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WrestleMania 23: All Grown Up

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WrestleMania 23 comes to us from Detroit, twenty years after WrestleMania III, an event still considered one of the greatest WrestleManias of all time. The tagline to WrestleMania 23 was ‘All Grown Up’ and WWE had grown up a lot since WrestleMania III. WrestleManias were no longer a make or break for WWE, though they still remain a huge part of WWE’s financial planning for the year. WWE had survived a fight for ratings, bought out its biggest competitor and had become the premier Sports Entertainment promotion in America, if not quite the world. So, how much have WWE and WrestleMania grown up since 1987? Let’s find out!

Opener

We start with a walk down memory lane with WrestleMania’s history and all the great moments and memories.

We get a throwback to Vince’s welcome from WrestleMania III and go to Ford Field and Aretha Franklin is back! She’s back at the piano and singing ‘America, the Beautiful’ and still sounds as amazing as she did in 1987.

We get the ‘All Grown Up’ promos.

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: Mr. Kennedy vs CM Punk vs Edge vs Jeff Hardy vs Finlay vs King Booker (with Queen Sharmell) vs Randy Orton vs Matt Hardy

Jeff Hardy comes out to a great pop. King Booker and Queen Sharmell come out to a nice pop, though Booker looks a little ridiculous in the royal gear. Finlay gets an okay pop. Punk gets a great pop and becomes the first ECW superstar to compete at WrestleMania. Mr. Kennedy gets a good pop. Matt Hardy gets a big pop. Orton gets a good pop. Edge also gets a good pop.

This was one of the best MitB matches. It had a lot of great spots and really seemed to be anyone’s game.

Winner: Mr. Kennedy after knocking CM Punk off the ladder

Highlights: The stepladder spots. Hornswoggle taking a Green Bay Plunge from the ladder. The Hardys taking out Edge.

Comments: Mr. Kennedy remains the only Money in the Bank winner to not get to cash in his briefcase, he would lose it in a match against Edge.

We get a recap of Austin’s first movie premiere, ‘The Condemned’.

The Great Khali vs Kane

Khali is out to a round of boos. Kane gets a better pop, but the crowd doesn’t seem enthused about this match. This was not a great match by any stretch of the imagination. It almost seems that WWE was trying pay tribute to Hogan/Andre, but while there was a good story behind the Hogan/Andre match, Khali/Kane didn’t have that.

 Winner: The Great Khali by pinfall.

Highlight: Kane bodyslamming Khali.

Comments: Bleh.

United States Championship Match: Chris Benoit vs Montel Vontavious Porter

MVP comes out first to little reaction, or the background is turned down, he even has cheerleaders with him and the crowd does nothing. Benoit gets a great pop from the crowd. This was a really good match. Benoit and MVP worked really well together.

Winner: Chris Benoit by pinfall.

Comments: Tragically, this would be Benoit’s last WrestleMania. He would die, along with his wife and son, in a murder/suicide in June of 2007.

We get a promo for the Undertaker/Batista feud.

We get a recap of the Hall of Fame induction. Our Inductees are: The Wild Samoans, the Original Sheik, Nick Bockwinkel, Mr. Fuji, Jim Ross, Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler, Mr. Perfect, and Dusty Rhodes.

Lilian announces that WrestleMania set a new Ford Field attendance record: 80,103

The Streak: World Heavyweight Championship Match: Batista vs The Undertaker

For some reason, Teddy Long is doing the announcing. Batista comes out first to a great pop as the lights dim.

The Deadman Cometh. The druids come out first, lighting the way for their leader. Undertaker gets a HUGE pop.

This was a great match. Batista and Taker took it to each other, the crowd was into it and it honestly looked to go either way. However, I do NOT like that this match didn’t main event, as it should have since Taker won the Royal Rumble.

Winner: The Undertaker by pinfall. The Streak is 15-0.

Comments: This is easily one of the best matches of the Streak.

Eight-Man Tag: The ECW Originals vs The New Breed (with Ariel)

The ECW Orginals come out through the crowd to a good pop. The New Breed comes out to no reaction.

This match was an ‘eh’ for me. Sandman and Sabu weren’t great wrestlers in their prime, in my opinion, never mind seven years after ECW closed. Still, it was nice to see them get their chance to be on the WrestleMania card.

Winner: RVD gets the pinfall for the ECW Originals.

Comments: Except for RVD, this would be the only WrestleMania for most of the ECW Originals. Also, why wasn’t this an Extreme Rules match?

We get a promo for WrestleMania 24.

Hair vs Hair Match: Bobby Lashley (with Donald Trump) vs Umaga (with Armando Alejandro Estrada and Vince McMahon). Special Guest Ref: Stone Cold Steve Austin

The barber chair has its own entrance music. Vince comes out first to an okay pop. Umaga comes out next to no reaction. Mr. Trump comes out to an okay pop. Lashley gets a great pop. Austin gets a huge pop. This match was ugly, with or without all the interference. It just had too much going on. Both guys are great athletes, but this was just a mess.

Winner: Bobby Lashley by pinfall. Per the stipulation, Vince has to get his head shaved. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t want to and Shane tries to save him, but Austin, Lashley, and a few stunners makes sure that the stipulation is fulfilled.

Highlights: Austin stunning everything in sight. The barbershop getting its own entrance. Austin pulling Umaga back by the braids.

Comments: Vince’s hair never recovered from this, lending credence to the rumor that he wore a toupee.

We get a recap of the dark tag match: Ric Flair and Carlito vs Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms

WWE Women’s Championship Match: Melina vs Ashley – Lumberjill Match

The lumberjills come out first and none of them are dressed for a match, except for Mickie James, who is at least wearing jeans Ashley is out first to a nice pop. Melina gets little reaction. This match was tough to watch. Melina was a fairly decent wrestler at that time, Ashley was not. Thankfully the match was short.

 Winner: Melina by pinfall despite it looking like Ashley got her shoulder up but Melina shifted so the ref didn’t see it.. Ashley’s not happy and literally kicks her out of the ring when Melina rubs her victory in Ashley’s face. The face divas throw Melina back in and we have a Diva brawl with the face divas standing tall.

Comments: Meh.

WWE Championship Match: John Cena vs Shawn Michaels

HBK gets a great pop. Cena’s entrance consists of a Ford Mustang rocketing through the streets of Detroit and through the parking garage of Ford Field before crashing through a glass partition. Even with all that, Cena still gets a mixed reaction. This was a great match, which isn’t surprising, but I don’t think it quite had the big match feel that the Undertaker/Batista match had.

Winner: John Cena by submission

Comments: I liked this match.

Overall Comments

So, how did the grownup WrestleMania do? Overall, it did pretty well. There were a few growing pains, but it was a god show over all. The fact that Taker/Batista didn’t main event, as Taker should have since he was the Royal Rumble winner, really irks me. Cena/HBK was good, but Taker/Batista had a big fight feel. The Battle of the Billionaires would’ve been okay…without the billionaires.

Stinkers: Khali vs Kane.

Match of the Night: Undertaker vs Batista. This match SHOULD have been the main event.

Funny Moment: Cryme Time trying to cheer up Eugene by having Extreme Expose (ECW’s version of the Nitro Girls) dance. Eugene is a little intimidated until he sees Moolah and Mae, also dressed like Extreme Expose and they dance. Soon they’re joined by Hall of Famers like Dusty Rhodes, Slick, Slaugher, and Jimmy Hart. IRS and Steamboat join in. Ron Simmons shows up, says ‘Damn!’ and leaves, but they keep partying.

Final Thoughts: I enjoyed this show, even though there were a few things I didn’t like about it.


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Taking Over: Greg DeMarco’s Look at WWE NXT Takeover Fatal 4-Way (9/11/14)

“Taking Over” continues as we see how Takeover Fatal 4-Way (9/11/14) holds up today!

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WWE NXT Takeover Fatal 4-Way Neville Tyson Kidd Tyler Breeze Sami Zayn

Greg DeMarco takes a look back at the second NXT Takeover in the first edition of “Taking Over” as we march towards WWE NXT Takeover XXV!

WWE NXT Takeover is turning 25 on June 1! Well, sort of… On June 1, WWE NXT will present the 25th Takeover event, a stand-alone show from Connecticut–which I wouldn’t call the heart of WWE, but the brain. I am taking a look back at the first 24 to see just how far we’ve come. Join me for “Taking Over,” my look back at the first 24 Takeover events.

Prior editions:

NXT Takeover Fatal 4 Way
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Commentary Team: Tom Phillips, Renee Young, and Byron Saxton

  • NXT Tag Team Championship: Lucha Dragons beat The Ascension to win the championships – A good match, but not great. It’s a far cry from what the Takeover opening tag team match would become. Big pop for the finish, though.
  • Baron Corbin beat CJ Parker – This was back when I hated Baron Corbin. Wait, that was yesterday. Anyway, this is a squash to elevate Baron Corbin, even though we didn’t get a true entrance for Corbin. Corbin’s hair didn’t look terribl ehere, in fact it looked better than CJ’s. According to commentary, this was Corbin’s NXT debut. Huge pop for the End Of Days. In fact, Crbin was crazy over here.
  • Hair vs. Hair Match – Sylvester Lefort vs. Enzo Amore – NXT was definitely more “developmental” at this time, and this match showed it. Both these guys had the personalities to excel, but never pans out. They worked hard and did get the crowd invested, which is job #1.
  • Hideo Itami NXT debut promo – Thi sis where he shifts from KENTA to Hideo Itami, , and he cut most of the promo in Japanese. The Ascension would come out and eventually attack, but Itami got the upperhand in the end. This was an insanely promising start to his WWE career. The visual of him sitting in a chair begging them both to get back in the ring was amazing.
  • Bull Dempsey vs. Mojo Rawley – Quick win for Bull Dempsey, who should have been a bigger deal. He’d be a great fit at NXT UK. His theme song is still the most underrated they’ve ever made.
  • NXT Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair successfully defended against Bayley – Bayley, just like everyone, was crazy over at Full Sail. Her “childhood dream” gimmick can only go so far, though. Charlotte Flair was the decided heel here, and showed signs of the greatness she’d achieve while also showing how green she was. Charlotte was absolutely ripped here. Charlotte nailed a terrible looking moonsault that the announce team didn’t know how to sell. Charlotte won with Natural Selection, which may have been an audible after the moonsault debacle as you can hear Bayley call for the spot. It’s amazing what Charlotte has become. Sasha Banks attacked Bayley after,and Charlotte
  • NXT Championship: Adrian Neville successfully defended against Tyson Kidd, Sami Zayn, and Tyler Breeze – One hell of a match, and I remember how great the build was. Breeze won a #1 contender match but had his title match interrupted by Kidd, Kidd and Zayn were eventually here to make it a Fatal 4-Way. I really thought Breeze would win here, but that was really wishful thinking on my part. This match was one-fall rules. Tyson Kidd’s Sharpshooter is criminally underrated. Neville shows heel tendencies here, pulling the referee out of the ring before he can count the three in Zayn’s favor (legal in a 4-way match), Neville would then superkick Zayn on the floor and pin Kidd after a Red Arrow. The story after the match was Zayn’s reaction and dejection, setting up the obvious main event for the next Takeover. I loved the character shift for Neville, winning “by means necessary” and showing signs of the amazing heel we’d see later.

Where are they now:

  • The Ascension – Konnor & Viktor are on Raw, and are basically an afterthought after being repackaged as a ripoff of late 80s/early 90s tag teams like The Road Warriors.
  • Kalisto – Doing very little as a member of the Lucha House Party on Raw, but he’s also a former NXT Tag Team Champion and 2-time United States Champion, along with a former Cruiserweight Champion.
  • Sin Cara – Still wearing that cursed mask, so he’s injured.
  • Baron Corbin – Sucking on the main roster! He’s been a Money In The Bank briefcase holder (he lost his cash in), Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal winner, and United States Champion. He was also Constable Corbin and the General Manager of Raw. He retired Kurt Angle. And he sucks.
  • CJ Parker – He is likely best known for being Kevin Owens’ first NXT opponent, and busting his nose in the process. He left WWE, and is now back to working as Juice Robinson in ROH and New Japan, where he is the IWGP United States Champion (although you wouldn’t know it by watching their product).
  • Sylvester Lefort – He ended up getting released in early 2016, went to TNA to be part of The Tribunal under his name Tom LaRuffa. He worked there through the end of 2016, before returning to Europe where he remains active to this day.
  • Enzo Amore – Ugh…he went to the main roster with Big Cass (on Raw) and Carmella (on Smackdown), working as a team until they broke up in what was actually a good angle. He eventually showed up on 205 Live, where he drew some good heat, but ended up leaving the company for outside the ring issues. He’s released some rap songs/videos, and made an ill-fated appearance at ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard.
  • Hideo Itami – Such a promising start, he had a good run in NXT that included a NXT Championship shot at Bobby Roode. He went to 205 Live, but failed to become Cruiserweight Champion. He eventually requested his release and returned home to Japan.
  • Bull Dempsey – He had a small NXT run before being released, and works as Bull James on the independents, mostly in the Northeast United States.
  • Bayley – She’d have a better run later with Sasha Banks, before moving to the main roster and holding the Raw Women’s Championship. She won the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship with Sasha Banks, and is not on Smackdown.
  • Charlotte Flair – Just main evented WrestleMania, is an 8-time Women’s Champion, and is one of the very best performers of either gender on the main roster.
  • Sami Zayn – A mid-card player on the main roster, just recently returned from injury and is doing some great character work on Raw. Also (briefly) held the NXT Championship but was just the transitional champion from Neville to Kevin Owens.
  • Tyler Breeze – Moved to the main roster too soon, found some critical success with Fandago as the Fashion Police, has floundered during Fandango’s injury recovery, is back in NXT and working a program with Velveteen Dream.
  • Tyson Kidd – Career cut short by injury after holding tag team gold, and now works as a producer behind the scenes.
  • Neville – Had a respectable main roster run before taking over (pun intended) WWE 205 Live. That alignment led to his eventual downfall when he didn’t want to put Enzo Amore over strong after being pushed to the kickoff in his match with Austin Aries. He’s currently preparing to face Adam Page at All Elite Wrestling’s Double Or Nothing event.

Overall Impression

Renee young was better than I remember on commentary here. Overall this was a good show that, outside of the main event, wouldn’t hold up against the Takeover events of the past few years. But the foundation was being laid, and this should be evaluated as such. The main event was spectacular, and this was a rare Takeover with six matches. Those, plus two other in-ring segments, still went just under two hours. All four members of the main event wrestled on the Raw before this, and that decision, along with this match, can really be credited with the early rise in populary of NXT.

One additional thing that’s quite evident in watching these events, is now much easier it is for the talent to stay in perfect shape in NXT as they’re spending less time on the road. You can see the differences in Charlotte, Bayley, Sami Zayn, Tyler Breeze, and others.


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Taking Over: Greg DeMarco’s Look at WWE NXT Takeover I (5/24/14)

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WWE NXT Takeover Neville Tyson Kidd

Greg DeMarco takes a look back at the first NXT Takeover in the first edition of “Taking Over” as we march towards WWE NXT Takeover XXV!

WWE NXT Takeover is turning 25 on June 1! Well, sort of… On June 1, WWE NXT will present the 25th Takeover event, a stand-alone show from Connecticut–which I wouldn’t call the heart of WWE, but the brain. I am taking a look back at the first 24 to see just how far we’ve come. Join me for “Taking Over,” my look back at the first 24 Takeover events.

NXT Takeover
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Commentary Team: Tom Phillips, William Regal, and Byron Saxton

  • Adam Rose beat Camacho – A solid opener, which was more about furthering the character of Adam Rose and the Rosebuds. Notable Rosebuds on this night included Ryan Katz (currently Creative Producer for WWE/NXT), Becky Lynch (just main evented WrestleMania), Carmella (she’s F A B U L O U S, and is a former Smackdown Women’s Champion), and Braun Strowman (he’s in the Andre The Giant role).
  • NXT Tag Team Championship: The Ascension (Konnor & Viktor) successfully defend against Kalisto & El Local – This was  a step above a glorified squash. The world likely won’t remember them this way, but The Ascension were total bad asses in NXT.
  • NXT Championship #1 Contender: Tyler Breeze beat Sami Zayn – Both guys were on their game here. Zayn of course went on to be NXT Champion and Breeze was called up to NXT too soon. Zayn would lose this match to Breeze, but both men would compete for the NXT Championship at the next Takeover. The crowd was insanely into this match, and it build beautifully to the finish. the finish, by the way, was amazing as Breeze blocked the Helluva Kick but inadvertently low-blows Sami in the process. One Beauty Shot later and Tyler Breeze is the #1 contender to the NXT Championship.
  • Rusev promo, with Lana, that’s interrupted by Mojo Rawley – I am pretty sure this is where Rusev’s theme introduction comes from. Mojo wasn’t ready yet, but he still owned his character…which at this point was a bargain basement “hype” John Cena. Rusev was already looking like the man.
  • Vacant NXT Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair beat Natalya – Ric Flair accompanied Charlotte to the ring, who wasn’t taking the “Flair” name yet. Natalya was accompanied by Bret Hart because, well, symmetry. Charlotte was obviously green here, and didn’t have nearly the work done she has now. Natalya is actually in better physical condition now, five years later. The match served as a vehicle to get the NXT Women’s Championship onto Charlotte, and it served that purpose. Charlotte Flair would obviously grow into her role and is not one of the best performers on the main roster.
  • NXT Championship: Adrian Neville successfully defended against Tyson Kidd – Given their leadership roles on the main roster today, it’s no surprise that Natalya and Tyson Kidd were a part of the early success of NXT. The crowd was hot for this match, and both men delivered. Of note: before Neville hits the Red Arrow on Tyson, Tom Phillips notes that Kidd is in the drop zone. Take that, Michael Cole!

Where are they now:

  • Adam Rose – About to wrestle his last match, ever, against Bull James.
  • Camacho – One half of the Guerrillas Of Destiny as Tanga Loa, along with his adoptive brother Tama Tonga, running wild in Bullet Club and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
  • The Ascension – Konnor & Viktor are on Raw, and are basically an afterthought after being repackaged as a ripoff of late 80s/early 90s tag teams like The Road Warriors.
  • Kalisto – Doing very little as a member of the Lucha House Party on Raw, but he’s also a former NXT Tag Team Champion and 2-time United States Champion, along with a former Cruiserweight Champion.
  • El Local – The former Ricardo Rodriguez is no longer with the company, and is working the California independents.
  • Sami Zayn – A mid-card player on the main roster, just recently returned from injury and is doing some great character work on Raw. Also (briefly) held the NXT Championship but was just the transitional champion from Neville to Kevin Owens.
  • Tyler Breeze – Moved to the main roster too soon, found some critical success with Fandago as the Fashion Police, has floundered during Fandango’s injury recovery, is back in NXT and working a program with Velveteen Dream.
  • Rusev & Lana – Multiple time United States Champion, feuds with John Cena and AJ Styles just to name a few, and sadly not a lead heel on either brand like they should be. They’re also not supporting Russia, like, at all.
  • Mojo Rawley – Moved up in the first draft of the modern era, teamed with Zack Ryder before breaking up, cut a series of intriguing mirror promos, but hasn’t really done much. He did win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33, though.
  • Charlotte Flair – Just main evented WrestleMania, is an 8-time Women’s Champion, and is one of the very best performers of either gender on the main roster.
  • Natalya – Back on the main roster and serves as the veteran presence, and delivers in a big way nearly every time out.
  • Tyson Kidd – Career cut short by injury after holding tag team gold, and now works as a producer behind the scenes.
  • Neville – Had a respectable main roster run before taking over (pun intended) WWE 205 Live. That alignment led to his eventual downfall when he didn’t want to put Enzo Amore over strong after being pushed to the kickoff in his match with Austin Aries. He’s currently preparing to face Adam Page at All Elite Wrestling’s Double Or Nothing event.

Overall Impression of WWE NXT Takeover I

For starters, I love hearing William Regal on commentary–he adds so much. Nigel McGuinness should be playing this exact role. The commentary team also had longer spells where they let the action speak for itself, and it really worked (especially in the main event). Byron Saxton is also quite underrated as he was money tonight. Overall, this was a really good that followed the NXT Takeover 5-match format. The first two matches weren’t really in doubt, but things really kicked up for the last three. Great show.


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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