Posts Tagged ‘Seth Rollins’

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Extreme Rules 2017

June 10, 2017

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I arrived at the Royal Farms Arena around 5 pm. I had never been to a WWE show before, this was the first one after over 20 years of being a fan. Because of my inexperience, I was unaware of when the doors would actually open. I drastically overestimated how early that would be. Still, a line had already formed when I arrived and I walked to the end and leaned against the wall. Pretty soon, I was engaged in conversation with the band of misfits behind me in line. We made our predictions, talked about the state of the business, the past, and played entrance music on our phones. It is extremely rare that I get to talk to people who are knowledgeable about wrestling in person. Usually, it is only through Twitter.

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I was one of the first hundred people inside since I had gotten there so early. I snapped the above picture of the setup and then settled in with Twitter while I waited for the show to start.


Apollo Crews vs. Kallisto

We started with the one pre-show match. I have to admit that I have been bored by these two performers in the past because neither has received good pushes in a while. This new Titus Brand storyline has actually drawn more personality out of Crews and given Kallisto more purpose. Also, Titus O’Neill is really fun to watch live because he is so expressive. The match itself was a lot of fun. Both guys are fast and technically proficient and they have good chemistry. These two (former?) friends put on a great show with Titus getting embarrassed as usual. The crowd woke the crowd up pretty well.


The Miz w/ Maryse vs. Dean Ambrose

Then the main show started and right off the bat, the pyro scared the hell out of me but I recovered. We started with Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz. I really appreciate Mike Mizanin as a performer but I love hating The Miz even more. He has evolved as a wrestler and once again it showed in this match. Dean Ambrose is a perfect opponent for him as well. Miz was being a weasel the entire match and Ambrose was responding in just the right ways. I audibly cried out “No!” when Maryse slapped Miz. I didn’t want the match to end yet and not that way. The two false finishes were a great way to hide the real finale which kind of came out of nowhere but it was great.


Rich Swann and Sasha Banks vs. Noam Dar and Alicia Fox

Next, we had a match with my hometown hero, Rich Swann partnering with “The Boss” Sasha Banks against the insane pairing of Noam Dara and Alicia Fox. The match was a lot of fun and there were a lot of great moves and good laughs. I am not a huge fan of mixed tag matches in WWE because the flow is weird because the genders cannot mix. (Talk to Joey Ryan about intergender matches, please). This match actually went really well as they used those weird rules to their advantage. Watching Sasha Banks hit the double knees on Noam Dar on the outside was great. One of the highlights of the night for me was watching Swann beat the hometown curse and danced with Sasha after a fantastic win. Watching a happy Rich Swann jut makes me smile.


Bailey vs. Alexa Bliss

Bailey deserved better. I was so excited to see her entrance live and I was not disappointed. I got that warm, fuzzy feeling I usually get seeing her entrance. Unfortunately, the disappointment was not far behind. Bailey got in a flurry of offense and then it felt like a squash match in favor of Alexa Bliss after that. I love Alexa Bliss but I thought they would give the match more than they did. It was criminally short. After Bailey talked in a pre-match interview about studying the progenitors of extreme, I thought she would get to swing the kendo stick at least once. I thought she would have a brutal battle with Alexa ending with Alexa getting the victory. What they did fell flat for me and was not fair to Bailey (or Alexa for that matter).


The Hardy Boyz vs. Sheamus and Cesaro

I had never seen a steel cage match in person so I was excited to watch the Hardy Boyz face off against Sheamus and Cesaro. Their entrances were even more awesome live (though it was kind of funny to see Cesaro miss his mark during the blackout). These are two of my favorite tag teams in the WWE. Cesaro and Sheamus did not really work for me at first but now I really enjoy the team up. Cesaro has a way of melding well with whoever he is thrown together with. The action was back and forth with plenty of great chemistry. I shouted “Delete!” and chanted “Brother Nero” loudly along with the crowd so I hope WWE and the Hardys work together to move away from the stale Hardy Boyz gimmick. I stood up when Jeff jumped from the top of the cage. I was happy to see Sheamus and Cesaro win because that felt like the more interesting option.


Neville vs. Austin Aries

I was excited to watch the next match but I seemed to be in the minority. All of the energy seemed to be sucked out of the building. Maybe it was how long they took switching the ropes out unnecessarily. I thought it was a great match. There were so many great false finishes and they continued the story of Neville protesting too much while Aries never backed down. I really thought that A Double would pull out a victory but the finish was brutal and interesting.


Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor vs. Roman Reigns

Finally, we got to the main event. Once again, the entrances were so much more amazing live (even without some of the camera tricks). I held up my cell phone to be one of Bray Wyatt’s fireflies and I got chills. I held up my arms in time with Finn Balor’s music. I even got to boo Roman Reigns even though I appreciate him as a performer. I felt like the match lived up to its potential. I was intrigued by the continued team up of Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt. I was also glad to see Bray shine as bright as he did after continued mistreatment of his character. In the end, I hoped to get my wish to see Finn win but I am not mad at Samoa Joe being the one to face Lesnar next.

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Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Surprise!

December 15, 2015

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Storylines in fiction are interesting machines. They’re born of teams of writers who are utilizing performers and other assets to the best of their ability. They try to take what’s in their head and match it with the mission statement set out by the creator or showrunner while appealing to a wider audience. With sports entertainment the writers are joined by the performers who have some input as to what their characters are and where their characters are going. This creative input varies from performer to performer and creates a sort of politics as people jockey for screen time.

Not only that, but talent can suddenly become unavailable due to real life injuries and writers are sent scrambling to change storylines. As with any other form of fiction, it’s hard to shock the audience in a real and organic way because most people’s minds consider the possibilities of what’s coming next. They also risk alienating fans by jarring them out of their comfort zone. I happen love those moments when the writers and performers can surprise me and make me wonder what could happen next.

How about some examples?
Seth Rollins Defects from the Shield

Speaking of injuries, Seth Rollins was a breakout star this year but that might not have happened without his shocking moment over a year ago. In May 2014 the Shield was a dominant force in the WWE as a tight knit trio who stood together as brothers. The group consisted of the “Lunatic Fringe” Dean Ambrose, “The Juggernaut” Roman Reigns and “The Architect” Seth Rollins. On June 1 2014 the Shield was engaged in a war with their boss’ team Evolution. The Shield and Evolution had absolutely destroyed each other to the point that Batista had even walked out. It was easy to see that Evolution would need to add another member to their ranks and there were plenty of candidates. Then June 2, 2014 rolled around. Triple H came out to the ring with a smirk on his face and, like a sleeper agent suddenly coming to life, Seth suddenly wailed on his ‘brothers’ with a steel chair. I remember actually yelling “No!” at my television screen.

The moment ended up being great for everyone involved. The Shield had been a tight unit and, as with any good tag team, it was hard for each member to have singles success while part of a group. Seth Rollins became The Authority’s pet wrestler and eventually held the World Heavyweight title and United States title at the same time while the bosses pulled the strings for him. Dean Ambrose got even crazier and became a common man hero character whereas before he had been an antagonist with a screw loose. Roman Reigns became a bonafide superhero and fan favorite and even though he’s a big, musclebound guy he makes a lot of waves as an underdog. Growth comes from change and sometimes change is most effective as a sudden shock.
Brock Lesnar Ends the Streak

In my previous Why I Love Pro-Wrestling post I went on at great length about the legend of the Undertaker and how much I’ve loved his story. While I didn’t go into minute detail, one thing I left out was The Streak. Wrestlemania has long been described as WWE’s equivalent of the NFL’s Superbowl. It’s a yearly event where they try to put out their biggest matches, often ending or shifting storylines into a different gear. Wrestlemania is also partly responsible for the advent of the sports entertainment payperview event to complement a company’s television offerings. The Undertaker fought in his first Wrestlemania match against the legendary “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka and the Undertaker won. After that, the Undertaker went on to win every Wrestlemania outing and usually with supernatural flair. Every year the legend grew and every year they teased an end to The Streak. After twenty Wrestlemania victories it was beginning to look like he would retire before losing at Wrestlemania. Enter Wrestlemania 30 and “The Beast” Brock Lesnar.

Brock Lesnar is a monster speciment who first made his splash after a very, very short NFL career which ended up being a single preseason in 2004. With his build and demeanor it always seemed to me that he was more well-suited to fight than to play ball. He took the WWE by storm at a time when it desperately needed fresh blood. He became a crossover star when he fought for real in UFC and then returned to WWE to fight in even more scripted combat. At Wrestlemania 30 he returned and defeated the Undertaker. That wasn’t the shocking happening because, as I said, Lesnar was such a ferocious beast. What shocked me was that Lesnar beat Undertaker so badly. The supernatural powers that the Undertaker drew upon were nothing against the onslaught and it really helped Lesnar’s career.
Chris Jericho is Beaten by Dean Malenko

World Championship Wrestling was a titanic wrestling company and, like most titanic wrestling companies, it had more talent than it could deal with. They hired Chris Irvine aka Jericho to a fairly lucrative contract but they apparently hadn’t thought much beyond that. At that time, WCW was getting a lot of mileage out of its cruiserweight division. The formula was that they would use the admittedly aging big names to draw in crowds and keep them entertained with young, talented performers who were relatively unknown. The formula worked. Stars like Hogan and Savage were putting on less than stellar matches while upstarts like Jericho, Mysterio, Benoit and Dean Malenko were lighting up the place. Cruiserweights like Jericho pretty much did what he want because as far as the writers were concerned, their storylines didn’t matter.

Jericho was the ultimate blowhard and after he had won the Cruiserweight title from Dean Malenko he ridiculed Malenko constantly. Dean was on the injured list so Jericho didn’t fear any reprisal. Week after week and Jericho retained his title by hook or by crook and continued to belittle Malenko who was a great talent. Finally there was a battle royal to come up with a challenger for Jericho’s title. The battle royal was hard fought as Jericho stood by and mocked all of the competitors. Finally it came down to Cyclope and Juventud Guerrera and then Juvy jumped out of the ring and eliminated himself. What the !? Jericho entered the ring to face his opponent which is when Cyclope unmasked and it was Dean Malenko. Dean proceeded to beat the tar out of Jericho for every mocking statement and it elevated both stars if only for a moment.
The Montreal Screwjob

Hold on, don’t yell at me yet. I know this one wasn’t exactly planned and written with everyone’s best interests at heart. The Monday Night Wars were a brutal and cutthroat time in sports entertainment history and a lot of people did things they can’t ever take back. Both WWF and WCW were in heated battle and were constantly poaching talent from each other. All sorts of shenanigans were happening. Madusa jumped ship and showed up on WCW and dumped her WWF title belt in a trash can on live television. Rick Rude showed up on live television on WCW while still showing up on taped WWF programming. Both companies were looking for every chance they could find to screw each other over using the performers as pawns. In the middle of all this, the WWF was in dire financial straits and was starting to fear the reaper.

Brett “The Hitman” Hart was the World Heavyweight Champion and he was riding high. He was highly skilled and his family name was (and is) one of the most respected names in sports entertainment. The WWF had promised and signed Hart to a contract worth millions of dollars and they no longer had those millions of dollars. Vince McMahon allowed Brett to check in with WCW to see if they could offer him a comparable deal to let the WWF off the hook. WCW was definitely interested so it came down to those involved to decide when Brett would lose his title. Out of fear that Brett would be convinced to leave the company with the title, Vince changed the end of Hart’s match with Shawn Michaels. He had the ref ring the bell and screw Brett, letting him leave the company on a bad note.

Vince wanted to gloss over the event and move on but the fans wouldn’t let it go. Eventually, the WWF embraced the momentum and Vince transformed into an evil boss character. When that character went up against the anti-hero Steve Austin, every put upon employee saw their greatest fantasy being played out. The feud (and a few other stoy lines) brought the WWF out of its financial slump and eventually led to them winning the Monday Night Wars. All on that one shocking event.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: How Are They Not Dead?

August 1, 2014

WILPW

So, I talk about sports entertainment to anybody who will listen to me all the time to the point where I worry I’m overselling the product to people who don’t care and annoying them.   I can literally work the history of sports entertainment into any conversation since its long history provides lots of characters, storylines and such to draw from.  It was partly the fear of negative social backlash that I started to put this in my blog.  The other half, of course, is that I love it so much.   It is a great excuse to comb through old footage on youtube or try to remember trivia from decades of history.

Recently I was assaulting my brother with one of my rambling diatribes about the WWE product.  I was probably outlining Daniel Bryan’s rise to power or the Shield’s break up or something.  He turned to me and asked something that I have heard now and then.  “Did you ever think about becoming a wrestler?”  My knee jerk reaction is that this sounds like “If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?” but then I realize my brother is serious.  I do enjoy the product so much that it is not such a logical leap for me to be in the business.  My simple answer?  “Are you kidding?  I don’t want to get hurt.”

You see, professional wrestling is a “fake” sport.  The results of each match are planned ahead of time and the matches are choreographed ahead of time, during the match or often a mixture of the two.  However, as most fans will tell you, the physical contact can be very real and anything but fake.  Sure, when a wrestler is body slammed they are protected by their opponent but at the same time they are being picked up and slammed on the mat.  Not only that but accidents happen and people get seriously injured.  It’s a high risk profession and people are often forced to retire from it early.

Then there’s the moments where the wrestlers and promoters decide that they are going to take that risk and turn it up to eleven.  This is done to sell tickets and stamp memories into the audiences brains that they will take away with them for a long time.  “Whoa, how could you miss that chair shot last night on the payperview?  You have to order the replay, dude.”  These moments can be scary within the storyline and also when you think of these people as performers.  That’s why I wanted to salute some of those moments that have us cringing and shaking our heads with wonder and respect.

(Warning: Some might find this episode particularly graphic)

The Undertaker Throws Mankind Off the Hell in a Cell Cage

This one is an obvious one for the list.  This is the moment that blew my teenage mind, a moment which led to a series of moments that made me drop my jaw to the floor.  There are several parts in this match where Mick Foley could easily have died.  The way he tells it, he was legitimately concussed during the match as he spent a large portion blacked out.  Not only that but the only way he could remember the events of the match was watching the tape earlier.  Some of this match is the performers taking calculated risks and some of it is purely accidental.  The only reasons that Mick Foley didn’t die are professionalism and a little luck.

Shane McMahon is Suplexed Through Plate Glass

I defy you to watch that footage and tell me that wrestling is “fake”.  That is not prop glass.  It takes more than one attempt to put Shane through that glass.  When his body hits the glass with a whump, it’s somehow more impressive and looks more painful.  Kurt Angle is a machine and an actual gold medal wrestler in the 1996 Olympics.  He transitioned from being an acclaimed and accomplished competitor to the world of sports entertainment.  He makes a name for himself again in the world of the WWF (WWE).  Then he’s told that not only is he going to have a match with his boss’ son but he is going to do this to him.  This match is completely insane, especially when you realize that Shane is way too rich to have to do this.  Shane McMahon’s brief wrestling career is full of moments like this.

Kevin Steen Package Hits El Generico with a Package Piledriver… with Ladders.

Wow.  Just wow.  That was my reaction when I first saw this.  This was pretty much my introduction to Ring of Honor while I tried to catch up on old iPPVs.  The storyline had built up a rivalry so heated that building an elaborate structure out of ladders did not seem too silly.  OK it was a little silly.  Still, the whole thing is worth the spot in the video above.  A normal piledriver is a move that requires a lot of trust between performers.  A package piledriver seemingly leaves the victim completely unable to protect themselves, requiring a greater level of trust.  Then you up the ante by doing the move about six feet in the air onto metal ladders and it’s just amazing.  The crowd chants what we’re all thinking.

Dean Ambrose Suplexes Seth Rollins Off of a Very Tall Ladder

This one is from this year and thanks to the WWE Network and GIFs, I was able to watch moments from this match more than once.  Both Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins seem to excel at taking large amounts of punishment.  They are two of the most entertaining performers in the business today and I hope they survive these sorts of matches without career-ending injuries.  This moment was so amazing that I had to show my brother.   I believe his response was “Whoa!”.  There is no way to fake the impact of this move.  You close your eyes, brace yourself and try to fall as flat on your back as possible.

Terry Funk vs. Cactus Jack – No Rope, Barbed Wire, Exploding Barbed Wire Boards, Exploding Ring Match

Yes, you read all of that correctly.  I took great care in typing it all out.  Not only was there barbed wire all around the ring but it was also attached to wooden boards that were rigged with C-4. Yes, the same C-4 you see in movies and Mythbusters.  The really dangerous explosive.  The concept was that if a performer is pushed onto one of the barbed wire boards, it explodes under them.  This caused severe burns for both Funk and Foley.  Yes, this is the same Foley who later got thrown off of a cage.  Besides being ripped to shreds by barbed wire and subjected to C-4 boards, the idea was for the ring itself to explode at the end of the match.  We never did get to see this happen as it fizzles.  Still, Mick Foley describes himself as smelling like burnt flesh for days after this match.


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