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8-Match Tag: WWE Network Evidence That Looks Can Be Deceiving

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WWE Tazz

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…

1. TAZZ/TAZ

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.)

2. CESARO

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?

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?”

“Good point.”

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.


Always Use Your Head and visit the official Pro Wrestling Tees store for The Chairshot All t-shirt proceeds help support the advancement of your favorite hard-hitting wrestling website, The Chairshot!


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Is Shinsuke Nakamura Right Where He Belongs In WWE?

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Shinsuke Nakamura is one of the top stars working in the pro wrestling business today. That’s due in large part of course to his proven track record in New Japan Pro Wrestling. But it’s also due to his time in WWE. But some fans are wondering where he stands today.

Nakamura is a born entertainer, there is no denying that. He has the ability to turn on his charisma at the push of a button and it may very well be that he never turns it off. Shinsuke looks and acts like a star because he is one. He has a full understanding of how to play the game and very few play it better than he does. So is he right where he belongs?

Many would argue he’s not and that’s understandable. He was so hot in New Japan that imagining him as anything any less was impossible when he left the company. He was the rockstar of New Japan and he embraced that role like no one before him ever had. It was logical to assume that his success would directly translate to WWE’s main stage.

Of course that assumption was perhaps not rooted in reality. WWE didn’t exactly have the best track record when it came to promoting Japanese Superstars. Then there was the fact that many independent talents were often encouraged to change their gimmicks upon arriving in Vince McMahon’s company. But there was reason to hope for the best.

This is not the same WWE that so many indie stars encountered in the past. This WWE embraced the independent scene and used that fact to its advantage. WWE does not force a guy to change who he is, merely for the sake of trying something new. In fact many Superstars are now extensions of their former selves. WWE allows them to bring what they have to the table so they can expand upon it.

It’s true that WWE’s treatment of Japanese talents has been less than stellar but Shinsuke Nakamura is an exceptionally gifted athlete. There was just no way that WWE, or any other company, could ever look at him and not see him for the star that he is. So if he’s allowed to be himself and if he’s given an opportunity to impress on the main event level, then what would stop him from excelling in WWE?

Shinsuke Nakamura came in like a star and that’s exactly how he was booked. WWE did right by him and much to everyone’s surprise, Shinsuke did get the red carpet treatment. He conquered NXT, just as many knew he would. But he also received an impressive amount of spotlight when he came to the main roster. 

Nakamura was presented as a respected athlete known around the world because that’s exactly what he is. The company knew what it had with him and any doubt as to WWE’s ability to properly book him was gone. This was the Shinsuke Nakamura that everyone wanted. He was the real deal.

But somewhere along the way, things began to go a bit south. Nakamura’s heel turn at WrestleMania 34 was shocking and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it was completely out of character for him. Yes, Nakamura had been a vicious heel in New Japan. He was fully capable of turning on anyone at any time and he would do it with a smile on his face. However, that was The King of Strong Style. 

This Nakamura is The Artist. His canvass is the WWE ring and his artwork is beyond compare. Shinsuke was popular because he was different. He was over because he was unique. His flair for the dramatic set him apart from everyone else and it made him a must-see WWE Superstar. He was indeed an attraction.

But the moment he turned on AJ Styles was the moment he put the WWE Championship above his art. Nakamura was no longer an exceptional character capable of wowing an audience of millions. Now he was just another heel with an agenda. What made him special was overshadowed by what made him typical. Shinsuke was just like everyone else. But is that really the case?

Nakamura has thrived in many respects since WrestleMania 34. He was able to use a different side of his personality and he learned to get over in different ways. Instead of using his crowd-pleasing character to make the fans smile, he now uses it to make them recoil in confusion. What’s wrong with him? Why does he act like this? What happened to the lovable guy we once knew?

Now his character is more enigmatic than ever before. Was The Artist persona merely just a mask he wore to fool everyone and now he’s finally showing the world his true self? Is he now Batman when he previously had everyone believing he was Bruce Wayne? Shinsuke Nakamura is fully immersing himself in this twisted version that WWE fans didn’t even know existed. But most importantly, he’s loving every minute of it.

There’s a reason why Shinsuke Nakamura is the United States champion. That belt could have landed on any number of SmackDown Live Superstars but it currently sits on Nakamura’s waist. Why? Because he can wear it like no one else can and because he’s a Japanese Superstar that came to WWE with dreams of doing great work on the worldwide stage. That’s exactly what he’s doing and he doesn’t need the main event in order to do it. 

Would fans love to see him as WWE champion? Yes. Could he wear that title and add value to it? Absolutely. Does he need it in order for fans to consider him successful? Absolutely not. Shinsuke Nakamura may not be the top guy and he may not be the face of WWE but he is an important piece of the presentation. But is that enough?

The fact is that Nakamura will probably leave WWE one day. He will likely return to New Japan and reclaim his throne as The King of Strong Style. But until then, fans have a chance to enjoy one of the most colorful and capable characters that WWE offers today. He may get a run at the top eventually. If he does, then everything that came before will merely be just another chapter in his story. With any luck, that story is far from over.


Always Use Your Head and visit the official Pro Wrestling Tees store for The Chairshot All t-shirt proceeds help support the advancement of your favorite hard-hitting wrestling website, The Chairshot!


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Who Is The Villain? Charlotte or Becky?

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Becky Lynch

One of the biggest stories coming out of SummerSlam was the complete disintegration of the friendship between Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch after Flair seemingly stole the SmackDown Women’s Championship from Lynch when Lynch seemingly had the match won, but hitting Lynch with Natural Selection for the three count. A furious Lynch knocked out her former friend and left her in a heap. Now, the surface narrative has been Becky turning heel, but the WWE Universe hasn’t been cooperating with that narrative, preferring to cheer Becky as the hero of this tale and boo Charlotte as the villain. Are they right or is this another example of fans hijacking the narrative?

Heel!Becky. This is the WWE narrative: Becky was so outraged by Charlotte stealing her moment again, she turned on Charlotte and has repeatedly attacked her former friend from behind, which is certainly what a heel would do.

The pros of this has been Becky’s new attitude and her more ruthless approach in the ring. The way she turned was very heelish. To hug your best friend and congratulate her and then slap the taste out of her mouth and beat her up is extremely heelish…or it should be.

The problem is that Becky’s reaction is perfectly understandable. Pretty much everyone knows a Charlotte Flair, the favorite that always gets the breaks, whether or not they’ve really earned it. For Becky, who had worked so hard to earn that title shot, to have Charlotte basically get a shot just for showing up and then stealing the title from her, would’ve been hard to swallow, especially knowing that you had the match won and your ‘friend’ not only cost you the title but attacked you and pinned you to win that title.

Heel!Charlotte.  This is the fan narrative: Charlotte is the heel because she didn’t have to work nearly as hard as Becky to get that SummerSlam title shot, all she did was show up for work and win one match, while Becky had to beat every heel in the division. Charlotte also seems to have made the decision to attack and pin Becky rather than Carmella. That’s an extremely shitty thing to do to someone you consider a friend, especially knowing how hard that friend worked to get the opportunity you stole from her.

Charlotte doesn’t help her case by acting like an entitled princess who can’t understand why people  don’t get why she deserves to always be champion, even when she doesn’t. Her derision of Becky as ‘insecure’ and saying that Becky didn’t deserve the title because she didn’t win, even though Becky HAD the match won and basically derided and insulted the person she used to call a friend, shows a level of narcissism that’s just shy of being a serial killer. It shows that in Charlotte’s mind, it’s ALL about her and that she’s the only one who deserves to be champion and if you’re not going to cheer for her and support her, you’re nothing to her. This is a woman who will not tolerate her flaws being pointed out, even when she deserves to be called out. That’s not much of a babyface.

However, Charlotte’s reaction to Becky’s comments isn’t that uncommon with how other babyface champions have reacted to insults, justified or not. John Cena has been infamous for having similar reactions to being called out, and a lot of women would probably have had similar reactions during a fight with a good friend.

If there is a defense for Charlotte’s behavior, it may be that her path to WWE was SO different from Becky’s which makes it hard for her to understand why Becky was so upset, but at the same time, she doesn’t seem to really want to understand or care. To her, Becky is just jealous and insecure, not someone with a legitimate reason to be angry.

So, who is the real heel here? Well, in the words of Obi-Wan-Kenobi, it depends on your own point of view. Both women have a real claim to be the righteous party in this argument, but it’s pretty clear that, at least to most fans, Becky is the hero who struck back at teacher’s pet, Charlotte. It remains to be seen if WWE will get on board or stick with their chosen narrative.


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Brock Lesnar Creates the Kind of Chaos WWE Does Not Need

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Here we go again. The main event scene on Monday Night Raw has once again become even more disturbing with the addition of Brock Lesnar.

The former Universal Heavyweight Champion entered the main event at Hell in a Cell, taking down both the current champion Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman in a  sad but predictable ending to a decent pay-per-view.

WWE cannot seem to get out of its own way in deciding what to do with the red brand’s title. Or, maybe it’s Lesnar who is holding the marionette strings of a company that has not moved on from the Beast Incarnate to forge a new identity of main event stars. The Hell in a Cell match between Reigns and Strowman was muddled with the arrival of Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose as it was.

Adding Lesnar to the chaos and disorder creates more problems than solutions for the creative team, Reigns and the title he wears around his waist.

The thought was once Reigns beat Lesnar to claim the belt, it would be the end of the line for the WWE and UFC star, who has made no secret he wants to dominate the octagon once again. It also opened the door for Reigns to finally assume his role as Vince McMahon’s master plan of having the current Shield Member and four-time champion to step over Lesnar, John Cena and anyone else in his path as the company’s new face.

I’m sure WWE’s fans have finally succumbed to the notion Reigns isn’t going anywhere. To steal a phrase from Ric Flair, “Whether you like it or don’t like it, learn to love it…”

You get the idea.

So now, WWE has a three-headed monster fighting over the same belt it did only months ago with no end in sight. The notion of McIntyre stepping forward as the next opponent for Reigns looks to be squashed. Lesnar’s contract, demands and lack of airtime while wearing the Universal Title finally pissed the fanbase off. Does putting the strap back around his waist make sense?

Now that Strowman has become an ally of Ziggler and McIntyre, how does this all play out? Does anyone care? Is the best thing to come out of the Hell in a Cell match is the return of Paul Heyman? It’s still a tangled web WWE weaves with no ending point. It’s status quo for poor booking.

It appears to be the norm, not the exception. We all just learn to deal with it, mainly because change does not seem to be a good thing in this promotion.


Always Use Your Head and visit the official Pro Wrestling Tees store for The Chairshot All t-shirt proceeds help support the advancement of your favorite hard-hitting wrestling website, The Chairshot!


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