When I was a kid, I didn't get to watch a lot of wrestling. Sure, I knew who The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin were, but I only caught glimpses of professional wrestling every now and then. In 2002, the internet wasn't as popular as it is today, and at the age of 12, I spent my one hour of daily computer time playing games. YouTube wasn't around back then, so even if I wanted to watch wrestling on the internet - I couldn't. I think my bedtime was 10pm back then, so with RAW airing from 9-11 (and usually delayed because of hockey on TSN), my access to wrestling was quite restricted.
Then, one day I went over to a friends' house and with nothing better to do, we decided to watch TV. After flipping through the channels, we stumbled upon two guys with long hair standing inside a wrestling ring, talking. "Hey, this looks cool," I said. My friend agreed and we kept watching. I didn't know at the time that I was about to witness my favourite (and first) wrestling memory. This one:
Looking back now, this was simply an epic moment. Yes, The Attitude Era was basically over. Yes, The Rock and Stone Cold and even Hulk Hogan were winding down their in-ring careers. But I can't help but think this was a great way to get into wrestling. Watching Triple H betray one of his best friends on national TV, hearing Jim Ross flip out on commentary, and even listening to the crowd chant "Holy Shit" in response to what they just saw, it felt special to me. Hell, it felt real to me. I had heard about wrestling being fake from all the kids at school, but I convinced myself that I had just witnessed something real. From that night onward, I made sure to tune into RAW every single week.
And I did. I watched Triple H become one of the most-hated men to ever hold a world heavyweight championship. And boy did he hold onto that title, for what seemed like forever. I eventually discovered SmackDown on The Score, fell in love with John Cena (shut up), and the rest - as they say - is history. I have been addicted to wrestling ever since that one faithful night.
Truth be told, Triple H's heel turn had a scarring effect on me. He and Shawn Michaels re-united several times over the next decade, and everytime they were in the ring together, doing their DX shtick, I always braced myself for a kick to the gut after hearing the words "suck it" come out of HHH's mouth. The moment never came, but to this day, I still keep my eyes peeled for it. I'm not even joking.
Well, now you know how I got into wrestling. Care to share your story?
2. Day 17
Today will be another trip down memory lane, and it will involve someone who I talked about in yesterday's column. In my opinion, there have been plenty of entertaining wrestling groups/stables in history.
-The nWo will always be regarded as one of the most influential groups of all-time. Whether it's the original formation of Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hulk Hogan or later incarnations on both WCW and WWE television, there is no denying the impact they had on the world of wrestling. However, the nWo were a bit before my time, so I can't honestly refer to them as my favourite group.
-If I was too young to appreciate the nWo, then I was way too young to see The Four Horsemen in their prime. That hasn't stopped me from finding the group's best stuff online, as well as checking out their DVD several months ago. There's a reason the Horsemen (any of the versions, really) deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. They were the perfect stable and laid the groundwork for how a wrestling group should operate.
-A much more recent power group is TNA's Main Event Mafia. For those unfamiliar with Dixie Carter territory, it was a group of heel main-eventers led by Kurt Angle that commanded respect and took out the younger talent on the roster, who they felt were "gunning for their spots". Unfortunately, much like the nWo a decade earlier, the group became over-populated when they merged with another stable known as World Elite, and there were too many members to count. It's a shame, as TNA had a really cool group going for themselves.
Rounding out my "top five" if you will is two of the greatest wrestling factions of all-time, both of which were led by the same man. As much as I enjoyed their antics, interactions with the crowd, and their rivalries, D-Generation X is NOT my favourite group of all-time, although they are a close second. Rather, my favourite group/stable is one that did a fantastic job of not only creating two new main-eventers, but blended past, present, and future together. I'm talking about
From 2002-2005, Triple H was easily the most hated man on the WWE roster. Whether the fans despised him for turning on Shawn Michaels, holding the World Heavyweight Championship for ages (and being AWARDED the title, no less), or 'burying' young talent, there were very few people who cheered The Cerebral Assassin during the Post-Attitude Era. WWE wisely decided to take advantage of his heat and pair him and his on-air mentor, Ric Flair, with two young bucks named Randy Orton and Batista. Both Orton and Batista had been struggling to make a name for themselves prior to aligning themselves with HHH and Flair. That all changed the night Evolution was born.
On paper, Evolution may not have been the 'best' stable in history, but they were dominant, and were arguably the only interesting part of RAW during their reign. As you can see in the above image, Evolution possessed all of RAW's male championships at the conclusion of Armageddon 2003. Triple H was the World Champion, Randy Orton the Intercontinental Champion, and Flair/Batista were the Tag Team Champions. Did Triple H use the group to remain world champion and the top guy on RAW for longer than he should have? Arguably, but there is no denying Orton and Batista's elevations to the top of the card thanks to their involvement in Evolution.
As all stables inevitably do, Evolution was no more come 2005, when Orton had been booted from the group after his title victory at SummerSlam 2004, and Batista would later win the Royal Rumble and challenge Triple H for the world title at Wrestlemania 21. Afterwards, HHH and Ric Flair would have a short but memorable feud, but Evolution had served it's purpose by then - Orton and Batista were ready to become top singles stars, even though Orton's face turn slowed down the process. Still, Evolution made the most of what was a depleted and younger roster thanks to the brand split and the loss of many main-event stars.
I really liked the stable because in my eyes, they made the RAW tag team and midcard scene seem almost as important as the main-event. I believe Orton's run as Intercontinental Champion was well done and it gave us the epic feud and match with Mick Foley at Backlash 2004. Many critics say the group was all about Triple H clinging to power and Ric Flair refusing to ride into the sunset, but I saw it as the birth of two new stars in Orton and Batista. Evolution proved that stables did not die in The Attitude Era, that if done properly, they can be truly entertaining.
What are your feelings on Evolution? Who was your favourite wrestling group/stable?
3. Day 18
To be honest, there isn't exactly a long list of couples to choose from, which I find rather unfortunate. When done properly, an on-screen couple (or a wrestler with a valet) could not only make for interesting television, but elevate one or both participants up the card. I often wonder how far Edge would have gone without Lita by his side, or if Dolph Ziggler would be Mr. Money in the Bank had Vickie Guerrero not been paired with him a few years ago. Considering the lack of wrestling skills possessed by many of today's divas, I don't get why WWE doesn't pair more superstars with the opposite sex. But I digress...
-Edge & Lita is a popular pick, and for good reason. The two had amazing chemistry together and thanks to their real-life love triangle with Matt Hardy (who was once loved by the IWC), they got major heat over it. Lita was responsible for helping Edge win - and retain - a number of championships, while always being a top contender for the Women's Championship in her own right. They remained an on-air couple even after they were no longer dating in real-life, so kudos to both of them for not allowing feelings to interfere with their work. Truly a power couple were Edge and Lita.
-For old-school fans, it would be hard not to select Randy Savage & Miss Elizabeth as an all-time favourite. I wasn't around during their day and age, but seeing the old clips and watching them now, I just get chills. It's sad to think neither of them are still with us today. If they had a powerful effect on someone who wasn't around to see their "rise and fall", I can only imagine what the experience must have been like for those who watched the love story unfold before their eyes.
-Very few people will agree with me on this one, but I think Jeff & Karen Jarrett were an underrated couple. It was a lot like the Edge/Lita/Matt love triangle from 2005, with Karen leaving her ex-husband Kurt Angle and hooking up with Jeff without the front office knowing about it. When Dixie Carter did find out, Jeff was sent on a "leave of absence" until he returned to TNA, where the company turned the drama into an on-air storyline. Many people found it tasteless, but it was good business - how can you not hate a guy who hooks up with his co-worker's ex-wife? The Jarretts were a surprisingly entertaining couple, and it made the feud with Angle that much better. Better yet, it kept both guys out of the world title scene, and we were introduced to "MMA Jeff".
Each one of those couples were great for different reasons, but my favourite on-screen couple is one that flew under the radar, and will evoke a "Who???" reaction from some of you. It's a shame they never got a chance to show off their talents on RAW, as they quietly took SmackDown - and the Cruiserweight Division - by storm during their reign. They were heels, but they made you laugh, they entertained you, and they made you laugh some more. My all-time favourite on-screen couple would have to be
Jamie Noble & Nidia
It didn't matter who they were feuding with, they always found a way to make it interesting. These rednecks made life a living hell for Tajiri and Billy Kidman, and made me care a lot more about the Cruiserweight Division, which was lacking some personality. The two lovebirds lasted a solid two years, and even turned face at one point, but their best work was done as a heel. I'll never forget their excitement after Noble got rich (in kayfabe) and the once-trailer-trash-folk acted like high royalty. They had some of the most hilarious promos of the time and were a perfect example of two lower card performers making the most of any TV time they got.
It's a shame that Noble and Nidia never had some high-profile feuds, as they had the potential to go far in the WWE. Unfortunately, Noble's size worked against him, and the days of smaller wrestlers like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and Rey Mysterio winning "the big one" were a bit before his time. Noble & Nidia might not make many "greatest of all-time" lists, but they definitely make mine.
What about you? Were you a fan of Noble & Nidia? Am I crazy for picking them as my favourite? Who was your favourite on-screen couple?
4. Day 19
I said it earlier this month when choosing my least favourite wrestler of all-time, and I'll say it again. So. Many. Choices. I could easily make a list of WWE moments that have disappointed me in 2012 alone. Thankfully, the topic is restricted to WWE, which spares me the agony of listing some WCW and TNA moments that were plain-out awful and embarrassing. Here's a quick list of some of WWE's biggest let-downs over the years:
-Christian losing the world heavyweight championship two days after he won it for the very first time.
-The CM Punk/Undertaker feud from 2009.
-The 'retirement' of WWECW.
-Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania XX.
-The Brock Lesnar/Triple H feud from earlier this year.
-Daniel Bryan losing the world heavyweight championship in 18 seconds at Wrestlemania XXVIII.
-Randy Orton vs. Triple H at Wrestlemania XXV.
-John Cena being forced to join The Nexus, but not really joining them.
-John Cena being 'fired' after Survivor Series 2010, although not missing a single TV taping or live event.
-WWE opting for The Miz vs. John Cena at Wrestlemania XXVII rather than going with The Miz vs. John Morrison and John Cena vs. The Rock a year earlier.
-Matt Hardy being revealed as Jeff Hardy's attacker at the 2009 Royal Rumble rather than Christian.
Any one of those moments/feuds/matches could stand alone as a choice, but there is one person who is responsible for countless disappointing moments throughout the year. Despite not being an active wrestler, or an actual wrestler for that matter, he is responsible for burying Chavo Guerrero for months, killing the Cruiserweight Division, turning a large portion of the IWC against Finlay, nearly destroying DX's credibility, ruining the payoff to the Anonymous RAW General Manager storyline, and worst of all, being revealed as Vince McMahon's legitimate son, a role that was meant for Mr. Kennedy/Anderson, but could have been used to create a new main-event heel. Obviously, I'm talking about this little bastard:
Hornswoggle has been a disappointment and an embarrassment practically his entire WWE career. With the exception of his debut, when he played a sidekick to heel Finlay and was briefly entertaining, Hornswoggle has been a plague in WWE for over five years. As I mentioned, he has buried wrestlers, killed divisions, and has ruined storylines. Unlike stars like Daniel Bryan or Chris Jericho where "everything they touch turns to gold", Hornswoggle has the opposite effect on anything and everyone he's associated with. No one under the age of eight likes him, and seeing his stupid face on my TV screen makes my blood boil. He never would have survived in a non-PG era, and the fact he only started talking THIS YEAR confirms how worthless he is. I don't care if he's popular with young kids, he has made the rest of us suffer throughout the years by putting up with his crap. The guy is a joke and should have been released years ago.
Just to clarify, Hornswoggle's reveal as Vince's illegitimate son is my pick for most disappointing WWE moment because the angle had been hyped for so long, that everyone was expecting a major play-off. I know Kennedy's injury messed up those plans, but just about anyone else could have been used for the role instead and moved up the card as a result. Instead, WWE stupidly went with Hornswoggle and pissed away months of storyline and build-up. Talk about a bad idea.
What - or who - do you consider to be the biggest WWE disappointment of all-time?
5. Day 20
The tricky thing about the 30-Day Challenge is that some entries are longer than others, either because of the topic, or the variables that force me to explain my choice over the 'top contenders'. Today is not one of those longer days (although tomorrow will be!). I know the goal is to select my favourite wrestling move, but all of my favourite moves are either finishers or signature moves. Sue me. Here is a list of my all-time (but not the number one) favourite wrestling moves/finishers:
-Randy Orton's RKO
-Shawn Michaels' Sweet Chin Music
-The Dudley Boyz' Dudley Death Drop
-Chris Benoit's Crippler Crossface
-Evan Bourne's Shooting Star Press/Air Bourne
- Justin Gabriel's 450 Splash
-[The set-up to] Alberto Del Rio's Cross-Arm Breaker
-Zack Ryder's Broski Boot
-Jamie Noble's Tigerbomb
-Chris Jericho's Walls of Jericho
-Brock Lesnar's F-5
There is something unique and something to like about each one of those moves, which makes them all enjoyable to watch. But my all-time, number one, favourite wrestling move has to be
The Stone Cold Stunner
Honestly, nothing else really comes close. Not only is the move performed by arguably the most popular wrestler in history, but it never gets old. Stone Cold has been using the move for decades and the crowd pops for it every time, be it on a main-eventer like The Rock or a nobody like Andy Leavine. Furthermore, the move is relatively simple, but devastating. More often than not, when you get hit by a Stone Cold Stunner - which usually comes from out of nowhere - you're done.
What about you? What's your favourite wrestling move/finisher of all-time?
I can't believe we just got through Day 20. Ten more days and the challenge is over! I know October is thirty-one days long, but I don't feel like writing a column on Halloween when I don't have to, so yeah.
Don't call it feedback. Call it...errr...ummm...yeah, just call it feedback!