Taken at the Chikara Wrestle Factory on May 6th, 2017
Taken at the Elks Lodge in Queens, NY on 4/29/2017
Pictures taken at EVOLVE 72 at La Boom! on 11/12/2016 in Queens, NY.
Wrestlemania 32 is less that 24 hours old at the time of this writing, and with the show postponed this week, I have opted to jot down some thoughts about the event. Overall the event was lackluster. While it was certainly better than Wrestlemania 11 and 29, it probably is going to fall into the bottom 10. Let’s break it down.
Kalisto (c) Vs. Ryback
It’s no secret, I love Ryback. His cries of “wake up” and “feed me more” can be found in my fondest dreams. That being said, I’m a big fan of Kalisto and Lucha in general. This match needed to go exactly how it went and for its place on the card, I thought it was an excellent match. The fans had yet to file in, it would have been better to have more people in seats, but what can ya do?
Total Divas Vs. Team B.A.D. and Blonde
This was a match. There were wrestlers in it and they wrestled. The story being told here was very light. Eva Marie’s performance, objectively speaking, was on point. Frankly, she’s better than Lana. Speaking of Lana, what did this match settle? Brie tapping out anyone except Lana seems weak. Regardless, we got a feel-good moment of seeing a Yes Lock at Mania, probably for the last time.
Usos Vs. Dudley Boyz
The Dudleys forgot that they are heels and were babyfacing it up a bit too much. The team that decreed they were more than just a one trick pony and were going to cease pandering to the fans and getting tables, counted down and did a “get the table(s)” as if that heel turn never happened. Furthermore, the audience was pro Dudleys and booed the poor Usos. Usos winning made sense however. When they say “Us” I say “O.” ….or is it “Ooh” and “So?”
Intro & Women’s Title
I liked the video package, I failed to realize it was Sideshow Bob doing the voice over until Maggle Cole mentioned it later. The close up recreation shots of wrestlers doing signature taunts was a great touch. Also during the preshow, Lita debuted the new Women’s Title and we are leaving that butterfly belt behind. The Women’s Title looks exactly how it should look, nearly identical to the men’s Title.
Intercontinental Ladder Match
For those that listen to the show, I had said if Owens failed to retain, Ryder was my second choice, half because of going with my heart and half because it made little sense to add Ryder of all people on the roster, in place of Neville. I fully expected Owens to retain, especially with the mentioning that the Intercontinental Title has changed hands consistently at Wrestlemania for many iterations of the event. The crowd was psyched and it was a feel good moment – one of the few we’d have. The match was excellent as well, it was a spectacle and it was arguably the match of the night. Ryder, no matter what you think of him, has been a member of WWE for over a decade, the main roster alone for 9 years. The picture of him holding the IC Title as a child with (then champion) Razor Ramon juxtaposed to his picture with Scott Hall holding his title is beyond heart-warming. Also worth noting: Sami Zayn maybe the most beloved man in professional wrestling.
Jericho Vs. Styles
Again, those listening to the show might remember I was extremely conflicted with this match. I thought AJ made the most sense to win and it seemed a forgone conclusion that he would win, but the other part of me wondered if the powers that be wanted to give him a “how do you do?” from WWE and have him eat some humble pie for his first ‘Mania appearance. Welp, they did. The match was good, the problem is that we saw this match already. Nothing really new happened and that soured me on it a bit.
New Day Vs. League of Nations
New Day got a hell of an intro. I expected the League to win the match though as soon as they announced that this was a non-title match. That’s how it went down. The match was actually solid. I thought Big E was in serious trouble with that spear through the ropes spot, I’ve heard nothing to suggest there were any medical repercussions of that (knock on wood). Now, what do you do when you have a group of guys in their prime beat another group of guys in their prime that are also the Tag Team champions? You have 3 men, all 50 years old, show up for no reason and beat them all up. Way to put over your roster, WWE. I thought this was abysmal. Nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia loses its appeal very fast.
Lesner Vs. Ambrose
Well, this match is going to be amazing! These guys are gonna beat the ever-living crap outta each other and we’re gonna get a show! This might be match of the night, this might steal the show… oh. No. Nevermind. This match was about as paint by numbers as it could get. I, along with most fans, decided that this needed to go one way: Dean Ambrose wins. We have no clue of the progression of the WWE stories beyond what we see televised, but they are certainly painting a bleak future for poor Dean. He’s arguably the most over babyface in the company and they seem determined to have him come up short every time. We built up to Ambrose being passed down weapons, notably Mick Foley’s barbwire bat. He missed his swing with it and that was that. What was the point? Did someone on the writing staff (I use the term “writing” loosely) realize that they had forgot to book anything for Lesnar and Ambrose and just threw them together? Neither wrestler got to really showcase anything special and the ending of this match, Lesnar hitting an F5 (albeit on chairs) and getting an easy pinfall left most of us scratching our heads and wondering what the point was.
The Women’s Title Triple Threat
This match, although good, suffered from a few problems – problems that had nothing to do with the wrestling. The first problem is that fans expected Sasha to win, period. She lost. The other problem is that there was such a strong “this is going to be match of the night” sentiment that there was almost no way the participants could live up to the hype. That being said, it was arguably the match of the night. Between this and the Intercontinental Ladder match, you can take your pick, they are the solid two matches in the discussion. My biggest complaint about this match: Raven Felix. Seriously, this woman is a vocalist? She sounded like a drunkard singing at the bar on karaoke night. Also, I know I’m channeling my grandmother, but that’s how she dresses for a performance in front of nearly 100,000 people?
Undertaker Vs. Shane McMahon
I expected this to be the last match of the night and expected some kind of swerve, or interference. What we got was a very slow paced match that served to make both participants look very tired. We got one anxiety-inducing spot with Shane leaping off the top of the cell onto the commentator’s table. Suffice it to say, this match was pretty lackluster and as soon as it was apparent that it was middle of the card, I expected Taker to win – and as soon as I saw Shane McMahon’s children come out with him, I decreed that I wanted him to lose, because I hate children. Anyway, this match ending the way it did means the Authority is still in power, no matter what the outcome of the main event is. The psychology baffled me a bit on this, however. If the roster is sick of the Authority, they should have rushed the ring and all contributed to beating down the Undertaker and aiding Shane in winning the match just to abolish the Authority. Then again, no one ever accused WWE of maintaining any consistency.
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Some stuff happened, Baron Corbin won.
The Rock… does stuff?
The Rock shows up. I noticed he had wrestling boots on right away and found that suspect. The Rock is cutting a promo in the ring and gets interrupted by the Wyatt Family. We get a half work, half shoot promo of Rocky putting Bray over, but reverting back to the Rock’s typical name-calling (haha you’re fat Bray!). After it looks like we’re on the brink of a brawl, The Rock announces this is to be a match and tears off his casual attire and has his wrestling fatigues on and is ready to go. This should have been awesome – we get an unadvertised Rock match at Wrestlemania, and with Bray Wyatt! Bray has to go over right?? He’s come up short against big names two years in a row, now it… Oh, Erick Rowan… The Rock Vs. Erick Rowan is happening, at Wrestlemania, and it’s now… 11:15 PM?? Ok, let’s be objective here, maybe it will be a good match. Rock Bottom, 123.
Well now the rest of the Wyatt Family is going to beat him up. They’re gonna bash him good. Rocky needs someone to come help him, another wrestler of his caliber that can throw down with the best of them. …AND HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA! …they brawl, we’re done, and no one cares.
Roman Reigns Vs. Triple H (c)
Triple H got quite the introduction. His wife, dressed like a cross between Mad Max and Weird Science explains to us all how we suck and our lives are meaningless. I did enjoy this, however. It’s the theatrics that we should have more of at Wrestlemania.
Despite Stephanie and Trips convincing us desperately that we love Roman Reigns, it’s just far from reality. I’m flabbergasted that this match actually went on last. We all were saying prior to this match that there was simply no way that it just goes on last and is paint by numbers, “baby” goes over “heel” 123 and we crown a new champion. That is, however, exactly what happened. There was no swerve, no plot twist, nothing! It was “what you see is what you get.”
What can anyone say? They did it. They did the thing we all said they’d be unable to do. They’re daring the fans to stop watching. All-in-all, on the main program, there were 2 matches worth revisiting. It was a solid card, but they ended it on such a low – the match, while passable, was just barely passable. It was far to slow and matches where two people hate each other and are being pulled apart on Raw because the participants want to kill one-another should never start with headlocks and arm drags. Sending the crowd home disappointed made it that much worse. We are now pretty much in the place we were a few months ago. Reigns is champ, Authority is in power, now what? I’m reserving hope that Raw is going to be balls-to-the-wall amazing tonight. Usually repressing the fans at ‘Mania is what leads to the crazy Raws the next night. We were spoiled the previous 2 years with pretty good Wrestlemanias and Raw the following nights was mild both times.
The Royal Rumble left the entire WWE Universe up in arms, turning to the internet to express their disapproval for the event. Although it is very possible that this is just due to ignorance on the part of the WWE, I did leave myself room for one sparkling optimistic question: is the booking now a means of working the audience, as opposed to the execution on the air? The curtain was pulled back a long time ago. We know this, we were told this a lot during the attitude era. Wrestling is a show, not a competitive sport. The problem is, how do you really work a crowd when you have pulled back the curtain? Easy, you don’t pull back the curtain, you pull back a decoy curtain.
Devoted fans stopped watching wrestling for pure narrative a long time ago. It became fashionable to be a “smart fan,” and have some idea as to who is “over” and who has “heat.” If you’re reading this, you know all the insider terms already. The drama still exists, but the focus is no longer what happens within the narrative, but the policing of the writers and the decisions that they make.
Think about it, you have watched with bated breath many times in the last decade, not because you wanted the hero to overcome the villain, but because you thought the villain needed to win the present battle in order to make the hero eventually winning the war more fulfilling. When it didn’t happen, you were left scratching your head and wondering how the booking team missed such an obvious story-telling mechanic.
Bringing us to the present, Daniel Bryan is currently the most over guy in the company. He is universally beloved by smart fans and the mainstream audience – something that rarely happens. There is no shortage of support at every show he is on. Can the powers that be really be failing to see this? If you think about it – the booking (potentially) is genius. The internet was lit on fire after the 2014 Royal Rumble. Daniel Bryan was white-hot on social media, everyone was talking about the Royal Rumble. Yes, they were complaining, yes they were furious, but they were talking about a WWE event in droves, that is remarkably good for WWE. The most furious fans are also the most captivated and I would be willing to wager copious amounts of money that everyone is going to tune into the post-Rumble Raw under the guise of, “say it ain’t so.”
The only issue is that even the most patient WWE fan is beginning to get jittery about is: are they [WWE] compliant or negligent in this booking? Too many times since Summer Slam, I (and I am guessing many of you) have thought I knew where this story was going. With each digression I sought solace in thinking that this was merely the curved path with a great ending to an epic story. But as we have seen in the past, sometimes these path digressions lead the wrestler astray. Perhaps this is what WWE wants the fans to think, making Bryan’s eventual triumph that much sweeter. Unfortunately, we have to wait longer, with the potential payoff simply being that Dave Batista gets a main event title shot at Wrestlemania 30 (and wins). I’ll reserve my opinions of Batista mostly for the upcoming episode of Doing the Job this Tuesday, but suffice it to say – bad move. The fans made that as clear as possible during the payperview. He’s not the guy. He was barely the guy the better part of a decade ago and he certain is not the guy now.
What if Daniel Bryan not even being in the Rumble is a brilliant work? Mick Foley tweeting his disgust could just be part of the act. The fact that Daniel Bryan did not even appear in the Rumble match could be testament to this. Daniel Bryan tweeted: “Sorry guys, the machine wanted me nowhere near the Royal Rumble match. But I thank everyone for their support. YOU are the #YESMovement” Definitely has the markings of a very well-crafted kayfabe work. Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part, but what would be better, If Daniel Bryan were eliminated from the Rumble (possibly by Batista) or that he was never even in it and now can legitimately gripe that this is the only reason for Batista’s victory? I like the latter more.
I am going to keep my head high for a little while longer. One on hand, the fans would have shaken the very foundation of the building if Daniel Bryan entered the Rumble match and WWE would have created another magic moment, but on the other hand, Daniel Bryan’s stock went up even more in the past 18 hours. The fans were not booing Batista (directly), they were booing the booking staff for booking Batista as the winner. Yes, some of the anger is directed at Batista for coming back in the first place and getting in the way, but we all know that Batista did not get to book himself the winner – that was the writers behind the scene. Batista is merely the frontman. A booking staff cannot really be a heel though, can they? Well, if they are playing the part of the heel, of course they can. If the booking is what the fans pay attention to, then that is where you work them, “behind the scenes.”