Royal Rumble 2017 Review- The Road to WrestleMania XXXIII.

WWE Royal Rumble 2017 Review.

Raw Woman’s Title Match: Charlotte © vs. Bayley

The opening match for the proper PPV was for the Raw’s Woman’s Championship. Former friends Bayley and Charlotte have turned into bitter rivals. These two women are one-half of the Four Horsewomen of NXT. These four are the most important females in terms of Revolution that has taken over WWE and sports entertainment in general. The Champion Charlotte would be going for her sixteenth singles victory of PPV and Bayley would be going for her first championship on the Raw brand. Setting up the feud Charlotte would show old photos of Bayley as a fan meeting WWE Hall of Famers behind the scenes. Charlotte says that Bayley is not in her league because she is just a fan, just like all of the peasants in the crowd that need to bow down to the Queen of PPV. Bayley says that her fan past is not a weakness and it is her best asset and strength. She remembers how she felt when a superstar would acknowledge her in the crowd and that it would make her night. She does all she can to make that happen for the WWE Universe. Bayley says she might not have a father in the business who could get an opportunity with just a single call but she had a father who supporter her in every way and every day by just being there and taking her to WWE events. Nobody would ever consider Ric Flair “Father of the Year” ever. So, the comparisons were very interesting. It also reminded me of the 1989 feud of Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat. It was the flamboyance of the Nature Boy vs. the Family Unit uf Ricky Steamboat. It is already great to see connections between Ric and Charlotte and it might be something I am reading into this but it was a great facet of the match which added to my enjoyment.

It was a very hard fought match which showed Charlotte getting her mouth busted open. Charlotte looked very menacing over Bayley with her height and with the hint of the blood coming through her mouth and teeth. It was a great match with some stuff we haven’t seen before. In the end Charlotte would hit Natural Selection on Bayley on the ring-apron which is the hardest point in the ring. Charlotte got back into the ring and pinned Bayley for three count and her 16th singles win on PPV. We will be hearing about 16-times later on in the show so it was a good highlight of things to come. The Woman’s Title on Raw is being booked very strong right now and on the Road to WrestleMania. Sasha, Bayley, Nia Jax and Charlotte are all giving their best in leading roles. It was a mistake in my opinion to not have a Woman’s Royal Rumble match but they are still giving their all to make things happen.

WWE Universal Title Match-Kevin Owens © Vs. Roman Reigns:

The continued feud of Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns appeared to end at Royal Rumble. It was a No-DQ match in which Chris Jericho would be held above the ring in a Shark-Cage. The cage was used earlier on NXT TakeOver Toronto to keep Paul Ellering out of the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. WWE really wanted to milk that gimmick to sell some toy sets. I think that these two have had way too many matches on television going into this match. It still delivered a solid match which is probably why it has been overused. Again WWE booked a match where Chris Jericho could not get involved but did so anyways. Jericho was locked up in the cage and was allowed to have his US Championship belt. Jericho could have thrown the title down for Owens use. He didn’t do this but did throw down Brass Knuckles which were used mockingly by Owens to his Reigns with a Superman Punch. It was successfully used but it only got a two-count. Brass Knuckles should only be used to end a match. It was used to book Reigns strong but it was way too silly for him to kick out of it. The problem is if that wasn’t booked as the finish than the Knuckles shouldn’t have been introduced or at least Owens shouldn’t have connected with a punch with them. The match was really not about Owens and Reigns though. So, Reigns would be taken out of the match by the interference of Braun Stroman. Stroman attacked Reigns with a large Power slam. Kevin Owens would pick the bones and get the three-count to win the match and the feud against the Big Dog. The Royal Rumble match could change the direction but it appears that the Road to WrestleMania will be leading into Braun Stroman and Roman Reigns. It might not happen as Stroman might have just been getting even with Reigns for his attacks on Raw the Monday before. With one Raw PPV left to go in early March it appears Kevin Owens might be heading into WrestleMania as the defending champion. We will see in the weeks to come to see how Raw’s hottest champion will be booked. He could still drop the title but I hope not. If he does WrestleMania will be a very different show and it could see the Explosion of the Chris and Owens show on the card. I hope not because Owens has been a great champion and he deserves to go into the show as a defending champion.

WWE Cruiserweight Championship Tiltle Match Rich Swann © Vs. Neville

The next match highlighted the great talent in the new WWE Cruiserweight division. The feud that was set up at the Raw PPV RoadBlock: End of the Line finally came to a head. The Champion Rich Swann would head into the Royal Rumble defending the title against the self-titled “King of the Cruiserweights” Neville. It was a great technical match which highlighted the new mat-style favored by many of the members of the cruiserweight division shown each week on Raw and 205Live on the WWE Network. The WWE seems pretty focused on making the division mat based and not as high-flying as cruiserweight wrestling has been in the past in WCW and elsewhere in Mexico and other places. It seems like they want people to think of it has just a weight class and not a lot of high spots and flips. These two wrestlers are very strong in both of those aspects. They did do some great flying spots but it the story was mostly told in the ring and on the mat. Neville’s story is that he is upset that he was not considered for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE Network in the summer. This tournament launched the division and made big stars out people involved. Neville was ignored and was upset because he believes he would have defeated the field of 32 with his interaction with the main roster in WWE. He was defeating people like Mark Henry so he would have been the winner and champion by default. Neville would also bring this up on Day-Two of the UK Championship Tournament. He says he is the Man WWE Universe Forgot. Neville would make people pay for forgetting him as he would destroy their heroes. In the end of the match Neville would hit Rich Swann with an adapted version of the Rings of Saturn. Swann would be forced to tap out and the Neville would become the WWE Cruiserweight Champion and now the true King of the Cruiserweights. Not sure what the Road to WrestleMania will hold for the championship. It would be nice to have a Cruiserweight Open match like at WrestleMania 20. It would be cool to have everybody fight for the right to face Neville for the title. The division looks somewhat strong even though they haven’t given us everything cruiserweight wrestling can be. With more high-flyers waiting in the wings the division could look very different with Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik debuting. The submission wrestling has been used to make this feel like every other match. They need to diversify the brand to include all aspects of what cruiserweight wrestling can be.

WWE Championship Match- AJ Styles © Vs. John Cena.

            The next match was a classic for the WWE’s biggest prize the WWE Championship. The belt had been re-named three times in the past year. It was the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, WWE World Championship and now once again it is called the WWE Championship. The names of the belt were changed for the new brand split between Raw and Smackdown Live. The WWE Championship is now exclusive to Smackdown and it has been held since October by the Phenomenal AJ Styles. Styles rose to prominence with two great matches with both Roman Reigns and then two big victories against John Cena. Cena and Styles had the match of the night at SummerSlam the event before Styles became champion in October defeating Dean Ambrose for the grandest prize in the business. Cena came back in January and demanded a championship match just because he is John Cena. It was a very heel-like statement from the man who says he is the Face that Runs the Place. AJ Styles has also used that phrase to describe himself along with the Champ that Runs the Camp. AJ Styles has dominated SmackDown and has had some of the greatest matches in recent memory. The Royal Rumble was no exception as they both brought everything to the table and then some. In the end of the match Cena would hit two consecutive Attitude Adjustments to pin the Phenomenal AJ Styles to become a 16-time World Champion in the WWE.
World Title changes are very rare at the Royal Rumble as it is seen as the first step in the Road to WrestleMania. It was a big surprise that the WWE finally pulled the trigger and gave John Cena his 16th title reign. On the same night Charlotte became a winner of 16 singles PPV matches. It was very fitting that Ric Flair’s daughter matched 16 on the same night John Cena did. Cena is now one championship defeat and victory away from being the greatest World Champion in sports entertainment history. The long wait and the surprise end made it all the better for the fans of John Cena. Having a great opponent like AJ Styles also made it all the more meaningful for moment. Styles had had John Cena’s number in two straight matches and came down to the ring with all the swagger a champion should have. In a strange move Styles came down to the ring first which is against tradition. It was a great match and had a decent length for a Rumble Title match. The supersized Royal Rumble event was well suited for this match. The Road to WrestleMania will be seen further in the Elimiation Chamber match for the WWE Title. Cena might have just won it at the Rumble to lose it at the Chamber to set up a WrestleMania match. If that is true it would be another title victory to just pad the numbers of Cena. It would be very disappointing if the 16th and iconic reign would be a one-and-done. Time will tell with the Elimination Chamber and the Royal Rumble match which would be next and the conclusion of the show.

The Royal Rumble Match:

As tradition dicates the Roayl Rumble event concluded with the 30 man Royal Rumble match. The opening of the Rumble was unlike any in recent memory as nobody was eliminated for the awhile into the match. The Rumble was filled up with talent before the first big name entered the fray. The Monster Among Men Braun Stroman entered the ring at number seven and dominated. There had only been one elimination before that which saw the Extrodinary Gentleman Jack Gallagher get tossed over the ropes by Mark Henry while Jack was trying to jump off the ropes holding an umbrella. A spoonful of sugar helped the Gentleman go down and over the top rope. Stroman entering the field saw him eliminate everybody in the ring except for Chris Jericho who entered at number two. The crowd would then give a good response to number eight in the ring Sami Zayn. Zayn began to take it to Stroman as they have been feuding for months.  The highlight of the Royal Rumble was at the 10th enterance. The crowd went crazy for the debut of NXT Superstar and the Perfect 10 Tye Dillinger at the 10th spot in the Royal Rumble Match. Corey Graves played it up on commentary as the greatest thing in the history of wrestling and it was the highlight of the night for me.

The Rumble continued with Stroman getting attacked by many smaller talents. He was swarmed like he had hit a bee hive. It would later be a clothesline from a larger challenger in the form of Baron Corbin which would eliminate Stroman from the match. No involvement from Roman Reigns in the elimination by interference was very interesting. Maybe they will not be paired up against each other at WrestleMania. The Rumble started out quickly but it also slowed down considerably after Stroman’s elimination. It was very similar to the 1994 Royal Rumble which showed Diesel dominate the early stages and then when he was eliminate there was a huge space in the match where nothing really spectacular came about as the ring was now being reloaded. The big stars of the match wouldn’t come into very late. Goldberg, Brock and Undertaker would not be involved until the late stages and they were very disappointing quick eliminations of one another. The Undertaker had the biggest impact of the later rounds of the match after number 30 entered the fray and it was Roman Reigns. Reigns teased a heel turn when he cheap-shotted the Undertaker and threw him over the top rope. The camera’s audio caught Reigns saying “this is my yard now” to the 27-year WWE veteran. Corey Graves would pick up on that audio and tell the crowd what Reigns had said if they didn’t hear it. I’m pretty sure everybody heard it and the emphasis made me think Reigns/Taker could be in the very near future in the WWE.

In the final moments of the match it came down to three men. It was two members of the Wyatt Family (Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt) and the Big Dog Roman Reigns. Reigns would be double teamed but fight around it like only he can. Reigns would dump Bray over the top rope and then turn his attention to The Viper. Reigns went for a spear but was reversed into a vicious RKO out of nowhere by Orton. The 3rd generation Orton would toss another 3rd Generation superstar over the top rope to become a two-time and 2017 Royal Rumble winner. The Wyatt’s will have a spot on the main event of WrestleMania. It was strange though but Randy didn’t react act like he was a Wyatt during the match. He seemed to turn on the old Randy Orton as he came down to his old music too. Orton will now have the opportunity to challenge for the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania. The Elimination Chamber will be for the championship so we will have to wait to see who The Viper will challenge for the grandest prize on the grandest stage of them all. It could very well be Bray Wyatt picking up his first singles title at the Chamber to set up a Wyatt Family Showdown in Orlando at WrestleMania. This is one way they can do but it would give a disservice to Bray to have a first title reign so short to just feed it to Randy Orton. We’ll see what happens at the Elimination Chamber and it should be very interesting with all of the players in the mix right now.

Royal Rumble was a very solid and strong way to start the Road to WrestleMania. We saw a pretty good Rumble match with two great first and third acts. The middle act of the Rumble could have been stronger had one of the premier talent like Goldberg or Brock Lesnar been entered to dominate the middle of the field. Neither  Goldberg or Brock eliminated enough people to make it a good showing for themselves. Golberg had Brock’s number again and it appears that they will be facing each other one final time at WrestleMania. Brock will have his back against the wall after being humiliated by Goldberg in three straight PPV situations (WrestleMania XX, Survivor Series 2016 and Royal Rumble 2017.) We have never seen Brock in this time of dire straight. It will be very interesting to see how the Beast reacts.  One of the shock moment of the Rumble was Undertaker getting dumped by a seemingly heel Roman Reigns. Corbin eliminating Stroman with no involvement from Reigns might show that there will be no Reigns/Stroman match. It could still go down like that if the Undertaker is unable to compete at WrestleMania. It seems like Reigns will have two strong opponent options if things go either way. At any rate the Royal Rumble is now a memory and the Road to WrestleMania is off to a fast start.

Royal Rumble 2017- Kickoff Review

This past Sunday the Road to WrestleMania kicked off at the Royal Rumble. The Rumble came live from the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, Texas. The arena was a place that the WWE should do shows from more. It was massive and the crowd was pretty decently filled. The last Royal Rumble that happened there was in 1997 but they weren’t able to match that attendance. In that age the WWE was struggling and really need a big win to turn the tides in the war between WCW. The main event of that event was to be the third match of a trilogy with Shawn Michaels (from San Antonio) challenging the potential WWE Champion Vader. Reports are that Shawn did not want to face Vader after a few miscues at the 1996 SummerSlam. Shawn was able to switch Vader for Sid who won a contendership match on the PPV before Survivor Series 1996. At Survivor Series it was Sid and not Vader defeating Shawn for the championship. At the Royal Rumble Shawn would re-capture the championship in front of a packed house (and an annoying whistler who wouldn’t shut the hell up.)

Fitting that Shawn Michaels would be live at the Alamo Dome this Sunday as he co-hosted the Royal Rumble Kick-off show. Shawn was joined by Hall of Famers Booker T and the returning Jerry “The King” Lawler. Lawler would also work the Royal Rumble match as an announcer. Along with Shawn’s tenure in Royal Rumble 1997, Shawn also won the Royal Rumble Match in 1995 and 1996. He was the first man to win the Rumble from the 1st spot in the 30-man over-the-top-rope match. Shawn gave great knowledge on what it will take for somebody to win the Rumble that night. The Heartbreak Kid said he wasn’t the best to be around back in the day and that he had so much overconfidence that nobody could beat him. Booker and Shawn also agreed that this Royal Rumble will be harder to win than any other. Shawn said that that back in the day the field of 30 was known well ahead of time and it was easier to plan. Royal Rumble has been more about the surprise entry and that makes it harder for somebody to plan and win. There would be a few surprises both good and bad in this Rumble match. Shawn’s career in WWE ended in 2010 with a loss against the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Also, The Undertaker in 2017 is making a rare appearance in the Royal Rumble match.

The Kickoff show started at 5pm est and featured three matches along with various Royal Rumble “by the numbers” promos that they always put on now.

Preshow #1: Nikki Bella, Naomi and Becky Lynch Vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya.

The first match of the kickoff was a six woman’s tag team match from the brand of SmackDown Live. It was the heel team of Alexa Bliss, Natalya and the re-debuting Mickie James. This match combines two of the biggest feuds going on in SmackDown live and creates a new feud for the Blue Brand’s Woman’s Championship. The Champion Alexa Bliss on SmackDown this past week blew off a match against Naomi. Bliss said she wasn’t worth her time and that she should continue to be irrelevant. Bliss also recently defeated Becky Lynch in a steel cage match to retain the championship. During that match, a masked wrestler interfered and caused Becky to lose. She was unmasked to reveal to be Mickie James making her return to WWE for the first time in seven years. Also in the match would be Natalya and Nikki Bella. Natalya and Nikki are old friends, which has been documented on the show “Total Divas.” At Survivor Series Nikki was attacked backstage and was removed from a match due to injury. Nikki began a small Stone Cold-like search for the person who attacked her. First, she thought t was Carmella but later it was revealed to be her old friend. The feud began getting really personal based on the information Natalya has of Nikki over the years. Natalya has been insulting Nikki and using her relationship with John Cena as fodder. In a major attack, Natalya said that John Cena would never marry her because she is weak and that she would die alone. It was borderline goofy like the “I wish you died in the womb” line when Nikki and Brie feuded.

The real major story in the match was the reintroduction of Mickie James.  The most interesting part of this match is the story between Mickie and Becky. After attacking Becky Mickie James had a lot to get off her chest. Mickie said that she had been watching the WWE’s Woman’s Revolution for months and months. She said that she was disgusted that the current women are trying to convince everybody that they invented the wheel in terms of wrestling. Mickie said that she was not going to let anybody get away with making her time in WWE seem irrelevant. She was a five-time woman’s champion and a one-time Divas Champion. She put an emphasis on the word diva for the term that female talent was called for many years before last WrestleMania. Mickie James was definitely one of the good talents of a somewhat forgotten era in woman’s wrestling. Mostly it is the fault of the producers like Johnny Ace that it has been forgotten. It is sometimes referred to as the “Diva Search Era” where wrestling talent was secondary to looks in terms of deciding who would be hired and pushed. Mickie said that the current women are reaping the benefits of her sacrifices and that it was going to stop. Mickie said that the story was not going to be the Revolution of the Division but the re-introduction of Mickie James.

Three separate woman’s feuds are pretty amazing. It is a great sign of how WWE thinks of the talent they currently have. The match being the opener is also a good sign even though it was on the pre-show. It was a great back and forth contests and in the end, a new challenger appears for the title. Naomi was able to secure a victory and is now a top contender for the SmackDown Woman’s Championship. Smackdown Live seems very secure on the Road to WrestleMania. They weren’t able to pull off a Woman’s Royal Rumble but it was a great opening match nonetheless.

Pre-Show #2: WWE Tag Team Champions Cesaro/Sheamus Vs. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson.

The next match was a shocker as we have brand new Raw Tag Team Champions. The fragments of the Club Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson have finally won tag team gold in WWE. It was a strange situation as it appeared that it was a show-time decision for the title switch. For the last six months, the title situation has been The New Day/Club/Sheamus and Cesaro. All of these teams have been the Raw Tag Team Champions. It seems like it will continue to some sort of Triple Threat (maybe ladder) Match at WrestleMania. Anderson and Gallows were two of the hottest free agents from their time in New Japan Pro Wrestling around the same time AJ Styles signed with the company. They came so close on many times to becoming WWE Tag Team Champions against the New Day. The New Day will be on the warpath to become a three-time champion and Sheamus/Cesaro will have to regroup to try to get the championships back. The NXT Tag Teams on the verge of debuting on TV like the Revival could get involved as well. Tag team wrestling has advanced a great deal in these last few years. The long reign of the New Day had a lot of eyeballs on the tag team defences as they tried to break Demolition’s all title record which they did the Raw before losing the titles in December. The Road to WrestleMania could be changed and it will be interesting to see how it goes.

Pre-Show #3: Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax.

The final match was set up on Raw weeks ago between the Boss Sasha Banks and the NXT rookie Nia Jax. Jax has run rough shot on Raw destroying enhancement talent left, right and center. She is somewhat being booked as a female Braun Stroman. This was Nia’s first major match in the Raw’s woman’s division. Sasha has been recently on a small losing streak as she has lost a championship three times on her last three PPV appearances. She was attacked on Raw by Nia Jax injuring her leg. Sasha is one of the best sellers in the business and has been nursing that injury for weeks. Nia was able to use that injury to dominate and defeat the Boss for her biggest victory to date. Nia Jax appears to be on the Road to WrestleMania and gunning for the Raw’ Woman’s Championship. After winning the championship three times in 2016 the future is up in the air right now for The Boss. It will be very interesting to see how the Boss bounces back from this defeat.

With Royal Rumble match dominating the time all of these matches would probably have been included in the main show if it was another PPV. So, I think it is probably a good idea to think of them all being on the show proper. The difference between the Pre-Show and the actual show is being blurred. The crowd really gave all of these matches the respect it deserved and most of the people were in their seats for the matches. It would also be a good idea if the WWE Network would trim down the Pre-show to just the matches. It would make it seem like a complete show as the pre-show talking segments dragged the pre-show down after a while.

What Happened When Episode 1 Review –

 

The Show can be downloaded at http://www.mlwradio.com/what-happened-when-.html

Subscribe on ITunes or any other podcast system.

Host Conrad Thompson is joined by star and former WCW announcer Tony Shiavone for a new podcast on the MLW Radio Network. It is a spinoff show of Something to Wrestle W/ Bruce Prichard also hosted by Thompson. For the first episode, it is a career retrospective on Bill Goldberg. It was a very relevant topic for the first episode with Goldberg being back in the ring for the first time in over a decade.  The first episode was not voted on but it probably would have won hands down in my opinion. Tony was a great choice to tell the story of NWA and WCW just like Bruce told the story of WWE and TNA. If this show catches fire I wonder who Conrad will choose to be the star of an ECW What Happened When.The show will continue next week using the tradition of voting on Twitter for topics of discussion. This makes these shows some of the most interactive in wrestling podcasts.

Just like Something to Wrestle With most of the research on the topic seems to be based on Dave Meltzer reports. Meltzer has one of the greatest wrestling sites the Observer and most famous wrestling journalist around. Meltzer’s biggest strength is his wrestling history but I think his opinion based on the news isn’t very reliable. Tony will probably have to call BS on a lot of what Conrad says based on Dave Meltzer’s reports. The small problem is that Tony has been out of the wrestling business since 2001. Bruce was active in the sport for years after leaving WWE. Bruce also seems to have a better memory than Tony does. We might be hearing more of Dave Meltzer’s opinion on this show than on Something to Wrestle With. It will be interesting to see in the weeks and months to come to see how much Meltzer’s “dirt” as Bruce would call it will be rebuffed by Tony. Thompson also does try to bring in numbers and figures into the discussion on Something to Wrestle With but Bruce often (or always) refuses to answer those questions. Bruce worked in Talent Relations which means he had to have the superstar’s complete trust. He doesn’t violate that trust even to this day about what people earned. Tony might not have that kind of information because he wasn’t a talent relations guy. Thompson owns a Mortage Firm so numbers are something he deals with on a daily basis. This will prove to be a very interesting and different show than Bruce Prichard’s with the different background of Tony even though it’s also a pro-wrestling podcast.

Goldberg’s career was talked about throughout the course of the episode. Tony kept the story on message based on his first match in WCW. When Goldberg debuted WCW producers didn’t know what to call him. Before the match the announce team didn’t know what his character’s name or direction was to be. WCW was a disaster of creating new talent but this is the one that they are given the most credit for. His career path followed the path of that first match as Tony told. In the early minutes of the first Goldberg match the announce crew was oddly silent (a rarity for a WCW announce team at that time produced by Eric Bischoff.)

Tony talked about every misstep including not jumping on the merchandise train quickly enough. If I remember correctly there was an “Austin Rules! Goldberg Sucks” t-shirt being sold bootlegged around the country before WCW had an official Goldberg t-shirt. It was at least six months before Goldberg debuted that they had a t-shirt. Tony and Conrad also talked about the similar look between Stone Cold and Goldberg. Many fans called Goldberg a rip off of Austin and a pushed version of the Warlord. Goldberg was also not booked in hot angles during his undefeated run. They talked about a terrible feud with Steve McMichael. This led to one of the best moments of the show where Tony went off topic to describe how hot Mongo’s now ex-wife Debra looked. We also found out that Goldberg was not under a long-term contract when the streak was getting hot. Goldberg could have easily walked and started in WWE had they dropped the ball on that.  In the end, the WCW Machine creating stars was ground to a halt by the creative control of the top talent. Goldberg won the World Title on television in front of a jam-packed Georgia Dome. It could have been huge on a ppv which was booked a week after. Goldberg would lose his World Title at Starrcade 1998 to newly hired WCW Booker Kevin Nash and then was injured in an accident punching a window with his fist. Kevin Nash has said before that he was going to drop the title back to Goldberg but this accident derailed all of the plans. In the end, Goldberg cooled off and it was never the same like it was the first time around. Tony also said the biggest thing that destroyed WCW was Thunder on TBS. Both WWE and WCW leapt to get a second TV show before they were ready. WWE jumped and succeeded and WCW took the jump earlier but failed.

It was a great first episode and as a long-time pro wrestling fan; I learned things I hadn’t known before. It was my first time hearing the story about WCW and WWE wrestler Meng punching a guy’s teeth out of his mouth using just two fingers. It was a great story and it taught a great lesson to not call wrestling fake (at least not in the presence of Meng.) Hulk Hogan once said that if Meng was running to him and he had a gun he would not shoot. Hogan said he’d be too scared Meng would kill him if he tried. Also learned for the first time Goldberg wasn’t under a long-term contract when he was getting hot. I can’t wait for the next episode and really hope we have some great topics to vote on twitter. Bruce’s show is one of the most interactive podcast around like the 6:05 Super Podcast also on the MLW Radio Network. What Happened When is sure to become a great part of any wrestling fans Monday Nights. Will it become the Greatest Podcast in the History of Our Sport? Only time will tell but it looks like Sting is about to try to come down to the ring so we’re outta time!

 

Review -WWE United Kingdom Tournament

This past weekend WWE had a landmark tournament in Blackpool, England. The first ever tournament to crown a WWE United Kingdom Champion. The tournament aired live Saturday and Sunday Afternoon on the WWE Network. Since the tournament was in England it started at 8pm GMT which means in the EST it aired at 3pm. It was the same deal as NXT TakeOver London in December 2005. The difference between a Saturday/Sunday and a Wednesday will probably be huge in terms of viewership. The days of the tournament were planned months in advance but they missed a huge problem. The tournament took place while NFL Playoff games were going on in America. Some WWE Facebook polls show that many of the WWE Universe did not watch the tournament while it aired live. Hopefully they will catch it on the WWE Network On-Demand because it was a great two-day event and as Gorilla Monsoon would say it was definitely a happening.

The field of sixteen included superstars from all over the United Kingdom including England, Scotland, Ireland and even one sole entry from Wales. The tournament had a rich dichotomy of styles from mat-based to some high fliers. For the most part the superstars were ground technicians as is the style for British wrestling. WWE having this tournament was in-part an attempt at a back-door pilot for a weekly show on the WWE Network featuring talent from the United Kingdom. The critical success of the tournament makes it seem clear that eventual show will be picked up. As of right now WWE will give somewhat give control of the championship in part to some of the local promotions that the pool for the tournament were selected from. Some of the companies that gave talent for the tournament were ICW, Fight Club: Pro and Progress. Two of the owners of the Fight Club and Progress were competitors in the tournament.

The event was held in the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool, England. The was beautiful and really was a great contrast to the bland arenas we have in America. It was very fitting for a tournament held in England to be featured in a royal setting. Also adding to the flavor was color analyst and former pro Nigel McGuinness. McGuinness and Daniel Bryan both had a shot to join WWE at the same time. Nigel was unable to join WWE because of an injury that was healed but WWE wanted him to have surgery for. He then joined TNA and wrestled for a few months before another injury and illness ended his years as a performer. He has been doing commentary as well as being Booker for Ring of Honor Wrestling. This job is what he described as fulfilling his lifetime dream of working for WWE. Michael Cole was the perfect choice to accompany the newly signed McGuiness. If this was to be a WWE production in full even all of the non-WWE talent the self-named “voice of the WWE” was needed to make this feel like a WWE show. Cole was not using his normal style that is described as “lead commentator” in WWE. He was playing the traditional role as play-by-play man and this was clearly shown in his first words of the production “Welcome, grapple fans!”

The first day of the tournament was the complete first round and the final three round were on the second day. The announce team was quick to point out the favorites to the audience whom may have not heard of most of these British talents. The two talents most highly touted by the team were Trent Severn and Pete Dunne. These two grapplers form the tag team “British Strong Style.” They are well known for being hard-hitting and for taking no prisoners in the ring. It was somewhat unlikely that WWE would put them in the ring against each other. They were put on opposite sides of the bracket so the only way they could face off was in the finals. Another top favorite was another associate of British Strong Style the 19-year old Tyler Bate. In opposite sides of the bracket as Pete Dunne the only way they could face off was in the finals. Bate, Severn and Dunn quickly went through in the first round. Following them into the next round were Jordan Devlin (trained by WWE’s Finn Balor.) Devlin got a cheap win against NXT’s Danny Birch. Birch had his shoulder up on the deciding three count. Burch also had a nasty cut on the back of his head from a kick from Devlin. After the match Devlin showed some signs of viciousness blindsiding Birch with a Superkick. It was a cheap victory and he sold being a heel well with the cheap shot at the end of the match. The big star of the first round was Wolfgang who had a brawl with a man with a similar brawling style in Tyson T-Bone. Also advancing were Joseph Conners and Sam Gradwell. Gradwell was one of the only local talents from Blackpool. He sort of looked like WWE alumni William Regal also from Blackpool. Conners gained some notoriety for losing half an ear competing years ago. Former TNA superstar Mark Andrews was the final man to advance to the second night of the tournament.

A two-night tournament to me was a great idea. It sort of felt like a legitimate tournament you would find in amateur wrestling for High School or Collegiate level wrestling. Before the night closed Dunne would attack his second round opponent Sam Gradwell. He was supported by Triple H for what he did by the COO saying “make a name for yourself kid.” That is what this tournament was all about. Dunne would advance into round two easily defeating the young wounded Gradwell. Conners would fall to Mark Andrews, Jordan Devlin would lose to Tyler Bate and in the shocker of the second round Wolfgang defeated Trent Seven. In the semi-finals Pete Dunne had the biggest win of his career against Mark Andrews. Tyler Bate also had the biggest win of his career against Wolfgang. After that match Bate would be attacked by Dunne viciously. It was in question whether or not he would be able to compete in the finals.

The final contest did happen and it was one of the best contests in the new year. It was hard fought contest using both traditional wrestling and the brawling we expect from the conveyors of British Strong Style. Tyler Bate sold his injuries very well as he was unable to utilize his finishing move Tyler Driver ‘97 in various attempts during the match. Dunne looked like a big star throughout the two-night tournament and it appeared that it was going to be his night. Dunne hit his big move in the later stages of the night which had taken care of everybody in the tournament so far. Dunne went for the three count and it was one….two…..no! Bate kicked out! The move that had beaten everybody was broken. Bate used the moment and hit one of the stiffest punches I ever saw in a squared circle and finally hit Tyler Drive ‘97 for the three count and the decisive championship victory to end the tournament. The big bully of the tournament was defeated by the youngest and most unlikely competitor in Bate. Bate celebrated as Triple H, William Regal and Fit Finlay awarded him his championship and secured it around his waist. The beautiful championship belt looked quite at home around his waist.

The tournament was a rounding success. It had some unfortunate scheduling issues though. It was up against stiff competition from the NFL Playoffs which are also popular now in Europe as they are in America. Hopefully people will catch the tournament on-demand later on because it would be a shame if they missed it. WWE really went all out in their attempt to make a new so called “territory” in which to work. Triple H said the idea of the tournament was to make a permanent WWE fixture in the United Kingdom. He said that fans their love WWE but always complain that the company isn’t there enough. The new show will help that problem if it is picked up. I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t be successful. Sports Entertainment is booming in England with ICW, Progress and What Culture Pro Wrestling already in the picture. It will take an effort for WWE to make reach pay dirt in the United Kingdom with the stiff competition but this tournament was a great first salvo. Next up WWE will be trying to make a similar Woman’s tournament. The advancement of Woman’s wrestling has already taken place and the next tournament will sure raise the bar once again.

WrestleMania Weekend Day Day 3 WrestleMania 32.

Day three of WrestleMania weekend was the day everybody was looking forward to more than any other. Day three was a Sunday and it was WrestleMania Sunday. The day started for me early in the morning as I had to prepare for a long day of action. Later in the day I would be joining some friends at a WrestleMania Pre-game tailgate party. So, I had to get out early to get supplies for what would be a hell of a party. I went to a local Walmart and I thought I would be able to pick up some beers for the show of shows. I did not realize that Texas had Blue Laws just like they do in Massachusetts. I might have been able to buy a gun at that Walmart but it was before noon on a Sunday. So, I was not able to buy beers. There would end up being plenty of beer at the tailgate party and then some but it was pretty lame that Texas let me down in this sense. Texas always felt like freedom to me but this law proved that Texas is just like everywhere else. It isn’t the wild west anymore and it was kind of a shock to me. After picking up some non-alcoholic drinks I hailed another Uber to get to AT&T Stadium for the show of shows, the highlight of the immortals-WrestleMania32.

The area around AT&T stadium was massive. There were so many parking lots that it was hard to find the one my friends would be at. There were so many parties going on in the tailgate sections. I don’t think anything even Cowboys games would have had that same atmosphere. The friends I was meeting were people I was meeting for the first time I met up with two posters from the TPWW Wrestling forum that I have been posting at since 2009. I’ve spent many hours chatting with these guys on the forum and on TPWW’s former video channel on the defunct Justin.TV website. One of these friends was from Texas and set this whole thing up. It was a great time with him and some of his family members and another member of TPWW. We had a great time before they started letting people into the arena. The crowd was massive and this developed a huge problem. WWE devised a way to stagger the crowd so not everybody would enter the arena at the same spot. Each ticket would be assigned a specific gate close to your seats. It was a good idea in theory but not so much in reality. Nobody was told that their ticket would only be good for a specific gate ahead of time. Many people were told they could not enter the arena at the spot they were at. This meant that for the first few matches on the pre-show the arena was nearly empty. I got at the right gate so I saw everything. Some people were not so lucky. The pre-show had two matches and one of them was actually a match that has a developed story line and was for the WWE United States Championship. I’m sure Kalisto and Ryback must have felt very deflated having their match happen in a near empty crowd. WrestleMania was not the highlight of their WWE year and that was very clear. The people who were their tried their best to get invested in the match but I’m not sure how it came off on camera. Kalisto retained the title and that got whatever crowd was their on their feet in applause. Next the women involved with the show Total Divas had a 10-woman tag team match. Nothing important except at the end Brie Bella appeared to retire after winning the match. Nikki Bella came out with a neck halo from her recent neck surgery. They all celebrated the victory and the end of Brie’s career. A lot of the crowd had found their seat by that time so Brie was celebrated by most of the crowd.

This WrestleMania was marred by a bizarre set of circumstances that changed the path of this show. WrestleMania is the biggest show of the year but WWE at that time was plagues by a myriad of injuries to so many of the top WWE Superstars. WrestleMania 32 was booked in the biggest arena the WWE has ever had a WrestleMania at. They had a huge opportunity missed by so many of the injuries of the top talent in the WWE. The man who dominated WWE for the last 13 years John Cena was not able to compete at WrestleMania. The man who was the WWE Champions for the most of the calendar year of 2015 Seth Rollins was injured and not able to compete. Another top star in the Viper Randy Orton had been down with another serious shoulder injury that would keep him out of action until July. A lot of the rising stars of the WWE were also out with injury including Tyson Kidd, Cesaro, Neville, Also the retirement of Sting changed what could have been a great match with the Icon Vs. The Phenom. It was reported that a top match of WrestleMania 32 would have been a double retirement match with the Icon Sting taking on the Phenom The Undertaker. WWE was felt reeling with all of these injuries to make a show worthy of the name WrestleMania. A possible match with Seth Rollins facing Triple H was also rumored to happen. Rollins would drop his WWE Championship due to injury in November forcing a tournament. Triple H and Rollins would have feuded when Rollins would have turned face against Triple H and the Authority. Or it could have happened that Triple H would have been the one to turn face as Rollins would have gained the Authority with Stephanie. Either way the match never happened and still hasn’t happened. WrestleMania would be a unique time in the WWE. WWE would have to make due with what they had and that gave WWE a great chance to make a new fresh start in sports entertainment. WrestleMania would become the first show in a new era in professional wrestling.

The marque match of WrestleMania 32 because of injuries had to involve somebody who hasn’t had a match in nearly a decade. Shane McMahon has not been involved with the WWE in nearly eight years before coming back on an episode of Raw weeks before WrestleMania. Shane was put into a huge match with one of the biggest stars in the WWE. Vince McMahon put control of Monday Night Raw on the line against secrets Shane McMahon has against his father. Inside Hell in a Cell Shane McMahon would face the Phenom The Undertaker. In a podcast on WWE Network Shane McMahon said that the Undertaker called him up about this match and said it would be a great opportunity to make history. Inside Hell in a Cell Shane McMahon put in all on the line against the Undertaker for control of Monday Night Raw. Another one of the highlight matches would be for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The champion Triple H would put the title on the line against the number one contender Roman Reigns. The final marque match would be for the newly created Woman’s Championship. It would be a Triple Threat Match for the title with Charlotte defending the Divas Championship for the final time against Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch.

With all of that on the line WrestleMania would kickoff with a ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship. The match was won by Zack Ryder who was chosen to win by the other superstars. They all wanted to give Zack Ryder a “True Long Island Iced Z WrestleMania moment.” This match wasn’t what the WWE universe wanted. Everybody wanted WWE to have Kevin Owens defend his championship against Sami Zayn. The feud of Zayn and Owens had to be drawn out way longer on television because they didn’t take the chance on betting on Owens and Zayn in a marque WrestleMania match. They also dropped the ball having Zayn pin his longtime rival in a meaningless six-man tag team match the Raw before WrestleMania. In the match Zayn was able to get revenge and cost Owens the championship. It still wasn’t should have happened. Zayn should have won the championship in the middle of the ring pinning his rival for the first time in WWE at WrestleMania. The match itself was decent but it was not what should have been. Most of the crowd was only into this match because of Zayn and Owens. It was a real shame that they didn’t make the call on the one on one match. A real shame.

Next up was a feud that had a few months of build to it but still one that had been overused. The next match was AJ Styles taking on Chris Jericho. This match had been done a very times on WWE television and PPV already at this point. It seemed to have been somewhat done to death but they were able to pull off another great match and make the rivalry still seem fresh. The change was that the professional rivalry had turned into a bitter feud. Chris Jericho turned on Styles in a match for the WWE Tag Team title against the New Day. The team known for one night as Y2AJ was not successful in winning the titles. Jericho viciously attacked Styles after the match and then backed off from challenges from the Phenomenal one. Styles was able to pressure Jericho into accepting the match and it was on for the grandest stage of them all. It was a great back and forth match and the crowd was really into it. Jericho used the referee as a distraction to pick up a victory with a reversal into a Code Breaker. AJ Styles was defeated but the next night on Raw he became the top contender to the WWE Championship. He then also started a feud with John Cena in the weeks and months to come. Chris Jericho used WrestleMania victory to become a top draft pick in the new era of Monday Night Raw. The crowd really loved the match and that is all that matters. The feud was hot and the crowd was into it. A great match worthy of being on the card of a WrestleMania.

The next match had the crowd on their feet as they clapped along with the WWE Tag Team Champions the New Day. Walking around Axxcess I saw so many New Day t-shirts. The New Day is one of the most popular tag teams in the WWE. They came out to the ring dressed up in DragonBall Z gear and came out from a big box of Booty O cereal. It was only fair that the biggest tag team in WWE would lose on the grandest stage of them all. Of course they would lose to the one of the worst stables in the history of the WWE The League of Nations. Sheamus, Rusev and Alberto Del Rio (along with King Barrett) were able to cheat their way to victory. After winning they made the hideous claim to be the greatest group in WWE history. So of course they had to be destroyed. Steve Austin, Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels came down to the ring and laid waste to the group. There were Superkicks, Mandible Claws and Stone Cold Stunners. The New Day came back into the ring and danced with the conquering heroes. Xavier Woods (Austin Creed) was an unfortunate victim of Austin on Austin violence as he danced too much infront of Stone Cold and got the Kick-Wham-Stunner. Austin celebrated in front of his home state crowd with another Texans Shawn Michaels and non-Texan Mick Foley. The New Day would get revenge on the League of Jobbers the next night on Raw in a tag team title match. The New Day is still tag champions to this day and the League of Nations disbanded shortly after WrestleMania. The New Day was denied a WrestleMania moment but they had the last laugh. Don’t you dare be sour!
One of the most talked about match was next. In a No Holds Barred Street Fight Brock Lesnar defeated Dean Ambrose. It was talked about for months about who the Beast Incarnate would face at the biggest WrestleMania of all time. When it was announced that it would be Dean Ambrose people were surprised. Many did not see the Lunatic Fringe of being worthy of facing Lesnar. As of right now Dean Ambrose is the current WWE Champion. He now seems way more worthy of this match than he might have seemed before it. Ambrose took the fight to the Beast like no one else ever had with the use of weapons such as steel chairs, Kendo sticks, fire extinguishers and everything but the kitchen sink against the former UFC Champion. As Paul Heyman said there would be no Shield to save Ambrose from the fury of Brock Lesnar. The jumbo tron at the stadium counted each and every vicious suplex that Ambrose received at the hands of Brock Lesnar. At WrestleMania it was clear the most dangerous weapon in this match was Brock Lesnar himself. After a final F5 on top of numerous chairs Ambrose succored to the three count and Brock Lesnar was declared the victor. It was a gallant effort that Ambrose used to climb the ranks. In Lesnar’s absence there was no ill effect of the loss in the rankings for Ambrose. Dean won Money in the Bank and then cashed in on the same night to capture his first World Heavyweight Title against the returning new champion Seth Rollins. Brock Lesnar was drafted to Raw in his absence and now the WWE title is exclusive to Smackdown. Ambrose losing in a good showing probably did more for him than an easy victory. The Lunatic Fringe is now on top of Smackdown as the Ambrose Asylum is now in charge of Smackdown Live.

During the pre-show WWE Hall of Famer Lita announced that the next match would be for the new WWE Women’s Championship. In this match Charlotte would defend her Divas Championship for the last time against Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch in one WrestleMania’s most talked about and possibly greatest matches. All three of these women are the face of the so called “Divas Revolution.” They all debuted in WWE on the same day on an episode of Monday Night Raw. They have used their skills to change the face of women’s wrestling since their debut and since being in WWE as a part of NXT. All three of these women were joined by NXT superstar Bayley as the Four Horsewomen of NXT. Years ago having a women’s match in WrestleMania was seen as a piss-break match. It was also usually a throw-away tag team match that could involve celebrities who had no right to be inside a wrestling ring. This time it was different. This time something important was on the line and each woman had something to prove. Charlotte would pick up the victory after a distraction from her father Ric Flair. Becky Lynch would tap out with Sasha Banks unable to break up the attempt by being pulled by Flair. Charlotte reigned supreme as the first ever WWE Woman’s Champion. As I am writing this we have a new Woman’s Champion. Sasha Banks finally picked up the victory and the title against Charlotte on the latest episode of Monday Night Raw. It was called one of the greatest Raw matches of the year and showed like this WrestleMania match that the Divas Revolution is over and that women’s wrestling is back for good.

The next contest was the Hell in a Cell for control of Monday Night Raw. Shane McMahon went to new heights literally and figuratively to try to win Raw from his father in a match against the Undertaker. Shane McMahon went to the top of the Hell in a Cell cage and tried to land an elbow drop on top of The Undertaker who was draped on the table at ringside. The Undertaker moved out of the way and Shane McMahon crashed and burned. The Undertaker would then mercifully put an end to the match with a Tombstone Piledriver for the pin fall victory. Shane McMahon lost control of Monday Night Raw but the story was not over for Shane. The next night Vince McMahon would give in and give temporary control of Raw to Shane. Shane would use that to make a new Era in WWE which would culminate in the new Draft Expansion. Shane would now be in control of SmackDown and Stephanie McMahon would be in control of Monday Night Raw. Shane stepped into one of the most dangerous matches of all time after not being in the ring in years. He really stepped up his game and helped out WWE in a major way. Shane helped out in a huge way and the future is bright with the example he showed.

The next match also showed the future in the WWE. NXT superstar Baron Corbin made his WWE debut in victory in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Corbin had his final match in NXT in a losing effort on the Friday of WrestleMania weekend at NXT TakeOver Dallas. It was decided that he would debut on the main roster at WrestleMania in the biggest way possible for him to do so. WWE right now is about the future and the former NFL star is one biggest stars of the newly minted SmackDown Live roster. He has big wins against the current number one contender Dolph Ziggler and now the former US Champion Kalisto. Time will tell if winning the Battle Royal will be what the Lone Wolf needs to make a big impact in the WWE. The crowd went crazy with chants of NXT after the victory. The crowd was a little bit drained at that point from seeing Hell in Cell. I had actually forgotten that the Battle Royal hadn’t already happened on the Pre-show as it had in years prior. The crowd was given a great story and a great moment and if the show ended at that point it would have ended on a great note. That didn’t happen because it is now time for our “main” event.

The crowd was not into the final match at all. The WWE had to use every dirty trick in the book to make sure this came off well on camera. I still haven’t seen what they turned out but I heard they did some dirty deeds indeed. In the arena every move Roman Reigns did against the champion Triple H was met with boos. Reigns was booed for the entire match. Even if he did a great move the crowd would go crazy with chants of “You Still Suck.” This match for the WWE Championship was not cared for at all. Nobody wanted to see this match except for whoever thought it up. Vince McMahon was probably the only person who thought this would have been well received. Reigns picked up the win with the Spear and then the real bullshit started. WWE had huge pyro and turned up Roman Reign’s music to full blast. They drown out the massive 100K crowd booing with all of their might. I don’t care how it came off on the WWE Network. The live crowd hated this match and hated Roman Reigns being champion. This disingenuous crap has to end if the WWE is ever to have a real future in the new era. With the aftermath Roman Reigns would go on to defeat AJ Styles in two title defenses on PPV. Reigns would then secretly (for a time) fail a drug test that would suspend him for thirty days and cause a shift in WWE booking. Reigns lost the title clean to Seth Rollins who would then be cashed in on against Dean Ambrose. Ambrose is WWE Champion and now on a different brand than Reigns or Rollins. Rollins and Reigns both lost their final re-match for the championship. Reigns lost a contendership match for a new Raw brand championship and it appears the Roman Reigns experiment is finally shown for what it is: a failure. No fake crowds or audio trickery could have him the Roman Empire has fallen.

With Raw the next night WrestleMania weekend drew to its conclusion. New stars debuted such as Enzo Amore, Colin Cassidy and Apollo Crews. WWE would draw on the popularity of Shane McMahon to create the new Brand Extension making Raw and Smakdown once again separate entities. The legacy of WrestleMania 32 will probably be that of making something really great out of terrible circumstances. Other than the main event the show was well put together and really captured the essence of what was going to be a new era in the WWE. It is the fans who make the stars in sports entertainment and people who don’t get the following of the WWE universe will not make it far in the WWE. I hope that the era of the WWE trying to tell people who to cheer and boo will finally be over. The New Era is about the fans deciding what will happen. The future looks bright and I am very proud to have been a part of this amazing WrestleMania weekend.20160403_13300720160403_164232

WrestleMania Weekend Day 2: Jim Ross and the WWE Hall Of Fame

Day two of WrestleMania weekend started for me bright and early at 2pm. Can’t remember a longer day in my life that what I went through to get to Dallas for WrestleMania. Don’t think I have ever gone to bed and fell asleep quicker than on that night. Day Two only had two items on my list so it was a good chance to stay in and sleep the jet lag away. The two events I was going to attend were a One man show starring Jim Ross and the WWE Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. I did not know what to expect from Jim Ross’s show. It was the last show that I got tickets for the weekend but they would be the best seats I would have over the weekend. I had to go pretty cheap on tickets to be able to see everything I wanted to see for the weekend. For Jim Ross I was able to get floor seats at a reasonable price. The show took place at the House of Blues in downtown Dallas. It was also within walking distance to where the Hall of Fame Ceremony was taking place at. I hailed an uber and I was off to day two of my WrestleMania weekend.

Jim Ross is a wrestling legend so I knew I had to see one of his well known and well reviewed shows. I had a good idea that the show would be somewhat WrestleMania related and would add to the overall experience. Not really sure what to expect because Jim Ross isn’t really a stand up comedian but I had seen a recording of Mick Foley’s one man show on the WWE Network. Ross also has a podcast called the Ross Report and he frequently has great interviews with people in the business not currently employed by WWE. I arrived and noticed that my seat was right next to the bar. If the show didn’t turn out well I figured I’d still be able to have a good time. House of Blues Dallas was a great location. It was a full house but it also felt somewhat intimate. The location made it a great location as the arena close by not only would host the Hall of Fame early that night but also Monday Night Raw the Monday after WrestleMania. Ross would have shows all weekend but this was the first one of his long WrestleMania work schedule. Like a lot of people Ross had also been at TakeOver Dallas so it was a long night for him on Friday too.

The show itself is mostly a blur to me right now. It’s been awhile and it was at a bar. Jim talked about his first WrestleMania experience at the ninth edition of the show. The show was a toga party and involved him announcing in full Roman regalia. The show also took a somber path as he talked about the night that cost him his career in the WWE. It was a panel about a WWE video game and he was hosting with WWE legends including Ric Flair. Flair had just lost his son Reid to a drug overdose. He was in no condition to be seen in public or interact in any capacity on an official WWE show. Flair was still grieving and in Ric Flair style was coping in the only way he knew how-binge drinking. Jim talked about how he made a off-handed remark to try to stop Flair’s depressing tone of his speech and it didn’t go over well. The video game company thought the panel went well but WWE didn’t and blamed it all on Jim Ross and not themselves for booking Ric Flair in something so close to the death of his son. Obviously they couldn’t blame themselves so they took it out on Ross. Jim kept talking about the date he was fired by WWE in the show and also stated it every time by saying “not that I’m keeping score.”

The show just like his podcast featured guest stars. Later on the weekend I’ve heard that he had Jim Cornette as a guest. Not that I will complain but on his first show his guest were Karen and Jeff Jarrett. They talked a little bit about their company Global Force Wrestling which has gathered a lot of buzz after they helped New Japan Pro Wrestling carry their big event Wrestle Kingdom IX on PPV in America. Jeff parlayed that into making Global Force Wrestling a touring company which television coming soon. They will have a lot of talent not currently in WWE and a lot of talent that has quickly left TNA Wrestling after their recent payroll and production problems. Jeff, Karen and Jim appeared to be old friends so there was a lot of playful dialogue and jabs between the three. I would have preferred to have seen Jim Corrnette myself as a big fan of his work with the Midnight Express in the NWA. The Jarretts were a great part of the show and fielded questions from the crowd. Being close to the bar was a good thing but also a bad thing. Don’t exactly remember what they talked about but I do somewhat remember a few Owen Hart stories.

With a few beers in me the show ended and I began the trip to the WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony. When I arrived I noticed a sign that said “hecklers would be ejected.” Not that anybody would want to go to this show to be a jerk to WWE legends on the culmination of their careers. Still didn’t exactly like the visual censorship warning. I hadn’t eaten all day so I had to quickly get something. The Arena had a great selection of food and quickly was able to get a decent burger and french fries. I really wasn’t able to experience Dallas’s great food selection in form of barbecue or steaks. I did get to have breakfast at a WhatABurger in the airport departing back to Boston on Tuesday. Arena food is what I mostly ate during the weekend and it did not disappoint.

The Hall of Fame originally was the event I was most looking forward to. It was also the show that was hardest to get tickets for. It was not available when I was planning the trip in December and missed the opening sales day. I ended up having to pay far much more than I had planned for what was arguably the worst seats in the arena. It was a good thing that this is going to be a talking show because the seats would have been terrible if it was a visual show like a WWE show is usually based. This show was going to be speeches so it didn’t really matter where my seats would be. Didn’t really like paying 80 dollars for face value tickets at around 30 dollars but I screwed up.

The highlight of the show was the induction of the first big stable in wrestling: the Fabulous Freebirds. The Freebirds made a name for themselves in Dallas Wrestling feuding with the legendary and WWE Hall of Famers The Von Erich Brothers. The birds represented the state of Georgia in a long feud with the Von Erichs who represented Texas. It was one of the biggest feuds in wrestling history and it was appropriate that the Freebirds were inducted in Dallas where they made history. Present to accept the induction that night were Michael PS Hayes and Jimmy Jam Garvin. Two other members of the Freebirds Buddy Jack Roberts and Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy passed away in 2012 and 2001 respectively. They were honored by two of their sons who came on stage to say a few words about the Freebirds and their fathers. It was a touching tribute. After that the surviving Von Erich brother Kevin came onto the stage to talk about his family and how the Freebirds might not have been blood but they were all brothers in arms. It first seemed like the team that was chosen to induct the Fabulous Freebird was a rib on Michael Hayes. The Freebirds were introduced by the two time and current WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day. The New Day currently is a team of three superstars who are collectively the tag team champions. This in sports entertainment is called the Freebird Rule based on the fact that in its greatest incarnation the Fabulous Freebirds were a three man team with Roberts, Gordy and Hayes. The New Day talked about how they are brothers and how they learned that from the example the Freebirds set so many year ago in Dallas. The induction ended with Michael Hayes dancing around the arena floor singing the iconic theme song of the Freebirds to a captive audience. It was the highlight of the night.

The show also featured several other hall of fame speeches but nothing that came close to that. The show ended with Ric Flair inducting his long time nemesis Sting into the Hall of Fame. It was a short but sweet speech for the Stinger. Sting ended his speech by confirming that he was officially retiring from the sport in which he gave the last 25 years to. The crowd did not want to see the Stinger retire but they were very respectful after they realized this was the way it had to be. Sting will go of to to the sunset with a sold-out show. A fitting end to his illustrious career. The other inductions were also very heartfelt and poignant. I really enjoyed hearing the words of Stan “The Lariat” Hansen in particular. His speech ran a little bit long and he did seem to lose focus a few times but it was a great message. Hansen talked about in this business you are always looking for somebody great to match up against. He talked at length about how how being a great opponent made his career turn out so great. He got a big break early in his career in the WWE because WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino was looking for somebody who could match up power-to-power with the Italian superman. Hansen was able to parlay that great opportunity into a storied career that spanned decades. It all started because he was a great opponent. Also inducted were former WWE woman’s superstar Jackie Moore, Charles Wright (The Godfather), The Big Boss Man the late Ray Traylor. The rest of the speeches were short but sweet. WWE had asked to keep the speeches to “PG” so the Godfather’s speech was very very short. Godfather was a big star during the Attitude Era and his character on television was reportedly “dumbed down” to be acceptable on TV. Most characters are the real life personality turned up to to an eleven but not the Godfather. Jackie humbly accepted her induction into the Hall of Fame with a surprisingly quick speech. Not sure what happened but it appeared that her time got cut because of Stan Hansen going a little bit longer. Ray Traylor’s daughter and widow accepted on his behalf after being introduced by the Doctor of Style Slick.

The show ended with Sting’s retirement and induction. The show was a great success and everybody should try to watch the full ceremony the WWE Network. The biggest night of the weekend was fast approaching. Everybody quickly left the arena to their next destination and I rushed back to my hotel room. Tomorrow was Sunday and that meant one thing: WrestleMania 32.

WrestleMania Weekend Day 1: NXT TakeOver Dallas

A flight at five in the morning is not something anyone should experience. It was something that I never wanted to experience but there was nothing I could do. The only way I knew I would make that flight is by staying up the entire night before. I had planned on waking up late on that day but I just couldn’t make that happen. I ended up waking up at 10am on Thursday and I would be awake until 1am Friday Night/Saturday Morning. This is how the first day of my WrestleMania weekend trip began.

Work has had me too busy to do anything to document my trip to Dallas this past April. The first night was loaded top to bottom with NXT TakeOver Dallas. It was what I thought was a sold out show from the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Center in Dallas. Before that I caught the first day of the convention at the arena: WrestleMania Fan Axxcess. It was something that I wanted to experience myself once as it is a part of WrestleMania Weekend. I really didn’t know what to expect from it. I sort of regretted going as soon as I entered. It was way too crowded and the lines were crazy. So, I did not get any autographs and wasn’t able to take any photos with the WWE Superstars. The highlight of the event was being able to see a few matches at the ring they had set up for later NXT Television taping on Saturday. I ended up staying at the arena seats for most of the show before having to jet off to see TakeOver. I saw and filmed Enzo Amore and Colin Cassidy have a promo and then a match against the Vaudevillians. It was also the final time Enzo and Cass would be together with their manager Carmella. Both Cass and Enzo would be brought up to the main roster the Raw after WrestleMania. So, this is the last time all three superstars would be together in WWE at least for the considerable future. It could be the final time that they are together in a WWE event period. How you doin? I also was able to snap a few photos of merchandise and memorabilia from the history of WrestleMania and the WWE Hall of Fame. The highlight was capturing a still shot of the newly minted statue for the late great American Dream Dusty Rhodes. I didn’t have anybody with me so all of the shots were just taken by me.

I could not stay long at Axxxess and it wasn’t really any loss in that. NXT TakeOver Dallas was starting soon and I could not wait. This event was the reason I took an earlier flight to be able to get in town on time. These were hard tickets to find unless you got on top of things early. Seats I had were going for 400+ on ticket re-selling seats. Good thing for me that I got the ticket the day they went on sale. I was very tempted to put mine up for sale but thought better of it. I ended up making kind of a mistake because they put more seats for sale the night of the event. I could have made some serious bank.

The show was amazing and I had a great time. I ended up meeting a friend from the TPWW Wrestling Forum after the show. The NXT Tag Team and Woman’s championship ended up changing hands at the show. I experienced the awesomeness that was the debut of the King of Strong Style Shinsuke Nakamura. The main event was a barn burner which saw the NXT Champion Finn Balor retain against Samoa Joe. Joe would later in the month win the title in Lowell, Massachusetts which was like 30 minutes away from where I live. I traveled thousands of miles to see him thinking he would have his moment in Dallas but it wasn’t his (or mine) night that night

The event started with the tag team titles. It was Dash and Dawson: The Revival defending against Jason Jordan and Chad Gable: American Alpha. One of the best opening matches I can recall. Back and forth action with a great mix of hard hitting and technical wrestling. It was like being live for a match with The Steiner Brothers and the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. Not sure if those two teams ever fought in the ring but it would have been something. The Revival really looked strong even in defeat. They lost the tag titles and the crowd erupted like crazy when the fan favorites became the champions. It was a short-lived reign though. At the next TakeOver The Revival would recapture the titles. It seems like American Alpha is bound to the main roster. They should do very well together or apart on either Raw, Smackdown or both. The event continued with the debut of former TNA Champion Austin Aries who defeated a very game Baron Corbin (more on him in part three of this piece.)

It was then time for the match of the night and probably the match of the weekend and probably the match of the year. Sami Zayn taking on the King of Strong Style Shinsuke Nakamura. This match was something else. I had never seen either compete in the ring live before and it was my first time seeing a Nakamura match. The match was a spectacle of what is called strong style in Japan. It was hard hitting and the match was action from bell to bell. After the match was over nobody was in their seats NOBODY. The crowd was into the match from the start and didn’t let up until the final three count gave Nakamura the victory. We all chanted fight forever and meant it. It was not only the best match on the card it was the match match of the weekend and probably the match of the year. Two more matches had to come after and they did their best but this one stole the show.

The NXT Woman’s Championship was on the line next as Bayley was defeated by the Empress of Tom morrow Asuka. I was there live also when Bayley won the NXT Woman’s Championship against Sasha Banks at TakeOver: Brooklyn. This defense was one that I was very much looking forward to and was shocked to see the result of. This was to be Bayley’s WrestleMania weekend moment and it was taken away from her. It was stolen from her by the now new champion. It was a solid match and the crowd was pretty into it after the match before so that was saying something about both competitors. The crowd could have been tired out after that Zayn/Nakamura match but they were captivated with this match also. When Bayley lost to the choke hold you could probably have heard a pin drop. We were all shocked. Bayley did not have her moment and because she was choked out the crowd didn’t even have a moment to stand up and applaud Bayley’s losing effort. She was gallant in defeat and she never gave up. The crowd was shaken by what happened and the final match was going to have to be special to make an impact.

The NXT Championship match started off with a bang. Samoa Joe was busted open almost from the opening bell. The crowd got into the match for all the wrong reasons though. The referees tried to stop the match on numerous occasions to tend to Samoa Joe’s bleeding the crowd was not having any of that. We chanted “let them fight” and “Let Joe Bleed” to not stop the flow of the match that we all were really into at this point. Blood is now a rarity in sports entertainment and it was quite a moment we all didn’t want to be pulled away from us. It was pulled from us and we didn’t like it in the slightest. The match was restarted and it looked like Samoa Joe was about to pick up the win. Finn Balor was able to avoid defeat and was able to reverse a Kokina Clutch into a pinning solution that happened to be successful. Later that month Joe was able to pick up a win for the championship in Lowell Massachusetts. Basically I traveled 2000 miles to see a title change that didn’t happen but happened like 20 minutes from my house. That’s wrestling for ya!

This show ended up being the highlight of the weekend in terms of wrestling. Every match was on point and fed off the crowd to make something very special. Everybody knew that all eyes were on them and that they had a huge shot to steal the WrestleMania weekend away from the established WWE Superstars. In my opinion they did just that. It was a quite an end to an eventful first day in Dallas. I ended up sleeping until like 2pm Saturday but it was well worth everything involved to be able to get to Dallas in time for TakeOver. Hopefully soon I will have the time to write about the rest of the weekend’s events including the WWE Hall of Fame and of course the show of shows: WrestleMania 32.