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Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Raw 25

January 27, 2018


As I have said repeatedly, I have been a fan of Pro-Wrestling/Sports Entertainment for about 22 years or so since I first watched WWF’s Mania, a Saturday morning recap show at my friend Farris’ house. The first match I can remember is Shawn Michaels vs. Salvatore Sincere (does anybody remember him?) for the World Heavyweight Title. Shawn made his opponent look like a sincere threat and showcased his legendary resilience in the ring. I remember the moment that I became a fan was when Shawn hit Sincere with his elbow off the top. When I saw Sweet Chin Music, I was already hooked. Not long after that, I was able to put an old television in my room so I could watch Monday Night Raw undisturbed. So, I basically started to watch right as the Attitude Era fully launched.

So, it was a no-brainer that I was going to watch the entirety of the 25th-anniversary episode of WWE’s Monday Night Raw. Raw has a rich history and one that I have been mostly present for. When I heard there was a pre-show on the network, I figured I would watch that too. I fired up the network for the second time that day (after catching up on NXT and the first Mixed Match Challenge episode). I usually skip pre-shows because it is a lot of talking with few actual promos and maybe one match. There was Renee Young, David Otunga, and Joe Rosenberg (Who?). Otunga and Young shared a lot of their favorite Raw memories while Rosenberg fanboyed. It was kind of pleasant to watch a lot of the memories that I remembered. There were also short bits from Eric Bischoff, Bayley/Trish Stratus, and a few other brief moments.

After the preliminaries, Raw actually began and it started with Stephanie and Shane McMahon coming out together, apparently putting aside their feud temporarily. These two were a big part of Raw when I watched in my teen years. They acted gracious and thankful for all of the support of the fans. They were interrupted by Vince McMahon. His kids offered him a plaque funded by Gofundme (aren’t they millionaires in their own right?) and Vince cut an awesome heel promo on his kids and the fans. It was the classic villainous Vince. Which, of course, summoned his greatest foe Stone Cold Steve Austin who looked really in shape (although his jeans were a bit too tight). At this point, Stephanie McMahon knew what was up and seemed to evaporate between camera shots which made me laugh. Vince claimed to be a senior citizen now so Austin had to lay off. Instead, he offered up Shane as a sacrifice and then tried to appease Austin with beer (although it wasn’t Broken Skull IPA so he screwed up there). After a very surreal hug, Austin stunnered Vince and then gave a second one to Shane who really should have rolled out of the ring and retreated.

The pre-show had set up the return of the Acolyte Protection Agency card game this time with the APA, Rhyno, Heath Slater, and Ted Dibiase (who kept giving loans to Heath). As the night wore on, the game got bigger and bigger (which thankfully meant that JBL got fewer and fewer lines). MVP, Titus Worldwide, Natalya, Jeff Hardy, The Usos, and the New Day all joined the party eventually which made for some great trash talking. The joke here was that every time they cut to the game, Heath Slater was laying out crappy hands only to get beat and lose more money. This led to the so dumb it was funny line from Dana Brooke: “I crunched the numbers and you have lost a lot of money.” It’s nice to see Dana embrace the weird character she was given, I just wish she would wrestle in the spotlight again. She was on the cusp of winning the Raw Women’s title at one point. Finally, Heath won a hand by cheating which led to a match with Titus Worldwide and a 3D from the Dudley Boys. Rhyno also totally pushed Heath into the ring to sacrifice him to the Dudleys, probably as part of Rhyno’s ongoing mission to toughen up Heath. Come on, Rhyno, the guy’s got kids.

The matches were pretty good. We only got one women’s match with Alicia Fox and Nia Jax strangely teaming with Absolution against Asuka, Bayley, Sasha, and Mickie. It would have been nice to have at least two women’s matches during the course of the night since the division has become a big draw lately. Also, this is the go home show for their first Royal Rumble. There was the aforementioned Slayer/Rhyno vs. Titus/Apollo match which was really short but fun. Woken Matt Hardy faced off against Bray Wyatt and, although I love both characters, the match barely made an impression except that Bray finally won a match. There was a match between The Revival and Gallows and Anderson with DX and Finn Balor watching. The best match of the night was an Intercontinental title match between Roman Reigns and The Miz. Of course, The Miztourage was also at ringside. All four guys know each other pretty well by now and the match flowed really well. The Miz cheated every chance he got and won his 8th Intercontinental title.

What was basically the end of the show was a Degeneration X reunion with some funny bits between Shawn Michaels and Triple H who always had great comic timing. They brought out X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws and paid tribute to the fallen Rick Rude and Chyna. Then, for some reason, Scott Hall came out as Razor Ramon which was probably the most awkward thing of the night. Then Finn Balor came out with Gallows and Anderson and the former Kliq did the “too suite” gesture with them. It was kind of an approval of that splinter faction of The Bullet Club using the gesture that the Kliq first came up with. It was a weird moment but it sort of made sense. Then the Revival came out and got beat by Gallows and Anderson before getting finishing moves from most of DX. WWE needs to give the top guys a break and let them stretch their legs now that they are uninjured.

There was also a brief confrontation between Brock Lesnar, Kane, and Braun Strowman which was far too rushed. That was kind of a theme of the night. Anything having to do with the current roster felt rushed and too short. This was the go-home Raw for the Royal Rumble, one of the biggest shows of the year. It was also a celebration of the last 25 years. They absolutely nailed the showcasing of legends and characters from the last 25 years with skits and promos. It should have been the other way around. They should have used the opportunity to showcase the best of their roster while they probably had additional eyes. They should have sprinkled little bits of nostalgia in between longer matches. There was a missed opportunity when they did not have a match with Goldust in it, a character that was born 22 years ago. They could have shifted a lot of the skits and promos to the pre-show instead of basically making it a cross between The Chris Farley Show and a clip show. Only one champion wrestled throughout the night and that is a bit weird.

Overall, it was an enjoyable night. It was nice to see a lot of the performers of the past alive and well. It would have been nice if they had done more with the women of the past but the night already felt cramped. The show was just about exactly what I thought it would be. I knew it was going to be a nostalgic love letter mostly to the Attitude Era. It was also a reminder of why I am glad we eventually left the Attitude Era and why I am glad we are not going back. The night awakened memories of sitting on my floor and watching Raw is War which made me tired at school the next day. The Royal Rumble is shaping up to be really fun and will be a return to the WWE’s present and it will hopefully shake up the landscape a bit.

Professional Wrestling

March 29, 2009

I am total geek. This is something I accepted as far back as high school. My interests fall largely on the uncool side of the cool/uncool divide. But what I end up liking I really, really do like a lot. Sometimes I don’t know why I like something but I find it affecting the way I think and sparking my imagination. And one thing that I’ve liked since somewhere around the mid-nineties is Professional Wrestling. My love for it has only grown over the years even as I’ve learned more and more about it.

Interestingly enough I was introduced to the world of wrestling in a more legitimate way. The memory of what age I was escapes me but when I was in elementary school I wrestled as a sport. I don’t remember actually competing but I remember rolling around and attempting various holds and pinning combinations. Nothing complicated, really, but I remember doing it. I don’t know if that imprinted on me much or what. The fact that I remember it at all speaks volumes, I guess.

I later tried my hand at so-called amateur wrestling during 8th and 9th grades because my brother had joined the team. I had mixed results during those two years but I came away with one third place medal in a competition because the bracket wasn’t crowded. My brother continued with wrestling long after I quit and was nearly unstoppable. He became a team captain and dominated his opponents sometimes outright embarassing them. I like that.

A friend introduced me to pro-wrestling in the mid-nineties and like most new fans I thought it was real. They acted so serious about the rules on screen even if some of the competitors were really weird personalities. I mean, seriously, I became a fan when Doink the Clown (1) was still around.

I almost instantly became a fan of Shawn Michaels (2). I was pretty small through my childhood (I’m still not very big) and Michaels has always been a little dog in a big dog’s fight. I was impressed with how much the announcers talked about his resiliency and his never-say-die spirit. I didn’t even care that he had been a bad guy in the past (or present) he was just too impressive to me. In a world where I never really cared much about sports, pro wrestling was my sports. Watching a wrestler hit their finishing move was like a home run to me.

Of course, finally someone let the cat out of the bag and I found out that the show wasn’t real. Of course, I was shellshocked. That meant that the announcers and wrestlers on the screen had been lying to my face the whole time. I felt like a fool. Pretty soon I got over it and soon enough the Monday Night Wars started up and I had more than one wrestling show to watch and then I had three (Thunder was crap).

There was a whole new world of storylines and characters that were opening up in front of me. I had developed something important that would serve me well: suspension of disbelief. I could sit there and watch the shows and enjoy it the same way you or I might watch Indiana Jones save the day while knowing that it’s Harrison Ford.

Eventually I came to peek more and more behind the curtains, looking at the insider info and appreciating the art of putting a match together. Wrestlers are an odd mix of athlete and performer. They go out in front of the crowds and the cameras and they have to entertain the folks out there. Also, watch this and tell me that pro wrestling doesn’t recquire athelticism (5).

I got to know the wrestlers as performers as well as their characters. I became a huge fan of Mick Foley, an everyman sort of guy who not only put on a great match but also was brilliant with a microphone. I’ve read all three of Foley’s autobiographies and I just admire him as a nice guy and a brilliant mind. Funny how that mind hasn’t been dulled by so many blows to the brain.

So, basically what I’m saying is that I’m not embarassed that I like wrestling because I know why I like it and I really do like it. Also, at least I don’t watch reality television. Here’s a few videos to show you just what I mean. Watch them or don’t.  I just wanted to say my piece. As Mick Foley says, “Have a Nice Day!”

(1) Doink the Clown vs. Mr. Perfect

(2) Shawn Michaels’ theme song.  I’m still amazed the guy could sing his own theme song and look so tough wearing those outfits. I’m not gay, I swear.

(3) Mick Foley getting nearly killed by the Undertaker.  This was actually scripted into the match and not an accident. And yes those are thumb tacks about two thirds through. (Graphic: Weak stomachs don’t watch)

(4) Mick Foley again this time it’s on the mic. It’s safe to watch this one.

(5) Here, here and here is some athleticism.

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