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Cook’s Top 5: 2013 Wrestling Memories

Steve Cook travels to 2013, looking at happenings including Shawn Michaels, CM Punk, Adam Cole, and so much more!

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WWE Raw Dolph Ziggler Cashes In Money In The Bank

Steve Cook travels to 2013, looking at happenings including Shawn Michaels, CM Punk, Adam Cole, and so much more!

My 30th Anniversary Celebration has led to 2013, which was a complicated year for me. My employment status changed in the middle of the year, and it changed a couple of times after that. All of this drama in my work life led to me taking less work in the wrestling writing field, along with my lack of interest in much except a few things that grabbed my attention.

Here are my Top 5 Wrestling Memories from 2013!

5. Paul Bearer’s death leads to Undertaker/CM Punk feud

The best manager of all time will always be Bobby Heenan. Paul Heyman has worked his way into the conversation, and Jim Cornette isn’t going to let us forget about him anytime soon. As great as those men are at their craft, I can’t think of a better wrestler & manager combination than The Undertaker & Paul Bearer. Paul’s promos & urn were a key part of making Undertaker in his early years. Behind the scenes, Paul was pretty much a shoot manager for Undertaker, making all of the travel arrangements and taking care of things on the road that the Undertaker shouldn’t be seen doing. They would eventually split up, get back together, split up, and so on. Paul’s status as Kane’s father led to all sorts of drama that one needed a scorecard to keep track of. Bearer still made occasional appearances with Undertaker or Kane years after his regular work with WWE ended, and his death on March 5, 2013 was a sad day for wrestling fans.

Sometimes, wrestling promotions work the death of a wrestler or a wrestling personality into the show and it seems crass. However, in the case of Paul Bearer’s death being used in the storyline between CM Punk & Undertaker heading into WrestleMania, it felt right. Paul Bearer was a mortician in real life, and his two passions in life were the funeral business & the wrestling business. He also loved being the center of attention, so there’s no doubt in my mind that everything Punk did in the feud that some saw as disrespectful would have been more than all right with him. And at the end of the day, Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak continued and he avenged the honor of Paul Bearer. What wasn’t to love?

4. Adam Cole wins his first ROH World Championship

Greg DeMarco would have been pissed off if I didn’t include ADAM COLE BAY BAY in this thing at some point, so here’s one of the biggest moments of his career! Ring of Honor had been having some issues with their internet pay per view service, so as a make-good, they offered Death Before Dishonor XI for free! You all know my life mantra: “If it’s free, it’s for me!”. So I watched the show, and there were only a few technical glitches, nothing worth getting too worked up about. Especially since it was free.99.

The main draw of the event was the conclusion of a tournament to determine a new Ring of Honor Champion, which was necessary due to Jay Briscoe being injured. Adam Cole overcame Tommaso Ciampa in the semi-finals and Michael Elgin in the finals to become the new ROH World Champion. Everybody was happy at first, as Adam Cole seemed like a good guy. Then he attacked the injured Jay Briscoe after winning, and showed a side of himself that we’ve seen on display pretty much ever since.

Cole went on to great success as ROH World Champion, and is the only man to have three reigns as champion. That Ciampa guy went on to big things too, as did Kevin Steen, who was also in that tournament. Michael Elgin…well…he’s not around right now.

3. Dolph cashes in

I could be wrong. I have been on occasion in the past. But I don’t think a Money in the Bank cash-in ever got more over with a live audience than this one was. Dolph Ziggler was a man that the hardcore fans got behind a couple of years prior to this point due to his insane ability to sell moves. His offensive work was always something that kept me from fully getting behind him, but he was one of those chosen few by the IWC during this time period.

April 8, 2013 was a big day for me. According to the NCAA, that day no longer exists, since it’s when the Louisville Cardinals won the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship. Later got vacated since some of the players got some hookers from an assistant coach, and obviously schools can’t pay players or pay people giving services to players. I was trying to keep an eye on the Raw After Mania, but it was tough to do with my college team going for a championship. Two things drew my attention: Dolph cashing in, and the fans Fandangoing. I even let that Fandango song play during the later parts of the basketball game to get that mojo going.

Unfortunately, Dolph’s title run got derailed by a concussion. WWE never went back to him in a main role after that, though they’ll gladly keep him under contract and he’ll gladly take their money.

2. Paige becomes the first NXT Women’s Champion

WWE taking women’s wrestling seriously was a little difficult to believe. They hadn’t done that for the twenty-three years we’ve covered previously, unless you consider Sable serious business, or Stephanie McMahon’s reign, or Finlay randomly training people, or the transition from the Women’s Championship to the Divas Championship taking women’s wrestling seriously. WWE never did…up until NXT in 2013!

WWE’s previous developmental territory, FCW, had a Divas Championship and the Queen of FCW crown. When you have people fighting for a “Divas Championship” and/or a crown, that pretty much tells you what the talent scouts were looking for at the time. Once that changed, they needed something more serious. Once Paige got over in a positive way as the Anti-Diva and certain people got what that meant, NXT’s women’s division became more serious business.

After FCW bit the dust, NXT crowned a Women’s Champion after an eight-woman tournament featuring 4 NXT talents & 4 main roster talents. It led to Paige & Emma in the finals, and they had a great match as one would expect from those two. NXT’s women’s division kept raising the bar for WWE’s main roster, which led to everything that has happened since then.

1. HBK shows a little of the old HBK

2013 was a big year for Daniel Bryan. It was when he graduated from being a good hand, or a B+ player as The Authority kept calling him, to an A+ player, a guy that the majority of fans were willing to pay to see. The Team Hell No thing with Kane helped out, as did John Cena booking himself against Bryan at SummerSlam, while the fans were telling him to do it. The fans made their choice. WWE got there eventually. Part of that road included a series of matches with Bryan & Randy Orton, which culminated with Shawn Michaels, one of Bryan’s trainers, screwing him over at Hell in a Cell as the special guest referee.

Shawn called Bryan out the night after and tried to apologize. The fans weren’t hearing it, and neither was Bryan. This was pretty amazing, as Shawn had tried to turn heel in the past against Hulk Hogan, retired Ric Flair, and worked a tweener role against Undertaker, and people wouldn’t boo him during any of that. Once he screwed Daniel Bryan over, WWE fans finally saw fit to boo that man. We finally see a little glimpse of that true heel Shawn Michaels from back in the day, Bryan makes him tap, and everybody celebrates.

This segment led to a lot of us hoping that HBK would come out of retirement to face Daniel Bryan. Maybe at WrestleMania XXX. What ended up happening there worked out better for Bryan. Sadly, Shawn wasted his return from retirement match many years later against other washed up people in Saudi Arabia. I’m sure the payday was nice, but the fans that watched it wished he’d done the Bryan thing instead. Or anything else at all.


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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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