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Pro Wrestling: The Senior Tour?

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The Undertaker WWE

Wrestling all over the world–not just in WWE–is featuring and celebrating stars of years past, and doing so in prominent positions. Is this any different than Hollywood and music?

While much has been said about the ages in the tag team match at Crown Jewel (Shawn Michaels is 53, Triple H 49, The Undertaker 53, and Kane 51) that’s not the only place where guys who could be my older brother are competing.  49 year old Kurt Angle just wrestled on RAW this week after working at Crown Jewel himself.

It’s not just WWE, either!

Chris Jericho is still going in New Japan at the ripe young age of 47 and will be in the second biggest match at Wrestle Kingdom in January when he faces Tetsuya Naito in a defense of the IWGP Intercontinental Championship that he’s held since this summer.  Over in Ring of Honor 47 year old Bully Ray is the best heel they have working there (his work this past weekend included a match where he was the manager for Silas Young, who faced the 55 year old Sandman in a no DQ match).  But wait, there’s more!

One of the biggest stories on the indie scene this year is the run that 50 year old Pierre Carl Oulette (PCO) is on in 2018.  And in AAA 52 year old LA Park, the Chairman from WCW back in the late 90s, has undergone a career resurgence.  That’s a whole lot of work for guys who are almost or over 50 and have long since seen their best days.  And with that come the obvious questions: (a) Is this bad for business? and (b) Is this a bad sign for their respective companies?

In response to the first question, I give it a resounding no.  Of course it’s not bad for business.  Bringing in anyone with the name recognition and residual popularity to sell a few more tickets or get a few more views is not only just fine, it has a pretty long history in the business.  Bruno Sammartino was working house shows in 1986 ad 87 at 50 years old, often in the main event or second highest match on the card.  Verne Gagne won the AWA World Championship at 54 years old (it helped that he was the owner and booker at the time, of course).

Ric Flair worked until he was almost 60.  Wahoo McDaniel was US champion at 46 and competed until he was 57.  The Rock n Roll Express are still working indie shows now at ages 62 (Ricky Morton) and 60 (Robert Gibson).  The list goes on and on.  If guys can still get in a ring, move around at all, and still get off one or two of their big moves then there’s a good chance they’re going to keep working.

And they’re not alone.  The music industry is chock full of guys that are old enough to have fathered some of these dudes and are still going – Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Tony Bennett, and Bruce Springsteen, to name a few.  Liam Neeson is still taking out bad guys into his 60s and the Expendables series is centered around 50 and 60 something year old action stars returning to do their thing.  As long as they can pass and we’re still willing to pay it’s not that big of a deal.

But what about the people that are hiring them?  Is it any kind of bad omen that there’s a desire or need to keep running these guys out there, whether it’s just every now and then or on a regular basis?  To that I answer…….it depends.

Yes, making a 50 something year old your full time top star and putting your top title on them for an extended run is a sign of major desperation or just bad decision making.  But nobody’s doing that here.  Bully Ray gets a big segment on TV almost every week but he doesn’t main event and he doesn’t challenge for any titles.  Angle’s match Monday was booked in order to make him look like an old guy who’s in over his head with Drew McIntyre.  P

ark and PCO aren’t working 60 minute Ironman matches.  And while the 4 way nursing home tag match looked bad in spots from what I heard, that and it’s predecessor at the Super Show Down were special additions to shows for crowds that hadn’t seen those guys in person before.  And while you can argue that they got too much TV time to promote them, to the point that it overshadowed Evolution in very conspicuous fashion, now that those dates are done we’re not seeing them anymore.  So I don’t see what the big brouhaha was all about in hindsight outside of the advertising.

So I guess you could say I’m fine with the old guys still working and still getting prominent spots sometimes.  On a personal note, when my Dad saw Bruno was still working it took him back to his younger days of watching and gave us one more thing to bond over.  And he didn’t say ‘man, Bruno’s still out there?  They must be desperate.’  He was happy to see that ‘his guy’ could still go a little and that made me happy.

When I’m in the car with my kids and play some of ‘my music’ to a favorable reaction it makes me feel pretty good.  Nothing wrong with giving some of our elders a place on the show as long as it’s managed right.  Like all forms of entertainment wrestling and WWE exists on a continuum that spans from my grandparents to my children and there’s room for everyone to participate and enjoy.


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Cook: Don’t Bet Against Greatness

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but it’s an equally important lesson to remember. As Steve Cook says: don’t bet against greatness.

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Tom Brady Super Bowl Trophy

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but it’s an equally important lesson to remember. As Steve Cook says: don’t bet against greatness.

It would take at least a thousand columns like this one to explain the biggest mistakes we pundits make. I use the phrase “we” because I’ll never sit here and tell you I’m infallible. I make more mistakes than I care to remember. Today, we’ll talk about one that I’m guilty of pretty often.

Too often, we don’t give greatness the benefit of the doubt.

We jump to quick conclusions when the greats of a genre do things that don’t seem in character, or are different from what we’re used to. We don’t consider the idea that maybe these people, who have already accomplished many things in life, might actually have a better idea what they can do to improve their future than we do.

Hard to believe, I know. This past weekend saw great success for two of the most successful people in the world of sports & entertainment. They serve as perfect examples of my hypothesis.

Example 1: Tom Brady

Tom Brady

For years, I have resisted the idea of calling Tom Brady the Greatest Quarterback of All Time. I never like crowning current stars the greatest of anything, as it disrespects the people that came before them. Unless they just accomplish so damn much that it’d be silly to deny them the honor. Sometimes, people get GOAT status that don’t really deserve it. They seem to be on pace to get there, but never make the jump.

Tom Brady made that jump a long time ago. There isn’t really a metric people can use to sell him short at this point. He’s at or near the top of every significant passing category in league history. There’s also the number of Super Bowls won, and number of rings/titles/championships always wins any sports argument, regardless of the sport. It can’t really be denied at this point.

The one thread people had to hang on to? Bill Belichick. The Patriot Way. Brady & Belichick formed a dynasty together. The other players & assistant coaches always changed, but Tom & Bill were always there. Which provided a bit of drama over the past few years whenever we needed something to talk about. Who was responsible for the success? The answer was obviously a little bit of both, but it was always a big debate.

Brady went to Tampa, and some folks thought it might not work. Many talking heads went on about how Tom was just going to Tampa because he wanted out of the cold weather. He just wanted to have fun for the last couple years of his career. They didn’t think that he could do these things and also win championships.

He’s one game away from doing just that. Are you going to bet against him? I’m not!

Example 2: Vince McMahon

Vince McMahon Laughing

How many articles have you read questioning McMahon’s mental acumen? Especially over the past several years as he’s advanced in age? It seems like everybody has dismissed the old man as a fossil that needs to step aside and let the kids run things.

We think we have evidence for this theory from WWE television. I’ll admit it, Raw most weeks is thoroughly unwatchable. You may disagree, but I’m the one typing this thing up. SmackDown is a little bit better, but Raw’s ineptitude overshadows it for the most part. Then there’s NXT, which most people seem to agree goes downhill the more that Vince pays attention to it.

A good percentage of the Internet wishes that Vince would step aside and not be all over everything.

This places us on the opposite side of most investors, who don’t watch the shows religiously, if at all, and don’t get inside knowledge from the dirt sheets & message boards. What they know is that Vince McMahon is the most successful promoter in wrestling history, and that he knows how to make a lot of money. Which, most would argue, is a lot more important than the quality of the shows one produces.

McMahon has shown an ability to make the right business moves at the right time. 1984 was the right time to go national and wipe out the territories, cable television expanding wrestling program reach made it only a matter of time. Vince was the first one to jump.

The late 1990s when the company was at a mainstream acceptance high was the right time to go public. You didn’t see him trying it in the early 1990s when he was fighting off various scandals and the company was at a mainstream acceptance low. Once people forgot about the steroid & sex stuff and saw how popular the Superstars of the time were, it was time to buy in.

Streaming was the wave of the future when WWE Network started becoming a thing. It was the culmination of nearly thirty years of Vince McMahon collecting nearly every bit of wrestling footage he could. He wanted to own wrestling & create his own history, then he wanted to get everybody else’s history too. He got most of it. There’s stuff sitting in the WWE archives that still hasn’t seen the light of day, and maybe it never will. Everybody and their brother has some kind of streaming service now. WWE was there before most, and now they got the chance to cash in from a media company trying to bolster their own streaming service.

Now, McMahon’s business record isn’t perfect. We know about the WBF & the XFL (twice). We remember how WWE wasn’t the original name. The early 90s scandals have been mentioned. And as major UFC and boxing events have shown, Vince was too quick to give up on pay per view. Left some money on the table there.

Every businessman makes mistakes. Its how they recover from those mistakes that matters. McMahon always comes out of his smelling like roses. There’s never really a long-term negative effect afterward. Vince got Dwayne Johnson to buy the XFL. His attempt to compete in bodybuilding led to no hard feelings. We all eventually got used to saying & writing “WWE”.

All those things we get mad at about Vince? They don’t keep most of us from watching his programming. Which is why WWE is so valuable to media companies. WWE has an audience that it can’t scare away, no matter what it does. People will follow them from USA to Fox to Spike TV to the WWE Network, whatever’s got some of that sweet content.

So the next time somebody wants to tell you that Old Man Vince is out of touch and doesn’t get it anymore…ask that person the last time they deposited a billion dollar check. If it was sometime in the last week, then they might have a point.

I might not be in love with most of the wrestling Vince McMahon produces these days. Are you going to bet against him making money off of it? I’m not!

Do not bet against greatness. More often than not, you will lose.


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Andrew’s Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 1/24/2021

Well even on a quiet-ish week, all of the bigger NA companies get a version of representation and even AJPW found their way into the Top 5! Let’s see what we’re working with!

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Well now, we didn’t have much that really stood out on North American television, but we did get a few additions from All Japan Pro Wrestling!

Last week’s voting was pretty cut and dry, NXT UK: NXT UK Championship: Walter (c) vs A-Kid, managed to control the voting narrative. Now we get this week, and it’s definitely a little more interesting.

Which match will get the most support? Let’s find out!

Quick Top 5:

  1. AJPW New Year Wars Final Round: Triple Crown Championship: SUWAMA (c) vs Shotaro Ashino
    Rating: **** 1/4
  2. AJPW New Years Wars Final Round: World Junior Championship: Fuminori Abe vs Koji Iwamoto (c)
    Rating: *** 3/4
  3. WWE Raw: Ricochet vs AJ Styles
    Rating: *** 3/4
  4. IMPACT! Private Party w/Big Money Matt Hardy vs Beer Guns (James Storm & Chris Sabin)
    Rating: *** 1/2
  5. NXT: Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher
    Rating: *** 1/2

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • NXT UK: Dave Mastiff vs Rampage Brown
    Rating: *** 1/4
  • NXT: Imperium vs Lucha House Party
    Rating: ***
  • WWE Raw: Asuka vs Alexa Bliss
    Rating: ***
  • AEW Dynamite: MJericho vs Sammy Hager vs Santana & Ortiz
    Rating: ***
  • NXT: KUSHIDA & Leon Ruff VS The Way
    Rating: ***

4t. NXT: Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher

From Mitchell’s Coverage:

The ref checks on Thatcher but Thatcher grabs at Ciampa over the ref’s back! Ciampa uses the leverage for WILLOW’S BELL!! But Ciampa can’t win off a cover, he wants to know if that knocked Thatcher out! The ref starts a count, Thatcher is still conscious but he has to get up before 10! The count is 5, then 6! Thatcher uses the cage and drags himself up at 9.9! But Ciampa CLOBBERS him, underhooks, but Thatcher spins out to throw EuroUppers! Ciampa forearms, they’re brawling back and forth with fury! The fans are fired up as Ciampa CHOPS but Thatcher tackles him into steel!

Ciampa throws elbows, has a facelock, and he RAMS Thatcher into steel! FAIRYTALE ENDING!! And then a SLEEPER HOLD!! Ciampa wants Thatcher to pass out, but Thatcher fights up! And scoops Ciampa to RAM him into the steel! Thatcher gets Ciampa in a sleeper hold of his own, but Ciampa uses the corner to go up! Thatcher shoves Ciampa into the corner! Thatcher CLUBS Ciampa over and over and over, then has the leg trapped in the girder! HANGING STRETCH MUFFLER!! Ciampa shouts in pain, he TAPS! THATCHER WINS!!

Winner: Thatcher Hanging Stretch Muffler

 

4t. IMPACT! Private Party w/Big Money Matt Hardy vs Beer Guns (James Storm & Chris Sabin)

From My Results:

Fast paced as expected, but early on we see Tony Khan and Jerry Lynn walk out to sit at ringside and watch the match. Storm didn’t slow down too much, which is surprising since aside from his brief stint back in Impact at the end of 2020, we saw him tagging with Eli Drake in much slower, less workrate dependent matches.

Private Party were their usual high flying, fun having, break dance inspired flourishes to some offense we’ve seen for years. Beer Guns had a cool tandem move with Sabin Sunset Flipping from outside in, Quen rolled right into the Backstabber from James Storm. Lots of signature spam, a few dives, highlighted by a nice Fosbury Flop from Quen.

Sabin looked to be setting up for the finish, when Jerry Lynn hops the familiar guardrail, grabs Sabin’s foot while Matt Hardy distracted the ref; and Private Party hit Gin & Juice for the heel tactic upset! Interestingly, Private Party still comes off as great babyface kids who are being swindled by scummy adults. So they aren’t playing heel, but everyone around them is doing it for them.

Winner: Private Party via Gin & Juice

 

2t. WWE Raw: Ricochet vs AJ Styles

From Mitchell’s Coverage:

Ricochet is frustrated but Omos is relieved as Styles survives. Ricochet fireman’s carries but Styles fights out. Ricochet mule kicks a leg then back flips into the DEAD LIFT GERMAN! Bridging cover, TWO! Ricochet grows further frustrated but he watches Styles stand. Ricochet runs out from the corner but Styles dodges. Styles runs in, Ricochet elbows back, QUEBRADA into a LARIAT! Styles gets Ricochet up, SNAP BRAIN BUSTER!! Cover, TWO!! Styles fireman’s carries Ricochet for USHIGOROSHI! Cover, TWO! Omos says it’s alright but Styles is still surprised Ricochet survives!

Styles goes to a corner, goes to the apron, and takes aim. Styles springboards, but Ricochet hits the RECOIL!! Both men are down, Ricochet crawls to the cover, TWO!! Styles survives and Ricochet is beside himself! Ricochet goes to the corner, climbs up top, but Styles trips him up! Ricochet lands hard on his stomach and flops to the apron! Omos coaches Styles as Ricochet drags himself up. Styles goes to the corner, brings Styles up, but Ricochet hotshots! Ricochet aims, slingshots, but into Styles’ suplex, that rebounds off the ropes! Into the STYLES CLASH!!! Cover, Styles wins!

Winner: AJ Styles via Styles Clash

 

2t. AJPW New Years Wars Final Round: World Junior Championship: Fuminori Abe vs Koji Iwamoto (c)

Iwamoto has finally started to blossom as the Ace of the current Junior Division. Fuminori Abe on the other hand, is a freelancer who can do anything and everything. This should be a great test for the Junior Ace, since Abe can hit you from every conceivable angle.

There’s a brief period of feeling out we saw the versatility of Abe. He delved into a little bit of his comedic side with the long set up on a Penalty Kick to the back, but he also snapped off some great Frankensteiners and high spots. He also worked over the upper body well to try and go for his signature Octopus Hold, but Iwamoto was able to get the rope break.

Iwamoto’s saving grace was his Judo background. A few Dropkicks to get distance and just catching Abe with multiple Judo Throws, set up beautifully for the Koko no Geijutsu, because it is also a fast snapping Judo Throw, but he uses the ropes for the added momentum to make it a finish.

Smooth as butter, and only rated under a 4 because of how fast the match was. If it had a longer build or another back and forth, this could’ve been epic. But it was still a damn great match.

After the match Cima challenged via video.

Winner: Koji Iwamoto via Koko no Geijutsu

 

1. AJPW New Year Wars Final Round: Triple Crown Championship: SUWAMA (c) vs Shotaro Ashino

Suwama’s hand picked opponent because of their similarities. Ashino being the former ace of Wrestle-1, a disciple of Keiji Mutoh and an accomplish amateur style wrestler; this all rings true with Suwama. So we get part two of the Mutoh’s favorite son challenge!

This match did have a few of the same issues as their first one, since a slower mat based style doesn’t resonate well with no crowd or a muted crowd. Suwama did keep up with Ashino for the most part, and the match had many similar elements as the first match. Ashino worked over the Ankle and went for the Ankle Lock; where Suwama showed he could counter most of it and apply his own submissions.

Smartly, Ashino did his best to avoid the Last Ride Powerbomb, which is how he lost his first challenge, and force Suwama to dig deeper. Ashino was explosive with German Suplexes, but he fell into the SANADA trap. Ashino drags Suwama to position him from the corner, even commentary is confused since Ashino is no high flier, but Ashino goes for the Mutoh Moonsault, and hits nothing!

After the miss it felt like Ashino was looking for something he didn’t have to take down Suwama. Suwama did have to pull off numerous Backdrop Drivers and finally the Backdrop Suplex Hold to retain the title. A very solid defense that built off the previous matchup, and would’ve been much better if the mat wrestling didn’t feel like it dragged because of the world situation.

Kohei Sato comes out after to challenge.

Winner: Suwama via Backdrop Suplex Hold

 

Thoughts:

Now I’m really intrigued at how this vote will shake out. A few matches from the lesser view AJPW, a match from Raw, a crossover with AEW & Impact and a gimmick match from NXT.

My vote personally will go to Private Party vs Beer Guns, because this is the first interaction that really does feel interesting for the invasion/war/crossover/takeover whatever story. Great use of former Impact talent, great screwjob and ideally should lead to bigger things. Plus it’s nice to see a younger/undercard team like Private Party getting their star elevated a bit.

Do I think any of these matches touch the first week of the year? No, not at all. But they weren’t stinkers, so let’s make the month interesting before Royal Rumble!


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