WWE has gone tournament-crazy over the last couple of years. The Cruiserweight Classic, The United Kingdom Championship Tournament & The Mae Young Classic were all created to provide the WWE Network with programming & introduce new talent. NXT has The Dusty Rhodes Classic. Of course, we’ve also had various tournaments to fill title vacancies & decide #1 contenders. The Cruiserweights have one ongoing to crown a new singles champion & will likely crown new tag team champions with one soon.
I suspect this will be a trend that continues in the future. Triple H loves his tournaments. It probably goes back to the 1997 King of the Ring, when he gained the crown & began his rise to the top of the World Wrestling Federation. If it worked for The Game, surely it can work for others.
This week, I’ve come up with five tournaments that I’d like to see WWE produce. This isn’t one of those columns where we beg for the KOTR to come back even though the last couple of kings accomplished nothing of value. These would be brand new concepts that I feel could do good business for WWE.
5. Bobo Brazil Classic
African-Americans have long been under-represented in pro wrestling, or portrayed in a negative light. As Bobo was the first of his race to be used in a main event position & broke the color barrier in many places across the country, he would be the perfect namesake for a tournament highlighting young African-American athletes. Perhaps the next Junkyard Dog or Booker T would emerge through this tournament.
4. Tournament of Hoss
Jim Ross has been brought back for a number of these tournaments to call the action & lend an amount of gravitas with his name value. Some have said JR doesn’t sound excited enough for these events. I don’t think there’s a tournament he would enjoy more than one with a bunch of hosses going at it. Mix the best big men of WWE with some of the young lions in the Performance Center like Lars Sullivan, Killian Dain & the members of War Machine. I think you’d have a good time on your hands. Heck, Kassius Ohno probably qualifies for this. The winner would truly be the Lord of all Hosses.
3. Raw Roulette Series
I’ve always loved match stipulations being determined by a wheel. WCW got scared off of Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal when it landed on “Coal Miner’s Glove Match”. It was their own fault because they didn’t gimmick the wheel and they put a bad match concept on it. Many years later, the idea came to Raw for episodes of the show held in Las Vegas, and it was a rousing success. I think an entire tournament where the match stipulations were determined by the wheel would be awesome. Since Eric Bischoff is back under the WWE umbrella for now (and got one of the biggest pops at Raw 25), he can be brought in to host it.
2. WWE Legends Invitational
Who doesn’t love seeing the WWE Legends? They typically appear for milestone episodes of Raw & SmackDown and when they do an Old School episode of Raw, and people always seem to enjoy it. Why not take guys that are under Legends contracts that are still physically able to perform and put them in a tournament? I don’t want to see these guys wrestling on a regular basis, but it’d be a fun diversion for a month or so while giving them an actual reason to be there. It would also extend the ratings boost from people that only tune in when wrestlers from their childhood show up.
1. Copa Guerrero
It’s been awhile since WWE did anything to honor Eddie Guerrero. A tournament highlighting Hispanic stars would serve many purposes. It could showcase the art of lucha libre. Rey Mysterio & Alberto Del Rio could come back to participate. It would give WWE an excuse to raid AAA & CMLL, and even put a dent in Lucha Underground since those contracts have to expire someday.
I feel like this one is the most likely to happen, as Hispanics will one day take over the country much to the dismay of our current political leadership. I for one welcome our flipping masked overlords.
NXT Minus 6: NXT UK TakeOver Blackpool
NXT UK carries on the proud tradition of delivering a blazing hot Takeover.
6. Another Takeover opens with a match that could have been the main event. In hindsight it should have been. Mustache Mountain delivers a MOTY contender & Tyler Bate steals the show. That little dude is all kinds of special. What’s more impressive is how, in the course of the match, James Drake goes from “Why are you here?” to “Yes, you belong.” If you only watch one match from Takeover: Blackpool, it should be this one.
5. Finn Balor versus Jordan Devlin was good. Given time and a proper build, these two could deliver something great. Because of their relationship, I kept flashing back to Jericho/Michaels at Wrestlemania 19. Balor seems a natural for NXT UK. He delivers name recognition, credibility and can instantly challenge Dunne for the title.
4. If you’re a fan of a good old fashioned slugfest, check out Eddie Dennis versus Bomber Dave Mastiff. Dennis is the most unassuming powerhouse I’ve ever seen. He’s built like a flagpole, so I have no idea where he got the strength to do what he did. Bomber Dave is England’s Bam Bam Bigelow, more agile than a man his size should be. Put them together and boom, ka-pow, smash, crush, good fun mayhem.
3. THIS is the performance I’ve been waiting to see from Toni Storm. Her previous matches didn’t dazzle me. Her match with Io Shirai didn’t impress me. Her Takeover debut was the first time I saw how good she can be. BTW, did she win the Mae Young Classic? The announcers never seem to mention it…500 times a match.
2. It makes me sad to type this, but Pete Dunne finally had a disappointing match. The action was clunky & chunky, like neither Pete nor Joe Coffey knew what to do next. Coffee’s two spills (HA) from the top rope looked horrible. Any American crowd would still be chanting “you f#$%ed up.” The match clocked in at around 33 minutes but felt twice that long. On the bright side, WALTER’s jacket might be the coolest ring gear since Flair’s robes.
- Overall, this was a rock solid show and a fantastic way to showcase NXT UK. As good as the in-ring action was, what really put it over the top was the audience. Those blokes know how to have a good time. Their energy took things to another level and made the night feel special. Well done, Blackpool, and well deserved.
That’s right…I said it.
The Streak Part 3: Ascending the Mountain – 1996-97
Tiffany MC takes a look at the most legendary ride in wrestling history, The Streak! The Undertaker dominated WrestleMania for three decades, and he may not be done.
The years 1996-97 were pivotal ones in many ways for the Undertaker. WWF was moving slowly into what would be called the Attitude Era and the Undertaker was beginning to change with it. His Goth and supernatural gimmick were a perfect fit for the edgier WWF. During these years, Taker would begin to face opponents that would become part of his legend, including Mankind, be betrayed by Paul Bearer, and find himself fighting for the WWF Championship on the Grandest Stage of All.
WrestleMania XII: Big Daddy Cool Meets His Match
This was one of the matches that should’ve been the launch of a longer feud, but Nash had already given his notice to go to WCW, so it wasn’t to be. It started when Diesel, enraged at being eliminated from the Royal Rumble by friend Shawn Michaels, confronted Taker before Taker’s WWF Championship Match against Bret Hart. Not satisfied with just running his mouth, Diesel cost Taker the match by attacking him and getting Hart disqualified.
Undertaker would get Diesel back by cost him a cage match against Hart at In Your House 6, then launching into his twisted mind games, which included a scarily lifelike Diesel double in a casket. Diesel, never one to let mind games get to him, didn’t show much fear, and even overturned the casket and attacked Taker again.
Diesel comes out first to a mixed to negative reactions but, typically, doesn’t seem that bothered by them. It’s amazing to think that Diesel was one of the most over faces at the last WrestleMania and is now so hated.
The lights go out and the Deadman Cometh. Taker and Bearer come out, as cheery as ever, and the crowd goes nuts. Diesel still doesn’t seem horribly bothered by the spectacle and this fight’s on.
If you’re looking for a technical masterpiece, you’re in the wrong place. This match was a fistfight from start to finish and these two went all over the ringside area with it. To Jack Doan’s credit, he gave Taker and Diesel a lot of leeway. Taker pulled out a crossbody on Diesel, which was actually really cool.
Kevin Nash isn’t included in a list of great in-ring performers, but he and Taker really had a great match here. You could almost believe these guys hated each other. It would be easy to say that Taker carried Diesel, but that would be untrue, they carried each other.
It honestly looked like we might get a double countout after Diesel and Taker hit each other with big boots, but both got to their feet. Diesel broke out the classic bearhug to try and get a submission win, but Taker battled back. Taker went for the Missile off the Top, but Diesel got up. Diesel hit the Jackknife Powerbomb and the crowd went nuts, but Diesel didn’t go for the cover, which is a huge mistake. However, even when Taker sat up, Diesel showed no fear or concern. It wasn’t until Taker fought back after a second Jackknife that Diesel seemed to get just who he was messing with, but Diesel was able to back suplex Taker, but Taker STILL sat up.
In the end it would take a chokeslam and a Tombstone Piledriver to put Diesel away but both men made a big statement about their abilities to the wrestling world.
Highlight: Undertaker hitting a crossbody.
Rating: 5/10. This was a really great match for two huge guys who aren’t known for being technicians, this could’ve been Match of the Night for WrestleMania if the Iron Man match hadn’t happened.
WrestleMania 13: The Phenom vs The Master and Ruler of the World
This match was odd because it wasn’t an actual feud or rivalry, plus the path to this match was pretty strange. Stone Cold won the 1997 Royal Rumble, however, because Austin had actually been eliminated by Bret Hart, his win was vacated. Michaels, who had recently won the title at Royal Rumble, had to vacate the title due to ongoing knee issues, so the Powers that Be made a Fatal Four Way Match to crown a new Champion to face Sid for Sid’s rematch. Hart won the championship, but then lost the title to Sid due to Austin’s interference. Since Taker had be the runner up in the Fatal Four Way match, he became the #1 Contender. When Hart got his rematch, Taker actually helped Sid win so he could beat Sid for the title.
Taker comes out first, and without Paul Bearer or the urn, due to Bearer betraying Taker to manage Mankind in the summer of 1996. Sid comes out next to a mixed reaction. He’s got a lot of fans, but so does Taker.
We have a big staredown, but are interrupted by Bret Hart, who is still mad that he’s not in the main event and gets in the ring. Bret trashes everyone, including Shawn Michaels, who was sitting on commentary, but Michaels ignores him, even pointing out that Bret’s just mad that someone else is getting the spotlight instead of him, which was pretty true, if a little ironic to hear from Michaels, who could be accused of the same thing, especially then.
Back to Bret, he berates Taker for helping Sid beat him for the title, saying that Taker had slammed the door on their friendship, proving that Bret never learned the difference between business and personal. After several minutes of this, Sid gets fed up with Hart’s complaining and powerbombs him, which gives the officials time to get Hart out of there.
With that out of the way, it’s time to get down to business. Taker takes advantage of the Hart distraction to get the jump on Sid and we’re underway!
Of the four ‘Big Man’ matches Taker would have in the 90s, this one isn’t my favorite. Like Diesel, Sid wasn’t known for his technical prowess, but somehow, that was more glaringly obvious in this match than in the match with Diesel.
After Taker dominated the first few minutes of the match, Sid got the upperhand and went for the bearhug, but Taker got out of it. They brawled out on the floor, but because this match was No DQ, there was nothing for Hebner to do but wait, not that he didn’t try to get them to stick to the rules.
Sid dominated much of the match, but Taker kept battling back, but this was definitely a long match for both men and it was starting to show. Sid went to the middle rope one time too many, which gave Taker an opening, but Sid quickly reestablished his dominance for about two minutes, when Taker sat up and saved himself from whatever top rope move Sid was planning, going for the Top Rope Clothesline. Sid would go for his own Tombstone, but Taker, of course, kicked out.
The end would finally come when Bret Hart, furious about Sid powerbombing him, which he deserved, ran in and hit Sid with a chair. Not satisfied with his work Hart ran in again and distracted Sid just long enough for Taker to hit the Tombstone and we have a NEW WWF Champion. The crowd goes nuts that their darkside hero was FINALLY champion! Taker celebrates with the crowd and, in a rare moment of breaking kayfabe, signaled to the crowd that his win was for them, all the Creatures of the Night that had supported him.
Highlights: Bret Hart getting beat up by Sid. Earl Hebner rolling Sid out of the ring after his loss.
Rating: 4/10. This match wasn’t as good as the one with Diesel and the inclusion of Bret Hart really should’ve stopped after the first appearance.