IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: 30 Thoughts... 30 Day Wrestling Challenge
By Al Laiman
Oct 21, 2012 - 7:52:01 PM
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IN LAIMAN'S TERMS: 30 Thoughts... 30 Day Wrestling Challenge
Well, everyone's doing it, so I thought I'd do my little spin on it. Since there are 30 days in the challenge and I write 30 Thoughts, why not just do it all at once? I know for a fact I'd never have time to write 30 days in a row, so I'll just get it out of the way here. These will obviously be more condensed than a daily.
1. Favorite wrestler of all time
If you've read my column, ever... You don't need the answer to this, but I'll tell you anyway. My favorite wrestler of all time has been Kane since the first night I watched wrestling. The mystique and aura of the original Kane transfixed me at a young age, and I always felt an attachment to the character. Sure, there were some times where the character wasn't treated the best, but it's a testament to the man behind the mask (face?) who has kept it alive this long. He's also found a way around some of the worst angles and gimmicks in history, and is easily one of the best big man wrestlers of all time. Even in his 40s, he's adapted yet again and found a new way to become part of the most entertaining thing in WWE all year. I have many favorite wrestlers, but Kane will always be my number one and all-time sentimental favorite.
2. Your least favorite wrestler of all time
Some of you probably think it's Randy Orton, and well... You'd be close. I get hate for that all the time, but I've never liked the guy, and those of you that worship the ground on which he walks will just have to accept that someone has a different opinion than you. However, one wrestler beats him out, and his name is Alex Shelley.
Alex Shelley is a tremendous talent and a great wrestler, so don't confuse my hatred of him for denial of his place in the wrestling industry. This stems from something a little more personal. When Chris and I were working for an independent company, we got asked to get the big names from the airports a lot, and we were of course happy to oblige. Chris picked up the Motor City Machine Guns in Baltimore and on the ride to the show, Shelley was an absolute douche to him. He treated all of us the same way. I know that he was in a prime spot of his TNA run at that point, but that's never an excuse to treat someone doing you a favor with disdain. It would take a supreme act of douchebaggery to take the crown from him. I won't go into details, but he wins easily.
3. Your favorite tag team of all time
I love the APA, and I always have. When Faarooq and Bradshaw were the dark Acolytes, I was still in my total-Kane markdom and hated them for taking the tag titles. However, once the team broke off from the Ministry and the association with the dark forces, they turned into a bar-brawling, straight-up badass team. Now if that wouldn't be awesome enough, they turned into the Acolyte Protection Agency.
During this time, they would rough up anyone for the buyer's protection. That simple guitar riff let everyone know that someone was getting their ass kicked. To top it off, they had a set backstage with a door, despite no walls, and a poker table. This led to some of the funniest backstage segments of the time, and the combined personalities of Simmons and Layfield were priceless. "Use the damn door!" Badass members, hilarious segments, what more could you ask for? If they keep Anger Management going the way they are, they could be the next APA, in a matter of speaking of course.
4. All time favorite promo
Maybe I'm biased (because I was in it), but in 2007, "Sweet and Sour" Larry Sweeney was catching fire in the International Wrestling Cartel. Despite being a heel, he was starting to get more and more face pops, and we were leading the chorus. It came down to the eight-man annual tournament in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, and in three tremendous matches with Jay Lethal, Azrael, and Shiima Xion, Sweeney won the tournament and the coveted Super Indy title.
After the show, the cameraman asked "The Sweeney fans" (me and Chris) to be in the background as he gave his victory speech. I don't know what I was doing at the time, and I was far too sober and not-Chrislike to mug, but I was still right there behind him. It's a moment I'll never forget.
5. Favorite WWE match
Kurt Angle vs. Chr... Lord Voldemort - Royal Rumble 2003
I'm a huge fan of technical wrestling, and this was probably the best display of it that I've witnessed. I don't tend to watch wrestling that's either not live or something I haven't experienced, so I'm sure a lot of matches took place before I was watching that were amazing, but this is the one that I still watch a couple times a year. There weren't a lot of gimmicks or high spots; it was just a straight-out wrestling clinic, with Voldemort constantly getting the upper edge on the wrestling machine. The last five minutes of this match is each of them trying to one-up the other, and it's a masterpiece. The final conclusion saw Angle getting the win, but Voldemort's performance was so incredible that he received a standing ovation from the Boston crowd. It's a moment tainted by later events, but it still gives me chills every single time.
6. Your favorite finishing maneuver
Is there anything more awesome than the Canadian Destroyer? I mean, can you really even touch it? I don't know what Petey Williams is doing now. Hell, I never really knew what Petey Williams was doing. Does anyone really remember anything else about the guy? I'm sure he was a great wrestler, but he's like Gallagher. Petey's watermelons is the Canadian Destroyer, and whether he was a face or heel, the crowd would absolutely mark for it every single time he hit it. It was considered a waste if he didn't find a way to work it into a match.
I'm sure I've told this story before, but I'll never forget AJ Styles talking about trusting Petey Williams to do that move, and then deadpanned and said, "I mean, it's not like I'm gonna trust someone like Hernandez."
7. Worst finishing maneuver
The Pumphandle Slam. Hey, got a bland big man wrestler? Have a gimmicky wrestler with limited wrestling ability? Give him the Pumphandle Slam.
Not only is it slightly homoerotic, but it's a transitional move, it looks like hell, and so many people have used it that even CM Punk wouldn't touch it. It's just a lame move that whether Snitsky, the Boogeyman, or worst of all the Road Dogg (complete with a two-hump pre-set) were busting it out, it merely merits a groan.
8. Worst botch of all time
Maybe it wasn't the worst, but it's my favorite since I got to see it live. It's second to only Mark Henry failing tremendously to get the steel cage door open for the exact same reason; I was there when it happened.
Six-man tag match, Hershey, PA. I'm in the lower level. Chris Jericho has the Walls of Jericho locked in, and Randy Orton comes from behind to hit the RKO... and completely misses it. He's forced to do it completely over again and this time successfully hits it, but damn if that wasn't hilarious.
9. Funniest wrestling moment
Once again, with being the Kane mark that I am, this is going to surprise nobody, but in 2002, The Rock and the newly-face Hulk Hogan were teaming up with Kane. Kane at that point had never really showcased his comedic abilities, but that was about to change. The Rock asked him if he was ready, to which Kane responded with the same question. Just as The Rock was about to bust into one of his catch phrases, Kane cut him off with his own! Kane then went into an energetic promo where he quoted both The Rock and Hulk Hogan, complete with a "WHAT'CHA GONNA DO!". What makes the promo are the faces of Hogan and The Rock while the feared masked man steals the comedic moment. Kane would later showcase his abilities, of course recently doing so with the anger management segments, but at the time this one happened, nobody saw it coming.
10. Favorite TNA match
I'm sure there have been great TNA matches since I stopped watching in 2009, but my favorite TNA matches have been when TNA wrestlers aren't wrestling in TNA. This definitely wasn't the greatest match of all time, but when AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels locked up in the main event of Newville Knockout 2, it was my favorite match involving TNA wrestlers. Why? It was the first time I'd seen two names that big and in their prime wrestling from the first row of the crowd. Oh yeah, and we'd hung out with them in the locker room beforehand and watched their preparation. We got pictures too.
Daniels also showcased his own comedic abilities with an improvised pre-match promo, making fun of some of the fans yelling out insanely stupid things. Someone screamed "ECW!", and Daniels came back with, "No, neither of us are in ECW, but thanks for watching the television show." Again, I know there are greater matches in TNA history, but that one's a sentimental favorite for me.
11. All time favorite heel
Triple H. Through a good seven years, he was the guy I loved to hate. Sure, I went through the period of new smarkdom where I thought I hated him because of what I thought was going on backstage, because after all we were the experts on that... But every time Motorhead would hit, I instantly paid attention. I also have to admit that even during that intense hatred of smarkness, when that theme hit live, I cheered like hell.
Triple H during 2000 put on some of the best matches of the era, and played such a dastardly cerebral heel that he earned his nickname and reputation. It's through hindsight that I'm able to realize just how brilliant of a job he did at the time.
12. Worst promo of all time
"And starting this moment... from now... from this moment on... This will be the moment... Starting now... Of the genesis... of McGillicutty."
Do I really need to say more?
13. Favorite Royal Rumble elimination
The Royal Rumble is my favorite event, and I've watched every one since 2000 live. I remember watching intently in 2004 because I'd be at the RAW the following evening. It was snowing out and we weren't even sure if we'd get to go, but my entire family was gathered around the TV. It's the only time I've ever watched a Pay-Per-View with my father, and he was cheering for Nunzio because he was the, "smart one who stayed outside."
When Voldemort had Big Show in that slowly rotating headlock, the anticipation built until Philadelphia came unglued. He'd entered number one and did the unthinkable, lasting the entire way through the Rumble to earn a title shot at WrestleMania. Maybe it wasn't the greatest Rumble in history, but it's my favorite because of the surrounding circumstances and anticipation.
14. Hottest female wrestler
It's rare that you hear me comment on looks when it comes to wrestling, and to be perfectly honest I've never really given a damn what the wrestlers look like. However, when Lita first started teaming up with the Hardyz, I have to admit that was an exception. I was in the middle of "that phase", where I had the bondage pants and hung out with all the trench coats in school. I still have the trench coat, but it hardly means what it once did. I still have long hair, but it rarely comes off as a dark child. My taste for women with a hint of a gothic edge though is still tried and true, so Lita before her injury would be the closest I could give this question a good answer.
15. All time stupidest match stipulation
The blindfold match.
Is there any way on earth to make this a good idea? Has anyone ever enjoyed when you take the vision and communication out of wrestling, reducing a match to mostly two wrestlers feeling around the ring for each other? Does anyone not see the ending coming, where the heel peeks and gets a cheap win out of it? Does anyone ever anticipate a feud culminating in a blindfold match? There is nothing redeemable about this stipulation what-so-god-damn-EVER!
16. Best ring entrance
While I love the original Kane entrance where the lights would go out and the organ music would hit before the pyro exploded, it's hard to touch the unchallenged king of atmosphere when it comes to an entrance: The Undertaker. And where is the Undertaker at his best? WrestleMania, of course.
The Undertaker is synonymous with WrestleMania, as The Streak continues to be the only reason we even have the character. Not only are you pretty much guaranteed something memorable, especially in the last five or six years, but Taker saves his special entrances, which are more over-the-top than his usual stuff, and takes the moment to a new level. Whether it's the druids or a special outfit or a new way of entering the arena, even The Brood and the ring of fire (and it burns, burns, burns) can't compare with The Undertaker at WrestleMania.
17. Favorite entrance music
I suppose it's pretty obvious that I have a guilty pleasure fascination with "Somebody Call My Momma" and torturing my poor sister, but I wouldn't call it my favorite.
I'm a huge theme mark; I always have been. I used to try to find "CD quality" themes to download, especially when they weren't on CD. I'd listen to them endlessly and imagine matches in my head. It was the first thing that made me want to be a wrestler; imagining what entrance theme I'd use, and how it would look... What lights I would use... The whole ordeal. In my extremely limited video game knowledge, RAW 2: Ruthless Aggression was amazing to me because you could design every aspect of the entrance. That's something no other wrestling game has matched in my eyes.
But for the hundreds of themes I've heard on television and many more that I've heard live, I'm going to divide this into two categories: Themes created for a wrestler, and wrestlers who use a song that already exists.
Created Wrestler Theme: "Real American." Hulk Hogan. I know it's cool to hate on Hogan, and he hasn't done a lot to help his reputation in the last decade, but I still get goosebumps when I see Hogan's entrance in past wrestling DVDs. Few themes could ever send a building into a frenzy like this one, and when it was at its peak, it was absolutely legendary. The Eugene save at Wrestlemania 21 still gives me that same moment where I feel like a ten-year-old for just a second.
Already Existing Song: "The Final Countdown." Bryan Danielson. I've written about this before, but the theme would be epic enough for arguably the best wrestler in the world. However, when he was still in Ring of Honor, adding 1500 people singing the song in unison sent it over the top, and I hear that every time the song comes on my iPod. It's hard to make an epic entrance with a low budget, but Danielson was so awesome that he managed to do it with a simple song. Now he just does it with basic exclamations.
18. Best memory of ECW
Since I didn't watch the original ECW, I have to go on what I did experience. Seeing the first One Night Stand gave me a glimpse into a different world of wrestling for the first time, not to mention a different crowd. They had different chants, they sang songs, and they were more unified than any I'd ever seen. I suppose that would make my best wrestling memory getting to experience the hot ECW crowd for the first time. I know it's lame, but it's the best I've got.
19. Most deserving to be entered into the WWE Hall Of Fame who has yet to be inducted
Bruno Sammartino. Nobody deserves to be in the Hall of Fame more than this man. I doubt it's ever going to happen, due to his strained relationship with the company, but the man held the world championship for nine years. NINE YEARS! Do you have any idea how ridiculous that is? Take CM Punk's current title reign, and add EIGHT YEARS to it. I realize it was a different time without weekly television, but it's still by far and away the record.
Bruno was instrumental in making televised professional wrestling what it is. I listened to Larry Zbyszko tell stories about how he and Bruno would fill Shea Stadium and tear the house down throughout the decade, and I could envision what it must've been like, when the world had yet to be enlightened and the internet wasn't there to bitch about stale title reigns. There's something magical about the ignorance of the pre-internet wrestling fan, and while I love being able to use it to share my thoughts with all of you, I miss the times where it was all real and everything was awesome.
20. Worst gimmick
Is it possible to line up all the terrible gimmicks and choose just one? I'd say the worst I've ever seen in person was the American Balloon. I'm sure he's a very nice guy and a talented wrestler, but basing a wrestling character on inflated flapping man boobs is something I wish I could unsee.
21. Favorite hardcore match
Cactus Jack vs. Triple H at Royal Rumble 2000. Unlike a lot of hardcore matches, this is one where a genuine story was told from beginning to end, and Triple H was made into a superstar. Triple H was beaten and left bleeding, but Madison Square Garden was the site where Triple H left the world of being a star and proved he belonged in the main event.
There are few who can tell a story with anyone like Mick Foley, and on this night, both of these men were at their absolute best. I'm not a big hardcore match fan, but this is the stuff of legends.
22. Most underrated wrestler of all time
Low-ki/Kaval. Talk about a talented guy who was never given a fair shot. After winning NXT2, he was essentially tagged with jobber duty, given one win to get an Intercontinental title match, and then unceremoniously released. Low-ki is one of the most intense workers I've ever seen, and some of his matches that I've seen live were downright incredible. His martial arts background compensates for his size, and the untapped potential left by teaming him with LayCool and then never utilizing it still angers me to this day.
23. Worst match of all time
In an IWC title match in 2008, Denny Gregory was challenging The Sandman for the belt. When the Sandman came out, he had a case of beer with him, and nearly killed himself falling off the chairs. He was so trashed that he forgot his Singapore Cane. I'll repeat that: The SANDMAN forgot his SINGAPORE FUCKING CANE! This match was so bad, a trainwreck stopped to look at it. Sandman was trashed, fell asleep during the match, could barely stand, and was a disgrace to a great guy in Denny Gregory who served his country and always gave his best in the ring.
24. Favorite WCW Match
I didn't watch WCW. When I first got into wrestling, my new wrestling friends told me, "Friends don't let friends watch WCW." So I never did, so I never saw any.
25. Best OH MY GOD! / HOLY SHIT! moment
I'm gonna have to agree with the WWE DVD on this one and say Foley falling off the Hell in a Cell cage easily is the number one moment like that. Having wrestled in the Pittsburgh area, I know plenty of people who were at the Igloo that night, and it's still the only thing most people remember from King of the Ring 1998. Not only was it not the end of the match, but it wasn't even the last match of the show! But in one of the ballsiest and most scary moments in professional wrestling history, Foley flew off the top of that cage and damn near hit his head on a monitor after a 16-foot drop.
Foley of course took a second fall through the cage in that same match, and what still rings in my ears is JR legitimately yelling, "Will somebody stop the damn match!" Shortly behind that, is of course the famous call following the first fall: "My God, they've killed him! God as my witness, he is broken in half!" When even the guys whose job it is to call the match are that seriously worried about how real it is, it's an immortal Holy Shit moment.
26. Most overrated wrestler of all time
I don't feel I can answer this one.
27. Greatest feud of all time
It might not be considered the greatest, but the original Kane vs. Undertaker feud is one of my favorites. I can't ever remember another feud getting such depth, such storyline, such buildup, than the near-year it took to build up to the debut of Kane. The seeds were planted after WrestleMania, and it took until Survivor Series for the younger brother of the Undertaker to actually appear. That's a storyline for which the current generation wouldn't have the patience to grasp!
Yes, I realize I'm being a mark, and yes, I know other feuds have transcended the business and made a lot more money, but this one captures to me what professional wrestling can be when it's done to perfection. Backstory, drama, surprises, character development, and on top of that, wrestling matches that mean something every time they happen. Kane vs. Undertaker at Wrestlemania XIV may not be a technical classic, but it was incredible and epic from my perspective.
28. Your all time favorite match in wrestling history
See my favorite WWE match.
29. The greatest ever wrestler of all time (You don't have to like them)
If we're talking greatest wrestler from a technical standpoint, I'd say you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more gifted than Kurt Angle in his prime. I remember a meme going around back in the early 2000s that showed the ideal Pay-Per-View card being every big star vs. Kurt Angle. The guy could make anyone look like a million bucks, and I seldom remember ever seeing a match with him that wasn't, at the minimum, good.
If we're talking greatest wrestler from a marketing standpoint, I'd say it'd have to be The Rock. It obviously comes down to Hogan, Rocky, and Austin, but where Rocky has succeeded and the others have failed is transcending wrestling and finding success in all media facets. Hogan and Austin were absolutely huge for their time, but their outside endeavors were major bombs. The Rock managed to be a success at wrestling and not embarrass himself in celluloid at the same time. He was able to walk away from wrestling because he could, not because he had to.
I know not everyone is a Rocky fan anymore, because we're postmodern and are supposed to hate the Attitude Era, but The Rock's rise to stardom is still an amazing story, and I believe he remains the only major professional wrestler to bridge the gap between professional wrestling and the rest of the entertainment industry.
30. Who in your opinion is the future of the wrestling business?
The future of the wrestling business is Triple H, and that's not from a performing standpoint.
Hunter has already begun to take over Vince's baby and mold the next generation. We've seen the resurgence of the tag division, lengthy title reigns, stars from the Indys becoming superstars, stables making a comeback, and a shift from "Shock-TV" to a realism feel.
Triple H holds the future of the biggest wrestling company ever in his hands. If he can continue on the path he is, and stick through the low ratings which always happens during a rebuilding or transitional period, the new golden era of wrestling will come. New names need to be made, new stars budded, and a new era of wrestling needs to begin. With Triple H taking the controls, he will determine the future of the business itself.
Thanks everyone, hope you enjoyed my condensed 30-Day Challenge, and we'll be back tomorrow night with Monday Night RAW and a new winner of HAAAAAAAAAAAM!
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