The John Report: The WWE Raw Deal 01/20/20 Review

Welcome to another WWE Raw Deal review right here on TJRWrestling. This is the last episode of Raw before this year’s Royal Rumble PPV event on Sunday, January 26th. It’s a busy week of writing for me, but it’s all good because I love Royal Rumble season.

The main matches advertised for this week’s Raw are Andrade defending the US Title against Rey Mysterio in a Ladder Match, Rusev & Liv Morgan teaming up against Bobby Lashley & Lana, Randy Orton vs. Drew McIntyre and Becky Lynch vs. Kairi Sane. Let’s get to it.

Live from Wichita, Kansas, this is the Raw Deal for episode #1391 of Monday Night Raw. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please visit TJRWrestling.net daily for our regular updates on the wrestling business featuring WWE news coverage, insightful columns from our team along with reviews about wrestling’s past and present. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.

The live review begins shortly after 8pmET.

 

 

 

The next WWE pay-per-view is the Royal Rumble on January 26th in Houston, Texas. Our preview will go up on Saturday morning and I’ll have a live review only on TJRWrestling on Sunday night. Here’s what we know so far.

Men’s Royal Rumble Match – Entrants include: WWE Champion Brock Lesnar (entered himself at No. 1), Roman Reigns, King Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, Braun Strowman, Erick Rowan, AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Elias, Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, Drew McIntyre, Otis, Tucker, Rusev, Bobby Lashley, Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy. That’s from  the WWE.com list.

Women’s Royal Rumble Match – Entrants include: Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross and Sarah Logan. They’ve only announced four names so far.

Strap Match for the Universal Championship: “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Daniel Bryan

Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Asuka

Falls Count Anywhere: Roman Reigns vs. King Corbin (They are both in the Men’s Royal Rumble match as well.)

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs. Lacey Evans

Sheamus vs. Shorty G

The post The John Report: The WWE Raw Deal 01/20/20 Review appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

Best WWE Intercontinental Champions of the Last Decade: The Miz by Jake Thomas

Coming off a career-best year in 2011, The Miz was at a bit of a crossroads. It would be tough for any wrestler to top main eventing Wrestlemania or main-eventing Survivor Series against The Rock and John Cena, but Miz was in an unusual position. Despite being pushed heavily, the WWE brass had begun to lose faith in Miz. Rumors of him being viewed as someone who the higher-ups had “soured on” on at the time For any other wrestler, that could’ve been the end. But through hard work and talent, Miz did more than simply turn his career around, but would also help to elevate the IC Title and follow on from the work of Cody Rhodes.

Although he was still featured prominently on TV, his booking would reflect the idea he was looked upon less fondly, as he would feature in a 20-match losing streak in the early parts of 2012. It wasn’t until picking up the win for Team Johnny at Wrestlemania 28 in a twelve-man tag match would he finally get his win. This wouldn’t signify a change in fortune for The Miz however as he would languish in the midcard before taking a two-month break. Miz would return at Money in the Bank, before making the biggest move of his career since his WWE Title win, winning the Intercontinental Championship on RAW 1000 in a match against Christian. Little did we know at the time, this would be the beginning of many reigns of one of the greatest IC Champions of the decade.

The first couple of reigns Miz had with the Intercontinental Championship were average at best or too short to be ranked. A title defense against Rey Mysterio and in a fatal 4 way at Night of Champions would be the highlights of Miz’s first reign before dropping the title to Kofi Kingston on the premiere edition of Main Event. This was before the present format Main Event when Main Event was viewed as an important show for the company, rather than a place for underutilized talents to ply their trade.

The next IC Title reign was rather controversial, as Miz had recently turned face. Many viewed this as out of character for Miz and he wasn’t able to get over as a babyface. The truth was that his character didn’t really change upon becoming a face, unlike today where Miz is a family man with a wife and kids, he was still an annoying trash talker. He defeated Wade Barrett to win the IC Title in the Wrestlemania 29 Pre-show in 2013, but lost the title immediately on RAW the night after Wrestlemania.

As you can see, the first two reigns of The Miz weren’t great. Whilst the first wasn’t horrible, the second was too short to be viewed as anything more substandard. Miz would have a difficult rest of 2013 and early 2014, staying out of the main event picture and being largely relegated to the lower mid-card. As what happened earlier, a two-month break to film Marine 4 would again result in positive change for The Miz. Miz would turn heel again upon his return, but would also play up being a big Hollywood story and “The A-Lister” persona. Miz would begin a feud with Ziggler (not the famous one), who he would trade the belt with back and forth after winning the vacant title at Battleground. This would last until the night after Night of Champions, losing the belt to Ziggler for the final time.

Whilst these reigns weren’t long, they produced two things: Quality matches, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering he was wrestling someone like Dolph Ziggler. But the important one, would be the birth of the Damien Mizdow character. Sandow, who had been impersonating different people for weeks, became the stunt double for Miz, which would lead to a long term feud which would result in getting Sandow even more over than he was in the process. Whilst the ending disappointed a lot of people, without the IC Title, the storyline would never have happened.

Miz wouldn’t smell the IC Title again until around Wrestlemania 32 in 2016, when he was an entrant in the IC Title Ladder Match. Unbeknownst to us at the time, Miz was originally booked to win the match and take the title. However, a push from Miz thought to give the title to Zack Ryder, who was a late entrant in place of an injured Neville (PAC), would make for a far greater story and match. It wouldn’t take Miz long to gain the title, as he would beat Ryder the night after WrestleMania to win the title. This was notable though, as Miz introduced a new part to his act, his wife Maryse. From this point on, all of Miz’s IC Title reigns would be pure quality.

His fifth reign would last 188 days, but the quality of matches and storylines would be what stood out in arguably one of his best runs with the title. Not only did he have classics like the Fatal 4 Way against Owens, Zayn and Cesaro at Extreme Rules, but his storyline with the then-retired Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler was one of the best storylines to come out of the new brand extension in the summer of 2016.

The Miz’s promo on Talking Smack is still regarded as one of the best promos in the modern era. He and Ziggler would trade the belt, contesting in epic matches against each other, including at No Mercy 2016 where Ziggler’s career was on the line. It speaks to the strength of the storyline that many considered that there was a real possibility that Ziggler would retire and transition to a backstage role. Miz would lose the title to Ambrose at the start of the year, but wouldn’t last long without it as he would regain the title months later at Extreme Rules in June 2017 after being drafted to RAW.

The thing about Miz and his IC Title reigns were that the stories involved were not only interesting, but he was treated like a top guy when holding the title. Plus, considering Brock Lesnar was Universal Champion around that time and only appeared sporadically, Miz was the top singles champion on RAW. His title feud with Roman Reigns would further prove this, as he would both lose then regain the title from Reigns, bringing up reign #8. While these reigns weren’t necessarily the longest IC Title reigns, nothing The Miz did with the title was bad. His last match as IC Champion at Wrestlemania 34 was one of the best Wrestlemania opening matches, against Finn Balor and Seth Rollins, dropping the title to Rollins.

The Miz and the Intercontinental Championship were just a great fit for one another throughout the 2010s. The Miz has the second most reigns as the IC Champion with eight (behind Chris Jericho’s nine) and is just 22 days behind Pedro Morales for the most days as IC Champion.

To this day, if the IC Title needed someone to help boost its status, The Miz would be the first person the WWE would turn to. Miz has created many amazing moments with the title, far more than many in the last decade. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of Miz and the IC Title, but I doubt we have.

The post Best WWE Intercontinental Champions of the Last Decade: The Miz by Jake Thomas appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

TJR Review of WWE Untold: Rey, Eddie & The Rumble

A new episode of WWE Untold debuted last night on WWE Network and it focused on Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero and the 2006 Royal Rumble match. That Royal Rumble match took place about two months after Eddie’s shocking death in November 2005. This episode of WWE Untold focused on Rey and Eddie’s friendship as well as Rey dedicating that Royal Rumble win to his best friend Eddie.

Here’s the synopsis from WWE Network:

Rey Mysterio remembers his best friend, the late Eddie Guerrero, looks back at their mythic matches against each other in WCW and WWE and relives dedicating his 2006 Royal Rumble Match win to Guerrero.

You can find this episode of WWE Untold in the “Originals” section on WWE Network. Here’s a recap.

===

THE BOND BETWEEN EDDIE AND REY

The show began with Rey Mysterio sitting down on a chair after taking off a Halloween Havoc 1997 jacket. It’s a great jacket because Rey vs. Eddie Guerrero that night was one of WCW’s best matches ever. Mysterio said that God had plans for them to conquer the wrestling world together.

They showed an interview with the late, great Eddie Guerrero from April 2, 2003. Eddie spoke about how he respected Rey for his positive attitude about the business, he said Rey fights through everything, you can’t help but like him and he doesn’t have any enemies because they (the wrestlers) all like him.

There were highlights shown of Rey Mysterio in his ECW and WCW days. Mysterio said he’d love to use the name “King Mystery” more with the English translation. Mysterio said it was very normal for him to see boots, mask and tights growing up because he would see his uncle’s matches (Rey Mysterio Sr.). Rey said his favorite times were spending time at his uncle’s house and he talked about how they would do moves together. Rey said he would go with his parents, his brothers and support his uncle Rey Mysterio Sr. in Tijuana. They showed a clip of Rey Sr. wrestling for WCW. There were also clips shown from Rey Sr. in action with Rey saying he loved seeing his uncle as a good guy.

Rey talked about how Eddie was great as a technico (face) or a rudo (heel). Rey said being able to dominate both worlds, that’s a gift and that’s a talent. Rey said he didn’t think he could do that because he doesn’t think he could play a bad guy, but Eddie could do it when he needed to.

TJR THOUGHTS: I strongly agree with Rey there. I always say that the best wrestlers are able to have success as a heel and a face. Eddie was one of those guys that could perform in both roles very well. There were times when Eddie was the most popular guy on the show and other times where he was the most hated. It truly was a gift as Rey said.

Jonathon Coachman talked about what Eddie meant to this business as a superstar that was addicted to the business. They showed highlights of Eddie walking backstage with the WWE Title. Coachman said a lot of people connected with Eddie and nobody had a problem working with him. Coachman said that sometimes the business can get the better of you.

They showed a clip of Eddie talking about how he was a recovering drug addict and alcoholic that works every day to stay sober, to stay in the path of God. Eddie said he was proud of who he is and he loved wrestling.

Rey spoke about how Eddie was teaming up with his uncle in Tijuana when Rey was maybe 13 years old. Rey wanted to work with Eddie back then, but if you would have asked him if they would have a match of the year, Rey would have said you were joking and that’s what happened at WCW Halloween Havoc 1997.

THE CLASSIC AT WCW HALLOWEEN HAVOC 1997

They focused on the WCW Halloween Havoc 1997 event with Rey defending his mask against Eddie’s Cruiserweight Title. Rey said that WCW was trying to take the masks off all the luchadores and Rey said he wouldn’t do it while adding he was going to no-show the event. Rey said that Eric Bischoff told him he’ll do what he is told, but if he doesn’t do it then he’ll be in breach of contract, so Rey had to be there. They inserted a clip of Eddie saying there was a lot of politicking backstage and talked to him about it.

Rey said that a match or two before their match, they told them Rey was winning and Eddie was losing, which surprised Rey. That led to highlights of the match with Rey saying that Eddie told Rey to listen to him with Rey noting he was wearing a Phantom mask that covered his ears, so he thought this was going to be hard. Mysterio said that he went based off Eddie’s lead and he said that Eddie was the best talent ever because he knew what to give the fans at the right time. Rey talked about one of the biggest moves that he created, a springboard reverse backflip DDT was a move they did that night. That was so impressive. They showed the memorable finish with Eddie going for a Powerbomb out of the turnbuckle, but Rey countered into a hurricanrana for the pin. They inserted a clip of Eddie saying he looks back on that match and he knows they didn’t have to change anything. Rey said he gets chills thinking about that match and said that’s how great Eddie was.

TJR THOUGHTS: I think Rey/Eddie at Halloween Havoc 1997 was a five-star match. It’s also my favorite WCW match ever. I don’t know if it’s the match of the year 1997 because we also got Bret Hart/Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13 in WWE and Shawn Michaels/Undertaker at Badd Blood 1997 in the first Hell in a Cell match. I’d probably put Hart/Austin on top of the others, but all three matches are amazing. I have not written a review of Rey/Eddie at Halloween Havoc 1997, but I think it’s definitely one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. One of our writers, Alex Podgorsky, reviewed it in depth recently, so check that out if you want some more opinions on it. He did a great job in his review.

There was a clip of Eddie saying that people will remember Rey as the giant killer because when the odds are stacked against him, he beats them with a smile on his face. Eddie said he looks up to Rey for that, he respects Rey and Rey is an inspiration to him.

REY VS. EDDIE IN WWE 2005

It was noted that Rey joined WWE in 2002, joining Eddie on the largest stage in the world where both men made their mark. Eddie joined WWE two years earlier. In 2005, it was a turning point in both of their lives.

Rey said that Eddie would call him “WeeWeeto” (I saw the spelling on a Rey Instagram post) and he said it was a name out of love as well as how spiritual he was. Rey said he called Eddie that too. Rey said that they wrestled so many times, but never teamed up and it was great to kick off 2005 by winning the Tag Team Titles in 2005.

Rey said that Eddie wanted to be the bad guy and he knew what he was doing. Rey said his understanding is that the Custody of Dominik (Rey’s son) storyline was put together by Bruce Prichard and Eddie. Rey said when Eddie approached him with the story, Rey thought it was really good and then they had to convince Dominik.

Dominik Mysterio said that Rey came up to him and asked if he thought about doing some stuff on the show. Dominik said he didn’t like being in front of cameras, then Rey said there would be money for him and as an 8-year-old kid he thought that that was fine because that meant more toys.

They showed a clip of Eddie on the playground with Dominik where Eddie told him he would tell him a bedtime story and Dominik called him “Uncle Eddie” followed by a hug. Dominik recalled that they did five or six takes, then Eddie would hand him a Twizzler licorice every time. Dominik said that people would ask him who really is his dad, even to this day, and he would always say Rey.

(If you weren’t watching WWE at the time, it was just a storyline by WWE saying that Eddie was Dominik’s biological father. Rey is really Dominik’s biological father. Dominik was 8 years old at the time of this storyline. He is 22 years old now – born in 1997 – even though when he was getting beat up by Brock Lesnar on Raw in 2019, they said he was a teenager. WWE can be ridiculous sometimes.)

They skipped a lot of the feud, but then they showed August 11, 2005 on Smackdown when Rey suggested a match for the Custody of Dominik and it became a Ladder Match. Rey said when Eddie was motivated, nobody could stop him and when Eddie was on, he was fully focused. Rey added that the fans were listening to everything he had to say. They showed a clip of Eddie doing a heel promo saying Dominik would be the best Guerrero of them all.

Rey spoke about how SummerSlam would be the closing of that chapter and he was sad that it was the end of working with Eddie because they would have a different direction after that.

SUMMERSLAM 2005: REY VS. EDDIE IN A LADDER MATCH

Rey said that they were focused and determined to give the fans a great payoff after four months of that rivalry. Coachman said that the wrestlers realized this was moment in time that they can attack their careers to.

There were highlights of the match shown including a spot where Rey hit Eddie with a dropkick off a ladder. Dominik said that it was pretty scary because he knew how crazy those matches could be, so he wanted everything to come out okay and both guys to come out safe.

Dominik said that he had this one cue, but he wasn’t told what it was and he would just be nudged when it was time. Dominik got the cue (you can see him getting nudged in the crowd), then he climbed into the ring and tried to shake the ladder when Eddie was on it. It was not a hard shake since Dominik was so small.

Rey talked about a crazy spot when he landed on the ladder after it fell down where Rey landed right on the ladder. At the end of the match, Guerrero lost because his wife Vickie shoved the ladder over and then Rey managed to climb up the ladder to win the match while Vickie pulled Eddie away. Rey celebrated the win with Dominik to end it.

TJR THOUGHTS: They did not show the part of the match where Eddie freaked out because Vickie missed her cue. Eddie was yelling “where the f**k is Vickie?” because she was too late going out to the ring to stop him from getting the briefcase. You can read my full review of SummerSlam 2005 right here.

DEATH OF EDDIE GUERRERO

Rey spoke about how he found out Eddie died on November 13, 2005. If you don’t know, Eddie died due to a heart attack at a hotel in Minneapolis. It was very sudden. They were at a Smackdown taping, prior to a big tour that they were getting ready to do. Rey was getting ready to leave the arena, Eddie was living in Phoenix and Rey was going to connect on the same flight in Minneapolis, so Rey told him he’ll see him on the flight. Rey ended up changing his flight, he took a redeye and one of the truck drivers from the crew was helping him with his bags. The guy asked if Rey heard about Eddie, Rey said no and the guy said: “He just passed.” Rey said “no” and then he left his bags so he can go over to the hotel. Rey said that he made his way up to the hotel, their doctor, Dr. Rios, was there and they were in shock. Rey said he wanted to see Eddie one more time, so then they let Rey see Eddie and Rey saw him laid out on the floor, then Rey was bawling and crying because he didn’t want to believe it. Rey said that Chavo (Guerrero Jr.) was broken, they had lost a fine soul and one of the best friends you can ever have.

They showed a clip from November 18, 2005 on Smackdown when Rey talked about how they were going to miss Eddie and he loved him.

It was noted on the screen that the Raw and Smackdown rosters left on a European tour just days after Eddie’s funeral and they were still trying to process the fact that Eddie was gone.

They showed a clip from a Smackdown house show in Milan, Italy where they rang the bell ten times in honor of Eddie. It was Smackdown GM Teddy Long who called for it.

Rey noted that it was not easy to deal with, but the one thing that always picked their spirit up is what would Eddie do and what would Eddie have liked? Rey said that Eddie would think that the show goes on, no matter what, the show goes on. They showed Rey in Helsinki, Finland on November 20, 2005 and how the fans saw Eddie through him. Rey said that the fans connected Eddie with him. Rey said that fans would give him condolences for the loss of Eddie and in some way or form, they would feel peace knowing Rey was keeping Eddie’s name alive. They showed a promo from Rey where he led the crowd in “Eddie” chants.

REY WINS THE 2006 ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH 

It was noted on the screen that two months after Eddie’s death, WWE superstars arrived in Miami, Florida to prepare for the Royal Rumble.

There were highlights shown from a Royal Rumble 2006 press conference. The fans were chanting “Eddie” and Rey said he dedicated the Royal Rumble to Eddie because he knows he is watching. Rey said that being part of the Rumble is a way to kick off the year inside the wrestling year. Dominik said the coolest thing is when all the wrestlers are going at it and people going over the top, plus the surprises because you never know who is going to come out.

Rey said it was such an incredible vibe and he said he would change nothing about that day. Rey was #2 that night while Triple H was #1. Rey talked about how cool it was to enter with a Low Rider car like Eddie did so many times. Coachman said it was like time stood still to see Rey enter in the low rider. Dominik said that the family came over to watch, which doesn’t always happen, but they were excited to see Rey was #2 in the Rumble.

Rey said that he was a guy that the fans wanted to see win, but he was not a favorite while noting there were 28 guys following him. They showed Rey eliminating Psychosis with a hurricanrana over the top to the floor. Coachman said when you know you’re next, he was thinking 60 minutes plus, but then Big Show eliminated Coach quickly. Coach joked that he felt good about being in the ring for double digit seconds. They showed the spot when Shane McMahon eliminated Shawn Michaels after a distraction from Vince McMahon.

There were more clips of the Rumble shown with Coach saying that he had never experienced a night where people in the arena wanted one person to win the match more than the fans wanting Rey to win that night. There were a lot of “Eddie” chants during the match. Coach said sometimes you don’t get what you want, so would the fans leave the arena disappointed?

The Royal Rumble highlights focused on the final three with Mysterio joined by Triple H and Randy Orton. Hunter and Orton were two of the top heels at the time. Rey talked about hitting a double 619 on both guys and the fans were going crazy. Triple H followed up with a clothesline. Mysterio said he took out Triple H with one of his signature moves (The Jeras – I don’t know the Spanish spelling of that). Mysterio hooked his legs under the arms of Triple H and used the momentum to send Hunter over the top to the floor. It was a great bump by Hunter too. The fans popped huge for it. Rey said the rudo (heel) Triple H was out and the technico (face) Rey stays in. Coach put over Triple H for that by saying Hunter was a genius that knew what was needed at a particular moment. Hunter pulled Rey out of the ring and whipped Rey into the steps, followed by Hunter tossing Rey back in the ring.

TJR THOUGHTS: What wasn’t mentioned here is that even though Triple H lost this match, he still got to wrestle in the main event of WrestleMania 22 in 2006 (read my review here) against John Cena. Meanwhile, Rey wrestled in an undercard match that was too short.

Rey talked about how another person that he loved to create magic with is Randy Orton. Orton put Mysterio on his shoulders to eliminate him, but then Mysterio hit a headscissors takeover to send Orton over the top to the floor. Rey put over Orton for his reaction because his expression, mannerisms and the way he moved told you the story of how important it was to win. Dominik said that the whole house exploded when Rey won. They didn’t put it over enough in the video, but Rey set the endurance record for the Royal Rumble at 62:12 that night. (Read my review of the 2006 Royal Rumble here.) 

Rey commented that it was such a big moment that he had to let Eddie know, which meant pointing up to heaven and saluting his late friend. Mysterio said it wasn’t just one person in that match, it was two because he felt like Eddie was right there with him.

They showed an image of Rey winning the World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania 22 two months later. That was a great match that also involved Kurt Angle and Randy Orton. There were loud “Eddie” chants that night too as Rey dedicated the title win to his friend Eddie.

View this post on Instagram

Always had a hard time wanting to visit Eddie & found myself cowardly refusing it due to the pain & memories from that day………Finally this past Monday, after 13yrs, I had the courage to visit him and have a one on one moment with him…. & …….exactly what I feared of happening, happened. Memories from that day were flashing through my head but his presence was much stronger and was able to cope and maintain my composure. After my conversation & connection with him I left with a Huge internal Smile and felt a soothing & peaceful ♥! Eddie has been such an inspiration not only to me but to many & will always continue to do so. I witnessed that day, that future wrestlers who never had the opportunity to meet him took the time to stop by and pay their respects wishing they would of had the honor and privilege to have met him & been around him like many of us did! I truly miss you WeeWeeto! #YouWill4EverLiveInOur🖤’s #WeLoveYou

A post shared by Rey Mysterio (@619iamlucha) on

Mysterio talked about how in 2019, he visited Eddie’s grave for the first time. Mysterio didn’t think he would get that emotional, but a lot of memories came through his brain and that’s when he started crying. It hits you again where you realize you won’t see him again and it feels like day one again. Mysterio said they cried a lot that day.

Mysterio spoke to the camera one final time, as if he was talking to Eddie: “Man, Eddie, I miss you bro. Love you.” And that was the end.

This edition of WWE Untold had a runtime of 36:02 on WWE Network.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

This was really well done like everything they have produced in the WWE Untold series of shows so far. There was a special bond between Rey and Eddie from the time they feuded in WCW to their WWE friendship as well as a rivalry. They had amazing chemistry together. When Rey talked about how easy it was to work with Eddie, I believe him. The 2006 Royal Rumble match was very good, it was probably the best performance of Rey’s career and I like the way it was booked with top heels like Triple H and Orton in the final three with Rey. Most of us assumed that Rey was going to win, but in WWE, you never really know until it happens.

They focused on Rey a lot, which was fine and certainly understandable. Dominik Mysterio had some interesting stories to share from his perspective as a kid that was eight years old at the time. I would have liked to hear from others as well. A few comments from Randy Orton and/or Triple H talking about that Rumble match would have been cool. Jonathon Coachman didn’t add that much to the presentation of the documentary. Perhaps we could have heard from Bruce Prichard, who played a major part in the Eddie/Rey storyline and they have used Bruce on these shows before, plus if you listen to his podcast you know he’s a great storyteller. I guess from WWE’s perspective, they don’t want to have too many people talking because they want to keep the show at a reasonable length. That makes sense to me at least.

This show did a great job of capturing the Rey/Eddie friendship while giving us more insight into the 2006 Royal Rumble as well. They are two of my favorite wrestlers ever, so I really enjoyed watching it and writing about it.

I have reviewed previous episodes of WWE Untold as well:

* Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon at King of the Ring 2001

* Team Hell No (Kane and Daniel Bryan)

* That’s Gotta Be Kane (Kane’s Debut at Badd Blood 1997)

Thanks for reading.

The post TJR Review of WWE Untold: Rey, Eddie & The Rumble appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

TJR Review of WWE Untold: Rey, Eddie & The Rumble

A new episode of WWE Untold debuted last night on WWE Network and it focused on Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero and the 2006 Royal Rumble match. That Royal Rumble match took place about two months after Eddie’s shocking death in November 2005. This episode of WWE Untold focused on Rey and Eddie’s friendship as well as Rey dedicating that Royal Rumble win to his best friend Eddie.

Here’s the synopsis from WWE Network:

Rey Mysterio remembers his best friend, the late Eddie Guerrero, looks back at their mythic matches against each other in WCW and WWE and relives dedicating his 2006 Royal Rumble Match win to Guerrero.

You can find this episode of WWE Untold in the “Originals” section on WWE Network. Here’s a recap.

===

THE BOND BETWEEN EDDIE AND REY

The show began with Rey Mysterio sitting down on a chair after taking off a Halloween Havoc 1997 jacket. It’s a great jacket because Rey vs. Eddie Guerrero that night was one of WCW’s best matches ever. Mysterio said that God had plans for them to conquer the wrestling world together.

They showed an interview with the late, great Eddie Guerrero from April 2, 2003. Eddie spoke about how he respected Rey for his positive attitude about the business, he said Rey fights through everything, you can’t help but like him and he doesn’t have any enemies because they (the wrestlers) all like him.

There were highlights shown of Rey Mysterio in his ECW and WCW days. Mysterio said he’d love to use the name “King Mystery” more with the English translation. Mysterio said it was very normal for him to see boots, mask and tights growing up because he would see his uncle’s matches (Rey Mysterio Sr.). Rey said his favorite times were spending time at his uncle’s house and he talked about how they would do moves together. Rey said he would go with his parents, his brothers and support his uncle Rey Mysterio Sr. in Tijuana. They showed a clip of Rey Sr. wrestling for WCW. There were also clips shown from Rey Sr. in action with Rey saying he loved seeing his uncle as a good guy.

Rey talked about how Eddie was great as a technico (face) or a rudo (heel). Rey said being able to dominate both worlds, that’s a gift and that’s a talent. Rey said he didn’t think he could do that because he doesn’t think he could play a bad guy, but Eddie could do it when he needed to.

TJR THOUGHTS: I strongly agree with Rey there. I always say that the best wrestlers are able to have success as a heel and a face. Eddie was one of those guys that could perform in both roles very well. There were times when Eddie was the most popular guy on the show and other times where he was the most hated. It truly was a gift as Rey said.

Jonathon Coachman talked about what Eddie meant to this business as a superstar that was addicted to the business. They showed highlights of Eddie walking backstage with the WWE Title. Coachman said a lot of people connected with Eddie and nobody had a problem working with him. Coachman said that sometimes the business can get the better of you.

They showed a clip of Eddie talking about how he was a recovering drug addict and alcoholic that works every day to stay sober, to stay in the path of God. Eddie said he was proud of who he is and he loved wrestling.

Rey spoke about how Eddie was teaming up with his uncle in Tijuana when Rey was maybe 13 years old. Rey wanted to work with Eddie back then, but if you would have asked him if they would have a match of the year, Rey would have said you were joking and that’s what happened at WCW Halloween Havoc 1997.

THE CLASSIC AT WCW HALLOWEEN HAVOC 1997

They focused on the WCW Halloween Havoc 1997 event with Rey defending his mask against Eddie’s Cruiserweight Title. Rey said that WCW was trying to take the masks off all the luchadores and Rey said he wouldn’t do it while adding he was going to no-show the event. Rey said that Eric Bischoff told him he’ll do what he is told, but if he doesn’t do it then he’ll be in breach of contract, so Rey had to be there. They inserted a clip of Eddie saying there was a lot of politicking backstage and talked to him about it.

Rey said that a match or two before their match, they told them Rey was winning and Eddie was losing, which surprised Rey. That led to highlights of the match with Rey saying that Eddie told Rey to listen to him with Rey noting he was wearing a Phantom mask that covered his ears, so he thought this was going to be hard. Mysterio said that he went based off Eddie’s lead and he said that Eddie was the best talent ever because he knew what to give the fans at the right time. Rey talked about one of the biggest moves that he created, a springboard reverse backflip DDT was a move they did that night. That was so impressive. They showed the memorable finish with Eddie going for a Powerbomb out of the turnbuckle, but Rey countered into a hurricanrana for the pin. They inserted a clip of Eddie saying he looks back on that match and he knows they didn’t have to change anything. Rey said he gets chills thinking about that match and said that’s how great Eddie was.

TJR THOUGHTS: I think Rey/Eddie at Halloween Havoc 1997 was a five-star match. It’s also my favorite WCW match ever. I don’t know if it’s the match of the year 1997 because we also got Bret Hart/Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13 in WWE and Shawn Michaels/Undertaker at Badd Blood 1997 in the first Hell in a Cell match. I’d probably put Hart/Austin on top of the others, but all three matches are amazing. I have not written a review of Rey/Eddie at Halloween Havoc 1997, but I think it’s definitely one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. One of our writers, Alex Podgorsky, reviewed it in depth recently, so check that out if you want some more opinions on it. He did a great job in his review.

There was a clip of Eddie saying that people will remember Rey as the giant killer because when the odds are stacked against him, he beats them with a smile on his face. Eddie said he looks up to Rey for that, he respects Rey and Rey is an inspiration to him.

REY VS. EDDIE IN WWE 2005

It was noted that Rey joined WWE in 2002, joining Eddie on the largest stage in the world where both men made their mark. Eddie joined WWE two years earlier. In 2005, it was a turning point in both of their lives.

Rey said that Eddie would call him “WeeWeeto” (I saw the spelling on a Rey Instagram post) and he said it was a name out of love as well as how spiritual he was. Rey said he called Eddie that too. Rey said that they wrestled so many times, but never teamed up and it was great to kick off 2005 by winning the Tag Team Titles in 2005.

Rey said that Eddie wanted to be the bad guy and he knew what he was doing. Rey said his understanding is that the Custody of Dominik (Rey’s son) storyline was put together by Bruce Prichard and Eddie. Rey said when Eddie approached him with the story, Rey thought it was really good and then they had to convince Dominik.

Dominik Mysterio said that Rey came up to him and asked if he thought about doing some stuff on the show. Dominik said he didn’t like being in front of cameras, then Rey said there would be money for him and as an 8-year-old kid he thought that that was fine because that meant more toys.

They showed a clip of Eddie on the playground with Dominik where Eddie told him he would tell him a bedtime story and Dominik called him “Uncle Eddie” followed by a hug. Dominik recalled that they did five or six takes, then Eddie would hand him a Twizzler licorice every time. Dominik said that people would ask him who really is his dad, even to this day, and he would always say Rey.

(If you weren’t watching WWE at the time, it was just a storyline by WWE saying that Eddie was Dominik’s biological father. Rey is really Dominik’s biological father. Dominik was 8 years old at the time of this storyline. He is 22 years old now – born in 1997 – even though when he was getting beat up by Brock Lesnar on Raw in 2019, they said he was a teenager. WWE can be ridiculous sometimes.)

They skipped a lot of the feud, but then they showed August 11, 2005 on Smackdown when Rey suggested a match for the Custody of Dominik and it became a Ladder Match. Rey said when Eddie was motivated, nobody could stop him and when Eddie was on, he was fully focused. Rey added that the fans were listening to everything he had to say. They showed a clip of Eddie doing a heel promo saying Dominik would be the best Guerrero of them all.

Rey spoke about how SummerSlam would be the closing of that chapter and he was sad that it was the end of working with Eddie because they would have a different direction after that.

SUMMERSLAM 2005: REY VS. EDDIE IN A LADDER MATCH

Rey said that they were focused and determined to give the fans a great payoff after four months of that rivalry. Coachman said that the wrestlers realized this was moment in time that they can attack their careers to.

There were highlights of the match shown including a spot where Rey hit Eddie with a dropkick off a ladder. Dominik said that it was pretty scary because he knew how crazy those matches could be, so he wanted everything to come out okay and both guys to come out safe.

Dominik said that he had this one cue, but he wasn’t told what it was and he would just be nudged when it was time. Dominik got the cue (you can see him getting nudged in the crowd), then he climbed into the ring and tried to shake the ladder when Eddie was on it. It was not a hard shake since Dominik was so small.

Rey talked about a crazy spot when he landed on the ladder after it fell down where Rey landed right on the ladder. At the end of the match, Guerrero lost because his wife Vickie shoved the ladder over and then Rey managed to climb up the ladder to win the match while Vickie pulled Eddie away. Rey celebrated the win with Dominik to end it.

TJR THOUGHTS: They did not show the part of the match where Eddie freaked out because Vickie missed her cue. Eddie was yelling “where the f**k is Vickie?” because she was too late going out to the ring to stop him from getting the briefcase. You can read my full review of SummerSlam 2005 right here.

DEATH OF EDDIE GUERRERO

Rey spoke about how he found out Eddie died on November 13, 2005. If you don’t know, Eddie died due to a heart attack at a hotel in Minneapolis. It was very sudden. They were at a Smackdown taping, prior to a big tour that they were getting ready to do. Rey was getting ready to leave the arena, Eddie was living in Phoenix and Rey was going to connect on the same flight in Minneapolis, so Rey told him he’ll see him on the flight. Rey ended up changing his flight, he took a redeye and one of the truck drivers from the crew was helping him with his bags. The guy asked if Rey heard about Eddie, Rey said no and the guy said: “He just passed.” Rey said “no” and then he left his bags so he can go over to the hotel. Rey said that he made his way up to the hotel, their doctor, Dr. Rios, was there and they were in shock. Rey said he wanted to see Eddie one more time, so then they let Rey see Eddie and Rey saw him laid out on the floor, then Rey was bawling and crying because he didn’t want to believe it. Rey said that Chavo (Guerrero Jr.) was broken, they had lost a fine soul and one of the best friends you can ever have.

They showed a clip from November 18, 2005 on Smackdown when Rey talked about how they were going to miss Eddie and he loved him.

It was noted on the screen that the Raw and Smackdown rosters left on a European tour just days after Eddie’s funeral and they were still trying to process the fact that Eddie was gone.

They showed a clip from a Smackdown house show in Milan, Italy where they rang the bell ten times in honor of Eddie. It was Smackdown GM Teddy Long who called for it.

Rey noted that it was not easy to deal with, but the one thing that always picked their spirit up is what would Eddie do and what would Eddie have liked? Rey said that Eddie would think that the show goes on, no matter what, the show goes on. They showed Rey in Helsinki, Finland on November 20, 2005 and how the fans saw Eddie through him. Rey said that the fans connected Eddie with him. Rey said that fans would give him condolences for the loss of Eddie and in some way or form, they would feel peace knowing Rey was keeping Eddie’s name alive. They showed a promo from Rey where he led the crowd in “Eddie” chants.

REY WINS THE 2006 ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH 

It was noted on the screen that two months after Eddie’s death, WWE superstars arrived in Miami, Florida to prepare for the Royal Rumble.

There were highlights shown from a Royal Rumble 2006 press conference. The fans were chanting “Eddie” and Rey said he dedicated the Royal Rumble to Eddie because he knows he is watching. Rey said that being part of the Rumble is a way to kick off the year inside the wrestling year. Dominik said the coolest thing is when all the wrestlers are going at it and people going over the top, plus the surprises because you never know who is going to come out.

Rey said it was such an incredible vibe and he said he would change nothing about that day. Rey was #2 that night while Triple H was #1. Rey talked about how cool it was to enter with a Low Rider car like Eddie did so many times. Coachman said it was like time stood still to see Rey enter in the low rider. Dominik said that the family came over to watch, which doesn’t always happen, but they were excited to see Rey was #2 in the Rumble.

Rey said that he was a guy that the fans wanted to see win, but he was not a favorite while noting there were 28 guys following him. They showed Rey eliminating Psychosis with a hurricanrana over the top to the floor. Coachman said when you know you’re next, he was thinking 60 minutes plus, but then Big Show eliminated Coach quickly. Coach joked that he felt good about being in the ring for double digit seconds. They showed the spot when Shane McMahon eliminated Shawn Michaels after a distraction from Vince McMahon.

There were more clips of the Rumble shown with Coach saying that he had never experienced a night where people in the arena wanted one person to win the match more than the fans wanting Rey to win that night. There were a lot of “Eddie” chants during the match. Coach said sometimes you don’t get what you want, so would the fans leave the arena disappointed?

The Royal Rumble highlights focused on the final three with Mysterio joined by Triple H and Randy Orton. Hunter and Orton were two of the top heels at the time. Rey talked about hitting a double 619 on both guys and the fans were going crazy. Triple H followed up with a clothesline. Mysterio said he took out Triple H with one of his signature moves (The Jeras – I don’t know the Spanish spelling of that). Mysterio hooked his legs under the arms of Triple H and used the momentum to send Hunter over the top to the floor. It was a great bump by Hunter too. The fans popped huge for it. Rey said the rudo (heel) Triple H was out and the technico (face) Rey stays in. Coach put over Triple H for that by saying Hunter was a genius that knew what was needed at a particular moment. Hunter pulled Rey out of the ring and whipped Rey into the steps, followed by Hunter tossing Rey back in the ring.

TJR THOUGHTS: What wasn’t mentioned here is that even though Triple H lost this match, he still got to wrestle in the main event of WrestleMania 22 in 2006 (read my review here) against John Cena. Meanwhile, Rey wrestled in an undercard match that was too short.

Rey talked about how another person that he loved to create magic with is Randy Orton. Orton put Mysterio on his shoulders to eliminate him, but then Mysterio hit a headscissors takeover to send Orton over the top to the floor. Rey put over Orton for his reaction because his expression, mannerisms and the way he moved told you the story of how important it was to win. Dominik said that the whole house exploded when Rey won. They didn’t put it over enough in the video, but Rey set the endurance record for the Royal Rumble at 62:12 that night. (Read my review of the 2006 Royal Rumble here.) 

Rey commented that it was such a big moment that he had to let Eddie know, which meant pointing up to heaven and saluting his late friend. Mysterio said it wasn’t just one person in that match, it was two because he felt like Eddie was right there with him.

They showed an image of Rey winning the World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania 22 two months later. That was a great match that also involved Kurt Angle and Randy Orton. There were loud “Eddie” chants that night too as Rey dedicated the title win to his friend Eddie.

View this post on Instagram

Always had a hard time wanting to visit Eddie & found myself cowardly refusing it due to the pain & memories from that day………Finally this past Monday, after 13yrs, I had the courage to visit him and have a one on one moment with him…. & …….exactly what I feared of happening, happened. Memories from that day were flashing through my head but his presence was much stronger and was able to cope and maintain my composure. After my conversation & connection with him I left with a Huge internal Smile and felt a soothing & peaceful ♥! Eddie has been such an inspiration not only to me but to many & will always continue to do so. I witnessed that day, that future wrestlers who never had the opportunity to meet him took the time to stop by and pay their respects wishing they would of had the honor and privilege to have met him & been around him like many of us did! I truly miss you WeeWeeto! #YouWill4EverLiveInOur🖤’s #WeLoveYou

A post shared by Rey Mysterio (@619iamlucha) on

Mysterio talked about how in 2019, he visited Eddie’s grave for the first time. Mysterio didn’t think he would get that emotional, but a lot of memories came through his brain and that’s when he started crying. It hits you again where you realize you won’t see him again and it feels like day one again. Mysterio said they cried a lot that day.

Mysterio spoke to the camera one final time, as if he was talking to Eddie: “Man, Eddie, I miss you bro. Love you.” And that was the end.

This edition of WWE Untold had a runtime of 36:02 on WWE Network.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

This was really well done like everything they have produced in the WWE Untold series of shows so far. There was a special bond between Rey and Eddie from the time they feuded in WCW to their WWE friendship as well as a rivalry. They had amazing chemistry together. When Rey talked about how easy it was to work with Eddie, I believe him. The 2006 Royal Rumble match was very good, it was probably the best performance of Rey’s career and I like the way it was booked with top heels like Triple H and Orton in the final three with Rey. Most of us assumed that Rey was going to win, but in WWE, you never really know until it happens.

They focused on Rey a lot, which was fine and certainly understandable. Dominik Mysterio had some interesting stories to share from his perspective as a kid that was eight years old at the time. I would have liked to hear from others as well. A few comments from Randy Orton and/or Triple H talking about that Rumble match would have been cool. Jonathon Coachman didn’t add that much to the presentation of the documentary. Perhaps we could have heard from Bruce Prichard, who played a major part in the Eddie/Rey storyline and they have used Bruce on these shows before, plus if you listen to his podcast you know he’s a great storyteller. I guess from WWE’s perspective, they don’t want to have too many people talking because they want to keep the show at a reasonable length. That makes sense to me at least.

This show did a great job of capturing the Rey/Eddie friendship while giving us more insight into the 2006 Royal Rumble as well. They are two of my favorite wrestlers ever, so I really enjoyed watching it and writing about it.

I have reviewed previous episodes of WWE Untold as well:

* Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon at King of the Ring 2001

* Team Hell No (Kane and Daniel Bryan)

* That’s Gotta Be Kane (Kane’s Debut at Badd Blood 1997)

Thanks for reading.

The post TJR Review of WWE Untold: Rey, Eddie & The Rumble appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

TJR WWE Royal Rumble Reviews: 1997 (Austin Wins, Michaels vs. Sid)

This was the 10th Royal Rumble event. We are onto 1997 and the World Wrestling Federation is about to turn the corner to be a very successful company once again.

A lot of the credit for that has to go to Steve Austin, who was now Stone Cold and was gaining a lot of steam as the guy that everybody in the business was talking about. He was coming off a classic match against Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1996 (I loved it so much that I’d rank it as one of the best feuds in the history of the company) that would make the two of them the focus of this match. The rest of the roster was getting better too. The company wasn’t at their best yet, but they were about to get there.

The announced attendance for this show at the Alamodome was an impressive number of 60,525 fans. The final numbers saw 48,014 paid attendance, so a lot of tickets were given away. In the Wrestling Observer Newsletter at the time, it was noted by Dave Meltzer that “in the final few days they sold 20,000 tickets, mainly at $5 and $7 with discount coupons from Taco Bell that according to locals were being picked up as fast as they were printed.” That makes sense because on Bruce Prichard’s “Something to Wrestle” podcast about this show, he talked about how WWE tried really hard to get as many people in the building as they could to make it feel like a big-time show. It was an impressive looking crowd, that’s for sure.

This show was used to set up WrestleMania 13 (read my review here) although there were a few bumps and lost smiles along the way.

WWF Royal Rumble
January 19, 1997
From The Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas

The opening video package focused on Shawn Michaels coming home to San Antonio to get a rematch for the WWF Title against Sycho Sid.

They had an impressive pyro display to start the show in the Alamadome, which is where the San Antonio Spurs played basketball in this era. They had plenty of other events there too.

The announcers were Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. This would be the last Rumble where Vince was announcing the show because this was the last year where Vince was a regular announcer. There were also Spanish and French announce teams at ringside.

Goldust made his entrance with the lovely Marlena by his side. Was it cold in there? Let’s just say she had a very tight gold dress on. A brief video package aired to set up the match. Hunter Hearst Helmsley entered with the Intercontinental Championship and he was joined by Mr. (Curtis) Hughes.

Intercontinental Championship: Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Mr. Hughes) vs. Goldust (w/Marlena)

Pre-match notes: Hunter was the heel champion while Goldust turned face a few months prior to this. Mr. Hughes was only with Hunter for about one week. It was about one month after this when Chyna debuted as Triple H’s “bodyguard” of sorts. Hughes did return to WWE for a brief run in 1999. Hunter won the title in October 1996, so it was about three months into his title reign.

Goldust attacked in the aisle, then threw Hunter in the ring and threw Hunter back out of the ring. Goldust dropped Hunter throat first across the barricade. Back in the ring, Hunter with an atomic drop, but Goldust came back with a catapult that sent Hunter over the top to the floor. Goldust threw the top half of the steel steps on Hunter’s back, the referee Earl Hebner saw it and did nothing about it. Hunter even did a comedic bump into the steps. Hunter came back by choking Goldust on the top rope, but then Goldust hit a running clothesline for two. Hunter knocked Goldust out of the ring, Hunter went up top, which was rare for him, and he hit a double axehandle off the top to Goldust’s back. Hunter sent Goldust left shoulder first into the ring post. The fight continued on the floor with Goldust kicking Hunter in the leg and throwing the steps onto the left leg. Back in the ring, Goldust continued to work on the left leg. Goldust slapped on the Figure Four Leglock, Hunter was selling it like he was in a lot of pain and Goldust was forced to let go after holding onto the ropes. The fans were not reacting much to this. Hunter went to the floor, so Goldust hit him with a running shoulder tackle to the back of the leg. Goldust drove Hunter’s left leg into the steel steps. The announcers wondered what it would take for a disqualification and they kept saying “this official” instead of Earl Hebner’s name. Goldust missed a running charge when Hunter moved, so Goldust bumped to the floor. Hunter whipped Goldust into the barricade, the referee Hebner left the ring so he wasn’t counting and Hunter sent Goldust into the bottom half of the steel steps. Hunter sent Goldust into the barricade. Hunter tried to use Marlena’s director chair as a weapon, but the referee stopped that. They went to Todd Pettengill talking to singer Colin Ray in the crowd. I have no idea who that is.

They went back into the ring with Hunter hitting a knee drop for two as Hunter continued to sell his left knee injury. Goldust with a leaping clothesline followed by Goldust hitting the mat to try to fire up the crowd, so the fans made some noise. Goldust with a back body drop, Goldust went up top for nothing and Hunter shoved the referee into the ropes to crotch Goldust. Goldust with a headbutt, then Goldust stood on the top and missed with a lefty elbow drop that wasn’t close because Hunter moved. Hughes tossed the IC Title to Hunter, so Marlena went on the apron and Hughes distracted the referee. Hunter kissed Marlena, Goldust punched Hunter and Goldust hit Hunter with the IC Title. Hughes pulled Hunter out of the ring to save him from the pin. Goldust got Marlena’s cigar and jammed it into Hughes’ face. Hunter took advantage with a lefty clothesline leading to Goldust doing a flip bump. Hunter hit the Pedigree for the pinfall win at 16:50.

Winner by pinfall: Hunter Hearst Helmsley

Analysis: *3/4 This was disappointing and boring at times in front of a crowd that was dead for most of it. The opening match needs to be more exciting than this was. Goldust working over the knee of Hunter didn’t lead to much other than one submission attempt, so it just felt like filler. They spent a lot of the match on the floor where the referee counted sometimes and did nothing at other times. Hunter got the cheap win thanks to Hughes’ presence at ringside.  This wasn’t that interesting at all.

There were some pre-recorded comments from Bret Hart and Mankind talking about the Royal Rumble match.

Faarooq made his entrance with the Nation of Domination. He was accompanied by Clarence Mason, Crush, D-Lo Brown, J.C. Ice and Wolfie D, plus some others including a woman. This was before D-Lo was really known as a wrestler.

A video package showed what happened between Faarooq and Ahmed. To set up this match. They showed how Ahmed rose to superstardom in 1996, he won the Kuwait National Champion tournament, then he won the Intercontinental Title and then Ahmed had a kidney injury after a Faarooq attack. Faarooq formed the Nation of Domination after that.

Ahmed Johnson entered as the opponent and he got a decent pop. He was one of the top faces in the company although he was more popular earlier in 1996.

Faarooq (w/Clarence Mason, Crush, D-Lo Brown, J.C. Ice and Wolfie D) vs. Ahmed Johnson

Pre-match notes: Faarooq was the heel and Johnson was the face.

Johnson attacked with punches right away, which makes sense since he was seeking revenge. Johnson unloaded with punches on Faarooq against the turnbuckle. When Faarooq left the ring, Johnson whipped him into the ring post. Faarooq punched Johnson in the ribs, but then Johnson came back with a clothesline. Johnson got a leather belt that Faarooq was going to use and Johnson whipped Faarooq with it. Johnson sent Faarooq into the steel steps. Faarooq came back by getting a Nation member to distract and he knocked Johnson down with a clothesline. Faarooq gave Johnson a body slam onto the edge of a chair and Faarooq hit the back of Johnson with a steel chair right in front of the referee, who did nothing. Back in the ring, Faarooq worked over Johnson with kicks to the ribs. The pace of this match was so slow as Faarooq slapped on a chinlock in the direction opposite of the hard camera. This lasted a few minutes and it was so boring it was putting me to sleep. Johnson managed to get Faarooq on his shoulders and dropped him in the electric chair drop slam. Faarooq went up top, he jumped right into Johnson’s arms for a powerslam from Johnson. There was a whip into the ropes, Johnson jumped for some reason and Faarooq hit a spinebuster. Johnson popped up while Faarooq was trash talking the fans and Johnson hit a spinebuster of his own. Crush was in the ring, so Johnson sent him out of the ring. Other Nation guys went into the ring leading to the DQ finish at 8:48.

Winner by disqualification: Ahmed Johnson

Analysis: 1/2* This was bad. A stinker. That’s not a surprise since Johnson didn’t have good matches and Faarooq needed the right opponent to have a good match. They did not have any chemistry. It also didn’t help that the crowd was dead for it. This match nearly put to me sleep even when I wasn’t tired going into it. The finish was as lame as it gets with the obvious DQ ending. I don’t think it was booked well at all.

After the match was over, Johnson got his hands on Wolfie D and tossed him onto other guys. Johnson was going after Faarooq, so some guy in a suit attacked Johnson (I don’t know the guy’s name). Johnson sent him into the steel steps. Johnson picked up the guy on the steel steps and gave him a Powerbomb through the French announce table. This was in the early days of the announce table slams and Ahmed didn’t clean the table off before he put the guy through the table. Johnson posed in the ring to end it.

Analysis: This was just a way to pop the crowd and make them happy by having Johnson stand tall after the match.

There was a locker room promo from Terry Funk saying he was ready to rumble.

The Nation of Domination led by Faarooq were interviewed backstage. Faarooq yelled at some of his guys for not protecting him and said he’ll get his hands on Ahmed in the Royal Rumble.

Vader made his entrance for a match without his manager Jim Cornette by his side.

Analysis: The original plans for this show would have had Vader as the WWF Champion defending against Shawn Michaels, but Shawn didn’t like working with Vader, so Sid replaced Vader in the feud. It’s a shame that Vader never got a WWF Title run because he was so talented.

The Undertaker got a huge pop. Taker was alone because Paul Bearer turned heel on him at the previous SummerSlam event. Taker had a scar above his right eye.

Vader vs. The Undertaker

Pre-match notes: Vader was the heel and Undertaker was the face.

It started out as a slugfest with punches, Vader clothesline and Taker sat up followed by Vader knocking Taker down with both arms. Vader left the ring, so Taker hit him with a double axehandle to the back and an uppercut. Vader got a neckbreaker using the ropes for an assist, but Undertaker came back with a leg drop onto the back, which is what Billy Gunn would use as a Fameasser in his career. Vince called it with his “what a maneuver” phrase as Taker followed up with a leg drop. When Taker tried the rope walk move, Vader knocked him down leading to Taker getting crotched on the top rope. Vader punched Taker in the balls, the referee didn’t see it (I guess) and Vader took control. They cut to Pettengill interviewing some girl that said that she saved her money to be here to support Shawn Michaels. Vader with a clothesline followed by a jumping body attack off the middle ropes for two. Taker fought his way out of a nerve hold followed by Taker hitting a belly to back suplex. They were both down on the mat selling exhaustion. Vader managed to take control again with an elbow to the leg. Vader took way too long to get to the middle ropes, so Taker hit him with a powerslam off the ropes. Vader came back with a Powerbomb for two as taker sat back up. Vince called it a Vader Bomb even though that is Vader’s splash off the ropes. Undertaker hit a leaping clothesline followed by the rope walk routine into a punch to the upper body of Vader. Paul Bearer made his way down to the ring with the urn in his hand. Taker picked up Vader and hit him with a Chokeslam. Taker turned around to see Bearer standing at ringside. Taker hit a clothesline on Vader to knock him out of the ring, then Taker left the ring and punched Bearer to knock him on his ass. Taker rolled Bearer into the ring, Taker choked him and Vader got back in the ring, Taker punched Bearer and a clothesline sent Vader over the top to the floor. Taker ran off the steel steps for an attack, but Bearer moved Vader out of the way and Taker hit the barricade hard. Bearer jumped off the apron with the urn and hit Taker in the head with it. Vader set up Taker by the ropes and Vader hit the Vader Bomb splash off the ropes for the pinfall win at 13:19.

Winner by pinfall: Vader

Analysis: *1/2 This match was just off. I don’t know what happened, but they should have had a much better match here. It was another terrible finish on this show. I don’t know who to blame for that. It just felt like a big mistake when they did cheap endings in the two matches we saw earlier in the night and we got another bad ending here.  The Undertaker rarely lost clean especially in this era, so that’s why they had the cheap ending. This was one of the biggest wins of Vader’s career in the WWF even though it wasn’t a good match. They had a much better match at the Canadian Stampede 1997 PPV about six months later than this.

After the match, Vader quickly got out of there with his arm around Bearer to show they were working together.

The Undertaker looked at referee Jack Doan, he was furious about what happened and Taker gave him a very gentle Chokeslam. Undertaker also threw a chair at the ring post. Undertaker got in Vince McMahon’s face and said something to him as well.

Analysis: It was another post match babyface attack to make the fans happy just like Ahmed Johnson in the match before this. It felt repetitive. Even though The Undertaker lost here, he still got to main event WrestleMania 13 and he won the WWF Title that night as well.

There were Royal Rumble promos from “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who didn’t want to talk. British Bulldog said he was going to win the Royal Rumble because “I’m bizarre.” That’s an odd reason. Some might say a bizarre reason.

Canek, Héctor Garza and Perro Aguayo vs. Fuerza Guerrera, Heavy Metal and Jerry Estrada

Pre-match notes: They were Mexican wrestling stars that were brought in to help kill ten minutes on the show. I was not familiar with these guys in 1997, but I know guys like Garza, Aguayo and Estrada went on to have great careers. Aguayo was 51 years old at the time of this match.

There were some quick moves early on, then a tag with Aguayo chopping Estrada and then Estrada ran him over. JR claimed Aguayo won over 30 mask matches in his career. Aguayo with a back body drop on Estrada over the top to the floor. Canek and Guerrera were in the ring as the only two masked men in the match. Guerrera with a body slam and then he missed a splash off the top. Canek hit a cross body block off the top, but then they tagged out. Metal with a spinning heel kick followed by a cartwheel into a back elbow. Garza with an arm drag off the top. Metal jumped off the ropes to avoid a move, the fans were dead quiet and Canek faced off against Estrada. Canek with a two dropkicks, then an armbar and the fans barely reacted to anything. Estrada got a rollup for two. Guerrera with a running dropkick on Aguayo, who came back with a hard chop and then Guerrera hit a running knee. Aguayo with a hiptoss, Guerrera with a hard slap and then Guerrera missed a diving attack, which led to him going to the floor. Canek with a leg drop on Metal, Garza with a splash on the leg and a jumping clothesline. Aguayo with a Samoan Drop and senton splash on Metal. Canek with a press slam on Guerrera, Aguayo hit the world’s slowest dive on Guerrera on the floor. Canek with a press slam on Metal, Garza missed a splash and Metal saved himself from being sent out of the ring. Garza went up top and hit a splash onto Metal on the floor. Canek with another press slam on Metal. Aguayo went for a double foot stomp off the top on Metal, but he barely connected and then Aguayo hit an elbow drop for the pinfall win at 10:56.

Winners by pinfall: Canek, Héctor Garza and Perro Aguayo

Analysis: *1/4 This was a boring match in front of a dead crowd. It was weird because every time they would do some spots, they would just tag out and there was no flow to the match at all because of it. The finish sucked. This was a bad idea on this show.

The announced attendance was 60,477 people with Howard Finkel thanking the fans on behalf of the WWF. The fans barely cheered that.

30-Man Royal Rumble Match

The intervals for entrants is 90 seconds. I like 90 seconds more than the typical 120 seconds and a lot better than the one year they did 60 seconds. There’s a better flow to the match when it’s 90 seconds between entrants.

It’s Crush of the Nation of Domination at #1. This is the third different gimmick of Crush that has been in a Rumble. He’s a heel here. It’s Ahmed Johnson at #2, who was an upper midcard babyface that was feuding with the Nation in this time period. Crush tried to eliminate him, but he couldn’t do it. There was a problem with their clock, but the #3 man is the fake Razor Ramon and Ahmed quickly eliminates him. What a stupid gimmick idea that was. Johnson nearly eliminates Crush. Johnson sees Faarooq, jumps over the top rope and eliminates himself. Randy Savage did that in a previous Rumble and they said you can’t eliminate yourself, but that changed. “He is an idiot,” says Lawler. That’s an accurate observation right there. It’s Phinneas I. Godwinn aka PIG at #4. We would come to know him as Mideon in the future. This was not an exciting 90 seconds. The glass breaks at #5 for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Suddenly the match becomes a lot better. Thank you Stone Cold. He gets a heel reaction although it’s not deafening. The turn would come in a few months. Phinneas takes him down with a clothesline. Austin goes to double team Phinneas, but he hits Crush and Phinneas throws Crush out. Austin hits a Stunner (without the kick at this point in his career) on Phinneas and throws him out.

With Austin all by himself in the ring, the #6 entry is Bart Gunn of the Smoking Gunns tag team. He hits a sloppy leg drop on the back of the head. He charges in, Austin ducks, Bart holds on and Austin clotheslines him out. Austin does pushups in the ring and then sits on the top rope waiting for the next guy. In a classic move, he looks at his wrist as if he’s looking at his watch. I’m such a huge Stone Cold mark. It’s Jake Roberts at #7, who is in his 6th Rumble. He throws the snake in and then he applies a wrist lock for about a minute before hitting the short clothesline. With Davey Boy Smith coming in at #8, Austin throws out Jake Roberts. Bulldog hits a running powerslam. There’s Pierroth at #9 from Mexican promotion AAA, according to JR. Austin hits a double axe on him, but they get Austin down. The #10 entrant is The Sultan, who was also Fatu and Rikishi. He’s wearing a mask now and he’s got the curved toe boots like his manager The Iron Shiek. It was not a gimmick that would last a long time. Austin nearly gets eliminated by Bulldog, but he hangs on.

Our fifth man in the ring is #11 Mil Mascaras. The San Antonio crowd is familiar with him because he was a Mexican wrestling legend. Lawler immediately talks about somebody unmasking him. He goes after the Sultan while the other three guys don’t do much on the other side of the ring. It’s Hunter Hearst Helmsley at #12. He retained the IC title earlier in the show. Bulldog eliminates The Sultan. Austin throws out Hunter, but he’s able to hang on. These two might have a future. It’s Owen Hart at #13, who was one of my favorites at this time. He was the tag champ with Bulldog at this point. They’re heels, of course. Bulldog tries to eliminate Austin, so Owen comes up from behind and shoves Bulldog out. Owen claims he was going for Austin. “Owen hasn’t told the truth since The King was a Prince,” says JR. Haha, that’s a good line. It’s Goldust at #14, who was a babyface feuding with Triple H here. Mascaras tries to get Owen out. He’s able to hang on. All six guys start fighting eachother before they pair off again. There’s Cibernetico at #15. They had a thin roster, so they brought in these Mexican stars since the San Antonio crowd was familiar with them. Helmsley hangs on from a near elimination.

It’s “Wildman” Marc Mero at #16. While this is going on, Mascaras eliminates Cibernetico, and then Pierroth and then he leaps over the top to take out Pierroth, which eliminates himself. He so crazy! Goldust eliminates Triple H with a clothesline. We’re about a year away from Sable’s breasts being among the most talented superstars in the company. It’s Latin Lover at #17. That’s another import from AAA. He drills Owen with a superkick. Goldust tries to throw Owen out, but Owen skins the cat back in. He eliminates Goldust with a club to the back. There’s Faarooq at #18 as a heel. The Latin Lover charges at him and Faarooq dumps him out with a backdrop. Ahmed Johnson comes into the ring with a 2×4. It’s Hacksaw Ahmed Johnson and he knocks Faarooq out of the match. I never liked that when an eliminated guy can eliminate a guy that’s in the match. Austin gets rid of Owen & Mero. We’re down to just Austin in the ring now. The clock counts down and here’s #19…Savio Vega. They had a feud in 1996. Vince calls their strap match a classic, which is a major stretch. Vega gets him down with a spin kick. Austin catches him with a Stun Gun (a big move of his in his WCW days) and clotheslines Vega out of the ring. The crowd reacts to Austin being alone again. He waves for the next guy to come. He has about 30 seconds before the next guy enters. It’s #20 Jesse James, who is not yet the Road Dogg. He would be in a year. He gets a clothesline on Austin as well as a strut. Austin kicks him in the ribs, throws him over the top, JJ holds on and Austin knocks him out with a back elbow. He’s all alone again. What a great performance by Austin.

The entrant at #21 is his biggest rival in the company…Bret Hart. Vince starts yelling “YES! YES! YES!” Austin has a classic expression on his face, showing some fear. That’s an awesome moment right there. Then he gets ready and they start slugging away. Bret hits an atomic drop and clothesline. He beats on Austin in the corner. Austin’s selling fatigue while Hart is all over him. He puts him in the Sharpshooter. The music plays for #22 and it’s Jerry Lawler, who is at the announce table. He takes off his jacket, jumps into the ring, Bret punches him once, Lawler doesn’t go over, but he hits him again and Lawler is out. The announcers say they think he broke a record. Nope. This was four seconds or so. Warlord still had the record at two seconds.

There’s “Diesel” at #23, who is actually Glenn Jacobs aka Kane and Isaac Yankem. He looks like Diesel and dresses the same as him. It’s Terry Funk at #24, who was in the WWF fairly regularly at this point. Vince was so excited about Diesel almost throwing out Bret. The announcers tried to put over how Bret was complaining about being in the match. It was the start of his heel turn. Funk hits Bret with a very sloppy piledriver. At #25 take it away Vince: “Here comes Rocky Maivia, the rookie! This man can win this thing!” You think they believed in his potential? It’s Austin and Rocky brawling. This was The Rock’s very early babyface run that the fans would eventually hate and turn him heel. Bret tries to throw Funk out, but he hangs on. Rock tries to get Austin out. Can’t do it. Those are four of the best wrestlers ever right there. And there’s Kane too. That’s five legit Hall of Famers, really. King doesn’t remember that he was in there. That’s pretty funny actually.

The #26 man is Mankind, who is another Hall of Famer. That’s a lot of talent in the ring there when you think about it. Mankind tries to get rid of Funk, but he can’t do it. Big suplex by Austin on Hart. It’s Flash Funk aka Too Cold Scorpio at #27. He was a newcomer to the WWF at this time. Hart hits an awesome piledriver on Austin. Flash takes out two guys with a crossbody block. We’ve got three guys left and at #28 it’s time, it’s time, it’s Vader Time. He’s a heel in the upper midcard. Mankind holds on from elimination from Terry Funk. Vader destroys Flash and then squashes Austin just for fun. It’s the hog farmer Henry O. Godwinn at #29. Vince is excited. He’s probably doing the “don’t go messing with a country boy” dance right now. We all know who the last man is. It’s a big name at #30…The Undertaker. The lights go out and he enters the fray rather slowly. He’s a babyface here. I honestly think that 1997 was the best year of Undertaker’s career. He was healthy the whole year, he had a lot of good matches and didn’t really have the ridiculous feuds that hurt him over the years.

The Undertaker goes after Vader, Mankind and Austin, hitting Stone Cold with a chokeslam. He hits Vader with a chokeslam. Things slow down for a bit and then there’s an awesome elimination by Vader. Flash Funk jumps into him with a crossbody, Vader catches him and he chucks him over his head, over to the top and he goes crashing to the floor. That was fantastic. They mention Austin being in the ring for over 40 minutes while The King picks everybody to win. Rocky nearly eliminates Bret, but he hangs on. I marked out a little seeing Austin, Rocky and Bret interact right there. Those are Austin’s two best opponents. Imagine that as a triple threat dream match? Undertaker puts the double choke on HOG and throws him out of there, which leaves us with seven guys. Undertaker nearly dumps Austin, but he holds on. Mankind puts the Mandible Claw on Rocky and shoves him over the top to the floor. Funk and Mankind enjoy brawling with eachother. Mankind does the Cactus clothesline on Funk, but they both hold on. Mankind pulls him over the top, suplex style. Undertaker dumps Mankind, who starts brawling with Funk on the floor.

It’s down to five men left in the match. It’s going to be Diesel! He’s going to yank out your teeth and then drive over them with his truck! Oh wait a second. Bret throws out Austin to a big pop! The refs don’t see it, though, because they’re all on the other side of the ring breaking up the Funk/Mankind fight.

Austin sneaks back in the ring and he dumps Vader and Undertaker as they battled by the ropes. Bret eliminates Diesel. Austin goes over to Bret and dumps him out of the ring for the win. The ref raises Austin’s hand as the winner of the match.

Winner: Steve Austin

The match ended at 50:29.

Post match, Austin’s hand was raised as the winner of the match. Hart was furious about what happened. Bret tells the refs (Mike Chioda and Jimmy Korderas) about how he eliminated Austin and Bret goes over to Vince and starts yelling at him. This was around the time when they would make mention of Vince being the owner of the company. It was part of the WWF becoming an edgier product. Bret yelled at Vince about how he should do something about it. Vince: “Talk about unsportsmanlike conduct.” JR says he’s got a heck of a grudge, but he points out that the referees never saw the elimination. That led to replays about the controversial finish.

Analysis: The original plan was for Bret Hart to win the Royal Rumble. The plan changed when Vince Russo was on WWE Livewire, said he picked Bret to win and apparently that pissed off Vince McMahon to change the finish to the screwy win for Austin. They were going to do Bret challenging Shawn Michaels for the WWE Title at WrestleMania 13, but the changed too due to Shawn’s knee injury and the “losing my smile” speech.

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS on the Royal Rumble match

– I liked the finish. It was different and it made me want to see what was going to happen next. It also put over how great Austin’s character was. The Rumble’s about making stars. This helped propel Austin to the level that we’d all see him at for his main event run. They ended up doing the Final Four PPV with Austin and the three guys he illegally eliminated: Bret, Undertaker and Vader. It was supposed to be a number one contender’s match, but with HBK “losing his smile” it was for the vacated WWF Title. Bret won the match and then lost the next night to Sid, who reportedly shit in his trunks (if you want to believe that story) while he lost the WWF Title to Undertaker at WM13. Confused? It’s okay. We got the Hart/Austin WM13 match that I consider to be one of the best matches ever, so thanks to HBK for losing that smile.

– Steve Austin was fantastic. This was a breakout performance for him. The spots where he was alone in the ring were great. I remember popping huge when Bret’s music hit and Austin had this “oh shit” look on his face. It’s one of those images you never forget. Austin’s work in the ring was great, but his facial expressions were very key to his success too. It helped his personality really get over.

– If you look at some of the people in this match, it’s easy to see that things were getting better in the company compared to the lack of talent in the previous four Royal Rumble matches. A lot of the wrestlers were yet to be elite by this point, but they were about to get there in the coming years. It’s cool to be able to look back on a match like this and see future main eventers before they got to that level. There are a lot of legitimately huge names in the match. The talent on the roster was very good from this point forward and into the early 2000s.

– I thought Jerry Lawler did a great job as a heel announcer. He really shined here with some of his jokes especially his comments about what he’d do if he got in there, which he said AFTER he got eliminated. Also, I really didn’t miss Vince when he stopped doing commentary.

– The crowd was poor. They didn’t react to very much for such a big crowd although that was a problem for most of the night.

FACTS & OPINIONS about the Royal Rumble match

Person that lasted the longest: Steve Austin at 45:07.

Most Eliminations: Steve Austin with 10.

Best Performers (3): Steve Austin – This was the second-best Rumble performance by a single person in the history of the Rumble to this point. Ric Flair in 1992 was better, but this was very close.

Bret Hart – I loved his chemistry with Austin. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Owen Hart – He was only in for about 9 minutes. Nobody else stood out. I enjoyed his heel shtick so much, though.

Best Elimination: There were some really good ones. My favorite was Vader throwing out Flash Flunk. That looked very painful.

Match Rating: ***1/4 The match had its slow points, but Austin really did an amazing job of carrying it. I’ve always liked this Rumble because it is one of the most unique endings they have ever booked. It’s controversial and some people may hate that. I don’t mind it, though. I give WWE credit for being creative with it.

The announcers talked about what happened with Vince pointing out that a lot of fans were booing about the finish of the Royal Rumble match. Lawler kept saying that the referee’s decision was final.

A video package aired to set up the WWF Championship match with Sycho Sid defending the title against Shawn Michaels. Sid won the WWF Title from Michaels at Survivor Series 1996 in a pretty good match that I rated 4* out of 5. Sid won the match after knocking Shawn’s manager Jose Lothario down and then using a camera to hit Michaels. This was the rematch.

An interview aired from earlier in the day with Shawn Michaels talking about how he had the flu, but he would be ready for the match later in the night. Michaels said he’ll feel like the Heartbreak Kid, like San Antonio’s own and like the World Wrestling Federation Champion.

Shawn Michaels and manager/mentor Jose Lothario were shown walking backstage in the Alamodome to make his entrance for the main event.

There was a huge pop for the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, who was the top babyface in the company at this point. Michaels had a great 1996 where held the WWF Title for about eight months. Michaels kissed his mom at ringside. I assume those were his parents. There was a nice pyro display for Shawn when he got in the ring.

Analysis: Michaels was my favorite wrestler in the WWF at this point. I think Steve Austin was catching up for sure, but I was a huge Michaels fan because of how great he was in the ring. This was also a time when I didn’t really read about wrestling on the internet (that would start later in 1997), so I had no idea about his bad attitude that was reported on all the time. That stuff didn’t matter to me. Michaels was legitimately sick all day leading up to this match, so they gave him medicine to make sure he was able to compete.

Sycho Sid made his entrance with the WWF Title around his waist. He was booed by the crowd. Sid dumped a lot of water on himself before the match.

WWF Championship: Sycho Sid vs. Shawn Michaels (w/Jose Lothario)

Pre-match notes: Sid was the heel WWF Champion that won the title two months earlier at Survivor Series. It was Sid’s first reign as the WWF Champion. Michaels was the babyface former champion.

Michaels with a running cross body block followed by some head slamming into the mat. The fans were popping for that as Michaels kicked Sid out of the ring. Michaels sent Sid into the barricade, but then Sid whipped Michaels into the side of the ring. Back in the ring, Michaels jumped off the top and Sid hit a sloppy powerslam. Sid slapped on a weak looking Camel Clutch submission followed by Sid jumping on Shawn’s back followed by another Camel Clutch. When Michaels got out of it, Sid whipped Michaels into the turnbuckle leading to a big bump over the top to the floor. Sid drove Michaels back first into the ring post two times. Sid slapped on a chinlock, Michaels fought back with punches and then Sid stopped that momentum with a clothesline. That drew a lot of boos from the crowd as Sid got a two count. The rest holds continued as Sid slapped on a bearhug as the camera showed Shawn’s parents in the crowd. Michaels broke free briefly, but then Sid slapped on the bearhug again as the camera showed a closeup of Shawn’s mom in the crowd. Michaels got back up, he jumped off the ropes and Sid slapped on a bearhug for a third time, which led to a two count for Sid. A leg drop by Sid got a two count. Michaels got some offense going with punches followed by a body slam, whip into the ropes and Michaels hit a forearm to the face followed by a kip up to a huge pop. Michaels went up top and hit the lefty elbow drop. Michaels did the elbow drop well with both arms in his career. Sid blocked a superkick attempt and gave Michaels a back body drop over the top to the floor. Sid went after Michaels on the floor and gave him a Powerbomb on the floor. Sid protected him there by holding on the back until the last possible moment. Sid grabbed Jose Lothario at ringside, then Jose’s son Pete went after him and Sid grabbed Pete too. Pat Patterson tried to get Sid to stop, Sid kicked him and Sid just threw Michaels back in the ring.

They did a spot where Sid whipped Michaels into the turnbuckle, but Shawn bumped into referee Earl Hebner, which took out Hebner. Side hit a Chokeslam for a two count as referee Mike Chioda went into the ring to count the pin. It was a delay, so the story was that Sid would have won if the referee was there right away. Sid punched referee Chioda and knocked him out of the ring. Sid went over to Jose on the apron, Michaels grabbed a TV camera from ringside and Michaels hit Sid in the back with it. Michaels hit Sid in the chest with the camera as well. The fans popped huge for this. They were going wild as Michaels covered Sid and referee Hebner slowly crawled over for the one, two…and no because Sid got his shoulder up. Great nearfall there. Michaels set up for the Sweet Chin Music superkick and he connected with it. Michaels covered Sid for the one…two…and three. Huge pop from the crowd for Shawn’s win at 13:49.

Winner by pinfall AND NEW WWF Champion: Shawn Michaels

Analysis: **1/4 The match was just decent, which is disappointing to say when it’s a Shawn Michaels match. It was probably the worst main event level match that Michaels ever had because he was such a great performer in the big matches. The reason this was lacking is probably due to Sid not being that good in the ring, plus Michaels legitimately had the flu, so that likely affected his performance. I liked how the finish was booked with the camera as a factor since that played a part in their last match with Sid winning. Michaels winning the WWF Title here was obvious since he was the babyface in his hometown. It just made sense to do the title change here. The crowd response for the title change was by far the best crowd reaction of the night.

After the match was over, Michaels hugged Lothario and Shawn was given the WWF Title. It was Shawn’s second time winning the WWF Title in his career. The fans were cheering loudly for San Antonio’s won Michaels winning in his hometown.

Michaels went over to his mom and dad to greet them with hugs. Lawler said that makes him sick seeing that. Michaels went over to some fans in the first row that were part of his family and also some of his friends. Michaels even hugged Vince McMahon at ringside leading to Vince’s laugh. They showed more replays of the finish.

Analysis: This was well done in terms of showing how big of a title win it was for Michaels.

The broadcast ended with highlights from the show.

This event had a runtime of 2:52:06 on WWE Network.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Show rating (out of 10): 4.5

It was a below-average show. I always have a bit of sentimental value when it comes to this event because of how much I liked Steve Austin and the way the Royal Rumble match finish was booked. I mentioned earlier in the review that it was a breakout performance for Austin and Bret Hart was terrific too, in terms of setting up his heel turn over the next few months. The finishes of a lot of the matches were poor, though. There were a lot of heel wins and/or cheap endings that the fans hated. That’s partly why the massive crowd was dead for most of the night. They did pop for the main event, even though it was one of Shawn Michaels’ worst main event matches because he was sick. The event looked impressive visually inside a dome, but it was not a great show.

Best Match: Royal Rumble match won by Steve Austin (***1/4 out of 5)

Worst Match: Ahmed Johnson vs. Faarooq (1/2*)

 

Five Stars Of The Show

  1. Steve Austin
  2. Bret Hart
  3. Shawn Michaels
  4. Owen Hart
  5. Hunter Hearst Helmsley

 

The previous WWE Royal Rumble PPV reviews are here:

1996 Royal Rumble (Won by Shawn Michaels)

1995 Royal Rumble (Won by Shawn Michaels)

1994 Royal Rumble (Won by Bret Hart and Lex Luger)

1993 Royal Rumble (Won by Yokozuna)

1992 Royal Rumble (Won by Ric Flair)

1991 Royal Rumble (Won by Hulk Hogan)

1990 Royal Rumble (Won by Hulk Hogan)

1989 Royal Rumble (Won by Big John Studd)

1988 Royal Rumble (Won by Hacksaw Jim Duggan)

Check out the WWE Royal Rumble review archive right here.

Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook

 

 

 

 

The post TJR WWE Royal Rumble Reviews: 1997 (Austin Wins, Michaels vs. Sid) appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

The WWE Smackdown Reaction for 1/17/20 by Kelly Dishnow

Welcome to The Smackdown Reaction, where I offer my take on this week’s show from Greensboro, NC. You can check out John’s full in-depth report here.

We start things off with the Smackdown intro and pyro before Kane makes his way to the ring. Kane cuts a decent promo on the upcoming Royal Rumble before being interrupted by The Firefly Fun House. Wyatt cuts a quick promo before the lights go out in the arena to signal The Fiend’s appearance. Kane was waiting for him and Daniel Bryan attacked The Fiend before he could retreat down the hole in the ring. Bryan pulled on Fiend and go some hair before he was able to escape. When we get back from break, Kane and Bryan are backstage with Kayla Braxton and Bryan issues a challenge for a Strap Match at the Rumble.

Our first match of the night has Big E taking on John Morrison in his first WWE match in eight years. We get a decent back and forth match while commentary fills in the background of Morrison for those who have not seen him before. Side note, I’m not sure what happened to Kofi’s head, but it wasn’t pretty. The finish was set up with Miz distracting Big E so Morrison could get the upper hand and land Starship Pain for the pinfall. We will likely see a tag title match coming soon between the two teams, likely after the Rumble.

We get a quick video package with the history for tonight’s table match and promo from Roman Reigns before heading into a break.

The Usos had their match against The Revival. The match was as good as expected for the little amount of time they were given. The Usos picked up the win in this short match.

Kayla caught up to The Revival about their match. The Revival started to cut a promo on tag team wrestling when the cameraman bailed to catch the fight down the hall between Lacey Evans, Sasha Banks, and Bayley. It is broken up quickly and Sasha is holding her ankle.

Quick recap on the Otis/Mandy Rose happens from last week before a quick promo from Fire and Desire with Sonya asking Mandy to have Otis come out for her match against Alexa Bliss later.

Back in the Trainer’s Room, we find Sasha icing her ankle down talking to Bayley about what Lacey just did. (Smackdown GM) Adam Pearce shows up and told Sasha that her match with Lacey was still on tonight, but Bayley was taking her place. The girls are upset and Pearce tells Bayley the match is not for the title but it is next. Can we just make him the Smackdown GM and use him like NXT does with Regal? Shows up only when needed to progress an angle. He’s done that several times in the past couple of weeks now.

Bayley is coming out by herself for her match with Lacey. The match was pretty good as the fans are buying the Lacey face turn. Bayley still seems to be struggling a bit with the heel turn. Lacey wins the competitive match after Big Showing Bayley with the Woman’s Right.

We go backstage and find out that Kayla Braxton has been cloned into Alyse Ashton (really?) to interview Shorty G about Sheamus. Gable cuts a quick promo and Sheamus shows up to make more short jokes, although the height difference is not that significant as compared to Corbin. A quick scrum between the two gets broken up to send us to break.

Back from break and the real Kayla Braxton is interviewing Braun Strowman about his desire for an Intercontinental title match anytime and anywhere.

Elias is in the ring for a song only to be interrupted by Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Cesaro. Zayn addresses the Strowman challenge by saying no. Zayn and company go to leave Elias to do whatever and Elias starts to sing a song about the trio. Cesaro runs down to the ring to attack Elias before Nakamura and Zayn join in. Strowman comes to the ring to help out Elias. Zayn bails and Strowman tosses Nakamura and Cesaro out of the ring, Royal Rumble style. We can pencil in the tag match for next week.

A nice video tribute to The Rock’s father, Rocky Johnson, plays to honor his passing on Wednesday.

Sonya Deville was in the ring with Mandy Rose waiting for Alexa Bliss to come out with Nikki Cross. Heavy Machinery comes out after the match started and Otis would catch a falling Mandy to allow Alexa to roll up the distracted Sonya for the win in what felt like an angle more than a match.

Quick Royal Rumble preview leads us to the main event, Roman Reigns versus Robert Roode in a Tables Match. The winner gets to pick the Reigns/Corbin match stipulation for the Royal Rumble. Roman and Roode have a really good match before Corbin and Dolph Ziggler show up as expected. Roman gets triple-teamed before The Usos show up on the delay run-in. The Usos take out all three with superkicks before putting Ziggler through the announce desk with a double splash off the barricade. Corbin, like usual, had run away so Roman could spear Roode through the table for the win. After the match, Roman picks the stipulation of Falls Count Anywhere to close out the show.

Let’s look at tonight’s highs and lows:

The Highs

Outside of the Sonya/Bliss angle match, there was really decent in-ring action this week. The Table match and Big E/Morrison were pretty solid contests.

Effective use of Adam Pearce again as the “authorityish figure” to set up the Bayley/Lacey match. This should be a good role for him going forward, as long as they don’t overdo it like they usually do.

The Lows

The Usos/Revival match was just too short this week. It was a really good match for the time given, but it would have been better with some extra time.

==

That’s all I’ve got this week, until next time.

The post The WWE Smackdown Reaction for 1/17/20 by Kelly Dishnow appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

5-Star Match Reviews: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11, by Alex Podgorski

Oh boy, here we go. This is THE most-talked about wrestling match of the past decade. When it happened, everyone was talking about it like it was the new standard bearer for all future wrestling matches. It was an anomaly, a spectacle, a legendary performance. It was so good that it officially ‘broke the scale’ and was awarded six stars out of five by Dave Meltzer in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Only one televised match had gotten that rating beforehand, and that was back in 1994.

This is the match that got the whole world talking and brought considerable international exposure to New Japan Pro-Wrestling. It’s the first in a series of four legendary matches: Omega vs. Okada I.

This match took place on January 4, 2017, at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story here is simple. Omega won the 2016 G1 Climax tournament, becoming the first foreigner to do so. His main event push began earlier when he ousted AJ Styles from the Bullet Club in early 2016 and gradually rose to the top thereafter. Meanwhile, Okada was on a roll in his fourth run as IWGP Heavyweight Champion and was taking on all-comers.

They do ring entrances and Omega’s opens with a shot-for-shot remake of the first Terminator film, with him playing the role of Arnold. As his video ends, it shows the line “New Legend is About to Begin”. Truer words have never been spoken. Omega appears with a half-face terminator-style mask and fake shotgun, looking totally badass. Meanwhile, Okada comes down and it is literally raining Okada dollars. He pauses before entering the ring because he knows how big this match is going to be. Omega shows some subtle storytelling by crunching a piece of Okada money and tossing it at Okada.

The match

The match starts with a long stare-down and some fake out attempts at a Greco-Roman knuckle lock. They begin chain grappling and Omega stars wrenching Okada’s arm. Okada with a leg takedown but Omega reverses into a cross armbreaker attempt. Some quick transitions occur and Okada cinches in a grounded side headlock. Omega tries to pin but Okada gets up before the ref can even count one. Omega pulls Okada’s hair to escape the headlock and continues attacking the arm and the neck. They trade strikes for a bit before Omega locks in a headlock of his own and refuses to let go, even as Okada back suplexes him. Okada tries the headlocked suplex again but Omega escapes.

An Irish whip reversal occurs and Okada tries to send Omega into the turnbuckle but Omega kicks him away and does a springboard sunset flip attempt, but Okada blocks it and does a jackknife pin for two, but Omega powers out to everyone’s amazement and does a backslide for a two-count of his own. I love the way Omega drags his feet and ‘runs in place’ to put extra force into his pin. They get up and Okada hits two hip tosses followed by an armlock, but it gets broken in the ropes at the five-minute-mark.

Okada taps on Omega mockingly and taunts him. Okada answers an Irish whip with a huge shoulder block. Omega ducks a big boot and whips Omega into the corner again. He looks like he’s going to do the top-rope dropkick but Omega kicks Okada away. Omega teases the One-Winged Angel (OWA), but Okada escapes and tries the Rainmaker lariat, which Omega breaks from and spits on Okada and mocks him by doing his own rainmaker taunt. Omega does out of the ring to recover as the Young Bucks cheer him on. Omega stalls ringside until Okada comes after him, and after ducking some moves Omega runs into a huge big boot from Okada. Snapmare by Okada followed by a huge and very loud dropkick to Omega’s head.

They both go out of the ring and Okada whips Omega hard into the steel ring barricade. Okada tries a running kick but Omega catches him and teases a vertical suplex onto the barricade, but Okada reverses that into a huge Randy Orton-style draping DDT from the barricade onto the ringside mats. As Omega recovers, Okada brings out a table. After a brief struggle, Omega tries to throw Okada over the barricade but Okada reverses that sending Omega over the barricade instead. Then Okada hits a huge running crossbody over the barricade onto Okada at the ten-minute mark.

Okada’s in control back in the ring and slams Omega then hits a senton atomico for a one-count. Okada locks in a chinlock with his knee deep in Omega’s back. Omega struggles to escape, so Omega hits a swinging neckbreaker for a two-count. Omega fights back with forearms then gets a second wind and hits a dropkick to Okada’s knee followed by a jumping legdrop bulldog for two. Omega stomps away on Okada and then hits a brutal chop to Okada’s chest once he’s standing followed by a forearm to the back. Omega slams Okada and tries a great Muta-style flashing elbow but Okada dodges and tries a senton but Omega dodges that, so Omega throws him into the ropes and hits another forearm to the back for a two-count. Omega tries to hit the forearm again but Okada blocks it and charges but eats a knee to the gut from Omega instead. Omega attempts Aoi Shoudou (cross-legged fisherman buster) but Okada kicks his way out of it, only to walk into a snap hurricanrana at the fifteen-minute mark.

Okada rolls out of the ring as Omega rises like the terminator. Omega runs and hits an enormous suicide dive that makes the Undertaker’s look weak by comparison. Omega’s in control as he scoop slams Okada onto the ring apron and he lands right on the spot Omega hit with his earlier forearm strikes. He rolls Okada into the ring and then Omega hits a huge diving dropkick to the back of Okada’s head. Wow, that looked vicious. It almost looked like Okada got whiplash, that’s how his head snapped from the impact. Omega goes for a pin but Okada grabs the bottom rope, much to Omega’s frustration. Omega goes for another pin but Okada kicks out. Omega drags Okada to the middle of the ring and applies a modified chinlock that Omega keeps locked in until the ref makes him break the hold at the ropes.

Omega teases a powerbomb but Okada won’t go up do Omega strikes his head some more. Omega tries to knee Okada in the head but Okada grabs his leg, hoists him onto his shoulders and hits a Heavy Rain neckbreaker slam that closely resembles an Attitude Adjustment. They both get up after a while and Okada begins his comeback with running forearm strikes, followed by a DDT and a Shawn Michaels-style kip-up. A basement forearm smash gets another two-count for Okada.

Omega begins a comeback of his own at the twenty-minute mark but walks into a flapjack from Okada. Okada locks in the Red Rink submission hold and Omega looks like he’s fading until he gets a sudden burst of strength that slows him to reach the rope and break the hold. Omega charges Okada but walks into a tombstone attempt, but Omega struggles so Okada reverses that into the Reverse Neckbreaker to the knee. The fans – who have been pretty vocal for a Japanese crowd so far – are starting to come unglued.

Okada ascends the top rope and tries the diving elbow drop but Omega gets his knees up at the last second. Omega hits a single-knee pumphandle backbreaker and Okada rolls out of the ring, so Omega hits a running baseball slide dropkick to the back of Okada’s head, which sends Okada over the barricade towards the announcer’s table. In the ring, Omega has a devilish grin on his face as he signals to the crowd that something’s coming. As soon as Okada’s back on his feet, Omega springboards onto the top rope and hits an Asai moonsault over the barricade onto Okada. Holy shit, what a move.

Omega recovers in the ring as the ref begins the ring count. Okada struggles to make it back, so Omega puts the table on a supine Okada and hits a diving foot stomp from the apron onto the table (and Okada). Wow, that was nuts. Omega tosses Okada back into the ring and hits a kneeling powerbomb for another two-count. Still in control, Omega deadlifts Okada and hits the Dr. Wily Bomb for a 2.8-count. Meanwhile, the Young Bucks, who are still ringside, setup the table from earlier. Omega teases using the table but he struggles to get Okada into position for it, so Omega stomps and knee strikes Okada instead. He whips Okada into a corner and charges but Okada boots him in the face and tries to gain some momentum, but Omega reverses this into the ‘you can’t escape’ fireman’s carry slam/moonsault combo for another 2.8-count. Omega smiles devilishly as he tries the dragon suplex, but Okada keeps escaping it. Okada dodges a corner charge and puts Omega onto the top turnbuckle and dropkicks him out of the ring.

Okada’s in control now as he lifts Omega onto his shoulders and teases throwing him into the table, but Omega reverses that and tries the OWA into the table, but again Okada powers out. Omega tries a springboard move but Okada catches him on his shoulders Cena-style, but Omega reverses and keeps fighting, until he tries a running charge but Okada back body drops him over the rope, out of the ring and through the table. Good God, what a move. Omega landed so hard he cut a massive hole into that table. The Young Bucks are with Omega warning him about the referee’s count. Then Okada comes out (presumably because he wants the satisfaction of actually pinning Omega) and drags Omega back into the ring. Then Okada perches himself on the top rope and hits an enormous diving shotgun dropckick to Omega’s chest. Wow, Omega was hit so hard he flipped backwards. Okada pins but gets a two-count as the crowd awakens again.

Okada hits the diving elbow drop followed by his rainmaker pose. Okada sets up the Rainmaker lariat but Omega reaches the ropes. You can hear the Young Bucks will Omega on. Okada tries the Rainmaker again but Omega ducks and pushes him into the corner. Omega tries to lift Okada onto the top turnbuckle but Okada’s holding on for dear life. Omega looks to be spent as we reach the thirty-five-minute mark.

Omega slaps the hell out of Okada and places him on the top turnbuckle and teases some move but Okada powers out. A frustrated Omega continues to hammer away at Okada’s lower back. Then, with all the strength he has left, Omega joins Okada on the top rope and hits a dragon suplex from the top rope. Sweet Jesus, Okada landed right on his neck. And yet somehow, Okada STILL kicks out at 2.8.

Omega continues attacking Okada’s neck with the Aoi Shoudou and charges for a V-Trigger, but Okada dodges and hits a German suplex and tries the Rainmaker again, but Omega dodges and hits a V-Trigger knee against the ropes and goes for another, but somehow Okada musters enough strength to his hit perfect standing dropkick. Now both men are down. Okada tries the Rainmaker for the fourth time but Omega kicks his arm away but Okada blocks one V-Trigger, but can’t block a second one, and then Omega hits a Poisoned Frankensteiner, dropping Okada on his head again. Omega does the bullet club taunt and hits the V-Trigger knee again. Omega hoists Okada onto his shoulders, hooks the head and lands the One-Winged Ang—no, Okada jumps out of it. Okada attempts a V-Trigger again but Okada catches him and drops Omega with a Tombstone! Rainmaker pose! Okada hooks the wrist! Rainmaker! That’s it! Match over!  Cue the ‘they killed Kenny’ jokes.

The referee counts one…two…thr—NO! Omega kicks out! Omega kicks out! Incredible! How did he do that?! The crowd has exploded and I agree with them. Okada stares into space with a look of concern as we reach the forty-minute mark.

Omega is still down, selling the rainmaker as if it had just crushed his windpipe. Okada takes a long time to grab omega by the hair to pick him up, but Omega starts fighting back. Okada has had enough of this and dropkicks Omega so hard he goes flying across the ring into the opposite corner. The fans in the arena are on their feet. Okada picks up Omega slowly for the Tombstone, but Omega powers out and reverses it into a double cradle piledriver of his own but that gets a 2.9-count. Both of them are on their knees and start brawling with each other. They keep brawling until they’re both standing. Neither man wants to show anymore weakness. Fighting spirit! Then out of nowhere, Omega ducks a forearm and hits a snap dragon suplex followed by a V-Trigger shortly thereafter, but that also only gets 2.9. Omega hits another V-Trigger to Okada and lifts him for the OWA yet again, but Okada holds on while on Omega’s shoulders, refusing to let Omega wrap his arm around his neck. Okada struggles until he falls off and lands on his feet and lands a huge Rainmaker lariat.

Both men are down as Okada crawls slowly towards Omega. He grabs the wrist again and prepares for another Rainmaker but omega kicks his lariat arm away. Okada maintains wrist control as Omega kicks away at Okada’s head and brutalizes Okada with three V-Trigger-like knees to the side of the head. But Okada still has plenty of fighting spirit left and hits a third Rainmaker lariat onto Omega. Okada then goes for his fourth Rainmaker but Omega ducks it, then Omega tries his own Rainmaker but Okada ducks that. Okada goes for a Tombstone but Omega escapes, so Okada charges and runs into a standing dropkick from Omega, who then does the Rainmaker pose to Okada. Then Omega grabs the wrist and hits a Rain-Trigger knee. Wow, that was brutal. Omega tries the OWA YET AGAIN, but Okada reverses it into a spinning Tombstone piledriver, and then delivers a fourth and massive Rainmaker lariat. The referee counts one…two…three! That’s it! The match is over!

The camera pans to the crowd and there are fans with tears in their eyes! The fans give both wrestlers a standing ovation.

Winner and still IWGP Heavyweight Champion after 48:25: Kazuchika Okada

Review

HOLY SHIT! THAT WAS SPECTACULAR! That did indeed live up to the hype. They more than delivered. Okada and Omega put on an instant classic that set a new standard for main event, world title matches. The story in this match was beautiful. It was a well-crafted tale of teases, reversals, kick-out sequences, and above all, insane toughness. This is a classic made of the same structure as the All Japan Pro-Wrestling classics of the 1990s. Everything in the opening minutes was done to establish dominance, followed by a lengthy weakening segment, and finally a long and insanely dramatic closing sequence that left the fans on the edge of their seats.

There was also an underlying story that demonstrates perfectly how to craft an intricate wrestling story through showing without telling. Omega was the underdog in this match challenging the champion and company ace. Omega took absolutely everything from Okada; it took Okada hitting every single one of his biggest moves – including four of his killer rainmaker lariats – to keep Omega down for the count. But Omega never hit his ultimate finisher, the One-Winged Angel. Omega teased it several times but Okada fought out of it on every occasion. At the time of this match – and at the time of this writing – no one in NJPW has ever kicked out of the OWA. If Omega hit that move in this match, it would’ve led to a different ending. But we didn’t see that move hit, which leaves the door open for a rematch down the road.

The final ten minutes were of the best moments ever seen in a wrestling ring. Everything after the top rope dragon suplex was insane. So much unpredictability, so many reversals and counter-reversals, you never knew when or how the match would end. And unlike in WWE, in which a roll-up would be seen as a weak finisher, in this match Omega and Okada had demolished each other so badly that a simple roll-up or cradle could be believable as a finisher.

I only have on real gripe with this match, and that’s Omega’s selling of exhaustion. Omega was on offense more than Okada in this match, yet he took his fair share of insane moves. Yet whenever Okada went for his running strikes – especially his V-trigger – he’d move around with the same energy and speed as he had earlier in the match when he had taken less damage. It made him look like he was barely in pain, despite taking an inhuman amount of punishment. Had he moved more slowly later on in the match, Okada’s offense would’ve looked more brutal and would’ve made Omega’s exhaustion feel more real.

But that minor gripe doesn’t take away from what is arguably the best match in Wrestle Kingdom history.

Final Rating: *****

I don’t think it’s proper to rate anything on a 5-star scale beyond five stars. This was a perfect wrestling match and deserves all the praise that was heaped on it and on the wrestlers involved. This was simply outstanding, especially in the final ten minutes. These two had awesome chemistry and it showed in how well they knew each other’s big moves and how to try and steal them as well. If you want to watch a clinic on how to craft an unpredictable wrestling contest filled to the brim with believable near-falls, watch this contest. It serves as a template on how to do that and more. Highest recommendation possible.

Thanks for reading. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The post 5-Star Match Reviews: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega – NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11, by Alex Podgorski appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

The John Report: WWE Smackdown 01/17/20 Review

Welcome to another WWE Smackdown review here on TJRWrestling as we sit here just nine days away from the Royal Rumble on January 26th. Speaking of the Royal Rumble, I’m reviewing every Royal Rumble this month in detail, so please check out those reviews if you’re feeling like checking out some Royal Rumble history. I don’t expect to get all the reviews posted before this year’s Royal Rumble show, so some of them will be after the 26th and likely into February. I never said I would get them all up before this year’s Rumble anyway. I’m already reviewing so many things every week, plus news posts and other stuff in my life. It gets to be a lot, but I want to finish those Rumble reviews. The good thing is I already have the last ten years done, plus a few in the 2000s, so I’ll get there when I can. Now let’s get to Smackdown.

Live from Greensboro, North Carolina, this is Smackdown for episode #1066. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. Please visit TJRWrestling.net daily for our regular updates on the wrestling business featuring WWE news coverage along with reviews about wrestling’s past and present. Thanks to Melo Man for the banner up top.

There was a nice pyro display in the arena in Greensboro to get the crowd fired up. The announce team of Michael Cole and Corey Graves promoted the matches coming up on this week’s show.

Let’s Hear from Kane

Kane made his entrance to wear the show and he was wearing the red/black Kane mask along with the Kane wrestling gear. That’s gotta be Kane, but if you want to call him Mayor Glenn Jacobs that’s okay too.

Kane said we are nine days away from his favorite event of the year, the Royal Rumble. Kane said that 30 lost souls will put their mind, body and spirit on the line for an opportunity of a lifetime and a chance to compete at WrestleMania. Kane said that it’s a match where you go through hell, but the reward is a chance at immortality. Kane noted that he holds the record for most career Royal Rumble eliminations and said he understands how important the match is. Kane said he watched his opponent’s WrestleMania dream turn into a nightmare all because of him and he admits it was a lot of fun.

Bray Wyatt interrupted the promo as a Firefly Fun House video played. Wyatt said that Kane hasn’t changed a bit, but it’s never nice to brag and find joy in another person’s misery. Bray said “shame on you, you big bully.” Wyatt said he’s glad Kane is there. Wyatt assured us that Ramblin’ Rabbit is alive, well and recovering quite nicely as they showed Rabbit hooked up to a machine. Wyatt said that he doesn’t think winning the Royal Rumble is a great idea especially if the winner is foolish enough to challenge for this (the Universal Title) at WrestleMania. Wyatt noticed the framed Kane picture on the wall and he said that means Kane and The Fiend “got it on.” Wyatt said he’ll never forgive you Kane and they showed clips of Wyatt beating Kane at SummerSlam years ago. Wyatt said “where oh where has my monster gone” and said “neither will he.”

The lights went out in the arena, the fans screamed and when they came back on there was a red light as Kane stood outside the ring as The Fiend emerged from under the ring. Kane turned around to face The Fiend as fans chanted “yes” and Kane asked: “What took you so long?” Fans chanted that because Daniel Bryan was in the ring with a running knee attack on Fiend. Bryan attacked Fiend with punches, so Fiend went down in the hole in the ring and Bryan pulled off some dreadlocks off The Fiend’s head. Bryan held up The Fiend’s hair and celebrated with “YES” chants with the fans joining him. Kane joined Bryan in the ring as the former Team Hell No celebrated in the ring.

Analysis: That was an interesting opening segment with Kane delivering a good promo about his Royal Rumble history although he didn’t say he was in the Rumble match. It was also a case of Kane and Bryan outsmarting The Fiend with Bryan ready to help Kane. They book The Fiend strong all the time, so I don’t mind seeing him getting his ass kicked occasionally. Plus, it was a little bit of a Team Hell No reunion, which is always nice to see.

John Morrison vs. Big E is the first match after a break.

(Commercial)

Daniel Bryan and Kane were shown backstage arguing about who was the tag team champion like they used to do. Kayla Braxton showed up to interview Bryan, who said that The Fiend is the best at running away and disappearing. Bryan wondered how do you beat somebody who disappears every time he’s in trouble? Bryan said he had an idea that isn’t a good idea or a smart idea, but he’s challenging The Fiend to a strap match at the Royal Rumble. Bryan said that they will have a strap tied to their hands and they will go to war until one man wins. Bryan said he’s done with the mind games, he’s done with the running and he’s done with Wyatt disappearing in the damn hole. Bryan said that The Fiend changed him and at Royal Rumble, Bryan will change The Fiend and win the Universal Championship.

Analysis: I really liked the intensity in the promo when Bryan was putting over the violent nature of a Strap Match. It’s been a long time since WWE has had a Strap Match and I think it’s fitting for that title match at the Royal Rumble.

Big E made his entrance along with Kofi Kingston, who has blonde dreadlocks now. They are the Smackdown Tag Team Champions as Cole plugged New Day’s podcast along with Corey Graves’ podcast.

John Morrison made his entrance with The Miz joining him. Morrison has his “This ain’t no make believe” theme song and the slow motion pose entrance is back with him too. It is Morrison’s first WWE match after eight years. They showed a replay of last week’s Smackdown when Morrison helped Miz beat Kofi Kingston.

Big E (w/Kofi Kingston) vs. John Morrison (w/The Miz)

The match started as the announcers talked about parkour training that Morrison does as Big E hit Morrison with a shoulder tackle. Morrison worked over Big E with kicks to the face followed by punches, a kick to the back while on the apron and Morrison delivered a neckbreaker off the apron onto the floor. That was a unique spot.

(Commercial)

Morrison remained in control as they returned from break with a Morrison hitting a jumping knee followed by a standing Shooting Star Press. Big E used his power to get back up, Morrison was quick to get to the ropes, he missed a diving attack and Big E hit a belly to belly suplex across the ring two times. Morrison with an eye poke that the referee didn’t see, Big E with a back body drop and Morrison flipped into a face first ending. Big E with a running splash, Morrison with a kick and neckbreaker for two. Miz was on the apron, Kingston pulled him down, Kingston shoved Miz into the steel steps and Morrison hit an impressive twisting dive onto Kingston on the floor. That drew a big reaction. Miz moved Morrison out of the way of a Big E attack, Morrison with a kick to the face and a running knee. Morrison went to the ropes for his twisting Starship Pain splash for the pinfall win after eight minutes.

Winner by pinfall: John Morrison

Analysis: *** This was pretty good with Morrison getting a chance to show off his athleticism throughout the match. The Starship Pain finish isn’t the best finish because it barely connects sometimes, but it looks flashy. It was also smart to have Miz help win the match to give that heel duo some momentum. Since Miz beat Kofi and Morrison beat Big E, it should lead to a SD Tag Team Title shot very soon.

Morrison celebrated with Miz while the announcers really put over Morrison on commentary.

They showed a video package of when Roman Reigns took out Robert Roode on Smackdown seven weeks ago. That was done to explain Roode’s absence due to a 30-day Wellness Policy Violation. Roode came back last week to join his buddies Corbin and Ziggler in attacking Reigns as well as The Usos. They put Reigns through a table. I thought it would lead to a six-man tag team match this week, but it led to a Tables Match with Reigns and Roode.

Roman Reigns was joined by cousins The Usos for a backstage segment. Reigns said he’s going to win this match and pick his stipulation against King Corbin. The Usos welcomed The Revival to…and Reigns said “The Uso Penitentiary.” That tag match is next.

(Commercial)

The announcers congratulated Fox NFL announcer Jimmy Johnson on his upcoming Pro Football Hall of Fame induction. He a very successful coach. Good for him.

The Usos entered to a nice pop while The Revival were introduced as the opponents. No trip for Dash Wilder on the entrance. That was scripted a few weeks ago. Last week on Smackdown, The Revival helped King Corbin and Dolph Ziggler against The Usos last week, but then Roman Reigns knocked out The Revival.

The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) vs. The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder)

Jimmy locked up with Dawson as the announcers talked about how things haven’t gone well for The Revival of late. Jimmy with an uppercut punch on Dawson, Jey tagged in with a forearm on Dawson. The Revival took control with Dawson hitting a slingshot suplex and Wilder hit a splash as they isolated Jey in the heel corner. Jey with a spin kick to Dawson, which led to Jimmy getting the hot tag. Jimmy with punches, kicks and a Samoan Drop for Wilder. Jimmy went up top with a cross body block for a two count. Dawson blocked a Jimmy kick and Wilder got an inside cradle. Jimmy tossed Wilder down, double superkick on Wilder and a double superkick on Dawson. Jimmy got the tag, Jey hit a suicide dive on Wilder and Jimmy hit a Superfly Splash on Wilder for the pinfall win after five minutes. What was funny about that is that Jimmy stared right at the camera as he did his leap and stuck his tongue out like Michael Jordan. Well done by him.

Winners by pinfall: The Usos

Analysis: **1/2 This was fine for the time given. These teams have had better matches together, but it’s tough when you only get five minutes. I wish they got more time because getting five minutes felt too short. They did make the most of their time and had an exciting finish with The Usos getting the predictable win. The Revival may lose every match they have in the coming months since their contracts are up in April and there’s no indication that they are staying in WWE. I’m glad The Usos are break. They have been sharp since returning to action.

Still to come: Roman Reigns vs. Robert Roode in a Tables Match.

(Commercial)

There was a graphic from WWE saying they have reached 20 million Instagram follows as one of the most followed sports leagues beating UFC, MLB, NHL and NFL.

Analysis: I guess the NBA is ahead since they weren’t mentioned. What’s interesting about that is WWE will call themselves a “sports league” sometimes while other times they will shy away from being called a sport. It’s whatever is convenient for them at the time.

The Revival were shown walking backstage with Kayla Braxton going up to them to talk about their loss. Scott Dawson said that they will have to make a change and Dash Wilder said that the company cares about them as much as they care about the tag team division. While they were talking, there was a commotion down the hall.

There was a shot of Lacey Evans getting in a fight with Bayley and Sasha Banks. It looked like Banks was on the ground grabbing her ankle as referees showed up to break it up.

They showed clips of Otis helping Mandy Rose beat Alexa Bliss last week because Bliss was distracted by Otis eating a cake that Mandy gave him. Mandy liked that she won the match.

Sonya Deville was warming up for a match with Mandy Rose going up to her. Rose said this will be their year, Fire & Desire 2020. Deville asked if Otis wants to be ringside for her match. Deville said that she figured out why Mandy is being nice to Otis…because it helps Mandy win matches. Mandy said she’ll ask him, but she doesn’t know if Otis will do it and Sonya felt confident that if Mandy asks, he’ll do it. Sonya left.

Analysis: I actually like how they are building the Mandy/Otis story that will likely lead to Rose/Deville splitting up as a team soon.

More backstage segments as Sasha Banks and Bayley were talking in the trainer’s room. Banks had ice on her right ankle to sell whatever attack just happened moments earlier. Banks said that Evans doesn’t deserve a match with her because Banks is busy making her album and music video. Bayley said it didn’t matter if Evans is a mom or a marine, she’s going to break her ankle. Adam Pearce (a WWE Producer) walked up to them in a suit. Pearce said that for two weeks, Evans vs. Banks was promoted and it hasn’t happened, so Bayley will face Evans instead. Bayley said that she’s not putting the title on the line, Pearce said the title isn’t on the line, but that match is next. Bayley wasn’t happy about that.

Analysis: That was a good use of Pearce. I know most WWE fans don’t know him since his wrestling career was in other companies (mostly ROH), but once in a while you need an authority figure on the show to advance the storylines a bit.

(Commercial)

The announcers talked about the next match being set up with Cole thanking WWE Official Adam Pearce for making this match.

Bayley walked out alone with the Smackdown Women’s Title and she did not look happy about having this match. Lacey Evans got a decent ovation from the crowd.

Bayley vs. Lacey Evans

This is not for Bayley’s Smackdown Women’s Title. Bayley was aggressive with forearms, but Evans came back with a clothesline and headscissors takedown that sent Bayley to the floor. Evans with a knee to the face followed by two pin attempts that got two counts and then the referee caught Bayley trying to cheat. Bayley sent Evans into the middle rope followed by some hair pulling. Bayley slapped on an armbar, Bayley with a back elbow for a two count and Bayley jumped on Lacey’s back to weaken her some more. Evans got a rollup for two. Evans came back with a kick to the ribs, two running clotheslines and an arm wringer put Bayley down. Evans sent Bayley across the ring followed by a kick to the chest. Evans hit a jumping splash on Bayley against the turnbuckle. Evans jumped to the top, she tried a moonsault and Bayley got her knees up to block it.

(Commercial)

Bayley was on offense with shoulder tackles, but then a corner charge missed and Bayley hit the middle turnbuckle. Evans kicked Bayley out of the ring, but then Bayley hit a neckbreaker using the ropes for an assist. Bayley with a belly to back suplex, shoulder tackle and a running back elbow. Bayley with a jumping back elbow off the middle ropes for a two count. Bayley went up top, she missed a cross body block because Evans moved. Bayley sent Evans into the turnbuckle, Bayley ran the ropes and Evans hit the Woman’s Right punch for the pinfall win a

Winner by pinfall: Lacey Evans

Analysis: *** That was really well done with Evans having her best showing as a babyface so far, at least in a singles match. I like the fire that Evans showed when she was making her comebacks and they put her over huge with the Woman’s Right punch for the win. Bayley was terrific as the heel leading the match. You can tell that Bayley gets more comfortable in the heel role every week. The champion losing non-title to build up to a title match is not fresh and I hate that WWE does it as often as they do it, but that’s what they love to do. The crowd support for Evans is getting stronger, so the booking is working.

Evans celebrated the win while the crowd gave her a big ovation for the victory.

A new woman broadcaster named Alyse Ashton was backstage to conduct an interview. Shorty G was interviewed about Sheamus attacking him two weeks ago. Shorty said that Sheamus came back after months and the first thing he did was reject his own insecurities by attacking Shorty while he was already down. Shorty said if you accept who you are and embrace it, you’ve already won. Shorty said he knows Sheamus is big and a decorated athlete while Sheamus showed up asking if anybody has seen Shorty G. Sheamus said he heard Shorty squeaking from across the room. Sheamus threatened him, then tapped him on the head saying “alright, fella” and Shorty tackled Sheamus. Referees and security showed up to break it up while Sheamus was angry about it.

Analysis: That will set up Sheamus vs. Shorty G in a match at the Royal Rumble PPV. That should be an easy win for Sheamus.

(Commercial)

It was announced that Becky Lynch will be on WWE Backstage on Tuesday night on Fox Sports 1. I believe CM Punk was advertised for it a few days ago, but he was not shown on the graphic.

Braun Strowman was interviewed by Kayla Braxton backstage. Strowman said he was entering the Royal Rumble match. Strowman talked about how he wants the Intercontinental Title held by Shinsuke Nakamura while noting he has pinned Nakamura twice now, so he wants his opportunity, any time, any place.

Analysis: It makes sense to do so Strowman vs. Nakamura. Strowman has not won a singles title in his WWE career, so that will probably be his first title win.

Elias was in the ring with his guitar doing one of his songs. Elias said for him to reach where he has to go, there needs to be a truth in every arena and it’s that WWE stands for (fans) Walk With Elias. Elias sang about walking in Greensboro, he said you’ll never guess what he saw and here comes Shinsuke Nakamura.

Sami Zayn led the Intercontinental Champion Nakamura and Cesaro into the arena as the fans booed them. Zayn said what he had to say is far more important than what Elias is doing, so he told the fans to shut their mouths. Zayn said that they are dealing with Braun Strowman saying he wants a shot at Shinsuke Nakamura for the IC Title. Zayn said “absolutely not” to Strowman getting a title shot at Nakamura and said that he calls the shots around here, then he said “we” call the shots around here. Zayn reminded us that Nakamura actually won the Royal Rumble match and Zayn said that the WWE roster has officially been put on notice. Zayn said he made his point, so Elias can go back to doing whatever he does there.

Elias said that he was listening and writing a song at the same time. Elias said his song is called “Sami Zayn needs to shut his damn mouth” and the chorus is “Shinsuke sucks.” Elias played the song on the guitar, Zayn told him to stop and told Cesaro to show Elias what they do to funny guys around there.

Cesaro went into the ring to attack Elias, then Nakamura joined in and it was a 2 on 1 attack on Elias that became 3 on 1 when Zayn joined in. Braun Strowman’s music hit as the Monster Among Men made his way down to the ring.

Strowman avoided a double clothesline and hit a double shoulder tackle on Cesaro and Nakamura while Zayn left the ring. Strowman sent Cesaro and Nakamura over the top to the floor to preview what can happen in the Royal Rumble match. The heels retreated as Cole said that Strowman is the odds-on favorite to win the Royal Rumble match.

Analysis: It was fine as a segment to promote the Royal Rumble match. I think Sami Zayn is one of the best talkers in the company right now because he’s a heel that knows how to piss off the fans and has no interest in being the cool heel that pops the crowd. It also set up Strowman to save another babyface in Elias due to the heels using the numbers game. It’s basic pro wrestling booking here.

A video tribute aired to celebrate the life of the “Soul Man” Rocky Johnson, who is The Rock’s dad. He passed away on Wednesday at the age of 75. Rocky was a great athlete that made history in 1983 as the first ever African-American Tag Team Champions with his partner Tony Atlas. There was a huge pop for that title change. The video also focused on Rocky and ex-wife Ata having a son Dwayne, who went on to become The Rock. They showed the clip from WrestleMania 13 when Rock and Rocky beat up the bad guys. They also showed a clip of the 2008 Hall of Fame when The Rock inducted Rocky Johnson into the WWE HOF. That night, Rocky said he wanted to be remembered for paving the road for all athletes no matter the race. The fans in the arena gave a standing ovation and chanted “Rocky” for him.

Analysis: Most of Rocky Johnson’s career was before my time as a fan because his tag team title win was when I was three years old. I read a lot about him this week and I thought Dave Meltzer did a great tribute to him in the Wrestling Observer this week. When watching the highlights, it was easy to see Rocky had a great physique, natural charisma as a babyface and a lot of fan support. The Rock went on to become a bigger star obviously, but clearly Rock learned a lot from Rocky and I’m sure Rocky was very proud of his son. Condolences to The Rock and all of Rocky Johnson’s family.

(Commercial)

Sonya Deville was in the ring with Mandy Rose by her side. Alexa Bliss entered as the opponent with Nikki Cross joining her. The Heavy Machinery team of Otis and Tucker showed up to support Sonya because Otis likes Mandy.

Alexa Bliss (w/Nikki Cross) vs. Sonya Deville (w/Mandy Rose)

Rose was on the apron to distract, so Deville kicked Bliss followed by a running knee for two. Deville grabbed a headlock, Bliss with a drop toe hold and punch to the face followed by a basement dropkick. Bliss tried a DDT, Rose went to the top rope as if she was going to jump off in her street clothesline, Cross punched Rose and Otis caught Rose. Deville hit Bliss with a clothesline. Otis was sticking out his tongue while he was holding Rose. While that was happening, Bliss capitalized with a ROLLUP OF DEATH~! on Deville for the pinfall win after two minutes.

Winner by pinfall: Alexa Bliss

Analysis: 3/4* A quick match that felt like a backdrop only to advance the story of Otis having a crush on Mandy, yet it cost Sonya the match. The ROLLUP OF DEATH~! is overdone and very lame because it’s the second week in a row they did it. The story will likely be that Otis is able to help Mandy win, but he can’t seem to help Deville, so it should lead to the Rose split with Deville soon.

Post match, Deville was mad about her loss while Bliss left with Cross.

Robert Roode was in the locker room with his buddies King Corbin and Dolph Ziggler showing up for a pep talk. Roode said he was waiting six weeks for this match with Reigns. Corbin talked about picking a stipulation for his match with Reigns and that Roode has to win the match by putting Reigns through a table. They ended it saying when that happened it will be absolutely…glorious.

(Commercial)

They showed a clip from earlier in the show where Kane had a staredown with The Fiend, which led to Daniel Bryan attacking The Fiend with the running knee and punches. The Fiend escaped by going under the ring while Bryan ripped out some of The Fiend’s hair.

It’s official for the Royal Rumble with The Fiend facing Daniel Bryan in a Strap Match after Bryan requested the stipulation. Also, Sheamus vs. Shorty G is official for the Royal Rumble. Lacey Evans also gets a Smackdown Women’s Title match against Bayley at the Royal Rumble.

Analysis: I feel like I can already predict that Sheamus vs. Shorty G will be the shortest match at the Royal Rumble PPV.

Roman Reigns made his entrance for the main event. Good pop for the Big Dog as he put down his fist on the stage to set off some fireworks. As Reigns got close to the ring, Reigns ran down to the ring to punch Reigns in the back. The match began there.

Tables Match: Roman Reigns vs. Robert Roode

The winner of the match is the first man to put his opponent through a table. There were tables all around the ringside area.

They went into the ring with Reigns connecting with punches followed by a clothesline. Roode dumped Reigns out of the ring, Reigns knocked Roode out of the ring with a punch and Reigns set up a table on the floor, but Roode fought back by sending Reigns into the steel steps. Reigns sent Roode into another set of steel steps. They went over to the announcer’s table, Reigns cleared off a bit of it, but then Roode whipped Reigns into the steel steps. Roode brought a table into the ring leading to Reigns hitting a Drive By kick on the apron. Reigns ran around the ring, he went full speed with a Spear, Roode moved and Reigns went crashing through the barricade at ringside. King Corbin made his entrance (while his music played) and Corbin was on his sedan carried by his security guys. That led to a break.

(Commercial)

The match returned with Roode teasing a superplex on Reigns through a table in the ring, but Reigns blocked it. Reigns with two headbutts, Reigns set up for a Powerbomb through a table, but Roode punched his way out of that. Each guy tried moves through the table and then Roode flipped the table over. Reigns whipped Roode shoulder first into the ring post. Corbin was alone now, standing on the ramp to support Roode. Reigns set up a table against the turnbuckle, then Reigns left the ring and connected with a Superman Punch. Reigns put Roode back in the ring, Roode was right in front of a table and Corbin distracted Reigns while Ziggler went into the ring with a superkick on Reigns. Corbin worked over Reigns with punches. Ziggler cleared off the announce table as Corbin sent Reigns into the ring post. Roode went up top, but was never going to hit a dive and The Usos hit Roode with a double superkick. The Usos hit superkicks on Corbin and Ziggler to send them into the barricade. Jimmy and Jey put Ziggler through the announce table with double Uso Splash on Ziggler through the table. Back in the ring, Reigns hit Roode with a Spear through the table. Huge pop for the win for Reigns. The match went 11 minutes.

Winner: Roman Reigns

Analysis: ***1/4 I thought it was an enjoyable Tables match. Roode is always capable of having good matches and putting a guy over like Reigns, who worked his ass off in this match. Both guys went all out here. The Spear into the barricade looked brutal, but obviously it doesn’t hurt that much since the barricade is thin. I’m just saying they made it look like a big deal. The interference was obvious because it fits what they have done in the past, but having The Usos there to even the odds allowed Reigns to get the win. The crowd is strongly behind Reigns these days due to the booking, but also being aligned with his cousins The Usos again. This was booked well.

The win by Reigns means he gets to pick the stipulation for the Reigns/Corbin match at Royal Rumble.

Reigns said that the Royal Rumble is in a baseball stadium and that place is huge. Reigns said the stipulation for their match will be a Falls Count Anywhere match. The fans cheered. Corbin was angry about it. Reigns celebrated with The Usos to end the show.

Analysis: That stipulation means the Reigns/Corbin match will have a different since it’s Falls Count Anywhere and they can brawl around the stadium. It wouldn’t surprise me if Corbin actually won the match perhaps by getting some help from other wrestlers and then Reigns could win the Royal Rumble later that night. That way, it can continue the rivalry. I don’t really want Corbin to win. I’m just saying that’s the kind of booking WWE does sometimes in situations like that.

 

Three Stars of the Show

  1. John Morrison – His first WWE match in 8 years. I think he deserves it!
  2. Roman Reigns
  3. Robert Roode

 

The Scoreboard

7.25 out of 10

Last week: 6.5

2020 Average: 6.67

Last 5 Weeks: 6.5, 6.25, 6.5, 5.75, 6

 

Final Thoughts

I give this week’s Smackdown a 7.25 out of 10.

This was a pretty good show with some quality in-ring action all night long (aside from the short Bliss/Deville match) and I thought the promo segments were all effective in terms of advancing storylines. It was good to see Kane working with Daniel Bryan again as well. I was also impressed by Lacey Evans, who had her best showing as a babyface so far with Bayley doing well as a heel. John Morrison was impressive in his first WWE match in about eight years.

I thought the Reigns/Roode main event Tables Match was booke really well from start to finish and the crowd was into it. They did a nice job of promoting the matches at the Royal Rumble as well although just like on Raw, the women’s Royal Rumble match is barely mentioned.

The next WWE pay-per-view is the Royal Rumble on January 26th in Houston, Texas. Here’s what we know so far.

Men’s Royal Rumble Match – Entrants include: WWE Champion Brock Lesnar (entered himself at No. 1), Roman Reigns, King Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, Braun Strowman, Erick Rowan, AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Elias, Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, Drew McIntyre, Otis, Tucker, Rusev, Bobby Lashley, Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy. That’s 19 names on WWE.com list. There are 11 more to go.

Women’s Royal Rumble Match – Entrants include: Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross and Sarah Logan. They’ve only announced four names so far.

Strap Match for the Universal Championship: “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Daniel Bryan

Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Asuka

Falls Count Anywhere: Roman Reigns vs. King Corbin (They are both in the Men’s Royal Rumble match as well.)

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Bayley (c) vs. Lacey Evans

Sheamus vs. Shorty G

Thanks for reading. Go reigning NBA Champions Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. My contact info is below.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook

 

 

 

The post The John Report: WWE Smackdown 01/17/20 Review appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

TJR WWE Royal Rumble Reviews: 1996 (Michaels Wins Again, Bret Hart vs. Undertaker)

It’s 1996 and the World Wrestling Federation is coming off one of the worst years in the history of their company. This year wouldn’t be that much better in terms of making money, but they were starting to build a better roster. While WCW was getting hotter and building their audience, the WWF was still trying to figure things out. I think 1996 was a better year for the WWF creatively than the previous three years, though, so that’s a positive thing looking back on it.

This was the year when future main eventers like Steve Austin and Triple H made their Rumble debuts while Shawn Michaels was in the position to get that big babyface push after years of being a heel. We also saw guys named Rocky Maivia and Mankind show up later in the year. Plus, there were main event stalwarts like Bret Hart and The Undertaker in the main event of this show. All of that means things were getting better for the WWF. There are still a lot of bad gimmicks in this Rumble, though, so be warned because some of the names might scare you.

This show was used to set up WrestleMania 12, which is a show I reviewed many years ago like all WrestleManias and you can read about it here.

WWF Royal Rumble
January 21, 1996
From Selland Arena in Fresno, California

The show began with Sunny in a bathtub and holding a glass of champagne saying, “viewer discretion is advised.” They were not yet pushing the edginess of the product with women on the show, but they were utilizing more women as we’ll see later.

There was an opening video package promoting the big matches at the PPV as well as the Royal Rumble match.

The announcers were Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect, who was just okay as an announcer. Jerry Lawler was a better announcer, but they needed him in the Rumble match. Perfect’s long run in the company was over in November of 1996. He did come back in 2002.

Jeff Jarrett made his entrance for the opening match. They showed clips of Jarrett beating up Ahmed Johnson at the previous In Your House event to set up this match. I don’t remember that angle. Ahmed Johnson got a nice pop from the crowd and he ran down to the ring to start the match.

Ahmed Johnson vs. Jeff Jarrett

Pre-match notes: Johnson was the face and Jarrett was the heel.

Johnson was aggressive early, Jarrett bailed to the floor, Johnson chased after him and got a hiptoss when they got back into the ring. Ahmed countered a headlock by tossing Jarrett across the ring. Johnson was in control with multiple shoulder tackles followed by a forward slam for a two count. Johnson with a jumping clothesline, then he charged, Jarrett moved and when Johnson was on the floor, Jarett hit him with a clothesline. Jarrett whipped Johnson into the steel steps. Back in the ring, Jarrett jumped onto Johnson’s back, then Johnson no sold three double axehandle moves and Johnson hit an atomic drop followed by a clothesline. Johnson hit a spinebuster that looked good. Jarrett to the floor and Johnson jumped over the top onto Jarrett, which was an impressive dive. Johnson went up top for a spinning splash, but Jarrett moved. That led to Jarrett slapping on the Figure Four Leglock by Jarrett although Johnson reversed it after about 30 seconds. Jarrett worked over the left leg of Johnson until Johnson kicked him out of the ring. Jarrett went up top with his guitar, Johnson turned around and Jarrett crushed the guitar on Johnson’s head. The referee Jimmy Korderas saw it, so Jarrett was disqualified at 6:40.

Winner by disqualification: Ahmed Johnson

Analysis: *1/4 This was a boring match. That’s not a surprise when Johnson was involved since he rarely had good matches. The finish was lame too. They were trying to push Johnson during this period, but they didn’t even give him a clean win here, which is a bit of a surprise.

After the match, Jarrett got to the back while Johnson ran to the back to get him. They showed replays of Jarrett’s intentional DQ finish with the guitar.

Diesel was interviewed by Todd Pettengill in the locker room. Diesel said he didn’t know what he was going to do next, but he’ll have the time of his life. Diesel talked about Shawn Michaels winning last year, Vader is a big guy that has to prove himself and Diesel said it looks like Big Daddy Cool time instead of Vader time. Diesel said he didn’t have a problem with The Undertaker, he just has a problem that he’s the number one contender and said that Bret Hart and Undertaker can’t match up to him.

Analysis: They were planting the seed of the Diesel feud with Undertaker. There will be on that later in the show.

The Bodydonnas entered led by their manager Sunny. She was easy on the eyes at this point in her life. She was very popular with the male audience, that’s for sure. Sunny did a promo about how Skip (Chris Candido) and Zip (Tom Prichard) were going to win the tag team titles. The Smoking Gunns entered as the champions to a decent pop.

WWF Tag Team Championships: The Smoking Gunns (Billy and Bart Gunn) vs. Bodydonnas (Skip and Zip) w/Sunny

Pre-match notes: Skip and Sunny were the heels although Sunny got cheered a lot because she was a gorgeous woman. The Smoking Gunns were billed as brothers, but they were not related at all. They were the babyface champions in their second reign as champions and they were about four months into this title reign.

Skip with a headscissors, Billy with a back body drop and Skip sent Billy over the top to the floor. Double back elbow by Bodydonnas on Billy, then Bart sent both Bodydonnas on the floor and Billy hit a sloppy looking dive onto the heels on the floor. Billy and Bart took turns working over Skip with punches. Sunny tried to distract the Gunns, she even did a booty shake and Bart worked over Zip with chops followed by a press slam. Skip got the blind tag with a running clothesline, Billy tagged and the Gunns hit a double clothesline into a slam similar to the Hart Foundation’s old finishing move. Sunny was on the apron, Skip was whipped into the ropes and Sunny bumped to the floor. Billy went to check on Sunny, so Skip and Zip attacked Billy. Skip hit a dive over onto Billy on the floor. Skip slammed Zip onto Billy for a two count. Zip also slammed Skip onto Billy for a two count. The heels double teamed Billy by sending him into the turnbuckle repeatedly followed by Zip slapping on a chinlock. Vince said that Sunny “was very impressive” and I think that’s a good way of putting it. Skip tagged in with a body slam, he actually slipped getting to the middle ropes and then he hit a fist drop for a two count. There was a double team flapjack by the Bodydonnas as the camera showed Sunny jumping around at ringside. Billy managed to get away from the heels leading to Bart getting the hot tag. Bart with punches, then a back body drop on Skip and a back elbow on Zip. Billy went into the ring where Zip hit a back body drop on Skip by accident, body slam on Zip and Billy went to the middle rope for the double team leg drop, but Sunny distracted the referee. Skip jumped off the top with a forearm to the back of Bart for a two count. The Bodydonnas did a double back body drop on Bart, but Billy saved his partner from a double suplex. Bart got a sloppy looking inside cradle on Skip for the pinfall win at 11:14 while Billy tackled Zip to prevent a save.

Winners by pinfall: The Smoking Gunns

Analysis: **1/2 The match was okay with the champs retaining because the Smoking Gunns were pushed the most during this period. The Bodydonnas worked well as a team that benefitted from having a manager. They did a good job utilizing Sunny at ringside for distraction purposes. The finish was a bit flat with Bart getting a weak looking pinfall to win. They should have booked a better finish there like when Billy hit the leg drop or something that was a bit more creative than this. Anyway, it was solid tag team wrestling.

They showed the Billionaire Ted “Wrasslin’ Warroom” videos featuring parodies of Ted Turner, Hulk Hogan (The Huckster), Randy Savage (Nacho Man) and Mean Gene Okerlund. Vince Russo was one of the guys in the office. It was promoting the New WWF Generation.

Analysis: It’s funny how in 1996 the WWF was mocking Hulk Hogan for being old, yet six years later they put the WWE Title on him. This was done because WCW was beating the WWF in the ratings, so WWF felt that by taking shots at WCW’s aging stars that it would lead to fans tuning into WWF more to see their current stars.

They showed a video about the Razor Ramon feud with Goldust. Razor was the champion while Goldust played mind games with him and Razor snapped leading to a vicious backstage attack on Raw.

Goldust made his entrance as the challenger. Goldust was joined by a gorgeous woman in a gold dress. Vince acted like he didn’t know who she was. It was the debut of Marlena, who was smoking a cigar on the way to the ring. The announcers did not have a name for Marlena yet. That became known on Raw.

Analysis: Goldust and Marlena, who was later known as Terri in the WWF, were married in real life at this point. They had a daughter together. They were divorced about three years after this.

Razor Ramon got a nice ovation as the Intercontinental Champion. The announcers put over how mad Razor was when he attacked Goldust on Raw. There were a lot of closeups of Marlena sitting on the director’s chair with an usher beside her.

Intercontinental Championship: Razor Ramon vs. Goldust (w/Marlena)

Pre-match notes: Razor was the babyface champion while Goldust was the heel challenger. Razor was the champion for about three months going into this match. It was Razor’s fourth and final reign as IC Champion.

There were a lot of mind games by Goldust early on as he touched himself repeatedly to make Razor feel uncomfortable. When Razor grabbed a headlock, Goldust rubbed his hands over his body to make him feel weird. They did it again when they locked up. Vince: “That was a little different.” It sure was. Goldust rubbed Razor’s hair, so Razor shoved him on his ass and Goldust came back with a hard slap to the face. Razor tripped Goldust up followed by slaps to the back of the head and Razor slapped his ass and punched him in the face. Goldust bailed to the floor, Razor chased after him, Goldust hid behind Marlena and then they went back into the ring where the guys exchanged holds until Razor decked him with another punch. Goldust did more stalling by going to the floor, then he went back into the ring and Razor hit a clothesline to knock Goldust out of the ring again. Razor moved Marlena out of the way, so Goldust drove Razor into the steps and into the side of the apron. Goldust with a punch to the face. Back in the ring, Goldust with a double axehandle to the back followed by a bulldog. Goldust with a belly to back slingshot suplex off the ropes for two. Marlena blew some gold dust into Razor’s eyes. Dustin sent Razor face first into the mat followed by a neckbreaker. Goldust slapped on a sleeper hold, which Razor sold for about one minute until he made his comeback with a low blow mule kick after Razor stood face to face with the referee against the turnbuckle. Both guys were down while the referee Tim White counted them down and Goldust covered for a two count. Razor hit a knee to the ribs followed by a Chokeslam and a fallaway slam for a two count. Goldust went up top for nothing as Razor tripped him up on the top to crotch Goldust. Razor gave Goldust a belly to back suplex off the top. Marlena went into the ring, acted like she hurt her ankle, which distracted referee Tim White and that allowed 1-2-3 Kid to sneak down to ringside, he went up top and Kid hit a spinning heel kick on Razor. Goldust covered Razor for the pinfall win at 14:17.

Winner by pinfall AND NEW Intercontinental Champion: Goldust

Analysis: ** The match was just decent and even boring at times with a lot of stalling by Goldust in order to get some heat. When they actually wrestled it wasn’t that bad, but it took a while to get going. The finish was cheap with 1-2-3 Kid costing Razor to build up that rivalry while also getting the title onto Goldust. There were a lot of reports about how Razor didn’t like working with Goldust and you could see it during the match.

Goldust was handed the Intercontinental Title by Marlena and they left together with the title. Razor was still down in the ring selling the attack.

Analysis: This was Goldust’s first IC Title win. He went on to hold the title three times in his career. There were plans to do Goldust vs. Razor at WrestleMania 12 as well, but that was changed because Razor didn’t like working with Goldust and Razor was leaving for WCW a few months after WrestleMania anyway.

There were comments from people about the Royal Rumble. It began with Shawn Michaels’ doctor Dr. Jeffrey Unger, who said Shawn Michaels was fine to compete. It was followed by wrestler promos from Owen Hart, Jake Roberts, Jerry Lawler, Barry Horowitz (yes!), Vader with Jim Cornette and Shawn Michaels looking to win it for the second year in a row.

The Royal Rumble match is usually the main event of the Royal Rumble PPV, but that wasn’t the case this year. The Rumble was up next.

30-Man Royal Rumble Match

The first entrant is Hunter Hearst Helmsley due to losing a match to Duke The Dumpster Droese in the Free For All match before the show. Droese gets the #30 spot. It would be the first Rumble where we’d get the wrestlers music on their way to the ring. We’re back to 2 minute intervals after the 1995 Rumble had 1 minute intervals.

We’ve got Hunter at #1 and his rival at the time, Henry O. Godwinn at #2. Hunter’s the snobby rich heel while Godwinn’s the babyface. There’s not a whole lot going on with these two. At #3 is the heel Bob Backlund with the “Hail to the Chief” theme song. I loved how crazy Backlund was at this point in his career. It was hilarious. Mr. Perfect tries to theorize that Backlund’s from Princeton University because he’s from Princeton, MN. Not exactly the same thing. Backlund gets close to eliminating Hunter, but he can’t do it. There’s Jerry Lawler at #4, who of course is a heel like usual. There’s a “Burger King” chant for Lawler, who gets Godwinn’s slop bucket. Lawler tries to slop him, but he can’t and all three heels bail to the floor and Godwinn dumps the slop onto Lawler. There’s a “Vince 4 Prez” sign in the crowd. It’s Bob Holly at #5, “start your engines” says Vince. What a brutal gimmick Sparky Plugg was. Not a lot happening.

At #6 is King Mabel, who was no longer a rapper. He was a heel here, after winning King of the Ring the year before and having one of the worst PPV main event matches ever versus Diesel at SummerSlam 1995. Vince marks out for Mabel’s because Vince loves the big guys. It’s Jake Roberts as a babyface at #7. This was his comeback attempt. He takes out the snake. It’s huge. Everybody bails. He puts the snake on Lawler, who freaks out. An attendant takes the snake away. We’ve had no eliminations to this point. Lawler’s still outside the ring while the other six guys go at it in the ring. There’s Dory Funk at #8. I looked it up and he’s 55 years old at this point. The roster was really thin in these days considering Vince had to call in Dory. That’s not a disrespect thing. It’s just that he’s not exactly spry at this point in his career. The crowd chants DDT. The camera shows Lawler hiding under the ring. It’s Yokozuna at #9. He’s a heel former WWF Champion. He throws Bob Backlund out rather quickly. Mabel splashes Yoko and Godwinn in the corner at the same time. Then he splashes Godwinn on the ground just for fun. Poor Godwinn. It’s the 1-2-3 Kid at #10, who you might know as X-Pac or Sean Waltman. Razor Ramon chases him because Kid cost him his IC title match earlier in the show. Kid’s too fast for Ramon, so he never gets his hands on him. Then they went out and got shitfaced after the match most likely.

The #11 entrant is “the Wildman from Japan” Omori as Vince calls him. I don’t remember this guy at all. There’s really nothing happening in this match. Lawler’s still under the ring. Roberts got Yoko down, which drew a pop. Here’s Savio Vega at #12, looking happy that he doesn’t have to be Kwang anymore. He takes Mabel down. Yoko dumps Mabel out. Omori gets eliminated by Roberts. Here’s a big threat to win at #13 Vader, who was making his WWF debut after they promoted him hard. I’m not joking about him being a threat. He was fresh in the WWF at this point because they signed him from WCW where he was a World Champion. He’s managed by Jim Cornette. Vega dumps out Funk. Vader hammers Vega with fists. I loved Vader’s punches. He was always a favorite of mine because he was believable as a badass big man wrestler. They never booked him perfectly in the WWF, though. It’s Doug Gilbert at #14!! I told you the roster was really thin. Roberts hits a DDT on Vega, but the camera doesn’t even show it. The crowd popped huge. Vader knocks out Roberts with a clothesline. There’s still no Lawler in the ring. He’s under the ring, we guess. It’s one of the Squat Team guys at #15. Who? Vince says he’s making his debut. He’s a very fat black man with face paint. He’s no Kamala, that’s for sure. You might know the Squat Team from ECW where they were known as The Headhunters. Vader hits a stiff chokeslam on Gilbert and then throws him out easily. Vader throws out the Squat team dude. In ring we’ve got six guys, plus Lawler out on the floor.

There’s the other Squat Team guy at #16. They’re identical twins, Vince tells us. They both get in the ring, going right at Vader. He fights them off with fists. He clotheslines him out of the ring. Yoko threw out a Squat Team guy. Yoko looks VERY tired. There’s Owen Hart at #17. He’ll be the best worker in the match as soon as he gets in there. Man, Yoko looks to be in really bad shape. He looks so tired just standing on the ropes. Vader whipped Yoko into Vega and then Vader splashed Vega in the corner too. Vader splashes Vega and Yoko legdrops him. Here’s Shawn Michaels at #18 to a huge pop. He’s a babyface here, coming back from the concussion storyline and the “Tell Me a Lie” video. Vader throws out Savio. Yoko starts brawling with Vader, which makes Jim Cornette angry because he manages both guys. The two big guys are teetering against the ropes, so Michaels grabs their legs and flips them out. Huge pop for that. Michaels eliminates Kid. There’s Hakushi at #19, who is a heel. Vader is pissed off, so he decks Yoko and goes back in the ring. Vader beats the hell out of Michaels. Vader press slams Michaels and throws him over the top to the floor. He does the same to Owen, Holly and HHH. In past (and future) Rumbles if a guy that got eliminated went back in the ring they were still able to eliminate people. In this case it was an angle to put over how dominant Vader was. They toss Vader out of the ringside area including WWF President Gorilla Monsoon. That was really well done in terms of establishing Vader as a new force in the WWF. Michaels flips Cornette over the top and we’ve got #20 Tatanka. There are six guys in the ring, plus Jerry Lawler also in the match. Hunter is close to eliminating Michaels. I wonder if those two would have good careers. They look like they have potential. Owen eliminates Hakushi.

Cue the terrible music as #21 Aldo Montoya (Justin Credible) enters. Perfect: “He’s got his jock on the wrong part of his body.” Vince: “I don’t know about that.” The mask looks like a jock. I guess Vince loved the gimmick. He’s the only one. Michaels takes a walk around the ring looking for Jerry Lawler. He finds him. No Hornswoggle yet, folks. Shawn throws Lawler back in. Tatanka eliminates Montoya and Michaels throws Lawler out. Here’s a threat at #22, Diesel aka Kevin Nash. Diesel throws out Tatanka right away. Diesel was the World Champ for most of 1995. He would leave for WCW four months after this. Diesel decks Michaels with a punch because he was turning heel around this time although as he entered here, he was still a babyface. It’s the “Supreme Fighting Machine” Kama at #23. You might remember him from such gimmicks as Papa Shango, The Godfather and The Goodfather as well. There are six guys in the right now: Michaels, Holly, Diesel, Kama, Owen and HHH. They had Diesel “inadvertently” hit Michaels. It’s STONE COLD! STONE COLD! STONE COLD! at #24. I almost marked out right there. No…sorry…it’s the “Ringmaster” Steve Austin. He’s a few months away from being Stone Cold. I’ll never understand why they gave him a mouthpiece like Ted Dibiase when he was always a strong talker. Thankfully he became Stone Cold soon after this. Austin eliminates Holly with a knee into the back. Barry Horowitz! Barry Horowitz! Barry Horowitz! The pat on the back! He’s in at #25 and his music in the “can-can” song. I love this man. For those that don’t know, Barry was a lifetime jobber who was in the WWF for a long time. They did an angle where he actually won a match over Skip and it got over pretty big. He also gave himself a pat on the back all the time. It was silly, but you had to love a lifelong jobber like Barry. Diesel launches HHH out. That was random. They had Hunter last the longest in the match at 48:01, but guess how many eliminations he officially had? Zero.

It’s Fatu (Rikishi) at #26 in his “man making a difference” gimmick. He was a babyface that was going to help the kids in the streets. It didn’t work very well. Barry Horowitz is still in there! “If Horowitz wins this match I quit,” says Perfect. He actually left soon after this for WCW! Owen tries to suplex Shawn out, but HBK hangs on. It’s KANE! No, Isaac Yankem at #27. The dentist music. Owen dumps out Horowitz. Yankem goes after Diesel, which is funny because after Diesel left they did a fake Diesel and he’s the one that played fake Diesel. Owen hits an enziguri to HBK and Shawn sells it like he’s hurt bad. It’s the same spot that hurt Michaels. They show a replay of that and while that happens Shawn & Diesel throw out Owen. Way to miss the elimination, director. Austin cheapshots Michaels and then he does the HBK flex pose. That was great. It’s Marty Jannetty, still coming out to the Rockers music, at #28. Michaels hangs on from a near elimination. Austin beats on Diesel and he taunts him too. Small pop for Michaels and Jannetty doing a double KO spot. It’s The British Bulldog at #29, who has the short hair here unlike the long hair from the year before when he was the runner up. He’s a heel now. Bulldog dumps out Jannetty. We’ve got 7 left. Yankem is still in there! Austin gets eliminated by Fatu although we never see it except in the background. It’s a preview of the angle where Rikishi runs him over in a car over 3 years later! Not exactly. Same two guys in different gimmicks, though. Perfect asks what happened to Ringmaster. Vince doesn’t know. Yankem eliminates Fatu. There are five men left with one more entrant, who is #30 Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. “Imagine that, a garbage man goes to WrestleMania to face the WWF Champion.” No Vince, nobody can imagine that. It’s a terrible gimmick. What the hell were you thinking?

Michaels and Bulldog go through the ropes. Owen Hart comes out to attack Michaels. This set up a match on the February PPV that was very good. Diesel saves Michaels from a Bulldog press slam and Michaels dropkicks Yankem out of the ring. Diesel and Kama eliminate Droese.

The final four are Diesel, Kama, Michaels and Bulldog. They pair off, Michaels avoids an elimination from Bulldog, slides under the ropes and clotheslines him out. Then Kama clubs Michaels in the back, but Shawn skins the cat back in. What a sequence from HBK there. He’s too good. Diesel shoves Kama out. Diesel is standing by the ropes, he turns around and Michaels superkicks him to send Diesel over the top. He’s out as Michaels is announced as the winner of the match.

Winner: Shawn Michaels

The match ended at 58:49.

FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS on the Royal Rumble match

– The lack of talent wasn’t very good here, but it was slightly ahead of the 1995 Rumble. Some of the guys were a major reach in terms of their inclusion in the match. You could tell they called some people in for one time appearances. That’s a sign of a ridiculously thin roster. It was not the best of times for the WWF. Things would get better, though.

– Much like the year before, Michaels’ talent is so far ahead of everybody else in this match. In the second half of his career the roster was much better. There’s no doubt about that. It makes me think about how good the first half of his career could have been with better opponents. He had a few, but not as many as you might think. This was his last Rumble appearance until 2003, by the way. See ya soon, HBK.

– They booked Vader really well. He was the star of the first half of the match. It would have been cool to see him last a little longer just because he’s a great talent, but I understand picking his spot with him. He’s one of the best big men wrestlers ever.

– Poor Yoko. In 1993 he was in pretty good shape for a guy his size. He was mobile and fresh. By this point he looked even bigger and was tired almost as soon as he got in the ring. He lasted another year or so, but he wasn’t the force he was during his initial push. And he would die four years after this.

– I think Barry Horowitz deserves a pat on the back for his performance.

FACTS & OPINIONS about the Royal Rumble

Person that lasted the longest: Hunter Hearst Helmsley at 48:01. He eliminated nobody!

Most Eliminations: Shawn Michaels with 8.

Best Performers (3): Shawn Michaels – Obvious choice because he was by far the biggest star of the match.

Vader – Great debut for him.

Diesel – There was a lack of star power in the match, but when he got in there he made a huge impact.

Best Elimination: Michaels dumping out Yokozuna and Vader at the same time was very impressive.

Match Rating: **1/2 It was not very exciting due to how obvious it was that Michaels was going to win. The stuff with Vader was pretty good and some of the Michaels/Diesel interaction. Other than that, it was just an average Royal Rumble match.

After the Royal Rumble match, Diesel was about to be interviewed by Dok Hendrix in the aisle. Diesel punched the British Bulldog to knock him down. Diesel went back into the ring as Michaels was teasing taking off his pants. It was a weird time for Michaels. Anyway, Diesel teased like he was going to punch Michaels, but then he held his hand in the air and Michaels gave him a high five like they used to do when they were tag team partners. Michaels went around the ring to celebrate the win with the fans. Diesel looked frustrated.

Analysis: This was all about building to Diesel’s heel turn because he was frustrated about the loss. It also led to an awesome match between Michaels and Diesel at the April 1996 “Good Friends, Better Enemies” PPV that was one of my favorite matches of that year.

It was main event time with The Undertaker making his entrance along with manager Paul Bearer. As Undertaker made his entrance, Diesel stood in the aisle as Vince reminded us that Undertaker and Diesel had words with eachother at their last PPV in December 1995. Undertaker and Diesel exchanged punches as officials tried to break it up. Diesel was escorted to the back as Undertaker made his way down to the ring. This was Undertaker with a mask on his face to protect a broken orbital bone injury he suffered several months earlier.

Analysis: The way they built to Undertaker vs. Diesel at WrestleMania 12 was really well done. It was a slow storyline that took months to develop.

Bret “Hitman” Hart made his entrance to a huge pop with the WWF Championship around his waist. The fans loved Bret as one of the biggest faces in the company.

WWF Championship: Bret Hart vs. The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer)

Pre-match notes: Bret was the babyface WWF Champion and Undertaker was also a babyface. Both guys were faces for most of the decade. Bret won the title two months earlier at Survivor Series 1995. As mentioned earlier, Undertaker had a protective mask on his face.

Undertaker was in control early as he worked over Hart with punches. Undertaker with a hard whip into the turnbuckle followed by a claw hold on the face. Undertaker held on this face palming move for like two minutes until Hart got to the ropes. Taker did his rope walking routine leading to the punch to the back of Hart. Taker slapped on the face palm claw move again, which killed the crowd a few minutes into this match. Hart came back with a clothesline, then another clothesline sending Taker over the top to the floor. Hart hit a dive over the top on Taker, who sat right up, caught Hart and Taker drove Hart back first into the ring post. Hart countered a slam on the floor by driving Taker into the ring post and then Taker came back with a boot to the face. Hart reversed a whip on the floor and sent Taker knee first into the steel steps. That was a huge bump by Taker. The referee Earl Hebner stopped his count, then went back in the ring to start counting again, so Bret draped Taker’s leg against the steps to work over the legs. Hart stretched Taker’s left leg and splashed on the left leg repeatedly. There was a “Bring Back the Warrior” sign in the crowd. They did and it failed miserably. Hart with an elbow drop to the left leg followed by a knee bar. Hart slapped on the Figure Four Leglock as Vince wondered if Undertaker would ever submit to a move. Taker reversed the hold and Hart grabbed the bottom rope to break the hold. Vince keeps saying “facial appliance” instead of mask because he must really like that term. Hart slapped on another knee bar submission that led to Taker powering out of it while Hart tried taking the mask off, but Taker punched him to stop it. Hart grounded Taker again with a leg lock as fans chanted “rest in peace” to support Taker and after about a minute of that, Taker broke free. Taker sent Hart out of the ring and choked him with a cable connected to a camera while Bearer distracted the referee. Taker whipped Hart into the small table that had the ring bell on it. Taker hit Hart in the ribs with a chair, which should be a DQ, but Vince told us that the referee was distracted by Bearer and then we could see it.

They went back into the ring with Hart kicking the leg of Taker to knock him down again. There were some boos for Bret as the announcers noted there were “mixed emotions” in the crowd. Hart rammed Taker’s left leg into the ring post two times as Vince pointed out the cheers and boos in the crowd. Hart slapped on another knee bar submission to ground Taker. When Taker got back up, he connected with a headbutt, leg drop and a clothesline leading to a mixed reaction. Taker punched Hart out of the ring. Hart choked Undertaker across the top rope, but then Taker kicked him in the ribs and Hart bounced off the ropes with a DDT for a two count. That looked good. Hart with the side Russian legsweep that he loved to do in every match followed by a running bulldog. Taker kept sitting up after every move, which drew cheers. Hart with a backbreaker followed by the diving elbow drop off the middle ropes. That sequence of moves were what Hart always did in this era. Taker blocked a Sharpshooter attempt with a choke, a knee to the ribs and they ran the ropes leading to a double clothesline spot to knock both guys down. Hart took off the top turnbuckle pad, which the referee didn’t see and Hart managed to take off the mask aka “facial appliance” that Vince kept saying. The referee tossed it out of the ring. Taker whipped Hart into a turnbuckle and then Hart sent Taker into the exposed turnbuckle two times, so the idea is it hurt more than normal because Undertaker had the facial injury. The fans booed that tactic by Hart. Hart charged at Taker, who caught him and Taker hit the Tombstone in the middle of the ring. Taker was slow to cover, which led to Diesel going down to the ring and pulling the referee out of the ring. Hebner called for the disqualification giving Undertaker the win at 28:31. Bret remains the champion.

Winner by disqualification: The Undertaker (Bret Hart retains the WWF Title)

Analysis: **1/2 This was a slow, methodical match that went too long and it wasn’t as good as you would think considering the wrestlers in the match. Hart was great in long matches with a lot of different opponents, but this match with Taker didn’t work that well. This first half of the match is bad, but they did pick up the pace and it improved by the end. I really liked the spot with the exposed turnbuckle, taking off the mask and the fans reacted to that in a big way. The ending hurts as well because it was a case of not wanting either guy to do the job, so they went with the cheap Diesel interference ending.

It was announced that Bret Hart was disqualified as a result of outside interference from Diesel, so the winner of the match was The Undertaker. However, the WWF Championship cannot change hands due to disqualification and Diesel smirked about it. Diesel gave Undertaker the middle finger and walked to the back.

The Undertaker left the ring to go after Diesel with Taker slowly moving since he was selling the left leg injury. Vince: “He was robbed of the WWF Title!”

Analysis: There’s the Diesel heel turn officially. The Diesel feud with Undertaker was furthered here with Diesel costing Undertaker, who the fans loved. That would lead to Undertaker costing Diesel the WWF Title at the February 1996 PPV and then it would lead to Undertaker vs. Diesel at WrestleMania 12.

Hart’s music played as the WWF Champion celebrated with the title in the middle of the ring while also greeting fans at ringside. That was the end of the main part of the show.

There was more to the broadcast as part of Royal Rumble Plus, which was part of the tape that they sold after the show.

The Royal Rumble Plus featured interviews with Gorilla Monsoon, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Diesel, Jim Cornette talking about Vader.

A video package aired showing highlights of the show. That was the end of the broadcast.

This event had a runtime of 2:49:02 on WWE Network.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Show rating (out of 10): 4

This was a below average show that was hurt by not having a standout match. The Rumble match was just decent with a predictable winner in Michaels and not a lot of exciting moments aside from a few things. I forgot how long that Hart/Taker match was, but it sure was boring for most of it.If you looked at this card on paper there might be some matches that don’t look bad, but they failed to deliver in the ring.

Best Match: Royal Rumble Match (**1/2 out of 5) – I had three matches with the same rating, so I picked the Rumble match as the best.

Worst Match: Ahmed Johnson vs. Jeff Jarrett (*1/4)

 

Five Stars Of The Show

  1. Shawn Michaels
  2. Bret Hart
  3. The Undertaker
  4. Vader
  5. Diesel

 

The previous WWE Royal Rumble PPV reviews are here:

1995 Royal Rumble (Won by Shawn Michaels)

1994 Royal Rumble (Won by Bret Hart and Lex Luger)

1993 Royal Rumble (Won by Yokozuna)

1992 Royal Rumble (Won by Ric Flair)

1991 Royal Rumble (Won by Hulk Hogan)

1990 Royal Rumble (Won by Hulk Hogan)

1989 Royal Rumble (Won by Big John Studd)

1988 Royal Rumble (Won by Hacksaw Jim Duggan)

Check out the WWE Royal Rumble review archive right here.

Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook

 

 

 

 

The post TJR WWE Royal Rumble Reviews: 1996 (Michaels Wins Again, Bret Hart vs. Undertaker) appeared first on TJR Wrestling.

The John Report: WWE NXT 01/15/20 Reaction

The WWE NXT Reaction column is back. I haven’t done it for a few weeks and I apologize for that. Life is hectic, but I feel like the best time for me to do it is Friday mornings after it gets uploaded to WWE Network on Thursday evening. As I’ve mentioned previously, the full two-hour edition of NXT is not on TV in Canada.

As a reminder, this is not a play by play review of the show. Instead, it’s more of a reaction that will include my star ratings for the matches as well as my analysis. It’s a big episode with two title matches, so let’s get to it.

Live from Full Sail University in Orlando, FL. Follow me on Twitter @johnreport. I am watching the WWE Network version of the show. Let’s roll.

The show began with a recap of last week’s show.

Let’s Hear from Keith Lee

A promo to start the show? What is this, Raw or Smackdown? I guess it’s okay to do it occasionally on NXT as well. Lee talked about how he was the number one contender for the NXT North American Title and he also talked about how Undisputed Era had a great 2019 because they hold every title. Lee said they had a great year out of everyone except maybe him. Lee said Undisputed Era has reached their limit while he is Limitless, which is his nickname.

There was a predictable interruption from The Undisputed Era foursome of Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish. They did a 4-on-1 attack on Lee with Strong hitting Lee in the knee with a chair, Cole hit the Last Shot knee and Strong stomped on a chair on the left ankle of Lee.

Tommaso Ciampa showed up for the save as he beat up some of the group while Cole ran away. Lee was selling the left ankle injury.

Analysis: Good heat segment that put over the Undisputed Era as a dominant heel group. It also weakened Lee going into his title match next week. I feel like it’s a good time for Lee to win the title, but if they want to move Lee to Raw or Smackdown then Strong will probably hold onto it.

It was officially announced that Finn Balor will face Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover Portland on February 16. That’s going to be amazing.

The announcers for the show were Mauro Ranallo and Beth Phoenix. There was no Nigel McGuinness this week after he worked the NXT UK Takeover Blackpool show and the tapings in the days that followed. Later in the show, Mauro said that Nigel was given some time for some R&R in his native England.

Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Tournament Quarterfinals: Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne defeated Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews

They are using the name The Broserweights for Riddle and Dunne, but I don’t know if that’s official yet. Webster and Andrews are a good babyface team from the NXT UK brand and they are former NXT UK Tag Team Champions.

The match started, then they went to a break about one minute in and the action picked up from there. Andrews was a flurry offense with kicks for everybody, then a bulldog into a DDT spot and a double team somersault dive by the Webster/Andrews tag team. Dunne got his chance to unleash his offense on Andrews and they did this great suplex into a Powerbomb spot followed by stereo kicks for a two count as Webster broke up the pin. That led to one of many “NXT” chants. Riddle got some nearfalls on Andrews with a German Suplex and a rising knee strike.

After Andrews was isolated for a few minutes, Webster was on fire with dropkicks on both guys followed by a somersault dive off the top onto Dunne and Riddle on the floor. Good nearfall for Webster/Andrews when they hit a knee strike/reverse rana combination for a two count. The fans chanted “tag team wrestling” for them as Andrews hit an amazing Tornado DDT on Dunne on the floor. Riddle with a Spear for both opponents followed by Webster countering a Jackhammer attempt with an inside cradle for two. Awesome nearfall. Dunne and Riddle hit a double team knee/kick to the head for two for another excellent two count in this match. They did this cool spot where Webster was pinning Riddle after a hurricanrana and then Dunne punched Andrews to have him land on both guys to break up the pin. Dunne blocked a DDT attempt by Andrews, but then Andrews hit a Stunner. Riddle took out Webster with Gotch Driver on the floor. Dunne took out Andrews with a forearm to the face to counter a Shooting Star Press move and Dunne/Riddle hit a double rising knee to the face of Andres for the pinfall win after 18 minutes.

Match Analysis: **** This was a great tag team match that was given a lot of time and was very competitive from the beginning. Since they are both babyface teams, this wasn’t one of those tags where there was a face in peril for a long time. They had an even match. I think it was the right call to have Dunne/Riddle get the win because they might be the team to win this tournament and also become a babyface tag team that can go for the titles. I’ve seen Andrews/Webster in other long matches like this and they always impress. These four guys worked well together. There is a lack of depth in terms of tag teams in NXT right now, so it wouldn’t be a bad thing to use Andrews/Webster more in the US instead of just the UK brand. They’re fun to watch.

The win by Riddle/Dunne means they will face Imperium in the semifinals in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament.

A clip aired from NXT UK Takeover Blackpool showing Undisputed Era’s attack on Imperium on Sunday. Those teams are having a match at Worlds Collide on January 25th.

Let’s Hear from Tommaso Ciampa

Ciampa did an in-ring promo as fans chanted “Daddy’s Home” for him. Ciampa listed Velveteen Dream, Imperium and Keith Lee as part of Undisputed Era’s hit list. Ciampa said that Adam Cole is on his hit list. Ciampa said he needed Goldie (NXT Title) back, so he is taking back his life. The Undisputed Era foursome went to the ring to attack Ciampa and they overwhelmed him due to the numbers game. That’s when Johnny Gargano showed up to save his former #DIY partner Ciampa. Gargano cleaned house with clotheslines, punches and Strong tried to bump over the top to the floor, but he couldn’t do it and went under the ropes. Ciampa with a DDT off the ropes on O’Reilly while Gargano hit a superkick on Fish. Gargano and Cole hit a double team kick/knee strike on Fish as fans chanted “DIY” for them. Gargano and Ciampa just stared at eachother as a sign of respect.

Analysis: This was good and the crowd loved it. What I like about it is they don’t waste time with boring promos that drag on too long. Ciampa spoke for about one minute when Undisputed Era showed up. It’s a better flow for the show where we don’t have to hear longer promos that are just there to kill time. That’s a problem on Raw most weeks and Smackdown sometimes. The obvious NXT Title match at NXT Takeover Portland is Cole vs. Ciampa, so this was just done to build to that. I’m sure Ciampa will win a #1 contenders match soon to earn the title shot.

Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Tournament Quarterfinals: Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson and James Drake) defeated The Time Splitters (Kushida and Alex Shelley)

It’s cool to see Shelley in the NXT ring. He has been a very good wrestler all around the world for a long time, so I’m glad he has found his way there. I hope he is in NXT regularly although it’s not known right now if he’s going to be back very often. Shelley is 36 years old, so he has many good years left in him. Kushida and Shelley teamed together in Japan for years. The Grizzled Young Veterans team are heels from the NXT UK brand. I’ve been really impressed by them, especially Gibson.

The heels worked over Shelley for a bit at the start, then Kushida helped his partner and they hit dives over the top onto the heels. Kushida got in some hard kicks on Gibson while also working on the left arm and a double suplex by the Time Splitters. The heels took over with some good double team moves including dropkicks and trips. That led to a break. Gibson and Drake were in control as they worked over Shelley as the face in peril. Kushida was on fire when he got the tag with a handspring back elbow on Gibson and an armdrag into a cross armbreaker submission, but Drake countered into a pin attempt. After Gibson went into the ring, Drake hit two kicks into a neckbreaker for a two count. Kushida fought off the heel with a headscissors, then a double knee strike by the faces and Shelly/Kushida hit a double team splash/moonsault for two as Gibson saved his partner. Kushida with a dropkick while Shelley held Gibson in place on the mat. The match turned when Kushida was on top, Gibson shoved him off the top and Drake/Gibson hit their Ticket to Mayhem double team move leading to Drake pinning Shelley for the win. It went 12 minutes.

Match Analysis: ***1/4 It was a pretty good tag team match. They worked hard, had a competitive match and built to the finish well. The big spot was Kushida getting shoved to the top, which led to Grizzled Young Veterans hitting their double team double knee finisher for the win. I was disappointed that the heels won. Perhaps that is what WWE’s creative team wanted us to feel, but I think the Time Splitters need to continue as a team and a win here would have been nice to see. It’s not a knock on Gibson/Drake at all. I just wanted to see more of the Time Splitters in this tournament.

After the match, Kushida and Shelley wanted a handshake. Gibson and Drake walked away saying they didn’t want to shake their hands while adding that they derailed this reunion tour on the first stop. Gibson said that Kushida and Shelley are a great team from the past, but they (the Grizzled Young Veterans) are going to win the Dusty Classic.

The semifinals of the Dusty Classic are Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Undisputed Era and Matt Riddle/Pete Dunne vs. Imperium. Both of those matches will take place next week.

Analysis: That means there are three heel teams plus Riddle/Dunne as the lone face team. The finals will likely be Riddle/Dunne vs. Undisputed Era and I’m going with Riddle/Dunne for the win. I would have liked to see Kushida/Shelley vs. Undisputed Era next week.

They showed a clip of Chelsea Green arriving with representative Robert Stone arriving to the arena earlier today. Stone said that Green is better than the best, so that’s why she’s not in the battle royal. They left in a car.

There was a promo from Finn Balor talking about Ilya Dragunov because they face eachother at Worlds Collide. Balor said “when you come at Finn, you better not miss” and said he’ll put him down.

Analysis: The “you better not miss” line is from one of my favorite HBO shows ever The Wire when Omar would say it, but Omar would say “When you come at the king, you best not miss.” I loved that show. Anyway, heel Finn is doing very well too.

The NXT Cruiserweight Champion Angel Garza joined the commentary team for the next match.

Isiah “Swerve” Scott defeated Tyler Breeze and Lio Rush

The winner of this match got to move on to the Fatal 4-Way match for the NXT Cruiserweight Title at Worlds Collide on January 25. The pace of this match was very quick as all three guys got in some offense while Garza said he didn’t care who won. Rush knocked Scott out of the ring, Rush was on the apron, he kicked Breeze and Rush did a backflip to avoid a dive by Scott. That was incredible followed by Rush hitting a headscissors on Scott on the floor. That led to a break.

When the match returned, they did a unique Tower of Doom Spot off the apron with Breeze doing a German Suplex on Scott, who gave Rush a suplex at the same time. That was cool. Breeze dominated from there with punches, a forearm, a clothesline and Rush hit a suicide dive on Breeze while Scott hit a twisting dive on Rush. Back in the ring, Rush hit a Spanish Fly splash on Scott for a two count while Garza said he wanted something different instead of facing Rush again. Breeze connected with supermodel kicks on both guys to give him some nearfalls. Rush go back into it using his incredible and a reverse rana, a suicide dive and a Final Four Frog Splash off the top on Scott for two because Breeze broke up the pin. That led to “NXT” chants. Breeze got knocked down after two kicks, but then he hit a Supermodel kick on Scott. Rush took down Breeze and hit the Final Hour Frog Splash on Breeze. Rush with a Come Up Stunner on Scott, Breeze came back with a spin kick and Scott hit the JML Driver on Breeze for the pinfall win. That move looks pretty dangerous, but he did it as safely as possible. This match went about 13 minutes.

Match Analysis: ***1/4 It was a very exciting, fast-paced match featuring three of the best cruiserweights in the company. I wouldn’t have had a problem with any of them winning because they’re all talented. It would be nice if Breeze was featured more (now that Fandango is out long term with an injury), but I can understand wanting to give Scott the win since he’s still new in NXT. Rush is a former champion, so maybe they felt like he didn’t need the win, but Rush was the most impressive guy in this match. I hope Rush gets used outside the cruiserweight division because he’s so skilled in the ring and he’s a good talker. There’s a lot of potential for Rush in NXT.

The win by Scott means he’ll be one of Angel Garza’s three opponents for the NXT Cruiserweight Title at Worlds Collide on January 25.

Rhea Ripley was interviewed by Cathy Kelly. She said she’ll beat Toni Storm at Worlds Collide and she’ll beat the battle royal winner at NXT Takeover Portland as well. Very basic promo.

Johnny Gargano was interviewed by Cathy Kelly outside the arena. Tommaso Ciampa walked up to talk to him as Cathy left. They mentioned tagging together against Moustache Mountain at Worlds Collide on January 25 and they agreed to it. The Undisputed Era group tried to go at Ciampa and Gargano, but security broke it up. Keith Lee showed up to go after Undisputed Era, then he tossed a security guy onto a car windshield and another guy onto a table. Lee wasn’t selling the ankle injury that much, so that was a bit odd.

Analysis: The Cole/Gargano match against Moustache Mountain at Worlds Collide will be amazing. I have high expectations for that match.

Next week on NXT:

* Roderick Strong vs. Keith Lee for the NXT North American Title

* Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Semifinals: Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne vs. Imperium

* Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Semifinals: Undisputed Era vs. Grizzled Young Veterans

The introductions took place for the women’s battle royal main event where the winner earned an NXT Women’s Title match at NXT Takeover Portland.

The order of entrances went like this: Candice LeRae, Mia Yim, Bianca Belair, Kacy Catanzaro (back in action after being off for a few months), Mercedes Martinez (recently signed a contract) and then there was a break.

When the show returned they showed the entrances of Io Shirai, Tegan Nox (back in action after she was attacked at WarGames in November) and then Shayna Baszler was last with Mauro Ranallo freaking out that she was in the match. The other women that were in the ring that made entrances during the break were: Shotzi Blackheart, Indi Hartwell, Catalina, Vanessa Borne, Kayden Carter, Santana Garrett, Io Shirai, Deonna Purrazzo, MJ Jenkins, Jessi Kamea and Xia Li.

Bianca Belair won the Women’s Battle Royal to Earn an NXT Women’s Title Match

This might be more of a play by play review since it’s a battle royal. There was a lot of standing around and attempts to dump people out of the ring without much happening for a few minutes. The first elimination happened when MJ Jenkins was trying to hang on, but Baszler ripped on her fingers and Jenkins was eliminated. Bianca Belair put Jessi Kamea over the top, but Kamea saved herself. Belair picked up Kamea again and dumped her over the top to eliminate her. Catalina got in some offense on Baszler with a dropkick, but when she tried a headscissors, Baszler dumped Catalina over the top to the floor. That looked like a painful bump. Baszler continued her dominance by knocking out Kayden Carter with a forearm. They went to break there.

When the match returned, Baszler knocked out Santana Garrett with a kick to the face. It was mentioned by the announcers that Indi Hartwell was eliminated and Mia Yim kicked Vanessa Borne out of the ring. Deonna Purrazzo was eliminated, then she hit a kick on Shotzi Blackheart on the floor. Baszler got rid of Xia Li after Li tried to get rid of Bianca Belair. Io Shirai eliminated Kacy Catanzaro, who had a few moments where she got to show off her athleticism and the fans chanted for Shirai even though she’s a heel. Belair with a press slam on LeRae, who managed to stay alive until Belair sent her to the apron and whipped her into the ring post. Great bump by Candice there. Martinez had an impressive elimination of Yim as she hit a suplex to send Yim out of the ring. Martinez and Baszler had slugfest with Martinez sending Baszler over the top to the apron, but then Baszler turned it around on her and dumped Martinez out.

The final four (or so we thought) were Shayna Baszler, Tegan Nox, Bianca Belair and Io Shirai. Nox got in some offense against the other three women with running forearms, running sentons against Belair and Baszler while Belair was able to hang on to avoid elimination. Nox gave Shirai a Chokeslam onto Baszler. Belair hit a spear on Baszler, Nox with a running knee on Belair, Shirai sent Nox to the apron and Dakota Kai showed up to pull Nox off the top rope, so that eliminated Nox. Kai threw a knee brace at Nox to continue that rivalry. Baszler was about to eliminate Shirai, so then Shotzi Blackheart went back into the ring to eliminate Baszler because Shotzi was not eliminated. Shirai and Belair were the last two with Shirai hitting the 619 kick, but then Belair came back with the fallaway slam. Belair and Shirai battled on the top rope, Shirai with a step-up enziguri, but then Belair pulled down the rope and Shirai went to the apron. They ended up back in the ring with Belair hitting a spear, but then Shirai hit a release German Suplex. Belair managed to get Shirai on her shoulders and gave her the KOD slam over the top to the floor. The battle royal went 23 minutes.

Match Analysis: **3/4 It was pretty good for a battle royal. I think booking a battle royal for nearly 20 minutes is too long, but they did give them the main event spot and treated it like a big deal, so I guess it’s okay to run that long. If they got about 12 minutes instead of 20 it probably would have been a better match because there was a lot of stalling early on. The last few minutes were great with Kai costing Nox the win, Blackheart getting the surprise elimination on Baszler and then the final two was fun with Shirai and Belair.

Belair celebrated the win that will mean she gets an NXT Women’s Title shot at the NXT Takeover Portland show on February 16. The current champ is Rhea Ripley, but Ripley has to get by Toni Storm at Worlds Collide on January 25 first. I expect Ripley to win both of those matches.

 

Three Stars of the Show

  1. Matt Riddle and Pete Dunne
  2. Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews
  3. Bianca Belair

 

Final Thoughts

I give this show a 7.25 out of 10.

There were only four matches in two hours which meant that everything got a lot of time. All four matches were over 12 minutes. I like to see that. They advanced a lot of the storylines well. Some of the bigger names in NXT weren’t in matches this week, so that hurt a bit and made it feel like a bit of a lesser show that was used to build to some bigger matches next week.

The five matches announced for Worlds Collide on January 25 are:

* Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish & Roderick Strong) vs. Imperium (Walter, Marcel Barthel, Fabian Aichner & Alexander Wolfe)

* DIY (Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano) vs. Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)

* Finn Balor vs. Ilja Dragunov

* NXT Women’s Title Match: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Toni Storm

* NXT Cruiserweight Title Fatal Four-Way Match: Angel Garza (c) vs. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. (Jordan Devlin or Ligero) vs. (The Brian Kendrick or Travis Banks)

The first two matches announced for NXT Takeover Portland on February 16 are:

* Johnny Gargano vs. Finn Balor

* NXT Women’s Championship: Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Bianca Belair

There will likely be at least five matches on the card because that’s what most Takeover events have.

Thanks for reading. My contact info is below.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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