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Cook’s Top 5: Contract Signings

With the contract signing being a big part of wrestling, Steve Cook explores the Top 5!

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With the contract signing being a big part of wrestling, Steve Cook explores the Top 5!

All Elite Wrestling’s very first public contract signing is taking place this week on Dynamite. Le Champion Chris Jericho & American Nightmare Cody will put their names on the likely non-dotted line to meet at the Full Gear event in Baltimore. I’ve been pretty pro-AEW & very pro-anything involving Jericho and/or Cody lately, but here’s the thing:

I hate contract signings.

I could go the rest of my life without seeing another one pretty easily. WWE’s really done the gimmick to death over the years, as it seems like they have one every couple of months for matches of all levels of importance. It’s one thing to have it for a PPV World Championship match. It’s another to drag it out for an Intercontinental Championship match or tag team match or something.

They’re all very predictable too. You know it’s going to involve a number of sick burns and somebody’s going to get beat up.

I need to try & get over this irrational hatred. WWE’s going to have another one in a couple of weeks anyway. So let’s jump in the time machine and look back at the Top 5 Contract Signings to remind ourselves why wrestling promotions hold them incessantly.

5. Bret Hart & Yokozuna sign to meet at WrestleMania IX

Mean Gene Okerlund was on point as the host here. He implored both men for decorum and ran the show. President Jack Tunney was out there and Okerlund seemed more like an authority figure to me. Except when he stumbled over the ropes while getting out of the ring.

The Hitman’s assertion he would be 100% for the match took a hit when Yokozuna attacked him. Bret impressed us all by eventually standing up after taking the Banzai Drop. That hadn’t been done up until that point.

4. Hollywood Hogan exposes Rowdy Roddy Piper prior to Starrcade ’96

The New World Order engaged in more than its fair share of beatdowns during its existence, but this was definitely one that stood out from the pack. Hogan & Piper’s Starrcade match was so big that the contract signing had to be on PPV as well, as World War 3 played host to it. Piper had changed a little bit since the last time he had wrestled, and Hogan & the NWO showed us how.

People were going to find out about the hip anyway, so it made sense to include it as part of the storyline. Hogan attacking it & spray painting Piper’s leg made him that much more despicable & made you want to see the Rowdy Scot take his head off.

3. Vince McMahon signs the contract for the End of an Era match with Steve Austin’s blood

There weren’t many more bitter feuds than the one between Stone Cold Steve Austin & his boss, Vince McMahon. It propelled the WWF to the the top of the Monday Night War and to bigger business than it had ever seen. But all good things have to come to an end, and Austin vs. McMahon had to end or else one of them was going to end up killing the other. So Austin’s match with the Undertaker was to have three stipulations:

-First Blood
-If Austin wins, Vince never appears on television again
-If Undertaker wins, Austin never gets another title shot

So, of course we needed a contract signing to make sure everybody agreed. And of course, there needed to be blood involved in the signing.

Vince liked doing this so much that he did a variation of it with Hulk Hogan prior to WrestleMania XIX. Shame he didn’t think to do it before WrestleMania 23.

2. Batista signs the World Championship Match contract for WrestleMania 21

When Batista won the 2005 Royal Rumble, he received the opportunity to face the top champion of his choosing: SmackDown’s WWE Champion JBL, or Raw’s World Champion Triple H. Evolution was still running strong with H, Batista & Ric Flair at this point, but Triple H was a bit afraid that the big man wanted his title. He first tried to convince Batista not to enter the Rumble, but that was a non-starter. Then, Hunter devised a plan to have Batista nearly hit by a white limo with horns on it that resembled one that JBL would ride around in. It almost worked, until Batista overheard H & Flair talking about how well the plan worked in the locker room. Womp womp.

Batista switching the thumbs up to the thumbs down was one of those amazing moments you love to see as a wrestling fan. Finally, the Animal was going to snap on his mentor. It’s easy to see why people thought he was going to be the #1 guy in WWE through the rest of the 2000s.

1. Hulk Hogan finally gives Andre the Giant a title shot at WrestleMania III

It’s extremely rare to see one of these televised contract signings end without fists being thrown, but that’s exactly what happened at the Hogan/Andre contract signing prior to WrestleMania III. Hogan’s crucifix had already been torn off, so Andre didn’t need to engage in any more physicality. The Hulkster was beside himself with rage. Bobby Heenan was in classic Bobby Heenan form.

It didn’t need violence. The way Andre brushed Hogan off did more to convince people that the Giant was going to win the title in the Silverdome than anything else he could have done. Hogan’s behavior told a better story of his mindset going in than an attack on Andre would have. Maybe it could have used a better set, but other than that it was perfect.


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Cook’s Top 5: Royal Rumble Diesel Pushes

The Royal Rumble is right around the corner, and someone’s Diesel Push might be on the way! Steve Cook looks back at the Top 5, including Diesel himself!

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Shayna Baszler WWE Royal Rumble 2020

The Royal Rumble is right around the corner, and someone’s Diesel Push might be on the way! Steve Cook looks back at the Top 5 such pushes, including the man himself, Diesel!

You guys might have heard about this. The Royal Rumble is coming up on January 31! Thirty men & thirty women will compete in battle royals to determine who will get a title shot at WrestleMania. The winners will certainly receive a boost in attention and esteem, but there are other ways to stand out in a Rumble match.

One way: Eliminate a bunch of people!

It’s known by us geeks as the Diesel push. One individual, typically a large one, runs over the competition in a short amount of time and helps get rid of some of the deadwood in the ring. An important part of any Royal Rumble.

Here are the top 5 recipients of the Diesel Push! (There are six listed)

5. Great Khali (2007)

Khali always got things done in short order. This is why it doesn’t surprise me that 7 eliminations in 3:45 is the craziest stat in Royal Rumble history. The man knew what his job was, and he didn’t waste any time. He was also self-aware enough to know that his stamina wasn’t the best, he had a good number at 28, so if he threw everybody out as quickly as possible, he had a pretty good chance.

The downfall in Khali’s strategy? Undertaker was number 30. Tough break, kid. It probably looked really good to Khali when Miz pre-teaming with John Morrison came out at 29, and hopefully 30 would be somebody in that same category, but nah, it was Undertaker.

4. CM Punk (2011)

We all know that CM Punk’s push in WWE became bigger during 2011. We don’t know if that was originally intended or not, but things seemed to be picking up for him at the Rumble. At the time, Punk had taken control of The Nexus from Wade Barrett, so he had plenty of backup to support him during matches like thus one. Which he needed, since he drew #1. Fortunately, many of his Nexus minions also drew low numbers, so he was able to last thirty-five minutes and eliminate seven people.

The difference between this & most Diesel pushes: Punk was already a bit of a star at this point. He became a bigger one later in the year. The Rumble probably didn’t have much to do with it, but it didn’t hurt either.

3. Shayna Baszler & Bianca Belair (2020)

The 2020 Women’s Royal Rumble saw a pair of dominant women. Shayna Baszler was rewarded a little earlier. She got a Raw Women’s Championship match against Becky Lynch at WrestleMania. The less said other than that sentence, the better.

Bianca Belair eliminated the same number of women that Baszler did, which was eight if you’re scoring at home, or even if you’re alone. It took some time, but as I write this here & now, Belair is finally getting to show her skills on main roster TV. Completely outclassed Bayley on an obstacle course, proving to be a superior athlete. Doesn’t always translate to pro wrestling, but I won’t deny Bianca’s athletic ability.

Two Diesel pushes in one match is a bit much, but I see what they were going for here.

2. Roman Reigns (2014)

The Shield had been picking up momentum throughout 2013, and it seemed like they were on the verge of big things. Maybe a face turn, maybe the group splitting up, probably both because that’s usually what happens when members of a group start getting over. The 2014 Royal Rumble provided a good opportunity to make the Shield members into stars on their own. Seth Rollins entered second & lasted over forty-eight minutes. Dean Ambrose had a solid showing at over thirty-three minutes.

However, it was the Big Dog that stood out from the pack. Roman Reigns entered fifteenth and was the last person eliminated by the winner, Batista. Prior to that, he set a Royal Rumble record, eliminating twelve people. Including Rollins & Ambrose! The record lasted until the Greatest Royal Rumble match, where Braun Strowman eliminated thirteen people. There were fifty people in that match though, so it wasn’t quite as dominant.

Reigns’ performance was somewhat overshadowed by the lack of Daniel Bryan and the match ending up being CM Punk’s last, but it was still an important part of his push to the main event.

1. Diesel (1994)

It’s a tough call between the original recipient of the Diesel Push and the Big Dog. Why do we go with Diesel? For me, it’s where both men started from. Reigns was already seen as a viable future star in the eyes of many fans. We tend to forget it now since the fans turned on Reigns once he got the push, but the man got over pretty well with the smart fans as a Shield member, even with the other two members having more indy cred. You could tell Roman was going places.

Diesel? Well, he was tall and had good hair. He was barely even a wrestler though! Diesel came into the WWF as Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard, and spent most of his time prior to the 1994 Rumble backing up the Boy Toy. To be honest, most of us that had seen Diesel’s run in WCW as Vinnie Vegas were happier to see him in the bodyguard role than as a wrestler. He wasn’t seen as a future main eventer or world champion or anything like that, until the Rumble match.

After the Diesel push, Kevin Nash was ready to shine.


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Rob: Has Pro Wrestling Become Too Soft?

The Undertaker took the online wrestling community by storm with his comments on the current product, and Rob offers some perspective!

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The Undertaker WWE WrestleMania Boneyard Match

The Undertaker took the online wrestling community by storm with his comments on the current product, and Rob offers some perspective!

So……the Undertaker had some things to say about how the kids today just aren’t doing it the way they did back in his day, and that it’s hurting the product.  In short he said it was harder to watch now because it was soft, and the guys weren’t real enough men – they spend too much time trying to look good and do things like play video games instead of packing heat.  Uhh………yeah………ok, Mr Callaway.

Now look, we can talk about the ring work – I for one think that there are way too many matches that look more like a gymnastics floor routine than what’s supposed to be a fight, from the indies all the way up to the WWE.  If he wants to stick to that than I think he’s worth listening to.  But that’s not what he focused on.  No, he spoke about how guys used to carry guns and knives in their bags, and that guys ‘handled stuff’ back in the day, and weren’t so occupied with grooming or playing video games with each other.  And that the changed behavior over the last few years has made the overall wrestling product harder to enjoy.  Help me out here but I don’t see how playing video games with each other and paying more attention to how you look, smell, etc makes for a worse wrestling product.  The ring action, sure.  The promos, which I didn’t see mentioned in the quotes I saw, sure.  Whether or not you do your hair…..really?  Does he not remember the many male wrestlers of days gone by who were sold to women fans as good looking men they’d want to go home with?  The Von Erich boys, the Rock on Roll Express, Ravishing Rick Rude, the Fantastics, Magnum TA?  Does he not remember commentary damn near yelling out loud ‘HEY LADIES, AREN”T THESE DUDES HOT?’ when those guys and many others were in the ring?  Does he not remember guys like ‘Gorgeous’ Jimmy Garvin, who was a proverbial man’s man but also had his valet (his real life wife Precious) spraying his hair while he was cutting promos?

But I got another question:

What kind of locker room does he think should exist? 

One where guys are dropping dead before the age of 50 or are concussed into oblivion?  Or one where they can work longer and not look pathetic if they so chose, or move on early if they want?

One where guys like Darren Young and Jake Atlas have to stay in the closet or where they can be out and accepted, where a guy like Randy Orton with his own checkered history will come up to them and say ‘if anyone gives you any crap, let me know?’

One where guys mostly keep each other out of trouble by doing things like……playing video games together or one where they’re out closing down the bar every night, getting into it with the police, etc.?

One where the men engage in all kinds of trifling behavior towards the women on the roster or one where they get along well enough for there to be genuine friendships where people look out for each other and even form some lasting romantic relationships?

And lastly in regards to guys carrying knives and guns instead of video games, do you want a locker room where guys work things out in a more civilized manner or one like where Bruiser Brody was stabbed to death?

Now he’s not the only one who says this kind of stuff.  A lot of guys from his generation have offered similar sentiments and there are a lot of podcasters who pine for the days when things felt more real and what not.  Well if we’re gonna keep it 100 a lot of those gave off more gravitas and sounded more real because they were legit living hard, messed up lives.  Drug problems.  Alcoholism.  Multiple marriages and divorces.  Bad relationships with their children.  Broken homes and childhoods that they were still traumatized over.  Failed careers in other professions.  I don’t know about you but I think it’s a plus that more of the guys seem to be living and working in such a way that they’re able to avoid those things.  I’ll take hearing Kofi and Xavier talk about their kids on the New Day Pod than a bunch of stories about how they were out boozing and cheating on their spouses in between shows.  The latter can be romanticized by guys who tell good stories and all, but the reality is a lot more grim (for good reference take a look at the ESPN documentary on Ric Flair).

And this goes beyond pro wrestling.  A lot of those old guys in our lives who say the same kind of things have suffered the same fates as their counterparts in the wrestling business.  It’s not healthy, full stop.  Just because you can’t relate with the guys who aren’t living and playing like you did 10, 20 years ago doesn’t mean that they’re doing it wrong.  As for the guys being ‘too pretty’ now…..it’s a lot easier to get opportunities to do things outside of wrestling if you look good, are well groomed, etc.  Acting gigs, TV gigs, magazine covers….you think Xavier Woods would have gotten a hosting job on the relaunched G4 network if he looked and groomed himself like Abdullah the Butcher?  Do you honestly think New Day would be more popular if they looked and acted more like what you consider to be real men?  I don’t see it.  And in an entertainment industry where women have to look damn near perfect just to get an interview I don’t think that men choosing to look as good as they possibly can is a negative.  And let’s not pretend that any of New Day can’t put their ring work alongside any guys from any era.  The video games, the gear colors and everything else don’t mean a damn thing as far as their abilities go.

Look man, time stops for no one.  Things change, and in this case I think they’ve changed for the better.  That he can’t see a trail several miles long of broken families, broken bodies, and premature death behind the ‘right way’ that he speaks of is kinda sad.


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