A Decade of Wrestling: 2009

WWE goes PG
2009

When WCW and its nWo were taking the wrestling world by storm, the WWF was finding itself damaged, searching for something – anything – that could keep it in competition.  It’s answer was what would be called the Attitude Era, in which violence, sex, and other more risquee acts became the name of the game.  And using the new momentum, the WWF pushed ahead and ultimately won the Monday Night Wars.

In the years since, the WWE avoided pushing the envelope so much, but did keep levels of gratuitous violence and raunch rather high to play to its fanbase.  Until recently, that is.

In 2009, the WWE made a great effort to scale its content back to PG ratings.  Divas were told to wear less revealing clothing.  John Cena’s finishers (the FU and the STFU) were renamed the Attitude Adjustment and the STF.  Wrestlers were forbidden to blade (cut their foreheads to produce blood) and matches were actually stopped midway to treat a wrestler who had been busted open hardway.  Gone were the hardcore matches of old, and in were more comedy sketches and other family-friendly entertainment.  The WWE was seeminly looking to get back to an era in which a fun loving-clown was partnered with a fun-loving midget clown.

This move just happened to coincide with Linda McMahon’s announcment to run for the United States Senate, but that surely has nothing to do with the decision, right?  I mean, even though her opponents have already pointed at the WWE and she has spoken of the change back to PG, surely it’s just a timing coincidence, right?

Of course, that’s not to say that everything on WWE television has cleaned up.  D-Generation X still uses their signature crotch chop as well as their oft-repeated catch phrase “suck it”.  And for whatever reason, the character of Big Dick Johnson – an oiled up, obese man wearing nothing but a thong – makes occasional appearances.

And meanwhile, some fans long for the days gone by while others enjoy the newer direction.  I eagerly venture into 2010 to see where it leads.

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Dr. Death passes away

Dr. Death Steve Williams has passed away after a lengthy battle with throat cancer.  He was 49.

While Dr. Death was a huge star in Japan, he was known more in the US for his tag team exploits in the NWA/WCW, serving as a member of the Varsity Club with Mike Rotunda.  He joined the WWE in 1998, participating in the infamous Brawl 4 All tournament.  Many believe that the WWE set it up for Dr. Death to win, but unfortunately he was knocked out by Bart Gunn early in the tournament.  He would show back up in 1999 during Jim Ross’s return from Bell’s Palsy, serving as JR’s enforcer when he set up a commentary table for himself.  His last stint in a major US promotion was a brief stint in WCW.

Condolences go out to the Williams family and Dr. Death’s friends.

A Decade of Wrestling: 2008

The New Superstar Initiative
2008

When Theodore Long fled Smackdown (and Vickie Guerrero) for ECW, he brought with him a great new idea.  He introduced the New Superstar Initiative, making ECW the place for new WWE talent to break in before going onto the bigger shows.

Why is this important?  Before ECW became the place for new talent, many promising superstars were tossed onto the other shows with no gimmicks and no storylines, as nothing more than ‘blue chippers’.  The fans would not get behind them, they would fade away and be quietly released.  It’s a process that I refer to as being ‘Gunner Scotted’.  Gunner Scott had gotten over in OVW as Brent Albright, but had gotten sent to Smackdown with a fluke win and no subsequent follow-up.  He didn’t last long.  The same nearly happened to Santino Marella, but he had his character quickly tweaked which saved him from this fate.

With the New Superstar Initiative, several talents have come, developed themselves against the veterans of the show (Christian, Goldust, Shelton Benjamin, Tommy Dreamer) then moved on.  Jack Swagger is a shining example of this, as are Evan Bourne, Tyson Kidd and Sheamus (boo all you like).  Current talents include Yoshi Tatsu and Vance Archer, who seem to be doing quite well.

That’s not to say that everyone who has come in have worked out.  Tyler Reks is floundering in the lower mid-card, while Ricky Ortiz, Scotty Goldman and DJ Gabriel fizzled out completely.

Still, it was a move shifting ECW more into a development show (of sorts) and it gave the young guns a spotlight to shine in without being overshadowed by the big guns of the WWE.  True, not everyone needs the starting point bump (Drew McIntyre went straight to Smackdown, for example), but it is an excellent point to bring in young talent.

The Last of The Originals – ECW 12/29/09

The night started of immediately as the ECW Champion made his way ringside for one of the two (sadly very predictable) ECW Homecoming qualifiers. The Moscow Mauler confronts the Juggernaut of Destruction and Tommy Dreamer puts his WWE career on the line.  So without further ado let’s get into it.

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A Decade of Wrestling: 2007

The Death of Chris Benoit
June 24, 2007

Throughout the history of wrestling, there have been many tragic ends to wrestler’s lives.  There have been accidents (Owen Hart), killings (Bruiser Brody, Dino Bravo), suicides (Kerry Von Erich, the Renegade), drug-related deaths (Louie Spicoli) and countless cases of heart failure (Mr. Perfect, Rick Rude, Big Boss Man, British Bulldog), but none stand out as more tragic than the death of Chris Benoit.  Few wrestling fans will likely ever forget the end of Benoit’s life, and that of his family.

Benoit was set to compete for the ECW Championship against CM Punk at Vengence: Night of Champions, but no-showed the event, citing a family emergency.  The match was rebooked with Johnny Nitro in Benoit’s place.  After several text messages were received by WWE employees, the company requested local authorities to check on the Benoits.  They found Benoit’s wife and son had been strangled to death and Benoit himself had committed suicide, hanging himself on the cords of his gym equipment.  Authorities investigating labelled the event as a double murder/suicide.

The WWE, unaware of the details, cancelled a three hour Raw and used the timeslot as a reflection of Benoit’s life and career.  Once the details had come forward, though, the company distanced themselves from him.  Benoit merchandise was pulled, references to him on WWE.com were eliminated, and he was not mentioned on any broadcasts moving forward.  But though the WWE disacknowledged Benoit, the public would not soon forget.

Like the tradgedies of Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero, the news media took immediate interest in Benoit’s death, but this time there was more furor due to the death of his wife and son.  Steroids were the obvious culprit in many’s eyes, and they demanded someone be punished for Benoit’s actions.  Former wrestlers came out of the woodwork to either accuse or defend the WWE of actions that could have caused or prevented the tragedy.  Vince and Linda McMahon tried their best to pull the WWE’s image out of the even in tact.  Their Wellness Policy had been in place, and Benoit had passed.  There was nothing more they could have done.

It was after the media frenzy had passed that more information came forward.  Former WWE talent Chris Nowinski had become interested in concussions and head injuries due to his own career having been cut short due to post-concussive syndrome.  He convinced Benoit’s father to have his brain analyzed, revealing that Benoit had severe brain trauma, said to resemble that of an 80-year old Alzheimer’s patient.  The trauma had likely led to dementia.

Years afterwards, fans still debate over the event and what it means to Benoit’s legacy.  He will likely never be inducted into the WWE because of his actions, though over time, his accolades and achievements of his stellar career may be once again displayed.  Beyond debate, though, is that it was a tragic end for such a respected and loved talent.

To Be Continued: Raw 12/28/09

This week’s Raw was about continuing storylines.  Oh, and plugging Timbaland products.

There were two main foci of the show:  Jerishow versus DX, and Cena versus Sheamus.  Having been booted from Raw, Jericho was left outside, trying to get into the show.  The segments with Jericho were entertaining, as well as the one that included the Big Show, during which Show tells Jericho that it is time to move on.  However, Big Show does give Jericho and envelope (ticket to get in).  The DX segment contribution consisted of Triple H duct taping Hornswoggle to a skateboard, and bowling him into Jillian Hall.  Seriously.  The match was to be DX versus Big Show and a partner of his choosing.  His choice ended up being Chavo.  Why?  Because he can handle Hornswoggle, even though he has not been able to get the best of Hornswoggle…ever.  But whatever, it’s nice to see Chavo working with main eventers and not get completely buried.  Jericho is at ringside, and is visibly upset that Big Show found someone else.  After Chavo gets pinned, Jericho is outraged, jumps the barrier, and gets kicked for his trouble.  Title match set for next week’s show.  Jerishow lose, then that is it for the team.

Raw opened up with Cena coming out and working the crowd,  setting up a table, and lamenting how he lost the table match.  Sheamus comes out and denies Cena’s request for a table match rematch.  Cena puts Sheamus through said table for good measure.  Later in the show, while Cena is having an interview with Josh Matthews after a “friendly pat on the shoulder,” Sheamus gets his revenge.  In the match itself, Sheamus gets himself DQed, losing the match, but retaining the title.  Cena’s not happy and tries to beat up on Sheamus, but gets kicked in the face…twice.  Sheamus declares that Raw is his.  Happy day.

Timbaland appeared to be more of a celebrity guest, rather than a celebrity guest host.  He did not really do much to utilize the power of controlling Raw.  Every segment he was involved in was a cheap plug for his merchandise.  And the rolls on the back of his head freak me out.

Rest of the show. Read more of this post

A Decade of Wrestling: 2006

The Return of D-Generation X
June 12, 2006

When talking about famous stables of the ‘boom period’ of Wrestling in the late 90s, some names always come up.  Of course, there’s the nWo, and then one might think of the Corporation or the Nation, or maybe even the Ministry.  The Millionaire’s Club?  Flair’s Magnificent Seven (bonus if you can name all seven without looking)?  And then there’s D-Generation X.

Of course, the D-Generation X most fondly rememebered didn’t have Shawn Michaels in it.  It was made up of Triple H, Road Dogg, X-Pac, Billy Gunn and Chyna.  But fans remembered that the stable had begun with Shawn Michaels and Triple H, and any time the two came together, fans would let them know that they remembered.

A DX reunion was teased in 2002 when Michaels brought Triple H back to Raw, only to be turned on (which led to Michaels’ in-ring return.  Long forgotten, the two never had much of a case in which both were faces, allowing such a reunion to take place.

This changed in 2006 when Triple H found himself at odds with Vince McMahon and the Spirit Squad.  Michaels had been fighting Vince for most of the year, and ran out to Triple H’s aid (wearing what looked to be a woman’s tanktop), and D-X was reborn, much to the fans’ delight.  The duo ran wild over the WWE, humiliating Vince at every turn.  The run came to a grinding halt when Triple H was injured during a feud with Rated RKO in early 2007, and Michaels ventured on solo.  The duo would have sporatic teamings several times in 2008.

In 2009, the stable was brought back together after Michaels returned from a post-Wrestlemania sabbatical, and remain as popular as ever.