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Dolfan Watches Every Wrestlemania On Lockdown


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HHH/Sting was such a shit show. It was boring me before the needless run(slow walk)-ins, the nonsense of the nWo helping Sting, HHH going over, and all on top of it happening a year after the Shield had supposedly killed the attitude era but here we are with an Attitude era nostalgia match being a focal point of the show. I understand that a Sting match would probably be somewhat an attitude era nostalgia match but it didn't have to be as much as it turned out to be. HHH was the wrong opponent for him as well that was never a dream match. Sting/Taker was, as was Sting/Austin (which couldn't happen at that point), Sting/Rock would have been huge but, and I was a huge HHH fan in the late 90's/early 2000s, I never thought HHH was a dream match level guy.  And if you factored in the guys at top during the time period Sting/Cena was much more of a dream match.

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But then HHH wouldn't get to complete his collection of awful victories over WCW guys. And they had to feed Wyatt to Taker to build to... Roman Reigns not retiring the Undertaker?

They also screwed up Sting beating Rollins to win the WWE title. Could have easily had Sheamus cash in on him so Sting didn't have to tour as champion. I don't know, anything but what they did use Sting for. 

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The last segment of the ride was the new Intercontinental Champion celebrating backstage with whichever Charly Caruso clone they had interviewing people backstage back then.  

He's excited and is interrupted by various legendary Intercontinental Champions... this bit was clearly built around Randy Savage giving DB his blessing, but... 😞 

And to put a button on this... here's a guy who famously did NOT win the Intercontinental Championship.  And I suddenly think, they should have brought that up for him to say it.  Because the more you think about his solo time in WWF/E, the more his catchphrase becomes appropriate...

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End of Day 96.

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At risk of retroactive fantasy booking, the Sting / HHH match had what seemed to be a perfect setup just before Survivor Series.

Sting's appearance set the Authority out the door for a few blessed weeks - why? The motivation I read into it was "the Authority is calling themselves a New World Order, and Sting cannot abide New World Orders. "

And then the Mania match happens. 😞

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DAY 97

It's always fun to think about the Sliding Doors movie premise -- what if, you made one change in your life, how different would everything be?   I mean, here I am, riding an exercise bike in my apartment in Queens, New York, meanwhile, a guy who is 3 weeks older than I am now takes the stage at WrestleMania, covered head to toe in tattoos and drumming for two pop stars that no one above the age of 18 could name.  Honestly it looks like these two kids are performing with their dad.  Lord, we've lived different lives in the same amount of time.

Anyway, as an update, Tua the squirrel hasn't been around in a week or so.  And a couple of days ago, I heard a hawk screaming nearby...  😕  

It's now time for the WrestleMania debut of Paige.  She's teaming with AJ Lee who firmly has a foot out the door... and frankly, who's spine is so fucked she's moving at half speed.  Their opponents are The Bella Twins, who strangely enough are making their debut in a non-battle royale capacity.   

The match itself is surprisingly good.  I am not by any stretch of the imagination a fan of Brie and/or Nikki Bella.  (Nikki is clearly the better of the two, but  they've never done anything for me other than annoy me.)  But they do their part admirably, and re-watching this has disabused me of the idea that they're talentless.  Of course, back to the theme.... 

What if.  

What if Punk hadn't quit?   Would AJ have found the door so quickly?  

What if Paige didn't have a bum neck?  Would her star have burned so bright and gone out so quickly?  

What if NIkki didn't become "friends" with John Cena?  Would the Garcia sisters gone from wallflowers to re-hired champions?  

We can never know for certain.  

What we do know is that Paige did a terrific job of selling, and AJ made Nikki tap to the Black Widow.  (Which, Dolfan in 2020 thinks means, WWE had zero clue that AJ was literally days away from retirement.) 

And as I'm writing this now, I realize that all 4 of the people in this match are retired, which is also a bummer.  

.    

Tua, I hope you're doing okay little buddy.  

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I got the impression they were kinda going out of their way to make sure AJ wouldn't have any claim to being buried because of who she is married too. 

I do think it's a shame that her and Paige's feud kinda fizzled out into a tag team going nowhere, but getting the win at WrestleMania is not a bad way to have your last high profile match.

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On 11/17/2020 at 7:52 PM, Dolfan in NYC said:

Sting has a Japanese drum band doing a play-along to his entrance music.  He, of course, gets a massive pop, as frankly anyone who's ever watched wrestling in the 1990's is having a completely surreal moment.  Hell, it's 5 1/2 years later, and I'm still saying "god damn... that's Sting".   

This was so randomly funny. This was the first and only wrestlemania I’ve been too (had a blast). I work for a very wealthy persons estate and the day before was the annual big party where they have these taiko drummers every year as part of the entertainment. https://www.sftaiko.com
 

Part of my many duties was to greet and escort them while they set up. They were all talking to each other about wrestlemania tomorrow and how cool it was and I was like wtf?!? That was also the first year the sensei wasn’t there because he was in Santa Clara getting ready for wrestlemania. Just random and funny and I really enjoyed the show. 
 

Really like your recaps. 

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On 11/24/2020 at 12:08 AM, Brian Fowler said:

I do think it's a shame that her and Paige's feud kinda fizzled out into a tag team going nowhere

Their feud was pretty damn terrible so tagging was the better option. Paige was not very good when she was called up, and AJ kind of regressed as a character.

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It's time for the 2015 Hall of Fame.  The inductees are The Bushwhackers, Tatsumi Fujinami, Larry Zybzko, Rikishi, Alundra Blayze, Kevin Nash, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

This is truly one of the weirder classes out there.  There are people who had actively talked shit about the WWF/E and Vince.  The kid friendly murderous brawlers. The guy that got his last ditch thong gimmick over. The main eventer who never was able to carry the weight of a company. The other main eventer who was never able to carry the weight of the company (and, depending on what rumors you believe, well, got put on the persona non grata list for cause...).  And the movie star who gave it up to make sure that no Californian kid would ever get a properly funded education ever again. 

Let's be honest, Savage got in because he died, and there was literally no way even Vince could hold a grudge after the overwhelmingly positive nostalgia response he'd gotten.  And that's regardless of whether the Stephanie thing is true.  

==

The intro to the next match is happening, but I'm going to cut this review here and put that all together in the next one.   I have thoughts...

End of Day 97. 

 

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I had no idea about this but not only was Fujinami the Jr. Champion (he took the belt to Japan) but he was the WWF International champ as well... three times?! Well then.

EDIT: Okay, this explains it. Not the same IC title. I apparently can't read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WWF_International_Heavyweight_Championship#Title_history

Edited by Curt McGirt
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On 11/25/2020 at 10:43 AM, Dolfan in NYC said:

Let's be honest, Savage got in because he died, and there was literally no way even Vince could hold a grudge after the overwhelmingly positive nostalgia response he'd gotten.  And that's regardless of whether the Stephanie thing is true.  

I thought I recall rumors of their strained relationship being on the mend even before Savage died. That was around the time they started doing business with him again, putting him in a video game or two.

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The video games were done by 2K, not WWE directly, iirc. Vince signed off on that and a toy, largely because it was better than letting Savage have a toy made by someone else that Vince didn't get a cut of.

I do quibble with Savage not being able to carry the weight of the promotion. They did big business with Hogan out making the movie during his first run on top.

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DAY 98

So, I've been watching these Manias as part of my workout routine while things were insane back in the Spring.  As we've had our bumps and bruises, I've tried to keep it up as much as possible.  So I've finally gotten to one of the moments that I absolutely dreaded:  The WrestleMania debut of Alexander Rusev.  

I've been baffled for years as to how a guy, who has the charisma, the skill set, and the size of a Rusev never really got a sustained main event program. They clearly knew they had major potential here, as he'd been plowing through a bunch of guys on his way to being United States Champion -- not the least of which is giving him a submission victory over John Cena the month before. Which despite passing out, still counts as Cena's first submission loss in a decade.  But, of course, for reasons...  Cena is back and challenging again for the US Title.  

Rusev gets his absolutely awesome tank entrance.  He's fully in his "Champion of the Russian People" gimmick at this point and I always thought he should have done that extra heel step of changing the name of the "US Championship" to the "Russian Federational Championship", but that's the least of my worries in this match.  

John Cena gets an entrance video that's so over the top Americana -- well, if it came from any other company, it would have absolutely been seen as parody.  As it is, this video is so jingoistically American that Hulk Hogan, Norman Rockwell, and  Ronald Reagan would have all said, "Hmm... that's a bit much."  Of course, it's hilarious because the crowd still  shits all over this and him, and we have the debut of the "John Cena Sucks" singalong to the entrance music. 

The match itself... well, I've purposely avoided the phrase "Cena Wins LOL" until now, because I wanted to give every match its fair shake.  But this is a *textbook* example of the "CWL" era... monster heel beats on Cena, keeps it up, Cena never taps or always kicks out, Cena makes a comeback, heel does too... it's seemingly over... and blammo, AA or STFU, and... CWL.  

The crowd absolutely knew what was coming.  They're basically dead for the entire match because of it too.  (Well, after they were done chanting for Lana.)  They're only happy with Rusev getting big offense and boo for a Cena comeback spot, and that's it.  The quality of the match is fine, but once again, I'm here in 2020, looking back on this absolute missed opportunity from 5 years ago and wondering what in the absolute fuck was Vince thinking.  

I know the plan was to make Cena a "fighting" US Champ.  The issue is, Rusev is made to look like a damned chump here by losing because his manager is also his partner.  And when he bumps her, it's (iron) curtains for Rusev.  I would have been fine knowing that this loss would have led to bigger things for him, but it just... didn't.  

I'll eventually get to Rusev's exit, but this one just absolutely sucks to re-watch.  

Cena wins! LOL.  

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Rusev is a slightly earlier example of my "how can you not make money with..." frustration. Yeah, I know how and maybe even the why the WWE/VKM/HHH did not, but it amazes and saddens me still. Last time I brought this up with some younger and/or newer examples, and I felt that I was (re)stating the obvious, folks seem to explain away this mystery with apologies for the WWE. Rusev played ball, was good on promotion and social media, sold merch, worked on his ring abilities, was very believable, successfully integrated his less bankable lady into the gimmick... and appeared to get the cold shoulder, push-wise. ???!?!?!???!?!?!? Bummer.

- RAF

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On the surface, I totally get what WWE was doing. You get a big scary foreign monster heel, you have him run roughshod over the midcard, then you eventually have him put over the top star.

But this isn't the territorial days where then he'd leave and go do it all again in the next market, drawing big money there as well. He still had to come to work every day.

And then you get to how Rusev continually got over every single thing they handed him, no matter how trivial, and yet they never really got behind him again in any real way, and... Yeah.

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Stephanie McMahon and Triple H are out to thank the crowd for "setting a record" attendance.  Of course, it would come out later that their attendance number was (and sit down for this...) overinflated by about 10,000.  

Anyway, Steph and Hunter heel on the crowd.  I do appreciate that little bit of old school heeling.  Anyway, apparently Stephanie said the wrong thing or HHH looked the wrong way, because here comes The Rock.  

Rock then begins his performance art piece, "Driving on the I-5 Freeway".  He comes down to the ring.... pauses.....

Starts to move.... pauses....

Starts to speak.... pauses....

Jesus Christ. 

So, much like the I-5 will (at least) quadruple your trip time, an intro that should have taken about 90 seconds ends up taking over 6 minutes.  Either Stephanie is the best actress ever, or she's legit annoyed at how long Rock is taking to do his stuff.  Frankly, I'm right there with her.  

So Stephanie yells at Rock and tells him to get out of her ring.  Rock walks out of the ring, remembers who's at ringside and invites the "most dangerous woman in the world" into the ring.  Unfortunately, Shayna Bazsler declines, so Ronda Rousey jumps the fence in her stead.  

Rock -- who's unusually annoying to me this ride -- tells Stephanie what Ronda is about to do to her reproductive anatomy.  HHH protests and gets slammed by Rousey.  Stephanie nearly gets her arm broken before Ronda lets her go.  (Rousey was clearly all but completely untrained at this point, because she clearly has zero pressure on Steph, which makes the whole spot look at lot worse than I remember.)  

The crowd is going crazy and this situation gets put on pause for a few years. 

And that's it for this ride. 

End of Day 98. 

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Rock's gimmick really only works when he's trying to build a match that he's actually participating in. The last few times he's come out to just do his schtick and pop the crowd, he's come off as a weak parody of himself. His appearance on the first Fox Smackdown was a complete waste of time.

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DAY 99

Well now that Undertaker has taken his first loss at WrestleMania, we begin the final long slide down.  

There's a video from one of the documentaries where in an all hands meeting, they show everyone politely clapping when Bray clearly gets the best news of his career and is told he's getting a match with the Undertaker at Mania.  That moment is unfortunately the best moment of the feud.  They're doing Bray as "the new face of fear" vs. the actual face of fear. Of course, since it's WWE, they're fucking it up by having Bray look like a coward whenever he gets any kind of push back from Taker.  Which translates to anyone with an active brain cell knowing that Bray is going to get fucking destroyed in this match.  So.... that's not great.

The video package of course, highlights this, and ugh, this ride is gonna suck.  

So, Bray's entrance is solo this year as Rowan and Harper are doing their own things.  Like -- being hurt, and being better than Bray, respectively.  His entrance is also very off because the sun is still up in the California sky, and even though it is setting, it's nowhere near dark enough for his gimmick to work. Taker's is also a little weird in the sun, but there's enough literal smoke and mirrors to cover it up.  

The match... well, frankly it's boring as fuck.  The crowd is absolutely dead -- again, because they all know Bray is going to lose.  Bray is again, looking visibly nervous.  Taker himself seems vaguely disinterested, or maybe he's nervous too.  But everyone is off.   Looking back on the reviews at the time, they call the match 'solid', which... is not my assessment.  

It's an extremely paint-by-numbers match and it's all just waiting for the end.  The spider walk is countered by the zombie sit up, and Bray looks scared?  JFC.   If one person should never, EVER look scared it's Bray fucking Wyatt.  

The whole point to the character is he's a sociopathic cult leader.  He should absolutely 100% always believe his own mumbo jumbo crap.  And it's this sort of inconsistency that drives me up the fucking wall.  If you're going to make a Jim Jones... Make. A. Jim. Jones.  I say this 100% as a fan of Bray Wyatt. 

Whatever...

Anyways, Bray goes for Sister Abagail, Taker clearly fucks up the reversal spot because he's not strong enough to turn Bray around.  Eventually he gets him into position and he's now 22-1.   The announcers act like this is his greatest win ever.   Oy fuckin' vey. 

Bray was the wrong guy, at the wrong place, at the wrong time.  And Taker is visibly showing signs of decline here.   It really was worse than I remembered it.  

Well, one more match to go here, let's finish this Mania off.  

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