Hogan/Andre ain’t Savage/Steamboat, but it ain’t half-bad

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“What are they gonna think when the Giant hits the ground, he feels the wrath of Hulkamania, and the whole world shakes at my feet?”

Wrestlemania III is mostly remembered for three things: The massive crowd of (allegedly) 90,000-plus, the classic match between Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Macho Man Randy Savage, and the main event pitting the world heavyweight champion Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant.

Because Steamboat/Savage was so good, and for a long time was considered the greatest match in the history of Wrestlemania, many people over the years have said it overshadowed the main event. Hogan/Andre got people in the building and watching at home, but Steamboat/Savage was what they were talking about the next day.

Now, yes, Savage/Steamboat is legendary. ESPN recently did an oral history on it, and another recent oral history by The Detroit News on the overall event features this great quote from Steamboat:

I get it when I’m sitting in a restaurant. I get it when I’m filling up gas. They’ll come up to me and say, ‘Aren’t you Ricky Steamboat? Man, I remember watching you as a kid. Man, that match with you and Savage, oh my God.’ It’s everywhere I go. And it’s never boring, it’s very enlightening, and we never knew it was going to be this way years later. We were just going for the night.”

But while I’d of course say Savage/Steamboat was the match of the night, Hogan/Andre also rules.

Savage/Steamboat was a match about payback. Savage had months earlier crushed Steamboat’s throat with a ring bell, and Steamboat returned for vengeance (and a chance to win the Intercontinental title). Hogan/Andre, however, had been friends, with Andre pouring champagne over Hogan’s head while celebrating after Hogan beat Iron Sheik for his first heavyweight title. Their friendship came to an end when Bobby “The Brain” Heenan — also known as “the weasel” — became Andre’s manager and convinced him that Hogan was avoiding giving him a title shot. This culminated in an appearance on “Piper’s Pit” where — after Hogan first denied him a match — Andre ripped the shirt (and crucifix) off Hogan’s chest. Piper then again asked Hogan if he’d take on the Giant, and Hogan screamed “Yessssssssssssss!” in a terrifying manner:

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The match itself. I did this for my post on Piper-Hart from Wrestlemania VIII, so I’m going to do it again:

Andre entrance: Boos, flying trash. So much flying trash. Jesse the Body running off the tale of the tape on both wrestlers. “The irresistible force meeting the immovable object.”

Hogan immediately Hulks up. Andre stone faced. Hogan goes for the slam, falls backward, and Andre just misses a three-count. Andre slams Hogan, who was always great at immediately going from looking like the most powerful wrestler on the planet to being in utter agony. Andre taunting him to get up, slams him again, puts a foot on his lower back and walks over him. Taunts the crowd: “What do you think of your champion now?” Smothering Hogan in the corner. Heenan asks for a headbutt; Andre delivers.

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Hogan avoids another headbutt, goes back on the attack with a few punches, elbows and chops. Starts slamming Andre into the turnbuckle. Momentum shift, until Hogan runs in for a clothesline and Andre boots him right in the face. Chop, bearhug. Bearhug continues. Bearhug … continues (although crowd is popping the entire time). Ref checks if Hogan has passed out. Arm goes down once … twice … three, NO! Hogan briefly takes charge before Andre boots him to the outside of the ring.

Outside of the ring, two of my favorite parts of this match happen. One, Andre goes for a headbutt, but Hogan ducks. Now, Andre apparently headbutts the ring post, but it used to be so obvious that he just headbutted his hands that they have since added a new angle that doesn’t make it so blatant. Two, after this, Hogan pulls up the ring mats, exposing the concrete, and goes for a … piledriver. Piledriving Andre the Giant would probably be harder than piledriving an SUV at this point:

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After the failed piledriver, Andre throws Hogan back into the ring and goes for a big boot. Hogan ducks and knocks him down with a clothesline. Hogan hulks up again. Andre staggers to his feet. “We’re seeing what this guy is really made of, what he is: The greatest professional athlete in the world today.” Hogan slam. POP OF ALL POPS. Leg drop. 1, 2, 3.

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If you have a match between an irresistible force and an immovable object that ends with the former body slamming/leg dropping the latter, you’ve had a classic encounter.

“I never thought it could be done, Gorilla!”

“Neither did these 93,000-plus! As the world’s heavyweight champion, Hulk Hogan, has proven to everyone what he’s made of.

“This has been a happening, Jess.”

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Brian Cougar

Hogan/Andre ain’t Savage/Steamboat, but it ain’t half-bad

The Patriots Fan

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Today is Super Bowl LI. Patriots vs. Falcons. LADY GAGA! What follows is a detailed position-by-position breakdown of both teams, a look at potential X-factors, plus an oral history of Deflategate. Wait, no it isn’t.

Back in 2012, I decided to move to Boston after six years living in Hoboken, N.J. Well, less decided to move there and more ended up moving there since I didn’t find myself a new place in the Hoboken/NYC area despite the fact that my roommate at the time had given me a year’s notice that he was planning to shack up with his now-wife. (I think that was around the time I watched the entirety of the TV show “Lost” — 121 episodes! — in a 3-month span on Netflix, which, looking back, might not have been a great period of time for me mental-health wise.)

Anyway, it was 2012 and I was living in the Allston area of Boston with my older brother Jim. Just a few blocks from my apartment was the Sil (aka the Silhouette Lounge), a bar I would occasionally often frequent. One Sunday, I headed over after work to watch the second half of the Patriots game. I was by myself, so I took a seat, ordered a PBR tall-boy and settled in for an enjoyable late-afternoon of NFL football.

Sitting next to me was a 30-something dude in a Tom Brady jersey. Now, I am generally not one to strike up conversation with strangers, but during a sporting event at a bar, conversations with strangers are hard to avoid. At some point late in the third quarter, Brady threw for a TD, and the guy said something like, “Sick fucking pass!” then looked over at me; so I was obliged to kind of nod and halfheartedly agree: “Yep, fucking sick pass, man. NEVER COUNT OUT TOUCHDOWN TOM.” He, also sitting by himself, decided we were now friends and were going to have a nice chat.

So he tells me why Brady’s god and why Gronk’s the man and I tell him I’m from New York so he bitches about the Giants and how Eli’s not elite despite the fact that I inform him I’m a dreaded Cowboys/Yankees fan. I also realize he is super high on life. Then he shuts up for a bit before saying, “I’m a hardcore fan. Once it’s half-time, I’m heading home so I can fully lock in on the end of the game.”

“What?” I replied.

“Can’t have any distractions for the second half,” he said.

I paused, to make sure I heard him correctly. Looked up at the TV, to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. Then said:

“There is legit 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter.”

He stared at me for a few seconds, collected his things, exited the bar, and I never saw him again during my four years in Boston.

Brian Cougar

The Patriots Fan

You can’t see me: Why is WWE downplaying ties to President Trump?

Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States; Donald Trump, WWE Hall of Famer; Donald Trump, one-time recipient of a Stone Cold Stunner.

Trump has a superstar bio on wwe.com that mentions the fact that he’s our current president:

“From captivating billionaire to reality TV star, from WWE Hall of Famer to the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump has truly done it all.

“… After trading in his favorite television catchphrase “You’re fired!” for a national promise to “Make America Great Again,” Donald Trump won his first presidential campaign against key contender Hillary Clinton and officially took the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2017, to become the 45th President of the United States — the first time in history a WWE Hall of Famer would ever hold the distinguished title of U.S. Commander-in-Chief.”

But other than that, WWE hasn’t really played up the fact that someone who has hosted a pair of Wrestlemanias, took part in a “Battle of the Billionaires” with WWE chairman Vince McMahon and once briefly “owned” RAW is now leader of the friggin’ free world. It’s possible they have, but — outside of his updated bio on wwe.com — I don’t think they’ve mentioned it on their website, Twitter, Monday Night RAW or the WWE Network.

Trump and Vince McMahon are, as far as I can tell, friends. Linda McMahon, the former chief executive officer of WWE, was tapped by Trump, and approved, to lead the Small Business Administration (she and Vince also donated money to support Trump’s campaign). Stephanie McMahon, WWE chief brand officer, and her husband, Paul “HHH” Levesque, WWE executive vice president, talent, live events & creative, attended the inauguration (although note that Stephanie doesn’t mention Trump by name in the caption for the photo).

Also, it’s not like WWE hasn’t mixed politics with wrestling before. A Bill Clinton impersonator was at Wrestlemania X. Gennifer Flowers, who allegedly had an affair with Bill Clinton, interviewed the Rock at Wrestlemania XIV (an interview that, according to wwe.com, “marked the first time the People’s Champ uttered his famous catch phrase, ‘If you smell what The Rock is cooking.'”).  In 2008, Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton responded to WWE’s Smackdown Your Vote! campaign.

So why … WHY … has WWE downplayed the Trump connection? Did Trump ask them to? Does WWE think mentioning him will anger a significant portion of their fanbase? Or is it that Trump’s America doesn’t jive with that of John Cena’s?

I’m not sure. But the American people/WWE Universe demand answers.

Brian Cougar

You can’t see me: Why is WWE downplaying ties to President Trump?

An inspiring political tale

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During the Summer of Starvation in 2004, I was living alone at the off-campus home I would eventually share with 10 other mutants for my final year at the University of Scranton. One morning, a day off from my job as a sometimes — but not always — competent beer deliveryman, I was awoken by the sound of a person knocking on the front door.

I assumed it was my landlord Al, a generally nice enough guy who had soured on me a week or so earlier when I randomly decided one day to paint the white walls of my room barnyard red. I still forget why, exactly, I decided to do this — my explanation when people asked was that the final product was supposed to feature a mural of the Yalta Conference — but, whatever my reasons, he did not approve, and left me an expletive-laden voicemail (“I almost shit a fuckin’ brick”) expressing his disapproval. We had since moved past this unfortunate episode, but the relationship was never the same.

Anyway, it wasn’t Al waiting for me when I slowly crawled off my sad air mattress and opened the door, but an older woman holding a clipboard. She greeted me with a question I was not expecting:

“Who has your vote for president in the upcoming election?”

Now, as a mostly oblivious 20-year-old white college dude at the time, I was — shock of all shocks — not the most politically  engaged human being. I did, however, have an answer I thought was 100% going to get this lady to leave and allow me to crawl back onto my sad air mattress to sleep for a few more hours:

“Oh, George W. Bush. Definitely.”

Instead of an awkward pause and then, “Oh.” Or a shaking of her head and a “Tsk, tsk.” She said: “Splendid! And have you registered to vote?”

Foiled!

“No …”

She handed me the registration form, saying if I filled it out, she’d mail it and I’d be set. Since I knew I was certainly too lazy to mail it out myself, I did. I gave it back to her.

“Under party affiliation, you put Independent.”

“Yes.”

“But you said you were going to vote for Bush.”

“I said if I had to vote right now I’d vote for Bush. It’s July.”

“Oh.” Awkward pause. (Where was this five minutes ago!) “OK.”

As she walked off my porch and down Clay Ave., I was convinced that form was going right into the nearest trash can. But a few weeks later, my registration card showed up. And that November, I voted.

What I’m trying to say on this, the day of our 2016 presidential election, is: Painting a mural of the Yalta Conference on your bedroom wall is a great idea, and I think everyone should do it.

Brian Cougar

 

 

 

 

 

An inspiring political tale

THE WEDDING SPEECH

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Me, preparing for my speech

Two weeks ago today (bah gawd, it’s already been that long), my younger brother, Kevin, and his longtime (and some would say long-suffering) girlfriend, Blair, got married. It was a wonderful day that featured the groomsmen wearing American flag socks, the groom wearing Abraham Lincoln socks, and the priest using a yoke (yes, the kind used for OXEN) as a prop during the wedding ceremony. Several people drank beer out of a plastic flamingo (not at the mass … I don’t think).

Also, I, as one of the two best men, had to give a SPEECH.

When Kevin and Blair got engaged in May 2015, I was like, “Hell yes, I get to do a speech.” But then, the Monday before the wedding, I was like, “Shit, I need to do a speech.”

I have limited experience as a public speaker. In high school, I was a lector at both my school and local church, despite my tendency to mumble all the time. I took a public speaking class in college, and my first assignment went really well, although my teacher bumped the grade from an A to a B- because I wore a Hooters T-shirt during it (even after my friend Dan assured her that it was in fact the nicest shirt I owned at the time). My second assignment in that class, about why music education should be taught at all schools, didn’t go as well because I decided to wing it and at one point started air guitaring an Eddie Van Halen solo for reasons I still don’t understand.

But for the wedding speech, there would be no winging it. I’ve been to a bunch of weddings the past few years, and I’ve seen the danger in not being prepared. Few best men or maids of honor can pull it off. A few too many drinks, plus nerves = disaster. Stories that have no payoff, past lives that should never be shared.

And I had the added pressure that the other best man was my older brother, Jim. Now, not to inflate an ego that is already inflated to max capacity, but Jim’s — excuse me, Dr. Jim’s — speech was HIGHLY ANTICIPATED. I was but the Netflix original series “Bloodline,” while he was “Game of Thrones” (this analogy makes no sense).

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Jim (shirtless) post-speech.

Either way, here is the final draft of the speech I made that day. I didn’t use the original JAWS opening, since I thought it might land with a giant thud and my lovely Aunt Anne demanded/bribed me into mentioning her, with my Uncle Tim recommending that I just thank her immediately for allowing me the opportunity to speak that day (a great call). Also, I would like to recognize my former roommate Dan for literally laughing at anything I said. While mine seemed to be well received, I will also admit that Jim’s lived up to the hype/was superior (I’d include the transcript of his but he wrote it on index cards like some valedictorian from the 1990s):

“Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin’ bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go.”

You said I could just do the speech from JAWS, right? No? Well then you shouldn’t have gotten married during Shark Week.

Let’s try this again.

The Kevin-Blair nuptials, much like the Jets winning another Super Bowl, is something many in the McGrath family have been waiting for for a long time. It’s also the only one of those two scenarios that actually had a realistic chance of happening in our lifetime.

(Pause for applause)

With this couple, you have one person who is kind, courteous, gracious — some would say saintly. You also have a person who once told Conrad Michael, a customer service rep for Spirit Airlines, that “If I was your boss, I would fire you.”

I will leave it to you, the dearly beloved who are gathered here today, to figure out which one is which.

I kid, Kevin, I kid. I’ve known Kevin his whole life. Outside of the weird voice he uses when he talks to waiters, I can’t think of a negative thing about him.

Sometimes when Jim and I are out at a bar in Boston, when not discussing pro wrestling or chemtrails, we’ll mention we have a younger brother. The first reaction to that is usually, “My God, there’s another one of you out there?”  The follow-up to that is generally, “But is he like the two of you?”

And we’ll respond, “Yeahhhhh … but he’s a lot more successful. And likeable. And at one point he was clearly the most athletic … although I think the result of the rubber match of this year’s Brooklyn half-marathon — note, I won — plus Jim’s Greek god-like physique that will be on display later when he inevitably takes his shirt off, show those days are in the past.

And Blair … her first nickname in this family, courtesy of my late, great Aunt Kathy, was the Blair Witch. Now, Kathy didn’t mean anything negative by this — I think — but since then, Blair has been given a new, more fitting nickname: Saint Blair. Any woman who would date (hello, Alissa), let alone marry a McGrath is deserving of sainthood.

Besides dating Kevin all these years, she has tolerated the three McGrath brothers together — our loudness, our horrendous smell, the fact that we consider hot dogs an appetizer and not a meal — countless times, and generally with good humor. Although she did send Jim and I a text message recently that read simply: “I will murder you both.”

I love the two of you, and I wish you nothing but the best.
That’s my speech.

Brian Cougar

THE WEDDING SPEECH

The match no one wanted: Is Shane/Undertaker the new Bret/Vince?

 

In 2010, Bret Hart returned to RAW for the first time since the infamous Montreal Screw Job in 1997. People were pumped. He called out his longtime nemesis, Shawn Michaels, and the two hugged, putting years of bitterness behind them. It was a nice moment, despite Hart’s decision to wear jean shorts.

Then Hart called out his other longtime nemesis, Vince McMahon. The two also appeared to reconcile, but McMahon ruined the feel-good story by kicking Hart in the balls, kick-starting (#fireable) a feud for a Wrestlemania match.

I and many others were happy to see Hart once again involved with WWE, but I and many others also had no interest in seeing him go one on one with McMahon inside the squared circle. Hart, one of the greatest in-ring wrestlers of all time, was limited physically as the result of a stroke he suffered years earlier. McMahon, one of the great wrestling characters of all time, was limited physically by being a man in his mid-60s.

The feud was weird: McMahon refused to accept Hart’s challenge, then Hart was hit by a car, then McMahon changed his mind since Hart had a broken leg as a result of the accident, then Hart revealed that he faked the car accident and actually didn’t break his leg after Vince signed the contract. Actually, what am I saying: that’s a perfectly acceptable pro wrestling feud. But the whole thing felt off.

The match itself was … not good. And I was in the building for it! My first Wrestlemania (I’ve since been to two others, no big deal). I expected it to go for about five minutes, with Hart quickly dispatching of McMahon with the sharpshooter. Instead, it went for like 15 minutes, with Hart’s extended, dysfunctional family first coming out as though they had aligned with McMahon, then immediately turning on him and siding with Bret. The entire family basically destroyed McMahon who — while not the most sympathetic character in the world — was still an old man being pummeled.

The highlight of the match was McMahon finding a crowbar and yet somehow becoming less powerful with it, flailing aimlessly. Eventually, after teasing it about six times, Hart finally put McMahon in the sharpshooter and won the match.

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The reason I bring this up, other than the fact that this MLBlog hasn’t been updated in months and I’m bored, is the current match that appears to be slotted for the main event of this year’s Wrestlemania: Shane McMahon vs. the Undertaker in Hell in a Cell.

A few weeks ago, Shane McMahon returned to RAW for the first time in years (he has been pursuing another career outside of the WWE) to confront his dad, Vince, and his sister, Stephanie. I wasn’t watching, but my brother @poolhalljames sent me a text that said “SHANE O MAC!!!” People, myself included, were pumped. Then he sent me another text that said “He’s fighting Undertaker at Mania.” People, myself included, were puzzled. It’s great that Shane is back with WWE, but why the hell has he returned to wrestle, of all people, the Undertaker?

Now, there are some legit reasons this match is happening. WWE’s roster at the moment is decimated by injuries, with John Cena, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan (who had to retire due to concussions), Sting and Seth Rollins, among others, sidelined. And they’re holding Wrestlemania 32 at Cowboys Stadium, which means they need plenty of star power to get 90,000-plus people in the building. Also, I guess Naked Mideon is busy, as I would’ve personally gone with him vs. the Undertaker over Shane.

But, so far, this feud, like the one between Hart/Vince, has felt off. The stipulation for the match is, if Shane wins, he gets control of RAW. Why would Undertaker, a guy who shows up about five times a year at this point, care who controls RAW? No idea.

It seems at first they wanted people to just accept that Vince is the boss, and Undertaker doesn’t particularly have any reason to not beat up Shane, so he was fine doing it. But that didn’t really track. They then had Shane call Undertaker a “bitch,” which — someone calling another person a bitch has certainly fueled plenty of fights in human history — but I’m not sure if that’s enough for the main event of the Showcase of the Immortals. Last night, Vince announced that if Undertaker loses, he will never wrestle at Wrestlemania again. I kind of feel like that one won’t stick.

And, in the most egregious part of this feud so far, Vince called Shane the Undertaker’s most formidable Wrestlemania opponent of all time.

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All that being said, the match could end up being amazing. Shane, despite being a not-overly-intimidating-looking 46-year-old, is a maniac; the Undertaker, despite now resembling Frasier, is a legend; and I, despite being a super smart person, am often wrong, as last year’s Wrestlemania proved.

But it definitely won’t be as good as Asuka/Bayley.

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Brian Cougar

The match no one wanted: Is Shane/Undertaker the new Bret/Vince?

I will keep posting on Facebook

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Kevin McHarvey

Hoboken Bureau Chief

You’ve heard about the 180 facebook comments/posts cap. That seems to be a number that will allow me to keep posting for the foreseeable future. Regardless of the numbers, I hope everyone knows: I have always wanted to post. I have always wanted to comment every single chance I get.

Especially in regards to the Mets’ push for their first postseason appearance since 2006.

Right now, the Mets are hunkered down in a fight to make the postseason. All of their efforts are focused on that task. As a fan, I understand there’s still a lot of baseball left to play. The chances that the Mets blow their shot at the postseason are very high. This is an incredibly nerve-wracking time to be a Mets fan, as they have let me down my entire life.

As a fan of the Mets, when your brother, who recently became a doctor — not the medical kind, the “Excuse me, that’s Dr. Jim McGrath” kind — explains to you that there’s a very good chance this season will end in heartbreak, that can be alarming. You listen. I love to watch the Mets and love when they win even more. I would not give up the Mets winning for anything. OK, I would maybe give it up if it meant the Jets winning. Or the Rangers. Or me winning the lotto. Either way, if the Mets somehow make the postseason, I will be watching. And posting about it on Facebook.

I understand the risks. I am also fully aware that this could all end with David Wright taking a called strike three. Actually, that’s probably the likely scenario. Although maybe Bartolo Colon picks up the win in Game 7 of the World Series. That’d be pretty chill.

Once — please God, Once — the Mets are there, I will be there … commenting.

— Kevin McHarvey

Hoboken Bureau Chief

I will keep posting on Facebook