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Found 88 results

  1. Well, if we can be sure of something this year of uncertain times still, is that there won't be another Taker match at Mania. I wanted to do this for a while now, and since I'm living in "almost-lockdown" (I mean, why go out when everything is closed and there's a curfew after 6pm anyway), I figured this was the perfect time to revisit Taker's infamous Mania Streak and beyond. And try to decipher what was so special and fun about it, or maybe what was actually pretty bad about the whole thing too, as it's quite a bumpy ride to say the least despite a narrative that would make you think Taker at Mania was always that awesome event it became in the later years. Also, like I said before I basically became a pro-wrestling fan 30 years ago and the timeline begins a few months before the debut of the Undertaker in 1990. And I stopped being a fan of WWF (then) in 1999, about at the time the Undertaker, who had been from the very start one of my absolute favorite characters, really became kinda unbearable because of the booking aspects of you-know-who. Over the years I have seen all these matches already, I'd say the first third as they happened, the second third after the fact and the last third as they happened again as I slowly went back to at least watch Mania again at the turn of the 2010's. I have tried to watch this with the most open mind possible (and that include not being clouded by whatever my feelings may be about the politics of Mark Calaway), like it was a discovery, or at the very least a re-discovery. I realized I totally undersold some of this stuff. I realized some was even worst than I remembered. I was pleasantly surprised by some and pretty underwhelmed by others I thought were better. And since it's all about Taker at Mania, I'm going to have my own little streak consisting on rating whether it worked (win) or not (loss). So. GONG !!!!!!!!!!!! Chapter 1 : Mean Mark Callous is a zombie WrestleMania VII (1991) : Undertaker vs Jimmy Snuka Hey ! Everybody’s favorite girlfriend murderer Jimmy Snuka is already in the ring. You know what that means : JTTS. Interestingly enough, Gorilla was calling him the Phenom still, which is how Taker was gonna get called in the futur. I don’t see what was so phenomenal about Snuka in 1991, apart from the fact the wasn’t in prison for homicide. And so there it is, Taker’s first Mania appearance, redhead as hell and looking like Mean Mark in a Western movie undertaker gimmick. Walking a bit too fast compared to his mortuary pace later on. Honestly, for all the talk about the Fiend being ridiculous, Taker in 1991 was cartoony as fuck, especially with Paul Bearer making completely ridiculous over the top facials and evil wails and moans. Tons of reaction shots from kids who are supposed to be scared, although some look bored instead. We’re still deeply in the 80’s Hulkamania aesthetics. The gimmick is great though and Calaway does a terrific job with the way he moved and carried himself. There was this interesting contrast between his immobility and the way he delivered his offense, in a very sudden, snappy way, which really was unheard of for a huge guy like him. And this match was all about getting over the gimmick still, although we’re months after his debut on a PPV, so it’s a bit odd they did not have something more interesting for him. I mean, he did beat Dusty Rhodes during Survivor Series already. Snuka gets jackshit, as Taker barely registers anything he does. The flying clothesline comes off as a super impressive spot, again, almost shocking for a guy his size. On the other hand, no rope walk, no chokeslam (he was doing kind of a Big Boss Man version of it then, grabbing people as they ran into him), which is kinda odd as he was already doing all this in regular squash matches, so although Snuka bumps around quite a bit (and pretty well too), it’s a less impressive outing than a usual Superstar squash honestly. They also manage to screw up the spot where Snuka gets catched from a springboard dive (which they were doing on house shows) and Taker actually has to put him down before getting him up for the Tombstone, so there goes the big highspot of the match. So there, basically a less impressive squash than usual on a guy who had been a JTTS for a while now, six months after his much more impressive debut two PPV’s before (and that's in the era of only four a year)... with the big highspot pretty much blown. Can’t really call that a success. 0-1
  2. World Heavyweight Champion Triple H vs Shawn Michaels vs Chris Benoit - Wrestlemania XX I think with triple threat matches you basically have to resign yourself from trying to have a story-based match and just commit to having a balls to the wall, action-packed affair. Instead of fighting against having a third person, you embrace it by just going all out and making sure there is never one dull moment. There really shouldnt be because basically everybody gets a built in breather. I will say HHH was the MVP of this match. After a terrible, terrible 2003 (aside from the last match of the year), he was the total lynchpin of this match. Everything flowed through him and he did an admirable job. As the lone heel in the match, he spent the most time in the match basically having one one on matches with each opponent. I loved the escalation of this match and the feeling of competitive struggle to do all you can to win the match. Benoit and Michaels really brought out the best in each other and even though HHH did a great job I would have liked to seen more of them (definitely check out their RAW 5/3/04 match if you havent). The escalation of the finisher teases from the outset was the perfect way to set the tone that everyone meant business. They had some fun triple threat spots like the HHH ramming Benoit into the apron and then baseball slide into Benoit, HHH whipping HBK bad shoulder into Benoit's tree of woe and the awesome suplex throw of Benoit through the table. Until, I wrote all that I did not notice how much HBK/HHH worked together. I think it was a very subtle nod that this was Benoit's night not Shawn's by making Benoit the ultimate babyface. In New York, which historically never really liked Shawn, Benoit was way more over. Benoit having to earn his diving headbutt was great escalation. Shawn hitting a German was the best heel heat of the match. I think that was one thing the match did lack was stronger heelishness from HHH, who kept up with both guys but could have done more to raise the crowd's ire. I think more hijinx would have been a boon to this match. Shawn is the king of the bladejob. This may be his greatest one ever for speed, secrecy and amount of blood. HHH tapped a nice gusher himself. The pop for the Sharpshooter was awesome and Michaels hit a pitch perfect superkick to break it up. I would have liked to seen Michaels eliminated in more grand fashion than being thrown over the top rope. The Crippler Crossface sequence with HHH was just as fresh in my memory as it was in 2004. I stopped it before the celebration with Eddie. Too damn depressing. Watching this match emotionally cold, there actually was not much emotion in the match to even get you behind Benoit. You had to be invested in the Benoit character beforehand to be invested because the match was so focused on action. They did a great job with the escalation in this match. The suplex of Benoit on the table was a great red herrig to play into the idea he was an afterthought in the HBK/HHH show and that was going to be blown off only for him to return and win. I think this is another early 00s match that is hurt by not having a stronger heel presence even though HHH played ring general well. Would have liked more hijinx. As an action-packed main event spotfest, this is tough to beat. ****1/4
  3. Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho - Wrestlemania XIX I feel like I have to be missing something with this match. It is just so underwhelming given the praise heaped on it. It just does not do much for me. I get the fan trying to prove he had surpassed his idol at his craft story and there were a few nods here and there to that. I never felt like Jericho was proving himself to Michaels. Michaels' main motivation in this match seemed to be have a good time at his first Wrestlemania back and prove he have a great non-gimmick match. Besides me, I think that was everybody's conclusion and this was a significant step in his full-time return. I think it would have been better they had a more light-hearted affair like a Midnight/RnRs match where Michaels gets to have his fun early and Jericho clowns and bumps. Jericho gets vicious and violent during his heat on the back. Then they hit the finish. The match they had just lacked any sort of hook. It was seemingly totally bereft of any story or struggle. The early part of the match was the most blase and lame matwork you will ever see. Lawler sucked a big one on commentary. He basically claimed mat wrestling was passe and an anachronism in 2003 to open an match. Jericho and Michaels were doing their best to prove him right. Jericho takes over with a spin kick and then misses a move so Michaels can get the figure-4, but this all abandoned once they go to the outside where Jericho catches HBK into a Boston Crab. Jericho's heat segment was definitely the best part of the match. He worked the back over well and was pretty cocky. Then they do my least favorite transition, the I stand up and hit you with three strikes. Jericho steals HBK's moves (Flying Burriot/Kip Up), who is then like fuck you with Kip Ups galore. They run through a nearfall sequence. Hilariously, a bridge out spot has been their biggest pop of the night so far. Jericho runs through his finish sequence. Literally no transitions. Just Im going to do my shitty version of a bulldog on you now. Being a heel and having a submission finish in the WWE is so silly. Michaels makes it to the ropes twice in this match, some finish. Jericho punctuates his sequence with his own Sweet Chin Music. Shawn says my turn and hits a reverse crossbody. I did like that Shawn had to earn his top rope elbow, which was a nice moment. Sweet Chin Music outta nowhere (Jericho was bitching and moaning that no one submits to the Boston Crab) and that should have been the finish. They go the cradle route to put it over as an OMG CLASSIC~!, because classics end in cradles! Jericho punting Michaels' in the balls after the match was the best part of this by far. I think this is one of the most overrated matches in the 2000s. No flow. No story. Two just guys doing their moves. Their 2008 series smokes this. I am open to arguments on why this is great because I am genuinely curious why this is so well-regarded. I feel like there is something I am just not getting.
  4. The Rock vs Hollywood Hulk Hogan - Wrestlemania XVIII If I had to use one word to describe this match, it would be overachieving. Based on Hogan's mobility and physical health, this match should not have been as good as it was. Even The Rock's character is a modern day version of Ric Flair, no one would confuse him with Flair inside the ring. Yet, Rock put on maybe the best individual performance of his career in this match. This is what the Michaels match should have been. Rock created so much movement and bumped huge for Hogan up until the finish stretch. Anytime Rock got anything going, Hogan would cut him off and thats when Rock take that big bump for Hogan. I think a lot of emphasis gets placed on Hogan's timing and understanding of psychology on why this match is so good. I think that is a good portion of what makes the match great is Hogan feeding the crowd what they want to see the poses and the Hogan spots (which are mostly cheating spots anyways!) it is Rock that is really giving them red meat. He was selling the crowd reaction with his eyes. He was floundering out there running around like a chicken with his head cut off. He would hit one move and end up on his ass the next move. It was pitch perfect. The match got weird during the finish stretch. I don't get why Hogan taps out to the Sharpshooter only to lose the match. I have watched this match three or four times and always forget who wins. I swear I always see the Sharpshooter think they are protecting Rock and going to give Hogan the win. Then Rock kicks out of the Atomic Legdrop!?!?!?! I lose my shit. I am not happy because like the Toronto crowd I am always all in on Hogan. Then The Rock wins and it is like what the fuck! This is clearly Hogan proving that he is willing to play ball. Hogan turning on the NWO and doing the posedown gets all his heat back. This match proves that wins and losses are a merely booking tool, but do not necessarily have to matter. I think you should book wrestling so wins and losses matter in the context of the storyline. Ultimately, though heat is generated from a myriad of different sources. Hogan not only lost this match, but Rock kicked out of his finish and Hogan tapped to the Sharpshooter! His goose could have been cooked, but because of how strong he was at the little things in this match and a hot post-match angle means that Hogan has enough heat to win the belt the very next month. The three jobs to Cena (Ryback, Wyatt, Rusev, and Owens) does not have to be a death sentence it only is because WWE is so bad at the follow-up. But I digress, this is a breezy, fun Clash of the Titans match. It showcases Hogan's timing and Rock's bumping and leadership in that ring. I enjoyed the first 2/3s and the post-match more than the finish run, which was very 2002-y with the finisher stealing. Holy shit though that Hulk-Up was one of the most fucking awesome things you will ever see. ****
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