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Sunday, January 31, 2016

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Retrospective: WWF No Way Out 2002

By @TrueGodImmortal

As the Ruthless Aggression Era began (see how the EOTR weeks somehow go right into the next one), there was something big on the horizon. The Royal Rumble had finished, the WWF was rolling with Chris Jericho as the Undisputed Champion, and The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin were still immensely popular. Triple H had returned from injury, The Undertaker was yet again viable, Kurt Angle had risen up, RVD was making a name for himself and Booker T was on the come up in WWF as well. With a long line of talent and stars to boot, WWF would make a huge announcement leading into the 2002 edition of No Way Out:

The Return of the NWO. 

The original NWO, Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash would make a triumphant debut in WWF with a return for all three men involved, as they built their name in the WWF. This however would be a strange turn of events as Vince would turn to the NWO to help him terrorize his own roster. He announced the NWO would make their debut in WWF at No Way Out (N.o W.ay O.ut..... get it? I know, cheesy). The show would kick off with a promo, which is the standard these days for RAW, but for a PPV, it was definitely out of the norm. Regardless, Hogan, Nash and Hall cut a pretty cool promo talking about what they wanted to bring to the table in WWF and that they had no plans on making a bunch of enemies. Certified bullshit of course, but it was definitely entertaining.

As the promo ends, the first match of the night takes place and I was very interested in this tag team turmoil match. The match featured multiple teams going at it for the opportunity presumably to get a tag team title shot going forward in WWF. The APA would end up walking away with the victory in the tag team turmoil match and they would set themselves up for a future date with destiny and possible title shot. Now, after this match, we end up going to a feud that is still confusing in my mind.

Goldust returned to the WWF and he instantly got himself into a feud with Rob Van Dam. This feud confuses me because RVD was majorly over in the company and should have been positioned as a future main eventer, but here he was saddled with a damn lower mid card feud against Goldust. Some would assume the Goldust feud was a way to give him a feud with a legendary or recognizable name to put him over, but it didn't enhance his character or anything. The match they had was decent, however RVD seemed just a step ahead of Goldust in this match and they honestly didn't seem to have overwhelming chemistry in the ring. RVD gets the victory as he should with a Five Star Frog Splash around the 12 minute mark.

The next two matches are pretty insignificant to me in many ways and they were both for titles oddly enough. The tag team title were on the line with the strangest tag team champions ever in Spike Dudley and Tazz successfully defending against Booker T and Test (such a weird match), and William Regal would take on Edge in an intercontinental title match, but a gimmick match to boot. A Brass Knuckles on a Pole match for the belt that Regal would win, but once again, it all felt pointless and very insignificant. Once these matches finished, we would arrive at the triple main event for the night, but before I get to those, I have to discuss the hilarity of the promos between the NWO and the two biggest stars of the company.

The NWO would be backstage and run into Stone Cold Steve Austin. The promo was very short, but absolutely hilarious in essence, as they all took turns referencing Austin's nicknames and each one got funnier. "Look it's Stone Cold Steve Austin", "Hey, it's the Rattlesnake", before Nash finishes it off with the deadpan yet hilarious "Toughest S.O.B. in the WWF". The comedy factor just comes from the delivery of Nash's words and it would continue with their confrontation with Rock after his match, which set the tone for the future Rock vs Hogan encounter. It begins again: "Hey guys, it's The Rock", "look, it's the People's Champ", before Nash kills it again and follows up with an enthusiastic yet matter of factly "BRAHMA BULL", which gets me every time. Watch these promos again and you'll see what I mean.

Now, the first main event was The Rock vs The Undertaker. The match was interesting because Taker was getting involved in beef with Flair and that element seems to become a factor here, as Flair would interfere and cost Taker the match. The Rock's ring work was slept on during this period I've always felt and this match was no different honestly as he and Taker put on an entertaining encounter. The only gripe with this match was the slow pacing early on, but once the pace picked up, it all flowed very well. After the Rock picks up a big victory going into Wrestlemania, we arrive at the interesting situation with Triple H, Kurt Angle, and Stephanie McMahon.

This match was for Triple H's Wrestlemania title shot from winning the Rumble and Stephanie was special guest referee. The deck was stacked against Triple H and Angle would end up stealing a victory with some help from Stephanie. Not to be deterred, Triple H would eventually get his title shot back, but the damage was done on this night. Steph and Angle screwed over Triple H and this would carry over into the feud for Triple H at Wrestlemania. Now, with Triple H and Angle finished, there was only one match left, which was the WWF Undisputed Championship match between Stone Cold and Chris Jericho, which should have been a great match.

Unfortunately, Austin and Jericho didn't click and this match was just outright boring. The crowd was dead for a large majority of sans a stunner or two. The NWO would run In and help cost Austin the match, setting up the road to Wrestlemania for Austin vs Scott Hall going forward. Jericho would retain and the NWO would attack Austin, leading to the big feud we witnessed after.

All in all, No Way Out 2002 isn't a terrible event, it just leaves a lot to be desired as far as event quality. No telling what could have been better if they had went a different direction, but while it has some bad spots, it's still an entertaining watch overall sans the tag title match and half of the main event.

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Ring Of Honor Review 1/30/16

By Nathan Neumann

Hello Ringers, Nathan here once again with yet another ROH TV review as the first month of the year 2016 comes to a close and what a month it was.  The commentary team this week was mix of Kevin Kelly and Mr. Wrestling 3 (not Steve Corino) and Nigel McGuinness was mixed in there as well. They hype up the show by telling us what we will see during the hour before sending it to the ring for the first match of the night.

Match 1
Masada vs. Roderick Strong {C}
ROH World Television Championship match

Thoughts: The “Roddy vs. The World” gimmick continues this week as he takes on former CZW wrestler Masada (Masada may still wrestle for CZW but I honestly would have no idea because I don’t follow that promotion at all).  The match is for the ROH World TV title, the two feel each other out and Masada gets the first real offense as he locks Roddy in a knee bar early on. The action spills to the outside of the ring with Masada maintaining control, Masada picks Roddy up and slams him on the outside of the ring. 

Roddy quickly recovers after Masada picks him up and drops Masada back first onto the ring apron.  Back in the ring Masada hits a disgusting backdrop driver and gets a near fall out of the exchange.  During the move Roderick’s own knee hit him in the nose on the way down.  Masada presses the advantage by hitting an awful looking powerbomb to pick up a near fall.  Roderick Strong would eventually come back and pick up the win over Masada via pinfall with a jumping knee.

Match Result: Roderick Strong defeats Masada via pinfall with a running knee.

Match Rating: **1/2

My favorite thing about this match (and these “Roddy vs. the World” matches in general) is how much work Roderick is putting into them.  He had one hell of a 2015 and 2016 looks to be a very promising year for Mr. ROH.

After the match Roderick gets in the microphone and taunts Bobby Fish telling Bobby that he’s old and wants to be him. This brings Fish out to the ring and Roddy tells Fish to go screw himself after they have some heated words. Roderick throws the microphone at Fish’s chest as the segment comes to a close.

From there, we are sent back to the ring for the next match.

Match 2
Punisher Martinez vs. Colby Corino
2016 Top Prospect Tournament First round match

Thoughts: I’m already a huge fan of this years Top Prospect tournament over last year's. Last year's wasn’t bad (and we got Donovan Dijak out of it) but some of the matches were horrendous to watch. This match although I’m not a huge fan of Colby Corino showcased the ability of Punisher Martinez a guy who is instantly noticeable due to his size.  Usually size can be a bad thing in ROH because bigger guys can’t keep up with their smaller peers but Punisher Martinez is really fun to watch.
The match begins and Colby immediately realizes how outmatched he is and begins chopping away at the much bigger Martinez who no sells all of his offense before hitting a flurry of splashes on Colby in the corner.  Martinez hits a kryptonite crunch into a backbreaker for a near fall, which surprisingly didn’t put Colby away.  Colby recovers and hits a somersault plancha on the outside.

Punisher doesn’t go down and instead shakes it off before powerbombing Colby on the outside, Punisher than hits Colby with another powerbomb this time on the ring apron.  The match finally gets back in the ring where it was pretty much academic from here as Punisher Martinez would hit Colby Corino with a chokeslam variation to get the pinfall victory and advance in the tournament.  Really fun match, I’m not a huge fan of Colby but Punisher is a guy to be watched in 2016 for sure.

Match Result: Punisher Martinez defeats Colby Corino via pinfall after a chokeslam variation. 

Match Rating: **

After the match, BJ Whitmer gets on the microphone and begins taunting Mr. Wrestling 3 whom he thinks is Steve Corino and wants him to unmask. Mr. Wrestling 3 won't do it...so Whitmer hits Colby Corino with three exploder suplexes in succession. From there we head to a commercial break.
Back from commercial and we see a recap of last week where Nigel McGuinness announced the main event for the 14th anniversary show as it’s Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly vs. Jay Lethal for the ROH World Championship in a triple threat match.  After that Nigel McGuinness joins commentary for the main event.

Main Event – Match 3
reDRagon vs. Adam Cole and Jay Lethal

Thoughts: Fun match that was used to hype the main event for the 14th Anniversary show in Vegas but unfortunately Bobby Fish is lost in this entire thing. The match begins and Lethal and O’Reilly start things out by feeling each other out for a few minutes before O’Reilly locks on a cross arm breaker in the first real offensive maneuver of the match up.  O’Reilly continues to pick apart Lethal’s arm while kneeing him repeatedly in the back. 
Fish gets tagged into the match but can’t get anything going and is found deep in the corner of Cole and Lethal as they work him over.  At one point Cole turns around and spits at O’Reilly, which infuriates O’Reilly and brings him into the ring.  Todd Sinclair goes to cut O’Reilly off and not let him get into the ring while Cole and Lethal double team Fish behind the referees back.
O’Reilly finally gets the hot tag and hits a tornado DDT on Lethal for a near fall meanwhile on the outside of the ring Fish who since has recovered a bit is going at it with Adam Cole.  Fish drives Cole back first into the barricade on the outside of the ring.  Back in the ring reDRagon hits a backbreaker/top rope knee combination to score a near fall on Lethal.  Lethal recovers and hits the Lethal Combination, Cole follows it up with a superkick and then Lethal hits an Enziguri for a near fall. 
Lethal ascends to the top rope while Fish is down in the ring and hits Hail To The King for a near fall which is broken up by O’Reilly. Lethal kicks O’Reilly and then accidentally hits Cole with the Lethal Injection, reDRagon capitalizes on the situation by getting rid of Lethal on the outside and then hitting Cole with Chasing The Dragon to get the pinfall victory back inside of the ring.

Match Result: ReDRagon defeats Jay Lethal and Adam Cole via pinfall after hitting Chasing The Dragon on Cole.

Match Rating: ***

Good match which could result in some good build going into the 14th anniversary event in February.  This hour of wrestling is definitely one that you should check out if you have a spare hour during the week as it was action packed and every minute of said hour was handled the way it should be.
Unfortunately that brings an end to another ROH review from yours truly.  ROH is headed towards an exciting time and I’m glad to be along for the ride while providing you with these weekly reviews of these really good shows.  As always thank you for reading.

Finally make sure to follow me on Twitter  (@Headliner5) and be sure to follow the Eyes On The Ring main account @EyesOnTheRing. Feel free to tweet us your thoughts on anything pro wrestling whether it be ROH, WWE, Lucha Underground or anything else.
It is also with regret that I should inform everyone that unlike the tail end of last years Lucha Underground season 1, I will not be able to provide reviews for season 2 due to a scheduling conflict. I really wish I could but it’s impossible; Comcast cut the El Rey West Coast feed, which is usually when I watched the show last season.

In closing, make sure to check out the radio show tonight and every Sunday night as we come to you live via http://www.BlogTalkRadio.com/ElitePodcastNetwork at 11:00pm EST. Finally be sure to visit us on facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/EyesOnTheRing and while you’re there make sure to hit the like button.
Until next time Ringers, keep your Eyes On The Ring and I will see you next week.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

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Retrospective: 2002-2004 Smackdown

To close out the Ruthless Aggression week on the site, we talk the pinnacle of Ruthless Aggression, the 2002-2004 era of Smackdown. We gathered two big fans of the era to talk about Smackdown. Let's get into it.

As Part of Ruthless Aggression week here on the site, I was asked to write something about a handful of topics, one of which is the topic that I have chosen to discuss and that is the Ruthless Aggression Era.  You had the New Generation Era, followed by the acclaimed Attitude Era (The one that I personally hate) and then after that you had the Ruthless Aggression Era.

The Ruthless Aggression Era was special for multiple reasons, one of those reasons was that it was the first of its kind to feature a brand split. After WWE bought WCW back in 2001, the roster became very bloated and they needed a way to feature more stars and give them more airtime, thus the brand split between RAW and Smackdown was born.

The way this all started was kind of complicated. Well, you see, during the Invasion Angle where the rejects of then WCW and ECW tried to overtake the WWE, (then WWF-World Wrestling Federation and it has nothing to do with Pandas, I swear to god) it was lead by Shane McMahon who was the "Owner" of WCW and his sister Stephanie who was the "Owner" of ECW. The Invasion came to a sad conclusion at the end of Survivor Series 2001 in a great match, but the angle was underwhelming to say the least. The next night on RAW, Ric Flair made his WWE debut (after leaving the company about a decade prior), revealing to Vince McMahon that he was a consortium that bought both Stephanie and Shane's respective halves of WWE, therefore him and Vince became 50/50 owners of the company. Eventually, Vince took over Smackdown and Flair took over RAW.

A lot of stuff took place between that time which eventually ended with Eric Bischoff becoming the first General Manager of RAW and Stephanie McMahon becoming the general manager of Smackdown. The story of the brand split was that it would have its own separate Tag Team titles, as Smackdown got the cruiserweight division while RAW got the Women's division. This led to both brands sharing the WWE Undisputed Champion, who at the time was Triple H. The early goings on of the Undisputed Title were very weird because Triple H held the belt for a month then he lost to Hogan, who dropped it to The Undertaker a month later. The title would eventually find its way to Brock Lesnar and then Stephanie McMahon would pull a fast one on Eric Bischoff by bringing Brock over to Smackdown exclusively, which also meant he would only defend the WWE Undisputed Title on Smackdown and at their PPVs.

Enter Eric Bischoff and the WWE World Heavyweight Title, otherwise known as WCW's Big Gold Belt. Since RAW no longer had a champion they needed to find one so on September 2, 2002, Eric Bischoff came out and revealed a new design of the belt and handed it to Triple H. Yes you read that right, Triple H didn't have to defend the belt at all, he just was handed the title although he did pay his dues in matches including, but not limited to almost dying in the first ever Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series 2002 which crushed his trachea. Shawn Michaels would win the match and then lose it back to Triple H a month later at Armageddon 2002 in a three stages of hell match. So RAW sounds like garbaggio right? Well it was, but Smackdown was great.

Over on Smackdown, things were totally different, while RAW was extremely bland, Smackdown was as fresh as a daisy for the lack of a better term. The mastermind behind ECW, Paul Heyman was chosen to be both the onscreen figurehead and the head writer for WWE's B show and for the longest time, Smackdown was better than RAW and actually beat RAW in the ratings continuously because it was the better show. WWE hated this idea and fired Paul Heyman for making Smackdown a success and then it went back to status quo, but let's examine what Paul Heyman did while was there.

Paul Heyman when running Smackdown made it more centered on wrestling (imagine that would ya?). He took all of the talking that you saw on RAW and let the wrestlers actions speak louder than their words could ever do. One thing that changed how Smackdown was viewed was the cruiserweight division.
One approach that Paul Heyman took with it was that he treated it like its own separate entity.  I remember him saying something about the cruiserweight division on the Steve Austin show a while back that when it was in WCW, they did a great job with it up until a point, but then they completely dropped the ball with it and made it into a joke. WWE's version of the division, although it ended terribly (Hornswoggle was the final champion in that title's history), it was very fun while it lasted and Paul Heyman made sure to treat WWE's version of the Cruiserweight Title almost like the World Title, but just with a limited size range.

Another very important caveat leading to why Smackdown was better than RAW during this period of time was that Paul Heyman did whatever he could do to make it better, including listening in on RAW's conference calls that he wasn't supposed to do. WWE's philosophy at the time was that if RAW and Smackdown were to be treated as equals and as separate brands that they needed their own creative teams and they needed to have their own conference calls, so it was like there were two companies in one, so to speak.

Smackdown also introduced us to John Cena, which is something that can't be overlooked. He came in as a nobody and took Kurt Angle to the limit and although he lost it quickly, it established him and they were able to create a star almost instantly or close to it anyway.

Then there was the Smackdown Six, which is commonly referred to as one of the best times in Smackdown history and it was during this era that it happened. The six were Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Chavo Guerrero and Eddie Guerrero. They were the glue behind Smackdown and they pretty much did whatever they could to hold the show together while providing new and fresh matchups each and every week. It was refreshing while at the same time RAW was doing the status quo. In fact, it's insane to think that RAW and Smackdown were produced by the same company at the time but they were.

The final piece to the puzzle, which I touched on earlier, was Brock Lesnar and his meteoric rise to superstardom.  He won the WWE Undisputed Title for the first time at Wrestlemania 19 and then as I said earlier, took the belt with him over to Smackdown where he had some of the best matches. Anyone they put Lesnar with would bring out the best in him and he would bring out the best in them.  Lesnar was only a rookie but he carried himself like a veteran around the time. He had a classic feud with Kurt Angle which would culminate in a one hour ironman match, which was the first of its kind for broadcast TV and it was one of the best matches of the era. If RAW and Smackdown weren't split into two separate brands than Brock would have been an afterthought under Triple H and it wouldn't have been as good as it was, but with him on Smackdown, it instantly made him credible and made people notice him because how could you not? The guy is/was a freak of nature, and did wonders for Smackdown and while Seth Rollins in the modern day was carrying the company on his back in the modern day as WWE World Champion before his unfortunate injury, Brock Lesnar was the focus of the brand then. He also had a great supporting cast and that is why it was truly memorable.

The Ruthless Aggression era is hands down my favorite era in all of WWE and it's not even close although the Attitude Era is a distant third behind the New Generation Era.

There was a period when out of nowhere I preferred Smackdown over Raw. It was a fresher show, there was more wrestling and less filler, fresher stars, better storyline... Everything. They made Eddie Guerrero a world Champion which was huge! I remember the drafts to "Shake things up" first overall pick I believe was The Rock. And was drafted to smackdown. You knew then it was going to be something special. What I didn't like was the splitting of tag teams and announcers. I get it, it was to catapult them into singles stars. Worked for some. No so much for others. What I did not know was that it was a Paul Heyman production. I found out years later that the period in which I enjoyed Smackdown was the era in which "Paul E." Wrote for them.

Paul Heyman took six superstars, Edge, Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, Eddie And Chavo and with any combination of them gave us numerous incredible matches. Imagine if he still wrote for them now.

What are your memories of Smackdown in the era? Post them below in the comments.


Friday, January 29, 2016

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Retrospective: John Cena In 2005

By @MeenHendrix

John Cena has been the face of the company for about 11 years now. However, his first year as WWE Champion showed what WWE could do when they build their stars up the right way.

Heading into 2005, Cena was at the top of Smackdown's midcard holding on to the United States Championship. He would enter the Royal Rumble and be the last person elminated by the winner Dave Batista. Smackdown would then hold a tournament to find a number one contender for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 21. Cena defeated Kurt Angle in a stellar match at No Way Out.

He would then move into a feud with JBL and his Cabinet (Orlando Jordan and the Basham Brothers). Cena, still holding on to the United States Championship, would go on to drop the title to Jordan, freeing him up for his chance to win the WWE Championship. John Cena would go on to defeat JBL for the Title at Wrestlemania, which would set the stage for WWE to book Cena as the new face of the company. He continued his feud with JBL and won a vicious I Quit match.

During the WWE Draft, he was moved over to Raw and was moved into a feud with Chris Jericho. His first title defense ad a Raw superstar would be a Triple Threat Match with Christian and Jericho at Vengeance which he would leave victorious. After refusing to help Raw GM Eric Bischoff in his feud with ECW, Bischoff would then try to do anything to help Jericho get the title from Cena. Cena would go on to defeat Jericho at Summerslam and again in a You're Fired match, sending Jericho away for a hiatus.

Cena then moved into a feud with Kurt Angle, losing to him at Unforgiven by DQ(he still retained the title), and then beating him and Shawn Michaels in a triple threat match at Taboo Tuesday before pinning him at Survivor Series.

What I liked most is WWE never overwhelmed Cena or gave up on him. JBL played the role of veteran putting over the young star and it led to one of the best I Quit matches in history IMO.  They moved him to the A Show and put him in a feud with a proven champion in Y2J. Jericho also would do his best to put over Cena, going as far as to let Cena be the one to end his first stint with WWE so he could tour with his band Fozzy. Cena and Angle picked up where they left off at No Way Out. Although their matches this time around weren't as great as past encounters, Cena was finally able to get over the hump and defeat Angle 2/3 times on Pay Per View (not counting the triple threat match at Taboo Tuesday). Cena showed them a glimpse of what was to come with him being the face of the company and the WWE hasn't regretted it since.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

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The Rise of Eddie Guerrero

By @SpeedontheBeat 

The Ruthless Aggression Era saw the rise of one of the greatest wrestlers to ever lace up his boots. I'm talking about none other than Mr. Hustlellujah himself. I'm talking about Mr. John Felix Anthony Cena. Cue up "Word Life" and praise be to him.
Ok, still with me after that obvious troll? Good. Because, while Cena serves a purpose, I'm really talking about Eddie Guerrero. Yes, it's slightly unfair to say that "oh, Eddie rose to prominence during the Ruthless Aggression Era" when he put on classic matches throughout the 1990s. However, it was during the RA era that Guerrero was able to put those matches on for the world to see. He wasn't held down by a cruiserweight label, by weird-ass, possessive boyfriend angles with Chyna, or by just being part of a movement. He was able to become his own movement.

After returning to WWE in 2002 from a stint in the indies (by the way, go check out his matches with CM Punk for the IWA Championship), Eddie was immediately placed into a program with Rob Van Dam over the Intercontinental Championship. Putting on a match that, to me, was pretty classic at Backlash, Eddie held the championship for about a month before losing it to Van Dam again. Guerrero was then placed into a feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin which faltered before it really began (SCSA left WWE in 2002 during his proposed feud with Brock Lesnar). Thankfully, this botched feud led to one of the most entertaining team-ups during the early days of the RA Era: Los Guerreros.

Yeah, the vignettes were steeped in stereotypes (it's wrestling in the early 2000s. You'd be hard-pressed to not find a stereotyped character), but Eddie and Chavo Guerrero fully embraced it. And they managed to do so in a way that focused more on the in-ring awesomeness and less on the vignettes (while the "lie, cheat, and steal" mantra made its way into the ring as well). However, due to the "let's make someone a champion for a month, then play hot potato with the belt" philosophy that often went into RA feuds, the team didn't reach its full potential. However, during the team's infancy, we got some classic matches between Eddie and Edge (go watch those, especially the No DQ match; it's as great as hyped by WWE).

I think that the definitive point in Eddie's rise was during his feud with former tag partner Tajiri in 2003. See, Tajiri and Eddie teamed up because of an injury to Chavo. The team won, then lost the Tag Team Titles. And what does Eddie do? He throws Tajiri through a windshield. But, wait! He's obviously heeling out. How does the audience respond to him? They friggin' love him! They don't think he's in the wrong. At that moment, I feel that Eddie became a made man. From that moment on, there was pretty much nothing that Eddie could do that'd make the audience outright hate him. The WWE awarded Guerrero in setting him up in a US Championship match with Chris Benoit at Vengeance 2003 where another defining moment to his legacy occurred.

Not only did fans love his "IDGAF" demeanor towards his opposition, they wanted to see him lie, cheat, and steal. So...he did what they wanted. He capitalized on a run-in by Benoit's tag partner, Rhyno, along with some gut shots from the belt, and won the US Championship. From here, Eddie's upper-midcard-to-main-event transition began. I don't think I need to talk much about his championship run or his heel turn against Rey Mysterio (classic feud, even if you're not a Mysterio fan--and even though the Dominick inclusion was...odd). Those things've been talked about by many others. I want to, however, close this out with a look at what turned out to be Guerrero's last PPV match, versus Batista at No Mercy 2006.

For years, we'd seen Eddie lie, cheat, and steal. This match allowed Eddie one of his last shots to do the same. But, in some great storytelling, we saw Eddie play around with the idea of beating Batista with a steel chair. He was tempted by his demons. Ultimately, he chose to go about the match without dirty tactics. And while he lost, he was given redemption. At the time of Eddie's death, he was booked to win the WHC in a triple threat match. Sadly, we never got that classic-to-be.

But, for me, Eddie Guerrero will always be remembered as that guy who did what he needed to get what he desired--within reason. His classic matches combined that LC&S philosophy with some amazing in-ring work, great psychology, and more. Rest easy, Eddie.

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Retrospective: The Hollywood Rock Era

The Ruthless Aggression Era is known very much so for the in ring product improving from the Attitude Era, and some of the worst storylines known to man. However, in between some of those Billy and Chuck and Katie Vick moments, there were some moments of brilliance. One example of that brilliance came in the form of The Rock turning heel. His heel turn would become the biggest highlight of early 2003 and in many ways, it can be considered his greatest run yet. It was a reminder that Rock is one of the greatest ever, and while short lived, the replay value of his run is unmatched. Today, we reflect on the Hollywood Rock era.

In 2003, The Rock returned with a heel gimmick that was better than his corporate champion heel run in my opinion. The Rock was a cocky Hollywood superstar who annoyed and entertained the fans at the same time. With antics like singing in front of a live audience and just being the overall performer he is, just multiplied times 100. I really loved the gimmick as a kid growing up. One of the best times being a fan for me. Rock was being himself and that's when you have the most fun as a character, i.e. The New Day. My favorite moment of this character was The Rock playing for Stone Cold while Austin was outside of the arena. For a moment, it almost seemed like Austin would break kayfabe and start laughing, but he stayed true to his character. The Rock was entertaining enough to even make the Rattlesnake begin to chuckle.

Once upon a time, The Rock was the most electrifying man in sports entertainment. So, it was only natural he'd try to parlay that into success outside of wrestling. He succeeded. But something was missing.

He still had something left to prove in wrestling. He still had the energy and potential to play one of the most legendary heel personas of recent memory. And wow, was The Rock an asshole.

He took everything we loved about The Rock's early runs, ramped it up, and said "hey, fuck you. My presence at this lame shit is a present. Soak it in and enjoy it. It may rub off on you." He was smug with a mug that everyone wanted to punch in. And those Rock Concerts? Greatness. Somehow, though, as much of an asshole as Rock was, I personally couldn't boo him. Maybe it was because he was a jackass, but he was right.

Unlike The Miz, where he always feels like a pale imitation of a pale imitation of The Rock, Rock's Hollywood persona was fun to watch, felt real, and kept people who had gave up on wrestling post-AE there in an effort to make them witness the greatness which was the RA era.

Plus that theme? Yeahhh...Hollywood Rock wins.

The Rock is one of the most iconic superstars in the history of the WWE and quietly has undergone a few changes in his style, but not so much his character. There was the early Rock: Brash, cocky flat out dismissive of everyone. There was the slow talking, catchphrase spewing Rock. Then, the slightly smaller, more hyper version of Rock who gave us the great line: ''SWEET CREAM ON AN ICE CREAM SAMMICH'', and now the more recent ''Cena Feud, Luke Hobbs'' version of Rock. But one incarnation of the character stands out the most: Hollywood Rock. The chickenshit heel we all loved to hate, it was at this point, The Rock was at his most entertaining, promo-wise and in-ring. From the very first moment we were introduced to him with an EPIC 20 minute promo in Toronto, (Which stands to me as his best ever, slightly above his WM 18 Pre-Match promo) he gave us gold.

With the gold came the now infamous Rock concerts where he would take his guitar and perform in various cities, running down his opponents, the town and the people. The best of these being the classic ''Leaving Sacramento''. The two standout lines in that song ''leaving Sacramento, Sacramento there I go. They got some fat ass women there and Rock is gonna...just say no'' and what was easily the best part: ''Sacramento, I won't stay'' then, the ultimate killshot prefaced with ''check this out, check this out'' simply just because he knew he had everyone in his hands: ''But I'll be sure to come back when, that Lakers beat the Kings in May''. The almost certain boos, drowned out by a sea of laughter and cheers. He was that damn good in that role that even if you were in the building, you couldn't help but laugh at that line. In-ring wise, Rock was hitting his stride and not just that, but putting over other talent. I throughly enjoyed his short interaction with The Hurricane leading into his match with Goldberg at Backlash 03.  Fitting that his absolute best was really the last time we'd see Rock in a full time capacity until 2011. And on Monday, as he trolled the hallways in Miami...we got a brief glimpse that Rock still had a little Hollywood in him.

Do you have any memories of Hollywood Rock? What's your favorite memory and moment? Post below in the comments section.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tagged under:

Retrospective: The Rise of JBL

By Christopher Evans (@Cool_Calm_Chris)

In 2004, the WWE would lose two huge stars in Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg. With WWE losing the face of Smackdown!, Brock Lesnar, the company began the transition process of making Eddie Guerrero the next top star on the show. In this transition period, he gained a victory over Lesnar for the WWE Championship and later retained the title against Kurt Angle at Wrestlemania XX. With Guerrero as the new champion, a new heel needed to step in to challenge Guerrero. This would begin the rise of John Bradshaw Layfield, also known as JBL.

In 2003, the APA had returned on an episode of Smackdown! in an effort to save the Undertaker from an attack by the Full Blooded Italians. The duo would return to the same antics they left off with in the Attitude Era with the only difference being the name change of Faarooq to his original name Ron Simmons and Bradshaw’s clean shave and natural hair color. The two would continue to team up until the team would disband on an episode of Smackdown! when they lost a “You’re Fired” match against the WWE Tag Team Champions Rikishi and Scotty 2 Hotty. Paul Heyman would fire Ron Simmons, but keep Bradshaw due to the fact that “WWE Management” still saw a lot in him. However, in reality, the plan was to split the two and WWE did fire Simmons, but would bring him back later in an off camera role.

With Ron Simmons gone, thus began the development of JBL. JBL would ditch the beer drinking gimmick and wear a full suit accompanied with cowboy hat and a clear cut heel attitude. Embodying the typical rich Wall Street Republican gimmick, he would develop into the character rather quickly. No real build up to the JBL gimmick began, it started with him chasing off a group of illegal immigrants on the border between Texas and Mexico. This would eventually lead to a championship opportunity granted to him by Kurt Angle to face Eddie Guerrero for the WWE Championship at Judgement Day.

The two fit as perfect rivals for the time (and would especially make for great television now with the 2016 Presidential Election), and what made it even better is that the two were good friends backstage and Eddie was more than willing to help get JBL over. At the Great American Bash in 2004, JBL would defeat Eddie Guerrero for the title in a Texas Bull Rope match via a technicality where JBL had touched all four turnbuckles before Eddie to win the match. With this victory, the longest WWE Championship reign in Smackdown! history would begin.

JBL’s title reign added to the heel persona, as the WWE Championship was not just a peripheral for him, it was important for him to keep the championship. During his most important title defenses, like his one against the Undertaker at SummerSlam, JBL found a way to make it out with the championship, but at a cost. Whether it be by disqualification or by a simple loophole in the rulebook, or even help from his faction “The Cabinet”, JBL kept the title for an impressive period of time.

The best thing about JBL’s title run was that it made fans want to see a new champion crowned and a new face take down the evil heel. The rise of JBL came synonymously around the rise of John Cena, and with Cena becoming the next face of the company, he needed a heel to help him reach that level. When Cena defeated JBL for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 21, he would reach that new level and become the star we know today. However, what would later surface is that fans wanted to see JBL lose the title because he was a great heel, but fans did not want to see Cena beating stars they felt were more deserving and better in the ring than him. So while JBL accomplished the goal of getting Cena over, it would not last because of the way he would be booked into the future.

JBL’s career would continue as he would feud with stars like Batista over the World Heavyweight Championship in 2005 until he would eventually begin his color commentary career in 2006. Layfield would return to the ring at the end of 2007 and later retired from in ring competition at Wrestlemania 25. He would return to color commentary in 2012, however his color commentary career has not quite lived up to the potential originally seen in 2006. JBL has had a rather lengthy career, but it was definitely at the point in his career when the JBL character first developed in 2004 that he really reached new heights in the WWE.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

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Top 5: Ruthless Aggression Era Matches

By @peagle05 

Ruthless Aggression Week, I figured I'd do something a little different for me. I haven't done a list in a long time, but I feel like this is the way to go for this week, given the amount of classic in-ring material this time in the WWE gave us. So without further ado, here are my top 5 matches in the Ruthless Aggression Era.

5. Eddie Guerrero vs. The Rock 
RAW 7/22/02

-I gotta start this list with a personal favorite, as I always wanted to see Eddie and Rock go at it. I absolutely hate that we never got a real feud out of this, but these two had a solid TV match. This was pretty much right at the start of the RA Era and in my opinion, the start of The Rock's best WRESTLING work. In-ring wise, Rock was beginning to really do work at this point and Eddie as usual looked great wrestling someone he had never faced before... sadly, we'll never know if Eddie was Cheech or if he was Chong.

4. Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar Hell in a Cell from No Mercy 2002

-Brutal. Just freaking brutal. That's the best way to describe this match. Taker was in the middle of his American Bad Ass Gimmick and was on the good side of it, he was in shape and putting on solid matches again. Brock Lesnar was the young beast, the champ, and at the time, WWE's future. The story with Undertaker's cast was perfect, as it sold Lesnar as the type of destructive force that even The Undertaker needed a little help to take on. From the moment the match began, it was a brawl in its truest form. From the blood to the consistent attack on Taker's cast and arm and of course Heyman freaking out at ringside, this was a match that truly helped to elevate Lesnar as a presence in the WWE.

3. Shawn Michaels vs John Cena RAW 4/23/07

-Here's a match closer to the end of the RA Era and a classic as HBK went nearly an hour in what was a WM rematch. An earlier career example of Cena being able to give a great performance when he has someone that can handle the heavy work in the ring. From beginning to end, these two put on one of the best TV matches ever, if not the best. Cena got his title win over a legend at WM, and HBK got his win back in an absolute classic. This is a must watch match for any and everyone.

2. The Rock vs Hollywood Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 18

-Some might disagree with this match being on this list, but screw it, it's my damn list. Not at all setting the world on fire in terms of work rate or even actual wrestling but this shit right here? This was about the MOMENTS. Rock and Hogan in a dream match. Billed as the Icon vs Icon match, it certainly did not disappoint. Even the opening stare down was electric as Hogan and Rock stood there for what seemed like hours just soaking the crowd up, understanding how big this match truly was. Hogan throwing Rock around and taunting him to overwhelming cheers and Rock selling it perfectly even though he was supposed to be the face in this match. Hulk-ups, Leg Drops, People's Elbows and Rock Bottoms and it all came down to the last moment after the match. Rock just being a fan and asking Hogan to pose for the people in a show of respect. Greatness.

1. Kurt Angle vs Brock Lesnar WrestleMania 19

-I mean...was there really any other choice? Two of the best pure wrestlers in the company, especially given their pedigrees. Lesnar a NCAA Champion and Angle an Olympic Gold Medalist. This match for the WWE Championship. What would follow is one of the best in-ring displays the company has ever seen as both wrestlers exchanged holds and throws at a ridiculous clip culminating in what could have been one of the biggest WM moments ever as Lesnar attempted a Shooting Star Press. Amazing for a guy his size to even be able to pull off the attempt, but his hesitation at the top of the rope and Angle's distance from the corner resulted in Lesnar missing and a concussion/neck injury. Safe to say if he lands that, it enhances the match even further. The fact that he finished the match however, is freakish in its own right. This is hands down, without a doubt the best match of the RA Era to me.

What would your choices be? Post them below in our comments section.