Posts Tagged ‘Shawn Michaels’

NXT TakeOver Dallas & WrestleMania 32 Review

April 18, 2016

A few weeks ago, NXT TakeOver Dallas and WrestleMania 32 happened. I’ll summarize my thoughts of both shows in this post and I’m going to rank the matches from best to worst. This is combined for both shows, so it will help to demonstrate the overall quality of each brand.

  1. Sami Zayn v. Shinsuke Nakamura

This was easily the top match of the weekend. Hell, it was the best match in a WWE ring since Undertaker and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 25. I’m not a follower of a lot of professional wrestling outside of the WWE umbrella these days other than finding an acclaimed match from ROH, NJPW, or the like here and there. This match delivered so much that it could have main evented WrestleMania. The anticipation for Nakamura was completely insane. Added to that was the feeling that this was Zayn’s last NXT match and even though you knew he was losing, you wanted to see what he was going to do.

The crowd was amped from the time Zayn’s music hit until the time he walked back through the curtain. Watch the first post-TakeOver NXT show during the backstage interview with Austin Aries and listen to how deafening the crowd is. You can barely hear Aries. This match was incredibly smooth, yet also stiff at times. I thought Nakamura was overrated coming in, but he definitely has ‘it’. It’s the small things. The cocky attitude in the beginning, firing up when he tasted his own blood, the mannerisms. The guy is legit. Zayn was classic in the underdog role. He was the guy defending his home turf and not wanting the new guy to make his name at Zayn’s expense.

The forearm sequence was incredible. The entire sequence with the missed Helluva Kick into the suplex, to the dodged Boma Ye, to the Blue Thunder Bomb was insane. The kick to Zayn’s face as he dove for the DDT was insane. No botches and everything was practically perfectly executed.

NXT can hardly be referred to as developmental anymore. This was far above anything else I saw all weekend. Roman Reigns, you are not ‘The Guy’. Nakamura is ‘The Guy’. The only downside is that there is just no way anything in the future can live up to this match.

  1. Bayley v. Asuka (NXT Women’s Championship)

This was an unexpected result for me. I thought for sure that Asuka would come up short on her first try (akin to Zayn, Bayley, Balor, etc.). This was a really good match and very physical at times. Bayley took a few brutal-looking shots. This was also another one of those matches where the crowd is split. Asuka is popular and respected, but Bayley is Bayley. You have to be a sociopath to not like Bayley.

In the end, Bayley passes out to the Asuka Lock. The crowd was stunned in a way that says, “Asuka is cool, but we’re really sad that Bayley lost.” Bayley sold the dejection really well. Just a really good, dramatic match. Wikipedia says this went over 15 minutes, but it felt much shorter.

  1. Finn Balor v. Samoa Joe (NXT Championship)

This match would have been #2 if not for the multiple stoppages to clean up Joe’s face. I respect WWE’s efforts to improve wrestler safety and health, but sometimes things need to be allowed to play out. Joe’s blood was everywhere and there was a cut on his eye. Short of stopping the match immediately and hauling him to medical, the risk for an infection or something of that nature isn’t going to change. The blood definitely added to the drama (No blading, but a legitimate accidental head butt), but the stoppages just killed the flow and momentum early on. This match really picked up in the second half and these guys beat the hell out of each other. The finish was a throwback to the old Bret Hart finish – at least I recall him using it twice: against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania 8 and Steve Austin at Survivor Series 1996.

Balor added some blue into his attire and paint, which is brilliant. This guy has unlimited potential for merchandise if he stays healthy and stays over. As the Demon, he’s still undefeated. Who’s going to be the guy to beat him as that character? Without the stoppages, this match is easily the second best match of the weekend. That’s no knock because the Zayn/Nakamura match won’t be topped for years to come. Another surprising finish since I thought Balor’s main roster debut was imminent.

  1. Charlotte v. Sasha Banks v. Becky Lynch (WWE Women’s Championship)

This was arguably the best match on the WrestleMania card. The build-up and videos were major. The entrances were major. The new Women’s Championship was major. The match was excellent with just a few sloppy spots (Sasha overshot a sunset flip off the second rope). Overall, there was some good drama. Charlotte’s moonsault to the floor was perfect. They all busted their asses and were given a good deal of time to have a great match. I would have preferred Sasha winning the title, but at least Charlotte retained/won in heel fashion.

Who would have ever thought in a million years that the women would have the best match on a WrestleMania card in 2016?

  1. American Alpha v. The Revival (NXT Tag Team Championship)

The crowd was hot for the opening match at TakeOver. Jordan and Gable are the best tag team the WWE has seen in a decade. Gable is like a mini-Kurt Angle in my opinion. Olympic amateur wrestler, deceptively strong, sells like crazy, lots of charisma. Jordan is perfect in the role of the big powerhouse waiting on the hot tag.

This match illustrated how tag team wrestling psychology is supposed to work. The Revival made a point to never allow Gable or Jordan to their half of the ring when they had them in trouble. They teased the tag a few times before Jordan finally got it. I might have moved this up a spot or 2 had there not been a really badly blown spot by the Revival.

The crowd was red hot for the finish and it was really cool seeing Jordan pretty much crying after the win. Really cool and well deserved.

  1. Ladder Match – Kevin Owens v. Sami Zayn v. Ziggler v. Miz v. Ryder v. Stardust v. Sin Cara (WWE Intercontinental Championship)

Let me start out with the good: Everything that Owens and Zayn did against one another. Zayn’s diving flip through the ladder to the floor and DDT through the ropes was incredible. Also, the half-nelson suplex that saw Owens go headfirst onto the ladder was just brutal.

The rest of the match was pretty standard ladder match fare. There was the ladder airplane spin spot that never looks as good as a wobbly legged Terry Funk doing it. There was the obligatory ladder broken in half spot. The finish was surprising. Zack Ryder won the title only to drop it to the Miz the next night and lose the rematch on SmackDown. So, the entire match was used to get Miz over and re-introduce Maryse the next night. Luckily, the Owens/Zayn feud seems to be continuing. Unfortunately, I feel like the payoff will come at Payback or some B-level PPV.

Either way, I’m not a big fan of multi-person ladder matches. The novelty has worn off and no one sells. Just a big spot fest usually.

  1. Chris Jericho v. AJ Styles

This was another good match between the two. We’d already seen them wrestle several times leading up to this, so there wasn’t much new. AJ obviously lost nothing from losing since he’s facing Reigns for the title at the next PPV, but it was a confusing finish taking the clean loss to Jericho. Solid match overall.

  1. Undertaker v. Shane McMahon

This match wasn’t really very good and it was way too long. It earns the #8 spot solely for Shane’s jump off the cage. Yes, there was an airbag under the table, but he still hit very hard. Again, the veteran Undertaker knows how to make a match good without using a move. His facial expression after Shane almost killed him told the entire story: “This guy was actually going to kill me to win.”

My gripe is that the match didn’t really matter since Shane McMahon went on to run RAW anyways for 2 weeks running. Also, these matches just don’t have the same effect without some blood. There are situations where blood is needed and it should be really rare. This is one of them. A bloody and lifeless Shane McMahon being brought back into the ring for the final tombstone would have been a more striking visual.

  1. Brock Lesnar v. Dean Ambrose

On the WrestleMania card, I would say this match was the biggest disappointment. WWE teased barbed wire bats, chainsaws, stairs, and other weapons. We know Ambrose’s history in CZW. Would there be glass? Tacks? How crazy would it get? In the end, there was a kendo stick and some chairs. I’m sorry guys, but this is a Street Fight with Brock Lesnar. Ambrose should have tried everything. He should have been being thrown through tables and onto tacks. There needed to be blood. The audience should have been saying, “Oh my God, this guy is bleeding, covered in tacks, and hurt really bad and he keeps getting up.” In the end, a suplex and F5 on the chairs ended it after only 13 minutes. There was next to no drama or excitement in this match.

  1. Baron Corbin v. Austin Aries

Tough first match for Aries. He was somewhat limited to what he could do against a bigger guy like Corbin. Still, there were a few really good sequences. Corbin losing via roll up was OK as it protected him for his main roster debut (more on that later) by making it seem like a fluke. Aries seems like a better heel though. I think he will go that direction soon enough.

  1. Triple H v. Roman Reigns (WWE Championship)

This match was what people expected. The crowd despises Reigns more than any heel other than Eva Marie in NXT. Instead of using WrestleMania as an opportunity for a swerve or heel turn for Reigns, WWE went ahead and gave him the clean babyface win. He even was able to spear a woman. I suppose he got his WrestleMania title moment so his family wouldn’t start killing members of the audience in protest.

No really, though. This match was 27 excruciating minutes long. And the show was running way over time as well. At least we didn’t have to listen to Flo Rida perform. Don’t work, WrestleMania 33 is in Florida, so you just know he’ll be back. This match had no business being the main event, but then again, what else was there? Shit, the women arguably could have main evented WrestleMania. Anyway, a very anti-climactic finish and ending.

  1. Andre the Giant Battle Royal

The good: Baron Corbin won. The bad: Where to start? Shaquille O’Neal showed up unannounced. I assume that was to build toward the inevitable ‘Embarrass the Big Show at WrestleMania’ match next year. Shaq against Big Show is a match that exactly no one is clamoring to see. A few people got entrances. Baron Corbin didn’t. Tatanka was randomly in there and not acknowledged for quite a while.

It was a standard boring battle royal. I’m just glad Kane, Big Show, Mark Henry, or someone else generic didn’t win.

  1. League of Nations v. New Day

This earned a spot this high solely for the New Day entrance and the appearance of Austin, HBK, and Foley. Inexplicably, the New Day loses the match. It wasn’t for the tag titles, though – that was never made clear at any point.

Could the post-match not have been accomplished even if New Day won? League of Nations could have beat them down post match and cut the same promo. Again, just a totally weird finish.

  1. Rock v. Erick Rowan

This was a 6 second squash and I still ranked it above 3 matches. This was fine. It may have been more effective to have just had the Wyatts get the upper hand on the Rock and beat him down only for John Cena to make the save.

  1. Kalisto v. Ryback (US Championship)

This was just awful. Ryback is the worst professional wrestler on the roster and that includes talents in NXT who haven’t wrestled a televised match in their career.

  1. Usos v. Dudleys

This match got 5 minutes. It was even more awful than Kalisto and Ryback. The Usos are a tired act. They’ve made no changes at all to their characters since the beginning. The crowd is slowly turning on them either from being featuring in Total Divas or by association with Reigns. Or because they’re generic and boring. And I can’t believe the Dudleys are in this position.

Finally, the worst match of the weekend goes to….

  1. Team Total Divas v. Team BAD and Blonde

This spectacle is everything that was wrong with the ‘Diva’s’ division. I’m not sure how Emma got roped into this since she had sort of reinvented her character in NXT. Hey Emma, here’s your second shot on the main roster and we’ll stick you with this 10-Diva tag team clusterfuck. The big story here was supposed to be Lana wrestling. Of course, since NXT is on the Network, we all know she doesn’t wrestle. She could be the only Diva with less ability than Eva Marie. How about Eva Marie being on the babyface team, by the way? Classic.

Anyway, Lana sucked as we expected. What irritated me the most is that most of the Divas were in the ring the next night on RAW as the new Women’s division was christened. Look, 80% of those women are not wrestlers. Paige, Natalya, and Emma can wrestle. The rest? I’d have future endeavored them that night.

Advertisements

WWE RAW 1000

July 10, 2012

WWE has been putting on the worst weekly show humanly possible for quite some time now. That being said, RAW 1000 is coming up very soon and I have a pretty fantastic ticket that I could probably flip for 5-6x what I paid, but I won’t. That being said, the entire show is being built on past stars and part-timers. Shawn Michaels, Triple H, The Rock, and Brock Lesnar are all official right now. You can almost be certain that Undertaker will make an appearance (I mean, he was on RAW #1). Ticketmaster still has tickets, but the best left available is 12 rows up in the upper deck. StubHub’s inventory is also rapidly decreasing, which means this show might be a legit sell-out by July 23rd.

The arena capacity is 19,150, but I don’t know how many more seats a WWE event adds. That being said, the reason most people are going is a bad sign for WWE. People like me are going to see the older stars because there is no way in hell I’d pay to see the regular garbage they air every week. One day, that proverbial well will dry up. Triple H appears enough that his appearance isn’t that special. Shawn Michaels has less and less to do with WWE every year. Undertaker will soon retire – probably very, very soon. Lesnar doesn’t care about wrestling and he’ll make his money and be gone again after WrestleMania. The Rock is the #4 highest paid actor in Hollywood and if you think he’s going to ever really make a full-time return to WWE, you’re insane. Kane is reaching the end of his career. The same goes for Jericho and Big Show. Cena has the Bieber Effect in that all his fans are children and once they reach a certain age, they aren’t fans anymore. Punk and Bryan continue to have their Championship feud overshadowed by AJ, Kane, Cena, MITB, take your pick. WWE is in big, big trouble.

Professional Wrestling

June 23, 2012

I have a lot of opinions on professional wrestling. Yes, I call it wrestling, not sports entertainment. Let me start out by telling a story. I used to go stay at my Grandparent’s house for a week or so at a time during the spring break or summer when I was out of school. They lived over in Illinois, while my parents lived in Indiana. So, what’s a kid to do other than swimming in the pool or playing NES? Watch TV and movies, of course. My grandma would take me to the local video store (remember those?). In 1991, when I was still 7 years old, I chose Wrestlemania VI to rent.

Image

From there, I was hooked. The crowd in Toronto was insane. The Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan were my favorite wrestlers. You do realize that the Warrior gorilla pressed Hogan in that match, right? Not a body slam, he actually lifted Hogan above his head. That’s just phenomenal. Anyway, from there I rented Survivor Series 1987, 1988, and 1989. Summerslam 1989 and 1990. Wrestlemania IV and V. I remember when I got home, I found WWF All-American Wrestling on TV and it was the build-up to Wrestlemania VII.

One of my best friends around that time was also a fan and his parents would let him order the PPV events. I remember most vividly watching Summerslam 1992 in London, England. Once he moved away, he would order the PPV events and mail me VHS tapes of them several weeks later. Once we finally got cable TV, I’d watch the scrambled station and listen to the PPV events. I remember ripping down a Shawn Michaels poster and crying when he beat Bret Hart at Wrestlemania XII. Nowadays, Shawn Michaels is my all-time favorite and arguably the greatest wrestler to step into a ring.

Before that, I had moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and had been introduced to World Championship Wrestling by a neighbor kid. I wasn’t a huge fan of WCW at the time, but when Hulk Hogan jumped to them in 1994, I casually started watching, but WWF was still my main interest. I even remember ordering items from WWF Magazine’s mail order catalog – it’s hard to imagine not having the Internet back then. In 1994, I attended my first live event – WWF King of the Ring 1994 in Baltimore while I was visiting a friend. We had nosebleed seats and could barely see anything. Owen Hart was like a speck in the distance. It was a terrible experience overall, but that was my first event. In 1997, when I entered high school, I found some friends who were also wrestling fans. It hadn’t been too popular with people in middle school. If you were a fan, you didn’t really admit it.

In 1997, the nWo was pretty much changing the wrestling world. WWF was crumbling and WCW was on top of the world. While I still watched WWF mainly, I started watching WCW Monday Nitro more and more. Fans from that day will sympathize with me when I say it was a struggle flipping between shows before the era of DVRs. From 1997-2000, I really became a hardcore fan. I also became a huge fan of Extreme Championship Wrestling. I don’t remember how I discovered it, but it might have been a 2AM show on a local channel, which is where ECW aired their syndicated weekly show. In May 2008, I attended ECW’s Wrestlepalooza 1998 PPV in the Cobb Civic Center. It was a small venue, so our seats were just incredible. It was a great event and it introduced me to Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Sandman, and others that I didn’t know a whole lot about at the time. ECW was so good, we ended up going to another house show in the same building in 1998 and an ECW on TNN TV taping in Atlanta. We had front row seats at the ECW house show and it is still the most awesome experience I’ve had at a wrestling event. The main event was RVD and Sabu vs. The Dudleys.

Also in 1998, my friends and I got tickets to WCW Nitro in the Georgia Dome where we witnessed Goldberg beat Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Championship. We were pretty much the only Hogan fans in the building, but it was an amazing experience regardless. We hated Goldberg because we were Stone Cold Steve Austin fans and thought his look was a rip-off. I was 15, give me a break. Despite my Nitro love, I was always a WWF guy. The Attitude Era was, in my opinion, the best era of wrestling – period. ECW, WCW, and WWF at their peak and it was unreal. Oddly enough, when WWF bought WCW and ECW folded, I stopped watching. I don’t remember why I stopped. From 2001 until about 2007, I had almost no interest at all.

The thing that got me watching wrestling again was the Chris Benoit murder/suicide. When they originally reported it as if they were all victims, I tuned in to watch the Raw tribute. I semi-regularly started tuning in, but it just seemed different. I started watching the Wrestlemania events that I missed and ended up ordering Wrestlemania 25 and 26 to see the HBK/Undertaker matches. Now that I’ve been caught up and watched everything, I’ll argue to my death that Shawn Michaels/Undertaker at Wrestlemania 25 is the best match in Wrestlemania history.Anyway, Wrestlemania finally came to Atlanta, so my friend and I decided it was worth it to go despite not being as much of a fan of the product anymore. I mean, it’s Wrestlemania. We also ended up getting tickets to the Hall of Fame ceremony and saw HBK get inducted. I thought that was more enjoyable than Wrestlemania because I love hearing the legends tell stories and reminisce. Wrestlemania 27 was a lackluster card, but it was a fun experience.

Now we’re in the present. I watch Raw weekly, but end up fast-forwarding most of it. It’s just a badly booked show (More on that later). That being said, I’m finally going to attend a Monday Night Raw – the 1000th episode, no less. I have a great seat; I’ve learned what seats suck and what seats don’t. I’m pretty excited for it because I’m hoping it won’t be a normal show and it’ll be packed with guys I grew up watching. Now that I’ve shared my history as a fan, I’ll share my favorite moment in the history of Raw.

Raw used alternate live and taped episodes during the Monday Night Wars. In early 1999, when both shows were drawing 5.0’s and still running neck and neck, Mick Foley won the WWF title at a taping to be aired the next Monday. During the live WCW Nitro, Tony Schiavone announced on air that Foley was going to win and sarcastically said ‘that’ll put butts in seats’ and they promptly lost about 15% of their audience in an instant. Schiavone apologized and explained why that happened, but it’s not the point. That match was the best moment in Raw history. The crowd was absolutely on fire. Stone Cold returned from a brief hiatus and the place just exploded. When the ref counted 3 and announced Foley the champion, it just blew up again. It was just an unbelievable scene and I remember my eyes watering while I watched it. Just a great moment and reward for a guy who really deserved it.