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Cook’s Top 5: 2012 Wrestling Memories

Steve Cook looks back at an eventful 2012, featuring Taeler Hendrix, a live Royal Rumble, Jerry Lawler’s heart attack, the return of Brock Lesnar and more!

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Taeler Hendrix TNA Gut Check

Steve Cook looks back at an eventful 2012, featuring Taeler Hendrix, a live Royal Rumble experience, Jerry Lawler’s heart attack, the return of Brock Lesnar and more!

2012 was one of the most eventful years in my wrestling fandom.

It was a year where I was trying to get people to talk to me on podcasts. I was somewhat successful, but I eventually gave up on it. At the end of the day, I don’t like talking to most people. I don’t think most wrestlers familiar with me or my work have interest in actually talking to me anyway, so everybody wins. 2012 was when I was deepest into this whole IWC thing, deepest into my own bullshit, and also when I started to feel the burnout again. It was a good year content-wise for me, but I could feel the wheels starting to come off.

I made some interesting road trips during 2012 as well. This is especially notable since who knows when we’ll be making road trips again? I was very tempted by the Collective weekend in Indianapolis, but apparently those folks got sick so it’s a damn good thing I didn’t go. Who would have thought that going to Indiana would be a bad idea?

Anywho, here are my top 5 wrestling memories from 2012.

5. Taeler Hendrix’s Gut Check

TNA Wrestling was looking for new talent and came up with an interesting way to find some. The Gut Check would feature an unsigned wrestler taking on a TNA wrestler in a match televised on Impact Wrestling, then being judged on their efforts by three judges on the next episode. If they got the votes, they would receive a TNA contract and go to Ohio Valley Wrestling, which was serving as TNA’s developmental territory at the time. It got off to quite the start when Alex Silva won a contract that he wasn’t originally supposed to get due to Ric Flair changing his vote. Joey Ryan was next, and while he was rejected by the judges he would still wind up under TNA contract.

The third competitor was somebody that I had become acquainted with via the Interweb. Taeler Hendrix had already spent several months training in OVW, so it made sense to include her as part of the Gut Check. I’ve always said that one of the coolest things about being a wrestling fan is watching people work their way up the ladder & do bigger and better things in the business. 2012 was a good year for me in that regard, including Taeler’s successful Gut Check experience.

Unfortunately, Taeler’s TNA tenure didn’t live up to the lofty expectations people like me had for it. She only had a handful of matches with the company before being released just over a year after getting signed. Not sure what happened there, and to be honest I’m not sure why Hendrix hasn’t become a bigger star in wrestling. She’s got the look & charisma part down, and it’s not like she’s terrible in the ring, at least from what I saw years ago. Granted, I’ve been prone to being blinded to the weaknesses of attractive women, so maybe I’m missing part of the picture. It’s a mystery to me.

Taeler is currently writing for Fightful, so maybe Jeremy Lambert can say hi for me at their next staff meeting. It’s a shame from where I sit, as I feel like Taeler is somebody that should be written about instead of somebody that’s writing about people. If she’s happy doing it, more power to her, but she would be one of very few writers I know that are actually happy.

4. The Ring of Wax

August 18, 2012 would mark the date of the one CHIKARA show that was close enough for me to attend. Nowadays, Indianapolis is a hub of indy activity due to Indiana’s lax rules regarding the coronavirus, but back then it seemed kind of random for a Northeast indy to run a show there. Nevertheless, I was excited to finally see some CHIKARA action live & in person.

This was also the first time I met offtheteam.com poster The Hodge in person. We went to Hooters, then walked up the road to the Egyptian Room where this show took place. Hodge is a weird guy, in which that whenever I put him over as a regular, normal guy, he gets angry. I’m not sure what he wants me to tell people. He’s a nice guy, even if he’ll get mad at me for saying so.

Soldier Ant & The Swarm (combatANT & deviANT) lost to The Batiri (Obariyon, Kodama & Kobald)

One of these men went on to become part of one of the best acts in AEW. (see what I did there) Maybe some of these other masked & painted men went on to something, but the only one I recognize is Kobald, who went on to be one of the men who was named in the accusations that led to CHIKARA closing its doors. Fuck that guy.

Saturyne lost to Tim Donst

Saturyne left CHIKARA not too long after this and underwent a persona makeover, becoming Hania the Huntress. She would make some appearances in ROH & Impact Wrestling, but doesn’t seem to be active in wrestling these days. Tim Donst fought off cancer, and is a really good pro wrestler. Still waiting for a break for reasons unknown to me. Honestly, I would have expected both of these folks to have made a bigger impact in the business at this point.

The Mysterious and Handsome Stranger defeated Lancelot Bravado

That stranger was actually Archibald Peck under a mask, who was also known as RD Evans and also later became a writer for WWE that left because…Vince McMahon got pissed that his name was mentioned during the speech Bret Hart made while the Hart Foundation was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Evans quit afterward, and has joined Impact Wrestling as a writer/producer. I have many questions about this whole piece of business. Like, did Vince expect Bret Hart to make a speech and not mention the name “Vince McMahon” at some point? Also, did Vince expect Bret Hart to read a script that RD Evans wrote for him? I don’t understand how this whole thing could have ended any other way.

Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw got disqualified against GEKIDO (17 & The Shard)

Quack decided he needed to deliver all four Quackendrivers to 17, which led to a disqualification and the loudest bump on a ramp I’ve ever heard. So I’ve been a little reticent to reveal identities of CHIKARA’s masked wrestlers, and there are a couple I will keep unspoiled in case the folks involved like it that way, but I feel the need to mention here that “The Shard” was none other than the star of Being The Elite, John Silver. I never would have made that connection until I read it somewhere on the Internet, and I can see it since they both have great bodies although being somewhat vertically challenged. Crazy stuff though, I never would have made that connection.

The Spectral Envoy (UltraMantis Black & Frightmare) defeated Arik Cannon & Darin Corbin

UltraMantis is one of my favorites. Great person, wrestler, commentator. Darin Corbin might be most known to folks that follow Greg DeMarco podcasts as the man that married Breena. 2 pale redheads that love wrestling…makes sense to me. The Kool-Aid Man Arik Cannon was a damn good worker that deserved more at some point. I have no idea what happened to Frightmare. Wonderful worker, not sure what became of him. Darn fine match after intermission though.

Eddie Kingston beat Harlem Bravado

Kevin Ford’s recap of this show told me a story of Eddie laboring to get through non-title matches, which might have been a story CHIKARA was telling at the time. I did think this took longer than expected, but I didn’t mind it because I was a big Eddie Kingston fan. Long live Kevin Ford.

The Colony (Fire Ant & Green Ant) & 3.0 (Scott “Jagged” Parker & Shane Matthews) beat F.I.S.T. (Icarus, Chuck Taylor, Sugar Dunkerton) & Ophidian

A classic CHIKARA style match involved at least eight people going at it in a tag team match. Can’t hate on that. One team had Chucky T & Pineapple Pete. The other team had 3.0 before they made it to NXT, and I can’t remember their names there for the life of me. Also had a couple of ants. Green eventually found some Hot Sauce. As for Fire Ant, it’s ironic that he was CHIKARA’s hottest property, but eventually found stardom when he went in the opposite direction and became a lazy slacker. Kind of speaks poorly of Quack’s booking, to be honest. This guy got over working a character completely opposite of what CHIKARA presented him as for years. Part of that is the worker, part of that is CHIKARA completely misunderstanding the worker. It’s a hard thing to understand as an outside observer.

Young Lions Cup X Tournament Finals
ACH lost to “Mr. Touchdown” Mark Angelosetti

This was one of the best matches I ever saw live, and I was convinced these two guys were the future of the business. ACH went on to do some things. He had an ROH run where he had a ton of good matches and never got any wins. Did some Japan stuff, and eventually ended up in WWE’s Performance Center. They finally started using him on the NXT shows, then they released a t-shirt that looked like blackface. ACH didn’t like that, and left the company.

As for Mr. Touchdown…another one of those guys that fell into the CHIKARA void.

Obviously, my thoughts & opinions on CHIKARA have changed over the years. Mike Quackenbush used to be one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, and right now he’s just a guy that really knew how to wrestle. Plenty of those folks have gone on to be big stars, and I root for them all as long as they weren’t part of the problem in CHIKARA. I will say that the 411 comment section’s response to the News From Cook’s Corner column containing a review of this show did lead to the death of News From Cook’s Corner for a little over seven years. Some of those wonderful people had the temerity & the unmitigated gall to claim that I had slacked off that week, where I had written more words than most weeks and put in a bit of travel. Yeah, I wasn’t hearing that bullshit. I did one more column and then it was finito, arrivaderchi if you will. I’m the kind of guy where if you question my work ethic, I will prove you right by giving you no work.

3. Jerry Lawler’s Heart Attack

One of the scariest moments on live televised wrestling took place on September 10, 2012. Raw color commentator Jerry “The King” Lawler wrestled a match early on the broadcast and returned to his post at the booth. Later on the broadcast, Lawler suffered a heart attack while sitting at the announce table next to Michael Cole. If not for the rapid response by WWE’s doctor and the medical personnel on hand, Lawler would not have survived the evening. Fans feared the worst as the show continued to unfold without commentary, but were relieved when Cole reported at the end of the show that Lawler’s heart was beating again. After hearing that, you got the feeling that Lawler had pulled the strap down and he was going to be all right.

Lawler was part of an event I attended that I neglected to mention in a previous column. The King appeared on a Mountain Wrestling Association event in Lexington, KY back in 2005 that I attended alongside my University of Kentucky-attending best friend. I had to make the drive from Louisville to see Jerry Lawler work an indy show in 2005, there was no real choice there. Got an autographed photo. What about it? Lawler teamed with “Wildcat” Chris Harris to take on the dreaded Hayes Brothers, “Dirty” Chris & “Playboy” Scott, in what was undoubtedly the highlight of their careers.

Other notable names on the show included Karl Anderson, Eric Young & Abyss. It was a pretty loaded show by MWA standards. Unfortunately, the venue the show was held at, the Continental Inn, closed down within days after the event, so it was tough for the MWA to capitalize on any bump in business Lawler might have given them.

So there’s that. Jerry Lawler holds a certain level of importance in my region of the country, and always will as long as people that still remember the old days of the Memphis territory are around.

I’ve been noticing during this series of columns that there are a ton of moments that have slipped my mind. Lawler’s heart attack is something I’ll always remember. It was one of those moments when you sat in front of your TV while constantly clicking refresh on your computer hoping for an update of some sort. Fortunately the King is still with us, and still wrestling on outlaw mud shows when he has the opportunity.

2. Brock Lesnar Returns

Of all the things that happened in 2012, the return of Brock Lesnar had the biggest impact on the future of pro wrestling. Back then, most of us didn’t see Brock ever returning to WWE. He had other things to do, and wanted nothing to do with the grueling road schedule. As it turned out, he didn’t have as much to do since his relationship with UFC pretty much came to an end.

WWE worked around Brock’s dislike of travel by allowing him to work a limited amount of dates. He became a part-time champion that held titles for most of the next several years while not being around most of the time. He’s certainly had some great moments, but one can’t help but wonder if WWE wouldn’t have been better off actually trying to build new stars.

Would WWE be better or worse off without Brock Lesnar’s presence during the 2010s? Its really difficult to say.

1. Going to the Royal Rumble!

Not much has changed since the article I posted about this back in 2019 which was mostly written in 2012. Well, now that I think about it, something has. The Penguin & I watched the Rumble match for a podcast. You know how sometimes you go to a show live and it seems really awesome, and then you watch it back later and it doesn’t hold up as well as you remember?

Yep, the 2012 Royal Rumble Match is definitely one of those things.

Does that matter? Nope. Still one of my best experiences as a pro wrestling fan without a shadow of a doubt. I’m just sad that the COVID derailed any chance of Pengu & I continuing our eight-year tradition of meet-ups. The relationship we have as two people that have only hung out a handful of days in person likely seems strange to a lot of people, but we just have that chemistry & trust together like Monsoon & Heenan. You don’t meet a lot of people like that, and if you’re an unlikeable asshole like me you meet even less people like that, where you just have an immediate connection. I also met Andy Critchell, who is quite the swell guy and probably still a little upset that Mark Henry didn’t win the World Championship at the Rumble.

Shoutout to Pengu, Andy, Mrs. Pengu and the rest of the people along for the ride there. It was one of the best times I ever had as a wrestling fan, and the way things are shaping up, it’s tough to imagine them getting better. We’ll march on and hope they do.


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Opinion

Steve Cook’s Fave Five: April 2021

It’s a little more than halfway through April! You know what that means…

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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

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

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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NXT Minus 6: About that Cole-O’Reilly match…

It was the Takeover match that held the most promise. Where did it go wrong? 

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It was the Takeover match that held the most promise. Where did it go wrong? 

Exclusive: Kyle O'Reilly is ready to renew his career-long rivalry with Adam Cole at NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver

6. I was jacked to 11 for Adam Cole versus Kyle O’Reilly. I was ready to give it a Tokyo Dome 6 stars. MOTY before the bell rang. A masterwork of storytelling. I correctly predicted it would be an unsanctioned match. Then the action started, and it quickly became “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”

NXT TakeOver: New Orleans | WWE

5. After the first few acts of violence, it was apparent that the problem with the match would be the stipulation. The last NXT unsanctioned match was Johnny Gargano versus Tommaso Ciampa in 2018. That was 3 short years ago, but things move quickly in today’s world. There is very little chance an unsanctioned match can deliver the level of violence it promises as long as NXT is on the PG-13 Peacock.

The Most Brutal Spots from Adam Cole and Kyle O'Reilly's Insane Unsanctioned Match at NXT Takeover - EssentiallySports

4. Fans are losing their minds over all the content Peacock is leaving on the cutting floor. A lot of it was offensive and would never work today, but that’s not the point. The fact is there’s only so much violence Peacock’s parent company NBC will tolerate from wrestling. Take the chain, for example. Other than the clothesline, it was practically useless. O’Reilly tried to make it work, but it fell flat. In an unsanctioned match, 20 feet of heavy duty chain should be all you need to decimate another human being.

The B Word: Did Pro Wrestling's Blood Dry Up? | Ring the Damn Bell

3. Maybe I’m a victim of my own wrestling memory. An unsanctioned match in Memphis in the 80’s would have been a bloodbath. Someone would have been hung over the top rope with the chain around his neck. Whipped across the back. Hog tied. Someone would have wrapped it around their fist for a few stiff shots to their opponent’s forehead. But that goes back to my original point. None of that would fly today even if NXT was only on the WWE network.

5 Hilarious moments from this week's WWE programming

2. I’ll go so far as to say the only violent-promising stipulation that interests me is Falls Count Anywhere. There is zero drama in wrestlers pulling chairs from under the ring. The chance to use the naturally occurring environment as a weapon still holds a world of suspense. Someone is going through windows, walls, off the stage, over the guardrail, stuffed in a locker. Honestly, I’m tired of people getting hit in the stomach with folding chairs. Of all the ways to hit someone with a folding chair, that’s the least practical. 

WWE Announces Multiple Injuries At NXT New Year's Evil - WrestlingRumors.net

1. I’m sorry to say Kyle O’Reilly versus Adam Cole didn’t deliver what I expected. Maybe I’m in the minority. Maybe I don’t need over-the-top violence to entertain me. Maybe I don’t need wrestling to keep pushing the envelope. Five of my top 6 matches of 2021 are straight up wrestling matches. Maybe all I need is two (or three or four) strong characters and a good story. Damn, I sound old. 


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