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Dolfan Watches Every Wrestlemania On Lockdown


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If there was ever a career defining match in WWE outside of a Mania, this match should be at the top of the list.  Eddie Guerrero had toiled for years in Japan, ECW, WCW, and then WWF/E, and had never even sniffed the top title. No one ever doubted his talent, but he never fit into the plans really, or he got hurt at very inopportune time. Well, this time, the cards fell right, Brock had given his notice, Eddie was the next guy up.  Even after he won, I seem to recall a decent sized crowd saying he was going to be a transitional champ and would probably drop the belt to the new top heel in Kurt Angle. 

Kurt for his part had made a miraculous comeback the previous summer.  He was widely expected to be out for a year, with some very real talk that his career was completely over. The 'miracle' of his comeback was that he'd gotten a much less invasive surgery than was recommended and went to a guy who very quickly was proven to be a quack.  (But we'd learn about that after this.)  Anyway, they essentially ran a lighter version of the HHH-Booker feud from last year, because... yeah...   Anyway, it's no less racist to say "drug addicts" when referring to a Latinx person than the previous year's slop.  

So we get to the action in ring and we're getting "hyper focused" Angle, which judging by the date means he'd mixed his percocet with adderall correctly. Basically, they're going for Eddie doing everything to prove that he's not a paper champion, and Kurt just toying with him, like a cat playing with a mouse.  Basically Eddie starts gaining a head of steam on offense Kurt would just suplex the living fuck out of him.  Once Angle was fully in control, he moves in for the kill, and starts ankle locking him and when that doesn't work, goes for the good ol' Angle Slam.  

Eddie (kayfabe) was doing everything in his power to keep up with the meaner, more focused Angle.  He hit a FUCKING swank DDT out of an Angle Slam to start the final sequence.  He followed the DDT with a frog splash that EVERYONE thought was the finish... except for Angle, of course. Kurt slapped on another Ankle Lock which led to Eddie kicking him out of the ring and making a VERY big deal about how hurt his ankle was.  He loosens his boot and continues to wildly oversell so that when Kurt recovers and sees it, the bait is set.  Eddie visibly says "Oh shit" and I'm grinning because I know what's coming.  Angle bought the sell, hook, line, and sinker, and sprints in to apply the ankle lock again....  only to have Eddie's boot come off.  In Angle's confusion, he stupidly walks into an inside cradle (and a nice rope hook) and Eddie retains and the crowd goes berserk.  As the Brits would say, very cheeky! 

Eddie would go on to hold the belt for a few more months before dropping it (via Angle interference) in the summer. As I read it, the pressure of being the top dog was just too much for Eddie and he asked to drop the title.  Kurt apparently had been in blinding pain as the shocking miracle cure, just was a load of bull followed up with a load of painkillers. He'd semi-retire again and become Smackdown GM after this match.   

The match itself was fantastic though a hair shy of perfection.  But the crowd absolutely adored Eddie because in many ways, even though he was roided up to the gills and did crazier things than most would ever dream of... Eddie may have been the most -- human -- WWE Champion ever. 

End of Day 61. 

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DAY 62

Oh boy.... this is going to be a rough one.

Kane serves well in his upper-midcard, tough to beat, jobber to the stars role.  The thing is though, even though the character is fun, he'd never really break out into a major star or even a serious top of the card guy.  He's unquestionably loyal to WWE, even showing up at his horror movie premiere in his gear (though genuinely looking sad/mortified in doing so).  But hey, I guess being in the ring beats trying to get stunt work. Anyway, he's on heel turn 722 here, after having buried the Undertaker alive in a match earlier in the year, so Taker could heal up and drop a few pounds.  And to eventually set up this match...

So, yeah, Undertaker is returning from injury and 10-0 going in, and roughly zero people in the crowd expect the result to be anything other than utter domination and 11-0. 

And essentially, we get a very high on the card squash match.  Kane basically gets no offense in and Undertaker utterly destroys him.  I'm pretty sure this was a bathroom break match for me, since the match everyone came to see was next, and aside from "what was Taker going to do for his entrance" there was no drama here, at all. 

Kane must have owed Taker money because he adds some extra mustard to the Tombstone (or more likely, Taker's not strong enough to hold a guy as big as Kane).   See ya.

Taker goes to 11-0.  The only thing that was alright here was Kane having a panic attack as he saw Undertaker coming down.  Hmm, I'm sure there are mental health services that can help with that... assuming he didn't cut them in his budget.  

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18 hours ago, Andy in Kansas said:

I was listening to Cornette's (I know, I know) review of Raw Underground, and he got into this. The basic gist is Shelton would never blow up, never really worked out, ate like shit, and was always in shape and delivered. During his ROH run, he finally started joking he was getting to be an old man because he actually had to get in the gym.

And Eivion is correct. Angle was not a part of this class. 

Wasn't Ron Waterman the other guy of that OVW class?  At least he was doing dark matches with the other three before they got called up and he got dropped.

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On 8/10/2020 at 9:07 PM, Death From Above said:

Every single time Jim Ross brings up *that* OVW class that had Cena, Orton, Lesnar, Angle, and Benjamin, he calls Benjamin "the best athlete" of the bunch, but he never explains what he really means by that and it baffles me. Like sure he's okay but if you're going to call that guy the best athlete of a group that featured a guy that nearly made the NFL after not playing football on, for all intents and purposes, a personal dare, and another guy that won an olypmic medal on a fucked neck then as a pro was doing moonsaults for laughs, I really need more explanation.

 

On 8/10/2020 at 9:13 PM, Eivion said:

I don't recall Angle being mentioned as a part of that class. 

 

10 hours ago, Zimbra said:

Wasn't Ron Waterman the other guy of that OVW class?  At least he was doing dark matches with the other three before they got called up and he got dropped.

Waterman was there, but the other guy that gets brought up is Big Dave. Batista, Orton, Cena, Lesnar, and Benjamin.

Which is a hell of a class, regardless of the the best athlete is.

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Even though I mentioned the Benoit murders earlier, there is no way that the actions of the weekend of June 24, 2007 will ever not cloud his career.  Especially....

Alright, Chris Benoit enters #1 at the Royal Rumble and lasts over an hour to win a shot at the championship. Also, on that show was the supposed culmination of the HBK-HHH feud with a Last Man Standing match... but the problem there was the match (which was great) ended in a dreaded draw (a finish that really needs to get used again here and there). Benoit chooses HHH to fight at WrestleMania, who is like "lol u r smol".  Shawn for his part is freaking out and demands another shot at the title, and while he has a semi-legit claim that he wasn't beaten -- he's the challenger, and he didn't win either. So, Shawn basically weasels his way into the championship match and for the first time at WrestleMania, the main event will be a Triple Threat.  

On a personal note, I will say, the crowd was amped for this.  Absolutely everyone was convinced, this was going to be Benoit's crowning moment in a long, arduous career... Or that HHH would retain through some kind of nefarious plot, since everyone in the world bought the whole "HHH has too much influence backstage" legend. (Although... that Booker T match last year...) Also, in my 25 years of being in this town, I've been to plenty of MSG shows, Shawn Michaels has never, ever been cheered for.  I'm not even sure of the exact reason other than "fuck Shawn Michaels"... which quite frankly is justifiable. 

All three guys have their working boots on tonight and Hunter in particular is in full "EVERYTHING MUST BE SOLD" mode.  And that's frankly my biggest takeaway from this rewatch. The vast majority of this match is HHH selling either HBK or Benoit's (or both's) offense.  It's an interesting dynamic because as a heel, he's typically leading the offense... but frankly, Shawn is in there and New York fucking hates him anyway, so why not.  So yeah, this is very much an HBK vs. Chris Benoit match with Hunter occasionally making a cameo to get kicked or thrown through a table. The other thing is, there really were no true near falls until almost the end. I think all of the two counts and submission holds were clearly not the finish or going to be broken up, respectively.  

Ugh... there's that flying headbutt that makes me cringe. 

The famous finish comes as Hunter and Benoit are down and Shawn has the both ripe for the kicking (pun!)...  Benoit's up first, so Shawn tries Sweet Chin Music and gets thrown out of the ring for his troubles.  HHH is waiting for Benoit though like a wounded wolf...  kick, wham, Pedigree.... is reversed into the Crippler Crossface.  HHH is making this thing look like he's getting his head ripped off his body. The crowd is about 50% on their feet because this is the first really, REALLY good chance for Benoit to end it.  HHH reaches for the ropes and looks like he's going to make it, but just can't quite get there, so, he goes for his last best chance to escape.... breaking it by flipping towards Chris. Benoit though has the counter well scouted, and holds onto the CC.  This brings the rest of the crowd to their feet.

Hunter's now in blinding agonizing pain, now meters away from the ropes.... no escape.... no more tricks to pull out.  Hunter taps out.  MSG goes crazy in the loudest pop I've ever been a part of. 

Chris Benoit is holding his first and only WWE world championship and is ugly crying tears of joy.  This brings out WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero and they share a hug and celebrate the biggest accomplishments of their career.   End of show.  (Live, Eddie exited when the cameras turned off and Benoit celebrated for a few more minutes with the crowd.)

---

So, that was my first WrestleMania, live and in person.  Having lived here for so long, I was happy that I'd completed my own Big 4 PPV attendance grand slam and felt at the time that this show was the best WrestleMania ever. 

Well, re-watching it has certainly tamped down that fire. The show was very good, but this isn't anywhere near as good as X-Seven or even XIX were.  The majority of matches delivered as two eventual Hall of Famers got their first big wins here (I'll save Dave's "first big win" for next year because the Evo match was clearly to get Randy over).  The show gave career defining wins to the two world champs, and should have launched them both to main event status. 

Of course, life has a way of writing its own story.  Eddie lost the title a few months later after cracking under the pressure of being champ. Benoit never really gained traction as champion and his title run ended when he got RKO'ed in August. 

The horror of what happened a few years later, of course, undeniably looms large over everything Chris Benoit did here.  More than a few times, I'd hear JR put over how much pain Chris was putting his opponent in, and I'd want to crawl out of my skin. Fuck, man.  I wonder sometimes, if Chris had been killed protecting his family from home invaders or just committed suicide, how much would that have changed our opinions on him.  Even with all the other insane shit we learned he did before killing his wife and kid.

But he didn't.  

God damn it, Chris.  

End of Day 62. 

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Nice write up. I've enjoyed them so far and will going forward.

I will chime in and be that guy in saying that I really enjoyed that main event a whole lot. I was a huge Benoit fan growing up, and not at the risk of sounding cool, can still watch his stuff and not be bothered. 

I have fond memories of WMXX. It was my 18th birthday and I had gone to my friends house for his weekly weekend party (his single mother parent didn't mind what we did, as long as we were confined there as she was gone; judge but don't), which was bumped to Sunday because it was my special day.

That Mania was soooo long, but it didn't ruin it for us. I just used a late day the next morning for school, which followed with another 5 "sick days" that Wednesday, as I had a short tour from St. Patty's in Philly up through Ithaca and back with my band.

It's amazing I graduated that year.

Anyways, thanks @Dolfan in NYC.

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Excellent write-up of XX and the main event.  I vividly remember everything despite tons of attempts to block it out over the years.  I just remember how much Benoit and Eddie were "my guys" and while I didn't even hate HHH I just knew I wanted to so damn badly for Chris to win.  So when he did it meant the world to see "my guys" standing tall at the end.  It was in every sense of the word special and no matter what happened after was something I held in the highest regard.

Then 2007 happened.  I think looking back when processing everything I was kind of selfish as the murders ruined my special moment of seeing "my guys" standing tall.  Even the image of Eddie standing tall at the end was wiped out due to who he was with.  Sure you can maybe crop it but it's not the same.  I wish I could be like Petrol and not be bothered when watching it again.  But while I can maybe see other matches of his I refuse to watch this match again.  Thank fuck for Punk and Daniel Bryan though years later as it was nice to believe in their moments even if I didn't have the hero worship I had with Chris.

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9 hours ago, Brian Fowler said:

One thing I have to disagree on: the HHH/HBK last man standing match sucked so fucking much.

A few weeks before that, they had a match on RAW that was absolutely phenomenal, but the match at the Rumble was god fucking awful.

Shawn did a pretty great blade job in the Rumble match, Mania too. He was so stealth and good at it.

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DAY 63

WRESTLEMANIA XXI or "WRESTLEMANIA GOES HOLLYWOOD"

So the last year has been an odd one for the WWE.  They're very much in "Throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" mode.  The Rock is gone, Austin is semi-gone but fully retired, the fan favorites Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit flamed out as champions.  Randy Orton became the youngest World Champion ever in WWE, mainly because Brock held that title before and Vince is nothing if not petty.  JBL is given a WWE Championship run because... well, I guess because he wasn't injured and he's a good heel.  Underneath them though, the new top of the card guys, John Cena and Dave Batista, are ready to take their final step up.  

But for everything that's good like those two, we get a Eugene...  we get a Mohammed Hassan... we get a Raw Diva Search.  

So, the scene is set for Vince's big 2005 show.  And of course, we start out with the terrific WWE wrestlers in classic films vignette.  

And we get to "Issues with 2005 WWE" case study #1:   Eddie Guerrero.  Eddie has now been champ and since losing has had his career enter a  prolonged funk.  He sort of broke it when he and Rey won the tag team championship.  The story though is Eddie has had his hand on the brass ring and doesn't want to waste his time tag wrestling, when he SHOULD be main eventing. (Note - Chavo was also chirping in his ear constantly about this.) Well, opening the show certainly isn't going to help his psyche...

I think the majority of us expected Eddie to lose and turn heel, or him to win... and turn.  

They make a very, very big deal about this being the first time the tag champs face each other in a match at WrestleMania.  This is probably because it's fucking stupid to have the tag champs facing each other in a match.  Much less at WrestleMania.  

So, the match begins in earnest and Eddie is being very aggressive and Rey is doing his thing and. . .  well, you know what, I'm gonna come in with a hot take here.  I think Rey Mysterio is one of the more overrated guys of the last twenty years.  I think he dazzled everyone with high flying and some alright matches.  But overall, he's just... small and repetitive.  He's never shown me that other step up that someone who has main evented for as long as he has should.   Like, if his opponent is Chris Jericho, The Big Show, Seth Rollins, or Tanahashi...  I know exactly what I'm going to get when I hear "Rey Mysterio match".  Not to mention the fact that he flat out sucks as a heel.  

Now, that last thing I said is because the crowd is firmly on Eddie's side here.  The crowd is basically *BEGGING* Rey to heel it up, but he will not take the bait and is wrestling his style of match.  Mind you, it's a good match, and Eddie is great as he gets more and more frustrated with Rey kicking out of everything he's throwing at him.   It works in the context of the match because Eddie is in the process of turning, but it's also holding this match back.  Rey pushing Eddie over the edge should have been where they went, but it never got beyond "stop kicking out of stuff."  

The crowd actually booed a 619 attempt at one point too. But the match ends when Eddie goes for a Tilt-a-whirl and Rey gets the West Coast Pop off  a counter.  Eddie's distraught in the ring. Rey celebrates outside, and in frankly the most heelish thing he'd do, sees Eddie and goes back in to offer him a handshake.  Eddie obliges and in a shocking move does NOT turn on him.  They did that a few weeks later, which I believe led to the famous Silent Heel Promo match, which was an absolute work of art.  

Maybe I'm being a grump this particular morning, but this match and the finish with no turn after, just didn't do it for me. 

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Woo boy that Rey hot take is scorching. 

So WM 18-20 are a really weird period I think, albeit with good shows (and an all timer in 19). At 17 we are wrapping up the Attitude stuff. At 21 we are clearly launching Ruthless Aggression with Cena and Dave. These three shows are fascinating in that they feature certainly-not-probably the best roster of talent ever assembled, yet there’s no real clear direction or focus. A mix of nostalgia and trying new stars.

The WWE that existed until WM17 and the WWE that had existed really since 21 until present day are two very different things, and that transition happens over the course of these three years through a slew of different things (name change, staging, etc). 

We make lame EWR analogies all the time but that’s exactly what this all feels like. 

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Agreed that Rey is overrated. He had some incredible matches for their time in AAA, WAR, ECW, WCW and other places but he's definitely a one trick pony. He sells well and gets amazing hope spots in. That's pretty much it. Watching him and Psicosis tear it up felt like watching Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner or Tom & Jerry. I wanted the coyote and cat to get their prey, lol.  

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6 minutes ago, The Man Known as Dan said:

Multiple people coming forward saying they think Rey is over rated has never made me feel more disconnected from the board then I do now.

You can think sonething/someone is really good and overrated at the same time. 

(Aka the Godfather Paradigm) 

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Definitely agree that Rey is The Godfather of wrestling.

Rey's selling is very good but I don't think it's top tier. It's totally passive. I like my big time sellers to have some passion in it like Kawada, Hokuto, Juice.

Edited by Jiji
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RMjr's good stuff is so... so... good, esp. in Mexico, WCW and ECW - innovative for the time. Maybe a bit RFlair-like in that he does have "the same match" over and over, but it's a good match and he always (at least appears to) give 100% and be all there. The man has been going at top speed for a couple+ decades now.  His wee underdog vs. giant monster heel matches are thee gold standard.

That said, he never was one of my faves. The 619 is one of the most contrived finishers ever. He never needs a belt (he is his own attraction) but the outcomes of his bouts are usually predictable. Aside from the Eddie G family feud, he has never had a real WWE nemesis to spark a good program (but rarely had a terrible one).

Great-yes. Overrated - ----- - ----- - maybe? I don't see him on to many Top 5 lists. It's more like he's still around, being Rey.

- RAF & his dos centavos

 

Edited by thee Reverend Axl Future
stoopid fat fingers, no poking stick
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The only times I've had an emotional reaction to a Rey Mysterio match were when he's in there with I think the best emotional storyteller in American wrestling history: Eddie Guerrero. I still think Bret is #1 out of North America overall, but Eddie's ability to tell a story with raw emotion and facial reactions is just untouchable. Y'all remember those DEAN comics. This is true especially of his last few years with us. He was not a particularly good promo in WCW but that raw ability to say so much without words was there, doubly so when he turned heel. But, man, did he put it all together when he was re-hired in 2002 and had started to clean up his abuse problems. 

For me, wrestling is first and foremost an emotional art form. If you cannot engage me emotionally unless you're in there with a legend of the highest calibre in that regard, I can't consider you an all time great. He's great but he's not on that elite level in my opinion. Technically amazing and aerially innovative/groundbreaking, but emotionally/psychology-wise not there and that's what I value more than anything in wrestling. I absolutely understand why this is not the standard opinion on Rey, but I'm fine with that. 

And fuck the 619.

Edited by Jiji
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5 hours ago, Jiji said:

Definitely agree that Rey is The Godfather of wrestling.

Rey's selling is very good but I don't think it's top tier. It's totally passive. I like my big time sellers to have some passion in it like Kawada, Hokuto, Juice.

Papa Shango may have a thing or two to say about that first remark.

I remember there being discussion /general opinion of the exact opposite some 10(-ish?) years ago. The strong opinion was that Rey was pretty much the best babyface worker / storyteller of the time. I have no strong opinion one way or the other but this discussion is surprising to me as well.

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3 hours ago, thee Reverend Axl Future said:

RMjr's good stuff is so... so... good, esp. in Mexico, WCW and ECW - innovative for the time. Maybe a bit RFlair-like in that he does have "the same match" over and over, but it's a good match and he always (at least appears to) give 100% and be all there. The man has been going at top speed for a couple+ decades now.  His wee underdog vs. giant monster heel matches are thee gold standard.

That said, he never was one of my faves. The 619 is one of the most contrived finishers ever. He never needs a belt (he is his own attraction) but the outcomes of his bouts are usually predictable. Aside from the Eddie G family feud, he has never had a real WWE nemesis to spark a good program (but rarely had a terrible one).

Great-yes. Overrated - ----- - ----- - maybe? I don't see him on to many Top 5 lists. It's more like he's still around, being Rey.

- RAF & his dos centavos

 

 

CM Punk. Batista. Fucking Kurt Angle even. 

 

And are talking "all time" top 5 lists? Cause boy do I have a GWE ballot of mine to show you were he is my number 1.

 

Here's a challenge for you any of you. Name a wrestler who with a higher quantity of good television matches with a wider range of opponents then Rey Mysterio. I am going to have to wait a very very long time for there to be an answer to this question. since the answer is "there isn't any" nor is there anyone close.

 

Fuck it I need sleep before I go on a multi paragraph rant.

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