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Friday, April 29, 2016

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Retrospective: What If Stone Cold Steve Austin Never Left WWE in 2002?

By @TrueGodImmortal 

The year 2002 will forever be a strange one in WWE history. First, the WWF changed their name to WWE, and the whole "Get The F Out" campaign still stands as a sore spot for the WWE personally. There was Billy and Chuck, Eric Bischoff, and the rise of Smackdown above RAW. However, the strangest thing about 2002 would have to be the departure of Stone Cold Steve Austin in June 2002. Walking out on the company but not looking back, Austin left the WWE and would not return until February 2003. Austin's departure was a shock initially, but after examining everything, it wasn't as big of a shock anymore.

Austin started 2002 as the no. 1 merch seller, with his popularity back on the rise yet again with his "What?" catchphrase. His shirts were plentiful, his excitement was increased and he was more hilarious than he had ever been. However, his booking didn't reflect that. I wanted to do a comparison of how Austin walked out and how CM Punk walked out, and the situations were similar. After all the issues they had with booking and Vince, it seems honestly like their departures mirror each other. Punk, with a ton of merch selling, and his popularity at the highest height, walked away from WWE. Austin, while not at his highest popularity height (that would be 1998), was back in the driver's seat as the no. 1 merch seller and one of the most over, if not the most over guy on the roster.

When he decided to walk away, you knew why and understood his reasons, though the way he went about it wasn't necessarily the best. After a mid card match against Scott Hall at Wrestlemania that year, along with losing a useless feud to Undertaker (and missing out on a WWE Title Match with Hulk Hogan), and being saddled with a pointless feud with Ric Flair, Austin was asked to lose to Brock Lesnar on an episode of Raw in a King of the Ring qualifying match. Now, why would the WWE tell Austin to lose a match with no buildup to Brock? Why would they feed Austin to Brock so early? I suspect Triple H wouldn't take a televised loss to Brock with no buildup. I suspect the Rock wouldn't take a loss without buildup and on RAW. Austin was a bigger star than both of those from a wrestling standpoint, so why should Austin take that loss? It seemed as if WWE was slightly insulting Austin with this booking, but make no mistake about it, he wasn't having it.

Austin walked out that night and this wasn't the same for RAW. RAW went through changes and the quality of the show declined drastically from there. Today, I look back at what could have happened if Austin never left the WWE. What feuds he could have engaged in, what moments we could have saw. Let's get into it.

*Feuding With Eddie Guerrero 
-Before his departure, he was expected to feud with Eddie. This was at Austin's request, and I think these two could have put on a good show with each other leading into the King of the Ring and subsequently Vengeance as well, with Benoit added in. This would be the feud that would have kept Austin occupied for June and July.

*Feud With Brock Lesnar
-I feel like this feud would have happened likely as Brock became Undisputed Champion and Austin could have been one of his challengers on PPV. Or perhaps at the Rumble, Austin and Brock go at it in a brutal match. Regardless, this would have been a feud that needed to happen. The chemistry might have been off the charts.

*Tournament For the World Heavyweight Championship/Feud With Triple H
-I think if Austin was still around in 2002, they would have had a tournament leading into Unforgiven 2002 for the World Heavyweight Championship, and if I'm WWE, I make it Austin vs Triple H for the title at Unforgiven 2002 in the Finals. HHH and Austin would go 24 minutes with Austin getting a clean pin victory and holding the title until next month, when a fatal four way at No Mercy leads to HHH getting the belt. This leads me to the next thing he would end up doing.

*Appearing In The First Elimination Chamber at Survivor Series 2002
-As crazy as this sounds, Austin would have been in the first Elimination Chamber. If Austin remained on RAW, he would have likely had the place that Booker T had or maybe Kane. So I could totally see Kane, RVD, Jericho, HBK, HHH, and Austin in the chamber and although I'd keep the outcome the same, I'd let HHH get eliminated second to last and let the final two be HBK and Austin. That would have been an exciting end of the contest and Austin vs HBK would leave us in suspense for which legend wins the belt. HBK gets a win over Austin in this match and boom, he's champion.

*Rematch vs Shawn Michaels
-Unless Austin didn't want to fight HBK again, which we know isn't the case, this would have happened. I'd have loved to see HBK vs Austin occur in this era and I suspect it could have happened for the title at Armageddon, or maybe even on an episode of RAW, since WWE wasted great matches on RAW then too (HBK vs RVD for the title... seriously though). Austin vs HBK in a 25 minute classic would be something great to watch, and HBK of 2002-2003 was getting his flow back in the ring. That would have been great.

*Match With Hulk Hogan At Wrestlemania 19
-No offense to Austin vs Rock 3, but I could have done without that one and the same can be said for Hogan vs Vince. I love both matches, but I'd rather have seen the Rock vs Goldberg and Hogan vs Austin at WM19. Two of the biggest possible matches at the time, with Austin in his glory and Hogan in the yellow and red. No heel or face, just two legends in front of 60,000 strong. With Austin still in WWE, I'd have Hogan appear at the Rumble and the two have a moment in the ring during the Rumble match and go from there.

The possibilities would be endless if Austin never walked away, but the truth is, we will never know. However, it's fun to sit back and ponder what could have been. Until next time, keep your eyes on the ring.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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Retrospective: The WWE Career of CM Punk

By @__Doug__

You know in life, the thing you love the most, can hurt you the most. This quote represents CM Punk’s tenure in the company. A man that loved the business too much and he suffered a lot of pain before he left with his sanity intact. This is a retrospective of a man that was my favorite wrestler during his era.

Growing up, I had a void in my wrestling fandom. The Rock left in 2003 and I didn’t enjoy the roster as much as I did Rock. That void wasn’t filled until I had watched the ECW reboot and saw a man from Chicago face Justin Credible. I didn’t know anything outside of the WWE at this time and had no idea who Punk was, but for some reason back then it clicked for me. I was a fan from that debut and it gave me a reason to watch the ECW reboot.

The company had a star on their hands, but it took a long time for them to realize it. After that horrible feud with Mike Knox, Punk was still over, as evidenced by being the most popular guy at Survivor Series in 2006. Then came the horrible December to Dismember PPV (another article for another day), where Punk, a guy that everybody and their mother thought should have won, ended up being the first eliminated, which effectively killed the brand having another solo PPV. Fast forwarding through the New Breed and ECW Originals mess, we have Punk going to face [redacted], but instead entered this long feud with Johnny Nitro/John Morrison/Johnny Mundo. This was one of the few feuds in the early stages of the ECW reboot that showed why it was a success. Punk getting one more chance and actually winning (unlike Christian), ended up building to a great ending where the crowd was completely invested. Something like this wouldn’t be seen until Matt Hardy a few years later. This was the peak of Punk at ECW as he needed to move onto bigger and better things, which he did after he dropped the belt to Chavo Guerrero. Overall, while the results were a mixed bag during his time in ECW, he showed that he was able to become a crowd favorite and had a following. Punk moving on to Raw was one of the few reasons why the ECW reboot wasn’t a complete failure.

Punk ended up winning MITB at WM24 and was drafted to Raw soon after. The work he had put in during his time in ECW had paid off as he eventually won the World Heavyweight Championship from Edge to a loud pop. After this, a recurring theme popped up during Punk’s career. Punk had a lackluster feud with JBL and eventually lost the title without even defending it as Legacy knocked him out. Losing the title in that fashion wasn’t the best idea, although it did generate heat for Orton and Legacy. It would have made sense for Punk to feud with Orton for a while after this, right? Well, at least he got to feud with Legacy with Kofi as his partner. They won the titles, but they felt like an afterthought until they lost the titles to Miz and Morrison. Dropping the titles to them was the right choice since Punk was going after the Intercontinental Title and eventually won the belt from Regal in an excellent short feud and final match. Punk did lose the title to JBL soon after, but he did become a triple crown champion in under a year which is an impressive feat in itself, but everything during this time period felt rushed with him. They gave him all those accolades quickly, along with him being a finalist to the King of the Ring tournament in 2008, which in hindsight was a great idea to not give him that title, because it didn’t fit his character and would also feel like the company is force-feeding him towards the audience (cough, Roman Reigns, cough).

Punk moved to SmackDown and won MITB again at WM25, but this time he actually had a direction after cashing in. A heel turn by Punk in 2009 provided a white hot feud with Jeff Hardy. The more hardline straight edge gimmick worked perfectly with Jeff’s past with substance issues. The sense of realism in this feud created magic and for the first time in a long time, made Jeff Hardy interesting. As much as I wanted to hate Punk during this time period, he was so captivating and I didn’t disagree with the Straight Edge ideology or the extreme measures that Punk used to get his message across to the people. Between pointing out Hardy’s prescription issues and coming out as Hardy after Jeff left the company, that version of Punk was great. The Undertaker feud was very lackluster and was a quick way to get Punk away from the belt. Just when it felt that the wheels were coming off of Punk’s momentum, the Straight Edge Society was created and it was beautifully done. Using Gallows' history as Festus and to transition him into the stable was a great way to create continuity and show his true talent. The Rey Mysterio feud, while entertaining, felt like it would never end. Eventually the demise of Punk and the SES came at the expense of Big Show out of all people. Show beat them in a handicap match and a singles match, which killed their heat on purpose as Gallows and Serena were released. After the injury break, he became the new leader of Nexus, which was not effective as they were dead in the water since SummerSlam when Cena went Super Cena and destroyed them. Cena went Super Cena again and destroyed New Nexus at the Rumble and again, it led to nobody respecting them. While I do applaud the use of history in the Orton-Punk feud for Wrestlemania 27, it was too late by then. Orton ran through the stable and beat Punk in both PPV matches in the feud. After the Rey feud, it felt like Punk was treading water throughout 2010-2011. The talent was there with him, but it was not showing until that one night that blurred the lines of fact and fiction.

June 27th 2011. Las Vegas, Nevada. The promo that changed the business. We all know about the promo that led to the best match in recent memory. All it took was a disgruntled worker that aired out his grievances and left these statements that were true. These same issues that he had pointed out back then are still present today, such as Vince being a millionaire that should be a billionaire or how fans still pour money into the company despite him leaving (I, for one, am guilty of this). The next few months, these scathing promos on the company, Vince, Cena, HHH and Nash helped the company realize what they should have been doing since 2009 during the Jeff Hardy feud. He was the best in the world at this time.

Then in typical WWE fashion, they wasted Punk. Alberto Del Rio was unnecessarily inserted into the title picture so early and became a worse version of Miz in the Miz/Cena/Rock feud that headlined a horrible WrestleMania 27. From taking the title away from a white hot Punk to a Del Rio that cannot get the crowd to care about him outside of the Ricardo Rodriguez/Big Show angle in 2013, they started killing the next star. Punk vs HHH with the inclusion of Nash was a hot feud, but Triple H had no business winning that feud (or the Booker feud, but that’s another article for another day). Punk was still over after this, but it wasn’t the same Punk that was over in July,

The WWE Championship hot potato ended at Survivor Series, when he defeated Alberto Del Rio. It felt that at this moment, the Punk that I enjoyed was not the same guy that I grew up watching. He got almost what he wanted at this time. He got the long reign, he was a top star, it just felt like complacency set in. The Jericho feud during Wrestlemania season didn’t feel like it clicked as it should have. From here, he played fourth fiddle in the Daniel Bryan, Kane, and AJ storyline, which was more of a vehicle for Team Hell No than anything relating to Punk.

The heel run of Punk from 2012 to 2013 felt weird. While the turn itself was well done by attacking The Rock, the best parts of the run was the promos between Punk and Vince or Punk and Foley. Punk-Cena was done to death by then, Punk-Ryback stunk and so did Punk-Rock. He didn’t seem engaged again until the feud with Undertaker, which stole the show from a horrible Wrestlemania 29.

After WrestleMania 29, Punk was a man that didn’t want to be there. It seemed as if he was going through the motions from the classic Lesnar/Punk match at SummerSlam to the day he left. The prolonged Heyman feud during the summer was a waste for not only him, but everyone in that angle who did not benefit from it. Towards the end, The Shield feud was better than expected, but it was too late. Punk was gone the day after the Royal Rumble due to a myriad of issues that have stemmed almost a half a decade.

So the CM Punk era from the WWE has come and gone, and while he left us with some iconic and entertaining moments in the company, I felt that the WWE and Phil could have done more with the character. This could be said with almost any character in the company, hence the always relevant "the millionaire that should be a billionaire" line. Although, if the WWE used logic sometimes, the big MITB angle probably would have not happened as some of the grievances aired would not be present anymore. While I do agree with him regarding certain areas of his complaints during the podcast such as Rock/Cena II, Orton/Batista, HHH not putting him over in 2011 and the whole Ryback saga, some of it felt like whining. Whether you’re not a fan of him walking out and going to UFC or whether you’re a fan of him throughout the duration of his time in the company, one thing is for certain. He was an underutilized talent for a long time and was able to overcome bad booking to become one of the best superstars in wrestling history, and for that, I thank him. I thank him for everything he did, the good and bad, thank him for becoming my favorite superstar and providing entertainment for all of these years.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

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Mic Check: Thoughts on Ken Anderson

By @MeenHendrix 

On March 29, 2009, Ken Anderson then known as cocky loudmouth Mr. Kennedy was released from his WWE Contract. I was disappointed when I heard this news. I was a huge fan of Mr. Kennedy.

Ken Anderson joined WWE in 2005 through its developmental system Ohio Valley Wrestling. 6 months later he was already on his way up to the main roster. His first few months on the main roster he made it very clear to everyone both on the mic and in the ring that his name was Mr. Kennedy and he was here to stay. He was over the top with his antics and bragging. The dropping microphone from the ceiling when he did his own introduction was top notch.

As Ken Kennedy, Anderson went up against established stars including Rey Mysterio, Batista and Matt Hardy and gaining wins against each of them except Hardy. It wouldn't take long before he kicked down the door and defeated Bobby Lashley and Finlay for the United States Championship. He went on to have a short feud with Smackdown GM Theodore Long over his desire to compete on Raw. Long put him in matches with stars he had never faced. He succeeded in defeating the Undertaker by disqualification, but lost to Chris Benoit in a match with Kennedy's United States Championship on the line. He would then team up with MVP and start a feud with the Brothers of Destruction before challenging the Undertaker to a First Blood match at Survivor Series. He would win after an inadvertent chair shot from MVP to Taker. Taker would get his revenge by defeating Kennedy in a Last Ride Match at Armageddon.

In 2007, it seemed as though his luck was turning around. Kennedy won the Beat the Clock Challenge to win a shot at Batista's World Heavyweight Championship at the Royal Rumble. Even though he lost, he would receive a shot at the ECW Championship at No Way Out which he won by DQ, but the title did not change hands.

At Wrestlemania 23, it seemed as though he had finally broke through the glass ceiling when he won the Money in The Bank Ladder Match. His post match rant reminded me why he had the potential to be an all time great. He was on fire. He cut a promo that would make Dusty Rhodes jealous. His words stung like knives as he sent warnings to the world champions. The cockiest star in the Company finally had something to put behind his words.

It didn't last long. After it was believed he was suffering from a serious injury, he dropped the Money in the Bank briefcase to Edge. Although the injury turned out to not be as serious as thought, the damage had already been done. He had a chance to regain momentum first being drafted to Raw. He engaged in a short feud for the Intercontinental Championship, but he failed to win. He was then suspended for his steroid use.

After his suspension, he never regained the momentum he had built up for himself at the start of 2007 and before you knew it he was released. He would go on to TNA and become a 2 time TNA World Heavyweight Championship, achieving the superstardom he was destined for in the WWE. I believed Anderson would be the next top star, but he was never able to get to that level due to injuries and his steroid use in 2007. Anderson was one of the best guys on the roster everywhere he went. He was cocky and brash on the mic. He could talk his ass off and then go in the ring and beat you with his smooth technical style. He's one of those rare guys who can sell a feud by doing all the talking by himself. He was on the wrong end of a lot of feuds and still came out looking like a star because he was so good at what he did.

He seemed unmotivated on his way out as he had stated Randy Orton got him fired for almost hurting him in a match. But I know that isn't him because he had been so great in the ring and his position on the card seemed to finally break him. He was simply too good to be a lower midcarder. I'm very proud of the success that he gained while in TNA, because he turned out to be the star he should have been in WWE. He may not be high up on a lot of people's lists, but Ken Anderson is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time. Regardless of how many titles he won or mistakes he made, when he walked out in front of that arena full of fans there were few who could match his talent in the ring and on the mic.


Monday, April 25, 2016

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The Greatest Rivalries of the 2000s: Zayn versus Owens

By Christopher Evans (@Cool_Calm_Chris)

You remember those rivalries. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs The Rock, Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle,
CM Punk vs John Cena, JTG vs Air time on RAW, the classics. In this special series, Eyes on the Ring will relive the rivalries that kept pro wrestling feel interesting in the new millennium. In this episode we’ll look at one of the best indie rivalries of this generation, Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens. We’ll look at the early beginnings from Sami and Kevin’s journey into the business as well as their partnership in numerous promotions such as Pro Wrestling Guerilla and Ring of Honor. We’ll talk about their Final Battle wars in Ring of Honor as well as their feud in NXT. So pop in your headphones for 20 minutes and take a tour of the greatest rivalries of the 2000s.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

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Power Rankings: Extreme Rules PPVs

By @Phranchize19

Extreme Rules is the night where WWE basically adds a stipulation to the majority of their matches. Lately it's been the post WrestleMania show and it's never really been a GREAT show. In fairness to WWE though, it's hard to follow up your biggest PPV extravaganza. We will delve into all Extreme Rules PPVs since 2009-2015. The ranking will be from worst to best.

7. WWE Extreme Rules 2013

Main Event: Triple H vs Brock Lesnar Steel Cage Match

Best Match Of The Night: The Shield beat Team Hell No

-This is the absolute worst Extreme Rules PPV ever (so far), for a plethora of reasons. The majority of the card was based on WrestleMania stipulations. Triple H vs Lesnar was a rivalry that lasted way too long. This match was not very fluid. Their WrestleMania match was much better and told a much better story. Elsewhere on the card, we have Cena vs Ryback with Ryback sounding like Sid Vicious when he and Hogan were feuding at WrestleMania 8. This effectively destroyed all the momentum Ryback had gained. The only cool moment of this show was the Shield winning the gold and taking their place in the WWE elite. This PPV shouldn't have happened.

6. WWE Extreme Rules 2010

Main Event: John Cena vs Batista Last Man Standing for the WWE title

Best Match On The Card: Edge vs Chris Jericho in Steel Cage

-This card on paper looks solid, but the PPV really failed to deliver. John Cena vs Batista wasn't bad until the end where Cena looked like a child instead of a credible foe to Batista. Elsewhere, we had Triple H officially become a part time competitor after Sheamus attacked him before the match began. At least CM Punk vs Rey Mysterio was a great match, much better than the short time they had at the WrestleMania 26.

5. WWE Extreme Rules 2014

Main Event: Daniel Bryan vs Kane 
Extreme Rules Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Title

Best Match On The Card: The Shield vs Evolution

-This version of Extreme Rules was so so. On one hand, Daniel Bryan and Kane seemed so cartoonish. Kane has been better, but this wasn't one of his better matches here. On the other hand, The Shield and Evolution had great chemistry and was genuinely one of the best faction vs faction fights I'd ever seen. I was worried that Evolution would look slower next to the young faster and stronger Shield, but they paced this match very well. Elsewhere on the card, Bray Wyatt vs Cena was a solid cage match, but the ending was very convoluted. Having Bray pin Cena instead of walking out of the cage would've had a much better effect. We also saw Paige defend the Divas title vs Tamina, who I think is very underrated. We got Barrett vs Big E for the IC title, which in my opinion was a waste, as Big E was a credible champ. Barrett didn't gain anything from this title reign (or any IC title reign he's had, but that's another story for another article), and while I expected WeeLC to be terrible, it was actually fun to watch, as strange as that sounds.

4. WWE Extreme Rules 2011

Main Event: John Cena vs Miz vs John Morrison 
Triple Threat Steel Cage match for the WWE title

Best Match On The Card: Christian vs Alberto Del Rio Ladder Match For The Vacant World Heavyweight Championship

-WrestleMania hangover was in effect for this version of Extreme Rules, but this was a solid card. The main event saw John Cena win the WWE title (what a shocker) in a deceptively good cage match. Orton vs Punk had yet another great match continuing their rivalry. Christian and Del Rio put together a fantastic ladder match which saw Christian share a cool moment with his recently retired Hall Of Fame friend Edge. This was well deserved and Del Rio didn't lose any credibility over this, as he would have a great 2011. Elsewhere, Cody Rhodes and Mysterio put on another solid work.

3. WWE Extreme Rules 2015

Main Event: Seth Rollins vs Randy Orton 
Steel Cage For The WWE World Heavyweight title

Best Match on the Card: 
Roman Reigns vs Big Show 
Last Man Standing match

-If you would've told me that Roman Reigns and Big Show would be in the best match on a card, I probably would laugh at you but that's what happens. Part of it was because this card was weak, but these guys worked hard and told a great story. Elsewhere, the main event was okay seeing Rollins get revenge on perhaps the greatest RKO I've ever seen. John Cena and Rusev had a strap match for the US title which wasn't bad, but it began Lana’s solo ascension, which to me was a distraction on the match. Ambrose vs Harper started off well, but it got too much when they left the arena and came back. This was also the PPV where the ascension of New Day began. This was odd at the time because New Day wasn't over yet and Cesaro and Kidd were. Hindsight is 20/20 vision though and that made perfect sense.

2. WWE Extreme Rules 2009

Main Event: CM Punk cashes in his MITB briefcase vs Jeff Hardy for the World Heavyweight Championship

Best Match On The Card: 
Jeff Hardy vs Edge 
Ladder Match for the World Heavyweight championship. 

-The two very best ladder match competitors never fail to amaze us and this was one of the best matches in both men’s careers. CM Punk had an engaging Strap match with Umaga. The PPV started off with a great Fatal 4 Way match for the US Title and we also got to see Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio have one of the best IC matches seen in a while. WWE’s resident superhero John Cena fought Big Show in a submission match. Not bad but not that great either. Batista and Orton in a steel cage was pretty good as well. Orton was his normal slithery self. This was a pretty good card overall.

1. WWE Extreme Rules 2012

Main Event: Brock Lesnar vs John Cena Extreme Rules Match

Best Match On The Card: 
Brock Lesnar vs John Cena, Extreme Rules
CM Punk vs Chris Jericho Chicago Street Fight

-This is by far the best Extreme Rules card WWE has ever had. The main event saw a returning Beast Incarnate take on WWE’s Superman John Cena. This match was better than I expected and delivered on all levels. Elsewhere, CM Punk and Jericho continued their personal rivalry for the WWE title and delivered one of the best matches during CM Punk’s entire title reign. We also got Sheamus and Daniel Bryan 2 out of 3 Falls for the world heavyweight title. This match was fantastic. I thought Sheamus would have trouble going hold for hold against Bryan, but he more than held his own. The show opened with Orton vs Kane, which was better than expected considering their so-so Mania showdown. Big Show vs Rhodes was a little weird, but it was still good enough for this card. Brodus Clay squashing Dolph Ziggler didn't make much sense however, but I guess Ryback destroying two guys was fun to watch....

All in all, Extreme Rules is usually one of the worst cards WWE has, but that's because WrestleMania hangover is very real. Since Payback has jumped this PPV in the pecking order, we shall see if this PPV has WrestleMania hangover.

-C. Yates

Thursday, April 21, 2016

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EOTR Fantasy Booking: CM Punk vs Stone Cold Steve Austin

By @SteveSignore 

It wasn't until CM Punk dropped that historic pipebomb on RAW in June of 2011, that the idea of a dream match with Stone Cold Steve Austin really came to fruition. Punk became that anti-authority figure that the WWE hadn't had since Austin. Weeks after the "pipebomb," Punk delivered some of the most memorable promos during the post-Attitude Era, whether it was taking jabs at Vince ("What a manuever") or demanding the return of the WWE ice cream bar. As a fan, it sucked me in just as much as when Austin caught fire during the late 90s.

The WWE should have done everything humanly possible to make this dream match happen (not that it would have worked.. despite Austin teasing it). The window of opportunity might have been open a few inches. The only thing that would have held it back was Austin's health(which he kept stating wasn't an issue) and/or pricetag. If the WWE could have figured it out, there's a chance we would have seen this match at a Wrestlemania. The proverbial "window" was viciously slammed shut when Punk left the company, a move that was just as abrupt as when Austin walked out in 2002.

Punk came 15 years too late. His edge and brutal honesty during promos would have fit in nicely during the glory days of the Attitude Era. Austin had plenty of legendary opponents during the era, including Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Rock, Mick Foley, HHH and, of course, Vince McMahon. But imagine if there was one more superstar that could have ruffled Austin's feathers? Head over to YouTube and check out the few encounters the two have had on WWE TV, most notably the conversation between Jim Ross, Austin and Punk during the promoting of WWE '13. Austin and Punk gave you a taste of what we missed out on!

If you did drop Punk into the Attitude Era, like he suggested during the WWE '13 promo, he would have been a perfect heel counterpart for Austin. The "straight edged" Punk would cringe whenever Austin popped the top on a cold one and threw it down his gullet. The idea of Punk swimming in a beer bath is very intriguing (although he would never agree to do it).

The irony is CM Punk was one of Steve Austin's biggest fans, dating all the way back to WCW. In interviews, Punk has mentioned that Austin versus Steamboat was one of his favorite matches. We've all seen the picture of a young Phil Brooks standing next to Stone Cold Steve Austin. The storyline of "superstar in his prime versus childhood hero" has been used on occasion (Michaels/Flair, Jericho/Michaels), but this also fits into the category.

I can't see these two ever standing in the same WWE ring. In fact, the chances of seeing Punk in a WWE ring are less than remote. I feel bad for the fans who keep hope alive on that front, but the writing is on the wall, Punk does not like the WWE. You'd most likely have a better chance of seeing Punk surface in ROH for an appearance before the WWE. And it's a shame because Punk equals money. This is a fact that the WWE took for granted with how they handled him during his final days with the company. As for Austin, we'll continue to see him make appearances from time to time.

This is definitely a self indulgent piece for myself. Austin had been my favorite performer since the inception of the Hollywood Blondes. I went years without really having that second superstar that captured my imagination like Austin, until Punk eventually turned heel in the WWE. Then, I was hooked. Every promo was magic. As much as he might not like the business right now, Punk oozed it out of every pore on his body. For me, while the idea of a dream match is non-existent, I would gladly take the consolation prize of an episode of the Steve Austin Show with CM Punk as a guest. Even this idea is far-fetched, but that's all we have left at this point. In the meantime, keep on dreaming!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

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WIRTB: WrestleMania 32

Oh, God. This one’s going to be a doozy. I can already tell. But, I’m never the one to back down from a challenge—no matter how asinine it is. So, let’s get things underway and answer the following question: Was WrestleMania Star Power—I mean, WrestleMania 32 really that bad? Well, let’s talk some backstory. WM 32 was in Texas this year to blow the everloving fuck out of the WM 3 records because, you know, new era, new wave and shit. That’s cool. However, to not send your fans into a fizzy tizzy, you’ve got to be able to keep them entertained for seven-to-eight hours. Does WM 32 deliver or does it just make people more pissed off than anything?

Our first match of the evening was Kalisto versus Ryback for the United States Championship. In shades of Daniel Bryan, kind of, this match was effectively a dark match. Why? Well, for starters, a good portion of the crowd wasn’t even in the stadium yet. On top of that, this match, for an actual title was placed on the pre-show while we got The Rock beating Erick Rowan in a “We Did This For the Vine” match (more on that later). The match itself wasn’t that bad, but it was kind of standard “David versus Goliath” booking. Kalisto won by capitalizing on Ryback clocking himself with a turnbuckle. All in all, it’s a fun match and was better than a lot of the main show. Yeah, I said it. As of right now, Kalisto versus Ryback is match of the night. 

I don’t believe it either.

Next up, we got Total Divas versus Team Bad Name and Shown Roots. It was, I’m sorry, your typical multi-Divas match. Lots of missed spots, awkward landings, and “uhhhh” moments. The match was, thankfully, ended by Bria Bella getting Naomi to submit to the Yes! Lock. This match was really less about anyone else who wasn’t named Brie Bella. It was all to get her over in her last match(?). And…it kind of worked. It was a nice moment and we got to see Brie go out on her own terms. Would I've given her a singles match, but...let's look at A.J. Lee's last match. Similar vibe in that both were tag team matches featuring women's wrestlers that WWE obviously love/loved (say what you will about Brie's ability over the years. WWE loved her and they loved A.J.).

My God. I’m being…nice so far. What the hell’s going on? Am I wr—wr—wrong about WM 32? 

Thankfully, my fears subside when I see The Usos and The Dudley Boyz. This match sucked a lot of the air out of the stadium (especially after Lita hyped people up with the Women’s Championship reveal). It was slow, and not in a methodical way. Both the Usos and The Dudleyz looked like they gave no shits about this match. And, to top it all off, The Usos put The Dudleyz through a table because, you know, faces or something. 

I think my main gripe with The Usos is that they’re interchangeable. 

There’s nothing really distinguishing to set them apart. Yes, I know. They’re twins. But, even Tia and Tamera—hell, even MARY-KATE AND FUCKING ASHLEY OLSEN were able to differentiate themselves from each other. Jimmy and Jey Uso are some of the blandest, white meat babyfaces I’ve ever seen. You could probably swap one of them out with Darren Young and no one would notice (except, you know, Darren’s taller. But fuck it all and fuck this match).

Finally, after a few hours, we get our first match of the main card. The IC Championship Ladder Match. The match was, as expected, spotty as fuck. There wasn’t much wrestling as there were carwreck crashes, Sin Cara putting Stardust through a ladder (nice Dusty tribute get-up, though, ‘Dust. Can we see you become Cody again sometime?), and Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens going ass-over-teakettle. It was fun to watch, if you turned your brain off and said “hey. This is going to be shit wrestling. But, it sure as fuck is going to be fun to watch people look like they’re being shot with RPGs for fifteen-plus minutes). On top of that, Zack Ryder finally got his WrestleMania moment. 

The problem with Zack Ryder is that, even when he wins, we all know he’s going to be underutilized and/or treated like shit soon. Lo and behold, the next fucking night, he ends up losing the IC Championship. So, you mean to tell me that, essentially, that entire carcrash of a match was for nothing?! It befuddles me how many shits WWE don’t give about talent such as Ryder. He’s not the best wrestler of all-time. But, years after the Jersey Shore craze died, he’s still been able to maintain a pretty vocal fan base. To have him win, then lose the next night was a cocktease to these fans. Fans, even Zack Ryder fans, deserve better.

Next up, we’ve got Jericho versus Styles in Styles’ first WrestleMania. He loses. While the way he lost was some great chain-event wrestling, to have AJ Styles lose in his WrestleMania debut doesn’t make much sense to me. That’s not me being “smarky.” That’s me being realistic. If you’re going to, the next night, have Styles become the fuckin’ number one contender for the WWE Championship, why the fuck do you have him lose to Jobber to the Stars Jericho? 

Don’t get me wrong. Chris Jericho, at damn-near 46, can still do things that some twenty­-six-year-olds can only dream of doing. But, he hasn’t been relevant in a way that isn’t just putting someone over for years. It’s like having Bray Wyatt lose to the U…sos. Fuck it. I’m convinced that WWE, while still the leader in pro wrestling, has a smaller idea of how to build up stars than even some of the smarkiest smarks who smark their smarkiness throughout the smarky parts of the IWC.

After a DBZ­ reference, The New Day make their way into the ring to square off against the League of Nations for…what, again? No, seriously. I love The New Day, and having them on the card is greatness. They even made me believe in Kofi Kingston again. But…to have them as your tag team champions and not defend the damn tag team titles is…weird. Then, to have them lose to a team that’s been on the verge of diving asshole-first into WWE purgatory makes even less sense. 

Yeah, I know. We got to see HBK, Mick, and STONE COLD STONE COLD STONE COLD come out and put The New Day over (kind of). But, why have your most-over team catch that L (then see Xavier Woods catch that Stunner from Stone Cold)? That’s like having John Cena lose to John Laurinaitis, even with help. We get what you’re trying to do…actually, no. Fuck this match. I don’t get it. I don’t get what it was “supposed” to accomplish, even if The New Day did, technically, get the rub from HBK and company. Get this shit outta here. At least Brock Lesnar versus Dean Ambrose is next, right?!


The match saw Brock spam a bunch of suplexes and Ambrose, in a No Holds Barred Street Fight, play it low-end-PG safe. This is supposed to be a brutal match between two crazy fucks. I don’t need crimson masks from every No Holds Barred fight. However, a bit more violence probably wouldn’t have hurt anyone. This match is between The Lunatic Fringe and The Guy Who’s the One in 23-1.  Again, I don’t need everyone writhing around like JBL and Eddie. But, for fuck’s sake! Give me something more than this Hulk Hogan chairshots Brutus Beefcake bullshit. Hell, give me something more than Ambrose swinging the not-working chainsaw. Keep the mamby pamby low-end PG shit for RAW, not your biggest PPV.

I was going to save my rants for later. But, no. You’re giving us two loose cannons and all they can muster are spammed suplexes and a couple weapon attacks?! If WWE don’t get all the fuck the way the fuck outta here with this fuckery, I swear people are eventually gonna say “fuck this noise” in more of a drove than they are already. I don’t need motherfuckers dying to put over a match. But, I need something that’s gonna keep my goddamned attention for more than just the couple moments the crowd kind of lost their shit over. Fuck this match.

After the Diva’s Title, thank God, was retired, our next match is for the newly-revealed WWE Women’s Championship. Three of the Four Horsewomen are in this match. Oooh, goodie. This is great. And, aside from the “Daddy Flair Strikes Again” ending, it was pretty dope. An evenly-matched triple threat between Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch, it was my favorite match of the night (spoiler alerts!) that wasn’t just based on some moments. It had all the magic from their NXT matchups and more. 

Was I pissed that "Daddy Flair" stole the show and made it more about the lengths he'd go to in order to protect his "legacy?" Yeah, I was. Flair's interference was unneeded. However, it does set up the use of Bret Hart by Natalya for Payback. Hopefully, we'll get to see Sasha Banks hoist that title soon enough, though. I don't know how long I can wait before she gets it. Sasha is bae. Sasha is love.

Now, Shane versus Undertaker. 

I liked it. However, I really wanted more from both of them. It felt, to me, more like a replay of Shane versus Angle (in that they beat the everloving shit out of each other and there wasn’t much “actual wrestling”). That’s my only real gripe with it. It relied too much on Attitude Era nostalgia (and, in promos, the use of the word “bitch”) to get it over. But, for what it was, it wasn’t exactly horrible. Just…eh.

The Andre the Giant Battle Royal. I liked Baron Corbin winning, even though he looks like Bo Dallas, with an edge. 

I hated Shaq in the thing. Because now we know we’re gonna get Shaq/Show at some point. Also, Tatanka. We already know how I feel about that schmuck. 

Tatanka’s presence alone makes me hate this match. Am I being too hard on Tatanka because I genuinely hate him as a person, or am I trolling you since you know that I despised Tatanka the character back in the day? The latter, mostly. I don’t know Tatanka as a person. I’m sure he’s cool. I salute the fact that he’s repping his Native American heritage proudly. But, as a wrestler, especially with what he meant for the New Generation (and the RA Era), fuck him and his Tomahawk Chop.

The Rock’s out next to be The Rock and kill Erick Rowan in six seconds. Yep. This is an official match on the WM 32 card because why-the-fuck-not?! And, of course, The Wyatt Family (sans Luke Harper) went on the attack. And, of course, this marked the “return” of JAWWWNNNNNCEEEENAAAAA!!! Cue the motherfucking theme song and the fucking memes! Our savior has returned! 

His time (to return) is (almost) now. Shit…I never thought I’d see the day where I’d prefer Cena Hulking Up and getting the WWE WHC back. But, after the main event we’re about to close this one out to, I’d take anything over Roman Reigns. Spoiler alert? Anywho, after an entrance that was longer than, seemingly, half of the matches on the goddamned card (this match didn’t really even start until after 11PM EST), we got to see the event everyone didn’t want but we got anyway. Fuck this match too. My God. How many times have I said that thus far? Three, four times? I’ll say it again. Fuck this match! 

It was boring and the result was obvious from the jump (remember: people with long-ass entrances tend to lose). Now, I don’t have a problem with Roman Reigns winning in some ways. Hear me out. I think he’s worse than Lex Luger in a lot of ways. I feel that Hulk Hogan today, even with his racist/prejudiced mindset, would be a better choice to lead WWE than Reigns. However, he does show some signs of change. I thought that, with Reigns winning, we would get to see a more vicious, more “fuck you. I’m the Chosen One” side of Roman. Essentially, I thought we’d get the second coming of The Rock that the WWE has been shoving down our throats as a thing that could happen.

So far, even with his “I’m THE GUY” gimmick he’s taken on recently, he’s been even more boring than usual. That’s my main gripe about this shit. If you’re gonna spend all this time, this energy, these many IWC tears to try and put the guy over…at least make him into someone we can kind of want to be put over! If you can’t, move the fuck on! To top it all off, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, after shitting on the fans in kayfabe over the past couple months, were cheered as FACES DURING A FUCKING DARK SEGMENT AFTER THE CAMERAS WENT OFF. That’s a problem. It wasn’t even like a “thank you Hunter” sort of thing. It was a legit, from many sources, applause from the crowd that turned Trips face. 

Maybe that was the plan all along, for WWE to push Roman so hard that he’d have to become the jerkoff heel that we couldn’t help but hate to love by default. Maybe we’re supposed to hate Roman Reigns and his push? Maybe we’re supposed to cheer for Gallows and Anderson to murderize him during RAW? Maybe we’re supposed to hate the guys fucking guts as a character to the point that it sometimes spills over, for some of these fans, into his personal life? Maybe Roman Reigns—and the hatred towards him—is an example of the New New Kayfabe working wonders. 
Now, I don’t know Joe Anoa’i. I won’t pretend to. Like many wrestling fans, I only know Roman Reigns (and will, you know, apologize for saying his real name since, even though I don’t like his character, I respect the business enough to not just rattle off real names). So, Roman Reigns, in real life, may be a pretty chill guy. He may be someone you want to pop some tops with and drink a brew or two with. He may have some dope-ass training tips. His wife is beautiful, his daughter is cute as a friggin’ button, and his hair makes me wish for a Head and Shoulders commercial where he and Troy Polamalu team up to fight dandruff. 

So, again, he’s probably not a bad guy in real life to want to root for. However, I can see why people have a hard time separating real life and WWE. I can see why it’s so easy to hate the guy’s character to the point you’re like “fuck Roman Reigns, in and out the ring.” It’s the way WWE has made him. Do I agree with people saying they hate the guy on a personal level? Eh. But, I get it. It’s kind of WWE’s fault that people hate this guy…but that may be, in some ways, in this New New Kayfabe era, the point…

Back to WrestleMania 32, though. Fuck this shit. It started at, like, 5 and ended around midnight. Roman Reigns’ win was the urine-soaked icing to top this shit cake. Yes, we got some moments that were cool. But, a few good moments don’t help make a PPV great—especially one that, essentially, spans two days. It was too long, devoid of any surprises, devoid of any real standout matches, and devoid of any real soul. The best match was the Women’s Championship match. The worst match was…just about everything else. So, was WrestleMania 32 really that bad? 
Does Roman Reigns need to ditch his Shield gear and Embrace the Hate? Does Shaq need to never get close to a WWE ring again? Do The Usos need to not be interchangeable action figures? WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK!?! There were redeeming qualities to it...but overall? It was kind of shit for it to be the biggest WM ever and the biggest show of the year. Sorry. If you like it, that's cool. But me? Even before we got to Reigns/HHH, I was like "fuck this shit."