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:

Piledriver

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 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?

Good-guy Roddy: Piper/Hart at Wrestlemania VIII

(WWE Network)
(WWE Network)

“Mrs. Hart used to come down, make them sandwiches, throw on that bologna. Of course only one piece of bologna, but that don’t matter, I was hungry!” — “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Roddy Piper passed away on Friday of a heart attack at 61. Piper is best known from his time as a heel in the 1970s and ’80s, but my first memories of Piper are of him as a good guy in the early ’90s. I loved him as a kid because he was incredibly entertaining and because his theme music was bagpipes, which I thought meant Piper was Irish (he was not). My all-time favorite memory/match involving Piper involves him taking on Bret “The Hitman” Hart for the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania VIII.

Before the match, the two are being interviewed by Mene Gene Okerlund. Hart doesn’t say anything until the end of the interview, with Piper, not surprisingly, going on a rant. Now, both were “good guys” at this time — Piper was champion, having defeated the evil Canadian Mountie for the belt at the Royal Rumble — but Piper being a good guy doesn’t mean he can’t also be kind of a jerk. He doesn’t hit Hart with a coconut, but he spends his entire time talking taking minor jabs at the Hitman while reminiscing about growing up together until it ends with them standing face to face ready to throw a punch.

The match itself is also very good. Hart has always been known for his in-ring skills, while Piper’s style was more of a brawler. Here is the PLAY BY PLAY I did while watching post-work at 3 in the morning:

Wrestle normal match, basic moves. Hart dumps him, Piper spits on Hart. Piper calms, challenges him to test of strength. Hart appears to hurt shoulder, Piper backs off, Hart small package. Piper loses it, slaps him in the face. They both dump over the rope. CHANGE. Piper holds ropes so Hart can get back into the ring, fans cheer, Hart goes to fix his boot, then Piper punches him in the face. Piper starts brawling, busts Hart open. Biting. Hart comeback with FIVE MOVES OF DOOM.

Piper throws Hart into ref while trying to escape headlock. Ref = KNOCKED OUT. Piper grabs bell. Reluctant to use it. Fans pleading no. Heenan, “Give it to me, I’ll hit him!” Piper drops bell, puts Hart in sleeper. Hart uses turnbuckles to push Piper back, gets the 1, 2, 3.

It’s a great storyline for a match, with Hart wrestling a bit dirtier than usual because A) he wants to be champ and B) he knows it’ll rile Piper up. Piper, on the other hand, tries to keep things clean at the beginning, reverts to his more dirty-pool ways for a bit after Hart ticks him off, then, when he has the chance to slam Hart in the head with the bell for the easy victory, he does the RIGHT THING (which causes him to, uh, lose).

After the match, Piper returns to the ring, hands Hart the belt then secures it around his waist. They exit the ring together. The match basically ends up being this …

“We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” — Abraham Lincoln

… in wrestling form.

RIP Piper.

Brian Cougar

Good-guy Roddy: Piper/Hart at Wrestlemania VIII

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.

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

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

Pineda, if you’re gonna play dirty, follow the lead of the dirtiest player in the game

Now, this blog — considering it’s an MLBlog — once focused on baseball. The topics covered on it this year have generally been about pro wrestling (because pro wrestling is the best). However, on Wednesday night, I believe I’ve found something that bridges the two:

Michael Pineda being ejected from the Yankees-Red Sox game due to a foreign substance on his neck.

First off, two things: 1) I am a Yankees fan. 2) Even before he joined the Yankees I was a Pineda fan, mostly due to this quote from 2011 when he was asked what his reaction would be if he made the All-Star team:

Asked last week what it would mean if he were named to the All-Star team, the Dominican native’s eyes grew wide.

“Oh wow,” Pineda said. “I don’t know. I might just die. Maybe Pineda dies.”

Pineda was traded to the Yankees before the 2012 season, but this year has been his first actually pitching for the big league club after he missed time due to a major shoulder injury. He had a strong Spring Training, won the fifth-starter’s job and was off to a good start this year (2-1, 1.00 ERA in his first three starts). After he beat the Red Sox on April 10, it was brought up that cameras had caught a shiny substance on his pitching hand. Many assumed it was probably pine tar, Pineda said it was dirt and the issue seemed to blow over. Until Wednesday night.

In the second inning of Wednesday’s game — again against the Red Sox — Boston manager John Farrell came out to talk to the home-plate umpire, the ump went over to Pineda, and after finding something on Pineda’s neck, the umpire tossed him from the game.

Baseball has had a long history of players trying to cheat — hitters using corked bats, pitchers cutting the baseball for extra movement, teams stealing signs, and everyone’s favorite, PEDs. While cheating of course isn’t right, it’s long been part of the game.

One of my favorite parts about the Pineda thing is the fact that the Red Sox seemed to be less annoyed about the fact that Pineda was using pine tar (it was cold, so the pine tar would help him grip the ball, which means he might not accidentally have a pitch slip out of his hand and possibly hit a batter), and more so were annoyed by how blatant he was about using it.

However, no matter what the “unwritten rules” are, the actual MLB rule — 8.02(a)(2) — says: “The pitcher shall not have expectorate on the ball, either hand or his glove.” So Pineda was breaking the rules and will likely be suspended by MLB/vilified by many (especially in Boston).

While cheating in baseball is almost always frowned upon, pro wrestling embraces cheaters. For without cheaters, how would we know who to hate (and then eventually love for their ability to make us hate them)? The late Eddie Guerrero’s slogan — Cheat 2 Win — even blatantly embraced the art of bending the rules. So, while I’m thinking Wednesday was the last time Pineda will attempt to pitch with an illegal substance on his hand, he probably could’ve avoided all this trouble had he checked with a wrestling legend first about how to pull it off without getting caught. That legend: Ric Flair.

Known by most as “The Nature Boy,” Flair also has another — well, he has a few — nickname: “The dirtiest player in the game.” My favorite example of Flair’s cheating ways comes from my favorite match of all time: Flair vs. Macho Man Randy Savage at Wrestlemania 8. If you have WWE Network, here’s the direct link to that Mania. And now, let Flair — and his executive consultant, Mr. Perfect — show Pineda the right way to cheat without being detected.

Perfect enters the ring after breaking up a pinfall following an elbow drop by Savage. While the ref is distracted, he reaches into his pocket for brass knuckles and eventually tosses them to Flair

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While the ref is still dealing with Perfect, Flair puts on the brass knuckles. He then punches Savage in the face and successfully hands the brass knuckles back to Perfect without the ref noticing.

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However, Savage kicks out of the count at 2, and eventually wins the match — and the title — by himself cheating with a HAND FULL OF TIGHTS.

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You see, in pro wrestling, even the good guys occasionally have to bend the rules.

So, next time Pineda’s preparing for a start, instead of looking up video of his opponents’ swings and pitch tendencies, he should be Fair to Flair and look to the Nature Boy for guidance.

Brian Cougar

Pineda, if you’re gonna play dirty, follow the lead of the dirtiest player in the game

Just a spoke on the wheel: CM Punk and Daniel Bryan

“The reason I’m leaving is you people, because after I’m gone you’re still going to pour money into this company. I’m just a spoke on the wheel. The wheel’s gonna keep turning. And I understand that.” — CM Punk during the “Pipe bomb” promo on June 27, 2011

Cult of Personality hits … CM Punk walks out … he yells, “It’s clobbering time!” and heads down to the ring.

At some point in the future, be it next Monday night or years down the line, that series of events is almost definitely going to happen. And when it does, I, like millions of others, will be MARKING OUT, BRO pumped. If Punk returns to help/to attack/to help then immediately after helping attack Daniel Bryan (or someone else), it’ll be a great moment.

Punk’s last appearance with WWE was the Royal Rumble in January, and we still don’t know why, exactly, he decided to leave. Was he burnt out? Injured? Unhappy with his Wrestlemania plans? People were even saying he had a dispute with Vince McMahon/HHH over how wrestlers were going to be paid as a result of the move away from PPV due to the start of the WWE Network. However, since then, we’ve heard little. Punk’s last tweet came the day after the Royal Rumble, McMahon said during a conference call with share holders that Punk was on “sabbatical,” and the only time Punk has been mentioned on air was when Paul Heyman came out at the beginning of “Hijack RAW” in Chicago.

When and if Punk returns, the ready-made feud is clearly Punk vs. Bryan. For three reasons:

1) Bryan got to main event a Wrestlemania, and Punk never has. On the “Best In The World” DVD that WWE put out about Punk (it is great), he brings up the fact that the Miz main eventing Wrestlemania 27 was something that pissed him off (although, to be fair, plenty seems to piss Punk off). Then, the next two years — while Punk was the most popular he’ll likely ever be as a pro wrestler — the Mania main event was Rock/Cena (“Once in a Lifetime” at Wrestlemania 28 and “We lied about that whole Once in a Lifetime deal” at Wrestlemania 29). While I’m fairly certain Punk holds Bryan in higher regard than Miz/the Rock, it wouldn’t be hard to believe that could cause him to be jealous.

2) Bryan got to complete what Punk started with the Pipe bomb promo. The first part of that promo dealt with Cena and how he wasn’t the best — Punk was the best. And, at Money in the Bank and Summerslam that year, Punk defeated Cena to back up those words. But the second part of that promo took aim at the McMahon family: Vince, his “idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law” (Stephanie McMahon and HHH). Stephanie and HHH would eventually become The Authority, and Bryan, not Punk, was the one to defeat them at Mania on his way to winning the title.

3) Those people Punk so lovingly describes in the quote at the top of this story. After Punk left, there were plenty of “CM PUNK!” chants at WWE events. There was the attempt to “Hijack RAW” in Chicago which featured … a few more “CM PUNK!” chants than usual. Wrestlemania 30 came and went, and the thing that pissed most people off wasn’t the lack of Punk, it was Brock Lesnar ending The Streak.

And while the crowd will still chant “CM PUNK!” on occasion, what they cheer far, far more is “Yes!”

WWE — the wheel — keeps turning.

Brian Cougar

Just a spoke on the wheel: CM Punk and Daniel Bryan

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!

21-1 from the cheap seats at Wrestlemania XXX

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After attending Wrestlemania XXX on Sunday in New Orleans, I got separated from the group I was with, my cell phone was dead and when I arrived at the spot in the lot where we had been doing some pre-Mania tailgating (the best kind of tailgating), all I found were two empty parking spaces.

Following 30 minutes of wandering back and forth in front of the Superdome in the hopes that I — a 30-year-old white dude in a wrestling T-shirt — might be noticed by my group among the thousands exiting the show, I eventually stopped to get my bearings. A man with a title belt draped over his shoulder started talking to me, and while we were chatting, I explained my current predicament of being lost with a dead cell phone in a city I was visiting for the first time with no idea where — or, more specifically, at which bar — my girlfriend/her friends were. In a show of extreme compassion, he said, “Man, that sucks. And can you [expletive] believe they had [expletive] Brock Lesnar end the [expletive] streak!”

Since I started watching WWE regularly again around Wrestlemania 25, the Undertaker’s undefeated Wrestlemania winning streak — The Streak — has been treated like a BIG FRIGGIN’ DEAL (and it had already started being treated like a BIG FRIGGIN’ DEAL a few years before that).

This year, however, everything about The Streak seemed boringly inevitable. Inevitably Undertaker was going to show up around Mania (the past few years, that’s basically been the only time he appears). Inevitably he was going to find an opponent/victim (Lesnar had always seemed to be the likely option, although the annual Sting — or John Cena — rumors also started popping up). Inevitably Michael Cole would shout about all the legendary wrestlers Undertaker had beaten at Wrestlemania (Giant Gonzalez! A-Train!). And inevitably there’d be a match, Undertaker would kick out of an F-5, Lesnar would kick out of a tombstone, but in the end, The Streak would move to 22-0.

The Lesnar/Undertaker feud leading up to Wrestlemania XXX — outside of the initial confrontation when Undertaker stabbed Lesnar in the hand with a pen, signed the match contract in Lesnar’s blood and then chokeslammed him through a table — didn’t feature any memorable moments. And despite Lesnar’s manager/representative, the amazing Paul Heyman, trying as hard as he could to sell Lesnar as an actual threat to The Streak — and Lesnar is a terrifying man — everyone knew Undertaker was walking out of Wrestlemania 22-0.

I was up in the cheap seats — WHERE I BELONG — at Wrestlemania XXX, part of a group of 30-plus people in their mid-to-late 20s who were attending the event as part of an extended wedding celebration weekend. Many of the group were non-wrestling fans who were there mostly for the chance to see the glorious spectacle that is Wrestlemania one time and to participate in the equally glorious pre-Mania tailgate. By the time the Undertaker/Lesnar match was about to begin, some were getting restless, and one dude in particular was entertaining himself — and annoying me — by yelling out random nonsense (although, to be fair, many actual wrestling fans do this very same thing every week during RAW).

The match itself — at least watching live — was not very good (I have yet to rewatch it). It was slow, Undertaker, even from where I was sitting, looked old as hell in the ring, and the crowd was mostly quiet. When Lesnar hit the third F5, I was thinking to myself, “It seems a bit silly to have Undertaker kick out of three of these.” And as I finished that thought, the ref counted three. What followed was the strangest reaction I’ve ever been part of at a sporting or pro wrestling event. First it got completely quiet as many — myself included — thought something had gone wrong. Then, once they started flashing 21-1 on the screens, people started booing. When Undertaker finally got off the mat and took the long walk to the back, there was some clapping, but once he disappeared, the booing started again. The woman a row in front of me who stood and screamed during the entirety of the Undertaker’s entrance headed for the exits.

When you watch a pro sporting event, while there are times the outcome heading in looks clear, you know in the back of your mind  — as a result of things like the Giants beating the 16-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl, or the Red Sox coming back from down 3-0 in the ALCS against the Yankees — that anything can happen. When you watch a pro wrestling event– especially once you learn the outcomes are fixed (thanks for letting me know, @poolhalljames!) — there are times when you know without a shadow of a doubt the inevitable is going to happen.

As a kid who still thought pro wrestling was real, I knew Hulk Hogan wasn’t losing to turncoat Sgt. Slaughter at Wrestlemania VII, because he was immortal, had 24″ pythons and USA! USA! And Hogan eventually dropped the leg and got the 1-2-3. As a teenager who had half a brain and the internet, I knew Stone Cold Steve Austin wasn’t losing to Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIV, because he was the most popular wrestler to come along since Hogan, Michaels could barely walk after suffering a real-life back injury and “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” And Austin eventually hit the kick-wham-stunner and got the 1-2-3. As a 30-year-old, I knew the Undertaker wasn’t losing to Lesnar at Wrestlemania XXX, because he was 21-0, The Streak would never end and “Rest … In … Peace.”

And then he [expletive] lost.

Brian Cougar

21-1 from the cheap seats at Wrestlemania XXX

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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