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Dolfan Watches Every Wrestlemania On Lockdown

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DAY 43

We're knee deep in XV, so let's press onward. 

So, as the stories go. JR pushed hard for Dr. Death Steve Williams to be brought in, when Vince caved and brought him in, a Toughman tournament called Brawl for All was created where Williams could prove he was a legitimate tough guy. Then Bart Gunn.   

So, Bart won the tournament and his reward was a WrestleMania shootfight with Butterbean.  This was another bad idea.  (Unless of course, the point was to humiliate Bart.)  So, yeah, in less than 40 seconds, you instantly see why picking a fight with a legitimate, trained fighter is a very, VERY bad idea.  Bart clearly has no idea what he's doing, because within 10 seconds he's dropped his guard, and the trained boxer crushes his head like a tin can under a car.  Honestly, the ref (Vinny Pazienza) should have stopped it after the first knockdown.  The only other notable thing here, is one of the judges is Gorilla Monsoon in (I believe) his final appearance on WWF TV. 

Mankind and the newly signed Paul Wight are fighting for the right to ref the main event. It's interesting to see the announcers Show's real name as it's clear they haven't settled on an official name for him yet.  It's almost like Big Show was a placeholder name that they intended to change, but just never did. Foley is doing the Wannabe Corporate Mankind gimmick, which was so great. His Oxford shirt is striped to show he wants to be the ref.... also lol. 

The ridiculous pace of this match (not a good thing) means they both have to roll through all their stuff as quickly as possible. To wit, Socko - in ref gear itself LOL - comes out within 2-3 minutes and Show has to fight it off for roughly half the match. Eventually, after Show using a couple of chairshots on the outside, he brings in chairs and chokeslams Mankind onto them, drawing the DQ.  Because, consistency.  Foley was bumping like... well, like Foley for this and brings up the quality of a Sunday Night Heat (or whatever random B- or C-level show) main event.  He does a stretcher job.

And one last thought for this post. There's always that time of year when you see the first flowers blooming, and they're usually the most beautiful ones.... well, Vince comes out now, fully immersed in his new Mr. McMahon character.  He rightly blames Show for being a complete idiot and getting himself DQ'ed.  And after a tease and then Vince pushing it too far, you see it... The very first turn (of 29) of Big Show's WWF/E career.   Brings a tear to the eye...   

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They really made Show out to be a clown from the get go. Even as a kid I couldn’t believe that during his debut as Vince’s monster enforcer they had him cost Vince the cage match against Austin. 

It was really weird to hear his real name, and then it took a long time for me to get used to Big Show after I think he was Big Nasty for like a week. I guess the Titan debacle was for the best since it’s kind of a shitty American Gladiators name and the company was only called Titan Sports for maybe another year. 

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It's wild to me they gave Big Show (a guy I'm actually a fan of) a 10-year contract and yet so often it felt like they didn't actually have anything for him to do, or that the plan was to stick him in a B or C level angle. 

I feel bad for Bart Gunn because he basically did nothing wrong except actually go along with what the company wanted. But what the fuck else was he going to do? He probably knew it was his one shot at a big Wrestlemania payday, but that loss pretty much ended any hope he had of a push. As for Williams, I think he was 40 by the time WWE brought him in. I don't care how tough a guy he really was, it's just crazy shit to think you can take a guy that age and throw him into his first "official" shootfights of some kind. I know a lot of wrestling people are pretty blindered when it comes to legitimate sports, but come on man. You're setting up for failure. I don't even want to touch the can of worms of having Real Fights as a promoted thing in your fake fighting company. I still think this tournament was an all-time dumb shit idea. At least when Inoki somehow tricked Ali into fighting him he was smart enough to just book himself vs. Ali and wasn't such a fucking idiot as to book himself into a whole shoot tournament first just to get there.

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1 hour ago, Death From Above said:

It's wild to me they gave Big Show (a guy I'm actually a fan of) a 10-year contract and yet so often it felt like they didn't actually have anything for him to do, or that the plan was to stick him in a B or C level angle. 

He's too big for his own good. I've said this a bunch of times over the years: if Show was a foot shorter and 150-ish pounds lighter, he'd be an Austin-level superstar. He had the athleticism, the look and the personality to be their ace, but it's almost like they got bored with him. So they made him Andre the Giant minus the aura of invincibility, if Andre was an insecure child who constantly switched sides for what he thought was love and respect.

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The other half of the Outlaws Switch Titles angle is up now.  Road Dogg is the relatively new IC Champ here and has the full weight of the crowd behind his chant. Never underestimate the power of a good chantable catchphrase... it's exactly the reason Enzo and Cass got WWE careers. This is a four way elimination match, so, here are the challengers:  Val Venis makes his WrestleMania debut here and makes me wonder what he's been doing recently.  Last I heard he was somewhere in Canada doing jerky shitposts about Libertarianism... He's followed by Goldust who's being accompanied by The Blue Meanie and Ryan Shamrock.  Ryan is the kayfabe sister of Ken, the Blue Meanie (Who I can only assume was signed as a joke) is Goldust's  kayfabe(?) child (and btw, Dustin is his mother in this relationship). A show with these three characters in 2020 about a pansexual platonic(?) thruple would win 40 emmys a year.   Last but certainly least is Ken Shamrock. Who is in the Corporation.  And maybe jealous of his sister?

So the match is elimination rules, but with the addition of tags to get in and out.  That's something that sort of gets dropped about 2/3 of the way into the match, and frankly I haven't seen much since, so I'm guessing even the boys realized this was a dumb rule. The match itself is really not much more than a "top of the hour" Raw match.  It's 10 minutes and the guys roll through their shit.  Frankly, the only thing of interest in this match is watching the Blue Meanie trying repeatedly to make Ryan Shamrock break character, which she does a couple of times. 

Alright, more stuff in the ring... Ugh, who books fucking Road Dogg to be a dominant face?  Lord this match is odd and dumb.  Val and Shamrock eliminate each other via double COR, which is a creative and dumb way to not lose (or put on) heat on these guys.  Goldust gets tripped by Ryan accidentally, and that sets up the final sequence where Dogg retains via pinfall.  

Goldust fires Ryan from the family and leaves with their Blue child.  It looked like the point of this match was to just have Ryan get dumped by everyone... which I *think* was supposed to lead to that Russo-pitched angle where Ryan and Ken would be revealed to be incestuously involved.  Dustin was on his way out also, so eh.  

I'm breaking here, because the next three matches roll into each other and though they're collectively awful, they'd set up the next year... and frankly, to where we are today.

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8 hours ago, Pete said:

 So they made him Andre the Giant minus the aura of invincibility

So not Andre the Giant at all? 

11 hours ago, (BP) said:

They really made Show out to be a clown from the get go. Even as a kid I couldn’t believe that during his debut as Vince’s monster enforcer they had him cost Vince the cage match against Austin. 

That was one of the most WTF debuts in pro wrestling history. Granted, the end of his tenure in WCW wasn't exactly sterling. However, you would expect him to come in with more of a bang. 

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34 minutes ago, Elsalvajeloco said:

However, you would expect him to come in with more of a bang. 

So, instead of the canvas tearing with him emerging, its a bit more classy?

WavyGenerousGermanshorthairedpointer-siz

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11 hours ago, Dolfan in NYC said:

Val Venis makes his WrestleMania debut here and makes me wonder what he's been doing recently.  Last I heard he was somewhere in Canada doing jerky shitposts about Libertarianism... 

Last time i heard of Val, he was ranting about Nyla Rose winning the AEW Women's title for transphobic reasons, so best leave him to the scrapheap of history. 

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The last year has been busy for Triple H.  After WrestleMania, he booted HBK and took over DX, adding the Outlaws and a returning X-Pac. He became Intercontinental Champ and lost it because of a legit knee injury.  He then broke up with Chyna over her joining the Corporation, and feuded with Kane. He also invaded WCW and set Chyna's face on fire.  So, yeah, that's a lot in a year.  He's here facing Kane because Kane like likes Chyna and after she was burned, has shown compassion for her. . . which makes Kane a heel? 

Anyway, Kane makes his entrance to a noticeable face pop.  He's attacked by the San Diego Chicken, who's unmasked to be Pete Rose. Tombstone for Hustle, see ya next year. HHH sneaks out from behind and low blows Kane to start and we're off.  Now I'm going to give this match short shrift because frankly, we've seen this match now a hundred times and this match exists, as most do in the Russo era, to further the storyline.  And here she comes down to the ring...

So Chyna saunters her way down in fucking gigantic heels which leads to Hunter getting distracted and chokeslammed.  She begs Kane to let her finish him off herself, and oops... she turned on Kane. Kane wins by DQ.  Hunter beats up Kane some more and HHH and Chyna leave triumphantly as DX is "whole once again." (Which I'm positive is a coke-fueled Russovian double entendre.)

The Women's title is on the line now as Sable & Tori are fighting for it. Sable has recently turned heel because she was in Playboy and now thinks she's all that. Tori is her lesbian stalker, and also a heel? Or a face?  I can't tell and the announcers clearly don't care. I was going to write about how Sable's character was interestingly a reverse gendered Rick Rude, but nah....   

Off-screen Sable had apparently let fame very highly go to her head because she was a nightmare to deal with. It's very clear that she did not do any work prepping for this match because it's abjectly awful. Tori's not that great to start out with, but Sable is missing spots left and right, and it really struck me... 

There were kids who watched this match, like April Mendez, Ashley Fleihr, Saraya Bevis, Mercedes Varnado, and Pam Martinez.  They saw this match and THIS was the example being put out by the industry. They all knew they could be more than this, they knew they could be more than this...  They rejected this.  You can say the big bang of the Women's Revolution was here.  A cataclysmic mess of a match.  No one knew what they were doing, or why they were doing it... And compare that to today, where the lowest person on the women's roster could easily wrestle circles around both of the champ and challenger.   It speaks volumes to all the girls who saw this and said, Fuck that, I can be better.

Sable retains and would be gone from the WWF 3 months later.  Good riddance. 

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One of the reasons I was a Trish Stratus fan is that even if she wasn't exactly Manami Toyota out there, she at least took wrestling seriously and put in the work to improve herself in the ring. Even that was a night and day difference from Sable being "what do you mean I might have to take a bump". And honestly now we're at a point where the last time I took any attempt at seriously watching the WWE product (admittely not in the last year), I found the women's side of the roster more entertaining than the men.

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Shane McMahon defends the European title now against X-Pac, no disqualifications.  Before the match, the Outlaws, Chyna, HHH, and X-Pac all cut a promo saying how great it was to be together again.  Hmm....

The original Mean Street Posse is now seated ringside, and in doing a little side research, I'd completely forgotten this was originally supposed to be  away to get a hot new talent from OMEGA over... Joey Abs. So I mean, I guess maybe the Hardy Boys got off lucky?  Also, I'd forgotten there were like 7 of them at first too and they're all amazingly "the guy who picked on you in school over the most ridiculously trivial shit."  Whatever boarding school Shane went to must have been an absolute fucking nightmare. 

So, the standard "Shane McMahon has a deathwish" match is on full display here.  As he's diving all over the place and making everything X-Pac does look great. So many unprotected shots make me cringe so hard.  Which by the way... 

Whenever you hear someone complain "THEY SHOULD BRING THE ATTITUDE ERA BACK", holy crap, get as far the fuck away as humanly possible.  This industry is rough enough on the boys and girls without some 40-something jerk complaining about the chairshots not looking like they hurt.  

Back to the match, the important thing once again is the angle... so...  Shane looks like he's about to lose the match, so Test starts blatantly interfering in the match, which draws out HHH & Chyna. X-Pac X-Factors Shane and looks like he's about to win... only for Hunter to turn on Pac and Pedigree him out of his boots.  Back in 99, I remember being furious at HHH in a way I hadn't been in a long ass time. Shane retains.  

This was the beginning of HHH's ascent to main event status, where he'd remain for the rest of his in-ring career.  Behind the scenes of course, Hunter was now learning the ways of the book from Vince and started his backstage ascent.  Again... another big bang here.  HHH's rise to the top of the industry, and eventually the most powerful man in the industry.  

(Oh, and HHH should've turned on Test too, booting him out of the Corporation for being shitty at his job.  Though I think that came a week or so later.)

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Alright, lemme wrap up Day 43. 

The Corporation and The Ministry of Darkness is such a fucking complicated mess of a storyline that I cannot begin to even describe it here. But the absolute basic gist is that The Undertaker has turned heel and wants to own the WWF.  Vince McMahon who does own WWF has formed his own faction called The Corporation with WWF Champion The Rock as his crown jewel.  They are fully at war at this point, but would join forces about 6 weeks later ("IT'S ME AUSTIN...") because Chris Kreski hasn't taken control of the writing yet and logic isn't really the point.  Anyway, the match was probably supposed to be Vince or another high up person in the Corporation, but instead, it's The Big Bossman, who's like 6th in the totem pole.  

Oh... and it's in Hell in a Cell?  

Look, I like Ray Traylor.  By all accounts he was a good guy, a decent worker, and in some cases a very quality match maker. There's no way in hell this should be at WrestleMania. 

The most notable thing about the entrances is that Undertaker comes in I believe for the only time at WrestleMania to his awesome souped up heel theme with the pulsing guitar riff and satanic chanting. Outside of the original theme, this is *BY FAR* his best.  

Bossman appears to be trying his ass off, but Undertaker is just in no mood to sell for him. Taker actually blades at one point, maybe because otherwise there'd literally be nothing interesting about this match.  Seriously, this is 10 minutes long and it should have been 4, tops. 

So I'm done with my ride at this point, but I keep on pedaling because I remember there's a famous visual afterwards.  What I had forgotten about was that there were three stagehands who looked suspiciously like Gangrel, Edge, and Christian (in their Mania debuts) who repel from the ceiling, get to the roof of the cage and then spend a long, LONG time getting through the cage and getting a noose down to the Undertaker.  

Taker for his part also has some trouble with this prop, and Bossman is actually noticeably verbally helping him.  So much so, that they cut away. And finally after what seems like for-goddamned-ever, Taker has the noose around Bossman's throat (but really clipped to his flak jacket), and he's hung up in what's still a very uncomfortable visual.  

Bleh.  Bad end to the ride because if Taker's half-assing it, I apparently do too.  

End of Day 43. 

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On 6/1/2020 at 7:25 AM, Dolfan in NYC said:

DAY 43

So, Bart won the tournament and his reward was a WrestleMania shootfight with Butterbean.  This was another bad idea.  (Unless of course, the point was to humiliate Bart.)

To be fair, even if it meets that qualifier it's still another bad idea.

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I forgot about the hanging shit. Ugh. This show might actually be somehow even worse than I remembered.

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This is probably because I treasure the halcyon days of my childhood and early teenage-hood above all else, but I'm pretty sure that after WM 14, there wasn't another WrestleMania that I loved enough to watch multiple times until 30...and yes, that includes 17 (which I like well enough, but I'm not as gaga about as the majority personally). 

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DAY 44

Main event time. The Rock has turned and become the Corporate champion.  But that sentence really doesn't capture the phenomenon he has become. As Stone Cold's main rival he has become both beloved and viscerally despised and is able to turn both of those on a dime is an absolutely amazing skill that is extremely rare.  I mean, there's being a heat magnet, but the ability to control that like he's fucking Ozai is amazing.  His opponent is of course Stone Cold Steve Austin, in match 107 of their best of 8,135 series. 

One fact that gets lost, a lot is as big a star as Austin is, the Rock is very much his equal (if not his superior), which is amazing considering that at this point, Rocky had been professionally wrestling for THREE years at this point. 

Alright, so let's begin in earnest.  Foley had been taken to the hospital, so the special guest ref is the self-appointed Mr. McMahon.  Now, this draws out the semi-retired Commissioner Shawn Michaels, whomst tells him the WWF Rule Book (pictured under the spoiler)

Spoiler

4af6a7347b6e76ef6a0e772338b769b0.jpg

says only the Commissioner can name a referee for the main event of WrestleMania.  Sure, why not.   So he boots Vince and replaces him with Mike Chioda.  Who literally exists so he can be bumped later. This is a No DQ match, so that's obviously going to be in play later too. 

They lock up and almost instantly brawl into the crowd and up the lower bowl.  The locals are going crazy about this, so naturally, Rock and Austin fight their way back to the ring, only to go up the OTHER side of the arena too.  Cute.  

A Rock Bottom out of nowhere is the genesis of the Finisher-KickOut-Finisher-KickOut style we have known to love today... However, before we can get to that, here's Mike Chioda taking an unprotected chairshot to the head.  Rock beats on Austin for a while and Tim White comes in to count two.   And around here is where I notice a sign that says "I BET AUSTIN WINS." 

I, for one, am so unbelievably glad that big signs like this are a thing of the past. Not just because they're distracting and a big problem with actually seeing the show, but oh my god...  Let me put this in as plain and simple words as I can...   No one, myself included, is funny. Every sign is some god damned edge-lord crap that's honestly SUPER cringy to look back on these days. Even the innocuous ones, like in 13 (lol I'll pretend you said 18) where a "RFVideo" sign was held up in prominent view.  Seriously, I've seen a few of these and audibly said "Yikes" due to any number of racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, or other shitty thoughts.  So, yeah, glad they're gone. 

After Rock gets pissed at something Tim White eats a Rock Bottom.  I'll note that Austin is definitely leading the dance here, but both guys are Cena-level-loudly calling spots. Austin gets a visual pinfall that Earl Hebner eventually will count two on. 

Christ, now Vince is BACK and he decks Hebner to try to take control of the match again. Which of course draws out the miraculously recovered Foley.  Which leads to the finish, which is Rock beginning his montage of hilariously ridiculous sells of the Stunner. Foley noticeably slows down his count - which I'm 100% sure Austin asked for after Tyson's fast count the year before.  Vince is distraught.  Austin is on top of the mountain again.  

The match itself was, and I can't believe I'm going to say this for a match with 4 referees, too mechanical for my tastes.  Like it definitely felt like they had their spots planned well in advance, and instead of telling a story, they were reading from a script.   This happens (A) then this happens (B)... instead of This happened (B) because this happened (A).   It's odd.  Not a bad match but just one that didn't draw me in. 

Overall Mania 15 is garbage.  Entertaining and often important garbage, but garbage nonetheless.  There were some abjectly awful things (Sable and Taker, I'm looking at you). But there was a lot of stuff that had we had a better writer, might have been better told.  Thankfully Russo wore out his welcome a couple of months after this and left for WCW, and we know how well THAT went.   Next up... In the Year 2000... In the Year 2000.....

 

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Posted (edited)

 

On 6/3/2020 at 1:53 PM, Death From Above said:

One of the reasons I was a Trish Stratus fan is that even if she wasn't exactly Manami Toyota out there, she at least took wrestling seriously and put in the work to improve herself in the ring. Even that was a night and day difference from Sable being "what do you mean I might have to take a bump". And honestly now we're at a point where the last time I took any attempt at seriously watching the WWE product (admittely not in the last year), I found the women's side of the roster more entertaining than the men.

I think it helped that Trish was a legit fan before becoming a model and then wrestler. Also the women are still more entertaining than the men in case you were curious. 

Edited by Eivion

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On 6/1/2020 at 9:40 AM, (BP) said:

They really made Show out to be a clown from the get go. Even as a kid I couldn’t believe that during his debut as Vince’s monster enforcer they had him cost Vince the cage match against Austin. 

The debut really wasn't what stuck out as a "WTF" booking decision (even with the goofy WWF bar cage). The "WTF" decision involved jobbing Show to Austin in Show's first WWF match 6 days before Wrestlemania. Even if they turned Show face post-WM (also a WTF) and put him in a face stable (The Union!), you'd think that having him beat Austin would give them something extra to do with Austin for that Spring, and maybe doesn't lead to them immediately doing Rock/Austin again at Backlash.

The consistent theme for Big Show in WCW and WWF/E is that they just kept turning him face/heel every few months. I attended one Nitro and it managed to be a show with a Paul Wight turn (in May 1998).

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The only good thing about The Union was the steam whistle noise they recycled in William Regal's Real Man theme song, which was truly the theme song that reached the pinnacle of all western music.

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If you dont watch UUDD, Claudio sang it a couple weeks ago after losing that weeks Uno match. 

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1 hour ago, Cobra Commander said:

The debut really wasn't what stuck out as a "WTF" booking decision (even with the goofy WWF bar cage). The "WTF" decision involved jobbing Show to Austin in Show's first WWF match 6 days before Wrestlemania. Even if they turned Show face post-WM (also a WTF) and put him in a face stable (The Union!), you'd think that having him beat Austin would give them something extra to do with Austin for that Spring, and maybe doesn't lead to them immediately doing Rock/Austin again at Backlash.

The consistent theme for Big Show in WCW and WWF/E is that they just kept turning him face/heel every few months. I attended one Nitro and it managed to be a show with a Paul Wight turn (in May 1998).

It is truly wild that WCW protected him more on the way out than the WWF did when he debuted.

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WRESTLEMANIA XVI (and 2000)

The Millennium has turned and the WWF has changed significantly since the Mania a year before.  The gang wars are essentially over. The tragedy of Owen Hart has fundamentally rocked the Fed. Vince Russo and his main co-writer had worn out their welcome and left (or were fired, depending on who you ask) for a suddenly flailing WCW. Steve Austin suffered a severe knee injury and has taken a small sabbatical. In his place, there are 4 new guys who felt they were misused under WCW running roughshod over the midcard and working their way up fast. (lol not you Shane Douglas. You neither Konnan!)  

And now we're in the height of the McMahon-Helmsley era with HHH as a dominant WWF Champion, and improbably Stephanie McMahon as WWF Women's Champ who beat Jacqueline for the belt the week before.  Hunter is dealing with a rather big Mick Foley problem (since he'd beaten him for his first title), but both of the other former champions The Rock and The Big Show have something to say about that.  And not only that, but the McMahon family has now exploded too.  

But amazingly, this all made a decent amount of sense because the new head writer the late Chris Kreski had instituted storyboarding, which forced the writing team to write stories that made sense because they built on the history. This would lead to perhaps the best on air storyline year of the WWF/E's history, from Mania 2000 to X7.  (Full disclosure, I'm friends with his son Noah, who's a super cool guy.)

So let's begin...  the Big Boss Man and Bull Buchanan (who really should have been given a Gomer Pyle gimmick) are tagging up against the former Nation of Domination tag team of D-Lo Brown and the Godfather.  I can already tell this is going to be annoying because apparently Vince never got the rights to anything on the WWF Aggression album as D-Lo, the Godfather, and his associated staff are teleported to the ring with Ice-T.  Speaking of annoying Lawler is going on and on about the one Ho in red, which leads me to believe she's a USWA plant - and since I haven't watched this show in 20 years, possibly in on the ending.  That being said, I do not recognize her. 

I'd be remiss in saying that watching this match with everything that's been going on this week isn't -- very uncomfortable.  But I'll press on.  The match is a 10 minute commercial for Bull Buchanan as he's getting the majority of the offense and D-Lo is selling like crazy for him. Godfather is fine for what he has to do, but Bossman is clearly out of his depth with these 3.  The match ends with Bull taking out Godfather and hitting D-Lo with a guillotine leg drop. 

Next up, we finish the ride with 15 minutes of hell on earth.  

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On 6/5/2020 at 3:05 PM, Dolfan in NYC said:

The match itself was, and I can't believe I'm going to say this for a match with 4 referees, too mechanical for my tastes.  Like it definitely felt like they had their spots planned well in advance, and instead of telling a story, they were reading from a script.   This happens (A) then this happens (B)... instead of This happened (B) because this happened (A).   It's odd.  Not a bad match but just one that didn't draw me in. 

I know you're into WM 2000 but FWIW it doesn't surprise me the match ended up this way.  Austin was having marital issues with Debra and with the way he was it messed things up for him.  He forgot the vest due to what was going on and he couldn't get that in time hence the t-shirt for the entrance.  So I can see why he would have been almost on autopilot.  Thankfully there were some far superior WM matchups coming up where Steve was actually firing on all cylinders.

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1 hour ago, NikoBaltimore said:

Austin was having marital issues with Debra and with the way he was it messed things up for him.  He forgot the vest due to what was going on and he couldn't get that in time hence the t-shirt for the entrance. 

The issues were his divorce with Jeanie Clarke. He hadn't married Debra yet.

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Just now, PetrolCB said:

The issues were his divorce with Jeanie Clarke. He hadn't married Debra yet.

Shit, that's right.  I forgot it was Jeanie before and he married Debra some time later.  But that had its own share of issues as well.  At least it seems like things are working out fine with his current marriage but that may be due to not wrestling anymore.

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