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Dolfan Watches Every Wrestlemania On Lockdown


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From a guy (who knew a guy) who ran a Mexican orphanage to a Che-inspired leader of men... Sami Zayn has had one hell of a career. It can be said that turning heel was the best career move for him.  Someone who was a pure babyface making a slight tweak and becoming a hugely annoying chickenshit heel was a brilliant masterstroke of character work.  The high point for this new character was he, along with his cohorts Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro beat then Intercontinental Champion Braun Strowman for his title in a 3 on 1 handicap match.  Sami getting the pin seemed almost incidental, but it turned out to be a character-defining trait to this day almost a year later. 

So, at the time it seemed to be widely expected that Sami would lose his title almost instantly upon the first serious challenge.  That challenge came from Daniel Bryan.  Bryan was in a small faction of his own with Drew Gulak and they began feuding with the three amigos because... I think it was to see who could be the best wrestler?  Honestly it doesn't matter.  

Sami's entrance is just so weird without a crowd screaming "Let's Go!" regardless of what side he's on.  (This is another thing that in my mind will show pro wrestling is back.)  Same thing with the Yes Yes Yes chants (though Gronk & Mojo are there to do that).  

The match itself is ridiculously short.  Mainly because it's less than 10 minutes, and Sami spends half the time running away from Bryan.  It's a master class in chickenshit heel tactics. It's only when Gulak attacks Cesaro and Nak that things truly get underway in earnest.    But what follows is good for what it is, which is a 3 minute sprint.  It ends with Bryan getting distracted by Nakamura & Cesaro and eating a Helluva Kick for the shocking upset. 

I remember being very happily surprised by the upset and maybe that gave me rose colored glasses about this match.  But in reality, it's nowhere near as good a match as they could have had.  

I'm guessing since both of these guys were vocally nonplussed about the WWE's reactions to the pandemic, they were the first to tape their stuff and get the hell out of the PC as soon as they could. 

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On 2/12/2021 at 1:20 PM, Dolfan in NYC said:

 And I think there's something to be said about a woman needing to identify as a "Man" to build herself up. 

 

 

See, I take that a totally different way. By calling herself "The man," but clearly identifying as a woman, the undercurrent is that gender doesn't actually matter when it comes to who runs this bitch and the gender labeling is irrelevant. I thought that it was used ironically. 

Edited by Smelly McUgly
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Nowhere is the pandemic more apparent than the Triple Threat match ladder match for the Smackdown Tag Championships.  That being of course because, well, I believe this is the first time that a tag title has been defended in a singles match on WWE pay-per-view, because of course Miz "fell ill" leading up to the show.  I don't ever believe it's been revealed if he had COVID or not, but probably?  Anyway, Xavier Woods was also out with an exploded Achilles (ouch) and Jey Uso was also pulled out because... reasons?   

As it is, we have Kofi Kingston, Jimmy Uso, and John Morrison, the three most suicidal people in this match anyway, so I guess it's for the best.  

Now, as this match's participants were being introduced, I was sorely considering moving it to the next day's ride because the last two matches had drained me of the will to live.  Thankfully, I didn't because while this is the longest (in-ring) match of the night, it's certainly the most fun.   

It's often been said that these performers love this craft so much that they're willing to do the most insane shit imaginable in front of a crowd of a dozen people. Well, Kofi and Johnny certainly have done so in the past (I'm honestly not sure how Uso came up through the ranks or if he's just straight WWE-built from the ground up.), so they are very much at home here.  The thing is, with it being only 3 people (and zero crowd) the match feels much more dangerous and much tighter. 

Yes, for certain there are those "slow ladder climb" spots to help the others set up what they're doing, but I'm guessing this one was edited particularly well, because they were just flowing from one thing to the next.  Little time wasted when all three on the mat or floor, and some ridiculous spots from Morrison in particular, that make me wonder why he hasn't split off Miz and going after the Universal/WWE title himself.  And again, I'm pretty sure if there was a crowd, they'd be highly clamoring for the split.

The finish is definitely one of the more creative ones in the WWE ladder match history.  All three men are on separate ladders with their hands literally on the belts and the holder.  It gets unhooked, but they all have a claim to it.  (I thought for a second they were going to name these three men as co-tag champs or something insane like that.) But eventually Johnny gets knocked down, but he takes the belts down with him.   Possession is 9/10th's of the law, so he and the Miz retain their championships after a delightful little bit of mayhem.  

So, yeah, that certainly brought my mood back up. 

On our next ride, "Don't Bury Me!"

End of Day 122. 

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That ladder match felt so off without a crowd. There is little that is effective without a crowd but certainly not a match meant to illicit loud responses. They learned this lesson with Zayn, Styles and Hardy later in the year. I remember at the time people pointing out obvious crash pad concealing camera cuts/ angles but I can't blame them when there isn't even a crowd there. 

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Kofi had a story last week I think on the pod about how he came up with his name, using the name of a guy helping him at Best Buy for his middle name. It was something like Najah (which E somehow thought was Nevaeh). 

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DAY 123

Is Seth Rollins upper card Miz or lower card HHH?  🤔

In this case, he's fully playing the role of HHH in a feud with Kevin Owens that can be boiled down to "I have a winning record at WrestleMania" vs. "I have a losing record at WrestleMania" (but wInS aNd LoSsEs DoN't MaTtEr....).  But they get a big epic promo anyway.  

So this match is fine, but as Owens later revealed, the plan originally was to have a match, pretty much strictly for the reason of him jumping off the pirate ship.

With that in mind, it's easy to see how this match was going to play out with the crowd.  The trash talking is obviously them trying to make up for there being no reactions to anything they do, but it's just so wildly disconcerting to see a pop-up powerbomb with no reaction.  

But like I said, Seth is clearly trying to take the HHH formula of "epic match" where he builds up to something humongous or gets in deep trouble and makes a super-human comeback. So Seth is basically telling Kevin how bad and fat he is the entire first half of the match, gets into trouble, and then DQ's himself purposely to get out of this.  

Owens demands the match continue as no DQ, Seth hesitates but says sure why not.  It's a Dusty finish without any stakes.  And I guess that's the big problem here.  The match is technically fine, but there are no real stakes and them battling all over the PC floor doesn't feel like it matters at all.  

Eventually Kevin gets his "big WrestleMania moment" by jumping off the sign they *just barely* fit into the PC onto Seth.  Then he drags him back in and stunners him for the win.  

The announcers are like "this is the biggest win  of his career", and I'm thinking it's very clearly not even in the top 10.  This definitely needed to be in front of a crowd, because as it was, though I liked the match enough, the overwhelming quiet just made it all seem... pointless?  

Yeah. 

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SPEAKING OF POINTLESS!

Goldberg came in and was given the WWE Championship because...  fuck Bray Wyatt, I guess?  I mean, it's not like they had a years long feud simmering with Wyatt and the challenger Braun Strowman.  And it's not like they had an absolutely dynamite new character in the form of The Fiend - a version of Bray turned up to 20 on a 10 point scale, who could rival (or even outrank) Braun's power.  And it's not like they could have used the feud to put over either guy as an absolute S-tier character.  Nah, instead let's have a match with a guy who's recently very nearly killed one of our oldest stars and a big galoot who knows how to do 3 moves.  

Well, at least this is short.  

*Braun turned on his zero damage cheat*  

Spear Spear Spear Spear Jackhammer. *NOT VERY EFFECTIVE*

Powerslam Powerslam Powerslam.  *IT'S SUPER EFFECTIVE!*

Goldie has fainted! 

Braun has earned you 350 Pokecoins! 

OH?  Braun is evolving!

BRAUN IS NOW CHAMPBRAUN!

For the record, it's remarkable that after less than ~200 lifetime matches or so, Braun Strowman won the Universal Championship.  It's also notable that he wouldn't have sniffed this title if Roman Reigns, who was originally scheduled for this spot, hadn't told Vince to go fuck himself because he'd just gotten over fucking LEUKEMIA and this wasn't worth it. 

I'm 90% sure Roman has a foot out of the door in WWE and he's going to be appearing in a few more major movies as soon as productions start up again.  Frankly, that's a good thing.  Get out before you get CTE, and leave the Strowman's of the world to get concussed by 60 year-olds who can't do their moves any more. 

Meanwhile, Gronkowski and Mojo punk out R Truth and Mojo wins the 24/7 title by betraying his friend.  This was a better match than the one that preceded it. 

 

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My favorite part of the Reigns/Goldberg/Strowman bs was HHH saying Reigns would be replaced in a unique and interesting way. Then Strowman just showed up on Smackdown and challenged oldberg.

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1 hour ago, Dolfan in NYC said:

Nah, instead let's have a match with a guy who's recently very nearly killed one of our oldest stars and a big galoot who knows how to do 3 moves.  

 

 

Also Braun Strowman was there. 😛

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2 hours ago, Dolfan in NYC said:

For the record, it's remarkable that after less than ~200 lifetime matches or so, Braun Strowman won the Universal Championship.  

This is interesting because it is quite a quick rise to the top in one respect, but Braun had been around a good 4 years by that point and it felt like they probably pulled the trigger at least a year too late on his title run.

There must be a few other examples that beat that also. Rock and Lesnar come to mind, although not sure how much they worked in developmental/pre WWE, but definitely less TV time before they got runs at the top.

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Braun was so fucking hot in 2018-19, and they had him come up short in title match after title match, have him an understandable but ineffective heel turn, had to panic turn him back, had him come up short again, waited another 4 months, panic substituted him in because they had no choice, and then finally gave him the belt once nobody cared about him anymore. Bravo.

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11 hours ago, Dolfan in NYC said:

DAY 123

Is Seth Rollins upper card Miz or lower card HHH?  

I believe the correct answer is "Dolph Ziggler, but with a push."

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4 hours ago, Brian Fowler said:

Braun was so fucking hot in 2018-19, and they had him come up short in title match after title match, have him an understandable but ineffective heel turn, had to panic turn him back, had him come up short again, waited another 4 months, panic substituted him in because they had no choice, and then finally gave him the belt once nobody cared about him anymore. Bravo.

and just think of all the names over the past few years you could sub in for Braun in that statement.

fuck, they even jerked Roman Reigns around like this a few times and he was their Plan A

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So, it's time for the Undertaker.  I'd say the STREAK~ but that was over years ago, and any mysticism surrounding it was killed dead when he had his horrific loss to Roman a few years before that.  Hell, in 2019 he wasn't even on the show!  But as he detailed in his extensive documentary, he was upset that his last real Mania match had gone so badly.  And then when the Goldberg match in front of the Saudi audience went even worse... well, he knew time was ticking. 

AJ Styles is basically as good a worker as they have not named Daniel Bryan. There's a lot to be said that if he'd been brought in back when they were originally evaluating him, he'd probably have had his Taker match years before this.  (Somewhere in that Batista-Punk window, I'd say.)  However, that parallel universe isn't this one, so we've got this match because... I think AJ called him old.  Oh, and he used Taker's real name.  

So, I'll note that I watched this match last Sunday when I was having a couple of friends over (they're in my bubble) for WandaVision and the Superb Owl.  But they came over early, so they got to watch me watch this match as they'd never seen it before.  I'll note they're more casual fans and weren't aware this was a cinematic match because one of them asked "so what is a Boneyard match exactly" and "how do you win?"  

...

You know, there are few times I'm at a loss for words, but yeah.  The most I could muster up was, "um, I guess just watch", because that's what the original experience of the match was anyway.  I know they'd watched the Roman match back in 2017 and were... unimpressed, to say the least.  

As it is, this is the first time this Mania is actually *better* without the audience.  You're essentially watching a movie, which movie blocking, movie editing, and a score.  Oh, and something off Metallica's last "album".  One of my friends said, "I know that sounds like Metallica, but just not a good song.  Maybe it's an old song I just don't know."  When I looked it up on my phone as my pedaling continued, I told him it was off their 2016 album, to which he replied, "Oh, barf." 

Laughing hard when your heart rate is around 125 is... interesting. 

Re-watching this is actually fun, because they've clearly poured a lot of time and energy here.  There are set pieces and these two guys can make their stuff look even better when they're being edited well.  So, yeah, MVP of this match is whichever production assistants they poached from TNA, who make both guys look like a million bucks. 

AJ is trash talking the whole time he's on offense and it's wonderful.  He walks the line between tough sonofabitch and sniveling weasel really well.  His begging for mercy after he's literally dropped Taker in the ground earlier is just delightful.   

Taker is clearly being edited around, since, yes the elephant in the room is that this is his "last match".  (For now.)  But he really does the old tough guy routine very well, and tears through AJ and Gallows and Anderson. Him tossing them off the side of the barn(?) that's in this grave, er, boneyard is also very good.  I'm not even annoyed by the (visible if you're looking for it) crash pad AJ hits when he goes through a wooden pallet on the ground.  Very Friday the 13th Part V moment there. (Spoiler alert!)

So, yeah, Taker's firmly in control when AJ's crawling away begging "Don't bury me" man.  My friend notes, "that's an extremely cute meta joke."  

But sure enough, AJ gets booted into an open grave that just so happens to have a tombstone by it.  Taker literally buries him in dirt to claim "victory."  He then reveals that fortuitously(!) placed tombstone just happens to have AJ's name on it!  Oh ho ho!  

He drives away, and that's it for 'Night 1' of this WrestleMania. And that's it for me.  My friends' reaction was "that was better than it had any right to be."   

I'm inclined to agree.  

End of Day 123. 

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13 minutes ago, Dolfan in NYC said:

Oh, and something off Metallica's last "album".  One of my friends said, "I know that sounds like Metallica, but just not a good song.  Maybe it's an old song I just don't know."  When I looked it up on my phone as my pedaling continued, I told him it was off their 2016 album, to which he replied, "Oh, barf." 

Man, I love you to pieces for the Pokemon reference earlier but then you say this?  I'm not saying it's one of their better songs but "Now that we're dead" is a fine enough tune.  I also say that after seeing them do it live which was pretty damn awesome.  But color surprised if it's still on the Network considering they dub over most songs.

And the Boneyard match is my favorite match of the show by far.  It did a good job representing Callaway, ABA Taker and some old school stuff for good measure.  That is one match I wish I could have seen with friends as I'm sure they would have loved all of that stuff.

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I was not a fan of the cinematic matches. They became awful so quickly too. Although I do wonder what monstrosities we dodged in the 90's and 00's, in a time before cinematic matches. Beach Blast in a cinematic match anyone? Hogan vs Vader in the Dungeon of Doom? Dusty booking cinematic matches? Truly a concept for the modern era, where breaking the fourth wall is common place. 

That said, this was better than any match Undertaker would have done before a live audience at this point in time. I can't imagine an empty arena Taker-Styles match doing anyone a favor. AJ is a gump/goober and does well in this.

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I dunno, watching '93 WCW I would have been amused by Sting and Vader in a strap match at the White Castle of Fear.  I figure if they're willing to cheer Luger right away for his Lex Express stuff (with no explanation at all aside from "He's patriotic, folks!" then surely they'd eat this right up.

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Oh, I agree. I just question how out of hand it gets. It would be useful for older wrestlers trying to prolong their career. But I see it's trajectory being the same, after a few months of it the cinematic matches get bad and you just want wrestling. 

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ok, 1995 Hulk Hogan in a cinematic "Dungeon of Doom" match would be the EXACT level of stupid corniness that i would have loved, both then and now.  It's the Hogan-Kevin Sullivan feud ender we never got.

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I am surprised they didn't do a Hulk Hogan cinematic match last year when ratings were down. I could just have easily seen Hogan vs Miz or someone similar in a cinematic match at SummerSlam or Survivor Series. 

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