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Steve Cook’s Fave Five: July 2020

Steve Cook jumps into July with is favorite 5 things, all thanks to Booker T!

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Bandido ROH Chairshot Edit

Steve Cook jumps into July with is favorite 5 things, all thanks to Booker T!

If you’re anything like me, you’re looking for some bright spots.

Fortunately, there are plenty out there to talk about. I know that most things about the world suck right now, and there’s no sign that those things will get much better. We need to find some bright sides to get through, and even if some aspects of pro wrestling suck, there will always be some pro wrestlers to shine through. Booker T probably has his own Fave Five, but here are mine.

5. Deonna Purrazzo

I’ve gotten back into watching Impact Wrestling lately, at least when I’m at home to watch the show. There are some decent things on the show, but I would be lying if I said the highlight was anything but the Virtuosa. I’ve been impressed by Deonna Purrazzo since the first time I saw her, and have always assumed she would be one of the top female stars in the business. I saw nothing from her stint with WWE/NXT to convince me otherwise, but there wasn’t much there. For whatever reason, WWE brass wasn’t sold on her. I would tell you why if I had any idea why. Purrazzo has the work, she has the look, and from the limited chances she’s had, she has the voice too. From everything I’ve seen, Deonna is the Total Package.

Deonna has outclassed everybody else in Impact so far. That might make some Jordynne Grace fans mad, but it’s a true story. Purrazzo should be the next Impact Wrestling Knockouts Champion at Slammiversary, if not, she should be in AEW knocking on Hikaru Shida’s door sooner rather than later.

4. Hiromu Takahashi

New Japan Pro Wrestling is back in full force with their New Japan Cup tournament. I won’t tell you I’ve watched every match. I’ve watched the matches I wanted to see, and most of them involved the Ticking Time Bomb, Hiromu Takahashi.

Takahashi had an interesting road. His second round matchup with Yano sounds like a night off for most, but Yano terrorized Takahashi while he was a Young Lion. As much as Kevin Kelly wanted to tell us that Yano changed since then, Takahashi was not as sold. Frankly, as many times as random scissors appeared during the match, we can’t blame Takahashi for not being sold. Takahashi vanquished that demon, then met BIG TOM Ishii. A tough draw, but Takahashi got through it somehow. Then he met up with Okada, and that was it because, well, it was Okada. Takahashi will need to pack on twenty or so pounds before he can beat Okada. I wish the American culture was as open to added weight as the Japanese culture is. All I know for sure is that Takahashi has an incredibly bright future.

3. Hikaru Shida

What do Penelope Ford, Britt Baker & Nyla Rose have in common, other than being viable AEW women’s division heels? They each had the best match of their lives with Hikaru Shida. That’s the common denomenator. When one of these hot AEW heels get to work with Shida, that’s when everybody realizes how great they are.

Even that freaky Abadon stood out when she wrestled Shida. Anna Jay got a job after wrestling Shida. Let’s be honest here. AEW’s women’s division got knocked early on, and people started buying in after Shida started making people. Every division needs somebody that can make everybody else, and that’s what Shida is doing for AEW. While still being a credible champion.

2. Bandido

411 asked me if I could fill in for some of Larry Csonka’s recapping duties. We all know nobody really can, and my schedule keeps me from covering most of the shows. I made a recommendation or two, and I also agreed to cover the ROH TV show since I knew I would be able to cover it for awhile. Not like the Cincinnati Reds will let me work for them anytime soon on a Saturday night, and you couldn’t pay me to go into a bar on a Saturday night in this climate.

ROH has been presenting some best ofs lately, which makes regular viewers mad, but makes me happy because it lets me catch up! I was big into ROH in the 2000s, not so much in the 2010s. One of the first people I wasn’t too familar with that caught my attention was Bandido. Dude had a killer moveset, a good look & a good mask. Then he got his own show, and I was impressed by everything he did. He even appeared on a show afterwards, and was still good. I am convinced that ROH should build around him. If you haven’t seen Bandido yet, you really need to. I’m telling you, this guy checks all the boxes outside of that promo ability, and he’s got some time to work on that.

1. Sasha Banks

Speaking of somebody that checks all the boxes. I kind of wanted to include Bayley, and Bayley has done a great job as a heel lately, but I also feel like Sasha warrants some individal recognition here. Y’all got mad at her for a minute because she walked out & somebody made up a story to explain it, but she’s been better than ever since that walkout. Maybe that tells us people need time off? Makes sense to me.

There isn’t a WWE Superstar more interesting than Sasha at the moment. She’s got the Women’s Tag Team Championship with Bayley. Bayley also has the SmackDown Women’s Championship, so Sasha targeted the Raw Women’s Championship. Makes sense. We’re also working the slow build with Sasha & Bayley facing off. It’s slow, but when it happens it’ll matter even more, and at this point there’s no reason for it to happen until there is an audience.

There’s also the matter we discussed in a column a couple of weeks ago. Sasha was a class act while dealing with the Sammy Guevara issue, and that brought my respect for her to another level. As much as people wanted to disparage her character to me while she was on the outs with WWE, I always saw it as somebody standing up for herself. As far as I’ve seen, Sasha Banks is a person of character & dignity. That’s what we need from a top star.


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Opinion

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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