He calls himself the “Best in the World” and a strong argument can be made in his defense. For the third year in a row C.M. Punk has continued to establish himself as one of the most consistently great and reliable main eventers in WWE.
Punk began 2013 in the midst of an historic run as WWE Champion, and was en route to participating in a dream match against Rock at the Royal Rumble. Similar to the Rock vs. John Cena encounter from the previous year, Punk vs. Rock was a match most fans thought they’d never see. It was a clash pitting the most charismatic star of the past against the most respected wrestler of the present generation.
Though Rock emerged victorious, Punk had nothing to be ashamed of. His championship reign clocked in at a whopping 434 consecutive days, making him the longest reigning WWE Champion of the last 25 years. His reign brought a level of credibility back to the championship that was sorely lacking.
By the time WrestleMania 29 rolled around it was heavily speculated that Rock vs. Cena would again headline with Punk vs. Undertaker as one of key undercard matches.
The February 25 edition of Monday Night Raw featured Punk vs. Cena in a #1 contenders match for a shot against Rock. While there was little question of what the outcome would be, few expected the two to turn in a match-of-the-year caliber performance. Cena pinned Punk in 26:31 of an absolute classic.
As fate would have it, a shot of irony was injected into the Punk-Undertaker rivalry when Paul Bearer, Undertaker’s longtime manager, suddenly passed away. While WWE is often criticized for exploiting the deaths of past talent, this was a rare opportunity where it could’ve played into their advantage. The storyline revolved around Punk stealing Undertaker’s urn (the same one often held by Bearer in the 90s). What should’ve been a relatively simple build was turned into a near creative fiasco, featuring such hokey moments as Punk dribbling the urn like a basketball and spreading the ashes onto his body on the go-home show. It was among the worst builds to a major WrestleMania match in recent memory
In spite of the lukewarm build, their match stole the show at WrestleMania 29. Undertaker extended his WrestleMania record to 21-0 while Punk etched his name into history by going toe to toe with the Deadman on the biggest stage possible.
Punk took a sabbatical for the next several weeks and did not return until the Payback PPV, where he defeated Chris Jericho in a stellar bout. Immediately after, the wheels were put into motion for another match fans thought they’d never see: Punk vs. Brock Lesnar.
Their program was triggered by the breakup of Punk and manager Paul Heyman. From late 2012-mid 2013, the Punk and Heyman pairing was a throwback to the Nick Bockwinkel/Bobby Heenan duo of the 1970s-80s
Punk’s hatred of Heyman was the main catalyst and whenever it seemed like he was close to getting his hands on him, Lesnar would always show up to thwart his plans. After a series of back and forth attacks (resulting in some excellent promos and angles), the two were set to meet at SummerSlam.
To say it was a great match would be an understatement. In an ultimate show of respect from the locker room, both guys were greeted to a standing ovation as they made their way through the curtain afterwards.
Despite Lesnar being one of the stiffest wrestlers in the business, Punk matched him blow for blow. While the latter Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena match that took place that same day was an incredible wrestling match, Punk vs. Lesnar resembled more of an all-out war. Many consider it to be the best or second best match Lesnar has been in since his return to WWE.
Punk’s only real lowlight of the year was his program with Ryback. The less I say about it the better.
As 2013 comes to a close, Punk continues to remain one of the most consistently popular and respected superstars in all of professional wrestling. A large part of that is because Punk is one of the few guys over the last decade in wrestling who literally came from the bottom and made it to the top on his own terms. A guy with his look and style was never supposed to make it as a main event star in WWE. Not only did he make it, but he’s maintained his spot and is clearly the #2 guy in the company next to Cena. Not a bad spot to be in at all.
Though he was largely out of the title picture for the majority of 2013, his matches against Rock, Undertaker, Cena, Jericho and Lesnar would have to rank right near the top on any list of the best WWE matches held this year. It’s a testament to his ability as a performer that he was able to produce such fantastic matches with five very different wrestlers.
Currently, Punk and Bryan are embroiled in a hot feud against the Wyatt Family. While some would consider it as a diversion until WrestleMania season, it has the potential to be one of the best things WWE has done all year. It certainly hasn’t disappointed yet.
I’m certain that Punk will have WWE gold around his waist in the near future, not that it matters. Punk has crossed over into that rare breed of wrestler who doesn’t really need the championship to remain relevant. After all, he already made history during his last reign. Anything else would just be icing on the cake.
Despite not having a televised ceremony or a fancy building to hold it in, Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame is the most credible one in the industry, as the inductees aren’t chosen by one man’s whims, but are elected by a combination of over 200 active and retired wrestlers, historians and reporters. Gaining induction into the Hall of Fame is one of the most prestigious honors that can be bestowed upon a wrestler. The main criteria are in-ring ability, drawing power and historical significance, though voters are left to judge for themselves which of these are the most important.
For someone to be voted into the Hall of Fame, he or she must get 60% of the votes from their respective region. Regions are split into North America (modern and historical), Mexico, Japan, Europe and a combined Australia/New Zealand/Puerto Rico/Hawaii region. Major wrestlers and wrestling personalities (managers, announcers, promoters and bookers) become eligible when they have either turned 35 and had at least ten years since the start of their career, or passed the 15 year mark of their career.
To give an idea of how difficult it is make it, Sting, one of the biggest stars of the 90s, and Jesse Ventura, a household name who was governor of Minnesota, are still not in. The thing about the 60% threshold is that while there are undoubtedly deserving candidates who may struggle making it, or even never make it, it’s virtually impossible for someone who isn’t deserving to not be voted in.
The annual Hall of Fame issue is something I look forward to every year as a fan of professional wrestling history.
The results came out last Wednesday and surprisingly in his first year on the ballot Takashi Matsunaga was elected after receiving 74% of the vote. He joins a select group of first-ballot inductees that include: Steve Austin (2000), Kenta Kobashi (2002), Kurt Angle (2004), Kazushi Sakuraba (2004), Rock (2007) and John Cena (2012).
Matsunaga was the most successful promoter of women’s pro wrestling as part of the family that ran the All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling promotion during its big runs from the mid-70s into the mid-90s. During the 80s and early 90s, All Japan Women had some of the fastest paced, most action packed matches with some of the hottest crowds in wrestling history.
Also elected this year was Dr. Wagner Sr., one of Mexico’s biggest stars and best tag team performers of the 60s and 70s; Atlantis, a consistent headliner and great performer for over 30 years in CMLL; Kensuke Sasaki, one of the biggest stars of the 90s heyday of New Japan Pro Wrestling and current NJPW ace Hiroshi Tanahashi. Henri DeGlane, the biggest wrestling star in the history of France, was added as an overlooked historical figure from the pre-1950s era.
Tanahashi’s induction is noteworthy because he is the key figure responsible for NJPW’s business turnaround of the last few years. They went from being a struggling promotion not all that long ago to reclaiming their status as the #2 wrestling company in the world behind WWE. Not only is Tanahashi the biggest active star in the Japanese wrestling industry, but he’s arguably (more like inarguably) the best all-around wrestler on the planet today. When it comes to the traditional metrics of what constitutes a Hall of Fame caliber wrestler, Tanahashi more than lives up to the standard.
How did other modern major candidates fare? Carlos Colon, the biggest star in the history of Puerto Rico came just one vote shy at 59% and the Rock & Roll Express, the most influential babyface tag team of the last three decades finished with 55%. Current WWE star and former UFC champion Brock Lesnar garnered 47% of the vote. My gut tells me that each of these acts have a strong chance of making the cut next year. Added to the ballot next year will be Junkyard Dog, Minoru Suzuki, Akira Taue, Jun Akiyama and C.M. Punk. It will be most interesting to see how Punk fares since he has been WWE’s second biggest star next to Cena for the last few years. He’s also been one of the best overall workers in the business for most of the last decade. Even if they don’t go in right away I feel both Punk and Lesnar will go in at some point.
Well, I hope you all have enjoyed my look at this year’s Hall of Fame class. What do you all think? Drop a line in the comments section and let the discussion begin!
For further reading on the 2013 Hall of Fame balloting, I’ve provided links to the following articles:
We Talk Wrestling Blog’s Picks for the 2013 Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame
Rasslin’ Riot’s Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame Picks for 2013
A look at Mark Madden’s 2013 Hall of Fame ballot
A complete listing of HOF inductees dating back to its inception in 1996
Last night’s Raw from the Verizon Center in Washington, DC was a phenomenal go-home show. It seemed as if everyone was on their game when it came to putting the finishing touches on the big programs. Rock vs. John Cena and Brock Lesnar vs. HHH are clearly the two biggest matches. They’ve had the most consistent build from week to week and it feels like everything has been done as good as possible to garner interest.
I’m a bit more skeptical of Undertaker vs. C.M. Punk. The last few weeks of their build was lackluster to say the least, but they got it back on track with an excellent show- closing angle that did wonders in making Punk seem like a legitimate threat to end the 20-0 streak. However, I have little doubt they will produce a great match. Undertaker has been in the best match at every WrestleMania of the last five years and Punk always delivers on the big stage.
Of the undercard matches, I’m looking most forward to Chris Jericho vs. Fandango. Fandango is one of the more unique characters to be brought up to the main roster and I really like his cocky effeminate gimmick. The fans genuinely despise him and it’s a major feat for a new wrestler to get the fans to care about them that much. Jericho is the perfect opponent and has been great at putting Fandango over in key angles for the last couple of weeks. There must be big plans underway for Fandango because it’s not every year that a newcomer works their first major match at WrestleMania against an opponent of Jericho’s caliber.
Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio for world championship is a bit trickier. It’s universally acknowledged that Del Rio is a bust in his current role as a babyface. He’s just not the type of guy fans are willing to get behind. A large part of the blame must go to the writers who script him to deliver the lamest babyface lines I’ve heard in years. WWE has high hopes of him becoming next Eddie Guerrero/Rey Mysterio- level hero for the Hispanic audience, but it doesn’t appear to be working. At this point it may never happen.. Many feel the Swagger/Del Rio feud hasn’t reached the level where it should be at for a WrestleMania championship match, and Del Rio is completely at fault. If you replaced Del Rio with Mysterio then it would be one of the hottest feuds heading into WrestleMania. Del Rio’s lack of charisma has hurt every facet of this program and it’s my hope that a hostile crowd (as NY/NJ is sure to be) will be the impetus for WWE to drastically revamp his character.
The Shield vs. Big Show, Randy Orton, and Sheamus has the potential to be great. The Shield have been impressive in every PPV outing they’ve had and I have no doubt they will be at their best come Sunday. A big part of the intrigue to this match is the possibility of seeing the much anticipated heel turn of Orton. Whether he’s revealed to be The Shield’s leader or transitions into a feud with Sheamus, he needs to turn quickly.
That leaves Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston vs. Kane and Daniel Bryan for the tag titles as the final big undercard match. I think it’s the right time for Kane and Daniel Bryan to lose the belts. Ziggler and Bryan are two of the best workers in the company and I expect them go all out for however much time they are given. The match will also hold the distinction of being Langston’s first televised match since becoming part of the main roster. I like Langston and hope he has a strong outing. He was heavily cheered last night when he did a post-match beatdown following Ziggler’s match with Bryan.
The remainder of the show will consist of Mark Henry vs. Ryback; Brodus Clay, Tensai, Campell, and Naomi vs. Team Rhodes Scholar and the Bellas Twins, and AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn for the Divas championship. Last night, it was announced that Miz vs. Wade Barrett for the U.S. championship will be on the 6 p.m. preshow.
As with every WrestleMania, there will be a segment where the new Hall of Fame inductees are introduced to the crowd. I expect the fans to go crazy for Bruno Sammartino and Mick Foley. Aside from that, we’re guaranteed to see some celebrity cameos and about a million repetitive video packages. They should seriously consider cutting out these unnecessary videos so they can give more time to the matches. The wrestlers work hard all year just to get a spot on the card and it’s not fair to have their big matches for another Lesnar vs. HHH or Rock vs. Cena recap.
Overall, I have a feeling this will go down as one of the better WrestleManias of all time. My gut feeling tells me everything has peaked at just the right time. Aside from the individual performances and the time allotted for every match, the crowd will be most responsible for putting the show over the top. There is no more perfect location to host a WrestleMania than in the NY/NJ market. No other market on earth is as intelligent and vocal when it comes to going against the grain. For that reason alone I fully expect it to be the most hostile environment Cena has ever competed in front of. I also expect Rock, Jericho, Ziggler, Bryan, Punk, Paul Heyman, Rhodes Scholars, Mark Henry and even Swagger to be heavily cheered in their matches. It may be the one night of the year where more heels are cheered than faces.
This is the time of the year that wrestling fans live for and I’m confident this year’s show will not disappoint. Now hurry up and get here Sunday!
Last night’s edition of WWE Raw didn’t emanate from Miami, but the heat was definitely in the building as Rock and C.M. Punk kicked off the build to their Royal Rumble encounter. That’s right. On Sunday, January 27, Punk will defend his WWE Championship against Rock in match that should be among the biggest, and best, of the year.
It’s been a long time since there was a Royal Rumble with this level of interest. Similar to last year’s Rock vs. John Cena match, Rock vs. Punk is a dream match with an entirely different dynamic.
With Rock vs. Cena, there was a large portion of the audience that wanted to see Rock emerge victorious. In their minds Rock represented the glory days of WWE while Cena embodied the current kid-friendly product. There is a significant segment of fans that respect Punk, even if they don’t necessarily like him. Punk overcame prejudices and the glass ceiling of company politics to emerge as the longest reigning champion of the last 25 years. Rock is a movie star who drops in a few times per year, whereas Punk is the guy on the road carrying the company every night. For them it would be a great disservice for Rock to take the title from the guy who has done more than anyone to make it important.
As many of you have probably read all over the web, there are differing opinions of last night’s closing segment. Some criticized Rock for his lack of seriousness and not making a strong enough argument as to why he wants to be champion. Others felt Punk did a bit too much rambling. This is what I love about wrestling. There is no other form of entertainment where fans are so passionately divided.
I felt it was a great segment that was epic in scope. I was glad they gave Punk time to talk before Rock. Even if he went a bit too long and lost some of his edge, it was still the best promo he cut in a long time. It may have been his best work since his original “pipe bombs” in 2011. In many ways, much of what Punk said was the truth. WWE has always been a company that favors a certain type of individual and there is an abundance of great talent not properly underutilized.
Rock was excellent, but I wish he would’ve toned down the comedy. He’s a legend and can always get away with it, but there comes a time when you have to switch things up. However, the final minutes were spectacular as both let loose before Punk received a vicious rock bottom.
Like Rock vs. Cena, there is something very tangible about this feud that makes it seem bigger than anything else happening in wrestling. Regardless of the outcome, it’s crucial for Punk to emerge on an even playing field with the “most electrifying man in all of entertainment.”
Hey everyone! Last night, I attended WWE Raw from the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. As I did with the Impact Wrestling show I attended a couple of months ago, I would like to share my thoughts from the evening:
- This was by far the most interesting show I’ve attended if for no other reason than for the unique ticket situation I found myself in. I arrived to the arena around 6:40 and the show officially began at 7:30. As I was making my way to my seat, I encountered a friend who was in a section above me. Come to find out, there had been some kind of error with our tickets. Our seats were blocked off and most of the people on our rows had to get new seats. The ushers told us to wait on the front row while they figured out a solution. Eventually, they told us to go to the box office to have our tickets replaced. On the way there, we ended up stopping to play a game of WWE ’13, which I was clobbered in. Much to our surprise, they ended up sitting us together. However, as soon as our tickets were scanned for re-entry, the attendants told us they were used. So we went back and got new tickets again. They worked that time! So basically, we got to sit together in much better seats than we originally had. The only downside is that they took away my original pink ticket (I purchased it during Breast Cancer Awareness month) that really stood out amongst my collection of wrestling memorabilia.
- As a result of our ticket situation, we missed all of WWE Superstars. From what I heard, Brodus Clay and Zack Ryder competed, so it wasn’t like we missed anything special.
- The section we were in had lots of kids, but a fair number of older men. This is where things got weird. It seemed as if the men didn’t react to anything for the entire show. I’m 27 and most of them appeared to be a good ten years older than I was and they didn’t even react to the commercials that aired plugging the recent Attitude Era and NWO DVD releases. My friend and I were making several references to old school wrestling throughout the evening and they acted as if they had no clue as to what we were talking about.
- Not sure how it came across on television, but it was a pretty hot crowd for the most part. The building also appeared to be mostly full. I’d estimate about 10,000 people were in attendance.
- Ryback was far and away the most popular guy on the show. Randy Orton was next followed by John Cena. It’s possible that I could be confusing Orton and Cena’s reactions, but Ryback was clearly positioned as the big star and the final segment with him against Punk and the Shield blew the roof off the building.
- From what I saw, the most popular merchandise was John Cena’s “Salute to the Cenation” shirt. Tons of kids and adults wore them and I saw very few people wearing his latest 10th anniversary shirt. There were lots of fans with Ryback shirts.
- The match of the night was the fatal four-way of Antonio Cesaro vs. Kofi Kingston vs. R-Truth vs. Wade Barrett. It was a long and very well worked match. I’d go so far as to say it was the best live WWE match I’ve seen. Everyone worked hard and there were a ton of good false finishes near the end. It was all action and there were some points where I honestly had no idea who would win. Cesaro was super impressive and really took his game to a new level. I can’t wait to go back and watch the match on You Tube because if it came across that good live, it must’ve looked awesome on television.
- I was totally shocked to see Vince McMahon. It was my first time ever seeing him in person.
- The C.M. Punk and Paul Heyman promo got a ton of heat. They are magic together, so it was no surprise.
- Compared how she is booked most weeks, AJ was scarcely used. She was only in a brief match with Tamina and wasn’t seen for the rest of the show.
- It was really apparent that Miz is not working out well as a good guy. Punk just obliterated him on the mic in both of their segments. Miz is a natural bad guy and being good just doesn’t suit him.
- The Shield got a ton of heat for their various attacks throughout the show. The fans definitely view them as something special.
- I was surprised that the Cena & Sheamus vs. Dolph Ziggler & Big Show match went on so early. The crowd went crazy for the finishing sequence of the simultaneous Attitude Adjustment and White Noise.
- As with any live show, it never ceases to amaze me how different the show is from what you watch on television. My friend was able to spot the production people and picked up on a lot of what they were doing. He even saw one of the stagehands direct the Shield to do one of their run-ins. During Sin Cara’s entrance, he had to wait on the ramp for about four minutes until the commercial break ended. We also had a great view of Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler and could see when they were getting information from the ring announcer and others. Plus it was neat to see the ring crew hustling to get things in place for the final segment.
- No matter how many shows I attend, the shock of the pyro gets me every time!
If there were ever a holiday which the wrestling business ought to use as a time to reflect, it is Thanksgiving. Therefore, I would like to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude to many of the most important stars in the industry.
I’m thankful for C.M. Punk. When Punk debuted in WWE six years ago, I never would have imagined him reigning as world champion for over a full year. Though Punk broke through the glass ceiling to become a main eventer last year, it seems that he really hit his career peak this year as a heel. His championship reign has bought a level of prestige back to the belt that was desperately lacking over the last few years.
I’m thankful for Paul Heyman. After the way he left WWE in the aftermath of the disastrous December to Dismember PPV in 2006, I never thought I’d see him working in WWE again (except as a talking head on video releases). Therefore, I was as shocked as anyone to see him return to television in the role of an advisor to Brock Lesnar. It was an even bigger shock when he began managing Punk. At first I was curious as to how he would enhance Punk’s character. After all, it’s not like Punk ever needed anyone to do the talking for him. However, within a few weeks of their alliance, it was obvious they were onto something big. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but Heyman brings an entirely new element to Punk and their interaction reminds me of the very best wrestler/manager pairings in history. Heyman was always great, but this latest run has really cemented his legacy for me. He is among the best talkers, managers and creative minds the business has ever seen.
I’m thankful for John Cena. This year, I found myself more drawn to him as an overall performer than any other period I can recall. His feuds against Rock, Lesnar and Punk were captivating and produced some of the most memorable matches of the year. His tireless work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation makes him a class act in my view. Cena is already a living legend and we should all appreciate his contributions to the business as such.
I’m thankful for Hiroshi Tanahashi and the entire New Japan Pro Wrestling promotion. A strong argument can be made that NJPW is the best promotion in the world today. Their top star, current IWGP heavyweight champion Tanahashi, is probably the best all around performer in the business. The guy has it all, the look, the charisma, the incredible working ability, and not just athletically, but his ability to understand when to do what is equal to anyone in wrestling. Other key guys such as Yugi Nagata, Hirooki Goto, Minoru Suzuki, Low Ki, Prince Devitt, Shinsuke Nakamura, Tetsuya Naito and Kazuchika Okada are all excellent performers in their own right. Perhaps the biggest strength of the promotion is that everyone has their own distinct character and working style which makes for a consistently great product.
I’m thankful for Dolph Ziggler. This man is so close to touching the brass ring that I can almost taste it. He has been one of WWE’s most outstanding performers for quite some time and never fails to produce anything less than great television. Whether he’s taking bumps like the second coming of Shawn Michaels and Curt Hennig, or cutting cocky promos that remind us of the late Rick Rude, Ziggler is amazing.
I’m thankful for Kurt Angle. I don’t watch TNA regularly, but the one thing I can always expect to see whenever I tune in or read their latest PPV card coverage is that Angle will just about always be in the best match of any show he’s on. Though it’s debatable as to whether he should still be wrestling, there is no way you can deny his greatness. Only the very elite have been able to compete at such a high level past the age of 40. Of those select few, I don’t think any had the extensive list of injuries as Angle. I’m not sure how much longer his body will be able to hold out, but I’m going to enjoy him for as long as he’s here.
I’m thankful for AJ Lee. Over the past year, this little firecracker has become one of most interesting women to ever compete in WWE. While Trish Stratus was the best women’s wrestler in company history and the late Elizabeth Hulette was better known to a generation of fans, neither had anything on AJ when it came to being such a prominent part of the main event scene. She’s been in high profile angles with Daniel Bryan, Punk and Cena, not to mention her stint as general manager of Raw. AJ is a stark contrast to the silicone-induced blondes that have proliferated WWE over the last decade. More important, she has the geek chic charm that makes her seem like the girl next door.
Last but not least, I’m thankful for Chris Jericho. I’m not sure about the current status of his contract negotiations with WWE, but one thing I do know is that I was very glad to see him return after a year plus hiatus. Jericho’s career is an example I wish more veterans would take after. Having long since accomplished everything he set out to do in a successful 20 year career, he came back with the singular intent to help elevate young talent. He was in one of the better endings ever to a Royal Rumble against Sheamus and then went on to face Punk in two stellar PPV matches. His opener against Ziggler at Summerslam was the best match of the show and in true fashion he lost to him the following night on Raw. In fact, he lost just about every major match he was in. The business will always need people like Jericho. The 6x world champion, 2x winner of the Lou Thesz/Ric Flair Wrestler of the Year award and 2008 Superstar of the Year will always put the needs of the business ahead of his ego. For that reason alone, he will always be one of my favorites.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Have a happy Turkey Day!
The following is just a random assortment of my thoughts from last night’s edition of Monday Night Raw. Hope you all enjoy:
Even though I wasn’t a big fan of the finish of the Punk-Ryback Hell in a Cell match, I must admit they did a superb job of following up on the Brad Maddox controversy. It was presented as if Maddox was acting on his own accord when he cost Ryback the victory. Punk and Paul Heyman played it down as if they had no idea why Maddox would do something like that, being Maddox screwed up the Punk -John Cena match from several weeks ago. I was also glad they didn’t have him appear on Raw. It will be interesting to see how they will follow up with this.
Last night, it really became apparent how great the announcing has been on Raw over the last two months since Jim Ross has been in to replace Jerry Lawler. It’s so amazing when you think about it, but Ross just enhances everything and everyone on the show. Even when it comes to relatively new talent like Antonio Cesaro and Justin Gabriel, his commentary has a way of making you believe these guys will be huge stars in the company. He also was great at emphasizing the historical nature of what Maddox did to Ryback at the PPV and really added another layer of drama to the storyline. It’s also worth noting that Michael Cole has stepped up his game considerably and is not at all out of place with Ross.
Damien Sandow/Cody Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio/Sin Cara was an excellent PPV quality match. In fact, I’d go so far to say it was the best tag match I’ve seen in WWE this year. What really stood out to me was how far Sin Cara has come into his own as an in-ring performer. I’ve never been a big fan of his for the pure reason he seems rather clumsy in the ring and has a hard time getting the crowd behind him. Working with Mysterio has done wonders for his career as he appeared to be crisp and confident in every move he made. Most important, the crowd was behind him huge when he was being worked over for majority of the match. Mysterio was amazing as always, but the biggest part of what made this match so great was Sandow and Rhodes. These two are the very definition of what a tag team should be and Jim Ross was going out of his way to praise them on commentary. Their styles complement each other well and they bring out the very best in each other in everything they do. To put it bluntly, they have mastered the art of tag team psychology. The company really lucked into something special when combining these two.
On the flipside, it really became apparent how much Kane and Daniel Bryan are losing steam. They are huge stars and great performers, but their gimmick of constantly butting heads has rendered them as nothing more than a comedy act. Their shtick was cute for the first couple of weeks, but now it’s getting old. Hopefully, Rhodes and Sandow will win the belts from them soon so they can finally break up and go their separate ways.
I like the John Cena/AJ storyline. For those unfamiliar, it’s basically a copy of the AJ Styles/Claire Lynch angle form TNA. That angle was excellent until Lynch abruptly quit the company thus forcing the storyline to rush to an unsatisfactory conclusion. Luckily, I don’t think we have to worry about AJ leaving WWE anytime soon.
I enjoyed the Big Show and Sheamus segment. I missed the PPV, but from all accounts I read their match stole the show. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, I’ve been a huge fan of Show since his heel turn over the summer. It seems like it breathed new life into his character and I for one think he is very deserving of his current championship run. Sheamus has really stepped up to the plate as being one of the better big man workers WWE has had in several years and I’m looking forward to future matches between these two. His execution of white noise to Show was epic!
I thoroughly enjoyed the backstage interview with the Three Man Band (3MB). These guys have chemistry and it’s great to see the company doing something with Drew McIntyre. That guy has way too much potential to be a sideline player.
The presentation John Cena did for WWE’s partnership with Susan G. Komen Fight for the Cure was as classy of a moment I’ve seen from the company. I am not ashamed to admit that it was a bit emotional. I will also admit that up until a few weeks ago, I never had much of a concern about breast cancer or any other form of cancer for that matter. My perspective has certainly changed since three people I knew (one indirectly) have died from cancer recently (including a friend’s wife from breast cancer on last week). Some people may question the timing of the presentation being it’s dead in the heat of election season (Vince McMahon’s wife Linda is running for a senate seat in Connecticut), but it was the last Raw of October, which is breast cancer awareness month, and I felt it was one of the most memorable moments in the 20 year history of the show.
It’s not exactly a secret, but Punk and Heyman are just awesome together. I’d go so far as to say they are one of the best wreslter/manager pairings I’ve seen. Punk was a great wrestler and champion long before Heyman returned to WWE, but it seems his career really turned the corner after aligning with Heyman.
The closing segment was another winner and for the first time in several years I am actually looking forward to the traditional Survivor Series tag team match. My gut tells me that the fallout will lead to a Punk-Mick Foley match at the December PPV. Foley is great at everything he does and his recent interactions with Punk have been treats for any serious student of the game. Punk and Foley are two of the most passionate people working in the wrestling business and I can guarantee we’re going to see some excellent segments from these two as they prepare their teams to do battle at Survivor Series. I like the team dynamics because everyone is currently feuding with a member of the opposing team and it makes for great storyline consistency.
Ego. It’s the one word that defines the essence of professional wrestling and is the key ingredient every wrestler needs in order to be successful. Just like anything else in life, having too much of an ego can be a bad thing.
This past Monday on Raw, wrestling fans worldwide were subjected to one of the most blatant abuses of ego ever seen in WWE. I’ll go so far as to say it was among the most self-serving and narcissistic moments I’ve seen in the two decades I’ve followed the business.
In case anyone missed it, this week’s show was the HHH Appreciation Night. Well, not officially as in the case of Edge and Shawn Michaels (two men who had appreciation ceremonies), but you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. Throughout the evening the appearance of HHH, who was to make a big announcement, was endlessly hyped along with numerous videos featuring his career highlights. With how much he was pushed they should have just replaced the show with an airing of his 2008 DVD collection King of Kings: There is Only One.
Before I continue, I would like to say I don’t normally approve of HHH rants. Whether you love him or hate him, you cannot deny he is among the greatest superstars in the history of WWE. He works his tail off between the ropes and has a laundry list of classic matches to his credit. I will never knock the man’s performance inside the ring. Over the last few years it’s become kind of hard for me to knock his political agenda as well. I always thought he got an unfair shake from most simply because of his relationship with Stephanie McMahon. Being married to your boss’s daughter does make you an automatic lightning rod for controversy. My defense to those criticisms was always that he became a star long before he married into the ruling family. Besides, HHH came up in the business with Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash, two of the most notorious backstage politicians of the 90s (though I love Michaels now as a human being). To put it bluntly, HHH is on the short list of most powerful and smartest wrestlers in history. The fact he will one day inherit the WWE says it all.
But back to Monday. To me the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back occurred during his entrance to the ring. I figured he was going to do some sort of scripted retirement speech that would subtly hint at a potential rematch against Brock Lesnar. However, I was not expecting to see announcers Michael Cole and Josh Matthews stand solemnly at attention as though they were honoring the president of the United States. For me, that was the moment where I could no longer take it seriously.
Even in defeat to Lesnar, which he should’ve sold by taking weeks off from television, HHH returned one week later and came off as the most important person in the company. One would almost forget he actually lost his SummerSlam match. It’s no secret they are building towards a rematch later this year. While HHH losing twice to Lesnar would be surprising at best, I can’t possibly imagine HHH thinking it would be a good idea to have Lesnar lose before his tentative WrestleMania 29 match against Undertaker. I guess we’ll all know the answer in a few months.
However, I would like to spend the rest of this article comparing and contrasting HHH to another WWE legend. By coincidence, the man I’m talking about just lost a retirement match to Dolph Ziggler last week and is known for having one of the biggest egos in all of wrestling. That man is Chris Jericho.
Last September, HHH returned to action for his first PPV match following his WrestleMania 27 encounter with Undertaker. At the time C.M. Punk was the hottest guy in WWE and was finally coming into his own as a main event player. So what happened? Of course, HHH had to come back and beat him at Night of Champions. Jericho returned this past January from a year plus absence and guess what he did? He lost to Punk at two straight PPVs.
In February of 2011, HHH returned to Raw after being out of action for most of 2010. On his first night back, he cut a promo where he basically said he had beaten everyone of importance in WWE and how he looked around the locker room and noticed there wasn’t anyone left worth challenging. He even buried Sheamus and made him look like an inept fool (made even worse since Sheamus had the storyline reason for putting him on the shelf for most of the previous year). Anytime Jericho returns, he makes it his mission to put over younger talent and make them look as good as possible.
In 2004, HHH authored the book Making the Game: Triple H’s Approach to a Better Body. It was a guide to his training regime mixed with autobiographical bits on his career. Nevertheless, it flopped. Jericho’s 2007 autobiography, A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex, and its 2011 follow up, Undisputed : How to Become World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps, are considered two of the best wrestling books ever written and both achieved success on the New York Times Bestseller List.
HHH starred in Blade Trinity, which was largely panned by critics as the worse film in the Blade trilogy. HHH also starred in The Chaperone, one of the very worst WWE films ever produced (which covers a lot of ground). Jericho has competed on Dancing with the Stars and is lead singer of the heavy metal band Fozzy. He appears regularly on television as a talking head on pop culture issues and is a genuine celebrity outside of wrestling. He even appeared on the cover of a recent issue of Revolver Magazine. To the best of my knowledge the only magazine cover, outside of wrestling publications, HHH ever appeared on was Muscle & Fitness.
Jericho has often said, even on his WWE released documentary, that he doesn’t want to retire with a grand farewell celebration. He wants to quietly ride out into the sunset never to be seen again. After watching Raw on Monday, it became apparent HHH wishes to go out with an epic spectacle filled with the same level of emotion as his idol Ric Flair and WWE Hall of Famer Edge.
If you were to conduct a unanimous poll to the vast majority of the WWE locker room as to who are the most respected stars on the current roster, Jericho’s name would likely appear right after the Undertaker’s on many of the responses.
Jericho is a man with an ego. You have to have an ego and ruffle a few feathers to make it to the top of the WWE food chain. However, unlike HHH, Jericho has used his ego to help elevate everyone around him. Even at 43, HHH’s ego will not allow him to realize that the business does not revolve around him.
When the book is closed on HHH’s career, his legacy will always fall short of the big four of modern wrestling: Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Steve Austin and Rock. And even though the record books indicate otherwise, he will never have the universal respect of fellow peers such as Jericho, Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, Edge and John Cena. No number of championships, great matches or false retirements can take away from the fact he will forever be remembered as one of the most selfish wrestlers of his generation.
Stay down for the good of everyone involved in the company you will run one day! Lol
Who is the top star in World Wrestling Entertainment?
One may be led to believe it is C.M. Punk, the current world champion, or John Cena, the man who has carried the company on his back for nearly a decade. Based on the last several weeks’ worth of television, it would appear the biggest star in the male-dominated world of WWE is a 100 pound. woman.
AJ Lee, real name April Jeannette, has become a fixture in the main event scene. Her rise to superstardom isn’t so much because of her wrestling ability, but because her character is one of the most unique in wrestling today.
AJ burst onto the scene in 2010 as a contestant on the third season of WWE’s pseudo-reality show NXT. That season was based around a group of women vying for the opportunity to become a WWE Diva (the official term used for females on the roster). The native of Union City, NJ, emerged as a fan favorite with her spunky girl next door persona. She eventually made it as one of the three finalists before being eliminated. In an ironic twist of fate Naomi and Kaitlyn, the two women she lost the competition to, have seen their careers literally and figuratively go nowhere.
Despite the loss, it wasn’t long after until AJ debuted on Smackdown. For those unfamiliar with the women’s division of WWE, let’s just say that they are low on rungs of priority within the company. Most of their matches are less than three minutes and their primary purpose is to serve as eye candy rather than actual athletes. AJ’s fate was sure to be no different than that of the other dozen or so women in the division until she became involved in a storyline last year with then world champion Daniel Bryan.
Bryan, who up until that point had played the role of a traditional good guy, was in the midst of a major character transformation. He became the smug and cocky guy who always bragged about never losing his title. AJ played the role of the girl who was so smitten by him that she overlooked what everyone else saw as the obvious–Bryan was using her. Their chemistry together was amazing and it was one of the reasons, aside from his natural talent, as to why his three-month championship reign was such a success. After his reign ended they did the breakup angle which eventually led to the current AJ, Punk and Bryan love triangle which has dominated WWE television this summer.
Last month’s triple threat PPV match involving Kane, Punk and Bryan was heavily centered on AJ’s involvement and she will be the guest referee for the Punk vs. Bryan championship match at this month’s Money in the Bank PPV. AJ was also the only woman featured in the USA Network commercial promoting the 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw. If you were a first-time viewer tuning in than you would be led to believe that she is the only woman in the company who matters.
It was reported in this week’s issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that the company plans to continue making her a focal point of the main storylines.
What is it about AJ that sets her apart from virtually any woman that has competed in WWE?
With all due respect to popular performers like Sable and Trish Stratus, neither of them was ever consistently featured in programs with the top talent of their respective eras like AJ has.
I believe the attainability factor is the big thing that sets her apart. WWE has been traditionally been the land of silicone-induced blondes with little to no personality. In that sense, AJ is a breath of fresh air in a stagnant environment. She wears punk rock attire, skips to the ring and is a self-described comic book geek.
How many of us guys actually encounter (unless you live in an entertainment capital like LA or Miami) women who look like they’ve walked off the pages of a Maxim centerfold? I don’t think many of us see women like that walking around the neighborhood grocery store. AJ’s look alone makes her come across as the girl you could meet anywhere in town and have a conversation with.
Her uncanny acting ability is among the best of anyone, male or female, in wrestling today.
She plays the most convincing role I’ve seen of a manipulative attention-craving psycho. She can be flipping out at a person one moment and acting like a sweet schoolgirl the next. It’s quite remarkable.
Some fans have complained about her overexposure. They think her involvement overshadows the matches of the wrestlers who the company should be focusing on. And there may be a valid argument in support of that. However, in 2012, I will take entertainment in wrestling any way I can get it. And for right now there is no one more entertaining than her.
A few weeks ago WWE produced one its best matches of the year when C.M. Punk defended his WWE heavyweight championship against Daniel Bryan at the Over the Limit PPV in Raleigh. The match was a clinic and one of the best worked matches I’ve seen all year (and there have been many good matches this year). It’s no coincidence that one of my other favorite matches of the year was the Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus 2 out of 3 falls match from April’s Extreme Rules PPV. The thing that stood out to me in each of those matches was just how good Bryan really is and the fact that I’m actually becoming a fan of technical wrestling.
Technical wrestling, also known as scientific wrestling, is pretty self explanatory. Most technical wrestlers incorporate a variety of holds, counter holds, transitions and submission maneuvers into their matches. Their matches tend to be slower paced and tell more of an in-ring story than a typical 10 minute match on Monday Night Raw. Most hardcore fans tend to appreciate technical wrestling more than the casual fans that may flip through the channels on a random night and happen to catch some wrestling action. Though not necessarily accurate, because two great wrestlers can get a fan into any kind of match they have, it takes a greater level of attention to detail for a fan to really get into a technically sound match.
Ring of Honor, a small Northeast-based independent promotion, specializes in presenting technical wrestling. Almost from its inception in 2002, ROH has consistently provided a technically-based wrestling product, which has also caused a bit of criticism. While the promotion is universally lauded for consistently having great matches, they also tend to go a bit overboard.
One frequent complaint from major ROH shows is that their main event matches last entirely too long. Davey Richards, a tremendous performer and a former ROH world champion, often had several matches that lasted in upwards of 40 minutes. Instead of providing the fans with good solid action, it often appeared that his matches were displays for him to prove to the world that he could do as many impressive moves as possible. There is nothing wrong with having long matches, but it only becomes a problem when you burn out your audience. In my years of being a fan, and there are numerous exceptions, I believe that a typically great wrestling match tends to peak around the 20-25 minute mark. Many of the best matches I’ve ever seen, from multiple promotions, have gone no longer than 30 minutes. Again, there are exceptions. A match should end at the precise right moment and going too long can certainly take away from a match’s desired reaction.
Some of my all-time favorite wrestlers are Chris Jericho, Rock, Steve Austin, Edge, Shawn Michaels and A.J. Styles. I heavily respect talent such as the late Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Lance Storm, Bret Hart and Ricky Steamboat. Their style of wrestling, which was more technically sound, was not my cup of tea growing up, but I can certainly appreciate them more in hindsight. Perhaps the two wrestlers I really wish I would’ve appreciated while watching them as a child, for their in-ring abilities, were Ted DiBiase and Owen Hart. They were phenomenal performers.
And then there is Bryan. Anyone who follows the worldwide wrestling scene knew he had a reputation that preceded him before entering WWE. He made a name for himself in ROH and wrestled extensively overseas. Bryan has been voted as Best Technical Wrestler in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards for the last seven years.
Being that I’ve never been a huge ROH fan, I didn’t really know what to expect from him when he made his WWE debut in 2010. I knew he could go once the bell rang, but I wasn’t sure if his style would be something I would enjoy. In ROH, he was known for doing lengthy matches where he was allowed to fully showcase his talents. I knew that wouldn’t happen in WWE. I was impressed during the first match of his I ever saw (against Chris Jericho on NXT). He moved with a quickness and flair in the ring that made him seem like a notch above the average WWE wrestler. It was apparent early on that he could deliver the goods on the microphone as well. There has never been a time in WWE where being a good talker has been as important to having a successful career
I didn’t fully get behind Bryan until his world title run this year. He established himself as such an entertaining character and even though he played the “bad guy,” I often found myself cheering for him. I also liked the fact he was scheduled to defend his title against Sheamus at this year’s Wrestlemania. I was personally looking forward to the match because he and Sheamus were supposed to wrestle each other on last year’s show, only to have the match scrapped from the card in a last minute decision.
I’m sure every wrestling fan remembers what happened at Wrestlemania. He lost to Sheamus in an 18-second squash which infuriated fans worldwide. If Vince McMahon and the other power brokers in the company were unsure of the backlash that decision would receive then they were reminded in full force the following night on Raw from Miami. That classic show will forever be remembered for the return of Brock Lesnar, but make no mistake about it, the biggest star of the evening was Bryan as his name and trademark “Yes” slogan were vociferously chanted during every segment of that evening’s show. It was quite the irony that the man long considered as the best wrestler in the world had gained the respect of the entire WWE Universe after losing in record time.
The following month was his rematch with Sheamus. I figured the WWE would do a make-good since so many fans were outraged with their Wrestlemania outcome. In all fairness, Sheamus is a good wrestler and I wanted a chance to see him perform at the level I knew he was capable of with Bryan.
Their rematch exceeded my wildest expectations. It was a simple and well orchestrated 2 out of 3 falls encounter that was the first glimpse of what Bryan could offer the WWE in a main-event level capacity. As I watched that match with my best friend, I remarked that it was the first mostly technical match I had been into in a very long time. It was tremendous storytelling and quality ringwork at its finest and was never boring.
His match with C.M. Punk was even better and was made the more remarkable when you take into consideration that both Punk and Bryan were two wrestlers who many thought would never make it to the top level in WWE, nonetheless be in a headlining match for the most prestigious title in all of professional wrestling.
Bryan has won me over and proven that a technical wrestling match does not have to be an overdrawn snoozefest. I like the guy so much that I’m tempted to go back and watch some of his ROH work. More importantly, he’s renewed my interest in watching many of the technical greats of yesteryear and today a bit more closely. In a sense, he has made me smarter about the business and I thank him immensely for that.