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RAW emotion: Shawn Michaels bids farewell to WWE

March 30th, 2010 No comments

As Dutch Mantell told me this morning during our interview (transcript coming later this week to KFR), this is what professional wrestling is all about: real emotion, a heartfelt connection with the fans…many of whom were in tears.

 

Thoughts on WrestleMania XXVI

March 29th, 2010 3 comments
 

A heartbreaker: Michaels waves farewell following his loss to the Undertaker at WrestleMania.

 

ShowMiz vs. Morrison, Truth: I’m still enough of an old-school fan to be bothered that a World tag-team title match opens the card and then goes three minutes. Wow. The entrances were the highlight, but at least they kept ShowMiz rolling, if anything for the chemistry between the two.

Randy Orton vs. Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes: Orton won as expected. The confusing buildup was evident as the crowd was pretty quiet most of the way. Rhodes and Orton are apparently through, as the product of Dusty’s loins and the Million Dollar Son ended up fighting with each over who would finish Orton. These moments of dissention enabled Orton to double DDT both of his protégés into the ring (a silly spot that made Rhodes and DiBiase look helpless…but the crowd loved it) and then slip in for an RKO on DiBiase to get the win. DiBiase got a little color; it might have been accidental, as I thought blading was currently banned. Ted seemed to be more of the babyface between the two remaining Legacy members at the end, but they didn’t pull the trigger post-match so the spotlight could instead shine on Orton. Not the huge pop you’d expect for the first big match after Orton’s apparent babyface turn. (I’m still thinking this could be a swerve, with Orton shifting back heel on RAW after Rhodes and DiBiase finally split tonight.

Ladder Match: Some pretty cool spots throughout—including Ziggler’s wicked fall off the ladder onto the top rope throat-first (an extreme version of the hotshot), Kofi’s stilt-walking with a broken ladder and slow ascension toward the briefcase before McIntyre cut him off, and Drew’s bump where he crotched himself on the top rope when it appeared he had the briefcase won. There’s a spot every year that’s mistimed and a guy has to wait forever before he’s stopped from grabbing the briefcase; yesterday, it was pudgy Matt Hardy who had his fingers on the case for a while until Christian was finally able to tilt over on another ladder to cut him off. (Perhaps Hardy’s hands were covered in chocolate sauce, hindering his grip.) I was predicting Swagger as he fits the mold of the young cocky star whom would benefit most from the gimmick. (From my house in Los Angeles, I think I could hear Vince screaming at the monitor backstage as Swagger struggled to unhook his prize, but he eventually got it.) Clearly, they’ve got big plans for the kid—I thought it was a good omen that Swagger came out wearing a singlet straight out of Kurt Angle’s wardrobe. Entertaining bout that, thankfully, didn’t seem quite as dangerous as in years past.

Triple H vs. Sheamus: You can knock Trips all you want (and I do…often), but the guy knows how to put together a match. This was the best I’ve seen Sheamus look, and the fans were into this one most of the way. Thing is, people would be really talking about this match today if Sheamus had gotten the win—he’d have been a made guy. Still, Sheamus looked good in losing, so if they shoot the right angle tonight, I believe the interest would be there in continuing the issue between the two. Great false finish with Trips escaping the pin attempt following the bicycle kick. After a second kick, Trips appeared to be unconscious but surprised Sheamus with a kick to the stomach and sloppy pedigree to get the win. Really, HHH should have called an audible after the poor execution and delivered a second pedigree to put him away, but that’s nitpicking. Good bout.

Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk: Sadly, they weren’t given enough time to put together the classic they’re capable of. I understand the theory behind a Divas match to settle the crowd after Jericho/Edge before bringing them back up for Cena/Batista, but Rey and Punk would have greatly benefitted from about another six minutes. Still, we saw shades of the excellent chemistry that should make this one of the most intriguing feuds through the summer, most likely culminating with the mask vs. hair match at SummerSlam. Punk’s character is simply fantastic, and his promos are some of the best in the biz right now. Great closing sequence and finish, with Serena protecting her savior from a 619, enabling Punk to go for a GTS after Rey was distracted by Gallows. Rey reverses out, shoots Punk into Gallows, who takes a bump off the apron. As a prone Punk collapses on the ropes, Mysterio nails the 619 and springboard splash for the win. Apparently, there wasn’t even enough time for a post-match angle for Punk to get his heat back; in fact, Rey’s family was not shown on camera at all, which was surprising given the buildup, although Matt Striker did make the awkward comment of “Imagine the look on that little girl’s face.” (Would have been even worse had Lawler said it.) A little surprised that the babyface would win decisively this early in the feud; clearly they’ve got something planned for SMACKDOWN between the two to rekindle the issue.

Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon: This was sad and difficult to watch…my worst fear realized (other than a McMahon win with Dave Hebner’s help). Given Bret’s obvious limitations, they really should have booked this to be Cena w/Hart in his corner vs. Batista w/McMahon…with the Hitman getting five minutes with the chairman if the Animal lost. Then after the Cena win, Bret ends it quickly with the Sharpshooter after McMahon tries to get away. Everything about this was wrong: the Hart family heel turn and back to babyfaces in the span of three minutes (and before the swerve can be executed, Bret announces it to the crowd), no offense for McMahon (and therefore no comeback for Bret) and the brutal beating McMahon took that almost made you feel sorry for him. As it dragged on, Lawler at one point bellowed “This may go on all night!”—it sure seemed longer than the 10 minutes they got. I’m a huge Hart fan, so I hate to say it: This was an anticlimactic failure.

Edge vs. Chris Jericho: Pretty good match, with some nice mat wrestling. The announcers teased that Edge may not be 100%, setting up his loss and an eventual rematch. Nice swerve on the finish, as Jericho appeared to be a transitional champ who only got the belt so the returning hero could cap his comeback in style and get his revenge on being ousted from the tag championship team due to injury. Edge was limping toward the end, especially after a modified version of the Walls of Jericho with the champ arching back on the injured leg and heel of the challenger. Pretty good false finish with Edge kicking out after a belt shot—really looked like he would rally at that moment and take the win. But Jericho hit a second Codebreaker (and just barely…to the point that Jerry Lawler on commentary wasn’t sure if he did hit it) to finish off Edge. The crowd seemed flat at the finish, as they were clearly expecting an Edge win…with a SPEAR. Don’t have a problem at all with the finish, as Edge came off valiantly in losing, and it sets up rematches through the summer. Jericho attacked Edge after the match, but was thwarted and hit with a spear off the table and through the crowd barricade. (The initial camera angle wasn’t great; the replay truly captured what an awesome spot this was.)

Cena vs. Batista: Good match and the crowd was into it big time, giving it that classic WrestleMania feel for the championship. Cool entrance for Cena, though I’m not sure his salute to the fans and his role as a marine in the movies qualifies as a connection to the military. With this match not going on last, the finish was a toss-up (as they seem to steer clear of ending with a heel win on their biggest show), which added to the drama. Hated the finish, with Batista tapping out; I think the buy rate for the rematch would have been bigger with Cena chasing the belt and his first, elusive win over Batista. Still, a hell of a pop for Cena, who afterward mugged with fans booing him and wearing T-shirts that read “I Hate John Cena,” which was hilarious.

 Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels: I’d rate this one just as good as last year’s, with a far more memorable closing sequence and aftermath. A convincing spot early with ‘Taker coming off the top rope and appearing to land awkwardly and injure his knee. Turns out it was part of the match’s story, perhaps not only to slow down the pace of the match but also to make the fans believe Michaels was going to score the upset and end the streak. I disliked the sequence with ‘Taker nailing the tombstone on the floor—I mean, c’mon…he hit his finisher…on the “hard concrete” (as old-school announcers would say)…and HBK kicks out? Other than that, the match was laid out extremely well, with amazing false finishes, including Michaels kicking out after of the most vicious Last Ride I’ve ever seen, and ‘Taker barely getting shis shoulder up in a Sweet Chin Music-induced pin attempt following HBK’s moonsault off the top rope onto the Dead Man as he lie prone on the announcer’s desk. (The initial camera angle—which was almost a disaster as a guy stepped in front of the cameraman, who pulled the dude out of the way just before Michaels jumped—made it appear that HBK missed completely. The replay showed that while Michaels wasn’t completely on target, he did appear to land on Taker’s legs…possibly “by design” to go after the injury.) Going home, Michaels kicked out of another tombstone. Taker was prepared to finish him but hesitated “out of respect” for his foe and urged him to “stay down” as Michaels struggled scratched and clawed his way (rather homoerotically, I must say) to his feet. HBK slapped Taker defiantly, which prompted another Tombstone to end the match. After a brief celebration by Taker, he helped Michaels to his feet and left the ring so Mr. WrestleMania could savor the moment. With the crowd chanting his name and tears rolling down his cheeks, Michaels waved goodbye and began the long walk back to the dressing. He paused midway, turned to the camera and said, “I’ll drive my kids crazy in a few months.” As the broken star faded from view, Lawler said goodbye to HBK and the words “I’m gonna miss you” (sounding a little like Elvis, oddly enough). A WrestleMania moment to remember, this sure seemed like goodbye. Initially, I thought HBK would be back by SummerSlam. I’m thinking now that perhaps they’ll induct him into the Hall of Fame next year and shoot an angle to bring him back for “one more match” at WrestleMania in Atlanta so he can go out a winner on the grandest stage of them all.

Overall, I’d say it was good—not great—show.

We have a winnahhhhh…

March 29th, 2010 1 comment

…and his name is Robert “Wagdaddy” Wagner. Out of the 79 entrants who entered the first annual RassleMania Pick ‘Em Challenge, only a quarter bested  your KFR Colonel–including Dave Reynolds, James Tolin, Don Christian, Daniel McCrosky, and the 13-year-old son of reader Shawn Heimberger (impressively, McCrosky and the young Heimberger also picked Jack Swagger to win Money of the Bank). The biggest misses were on Edge/Jericho, Punk/Mysterio and Trips/Sheamus. I predicted only five of the nine matches correctly (purposely omitting the Divas match), further illustrating my lack of understanding of today’s booking philosophies. I started off a hot 3-for-3 (including the Swagger ladder match win…which almost didn’t happen as it took him an enternity to unhook the briefcase) before my luck turned…story of my life, really.

Typing up my review of the show now.

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