WrestleMania XXVIII Preview & Predictions

WrestleMania XXVIII, 01/04/2012, from the Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL

WrestleMania XXVIII, 01/04/2012, from the Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL

What more to say? This is WrestleMania. Always iconic. Almost always brilliant – This is WrestleMania, and I couldn’t be more excited. The card is very good, and if I may be controversial, certainly better than last year’s (already stellar) card. It will be a privilege to witness Rock vs Cena; it is truly what the hype says – icon vs icon, arguably the biggest match in the history of wrestling. Aside from that, we have Taker-HHH, which is a match I didn’t look forward to last year, but which delivered in the end. More crucially, my two favourite wrestlers ever, Chris Jericho and CM Punk have alligned and are wrestling one of the top matches on the card. All that, mixed with a strong card almost throughout makes this a really mouthwatering spectacle, and I, like any true wrestling fan, can’t wait!

Match 1) World Heavyweight Championship Match: Daniel Bryan (c) vs Sheamus
Yes it’s a shame that this match, for one of WWE’s most prestigious titles will only be defended during the first match on the card, but, like last year, this actually is quite a boon, helping to frame the event with a feel-good finish. Indeed, the result has a lot to do with me placing this first on the card, though I should also say that my prediction has become less confident of late given the sheer brilliance of Daniel Bryan recently. I was of the opinion that Bryan was just being given a run with the title until dropping it to Sheamus in order to provide the Celtic Warrior with his ‘moment’ at WrestleMania to really cement him as a top guy. However, this narrative may have been altered by the fact that Daniel Bryan has become one of the best characters in the whole of the WWE since becoming champion. His slimy, overly-confident, overly-congratulatory, wily champion character has brought him tonnes of heat, and he has really shone brighter than even Sheamus. With this in mind, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if they extended AmDrag’s run. I am, despite this, sticking with Sheamus, and that is for the simple reason that a Sheamus win allows for a feel-good moment, the continuance of the feud as well as Sheamus’s moment in the spotlight. The match could be really good given time, and I imagine AJ will reluctantly get involved, will be banned from ringside, and as a result, D. Bryan loses the title clean, allowing for his rematch clause to be activated and the feud continuing.

Winner: Sheamus

Match 2) Intercontinental Championship Match: Cody Rhodes (c) vs The Big Show
Usually, I have no interest in a match involving The Big Show, but this match involves the eminently brilliant Cody Rhodes, and that gives me an instant degree of interest. While Show is a one-dimensional void of charisma (albeit a popular one), Rhodes has been growing in ring and in character for over a year now, and has done some great work with not very much material to add genuine tension to this feud. His delivery of the packages detailing Big Show’s flops at WrestleManias has been achingly callous and smarmy, and added to this have been efficient displays of stealth and intelligence, using anti-Big Guy tactics against Khali to show he could beat giants before trapping Big Show and humiliating him with a series of blows to the head with boxing gloves – a move also sinister in it’s brutality. Rhodes has played a perfect heel here, creating actual heat for what could have been a lacklustre feud, and providing a platform where people will really want to see Big Show finally get his hands on him and snuff him out. Indeed, i’ve seen some predictions where this very scenario is favoured, but I don’t see it happening. It’s great for Rhodes and the prestige of his title that Big Show is facing him for it, but there is absolutely no value in actually giving the title to Show. By WrestleMania, Rhodes will have held the Intercontinental Championship for 236 days, making Rhodes the longest-reigning IC Champ in nearly 8 years (only 8 days behind Shelton Benjamin), and 9th-longest-running IC reign of ALL TIME. Very impressive, great for Rhodes, great for the championship, and too much to waste on a momentary pop for a Big Show victory when Show is (in historical billing terms) above the title anyway. Even if it’s through cheating, give Rhodes the WrestleMania rub and help create a legendary reign for a future star.

Winner: Cody Rhodes

Match 3) Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres
Ok, so this is undoubtedly the weakest match of the card. There were dreams of Beth vs Kharma, or Beth vs Natalya, or similar, but it hasn’t materialised. Nonetheless, WrestleMania thrives on celebrity involvement, and Menounos is a keen wrestling fan who will give her all (despite a rib injury), and her involvement may actually afford the divas more time than they usually get. The shame is that the babyface celebrity is surely almost certain to go over, and that harms our Divas Champion a little. I just hope she isn’t the one to get pinned (or, that i’m REALLY surprised, and Beth Glamslams Menounos for the win – you never know, Menounos could return down the line …).

Winners: Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos

Match 4) Randy Orton vs Kane
I’m a big Randy Orton fan. He’s a great wrestler. But to my memory, since wrestling a series with classics with Christian last year, and putting Mark Henry over as champion, Orton has struggled to get embroiled in a really good feud and, consequently, has suffered from less intriguing matches. He has apparently been lined up for a bit of a dream feud with Alberto Del Rio in the future, but for now he has been lumped with the freshly unemployed (in storyline terms) Kane after the Big Red Machine was dispatched by John Cena at Elimination Chamber. The feeling that these two big names have been thrown together because they kinda have to be at WrestleMania wasn’t helped by the arbitrary-feeling nature of their feud, justified as it is by Kane being angry that Orton humanised him last year on Smackdown by shaking his hand on Smackdown, a moment that has haunted Kane ever since, supposedly. It’s paper-thin, but I don’t want to bury this match before it’s started, so it’s also important to remember that Orton can put on great matches with anyone, while Kane is a seasoned veteran, and is always capable of shock. I expect Orton is probably the favourite for this, but I have the feeling Orton, Kane, and WWE will want to salvage something from this; so I think Kane might gain a shock win. If Orton was to win, Kane would have been polished off by two stars in as many PPVs, and would lose all of his credibility as a ‘monster’, while a win for Kane will completely reinstate all the credibility lost when he was dispatched by Cena. A loss could fire up Randy to come back at Kane in future matches ready to move on to ADR looking great. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, and Orton will just RKO Kane in minutes, but it’s what i’m going for.

Winner: Kane

Match 5) 12-Man Tag Team Match To Decide the Future General Manager of Both RAW and Smackdown: Team Johnny (David Otunga, Mark Henry, The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger & Drew McIntyre) vs Team Teddy (Santino Marella, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, Zack Ryder, The Great Khali & Booker T)
There’s a lot to talk about regarding that match, though not that it carries that much importance in many ways. This match was a good idea in that it gives twelve (mostly) deserving superstars a WrestleMania spotlight. I’m especially pleased about Zack Ryder (who deserves it for his hard work despite his shortcomings) and Drew McIntyre (who deserves it in every way) getting the call to Mania, though for people like Dolph Ziggler, Mark Henry and The Miz, it’s a shame that this match was the best they could do – especially Dolph and Henry, who have been some of the brightest stars in the company this year. I have absolutely no doubt that this will be a really fun match. Ther’ll be great spots from guys like Dolph and Kofi, while Santino, Zack, Teddy, and Laurinaitis will no doubt provide some swell comedy. What is more, at least one person will be given a good rub here, i.e., the person who gets the final pin (though the whole winning team will look good. That team will be, surely, Team Johnny. John Laurinaitis, flanked by David Otunga, have quickly become hugely effective at what they do, growing in to engaging and easily dislikable bureaucrats, while Teddy Long – with all due respect to the MacMilitant -has become a staid cliché (search for the comical Teddy Long flowchart, which illustrates the point). With that in mind, I can’t believe WWE  would back Teddy over Johnny, and so I think the heels will go over here. Which leaves us with the question of who will get the final pin. Well, it’s hard to rule any of them out. Apart from probably Jack Swagger, each man has a lot to gain from the rub, and a lot of currency to take it; Dolph as the fastest-growing star among them, Otunga as captain and fast-growing heel who has been doing some great work of late, Mark Henry, who is in the midst of renewing his dominance of a few months ago, The Miz, who main evented last year’s WrestleMania, and who seems to be on his way back, and finally, Drew McIntyre, who could use this rub as a catalyst back to his push of a year or so ago. My heart says McIntyre, but my head says Miz, who has a distinctly Jericho-esque tendency to sweep up the pieces to gain high-profile wins, and who’s success would be all the more poetic given the lengths he went to to even get on the team.

Winners: Team Johnny

Match 6) WWE Championship Match: CM Punk (c) vs Chris Jericho
Ok, so it’s a shame that the WWE Championship match, and the match i’m most looking forward to, wont be the main, main event, but it is the right call. Not only is Rock-Cena one of the biggest matches ever, but as great as this match will be, and despite the fact that it will almost certainly be the stand-out wrestling match, it will struggle to follow the sheer mangitude of The Streak and Rock-Cena. Jericho at least will be smart to this following his experience at WrestleMania 18; this matches best chance for success is if The Streak and Rock-Cena have to follow them. That aside, it’s hard for me to properly express how much this match means to me. Jericho and Punk are not only two of the greatest wrestlers and sports-entertainers ever, but also happen to be my two favourite ever. This is my dream match, and it’s hard to say more than that. Give these two time, which I believe they will, and these two will dish up a bonafide classic. The build to the match has been great, with Jericho trolling us all with ‘the end of the world’ before launching in to this battle of Best in the World vs Best in the World. Tantalising enough, but Jericho then plunged the depths of the Reality Era by bringing Punk’s troubled family in to the mix to get under the champion’s skin. This is how the Reality Era should work. By playing off Punk’s history with an alcoholic father and difficult upbringing, Jericho in fact framed the Punk we see today wonderfully, making him and his straight-edged, stand-offish and rebellious character one we as an audience one we can really understand and see in a sympathetic light. Jericho is extremely popular with the fans, and from day 1 of his return he has been frustrating and annoying us to get heat, and he has been successful. With each passing week, his attacks on Punk get more personal, and more childish, and from huge pop at his return, Jericho is now hated again by the fans; he sure is a master puppeteer. As for Punk, he has shown a more vulnerable, but determined side, which mixed with the traits that got him over during the ‘Summer of Punk’, will make him even more of a top top star. That is how well considered and crafted this feud has been so far. I can only see one winner here though, and that is, rightly, CM Punk. Punk is the next person to be properly ‘made’. He already has been, it should be noted, ‘made’ as a top top star on par with John Cena, but he is still lacking his big WrestleMania moment like Cena had at WrestleMania 21. Also like John Cena, if Punk wins, he will join an exclusive club (only him and Cena) to have succesfully wrestled for the WWE Championship at all of the ‘Top 4’ PPVs in a single year. Quite the vote of confidence, and quite the change from this time last year. As for Jericho, I feel he’s deserving of another WWE Championship run, and believe he will get one down the line as his feud with Punk hopefully continues beyond WrestleMania. Jericho has been avoiding Punk, and getting shots in cheaply. The story of this match will be Punk finally shutting Jericho up and proving himself the Best Wrestler in the World!

Winner: CM Punk

Match 7) Hell in a Cell Match: The Undertaker vs Triple H w/ Special Guest Referee, Shawn Michaels
This is The Streak, and therefore it is exciting, and emotional, and the rest. Every year, arguably nothing more is on the line – a history that is literally perfect and untainted (just showing the genuine prestige involved in wrestling, despite it’s pre-ordained nature). Last year, I wasn’t so excited about this pairing going in, and it turned out to be a classic between to legendary veterans. I expect no less this year. What is more is that, somehow, WWE managed to rescue the aura of Hell in a Cell from the grasps of its PPV namesake, simply by playing to it’s strengths – announcing it unexpectedly, and using it to clean up a long-lasting rivalry. Perhaps the stip, and indeed, the introduction of Shawn Michaels, is so much smoke and mirrors, but it is certainly intriguing, and does a good job differentiating this match from last year’s. For that reason, a good job has also been done, along with playing to the memory of the beating Trips gave Taker last year, in renewing the feeling that HHH really could beat the Undertaker this year. That is all great, and my heart will be in my mouth during the inevitable near-falls HHH gets over Taker, but ultimately, I don’t think it will happen. There is absolutely no benefit to having Triple H end The Streak, except for H’s much-mythesised ego. So the question becomes, how will Taker maintain The Streak? The answers are limited, as they both have – by way of stipulation – have to relate to HBK, so either Michaels calls it down the middle and Taker wins legitimately, or HBK jealously screws his friend. I don’t know which it will be, but I certainly don’t want it to be the latter. Not only would it tarnish Taker’s win, and therefore, The Streak somewhat, but it would play in to a storyline that has been rumoured of late for next year’s WrestleMania: a main event match between HHH and HBK. That happening would be wrong for so many reasons, but most immediately, these two: 1) HBK is retired, and as much as the fans want to see him wrestle again, they want to see him not go back on his word for a pay day more, and 2) and HBK-HHH match is not only something we’ve already seen before, but it takes a spot away from the full-timers, who are already squeezed at WrestleMania, without being special enough to warrant it. But enough of that unpleasantness – The Undertaker will return, he will win a fantastic, dramatic match, and everyone will have another classic Undertaker-WrestleMania memory to hold as he takes it to a ridiculous, beautiful, 20-0.

Winner: The Undertaker

Match 8) The Rock vs John Cena
In many ways, this match is perfect. The Rock and John Cena are natural enemies from different spheres of the same world; one the ‘attitudinal’ electrifying and hyper-masculine Rock, and the other the ‘PG’, family friendly but unstoppable, never giving up franchise, John Cena. It is, for once, not hyperbole to call this ‘the biggest match of all time’, and ‘icon vs icon’, as well as any other superlative you may want to think up for it, and so the wrestling aside, this is destined to be an unforgettable match, and possibly the best of all time. For the longest time, I was convinced that Rock would win in his home-town, leading to futura battles between the two, but now it doesn’t seem quite so clean cut. If Rock wins, why would he come back to wrestle Cena again? Also, if Cena loses, and Rock goes away to film movies, what does that do to the credibility of the WWE roster? I think the second question is actually the most troublesome for a Rock prediction (after all, the same could be said the other way regarding the first). My answer to the second question is flimsy, but I think potentially good enough: Cena has won literally (not literally) every match he has competed in for the last seven years, and although wrestle fans have, of necessity, short memories, this one loss wont add up to undermining the whole roster. After all, Punk beat Cena twice this year, and is the WWE Champion, so Cena isn’t the only representative of the best of WWE, and Cena losing certainly doesn’t lower the bar for the roster. Actually, that isn’t so flimsy! The outcome of this match basically depends on how you think the whole Rock-Cena feud will pan out, but the constant is that the lasting image that needs to be created, is Cena overcoming the Rock. If you think this is their only match ever, pick Cena, if not, it’s so easy. Rock has already been announced as having a role at WrestleMania 29, and there are rumours that Rock-Cena will turn in to a trilogy of WrestleMania 28, Summerslam 2012, and WrestleMania 29. That seems good, and even likely to me, and so that is the framework i’m going to work from, and if that is the case, The Rock HAS to win. If the end-point of all this is Cena finally proving himself against Rock, that can only happen at the end of the feud, at WrestleMania 29. Cena can’t win at WrestleMania 28, because that gives us the moment of Cena proving himself prematurely, and renders the other matches essentially meaningless (at least in the Cena proving himself thread, and only if he wins clean). And so the sequence has to be this: Rock over at WM28, Cena over at SS, Cena over at WM29 to win the series. Given my earlier shakiness with my prediction, i’m now certain, The Rock will win on Sunday, in his home town. Cena will continue to evolve as a character, questioning himself and perhaps becoming obsessed with beating The Rock. The problem then becomes how to coax the Rock back to Cena’s ring, but then again that may necessitate something desperate and shocking from Cena, which in itself could be great. The journey could also be one which sees the fans come back to Cena as they watch and sympathise with him against an arrogant and gloating Rock. Maybe. But enough analysis. Whatever happens on Sunday (touch wood), this match will be, and indeed, already is iconic, and featuring two guys in their prime, will be a great match, as well as surely timeless.

Winner: The Rock

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RTV Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame, Class of 2012 – Entrant #6: Danny Hodge

Looking for the next entrant to the RTV Hall of Fame, I decided to look among my list of potential inductees; looking through them all in turn, I realised that Danny Hodge – legendary tough guy and favourite of J.R. will turn 60 this year. That’s enough of a milestone for me when mixed with Hodge’s illustrious career, so Hodge will be the 6th entrant to this year’s Hall of Fame!

Hodge was a brilliant athlete, a real all-rounder, working as a professional wrestler between successful turns as both an amateur wrestler and a professional boxer. But this is a professional wrestling Hall of Fame, so it’s that string of his bow i’ll detail. Hodge was an NWA stalwart and legendary figure, most notably, holding the NWA for a total of over ten years after first winning it from Angelo Savoldi; the man with whom he had his most vicious feud with (including Hodge’s father legitimately stabbing Savoldi in the ring).

Hodge also won the tri-state versions of the United States Tag Team Championships, North American World Championship, and also, impressively, the NWA International Tag Team Championship with Wilbur Snyder at the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance (then Japan Wrestling Association), the first professional wrestling promotion to be based in Japan – an impressive and pioneering attribute in itself.

Hodge is still considered a legend amongst his peers, but he is also one perhaps in danger of slipping from fans’ consciousness as generations move on, and so it is also partly with that in mind that I induct Danny Hodge in to my Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame.

RAW Precall (26/03/2012): Booking the Go Home Episode for WrestleMania 28

So, the weeks leading up to WrestleMania are always the most exciting in a wrestling fans calendar – even for those, dare I say it, that usually carry an ideological distaste for the WWE. This post is simply a manifestation of my own excitement leading in to WrestleMania XXVIII. Now, ‘go home’ shows can be hit and miss, and there is a reason for this; at this point your building to very specific matches, and it doesn’t make sense to venture outside of the established feuds, so they are often limited in booking terms. Not only that, but in order to sell PPV’s, you want to build expectation, rather than give the action away on free TV, so the people feuding can only go so far as relates to physical violence. This, of course, doesn’t mean ‘go home’ shows are necessarily tame, in fact, often the best ones are the exact opposite, it’s just a case of finding a balance between building tension and giving content away, while hopefully doing it in an interesting, entertaining way.

This is what i’m going to attempt to do. I’ll also leave some notes for the ‘go home’ Smackdown – though it should be remembered that go home Smackdowns are often very limited in content due to the tradition (one I like) of featuring a lot of content from WrestleMania Axxess to really give that feel of WrestleMania almost being here.

Here are the matches which need to be built:
Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres
Randy Orton vs Kane
Intercontinental Championship: Cody Rhodes (c) vs Big Show
Team Teddy (Santino, Kofi, Truth, ?, ?, ?) vs Team Johnny (Otunga, Mark Henry, Christian, Ziggler, Swagger, ?)
World Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Bryan (c) vs Sheamus
The Undertaker vs HHH (Hell in a Cell, Special Guest Referee: Shawn Michaels)
WWE Championship: CM Punk (c) vs Chris Jericho
The Rock vs John Cena

RAW

At the start of the show, the announcers run through some of the advertised matches: HHH vs The Miz (w/ Special Referee, Shawn Michaels), Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus in a ‘WrestleMania Preview’ match, CM Punk & Big Show vs Chris Jericho & Cody Rhodes, plus, both John Cena and The Rock ‘in action’.

Cut to arena and Jericho’s music hits. He comes to the ring and cuts a promo about being the best in the world and how he doesn’t want or deserve to be in the ring with CM Punk, a man so delusional due to drink that he thinks he’s the Best in the World, more than he needs to be. He’ll wrestle him at WrestleMania, and that’s all. At that point, Bryan’s music hits and he comes down with AJ. He says he can relate to Jericho’s problem as he has been put in a match with a drunk too, a brute from Ireland, Sheamus, and he doesn’t feel he should have to wrestle him at any other time apart from WrestleMania either. He doesn’t care who Sheamus wrestles, he can wrestle AJ if he wants, just not me. He goes to leave but then Sheamus charges the ring and beating on Bryan and Jericho too. At this point, HHH comes out and explains that with the GM’s fighting, and superstars from both shows in the ring, he’ll sort out the issue. He says Sheamus will have a match later, and so to will Bryan and Jericho. He agrees that they shouldn’t face their WrestleMania opponents, and that he’s got something else in line for them. Jericho will go one on one with John Cena. Bryan looks smug, until Trips announces he’ll go one on one with The Rock in tonight’s main event.

Beth Phoenix and Eve to the ring. They brag about not needing TV stars to help boost their profile and call out their WrestleMania opponents. Kelly Kelly comes out alone, and Eve asks where her partner is before answering that ‘oh yeah, she’s not here. Still wanna face us?’ Resolute, Kelly makes her way to the ring to face them in a handicap match. A few minutes of the heels dominating. Beth goes for a pin but holds Kelly up for more punishment. Natalya comes out to aid Kelly and she and Beth end up brawling to the back (which can also set up a post-Mania feud for them). In the distraction, Kelly hits a K2 to Eve for the win.

Kane promo from inside his red-lit boiler room. He says his powers have Orton on the back foot and lacking confidence like never before. He promises that what he does to Orton at WrestleMania will be BURNED on to his retina just like that moment he was humbled and humanised with a hand shake is to him. Kane is about to continue, but Orton appears behind him in the boiler room and quips ‘You’ll burn in hell’ or some such before attacking him and getting the best of it.

HHH’s match with Miz. Miz out first, and he asks why he should wrestle someone like HHH when he’s not even getting a WrestleMania match. He’s no tune up, he’s a main eventer! HHH comes out and promises him a match of some kind at WrestleMania if he can win. Miz agrees. Decently long match here so Miz doesn’t look too bad, but Trips in control eventually. At this point, the lights go out and the bells of Undertaker toll. Taker on the tron who simply says in six days, you will meet your end (or some Taker-y stuff like that) and when the lights come back, Miz ambushes a distracted HHH with a Skull Crushing Finalé and goes for the pin. Only, Shawn doesn’t count the pin, at least not straight away, and HHH kicks out before getting the upper hand and winning with Pedigree and Taker-taunt pin before he and Shawn do the ‘Suck It’ taunt to Miz and the announcers speculate about whether HBK is on Trple H’s side at WrestleMania, and the Streak being in dire jeopardy.

Sheamus beats Jinder Mahal after a bit of offense from Mahal so it’s not a squash, but shows Sheamus’s strength against a decent opponent. At that point, Sheamus gets a mic very quickly, says Daniel Bryan does a lot of talking, while he lets his actions show that he’s a champion.

Next up is CM Punk & Big Show vs Cody Rhodes & ? Jericho comes on the tron and gloats about not having to compete before introducing his replacement, former tag team champion with Rhodes, Drew McIntyre. Give Punk a lot of time with both heels in the ring respectively while having Rhodes avoid Show throughout the match in a cowardly kind of way. Punk and McIntyre in the ring. McIntyre goes for his Future Shock DDT, but he’s wrestled on to Punk’s shoulders, but just before he delivers, Jericho interrupts on the tron, saying ‘Hey Punk. what are you doing fighting my replacement when i’m right back here?’ Furious, Punk puts McIntyre down and goes after Jericho. Big Show is distracted by this and calls after Punk, but with his back turned, he’s rolled up by McIntyre who grabs the tights, and for extra leverage, Rhodes pushes on Show’s back out of the referee’s line of sight, and Rhodes and McIntyre win it. All this happens before Punk has left the stage, and incensed, he storms back to the ring while Jericho says ‘You’ll have to do better than that on Sunday, Punk’. He walks around the ring and grabs a mic, and enters the ring as the heels are still celebrating. He goes to talk, but instead drops the mic and GTS’s both of them. He then picks up the mic again. Now it’s kinda cynical to say ‘Punk shoots’, because that can’t just be a fall-back, but in this scenario, to build for the match, it’s a good call. Let him go off on Jericho for whatever he wants before having him say. I am the Best in the World, but this is about more than that now. You’ve insulted me, my family, and gotten under my skin, but that’s the worst mistake you’ll ever make. At WrestleMania, you wont be able to troll, and you certainly wont be able to hide from the ass-kicking you’re in line for. CULT OF PERSONALITY.

A bit of relief from that in the form of Team Long vs Team Johnny. First off, Long’s music hits, and out he comes with Santino, Kofi, and Truth. He has two more members to add to his WrestleMania team tonight. First off, out comes Brodus Clay! I don’t know if this is the best way to use the FUNKASAURUS, but he needs some sort of catalyst to progress, and his entrance would be great at WrestleMania. Secondly, he says he has heard the fans at arenas and through twitter, and the fifth member of Team Long is Zack Ryder! Ryder comes out and thanks Teddy very strenuously. At this point, out come John Laurinaitis with the rest of his team so far ‘ Otunga, Mark Henry, Christian, Dolph Ziggler, and Jack Swagger. Big Johnny congratulates Teddy on convincing five people to fight for him, but, as usual, he has out done him. ALBERTO DEL RIO’s music hits! I think it’s important he’s given a big entrance like this. With everyone still on the stage, Del Rio makes his full entrance, with pyro and stands with them all on the stage. He shakes hands with Johnny and Johnny holds up one of Del Rio’s shirts. Del Rio cuts a promo about how Teddy hampered him on Smackdown, and how his destiny on RAW took him to the WWE Championship. For that, he is forever loyal to Big Johnny and more motivated than ever to fight if it means ridding the WWE of Long.

Now to the joint main events. First up, John Cena vs Chris Jericho. Cena out second, but before the match starts, Rocky’s music hits and he comes down to commentate. Both of these matches need and deserve decent time, mainly because neither man can look weak. After a while Jericho gains control and slams Cena in to the announce table, but he and Rock have history too, and Jericho talks trash to Rocky, saying stuff like ‘what are you doing here, i’m the best in the world’, etc and shoves Rock. This is too much for Rock, who punches Jericho. The referee sees though, and this costs Cena the match, who looks angry and then gives a wry smile to Rocky. Jericho celebrates on the turnbuckle meanwhile, and Punk dives out from the crowd to attack him, and beats on him until Jericho escapes and backs off up the ramp. Punk stares a hole through him before chasing after him to the back. After this, Cena gestures to the ring for Rock to enter for his match, while Cena goes to joing commentary.

Out comes Daniel Bryan. This was one of my first ideas when booking the show. Not only could Bryan vs Rock be amazing and fresh, but most importantly, it gives a helluva rub to Bryan, which only helps legitimise Rocky’s involvement in WWE. The match has to be similar to the first in that both men need to look good, which against Rocky, will make Bryan look awesome! The match, like the first, ends up out of the ring. Now because Rocky’s more douchey, he would throw Bryan over the table and in to Cena. Cena and Rock shout at each other with the referee trying to seperate them. Meanwhile, Bryan grabs the ring bell from where he landed, and with the referee distracted, nails Rock with it and crawls in to the ring to gain a count out victory. YES! YES! YES! celebrations. Rock, who has recovered, then goes to attack Bryan, but Bryan escapes and runs to the back while celebrating. Meanwhile, Cena stands right behind Rock, and once Bryan’s escaped, Rock turns round right in to Cena. Staredown. Fade to black.

Smackdown

Some less detailed Smackdown thoughts now. Now, people like The Rock, John Cena, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, and probably Triple H, aint gonna be appearing on Smackdown, so this opens the floor for everyone else even more. So, in rough chronological order, but not necessarily:

Eve vs Natalya, for costing her the match. Kelly in Nattie’s corner, Beth in Eve’s. Beth interferes with Nattie throughout the match until Kelly confronts her. This time, Eve takes advantage of the distraction and rolls Nattie up for the win.

Tune up matches for both Kane and Orton. Kane beats Khali pretty quickly while Orton later beats Hunico (I really like Hunico, so I don’t like jobbing him out, but he deserves an appearance) in similar fashion. Only, Orton gets interviewed after the match, and is attacked and glovehanded by Kane.

Cody Rhodes is at Axxess and shows us ‘Big Show’s Hall of Blame’ showing pictures of Big Show embarrassed at WrestleMania in picture frames with a photoshopped picture of Rhodes with his foot on Show’s chest in the final frame.

Team Teddy are out to announce their final member … Evan Bourne! Now, I’m not in favour necessarily of Bourne appearing at Mania as he shouldn’t be rewarded like that right now, but he is popular and would get a pop. This is with the caveat that Rey Mysterio isn’t fit to wrestle. If he is, replace Bourne with Rey. Team Johnny appear on the stage, and he motions for them to rush the ring. A brawl between all 12 men in the ring that can’t be stopped as they go to commercial!

As for the two heavyweight title matches, Punk and Bryan have wrestled a lot, so it’s not that original, but having them face-off in the main event is better than a tag match. So inter-twine the matches and have Jericho vs Sheamus first. Bryan distracts and costs Sheamus the match to Jericho but again, in a match that makes everyone look good. Main event, Punk vs Bryan. Eventually, turnabout is fair play as Sheamus comes out and costs Bryan the match. Show ends by highlighting Punk at the end of the show as he celebrates. Everyone looks good, but no one better than their opponents (both Punk and Jericho won, and both Bryan and Sheamus lost, though still looking strong).

PLEA

So I hope you enjoyed this bit of fantasy booking. I think it’s pretty strong, but i’d love some feedback, so don’t hesitate to comment, suggest booking of your own, and follow me @RTVWOW for more opinions, info, and live-tweeting, including coverage of WrestleMania’s past which i’m doing in the run up to this year’s extravaganza!

RTV Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame, Class of 2012 – Entrant #5: Mike Tyson

This was a somewhat difficult choice. Mike Tyson isn’t, or to be fair, at least wasn’t a nice man. As ‘The Baddest Man On the Planet’ he was a captivating but unsavoury character in the world of sport, a man capable of dominating a competitive sport, but also capable – at least as far as the law is concerned – of serious sexual assault. I’m a little unsure that I want to celebrate the life of a man who has the past that he has, but this is overruled for two reasons: 1) As a soppy Liberal, I believe – generally – in rehabilitation, and Tyson seems to have been humbled as of late and rehabilitated. 2) Most importantly, this is a Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame, and I judge it solely on the impact the inductee has had on the business. Mike Tyson, when compared to other celebrities, has had a impressive and genuine impact on the business.

Pro-wrestling is obsessed with popular culture; obsessed with reflecting popular culture, and obsessed even more with becoming part of popular culture. It tends to be more successful with the latter goal (Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, The Rock, John Cena), but when Mike Tyson became involved in WrestleMania VIV, the WWE succeeded at engaging with pop culture in a timely and genuinely interesting way. Involving ‘The Baddest Man On the Planet” in a main event program with two of the ‘baddest’ characters in wrestling, Shawn Michaels and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, was stroke of genius.

There have been a lot of celebrities who have gotten involved in pro wrestling for a payday, and for the most part, it hurts and angle or a match more than it helps through sheer disingenuousness. Hearing people like Criss Angel, Al Sharpton, and Buzz Aldrin try and appear to relate to WWE superstars while barely pronouncing their names provide some of the most awkward and downright displeasing moments in wrestling history. But when people like Andy Kaufman and Mike Tyson turn up, as fans of pro-wrestling, get involved in the storylines and physicality, and care about the outcome – that’s when everybody wins.

Mike Tyson’s involvement in WrestleMania XIV is probably the most successful example of celebrity involvement in a wrestling angle. Without overshadowing the wrestlers, Tyson’s involvement brought more eyes to the product, and actually brought intrigue to the match regarding how he would affect the match and whether he would physical. Indeed, going in, he seemed to be in DX and Shawn Michaels’ pocket, but in the end, he counted HBK’s shoulders to the mat to award Austin his first ever WWF Championship. Adding insult to injury, but not affecting the match, Tyson then floored Michaels with a KO punch for a great feel-good moment. Even better, this marked the start of the ‘Austin Era’, a genesis which was made all the more iconic by the rub given by Tyson. Though Tyson can only claim a tiny bit of glory for Austin’s success, he certainly was a suitable and effective foil to it.Not only that, but it was also the blow that provided HBK with a memorable retirement (or so we thought) as Michaels thought the back injury he suffered at the 1998 Royal Rumble would legitimately retire him.

Tyson’s love for wrestling and the WWE was shown again when he returned to WWE in 2010 as a guest host, burying the hatchet with DX and reprising his role as enforcer when delivering a devastating KO punch to Chris Jericho. Tyson is to be inducted in to the WWE Hall of Fame this year, and given the success of his involvement in iconic wrestling moments, he is a natural fit in to any pro-wrestling Hall of Fame.

W.A.W.A. Abomination: Broken Bodies In This Hellacious Structure

Two artists. Two very different pasts. One ultimate destination.

Luther Blissett and T.H.E. Other are two artists with parallel careers. They came up together in the artistic tinderbox of Glasgow, standing out as big-time players in the GSA. It was there that W.A.W.A. was born. Soon though, their true colours came out, and while Other pursued humble art focused on space, people, and the relational, while Blissett’s reputation – and ego – went “supernova”.

February 17th, 2012, the W.A.W.A. were engaged in a date with destiny as Market Gallery booked them to do a reunion show together to be named Abomination. It was meant to be a collaboration, but what the W.A.W.A. Universe got instead was a very real, very physical manifestation of pure rivalry, which ended mired in infamous controversy and the bloodied, broken body of Luther Blissett.

Ali-Frazier, Hogan-Andre, Keane-Shearer, Hart-Michaels, Hakkinen-Schumacher, Tyson-Austin, and now Blissett-Other. This match was hotly anticipated from the moment the contracts were signed, and as the tension mounted, and the promo videos aired, the crowd of 93, 000 inside Market Square Gallery were chattering in anticpation of the artistic reunion of the two former friends and now bitter enemies. The roar of T.H.E. Other’s music was met by an equally load roar from the fans. He greeted the fans around the ring and shared a respectful hand-shake with the special guest referee, James Rivers before the whole arena went deadly silent. Leaking in came the dulcet tones of Luther Blissett’s music, and the fans began booing themselves hoarse in a deafening chorus. This only seemed to egg Blissett on, who even got in to a brawl with a fan on the fay to the ring. Like T. Other, Blissett circled the ring, but instead of greeting the fans, he berated the lucky ringside fans before refusing referee Rivers’ a handshake which, if possible, only led to more boos.

The stage was set, and the two squared up, labeling each other ‘heel’ and ‘face’, marking their territory round the 20 foot by 20 foot ring, 20 foot off the ground. The rigmarole out of the way, the two looked each other in the eye before charging at each other, sprinting in to each others arms and a  collar and elbow tie-up, tugging away at each other’s bodies, back and forth, for a good five minutes. Finally, Rivers intervened. This repeated another two times, and after the fourth dance of death, Rivers broke the two up again, but this time, Blissett shocked the world, and especially T. Other, with an almighty slap to the face of his unfaultable opponent.

This was only the beginning though. T. Other turned ‘t. other’ cheek to Blissett and rose above the hate to the moral high-horse, and slapped him across the chest; a move that was accompanied by sound that echoed across the arena, to be accompanied 93, 000 screaming fans wooing along with T. Other. Embarrassed and furious, Blissett reciprocated with a slap of his own, the sound of which was also accompanied by ‘woos’ delivered with more trepidation from the crowd. Like a house of dominoes, this progression slipped down a slippery slope as the two became more and more angry, slapping each other harder and faster, covering each other’s chests in jet black pigment, mixed however with droplets of blood as each warrior’s chests started to be compromised by the exchange.

Maybe it was the fatigue caused by this, or maybe it was just the desire, the need for each man to beat the other, but shortly after the blood (and tears of the child-fans) started running, the chain was broken when T. Other finally struck Blissett to the ground and locked him tight in the darndest Boston Crab some of the crowd said they had ever seen. Blissett is tougher than his demeanor lets on, however, and, using all his might, he crawled the 20 feet to the ring ropes for a clean break. His back must have been shattered, but he managed to recover, and even replenish his strength enough to catch T. Other in his dreaded figure-four grapevine, twisting Other’s legs in fifteen different directions and racking the Ultimate OperHumanist with pain. Despite the pain, Other too, like Blissett, managed to drag the two carcasses to the ropes for a not-so-clean break from Blissett. After shouting, “How Damn Good Am I!?”, Blissett got back in to the swing of things, turning Other round, sitting on his back, and pulling Other up by the chin, almost stretching Other’s spine in a 45 Degree angle. Blissett’s dominance, however, made him complacent, and he started play-riding the writhing opponent, calling his gestures ‘art’, and then begging the people to beg for more. This allowed Other to escape, but left his wrangled 7 foot body limp in the middle of the ring. Blissett, over-confident, addressed every fan individually, declaring himself ‘The Greatest Artist in the World’ in no uncertain terms, but, in no uncertain terms, allowed T. Other too much time to recover, and as a result, ended up in a passionate Ankle Lock, expertly applied by T. Other, and turning his ankle 450 Degrees round.

Compromised in the ankle and patella to a semi-permanent end, Blissett tried to escape the arena, pushing past fan after fan, deep in to the infinite crowd, but indignant, The Other plunged in to the throng straight after him, catching him quickly. It was at this point that the match became a hardcore no holds barred street fight; Other grabbing the coward Blissett by the head and launching him like a lawn dart in to a steel steel chair that had previously been wedged on the gallery wall.

The match had totally broken down. Blissett was down and busted wide open, his face a veritable crimson mask, while T. Other and a lucky member of the W.A.W.A. Universe began to set up a table comprised of Blissett’s latest painting. Even for a veteran like Rivers, who was moving between the two scenes, the chaos was too much, and he was left completely lost in the mire of bodies and the rapturous roars of the frothing crowd. Lost, Rivers decided to tend to the chair, to replenish the art work and reinstall Market Square Gallery to the best of his ability, overly-concerned with the perfection of the space exhibiting the works. Rivers’ lack of attention was to T. Other’s detriment. Re-entering the ring to attempt to finish off Blissett, he walked straight in to an under-handed, despicable action of low blow. Not only that, but with Rivers still bothering the dented and stained chair, Blissett was able to take further villainous measures. Before the match, Rivers had checked T. Other, but was refused a search from Blissett. This turned out to have good reason as at this point in the match, Blissett pulled out his trademark pipe, emblematic of Blissett’s status as well as violence and bludgeoning. Indeed, this is what it was used for; with Other downed by a blow to the grapefruits, Blissett picked him up for one last death-knell. Finally, due to the deafening outrage of the crowd, Rivers was roused just as Blissett was making the cover, and dutifully counted to three to give Blissett the win.

Blissett then launched in to a post-match vitriolic rant about his art is the only true art which was drowned out by boos and sounds of trash smashing on the body-stained canvas at the hands of the furious fans. As if encouraged by the deafening fury of the WAWA Universe, Blissett then climed to the top of Market Square Gallery’s rafters to celebrate more by one of his greatest works, the giant, iconic Portrait of Vincent Kennedy McMahon. But then, out of the ether, IT’S THE JOHNSTONE JUGGERNAUGHT! IT’S NASH! And he wasn’t there for ballet. As Blissett’s eyes sparkled with fear and awe, Nash’s baseball-like hands reached around Blissett’s neck, looked him in the eye and Chokeslammed him right off the roof, 100 feet to the floor,to crash through his own painting! And as GOD was everyone’s witness, Blissett was BROKEN IN HALF, just like his painting which he was left lying in the remains of.

And while Blissett was left, his body lying in his body of work, Nash made his way back in to the ring to meet the recovering Other. After a second of silence, Nash’s arm slowly raised, as if also controlling the joy of the crowd, which was also slowly rising yet more, and formed in to a rough approximation of a wolf – a symbol no-one yet knows the significance of. The crowd were rapturous about the comeuppance Blissett received, but a lot of questions remain. Why did Nash do what he did? Is there a reason? Did anyone ask Nash to ‘take care of Blissett’?

WHY NASH, WHY? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY!?

What an heinous Abomination.

RTV Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame, Class of 2012 – Entrant #4: Paul Heyman

Ron Simmons has been announced for WWE’s Hall of Fame this year, and it’s not before time (for the record, he was one of my ‘Core 50’ in the RTV Hall of Fame). That means I need to announce my fourth entrant, and it’s a man with an undeniable influence on what pro-wrestling is today. He spent a short time away from wrestling, but now that he and Brock Lesnar have signed a promotional deal with WWE again, he entrance is timely.

There are lots of things that make Heyman a special and important figure in the history of pro-wrestling. Heyman, witty and passionate, was one of the best, and most underrated, commentators of his time and all time. Paul E. Dangerously, complete with chunky contemporary mobile phone, is one of the greatest managers of all time, implementing a great modern character of a sleazy, brash, New York yuppie to manage people like The Undertaker, Steve Austin, Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Don Muraco, Jimmy Snuka, Big Show, and Kurt Angle to great success. Most successfully perhaps was his run with “The Next Big Thing” Brock Lesnar, a man with almost zero charisma, who he managed to the very top of the industry. More importantly than anything though was his management of ECW wrestlers like Sabu, Taz, Rhino, 911, Shane Douglas, and Tommy Dreamer, the life-blood of ECW. Indeed, this is emblematic of his most significant impact, being the driving force behind a significant part of the inspiration and catalyst for one of the most brazen and successful period in wrestling history.

In 1993, Eastern Championship Wrestling was a simple affiliate of the NWA, but with Heyman a creative force there, it soon became its most successful affiliate, and would become a catalyst for a new, hardcore, era of pro-wrestling. Due to its success, the NWA booked ECW’s champion, Shane Douglas to become the NWA World Champion, but Heyman (along with Douglas and one-time ECW owner, Tod Gordon) conspired against the NWA, taking the title and trashing it, along with the “tradition” of the promotion and the outdated approach to wrestling they said it represented. From here, ECW went ‘Extreme’, favouring more realistic characters that were encouraged to shoot on other wrestlers and promotions, brutal “hardcore” wrestling which required more sacrifice from wrestlers than ever before, a more interactive experience for the fans (including them providing weapons for matches and ‘smart’ chanting), the introduction of Mexican and Japanese styles to North America where they had largely been absent before, and a focus on high-level technical wrestling alongside the “hardcore” work. Because of this focus, ECW boasts a particularly impressive alumni, including Mick Foley, Rey Mysterio Jr, Chris Jericho, Steve Austin, Rob Van Dam, and Eddie Guerrero, among others already mentioned under Heyman’s management.

Though moguls like Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon like to deny it, the influence of this revolution was palpable in both organisations. In its growth, WCW banked largely on an influx of cruiserweights, many from Japan and Mexico, as well as pilfering talent from ECW like Mike Awesome and Raven once ECW had made successes of them. The WWF, which had a better relationship with Heyman, including a kayfabe ‘Invasion’ angle in 1997, nonetheless also borrowed from ECW, especially in terms of the more adult-oriented and “hardcore” Attitude Era.

ECW wasn’t the only catalyst for this golden era of wrestling, but it’s own attitude and originality had a significant hand in it, and for that, Heyman deserves to be enshrined in any Pro-Wrestling Hall of Fame.