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  1. Shawn Michaels vs Triple H - Summerslam 2002 There may be no two more polarizing wrestlers in WWE than Shawn Michaels and HHH. It is almost entirely due to their "real life" personas (or what we know them to be from second hand accounts). I am not going to pick a dog in the race, but analyzing their matches always evokes a lot of emotion and passion. WWE pushes these two as two of the all-time great pro wrestlers in the ring. They are uttered in the same breath as Flair unlike Austin and Rock, who are usually associated with Hogan as great superstars as the WWE dictates. When HBK/HHH entered the ring for Shawn Michaels' first match in four years, it was a mere formality that this could become a part of WWE canon as one of the all-time classics. They would have had to put on a stinker the caliber of their Hell in a Cell match (I have never seen it, but it sounds atrocious) for this not go down as one of the premiere matches in company history. For hardened wrestling fans, this match is considered to be no good and vastly overrated. Where do I lie? I am closer to the WWE camp and I think this does belong best matches of WWE in 2000s, but in the greater scope of pro wrestling this can not compete. I will say I felt a lot more emotion for Kobashi's comeback match in 2007 than I did for Michaels' comeback here. I watched the Kobashi match last year and to me that was just one of most emotional matches I have ever seen. Maybe it is because I knew Michaels would eventually make a full recovery or that I have seen this before, but it did not hit me as hard this time. The beginning shine was perfectly acceptable. It was not great, but not bad. Michaels was brutally betrayed by his friend so I would have liked to seen more anger, but overall he was pressing the advantage proving to fans that he has his trademark mobility by hitting a dive over the top to the outside. HHH was fine bumping around for him. This felt like a really good standard opening to a character-driven face vs heel match, not a blood feud. It was important to me that Shawn stay on top and suffocate HHH at the very least. Loved the teased Sweet Chin Music into a backbreaker. That was straight money. HBK did a great job selling the back. HHH worked over the back like a champ. This was an incredibly strong heat segment, maybe the greatest HHH's career. The backbreaker on the chair was fucking awesome. I loved the set ups for Michaels' hope spot like using Earl and getting the sledge hammer to give time for HBk to recuperate. The low blow and Sweet Chin Music into the chair was perfect, perfect one-two combo to get Shawn back on top. After taking such a hellacious beating, he needed two quick bombs to make this even remotely credible and those were perfect. Ok, so now onto the controversy. The kip up. Yes after the awesome heat segment, he kipped up. For the rest of the match did not really sell the back (he did after a couple dives). It did not kill the match for me. I can understand the issue. There is no hard and fast rule about this at the end of the day. Sometimes, it is just going to bother certain people more than others. I still think it is a great match just not an excellent, classic one. Mostly because Shawn actually delivers one of his best comebacks of all time. Marty was usually the hot tag in the Rockers and Shawn's greatest weakness in his career was probably credible offense. I thought he was laying in some really great rights here and was really tearing into HHH. HHH tapped a gusher (one of his best qualities) and sold really well. The match did get a bit long in the tooth. For instance, I don't think he needed to dive off turnbuckle onto the table and dive off the ladder. The dive to the table got a huge pop and is a great spot. That was sufficient. Also, it get a little back-y n forth-y towards the end, but not as bad as some of the modern matches. They did a great job with the finish in relation to the rest of the match teasing each finish before HBk got the jackknife win. Yes, the match was wrestled as more of a championship bloodbath than a blood feud match. Yes, Michaels did not sell the back down the stretch. Yes, it was a bit too long. I think the match accomplished more important objectives. if this was truly a one-off, Shawn Michaels would be able to go out on his own terms unlike Wrestlemania XIV where the amount of pain he was in affected his performance. If it was not and was to lead to something more, it proved Shawn Michaels of 2002 was every bit the Shawn Michaels of 1997 and he had not lost a step. He gave one of the best comebacks of his career and I think it was much more important he looked credible on offense in this match. HHH gave him more of the beginning and end because this was Shawn's match. I know they felt the need to put Shawn in gimmick matches to hide any shortcomings he may have had upon comeback, but I think it was the wrong move as coming right out of the gate with a bloodbath is tough. I think for the match they wrestled the jacknife cover was fine because it showed Michaels had just enough to win, but left it open for rematches. It fit the theme of championship bloodbath. HHH attacking the back with the sledgehammer was a perfect post-match beatdown and particularly gruesome. Call me crazy, I liked this one. Currently my WWE 2002 match of the year, but that should change shortly. ****1/4
  2. Why this doesn't get talked up more? I just finished watching it for the first time & I was absolutely blown away. Old school brawl, full of hate, defined heel & babyface roles, kick-ass performances by all - especially by HBK, who gave one of his best performances ever in my eyes. ****1/2 - ****3/4, leaning more towards ****3/4 now. Incredible match.
  3. THIS WAS AN ABSOLUTE HOOT. Other than a few comedic moments where Steph managed to defend an Armbar from Ronda, this was so brilliantly put together. GREAT FIP segment w/ Angle - I knew this was gonna be all about HHH keeping him away from tagging to Ronda as long as he could & it was very enjoyable to watch. HHH was very good working the heat on him, and when it was time for Angle to get some offense in, HHH was bumping & selling like he was fucking Ric Flair or something. Steph cutting Ronda off before she could tag in a few times was awesome & when she FINALLY got that hot tag, HOLY SHIT. WHAT A DAMN HOT TAG IT WAS. Ronda's meanface is absolutely incredible & her throwing Steph around was so, so, SO enjoyable. Her beating the SHIT out of HHH was amazing & HHH's selling of it was also amazing. The whole finishing stretch w/ the crowd going crazy, nobody caring about rules anymore PWG style was absolutely INCREDIBLE. WHAT A DAMN SPECTACLE. ****1/2
  4. I think it's pretty undeniable at this point that Triple H is a pretty self-conscious worker. I don't even think that's an inherent negative honestly. I liked the Reigns match more than pretty much anyone else and I was starting to wonder if the micromanaging and his status of a demigod within the company would finally allow Triple H to turn into a good worker. They did not. This was boring, played to the cheapest instincts of the most shallows wrestling crowd. Uninteresting and very basic quasi-matwork that was all heatless headlocks that they transitioned away from only when the crowd started chanting their names out of boredom after failed CM Punk chants. Triple H's move-PAUSE-move-PAUSE formula was as apperent here as it ever was. A lot of stuff they did was rough around the edges and they relied on uninteresting cliche transitions to get through the match. The crowd will pop for 2.9999 counts though, so there's that. *3/4
  5. Look it might not match Yoji Kuri shorts in terms of the weirdest stuff I've ever seen but if we look strictly at pro wrestling Triple H's entrance is up there. Roman Reigns gets the Chris Jericho vs CM Punk Wrestlemania 28 entrance, you'd think he's about to be Booker T'd and not win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in front of the biggest Wrestlemania crowd in history. I liked this a lot, it did feel like a match that had more thought put into it than it should've but my impression is that with different participants and a different crowd this same exact match would get completely different reviews. And, I dont want to downplay the importance crowd reactions has to some folks when ratings stuff but.....IDK I drowned the noise out. I liked all the early brawling, Reigns has a good punch and Triple H was solid as well, his side headlock punches didn't look much different than Flair's really and I popped for him busting out a bunch of new shit to pop himself. Reigns took a sweet bump on the Swinging Neckbreaker off the table, though you do question off all the moves you could do why would you do a Swinging Neckbreaker where you take a bump even when you're executing the move. Then again most pro wrestlers are supposed to be dumb. Triple H busting out the second rope knee drop was interesting as well, and even if I could see the counter coming when he went for it the second time I still thought it looked good so I didn't mind it that much. Reigns should probably drop the corner clotheslines and replace them with the 10 corner punches. The Clothesline over the steel steps looked cool but following it up with three steel steps bumps was pretty much the definition of diminishing returns. The Spear through the barricade would be another example of that, just a few years ago it felt like a holy shit spot and now it's just another transitional spot I didn't even pop for that much. Steph as the evil witch was hilarious at ringside, have to laugh at anyone who ever argued she was the best non-wrestler at any point. I did like the armwork, Triple H doing Fujiwara tribute spots was too amusing for me to complain about it and none of the spots went that long. My response to the Inoki comparison and the pre-MMA armbars is that I sat through a bunch of those matches and I found this more amusing than Inoki and Andre The Giant rolling around. I really don't see any point in Reigns doing a sit out for his power spot, it just makes it look even less impressive when it's a move for which he can't deadlift the other guy all the way up in the first place. I really liked the way they used finishers, never felt like they were there just for a cheap pop, first Spear had the Steph interference to *theoretically* build heat and the first Pedigree was just after Reigns Speared Stephanie and that whole sequence felt huge. Triple H holding onto the hammer after Reigns Superman Punched him was solid work on his part to build drama and I liked that final sequence a lot as well. I'd have this at ***1/4 which is like what Meltzer have it I think. But screw it, I shit on more than enough pro wrestling matches, I can like one no one else likes.
  6. The Road to WrestleMania XXX: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33558-the-road-to-wrestlemania-xxx-the-good-shit/ The Road to WrestleMania 31: The Good Shit - http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/33559-the-road-to-wrestlemania-31-the-good-shit/ NXT at WrestleMania 31 Axxess – March 26, 2015 These matches aired on the April 8, 2015 broadcast Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifier Tournament Semifinal Neville vs. Hideo Itami Staredown triggers a “THIS IS AWESOME~!” chant, and it should for this is a dream match. Eight years ago, this could be manipulated into being ROH vs. PWG. Five years ago, NOAH vs. DG. Easily the best match of the tournament as this would be the only chance for these two to collide while in NXT based on plans in the very near future. While this of course didn’t reach greatness, they showed that such a match of that magnitude is capable in the future. Everything about this match was just so professional, from the mat wrestling (including a battle to gain leverage on hammerlock trades), Neville refusing to be the answer to the Go to Sleep trivia question, and Neville’s cut-offs when Itami took over in the middle and in the closing sequences. In particular, my favorite spot was a teased running corner dropkick from Itami, only to eat a perfectly timed superkick from Neville for a hot nearfall. Of course, the tease became reality since these two are so polished and experienced. This should’ve been the tournament final, and as someone who finds fan conventions totally useless, advertising a match like this ahead of time in the future would make me consider attending the session. ***1/2 Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifier Tournament Semifinal Finn Balor vs. Tyler Breeze Couldn’t come close to breaking ***, let alone the semifinal that this followed. This was paced as a fine TV or house show style match, nothing memorable whatsoever, but just enough for Balor to get his shit in and pop the crowd and lead to the rematch with Itami in the final. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Qualifier Tournament Final Finn Balor vs. Hideo Itami Nothing close to their first dream match in NXT’s prior tournament several weeks earlier and for understandable reasons, as both men are in their third matches of the evening, plus have matches booked the next night at San Jose State University. There really are no complaints to make here, as the match was good but nothing special, which is exactly where it needed to land to leave the crowd happy. Itami pulls off the major upset though, which shouldn’t have been with so much Japanese media in town due to Tatsumi Fujinami’s HOF induction. *** Crazy food for thought: I never, ever prior to 2014 would’ve thought I’d see KENTA on the same WrestleMania card as Sting. WrestleMania 31 Tag Titles Match Cesaro & Tyson Kidd vs. The Usos vs. Los Matadores vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston The SF native Usos are of course decked in 49ers colors, and it’s an obvious shame that Jey had the busted shoulder and could only come out to soak in the moment without getting to do anything physical whatsoever. Gut-wrenching, as them winning the straps in a standard tag from the champs to open the PPV broadcast would’ve been something special. The champs and hometown boys are of course the most over, while the New Day are still like a wet fart, looking hopeless to ever catch on. Now as for this match, I hated it on broadcast viewing. Sure it was a fun spotfest live, but the broadcast version exposed this as nothing more than a TNA “go out there and do a video game” match. That’s probably not a coincidence with Rudy Charles as the assigned referee, and this was the first WWE match I think I’ve ever seen in which a referee failed to keep track of who was legal. The match wasn’t THAT crazy to justify such sloppy officiating. Others will love this more than me, but I have no use for this in ROH, PWG, or TNA, let alone WWE, especially on the industry’s grandest card of the entire year. Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale Decent battle royale that didn’t quite live up to the original’s finishing stretch. The segments to mention were of course Show eliminating Itami like a complete, utter jabroni, thus making his appearance useless, as him getting to the final four would’ve done quite a bit to build the NXT brand. Cesaro got his moment to shine by scoop-slamming Kane out of the ring, only for Show to get his win back over him from the prior year. Then of course Damien Sandow (Mizdow) got fed up with the Miz’s bullshit, eliminating him to have a fun final with Show. Show won for what would be obvious reasons at the conclusion of the event, although I sensed live during this match, and now believe even more so with the narrative forced by the commentary when Show won, that Sandow should’ve gone over here. The reason isn’t even about Sandow being the hot hand at the time, although that plays a part (Miz could destroy the trophy leading to their singles match at the next PPV, and maybe it actually would’ve caught on as a singles program for a few months.) Instead, I believe with how limited Show has been in terms of being the slightest bit of an interesting character in 2015, having him choke in this match for a second straight year could’ve made for a compelling undercard narrative going into WrestleMania 32 – would the third time be the charm for Show? Show him preparing for what he feels is his rightful prize in training videos, cutting promos/interviews explaining what it’d mean to him due to the Andre comparisons, etc. Then he is an actual force in that match at AT&T Stadium, perhaps the last highlight of a long and successful career, even though it never reached quite the level of Andre’s. IC Title – Ladder Match Wade Barrett vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Luke Harper vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Stardust vs. R-Truth vs. Daniel Bryan Fun gimmick match to open the PPV portion although it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have a memorable ladder match. There were stunts in this match, although nothing was timed and delivered to be on par with the memorable spots of prior ladder matches such as the Shawn Michaels splash, Edge leaping spear, etc. Having three of the most organically popular babyfaces (Ambrose, Ziggler, D-Bry) thrown in a match with four geeks obviously didn’t help either. If any moments were standout, they’d have to be the dumbest one and the finish. Ambrose got pushed off by Harper and fell off of a ladder in the ring, onto a ladder platform outside the ring. Now with this being the biggest show of the year, this is the time to do a stupid stunt like that, but I’d have reservations had I been in his shoes, as this spot on the card was clearly beneath him and the other two legitimate stars shoehorned into this match. Those other two provided the other standout moment as Ziggler and D-Bry exchanged headbutts on the ladder, with D-Bry of course winning thanks to experience against Nigel McGuinness, and claiming the IC Title. Quite the lazy way to pacify those upset with D-Bry’s booking since returning a few months earlier, but if anyone could make that belt mean something again, he’s the very best choice. ***1/2 Since WWE was adamant about having a ladder match on this show, here was one of the million ideas I had in fantasy booking: Seth Rollins is forced (thanks to Sting somehow getting leverage on the Authority) into putting the Money in the Bank briefcase on the line against the five guys (minus Roman Reigns) he and his buddies had violated the most since his betrayal of the Shield. That would be Ambrose, Ziggler, D-Bry, Ryback, and Randy Orton. That provides a loaded ladder match, that also manages to put two of the company favorites and the three fanbase favorites as mentioned all in a marquee match for the event, as well as providing quite the compelling story for a match since Rollins would see everything he had gained potentially blow up in his face. Now speaking of the two company favorites I was referring to… Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton Rollins is of course accompanied by J&J Security. My favorite match of the night in person, and maybe still even with something else later on objectively edging this out quite a bit. What I love so much about this match is that it not only overcame the shitty booking since Orton’s return several weeks earlier, but this felt the most like a sporting competition compared to everything else on the card. Sure, J&J Security got involved a little bit and were quickly dispatched by Orton, but that was as minimal as possible. This looked like a match in which both men went to the film room and put in their proper time studying one another. There were great counters and blocks all over this match, plus excellent teases. Whether it was Rollins dodging an early Ace Crusher attempt, or blocking a powerslam only to eat one seconds later, this was a purist’s dream for me. In person, this was an excellent match, but on broadcast with polished production, this held up many months later, and the finish of Rollins going for the SR curb stomp, only for his momentum to backfire and see himself lifted to helplessly fall into a perfectly timed Ace Crusher, is gonna be played in highlight reels and talked about for years to come, no matter how uncomfortable WWE is about the stomp. This lived up to my expectations after the classic they had months earlier in Buffalo. **** Dream Match and Sting’s WWE Debut Match Sting vs. Triple H It sure seemed strange to have two of the most promoted matches taking place so early on the card, but I’ll explain why it was actually quite brilliant in my overall assessment of this event at the end of this review. Charles Robinson is the assigned referee, and I shudder to think had it been someone else not familiar with Sting. This may not have been as much fun live if it wasn’t for him. Unlike HHH’s prior WrestleMania match, I’m not going to provide the detailed move by move analysis. This match wasn’t about putting on a technical masterpiece to pay off an angle several months in the making. Instead, this was about providing a dream match for lapsed fans that yearn for the business to feel like the days of the Monday Night War. Now with that said, the first thing I’m going to address is the storyline going into this match. This was a blood feud based on vigilantism vs. corruption and oppression, so this match based on that storyline shouldn’t have relied on the retro faction warfare smoke and mirrors it got. This match certainly needed to have its smoke and mirrors, as NEITHER man looked to be in the best shape from an appearance or conditioning standpoint, but structured more like a brawl. While color was also obviously being saved for later on the card, I believe it was absolutely essential to have here both for the storyline and hide the shortcomings of both performers, and that it wouldn’t take away from the color in another match later. The decision to have the original New World Order and D-Generation X, while providing for a fun, unforgettable segment, was extremely out of place for the storyline developed between Sting and HHH. Don’t get me wrong – it was something to see the two hottest factions of the Monday Night War finally collide, and I never thought the day would come in which SHAWN MICHAELS GIVES STING THE SUPERKICK. That was definitely a surreal moment. I’m going to analyze that decision and its effect on this match even more. I had been critical that Sting’s perspective shouldn’t have been so limited going into this show, and that it should’ve been hammered down the audience’s throat that the Authority reminded him of the nWo being such a destructive cancer and leading cause in WCW’s death (his mission would be to save WWE from a similar fate.) While that dynamic was mentioned in one great video, it was so brief while the Authority hogged so much mic and screen time that even a detailed viewer like me practically blinked and missed it at the time. So DX comes to help out HHH, and then the nWo comes out minutes later. Some may question that based on Sting’s history with the nWo. Why would they come out to help? The reasons are layered – it’s an opportunity for Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash to appear on the biggest show of the year, so of course they’ll take it. Also, let’s remember (as much as none of you want to) that when the nWo splintered into separate factions, Sting joined the Wolfpac version. Also while in TNA, Sting has shown he no longer held a grudge against any of those three, teaming with and aiding them on multiple occasions. WWE would never mention these details of course, but they exist. In addition, the original nWo are all backstage at Levi’s Stadium, see someone they went to war with and against getting manhandled by D-Generation X. Why wouldn’t they wanna come help out someone they respect, while also feeling a sense of competitive pride dating back to the Monday Night War to prove who the alpha faction of that time truly is? With that part of the analysis out of the way, I move on to this. The way this match was structured, including DX and nWo involvement/brawling, baseball bats, sledgehammers, and HBK attacking Sting to benefit HHH, this didn’t belong in 2015 at all, not even thinking about the vigilante vs. authority angle. This entire segment should’ve taken place at WrestleMania X8 or WrestleMania XIX, with it leading to the Sting vs. Shawn Michaels dream match at the following year’s WrestleMania. The timing would have been far more appropriate with the War wounds far fresher, it’d lead to a hot match nobody could’ve even thought would become reality, and it’s a shame that couldn’t happen as WWE’s insistence on pussy-footing around with established WCW talent rubbed Sting the wrong way after WCW’s death. With all of this said – this was a hell of a spectacle, even with Sting and HHH appearing to both get gassed or out of sync at points. And I’ve no problem with the handshake afterwards – HHH was the one that offered it, both men having earned each other’s respect and moving on despite what lead to their dream showdown. I’d have had Sting win of course for the obvious reasons, but this definitely contributed to me getting my money’s worth live. For the next half hour or so, the show is all filler. A mini concert. A meaningless divas match pitting the Bella Twins against Paige & AJ Lee (I’m sure Divas champ Nikki tapping clean to Lee’s Octopus hold will lead to something, I just know it will), and then the HOF recognition segment. While many hate filler and I’d usually argue against this as I strongly prefer cards to be structured in order of match importance, it worked for me here for two reasons, one which I’ll list here. This half hour or so of pure filler gave me time to walk around Levi’s Stadium while still in daylight and take in the surrounding Santa Clara beauty. HIGHLY suggested for everyone to do the same when at this venue. US Title Match Rusev vs. John Cena By far the hottest, most sensible angle coming into this show, it’s just a shame that this didn’t quite live up to its buildup or even their first match several weeks earlier. This was of course a good match, but it’s not a compliment when stating the best moment was Rusev’s tank entrance (the night’s best gimmick entrance by far), no matter how spectacular that particular piece of production was. Before I explain why this didn’t quite live up to the hype, especially for this being Rusev’s year-in-the-making first loss, the match had its bright spots. Everything was clean and crisp, nothing sloppy like Sting vs. HHH, and I appreciated Cena’s overall no-nonsense demeanor throughout the match. That sold his perception of Rusev as a threat and also his patriotic anger. Rusev also got his fair moments of dominance and had to really work to lock in the Camel Clutch, but of course it finally wouldn’t work out for him. As for why I found this disappointing, which my star rating won’t reflect, is mostly because this didn’t have a super-hot finishing competitive stretch of epic proportions as it deserved. For Rusev’s historic loss, a year in the making, on the year’s grandest stage, more effort should’ve been placed in showing just how difficult that task would’ve been for Cena, similar to how opponents of the Seahawks have felt for the past four years. A distraction sports-entertainment finish thanks to Lana, while obviously leading to a breakup between her and Rusev that those behind the scenes would want, didn’t add to the primary story. Rusev wouldn’t have been hurt by losing without the sports-entertainment booking; but his stock certainly hurt by being down for the count after just one Death Valley Driver, rather than a series of nail-biting nearfalls that would’ve had us all in attendance jumping up and down with emotion. Like the IC Title with D-Bry earlier in the evening, if the plan is for the US Title to have its prestige raised after a solid Rusev reign, Cena certainly is the best pick possible. ***1/4 In the next segment, the Authority gloat over the supposed attendance record and that they drew the box office, rubbing in HHH’s victory over Sting. To be clear, that wasn’t disrespect from HHH towards Sting, but towards the audience for relying on Sting to get the job done and thinking he could take the Authority down and serve them the same humble pie as the Shield and D-Bry did in 2014. Speaking of pie, out came the Rock, predictably so after the Authority threw in a “millions” remark, What followed is one of the greatest segments I’ve ever experienced live and has been discussed to death in what looked to be leading to a huge crossover match the next year at AT&T Stadium. Rock got the cheap pop talking about his very early days in the Bay Area and got slapped by Stephanie McMahon, then convinced Ronda Rousey to come into the ring and help him knock the Authority down a peg. Not quite on par for me personally with the Championship Ascension Ceremony in Seattle, but definitely an all-time WrestleMania moment that blew Rock, Hogan, and Steve Austin’s segment a year earlier out of the water. Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker Live, this match looked like a sloppy mess to me. That’s explainable as Wyatt reportedly rolled his ankle earlier in the day during warmups or walk-throughs, and he’s not elite enough to overcome that. On broadcast, this match was still nothing special and arguably felt like a waste of time, but Taker still looked a bit lethargic and broken down, albeit still significantly healthier than a year earlier when he was concussed. Of course, Taker gets the win to show he’s still got it, and leaving Wyatt, one of the most pushed acts on the roster without any clear storyline direction. Whatever, the crowd popped for it. WWE Title Match Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns Now of course, was this the right main event? I still say no, even with how shockingly great this turned out to be, as the “right main event” I’m referring to has the potential on paper to be a true all-time classic for the industry should it ever actually occur. Now with that said, I went into Levi’s Stadium, despite how disappointing the Reigns push was, hoping these two would give me my money’s worth and prove everybody wrong that was concerned about the predicted lack of chemistry these two would have. And I’m happy to say that I was totally wrong in that regard. Start to finish, this entire presentation was top-notch art. In a match perfectly structured for each other’s strengths, they went out and smashed it for the top prize in the industry. From Lesnar getting the early domination segment (in a manner far more captivating than Kane or Big Show struggled to reach against Reigns in the months leading up to this), to Reigns smiling to show he could absorb the pain that the Beast Incarnate unleashed upon him, to Lesnar juicing after being slammed head-first into a ring post to transition to Reigns shining, I could not have asked for a better match from these two. It wasn’t just the structure of this match, or even the off-the-charts, unforgettable finish that made this a special match between two bad-ass heavyweights. The crowd provided an AMAZING big fight atmosphere that translated exceptionally well to the broadcast, and I can say that live it was a pleasure to be a part of. Lesnar was the hottest babyface on the roster, and Reigns through no fault of his own was the biggest heel to a significant portion of those in the Bay Area that weekend. Now as for the finish, nobody could’ve really seen it coming after the booking of the prior several weeks and Lesnar signing a contract extension just days earlier. But to see Seth Rollins, the former Tyler Black, sprint to the ring once Reigns had knocked down Lesnar (but still struggling himself to take advantage thanks to the former UFC World Heavyweight Champion’s brutality), and successfully cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase, was a rewarding live experience I’ll remember forever, reminding me of why I remain a fan of such an often-disappointing niche industry after 18 years. He had worked his ass off to achieve the Shawn Michaels spot I foresaw for him a year earlier, and it was the right call to make to give the company a chance to (hopefully) re-evaluate the path for Reigns to reach his inevitable coronation. Plus, Reigns seeing a bit of humility doesn’t hurt him, and Lesnar is still protected since he didn’t do the job. This also adds a layer to the choice Rollins made to sell out and destroy the Shield, in what I hope one day will pay off in that particular threeway dream match so many of us yearn for. ****1/2 Coming out of this show, many who attended it, including Dave Meltzer himself, said this may have been the greatest WrestleMania of all-time. That was a bit hyperbolic, but as someone who has attended every WrestleMania since the 25th edition at the now-named NRG Stadium, this is right behind WrestleMania XXVI in Phoenix as the best one I’ve attended as an overall event and experience. I had mentioned earlier that this show used an unusual but very satisfying format. With many months to have slept on it, it was actually BRILLIANT to split the card into pretty much two halves, with the first half closing with the Sting vs. HHH co-main event prior to going on what was in reality a halftime/intermission show before getting to Rusev vs. Cena to kick off the second half. This allowed those in attendance to get snacks and use the restroom without missing anything important, and for me personally I used the time to admire the geographic and new money beauty surrounding Levi’s Stadium. This was a WrestleMania with two great matches, one of them a MOTYC, plus THREE absolutely unforgettable WrestleMania moments, including a historic first-ever MITB cash-in on the grandest stage (poetically a decade after the concept’s birth), Sting’s first ever WWE match, and what appeared to hopefully be signs of the company re-evaluating some of its storytelling mentalities, both with the one that seems destined to be its next face, as well as two midcard titles that were now placed on true champions. This review isn't quite done yet though. I must throw in my two cents regarding two special documentaries highlighting the WrestleMania 31 journeys of Hideo Itami and Roman Reigns, the former airing on NXT's April 8, 2015 broadcast, the other being a WWE 24 episode. As has been said over and over again, I don't care how much time and money these types of pieces cost, they should be happening more frequently. How anyone could watch these documentaries and not feel some kind of connection to Itami and Reigns, who obviously came from VERY different backgrounds and would both leave Levi's Stadium empty-handed in storyline, would be truly baffling. Not only do these documentaries do a great job of highlighting its particular superstars, but the engulfing experience that is WrestleMania weekend and why everyone should enjoy it first-hand at least once.
  7. Team Cena (John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, The Big Show, Ryback, Rowan) vs The Authority (Seth Rollins, Luke Harper, Rusev, Kane and Mark Henry) - WWE Survivor Series 2014 When Survivor Series Elimination Matches are done right they are hard to top. A booker can take advantage of more moving pieces in terms of the number of wrestlers in a match and the number of finishes afforded to him. It allows for more pairings and no dull moments with each tag there is a new combination. The arc follows a more traditional sports-oriented approach where there is a scoreboard and teams fall behind and have to work hard to catch back up. I think this match should go down as one of the best Survivor Series Tags of all time. The hardest thing for Survivor Series tags to overcome ususally is the stigma that they are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. While it turned out to be true that this Survivor Series tag was just as inconsequentlal as most, at the time, this match really felt huge and meaningful to everyone in the match, outside the ring, the announcer and the live audience. I would say in terms of big match feel this ranked only behind Cena/Lesnar at Summerslam and the Bryan matches at Wrestlemania. Everyone played their roles to a T. Triple H and Stephanie just absolutely and totally rocked it on the outside. I loved HHH firing up Mark Henry and really laying it on thick only for Henry to walk into the WMD. Damn! It was the perfect start to the match. Triple H goes from all revved up to total dejection. The heels fell flat on their faces. The babyfaces start hot and the crowd is whipped into a frenzy and they never really let go. One of my biggest hang-ups watching this live was the treatment of Ryback. I am a Ryback fan. When Ryback was at nadir of his career teaming with Curtis Axel against the Dust Brothers for the umpteenth time at the Money In The Bank, I got a "Feed Me More" chant started because damnit, I was not going to let him die. They redebut him and he feels like a big deal. He is presented as the piece that will tip the scales in either team's directions. Then he is the first person pinned on Team Cena!?!?!?! Do I think that if you switch Ryback and Big Show's roles that the story, the match and the aftermath would be 1000000x better? Yes. Did I overreact and basically underrate a match because of it? Yes. I just wanted to get that out there. I love that babyfaces got a long shine by modern WWE standards. This is what Rollins brings to the table that really not other heel does right now. He can pinball bump like a muthafucka and really create energy for a babyface. Whether it is being swatted by the Big Show or Ryback tossing him up, it takes the onus off the babyface to solely get the crowd involved. To be fair to their treatment of Ryback, he does get a huge run of offense before he is eliminated. Rollins gets tossed around. Harper takes a stalling suplex. Kane comes in gets his ass kicked. Hell, Rusev looks vulnerable before in all the chaos Rollins takes advantage with a timely Curb Stomp and eliminate him. I love the heels taking advantage of a melee like that. What is interesting is I remembered that Rusev was presented as the game-changer for the heels, but that was incorrect it was always Harper. Rusev was special because any nearfall or any time he looked vulnerable triggered a big reaction, but it was Harper that actually turned the tide for the heels. Show actually looked strong against Rusev, but it was a well-timed dropkick by Harper that gave the heels their first advantage. The Big Show face in peril segment was the lull in the match, but it was to set up Dolph's first entry into the match and he was supposed to be the star of the show. Ziggler gets a quick burst of offense before Harper plants him. The Ziggler face in peril set up the in-match swerve and the finish beautifully even if it was a bit boring. Rusev busting out the knees again was awesome! After a Ziggler hope spot nearfall, a melee ensues, but this time does not benefit the heels as Rusev belly flops onto an announce table while HHH was egging him on. Triple H's frustration at Rusev not being able to make it to his feet and J & J desperately, but futilely trying to carry Rusev to the ring was the great character work that enhanced the atmosphere of this match. The babyfaces are up at this, but they are not soaring quite as high as earlier in the match. Down 4-3, Rollins took the match into his own hands and executed Shield tactics that being create havoc and always press. The curb stomp to Cena to save Kane forced Cena to tag in Rowan. I did not even notice how awesome Harper/Rowan was. Harper is fucking amazing. It was just a gnarly powerhouse fight. Again, Rollins took advantage and flew in with a knee to the side of the head so that Harper could collect the victory. This all sets up the Big Show turn beautifully. Ziggler is out on the floor from his face in peril and Cena is staggered from the Curb Stomp. It is effectively 3-on-1 and BOOM! Awesome in-match heel turn, logically sound. Triple H handshake was great and Steph doing the Yes! Chant to Cena was awesome. Loved the St. Louis crowd chanting for Randy Orton twice. A member of the main roster is actually over now that is awesome! This is the part of the match I expected to hate, but I actually thought Ziggler was really, really good in this. I expected it to be dead-fish sell and then zero to sixty, rinse, lather, repeat. I thought he did a great job actually building to climaxes and not switching shit off and on. The segment with Kane was worked beautifully. Kane looks like it is a slam dunk, Ziggler staggers and hits his KO blow to eliminate. He has life and the crowd and HHH & Steph respond accordingly. The worst part of the match is actually this Harper segment. Harper mauls him and then loses to a roll-up. It is really hard to book this middle segment. Either scratch it or they could have had Ziggler beat Harper like he did Kane and then when Kane comes in he just destroys him no selling. The Harper beating made it look too incredulous when Ziggler got the roll-up. I thought they did a great job in the Rollins segment building to everything. Rollins was on top, but Ziggler kept hitting more and more moves. Ziggler really paced his offense well and he seemed to be getting stronger with every shot. The interference was well-paced. Ziggler gets a close nearfall and here come the stooges which sends Steph into HHH. Ziggler gets the Zig Zag and HHH says fuck it and Pedigrees him. I wish it was Orton that came out and RKO'd HHH, but Sting was pretty cool. Just do not give a single fuck about Sting/HHH. The finish pretty much sucks because they had built Ziggler into a believable babyface winner over Rollins and he just needed a bit of help like an RKO to Trips, but instead it became all about HHH/Sting, which is too bad. The aftermath and the finish take a lot of wind out of the sails of this one, but for the vast majority of this match is incredibly compelling and you really did not know what would happen next. Everything felt urgent and immediate. The babyfaces were on fire early and you thought they could run away with this. Rollins using Shield tactics to create opportunities for his partners was greta heel strategy. Harper being the heel stud badass was great. The Big Show turn even if Ryback would have been better was freaking awesome. Hell, even the majority of the Ziggler run was some of the best Ziggler ever as he actually modulated his selling and bursts of offense well. Very, very entertaining and like most WWE matches wish they followed up on this better! ****1/4
  8. Shake Them Ropes November 24, 2014 Episode 51 Rob McCarron and Jeff Hawkins are joined by Dylan Hales (@DylanWaco) on this live edition of Shake Them Ropes talking all the fallout and immediate reaction from WWE Survivor Series. We’ll get into the debut of an icon, who won Team Cena vs Team Authority, who was the star of the show, and much more on this special Shake Them Ropes. It’s 90 minutes with Dylan Hales for a fun show! If you enjoy the show, tell your friends and rate us on iTunes. We greatly appreciate the feedback! http://traffic.libsyn.com/shakethemropes/str11242014.mp3 Download Subscribe via iTunes, Stitcher, RSS and more: ShakeThemRopes.com
  9. Shake Them Ropes Nov. 18, 2014 Survivor Series predictions, WWE Network's Top 100 Matches, Raw & more http://traffic.libsyn.com/shakethemropes/str11182014.mp3 Download We're back with the 50th episode of Shake Them Ropes! Today, Rob & Jeff will recap the big stories from WWE Raw, preview and predict Survivor Series, get into Finn Bálor's NXT in ring debut, and more. Plus, we begin our 100 part series reviewing WWE Network's Top 100 Matches To See Before You Die. We start with #100: Jericho vs HHH at Fully Loaded 2000. You can find the full list in the show notes at ShakeThemRopes.com! 00:00-03:45: Intro | ShakeThemRopes.com 03:45-07:00: Interspecies Wrestling in WWE 07:00-18:10: Luke Harper, The Ryback, and Raw 18:10-22:20: Is Rowan "The Most Improved of 2014" 22:20-28:10: Will Triple H Wrestle Soon? 28:10-32:50: John Cena Comedy 33:00-43:00: Survivor Series Predictions 43:00-49:45: Bálor Debut | NXT Review 49:45-70:00: WWE Top 100: HHH vs Y2J Review