SMOKING GOOD: Sting makes for best 1-hour RAW yet

I hate three-hour RAWs*. Hate them. People complain about pace-of-play in Major League Baseball, but I’ll take the most boring three-plus hour baseball game over a three-hour RAW almost anytime. Even when a three-hour RAW is good it drags. Too much talking. Too many random matches or repeat matches. Too much of the fireable RAW commentary team (Michael Cole/JBL/Booker T).

As a result of this, over the past six or so months, I almost never tune into RAW when it starts at 8 p.m. I might briefly turn it on at some point during the first two hours, but I generally don’t. Some weeks I just skip the show all-together. But if I do watch, it starts at 10 p.m. (maybe I just really miss WAR ZONE**)

This week, that decision paid off. I got to see the great Paul Heyman as he valiantly (desperately) attempts to sell the Wrestlemania main event between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns (the fact that Heyman needs to try so hard to do this is a good sign of why it probably shouldn’t be the main event). I got to see an entertaining six-man tag match centered around the dopey feud for the now near-worthless Intercontinental title. I got to see Bray Wyatt cut a promo while holding an urn that contains the ashes of his favorite rocking chair. I got to see Seth Rollins (dubbed the new Shawn Michaels by noted wrestling historian @poolhalljames). And I got to see STING.

If you have not been watching WWE recently (and many weeks I would not blame you), Sting made his first appearance in WWE this past November at Survivor Series. If you are not up to speed on the history of Sting (and why the HELL aren’t you), he was the one major guy over the past 30 years to never appear in WWF/WWE. Sting was the biggest star in WCW for a while, both as “Surfer Sting” and the Crow knock-off you see at the top of this post, and after WWE bought WCW in 2001, he wrestled against Ric Flair to close out the final WCW Monday Nitro, then vanished (well, he wrestled for a smaller promotion, TNA, for several years, but if you don’t know the history of Sting there’s no shot you have ever seen TNA).

Since the end of WCW, there were occasional rumors that Sting was going to sign with WWE to fight the Undertaker at Wrestlemania, but it never happened. When he finally appeared at Survivor Series, it was to begin a feud with HHH (aka The Game aka The King of Kings aka The Cerebral Assasin aka the Connecticut Blueblood).

It didn’t really make any sense why Sting had any beef with HHH, other than that Sting is a good guy and HHH is a bad guy (I mean, I guess that’s a good enough reason). WWE randomly started calling him The Vigilante Sting (for this there is no good reason). HHH then decided the feud was about Sting being mad that HHH ran WCW out of business, which is a stretch for multiple reasons, the main being the fact that WCW went out of business because of the dopes running WCW.

I’ve enjoyed every Sting appearance in WWE. The Survivor Series one was slightly spoiled ahead of time because the Internet is a force of good and evil, but when Sting showed up at a WWE show for the first time, it was still surreal. At the PPV last month, HHH/Sting had a “confrontation” which Sting got the better of despite the fact that he had a baseball bat and HHH had a sledgehammer (although, to be fair, Sting’s baseball bat is up there with Excalibur). But Monday night was my favorite so far.

When Sting first started the Crow deal in WCW, it was during his feud with the nWo (4 life). The nWo would be ganging up on someone, then Sting would drop down from the rafters and start wrecking people.  It was great. On Monday, the Authority (HHH, Rollins, Kane, the Big Show and J&J Security … legends, all of them) surrounded the ring with plans to attack Randy Orton, who was all by his lonesome. The lights when out. When they turned back on, there was Sting. BASEBALL BAT TO KANE’S KNEE. JACKET CHUCKED AT HHH. STINGER SPLASH TO J&J SECURITY. SCORPION DEATHDROP TO ONE OF THE J&J SECURITY DUDES. POUNDS CHEST LIKE KING KONG. It was great.

To cap things off, after the show Sting spoke for the first time since coming to WWE, and he yelled that he feels “SMOKING GOOD!” I have no idea what that means, but if you ever ask me how I’m feeling and I don’t yell “SMOKING GOOD!” you should be concerned.

Brian Cougar

*As a way of keeping the show/wrestlers fresh, I would go back to two-hour RAWs, lose Smackdown (unless they were to go back to a legit roster split), keep NXT (of course) for the WWE Network, then have a one-hour show on Saturday mornings that’s highlight videos/a couple of goofy matches FOR THE KIDS. I’m sure none of this makes sense from a business standpoint.

**Back in the 1990s, for ratings purposes, the first hour of RAW was called Raw is War and the second was called War Zone.

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SMOKING GOOD: Sting makes for best 1-hour RAW yet

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)

Swig of beer for the podcasting man: the wonderfully weird Stone Cold Steve Austin

Sunday on reddit.com/r/squaredcircle, someone posted this video of Stone Cold Steve Austin:

Back during the Attitude era, while I was of course a fan of his, Stone Cold was not MY GUY. As a slightly weird, overweight high school student, I very much related to Mick Foley and was a huge fan of him as a wrestler and was invested in his path to achieving his dream. When it came to Austin/Rock, I was on #teambringit. I got back into wrestling in the late 1990s because I read a newspaper article about all the old WWF wrestlers who were a part of WCW/nWo, but early heel Rock — I still remember seeing the People’s Elbow for the first time — was such a wonderfully obnoxious character that I quickly drifted back to being a much bigger fan of WWF.

Stone Cold, the beer swilling redneck who was in the early stages of his feud with his boss, Vince McMahon, wasn’t someone I related to at the time (although if I was the 30-year-old, employed dude I am now back then, that would’ve been a different story). It actually wasn’t until after he aligned with McMahon at Wrestlemania 17 and his subsequent transformation into a paranoid (and hilarious) whack job — I’ll forgive him for What? since it was great when he first started doing it — that I got fully on board with the Bionic Redneck.

And in the past few years, Austin has excelled somewhere outside the squared circle: the internet.

First, there’s his Twitter. And it is glorious:

And then it gets even better with his podcast, The Steve Austin Show

Now I only listen to like five podcasts, but until Tom Scharpling brings back the Best Show, Austin is the reigning champion of the podcasting world.

Not surprisingly, the man responsible for “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!”, “And that’s the bottom line cause Stone Cold said so!” and “Gimme a hell yeah!” has a few catch phrases on his podcast:

“Swig of (beer/Red Bull/water) for the working man!”

“We’re making money up in this bitch!”

“They keep sending little gimmicks in the mail and they’re called bills.”

Austin has two different versions of the show: A PG one and an “Unleashed” one … “Unleashed” meaning he will use the word “mother [expletive]” within the first two minutes. Generally, of course, the guest/focus of the show has to do with wrestling, but he’s also interviewed David Lee Roth (the highlight being when the two of them just started cackling at one point), among other non-wrestling celebrities.

The great thing about Austin’s show is the fact that 1) he has improved a ton since the first couple of episodes and 2) since he’s one of the top 3 pro wrestlers of all time, other wrestlers show him a ton of respect and therefore seem open to discussing whatever the hell he wants to talk about. He’s had on legends (Ric Flair), underrated veterans (William Regal), current stars (Daniel Bryan), behind-the-scenes people (Jim Johnston, who composes most of the theme music), and has even had Q&A sessions with fans, respectfully referring to one as a “member of the Internet Wrestling Community” as though the person was some kind of ambassador and not just a jabroni calling from home.

Also, Austin is a weirdo. He’s got an ongoing feud with anyone who drives a Prius/anyone who throws a cigarette butt out of their car window/as my buddy James pointed out after this was originally posted, Trader Joe’s for their tiny parking lots, had all the fans calling in for the first Q&A session end their calls by cutting 15-second promos on McMahon for screwing up the Royal Rumble and reads his ad copy with a fantastic amount of intensity.

And, most of all, he still has a passion for pro wrestling. He doesn’t condescend or discuss wrestling in any kind of ironic manner, and you can tell how serious he is about the work involved when it comes to the athletic and entertainment aspects of the job. Also, at the end of a very enjoyable interview with John Cena, Austin made sure to call out Cena for how loose he applies the STF, which was, to use Austin’s term, audio whoop ass.

Swig of beer for the podcasting man.

Brian Cougar

Swig of beer for the podcasting man: the wonderfully weird Stone Cold Steve Austin