Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to 8-Match Tag. I’m Sean. You’re not. This little house party jointly thrown by the Comer Codex and The Chairshot is your sensible portion of themed prime cuts from the WWE Network’s finest reserves, an eight-course meal conceived to introduce new wrestling initiates to the finest facets of the squared circle and satisfy a seasoned fan’s refined palate.
Professional wrestling is a visually nuanced storytelling medium. Despite some leeway for creative malleability with ideal pieces in place, such as a daring booker and the right performers to deliver a match’s narrative, there’s a certain inherent logic to pushing some workers based on their appearances. That being said, many observers could and would readily argue that Vince McMahon’s sweaty McBoner for any Big McLargeHuge that strolled past Titan Tower in the 1980s gave way to ingrained physique prejudices responsible for several generations of fans looking at certain individuals through some unfortunately strict blinders. Sometimes, the right man or woman in the right place at the right time chiseled at cracks they uniquely created in that aesthetic glass ceiling until it shattered. In other instances, the Cult of McMahonism dismissively waved off brilliant in-ring artists whose forms didn’t evoke daydreams of Superstar Billy Graham, Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior or “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
I present to you, the jury, these eight gifted performers whose bodies of work would give any skeptic grounds to question everything they have ever accepted about kinesiology, agility, strength and the core definition of “fitness.”
As (almost) always, in no particular order and paired individually with an essential-viewing recommendation from WWE Network itself…
Pete Senercia stands an unremarkable 5 feet 9 inches tall. That distinctly average stature gives him an insignificant height advantage over his trainer, WWE Hall of Famer Johnny Rodz, but it left him awkwardly dwarfed by the vast majority of his wrestling peers. You would have enjoyed ample company if you wrote him off as being built too similarly to a fire hydrant for anyone to take the Brooklyn-born brawler remotely seriously as a plausible champion. In turn, he would have made you eat your words and love every bite.
In his prime, Taz was a tenacious 250-pound pit bull with a legitimate judo black belt, an Empire State Heavyweight Championship won as a young amateur wrestler and the jaw-dropping strength to hang with the likes of Chris Benoit, Sabu, Rob Van Dam and more among ECW’s stiffest, most physically gruelling performers. Every single night, he earned his nickname’s absolute believability as “the Human Suplex Machine,” often chucking men standing a full ahead above him halfway across the ring. What he lacked in inches, he made up in psychology and explosive power.
WHAT TO WATCH: TAZ vs. BAM BAM BIGELOW – ECW LIVING DANGEROUSLY, MARCH 1, 1998
(NOTE: For the record, Bigelow himself was an astonishing super-heavyweight whose 390-pound body could twirl effortlessly through flawless cartwheels and a gorgeous moonsault.)
Yes, Cesaro. Hear me out.
When you picture John Cena, Big E and Mark Henry, you appropriately invoke an understandable description of men with bodies sculpted to bear the burden of Atlas himself upon their own shoulders. Every lean, outsized muscle ripples beneath tightly stretched skin, every inch of which might as well be tattooed with their personal-best bench presses and curl routines. Cesaro stands an impressive 6 feet 5 inches and weighs in at a sizable 232 pounds himself, but if forming an impression based purely on his physique’s definition, your average onlooker might never remotely dream that his functional athleticism could easily rival the lifting capacity of all three men listed above.
The key word? Functional. Cesaro himself has stated he doesn’t place a great deal of stock in how much dead weight he can press, row or squat. Not only has he twirled the mammoth Great Khali’s 7-feet-1-inch body suspended in the air for around 30 consecutive seconds without scarcely straining himself and scoop-slammed all 400 pounds of The Big Show over the top rope, but the Swiss Superman routinely dives through the ropes with the smooth trajectory of Sin Cara or Kalisto and has even developed an admirable take on Rey Mysterio’s 619. This bastion of perfect muscular efficiency possesses an unparalleled mastery of every fiber and nerve that pairs phenomenally with a genius wrestling IQ.
WHAT TO WATCH: 2 OUT OF 3 FALLS, CESARO vs. SAMI ZAYN – SAMI ZAYN: NEVER BE THE SAME (WWE NETWORK COLLECTIONS)
3. KASSIUS OHNO
Paired once upon a time with Cesaro (then wrestling under his given name, Claudio Castagnoli) as one-half of the Kings of Wrestling, WWE.com recently featured the knockout artist once known as Chris Hero in an eye-opening featurette memorable for stating exactly what I myself am only recently rising to appreciate: Ohno’s uncanny muscle memory allows him to continue nipping up, executing immaculate front flips, diving on a run into the ring through the bottom two ropes and executing other feats capable of making body-obsessed fans want to meekly apologize for even quietly thinking his 280-pound, fairly soft body has no place inside an NXT or WWE ring.
Rumors circulated after Ohno’s release from his initial NXT run in 2013 that he had run afoul of WWE brass by refusing to address criticism of his appearance. Just exactly what measure of truth that chatter held remains up for debate, but to be fair, he indeed was not quite the svelte young man who had first made his bones in Chikara, Ring of Honor, Combat Zone Wrestling and elsewhere around the world years prior. It didn’t help that Ohno has always favored wearing his hair long and pairing it with a full face of scruff. Also, he did continue to put on weight after leaving.
Remarkably, he somehow did so without sacrificing an iota of nimble maneuverability. His cyclone kick is a thing of beauty. He gets air and velocity beneath a running senton that would make Bray Wyatt and Samoa Joe proud. Let the record show, you sometimes never know just what a man can do between the ropes until the bell rings.
WHAT TO WATCH: NO DISQUALIFICATIONS, KASSIUS OHNO vs. HIDEO ITAMI – NXT, SEPTEMBER 6, 2017
4. SAMOA JOE
Is he same prodigy who tore through a 21-month ROH World Championship reign followed by a 17-month undefeated streak in TNA? No. Samoa Joe is older, arguably heavier and barely a stitch less athletically remarkable than he was more than 10 years ago. He also happens to be a more seasoned in-ring storyteller.
Can you imagine standing outside the ring and trying to steel yourself for moment a 280-pound slab of beef rockets through the top and middle ropes in your direction? At 38 years old, Joe can still nail that exact spot every single time. That’s hardly all there is to him though. There’s the slick step-up enziguri. Throw in the unfathomable rate at which he covers ground across the ring. Don’t ever doubt that he can still go for 30 minutes or more on any given night. Finally, never underestimate his own judo, jiu-jitsu and wrestling pedigree.
He might not, as the late Dusty Rhodes once said of himself, “look like the athlete of the day is supposed to look.” He doesn’t need to, either. The man is flexible, fast and superbly conditioned by years of boxing, martial arts and wrestling tutelage. The Samoan Submission Machine defies every last notion of what a fine-tuned physical punishment machine should resemble. After all, the man has been stretching and wearing out leaner men since I was in college.
WHAT TO WATCH: NXT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH, FINN BALOR © vs. SAMOA JOE – NXT TAKEOVER: DALLAS, APRIL 1, 2016
5. BIG BOSS MAN
The late Ray Traylor has never and might never receive the appreciation his surprising versatility merits. That reality followed him his entire career.
Jim Cornette once told a story of the day Traylor arrived to work under Rhodes’ booking in Jim Crockett Promotions. Fresh from his earliest training, Rhodes paired the 300-pound-plus man soon to be known as Big Bubba Rogers with Tully Blanchard, a technical maestro who stood only 5 feet 10 inches and weighed a modest 200 pounds. For a finish, the 6-foot-6 Traylor insisted on taking Blanchard’s slingshot vertical suplex finisher. Cornette and Rhodes doubted the giant, stocky former prison guard’s ability to play his part in pulling the move off…right up until he actually did it.
Think about it: that wasn’t even his final form. Shortly after a 1990 face turn in the World Wrestling Federation, the Big Boss Man would drop a boatload of weight and develop the ability to zip under the bottom rope like Shawn Michaels, throw a gorgeous standing crescent kick, bump like Curt Hennig and throw punches like a heavyweight prospect. He was a physical marvel from the beginning who never stopped learning and became leaner, meaner and more mobile, agile and hostile than even the American Dream and Cornette would have likely supposed he could have.
WHAT TO WATCH: BIG BOSS MAN vs. THE BARBARIAN – WWF ROYAL RUMBLE 1991, JANUARY 19, 1991
(NOTE: OK, I can’t help but fudge my format a bit. Alternately, I would also throw in his Wrestlemania VII Intercontinental Championship match with Hennig or his SummerSlam 1991 feud-ending Jailhouse Match with The Mountie. I tend to favor the Barbarian match for this list mostly because it displays just how effectively Traylor could bump and sell and make anyone look like a million bucks, but all three are fine examples of everything fun he brought to the table.)
6. KEVIN OWENS
The Prizefighter once earned an unsavory reputation early in his career for a stubborn refusal to work himself into the kind of presentable trim that would allow him to work without a shirt. Cornette has often cited that exact obstinate state of mind as a driving reason he wanted Owens gone from ROH as soon as possible.
I’m a Cult of Cornette disciple through and through, but even then, that perception has never struck me as anything less than baffling hypocrisy from a man once wowed by the aforementioned Traylor’s own spryness. Granted, Owens has worked himself into greatly improved condition since arriving first in NXT and then WWE, but he was jaw-droppingly fast and smooth in the air even then. From his cannonball splash and masterful swanton to a rarely deployed top-rope moonsault after executing a jumping 180-degree turn, Owens’ 266 pounds don’t do justice to just how primed his body is for the ring.
Here’s what really gets me, though. It isn’t merely the acrobatics. You simply don’t look at a raw-boned fellow like KO and expect his endurance. From one match to the next, he rarely needs a prolonged “rest” spot or comes across as blown-up or sloppy. He hits a high, steady gear from the start and just never takes his foot off the gas. In any given era, he would be a walking, talking sack of money.
WHAT TO WATCH: KEVIN OWENS vs. JOHN CENA – WWE ELIMINATION CHAMBER, MAY 31, 2015
7. BROCK LESNAR (RUTHLESS AGGRESSION ERA)
No. Nope. No way.
Yes, the South Dakota-born Beast Incarnate is every ounce as strong as you would expect from gawking at him. Let it surprise no one that, in only his second UFC bout, he caved in Heath Herring’s eye socket and quite literally chased the Texas Crazy Horse right out of the sport. Prior to that, this is the man who repeatedly ragdolled The Big Show from one corner of the ring to the other with a symphony of suplexes. We get it. He is a comic-book monster come to life.
However, nothing and no one built of hate, steel, hellfire and muscle in such massive quantities as Lesnar can actually jump flat-footed from the arena floor to the ring apron, vault over the top rope and land a Shooting-Star Press off the top rope. You know, that aerial move made famous by cruiserweight star Billy Kidman? Cruiserweight, as in, “weighs under 205 pounds?”
Human beings just don’t work that way, right?
WHAT TO WATCH: WWE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH, KURT ANGLE © vs. BROCK LESNAR – WRESTLEMANIA XIX, MARCH 30, 2003
(NOTE: Yes, I know he missed the Shooting-Star Press and could have damn near broken his absolutely everything. Two things: one, go ahead and marvel at the fact he finished the damn match and needed scarcely any time off after to heal; and two, verified accounts have him hitting that move consistently while training in OVW.)
8. THE UNDERTAKER
As if I would have chosen anybody else.
I can sum this up with a then-ongoing debate I once carried on with my good friend Jeremy many years ago. Watching TNA at one point, he marveled at Sonjay Dutt’s version of The Undertaker’s rope-walk. Wrench the arm. Walk up to the top turnbuckle. Walk along the top rope to the center and jump down with a fist drop on an opponent’s shoulder.
“He does that even better than The Undertaker,” Jeremy suggested.
“No, he really doesn’t,” I retorted.
“What makes you say that?”
“Let me ask you something, Jeremy: is Sonjay Dutt nearly 7 feet tall and around 300 pounds?”
More than that, The Undertaker could flatout go. Even when he reached the mileage point of being able to break out his running vault over the top rope only at WrestleMania, you never truly appreciated his freakish endurance until you saw him paired with someone who, on paper, should have run circles around him. His staggering wind comes into greater context when one theorizes that he picked up more than a nifty late-career finisher from his many years as an ardent MMA and boxing fan. The Dead Man may have very well been a pioneer of wrestlers training like legitimate combat-sport athletes. I wonder if years worth of colleagues were simply scared to try and tell him, “You know bodies your size aren’t meant to do MOST of what you do, right?”
WHAT TO WATCH: WWE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH, KURT ANGLE © vs. UNDERTAKER – WWE NO WAY OUT, FEBRUARY 19, 2006
We’re going home, kids. Thank you all for joining me once again. If you have love, hate or respectful disagreements to share, drop me a line on Twitter @comercodex any time. Dig what you read and want to know what else I get up to when I’m not spilling my guts about the Sport of Kings here? I’m on Twitch nearly every evening from 6 p.m. CT at Twitch.tv/comercodex playing all manner of PS4 games to rush through my backlog.
I’m Sean. You’re not. Never dull your colors for someone else’s canvas. Time to tag out.
It’s Time For WWE To Reunite The Wyatt Family
Given all of their strife over the past year, Carol thinks it’s time for WWE to bring a family back together–The Wyatt Family!
Out of all the wrestling stables in recent years, The Wyatt Family stands out as one of the most intriguing groups. The trio consisting of Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, and Erick Rowan made their main roster debut in the summer of 2013.
From the moment they stepped into the ring, the stable piqued the interest of the WWE Universe. Bray Wyatt was perfect as the menacing cult leader, who preached about saving the world from darkness. Harper and Rowan excelled in their roles as Bray’s followers, doing whatever their leader commanded.
The group grew bigger when Braun Strowman joined the stable, making them a force to be reckoned with.
Yet, like many wrestling stables, The Wyatt Family soon disbanded. After their split, the four men have gone on to have decent singles careers with some ups and downs along the way.
Braun Strowman has been the member to have the best career.He’s gone on to become one of WWE’s top guys and has competed in numerous matches for the Universal Championship. While he hasn’t won the coveted title yet, Strowman has won over fans, who are strong supporters of The Monster Among Men.
Bray Wyatt also achieved a great amount of success by becoming WWE champion along with two-time tag team champion. As for Harper and Rowan, they’re run as singles competitors was a little rocky. But the two men would team up as The Bludgeon Brothers and became one of Smackdown’s top tag teams.
Currently, all four men are out of action. Strowman, Harper, and Rowan are dealing with injuries. As for Bray, he hasn’t been seen since July when he and Matt Hardy lost the RAW tag titles. But in recent days, he’s been hinting at a return, promising a something different.
While Bray hasn’t been on television in months, he did make an appearance during the Starrcade house show a few weeks ago, when he wrestled Baron Corbin. Bray’s involvement at Starrcade has led to speculation that he’ll be making his return at the upcoming TLC PPV during Braun and Corbin’s match.
If Bray does return to help Braun, does that mean that a Wyatt Family reunion is in the works?
It seems possible and to be honest this could be the best thing to happen to the group.
As I stated earlier, the men have had ups and downs in their singles careers. Braun’s momentum has faltered since losing his Universal Championship match against Brock Lesnar. Bray has been just one of the many wrestlers who’ve suffered at the hands of WWE creative team.
From a storyline point, you could have Bray come back to help Braun resurrect the monster that Strowman is. With Bray’s guidance, Braun could gain back some of the momentum he’s lost and become a dominant force among the roster.
As for Harper and Rowan, they too could benefit from a Wyatt Family reunion. The two have struggled following the disbanding of the group.Yet, with them part of the stable again, they’ll be back in the spotlight as they take on their roles as Bray’s enforcers.
There’s no telling what WWE has planned for Bray, but with Wyatt’s recent tweets and TLC coming up, it’s going to be interesting to see if The Eater of Worlds makes an appearance and sets up a Wyatt Family reunion.
Are We Really Even Fans Anymore?
Rey Ca$h looks to speak some truth into your life about your hatred of WWE Raw!
On April 3rd, 2016, The Walking Dead went from the biggest show on television to one riddled with controversy. This particular episode is the infamous one where Negan, the biggest of all the big bads, makes his debut and kills an unknown member of Rick’s crew with Lucille, his barbed wire bat. We don’t see who it is and we are forced to wait 6 months to find out who died and what all happened.
Why am I talking about The Walking Dead on a wrestling website? I bring up this show, and in particular this episode, for one major reason. The fan reaction to it was vitriolic. Some fans hated it. Some loved it. Everybody had an opinion. But for a large number of fans, that was where the show crossed the line. Funny thing is, if you read the comics that the show is largely pulled from, this was a paramount storyline that was always going to have to happen on the show. So essentially, fans were told EXACTLY what was going to happen, even down to the smallest details, and they revolted.
You Hate Raw.
The vitriol spewed at the WWE currently, particularly Monday Night Raw, is stronger than ever. The thing is, however, WWE has never lied about what type of show Raw is. It’s a variety entertainment hour featuring wrestling. And yes, ratings are down, but they’re consistently one of the top 5 shows watched every night on cable. So, do the ratings really matter when nobody’s watching anything else either?
I understand that we as fans have an intrinsic right to feel how we are led to about the product we are given. For many, Raw is sub-par to terrible. I get that and respect that. I even echo that to a small extent. But I’ve started to wonder one major question as of late – are we really even fans anymore?
I hate to go all literal on you guys, but Merriam-Webster defines fan in this particular respect as “an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator; an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit).” We all know that the word fan is derived from the word fanatic, as these definitions allude to. Have we thought, however, about how that really affects us? Do we think about what type of fan we are? How our fandom affects that which we are said fans of???
The WWE needs no sympathy. They’re a billion-dollar company, thriving in a business sense that was never before thought possible. But these criticisms…if we think deeply into them, is it really because the show is that bad, or is it because we’re not fans of what the product is anymore? Let me give you an example.
Gregg Popovich, super successful and championship winning coach of the San Antonio Spurs, was in the news recently because he mentioned that he thinks the current NBA is not beautiful anymore. The game, which has progressed from slower, more stylistic and cerebral play to quicker, more skill laden play, isn’t what he’s used to anymore. Add to that the empowerment of the player in this generation and the rise of super-teams, and many fans tend to agree with Coach Pop. The NBA has jumped the shark for many. For others, however, it’s the best it’s ever been. It’s massively entertaining, it’s breeding more stars than ever, and the skill is at an all-time high.
This reminds me of wrestling, WWE in particular. This generation of fans seems to be primarily interested in in ring prowess and “workrate”, choosing to focus on sequences of moves and characters that only resonate with them. Older generations, however, were largely intrigued by the characters and the stories told, with promo ability being lauded even more than in ring ability. A great match was only great because the story allowed it to be. Neither side is wrong, but much like if you watch CZW, you can expect hardcore style wrestling, if you watch Monday Night Raw, you can expect story driven television.
But What Is Raw?
Let’s take a look at the show from an analytical perspective. We have to acknowledge, from the beginning, that 5 of the top 8 male stars on the brand are out for significant periods of time. Roman Reigns is facing the fight of his life with leukemia, Braun has had his second surgery in years on his elbow, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will be out possibly past WrestleMania season because of major surgeries, and the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar is somewhere on his farm. All criticisms must acknowledge this.
So, the major stories for the guys on the show revolve around Baron Corbin as General Manager Elect, and Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose’s blood feud revisited. For the women, Ronda Rousey is locked in a heated feud with Nia Jax and her cousin Tamina, and Natalya is out for personal revenge against the dastardly Ruby Riott and her Riott Squad. I ask you to think seriously about this question I’m about to ask you guys. What do all four of those feuds have in common?
They’re all story driven.
Corbin is drunk with power, abusing it to his whim. As such, he’s gained allies who want to be at the top, and are using Corbin’s power to hold their enemies down. Rollins and Ambrose have a near biblical feud, revolving around a very real and personal issue of betrayal. Ronda Rousey faced her toughest challenge recently against Becky Lynch and Charlotte, and Nia, who broke Becky’s face, wants to get back the title that she lost due to a cash in and beat the “Baddest Woman On The Planet” to prove her dominance. Ruby Riott broke Natalya’s late father, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart’s sunglasses, destroying a personal heirloom of Nattie’s. Natalya wants to get personal revenge for that and the multiple attacks that the Riott Squad have given her.
All four of those are Raw style stories. They are largely told through promos and backstage vignettes, they are riddled with drama, and they are building to a crescendo. The stories can always be told better, but are you sure you’re not against the stories before they’re even told to you because of your expectations?
Look at Dean Ambrose for example. We’ve long salivated at the thought of a truly unhinged, heel Ambrose. Instead, we get a germophobic, cerebral, emotional Dean. In a sense, the emotionless lunatic has turned into the over emotional thinker. And many fans are down on it. Why??? The promos have been fantastic. The cat and mouse game he’s played with “The Architect” have been wonderful.
But, it’s not what we expected. And to add to that fact, it’s not what we wanted.
That take is not only unfair, but it’s a hindrance to everybody involved in telling that story. The people with that take have essentially said that they refuse to let WWE tell them a story because it’s not what they want. That is MASSIVELY different than being told a story in full and not enjoying it.
I legitimately ask you all, which side are you on? Not liking things because it’s not what you wanted or expected, or reacting to what you’re being given. I’d bet good money it’s the former.
My goal in this column is not to tell any of you that you’re wrong in your opinions. I’m not even trying to advocate for Raw – if you listen to Chairshot Radio or The Outsider’s Edge, you’ll see that I criticize the show just as much as you guys. My point in this is simply to push you to step back and look at the big picture. Re-evaluate what you think you want. Ask yourself are you giving the show a legitimate chance, or are you already against the show before they get a chance to entertain you. Then, maybe you’ll realize that Raw doesn’t need to change when they’re being who they’ve always been. Maybe them not changing isn’t the problem. Maybe you’re the one who needs to change. Maybe we all are.