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.

Sad Hogan

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

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

Riot in the Streets: The WWE promo video to rule them all

Something WWE does better than all other professional sports (I said this in the Macho Man post, and I’ll say it again: On this MLBlog, pro wrestling is considered a professional sport — on par with the XFL and all those other, lesser ones) is promo/highlight videos. WWE fans complain about plenty (Vince McMahon is out of touch, LOLCenawins, the fact that Naked Mideon is no longer employed by the company), but when it comes to these prematch and recap videos, I think pretty much everyone agrees that they’re consistently great.

Here are three of the best:

Wrestlemania XVII: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. the Rock

“I need to beat you, Rock. I need it more than anything you could ever imagine.” — Austin

This Wrestlemania is considered by many to be the best, and the main event was Austin, the challenger, vs. the Rock, the champion. The two biggest stars of the Attitude Era main eventing Wrestlemania for the second time, and this one took place at the Astrodome, which is located in Austin’s home state of Texas.

When the two wrestled in the main event of Wrestlemania XV, Austin was the clear fan favorite going against bad-guy Rock, who was Vince McMahon’s “Corporate champion.” At XVII, Austin was still the top guy, but Rock was not far behind with his millions (AND MILLIONS) of fans.

The video sells the importance of the heavyweight title better than WWE probably has done since, and Austin’s desperation to reclaim it is clear by the line I’ve quoted above (he would *SPOILER* turn to the darkside and align himself with McMahon to win this match). The soundtrack for this video is the song “My Way” by Limp Bizkit. And while I know everyone — even the people who loved them back in the late 1990s/early 2000s — hates that band now, it was a most #hireable choice.

Money in the Bank 2011: CM Punk vs. John Cena

“Do I have everybody’s attention now?” — Punk

This is the PPV after Punk delivered his famous “Pipebomb promo” and went from being a star to a superstar.

Punk was the No. 1 contender, and his contract with WWE was (I’m pretty sure legit) coming to an end. He hadn’t signed a new deal yet, and guaranteed he would win the title — in his home state of Illinois, no less — and then leave the WWE with it.

Punk was angry about the fact that even though he believed he was “Best in the World” and should be face of the company, the WWE — run by Vince, his “idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law” (Stephanie McMahon and HHH) — wanted to keep him down so that Cena (Hustle, Loyalty, Respect) would continue being the top guy.

The video, which repeats the line quoted above several times, does a great job of showing how different the two wrestlers are and how outrageously self-righteous/entertaining Punk was at this point. Sadly, no Limp Bizkit this time, although Cena (from West Newbury, Mass.) finally snapping and punching Punk after Punk compares him to the Yankees will always crack me up.

Wrestlemania XXVI: Shawn Michaels vs. the Undertaker

“You willing to throw DX away?!” — HHH

At Wrestlemania XXV, the Undertaker and Michaels had one of the best, if not the best, Wrestlemania matches of all time. A year later, there was talk that they were going to have a rematch. At first, I didn’t think this was a good idea — How could they top the last one? But after seeing this video on an episode of Monday Night RAW, I was on board.

Michaels had challenged Undertaker to fight him again at Mania XXVI, but the Dead Man just kept going, “Nope.” So Michaels became obsessed to the point that he was attacking his friends, refs and screwing up in all his matches. This led to that HHH quote above, which does not best represent the feud but always kills me due to how sincere and sad HHH sounded, as if Michaels was letting down some noble institution and not a group most known for its catchphrase, “Suck it!”

Eventually, Michaels gets Undertaker angry enough that he grants the rematch — but only if Michaels puts his career on the line. The soundtrack for this video is “Running Up That Hill” by Placebo (a cover of a Kate Bush song) and it is a friggin’ perfect choice. The match itself — which I saw LIVE at my first Wrasslemania — was not as great as the first one, but still very good, and it features the legendary LEAPING TOMBSTONE.

Now, those are three of the best, but I’ve recently discovered one that possibly tops them all: The Best of 1985 highlight video, featuring the song “Riot In the Streets.”

Saturday Night’s Main Event used to air occasionally on NBC in the 1980s and early ’90s (they also brought it back a few times in the 2000s) when SNL was on break. The WWE Network added the entire SNME library over the summer, and since I’d only seen clips of the show before, it was a chance to see new matches/angles/interviews involving childhood favorites like Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and the Macho Man. The episodes are quite ridiculous/entertaining, and one of the more ridiculous/entertaining things is the Best of 1985 video package (here’s the link to the episode on WWE Network — the clip starts around the 42-minute mark).

It’s introduced by these two maniacs:

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And while the video itself is just random clips from the past year, “Riot in the Streets” sounds like it was written by someone who listened to the Rocky IV soundtrack on repeat until it drove them insane. Lyrics below:

They do all their talking with a gun

They’ll shoot them as fast as they come

Well a million new voices will be found

Their heads are held up high, the braver ones

There’s more than a wall that must come down

Before their flag is raised again!

 

Someday, the regime will end

The wheels turn, and we must defend

 

Chorus:

Cause there’s a riot in the streets

Hiding in the dark

Waiting for the light of day

When they call out their warning

We can hear what they say

Cause there’s a riot in the streets

There’s a riot in the streets

 

We’ve seen frontiers vanish overnight

Some have come down without a fight

But absolute power will soon be gone

We have the strength to carry on!

 

One of the challenges of democracy

How will we be seen by history?

(Chorus)

The video is followed by a “Peace Match” between Nikolai Volkoff, who sings the national anthem of the Soviet Union after entering the ring, and Corporal Kirchner, a former army paratrooper. Volkoff wins. USSR! USSR!

Cause there’s a riot in the streets.

** UPDATE **

Commenter mentioned that “Riot in the Streets” might have replaced the original song, and he/she is CORRECT. The original airing features Billy Ocean’s “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” which fits the video much better, especially the goofy/light-hearted parts. I still consider the “Riot in the Streets” version to be superior, mostly because I wrote this whole friggin’ post about it.

Brian Cougar

Riot in the Streets: The WWE promo video to rule them all

The WWE Hall of Fame beckons the Macho Man! (finally)

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(Photo courtesy of WWE.com)

“East of the Pacific Ocean, west of London, England, south of Mars and north of hell!” — location of the Danger Zone, according to Macho Man Randy Savage.

Macho Man Randy Savage is, in the opinion of myself and many others, the greatest professional wrestler of all time. He was tremendous in the ring, had amazing charisma, performed god-like promos and was part of several classic matches.

His match with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at Wrestlemania III is arguably the best match in the history of the “Showcase of the Immortals” (Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker at Mania 25 and Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13 are two of the others in the conversation). He’s one of a group of wrestlers (with Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Austin, the Rock, Undertaker, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Hart, John Cena, maybe a few others) who’s well-known by people who don’t follow pro wrestling. And, on Monday, it was finally announced that he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Now, unlike the Hall of Fame of other pro sports (yes, damnit, for the purposes of this post I’m referring to pro wrestling as a sport) where you have to be voted in, you’re only getting into the WWE Hall of Fame if A) Vince McMahon wants you in it and B) You yourself want to be in it. It made no sense that Savage didn’t gain entry until this year, after his death in 2011, and there are four possible reasons it took this long.

1) McMahon was still angry about Savage jumping ship to WCW in the mid-1990s, a time when WWE was struggling.

2) Savage, according to his brother, Lanny “The Genius” Poffo, refused to be inducted unless his brother and father were also inducted.

3) A scandalous rumor involving Savage that I’m not going to include here, but can easily be found out via Google (or BING).

4) Jack Tunney.

Now, from Wrestlemania III-VIII, Savage has in my opinion the greatest run in Wrestlemania history.

III) Bad-guy Savage brutally attacks Steamboat leading up to the event. The two go on to steal the show (one headlined by Andre/Hogan) with their legendary match for the Intercontinental Title, which Steamboat wins.

IV) Because he’s so awesome, Savage becomes a fan-favorite. He goes on to beat Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase (with an assist/chair shot from Hogan) for his first world title.

V) After forming the greatest tag team ever (The Mega Powers), Savage/Hogan split up because Hogan gets a bit too friendly with Savage’s manager, Miss Elizabeth (aka, has LUST IN HIS EYES)/Savage is an insane, jealous human being. Hogan defeats Savage for the world title.

VI) The American Dream Dusty Rhodes/Sweet Sapphire (with Elizabeth) defeat heel Savage/Sensational Queen Sherri. OK, this wasn’t exactly a classic.

VII) Savage, despite hitting approximately one million flying elbows, loses to the Ultimate Warrior in a career match. However, after the match, Sherri attacks Savage and Elizabeth comes to his rescue. Savage/Elizabeth reunite, and people in the crowd legit cry tears of happiness. Later in the year, Savage/Elizabeth get married at Summerslam.

VIII) Savage wears a gold suit to battle Flair for the world title after Flair says Elizabeth was “mine before she was yours!” Flair/his executive consultant, Mr. Perfect, cheat the entire match before Savage wins his second — and last — WWE championship. The writer of this post watches this match at least once a year since 1992 (including RIGHT NOW). (Additional Wrestlemania VIII coverage courtesy of @SportsAngle).

Summary of that run: Best match at Manias 3-5, 7 & 8 … plus two world titles. Oooooh yeah! FREAK OUT, FREAK OUT.

The other great thing about Savage — he never lost his mystique. Now, that’s not to say his pro wrestling career ended on a high note: His final Mania match was against friggin’ Crush at Wrestlemania X, and the last thing I remember from his WCW tenure — which had some great moments — was Team Madness, which no one but hardcore wrestling fans who read this will know about. Savage basically vanished from the public eye around 2000 (outside of his appearance in the first Spider-Man movie … and his rap album). He didn’t have one last Wrestlemania moment. He didn’t host RAW. He wasn’t a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble. The final thing Savage did for WWE was an announcement for an action figure in 2010.

But if you ask most people what they remember about Randy Savage, they’ll remember a man SNAPPING IT TO A SLIM JIM. They’ll remember a man with his fingers pointed to the sky before delivering a devastating elbow drop. They’ll remember the CREAM OF THE CROP. They’ll remember the Macho Man. Dig it?

“Nobody does it better.”

Brian Cougar

The WWE Hall of Fame beckons the Macho Man! (finally)

WWE Network is great. Do I know how to make it better? YES! YES! YES!

The first couple of days for the WWE Network didn’t go so well:

However, outside of a few hiccups (the never ending Tyler Breeze loop during NXT ArRIVAL), it’s worked without any major issues since then, and has replaced Netflix and Amazon (outside of Justified and,  recently, Veronica Mars) as my go-to source of televised entertainment.

The main appeal of the WWE Network for me was the chance, for $9.99 a month*, to watch the Naked Mideon vs. William Regal match from No Mercy 2000 whenever I wanted on ANY DEVICE. Also, all the classic WWE/WCW/ECW PPVs. And not having to spend $45 a month to watch live PPVs (aka, I would not be watching Extreme Rules in May if I didn’t have WWE Network).

One program I didn’t know about until getting the Network was Legends of Wrestling, which is a series of roundtables that were filmed in the mid-to-late 2000s. Hosted by (well, he attempts to keep things under control) Mene Gene, the episodes feature former wrestlers discussing a variety of topics (factions, Wrestlemania, greatest rivalries, etc.), and they are generally great, the highlights being Ric Flair’s legit hatred of the nWo during the factions episode, and DDP going out of his way to defend both David Arquette and Karl Malone multiple times during the episode on celebrities. Do not mock Malone unless you want a diamond cutter.

Other original programming includes a Countdown show (Jake the Snake’s DDT was wayyy too low on the top finishers episode), a Wrestlemania Rewind show (a recent episode features “the thrilling Undisputed Championship match against Y2J Chris Jericho” from Wrestlemania 18 … #fireable) and a very entertaining documentary about Daniel Bryan following his wins at Wrestlemania XXX.

Now, while there’s plenty of great stuff on the Network, here are a few things that could improve it:

1) For some reason — or I’m not noticing the feature because I’m a dope — you can sort WCW and ECW PPVs by year on PS3, but not WWE PPVs (you can sort WWE PPVs by year on other devices). Now, I could certainly do a google search and find out the order of PPVs by year within minutes, but … LAZY. Also, a resume play feature. PPVs are long, WWE Network!

2) Adding a “random” button. There are so many PPVs that, unless I’m looking for a specific show, I don’t even know where to begin (except maybe AT THE BEGINNING), especially on the WCW stuff. If I start trying to look around myself, I inevitably end up watching Wrestlemania 8 again. This is not a bad thing, but it is preventing me from adding to my wrestling knowledge.

3) Remove how the match ends from the search function. One of the fun things about WWE Network is the chance to see matches I haven’t seen before. One of the fun things about seeing matches I’ve never seen before is finding out how they end. WWE Network search engine = DESTROYER OF FUN:

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4) Letting users create/share playlists. I’ve seen people write about this elsewhere, and it’s a great idea. If someone wanted to put together a list of greatest high-flying matches or greatest Hollywood Hogan matches, then post them for other people to watch, that’d be great. The person putting together a list of greatest Hollywood Hogan matches would have an insanely low standard for what constitutes a great match, but he/she should at least have the option.

5) Add a titantron/music video channel. Please let me watch the Real American video or listen to The Brood’s theme song whenever I get the urge (always) in higher quality than YouTube.

Gotta be Fair to Flair

Brian Cougar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*with 6-month commitment

 

WWE Network is great. Do I know how to make it better? YES! YES! YES!

Your founding father of Ring Intensity: RIP Ultimate Warrior

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Ultimate Warrior was one of those perfect wrestlers for people around my age (30) due to the fact that, when I was a kid, he came across as a real-life superhero who was so powerful he could even stand toe to toe with Hulk Hogan; then, when looking back on him as an adult, he came across as a real-life lunatic so maniacal it made complete sense that he was able to stand toe to toe with the ridiculousness that was Hulkamania.

I remember watching the Hogan/Warrior encounter at the 1990 Royal Rumble and how it resulted in the greatest double clothesline of all time. I remember, since my household did not order Wrestlemania VI LIVE ON PPV, the anticipation I felt sitting in the auditorium before school the next day as I awaited word on who won the Hogan/Warrior title vs. title match. I remember the end of Wrestlemania VIII, and how, while Hogan was being attacked by Papa Shango and Sid Justice, the Warrior made a surprise return to save/pose with the Hulkster. I remember my younger brother having an Ultimate Warrior wrestling buddy. I remember Papa Shango making Warrior vomit via voodoo, and how weird that was. I remember kids in school during the early 1990s saying the original Warrior had died, and a different guy was portraying him.

I was at my friend’s house watching RAW in the late 1990s when we switched over to Monday Nitro during a commercial break only to find the Warrior had returned to confront the now evil Hollywood Hulk Hogan. And it was amazing! And then he talked for like 25 minutes! And it was less amazing but still pretty enjoyable! They would go on to have a rematch — which I again missed LIVE ON PPV — but that one didn’t turn out so well, and soon after, he was gone.

But he would still pop up. While not doing much work at my first post-college job in 2005, I discovered that the Warrior had a blog, and it was, not surprisingly, pretty bonkers. He signed off the first post I read with, “Your founding father of ring intensity.” So I clearly had to steal that line, and started ending my own personal emails with it.

After hours of driving through heavy snow while helping a friend move back to NY from North Dakota, we decided the best way to unwind after stopping at a hotel was to drink too many Miller High Lifes and watch an Ultimate Warrior DVD. After one Warrior promo, all the stresses of the road had faded away.

This past weekend, I was in New Orleans for Wrestlemania 30, and there he was again. During the show, my wonderful girlfriend stopped by the merchandise booth and ended up randomly buying me a Warrior T-shirt. Near the end of the show, the Warrior was the last to come out as the newly inducted Hall of Fame class was introduced. On Monday night, he made an appearance on RAW. When I was going to bed Tuesday night, I got a text from a friend that Warrior was dead.

During his final appearance on RAW, Warrior said, “No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others … then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him.”

The Ultimate Warrior, from parts unknown, has a strong place in my memory.

— Brian Cougar

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