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A Mark’s View: #174: The 6th Annual ‘Year in Pay Per ReView’

I’m using a lovely combination of both banners this time, because this column makes both a Point AND a Counterpoint. Plus I never did make an official banner for this annual column, so it?s just as well.

Well, it?s finally done. Over the past two weeks I have caught myself up, watched too many mediocre PPVs, read way too many show results online, written a hell of a lot of text, and basically fried my brain. So here you go, the fruits of my labor, and the summation of 2005 in Pay Per View form…

The 2005 Year in Pay Per ReView

The Past:

As I mentioned in my last column, I haven’t been a very good wrestling fan lately. My interest had been waning slowly over the summer, partially because I had no means of watching the shows live, and partially because the quality of said shows has simply dropped quite a bit. There was no one single reason though, it was a very steady decline. Over the summer I think the only angle I was really legitimately interested in was the Hardy/Edge feud, because it was a slice of real life, even if it was worked. But sometime around October, I got increasingly busy, in November I moved to a new apartment, and by this time in late December, I had fallen so far behind and was so generally disinterested that I just didn’t feel like it was worth catching up. Nothing was moving forward, nothing was all that original, and it was for the same reasons I stopped watching in the mid 90s: I grew up, the angles didn’t. I don’t know if this will last as long as it did last time, but it?s the longest I?ve gone without watching regularly in years.

Before deciding to write this, I still had the two Eddy tribute shows, unwatched, on my hard drive, and I just recently grabbed the last 4 PPV events of the year, because I missed them. With a mix of reading back results archives and watching what I could grab, I am now caught up in at least a minimal sense.

Of course, those PPVs were the only four that I hadn’t reviewed this year, so for the sake of completion, and that I had already reviewed the rest this year, I figured I should just get it over with and write up the 2005 Year in Pay Per ReView. I’m home alone this week and have a full pipe of bandwidth all to myself, so let?s all end the year with one big celebration of internet piracy, shall we?

2000?s grades had Summerslam taking the top slot.

2001?s grades finished with Wrestlemania at the top.

2002 again had Wrestlemania taking the lead.

2003 had the biggest range of grades, with Wrestlemania taking a three year streak.

2004 had Bad Blood on top, with a brand exclusive taking the top spot for the first time.

Now, onto 2005…

The Present:

This is where those numbers you saw me calculate throughout the year actually come back to mean something. What people need to remember is that I’m not reviewing in terms of match star-ratings or necessarily technical prowess, I go by what entertains me as a wrestling fan, because it?s entirely possible that a technical clinic can be boring as shit, and that a goofy gimmick match or a hardcore spotfest can be vastly entertaining. And since I’m taking averages, that means that every PPV match in 2005 counts, because I’m going to rank PPVs in terms of quality via the final Entertainment Level of each one of my PPV review columns in 2005. Where the difference lies is that this year, I don’t have a review column to reference for No Mercy, Taboo Tuesday, Survivor Series, or Armageddon, so when it comes to those 4 events, not only will it be new to you for what place they come in, but those 4 will be a little more in-depth than the rest. Another thing I should mention is that in the cases where I’m taking numbers from my Big 4 ?Bottom Line? reviews, when I talk about the grade the PPV got as a whole I’m taking the averaged final number, while if I’m talking about the grade of an individual match, I’m using my grade for that particular match, which may or may not reflect upon the final average.

Now, even with my lack of interest here, I’m going to attempt to be objective. If a match is genuinely good or entertaining, I’ll call it like I see it. I?ve been reading play-by-play archives for the feuds leading up to each match, but with the bonus that now the lead-in video packages for the big matches are going to be all new to me instead of just a plot rehash.

This year also marks the first year I’ll be presenting one match on each show?s card with a Show Stealer award. This honor is bestowed upon the best, most consistently entertaining match of the card, which was easily the best encounter. While usually an undercard match, main events do occasionally win. I know it?s typical of the clich? for an underdog to ?steal? the show away from the main event, but when the main occasionally takes the ball it?s given and really runs with it far above anything else the card has to offer, I have to give credit where credit is due.

Usually, I do letter grades. This year, I’m not. The reason for that is because of last year being the first full year that I used number grades and percentages to score my reviews, the letter grades seem kind of unnecessary. I’d rather let the numbers speak for themselves.

Joint PPVs will be in black, Raw exclusive PPVs will be in red, Smackdown will be in blue, ECW will be in purple, and as a bonus, the new ones that I haven’t covered yet will be some color variation on the shade of the PPV color. You’ll see what I mean when I get there.

And now, 2005?s worst WWE Pay Per View…

#15: New Year?s Revolution

This Year: [24%’> (last year N/A)

To quote directly from my review, ?The buzzword, or rather words, for New Year?s Revolution seem to be ?one match show?. I can’t blame anyone for saying that, because it was.? In early January, Raw decided they needed an excuse for an Elimination Chamber match, so they threw the rest of the undercard together. Eugene and Lita each blew out a knee in two consecutive matches. Shelton Benjamin then defeated Evil Maven in literally three seconds. Lawler beat Hassan with no commentary. Kane and Snitsky then wrestled an ungodly long, boring match. It might not have been all that long, but it felt like it.

It?s honestly a total shame that this comes in last place too, because the Elimination Chamber match was awesome. The build was excellent, the participants were a great lineup, and from start to finish the match was nearly flawless. But, I reiterate, that?s all this PPV had. Too bad for them I value the whole card of the PPVs I watch.

Highlights: Elimination Chamber

Show Stealer: Elimination Chamber @ [95%’>

#14: Great American Bash

This Year: [26%’>

Last Year: #14, [19%’>

Last year?s worst PPV doesn’t fall too far from the tree this year. The only thing that saves July?s Smackdown event from being the worst is the fact that NYR barely had an undercard. MNM and LOD were the only two TT?s on SD, and their match was DOA. Christian and Booker was nothing new. OJ beat Benoit for…some reason. Undertaker ?killed? Hassan (at the patriotism-themed PPV no less). A tacked-on Mexicools vs. bWo six-man tag had no angle and the bWo disappeared shortly after. Mysterio/Guerrero wasn’t as good this time as the other matches in their lengthy feud, but was still very good. Torrie and Melina ripped each other?s clothes off, and JBL and Batista fought over the belt in a slow and rather boring match. Not much stands out.

Highlights: Rey Mysterio vs. Eddy Guerrero

Show Stealer: Mysterio vs. Guerrero @ [68%’>

#13: No Way Out

This Year: [30%’>

Last Year: #5, [50%’>

What a difference a year makes. The best Smackdown-exclusive PPV last year was one of 2005?s lowest. There was nothing horrible about February?s offering, but it was easily one of the least interesting cards of the year. The Bashams vs. Rey & Eddy opened the show and was one of the only good matches. Heidenreich and Booker was a throwaway, followed by a rushed and uneventful Cruiserweight battle royal. Meanwhile, Luther Reigns got in a decent brawl with Taker, while the ?Rookie Diva? competition shit up the show with filler.

What should?ve been the main event here was Angle vs. Cena, one of their better encounters and before Cena had become overexposed and invincible. But instead, the main was JBL vs. Show in a barbed wire steel cage, the titular barbed wire of which barely came into play during the match. It also was the worst match ending of the year, with Show impressively chokeslamming JBL through the mat, then JBL retaining by escaping the cage. Yes, in a match where escape wasn’t even technically an option. It was yet another example of JBL being a weak champion who could never get a ?normal? victory.

Highlights: Bashams vs. Mysterio & Guerrero; Angle vs. Cena

Show Stealer: Angle vs. Cena @ [80%’>

#12: Taboo Tuesday

This Year: [42%’>

Last Year: #10, [42%’>

Wow, that?s weird. Two slots down, but the exact same Entertainment percentage. Despite my low ranking two years in a row, I still really hope they continue to do this because it?s a good concept. Raw?s November exclusive and fan-interactive show is one of my more in-depth ones in this column, so you’ll see a bit more detail going into the description here since I’ll do it match by match. And right off the bat I have to say it was incredibly surreal to hear Joey Styles on commentary all night for the first time. Surreal, but awesome. Good for him, for landing a job like that.

Interbrand: Snitsky/Masters vs. Mysterio/Hardy: I’d have probably picked those two from Smackdown (apologies to Christian). Shame Edge got hurt, the match would?ve likely been much better. Some inter-brand intrigue, but I don’t like Masters or Snitsky so that cut it down a bit. The convoluted double-referee thing was kind of dumb too. Otherwise decent, and nice of them to let the B-show win. [37%’>

Eugene/Superfly vs. Conway/Tomko: Given the OVW history between Conway and Dinsmore, I expected better. Usual comedy match to make the heels look like weak fools. Meh. Points for the nostalgic Superfly Splash. Honestly, given their personalities, Hacksaw and Eugene would?ve made a great permanent team. [8%’>

Carlito vs. Mankind: I had to laugh at Carlito supposedly in bigger trouble because fans chose Mankind over Cactus or Dude. Different persona, same body. Besides, wasn’t it decided in the HHH feud that Cactus was the most dangerous? Pretty good past-prime match for Foley, who?s in decent shape and still able to bump, but he really didn’t need the win. [60%’>

Tag Titles: Murdoch/Cade? vs. Show/Kane: It?s pretty random to form a team simply by default after the fans picked HBK for the main event, yeah, but KaneShow is actually a pretty cool team. I?ve always liked the idea of an unstoppable force team. They even had a pre-made tandem finisher. Match was okay. [50%’>

Street Fight: Coach vs. Batista: Alright seriously now, what the shit? Goldust? Vader? Goldust AND Vader? I don’t even know what?s going on, and I even read the show results leading up to this. Batista rules, but winning 3 on 1 was pretty lame. [10%’>

Diva Battle Royal: I fail to see the difference between ‘lingerie? and ‘leather & lace?. There was a lot of both in there. Oh Alexis, what have they done to you? Sigh, liked her better in TNA. Speaking of T?n?A, mostly eye candy filler, but I’m grading in terms of wrestling here. Though Mickie sacrificing herself for Trish was interesting. [5%’>

Cage Match: Ric Flair vs. Triple H: So it?s come to this, the final disintegration of Evolution. This could be Ric?s retirement match and I wouldn’t mind, as long as he won it. Obviously these two enjoy working with each other and are veteran enough to plan this out well. Great classic-style cage match, with a classic Flair blade job. Only major gripe is the escape ending, because both are better than that. [85%’>

WWE Title: Cena? vs. HBK vs. Angle: Very smart booking here. Usually I hate the formula of WWE triple threats, but this broke that almost entirely. All three were in the ring for a good portion of time, taking Cena out was a tandem drop through the announce table instead of just throwing him out of the ring, and then they let HBK/Angle brew for awhile, then it was all three pretty consistently until the end. Not too happy about the way Cena won it though, especially since he wasn’t much of a factor. [78%’>

Highlights: Flair vs. HHH; Cena vs. HBK vs. Angle; Fan interactive concept.

Show Stealer: Ric Flair vs. Triple H @ [85%’>

#11: Judgment Day

This Year: [44%’>

Last Year: #12, [21%’>

Nothing really special about Smackdown?s post-Wrestlemania event from May, in terms of build or delivery. MNM opened against the makeshift Holly & Haas team, Show?s match was supposed to be a singles against Carlito, but it turned into a handicap when Carlito added Matt Morgan. Then, the Wrestlemania Cruiserweight title match that got canned finally occurred when Paul London fought Chavo Guerrero in a very good encounter. Following that, Booker tangled with Kurt Angle, in one of Angle?s worst stories ever. Yeah, the ?I want nasty bestiality sex with your wife? feud. OJ and Heidenreich then put everyone to sleep, making me wonder who the hell decided to put those two against each other, and then just before the main, Rey and Eddy wrestled a clinic.

The main event ?I Quit? match between Cena and JBL wasn’t exactly up to par with what the stipulation implies. First off, there was no feeling at any point that Cena was going to lose, and second, JBL gave up at a really strange time, simply because Cena threatened to hit him with a huge pipe. Not good. But fortunately for this show, the undercard was slightly more solid than the shows below it.

Highlights: London vs. Chavo; Mysterio vs. Eddy Guerrero

Show Stealer: Mysterio vs. Guerrero @ [85%’>

#10: No Mercy

This Year: [45%’>

Last Year: #7, [44%’>

Another odd comparison, last year?s was only 1% worse, but 3 whole slots upward. This time, Smackdown?s October exclusive was just sort of…ehh. Nothing really interesting going on, a thrown-together undercard, and uninspired feuds. Another in-depth review, as you didn’t see me review this one during the year.

LOD/Christy vs. MNM: This is the first match I watched after my hiatus. Way to bring me back into the fold, guys. MNM is fine, but LOD is a has-been and a never-was, and Christy?well, I’ll just point out that to win the match she first tried to pin Melina face-down. You do the math. [3%’>

Lashley vs. Simon Dean: Lashley?s fairly impressive. Too bad he blew the spot of throwing Dean onto his shoulder, because that would?ve looked really badass. Pretty much a squash, but I think it?s the first time I?ve ever seen cheeseburgers used in a match. So it?s at least got some originality points. [18%’>

US Title: Benoit? vs. Christian vs. Booker vs. OJ: The problem with this match solved itself at the end. The problem was that the feud over the belt should?ve just been Christian and Benoit, but the latter half of the match had Booker and OJ out of the ring so it was close enough. [55%’>

Ken Kennedy (Kennedy) vs. Hardcore Holly: They need to stop putting Baldcore against rookies in their debut PPV matches. I’m not sure if he was supposed to no-sell that wheel kick, but it looked bad. Pretty impressed by Kennedy as a natural born heel, and I rather enjoyed Sylvan?s beatdown of Holly after the match. [37%’>

JBL vs. Rey Mysterio: Much as I dislike JBL, I?ve always thought he and Rey work really well together. JBL?s so big and clumsy that it?s easy for Rey to run circles around him and make it look convincing. I’m not really sure what purpose Moley-Mole serves as JBL?s valet, but whatever. Decent. [45%’>

Casket Handicap: Undertaker vs. The Ortons: I love that Cowboy Bob is actually a manager now. Pretty good tension and some really nice back and forth action. And then, uh, attempted murder. What? No, seriously, attempted murder! The commentators brushed it off in literally two minutes! Good match, but the angle sours it for me, because angles like this are why I lost interest. [50%’>

Cruiserweight Title: Nunzio? vs. Juventud: Oh, the things that can happen when you actually put cruisers on PPV. Nunzio was kind of a forgotten champ despite his talent, and it seems like this is really the only thing the Mexicools have done so far worth noting. Juvi?s still a tad sloppy, but when he?s on, he does some really interesting stuff, like the northern lights suplex floatover to the Juvi Driver finish. [70%’>

WWE Title: Batista? vs. Eddy Guerrero: Looking back on this angle now really makes me wonder. Would Eddy have eventually turned heel again? Would he have gotten the belt? Yes, I know the plan was to hotshot the belt to Eddy after Batista hurt his back, but I’m talking about if he wasn’t injured. I did really like Batista subtly looking over his shoulder the way he did with Triple H, and I also really liked Eddy struggling to decide to wrestle clean. Batista winning with a spinebuster was a nice change of pace too. Good match, which goes to show that Batista is more than carryable, and that Eddy was great up until the end. [82%’>

Highlights: Nunzio vs. Juventud; Batista vs. Eddy Guerrero

Show Stealer: Batista vs. Guerrero @ [82%’>

#9: Armageddon

This Year: [46%’>

Last Year: #13, [20%’>

A big leap up for the year-end December Smackdown show this year, as last year it was the second worst show, just barely ahead of GAB. Just about everything here, with one exception, was hovering around mediocre, so it?s fitting that the grade is just slightly worse than ‘meh?. Most of the build was either non-existent or cheesy, and the champion was still recovering from a back injury so there was no title defense.

JBL vs. Matt Hardy: Nick Patrick is still the worst referee ever. With Hardy?s neck caught in the ropes, he didn’t do jack shit when JBL kept hitting him except saying stuff like ?Hey, quit it!? Whatever. Hardy deserves better than a curtain-jerker with half a week of build. Hell, even JBL does. Hardy is convincing at getting his ass kicked, as usual. [42%’>

Mexicools vs. MNM: I don’t know whose idea it was to imbed scrolling LED panels that display their names into MNM?s coats, but that?s absolutely hilarious. It does bother me that this wasn’t for the titles, because this would?ve been a good showcase for the division. Surprised at the lack of ECW chants for both Mercury (Joey Matthews) and Super Crazy (uh, Super Crazy), but finally we get some great tag action. [90%’>

US Title, 4 of 7: Booker vs. Benoit: I think I’m bored with Booker because every feud is him vs. the same guy 100 times: IC vs. Christian, US vs. Cena, now US vs. Benoit best of 7, already done in WCW, and that time they were both in their primes. Decent match, but they were already feuding back when I was still watching regularly. Way to overdo a good thing. [45%’>

-Darth Maul beating up Santa Claus and making him eat worms. Okay, I?ve seen everything now.

Lashley vs. Regal & Burchill: The jury?s still out on Lashley; he?s got all the tools to be something good, but something about him just doesn’t ?click?. For one thing, he has no personality, and I think he needs a mouthpiece the same way Heyman got Lesnar over. I?ve been a Regal fan for awhile now, and Paul Burchill impresses me quite a lot, which is why this match pisses me off. There is NO reason why two tough-ass brawlers should be beaten by one rookie power wrestler. [17%’>

-Annnnnd Tim White blows his head off with a shotgun. So, moving on?wait, what? No, no, NO. We don’t just brush that off 10 seconds later by introducing Juvi in the next match, guys. What the Christ is going on? I think the writers are smoking crack. No, I’m serious, I actually, literally think the WWE writers are lighting up crack rocks before going into the writing room.

Cruiserweight Title: Juventud? vs. Kid Kash: Nice to see Kash in the big time, but damn they made him look generic. Maybe it?s the fact that they haven’t really established either of these guys as either characters with personalities, or as clear heels or faces, but this match took awhile to heat up, and then right when it finally did, it ended. Not bad though. [53%’>

Interbrand: Batista & Mysterio vs. Big Show & Kane: I do understand why they did this, because Batista is still recovering and couldn’t do a main event title defense. In that respect, this is a very good cover for that. However, I wish they could?ve thought of some alternative to giving Batista & Rey the tag belts just so they could have a champions vs. champions match. Not bad though, and I give big props to Batista for working injured. [60%’>

HIAC: Undertaker vs. Randy Orton: God, I heard the build for this match was bad, but I had no idea it was THIS bad. Orton hallucinating (which the audience can see too), cars driving themselves, and Josh Matthews being possessed!? And to top it all off, the shotgun suicide of a referee. Wow. WOW. I tried, guys. I really, honestly tried to get back into it. But where I could take it as a so-bad-it’s-good humorous angle before, presenting this seriously is just insulting my intelligence. I could probably brush it off, if it weren’t the main event.

If there were a rational way to explain the angle, like Taker?s got a lot of money and being a locker room leader has a lot of connections with the production and special effects crew, I could buy it. But not strange visions of Bob Orton bleeding. We?ve already got a Papa Shango 2005, and his name is Darth Ma– uh, I mean Boogeyman. This is worse than Kane vs. Shane, and easily is categorized as WrestleCrap.

Okay, so the match itself was a decent brawl. But was it worth making the Undertaker an actual powerful demon/zombie/whatever the hell he is now? Did anything so devastating it would drive a man to suicide happen in this match? The answer is a resounding ?no?. When you hype something up to the degree that demon possession and murder are main selling points, you had BETTER deliver, and this match really didn’t even need to be in a Cell. Aside from using the fences as face-graters, this match could?ve just as easily taken place in a cage. And that, folks, simply turns me off. [15%’>

Highlights: Mexicools vs. MNM

Show Stealer: Mexicools vs. MNM @ [90%’>

#8: Survivor Series

This Year: [50.6%’>

Last Year: #9, [43%’>

That 50.6% is to avoid a tie with the next one down. I don’t like tying scores in my column because I’m anal, okay? I think I say this every year, but whatever happened to the ?series? in ?Survivor Series?? What really makes me wonder about this traditional November interbrand PPV though, is how the hell they filled up three hours with the content they had. The matches didn’t really seem all that much longer than usual, and since the GM fight turned out to not really be a match (and since they’re not wrestlers), there were really only 5 matches on the card. Of a joint-brand PPV. Where, you know, both brands are supposed to show what they?ve got. Five matches. Total.

US Title, 1 of 7: Booker vs. Benoit: Right off the bat, Cole says Booker ‘literally screwed? Benoit. So Booker either raped him or drove screws into him, but either way I think it counts as assault. Honestly, see what I said in the Armageddon review. I’m a fan of both, but unless there?s something distinctly different in the booking of each match, it?s like watching it 7 times. [47%’>

Trish vs. Melina: Gotta love Styles and Tazz on commentary for this. They should call the full card of all joint PPVs. I haven’t seen much of Melina in singles, but I’m glad Trish has someone good other than Victoria to wrestle. This was actually really good, because they actually wrestled, and I was rather surprised by it. Probably the best WWE women?s match I?ve seen in a long time. [62%’>

Last Man Standing: HHH vs. Flair: A feud that could?ve/should?ve ended with Flair winning in a cage match. If they wanted a classic style feud, they probably shouldn’t have done this, but of course we can’t have Triple H losing a feud in the end, now can we? Ah well, it was good anyway, and I’ll never get tired of Styles screaming ?OH MY GOD?, even if it does take less to get him to do it nowadays. Just wondering though, shouldn’t Flair have known better than to let a sledge be anywhere near the ring? Unless that is, in a moment of hubris, he never expected Trips would use it on him. Yeah, I like that justification better. [70%’>

-As a side note, goddamn Edge?s first edition of The Cutting Edge was hilarious. I don’t even really watch sports, but calling Dmitri Young ?Mark Henry? busted me up laughing.

WWE Title: Cena vs. Angle?: Ahh, I can’t tell you how glad I am that when Daivari came back, they kept Hassan?s ?ALIEN AAAALIIIEENNN? music. Anyway, these two put on some great matches in the past, pre-invincible Cena. Unfortunately this one is less about wrestling and more about Cena screwjob, which is indicative of the nature of the product lately. This had like twelve ref bumps, and the booking ruined it for me. [37%’>

GM Fight: Bischoff vs. Long: Does this count as a cruiserweight match? And what the hell is Darth Maul doing attacking Bischoff, and where is his lightsaber? Waste of time. It wouldn’t have been a good match anyway, but at least it would?ve had a point (figuratively and literally). [0%’>

Raw vs. Smackdown Survivor Match: They sure made the hype for this look good. But you know, the lineups for each team really kind of shows how imbalanced the rosters are. I think they only included guys like Masters and Carlito on the Raw side to tone that down, because while there are several bigger name guys Raw could?ve picked, the SD team minus Lashley, and possibly plus Booker & Benoit are seriously all Smackdown has to offer (Taker doesn’t count since he?s gone most of the time). Realistically, wouldn’t it be a better idea to put all your champions on the team? Pretty good for a Survivor match, with a surprising order of elimination and a nice one-on-one ending. Orton looks like gold coming out of this, and by that I also mean I see a title reign in his near future, if only Taker would leave him alone, and stop beating up the whole roster. [88%’>

Highlights: Triple H/Flair; Raw/SD Survivor Match

Show Stealer: Raw vs. Smackdown Survivor Match @ [88%’>

#7: Backlash

This Year: [50.8%’>

Last Year: #2, [65%’>

…And that 0.2% difference is why I had a decimal percentage, you see. One of last year?s best, Raw?s post-Wrestlemania show from May drops a bit this time. This is more of a return to form, actually, because the product normally drops off in quality after Wrestlemania, whereas in 2004 Raw really kicked into high gear, with the two post-Wrestlemania Raw exclusives actually being better than Mania itself. In easily one of the best PPV matches of the year, Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris Jericho jerked the curtain AND stole the show. The Superheroes survived through a Turmoil match to capture their first tag titles. Edge and Benoit had a decent Last Man Standing match, while Kane and Big Vis was surprisingly just a smidgen better than ?suck?.

Just under the main event, HBK hooked up with Hogan for a tag match against Hassan & Daivari, which was really stupid because two veterans didn’t need the win, and HBK was the only one willing to bump for the opponents. Should?ve picked Jannetty. Batista and HHH had a rematch from Wrestlemania that was your typical Triple H match, to the point of being a stereotypical Triple H match. The only difference was that he didn’t use the sledge this time. Not what it could?ve been, much like most of this PPV.

Highlights: Benjamin vs. Jericho; Benoit vs. Edge

Show Stealer: Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris Jericho @ [95%’>

#6: Summerslam

This Year: [53%’>

Last Year: #11, [35%’>

Yeah, so last year?s Summerslam sucked. This year?s joint August show was a tad better, but one point of interest is that it was my last full review column, as I tacked on two other reviews after it, and then didn’t do much else WWE-related for the rest of the year until this column, aside from my piece about Eddy. The reason is because Summerslam was very much a make-or-break show for me, as far as my interest in the product. They hyped it up like a supercard, the way things used to be for Summerslam, but it just sort of turned out to be much like any other show. OJ/Benoit opened with the first squash of many. Edge & Matt Hardy brought their grudge feud to…a really anticlimactic No Contest brawl. Eddy & Rey fought over the custody of Rey?s son in a ladder match that would?ve been good if not for the angle. Angle beat down Eugene to get his medals back. Orton and Taker continued their feud, which at the time nobody possibly could?ve realized would?ve dragged on until the end of the year.

In sort of a triple main event, first off, Jericho took on Cena in what was Jericho?s last shot at the belt before taking his time off, in a match that wasn’t what it could?ve been. JBL and Batista had a rematch, this time No DQ, which was slightly better because use of weapons covered the fact that they simply don’t work very well together. And then in the big main, which of course was bigger than either title match, Hogan came back and fought Shawn Michaels in ?one more match?, which actually ended up as something like 3 or 4 more matches. The hype for that one was gigantic, but Hogan was up to his old tricks again, and made HBK sell his ridiculous offense, then had the balls to publicly state that he carried HBK and made him look good. If I hadn’t before, I guess this was the year I officially turned full ?heel? on Hogan.

Highlights: Orton vs. Taker; Mysterio vs. Guerrero

Show Stealer: Mysterio vs. Guerrero custody ladder match @ [72%’>

#5: Vengeance

This Year: [55%’>

Last Year: #6, [46%’>

One of the better Raw shows this year, June?s actually had a pretty good card. In the opening IC match between Shelton and Carlito, this was the first time I saw Carlito pulling his own weight in a major match. A very green Christy Hemme got her ass kicked by Victoria. This was also where Edge was kind of in limbo between his kayfabe Kane feud and real life, with fans starting to turn on him because of Hardy, and as a result of Kane getting yet another badly-written psycho angle, the match sucked.

On the bright side, Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle tangled again, in a match that wasn’t quite as good as their Wrestlemania match, but by no means bad. Cena, Christian, and Jericho had a triple threat for the WWE title, which of course was pushed to 2nd billing on the card due to a Triple H match. I mean hey, it?s Jericho and Christian in a title match, and who?s going to pay for that? Okay, I’m bitter, but I will concede that Triple H?s Hell in a Cell match against Batista was surprisingly very good, and a different twist on the HIAC format. I really liked how it was booked, and it became a good final sendoff to their feud. It?s also the first time in a LONG time, that I can ever remember Triple H completely losing a feud to somebody. While Big Dave certainly did some work himself, Trips really helped build Batista into a major interesting character this year.

Highlights: Angle vs. Michaels; Cena vs. Christian vs. Jericho; Batista vs. HHH

Show Stealer: Batista vs. Triple H, Hell in a Cell @ [95%’>

#4: Royal Rumble

This Year: [59%’>

Last Year: #8, [43%’>

January?s usual joint PPV yielded a fairly solid card with a couple weak points, but what we got was quality. Looking back at the numbers, this and the next two were incredibly close in terms of quality, with only production and build separating the three, respectively. The card started off with Michaels vs. Edge, which I thought was very good, but it shouldn’t have been the end to their feud so in retrospect I enjoy it a little less. They had a pretty good feud going for awhile, and they just never really had a proper blowoff because Michaels moved on to Angle after this. There was a terrible Taker/Heidenreich casket match (remember THAT feud?), and who knew we’d have two casket matches this year?

In the main events, JBL, Angle, and Show had a triple threat that wasn’t anything special, a HHH/Orton battle that started the short-lived Orton concussion angle (which was an excellent showcase of Orton?s selling ability), but also was nothing special, and then there was the Rumble itself. Benoit and Guerrero started out in an awesome moment, and the pace remained steady for quite awhile. I almost rated it as a 100% match except that I didn’t really like the last 10 minutes or so of it. All the big men were saved for the final 10, and the two favorites of Batista and Cena were in the final 5 entries. Otherwise, it came off very well and was very enjoyable.

Highlights: Edge vs. Michaels; Royal Rumble match

Show Stealer: Rumble match @ [95%’>

#3: Wrestlemania

This Year: [59.4%’>

Last Year: #3, [54%’>

By only 0.4%, April?s ?big one? takes the Bronze, beating out the Rumble mainly because of production and presentation value, but also because of some great matches. I mentioned it in my WM column, but this year?s Mania just didn’t really feel like a Wrestlemania to me. There was the high production value and everything, but the card didn’t feel all that much more important than other cards during the year, and I still look back on it feeling that way. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the bigass extravaganza it usually attempts to be. Rey/Eddy, tag partners at the time, squared off in the opening ?we’re still friends at this point? battle. A great 6-man ladder match had Edge coming out with a guaranteed title shot. Trish defended against Christy Hemme, who was…haha, ‘trained by Lita?. Hahahahah. And uh, Big Show lost to sumo champion Akebono in a sumo match, and we all had to see way more of Show?s ass than we ever wanted to.

The bigger story of the card was easily the Michaels/HBK dream match, which absolutely did not disappoint me in the least. In my review, I said ?What I expected was a technical show-stealing masterpiece, and as far as I’m concerned that?s what we got.? I once wrote a column calling Angle ‘the next Shawn Michaels?, with the sentiment that Angle will be looked back upon on the same level as HBK, and I still feel that way. Afterward, Cena beat JBL for the belt in like 10 minutes after a much-hyped feud, and Batista?s final turn from Evolution and Triple H was finally culminated in a much more interesting instance of a Heavyweight title belt changing hands.

Highlights: Rey vs. Eddy; ?Money in the Bank? ladder match; first Orton/Taker match; Angle vs. Michaels; Triple H vs. Batista

Show Stealer: Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels @ [100%’>

#2: Unforgiven

This Year: [60%’>

Last Year: #4, [53%’>

Where Wrestlemania only slightly topped the Rumble due to presentation, September?s Raw PPV slightly beat out the ?granddaddy? to take the Silver because of a very solid card. First off, Ric Flair won his first Intercontinental title ever, and landed the axehandle off the top for the first time in a long time. There was a surprisingly good Diva tag match that featured Victoria & Torrie vs. Trish & Ashley, which wasn’t bad mostly because Torrie stayed out of it. The only bad match on the card was Show vs. Snitsky, and of course I blame Snitsky. Following that, Chavo/Kerwin took on Shelton Benjamin in a nearly show-stealing encounter, while the real show-stealer of Matt Hardy and Edge in a cage was one of the most exciting matches of the year. Seriously, it had just about everything the fans could?ve asked for. A Twist of Fate on Lita, a win by Hardy, a definitive pinfall after a huge V1 Legdrop from the top of the cage, and perhaps best of all, comeuppance, revenge, and absolute payoff. Later, Cade & Murdoch captured the tag titles on their debut against Hurricane & Rosey, followed up by Chris Masters showing a hint of substance against HBK. Cena/Angle for the title wasn’t the greatest thing, but it wasn’t bad. Unfortunately it was marred by an overbooked DQ ending. But damn, how about that cage match?

Highlights: Kerwin vs. Shelton; Hardy vs. Edge; Cena vs. Angle

Show Stealer: Matt Hardy vs. Edge, cage match @ [100%’>

And now, the best Pay Per View of the year, which technically wasn’t a WWE Pay Per View at all, but I’m counting it because it was WWE-produced and featured mainly WWE wrestlers…

#1: ECW One Night Stand

This Year: [76%’> (last year N/A)

Taking the Gold is June?s re-emergence of ECW for one last(?) time, putting together everything under the wing of Paul Heyman once again, as an incredible treat to the fans. I didn’t put this in the top slot because I’m a drooling ECW fanboy. Okay, well, I didn’t put it in the top slot JUST because I’m a drooling ECW fanboy. It was, legitimately, pound for pound, the best PPV I can remember seeing. It was marred only by the appearance of a WWE angle, which they even addressed in shoot comments directly on the PPV itself, saying they just couldn’t let ECW have one night to themselves without a ?storyline?. The whole WWE invasion was wholly unnecessary, though it did make them the butt of plenty of jokes and allowed Raw/SD stars to be on the receiving end of a beatdown at the end. The only other things really missing were Raven, Lynn, and Corino, and there?s always 2006 for that, should they decide to do this again (and they should).

It was chock full of good-to-great matches, nothing scored below 60%, and even the 60% was mostly because Mysterio and Psicosis can’t really work Lucha style anymore. That?s RARE nowadays that a PPV is that high quality, and it?s surprising that WWE themselves weren’t taking notes from it. To their credit though, WWE produced the show, they arranged for it to happen, they LET these guys do their thing, and they gave Heyman the ball to run with. But for me to cop a true ECW-esque attitude here, it still beat the shit out of anything WWE had to offer this year.

Starting out was a really good technical match between ?Lionheart? Chris Jericho, and Lance Storm in his last match which featured a reunion of the Impact Players. The Three Way Dance between Guido, Super Crazy, and Tajiri was very nice although Crazy was really the only one it focused on, especially hitting an incredible balcony dive on the entire FBI. Psicosis and Mysterio hit some nice highspots but it seems they’re a little rusty with the style they were trying to work. Rhyno took on Sabu in a match that proved Sabu?s certainly not dead, with a really impressive finish. Benoit vs. Guerrero wasn’t quite what they’re capable of either, but I don’t think Eddy?s heart was into it and it wasn’t supposed to be epic anyway. And then there was Masato Tanaka vs. Mike Awesome, which elicited the chant ‘this match rules? from the crowd, something I have to agree with. A spotfest, yeah, but they actually added in transitional moves and wrestling, and every spot was insane. The Dudleys against Dreamer & Sandman was a clusterfuck trash brawl of a main event, but it fit completely within the mood of the show so it was fun anyway. Intersperse that with awesome promos, really heartfelt emotion, and some deeply-digging shoot comments, and you have the best PPV of the year.

Really WWE, we must do this again sometime.

Highlights: The Whole Fuckin? Show! (I had to say it)

Show Stealer: Awesome vs. Tanaka @ [100%’>


2005 Scorecard:

15) Raw – New Year?s Revolution [24%’>

14) SD – Great American Bash [26%’>

13) SD – No Way Out [30%’>

12) Raw – Taboo Tuesday [42%’>

11) SD – Judgment Day [44%’>

10) SD – No Mercy [45%’>

9) SD – Armageddon [46%’>

8) WWE – Survivor Series [50.6%’>

7) Raw – Backlash [50.8%’>

6) WWE – Summerslam [53%’>

5) Raw – Vengeance [55%’>

4) WWE – Royal Rumble [59%’>

3) WWE – Wrestlemania [59.4%’>

2) Raw – Unforgiven [60%’>

1) ECW – One Night Stand [76%’>

2005 Raw MVPs:

1) Shawn Michaels: HBK does it again. No matter who he?s feuding with, he makes them look better. Does he deserve another title run? Maybe, but if he wants to pass the torch, so be it, and all the more respect for it.

2) Edge: This is the year I finally warmed up to Edge. His heel turn did absolute wonders for him, so he should probably thank Matt Hardy for hating him so much. Who knew Lita screwing up could lead to so much good?

3) Triple H: Let 2005 be known as the year that Triple H decisively lost a main event feud. He stayed out of the title picture after Wrestlemania, he actually put over a few people, and he produced some top quality matches, even if we’re sick of him.

-Honorable Mention: Kurt Angle, who remained consistent throughout the year. It?s not his fault, but I just didn’t find him quite as interesting as my top 3 unless he was fighting Michaels.

-Most Improved: A coincidental tie goes to both Big Show and Kane, who I think found their niche as an unstoppable tag team late in the year. Show floundered after switching shows, and Kane was making a comeback, but they ended up as champions.

2005 Smackdown MVPs:

1) Eddy Guerrero: Last year?s #1 as well, and this isn’t just a posthumous award to give him tribute; Eddy really did work his ass off in 2005. In fact, tragically, he may have worked so hard that it killed him.

2) Batista: Kudos to the man for holding onto the top spot against all odds. We all said he’d fall off the map, and he didn’t. While not all of his feuds were top-notch, he remained interesting and a cool-ass character, and continues to work through injury.

3) Rey Mysterio: From tagging in Latino Heat to feuding with Latino Heat, Rey was a double tag champ with different partners. Now let?s see about a singles belt in 2006, shall we?

-Honorable Mention: Chris Benoit, who in my mind became undisputed king of the midcard this year. Yeah, he deserves the main event slot, but he dominated the US division, and made the belt look like it was worth something.

-Most Improved: Sylvan. Yep, you read that right. Seen him lately? He?s improved drastically in the ring, his gimmick is his real occupation, and his new finisher rules. Keep an eye on this guy.

Mark?s Most Wanted: (scored 100%)

Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels @ Wrestlemania

Matt Hardy vs. Edge, cage match @ Unforgiven

Mike Awesome vs. Masato Tanaka @ One Night Stand

Mark?s Most Hated: (scored 0%)

Jerry Lawler vs. Muhammad Hassan @ New Year?s Revolution

Gene Snitsky vs. Kane @ New Year?s Revolution

Shelton Benjamin vs. Evil Maven @ New Year?s Revolution

Rookie Diva Competition @ No Way Out

Orlando Jordan vs. Heidenreich @ Judgment Day

Interesting to note that the three 100% matches were on the top 3 PPVs, and that 3 of the worst matches of the year were all on the same card of the worst PPV of the year.

…and that?s 2005 in a nutshell.

The Future:

Let me get one thing straight, for those who have been asking: No, I’m not retiring. I don’t really see the point of outright ‘retiring? from the site, even if I have no immediate plans to write anything. I had no plans to write my last column about Eddy Guerrero?s death either, and yet I wrote it because the mood struck me after seeing people?s reactions. So I will say this much: I’m probably going on at least a sabbatical from writing.

Lately I just haven’t been interested in much wrestling, and at this point I feel like continuing this into January and beyond in 2006 is going to be a bigger chore than it?s probably worth, since I doubt I’m going to be reviewing what comes next. Unless something big happens that sucks me back into it, you’re probably not going to see a review column from me for awhile. I feel that after doing these since late 2000, consistently I might add, that on roughly the 5 year anniversary and the 6th annual column of its kind is as good a time to bow out gracefully as any, at least as far as reviewing every single match of every single PPV of the year is concerned. Fear not though; as I said I’m not officially retiring, but I’ll be a tad more sporadic than usual. Blame the cyclical nature of the business if you want; because hey, that?s what Triple H usually does.

Some might say I?ve grown out of it, but maybe I?ve just grown to the point where I can tell that Vince McMahon?s ‘marketing genius? isn’t necessarily the same thing as being an actual ?genius?. 2005 WWE is living proof that you can be on top of the world and still make utterly retarded decisions.

So I?ve come to a little agreement with myself: I’m no longer going to watch WWE programming live anymore. I will make an effort to catch the PPVs, and I will read results when I get the chance, but as for individual shows, I will only watch them if I read the results and the show sounds good. While catching up with results, Edge?s recent segment with Michael Hayes caught my eye, so I downloaded it and I thought it was great. That?s basically what I’ll be doing from now on. If a show sounds good on paper, I’ll watch it. Otherwise, they?ve all but lost me.

As for other federations, I?ve been meaning to get into TNA Impact lately now that it?s on TV, and I also have a (hopefully) steady source for Dragon Gate tapings. I heart Toryumon, so that?s good news.

I’m not sure when you’ll be hearing from me again, but this doesn’t automatically mean this is the last Year in Pay Per ReView. If I happen to get back into it during the year, I may possibly do one at the end of 2006. The difference will be that I won’t have the numbers to necessarily back me up, but I?ve only been doing that for a year now, so I can always go back to my old format if I feel the urge to write it. See you around.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #173: A Matter of Life and Death

Notice: Before reading on, I want you to carefully read this first segment. The reason is because I don’t want you to skim through and get the wrong idea. First and foremost, I want you to realize a few simple facts, so you can have the basis for my opinions:

1) I have been a fan of professional wrestling since my childhood, only having taken a few years break in my teens, for various reasons.

2) I have been a fan of Eddy Guerrero through the years. He has always been a favorite of mine. I have watched him perform in Japan, Mexico, ECW, WCW, WWF, his brief stint in ROH, and back to WWE. I highly respect him in both life and death, so much so that I?ve never stopped spelling his first name with a ?Y?.

3) The way I often deal with death is humor. So if you find yourself offended at any point due to me injecting humor that you deem inappropriate into this column, you’ll at least know why.

4) I?ve broken up this column into sections, so if you don’t like or agree with what I say in one, try the next one down.



Tragedy in Perspective:

I think my mouth hung open for maybe 10 or 15 seconds, after a loud ?What!?? when I read the news of Eddy Guerrero?s sudden, untimely death (but what IS a ‘timely death’ anyway?). Like Matt Seagull wrote in his column ?Numb?, I didn’t really feel anything after that. I was too taken aback to process the information. Maybe in some ways I still am, I don’t know. The biggest tragedy I could think of once I began to sort out my thoughts was that I remember around a year or less before he died, there was news flying all around about how Eddy Guerrero was exhausted and burned out, and desperately needed a break. Yet he worked through it and whether we knew what that may have done to him or not, we thanked him for it. What the most tragic part about this is, is that a sabbatical back then could?ve saved his life.

A little early in this column for me to go off on a tangent, but I think I will: The fact is that I haven’t been a very good wrestling fan over the past couple months. I’m not sure what set it off, maybe the slipping quality in shows, maybe no major angle that held my interest, maybe yet more attempts of WWE grasping at straws to bring people back for ratings, maybe a combination of all of that, sprinkled with a peppering of every single one of my pet peeves against WWE slowly building up over the course of a lifetime. The simple truth of the matter is, I haven’t watched a live show since this past Spring, I haven’t seen a PPV live since last year, and most of what I have watched has been downloaded and then skimmed through to the good parts. Failing that, I’ll just find a play-by-play site and read the results to get the gist of what?s been going on lately.

Part of that is my life at the moment, things are just too hectic to bother grabbing 4+ hours of wrestling programming per week either by taping or by downloading, and watching them at my leisure without getting backed up. I’m not sure when that will end either, because I’m moving in a week and while I’ll still have internet, I might not have cable television for awhile. So in short, I just simply haven’t been watching, and it would take a big event to get me watching again. This isn’t the big event I wanted, suffice to say.

Ironically it was Owen Hart?s death that brought me back to wrestling full swing. After the afore-mentioned completely clean break from wrestling for a few years, I later found myself watching on and off in the last few years of the 1990s, back when WWF?s product was shocking and edgy, and most people will agree, actually consistently good and entertaining. I didn’t really get into it again until the Owen tribute show though. I remembered Owen and the Blue Blazer from when I used to watch, so I thought I’d watch the sad episode of Raw where the tearful testimonials of his fellow wrestlers broke even the deepest of kayfabe to talk about their fallen comrade. It wasn’t that episode that made me want to watch wrestling itself again, I just simply started watching the next week and got sucked back into it.

I thought the same might be the case with Eddy Guerrero?s death, but at this moment I’m not so sure. This is for a lot of reasons, many of which I’ll be discussing here. At the current time, I have this past Monday?s episode of Raw on my hard drive; the Eddy tribute show. I also have a VCR tape with this week?s Smackdown on it; another Eddy tribute show. I’m not sure yet when, or even whether or not I’m going to be watching either of them, and it?s hard to explain just why.

Even on days when I don’t really feel like posting or discussing, I usually check out the forums and see what discussions are going on. This week I?ve rarely even done that, not because I haven’t had the time, but because I find the atmosphere on the whole pretty depressing. Discussions about the death of Eddy Guerrero permeate topics not even remotely pertaining to the subject. You can’t click on a single thread without seeing a thousand RIP and tribute banners. Hell, I even put up a Los Gringos Locos avatar for a few days just because I was feeling it at the time.

See, I’m the type of guy who, when a celebrity or otherwise important icon dies, celebrates what they gave us and what they did that fascinated us so much. But it?s hard to celebrate the life of somebody when no matter where I try to go, there are a million ways that I’ll find news of his death staring back from my computer screen. The only way to avoid that is, well, to literally avoid it.


Morbid Fascination:

What exactly is it about death that at the same time makes us cower, yet simultaneously dwell on it in awe? Last week I was in a car accident (don’t worry, everybody?s fine). It was a pretty hard hit, actually looking back it?s the worst accident I?ve ever had that involved another person. I was on a straight county route with no stop signs, and she crossed an intersection without seeing me. Her fault, I couldn’t stop in time, and long story short I T-boned her minivan. Not a scratch on me, not exactly what you’d call a ?brush with death? or anything. Maybe if I was driving a Mini, but the truck I was driving at the time is basically a tank on wheels, so other than a brief period of being stunned by the impact itself I was perfectly alright. But one thing I couldn’t help but notice was that I was now on the other side of the rubbernecking. You know when traffic slows to a crawl you can’t help but sneak a peek, but this time they were sneaking a peek at me. It?s slightly different from that perspective. I couldn’t help but wonder if any of those people were hoping I was dead or dismembered or covered in blood, so they could relate a horrific story to their friends. Another thing I noticed was the strange appearance of the man I like to refer to as ?Mustachioed Hero Man?, because he had a mustache and came running to the rescue, almost in slow-motion like those Baywatch lifeguards. I had established to him that I was fine, and that he should go check on the other people, and kept insisting that I was 100% alright, just a little pissed off because I was 3 hours away from home and just wanted to give a statement to the police and call it a day. He went off to check on the others, but the moment I hopped out of the truck to survey the damage to the front, he came bounding over to grab my arm and support me, saying ?Come on buddy, you’re gonna be alright?, despite my repeated insistence that I WAS alright and that he really should stay with the people I hit, considering the back end of their minivan spun out into a telephone pole.

It didn’t dawn on me until later, on my drive home in a rental car, that people want to be involved. If not to be revered as a hero, to be at the very least confident that he did his good deed for the day, and maybe he can go home and tell his family that he ‘rescued? a man from a car accident today. I applaud his efforts for being a good Samaritan, but it was one of those situations where you had to be there to understand what I mean when I say he wanted to have a heroic aura about him while he went about his business. Maybe you?ve encountered Mustachioed Hero Man, or a similar incarnation of him, in your lifetime. Upon going home, everyone I mentioned the accident to, or had heard about it by other means, wanted to know first off exactly what happened. They wanted details. They wanted to know just how it was the woman?s fault so they could reassure me that I had the right of way, and say things that began with the phrase ?I’m no lawyer, but??

How does this relate? Closer than you might think. For example, how many of you read the news on Rajah or any other newsboard about the attendees of Eddy?s funeral? If so, why did you do that? What made you care about who showed up at his funeral, as if it were some kind of Hollywood red carpet gala event? I personally didn’t bother to read it, because I don’t care who was at his funeral; as far as I’m concerned it?s none of my business. Those people were there to mourn the death of a man they knew personally. So why are we reading news that reads like a ?who?s who? of wrestling legends, when in reality it?s no different from any other funeral? He wasn’t buried in his mask in Mexico like Santo, he was given the same treatment as any other human being who passes on from this world. I don’t know if I’m the only one who feels this way, but it seems to me like any details about that sort of thing aren’t really newsworthy.

I relate this to yet another story of digression about my life in April of 2004, when a close friend of mine died of ?complications? from diabetes. He had health problems all his life and most people, including himself, knew in the back of their mind that he wouldn’t live a full life. But to die so suddenly at the age of 24 just honestly sucks. I don’t know if dying at 30 would make me feel better, or 40, or if any age would?ve made a difference, but it didn’t help me any to learn his cause of death. There was a good six month period or so before we actually knew what caused it. I figured it was health related, and I figured that learning what happened would give me some closure. But you know, it actually made things worse. When I found out that it was merely ?something? went wrong with his system as a result of his diabetes, I found myself angry. Why did this disease take my good friend away when others live full, long lives with diabetes? Why had I never heard of an actual death caused by it until now?

It?s like when you read, if you did, the news about Guerrero?s cause of death. Weakened blood passages from years of stress and abuse, despite the fact that he had been clean and sober for 4 years, a fact he was very proud of. After all that, it didn’t matter. Does that make you feel better? Does it give you any closure? Because it doesn’t to me. All it does is give me another reason to bitch at WWE for their rigorous and grueling touring and performing schedule. Guerrero wasn’t the first to die in this manner, and I guarantee you that he won’t be the last.


Drama Queens and Bandwagons:

One facet of death that has always bothered me somewhat, is how much the mourners tend to take away the focus from the person who died. If you?ve ever been to a traditional funeral, it?s not about the person who died, it?s a catharsis for the people who knew the deceased so they can get out all their grief at once and believe whatever they want to happened to the soul of the person they once knew. It?s the people looking for condolences and comfort. It?s not unlike a wedding actually, and I say this because over the past year two of my close friends have gotten married and it was funny to see the families take over the planning procedures to the point where it wasn’t even about the married couple anymore, it was about the ceremony being a special experience for the family. The married couples exchanged their vows already at a City Hall ceremony in front of a Justice of the Peace, and the church proceedings were really no more than a formality that the family heavily arranged. Much like funerals handle death, only replace grieving with congratulations, silent reflection with cheering, and mournful crying with?well, happy crying.

So it comes as no surprise to me that a good portion of the internet community is looking for ?condolences? in light of the recent death of one Eduardo Gory Guerrero Llanes. But who, even the biggest fan, really deserves actual condolences? As insensitive as it may sound, and as much as it sucks to lose one of your favorite performers, I could never justify openly weeping about his loss all week, or feeling that it is a major distraction from work and/or my daily life. Yes, I am sad about it, and yes, I do care, but I feel as though I don’t really deserve to grieve in the same way that, say, Chris Benoit or Dean Malenko would, not to mention the widowed Vickie Guerrero and her now three fatherless daughters. I would rather feel sorry for the family and friends, than feel sorry for myself, and I don’t think I’m entirely out of line in saying that. I’d rather give condolences than receive them, and I believe that if you?ve been looking for sympathy through this issue, you’re trivializing what his family must be going through at this time. Feel free to point out my hypocrisy in saying that if I really felt that strongly about this, I wouldn’t even be writing a column drawing more attention to it. I don’t mind, I?ve realized this already. But I?ve already written a lot so I’m not about to stop now.

I’m not talking about anyone in particular, and it?s not all that bad in the Oratory community itself, but a few other communities that will remain nameless have been painting themselves as the victims of a tragic death in their immediate family. While I certainly defend your right to be emotionally invested in the issue, all I’m telling you right here is why it personally bothers me. I read a post about someone breaking down at the office while thinking about it, days after it happened. Maybe it?s just me, but if you burst out crying at your work desk, a concerned co-worker comes over and asks you what?s wrong, and your response is that your favorite wrestler just died, which may or may not cause this previously concerned co-worker to actually laugh at you or give you funny looks, then perhaps you need to start looking for a different outlet in your life. You watched him on TV, and he was a celebrity. A great showman, a charismatic individual, and a great inspiration to many, but before anything else, to you the man was an entertainer, and he should be remembered that way by his fans.

Now, don’t misunderstand me here. If the tribute episodes on WWE programming genuinely move you and bring a tear to your eye, if seeing Benoit?s reaction chokes you up, then so be it. I got choked up watching the end of Wrestlemania XX too, so I know what it?s like to see something really moving on TV. But don’t ask for sympathy, because believe it or not, what you’re going through is nothing compared to the ones closest to him. If you’re somehow reading this and Eddy Guerrero actually was your best friend, then this doesn’t apply to you. But is it any more or less tragic or heart-wrenching than, say, the death of Chris Candido earlier this year, just because Guerrero reached a higher level and was considered by many to be a better wrestler? What makes one death more important than the other?

Worse yet, there has been some symbolism brought forth, not even a few hours after the news broke, that is eerily reminiscent to the bandwagon jingoism that spread across this country after September 11, 2001. If you?ve ever read my opinion columns, or even some of my wrestling columns, you know I?ve never liked that sentiment. To paste a tacky jingoistic slogan like ?Never Forget? on a tribute banner and decorate it with those ridiculous multicolored ribbons you see on the back of everyone?s car in America, is trivializing the man himself and his amazing career, and instead puts forth more of a sentiment to show everyone else how much of a fan of his you were. You know, just like putting a flag on your house after 9/11 supposedly showed how much of a patriot you were. If that?s your way of dealing with this, well fine for you, but as I said before, all I’m doing is telling you why it annoys me personally. I know you never want to forget him. I never want to either. But you know what? I wouldn’t forget him, even without people reminding me not to.

The fact is, I wouldn’t even be bringing this up in a column if I hadn’t read on more than one message board that there were wrestling fans wishing they could?ve attended his funeral themselves, as if they deserved to be there. It?s evident that some people are looking for condolences because they want attention to comfort them, which is something I believe to be disrespectful. Instead of making this situation full of all sorts of gloom and doom, why not celebrate what he left us all with? Track down some old tapes. Smile every time you see the infamous ?ghost bump?. But you probably don’t need a day off from work to quietly sob into your pillow.

If there?s one part of this column I can see myself getting shit for, it?s this one, not necessarily because of the content, but because of the timeliness of it. Is this a shitty time to even bring this up, or think this way about other people? Sure it is, but we do this every day. We ignore grief and the atrocities of the world every single day. You barely hear about the deaths of our own soldiers in the news, the toll of which I believe has just passed the 2000 mark, but even in a media that loves to scare you, would it make you weep all day, every day if they focused more on it, or would it make you numb and fill you with apathy? If you really miss Eddy, why don’t you focus on why? He left behind one hell of a legacy, and what better time to appreciate it?


The Nature of the Beast:

As I said before, Eddy wasn’t the first to go out like this, and he won’t be the last. In Jay Bower?s recent column ?Killing Yourself to Live?, he speaks about Kurt Angle and his danger to himself by continuing to work this way. Rather than give feedback in the forum, I’ll directly address it here. It?s a great read, and I completely understand Jay?s position. Although Kurt?s been working a much lighter schedule and a lighter impact style in the past few years, especially since the pre-Wrestlemania XIX scare about his health, I still get the feeling that he?s going to probably end up either dead, paralyzed, or seriously injured before his career is over, if he doesn’t seriously consider retiring very soon.

The thing is, that?s ultimately his call. Why would a bunch of fans sitting at home watching him and reading about his condition from third-hand or fourth-hand accounts have any more say in the matter than he would? He knows his limits, or even if he doesn’t, it?s his life and it?s his body. We’re fans of his, but what can we do? Would he listen to a sternly worded letter telling him to quit? A useless online petition? Are we even justified in saying so, for that matter? If he wants to continue despite a health risk, as Eddy did in a manner of speaking, remember that even if we consider him an icon or a god on TV, he?s a human being in real life. He?s a grown man who can make his own decisions about whether or not to continue. Just like Eddy didn’t take time off.

Now, I’m certainly a big fan of Kurt Angle?s too, and I would really hate to see something like this happen to him too. But you know what? We still watch. We still support them with our money and our ratings and our fandom. The simple reality is that we have paid to watch these men slowly kill themselves for our viewing pleasure for years, and things happen. Owen, Droz, Candido, Guerrero, they all learned the hard way, and the first two are the ones who didn’t let the substance abuse that often comes with the territory consume them. Austin was on his way down that road, but got out before it killed him. It?s ironic that we love the big suicidal bumps, until it?s not just a stunt anymore. But as long as the demand is there, so is the supply. And even when the old guard falls, a new crop will replace them.

So as sad as it may sound, or as cold as I may seem on this issue, if you don’t want to watch these men and their bodies and lives slowly (or sometimes quickly) deteriorate, or put themselves at risk every day for injury and/or death, the only solution is to stop supporting the product and to stop watching. Because it?s going to continue, it?s always been a part of the business, and it?s always going to be. That is, unless it returns to the watered-down, low impact cartoonish style of 80s WWF.

It?s sad, but it?s true, and if we’re going to continue being fans, we’re going to have to get used to the simple fact that death and tragedy happen, and that the business is actually conducive to it. Otherwise, like I said earlier in the column, the only way to avoid it is to literally avoid it.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #172: Summerslam 2005 – Counterpoint [Bottom Line #8]

Mark: Apologies for the lateness on this one. I think we both expected too much from Summerslam this year. I think I speak for Mike as well when I say that it?s very easy not to be motivated to write about WWE lately. But fear not, loyal minions, because yours truly is going to review the last three PPVs that have come and gone, and I’ll give you a hint: One was good, one was mediocre, and the other sucked. I’m putting Summerslam out first though, because thanks again to Mike, this one at least had a Preview column behind it.

The Counterpoint to the Bottom Line works much like the Point did, except instead of anticipation, it?s all review, baby. First we switch roles. I go first for Smackdown matches this time, and Mike goes first for Raw matches. Then we’ll tell you how much we liked it, then compare our average entertainment to our average interest at the end.

So first up on my list of reviews, is SUMMERSLAM 2005:

United States Title:

Orlando Jordan? vs. Chris Benoit


Mike?s Interest Level: These guys are feuding? [7%’>

What a complete joke. Smackdown actually had a semi-interesting situation revolving around the United States title going into the GAB with Benoit becoming the #1 contender, and followed up by giving OJ the best match of his career and actually making me think they might try and do something with the belt. Since then, Benoit’s been treading water, OJ’s gone back to not wrestling (I think he defended the title once on Velocity), so then, once any feuding between these two has ceased, they throw a rematch on the card? It’s sad, really. I probably could have been interested in this match if they had even hinted at it at any time over the past month. But now the addition just seems pointless. I would think that Benoit has a good chance of winning, but I could also see them trying to elevate OJ again. In all seriousness, though, what’s the point of trying to elevate someone on PPV if you’re just going to throw him back onto Velocity afterwards?

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Chris Benoit

Mark?s Interest Level: Jimmy crack corn? [10%’>

?and I don’t care. Out of all the matches on the card, I’m feeling this one the least by far. They could?ve had Benoit grab the belt at GAB and build Christian as #1 contender, but noooo. OJ the Heatless Wonder, who has served absolutely no purpose or direction to the belt, remains US champion while more talented, over, and charismatic men get the unceremonious shaft. Not even either show?s tag champs or the CW title are on the show (or have a definite feud lined up), and OJ gets on there. At least you can laugh at Heidenreich. Either WWE really sees something in this guy, or they know Benoit can at least carry him. It?s not that Jordan outright sucks, there?s just nothing at all interesting about him. I can’t imagine this being much different than last month?s, especially since there?s really no angle driving this, but I have a hunch that there?s a Christian/Benoit US title feud in the near future, and that would make me happy in the pants.

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Chris Benoit

Mark?s Bottom Line: We’re not interested, and OJ is boring. That about sums it up.


Actual Winner: Chris Benoit

Mark: You know what, I read the results for this match because I didn’t get to see the PPV live, and I hated it. Hated it. I thought it was a stupid waste of space on the card. And let?s be honest, it was?But god damn it all, it was actually really entertaining for some reason. OJ comes out like he?s all big shit with the US title, showboating around, and gets his ass kicked. It was like watching the Afro Ninja video. This hilarious beatdown courtesy of Benoit isn’t going to get high marks, but this is about my level of entertainment, not whether it was a five-star match. For what it was, and what it accomplished, namely Benoit coming out of it looking like a major badass, this gets the highest score I allow for squash matches with very little feud involved.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [50%’>

Mike: Yeah, pretty hilarious stuff, really. Knowing now that they didn’t have time to give to the match, I’m glad they did this rather than put on some lame three minute match. I think Jordan could one day grow up and be a decent wrestler, but right now, he?s a big jobber, and having him as US Champion is pretty crappy. Smackdown isn’t doing much right with anyone right now, but jobbing out OJ is very, very right. I’m always a fan of Benoit getting put over strong, so this was pretty fun. I agree with you for the most part?a total nothing match, but entertaining nonetheless.

Mike?s Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Mike?s Bottom Line: Just keep in mind, Benoit could have beat OJ about ten to fifteen times during Hulk Hogan?s entrance.

The Mother of All Grudge Matches:

Matt Hardy vs. Edge



Mark?s Interest Level: The internet?s dream angle. [100%’>

Oh man, where do I begin with this one? WWE did a complete 180 and turned bad business into great business in the span of a few months. This has so much history, speculation, frustration, and wishful thinking behind it that it?s almost too much for one quick preview to cover. And that?s just on the internet side of things. How long were we worked? How much is kayfabe and how much is real? Many ?smart? fans have been taken on a long journey behind the scenes with Matt Hardy, now receiving the most attention he?s ever had, and it?s all because of a very real and very painful situation. I have to wonder what a casual fan thinks of this blurring of the lines between work and shoot, but they didn’t get the anger many of us had when Hardy was betrayed and then fired, the surprise when he turned up again, and the satisfaction of knowing this is the best angle of his life and career, cheating ex-girlfriend or not. Up until a week ago, I didn’t like Edge all that much, and not just because of his real life actions. He just wasn’t that interesting to me. But after last week?s intense as all hell promo, I’m inclined to think that this is the best possible angle for him right now, as it?s only going to bring him more into the spotlight too. And not just the forced spotlight of a monster push, a very real spotlight because it plays off of real life. The match itself? They’re very familiar with each other so I’m not worried about the quality, but this is a match where it?s all in the angle. I?ve never seen anything like it, and I like that. A lot.

Who should win: Matt Hardy

Who will win: Matt Hardy and the Internet

Mike?s Interest Level: What, no Kane or Snitsky? [95%’>

Remember when the rumor was a tag match that involved Kane and Snitsky? The best thing WWE could have done to help this feud was completely drop both of those guys completely from any interaction with Edge or Matt Hardy. Basically the whole storyline goes to shit when you try and include what?s happened with those two in with what?s happened between Edge and Matt. That aside, this whole angle has been really fascinating. It?s one of the biggest internet angles we?ve seen, and it?s been played out really well on TV by all parties involved. One of my favorite aspects of this angle is the fact that while Edge is coming off like a total dick, he also brings up some very good points that I have to sit back and agree with. Matt?s really playing up the sympathetic babyface, but there are definitely points of his that I don’t necessarily agree with. The angle has a lot of depth to it, and isn’t just a cookie cutter good vs. evil feud, which is great. The match will have a lot of passion to it, and I really think Edge should get the victory here, since he?s WWE?s project right now, he has more of a future, and as Edge said, Matt?s in the spotlight now, but he?s not going to be the main event, Edge is. However, the fans want Matt to get some revenge, so Hardy will probably go over here.

Who should win: Edge

Who will win: Matt Hardy

Mike?s Bottom Line: Who knew that Lita could actually fuck up so many times that something good would actually come out of it?


Actual winner: Edge

Mike: So after this match, I’m starting to have Taboo Tuesday flashbacks. The whole feel of the PPV is just?bizarre. I really felt like Edge needed to go over, but man, he just spent ten minutes decimating Hardy. You really don’t get to see the KO finish much, and I thought it was a great way to end the match. I always love a good beatdown, and while Matt got some offense in, for the most part that?s what we were all treated to. After the match I was reminded of one of Brock Lesnar?s first matches against Jeff Hardy on PPV, where Lesnar actually won by KO, and the rest of the night there was a blue stain in the corner of the ring from Jeff?s hair, very symbolic of what Lesnar did to him. Anyways, kudos to Matt for taking the bumps that he did and for putting over Edge the way he did. I was expecting a longer match, but again, they were pressed for time, so I understand why it was as long as it was.

Mike?s Entertainment Level: [75%’>

Mark: I know what they’re trying to do here, and it?s a valiant effort, but I don’t like it. Put it over as a legit feud, fine. I don’t even have a problem with their ‘real? punches supposedly doing more damage than everyone else?s ?fake? ones, because I don’t think it came off that way at all. What I don’t like is how they pulled this match off. First off, its place on the card should be the first red flag. They had a HUGE feud that got everyone talking. Second, cutting the match short, especially right after a squash match, is terrible pacing. It was reminiscent of the undercard at New Year?s Revolution. This is supposed to be the second biggest show, the occasional cross-brand PPV, one of the ?Big 4?. But this match could?ve happened on any Raw. I understand that they were limited on the time they had to renegotiate with Hardy, and that they need more time to build the feud to a major climax (can they keep this going until Mania?), but they could?ve ended this in a double countout or DQ when the ref couldn’t keep them apart or something. I know this led up to a cage match, which will then probably lead to a Lita-on-a-Pole Match (ba-zing), but this wasn’t a promising start.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [20%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: Once everyone stops caring about Lita?s involvement, this feud needs to move onto being about a title belt. Say, the IC title.

Custody Ladder Match:

Eddy Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio



Mike?s Interest Level: This week on Todos mis hijos…[80%’>

Well, this feud has been going on for months now, and has resulted in some pretty good matches. The actual storyline has taken somewhat of a dramatic turn, and a ladder match over custody of a child isn’t something that is actively practiced in today’s legal system to my knowledge. To be honest, I’ve kind of zoned out the past few weeks or so, not that I don’t appreciate Eddie’s heel schtick, but it’s just getting to be so much. They’re just laying the drama on thick, and it’s definitely hurting my anticipation for this match overall. I really hope I’m not setting myself up for a letdown, but since their subpar Wrestlemania match, and the addition of some personal animosity, their subsequent matches have been much, much better. As some people may know, I’m not the biggest fan of ladder matches. I think they can provide for some great spots, and spotfests like the TLC matches are fantastic to watch when done the right way. The problem is, ladder matches suffer from contrived finishes in the same way cage matches do. You have all these near finishes that cause the competitor trying to win to operate in slow motion, which really hurts my enjoyment of the match. I’m in agreement with all those people who indicated Eddie/Rey should be no-DQ or a street fight that involves the use of a ladder. You get the best of both worlds, with the ladder spots, but at the same time don’t have to depend on the ladder finish. Either way, I think this will be a good match, and if they have Dominic suspended above the ring instead of custody papers, I will give the match ***** easily. I would assume Rey wins the match here, but at the same time, it would be just like WWE to have Eddie win custody, and have this story continue.

Who should win: Rey Mysterio

Who will win: Rey Mysterio

Mark?s Interest Level: Rey & Eddy don’t need a soap opera. [85%’>

It was unintentionally funny when the social worker said last week that everyone?s acting like ?a bunch of crazies?. I had to laugh, because how often do they address how silly an angle in wrestling really is? To me, there?s practically nothing sillier than fighting over the custody of a child in a wrestling match. The whole thing that gets me is, if Dominic is supposed to be Eddy?s kid, why does Dominic look just like Rey? And if Rey and his wife couldn’t have children, how do you explain their daughter Aaliyah, whose name Rey has tattooed right on his arm? The main problem I have with this is the fact that while these two are great pitted against each other, and some of the emotion has been a fun ride, their segments have dragged on incredibly long at many points. ?Chapter 3? was what, half an hour long? And much of it is due to far too many dramatic pauses, and the fact that Eddy has been talking really slowly. It?s detrimental to the match, as well as the feud that was built off of Eddy?s jealousy of Rey stemming way back to last year when they were a tag team. Now it?s in a completely different direction that makes very little sense. Still, I’m a fan of ladder matches, and they haven’t been using them often lately, so this is very likely going to be a great match. I just wish the feud wasn’t so hokey. I’d actually kind of like to see Eddy get custody of Dominic, but I don’t think it?s going to happen. Eddy needs some other way to ?win?.

Who should win: Eddy Guerrero

Who will win: Rey Mysterio

Mark?s Bottom Line: With all the times these two have fought without a major angle driving it, I never thought I’d see the day when I wished they’d both just shut up and wrestle.


Actual winner: Rey Mysterio

Mark: You hear that complete lack of ovation during both entrances? That?s what happens when you attach a soap opera angle to an otherwise good feud. Now, I want to say I really enjoyed this, but the interference did get to me. I’m not just talking about the ending. They had to use not one, not two, but three instances of interference to keep Eddy from winning. He was about to win until Dominic stepped in. Then he was about to win until Eddy?s wife knocked down the ladder. Then he was about to knock the ladder down with Rey on it until she held him down. One interference wouldn’t have soured me on it, but all of those things combined left me feeling a bit empty. Besides, what kind of social worker stands there and does nothing as the 8 year old kid she?s supposed to watch climbs a barricade, hops into a ring, and shakes a ladder? A shitty one, that?s what. And that?s why this shouldn’t have had such a convoluted story tainting it. Still, it was a great effort by both guys, they used some innovative spots not seen before in other ladder matches, and they bumped their asses off trying to make it a big deal. Those crickets chirping during the entrance were gone by the end of the match, because this definitely heated up the crowd. Not as good as I wanted it to be, but good nonetheless.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [72%’>

Mike: I was actually pretty disappointed with this match. The whole story with Dominic has gone from lame to lamer in a hurry, and I had actually psyched myself up for the idea of Dominic hanging above the ring instead of the custody papers, so not having him up there was quite disappointing. That said, the match was really sloppy. They blew a lot of spots, and the whole idea of a ladder match wasn’t very appealing to begin with. The match should have been a street fight, where a ladder came into play. I despise the concept behind a ladder match, but I like the ladder spots. Using the afore mentioned street fight idea is the way to solve both those problems. In addition, as you mentioned, the interference was a bit much. And the ?social worker? was a big joke. I was more relieved that all this crap with Dominic was over than I was glad I had seen the match. This whole feud just took a turn for the worse. At it?s height, when Eddie destroyed Rey and suplexed him on the stairs, it was awesome. Now?it?s about a kid that used to be Eddie?s and is now Rey?s. Ugh.

Mike?s Entertainment Level: [35%’>

Mike?s Bottom Line: Whatever happened to that hair vs. mask match that was supposed to happen between these two?

Gold Medal Match:

Eugene? vs. Kurt Angle



Mark?s Interest Level: Angle remembered one of his ?I?s. [40%’>

Did someone say Special Olympics? This doesn’t mean I like Eugene any more than I did before, as he?s gone back to the same old tired shtick he had before his injury. But to me, this feud has been at least somewhat worth it due to Angle bringing back the first of his ?Three I?s?, Intensity. I haven’t seen Angle this intense in a long time, because he?s actually fighting for something that?s important to his character, heel or not. Dinsmore is capable, but it’ll likely be a big comedy routine until Angle puts the boots to him and reminds Eugene that it?s not a game, and the medal isn’t just a toy. Christy at least is in the role she should be, as a valet, because she?s not a good wrestler and even if she were, there?s not really a Women?s division anymore. At any rate I can’t see a serious, intense Angle losing to a goofy, playful Eugene, even if he enacts his ‘tard rage?. Kurt?s medal is coming home.

Who should win: Kurt Angle

Who will win: Kurt Angle

Mike?s Interest Level: We all know retards can’t really win gold medals. [35%’>

I guess I too am really only looking forward to Angle beating the hell out of Eugene. It?s actually one of the few aspects of his character I enjoy, like I did when HHH destroyed him in their cage match a while back. I’m actually quite shocked that Angle has managed to be demoted since jumping to RAW considering that HHH is nowhere to be found. This whole angle could have been interesting if it was done with someone other than Eugene. I know the whole ?Benjamin/Angle? feud has been mentioned over and over again, but there?s your money angle right there. Benjamin made a name for himself when he went over the biggest and the best in HHH last year on RAW, and it would completely be within his character to go over someone like Angle and get his gold medal. But Shelton?s issues are far too numerous to discuss in a paragraph. Basically, Angle needs to win this match so we can move on with something far more interesting.

Who should win: Kurt Angle

Who will win: Kurt Angle

Mike?s Bottom Line: I would never say anything bad about Eugene again if I could hear JR reference ‘tard rage? during their match this Sunday.


Actual winner: Kurt Angle

Mike: Not a lot to see here. Predictable match with a predictable finish. Another feud that has been brutally painful is the one between Eugene and Kurt Angle. I liked the Angle Invitational. It was a good way to showcase Angle beating down some jobbers while not making him destroy his body week in and week out in a strenuous match. I’m not even against the idea of a feud with someone who manages to beat Angle in the Invitational. What I am against is having that someone be Eugene. Eugene has long since stopped being an interesting character, and I was not anticipating nor looking forward to his return. I hated that that idiot bested Angle, it just makes Angle look bad. It was pretty apparent from the crowd?s reaction that no one wants to see Eugene anymore. Fortunately they booked their PPV match correctly, with Angle just dominating Eugene for most of the match, minus Eugene?s ‘tarding up towards the end of the match. I almost wish Angle would have beaten the shit out of him with a chair to finalize things a bit more, but mostly I was just glad that Angle got his medal back.

Mike?s Entertainment Level: [55%’>

Mark: Well damn, this was a beatdown and a half. I think the only offense Eugene got in was other wrestlers? signature moves. I do like that it was used to put over Angle?s intensity, just as I figured it would. But what I like best about it is the crowd?s reaction to the match. Cheers for Angle, boos for Eugene. If this isn’t a message that the gimmick is tired, I don’t know what it?s going to take. I even heard mostly cheers when Angle grabbed the chair afterward, even though he wasn’t using it on Eugene. What he did use it for though, was pretty damn funny. Matchwise, ehh, nothing to write home about. Not that I’d really be writing home about any wrestling match, but it?s just an expression, dammit.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [30%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: Who would?ve thought you could get the #1 contender spot by beating up a retarded man?

RIP vs. RKO:

Undertaker vs. Randy Orton



Mike?s Interest Level: RKO=RIP, whatever that means. [50%’>

The build for this match has been all sorts of lame, but when you think about it, when was the last time Undertaker built a feud that wasn’t totally lame? He rarely talks, rarely even shows up, and instead his character depends upon the production team to put him over with their fog, black lights, and video packages. At the same time, this is a feud that needed to be done, and makes perfect sense for Orton’s return feud. Since Undertaker got his billionth win at Wrestlemania against Orton, and Orton is now fresh off an injury looking to get back into the swing of things with a strong showing, I fully expect Randy to go over Undertaker. Probably won’t be clean, but I can live with that. Either way, Randy needs some momentum to jump back into the main event, and Smackdown sorely needs another strong name in the mix. I don’t know how good the match is going to be, since Undertaker really hasn’t been wrestling much, and Orton probably has some ring rust on him. It’s good that they put this on a dual-brand show, so it doesn’t have to deal with the pressure of being the #2 match on the card, and can instead settle for #5 or #6.

Who should win: Randy Orton

Who will win: Randy Orton

Mark?s Interest Level: Would be higher if Taker was active. [50%’>

Really, I know atmosphere is his whole gig, but Taker could at least bother to show up in the ring for an altercation or two. As it stands right now, friggin? Hulk Hogan has wrestled more this month to build up his feud. Hogan! I’m glad to see Randy back in top condition though. If there?s one thing I really have missed about Orton, it?s his ability to sell. From the way he falls to the way he takes a punch, it?s probably his best attribute. But it?s not quite as special this time around because Legend Killer or not, a win here won’t be the same as if he broke Undertaker?s streak at Wrestlemania. I’m beginning to doubt that?s ever going to happen though, so I’ll take this. My disdain for the fact that Taker hasn’t been around much isn’t going to change the fact that this will probably be a good match, as Taker can still work when they actually put him in the ring, and Orton is no slouch either. My guess is the Dead Man finally taken out with an RKO, and then maybe if his legend is killed he can go back to being a biker or something.

Who should win: Randy Orton

Who will win: Randy Orton

Mark?s Bottom Line: At least Taker?s actually been selling the RKO.


Actual winner: Randy Orton

Mark: The sparks are back in Orton?s entrance! I like how they went into this match, with the last image of the previous Smackdown being Orton signaling to Taker that he?s gotten inside his head. It seems like that was the whole idea with the psychology in this match, Orton playing it smart, because he?s lost to Taker before and he knows how to throw him off his game now. I like that, because it shows that Orton?s more than just wrestling skill, he?s intelligent in the ring too. As for Undertaker, I’m still not one of the people calling for his retirement because he CAN still go. I just wish WWE would treat him like a regular wrestler. Shawn Michaels doesn’t show up once every few weeks and stay silent and just superkick someone. I know, it?s not the same because Taker has his ?atmosphere?, but he?s obviously in condition to work, and he has enough skill to talk every so often too. Either way, this was a very good match with some great storytelling (and Taker selling!), but much like my Interest Level, this grade would be higher if both sides of the feud were fully involved. The Bob Orton ending I don’t really mind because I like seeing him back, but was the latex mask really necessary? The glasses and wig were a good enough disguise; the audience didn’t recognize him anyway.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [70%’>

Mike: I would have been shocked if Orton didn’t go over. I wasn’t necessarily a fan of him going over at Wrestlemania, but that was mostly because of what you mentioned Mark, he doesn’t stay around enough to make his feuds all that interesting. I?ve missed Orton, and having him back has been a nice shot in the arm for Smackdown. Undertaker actually works really well with Randy. Their matches haven’t been spectacular, but they?ve been pretty good, and Taker really takes a lot of offense from Orton. I, too, would like to see Undertaker work a more regular schedule, just so long as a title reign isn’t in the works. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of strong heels on Smackdown right now for him to work with. Anyways, the match was pretty good, the appearance of Bob Orton didn’t really do much for me either way, and the clean finish was a pleasant surprise. I’m really not opposed to an extended program between these two, which is surprising since Undertaker hasn’t done a good job in keeping my interest since?probably Brock Lesnar.

Mike?s Entertainment Level: [65%’>

Mike?s Bottom Line: Bob better freakin? show up with that cast one of these days, that?s all I have to say.

WWE Heavyweight Title:

John Cena? vs. Chris Jericho



Mark?s Interest Level: Optimistic. [90%’>

See the kind of things that can happen when Triple H takes a vacation? Jericho with a main event run, for starters, and a face champion that actually connects with the crowd. I’m still not high on Cena?s ringwork, and I’m still sick of his face act, but he?s money and WWE knows it. Jericho?s recent progression is something of a reinvention of himself, although not too far off from his former heel work, it?s different. He went from a rock star disinterested in his wrestling job, to a rejuvenated man given a reason to care again, and I like that. This is why I’m going out on a limb, against the popular opinion, and saying that Jericho?s actually taking the title this time. Through all the rumors that Jericho wasn’t going to sign a contract, that he was jaded and was going to retire, this angle is the one thing that could shatter some of the illusions about him. I know I?ve said Jericho?s getting the belt back pretty much every time he?s gotten back to main event level, but it just fits this time. Cena needs a heel to chase, and he needs to be royally screwed out of that belt. Am I na?ve? Maybe, but people said I was na?ve when I predicted Benoit would make Trips tap clean at Wrestlemania. And even if Jericho doesn’t have a good chance, is it wrong that he?s convincing me that he does?

Who should win: Chris Jericho

Who will win: Chris Jericho

Mike?s Interest Level: I am the Ayatollah of Rockandrolla. [80%’>

I?ve enjoyed the feud between these two. It hasn’t been stellar, but it?s been good, and has definitely had its moments. As you mentioned, Jericho looks completely rejuvenated, and has really been working to make himself and this feud look good. And he has been convincing in making everyone believe he can win the title. He?s aligned himself with the boss, who hates Cena, in order to come out on top. I think it would be great if Jericho won, not only because he’d be a good champion, but it would put Cena in a new and interesting position, and it would totally make the IWC do a double take. That being said, I gave up on the Jericho title run a while ago. I thought if he went to Smackdown that the belt might be in his future down the line somewhere, but on RAW there?s just no room for Chris as the champ. I’ll still root for him on Sunday, but I would be very, very surprised if he actually won the belt. Cena is just too damned invincible when it comes to the big matches for me to think WWE is actually going to go through with screwing him out of the belt.

Who should win: Chris Jericho

Who will win: John Cena

Mike?s Bottom Line: You just want to call Jericho as the winner so you can brag about it for months afterwards if you’re right. You’re so egotistical sometimes.


Actual winner: John Cena

Mike: I?ve been enjoying the build to this feud for the most part. I actually had a small part of me thinking Jericho would win. It certainly added to my enjoyment of the match. Pretty good effort by both guys. John Cena didn’t do anything that would make me more optimistic about his wrestling than I have been for the past two years, but he isn’t drop dead boring either, and with Jericho going up against him, they managed to keep my interest. I’m not sure how long Cena will be holding the title, but as long as Bischoff is opposing him, I think the fans can stay interested and get behind the champ. In the ring he?s very repetitive, and his matches all have the same signature spots with not a whole lot of deviation, but he?s like Batista in that the fans love to see him, and as long as his matches don’t go too long and he gets to cut a promo, the rest doesn’t really matter. Pretty strong finish by Jericho, and I hope he enjoys his break off. He?s been a lot more motivated as of late, probably because he knew he had time off coming. Hopefully he?s not gone for too long, and we see him back in the not-so-distant future.

Mike?s Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Mark: Looks like I got my hopes (or ego, according to Mike) up too much here, but I say again, is there really anything wrong with Jericho convincing me every time he gets a shot that he?s going to win? Judging from the split fan reaction, it seems it worked on them too. I think that says more about Jericho?s character traits than it does mine. Or at least, it used to. I’m none too happy about him leaving, but if the guy needs a break, he needs a break. I can’t remember him EVER being injured long-term or taking an extended leave before, so he?s about due. Maybe he’d have stayed if they gave him the belt here. I don’t know about this match though. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, but maybe it?s the fact that it?s a guy who I don’t think is ?seasoned? enough to hold the flagship show?s title as long-term as he has, defending against the guy who flirts with the title scene occasionally but never wins it. Or maybe it?s that it was the third to last match. It just didn’t seem like a big, important main event like it should have. I enjoyed Jericho?s intensity, but…well, it?s not like I can really say anything about what that means for his future.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: Come back, Chris!

World Heavyweight Title ? No Holds Barred:

Batista? vs. JBL



Mike?s Interest Level: Where’s Brock? [30%’>

Silly me thinking this feud would only make it through one PPV. I’m not particularly enthused about having to sit through another brawl between these two, although with the added “No Holds Barred” stipulation, it should at least make it more watchable with the brutality and blood. Mostly I’m tired of JBL in the main event. I’m tired of watching him skate by month after month, putting on passable matches while remaining on top. And it’s even worse now, because he’s not the champ and Batista, who is the champ, isn’t exactly a wrestling guru capable of carrying Bradshaw. Both of these guys are people who need good wrestlers around them to have good matches. Put them together and you’re asking for trouble. The feud really needs to stop here. JBL needs to find something else to do, and Batista needs to get in a feud with a better opponent. Eddie Guerrero’s certainly an option. Basically, this match doesn’t even need to be happening. JBL’s not going to win the title again, probably ever, and there’s little doubt in my mind that both guys are going to be hard-pressed to put on a good match.

Who should win: Batista

Who will win: Batista

Mark?s Interest Level: Batista?s too smooth to lose the belt. [45%’>

By all rights, I shouldn’t be interested at all in this feud. But I just want to see Batista close out this feud in a very final way, to the point that I actually kind of care about this match. After beating three clean pins on Triple H, having JBL win this would be like saying JBL is better than HHH, and you know nobody?s standing for that. I think I predicted that JBL would lose every main event title match he was in since he got the title, and I was wrong, so this does worry me a little. That said, Batista?s a power wrestler and JBL?s a brawler, so the No Holds Barred stip should work to make this a lot less boring than their GAB match. Funny thing though, what?s the difference between No DQ, Hardcore, Street Fight, and No Holds Barred? If you take it literally, it should just mean that no wrestling holds are illegal in this match, but foreign objects still would be. I’m sure that?s not what they mean, but seeing a heel bend back someone?s fingers and pull someone?s hair just because he could would be rather amusing. Anyway, I think one of the two Heavyweight titles is going to change hands at Summerslam, and I don’t think it?s going to be Batista?s. Between him and Cena, Batista?s the one who could use the prop more to keep him over with the crowd, while Cena doesn’t need a status symbol to ?keep it real?.

Who should win: Batista

Who will win: Batista

Mark?s Bottom Line: If nearly every other former champion can be reduced to midcard after their title reigns, why can’t JBL?


Actual winner: Batista

Mark: I think the No DQ stip worked better for this match, because straight wrestling sure wasn’t cutting it. Nice re-use of the Goldberg spear-through-the-barricade spot early on in the match, too. One thing I did enjoy is that Batista kicked out of the Clothesline From Hell fairly easily, and not even that far into the bout. Another testament to Batista completely decimating JBL was that he had him put away, then decided to put the exclamation point on it with the steps. It was short, but it was exactly what I wanted. Not dragging on longer than it had to, and JBL getting the shit kicked out of him. Not a masterpiece, but it worked.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [55%’>

Mike: This should have been their first and only match, to be honest. I felt that their GAB match should have been a street fight, or something involving weapons and blood to take away from the fact that neither one is all that great of a wrestler. It was also a huge letdown given that Batista was DQ’d for using the belt on JBL. I haven’t been a huge fan of this feud, because JBL was on top for so long, only to job out so definitively to John Cena at Wrestlemania, as well as the ensuing months. But once Batista shows up, all that goes away, and we’re supposed to pretend JBL has a chance to be champion again, even though he obviously doesn’t. So this match was just an affirmation of that, and Batista won with relative ease, as he should have. Nothing special, I liked the finish though.

Mike?s Entertainment Level: [45%’>

Mike?s Bottom Line: The spear through the barricade was also used when the Big Show laid out JBL during one of Smackdown?s PPV main events last year. It?s turning into quite the popular spot.

Icon vs. Legend:

Shawn Michaels vs. Hulk Hogan



Mark?s Interest Level: Please let it be ?one time only?. [80%’>

So much for that ?one more match? thing. Isn’t this his third match since he agreed to that? There was Backlash, then there was Raw this week, and now this. But enough already. And I say that with all due respect for everything Hogan?s done for the business. Yes, he?s always been in business for himself, but his presence did catapult 80s wrestling into a golden age, let?s not deny it. But you know, after this, I just don’t want to see Hogan in the ring again. The hype going into this match is great. It?s more than just Hogan coming back to promote his reality show, because they?ve made a good angle out of it. I like Michaels trying to prove he?s all about the wrestling, and that if one of them is going to be known as the best wrestler in WWE history, it?s got to be HBK. It?s one of those matches we thought it was too late to see, and it?s even bigger than Rock/Hogan. It?s a Wrestlemania-caliber match, and having it headline the show (which it very well could as it?s gotten top billing) is a smart move. But slowly, surely, the fans are turning on Hogan, because they feel it too. It?s all starting to wear off. He no longer receives the 10 minute nostalgia pops, and a few boos are mixed in with those cheers he does still get. Michaels on the other hand, is the heel we never thought we’d see again. I wasn’t convinced at first, but after a few weeks of his old antics, I warmed up to it. Now at this point, I just want Hogan to pass a torch of any kind to a fellow wrestler, and in this case it would make Michaels the new ‘legend?, which I believe he deserves. I want this match to be good, but remember that it IS a Hogan match. Yeah, it?s a Michaels match too, but who do you think needs his opponent to bump more to make him look good?

Who should win: Shawn Michaels

Who will win: Shawn Michaels

Mike?s Interest Level: OMFG!!!1! [100%’>

This is it. This is the pinnacle of the show, the match I really want to see. I was pretty excited about it already, but Meltzer?s write-up on what?s going on with the feud just pushed me over the edge to a weird state of giddiness. Words cannot express how unbelievable Shawn Michaels has been in building this feud. The whole idea behind this match is extraordinary, and has been played out perfectly. Both guys bring up extremely good points, and both look to be speaking from the heart. HBK became who he is by being the best in the ring. Hulk Hogan became who he is by being the best in the eyes of the fans. Hogan hasn’t faced anyone like Shawn Michaels before. Shawn Michaels knows that, and you almost get the feeling that on a certain level Hogan knows that, too. I’m convinced that Shawn can do anything in the ring, and that includes make Hulk Hogan look good at age 52. I really have no idea what?s going down in this match, but I think Shawn should go over here, since he?s the guy with the longevity, he?s the one who will be around in five years (hopefully). I’ll certainly be rooting for Shawn. I think it will be very interesting to see what the crowd does for this match. Last time Hogan was in a match like this, he walked in the heel, and left the babyface. This time, he walks in the babyface, but with Shawn Michaels on the other side, who knows how he?s walking out. All I know is that I am beyond pumped for this, and even if the rest of the show sucks, I know that this will be flat out awesome.

Who should win: Shawn Michaels

Who will win: Shawn Michaels

Mike?s Bottom Line: 80%? That?s pretty lame. If Hogan?s flexible enough to get put in the Sharpshooter, then what is there to be worried about? I’m sure he could go 35-40 minutes, easy.


Actual winner: Hulk Hogan

Mike: Well, the reaction to this match has been very black-and-white. Either people loved it, or they hated it. I loved it, personally. Nothing like two of the biggest names in the history of wrestling going at it. It was one of those matches that even the casual fan has interest in seeing. Hogan can’t move too well, but Shawn was all over that with the over-the-top babyface overselling. I’m actually surprised by how long the match went, and that I managed to stay interested in it the whole time. Hogan took a lot of abuse, and the blood was flowing freely that night. I guess the smark in me wanted HBK to go over, but in reality, it didn’t matter if HBK won or lost, and it?s Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan is the greatest wrestler alive in the eyes of most of the fans. This certainly wasn’t an epic like Angles/Michaels was, but it was an epic on a different level. It was one of those matches that needed to happen, and I’m glad I got to see it. I’d like to be able to tell myself that Hogan?s done wrestling, but we all know that?s not true, and I’m sure when Wrestlemania rolls around he’ll be back, perhaps for his rumored match against Austin.

Mike?s Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Mark: So much for the Shawn Michaels that ?won’t lay down? for Hogan. I’m not sure exactly what this was supposed to prove. That Hogan will blade if the cross-promotion and paycheck is big enough? See, I sound bitter, and it?s because I am. Hogan vs. Current Big Name Wrestler was something that was a HUGE deal when he fought against The Rock a couple years ago. But now, once the novelty?s worn off for me, and Hogan?s already been ?back? for half a dozen extra runs with the company, I didn’t go into this with high expectations. Hell, that 80% in the Point was me being generous. So where do I begin? Michael?s usually fantastic selling being replaced by goofy, cartoonish, almost drunken flips and flops like he was a circus tumbler? The multiple, unnecessary ref bumps that added nothing to the match? Michaels visibly slowing way down for Hogan so the Hulkster could dictate the pace? Even putting kayfabe aside here, the history of how WWE has put over their individual styles over the years should mean the logical pace would be Michaels in control for the duration. Or maybe it?s that I didn’t watch this live, and saw it after reading how much of a dickheaded attitude Hogan had about the whole thing, saying he made HBK look good. I don’t think that entirely spoiled it for me, but it didn’t help any. Aside from that there were many things wrong with it, and not even from a wrestling standpoint because I can actually put that aside for a spectacle or two.

My point is, the rest of the internet can say as much as they want that this match was ?better than expected?, but it doesn’t change that Hogan doesn’t deserve a major PPV main event, much less a win over one of the best wrestlers they?ve ever had, who I might add is in the midst of a fantastic run. ?Hogan?s still over?, I hear you say. Maybe I?ve been asleep for the past 5 years, but myself and the rest of the net has never cared when someone is over, so why start now? Smarky folks look back and say Rock/Hogan wasn’t all that great, it just seemed like it at the time because of the hype machine. I went into this match with no illusions of hype, and it didn’t seem all that great to me when it was happening. Sometimes star power just isn’t enough.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [25%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: Contrary to the title of his reality show, no, Hogan doesn’t know best.



Mark?s Overall Interest: 500 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 63%.

Mike?s Overall Interest: 477 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 60%.


Mark?s Overall Entertainment: 382 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 48%.

Mike?s Overall Entertainment: 455 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 57%.

Bottom Line Average: 52.5%

Mark: I’m honestly surprised my numbers came out as high as they did, because I didn’t find myself enjoying this all that much. Although, to be fair, I didn’t find myself bored to tears at anything in particular either, so I suppose right around the 50% mark is fair enough. As you can see, Mike enjoyed this just a tad more than I did, but I found it interesting that he liked matches I didn’t, and I liked matches he didn’t. Even if the end result is pretty close, what made it up is very diverse, and I always think that makes for an interesting review. Don’t you? Well, if you don’t, too bad, because you didn’t write it.

?And that?s the bottom line, cuz Mark & Mike said so.



UNFORGIVEN 2005

The latest PPV from the Raw brand didn’t disappoint, and if only for a couple reasons, it may just have sparked my interest in the brand a little more. Why is this? A solid card that actually had builds behind all of the feuds, and not much filler. Flair?s comedy segments were kept brief, though I didn’t really need to see half an old man ass. Anyway, not too shabby of a PPV. But as I am rather busy lately, this and the following review will be a tad brief.

Intercontinental Title: Carlito vs. Ric Flair:

Not too shabby. Not exactly the best mix of styles here, but they pulled this off without too many problems. I liked the spot with Flair finally hitting a top rope move and then celebrating like he just won the match. Funny stuff. I also appreciate Flair saying his first IC title win means as much to him as any of the World titles he?s won. It makes the belt seem more important, and while some may complain, Flair commands a lot of respect and I think this can only elevate the title.

Entertainment Level: [55%’>

Torrie & Victoria vs. Trish & Ashley:

I will say this much, Ashley is a fast learner. I wouldn’t say she?s good yet, but she?s already better than Christy was in her entire year as the Diva Search winner. I don’t mind her much because I can tell she?s actually a wrestling fan, and anyway, her faults were pretty well covered. What happened instead was a pretty good Trish vs. Victoria match, and those two can always deliver good women?s wrestling. Torrie was kept out of the match and didn’t tag in once, which I believe to be a smart move because she?s never been particularly good in the ring. For what it was, it wasn’t bad.

Entertainment Level: [45%’>

Big Show vs. Snitsky:

The snoozer of the night. Show really stood out on Smackdown, but there?s not much for him back on Raw it seems. For Show?s end of the deal though, he put on a pretty decent brawl, but I just don’t see any improvement from Snitsky at all. Though I do like how he recently turned his chin antenna into two braided chin antennae. Show gets his ring bell revenge, and hopefully that?s the end of it.

Entertainment Level: [17%’>

Kerwin White vs. Shelton Benjamin:

Pretty good athletic match with a bit of a weak build, but it?s something. I’m glad this was added onto the card either way, because it?s more exposure for these two, and they need it. The Kerwin gimmick is pretty ridiculous, but I’m glad that they’re not acting like he?s a new guy, but rather that the gimmick is Chavo pretending he?s someone he?s not. Pretty fun match with Chavo working on the knee, and this is a feud I wouldn’t mind seeing continue.

Entertainment Level: [75%’>

Cage Match: Matt Hardy vs. Edge:

Now THIS is what I wanted. This match was just completely done right, and gave the feud everything it needed to cement Hardy?s return as a badass seeker of revenge. The absolute payoff. What I was really pleased with is that the crowd was heavily behind Matt the whole time, and was HOT by the end of the match. This is something I know WWE has got to notice. The casual fan and the fans in the know are all interested in this angle, and this was everyone getting what they wanted. Easily stole the show, and currently it?s between this and NYR?s Elimination Chamber as the best WWE match of the year on my list. I seriously don’t have a single bad thing to say about it, and that legdrop was sweet as hell.

Entertainment Level: [100%’>

Tag Titles: Superheroes vs. Rednecks:

Not bad, at least they’re trying to have a tag division now. Hurricane and Rosey?s run with the belts was pretty uneventful, but that isn’t their fault. Cade & Murdoch aren’t great or anything, but they do have a promising start. Now they just need a bit more competition. This wasn’t anything special, though I did like Murdoch?s DDT from the apron to the floor on Hurricane, and I like the simplicity but effectiveness of C&M?s finisher. It?s like the Total Elimination, only using arms instead of legs.

Entertainment Level: [50%’>

Chris Masters vs. Shawn Michaels:

I have to give Masters a little bit of credit here. This was a decent encounter and it wasn’t just Michaels carrying or selling. There were points where Masters was in control and he didn’t look lost or too green. I still think he’d be better off in a tag team, but this wasn’t a bad outing for him. Michaels has been on fire lately, and I understand his win here since he just came off losing to Hogan. This was a tad better than I thought it was going to be, and made for a nice cooldown match before the main event.

Entertainment Level: [65%’>

WWE Title: John Cena vs. Kurt Angle:

I was waiting until I saw this match to really come out and say it, but there is a definite and noticeable style change in John Cena, and that?s not a good thing. Go back to their match a couple years ago, and I wonder what happened to the talented kid on Smackdown. Not that this match was bad, it just didn’t really measure up to what I know both of them are capable of. I dislike DQ endings in PPV main events a lot, though I guess Angle gets the belt at Survivor Series or something. Funny though how instead of adding heat to Angle by the ref declaring him the winner via DQ, Cena takes out Bischoff, Angle, and then Chioda still raised Cena?s hand anyway. It took Cena saying ?I didn’t win? to the ref to make him realize it. I’m not all that interested in this feud because Cena bores me, but it was a decent match.

Entertainment Level: [70%’>

Overall Entertainment: 477 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 60%.

60% is about the low-end for me to call a PPV ?good?. This was certainly above average and had a good undercard, and I think it’ll remain as one of the better ones this year. They got the formula right for one thing; only one running gag going on throughout the show, a couple backstage promos, and the rest was just wrestling. Every match had a reason behind it, and there was no major filler segment. They’re on the right track with this one.



GREAT AMERICAN BASH 2005:

Sorry to have to end on a down-note, but this deserves to go last because it just plain sucked almost from top to bottom. As such, I’ll make this even shorter than the last one.

Tag Titles: MNM vs. LOD:

I guess I can forgive this unholy pairing because of the lack of tag teams on Smackdown, but the tag titles? Is this just to promote the DVD, or is it a favor from John Laurinitis? MNM deserves better.

Entertainment Level: [10%’>

Christian vs. Booker T:

I want to say I liked this, but I just found it boring because I?ve seen it so many times before. When they feuded on Raw awhile back, they fought like 80 times, so this is nothing new.

Entertainment Level: [40%’>

US Title: Chris Benoit vs. Orlando Jordan:

There is no reason OJ should?ve won this, especially if they were planning ahead for Summerslam. Benoit can usually drag a great match out of a paper bag (a match I’d actually like to see if only for novelty purposes), but for some reason they decided to let OJ have control for an ungodly amount of time.

Entertainment Level: [30%’>

Muhammad Hassan vs. Undertaker:

Way to kill off two characters and like 500 other guys. It?s sad that the terrorist (oh whoops, there I go ?jumping to conclusions?, WWE) angle and the utter decimation of everybody to feed Taker more had to be the way they dealt with this. They could?ve left Daivari in the CW division and moved Hassan back to Raw. I’m going to miss the ?AAALLLIIIEEENNNN? entrance theme.

Entertainment Level: [20%’>

Mexicools vs. Blue World Order:

The bWo had such promise, too. I don’t know what they were trying to do here, but whatever it was didn’t pan out. From not even announcing the match except for an online challenge, to not even having some of the guys wrestle, this really should?ve been better.

Entertainment Level: [25%’>

Rey Mysterio vs. Eddy Guerrero:

Here we go, one of the few good things about this show. Not as good as their other encounters, but I blame that partially on the soap opera drama that started in this angle around this time. Still, better than the rest of the matches on the card.

Entertainment Level: [68%’>

Bra & Panties: Torrie vs. Melina:

This went exactly like every other Bra & Panties match you?ve ever seen. I think Melina could turn out to be decent, but she?s on the wrong show for that anyway.

Entertainment Level: [2%’>

World Title: Batista vs. JBL:

Like Mike said in the Summerslam review, the street fight should?ve been their only match in this feud. Two power/brawler style wrestlers only work together if they’re both really good and convincing, and frankly neither is. I like Batista, but he needs to increase his moveset. JBL though, I’m still not sold on in the ring.

Entertainment Level: [15%’>

Overall Entertainment: 210 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 26%.

Only a small margin better than New Year?s Revolution, which despite having an awesome main event, had the worst undercard I?ve seen in years. But I guess a couple decent matches are enough to save GAB from being the worst of the year two years in a row. But just barely.

I hope to have time for more columns now that this is out of the way, but it?s going to depend on how busy I am over the next couple months. In any case, see you next time, whenever the next time is.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #172: Summerslam 2005 – Point [Bottom Line #8]

Mark: From my columns in the past couple months, sporadic as they may be, you may have been able to tell that I’m on the whole pretty dissatisfied with the WWE product. But I have to say there’s one thing they’ve been doing right this year; They made Summerslam important again. Over the past few years there’s been a streak where Summerslam is just another PPV, albeit a joint-brand one, but it’s not given the “second only to Wrestlemania” notice that it used to. I’m proud to say that as much as I haven’t found interesting lately, this year’s Summerslam build has been great for the most part. They saved a few really big feuds for this one, and it’s the first PPV I’ve been looking forward to in awhile. By the way, as shitty as the Great American Bash 2005 was, I’m going to force myself to tack on a review along with the Counterpoint portion of this column, so worry not if you’re as much of a completist as I am.

Now onto other matters. Lauren’s got finals (*sniff* I miss your snappy comebacks and good-natured insults, Lauren?), and hasn’t been watching much WWE lately anyway, so for this column I’m going to be working with relatively new main pager Mike Maloney. You know that a guy who uses The Genius in his column banner has got to bring some quality to the table. So if you don’t know by now, here’s how this works. In this portion, the ‘Point’, we preview the show, give our percentage of interest in each match, and then tell you two results: Who we think should win, and who we think will win. Works just like my regular columns, only I have an extra person. Simple enough?

Well not so fast, because there’s also this column’s namesake, The Bottom Line. What I used to do is have one person preview, the other person preview, then the first person gets in the last word. But honestly, that’s a bitch to write because it’s more trading of material over e-mail than I care to do. Instead, henceforth it’ll work a little differently. We’ll independently preview each match, and then the Bottom Line will be the second reviewer’s response to the first reviewer. Trust me, it’s much easier on me that way. And you don’t want me to suffer, do you? Well if you do, then I hate you anyway, so it’s a moot point.

Anyway, Raw matches are in red, Smackdown colors are in blue, and this time around I’m taking Raw matches first and Mike’s taking Smackdown matches first. We’ll then flip these roles for the Counterpoint, because we’re nutty like that.

United States Title:

Orlando Jordan? vs. Chris Benoit

Mike?s Interest Level: These guys are feuding? [7%’>

What a complete joke. Smackdown actually had a semi-interesting situation revolving around the United States title going into the GAB with Benoit becoming the #1 contender, and followed up by giving OJ the best match of his career and actually making me think they might try and do something with the belt. Since then, Benoit’s been treading water, OJ’s gone back to not wrestling (I think he defended the title once on Velocity), so then, once any feuding between these two has ceased, they throw a rematch on the card? It’s sad, really. I probably could have been interested in this match if they had even hinted at it at any time over the past month. But now the addition just seems pointless. I would think that Benoit has a good chance of winning, but I could also see them trying to elevate OJ again. In all seriousness, though, what’s the point of trying to elevate someone on PPV if you’re just going to throw him back onto Velocity afterwards?

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Chris Benoit

Mark?s Interest Level: Jimmy crack corn? [10%’>

?and I don’t care. Out of all the matches on the card, I’m feeling this one the least by far. They could?ve had Benoit grab the belt at GAB and build Christian as #1 contender, but noooo. OJ the Heatless Wonder, who has served absolutely no purpose or direction to the belt, remains US champion while more talented, over, and charismatic men get the unceremonious shaft. Not even either show?s tag champs or the CW title are on the show (or have a definite feud lined up), and OJ gets on there. At least you can laugh at Heidenreich. Either WWE really sees something in this guy, or they know Benoit can at least carry him. It?s not that Jordan outright sucks, there?s just nothing at all interesting about him. I can’t imagine this being much different than last month?s, especially since there?s really no angle driving this, but I have a hunch that there?s a Christian/Benoit US title feud in the near future, and that would make me happy in the pants.

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Chris Benoit

Mark?s Bottom Line: We’re not interested, and OJ is boring. That about sums it up.

Gold Medal Match:

Eugene? vs. Kurt Angle

Mark?s Interest Level: Angle remembered one of his ?I?s. [40%’>

Did someone say Special Olympics? This doesn’t mean I like Eugene any more than I did before, as he?s gone back to the same old tired shtick he had before his injury. But to me, this feud has been at least somewhat worth it due to Angle bringing back the first of his ?Three I?s?, Intensity. I haven’t seen Angle this intense in a long time, because he?s actually fighting for something that?s important to his character, heel or not. Dinsmore is capable, but it’ll likely be a big comedy routine until Angle puts the boots to him and reminds Eugene that it?s not a game, and the medal isn’t just a toy. Christy at least is in the role she should be, as a valet, because she?s not a good wrestler and even if she were, there?s not really a Women?s division anymore. At any rate I can’t see a serious, intense Angle losing to a goofy, playful Eugene, even if he enacts his ‘tard rage?. Kurt?s medal is coming home.

Who should win: Kurt Angle

Who will win: Kurt Angle

Mike?s Interest Level: We all know retards can’t really win gold medals. [35%’>

I guess I too am really only looking forward to Angle beating the hell out of Eugene. It?s actually one of the few aspects of his character I enjoy, like I did when HHH destroyed him in their cage match a while back. I’m actually quite shocked that Angle has managed to be demoted since jumping to RAW considering that HHH is nowhere to be found. This whole angle could have been interesting if it was done with someone other than Eugene. I know the whole ?Benjamin/Angle? feud has been mentioned over and over again, but there?s your money angle right there. Benjamin made a name for himself when he went over the biggest and the best in HHH last year on RAW, and it would completely be within his character to go over someone like Angle and get his gold medal. But Shelton?s issues are far too numerous to discuss in a paragraph. Basically, Angle needs to win this match so we can move on with something far more interesting.

Who should win: Kurt Angle

Who will win: Kurt Angle

Mike?s Bottom Line: I would never say anything bad about Eugene again if I could hear JR reference ‘tard rage? during their match this Sunday.

RIP vs. RKO:

Undertaker vs. Randy Orton

Mike?s Interest Level: RKO=RIP, whatever that means. [50%’>

The build for this match has been all sorts of lame, but when you think about it, when was the last time Undertaker built a feud that wasn’t totally lame? He rarely talks, rarely even shows up, and instead his character depends upon the production team to put him over with their fog, black lights, and video packages. At the same time, this is a feud that needed to be done, and makes perfect sense for Orton’s return feud. Since Undertaker got his billionth win at Wrestlemania against Orton, and Orton is now fresh off an injury looking to get back into the swing of things with a strong showing, I fully expect Randy to go over Undertaker. Probably won’t be clean, but I can live with that. Either way, Randy needs some momentum to jump back into the main event, and Smackdown sorely needs another strong name in the mix. I don’t know how good the match is going to be, since Undertaker really hasn’t been wrestling much, and Orton probably has some ring rust on him. It’s good that they put this on a dual-brand show, so it doesn’t have to deal with the pressure of being the #2 match on the card, and can instead settle for #5 or #6.

Who should win: Randy Orton

Who will win: Randy Orton

Mark?s Interest Level: Would be higher if Taker was active. [50%’>

Really, I know atmosphere is his whole gig, but Taker could at least bother to show up in the ring for an altercation or two. As it stands right now, friggin? Hulk Hogan has wrestled more this month to build up his feud. Hogan! I’m glad to see Randy back in top condition though. If there?s one thing I really have missed about Orton, it?s his ability to sell. From the way he falls to the way he takes a punch, it?s probably his best attribute. But it?s not quite as special this time around because Legend Killer or not, a win here won’t be the same as if he broke Undertaker?s streak at Wrestlemania. I’m beginning to doubt that?s ever going to happen though, so I’ll take this. My disdain for the fact that Taker hasn’t been around much isn’t going to change the fact that this will probably be a good match, as Taker can still work when they actually put him in the ring, and Orton is no slouch either. My guess is the Dead Man finally taken out with an RKO, and then maybe if his legend is killed he can go back to being a biker or something.

Who should win: Randy Orton

Who will win: Randy Orton

Mark?s Bottom Line: At least Taker?s actually been selling the RKO.

The Mother of All Grudge Matches:

Matt Hardy vs. Edge

Mark?s Interest Level: The internet?s dream angle. [100%’>

Oh man, where do I begin with this one? WWE did a complete 180 and turned bad business into great business in the span of a few months. This has so much history, speculation, frustration, and wishful thinking behind it that it?s almost too much for one quick preview to cover. And that?s just on the internet side of things. How long were we worked? How much is kayfabe and how much is real? Many ?smart? fans have been taken on a long journey behind the scenes with Matt Hardy, now receiving the most attention he?s ever had, and it?s all because of a very real and very painful situation. I have to wonder what a casual fan thinks of this blurring of the lines between work and shoot, but they didn’t get the anger many of us had when Hardy was betrayed and then fired, the surprise when he turned up again, and the satisfaction of knowing this is the best angle of his life and career, cheating ex-girlfriend or not. Up until a week ago, I didn’t like Edge all that much, and not just because of his real life actions. He just wasn’t that interesting to me. But after last week?s intense as all hell promo, I’m inclined to think that this is the best possible angle for him right now, as it?s only going to bring him more into the spotlight too. And not just the forced spotlight of a monster push, a very real spotlight because it plays off of real life. The match itself? They’re very familiar with each other so I’m not worried about the quality, but this is a match where it?s all in the angle. I?ve never seen anything like it, and I like that. A lot.

Who should win: Matt Hardy

Who will win: Matt Hardy and the Internet

Mike?s Interest Level: What, no Kane or Snitsky? [95%’>

Remember when the rumor was a tag match that involved Kane and Snitsky? The best thing WWE could have done to help this feud was completely drop both of those guys completely from any interaction with Edge or Matt Hardy. Basically the whole storyline goes to shit when you try and include what?s happened with those two in with what?s happened between Edge and Matt. That aside, this whole angle has been really fascinating. It?s one of the biggest internet angles we?ve seen, and it?s been played out really well on TV by all parties involved. One of my favorite aspects of this angle is the fact that while Edge is coming off like a total dick, he also brings up some very good points that I have to sit back and agree with. Matt?s really playing up the sympathetic babyface, but there are definitely points of his that I don’t necessarily agree with. The angle has a lot of depth to it, and isn’t just a cookie cutter good vs. evil feud, which is great. The match will have a lot of passion to it, and I really think Edge should get the victory here, since he?s WWE?s project right now, he has more of a future, and as Edge said, Matt?s in the spotlight now, but he?s not going to be the main event, Edge is. However, the fans want Matt to get some revenge, so Hardy will probably go over here.

Who should win: Edge

Who will win: Matt Hardy

Mike?s Bottom Line: Who knew that Lita could actually fuck up so many times that something good would actually come out of it?

Custody Ladder Match:

Eddy Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio

Mike’s Interest Level: This week on Todos mis hijos…[80%’>

Well, this feud has been going on for months now, and has resulted in some pretty good matches. The actual storyline has taken somewhat of a dramatic turn, and a ladder match over custody of a child isn’t something that is actively practiced in today’s legal system to my knowledge. To be honest, I’ve kind of zoned out the past few weeks or so, not that I don’t appreciate Eddie’s heel schtick, but it’s just getting to be so much. They’re just laying the drama on thick, and it’s definitely hurting my anticipation for this match overall. I really hope I’m not setting myself up for a letdown, but since their subpar Wrestlemania match, and the addition of some personal animosity, their subsequent matches have been much, much better. As some people may know, I’m not the biggest fan of ladder matches. I think they can provide for some great spots, and spotfests like the TLC matches are fantastic to watch when done the right way. The problem is, ladder matches suffer from contrived finishes in the same way cage matches do. You have all these near finishes that cause the competitor trying to win to operate in slow motion, which really hurts my enjoyment of the match. I’m in agreement with all those people who indicated Eddie/Rey should be no-DQ or a street fight that involves the use of a ladder. You get the best of both worlds, with the ladder spots, but at the same time don’t have to depend on the ladder finish. Either way, I think this will be a good match, and if they have Dominic suspended above the ring instead of custody papers, I will give the match ***** easily. I would assume Rey wins the match here, but at the same time, it would be just like WWE to have Eddie win custody, and have this story continue.

Who should win: Rey Mysterio

Who will win: Rey Mysterio

Mark?s Interest Level: Rey & Eddy don’t need a soap opera. [85%’>

It was unintentionally funny when the social worker said last week that everyone?s acting like ?a bunch of crazies?. I had to laugh, because how often do they address how silly an angle in wrestling really is? To me, there?s practically nothing sillier than fighting over the custody of a child in a wrestling match. The whole thing that gets me is, if Dominic is supposed to be Eddy?s kid, why does Dominic look just like Rey? And if Rey and his wife couldn’t have children, how do you explain their daughter Aaliyah, whose name Rey has tattooed right on his arm? The main problem I have with this is the fact that while these two are great pitted against each other, and some of the emotion has been a fun ride, their segments have dragged on incredibly long at many points. ?Chapter 3? was what, half an hour long? And much of it is due to far too many dramatic pauses, and the fact that Eddy has been talking really slowly. It?s detrimental to the match, as well as the feud that was built off of Eddy?s jealousy of Rey stemming way back to last year when they were a tag team. Now it?s in a completely different direction that makes very little sense. Still, I’m a fan of ladder matches, and they haven’t been using them often lately, so this is very likely going to be a great match. I just wish the feud wasn’t so hokey. I’d actually kind of like to see Eddy get custody of Dominic, but I don’t think it?s going to happen. Eddy needs some other way to ?win?.

Who should win: Eddy Guerrero

Who will win: Rey Mysterio

Mark?s Bottom Line: With all the times these two have fought without a major angle driving it, I never thought I’d see the day when I wished they’d both just shut up and wrestle.

WWE Heavyweight Title:

John Cena? vs. Chris Jericho

Mark?s Interest Level: Optimistic. [90%’>

See the kind of things that can happen when Triple H takes a vacation? Jericho with a main event run, for starters, and a face champion that actually connects with the crowd. I’m still not high on Cena?s ringwork, and I’m still sick of his face act, but he?s money and WWE knows it. Jericho?s recent progression is something of a reinvention of himself, although not too far off from his former heel work, it?s different. He went from a rock star disinterested in his wrestling job, to a rejuvenated man given a reason to care again, and I like that. This is why I’m going out on a limb, against the popular opinion, and saying that Jericho?s actually taking the title this time. Through all the rumors that Jericho wasn’t going to sign a contract, that he was jaded and was going to retire, this angle is the one thing that could shatter some of the illusions about him. I know I?ve said Jericho?s getting the belt back pretty much every time he?s gotten back to main event level, but it just fits this time. Cena needs a heel to chase, and he needs to be royally screwed out of that belt. Am I na?ve? Maybe, but people said I was na?ve when I predicted Benoit would make Trips tap clean at Wrestlemania. And even if Jericho doesn’t have a good chance, is it wrong that he?s convincing me that he does?

Who should win: Chris Jericho

Who will win: Chris Jericho

Mike?s Interest Level: I am the Ayatollah of Rockandrolla. [80%’>

I?ve enjoyed the feud between these two. It hasn’t been stellar, but it?s been good, and has definitely had its moments. As you mentioned, Jericho looks completely rejuvenated, and has really been working to make himself and this feud look good. And he has been convincing in making everyone believe he can win the title. He?s aligned himself with the boss, who hates Cena, in order to come out on top. I think it would be great if Jericho won, not only because he’d be a good champion, but it would put Cena in a new and interesting position, and it would totally make the IWC do a double take. That being said, I gave up on the Jericho title run a while ago. I thought if he went to Smackdown that the belt might be in his future down the line somewhere, but on RAW there?s just no room for Chris as the champ. I’ll still root for him on Sunday, but I would be very, very surprised if he actually won the belt. Cena is just too damned invincible when it comes to the big matches for me to think WWE is actually going to go through with screwing him out of the belt.

Who should win: Chris Jericho

Who will win: John Cena

Mike?s Bottom Line: You just want to call Jericho as the winner so you can brag about it for months afterwards if you’re right. You’re so egotistical sometimes.

World Heavyweight Title ? No Holds Barred:

Batista? vs. JBL

Mike?s Interest Level: Where’s Brock? [30%’>

Silly me thinking this feud would only make it through one PPV. I’m not particularly enthused about having to sit through another brawl between these two, although with the added “No Holds Barred” stipulation, it should at least make it more watchable with the brutality and blood. Mostly I’m tired of JBL in the main event. I’m tired of watching him skate by month after month, putting on passable matches while remaining on top. And it’s even worse now, because he’s not the champ and Batista, who is the champ, isn’t exactly a wrestling guru capable of carrying Bradshaw. Both of these guys are people who need good wrestlers around them to have good matches. Put them together and you’re asking for trouble. The feud really needs to stop here. JBL needs to find something else to do, and Batista needs to get in a feud with a better opponent. Eddie Guerrero’s certainly an option. Basically, this match doesn’t even need to be happening. JBL’s not going to win the title again, probably ever, and there’s little doubt in my mind that both guys are going to be hard-pressed to put on a good match.

Who should win: Batista

Who will win: Batista

Mark?s Interest Level: Batista?s too smooth to lose the belt. [45%’>

By all rights, I shouldn’t be interested at all in this feud. But I just want to see Batista close out this feud in a very final way, to the point that I actually kind of care about this match. After three clean pins in a row on Triple H, having JBL win this would be like saying JBL is better than HHH, and you know nobody?s standing for that. I think I predicted that JBL would lose every main event title match he was in since he got the title, and I was wrong, so this does worry me a little. That said, Batista?s a power wrestler and JBL?s a brawler, so the No Holds Barred stip should work to make this a lot less boring than their GAB match. Funny thing though, what?s the difference between No DQ, Hardcore, Street Fight, and No Holds Barred? If you take it literally, it should just mean that no wrestling holds are illegal in this match, but foreign objects still would be. I’m sure that?s not what they mean, but seeing a heel bend back someone?s fingers and pull someone?s hair just because he could would be rather amusing. Anyway, I think one of the two Heavyweight titles is going to change hands at Summerslam, and I don’t think it?s going to be Batista?s. Between him and Cena, Batista?s the one who could use the prop more to keep him over with the crowd, while Cena doesn’t need a status symbol to ?keep it real?.

Who should win: Batista

Who will win: Batista

Mark?s Bottom Line: If nearly every other former champion can be reduced to midcard after their title reigns, why can’t JBL?

Icon vs. Legend:

Shawn Michaels vs. Hulk Hogan

Mark?s Interest Level: Please let it be ?one time only?. [80%’>

So much for that ?one more match? thing. Isn’t this his third match since he agreed to that? There was Backlash, then there was Raw this week, and now this. But enough already. And I say that with all due respect for everything Hogan?s done for the business. Yes, he?s always been in business for himself, but his presence did catapult 80s wrestling into a golden age, let?s not deny it. But you know, after this, I just don’t want to see Hogan in the ring again. The hype going into this match is great. It?s more than just Hogan coming back to promote his reality show, because they?ve made a good angle out of it. I like Michaels trying to prove he?s all about the wrestling, and that if one of them is going to be known as the best wrestler in WWE history, it?s got to be HBK. It?s one of those matches we thought it was too late to see, and it?s even bigger than Rock/Hogan. It?s a Wrestlemania-caliber match, and having it headline the show (which it very well could as it?s gotten top billing) is a smart move. But slowly, surely, the fans are turning on Hogan, because they feel it too. It?s all starting to wear off. He no longer receives the 10 minute nostalgia pops, and a few boos are mixed in with those cheers he does still get. Michaels on the other hand, is the heel we never thought we’d see again. I wasn’t convinced at first, but after a few weeks of his old antics, I warmed up to it. Now at this point, I just want Hogan to pass a torch of any kind to a fellow wrestler, and in this case it would make Michaels the new ‘legend?, which I believe he deserves. I want this match to be good, but remember that it IS a Hogan match. Yeah, it?s a Michaels match too, but who do you think needs his opponent to bump more to make him look good? There’s also that rumored Bret Hart appearance, which adds a little spice to the pot, but they’ve given us red herrings before.

Who should win: Shawn Michaels

Who will win: Shawn Michaels

Mike?s Interest Level: OMFG!!!1! [100%’>

This is it. This is the pinnacle of the show, the match I really want to see. I was pretty excited about it already, but Meltzer?s write-up on what?s going on with the feud just pushed me over the edge to a weird state of giddiness. Words cannot express how unbelievable Shawn Michaels has been in building this feud. The whole idea behind this match is extraordinary, and has been played out perfectly. Both guys bring up extremely good points, and both look to be speaking from the heart. HBK became who he is by being the best in the ring. Hulk Hogan became who he is by being the best in the eyes of the fans. Hogan hasn’t faced anyone like Shawn Michaels before. Shawn Michaels knows that, and you almost get the feeling that on a certain level Hogan knows that, too. I’m convinced that Shawn can do anything in the ring, and that includes make Hulk Hogan look good at age 52. I really have no idea what?s going down in this match, but I think Shawn should go over here, since he?s the guy with the longevity, he?s the one who will be around in five years (hopefully). I’ll certainly be rooting for Shawn. I think it will be very interesting to see what the crowd does for this match. Last time Hogan was in a match like this, he walked in the heel, and left the babyface. This time, he walks in the babyface, but with Shawn Michaels on the other side, who knows how he?s walking out. All I know is that I am beyond pumped for this, and even if the rest of the show sucks, I know that this will be flat out awesome.

Who should win: Shawn Michaels

Who will win: Shawn Michaels

Mike?s Bottom Line: 80%? That?s pretty lame. If Hogan?s flexible enough to get put in the Sharpshooter, then what is there to be worried about? I’m sure he could go 35-40 minutes, easy.

Mark?s Overall Interest: 500 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 63%.

Mike?s Overall Interest: 477 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 60%.

Mark: It seems like we’re on about the same page here, with me having perhaps a smidgen more stake in it. I didn’t think that would happen based on my recent lack of interest, but it happened. I think it?s more of a matter of the build than anything else, because if this comes off well, it could be the PPV that brings me back into the fold again. Big thanks to Mike for getting things done on short notice. We’ll see you sometime after Summerslizzle with the Counterpizzle.

?And that?s the bottom line, cuz Mark & Mike said so.

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A Mark’s View: #170: Wrestlemania 21 – Counterpoint [+Backlash review]

Mark: So the big one is long since over, and in some ways I feel like I?ve gorged myself on a big meal, and in other ways I feel kind of empty. Wrestlemania 21 was full of ups and downs for me, as I think some things delivered in a big way, and in other ways I was pretty disappointed. You’ll hear about all the positives later in the column, because I’ll go into more detail, but I did have some general gripes. For one thing, and maybe it?s just me, but this didn’t really ?feel? like a Wrestlemania. Sure it had the Hollywood theme, the big names, the hype, and the production values, but I still think the card could?ve used more, especially with the amount of time they wasted. To me, it was almost like a Summerslam card in a Wrestlemania slot, meaning it wasn’t quite the spectacle they always say it’ll be. Maybe that?s just me. Another thing, the sound was weird throughout the show. There were times when I couldn’t hear the crowd whatsoever, mostly for entrances even when I could visibly see them cheering, and other times I could hear too much, to the point where I could hear people at ringside talking and sometimes even wrestlers calling their spots. Not exactly a show-ruining problem, but it was distracting. I do think the crowd could?ve been better too, a lot of the time they were a little too dead. But enough of me bitching to you.

What we do here is refer back to the Point preview column, quote it, review the matches, and then compare interest levels with actual entertainment levels after having seen the matches. This time around, as many of you know, I?ve been very busy, hence me not doing a Backlash preview column and all that happy stuff. I’m in the middle of packing to move, I’m getting married soon, I’ll be starting a new job within the next month, and I?ve been a little overwhelmed to the point where wrestling isn’t exactly first priority. Combine that with Lauren?s schedule and on-and-off disinterest with the product, plus the fact that we rarely get to catch each other online, and you won’t be getting a full column this time around. I apologize for that, but I?ve always said that offline life takes precedence to online life, so you’re just gonna have to deal. Basically what that means is, I’m flying solo for the review portion, and I?ve only got time to compact two months worth of PPVs into one column. Again, sorry about that, but things come up and shit happens. In case you’re one of the readers who doesn’t really care though, ignore my little blog entry here.

(Current mood: Frazzled. Current music: Blockhead. angst angst angst. There, I’m done.)

Digested all that? Then allow me to introduce to you a brand new feature to the column, which will be a feature exclusive to the Bottom Line columns. And I call it…

The Segment Segment

Snappy name, huh? On the bigger shows, there are a lot of segments that we could otherwise look past if it were just on a regular PPV. But on joint brand PPVs, where segments can go long and sometimes be noteworthy, I figured it would be nice to have a section where we talk about them. One thing I was a little surprised at is that The Rock was nowhere to be found. Not even a cameo. I guess he really is ‘done?. No Bischoff, Long, or McMahon anywhere either. Weird. Anywho, it seemed to me that this year they were more concerned with creating new ?Wrestlemania moments? than ever before. The Eugene/Hassan/Hogan segment for example, just seemed like a perfunctory place to dedicate 10 or 15 minutes creating a moment they can show in future video packages. I enjoyed the Piper?s Pit segment more, but Carlito also seemed out of place. Austin?s up to his old tricks again, and I agree with the sentiment that it?s fun once in awhile, but man was Piper ever spot on. Austin was entertaining, but Piper was hilarious. Other than that, the crowd was pretty dead for the Hall of Fame inductees, and the JBL/HHH interaction was interesting at least. But no Snitsky/Heidenreich homoeroticism! I know Lauren must be heartbroken about that.

Rey Mysterio vs. Eddy Guerrero



Mark?s Interest Level: If it weren’t for HBK/Angle, this would be the show-stealer. [95%’>

That 95% is because I’m a little put off by the sheer amount of neglect they have for the tag division. It seems we won’t be getting a Smackdown tag title match this year, but nobody really cares about that lately anyway so it?s a moot point. You’ll note that?s not much of a drop in anticipation though. As a side note, I?ve jokingly referred to this tag team as ?Rey Stole MyStereo?, but Eddy hasn’t really jacked anyone in awhile. Chavo as the big instigator for this has been a really good motivator, as well as a big step in character development. I feel sorry for Chavo, having to sit out of Wrestlemania due to injury (cracked orbital bone if I’m not mistaken), but this is possibly the best way to make him useful going into it. Although both Eddy and Rey have bounced around from makeshift tag team to makeshift tag team over the past year or so, Rey?s team with RVD actually began to feel like a real team, and Eddy was a suitable replacement, so I don’t mind this team all that much. At this point though, I think they’re both wasted on tag action, so I guess this is the best way to go. I’m willing to bet it won’t be Halloween Havoc ?97 level of quality, but nearly 8 years later I’m willing to bet they can still put on a clinic with each other. And why not? These two know each other better in the ring than most on the roster. At this point I don’t really care who wins, because I just want to shut up and watch the match, and not root for anyone. But I’ll take Mysterio because he could use the rub a little more.

Who should win: Rey Mysterio

Who will win: Rey Mysterio

Lauren?s Interest Level: Very high, but with a dose of realism [85%’>

I’m with you on this one, Mark. I’m only minimally interested in the story behind this match, but I’m fully expecting these guys to deliver in the ring. The only reason for this not being 100% interest is that I don’t want my expectations to be unrealistic. I just rewatched the HH ?97 match, and it?s extraordinary. Will they be able to top, or even match, that one eight years later? Probably not. They’ll also have to work the match within the confines of what WWE expects their midcard matches to look like, because nothing about the build has suggested to me that WWE wishes to treat this match as a major event and let them go all out. How much of WWE?s audience knows the history between these guys anyway? I’m not at all saying that this match won’t be great, I’m just trying to avoid setting myself up for disappointment.

Who should win: Rey Mysterio

Who will win: Rey Mysterio

Mark?s Bottom Line: Less matches on the card means more time for the matches they have, so I think they’ll give this a good amount of time.


Actual winner: Rey Mysterio

Mark: I probably should?ve taken Lauren?s ‘dose of realism? a little more seriously. I was expecting something bigger than a curtain jerker, and something a little longer than what we got. As a result it seemed a bit rushed. I know it?s the start of a feud so it can’t be quite as epic, but at the same time, it?s also Wrestlemania. One thing that needs to happen is that Rey should never wear the strap mask again, because there were several points where it seemed he was more concerned with being able to see than wrestling Eddy. It might be a nitpick, but I notice things like that, and for me it was detrimental to the match. It?s not even much of a comparison to HH?97 either, I wasn’t quite expecting them to live up to that. I just think both are capable of more than this, and it wasn’t very well booked. Hopefully their Judgment Day match will step it up a notch now that there?s more emotion behind it.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [78%’>

?Money in the Bank? Ladder Match:

Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Christian vs. Edge vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Kane



Lauren?s Interest Level: Not what it should be?[70%’>

To me this match seems like a waste of lots of talented guys. Everybody in the match is capable of producing quality in the ring, but my instinct tells me this is going to be a clusterfuck. Six guys all vying to get up a ladder? Unless they have this match slated to go a LONG time, there?s going to be lots of logic-defying overselling of moves in order to get guys out of the ring so the match can finish. It?s no longer the era of the TLC matches when we can expect to see everybody in the match taking sick death-defying bumps (not to mention that two of the guys in this match have had neck surgery). Sure there could be a couple of spectacular spots, but I’d rather see just about any of these guys in a one-on-one match where they can truly showcase their wrestling ability. I like the stipulation here a whole lot. It could make for some nice storyline possibilities, especially if a heel wins and uses the tease of their title shot to play mind games. I’d prefer to see an upper-midcarder be elevated by winning the match, but I’m predicting they’ll go the more obvious route and give it to somebody who?s already been on the cusp of a main-event push for months.

Who should win: Christian

Who will win: Edge

Mark?s Interest Level: High, but a little apprehensive [80%’>

First things first, I don’t like Kane in this match at all. I think the spot could?ve been given to Hassan or something like that. A big, ‘methodical? guy just doesn’t really fit in a ladder match, and history has shown us that to a fairly large extent. It?s not that I dislike him really, as I know he tries hard, but he?s just out of place, and he?s not up to the level of workrate that the others are. The build has largely forgotten him for one thing, putting Tyson Tomko in matches instead because he?s Christian?s sidekick, and then Kane doing his usual thing of running out and beating people up at the end. The 5 others in this match though, could really make this something to watch. I’d kind of rather Benjamin got an IC title defense, but the very fact that they’re mixing him up with mainstays like Benoit, Jericho, Edge, and Christian tells me that they really see Benjamin going places. I think we’ll probably see faces work with faces and heels work with faces when it?s convenient, but I’m really hoping they’re not going to do the dreaded triple threat formula here, where everyone spills out of the ring except for two at a time. They have enough great workers here to have constant, and I mean absolutely constant action. I think Edge is taking this to pull the trigger on his ?always screwed out of title shots? stipulation, but as for who I think deserves it the most? Well that?s kind of a tossup for me. Shelton?s not on that level yet, Christian?s almost there but I think he needs some momentum first, I’d rather not see Edge or Kane win simply as a personal preference, and Jericho seems pretty comfortable with what he?s got, and is always over no matter what. That leaves Benoit, who I think could really use a second title reign, just because they really don’t have any ‘recurring? main eventers other than Triple H, and they need a fairly recent champion to come up and STAY there. That needs to be someone who can consistently get the job done against anybody. Get my logic?

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Edge

Lauren?s Bottom Line: It?s rather paradoxical that the fact that I consider so many of the guys in this match to be talented HURTS my interest level, no?


Actual winner: Edge

Mark: I think this match could?ve had half the amount of people and been just as entertaining. It seems like it?s a recurring theme in big multi-person ladder matches that the winner doesn’t really do a whole lot during the match. Like this match, Edge did some things at the beginning, and then he just sort of faded away until he snuck in at the end. When Edge & Christian won the TLC matches, they did a similar thing there. I suppose it?s good for his character in that he didn’t ‘deserve? the win in the eyes of the fans, but it sours me just a tad because guys like Benoit and Benjamin especially seemed to pour everything they had into this. Though that?s also a problem I have with Edge, that he seems to let himself be carried frequently. Especially in a case like this where he could win a good match while probably doing the least out of the 6 in the match. That said, I dug the highspots a LOT. From Benjamin?s run up the ladder, to everyone jumping on each other on the outside one by one, to Benoit?s high headbutt, this came together very well. For the most part it did follow that formula of triple threats I tend to dislike (two in the ring, everyone else knocked out on the outside), but there was enough constant action to cover that. I’m not going to say this was a phenomenal match, but I did get about what I expected to get from it, and maybe a tad more. I’ll say Edge sits on his title shot until a big event, like Summerslam.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [85%’>

Undertaker vs. Randy Orton



Mark?s Interest Level: Strangely higher than expected. [65%’>

I couldn’t tell you exactly why I’m interested in this, maybe it?s because of what I think it might mean for the future. It?s not as though they?ve built it phenomenally or anything, as they?ve only brought Taker?s streak into the big picture within the past couple years or so, and at this point they’re either going to end it now, or they’ll probably never end it at all. Orton?s challenge seemed sort of random, and while I dig his recent heel turn I think it seemed a little forced. He?s a great heel, but I think I’d rather the fans turned on him slowly because of his attitude rather than quickly because of his sudden actions. They?ve taken turns sending messages to each other, Randy?s is that he wants to…uh…make out with Undertaker before their match, and Taker?s that he can…uh…kill Rene Dupree, but that?s not what I dig about this. I had a theory that Orton would lose to Taker, his frustration would turn him heel, and that he’d jump to Smackdown to finish the job and become a main event heel there, something everyone involved desperately needs. There?s a whole crop of SD ‘legends? that Orton hasn’t killed yet. It seems they’re doing that, just not in the order I had predicted.

Who should win: Undertaker

Who will win: Undertaker

Lauren?s Interest Level: Generally ‘meh? [40%’>

Please allow me to have an Edge moment here: I don’t like Randy Orton. I haven’t quite washed away the sour taste from his uber-forced main-event babyface push. While I think he?s more suited to being a heel (even as a babyface he still acted like one), like Mark I don’t really know where the turn came from, nor do I have any reason to care. The same goes for this match ? I don’t know why it?s happening, and I don’t expect the work itself to be good enough to justify its existence. I find both guys to be pretty boring in the ring, but at least this should be better than ?Taker vs. Heidenreich. As for the projected winner, I really don’t see ?Taker losing at Wrestlemania until it?s retirement time, and that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.

Who should win: Undertaker

Who will win: Undertaker

Mark?s Bottom Line: All I?ve got to say is, Randy better RKO his father at some point. Bob?s on my ?Top 5 Legends to be Killed? list.


Actual winner: Undertaker

Mark: I’m not sure what the future holds for Orton here. It?s really unfortunate that his career so far has been plagued with injury, and now I’m not sure whether he’ll be on Raw or Smackdown considering he now has beef with both Taker and Batista. I guess we’ll have to wait until the draft (hello summer ratings!) to find out. This match told a pretty good story, not just Orton having to wear Taker down piece by piece, but that Taker also seemed to underestimate Orton a bit. A decent bit of psychology used here too. Bob Orton?s involvement was nice to see, I’m glad they gave him something to do. Though I was still hoping Randy would?ve given him the RKO after losing, because daddy?s outlived his usefulness. Plus that whole legend thing. I got a little more out of this than I expected.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [75%’>

Women?s Title:

Trish Stratus? vs. Christy Hemme



Lauren?s Interest Level: Stupidity reigns supreme [10%’>

It?s fine that WWE wants to capitalize on its predominantly male audience and hire girls who will strip on television and pose nude in Playboy. In the past when they?ve insisted on throwing some mindless T&A segment onto PPV cards, I?ve groaned about it, but thought ?oh well, it’ll be short and harmless.? But to give someone whom the audience knows has basically no wrestling background a title shot on the biggest show of the year is just disrespectful to the female wrestlers who have trained, busted their asses and taken bumps for years, and offensive to anybody (like myself) who is a fan of good women?s wrestling. If I were Trish, I’d stiff the fuck out of this glorified spokesmodel (the possibility that this might happen accounts for the entire 10% of my interest level). By all accounts, though, Trish is a professional, so she’ll probably do her best to drag Christy and her freakishly large forehead to a semi-watchable match. It’ll probably be mercifully short at least.

Who should win: Trish. You know, the one who?s an actual wrestler.

Who will win: Christy, because WWE loooves the whole ‘dreams coming true at Wrestlemania? schtick.

Mark?s Interest Level: How sad. [5%’>

If this card contained the requisite T&A segment that had Christy vs. Stacy in some sort of lingerie pillow fight, I could deal with it. Previous Wrestlemanias have had that before, and they were fun, short segments for what they were. This however, is a mockery of the Women?s division, such as it is nowadays. I’m starting to wonder if they’ll end up scrapping the wrestling part of the Women?s title altogether at some point, and just have it traded between diva competitions like Evening Gown matches and bikini contests. With Christy, the spastic former Man Show Juggie as the #1 contender, I’d say we’re not too far off. Moreover, there are actually a few good female wrestlers on the roster that aren’t getting any notice whatsoever, and Alexis Laree is still in OVW for some reason. Fit Finlay must have fallen asleep on the watch for the division booking. But hey, maybe Christy won’t be so bad, since Lita?s been trai…okay, I can’t even finish that sentence without bursting into laughter.

Who should win: Trish

Who will win: Christy

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Oh, Christy?s been trained? By Lita?? I retract everything I said. Change my interest level to 100% for Trish vs. the second coming of Dean Malenko.


Actual winner: Trish Stratus

Mark: I’m quite glad that Trish retained here. It shows that someone?s still paying attention to the fact that this is a wrestling event. Christy…well, she wasn’t horrible, but she wasn’t good either. One scene I particularly caught was Christy on the outside on her feet, until Lita very audibly told her ?Go down, go down.? Well, take the advice from the expert, I guess (these jokes write themselves!). It was just a tad awkward, and Trish tried hard to pull this off. I’m not looking forward to the inevitable rematch, and I’d rather see someone else in there up against Trish, but it looks as though the Christy experiment is going to continue for awhile. I was pleasantly surprised about a few things in this, and I have to say Christy?s little split-sunset flip was pretty cool, but it?s not what I’d call a ?good? match regardless. Still, a good deal better than I thought it would be.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [17%’>

Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels



Lauren?s Interest Level: A dream come true [100%’>

This match is one of the few true ‘dream matches? left in WWE. I don’t think there are many fans out there who aren’t excited about seeing these two lock up. I?ve enjoyed what I?ve seen of the build to this match, with Kurt reverting to his early cocky heel character, obnoxiously mocking his opponent (his ?Sexy Kurt? rendition was priceless). Kurt?s been plagued by injuries in the past couple of years, so his ringwork has really fallen off from what it was at his peak. If there was ever a time when Kurt would want to step it up, work through the pain, and put on a great performance, this would be it. I’d mark out hardcore for an Anglesault, but I do hope that Kurt is smart enough not to put himself at risk too much. Neither of these guys really needs a win more than the other, but my sentimental pick here would be for Kurt to take it. Losing to Kurt would also give Michaels the impetus to make the switch over to the Smackdown brand that?s been rumored. No matter who wins, I’m expecting this to be really awesome. This is one of those rare times when I am truly optimistic about something WWE is offering. If I’m let down, expect rampant bitterness in the Counterpoint.

Who should win: Kurt Angle

Who will win: Kurt Angle

Mark?s Interest Level: How can it not be [100%’>?

Not only am I psyched as all hell for this match, because even if they’re both past their primes they’re still a hell of a lot better than most of the roster, but the angle going into this has been really interesting too. We?ve seen cross-brand attacks on each other, we?ve seen kickass video packages, we?ve seen Angle?s..um..angle where he promised to accomplish everything HBK did including appearances by Marty Jannetty and Sensational Sherri, and it?s the way a cross-brand feud should be built. That alone makes this feud something special, and I think I would give a match with a build like this close to 100% anyway if it were lesser wrestlers in these spots. That said, they aren’t lesser wrestlers, and this is a dream match so it gets 100% regardless. I don’t think we’re going to be disappointed, and I hope the fans treat this with the intense amount of heat it deserves from start to finish. I think we’re going to see a technical masterpiece here, and if this isn’t the MOTY at the end of the year I’ll be really surprised. I want Kurt to win this, but I think I might go against the grain a little bit and say if they’re going to declare this match as deciding who the ?best wrestler ever? is, WWE will hand this one to Michaels in tribute. I can’t say I’ll be disappointed with either outcome though, I just hope that whoever wins does it clean.

Who should win: Kurt Angle

Who will win: Shawn Michaels

Lauren?s Bottom Line: On second thought, a letdown here would probably be the result of both of these guys being a shell of what they were at their peaks, so it would be more sadness than bitterness.


Actual winner: Kurt Angle

Mark: No letdown at ALL. This was everything I hoped it would be, and these guys really delivered. If this isn’t considered the MOTY at the end of the year, I don’t know what else could possibly be. Sure, you could have some indy stars going at it in a 5-star match that technically surpasses this, but it wasn’t even just the wrestling. It was the atmosphere, the ring presence of two ?icons?, the selling, the psychology, the storytelling, things that many indy fed stars, while talented, don’t quite grasp fully just yet. I don’t think I have to go out on that much of a limb to say this will be considered the match of the year. Early on, the chain wrestling was great, as HBK quickly realized he couldn’t beat Kurt in a ground wrestling environment. The middle certainly wasn’t boring, and the ending was hot. The only thing I can think of that would have improved this booking is if Kurt had worked on Shawn?s leg throughout the match, effectively taking away his superkick and setting up for the tapout at the end, but that doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the match they actually put on. Moreover, it wasn’t exactly necessary to do that, since Kurt?s ankle lock, much like the Crippler Crossface, is put over as such a painful move that it doesn’t matter if you?ve worked on that body part beforehand, it?s simply a killer move to anybody. One thing that bugged me slightly, and this is purely a commentary issue, is that the commentators had to make excuses as for why the announce table didn’t break, by saying that they?ve been broken so many times that they have them ‘reinforced? now. I’d rather they just went on talking about the match instead of glossing over an equipment problem with lame excuses. But again, that has no bearing on the match. What I expected was a technical show-stealing masterpiece, and as far as I’m concerned that?s what we got.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [100%’>

Sumo Match:

Big Show vs. Akebono



Mark?s Interest Level: Well, it’ll probably be short. [20%’>

I have no idea what they’re doing here, or even if it?s a work or not. I’m hoping it’ll be a shoot match, as I’m not really sure how, or even if, you can work a sumo match. Right now I’m leaning toward work, but if they’re serious about this then it might be a ?Brawl For All? style encounter. I don’t know if they have that much faith in Show being able to dethrone a grand champion (called a Yokozuna, naturally), and I feel that if this is for real we’ll see Show out quicker than Bart Gunn to a Butterbean punch. It smells of just trying to make Show look that much more huge and impressive, but in a shoot environment I don’t think he?s got anything but bulk on his side. I’m interested enough in Japanese culture to watch this kind of thing, but I don’t know if it?s really the best thing for Big Show. It’ll probably be more to Akebono?s benefit if anything. Really the only way I can call this is by giving results that depend on whether it?s worked or not.

Who should/will win, Work: Big Show

Who should/will win, Shoot: Akebono

Lauren?s Interest Level: Big slow guys being big and slow?how interested do you THINK I am? [5%’>

Yeah, this really isn’t my thing. I’d probably be more interested if I thought this would be an actual shoot encounter, but I strongly doubt that it will be. I don’t think Show would stand a chance in an actual Sumo match against an actual Sumo grand champion, and WWE isn’t stupid enough to make one of their own look inferior to somebody who isn’t even well-known to most American fans’right? I’m normally one of the most cynical people when it comes to WWE having good sense, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here. Unless they’re planning on keeping Akebono around for a bit, having Big Show lose to him really serves no purpose. On a semi-related note, I’d love to see Big Show on the tasting panel for Iron Chef America.

Who should win: Big Show

Who will win: Big Show

Mark?s Bottom Line: Big Show on Iron Chef is a wonderful idea, and I fully support it. Especially if Show squashes Bobby Flay.


Actual winner: Akebono

Mark:Worked, and Akebono still won. Strange. Not much to really say about this since it was all of like 5 minutes, but I guess it served its purpose. Still not sure what it means now over a month later though, Show?s loss didn’t change his character any, and neither did the fact that he?s been in a sumo match. If this was merely a thinly-veiled attempt to kiss Japanese wrestling fans? asses by catering to their culture, they didn’t really do a whole lot to show it. Not even really what I expected either, there wasn’t much of a struggle, and then it was just sort of over.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [15%’>

WWE Heavyweight Title:

JBL? vs. John Cena



Mark?s Interest Level: I just want to see JBL LOSE. [50%’>

I think the ?can’t touch each other? thing is always good for the fans, because many can’t wait to see Cena finally get his hands on JBL. But as I mentioned in my last OTC, Cena?s whole immature ?nah nah I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you? shtick wasn’t quite what I had hoped for. Simply put, I don’t know if Cena?s main event material just yet. I’d like to think he?s worked his way up, but he?s still young, there are people miles above him that I’d rather see in his spot, and I think he’d work best to help strengthen the midcard. He?s in that position because he?s popular. I don’t know if they really planned it this far in advance, but I distinctly remember last year John Cena saying he was going to main event Wrestlemania 21. Well, I hope they don’t put this in the very last main event slot, because this match should NOT be a main event. The wrestlers aren’t up to that standard of quality, HHH/Batista will probably be a better match, and while Cena?s win would be huge, I don’t think a Smackdown main event should be the main drawing point of the company right now. But hey, I’m not going to complain about this match otherwise, because in all likelihood, JBL is finally going to lose his fucking title after an ungodly 9 months, and then hopefully go back to midcard where everyone knows he belongs.

Who should win: John Cena

Who will win: John Cena

Lauren?s Interest Level: Wake me when JBL?s not champion anymore [30%’>

I?ve only been marginally interested in Smackdown since JBL became champion. While he?s done a fine job at developing a character, wrestling-wise, he never seemed like a deserving and credible champion to me, which soured me on the entire brand. It?s about time he drop the title to a real ring general, somebody whom we can count on to deliver some solid title defenses?or to John Cena. Cena as champion doesn’t thrill me on a wrestling level, but from a business standpoint I can totally accept it as being the best move for Smackdown right now. I teach first and second grade, and most of the boys in my class watch Smackdown (not that I think they should be watching wrestling at that age?but I’m a teacher, not a parent, so I don’t get much say). The wrestler they talk about most is John Cena. They think he?s the coolest, they want to see him as champion, and they want their parents to buy his merchandise for them. The format of having two brands lends itself to making the Smackdown brand more orientated to a younger audience (my students don’t even know Raw exists, since it?s on later and on cable). Having John Cena as champion could have the same effect on the youth audience that having Guerrero as champ had on the Latino audience. As for the match itself, since I don’t like either of these guys in the ring, and I think the outcome here is painfully predictable, it has all the makings of a bathroom break for yours truly.

Who should win: John Cena

Who will win: John Cena

Mark?s Bottom Line: I weep for the future of the wrestling fan community if all they get to watch is Smackdown.


Actual winner: John Cena

Mark: Hoo boy, what happened here? There was a good story going into this. Rich, successful whitebread Texan being challenged by a young upstart from the hood, and they weren’t allowed to touch each other for weeks. Then they get in the ring and what happens? They go for something like 10 minutes, and have JBL do most of the work. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of Cena?s ringwork lately, but why in god?s name would you ever let JBL carry the match and then have Cena come back at the end, hit all his signature spots, and get the pin? Just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and as a result it really wasn’t all that entertaining of a match. Glad to see Bradshaw?s reign over, but as long as he?s still carrying around the real title belt and not defending it, it really doesn’t change a whole lot from say, a month or two before this.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [20%’>

World Heavyweight Title:

Triple H? vs. Batista



Lauren?s Interest Level: I admit it: I mark for Dave [90%’>

The rise of Batista has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of WWE programming over the past few months. Unlike Orton?s push at the end of last year, which felt like Orton was literally being inserted into our mouths and crammed down our throats with a battering ram, Batista?s push seemed like a textbook example of the right way to elevate new talent. The hints that he would be leaving his role as the muscle of Evolution were subtle at first and showcased acting ability that I never knew he had. Yeah, I was one of those who wrongly saw Batista as nothing more than another generic big guy who was being carried by his role as part of the group, and I’m more than happy to admit that I was wrong. Even though Batista?s eventual turn could be seen coming from miles away, it?s far more effective to have a predictable turn that the fans are truly behind than an out-of-nowhere swerve turn that has no legitimacy behind it. I’m fairly certain this will be the true main event (meaning, the last match on the card). Conventional wisdom says that Wrestlemania ends with the babyface triumphing, but something tells me that Cena?s win in the semi-main event will be seen by WWE as enough of a crowd-pleaser that Batista?s chase is going to continue. Personally I’d like to see Batista win, but it doesn’t bother me too much if it doesn’t happen yet, provided he gets the opportunity to look good here. I enjoy Batista in the ring, and Triple H has the ability to make his opponents look excellent when he wants to. And shouldn’t he want to? I really hope so.

Who should win: Batista

Who will win: Triple H

Mark?s Interest Level: [85%’>

Ahh, remember when we were all predicting Orton to win the Rumble? First off I should note that I adore this angle. It?s gotten a ridiculously awesome build, it?s turned a good portion of the fickle internet crowd from Batista bashers to Batista marks, and it?s one of the most well-done face turns I can ever recall seeing in wrestling history. This build, if you want to get technical, actually started way the hell back at the Raw after Summerslam, with Evolution booting out Orton, and Orton subsequently telling Batista that it’ll happen to Batista too. All you need for proof of that is the continuity with the ‘thumbs down?. There are two reasons that percentage isn’t higher though. The first is because, well, it?s yet another Triple H main event at Wrestlemania, and let?s be honest here, we?ve seen it all before with him. I don’t expect anything new out of him. The second is because although Batista is the coolest mofo in the wrestling world, I’ll admit he still needs a little work in the ring despite his dramatic improvements in recent months…though I will say that main events against Kane, Snitsky, and Old Man Flair didn’t exactly help him look great going into this. What can I say, Raw needs credible main event heels. I have to say it though, I think Batista has an incredible amount of charisma. He can make a facial expression and pop the crowd huge. Dare I say it, I haven’t seen someone that charismatic since The Rock. Now all Batista has to do is live up to it. As for the result, I think Big Dave?s going to take this one because Triple H sees something in him. He?s been priming him by working this angle with him, and it shows. Triple H wants someone other than himself to succeed, and I think it?s not too far off the mark to say that putting over Batista would help Trips as well. The fans want it to happen, and I all signs point to Triple H wanting it to happen too. And if Tripsy wants it to happen, it happens. I really like unpredictability though, and the way they ended Raw this week doesn’t hint either way. That?s a good sign.

Who should win: Batista

Who will win: Batista

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Yeah, once again, I’m being Ms. Positivity here. I feel like I’m letting down all of our loyal readers who expect me to complain about anything and everything WWE does that doesn’t involve former ROH talent being pushed.


Actual winner: Batista

Mark: It took a little while for me to start liking this match. Maybe I was still reeling from how awful Motorhead sounded (seriously, you couldn’t even hear one of the guitars, and Lemmy croaked out half-lines and kept repeating the same verse), but I didn’t think the match itself was anything special at the beginning. But toward the middle/end, they just really stepped things up, and by the end I got into it so much that I was marking out for Batista?s every power move. I think that Batista?s shown some fine improvement, and I hold to the idea that the only reason he didn’t look all that impressive in the ring leading up to this event was because he was fighting guys like Snitsky. But you could tell that Hunter and Big Dave rehearsed this one to make it look polished, and was designed to make Batista, and not even necessarily HHH too, look really good. I think the one thing Batista needs now to really solidify himself among the pack (as though winning the belt at ?Mania wasn’t enough), is to add some unique, exclusive moves to his moveset. Lots of people can do powerslams, bombs, and various other moves, but I want a few distinct Batista moves that either nobody else does, or that Batista puts his own variations on. Otherwise, I think he’ll do fine as a face champion as long as they keep him with that calm, cool demeanor everyone seems to love about him.

As I thought, Triple H really wanted Batista to look good here, and let him do his thing. Say what you will about Trips, even though you know he’ll just label it as a ?fluke? in every 20-minute promo he cuts for the next 6 months, but two clean Wrestlemania title losses in two years isn’t too shabby of the guy. I just wish he’d step out of the main event a little more often, but that?s kind of hard to do when you?ve established that your character is all about the title. I don’t know if this was really Wrestlemania main event-worthy (HBK/Angle could?ve been last and I don’t think anyone would?ve blinked), but I really found myself getting into this. Seeing Batista with the belt was a bit of a surreal experience, but I think if there?s any time for him to do this, it?s now. I’d say I got just about as much entertainment here as I was anticipating.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [85%’>


Mark?s Overall Interest: 500 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 63%.

Lauren?s Overall Interest: 430 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 54%.


Mark?s Overall Entertainment: 475 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 59%.

Mark: Well, overall it looks as though I got slightly less than expected, which I think is a good description of the event as a whole. Some things I wanted to see just didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean it?s a bad Wrestlemania by any means, it was actually quite entertaining. But it?s not going to be at top of the list of my favorite ?Manias.

…And that?s the Bottom Line, cuz Mark said so.



Backlash 2005 Review-In-Brief

I decided to do a short one, partially because I?ve been busy lately (I’d like to do Judgment Day later this month but I’m not sure I’ll have the time for that either), and partially because the card just didn’t grab me all that much. I will give a few brief notes on each of the matches though, and hopefully I’ll be able to get back to the regular Point/Counterpoint format next time around. I’m also hopefully going to be doing one for the ECW PPV, which I may or may not include toward the year-end grades. Anyway, here?s the skinny on Backlash:

Shelton Benjamin vs. Chris Jericho Hands down the best match of the night. The crowd was dead at the start, but the two of these guys went out there and did what a curtain jerker should, and warmed the hell out of everybody. One thing that really struck me is that I think most people have forgotten how good Chris Jericho is when he?s motivated, and Shelton worked well with him. This also had one of the best reversal/counter end sequences I can remember seeing, and earns this card?s official Show Stealer award from me.

Entertainment Level: [95%’>

Tag Team Turmoil: This actually flowed very well. The beginning was a good showcase for the Heart Throbs, and it made sense to have the champions go over them. I’m pleased that Evil Maven has ditched his McDonald?s tights for a color scheme match with Dean. Now all they need is to officially call their team ?The Simon System?. I like champions not surviving to the end in elimination matches, which gave some intrigue to the rest of the match when La Res beat Regal and Tajiri. Hurricane took a really nasty bump on the ringpost in the final fall, and I was surprised to see the superheroes win this. It looks like they actually want to do something with the division for once. Fun match.

Entertainment Level: [50%’>

Last Man Standing: Edge vs. Chris Benoit I?ve always had a bit of a problem with LSM matches, in that you’d think more weapons would be involved earlier if you’re trying to knock the guy out. The brawling was decent here, but I’m not really big on Edge (and the Hardy thing isn’t even the main reason), and I think Benoit?s concern was pretty much just killing himself for Edge?s push from hell. The superplex onto the trashcan, and the ladder spots were memorable, but the rest of the match wasn’t, really. Edge is a decent worker and you know what I think of Benoit, but for some reason these two plus that stipulation didn’t quite click for me as much as it should?ve.

Entertainment Level: [65%’>

-Once I get back into the routine of regular P/CP columns, awful filler segments like the Masterlock challenge will not go unpunished, because I’ll be penalizing them too.

Kane vs. Viscera: It wasn’t quite as terrible as I was expecting, actually. Big Vis doesn’t take 10 minutes to get up like he used to. Pretty much a rather bizarre excuse to get Trish off of TV I guess, and it was mercifully pretty short.

Entertainment Level: [15%’>

Team America vs. Team Arab: You?ve got two young up-and-comers trying to make a name for themselves in the business. What better way to utterly bury them than to have two huge wrestling icons destroy them? Sure they got some advantage for a portion of the match (over HBK who didn’t mind selling, I might add), but did anyone really think Hogan wouldn’t be hulking up, squashing the bad guys, and winning even in a one-shot nostalgia kick match? Had it been Jannetty instead, I’d have loved this. But with Hogan far, far out of place, I couldn’t help but hate what was inevitably going to happen. Shouldn’t the Hall of Fame mean you’re really, honestly, officially retired?

Entertainment Level: [25%’>

-I also plan to reward good segments, like Christian?s anti-Cena one. While it probably shouldn’t have been on a PPV taking up match time either, it was entertaining. I don’t know if I’d have wanted to pay for it though. I suppose it?s relevant though, as Christian seems to be a lock for Smackdown now.

Triple H vs. Batista: Well, this certainly was a Triple H main event match. Multiple ref bumps, interference, illegal objects, false pins with the ref knocked out, the only thing missing was Sledgie. I feel like I?ve done this review before because I probably have. Maybe it?s unoriginality in the booking department, combined with Trips?s inability to completely put anyone over solidly for a span of more than one match per feud, but please give us something different for once. It isn’t fair to the fans, and it isn’t fair to the champions (or challengers on those oh-so-rare occasions when Trips holds the belt) that anyone he?s facing looks basically like the same person, because Triple H doesn’t react to them any differently in the ring. It?s always the same thing over and over, and his opponent rarely has an opportunity to express any individuality. What I like about Batista?s character is that he?s been around Triple H, so he sees his tricks coming. But I think they could?ve done more to get that point across in this match. Not that it was particularly bad, but it was the same old, same old. That?s entirely Triple H?s fault though, and I’m not even a bandwagon hater.

Entertainment Level: [55%’>

Overall Entertainment: 305 out of a possible 600, for a total of roughly 51%.

Right around the middle, which is about right. I enjoyed about as much as I didn’t. A far cry from the dismal 24% of New Year?s Revolution though, so not too shabby. I just tend to think this wasn’t nearly as interesting as it could?ve been, given what they had to work with.

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A Mark’s View: #170: Wrestlemania 21 – Point [Bottom Line #7]

Mark: Well here we are again at the ?grand-daddy of ?em all?, the Super Bowl of wrestling, or if you’re really hardcore into wrestling, I guess the Super Bowl is the Wrestlemania of football. Here I go again, confusing you in only the first paragraph of the column. So never mind my rambling, Lauren C. and I are here once again for the big extravaganza. This marks the second time that the Bottom Line is covering Wrestlemania. I have to say I’m rather looking forward to it, albeit not as much as last year when we had the big Chris Benoit win, but excited nonetheless. We?ve had the hilarious movie trailer commercials, we?ve had the buildup, and now all that?s left is to settle in on Sunday and watch. I feel a little odd about there being less matches this year; I remember the days when we’d have 12 to 15 matches, and we’d be very familiar with the stories going into at least 9 or 10 of those. Less matches either means longer, higher quality ones, or a LOT of filler. That covers our top stories for this evening, here?s Lauren with the weather. Or something like that.

Lauren: The weather where I am is rather heated?or maybe that?s just my anger at Paul London being left off the card. I’m not as excited as I was last year either, but that?s not saying much because last year I was at Madison Square Garden. Even so, I’m excited to be back here alongside my review partner Mark, because I can always count on him to make me look intelligent by comparison. In case you?ve forgotten how we do things around here, we both preview all of the matches, but we alternate who gets the last word, or as we call it, the ?Bottom Line.? In a tradition hearkening back to the days when there were exclusive Raw and Smackdown review times, I’ll take the Raw matches and Mark will take Smackdown.

Mark: Raw matches will be headlined in red, Smackdown matches will be in blue, and inter-promotional matches will be in plain ol? black. Since there are two of those, I’ll take Taker/Orton first, and Lauren will take Angle/HBK first. We also won’t be covering Austin in Piper?s Pit, as it?s not a match, and I’m guessing a showcase for a trailer premiere of one of Austin?s new movies and/or Stunners for an interrupting Hassan and Daivari, and possibly Piper too for good measure. So to start us off with our first review, here?s Lauren, who I’m sure is hoping for yet another cross-promotional homoerotic segment between Snitsky and Heidenreich…but aren’t we all?

Women?s Title:

Trish Stratus? vs. Christy Hemme

Lauren?s Interest Level: Stupidity reigns supreme [10%’>

It?s fine that WWE wants to capitalize on its predominantly male audience and hire girls who will strip on television and pose nude in Playboy. In the past when they?ve insisted on throwing some mindless T&A segment onto PPV cards, I?ve groaned about it, but thought ?oh well, it’ll be short and harmless.? But to give someone whom the audience knows has basically no wrestling background a title shot on the biggest show of the year is just disrespectful to the female wrestlers who have trained, busted their asses and taken bumps for years, and offensive to anybody (like myself) who is a fan of good women?s wrestling. If I were Trish, I’d stiff the fuck out of this glorified spokesmodel (the possibility that this might happen accounts for the entire 10% of my interest level). By all accounts, though, Trish is a professional, so she’ll probably do her best to drag Christy and her freakishly large forehead to a semi-watchable match. It’ll probably be mercifully short at least.

Who should win: Trish. You know, the one who?s an actual wrestler.

Who will win: Christy, because WWE loooves the whole ‘dreams coming true at Wrestlemania? schtick.

Mark?s Interest Level: How sad. [5%’>

If this card contained the requisite T&A segment that had Christy vs. Stacy in some sort of lingerie pillow fight, I could deal with it. Previous Wrestlemanias have had that before, and they were fun, short segments for what they were. This however, is a mockery of the Women?s division, such as it is nowadays. I’m starting to wonder if they’ll end up scrapping the wrestling part of the Women?s title altogether at some point, and just have it traded between diva competitions like Evening Gown matches and bikini contests. With Christy, the spastic former Man Show Juggie as the #1 contender, I’d say we’re not too far off. Moreover, there are actually a few good female wrestlers on the roster that aren’t getting any notice whatsoever, and Alexis Laree is still in OVW for some reason. Fit Finlay must have fallen asleep on the watch for the division booking. But hey, maybe Christy won’t be so bad, since Lita?s been trai…okay, I can’t even finish that sentence without bursting into laughter.

Who should win: Trish

Who will win: Christy

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Oh, Christy?s been trained? By Lita?? I retract everything I said. Change my interest level to 100% for Trish vs. the second coming of Dean Malenko.

Sumo Match:

Big Show vs. Akebono

Mark?s Interest Level: Well, it’ll probably be short. [20%’>

I have no idea what they’re doing here, or even if it?s a work or not. I’m hoping it’ll be a shoot match, as I’m not really sure how, or even if, you can work a sumo match. Right now I’m leaning toward work, but if they’re serious about this then it might be a ?Brawl For All? style encounter. I don’t know if they have that much faith in Show being able to dethrone a grand champion (called a Yokozuna, naturally), and I feel that if this is for real we’ll see Show out quicker than Bart Gunn to a Butterbean punch. It smells of just trying to make Show look that much more huge and impressive, but in a shoot environment I don’t think he?s got anything but bulk on his side. I’m interested enough in Japanese culture to watch this kind of thing, but I don’t know if it?s really the best thing for Big Show. It’ll probably be more to Akebono?s benefit if anything. Really the only way I can call this is by giving results that depend on whether it?s worked or not.

Who should/will win, Work: Big Show

Who should/will win, Shoot: Akebono

Lauren?s Interest Level: Big slow guys being big and slow?how interested do you THINK I am? [5%’>

Yeah, this really isn’t my thing. I’d probably be more interested if I thought this would be an actual shoot encounter, but I strongly doubt that it will be. I don’t think Show would stand a chance in an actual Sumo match against an actual Sumo grand champion, and WWE isn’t stupid enough to make one of their own look inferior to somebody who isn’t even well-known to most American fans’right? I’m normally one of the most cynical people when it comes to WWE having good sense, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here. Unless they’re planning on keeping Akebono around for a bit, having Big Show lose to him really serves no purpose. On a semi-related note, I’d love to see Big Show on the tasting panel for Iron Chef America.

Who should win: Big Show

Who will win: Big Show

Mark?s Bottom Line: Big Show on Iron Chef is a wonderful idea, and I fully support it. Especially if Show squashes Bobby Flay.

Undertaker vs. Randy Orton

Mark?s Interest Level: Strangely higher than expected. [65%’>

I couldn’t tell you exactly why I’m interested in this, maybe it?s because of what I think it might mean for the future. It?s not as though they?ve built it phenomenally or anything, as they?ve only brought Taker?s streak into the big picture within the past couple years or so, and at this point they’re either going to end it now, or they’ll probably never end it at all. Orton?s challenge seemed sort of random, and while I dig his recent heel turn I think it seemed a little forced. He?s a great heel, but I think I’d rather the fans turned on him slowly because of his attitude rather than quickly because of his sudden actions. They?ve taken turns sending messages to each other, Randy?s is that he wants to…uh…make out with Undertaker before their match, and Taker?s that he can…uh…kill Rene Dupree, but that?s not what I dig about this. I had a theory that Orton would lose to Taker, his frustration would turn him heel, and that he’d jump to Smackdown to finish the job and become a main event heel there, something everyone involved desperately needs. There?s a whole crop of SD ‘legends? that Orton hasn’t killed yet. It seems they’re doing that, just not in the order I had predicted.

Who should win: Undertaker

Who will win: Undertaker

Lauren?s Interest Level: Generally ‘meh? [40%’>

Please allow me to have an Edge moment here: I don’t like Randy Orton. I haven’t quite washed away the sour taste from his uber-forced main-event babyface push. While I think he?s more suited to being a heel (even as a babyface he still acted like one), like Mark I don’t really know where the turn came from, nor do I have any reason to care. The same goes for this match ? I don’t know why it?s happening, and I don’t expect the work itself to be good enough to justify its existence. I find both guys to be pretty boring in the ring, but at least this should be better than ?Taker vs. Heidenreich. As for the projected winner, I really don’t see ?Taker losing at Wrestlemania until it?s retirement time, and that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.

Who should win: Undertaker

Who will win: Undertaker

Mark?s Bottom Line: All I?ve got to say is, Randy better RKO his father at some point. Bob?s on my ?Top 5 Legends to be Killed? list.

?Money in the Bank? Ladder Match:

Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Christian vs. Edge vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Kane

Lauren?s Interest Level: Not what it should be?[70%’>

To me this match seems like a waste of lots of talented guys. Everybody in the match is capable of producing quality in the ring, but my instinct tells me this is going to be a clusterfuck. Six guys all vying to get up a ladder? Unless they have this match slated to go a LONG time, there?s going to be lots of logic-defying overselling of moves in order to get guys out of the ring so the match can finish. It?s no longer the era of the TLC matches when we can expect to see everybody in the match taking sick death-defying bumps (not to mention that two of the guys in this match have had neck surgery). Sure there could be a couple of spectacular spots, but I’d rather see just about any of these guys in a one-on-one match where they can truly showcase their wrestling ability. I like the stipulation here a whole lot. It could make for some nice storyline possibilities, especially if a heel wins and uses the tease of their title shot to play mind games. I’d prefer to see an upper-midcarder be elevated by winning the match, but I’m predicting they’ll go the more obvious route and give it to somebody who?s already been on the cusp of a main-event push for months.

Who should win: Christian

Who will win: Edge

Mark?s Interest Level: High, but a little apprehensive [80%’>

First things first, I don’t like Kane in this match at all. I think the spot could?ve been given to Hassan or something like that. A big, ‘methodical? guy just doesn’t really fit in a ladder match, and history has shown us that to a fairly large extent. It?s not that I dislike him really, as I know he tries hard, but he?s just out of place, and he?s not up to the level of workrate that the others are. The build has largely forgotten him for one thing, putting Tyson Tomko in matches instead because he?s Christian?s sidekick, and then Kane doing his usual thing of running out and beating people up at the end. The 5 others in this match though, could really make this something to watch. I’d kind of rather Benjamin got an IC title defense, but the very fact that they’re mixing him up with mainstays like Benoit, Jericho, Edge, and Christian tells me that they really see Benjamin going places. I think we’ll probably see faces work with faces and heels work with faces when it?s convenient, but I’m really hoping they’re not going to do the dreaded triple threat formula here, where everyone spills out of the ring except for two at a time. They have enough great workers here to have constant, and I mean absolutely constant action. I think Edge is taking this to pull the trigger on his ?always screwed out of title shots? stipulation, but as for who I think deserves it the most? Well that?s kind of a tossup for me. Shelton?s not on that level yet, Christian?s almost there but I think he needs some momentum first, I’d rather not see Edge or Kane win simply as a personal preference, and Jericho seems pretty comfortable with what he?s got, and is always over no matter what. That leaves Benoit, who I think could really use a second title reign, just because they really don’t have any ‘recurring? main eventers other than Triple H, and they need a fairly recent champion to come up and STAY there. That needs to be someone who can consistently get the job done against anybody. Get my logic?

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Edge

Lauren?s Bottom Line: It?s rather paradoxical that the fact that I consider so many of the guys in this match to be talented HURTS my interest level, no?

Rey Mysterio vs. Eddy Guerrero

Mark?s Interest Level: If it weren’t for HBK/Angle, this would be the show-stealer. [95%’>

That 95% is because I’m a little put off by the sheer amount of neglect they have for the tag division. It seems we won’t be getting a Smackdown tag title match this year, but nobody really cares about that lately anyway so it?s a moot point. You’ll note that?s not much of a drop in anticipation though. As a side note, I?ve jokingly referred to this tag team as ?Rey Stole MyStereo?, but Eddy hasn’t really jacked anyone in awhile. Chavo as the big instigator for this has been a really good motivator, as well as a big step in character development. I feel sorry for Chavo, having to sit out of Wrestlemania due to injury (cracked orbital bone if I’m not mistaken), but this is possibly the best way to make him useful going into it. Although both Eddy and Rey have bounced around from makeshift tag team to makeshift tag team over the past year or so, Rey?s team with RVD actually began to feel like a real team, and Eddy was a suitable replacement, so I don’t mind this team all that much. At this point though, I think they’re both wasted on tag action, so I guess this is the best way to go. I’m willing to bet it won’t be Halloween Havoc ?97 level of quality, but nearly 8 years later I’m willing to bet they can still put on a clinic with each other. And why not? These two know each other better in the ring than most on the roster. At this point I don’t really care who wins, because I just want to shut up and watch the match, and not root for anyone. But I’ll take Mysterio because he could use the rub a little more.

Who should win: Rey Mysterio

Who will win: Rey Mysterio

Lauren?s Interest Level: Very high, but with a dose of realism [85%’>

I’m with you on this one, Mark. I’m only minimally interested in the story behind this match, but I’m fully expecting these guys to deliver in the ring. The only reason for this not being 100% interest is that I don’t want my expectations to be unrealistic. I just rewatched the HH ?97 match, and it?s extraordinary. Will they be able to top, or even match, that one eight years later? Probably not. They’ll also have to work the match within the confines of what WWE expects their midcard matches to look like, because nothing about the build has suggested to me that WWE wishes to treat this match as a major event and let them go all out. How much of WWE?s audience knows the history between these guys anyway? I’m not at all saying that this match won’t be great, I’m just trying to avoid setting myself up for disappointment.

Who should win: Rey Mysterio

Who will win: Rey Mysterio

Mark?s Bottom Line: Less matches on the card means more time for the matches they have, so I think they’ll give this a good amount of time.

Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels

Lauren?s Interest Level: A dream come true [100%’>

This match is one of the few true ‘dream matches? left in WWE. I don’t think there are many fans out there who aren’t excited about seeing these two lock up. I?ve enjoyed what I?ve seen of the build to this match, with Kurt reverting to his early cocky heel character, obnoxiously mocking his opponent (his ?Sexy Kurt? rendition was priceless). Kurt?s been plagued by injuries in the past couple of years, so his ringwork has really fallen off from what it was at his peak. If there was ever a time when Kurt would want to step it up, work through the pain, and put on a great performance, this would be it. I’d mark out hardcore for an Anglesault, but I do hope that Kurt is smart enough not to put himself at risk too much. Neither of these guys really needs a win more than the other, but my sentimental pick here would be for Kurt to take it. Losing to Kurt would also give Michaels the impetus to make the switch over to the Smackdown brand that?s been rumored. No matter who wins, I’m expecting this to be really awesome. This is one of those rare times when I am truly optimistic about something WWE is offering. If I’m let down, expect rampant bitterness in the Counterpoint.

Who should win: Kurt Angle

Who will win: Kurt Angle

Mark?s Interest Level: How can it not be [100%’>?

Not only am I psyched as all hell for this match, because even if they’re both past their primes they’re still a hell of a lot better than most of the roster, but the angle going into this has been really interesting too. We?ve seen cross-brand attacks on each other, we?ve seen kickass video packages, we?ve seen Angle?s..um..angle where he promised to accomplish everything HBK did including appearances by Marty Jannetty and Sensational Sherri, and it?s the way a cross-brand feud should be built. That alone makes this feud something special, and I think I would give a match with a build like this close to 100% anyway if it were lesser wrestlers in these spots. That said, they aren’t lesser wrestlers, and this is a dream match so it gets 100% regardless. I don’t think we’re going to be disappointed, and I hope the fans treat this with the intense amount of heat it deserves from start to finish. I think we’re going to see a technical masterpiece here, and if this isn’t the MOTY at the end of the year I’ll be really surprised. I want Kurt to win this, but I think I might go against the grain a little bit and say if they’re going to declare this match as deciding who the ?best wrestler ever? is, WWE will hand this one to Michaels in tribute. I can’t say I’ll be disappointed with either outcome though, I just hope that whoever wins does it clean.

Who should win: Kurt Angle

Who will win: Shawn Michaels

Lauren?s Bottom Line: On second thought, a letdown here would probably be the result of both of these guys being a shell of what they were at their peaks, so it would be more sadness than bitterness.

WWE Heavyweight Title:

JBL? vs. John Cena

Mark?s Interest Level: I just want to see JBL LOSE. [50%’>

I think the ?can’t touch each other? thing is always good for the fans, because many can’t wait to see Cena finally get his hands on JBL. But as I mentioned in my last OTC, Cena?s whole immature ?nah nah I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you? shtick wasn’t quite what I had hoped for. Simply put, I don’t know if Cena?s main event material just yet. I’d like to think he?s worked his way up, but he?s still young, there are people miles above him that I’d rather see in his spot, and I think he’d work best to help strengthen the midcard. He?s in that position because he?s popular. I don’t know if they really planned it this far in advance, but I distinctly remember last year John Cena saying he was going to main event Wrestlemania 21. Well, I hope they don’t put this in the very last main event slot, because this match should NOT be a main event. The wrestlers aren’t up to that standard of quality, HHH/Batista will probably be a better match, and while Cena?s win would be huge, I don’t think a Smackdown main event should be the main drawing point of the company right now. But hey, I’m not going to complain about this match otherwise, because in all likelihood, JBL is finally going to lose his fucking title after an ungodly 9 months, and then hopefully go back to midcard where everyone knows he belongs.

Who should win: John Cena

Who will win: John Cena

Lauren?s Interest Level: Wake me when JBL?s not champion anymore [30%’>

I?ve only been marginally interested in Smackdown since JBL became champion. While he?s done a fine job at developing a character, wrestling-wise, he never seemed like a deserving and credible champion to me, which soured me on the entire brand. It?s about time he drop the title to a real ring general, somebody whom we can count on to deliver some solid title defenses?or to John Cena. Cena as champion doesn’t thrill me on a wrestling level, but from a business standpoint I can totally accept it as being the best move for Smackdown right now. I teach first and second grade, and most of the boys in my class watch Smackdown (not that I think they should be watching wrestling at that age?but I’m a teacher, not a parent, so I don’t get much say). The wrestler they talk about most is John Cena. They think he?s the coolest, they want to see him as champion, and they want their parents to buy his merchandise for them. The format of having two brands lends itself to making the Smackdown brand more orientated to a younger audience (my students don’t even know Raw exists, since it?s on later and on cable). Having John Cena as champion could have the same effect on the youth audience that having Guerrero as champ had on the Latino audience. As for the match itself, since I don’t like either of these guys in the ring, and I think the outcome here is painfully predictable, it has all the makings of a bathroom break for yours truly.

Who should win: John Cena

Who will win: John Cena

Mark?s Bottom Line: I weep for the future of the wrestling fan community if all they get to watch is Smackdown.

World Heavyweight Title:

Triple H? vs. Batista

Lauren?s Interest Level: I admit it: I mark for Dave [90%’>

The rise of Batista has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of WWE programming over the past few months. Unlike Orton?s push at the end of last year, which felt like Orton was literally being inserted into our mouths and crammed down our throats with a battering ram, Batista?s push seemed like a textbook example of the right way to elevate new talent. The hints that he would be leaving his role as the muscle of Evolution were subtle at first and showcased acting ability that I never knew he had. Yeah, I was one of those who wrongly saw Batista as nothing more than another generic big guy who was being carried by his role as part of the group, and I’m more than happy to admit that I was wrong. Even though Batista?s eventual turn could be seen coming from miles away, it?s far more effective to have a predictable turn that the fans are truly behind than an out-of-nowhere swerve turn that has no legitimacy behind it. I’m fairly certain this will be the true main event (meaning, the last match on the card). Conventional wisdom says that Wrestlemania ends with the babyface triumphing, but something tells me that Cena?s win in the semi-main event will be seen by WWE as enough of a crowd-pleaser that Batista?s chase is going to continue. Personally I’d like to see Batista win, but it doesn’t bother me too much if it doesn’t happen yet, provided he gets the opportunity to look good here. I enjoy Batista in the ring, and Triple H has the ability to make his opponents look excellent when he wants to. And shouldn’t he want to? I really hope so.

Who should win: Batista

Who will win: Triple H

Mark?s Interest Level: [85%’>

Ahh, remember when we were all predicting Orton to win the Rumble? First off I should note that I adore this angle. It?s gotten a ridiculously awesome build, it?s turned a good portion of the fickle internet crowd from Batista bashers to Batista marks, and it?s one of the most well-done face turns I can ever recall seeing in wrestling history. This build, if you want to get technical, actually started way the hell back at the Raw after Summerslam, with Evolution booting out Orton, and Orton subsequently telling Batista that it’ll happen to Batista too. All you need for proof of that is the continuity with the ‘thumbs down?. There are two reasons that percentage isn’t higher though. The first is because, well, it?s yet another Triple H main event at Wrestlemania, and let?s be honest here, we?ve seen it all before with him. I don’t expect anything new out of him. The second is because although Batista is the coolest mofo in the wrestling world, I’ll admit he still needs a little work in the ring despite his dramatic improvements in recent months…though I will say that main events against Kane, Snitsky, and Old Man Flair didn’t exactly help him look great going into this. What can I say, Raw needs credible main event heels. I have to say it though, I think Batista has an incredible amount of charisma. He can make a facial expression and pop the crowd huge. Dare I say it, I haven’t seen someone that charismatic since The Rock. Now all Batista has to do is live up to it. As for the result, I think Big Dave?s going to take this one because Triple H sees something in him. He?s been priming him by working this angle with him, and it shows. Triple H wants someone other than himself to succeed, and I think it?s not too far off the mark to say that putting over Batista would help Trips as well. The fans want it to happen, and I all signs point to Triple H wanting it to happen too. And if Tripsy wants it to happen, it happens. I really like unpredictability though, and the way they ended Raw this week doesn’t hint either way. That?s a good sign.

Who should win: Batista

Who will win: Batista

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Yeah, once again, I’m being Ms. Positivity here. I feel like I’m letting down all of our loyal readers who expect me to complain about anything and everything WWE does that doesn’t involve former ROH talent being pushed.

Mark?s Overall Interest: 500 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 63%.

Lauren?s Overall Interest: 430 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 54%.

Mark: I’m solo for the big conclusion here, because Lauren?s off to see ROH somewhere in Jersey, aka the Tollbooth State. By the numbers it?s easy to tell that I’m a bit more interested in this card, but I think in general it?s just the spectacle of Wrestlemania itself that gets me excited for this. I think the low volume of matches means good things for match times, and with a few exceptions most are filled with good workers who can go the distance for those times. There?s currently a rumored addition of a 30 man inter-brand battle royal for the card, stipulation unknown thus far, but we’ll cross that reviewing bridge when and if we come to it. For now, the numbers don’t lie, we’re both at least a little more than halfway interested in this one.

…And that?s the Bottom Line, cuz Mark and Lauren said so.



No Way Out 2004 Review

Simply put, this PPV didn’t deserve its own column. This was probably the least interesting card I can remember since…well, since Armageddon, actually. I previewed it as part of my Royal Rumble Counterpoint, and I’m reviewing it here because hey, I’m a completist. So for the sake of completion and my year-end grades, I need to do this, so here?s the No Way Out 2005 Review-in-Brief:

Bashams vs. Latino Heat: Decent tag match, kind of a dumb ending for a title switch, but good comedic spots, and the Bashams are starting to impress me as a team. [65%’>

Hei.Den.Reich. vs. Booker T: Crappy throwaway match. I hope this feud doesn’t extend to Wrestlemania. Booker gets a few points for effort. [5%’>

Cruiser Gauntlet: This seemed like they were just trying to get the whole thing over with, especially with Akio?s elimination. I?ve NEVER seen someone get counted out when his opponent makes it to his feet, because the ref always stops the count. Pretty much London?s show here, but 10 minutes for 6 guys doesn’t do the division justice. [30%’>

Undertaker vs. Reigns: I liked how this was built, actually. It was nice to see someone say he wasn’t intimidated by Taker. Unfortunately, it went just about like any other ?Taker vs. a big guy? match. Decent brawl though, but that?s really all it was. [25%’>

Rookie Diva: The crowd didn’t care, I didn’t care, and it took away time from other matches, namely the Cruiserweight match. You’ll notice that nobody reacted to Rochelle or Lauren, because nobody knows who they are. Utter waste of time. [0%’>

Angle vs. Cena: Now this is more like it. Midway through it hit kind of a weird point though, as Kurt basically no-sold the FU and then started working on Cena?s leg. It?s weird because you don’t usually see Angle do that. Cena on the other hand, is getting a bit better at selling, and he didn’t look invincible here. Good match, but some odd pacing. [80%’>

JBL vs. Big Show: I think this wins the award for ?Most Bullshit Ending Ever?. There shouldn’t have even been an escape stipulation, and it was obviously only put in place just to give JBL a stupid reason to retain. The barbed wire really didn’t even become a factor, other than not letting them out over the top. Batista was pretty much just thrown in at the end too. This was pretty ridiculous. I’ll give it a few points for some blood, but otherwise this was an awful main event. [5%’>

Overall: 210 out of a possible 700, for a total of 30%.

Yeesh (and speaking of ?yeesh?, go see Sin City. You’ll get the reference). Probably will be one of the lower ones of the year, though a full 6 points higher than New Year?s Revolution, something I still think is unfortunate because NYR had a kickass main event. One high point of this show was Eddy Guerrero?s pep talk to John Cena, in one of the few segments that wasn’t actually wasted on Divas. The crowd sucked, but I can’t really fault them for that when you consider that they paid a lot of money to see a bad PPV. Anyway, that?s it for me, and now I can go back to forgetting No Way Out ever happened.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #169: All Apologies

As I’m sure you’re well aware, Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels are in the midst of a cross-promotion feud heading into a high-profile match at Wrestlemania 21. It?s difficult to keep things fresh sometimes in WWE, and feuds across the brands have been one of the few things that brings us back to the time before the brand extension. As a side note (a little early in the column for that, but oh well), I’m not against the brand extension because it allows them to put more people on TV that otherwise wouldn’t be getting TV time, but I do think they need to work on a balance so that both shows can be good; more often than not it?s one show that?s good and the other that sucks. But cross-brand feuds add something special to an already special event in the wrestling world, Wrestlemania. It gives us that rare mix between the rosters, and it?s difficult to keep up the storyline as you can’t really have each wrestler do all that much in the feud every week beyond a run-in, or merely a promo (see last year?s Goldberg/Lesnar feud).

That said, the Angle/Michaels feud has been going very well, and is one of the best angles on either show at the moment. The reason for this is because they?ve kept it fresh, coming up with new ideas to get it over. The feud began at the Royal Rumble, when Shawn Michaels tossed out surprise entry Kurt Angle after he had only been in the match a few minutes. Kurt flipped out and destroyed Michaels, building to a ‘dream match? that had been rumored for months on end. But something changed within the past couple weeks; something I didn’t expect whatsoever. And now I think it?s time we all admit that not only were we wrong, but we owe someone a great big apology.

A couple weeks ago on Smackdown, Kurt Angle proclaimed he was going to do everything Shawn Michaels has accomplished in his entire career, in only four weeks. First he beat one of the ?hometown heroes? in his ongoing Olympic medal challenge in a ladder match in only minutes. The next step was to dig up a name from the distant past, a name we haven’t heard in years: Kurt Angle challenged Shawn?s former partner in The Rockers, Marty Jannetty, to a match.

When I heard this, to be perfectly honest with you, I laughed.

I couldn’t help it. For all I knew, Jannetty had dropped off the face of the planet and was passed out drunk, face-down in a gutter somewhere in the dark ghetto of wrestling obscurity. I had no knowledge of what he’d been up to recently, and so I passed it off as one big joke. WWE?s talent relations, for all I knew, had dug up Jannetty from somewhere and were going to throw him into a squash match to put Angle over huge on the way to Wrestlemania, at the expense of a has-been. ?I?ve got to see this?, I said, believing that for all intents and purposes this was going to be a comedic matchup with a fairly obscure name from my childhood. I’m willing to bet that a good portion of the internet wrestling community thought the exact same thing.

I couldn’t believe how utterly wrong I was, and in some ways I still can’t.

Before getting into current events, I need to preface this with the fact that The Rockers were my favorite tag team when I was a kid. Sure we had Demolition and the Hart Foundation and the Legion of Doom, all going after the hotly-contested Tag Team titles back when tag team wrestling was worth a damn to the WWF. Tag wrestling seems to be a lost art ever since the late 90s or so, as they haven’t done a whole lot with the belts in the past few years; at least nothing worthy of comparison to the 80s heyday and the Attitude era that showcased the amazing series of TLC matches. One of the reasons I was so into the Hardy Boyz in their day is because they reminded me of a modern version of The Rockers, and to some extent so did Edge & Christian.

In the 1980s though, The Rockers were easily deserving of the moniker ?Best tag team never to win the titles? in the WWF. That?s right, for those who aren’t fully up on their history, Michaels and Jannetty never won the tag titles. Their biggest claim to title fame was being the 2-time AWA tag champions in 1987 as The Midnight Rockers. Dropping the ?Midnight? part when moving to the WWF, they made their Wrestlemania debut in 1989, at Wrestlemania V against the Twin Towers, Akeem and Big Bossman. Around that time, there wasn’t a whole lot of ?who?s better? discussion when talking about tag teams. Granted, that?s probably because the internet wasn’t around yet, but I don’t recall among my friends or the few dirtsheet mags I picked up back in the day discussing which member of the team was better, and which would do better in singles action along the way. Tag teams functioned as a unit, and one was never seen without the other, so why even speculate at the time which was a better member? The technical Hitman needed his Anvil powerhouse counterpart, the Fabulous Rougeaus were the closest set of brothers you could imagine, and you’d never fathom the idea of Ax and Smash going their separate ways. It just wasn’t an issue. So major breakups and feuds between major well-established teammates, although not an original concept at the time, wasn’t seen all that often in the company. This event would easily become the most famous of its kind.

I still remember the angle they ran to finally split the once great team apart. Shawn had been copping a cocky attitude, before that was his ‘thing?. Tension broke between the team, and it appeared for awhile that they were going to split. Everyone knows what happened next, Brutus Beefcake?s infamous Barber Shop segment had the two appear to mend their tensions and embrace, showing that they were indeed going to stay together. That is, until the unthinkable happened, and Shawn superkicked Marty in the face, immediately garnering some incredible heel heat. I don’t think most people were prepared for what happened next, as we’d never seen anything that violent on wrestling TV before. Michaels picked Jannetty up by his hair, and proceeded to throw him through the pane glass of the Barber Shop window. If he wasn’t a full heel after that superkick, he certainly was now. In some ways, it was the best thing that ever happened to Shawn Michaels. In others, it was the worst thing that ever happened to Marty Jannetty. WWF had chosen who was going to be the big star of the next generation.

Since that point, Shawn Michaels was seen all over TV, and Marty Jannetty less so. When he came back for a feud with Michaels, it wasn’t quite as major as it should?ve been. It served as the undercard for a few PPV events, but didn’t really reach the heights it should?ve, especially for a feud that began with such a bang. The main reason I attribute to that is because Michaels had already long established himself as a singles competitor since that time, snapping up the Intercontinental title (when that meant something big too), and defeating many opponents in the time that Jannetty had been off TV. Jannetty on the other hand, wasn’t so fortunate. He came back and his only motivation was Michaels, after having only been a tag wrestler in the eyes of the fans. While it was a classic confrontation to go up against the man who wronged you, it never got the momentum it needed, and Michaels prevailed as expected. To be fair, it was probably the best and most sane way to build Michaels into an uber-heel, which he was quickly becoming as he scaled his way up the ranks into the main event. Michaels would become a multiple time champion and one of the biggest icons of the business, while Jannetty would wallow in the midcard for awhile, before attempting to bring in Al Snow as ?Leif Cassidy? to form The New Rockers, a team which paled in comparison to the original. With all that went into the original team, after all, how could they not? I had rarely been watching WCW at the time, but I do remember that Jannetty had a rather mediocre midcard run. After that, he somewhat faded away, never regaining the success he once found as one half of one of the most popular tag teams in the WWF?s history.

Since then, we?ve heard many reports that Marty Jannetty had fallen into problems with alcoholism, had gotten out of shape, etc. Typical ?former wrestler? fodder, it seemed. In fact, one of the things that inspired me to write this column in the first place is that Marty Jannetty, particularly with the advent of the internet, has become somewhat of the butt of all jokes in the wrestling community. In the past several years, when we?ve seen a good tag team form, many of us columnists have wondered alongside many other fans, which member would become ‘the Jannetty? of the team, and which would be ‘the Michaels?. In other words, which would fade into obscurity or spend an eternity in midcard hell, and which would use the team as a stepping stone to success, respectively. It?s become so much of a running gag online that we pretty much took it for granted that we’d never see an in-shape Marty Jannetty wrestling high-profile matches on our TVs again.

So when it came to last week, with Angle announcing he would challenge Jannetty to a match, I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. That all came to a screeching halt this past Monday on Raw however, when Jannetty surprisingly showed up in a backstage segment with Shawn Michaels. I think my exact reaction was, ?Holy shit, he actually looks…really good!? Later in that night we got the biggest markout moment in a long time, as The Rockers reformed to defeat La Resistance. Not only did Jannetty look great, but he looked great in the ring too. Sure, he was a bit rusty, but for the most part it looked as though he hadn’t lost a step along the way. Then came the biggest inspiration for this column, tonight?s Smackdown match against Kurt Angle. Not only did he completely blow away all my expectations, but he put on a pretty damn good match, and had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand by the end of it. It wasn’t just a carry-job by Angle, either. Jannetty showed that he could still go in the ring, at least better than much of the current roster. He exhibited psychology, high-flying maneuvers, he sold his ass off for Angle, and they even gave him a good portion of the match to take advantage. It wasn’t a random squash like many expected, it was given build on Raw and culminated on Smackdown as one of the biggest surprises in recent memory.

So now this leaves open a question: Should WWE sign Marty Jannetty back full time if he?s willing to be a part of the roster? It may be too early to tell, especially if this is just a one-shot deal, but if that?s the way they’re going then I say give him a shot. He may be 45 years old, and his spot may be best filled by a younger, hungrier star, but I wouldn’t mind at all if he were to become a regular for awhile. Rumors are flying that this week?s two matches are ‘tryouts? for him to see if he?s ready to come back. But this time, I don’t think I’ll be rolling my eyes at another has-been who doesn’t know when to hang up his tights if that?s the case. I never thought he was all that bad, just that circumstances caused him to become almost a laughingstock in discussions. But I?ve always thought he deserved his fair shot which he never really got before, and now seems to be the only time he can, as his wrestling career will probably be coming to a close soon anyway. I can’t say I’d object if they were to give him one more run with the company, especially because halfway into the match I began to really feel guilty about the internet shit-talking he?s received over the years. I started to realize that he never really deserved all that criticism, and the crowd mentality of the internet, as it often does, made things seem worse than they really are. I decided that Marty Jannetty deserves a big apology from the internet community, or at least from one of us in particular, so here it is:

Henceforth, I will never refer to a ‘lesser? member of a tag team as ‘the Jannetty?. I realize that it was the wrong assumption, and I accept that it was never a good analogy in the first place. I think that this week has proven us wrong, and despite his past, I think we were wrong to assume there was no gas left in his tank. Even if it was only a couple matches, it was enough to make me regret perpetuating him as the butt of an admittedly rather cruel joke for years. I think we’ve also underestimated the influence that he, in tandem with Michaels, had on many superstars of today. This week, I saw a man reborn. I saw fans on their feet this week, chanting his name, willing him to win. For that, I think it?s enough for me to say…

Marty, I’m sorry that we ever doubted you.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #168: Killing an Arab

?Standing on a beach with a gun in my hand,

Staring at the sea, staring at the sand

Staring down the barrel at the Arab on the ground,

I can see his open mouth but I hear no sound

I’m alive, I’m dead,

I’m the Stranger, killing an Arab?

–The Cure, ?Killing an Arab?

The title of this column comes from The Cure?s early 1980s hit song of the same name, which is loosely based around the Albert Camus 1946 philosophical novel ?The Stranger?, one of the most widely-read books of the last century. In it, Camus explores the concepts of alienation, fear, indifference, apathy, absurdism, and most notably existentialism. Our handy-dandy Dictionary.com defines existentialism as, “A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one’s acts.” For a very basic summary, a young man from Algeria leads an aimless life, and the story details the events leading up to the somewhat inexplicable and confused murder of an Arab man on a beach. The murder trial proceedings are rather absurd in nature, focusing more on the apathetic character of the murderer, rather than the crime itself. The character comes off as emotionless and detached, and his motivations meaningless, as Camus often projected the idea that human life itself is ultimately bizarre and directionless in nature, and that death has no meaning as life goes on around it regardless.

So appropriately, I bring you my views on the inflammatory gimmick of WWE wrestler Mark Magnus, aka Muhammad Hassan.

There was a time when simply pushing the limits of what is allowed on television was all WWE needed to stir up controversy. ?Attitude?, they called it. Those days are over, it seems, and despite numerous ?Smackdown Your Vote? campaigns and going to Iraq two years in a row to entertain the soldiers, WWE has never particularly been politically conscious. I’m fully aware that many people are loving the Hassan gimmick, as a heel hasn’t gotten this kind of legitimate heat in years. A few months ago, we were treated to a ?nice guy? promo by Hassan, speaking about how he grew up alongside the rest of us, went to our schools, watched our television shows, and is just as much an American as any other. But since September 11, 2001, he and his friend ?Khosrow? (Shawn) Daivari have been the subject of racial prejudice, simply because they are of Arab-American descent. People booed at the promo, even though he was speaking as an honest, perfectly calm potential babyface. At first, I loved the idea. Book him as a face, I said. If people boo him, so what, I said. All that would do is prove his point, showing that he?s right about the American hypocrisy, without even necessarily pointing it out. It’d be one of the classiest moves WWE would pull in a long time, exposing the truth of racial prejudice in this country, by having a face booed simply because of his nationality. Or, conversely, people would understand his points, and the crowd would be split between the racist bigots and the supportive sympathetic, knowing that he really does just want to fit in after all. Overcoming racial adversity, the feel-good story of the year.

It wasn’t long before those high hopes would come down in flames and crash, if you’ll pardon the unintentional terrorism pun.

Part I: Alienation

“As if that blind rage has washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, I that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself – so like a brother, really – I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.”

–Camus, ?The Stranger? Part 2, Chapter 5.

It only took a couple weeks of promos to see that this wasn’t quite heading where many had hoped it would. Like the majority of new wrestlers promoted with vignettes in the past few years, we were hoping this time it would be different. Rumors flew about how Hassan was actually pretty good in the ring, and was a great talker, so this time it might be different. But further Raw episodes would prove us wrong. What followed was a jab at American airport security, in which Arabs were routinely taken out of line and searched due to racial profiling. All of this was done by… wait for it… ?people like you?. Hassan?s tone had changed from that of a friendly Arab-American just trying to fit in, to an accusatory racial crusader. Another followed with Hassan in a convenient score, with the stereotypical Arab clerk behind the counter. At this point it was assured that Hassan was not going to be the subject of a deep controversial angle about the human spirit and cultural diversity. Rather, it would be his debut in a promo against the rare appearance of Mick Foley that would set him up for an incredible level of heel heat. More on that later.

So, not only did we have Hassan defying all anticipation and cutting anti-American promos, but he began ranting against people in non-wrestling roles as well. Mick Foley, Jim Ross, and Jerry Lawler, for starters. That?s all well and good, but even then there was some hope that he’d be able to get by on his promos alone. He?s a great talker, and could probably win debates and arguments simply by proving his points and saying the right things. Many online expressed that yes, we do agree with Hassan. A few signs in crowds since his debut have displayed the sentiment that ?Hassan is right?. Sadly, this character is also prone to violent outbursts, and beat down both Ross and Lawler simply after losing an argument, showing that his words meant nothing as long as he could strangle a fat guy with a belt.

The last bastion of hope for Hassan was that if he couldn’t prove his worth with fan support, and he couldn’t prove his worth with his words, he could at least make himself look intimidating in the ring. Perhaps the one thing that would irk the common fan even more than his character would be if he could win clean, so they’d have nothing to lambaste him for. Yet for even more additional insult to injury, Hassan could barely even get the job done against Lawler, in his first feud. In their match, Hassan had to include the distraction of Daivari and several cheap tactics to beat a commentator of all people in a wrestling match. Granted, we?ve since seen him hold his own against Chris Jericho in the ring, but the jury is still out on whether or not that was a carry job, considering how poor his match with Lawler was.

Instead of an interesting, tweener Arab character, we have a fully heel one. Instead of an intelligent, thought-provoking character, we have a violent bully. Instead of an accomplished wrestler, we have a cowardly cheat. All of this combined turns a once promising, interesting character, into a generic anti-patriot.

Part II: Indifference

“In a way, they seemed to be arguing the case as if it had nothing to do with me. Everything was happening without my participation. My fate was being decided without anyone so much as asking my opinion.”

–Camus, ?The Stranger? Part 2, Chapter 4.

The wrestler, Mark Magnus, comes from Ohio Valley Wrestling, WWE?s famed development territory. His hometown is billed as Syracuse, New York, although now promoted from Detroit. What many already know however, is that he?s not Arab-American at all. In fact, Magnus is Italian. Oh sure, the separation of the cultures is only one measly Mediterranean Sea apart, but it leads me to believe that any brown-skinned man could?ve filled this role. Daivari, on the other hand, actually is Arab-American. But rather than give him the central role, it?s given to a larger, more athletic man with a skin color similar to an Arabian, probably because he can make it more convincing. For a guy who supposedly grew up alongside us in our culture, he certainly isn’t doing anything to show it, instead being the generic anti-American heel with a foreign stereotype (which you’ll see detailed in the next section). Fifteen years ago, an actual all-around American hero and popular GI Joe action figure Sgt. Slaughter did the same, allying with the Iraqi ?General Adnan? and the Iron Sheik Iranian-turned-Iraqi ?Col. Mustafa?. Only this time, while we’re at war with Iraq once again, we’re not warring against a Muslim nation.

So what is the point of all this? It seems as though this is simply yet another chapter in WWE?s bandwagon patriotism fetish. We’re not fighting against anything he represents. They?ve told us countless times that Hassan ‘does not represent all Arab-Americans?, as if to cover their own asses, the verbal equivalent of running a disclaimer ad across the bottom of the screen. Muhammad Hassan could come out there, face the crowd chanting ?USA, USA?, and simply dismiss it with an off the cuff remark such as ?I’m from Detroit, you idiots, you’re cheering for me?. But he doesn’t, and I have to believe there?s a reason for that:

WWE was simply looking for someone to universally hate.

That shows through clearly enough in the Royal Rumble, when rival Raw and Smackdown stars aligned to chuck Hassan out on his ass. It?s pure cheap heat to do this, and they know it. Hassan at this point is the very definition of ?cheap heat?. Look how they debuted him, for example. Blanket anti-nationalism toward nobody in particular. Cutting a promo against a rarely-seen, beloved name like Mick Foley, who himself is the master of the ?cheap pop?. Taking down easy targets like announcers. All the while holding a lighter up to the nerve endings of every patriot in the live audience by spewing non-specific hatred and violence in the guise of a political activist. WWE didn’t see Magnus in OVW and come up with this gimmick for him; they had this gimmick already pre-manufactured, and threw Magnus in the role because he could speak well enough and wrestle well enough. WWE was looking for someone to put a big target on, and then took every facet of cheap heat they could think of, and preyed upon the lowest common denominator of fans by wrapping it up in a neat little package of cultural xenophobia.

Part III: Apathy

“At that time, I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowing overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it.

…And the more I thought about it, the more I dug out my memory things I had overlooked or forgotten. I realized then that a man who had lived only one day could easily live for a hundred years in prison. He would have enough memories to keep him from being bored. In a way, it was an advantage.”

–Camus, ?The Stranger? Part 2, Chapter 2.

Readers of my work will know I?ve had problems with the way they treat outside cultures before. Specifically, my ?World? section of my previous column, ?What Does WWE Stand For??. Nearly any nationality will come in as a stereotype. This, obviously, is no exception. But where ‘Hirohito’ was apparently too culturally insensitive, this isn’t. I imagine their reason for that is because he’s also “-American”. But while Daivari screams at people in what I’m told is an amalgam of Farsi and gibberish, Hassan pretends to understand everything he?s saying. He wears a kaffiyeh on his head, praises Allah, and comes out to vaguely Arab-sounding music (a tune which I affectionately refer to as ?The Alien?, because that?s what it sounds like the lyrics are). In other words, he?s a pure Arab stereotype. No hyphenated ?American suffix at the end, his character is sheer 100% Arab gimmick.

?I don’t feel like I’m playing a character mostly cause I’m not. Not one scenario played out on TV yet has been 100 percent fabricated. Shit like that happens to me semi-often, especially worse now that I?ve made my case public.? –Shawn Daivari

But what of Magnus, an Italian? Rather than fight it, all Daivari is really doing as Hassan?s sidekick is reinforcing the stereotype. He could realistically say this kind of thing from a babyface point of view, but he?s not given the opportunity, because WWE has their own agenda. It seems even the commentators are given free reign to say culturally insensitive things. Before Hassan?s gimmick even had legs, the following dialogue between Ivory and Todd Grisham occurred on an episode of Heat, referring to the debut of Muhammad Hassan on Raw:


Ivory: I’m just asking, how are you going to get to Huntsville?

Grisham: I’m driving.

Ivory: Good, because I don’t want you to be flying, if you get my drift.


Real classy. I don’t believe they were ever reprimanded for this either; though it?s certainly not bad enough to be outright censored, it does have that whole ?all Arabs are terrorists? vibe to it. I suppose an over the top French gimmick like La Resistance isn’t necessarily harmful, but in an age of racial paranoia from terrorism, that?s a dangerous view to portray, in regards to the common wrestling fan. Still, I wonder. The late Gorilla Monsoon used to like referring to sneak attacks in the old WWF as being ?Pearl Harbored?. In a few years is it going to be culturally acceptable to refer to a sneak attack as being ?Nine-Elevened?? If I couldn’t say that on WWE TV without being censored, why is such inflammatory material against the nature of Arabs and Muslims simply used as a tool to create controversy?

I feel the damage has been done, and rather than doing anything constructive, WWE is doing anything for a ratings point or a buck. Tell me, which might be more constructive? Someone proving that Arab-Americans aren’t all parts of terrorist cell families that run convenient stores, or someone who incites ‘love it or leave it? remarks and the grossly inaccurate ?Go back to Iraq? signs I?ve seen in a few crowds?

Perhaps this says it all. The following is a threat received by Shawn Daivari on his website by someone only identifying himself as ?Sand Nigger Hater?. I pasted the comment as is, and I believe the censored remarks are Daivari?s own, so I’ll leave them as he noted:


?Hey, Davari (sic) you and Hassan are going to be sorry you sand n-gger piles of sh?. After what I saw on TV last weeekend, I have made a decision that if you and Hassan come anywhere within 300 miles of where I am you stupid assclowns who s? off f?ing camels and wants seconds, I will be more then (sic) glad to empty three full clips from my 9MM glock into your punk ass. If you and Hassan don’t like the USA then do us Americans all a f?ing favor and leave the USA muthaf?er before someone sends you home to the Middle East in a f?ing casket you stupid son of a f?ing bitch. How dare you talk sh? about the American soldier you stupid f?? So please come within 300 miles so I can buy front row ringside tix for me and my 15 friends and then when you and Hassan come to the ring talking sh?, security won’t be able to stop us and we are going to take your candy asses out for good and so what if we go to jail.?

If that doesn’t speak for itself, and convince you of the damage WWE is doing, then I don’t know what will. I realize that this is just one nutball among millions of fans, but I doubt he?s alone. I’m sure he had this racist attitude before the angle began, but when the angle does nothing to adhere to the ?American? part of ?Arab-American?, all it does is cause more damage, hatred, and paranoia.

Part IV: Existentialism

“I couldn’t see any reason to change my life. Looking back on it, I wasn’t unhappy. When I was a student, I had lots of ambitions like that. But when I had to give up my studies I learned very quickly that none of it really mattered.”

–Camus, ?The Stranger? Part 1, Chapter 5.

When you’re part of a racial heel gimmick, there?s always the question of whether the character can ever recover from it. Magnus is a decent wrestler and a great talker, but after this kind of damage, it may take a miracle to ever make anyone warm up to him should he turn face one day. It seems nothing short of a sudden change of heart and the mention that he had been brainwashed would warm him up to the fans someday, but that would only come at the expense of abandoning his viewpoints, which are entirely valid. It?s a catch-22 in today?s wrestling world, in that to change your alignment, one needs to change his character as well.

It?s a sad state of affairs in WWE, and what I think is one of the biggest things they’re doing wrong with their time and money. I think I’d actually prefer a cheesy soap opera angle or a meaningless Diva competition. If WWE doesn’t realize that this is only causing harm, then how much further would they go? In a mostly Caucasian-dominated society, it?s difficult to empathize. We can sympathize of course, but it?s not the same thing as actually knowing what they’re going through. The real irony is, not even Hassan can do that. WWE of course, has every right to do what they’re doing, and say what they’re saying, but if this is the direction they’re heading, they seriously need to rethink the idea of calling themselves ?family programming?. In the end, this angle is only going to maintain hatreds and enforce stereotypes. In the long run it?s not going to make a difference. Had they gone in the direction the gimmick originally seemed to be going in the first place though, perhaps they could have.

I can turn and walk away, or I can fire the gun

Staring at the sky, staring at the sun

Whichever I chose, it amounts to the same…

Absolutely nothing.

–The Cure, ?Killing an Arab?

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #167: Royal Rumble 2005 – Counterpoint [Bottom Line #6]

Adam: Well the Royal Rumble has come and gone, and the road to Wrestlemania is being paved as we speak. A lot of moments happened this year and a lot to remember as well. Could it possibly be…memorable? Well that certainly is the case in my eyes. This is the Counterpoint, and this is Mark to give you the run down of how this little ditty works. Play it again Sam!

Mark: You know the drill! Or at least, you’d better. If you read the Point, you know what we thought going into this shindig. And knowing is half the battle, at least according to GI Joe. But here, we?ve got match results, reviews, and how much we were entertained by each. So strap yourself in, because this column is a roller-coaster ride of insanity. Okay, not really, but it sounded good.

Shawn Michaels vs. Edge



Mark?s Interest Level: Could be better. [75%’>

I say I have a slight lack of interest in this, not because I think it’ll be bad, and not because the angle isn’t interesting, but because they’re also both in the Rumble. I don’t care who you are, be it Michaels, or…well, Edge in this case, nobody gives 100% in both matches they’re in when they wrestle twice, and you know they’re going to have an additional confrontation in the Rumble itself. They could very well prove me wrong here, but as long as this match is part of the undercard, they’re going to save a little bit for later, plus you know there?s very little chance of one of them snapping on the other and destroying him or something, and that loses a little bit of unpredictability. I think this feud is coming along very nicely, and if they do the rumored Michaels/Angle dream match at WM, there?s no reason this feud can’t pick right back up where it left off and end at Backlash or something. I just think this one?s going to go a little on the conservative side. No gigantic rest-of-the-night-off bumps, no crimson mask blade job, just a safe match that?s probably going to see the loser costing his opponent the Rumble match later in the night. For that reason I’m going with Michaels, even though Edge needs it more.

Who should win: Edge

Who will win: Shawn Michaels

Adam?s Interest Level: I’m foaming at the mouth…[90%’>

This is the hot stuff right here. This is what I’m talking about. Everyone believed this match would take place at Wrestlemania, the biggest stage of them all since that appeared to be the direction WWE was taking, but they’ve blown the lid off this one and are letting it take place this Sunday. I have to disagree with my counterpart here in that Edge and Shawn Michaels will not falter, nor will they in the Royal Rumble either. It was in 1998 when The Rock and Ken Shamrock wrestled for the Intercontinental Title and both men were a part of the Rumble match itself. The Rock entered at #4 and was the last person eliminated and put on quite a performance that night. Not only that, but with a lot of people in the ring at Royal Rumble, both Edge and Michaels can easily be protected with rest-holds and what not. The only question is what will happen in the match itself. Part of me wants to really say that Edge will go over in this match, but another part of me says logic would suggest HBK will win and Edge will screw Shawn out of the Rumble match. The build to this match has been awesome and you don’t see this sort of thing happen often in WWE. This will truly be a match to remember, whether it be the only match between the two (somehow I doubt it) or not, both men are on a roll as of late and will certainly deliver.

Who should win: Edge

Who will win: Shawn Michaels

Mark?s Bottom Line: You use Rock/Shamrock ?98 as an example, I use Lesnar/Show ?03. Brock won the Rumble afterward, but the 1-on-1 match suffered.


Actual winner: Edge

Adam: Alright, so the show has come and gone, and low and behold, who was correct in this one? I’d have to say it was me because Edge vs. HBK did indeed deliver and Edge also kicked major ass in the Royal Rumble as well. I will admit that this match started off slow but Edge was in another zone that night. I’m also privileged though and perhaps show a little bit of favoritism because I actually met Edge after the Royal Rumble in San Jose at an autograph signing the next day. He was very gracious and an all around great guy. But back to the match, HBK also died several times for Edge, and although this match could have been saved for Wrestlemania, I feel they did a great job delivering in the ring. Edge truly deserves a World Title run post Wrestlemania, perhaps beginning at Summerslam. The crowd was definitely hot for this match and I was truly shocked to see Edge go over, which led me to believe that the feud for HBK/Angle would begin shortly thereafter and it did. I don’t have a problem with the booking either, because Edge, one way or another was able to beat the Heartbreak Kid, which is something not too many people can say. This was another night to remember thanks to WWE. HBK helped make Edge that night, and it will only be a matter of time before Edge gets to wear gold. Great job by both men all around and hopefully this momentum can carry them to even more success at Wrestlemania.

Adam?s Entertainment Level: [90%’>

Mark: I’m a gracious enough person to be able to admit when I’m wrong, and for the most part, I was wrong about this. Edge proved to me on the PPV as a whole, that he?s capable of hanging with the big guys. My opinion still stands that there wasn’t a whole lot of unpredictability in it though; for example we knew both would wrestle later, and HBK would have to be healthy enough to encounter Angle, a feud we knew was coming for months in advance. That doesn’t hurt the match, but I think being the curtain jerker does slightly. For a feud this big it needed to be higher on the card and given full time to develop. Of course that point is moot if they continue this feud, or resume it after ?Mania, but if they don’t, I’m probably not going to look back on this one as being all it could?ve been. Don’t think I’m criticizing here though, it was a very good match and I got a bit more than I expected out of it. I just think it?s going to end up being a filler feud to keep two guys busy on the way to Wrestlemania if they don’t come back to it. And for the time they put into it over months of angles (it’d been brewing since Taboo Tuesday), that’d be a shame. HBK is HBK, so all that needs to be said about him has been said. But Edge really shined here and I think he?s starting to grow as a wrestler, getting down the minor mannerisms and the attitude.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [85%’>

Adam?s Bottom Line: It’s Edge! This is the year of Edge…and WWE showed s that tonight, and the fun was just beginning at this point!

Casket Match:

Undertaker vs. Heidenreich


Adam?s Interest Level: I like some trainwrecks…[10%’>

Now, if I were watching this from my own home, my interest level would probably be absolutely zero, but since I’m going to be there in person, I won’t have to deal with Cole and Tazz attempting to put this catastrophe over before my very eyes and ears. Nope, I’ll get to see it first-hand and as said before, I enjoy these kinds of clusterfucks just for the sheer fact that when something as atrocious as this occurs, you have to look! I figured this feud would have been over awhile ago and Heidenreich would have been either released from WWE or sent back down to OVW where he can actually learn to wrestle. But we all know where this is going to end up, because for some reason Undertaker hardly ever wins his own gimmick match, Heidenreich will find a way to win, possibly with the help of one Gene Snitsky (since he’s afraid of caskets) and that will ignite the feud of Undertaker and Kane vs. Snitsky and Heidenreich that everyone wants to see at Wrestlemania, I know I do! Apparently one trainwreck is simply not enough! Of course this feud should have never happened but of course it’s hosstastic so what other direction is there really to go?

Who should win: Undertaker

Who will win: Heidenreich

Mark?s Interest Level: ?Reich is the new Kamala. [0%’>

I’m almost surprised they didn’t show Undertaker building a ?special coffin? to put Heidenreich in for this match, but then, ?Reich doesn’t have a moon and stars painted on his torso (maybe he should look into that). The angle?s been set up much the same way as the Kamala feud years upon years ago Here we have a raving lunatic who isn’t all that much different from everybody?s favorite savage from the deep jungles of Africa, except that he writes poetry instead of rambles on in gibberish. Well, same effect in the end, I guess. Either way we?ve got him running through the crowd to escape because he?s afraid of the casket. In other words, this is like nearly every casket match feud ever, especially when it?s someone who?s not even as good in the ring as Taker. To hype it up, a casket is wheeled down by either Paul Bearer or druids, or druid Paul Bearers, the opponent inches toward it, opens the lid, and hey, surprise! Undertaker?s already in it! This time around though, they had the added effect of ?Reich foaming at the mouth, and the ?OMG he?s already IN the casket!? scene, which in other words, means ?pre-taped segment? You may enjoy the trainwreck Mr. Payne, but I’ll only enjoy it if the crowd starts doing the Wave like they did for JBL/Taker. But I agree with Snitsky interfering, because somehow this is going to continue. I just hope they go with my idea of ?killing? both Snitsky and ?Reich at WM, and getting away with it because they’re the Brothers of Destruction.

Who should win: Undertaker

Who will win: Hei-Den-Reich!

Adam?s Bottom Line: Come on Mark, trainwrecks are fun! Maybe I’ll start that wave for you.


Actual winner: Undertaker

Mark: I think ?I like what you do to babies? was nearly topped by ?I hear you don’t like caskets…but I like you? and ?I like you too, but I still hate caskets?. I don’t know what they were trying to pull with these two, but I was half expecting them to start making out. I know I should throw out the Seinfeld ?Not that there?s anything wrong with that? quote here, but…with those two, there IS something wrong with that. Matchwise, Heidenreich can’t even sell a basic move. He can’t even fall right for a DDT or a tackle, or even a punch. It was just ugly watching him even try. But to Undertaker?s credit, I could see him putting forth a lot of effort to try making this one watchable. I was expecting Snitsky in the casket, but as soon as he showed up in the ring I figured Kane was going to pop out instead. Kane driving off Snitsky made me slightly relieved for this, because while Taker doesn’t need a win…Heidenreich doesn’t deserve one. The coffin lid spot I didn’t expect at all, and actually put something entertaining into this, if nothing else. I don’t know if it was ?holy shit?-worthy though, fans will chant that for anything these days. Especially since ?Reich no-sold it seconds later. Looks like we’re getting that ?Mania tag match. They hate babies and caskets, so I’m suggesting a ladder match where the first team to reach a baby in a casket wins. I actually did get some entertainment out of this, even if the match wasn’t the reason why.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [5%’>

Adam:Man, I guess trainwreck was a bit of an understatement. Utter catastrophe should have been more like it. Someone dropped an A-Bomb in that ring. It was a clusterfuck from start to finish. I knew it was bad when 2 minutes into the match Snitsky came out to basically call off an actual match occurring. It was funny as hell when he said “I hear you don’t like caskets.” That was fucking priceless. Everyone was yelling and screaming for them to either kiss or they were homo which sad to say is exactly what the moment appeared to be turning into. It’s almost disturbing. Just like Mark said, there ain’t nothing wrong with that lifestyle but it was just creepy the way they were going about it. It was almost as if they were two serial killers with nowhere else to turn to but each other and wanted to get it on…prison bitches if you will. I will admit that Kane coming out of the casket surprised me somewhat, but I should have been expecting it because of the booking between them already. I wasn’t surprised to see Undertaker go over because let’s face it…there’s no way that Undertaker was going to lose this match to have Heidenreich put over when WWE doesn’t even have enough faith to allow him to wrestle on a regular basis. Heidenreich is awful and so is Snitsky, so I guess they truly are a match made in…heaven?

Adam?s Entertainment Level: [5%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: I would say it?s more like a match made in hell, but I think that?s too good a place for this creepy budding relationship.

WWE Heavyweight Title:

JBL? vs. Kurt Angle vs. Big Show



Adam?s Interest Level: Angle’s in the match at least…[50%’>

Alright, I have to say that this past Smackdown really got me excited for a match that involved nothing but Diva’s feuding rather than wrestlers. It reminded me of Stephanie practically feuding with HHH en route to Wrestlemania X8. But that’s not the case here as this match will deliver somewhat. The outcome is fairly obvious as JBL has no reason to drop the title at this event here. It doesn’t make sense for Angle or Big Show to win the title at Royal Rumble. I believe it’s a bad move to drop the title at Royal Rumble only because then there’s little build for a strong champion if the belt is to be dropped again at Wrestlemania. So why not just keep the belt on JBL for the time being. Workrate obviously isn’t JBL’s strongest trait and his micwork won’t be able to save him here. I’m more curious to see everyone’s roles after this match and the post-work from everyone. If JBL does drop the title at Royal Rumble I will genuinely be surprised, but I’m not keeping my hopes up. My number one question is that if JBL is suppose to feud with Cena at Mania, Angle will wrestle HBK, who will Big Show go after? What is the money match? I guess we’ll have to wait and find out now won’t we?

Who should win: JBL

Who will win: JBL

Mark?s Interest Level: Mix 75% Angle, 75% Show, 0% JBL. Stir. [50%’>

If JBL drops the belt here, it?s going to be a dead giveaway that someone from Smackdown isn’t winning later in the night. But then, they’d kind of already expended their interest in this belt after Armageddon. Last year you had JBL screwing 3 people out of their title shots HHH-style in individual matches: Booker T, Undertaker, and Eddy Guerrero. At Armageddon they all went up against him, and the time seemed right for a major face victory to close out the year, to add some momentum into Wrestlemania. Now all three of those contenders who should be fighting over the title are doing…pretty much nothing, and we?ve got a feud over kidnapping women and catfighting valets to boost the title picture. Such is the problem with Smackdown. I’m glad the month was spent with the 3 of them getting inside each other?s heads, but only Show was the one who did it with actual wrestling. At this point, under the circumstances, I really don’t think that someone else carrying the belt into Wrestlemania would be too little time to build it. With Raw?s belt it would be, but not SD?s. Just look at last year; Eddy beat Brock a month after the Rumble, and still went on to a classic match with Kurt at WM. And that was when SD was still good. So I don’t think it?s necessarily a bad move, just that they’ll want JBL dropping the belt to be huge, and I don’t think that?s what they’re going for here.

Who should win: Kurt Angle

Who will win: JBL

Adam?s Bottom Line: There’s no other option than Cena at Wrestlemania, I think WWE has been fairly obvious with that choice.


Actual winner: JBL

Mark: This seemed a little rushed to me, like they were trying to get it out of the way as quick as possible. It was fairly formulaic, other than the barricade spot. I’m not so big on the idea of the barbed wire cage match, especially announcing it so early. But at the very least it gives each of the losers of the match something to do in the future; Big Show gets a title shot, Angle gets the mystery Rumble spot and then Michaels at Wrestlemania. Otherwise I wasn’t really all that impressed with this one. The big issue here for me is that despite both of the other two trying to carry him, and despite his character being really good, JBL just isn’t an entertaining wrestler. Certainly not good enough to justify what will probably end up being a 9-month title reign. In full HHH/JBL fashion, this was an overbooked title match with an interference-heavy ending. A little less than I expected out of it, considering 2/3 of the participants.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [40%’>

Adam: I have to agree with my other half on this one. This match started out terribly slow and just when it started to get good and entertaining, the match was over. It’s not that I don’t agree with the booking, because they pushed the hell out of the Big Show in that match, it’s just that it’s the Big Show. I like the guy, he’s got a lot of charisma and what not, but if you’ve seen one or two of his matches then you’ve seen them all. The match itself wasn’t all that spectacular and that crowd was hardly into it either. They only marked out for the broken barrier spot with another Holy Shit chant. Why I have no idea but I guess that’s the cool thing to do these days cause you’re swearing when you do it….WOW! Ain’t that something. Although for a moment reality was suspended for me when I thought that Angle might have a shot at winning the belt, for whatever reason that might have been, but then my dreams were easily shot down after JBL retained. Dammit, so close I suppose but now we’re on to Wrestlemania where JBL will be squaring off with John Cena, and I’ll be there for that show as well. WWE figures to keep the momentum this point into Wrestlemania where Cena’s victory will be huge.

Adam?s Entertainment Level: [45%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: It will be, and if you remember, last year Cena said he’d be main-eventing Wrestlemania. Looks like they had this plan far in advance.

World Heavyweight Title:

Triple H? vs. Randy Orton



Mark?s Interest Level: Poor Lost Randy. [65%’>

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of the big Orton-haters out there. I don’t hate his face turn because I really don’t think he?s changed his character all that much. Same mannerisms, same actions, same attitude. The problem is his direction. Of course, #1 contender is a great direction for anyone, but the fact is that they?ve basically ignored him in favor of other angles ever since he first won the title. He?s been an afterthought. Leading up to the Elimination Chamber, the only reason he was in it was because he had that whole ?no title shots while Trips is champion? thing going on, while the title was being decided between Benoit, Edge, and HHH. It was hard to get behind him as a major contender, or a face for that matter, when the writers really hadn’t given him much to do those past few months aside from alternating wrestling Batista and Flair week after week. Now, after the EC match, he?s taking a back seat to the intriguing Batista angle, which marks and smarks alike are eating up. So if he loses here, and Batista wins the Rumble, where does Orton go from here? I don’t think they’ll be doing another triple threat, so feuding with Cena for a cross-promotion match is the only thing I can see as likely, but I don’t know how they’d even begin it. If Orton actually wins here, well, let?s just say the prospects of Orton against any of the top picks of the Rumble isn’t going to put asses in seats.

Who should win: Triple H

Who will win: Triple H

Adam?s Interest Level: What happened to you Randy? [40%’>

It just seems like WWE just rushed through Orton’s character and pushed this way too hard down everyone’s throats. I wonder what will come of this though? Those are several questions I have to ask. Randy Orton in this position now almost sickens me because WWE obviously doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing. Even if they had nobody else to face HHH it shouldn’t have been Orton that is fed to him. At one point Orton/HHH was the money match at Wrestlemania and I was excited to watch that, but unlike HBK/Edge being in front of me right now, I really don’t have that much excitement for it. For one I know HHH is retaining, there is absolutely no question about it. Also, Orton’s face character is really meh. I’m not knocking the guy, that’s really not his fault since it’s the direction the writers put on him. But he’s simply lost in the shuffle from a bunch of wrestlers that could hold that position like Benoit or Jericho. Both of them could have a phenomenal match against HHH at Royal Rumble and I’d be more interested in it than I am Orton/HHH. Why? Because Randy Orton as a face blows. I have more interest in the Smackdown title match if that tells you anything. I think that match in the last week was booked a lot better than Orton’s feud with HHH this past month was. Sure he went over Ric Flair and Batista, but that’s Orton, he’s suppose to go over and be shoved down our throats like he was before. Until Orton returns to being the heel that everyone loves, I simply won’t care. Chances are it will be Orton vs. Flair at Wrestlemania, like it or not.

HHH has done wonderful work on the microphone, but despite all that, this match feels like it has taken a backseat to the eventual HHH/Batista feud that will culminate at Wrestlemania. I don’t like it when WWE does that, but it’s understandable because it’s the direction they’re headed. It’s unfortunate that it’s come at the expense of Randy Orton.

Who should win: HHH

Who will win: HHH

Mark?s Bottom Line: It could be worse. They could have Orton in a major program with Viscera.


Actual winner: HHH

Adam:

Alright, I know I went into this match acting less than excited, however I was impressed with how both men delivered. Randy’s concussed selling was done really well but the crowd was really behind HHH that night. There was one single person in the crowd on the floor who was able to rile up the crowd enough to cheer for HHH and boo Randy Orton with “Randy Sucks” chants as well. The crowd popped huge for The Game as well as I cheered too for him. I’m not sure if Orton was told to sell the concussed spot to gain sympathy from the crowd, but it didn’t really work. The ending seemed to take a really long time and it didn’t work out well in my eyes. That is to say this wasn’t a good to great match, which it was, but nothing special from either man. The clean finish was somewhat of a surprise as well which actually excited me even more because it doesn’t happen often that often in WWE anymore (although I’ve noticed on TV over the past few months more and more clean matches are occurring). Randy Orton now looks to be headed towards a feud with Christian at Wrestlemania which could turn into some awesome promos and some decent work to elevate both competitors. It will be fun to watch WWE over the next month to see how Wrestlemania will develop. After watching this match I can honestly say my entertainment level increased over my interest level, especially after the craptacular casket match from earlier in the evening.

Adam?s Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Mark: If there?s one thing I have always loved about Randy Orton since the beginning, it?s his selling. If he takes a big move, he’ll go totally dead-weight, land awkwardly in a way that nobody else ever lands, and it makes it look that much more real. He has the ?far away look in his eyes? down perfect, and he can slump over with the best of them. I’d go so far as to say his selling is on par with Michaels, but in a different way. Michaels makes it look like he?s feeling the pain of a gunshot. Orton makes it look like the gunshot outright killed him. I?ve never seen someone so talented at looking dead in the ring before. Why is that the main focus of my review? Because it?s most of what this match was about. Orton basically died for Triple H here, and not in a ‘legs getting cut out from under him? sort of way. It made him look like he could have done it, if only he hadn’t ?knocked something loose? from that missed DDT. Even though Trips went for the sledge, that clean finish is a rarity. The concussion seemed like a gimmicked way of making sure the non-interference rule would be in place, but I for one think it worked. I don’t think it?s too much of a stretch to say Orton?s going to be nowhere near the title picture at Wrestlemania. I don’t know where that leaves him though. But I know where it at least leaves Triple H, and that?s main eventing ?Mania once again.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [65%’>

Adam?s Bottom Line: HHH is dropping the belt to Batista at Wrestlemania, ’nuff said.

The Royal Rumble:

Raw Participants: Edge, Shelton Benjamin, Christian, Kane, Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit, Gene Snitsky, Simon Dean, Hurricane, Jonathan Coachman, Viscera, Batista, Muhammad Hassan, Ric Flair.

Smackdown Participants: Booker T, Charlie Haas, Luther Reigns, Mark Jindrak, Orlando Jordan, Scotty 2 Hotty, Daniel Puder, John Cena, Rey Mysterio, Eddy Guerrero, Kenzo Suzuki, Hardcore Holly, Rene Dupree, Paul London, ???



Mark?s Interest Level: Dy-no-mite. [100%’>

I always look forward to the Rumble match itself. It?s the gimmick match above and beyond all gimmick matches as far as I’m concerned. That mystery name up there in the Smackdown list is a big plus for me, because I love it when there?s a surprise entry. I hope it?s someone unexpected, but I have a hunch that it?s either going to be Regal or Tajiri in some kind of loophole, based on what happened on Raw. As for the rest, there are only two people I can possibly see winning this, and one is only a dark horse. It?s difficult to say something about all 30 men, so I’ll just forego that in favor of a few ‘definite maybes? in this match. Edge and HBK will tangle, as I said before. So will Kane and Snitsky. Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin will team up briefly, as WWE loves bringing up bits of old continuity in Rumble matches. Dan Puder will only be in for a few minutes. Mainstays like Jericho, Benoit, Guerrero, Mysterio, and Booker will be in for quite some time, all possibly making it to the final six, if not the final four. Cena and Batista will quite possibly be the last two. Flair will likely try to eliminate Batista. Viscera will be thrown out by everybody. Coach will be cannon fodder. They usually end up surprising me though, so don’t count on all (or any) of these necessarily being true.

One thing I think is interesting is that they didn’t make a big deal of who gets the #1 or #30 spots this year, which are usually big issues. As I said before, the two possible winners I can see are Batista and John Cena. Cena?s the dark horse winner though, as I believe No Way Out is a Smackdown PPV, so they’d need to delay the process for a month, and also because I don’t think a SD-headlined Wrestlemania would sell too well right now. Plus they?ve put far too much into this Batista angle to slow it down now unless Flair takes him out. I’m going with Batista all the way, and although I can think of several people who deserve it more, I won’t complain if he does.

Who should win: You want a Top 10 list?

Who will win: Batista

Adam?s Interest Level: It’s The Royal Freakin’ Rumble! [100%’>

Just like it says, I can’t wait for this match. This is the foundation that builds the rest of ’05. It’s the first of the big four PPVs of the year and basically gives the fans an idea of what’s in store for the rest of the year. Yes I am aware of who is going to win this Rumble, but does that mean it can’t be a fun event? Of course not! Just because the match is predictable doesn’t mean the road to Wrestlemania doesn’t begin here for others. We will see plenty of other feuds created through this match alone. The Royal Rumble has given life to so many storylines it’s unbelievable to think of the possibilites this Sunday. No matter how much everyone thinks they know, they don’t know everything. Heel/Face turns can be created in this match by itself as well. This match has drawing power simply because of what is possible with these wrestlers. Everyone puts on a show and everyone knows their role. Booker and Guerrero’s feud will be built from this match and I’m anxious to see how well Paul London does and how he is eliminated from the match (probably by Batista).

I agree that the #30 spot is usually coveted each year, but something tells me it’ll will be hoss-filled. Perhaps Viscera or someone along those lines, but really who knows. There’s always one person that is made at the Rumble that doesn’t win it but lasts a long time. I’m curious to see who WWE makes at this event, my guess will be Shelton Benjamin as he will enter 3rd or 4th and last probably until the last 5 or even final four. I don’t think HBK and Edge will last to the final four because they’ll eliminate each other. Batista will be winning this, I’m 95% confident on that much. But as far as the others? My pick would be Cena but nobody else has been built to win the Rumble so we shall see won’t we? I’ll be there live to witness all the madness and mayhem. But as far as the money match at Wrestlemania, you know it’s Batista/HHH and possibly vs. Orton with the triple threat…that’s the money shot!

Who should win: Batista

Who will win: Batista

Mark?s Bottom Line: The only problem I see is how they’d book a triple threat with the Rumble win?s stips being so clearly defined, so I wouldn’t be completely shocked if they went with Cena.


Actual winner: Batista

Adam: What can I say? This match delivered on so many moments. This Rumble was booked so that there truly was never a dull moment. The crowd was into the match throughout the entire hour and there were some great touches every so often. The vignettes with Eddy/Flair and Christian/Cena were great touches as well since we don’t usually see that RAW/Smackdown interaction often, and they also brought major hype to the event. It was also a great touch to see Eddy and Benoit starting things off and with Daniel Puder being made the big bitch. Also, the booking of Hassan getting his ass kicked by both Raw and Smackdown superstars drew him some immense heel heat. I also LOVED the spot where everyone starts fighting and each show aligns with one another, how cool was that? There were plenty of great moments with this Rumble and I was excited to see that Rey Mysterio was one of the last four competitors in the Rumble. Hell, even Paul London’s deathly selling was off the charts. What a freaking bump that was! Amazing! This match delivered and is definitely in the top 5 of greatest Royal Rumbles of all time.

Adam?s Entertainment Level: [100%’>

Mark: I will say that this match was consistently entertaining, and had a lot of great, memorable moments in it. Benoit and Guerrero to start was great, I thought it would?ve been awesome if they just teamed up to eliminate everyone, then waited for Jericho to come out, and have the three of them just kick ass on everyone (alas, it was not to be). Puder getting the holy hell beaten out of him is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, it was funny, and he probably deserved to get smacked around. On the other hand, this is where a million dollars went. The teaming up of the brands was a neat little twist, as was everyone hating Hassan (though I’ll address my grievances with this one at a later date). Angle and HBK had their little tiff, which I think needs to happen this year if it?s ever going to happen at all, so I don’t mind the HBK/Edge hiatus, if it is indeed a hiatus. I’m dismayed that London was eliminated by Snitsky of all people, but what a freakin? bump. Check that picture out below (remember, I have bandwidth leech protection, but feel free to download it and put it on your own webspace). And it appears as though Nunzio was the unannounced participant. Though to be fair to WWE, we had no reason to really justify a huge rumor mill because they didn’t make a big deal about the last slot either.

I thought it slowed down a little toward the end, and I wasn’t big on packing all the big men into the last 10 or so entries. I kind of wanted Batista to go through more people, for one thing, and the two favorites of Cena and Batista were both in the final 5 entries. I think that hurt the match a little, because while it does get over the idea of later entries having the advantage, it says nothing for guys who can stick it out for an entire hour. I think the ideal number for a Rumble winner needs to be somewhere in the teens at the very least. But as I suspected, they were very smart to narrow it down to Cena and Batista at the end, and keep the whole Raw vs. Smackdown thing going on throughout. Observer says that ending was botched, I’m sorry, I just don’t see it. I don’t care if Vince himself says it, that was a work. The only thing botched about it was Vince hurting his knee. This event wasn’t perfect, but it was very entertaining. Although I think last year?s was better, this year had few problems and had a few very memorable things about it.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [95%’>

Adam?s Bottom Line: I’m going to Wrestlemania along with Batista…go me!



Mark?s Overall Interest: 290 out of a possible 500, for a total of 58%.

Adam?s Overall Interest: 290 out of a possible 500, for a total of 58%.


Mark?s Overall Entertainment: 290 out of a possible 500, for a total of 58%.

Adam?s Overall Entertainment: 300 out of a possible 500, for a total of 60%.

Adam: I’m glad I decided to take the time to attend this event. The Royal Rumble is my second favorite PPV behind Wrestlemania and the Royal Rumble match itself is my favorite gimmick match because of all the feuds/angles and storylines developed from one single match and a lot took place that night. Batista is going toWrestlemania, HBK/Angle is on as well. Edge got the surprising victory over HBK and JBL was sent through a barricade thanks to Big Show. Not only that, but Vince McMahon blew out his knee! The circle is complete and it was truly a fulfilling night. I got my money’s worth, I know that and all signs point to Wrestlemania at this point.

Mark: Interesting grades here, Adam got a little more than he bargained for, and I got exactly what I was expecting, albeit in slightly different ways. Our averaged grade comes out to be 59%, which means the Rumble this year was not only a success, but will likely score high at the end of the year. But wouldn’t it be nice if at the end of the year, 59% was considered a low score? For the Bottom Line team, we’ll see you at Wrestlemania. Thanks to Adam for joining me in this endeavor, and now it?s fitting that we take him out Paul London style:

…And that?s the Bottom Line, ?cuz Mark and Adam said so.



No Way Out 2005

As for me though, I’m not done just yet. I didn’t think No Way Out quite deserved a full preview column, and I’m not going to give it one. I will, however, tell you what I think of each match briefly. I won’t be watching it tonight, and I freely admit my intentions of internet piracy later in the week to check this one out. The sad thing is, today is PPV day, and they have 5 matches signed, plus a pointless Diva contest. It boggles my mind why they HAVEN?T learned from the ratings yet. This shit just doesn’t work! Hence me not granting it a full preview. Winners are in bold:

Rookie Diva 2005 Competition: Who gives a shit? Nobody knows who the hell Rochelle and Lauren are, because they just randomly show up in skanky outfits in backstage segments and that?s it, hence my naming of them ?Random Sluts, Inc.? Michelle has done jack except for stretch a couple times with RVD. Joy is going to win because they?ve actually done something with her, albeit not much. T&A segments work sometimes, but three of them? Please.

Speculated Match – Booker vs. HeiDenReich: ?Reich sitting on the floor amidst crumpled pieces of paper, and giggling to himself, was funnier than it had any right to be. But a segment like this really isn’t worth booking a PPV match over, and neither is Big Bad John, to be quite frank. I’ll go with Booker for the win here, in what will be an ugly, sloppy match that Booker won’t be able to carry.

Cruiserweight Title ? Funaki?, London, Spike, Chavo, Moore, Akio: It?s an elimination match, which means they could give it some time to brew. Due to Funaki?s win on the last Smackdown, I don’t see him retaining. I don’t know what they’re doing with Chavo, he flips between heel and face by the week it seems, and Spike and Moore are lost in the shuffle. No, the real feud coming out of this one has to be London and Akio, who are consistently putting on some of the best Smackdown brand matches in their Velocity series. I want Akio vs. London in a Wrestlemania match, and I want it now. I’ll go with Akio for the win here, as they?ve actually been sort of pushing him.

Undertaker vs. Reigns: Luther ain’t ?fraid of no ghost. I’d totally mark out if Luther came out to the Ghostbusters theme for this match. Ray Parker Jr. probably needs the royalty money. I actually like how this has been going. It?s a pretty perfunctory feud, just based on Angle wanting to get the bye in the tournament, but it somehow works with Luther?s promos, and I really like someone finally saying Taker?s relied on intimidation through his career. I seriously doubt Luther will be put over Taker, simply because…well, WWE just doesn’t work that way.

Tag Team Titles ? Bashams? vs. Rey/Eddy: Seems like all this is set up to do is pit Rey and Eddy against each other for ?Mania. This will help get the Bashams over as credible champions, and what comes out of it will likely be a great addition to the WM card. Not much to say about this one because it?s only been promoted for 3 days, but I’m glad Rey at least got the mic to promote the history between Rey and the Bashams, who took out RVD and gave Rey some actual motivation for the feud, short as it has been.

Tournament Final ? Cena vs. Angle: I wish they’d do this more often, make the #1 contender slot a huge deal. That way the title seems more important. I’m a little worried about the US title around Cena?s waist, because it?s been highly neglected (other than the addition of ?spinnaz?), and I have a feeling that it’ll just be declared vacant. But who else isn’t going to look ridiculous with a turntable belt around their waist? OJ? I do like that the US champ is at this level though, because they haven’t brought a secondary belt to that level since Hogan/Warrior. But if he?s not making a big deal about it, it?s not important, and is simply a John Cena accessory. Enough about the US title though, this has really only heated up in the past couple weeks, but Angle and Cena have gotten the job done in the ring before (No Mercy ?03), and the recent promo referencing history was awesome. Make no mistake though, Cena is walking out with the victory, possibly with Shawn Michaels showing up to clinch it.

WWE Title, Barbed Wire Cage ? JBL? vs. Big Show: I say again, they totally ripped off my ?No Escape? idea. But hey, if WWE wants to rip off an e-fed, we’re making progress, aren’t we? What bothers me here is that they recently promoted this as ?escape? being one of the viable ways to win this match, despite there being razor wire lining the cage. All this means is that JBL?s Cabinet, and/or the involvement of Batista on the show, will somehow cause a section of wire to be cleared from the cage, allowing JBL to get out. He?s too weak a champion to be able to pin Show or make him tap, and while I’m confident both guys will probably blade like hell, you know Show?s not taking the belt this close to ?Mania. Where that leaves him I have no idea, but pairing him with a tag team to take on the Cabinet might not be a bad idea. JBL will somehow squeak by and go on to lose to Cena, and I roll my eyes with the predictability of it all.

Okay, so it?s not that bad of a card, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in it at all. But it just seems like everyone?s mindset is Wrestlemania, and this is simply an obstacle in the way to set it all up. To get people to really notice it, they needed to make this one special, and sorry to say a few strands of razor wire don’t do that for me, especially when some Diva competition is promoted just as much, to the point where they’ll interrupt other matches to put it over. This might score low, but it probably won’t be one of the worst of the year.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #167: Royal Rumble 2005 – Point [Bottom Line #6]

Mark: The Royal Rumble comes at the end of January, but for WWE, the end of the first month just isn’t enough. Nope, we’re already on our second PPV of the year. The Rumble used to be my second favorite PPV of the year. Survivor Series used to be my first when it was in its original format, but now the Rumble?s taken over as my favorite. Anything else could happen on the card, but the Rumble match itself just rules. Always has. Even if you don’t like the winner, I defy you to find a more entertaining gimmick match. That?s fortunate, because I don’t really care a whole lot about the other matches.

This time around, my usual partner Lauren C. had to skip out, because she?s on the run from the law, or something. No, actually she?s busy with that wacky thing called a ?personal life? that some of us have, and others have only dreamed of. She?s a working woman though, so we’ll forgive her just this once. She’ll be back for Wrestlemania. Volunteering to fill the gaping pit of despair left in all of our hearts by Lauren?s absence, is Adam Payne, writer of the various ?House of Payne? and ?Quality Control? columns you may have seen kicking around the ol? Oratory waterin? hole. Adam-san!

Adam: Muchos Gracias, Mark-san! I appreciate the opportunity immensely to fill the void left by Lauren, but I’ll obviously never be able to replace her, I don’t have boobies! Enough already, I kid. Anyway, the Royal Rumble is my second-favorite PPV of the year behind Wrestlemania obviously but I have a special place in my heart for this show for two reasons. One, I’ve already attended a Royal Rumble (Oh Snap!) and I’ll be attending this year’s as well! How do you like them apples eh? Enough said really, the Royal Rumble itself if the most unique match with so many wrestlers involved at once it’s the building block to Wrestlemania and the rest of the WWE for ’05, and I can’t wait for it.

Mark: Maybe you DO have boobies, and that?s why I let you aboard. Anyway, Adam has chosen Smackdown to preview first, while I am taking Raw. What that means is, on Raw matches, I’ll preview first, he’ll react to my previews, then I’ll get in the last word, the ?Bottom Line?. For Smackdown matches, it goes the other way around. At the beginning of each preview, we give you our level of interest going into each individual match, tell you what we think, then tell you who we think deserves the win (12 year old virgins on mom?s computer internerd booking), and then who probably will win (real life WWE hates us and loves huge slow men booking). Sometimes, these are the same prediction, sometimes they’re different. Raw matches will be in red, Smackdown in blue, and the Rumble, being a joint brand match, will be in black.

Now, let?s get this one out of the way first…

Casket Match:

Undertaker vs. Heidenreich

Adam?s Interest Level: I like some trainwrecks…[10%’>

Now, if I were watching this from my own home, my interest level would probably be absolutely zero, but since I’m going to be there in person, I won’t have to deal with Cole and Tazz attempting to put this catastrophe over before my very eyes and ears. Nope, I’ll get to see it first-hand and as said before, I enjoy these kinds of clusterfucks just for the sheer fact that when something as atrocious as this occurs, you have to look! I figured this feud would have been over awhile ago and Heidenreich would have been either released from WWE or sent back down to OVW where he can actually learn to wrestle. But we all know where this is going to end up, because for some reason Undertaker hardly ever wins his own gimmick match, Heidenreich will find a way to win, possibly with the help of one Gene Snitsky (since he’s afraid of caskets) and that will ignite the feud of Undertaker and Kane vs. Snitsky and Heidenreich that everyone wants to see at Wrestlemania, I know I do! Apparently one trainwreck is simply not enough! Of course this feud should have never happened but of course it’s hosstastic so what other direction is there really to go?

Who should win: Undertaker

Who will win: Heidenreich

Mark?s Interest Level: ?Reich is the new Kamala. [0%’>

I’m almost surprised they didn’t show Undertaker building a ?special coffin? to put Heidenreich in for this match, but then, ?Reich doesn’t have a moon and stars painted on his torso (maybe he should look into that). The angle?s been set up much the same way as the Kamala feud years upon years ago Here we have a raving lunatic who isn’t all that much different from everybody?s favorite savage from the deep jungles of Africa, except that he writes poetry instead of rambles on in gibberish. Well, same effect in the end, I guess. Either way we?ve got him running through the crowd to escape because he?s afraid of the casket. In other words, this is like nearly every casket match feud ever, especially when it?s someone who?s not even as good in the ring as Taker. To hype it up, a casket is wheeled down by either Paul Bearer or druids, or druid Paul Bearers, the opponent inches toward it, opens the lid, and hey, surprise! Undertaker?s already in it! This time around though, they had the added effect of ?Reich foaming at the mouth, and the ?OMG he?s already IN the casket!? scene, which in other words, means ?pre-taped segment?. You may enjoy the trainwreck Mr. Payne, but I’ll only enjoy it if the crowd starts doing the Wave like they did for JBL/Taker. But I agree with Snitsky interfering, because somehow this is going to continue. I just hope they go with my idea of ?killing? both Snitsky and ?Reich at WM, and getting away with it because they’re the Brothers of Destruction.

Who should win: Undertaker

Who will win: Hei-Den-Reich!

Adam?s Bottom Line: Come on Mark, trainwrecks are fun! Maybe I’ll start that wave for you.

Shawn Michaels vs. Edge

Mark?s Interest Level: Could be better. [75%’>

I say I have a slight lack of interest in this, not because I think it’ll be bad, and not because the angle isn’t interesting, but because they’re also both in the Rumble. I don’t care who you are, be it Michaels, or…well, Edge in this case, nobody gives 100% in both matches they’re in when they wrestle twice, and you know they’re going to have an additional confrontation in the Rumble itself. They could very well prove me wrong here, but as long as this match is part of the undercard, they’re going to save a little bit for later, plus you know there?s very little chance of one of them snapping on the other and destroying him or something, and that loses a little bit of unpredictability. I think this feud is coming along very nicely, and if they do the rumored Michaels/Angle dream match at WM, there?s no reason this feud can’t pick right back up where it left off and end at Backlash or something. I just think this one?s going to go a little on the conservative side. No gigantic rest-of-the-night-off bumps, no crimson mask blade job, just a safe match that?s probably going to see the loser costing his opponent the Rumble match later in the night. For that reason I’m going with Michaels, even though Edge needs it more.

Who should win: Edge

Who will win: Shawn Michaels

Adam?s Interest Level: I’m foaming at the mouth…[90%’>

This is the hot stuff right here. This is what I’m talking about. Everyone believed this match would take place at Wrestlemania, the biggest stage of them all since that appeared to be the direction WWE was taking, but they’ve blown the lid off this one and are letting it take place this Sunday. I have to disagree with my counterpart here in that Edge and Shawn Michaels will not faulter, nor will they in the Royal Rumble either. It was in 1998 when The Rock and Ken Shamrock wrestled for the Intercontinental Title and both men were a part of the Rumble match itself. The Rock entered at #4 and was the last person eliminated and put on quite a performance that night. Not only that, but with a lot of people in the ring at Royal Rumble, both Edge and Michaels can easily be protected with rest-holds and what not. The only question is what will happen in the match itself. Part of me wants to really say that Edge will go over in this match, but another part of me says logic would suggest HBK will win and Edge will screw Shawn out of the Rumble match. The build to this match has been awesome and you don’t see this sort of thing happen often in WWE. This will truly be a match to remember, whether it be the only match between the two (somehow I doubt it) or not, both men are on a roll as of late and will certainly deliver.

Who should win: Edge

Who will win: Shawn Michaels

Mark?s Bottom Line: You use Rock/Shamrock ?98 as an example, I use Lesnar/Show ?03. Brock won the Rumble afterward, but the 1-on-1 match suffered.

WWE Heavyweight Title:

JBL? vs. Kurt Angle vs. Big Show

Adam?s Interest Level: Angle’s in the match at least…[50%’>

Alright, I have to say that this past Smackdown really got me excited for a match that involved nothing but Diva’s feuding rather than wrestlers. It reminded me of Stephanie practically feuding with HHH en route to Wrestlemania X8. But that’s not the case here as this match will deliver somewhat. The outcome is fairly obvious as JBL has no reason to drop the title at this event here. It doesn’t make sense for Angle or Big Show to win the title at Royal Rumble. I believe it’s a bad move to drop the title at Royal Rumble only because then there’s little build for a strong champion if the belt is to be dropped again at Wrestlemania. So why not just keep the belt on JBL for the time being. Workrate obviously isn’t JBL’s strongest trait and his micwork won’t be able to save him here. I’m more curious to see everyone’s roles after this match and the post-work from everyone. If JBL does drop the title at Royal Rumble I will genuinely be surprised, but I’m not keeping my hopes up. My number one question is that if JBL is suppose to feud with Cena at Mania, Angle will wrestle HBK, who will Big Show go after? What is the money match? I guess we’ll have to wait and find out now won’t we?

Who should win: JBL

Who will win: JBL

Mark?s Interest Level: Mix 75% Angle, 75% Show, 0% JBL. Stir. [50%’>

If JBL drops the belt here, it?s going to be a dead giveaway that someone from Smackdown isn’t winning later in the night. But then, they’d kind of already expended their interest in this belt after Armageddon. Last year you had JBL screwing 3 people out of their title shots HHH-style in individual matches: Booker T, Undertaker, and Eddy Guerrero. At Armageddon they all went up against him, and the time seemed right for a major face victory to close out the year, to add some momentum into Wrestlemania. Now all three of those contenders who should be fighting over the title are doing…pretty much nothing, and we?ve got a feud over kidnapping women and catfighting valets to boost the title picture. Such is the problem with Smackdown. I’m glad the month was spent with the 3 of them getting inside each other?s heads, but only Show was the one who did it with actual wrestling. At this point, under the circumstances, I really don’t think that someone else carrying the belt into Wrestlemania would be too little time to build it. With Raw?s belt it would be, but not SD?s. Just look at last year; Eddy beat Brock a month after the Rumble, and still went on to a classic match with Kurt at WM. And that was when SD was still good. So I don’t think it?s necessarily a bad move, just that they’ll want JBL dropping the belt to be huge, and I don’t think that?s what they’re going for here.

Who should win: Kurt Angle

Who will win: JBL

Adam?s Bottom Line: There’s no other option than Cena at Wrestlemania, I think WWE has been fairly obvious with that choice.

World Heavyweight Title:

Triple H? vs. Randy Orton

Mark?s Interest Level: Poor Lost Randy. [65%’>

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of the big Orton-haters out there. I don’t hate his face turn because I really don’t think he?s changed his character all that much. Same mannerisms, same actions, same attitude. The problem is his direction. Of course, #1 contender is a great direction for anyone, but the fact is that they?ve basically ignored him in favor of other angles ever since he first won the title. He?s been an afterthought. Leading up to the Elimination Chamber, the only reason he was in it was because he had that whole ?no title shots while Trips is champion? thing going on, while the title was being decided between Benoit, Edge, and HHH. It was hard to get behind him as a major contender, or a face for that matter, when the writers really hadn’t given him much to do those past few months aside from alternating wrestling Batista and Flair week after week. Now, after the EC match, he?s taking a back seat to the intriguing Batista angle, which marks and smarks alike are eating up. So if he loses here, and Batista wins the Rumble, where does Orton go from here? I don’t think they’ll be doing another triple threat, so feuding with Cena for a cross-promotion match is the only thing I can see as likely, but I don’t know how they’d even begin it. If Orton actually wins here, well, let?s just say the prospects of Orton against any of the top picks of the Rumble isn’t going to put asses in seats.

Who should win: Triple H

Who will win: Triple H

Adam?s Interest Level: What happened to you Randy? [40%’>

It just seems like WWE just rushed through Orton’s character and pushed this way too hard down everyone’s throats. I wonder what will come of this though? Those are several questions I have to ask. Randy Orton in this position now almost sickens me because WWE obviously doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing. Even if they had nobody else to face HHH it shouldn’t have been Orton that is fed to him. At one point Orton/HHH was the money match at Wrestlemania and I was excited to watch that, but unlike HBK/Edge being in front of me right now, I really don’t have that much excitement for it. For one I know HHH is retaining, there is absolutely no question about it. Also, Orton’s face character is really meh. I’m not knocking the guy, that’s really not his fault since it’s the direction the writers put on him. But he’s simply lost in the shuffle from a bunch of wrestlers that could hold that position like Benoit or Jericho. Both of them could have a phenomenal match against HHH at Royal Rumble and I’d be more interested in it than I am Orton/HHH. Why? Because Randy Orton as a face blows. I have more interest in the Smackdown title match if that tells you anything. I think that match in the last week was booked a lot better than Orton’s feud with HHH this past month was. Sure he went over Ric Flair and Batista, but that’s Orton, he’s suppose to go over and be shoved down our throats like he was before. Until Orton returns to being the heel that everyone loves, I simply won’t care. Chances are it will be Orton vs. Flair at Wrestlemania, like it or not.

HHH has done wonderful work on the microphone, but despite all that, this match feels like it has taken a backseat to the eventual HHH/Batista feud that will culminate at Wrestlemania. I don’t like it when WWE does that, but it’s understandable because it’s the direction they’re headed. It’s unfortunate that it’s come at the expense of Randy Orton.

Who should win: HHH

Who will win: HHH

Mark?s Bottom Line: It could be worse. They could have Orton in a major program with Viscera.

The Royal Rumble:

Raw Participants: Edge, Shelton Benjamin, Christian, Kane, Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit, Gene Snitsky, Simon Dean, Hurricane, Jonathan Coachman, Viscera, Batista, Muhammad Hassan, Ric Flair.

Smackdown Participants: Booker T, Charlie Haas, Luther Reigns, Mark Jindrak, Orlando Jordan, Scotty 2 Hotty, Daniel Puder, John Cena, Rey Mysterio, Eddy Guerrero, Kenzo Suzuki, Hardcore Holly, Rene Dupree, Paul London, ???

Mark?s Interest Level: Dy-no-mite. [100%’>

I always look forward to the Rumble match itself. It?s the gimmick match above and beyond all gimmick matches as far as I’m concerned. That mystery name up there in the Smackdown list is a big plus for me, because I love it when there?s a surprise entry. I hope it?s someone unexpected, but I have a hunch that it?s either going to be Regal or Tajiri in some kind of loophole, based on what happened on Raw. As for the rest, there are only two people I can possibly see winning this, and one is only a dark horse. It?s difficult to say something about all 30 men, so I’ll just forego that in favor of a few ‘definite maybes? in this match. Edge and HBK will tangle, as I said before. So will Kane and Snitsky. Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin will team up briefly, as WWE loves bringing up bits of old continuity in Rumble matches. Dan Puder will only be in for a few minutes. Mainstays like Jericho, Benoit, Guerrero, Mysterio, and Booker will be in for quite some time, all possibly making it to the final six, if not the final four. Cena and Batista will quite possibly be the last two. Flair will likely try to eliminate Batista. Viscera will be thrown out by everybody. Coach will be cannon fodder. They usually end up surprising me though, so don’t count on all (or any) of these necessarily being true.

One thing I think is interesting is that they didn’t make a big deal of who gets the #1 or #30 spots this year, which are usually big issues. As I said before, the two possible winners I can see are Batista and John Cena. Cena?s the dark horse winner though, as I believe No Way Out is a Smackdown PPV, so they’d need to delay the process for a month, and also because I don’t think a SD-headlined Wrestlemania would sell too well right now. Plus they?ve put far too much into this Batista angle to slow it down now unless Flair takes him out. I’m going with Batista all the way, and although I can think of several people who deserve it more, I won’t complain if he does.

Who should win: You want a Top 10 list?

Who will win: Batista

Adam?s Interest Level: It’s The Royal Freakin’ Rumble! [100%’>

Just like it says, I can’t wait for this match. This is the foundation that builds the rest of ’05. It’s the first of the big four PPVs of the year and basically gives the fans an idea of what’s in store for the rest of the year. Yes I am aware of who is going to win this Rumble, but does that mean it can’t be a fun event? Of course not! Just because the match is predictable doesn’t mean the road to Wrestlemania doesn’t begin here for others. We will see plenty of other feuds created through this match alone. The Royal Rumble has given life to so many storylines it’s unbelievable to think of the possibilites this Sunday. No matter how much everyone thinks they know, they don’t know everything. Heel/Face turns can be created in this match by itself as well. This match has drawing power simply because of what is possible with these wrestlers. Everyone puts on a show and everyone knows their role. Booker and Guerrero’s feud will be built from this match and I’m anxious to see how well Paul London does and how he is eliminated from the match (probably by Batista).

I agree that the #30 spot is usually coveted each year, but something tells me it’ll will be hoss-filled. Perhaps Viscera or someone along those lines, but really who knows. There’s always one person that is made at the Rumble that doesn’t win it but lasts a long time. I’m curious to see who WWE makes at this event, my guess will be Shelton Benjamin as he will enter 3rd or 4th and last probably until the last 5 or even final four. I don’t think HBK and Edge will last to the final four because they’ll eliminate each other. Batista will be winning this, I’m 95% confident on that much. But as far as the others? My pick would be Cena but nobody else has been built to win the Rumble so we shall see won’t we? I’ll be there live to witness all the madness and mayhem. But as far as the money match at Wrestlemania, you know it’s Batista/HHH and possibly vs. Orton with the triple threat…that’s the money shot!

Who should win: Batista

Who will win: Batista

Mark?s Bottom Line: The only problem I see is how they’d book a triple threat with the Rumble win?s stips being so clearly defined, so I wouldn’t be completely shocked if they went with Cena.

Mark?s Overall Interest: 290 out of a possible 500, for a total of 58%.

Adam?s Overall Interest: 290 out of a possible 500, for a total of 58%

Mark: Well now isn’t that interesting… Same total of interest, same predictions, but I thought we actually tended to disagree on a lot of things, such as the setup of how and why things are going to happen in each match I imagine the Counterpoint is going to be a bit more diverse, because we’ll be getting my PPV reactions vs. your live experience reactions. Have fun, and drink a beer for me.

Adam: Well I would if I were 21. I have to wait about 5 more months before I can down a cold one, but until then I’ll be slamming some coca cola, does that sound alright? I know it doesn’t. Yes we agree on who’s going to win but we might not agree with the booking at all, but that’s life ain’t it? Either way it’s going to be a great time seeing this show live and knowing what I’ll be expecting at Wrestlemania, cause I’ll be there too. I know, woe is me!

…And that?s the Bottom Line, ?cuz Mark and Adam said so.

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A Mark’s View: #166: The 5th Annual ‘Year in Pay Per ReView’

2004 is gone, and good riddance. Much like WWE?s programming, 2004 had a few high notes, but plenty of crushing lows for me. On the bad side, I lost a friend to diabetes in April, Bush got re-elected for some strange reason, and I got laid off from a job I loved due to loss of government funding grants. On the plus side, I am seven months into a wonderful relationship, we traveled to California, and I saw the west coast for the first time in my life and loved it. Great country out dere. Wrestling-wise, it was the year that Chris Benoit and Eddy Guerrero celebrated title victories. Unfortunately it was also the year that Bradshaw celebrated his, and continues to. 2004 was the year we learned that ‘less is more?, because with the sheer number of PPVs, buyrates went down and most of us stopped caring about having a brand-exclusive one every two weeks toward the middle of the year. On a personal wrestling note, I also happened to briefly meet Eric Bischoff on a street corner in Santa Monica while waiting for a bus, and met Earl Hebner after a Smackdown event which I got free tickets to. Where 2003 seemed incredibly long to me, 2004 rushed by quickly. Here?s to hoping 2005 is a better year for all of us.

This year marks the first time that I?ve been able to go through a complete column using my percentage grades throughout the year to put things in order more properly. Before that, this column was hard as hell to write, because I had to think hard about which ones I liked better. This year, my planning ahead does the job for me. But just think, and marvel at how this concept works. Every single match from last year is taken into account, because each one contributed to the total for its respective PPV, and in turn its order in the list. A few different points here and there in the quality of a single match could?ve meant the difference between a PPV placing ahead or behind another. Can you think of any other review that gets that specific, and makes every match count? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Regarding a few of the percentages, my ?Big 4? partner Lauren C. will affect some of these grades, as I will be averaging the two of our Overall Entertainment percentages from the ones we reviewed together. Now, for a little recap, in which I’m copying and pasting what I wrote last year for the most part:

2000?s grades ranged from C- to A+, with Summerslam taking the top slot.

2001?s grades also ranged from C- to A+, this time with Wrestlemania at the top.

2002 yielded grades from D to A, with Wrestlemania again taking the lead.

2003 had the biggest range yet of F to A, with Wrestlemania on a three year streak.

That?s right, in addition to my percentages, I’m also doing this by letter grade. Not like the letter grades you get in school where a 95+ is an A+ and anything below 60 is an F or whatever they’re doing now. I’m grading on a curve, meaning a PPV can still receive an A even if it wasn’t perfect, and F?s are usually reserved for things way at the bottom of the grading spectrum. The reason for this is because I use ?entertainment? as a gauge, and so if something is 50% entertaining, it receives a satisfactory grade in the C +/- range. Anything more than 50 is above, anything less is below. To give you a better idea, here?s what my grades mean:

A+: Awesome! Thoroughly entertaining, nothing bad or pointless.

A: Excellent. Not spectacular, but one of the high points of the year.

A-: Great. Solid and fun, but a few minor problems.

B+: Very Good. A little weak at some points, but overall positive.

B: Good, But possibly a weak or underhyped card.

B-: Pretty Good. A few glaring problems, but more good than bad.

C+: Above Average, but nothing really standing out.

C: Mediocre. As much good as bad, or largely forgettable.

C-: Below Average. Slightly more on the minus side than the plus.

D: Bad. Only one or a few good things saved it from being a total flop.

F: Sucked. Anything good was soured by the rest of it.

Raw exclusives will be in a raging, fiery red. Smackdown exclusives will be in a calm, soothing blue. Joint PPVs will be in good old solid black. And now, the worst WWE Pay Per View of the year is…

#14: Great American Bash

Review Rating: [19%’> A card so bad that I didn’t even give it a full Point/Counterpoint column, just a short review. The theme for June?s Smackdown PPV was bandwagon ?America, fuck yeah? patriotism, something that?s never sat too well with me in the first place. The undercard opened with a decent match in a US title Fatal Fourway involving John Cena, Booker T, Rene Dupree, and Rob Van Dam. Oddly enough the feuds that came from this actually lasted much of the rest of the year. Elsewhere on the card was an underpromoted match between Chavo Guerrero and Rey Mysterio, which stands easily as the best Cruiserweight match of the year. Absolutely solid, given around 20 minutes, and would?ve gotten 100% from me if only they had given any feud time to it. If there?s ONE reason to watch GAB, that?s it. The reasons not to watch it? The tacked-on ring debut of Kenzo Suzuki, and the feudless gimmick Mediocre…ahem, Mordecai, as they took on Billy Gunn and Hardcore Holly respectively in bad squash matches designed to make them look good. Add to that a relatively uninteresting but fairly solid debut (yes, another tacked-on match) of Luther Reigns against Charlie Haas, and an awful Sable vs. Torrie match, and you?ve got one of the most unimpressive undercards of the year.

The Heavyweight title match was a ridiculous bullrope match between Eddy Guerrero and the recently-transformed JBL. The object wasn’t a pinfall, because JBL had been booked as a weak champion from the start, it was to touch the 4 corner turnbuckles in succession. They couldn’t even do that fairly either, as JBL won on a technicality. In a title match. Read through that again. JBL won the title from Eddy Guerrero. In a bullrope match. On a technicality. If that wasn’t a setup for a failure I don’t know what is. The ‘main event? wasn’t even a main event, it was an even more ridiculous segment where Undertaker was supposed to lie down for the Dudley Boys, but instead fought back. When Paul Heyman threatened him, Taker cast Lightning Bolt +3 to the cement mixer, then for some reason drowned Paul Bearer in cement himself. A terrible undercard save for one great match and one decent one, and two awful main events with hilariously bad consequences, make Great American Bash deserve every bit of its lowest position.

Highlights: Chavo Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio, in the Cruiserweight MOTY.

PPV Grade: F

#13: Armageddon

Review Rating: [20%’> The freshest in our minds, Armageddon in mid-December came dangerously close to being the worst of the year, with GAB beating it only by one point. The undercard was only slightly stronger. There was only one match tacked onto the card at the last minute, being the Bashams vs. Holly & Haas, and it was nothing special. The rest of the matches were well-established in feuds, but they were feuds nobody cared about that resulted in poor matches for the most part. The only match I’d really call ?good? (nothing reached 50% in my ratings) was Spike vs. Funaki, where the perennial jobber Funaki finally got his comeuppance and won the Cruiserweight title. Mysterio & RVD against Dupree & Kenzo would?ve been a lot more interesting, had they not decided to throw the belts on Rey & Rob only 3 days before the PPV, after having chased them for a good couple of months. The Tough Enough boxing match was a little better than I expected, but not something I’d have particularly tuned in to see. Elsewhere we had the uninteresting matches of Jackie vs. Dawn which I presume was supposed to turn Charlie Haas heel but didn’t, Big Show taking on Angle, Reigns, and Jindrak in a 3-on-1 handicap, and a total dud Cena vs. Jesus street fight.

In the main event, JBL was protected once again after The Title Reign That Should Not Be? went on far longer than anyone expected, by having his shortcomings covered up by several people being in a match at once. As the only logical reason for JBL retaining could possibly be, Booker and Eddy did all the work, Taker no-sold everyone?s finishers, and then JBL came in at the last second and pinned someone while Taker was temporarily out of the action. The only real difference between this and GAB is that they did a good job of promoting most of the feuds. Unfortunately they couldn’t deliver on the matches themselves.

Highlights: Funaki winning the Cruiserweight title.

PPV Grade: F

#12: Judgment Day

Review Rating: [21%’> These bottom ones sure are close, and yes that is a complete coincidence. I was surprised how closely these three bad Smackdown-exclusive PPVs ranked in relation to each other when tallying up the scores for this column. Judgment Day has rated pretty low over the past few years of this column, and May 2004?s edition was no exception. The high point of the card was the opener that really got the crowd going, in a tag match between the Dudleys and the then-makeshift team that would later become a real one, Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam. Aside from that, there wasn’t much to it. Nothing else on the card got over 50% from me. Dawn and Torrie fought for no reason again, with the only notable part being most of Dawn Marie?s ass exposed. I nearly gave Mordecai the benefit of the doubt in his debut match against Scotty 2 Hotty, who I guess was ?sinning? somehow. Rico & Haas retained against Team Awful, Gunn & Holly. The Cruiserweight title was wallowing in shit at this point as Chavo took on Jacqueline. Cena and Dupree showed that they both look extremely green when pitted against someone else who?s extremely green. Undertaker no-sold Booker T?s voodoo magic dust and squashed him anyway. Sound like I’m whipping through the card so I don’t have to talk in detail about it? I am.

The main event was Eddy Guerrero in a successful title defense against JBL, via DQ. The story wasn’t in the match at all. The story was in Eddy Guerrero?s insane blade job, in which if I remember right, put him in the hospital due to the blood loss. Seriously, there was blood everywhere around the ring that night. What?s sad is that was the only way Eddy could have made JBL look good or effective. The match itself was nothing special. Eddy?s motivation was waning at this point, and JBL was embarking on the monster push from hell, and in the end the only good thing about it was a bloody mess.

Highlights: Eddy?s blade job, curtain jerker tag match, and me reading my Counterpoint and remembering I came up with the nickname ?Goober? for JBL, which beats ?Bucko? any day.

PPV Grade: F

#11: Summerslam

Review Rating: [35% averaged’> August?s offering of Summerslam was decidedly a leap in quality in this list, winning over Judgment Day by 14%, but being one of the big 4 of the year you’d think they’d try a little harder. Instead, low card matches that could?ve been good were given 5 minutes, higher profile matches that should?ve been great were given 10 minutes, and all the wrong ones were given too much time. The best part about this show was the Canadian crowd, who booed things that were promoted as ?good?, and cheered the ?bad?, or just did whatever the hell they wanted. Some hated that, I loved it. To open it up, all three Dudleys went up against Kidman, London, and Mysterio, but the match was so short it was largely forgettable. A great deal of angle segments were given to set up the Kane/Matt Hardy match to decide who would marry Lita, but that one only got six minutes. Booker and Cena started their now-meaningless Best of Five series, but that didn’t get much time either. Neither did the triple threat for the IC belt between Jericho, Edge, and Batista, which should?ve been far better than it was. What could?ve been an easy MOTYC between Kurt Angle and Eddy Guerrero was only 15 minutes, which was about half the time they should?ve gotten, and it sure felt like it. Oh, and the Divas played dodge ball against the Diva Search contestants.

In what was promoted to be a huge match, Triple H took out several weeks of frustration out on Eugene, but was cheered for it. The crowd at this point wasn’t buying Eugene at all, and it showed. I don’t think it was just a fickle Canadian crowd, either. Elsewhere, two title matches rounded out the card. First, Smackdown?s title with JBL vs. Undertaker, a match that even the live crowd didn’t want to see. This match was so boring that they started doing The Wave in the middle, and the end result was met with little to no reaction, as JBL retained by DQ (surprise!). The Raw half of the main event consisted of Benoit losing his title to Randy Orton cleanly, in a somewhat lackluster match, as Orton wasn’t quite ready, and neither was the feud, which only had Orton getting the shot due to winning a battle royal only a couple weeks previous. The theme for Summerslam, as Lauren and I agreed, seemed to be ?underwhelming?, as not a single match was as good as it should?ve been. But at least we got that commercial with Stacy and the balance beam.

Highlights: The crowd. Everything else was mostly disappointing.

PPV Grade: D

#10: Taboo Tuesday

Review Rating: [42%’> Raw went a little on the uncharacteristic side when they presented a Tuesday PPV rather than the usual Sunday in mid-October. I didn’t do my usual PPV column on this either, partially because I had just done a review column and wanted to write an opinion column instead, and partially because the format would?ve made it impossible. That said, I love the idea, and I hope it becomes a regular thing. Having the fans vote on the matches, although they tend to sway the voting with regular TV programming, is a great idea. But being that it was the first time they did it, it seemed they didn’t know quite what to do some of the time. My vote, Shelton Benjamin, was picked to wrestle in the IC title match against Jericho, and won it in a pretty good bout. Fans, myself included, chose schoolgirl outfits for the Women?s battle royal, and while I’m usually not into blatant T&A matches, I have to admit it worked for me here. In a steel chain match, something I also voted for, Gene Snitsky put Kane out of action in a bad match with a worse, drawn-out aftermath. Eric Bischoff took on Eugene and lost his hair as a result, opting to go back to grey. Since I voted for Benoit in the main event, that made my picks for the tag belts Edge & HBK, but instead Chris Benoit won the tag belts from La Resistance by himself when Edge walked out. Christy and Carmella had a pillow fight, with a far too long silhouetted undressing sequence beforehand. It wasn’t a good sign that two of the matches were non-wrestlers, and I still don’t understand why they put those on cards nowadays.

The absolute epitome of psychology in a match came about when a legitimately injured Shawn Michaels took on Triple H for the Heavyweight title. Michaels was in dire pain, and you could see it on his face. Though HBK is an amazing seller and always has been, it was hard to tell where the line blurred between work and shoot because of his participation. Edge cost him the belt, and it was little more than Triple H merely fending off Shawn?s attacks, but it was some of the most interesting storytelling I?ve seen in a match in ages, and I won’t forget HBK?s efforts in this one. Randy Orton then went on to fight Ric Flair in a cage match, which only went about 10 minutes, but wasn’t bad. A visual passing of the torch followed (though Trips should?ve been the one passing it) as an emotional Flair embraced Orton. What became of that turned out to be nothing though. So overall, good concept, fairly poor execution.

Highlights: Voting concept, Benjamin/Jericho, Orton/Flair, an insane show-stealing performance from Shawn Michaels.

PPV Grade: C-

#9: Survivor Series

Review Rating: [42.5% averaged’> The reason I have a decimal percentage here is that the grades between this PPV and the Royal Rumble would have been tied otherwise, and only if Survivor Series was rounded up. So I decided to recalculate my grades and found that both of them weren’t exactly at 43%. An age ago, November?s tradition of Survivor Series was my favorite, even more than the Rumble. Back when they had a card full of 4-man teams in elimination matches consisting of named teams. Lately they?ve only been doing one or two of these, so my interest has lessened. My problem with two of the matches, as I stated in my Counterpoint, was that Rey Mysterio was taken off of Eddy Guerrero?s team and put into the Cruiserweight Fatal Fourway so that John Cena could come back from filming his movie to feud with an injured Carlito Caribbean Cool. Spike retained his title, and nothing changed. Shelton retained his title against Christian in what I considered to be the best-wrestled match of the night (hence the Show Stealer award I gave it), though not the most entertaining as far as I was concerned. Lita got DQ’d against Trish for going nuts on her with a chair. Heidenreich fought Undertaker, and nobody cared, not even ?Reich and ?Taker.

The first of two classic Survivor matches, Smackdown?s end had Eddy, RVD, Show, and Cena going up against Angle, Reigns, Jindrak, and Carlito. Cena made short work of Carlito by chasing him off, and then the face team proceed to pretty much squash the other team, losing only RVD in the process. Smackdown also had a title match with an amount of interference to protect JBL that rivaled a Triple H title match. If you ever wondered why they gave JBL a stable, The Cabinet is solely to cover JBL?s ass in the ring. Raw?s end of the Survivor matches actually had a stipulation, with the winning team of Jericho, Benoit, Orton, and Maven each earning the right to control Raw for a week, beating out Trips, Big Dave, Edge, and Snitsky. The interesting part about this is that the angle coming out of this match is still in effect today. Imagine that, a Survivor match with long-term effects on the show. While this wasn’t exactly great, a few important things came of it, so it wasn’t all for naught.

Highlights: Shelton/Christian, Raw?s Survivor match, ?I like what you do to babies?.

PPV Grade: C-

#8: Royal Rumble

Review Rating: [43.3%’> In this year?s narrowest margin, January?s traditional Royal Rumble beat out Survivor Series by only eight-tenths of a point. A lot has changed between the two, yet they were nearly the same in overall quality. Yet this one had more in common with Summerslam, actually, as many of the heavily promoted matches were painfully short. To open, the then-Raw tag team of the Dudleys taking on Evolution in a short snoozer of a table match. Rey Mysterio put away Jamie Noble in only a 3 minute match. In what was supposed to be a huge culmination of a family feud, Eddy and Chavo Guerrero wrestled for less than 10 minutes.

I’m not sure which is worse, some of JBL?s title matches last year, or the ?comeback from injury? match with Bob Holly attempting revenge on the champion at the time, Brock Lesnar, who had legit dropped him on his head when Holly went deadweight to make Lesnar look bad months earlier. It seems Kidman?s push wasn’t the first reward for carelessness in the ring this past year, just the less forgettable one. The Michaels/HHH Last Man Standing match took the Rock/Mankind route, and ended in a draw when neither could answer the count of ten. Not one of their better encounters, but not bad as a whole. The real story was the titular Rumble event itself, which although predictable, was absolutely awesome. Good wrestlers got a lot of ring time, the huge ?unbeatable? guys were spaced well enough apart to make an impact, we got a Foley appearance, a great climax and ending, and Chris Benoit became the second man in history to go from #1 all the way to the win. Just thoroughly entertaining, and I hope they can repeat that kind of success this year. A very weak undercard hurt this show a lot, but the actual Rumble was excellent.

Highlights: Royal Rumble match.

PPV Grade: C-

#7: No Mercy

Review Rating: [44%’> Another very slight leap in quality, October?s edition of No Mercy came around the time the rumors said we’d be getting another WCW-named PPV a la Great American Bash, and that it would be named Halloween Havoc instead. Not so, says WWE, as they brought to us the same old, same old, both in name, and in quality. To my dismay, this opened up with Eddy Guerrero curtain jerking, not long after losing the title. Still, he put on a fairly good opener with Luther Reigns, who got the chance to show a few of his unique power moves. After that we were treated to a Cruiserweight title match which got a little time and effort, and actually let Nunzio carry the match as a challenger. It?s the first time I can recall that they?ve let Nunzio go out there and look really impressive. Following that was a match seemingly everyone wanted to see, as Paul London and Billy Kidman had their falling out match, which stole the show and kicked a lot of ass, though they unfortunately dropped it for the most part shortly afterward. Kenzo and Dupree retained the belts against Rey and Rob?s best efforts in a mediocre match, and then Kurt Angle and Big Show took on each other in what wasn’t a great match, but an entertaining and fun one, with a lot of psychology. The finals of the Best of Five series between Booker and Cena came next, with a rather uninspiring finish, with Cena taking the belt only to drop it to the rookie Carlito the next week. Rico, Charlie, and Jackie rounded out the midcard, taking on the Dudleys and Dawn, in a match that was about what you’d expect it to be.

While the undercard wasn’t half bad, the main event stunk to high heaven, and is what ends up putting this one where it is. JBL vs. Undertaker in a ?Last Ride Match? rated the lowest on the card for me. Between senseless brawling, being ungodly long, full of no-selling (JBL actually was up and fighting a few minutes after a murder-move Tombstone on the steps), and a crappy ending, this was possibly the worst excuse for a main event ever. As if it didn’t suck enough, they decided to stick Unfrozen Nazi Heidenreich in the hearse to pop out and cost Taker the match with a chloroform rag, reminiscent of Taker?s awful match with Giant Gonzales at Wrestlemania IX. It didn’t end there though, he also rammed a truck into the hearse in a scene straight out of a bad action movie. No Mercy had a good undercard, but the awful quality of the main event caused it to suffer.

Highlights: London/Kidman, Spike/Nunzio, Angle/Show.

PPV Grade: C

#6: Vengeance

Review Rating: [46%’> We’re getting down to the top five, and still no sign of a solid PPV yet. That should tell you something about the past year. July?s offering of Vengeance broke the streak of good Raw PPVs in 2004, but was still better than most of the Smackdown exclusives. It opened up with a randomly booked tag match, as Coach and Tajiri were having a little spat, and for their partners Coach picked Cade, while Tajiri picked Rhyno. Needless to say, ?Team ECW? won. It followed up with a slower paced encounter where Batista went over Chris Jericho, mostly to make Batista look more impressive. It worked, somewhat. The tag title match was a little more nonsensical, as the odd couple of Eugene and Ric Flair failed to defeat La Resistance, in what I believe is the first ever match booked from a Mr. Bouncety-Bounce. Halfway into the pregnancy angle with Lita, Matt Hardy took on Kane, and succeeded due to the fact that Kane never wins No DQ matches. In other news, Edge captured the Intercontinental title, ending Randy Orton?s long streak, and immortalizing the words ?I don’t like you? in the feud. The requisite Women?s match didn’t even involve a title, and simply threw Victoria and Molly into the mix for a short match that I don’t really remember anything about.

The real story leading up to this event was Evolution?s corruption of Eugene, hence the Flair/Eugene team earlier in the night. Triple H had tried to pretend he was Eugene?s friend, being his favorite wrestler and all, and Raw was in the midst of Too Much Eugene Syndrome. This came into play toward the end of the title match with Benoit defending against Triple H, as Eugene interfered and had to choose sides. He ended up doing neither, accidentally hitting Trips with a chair to make the decision for him. While the rest of the match was very good, the ending soured it a bit. Overall, there was nothing that totally sucked about Vengeance, but there was not much that really stood out either.

Highlights: Benoit/Triple H before the overbooked ending. Just pretend it ended with Trips tapping to the Crossface while the ref was knocked out.

PPV Grade: C+

#5: No Way Out

Review Rating: [50%’> The best and highest rated Smackdown exclusive PPV of 2004 was also the only one that didn’t have JBL in the title picture. Go figure. No, these were the days when Brock Lesnar was still on top of the show, before he decided to go suck at football. One interesting thing about the undercard in February?s PPV, other than being the last stop on the ?Road to Wrestlemania?, was that a few matches that were almost destined to suck actually turned out to be fun. The first of these was Rikishi and Scotty taking on the Bashams, who had the short-lived BDSM valet Shaniqua on their side. But it actually turned out to be a fairly solid tag match. The second came directly after, as Smackdown was in the midst of the ?blind Nidia? angle, and Jamie Noble took on Nidia. It wasn’t good by any means, but it was fairly entertaining for what it was. Tacked on was a last-minute booked APA vs. WGTT match came about, when Bradshaw was still Bradshaw, Faarooq wasn’t fired, Charlie Haas actually had something to do, and Shelton Benjamin wasn’t tearing up Raw. What a difference a few months made. Rhyno and Holly were having a mini-feud and had a match thrown on the card, but it didn’t add up to much as one can imagine.

The last three matches on the card were all very solid and had big feuds behind them. Rey and Chavo went at it for the Cruiserweight title, even before their big show-stealing GAB match, and each had someone in their corner; Chavo?s father, and boxer Jorge Paez. The rarely-seen #1 contender match fueled the title division later, as Kurt Angle predictably toppled both Big Show and John Cena. I remember enjoying this a lot because it put focus on the title without actually involving it. That?s rare nowadays and I wish they’d do it more. In the title match itself, Eddy Guerrero finally captured the title, beating Brock and making the internet all kinds of happy. I said back then it was an early candidate for MOTY, and I think it delivered on at least staying a contender. The only thing that really marred this to any degree was a somewhat weak undercard, but I feel it deserves its place in the top five.

Highlights: Rey/Chavo, Angle/Show/Cena, Lesnar/Eddy.

PPV Grade: B-

#4: Unforgiven

Review Rating: [53%’> For the most part, 2004 was a pretty good year for Raw, which you’ll see in the top 3. But fourth, comes September?s offering of Unforgiven. Kicking this one off was a HOT tag match between the team of Benoit and Regal against Evolution?s Flair and Batista. I hadn’t heard the Raw commentary team call a match this well in years, and it came off much better than anyone had expected. A little sputter in the overall quality of the show came in the next two matches, when an uninspired Women?s title match between Victoria and Trish gave way to Steven Richards?s ‘mystery woman? angle resulting in an utterly awful squash by Tyson Tomko while Richards was wearing women?s underwear. Things looked way, way up from there though, as the rest of the card delivered well on most accounts. While not the best ladder match ever, Jericho vs. Christian for the IC title was one of the more realistic ones I?ve ever seen, and we’re talking HBK-quality selling here. Speaking of Michaels, his return from his ?crushed throat? at the hands of Kane was fairly mediocre, but was another example of Kane falling to No DQ stipulations. Elsewhere, Tajiri & Rhyno should have won the tag titles after chasing them for a few months, but for whatever reason they never pulled that trigger, leaving me in confusion as to why.

Everyone seemed to complain when Triple H once again became champion by beating Randy Orton after only a one month reign, but as I said in my review, in a roundabout way it also put over Chris Benoit, as Triple H couldn’t take the belt off Benoit, but he could wait until someone else got it to get it back. That said, I liked the reason for the match, and the way it was booked, and I also wasn’t really buying Orton as a champion at that point, but once again it became an overbooked interference ending that was just unnecessary since we’d seen it so many times before. Unforgiven ended up as a show where the match quality was pretty good, but the booking was just off the wall in many cases.

Highlights: Benoit & Regal vs. Evolution, Jericho/Christian ladder match.

PPV Grade: B

#3: Wrestlemania

Review Rating: [54% averaged’> Wrestlemania XX in March broke the 3-year streak of wins in my columns. I know a lot of people will say this should be on top just because of the hype, and because of Benoit?s title win, but THE NUMBERS DO NOT LIE. Say what you will, but aside from a few matches, Wrestlemania actually had a pretty weak undercard, and in my columns, that makes a difference no matter how big the emotional moment at the end was. Jerking the curtain, and apparently something else too, was John Cena?s innuendo-laced rap just before toppling Big Show for the US title and carrying it for most of the year. Pretty good match from what I remember, but looking back it may not have aged well. Elsewhere on the card were two separate Fatal Fourway tag title matches that weren’t even elimination style, and seemed merely as excuses to get 16 guys on the ?Mania card. The goods were brought by Christian and Jericho, with the Trish heel turn capping that off, and the reunion of Rock & Sock taking on Evolution. The mediocre filled out the rest of the card, with the afore-mentioned tag matches, Brock/Goldberg getting booed out of the building, Taker?s return against Kane which of course didn’t break the streak, and a Molly/Victoria title match. The crap, on the other hand, was brought by a tag team Evening Gown match, and the utter waste of the entire Cruiserweight division in a short Gauntlet match.

The two title matches, however, were absolutely stellar, and I graded each a 100%. Eddy Guerrero took on Kurt Angle in a match that was pretty much everything you’d expect from those two. Of course, Benoit winning the Rumble and jumping to Raw made Smackdown?s title match seem secondary, or rather tertiary due to the Kane/Taker match taking place between them, but it?s no less of a peak in quality on the show, as Angle and Guerrero brought their best to the table. The big story, as everyone well knows, was Benoit finally winning the Heavyweight title, going over both Triple H and Shawn Michaels, and making Triple H tap cleanly, something we never thought we’d see. Afterward, Eddy Guerrero came out and hugged him, and I’ll admit I got choked up. I don’t remember ever being that emotionally invested in a match before. Still, Wrestlemania can have a habit of being a mixed bag, and aside from the title matches there wasn’t anything mind-blowing about this.

Highlights: Jericho/Christian, Angle/Guerrero, Benoit/Michaels/HHH, Benoit winning the title.

PPV Grade: B+

#2: Backlash

Review Rating: [65%’> As you can see, the top two PPVs of 2004 were far and away the best, according to my numbers. What what was already a good Wrestlemania, Backlash followed it up in April with an even better show, this time a Raw exclusive. What made this card simply better was that they gave the talent plenty of time, and kept the suck to a minimum. My lowest score on the Backlash card was a 30%, where for nearly every other show last year they had at least one at or near zero. Starting us off was somewhat of an ‘rookie vs. veteran? match between Ric Flair and the recently drafted Shelton Benjamin, which delivered like hell. Following that up was a better-than-expected encounter between Tajiri and Jonathan Coachman, where Coach proved he actually somewhat learned how to wrestle. The ever-present T-Bone Tomko showed up for Christian and Trish after Jericho beat them, and Christian even whipped out a Texas Cloverleaf, which I don’t think he?s done much since. Lita looked surprisingly motivated against Victoria in a Women?s title match, Eugene took over the La Resistance vs. Hurricane/Rosey match, and Edge and Kane…uh, wrestled. All of the undercard matches ranged from mediocre to very good though, which is really a testament to just how much the undercard means to a PPV.

But what could a review of Backlash be without a few words about the Foley/Orton hardcore brawl? This wasn’t just a hardcore match, it was a Cactus F?n Jack match. Orton took a full back-first bump into a bed of thumbtacks with nothing to cushion the blow but his skin. And while the bumps were spectacular, they weren’t everything. The match actually delivered in quality in between the highspots, something hardcore rarely does. And to me, Orton proved that he deserved the push he was getting, being willing to put his body on the line for that, and Foley willing to put him over huge. In the main event we got a Wrestlemania rematch, which although not quite as emotionally special as the first, it took place in Edmonton, and served to prove Benoit was ?for real?. Of course, the Edmonton crowd hated HBK, and they totally played it up by having Michaels put Benoit in a Sharpshooter, and then having Hebner come out as a replacement referee. This time the focus was less on Benoit beating Hunter, and more on the fact that he didn’t beat HBK last time. This time, he did exactly that. Backlash was overall pretty solid, and I feel it really was more solid than Wrestlemania.

Highlights: Benoit/HHH/HBK rematch, Orton vs. Cactus Jack.

PPV Grade: A-

And the best PPV of 2004 was…

#1: Bad Blood

Review Rating: [67%’> Not so much of a leap here, as June?s followup on the Raw side became the best of the year only by a narrow margin. The story is much the same as Backlash, a decent undercard and some high profile matches that were really good. What puts this on top though, and this definitely makes a difference, is that every single match here had a well-built feud behind it. Benoit had to wrestle twice, first teaming with Edge against La Rez, with Kane coming down for the predictable DQ after a decent match that would?ve ended with Grenier tapping anyway. Jericho and Tomko followed, with Jericho being the first of many problems Tyson just can’t seem to solve. However, Tomko actually looked decent in his debut. In one of the most unfortunate injuries of the year, Shelton Benjamin was out for awhile after his phenomenal IC title shot against Randy Orton. Most unfortunate, because the feud probably would have continued and led to more matches like this. Hopefully they’ll have a reason to tangle again in the future. Trish recaptured the Women?s title here in a Fatal Fourway, which wasn’t too bad. The worst match of the card was Coachman vs. Eugene, and even that was more of an extended segment, which although the joke is old now, was funny at the time.

The double main event, along with the IC title match mentioned before, were what put this at the top. First off, although it wasn’t great, Benoit and Kane did some very good work here. Most of it was a carry job by Benoit, but not all of it. Kane, to his credit, did his part too. Benoit ended up on top, and his victory over the ‘monster? of Raw was a good move to solidify his title reign. But the big one was the 45+ minute Hell in a Cell match between Shawn Michaels and Triple H. THE blowoff match to end their feud, and boy did it ever deliver. There was no huge spot off the top of the cage or through the ceiling, in fact they didn’t even exit the cage. It was just a huge brawl between these two to cap off their feud, and by the end, both men could barely move. I said when reviewing this that we remember big things like Rock/Austin and Hogan/Piper, and personally I’m going to remember HHH/HBK as one of the major feuds of WWE?s history. Bad Blood sits on top because of a stellar main event, a well-booked undercard, and a few great supporting matches.

Highlights: Benjamin/Orton, Benoit/Kane, HHH/Michaels HIAC.

2004 Scorecard:

14) Great American Bash: F

13) Armageddon: F

12) Judgment Day: F

11) Summerslam: D

10) Taboo Tuesday: C-

9) Survivor Series: C-

8) Royal Rumble: C-

7) No Mercy: C

6) Vengeance: C+

5) No Way Out: B-

4) Unforgiven: B

3) Wrestlemania: B+

2) Backlash: A-

1) Bad Blood: A

2004 Raw MVPs:

1) Chris Benoit: Nobody did more than Benoit in ?04. The longest title reign of the year, and just about tied with Triple H for length of time holding it.

2) Randy Orton: Although his push has petered out a bit since his face turn, he brought prestige back to the IC title, had a short Heavyweight reign, and took a bump on a bed of thumbtacks. He?s a team player.

3) Triple H: Put over several stars this past year, spent a significant time away from the title scene, and increased his workrate exponentially beyond 2004.

Honorable Mentions go to: Eric Bischoff for being a very solid GM, and making a cool tweener turn late in the year. Batista for improving his game and becoming one of the most interesting characters on the roster within the past few months.

2004 Smackdown MVPs:

1) Eddy Guerrero: Almost single-handedly carried the show earlier in the year, and took no time off even though he was burned out. One of the hardest workers WWE has.

2) Kurt Angle: He?s toned down his style a bit to protect his neck, but I’ll be damned if I?ve even noticed.

3) Rey Mysterio: From putting on some of the best Cruiserweight title matches of the year to giving people something to care about in the tag division, Rey?s been impressive all through the year.

-Honorable Mentions go to: Brock Lesnar, who before calling it quits after Wrestlemania still tore shit up early in the year. Tazz for being one of the very few consistently entertaining parts of Smackdown.

Mark?s Most Wanted: (scored 100%)

Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble)

Brock Lesnar vs. Eddy Guerrero (No Way Out)

Eddy Guerrero vs. Kurt Angle (Wrestlemania)

Chris Benoit vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania)

Randy Orton vs. Cactus Jack (Backlash)

HIAC: Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H (Bad Blood)

Mark?s Most Hated: (scored 0%)

Jacqueline vs. Chavo Guerrero (Judgment Day)

Kenzo Suzuki vs. Billy Gunn (Great American Bash)

Sable vs. Torrie Wilson (Great American Bash)

Hardcore Holly vs. Mordecai (Great American Bash)

Undertaker vs. Dudley Boys (Great American Bash)

Diva Dodgeball (Summerslam)

Steven Richards vs. Tyson Tomko (Unforgiven)

JBL vs. Undertaker (No Mercy)

Heidenreich vs. Undertaker (Survivor Series)

Cena vs. Jesus (Armageddon)

So there you go. That?s 2004. Before you judge why something should?ve been higher or lower than something else, it may help to go back to my individual columns and see why I felt how I did about each one. If I didn’t have the numbers this year they very well may have been in a different order of preference, but I think it makes sense to do it this way because it?s a combination of both opinion and statistic. Well damn, that was exhausting as hell to write. Fortunately I?ve got a two week break until the Royal Rumble, so you’re just going to have to tide yourself over with my OTC reviews until then.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #165: New Year’s Revolution 2005 – Counterpoint

The buzzword, or rather words, for New Year?s Revolution seem to be ?one match show?. I can’t blame anyone for saying that, because it was. The first thing I noticed was the shoddy set. They basically took two huge Puerto Rican flags and draped them on either side of the Raw entrance set, and stuck a few potted plants and palm trees here and there. The second thing I noticed was the really hot crowd, despite all the show’s flaws. I’m liking the idea of WWE’s shows branching out internationally, even if Puerto Rico technically isn’t international. There were a few good little self-contained plotlines, such as a pseudo-reunion of Edge and Christian, and Edge?s altercation with Michaels, as well as the ongoing turmoil in Evolution. But it?s not a WWE event without some useless filler, so they threw in some T&A and a chicken fight in a pool starring several wrestlers who rarely get booked on PPVs to begin with. If you’re ever going to watch this event, I’d recommend merely skipping to the Elimination Chamber, because that?s the only thing you should feel like you’re missing out on with this.

For you noobs out there, the Point was the preview column, which you’ll see little bits and pieces of throughout this, the Counterpoint. I’ll take the Interest Levels, and compare them with what I actually thought of the match in my Entertainment Level. Then I’ll slap you silly with an overall average at the end.

World Tag Team Titles:

Eugene & William Regal? vs. Christian & Tyson Tomko



Interest Level: Teensy. [15%’> This match apparently came about from something that happened on Heat over the span of a couple weeks. Silly WWE, you know we don’t watch Heat. Maybe if you promoted it or told it as an ongoing storyline by showing Heat clips every week on Raw, but not just mentioning it at the last second. I was really looking forward to a HHH/Regal feud last year, after the supposed injury of Eugene in the cage match, but it never happened. Why? No idea. They brought Eugene back too soon and then bam, before you know it, they’re the champions of the non-existent tag division. It makes no sense to me, and Christian has never used Tomko as a regular tag partner, so that team doesn’t sit well with me either. The match will probably be pretty decent as long as Regal and Christian?s styles don’t clash too hard, but it doesn’t make for an interesting feud, since there really isn’t one. Christian?s above this kind of thing anyway.

Who should win: Regal & Eugene

Who will win: Regal & Eugene


Actual winner: Regal & Eugene

This is a tough one to call with the rushed injury ending, but I have to think it wouldn’t have gone on much longer anyway. If Eugene?s going to keep emulating ?classic? spots, I would suggest he switch it up a little; I?ve seen the Junkyard Dog thing a few too many times for it to be even remotely amusing anymore. What I did like was the stuff with Christian and Regal taking on each other. Their styles meshed surprisingly well. Tomko, to his credit, has improved a bit in the ring. I think it?s good to keep him in tag action, but I don’t think Christian is the ideal partner for him since Christian is easily at least IC title level. This was pretty by-the-numbers otherwise though, but a little better than I expected it to be.

Entertainment Level: [25%’>

Women?s Title:

Lita? vs. Trish Stratus



Interest Level: Smidgen. [10%’> Well, we?ve already seen Trish beat Victoria, and we?ve seen Lita beat Molly. That right there is the entire Women?s division, so this is as interesting as the feuds get, folks. These two had a good Raw match, and Lita seems motivated since she gets an astounding amount of camera and angle time lately, so I have a little faith in this, but not much. I guess they don’t need that many people if they’re not going to invest any time in it, so at this point I wonder why Victoria hasn’t turned heel yet so they can give her a title shot. Oh, that?s right, so they can have the same tag match once every month between the heels and faces.

Who should win: Trish Stratus

Who will win: Lita


Actual winner: Trish Stratus

Apparently, Puerto Rico doesn’t like functional knees. And now the Women’s division only has 3 people in it. Bet they’re regretting firing Gail and Nidia now, huh? Bring on Alexis, I say. I can’t really justify grading this match-wise, so I’m not going to. I give Lita credit for finishing the match and even taking a few bumps, even though she could barely stand, but I can’t justify a rating for a match that was supposed to go much longer.

Entertainment Level: [N/A’>

Intercontinental Title:

Shelton Benjamin? vs. Evil Maven



Interest Level: Meh. [30%’> I’m surprised in that I actually like the Evil Maven character, because Regular Maven was pretty boring. The problem is that after doing nothing with him for like 4 years, now doing anything with him seems random and uninteresting. The funny thing is, I remember in Tough Enough 2 when Maven and Nidia showed up to work a match with the cast, Maven played a heel in the match, and at that time I thought it would?ve been interesting to have him turn. That unfortunately comes about 2 years too late. His ringwork is vanilla, and his promos…well let?s just say that in a discussion about his accent, it was agreed upon that his metrosexual/southerner accent should be labeled as ?Kentucky hairdresser?. On the other hand, we?ve gotten really nothing from Shelton either, as they choose to tell his story mostly through his matches. That works great for Benoit, but for Shelton to stay a strong champion they need to give him some attitude. I don’t think Maven?s quite at the right level for this yet, since only a few months ago Shelton barely was himself.

Who should win: Shelton Benjamin

Who will win: Shelton Benjamin


Actual winner: Shelton Benjamin. Twice.

I don’t get this. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was at least expecting a match. While I have to say Evil Maven cut a good heel promo, to completely bury him here is pointless. The only thing I can think of is that WWE got a little paranoid after the injuries of the first two matches, and bypassed the Jinx Monster by not having a match so it couldn’t strike three times in a row. Take that, Jinx Monster! You can’t have any more of our knees!

Entertainment Level: [0%’>

Jerry Lawler vs. Muhammad Hassan



Interest Level: Blah. [5%’> It might come as a surprise to you that I’d rate this so low, because many people are loving this angle. Agreeing with Hassan, scoffing at the hypocrisy of the crowds, enjoying the amazing amount of legit heat Hassan is grabbing, etc. But you know what? Every single scrap of that heat is cheap. The way Hassan has been handled, as far as I’m concerned, is both tacky and embarrassing. I loved the idea at first, making him a face who just wanted to belong, but was booed anyway by a racist crowd. They dropped that ball as soon as he started saying ?people like you?. After that I wanted him to get by on his great promo ability and let that win arguments for him, but they dropped that ball by having him become violent when someone disagrees with him. He?s this era?s Sgt. Slaughter Iraqi turncoat gimmick, and Daivari is his General Adnan. The problem is, this time the point is neither to rally American patriotism behind an American hero babyface (Hogan), nor is it to bash a country we’re at war with (Iraq, go figure). He?s supposed to be ?Arab-American?, yet the only part I?ve seen from this angle is ?Arab?, and I have to think WWE is completely comfortable with that. Oh yeah, and Lawler serves as cannon fodder for his first match. Why? Because it?s more cheap heat to beat up on an announcer.

Who should win: AMERICA!!! GO USA!!!

Who will win: Muhammad Hassan


Actual winner: Muhammad Hassan

To make this effective, Hassan should?ve squashed the living hell out of Lawler, thereby putting him in his place. But instead there had to be a manager distraction. Add to that the match being mostly punches and bodyslams, and it?s even worse. Add to that the fact that once again they stupidly decided not to put ANY commentary in for this match, and you?ve got yourself a total dud. Granted Hassan can sell the hell out of a DDT, but that?s not enough to even put a blip on the radar.

Entertainment Level: [0%’>

Snitsky vs. Kane



Interest Level: Ricockulous. [15%’> The whole angle is dumb, but with Kane playing a face I don’t know how the hell they’re going to maintain his character after this without getting even dumber. Since Lita gets to talk so often, maybe she’ll be able to explain why her murdering rapist necrophiliac psycho husband isn’t such a bad guy after all. The only interest I really have in this is the possibility that Matt Hardy will return and possibly make this interesting when it turns out he hired Snitsky to do his dirty work. It?s a longshot, but a shot nonetheless. Hopefully it’ll be kept short, because I can tell you right now it isn’t going to be any good. And yet, the feud will continue anyway.

Who should win: Kane

Who will win: Kane


Actual winner: Kane

If you?ve ever seen a Kane match, then you?ve seen this match. If you?ve ever seen a Snitsky match, then you?ve seen this match. Kane matches can be good or bad, depending on his opponent. With Snitsky I think it?s impossible to drag a good match out of him. But Kane is sort of like tofu, in that he absorbs the flavor of whatever he?s thrown in there with. Except he?s not a white amorphous blob made of soy. Yeah, you can tell I’m stalling here. Why? Because this match just wouldn’t end. Much like Snitsky?s push and this whole angle. What I don’t understand is why Kane didn’t destroy him after the match. They’d been building to Kane not just winning a match, but destroying Snitsky, and then suddenly Kane doesn’t feel like it? The worst part is, this is just going to keep going, at least until Wrestlemania.

Entertainment Level: [0%’>

World Heavyweight Title ? Elimination Chamber:

HHH vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Batista vs. Randy Orton vs. Edge

Special Referee: Shawn Michaels



Interest Level: Ginormous. [100%’> There?s a reason this is a one match show, and that?s because the Raw booking since Survivor Series has centered around this angle. Each man has a reason to be in there, and each has been more or less explained or at least implied. Triple H being the champion to lose the title on a draw, Benoit and Edge since they beat each other at the same time, Orton for being screwed out of title shots for as long as Trips was the champ, Jericho for not being able to make a title match the week he was GM, and then there?s Batista. Batista?s story has been one of the most interesting points of Raw for the past couple months now. They planted the subtle seeds of dissention in Evolution ever since Orton was booted out, with Triple H telling him that he, not Orton, was the ?future? of the business (of course, this implies Trips is the ?present?, unfortunately). This basically went to Batista?s head, and through either his uncontrolled anger or his cockiness, started raging against the ?present? to replace him. The whole Batista push has, in storyline terms, been Triple H?s hubris causing him to make mistakes, and having Batista be the one to save his ass because he?s so wrapped up in the idea of a challenge coming from his own side, instead of the competitors against him. The way I see it, it?s some of the most brilliant writing on Raw in ages, and actually makes not just Triple H, but Batista and Flair as well, very interesting characters. Now, a couple things could happen here. I can see Shawn Michaels screwing with Triple H and not allowing him to get the win. I can see Batista?s dissention being all a ruse, which I sincerely hope it?s not but am kind of starting to fear that it is. Although I don’t quite think he?s ready for it though, I’m thinking they’re going to start 2005 with someone who?s never held the belt before just to throw everyone off, and by my estimation that would be Big Dave, or the darkhorse in this match, Edge. I don’t see Edge getting through the rest of these guys though, especially since they’re poured so much effort into Batista lately. Let?s just hope this one is booked better than the last one, where Goldberg was cleanup and an injured Triple H retained through much screwiness. I don’t think they’d do that twice in a row, but I?ve been wrong about horrible things before.

Who should win: Batista

Who will win: Batista


Actual winner: Triple H

Now just to get this out of the way, I would like to mention that Bischoff coming out and welcoming us to New Year?s Revolution right before this match seemed to me as basically a way of saying ‘this is the PPV right here, that other stuff was crap?, and it?s true. The Elimination Chamber match WAS this PPV. Onto bigger and better things, this match absolutely rocked. It was constant action from the opening bell to the ending, and not a dull spot in between. What I’m really pleased about is that every participant got a chance to take control of the match at some point. There were points where Jericho was in control. Points where Benoit was in control. Edge was dominant when he entered. Triple H got his moments but not without taking plenty of punishment. Orton had his time on top, and Batista was a big focal point. There were a few really memorable spots that surprised me, including the cameraman toss, Benoit?s headbutt off the chamber, and Batista?s double spinebuster stacking both Benoit and Jericho for the pin. Each elimination made sense, and each entry came in an unexpected order. Edge and Michaels had their altercation, and HBK didn’t tip the match otherwise, which is good for their feud. The only slight downside is that I’m not sure where Benoit, Jericho, and Orton go from here, unless one of them turns heel soon. There?s only so much you can do when you have that many main eventers and all of them are faces. I may be wrong of course, but if either Benoit or Jericho turns before Wrestlemania, I called it.

Most of all, I’m very glad about two things here. First off, that Jericho and Benoit got to start in a singles match. Those two always deliver, especially against each other, and it was great to see them go at it once again. Second, that they’re still not even letting Batista and Triple H touch each other. They’re giving this a really slow burn, and if it keeps going down this road, fans will be begging for a Batista/Triple H match at Wrestlemania. I didn’t really mind the Triple H win because although I didn’t write it into my prediction, I still expected it. The only thing I’m taking a few points off for is that once again, Triple H wins a match only with the help of Evolution. While it?s a new perspective on it, on paper it?s still the same result. Otherwise, everything came off without a hitch, and I didn’t find myself bored with any of it.

Entertainment Level: [95%’>

-For the record, while it?s somewhat uncharacteristic to give it to a main event, the Elimination Chamber match was the only match on the card worthy of receiving 2005?s first Show Stealer award from me.



Overall Interest: 175 out of a possible 600, for a total of roughly 29%.

Overall Entertainment: 120 out of a possible 500, for a total of 24%.

It?s unfortunate that the first two matches were cut short by injuries, and even more unfortunate that the third match couldn’t have been booked to cover for it, because this undercard could?ve been a lot better than it was. Had things come off properly, this PPV could?ve stood to gain nearly 100 or so more points on my ratings scale. Still, months of booking led up to the main event, from various character interactions and feuds of 2004, even the recurrence of Batista?s ?knockout shot? from last year came up for the finish. That?s some planning ahead right there, and it really showed in the quality of the Chamber match. If WWE could deliver the whole card the way they delivered the main, things would be just fine. Regrettably though, this will probably go down as one of the worst of 2005 despite the work and quality they delivered for the title feud.

And fear not, loyal readers, because I will have the 2004 Year in Pay Per ReView up this weekend. I hope you’re excited to read it, because I’m excited to post it. Until then…

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #165: New Year’s Revolution 2005 – Point

A 2005 PPV? So soon? You betcha. You can blame New Year?s Revolution for the lateness of my 5th Annual Year in Pay Per ReView column, as I would?ve had it done this weekend otherwise. Instead, I’ll be posting it next week after the Counterpoint. 2005 starts off with, unfortunately, a symptom of the ‘too many PPVs? syndrome we had in 2004, in which they seem to feel the need to pack as many brand exclusive events into the year as possible. With only three weeks until the Royal Rumble, you’d have thought they could have waited until then to give us some of this. Instead, New Year?s Revolution kind of feels like they needed an excuse to do the Elimination Chamber thing for the title, but didn’t want to do it at the Rumble because they had other plans for the people in the match, and then they just built a perfunctory card around it. Sad, but probably true.

If you’re new to this, the Point is where I ?preview?. The PPV is where I ?view?. The Counterpoint is where I ‘review?. There’s a whole lot of viewing going on. It’s all so very confusing. In the Point, you will get my interest of the match, along with who I think should win, and who I think probably will. Sometimes they’re the same person, sometimes they’re different. As for what you’ll get in the Counterpoint, you’ll just have to wait for me to explain it. Or you can read the many other columns for previous events. So let?s get this shindig started.

This column?s Interest Level theme will be ‘descriptive words that aren’t really words?.

Jerry Lawler vs. Muhammad Hassan

Interest Level: Blah. [5%’> It might come as a surprise to you that I’d rate this so low, because many people are loving this angle. Agreeing with Hassan, scoffing at the hypocrisy of the crowds, enjoying the amazing amount of legit heat Hassan is grabbing, etc. But you know what? Every single scrap of that heat is cheap. The way Hassan has been handled, as far as I’m concerned, is both tacky and embarrassing. I loved the idea at first, making him a face who just wanted to belong, but was booed anyway by a racist crowd. They dropped that ball as soon as he started saying ?people like you?. After that I wanted him to get by on his great promo ability and let that win arguments for him, but they dropped that ball by having him become violent when someone disagrees with him. He?s this era?s Sgt. Slaughter Iraqi turncoat gimmick, and Daivari is his General Adnan. The problem is, this time the point is neither to rally American patriotism behind an American hero babyface (Hogan), nor is it to bash a country we’re at war with (Iraq, go figure). He?s supposed to be ?Arab-American?, yet the only part I?ve seen from this angle is ?Arab?, and I have to think WWE is completely comfortable with that. Oh yeah, and Lawler serves as cannon fodder for his first match. Why? Because it?s more cheap heat to beat up on an announcer.

Who should win: AMERICA!!! GO USA!!!

Who will win: Muhammad Hassan

World Tag Team Titles:

Eugene & William Regal? vs. Christian & Tyson Tomko

Interest Level: Teensy. [15%’> This match apparently came about from something that happened on Heat over the span of a couple weeks. Silly WWE, you know we don’t watch Heat. Maybe if you promoted it or told it as an ongoing storyline by showing Heat clips every week on Raw, but not just mentioning it at the last second. I was really looking forward to a HHH/Regal feud last year, after the supposed injury of Eugene in the cage match, but it never happened. Why? No idea. They brought Eugene back too soon and then bam, before you know it, they’re the champions of the non-existent tag division. It makes no sense to me, and Christian has never used Tomko as a regular tag partner, so that team doesn’t sit well with me either. The match will probably be pretty decent as long as Regal and Christian?s styles don’t clash too hard, but it doesn’t make for an interesting feud, since there really isn’t one. Christian?s above this kind of thing anyway.

Who should win: Regal & Eugene

Who will win: Regal & Eugene

Women?s Title:

Lita? vs. Trish Stratus

Interest Level: Smidgen. [10%’> Well, we?ve already seen Trish beat Victoria, and we?ve seen Lita beat Molly. That right there is the entire Women?s division, so this is as interesting as the feuds get, folks. These two had a good Raw match, and Lita seems motivated since she gets an astounding amount of camera and angle time lately, so I have a little faith in this, but not much. I guess they don’t need that many people if they’re not going to invest any time in it, so at this point I wonder why Victoria hasn’t turned heel yet so they can give her a title shot. Oh, that?s right, so they can have the same tag match once every month between the heels and faces.

Who should win: Trish Stratus

Who will win: Lita

Snitsky vs. Kane

Interest Level: Ricockulous. [15%’> The whole angle is dumb, but with Kane playing a face I don’t know how the hell they’re going to maintain his character after this without getting even dumber. Since Lita gets to talk so often, maybe she’ll be able to explain why her murdering rapist necrophiliac psycho husband isn’t such a bad guy after all. The only interest I really have in this is the possibility that Matt Hardy will return and possibly make this interesting when it turns out he hired Snitsky to do his dirty work. It?s a longshot, but a shot nonetheless. Hopefully it’ll be kept short, because I can tell you right now it isn’t going to be any good. And yet, the feud will continue anyway.

Who should win: Kane

Who will win: Kane

Intercontinental Title:

Shelton Benjamin? vs. Evil Maven

Interest Level: Meh. [30%’> I’m surprised in that I actually like the Evil Maven character, because Regular Maven was pretty boring. The problem is that after doing nothing with him for like 4 years, now doing anything with him seems random and uninteresting. The funny thing is, I remember in Tough Enough 2 when Maven and Nidia showed up to work a match with the cast, Maven played a heel in the match, and at that time I thought it would?ve been interesting to have him turn. That unfortunately comes about 2 years too late. His ringwork is vanilla, and his promos…well let?s just say that in a discussion about his accent, it was agreed upon that his metrosexual/southerner accent should be labeled as ?Kentucky hairdresser?. On the other hand, we?ve gotten really nothing from Shelton either, as they choose to tell his story mostly through his matches. That works great for Benoit, but for Shelton to stay a strong champion they need to give him some attitude. I don’t think Maven?s quite at the right level for this yet, since only a few months ago Shelton barely was himself.

Who should win: Shelton Benjamin

Who will win: Shelton Benjamin

World Heavyweight Title ? Elimination Chamber:

HHH vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho vs. Batista vs. Randy Orton vs. Edge

Special Referee: Shawn Michaels

Interest Level: Ginormous. [100%’> There?s a reason this is a one match show, and that?s because the Raw booking since Survivor Series has centered around this angle. Each man has a reason to be in there, and each has been more or less explained or at least implied. Triple H being the champion to lose the title on a draw, Benoit and Edge since they beat each other at the same time, Orton for being screwed out of title shots for as long as Trips was the champ, Jericho for not being able to make a title match the week he was GM, and then there?s Batista. Batista?s story has been one of the most interesting points of Raw for the past couple months now. They planted the subtle seeds of dissention in Evolution ever since Orton was booted out, with Triple H telling him that he, not Orton, was the ?future? of the business (of course, this implies Trips is the ?present?, unfortunately). This basically went to Batista?s head, and through either his uncontrolled anger or his cockiness, started raging against the ?present? to replace him. The whole Batista push has, in storyline terms, been Triple H?s hubris causing him to make mistakes, and having Batista be the one to save his ass because he?s so wrapped up in the idea of a challenge coming from his own side, instead of the competitors against him. The way I see it, it?s some of the most brilliant writing on Raw in ages, and actually makes not just Triple H, but Batista and Flair as well, very interesting characters. Now, a couple things could happen here. I can see Shawn Michaels screwing with Triple H and not allowing him to get the win. I can see Batista?s dissention being all a ruse, which I sincerely hope it?s not but am kind of starting to fear that it is. Although I don’t quite think he?s ready for it though, I’m thinking they’re going to start 2005 with someone who?s never held the belt before just to throw everyone off, and by my estimation that would be Big Dave, or the darkhorse in this match, Edge. I don’t see Edge getting through the rest of these guys though, especially since they?ve poured so much effort into Batista lately. Let?s just hope this one is booked better than the last one, where Goldberg was cleanup and an injured Triple H retained through much screwiness. I don’t think they’d do that twice in a row, but I?ve been wrong about horrible things before.

Who should win: Batista

Who will win: Batista

Overall Interest: 175 out of a possible 600, for a total of roughly 29%.

2005 doesn’t start out looking too good. While the booking up to the Elimination Chamber match itself has been top-notch, everything else has seemed pretty lackluster, and leaves a lot to be desired. If they could hype the whole roster the way they did for one match, I might even find the Simon Dean vs. Rosey feud enjoyable.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #163: Survivor Series 2004 Counterpoint [Bottom Line #5]

Lauren: Hey, remember Survivor Series? If you managed to block it out of your mind, I’m not surprised. It happened to me, which explains in part why this review has been so delayed. There wasn’t much about this show worth remembering, but we have a duty to uphold to YOU, our faithful readers. I offer you our deepest apologies if this review brings back any unpleasant memories of mid-November, but the circle of PPV (p)reviewing must be completed.

Mark: I’m actually glad, because I didn’t have another full column ready before my big year-end one, and Armageddon really didn’t deserve it?s own full review column, so instead you’re getting two months of PPVs in one review extravaganza. The delay is my fault too, so I apologize for that as well. Sometimes, it?s just really hard to write a PPV review when you’re not really interested, and this is possibly the best example of that I can give you. In case you forgot, the Point was our preview, which will be quoted for posterity throughout. For the reviews, unlike the preview, Lauren goes first for Smackdown and I go first for Raw. Then whoever spoke first gets the Bottom Line, a parting shot if you will, before we head off to the next segment.

Cruiserweight Title Fatal Fourway:

Spike Dudley? vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Billy Kidman vs. Chavo Guerrero



Mark?s Interest Level: Less than it should be. [70%’>

There ARE some intriguing character directions involved, and it?s been awhile since they?ve had several Cruiserweights who actually have angles driving them, but I think the title is wasted on this encounter for a few reasons. For one, Spike just hasn’t made a convincing champion, although it?s not like anyone on Smackdown does at this point. Mysterio?s thrown in for kicks because they needed a high flyer, and I’m really not pleased about taking him out of the Survivor match, but more on that later. The only real story in here is the Chavo/Kidman thing, and that?s why my bet goes to Kidman in his ?I hurt everyone? pseudo-angle, followed by probably Chavo or London taking the belt off him at the Rumble. I’d rather have a return from a legit injury take this, but I don’t think it?s happening.

Who should win: Chavo Guerrero

Who will win: Billy Kidman

Lauren?s Interest Level: Can’t complain about the Cruisers [60%’>

I don’t know about the title being wasted here, because I haven’t really paid enough attention to Smackdown lately to realize that Spike was still the champ. I’m just hoping that these 4 guys get enough time to put on a decent match. Rey and Chavo are awesome, Spike is always passable, and Kidman is, well, Kidman. If they can deliver here, I’m happy. A Paul London return to cost Kidman the title would be the icing on the cake.

Who should win: Chavo Guerrero

Who will win: Chavo Guerrero

Mark?s Bottom Line: No, see, they reward people for injuring each other now.


Actual winner: Spike Dudley

Lauren: Here was your typical Cruiserweight show-opening match. Lots of action and some neat-o highspots (Rey?s rana to Kidman off the apron was very cool), but I still felt empty when it was over. Part of that was my standard Cruiser match complaint of ‘they didn’t get nearly enough time.? What also brought it down for me was that Spike retained. He doesn’t excite me in the least as champ, mostly because I never saw him as a true Cruiserweight wrestler as much as he?s simply a bump-machine. Since the division barely gets any TV time for character development, the best hope for revitalizing it would be to throw cruisers out there who can tear it up in the ring and get noticed that way, and Spike does not seem up to that job. In addition, Spike?s retain here kicked off a trend of VERY boring and almost timid booking that made this supposed ?big PPV? seem like just another Sunday night of ‘rasslin. But, despite my complaints about the outcome, I enjoyed this match while it was going on about as much as I enjoyed anything during this show that didn’t involve Shelton Benjamin, Christian, or Heidenreich complimenting Gene Snitsky?s treatment of babies.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [65%’>

Mark: I don’t think it was too far outside the realm of possibility that with the Kidman/Chavo angle still going on at this point, that there would be some kind of follow-through. Every time, even on the odd chance that they actually put some effort into the Cruiserweight division, they always put a high-profile singles match at the end of the feud, like they did with Hardy/Mysterio so long ago. I agree with Lauren?s sentiment that Spike shouldn’t have won here, but since they didn’t do anything with the Kidman multi-feud afterward anyway except to a minimum on Velocity, it kind of didn’t matter. It seems like every time they get ready to fire the cannon on this division, someone steps on the fuse. Someday, I hope they’ll fulfill my dream of giving Akio and London a full, kickass title match on PPV. But until that day, the division remains just about as mediocre as it?s always been.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Akio and London? Oh man, I think I need to change my pants.

Intercontinental Title:

Shelton Benjamin? vs. Christian



Lauren?s Interest Level: Consider me Peeped [93%’>

I’m looking forward to this match. I enjoy watching Shelton?s athletic style in the ring. The smarmy heel Christian should shine here trying to outwit him, because he knows he can’t outwrestle him. Benjamin?s been coming out on top on Raw recently, leading just about everybody to believe that he?s dropping the title here. I think that would be a mistake. I see no reason to take the belt off of Benjamin yet, as he?s still relatively unproven and holding the title will help him gain credibility with the marks. Christian?s over enough as a heel that having the title won’t help him so much. Even though I like Christian a great deal, I’ll be a little bit disappointed if he wins this, especially if it?s a non-clean finish involving Timmy Tonka Truck.

Who should win: Shelton Benjamin

Who will win: Christian

Mark?s Interest Level: And the Internet Rejoices. [90%’>

Two internet favorites fighting over a title is always enough to send us columnists into a frenzy. Shelton is a good all-arounder. That is to say, he?s good enough on the mic to get into it, and will certainly improve with age. He?s good enough in the ring to keep people interested in his matches. He?s good enough of a seller to make you believe what he?s doing out there. What?s more, Christian is the same type of worker. Not quite as athletic, but far beyond just ?good enough?. All they need to do is put on a clinic here and this one just might steal the show. And unlike Christian?s previous couple feuds, I won’t mind if they keep having rematch after rematch. Assuming Taboo Tuesday wasn’t rigged, the fans have spoken, and they want Shelton as their IC champion.

Who should win: Shelton Benjamin

Who will win: Shelton Benjamin

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Nothing more to say than hope this lives up to expectations.


Actual winner: Shelton Benjamin

Mark: It?s not that this match was particularly boring or anything; it certainly held my interest. I’m a fan of both, it?s just that I don’t really think there was anything all that memorable about it. The crowd started off pretty dead, but got into it by the end of the match. The problem with that is, I don’t think Shelton?s as over as they need him to be right now, or as over as the internet likes to pretend he is (in that respect, he?s sort of a midcard Benoit), despite the overwhelming majority vote at Taboo Tuesday. I love giving him the IC belt, but if we’re going the ?belt is a prop to get someone over? route, I think it?s especially a good move. Christian is the more over of the two and that?s why I’d rather Shelton keep it. But damn if I don’t love watching that T-Bone, especially when the setup comes out of nowhere, and you get that second of a futile look on the challenger?s face, knowing he just got trapped and he?s going to take the fall. I’d wager they’ll rematch soon, with some kind of gimmick match.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [80%’>

Lauren: This match was easily my ?Match of the Night? (or MOTN for you shorthand-loving smarks out there), but that unfortunately isn’t saying much. I totally agree with Mark about this match not being particularly memorable (which I guess fits right in with our theme for this PPV). A month later, I can’t remember much about the match, except that I totally ate it up at the time. Tomko?s involvement was effective, but not overkill. I’m personally not a fan of the T-Bone. I like that it does often come out of nowhere, but the move itself seems incredibly weak for a finisher. I was happy to see Shelton retain, and I’m hoping that they can succeed in using the belt to get him over. If he has more title defenses like this one, that?s a good start.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [80%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: For a second there, I thought you were calling Tyson Tomko ?T-Bone?. I was thoroughly disappointed when I realized that wasn’t the case.

This also earns my official Survivor Series 2004 Show Stealer Award.

Classic Survivor Series Match:

Eddy Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, Big Show, & John Cena vs. Kurt Angle, Luther Reigns, Mark Jindrak, & Carlito Caribbean Cool



Mark?s Interest Level: All except for Cena [88%’>

But hey, 7 out of 8 ain’t bad. If you?ve been reading my rants in the OTC reviews, you’ll know that I hate the idea of Cena being in this match. Mysterio belonged here, he made sense as RVD?s tag partner and a friend of Eddy (and to some extent Big Show). Now Mysterio?s cast back into a division he?s beyond, and Cena?s back from a ?stab wound? WAY too soon, except thrown into the match for no reason other than Carlito being on Angle?s team. Speaking of Team Angle, Jindrak & Reigns have been a surprisingly good tag team, Angle is always good, and I hear Carlito?s hurt because they actually were dumb enough to put a hotshotted rookie in the ring with Bob Holly at a house show. Great move. So maybe we’ll see Jesus (Aguilera, not Christ) on Angle?s team after all. At any rate, at least we won’t see an overbooked run-in fest here, since everyone who?s been interfering is all here at once. I’d say we’ll probably see Cena stretchered out since he ?wasn’t ready? to come back yet and he can go film his movie, and the match probably coming down to Show vs. Angle or Eddy vs. Angle, with Angle getting a cheap win. Works for me.

Who should win: Team Angle

Who will win: Team Angle

Predicted Survivors: Kurt Angle

Lauren?s Interest Level: Love the concept [80%’>

Hey, it?s Eddy, Show, Kurt, and?.a bunch of other guys! That?s kind of how I feel looking at the teams. It?s not really clear to me how the teams came together (other than ?faces on one side, heels on the other!?), but I’m approaching this match with an open and positive mindset. Survivor matches are so much fun, because, as Mark said, ?everyone who?s been interfering is all here at once.? Multiple stories can come to a head here, but having the team format keeps the match itself a bit more structured than, say, a battle royal. If it?s anything like last year?s survivor match involving a ?Team Angle,? the so-called ?bunch of other guys? should be eliminated rather quickly, leaving the matchups that fans really paid to see. As long as that happens, the match itself should be very good. I really haven’t a clue what will happen in this match, so consider my picks to be random guesses. Since I’m picking the faces to win the Raw survivor match, I’ll follow Mark?s lead and take Team Angle to win here.

Who should win: Team Angle

Who will win: Team Angle

Predicted Survivors: Kurt Angle

Mark?s Bottom Line: At least this year, Nathan Jones isn’t in the match.


Actual winner: Team Guerrero

Actual Survivors: Eddy Guerrero, Big Show, John Cena

Lauren: The main problem I had with this match was that it felt incredibly rushed to me. The elimination matches are supposed to be (in my mind at least) the meat of the Survivor Series ppv, and this one just breezed by. I couldn’t buy into the hype for John Cena?s return because I don’t watch Smackdown enough to care, and I did wish that Eddie had gotten to come out last given that side was ?Team Guerrero.? I knew that Carlito had to be ‘disposed of? somehow because he was unable to wrestle, but the whole brawl into the parking lot thing felt very forced. I don’t know, maybe I just felt that way because I knew what was going on with Carlito not being able to wrestle. Then, before I knew it Angle?s entire team had jobbed out like the, well, jobbers they are. I mean, Mark Jindrak? Luther Reigns? That?s the best he could do? RVD?s elimination when he was clearly in the ropes also soured me on the match because things like that really get on my nerves. They couldn’t have RVD kick out and then do the pinfall again closer to the center of the ring? I mean, I understand it if they were going somewhere by having him be dubiously eliminated, but the fact that they didn’t acknowledge it at all just made it look sloppy. This whole match was very unexciting to me, mainly because of the one-sidedness.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [49%’>

Mark: I wouldn’t say this was bad, just a disappointment. I look forward to the Survivor matches every year and although they pulled out some fun stuff, it just didn’t click. I think one of the main problems was the whole Carlito/Cena thing. They simply shouldn’t be putting two guys who won’t be able to wrestle in a match just for filler. Get replacements, do anything you have to, just don’t drag on the kidney stabbing angle any longer. Mysterio really should?ve been in this match, and putting him in the CW title match was just an excuse to have Cena on the card, really. Everyone else did their job well, I was just more than a little surprised at the squashing of Angle?s team here.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Oh yeah, the kidney stabbing angle. I was so relieved when they tied that one up by having Cena remark that he had ?plastic surgery? on the scars. Yeah, I’m being sarcastic.

HeiDenReich vs. Undertaker



Mark?s Interest Level: ?Level?? Hah! [0%’>

Let?s just get this one out of the way first so we can get to the good stuff, shall we? Everyone knows you don’t cross the Brothers of Destruction. So when someone finally gets their shit together and actually does something big against one of them like, say, kills their unborn child or attempted vehicular manslaughter, you know they’re gonna die soon, because you just don’t do that. I recently predicted that the Kane/Snitsky match was going to end in WWE?s first legit murder angle; I still think it will, but not if this angle beats them to it. Honestly, what possible other reason could they have for keeping HeiDenReich around other than to kill him? Maybe they’re leading up to HeiDenReich/Snitsky vs. Taker & Kane at Wrestlemania or something, just so we can have that long-awaited double murder. You’ll notice I didn’t say anything about the match. That?s because the only thing I care about in this entire feud is Paul Heyman.

Who should win: NO.

Who will win: Undertaker

Lauren?s Interest Level: #@*%&#&! [0%’>

Because thinking about this match might cause me to lose brain cells, I am going to let my hamster, Paul E. (yes, as in the guy managing the big German lug), type out his thoughts:

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzwtttttttttttttttttbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbppppppppppp

;;;;;;;;;nnttttttttttttttttttttttttttttuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun ybbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbccccch????

I think he had it right with ?Zzzzzzzz.?

Who should win: dddddddddbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbmp[

Who will win: Undertaker

Mark?s Bottom Line: I never thought I’d be upstaged by a hamster.


Actual winner: Undertaker

Lauren: I like your poetry.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [0%’>

Mark: I like what you do to babies.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [0%’>

Lauren?s Bottom Line: I’ll see you later.

Women?s Title:

Trish Stratus? vs. Lita



Lauren?s Interest Level: Goodbye Women?s division [5%’>

The WWE women?s division is dying. Jazz and Gail Kim were released last week, thinning out the ranks to ridiculously low levels. Now, on one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year, we have a women?s title match in which the title itself is barely a blip on the radar. The challenger hasn’t even had a match in months (I didn’t say ?wrestled? because it?s questionable whether Lita?s done that ever). This is essentially a grudge match, with Lita wanting revenge for all the bitchy things that Evil Trish said during Lita?s accidental pregnancy, forced marriage, and in-ring miscarriage. Trish ?just happens? to be the Women?s Champion, so?bam!’title match. Lita sucks, so this match won’t be any good, and the booking (along with the firings) makes me very pessimistic about the future of a division I enjoyed.

Who should win: Trish

Who will win: Lita

Mark?s Interest Level: Who?s left? [10%’>

They?ve already been grasping at straws, having Stacy wrestle on an almost regular basis. Ivory doesn’t wrestle anymore, and that $250,000 that went to Christy apparently isn’t going toward wrestling training. So other than these two, there?s what now, Victoria and Molly? Given their penchant for only ever having one person go after a title, that still means there are only 4 women in the division. So I guess we’ll be seeing the exact same tag match every other week then? Like Lauren I can’t really say much about the future of the division, since it basically has none. Lita hasn’t wrestled in months, so I don’t know if they’d put the title on her…especially since from a face standpoint the only other person she can feud with aside from Trish is Molly, unless Victoria turns heel again. OR…just bring up Alexis Laree and make us all happy.

Who should win: Trish

Who will win: Trish

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Alexis Laree! There?s an idea so good, I can’t believe it came from Mark!


Actual winner: Trish via DQ

Mark: To be perfectly honest with you, the only part I remember about this was Lita completely missing Trish with the chairshots near the ring table. I guess Lita?s going for the tweener role, but the fact is that she?s just not deep enough to make me care about it. Couple that with the fact that the Women?s division is going to get a whole lot more boring over the next few months, and I just really saw no point in this. Sorry Trish, but not quite enough to hold my attention. About what I expected.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [10%’>

Lauren: I actually enjoyed this little non-match. It seems after all my complaining about the build for this match not really being suitable for a title match, WWE actually took a step in the direction of logic and didn’t really book a title match. Why they didn’t promote this as a ?grudge match? from the beginning and save the title match for later is beyond me. What we got wasn’t great in terms of quality, but the logic of Lita taking all her frustrations out on Trish and avenging all those bitchy remarks was definitely refreshing. What impressed me the most was that Trish took a hell of a beating, got busted open badly, and still received merciless jeers from the crowd as she was helped to the back. That?s a good heel (though of course the non-smart crowd also helped matters). I didn’t find this segment offensively bad in any way, and holding my attention wasn’t a problem due to its relatively short length.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [25%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: I see where you’re going with the grudge match idea, but if they actually had a Women?s division anymore, they could do a grudge match and a title match separately on the same card.

WWE Heavyweight Title:

JBL? vs. Booker T



Mark?s Interest level: Mostly for the outcome. [50%’>

I’m putting the Raw Survivor match as the main event because it?s probably going to be. They don’t seem to have too much faith in Smackdown title matches as main events on joint PPVs, and with good reason. This worries me. On one hand, JBL has been built as a cowardly champion who can’t defend himself ever since he got the belt. He?s improved in the ring, but he?s still basically Bradshaw. On the other hand, Booker?s been getting the upper hand on JBL ever since he set his eyes on the belt. Usually they have the champ screw over the challenger at least a couple times before the match to make the playing field even, but it?s been a straight shot for Booker. What that means to me is that JBL?s retaining, but then they?ve had times when that kind of momentum is given to dethrone a long term champion. I don’t think the match is going to be anything special, but I hope this is one of those times. I was right about Benoit at WMXX, after all.

Who should win: Booker T

Who will win: Booker T

Lauren?s Interest Level: For the possibility of change? [30%’>

Bradshaw?s title run is starting to seem very long to me. Every time I glance at a Smackdown review, I think ?wow, JBL still has the title?? Of course, that?s probably what non-RoH fans think when they hear about Samoa Joe?s run, so I’m not going to judge without having seen the job he?s doing as champion. It?s good to hear that Booker T?s been built strongly, and a title change might renew my interest in Smackdown. I don’t have strong expectations for the match itself. For all the praise that?s been lavished upon Bradshaw?s character, I haven’t heard of any noticeable improvement in his ringwork. Therefore, I have no reason to believe that he won’t be craptacular as ever. Booker T hasn’t been exciting to me as a worker for awhile, so he’ll have to really turn it up here in order for me to enjoy this match.

Who should win: Booker T

Who will win: JBL

Mark?s Bottom Line: Believe me, you can judge without seeing the job he?s done as champion. It?s freaking Bradshaw.


Actual winner: HH…uh, I mean JBL

Lauren: Imagine for a moment that you run a wrestling promotion. Your champion has a very effective heel character that?s over with the fans and has a ton of mileage for promos, but he?s a clod in the ring. On free television, you compensate for his weaknesses by having him wrestle only in squash matches, handicap matches, or not at all. Then PPV time comes around, and it?s time for your champ to defend his title in a substantial match. You haven’t built up anyone for a run with the belt, so a title change is out of the question. What do you do? Answer: interference, interference, ref bump, more interference, second ref, more interference, belt shot from the champ to retain. Whew. All these bells and whistles weren’t enough to distract from the fact that JBL still sucks at wrestling ? as in that stuff that happens in the ring, not the promos, the backstage skits, the handshaking, and the baby-kissing. He can do all of that perfectly well, but when the time comes for him to lace up his boots, he?s back to good ol? midcard hoss Bradshaw. I still want to know what the hell he was going for when he went to the top rope though.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [5%’>

Mark: I actually missed a good portion of the match, notably the entire beginning, because I accidentally fell asleep. I had pulled an all-nighter the previous night, and was going on over a day and a half without sleep. As much as I’d like to say it was JBL, I just couldn’t resist putting my head down and closing my eyes during the entrances, and pass out for a good ten minutes or so, by my estimation. That?s either a lot of the match or only a little of it, depending on how long it was, but I don’t know. The only thing I really saw was the ridiculous amount of interference rivaling that of a Triple H circa 2003 title match, and Booker losing. I’d imagine Booker put forth a good effort, but I just didn’t see it. Since I’m Mr. Positive, let?s just double Lauren?s score for this match and call it a day, shall we?

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [10%’>

Lauren?s Bottom Line: You fell asleep and STILL rated the match higher than me? Actually, that does sound about right.

Classic Survivor Series Match:

Randy Orton, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, & Maven vs. Triple H, Batista, Edge, & Gene Snitsky



Lauren?s Interest Level: Sky high, so don’t let me down [95%’>

As you can see from my rating, I am psyched for this match. The six man tag from two weeks ago on Raw, which featured Orton, Benoit, and Jericho working heel style against Evolution, was awesome. I love the fact that the babyface team is fired up enough that they’re willing to poke eyes and make quick tags. I love the stipulation that each member of the winning team will have a week to control Raw. It could potentially make for some unique and unconventional episodes of Raw. I love the fact that Triple H has reason to mistrust his teammates since they?ve all said they’re going after his title if they win the opportunity to control Raw. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a match involving Maven and Gene Snitsky, but this could be a psychological masterpiece. Unfortunately, pessimist that I am, I always see a way that things could fall apart. People are already speculating about a Maven heel turn and/or a Flair face turn. If the turning point of the match revolves around Maven, I see that as a huge letdown, because, really, who cares about Maven? Flair turning face has been teased ever since Orton turned and confronted him about being ?Triple H?s lapdog.? Flair held off on turning long enough to face Orton at Taboo Tuesday, but the turn was once again teased strongly in recent weeks on Raw. Flair being off television this past Monday adds to the intrigue. A Flair turn would make logical sense, and it would certainly go over, considering the amount of face pops he gets as a heel anyway. Since Team Orton team has shown that they’re not above using heel tactics, it wouldn’t be at all strange for them to win with the help of Flair?s interference. I’d still rather the heels win because I think it would make for more interesting television, especially the week when Gene Snitsky controls Raw. If Snistky can hold up a ?NO BABIES? sign during a match, I can only imagine the twisted things he’d have in store for the rest of the roster.

Who should win: Team Nose

Who will win: Team Orton

Predicted Survivors: Randy Orton

Mark?s Interest Level: Way, way up. [100%’> The only reason I would ever want to see Snitsky controlling Raw is because of the car-wreck quality that it would bring to my TV. I can’t think of much that would be worse. Oddly enough though, he doesn’t hurt my anticipation of this match. Everyone going into this has had some character development along the way, everyone?s got a reason to be doing what they’re doing, and everyone?s got a goal to accomplish. For the heels, everyone wants a piece of Triple H?s belt if they win, so they’ll go along with him to get it. For the face team, they’re fighting against Evolution?s bullshit that has been holding everyone down for just about two years now, and much longer for Trips. Orton seeks redemption, Benoit and Jericho are fighting for the guys who never got a chance, and Maven?s still trying to gain a foothold. For the heels, Edge has gone through a major overhaul and is slowly becoming an interesting heel, Batista has actually shown major development lately, and Triple H is…well, Triple H. Oh, and Snitsky just wants to punt babies. Suffice it to say that if he controls Raw for a week, it?s going to be just like every other week. That?s one reason why I think Team Trips isn’t taking it. Then again, I have NO idea what a Raw run by Maven would be like. Another is a potential Flair face turn, and yet another is a longshot Batista face turn, effectively breaking Evolution the hell up and letting the faces run wild on Raw, something which hasn’t been done in longer than I can remember.

Who should win: Team Orton

Who will win: Team Orton

Predicted Survivors: Orton and at least one Chris.

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Snitsky is the funniest thing to happen to Raw since Christy Hemme sat on a pie. Learn to love it.


Actual winner: Team Orton

Actual Survivors: Randy Orton

Mark: First of all I should say that one thing that irked me right off the bat was the Maven thing. As the weakest link in the match it makes sense to take him out of it and then give him some return heat later on, but my problem was that they already did the ‘take one guy out and make uneven teams? thing for the other Survivor match earlier in the night. It?s a minor gripe, but I don’t see why they can’t just have two full teams fighting each other through the whole match. I’m not going to say Benoit as the first one out pissed me off, because it was unpredictable, and surprised me. I like surprises, and if you were caught up in the actual angle, your common fan would probably think Orton?s team was screwed at that point, because Benoit?s the toughest guy on the team. Maven did surprise me with his ?Mr. Angry? impression when he returned, he actually showed some charismatic promise. Aside from Triple H and Orton though, who this match obviously was focused around, I don’t remember a whole lot of involvement from anyone else. Nobody really stuck out. Jericho was his usual self, but was sort of booked as filler here, and aside from Edge?s misplaced spear to Trips, I don’t remember much from him, Batista, or Snitsky. I liked the ending though, with Orton coming back from a 2 to 1 disadvantage in a way that actually made sense. I have a few complaints, but the match was fun regardless.

I will say this, since Orton?s face turn he really hasn’t changed much. He?s not the candy-coated babyface that most former heels become, he doesn’t pander to the crowd and loudly announce their hometown for a cheap pop, his mannerisms are basically the same as his heel work, and he even cheats when he has to. A win for him here will go a long way, I just hope it?s not the predictable route of ?win the Rumble, win at Wrestlemania? like everyone seems to be thinking. It might be well booked, but it?s far too predictable, and I really would rather HHH didn’t have the belt for that long anyway. That said, I’m looking forward to the rest of the Raws with different GMs, specifically Jericho?s next week. Orton?s this coming week should be interesting as well.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [90%’>

Lauren: I loved the Maven thing, if only for the quasi-shoot hilarity of ?Maven has no business being in the main event of Survivor Series.? Like, duh! The high point of this match for me was the moment of panic that set in when Benoit and Snitsky got set to face off in the ring. Such greatness and such crap’together?it seemed almost like matter and anti-matter colliding. Would there be an explosion? Would the WORLD END???? Sadly, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as I anticipated.

The low point of this match was when Randy Orton hit his patented ?RKO out of NOWHERE~!!? on Triple H for the win, and I got that sinking feeling in my stomach of ?is that it?? The ending of this match was entirely lacking in drama, which was such a contrast to Shawn Michaels? Daytime-Emmy-worthy performance at last year?s show. Orton made beating Triple H seem almost’too easy. This is why Orton?s babyface push seems so forced. We’re supposed to buy him as a superstar and a credible threat because they book him as one, but he hasn’t yet given the crowd a reason to truly get behind him as a babyface.

The other thing that irked me (and I know this is partially my fault for getting caught up in a whole bunch of speculation) was that NOTHING happened. No Maven turn, no Flair turn, no Jericho turn, no Batista turn, no Snitsky turn (ok, that one I really wasn’t hoping for), nothing. Even outside of face/heel turns, this match did very little to develop storylines or create intrigue. It was as bland and by-the-numbers as could be. This was ostensibly one of the four biggest shows of the year, so I don’t think it?s entirely unreasonable of me to expect some major development. This show had no title changes, no turns, nothing to really get people talking and make people who hadn’t ordered regret their choice.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: Turns aren’t what make a match. The GM stipulation was enough for me.



Mark?s Overall Interest: 408 out of a possible 700, for a total of roughly 58%.

Lauren?s Overall Interest: 363 out of a possible 700, for a total of roughly 52%.


Mark?s Overall Entertainment: 310 out of a possible 700, for a total of roughly 44%.

Lauren?s Overall Entertainment: 284 out of a possible 700, for a total of roughly 41%.

Mark: That?s not ?bad? by our standards, or at least what mine seem to be when Lauren?s not wrecking the grading curve, but it?s not particularly good either. It looks like toward the end of the year they?ve just sort of put things on auto-pilot for Smackdown, and have figured out for the most part what they want to do with Raw. I’m slightly optimistic for New Year?s Revolution, mostly due to the Elimination Chamber, though I can tell you it’ll probably be a long time before Smackdown has a PPV main event anywhere near that cool.

Lauren: Wrecking the grading curve? Only a measly three percentage points separates us this time around! That?s what happens when WWE gives us a show that?s so mediocre that super-happy, positive Marks and disillusioned, critical Laurens can agree on its mediocrity. Maybe that?s the only good thing to come out of this, Mark. It was like a bonding experience, seeing eye to eye for once. Let?s hold hands and sing songs! OK, maybe not.

…And that?s the Bottom Line, cuz Mark and Lauren said so.



Bonus Armageddon Review!

Now that we?ve gotten that out of the way, here?s a short review of Armageddon. I thought the card couldn’t possibly get worse than Great American Bash, which at least had the best Cruiserweight match of 2004 in Chavo vs. Rey, but somehow they decided to spite me.

For a refresher, I’ll put my Interest Levels in brackets, as pointed out in my OTC review before Armageddon.

‘High’ Flyers vs. United Nations [30% Interest’>: Those are my names, so no stealing unless you’re WWE. It was easy to forget that Rey and Rob were defending rather than chasing the belts here. There was one very hot spot with RVD kicking Kenzo from the top to assist Rey?s powerbomb on the outside. Otherwise, it was a fairly by-the-numbers spotfest. The champs retaining was no surprise. It?s not that it was bad, it just wasn’t particularly interesting due to the belts changing hands 3 days earlier.

Entertainment Level: [35%’>

-The only good thing about Angle?s quick little match with Santa was that I’m glad he?s still doing the open challenge. Otherwise, this was PPV time filler. If I was really vindictive I’d average this in as another match, but I’m not, so I won’t.

Miz vs. Puder [5% Interest’>: This was actually more interesting than I gave it credit for, but I wonder what the tally would be if they counted the number of punches landed. I think Miz won, honestly. But I’m sure we’ll be seeing both these guys on our screens before long. Personally I think it would be pretty cool if Miz and Puder became a tag team, and then John and Matt from TE3 came in to feud with them for stealing their shots. But it really wasn’t wrestling, and I didn’t pay to see boxing. Oh wait, I didn’t pay at all. And if Puder keeps saying ‘my fight is Ultimate Fighting?, then why isn’t he in UFC instead?

Entertainment Level: [20%’>

Holly & Haas vs. Basham Brothers [N/A’>: Why are they putting Haas with Holly? Eek. Basically a cannon fodder match, which is typically what unscheduled matches are. The match wasn’t bad, due to 3 out of 4 of them being good workers, but you know what nonsensical matches tacked on the card mean to me by now.

Entertainment Level: [5%’>

Cena vs. Jesus [0% Interest’>: The US title?s got spinnaz! This unfortunately means Cena?s got the belt for a long, long time. Between a guy who?s injured but can still appear on TV, and a guy who?s off making a movie and can show up maybe once a month, I’ll take the former. I already rated this when they repeated it on Smackdown, and I didn’t like it at all that time either.

Entertainment Level: [0%’>

Jackie vs. Dawn [2% Interest’>: At least they kept it short, and actually focused on Charlie Haas. But what?s Charlie?s angle now? Is he a heel? He was getting ?Charlie? chants from the crowd, but I’m not sure what they’re doing with him now, if anything. For the unexpected twist at the end though, I’m giving this just a little more.

Entertainment Level: [5%’>

-Wait, wait, wait. This month?s Fanatic series PPV is about the Diva Search!? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Show vs. Honor Society [10% Interest’>: I know Angle?s team isn’t officially called that, but I like the name. I realize the point of this is to make Show look really big and tough, but I think handicap matches generally suck, especially when the aggressor is the handicapped side, and even more especially when the side that?s down 3 to 1 wins. When he came back, he tore apart the whole roster. That?s fine, but in a high profile match it doesn’t make sense. The F-5 makes me wonder if Brock?s coming back soon as the rumors say, but that was really the only notable thing here.

Entertainment Level: [5%’>

Spike vs. Funaki [25% Interest’>: Well it?s about damn time. Let 2004 be known as the year they’d make anyone Cruiserweight champ, even Funaki. Which isn’t to say I don’t like Funaki, I think he?s great. But I think there?s a reason they put the title on him, and that reason isn’t good. I really hope they’re not going to treat this like ?It?s a jobber division, so let?s make a jobber their champion?, but I have little hope that it’ll be otherwise. Interesting how the best and most interesting match on the card also had the deadest crowd. They popped for a few spots and Funaki?s eventual win, but it just goes to show you how far hype will go, and how much lack of hype can hurt a match. But despite what the crowd thought, I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I was going to. For the record, this one earns my Armageddon 2004 Show Stealer Award, even though there wasn’t much of a show to steal.

Entertainment Level: [45%’>

-I seriously burst out laughing when Michael Cole was announcing the next Raw PPV and said ?Raw?s going to have to go a long way to top what we?ve got here tonight?. Oh, Cole. You pinnacle of unintentional comedy, you.

Fatal Fourway [40% Interest’>: Going in, I actually liked how this was built. Three guys screwed out of their title matches all going for the champ at once. I could write up a whole Gauge? rating for this match because of so many ups and downs, but I’m not going to. The first half, for all it?s worth, was a lot better than I expected it to be. But then it delved so far into the realm of bullshit that I just can’t justify rating this on the positive side. A lot of close finishes and quick-pacing, as well as Booker and Eddy working together through a good portion of it made for some great action. Unfortunately the two of them basically sacrificed a good performance so that Undertaker could no-sell everything including a double Frog Splash, and so that JBL could get the cheap victory after they decided to inject HeiDenReich into this match. There were so many instances of me saying ?Oh come on? for this match that it ended up marring the positive things about it. I’d say I got just about what I expected out of this, even if what I expected wasn’t JBL retaining.

Entertainment Level: [40%’>

Overall Interest: 16%

Overall Entertainment: 155 out of a possible 800 for a total of roughly 20%.

This just barely edges out Great American Bash, being better by only 1 point, though I don’t really know how that?s possible considering it had one great (90%) match on the card, while this had nothing above 50. I guess the sheer amount of 0% matches on GAB is what did it, and the few matches hovering around mediocre on this card just barely put Armageddon over as only the second worst PPV of the year. Let?s try a little harder next year, huh guys?

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #164: The New Heel

What?s in a heel? Well, as anyone could probably tell you, a heel in wrestling is the ?bad guy?. The arch-villain. The perfect foil to the hero. The purveyor of dastardly deeds and so forth. It?s an odd sort of thing when your entire goal is to receive as much hatred as possible. Having participated in a few minor stage roles over the years, I can also tell you that being the bad guy is fun. You get to do things you’d never normally do, that you probably wouldn’t do anyway. In gamer terms, when you play that game of Counter-Strike or Day of Defeat, why pick the ‘terrorist? side or the ?axis? side? You’re surely not really a terrorist or a Nazi, but sometimes it?s just more interesting to be the antagonist.

But it?s also easier to be a villain than a hero. To quote Morgan Freeman from the movie ?Seven?, ?It’s easier to lose yourself in drugs than it is to cope with life. It’s easier to steal what you want than it is to earn it. It’s easier to beat a child than it is to raise it.? And I dare say that in the wrestling world, it?s easier to get heel heat than it is to be everyone?s hero. Think of the ovations The Rock gets when he makes one of his rare appearances. Think of Stone Cold?s reactions. At this moment there isn’t a single person on the WWE roster who gets that kind of reaction anymore. We have our heroes, the casual fans have theirs, but nobody gets the kind of ovation that Hogan got in his day, or Rock or Austin got in theirs. Not anymore. The reason isn’t cynicism among fans, it?s because it?s much harder to ?catch lightning in a bottle? with the fans these days. You don’t just push someone to the moon and have them be that over instantly. Maybe in Hogan?s day you could, but not anymore. It takes careful planning, a lot of marketing, and just the right story to make the fans get behind a face. But a heel? There are so many more options of what a bad guy can do to make fans hate him. There are way more heel mannerisms than there are face mannerisms. When a face rolls someone up for a pin, you take for granted that it?s a simple rollup maneuver. When a heel does it and hooks the tights, it?s the exact same move, only it gains heat because it?s cheap and underhanded. Fans don’t cheer a face just because he gets a normal rollup, but they will boo a heel because he hooks the tights during that same rollup.

The thing is, to be a hero, you have to be great, or at least ?good enough?. Since the ?Attitude? era I can’t think of a single major, heavily-pushed hero who has sucked in the ring and had the longevity to stay over that came with it. Goldberg may be an exception because WCW allowed him to limit his work to hide his flaws, but even WWE fans turned on him after awhile. Last year we got Nash and Steiner against Triple H for a couple months each, but Steiner never really caught on and Nash can’t walk two steps without his legs exploding anymore. No, the ones who stay on top for a long, long time as faces are always great (or at least good) workers. Michaels, Hart, Austin, Rock, Angle, even Undertaker (please note that while I do understand the Taker criticism, he still does work hard when they give him a good match and feud to work with; most of the hate is because he doesn’t work every week). These are icons in the business, and none of them really fit the definition of ?sucking?. Even Hogan, despite his flaws, could put on an entertaining match, even well past his prime. Rock/Hogan is proof of that.

But to be a villain, you don’t have to be good. It?s never been that way. I think the roster of ?hosses?, fulfilling Vince McMahon?s ?big strong man? fetish is proof enough, considering most of these men are used as heels. They’re put over as heels on TV, so the crowds hate them. But we writers and reviewers and online fans hate them even more. Maybe it?s time to start realizing that?s the entire point: WWE knows they suck.

Two main things brought about this column. The first was a theory I?ve had for awhile ever since reading fellow columnist Drqshadow?s The Ongoing Evolution of Kayfabe. I suggest reading it, because it brings up a very good theory. The most striking idea in his column is basically the idea that the majority of Triple H?s backstage politicking is worked. A good portion of internet fans hate him, so what does he do? Antagonize the haters even further in a ?shoot? interview, to make the distinction of lines between work and shoot indistinguishable. Since reading that column last year, I?ve combined what I got from that with my own thoughts about not believing the hype of internet newsboards and ?inside sources?, and have been formulating my own theory on what WWE has been doing on a slow and steady basis over the past year.

The second thing that brought this about was the clincher of my theory. It was a segment from Survivor Series, one of the few interpromotional references of the entire show. Usually those major interpromotional segments are between big-time title contenders, or icons that could clash at Wrestlemania. Last year that was Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg. This year it?s a little different. This year we had two of our most hated men in two of the most ridiculous and unlikeable gimmicks facing off in a segment for absolutely no reason other than they’re both apparently sick in the head. Snitsky said ?I like your poetry.? Heidenreich replied, ?I like what you do to babies.?, which is just about the strangest sentence I?ve ever heard on television. This segment clinched my theory because these two had no reason to be interacting, yet it was done somehow tongue-in-cheek as if to say ?We know you hate these guys, so here they are together. Now watch your entire universe implode before your very eyes.? Yes, Jon Heidenreich and Gene Snitsky are shining examples of what I like to call ?The New Heel?.

Earlier this year I feel that the WWE tried to bring in a new kind of ‘talent?, and I use that term loosely, to further work the internet fans. A series of ?so bad it?s entertaining? pure camp angles that couldn’t possibly work, but were fun to watch just to see how terrible they were going to get. Make no mistake, WWE knows who we like. I’m sure we tell them every single day, and I’m sure they hear about it from all manner of sources. They’re not stupid; even big corporate folk use the internet too. It?s kind of hard to avoid who are the darling stars of the internet when you can spend ten minutes on any given wrestling website and find out that we all worship Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, and Chris Jericho as some sort of gods. If you think WWE hasn’t caught wind of this then you’re insane. So what better way to get a heel over than to push the hell out of someone who has no wrestling talent? You can find several examples of bad wrestlers and bad workers as major heels throughout the ages I’m sure, but I personally can’t remember a year where they really stuck our faces in it nearly as much as 2004, particularly in an age where fans can now tell the difference between a good wrestler and a bad one.

Case in point, sometime around the middle of the year they decided to give Bradshaw, one half of the APA, a major gimmick overhaul. Using his real life stockbroker hobby as a boost, he ditched the long hair, moustache, and beer-drinking redneck personality to put on a cowboy hat and suit and become a rich, successful businessman. Soon after he garnered intense criticism from the fans for doing a Nazi salute at a house show in Germany. When asked about his actions, he merely replied that he?s a heel, and ‘that?s what heels do?. When people complained further, he lashed out at the internet fans, using the typical insult of calling all of us ?virgins? using our parents? computers. This is a guy who internet wrestling fans have never liked in the ring, who garnered real-life heat for a very politically incorrect action which could very well have been a publicity stunt, defended himself by playing ignorant, then countering the backlash with immature insults designed to make us hate him even more. Then to kick our asses into the ground, they didn’t punish him. Instead they gave him the Heavyweight title, which he still holds to this day on a several month long reign.

To quote Drq?s column regarding working the internet, ?Do you think it could be a little more obvious??

I?ve long felt that JBL?s lengthy title reign has been intended not just to be the building of a new top card heel, but a big kick in the ass to the internet bandwagon haters. And we certainly are a bandwagon. You take a person who has never been around internet fans and see that his biggest favorites are Bill Goldberg and Undertaker, throw him into our environment for long enough, and he’ll start shunning the Undertaker and instead bowing down and praising Benoit just like the rest of us. So when the tides turn against a wrestler for whatever reason, the rest are soon to follow. I’m generalizing of course, but if there?s one thing WWE knows how to do, it?s generalize.

It doesn’t stop there though. Look, for example, at the current Smackdown tag champions. While many online are fans of Rene Dupree, many others say he?s too green at this point. All Dupree arguments aside though, the verdict is pretty much unanimous on Kenzo Suzuki. In an age where we?ve long passed over the top, dumbass gimmicks, here comes a man who patterns himself after seemingly every Japanese stereotype ever created (complete with stereotypical Geisha), who has no discernable ring talent, and who doesn’t really have an angle either. He?s an angry Japanese man. Then he suddenly loves America. Then he starts crooning American hits in broken English. Then he has an obsession for Torrie Wilson. Through all this, and what is he? That?s right, one half of the tag team champions, in a team whose pairing makes absolutely no sense other than both being stereotypes of the country they hail from.

Further still, let?s look at the man himself who quipped, ?I like what you do to babies?, Jon Heidenreich. This man has been given chance after chance and has failed miserably because he?s in his 40s and has no talent to speak of. He?s been protected through segment after segment and has really only had one actual match thus far. He?s supposed to be so angry, yet he reads poetry. Everything about him screams ?bad?, but instead of either sending him back down to the minors or hiding his flaws in a tag team, he?s given a high-profile feud with the Undertaker, who on today?s active roster is easily the most recognizable icon in the business. And of course, we hate him even more for it. He?s a heel on TV, but we don’t hate him because he does bad things on TV; we’re just afraid he?s going to hurt someone we like.

And finally, the baby killer himself, Gene Snitsky. Picture this: You have on your hands a man known as Kane, a man who?s a psychotic, deranged lunatic. He?s a rapist and a murderer, and not necessarily in that order if you count the Katie Vick fiasco. How do you turn this guy face only months after blackmail-raping and impregnating a woman and stealing her from her fianc? and forcing her to marry him? The answer?s quite simple, actually. You bring in a guy who can’t wrestle. An ugly, and I mean ugly, balding, ridiculous-looking, untalented guy with back acne, an unmarketable name that most people can’t even pronounce right on the air, and quite possibly the silliest gimmick ever, a penchant for hating babies. You have that man ?accidentally? kill the afore-mentioned lunatic?s unborn child. Now you have said lunatic be sympathetic about it and have him get revenge on the guy who gets legitimate hate because he sucks in every way imaginable. Now, you’ll see people who ‘like? Snitsky on occasion, not because he?s good, but because he?s ?so bad he?s entertaining?. It?s not necessarily the man himself, more like the people pushing him. But at what expense? We?ve already seen him used as an excuse to get Kane out to shoot a movie, we?ve seen talented people like Val Venis and William Regal squashed by him to further his push, and we?ve seen him cut some of the most god-awful promos I can ever remember seeing. Whether you hate him for who he is, or like him for his ?can’t look away from a car wreck? aspects, one thing is certain: They didn’t exactly scour the talent pools of the industry to find this guy. If they did, then Snitsky must have been stuck in the filter.

The main problem with things like this is that Vince McMahon himself believes that any publicity is good publicity, and to an extent he?s right. But to push JBL as his company?s champion for so long is more than likely driving more current viewers away than it is keeping them tuned in to see who finally beats him. Nobody?s ever going to take Snitsky seriously due to his mostly unintentional comedy. But all of these men I?ve mentioned have something in common: None of them are technically sound wrestlers or good workers, and all of them are heels. Is this a coincidence? It very well might be, and I could very well be talking out of my ass here. But given WWE?s track record with speaking out against the internet fans, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they figured out that a lot of the time we love to cheer our favorite heels, so they simply came up with a way for us to hate their newest creations. After all, what keeps us watching? More than likely that our favorites are doing just well enough to keep us tuned in, so they can afford to throw in a little suck now and then to throw us off balance. It?s a side of kayfabe we’re not used to seeing, and the casual fan doesn’t know any better. To us, it?s legitimate dislike. To them, it?s just another bad guy.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #163: Survivor Series 2004 Point [Bottom Line #5]

Mark: Oh look, it?s that time again. Once upon a time, old school WWF used to call Survivor Series the ?Thanksgiving Day Tradition?. Then I think they started showing it on Wednesday nights, the night before Thanksgiving. Lately, it?s nowhere near it, aside from being in the same month. What we?ve got this time around is a very solid card. Two classic Survivor 8-man tags, each with an actual bonafide team leader, and an undercard that?s been well built and sensibly booked. How often do you get to say that? With the exception of the one Smackdown match nobody cares about (where the only thing good about it is Paul Heyman), nearly everything here looks pretty good.

Lauren: How often? RoH runs 2-3 times a month, pal! But enough gratuitous indy love for this paragraph ? I’m looking forward to Survivor Series myself. This time around the dual-brand show has a special purpose for me. I?ve been completely apathetic to Smackdown and anything Smackdown-related for months. If Smackdown can deliver on its matches here (or at least ? of them), I may start tuning in on Thursday nights again. A Paul London return might also help. As for Raw, I?ve rather enjoyed it lately, so I’m hoping this show will keep up the momentum and hopefully bring tidings of good tv in the weeks to come.

Mark: Here?s how the Point works. Lauren gets Raw first, I get Smackdown first. We give you our level of anticipation for each match, give a nice little preview, then who each of us think should win, who we think actually will win. There?s a difference, you know. Then whoever went first gets one final witty little quip at the end, called the ?Bottom Line?. To tell you about the Counterpoint, here?s Lauren again, in all her majesty.

Lauren: ?Her majesty.? After a year of doing this together, you’re finally learning the proper way to address me. Good Mark. Anyway, the Point/Counterpoint tandem is what you may refer to as a ?ppv p/review? or a ?ppv (p)review.? We’re multitaskers. We don’t set you up for the pay-per-view and then leave you hanging. We come back here after the pay-per-view and share our musings on what did happen, and what should have happened. Plus, it means you get a second helping of my wit and Mark?s?um?fine spelling skills. What more could you ask for?

HeiDenReich vs. Undertaker

Mark?s Interest Level: ?Level?? Hah! [0%’>

Let?s just get this one out of the way first so we can get to the good stuff, shall we? Everyone knows you don’t cross the Brothers of Destruction. So when someone finally gets their shit together and actually does something big against one of them like, say, kills their unborn child or attempted vehicular manslaughter, you know they’re gonna die soon, because you just don’t do that. I recently predicted that the Kane/Snitsky match was going to end in WWE?s first legit murder angle; I still think it will, but not if this angle beats them to it. Honestly, what possible other reason could they have for keeping HeiDenReich around other than to kill him? Maybe they’re leading up to HeiDenReich/Snitsky vs. Taker & Kane at Wrestlemania or something, just so we can have that long-awaited double murder. You’ll notice I didn’t say anything about the match. That?s because the only thing I care about in this entire feud is Paul Heyman.

Who should win: NO.

Who will win: Undertaker

Lauren?s Interest Level: #@*%&#&! [0%’>

Because thinking about this match might cause me to lose brain cells, I am going to let my hamster, Paul E. (yes, as in the guy managing the big German lug), type out his thoughts:

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzwtttttttttttttttttbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbppppppppppp;;;;;;;;;nntttttttttttttttttttttttttttt

uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun ybbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbccccch????

I think he had it right with ?Zzzzzzzz.?

Who should win: dddddddddbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbmp[

Who will win: Undertaker

Mark?s Bottom Line: I never thought I’d be upstaged by a hamster.

Women?s Title:

Trish Stratus? vs. Lita

Lauren?s Interest Level: Goodbye Women?s division [5%’>

The WWE women?s division is dying. Jazz and Gail Kim were released last week, thinning out the ranks to ridiculously low levels. Now, on one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year, we have a women?s title match in which the title itself is barely a blip on the radar. The challenger hasn’t even had a match in months (I didn’t say ?wrestled? because it?s questionable whether Lita?s done that ever). This is essentially a grudge match, with Lita wanting revenge for all the bitchy things that Evil Trish said during Lita?s accidental pregnancy, forced marriage, and in-ring miscarriage. Trish ?just happens? to be the Women?s Champion, so?bam!’title match. Lita sucks, so this match won’t be any good, and the booking (along with the firings) makes me very pessimistic about the future of a division I enjoyed.

Who should win: Trish

Who will win: Lita

Mark?s Interest Level: Who?s left? [10%’>

They?ve already been grasping at straws, having Stacy wrestle on an almost regular basis. Ivory doesn’t wrestle anymore, and that $250,000 that went to Christy apparently isn’t going toward wrestling training. So other than these two, there?s what now, Victoria and Molly? Given their penchant for only ever having one person go after a title, that still means there are only 4 women in the division. So I guess we’ll be seeing the exact same tag match every other week then? Like Lauren I can’t really say much about the future of the division, since it basically has none. Lita hasn’t wrestled in months, so I don’t know if they’d put the title on her…especially since from a face standpoint the only other person she can feud with aside from Trish is Molly, unless Victoria turns heel again. OR…just bring up Alexis Laree and make us all happy.

Who should win: Trish

Who will win: Trish

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Alexis Laree! There?s an idea so good, I can’t believe it came from Mark!

Cruiserweight Title Fatal Fourway:

Spike Dudley? vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Billy Kidman vs. Chavo Guerrero

Mark?s Interest Level: Less than it should be. [70%’>

There ARE some intriguing character directions involved, and it?s been awhile since they?ve had several Cruiserweights who actually have angles driving them, but I think the title is wasted on this encounter for a few reasons. For one, Spike just hasn’t made a convincing champion, although it?s not like anyone on Smackdown does at this point. Mysterio?s thrown in for kicks because they needed a high flyer, and I’m really not pleased about taking him out of the Survivor match, but more on that later. The only real story in here is the Chavo/Kidman thing, and that?s why my bet goes to Kidman in his ?I hurt everyone? pseudo-angle, followed by probably Chavo or London taking the belt off him at the Rumble. I’d rather have a return from a legit injury take this, but I don’t think it?s happening.

Who should win: Chavo Guerrero

Who will win: Billy Kidman

Lauren?s Interest Level: Can’t complain about the Cruisers [60%’>

I don’t know about the title being wasted here, because I haven’t really paid enough attention to Smackdown lately to realize that Spike was still the champ. I’m just hoping that these 4 guys get enough time to put on a decent match. Rey and Chavo are awesome, Spike is always passable, and Kidman is, well, Kidman. If they can deliver here, I’m happy. A Paul London return to cost Kidman the title would be the icing on the cake.

Who should win: Chavo Guerrero

Who will win: Chavo Guerrero

Mark?s Bottom Line: No, see, they reward people for injuring each other now.

Intercontinental Title:

Shelton Benjamin? vs. Christian

Lauren?s Interest Level: Consider me Peeped [93%’>

I’m looking forward to this match. I enjoy watching Shelton?s athletic style in the ring. The smarmy heel Christian should shine here trying to outwit him, because he knows he can’t outwrestle him. Benjamin?s been coming out on top on Raw recently, leading just about everybody to believe that he?s dropping the title here. I think that would be a mistake. I see no reason to take the belt off of Benjamin yet, as he?s still relatively unproven and holding the title will help him gain credibility with the marks. Christian?s over enough as a heel that having the title won’t help him so much. Even though I like Christian a great deal, I’ll be a little bit disappointed if he wins this, especially if it?s a non-clean finish involving Timmy Tonka Truck.

Who should win: Shelton Benjamin

Who will win: Christian

Mark?s Interest Level: And the Internet Rejoices. [90%’>

Two internet favorites fighting over a title is always enough to send us columnists into a frenzy. Shelton is a good all-arounder. That is to say, he?s good enough on the mic to get into it, and will certainly improve with age. He?s good enough in the ring to keep people interested in his matches. He?s good enough of a seller to make you believe what he?s doing out there. What?s more, Christian is the same type of worker. Not quite as athletic, but far beyond just ?good enough?. All they need to do is put on a clinic here and this one just might steal the show. And unlike Christian?s previous couple feuds, I won’t mind if they keep having rematch after rematch. Assuming Taboo Tuesday wasn’t rigged, the fans have spoken, and they want Shelton as their IC champion.

Who should win: Shelton Benjamin

Who will win: Shelton Benjamin

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Nothing more to say than hope this lives up to expectations.

Classic Survivor Series Match:

Eddy Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, Big Show, & John Cena vs. Kurt Angle, Luther Reigns, Mark Jindrak, & Carlito Caribbean Cool

Mark?s Interest Level: All except for Cena [88%’>

But hey, 7 out of 8 ain’t bad. If you?ve been reading my rants in the OTC reviews, you’ll know that I hate the idea of Cena being in this match. Mysterio belonged here, he made sense as RVD?s tag partner and a friend of Eddy (and to some extent Big Show). Now Mysterio?s cast back into a division he?s beyond, and Cena?s back from a ?stab wound? WAY too soon, except thrown into the match for no reason other than Carlito being on Angle?s team. Speaking of Team Angle, Jindrak & Reigns have been a surprisingly good tag team, Angle is always good, and I hear Carlito?s hurt because they actually were dumb enough to put a hotshotted rookie in the ring with Bob Holly at a house show. Great move. So maybe we’ll see Jesus (Aguilera, not Christ) on Angle?s team after all. At any rate, at least we won’t see an overbooked run-in fest here, since everyone who?s been interfering is all here at once. I’d say we’ll probably see Cena stretchered out since he ?wasn’t ready? to come back yet and he can go film his movie, and the match probably coming down to Show vs. Angle or Eddy vs. Angle, with Angle getting a cheap win. Works for me.

Who should win: Team Angle

Who will win: Team Angle

Predicted Survivors: Kurt Angle

Lauren?s Interest Level: Love the concept [80%’>

Hey, it?s Eddy, Show, Kurt, and?.a bunch of other guys! That?s kind of how I feel looking at the teams. It?s not really clear to me how the teams came together (other than ?faces on one side, heels on the other!?), but I’m approaching this match with an open and positive mindset. Survivor matches are so much fun, because, as Mark said, ?everyone who?s been interfering is all here at once.? Multiple stories can come to a head here, but having the team format keeps the match itself a bit more structured than, say, a battle royal. If it?s anything like last year?s survivor match involving a ?Team Angle,? the so-called ?bunch of other guys? should be eliminated rather quickly, leaving the matchups that fans really paid to see. As long as that happens, the match itself should be very good. I really haven’t a clue what will happen in this match, so consider my picks to be random guesses. Since I’m picking the faces to win the Raw survivor match, I’ll follow Mark?s lead and take Team Angle to win here.

Who should win: Team Angle

Who will win: Team Angle

Predicted Survivors: Kurt Angle

Mark?s Bottom Line: At least this year, Nathan Jones isn’t in the match.

WWE Heavyweight Title:

JBL? vs. Booker T

Mark?s Interest level: Mostly for the outcome. [50%’>

I’m putting the Raw Survivor match as the main event because it?s probably going to be. They don’t seem to have too much faith in Smackdown title matches as main events on joint PPVs, and with good reason. This worries me. On one hand, JBL has been built as a cowardly champion who can’t defend himself ever since he got the belt. He?s improved in the ring, but he?s still basically Bradshaw. On the other hand, Booker?s been getting the upper hand on JBL ever since he set his eyes on the belt. Usually they have the champ screw over the challenger at least a couple times before the match to make the playing field even, but it?s been a straight shot for Booker. What that means to me is that JBL?s retaining, but then they?ve had times when that kind of momentum is given to dethrone a long term champion. I don’t think the match is going to be anything special, but I hope this is one of those times. I was right about Benoit at WMXX, after all.

Who should win: Booker T

Who will win: Booker T

Lauren?s Interest Level: For the possibility of change? [30%’>

Bradshaw?s title run is starting to seem very long to me. Every time I glance at a Smackdown review, I think ?wow, JBL still has the title?? Of course, that?s probably what non-RoH fans think when they hear about Samoa Joe?s run, so I’m not going to judge without having seen the job he?s doing as champion. It?s good to hear that Booker T?s been built strongly, and a title change might renew my interest in Smackdown. I don’t have strong expectations for the match itself. For all the praise that?s been lavished upon Bradshaw?s character, I haven’t heard of any noticeable improvement in his ringwork. Therefore, I have no reason to believe that he won’t be craptacular as ever. Booker T hasn’t been exciting to me as a worker for awhile, so he’ll have to really turn it up here in order for me to enjoy this match.

Who should win: Booker T

Who will win: JBL

Mark?s Bottom Line: Believe me, you can judge without seeing the job he?s done as champion. It?s freaking Bradshaw.

Classic Survivor Series Match:

Randy Orton, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, & Maven vs. Triple H, Batista, Edge, & Gene Snitsky

Lauren?s Interest Level: Sky high, so don’t let me down [95%’>

As you can see from my rating, I am psyched for this match. The six man tag from two weeks ago on Raw, which featured Orton, Benoit, and Jericho working heel style against Evolution, was awesome. I love the fact that the babyface team is fired up enough that they’re willing to poke eyes and make quick tags. I love the stipulation that each member of the winning team will have a week to control Raw. It could potentially make for some unique and unconventional episodes of Raw. I love the fact that Triple H has reason to mistrust his teammates since they?ve all said they’re going after his title if they win the opportunity to control Raw. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a match involving Maven and Gene Snitsky, but this could be a psychological masterpiece. Unfortunately, pessimist that I am, I always see a way that things could fall apart. People are already speculating about a Maven heel turn and/or a Flair face turn. If the turning point of the match revolves around Maven, I see that as a huge letdown, because, really, who cares about Maven? Flair turning face has been teased ever since Orton turned and confronted him about being ?Triple H?s lapdog.? Flair held off on turning long enough to face Orton at Taboo Tuesday, but the turn was once again teased strongly in recent weeks on Raw. Flair being off television this past Monday adds to the intrigue. A Flair turn would make logical sense, and it would certainly go over, considering the amount of face pops he gets as a heel anyway. Since Team Orton team has shown that they’re not above using heel tactics, it wouldn’t be at all strange for them to win with the help of Flair?s interference. I’d still rather the heels win because I think it would make for more interesting television, especially the week when Gene Snitsky controls Raw. If Snistky can hold up a ?NO BABIES? sign during a match, I can only imagine the twisted things he’d have in store for the rest of the roster.

Who should win: Team Nose

Who will win: Team Orton

Predicted Survivors: Randy Orton

Mark?s Interest Level: Way, way up. [100%’> The only reason I would ever want to see Snitsky controlling Raw is because of the car-wreck quality that it would bring to my TV. I can’t think of much that would be worse. Oddly enough though, he doesn’t hurt my anticipation of this match. Everyone going into this has had some character development along the way, everyone?s got a reason to be doing what they’re doing, and everyone?s got a goal to accomplish. For the heels, everyone wants a piece of Triple H?s belt if they win, so they’ll go along with him to get it. For the face team, they’re fighting against Evolution?s bullshit that has been holding everyone down for just about two years now, and much longer for Trips. Orton seeks redemption, Benoit and Jericho are fighting for the guys who never got a chance, and Maven?s still trying to gain a foothold. For the heels, Edge has gone through a major overhaul and is slowly becoming an interesting heel, Batista has actually shown major development lately, and Triple H is…well, Triple H. Oh, and Snitsky just wants to punt babies. Suffice it to say that if he controls Raw for a week, it?s going to be just like every other week. That?s one reason why I think Team Trips isn’t taking it. Then again, I have NO idea what a Raw run by Maven would be like. Another is a potential Flair face turn, and yet another is a longshot Batista face turn, effectively breaking Evolution the hell up and letting the faces run wild on Raw, something which hasn’t been done in longer than I can remember.

Who should win: Team Orton

Who will win: Team Orton

Predicted Survivors: Orton and at least one Chris.

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Snitsky is the funniest thing to happen to Raw since Christy Hemme sat on a pie. Learn to love it.

Mark?s Overall Interest: 408 out of a possible 700, for a total of roughly 58%.

Lauren?s Overall Interest: 363 out of a possible 700, for a total of roughly 52%.

Lauren: For once it looks like Mark and I are on the same page for most of this show, with me of course being a bit more pessimistic because that?s my gimmick. Or something. Time to get this baby posted while it?s still relevant. Marky and I will be back here at some unspecified point next week to share our elation or our revulsion at the events that unfolded, whichever is more appropriate.

Mark: Funny you should say that, I have a hard time choosing between revulsion and elation when I review with you. At any rate, it?s probably a good sign that both of us have interest levels of above 50% for this one. If history is any indication, the numbers usually go up unless they tack on an extra match, and right now I can’t really think of any match they could tack on, barring a random tag title match from Raw, since they’re only contributing 3 to Smackdown?s 4. This probably means longer matches, which in all cases but that…uh…Heyman match, means happier reviewers. We’ll see you soon with the Counterpoint.

…And that?s the Bottom Line, cuz Mark and Lauren said so. AND NO BABIES.

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A Mark’s View: #162: A Toast to the Faceless

We all know that when we watch a movie or TV show, the majority of what we focus on is what we see. Our love/hate relationships with the wrestlers, various characters, storylines, and promos are well told in our community. What I seem to notice though, is that other than the occasional off-handed comment talking about a badass looking PPV set, or a really cool video package, nobody ever really looks into how many people really bring this thing we all know and (sometimes) love together as a complete picture. We see the stage, we see the actors on that stage, but without fine tuning and hard work from a phenomenal amount of people, nothing we see would ever be what it is today. In any production there are hundreds of ‘little guys? that never get the recognition they deserve. This is their story.

To delve into personal experience, I’ll go way back to my early high school days. Junior high, in fact. I was in 8th grade, walking through a hallway after school, when a friend of mine asked me to help him out with moving a couple tables onto the school auditorium?s stage. What followed was something that gradually changed my life over the years, eventually putting everything I viewed on a television or movie screen into a whole new perspective. When I walked into that auditorium, I saw the set. Pretty simple actually, but I stuck around backstage to view the rehearsals of the actors. I saw what all the people did backstage to make sure the show ran smoothly, from lighting cues to props, from offstage sounds to the guy pulling the curtain. The director ran around frantically, making sure everything ran as planned. The stage manager coordinated everything that needed to be done that the audience didn’t see. I was a changed man that day, and I did something that ended up affecting me for the rest of my high school days: I came back the next day to help in any way I could. From then on, I dabbled in small acting roles when I could land the auditions for them, but I was always better at behind-the-scenes stuff. Tech crew. Backstage help. The true support of the show. Between my freshman and senior years I had been a curtain jerker, various tech crew positions, a prop master, a stage manager, and an assistant director.

My first year of college was much the same way, until theater started consuming my time so much that it affected my grades, and I ended up having to focus on other things. But I never lost that interest. Fortunately my high school also had technology classes specializing in A/V and things of that nature. We learned how to use a camera, how to edit video and sound, and basic production for all facets of creating a show for other people. Things that I’m sure have advanced much further since I graduated high school in 1997, but I was fortunate that it didn’t end there. After the first year in theater in college, working as stage manager and assistant director in various productions, I transferred to another school. I took a few TV production courses, and learned the basics of what goes on behind the camera, both in the process and in the production booth. But enough about me.

Hollywood films are a strange entity; very little of what you see is, in fact, what you see. An actor can be on a screen, and deliver lines flawlessly. But is that all that makes you believe it? In most films nowadays, particularly the more epic ones, the actor on the screen is a surprisingly small involvement. Rather, what centers around those actors at all times is what makes the film. Take your basic heroic action hero. Strip away his makeup that accentuates his facial expressions and character. The costumes he wears. The special effects that make him do amazing things. The fight choreography that makes him such a badass. The dialogue coaching for that heroic charisma and faint mysterious sexy accent. The cinematography and lighting that set the mood. Art direction that makes the scene flow. The dramatic musical score that plays his hero theme. The set and location pieces that display the culture he?s immersed in. The lines from the script he?s given to speak (which may not even be real in the first place, as much dialogue these days is done with ADR). The director telling him what to do. The Hollywood hype machine promoting the film and the top billing that showcases him as the star to command your attention. What do you have? Just some guy. He could be a good actor, he could be a bad actor. But what he is by the time you see him performing on a screen, is the culmination of the hard work of a grand team of hundreds, making sure everything goes off without a hitch.

Thankfully, at least in my estimation, the unsung heroes that make the truly great movies what they are, aren’t so unsung anymore. Crack open that Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition you got for Christmas and take a look at what you?ve got; not at the first two DVDs that contain the film, mind you. Watch the other two, the Supplemental Material. The ?Making Of? documentaries. While an actor can be flown in for a couple weeks to get in costume and shoot his dialogue, the rest of the crew devotes thousands of man-hours to providing that actor the setting. The post-production team takes that footage and spends many more hours enhancing it. The editing team puts it in the proper order and makes it a nice, presentable little package. The town of Hobbiton that you see in Fellowship of the Ring? People made all that. That run-down rental house on Paper Street in Fight Club? That wasn’t already there, people built that, and made it look as ramshackle as it did. Every scene you see that switches from outdoor to indoor? Those indoor areas are all studios made with painstaking work. Every outfit and suit of armor you see that army of hideous monsters wearing? People put those together, often by hand. Those lightsabers your favorite Jedi are dueling with, or the CGI creatures roaming around? Someone had to go through that frame-by-frame and add them to the background one piece at a time. All to give you a believable setting, and immerse you in the story the director wants to present.

Television shows are the same way, though the process is a little different. Which brings me to wrestling, as in effect, wrestling is just like any other TV show with scripted dialogue, extended choreographed action sequences, and even a live studio audience. Let it be known first off that I respect anyone who gets in that ring and does what they do; for every match worked for the people in attendance and at home, and every promo cut on a microphone, and every bad angle the writers give for them to trudge their way through, I respect the wrestlers very much. Those people are heroes for what they do. But they’re not the only heroes.

Starting from the bottom all the way up to the top, there are people you don’t see who are doing their jobs just as diligently, making sure you get what you paid for, and making sure you get a good product. I focus mostly on WWE here because they’re the largest national (and sometimes international) touring company in the wrestling world. They also have the biggest production values.

When you go to a wrestling event, or watch one live on TV, there are people who have set up that ring you see; it doesn’t just magically appear in the center of your local arena. From laying out the structure, to making the mat level, to making sure the ropes are tight and secure, to making sure the occasional gimmicked ring works the way it?s supposed to, for Undertaker?s zombie ring levitation power when he taunted Kane earlier this year, or Mick Foley?s daring fall through the mat from the top of the Cell against Triple H, or Brock Lesnar and Big Show?s amazing spot that collapsed the ring, that fancy domed structure called the Elimination Chamber, these are the people who made that all happen. This is the ring crew. Every wrestling federation has one, and every time they put on a show, you see the fruits of their labor. Yet most of us tend to take for granted that when you watch wrestling, there will simply be a ring there.

Every single time you see the set, think of the people who designed it. From the hard metal structures of Raw, to the shattered mirrors and giant fist on Smackdown, to the ramp and the walkway, the giant Titantron screens, and the unique structures that appear on every PPV event that you watch, there were people that designed those, and others that built them. When you first get into that arena before the event starts, the sets look much plainer than you see on TV. That?s because they’re not lit up and glowing for added effect. That?s the job of the lighting crew. You know those blue strobes that go off when Chris Benoit emerges from the entranceway? You know that big wall of flame that Kane commands? Lighting and pyrotechnics. People are in control of all that, and are specialists in making sure they don’t screw up, which they rarely do. The pictures you’re seeing are brought directly to you by the people holding the cameras. The ring is always surrounded by those men in black who are the human equivalent of background noise to the common fan.

When you praise the production crew for a great video package that you saw, you’re talking about a whole team of people in post-production who took footage, expertly edited it and added the effects, to make something gripping out of the stories you see every day. Often, they even make the worst angles you?ve ever seen seem interesting and gripping. These are the people behind the hard sell. The reason you buy a wrestling product isn’t because you remember every detail of what happened in a feud, it?s because the video package production artists have put together a concise rehash of the more important moments of the feud, to remind you of the major events that lead up to every classic confrontation at Wrestlemania. When you see that logo of a PPV name, that?s a graphic artist?s work you’re looking at.

Still, those are all things you see anyway. There are a whole slew of people whose work you don’t see, and if nobody told you, you wouldn’t even know it was there. Hell, to be honest I don’t even know who half of these people are and exactly what they do, because I’ve never worked for a wrestling company. Sure, you see that ring out there. You see the sets and the lighting. You see the video package and the logos. But the glue that holds all of these things together is what you don’t see. People in the production trucks switching angles at rapid-fire and reacting to each live event to make sure you get a great camera shot every time. That close-up of The Rock?s eyebrow raising, that high impact finishing move seen from every direction. These are the people in the production trucks, who are rarely referred to. When there?s a minor screwup and ?Camera 6 is in a worst-case scenario?, an entire team of people are jumping all over it to fix the technical difficulty.

In addition, there are the people who don’t even directly affect what?s on your TV in real-time at every second. You have the people giving cues, but behind them are the people who plan it all out. Design teams, road agents, people handling corporate decisions, and the like. The backstage of the backstage. The directors and managers. The unsung of the unsung. If the people who are responsible for what you see on TV are given little credit, the people responsible for them get even less; yet they’re the ones who are in charge of the things you see. Well, there?s Vince McMahon, and those with the biggest influence on the creative team in Stephanie and Triple H, but that?s not what I’m talking about. These are the ones who would be equivalent to stage managers in theater. Directors of every department imaginable, in every facet of the product imaginable. Just like a Hollywood movie, when you see something you like, the actors you see are responsible for only a small percentage of that. You can take a bad actor and make a great movie around him, and it?s just as possible to take a bad wrestler and make a great angle out of him.

To vaguely paraphrase my fourth paragraph in this column and put it into a wrestling perspective, take your basic wrestler. Strip away the costume and put him in street clothes. Take away the booking that makes his match. The character that makes him a badass. The lighting, the pyro, the entrance video and musical theme, the editing, the sets, the promos he cuts, the ring he wrestles in, the directors telling him what to do, and the hype machine pushing him to the moon. What do you have? Just some guy. He could be a phenomenal wrestler or an awful one. But what he is by the time you see him performing live or on your TV, is the culmination of the hard work of a grand team of hundreds, making sure everything goes off without a hitch.

What?s my point? I’m not sure I have a definite ?point?, but I do advocate a different line of thinking, and a different perspective as a fan. While some say that knowing where everything comes from and who?s responsible for everything we see can ‘ruin the magic?, I don’t feel that way. To me, the true magic is in already knowing what everyone does, and then seeing it come together. I find it fascinating to watch a great movie, then see how they made it, then watch it again and see what I can and can’t spot. Many members of production teams will tell you, if you don’t know their work is there, then they?ve done their job well. So grab that Special Edition DVD and check out the ?Special Features? menu. Listen to a director or production crew?s commentary sometime. When you go to a movie, stay through the credits while the droves of movie-goers leave as soon as the last scene fades to black. Then buy a beer at the next wrestling arena you go to, raise it high, and make a toast to the faceless workers who make the atmosphere surrounding your favorite wrestlers possible. Without them, everyone you love to watch would be ?just some guy?.

Mark (over and) out.



…Or am I?

That?s right, don’t go hitting that Back button yet, because you get a bonus mini-column. Think of it as the ?Special Features? menu to the feature film above.

Taboo Tuesday Review

Aside from the ‘too many PPVs? syndrome, I decided not to do a full Point/Counterpoint column for Taboo Tuesday mainly for its format. I’d essentially have to write up a preview for each possible outcome, and let me tell you, that would?ve been a bitch to do. But I’m a completist and I need the numbers for my bigass year end column, so much like I did with the wholly uninteresting Great American Bash, I’m doing a short review here tacked onto the end of another column. It?s hard to gauge my interest levels going in, because how interested can you really be in a match where you don’t even know the participants or stipulations? Usually if I don’t go in with a set Interest Level, I come up with an Entertainment Level below 50%. But since this is a unique format for a PPV, I’m not going to let that bring this down.

What I think is rather amusing is the keyboard theme. Keyboards and keys are all over the place, and the promos contain someone furiously tapping away at a keyboard, when the voting was done with a series of mouse clicks. Funny. Anyway, I voted, so I’ll mention my votes along with each match.

Intercontinental Title:

Chris Jericho? vs. Shelton Benjamin

[Voted: Shelton Benjamin’> I couldn’t be happier that my vote came through. It not only means that we get to see possibly the best match out of all the participants, but it means that Shelton is way over with the crowd with a whopping 37% of the vote. It took a little while for the crowd to get into this, but it heated them up a bit. Jericho for the most part played the heel role here, and I’m very happy that Shelton?s the new IC champion. Loved the T-bone out of nowhere, but I think it needs a name.

Winner: Shelton Benjamin

Entertainment Level: [75%’>

Women?s Title Schoolgirl Battle Royal

[Voted: Schoolgirl’> Alright, this was definitely some hotness. The order of elimination was fairly predictable, but…okay, so I wasn’t paying all that much attention to the match itself. What can I say, sometimes blatant T&A works on me. I liked the subtle touches that made each outfit reflect the characters. But still, this actually wasn’t half bad, with a few close finishes and the crowd really getting into it. I’m not going to rate it all that high because as a rule I don’t do that for T&A segments, but it did a decent job of entertaining me.

Winner: Trish Stratus

Entertainment Level: [35%’>

Steel Chain Match:

Kane vs. Gene Snitsky

[Voted: Chain’> How do you turn a psychotic murdering necrophiliac face? Simple, bring in an ugly, goofy, balding jobber with a terrible name and no promo or wrestling ability to soak up all the legitimate heat. Snitsky isn’t as bad as HeiDenReich, but that doesn’t mean I like him any better. I was hoping this would end in a murder angle, but I guess Kane?s gotta go film his movie. At least he wasn’t stabbed in a nightclub. This was just ugly, and the extended EMT crap at the end didn’t help. My enjoyment is pretty much only from seeing my votes go 3-0 so far.

Winner: ?Baby Killer? Gene Snitsky

Entertainment Level: [5%’>

Loser Gets a Haircut:

Eric Bischoff vs. Eugene

[Voted: Loser is Winner?s Servant’> Well, my streak is broken. Quick match so it was really nothing. But honestly, who didn’t know that Bischoff had grey hair? They used to call him the ?Silver Fox? in WCW. Didn’t Vince ever watch his competition? Well no, of course he didn’t, he might have actually learned something. More drawn-out segment than match, and people never look as bad with a shaved head than people think they will anyway.

Winner: Eugene

Entertainment Level: [0%’>

Tag Team Titles:

La Resistance? vs. Chris Benoit & Edge

[Voted: HBK & Edge, by default’> That ?by default? is because I voted Benoit into the Heavyweight title match. I figured what they would do because of HBK?s injury is stick Benoit into the title match and have Michaels kept to a minimum in the ring in the tag match. Guess they figured Shawn had enough to go with the votes. I like that they mentioned how La Resistance were the ones who took the belts off of Benoit & Edge in the first place, because you know I love continuity. Edge being an ?absentee champion? makes me think Benoit?s going to get himself a new partner, though how they pull that off should be interesting. I’m banking on Regal though. Pretty good match with a slow start, but it picked up toward the end.

Winner: Chris Benoit

Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Lingerie Pillow Fight:

Christy vs. Carmella

[Voted: Lingerie Pillow Fight’> This somehow wasn’t as interesting as the battle royal. The ?undressing? sequence took far too long, and the ‘match? was probably less than a minute. So whatever. These two points are for Christy?s ass.

Winner: Christy

Entertainment Level: [2%’>

World Heavyweight Title:

Triple H? vs. Shawn Michaels

[Voted: Chris Benoit’> Benoit coming in last isn’t necessarily a sign that he isn’t over, if you look at the way this was built up. Every time they ran down the candidates it was always delivered as ?Do you want Edge…(psst…Chris Benoit)…OR SHAWN MICHAELS!?? Michaels is such a great seller that I don’t know where the lines between selling and legitimate pain were drawn, but for his efforts I give him a hell of a lot of credit. If it?s as bad as they’re saying, this is possibly an even bigger effort than when Trips tore his quad. If anyone?s going to be protecting HBK in these circumstances, I’m glad it was Hunter. If you have ever wondered what we internet people are talking about when we say ?psychology? and ?storytelling? in the context of a match, here?s your answer. Despite the crooked ending, only Michaels could put on a match this good while barely being able to stand up. This match earns my official Show Stealer award.

Winner: Triple H

Entertainment Level: [90%’>

Cage Match:

Randy Orton vs. Ric Flair

[Voted: Cage’> For only a ten minute match, this told a nice story. I’d really have liked this to go on longer, but I can’t complain for what we got. Flair can still blade with the best of them, Randy did some nice cutting too, and what resulted was pretty decent for what it was. Gone are the days when Flair can last an hour in a cage, but in the case where he?s putting over Orton both match-wise and afterward, and effectively passing that torch, it makes me wonder what Flair?s angle is for the future. While it was a good match, and it seemed very important, the length is what makes the grade suffer.

Winner: Randy Orton

Entertainment Level: [70%’>

Overall Entertainment: 337 out of a possible 800 for a total of roughly 42%.

The good was really good, the bad was really, really bad. The really bad matches (under 10%) each contained a really drawn out segment, whether it was silhouettes of girls changing, EMTs attending to ?internal injuries?, or a haircut. I think if they ever do this again, they need to make the decisions a little more important. Deciding on T&A filler stipulations and haircuts just isn’t the same as deciding challengers for a title or making a steel cage. What about being able to pick two challengers out of a list for the tag belts, and having the top two winners randomly team up? Or giving better stipulations to each match than ‘the obvious one, the medium one, and the one nobody?s going to pick?? They obviously swayed the voting, but I wonder what might have happened if the voters went against everyone?s expectations. This one ends up coming out near the bottom, but there are a lot of things about it that could?ve been much better. If they do another interactive PPV, I hope they figure out what needs fixing.

Mark (over and) out, really this time.

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A Mark’s View: #161: No Mercy 2004 – Counterpoint

Okay, so…No Mercy. Not that good. Not bad for the most part, but overall, kinda lame. Except for the end, which was ridiculously awful. Find out for yourself what that means, if you haven’t already, by reading on. But first, I gotta briefly tell you how this works. First, go back and read the Point, or you’ll probably be a little lost. Go on, read it. I’ll wait.

*cue smarmy holding music*

?Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line, and one of our representatives will be with you shortly.?

*click*

Okay, done? Good. Then you know how this works. This is the review portion. I quote the Point, and give you my reviews, as well as contrast my Interest Level with my Entertainment Level to tell you how much I enjoyed, or didn’t enjoy, each match. Got it? Let?s roll…

Eddy Guerrero vs. Luther Reigns



Interest Level: Ambulance/Casket/Stretcher Match [40%’> Funny how the so-called ‘main event? is also one of those types of matches, but I’ll give you more on why I hate that kind of match later. The upside to those types of gimmicks is that sometimes there?s a good match that comes out of it, like Brock/Show?s stretcher match for example. So sometimes there?s a healthy mix of good and bad. The good here is obviously Eddy Guerrero, and although the bad isn’t necessarily Luther, the bad IS that Eddy?s taken a major step down here. He was feuding over the title, but I didn’t mind so much when he put that aside to feud with Kurt Angle. Now though, he?s feuding with Kurt?s sidekick, and that?s not sitting too well with me because Eddy?s capable of better. He’ll arguably bring Luther to the best match of his career, though that?s not saying much yet at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mark Jindrak interfere here. Hopefully he’ll see a little more success with this tag partner than he did with Garrison Cade. I hope Eddy either gets something more interesting after this, or takes a well-deserved vacation…though not too long of one, hopefully. You’ll notice I haven’t said much about the actual feud, because even though they?ve been feuding, there really isn’t much to it.

Who should win: Eddy Guerrero

Who will win: Eddy Guerrero


Actual winner: Eddy Guerrero

When I said that Eddy had taken a major step down, I didn’t realize that step down included curtain jerking. I can understand why, because the first match should heat up the crowd, and in that respect this one served its purpose. But for a champion with a previous somewhat lengthy title reign, being the first one out means that by the end of the night, most people aren’t going to remember much other than Eddy?s win. For any Eddy Guerrero match like this, there?s not much to say about his performance; Eddy Guerrero is Eddy Guerrero, and that?s almost always a good thing. He was as good as he usually is here. As a general rule, I don’t really like pure power wrestlers unless they come up with some innovative offense and unique power moves that look like they absolutely kill their opponents; it?s why I enjoy what I?ve seen of Abyss in TNA. To Luther?s credit, he pulled out a couple of very nice moves. I don’t know exactly what you’d call that sort of gutwrench reverse sidewalk slam he hit midway through, but it was purty. He?s decent in the ring and he’ll improve with time, and he?s already surprisingly a good talker, so this feud with Eddy can only make things better for him, win or lose. I don’t know what direction either man goes from here, but I hope that direction is up for both.

Entertainment Level: [55%’>

Cruiserweight Title:

Spike Dudley? vs. Nunzio



Interest Level: Table Match [50%’> Fitting that the Dudleys are involved in this one then, I guess. The thing with table matches is that you know you’ll see something cool, but it gets repetitive after awhile. While this match isn’t a table match, and has the potential to be very good as long as the referee does the inevitable kicking out of the Dudleys (or alternately, Stamboli actually holding them off), we just saw it on Smackdown, and it contained a hell of a lot of rest holds from Spike. I still don’t think Spike is a convincing champion, as his offense just doesn’t sit right with me, but as long as he cheats via his brothers, it makes sense how he keeps it. Nunzio on the other hand, is fully capable of wrestling some amazing matches, if only they’d let him. It seems the FBI are going between this and tag title contention, and since this hasn’t had much/any build to it, I really can’t justify rating it any higher than halfway. I’m not doubting it’ll be a good one, but it?s not like they?ve done anything to put it high on my anticipation list. Hell, Nunzio wasn’t even a CW title contender until this past Thursday.

Who should win: Nunzio

Who will win: Spike


Actual winner: Spike Dudley

Not bad. Not bad at all. First off, credit goes to Cole and Tazz for really putting over Nunzio?s style. While it was a decidedly ground-based Cruiserweight match, that made sense in the context of the wrestlers. I?ve been a fan of Nunzio/Guido/Maritato since ECW, and although he?s not quite as submission-based as he used to be, his style really hasn’t suffered. Actually, this match was the first time in awhile where they?ve actually gone all out and let him showcase that style. A LOT of quick pin attempts and reversals here, which makes Nunzio?s style all that more interesting. Spike held his own as well, not so much leading the match, but that?s a good thing because as I?ve mentioned, Spike seems to utilize a lot of rest holds, which don’t really work in a match that?s supposed to be fast-paced. Instead, he worked more with Nunzio?s offense to make it look like he could lose the title at any time. I’m liking that on the brand exclusives they now seem to be doing a little more with this title, and letting the contenders actually work and show what they can do. As far as 2004 is concerned I think they’ll have a hard time topping Rey/Chavo at GAB, but this is certainly up there. The outside interference is consistent with Spike?s angle, though I can’t help but miss Palumbo in the FBI to even up the odds, though that?s also because they?ve done jack with him since sticking him on Raw.

Entertainment Level: [70%’>

Paul London vs. Billy Kidman



Interest Level: Steel Cage [75%’> Cage matches are sporadic in quality, but usually good. In WWE though, I?ve always had a problem with escaping through the door, if not the entire idea of escaping at all. I think this feud?s a long way from ever seeing a cage though, but it?s one that?s been extremely well built, albeit accidental. I enjoyed these guys as a tag team but I’d much rather see Paul London as a breakout singles star. They’re already giving him more TV and promo time than most jobber level midcarders, and I think this could be what really gets people to notice him. While it took Kidman a long time to finally turn heel (I thought that was coming with the haircut last year), it?s been one of the more interesting heel turns I can remember, even if he doesn’t have the charisma to act it out. He actually showed some promise in expression and actions after hitting London with the chair, instead of looking constipated like the past few weeks. I think Kidman?s still got it in him to work a really good match although I haven’t been interested in his work for awhile now, but London?s going to be the one to pull it out of him. I just hope this doesn’t end in another botched SSP. I know everyone?s hoping for London to pull out the London Calling at the end and make it his regular finisher, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I think with Kidman fresh off a heel turn, he’ll be the one getting a win here, but I don’t think this is over so we’ll probably see London winning in the end.

Who should win: Paul London

Who will win: Billy Kidman


Actual winner: Billy Kidman

See now, after watching this match I don’t know how anyone can confuse the internet?s love of Paul London for rampant fanboyism. It?s not just because he?s from ROH. It?s not just because he?s a smaller guy on the Smackdown roster. It?s because he?s a Damn. Good. Wrestler. Incredible selling, great bumping, an excellent moveset, and he lit a huge fire under Kidman?s ass in this match. One thing I particularly liked was that they even gave them a lengthy video package. Perhaps Vince does see something in these guys. The crowd was a little fickle here, not getting into it until about halfway through, not really reacting to either entrance, and mostly popping for highspots, but I understand why they cheered Kidman?s SSP even if it?s supposedly a murder move now (though I hope it won’t be every time he does it now). I don’t really like that they pull this after Chavo?s legit injury, but I don’t have much of a problem with it because I know Chavo?s only off TV to sell this angle more, and not because he?s in any danger. What I really enjoyed here other than London was the great psychology used by Kidman to tell a story about Paul London?s injured ribs throughout the match. It not only made Kidman?s SSP ending make more sense, but it gave the London Calling SSP (finally!) a reason why missing it would cost London the match. I just hope London?s not off TV too long after this, because this angle is going far too well to cool off. Though maybe next month could be a Chavo feud…or Kidman could just keep injuring people until the whole roster wants to kick his ass. Anyway, I enjoyed this a lot, and am chalking this one up as No Mercy 2004?s official Show Stealer, which is now going to be a regular award in my review columns.

Entertainment Level: [90%’>

Tag Team Titles:

Kenzo Suzuki & Rene Dupree? vs. Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam



Interest Level: Lingerie Match [25%’> Okay, so I’m a sucker for T&A sometimes, if what I’m looking at is really good. Likewise I’m a sucker for cool flippy spots, especially in tag matches where the faults of each wrestler aren’t exposed nearly as much. While I’m really not into the ringwork of Dupree or Suzuki, in tag action I believe they’re at least carryable. RVD and Mysterio though, have been working very well in tag action and have the potential to drag a good one out of Team Foreign Stereotype. I’d like them to have a little more substance as a team, because they have somewhat similar styles, and I think they could work well long term. The build to this has actually been pretty long, coming from the RVD/Dupree feud which was originally over the US title, so I don’t mind where it?s ended up. I think/hope Suzuki & Dupree?s reign is a paper one and was done simply to get the titles off of Kidman & London so they could break up, and since I really can’t see them doing much else with RVD and Mysterio at the moment, I think they’re going to take this.

Who should win: Rey & Rob

Who will win: Rey & Rob


Actual winner: United Nations

That?s my name for them and I’m sticking to it. Since I like taking credit for naming WWE tag teams like 3 Minute Warning and Los Guerreros before WWE actually calls them that (though it has been mentioned once in passing commentary), maybe this one will catch on too, since I believe every tag team needs a name. Every once in awhile something tips me off on who?s going to win a match, whether it?s the commentary, the build on the PPV itself (more on this in the main event), or new team outfits. This time around it was the ?La Resistance Theme (Japanese Flute Remix)?. As I suspected, both Dupree and Suzuki are a lot more tolerable in tag action. But as I also suspected, most of this match was carried by Mysterio and RVD. Aside from a few interesting double team spots from Team Flippy though, this was pretty formulaic as PPV tag title defenses go. Better than I figured it might be, but not enough for me to really get into it, especially since there are plenty of tag teams who could be holding these titles that I’d be a lot more satisfied with. I wouldn’t mind seeing RVD & Rey continuing to tag though, because I still don’t see the writers doing much else with them otherwise.

Entertainment Level: [30%’>

Kurt Angle vs. Big Show



Interest Level: Hell in a Cell [90%’> HIAC matches aren’t always good, despite the history they’re given. Mankind/Taker wasn’t even that good other than the two bumps. The 6-man was contrived and chaotic. Nash/HHH bored me. But more often than not, it?s the hype and usually a resulting good match that lives up to the legend. This match right here has gotten some good hype (aside from the surreal tranq dart and head-shaving), and will more than likely result in a good match. Show has been used well since his welcome return, and he doesn’t even really have to be a clear cut face so long as the people cheer because he destroys everything in his path. Kurt seems to be in good condition lately, at least I hope so, and the feud has a good several months of history behind it. Even the contract signing was one of the few times I?ve ever seen a logical contract signing segment. So barring a last minute No DQ stip or something like that, I think the returning Big Show?s going to devastate Kurt with his fiery wrath of doom. Theo Long says if anyone interferes they’ll be fired, so I’m really hoping that Bob Holly, Kenzo Suzuki, HeiDenReich, JBL, and Billy Gunn all interfere for no particular reason.

Who should win: Big Show

Who will win: Big Show


Actual winner: Big Show

Well, it?s official. Big Show is now less than 50% human. I?ve been keeping track of the metaphors used by the commentators on him for the past couple years, and in addition to his frying pan hands and his typewriter head, his legs are now trees, and his back is a pool table. That?s one scary-ass monster, and would make one hell of a weird Halloween costume. Interesting to note that for the first time in a very long time (possibly ever?), they’re now billing Show as under 500 pounds. As mentioned with Eddy Guerrero before, Kurt Angle is always Kurt Angle, and that?s a good thing. But between the restart of the match, the ref bump, and the weapons used, this seemed almost like an extended angle than a true matchup. That?s not necessarily a bad thing though, because while I think he?s an excellent worker, I’ll admit that Big Show?s really not all that great in the ring. Working the knee and ankle was a smart choice here, and cutting Show down to size made Angle seem less like he was getting squashed and more like he was evening the playing field. It wasn’t a great match by any means, but it was a fun one, and sometimes that?s all that matters.

Entertainment Level: [70%’>

United States Title – Best of Five, Match 5:

Booker T? vs. John Cena



Interest Level: Anything-on-a-Pole Match [15%’> Much like the Russo era of WCW where I got completely sick of seeing ?on a pole? matches, oh boy am I ever sick of this feud. The matches have been decent, yes, but the whole point of a series shouldn’t be just to fight a bunch of times, it should be to bring something new to the table each time. This feud hasn’t done that, and it?s gotten beyond boring from where I sit. I said when this series first started that I wasn’t pleased with the series idea, since I figured it would end up making Booker look like a bitch. So far, that?s what it?s done. I know he?s a heel, but Booker being the US champion shouldn’t have to cheat to win each of his matches, and I just know that if he wins here, he?s going to cheat once again. I’m thankful this isn’t a Best of Seven series now, because I don’t think I could stand three more of these. Cena?s ringwork is still suffering, he?s still an invincible no-seller, and his face promos still annoy me. He?s also supposedly going off to film a movie, and will probably be main eventing by the time Wrestlemania rolls around, so my guess is Mr. Ruthless Aggression doesn’t come out on top this time. But Booker will still look like a bitch.

Who should win: Booker T

Who will win: Booker T


Actual winner: John Cena

And Booker looks like a bitch anyway. After it was over, Michael Cole said ?This match was a mirror image of every match in this series.? That?s not a good thing. Yes, this was better than their previous encounters. It wasn’t shortened like the Summerslam match, it wasn’t cut down on time for TV, and it was promoted as a big deal here. So in that effect, it was better than the other matches of the series. What it didn’t do, was bring anything new to the series, or cap it off with anything special. It was 5 matches of pretty much the same thing. I think my biggest disappointment is that Cena, a man who would cheat all the time even when he first turned face, didn’t need to cheat to win any of the matches in this series, whereas Booker had to cheat to get each of his wins. I know it?s heel/face dynamic, but it doesn’t have to be that way. My problem with Cena isn’t that I don’t like him; although I can’t stand his face promos, and I think he needs work in the ring because he no longer has the heel mannerisms to fill out his ring character, I don’t think he?s bad. I also usually enjoy Booker?s work, although he?s not as good as he used to be. My problem is that they’re being handled wrong, and as a result, their match quality suffers. This series hasn’t interested me much from the hype, and the delivery hasn’t entertained me much. It?s not misdirected haterizing or anything, it?s just how I feel. My main gripe is that Cena doesn’t need a belt to be over, but it does help Booker, and now that?s done with.

Entertainment Level: [25%’>

-Just a side note/mini-rant, I hope Eugene?s Fanatic series PPV bombs. Nothing against Dinsmore, but he hasn’t even been around for 6 months, people are already getting sick of him, and there are tons of members of the roster who deserve a special more than he does. Besides, those are usually real life stories. How much can you kayfabe about a guy who pretends to be retarded?

Rico, Charlie Haas & Jackie vs. Dudley Boys & Dawn Marie
So uh, what exactly does Dawn have to do with the Dudleys? If she was actually their manager this might make some sense, but she?s not, and it doesn’t. I’d rather they put her with the Bashams or something. Do they still have jobs? At least there?s a smidgen of an angle in this one, although the actual tag teams here aren’t really feuding…I think. And couldn’t Charlie just cut a promo saying ?Uh, no, I don’t really like Dawn?? I don’t know, between the intermittent catfighting which I’m sure isn’t over, they managed to produce somewhat of a fun match. I really don’t like intergender matches because the tagging system makes no sense…but between decent wrestling from the teams, the hotness of the ladies, Rico making me laugh a few times, and at least some pre-PPV build, it earns more than the usual goose egg that the requisite filler matches usually get.

Entertainment Level: [15%’>

WWE Heavyweight Title – Last Ride Match:

JBL? vs. Undertaker



Interest Level: Kennel in a Cell [0%’> Sorry to use a Bossman match at an inopportune time like this, but it really was a terrible match. At least here though, we won’t see dogs humping on TV. At least I hope not. This will likely rival that in terms of bad matches, especially if their Summerslam match was any indication. The sad state of affairs for the Heavyweight title continues, and I’m wondering when it?s going to get away from both of these guys. Honestly, I don’t hate Undertaker. I just don’t think he should be where he is right now, and I think his gimmick isn’t working nearly as well as it used to. He had a certain charisma that made it work before, but now it?s just for crowd pops. As I said before, I hate this kind of match. Casket, Ambulance, Stretcher, Buried Alive, and now Last Ride matches, are supposed to make it so that you beat your opponent into incapacitation so badly that they can then be placed into a vehicle or container. Instead, the losing party is invariably simply dragged to a certain point and then stuffed in with the door slammed behind him. I guess any time they do it there?s potential for the former to happen, but far too often it?s the latter, and that?s why I feel the way I do about these matches. It certainly doesn’t help that I don’t want to see either contender as champion, but for the lesser of two evils I’d go with Undertaker since he actually has the capacity to work good matches.

Who should win: Undertaker

Who will win: JBL


Actual winner: JBL

Oh lord, was this ever bad. It wasn’t just bad, it was fucking terrible. Why is it that whenever WWE can’t get an angle over by means of actual quality wrestling, they resort to vehicular manslaughter? What?s more, why are Kane and Undertaker apparently competing for the worst angles in wrestling history? Matchwise…meh. Slow brawling, blading and a couple low-end bumps doesn’t make a match. The comfort of watching this through PowerDVD is the speed setting. It wasn’t half bad watching this in 3x speed. But I would?ve been bored out of my skull had I watched it normally. The Tombstone on the steps wasn’t bad (even though JBL no-sold it a couple minutes afterward…YES! No-sold a goddamn Tombstone on the steps!), but any potential enjoyment I could?ve gotten out of this match was completely erased the moment they decided to scrap the idea of a wrestling PPV, and instead turn it into a really bad 80?s made-for-TV action movie…one possibly starring Lou Ferrigno, Joe Don Baker, and half the cast of Hulk Hogan?s ?Thunder in Paradise?, because they couldn’t get work anywhere else.

Why they thought this was a good idea is far beyond me, but then, these are the people who ended their last brand exclusive PPV with a cement mixer drowning a fat man. These are the people bringing back the age of awful gimmicks. These are the people who will be bringing you a high-profile HeiDenReich feud as a result of this match. He didn’t even get to read one of his lame little poems. It?s a shame, too, because the undercard was actually pretty good for the most part. With the utter shit ending though, I wish my scale went lower than zero.

Entertainment Level: [0%’>



Overall Interest: 295 out of a possible 700, for a total of roughly 42%.

Overall Entertainment: 360 out of a possible 800, for a total of 44%.

A large step above the two Smackdown-exclusive crapfests over the summer, and believe me, that?s entirely the undercard?s doing. The mid-to-upper midcards remain the best parts of the show, whereas the main event continues to blow goats, rhinos, a blue whale, and that blue whale’s father. Nothing really stood out as ‘memorable’ other than London/Kidman, and the show’s ending was just retarded. I enjoyed a lot of the matches a good deal more than I expected to, but I think the grade is fair enough because it rewards the good and penalizes the crap just enough. If you haven’t seen this and plan to watch, do yourself a favor and turn it off before the main event.

As I?ve mentioned before, I won’t be doing a preview column for Taboo Tuesday. I plan to do quick reviews of the matches tacked onto the end of another column though, much like I did with Great American Bash. I have a few columns I’d like to crank out within the next few months, and being bombarded with PPVs isn’t helping, so since TT seems like the red-headed bastard child PPV, I’m skipping it. Until then, I guess I’ll either see you for Survivor Series, or whatever else comes in between.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #161: No Mercy 2004 – Point

Thanks a bunch to Mike Maloney for the awesome banner.

I wasn’t sure at first that I was going to do this column. I?ve had a long and busy, yet decidedly uneventful week, and as was the case over the summer, I’m really not too enthusiastic about the idea of WWE cranking out a PPV every 2 or 3 weeks. I?ve already elected not to do a Point/Counterpoint column for Raw?s next event, Taboo Tuesday, later this month. I?ve said it before and I’ll say it again, before the brand extension we had 8 shows building up to each PPV. With the brand split, one PPV per month alternating between the brands still gave us 8 shows of buildup. The major problem lies within the fact that now with one PPV per month per brand cuts the buildup down to a paltry 4 weeks per show between PPVs. Not only does the lackluster build for each show since they began this format kill the anticipation of it, but so does the overkill. PPVs aren’t special events anymore. They’re obligatory and cheapened. The only events that remain somewhat special are now the ?big four?, and that?s mostly because they’re joint productions. I don’t mind a 4 week build when there?s only a month between a brand exclusive and a joint PPV, and granted that it has been several weeks since a Smackdown PPV, but the sheer amount of shows we?ve been bombarded with in 2004 has gotten ridiculous. There was nothing wrong with 12 shows a year and I’m hoping that low buyrates for 2004 will prove that to WWE.

So, a mere three weeks after Raw?s Unforgiven, we?ve got Smackdown?s No Mercy. It?s really an appropriate title, considering that WWE gives the fans no mercy when it comes to PPV overkill. That, combined with the Bizarro World that Smackdown has entered into over the past month with ridiculous gimmicks and angles (though Raw is guilty of that to a lesser degree), and you?ve got me anticipating this show less and less. Since I?ve barely had a breather since the last one, there?s absolutely nothing special to me about this show, and as a result I’m not going to watch it live. Instead, WWE is practically forcing me to encourage internet piracy. Not that I wouldn’t be encouraging it anyway, mind you, after some of the nonsense that the Smackdown writers have put us through lately. I’d say it?s a tad better than last year?s No Mercy though, because at least we don’t have Vince and Stephanie promoted as a main event.

As for Heat, it wouldn’t surprise me if they pulled the trigger early on the Dawn/Jackie angle and had them fight it out at the PPV. Though if they’re fighting over Charlie Haas, I’d rather see Dawn become a valet for whatever team is going to feud with Rico & Haas. And if they’re going to tack on a match, which seems somewhat unlikely since they?ve actually booked seven matches on the card, I’ll go with HeiDenReich squashing a random Cruiserweight, and then probably reading…a poem…by HeiDenReich.

Now, onto business. Here are a few things you should know: I’ll preview each match, tell you my percentage of interest in it, and tell you who I think should win, then who I logically think will actually win. For this show?s preview theme, I think I’ll go with…ahh, what the hell, let?s say WWE gimmick matches for a theme. Just don’t get confused and think I’m referring to the match I’m previewing when I list each particular gimmick, okay?

Cruiserweight Title:

Spike Dudley? vs. Nunzio

Interest Level: Table Match [50%’> Fitting that the Dudleys are involved in this one then, I guess. The thing with table matches is that you know you’ll see something cool, but it gets repetitive after awhile. While this match isn’t a table match, and has the potential to be very good as long as the referee does the inevitable kicking out of the Dudleys (or alternately, Stamboli actually holding them off), we just saw it on Smackdown, and it contained a hell of a lot of rest holds from Spike. I still don’t think Spike is a convincing champion, as his offense just doesn’t sit right with me, but as long as he cheats via his brothers, it makes sense how he keeps it. Nunzio on the other hand, is fully capable of wrestling some amazing matches, if only they’d let him. It seems the FBI are going between this and tag title contention, and since this hasn’t had much/any build to it, I really can’t justify rating it any higher than halfway. I’m not doubting it’ll be a good one, but it?s not like they?ve done anything to put it high on my anticipation list. Hell, Nunzio wasn’t even a CW title contender until this past Thursday.

Who should win: Nunzio

Who will win: Spike

Paul London vs. Billy Kidman

Interest Level: Steel Cage [75%’> Cage matches are sporadic in quality, but usually good. In WWE though, I?ve always had a problem with escaping through the door, if not the entire idea of escaping at all. I think this feud?s a long way from ever seeing a cage though, but it?s one that?s been extremely well built, albeit accidental. I enjoyed these guys as a tag team but I’d much rather see Paul London as a breakout singles star. They’re already giving him more TV and promo time than most jobber level midcarders, and I think this could be what really gets people to notice him. While it took Kidman a long time to finally turn heel (I thought that was coming with the haircut last year), it?s been one of the more interesting heel turns I can remember, even if he doesn’t have the charisma to act it out. He actually showed some promise in expression and actions after hitting London with the chair, instead of looking constipated like the past few weeks. I think Kidman?s still got it in him to work a really good match although I haven’t been interested in his work for awhile now, but London?s going to be the one to pull it out of him. I just hope this doesn’t end in another botched SSP. I know everyone?s hoping for London to pull out the London Calling at the end and make it his regular finisher, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I think with Kidman fresh off a heel turn, he’ll be the one getting a win here, but I don’t think this is over so we’ll probably see London winning in the end.

Who should win: Paul London

Who will win: Billy Kidman

Tag Team Titles:

Kenzo Suzuki & Rene Dupree? vs. Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam

Interest Level: Lingerie Match [25%’> Okay, so I’m a sucker for T&A sometimes, if what I’m looking at is really good. Likewise I’m a sucker for cool flippy spots, especially in tag matches where the faults of each wrestler aren’t exposed nearly as much. While I’m really not into the ringwork of Dupree or Suzuki, in tag action I believe they’re at least carryable. RVD and Mysterio though, have been working very well in tag action and have the potential to drag a good one out of Team Foreign Stereotype. I’d like them to have a little more substance as a team, because they have somewhat similar styles, and I think they could work well long term. The build to this has actually been pretty long, coming from the RVD/Dupree feud which was originally over the US title, so I don’t mind where it?s ended up. I think/hope Suzuki & Dupree?s reign is a paper one and was done simply to get the titles off of Kidman & London so they could break up, and since I really can’t see them doing much else with RVD and Mysterio at the moment, I think they’re going to take this.

Who should win: Rey & Rob

Who will win: Rey & Rob

Eddy Guerrero vs. Luther Reigns

Interest Level: Ambulance/Casket/Stretcher Match [40%’> Funny how the so-called ‘main event? is also one of those types of matches, but I’ll give you more on why I hate that kind of match later. The upside to those types of gimmicks is that sometimes there?s a good match that comes out of it, like Brock/Show?s stretcher match for example. So sometimes there?s a healthy mix of good and bad. The good here is obviously Eddy Guerrero, and although the bad isn’t necessarily Luther, the bad IS that Eddy?s taken a major step down here. He was feuding over the title, but I didn’t mind so much when he put that aside to feud with Kurt Angle. Now though, he?s feuding with Kurt?s sidekick, and that?s not sitting too well with me because Eddy?s capable of better. He’ll arguably bring Luther to the best match of his career, though that?s not saying much yet at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mark Jindrak interfere here. Hopefully he’ll see a little more success with this tag partner than he did with Garrison Cade. I hope Eddy either gets something more interesting after this, or takes a well-deserved vacation…though not too long of one, hopefully. You’ll notice I haven’t said much about the actual feud, because even though they?ve been feuding, there really isn’t much to it.

Who should win: Eddy Guerrero

Who will win: Eddy Guerrero

United States Title – Best of Five, Match 5:

Booker T? vs. John Cena

Interest Level: Anything-on-a-Pole Match [15%’> Much like the Russo era of WCW where I got completely sick of seeing ?on a pole? matches, oh boy am I ever sick of this feud. The matches have been decent, yes, but the whole point of a series shouldn’t be just to fight a bunch of times, it should be to bring something new to the table each time. This feud hasn’t done that, and it?s gotten beyond boring from where I sit. I said when this series first started that I wasn’t pleased with the series idea, since I figured it would end up making Booker look like a bitch. So far, that?s what it?s done. I know he?s a heel, but Booker being the US champion shouldn’t have to cheat to win each of his matches, and I just know that if he wins here, he?s going to cheat once again. I’m thankful this isn’t a Best of Seven series now, because I don’t think I could stand three more of these. Cena?s ringwork is still suffering, he?s still an invincible no-seller, and his face promos still annoy me. He?s also supposedly going off to film a movie, and will probably be main eventing by the time Wrestlemania rolls around, so my guess is Mr. Ruthless Aggression doesn’t come out on top this time. But Booker will still look like a bitch.

Who should win: Booker T

Who will win: Booker T

Kurt Angle vs. Big Show

Interest Level: Hell in a Cell [90%’> HIAC matches aren’t always good, despite the history they’re given. Mankind/Taker wasn’t even that good other than the two bumps. The 6-man was contrived and chaotic. Nash/HHH bored me. But more often than not, it?s the hype and usually a resulting good match that lives up to the legend. This match right here has gotten some good hype (aside from the surreal tranq dart and head-shaving), and will more than likely result in a good match. Show has been used well since his welcome return, and he doesn’t even really have to be a clear cut face so long as the people cheer because he destroys everything in his path. Kurt seems to be in good condition lately, at least I hope so, and the feud has a good several months of history behind it. Even the contract signing was one of the few times I?ve ever seen a logical contract signing segment. So barring a last minute No DQ stip or something like that, I think the returning Big Show?s going to devastate Kurt with his fiery wrath of doom. Theo Long says if anyone interferes they’ll be fired, so I’m really hoping that Bob Holly, Kenzo Suzuki, HeiDenReich, JBL, and Billy Gunn all interfere for no particular reason.

Who should win: Big Show

Who will win: Big Show

WWE Heavyweight Title – Last Ride Match:

JBL? vs. Undertaker

Interest Level: Kennel in a Cell [0%’> Sorry to use a Bossman match at an inopportune time like this, but it really was a terrible match. At least here though, we won’t see dogs humping on TV. At least I hope not. This will likely rival that in terms of bad matches, especially if their Summerslam match was any indication. The sad state of affairs for the Heavyweight title continues, and I’m wondering when it?s going to get away from both of these guys. Honestly, I don’t hate Undertaker. I just don’t think he should be where he is right now, and I think his gimmick isn’t working nearly as well as it used to. He had a certain charisma that made it work before, but now it?s just for crowd pops. As I said before, I hate this kind of match. Casket, Ambulance, Stretcher, Buried Alive, and now Last Ride matches, are supposed to make it so that you beat your opponent into incapacitation so badly that they can then be placed into a vehicle or container. Instead, the losing party is invariably simply dragged to a certain point and then stuffed in with the door slammed behind him. I guess any time they do it there?s potential for the former to happen, but far too often it?s the latter, and that?s why I feel the way I do about these matches. It certainly doesn’t help that I don’t want to see either contender as champion, but for the lesser of two evils I’d go with Undertaker since he actually has the capacity to work good matches.

Who should win: Undertaker

Who will win: JBL

Overall interest: 295 out of a possible 700, for a total of roughly 42%.

I’m actually kind of surprised that it?s even that high, because it doesn’t feel like it. I guess it?s a select few matches that save it from being a total flop in interest though, but no matter, because the Counterpoint is where the grades really count anyway. That does it for the Point, and since I’m skipping Raw?s next one, my guess is that the next one I’ll be previewing will be Halloween Havoc, since the 31st is in exactly 4 weeks. Ooh, spooky. Personally I would rather they just let it be after Taboo Tuesday and built toward Survivor Series in November. But hey, this isn’t Burger King, so I guess I can’t have it my way.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #160: Unforgiven 2004 – Counterpoint

Well, we?ve all had a week to let it sink in. At least, many of you have. I didn’t get to see Unforgiven and I haven’t had the time to watch my OMG INTERNET PIRATED COPY all week (dear FBI: Just kidding. Maybe.), but I?ve got some time to kill today so I think I’ll go forth and watch Unforgiven and give you the Counterpoint. I know the results already, having watched this past week?s Raw already, so at least that part?s sunk in enough. If you don’t know how this works by now, you need to go read the Point first, and that should bring you up to speed.

I’m not sure if all of you got to watch it, but there was some pretty good stuff on Heat last week. Anyone who doesn’t think Batista is a good talker apparently hasn’t seen him talk much. Flair cut his usual crazy old man promo, but Batista really carried this one, and even got a funny little comment on Todd Grisham?s choice of wardrobe. I plan to include a segment in Batista?s defense in a future column, though at the moment I couldn’t tell you when that will be. Elsewhere, the requisite ‘match on Heat? was Maven vs. Rodney Mack. Hey…hey, wake up. Don’t start snoring yet. It was actually pretty decent. If they pushed him properly, Mack would be a decent brawling character, and the crowd seems to connect well with Maven, so this was an okay match that the crowd warmed up with, and popped surprisingly huge for Maven?s victory. I don’t usually talk about Heat, but it happened to be included with the Unforgiven file, so there you go.

Chris Benoit & William Regal vs. Evolution



Interest Level: William Shatner [65%’> See, I like Shatner. He?s currently just about the most ridiculous man on the face of the planet, so he?s hard not to watch. He just has this certain quality that makes me unable to turn the channel when he?s talking somewhere. I don’t really have a segue into the match here, because none of the participants in this match are ridiculous men, though I have to say Ric Flair still has that quality that makes me want to watch. For some reason, Batista does too. In the past few years I?ve become a big fan of William Regal. I used to hate him, but now he?s always a joy to watch. I don’t know what happened, I just sort of warmed up to him sometime shortly after he came back to WWE. And of course, you can’t swing a dead cat on a wrestling website without hitting at least a dozen Chris Benoit fanboys. Already, WWE has been criticized for shunting Benoit down the card after he lost the title, people complaining nonstop that Benoit will never get a shot again…the same people who were saying they’d be happy with Benoit?s five-month title reign regardless. But come on, it?s only been a few weeks. It?s not like he?s jobbing constantly. He still looks consistent, always put over as the tough guy, and they’re protecting him by making him a big name. This match serves mostly as ?friends of Eugene vs. enemies of Eugene?, though since I think Eugene?s out for now it?s barely a concern anymore. There aren’t a whole lot of title contenders on Raw right now, so I don’t think it’ll be too long before we see Benoit back on top. I hope to see more from Regal soon though. This could be good, but I have a feeling it’ll be short.

Who should win: Benoit & Regal

Who will win: Flair & Batista


Actual winner: Benoit & Regal

Odd that I used Shatner in my Point, because I just checked out his new album, and it?s probably the most bizarre thing I?ve ever heard. Worth taking a listen to though, because of the guest stars on it. Anyway, if there?s one thing I have to say about this match aside from the match quality itself, it?s that the commentary team seemed to go out of their way to call it properly. I haven’t heard JR and Lawler call a match and pay as much attention to the styles and psychology as they did here in a long time, and it?s something I wish they’d do more often because it really added to the match. The focus was on the match at all times, and there?s a reason for that: It was a damn good tag match. From the quick tags, to the different styles meshing well, to each team working on a body part for their respective submissions (though I wonder whatever happened to Regal?s STF), to a solid performance by each participant, this was exemplary of what tag team wrestling should be. Other tag teams should takes notes from this match. I really had nothing to complain about here. It?s a bit odd as a curtain jerker, given the status of each of these teams, but that?s a minor point. The faces get a measure of revenge, and I’m hoping we can look forward to the addition of Orton and Benjamin as a dominant face stable soon. I got a LOT more out of this than I was expecting going in.

Entertainment Level: [90%’>

-I also found myself enjoying the dynamic between Trish, Christian, and Tomko backstage. It?s a good way to split up the angle since they don’t really need each other anymore, and if anyone?s going to be a good valet to Tonka Truck, it?s Trish.

Women?s Title:

Trish Stratus? vs. Victoria



Interest Level: Hayden Christensen [5%’> Now what exactly was so wrong with the original Darth Vader that they had to ruin him and make him a whiny teenager? Much like the original SW trilogy, we?ve all seen Trish vs. Victoria before. But much like the prequels, the only thing we’ll be getting here is eye candy, because there?s really nothing else to care about. Is there even a feud behind this? If there is, I don’t remember what it is, other than maybe Trish attacking Victoria randomly at some point, or Victoria winning a #1 contender?s match. They have nothing for the Divas they?ve already got, so why are they even bothering to search for another? Trish has been merely holding the strap since she was injured (interesting they’ll take the IC title off of Edge though), so my educated guess is that the ‘mystery Stevie?…uh, I mean ‘mystery woman? will cost Trish the match, and then we’ll probably have some kind of program with Tomko vs. Richards. Wheee. It should be solid enough to sit through, but there?s really no substance. Sort of like watching Hayden act.

Who should win: Victoria

Who will win: Victoria


Actual winner: Trish Stratus

I find it odd that an injured champion doesn’t drop the belt after coming back from an injury where the belt couldn’t be defended, especially as I mentioned in the Point that Edge was stripped of his belt, yet he wrestled when he broke his hand. I know it makes for good TV to have a face/tweener stripped of his belt, but it doesn’t make sense not to do it here when the title is the only real facet of the Women?s division, since there aren’t really any angles to it otherwise. It?s more often than not just two girls fighting over a belt. So it?s too bad then, that these two were wasted on this match. I’m not sure what it was, but aside from a spot or two, the match just couldn’t hold my interest. I found it boring, long, and not nearly up to par for what these two can usually do in the ring.

Entertainment Level: [5%’>

Steven Richards vs. Tyson Tomko

See, I think the problem with this match is that they didn’t make a big production out of it whatsoever. Everyone of course had already heard the ?Stevie? chants in the audience, but the commentary team despite their original ignorance merely mumbled something akin to ?Oh. It?s Steven Richards. Okay then.? Had they put some effort into the booking, and had Richards come back out and reveal himself, then taken down Tomko with some kind of surprise and given the people something to pop for, I might have taken some interest to this. Instead they turned it into an afterthought, with their method of ‘revealing? Richards being the anticlimactic method of Tomko beating the crap out of him while he wore women?s underwear. I have no problem with this being tacked on because it?s actually got an angle behind it, but they seriously went about it all wrong. The angle went on for months and quite simply, they blew it. If it had been an even match or a better conclusion to the story, this might have been a decent addition to the card.

Entertainment Level: [0%’>

Intercontinental Title Ladder Match:

Chris Jericho vs. Christian



Interest Level: Kiefer Sutherland [100%’> 24 is one of my favorite TV shows, and Kiefer has brought great roles to the table since I first started watching him in movies. Similarly I?ve been following both Christian and Jericho?s careers pretty closely since they started wrestling, and I like what they produce in terms of matches. Personally, I?ve been clamoring for a ladder match for ages now. It?s been too long since they?ve brought out that gimmick, and that makes it seem more cool to me. While the IC title feud hasn’t exactly had any build to it other than last week?s Raw, the story between these two, and each of their interactions with the stripped champion Edge, easily speaks for itself. This is one of the rare cases where little build to a match works, because they?ve already put the foundations in place long before this. I’m a little worried about Christian?s back here, but I don’t think he’d be doing a ladder match if he didn’t feel safe, and anyone who thinks management would force him into it underestimates how much they value their workers. They don’t want to see people legitimately hurt if they can help it. I think Christian will be fine. Even more interesting is the fact that I have absolutely no idea who?s going to win this match. I’d be happy with either. I’ll take the crapshoot chance and go with Jericho since he?s been chasing it for longer.

Who should win: Doesn’t matter, I’ll like it.

Who will win: Chris Jericho


Actual winner: Chris Jericho

I feel most of my anticipation going into this was due to not having seen a ladder match in awhile, so I found myself paying a little more attention than I might usually for a normal singles match. While not the best ladder match I?ve ever seen in terms of quality, mostly due to there having been so many greats in the past, nor in terms of amazing highspots, which are tough to beat due to the roads paved by TLC matches, this match did have a certain special quality to it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly what it was until about halfway through the match, but I realized it did have one quality that many others before it haven’t. Realism. From the quiet horror in the commentary team?s reactions during spot replays (another credit to the team mentioned earlier), to the selling of every move with both men making it look (and sound!) like a painful match even early on, it was probably the most realistic take on the ladder match gimmick I?ve seen in a long time. At several points I wondered if the pain they were going through was as real as they sold it, and the recovery from high impact moves wasn’t unrealistically short. In fact, some might say this was a ?slow? ladder match, but I had no problems with that because it made perfect sense in the context of what they were doing. For that, I have to give my appreciation to both Jericho and Christian. I think ladder matches by and large are better with more people involved, because of less downtime, but while not a true classic, this had great selling all over it. Chris Jericho is king of the midcard at this point in his career as a 7 time IC champ, and I don’t feel it?s much of a step down for him because he wears it well. I think the last spot didn’t go as intended, but as far as I’m concerned that?s nothing to complain about because they covered it very well. It wasn’t perfect, but there wasn’t inherently anything wrong with it either.

Entertainment Level: [90%’>

Shawn Michaels vs. Kane



Interest Level: Dave Foley [70%’> I’m a Kids in the Hall fan. It was one of the best sketch comedies around when I was growing up, and to me it signifies a lot about the 1990?s for me. So do HBK and Kane, actually, now that I?ve oh-so-conveniently established a segue… Kane is passable in the ring, and although his angles nearly always suck, he does the best job he can with them, and for that I respect him. Michaels was somewhat the victim of a random attack by Kane when he was taken out before, so there?s not a whole lot of substance to this feud. But it does make sense, and even more sense in a way when you consider that it?s basically a Jesus freak against the Devil incarnate. Classic good vs. evil, and classic 90?s matchup. I can’t say much more about it other than the idea that I think HBK can bring Kane to a pretty good match. Kane?s honestly worked hard lately so I wouldn’t mind if he took this, but big return/revenge wins are always the thing to do in WWE.

Who should win: Kane

Who will win: Shawn Michaels


Actual winner: Shawn Michaels

You know, Kane?s really got to stop accepting No DQ stipulations. In kayfabe terms, he?s strong enough to beat most people in regular matches. But as soon as he gives his opponents the ability to use whatever they want against him, it?s a dead giveaway that they will. I can’t think of a No DQ match that Kane has won recently, actually. It seems like WWE will never learn that the big man is at a major disadvantage when this happens, and keep acting like it?s some huge revelation that stacks the deck on behalf of the stronger man in the match. Seriously, whack Kane enough times in the head with a chair, and Lita could beat him. Another problem I had with this is simply that you?ve got Kane in the ring, and you?ve got Shawn Michaels in the ring. Logic would dictate you let Michaels carry this, but no, Kane was in control for probably 90% of the match. In a No DQ environment, I don’t care what a sparkly, shiny super babyface you are, grab the nearest weapon and use it until the guy?s unconscious, instead of just one chairshot and one shot to the nuts or whatever. Though I can’t say logic has ever been WWE?s strong suit. It wasn’t all that bad of a match, but the booking was just weird. When HBK can’t win a match until Lita helps him, there?s a problem there. At least now there?s some hope that this angle will be over, thanks to Gene ?Baby Killer? Snisky. I thought this dragged quite a bit, but it had its moments.

Entertainment Level: [55%’>

World Tag Team Titles:

La Resistance? vs. Tajiri & Rhyno



Interest Level: Alex Trebek [50%’> Alex is dead to me without the moustache. He?s half the man he used to be without it. Likewise, this feud doesn’t quite have as much potential as it did a month ago. Everyone seemed to expect this match to finally happen at Summerslam, but Team ECW seemed to be denied at the last minute, apparently to make way for a Diva Search segment and a lot of really short matches. Since then the feud hasn’t held my interest the way it had before, with La Resistance not really being all that impressive as tag champs, and Tajiri?s injury keeping him out of buildup matches. And much like the real star of Jeopardy is now Ken Jennings, the real star of this feud has been Rhyno, who has been on an absolute tear lately. He?s more motivated than I ever remember seeing him, at least in WWE. The tag titles have been dangled like the proverbial carrot in front of Tajiri and Rhyno for long enough, so I figure this will be the day they take it. Maybe after Sunday we can get away from the thought that all 3 members of La Resistance are now tag champions. Unfortunately we can’t say the same for Kenzo Suzuki.

Who should win: Tajiri & Rhyno

Who will win: Tajiri & Rhyno


Actual winner: La Resistance

I see no reason for the way this ended. The end spot with Grenier getting crotched and then receiving the Gore should?ve ended it, but for some reason they decided to keep the belts on La Resistance. If there was any match that deserved my ?Who should win? prediction the most on this card, it was this one. I can’t think of a time since this tag team got together when Rhyno wasn’t constantly intense, and Tajiri wasn’t a joy to watch. They mesh great as a team, and they make sense tagging. So to keep the tag belts on the gimmick team here just doesn’t click with me at all, not because I don’t like them, but because this was the perfect time for a title switch. They made a production out of Rhyno trying to find a tag partner, and as I said in the Point, they failed to pull the trigger last month by not even giving them a match, so this month easily could?ve been when it finally happened. It didn’t. I guess I’m a little bitter about this, because I really would?ve marked for a Team ECW title reign. Matchwise, I think I got a little more than I anticipated though.

Entertainment Level: [60%’>

World Heavyweight Title:

Randy Orton? vs. Triple H



Interest Level: Jim Carrey [75%’> Let it first be said that I don’t really like Jim Carrey?s goofier roles where the entire premise of the film is centered around him contorting his face into weird positions. As a serious actor though, I think he?s phenomenal when he gets the chance. I guess that?s like Triple H in a way, in that when he?s motivated, he kicks ass. But when he?s not, and all he has to do is coast and go through the motions, he?s boring as hell. Trips is fresh off the Eugene feud, which I actually like how it ended because it?s something they have very few of in WWE: A finite storyline with a beginning, middle, and end. Orton is really starting to warm up to me as a champion, and there?s one simple reason for that. He?s not a clear-cut face. He?s still cocky, he?s still the ?Legend Killer?, he still cheats his ass off to keep his belt if he needs to, and they’re not treating him like Mr. Goody-goody. That?s something I can really get into because so many people fresh off a face turn sink right into their roles as heels and faces, and lately WWE has been blurring the lines a bit with several of their wrestlers. It seems to me like Triple H sees something in Orton and is going to put him over really strong here, and personally I think Orton and HHH?s styles are going to mesh better than Orton did with Benoit. I’m not anticipating this quite as much as last month?s main event, but I think it’ll be worthy of getting into and seeing how Orton does as the fledgling champion. If Trips is a legend and so is Flair, I’m really hoping the Legend Killer Tour continues through what?s left of Evolution, starting with this event.

Who should win: Randy Orton

Who will win: Randy Orton


Actual winner: Triple H

Now, I know the gut reaction is to rage against the machine and scream from the hilltops how much you all hate Triple H and whatnot, but the title switch makes perfect sense to me. To me, this result even puts over Benoit in a roundabout way, as Triple H couldn’t beat Benoit for the title, so he waited until someone else could. I was just warming up to Orton as a champion, but I think what people take for granted is that when Orton got the title, he was considered by many to be an ?undeserving heel?. Once the ?heel? part changed, why does that magically make the ?undeserving? part go away too? It shouldn’t. Now to get a real title reign out of him, we’ll have to wait, and by that time I feel he’ll have built his way back up. That?s how you build a new face champion, give him a paper reign to work with and then make everyone feel like he lost it way too early. Title or not, I still think Triple H sees something in him, and I still think he put him over quite a bit here.

That said, I hated the overbooked interference. I loved how Orton was always faster and a step ahead, I loved his selling (something he?s truly phenomenal at), and I didn’t sense the same lull in the middle of his matches like I usually do. I also appreciated Triple H?s psychology on the leg, leaving me to wonder if he’d pull out his rarely used Indian Deathlock, but instead busting out the Figure 4. But despite all that, I audibly groaned when Hebner got knocked out. A bit coincidental that referees tend to get knocked out in every Triple H title match. As if one screwjob weren’t enough, they had to get all of Evolution, Coach, a chair, the kitchen sink, hell they might as well have gotten Viscera and Gangrel involved since that seems to be all the rage nowadays. And of course Benoit and Regal had apparently left the building or something. I don’t mind a screwy ending sometimes, but much like a lot of the booking at Unforgiven, the way this ending was booked totally blew. It did mar my enjoyment of the match a bit, but since the rest of it was good enough and since Trips didn’t prove jack shit other than that he?s fully capable of making Orton look great, it won’t hurt my rating all that much.

Entertainment Level: [70%’>



Overall Interest: 365 out of 600, for a total of roughly 61%.

Overall Entertainment: 370 out of 700, for a total of roughly 53%.

With the card going into this, Unforgiven had the potential to be one of the better PPVs this year. The performers themselves didn’t necessarily fail to deliver, but the bookers certainly did. It seems as though the most common thought in my head throughout the night was ?Why the hell did they do that?? So, a big step up from Summerslam, and just a notch under Wrestlemania in my book for this year.

By the way, I don’t think I’m doing a full Point/Counterpoint for the next Raw exclusive, Taboo Tuesday. The season is already packed with PPVs and hey, you know as well as I do that PPVs don’t count if they’re on a Tuesday. How many of you actually saw ?This Tuesday in Texas?? I rest my case.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #160: Unforgiven 2004 – Point

I’m a mean, green, column-writing machine. Okay, so I’m not actually green, and I’m not particularly mean…and I’m not really a machine either. But I do write columns, and this is one of them. So, we’re now apparently kicking back into the ?one PPV every 2 or 3 weeks? mode, much like this summer. And much like this summer, people are going to start caring less and less for each event. PPVs should be important events, instead of arbitrarily cranked out like a factory conveyor belt. But since this is only the first of the series of what will probably be about 20 more in the next couple months, I’m anticipating Unforgiven a little more than I probably will be the next few. The card hasn’t exactly been built up to be something to remember through this past month, and right now we?ve only got six matches signed. I’m sure that’ll probably change to seven with another tacked-on match at the end, but at this point I’m not sure there?s anything they could sign last minute that would be worth anticipating anyway. More than likely the extra time will mean PPV purchasers will have to sit there knowing they actually had to spend money on an extended Diva Search segment.

For you Oratory n00bs out there, here?s how this works. This is part 1, the Point. I preview the matches, tell you how interested I am given the build to each one that WWE has provided, then I’ll give you my opinion of who should justifiably win the match, and who I think actually will, which may or may not be the same person. After watching the PPV I will come back with part 2, the Counterpoint, where I review what I saw, and tell you how much I was actually entertained. The final score at the end gets put into a ranked order for my year-end column, which is apparently going to be a hell of a lot longer this year, and much more of a pain in the ass. So now that you?ve got the ground rules, let?s get going.

This month?s theme is a reader suggestion, reacting to my previous ?famous Brits? theme. This time around it?s going to be famous Canadians. That means if there?s an extra tacked-on match that I have no interest in, it’ll receive a big fat 0% rating of Avril Lavigne. And no, I’m not going to do a country every time, so don’t start writing to me with suggestions for famous Nigerians or Ukrainians, because it?s not gonna happen.

Women?s Title:

Trish Stratus? vs. Victoria

Interest Level: Hayden Christensen [5%’> Now what exactly was so wrong with the original Darth Vader that they had to ruin him and make him a whiny teenager? Much like the original SW trilogy, we?ve all seen Trish vs. Victoria before. But much like the prequels, the only thing we’ll be getting here is eye candy, because there?s really nothing else to care about. Is there even a feud behind this? If there is, I don’t remember what it is, other than maybe Trish attacking Victoria randomly at some point, or Victoria winning a #1 contender?s match. They have nothing for the Divas they?ve already got, so why are they even bothering to search for another? Trish has been merely holding the strap since she was injured (interesting they’ll take the IC title off of Edge though), so my educated guess is that the ‘mystery Stevie?…uh, I mean ‘mystery woman? will cost Trish the match, and then we’ll probably have some kind of program with Tomko vs. Richards. Wheee. It should be solid enough to sit through, but there?s really no substance. Sort of like watching Hayden act.

Who should win: Victoria

Who will win: Victoria

World Tag Team Titles:

La Resistance? vs. Tajiri & Rhyno

Interest Level: Alex Trebek [50%’> Alex is dead to me without the moustache. He?s half the man he used to be without it. Likewise, this feud doesn’t quite have as much potential as it did a month ago. Everyone seemed to expect this match to finally happen at Summerslam, but Team ECW seemed to be denied at the last minute, apparently to make way for a Diva Search segment and a lot of really short matches. Since then the feud hasn’t held my interest the way it had before, with La Resistance not really being all that impressive as tag champs, and Tajiri?s injury keeping him out of buildup matches. And much like the real star of Jeopardy is now Ken Jennings, the real star of this feud has been Rhyno, who has been on an absolute tear lately. He?s more motivated than I ever remember seeing him, at least in WWE. The tag titles have been dangled like the proverbial carrot in front of Tajiri and Rhyno for long enough, so I figure this will be the day they take it. Maybe after Sunday we can get away from the thought that all 3 members of La Resistance are now tag champions. Unfortunately we can’t say the same for Kenzo Suzuki.

Who should win: Tajiri & Rhyno

Who will win: Tajiri & Rhyno

Chris Benoit & William Regal vs. Evolution

Interest Level: William Shatner [65%’> See, I like Shatner. He?s currently just about the most ridiculous man on the face of the planet, so he?s hard not to watch. He just has this certain quality that makes me unable to turn the channel when he?s talking somewhere. I don’t really have a segue into the match here, because none of the participants in this match are ridiculous men, though I have to say Ric Flair still has that quality that makes me want to watch. For some reason, Batista does too. In the past few years I?ve become a big fan of William Regal. I used to hate him, but now he?s always a joy to watch. I don’t know what happened, I just sort of warmed up to him sometime shortly after he came back to WWE. And of course, you can’t swing a dead cat on a wrestling website without hitting at least a dozen Chris Benoit fanboys. Already, WWE has been criticized for shunting Benoit down the card after he lost the title, people complaining nonstop that Benoit will never get a shot again…the same people who were saying they’d be happy with Benoit?s five-month title reign regardless. But come on, it?s only been a few weeks. It?s not like he?s jobbing constantly. He still looks consistent, always put over as the tough guy, and they’re protecting him by making him a big name. This match serves mostly as ?friends of Eugene vs. enemies of Eugene?, though since I think Eugene?s out for now it?s barely a concern anymore. There aren’t a whole lot of title contenders on Raw right now, so I don’t think it’ll be too long before we see Benoit back on top. I hope to see more from Regal soon though. This could be good, but I have a feeling it’ll be short.

Who should win: Benoit & Regal

Who will win: Flair & Batista

Shawn Michaels vs. Kane

Interest Level: Dave Foley [70%’> I’m a Kids in the Hall fan. It was one of the best sketch comedies around when I was growing up, and to me it signifies a lot about the 1990?s for me. So do HBK and Kane, actually, now that I?ve oh-so-conveniently established a segue… Kane is passable in the ring, and although his angles nearly always suck, he does the best job he can with them, and for that I respect him. Michaels was somewhat the victim of a random attack by Kane when he was taken out before, so there?s not a whole lot of substance to this feud. But it does make sense, and even more sense in a way when you consider that it?s basically a Jesus freak against the Devil incarnate. Classic good vs. evil, and classic 90?s matchup. I can’t say much more about it other than the idea that I think HBK can bring Kane to a pretty good match. Kane?s honestly worked hard lately so I wouldn’t mind if he took this, but big return/revenge wins are always the thing to do in WWE.

Who should win: Kane

Who will win: Shawn Michaels

Intercontinental Title Ladder Match:

Chris Jericho vs. Christian

Interest Level: Kiefer Sutherland [100%’> 24 is one of my favorite TV shows, and Kiefer has brought great roles to the table since I first started watching him in movies. Similarly I?ve been following both Christian and Jericho?s careers pretty closely since they started wrestling, and I like what they produce in terms of matches. Personally, I?ve been clamoring for a ladder match for ages now. It?s been too long since they?ve brought out that gimmick, and that makes it seem more cool to me. While the IC title feud hasn’t exactly had any build to it other than last week?s Raw, the story between these two, and each of their interactions with the stripped champion Edge, easily speaks for itself. This is one of the rare cases where little build to a match works, because they?ve already put the foundations in place long before this. I’m a little worried about Christian?s back here, but I don’t think he’d be doing a ladder match if he didn’t feel safe, and anyone who thinks management would force him into it underestimates how much they value their workers. They don’t want to see people legitimately hurt if they can help it. I think Christian will be fine. Even more interesting is the fact that I have absolutely no idea who?s going to win this match. I’d be happy with either. I’ll take the crapshoot chance and go with Jericho since he?s been chasing it for longer.

Who should win: Doesn’t matter, I’ll like it.

Who will win: Chris Jericho

World Heavyweight Title:

Randy Orton? vs. Triple H

Interest Level: Jim Carrey [75%’> Let it first be said that I don’t really like Jim Carrey?s goofier roles where the entire premise of the film is centered around him contorting his face into weird positions. As a serious actor though, I think he?s phenomenal when he gets the chance. I guess that?s like Triple H in a way, in that when he?s motivated, he kicks ass. But when he?s not, and all he has to do is coast and go through the motions, he?s boring as hell. Trips is fresh off the Eugene feud, which I actually like how it ended because it?s something they have very few of in WWE: A finite storyline with a beginning, middle, and end. Orton is really starting to warm up to me as a champion, and there?s one simple reason for that. He?s not a clear-cut face. He?s still cocky, he?s still the ?Legend Killer?, he still cheats his ass off to keep his belt if he needs to, and they’re not treating him like Mr. Goody-goody. That?s something I can really get into because so many people fresh off a face turn sink right into their roles as heels and faces, and lately WWE has been blurring the lines a bit with several of their wrestlers. It seems to me like Triple H sees something in Orton and is going to put him over really strong here, and personally I think Orton and HHH?s styles are going to mesh better than Orton did with Benoit. I’m not anticipating this quite as much as last month?s main event, but I think it’ll be worthy of getting into and seeing how Orton does as the fledgling champion. If Trips is a legend and so is Flair, I’m really hoping the Legend Killer Tour continues through what?s left of Evolution, starting with this event.

Who should win: Randy Orton

Who will win: Randy Orton

Overall Interest: 365 out of 600, for a total of roughly 61%.

That?s a good level, and fairly higher than I expected to be interested, honestly. But when you consider that I actually am more than halfway interested in most of the matches here, that ‘meh? feeling kind of goes away. It?s funny how I never really thought about it before, but I think writing this column has actually made me anticipate it a little more. De numbers, dey nevah lie. See you next week for the Counterpoint…where I will come to you from…The Future!

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #159: Summerslam 2004 – Counterpoint [Bottom Line #4]

Mark: I think if I could sum up Summerslam in a word, that word would be ?underwhelming?. It wasn’t a particularly bad PPV, but it wasn’t a particularly good one either. First off though, I have to say I loved the Canadian crowd, and I don’t care what anyone says. During times when matches weren’t enthralling me, they provided me with loads of entertainment. But my main problem is that the whole event just seemed really rushed, like they had to cut out a lot of things for time constraints or something. Matches that should?ve been longer were cut short, and matches that should?ve been shorter sometimes became way too long. Now before you go any further, I suggest you read the Point preview, because this here is the Counterpoint review. It?s essentially the opposite of the Point, where Lauren and I will switch order and get the Bottom Line for each match we didn’t have before. Simple enough? Well then heeeeeeeeeeeere?s Lauren!

Lauren: Did you just use simplicity as a segue into my introduction? I am a very complex lady, I’ll have you know! Unfortunately, my reaction to this PPV was rather simple’disappointment all around. If it weren’t for the excellent company I had during the show (Oratory Admin and certified Triple H nuthugger Spinner, and my ROH show partner-in-crime Manda), the evening would have been a complete bust. The lateness of this Counterpoint is due in part to the fact that Mark and I have both been busy lately, but also because I don’t think either of us found the show very inspiring. Still, people have been anxiously awaiting this review?s appearance on the main page, and unlike WWE, we don’t disappoint. Oh snap!

The Dudley Boys vs. Rey Mysterio, Paul London, & Billy Kidman



Mark?s Interest Level: Cool with me [75%’> The only thing this feud suffers from is that this probably could?ve been two title matches instead. Rey and Spike seem tacked onto the tag title feud here, even though the point has well been driven across that Rey is a friend of London & Kidman, and Spike is, of course, a Dudley. Instead of two title defenses, we get a 6-man tag, which I?ve never been all that big on unless they’re really well done. I fear this match might be somewhat short, and will rely majorly on being a spotfest, as PPV matches of this type usually are. The bright side is that I’m already digging Spike as a heel, I really like the face team, and for once the Dudleys aren’t boring the shit out of me. It?s a well built feud coming from a show that until recently had none to speak of. I like that I have no idea who?s winning this one.

Who should win: Rey, London, & Kidman

Who will win: The Dudleys

Lauren?s Interest Level: London?s calling [95%’> My interest level is way high for this one, for one simple reason: the thought of Paul London on a major WWE PPV makes me giddy like a schoolgirl. Just sixteen months ago, I was in the second row at the Murphy Rec Center when London had his 2 out of 3 falls match against Bryan Danielson?without a doubt my 2003 MOTY. As much as I miss seeing London in that big-fish-in-a-small-pond context, I’m thrilled that he?s getting this opportunity. In Ring of Honor, London was known for giving his all in matches, and really putting his body on the line. I saw glimpses of that in the match in which he and Kidman won the tag titles, when London turned getting knocked from the apron into full-on bumps to the floor. If given opportunity to play the face in peril again, London will die for the Dudleys? sins, and smarts and marks alike will love him for it. London would bump like that for Spike Freakin? Dudley, and in the process completely shut up anybody who never bought Spike as a heel. Everybody watching will be begging for London to win the match, but since this is only the beginning, you’ll just have to tune in next week to see the beloved underdogs defeat those dastardly Dudleys. The Duds take this one through nefarious means.

Who should win: The Dudleys

Who will in: The Dudleys

Mark?s Bottom Line: I want to see London in full ROH-mode too, but it?s not going to happen in WWE.


Actual winner: The Dudleys

Lauren:This match was the only one during which I was on the edge of my seat with my eyes glued to the television screen. Seeing Paul London on PPV made me just as happy as I anticipated it would. Dave and Manda must have thought that I was crazy because I was gushing and cheering London getting the crap kicked out of him. Of course I’d rather see London win rather than lose, but since he?s such a good seller and an awesome babyface, getting beaten up is his best shot for getting over. The drop from my interest level to my entertainment level reflects the fact that this match easily could and should have gotten at least five more minutes. What we got was very good?Spike Dudley as a heel rocks my socks, by the way, because he comes across as somebody who really deserves to get his puny ass handed to him?but more time would have been preferable. Still, for being the only match of the night that made me excited to be watching, this match gets high marks.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [85%’>

Mark: That whole ?at least five more minutes? thing is actually what put me off about it. Sure, it was a fun and entertaining match. Sure, it made everyone involved look pretty good. But I think my problem here was myself, and my attention span. Usually when I settle in to watch a PPV for the next few hours, I like a good, solid opener to grab my attention and hold it. Unfortunately, while this was both good and solid, it was the ?settle? part that wasn’t accomplished. It seemed as though I had just sat down to watch Summerslam, plate full o? food and glass full o? soda, anticipating a sweet match I could really get into, when suddenly it ended. That?s the problem with making a really short match a curtain jerker. Blink and you’ll miss it. It was so much an afterthought that I barely had time to register what was going on, much less remember anything about it. If I could watch it again, I’d probably rate it higher, but by the end of the night (plus almost 2 weeks at this point), the only thing I really remember is the ending.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Lauren?s Bottom Line: It?s Paul London, man?and I am a shameless ROH mark, so of course I was going to love it.

?Til Death Do Us Part Match?

Kane vs. Matt Hardy



Lauren?s Interest Level: This storyline makes my brain hurt [30%’> Let?s recap what?s happened in this wonderful storyline. Kane stalks Lita and beats up her boyfriend Matt. Lita has sex with Kane to make him stop. Lita discovers she?s pregnant but doesn’t know who the father is. Matt asks Lita to marry him no matter who the father is. DNA tests reveal that the baby isn’t Matt?s. If Matt beats Kane at Summerslam, Matt is free to marry Lita, but if Kane beats Matt, Lita must marry Kane. If you were Matt, do you think you’d be trying your hardest to get the victory here? Me neither. Matt Hardy would be my hero if he laid down for Kane, forcing Lita to lay in the bed she made (so to speak), but that might not be worth the months of ‘distraught, victimized Lita? promos we’d have to endure as a result. A likely scenario seems to be Lita costing Matt the match and revealing an alliance with Kane. Evil goth Lita is ever-so-slightly preferential to weepy, melodramatic Lita.

Who should win: Matt, who then dumps Lita causing her to be so distraught that she never appears on television again.

Who will win: Kane

Mark?s Interest Level: Okay, this can stop now [50%’> Funny how it?s called ?Til Death Do Us Part? considering that apparently never stopped Kane before. I appreciate that they’re giving Matt Hardy a feud, and I appreciate that they’re making Kane seem like a really sick fuck, but what I don’t appreciate is that they’re giving the angle that requires the most acting week after week to Lita, one of the worst actors they?ve got. Kane?s fine in his role, though I still feel sorry for him that he gets nothing but horrible angles, and Matt?s acting is much more tolerable than he was in the days of his tag team infamy, but I really don’t see what this has to do with wrestling matches at all. Unless I miss my guess, this is a straight one-on-one match. At least their No DQ match made sense, but if some guy blackmailed my girlfriend into sex and got her pregnant, I doubt I’d be letting him live, much less touring with him, fighting a fair match with him, and signing a contract that could end up letting him marry her. The part I really dread about this angle is that Lita should start ?showing? soon, unless they do something right here and now to end the angle and make it that Lita?s pregnancy was all a ruse (please please please). I enjoy Matt?s ringwork, and Kane is passable, so I’m at least interested in a decent match. Matt?s probably going to need knee surgery though, so I think we’ll have to suffer through another wedding segment, which for some reason will happen right on Raw.

Who should win: Matt Hardy, so this angle can end.

Who will win: Kane, because it won’t.

Lauren?s Bottom Line: They lost me once they decided not to go forward with the rumored ?wire coat hanger on a pole? match.


Actual winner: Kane

Mark: Isn’t it funny that the angle that gets the most airtime segment-wise only gets 6 minutes of actual ring time on the 2nd biggest PPV of the year? No, it isn’t funny, and ironically, that means this match was a joke. Lita?s supposedly ?showing?, which I guess means not wearing tight, form-fitting clothes that show a lot of skin. In that case, I guess Molly?s been pregnant for about a year or two. What I did like about this match is that Matt Hardy ended up getting most of the offense, and really looked like he had something to prove out there. I guess my theory of Lita being in on the whole thing with Kane is out the window since she gave Matt the ring bell, but they?ve gone back on more ridiculous things before. The real tragedy is that while the match was as short as it was, the wedding easily was three times as long. I?ve heard that if Matt goes for knee surgery now, he’ll be back around November or so, which isn’t that long to wait. I just hope he can rise above this angle once he comes back. This was about half as long and half as good as I thought it would be, so my score?s going to affect that appropriately.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [25%’>

Lauren: I didn’t believe it was possible, but the booking of this match made this storyline even more of a waste of time than it already was. After so much focus on storyline development, something?ANYTHING?should have happened during this match on the 2nd biggest PPV stage of the year. Since it was already spoiled that Hardy was losing, I expected a Lita heel turn or a serious brutalization by Kane (or both). Instead we got a very dull match that set up the worst possible storyline option. The match itself was booked more like a meaningless jobber match than like a PPV match with a huge storyline behind it. Hardy got in a flurry of offense looking, as Mark said, like he had something to prove in there. Then Kane hit his first high-impact move, and 1-2-3, it?s over. And that was it. As a result, Lita has to marry Kane against her will. Against my will, I’m going to have to endure weeks (possibly months) of horrendous acting from weepy, tortured Lita’though I am now partial to watching her run after that jaunt up the ramp with her arms flailing wildly. She can’t even make running away in fear look natural.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [15%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: I hope she runs like that all the time from now on. There?s a rather amusing scene from Scary Movie that it reminded me of.

US Title Best of Five, Match #1:

Booker T? vs. John Cena



Mark?s Interest Level: Slightly above ‘meh? [65%’> With such a healthy crop of talented and unused midcarders, I have to say that Cena and Booker aren’t topping the list of people I’d like to see in a best of five series. I like Booker as a heel, but while he?s not as good as he used to be, I’d still like to see him with a run as a main event heel. Cena on the other hand, utterly sucks as a face. Instead of raps laced with biting wit, we?ve got goofy nursery rhymes. Instead of being a wiseass, he panders to the crowd every chance he gets. He even gives away stuff to the kids in the audience, though I still have no idea what those big yellow drumstick things are. I seem to remember liking him in the ring last year, but maybe it took me really disliking his current character, combined with his lack of heel mannerisms in the ring, to realize he?s not quite at the level that everyone seems to think he should be pushed to. He?s definitely changed his ring style, no-selling and basically looking invincible, where a year ago he could cheat his ass off and still lose. Blame the WWE heel/face dynamic for that, but this is a more extreme case than usual. Given that this is the first match of the series and they need to make the heel look strong, and also because Cena you know, flat-out won a couple days ago, I’m giving this one to Booker. I just fear that he’ll end up looking bad in the end.

Who should win: Booker T

Who will win: Booker T

Lauren?s Interest Level: We have to see this how many times? [35%’> As if I wasn’t apathetic enough towards these two, WWE manages to give me one less reason to care. I don’t understand the logic of putting the first match in a series on a big stage. Why does the result of this match matter if we know we’re guaranteed at least two more? Considering Smackdown doesn’t even have another PPV for seven weeks, this is either going to be started on major PPV and finished on free TV (which seems ass-backwards), or dragged out for waaaaay too long. These are not two wrestlers that I especially want to see in a drawn-out feud. Cena is mediocre in the ring, and Booker T hasn’t been able to make me care in years. Rene Dupree, Charlie Haas, and Rob Van Dam could all credibly be placed into the United States title hunt and would put on matches that I’d be far more interested in seeing than a Best of Five Series that will most likely never top ***. Instead we’re getting Booker T. vs. Christian for the IC Title all over again. Logic would say that the heel wins this one to take the early advantage in the series, but I think since this is the match of the series taking place on the biggest stage, that they’ll give Cena the win for the crowd pop.

Who should win: Booker T

Who will win: John Cena

Mark?s Bottom Line: Looks like the verdict is that this should be a one-shot deal rather than a series. I understand why both have claim to the title, but I’m just not sold on it.


Actual winner: John Cena

Lauren: While I find it disrespectful when crowds chant it at wrestlers, this match was, in a word, booooooooooooring. Dave, Manda, and I derived all our enjoyment from making fun of Cena?s extremely limited offense. Ooh, a shoulderblock! Ahh, a clothesline! It was lots of nothing, bam, F-U, pin. What was with finishes coming out of nowhere on this PPV? The matches really did feel like they were cut short. At least Kane?s finisher out of nowhere was credibly nasty looking. The F-U is nasty in another way?namely, that it looks like crap. The fact that there could be four more matches in this series makes me happy that I?ve all but given up on watching Smackdown.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [5%’>

Mark: Smackdown was actually pretty good this week, believe it or not. Anyway, since I’m writing this well after the fact, I’ll mention something I wrote in my OTC review this week: The second match of the series was better because they gave Booker most of the offense. But this one…well, I can’t say much about the offense in it, because there?s only so much offense you can put into a six minute match. The opener was ?blink and you missed it?, but I was watching this match and I still feel like I missed it. As for Lauren, given the fact that the first two matches in this series have been two weeks apart, and since of course ALL ?series? matches end up going the full amount, I’m willing to bet your idea from the preview of ‘dragged out for waaaaay too long? is the appropriate prediction here.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [15%’>

Lauren?s Bottom Line: I hate being right all the time. Mark, you’re so lucky that you don’t have that problem.

Intercontinental Title:

Edge? vs. Chris Jericho vs. Batista



Lauren?s Interest Level: A ton of potential [75%’> This match has the potential to be very interesting. You have Edge, the babyface who gets booed and occasionally acts heelish; Chris Jericho, the very over, but very cocky, babyface who works matches as a heel; and Batista, the heel powerhouse who gets cheered because he?s, uh, really big and stuff. Edge seems to be on the verge of a heel turn. Batista is so devoid of personality that I couldn’t tell either way. Jericho, in my opinion, works better as a heel, but is probably destined to stay a face for awhile because WWE has this stupid tendency to assume that a heel character?s ?popularity? amounts to a mandate to turn him face (see: Cena, John). I’m digging the ambiguity, but there are a couple of factors that could screw it up and make the match far less interesting than it could be. First, the match itself might not be very good. Triple Threats are already hard to work without doing a ton of super-contrived things, and I don’t exactly have the utmost confidence in all of the participants. Edge seems to get lost in the beginning and middle of long matches, and Batista hasn’t shown me much substance behind the power. The other thing I’m worried about is that there will be a ton of overbooking to compensate for the fact that not all of these guys are great in the ring. There?s a distinct potential for a triple-turn, but that doesn’t mean it should happen. A heel Jericho would be my top choice out of these three to hold the belt (especially after we saw Orton so seamlessly make the transition from IC Title-holder to World Title contender), but my gut says that Edge will fully turn heel in order to retain.

Who should win: Chris Jericho

Who will win: Edge

Mark?s Interest Level: The dynamic makes it work [80%’> Finally, a triple threat match that isn’t going to be full of two guys working together until one of them accidentally hits the other, or start arguing over who gets the pinfall. No, this is a clear case of face/tweener/heel, which means they’ll all be gunning for each other equally. As much as I thought Edge was boring as a face, I’m actually digging him as a tweener lately, and I would like him to remain as such. If he goes full heel, nobody?s going to care about his hate for Evolution, that is if he still wants to take them down. It?s the first time in a long time that I can actually say there?s a tweener on the roster, and I like that. Jericho is alright with me as a face for now, but mostly because he still acts like himself even when he?s a face. He?s one of the few people who does, and he doesn’t water down his character. Like just about everyone else, I’m hoping he moves up to World title status sooner rather than later, because I want to see Benoit/Jericho for the Heavyweight title to complete their long-standing rivalry through the years. Batista is mostly an afterthought here, but that?s more because they don’t let him talk, which is beyond me because he?s proven that he?s not a bad talker. He does make sense going against both Jericho and Edge, but the way he?s been booked doesn’t make him a convincing contender for the IC title. The problem is, if Edge retains I have no idea where any of them are going to go from here. Though I don’t really want another Jericho IC title reign because I feel it?s beneath him at this point. So I guess Edge retaining really is the only result I’d be happy with.

Who should win: Edge

Who will win: Edge

Lauren?s Bottom Line: I might be the only Jericho fan who wouldn’t be disappointed to see him with the IC title. WWE hasn’t shown any signs of moving him to the top of the card any time soon, and a title is a title.


Actual winner: Edge

Mark: Maybe it was because I was more interested in the crowd reaction, but I honestly don’t remember much about this match other than the crowd. Love or hate what the crowd did at this show, but I have to hand it to Edge for being the only one who really reacted well to the negative ovation he was getting. When they booed him, he stopped, looked around, and smiled at it. Good for him. I think my biggest disappoint was that they didn’t capitalize on the dynamic I mentioned in the preview. They had the workings of a good heel/tweener/face triple threat, and they made it just like every other triple threat where one guy is incapacitated on the outside until a pin needs to be broken up. My bigger gripe though, is that it was cut short much like most of the rest of the card. It could?ve been good if they gave it about 10 more minutes. Another half grade for me, because it should?ve been twice as good.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [40%’>

Lauren: This match epitomized for me why three-way matches tend to be formulaic, illogical, and rarely good. It totally relied on the ?keep one competitor out of the ring for a while? strategy?yet the one who got the most time on the outside was, from a kayfabe perspective, probably the least logical choice. Batista is supposed to be a dominant big man, yet the offensive efforts of a couple of much smaller Canadians kept him out of the ring for a ridiculous length of time. Of course, from a non-kayfabe perspective, it made perfect sense to keep good ol? Dave on the outside, because he has the least to offer. He got to do a couple of spinebusters, get thrown over the ropes (and botch it, as usual), and?well, I guess that?s about it for Batista?s expertise. As for the competitors who were actually in the ring for most of the match, absolutely nothing stands out for me, making this just another forgettable match on a very underwhelming card.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [33%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: You’d think one of these days they’d take a hint and stop telling Batista to go over the top.

Kurt Angle vs. Eddy Guerrero



Mark?s Interest Level: Great, but a little apprehensive [90%’> The only reason I’m not completely into this is because the build for it has, quite frankly, sucked. While the storyline with Angle faking his injury turned out to be pretty interesting, the followup has been lackluster. All that Eddy?s really done is steal Angle?s old GM stuff and sell it, which has for some reason is the only substance this feud has had since Angle was revealed. This past Thursday has been a step in the right direction, but why couldn’t they have done that all month? I would wager that this won’t be quite as good as their Wrestlemania match, due to the fact that both are suffering from nagging injuries, but it’ll probably be damn good nonetheless. From Angle?s return match with Charlie Haas I can wager that Kurt hasn’t lost a step, and if he has, it?s barely noticeable. But to look at the facts here, this match has had both participants wrestling even less than the Heavyweight title match. Angle?s wrestled once since the revelation, while Eddy hasn’t at all. While I’m psyched to see this match, I’m just not into the reasons for it. Both characters are at their best when they’re angry and motivated, and instead they?ve both seemed to rely on cheap slapstick to get the feud over. That?s not going to stop the match from kicking ass though. The winner?s a tough pick, as I’d say Eddy needs a big win, but Angle?s on a comeback streak so it seems more likely to me.

Who should win: Eddy Guerrero

Who will win: Kurt Angle

Lauren?s Interest Level: Ring Gods, work your magic! [95%’> Much as I hate to agree with Mark, I have to give him the nod for his thoughts about the build to this match. It?s been surprisingly lackluster given the intensity that both competitors have shown in the past. Still, my interest in this match remains incredibly high because Angle and Guerrero always have the potential to deliver a classic. I rewatched their Wrestlemania XX match this afternoon, and it was even better than I gave it credit for live. I have a feeling that from bell to bell, the weak feud will be the farthest thing from my mind. It?s been quite awhile since Angle was a full-time member of the roster, so I think he needs the win more than Eddie does.

Mark?s Bottom Line: Just to be clear, do you hate to agree with me, or do you hate to agree that the build has been lackluster? It?s me, isn’t it? 🙁


Actual winner: Kurt Angle

Lauren: What happens when 2 ring generals wrestle a thirty-minute match in half that time? Maybe this match would have worked out better if they had just pretaped it and played it at double-speed. Mark and I agreed that the build to this match was weak, but I at least was counting on a match close to the quality of their Wrestlemania meeting to make up for it. Like just about everything else at the card, this match was far too short to be anything but a letdown. Unlike Cena/Booker and Hardy/Kane, which felt abruptly cut off, this match felt rushed from beginning to end?which I suppose is a testament to these wrestlers at least trying to put together a good match in the time they were given.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Mark: Agreed again, the very definition of ‘rushed?. I appreciated the nod to their previous match with Angle unlacing the boot, and everything else was solid, but once again the time constraints just sponged up most of the heat. It seemed like the match had just begun when suddenly, ?Ankle lock? Already?? The booking seemed so focused on getting the trademark spots and signature moves out of the way that they barely had the time to squeeze anything in between it. If there?s one thing I need not tell any fan of either of these guys, it?s that their signature moves aren’t what makes them, it?s what they use to link them together. It?s like opening a jar of peanut butter and getting only the nuts. Feel free to make fun of me for that analogy, Lauren…like you needed my permission.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [75%’>

Lauren?s Bottom Line: It?s no fun if you tell me to do it, Mark!

Triple H vs. Eugene



Lauren?s Interest Level: I’m probably being too optimistic here [60%’> Triple H?s work in the ring lately has been great, so this match as the potential to be very good. I’d like to see Eugene tone down the humor and play up the savant-like technical expertise and really take Triple H to the mat. Normally I would be right alongside every other ?net smark complaining when a star doesn’t make an up-and-comer look credible. However, I don’t see what Eugene has done to deserve a near-main event slot on the second-biggest PPV of the year. To me he?s nothing more than an extremely popular joke character. When I see a ‘mentally-impaired? rookie single-handedly punking out the dominant heel stable, that?s taking suspension of disbelief a bit too far for me. I like realism in my wrestling. This is Monday night Raw, not Saturday morning right after American Gladiators. I don’t see any logical justification for why Triple H should or will lose to Eugene. I’d like to see Eugene lose, then be beaten down and taken off television for awhile, giving the character a chance to rest. Triple H will then have a ready-made match for Unforgiven against William Regal. Despite my skepticism about Eugene deserving such a high place on the card, this feud has been built extremely well, raising my interest level slightly above my so-so interest in the match itself.

Who should win: Triple H

Who will win: Triple H

Mark?s Interest Level: Just bring on Regal/HHH please [55%’> I do think Nick Dinsmore does a good job in his role, I really do. I also appreciate that they?ve toned down how much he?s been on TV in the past month. But with the way they?ve handled William Regal, I was clamoring for a feud between he and Triple ?Haitch? to go down sooner rather than later. Eugene?s decent in the ring, but I really haven’t seen him do anything in the ring other than, well, act retarded. I don’t mind gimmicked characters, but when the gimmick becomes the content of the wrestling match, it completely takes me out of it, because it then becomes a wrestling character, not a character who wrestles. They might as well stick a Viking helmet on him and have him scream ?Huss!? all the time. I think Triple H is on a really hot streak as far as ringwork goes, but that may just be because he?s not injured and he?s up against good wrestlers this year. In storyline terms, Triple H actually does deserve this win. In smarky terms, he deserves it there too. This could be good, but I’m betting it’ll rely more on comedy than it should.

Who should win: Triple H

Who will win: Triple H

Lauren?s Bottom Line: I’m bored with Eugene. I’m counting on Trips to deliver here.


Actual winner: Triple H

Mark: I never thought I’d say it, but what a waste of Triple H. I don’t say that because I’m a bandwagon Eugene-hater, I say it because this just wasn’t his element. Still, Trips was gold here, pulling out every cheap heel trick in the book. Feigning an injury, using a woman as a shield, stable interference, the works. Some complained most about the crowd in this one, but I think it?s about time that someone let WWE know that overexposure isn’t a good thing. His antics might work in segments, but when he?s facing a guy who?s been an angry, determined heel for the better part of over two years, he doesn’t even compare. Had they focused on the idea that Eugene can actually go in the ring, instead of just going through the motions and letting him steal the finishers of a couple superstars, this would?ve been a lot better. It makes sense that this was essentially an extended squash, though it?s particularly funny to me that HHH can no-sell a Rock Bottom as long as it?s not The Rock doing it to him. Looking at the ring steps spot, I think Dinsmore may have legitimately injured his shoulder here. I liked the interference ending more than the rest of the match though, merely because we got to see Regal flatten Flair and Trips drag him back to the entrance by his leg. Hah.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [30%’>

Lauren: Despite the fact that Nick Dinsmore is apparently a skilled technician, ‘the idea that Eugene can go in the ring? was abandoned long ago in this storyline. Back when he did those AWESOME training videos with Regal, that seemed to be the route they were going, having Eugene as some sort of ?wrestling savant? (yeah yeah, I know it?s not realistic, but neither is putting marriage on the line in a wrestling match). Unsurprisingly, WWE decided to go the route of cheap laughs, having Eugene imitate other superstars, much to the delight of the live crowd and the boredom of everybody else. In an ideal world, the backlash this match received from this particular live crowd would remind the writers of the folly of writing things that are entertaining to the fans in attendance, but boring and predictable to everyone else. The Canadian crowd refused to eat up the bullshit pandering, and it was damn refreshing to watch. At least Triple H went over, but that?s like saying, ?I’m glad I survived the car crash. Too bad I’m brain dead.?

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [37%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: I reiterate: ?Just bring on Regal/HHH please?, though it looks like we’re getting Orton instead.

Diva Dodgeball



Lauren?s Interest Level: Zero isn’t even low enough [-1%’>

The fact that this is going to be on pay per view is an insult. It?s an insult to Rob Conway, Sylvain Grenier, Rhyno, and Tajiri, who had a ready-made tag title matchup for this PPV. It?s an insult to any wrestler who will have his match cut short so this can have more time. It?s an insult to the current Divas, who have to put wrestling (not to mention continuity) on the back burner, in order to give PPV time to women who haven’t paid their dues in the business. It?s an insult to people paying $34.95 for two hours and forty-five minutes of wrestling. The only thing that could save this segment would be Tyson Tomko running in and taking out all the Diva Search contestants permanently. Problem solved.

Mark?s Interest Level: Bottom of the barrel [0%’> Oh sure, break my rules and do a negative number. Eh, it?s only one point, so what the hell. But don’t make a habit out of it, missy. Simply put, Vince McMahon tried to put a reality show in the middle of a wrestling show. The problem is, nobody cares, and none of them are qualified to be Divas anyway, considering none of them can act or sell. The only entertaining part about the Diva search is that they come out to ?Walk Idiot Walk? by The Hives, which is a hilariously appropriate title. Personally I don’t want any of them on my TV week after week, but you know that whoever wins will be put over like she?s God?s gift to television. I like your Problem Solver idea, Lauren. Not just because it would get rid of all of them, but also because I don’t think Tomko?s actually solved any problems yet. But even that shitty front kick he uses as a finisher would make me giggle with delight if each one of those Diva wannabes tasted boot on Sunday. Obviously neither of us care, so I’m not even bothering with predictions.

Lauren?s Bottom Line: God?s gift to?.wha? Oh tell me you did NOT just use a Christopher Daniels line in association with these skanks. I think I’m going to be sick.


Mark: Complete waste of all the Raw Divas. Not that I care about this awful angle though, especially now that it?s becoming obvious how worked it is. The Divas were visibly jumping into the paths of balls flying at their faces (an activity I assumed the Diva Search girls would be more accustomed to). I suppose it makes sense that the Divas couldn’t hit any of the Wannabe team though, considering most of them are nearly two-dimensional when they turn sideways anyway.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [0%’>

Lauren: For my own sanity?s sake, I am going to pull a Carmella here and no-show this portion of the Counterpoint. Hey Mark, why don’t you try to vote me off?

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [0%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: Nah. At least you noticed Carmella no-showed. And if you want to be consistent, I’ll let you keep that [-1%’> grade from the Point. Unless you really were entertained 1% by this.

WWE Heavyweight Title:

John Bradshaw Layfield? vs. The Undertaker



Mark?s Interest Level: At least Diva Dodgeball has T&A [0%’> JBL holds the Heavyweight title. Undertaker is currently the only contender for the belt. Neither has wrestled a full, competitive match in weeks, unless you count OJ/Taker from this week. The feud almost completely lacks substance of any kind, other than a simple brief challenge for the belt. All of these things bother me, but the biggest complaint I have in this feud is that they completely missed out on a golden opportunity to not only make the build interesting, but personal and psychological. Seems to me that Bradshaw used to be one of Undertaker?s Acolytes. All they really had to do is play up that fact, and make it seem like Undertaker was insulted by JBL?s personality change, and they might have actually been able to build this somewhat. Likewise, Virgil 2.0 could?ve mentioned that Taker was the one who told him to ?pay his dues? when he debuted. Instead, the entire thing is based around ?You. Me. Summerslam.? I’m still not liking JBL?s ring work, Undertaker?s far past his prime, and the only real reason for this is because the fans mark for Taker?s entrance. Other than that, this is a sorry excuse for a Heavyweight title match. As much as I hate JBL with the belt, I can’t see Taker as being the man to take the strap off of him, especially if he?s not showing up every week. I’m guessing Heidenreich?s re-debut will be the reason though, in a feud I’d really rather not see.

Who should win: Screwy ending, title declared vacant.

Who will win: JBL

Lauren?s Interest Level: Mark underestimates Bradshaw?s ?T? [0%’> I noticed on the Summerslam commercial aired during Raw that while shots of Chris Benoit holding the World title were all over the preview for his title defense, the WWE title was treated as an afterthought. It?s almost as if WWE is ashamed of the fact that their major title will be defended in a match with less workrate than Lita?s acting coach. Wait, WWE care about workrate? Perhaps I’m reading into it too much. Honestly, I don’t care who wins. What reason would I have to care? The feud has nothing behind it. The match is going to be an abomination. Worst of all, we know that no matter what the result, the title will end up around the waist of a big slow Texan who talks more than he wrestles.

Who should win: OJ stabs both Taker and JBL, grabs the title, and drives off in a white Ford Bronco.

Who will win: JBL

Mark?s Bottom Line: I love the OJ jokes so much.


Actual winner: Undertaker via DQ, JBL retains.

Lauren: This match was sad and hilarious all at once. Two of the most seasoned veterans on the roster, and they looked completely lost in there. Bradshaw couldn’t figure out how to apply a leglock, and ?Taker wandered around the ring listlessly (I guess death is really rough on the ol? ring awareness, huh). For people who argue that JBL?s title reign is a good thing from a ?sports entertainment perspective,? this match ought to serve as a reminder that a title reign means nothing if the champion has no wrestling ability to speak of.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [3%’>

Mark: Yes, apparently people viewing WWE programming from a ?sports entertainment perspective? forget that sometimes, namely PPVs, people have to actually get into the ring and wrestle. Before I’m criticized for just wanting to hate on JBL, I will say that I tried to give this match a chance. There was a glimmer of hope in the beginning when JBL actually started working a fast pace to keep Taker down, but it literally lasted for about 30 seconds before the match just completely shat the bed. The real interest here was the humor in the crowd. Doing the wave because the whole audience is bored with the match is possibly the most hilarious thing I can imagine. That?s not even on a ?boring? chant level, because that?s usually only a few people. This was the entire arena breaking out in an activity that?s easily a lot more fun than watching JBL and Taker go at it. Oh, and for some reason, JBL can kick out of all of Undertaker?s finishers now. Great, like we needed Bradshaw to be invincible.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [5%’> (for the crowd)

Lauren?s Bottom Line: Manda, Dave, and I did the wave too. Actually, Manda and I did, and Dave did the French Tickler.

World Heavyweight Title:

Chris Benoit? vs. Randy Orton



Lauren?s Interest Level: Interested, but not fully confident. [93%’> I have little doubt that this match will be very, very good. Benoit?s an awesome worker, and he’ll make Orton look great. However, I am not an advocate of putting the title on Randy Orton. In part it?s that I don’t want to see Benoit?s title reign end at the hands of a weak competitor. To me, giving the #1 contendership for a major title on the second-biggest PPV of the year to the winner of a battle royal is unacceptably lazy booking. It?s as if the creative team realized ?shit, it?s 3 weeks to Summerslam and we?ve been focusing so much on that retarded guy that we don’t have anyone to face?wait, who is it again??ah, yes, Benoit, that?s right.? How does it make any sense at all if Benoit can beat Triple H and Shawn Michaels, both of whom are top stars who had a genuine and established reason to be chasing the title, and then lose to a green kid who seemingly only became interested in that title a few weeks ago. I know I’m being especially hard on Orton here, because in fact I?ve seen nothing but improvement from him over the past year. He?s gotten a ton better, but I’m still not ready to see him hold the top title. If Benoit retains the title and takes it into a long feud with Orton, that might give Orton the credibility he needs. I’m hoping the ?net rumors are wrong on this one.

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Randy Orton

Mark?s Interest Level: Sweet. [100%’> I probably shouldn’t be rating this a 100%, because it?s only been a 3 week build, but I’m liking what they?ve done with it since, and I’m really psyched to see this match. For all of Orton?s flaws, Benoit can cover him, and Orton?s vastly improved anyway. While I’m sure WWE does have legitimate faith in Orton as being a future champion, I think even they realize that this isn’t the time or the method to do it. Orton needs a more solid build if he?s going to beat, of all people, Chris Benoit. Not only has he been feuding with Benoit for 3 weeks, but he?s only been in the entire main event scene for that long as well. Even Brock had longer than that. Fortunately I don’t think the bookers are that dense, at least the Raw bookers anyway. Benoit?s built himself a hell of a lot of credibility in the months since Wrestlemania, and I’d like to think they still have the faith in him they had back then. If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Evolution cost Orton the title due to Triple H?s jealousy over the idea of Orton getting the title. Granted, I would rather not see interference here, but if there?s a time and a place for an interesting new angle to occur that will cause the eventual split of Evolution, this is it.

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Chris Benoit

Lauren?s Bottom Line: I’d rather see a solid wrestling match than another Evolution angle, but it?s WWE, so it wouldn’t surprise me either.


Actual winner: Randy Orton

Mark: …And he did it clean. The match was solid, and it was good, but it felt like more of a Raw main event than a PPV main event, and not what I thought it would be. I can’t say I’m disappointed in Orton winning, though I’ll reserve judgment on how good of a champion he’ll make until I see how well he defends it. The only disappointment I have in Orton was the way he was built to this, which isn’t his fault by any means. His problem before was that the middles of his matches kind of dragged on occasion, but he seems to be working a great deal on that. One thing I think this was lacking is psychology from Benoit?s end, which is unusual for him. Usually you’ll see him working on the neck and shoulder to setup for the Crossface, but there really wasn’t much of that here other than the six consecutive Germans. Another slight problem I had is that I believe Benoit has kicked out of both Pedigrees and Superkicks before, yet a single RKO flattened him, where on the other hand most people seem to take a long time before they tap out to a Crossface. Maybe Benoit needs a pinfall finisher, or give the diving headbutt more credibility as something that can really put someone away. Both men did a fine job, and I’d like to see a Benoit/Orton series of title matches, but I don’t think they had much to work with on Sunday. The lack of Evolution in the ending celebration and the Benoit handshake indicated to me that Orton would probably be kicked out of the group the next night on Raw, but predictability isn’t always a bad thing. I’m just hoping Benoit?s not out of the title picture for the future, but I’m also hoping good things are in the future for Randy Orton.

Mark?s Entertainment Level: [80%’>

Lauren: By now, y?all are probably tired of hearing this from me, but once again, this match was a disappointment. It wasn’t just because I’m your typical workrate-obsessed smark who thinks Benoit should hold the title until he retires. It was more that the match simply wasn’t all that good. Benoit put forth his usual strong effort. That suicide dive that sent him like a dart headfirst into the barricade legitimately frightened me. Just like Kane vs. Hardy and Booker vs. Cena, this match played out with the eventual winner never really looking too impressive before he?s able to hit his finisher out of nowhere. Their match on Raw the next night was far better, and only served to make me even more disappointed. It?s bad enough to send the message to your paying customers that they might get to see a PPV main event the next night for free. It?s even worse when the free match exceeds the PPV match in terms of quality. I’m not immediately denouncing Orton?s title reign, but this match unfortunately didn’t do as much as I had hoped for his credibility. Plus that handshake deal was so ripping off Ring of Honor. Note the sarcasm. Or don’t.

Lauren?s Entertainment Level: [55%’>

Mark?s Bottom Line: Oh, I’m gonna note it.



Mark?s Overall Interest: 515 out of a possible 900, for a total of roughly 57%.

Lauren?s Overall Interest: 482 out of a possible 900, for a total of roughly 54%.


Mark?s Overall Entertainment: 330 out of a possible 900, for a total of roughly 37%.

Lauren?s Overall Entertainment: 292 out of a possible 900, for a total of roughly 32%.

Mark: It?s not a good sign when not a single one of these matches were any better than I was anticipating them to be (with Taker/JBL being a technicality exception), and the main reason for that is how short most of them were. On a big event, I don’t think it?s unreasonable even for the most positive and markish of fans to expect long, full matches at the end of major feuds. When tallying up all the match times I realized that in a three hour timeslot, they had just over an hour and a half of wrestling. That?s a problem. What are people paying for?

Lauren: Oooh, oooh! I know! They’re paying to see Paul London!! Actually, that?s probably just me. Once again I fulfilled my obligation of being the pessimistic yin to your optimistic yang (or is that the other way around?). It?s too bad that Summerslam was so miserable that we couldn’t be more diverse in our opinions about the show itself. You’re used to me saying that everything sucks, but when Mr. Positivity here gives the show a measly 37% enjoyment rating, that?s significant. Mark will be back for Unforgiven, and I will once again be joining him for Survivor Series. Will my tolerance for WWE survive until then? You’ll have to wait and see.

…And that?s the Bottom Line, cuz Mark and Lauren said so.

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A Mark’s View: #159: Summerslam 2004 – Point [Bottom Line #4]

Mark: Holy shnikies, it?s the Bottom Line. Being that Wrestlemania and Summerslam have the largest time gap of the ?Big 4?, this feels like a special occasion for me. Traditionally, Summerslam has also been a special occasion for WWE, as it?s arguably their ‘mid-year Wrestlemania?, and usually the card reflects that. Over the years we?ve had huge Summerslam greats such as Hart/Bulldog ?92 and HBK/HHH ?02, and huge Summerslam flops like Undertaker/Undertaker ?94 and Diesel/Mabel ?95. This year, due to the brand extension, we get a little of both worlds, as Orton/Benoit gives us hope to be among the memorable and JBL/Taker promises to be one of the forgettable. I’m not entirely sold on the build to this, because a few of the important matches were very rushed, but some matches are largely angle-driven in the undercard and that?s always a bonus.

For those of you new to the format, it?s just like Point/Counterpoint, except with two people, and then after we?ve both reviewed, whoever went first gets the last word on the subject. This column also adds a new and interesting dynamic between myself and my reviewing partner Lauren C., as this marks the first time that we?ve done this column on opposite reviewing teams, the RRC and the OTC. Sup, Lauren?

Lauren: What Mark means by ?interesting dynamic? is that now that I?ve jumped over to the RRC, my superiority to him is more pronounced. Before, it was there, but it was subtle. Sorry Mark, I just can’t help it. I’m like Paul London to your Billy Kidman. No matter how much I tone myself down, I’ll still overshadow you. Since I?ve been following Raw more closely lately, I’m taking the Bottom Line on the Raw matches here and Mark is taking Smackdown. After we both watch Summerslam and see what tasty treats WWE has served up, we’ll switch for the Counterpoint. ?The what?? you ask. Oh yes, lucky readers, you get the Mark and Lond?er I mean Lauren duo one more time after this. We’re a preview team and a review team all in one. Now that?s workrate! Unfortunately that last statement provides no logical segue at all into the first ‘match??

Diva Dodgeball

Lauren?s Interest Level: Zero isn’t even low enough [-1%’>

The fact that this is going to be on pay per view is an insult. It?s an insult to Rob Conway, Sylvain Grenier, Rhyno, and Tajiri, who had a ready-made tag title matchup for this PPV. It?s an insult to any wrestler who will have his match cut short so this can have more time. It?s an insult to the current Divas, who have to put wrestling (not to mention continuity) on the back burner, in order to give PPV time to women who haven’t paid their dues in the business. It?s an insult to people paying $34.95 for two hours and forty-five minutes of wrestling. The only thing that could save this segment would be Tyson Tomko running in and taking out all the Diva Search contestants permanently. Problem solved.

Mark?s Interest Level: Bottom of the barrel [0%’> Oh sure, break my rules and do a negative number. Eh, it?s only one point, so what the hell. But don’t make a habit out of it, missy. Simply put, Vince McMahon tried to put a reality show in the middle of a wrestling show. The problem is, nobody cares, and none of them are qualified to be Divas anyway, considering none of them can act or sell. The only entertaining part about the Diva search is that they come out to ?Walk Idiot Walk? by The Hives, which is a hilariously appropriate title. Personally I don’t want any of them on my TV week after week, but you know that whoever wins will be put over like she?s God?s gift to television. I like your Problem Solver idea, Lauren. Not just because it would get rid of all of them, but also because I don’t think Tomko?s actually solved any problems yet. But even that shitty front kick he uses as a finisher would make me giggle with delight if each one of those Diva wannabes tasted boot on Sunday. Obviously neither of us care, so I’m not even bothering with predictions.

Lauren?s Bottom Line: God?s gift to?.wha? Oh tell me you did NOT just use a Christopher Daniels line in association with these skanks. I think I’m going to be sick.

The Dudley Boys vs. Rey Mysterio, Paul London, & Billy Kidman

Mark?s Interest Level: Cool with me [75%’> The only thing this feud suffers from is that this probably could?ve been two title matches instead. Rey and Spike seem tacked onto the tag title feud here, even though the point has well been driven across that Rey is a friend of London & Kidman, and Spike is, of course, a Dudley. Instead of two title defenses, we get a 6-man tag, which I?ve never been all that big on unless they’re really well done. I fear this match might be somewhat short, and will rely majorly on being a spotfest, as PPV matches of this type usually are. The bright side is that I’m already digging Spike as a heel, I really like the face team, and for once the Dudleys aren’t boring the shit out of me. It?s a well built feud coming from a show that until recently had none to speak of. I like that I have no idea who?s winning this one.

Who should win: Rey, London, & Kidman

Who will win: The Dudleys

Lauren?s Interest Level: London?s calling [95%’> My interest level is way high for this one, for one simple reason: the thought of Paul London on a major WWE PPV makes me giddy like a schoolgirl. Just sixteen months ago, I was in the second row at the Murphy Rec Center when London had his 2 out of 3 falls match against Bryan Danielson?without a doubt my 2003 MOTY. As much as I miss seeing London in that big-fish-in-a-small-pond context, I’m thrilled that he?s getting this opportunity. In Ring of Honor, London was known for giving his all in matches, and really putting his body on the line. I saw glimpses of that in the match in which he and Kidman won the tag titles, when London turned getting knocked from the apron into full-on bumps to the floor. If given opportunity to play the face in peril again, London will die for the Dudleys? sins, and smarts and marks alike will love him for it. London would bump like that for Spike Freakin? Dudley, and in the process completely shut up anybody who never bought Spike as a heel. Everybody watching will be begging for London to win the match, but since this is only the beginning, you’ll just have to tune in next week to see the beloved underdogs defeat those dastardly Dudleys. The Duds take this one through nefarious means.

Who should win: The Dudleys

Who will in: The Dudleys

Mark?s Bottom Line: I want to see London in full ROH-mode too, but it?s not going to happen in WWE.

?Til Death Do Us Part Match?

Kane vs. Matt Hardy

Lauren?s Interest Level: This storyline makes my brain hurt [30%’> Let?s recap what?s happened in this wonderful storyline. Kane stalks Lita and beats up her boyfriend Matt. Lita has sex with Kane to make him stop. Lita discovers she?s pregnant but doesn’t know who the father is. Matt asks Lita to marry him no matter who the father is. DNA tests reveal that the baby isn’t Matt?s. If Matt beats Kane at Summerslam, Matt is free to marry Lita, but if Kane beats Matt, Lita must marry Kane. If you were Matt, do you think you’d be trying your hardest to get the victory here? Me neither. Matt Hardy would be my hero if he laid down for Kane, forcing Lita to lay in the bed she made (so to speak), but that might not be worth the months of ‘distraught, victimized Lita? promos we’d have to endure as a result. A likely scenario seems to be Lita costing Matt the match and revealing an alliance with Kane. Evil goth Lita is ever-so-slightly preferential to weepy, melodramatic Lita.

Who should win: Matt, who then dumps Lita causing her to be so distraught that she never appears on television again.

Who will win: Kane

Mark?s Interest Level: Okay, this can stop now [50%’> Funny how it?s called ?Til Death Do Us Part? considering that apparently never stopped Kane before. I appreciate that they’re giving Matt Hardy a feud, and I appreciate that they’re making Kane seem like a really sick fuck, but what I don’t appreciate is that they’re giving the angle that requires the most acting week after week to Lita, one of the worst actors they?ve got. Kane?s fine in his role, though I still feel sorry for him that he gets nothing but horrible angles, and Matt?s acting is much more tolerable than he was in the days of his tag team infamy, but I really don’t see what this has to do with wrestling matches at all. Unless I miss my guess, this is a straight one-on-one match. At least their No DQ match made sense, but if some guy blackmailed my girlfriend into sex and got her pregnant, I doubt I’d be letting him live, much less touring with him, fighting a fair match with him, and signing a contract that could end up letting him marry her. The part I really dread about this angle is that Lita should start ?showing? soon, unless they do something right here and now to end the angle and make it that Lita?s pregnancy was all a ruse (please please please). I enjoy Matt?s ringwork, and Kane is passable, so I’m at least interested in a decent match. Matt?s probably going to need knee surgery though, so I think we’ll have to suffer through another wedding segment, which for some reason will happen right on Raw.

Who should win: Matt Hardy, so this angle can end.

Who will win: Kane, because it won’t.

Lauren?s Bottom Line: They lost me once they decided not to go forward with the rumored ?wire coat hanger on a pole? match.

US Title Best of Five, Match #1:

Booker T? vs. John Cena

Mark?s Interest Level: Slightly above ‘meh? [65%’> With such a healthy crop of talented and unused midcarders, I have to say that Cena and Booker aren’t topping the list of people I’d like to see in a best of five series. I like Booker as a heel, but while he?s not as good as he used to be, I’d still like to see him with a run as a main event heel. Cena on the other hand, utterly sucks as a face. Instead of raps laced with biting wit, we?ve got goofy nursery rhymes. Instead of being a wiseass, he panders to the crowd every chance he gets. He even gives away stuff to the kids in the audience, though I still have no idea what those big yellow drumstick things are. I seem to remember liking him in the ring last year, but maybe it took me really disliking his current character, combined with his lack of heel mannerisms in the ring, to realize he?s not quite at the level that everyone seems to think he should be pushed to. He?s definitely changed his ring style, no-selling and basically looking invincible, where a year ago he could cheat his ass off and still lose. Blame the WWE heel/face dynamic for that, but this is a more extreme case than usual. Given that this is the first match of the series and they need to make the heel look strong, and also because Cena you know, flat-out won a couple days ago, I’m giving this one to Booker. I just fear that he’ll end up looking bad in the end.

Who should win: Booker T

Who will win: Booker T

Lauren?s Interest Level: We have to see this how many times? [35%’> As if I wasn’t apathetic enough towards these two, WWE manages to give me one less reason to care. I don’t understand the logic of putting the first match in a series on a big stage. Why does the result of this match matter if we know we’re guaranteed at least two more? Considering Smackdown doesn’t even have another PPV for seven weeks, this is either going to be started on major PPV and finished on free TV (which seems ass-backwards), or dragged out for waaaaay too long. These are not two wrestlers that I especially want to see in a drawn-out feud. Cena is mediocre in the ring, and Booker T hasn’t been able to make me care in years. Rene Dupree, Charlie Haas, and Rob Van Dam could all credibly be placed into the United States title hunt and would put on matches that I’d be far more interested in seeing than a Best of Five Series that will most likely never top ***. Instead we’re getting Booker T. vs. Christian for the IC Title all over again. Logic would say that the heel wins this one to take the early advantage in the series, but I think since this is the match of the series taking place on the biggest stage, that they’ll give Cena the win for the crowd pop.

Who should win: Booker T

Who will win: John Cena

Mark?s Bottom Line: Looks like the verdict is that this should be a one-shot deal rather than a series. I understand why both have claim to the title, but I’m just not sold on it.

Intercontinental Title:

Edge? vs. Chris Jericho vs. Batista

Lauren?s Interest Level: A ton of potential [75%’> This match as the potential to be very interesting. You have Edge, the babyface who gets booed and occasionally acts heelish; Chris Jericho, the very over, but very cocky, babyface who works matches as a heel; and Batista, the heel powerhouse who gets cheered because he?s, uh, really big and stuff. Edge seems to be on the verge of a heel turn. Batista is so devoid of personality that I couldn’t tell either way. Jericho, in my opinion, works better as a heel, but is probably destined to stay a face for awhile because WWE has this stupid tendency to assume that a heel character?s ?popularity? amounts to a mandate to turn him face (see: Cena, John). I’m digging the ambiguity, but there are a couple of factors that could screw it up and make the match far less interesting than it could be. First, the match itself might not be very good. Triple Threats are already hard to work without doing a ton of super-contrived things, and I don’t exactly have the utmost confidence in all of the participants. Edge seems to get lost in the beginning and middle of long matches, and Batista hasn’t shown me much substance behind the power. The other thing I’m worried about is that there will be a ton of overbooking to compensate for the fact that not all of these guys are great in the ring. There?s a distinct potential for a triple-turn, but that doesn’t mean it should happen. A heel Jericho would be my top choice out of these three to hold the belt (especially after we saw Orton so seamlessly make the transition from IC Title-holder to World Title contender), but my gut says that Edge will fully turn heel in order to retain.

Who should win: Chris Jericho

Who will win: Edge

Mark?s Interest Level: The dynamic makes it work [80%’> Finally, a triple threat match that isn’t going to be full of two guys working together until one of them accidentally hits the other, or start arguing over who gets the pinfall. No, this is a clear case of face/tweener/heel, which means they’ll all be gunning for each other equally. As much as I thought Edge was boring as a face, I’m actually digging him as a tweener lately, and I would like him to remain as such. If he goes full heel, nobody?s going to care about his hate for Evolution, that is if he still wants to take them down. It?s the first time in a long time that I can actually say there?s a tweener on the roster, and I like that. Jericho is alright with me as a face for now, but mostly because he still acts like himself even when he?s a face. He?s one of the few people who does, and he doesn’t water down his character. Like just about everyone else, I’m hoping he moves up to World title status sooner rather than later, because I want to see Benoit/Jericho for the Heavyweight title to complete their long-standing rivalry through the years. Batista is mostly an afterthought here, but that?s more because they don’t let him talk, which is beyond me because he?s proven that he?s not a bad talker. He does make sense going against both Jericho and Edge, but the way he?s been booked doesn’t make him a convincing contender for the IC title. The problem is, if Edge retains I have no idea where any of them are going to go from here. Though I don’t really want another Jericho IC title reign because I feel it?s beneath him at this point. So I guess Edge retaining really is the only result I’d be happy with.

Who should win: Edge

Who will win: Edge

Lauren?s Bottom Line: I might be the only Jericho fan who wouldn’t be disappointed to see him with the IC title. WWE hasn’t shown any signs of moving him to the top of the card any time soon, and a title is a title.

Kurt Angle vs. Eddy Guerrero

Mark?s Interest Level: Great, but a little apprehensive [90%’> The only reason I’m not completely into this is because the build for it has, quite frankly, sucked. While the storyline with Angle faking his injury turned out to be pretty interesting, the followup has been lackluster. All that Eddy?s really done is steal Angle?s old GM stuff and sell it, which has for some reason is the only substance this feud has had since Angle was revealed. This past Thursday has been a step in the right direction, but why couldn’t they have done that all month? I would wager that this won’t be quite as good as their Wrestlemania match, due to the fact that both are suffering from nagging injuries, but it’ll probably be damn good nonetheless. From Angle?s return match with Charlie Haas I can wager that Kurt hasn’t lost a step, and if he has, it?s barely noticeable. But to look at the facts here, this match has had both participants wrestling even less than the Heavyweight title match. Angle?s wrestled once since the revelation, while Eddy hasn’t at all. While I’m psyched to see this match, I’m just not into the reasons for it. Both characters are at their best when they’re angry and motivated, and instead they?ve both seemed to rely on cheap slapstick to get the feud over. That?s not going to stop the match from kicking ass though. The winner?s a tough pick, as I’d say Eddy needs a big win, but Angle?s on a comeback streak so it seems more likely to me.

Who should win: Eddy Guerrero

Who will win: Kurt Angle

Lauren?s Interest Level: Ring Gods, work your magic! [95%’> Much as I hate to agree with Mark, I have to give him the nod for his thoughts about the build to this match. It?s been surprisingly lackluster given the intensity that both competitors have shown in the past. Still, my interest in this match remains incredibly high because Angle and Guerrero always have the potential to deliver a classic. I rewatched their Wrestlemania XX match this afternoon, and it was even better than I gave it credit for live. I have a feeling that from bell to bell, the weak feud will be the farthest thing from my mind. It?s been quite awhile since Angle was a full-time member of the roster, so I think he needs the win more than Eddie does.

Mark?s Bottom Line: Just to be clear, do you hate to agree with me, or do you hate to agree that the build has been lackluster? It?s me, isn’t it? 🙁

Triple H vs. Eugene

Lauren?s Interest Level: I’m probably being too optimistic here [60%’> Triple H?s work in the ring lately has been great, so this match as the potential to be very good. I’d like to see Eugene tone down the humor and play up the savant-like technical expertise and really take Triple H to the mat. Normally I would be right alongside every other ?net smark complaining when a star doesn’t make an up-and-comer look credible. However, I don’t see what Eugene has done to deserve a near-main event slot on the second-biggest PPV of the year. To me he?s nothing more than an extremely popular joke character. When I see a ‘mentally-impaired? rookie single-handedly punking out the dominant heel stable, that?s taking suspension of disbelief a bit too far for me. I like realism in my wrestling. This is Monday night Raw, not Saturday morning right after American Gladiators. I don’t see any logical justification for why Triple H should or will lose to Eugene. I’d like to see Eugene lose, then be beaten down and taken off television for awhile, giving the character a chance to rest. Triple H will then have a ready-made match for Unforgiven against William Regal. Despite my skepticism about Eugene deserving such a high place on the card, this feud has been built extremely well, raising my interest level slightly above my so-so interest in the match itself.

Who should win: Triple H

Who will win: Triple H

Mark?s Interest Level: Just bring on Regal/HHH please [55%’> I do think Nick Dinsmore does a good job in his role, I really do. I also appreciate that they?ve toned down how much he?s been on TV in the past month. But with the way they?ve handled William Regal, I was clamoring for a feud between he and Triple ?Haitch? to go down sooner rather than later. Eugene?s decent in the ring, but I really haven’t seen him do anything in the ring other than, well, act retarded. I don’t mind gimmicked characters, but when the gimmick becomes the content of the wrestling match, it completely takes me out of it, because it then becomes a wrestling character, not a character who wrestles. They might as well stick a Viking helmet on him and have him scream ?Huss!? all the time. I think Triple H is on a really hot streak as far as ringwork goes, but that may just be because he?s not injured and he?s up against good wrestlers this year. In storyline terms, Triple H actually does deserve this win. In smarky terms, he deserves it there too. This could be good, but I’m betting it’ll rely more on comedy than it should.

Who should win: Triple H

Who will win: Triple H

Lauren?s Bottom Line: I’m bored with Eugene. I’m counting on Trips to deliver here.

WWE Heavyweight Title:

John Bradshaw Layfield? vs. The Undertaker

Mark?s Interest Level: At least Diva Dodgeball has T&A [0%’> JBL holds the Heavyweight title. Undertaker is currently the only contender for the belt. Neither has wrestled a full, competitive match in weeks, unless you count OJ/Taker from this week. The feud almost completely lacks substance of any kind, other than a simple brief challenge for the belt. All of these things bother me, but the biggest complaint I have in this feud is that they completely missed out on a golden opportunity to not only make the build interesting, but personal and psychological. Seems to me that Bradshaw used to be one of Undertaker?s Acolytes. All they really had to do is play up that fact, and make it seem like Undertaker was insulted by JBL?s personality change, and they might have actually been able to build this somewhat. Likewise, Virgil 2.0 could?ve mentioned that Taker was the one who told him to ?pay his dues? when he debuted. Instead, the entire thing is based around ?You. Me. Summerslam.? I’m still not liking JBL?s ring work, Undertaker?s far past his prime, and the only real reason for this is because the fans mark for Taker?s entrance. Other than that, this is a sorry excuse for a Heavyweight title match. As much as I hate JBL with the belt, I can’t see Taker as being the man to take the strap off of him, especially if he?s not showing up every week. I’m guessing Heidenreich?s re-debut will be the reason though, in a feud I’d really rather not see.

Who should win: Screwy ending, title declared vacant.

Who will win: JBL

Lauren?s Interest Level: Mark underestimates Bradshaw?s ?T? [0%’> I noticed on the Summerslam commercial aired during Raw that while shots of Chris Benoit holding the World title were all over the preview for his title defense, the WWE title was treated as an afterthought. It?s almost as if WWE is ashamed of the fact that their major title will be defended in a match with less workrate than Lita?s acting coach. Wait, WWE care about workrate? Perhaps I’m reading into it too much. Honestly, I don’t care who wins. What reason would I have to care? The feud has nothing behind it. The match is going to be an abomination. Worst of all, we know that no matter what the result, the title will end up around the waist of a big slow Texan who talks more than he wrestles.

Who should win: OJ stabs both Taker and JBL, grabs the title, and drives off in a white Ford Bronco.

Who will win: JBL

Mark?s Bottom Line: I love the OJ jokes so much.

World Heavyweight Title:

Chris Benoit? vs. Randy Orton

Lauren?s Interest Level: Interested, but not fully confident. [93%’> I have little doubt that this match will be very, very good. Benoit?s an awesome worker, and he’ll make Orton look great. However, I am not an advocate of putting the title on Randy Orton. In part it?s that I don’t want to see Benoit?s title reign end at the hands of a weak competitor. To me, giving the #1 contendership for a major title on the second-biggest PPV of the year to the winner of a battle royal is unacceptably lazy booking. It?s as if the creative team realized ?shit, it?s 3 weeks to Summerslam and we?ve been focusing so much on that retarded guy that we don’t have anyone to face?wait, who is it again??ah, yes, Benoit, that?s right.? How does it make any sense at all if Benoit can beat Triple H and Shawn Michaels, both of whom are top stars who had a genuine and established reason to be chasing the title, and then lose to a green kid who seemingly only became interested in that title a few weeks ago. I know I’m being especially hard on Orton here, because in fact I?ve seen nothing but improvement from him over the past year. He?s gotten a ton better, but I’m still not ready to see him hold the top title. If Benoit retains the title and takes it into a long feud with Orton, that might give Orton the credibility he needs. I’m hoping the ?net rumors are wrong on this one.

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Randy Orton

Mark?s Interest Level: Sweet. [100%’> I probably shouldn’t be rating this a 100%, because it?s only been a 3 week build, but I’m liking what they?ve done with it since, and I’m really psyched to see this match. For all of Orton?s flaws, Benoit can cover him, and Orton?s vastly improved anyway. While I’m sure WWE does have legitimate faith in Orton as being a future champion, I think even they realize that this isn’t the time or the method to do it. Orton needs a more solid build if he?s going to beat, of all people, Chris Benoit. Not only has he been feuding with Benoit for 3 weeks, but he?s only been in the entire main event scene for that long as well. Even Brock had longer than that. Fortunately I don’t think the bookers are that dense, at least the Raw bookers anyway. Benoit?s built himself a hell of a lot of credibility in the months since Wrestlemania, and I’d like to think they still have the faith in him they had back then. If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Evolution cost Orton the title due to Triple H?s jealousy over the idea of Orton getting the title. Granted, I would rather not see interference here, but if there?s a time and a place for an interesting new angle to occur that will cause the eventual split of Evolution, this is it.

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Chris Benoit

Lauren?s Bottom Line: I’d rather see a solid wrestling match than another Evolution angle, but it?s WWE, so it wouldn’t surprise me either.

Mark?s Overall Interest: 515 out of a possible 900, for a total of roughly 57%.

Lauren?s Overall Interest: 482 out of a possible 900, for a total of roughly 54%.

Mark: I’m surprised my rating wasn’t higher, considering this actually looks overall like a really good card. A few mainstays are noticeably absent, and I would really rather see a Raw Tag Titles match than Diva Dodgeball, but it looks to be a really solid show for the most part. I suppose it?s also worth mentioning that I’m counting on there being no title changes, a prediction which I’m sure could backfire on me in more than one case. Regardless, I think this is a show I’m going to enjoy, and hopefully the bathroom break matches will occur when I need them most.

Lauren: Raw Tag Titles? Ha. I would rather see a Kenzo Suzuki vs. Matt Morgan Ironman match than Diva Dodgeball. Summerslam this year is a very mixed card, but I’m still looking forward to it. I’m glad Mark recognizes that some of his predictions may be wrong?I’m guessing they’ll be the ones that were different from mine. We’ll have to settle this, Mark. You. Me. After Summerslam.

…And that?s the Bottom Line, cuz Mark and Lauren said so.

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A Mark’s View: #158: What does ‘WWE’ stand for?

Seems like an age since you last saw a column from me gracing the ‘lighter grey? side of the page, doesn’t it? Well, there?s a reason for that. The main reason being that I simply haven’t had the time lately, between OTC every week, doing a Point/Counterpoint every other week, my e-fed stuff, and a whole lot of other junk that?s been going on in my personal life lately. Suffice to say, I haven’t had much free time to contribute. Another reason though, is that although I?ve caught every WWE A-show episode in the past…um, however long since I?ve actually missed one…I haven’t had the drive or the motivation to write anything. Usually when the product is in a slump, that?s what happens. Now, by ?slump?, you’re probably thinking that I’m referring to Smackdown, but I’m also referring to Raw. Both brands, despite the fact that Raw is a superior product with an infinitely superior champion at the moment, are lacking in quality due to several reasons. Normally I write more when I’m excited about the product. I talk about the lapse in quality because just about anything pales in comparison to the heights in popularity that WWF once reached in the Hogan and Attitude eras, something that WWE hasn’t been able to replicate thus far. If the business works in cycles though, they’re due for a renaissance in about 2 or 3 more years. Unfortunately, most fans simply aren’t going to wait that long.

What I think the main problem today with WWE?s product is, is the fact that they tend to hype so much, and then fail to deliver in most cases. Sometimes you’ll get the rare gem, but other times there?s really nothing that you’d want to show your non-fan friends that would get them into wrestling. What I usually do in cases when I feel something is wrong, is pick apart the problems piece by piece. In many cases it feels like WWE is hypocritical. The famous quote from Vince McMahon, which is arguably a shoot, ?The fans don’t know what they want, I know what they want.?, is perhaps the best example of this. So what I aim to do here is pick apart the very meaning of World Wrestling Entertainment piece by piece, because the name in and of itself is not only hypocritical, but very indicative of what?s wrong with the product of today.

?World?

The word ?world? encompasses a broad spectrum, to the point where pretty much anything that claims to affect the entire world is usually pretentious and egotistical. Such is the WWE product. While on Smackdown you have the WWE Heavyweight title, and the WWE Tag Team titles, on Raw you have the World Heavyweight title, and the World Tag Team titles, as well as the Intercontinental title. Now, arguably, you could say they deserve the word ?World? in their title, being that they’re the biggest and richest wrestling federation on the planet. But me? I don’t play that. Just because they have a lot of money and are very widespread doesn’t mean they’re the best, and it especially doesn’t mean that they cater to everyone around the world.

Case in point, look at how ethnocentric and nationalistic WWE is. Oh sure, they’ll have a Canadian champion sometimes, as they currently do, and The Rock was probably the best example of a minority champion, but that?s not what bothers me. The problem is that WWE is first and foremost, American to the bone. I can’t think of a time when they didn’t have American patriotism as a staple theme in their company. Being based in the United States I can see the logic in that, but to the degree that they push patriotism down their fans? throats, can they realistically call themselves a worldwide federation? A perfect example here is La Resistance. They brought in a French team, because the US was apparently mad at France for not backing us in Dubya?s precious little war, and that?s really the only reason. Whether they’re billed as French (Dupree), French sympathizers (Conway), or French-Canadian (Grenier), they’re the enemy simply because they’re patriotic of their own country. Sure, it?s in a heelish and condescending manner, but even when someone doesn’t insult America, they can garner heel heat merely by waving their flag around. I suppose that?s more indicative of what kind of fans the company has, but WWE for all its worth has never done anything to change that. They’re full, red-blooded Americans, and the outsider is the enemy. When they do put on shows in Canada, the crowd reactions say it all. The fact that they?ve been announcing many Canadian wrestlers, most notably Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit, as hailing from their current American residences, says even more.

For better examples, look at the two countries where wrestling is the most popular and involved, outside of the US and Canada… First of all, in Mexico, wrestling has an incredible following, full of showmanship and honor. Some of their more popular icons, such as El Santo, become national heroes. Yet when you look at how Mexicans, or even Mexican-Americans are presented in WWE, you see none of that showmanship, and none of that honor. Eddy Guerrero is a prime example of everything that?s wrong with the way WWE stereotypes people. Drives a lowrider. Says ?orale?, ?vato?, or ?esse? in every sentence. Lies, cheats, and steals (as opposed to the decidedly non-Mexican oriented ?cheat to win? gimmick of WCW fame). And if you go way back, participated in an angle where he received his GED. Nearly every angle that Guerrero has participated in during his WWE tenure has involved his ethnicity, despite the fact that he actually does speak without a heavy accent, and that he was born in the United States.

Second, look at Japan. Some of the greatest workers of all time, and some of the best and most innovative wrestlers in the world (there?s that word again), come out of Japan. Will you ever see a Mitsuharu Misawa match in WWE? Will you ever see a 5-star classic with Kobashi taking on Chris Benoit? Would you ever see Jushin Liger get a World title shot? No, of course not. Not when you look at WWE and even Japanese guys who can actually speak fluent English are regulated to horrendous and stereotypical gimmicks. I’m not certain on this one, but I’d be willing to bet Kenzo Suzuki can speak his fair share of English. I’m fairly certain Hiroko doesn’t have a thick accent. I’m fairly certain Tajiri can speak more than they let on. I’m also certain that Jimmy Yang isn’t even Japanese, and is actually quite good at cutting promos. Is there a language barrier with some of their wrestlers? Sure. When Kaientai enjoyed a marginal amount of success, to my knowledge neither Taka Michinoku nor Sho Funaki could speak fluent English, and Funaki still can’t. The big injustice of a lack of push for Ultimo Dragon was partially the language barrier, but more that Vince McMahon didn’t scout him properly before signing him. It?s no surprise to me that none of these men will ever reach main event, and that the only one who?s enjoying a clear shot at a major singles title right now is an utterly blatant and tacky Japanese stereotype, one that was originally changed from the name ?Hirohito? because, surprise surprise, it might be too offensive to the Japanese. Yet if any of the true greats of Japan were to come to WWE, they would more than likely be regulated to Cruiserweight status, low-midcard jobbers, or any number of gimmicks focused completely on the fact that they’re Asian. Ultimo’s already been a prime example of that, despite the way they hyped him by saying he once held 10 titles at once.

This isn’t even counting the amount of other ethnic stereotypes that have become commonplace through the years. The British are always turning their noses up at us while they drink their tea, the Russians are always commies, the Italians are always mafia-related, and Africans are spear-chucking jungle tribesmen. It?s become so commonplace over the years that nobody seems to even bother to question it anymore. Well excuse me for falling into the category of ?know-it-all negative internet writer?, but I question the hell out of it.

What could WWE do to remedy this? Well, they could regularly tour worldwide and put on televised shows from various countries, they could sign talents from other countries and simply let them work the way WCW did for awhile, and they could allow a more diverse variety of stars to rise to the top. But they won’t, because America (especially white America) is, always has, and always will be the main focus of WWE?s ethnic roots. Normally that wouldn’t be a gripe of mine were it not so blatant, but most of the time they don’t even try to hide it, much less do something about it. It?s because of this that I declare that World Wrestling Entertainment really doesn’t deserve the ?World? part of its name. To call it ?American Wrestling Entertainment? might be more fitting, but the thought of using the acronym ?AWE? makes me cringe.

?Wrestling?

To call WWE a ?wrestling? company is more often than not a mistake. Take a simple look at the rosters of both brands and see how much underused and underpushed talent is on WWE programming, or rather, not on WWE programming. It?s pretty much always been this way, but that doesn’t mean it?s a good thing. You don’t have to be a good wrestler to be at the top, but it helps. Juxtapose the two Heavyweight champions and you’ll see what I mean. One is a phenomenal wrestler, arguably one of the best in the world, and the show he?s on is bringing in good ratings on a consistent basis whenever he?s on. Yet despite all that, his title reign is overshadowed by the Eugene angle, rather than focusing on the belt itself. The other is, and always has been, a terrible wrestler, arguably one of the worst on the roster, and the show he?s on is killing ratings whenever he shows up, while buyrates are nearly at an all-time low, despite the fact that their last champion who he feuded with for that belt was infinitely better in the ring. One would think they’d have gotten the hint by now. If you look at a show like TNA Impact, you’ll often see 4 or 5 wrestling matches within an hour. Meanwhile, WWE?s shows often contain just as many matches in twice the amount of time. There is really no excuse for having 4 matches under 10 minutes each on a 2 hour television show that?s supposed to be centered around wrestling.

A friend of mine who is a sporadic watcher of WWE, in that he likes the good matches but hates the bad stuff, has recently become a fan of TNA due to me showing him a tape of Impact every week. In his words, he likes the show better than WWE because it looks more realistic. They actually make it look like real professional wrestling most of the time, at least when the more talented members of the roster are on. But even when the lesser TNA roster is showcased, they still make it look more believable than WWE, and that?s quite simply the ?WWE style? that has often been referred to as a hot internet topic. I?ve gone on record before as saying that the two wrestling federations are completely different entities, so I’m not going to compare the WWE and TNA styles any further. What ultimately bothers me the most about WWE?s style though, is the fact that some wrestlers can and will put on 5-star classics or MOTYC?s within the context of the WWE style, so how can the same company justify putting on complete duds on the same shows for absolutely no reason other than to kill some time?

If they have enough filler, an untalented worker can get 5 minutes of TV time a week, while a much more talented wrestler wastes away jobbing on Velocity or Heat, and that?s sufficient enough for the week. If they feel it?s necessary to put someone over strongly or quickly, they can have a 1 minute squash match. Again, this is nothing new to anyone reading this, but the simple fact remains that people have become far too complacent with it. That they’re completely capable of putting on incredible wrestling shows every week, yet they don’t, is a testament to how much WWE doesn’t actually care about the ?wrestling? portion of their company. The reason there are some awesome matches, few and far between as they may be, is because two good workers are sometimes booked against each other, and WWE lets them carry their own ball because they’re more than capable of doing it. In these cases, WWE doesn’t have to do the work when there?s a Benoit or a Michaels or an Angle in the ring.

How many times have you said someone looks unmotivated because they work hard every week and get nothing in return? Perhaps the greatest example of this is the lackluster Cruiserweight division, which frankly I can’t remember a time when it was a booming division in the first place, driven by interesting feuds and angles not only surrounding the title, but in the undercard?s title contention as well. Right now the majority of the division either doesn’t appear on the main show, are on the wrong roster, or are switched to a ground-based style when they’re perfectly capable of highspots. Vince McMahon himself has gone on record as saying he doesn’t want the Cruiserweights to ?show up? the upper card, and that?s why they never get pushed as far as they could be. There it is, in plain black and white. They won’t put talented, hard workers in good, interesting matches, because they might make some people look bad. Who?s going to look bad? The bad workers in the higher card, who they apparently realize are bad workers. But meanwhile, they have no qualms with adding lesser talent, or completely green rookies, to an already packed card full of people they have no intention of ever pushing in the first place. Due to this fact, I don’t believe WWE particularly deserves the ?Wrestling? part of their name either.

?Entertainment?

What is classified as entertainment is subjective, but the word comes with the territory when a company proclaims itself as ?sports entertainment? anyway. Relating to my previous point about ?Wrestling?, I mentioned that at times they will have only a few matches, each well under 10 minutes, on a 2 hour show. What?s truly unforgivable about this is what makes up the rest of this time. Angles should be used to put over matches and wrestlers as an accessory to the wrestling going on, rather than matches being accessories to the plot. The really maddening part of this is the fact that segments often take up good portions of PPV events, and I’m fairly certain that nobody buys these to see long, drawn out plot segments. Remember Bischoff?s implied ‘rape? of Linda McMahon? How about the ?Redneck Triathlon? between Eric Bischoff and Stone Cold Steve Austin? This was on a PPV event, had nothing to do with wrestling, and could barely even be classified as ?entertainment?, yet this was a large portion of a show that thousands of people were paying for.

Granted, in the same company where the owner has said ?I don’t know what professional wrestling is…we’re about sports entertainment?, and if that?s how the owner, and the employees of the company truly feel, then more power to them for doing what they want. But if plot advancement and segments make up over 50% of the show, they shouldn’t even call it ?sports entertainment?, they should call it ?a drama TV series with occasional wrestling going on?. It?s gotten to the point where non-wrestlers have feuded for pointless reasons, many of whom have gotten more TV time than actual wrestlers (Stephanie McMahon, I’m looking at you). Countless gimmicks have come and gone where the audience obviously isn’t buying it, because we live in an age where yesterday?s Repo Man and today?s Mordecai just aren’t working. We relate to the blue-collar worker of today. We relate to the realistic hero rather than the action movie hero, and we relate to the cold, calculating bad guy who makes it personal, rather than the evil supervillain scheming in ways that no reasonable human being would ever dream of. We don’t relate to someone who apparently uses wrestling as a second job when he?s got another career as a trashman, or…a Viking, though I’m not entirely certain that?s a career. We know John Layfield is actually a stock broker on the side, but at least that is his second job, rather than the opposite. People aren’t into ridiculous, over the top gimmicks anymore, and it?s really starting to show.

Moreover, the angles used to get certain wrestlers over often hurt the credibility of those involved. Big Show and Eddy Guerrero feuded using burritos and raw sewage. Kane and Triple H feuded over necrophilia. These things are painful to watch, and I feel sorry for Glen Jacobs for working so hard toward his character, yet getting saddled with the absolute worst angles possible time after time. The current Lita/Kane/Matt Hardy angle may be the most talked about part of Raw (according to Matt Hardy in his latest web commentary), but perhaps that?s because people love talking more about things that are so blatantly awful. We?ve talked a hell of a lot about Triple H dry-humping a mannequin in a coffin, but that doesn’t make it good. Just because it?s highly discussed doesn’t mean it?s worthy of praise. WWE?s problem is that Vince McMahon believes any publicity is good publicity. JBL seems to have already proven that false, as nobody?s buying into him as champion, no matter who supports the push. It?s not good publicity when it?s making us turn off our TVs and not buy their PPVs. The logic behind it boggles my mind…Vince seems to think that JBL?s name in the news may bring in new fans when they hear about him (hence his title reign), but what he hasn’t stopped to think about is that the number of new fans tuning out because they’re sick of seeing this crap week after week far exceeds the number of new fans tuning in to see some guy they heard about on the news.

These reasons and others could be even more reason to say why WWE doesn’t deserve the word ?wrestling? in their name, but much of the time they don’t deserve the ?entertainment? part either. Just look at the past few years alone for examples of bad angles. They either need new writers, or new ideas, because what they’re coming up with now just isn’t working.

By no means am I condemning the entire company. For all their faults they do have some very good things about them. Sometimes, storylines are compelling television. Sometimes, good gimmicks can work, and great characters are portrayed. Sometimes, they put on great matches. But when the bad far outweighs the good, it?s no wonder people see the product as lacking something. World Wrestling Entertainment has nothing to do with the World, is sporadically involved in Wrestling, and focuses far too much on the Entertainment portion, which sometimes isn’t even that. It?s because of this that I firmly believe the burden of entertainment lies solely on the wrestlers themselves, because more often than not I find myself wondering what the creative team is thinking. The simple answer from most would be “Well then don’t watch it”, but that’s as shallow an answer as I’ve ever heard. I’ve enjoyed watching the product since I was a child, and it’s a shame that sometimes they make me come dangerously close to stopping that. While there have been bright spots recently, the shows have slid downhill since Wrestlemania, as is usually the case every year. If things don’t pick up soon, perhaps a better name for the company would be ?American Dramatic Television Occasionally Centered Around Brief Moments Of Wrestling.?

Somehow, ?ADTOCABMOW? just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #157: Vengeance 2004 – Counterpoint

Well there you have it. ?Have what, Mark??, you might be saying. IT, damn you! Vengeance has come and gone. The strange thing about Vengeance is, there was more cause for vengeance at this event than fulfillment of it, but hey, there?s always a way out at No Way Out, and I’m sure there?s plenty of room for mercy at No Mercy…and the Great American Bash was neither great nor a bash, though perhaps a little thick on the American side.

One complaint I have is that this PPV was basically ?The Eugene Show?. The whole night, and a good portion of the backstage segments, centered around him. I know Triple H has got this brilliant, devious plan for him or whatever, and I do like the character, but sometimes enough is enough. We?ve already had multiple Raw episodes centered around him, do we really need a whole PPV centered around him too? This is how gimmicks wear thin so quickly. When someone gets popular, the crowd wants more. Unfortunately WWE isn’t very good at gauging just how much ‘more? is a good amount, and it often becomes excessive. Evolution does show some nice anti-HHH tension in these segments though, and Monday?s Raw probably made me giggle more than any grown man should at the mental picture of Batista taking Eugene to Chuck E. Cheese. Why couldn’t that have been a segment? I love his dynamic with Flair, because Flair plays off of him wonderfully, but I hope the subsequent Raw?s events with Evolution betraying Eugene leads him back to becoming a vehicle to get William Regal over, because I like their dynamic even better. I just think that what they’re doing now is a bit too much, even if it is entertaining.

Anyway, let?s get down to business. I’ll take my thoughts from the Point and give you my Counterpoint, comparing my predictions with my reactions, and comparing my interest with my actual entertainment. Easy enough, right? Gooood Oratory reader. *pats you on the head*

Coach & Cade vs. Tajiri & Rhyno
Winner: Tajiri & Rhyno

I don’t know what?s funnier, that Cade is coming out to Coach?s music, or that they’re supposed to be a legitimate tag team. While it was a last minute tacked-on addition to the card, and Coach & Cade were obviously not supposed to be taken seriously, I did kind of enjoy this. Although it had a lack of build, it did make some sense with Tajiri?s feud with Coach, and Rhyno?s search for a tag partner. It was rather slow whenever Coach was in control, mostly because I don’t think Coach should ever be in control of a match, but the dynamic with ?Team ECW? was nice, and I wouldn’t mind at all if these guys stayed permanent. It?s not like they’re doing much else in singles action, especially since both of them still basically belong on Smackdown anyway, plus the tag division could use an established team. The crowd loves to pop for both Tajiri and Rhyno?s signature moves, so this was a good way to warm up the crowd. I’m not giving it much because it was a throwaway match, but it was fun.

Entertainment Level: [25%’>

Chris Jericho vs. Batista


Interest Level: Justin Hawkins [70%’> Call me crazy, but I think they just might be able to pull this one off, much like The Darkness is somehow pulling off the cheesy hair metal sound and getting away with it. Shawn Michaels brought Batista to a good match, and Chris Jericho is no slouch at carry jobs either. Batista?s improving in the ring, though I prefer him in tag action, but he?s more than carryable and he knows his place in the company. I?ve heard him quoted as saying he knows that he is where he is because of his look and size, and now he?s just got to improve to live up to it, and for that I respect him. As long as he doesn’t mess anything up, I think this has the potential to be a really cool match, though I wouldn’t doubt if we see some Evolution interference. Jericho is steadily climbing back to main event level, but I think that since he already beat another hoss last month, he?s due for a loss to Batista here, especially when you consider that they’re selling Jericho?s worked concussion from a few weeks back. I think Batista might surprise the haters here, but that won’t necessarily be all his doing.

Who should win: Chris Jericho

Who will win: Batista


Actual winner: Batista

I was expecting this to be a little higher on the card, but given that it didn’t have all that much of a feud behind it I can’t blame them, and Jericho always keeps the crowd warm. I?ve heard criticisms that this match was too slow paced, but I thought it made sense in the context of the feud…Jericho?s recovering from a head injury inflicted by Batista, and therefore overpowered. This is one of the cases where ?slow = methodical? actually worked, at least from my vantage point, so I didn’t mind how it was booked. I don’t think it was quite what I expected it to be, but aside from his apparent inability to fall through/over the ropes week after week, Batista is really improving. I’d say they need a rematch due to the dodgy finish, but it made Batista look powerful and heelish at the same time, and that was the whole point. Coming into this match though, with the way the crowd reacts to Jericho, I really hope he climbs to the top of the card soon. Right now the main event is pretty much just Benoit and HHH, and another guy chasing the belt is exactly what they need. No, scratch that, Chris Jericho chasing the belt is exactly what they need.

Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Tag Team Titles:

La Resistance? vs. Ric Flair & Eugene



Interest Level: Tim Henman [30%’> Henman is big with the crowd at Wimbledon, but he always chokes, and ends up being the ?popular loser?. Likewise, we?ve got a thrown together team of Eugene and Flair, who may be popular with the crowd, but you know the match is to further an angle and not necessarily put on a good wrestling show. I’m interested to see what Conway and Flair can pull off when they’re in the ring together, that is if Flair will even let himself be tagged in. The build to this has been literally one segment of one show, though I have to say that Triple H jumping on a Mr. Bouncety-Bounce is quite possibly the funniest thing I?ve seen him do since the infamous Forklift Drive-By. My prediction here is that Flair refuses to cooperate, causing more tension between Evolution. Tension in stables is good, but I don’t want Eugene being the reason for the inevitable breakup. I think a win here would undermine Rhyno?s current ?search for a tag partner? angle, and I also like to think they have a little more faith in La Resistance as champions than to hotshot the titles onto a random odd couple team, despite having done it zillions of times before.

Who should win: La Resistance

Who will win: La Resistance


Actual winner: La Resistance

For reference to Eugene, I’ll take a quote from the short-lived Comedy Central series ?Strangers With Candy?:

“First of all, the retarded don’t rule the night. They don’t rule it; no one does. They don’t run in packs and, while they don’t have the strength of apes, don’t look ’em in the eye. Don’t do it. It puts them on edge. They might go into berserker mode, come at you like a whirling dervish, all fists and elbows. You might be screaming, ‘No! No! No!’ but all they hear is ‘Who wants cake?’ Because they all do. They all want cake.”

For some reason, I think of this quote every time I see Eugene go into ‘tard rage? mode, as I like to call it. While Eugene?s parts in the match emulating Flair did get a few laughs out of me, and while I did like any part where Flair was in control, the unfortunate side effect of having a half-comedy and half-serious team out there was that any time it turned into a regular match, I was instantly reminded of how rushed and nonsensical this booking was, and how the tag division is seriously lacking in contenders. The tag champions shouldn’t be made to look weak, and that?s how they looked the entire time. Funny stuff, but more of a comedy segment than anything else. I got about what I expected.

Entertainment Level: [30%’>

No DQ:

Kane vs. Matt Hardy



Interest Level: Peter Kay [55%’> Kay is a great comedian, though I know little of his stuff, but he?s not one of the greats just yet. He does have potential though, and so does this. Kane can take a loss as long as it?s believable, but it would be a huge notch on Matt Hardy?s belt if he could beat Kane here. While I’m not wild about the angle whatsoever, half due to the hokey ?who?s your daddy? stuff and half due to Lita?s awful acting, I think it has potential to be entertaining, under one condition: That Lita turns out to have never actually been pregnant, and said she was just to get Kane off Matt?s back, and also to get back at Matt for dumping her a few months ago. This makes her a manipulative bitch heel, keeps Kane a heel when he beats her up anyway, and Matt an uber-sympathetic face for enduring it. I really hope this is the direction they’re going, because I can’t take a full nine-month pregnancy term of this. The match could be cool though, as long as it?s a little more innovative than cookie sheets and fire extinguishers. Matt?s got a legacy of TLC matches to uphold, so I think we’ll see something to that effect here.

Who should win: Matt Hardy

Who will win: Matt Hardy


Actual winner: Matt Hardy

I was on the verge of changing my prediction here after reading Matt Hardy?s last commentary where he talked about his injured knee. It’ll probably require surgery, which is very unfortunate because they’re seemingly doing something with him for the first time in his singles career. If this becomes an issue where he’ll be out for awhile, I really hope he gets a good IC title push. I imagine he and Edge could put on a hell of a TLC singles match. For now though, he?s stuck with a hokey angle, but leave it to the production team to make it look compelling. The match itself wasn’t bad, but I wanted a little more out of it given Matt?s history with hardcore stipulation matches. Even just one ladder or table spot would?ve been sufficient, and the match was a tad too short for what they were trying to accomplish. I understand why Kane was in control for most of it, as he sort of has to be with his character, but I’m not wild about completely no-selling the Twist of Fate. It seems the best way to knock out Kane for a pinfall is to do something involving stairs to the head, because if I recall correctly, that?s how he?s lost the majority of his No DQ matches. I think I’d have liked to have seen Matt punish Kane a little more here, because Matt was being put over as someone who wanted to take apart Kane, not just defeat him. What we got could?ve been a TV match, though I like Matt?s post-match comment to Lita, telling her to stay away from him until he gets things sorted out. He?s really starting to improve as a character, and I hope this angle doesn’t limit him in the future. I just hope the ending to it comes sooner rather than later. A fun match for what it was though, just slightly less than I hoped for.

Entertainment Level: [50%’>

Intercontinental Title:

Randy Orton? vs. Edge



Interest Level: Orlando Bloom [60%’> It?s not that Bloom?s bad, but he has yet to prove to me that he?s good in anything that doesn’t require him to be some sort of weapons master, and half of that is post-production and stuntwork anyway. Likewise for Edge, I’m not sold on him being a good wrestler, and he?s already back in the rut that he was before his injury. Orton is improving by leaps and bounds, but he works best with people who are better than him. He can’t carry people just yet, but he doesn’t need to be carried either. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that this isn’t going to be all that good of a match, but it’ll be decent at best. I don’t know, they could surprise me here, but I’m not counting on it. Randy?s been a great IC champion, but this feud seems pretty thrown together with Edge?s whole ?I don’t like you? bit as of late, and I don’t think he?s going to be the one to take down Evolution either. The only real reason for this feud is that Shelton Benjamin was probably supposed to get a rematch until he got hurt, but he’ll probably be back soon enough. Therefore, I just don’t see Edge taking the gold here, and besides I?ve never thought he’d make a good midcard champion anyway.

Who should win: Randy Orton

Who will win: Randy Orton


Actual winner: Edge

The pre-match video package really made it seem like this feud was more than just ?I don’t like you?, which I suppose is good enough for a wrestling feud, but not enough for me to credit Edge as someone who should be taking down Evolution. It kind of makes me wonder if Shelton Benjamin would?ve gotten this push if he hadn’t been hurt. Edge makes a better ?wiseass face? than ?badass face?, and I think that?s what my main problem with his character is. Matchwise though, rest holds like the various ones seen here are a terrible way to make Edge more exciting, and my biggest gripe with his ringwork is that he seriously needs a style. Aside from his few signatures, he?s just got a really generic moveset, while Orton?s is already a lot more versatile. The fact that Edge got such a mixed reaction from the crowd here should tell you plenty. I think it?s fairly obvious that the fans aren’t exactly buying into him. It wasn’t a bad match, but it just didn’t grab me, and while I like the amount of time they gave to an IC title match, this particular match had no business being nearly half an hour long. They could?ve shortened it by 5 to 10 minutes easily and given that time to Hardy/Kane, and it would?ve accomplished the same thing and been a bit faster paced. The last several minutes though, starting out with the slugfest between the two, made it end on a really hot note, and I appreciated what they pulled off at the end, especially the trading finishers (though I maintain they need to leave the Spear/Gore to Rhyno, and let Edge go back to the Impaler). That said, I don’t think the time was right for Orton to lose the title. I’m sure he’ll get it back at some point, but he was really on a great streak here, and was building up the IC title to a level it hasn’t reached in a long time. Due to it being a rather flukey ending though, I can only hope this is just a speedbump for Orton?s push, because I like where he was going with it. I liked a good portion of the match, but the sheer amount of dead spots makes this another one where I feel I was entertained just as much as I was interested going into it.

Entertainment Level: [60%’>

Victoria vs. Molly Holly


Interest Level: Jamie Oliver [5%’> My sister loves the Naked Chef. I don’t see what the big deal about him is, and I don’t really want references to nudity and cooking in the same sentence when talking about this man. Me? I’m more of an Iron Chef Morimoto kinda guy. Morimoto makes complicated, interesting stuff, while Oliver strips down his recipes to bare bones. From a booking standpoint, this is some bare bones planning right here. There?s no real reason to have this match. Maybe it?s #1 contender, maybe it isn’t, but nobody?s going to know until the PPV anyway. Trish being hurt means she should probably drop the title, but that didn’t exactly stop Triple H last year, did it? As for the actual contenders, oh how the mighty (no Molly pun intended) have fallen. Molly?s gimmick is now simply a wig, and that?s about it, though she really doesn’t look bad without it. Victoria had her crazy heel phase which made her an interesting character with some depth, then she took on the campy dance music, and keeps it although dropping the actual gimmick. For all I know, they?ve already dropped the ?Steven Richards in drag? gimmick, but I suppose it may surface here again. Either way, I don’t really care who wins.

Who should win: No Preference

Who will win: Victoria


Actual winner: Victoria

Heh, kudos to JR for mentioning ?You’d think by now some of her hair would?ve grown back? in reference to Molly. Perhaps that?s a sign this gimmick is coming to a close. Some decent work with Molly working on the shoulder, and some great selling by Victoria, and that?s about all I have to say about the match. Short, not bad, and a little better than expected.

Entertainment Level: [10%’>

-One note worthy of mention, I rather enjoyed the Stacy commercial for Summerslam. I’d give her a 10 as well, I must say. I’m just glad Summerslam is in the middle of August, so now we have over a month to build to it for both brands. 5 Raw episodes and I believe 7 Smackdown episodes, and that?s a little more like it.

World Heavyweight Title:

Chris Benoit? vs. Triple H



Interest Level: Wayne Rooney [100%’> Regarding the soccer prodigy, according to Newman, ?Rooney’s 18, but he’s already one of the best players in the world, and he ripped up Euro 2004 till he got injured?. That makes him the one people tune in to see, much like this match. While neither man is a rookie by any means, Benoit can easily be distinguished in the ?one of the best in the world? category, and Triple H has been on his game (again, no pun intended) all year. While I’m sad to say we never got a full HBK/Benoit PPV match, this is the other combination of singles matches from the Wrestlemania triple threat we didn’t see, and for that I’m highly anticipating it. Benoit?s got an incredible hot streak, people love him as champion, and Trips is fresh off a HIAC win. Due to HHH getting the better of Benoit for the past couple weeks, I can see this ending with Benoit as the winner, but I’m really hoping Eugene doesn’t get involved here (even though I’m sure he will), because this is too good of a main event opportunity to ruin for the sole purpose of pushing an angle which shouldn’t be the main focus of the event. My guess is that Triple H will snag the title at Summerslam, since all indications seem to point to that, but at the very least Benoit has been solidified into the main event permanently, and that?s something I can definitely live with whether he?s got the belt or not.

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Chris Benoit


Actual winner: Chris Benoit

This is what I was talking about with the Eugene overkill. The video package at the beginning of the PPV was great, but this one made the entire feud seem to be about Eugene, and Eugene only. I don’t mind him being an accessory to the feud, but when it overshadows not only the title, but the champion too, it kills it for me. I loved the majority of the match, and I think it really could?ve been a true classic if they let it go uninhibited, but this is McMahon?s world we’re talking about. I think I’d have liked if Benoit started work on a body part toward the beginning, before HHH took advantage, because that?s really his forte and it would?ve made more sense later on, but that?s pretty much nitpicking. HHH working on the chest of Benoit was great stuff, especially the hard turnbuckle shots, and it even made sense in the context that it?s the center of impact for the Pedigree. It just makes more sense for a finisher to be the one thing that puts your opponent away above all other high-impact moves if it?s the exclamation point on the damage that?s already been done, and it?s little touches like that which turn a regular match into something with a great deal of psychology.

And then, the clusterfuck. So apparently, Triple H?s brilliant plan for Eugene was…to have him wake up the referee and get him a chair…things that I guess he couldn’t have done himself? Alrighty then. One thing I like despite the ref bump and the Eugene interference is that Triple H tapped anyway, and that makes it look like Benoit wouldn’t necessarily have lost had Eugene not been involved. It?s a good way to keep Benoit looking like a strong champion despite an overbooked save. One more gripe though, the shenanigans with the chair would have been better if Benoit finished the match with the headbutt instead of a rollup. He had attempted it twice and I think that if the chairshot from Eugene was followed up by the headbutt, it’d look a little more believable of a finish. As it stands now, we?ve got no sign of Eugene slowing down in the main event, but I hope they don’t get him involved with Summerslam?s title match. What would?ve been a great match was just kind of marred by the ending. Still good stuff, but not what it could?ve been.

Entertainment Level: [80%’>



Overall Interest: 320 out of a possible 600, for a total of roughly 53%.

Overall Entertainment: 320 out of a possible 700, for a total of roughly 46%.

A dip in quality this month, though still leaps and bounds beyond Smackdown?s abysmal scores. For those keeping track, Vengeance scored slightly lower than No Way Out and Wrestlemania, which I think is a fair enough judgment. I think the reason for this is simple enough, as I?ve said, in that there have just been too many PPVs in the past couple months, and not enough build to any of them. Since Wrestlemania and Summerslam are so far apart, I can only think this will be the only time of the year they do this, since the gaps from Summerslam to Survivor Series to Royal Rumble to Wrestlemania are considerably shorter. I just hope they don’t repeat it next year, because I just lose interest after too many in so little time.

Next month we get the return of ?The Bottom Line? with myself and my Big 4 partner Lauren C, when WWE brings us the joint PPV Summerslam. Given that Raw?s been slipping slightly in quality, and that Smackdown?s been slipping a LOT in quality, this may be a very fun event to preview. Anyway, see you in August, and I’ll try to get a real column up since I don’t have to preview a PPV every freaking two weeks.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #157: Vengeance 2004 – Point

Well, if you ever needed proof that WWE is putting on far too many PPVs this year, here it is. While Raw has obviously been the superior brand lately, I have a problem with the sheer amount of PPV time without the buildup. Seriously guys, get your act together before you start putting on 2 shows per month. My main problem isn’t the fact that there are brand-exclusive PPVs. Far from it, in fact. I for one, still think the brand extension is a good idea, and it could work if only they’d balance out the roster and have good content on both shows. They?ve proven time and time again that Raw can be good, and that Smackdown can be good, but it seems like they stop caring about one show once they start focusing on the other. After nearly a year of Smackdown being consistently entertaining and Raw being in the shitter, they?ve now not only switched positions, but for a time Raw surpassed much of Smackdown?s ?good? era, and Smackdown in turn has had a ?glorified indy fed? feel to it in the past several months.

Here?s why one PPV per month, per brand, is a bad idea: Before the brand extension, you’d have one PPV a month, with the full roster showcased on both Raw and Smackdown. Therefore, you’d have no less than 8 shows to build up to the PPV. When the brand-exclusives started alternating months, each show would have two months to build up to their shows, resulting again in no less than 8 shows to build up. With the way things have been going lately, each show now gives themselves only a month, meaning that there are usually only, stay with me now, 4 shows to build them up. Half the time + Half the build + Half the interest = Full oversaturation. I really, truly hope they realize this is a mistake and go back to a format where they can actually build things better. If not, then I hope they start charging half as much for each show, because it?s ridiculous to expect that anyone?s going to pay for two PPVs a month, every month.

There is no better indication of this than the card of Vengeance. While the matches already on the card look promising and for the most part have been built up, they only managed to produce four matches. The fifth was tacked on this Monday, and has no real rhyme or reason behind it, and the sixth wasn’t even announced on TV. As anyone who?s been reading my stuff lately knows, that?s the kind of formula I get increasingly worried about, as evidenced by the last two Smackdown PPVs where they?ve thrown together half the card in less than a week. With Smackdown airing on Thursdays, that leaves them three days before their PPVs, and they still don’t have a full card by then. I expected better from Raw this time around, but at least a good portion of the matches look interesting. I don’t think it?s going to top Backlash or Bad Blood, but you can bet it’ll top Judgment Day and Great American Bash.

So for those of you new to this, here?s a brief explanation. This is the Point, where I preview the PPV. I give you what I expect, who I think should win and who I think will win, and sum it up with a nice number based on how interested I am. After the PPV, in the Counterpoint, I take a look back at this very column to compare and contrast my thoughts with what I actually thought, then sum that up with how much I was actually entertained by the show. Easy enough? Okay then…

This month?s Interest Level theme, since I couldn’t come up with anything better, is famous British people. All Brit celebrities were hand-picked by fellow Oratory columnist Scott Newman, so don’t complain to me if he panned someone you like.

Victoria vs. Molly Holly
Interest Level: Jamie Oliver [5%’> My sister loves the Naked Chef. I don’t see what the big deal about him is, and I don’t really want references to nudity and cooking in the same sentence when talking about this man. Me? I’m more of an Iron Chef Morimoto kinda guy. Morimoto makes complicated, interesting stuff, while Oliver strips down his recipes to bare bones. From a booking standpoint, this is some bare bones planning right here. There?s no real reason to have this match. Maybe it?s #1 contender, maybe it isn’t, but nobody?s going to know until the PPV anyway. Trish being hurt means she should probably drop the title, but that didn’t exactly stop Triple H last year, did it? As for the actual contenders, oh how the mighty (no Molly pun intended) have fallen. Molly?s gimmick is now simply a wig, and that?s about it, though she really doesn’t look bad without it. Victoria had her crazy heel phase which made her an interesting character with some depth, then she took on the campy dance music, and keeps it although dropping the actual gimmick. For all I know, they?ve already dropped the ?Steven Richards in drag? gimmick, but I suppose it may surface here again. Either way, I don’t really care who wins.

Who should win: No Preference

Who will win: Victoria

Tag Team Titles:

La Resistance? vs. Ric Flair & Eugene

Interest Level: Tim Henman [30%’> Henman is big with the crowd at Wimbledon, but he always chokes, and ends up being the ?popular loser?. Likewise, we?ve got a thrown together team of Eugene and Flair, who may be popular with the crowd, but you know the match is to further an angle and not necessarily put on a good wrestling show. I’m interested to see what Conway and Flair can pull off when they’re in the ring together, that is if Flair will even let himself be tagged in. The build to this has been literally one segment of one show, though I have to say that Triple H jumping on a Mr. Bouncety-Bounce is quite possibly the funniest thing I?ve seen him do since the infamous Forklift Drive-By. My prediction here is that Flair refuses to cooperate, causing more tension between Evolution. Tension in stables is good, but I don’t want Eugene being the reason for the inevitable breakup. I think a win here would undermine Rhyno?s current ?search for a tag partner? angle, and I also like to think they have a little more faith in La Resistance as champions than to hotshot the titles onto a random odd couple team, despite having done it zillions of times before.

Who should win: La Resistance

Who will win: La Resistance

No DQ:

Kane vs. Matt Hardy

Interest Level: Peter Kay [55%’> Kay is a great comedian, though I know little of his stuff, but he?s not one of the greats just yet. He does have potential though, and so does this. Kane can take a loss as long as it?s believable, but it would be a huge notch on Matt Hardy?s belt if he could beat Kane here. While I’m not wild about the angle whatsoever, half due to the hokey ?who?s your daddy? stuff and half due to Lita?s awful acting, I think it has potential to be entertaining, under one condition: That Lita turns out to have never actually been pregnant, and said she was just to get Kane off Matt?s back, and also to get back at Matt for dumping her a few months ago. This makes her a manipulative bitch heel, keeps Kane a heel when he beats her up anyway, and Matt an uber-sympathetic face for enduring it. I really hope this is the direction they’re going, because I can’t take a full nine-month pregnancy term of this. The match could be cool though, as long as it?s a little more innovative than cookie sheets and fire extinguishers. Matt?s got a legacy of TLC matches to uphold, so I think we’ll see something to that effect here.

Who should win: Matt Hardy

Who will win: Matt Hardy

Chris Jericho vs. Batista
Interest Level: Justin Hawkins [70%’> Call me crazy, but I think they just might be able to pull this one off, much like The Darkness is somehow pulling off the cheesy hair metal sound and getting away with it. Shawn Michaels brought Batista to a good match, and Chris Jericho is no slouch at carry jobs either. Batista?s improving in the ring, though I prefer him in tag action, but he?s more than carryable and he knows his place in the company. I?ve heard him quoted as saying he knows that he is where he is because of his look and size, and now he?s just got to improve to live up to it, and for that I respect him. As long as he doesn’t mess anything up, I think this has the potential to be a really cool match, though I wouldn’t doubt if we see some Evolution interference. Jericho is steadily climbing back to main event level, but I think that since he already beat another hoss last month, he?s due for a loss to Batista here, especially when you consider that they’re selling Jericho?s worked concussion from a few weeks back. I think Batista might surprise the haters here, but that won’t necessarily be all his doing.

Who should win: Chris Jericho

Who will win: Batista

Intercontinental Title:

Randy Orton? vs. Edge

Interest Level: Orlando Bloom [60%’> It?s not that Bloom?s bad, but he has yet to prove to me that he?s good in anything that doesn’t require him to be some sort of weapons master, and half of that is post-production and stuntwork anyway. Likewise for Edge, I’m not sold on him being a good wrestler, and he?s already back in the rut that he was before his injury. Orton is improving by leaps and bounds, but he works best with people who are better than him. He can’t carry people just yet, but he doesn’t need to be carried either. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that this isn’t going to be all that good of a match, but it’ll be decent at best. I don’t know, they could surprise me here, but I’m not counting on it. Randy?s been a great IC champion, but this feud seems pretty thrown together with Edge?s whole ?I don’t like you? bit as of late, and I don’t think he?s going to be the one to take down Evolution either. The only real reason for this feud is that Shelton Benjamin was probably supposed to get a rematch until he got hurt, but he’ll probably be back soon enough. Therefore, I just don’t see Edge taking the gold here, and besides I?ve never thought he’d make a good midcard champion anyway.

Who should win: Randy Orton

Who will win: Randy Orton

World Heavyweight Title:

Chris Benoit? vs. Triple H

Interest Level: Wayne Rooney [100%’> Regarding the soccer prodigy, according to Newman, ?Rooney’s 18, but he’s already one of the best players in the world, and he ripped up Euro 2004 till he got injured?. That makes him the one people tune in to see, much like this match. While neither man is a rookie by any means, Benoit can easily be distinguished in the ?one of the best in the world? category, and Triple H has been on his game (again, no pun intended) all year. While I’m sad to say we never got a full HBK/Benoit PPV match, this is the other combination of singles matches from the Wrestlemania triple threat we didn’t see, and for that I’m highly anticipating it. Benoit?s got an incredible hot streak, people love him as champion, and Trips is fresh off a HIAC win. Due to HHH getting the better of Benoit for the past couple weeks, I can see this ending with Benoit as the winner, but I’m really hoping Eugene doesn’t get involved here (even though I’m sure he will), because this is too good of a main event opportunity to ruin for the sole purpose of pushing an angle which shouldn’t be the main focus of the event. My guess is that Triple H will snag the title at Summerslam, since all indications seem to point to that, but at the very least Benoit has been solidified into the main event permanently, and that?s something I can definitely live with whether he?s got the belt or not.

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Chris Benoit

Overall Interest: 320 out of a possible 600, for a total of roughly 53%.

Lower than Backlash and Bad Blood, but not bad overall. If they tack on one extra match that I have no interest in though, that?s going to hurt it in the Counterpoint. I have to say I’m a little indifferent about the majority of this one, and it?s not just the undercard. Right now it seems the general feeling isn’t that a PPV is a special thing that is built up to and becomes the culmination of the show?s various feuds, but instead garners the feeling of ?Oh, another one?? Maybe I’m just a stupid internet know-it-all, but that?s not the direction they need to be heading. I’m a big fan of style over substance, and right now in the PPV area, they’re lacking a bit in both categories, but providing a little too much substance at the same time.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #156: DVD review: The Monday Night War

Disclaimer: This is a VERY in-depth review of the Monday Night War DVD, so if you had been planning on seeing it and don’t want it spoiled for you, I’d advise against reading this column. I still think it would be worth checking out anyway, just to see how well it’s presented (and I by no means cover everything here), but it may give away a few things you didn’t want to know without seeing the actual feature.

If you’re anything like me, you were fascinated by the ratings war that occurred between WWF and WCW in the 1990s. It was vicious, it was cutthroat, it was ruthless business, and best of all…it was real. When Ted Turner?s WCW gave Vince McMahon?s WWF a run for its money, what emerged was some of the greatest wrestling TV I can remember seeing. Unfortunately I can’t say that I was present for all of it, since I either fell out of watching wrestling, or only watched one or the other during a good portion of the 90s, but I definitely observed enough of it to know that when WWE released ?Monday Night War? on DVD, I had to pick it up. If you look back at my column history, you’ll notice something that older fans of the Oratory may remember, and that is my series of ?Monday Night Comparison? columns, in which I would watch both Raw and Nitro and compare the two as a review. I miss being able to write that kind of thing, but I always fondly remember the days when I could, which is why I made this purchase.

Mind you, this is the first and only WWE DVD that I have ever owned. Chris Benoit?s will likely be the second. Generally I don’t purchase many wrestling DVDs, mainly because you can often fit more on a tape, and you can never tell how often you’ll actually watch it if it?s just a series of wrestling matches or a PPV. Regardless, the WWF/WCW ratings battle was not only amazing from a storyline perspective, but from a business standpoint it was incredible. I don’t recall ever seeing any two companies in direct competition try to destroy each other to the degree they did.

Nowadays, that competition is severely lacking. While I am still a fan of the brand extension idea in WWE (if only both were written and booked properly at the same time), there?s nobody to light a fire under Vince?s ass anymore, so he doesn’t have to care. This is why I hearken back to the days of old, when we could actually say that there was good TV on both sides of the fence. A lot of business, a lot of wrestling, and certainly a lot more going on than a lot of people realized.

The way I tend to do my reviews is to present the facts as they were presented to me, looking at the objective view of things first. Then, I inject a healthy dose of my opinion in order to contrast with fact. I’ll break it up into sections, pertaining to the main feature and the extras. I’ll give you the facts, then I’ll give you my interpretation of the facts from the perspective of a longtime wrestling fan. These will be placed into small paragraphs or random notes, simply entitled ?My Take?.

After that, at the very end I’ll present to you my Entertainment Levels for Smackdown?s Great American Bash, in lieu of a Point/Counterpoint column, which I simply couldn’t justify writing because of a complete lack of interest. I did watch it though, and my eyes haven’t stopped bleeding yet! Oh, how it burns.

The Feature:

The main part of the DVD opens up with a narration about WCW and WWF being two separate, rival companies. Eric Bischoff speaks on how his original goal was merely to divert attention to WCW and cause some wrestling fans to find out what was going on with the other side of the fence. People like Jim Cornette, Chris Benoit, and Big Show are interviewed in brief segments, talking about how it was a great time to be a wrestling fan (and a wrestler) and that these two companies really went all out against each other. This was the height of popularity for both companies. Gerald Brisco says that it wasn’t just ratings, it was survival. Mick Foley calls it ?personal?.

Gene Okerlund introduces what WWF had at the time as far as airtime, and briefly touched upon the beginnings of Raw. Vince McMahon reveals that he had done business with Ted Turner before, and that he actually congratulated Turner when he called him and told him he was now in the ‘rasslin? business?. What some may not know is that McMahon actually owned what would later become WCW at one point, selling off the territory to Jim Crockett, which Crockett later sold to Turner. Cornette says that before WCW even emerged, NWA was still selling out arenas in the south, and was still a big deal. Turner bought the company and then WCW floundered for the next few years, which Bischoff says was because it was horribly mismanaged. It didn’t begin to take off until Bischoff took over as executive producer. Bruce Pritchard talks about the very beginnings of Raw in a small venue in Manhattan. Okerlund calls the Manhattan Center a ‘toilet?, but recognizes the fact that they could get away with more on cable television.

My Take: I remember when Raw started, and I remember thinking it was odd to have it in such a small building, but it worked. The New York crowd was always worked into a frenzy. I liked this section a lot because it laid out a great foundation for the rest of the story.

With Raw emerging, Bischoff began to brainstorm, and thought of moving the show to the Disney/MGM Studios rather than the small venues they were used to. It just so happened that Hulk Hogan had recently left WWF and wanted to get into acting instead (which Bischoff says with a smirk), and so he was at the same studio lots in the area. Bischoff talked to Hogan and the rest, as they say, was history. WCW now had Hogan, and they soon after scooped up Randy Savage, who was unhappy with being regulated to commentator status. By 1995, Bischoff was mostly in control, and his aim was to run a tighter production ship and cut costs to change the fact that WCW never turned a profit with Turner in control.

One of the most interesting notes of this part of the story is Bischoff speaking on the frequency of PPV events. Basically, you can thank Bischoff for the 12 PPV a year format. WWF had 4 a year, so Bischoff bumped it up to 7, despite everyone telling him it would never work. When he did that, WWF bumped theirs to 7 as well, so Bischoff bumped it up to 10. WWF once again matched it. So Bischoff went one step further, and decided to have one per month, which of course, WWF matched again.

My Take: This part is especially important because of what Bischoff meant to WCW at the time. It?s strange to see footage of Hogan or Savage coming out to a tiny arena with only about 500 seats, but this was really a coup for WCW, to snag two top drawing names like that.

A decision by Ted Turner became the biggest step that WCW ever ended up taking. Once Bischoff got the show off the ground, Turner surprisingly approved a primetime slot on TNT, right up against Raw. Most considered this move insane.

WCW then struck another blow. Lex Luger?s contract with WWF was up. Bischoff mentions that he was never a fan of Luger in any capacity, but Sting convinced Bischoff to meet with him. Luger actually took only 20% of what he was making in WWF, but accepted the deal. The key was unpredictability, so Bischoff decided to debut Luger on the first Nitro, the night after he had wrestled for WWF. Cornette reveals an interesting thing about Vince McMahon, in that his biggest mistakes have always been ‘taking someone?s word?. Luger made him believe he’d renew his contract, and that trust allowed WCW to drop a bombshell on Raw on only their first episode.

The war progressed further, as Bischoff came up with one of the most vicious moves yet, when he decided that since Nitro was live and Raw was taped, he would give Raw spoilers the second Nitro went on the air. Bischoff even made a deal with the network, where instead of going on at 8PM, they would go on at 7:57, so they could give away Raw results 3 minutes before Raw even began to air. Vince makes a point to say that he didn’t know how dirty this was going to get, and he was surprised at some of their tactics against him. Bischoff says he didn’t care about the ethics of the situation, it was strictly business. He loved doing it because it pissed a lot of people off, thus grabbing him more attention.

In yet another dirty tactic, WCW got ahold of WWF Women?s champion Alundra Blayze, who debuted on Nitro as ?Madusa?. Bischoff convinced her to bring the belt with her, and drop it in the trash right on national television. WWF?s response? A series of segments making fun of WCW, calling their roster full of ?has-beens? like the infamous ?Huckster? and the ?Nacho Man?, led by ?Billionaire Ted?. Foley comments that it may not have been the best idea, because it ended up lighting a fire under Turner.

My Take: It?s interesting to see the heads of these two rival companies speak about morality issues, because there?s plenty of immorality from each of them. Simply put, they both fought dirty. Bischoff may have fought a bit dirtier, but this is Vince McMahon we’re talking about. What I find particularly interesting is that all of this stuff caught the WWF by surprise, and when you do something that catches Vince McMahon off guard, you know you’re doing something right.

By the beginning of 1996, WCW?s mainstays were Hogan, Savage, Sting, Luger, Flair, The Giant, and others at the top of the company. WWF on the other hand, had currently been pushing Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Undertaker, Razor Ramon, and Bret Hart into main events. WWF was still leading the ratings, but as they reference the infamous ?MSG incident?, they take notice that Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were setting up to jump ship. Once again, Cornette remarks that McMahon ‘took their word? that they’d sign back with him, which turned out to be an even worst mistake than Luger. In true WCW fashion, Bischoff made Hall?s and Nash?s debuts seem like they were invading from WWF, attacking WCW stars and generally wreaking havoc.

One of the most important parts of WCW history comes when Hogan turned heel and formed the ?New World Order? for the first time. He turned his back on the thousands who looked up to him, which instantly got them all over as huge heels. Bischoff immediately gave the group their own personality, and set them against WCW. Soon after, the Big Show (known then as ?The Giant?) joined, with several others like Sean Waltman and Ted DiBiase. Eventually Bischoff himself joined them in a surprise twist. Bischoff remarks that even the most jaded wrestling fans questioned whether it was real or fake at the time, even if they knew everything else was scripted (a rare comment in a WWE production).

My Take: The nWo may just be best thing to happen to wrestling television. I have never seen a ring so littered with trash than when Hogan joined the Outsiders, and the things the nWo did on TV were unprecedented in wrestling. It kicked WWF into gear, and was directly responsible for what happened next.

After only nine months of Nitro being on the air, they had built their way up, and finally toppled Raw in the ratings. Raw wouldn’t beat Nitro in ratings again for another two years.

Shawn Michaels mentions that he never remembers anyone mentioning the ratings and what they did. Okerlund on the other hand, remarks that WCW?s show would react to what WWF?s was doing, and would often time their breaks properly to get the most out of the quarter-hours. One of the biggest things Bischoff kept shooting for was unpredictability, because that?s what focus tests revealed fans liked the most, and that?s why Nitro needed to be live.

When DiBiase left for WCW, he had been managing a recent jump from WCW in ?Stunning? Steve Austin, known as ?Ringmaster? in the WWF. Cornette maintains that Austin wouldn’t have gone anywhere in WCW because there was no room at the top. When DiBiase left the WWF, it opened up a spot for Austin. The end result as Cornette puts it, was to let Austin ?be himself?. He says that?s the way most talent gets over, being themselves ?with the volume turned way up?. Jim Ross talks about Austin?s rise as an anti-hero, and how they tried pushing him as a heel but people just kept cheering. At King of the Ring ?96, when Austin gave his infamous ?Austin 3:16? speech, Cornette knew instantly it was going to be huge, when the next night Raw?s crowd was full of ?Austin 3:16? signs. Foley says Austin?s success was well followed up with the Bret Hart feud, which culminated in what many consider the greatest WWF match ever at WM13.

As the new era grew, we see the first appearance of Chris Jericho on the DVD, as he talks about the reasons WCW continued to beat WWF. One being the nWo, and the other being the large crop of ‘real wrestlers? they had, such as Benoit, Guerrero, himself, Malenko, and the many international Cruiserweight superstars from Mexico and Japan. Benoit says it was a very fresh product at the time, and Okerlund gives Bischoff credit for bringing the fast-paced Cruisers to TV.

My Take: This is the part that?s one of the most interesting to me, especially when you look at the shape the Cruiserweight division has been in ever since its inception in WWE. Right here they actually praise WCW?s use of the lighter guys and the influx of real talented wrestlers who made names for themselves all over the world. It?s a wonder Vince McMahon doesn’t pay more attention to this DVD, or WCW?s heydays in general, to see what he could be doing right.

The next section of the DVD deals with the elements putting in place that caused WWF to evolve into its next incarnation. The first move to attempt to compete with WCW?s major controversial group was simply for WWF to form another controversial group of their own, and Degeneration-X was born, headed by Shawn Michaels. When Bischoff heard that WWF was going the controversial way of Howard Stern and Jerry Springer, he initially thought it would never work.

Elsewhere, an unfortunate event occurred as Owen Hart botched a Tombstone on Austin, seriously injuring him. This cloud had a silver lining though, as Vince McMahon turned it into an angle where he wouldn’t allow Austin to wrestle, taking a page right out of WCW?s book. McMahon took his first Stunner, and the rest speaks for itself.

During this time, when the perfect anti-hero babyface was built into superstardom, another man carried the heel end of the deal. Rocky Maivia was pushed to the moon as a goody two-shoes babyface, so much to the point where people began to hate him. It was that crowd reaction that caused Rocky to evolve into the man we all know today as The Rock.

The infamous ?Montreal Screwjob? came next, which has been a legitimate firestorm of controversy for many years. Immediately following that, Vince McMahon delivered the ?Bret screwed Bret? speech, which Mick Foley notes probably isn’t something that McMahon believes deep down inside himself. Foley believes that Vince knows he?s the one who screwed Bret, and Vince himself admits that if everyone was going to see him as a heel for this, he might as well use it.

Finally, a huge combustible element came during the buildup to Wrestlemania XIV, as Austin rebelled against the presence of Mike Tyson. Tyson siding with DX made sense given his attitude and bad reputation, and that?s what began to draw more fans in. Between Austin?s anti-authority personality, DX?s innuendo-laced attitude, ?Mr.? McMahon coming into his own as a heel, and The Rock emerging as a great heel, WWF began to fight back as the ?Attitude? era begun.

My Take: All of these elements were well timed and well placed, and it?s something that WCW seemed to relax about. One of the problems with this competition so far was that the respective heads of the companies would get too cocky when they were beating the competition for an extended period of time. That?s something they couldn’t afford to do, because it blinded them to what might happen. While Nitro was only concerned with beating Raw?s ratings, Raw started focusing on good television, something Nitro wasn’t able to keep up on.

Regarding the Montreal screwjob, I don’t feel total blame can be laid upon anyone. If you need to blame anything, blame it on the nature and the politics of the business at the time. A look back at this DVD should show you the circumstances Vince was under…Bischoff almost certainly would have capitalized on having the WWF champion on his show, and Vince couldn’t wait another night to have Bret drop the title. He could have taken Bret?s word for it, but look what happened the last few times he took someone?s word. I can’t blame Bret fully, and I can’t blame Vince fully, but if you want a true answer for who?s to blame for Montreal, I will say it was essentially Eric Bischoff, and the position he put both men in at the time.

Chris Jericho remembers that Eric Bischoff once sat in the ring on a motorcycle, a crown on his head, after 83 consecutive weeks on top, boasting how it was ?good to be king?. In an ironic twist of fate, the very next week Raw beat Nitro in the ratings for the first time in a long time, as Austin and McMahon met in the ring for the first time. While it didn’t technically result in a match, it did spark Austin?s feud with the reborn Mick Foley in the Dude Love persona.

Soon after, with HBK on the injured list since Wrestlemania, HHH came into his own as a group leader, reforming DX in the incarnation recent fans are probably most familiar with. X-Pac returned and ripped on how WCW was being run, which while not as much of a blow as Nash and Hall, was certainly surprising. DX was shown in humorous segments in New York City, as well as showing up at Nitro, and the headquarters of WCW. To take the focus off of DX, Bischoff challenged McMahon himself to a fight. McMahon declined, as he was ?busy?. Jim Ross comments that WWF began building more rising stars, and reinventing others into new personas, something WCW never did. They kept the same people at the top and things never changed, with one exception: The rise of Bill Goldberg.

Goldberg?s winning streak and subsequent title run was what made him, and all he really had to do was come out, act tough, hit a few power moves, Spear, Jackhammer, and it was over. After Goldberg beat Hulk Hogan for the title, Nitro was on top of the ratings again after losing for 11 consecutive weeks. The problem however, was what once saved and built the foundations of WCW. The nWo. Big Show talks about how it became a problem in the locker room, where guys wouldn’t want to get their asses kicked by the nWo over and over, so they’d join the group instead. Instead of 3 founding guys, it was suddenly 30 or so. They had become stale and boring.

So WCW hatched another plan, and that was to recreate yet another group to boost the ratings. The return of Ric Flair, and the reformation of the 4 Horsemen. An emotional Flair delivered a promo and was welcomed back by the crowd. The unfortunate problem here, as Flair tells it, is that within a few weeks the Horsemen were put back into a secondary role, and were beaten down by the nWo. Same old, same old. With there being legitimate heat between Flair and Bischoff though, it seemed that Flair wouldn’t let himself stay down.

Rey Mysterio shows up and talks about how WCW?s biggest mistake was a lack of ability to push talent or make new stars. He says the answer was right there, and that?s why Raw began to dominate Nitro again. In very early 1999, a momentous Raw occurred that solidified Raw?s place at the top. When Mankind won the WWF title, Raw was still a taped show, and Bischoff directed Tony Schiavone to announce it on Nitro, and sarcastically deliver the infamous line, ‘that’ll put a lot of butts in seats?. Foley comments that the ratings showed almost half a million viewers switching over to Raw after that announcements. If WCW hadn’t announced it, they may have retained their edge.

Bischoff admits that he was the obstacle and that he was impossible to deal with at the time. The corporate system was confusing at the time, because too many people were in control. There were times when they would go on the air without Bischoff even knowing what was going on that night. Okerlund talks about how Bischoff gave many of the top wrestlers complete creative control over their characters, and that kind of thing can’t happen. Big Show says he saw the end coming, and that?s why he jumped to WWF. He brings up an interesting point in that WCW had stolen a lot of major names who had already had runs in WWF, but it was WWF who started bringing in new stars and building them. Chris Jericho likens the comparison to the way WCW and WWF were managed at the time to the Wizard of Oz, where everything is black and white until you open the door, and it?s suddenly all color.

My Take: This section really shows how bad things had gotten in WCW. The main problem is that while they had someone behind the wheel, there was nobody to keep the people in charge in line, so wrestlers would get a lot of mixed signals. This is the era where the whole concept of ?holding talent down? became so familiar to the smarter fans of the business, and rightfully so.

Bischoff maintains that he was making WCW a lot of money, but as ratings dropped, he began to take for granted that he had the backing of Ted Turner, and it eventually got so bad that he was sent packing. To try to bring Nitro back to the top, WCW hired Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara, since Russo was the man responsible for much of WWF?s key storylines. At first, as Chris Benoit mentions, it seemed to be just what they needed, a focal point to pick up the company, but it wasn’t too long before people realized that the two of them weren’t focused. Flair calls Russo a ?clown?, and says that they didn’t have someone at the top like Vince McMahon who could keep them under control.

Meanwhile, WWF began looking at the underused talent on the WCW roster, the people who weren’t satisfied with how things were going. Chris Benoit was fed up, Eddy Guerrero was fed up, and what Guerrero refers to as the ?workhorses? of WCW and the ?backbone of the company? didn’t want to put up with what WCW was doing to them anymore. Cornette says that this was a great fresh start for guys like The Radicals and Chris Jericho, because they were in a new, better environment and had competition they’d never had before.

Russo had gotten fed up with the politics in WCW, and Bischoff began talks with the company to purchase WCW. It was felt that he was the only person who could do anything good with it, and if he was the owner, he could make it work. Soon after though, he was notified that the deal was off, and that he wouldn’t be able to get the TV time for it. The reason soon became clear, that Vince McMahon was going to buy WCW.

Toward the very end of the feature, clips are shown from the final Nitro episode, where it was announced that Vince McMahon had purchased WCW. Many ex-WCW stars experienced a range of emotions on that night. Benoit felt sad to see it crumble, Guerrero was concerned for his nephew and a lot of the other stars, Big Show was happy he made the right decision, and Flair was ecstatic to see WCW close down, but at the same time was sad for the wrestlers involved who would lose their jobs. Flair says Nitro should?ve focused on making itself better instead of worrying about competition so much. Vince says that Austin was a big reason they won this war, but it was many smaller reasons. Shawn Michaels says that it was very scary for awhile, because they didn’t know they were going to win, but he gives credit to Bischoff for turning the company around, at least for awhile. Gerald Brisco seems to have a more cocky attitude about it, having never experienced the other side, and concludes with the statement ?Don’t mess with Vince McMahon?. Bischoff then concludes with the sentiment that ‘the highest high was worth all of the lowest lows?. The narration ends with the feeling that the real ?winners? in all of this were the millions of fans who got to experience some of the greatest times in wrestling television history.

My Take: This section has a definite ?war aftermath? feel to it. I think that hiring Russo was definitely a mistake, or at least the fact that he didn’t have to get his ideas approved by anybody. If he had someone over his head that approved or denied his ideas, WCW might have flourished. At the same time I can’t help but wish that Eric Bischoff?s deal with the company actually did go through, as I think if he had bought the company it might still be alive today. With him in charge, he could have kept the egos of the top wrestlers in check, instead of giving everyone control of their own characters. It?s an unfortunate end to WCW?s story, but to really appreciate what WWF did with itself throughout the 90s, you have to realize that WCW?s competition and landmark ideas and concepts are what ultimately became responsible for WWF?s win. In a sense, WCW screwed WCW.

Extras ? The Matches:

?Stone Cold? Steve Austin & Shawn Michaels vs. British Bulldog & Owen Hart

Raw: 5/26/97 – The two Hart Foundation stable members were the tag champions at the time, and Michaels and Austin seem to be put over as an unlikely alliance. Jim Ross and Vince McMahon are on commentary. I’m not quite sure exactly why they chose this out of all matches they could have shown to represent Raw (looking at the May 26th Nitro of that year, there was nothing special about the card), but it does feature four great WWF workers at once, so perhaps that?s the reason. I can’t really do justice by doing play-by-play here, but I will say it is a very good TV match, with a hot crowd, as Austin and Michaels win the titles in about 13 minutes, including a break.

The match aftermath has the ensemble Hart Foundation do a post-match beatdown, but Austin gets out of the ring and instead of helping Michaels, he goes straight for Bret still on the stage. Afterward in a backstage segment, Austin declared he won the tag titles by himself, as Michaels runs in and the two start arguing.

Shawn Michaels & Triple H vs. Legion of Doom

Raw: 12/15/97 – Another one where I’m not exactly sure why it?s on here. Again, nothing special about the Nitro card that night, so it wasn’t going up against anything. Jim Ross and Jim Cornette are on commentary here. The match is nothing special, aside from some of Shawn?s heel mannerisms and DX playing some mind games during the match to psych out LOD. DX gets disqualified in a little under 8 minutes, and then shave Hawk?s Mohawk and drive Animal through the announce table. I guess the purpose of this on the DVD was just to show what DX could do as an ensemble group.

Chris Benoit vs. Booker T

Nitro: 6/1/98 – Now THIS is more like it. If you want to show what your best guys can do, look no further than these two in their absolute prime, which I believe is match 4 of their best of 7 series in contention for the TV title. Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, and Bobby Heenan are on commentary. Booker seemed a little less ground-based than he is now, and Benoit seemed a tad less technical here, though the match did feature a number of suplex variations. It?s interesting that even back then the crowd popped HUGE for the Crossface. Booker taps at about 8:15, and Benoit is 3-1 in the best of 7 series. Very solid match, though not quite the technical showcase I was expecting.

Goldberg vs. ?Hollywood? Hulk Hogan

Nitro: 7/6/98 – A huge match for Nitro fans here, as I remember there being a very large build to this. Commentators are Schiavone and Heenan. With Hogan as the Heavyweight champion and nWo leader, there was some focus on bringing the belt back to the WCW camp. The match itself is less than stellar, but this is one of those kinds of matches where it can be ?good wrestling television? without being ?good wrestling?, if you know what I mean. A similar feeling to Andre/Hogan. The crowd was entirely into it through the whole thing. Curt Hennig tries to interfere on Hogan?s behalf, but is cut off by DDP and Karl Malone. Hogan is distracted by this and turns around into the spear. ?Berg hits the Jackhammer and becomes champ at about 8 and a half, and the crowd goes APESHIT. Entertaining, if not the best in terms of quality, but Hogan jobbing clean was considered a torch-passing at the time.

Extras ? The Segments:

Stone Cold Stuns Mr. McMahon

Raw: 9/22/97 – Extended version of the segment shown in the main feature. It takes new meaning when you realize that although looking back we know what?s coming, the people watching at the time had no idea Austin would Stun his boss. Vince of course oversells like he?s been shot, and the cops take him away in cuffs. We?ve seen it a dozen times since, but at the time it was a great segment that made the audience go nuts.

Jim Cornette Commentary:

Raw: 10/27/97 – The segment is prefaced by Cornette explaining what the segment is about. He had been venting some of his comments on ?Byte This!?, and WWF began telling him to do the same thing on Raw. They felt the fans would appreciate that he was speaking his mind without being told what to say, because he was slamming both companies. It?s a fairly famous quote, so you may recognize bits of it:

“I’m Jim Cornette and I’m just wondering if any of you are sick and tired as I am of people who claim to be the icon of wrestling. Hogan, Roddy Piper claimed to be the icon of wrestling, Shawn Michaels is the icon that can still go. Bret Hart would claim to be the icon if he wasn’t too busy crying about being screwed, and I guess Randy Savage is still “thinkin’, thinkin'”. Well Shawn Michaels is still the single most talented wrestler in wrestling today, inside the ring. But outside he’s adolescent, obnoxious jerk who takes his tights and goes home if he doesn’t get his way. Bret Hart is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, but if he’d have been screwed as many times as he claims, he’d have struck oil by now. Randy Savage, yes, he is a legend, but let’s face it, how many records did Frank Sinatra sell last year? But the pinnacle of this icon garbage came last night in the cage match between Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper to determine in their minds only who the real icon is. How does WCW have the gall to say this is the greatest cage match in history, when it was only the greatest in 3 weeks since Hell In The Cell? Here you’ve got a 46-year old bald movie star wannabe who looks like Uncle Creepy with a good build, taking on a guy with an artificial hip who hasn’t wrestled a full schedule in 10 years. It’s a tribute to the massive egotism, in my mind, of both men, and an indictment of WCW’s promotional policies that this match even took place, much less be in the main event when the card was probably the best the WCW is capable of having. At the 10-minute mark they were sucking wind so bad that the first 3 rows passed out from oxygen deprivation. Would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad. Well I’m sick and tired of hearing guys claiming to be the icon when it usually comes from guys who just didn’t know when to quit. Roddy Piper was my idol when I was a teenager, but that was 20 years ago. Hulk Hogan during his best days was 50% media creation, and those are long gone. That match was a slap in the face to every wrestler who takes pride in his profession. In my mind, no one man is bigger than this sport, but if there is an icon, it would be a man who has great ability inside the ring, and professionalism and maturity outside of it. Let’s leave all the petty backstabbing “I make more money than you” BS with the hat check girl, and concentrate on talent and attitude. The Undertaker, Ric Flair, and Steve Austin have never claimed to be icons, which means they’re big candidates to be just that. And on a personal note to Hulk Hogan, you are a household word, but so is garbage, and it stinks when it gets old too. I’m Jim Cornette, and that’s my opinion.”

Vince McMahon Interview: Bret Screwed Bret

Raw: 11/17/97 – The segment begins by showing the Montreal Screwjob. JR interviews Vince, still sporting a black eye, and says that while he orchestrated what happened, fans might not understand why he says it was Bret?s own fault. Vince takes responsibility, but says that it?s a time honored tradition that when you leave, you show the ?proper amount of respect? (that?s ?job? in kayfabe-speak), and Bret didn’t want to do that. It was Bret?s own decision, so therefore ?Bret screwed Bret?.

DX Invades WCW: The actual segment on the DVD originally aired on ?WWE Confidential?, so the original footage is interspersed with candid interviews from some of the DX members. Raw and Nitro were taking place in neighboring cities that night, so DX showed up in full military gear and shouted their thoughts on WCW over a bullhorn to anyone who would listen. They stood outside the arena and got the crowd attending Nitro to appear on camera telling people they got their tickets for free and started chants of ?WCW sucks? and ?DX?. Bischoff says he was pissed, mostly because they beat him at his own game. Triple H says if they were smart, WCW would?ve let them into the arena, after all would you rather watch the same old wrestling show, or a Nitro where DX drives down to the ring in a tank?

The Last Nitro: Another ?Confidential? segment, with clips of the last episode of Nitro, and interviews with some former WCW stars like Shane Helms, Billy Kidman, Lance Storm, Booker T, Scott Steiner, and Ric Flair. It seemed that nobody knew the fate of WCW at the time, as rumors were flying that Bischoff was buying it, and that McMahon was buying it, and nobody knew the truth until Shane McMahon walked in the door that night for his segment at the end. Flair says it was great for him to wrestle Sting one last time in WCW. Shane McMahon?s involvement seemed to end the show on a good note for most of the WCW stars, and even Bischoff mentions thinking ?at least somebody?s going to do something with it?.

nWo in the Production Truck

Nitro: 7/22/96 – During a match on Nitro, the commentators were informed of a ‘disturbance? in the back. They sent a camera backstage to the production truck, and the Outsiders showed up in the truck, basically hijacking the program. At the time, this kind of segment was unprecedented, and many viewers thought it was unplanned and real. So real, that Eric Bischoff in the main feature mentioned that local residents called the police because they thought there was a gang war going on in the area. The segment doesn’t show that part, where they wreaked havoc on the backstage area and spiked Rey Mysterio into the production truck, but the segment inside the truck is very convincing, even by today?s standards.

Eric Bischoff Challenges Vince McMahon:

Nitro: 5/11/98 – Pretty self-explanatory, this was a reaction to the attempted DX invasion. He cuts a promo, bashes Sean Waltman who had jumped back to WWF, and then challenges Vince McMahon to a fight at Slamboree. He then warns the fans not to buy it if they think Vince will show up, because Vince doesn’t have the guts.

Ric Flair returns to WCW

Nitro: 9/14/98 – This was shown partially in the main feature, but this shows nearly the full segment. Arn Anderson gets on the mic and puts over Benoit, Malenko, and McMichael as great superstars and true Horsemen. Anderson?s promo here is utterly awesome, and it really shows what a great talker he really is. Why WWE doesn’t have him on the mic in some capacity or another right now is beyond me. He announces Flair?s return, and Flair comes out looking quite emotional to a gigantic pop and the trademark ?WOO!?. Flair embraces each of the Horsemen and the ovation is amazing. Flair cuts an emotional promo as only he can, talks negatively about Bischoff, and words fail me when I try to describe it. I just can’t. Flair is fucking amazing.

Rick Rude Appears on Nitro & Raw on the Same Night

Nitro/Raw: 11/17/97 – In a segment created exclusively for this DVD, as I’m fairly certain it wasn’t a Confidential segment, Jim Ross narrates as it seems Vince McMahon made yet another mistake in taking someone?s word for it that he would renew his contract. Rude had already taped his segment cutting a promo for Raw, but then appeared live on Nitro the same night to cut an anti-WWF promo, where he slammed McMahon for the Montreal incident.

My Take ? In Conclusion: This is an extremely comprehensive DVD, and one that is definitely worth owning. I personally find the whole thing fascinating. It shows both sides of the coin mostly objectively, and while there are times when it seems to criticize WCW, the criticism is well deserved. Any negative talk about the company was justified, and is also balanced out by saying plenty of negatives about WWF and Vince McMahon. The interviews are very genuine, and Bischoff is a big man to admit his mistakes in the company. What I think sets this apart from all other WWE-produced DVDs is that this was real business, and there isn’t a shred of kayfabe in it. It?s very real, it?s very frank with the facts, and it doesn’t pull any punches. It lets you know the truth from those who lived through it, and shows the situation from every angle. Another thing that sets it apart is that it isn’t necessarily wrestling-oriented at all. It?s a story of two businesses at each other?s throats, and the true stories of what they would do to each other to beat out the competition. If you’re jaded by years of kayfabed stories, this may be the DVD for you, because there is nothing fake about this story.

The feature story is top-notch, and holds my interest from the beginning to the end. It?s something I can definitely watch more than once. I bought it when it was released last year, and I?ve already watched it a couple times, and will probably watch it again someday. If you like documentary-style at all, or are interested in what makes the wrestling business tick, you’ll enjoy this.

The only part I will say it was lacking in was the Extras portion. I think they could have done better with the matches they chose, with the possible exception of Hogan/Goldberg, because that was an important thing to have here. Putting in the Mankind title win may have been a better choice on the WWF side, and maybe one more match on each side would have been better. I’d have loved to have seen a great Cruiserweight match, or maybe something from the final Nitro. During that entire era there were plenty of better TV matches that they could have included, and I have to wonder why they didn’t. The segments on the Extras menu are fine though, and display a lot of key moments in the history of each company. The Ric Flair promo is awesome, as is Anderson?s setup to it, and easily the best segment of the entire disc.

I give this DVD my highest recommendation, and I think it?s a must-have for anyone who was a fan of both companies at the time, or just wants to brush up on a little history of the heyday of wrestling television. There may not be another era like that ever again.


Great American Bash 2004:

Well now, it looks like I’m going to have to balance the greatness with plenty of suck. Don’t worry though, I’ll make it brief. Believe me, I don’t want to do this either, but for the sake of my year end review numbers, I’m going to. I will mention that Judgment Day got a nasty rating of 21%, and this just may beat that for worst PPV I?ve ever seen.

-Disgustingly blatant over-patriotism shoved down my throat turns me off immediately.

-Nice to know Cena can rap like he used to, I just wish he’d do it more often.

John Cena vs. Booker T vs. Rene Dupree vs. Rob Van Dam: Liked the dynamic between the wrestlers, like the Booker/Cena potential, but I don’t think it really delivered on what it had potential to be, especially since it would?ve been the perfect time for a Booker win, and because RVD is still lost in the shuffle.

Winner: John Cena

Entertainment Level: [45%’>

-Skipped the Sable hottub part. Couldn’t deal with her acting. Why does she still have a job?

-I’m actually shocked that a Smackdown production bothered with a silly little thing like continuity, mentioning Haas used to be Angle?s prot?g?.

Charlie Haas vs. Luther Reigns: Essentially a glorified squash, with just a tad offense from Charlie. Luther?s got a nice finisher. Not quite the ?Roll of the Dice?, but more of a DDT/neckbreaker combo. A filler match tacked on at the last minute, so I couldn’t have gotten into it at all unless it was some kind of astounding technical masterpiece. I’ll give a little blip on the ratings radar for Charlie though, and because Luther seems decent.

Winner: Luther Reigns

Entertainment Level: [5%’>

-Skipped the JBL part. I’m watching the show with PowerDVD on my computer, and at 32x speed, JBL?s promo was still too long.

Chavo Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio: Awesome match, and easily Mysterio?s best since his WWE debut. It had everything it needed: Hard work, great moves, great booking, high flying, chain wrestling, technical moves, selling, psychology, bumping, even the commentary was great here. It mostly redeems them for shitting on the CW title for the past couple months, but I’m guessing Vince knew this PPV would suck, so he caved in and said ?Fine…go out and steal the show. But this is the only time I’m letting you do this! I have gimmicks to push!? Had they backed this with a full feud, I’d have given it a perfect score, but as it is, it?s not too shabby a grade for something I barely cared about beforehand.

Winner: Rey Mysterio

Entertainment Level: [90%’>

-No, hottub Cruiserweights, you couldn’t have won the match if you were in there, because Vinny won’t let you. I wonder if Kidman takes exception to Funaki and Spike gawking at his wife.

Kenzo ?Not Hirohito? Suzuki vs. Billy ?Oh Boy Do I Suck? Gunn: Time to cancel out everything good with a healthy dose of crap. Hiroko looks like she’d be pretty cute if only I could get over the fact that there is zero reason for a blatantly stereotyped Geisha girl to be on my TV. That?s the closest to a good thing I have to say about this match. I like how they didn’t call him Hirohito because it would?ve been offensive, but somehow this isn’t? Bite me, Vince. This sucked from top to bottom.

Winner: Kenzo Suzuki

Entertainment Level: [0%’>

-Wow, the authorities think that Heyman is bluffing, even though he?s been holding him against his will for 3 weeks? Hey, I guess if I ever feel the need to kidnap someone, it’ll be okay, because WWE said so.

Sable vs. Torrie Wilson: What the HELL is that outfit Sable?s got on? A fur-lined hood? As usual with last-minute tacked on Diva matches, this one totally blew, and not the good kind. To give you an idea of how bad it was, I took a break while fast-forwarding at triple speed to check my e-mail, get a drink, put on some coffee, and take a bathroom break.

Winner: Sable

Entertainment Level: [0%’>

-Dawn?s looking mighty fine. I love FBI. Nunzio and Stamboli have perfect comic timing, and I hope they receive a tag team push soon, as they?ve been getting a few victories (for once) lately.

Hardcore Holly vs. Mordecai:

Santa Claus?s reign of terror begins…and ends. Hey, here?s a tip. Don’t push a guy in a huge gimmick and give him a ?crusade? if you don’t think he can handle it. Honestly I think he?s more ‘ready? than Suzuki is, because he?s really not all that bad, but if a little more time in OVW gets rid of the gimmick and lets him come back sometime as a serious character, I won’t be complaining. Another tacked-on squash. Sorry Mordeguy, nobody heard you, or feared you.

Winner: Mordeguy

Entertainment Level: [0%’>

Eddy Guerrero vs. Jackass Bradshaw Layfield: I really can’t get into a stupid gimmick, even with Guerrero involved. Honestly, how hard is it to just knock a guy down and touch a few turnbuckles? Seriously, drag the guy around the ring and hit him with the bell (or a chair since it?s no DQ) until he cooperates. The ridiculous cowbell in the middle of the rope provided an almost comical undertone for the match. All I kept thinking was ?I just gotta have more cowbell!? in a Christopher Walken voice.

WWE picked and chose their way out of continuity here, as both men hit turnbuckles at some points in the match without lights going on. The REALLY stupid part is, at the end of the match, Bradshaw had only TWO turnbuckles lit up, and Eddy had all four. Here?s all the proof you need:

Anyone else see four red and only two green? So yeah, fuck that finish (it has been pointed out to me that the first one was broken, but I either wasn’t paying full attention, or I didn’t see Bradshaw ever actually hit that first one…anyway, it’s a moot point when you see how many times slamming into turnbuckles didn’t count in this match). I can’t fault Eddy for this, but JBL is just a horrible choice for a champion. I hope Kurt and Big Show are back soon, we need them badly.

Winner: JBL

Entertainment Level: [15%’>

Undertaker vs. Dudley Boys: I can’t believe they’re putting this over as though it were a serious situation. Lay down? Taker lays down for nobody! Seriously, if he won’t even job when someone?s kicking his ass, why would he job to two men when his manager?s life is at stake? Whatever. This shouldn’t be a main event. It shouldn’t even be AN event. We get a magic cartoon lightning bolt, and then the dumbest ending to a PPV ever.

Winner: Undertaker

Entertainment Level: [0%’>

Overall Entertainment: 155 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 19%.

Wow. And I didn’t think it could possibly get worse than Judgment Day. Somehow, they found a way. Before we had the comfort of at least knowing Eddy Guerrero was the champion, but now instead of arguably the best wrestler on the show being champion, we have arguably one of the worst. Though JBL can take a certain comfort in knowing he’ll probably never suck worse than Billy Gunn. I think giving us this many brand-exclusive PPVs between Wrestlemania and Summerslam is an utterly horrible idea, as they could have easily kept it one per month on an alternating basis.

My brain has been horribly scarred, but at least we got a damn good Cruiserweight title match out of it. I promise I’ll write an actual non-review column soon.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #155: Bad Blood 2004 – Counterpoint



See now, this is more like it.

That?s how I began the Point, and this is how I’m beginning the Counterpoint, because this is indeed ‘more like it?. More like what, you say? More like the kind of PPV that I want to see on a regular basis. Compare the build, the card, the wrestling, and the pacing to that of Judgment Day, and you will clearly see why Bad Blood was a far superior show. Is it any wonder that Backlash had over three times the buyrate as Judgment Day? I truly hope the buyrates for Bad Blood end up utterly destroying Judgment Day, and the upcoming Great American Bash as well, so that maybe they’ll finally get their asses in gear and realize they need to do something to fix Smackdown, and it ain’t JBL. But hey, I’m not here to talk about Smackdown. I’m here to talk about Raw, and their fancy-shmancy PPV that I really, really enjoyed from top to bottom, which is a major rarity from yours truly.

Now what I do here is, I quote my previews from the Point preview, compare, contrast, and give you what actually happened. I take the Interest Level going in, and compare it to my Entertainment Level. The former is how much the build to the match made me interested, and the latter is how good the match actually was. If you can figure that one out, then we’re going to get along just fine.

World Tag Team Titles:

La Resistance? vs. Chris Benoit & Edge



Interest Level: Timeline [50%’> On one hand, Timeline was written by Michael Crichton. On the other hand, it?s full of plot holes and stars that guy from Fast & The Furious. I love the fact that we’ll see Benoit in action twice, though I imagine he’ll keep his involvement in this one to a minimum, which will probably piss off Edge or something. But it does raise a few questions. Why were Edge and Benoit teaming up in the first place? Why isn’t Evolution trying to get the titles back? Why is Edge so boring in the ring? None of these will be answered I’m sure, and I’m giving this a 50% because I’m only interested in half the participants, those being Benoit and Conway. The tag division is hurting badly at this point, but a win here may elevate La Resistance into credible champions. Now if only they had some actual competition for them that weren’t two high card guys hotshotting the titles to get someone else over.

Who should win: La Resistance

Who will win: La Resistance


Actual winner: Edge & Benoit via DQ

Alright, so that?s technically the same result I predicted…either way it was that the Frenchies would retain. What I really noticed about this one is that I found myself slightly bored when it was Edge vs. Grenier, moderately interested when it was Conway vs. Edge, or Grenier vs. Benoit, and really interested when it was Conway vs. Benoit. You could probably guess that from my preview, but that?s exactly how it panned out because of the ring action, not just because of who I like watching. I have to say that Conway has definitely got ?IT?, and it was this match that really made me see it. You know, that ?x-factor that makes you want to watch them? that someone?s always talking about. Well yeah, Conway?s got it. He?s the one that will carry this team if they ever get serious about a full tag division again. I thought this was a pretty decent match, and it made sense to keep Benoit out for most of it. I liked the teased Spear on Benoit, and yes, I even liked the ending. It made sense. La Resistance won last time because of a mistake on Edge & Benoit. This time they didn’t make that mistake, so it makes sense that they shouldn’t be able to go over the Heavyweight champion and…that other guy he tags with sometimes. Other than a few dull spots with the lesser workers in this match, my only real complaint is that Grenier was in the Crossface for far too long, as it looked like Kane was supposed to come down sooner than he did. Though until Kane emerged, I seriously didn’t know who was going to take this match while I was watching it, and that?s really the way it should be.

Entertainment Level: [65%’>

Chris Jericho vs. Tyson Tomko


Interest Level: Bill & Ted?s Bogus Journey [40%’>
It?s not that it?s a particularly bad movie, just that it lacks the spark and originality of the first, plus it pains me to think Keanu got an acting career out of it and the superior Alex Winter didn’t. Applying that to this feud, Jericho vs. Christian & Trish was great stuff. It built up with a long and interesting angle, but the cage match on Raw should?ve ended it, and yet it just keeps going. With Christian out, Trish continues to feud with Jericho, dragging the new and so far unimpressive Tyson Tomko along as our resident Keanu in the ring. What has Tomko done so far, aside from have the worst screen name ever, and screw up two simple kicks to the head? Nothing but stand there and look ominous, really. Okay, there was that one powerbomb, but pardon me if I don’t put much faith in him for that. He?s a tribal-tattooed hoss that essentially looks like they took every hoss they?ve ever had, and made a genetic cocktail which resulted in the birth of Tomko. A dash of Batista here, a little Nathan Jones there, a sprinkle of Kane… Honestly, considering what crawled out of OVW was Tyson Tomko and Mordecai in singles pushes, I don’t see what the hell was wrong with the Bane & Seven tag team they had going in the first place. Otherwise, Jericho is Jericho, and he always delivers, so there?s not a whole lot to say about him here other than hope that he’ll move onto the main event scene after this. Though Jericho is ?bulletproof? in his own words, and they need to put over the new hoss, which gives me a bad feeling.

Who should win: Chris Jericho

Who will win: Tyson Tomko


Actual winner: Chris Jericho

I think I owe Mr. Tomko an apology. It?s not that he was great or anything, but he did a lot better than I expected. After seeing him mess up a few times before he even had a match, I had him passed off as a regular, run of the mill hoss. Truth is, he actually showed some promise here, and this was only his first match in WWE. I can’t fault him for not looking that great in his debut match, because honestly, most people don’t. But as hosses go, he did make this a lot more interesting than the debut matches of Batista, Mordecai, Nathan Jones, Matt Morgan, or even Goldberg. Hell, I’d go so far as to say this was better than Brock?s debut, though how much he has Jericho to thank for that I’m not quite sure. I like that Jericho?s whole strategy here was to avoid the big man instead of confronting him directly; makes things seem a bit more realistic. Tomko?s moveset is currently a lot of power moves, but he threw in some actual innovation, and some actual psychology by working on Jericho?s hurt ribs all match. If this is his first effort with the company, and people usually improve over time, then he?s definitely going to be one to watch in the future. I was a little surprised at him coming out to Christian?s music, mostly because they usually have some stock generic metal riff to give to new debuts. My only problem was with his underselling, but hopefully that’ll get better. Either way, I think it?s great that they’re getting Jericho?s running enziguri over as a legit finisher now, because the Lionsault for some reason just has never done it for me, the ?Flashback? never really got over, and you can’t always get a guy to tap to the Walls of Jericho. So to see something that can truly finish off an opponent that easily overpowers you (though Jericho hit this one a little low, unfortunately) is a great new addition. This wasn’t anything special, but it did surprise me a fair bit.

Entertainment Level: [55%’>

Intercontinental Title:

Randy Orton? vs. Shelton Benjamin



Interest Level: Terminator 2 [80%’> Yes, it?s Judgment Day for Shelton Benjamin, and I’m talking the Ahnold kind, not the shitty Smackdown kind. Their encounters on TV have been ?pretty good? at best, but if there?s any time for two relative rookies to show their stuff and give us a future to hope for, it?s now. I’m very interested in this one, if only because two promising talents can be a mixed bag, but I think both of them have all the tools right there. I will say though, that the feud has been somewhat unspectacular, reduced mostly to run-ins and Shelton fighting other members of Evolution, and that Shelton?s hot streak isn’t quite as hot as when he was beating Triple H on TV. Sure, it got him established (and what a way to get established), but until this feud began he was on and off TV sporadically. I’m not even quite sure what the feud was over to begin with… Harley Race? Not really, he showed up once. No, and perhaps we should all be thankful for this, it?s now about the Intercontinental title and generally nothing else. To Orton?s credit, he?s made a fine IC champ thus far, and has built up the belt to something important. When he loses it, it’ll be a big deal. Benjamin would do well to win this one, but I don’t think it?s happening yet, call it a hunch. I think he?s almost there, but not quite ready yet. I’d guess Randy will keep it until Summerslam through less than fair methods.

Who should win: Randy Orton

Who will win: Randy Orton


Actual winner: Randy Orton

Now, you’re going to have to follow me here, because I’m going to rate this a little weird despite my opinion on it. I thought this was the match of the night, and it was the most fun for me to watch, even though I thought the main event was a better match and I’m rating it higher. I just really, really enjoyed this, and I got exactly what I expected and more. These two are really going places. Current rumor has it that either Vengeance or Summerslam will hold a ladder match for the title between these two, but that?s getting a little ahead of ourselves. What I’m seeing here are parallels to Rock/HHH?s IC title feud from years ago, and that?s a damn good thing, because it means these guys might be fighting over the Heavyweight title some day, after both have had a couple years to improve. One thing I feel warrants mentioning is Randy Orton?s GREAT pre-match promo. His mannerisms, his expressions, and the little touches he throws in while he?s speaking, are what?s turning him into, as Scott Newman put it, ?a legitimate superstar?. I definitely saw shades of The Rock in this promo, and he?s only going to get better. Also loving the ?Parental Advisory? format t-shirt he?s got. I think this is a match I’m going to need to watch again, just to really see what it was that I enjoyed so much about it, but both of them really delivered. I liked the little slugfest in the middle where they traded blows back and forth for about half a minute, and I even liked Flair?s interference, right down to the small package on Orton while Benji had Flair in the Figure 4. Little touches like that are what make matches like these fun to watch, and both of them have nowhere to go but up at this point. This match made me excited for the future of Raw.

Entertainment Level: [95%’>

Women?s Title:

Victoria? vs. Gail Kim vs. Trish Stratus vs. Lita



Interest Level: Paycheck [40%’> Paycheck is the kind of movie where it?s pretty cool action, but the main problems are that you have no idea what the hell is going on, and that it stars Ben Affleck. I suppose Lita is your Affleck for this one, and the part where you don’t know what?s going on is where Trish and Lita were simply tacked on at the end, after they made a somewhat big deal about Gail getting to be #1 contender. Lost in the shuffle is Molly, whose hair is magically under the same haircut rules as Kurt Angle?s in that it never grows back. What I do like is that Trish is more than capable, Lita will probably be regulated to high spots, I like Gail Kim being pushed as a submission wrestler, and Victoria is great lately, other than the stupid dance gimmick. I’d settle for a Victoria/Gail match and then a Lita/Trish/Molly triple threat on Heat to determine the #1 contender, but Trish getting a PPV match where she wouldn’t otherwise gets no real complaint from me. Being that they merely added two extra people in the past week, I don’t see Victoria dropping the belt in anything but a singles match at this point.

Who should win: Gail Kim

Who will win: Victoria


Actual winner: Trish Stratus

Well I certainly didn’t see that one coming. I kind of wonder if this was even planned before Trish was tacked onto the match. It?s funny that the outcome of this match came out of Lita and Trish, when neither of them had been the original participants. Word has it that WWE has already scrapped Victoria?s dancing, which I’m rather glad for, but now she needs some character. Maybe the loss of the Women?s title will make her go psycho again. We can only hope. I think I was most impressed by Gail Kim here, and I’m absolutely loving her use of not just one, but several submissions. Lita was kind of an afterthought here, but the pre-match angle with Matt Hardy makes me wonder if they’re going to actually do something with him soon. Trish disappeared for about half of it, and it?s unfortunate to say but Victoria barely seemed involved here. The champion should always come out looking strong, but immediately after the match was over, I could barely remember anything Victoria did here. Trish always makes a good champ, especially as a heel with faces chasing her, but it kind of makes me wonder if this will leave other heel women like Gail, Molly, and Jazz in the dust. Rather short for what could?ve been a better match, and I think I got just about what I expected here. While I wouldn’t really call it weak, and I didn’t dislike it, it didn’t do a whole lot for me otherwise.

Entertainment Level: [40%’>

Eugene vs. Jonathan Coachman


Interest Level: Timecop [20%’> Coach is no Jean-Claude Van Damme. While this match actually does have a good reason behind it, I’m not all that excited about the match itself. Eugene is a great character, Nick Dinsmore is amazing at playing him, and people love him. That said, if Eugene keeps winning, it?s going to start defying suspension of disbelief (more than it takes to believe a retarded guy can wrestle well, I mean). Poor John Hennigan will now have to show up on Smackdown. I really wish they would dig more into the idea that Eugene knows a crapload about the wrestling business, but I’m fairly certain they only did it once when Eugene mentioned Pat Patterson. They need to push that aspect of the character to Rainman proportions. I’m sure we’ll see Coach go all martial arts on him, Eugene will ‘tard up? and render himself invincible, and we’ll see some classic retro finisher. I just don’t see it being a good wrestling match though. This will be the crowd cooldown match when they need to get the audience back into it with big face pops.

Who should win: Eugene

Who will win: Eugene


Actual winner: Eugene

This made me laugh a lot more than I thought it would. I’m not going to say it was a good match, because Eugene?s stuff as of late, including his matches, are more like extended segments of comic relief, with a little wrestling involved. I appreciated the references to Junk Yard Dog, though I just saw him do that on Raw, so it gets old quickly. I think they really need to cut down on the comedy spots and just have him wrestle. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’d like to see him adopt a different style for each match. Have him wrestle like JYD this match, Dusty Rhodes the next, Backlund after that, or even let him emulate Flair. Finishing with the Rock Bottom and the ?Special People?s Elbow? as I like to call it, was a nice touch, but good god were those Stunners ugly. Aside from the comedy wrestling spots, there were a lot of other comedy spots that I just thought were kind of unnecessary. The bikini girl with the tray of cookies, the stuffed animal, Garrison Cade…oh wait, he?s not a comedy spot…right? Anyway, being that I don’t know if I’d count this as an actual match unless they actually wrestled, I’m not going to rate it all that high. I’ll still rate it a bit higher than my preview though, simply because I did find myself laughing, which was really the whole point.

Entertainment Level: [30%’>

World Heavyweight Title:

Chris Benoit? vs. Kane



Interest Level: Back to the Future [75%’> That?s right, Marty. We’re going back. Back where? Back to…ahh, you know. This is no Enchantment Under the Sea dance, but it is a great opportunity to make Benoit seem like a solid champion, and topple the bully by finally making Biff his bitch. What I like about this is that Benoit didn’t have to be caught up in a campy Hollywood storyline with Kane to do this. True, the feud doesn’t have a whole lot of substance, but much like the IC title feud, this is all about the belt and the fact that Kane won a battle royal to get a shot at it. Is it overshadowed by the HIAC match? You’re damn right it is, hence this match not going last in my column. But two factors make me not mind that. First, that the main event is probably going to kick a whole lot of ass, and second, that Benoit is now being put in that champion position where he can afford to have matches against guys who aren’t quite main event, much in the way that Brock defended against Cena or even Hardcore Holly, or for a worse example, Eddy vs. JBL. Kane deserves some credit for playing his character to the hilt no matter what they give him, and if nothing else being consistent in the ring. What does bug me is how sometimes they make people look credible against him, and other times he just squashes people in less than a minute. The BIG thing about this match is, I could be wrong, but I don’t think Kane has ever tapped out before. If Benoit is the man to make Kane finally tap, the Crossface immediately becomes the most rock-solid submission hold in the company, and only a man with Benoit?s intensity could get it as over as it is right now. I’m enjoying Benoit?s run immensely, and this match is probably going to bring the best out in Kane.

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Chris Benoit


Actual winner: Chris Benoit

The only real complaint I hear about this match is that Kane?s offense was a little ?slow and plodding?. But you know, that worked in context of the match here. Slow pace isn’t always a bad thing, as you’ll see when I get to the next match, and for some guys like Kane, it works when you?ve got a faster, smaller guy slowly wearing you down throughout the entire match. I don’t know if this could have been a main event unless they had played up the feud a little more, but it felt like it was an important title match anyway, and I don’t mind it being slightly lower profile. Benoit?s offense here was absolutely stellar, working on various body parts for various submission attempts, and not being able to get them locked in for the most part did actually make perfect sense. Kane?s supposed to be a monster, and he looked like one here. While it was a bit of a carry job on Benoit?s part, I’m not going to say Kane was any slouch himself, either. Kane?s one of those guys kind of like Big Show, where he sort of adapts to whoever he?s fighting against. If he?s against someone who sucks, he looks bad. If he?s against someone mediocre, he’ll have a mediocre match. If he?s against someone great, he looks great. That doesn’t necessarily mean he needs to be carried all the time, just that I don’t see him as the type of guy, like Benoit for example, who can carry a match himself with pretty much anyone he steps into the ring with. I was slightly disappointed at first that Benoit didn’t get Kane to tap (btw, thanks to everyone who wrote to inform me that Kane has tapped once, to Kurt Angle), but after a little time to let it sink in, the ending makes sense to me, and now I think that was a better outcome anyway. Kane shouldn’t lose a step here, because it looked like a surprise loss. Kane was struggling to get out of the Crossface, not worrying about getting out of a pin, so this was an ending that worked for both men. Kane looked like he tried his ass off, and Benoit looks invincible now. His post-match promo only solidified that, and surprise-surprise, it wasn’t interrupted by someone attacking him. I think I like the sound of ?Benoit is for real?.

Entertainment Level: [85%’>

Hell in a Cell:

Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H



Interest Level: Donnie Darko [100%’> To coincide with one of my favorite movies, this is practically destined to become one of my favorite matches of the year, and beyond. While I think Shawn Michaels hasn’t really had much of a character as of late, he can still go in the ring and I’m not about to recommend he retire until he, you know, stops putting on phenomenal matches, putting people over, and bumping his ass off, and he?s shown no signs of stopping yet. And hey, I might as well admit it right here, this year I have been reborn as a Triple H fan. You say he?s boring, sure, his promos do get long winded. But in the ring he has improved vastly this year, and is currently having his best year since the run before his quad injury. He?s put over the right people like all hell, he hasn’t feuded with undeserving main eventers, and he?s even out of the title picture at the moment. Add to that the fact that I?ve been itching to see a good HIAC match for a long time, and there you have my anticipation. This is where HIAC matches should be used. The last couple have seemingly been ?oh hey, this will get the feud over? types of matches. This one is the end-all, be-all of a long standing feud. What I truly enjoy about this feud is that even if it?s been basically done to death since Michaels returned, it?s that you NEVER see feuds last this long anymore in today?s product. The story behind this has been brewing since Degeneration-X was around. I remember when Trips first got his rise to the top, we always wondered if they were ever going to feud, and now we?ve had it for quite some time. Now, they come to what should prove to be the final final encounter in the feud, with a properly used career-ending gimmick of a stipulation. So hey, I couldn’t be happier. Say what you will about either of these guys, or the feud behind it, or the promos they cut, but this match is going to rock your ass. Hard. I see both men blading, bumping, and Trips keeping his legacy of winning these kinds of matches, with HBK finally passing the full torch even though his opponent probably has a little torch-passing of his own to do.

Who should win: Triple H

Who will win: Triple H


Actual winner: Triple H

This was genuinely a difficult one to predict. Throughout the whole match, I was wondering if Trips would take it, or if HBK would actually come out the winner. What I really enjoyed about this match is that it had the absolute look and feel of a classic feud blowoff. This is THE END of a long standing feud, so I wasn’t expecting something quick and dirty. If you look at it as just another wrestling match, you’re bound to be disappointed a bit. But if you look at it in context, it worked beautifully. One thing I have to say I appreciate about the last few Hell in a Cell matches such as this match, Undertaker/Lesnar, and even Nash/HHH (though I still think that one sucked), is that they haven’t focused on getting through the side of the cage, climbing up, and everyone trying to guess which of them is going to get thrown through the ceiling panel, or dropped off the roof. I’m glad they’re saving that kind of spot for rare occasions. It becomes more believable that way when the Cell is actually able to contain them instead of just becoming a tool for a wicked highspot. I’m also glad that this was not even necessarily a series of highspots, but a series of medium, brutal spots. The ladder/table spot was nice, but even that wasn’t all that spectacular compared to some other HIAC?s past. This had a classic feel to it, and they didn’t need to go totally over the top with it.

Now of course, you’ll get into any number of arguments with people over the ending of this match online, talking about how slow it was, how nothing happened, etc. I reiterate, this is the absolute END here, and it needed that. You can’t have a definitive, quick ending when there?s a feud this long. It had to make it look like both would never give up, it had to be absolutely final, and that?s exactly what it was. I believe this will go down in history alongside some of the other major feuds you hear about. You hear about Ric Flair?s amazing feuds of the past, you hear about Hogan/Piper, Hogan/Andre, Rock/Austin, and now you’re going to hear about Michaels/HHH, and that deserves this kind of ending to a long, grueling match. If there was ever any doubt before that Shawn Michaels wasn’t back in the saddle, look no further. The selling, the brutality, the spots, the feud to back it up, and everything else that went into this was simply stellar. While I won’t say it was perfect, I saw both men working their asses off for not just the entertainment of the fans, but to put an appropriate and believable cap onto their feud once and for all. If that isn’t something you can live with, I have to question whether you’re a wrestling fan, or a sports entertainment fan. That was a 47+ minute HIAC match, with two men who have been on the receiving end of criticism despite having great matches in the past, proving all of us that they had what it took to pull this off. I’m not going to fault either man at all for that.

Entertainment Level: [100%’>



Overall Interest: 410 out of a possible 700, for a total of roughly 59%.

Overall Entertainment: 470 out of a possible 700, for a total of roughly 67%.

A small margin of increase (2%) over Backlash, and Raw?s PPVs just keep getting better. I’m already very much looking forward to Vengeance, and hoping Raw?s involvement at Summerslam will be good enough to overshadow Smackdown?s, assuming they don’t improve by that point. I haven’t yet watched this week?s Raw, so I don’t know how they’re following it up yet, but with rumors of both Michaels and HHH leaving for a bit after this, that just means more top slot time for Benoit, and probably some elevated stars. Monday nights are truly great times to be a wrestling fan these days. Now if only Thursdays were too.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #155: Bad Blood 2004 – Point

[Yeah, I need a new banner. Someone make me one, dammit.’>

See now, this is more like it. I get to preview the PPV of a show I actually enjoy watching. If this PPV ends up being an hour long it’d still be better than Judgment Day. Why do I sound so excited? Because despite a few low points of the show, Raw has been absolutely kicking ass since Wrestlemania. You can blame that on better writing, or better booking, or Chris Benoit, but if one thing is certain, it?s the fact that Wrestlemania, Backlash, and now Bad Blood are all good cards mostly because of the Raw roster. It?s fairly plain to see they have some actual, real, authentic, genuine faith in Chris Benoit as Heavyweight champion, hence the reason they’re booking him in two matches. That, or Triple H is overbooking Benoit so he’ll hurt himself again and let him take his spotlight back. Oh come on, you know the thought?s crossed your mind. Thankfully though, Trips has been a good boy this year so far, so I’m not going to shoot him down.

I’m slightly miffed because I was actually at the last Raw, but I accidentally taped over it so I didn’t get to see if I showed up on camera (I was sitting about 5 or 6 rows behind where Lillian Garcia sits), and I also wanted to see if the show translated well to TV, because live it actually seemed somewhat boring. Though I can attribute that to the fact that I was kind of half paying attention, and half trying to get good pictures, which actually didn’t come out all that well except for a few. All in all though, it was a pretty good setup for all the matches we’re getting on Sunday, just as the whole past month has been. See, this is what happens when you use the time between PPVs to prepare. Each of these matches has a legitimate reason and isn’t thrown on for filler. That?s what I like to see.

You should know the drill by now. I?ve been doing this shtick for years, folks. ?Point? is written beforehand, where I preview the PPV and give you my interest levels for each match, along with who I think should win the match, and who I think will win the match. ?Counterpoint? is written after the fact, where I give you my reactions to the PPV, and the amount I was actually entertained as opposed to my interest. Then at the end I tally it all up and compare. Good? Good.

This month?s Interest Level theme is: Time Travel Movies

Eugene vs. Jonathan Coachman
Interest Level: Timecop [20%’> Coach is no Jean-Claude Van Damme. While this match actually does have a good reason behind it, I’m not all that excited about the match itself. Eugene is a great character, Nick Dinsmore is amazing at playing him, and people love him. That said, if Eugene keeps winning, it?s going to start defying suspension of disbelief (more than it takes to believe a retarded guy can wrestle well, I mean). Poor John Hennigan will now have to show up on Smackdown. I really wish they would dig more into the idea that Eugene knows a crapload about the wrestling business, but I’m fairly certain they only did it once when Eugene mentioned Pat Patterson. They need to push that aspect of the character to Rainman proportions. I’m sure we’ll see Coach go all martial arts on him, Eugene will ‘tard up? and render himself invincible, and we’ll see some classic retro finisher. I just don’t see it being a good wrestling match though. This will be the crowd cooldown match when they need to get the audience back into it with big face pops.

Who should win: Eugene

Who will win: Eugene

Women?s Title:

Victoria? vs. Gail Kim vs. Trish Stratus vs. Lita

Interest Level: Paycheck [40%’> Paycheck is the kind of movie where it?s pretty cool action, but the main problems are that you have no idea what the hell is going on, and that it stars Ben Affleck. I suppose Lita is your Affleck for this one, and the part where you don’t know what?s going on is where Trish and Lita were simply tacked on at the end, after they made a somewhat big deal about Gail getting to be #1 contender. Lost in the shuffle is Molly, whose hair is magically under the same haircut rules as Kurt Angle?s in that it never grows back. What I do like is that Trish is more than capable, Lita will probably be regulated to high spots, I like Gail Kim being pushed as a submission wrestler, and Victoria is great lately, other than the stupid dance gimmick. I’d settle for a Victoria/Gail match and then a Lita/Trish/Molly triple threat on Heat to determine the #1 contender, but Trish getting a PPV match where she wouldn’t otherwise gets no real complaint from me. Being that they merely added two extra people in the past week, I don’t see Victoria dropping the belt in anything but a singles match at this point.

Who should win: Gail Kim

Who will win: Victoria

World Tag Team Titles:

La Resistance? vs. Chris Benoit & Edge

Interest Level: Timeline [50%’> On one hand, Timeline was written by Michael Crichton. On the other hand, it?s full of plot holes and stars that guy from Fast & The Furious. I love the fact that we’ll see Benoit in action twice, though I imagine he’ll keep his involvement in this one to a minimum, which will probably piss off Edge or something. But it does raise a few questions. Why were Edge and Benoit teaming up in the first place? Why isn’t Evolution trying to get the titles back? Why is Edge so boring in the ring? None of these will be answered I’m sure, and I’m giving this a 50% because I’m only interested in half the participants, those being Benoit and Conway. The tag division is hurting badly at this point, but a win here may elevate La Resistance into credible champions. Now if only they had some actual competition for them that weren’t two high card guys hotshotting the titles to get someone else over.

Who should win: La Resistance

Who will win: La Resistance

Chris Jericho vs. Tyson Tomko
Interest Level: Bill & Ted?s Bogus Journey [45%’> It?s not that it?s a particularly bad movie, just that it lacks the spark and originality of the first, plus it pains me to think Keanu got an acting career out of it and the superior Alex Winter didn’t. Applying that to this feud, Jericho vs. Christian & Trish was great stuff. It built up with a long and interesting angle, but the cage match on Raw should?ve ended it, and yet it just keeps going. With Christian out, Trish continues to feud with Jericho, dragging the new and so far unimpressive Tyson Tomko along as our resident Keanu in the ring. What has Tomko done so far, aside from have the worst screen name ever, and screw up two simple kicks to the head? Nothing but stand there and look ominous, really. Okay, there was that one powerbomb, but pardon me if I don’t put much faith in him for that. He?s a tribal-tattooed hoss that essentially looks like they took every hoss they?ve ever had, and made a genetic cocktail which resulted in the birth of Tomko. A dash of Batista here, a little Nathan Jones there, a sprinkle of Kane… Honestly, considering what crawled out of OVW was Tyson Tomko and Mordecai in singles pushes, I don’t see what the hell was wrong with the Bane & Seven tag team they had going in the first place. Otherwise, Jericho is Jericho, and he always delivers, so there?s not a whole lot to say about him here other than hope that he’ll move onto the main event scene after this. Though Jericho is ?bulletproof? in his own words, and they need to put over the new hoss, which gives me a bad feeling.

Who should win: Chris Jericho

Who will win: Tyson Tomko

Intercontinental Title:

Randy Orton? vs. Shelton Benjamin

Interest Level: Terminator 2 [80%’> Yes, it?s Judgment Day for Shelton Benjamin, and I’m talking the Ahnold kind, not the shitty Smackdown kind. Their encounters on TV have been ?pretty good? at best, but if there?s any time for two relative rookies to show their stuff and give us a future to hope for, it?s now. I’m very interested in this one, if only because two promising talents can be a mixed bag, but I think both of them have all the tools right there. I will say though, that the feud has been somewhat unspectacular, reduced mostly to run-ins and Shelton fighting other members of Evolution, and that Shelton?s hot streak isn’t quite as hot as when he was beating Triple H on TV. Sure, it got him established (and what a way to get established), but until this feud began he was on and off TV sporadically. I’m not even quite sure what the feud was over to begin with… Harley Race? Not really, he showed up once. No, and perhaps we should all be thankful for this, it?s now about the Intercontinental title and generally nothing else. To Orton?s credit, he?s made a fine IC champ thus far, and has built up the belt to something important. When he loses it, it’ll be a big deal. Benjamin would do well to win this one, but I don’t think it?s happening yet, call it a hunch. I think he?s almost there, but not quite ready yet. I’d guess Randy will keep it until Summerslam through less than fair methods.

Who should win: Randy Orton

Who will win: Randy Orton

World Heavyweight Title:

Chris Benoit? vs. Kane

Interest Level: Back to the Future [75%’> That?s right, Marty. We’re going back. Back where? Back to…ahh, you know. This is no Enchantment Under the Sea dance, but it is a great opportunity to make Benoit seem like a solid champion, and topple the bully by finally making Biff his bitch. What I like about this is that Benoit didn’t have to be caught up in a campy Hollywood storyline with Kane to do this. True, the feud doesn’t have a whole lot of substance, but much like the IC title feud, this is all about the belt and the fact that Kane won a battle royal to get a shot at it. Is it overshadowed by the HIAC match? You’re damn right it is, hence this match not going last in my column. But two factors make me not mind that. First, that the main event is probably going to kick a whole lot of ass, and second, that Benoit is now being put in that champion position where he can afford to have matches against guys who aren’t quite main event, much in the way that Brock defended against Cena or even Hardcore Holly, or for a worse example, Eddy vs. JBL. Kane deserves some credit for playing his character to the hilt no matter what they give him, and if nothing else being consistent in the ring. What does bug me is how sometimes they make people look credible against him, and other times he just squashes people in less than a minute. The BIG thing about this match is, I could be wrong, but I don’t think Kane has ever tapped out before. If Benoit is the man to make Kane finally tap, the Crossface immediately becomes the most rock-solid submission hold in the company, and only a man with Benoit?s intensity could get it as over as it is right now. I’m enjoying Benoit?s run immensely, and this match is probably going to bring the best out in Kane.

Who should win: Chris Benoit

Who will win: Chris Benoit

Hell in a Cell:

Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H

Interest Level: Donnie Darko [100%’> To coincide with one of my favorite movies, this is practically destined to become one of my favorite matches of the year, and beyond. While I think Shawn Michaels hasn’t really had much of a character as of late, he can still go in the ring and I’m not about to recommend he retire until he, you know, stops putting on phenomenal matches, putting people over, and bumping his ass off, and he?s shown no signs of stopping yet. And hey, I might as well admit it right here, this year I have been reborn as a Triple H fan. You say he?s boring, sure, his promos do get long winded. But in the ring he has improved vastly this year, and is currently having his best year since the run before his quad injury. He?s put over the right people like all hell, he hasn’t feuded with undeserving main eventers, and he?s even out of the title picture at the moment. Add to that the fact that I?ve been itching to see a good HIAC match for a long time, and there you have my anticipation. This is where HIAC matches should be used. The last couple have seemingly been ?oh hey, this will get the feud over? types of matches. This one is the end-all, be-all of a long standing feud. What I truly enjoy about this feud is that even if it?s been basically done to death since Michaels returned, it?s that you NEVER see feuds last this long anymore in today?s product. The story behind this has been brewing since Degeneration-X was around. I remember when Trips first got his rise to the top, we always wondered if they were ever going to feud, and now we?ve had it for quite some time. Now, they come to what should prove to be the final final encounter in the feud, with a properly used career-ending gimmick of a stipulation. So hey, I couldn’t be happier. Say what you will about either of these guys, or the feud behind it, or the promos they cut, but this match is going to rock your ass. Hard. I see both men blading, bumping, and Trips keeping his legacy of winning these kinds of matches, with HBK finally passing the full torch even though his opponent probably has a little torch-passing of his own to do.

Who should win: Triple H

Who will win: Triple H

Overall Interest: 410 out of a possible 700, for a total of roughly 59%.

That?s even better than Backlash. This is what happens when you plan ahead, and put people where they deserve to be. My only real gripe is no Matt Hardy or Tajiri, as either one could?ve had a minor feud with Rhyno or something this month, but I’ll live. Raw is still leaps and bounds ahead of Smackdown in terms of quality and entertainment, and you’d think they’d catch on what the reasons for that are sooner or later. I’ll be back with the Counterpoint next week, and for you main page workrate fans, I promise I’ll have at least two non-PPV columns up within the next month. One an opinion piece, another a DVD review. Be warned though, I’ll also have to do Great American Bash fairly soon too, so you’ll have to wade through my torturous screams before you get to the good stuff.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #154: Judgment Day 2004 – Counterpoint

Judgment Day marks the first time I?ve ever reviewed a downloaded PPV. Since I’m watching it on my computer, the same place where my Word program is, I’ll be watching it as I write, providing you with almost-live thoughts right after viewing each match, for the first time ever in the Counterpoint. Aren’t you excited? Well I certainly hope not, because this is Judgment Day, or as I like to call it, ?The massive hole you have to dig yourself out of when you build a show around Brock Lesnar for 2 years and he decides he doesn’t like it anymore?. To any of you who actually bought it, shame on you. If you were desperate to see it just because you’re a completist, there are plenty of other ways to view it that don’t require a full purchase. Now, I’m not saying I’m encouraging you to illegally pirate something like I did…wait, what the hell? Yes I am! Down with the system! *ahem* Anyway…next time something sucks this bad, have a bunch of friends chip in to see it, or go to a sports bar that charges five bucks a head. Anything that lessens the amount of buyrates so WWE knows that we don’t like what we’re seeing.

Now the great thing about this is that I’m watching it in PowerDVD, my current favorite media program, which I got with my DVD-ROM drive. The bonus of this is that a simple mousewheel scroll changes the video and audio to 2x speed, meaning I can watch a match in fast motion if it sucks, and the announcers sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks. If that isn’t going to make this PPV more enjoyable, nothing will.

Rob Van Dam & Rey Mysterio vs. Dudley Boys



Interest Level: Your lower colon 3 hours after Taco Bell [40%’> This right here is going to be my pick for match of the night, and that?s really not saying a whole lot. The Dudleys have been pretty good since their heel turn, looking a little more motivated, but I want Heyman to be alongside them. RVD and Mysterio are together exactly why? That?s right, because they pop the crowd with their flipping spots. Never mind the fact that Mysterio?s moveset and offense puts Rob?s to shame. The four of these guys can probably work a good match if they’re given some time. And *gasp* this one actually has some build to it! Note I said some.

Who should win: Dudley Boys

Who will win: Dudley Boys


Actual winner: Team 420-619

This match here is probably the smartest way to start off a PPV to get people into the action. You?ve got two guys who always connect with the crowd in the Dudleys, and two spot machines that people never fail to pop for. It?s also the only match on the card where both sides can be referred to as ?good workers?. Cole mentions early on the change in attitude of the Dudleys ever since they hooked up with Paul Heyman, but where is Heyman? I have to say, RVD looked great here, which I blame on the fact that it wasn’t a singles match. He brought out plenty of unique and flashy offense, and that?s fine with me as long as he doesn’t use his hands. Rob, you’re limited to clotheslines and elbows, and that?s it. Everything else above the waist looks like crap. But I’m all about the kicks, so carry on with that all you like. More often than not here, Mysterio played the face in peril, but I really have to hand it to the Dudleys, Bubba especially. They injected heel mannerisms into nearly every single move of this match. From taunting to cheating to just all around acting like dicks, they played to the crowd every step of the way. While I’ll never be the one to call them great wrestlers, they know how to be great heels. By the end of the match, the crowd HATED the Dudleys, and not in an X-Pac way.

In the future I think I wouldn’t mind at all if RVD & Mysterio and the Dudleys received long term tag pushes to get people back into the division. I’m convinced WWE despises the Cruiserweight division now, so Mysterio would be wasted there, neither RVD or Rey are ?up and coming? stars so they’d be out of place in the US division, and let?s face it, neither is going for the WWE title anytime soon. All the Dudleys need on the other hand is Heyman at their side, and both teams along with Rico/Haas, the Bashams, Akio/Sakoda, FBI, Kidman/London, and to a lesser extent Holly/Gunn, could totally revamp the division. That?s eight teams right there, and yet the division is still dead in the water. It just ain’t fair. For tonight though, these teams showed promise, and put on a match I really got into.

Entertainment Level: [65%’>

-I’d like to take this opportunity to say how hilarious Kurt Angle?s little box stage is. It makes sense because it keeps them from having to take the time to bring a wheelchair-bound person into the ring, and it puts him level with anyone that?s in the ring at the time. But it?s just a really funny visual that I can’t get over. I’m guessing this segment is merely to put over the Dawn/Torrie match since they tacked it on at the last minute, but they might as well just have announced who would win. Then again, firing angles could always result in a jump to Raw, so I wouldn’t put it past them.

Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie



Interest Level: Icepick under the toenails [1%’> That 1% is for Dawn Marie as eye candy. Otherwise, this is a last-minute tacked on heaping serving of indifference with a side of boring leftovers. It has no build to it, no feud, and no rhyme or reason. Though if history is any indication, maybe we should be thankful this match doesn’t have an angle driving it. This match will absolutely kill the crowd, but that?s not saying much since I doubt they’ll be all that hot anyway.

Who should win: I really don’t care.

Who will win: Torrie, because she gets naked once every 6 months.


Actual winner: Torrie Wilson

Oh dear god was Dawn hot as hell here. Why can’t she get a turn in Playboy? Well, after this match she probably will. Your basic fluff match, a little too long for what it was, but hey, at least we got some eye candy. My guess is that the bottoms were breakaway and that was intentional, and I’m sure the flesh-colored thong wasn’t a coincidence either…so thanks, I guess. And as always, Tazz is quick on the uptake and immediately refers to it as a ?wardrobe malfunction?.

Entertainment Level: [5%’>just say yes to crack.

-Oh joy, now we get John ?Goober? Layfield (tell me that nickname doesn’t fit perfectly) telling us what losers we are. It really wouldn’t be a bad promo at all if it weren’t for the writing behind the angle, so it?s passable at the very least.

Scotty 2 Hotty vs. Mordecai

Hahahahah…yeah, like they’d have Scotty win here. I have to say I’m a little disappointed in that Mordecai doesn’t really have the ‘menacing? look that a lot of evil wrestlers have. Guys like Sean O?Haire, Batista, and Nathan Jones can pull off that mean, foreboding, intense look, but Mordecai just kind of looks like Joe Somebody off the street with robes and dyed hair, and he stares at the sky a lot. Maybe it?s just me, but I thought he looked meaner as Seven when he had the black hair with red tips. Not that I?ve ever seen any OVW, but I remember seeing him on Metal a couple years ago tagging with Slash, and he was decent. I see what they’re trying to do here, basically attempting to make him into Survivor Series ?90 Undertaker, but that?s something that really can’t be recreated, not even by Taker himself. The majority of his moves seem to be praying/crucifix moves, and he?s not unlike some characters I?ve created in the Create Mode of several wrestling video games. I think what?s going to end up happening is either he’ll be a midcard hoss, or he’ll work his way up to the inevitable Mordecai/Undertaker feud, in which he’ll job and then destroy people on Velocity until he gets released in a year. You know, like most of the others who have debuted with video vignettes in the past year or two. I think that what he keeps looking to the heavens for should turn out to be just some guy who hangs out in the rafters and tells him what to do. Yeah, some higher power. Not exactly the most impressive debut since he?s all power moves so far, but I’ll give him some time and see if he?s any good. At any rate, at least he didn’t screw up a move in his debut and fall on his ass, like a certain former OVW tag partner of his named Tyson Tomko.

Entertainment Level: [10%’>

-What a surprise, Jacqueline gets an eye-rollingly bad segment.

WWE Tag Team Titles:

Rico & Charlie Haas? vs. Billy Gunn & Hardcore Holly



Interest Level: Sharp stick in the eye [15%’> Wow, another match tacked on at the last minute with absolutely no reason behind it! Worse yet, it?s a title match, so it shows how badly the tag division is suffering. The only good thing about a Gunn/Holly team is that they’re out of singles ranking. That said, Rico & Haas are one of the few good things about Smackdown lately. I still feel sorry for Haas, but this angle gives him some desperately needed character. I don’t really know what else I can say about this, because there is literally nothing behind this match aside from a hell of a lot of sexual innuendo.

Who should win: Rico & Haas

Who will win: Rico & Haas


Actual winner: Rico & Haas

You hear that mixture of boos and complete indifference for everything Holly and Gunn did in this match? Yeah, that was for a reason. As much as the gimmick amuses me, Charlie Haas needs something more than ?grossed out by Rico? in his character. He either needs to go with the flow and start dressing like Rico, or the team needs a series of segments where they try to understand each other better. I expected the complete lack of continuity from Billy Gunn here…you’d think a guy who nearly went through with a gay marriage wouldn’t have much of a problem wrestling a flamboyant man, but of course nobody?s expected to remember Gunn?s history in the first place. What I do like about Rico is that even when he?s not ?gaying it up? to throw his opponents off, he still has plenty of good offense to spare, so when he?s in the ring it?s not just a series of homoerotic gestures. This match was tolerable, but Charlie?s too talented to play the face in peril for most of the match, and neither Gunn or Holly are good enough to be on the offense for most of it. I figure I got a little more than I expected, but not much.

Entertainment Level: [25%’>

-Bearer and Taker get the requisite ‘rest in peace? promo, which just seems kind of forced now. Mark Callaway just looks kind of…old lately.

WWE Cruiserweight Title:

Jacqueline? vs. Chavo Guerrero



Interest Level: Having to type the words ?Jacqueline is the Cruiserweight champion? [3%’> …and they told Mysterio they have ?nothing planned? for him. I can’t say I’m not interested in Chavo at all here, but I don’t really want to dignify this match with much acknowledgement. In the event that I can download the show, I’ll probably skip around through this match. You poor bastards watching it live. I can only think they did this simply as a fluke win, and Chavo?s arm tied behind his back or not, the belt had better go back to him. If there?s a bright side, I guess it?s that they can’t get much lower than this for the Cruiserweight division, aside from killing off the belt entirely. The state of the division is so fucking sad, especially when you look at the roster and see what it could be.

Who should win: Chavo Guerrero

Who will win: Chavo Guerrero


Actual winner: Chavo Guerrero

And thank whatever god you believe in. I watched this match in triple speed and it was almost as fast as a WCW Cruiserweight match. Don’t you just love the fact that Michael Cole sees no problem with Jacqueline cheating to win the belt, but has nothing but scorn for Chavo? That?s beyond supporting faces and hating heels, that?s just stupid. He practically does it in the same breath. An absolute dud, with the only redeeming value being the fact that Chavo got the belt back. Too bad the belt is basically meaningless now.

Entertainment Level: [0%’>

-I?ve gone far past ?getting bored? with Cena as a face. I?ve gone past ?currently bored? with Cena as a face. I’m now at ?I hate Cena as a face?. I can’t remember the last time my thoughts upon hearing one of his raps was ?I can’t believe he just said that?. Now he sounds like he?s reciting nursery rhymes. ?Fifi took a pee-pee?? Is he in junior high now?

United States Title:

John Cena? vs. Rene Dupree



Interest Level: Slamming a finger in a car door [25%’> While I’ll say both men have a lot of potential, neither is quite there yet. Cena?s matches as of late have been incredibly generic, but at least he?s a fighting champion if nothing else. The last two months have been pretty much a blur, because all the matches are the exact same thing. As a heel, I can at least get into him because he has good mannerisms. But right now, his face antics are just as generic as his debut ?Ruthless Aggression? angle. Dupree…well I can’t really say much about him, because I remember very little about his matches other than the Frenchie dance, or as Tazz likes to call it, ?Heyyy, I’m a French guyyyy!?. This is another feud that could?ve been handled much better. Is there really any substance to it, or have they just randomly attacked each other all month? Generic face pops + champion = boring, so one of the two has got to go, and chasing the title might make Cena at least somewhat interesting until they decide to turn him heel again. Besides, having a French US champion would be funny.

Who should win: Rene Dupree

Who will win: Rene Dupree


Actual winner: John Cena

Matches like this solidify the exact reason why you will never hear me kiss the asses of either Cena or Dupree until I feel they’re ready to be praised. I thought I was watching a 1980?s WWF TV match. Punches, kicks, clotheslines, bodyslams, a few signature spots, and little else aside from the brawling outside the ring. It ended up looking totally vanilla. It picked up a little at the end, but it was too little, too late. It really kind of shows me that Cena was more or less carried in most of his higher profile matches in the last year, and now that he has to be the one carrying, it?s not working. I expected better from these two. Both of these guys have plenty of potential to grow into something better, but don’t you dare try and tell me either one of them can be called a good wrestler yet.

Entertainment Level: [15%’>

Undertaker vs. Booker T



Interest Level: Hand in a deep fryer [5%’> Come on now. You can do better than this. Not only are they feuding for absolutely no reason, but this is a complete derail of Booker?s heel push. Not only that, but the angle they’re using is simply goofy…A magic bag from some voodoo lady? A hand coming out of a grave? Please, as if Undertaker?s theatrics weren’t enough. If Taker?s willing to job here, then great. But I guarantee you it won’t be clean. My guess is Mordecai will cost Taker the match, maybe taking out Paul Bearer and destroying the urn. That way Taker goes solo and Moody gets to go his own way (I’m fairly certain he?s not going to be Paul Bearer long-term). If that means a Booker push against Eddy, I’m all for it.

Who should win: Booker T

Who will win: Booker T


Actual winner: Undertaker

So it looks like Taker?s from ?Death Valley? again. Let me get this straight. Booker T works his ass off all the time, but Undertaker shows up every two months and he gets to no-sell everything and win. I liked my plan better with Mordecai debuting in this match instead of his own. This match accomplished absolutely nothing, even going so far to no-sell the powder that they created two ridiculous segments around. At the very least, Booker got a good amount of offense, but I think I need to stop predicting against Undertaker since it?s just never going to happen while he?s still employed. I still can’t bring myself to hate Taker because he can still move, and I believe he?s still capable of wrestling good matches, but it?s the bookers and writers that I blame for this. He needs to be an evil heel and he needs to work consistently, and that is that. It?s sad to think that Booker didn’t have a prayer here without some kind of cheating or interference. The wrestling itself wasn’t horrible, but the match and everything behind it was just too ridiculous for me to overlook.

Entertainment Level: [5%’>

-Michael Cole comes up with one of the most unintentionally funny lines I?ve ever heard out of his mouth, talking about Bad Blood: ?Raw?s going to have to do something to keep up with Judgment Day!? That?s pretty accurate, Cole…Raw could do ANYTHING to make their show better than this.

WWE Heavyweight Title:

Eddy Guerrero? vs. John ?Bradshaw? Layfield



Interest Level: A swarm of angry bees in your pants [30%’> I?ve shared my thoughts about JBL since his website commentary (or at least, in my time I have, since the OTC will probably be posted after this column), so I won’t rant too much here. Basically the idea was that I liked his new direction until he decided to be a dickhead. Hey, here?s a tip…if you’re getting badmouthed, try and prove the haters wrong, don’t antagonize them further. I wrote a letter to his WWE.com address telling him that I am a writer and was originally a supporter of his character, but he should really watch what he says, because his overgeneralizing insults of we Internerds may just have been the deciding factor in me not buying Judgment Day on PPV. It probably won’t make any difference, but since they seem to be all worried about buyrates, the idea that being an asshole to your fans can make your buyrates go down could very well stick out. Let him know if you feel the same way. As for Eddy Guerrero…oh god, I’m sorry Eddy. I’m so, so sorry. He?s been great since he won the title. He shows awesome intensity, he can tell a story with a mere facial expression, and he?s been cutting great promos, but he?s been a complete victim of shitty writing and bad planning. I hope the lack of quality of the PPV doesn’t reflect upon him as a champion, but I wouldn’t be surprised if WWE got the wrong idea and blamed him for bad ratings. Though I can’t possibly see how they’d think he isn’t a draw, yet fucking Bradshaw of all people is. Eddy can carry a sack of potatoes to a watchable match, but a main event title match shouldn’t simply be ?watchable?.

Who should win: Eddy Guerrero

Who will win: Eddy Guerrero


Actual winner: JBL by DQ, Eddy retains

That means it?s not over, doesn’t it…Shit. Generally I dislike matches where a good portion of them take place outside of the ring, and the first several minutes of this one did. I certainly hope JBL doesn’t start claiming he put a lot of effort into this match, because anything that wasn’t Eddy Guerrero?s offense was quite simply Bradshaw hitting punches, kicks, clotheslines, backdrops, and rest holds. I think the most innovative move I saw from Layfield here was a neckbreaker. Ooh! Sorry Mr. Layfield, but anything

The real story here was Eddy giving us quite possibly THE SICKEST blade job I have EVER seen. That beats anything Shawn Michaels ever did, anything Vince McMahon ever did, anything Cactus Jack ever did, hell anything CZW ever did that I?ve seen. Not only did it absolutely pour out of his head and continue steadily, but Eddy left a large red puddle behind anywhere he put his head. Word has it Eddy had to go to the hospital from shock after this. THAT?S how bad it was. Just abso-fucking-lutely brutal. Lucky for them the referees don’t seem to be squeamish. I think the blood probably adds a star to the rating, and it’ll probably lead to a street fight or something. The match?s aftermath on the other hand was something I didn’t want to end. I wanted to see Eddy beat JBL?s head in. I wanted more chairshots, more blood, and more of Eddy beating the everloving shit out of Bradshaw until he bled twice as much as Eddy did. That doesn’t mean I want to see a rematch, but I’d watch Eddy squash JBL with multiple chairshots to the skull any day. Does that make me sadistic? Sure, but no more than watching Judgment Day in its entirety makes me a masochist.

Entertainment Level: [45%’>



Overall Interest: 119 (cringe) out of a possible 700, for a total of 17%.

Overall Entertainment: 170 out of a possible 800, for a total of roughly 21%.

Cripes. I can only hope the worst is over. When Raw is as good as it is right now, there is absolutely no excuse for Smackdown to be this bad. I want everyone to know that I am not being negative because it suits me. Come on, you people know better by now, I’m positive about all kinds of things I probably shouldn’t be positive about, and I’m STILL calling this pure, unadulterated shit. I’m not saying it sucks because I’m an internet writer, I’m saying it sucks because it sucks. So anyone who has any doubt in my convictions, dispel it right now.

The only thing that saved this (and I use ?saved? lightly) was the opening match, which fortunately was well-placed and went off without a hitch. I’m happy to see things don’t totally suck, but they?ve got a long way to go before the product is good again. I sincerely hope the buyrates of this reach an all time low, and they realize that Bradshaw is no good as a main eventer and that a heatless, talentless woman has no place in the Cruiserweight division. I also really hope they learn that when they have TWO MONTHS to build up to a PPV, they need to take full advantage of it instead of half-assing most of the card until the week before. Seriously, what happened? Did the head booker fall asleep at the wheel or something? Considering head of creative on Smackdown is Stephanie, I’m starting to think she?s having severe mood swings as a result of being pregnant with the Antichrist.

Now watch them make an angle out of that.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #154: Judgment Day 2004 – Point

Well, this is a first. There have been PPVs that I?ve been disinterested in before, but I?ve gone to see them live anyway. I usually go to a friend?s house, pitch in five bucks, and watch the show over there. On the rare occasion (and I mean rare, in that it?s only happened once in the time that I?ve been following this routine) that they don’t get the PPV, I go to a local sports bar, pay five bucks at the door, and watch it there. This time? No dice. I don’t feel like it. I’m just not interested. WWE?s not getting any of my money for Judgment Day this month, so I’m going to another friend?s house to watch The Sopranos instead, then read the results online later. How will I do the Counterpoint, you ask? I figure it’ll be available by other means () within the week, especially since I hope many other fans follow suit and show WWE they’re not taking this shit lying down by reflecting that in very low buyrates.

What we?ve got here this month is the result of a complete failure to utilize the past two months to build to a brand exclusive, and they’re not helping their case any. For the past couple years in my ?Year in Pay Per ReView? columns, Judgment Day has ranked among the worst of the year. And my god, I can only HOPE this is the worst one of the year, because I don’t think I could take anything worse. Where Raw is currently a shining example of what to do with a wrestling show, Smackdown is a shining example of what NOT to do. Where Raw just recently put on what will probably end up being one of the best PPVs of the year, and is currently building to what looks to be another great one, Smackdown has barely built one of the worst and most shoddily put together cards I?ve ever seen. I almost can’t believe it?s the same company putting on these shows, because they’re utterly polar opposites right now.

So, you know the drill…blah, blah, blah, preview the matches in the Point, review in the Counterpoint, Interest Levels, etc. Sometimes I come up with a theme for my Interest Levels, and this month is going to be Varying Degrees of Pain. I figured it was more than appropriate.

Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie

Interest Level: Icepick under the toenails [1%’> That 1% is for Dawn Marie as eye candy. Otherwise, this is a last-minute tacked on heaping serving of indifference with a side of boring leftovers. It has no build to it, no feud, and no rhyme or reason. Though if history is any indication, maybe we should be thankful this match doesn’t have an angle driving it. This match will absolutely kill the crowd, but that?s not saying much since I doubt they’ll be all that hot anyway.

Who should win: I really don’t care.

Who will win: Torrie, because she gets naked once every 6 months.

WWE Cruiserweight Title:

Jacqueline? vs. Chavo Guerrero

Interest Level: Having to type the words ?Jacqueline is the Cruiserweight champion? [3%’> …and they told Mysterio they have ?nothing planned? for him. I can’t say I’m not interested in Chavo at all here, but I don’t really want to dignify this match with much acknowledgement. In the event that I can download the show, I’ll probably skip around through this match. You poor bastards watching it live. I can only think they did this simply as a fluke win, and Chavo?s arm tied behind his back or not, the belt had better go back to him. If there?s a bright side, I guess it?s that they can’t get much lower than this for the Cruiserweight division, aside from killing off the belt entirely. The state of the division is so fucking sad, especially when you look at the roster and see what it could be.

Who should win: Chavo Guerrero

Who will win: Chavo Guerrero

Rob Van Dam & Rey Mysterio vs. Dudley Boys

Interest Level: Your lower colon 3 hours after Taco Bell [40%’> This right here is going to be my pick for match of the night, and that?s really not saying a whole lot. The Dudleys have been pretty good since their heel turn, looking a little more motivated, but I want Heyman to be alongside them. RVD and Mysterio are together exactly why? That?s right, because they pop the crowd with their flipping spots. Never mind the fact that Mysterio?s moveset and offense puts Rob?s to shame. The four of these guys can probably work a good match if they’re given some time. And *gasp* this one actually has some build to it! Note I said some.

Who should win: Dudley Boys

Who will win: Dudley Boys

WWE Tag Team Titles:

Rico & Charlie Haas? vs. Billy Gunn & Hardcore Holly

Interest Level: Sharp stick in the eye [15%’> Wow, another match tacked on at the last minute with absolutely no reason behind it! Worse yet, it?s a title match, so it shows how badly the tag division is suffering. The only good thing about a Gunn/Holly team is that they’re out of singles ranking. That said, Rico & Haas are one of the few good things about Smackdown lately. I still feel sorry for Haas, but this angle gives him some desperately needed character. I don’t really know what else I can say about this, because there is literally nothing behind this match aside from a hell of a lot of sexual innuendo.

Who should win: Rico & Haas

Who will win: Rico & Haas

United States Title:

John Cena? vs. Rene Dupree

Interest Level: Slamming a finger in a car door [25%’> While I’ll say both men have a lot of potential, neither is quite there yet. Cena?s matches as of late have been incredibly generic, but at least he?s a fighting champion if nothing else. The last two months have been pretty much a blur, because all the matches are the exact same thing. As a heel, I can at least get into him because he has good mannerisms. But right now, his face antics are just as generic as his debut ?Ruthless Aggression? angle. Dupree…well I can’t really say much about him, because I remember very little about his matches other than the Frenchie dance, or as Tazz likes to call it, ?Heyyy, I’m a French guyyyy!?. This is another feud that could?ve been handled much better. Is there really any substance to it, or have they just randomly attacked each other all month? Generic face pops + champion = boring, so one of the two has got to go, and chasing the title might make Cena at least somewhat interesting until they decide to turn him heel again. Besides, having a French US champion would be funny.

Who should win: Rene Dupree

Who will win: Rene Dupree

Undertaker vs. Booker T

Interest Level: Hand in a deep fryer [5%’> Come on now. You can do better than this. Not only are they feuding for absolutely no reason, but this is a complete derail of Booker?s heel push. Not only that, but the angle they’re using is simply goofy…A magic bag from some voodoo lady? A hand coming out of a grave? Please, as if Undertaker?s theatrics weren’t enough. If Taker?s willing to job here, then great. But I guarantee you it won’t be clean. My guess is Mordecai will cost Taker the match, maybe taking out Paul Bearer and destroying the urn. That way Taker goes solo and Moody gets to go his own way (I’m fairly certain he?s not going to be Paul Bearer long-term). If that means a Booker push against Eddy, I’m all for it.

Who should win: Booker T

Who will win: Booker T

WWE Heavyweight Title:

Eddy Guerrero? vs. John ?Bradshaw? Layfield

Interest Level: A swarm of angry bees in your pants [30%’> I?ve shared my thoughts about JBL since his website commentary (or at least, in my time I have, since the OTC will probably be posted after this column), so I won’t rant too much here. Basically the idea was that I liked his new direction until he decided to be a dickhead. Hey, here?s a tip…if you’re getting badmouthed, try and prove the haters wrong, don’t antagonize them further. I wrote a letter to his WWE.com address telling him that I am a writer and was originally a supporter of his character, but he should really watch what he says, because his overgeneralizing insults of we Internerds may just have been the deciding factor in me not buying Judgment Day on PPV. It probably won’t make any difference, but since they seem to be all worried about buyrates, the idea that being an asshole to your fans can make your buyrates go down could very well stick out. Let him know if you feel the same way. As for Eddy Guerrero…oh god, I’m sorry Eddy. I’m so, so sorry. He?s been great since he won the title. He shows awesome intensity, he can tell a story with a mere facial expression, and he?s been cutting great promos, but he?s been a complete victim of shitty writing and bad planning. I hope the lack of quality of the PPV doesn’t reflect upon him as a champion, but I wouldn’t be surprised if WWE got the wrong idea and blamed him for bad ratings. Though I can’t possibly see how they’d think he isn’t a draw, yet fucking Bradshaw of all people is. Eddy can carry a sack of potatoes to a watchable match, but a main event title match shouldn’t simply be ?watchable?.

Who should win: Eddy Guerrero

Who will win: Eddy Guerrero

Overall Interest: 119 (cringe) out of a possible 700, for a total of 17%.

Ouch. Holy crap, is that ever low. I don’t feel like checking through each of my columns, but that might be the least interested I?ve ever been in a PPV. I have to say I can’t wait for next week, simply because I’m itching for some fresh feuds after this crap. I don’t have a whole lot else to say, because if they’re not putting forth the effort, then neither am I.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #153: The Evolution of the Orton

Looking back, there seems to have been two Randy Ortons in many people’s minds. There?s the undeserving rookie with the silver spoon who is pretty good, but not quite good enough for his push. Then there?s the one who has earned the respect of a hell of a lot of people, and proved his worth. The difference between these two Randy Ortons? A little over 20 minutes.

But wait…I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I need to address that first Orton before getting into the meat of the matter. Let me just say that I?ve never liked writing columns about a single person, but I do when I see something that stands out, especially when the issue is undeserved criticism. I did a similar thing in defense of Big Show last year. This is a little different though, because I think the undeserved criticism has died down for the most part. What I’m going to do here is take what the theme of Evolution seems to be, and apply it to a column format. That theme is past, present, and future, and there seems to be no better way to describe Orton?s career path.

The Past: The Generic Blue Chip

I think the first thing anyone needs to realize is the way they brought in Orton in the first place. He came in much like The Rock, as the so-called ?blue chipper? face. It?s a term that seems to be thrown around every time someone new comes in with a good look and is at least passable in the ring. Of course, this worked much more for Rocky, who received chants of ?Die Rocky Die? when he was pushed down our throats. Randy wasn’t quite that way. He was simply a young rookie promoted to hell and back by Jim Ross. As a general rule, people tend to dislike things they’re told to like, and it wasn’t long before the boos started coming in. I often wonder if this was intentional by WWE. Handsome, great physique, tattoos all over the place, cocky smirk, he already looked like the quintessential spoiled asshole college kid, so why not act the part? It seemed they were serious about him being a face at first, until the crowd reaction began to change. Then the ego emerged, and that, as they say, was the start of something beautiful.

Looking back, it seems like Orton?s first injury was a positive thing for his career. They wanted him on the air, and not having him able to wrestle but still hanging around (and butting in at inopportune times) was the key to making him annoying, which is a great element of any heel. Thus, the RNN (Randy News Network) was born. Injury updates seemingly coming at random times, especially at times when it would piss off the crowd. By this time they knew he had to become a full heel. He got his ball, now he just had to run with it. Upon his return, he joined up with Triple H, Batista, and Ric Flair as a part of Evolution. The group hit a major speed bump when Orton and Batista were both injured in the same match though, and so it was a while before we heard from them again. Orton fortunately healed quicker, but it?s been said that he’ll live with the pain from his broken foot for the rest of his wrestling career. Think about that every time you see his matches, that he?s always wrestling semi-hurt.

This is where the criticism came in. A young rookie who has yet to prove himself, a big muscular hoss, an old veteran long past his prime, and the political master Triple H, all in the same stable? It?s an internet critic?s wet dream. If they were to throw in a woman who can’t wrestle, and a non-wrestler who gets matches anyway, you?ve got a pile of ammunition that’ll last for years. Orton hadn’t found his niche yet though. As far as anyone was concerned, he was just ?okay? in the ring, and the reason he had his spot in the first place because he was Cowboy Bob Orton?s son. While that may be true, I never felt it was the only reason. Obviously they saw some talent in the guy. Compare his push to John Cena?s. They had very similar debuts at nearly the same time, they came into their own at about the same time, Cena?s comparable to Orton in the ring, and yet Cena?s not the son of a famous name in wrestling. What WWE was doing here was simply building new stars, something we’d practically been begging them to do for years. This is one reason I never agreed with the criticism. We pretty much got what we wanted, so no need to look a gift horse in the mouth.

What I did really like about Orton at the time that other people seemed to hate was the fact that he was still pretty green. Why would anyone like the fact that a wrestler is green? Because being undeserving of his push was the perfect tool to make everyone, marks and smarks alike, hate him. It’s the same reason I liked the Benjamin/Flair match from Backlash. It’s the green rookie against the experienced veteran. If you go back to the In Your Face column I did with John C a while back, I addressed this issue in Topic #4. What I liked about Evolution at the time was that when they were just three members, they had this little Past/Present/Future thing going on. Flair being the superstar of the past, Trips being the present, and Orton being the future. As I said, when someone tells people to like something they tend to do just the opposite, and so telling us that a rookie Orton was the superstar of the future was a brilliant move. The whole key is that nobody was supposed to like him. Nobody was supposed to think this new guy was going to make an impact. It seems they knew he’d improve with time rather than level off, and it didn’t take too long.

The Present: To Kill A Legend

An interesting fact about Randy?s recent feuds comes up when you look back on it. When Evolution first came out as a group, complete with the video package and pre-Motorhead entrance music, it was Mick Foley who they interrupted, and it was Randy Orton who got in Mick?s face. This was a good 2 months before Randy even started calling himself the ?Legend Killer?, and a good 9 months before Orton and Foley fought one-on-one in the ring. Who knows if they were really planning that far ahead, but it?s certainly noteworthy that the two of them told each other off long before directly getting involved. To be fair to the critics, over the past year many have lightened up on the issue, and have come to respect Orton. Myself, I?ve respected him for quite a while, though I didn’t really warm up to him until he first started showing signs of a heel turn. It wasn’t until he came up with his current nickname of ?Legend Killer? that I, and many others, started becoming really interested in him both as a wrestler and a character. He wasn’t just the cocky young kid anymore, he had a few credentials to back it up, and he had a gimmick that worked for him. Beating down every one of WWE?s legends that he could get his hands on, whether it was a random appearance of Jimmy Snuka or Sgt. Slaughter, or challenging Shawn Michaels and winning, or simply attacking and berating Mick Foley any time he showed up, he started to live up to the hype just a little bit more each time. A little better at promos, a little better in the ring, something only experience can give to a person.

Now to make the real point on the present-day Randy Orton. Survivor Series of last year set off a little chain of events. Evolution made sure Austin?s team lost, which in turn brought back Foley to try to reinstate him. This in turn, led to Foley?s walkout when Orton hocked a big one right in his face. And that, as well as other beatdowns and humiliations (including the brilliant ?Paid for by the friends of Randy Orton? vignettes), led to the eventual confrontation at Wrestlemania between Evolution-sans-HHH and the Rock N? Sock Connection, as well as what should probably prove to be the final confrontation, in the return of Cactus Jack at Backlash. Through this whole feud, it wasn’t Foley carrying Orton, it wasn’t Evolution carrying Orton, it was Orton coming into his own as a serious competitor and a character. There were still doubts as to whether he deserved his spot, but they were fading for the most part. Backlash was where the ?other? Randy Orton emerged. The hardcore match against Cactus Jack. Wearing only wrestling trunks and boots, he went back first into a pile of tacks, as well as a bed of barbed wire, in his first ever hardcore match.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that Randy Orton has earned his spot in the company, to put it simply, I’d like to see you try that. Now, am I saying he?s perfect? No, of course not. I still think he?s got a ways to go in the ring, and a ways to go as a character before he?s in that top slot. I wouldn’t put the World title on him for at least another year or more. What I’m saying is something I brought up in my Backlash Counterpoint. He?s not just there for his look, or because he?s a third-generation wrestler. He?s there because he wants to be. He?s there because he?s willing to do what it takes to put on a great show. There should no longer be any doubt of that, like him or not. What I think is possibly the most effective part of this is that Orton?s actions in this match basically said, ?Mick Foley?s nothing special. I can do what he can do.? After all, what?s a Hardcore Legend if you can top him?

The Future: Top 5 Asses I’d Like to See Randy Orton Kick

While I still wish there was more contention over the Intercontinental title, I think having it around his waist has brought nothing but good things. It?s going to become a huge deal when someone beats him for it, and it looks like that someone may be Shelton Benjamin. Most recently, we have just seen Randy Orton punk out Harley Race, spitting right in his face and threatening him, until Shelton Benjamin made the save. While I’m absolutely loving the prospect of a Benjamin/Orton feud over the IC title, I think once Orton drops the title, he could do well to continue his Legend Killer crusade. I think the angle?s got plenty of life left in it, even though he?s now calling himself a ‘living legend?. The way he can keep it up is by doing what he did on Raw, which is try to prove he?s a better legend than any of the others. I think Benjamin would be great with Race as a mentor, if that?s what they’re getting at. I think WWE has good enough relations with their former stars to bring them in for a beating now and then. We could go the Bob Backlund route, or maybe Jesse Ventura, but there are a few ideas that could make Orton?s future, and his build to the top, be that much more interesting.

5) Harley Race: If he is to become Shelton?s mentor/manager in any capacity, let him be the first to fall. He looks as though he could probably still prove himself, but despite his best efforts, he’d lose.

4) Undertaker: This is a bit of a longshot, because there are very few opportunities for this to happen. I can see it happening if either Taker or Orton are traded, but I think they’re both currently fine where they are. The other way to do it is a joint-brand PPV such as Summerslam, or Survivor Series. If it?s built up properly, they could build an inter-promotional feud here. It?s not like Taker even shows up for his own feuds anyway, right?

3) Cowboy Bob Orton: Who better of a legend to shatter than his own father? I don’t know if Bob Orton still has it in him, but one would assume Randy?s father wouldn’t approve of his son disrespecting all the people he used to wrestle with. Given the right timing and angle, or even just a segment ending in an RKO on his father, Randy could make a big impact by committing ‘legend patricide?, in a manner of speaking.

2) Hulk Hogan: Considering that Hogan?s relations with WWE aren’t the greatest right now, this would have to be a special occasion, like, say…Wrestlemania. If he were paid enough for one more match, I’m sure he’d do it. Quite frankly, no matter how you slice it, there is no bigger ‘legend? in WWE than Hogan. They made him what he is, and he made them what they are. He?s the biggest icon that anyone remembers from WWF, and while I wouldn’t want to see him back long term, I do want to see Orton beat him at some point. If nothing else, it would look great on his resume.

1) Ric Flair: This is the inevitable one. The one that has to happen sometime. Flair?s been such a mentor to all of Evolution, and it really shows. Not just Triple H, but Orton and Batista have all been subtly emulating Flair in the ring, and trying to on the mic, since the group formed. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this turns out to be Flair?s true retirement match. Who better to put away Flair for good than not only the Legend Killer, but the student of the mentor himself? Regardless of whether the last four suggestions ever happen, I want this one to happen, and to be a HUGE deal. Orton can be the unfeeling dick who puts away the ultimate legend, and you know Flair would put some real emotion into the build for it, if it was truly his last hurrah. The kind of feud that keeps people talking for years, something that rarely happens anymore in wrestling.

The purpose of this column isn’t really to say that Randy Orton is god, or that he?s going to be at any point in his career. The main purpose is to say that when he does make it to that main event level, he’ll be ready for it. Furthermore, when he gets to that point, I’ll be ready for it too. In a way, maybe it?s also to say he never was that bad to begin with. That he’s not only been pushed very intelligently, but he’s handled his push well too. That even if you doubt his ability both in the ring and on the mic, you can’t doubt his passion. Even if that ends up being the only great thing about him. Fortunately, I don’t think it will be.

Mark (over and) out.

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A Mark’s View: #152: Backlash 2004 – Counterpoint

I’ll say it right here and now: Edmonton, I love you. An amazing crowd can really make a show that much better, even when the matches suck. Fortunately for Backlash, they didn’t. With the exception of the meaningless last-minute tag match, there wasn’t a single match that I would call ?bad? on the entire show. With a few extra little tweaks here and there, Raw could be well on their way to figuring out a great, consistent formula for the brand-exclusive PPVs. The crowd was even hot for the Venis/Hardy match on Heat, which surprisingly got a good 10 minutes or so, and was a pretty good back and forth match. At the end of the night, I felt very satisfied. Everything that needed to happen happened, and they did a damn good job of impressing me along the way. It?s a rare occasion when I can say that.

So, for the uninitiated, here?s how the Counterpoint works. First, you may want to go back and check out the Point preview column. Like any great movie sequel, you don’t have to see the first one to ?get? the second one, but it definitely helps. Here, I flash back to that column several times, comparing and contrasting my previews with my actual reactions to the matches after having seen them. Then, to juxtapose my Interest Level from the beginning of each previewed match, at the end of each reviewed match I’ll provide you with my Entertainment Level as I see it.

Shelton Benjamin vs. Ric Flair



Interest Level: ?Fallen Angel? Christopher Daniels [90%’> The only reason this isn’t higher is because Flair and Benjamin haven’t been directly built against each other for any more than a week now. Still, I have to hand it to them regarding Benjamin. They’re quickly building a new star out of barely any previous establishment, and they hit their mark in only one week. While I’m still wishing they had set up a HHH/Benjamin rematch here, and let Benoit and HBK do their own thing, I can deal with this because I know Flair will make Shelton look good. That?s what Flair does. He knows how the business works and he knows when to put over a younger talent. After this, I can see Shelton continuing to go after Evolution, but since he?s already beaten Trips, I’m already drooling in anticipation over the potential Randy Orton/Shelton Benjamin feud over the Intercontinental title. Am I the only one who thinks a major feud between those two would bring the IC belt back up to where it should be? Those are the two to do it, if anyone is.

Who should win: Shelton Benjamin

Who will win: Shelton Benjamin


Actual winner: Shelton Benjamin

A good warmup match that got the crowd heavily into things. As usual, Ric Flair bumped and made good use of psychology to tell a good story here. Benjamin was leaping all over the place until Flair started going for the knee, grounding him and softening him up for the Figure 4. One thing I thought was pretty funny is that if you pay close attention, Flair dropped the brass knuckles no less than three times during this match. Once at the beginning, once outside the ring, and a third time at the end. Makes me wonder how he kept getting them back, or maybe he just had three sets. I’m not going to say it was excellent, but it was good. Above average, at any rate. I’m going to refer more to the concepts of the match than the match itself though… What I don’t understand is how people are already criticizing Shelton for ‘looking too green? in this match and already discounting him as a future superstar. Some of you people are complete idiots if you’re already snapping to that judgment. The guy?s just started his first singles push in WWE for all of three weeks and he?s supposed to never make a rookie mistake or show any sign of hesitation? If nothing else, that solidified for me the whole ‘rookie vs. veteran? connotation about this match. Furthermore, they’re building a new star with talent and some people are complaining. Ahh, such is my love/hate relationship with the internet. Love the friends I?ve made and the creative outlets, hate all the whiners who start complaining immediately after one match or a 30 second segment. Should Benjamin stop being pushed now that he didn’t put on a ***** match with Flair? Of course not. Shelton Benjamin is living up to his potential one step at a time and I’m not complaining a bit. The really bright side is that if Shelton?s already this good now, just wait a few years. He?s better than Brock Lesnar when he started out in singles, and look what Lesnar became. Flair pulled off everything he needed to here, and Benjamin kept up well. Only a slight lowering of the grade because it could?ve been longer.

Entertainment Level: [85%’>

Tajiri vs. Jonathan Coachman



Interest Level: Sinister Minister [15%’> Much like Father James Mitchell, this is equal parts entertaining and goofy. If it remains Tajiri vs. Coachman, I can’t see it being a good match, but if they involve Al Snow in it again, I could see it being interesting. I spotted the Al Snow cameo almost right away as soon as I noticed the ?ninja? had an eerily familiar beard under the mask, and the attempted Snowplow solidified it for me. I suppose it was a nod to the short-lived gimmick he had a while back. The main problem with this is, I can’t imagine where Tajiri will be going from here. They brought him from Smackdown, out of a somewhat solid run in the Cruiserweight division, to feud with a backstage reporter and B-show commentator, of all people. What?s he going to do if he wins? Feud with Jerry Lawler? What?s he going to do if he loses? Feud with Rue? That said, I wouldn’t mind a Tajiri/Snow feud, but it doesn’t look like that?s going to happen. This match should be pretty short, consisting of a swift kick to Coachman?s head, and that?s about it.

Who should win: Tajiri

Who will win: Tajiri


Actual winner: Coach

Boy, was that preview ever wrong. It?s been said already I’m sure, but this match was better than a Jonathan Coachman match had any right to be. Sure, Coach didn’t really look like a pro or anything, but it?s nice to see that he learned a few moves and actually executed them well. At first I didn’t think that him getting any sort of advantage over Tajiri looked believable at all, but then I figured maybe he just caught Tajiri off guard. It would make sense that Tajiri got a little cocky going into this. Now it appears because of the ending that Coach is with ?Default Man? Garrison Cade, which is fine with me, because Coach could end up making a good heel manager. I’d like Tajiri to get a higher profile feud after his jump to Raw, but this isn’t a bad start. Not a great match by any stretch of the imagination, but entertaining and surprising at the very least. I’d say I liked this about twice as much as I expected I would.

Entertainment Level: [30%’>

Chris Jericho vs. Christian & Trish Stratus



Interest Level: Brother Love [55%̵