Doc: For quite awhile, I have been in talks to do a collaboration with former LOP writer, SkitZ, who was the man responsible for calling me up to the main page three years ago. Multiple attempts have fallen through in our journey toward this project, but he came up with an idea that was fairly simple and right up my historical perspective loving alley. So, he will be handling the bulk and I’ll be adding my thoughts. **Note that the star ratings that I’ve given are for the generational importance of the feud/matches discussed, rather than traditional “Doc” match ratings.**
Doctor's Orders to Taste the Rainbow: "It is the year 2005"
By The Doc and Skitz
May 23, 2013 - 8:51:45 PM
SkitZ: At some time and some place, I’ve discussed all the topics present in this column. We each have one way or another because the majority of them are popular subjects amongst the IWC. It just so happens that all of the instances below fell within the same year. Without a shred of doubt, SkitZ can honestly say 2005 stands as his favorite 12-month stretch since the Attitude Era concluded well over a decade ago. In my own unstable mind, nothing can touch the programming WWE cranked out during that stretch. Admittedly, I’m speaking more in terms of the product’s top tier feuds and storylines (yet there were still flashes of awesomeness from the lower card) but yeah… the work rate was unbelievable.
What does ’05 mean to me in a nutshell? Profound occurrence.
Several career-altering events unfolded; establishing new stars and cementing legacies. Wrestling diehards don’t give said year the credit it deserves. Period. Truth be told, those 365 days set in motion nearly every noteworthy thing that’s come to fruition since. This marks the first of what Sir Fruity hopes to be a monthly series throughout the spring and summer months (don’t hold your breath). LOP Main Pager, Doc, has generously agreed to weigh in as we dissect various years and the booking decisions which resulted in their overall importance.
HBK & Angle's Stellar Classics
SkitZ: This acclaimed rivalry has so much more to do with the matches themselves rather than the physical altercations or promo wars that preceded it. Granted, Vince’s writers honored the build-up to WM21 appropriately; Kurt’s jealousy towards Shawn for stealing his spotlight in ’96, defeating Marty Jannetty, putting Sensational Sherri in the ankle lock, etc. Twas’ simply icing on the cake as marks knew the two show stealers wouldn’t disappoint. When people are expecting something extraordinary and you exceed those expectations, I’d assume there’s no better feeling as a performer.
Upon reading Michaels’ book Heartbreak & Triumph, he mentions his previous conversation with Angle regarding who should win. Being the backstage fox and veteran figurehead that he is, don’t let Mr. WrestleMania fool you for a second. When HBK did business, he knew damn well that repayment would come knocking sooner or later.
Doc: If Bobby Heenan refers to a match as the “greatest I’ve ever seen,” then you’re obligated to take a step back and ensure that said match is put into proper historical context. I understand that Taker vs. HBK and Punk vs. Cena have become the masterpieces of the generation (for different reasons), but I challenge you to find an athletically superior main-event-style performance to HBK vs. Angle at Wrestlemania 21. It simply can no longer be remembered as it was when Angle was still around the mainstream, but upon first viewing, there has never been a better match. Personally, it took me years to come around to the idea that Taker-HBK was better and, though I now firmly believe that the WM25 bout set a new standard for storytelling, HBK vs. Angle was a magnum opus for its time. Their rematch at Vengeance featured not nearly as dramatic a finish, but it still found itself the winner of a few MOTY awards, including my old buddy and LOP column writer, Davey Boy’s.
CMV1 Rating - ***** (out of a possible 5 *’s)
SkitZ: And for good reason. I echo my mentor’s sentiments as far as the entertainment aspect is concerned. HBK & Angle’s sequel from Vengeance begins with a quicker pace and isn’t bogged down by Michaels’ monotonous headlock from the initial encounter. Plus, I disagree with my temporary tag team partner on the emotional effectiveness of each contest’s closing sequence. A midair superkick will receive the nod from me over a prolonged submission hold any day of the week. When Wrestler A has Wrestler B sprawled on the mat in his tried-and-trusted maneuver for 48 seconds, the finish becomes tedious and predictable.
Their rubber match from RAW Homecoming might fall into third place by default but it’s still on par with the pair’s previous efforts. From that moment forward, you felt electricity whenever HBK & Angle shared the same ring; whether they were involved in a triple threat scenario or trapped inside the Elimination Chamber together. Kurt & Shawn could’ve definitely benefitted from some Rogaine (#docbleeped# genetics) but goddamn… they set WWE on fire following a decent lull.
Hunter & Batista's Evolutionary Conflicts
Doc: We were on the brink of Triple H being a flop as the go-to guy in the WWE before Batista caught lightning in a bottle and ascended to the top of the business. I’ll never forget the sign from 2004’s Survivor Series, “Ha! Batista Can’t Get Over.” It was so true at the time; he wasn’t over. Then, he merely glanced at the World Heavyweight Championship and the fans started clamoring for him to take it from his mentor. Bats was not the most gifted performer, but he made it up for it with intangibles. His rise to the main-event helped Wrestlemania 21 earn a stellar buyrate and allowed Triple H a main-event not aided by Rock or Austin to do excellent fiscal numbers. Critically, it took a few tries to get their match right, but they finally knocked one out of the park at Vengeance 2005 (one of history’s most underrated PPVs) inside Hell’s Cell.
CMV1 Rating - ****
SkitZ: In an era where expectations are demanded yesterday and the average fan’s patience wears thinner by the hour, I’m amazed folks remained glued to the storyline throughout its lengthy duration. With Hunter at the helm, they milked Evolution’s implosion harder than a chubby newborn baby. Then again, Big Dave was a far cry from Daniel #docbleep#ing Bryan so The Animal required an exorbitant amount of prep work to ensure he’d be a marquee name in WWE forever. And mission accomplished. Their showdowns at WM21 & Backlash were largely substandard. HIAC brought with it a new challenge however as we witnessed Big Dave repay the favor to his mentor in full (still one of The Animal’s greatest in-ring accomplishments).
The attention to detail during the feud and eventual blowoff match made it an overwhelming success. Watching Batista’s face turn segment on YouTube gives me the sudden urge to grab the nearest living thing and powerbomb it through a flimsy table. The crowd lost their collective shit that night. Whether you sport a massive hard-on for Preparation H (hi Mazza) or constantly hate on the dude like myself, Trips did Big Dave the ultimate honor and saved him from becoming another midcard meathead.
Taker & Orton's Legendary (<--- term used loosely) Encounters
SkitZ: Reflecting on the chain of events eight years removed, it’s difficult to say whether management intended on unveiling the extended rivalry immediately following Mania or if Randy re-aggravating his shoulder injury delayed said plans. Perhaps the Legend Killer’s attempt at ending the streak at WM21 had initially been a singular occurrence? Or did Vince wanna wait until the Draft Lottery before resuming the program? So many unanswered questions... Kinda like my ex-wife when she’d return home around 2am with semen residue on her clothes and selective amnesia.
Doc: A forgotten footnote in wrestling history is that the Undertaker basically saved Randy Orton’s career. If it were not for the Deadman grabbing hold the floundering young star, fresh off a career year gone horribly wrong in the most ill-advised, poorly handled babyface turn of the century, Orton may never have ascended back to main-event level, never headlined multiple Wrestlemanias, and never have fulfilled even a fraction of his destiny. Orton wrestled Taker at every major PPV of 2005 with the exception of the Royal Rumble.
CMV1 Rating - ***1/2
SkitZ: Yeah rarely will you ever witness a feud laid out in such a peculiar manner. During the latter half of ’05, The Deadman pushed Orton’s name back to the forefront and had the third generation star deep in the World Heavyweight Title picture come February. By burying himself in the mind games and matching The Phenom stride-for-stride, Randall effectively proved to the world that he deserved more than his premature reign of 2004. I find it rather ironic that the same thick-nosed Neanderthal who cemented Batista’s legacy nearly destroyed their Evolution buddy’s career before it left the station. Hmmmmmm sounds as if somebody’s playing favorites! You know what this means, right? Expect a stable comprised of Trips, Sheamus and an unlucky bastard to debut soon.
Rey & Eddie's Blood Wars
Doc: Eddie Guerrero’s death was the saddest moment of my twenty-six year fandom; not as horrifying as Owen Hart’s but equally if not more impactful. He was supposedly set to become World Champion when he dropped dead in his hotel room. The second title reign was, among other things, due to the brilliant work he had done throughout the year in elevating Rey Mysterio to the precipice of the main-event. Eddie turned heel, cut gripping promos, had a series of very good matches with Rey, and lost every single one of the PPV bouts. Rey came out of it looking like he could step up and become one of the WWE’s go-to guys.
CMV1 Rating - ***3/4
SkitZ: Latino Heat’s 2005 pay per view record reads a lot like Chris Jericho’s upon Y2J resurfacing last January. Actually the numbers are identical; both HOF caliber veterans finished their respective years 1-6. Now when you consider Eddie struggled mightily to collect a PPV victory at the peak of his career, the unflattering statistic seems absurd. But within the context of his personal rivalry with Mysterio, it makes perfect sense. The Mexican Jumping Bean’s popularity increased with the change of every calendar and Rey Rey inevitably outgrew the Cruiserweight Division.
Company officials were understandably hesitant to push Mysterio against bigger opponents but with an established relative who could help bridge the gap, WWE pulled the trigger. The decision brought with it an onslaught of criticism which is warranted in some aspects while equally as unfair in others. Rey Rey’s remarkable ability to move merchandise played a vital hand in the promotion I’m sure. Give the midget credit though for showing Vince he could perform accordingly when afforded the opportunity. The multitude of different ways in which Mysterio scored upset wins over Guerrero highlights the creativity involved. Admittedly, the nonsense surrounding Dominick felt unneeded but hey… it resulted in an excellent ladder contest at SummerSlam so no harm, no foul.
]MNM Rejuvenating the Tag Team Division
SkitZ: SmackDown’s tag team scene looked downright dire when MNM burst onto the scene; stealing the straps from Rey & Eddie in their debut contest. Despite the threesome being handed shit to work with on the blue brand in terms of competition, Nitro & Mercury capitalized by dominating the title picture and capturing gold on three separate occasions. And for those unsatisfied with the male portion of MNM, Melina garnered second glances from other demographics. I mean who couldn’t sit back and enjoy her signature ring entrance? Sir Fruity needs to make his girlfriend watch some old clips so she can start practicing.
Doc: Mercury, Nitro and Melina had a cool gimmick that had the potential to be a game changer for the tag division after so many of the character duos brought onto that scene were very clearly short-term and mid-card, ala the Highlanders and Heartthrobs. MNM had more of a top level caliber aura about them, cashing in on the paparazzi crazed media created by the “E!” network and its likenesses. It didn’t hurt that all of them could get it done in some fashion, with Melina giving the sex appeal, Nitro adding the stunts (and eventually the well-rounded acrobatics combined with solid wrestling), and Mercury providing the workrate.
CMV1 Rating - **3/4
SkitZ: Tis’ a shame Nitro & Mercury budded heads backstage and the latter failed a drug test. Had the pieces remained in place, MNM could’ve easily survived an additional two years in WWE as a cohesive unit. I loved Morrison as a singles wrestler as much as the next guy but you’re gonna select the package deal nine times outta ten. Don’t lie, #docbleep#ers! Real life circumstances stopped the trio from reaching their maximum potential and it makes me weepy. MNM managed to make their battles with Hardcore Holly & Charlie Haas, Legion of Doom 2.0 and The Mexicools bearable which is a commendable feat no doubt. They were like a well-oiled painting crew from April-December; filling holes, fixing repairs and bringing the presentation up to speed.
Trish's Stranglehold on the Division
Doc: I cite Trish as the greatest women’s wrestler of all-time because of years like ’05 when she kept relevant a division that was severely lacking in the “over talents” department. You see, as mentioned in my LOP Hall of Fame induction column for her, Trish completely changed the perception of women’s wrestling. She could take a novice like Christy Hemme and get something watchable out of her based on her expressions alone. When in the ring with a talent like Mickie James, she could create magic (arguably the most engaging storyline in women’s wrestling history). What separates her from all her other predecessors (Moolah included) was that she knocked down the idea that women in modern wrestling were nothing more than beautiful bodies at which to be gawked. 2005’s best cannot be listed without including Trish Stratus….and that says something.
CMV1 Rating - ***
SkitZ: Let’s call the scenario what it was: underdeveloped. Besides Lita (who’d become more prominent in storylines not pertaining to the Women’s Division), no qualified slice of pie had come along to succeed Trish yet. I think WWE were hoping the stars would align for Ashley Massaro (Stratus’ protégé) to take the reins but quickly discovered that the 2005 Divas Search winner didn’t bring anything sustainable to the table. Lol @ the company trying to push Ashley regardless. Trish kept the ship afloat until Mickie James came skipping along gaily.
After her program with Lita dissolved because of Dumas’ nasty leg injury, the only new direction for Stratus to head in was a cat fight with the latest PLAYBOY Covergirl. While Hemme threw around her small tits and clamshell in the centerfold of a magazine, Trish concentrated on elevating Christy to a passable level. Now before some smart ass leaves feedback stating how a herniated disk sidelined Stratus for four of those twelve months, don’t forget what she churned out throughout the fall stretch. Trish & Mickie set the wheels in motion for the single greatest feud in Divas history. If anything, Stratus’ mid-year absence makes what she pulled off during those brief windows of time even more impressive.
The Meteoric Rises of Cena & Batista
Doc: This will resonate with a lot of fans of the current era who want to see some changes made at the top of the card, as 2005 saw the rise of John Cena and Batista to the helm, flanked by Randy Orton, Edge, and Rey Mysterio. The Triple H era came to an end. It had to happen eventually, the transition from the post-Attitude era into something different. Not everyone has appreciated the change, but it needed to happen. Attitude era-style booking was never going to be sustainable; shock TV was done out of necessity rather than a genuine desire to make the product more risqué. With Cena emerging as the #1 guy in the business, his background suggested that his hip hop persona was more a product of a man that had a lot of charisma rather than a thuggish, ruggish, to the bone, anti-establishmentarian. As much as Batista wanted to be like his Attitude era predecessors, he was really a lot more like the Ultimate Warrior from the kid-friendly 80s boom. So, what did 2005 really mean to the business? It meant the planting of the seeds to the PG era…and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, in theory.
CMV1 Rating - ****
SkitZ: Not by any means. Progression is natural and it’s completely normal for most of society to unwillingly accept said changes. Vinnie Mac began grooming both men once The Prototype and Leviathan found their comfort zones in the company. Cenation’s bright future started shining after WMXX with his steady push and domination of the United States Title scene. Meanwhile, Batista’s emergence came straight out of left field because he served as a villain tied down in a stable and boasted no telling track record. From 2006 on-forward, it always felt as if Big Dave was a step behind Cena and couldn’t catch up. Blame it on injuries, lack of passion, a longing for more creative freedom, etc. No matter the reason, Bats definitely held his own during the course of ’05 and proved his worth to the front office.
The reigning Make-A-Wish Grand Slam Champion and Big Dave ran roughshod over RAW & SmackDown; each retaining their brand’s World Championship from ‘Mania until year’s conclusion. A feat I don’t imagine we’ll witness again (although Punk & Sheamus came close in 2012). The seemingly invincible duo trampled the likes of Triple H, JBL, Christian, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero and countless others on their path to scripted greatness. Cenation’s better conditioned to stick around for the long haul and the past three years have shown exactly that. Sizable portions of the IWC preferred WWE’s Poster Boy over The Animal (begrudgingly I might add) but pounced on Dave’s nuts the moment Batista turned heel… can we expect the same adoration for John when/if that fateful day arrives?
Minimal McMahon Melodrama
Doc: The McMahon family had a hard time letting go of their television personalities made famous in the late 90s and early 00s, much to the detriment of the WWE television product, in general. From 1998 to 2004, there was a lot of McMahon on Raw and Smackdown. It was beneficial to the business until 2001, when it went overboard with the Steph-Vince-Shane rivalry wearing thin and muddying the waters of the WWE vs. WCW/ECW feud that had plenty of natural wood to put on the fire. 2005 gave us a reprieve before 2006 and 2007 saw us have to endure a helluva lot more McMahon than anyone deserved.
CMV1 Rating - ****
SkitZ: Preach it, homie. Judging by Shane and especially Vince’s on-screen activity during the two years which followed, the McMahon clan must’ve taken a pricey vacation in ’05 and spent February-October sailing around the world on their personal yacht. Let’s not kid ourselves… the boss can’t keep his face off television when he’s meandering around the backstage area. VKM’s an attention whore just like the rest of his family and lives for further bloating his wallet on a daily basis. I mean Vince can’t realistically believe that he’s helping the ratings anymore when he randomly inserts himself into RAW, right? #docbleep# LET GO OF YOUR FADED GLORY DAYS, FOSSIL. Diehard marks don’t bother with caring any longer and nor should you when it comes to forced appearances. Hence why we should fondly remember 2005 as a blessing in disguise.
The McMahon bunch kept to the shadows and while political power plays were as evident as ever, at least we weren’t subjected to a groveling obnoxious family and the airing of their dirty laundry. Besides, we had no Austin or Rock around to provide viewers with some clarity. Fans were spared because the boss started educated his son-in-law on the business aspect of the company, Stephanie sat at home welcoming pregnancy, Linda began positioning herself for a stab at Connecticut Senate and Shane temporarily pursued alternative endeavors. Our luck ran dry by the New Year of course.
Edge, Matt & Lita's Volatile Love Triangle
SkitZ: You wonder whether Copeland could’ve transitioned into a permanent main eventer without the aid of his scrutinized relationship drama. Nice timing the way everything fell together, eh? People are gonna think I’m a few cans short of a six-pack for saying this but Matt should THANK Edge for making his career meaningful again. It’s a major bro code violation to bang your pal’s woman. We’re all familiar with this unwritten rule. But doing it while the dude’s off rehabbing and they’re still a legit couple? Harsh, Adam! Yours truly is a total slime ball who primarily thinks with his dick but even I wouldn’t #docbleep# my homie’s girl. Who knew the promiscuity would net you millions of dollars? The whole scandal reeks of indirect prostitution.
Doc: Art imitating life…
Edge would have become a main-eventer without messing around with Matt Hardy’s girlfriend, Lita, but I am not sure that it would have been nearly as effective. What Edge got from that real life situation was telling. It pissed him off that he got so much negative attention from it. For all intents, Edge is regarded as a good guy in a business full of questionable people. To be defined by one mistake that he owned up to justifiably made him an angry SOB who channeled that energy in the right direction. Edge was a star already, but the love triangle made him the Rated R Superstar. The situation also proved that Hardy had a connection to the people that was extremely strong, to the point that he was getting a lot of recognition on shows that for several months he was not even on. It earned him his job back, as well, putting him in a spotlight as a singles star that I’m quite confident would not have shined on him otherwise. The person to benefit the least was Lita, who went from most popular diva (arguably ever) to vilified hoe bag. I don’t get the sense that she cares too much about what other people think, but to have just about everyone in your life, personally and professionally, thinking of you as a cheater and liar could not have been easy.
CMV1 Rating - ****
SkitZ: Ultimately, justice was served (scans the room for any sight of Ambrose, Rollins or Reigns). Edge & Lita became outcasts in the locker room whom the roster looked down on. Hardy enjoyed a wave of temporary resurgence and the correct guy benefitted from the incident. Recent years have proven that Copeland’s honestly a good person who made a terrible mistake. Matt’s the odd ball whose insecurities have boiled over and turned him into a laughing stock among most wrestling circles. From “cryptic” social media messages to uncomfortable web recordings, Hardy’s grown weirder by the week. Then there’s Lita of course who still has the same slutty odor stained on her clothing. Goddamn do I miss those provocative outfits... Most importantly though, the chain of events led to a few tremendous matches, Matthew’s appropriate demotion and subsequently put Edge next in line for the WWE Championship. Muhahahahaha.
An Invention Dubbed MITB is Born
Doc: I recall that the IWC had this obsession with fantasy booking multi-man #1 contender matches for Wrestlemania about ten years ago. For a couple of WM seasons, LOP forum members would put together their top matches in that year’s Wrestlemania thread and then overload one cluster you-know-what match with as many of the remaining upper echelon talents as they could with an elusive title shot on the line for the winner. It seemed like a good idea, but there was no precedent for it until 2005, when Chris Jericho mentioned something about a ladder and six wrestlers. Well, look where the resulting Money in the Bank concept ended up. It spawned the main-event careers of Hall of Famer, Edge, and future Hall of Famer, CM Punk. It was a staple at six Wrestlemanias and now has its own PPV.
CMV1 Rating - ****1/2
SkitZ: WWE’s product has often suffered from excess pay per views with no purpose or running theme. In that regard, spawning MITB into its own PPV made every lick of sense. The Candyman may be on an island here but I preferred viewing the signature ladder match at WrestleMania. Plenty of folks have pointed out the repercussions of its absence since 2010. As much as MITB presented wrestlers on the cusp of superstardom with a guaranteed contract, its existence at the global phenomenon also hinged heavily on ensuring talents equal exposure. With the ladder spectacle moving to July indefinitely, so many underutilized grapplers are crammed into eight or ten person cluster#docbleep#s instead.
Management debuted Money in the Bank with good intentions. Sadly, the congested orgy became watered down with the inclusion of more participants and repetitiveness came knocking. Each year’s cast of characters began mirroring one other and you’d swear MITB constantly consisted of the same suspects. WWE pressed the right buttons initially however as the WM21 segment scored rave reviews from critics. Shelton Benjamin (wherever he is) deserves enormous props for leaving a lasting impression that made fans eagerly anticipate the follow-up act. It’s a brilliant idea that simply required some tweaking… Not a date and location change. A #docbleep# ton can still be learned and applied to today’s incarnation of MITB based on the original.
Hulkamania Steamrolls the Boyhood Dream
SkitZ: Vinchenzo & Co. receive heat for a lofty amount of their creative decisions. One area in which they always do right by us though is when dream matches come to fruition. More often than not, WWE treats the build for these legendary encounters with respect and innovation. Such isn’t ordinarily the case so you feel inclined to jump on the bandwagon when it strolls by once in a blue moon. Management kicked off the festivities in April, placed HBK/Hogan on slow burn and let it simmer. Shawn’s blindside superkicks never ceased to warm my cockles and the boot he planted on Hulk’s ugly mug almost tops the list.
Doc: If you struggled to invest in the HBK vs. Hogan match at Summerslam 2005, then I would like to revoke your fan card. What an old school, effective, excellent storyline it was. HBK provided some of the best character work of his post-comeback career, including that awesome segment where he mocked Hogan on the faux “Larry King Live” and the Montreal, pre-Summerslam Raw interview when he made the world think that Bret Hart had returned. The match at Summerslam was awesome, with HBK finding a bumping gear that he had not unleashed since before his back injury. Over the top? Sure. Who cares, though? That match was designed to entertain and that’s exactly what it did. It was also one of the matches that knocked down the long-held notion that HBK couldn’t draw. That was one of the strongest Summerslam buyrates in history.
CMV1 Rating - ****1/2
SkitZ: Should Hogan have laid down on the mat for Michaels? Absolutely. But that’s a laughable sentiment through and through. Pushing aside who deserved what for a split second, take a gander at HBK’s body of work in ’05 from wire to wire: Shawn’s trilogy of classics with Angle, street fight with Edge, Gold Rush tournament bout with Benjamin, ending Chris Masters’ undefeated streak, tribute match with Mysterio, his performance at Survivor Series, etc, etc, etc. Michaels is the undisputed MVP of 2005 as far as in-ring quality is concerned. Then The Hulkster glides in on his mighty white stallion, appears on a couple RAW episodes and supposedly conquers evil at SummerSlam??? Dog shit! (I’m literally flinging my cocker spaniel’s poo at the screen while typing this) So yes the wrong doofus won. Shawn carried his inferior foe to an epic performance and continued tearing it up on RAW. Adversely, Hogan flew home to Tampa where he snapped scandalous phone pictures of Brooke will feigning a text message.
Done. If our schedules line up properly, Doc & I should be dropping another deuce sometime during May. We shall see. Neither of us has nailed down what year’s on the chopping block yet so feel free to offer suggestions. Just don’t mention 2002 because it’s a painfully obvious candidate. Originality is a foreign concept!