30 Thoughts with Al Laiman - 3-24-14
By Al Laiman
Mar 25, 2014 - 4:16:57 PM
credit Tom Jenner
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30 Thoughts with Al Laiman - 3-24-14
1. I'm fully invested in WrestleMania for the first time in a few years, and I can't wait to see where this goes. I haven't missed a WrestleMania since 17, but after I was so disappointed with the phoned-in 29, I was nearly convinced out of it. Kudos to recent programming to piquing my interest, as they did before Summerslam 2013. Another epic Two Steps From Hell-esque opening with no stupid voice-over, I'm loving it! Steph is introduced to a likely-hot Brooklyn crowd, and her entrance music sounds like a combination of her old theme and Trish Stratus's. The first thing she announces is that Bryan won't be there, but I doubt that. She defends the actions expertly, even sparking a huge YES! chant just by mentioning it. A CM Punk chant eventually drowns out her words, reminding us all of the days of Vickie Guerrero promos on RAW, and she doesn't miss a beat. Steph mentions that H is the most powerful man in WWE, hinting that Vince may have something to say about that.
2. Randy Orton and his strobe lights interrupt Stephanie, giving us all pleasant memories of the WrestleMania 25 build-up, and let's see if he has any remaining HAM from his surprising win last week. It seems so, as he finally seems to have a personality worth watching, and the crowd is completely drowning them out. Stephanie does her best to condescend to all of them while Orton kisses up. Orton asks her to convince Triple H to avoid the title match.
3. Batista comes out to, yeah, speaking of Vickie Guerrero heat... And even he seems to be turning it up a bit, finally. Yet again he manages to miss a freaking letter from the company for which he works. "Big Dave Bautista: WW World Heavyweight Champion." His mic cuts in and out, but we're not really missing anything important, and we get several seconds of Batista dealing with technical issues. That was awkward. After Batista sucks up to Stephanie, he gets mad at Orton for sucking up to her. Dave turns up the insults on Steph, and she smacks the sunglasses off his smug-looking face. Orton is literally falling over laughing, and he gets speared for it. Dammit, this is two weeks in a row where I'm enjoying Orton, what the hell is wrong with me?!
4. We come back with Alberto Del Rio suddenly realizing the camera is on and deciding to do something, and it looks like he's teaming with Christian. No, a fatal-four way. Dolph's music hits to a damn big pop. That's impressive, given his booking since losing the title to ADR. But I believe we'll need the Warrior to announce the fourth competitor: IT'S A SHAMEFUL THING, LOBSTERHEAD! LIFE IS LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES, HOAK HOGAN! MOMMA ALWAYS SAID YOU HAVE TO EMASCULATE YOUR OPPONENTS WITH THE UTTER FORCE OF DESTRUCITY! I DON'T NEED TO GO BACK TO GREENBOW, ALABAMA TO SUMMON THE POWER OF THE TERRAIN OF TESTAMENT, HOAK HOGAN! I'LL BE BANGING JENNY BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, AND MY TASSEL CONDOM WILL DEFLECT HER IMPENDING AIDS DEVICE! YOU HAVE LESS OF A CHANCE THAN THE FORMER HALF OF BUBBA GUMP SHRIMP, HOAK HOGAN! I GOTTA FIND BUBBA!
5. Sheamus and Christian fight on the outside while Ziggler and ADR rekindle their feud. Ziggler is clearly the fan favorite, and this match will preview the oddly-timed Andre the Giant battle royal. Big E is there watching on, seeing who will face him for the Intercontinental title. Christian vaults over the top rope, but Sheamus catches him... damn impressive... and gets slammed for it. Sheamus tries to set up for the reverse Blair Witch Forearm Chops of Doom, ADR goes for an enziguiri and either falls down or hurts himself. Whoops. Chaos ensues into commercial while ADR continues grasping his knee. Very fast-paced, exciting opening for this match.
6. Starbuck is in the new WWE Studios movie? Looks like she might be a toaster too. I might have to talk the lady into going to see this one; she's the biggest BSG/Starbuck fan I've ever seen. JBL comments that the match has been insane. Well damn, if only we'd gotten to see all of it. Dolph does an awesome counter to a cross-body into a near-fall. Ziggler is still getting himself some massive chants, and it's good to see his career isn't dead in the water after he spent the latter part of 2013 looking like a high-profile enhancement talent. Christian then spends this part of the match doing what he's done for the last month, taking Sheamus's trademark moves.
7. Cole explains the Forearm Chops, as like Sandow's elbow, he has to explain what it means every time. Ziggler suddenly catches Lobsterhead on the top, and Sheamus kicks out of a top-rope fucking X-Factor?! I call bullshit on that one. Ziggler gets another nearfall on ADR, and the crowd chants about how awesome it is. A lot of quick pinfall attempts follow. ADR and Sheamus both get their submissions on each other, but naturally that also has nearly no effect on Sheamus. Ziggler manages to hit a Zig Zag on Sheamus WHILE HE HAS ADR still locking him in! Then Christian takes advantage, and they do their best to not call him the Ultimate Opportunist. Big E offers a handshake before their match tomorrow night, and Christian refuses. Amazing televised match and a fun preview of the battle royal.
8. Bray Wyatt continues his weekly dose of HAM while singing as an introduction. Wyatt tries to be a heel while making fun of Cena's catch phrases and obvious commercialism, but I think he's gaining supporters by saying those things. Would you believe it a year ago that the guy defeating The Rock would be facing Husky Harris at this year's WrestleMania? That speaks volumes to how well Bray has developed this character. Luke Harper's done pretty well for himself as well, and I can see him breaking out on his own in the future.
9. Scooby Doo plug, skip. Sin Cara comes out with someone in a Scooby Doo costume with some sad attempt to sing the theme song. Lawler asks if Cara jumped from the floor over the top rope, as if the character hasn't been doing that since his FUCKING DEBUT! He's facing a jobber-entranced Damien Sandow with the mood lighting. You know, at least with early Kane, the mood lighting made sense. What has Sin Cara done to earn his own special lighting for a match? Sin Cara wins via Swanton in less time than it took him to get to the ring with someone in a Scooby Doo costume. As Hustle would say, thanks for coming, Sandow. The only point to that was to promote the new movie.
10. Smackdown recaps, skip. We come back mid-Los Genericos entrance. Did their music get remixed, or has it just been so long since I've paid attention to them that I forgot? They're facing RyVD and Goofus because... reasons. Oh wait, now they're not in the Andre the Giant battle royal, they're getting to face the Usos at WrestleMania. Something gets the crowd's attention, and it's The Shield coming in from the crowd! Los Matadores win via distraction in the second straight sub-two minutes match.
11. The Shield surround the ring, which can't be good news for Goofus especially. I kinda like the Shield as face mercenaries, it just works. In quite short time, Goofus and Ryback get decimated as revenge for last week's Smackdown attack. That was just the Shield being the Shield, and I love it.
12. Michael Cole, hard-hitting journalist, welcomes the perpetrator of the 1999 Royal Rumble-ish attack, Triple H. JBL calls him "The greatest COO in the history of WWE." Yeah, all two of them. Cole finds a way to plug another social media thing two seconds into the interview, and then it transitions immediately into another recap. Triple H makes it known there's a difference between Triple H the COO and Triple H the WrestleMania competitor, because I guess in the Mick Foley perspective, he's going to play multiple personalities. Triple H does his job well, same as Stephanie at the top, to get the crowd to chant for Bryan. H even berates Cole for supporting Bryan's Occupy movement and disliking what H did. Once again, interesting for someone who verbally trashed Daniel Bryan for the first year of his career.
13. H sells his reluctance to bring out the Cerebral Assassin, blaming it on Bryan himself. Brilliant heel justification. H makes a tongue-in cheek reference to Attitude Era violence against the current status. H even turns up the HAM a bit, mocking the apathy of the social media generation. He namedrops the beginning of the "Reality Era" and ohdearJBL I really hope that doesn't mean the era of Total Divas and similar likenesses. This is Triple H at his absolute best on the mic, and even those with immense hatred for the guy cannot deny it, or shouldn't anyway.
14. Same video preview for the Cena/Wyatt match as last week, skip. Hey, remember when the Fandango thing was gonna be the next YES! movement? Even Brooklyn's barely doing it now. This week, he's facing Cody Rhodes, and Goldust is taking over for Rey Mysterio, giving out a free mask to a kid on the side aisle. This of course is a great time to talk about nothing but Total Divas, because Summer Rae is in it. The Reality Era, everyone. They transition to plugging the YouTube channel before actually calling the match. Another short match later, Cody Rhodes wins while Goldust tells Summer Rae that she got served. I guess it's on now. Another movie plug, skip. I did tune in to watch RAW and not the commercials, right?
15. No matter what anyone says, "Real American" still gets a huge reaction, even in smark cities. Cole reminds us that Hogan main-evented 9 WrestleManias, because he hasn't told us that yet. Hogan does his usual schtick, reminding us of something he did one time, but nobody minds. Hogan is sure to point to the WrestleMania sign, because, you know, we'd forget it was coming otherwise. Hogan brings out Ahnold, who looks short in comparison to Joe Manganiello. Even Hogan does, and he's no small dude.
16. Ahnold himself gets a huge reaction, as he should. He's like Hogan; maybe not the most talented, but one of the most entertaining in the appropriate context. Big Joe takes a page out of the Foley pop in order to even have a chance with two huge names. I'll admit, I don't know who this guy is. Ahnold puts over Andre too, because he just loves everyone. Ahnold asks if he and Joe can be in the battle royal.
17. A disgruntled Miz interrupts them with his best catch phrase, and even he manages to promote the damn movie in the process. Remember when this guy main-evented WrestleMania? Miz looks tiny compared to these three guys, and he's not really that small in real life. Those three guys are just huge. I guess Miz is a heel this week, and Big Joe throws down the punk card. Time for a wrestler to look weak in favor of a movie star... again. Wow, that was productive. Where's Bray Wyatt to comment on this commercialism?
18. Hey, even Rock gets a movie plug, after the segment with a movie plug. Oh hey, a wrestling match! Big Show's facing Titus O'Neil, so yeah, Pancake Patterson's chances aren't good. They have graphics of everyone in it, and even Brodus Clay somehow managed to get in there, despite not seeing him on TV anytime recently. Arnold and Hogan is trending, because fuck that third guy, who cares right? Titus has some impressive early offense, getting Big Show off his feet without making a big thing of it. But then suddenly, Big Show spears him, knocks him out, and wins. Another really brief match with a rather anti-climactic ending. Man, after that first awesome match, it's been a series of quick, uninspiring ones. I mean, you know, when they actually remember it's a wrestling show.
19. The Shield meets up with The Authority backstage, confronting them about Kane's actions. So they discuss making a match between The Shield and the Real Americans. Alrighty then. Cena is shown... in the bathroom, and he thinks he sees a lamb mask in the mirror. Kay.
20. Cena's match with Luke Harper is next. I really hope this isn't gonna be like the Orton/Punk feud before WrestleMania 27, where Orton won the matches against every single Nexus member, and then the match at WrestleMania too. Lawler says the Wyatts have Cena "literally, literally looking over his shoulder." As opposed to figuratively? The Wyatts get a huge reaction, which is not surprising considering this general area's views on Cena. The former Brodie Lee is a really intimidating guy, and has taken to the WWE style in stride. For all those Indy haters out there, claiming they're nothing but small spot monkeys, I give you Brodie fuckin' Lee. He's getting a huge "Let's Go Harper!" chant. Our number one face, everyone!
21. The custom Cena chants are breaking out, including chanting the name of the cereal Cena sponsors. This reminds me of the Chicago Money in the Bank crowd in a way, sans the CM Punk presence. As I skip through the commercial break in a few seconds, I'm again so thankful for DVR. In an interesting reversal of trends, the deeper voices chant: "Let's Go Harper!" and the higher-pitched ones chant "Harper sucks!" That's something I don't recall happening before. Cena takes too long going for the Five Knuckle Shuffle and gets bitchslapped for it. Nice. Cena tries to make a comeback, but gets leg-tossed out of the ring, and then Harper does a freaking dive to the outside! That was awesome!
22. Harper wrings his way out of the STF, then hits a vicious-looking DDT for a near-fall. Cena powers out of a top-rope move attempt before getting a near-fall himself with the leg-drop version of Shadows Over Hell. Harper just keeps countering everything Cena throws at him, definitely looking the part of a future major player. Harper has a seriously creepy look in his eyes before Cena clotheslines him JBL-style. Cena lifts Harper for the AA, and the Wyatt signature cuts him off. We get some Sabu-like theatrics in the dark, and when we come back, Cena is tied up in the ropes with a lamb mask. Symbolism! I'm pretty sure the "This is awesome!" chants were not what WWE officials were hoping for in a moment like that.
23. Hey, The Wolf of Wall Street preview for FiOS. Watching for Jackie in the preview. I think I saw a brief glimpse of her. Yes, that Jackie. She's the NASDAQ hooker. She went from Scorsese... to me. Not bad for a wrestling columnist. They then recap what we just saw, in case we forgot already, and "Somebody Call My Momma" hits, so you know what that means! It's the Total Divas portion of our show. Using the flagship show to promote a reality show with 25 percent of the viewership for the win! How will AJ Lee lose to a Total Diva this week? She'll get counted out after thirty seconds of match time.
24. Wow, I mentioned Vickie Guerrero earlier tonight, and here she is. Vickie calls her a real bitch, and books another match named for someone else at WrestleMania. The Vickie Guerrero Divas Invitational. Looks like every single Diva on the roster gets a shout-out, and like the Andre the Giant one, is being used to give as many superstars as possible a WrestleMania paycheck. So, which one of the Total Divas cast members wins to make for an interesting episode?
25. Recap, skip. Bragging about That Thing downloads, aye. This is a huge Hall of Fame class. Scott Hall is the latest, and like Jake the Snake, has had to overcome a lot of demons to get there. Good for him. Yes, I know he's being inducted as Razor Ramon, but I'd say he's better known as Scott Hall. Surprising though, that with all the archival footage they have, not one thing about the NWO mentioned. Maybe they're planning on inducting them as a whole at a later date and that's why they're not doing it, or just because they really wanted to enshrine Razor Ramon.
26. I just noticed that my FiOS preview of tonight's RAW reads: "Tonight, the Undertaker confronts the 'Best Incarnate' Brock Lesnar. More recaps, skip. Daniel Bryan appears via Tweet, lame. Big Show is facing Bray Wyatt on Smackdown... Because. The Shield leave the ring to attack the Real Americans. Hopefully this match lasts longer than every other match but the first one on this show. We, the People-Mania takes over Brooklyn, even with the popular Shield in the match. They mention Scooby Doo again, and JBL makes the exact same Baja Men joke that he made when he appeared. Nothing like making those references at the height of their popularity. Ambrose gets an Eddie Guerrero nostalgia chant going with the Three Amigos before tagging in Ambrose.
27. Cesaro goes uppercut city and is really playing up his own version of HAM tonight. Hey, the match has gone longer than 120 seconds, I don't know what to do with myself. Cesaro kicks Rollins off the apron with the camera guy standing right there, which looked cool but also didn't make much sense. Ambrose gets caught in the Big Swing, and Ambrose starts throwing punches midway through. HAMtastic. Then he gets swung like a hammock into the security wall. Ow, that was mildly inconvenient!
28. Cesaro and Ambrose give the Indy fans a little nostalgia themselves while Ambrose HAMs it up even more while begging Cesaro to hit him even harder. Ambrose is getting crazy reactions himself, and his hope spot is sick. I really hope the cameraman being up on the apron in the corner isn't going to be a new thing that continues frequently. Rollins freaking leg flips Cesaro over the top rope and to the floor. Rollins then takes out both Real Americans with high spots, and everyone is going nuts. Ambrose again goes crazy on the pin breakup, and then gets suplexed out of the ring. Wow! Rollins McFly then comes back and punches Biff in the face to get the win and save the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Reigns then comes in and spears both Real Americans, they clear the announce table, and Cesaro gets powerbombed through the table. Fucking awesome. Where was this emotion and intensity in between the first match and this one? Kane and the Outlaws, all in suits, then come out to the top of the stage and announce the six-man tag for WrestleMania.
29. It never gets old hearing Paul Heyman say BRRRRRRRRRRRROCK LLLLLLLLLLLLLLESNAR! Still, I could do without him pulling the Johnny Ace in having to introduce himself every single time he appears. Heyman says that The Streak isn't just a Streak, but an undefeated streak. Well, that is what a streak is, Paul E... Heyman mocks the crowd by calling Cena their hero, and Heyman takes the interesting position of saying that this won't ruin Taker's legacy. Heyman even manages to work in a WWE Network plug by explaining what channel the show was on. Genuine conversation. Lesnar then thankfully ends the promotion, and calls Taker out while his voice cracks, somehow taking away some of the intimidation. Let's... Do... Thiiiiiiis! I'm not supposed to be laughing right there.
30. The Druids chant fills the arena, and they walk a casket down to the ring. Good to see some Brooklyn-area Indy workers getting a paycheck tonight. While they show a shot of the casket, something on the ring apron pulls all by itself. Hmm. Probably shouldn't be showing that. Lesnar gives us a rare dose of HAM himself while cautiously tapping the coffin from the safety of the ring. Finally, he pulls open the coffin, and it's empty. Lesnar yells at the Druids, who slowly back away under their anonymous hoods. Lesnar yells about leaving, and that makes Heyman turn it up to 11 himself, but then suddenly the casket opens. Whaaaaaaaa, there's the Undertaker! The mood lighting disappears, because Sin Cara is clearly the only one who has the star power to merit that, and the brawl ensues. Lesnar gets clotheslined over the casket, and has successfully been owned both times they've been in the arena at the same time. Not exactly making anyone feel like the streak is being jeopardized. This show as a whole had some really great buildup, but also some major, major wastes of time. The fatal four-way and the tag match were really good and entertaining, but they filled the space in between with thirty-second matches, commercials, plugs, and movie promotion. Then it ended with Taker getting the upperhand again, and that just hurts any suspension of disbelief that the streak has any chance of being snapped; more than it already does, considering Lesnar's part-time status. Definitely high peaks with a huge low valley in the middle. It was hard to keep paying attention between those two.
Check out the trailer for my second short film, starring Jackie!
Dean Ambrose gets his second HAM of the year for his over-the-top performance in the tag match tonight.
2012 - Daniel Bryan
2013 - Paul Heyman
1-6-14 - Dean Ambrose
1-13-14 - Big Show
1-20-14 - Big Show
2-3-14 - Bray Wyatt
2-17-14 - Titus O'Neil
2-24-14 - The Undertaker
3-3-14 - Paul Heyman
3-10-14 - Stephanie
3-17-14 - Randy Orton
3-24-14 - Dean Ambrose