Cheap Pops - Wrestling News & Views: January 29, 2014

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Rollins vs. Lesnar Cheap Pops Critical Blast

by Chris Delloiacono and Mike Maillaro

This week!

  • Royal Rumble Recap

  • Where’s Wrestlemania 32?

  • Justin Gabriel Quits the WWE

  • IZOD Memories

Royal Rumble Results

  • 30-man Royal Rumble match:  Winner- Roman Reigns

  • Triple Threat for WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins:  Winner - Brock Lesnar

  • WWE Tag Team Title Match: Damien Sandow and The Miz vs. The Usos.  Winner - The Usos

  • New Age Outlaws vs. The Ascension.  Winner - The Ascension

  • Bella Twins vs. Natalya & Paige.  Winner - The Bellas

  • Pre-Show - Kofi and Big E vs Tyson Kiddand Cesaro.  Winner - Tyson and Cesaro

Mike: We both ended up 66% success rate on our predictions.  Chris had the title match wrong, I had the Rumble wrong and we both were wrong on the Pre-Show.  The real sad part about this PPV was that until you got to the main event, it was an excellent PPV.  The four tag matches in a row to start it off was a bit strange, but they were all entertaining.  And the title match might have been the best “main event” I’ve see in the WWE for a long time.  BUT...then we got to the rumble itself...It ended up being a real good thing that they didn’t put the Championship match on last.  It was a great match, and the crowd would have crapped all over it.  

Chris: WWE threw some surprises into the Rumble PPV this year, but, once again, the crowd crapped all over the big match.  Roman Reigns won by overcoming the odds and taking out Big Show and Kane in a ridiculously anti-climactic moment.  The crowd was then thrilled to see The Rock save his cousin from a dastardly attack, but there was no rub for Reigns.  The crowd loves Rocky but has no interest in his charisma devoid cuz.  They were so against Roman, they ended up booing The Rock and chanting for Rusev.  Oh, may I ask what the point of Rusev hiding was?  Horrible booking!

It seems obvious, once again, that Vince McMahon hates a big piece of his core audience.  The life was sucked from the building when Daniel Bryan was eliminated in pretty quick order.  Then Dolph Ziggler, another crowd darling, had almost no time in the match.  Two guys fans were really behind got very little time in the spotlight.

Mike: To me, the biggest problem was that Ziggler and Daniel Bryan both got eliminated in such anti-climatic ways.  It just became hard to care about the match when it became real clear that the sole purpose of the Rumble was to make Reigns look like Superman .  You think WWE would have learned the lesson from last year with Batista.  Especially when the crowd ended up booing poor Rey Mysterio last year just for the simple fact that he wasn’t Daniel Bryan.  I don’t disagree with Vince in the idea that you don’t always give the crowd what they want at that exact moment, because it helps build suspense.  But you can’t keep forcing crap on the fans and expect them not to turn away.

Chris: There wasn't many great moments in the Rumble this year.  Sure Kofi Kingston being caught by the Rosebuds was cool, seeing Bubba Ray back was fantastic, and Bray Wyatt looked like a killer heel.  Other than that....yeah, nothing.

Mike: I still am certain that Curtis Axel won the Rumble!  He was never eliminated.  It’s really not good when my greatest hope is now Curtis Axel...

Chris: I will hand it to John Cena and Brock Lesnar, because they did a lot to help elevate Seth Rollins to a legit main eventer.  Seth carried the match and looked on the cusp all night.  I can't see Roman Reigns ever performing on that level.

Horrible booking like this is why I enjoy prefer programs and alliances with solid storytelling like Lucha Underground, NXT, Ring of Honor, New Japan, and Pro Wrestling Syndicate.

Mike: I actually disagree about Roman Reigns.  I do think that in a few years he could be at that level.  He’s really only been doing this since 2010, and never outside the WWE developmental system.  As opposed to Rollins who has been wrestling since 2003...all over the world.  Reigns isn’t bad, he’s just still way too green and not ready to be pushed at the level WWE has pushed him at.  

Something odd just occurred to me. There was not a single one on one match in the show last night.  Has that ever happened before, outside of the first few Survivor Series?

Lucha Underground Results - 1/21/15

  • Cortez Castro & Mr. Cisco (w/ Bael) vs. Pimpinela Escarlata & Mascarita Sagrada.  Winners -  Cortez & Cisco
  • After the match, Big Ryck comes down and Cortez, Castro, & Bael turn on him.  They even burn his face with his own cigar.  Cortez, Cisco, and Bael are given a hefty cash payoff by owner Dario Cueto.
  • Interview segment with Cage and Vampiro.  Cage has his sights on the Lucha Underground title.
  • Pentagon Jr. Vs Superfly.  Winner - Pentagon Jr
  • After the match, Pentagon gets on the mike and calls Chavo Guerrero a fraud.  
  • Sexy Star vs. El Mariachi Loco. Winner - Sexy Star
  • Last Luchador Standing - King Cuerno vs. Drago.  Winner  - King Cuerno

Mike: Watching the main event match made me really appreciate the storytelling of Lucha Underground.  This is the fourth match Cuerno and Drago have had.  There haven’t been a lot of lengthy promos to tell the story, just letting the in-ring work tell the story.   They split the first two matches, and last week’s match ended with a double countout setting up this week’s blow off match: a Last Man standing match.

The finish of this match has been done before...wrestler loses Last Man Standing match because he was tied up, but the way they did it here really built on the characters so well.  Cuerno is supposed to be a great hunter, and he tied Drago up in a snare to declare his dominance over his opponent.

Chris: The storytelling has been impeccable from week to week.  It's mostly told in the ring, which is why it's so engaging. Just look at the main event as an example.  You said it, they've wrestled four times now, and each made had its own feel.  It was also cool when Cuerno put his deer headpiece on Drago's head.  Talk about laying waste to your opponent.

I also want to mention how charismatic these performers are.  There's so little promo time yet the distinct characters and personalities all jump out at you.  Including women like Sexy Star.  I love that she competes with the men and wins matches.  It was a solid bout with El Mariachi Loco and had just a touch of humor.  To the naysayers, having inter-gender matches is no more unrealistic than parts of every other program, and it's another aspect that sets this show apart.

Finally, I guess Cage is going to take over the number one heel spot from Big Ryck.  It looks like a solid move for the future.  We shall see how good Cage is when he gets to more back and forth matches, but he impressed in the ring last week, and on the mic this week.  

Mike:My only real gripe with this episode was that we didn’t see the big four: Chavo, Fenix, Johnny Mundo, and Prince Puma.  This is actually two episodes in a row without Johnny (which is who got me to watch the show in the first place).  BUT, the “undercard” in Lucha Underground is actually given a chance to carry the show, which is definitely a good move.  I am almost hesitant to make this suggestion, but I think they need to expand the show to 90 minutes.  There is just too much talent and not enough time to spotlight everyone.

Wrestlemania 32 announced for AT+T Stadium

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Mike: We were fortunate enough to be able to attend Wrestlemania 29.  It was my first Wrestlemania and only my second Pay Per View (Royal Rumble 2000).   So, honestly, I was hoping that Wrestlemania 32 would be at the Metlife Stadium again.  I had also heard some rumors that Philadelphia was a possibility.   So, from a purely selfish reason, I am bummed that Wrestlemania will be in Dallas.

But, as a wrestling fan, I hope this show will go a long way towards building the product.  It’s always important for WWE to be a national or even worldwide spectacle.  AT+T Stadium is huge.  They had 108,000 in attendance for the NBA All-Star Game in 2010.   They should definitely be able to create a huge Super Bowl like feel here.

Chris: Wrestlemania 29 was a spectacle in every sense of the word.  It's the only time I've experienced wrestling on that scale.  I've had the chance to see a number of other PPVs in person including Wrestlemania X, Royal Rumble 2000, Summer Slam on three occasions, and Extreme Rules this past year. Wrestling is normally better in a smaller venue when you can be close to the sweat and grit.  There's nothing like 60 or 70,000 fans popping for their favorites.  

AT&T Stadium is going to look insane on screen and be an awesome host.  I think WWE is going for the wrestling attendance record on this one.  I'd rather it be in Philly, for the same selfish reasons.  Who knows, maybe we can work it out and make a trip out of it.  No matter what, I want to get to 'Mania again soon.

IZOD memories

Chris: Summer Slam was announced for Met Life Stadium's parking lot companion, IZOD Center, earlier this year.  This past week, another announcement came, the IZOD Center was closing down.  The arena holds a special place in my wrestling life as I've seen many cards there over the years.  

My dad had taken me to see the WWF twice at a high school gym, but my first arena show was in 1986.  It featured Hulk Hogan losing by DQ to Adrian Adonis in the main event but I remember the opener even more.  It was just a squash between Jim Neidhart and Jose Luis Rivera, I think you can figure out who won, but it was Jimmy Hart that made things larger than life.  I can still remember how his megaphone reverberated through the arena.  So damn cool.

Mike: I’ve definitely been to a few wrestling shows there.  The first one I only remember the main event, which was Hogan Vs Honky Tonk Man.  Honky Tonk briefly won the world title...before the match was overturned because Jimmy Hart kept jumping on the apron.  

We also did WWE Axxess there, which was the first time I ever got to see Sami Zyan...who busted his face wide open and had to stop his match.  We saw some other great matches that night...Adrian Neville fought one of the Wyatt family.  I think it was Rowan. (Post-Script: After we posted this story, our friend Josh reached out with a correction: "Neville fought Harper at Axxess. I remember that since he went up for the Red Arrow and everyone getting autographs stopped in the aisle to go 'Holy shit'!"   THANKS, JOSH!)

The Izod is a terrible venue.  It’s old and outdated, and I’m not all that sad to see it go.  

This does give me one big question though.  Where is Summer Slam going to move to?  I would hope the Prudential Center in Newark.  I love that arena.  And it’s easy access for me...I work four blocks away.  We could even tailgate in the parking lot!

But, it may be the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.  I’ve actually never been there.  

Chris: You're right about the arena being outdated, but so many fond memories occured within those walls.  Didn't Zayn wrestle Corey Graves at Axxess?  I should write more stuff down.  By the way, I saw Zayn there a little over a year ago, too.  Oddly, he teamed with a pre-main roster Bo Dallas to beat the Real Americans.  That night, Daniel Bryan pinned Randy Orton in the main event. That was when the title was in abeyance. You know, "held up" to folks other than HHH.

Mike: I think Sami fought Kassius Ohno.  I was a big fan of his, so I was kind of annoyed the match was over so quickly.  Kassius busted him open with one of those brutal elbows he throws.  

Chris: You're right, it was Kassius!  I miss him in WWE.  Well, I wish we could see more of Ohno as Chris Hero.  It's tough to keep up with guys on the indies.  I did saw him on a PWS show last year.  It was his first show after the WWE release.  He beat Hurricane Helms in a fun match. Hey, we need to talk way more PWS next week!

Mike: On Saturday, Chris and I are going to Pro Wrestling Syndicate show, where John Morrison is fighting Sabu.  Definitely more on that next time, including pictures!

izod 1.jpgChris: The biggest disappointment about current house shows are that the babyface basically wins every match.  I know you want to make the kids happy, but the bad guys need to win sometimes.  Hell, I remember being at shows back in the day where almost no faces would win.  

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I wasn't permanently scarred by seeing Adrian Adonis beat Hulk Hogan.

My buddy Rob, his son Anthony, and I had a blast at 1/24/15 show.  It ended up being jam packed with stars and featured some entertaining matches.  The place was maybe half full but it was a hot crowd.  WWE went all out to say goodbye by producing a video of highlights from the building.  There was even a commemorative shirt sold for the occasion, which I ended up buying.  

My favorite match of the night saw Bad News Barrett beat Dolph Ziggler & Luke Harper in a triple threat.  It's was also cool to see Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns team up again to beat Big Show & Bray Wyatt.  After the match, they even did the Shield fists on the ramp.  Another neat moment saw a Highlight Reel with Chris Jericho where he gave positive reminiscences of IZOD only to be interrupted by Cesaro's hate for the building. The match afterwards was quite entertaining.  It all wrapped up with John Cena pinning Seth Rollins inside a steel cage.  It was a blast being with Rob and Anthony.  I can't wait to take my son Nate to a WWE show.  It may not have been a great venue, but it's a shame Nate and I will never experience wrestling there together.

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Justin Gabriel Reportedly Quits WWE

Mike: Several wrestling websites this weekend are reporting that Justin Gabriel decided to quit the WWE.  If this turns out to be true, I had two immediate thoughts:

  • I hope he ends up in Lucha Underground.  His style would be perfect there.
  • What is with wrestlers quitting around Royal Rumble time?  CM Punk quit the day after the Rumble last year...Justin Gabriel quit the day before the Rumble this year.

Personally, I think Justin Gabriel is another talent who has been wasted by the WWE.  Sure, he’s a former 3-time Tag Team Champion, but that is pretty much the extent of how they have used him.  He’s a high-flyer, has a great look, and is from South Africa, so the WWE could tap into a new audience if they use him right.  He’s also got a pretty exciting life outside of the ring, which could be used for some great human interest segments.  Instead, he was just kind of there.    I really don’t get the WWE sometimes...

Chris: You said it, Mikey!  Why the same couple dozen guys get trotted out on TV each week while other guys just rot.  Don't forget, Gabriel did some good heel work recently in NXT.  He could have been reteamed with Heath Slater and, you know, made it so there were more than five teams on the roster.  Or, we could have some regular cruiser weight segments with Tyson Kidd, Slater, Adrian Neville, Kalisto, Cody Rhodes, and Zack Ryder.  That would give us something different and exciting.  Sadly, Vince just has no room for guys of Gabriel's size.  Instead, we need to see more of Kane losing each week, plus Ryback and Eric Rowan stinking up the ring.  They lumber and I slumber!

Mike: This really throws my Royal Rumble predictions into a loop...Justin Gabriel was the obvious front runner to win the Rumble!  I bet the WWE is scrambling to do rewrites even as we speak (I am typing this about 8 hours before tonight’s Rumble).  

Chris: Speaking of the PWS show this week, FKA Justin Gabriel, now known as the Darewolf PJ Black will be on the card!  He will be part of the Suicidal Six Way Title match.  These matches are known for having bodies flying all over the place.  It's one of PWS's signature attractions, and one more reason I'm looking forward to the show.

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The Last Outlaw by Stan Hansen w/ Scott Teal

Chris: I recently ordered this enlightening book from Crowbar Press.  Let me start by saying, this is what wrestling memoirs should be!  Too many bios I've read in the past have been way too short with a gigantic font.  Hansen's story is well written and clocks in at word-packed 400 pages.  Not only that, but the book also included an autographed photo of "The Lariat."

The WWF got me into wrestling but the AWA, with their shows on ESPN, became one of my favorite groups to watch.  Well, when I got into their programming Stan Hansen was the champ.  IZOD Center was known as Brendan Byrne Arena back then, but that's where Hansen defeated Rick Martel for the belt.  It was a great finish where Hansen put himself in the corner, and won with a Boston crab by using his head against the turnbuckle to prevent Martel from powering out.  He didn't do a ton of wrestling in the states after that, but his berserker wildman personality was unforgettable.

Stan recollects about his amazing career in such vivid detail.  He led quite the life in the squared circle.  Hansen came in with the help of the Funks, legit broke Bruno Sammartino's neck in a terrible accident, and pinned Giant Baba & Antonio Inoki in Japan.  He tells about wars with Big Van Vader and laments the loss of his friend, the legendary Bruiser Brody.  It's such an amazing look at life in the old wrestling territories and touring in Japan.  This is easily one of the finest wrestling books I've ever read.  I'll be shopping for more Crowbar Press titles in the future!

Old School on WWE Network

Madison Square Garden, House Show, January 23, 1984

Chris: My biggest problem with the WWE Network has been the lack of additions to the Vault.  Sections like Old School and World Class Championship Wrestling have seen almost no additions since soon after the launch.  The lack of any AWA shows is also a glaring weakness in the content.  This past week, It was a nice surprise to see the inclusion of this particular show to the Old School lineup.

If you're a wrestling fan, I have no doubt you've seen Hogan's five-minute victory over the Iron Sheik and the explosion of Hulkamania.  In the age of PPV, it just doesn't happen, but It's a shame the WWE doesn't still have title changes at house shows.  As I mentioned earlier, a little uncertainty would be nice at a house show. That said, I didn't become a wrestling fan until a little over a year after this show, so I'd never seen the rest of the card.  It was a treat to watch a transitional moment as the WWF was about to move from its territorial roots to national brand.  

What I love about classic wrestling, is the treatment of the product as a serious sport by announcers, in this case Gorilla Monsoon and Pat Patterson.  They're out there helping the wrestlers tell a story in the ring. They're not around to get app downloads or pimp Total Divas.  It's just a wrestling show.  The matches themselves are of varying quality for the time, but the announcing adds enough to make even the stinkers entertaining.

A lot of the show is filled with veterans and others that would mainly be used as enhancement talent in the coming years.  Guys like Tony Garea, Salvatore Bellomo, Tiger Chung Lee, Jose Luis Rivera (later to be a Conquistador), Ivan Putski, and Rene Goulet.  If you notice too, this was the time of ethnic wrestling "gimmicks."  Garea hailed from New Zealand, Bellomo from Italy, Lee was Korean, Rivera from Puerto Rico, Poland was Putski's home, and Goulet was very French.  Their ethnicity was a huge selling point to their characters.

Wrestlers on the card who would be top WWF stars in the years ahead included: Paul Orndorff (w/ Roddy Piper as his manager), Sgt. Slaughter, Jimmy Snuka, Tony Atlas, Masked Superstar (Ax from Demolition), Mr. Fuji (still wrestling but soon to be a manager), and Andre the Giant.  The card also featured an intercontinental title bout between Don Muraco and Tito Santana but it wasn't included on the Network for some reason.  I won't run down the results because, if you don't know, check them out for yourself.  

In one of those weird connective tissues of coincidence, the undercard featured a bout with the Invaders going against the team of Lee and Fuji.  I mention this because Jose Gonzalez, masked Invader #1, is a legendary performer in Puerto Rico.  He is also the man that stabbed Bruiser Brody to death in a locker room in 1988.  This was one of those moments that left an indelible mark on me as a fourteen year old who was already reading the Wrestling Observer and other "dirt" sheets.  The whole situation stunk to hell and seeing Gonzalez always makes me feel a little sick.

Anyway, give the show a watch.  It's a watershed moment for the industry.

NXT Recap - 1/21/14

Mike - Sort of a strange week on NXT.  It really seems like the idea for the next NXT “event” for February 11 came quickly, so things were thrown together here.  It wasn’t a bad show by any means, but it did feel like a lot of the stories were artificially rushed in order to make them work for the special.   

Sami Zyan came out to challenge Kevin Owens for a match at the February 11 special.  Contract signing next week.  

Charlotte fought Sasha Banks for the fourth time in 6 weeks.  The match ended on a DQ when Becky Lynch got involved.  Bayley came down to make the save, but afterwards hit the Belly-To-Bayley suplex on Charlotte!  About time we see some...RUTHLESSS AGGRESSION….From Bayley.  GM William Regal made it a four way match for the Women’s title at the February 11 special.

This week we got two matches for the number one contender’s tournament.   I actually LOVE wrestling tournaments, so I am always glad when they do them.  Hideo Itami vs Tyler Breeze and Finn Balor vs Curtis Axel.  Both were really good matches, though a little short.

The surprise match of the night was Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy upsetting The Vaudevillains.  These two guys came out of nowhere to put on a terrific match.  They have challenged the Lucha Dragons for a title match next week.

I do want to give the Sid Vicious Award for Unintentional Hilarity to Bull Dempsey.  “Next week, the crowd during my match, the crowd will be chanting BULL!  BULL!  BULL!”  Yeah...I feel like yelling BS whenever I see Bull Dempsey.  I’m really not a fan of big slow wrestlers.  No matter how many times the announcers try to tell me falling off the top rope to crash on your opponent show’s great agility, I just don’t buy it.

Chris: You're right about the story lines speeding up.  Supposedly, WWE felt that the originally scheduled March time period would have been too busy on the Road to Wrestlemania.  I think Vince didn't want the main roster to get outshone so close to the biggest show of the year.  The episode was good top to bottom, but there were too many matches and not enough space for them to breathe.  

I really enjoyed the super aggressive Sami Zayn to start the show!  I hope they keep the feud with Kevin Owens going past the next special.  Bull cuts a solid overall promo but otherwise he does nothing for me.  I'd much rather see someone else get the TV time.  Murphy and Blake's win is what's often missing from WWE shows.  A nice surprise move into credibility.  Next week will be fun against the Lucha Dragons.