dean said a Horseman never backs down from a challenge, and tonight would be no different. Eric then introduced the special ref for the match, Dusty Rhodes. Dusty promised justice would be swift and the call would be right down the middle, and he would not let any shenanigans get in the way. May the BEST -- and here he smiled at Barry -- man win.

Wrath vs. Bobby Blaze. Wrath won with the meltdown in ten seconds. I guess they're not giving up on him yet.

Cat and Sonny Onoo came out for a promo, and Cat dared anyone in the back to come out and fight him. Out came Saturn. Cat said Saturn was weak, and Onoo had beaten him, so he was going to leave the ring and not tear Saturn apart, because he was a good black belt. Saturn said if Cat was scared, he should just say so. Cat called him Beetlejuice, then said if you can beat Sonny, I'll give you a match. Sonny was not happy about this, but Cat whispered something and Sonny was cool with this.

Sonny Onoo vs. Saturn. Saturn grabbed him and hit a falcon arrow. He knocked Cat off the apron, but when he went to make the cover Cat pulled the ref out of the ring. Glacier ran out and kicked Saturn and put Sonny on top, but then Saturn kicked out. Cat threw a chain to Sonny, but Saturn grabbed him and hit a DVD anyway for the win anyway. But then the ref saw the chain and DQ'd Saturn. A-yup.

Goldberg arrived in a limo and came down to the ring for a contract signing. The Red Rooster was there to run the show. They brought out Nash too. Bigelow was shown it should be his contract. Nash made some funny faces at Goldberg, then promptly signed. They had two copies to be signed for some reason. Gene announced that Goldberg would not defend the title until StarrCade to ensure Nash would get the title match he had signed for. Goldberg signed as Nash made more goofy faces. Bigelow hit ringside but security immediately swarmed him. They dragged him all the way outside and threw him up the stairs.

Booker T vs. Mike Enos. God bless Mike Enos, he was a perfectly fine bottom-of-the-card guy, but these people did not want to see him get the heat on Booker T. Match was three minutes of Booker getting beat up, one minute of comeback, and then Booker won with a spinebuster.

Bigelow was outside inciting the crowd and demanding Goldberg come fight him.

Lex Luger vs. Brian Adams. Schiavonie mentioned a tribute show that had been done for Mark Curtis, and said Curtis would be back reffing soon. Well that's sad. Match was short and sloppy. Ref got bumped in a hideous looking spot. Vincent attacked Luger, but then Adams whacked Luger with a chair. They hit a spike piledriver, then Adams covered Luger for the win. Wait, what's happening? Apparently Luger kicked out but the ref's hand hit the mat anyway? And then the ref waved off his own count? So the match kept going. It did not get better. Lex eventually pushed Adams into Vincent and the chair, then hooked the torture rack for the win. Crowd still loved Lex.

Barry Windham vs. Dean Malenko with Dusty Rhodes as ref. Dusty was being the shitty heel ref who would help Windham get the advantage, but then would stop counting when Malenko kicked out. The actual wrestling here was AWESOME -- Dean went up top and Barry did the best job ever of knocking his legs out -- but the way it was put together was impossible to enjoy. Barry would get a submission and Dean would get the ropes and Dusty wouldn't break the hold. I guess Barry was still trying to make sure they kept him on the payroll. Then Barry was beating Dean in the corner and Dusty called for the DQ and named Dean the winner. So it was a swerve on his part to screw Windham and Bischoff? Did he have to make Dean take a beating for five minutes before doing that? Bischoff fired Dusty, who didn't care. Windham went after Dusty, but the Horsemen were there to beat his ass five-on-one. Flair hit the ring, but various B-Teamers grabbed Bischoff and ran him to the safety of the back. Flair demanded Bischoff right now, but they went to commercial.

Scott Steiner & Horace vs. Outsiders. Hall and Nash were not all buddy-buddy. Slick Johnson was there to be Steiner's personal ref. They announced it would be Bischoff vs. Flair at Starrcade. So we had heel refs in back-to-back matches. Johnson would count fast for Steiner, but would still stop counting when Hall kicked out. So stupid. Steiner was getting mad at him, and I can't blame him. Hall made his own comeback and the ref counted slow for him. It was 100 percent Hall for more than five minutes and the fans were demanding Nash. Nash finally tagged in and just wiped out the ref and started killing everyone. Hall caught Horace in the razor's edge. Ref just wouldn't count. So Nash hit one of his best powerbombs ever. Another ref ran in and counted three. Horace was pinned for like a minute there. Nash left on his own.

Goldberg went charging out of the building to brawl with Bigelow in the yard. They fought into a parking lot and threw each other into cars and stuff. Eventually security showed up to break them up.

DDP vs. Bret Hart. For the record, Bret Hart and Steve Austin were both wearing jorts this entire evening. I love that he was working a fake groin injury, meanwhile there's a real giant plastic kneebrace on his leg. Page tried a ringpost figure-four, but Giant ran out to break it up. It was no-DQ, after all. Giant hit a titanic chokeslam. Bret tried to revive Page so Giant could hit another one, and this time Page got chokeslammed off the top rope. Bret and Giant had the sweetest hug ever, then Bret put Page in the sharpshooter, and that was that. They gave him time to celebrate like this was a Mania main event.

The finishers on this show were: pinfall after a finish onto a belt; pinfall after a guy was distracted by his own partner leaving; pinfall at two after interference; cheesy DQ when the ref caught a guy with a chain he never used; CLEAN PIN, the first on either show; submission after a three-count that didn't count and a bunch of chair spots; DQ for kicking too much ass by a double-crooked ref; I guess a clean pin after ten minutes of heel ref bullshit; submission after copious interference by a giant.

WWE NXT (11/29/17)

Street Profits vs. Tino Sabbatelli & Riddick Moss. This was taped at a House Show in San Antonio. They had the ring on a stage, so 90 percent of the crowd was on one side, just like in Seattle and Portland. NFL dudes are improving rapidly. Especially Sabbatelli. They had way more time here than they would have on a typical NXT TV show and had a better match as a result. Moss took a shoulder into the turnbuckle much harder than he should and Dawkins got a hot tag and ran wild. Moss caught Dawkins with an elbow from the floor and held the foot down as Sabbatelli made a cover, but the ref saw him and stopped counting. Profits caught Sabbatelli with a spinebuster and top rope splash for the win. I enjoyed this. The building sure looked cool.

They showed Trent Seven and Tyler Bate challenging Pete Dunne to find a partner and face them tonight. Dunne blew them off. Then Christy interviewed Tyler and Trent, who reminded everyone Pete had left Wolfgang high and dry while he was beaten by Undisputed Era. Then they interviewed Mark Andrews, who said he had agreed to team with Dunne tonight because if they won, he would be top contender to the UK title.

Kairi Sane vs. Peyton Royce. They told the story that Kairi was openly trying to blow Peyton up, which is something you would try to do in a fight. Peyton eventually figured it out and stopped running. Kairi made her comeback and hit a serious of axe kicks to the back. She knocked Billie off the apron and hit the insane elbow for the win. This was fine.

They showed medics looking at Drew McIntyre's arm, and officially announced he had suffered "an injury.".

Tyler Bate & Trent Seven vs. Mark Andrews & Pete Dunne. Seven, if you're wondering, remains flabby. He can do everything, he just jiggles when he does it. They got the heat on him and hit a move that, well, it's hard to explain, but it was a backcracker where the other dude's knees were on Seven's chest, so it was a knee sandwich. There were chants for Moustache Mountain, but more chants for Dunne. He's a total heel but he's so great everyone loves him. Bate got a hot tag and ran wild on Dunne. He ran out of the corner and stepped off the buckles, he didn't just hit the buckles and bounce out. He hit a crazy deadlift suplex on Dunne, then a crazy kip-up, then a running shooting star press for a nearfall. This young man is so talented. Andrews hit the ring and hit a bunch of moves. Dunne tagged himself in, and when Andrews hit a rana, Dunne caught Bate in a powerbomb for a nearfall. Seven hit Dunne with a dragon suplex that was really just grabbing Dunne and throwing him backwards onto his head. Now Dunne was crawling to give Andrews a hot tag, and he got it and hit a moonsault for a nearfall. They kept on doing stuff, and Tyler hit Dunne with the Tyler Driver '97 for the win. Great TV match, even if they went a little long and did more than they needed to. Dunne laid Andrews out after the match, because he is an asshole and blames Andrews even though HE got pinned.

ROH on Sinclair (No. 323)

Show opened with Bullet Club cutting a promo. They were making fun of the names of Flip Gordon, Scorpio Sky, and Coast to Coast. The Bucks interrupted to ask where Flip was going, then they promised Flip would never be able to flip again. I feel like there were six or seven jokes here that went over my head.

Silas Young vs. Jonathan Gresham. They did a distraction spot with Beer City Bruiser that led to nothing. Silas was losing before the spot, and he was losing after it. That better lead to something in a few minutes here. Then we had Silas offering a handshake with his fingers crossed. This also failed. Silas did a sunset flip, but Gresham rolled into a nudo. They determined Gresham's shoulders were up but Silas' arms were stuck. Lots more comedy spots that I started to write down but then gave up. They kept doing 20-step spots. Everything had to be a counter to a counter to a counter. Can't just do a couple stomps or punches or anything. It gets very repetitive. They did a distraction spot with Beer City Bruiser and his keg, and it seriously led immediately to Gresham making a comeback on Silas and then wiping out Bruiser with a dive. More Bruiser interference and Silas hit misery for the win. I'm kind of starting to hate Ring of Honor wrestling. Silas here qualified for a four-way match for Kenny King's TV title at Final Battle.

Kingdom cut a promo saying they should be tag team champions and also six-man tag team champions.

They showed Jay Briscoe laying out Bully Ray during Bully's retirement speech, then Mark Briscoe turning on Tommy Dreamer for good measure.

War Machine vs. Addiction. They were brawling on the floor when Daniels got thrown into the barricade and apparently into a fan's face. Staffers rushed to her side and rushed her to the back. Everyone froze. Daniels said this was ROH's fault and they ran to the back.

Coleman's Pulpit with Kenny King. This is Caprice Coleman doing an interview segment with a hysterically bad church backdrop and cheesy music. They talked about King's TV title run and made some jokes about the Bachelorette. Coleman then said King's reign wasn't real, ROH was just using him to get ratings. King had no money because he was a peasant. He said something about King talking about his daughter too much. Kenny jumped up and got in Coleman's face and said he was going to defend his title against Coleman at Final Battle. So, uh, I guess Coleman's plan worked here. This was weird.

Flip Gordon & Scorpio Sky & Coast to Coast vs. Marty Scurll & Hangman Page & Young Bucks. Cody came out and cut a promo on the babyfaces, saying like Dalton Castle, they were dreaming if they thought they could win. Cody jumped on the apron early and got ejected. Everyone booed. OK, this is now the opposite of WWE. In WWE, everyone hates the biggest babyfaces. Here, everyone loves the biggest heels. Bucks wanted Flip to shake hands. He wouldn't do that. Instead he was doing this stupid jumping handstand shit. So they dropkicked him. Everyone cheered. Well no shit. He had that coming. Flip, in fact, did a lot of flips. He flipped away from like a dozen superkicks, which for Ring of Honor fans is better than sex. This led to the Bucks grabbing his hand and asking where he was going and welcome to Ring of Honor and Scurll broke his fingers. His partners all just stood and watched as he was triple-teamed. This was the cue for the dozens of tiny men in the match to do a bunch of moves. They claimed Adam Page was 6-foot-2. I call bullshit. There were dives. Dive dive dive dive dive. Flip flip flip flip flip. I can only assume the superkicks are coming. I was fixin' to just eviscerate all this. Then they got Sky in the corner and took turns charging at him, and they would all hit, except Sky would always boot Marty. They did this three times and it got a louder pop each time. Then he ran into a quadruple superkick. They went to break and came back and everyone hit moves. Many of these moves were in fact superkicks. I was starting to lose track of who was on whose team. Somebody cursed and got bleeped. Flip tope'd into superkicks. Should have done a flip. Dive. Flip. Kick. Dive. Flip. Flip. Kick. Crowd liked it a lot more than I did and said it was awesome. "There's only so many flips you can do," one of the announcers said. Well, clearly not. Bullet Club finally on with a 4-on-2 double-stuff double-piledriver. Whatever.