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Cook’s Top 5: 2005 Wrestling Memories

The rise of John Cena & Batista, ECW returns, and much more! Steve Cook’s journey comes to 2005–see what stood out from that year!

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Batista World Heavyweight Champion WWE WrestleMania 21

The rise of John Cena & Batista, ECW returns, and much more! Steve Cook’s journey comes to 2005–see what stood out from that year!

As I look back on it now, 2005 has to be one of my favorite years as a wrestling fan.

There was a lot going on. 411mania gave me a weekly news column slot, which might not sound like a big deal to you as a modern-day reader. You have to know that writers that got a weekly news column slot included the late, great Chris Hyatte, my main man Joshua Grutman, Eric S., Stephen Randle, Flea, the late, great Larry Csonka, the legend Ashish & many other icons of what I do. Getting invited to that club was not something I took lightly. Even if there was no added value to my bank account, getting a news report slot on 411 was higher ground. It gave you more eyeballs, it gave you influence. I’m not saying I had as much influence as the men I mentioned above, but it meant I was in some high cotton.

It meant I had to be on my A game, and pay attention to everything going on. This coincided with my attending more wrestling shows. My real life BFF wanted to go to ROH shows in Dayton, Ohio, and I was all about it. I had heard a ton about ROH, being on the Internet and knowing people that talked endlessly about it, and once somebody else I knew wanted to go, it sounded good to me. I had previously doubted ROH due to their “lol I’ll pretend you said 18” owner, but he was out of the picture at this point. It was good for me to see a lot of the top indy stars before they became famous, and to expand my horizons and find wrestling outside of what I watched on television.

2005 was a fun year. Let’s look back at 5 memories…

5. Back to the Extreme

Extreme Championship Wrestling went out of business in early 2001. WWE purchased most everything associated with it afterwards, and used the video library and interviews with their employees to make “The Rise & Fall of ECW” DVD. The success that the DVD saw on the sales charts wasn’t expected. People clearly still had an Extreme appetite.

So it was only a matter of time before WWE brought the ECW brand back. It was going to be a One Night Stand in the Hammerstein Ballroom. It was presented completely differently than the product WWE was doing at the time, and held true to the original ECW experience. Many of the old ECW stars were there, along with the WWE employees that had worked in ECW in the past. Of course some of the WWE folks that didn’t work for ECW came in so they could be the heels and get their butts kicked at the end of the show.

It was a busy weekend for former ECW stars. Shane Douglas ran his own ECW reunion show at the bingo hall in Philly on the same weekend, and Hardcore Homecoming did big business in its own right. Good times for ECW wrestlers & fans in 2005. Things would take a turn.

4. Cena & Batista Anointed

Last week, we mentioned that WrestleMania XX’s ending moments involved the champions of the brands, people that Internet fans had got behind for ages. We’re not allowed to remember it now. We should be allowed to remember the conclusion of WrestleMania 21, though I’m not sure we are. It varies from day to day.

WrestleMania 21 went Hollywood, which resulted in some entertaining commercials, but also resulted in some crownings. First of all, everybody tried to tell me that Shawn Michaels & Kurt Angle had the best match of all time. Bobby Heenan told me so. I’ve never seen it that way, but I won’t deny Bobby Heenan his opinion. And a lot of people in 2005 were in his corner on that one.

The show was all about anointing the two men that would lead brands forever more. John Cena had a shitty match with JBL. I won’t blame anybody for it, but it was a less than desirable coronation of a future Goliath. All I can say for sure is that the fans were less than impressed with a guy that would carry the company for a decade then become a successful actor. I could say that was because JBL sucked and couldn’t even put over anybody in a positive fashion, but that wouldn’t be nice. I just remember John Cena’s coronation for his first WWE Championship reign being less than satisfying.

Fortunately, that didn’t go on last. Batista won the Royal Rumble and challenged fellow Evolution member Triple H for the World Championship, and it was everything we hoped it would be. Triple H did not want to face Batista, for obvious reasons. He wanted Big Dave to go over to SmackDown and challenge the Honky Ton-err I mean JBL instead. That didn’t happen. Batista chose to kick Triple H’s ass instead, and we all appreciated it.

Just based off of this show, you would have thought Batista would carry WWE into the next decade. That didn’t happen. Batista was very injury prone, which I think halted his wrestling career more than anything else. Fans loved him, but he always got hurt. Cena was less injury prone and became the guy. Both are doing pretty well these days and seem like good people. More power to them.

3. The Edge/Lita/Matt Stuff

Matt Hardy & Lita had been an item as long as any wrestling fan could remember. At least back to when Lita debuted alongside the Hardy Boyz. They had some ups & downs on-screen, but fans pretty much assumed those two crazy kids would be together forever. Then Lita & Edge got injured right around the same time. They needed something to do while Matt Hardy was off on the road, so, well, they did each other?

Can I even say that in 2020? Probably not, but that’s what happpened. Lita cheated on Matt with Edge, Matt talked about it on the Internet and people like me were really interested. I mean, is there anything better for a “wrestling news reporter” in their early 20s to have an excuse to talk about than who’s sleeping with who? Oh, it was cat nip! Such drama! The problem Matt ran into with WWE: they didn’t want him talking about this stuff online. It became a distraction, getting Lita heel heat while she was supposed to be the face in a feud with Trish Stratus. WWE’s reaction to this whole scenario was to fire Matt Hardy.

The Internet did not approve. From what we could tell, Matt was the wronged party in the situation. He was the one that got cheated on, and he got fired? Didn’t make much sense to most of us. From WWE’s persepective, Matt had been unprofessional by taking the matter to the Internet. Also, quite frankly, WWE saw more money in Edge than Matt. They saw more money in Lita than in Matt. Had Matt been the big draw of the trio, they wouldn’t have fired him. He wasn’t, so they did.

Matt did get his job back. Fans rebelled against the decision by WWE & Matt Hardy became a bigger deal during this period of time than he had ever been by himself. The only downside? ROH fans in Dayton booed Matt during his match with Homicide because he was already back with WWE. Some “We Want Edge” chants, some “We Want Jeff” chants. Probably a minor inconvenience for Matt compared to getting his job back. Oh, and the whole getting his heart ripped out of his chest thing.

Did he ever find somebody else? I should probably look into that.

2. Death of Latino Heat

There was a point where we wouldn’t have been surprised by Eddie Guerrero dying at a young age. That time had passed by November 2005. By then, Eddie had cleaned himself up & reached the potential people thought he had in the ring and out. He’d become a world champion wrestler, a good husband & father, just an all around good guy. While being one of the most entertaining bad guys in wrestling.

Even when booked as a good guy! Eddie lied, cheated and stole, but it was the Guerrero way and he was honest about it. Eddie had an emotional feud with Rey Mysterio throughout 2005, then spent the last couple of months trying to be Batista’s friend. Surely, Eddie would have turned against Big Dave eventually. He didn’t get the chance, as he passed away in a hotel room in Minnesota on a day where (depending who you believe and what story they’re telling this week) he could have become a world champion again.

Life isn’t fair.

Eddie’s passing led to the beginning of WWE’s Wellness Policy, which has certainly had its lowpoints but overall has done the job of keeping wrestlers alive for longer periods of time. If there’s one positive to take away from the whole thing, it’s that.

1. History Made in Dayton

I mentioned the ROH shows I went to earlier. The first one I attended was in February, the second part of ROH’s Third Anniversary Celebration. AJ Styles made his big return to ROH after TNA had pulled him & others from their shows due to the Rob Feinstein situation. It also saw the return of Brian Kendrick & debut of James Gibson, both of whom had been released by WWE. The second show in May saw a cage match between Bryan Danielson & Homicide that probably featured the longest airplane spin I’d seen at that point.

August brought us a pretty big piece of business. It was the Summer of Punk, and CM was on his way out of Ring of Honor while still holding their championship. ROH fans had forgotten what a snake in the grass Punk was during his time as a good guy, and were begging to see him dethroned. As it turned out, Dayton fans were the ones lucky enough to see it in person.

It was a four-way elimination match pitting Punk against Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels & James Gibson. Very long, guess they were working the time limit draw idea. I have no idea how well it holds up now, but I loved it live. Gibson would have been my last choice to beat Punk since he was leaving for WWE as well, but at least he got the belt over to Bryan Danielson.

I don’t know where the ROH Championship ranks now among wrestling titles. All I know it is at the time it was a thrill to see it change hands live. Especially with that cad CM Punk losing. Oh, how I hated that guy at the time.

I wonder whatever happened to him…


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Opinion

AJ’s Controversial? Wrestling Opinions 10.12.21

AJ feels like spouting off about a few wrestling topics that bug him. How controversial are they though?

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As Eric Bischoff, President of WCW once said, Controversy Creates Cash…no I’m serious; it’s even the title of a book that he did. Everyone has their hot takes on professional wrestling and some are always wide eyed and kind of shocking to some. There are some of us that will have same opinions or chastise me on a show or an article maybe but hey, don’t hate the player, hate The Game.

Maybe there are some that the readers at home agree with or you want to also be the one to chastise me, @PhenomenalAJB on Twitter. This one is going to be fun!

#1- There are more things than just WWE/AEW and are better majority of the time

There are many people that will rant, rave and complain that the mainstream product is so bland and boring and the classic, “Who even watches this trash?” Whether you love the flippy dippy do’s like I don’t or long drawn out storylines that peter out very quickly because fans aren’t invested in a story or character. To those people, I will say something very bold, very confusing and very… very controversial…

THERE ARE OTHER COMPANIES YOU CAN WATCH ON VARIOUS PLATFORMS IN VARIOUS MEANS ON YOUR OWN TIME!

I don’t know how and I don’t know why that this is even a topic. “TNA has been dead for years” No it hasn’t. Pay $1 USD for Impact Plus on YouTube so you can watch it without commercials at 8:30 Eastern. “Two hours is too long!” NWA and MLW both go for an hour on their respective YouTube Channels as well and if you want to watch, you can hop in at any time. Everyone has something for everyone and you might find your new favorite wrestler in a matter of minutes into an episode. I would never have known who Eli Drake (now LA Knight on SmackDown Live), Alexander Hammerstone or even in the early stages of TNA Impact, AJ Styles, was! You can watch more than what is broadcasted on your TV. Is it easier? Of course but, there is so much more than just the popular option.


#2- Belt Collecting now is just redundant and moronic

Back in 1996, Ultimo Dragon famously has a picture of him holding TEN championships looking like an amazing superstar with amazing defenses. What people don’t know is, that was because eight championship belts were united in a tournament called “The J-Crown Championship” with the adage of ‘All or Nothing’. He lost them one by one but, it was to show that he was the best Junior Heavyweight (or Cruiserweight/Light Heavyweight) out of everyone in various promotions.

People after that really haven’t belt collected other than unifying championships to a grand caliber… then Austin Aries showed up. Aries kind of revised the gimmick and brought it back to light. Newer fans might have thought this was cool but older fans kind of groaned and grumbled. I was one of them but, nothing is original in anything anymore so it’s a fresher concept at the time back in 2018. He did surpass Ultimo with ELEVEN championships but it seemed everyone started doing it to an extent after. Matt Cardona, after being released from WWE, started doing it, getting up to six championships before dropping them. As of right now, not necessarily solo belt collecting, The Bloodline has a stranglehold of the World Championships for both Singles and Tag Teams, we had Becky Two Belts, Bayley wanted Dos Straps but nothing makes this worse than Kenny Omega’s stint as a belt collector.

I am not and will never be a Kenny Omega fan. I don’t see the appeal, I don’t see the amazement or anything like that out of him. I’m impressed he did three 35+ Minute IWGP Championship matches against Okada because that takes a lot of stamina to do so but, that’s about it. When he won the AEW Championship, alright. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that since he helped build the company up. The Triple A Megas Championship… nothing too wrong here. I hate that he had five defenses in two years but he vacated it due to his injuries. It wasn’t until Don Callis and Omega popped into Impact and made the Hogan Era of TNA look like a dream… okay ALMOST but still. Kenny defeats Rich Swann and Moose in two different matches and has everyone else carry the belts while holding the AEW Championship. I understand heel tactics and mentality but at one point in an interview about going for the Impact Championship, he compared it to a common Comic Book and the AEW Championship as Superman Issue #1. I understand trying to be a heel in this story but you boost your clout, not rain on what you are going after. Heel or Face, belt collecting has just been a cluster within itself in the past four years and it honestly needs to stop.

#3- Overuse of Certain Moves

This one is a more recent problem that I have seen and no, I wish EC3 paid me to say this but it is true and very annoying to even bring up but here I am, wishing for Carter money and a fifth Rum & Coke…

Stop. Overusing. Moves. Because you think. They were cool.

If I had a shot for every time a Canadian Destroyer, Superkick, Suicide Dive, Avalanche (Insert High Spot here), Dual Dropkick spots where they cancel each other out or opposing members do back to back high spots on the prone partner spot… I would not have written this article due to death… even if it was water, I would have died due to drowning. They don’t look cool anymore when everyone does it. It’s bland. When Petey Williams wrestled in his last return to Impact, the Destroyer looked very… stale. Superkicks are the new DDT apparently (another Finisher turned common everyday move) and most people that do dives mess it up in some way shape or form whether it’s their feet get caught in the ropes, they didn’t get a full launch or they overshoot it. Having your own move special to you is difficult now but different wrestlers do their own styles or the pay homage to a family member or a wrestler that they interact with or ask permission… or asked to stop.

How’d you feel if you watched WCW and WWF in 1997 and saw DDP do the Diamond Cutter and HHH did the Pedigree Pandemonium and say they do the same move? That is exactly what happened too if Dallas didn’t ask Hunter to stop using it. We might not have the RKO out of nowhere or an iconic move that seldom bigger names use today.


That’s my list. I said before if you agree with my list and if you don’t and want to throw hate my way… @PCTunney is the hate mail account so enjoy!


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Opinion

AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns

With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

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With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.

With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.

1. Johnny Gargano

Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?

WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen  the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.

2. James Storm

This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.

Watch your Money and your Alcohol.

Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”

3. Big Cass



Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.

Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.

4. Bronson Reed



The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.

Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?

5. Bray Wyatt

And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.

To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.

– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!


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