Cubed Circle Newsletter 130: WrestleMania XXX In-Depth, WrestleMania Weekend 2014 Review, Warrior, Second Biggest Issue of the Year!

Cubed Circle Newsletter 130 – WrestleMania XXX Issue

It’s the Sunday after WrestleMania, which means its time for our biggest issue of the year – our WrestleMania weekend special. We have a colossal issue for you this week covering NJPW Invasion Attack, the first appearance of AJ Styles for the promotion, the Wataru Inoue retirement show, Shimmer 62, DGUSA Open the Ultimate Gate, ‘A Wrestling Odyssey’, Ben Carass does a great job looking at the WWE Hall of Fame 2014 and Evolve 28, RAW, the ratings and how they stack up to post-Mania ratings over the past couple of years, the passing of the Ultimate Warrior numerous match of the year candidates, SmackDown and of course WresteMania XXX, Daniel Bryan’s title victory and one of the biggest pro-wrestling news weeks in recent memory. With so much to go through I hope everyone enjoys this week’s issue and has a great week!

 

Ryan Clingman, Cubed Circle Newsletter Editor

 

FOR A FULL COLOUR PDF WITH MANIA PICTURES CLICK HERE!

WrestleMania XXX: A Titanic Week for Pro-Wrestling

WrestleMania week is undoubtedly one of the more newsworthy weeks for pro-wrestling each year, many years the most newsworthy. However, even taking it’s magnitude as a given, there is little doubt in my mind that the hulking behemoth of a news week lumbering its way out of New Orleans on Wednesday, the largest in recent memory, was of a scale beyond the expectations of all. The nature of the news was wide ranging; the jubilation seen during the weekend’s centerpiece in Daniel Bryan’s crowning moment, the amalgamation of disappointment and awe seen as the Streak ended, great wrestling on many a show and the successes and temporary failures of the Network were but some of the week’s major talking points. But, unfortunately as of Wednesday these stories were, emotionally eclipsed by real life human tragedy in the passing of the Ultimate Warrior less than 24 hours after his appearance on Monday Night RAW. None of these stories lost their meaning, or became any less memorable as a result, but many of the key moments coming out of WrestleMania, some positive some negative, were placed in harsh perspective

 

I was born after Warrior’s peak, and had little emotional attachment to either Jim Hellwig the person (later changing his name to Warrior), or the Ultimate Warrior character, but as a fan of pro-wrestling, one that watched the Hall of Fame Ceremony with Warrior walking out with his two young daughters, it is a story that has tragic ramifications. The cause of death, whilst not yet confirmed, can be speculated upon based on the amount of steroid test failures that Warrior incurred over the course of his career. Heavy steroid use is a career choice in no way unique to Warrior, and is very much indicative of the lives many in the business lived during the late 80s/early 90s. Whilst the factors contributing to Warrior’s death may not have been incredibly unique, the final public events of his life were very much that indeed.

 

After 18 years of a rocky relationship, Warrior and the WWE came to terms in 2014, originally over a video game deal brokered by 2K Sports for the WWE 2K14 video game. A few months later Warrior was announced as the main name for the 2014 Hall of Fame, and even made it out on RAW for a short interview segment. It is that interview spot, along with other on the same edition of RAW, that may be remembered as the most memorable in years. Warrior’s promo, on Monday night, was little more than standard Warrior fair, only in the context of a special return to WW E TV, but in Wednesday’s context it became something more – what may be seen in future years as an all-time memorable and legendary promo. The promo has been quoted all over the internet. Even so, I believe that it is worth quoting again, not because it revealed some sort of insight from Warrior himself on his impending death, but rather because it is perhaps the most apropos speech that Warrior could have ever given – “No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others; if it makes them believe deeper in something larger than life; then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized by the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever.”

 

The second memorable promo, much like that of the Ultimate Warrior, will be remembered less for its content or delivery, and more so for the context in which it was delivered – this promo was of course Paul Heyman on the end of the Streak. The primary content of the promo isn’t all too important here, as it was just Heyman being Heyman building Lesnar up using the death of the Streak – what is far more interesting to look at is its context, the agent that will make it so memorable, the death of the Streak itself.

Last Friday, when writing the WrestleMania preview, there was very little doubt in my mind and those of most that cover and watch the WWE product closely; the Streak was going to survive. In fact, the betting odds before any smart money came in were sitting at close to 1:50. But, on Sunday night, before I fell asleep and went dark to avoid spoilers in anticipation of Monday’s Mania viewing, my personal doubt in the Streak was at the highest it had been the entire year. Of course this was not a vision of tremendous foresight, but rather a simple survey of some of the light rumblings and swing of the betting odds towards the start of the show. The next morning I carried on with my life, not thinking much of it, and sat down to watch WrestleMania with a friend. Due in large part to the build of Brock Lesnar in the weeks leading to WrestleMania, Undertaker suffering a severe concussion mid-way through the match, as well as the possibility of Lesnar being the wrong opponent all together, the match was a tremendous step down from Undertaker’s body of WrestleMania work during the last seven years of his career. With little drama, the nearfalls suffered the most and as a result the match itself was deficient of a signature moment and collective gasp over a close call that has become one of the Streak’s most important elements over recent year’s. Ironically there was one single spot in the match that I bought as the finish, which was in fact the third F5.

 

My friend and I were just sitting there, largely indifferent to key moments in the match, as were the fans in the Superdome evidently. The first F5 landed, a move that had been used to lay Undertaker out on the go-home show – indifference. A second followed much to the same reaction. Then came the third, and as if seconds turned to hours, I remember turning to face my friend sitting next to me, thinking that it could be the end of the Streak; not because it felt like a crescendo of any sort, but as a deduction from look at Undertaker’s physical state by that point. He responded to my bewildered look with a nonchalant “he will kick out”, at which point we both shifted our gaze back to the TV –there was the three count. My initial reaction was that of an exceptionally close nearfall, as it appeared that Undertaker had kicked out just before the count of three. As the seconds wore on my justification for the finish then switched to a reversal of the decision from Hulk Hogan, Rock, Austin or combination there of. However, in the ensuing moments Heyman and Lesnar left, the crowd went silent, the 21-1 graphic popped up and Undertaker stood as the lone man in the ring –defeated.

 

The spectacle that was the end of the Streak was perhaps the closest we are going to get in the modern era to Bruno Sammartino’s famous 1971 loss to Ivan Kolof at Madison Square Garden. Still, even with this realization that the Streak had been broken becoming a reality, the sendoff that Undertaker at the time seemed to be craving from the crowd (it was later learned that he had suffered a severe concussion), was undoubtedly smaller than expected, and there are a multitude of possible reasons for it. The way in which the fans have reacted to Brock Lesnar, or at the very least the manner in which he has built, indicates that he wasn’t the person to break the Streak. Undertaker, whilst wanting to lose to Lesnar as far back as 2010, has aged 4 years in the interim, and it is apparent from the two best matches Lesnar has had since returning – against Cena in 2012 and CM Punk in 2013 – physicality is an important element in the making of a successful Lesnar match. There were more compatibility issues with Lesnar’s significant frame not only posing a problem in regard to injuries, but also when considering his ability to carry the athletic load of the match. Some of the issues may go beyond work and physicality entirely, into a meta space where the hardcore fans didn’t take an “outsider” in Brock Lesnar to be the person to beat the streak or even battle against it at WrestleMania.

 

The end of the Streak is going to impact future WrestleManias a great deal, in a way that many people have yet to contemplate. No longer will there be the dramatic spectacle that we have been guaranteed for the last eight years, nor will there exist that one concept in wrestling that means so much more than all the rest. The end of the Streak may very well be the final match in the career of the Undertaker, a man that many expected to retire towards the end of the 1990s due to his, even at that stage, worsening physical condition. On a personal/selfish level it is quite the sad tale, not only because I never got to see Undertaker or the Streak live, the latter of which, as long as I live, but also because Undertaker was, along with Eddie Guerrero, Mysterio, Beniot and Angle, one of my favourite wrestlers growing up. Truthfully, the end of the Streak lowered the moral of my entire two person WrestleMania party, but appreciatively due to the happenings of the main event, WWE closed the show off, not only with reparation, but with a career-defining magical moment.

 

Upon winning a predictable, albeit still fairly dramatic opener, Daniel Bryan was placed in the main event three-way for the WWE World Heavyweight championship. There was a unique air surrounding the show following the loss of the Undertaker, not necessarily of blatant negativity, although the feeling in my lounge probably would have perpetuated that notion, but rather that anything was possible – “if they were crazy enough to end the Streak they could beat Daniel Bryan right”? When thinking objectively, thoughts separated from the event entirely, the chances of them beating the two main acts on the show were tending to zero – if anything Undertaker’s loss all but cemented Bryan’s victory. However, for someone who had just witnessed something so monumental it felt like a plausible idea. As a result every big near fall and piece of interference in the main event felt like it could have been the finish, it felt as if we were seconds away from catastrophe, even though, logically speaking, it was as close to an impossibility as you will find in wrestling. In that way, whilst this show denied the signature nearfall of an Undertaker WrestleMania match, it, albeit indirectly, yielded a handful of others.

 

Heading into this year’s WrestleMania I had expressed great concern over the match layout – “it will be the structure to define the show” was my thought. There were many ideas and card layouts circulating in the week’s leading up to the show, primarily focusing on keeping the crowd hot for the main event, and fueling the celebratory crowd reaction that so many had greatly anticipated. My favourite idea, which felt as if it came close to happening, was to lay Bryan out of the main event with an “injury”, in order for him to come back mid-match and win the title. That they did not do, but their layout, in execution, was just short of masterful. This clearly wasn’t the intention, but with the Undertaker losing, the crowd was brought down enough so that by the time the closing sequence of the main event came to pass they were hot once more. Having Bryan work the opener, followed by the Battle Royal and Wyatt/Cena match in the spots that they were, made complete sense. And ultimately, despite all of the fuss made over how the closing scene was really going to turn out, it ended up being an all-time memorable WrestleMania moment, with 70,000, as hoped, chanting “yes” in unison.

 

WrestleMania XXX was a phenomenal pro-wrestling event, but perhaps not in the traditional sense. The wrestling on the show, whilst still very good, was not of a caliber becoming of its status, with matches such as Cena/Wyatt, in fact, under delivering in that regard. What it lacked in work when matching up with some of the best shows the company has put on over the last couple of years, it made up for in emotional breadth, showmanship and historical value. It was also a symbolic success with Daniel Bryan closing the show as the hottest act in pro-wrestling, after the destruction of WrestleMania’s greatest fixture. It wasn’t a show that fans in the future will be able to immediately watch out of context and understand as a great event. It isn’t a show that will be able to compare to the fourth night of the G1 from last year, or even the 2013 Dome show in terms of pure wrestling, but as a one night spectacle it embodied much of what makes WrestleMania and wrestling in general so special; the good and the bad.

 

EVOLVE 28 – April 3rd 2014.

McAlister Auditorium, Tulane University: New Orleans, LA.

Ben Carass.

 

For the second year in a row, the biggest weekend on the pro wrestling calendar was kicked off with an EVOLVE show. Thankfully this time around there were no issues with the live stream and none of the talent were booked for a double-shot on the same night, as was the case for many of the guys in 2013. Both of which made for a much more enjoyable show than the disastrous EVOLVE 19. The only negative was a near 50 minute intermission while some issues with, according to Gabe Sapolsky’s twitter, “a cable” were fixed. Obviously the reaction to the top three matches was not what it could have been after such a long delay, however on the whole the show was a very good, enjoyable offering which set the pace for everything else that followed over the next four days.

 

Drew Gulak vs. Biff Busick

 

It was fairly even at the start, with lots of grappling and exchanging of holds. They turned up the intensity by trading chops and engaging in the first of many strike battles of the night. Gulak suplexed Biff into the turnbuckle for the first big high-spot then connected with a discuss lariat for a near-fall. Biff hooked a sleeper then delivered a half-nelson suplex and Gulak kicked out at one! Finish saw Biff fight out of the Gu-lock and apply a sleeper with the bodyscissors to force the tap-out. – Biff Busick defeated Drew Gulak via submission, at 16:11. – Very good opener. These guys have clearly studied the Guerrero/Malenko classics from the mid-90s. Gulak can be great with the correct opponent and Biff is somewhat underrated himself, these two always work well together and if given more time I imagine they would tear the house down on any card. *** ½

 

Maxwell Chicago vs. Green Ant

 

Typical Maxwell meta-spotfest. Green Ant didn’t really sell Maxwell’s comedy spots and easily controlled the early going. Green Ant used an umaplata with the use of the ropes then Maxwell did the slowest dive you have ever seen: he basically climbed over the top rope and took Green Ant down like a giant lazy Koala. Maxwell was a huge babyface after this and the fans turned on Green Ant, who got the win soon after with a tombstone and the Texas cloverleaf. – Green Ant defeated Maxwell Chicago via submission, at 10:55. – I’m not a huge fan of the meta-style (sorry Chikara fans), so I get a kick out of guys not selling for Maxwell’s wacky antics. I guess one match with a few comedy spots is fairly harmless. **

 

AR Fox vs. Caleb Konley w/ Su Yung & Mr

 

The story here was Fox coming off dropping the title to Chris Hero and being attacked by Caleb, who joined Su Yung and the Premier Athlete Brand. Slow start. Fox picked up the pace and landed a shooting-star press off the apron. Konley came back with a tope then after some brawling on the floor, sent Fox into the ring post for the heat spot. Fox hit a twisting suplex for a double-down then took out Mr A and Caleb with an imploding springboard senton to the outside. They traded a bunch of near-falls, each of which built to a bigger and closer two count then Fox powered out of Konley’s “O-face” submission. A ridiculous spot saw Konley counter Lo Mein Pain and deliver a death-valley driver from the second rope onto the apron. Unfortunately the crazy high-spot was not sold nearly enough, as Fox caught Caleb with an inside-cradle for the win almost immediately. – AR Fox defeated Caleb Konley via pinfall, at 17:30. Mr A and Su jumped Fox afterwards; A came off the top with a splash and didn’t embarrass himself by falling straight on his face this time. – Great effort that exceeded my expectations going in. Fox seems to be getting a better grasp on laying a match out, as this was paced very well and the near-falls built drama nicely. The only questionable move was hooking a small package after such a big bump; I know they were going for the surprise win out of nowhere, but I like my super dangerous high spots to at least mean something. Still, this was a contender for match of the night. *** ¾

 

The Bravado Brothers were out and they cut a promo on the Young Bucks, however it was completely indiscernible due to the horrendous house mic. Like the Way of the Ronin show, Moose and an anonymous jobber were also present. Moose had a short match with the geek and squashed him with a spear. Harlem Bravado said that the same would happen to the Gentleman’s Club.

 

Open the United Gate Title Match: The Gentlemen’s Club (Orange Cassidy & Chuck Taylor) vs. The Bravado Brothers (c) w/ Moose.

 

The stip was the Gentleman’s Club would never get another shot at the belts should they lose. Hot start with a lot of brawling on the outside. Harlem hit Cassidy with a neckbreaker then the Bravados worked him over for the heat and isolated him for a long time to bring down the crowd after the great previous match. Chuck ran wild on Lancelot off the hot tag then hit Harlem with DDT to get a near-fall. The Bravados gave Chuck a double exploder into Cassidy, who was slumped in the corner then everyone hit a big move which led to Lancelot accidentally nailing Harlem. Drew Gulak ran down to prevent Moose from interfering and the Gentlemen’s Club got a near-fall with a double-stomp followed by a DDT. Cassidy and Chuck landed a wheelbarrow into a jumping DDT off the top, but Moose pulled the referee out. Bravados took advantage and hit the gentlemen’s agreement for the finish after they sent Chuck into Cassidy, who took a spill off the apron. – The Bravado Brothers retained the Open the United Gate titles over the Gentlemen’s Club via pinfall, at 11:41. Cassidy was upset after the match and walked out on his stable mates, leaving Gulak and Chuck bemused in the ring. – Match was decent enough. A couple of years ago the Bravados were just a generic indie tag team, but they have grown a lot as performers recently and their “Grandma’s boys” heel characters are definitely a step in the right direction. The stuff with the Gentlemen’s Club set up the angle on the following night’s DGUSA show. I can’t say I’m too sad with the split, as Gulak is growing into a solid singles performer and Chuck is doing great things with Trent Barreta as the Best Friends down in PWG. A singles feud between the two could also be a lot of fun; I don’t really know what that means for Cassidy, maybe he can get some more dates as Fire Ant. ** ¾

 

As mentioned, a lengthy intermission followed then Larry Dallas hit the ring for a promo. Once again the shoddy house mic made understanding a word he said literally impossible.

 

Ricochet vs. Antony Nese w/ Su Yung & Mr A

 

Johnny Gargano was on commentary and the deal was that he handpicked Nese as Ricochet’s opponent ahead of their big title match the next night. They kept it slow to begin with, which after such a long intermission may not have been the best idea. After a quick exchange of spots, Mr A posted Ricochet and Nese got the heat. Ricochet threw a barrage of kicks to transition into his comeback then he got some near-falls with a shooting-star press and a Regalplex. Big high-spots saw Ricochet land a Fosbury-flop over the ring post and Nese deliver a Gotch-lift buckle-bomb. Ricochet pinned Nese clean after the Benadryller. – Ricochet defeated Anthony Nese via pinfall, at 17:55. More faulty equipment led to an in-ring promo face-off between Gargano and Ricochet which nobody watching could understand then Gargano jumped Ricochet from behind. Rich Swann ran down to make the save and in true Paul Heyman school of booking fashion, the next match was underway. – Another good outing. Like all Ricochet matches the action was smooth, but if there is one thing that he could improve on it is making a gradual comeback instead of going right into hitting his big moves. Nese continues to impress; add him to the list of names that TNA let slip through their fingers. *** ½

 

Non-Title Match: Rich Swann vs. Johnny Gargano (Open the Freedom Gate Champion)

 

Swann ran wild from the get-go and delivered a plancha into a hurricanrana. They brawled on the floor, where Gargano cut Swann off with a flapjack onto the apron. Johnny got the heat then Swann landed a DDT for a double-down and started his comeback. Gargano scored with a Ligerbomb to start the near-falls then they had a superkick battle and Swann scored with gamengiri for a second double-down. Swann threw some Kawada kicks and got a near-fall with a handspring Ace crusher after yet more superkicks. Johnny avoided a frogsplash and hooked the Gargano-escape, but Swann fought to the ropes. Swann threw another superkick on the apron, however Gargano gave him the lawn-dart into the ring post, then the turnbuckle. Finish saw Gargano nail Swann with his title belt behind the referee’s back. – Johnny Gargano defeated Rich Swann via pinfall, at 15:20. Ricochet was back and he hit Gargano with a Benadryller then posed with the title and helped Swann to the back. Gargano sold the Benadryller like death and also had to be helped to the back. – Fun match, although the finish was a little flat and there were WAY too many superkicks thrown, which seems to be a big problem when it comes to the indie scene in general. The interaction between Ricochet and Gargano was a good final push for their big match. *** ¼

 

EVOLVE Championship Match: Chris Hero (C) vs. Trent Barreta w/ Su Yung & Mr A

 

Hero forgot to carry the belt out with him, so a geek from the back had to run down to the ring with it during Lenny Leonard’s fancy ring introductions. They set out with a slow “title match” pace and Hero got the better of the early grappling; he went after the arm and “stretched” Trent throughout the opening stages. Hero then shone with his superior striking ability and they spilled to the outside, where Trent posted Hero for the heat spot. Hero tried the Misawa flip but got his neck caught up in the ropes then Trent delivered a German suplex and a tornado DDT for some near-falls. Hero came back with a cravate suplex for a two count and they traded more near-falls; Hero applied the hangman’s clutch, but Trent made it to the ropes. Trent cut Hero off with a double stomp for a double-down on the apron then he told Hero that Claudio was going to be on WrestleMania and he would not because he was too fat. Hero punched him right in the face for a nice near-fall then Trent hit the dudebuster for another. After more falsies, Trent pulled the referee in front of a rolling elbow and the official went down; Trent delivered a low blow then Caleb Konley and Tony Nese ran down to lay out Hero with their finishers. Mr A tried for a splash, but Hero moved and cleared the ring, however Trent scored with the busaiku knee to get a close near-fall. The crowd responded with, “this is awesome” chants then Hero cut off a springboard move with a big boot and landed a rolling elbow, a rolling big boot then a KO elbow to the back of the head for the finish. – Chris Hero retained the EVOLVE title over Trent Barreta via pinfall, at 29:58. – Very good main event, apart from the needless ref bump. Although, I suppose Hero needed to get his revenge on the Premier Athlete Brand after they laid him out on the last DGUSA show. It took a while for the people to get into it, but by the time they were into the near-falls the fans were hot again. This was probably the best match of the night, however I cannot go any higher than, *** ¾.

 

Overall, this was a fun show with some very good matches. Nothing was blow-away like the top two matches on the following night’s DGUSA event and the show was a level below the exceptional EVOLVE 25 from January, but for the opening card of WrestleMania weekend, EVOLVE 28 did exactly what was expected and what was needed: putting on the first solid wrestling card of a hectic and historic week.

 

A Wrestling Odyssey April 4th 2014

McAlister Auditorium. New Orleans, Louisiana

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

The idea of a Wrestling Odyssey, a buffet-style sampling of some of the many different flavours of wrestling that the indies has to offer, is a positive one, one that I hope continues in coming years. However, the execution of this first show was far from perfect – whether it was the bi-product of the smaller building and crowd, puzzling closed minded fans, vocal throughout some of the key matches, or perhaps the lack of top-level marquee indie talent apart from the top two or so matches on the card – was somewhat flawed. Still, as my personal opener to the weekend, it was a fun time, and whilst I can say that most of the matches on this card were unmemorable, Gulak and Thatcher delivered with one of the best matches of the entire weekend that was well worth the $9.99 all on its own. An amendment that I would make to the concept next year though, would be to cut down on the number of “world title” matches on the show, and instead opt for diverse looking matches regardless of whether or not a title is involved – as having so many so-called “main event” title matches on each show brings down the importance of each.

 

Daffney opened the show as our host after a twenty five or so minute delay. There seemed to be a good 75 some people in the building, making it likely one of the smaller attendances in the venue during this weekend.

 

1. WILDKAT Heavyweight Championship Match

Mike Dell vs. Steve Anthony

 

They started off with some crisp, basic ring work, before Dell began the heat. Anthony kicked out of most that Dell had to offer, landed a bridging German suplex with feet planted flat on the mat, missed a 450 splash and was caught with a flying elbow for the win. – This was very basic, but both men were solid in what did. They were placed in a unique situation though, wrestling for their home promotion’s top title, but having to work it like an opener.

** ¾

 

2. Open the United Gate Championship Match

Bravado Brothers (Lancelot & Harlem) vs. Joe Ryan & Candice LeRae w/ Maxwell Chicago as Special Guest Referee

 

Chicago was really over with this crowd. There was some comedy before the bell with Joey dipping Candice and urging the Bravados to do the same – they obliged causing Chicago to break into song. Ryan blew himself up running the ropes and took a breath of his inhaler – he has asthma you know. This gave the Bravados the advantage. The tag was made to LeRae, flying in with a head scissors and locked in an octopus hold. There was some sexual humour followed by an eye-poke battle between Ryan and Harlem. Chicago briefly objected, but was poked in the eyes and low-blowed. The Bravados complained that they couldn’t hit LeRea, as she was a female, which just set up for a lariat and neckbreaker combo for the pin. The Bravados looked for a post-match beatdown on LeRea, but Chicago and Ryan made the save. – Well, they promised a bit of everything on this card, and I guess this was the comedy.

* ¾

 

3. FIP World Heavyweight Title Match

Trent Barreta vs. FIP Florida State Heritage Champion Lince Dorado

 

Barreta cut Dorado off with a mid-air dropkick, plucking Dorado out of the air. Dorado shot out with a very limited tope, given the close proximity of the seating to the ring. Dorado went to the top, but was met by Barreta who landed a German suplex from the top. Dorado responded with a reverse hurricanrana for a double down. The two exchanged knees in the corner, Barreta landed a powerbomb and then followed with his reverse piledriver for the win. – Both Barreta and Dorado are somewhat hit or miss for me, Dorado more so than Barreta, but this was a very fun match. Barreta mocked Low Ki’s taunt after the match building to their match on the DGUSA show that night.

***

 

4. SHINE Tag Team Championship Match

The Lucha Sisters (Mia Yim & Leva Bates) vs. SNS-Express (Sassy Stephie & Nevaeh)

 

Bryse Remsburg was the referee for tonight. The SNS Express began to work over Bates with Nevaeh landing a lariat behind Remsburg’s back. There was a quadruple down after everyone landed their moves on everyone else. Yim pinned Stephie with a lionsault in a fun, but rather unremarkable tag match.

** ½

 

5. Shine Championship Match

Ivelisse vs. Jazz

 

They did some long dynamic mat work early working in and out of submissions. Things were going well, but Ivelisse unfortunately slipped off of a middle rope springboard, which the fans were very respectful over. There was a great moment when, once up and back in control, Ivelisse proceeded to kick the middle rope – revenge. Ivelisse came back up off the top with a missile dropkick, but being caught with a powerslam. The finish was rather abrupt with Jazz tagging Ivelisse with punches, but was then caught with a stray kick for the win. The two hugged after the match.

** ½

 

6. Six Rounds British Rules CZW World Heavyweight Title Match

Drew Gulak vs. Timothy Thatcher

 

Daffeny’s mic unfortunately went dead whilst explaining the long list of British rules. They got her mic working after the entrances at which point she recalled the rules. The ties to Billy Robinson were brought up on commentary. There were some clever clean breaks at the start of the match, which unfortunately didn’t receive any reactions. Everything from the onset was smooth, authentic, just fabulous work here. Unfortunately every time Daffney explained the rules or announced the end of a round it came across like a school teacher attempting to get school kids to comply with something that they didn’t want nor feel was a good idea. Round two saw the introduction of work over the left arm of Gulak and some Cesaro-esque power work from Thatcher. Thatcher submitted Gulak in the second round with a Fujiwara armbar – 1 – 0. Round three saw Thatcher wearing Gulak down with forearms, a trade in pinfall attempts before Gulak grabbed a backslide for the three count – 1 -1. Thatcher went back to the upper cuts in round four. Gulak upped the physicality at the end of round four, having Thatcher snarling upon separation. Round five, and Thatcher got a warning refusing to allow Gulak to make it to his feet. There was a tremendous spot towards the end with Thatcher laying it in with forearms, Gulak making it up at 9 each time, until eventually taking everything that Thatcher could give and landed a Regalplex for a two count. Unfortunately this didn’t get the reaction in actuality as it did in my mind. Thatcher had a Fujiwara armbar locked in at the bell sounding, and was dealt yet another public warning. Gulak was still down, even after a 30 second break between the fifth and final rounds. A big slap battle followed before Gulak submitted Thatcher with an ankle lock. About half the audience was standing at the end of the match. – It’s a completely irrelevant argument to make in wrestling, but in front of a different crowd this could have very well been **** ¾ +, unfortunately these fans were simply too close minded, which was sad. Still, the work here was not of the type completely reliant on crowd reaction, and therefore in the end was still one of the best matches of the weekend and maybe of the year.

**** ½

 

7. Sprint Match for the EVOLVE Title

Chris Hero vs. AR Fox vs. Anthony Nese

 

The sprint is essentially a 20 minute iron man match with over time. AR Fox got a bigger reaction coming out than the prior match, which made me so so sad. Anthony Nese came out wanting to make this match a three-way dance – the crowd wanted none of this. Hero and Fox then agreed to give him a shot- it sure is easy to get an EVOLVE title shot, as Lenny Leonard pointed out. As regular readers will know, I really do believe that in most situations, chances are, that adding a third person is going to bring a match down. Nese stole a pin on Fox – 0-0-1. Minutes later Nese took a second pin 0-0-2. Fox grabbed a jackknife pin on Hero 0-1-2. Hero then locked in a double dragon sleeper for two a double fall to “Hero chants” – 2-1-2. However Lenny Leonard did not realize this and called the rest of the match as if the score were 2-1-1. The crowd chanted both “this is awesome” and “AR Fox” – tears. We got the five minute warning with the score still 2-1-2. Hero got what was the winning fall in the last three seconds on Nese, at which point the announce team realized that it was not in fact tied up, and the final score was in actuality 2-1-3. – I wasn’t a big fan of this concept.

** ¾

 

WWE Hall of Fame 2014 – April 5th 2014.

Smoothie King Centre: New Orleans, LA.

Ben Carass.

 

A pretty cool video opened the show; it featured clips and sound-bites of previous inductees then it ran down the class of 2014. Perennial host Jerry Lawler was the first person to grace the stage and he threw to Lita’s video package then introduced Trish Stratus.

 

Lita: Inducted by Trish Stratus.

 

Trish referred to Lita as “Amy” immediately and mentioned that Lita was the Godmother of her child. She recapped their history together and talked about how their careers were intertwined then brought up the time they main evented Raw in 2004. Trish put Lita over for being different from all the other Divas at the time and explained how she was relatable to the viewers. She closed by running down Lita’s extracurricular achievements: making the Rolling Stone’s “Hot List”, working with animals etc. then noted that Lita would be making her “long dress debut”.

 

Lita came out in a sheer red dress and got the first standing ovation of the night; Stephanie McMahon played into her “I’m every woman” gimmick and was applauding vigorously and the fans chanted, “thank you Lita”. She told a fun story about trying to break into the business by traveling to Mexico and attempting to find her way to a CMLL show at Arena Mexico which culminated in her being invited to a training session conducted by Los Boricuas. This led to another story about one of her first experiences of doing a pre-tape with Val Venis and Rayo de Jalisco Jr and she pulled out Rayo’s mask which she stole and kept to this day. Lita talked about meeting Rey Mysterio Jr at a hotel after a show in Georgia with the help of Arn Anderson. She said Arn told her she owed him a Miller Light for being a man of his word and making it happen, so Lita said she was a woman of her word and Trish brought out a tray with two Miller Lights. Some geek took Arn his beers while Trish and Lita did a couple of “wheatgrass” shots. Rey got hot about not receiving a beer, so Arn walked over and handed him a can and they toasted Lita, which got a big pop. Lita recapped her time in ECW in one sentence then told everyone about the time Danny Doring proposed to her with a condom. She swiftly moved on to her time with Edge and the stupid wedding angle with Kane then talked about being told her neck was broken, but not wanting to go to the hospital because she had to go to a signing session for the release of her new bobble head doll, which she also pulled out of a bag on the stage. Next, she explained that she wanted to talk to Steve Austin rather than a neurosurgeon and said she wore an Austin 3:16 tank top during her surgery. Lita did her thanks-yous and even mentioned Manami Toyota, which got no reaction at all – shame on everyone in attendance. She closed by giving a nod to the Punk Rock scene. – A really fun speech with some good highspots; it went a little longer than I expected, but it never began to drag and Lita showed more ability on the mic than I ever recall during her actual career. It should also be noted that she thanked Jim Ross, who was sat next to Austin in the front row with his wife, Jan.

 

Jake Roberts: Inducted by Diamond Dallas Page.

 

King introduced the video for Jake then brought out Page. DDP thanked the fans for chanting, “Happy Birthday” then said he couldn’t think of anything better than two of his boys getting the recognition they deserve. He also thanked Triple H and Dusty Rhodes then explained that living with Kimberly and Jake was not easy, because his ex-wife had one rule: no snakes in the house. DDP told a story about a “12ft black cobra” getting loose in his house, finding it in a vanity table and how Jake told him it would be ok then didn’t come back to get it for three days. Page talked about how much he learned from Jake and put him over for writing the proverbial book on wrestling psychology then explained that he had wanted to repay him for years. DDP told the tale of Jake’s 18 month recovery and their dream was to make it to the Hall of Fame then stated, “Never underestimate the power you give someone by believing in them” and “Never underestimate the power you give yourself by believing in you”. He introduced Jake, who was escorted out by the Bella twins to a standing ovation.

 

Jake claimed he forgot what he was going to say then said he always loved professional wrestling. He noted at one time he actually hated wrestling because his father (Grizzly Smith), whom he did not name, was a wrestler and he blamed the business for taking his dad away. Jake explained that it wasn’t wrestling’s fault and he fell in love with it too then spoke about playing with the fan’s emotions. He stopped himself from saying something and said he needed a filter, then he appeared to say “masturbate people’s emotions,” however it was edited. Roberts ribbed Page for lying about his age and noted that everyone knew DDP was, “at least 60” and stated it hurt to know that he couldn’t “play” anymore. Jake said he could still do little things and maybe a DDT then he asked where Ricky Steamboat was and Steamboat stood up for some playful banter. The fans chanted, “you still got it” and Jake quickly told them that they were wrong then said his heart still wanted it but he had reached a point where he couldn’t do it any justice. Roberts got choked up talking about the drugs and lying to his children, to which the fans responded with applause of support then he talked about wishing he could have joined some of his friends that didn’t make it out the other side alive. Jake thanked DDP for being there to help him and stated that Dallas saved his life then ribbed him again for being the most positive person he had ever met. Roberts recalled the fans donating $30,000 to help pay for surgery, which made him realise people did care about him then said he was ashamed of wasting most the talent he was given. Things got a little less serious as Jake pointed out his family and his 18 month grandson was brought onto the stage. Roberts explained that the child had some serious medical issues, but told Vince to get the script writers ready because the boy would be a part of WrestleMania 50. All of Jake’s family stood up, he thanked them and the WWE (they sent him to rehab) then Jake signed off. Everyone stood and applauded again. – That was something else. In 2014, there are very few real things left in pro wrestling and the story of Jake Roberts’ (and Scott Hall’s) recovery is very, very real. One of the most memorable and genuinely heartening speeches in Hall of Fame history.

 

Lawler was back out and he was interrupted by Hornswaggle, who was chased onto the stage by El Torito. King wound up taking a gore to the tgrown and introduced Mr T’s video in a high voice. – I guess this was a way to lighten things up after Jake’s speech, but man was it corny and the fans booed a lot more than they laughed.

 

Mr T: Inducted by Gene Okerlund & T Jr.

 

They showed Roddy Piper in the crowd then Okerlund came out and talked about the first WrestleMania. Gene told some jokes about Mr T’s hair and clothes that didn’t get over then he brought out “T Jr”, who gave a short introduction for his father. So I’m sure most of you have heard about this speech and how T put over his mother for nearly 20 minutes, therefore I’ll keep the recap short for this one. T said he was honoured to be a part of “Rasslin’s” finest and offered a prayer then warned everyone he was going to talk about his mother. “It won’t be too long”, remarked Mr T. He lied. It got really wacky at one point, as T spoke about his mother’s urinary tract then stated that he loved his mother on every damn holiday, including Father’s Day. The fans chanted, “this is awesome” and, “thank you mothers” then T carried on rambling about how much he loved his mother. Eventually Kane’s music hit and he came out and shook T’s hand. T realised that his time was up and he apologised and walked off stage to the A-Team theme. – I have no idea what the hell was going on here. Was Mr T’s mother a metaphor or does he just really, REALLY love his mother? Either way, I can’t blame them for sending out Kane to get him off the stage. The Hall of Fame usually gives us plenty of cringe-worthy, awkward moments, but this one may have topped the lot.

 

Lawler said after Mr T’s speech that everyone loves his mother then he introduced Kane and Paul Bearer’s video rolled.

 

Paul Bearer: Inducted by Kane.

 

Kane had a great line and said he hated to cut off Mr T, but he was cutting into the time he had to talk about his daddy. He spoke about the man Bill Moody and how he grew up a fan of pro wrestling and noted some of his friends also got into the business, Robert Gibson and Michael P.S Hayes. They showed Hayes in the crowd and he tipped his pimp hat. Kane mentioned Moody’s time in Florida and Dallas as Percy Pringle III then said everything changed when he became Paul Bearer in the WWE. He said that Moody eventually informed him about Undertaker’s secret brother. “Me”, he remarked flippantly. He claimed that the Undertaker/Kane saga was the best piece of epic storytelling the WWE had ever done, which of course is absolutely preposterous. None of it made a lick of sense, but hey the people applauded so who cares. Kane told a story about wearing a ski mask to protect his gimmick when arriving at the arenas. One day, Bearer asked Kane to drive to the show because he wasn’t feeling well and when they arrived at the venue, Bearer rolled down the window and began to yell, “it’s a miracle, Kane can drive!” Kane spoke about the Cauliflower Alley Club briefly then stated that Moody would have been thrilled with the way the WrestleMania 29 storyline played out. Kane called out Bill Moody’s sons, Michael and Daniel. The sons did some quick thank-yous and one of them did a tremendous, “Oh Yes” line. They left the stage and Undertaker’s music played. Taker came out in his gear and knelt down then held up the urn as a picture of Paul Bearer was displayed on the screen. – Kane actually did a great job and hit the right tone, while being able to make things fun with some wacky stories. It would have been nice if Undertaker appeared out of character for a few words, but what they did was a nice, albeit a little show-bizzy, touch.

 

Razor Ramon: Inducted by Kevin Nash.

 

King introduced Nash and the very first thing he said was, “And the Bible says…”. I’m not the biggest Nash fan, but that was hilarious. Nash said the guy he was inducting told him to “speed it up” because a lot of the guys in the crowd had big matches the following day. He talked about watching Shawn Michaels and Scott Hall work and how great they were then said he didn’t think it would get any more emotional than when Shawn got inducted. Nash stated that he was wrong because another one of his other brothers was getting the same honour.

 

Scott Hall came out looking great; he hugged Nash and threw a toothpick into the camera. “Hey, Yo,” Hall began. He spoke about going to his first wrestling show at age 8 and falling in love then discovering the power and control once he stepped inside the ring. Hall said if anyone asked how Razor was doing, the standard response was “Better than you, Chico”. He got choked up a little while thanking the fans and a “thank you Razor” chant started. Hall stated that he had learned that dreams do come true and hard work pays off then declared, “Bad times don’t last, but bad guys do”. His music played and the Kliq joined him on stage; Michaels, Waltman, Nash and Triple H all hugged Hall then they did their trademark pose for a curtain call that assuredly garnered significantly less heat than the previous one. – I would have liked to hear more from Hall, but I guess we can thank Mr T’s mother for his time being cut short. He looked better than he has in years, so I guess that is the important thing.

 

Bad New Barrett interrupted Lawler and told the “pathetic wannabes” that this was as close as they would ever get to the Hall of Fame; Cody Rhodes and Big Show in particular were dying with laughter.

 

Carlos Colon: Inducted by Primo, Epico & Carlito.

 

King said Colon’s three sons were inducting him. Oops. Carlito joked that he was used to working in high school gyms and noted that their time had been cut, so it was like he had never left. Epico and Primo recapped Colon’s career then Primo claimed that Paul Heyman got a lot of his ideas from the WWC. Colon got a tepid reaction when he came out and he spoke in a mix of English and Spanish then thanked some of the names he worked with and his family also. – No mention of Jose Gonzalez or Bruiser Brody; things may have gotten ugly if that whole situation was brought up. Colon’s speech wasn’t really noteworthy, however Carlito was pretty funny.

 

Ultimate Warrior: Inducted by Linda McMahon.

 

Linda spoke for a needlessly long time. She talked about Warrior legally changing his name and said that Warrior asked her to be his personal contact when he came back because she understood his passion. Apparently Warrior used to call Linda and rant about this and that, however Linda claimed she would just put him on speaker phone with the volume down. She called him a “devoted husband, father and patriot”, which is a line I could see Vince writing for himself. Warrior was escorted out by his daughters.

 

Warrior noted that this was the most anticipated speech in history and made one of his grunting noises into the mic. He talked about his family then put over DDP for helping to turn lives around with his Yoga. Warrior moved onto the “Self-Destruction” DVD and said that his brand of self-destruction had led him to headline the Hall of Fame during WrestleMania 30. A “one more match” chant started, Warrior told the fans they were just being kind and said that wasn’t going to happen. He spoke about Sting, which received a pop, and a few other guys then claimed he patterned his clothesline after Ted DiBiase; DiBiase looked uncomfortable and waved from the crowd. Next, he mentioned some more old school guys like Len Denton, Tim Brooks and Bruiser Brody; the latter got a reaction from the fans. At one point he said “WWF” then stated that they should, “put the f’n F back”. The fans chanted “Yes!” and Warrior joked about Jerry McDevitt getting his ass kicked by “those wildlife people”.

Warrior talked about the comments on the Self-Destruction DVD breaking his heart then said guys with the wrong attitude don’t last very long and noted that people who couldn’t handle the British Bulldogs ribs didn’t last. He joked about Vince not being around for WrestleMania 75 then took it back and said Vince would live forever. The next part of his speech was dedicated to his fans; a “thank you Warrior” chant started and he replied with, “No! No! No!” The fans responded with some “Yes!” chants and Warrior joked that he had been out of the business for too long and had just be taught something. He told a story about meeting Vince for the first time at MSG and talked about wrestlers complaining about their PPV pay-offs, Bad News Brown was one guys in particular that he mentioned being disgruntled and wanting a meeting with Vince. Warrior again joked about his reputation for blowing up easily, “I’m blown up now,” he quipped. Warrior mentioned that he had signed a multi-year deal to be an ambassador for the company then joked about a cheque from Vince bouncing. He thanked the fans again and told the young talent to be prepared for the “arena of life”. Warrior’s music played and he got standing ovation from the fans and I imagine some disgruntled guys in the company. – I had written this before the tragedy of Tuesday so my original feelings were a little different, however all that can really be said is Warrior clearly loved his family, all of whom were shown in the front row and you can’t help but feel for them after seeing their father, husband and son finally being accepted for his professional work. I’m not a believer in fate and destiny, so looking for lines that foreshadowed his passing isn’t my thing and after his promo on Raw there are a bunch of wacky articles out there regarding the subject if you’re looking for it. The only other thing I have to say is, rest in peace Warrior and my thoughts are with your family.

 

DGUSA Open the Ultimate Gate April 4th 2014

McAlister Auditorium. New Orleans, Louisiana

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

The first DGUSA show of WrestleMania weekend was somewhat of a mixed bag. The two top matches that were expected to deliver did, but just about everything else on the card was completely unmemorable, or in the case of the Fox/A match, very very bad. The venue, which was used throughout the weekend, was also a large downgrade from last year’s in New Jersey. The crowd reaction was good however, even when it was in no way expected – as was the case with the a for mentioned Fox/A match, which will be one of the worst matches of the year. The later two matches made up for the weak undercard, but even so the questionable booking has to have some, hardcore DGUSA fans in particular, scratching their heads.

 

1. Open the Unite Gated Champions: The Bravado Brothers w/ Moose vs. Caleb Bravado Brothers vs. Konley & Anthony Nese w/ Mr. A(MSL) & Su Yung

 

Colt Cabana was with Leonard on commentary for this opening match. It wasn’t entirely apparent on the ‘Wrestling Odyssey’ show, but the Bravados have made some substantial gains in the physique department – Lacelot in particular. Harlem landed a top rope senton on Konley to the floor off of a hot tag, was worked over by Konley for a couple of minutes, and then made the tag back to Lancelot who ran wild. The Bravados landed a fireman’s carry neckbreaker on Konley for a nearfall. Nese came down badly on his knee off of a lionsault, but still decided to do a cartwheel off of the apron for no reason. A double down followed. Harlem landed a German suplex for another two count. Nese and Konley landed a very unique gut wrench slam cross neckbreaker for the nearfall. Mr. A stepped into the ring, but was laid out by Moose setting up for the Bravados double team neckbreaker on Nese for the win.

** ¾

 

After the match Nese yelled at poor Mr A. telling him to do something right before leaving the ring. Su Yung then called AR Fox out for a match with Mr. A.

 

2. AR Fox vs. Mr. A w/ Su Yung

 

AR Fox landed a series of topes and a tope con giro to one of the louder reactions I heard in the building this weekend. AR Fox then followed with an incredibly stupid top rope legdrop on the apron. Mr A. busted out a surprising leg lariat. More senseless moves followed with a wacky bouncing old-school from Fox before getting dropped with a slam. Su Yung interfered some, leading to the introduction of Ivelisse and a cat fight. Things got even more frenetic as Larry Dallas brought out Teddy Hart with his cat. The referee, who was most assuredly mentally deficient in some way, was distracted with Larry Dallas on the floor while Teddy Hart laid AR Fox out with a gut buster. Mr A. then took a neckbreaker and heart attack. Larry Dallas and Teddy Hart then picked up their cat and walked off and the match continued like nothing had happened. Everything from there on was rendered completely incredulous. That didn’t stop them. There were some bumps on the apron and Fox landed a Spanish fly on Mr. A for the win. – This was a prime example of overbooked, frenetic, thought-less, stereotypical indie junk. This may end up being the worst match of the year.

– ½*

 

3. Biff Busick vs. Rich Swann

 

Swann had the fans singing and clapping ‘All Night Long’. Busick killed the fun with a forearm to kick the match off. Swann teased a piledriver, which is in fact banned in the state of Louisiana, and the fans aware of this fact looked to point it out. Swann did a spinarooni following a scissors kick. Busick landed the Jericho style double powerbomb and looked for a third, but Swann fought out. Busick landed a huge boot and Swann retaliated with a spin kick for two. Swann landed a leaping enzuigiri and hurricanrana. Busick got the knees up off of a standing 450, went for a dragon suplex, and was rolled up for two transitioning into a pinfall exchange and Toyota roll sequence, which saw Swann pick up the win. – This was one of the better singles matches I’ve seen out of Swann.

*** ¼

 

4. Drew Gulack & Chuck Taylor vs. Fire Ant & Green Ant

 

Fire Ant and Green Ant got an unexpectedly large pop coming out. Taylor crossed his heart and attempted to shake hands with Green Ant, but, as expected, caught Green Ant with a kick to the gut. Chucky T and Gulak worked over Green Ant before he senton rolled across the ring to make the tag to the, in fact fiery, Fire Ant. The Colony landed a double dropkick in the corner, but were caught in a double figure four from Gulak! Gulak looked for a rollup, but Green Ant rolled him into the Chikara special for the win. After the match Gulack turned on Taylor with a Polish hammer, and stomped andtrangled him announcing that the Gentleman’s Club was no more. – This turn may have worked better at the end of a longer, more grueling, perhaps main event match.

** ¾

 

5. Low Ki vs. Trent Baretta

 

Yes, Low Ki is returning to the indies yet again. Baretta slapped Ki early, which resulted in some vicious chop fury. The entire story of the match, as well as the matches leading to the match, was centered Barretta’s mocking of Ki and his stiff work. Ki landed a super stiff kick to the back of the head and went for the double stomp from the tree of woe, but Baretta escaped and pinned Ki with the baisaku knee in a match that never kicked it into high gear. Poor Low Ki got the dreaded “You still got it chants” on the way out.

*** ¼

 

6. Non Title Match: EVOLVE Champion Chris Hero vs. Masato Tanaka

 

There were “this is awesome” chants early – before the two locked up as a matter of fact. Both men went for the rolling elbow and froze as mirror images. Tanaka took some shots and asked for another before firing back with a flying forearm in the corner to “Tanaka” chants. A forearm battle ensued, which Tanaka got the better of. Tanaka cut Hero with a big lariat. Tanaka slapped Hero around, but was then caught with a roaring elbow. Hero kipped up moments before a ten count during a double down. Hero landed a rolling big boot for two , followed by a series of boots and elbows, Tanaka called for more, which led to a feverous stiff strike battle. Tanaka came down with a top rope splash and looked for the sliding D, but Hero rolled to the ropes. Hero went for an Awesome bomb straight to the floor! It was countered and Hero landed a running powerbomb for two! Tanaka evaded Tanaka’s moonsault. Yet another elbow battle ensued. Tanaka busted out a backfist, Hero a roaring elbow, Tanaka one of his own, for a one count! Tanaka then landed the sliding D for the win and Tanaka chants.

**** ½

 

7. Open the Freedom Gate Championship Match: Johnny Gargano vs. Ricochet

 

Gargano worked over Ricochet’s arm early. There was a tremendously executed spot where Gargano ducked the Benadryller, prompting him to slide to the outside with a look of shock on his face – it was played up like had the kick connected, it would have been the end of the title reign. Ricochet did a random triple backflip in the middle of the match with Gargano on the outside, which would have been fine, only it gave Gargano the advantage, making Ricochet, the babyface, look like a fool. Gargano did some general work over Ricochet for quite some time. Ricochet made it to his feet landing strikes and vaulting out to the floor over the turnbuckle and landing on his feet! Ricochet landed a DDT and transitioned into a brainbuster. Gargano followed with a brainbuster. Ricochet then rolled back twice into a leaping enzuigiri. Ricochet did an inexplicable shooting star press landing on his feet only to get kicked in the gut. A big strike battle ensued bringing the crowd to their feet. Ricochet landed a flurry of kicks on the apron, but was kicked to the floor, caught Gargano in a tope suicida and landed a death valley driver on the hardwood! Ricochet took a spectacular frankensteiner flip bump and was caught in a crossface. Ricochet landed a backsuplex while still in the crossface, but Gargano still held on! Gargano finally broke with an exploder into the turnbuckle and landed the 630 splash for two. The referee was killed with a kick in the corner and Ricochet landed the Benadryller for a visual pin. Gargano landed a belt shot after Ricochet landed the Benadryller against the belt. Ricochet kicked out and the crowd exploded with “yes” chants. Gargano grabbed a rope out of his tights and began to choke Ricochet. Ricochet went for another Benadryller , but Gargano caught the leg and locked in a crossface! Ricochet grabbed a cradle for yet another nearfall and followed with the Benadryller for the win in an outstanding match. After the match the fans and rest of the lockeroom bounded on the apron and Ricochet did Cima’s “did you enjoy the show” gimmick to resounding applause. – Ricochet over the past two years or so has evolved so much as a worker. He still does a lot of the nonsensical spot-fest stuff that drives me nuts, but certainly not to the same extent as before, and the majority of the time he compensates enough with great selling and execution that he puts on very good to great matches. Gargano has been great for years too that goes without saying.

**** ¼

 

Shimmer 62 April 5th 2014

McAlister Auditorium, New Orleans, Lousiana

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

It’s safe to say that despite working a lesser venue this year, Shimmer managed to completely out do last year’s show. They didn’t put on any five star classics, but what this card did feature was some of the strongest matches of the entire weekend, in front of a crowd that was both incredibly knowledgeable and respectful of the Shimmer product. The main event finish, if altered to have LuFisto going over, may have put the show over the edge as one of the best of the year, but even performing in front of one of their biggest annual crowds, in front of a large audience on pay-per-view, they instead decided to keep the title on Cheerleader Melissa and rather build to a rematch on their next Chicago show. It made sense from the standpoint of the show being good enough on its own to sell the product, with the build to the next match doing more to heighten attendance. However it could also be said that changing the title, letting the main event reach its climax and sending both audiences home happy with one of the best shows of the year, may have built local business up better. These are two different perspectives on how to draw better business from this show, and neither could truly be proven wrong in this context. Regardless of the finish, Shimmer as a promotion, came off here like a unique, diverse and entertaining promotion with the wrestlers, announcers and crowd all doing their best to make the product look as good as possible.

 

This show, just like most other indie shows this weekend, was running a good 25 minutes late. Daffney was once again our host for this show.

 

1. SNS Express (Sassy Stephy & Nevaeh) vs. Heidi Lovelace & Solo Darling

 

Stephy locked in a cattle mutilation and stomped/rammed Darling’s face into the mat. The crowd was much louder, larger and more enthusiastic than the Wrestling Odyssey crowd from yesterday. Lovelace was fantastic off the hot tag, landing boots on Stephy and Nevaeh, but that only lasted a couple of moments with the S-N-S Express pinning Darling with a double team spinebuster. Fun opener this was, out of these four Lovelace looked the most impressive.

** ¾

 

It seemed as if there were some lighting issues after this match, as things grew darker at ringside after a couple minute delay.

 

2. Veda Scott vs. Leva Bates

 

The two traded some ridiculously loose kicks that must have looked even worse inside such an intimate venue. Apart from the strikes both women worked well the rest of the match. Leva Bates ended up pinning Scott with a Pepsi Plunge. They shook hands and hugged after the match.

** ¼

 

3. Vanessa Kraven (debuting) vs. Kay Lee Ray (debuting)

 

They looked to work a big woman/small woman match akin to Kong/Yim as last year’s Shimmer opener. Ray looked to take Kraven down with some kicks and a knee in the corner, but was laid out with a lariat. Kraven was believable in the role as the bigger, stronger monster and had a lot of size on Ray. Ray landed a senton bomb, but Kraven rolled out to the floor setting up for a tope, which as we stated in the Wrestling Odyssey review, doesn’t work tremendously well in this venue – fans scattered worse than in Reseda. Ray grabbed a sunset flip pin for the win in a very impressive debut outing from both women.

***

 

4. Non-Title Match: Shine Champion Ivelisse (debuting) vs. Kimber Lee

 

Ivelisse sbegan the physicality with a slap, which a couple of minutes later bled into a heated chop and forearm exchange, which Lee got the better of starting the heat. Lee missed a splash from the top rope leading to a forearm battle seeing Ivelisse take Lee down with a huricanrana. Ivelisse grabbed a unique kick over her own head landing a running code red for the win. The work started off a tad bit sloppy, but quickly progressed into a positive showcase for both women. The fact that both WWE and TNA passed on Ivelisse is simply baffling to me – this was easily better than AJ/Natalya from Main Event.

*** ¾

 

Madison Eagles and Nicole Matthews had a Kane/Bryan style argument hugging it out and then pulling and tripping each other. They announced that Portia Perez would not be there; well that’s no good.

 

5. Candice LeRae (debuting) vs. Athena

 

Bryce Remsburg got a big pop every time he stepped into the ring, as was the case the entire weekend. This was Athena’s return match after suffering a shoulder injury that put her out of action for a few months. They opened up trading nearfalls eventually doing what was basically a Toyota roll, only the two were rolling around IN A SMALL PACKAGE! I can confirm that Athena has no issue with weak looking strikes. Athena locked in a modified Koji clutch to duellng chants – LeRae reciprocated with an octopus hold. Athena landed the Christian style strike on the floor into the ring, only instead of a punch hit a crisp enzuigiri. LaRae spiked Athena with an ace crusher for two. LaRae then landed the crotch hold German suplex into the turnbuckle! LaRea went for the mustache ride, but missed and was caught with the O-face for the win. Outstanding match.

**** ¼

 

6. NCW Fem Fatale International Title Match: Mercedez Martinez vs. Courtney Rush

 

Martinez issued a challenge to anyone in the back to attempt to come and take her title. Courtney Rush accepted. Martinez rushed, um, Rush before the bell, but Rush had it telegraphed and cleared the ring of Martinez. Martinez stalled, ducking in and out of the ring. Rush unloaded with some forearms in the corner and locked in a head scissors, which she worked for a few minutes and then landed a release belly to belly suplex. Rush had a cloverleaf locked in, but Martinez transitioned to an STF. The two exchange butterfly suplexes, Rush went for a series of pins each for two. She burst out with a spear, but couldn’t make the cover resulting in a double down. Rush locked the cloverleaf in once more dragging Martinez to the center of the ring. Rush looked to be edging closer to her finish, but was caught with a Saito suplex for the pin from Martinez. The finish came somewhat out of nowhere, but other than that, whilst dragging at points, this was a good, strongly contested match.

*** ½

 

Long intermission was long.

 

7. Nikki Storm vs. Thunder Kitty

 

Storm cut an over-dramatic heel promo putting over her return and yelling at the crowd. Thunder Kitty’s gimmick seems to be that she is a throwback to the 50s era of women’s wrestling – she dresses the part – the most analogous explanation in my view would be a female Matt Classic. Dave Prazak made some Moolah jokes on commentary saying that Thunder Kitty could teach Moolah a thing or two; only she’s dead you see. The majority of the work here was tedious and at times intentionally boring. Thunder Kitty went for a claw, but moments later was pinned with a Michinoku driver for the win.

** ½

 

8. Hikaru Shida vs. Evie

 

There were some more lighthearted exchanges early on, but Evie soon began a kick assault coupled with face washes on Shida. Evie went for a running kick off of the apron, but had it caught and was dropped onto the apron for a running knee. Shida executed a giant swing, which seems to, regardless of who’s performing it, be a big crowd pleaser. Shida locked in a double and then single leg Boston crab, but Evie willed her way to the ropes both times. Evie retaliated with a backbreaker for two and followed with repeated boots in the corner for a nearfall. Evie seemed to slip on the top rope, but was the pulled back in with a dead left superplex! Shida landed a couple of forearms, was caught with a big boot for two, but Shida came back with an enzuigiri and falcon arrow for an excellent nearfall. Shida then landed a running kick to the face for the win, This was yet another, unique, tightly worked and fantastic match.

****

 

9. Shimmer Tag Team Championship Match: Tomoka Nakagowa & Kelly Skater Nicole Matthews & Madison Eagles

 

The main story heading into this match was that Matthews & Eagles wanted to be friends, but are rivals at heart – similar to Team HellNo. Observing the size disparity between Eagles, who is exceptionally tall, and Nakagowa, who is shorter than average, was quite something, and worked as a valuable tool during the heat. Later on Eagles landed one of her beautiful German suplexes on Skater, but Matthews wanted to make the pin at the same time, which is where the strong dissension began. From there on all communication between Eagles and Matthews broke down allowing Skater to land a kick to the head of Matthews for the win.

***

 

10. 2 out of 3 Falls Match for the Shimmer Championship

Cheerleader Melissa vs. LuFisto

 

Both women went straight at it with Melissa unloading with kicks in the corner and LuFisto landing a cannonball in response. There was some compelling mat work early. Melissa fought out of a side headlock landing axe kicks to the lower back of LuFisto. Prazak was tremendous on commentary running through the career history of these two, as well as the history of their rivalry – Punk/Joe-esque. They collided with shoulderblocks, to which Melissa responded with a slap. The remaining time was announced humorously at five to ten minute intervals from the onset. Melissa targeted LuFisto’s leg and landed a couple of Super Dragon stomps for the count of two. Melissa fired back with a series of screeching lariats and a Michinoku driver. LuFisto followed with repeated boots to the face and a back suplex for two. LuFisto then landed her facebuster for the first fall. Melissa followed immediately with the air-raid crash for the second fall. Melissa landed a body slam out on the hardwood working further over LuFisto’s back. Melissa went back after the leg, which only served to fire LuFisto up, she locked in a scorpion death lock, but Melissa battled to the ropes. Prazak brought up some interesting history, noting that New Orleans was the locale for the Flair/Steamboat to out of three falls match. They traded shoulder blocks, neither would go down. Melissa landed a back suplex, but LuFisto no sold and landed a lariat for a partial double down. Melissa kicked out of the tiger driver leading to a slap exchange. A forearm battle ensued on the mat and led directly to a battle of boots. Melissa repeatedly countered the burning hammer. LuFisto landed a reverse hurricanrana and went for a diving headbutt, but collided with the referee for a ref bump. This brought Martinez in for a belt shot and the final fall. They put on a winding top level main event match for quite some time, but just as it was approaching its apex there was that cheap finish, which I guess is where the heat was. It would have been nice to have gotten a clean finish though, especially seeing as how this is their biggest event of the year in terms of viewership.

*** ¾

 

New Japan Pro-Wrestling Invasion Attack April 6th 2014

Sumo Hall, Tokyo, Japan

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

This show was nowhere close to last year’s, which ranked as my third best show of the entire year, in terms of quality – however, still ended up being a very good show and perhaps the second best of the weekend behind Mania. What brought the show down was the lack of an IWGP Heavyweight title match, which made sense storyline wise with the debut of AJ Styles in the role of the new Bullet Club leader. Once again there was a lot of repetition on the under card, but the very good opener, as well as the Devitt/Taguchi and tag title matches looked to greatly soften the blow. Business wise this show was a success drawing a slightly bigger crowd than last year’s (8,500 as opposed to last year’s 8,200), with a lesser card, no IWGP Heavyweight title match, no major matches on the under card and after running Tokyo several times over the week. Therefore whilst not being a super amazing show, this was still a positive step for New Japan as a company that continues to rise.

 

1. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match

The Young Bucks vs. Kota Ibushi & El Desperado

 

They started out with some athletic exchanges early, but the Bucks soon, with their Bullet Club ways, got the heat on Desperado with many a back-rake. The hot tag was made to Ibushi who landed his moonsault to the outside and Desperado his a missile tope con giro through the middle rope onto both Jacksons. Ibushi sloppily countered a powerbomb attempt from Matt Jackson into a hurricanrana making the tag back to Desperado. Ibushi landed a double frankensteiner, yes that is a frankensteiner on both Bucks at the same time, it sounds ridiculous, but they pulled it off. Matt Jackson kicked out of Desperado’s cop killer, Desperado in turn kicked out of an assisted tombstone piledriver, but was moments later put away with More Bang for your Buck.

*** ½

 

2. Yuji Nagata, Kazushi Sakuraba & Togi Makabe vs. Minoru Suzuki, Taka Michinoku & Taichi

 

Sakuraba and Suzuki had a quick, much anticipated, by myself but few others, hold exchange. Taichi landed a steel chair shot to the back of Makabe from the floor, which began your generic Suzuki-gun heat out on the floor. It was your standard nonsensical fair with Taichi and Michinoku taking out the referee. But, we did get a lovely pay-off with a brief revisiting of Nagata/Suzuki. Suzuki and Sakuraba exchanged slaps, but Sakuraba was dropped from behind by Taichi. However, Suzuki called him off and wanted to fight the national hero one on one. Another slap exchange ensued, but in the end Suzuki just decided to let Taichi and Taka in there for the assist. Taichi stripped off the tights, but was caught in a Kimura, Taka in the demon armbar for the double submission victory right in front of Suzuki. So to the chagrin of some, the adulation of myself, we may in fact be getting a Sakurba/Suzuki program!

***

 

3. NWA World Tag Team Championship Match

Rob Conyway & Jax Dane w/ Bruce Tharpe vs. TenCozy

 

I could take or leave the NWA/NJPW partnership in 2014. In fact, if I had a choice, I would probably leave it. Come to think of it, the same goes for this match. Tharpe wasn’t nearly as great as he usually is. Tenzan sidestepped a spear sending Dane into Conway, Kojima landed a lariat and Tenzan a moonsault for the title change. It’s a shame that the NWA World Tag Team title don’t mean much of anything anyway.

** ½

 

4. Takashi Iizuka & Toru Yano vs. Daniel & Rolles Gracie

 

Iizuka as per usual handcuffed Nogami and this time around spray-painted a half open bikini on him – I am afraid that the artistic brilliance of Takashi Iizuka may be atrophying. In all honesty this was one of mymost highly anticipated matches of the weekend. Yano and Iizuka did some of their usual brawling, only this time, the GRACIES, had to follow along! Rolles in particular looked completely lost, although both were hideous in this role. Daniel was then handcuffed to the guardrail by Yano while Iizuka choked Rolles out in the ring. The entire thing made little sense considering that the endearing heel, Yano, was battling against the foreign threat. This isn’t even factoring in the logistical issues of in-ring work. The bolt cutters were brought out eventually and Daniel was cut free. He put Kobashi to shame with this comeback. Iizuka iron clawed his partner and was tapped out with a knee bar. The Gracies consoled poor Nogami, who was not cut free even though he too was hand cuffed. – Whilst not the worst match of all time, as once anticipated, this was in fact very bad.

DUD

 

5. Loser Leaves Town Match

Prince Devitt w/ The Young Bucks vs. Ryusuke Taguchi

 

It is very important to note that in Japan the fact that this match was loser leaves town was severely underplayed. Devitt was out in some great looking Black Venom themed body paint. Very early on came the first big tease of Devitt’s annexation from the Bullet Club when the Bucks pulled him out of the ring to the floor, which was at first sold as a misunderstanding. The story was that Devitt wanted to fight his own battle against old tag partner. But, the Bucks refused to let up, and eventually turned on Devitt for an immediate babyface reaction. They proceeded to wrestle a usual match with Devitt kicking out of a tiger suplex. The two exchanged finisher attempts, Devitt landed the Bloody Sunday, but Taguchi kicked out. He too kicked out of the double footstomp and brainbuster-style Bloody Sunday. Taguchi landed his chicken wing facebuster, but this time Devitt kicked out. Taguchi followed with a double knee variant, still Devitt kicked out! Taguchi then landed yet another face buster for the win. – The work here unfortunately didn’t get the reaction that it could have on another night, which may be due to the decline in Taguchi’s star power, or possibly the change in Devitt’s in-ring style. It was still a very good match though, and a nice way to go out for Devitt,

*** ½

 

Devitt and Taguchi shook hands after the match. Intermission followed.

 

6. Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Tama Tonga & Bad Luck Fale

 

Tonga & Fale had the heat on HASHI for a large portion of the early goings, which apart from a brief stint of some fire was very uneventful. The tag was made to Okada and he and Fale went back and forth. Fale countered the rainmaker into a Samoan drop and the tag was made to HASHI for what was clearly going to be the finishing stretch. Okada pinned Tonga in a completely nothing match. Okada and Fale faced off after the match when out ran AJ Styles in a hoody for the attack from behind and Styles clash. Styles said that Okada was still a young boy and he wanted the title, at which point he revealed a Bullet Club t-shirt announcing that he was their new leader. This unfortunately received an underwhelming reaction.

** ¾

 

7. NEVER Openweight Title Match

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tetsuya Naito

 

Unlike in their prior two matches Ishii’s hard strikes went unopposed early on. And as a result of this layout and Naito’s transformation in their first NEVER title match, this crowd was relatively behind him. Naito was back in control, but was swiftly cut off with a lariat on the apron, which he took an upper-back bump on the apron for! Naito kicked out of the top rope brainbuster. Unlike in the earlier stages Naito accepted Ishii’s invitation to trade and went blow for blow. They had a counter exchange culminating in a big spike DDT from Ishii for two. Naito then took another big bump on his upper-back/shoulder area off of lariat. Ishii landed a German suplex, but Niato no sold and landed a side-slam for the double down. There was another forearm exchange, Ishii landed a flurry, but was cut off with a flying forearm and bridging German suplex for two. Naito landed the Gloria, but missed the stardust press. They had yet another strike exchange, which Ishii got the better of this time landing chops and a brainbuster. Ishii went for a lariat, but had it countered into the Pluma Blanca – Ishii made it to the rope and took an enzuigiri for the count of one. Ishii responded with one of his own, also for one. Both men landed slaps simultaneously leading to a slap battle. Naito landed a harder one yelling Ishii’s name, but was caught with a big lariat for two. Naito clipped Ishii with a liger kick, but Ishii came back with a sliding D and brainbuster for the win. – Another tremendous bout in an already phenomenal series.

**** ½

 

8. IWGP Tag Team Championship Match

Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows vs. Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto

 

Anderson landed a flurry of forearms on Shibata, urging him to bring it on, but this just made the man angry, and he quickly dropped Anderson with one well-placed elbow. Gallows and Anderson went at it before the match fell out to the floor where the absence of the rest of the Club made a large positive difference. They worked over Goto for a while; it was uninteresting. The tag was made back to Shibata on Anderson who ran wild. Shibata still remains the most intense man in existence it would seem, nearly severing Goto’s hand when making the tag. Gallows was dropped to the floor with a boot and Shibata/Goto landed their double backbreaker – Shibata his flying dropkick in the corner. Shibata hit a suplex straight into another from Goto. Anderson kicked out of a Goto PK setting up for a Shibata PK, but Gallows was in to break it up. Shibata was taken to the outside by Gallows, Goto went for the Shouten Kai, but was laid out with the fireman’s carry combo knee to the face. They went for their neck breaker, Shibata broke it up. Both Shibata and Gallows were dropped to the floor, allowing for an engrossing finishing exchange. Anderson landed the gun stun and then followed with the spinning neckbreaker combo with Gallows for the win. – This felt like the wrong decision from the vantage point of Shibata & Goto who have great potential as a team. The idea behind a Gallows/Anderson victory appears to be to keep the Bullet Club strong in the wake of Styles’ debut. However, in the context of long term potential the money looks to be with Shibata, who at this point is wasting away with no direction.

*** ½

 

9. IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

 

The pair stood in the ring barely interacting for a couple of minutes letting the crowd build. Tanahashi worked as the subtle heel doing his standard heelish taunts whilst working the leg early and milking the reaction. Tanahashi took Nakamura out to the floor where he continued to work over the leg, even going as far as to slam it in the ringside gate. Nakamura began to fire back as the clear babyfaces in an elbow exchange, but Tanahashi deviously resorted to stomping the knee. Unfortunately it wasn’t too long until Nakamura was running about kicking Tanahashi with his “injured” left leg willy-nilly. Once that brief comeback was over and Tanahashi went back to the leg things were great again, but it has to be said that Nakamura’s hot stint did take me out of the match somewhat. Tanahashi landed a high fly flow out to the floor, as he does in most big matches. Tanahashi went for the dragon suplex, but Nakamura busted out a flash Boma Ye for the neat fall – very believable selling by Nakamura here. Tanahashi landed another dragon screw followed by a high fly flow to the knees, which was pretty silly for many reasons. The first being that Tanahashi had to obviously sell the ribs, and the second being the clear question of why he didn’t just go for the regular high fly flow and the pin instead. Tanahashi had the cloverleaf locked in, but was pushed into the ropes for the break. Tanahashi went for another high fly flow, but this time Nakamura got the knees up for a double down. The two traded forearms, but Tanahashi went to the knee once more. Nakamura looked for an armbar and had it partially extended for quite some time before landing another Boma ye and collapsing in pain. Nakamura then landed two second rope Boma Ye knees, Tanahashi blocked a third, Nakamura connected on a fourth, but still Tanahashi kicked out. Nakamura then landed his fifth Boma Ye for the win and IC title.

**** ¼

 

After the match the Gracies made it out. Daniel Gracie brought up their New Year’s Eve match saying that he beat Nakamura up, wanted to do it again and wanted the IC title. Nakamura was about to speak when Sakuraba of all people came by and answered for Nakamura saying “I owe them one I’m taking part in this” and Nakamura responded by affirming that he would face Gracie and team with Sakuraba, which will be happening on the next show.

 

All translation credit goes to @puro_yottsume and all mistakes or misunderstanding credit goes to Ryan Clingman.

 

WWE WrestleMania XXX April 6th 2014

Mercedes Benz, New Orleans, Louisiana

 

There was a tremendously well produced opening video with famous Mania moments imposed onto a Louisiana party scene. Hogan of course made it down as host of the show to a decent reaction. Seconds in he had already stated that he was in the Silver Dome on the WWF/E Network. Hogan messed it up again, was booed, and then finally corrected himself. Steve Austin then made it down to a size-able reaction. The two faced off and Austin said that it was good to be back in the Silverdome. Austin asked if the crowd wanted to see him kick Hogan’s ass, and got an unexpected “Hell Yeah”. He spoke of all the shows Hogan main evented and of his incredible respect for Hogan. He shifted focus to the actual card, and out came Rock. “This is awesome” chants followed. Rock did his “finally gimmick” saying “finally Rock, Hogan and Austin have come back to the Superdome”, which led to “Superdome” chants. We got our first “yes” chant when Rock brought up how Bryan wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Austin, Cena not for Hogan, which got some boos. Rock told some stories and they all said their catch phrases and had some beer. A great way to open up the show this was.

 

1. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H for a spot in the WWE Heavyweight Title Three-Way

Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H

 

They made the smart choice having these two come out in the opener giving the crowd another three hours to build to the night’s climax. As expected there was an impeccably produced video package looking at Bryan’s rise to the top and the entire Hunter/Bryan – best in years. Stephanie was dressed like an air hostess introducing Hunter on an even more dramatic WrestleMania 22-esque thrown in gold armor! Laser beams shooting everywhere!And Daniel Bryan just came out, but that’s all he needed. His left shoulder was taped. Hunter offered the hand, but Bryan kicked it away. Bryan began to unload with yes kicks, but was caught with a dragon whip. Bryan landed a DDT off of the apron followed by a senton from the top rope with Stephanie yelling “you’re a B+ at best” from ringside. They fought atop the announce table where Bryan was dropped face first. Bryan looked to shoot out with a tope, but was caught with a pair of fists as opposed to a forearm or uppercut. Bryan then took a backbreaker on the apron for the count of nine. Hunter locked in the crossface, Bryan latched on to the bottom rope, but Trips held on to the count of four. Bryan landed a clothesline, Hunter telegraphed the up and over, still Bryan landed a couple of rolling German suplexes – no Chris Benoit chants at this show however. They fought on the top rope with Bryan landing a sunset flip. Bryan ran wild with his dropkicks in the corner, but was cut off with a huge lariat – Stephanie did the Raven pose. However, Bryan still landed a big high kick, but was caught with a knee and in the crossface when coming off the top with a diving headbutt. Bryan was fading in yet another crossface, but had it countered into the yes lock – Hunter made it to the ropes. Bryan shot out twice with topes landing the yes kicks against the barricades and a missile dropkick back in the ring. Bryan caught Hunter with a flurry of kicks to huge “yes” and “this is awesome” chants. Bryan went for the busaiku knee, but was caught with a spinebuster and the pedigree for a nearfall. Hunter laid into Bryan with strikes in the corner. Hunter went for the pedigree again, Bryan blocked, Hunter caught the knees, but Bryan spun out and landed a high kick. Bryan then landed the busaiku knee for the win. Stephanie slapped Bryan after the match, which set up for a Hunter sneak attack going after the arm and landing a chair shot to the arm against the post leaving Bryan in a heap. Bryan walked off without medical assistance

****

 

2. The Shield vs. New Age Outlaws & Kane

 

The New Age Outlaws had their entrance interrupted by the Shield, which was in turn interrupted by Kane. Ambrose and Kane started off with the near immediate tag being made to Reigns. Reigns attempted to land a double apron dropkick on the outlaws, but didn’t quite get it. The Shield ran wild with double topes from Rollins and Ambrose and Spears on everyone. It was then a double triple powerbomb (sextuple powerbomb?) for the win in an unexpected squash. After the match Gunn was apparently coughing up blood due to a less than silky smooth powerbomb delivery.

** ½

 

Sgt. Slaughter, Duggan and Steamboat were playing with Slam City action figures, but Ted DiBiase bought them up. Simmons came by and said “damn”.

 

3. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

 

Sheamus and Big Show were the only two to get entrances. Brad Maddox was one of the unannounced participants – Kidd another. Big Show was in an Andre the Giant pure black singlet. Show eliminated Mark Henry. Poor Miz was eliminated by the cobra. Fandango eliminated Big E and was eliminated by Sheamus in turn who landed some 25+ chest shots. Rey begged Show to save him, as he had done on RAW. Cesaro landed an uppercut on Mysterio for the elimination . Kingston was thrown to the outside, but his feet hit the steps and he climbed back in, which was simply incredible. Cesaro got his Mania giant swing on Kingston who was eliminated with a brogue kick. Ziggler was superkicked out attempting to skin the cat. Both Sheamus and Del Rio tumbled to the floor leaving Cesaro and Big Show in the ring. Cesaro unloaded with uppercuts, went to the top, but was chopped out of mid-air. Cesaro then landed a powerslam over the top rope for the WrestleMania III nostalgia victory. Cesaro then lifted the trophy that took five other men to lift with one hand above his head.

***

 

The French announcers now have their own announce table.

 

4. John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt

 

There was an extended fully featured Legacy video – still amazing. There was some voodoo dancing and fire on stage. Then they cut to the Wyatts and a an entire band performing his theme song in masks! Nothing too special for Cena. Wyatt got on his knees wanting Cena to take a shot and Cena simply responded in a swift and awkward manner “get up”. Cena finally landed a lariat after some work and landed some shots on the mat to laughter from Wyatt. Wyatt started the heat landing big slams and shots on the mat. Cena ran wild to boos and jokey smiles. Thankfully things changed when Wyatt shot up into his exorcist pose. Bryatt then spontaneously conducted his hands to the crowd, at which point crowd began to wave their hands in the air – great piece of spontaneity. Wyatt looked as though he was going to land Cena’s spin out powerbomb, but instead landed an over the knee gut buster. For the second apron spot of the night, there was a DDT on the apron. The fans began to wave once more, it looked like Harper and Rowan were going to interfere, at which point Cena landed a splash to the outside. Wyatt grabbed the steps, which would have ended in a DQ, a fact that was completely neglected. Wyatt then rubbed Cena’s head singing “he’s got the whole world in his hands”. Cena landed the AA for two. Harper landed a shot from the apron behind the referee’s back. Cena was sent to the floor, where he speared Harper through the barricade. Cena locked in the STF and Bray made it to the ropes. Wyatt busted Sister Abigail out for a great nearfall. Wyatt grabbed a steel chair and handed it to Cena calling for Cena to hit him with it. Then the most unbelievably corny and unintentionally hilarious spot of the night came when the referee began to yell “don’t do it John, that’s not who you are”. He then decided to hit Rowan with the chair and landed the AA for the win.

** 3/4 

 

There was a WWE2K14 commercial. There was a recap of the WWE Hall of Fame that in no way captured its wackiness of the occasion. The 2014 class was brought out with Ultimte Warrior getting his own entrance.

 

5. Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman

 

The druids’ music hit and there were 21 caskets on stage. Taker made it out in garb circa 2005 (only with many extra accoutrements obviously) and then set a casket with Lesnar’s name on alight with his magic powers. Undertaker unloaded with shots, but was caught with a belly to belly suplex. Undertaker went after Lesnar’s arm. Lesnar went for the F5 early, but was shoved into the turnbuckle. Lesnar went after the right leg and threw Taker around on the outside, which is likely the point where he suffered the concussion. Lesnar unloaded with some body shots in the ropes. Taker began him comeback with a running DDT. He followed with a chokseslam for two. Lesnar landed an F5 for two and very little reaction. Undertaker pulled Lesnar into the Hell’s Gate, but Lesnar powerbombed his way out, which could have been another candidate for the point of the concussion. Lesnar attempted to drag Taker back to the center of the ring, but was once again caught in the Hell’s Gate for another powerbomb. Lesnar locked in the Kimura with Taker going for the pin, but Undertaker counter into a kimura of his own. Lesnar made it to the ropes and landed shoulder blocks in the corner. Lesnar picked Undertaker out of the air into an F5 for two. Lesnar landed a couple of German suplexes. Meanwhile, Heyman was in the corner, screaming “You’re Brock Lesnar, you’re a conqueror”. Taker landed the last ride out of the punch spot in the corner. Undertaker landed the tombstone, but Lesnar kicked out at two – again the crowd barely reacted. Undertaker sat up and singled for another tombstone, but Lesnar countered into F5 FOR THE WIN! This left everyone in the building shocked. It left me shocked. It left my friend shocked. In fact I expected Hogan to come down to reverse the decision, but he never did.

***

 

6. Divas Title Vickie Invitational

 

EVERYONE WAS BAD!” Is what I originally wrote here after the Taker loss, which was pretty unfair. The Bellas landing a duel tope is the only spot I remember, but apparently AJ retained with an octopus hold.

*

 

Mene Gene was backstage with Hulk Hogan when Piper and Orndorf came by! Piper blamed Orndoff on the lost when Mr. T and Patterson came by and Hogan called for them to bury the hatchet. Mr. T and Piper shook hands.

 

7. WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Batista

 

Rev Theory performed Orton’s theme song – they were fine. Batista was hurricanrana’d to the floor. And backdropped on the steel steps. Bryan exchanged kicks and flying dropkicks on both men in the corner. Bryan had the yes lock on, but Hunter and Stephanie make it out with the referee down. Bryan kicked out of the powerbomb with a fast count from Armstrong. Bryan landed an upkick on Armstrong and a tope onto the referee, Stephanie and Hunter on the outside. Hunter got the sledge hammer, Bryan grabbed it and landed a shot on Hunter. He rolled up Batista, but Orton broke it up. Batista and Orton double teamed Bryan out on the floor. Batista landed a monitor shot and then took a Batista bomb into an RKO through an announce table. They then did the right thing and had Bryan stretchered out. Batista then went after Orton. Orton landed a draping DDT out on the outside. Bryan rolled off of the stretcher and began to crawl to the ring before being sent into the steps and rolled back into the ring. Bryan locked the yes lock in on Orton and then Batista. Batista countered an RKO, Orton leapfrogged a spear and Batista went straight into Bryan’s head. Orton landed an RKO on Batista for two, which legitimately felt like the finish. Daniel Bryan ran in with a knee on Orton, but was thrown off by Batista for another nearfall. Batista landed a Batista bomb, Orton rolled out to the floor, Batista was caught with the busaiku and Bryan locked the yes lock in for the win. Jubilation and general awesomeness ensued.

****

 

WWE Monday Night RAW April 7th 2014

New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

As has been the case over the past three years or so, the post-Mania edition of RAW was once again perhaps one of the best of the entire year. Not only that, but this show may have been, from a booking and creative standpoint, one of the best out of the entire catalog of RAWs from this season. Post-Mania RAWs in the past have largely been about rebelling against the status quo and the company’s direction. In some cases it spurred on strong change, as has been the case with Daniel Bryan the last couple of years, whilst other times, such was the case with Fandango, things died off pretty quickly. However, for the most part this show was different, as unlike with past crowds where they seemed to be working actively against the show, this time around the crowd were mostly working with it, and much of that credit needs to go to the WWE for booking a show that this unique annual crowd wanted to see. It didn’t have a Ziggler title win, as was the case last year, but they made up for it with strong placements for the Shield, Bryan, Paige, Cesaro, Heyman and Wade Barrett. It’s clear from the way that this show was booked that the company was fully aware that they were dealing with a very Euro-centric crowd, and so booked accordingly. I believe that last year’s crowd played a large part in facilitating such a shift, as from last year on, the WWE has built this post-Mania RAW as a marquee yearly event, as it should be. It was fun, it was incredibly eccentric and it was once again one of the most interesting, dynamic, memorable, genuinely humorous and well-executed RAWs that you will see this year.

 

They aired a similar Daniel Bryan video package to the night prior’s. Strangely, even with the emphasis taken completely off of pay-per-view business, they seem to still only be able to contractually obligated show still images of the major pay-per-view happenings such as Bryan winning the title. Bryan was brought out to open the show in-front of 15,000 chanting “yes” and “Daniel Bryan”. He opened with “you guys never get tired do ya?” No chants were their response. “You deserve it” chants followed and Bryan of course handed most of the credit over the fans, which brought Hunter and Stephanie out with Hunter selling his anger big – “a*****e” chants. He wouldn’t get in the ring, and so Bryan started “yes’ing” once more to the delight of the audience. Triple H booked himself in a match against Bryan, screaming, red faced abut how he would end everything and be champion by the end of the night.

 

Hunter & Stephanie were in the back asserting that they would have everyone choke on Bryan’s victory later on. Batista walked in, blaming Hunter’s loss on his failure to capture the title, Orton too came by, very upset. Trips stated that tonight was his night Stephanie delegated, and in the meanwhile booked Orton & Batista against the Usos for the tag titles. This planted the secondard seeds for the Evolution reunion. The Wyatts made it down with the fans clapping along to the music, which was, according to fans at the Superdome, the case on Sunday too, although was largely inaudible. The team of Cena, Big E. & Sheamus were their opponents. As expected Team Cena was heavily booed, which was pretty much a given coming in. After the break, during the heat ON CENA, the crowd was chanting “let’s go Harper”. These fans then began to sing “John Cena sucks” to the tune of his theme music! Of course as a result none of the big hot tags or heat segments worked in any traditional sense. Harper landed his tope and Wyatt did a long exorcist walk to “Bray is gonna kill you” chants before landing the Sister Abigail for the win on Big E – poor Big E. There was a crazy motivational “Turn impossible into I’m possible” Bo Dallas vignette.

 

Fandango came out in a peacock jacket to the most loudest Fandango’ing we’ve seen since last year’s post-Mania RAW. Santino and Emma were the opponents of Rae & Fandango in this mixed tag. Rae tapped out in minutes to the cattle mutilation. Brock Lesnar, with a black eye, made it out with Paul Heyman not necessarily to heavy boos, but to wide spread, slightly negative swinging, indifference. The news of Undertaker being taken to the hospital was brought up somewhat surprisingly. There were chants of “bull****”. Heyman called them idiots, and even read off of the t-shirt – “eat, sleep, break the streak”. Heyman then recounted a tale of Undertaker collapsing backstage, and told the factual component of Undertaker being accompanied to the hospital by Vince McMahon. Heyman too spoke of Taker’s severe concussion, although did embellish the story somewhat saying that Taker came very close to a broken neck. Heyman spoke of a somewhat true standing ovation at the “Superdome, not Silverdome” (big pop) – Taker was a loser, the fans and boys in the back were wannabes. The fans started their “what” gimmick, and Heyman began to patronize them, which killed them off pretty quick, said that there was only one Brock Lesnar and they walked off. A lot of people have called this an all-time-great promo, and whilst I agree that Heyman was fantastic here, and that this promo will be remembered for a very long time on the basis of it being the follow-up to the end of the streak – I don’t believe that it was the best work that Heyman has done even over the last couple of years. His magnum opus of promo work likely came, at least in my view, in his role during the CM Punk breakup. Still, the crowd work here was phenomenal, and Heyman’s ability to rehabilitate Lesnar using the streak was as good as you could have asked for.

 

There was an Adam Rose (Leo Kruger) vignette. Batista & Orton were down for their tag title match against the Usos. The fans chanted “you tapped out”, “Y2J”, “CM Punk” and “JBL”. Orton and Batista destroyed the Usos outside on the floor and lost via countout. Batista then landed a Batista bomb on the steel steps. The need for cohesion between Batista and Orton was important here, but in the process the Usos, as well as the tag division as a whole, came across as a joke. Rob Van Dam was brought out with no-fan-fare for a match with Sandow. Regardless, he got a very good reaction from this crowd. Van Dam killed poor Sandow with a legdrop on the barricade followed by a five star frog splash for the win. Bad News Barrett got a superstar reaction, perhaps the best of the night, for his match against Rey Mysterio – it’s likely that this reaction was due to the heavy European influence on the annual post-Mania RAW. Mysterio interrupted Barrett’s speech, which was heavily booed. Mysterio landed the 619, was baffled by the reaction and caught with the bull hammer for the win; everyone was so happy. They aired an Alexander Rusev vignette and another for Adam Rose, with him showing everyone around his party bus.

 

Lana was out to introduce Alexander Rusev – she got the “what” treatment. He was there to squash Ryder, who received little to no reaction, which I would perceive as a bad sign if I were him. If you are a former internet darling and aren’t cheered at the post-Mania RAW, I don’t know what to tell you. Rusev submitted Ryder with the camel clutch. There was a slightly distorted Hall of Fame recap, with one of the more comedic scenes being spliced footage from the Jake Roberts speech with the crowd manipulation segment of his speech being morphed into the glee that putting smiles on children’s faces brought him. Then came one of the most surreal things I have ever seen in pro-wrestling. You see, I watched this addition of RAW on Wednesday, on the day of the death of the Ultimate Warrior. So they brought Warrior down and he shook the ropes. The fans chanted his name, as he went to cut, what will likely be remembered as an all-time memorable promo due its context, one quoted earlier in the issue.

 

There was a by-the numbers style promo of all that goes into producing a WWE televised event (Mania in particular), which focused on the importance of the fans. AJ made it down with Tamina Snuka cutting a promo centered around her now 295 daylong title run. CM Punk chants followed, to which AJ said that she was the Diva’s division. This brought, the debuting, Paige out to a huge ovation and “Paige” chants. Paige said that she wanted to congratulate AJ. AJ responded mockingly. For whatever reason Paige was fitted tonight with an awkward, shy and unconfident gimmick. AJ wanted to put the title on the line and brought a referee out. Paige fought out of the octopus hold and landed a sloppy Paige turner for the win and what was arguably biggest pop for a Divas title change in the history of that title. I agree with the idea of bringing Paige out, in front of a Euro-centric crowd, the most hardcore crowd of the year. However, I don’t believe that having Paige play a debuting star with a confidence problem was the correct route, and they would have done a better job at making a star in Paige if they had here come out, challenge for the title, and defeat AJ. There was another Bo Dallas vignette. Hulk Hogan made it down to present the Andre the Giant statue to Cesaro, which was sitting on a podium making it close to Andre’s size. Cesaro was getting chants before even making it out and when he finally did make it out had the crowd singing the Real American’s theme music! Zeb attempted to take credit for the victory calling Cesaro a “Zeb Colter guy”. Cesaro then got on the mic saying that he wasn’t a Zeb Colter guy, he was a Paul Heyman guy, which got a phenomenal reaction. Heyman came down and called Cesaro the “King of Swing”. In came Jack Swagger attacking Cesaro from behind and breaking the Andre the Giant trophy as expected. After the break we joined a match between the two in progress. They had a pretty fun match until everyone’s favorite walkout finish with Cesaro clutching the remnants of Andre’s body in the ring and Swagger walking off.

 

Stephanie was standing by in the back with Kane and the Shield wanting them to assist Hunter in the main event. Ambrose mocked the New Age Outlaws, which led to Kane going on a tirade culminating in him admitting that Hunter was that originally commissioned his beat down on the Shield. Bryan was out for the main event when Orton & Batista walked out for a two on one beat down and had him take the Batista bomb. Just then Kane’s music hit and out he came and continued the beat down with a chokeslam. Hunter’s music hit and he mocked the yes chants. He got ready to end things when the Shield’s music it to “that was worth it” chants. The Shield mounted the apron, Hunter called for them to back down, they refused and in stepped Kane, Batista and Orton. Hunter attempted to take control of the situation when Reigns speared Hunter and Ambrose & Rollins took Batista & Orton out with topes and Kane with a superman punch. Hunter made it to his feet with four pairs of eyes transfixed on him with Bryan landing a busaiku knee to close off the show.

 

RAW Ratings April 7th 2014

 

Monday’s edition of RAW drew its best Mania rating since 2011 with a 3.69 rating and 5.14 million viewers. The main draw on Monday’s show, apart from Mania curiosity, was most probably the intrigue coming off of the end of the streak, as well as the Daniel Bryan title victory. The opening hour opened at far above average levels with 5.31 million viewers (2.445 million viewers and a 1.93 rating in the 18-49 demo), by comparison, last year’s post-Mania RAW opened with 4.49 million viewer, the second hour was down drawing a still better than average 5.09 million viewers (2.305 million viewers and a 1.82 rating in the 18-49 demo). There was a positive surprise in the third hour in that it fell just barely from the second, showing good viewer retention – 5.03 million viewers (2.381 million viewers and a 1.88 rating in the 18-49 demo) with a 10 minute over run. Last year’s final hour drew 4.56 million viewers. They were also going against a decent NCAA Basketball game – Kentucky vs. Conneticut, which drew 17.79 million viewers; the post-Mania RAW usually has to go up against a strong NCAA game. In an interesting note the Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar segment did the highest rating of the night – a 4.2 with 5.9 million viewers. This was the highest rated edition of the show since RAW 1000 on July 23rd 2012.

 

As always a big thanks goes to @StD_85 for the 18-49 data

 

WWE SmackDown – April 11th 2014.

Cajun Dome: Lafayette, LA.

Ben Carass.

 

An, “In memory of Warrior” graphic opened the show; Cole voiced over condolences to his family and said Raw would be dedicated to Warrior’s memory. John Cena hit the ring after the opening titles. He basically recapped WrestleMania and the following Raw then talked about all the new talent that was coming up. Cena then got all serious and played up his recent gimmick of being the old veteran that all the young talent had to go through and referred to himself as the “measuring stick” and the “standard bearer.” The Wyatt Family appeared on the screen. Harper told Cena to embrace his future; Bray ranted as always then said he couldn’t stop smiling about what he achieved at WrestleMania and declared he would have to achieve new “extremes” to bring the monster out of Cena. Bray stated that the party was far from over then began to sing, “He’s got the whole world…” – Cena doing his own PPV/TV report was completely wacky; talk about filling time. Bray was good as always. It was clear to me that Cena wasn’t losing at Mania, so let’s hope Bray gets his big win at Extreme Rules.

 

Cesaro w/Paul Heyman vs. Big Show

 

No entrance music for Cesaro, but Heyman introduced him as the “King of Swing” and put himself over as the greatest manger ever. Paul said when you were the advocate for the guy who broke the streak, you can pick anyone you want and he picked, “the next big thing, the King of Swing”. Heyman was also on commentary. Show backdropped Cesaro over the top from the apron; Cesaro held on and tried for a powerbomb but failed when Show sat on his chest. Cesaro sold forever until he finally applied a sleeper. Show did his comeback, however he missed an elbow from the second rope like a big goof and Cesaro went for the swing. Jack Swagger ran in and put Cesaro in the ankle-lock for the DQ. – Cesaro defeated Big Show via disqualification, at 6:56 (TV Time). Afterwards, Cesaro hit Show with some uppercuts then nailed him with the neutraliser. – The match went way too long for what it was and they took an unnecessary detour on the way to Cesaro hitting the neutraliser. Hopefully something bigger is planned for Cesaro than a series of matches with Swagger; that thing should be one and done on a Raw, however I suspect we’ll get it at Extreme Rules.

 

They showed all the headlines of Taker losing at Mania. I’ve been highly entertained with all the overblown reaction to the streak being broken, especially the laughable conspiracy theories about shoots and in-ring audibles. Its 2014 people! Bo Dallas’ “Bo-lieve” vignette was next; of all the guys in developmental…

 

Los Matadores w/El Torito vs. Curtis Axel & Ryback

 

Ryback planted Fernando with a powerslam and Rybaxel got the heat. Diego ran wild on Axel then Torito tried for a dive on Ryback but got caught. The Matadors saved their pet from being tossed into to crowd and Axel pinned Diego with the mindtrip facebuster. – Curtis Axel & Ryback defeated Los Matadores via pinfall, at 4:51. – Filler stuff; not much to it. What is the obsession with mixing two guy’s theme music together? It sounds horrendous.

 

Renee Young was with RVD backstage. Rob said the face of the company had changed since he had been gone then claimed the people had been missing his own face. He told Renee everything is cool when you’re RVD.

 

Rob Van Dam vs. Damien Sandow

 

Van Dam did his signature spots early, but he missed a moonsault off the apron and Sandow got the heat. Rob made a brief comeback and got the win with the five-star. – Rob Van Dam defeated Damien Sandow via pinfall, at 4:24. – This was longer than the squash on Raw, but was probably a worse match. No idea why we had to see it again either. I don’t have high hopes for RVD after the way they used him last time. Maybe they will use him to get people over, but he doesn’t really mean a whole lot at this point anyway. Sandow looked like a defeated man out there, you have to feel for him.

 

Hulk Hogan showed up for a promo. He yacked about being the host of WrestleMania and stated that the show became “Yes-tleMania.” Hogan introduced, “the champ” and Bryan hit the ring. He said this had been the greatest week of his life, as he won the world title at Mania and was getting married to the girl of his dreams. Bryan put over Hogan as, “the biggest superstar in the world” and declared that he was a huge Hulkamaniac. Bryan asked for “Real American” to be played and he encouraged Hogan to do his routine. Bryan joined in and they hit all of the Hulkster’s signature poses then both did the “Yes!” chant, which the people went nuts for. – Nice little segment, although it didn’t really achieve much. It probably did Hogan more favours being in the ring with the hottest act in the business than the other way around honestly.

 

Bad News Barrett vs. Kofi Kingston

 

Sadly, Barrett was not the superstar he was in front of the heavy European crowd on Raw. He got on the mic and told Kofi he had some bad news then nailed him with a cheap shot. Kofi came back with a crossbody from the top, but Barrett countered the trouble in paradise with his big elbow for the finish. – Bad News Barrett defeated Kofi Kingston via pinfall, at 2:43. – Another nothing affair; at least Barrett is back working matches again, although I doubt he will mean as much as he did on Monday night for quite some time.

 

Fandango w/Layla (!) vs. Santino w/Emma.

 

So Fandango and Summer Rae broke up on TWITTER! They couldn’t even shoot a short backstage angle or something? Layla snatched Santino’s cobra and Fandango won with a roll-up. – Fandango defeated Santino via pinfall, at 1:29. – Fandango could be doomed without the vessel of charisma that is Summer Rae; Layla may be a real dancer, but boy is her character dull. This could mean a singles push for Summer Rae or even more terrifyingly, being paired up with her Total Divas pal Eva Marie.

 

At ringside, Cole and JBL talked about Paige becoming the new Diva’s champ and they showed a brief video package on her then rolled the footage of her win over AJ. There were clips of all the Diva’s congratulating an emotional Paige afterwards and she said it was the greatest moment of her life. The Adam Rose vignette rolled. For me, they missed a good opportunity by not having him debut on Raw; the people would have gone insane, although I guess they didn’t want another debut on that show. Up next was the main event angle from Raw then they aired the promo from the Shield on Main Event after they had beaten the Wyatts. Kane, Orton and Batista were in the office; they bickered about which one of them got to take out Bryan In the upcoming six-man. Kane told them they all answered to a higher authority and walked off; Orton and Dave agreed that they didn’t answer to anybody.

 

Daniel Bryan (WWE World Heavyweight Champion) & The Usos (Tag Team Champions) vs. Kane, Batista & Randy Orton.

 

During the Uso’s, “Us–O” bit they used a shot of the crowd from Raw, it was easy to notice because of the girl wearing glasses that looked on with abject apathy. They couldn’t use a different crowd shot? Jimmy had his ribs taped up after taking the bump on the steps on Raw and the heels worked him over for the heat. Kane, Orton and Dave all took turns at going after the ribs; Kane used his sidewalk slam and Orton landed a powerslam. Jimmy hit Orton with a Samoan drop for the transition and Bryan ran wild on Kane off the hot tag. Bryan caught Kane with a tope then the Usos landed a double plancha on Dave and Orton. A brawl started on the outside and the ref called for the bell. – Daniel Bryan & the Usos fought Kane, Batista & Randy Orton to a double count-out, in 8:19 (TV Time). The babyfaces were sent into the ring posts and the barricade then in the ring, Dave and Orton laid out the Usos with their finishes. Kane tried to chokeslam Bryan through the announce table, however the Shield ran down to make the save and they stomped down Kane. The Shield jumped in the ring, so Big Dave and Orton ran away. Kane tried to sneak up on the Shield with a chair, but Bryan drilled him with the busaiku knee and the Shield planted Kane with the triple powerbomb. Bryan and the Shield stood tall in the ring as the show closed. – Not much of a main event really; heels got the heat forever, Bryan made a comeback then everybody got counted out. We’ll probably get a rematch on Raw. The post-match angle was good and with the Shield coming out to save Bryan, we must be getting those four vs. Evolution & Kane at some point.

 

After such an historic week, this SmackDown definitely had a throbbing case of WrestleMania hangover. It’s a shame that not many of the hardcores stayed for this show, as they would have no doubt added a lot of entertainment to proceedings. None of the matches were particularly stellar and the only real angle that meant anything was after the main event. It will be interesting to see which direction they take on Raw, will they split Bryan off with Orton or Batista and have the Shield go with Triple H, Kane and whoever is left over? Since they can do what they want in terms of PPVs now, there is absolutely no reason why they can’t have a big eight-man at Extreme Rules. There has been a lot of talk about doing War Games, which I would be all for, however it is not a Vince McMahon creation so the chances of that are slim. Also tickets have already been sold for arenas configured for the normal one ring set up, although my view on that is do you really want two 20×20 rings set up next to each other? There have been tons of War Games done in one ring, granted most have been on the indies or in TNA and have never been done correctly, but ROH showed just last year that a one ring set up can be just fine if the match is done correctly.

 

Bits & Pieces

 

New Japan Pro-Wrestling April 2nd 2014 Road to Invasion Attack 2014

Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

 

Being an avid consumer of most of the shows that New Japan tends to put out, and with the amount of wrestling available during WrestleMania weekend, I found the idea of watching the entire undercard of the April 2nd Wataru Inoue retirement show redundant; especially seeing as how all of the matches not covered in the below report would have followed a similar match layout, and hence review style, as countless shows that we’ve looked at over the past few months. Unless you are a fan of Japanese retirement shows – and let’s be honest who isn’t – the only must see match on this was was the main event.

 

The show opened with some sappy Japanese boy band video recapping Inoue’s career along with inter-spliced interviews from Inoue reminiscing. He seemed relatively content. It was long and well produced, but certainly not as engaging for a non-Japanese speaker. The show officially started with Inoue coming down to address the crowd. The first match that I saw was the second, with KUSHIDA & BUSHI battling against Taguchi & Desperado. There were some fun mat exchanges early between Desperado and KUSHIDA. BUSHI and Taguchi exchanged some strong slaps and Desperado landed one of his killer missile tope con giros on KUSHIDA into the crowd. Taguchi at this point is completely emulating Eddy Guerrero, not only with his tights, but also doing the Viva La Raza taunt. Taguchi pinned BUSHI with a chikenwing facebuster on BUSHI following a nearfall exchange (*** ¼).

 

Okada, Nakamura, YOSHI-HASHI, Tomohiro Ishii & Yujiro Takahashi worked opposite Naito, TenCozy, Nakanishi and Makabe. A fun fiery opening exchange broke down to mundane, overdone brawling out on the floor. Nakamura, Ishii and Okada brought back one of my favourite spots from 2012 – the arm over shoulder kick of CHAOS brotherly love! Naito and Ishii were incredible together, as if the case every single time. Makabe pinned HASHI with a King Kong knee – (*** ½). The main event was, what on paper, sounds like a classic, and whilst it was great in reality, a classic it was not. The match was Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomoaki Honma versus Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata. Tanahashi and Shibata started the match off slow working some holds, not giving away all too much until Shibata landed a slap and stiff kick to the back of Tanahahashi, which brought Honma in. Honma refused to let go of Shibata’s leg, and so Shibata responded with a barrage of stiff slaps. Honma landed a spear leading to a ground and bound battle! Honma tagged Tanahashi in, who ran wild until he was murdered by Shibata in the corner. Shibata worked over Tanahashi’s arm. Team Tanahashi transitioned into a double Fujiwara armbar at some point. There was a big elbow battle, culminating in a PK attempt from Shibata that was countered into a slingblade by Tanahashi. Shibata and Goto grabbed duel submissions of their own. Honma ran wild with spears and of course missed his headbutt on Goto. He ended up kicking out of Goto’s PK and a lariat for another nearfall. Goto then dropped Honma into a Shibata GTS and landed the Shouten Kai for the win – (****).

 

It was then time for the main Inoue retirement, as pictures were shown of him as a trainee and later footage of him working in the NJPW office. What followed was a tremendous music video showing some of the pivotal moments of his career. Inoue was in the ring looking fabulous in a black and red suit – accepting commemorative photos from Kidaani and others. Tanahashi came out crying handing Inoue flowers, as did, Naito, Makabe, BUSHI, Kojima, KUSHIDA, Tenzan, Taguchi, Tiger Mask, Nakanishi, Goto, Captain New Japan, Desperado, Honma, Super Strong Machine, Yuji Nagata who was very tearful, Nogami, Sekiguchi and Hamaguchi who got a big pop and went nuts when he grabbed the mic and cut an exuberant promo. He ordered this crowd to stand, and boy did they oblige – the mic was then politely past over to poor Inoue who had to follow quite the amazing showing from Mr. Hamaguchi. The twenty or so people who made it out to hand Inoue flowers then flooded the ring for a group photo-op and proceeded to throw Inoue high into the air in a celebratory manner. Tenzan also sneaked in a Mongolian chop and Tanahashi engaged in a brief tie-up. It was then time for the bell salute, streamers and “Wataru” chants – unfortunately no light staring was possible in a venue like Korakuen.

 

Next Week’s Issue

 

I originally planned to cover the many business happenings of the week in this issue, primarily Jarrett’s announcement of Global Force Wrestling, the Network numbers, and New Japan’s attendance figures, but this week’s issue is so big that we ran out of space – we will hopefully be looking at all of that, as well as the post-Mania direction and Jackson/Ibushi next week.

 

Contact

 

Subscribe Via Email Here:http://www.cubedcirclewrestling.com/subscribe-via-email

Subscriptions: Subscriptions@cubedcirclewrestling.com

General/Questions/Feedback/Advertising/Writing: Ryan@cubedcirclewrestling.com

Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/CubedCircleNewsletter

Ben Carass’s Twitter: @BenDosCarass

Bryan Rose’ Twitter: @br26

Ryan Clingman’s Twitter : @RyanClingman

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.