Well damn this is a busy week for wrestling. NWA 70, New Japan Super Jr Tag League, All Japan leading up to their big Triple Crown match…and I wasn’t even able to get to Stardom’s Tag Tournament. So just a whole lot of stuff going on, on top of regular television products. Sheesh, sometimes just covering all this is tiring, in the fact that there aren’t enough hours in a day.
ANYWAY – last week the match that ran away with the votes was, NJPW King of Pro Wrestling Triple Threat: Cody vs Kenny Omega (c) vs Kota Ibushi. So now we’re gonna be looking at a lot of Japanese matches in the coming weeks, but part of the fun is seeing if other stuff can sneak in too.
So let’s see what made the grade.
5. 205 Live Fatal Five Way: Gran Metalik vs TJP vs Tony Nese vs Cedric Alexander vs Lio Rush
The Age of Alexander wants to rebuild his legacy, but the Premier Athlete wants to pave his own over it. The FilAm Flash wants to humiliate the lucha libre tradition, but the King of the Ropes won’t stand for it. As for the Man of the Hour, he simply came to collect! Who will succeed in their mission and take a step towards the top of the Cruiserweight Division?
Current Cruiserweight Champion, Buddy Murphy, watches from backstage, wanting to see the moment someone wins this match. The bell rings and DC cheers its own 23 Year old Piece of Gold. The five circle and TJP rushes Metalik while Lio gets out of the way. TJP drags Metalik out of the ring, wanting to focus on their lucha libre grudge. He bumps Metalik off barriers, while Nese and Alexander brawl in the ring. Nese backs Alexander down but Alexander chops him back. Alexander clotheslines Nese out and Lio comes back in. Lio talks trash with Alexander, but Alexander catches that kick. Alexander flips Lio but Lio lands on his feet. Things speed up as Lio keeps changing directions on a dime. Lio slides but Alexander catches him. Alexander yanks Lio back up but Lio arm-drags.
Things speed up again and Alexander handsprings back to headscissor, but Lio lands on his feet again! Lio says “it’s not happening”. Alexander rushes Lio but Lio ducks. Lio whips but Alexander reverses, only for Lio to springboard and headscissor Alexander again. Lio does a dance and knows Alexander knows what that means. Alexander rushes Lio and the chase is on. They pass around the corner and Nese clobbers Alexander! Metalik and Lio are in the ring, and the luchador dares Lio do come at him. Metalik swing kicks Lio away, then springboards for a crossbody! He keeps moving and handsprings but Lio avoids it. Lio runs but Metalik dodges, tilt-o-whirl gutbuster! Metalik keeps moving, runs the ropes, and hits the missile dropkick! He drags Lio to a cover but Nese throws Metalik out hard.
Nese has Lio but Lio fires off forearms. Lio whips but Nese stops himself. Nese elbows Lio then leaps but Lio gets clear. Nese goes Matrix to then mule kick, knee lift and roundhouse, but Lio dodges to mule kick and enziguri back! Lio stands tall while Nese rolls out, and DC cheers their own. Murphy seems moderately impressed as Lio dropkicks Alexander back out. Lio joins everyone on the outside and drags Metalik in. Metalik crawls but Lio dares him to stand up. But TJP grabs Lio in a modified abdominal stretch. Metalik swings on TJP but ends up in another abdominal stretch. TJP has mirrored stretches, and goes after Metalik’s mask!
Nese comes in and rolls TJP up, but TJP resists. Lio runs in, but into a German Suplex! Nese bridges to have both TJP and Lio in simultaneous pins! Metalik breaks both covers just in time! Nese kicks Metalik back, then throws TJP into a post. TJP tumbles out while Nese runs Metalik over with an elbow. Nese rocks Alexander to keep him out of the ring, and now the Premier Athlete flexes. Fans boo and jeer but Nese stomps Metalik and Lio. Nese wrenches Metalik’s neck while putting his weight on him. Fans rally up for the others, and Metalik fights back. Nese back suplexes Metalik down, covers, TWO!
Nese goes back to the neck wrench, but lets go to intercept and throw out Alexander. Alexander hasn’t gotten much of anything, and Nese goes back to Metalik for more neck wrench. Metalik fights but Nese drops a leg. Nese soaks in the heat, then drags Metalik up and over. He puts Metalik in the Tree of Woe to then stomp a mudhole into him. Nese brings back Full Contact Cardio! Fans boo more but Nese simply counts out that 8-pack. But Alexander rolls him up! TWO, and Nese runs Alexander over again! Cover, TWO! Nese drags Metalik up, but Metalik fights back. Nese knees then whips Metalik, but Metalik stops himself to SUPERKICK Nese back!
Metalik jumps up and quebradas, but Nese catches it and makes it a cover. ONE, and Nese fireman’s carry. Metalik fights out and suplexes, for a brain buster! Cover, but Alexander breaks it just in time. Alexander goes after Metalik but is powered to a corner, for a LOUD chop! Metalik runs in but into a boot. Alexander springboards for the clothesline! Fans fire up with the former champ as he runs at Nese. Alexander rallies with lariats and a big uppercut. Alexander whips but Nese reverses, only for Alexander to dropkick the legs out. He hurries to the apron, but Alexander has to jump over TJP’s swipes at his legs. Alexander boots TJP then kicks Nese, to then hit the springboard complete shot! Cover, but Lio breaks it!
DC cheers Lio he stomps Alexander. TJP comes in and fireman’s carry, but Lio slips out to put TJP in a corner for a forearm smash. Lio hoists TJP up top then climbs up. They brawl up top, and TJP dumps Lio all the way down. Metalik swing kicks TJP, then brings him back up. TJP resists the superplex, but Alexander adds on. They both want to suplex TJP, but in comes Nese. Nese throws Alexander down then electric chairs Metalik. TJP works with Nese, but Metalik victory rolls to avoid the crossbody! TJP gets Alexander but Alexander rolls through! Cover on Nese, TWO! Lio climbs, Alexander hits a Michinoku Driver on TJP, cover, TWO! Final Hour frog splash on Alexander! Cover, but Nese and Metalik both break it! All five men are down but DC fires up. DC chants for “205! 205!” as the five men stir.
DC goes back to cheering for Lio while Metalik and Nese brawl. Metalik chops Nese but Nese mule kicks Metalik. Nese runs but Metalik dodges, handspring arm-drag and dropkick! TJP is up to rolling sobat Metalik! Lio is up to mule kick and heel kick TJP! Nese is up but Lio bobs ‘n’ weaves to fire back. Lio swings but Nese shoves to rock him with that left! Nese turns around, Alexander blows past to handspring and Neuralizer! Cover, TWO!! All five men are down again, but fans rally up. Alexander grits his teeth as he glares at Nese. Nese crawls to the apron but Alexander is on him. SUPERKICK from Metalik, but Alexander swing kicks him down. Alexander builds speed to FLY onto Metalik! He gets Metalik back in, but TJP rocks Alexander to cover Metalik! TWO, but TJP is after that mask again!
Metalik kicks TJP away, but TJP clubs him back down. TJP whips but Metalik DIVES onto Alexander! TJP hits the triangle wrekcing dropkick, but then Lio handspring kicks TJP! Nese rolls Lio, TWO, to a deadlift bomb to the OUTSIDE! Lio, TJP, Metalik and Alexander are all down, and Nese has his pick. Nese drags Lio up and in, covers, but Alexander drags him off it. Nese shoves Alexander away but Metalik is on Nese. Metalik chops Nese in the corner, thenw hips him corner to corner. Nese reverses but runs into a SUPERKICK! Sling-dog! Metalik climbs up but TJP shoves him right off. TJP has Nese in the kneebar! Nese endures, but is so close. Alexander stomps TJP, only to get put in the kneebar!
Metalik stomps TJP and then whips TJP. TJP holds ropes and puts Metalik on the apron. TJP runs, but Metalik springboards to let TJP go under AND Asai at the same time! All five men are down once again, but Nese and Lio stand. Nese runs into a SUPERKICK! Lio hurries up top and DC fires up for the hometown hero! Alexander runs in but gets a haymaker. Lio leaps for a flying headscissor, but Alexander blocks with pure power! And lifts Lio, to then pop him into the Lumbar Check!! But Nese rolls Alexander up, Nese wins!!
Winner: Tony Nese via Roll Up
4. NWA 70 NWA Heavyweight Championship 2 out of 3 Falls Match: Nick Aldis vs Cody (c)
Well we all know the backstory for this. Cody won the NWA title at All In and Aldis felt robbed. Which he had legitimate claims that there was interference and an extended period where the match should’ve been thrown out, but it wasn’t. So Aldis gets a female enforcer to keep Brandi in check and requests the 2 out of 3 falls match. Does Aldis win the belt back, or do we continue to ride the feel good high of Cody Rhodes?
So Aldis’ female enforcer turns out to be Kamilla Kaine, aka Mrs. Braun Strowman. So she’s an Amazon in her own right and definitely played her part in the match. Much like Omega vs Okada, I’m not going over everything since there’s just too much to try and document.
The first fall saw Cody tap out quickly to protect himself from further damage in the King’s Lynn Cloverleaf. It seemed clever until Aldis immediately powders out at the beginning of the second fall. So this forces Cody to make a big dive and the entire second fall sees them brawling through the entire Fairgrounds. Trash cans were used, even the refreshment stand spot with the cup of soda or water, got used as weapons on the way back to the ring. Cody tried to introduce a table, but Brandi and Kamilla got involved which took attention away from the table as the referees got the table out of the ring.
Aldis gets a small advantage and goes to get the aforementioned table, places Cody on top and then goes for an Elbow Drop. Nick misses big and crashes through the table. Cody gets Nick back in the ring, Crossroads, and the second fall goes to Cody.
Third fall was exciting with how quickly it started, and then turned into a video game move stealing marathon. Firstly, the women get everyone thrown out of ringside when Brandi gets sick of Kamilla and tries to choke a bitch. But after the attention goes back to the ring, we see Cody execute the Bionic Elbow, Orton Style Hanging DDT and even a Rainmaker. So it’s at this point, Cody definitely seems more desperate when he thought he had the advantage.
Nick hits a Tombstone Piledriver, and then we get one more reference from Cody as Nick grabs his foot, and the boot slips off. Cody goes for the Small Package, but Aldis shifts the weight and turns the Small Package in his favor. So, NEW NWA Champion and man who effectively sucked the air out of the entire building, Nick Aldis.
Here’s to hoping Willie Mack turns into the working man’s draw, cause this event should prove the Aldis doesn’t have the appeal at all to the crowd. No boos, just dead silence.
Winner: Nick Aldis via Small Package (2-1)
Rating: **** 1/4
3. NJPW Super Jr Tag League: Shingo Takagi & BUSHI vs SHO & YOH
Well Shingo being the big sixth member of Los Ingobernables de Japon lead to BUSHI having a tag team partner. Shingo moved away from the Junior Division earlier in his career, but the Animal Hamaguchi bond most of the LIJ members have, must’ve convinced him to drop back down for now. The focus of this match is really to see SHO vs Shingo, the two powerhouses of the Junior Heavyweights.
This was just a very good tag team match. BUSHI seems to be trying a little harder than usual and Shingo is establishing himself as a beast. SHO and YOH pulled off numerous tandem moves, just never the 3K. There was even a great moment where Shingo came in to save BUSHI and absorbed strikes from both SHO and YOH.
Yes, I’m aware this is an abbreviated version, but this match felt more like an introduction for people who didn’t know Shingo. Shingo looked amazing, Pumping Bombers, Pop Up Death Valley Drivers and power moves for days. YOH tried his Rewind Kick, but Shingo just over powered the smaller man and lands his finisher Last Falconry – oh wait, since he’s the Dragon it’s Last of the Dragon now. Okay, so Last of the Dragon, and it’s just the beginning.
As a special treat the rest of LIJ showed up at the end, the crowd erupted, and they ended with the fist bump pose.
Winner: Takagi via Last of the Dragon
Rating: **** 1/4
NJPW Super Jr Tag League: SHO & YOH vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado
Winner: YOH via Japanese Clutch Hold
NJPW Super Jr Tag League: ACH & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Taiji Ishimori & Robbie Eagles
Winner: Ishimori via Bloody Cross
NWA 70 National Heavyweight Title Match: Willie Mack vs Samuel Shaw
Winner: Mack via Stunner
Rating: *** 3/4
NJPW Super Jr Tag League: Soberano Jr & Volador Jr vs Tiger Mask & Jushin Thunder Liger
Winner: Tiger via Tiger Suplex Hold
Rating: *** 3/4
AJPW Raising an Army AJPW World Tag Title match: Shuji Ishikawa & Suwama vs Kai & Kengo Mashimo
Winner: Suwama via Last Ride
Rating: *** 3/4
NJPW Super Jr Tag League: Tiger Mask & Jushin Thunder Liger vs Robbie Eagles & Taiji Ishimori
Winner: Eagles via Inverted Figure 4
Rating: *** 1/2
NJPW: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma vs Kota Ibushi, Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi
Winner: Tanahashi via High Fly Flow
Rating: *** 1/4
NJPW Super Jr Tag League: BUSHI & Shingo Takagi vs Tiger Mask & Jushin Thunder Liger
Winner: Tiger via Abdominal Stretch Cradle Pin
Rating: *** 1/4
NXT Tag Team Championship Match: War Raiders vs Undisputed Era
Winner: War Raiders via DQ
NJPW: Ayato Yoshida, Yota Tsuji & Yuya Uemura vs Ren Narita, Shota Umino & Tomoaki Honma
Winner: Umino via Boston Crab
NWA 70 Women’s Championship Match: Jazz (c) vs Penelope Ford
2. NJPW Super Jr Tag League: Kushida & Chris Sabin vs Shingo Takagi & BUSHI
So the previously highlighted tandem from LIJ, who will ride the Dragon to victory. Yes I’m aware that’s a drug reference, it’s funny, roll with it. But the other team has a built in story since Kushida picked Chris Sabin because Alex Shelley retired. So Kushida wanted to tag with Shelley’s other tag team member, and they are affectionately referred to as the Time Machines ( Time Spliiters + Motor City Machine Guns). Does the singles champion and his new partner have what it takes to put the Dragon to rest?
Since it’s late and I’m tired, I really tend to enjoy abbreviated recaps. This was a continuation of the first match where Shingo looks like the most imposing figure in the Junior division. Kushida more then held his own though.
At one point Kushida had Shingo knotted up in a Rings of Saturn variation, which made it interesting that both BUSHI and Shingo were favoring their arms. Even dinged up, Shingo pulled off many impressive power moves. Hell there was a spot where he did the Pop Up Death Valley Driver, but was falling backwards. It could’ve been a mistake, but it still looked good and since it was done to Sabin, I was happy no one died.
BUSHI definitely has fallen into his role in this team. He takes most of the offense, gets in some impressive tandem stuff, like a Spinebuster/Back Cracker combo, but Shingo is the main event. If this team loses, BUSHI will most likely eat the pin.
As a good way to create some heat with Shingo and Kushida, they exchanged even blows, but the finish comes on Sabin. So Shingo hits Last- of the Dragon on Sabin, and the LIJ team keeps rolling.
Winner: Takagi via Last of the Dragon
Rating: **** 1/2
1. AJPW Raising an Army Triple Crown Championship Match: Zeus (c) vs Kento Miyahara
This is Zeus’ second defense, against the man he took the title from. Kento won the 6th Royal Road tournament to earn this shot, so this should be interesting. Kento is easily the new Ace of All Japan, but Zeus has been a very good up and coming foil. Does Zeus retain, or do we see the Ace reclaim the belt for the 4th time?
I don’t have intelligent sounding words for how fantastic this match was. The aggression of both men was through the roof. Early hard shots and then they take the match to the outside. Zeus flings Kento around, and pulls off a nice Snap Suplex on the outside. Zeus does something he doesn’t usually do and removes part of the turn buckle pad and throttles Kento’s throat across the exposed part. Kyohei Wada has to pull Zeus off of Kento and the match continues.
The expression on both men’s face just dialed up in emotion and aggression. We saw them charge at each other multiple times and this just had a much different feeling than any other modern All Japan match I’ve seen. Kento chained a few Blackouts and German Suplexes together, but that just pissed off Zeus and he came back more angry. Another uncharacteristic spot was Zeus kept pummeling and choking Kento in the ropes. He throws Wada off and continues his assault until Wada literally has to wedge himself in the middle to get Zeus to break.
Kento has a Sting like resiliency where no matter how long the match goes, he can charge back up. Multiple knee strikes made it seem like Kento was putting it all together. He hits his Shutdown German Suplex Hold…but Zeus kicks out. That’s maybe happened once or twice in the last 2 years, so that was a huge spot.
Kento tried to follow up and Zeus hits him with a straight right fist. Jackhammer from Zeus, but Kento kicks out. So the frustration is huge on both men. Chops and strikes, Zeus even gets Kento down on the ground with repeated Karate Chops to the back of the neck/shoulder blades. Just when it seems like Zeus beat the life out of him, Kento fires back up and lands a half dozen Blackouts.
Zeus kept trying to pop back up after them, but the last one rocked him. He stumbles around the ring, not aware of where he was, so Kento catches him for the Shutdown German Suplex Hold. The three comes down and Kento is champion once again!
King’s Road style is different than New Japan’s “Strong Style”, but I’m fairly sure this match will translate beyond what many assume all Japanese wrestling is. After the match Kento called Zeus back up, I think saying something about continuing to build up All Japan together. Zeus took his hand and agreed before the leaving the ring to a chant of ” Zennippon” (All Japan).
Winner: Kento via Shutdown German Suplex Hold
I feel like this happens quite a bit, but the All Japan match can’t be touched this week in my opinion. Passion, aggression, resiliency and the power struggle between these two all year has been a great story. Yes, yes, more people visit the Dunkin Donuts in rural West Virginia than watch All Japan, I get it. But that doesn’t lessen how amazing the match was, with or without context.
So Always Use Your Head, and watch some of these matches you may have not seen. Branch out, put extra bacon on your burger, just enjoy the wide variety of wrestling that we have currently
The Streak Part 4: Darkness Falls – 1998-99
Tiffany MC brings you the next two matches as part of The Streak, as The Undertaker battles Kane and the Big Boss Man at WrestleMania!
The years of 1998-99 were turbulent times for WWF and the Undertaker. The Monday Night Wars, started by the advent of WCW Monday Nitro were heating up and the question of which company would prevail was on everyone’s mind. In order to compete, WWE began featuring edgier, sexier, more reality based storylines.
For the Undertaker, this meant the introduction of his long-lost brother, Kane, setting off a storyline and partnership that has lasted 20 years and had more twists and turns than a daytime drama. Also in these years, Taker would reunite with Paul Bearer and unleash his disturbing Ministry of Darkness on the WWF, igniting a feud with Vince McMahon, which would culminate in one of the most shocking reveals in wrestling history.
WrestleMania XIV: Cain vs Abel Part 1: Of all the matches Taker had in this period, this WrestleMania match with Kane is not only one of the best in terms of quality, but had a very compelling storyline. The story has become a little convoluted over the years and there have been a lot of twists and turns, but the story in 1998 was this: Undertaker and Kane were brothers, there was a fire at the funeral home their parents owned, their parents were killed and Undertaker thought Kane had been killed as well, but Kane had only been horribly burned. Paul Bearer nursed Kane back to health and raised him while encouraging his hatred of his older brother.
When it was revealed to Taker that Kane was not only alive, but looking for revenge, he actually refused to fight his brother due to a promise he’d once made to their parents. It wasn’t until Kane and Paul Bearer cost Taker the WWF Championship at Royal Rumble 1998 and set the casket containing Taker on FIRE, did Taker finally fight back and vowed to unleash unholy vengeance on his brother and his former manager.
Before this match gets started, we’re introduced to Pete Rose, who was going to be guest ring announcer for this. Ol’ Charley Hustle was never afraid to shoot his mouth off and proceeded to insult the Boston fans and the Boston Red Sox, who at that time hadn’t won a World Series in 80 years. Before the riot could get going, Kane came out and attacked Rose and Tombstoning him, much to the delight of the crowd.
Taker’s entrance was simply AMAZING! It was such a cool entrance that a clip of it was used in WrestleMania promo videos for a few years. It started with a Gregorian chant while the druids, with lit torches, came out and since there was a long entrance ramp at WrestleMania XIV, there were a lot of druids when the chanting reached its crescendo, the lights went out and the gong started. Taker came down the ramp in a coat that made him look like Dracula, but it looked SUPER cool with all the lit torches.
Taker’s matches are never pretty or extremely technical, and this match was no exception. It started with punches and shoves and stayed there. Kane dominated much of the match and caught Taker during a crossbody attempt. Kane had the Tree of Woe in mind but the 6’10” Undertaker was way to tall for that.
Kane did a really great job of hanging with Taker on a big stage, but he was definitely a little rough around the edges. It wasn’t quite ‘Do I Owe You Money?’ territory, but it was close.
Throughout the match, Paul Bearer made his presence known, chastising Undertaker throughout the match in that annoying voice of his and getting in some cheap shots whenever the ref wasn’t looking. Have to say that Bearer was clearly whiffing a lot of his punches, but Taker sold his butt off anyway.
The match went out to the floor, but Jack Doan was very reluctant to do a count or do anything other than get out of the way. Even using the steps Kane had thrown to get back in the ring.
One of the craziest parts of the match was Taker going for the running dive and being…directed into the Spanish announce table, which was being manned by WWF Legend Tito Santana, who kept doing commentary on the floor while his colleagues tried to get up.
Taker’s self-preservation would finally kick in, but it would take THREE Tombstone piledrivers to put Kane away, and Kane still nearly kicked out at the last possible second.
Enraged at his son’s defeat, Paul Bearer grabbed a chair and attacked the Undertaker just for the hell of it. Kane joined in the attack and Taker was left in a heap in the ring, which made the win over his demented brother less than the sterling victory he’d wanted. However, Taker sat up and was able to leave the ringside area under his own steam.
Highlight: Pete Rose being a damn good sport and taking that tombstone like a champ. Taker’s entrance. Tito Santana continuing to do commentary in the wreckage of the Spanish Announce Table.
Rating: 7/10 This was a fantastic match and my favorite of Taker’s WrestleMania matches in the 1990s.
WrestleMania XV – Boss Man Goes to Hell: This match came about through one of the most disturbing storylines of the Attitude Era. The Undertaker had reunited with Paul Bearer and became the Lord of Darkness. Then he began recruiting superstars to form The Ministry of Darkness, which would be the launching pad for teams like Edge and Christian and the APA. Taker began demanding that Vince give him a title shot and began targeting Vince’s family, specifically Vince’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon. In an attempt to end the threat, Vince sanctioned the first ever WrestleMania Hell in a Cell Match and sent the Corporation’s Chief of Security, the Big Boss Man to end the threat of the Undertaker.
Boss Man comes out and still didn’t get in a great reaction, despite being the nominal babyface in this match. Undertaker, despite being a very scary heel, got a pretty good pop when the gong hit, though the pop died a little during the ‘Accept the Lord of Darkness’ stuff. Undertaker came out looking like a 90s horror film maker’s idea of Satan.
I’m going to be honest, I really hated this match. I wasn’t a fan of Taker’s Satanic stuff and that killed my enjoyment of this match. Boss Man, though being a good half a head shorter than Taker was still large enough to really be able to take it to Taker, including cuffing Taker to the cell and beating him with the nightstick. One funny thing was Taker going for Old School and then realizing that he was too tall to be able to pull that move in the cell, which was much shorter then, and then getting nut shot by Boss Man.
That said, this was a pretty good Hell in a Cell match and it was as brutal as you’d expect it to be in the days when bloody matches were a staple of WWE shows.
It wasn’t until after the match was over that the thing I hated most about this match happened. The Brood (Edge, Christian, and Gangrel) descended from the rafters and helped Taker ‘hang’ Boss Man from a noose from the roof of the cell. Even knowing that Boss Man had a harness on and wasn’t in any real danger, the sight of that…lynching was so disturbing that I can hardly stand to watch it. If I had to consider who would think that was ‘edgy’ and not ‘disturbing’, I’d say this spot came from the brain of Vince Russo.
Highlight: It ended.
Rating: 4/10 The match was fine, but I HATED what happened afterwards.
Steve Cook’s 2012 WWE Royal Rumble Road Trip
Steve Cook takes you on a stroll down memory lane as he attends the 2012 WWE Royal Rumble live and in person!
It’s Royal Rumble Week! If you’re anything like me you get nostalgic during these huge events in the wrestling year. We can’t help but think about some of our favorite Royal Rumble memories. Ric Flair winning the WWF Championship in the 1992 Rumble still rates as my favorite match ever. I watch it at least once or twice a year. Stone Cold Steve Austin’s various Rumble victories were a highlight of my teenage years. I think I can mention now that I watched them on a black box of questionable legality.
The one I remember most has to be the 2012 Royal Rumble. Internet experts might not agree with the idea of it being memorable. 2012 wasn’t one of the more well-received editions of the event. I might not remember it either if I wasn’t there. Oddly enough, I still have many fond memories of my trip to St. Louis. Since I was nowhere near sober for most of the weekend, this surprises me.
I thought it would be fun to dip into the archives and take a look back at that trip. The following originally appeared in the 02.01.12 edition of News From Cook’s Corner. If you’d like to read more of my classic writing, or even more of my recent stuff, 411mania.com has plenty of both.
The Royal Rumble has always been one of my favorite events of the year. There’s nothing quite like the Rumble Match, where thirty wrestlers enter in intervals to determine who will challenge for the WWE or the World title at WrestleMania. I’ve always wanted to see it live, but never had the opportunity until this year. The Rumble was in St. Louis, Missouri, which is a couple of states over from where I live and a couple of hours from the home of my Offtheteam.com podcasting partner and best Internet friend, Trent “The Penguin” Howell. I hadn’t seen ol’ Trent in person since we went to a Raw house show back in 2004, so going to the Rumble with him seemed like a darn good idea.
I spent a lot of time before the trip worrying about the weather for the 6+ hour drive to Cape Girardeau. Weather is always an issue in this part of the country this time of year, but I was blessed with clear skies and decent temperatures for the trip. Saturday night in Cape was pretty fun, we hit a couple bars once Trent finally got the headlight on his motor vehicle working after two trips to an auto part store. Trent’s wife joined us later in the evening and she was even cooler than he said she was. If you think AJ’s attractive you’d like her, as they’re the same size. Better-looking face too. Trent did good there.
On Sunday we headed up to St. Louis and set up camp in Harrah’s. I haven’t been to too many casinos in my day, but I might have to make that happen more often because the vibe there was awesome. Even if they rob you blind they’re really nice about it. They’ll give you a bottle of water when they close the bar at 3 AM. (By the way, if you’ve listened to our OTT podcasts and think we’re ridiculous, you should hear us talking sports & politics at 3 AM after a long, long night.) The chicken fingers I had at 2 AM really hit the spot. Making things even better was the fact that they were having a Chinese New Year’s celebration and the place was full of fine Asian chicks. Chinese New Year’s is my new favorite holiday.
But you’re not here to read about my casino adventure with the Penguins, you want some Royal Rumble thoughts! We were joined for the show by Trent’s friend Shawn and Andy Critchell, Larry Csonka’s Monday night 411 on Wrestling co-host. Andy is a very jovial fella and went absolutely crazy for Mark Henry, so he was pretty much what I expected. Good dude. I thought the crowd was really good but apparently it didn’t come across that way on TV for whatever reason. It was a pretty smart crowd, one that started chanting about how Cena sucked before the show started. The people around us were pretty good…there was somebody in front of me that held up a sign early on, but I approved because it said “I Paid To See Daniel Bryan”. If you want to block my view for a couple of minutes during a three-hour show I won’t mind if you have something that’s worth saying. I thought the crowd was a lot better than the crowds I’ve been part of in places like Cincinnati & Lexington, where people actually don’t respond to much of anything. People were reacting to stuff here, and all of us were going crazy at various points in the show.
Dark Match: Yoshi Tatsu d. Heath Slater
This would have fit right in on Superstars for sure. It wasn’t spectacular or anything, but both guys worked hard and it definitely wasn‘t bad. Yoshi was quite popular with the crowd and Heath got a good heel reaction. For all I know this might actually be a feud on NXT. I like Yoshi a lot, and Heath’s going to be around for awhile because he’s good at making other people look good.
Triple Threat Cage Match: World Champion Daniel Bryan d. Big Show & Mark Henry
With Mark Henry hurt and Big Show reportedly hurt, it was on Daniel Bryan to put on a show and he did just that. D-Bry got a hell of a mixed reaction from the St. Louis crowd, as boos dominated his entrance but there were a few loud “DANIEL BRYAN CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP” chants during the match. Like I told Larry (Csonka) people can’t say that he doesn’t get a reaction now. Well, they can say it, but they’re wrong. I question the reports of Big Show being hurt because he looked pretty good here and even got his 450-pound butt on top of the cage. Nice story here, with Bryan constantly trying to get out of the cage early, getting some offense in later, and a great ending sequence with Bryan hanging off the wrist of Big Show. Eventually he fell to the floor and retained the title, and I screamed about how that was my boy D-Bryan. Watching Critchell mark out for Mark Henry in person was quite the experience, and I don’t know what he would have done if Mizark had won.
Beth Phoenix, Natalya & the Bella Twins d. Kelly Kelly, Eve, Alicia Fox & Tamina
— WWE (@WWE) December 31, 2016
I wasn’t sure how they would get the Divas on the show, so we probably should have seen this match coming. This had Kelly Kelly doing a freaking cross-body off the top rope to the floor, so it was better than any Diva match I’d seen in quite awhile. Also, it was nice to see that Beth Phoenix is still alive and they actually had her win the match. Guess it’s time to build her up for her next challenger.
John Cena vs. Kane – Double Countout
I wasn’t feeling this at all going in, and the match & aftermath only made things less interesting. The Cena crowd response was interesting, as they got the LET’S GO CENA/CENA SUCKS chant going a couple of times (For the record, Critchell chanted the former while Penguin and I chanted the latter), but when that wasn’t going on nobody really knew what to do. Match was pretty much what you’d expect, then they went to the back so Kane could drag Zack Ryder out of his locker room and Tombstone him. I had a feeling something would happen to Zack when I saw that he had his own locker room. I guess it was nice that all the people that bought Broski headbands got to see their guy, even if he got Tombstoned.
The stretcher job seemed like a good time to get a t-shirt, but the Royal Rumble XXL shirts sold out. I probably should have seen that one coming. Fortunately I got back in time for the next match…
Funkasaurus d. Drew McIntyre
I was happy when Drew came out, then Funkasaurus came out and I lost my shit. You can’t help it, that song will get stuck in your head for days and how many chances will you have to dance along with a Funkasaurus? Hell yes I did the Dactyl arms. I got my Funkasaurus entrance so I didn’t have to start a riot or anything. Good times. I love the Funkasaurus and I’m so happy I got to see him do his thing live.
There were quite a few people wearing their James Laurinaitis St. Louis Rams jerseys at the show, but that didn’t stop John Laurinaitis from getting booed out of the building when he came out. He had to wear the sleeveless ref shirt so he could show off the guns!
CM Punk d. Dolph Ziggler
— Colt – Wrestling Coverage (@WWEColt) April 20, 2017
This got off to a really great start and most of it was enjoyable, but the overbooking at the end drug it down a bit. Of course that was to be expected with Big Johnny out there as the ringside enforcer, but it seemed kind of blah to me. Some darn good wrestling led up to it, but it didn’t quite live up to the MOTYC potential that most of us thought it had. Punk was rather popular. Ziggler had a solid performance, but as good as he is I don’t think he’s quite ready to carry Raw’s main title yet. He could be very soon, but he doesn’t quite have that connection with the audience.
As somebody who has watched CM Punk & Daniel Bryan compete on ROH shows with about 500 people at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds and at an IWA-MS show in a national guard armory with somewhere around 50 people, it was incredible to see both of them retaining their world championships with 18,120 other people in a huge arena. People often ask me why I bother with that indy wrestling stuff that isn‘t as slickly produced as WWE or Impact Wrestling, and that’s the reason. To see guys like Punk & Bryan go from performing at county fairgrounds & national guard armories to huge arenas…it’s a beautiful thing.
Royal Rumble Match
— WWE (@WWE) April 18, 2018
It was 55 minutes, so it’s best if I cover it in the Raw Thoughts format…
-Miz had a long run in the match and was the Iron Man by a couple of minutes over Cody Rhodes, but he didn’t do a whole lot for most of it. He laid on the floor for awhile after R-Truth took him out, then he got back in the ring and laid around most of the time. It’s like most of Miz’s career…he accomplishes stuff like winning the WWE title and headlining WrestleMania, but it doesn’t quite connect the way it should.
-I called Alex Riley being number two, and he lasted about as long as I expected.
-Cody had a much more impressive showing at number four, as he was active most of the time and threw out a pretty good collection of legends. Something tells me he’ll be feuding with a veteran at WrestleMania. It might be his brother Goldust, or perhaps his elimination of Mick Foley will lead to something. Either could work pretty well.
-Ricardo Rodriguez was fantastic. I thought it was actually ADR at first because I didn’t see just how wrecked the car was. I wonder if WWE expected a “RICARDO” chant.
-Socko vs. the Cobra got a tremendous reaction. I guess Santino started wearing the cobra sock just for that spot. Why not?
-Kofi Kingston needs to be doing something since his tag partner‘s having issues, and if Sunday’s Rumble performance & Monday’s victory over The Miz are any indication WWE gets that too. The walking handstand to remain in the Rumble was insane.
-I don’t need to see another Khali/Jinder feud, but at least Khali eliminated Jinder from the match. Speaking of which, WWE has some interesting wrestlers on the sides of their semis:
Kane (without mask)
There are some more I’m forgetting, but there were some interesting choices. They also have a couple of Rock/Cena WrestleMania semis.
-I know some of you guys didn’t like having all the announcers in, but the crowd went crazy for Lawler & Booker and booed the hell out of Cole. We were glad not to have to listen to them all night, but it would have been interesting to hear how they handled things when they all got back to the announce table.
-Hacksaw & Road Dogg got huge pops (and apparently Road Dogg still has it), but to me the biggest surprise in the Rumble by far was Kharma. We were actually talking about her earlier in the day while explaining the current storylines to Mrs. Penguin, and weren’t sure when she’d be coming back. Good job by her keeping that a secret, and the Implant Buster on Dolph Ziggler was tremendous.
Not a fan of the new Wade Barrett music. He finally had a decent re-mix of his old theme so I guess it was time to change it.
-People in the crowd were getting way too excited over who #30 would be. I told them not to get their hopes up, but no, they were sure that it’d be Batista or Rey Mysterio or somebody else making a big comeback. So they were pretty disappointed when it was Big Show.
-They saved a whole lot of the heavy-hitters for the end of the match, but it made sense to keep Orton’s return appearance a bit brief and it was Jericho’s first real in-ring action since September 2010. Not that you could tell, because the ending sequence with Jericho vs. Sheamus was the best part of the match. I had no idea who was going to win out of those two, and they showed some damn good chemistry. I’m sure we’ll be seeing it again sometime down the road.
-No Hornswoggle. I’m not really complaining, I’m just saying he wasn’t in the match.
-Sheamus won! He was one of the favorites to win and the person I went with on the podcast, and he’s a fine choice to have in one of the title matches at WrestleMania. I’m hoping it ends up being Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan, as it’d be pretty cool to have a match that got bumped off of WrestleMania XXVII be one of the main events for WrestleMania XXVIII. I was one of the people that thought Sheamus was getting pushed too soon a couple of years back, but he’s proven to be a solid wrestler, a good/unique promo, and he always comes off well as a spokesperson for the company whenever he’s doing radio shows & TV appearances. I, for one, will not be hopping off the Sheamus bandwagon anytime soon. Dude does a good job.
-Of course, if he goes against my boy D-Bry I’ll have to root against him at WrestleMania. But I won’t be too broken-hearted if he gets the win.
-I thought the Rumble match was pretty good overall. The comedy went over pretty well, the stretch with Jericho & Sheamus at the end was awesome, and there was a lot of Cody Rhodes. There were a lot of people in the match that didn’t have a chance of winning, I wouldn’t rate it as one of the greatest Rumble fields of all time or anything like that. It was still put together really well and had some good spots. You would think that yelling the countdown numbers over and over again gets old, but it really doesn’t.
— Steve Cook (@stevecook84) January 22, 2015
After the show we met up with a gentleman from England that goes by “Snowman” on the OTT Forums and headed to the Sheraton for drinks. Yeah, he flew in from England so he could see the Rumble & Raw. That doesn’t suck. The Penguins and I went back to the casino, and that is pretty much the end of our story. There are more stories, but I think I’ll save them for another time…Trent and I are doing a Super Bowl podcast on Thursday night so I’m sure we’ll be talking about some of the crazy things that happened then.
If I had to rate the weekend on a scale from 1-10, it would come in at about an 11 because I had so much fun. I can officially cross the Royal Rumble off of my wrestling bucket list. And hey, as Trent said, maybe St. Louis will host a WrestleMania after they build another football stadium for the team they get after the Rams leave. So there’s hope I can see one of those too.
…St. Louis ain’t getting no WrestleMania.
Can you believe I still had a full news column after this? Man, 2012 was great if you liked reading lots & lots of words about wrestling.