Steve Cook’s journey through time stops in 2009 for Mickey Rourke feuding with Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker, and the joy of Bryan Danielson.
We saw last week how the wrestling world rebounded in 2008, and the Era of Feeling Better continued in 2009. WWE was producing some high end stuff on their biggest shows. TNA was making an impact with some high profile additions. Ring of Honor said goodbye to one of their legends, and I said hello to regular writing again.
2009 was an eventful year. Let’s continue my look at thirty glorious years of wrestling by ranking the most memorable moments of 2009.
5. Return to News From Cook’s Corner
I needed some time off from writing. That happens every few years, it doesn’t seem to be anything I have control over. My 411 work was limited during 2008 & a good chunk of 2009 to a few months of Ask 411 Wrestling, random news fill-ins & some show recaps here & there. 2008 featured my epic run of Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling recaps, which is a show I wish somebody would air on their channel here in 2020. I had such a thing for Trishelle Cannatella, and last I saw she’s aged pretty well. Ah, memories.
Finally, I was feeling froggy enough to bring back the News From Cook’s Corner! The return column actually holds up, and as I’m looking back now, I’d have to say that three year run from August 2009 to August 2012 was my peak as a writer.
Don’t get me wrong, I think overall I’m a lot better now. I’m working harder on my writing now than I ever have, doing a more expansive variety of things. And I have to try and phrase this delicately, because I really do appreciate everybody that reads my work, especially this spectacularly self-indulgent series of columns. There aren’t as many of you as there used to be. I’m doing more work and getting less of a response than I ever have. I’m not really sure what happened to cause all that. Perhaps I’ll figure it out as this series continues.
4. Countdown to Lockdown
To be honest, I’ve lost track of how many autobiographies Mick Foley has written at this point. Dude has written a lot. One that kind of flew under the radar of most fans was a memoir about his feud with Sting in TNA, Countdown to Lockdown. It was an interesting tale about that feud along with Foley’s final days with WWE, his special relationship with Tori Amos among other things happening around this time.
This was a weird in-ring run for Foley. He was serving as TNA’s executive shareholder & co-owner alongside Jeff Jarrett, and using that power to put himself in bigtime matches years after WWE decided that wasn’t a great idea. Foley realized his physical limitations, so after beating Sting for the TNA Championship at Lockdown, he announced that he would only defend the title once a year. Unfortunately for him, he decided to do it a mere two months later, and lost to Kurt Angle in a King of the Mountain match. Foley would engage in other matches the next couple of years, most of which we’re better off not remembering.
All things considered, that Lockdown match wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. Larry & I reviewed it some time ago because Lockdown 2009 was up for free on YouTube, I’d recommend checking to see if it’s still there.
3. The Wrestler Inspires…Wrestling
Technically, The Wrestler came out in the final weeks of 2008, but it didn’t become available for most of our consumption until early 2009. I remember going up to a small theater in the shadow of the University of Cincinnati to see it, and I was impressed with the tale told by Mickey Rourke, Marissa Tomei, Necro Butcher and the rest of a strong cast. Wrestling promotions were impressed with it too, and attempted to use the new interest movie fans had in wrestling to their advantage.
WWE had Rourke appear at WrestleMania to help blow off a storyline where Chris Jericho was mad at WWE Legends for overstaying their welcome in the business & making fools of themselves, like Randy “The Ram” Robinson had in the movie. Jericho defeated Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper & Jimmy Snuka in a handicap match, but was felled by a punch by Mickey Rourke. Hey, it’s wrestling, that kinda thing happens.
Ring of Honor played a role in the production of the actual movie, serving as the backdrop for Robinson’s final match. They also found some creative inspiration from the movie, leading to Jerry Lynn dethroning Nigel McGuinness as ROH Champion. It was a short reign for the 46 year old, only lasting from April until June, but it did serve as a bit of a turnoff for me as a fan. Although, his match with Roderick Strong in Dayton was pretty good, and it was hard to deny the cosmetic similarity between Lynn & Randy the Ram. It was worth a shot for ROH.
2. Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXV
If you ask many people my age & older what their favorite WrestleMania match is, they’ll likely tell you “Savage vs. Steamboat”. That WrestleMania III match shaped so many young kids into future wrestlers, and still holds up today. It’s certainly near the top of my list, though I have Bret vs. Austin from 13 and Savage vs. Warrior from VII higher because those stories hit home more for me.
If you ask today’s generation what their favorite WrestleMania match is, I would wager that most would say “Undertaker vs. Michaels”. Then if you ask them which one, they will probably tell you “the first one”. I like the second one better, as it completes the story and Undertaker doesn’t nearly die on a dive during it.
However, that near death experience for a Dead Man certainly added to the XXV match. HBK’s all white Undertakeresque entrance attire, with him descending from the heavens while Undertaker rose from the pits of hell made for possibly the greatest entrance of all time. It was quite the spectacle, holds up today, and I think it serves as a blueprint for a lot of what WWE does in big matches now.
Unlike the Flair match the year prior, I got the hype for this one. Not my favorite of all time, but I won’t knock you if it’s yours.
1. The Final Countdown Tour
Like most wrestling fans, the vast majority of my favorite wrestlers come from my youth. I grew up on the likes of the Macho Man, the Million Dollar Man, Jake the Snake and others from that early 1990s WWF period. It’s not that today’s wrestlers are worse than yesterday’s, in many cases they aren’t. I just feel more of a connection to these men of my youth than today’s wrestler, many of which I’m older than by now. (Another big part of it. Its tougher to form a connection younger folks doing things you could never do than older ones that you wouldn’t mind growing up to be like.)
Bryan Danielson was the exception to that rule for me in his Ring of Honor days, and still is today. He isn’t that much older than me, but I look up to him for his incredible in-ring ability, his knack for connecting with crowds, and the great person he appears to be outside the profession. If you didn’t become a Bryan fan at some point during his career, I’m really not sure what you’re a fan of when it comes to wrestling. Different strokes, but I just can’t see what isn’t to like about Bryan.
Danielson’s closing days with Ring of Honor included a stop in Dayton, where he put over Chris Hero as part of his Final Countdown tour. Dayton was a place where Bryan would typically face somebody working their way up the card. We mentioned Tyler Black last week, he also had a match with Erick Stevens that was intended to serve a similar purpose. Bryan did business the right way on his way out, losing to the guys who would have to pick up the slack when he was gone. We wouldn’t have expected anything less. Maybe some would have preferred a different opponent, but ROH knew who they wanted in those slots. Hero would be one of those staples for the promotion for the next number of years. Meanwhile, we watched Bryan rise up the ranks in WWE and fondly remembered seeing him at the county fairgrounds back in the day.
That’s what the joy of wrestling is all about.
NXT Minus 6: A Tale of Two Champions
Bradley Jay is here with the WWE NXT Minus 6, and we have new champions. Two very, very different new champions.
Bradley Jay is here with the WWE NXT Minus 6, and we have new champions. Two very, very different new champions.
Our two new champions could not be more different…
6. Doomsday Saito comes to the ring and gives a painful, cliched promo. Any wrestler in the back could have said those exact words. Train harder and beat people up. He’s angry. We get it. The only thing Saito could do that would interest me is move to RawDown. On the other hand…
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Not gonna lie, that promo was wasn’t even hot garbage. It was cold garbage.]
5. Raquel Gonzalez delivers a genuine, heartfelt promo that only she could give. Tears of joy. It told her story, and it’s exactly why she got the pop and the chant she deserved. The addition of Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair, complete with throwback pic, was icing on the cake. I’m excited for whatever Gonzalez does next. Speaking of…
4. Fantasy booking alert!!! Two weeks ago, Raquel Gonzelez told the world I was the one who believed in her. I was the one who made her a champion. Then Rhea Ripley shows up, and Bianca Belair shows up, and I’m the one sent to the back. How quickly you forget who your real friends are. I was the one who took you to the top, and chicka, I am the one who is going to drag you to the bottom. I used you to get to the top and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I am Dakota Kai.
3. No more Santa Claus Ice Cream Bar. Santos Escobar has earned his name back. His match with KUSHIDA is everything great about NXT. Say it with me. Good things happen when you let wrestlers wrestle! Fast paced. Great action. Surprise ending. I’m going 4.5 stars. Give me a match that good every Tuesday and I’m a happy camper.
2. Right now, I don’t know if any two wrestlers have better chemistry than Swerve Scott and Leon Ruff. Every time they get together, it’s electric, and this week was no different. This is quickly climbing into Rivalry of the Year territory. I thought I was happy to see Swerve pick up the victory and move on. Then Ruff goes insane in the membrane and now I’m excited to watch them fight forever.
1. This week’s That’s Why I Love Wrestling goes to…Roderick Strong. Kayfabe. Work. Shoot. I don’t care. Strong deserved a better goodbye than what he got. He is the Perfection of Performance (shout out to the Hitman). He and Kyle O’Reilly were the best version of the Undisputed Era tag team champions. I always got excited for a Strong match because I knew he’d deliver. Roderick Strong is exactly the kind of wrestler that makes me love wrestling. Until he returns, he will be sorely missed.
Steve Cook’s Fave Five: April 2021
It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means…
It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means.
It’s time to talk about my current five favorite wrestlers like I’m Booker T. Let’s break down the Fave Five!
5. Samoa Joe
A gentle reminder that Samoa Joe is one of the greatest talkers in the game pic.twitter.com/p4TZeZIAV7
— Kenny Majid – A Kenny For Your Thoughts Podcast (@akfytwrestling) April 15, 2021
I figure what happened between Samoa Joe & WWE was the following: WWE offered Joe an announcing contract since either they didn’t want to use him in the ring or their doctors wouldn’t clear him to wrestle. Joe looked at the contract, noticed the financial discrepancy, realized he could probably get NJPW to let him train young boys in California for that kind of money and said “thanks but no thanks”. Nothing else really makes sense to me.
Unfortunately, those who thought that WWE wouldn’t utilize Joe to their fullest potential were right. It wasn’t all WWE’s fault though. Joe had a lot of miles on his tires when he got there. Injuries are always more of a concern with larger wrestlers the older they get. And when Joe was healthy, he did get to do some good stuff and show people a glimpse of the Samoa Joe that people like me raved about back in the mid to late 2000s.
In any event, Joe got his WWE run. It was a thing that happened. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t wind up in AEW because he seems like the kind of guy Tony Khan would throw all the money at. Should be fun!
4. Kris Statlander
— All Elite Wrestling on TNT (@AEWonTNT) April 15, 2021
AEW does have a pretty insane number of factions right now. It risks the possibility of all of the groups blending together, with none of them really capturing the attention of fans. However, there are positive things about AEW’s faction warfare that shouldn’t be overlooked. It makes booking fresh matches to fill cards pretty easy. You can have groups facing off each week, but in different combinations that keep it fresh.
Another good thing: It can help us decide how we feel about characters that we might be on the fence about. Kris Statlander’s character was a topic of discussion from the moment she entered AEW. A lot of people weren’t sure how to take her. Wrestling aliens, or wrestlers who think they’re aliens, aren’t exactly common. Its the kind of thing that gets over in the indies, because those feds attract fans that are more willing to buy into unique concepts. Mainstream is a tougher sell.
Aligning Kris with the Best Friends makes sense to those in the know, since she came up working shows with them. It also helps people that don’t know about her figure out more. The Best Friends are a happy go lucky group that are the whitest of white meat babyfaces you’ll find in AEW, and that’s a good thing. They’re welcoming to people with unique personalities, as Orange Cassidy’s presence establishes. A friendly alien couldn’t ask for a better group to surround herself with, and from their appearances so far she seems like a perfect fit.
Add in the fact that the time on the shelf helped her get into better shape and refine her look & presence, and the sky’s the limit for Statlander. As long as she can stay in the ring, I’m expecting big things from her in 2021.
3. Tay Conti
Sometimes, all one needs is a change of scenery to approach their true potential. Tay spent a few years at the WWE Performance Center learning how to be a professional wrestler. During her time there, Tay never showed much in the way of potential. Even though she had a combat sports background and had the type of physical appearance that gets attention, Conti’s TV time was very limited and uneventful. She seemed like one of those wrestlers that was bound to stay in developmental until WWE gave up on them, then drop off the face of the earth without most wrestling fans noticing.
Tay’s story took a different route. She ended up being one of the cuts that AEW took an interest in, and was brought in for the Deadly Draw Women’s Tag Team Tournament. Her teaming with Anna Jay worked well on & off-camera, and she pretty much fit right in with the group immediately. She started training with Dustin Rhodes, and pretty much immediately started looking better in the ring & figuring out what worked for her. Now, she’s one of the people helping AEW’s women’s division go to a higher level.
This isn’t meant to denigrate WWE’s Performance Center or its methods. There just isn’t a wrestling training center out there that’s going to work for everybody. Tay had to find what worked for her. The people that recently got cut will have to do the same. Hopefully, the people that recently got signed by WWE will thrive in that environment.
2. Bianca Belair
We’ve recently seen three new Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella, all of whom are great in their own way. I’ve talked about Rhea Ripley before, she’s got unlimited potential and so far she’s done very well on the main roster. Raquel Gonzalez is doing very well on NXT and her push to the championship made perfect sense & got over. I do think the best of the title changes was Bianca’s defeat of Sasha Banks in the main event of WrestleMania Saturday. It was a special moment for Bianca, a very fun match to watch, and a great performance from both Bianca & Sasha Banks, who did everything she could to make Bianca in that match.
You see the video of the NXT segment up above, with the three current Women’s Champions under the WWE umbrella celebrating together. Apparently there was a picture taken in 2019, and there were pictures taken after this week’s NXT, with Triple H making sure to get in there as he likes to do with all new champions. I’ve never really been a fan of that sort of thing, even the “Horsewomen” celebrations on previous NXT shows didn’t do much for me.
Besides the usual complaints people have about things like that, the thing that I didn’t like was how Rhea & Raquel came off. They were all smiling & happy like they were Big Daddy Cool Diesel after beating Mr. Bob Backlund in 1994. Completely against what Raquel has been up to this point, and what Rhea has been when she’s been at her best. Hopefully this is just a one-time thing for Rhea for the portion of the NXT audience that likes their lady wrestlers crying & happy after their performances, and hopefully it’s leading to Raquel getting dismembered by Dakota Kai, who can’t be happy about her heater winning the championship and then turning into Smilin’ Diesel.
Fortunately for Bianca, it does nothing to affect her character or our opinion of her. That’s why I think her title run will go best. I’m also putting her here because I’m pretty well convinced there isn’t a wrestling move or spot she can’t do well. Insanely talented, and the more experience she gets the better she’ll be.
1. Darby Allin
Sometimes you just want to watch something that’s stupid fun. Something that doesn’t need too much thought in order to enjoy it. Just people doing crazy things to entertain an audience. Darby Allin matches are just what you need when you’re looking for something like this. There isn’t anybody crazier in pro wrestling today than Darby, which is probably for the best. I’m convinced this kid has a death wish.
The one thing that kinda gets me about Darby sometimes is how he kicks out of everything. Poor Matt Hardy wasn’t going to beat that kid unless he shot him with a gun, and apparently there’s a metal detector at Daily’s Place. (Shoutout to Matt by the way, hell of an effort in that match.) But then I remember that Darby Allin is a daredevil and constantly posting videos online where he’s jumping off high places and doing crazy things. Obviously, it’s going to take a little more to beat a daredevil than your average pro wrestler.
What’s it going to take to beat Darby Allin? That’s a good reason to keep watching.
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