Monday, July 29, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 07/29/02

Kind of an offbeat night, but a fun offbeat night all the same. I was tickled pink to see the cleverly named "UnAmericans" making the jump to Monday night, as that means more Storm and Christian for me, but I'm worried about the repercussions. Here's hoping I don't lose my Eddy or Chris fix to those savages over on the Smackdown council, though one or the other seems almost inevitable. Despite their contrived name and almost universal label as midcarders, these Canadian troops were booked as a more threatening stable than even the mighty nWo last night. And, if they hadn't blown their most vital spot of the night, it would've gone off without a flaw. The promo to open the night, the cohesiveness of the team, it was almost picturesque... and then Test picked up the Undertaker for that Con-Chair-To. Man... if you listened closely, you could almost hear the sound of their heat suffocating. I guess we all learned an important lesson last night, though; if, god forbid, you screw up a big spot, don't make it even worse by looking around with a bewildered expression on your face. Do it again, and double the ferocity.

So yeah, I'm really happy with the direction they've taken as far as booking the Canadians. Here's hoping they didn't kill their own chances already.

Benoit vs. RVD... well, what do I need to say that hasn't been said before. A very nice match, with the Crippler teaching some brutal lessons in psychology. How sick was that hammerlock suplex, especially when Van Dam left the arm back there after landing. Looked like he dislocated his shoulder, even though deep down I knew he hadn't. Of course, it's a pity the Hardcore one landed his Rolling Thunder directly on that same shoulder without a flinch, but... how much can you really ask for? Great match, with the right man going over. This will be a stellar, stellar PPV rematch.

Finally, the main event that almost defies description. It's like they tried to mimic the feeling we got with Hogan / Rock at X-8, only in about a quarter of the time. Flair looked useless at the finish, laying out the great one, dancing, and then staring like a deer into headlights as the Rock Bottom put him down. Add to that the memorably fickle crowd, and you've got a match that just... feels.... weird. One minute, they'd be booing Rocky as though he'd just eaten an infant, the next they'd be chanting his name. I guess that's why they're always so careful to flesh out face vs. face matchups, and don't usually throw them onto the card at the last minute.

RAW is Jericho? I've heard it somewhere before, but I'm just as excited as before. Great to see he didn't miss the boat with the UnAmericans. Y2J vs. Ric Flair? I've been waiting five years for this, and it's not in any position to disappoint.

Oh, and my call for the HBK thing..? It's leading to a tag match at Summerslam. I'll expand with a feature length column later in the week.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7.85

Monday, July 22, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 07/22/02

Hands down, best RAW I've seen in months. It was far from flawless, but went far enough as to remind me why I still sit down in front of the tube every Monday night, like some sort of wacked out religion. Coming off last week, when he didn't really convince me with his on-air personality, Eric Bischoff really let it all hang out and proved he's still got something worth watching in him. With a little direction, as he had last night, and the appearance that he actually believes every sleazy, self-centered thing he says, Bischoff's already one of the top heels in the federation. I love the storyline he's right in the middle of, re-enacting the wars that brought him fame and stealing all of Stephanie's talent, and he's brought a much-needed break from the unending image of Vince McMahon that clouded the last month of TV time. So far, Bisch gets a big thumbs up from me. If he can keep it up, he'll be one of their most successful signings.

The RVD / Jeff Hardy spot-a-thon was the absolute epitomy of a RAW match. Sure, it was spotty, risky and almost scary to watch. Sure, it lacked the emotional element that seeped out of Jeff's recent match with the Undertaker. I wasn't sitting on the edge of my seat from start to finish, wasn't biting my nails every time one of the guys got close enough to touch the belts. It was still fun as hell to watch. Nothing they did, with the exception of the ladder duel, seemed postured in the slightest bit. It just felt like two guys, on national television, kicking the snot out of each other with unique, bizarre maneuvers. Even the anticlimactic finish was a breath of fresh air. In a culture that's been raised on the belief that a match cannot and will not end unless immediately preceded by a signature maneuver, it was cool to see RVD hit a splash, scurry up the ladder and grab the belt before the camera even really had a chance to catch up with him. The definition of a spotfest, and not something I'll remember a year from now, but a load of fun all the same.

I couldn't help thinking Eddy's match with the Rock was some sort of attempt to make up for his feud-that-never-was with Stone Cold, even though that was likely far from the truth. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling. Alas; Guerrero will never be get the chance to work his magic with Maivia, as Rocky will be headed out of the fed not long after his match at Summerslam. Still, it was cool to see what could have been last night. The promo work was a little below what I'd hoped for, (come on, now we're feuding over posters on our daughter's walls?) but the match was everything I'd expect from a RAW. And yeah, like Justin said, that reversal of the Rock bottom was outta sight! I actually thought he might squeak out a victory with that, but it wasn't to be. Still, the match went quite a ways toward establishing Guerrero in the ring, as Rocky didn't dare try the Rock Bottom again. Now, if only he had a prime time face to take down, solidifying himself at the top of the card...

I like what I'm seeing. I want more.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8.5

Saturday, July 20, 2002

The World's Greatest WWE Vengeance 2002 Preview

I don't think there's ever been a time when that old 'anything can happen' adage the McMahon clan loves has ever been more appropriate. It's been one big bombshell after another over the course of the last six months, and unfortunately enough, just about every one of them has resulted in more of a fizzle and less of a blast. Actually, rather than dropping bombshells, the WWE's warplanes may as well have been throwing cooked geese... because with the kind of thought put into them, these birds were cooked even before they really had a chance to hit the ground. Still, hype is the one thing we haven't been without all this time, and with just one monster move, this PPV is already overflowing with it. Eric Bischoff a WWE employee? Brock Lesnar in next month's main event? A refreshing youth movement? There remain quite a few new question marks, and I'm willing to bet at least one of them has what it takes to become an exclamation.

Bradshaw vs. Johnny The Bull
(possible) Hardcore Title Match

Bradshaw is overweight, his style is sloppy, his gimmick's going nowhere fast, and he's worthless in front of the mic. He shouldn't be rewarded with any kind of gold. Then again, I guess he's not main eventing too many RAWs these days, so thank god for small miracles, right? His opponent, Mr. The Bull, well... he has a lot of potential. Then again, he had just as much potential back in WCW, but he spent 90% of his time in the ring clutching various parts of his body as the announcers took bets on how long he'd be out this time. The guy's got talent, but he's injured more often than Kevin Nash.

If he can stay healthy, I'm confident he might be able to piss Bradshaw off enough to force a watchable match out of the Texan homogay. And, so long as he remains on his feet, he should have a good shot at the gold. I'll pick the rookie, just for the hell of it.
Winner: Johnny The Bull

Booker T vs. Big Show
No Disqualification, No Count-out

There isn't a reason in the world for Booker to job Sunday night. He needs to go over, and he needs to go over strong as an ox. Throw in a spinaroonie, and he's gold. Certainly, Show needs to get in his share of offense to keep things interesting and to keep the finish hot, but for god's sake.. give the man the push he's been screaming for over the last three months.

The match'll be ugly, and if they're smart, they'll keep it to inventive junk brawling. Maybe a heel kick with a trash can lid in Show's face. Maybe a chokeslam off a balcony or something. Hell, why not bring back the HARLEM FRIGGIN' HANGOVER? Just give the T a victory.
winner: Booker T

Kidman vs. Jamie Noble
(possible) cruiserweight title Match

Kidman's new look reeks. So does his new theme music. But the worker hasn't quite taken that sail down shit creek just yet, so I'm not worrying. Noble and Tajiri have been doing good things together, establishing identifiable heels in the cruiserweight division and giving us a reason to care about the matches. And, I've still got a little faith in the bookers' ability to open up their eyes and stretch out the match lengths for these guys. Given a little time, one or two new names (Rey's a start, let's not watch things fizzle out from there) and one big angle, this thing's about ready to blow wide open.

These guys weren't exactly the most marketable remnants of the WCW guard, but they were two of the most proficient in the ring, so we've got a good chance of seeing a barn burner here. It's a tough one to call, since there's likely another month before Rey will be ready to contend for the title, but I'm gonna side up with Dave here. Noble retains, he's got more direction.
Winner: The 'Former Jung Dragon' Jamie Noble

Rob Van Dam vs. Brock Lesnar
Intercontinental Championship

If Lesnar is to be taken as a serious threat next month, he's gonna have to pick up some wins on his own. As of right now he's regarded as a guy who's huge, has a convincing moveset, and stands directly in the middle of one of the longest lucky streaks in WWE history. He's beaten some rather large names, but almost every one of those V's has been thanks to Heyman interference. It's no way to climb your way to the top, and it won't be long before the casual fan realizes that Brock's not really winning his matches.

While I don't see Brock Lesnar as the savior of the WWE, I do see him as an important part of its future. He's been marketed right, the audience still believes he's got more than a fair chance at winning it all next month, and he's very believable as the monstrous killing machine. They're easing him into a vocal role, showing he's not afraid to talk when he has to, but that he chooses his moments. He's got a big finisher, though he has problems making it look convincing on everyone. In short, he's the best bet the WWE's got in the post-Austin era.

He and RVD had an entertaining match on RAW several weeks back, and if nothing else it proved to me that this one's got potential to be something big. Van Dam's done a lot to come out of his shell as the 'ECW spot machine' in my eyes, and stands ready to step up his game to an even higher platform whenever the chance arises. He and Brock could really surprise us at Vengeance, and given the importance of their match, I'd say we'll more than likely be impressed. This is the future, folks, love it or leave it...
Winner: Brock Lesnar

Bubba & Spike Dudley vs. Chris Benoit & Eddie Guerrero
Tag Team Table Match

I don't have that major a problem with Benoit and Guerrero teaming up. The main event scene is occupied for the next couple months, with Lesnar likely receiving or granting a rematch after Summerslam, depending on the results of that big main event. Benoit needs time to ramp his game back up again, and Guerrero just watched a huge program with Steve Austin go out the window. Don't tell me either of them would be doing anything else Sunday night, if the Dudleys weren't in such limbo.

So long as Benoit doesn't do something stupid like a headbutt from the turnbuckle through a table outside the ring, this will be a lot of fun. Bubba and the Crippler have been working relatively smoothly together lately, and Spike's been filling the role of cannon fodder to perfection. I guess he has had a lot of practice. And Guerrero's no slug. Let's step back and look at this. The tag scene needs fleshing out. Benoit needs to re-establish himself. Guerrero needs to keep himself fresh in fans' minds. The Dudleys are... well, the Dudleys. They're a tag team at heart. In another couple months the Wolverine will be on his own again. Let's just enjoy this while it's here.
Winners: Benoit and Guerrero

Hollywood Hulk Hogan & Edge vs. Christian & Lance Storm
Tag Team Championship

I'm really counting the minutes until Jericho joins up with these guys and makes the stable legitimate. I love Storm, but he's nothing to the common fan, and without a big name leading them, this stable's going nowhere. Here's hoping he establishes such a role Sunday night, where it would probably make the most sense.

Hogan's keeping his distance from the main event, so I'm happy. He's working the same angle with Edge that he did with Savage and the Warrior before, so there's only one way this will really turn out, and Dave called it up above. But yeah, it's way too early for that right now, and Edge needs to settle things with Y2J before he can occupy himself with the orange goblin. Team Canada brings home some gold, with a little help.
Winners: Lance Storm and Christian

The Rock vs. Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker
WWE Undisputed Championship

I'd actually be surprised to see the Rock carrying the title at any point over the next six months. He's gonna be gone again so quickly, it would be something of a waste to put it on him for a total of one month, not to mention how it would cut down the current main event scene... wait. Maybe that's not such a bad thing after all.

Rock n' Brock at the Slam has big time appeal, but I can't shake the notion that the Undertaker's gonna hold onto his title one more month and turn face on us. Spinner's right, he's been bafflingly entertaining over the course of the last month, and though a match with Lesnar has me doubting, I wouldn't mind seeing the Deadman with gold around his waist just a little bit longer.

With that said, next month's event notwithstanding, I think nobody's working anywhere near the level of Kurt Angle right now. The man's been on such a roll of late, it's a thing of beauty. For probably the first time in his career, I really buy him as a main event level heel. He doesn't feel so goofy, he doesn't feel like he doesn't belong. He feels like he's got his priorities set in order, and he's really serious about taking the company by storm. Too bad a match with Lesnar won't draw for another six months. Wrestlemania, here we come...
Winner: The Undertaker


The WWE shouldn't be yelling at us to give them a chance, they should be forcing us to reevaluate our feelings about them. We shouldn't have to search for our favorite part of the current product, we should have to pick and choose from the many.

While I remain fairly optimistic, the truth of the matter is things have been better, and they will be better in the future. They're flailing out there, but it's only a matter of time before they realize what they're doing wrong, come up with a direct plan of attack, and start acting like the WWF we've always known. Not the pale WCW impersonation they've become.

Things are starting to get interesting again, here's hoping they don't drop everything and start over again if they don't receive immediate results.
until next time, i remain

Monday, July 15, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 07/15/02

If I had a nickel for every time over the last twelve months I've seen something I never, ever thought I'd see, I'd.... well, I'd have a lot of nickels. Approxomately $1.25 US, give or take a few. From Ric Flair staring face to face with Vince McMahon to the "invasion" of the nWo to the events of this past evening, 2002 hasn't been a year devoid of shock value. However, as one big "can't miss" angle after another falls by the wayside, I can't help but wonder if the creative team is really thinking things through. The nWo injection could've been huge, if they'd thought things through beyond WrestleMania. Shawn Michaels alone could've held my interest for six months with just a little bit of direction. And now we've got probably the biggest surprise of them all; Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff. Embracing on the RAW runway, before Vince hands the show over to him... glancing, like a concerned parent, over his shoulder one last time. Talk about an image that's going to stay with you.
And, I cannot lie, I couldn't sit still for that entire commercial break after Booker put my own thoughts into words; "Tell me I didn't just see that." They had me, hook, line and sinker. I just couldn't wait the three minutes to see where they were going to take this. And when Eric spoke, I listened. At least, for the first ten minutes I did. But while Eric meandered along, reintroducing himself again and revisiting old victories, my mind began to wander. I wondered where this put Chris Jericho, who'd stuck it to the Bisch only minutes after winning the WCW World Title, who left the company almost solely to escape this old tyrant. I wondered what impact, if any, this had on Steve Austin's decision to walk out. I wondered if I'd ever see Mick Foley again. I wondered what Ric Flair was thinking. I thought of every wrestler Bischoff had ever burned bridges with, and I wondered... where does this take the locker room morale?

It wasn't until after the show that I realized it; Bischoff isn't here to single handedly run the company. He won't be writing, and for good reason. Easy E was a one trick pony, and Vince has already tried that trick on his own turf. It failed. Eric won't be hiring or firing talent, running WWE into the ground the way he did WCW. He'll just be on-screen, livening things up and playing the role he fits to perfection; somebody for the crowd to direct their "asshole" chants towards. Bischoff is the ultimate slimeball, the one man every WWE fan should hate with a passion, the ultimate embodiment of evil in that world. Then again, he's also their savior. Without Eric Bischoff, I'm willing to bet Vince McMahon's enterprise wouldn't be nearly the monster it is today. Names like Mysterio, Guerrero, Austin, Benoit, Foley, Jericho, Raven... we wouldn't even know them, if Bischoff hadn't put them in a position to be plucked by McMahon. If he hadn't given them air time to develop into what they are today. If he hadn't scorned them to the point that they'd put their own lives on the line to drive him out of business. If he hadn't given Vince competition.
So, yeah, I'm all for this new turn of events, at least for the moment. Let's just hope they know where they want to take this.

The rest of the show was very solid, a certain improvement over last week, with Tommy Dreamer and Stevie Richards really stealing the show. A wild series of false finishes, a hot crowd, an insane bladejob, and perhaps the most realistic finish I've seen in months. Dreamer, over the course of the last two weeks, has become an undeniable hero. Let's just hope they've noticed.
Thank you sir, can I have another?

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7.5

Friday, July 12, 2002

The Greatest Individual Performances in Wrestling History

The Maverick: I never thought I'd see the day. Back in the Oratory's cataclysmal of days antiquated, when I was no more than a youthful reader, and DRQ was the guy scribing the very best columns this side of professional journalism, I literally dreamed of partaking in a joint column with the man you know as DRQ. And now I'm here, and what a letdown it is : ) . Only joking llama man, it's a pleasure, I am humbled by your odour presence. Today DRQ, tomorrow John C, the day after tomorrow the WORLD!!!

Hysterics aside, the premise of this column came to me the very same night as I conjured up the ideas of The Best of WCW, Pulp Fiction and The Seven Deadly Sins of WCW, where I had an ejaculation of ideas (if you will). So what exactly is this joint column about? Apart from usual Oratory-fest of llama jokes and cheap plugs to previous columns, you are gathered here today to thumb over DRQ and my own opinions on The Greatest Individual Performances in Wrestling. The list your about to read is in no particular order, with my partner in crime mulling over five performances, and me doing exactly the same. Sounds like fun, eh? The stage is yours, monkey bumper!

drq: My odour presence? Does it really smell that bad...? As my longtime fellow orator mentioned above, we've gathered here today to shine our own bizarrely colored spotlight on what we consider to be the five greatest individual performances in wrestling history. What follows is not exactly what I'd call a surprising list; instead a thorough one, provoking you to realize just why everybody did like that Mankind character so much, and why Shawn Michaels still stands out amongst the throngs of long, blonde haired wrestlers in the WWF.

No matter the era, pro wrestling has always been dominated by the individual. While tag team wrestling most certainly has its own spot in the scheme of things, the real draw, the money maker, is that Men's World Title match. Thus, an athlete is almost completely free to carve his own niche in the scheme of things. Whether he soars or whether he falls is almost completely in his own hands. Listed below are athletes who did more than just soar; they shone head and shoulders above the rest.

Shawn Michaels versus Sid @ The Survivor Series 1996

The Maverick: There's a difference, you know, between great individual performances and great carryjobs. But as you'll see the pattern emerging as this column elapses, there is an overbearing link between the two. Anyway, when you're talking about carryjobs, how can you not mention Shawn Michaels, and specifically this match? Sid, by his own recognition, is void of actual wrestling talent, skill and understanding, and admits himself he lives and dies in the wrestling ring by two assets: his charisma and his psychosis. But he is nothing, absolutely zilch without an opponent willing to sell his crappy offence, and carry the match to keep it from being as apathetic and sluggish as most Sid matches usually are.

In this case back at the 1996 Survivor Series Shawn Michaels makes Sid look a million dollars, all the while carrying the match to make it the highlight of Sid's career (I know that's not saying much) and if only for a while, made Sid look worthy of the faith the WWF showed in him (as he was crowned WWF Champion that night). And while Sid plays off Shawn's performance, pulling his preverbal socks up as to not look completely out of place, make no mistake about it, this is Shawn's show. The "Heart Break Kid" pulls off one of the greatest individual performances ever, and does the unthinkable, carries Psycho Sid to produce a great entertaining match.

Shawn Michaels versus Steve Austin @ Wrestlemania XIV

drq: Without question, one of the most important matches in history, on the largest stage in the world. With the recent loss of Bret Hart to the competition, an overwhelming sense of impending doom in the locker room, a career-ending injury suffered by the current World Champion, and a long string of losses in the Monday night wars hanging over the WWF's head, there seemed only one real option. They needed a new top star, and they needed one fast. Fortunately enough, Steve Austin was riding an unfathomable wave of popularity going into the year's biggest event. With fans ready to accept him in the main event and the idea of "striking while the iron's hot" certainly at the front of the bookers' minds, only one major hurtle remained; Michaels himself.

Without question one of the greatest performers in the history of the business, the Heart Break Kid was also infamous for his poor backstage attitude and unprofessional disposition when it came to doing the job for competition. Only one year before, Michaels (possibly the biggest name in the federation) had been forced to sit out of Wrestlemania for those very reasons. As luck would have it, however, any and all worries were quickly forgotten as HBK not only laid down for the Rattlesnake, but did so in a manner which would cement Austin's slot in the main event for the rest of his career. Shawn didn't pout, do the deed and stalk to the back. He knew this was possibly his final match on the big stage, and decided to do the right thing in the WWF's hour of need. Though he was clearly suffering from the very outset, Shawn swallowed both his pride and his pain for the good of the company. Despite the years of trouble he'd given the federation, what he gave with his final ounce of effort more than evened the score.

Ric Flair @ The Royal Rumble 1992

The Maverick: You can't have a list of greatest individual performances without mentioning this man, the man. Ric Flair has had a handful of majestic performances throughout his established career which has spanned decades, but perhaps the greatest (and most obvious) is his showing in the yet unparalleled Royal Rumble of 1992. Credit to Vince McMahon (or whoever was booking at the time), that they allowed the '92 Rumble to be Flair's show, and without doubt this really was Flair's show. The "Nature Boy" drew number three and some sixty minutes later after disposing of The British Bulldog, Kerry Von Erich, The Big Bossman and Sid Justice along the way, Ric Flair was declared winner and in turn WWF Champion. His best WWF performance, and maybe the best performance of his career, and when you're Ric Flair, that's saying a hell of a lot.

Mick Foley versus The Undertaker @ the 1998 King of the Ring

drq: Just how far would you go to capture your lifelong dream? Would you risk the use of one of your limbs for a grasp at something you've always imagined calling your own? Would you do something both mentally and physically tortuous? On that spring night in Pittsburgh, 1998, we found out just how far Mick Foley was willing to go for his dream; a shot at the top in the WWF. And, in one short instant, we saw the true definition of the phrase "WWF Desire," long before Creed's music was gracing the McMahon airwaves.

There's no doubt this match is among the most overrated of all time. Without those fleeting, brutal spots, this encounter was truly forgettable. But from the moment the Undertaker takes hold of those brown sweatpants and begins to lean, your heart begins to race. You know it's coming, and no matter how many times you've seen the replay on RAW or any other program remotely associated with WWF television, a shiver runs down your spine as JR shouts "He's been broken in half!" In a few short minutes, Mick Foley captured his own dreams and helped launch the WWF to a high it's only now coming down from. He became a legend in just one night, through what's undoubtedly one of the most memorable individual efforts of all time.

Shawn Michaels versus Kevin Nash @ Good Friends, Better Enemies

The Maverick: Shawn Michaels makes the list, and not for the last time. These two had already produced a fine display at WrestleMania XI, in a match that even amassed the PWI's 'Match of the Year' docket, but this match, and (more specifically to this column) this performance vastly surpasses their previous outing. This was just before Nash was due to depart from the WWF, and with a ton of help from his buddy (off-screen at least) Shawn Michaels, used his last PPV match to showcase his talents to the wrestling world before signing with WCW.

Shawn did all you could ask of your best friend, he took a stiff pounding with nasty forearms and brutal punches, took two stubborn chair shots and to top it off got powerbombed through the announcers desk. And do you know how Kevin Nash repaid him? With a little more brutality and stiffness, just for fun. Savage match, in which Shawn bumps like a clown in a mental home, destroying his body for our entertainment. One of the best carryjobs in wrestling history, and one of the most dynamic awe inspiring performances ever.

Jumbo Tsuruta versus Mitsuharu Misawa on June 8th, 1990

drq: In the dictionary of wrestling terminology, the phrase "to put over" would be accompanied by a still from this match. A former Olympian, Tsuruta was possibly the biggest name in all of Japan at this point, though his star was slowly fading. Opposing him, Mitsuharu Misawa had just begun a fiery rush for the sky, shedding his old skin as Tiger Mask II and quickly evolving into the complete package he is today. Misawa's improvement hadn't gone unnoticed by the bookers, and by the time the 6/8/90 match was arranged, it was clear that he would be their "chosen son" for the next generation. Certainly, this must have been a bitter pill for Tsuruta to swallow, especially when you consider the number of great matches he still left in his aging body.

But instead of hanging his head and jeopardising the career of a relatively unestablished youngster because of his own worries, Tsuruta took the challenge presented by Misawa and met it head on. He took just as much as he gave, and when the dust had settled Misawa had not only won the match. He'd hung with the biggest star in the nation from beginning to end, earning the victory without a shadow of doubt. Jumbo had gone out of his way to make sure this wasn't seen as a fluke, and the success of his effort was never so apparent as it was throughout the rematch three months later. Fans were no longer questioning Misawa as a main eventer, they were rocking and rolling with every exchange. On June seventh, Mitsuharu Misawa was just a new name with potential. On June ninth, he was the man destined to carry Japanese wrestling into the next century.. and Jumbo Tsuruta deserves much of the credit.

Triple H versus The Rock @ Judgement Day 2000

The Maverick: I've already talked about this particular bout when discussing Triple H's Top Ten Greatest Matches, where I (rightly or wrongly) placed it at number four. While it may not be Hunter's best match in my eyes, it is without doubt his best performance, and one of the greatest individual efforts of all time. Part of Hunter's fantastic five PPV matches of 2000 (v. Cactus x2, v. Jericho, v. Benoit), Triple H versus The Rock in this 60-Minute Iron Man Match was the surprise hit of the year, as there was a deep sense of foreboding within the internet community prior to the match. Nobody I knew thought this would be a good match.

As corny as it may sound, it wasn't a good match; it was a great match. The WWF took a huge chance on these two, as in an era where attention spans were at a minimum and actual wrestling was secondary to entertainment, The Rock and Triple H captured the fans' imagination for all of sixty minutes and produced an excellent entertaining matchup. While The Rock deserves credit, as he pulled off the greatest performance of his career, Triple H is the reason why the chance paid off so well. Hunter pulls out all the stops, debuting new moves and innovative spots and using some great psychology to keep the fans interested. An important contest in wrestling history, as these two proved fans are still interested in wrestling matches, and lengthy wrestling matches at that, under the right circumstances and correct application.

Ric Flair at any point in 1989

drq: Talk about your landmark years. When Ric Flair walked in to 1989, he was already at the top of the world. He'd successfully defended his World Title against up-and-coming Lex Luger at the biggest PPV of the year, he'd claimed his spot at the head of the booking department, and his biggest political threat, Dusty Rhodes, was WWF-bound. From the outside looking in, it must have seemed as though Flair had peaked. But, as the old adage has it, looks can be deceiving. Not only did the booker-man top his previous year's worth of achievements, he set the bar to such a height that it seems almost unreachable, even today. A listing of his feuds in the last year of the '80s reads like a who's who of the NWA's major stars. Sting, Steamboat, Funk, Muta... they were all on the opposite side of the ring at one point or another, and the matches would always exceed the expectations. Now, granted, Flair had some of the best talent in the world opposite him in the ring, but it does take two to tango. While Ricky Steamboat fell to depths in the WWF after his legendary series with Flair, the Nature Boy stood high with continuing matches against Terry Funk. When the matches against Funk had run their course, Muta and Sting were there to pick up the slack. The phrase has been overused, but with good reason; in 1989 Ric Flair could carry a paper bag to a ***** match. If that's not a supreme individual performance, then I don't know what is.

Shawn Michaels versus The Undertaker @ Bad Blood 1997 IYH

The Maverick: So I think we've established Shawn Michaels at very worst as a contender for greatest wrestler ever, if not the very best. The acknowledgement Shawn receives as one of wrestling's cardinals is made more impressive, when you consider Shawn was at his wrestling prime headlining with the likes of Diesel, Vader and The Undertaker. No disrespect to those three individuals, but the main eventers after them (see Austin, Foley, Triple H) were far more talented, and without question better workers. Perversely those "big men" often brought out the best in Shawn, and Shawn definitely brought out the best in them. Michaels was probably at his paramount when he was bumping his ass off to make his opponent look good, and there's no better example than this encounter with The Undertaker inside (the very first) Hell in a Cell at Bad Blood.

Unquestionably one of the greatest matches of all time, Shawn bumps and blades beyond the call of duty, and then bounces and bleeds a little more. Ultimately, this may have been the match that ensured Shawn's career would soon come to an abrupt end (I know his match with The Undertaker 3 months after this encounter sealed the deal, but this match didn't do his troublesome back any favours whatsoever), and in the long run the effort can't be considered worth it. But it's just one of many matches where Shawn proved he would do anything and everything to make his opponent look good, no matter how phlegmatic they actually were. This is a terrific match, one of the best in wrestling history, and a Herculean effort and performance by Shawn Michaels.

Chris Benoit on three consecutive days in May, 2001

drq: I'd think it's a pretty foregone conclusion to say Benoit brings out the best in almost everyone he's opposing on any given night. Whether it be against Steve Austin and Bret Hart or Sid Vicious and Billy Gunn, Benoit has the ability to make just about anyone watchable, no matter the circumstances. When "The Crippler" has a good day, it's certainly reason to stand up and take notice. So when he put on a superhuman show in late May of 2001, opposite the best the WWF had to offer, it was like they were giving away free candy in the streets.

Over the course of three nights, Benoit wrestled a total of seven falls. He partook in one straightforward wrestling match, three tag team matches (winning the Tag Team Championship along the way), a submissions match, a ladder match and a TLC match. Opposing him at various points were Kurt Angle, Steve Austin, Triple H, Edge, Christian, X-Factor, the Dudley Boyz and the Hardy Boyz. To say it was a talented roster would also be a foregone conclusion. Yet, the thing that sets this effort apart from all the others isn't the fact that Benoit even attempted to take on such a maniacal workload. It's that he did so, and nearly every match was progressively better than the last. He put in the same kind of neckbreaking effort in that final TLC match that he did in the first fall with Kurt Angle. The sheer ferocity of his determination resulted in his being off the active roster for upwards of nine months. That's dedication to the viewing audience in my book, and a downright superhuman effort in anyone's opinion.


The Maverick: So there you have it, Shawn Michaels, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, a little more Shawn Michaels, Jumbo Tsuruta, Triple H, Ric Flair, um... Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit and two of the biggest fans calling the action. I hope we gave you some insight into the elect performances ever in the business, or rekindled memories for those who lived through recent wrestling history as fans, or at the very least you learnt nothing but somehow managed to have fun along the way. I still have plenty of good jokes at DRQ's expense that I didn't get to use, so who knows, maybe we'll team up again someday in the future and I can tell the one about the llama, the Irishman and DRQ! Anyway, procrastination is the thief of time, therefore I'll wrap my half of this column up forthwith with the wise words; the world is round, you can't get pregnant from a toilet seat... and Shawn Michaels was actually pretty damn good! Good night, and Q... its been a pleasure.

drq: Gah, I can't even begin to imagine the punchline of that aforementioned llama joke... let's all hope it's safe for my virgin ears. So yeah, like Mav mentioned, this was pretty much the HBK show... and not without good reason. The man's carried more matches to fame with his own perspiration than perhaps anyone else in the world. But alas, like any list, this one is completely open to interpretation. Chances are your thoughts and candidates vary wildly from our own, and not without good reason. I'm sure I speak for Maverick as well, when I say we'd love to hear your lists, complaints, compliments or inane banter... just hit us up with the e-mail link. We're nice enough guys, and we promise not to bite. Well... I promise not to, anyway. It's been real, and on behalf of my partner in crime, Mr. Maverick, I'll say thanks for joining us and we'll see you next time.
until next time, take it easy...
Mav and the Q

Monday, July 8, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 07/08/02

Something was just missing from this broadcast, and I think I can nail it down with just a few words. Too few men in the locker room, with too much time to fill. You know, the WWE roster hadn't really been showing much sign of how empty it really is since Austin's departure prior to last night. Lord knows, I'm among the ravenous hordes who drools over Chris Benoit's every move. I truthfully believe Eddy Guerrero is currently the strongest heel in North America, with his ringwork landing him at or near the very top of the heap worldwide. But that doesn't mean I think we should see them fifteen times every night.

Listen, I've said it in the past when Vince McMahon shoved himself in front of the camera after every segment, and I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't repeat it here tonight; no matter how good or "over" a star may be, he / she WILL NOT SUCCEED if they're oversaturated. And last night, they took about ten guys and threw them, sensibly or not, into every other moment of the show. I almost expected Benoit to invade the ring after Jeff Hardy won the European championship, for Booker T to interrupt William Regal's momentary bout of sadness with a "Suckaahhhh!" If Raw's roster is truly this thin, which I doubt, then perhaps it's time to cut those losses and end the split right here and now. Matchwise, last night's show was very strong, excluding the main event and the mixed tag, but seeing the same half-dozen people in the ring time and time again just made it seem like the show was a one trick pony, exploiting its only good side.

Moving on, quickly, there are a couple things I wanted to touch on, but couldn't spread over the course of a whole paragraph... here goes. I'm growing extremely tired of Goldust's impersonations backstage. They stopped being funny after the segment with the Rock at this year's King of the Ring, and I'd be pleased if they'd cease sooner rather than later. I was very impressed with the way the writers took advantage of the strong ECW sentiment flowing through the arena, and thought it made for the most successful segment I've seen in weeks. I was also glad to see Benoit's almost back to full speed already. It's scary to think where he'll be in one year's time. Finally, I have doubts about the paths this new character development may lead William Regal towards. Then again, he needs freshening up so perhaps it's all for the best.

To wrap up, I thought the show was decent, though mired by the sore lack of a supporting cast. Better than Justin made it out to be, but a notch below average. We should expect a little better, a touch more variety.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4.5