August 10, 2015 Figure Four Weekly: Konnan talks to F4W about TripleMania & the state of AAA

Home / August 10, 2015 Figure Four Weekly: Konnan talks to F4W about TripleMania & the state of AAA

Plus Dr. Lucha’s TripleMania preview, Alan’s G1 update, and all of Vinny’s reviews.

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Konnan’s State of AAA Address

by David Bixenspan (@davidbix)

Seemingly since the beginning of time, it was as if it was a running joke: AAA is going to start expanding into the U.S. (or worldwide) “next year.” It wasn’t like they hadn’t made an effort, though: Lucha Libre USA: Masked Warriors was originally supposed to be an AAA project before a falling out. The deal was exclusive (meaning they couldn’t even run house shows in border towns) and delayed matters considerably until it ran out in 2013. AAA signed with FactoryMade Ventures, which led to the premiere of Lucha Underground last year. While not the straight up American AAA TV show some had wanted, it’s certainly increased awareness of their stars and their product to the often lucha-shy Englsh-speaking hardcore wrestling fans.

A few months ago, with relatively little publicity, they ran an English feed of the internet pay-per-view broadcast of the Copa Victoria World Cup show, which was full of both big name American talent and hardcore favorites from places like ROH. This Sunday, August 9th, they’re following it up by broadcasting their traditional biggest show of the year, TripleMania, on traditional PPV in English with full clearance of the major cable and satellite companies. It came together on three weeks’ notice, so they don’t have the long-term hype that the Global Force Wrestling version of NJPW Wrestle Kingdom did in January, but Rey Mysterio and others have been doing a ton of late publicity to push the show.

That said, there’s little pressure. Court Bauer, working with AAA to produce TripleMania, noted that there’s no real additional cost of note to put the show on PPV in the U.S. and Canada. They already have a satellite linkup for Mexico and were bringing in Hugo Savinovich and Matt Striker to do the English commentary for an internet PPV of the show. They don’t need to hit the 10,000 buy mark that that ROH, GFW/NJPW, and others need t reach when they do a live PPV show. The 15,000 buys that Wrestle Kingdom got would be a blow away success. With the headliner being Rey Mysterio vs. Myzteziz (original Sin Cara/CMLL’s first Mistico) in one of the last real major league dream matches left and Alberto El Patron in the semi-main event (against Brian Cage), they certainly have solid star power for an American PPV debut.

It’s not just international expansion that’s looking bright for AAA. There’s finally a real sense that everything is clicking the way it should be. That’s incredibly impressive when you consider how they got there. Nine years ago, Antonio Peña, the wrestling genius who founded AAA, passed away. The company went to his sister, Marisela, her husband, Joaquin Roldan, and their son Dorian. Konnan has been with the company that whole time and oversaw the transition. “When Dorian Roldan kind of took over with his family, he hadn’t really been prepared for this. Peña just passed away all of a sudden. So there was this huge learning curve for him. Now,he’s turned into this dynamic visionary, and he wants the company to expand. You’ve seen that we’ve done his first movie under him, and we also started Lucha Underground, and now we’re starting to expand into the United States. He’s just been very aggressive in all aspects, whether it’s licensing, marketing, or exporting our talent.”

Konnan can’t speak highly enough of Roldan’s progress over the years. “He’s an an incredibly quick study. I’ll give you example: Dixie Carter, who didn’t grow up in the business like Dorian, she still doesn’t know what the fuck she’s doing. And she’s been there…what, 13 years? You just have to live it every day. You can’t just be showing up to certain TVs and not the others You have to be passionate and live it 24/7, y’know? And he does. He just became immersed into it. He learned. He studied. He asked. And he just wanted to be that best at what he’s doing. He just learned as much as he could a lot by trial and error, but he’s a visionary. And he’s like 30-31 years old, so he’s gonna be incredible in another five or ten years. He’s already a sharp businessman.”

One of the changes that’s become noticeable as of late is an increase in production values. For literally decades, lucha libre TV shows (not just AAA) have been filled with bad camerawork, editing, direction, etc. Dives would routinely be missed. Inordinate amounts of time would be spent on crowd shots, fan interviews, and the like during matches. It was a frustrating experience, but AAA is changing that. “Well, you had to take a lot of the production out of Televisa’s hands, because Televisa wasn’t giving us the respect that we deserved and built up.” Konnan explained. “They would put a lot of [production] guys [on AAA shows] whose expertise was soccer games and they’d try to film a wrestling match like a soccer game. They wouldn’t edit things the way they were supposed to be edited. We had to kind of bring everything in-house and start editing our own show how we wanted it, telling the cameraman how we wanted stuff because they were so used to doing things the Televisa way or [the way they do] in other sports.” When they’d finally get a Televisa camera operator or director acclimated, he’d be replaced.

Production was also something that hurt them by comparison when WWE got strong TV in the country. “We knew that was one of the reasons WWE came in here and was kicking our ass for like four-five years. It’s very hard, because in the United States you can go to just about any major city and you have a top notch arena. In Mexico, you have three or four cities that have top notch arenas that you can put the lighting grids and everything else that gives it that spectacular look that people are used to when they see a WWE production. But through our own resourcefulness, our talent, things they weren’t able to do, we were able to overtake them in the ratings.”

There are still some struggles, though less than before. The announcers are primarily from Televisa, and have to be reigned in at times. “The commentators would be playing around on TV and putting each other over instead of the product, so I was always having confrontations with them. ‘Do what you’re paid to do, sell the product, not yourselves.'” The network presence keeps them from using Hugo Savinovich as much as they’d like, but regardless, he’s earned high marks from Konnan. “Hugo is awesome. When Hugo goes out there with the color commentators from Televisa, and there’ll be like three of them there, he’ll kill them all with his passion, his professionalism. He’s the most famous Spanish commentator of all time. All of the Latin American countries heard him They didn’t hear Michael Cole or anybody else. So he symbolized excellence in pro wrestling commentating.” On the English side, he’s impressed with how far Matt Striker has come around, “He’s done his best, having grown up in New York around Puerto Ricans and Lations, he has that Latin sensibility, and he studied, just like Dorian.”

When it comes to the TripleMania show itself, he’s confident that the main event will deliver on the very high expectations that fans have coming into it. “It’s very rare that Rey Mysterio or Myzteziz in a high profile match and failed to deliver. The great thing about this is there’s very few dream matches in wrestling. This is one of the only ones left, at least in Mexico; this is a match Vince wanted for WrestleMania, and it was never done. The guy who revolutionized high flying in the ’90s, against the biggest star in Mexico since back in the day with me and Vampiro. He was a huge star, way bigger than Rey Mysterio was when he was in Mexico, and he had a really cool style. Everyone always wondered what would happen if they had a singles match and they never did. Will it be the start of a rivalry or a one-off great match? We’ll find out.”

The top two matches feature WWE’s last three big Latino stars, and their loss has been AAA’s gain. This could sink WWE in Spanish-speaking markets, as Konnan chalks a good bit of their past success in those areas up to luck of being interested on talent who happened to be Spanish-speaking Latinos. “They haven’t really known how to produce those guys, I feel.” Case in point: Los Matadores are Puerto Ricans playing Latino characters from an unnamed country (which is sort of implied to be Mexico). Generally speaking, they hate Puerto Ricans in Mexico. It’s not a good thing, but nobody in WWE has the awareness of Latino culture to intervene in such matters. They also didn’t have anyone keeping track of what anyone, whether it was Ricardo Rodriguez or the commentators, was saying in Spanish on their shows. So when Alberto Del Rio left on bad terms, while something like “Alberto Dos Caras” (his real first name and his father’s wrestling name) would’ve been close enough to be fine, he did even better. In Spanish, his nickname was Alberto El Patron. Nobody in WWE knew, so nobody trademarked it, and he got to go to AAA with the nickname everyone in Mexico used for him anyway.

While WWE is starting to have a little more variety in terms of characters and what they look like, such as Kevin Owens, AAA is still going to outdo them when it comes to that. Goya Kong is the daughter of Brazo de Plata/Super Porky, and she’s very much her father’s daughter in terms of both her look and charisma. but she’d never get a look from WWE. “Never,” Konnan agreed. “She has more charisma, I guarantee you, than any girl on their roster. She has tremendous charisma, and people get into her, the minute she goes out there. And if you’ve seen Niño Hamburguesa, this kid, when he first saw him he was 17, I think he’s 19 now, and the people just love him. He’s this babyfaced fat guy that’s super over with the crowd, very agile, and he’d never fit in the WWE. I think one day, he probably will, because they’ll come to the conclusion that people just want to be entertained and don’t give a shit what you look like.”

Konnan doesn’t chalk up AAA’s resurgence to one single factor as much as a series of events that all helped the company. Away from wrestling, the global economy improved from the depths of several years ago, as did the drug cartel violence throughout Mexico. The latter actually kept AAA out of certain cities for long stretches of time, but eventually a new political regime in Mexico took a hardline stance to clean it up. Even the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic led to declines in attendance at all sorts public gatherings in Mexico, and it took time to recover from the fallout.

Wrestling-wise, WWE got TV with their strong production and big stars. “They were quadrupling us in the ratings as a matter of fact,” Konnan noted. “But we knew we could out work them. We were putting great talent on TV and people were complaining that they didn’t have all of the production on the house shows like they did on TV. We got it out on social media, look at the matches we’re giving you, you need to stand by the national product and not let these guys take ver.” They got Myzteziz, Alberto (who was also helped by his being able to tell the true story of him leaving WWE over being disciplined for slapping a social media manager who made a racist comment about him), and Mysterio. Mysterio’s now a brand ambassador for Paramount Pictures for Latin America, and that goes a long way, too.

Still, as big as Mysterio’s arrival was, Konnan felt things were popping at last year’s TripleMania. “I really worked a whole year on one feud, which was Psycho Clown vs. Texano, and I told Psycho that when it ends, you’re gonna be a huge superstar. And he is, he’s a huge superstar right now.” Konnan clearly saw something most people didn’t in Psycho Clown, as his Psycho Circus trio had a long win streak 20007 to 2010 that confused a lot of the English-speaking fanbase. He didn’t listen to them.

“[Psycho Clown, Monster Clown, and Murder Clown] were entertaining, they were different, and they had a connection. That’s the thing. I always stand out in the crowd, there are certain matches I’ll stand out there behind the curtain or under the bleachers where they can’t see me, so I can hear their comments. Sometimes I’ll stand near the door when they’re leaving, like at a movie theater, so i can hear what they’re saying. I’ll bump into fans that just left to show, and I’ll ask them what was their favorite match and who was their favorite wrestler.”

As much good as he’s done with AAA as of late, Konnan almost seems more proud of just how far recognition of lucha libre in general has come over the years. “When I wrestled in Stampede Wrestling (in 1989), I only knew lucha libre and only one or two guys knew that style, so it was very hard for me to wrestle against anybody. They didn’t know what it was, they didn’t know how to call the holds, they didn’t know nothing. Then, I think it was last year or two years ago, Teddy Hart had a show in Edmonton, and when he introduced me, everybody was screaming ‘LUCHA! LUCHA!’ That, to me, was like everything has come full circle. Not only is my name associated with something I’ve pushed so hard, but in ’96-’97, everyone I brought in [from AAA] was Mexican. Now, when you look at Lucha Underground, you see blacks, whites, Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans…everybody’s doing lucha libre. That’s beautiful, bro.”

Mexico Notes

by Dr. Lucha Steve Sims (@DrLuchaJr)

It’s TripleMania weekend in Mexico City, time for the biggest show of the year for AAA, firs established in April 1992 and Still going strong. TripleMania XXII will be available in both English and Spanish on both iPPV and regular PPV and the promotion has assured cable companies (it’s even in writing on the online tickets vendor, Super Boletos) that it will end the show within three hours.

As has been reported elsewhere, the show was to have feature El Hijo del Perro Aguayo as the rudo in the main event singles match. Now, instead, Aguayo will be one of three people affiliated with AAA inducted into the 2015 Hall of Fame, each of the three having passed away in the past 15 months. Joining Pedro Aguayo Ramirez will be Hector Solano Segura (Hector Garza) and Irma Osorno (manager of the AAA edecanes, who passed away in a bus crash coming back from the venue of the Rey de Reyes show last march). That is sure to be an incredibly emotional; ceremony and I wouldn’t want to be in the match immediately following it.

The first of the sixth scheduled match will be the traditional relevos atómicos de locura, in which tecnicos man Drago (amazingly recovered after burning away at the end of Lucha Underground), woman Goya Kong, mini Dinastia, and exotico Pimipnela Escarlata will face rudos man Daga, woman The Sexy Star, mini The Mini Psycho Clown, and exotico Mamba. Prediction: highly entertaining and just a great start to the show – winner and loser doesn’t really matter.

The segunda features tecnicos The Psycho Circus (Psycho, Murder, and Monsther Clowns) facing rudos Los Villanos III, IV, and V (of note, like Rey Mysterio Jr. in the main event, V-3 and V-5, though they have lost their masks, will be wearing them again for this show). Something along the lines of “this is the farewell match for V-III” is being promoted, though the man himself wanted to walk that back in recent interviews. V-III is supposed to have suffered a very recent stroke, and it will be most interesting to see how much or how little he goes here. The winner here isn’t so important either, it’s just attracting a type of ticket buyer that is attracted with seeing some of his or her childhood heroes again. Best guess: The Circus wins

My gut tells me the Hall of Fame ceremony goes here, but that’s just a hunch.

The AAA Trios Titles will be on the line in the tercera, with champion rudos “Los Hell Brothers [Cibernetico, Chessman, and Averno] defending against not only tecnicos Jack Evans, Fenix, and Angelico, but also rudos Texano Jr., Pentagon jr., and Hijo del Fantasma. The surest prediction is wild, crazy, state-of-the art dives from all the tecnicos and half the rudos. This one you do not want to leave the vicinity of during the match, as something jaw-dropping could, and frankly can be expected to, happen at any time during the match. Figure the champs to retain but there are many ways the promotion could go here, as they also keep an eye to their remaining two big shows on 2015, which will both occur in the space of the next 15-16 weeks.

In the especial, The Blue Demon Jr. celebrates the 30th anniversary of his debut (which was July 26, 1985) by teaming with La Parka to fight Electroshock and Mesias (aka Lucha Underground champion Mil Muertes). Demon has claimed that he just found out about the booking less than a week ago, but he took the booking, will be honored, and may well come away with his hand raised.

Those four “undercard” matches are going to be fine, the first and third in particular but none will be a waste of time or money. Still, it’s not unfair to call this card to-heavy, as the two singles matches on top are the two matches here selling the show.

In the semifinal, Alberto el Patron bets his hair against Brian Cage. The two have been feuding for several months, with decent matches, and Cage has held the upper hand more often than not. Not tonight. If the day and time comes for Alberto to drop his hair, fine, but this is not that day and that time. I expect these two, having worked with each other quite often now, to have a the best match of their series so far, but I have a really hard time seeing Cage winning, short of AAA doing something monstrous like having Myzteziz come out and cost Alberto his hair to begin a rudo turn to start setting up TM XXIII’s main event (I don’t expect this, just describing how rare a scenario it would take for Alberto to leave bald).

However, a Myzteziz rudo turn may not be the worst thing for a promotion that we have noted is far to babyface-heavy for its own good these days. Maybe in the main event? Rey Mysterio Jr. and Myzteziz will face off in this time and generation’s version of Sammartino-Zbyszko and Hogan-Warrior. The first of these two historic matches ended in a draw, the second in an upset win by the youngster, but here it seems more likely that Rey Jr comes out on top – though with neither mask nor title at stake, this could merely be a setup for a bigger match down the road as well (and Rey could be headed back to WWE while Myzteziz will be selling tickets for AAA long after Rey is either elsewhere or retired) so really either man’s winning would not surprise me.

Japan Notes

by Alan Counihan (@Alan4L)

As we continue our road through the 2015 G1 Climax, let’s look at the best of the action from the past week. With shows in Osaka, Aichi, Sendai and Iwate, we’ve been treated to some great contests. The pick of the bunch was the marquee match of the Osaka card – a battle of champions – Kazuchika Okada vs Hirooki Goto. It was the Intercontinental champ, Goto, who got the win over the IWGP Heavyweight champ in very convincing fashion. They’ve always had great chemistry and have had some classic matches together over the past three years. This was no different. The action was intense from the start with Goto really taking it to the Rainmaker in a way that nobody had in the tournament so far. The finish sequence was what we’ve come to expect – all kinds of great counters and cross-up spots before Goto let loose with three huge headbutts (his counter to the Rainmaker clothesline) and followed up with his Shouten Kai finisher for the win.

Michael Elgin has certainly taken his fair share of stick over the last few years about his desire to compete in Japan, and if he was having dreams in his sleep about such an occurrence they probably looked like the match he had with Tomoaki Honma in Osaka. The crowd were going wild for this 10 minute sprint with Elgin getting huge reactions for all his power moves – particularly an incredibly impressive deadlift Falcon Arrow from the outside in. Honma was Honma of course and he was the perfect foil for the ROH man. It had to be a great feeling for Elgin to have such a match, and you couldn’t help but be happy for the guy. Aichi offered up a match which was far from the best of the tournament so far, but it may have had the most awesome finish, that being Katsuyori Shibata vs. Bad Luck Fale. Shibata got the best out of the big man and knew exactly the kind of match to have with him. They kept it short (less than 8 minutes) and played off their match in the same building last year. When Fale had him up for the Bad Luck Fall, it looked like Shibata was done for. The pop when he turned in mid-air and clasped on the sleeper hold was insane. When he used it to take Fale to the ground and land his big Penalty Kick, the crowd went nuts. Such an awesome finish.

If Shibata vs. Kota Ibushi was the most physical match of last week, Tomohiro Ishii vs Yuji Nagata was definitely the strongest candidate for that award this week. The pair are no strangers to each other, with Nagata having been a common opponent of Ishii back in Ishii’s jobbing days. Even back then, Nagata always gave Ishii a ton and it’s clear they love wrestling each other. Ishii targeted Nagata’s injured ribs and Mr. Anti-Aging fought back with the stiffest kicks you’ll ever see. It was just a gruelling, physical war which saw Ishii outlast Nagata and use his brainbuster to get the win. As we get closer to the final six days in Tokyo, the G1 is really going along nicely.

In Dragon Gate news, Scandal Gate at Korakuen Hall provided no shocking scandal but it did give us one hell of a main event which saw the Millennials have to disband as a unit as per the stipulations of the contest. The other teams with their existence at risk were MAD BLANKEY and The Jimmys. It was a three way trios contest, elimination style, with the final four participants being T-Hawk, Ryo Jimmy Saito and the Open The Twin Gate champs Naruki Doi and YAMATO. The MAD BLANKEY pair were able to use their partnership to their advantage and were eventually too strong, pinning T-Hawk after a thoroughly dramatic 37 minutes. The other big news on the show was the continuing strain in the relationship between Monster Express members Shingo Takagi and Masato Yoshino. In a triple threat match which also involved BxB Hulk, Takagi was acting like a total heel and picked up a dominant win. Following the match he challenged Yoshino for the Dream Gate. That will go down at their next PPV, Dangerous Gate, later this month.

TV Reviews

by Bryan’s Friend Vince (@FO_VVerhei)

WCW Monday Nitro (8/5/96)

They discussed the backstage attack by the nWo last week. They announced that WCW security was incompetent, and so the wrestlers would be providing their own security. I am not making this up, and only barely exaggerating. And on that note, Scott Norton and Meng and Big Bubba and some other big scary dudes came out and surrounded the ring.

Rock & Roll Express vs. Harlem Heat. This really happened. Col. Parker and Sherri were out there in their on-again off-again romance that I believe has been going on for literally as long as Nitro has existed with no end in sight. Rock & Rolls were old here, but goddamn did they know how to be a babyface tag team. That said, this crowd didn’t care about them and only wanted Harlem Heat to beat them up. Harlem Heat were hitting each other harder making tags than any two men have ever hit each other in any ring, cage, or octagon before. I kept looking up and thinking there had been a mighty chop, but no, it was just Harlem Heat making tags. Rock & Rolls made their comeback. Sherri and Parker tried to interfere but Gibson fought them off, but the distraction worked and Stevie Ray dropped Gibson with a bicycle kick for the win.

Gene Okerlund interviewed the Nasty Boys on the ramp. They said they had been friends with Hulk Hogan, but they were standing on their own. Lex Luger and Sting came out and basically told them to pick a side, and they shouted at each other to build their tag match later.

Glacier’s still coming.

Malia Hosaka vs. Madusa. These women’s matches were so different than anything the men were doing. Even with the Benoits and Guerreros and Malenkos and Mysterios in this company, the women’s matches so strongly resembled the kind of matches we see in ROH today more than anywhere else. Madusa stopped during her comeback to dropkick Sonny Onoo off the apron, but Onoo recovered and held her foot down as Hosaka made a cover for the win. Yes, Madusa lost to a Japanese wrestler (well, Hawaiian, but work with me here) to set up her match against a Japanese wrestler at Hog Wild. I can only assume Madusa won there and went on to feud with Hosaka. Very fun match.

Chris Benoit vs. Alex Wright. Wright was using these headscissors where it looked like he was throwing a standard dropkick, then at the last second he’d grab Benoit’s head with his legs and take him over. This went longer than it needed to, and the Jimmy Hart came out to confront Woman, saying she was wasting her time with the Horsemen, she was driving someone in the back crazy, and that person was making Jimmy’s life miserable. Oh god, we are on the verge of this getting even harder to watch. Meanwhile, Alex hit what was supposed to be a top rope legdrop, but turned into a top rope footstomp. No good. Dean Malenko came out to accost Woman, but Benoit pescado’d out onto him, and they brawled to the back so Wright won by countout. Benoit whipped Dean into a palm tree. That was awesome.

Randy Savage vs. Lord Steven Regal. The second hour started during this match, but Eric Bischoff and Bobby Heenan were nowhere to be seen, so Schiavonie and Zbyszko kept on commentating. Luger and Sting came out and took a seat at ringside. Match was 50-50 most of the way through, then Savage beat him up for a good three or four minutes and hit the elbow for the win. Not a lot of drama here, but again, not every match needs a miracle comeback and a flurry of nearfalls. Sting and Luger then left to explore a limousine that had been parked backstage. All they found inside was a bouquet of flowers inside reading “Condolences on the Death of WCW.” Hey now, that book wasn’t that bad. Okerlund then interviewed Savage, who had been promised a championship match against the Giant-Hogan winner. Sting and Luger brought the flowers into the ring and they shared the message with Savage and the world. Savage went off, saying this was classic Outsiders style, not fighting face to face. Sting said WCW was going to be alive for a long time, and then, in what was clearly an ad lib, Sting held the flowers on his toe so Savage could kick them out of the ring. That was wacky.

Announcers speculated on the absence of Heenan and Bischoff. Zbyszko suspected “foul play.”.

They showed clips of Eddie Guerrero cutting promos on behalf of Chavo and Rey Mysterio Jr. against both Ric Flair and the nWo.

Ric Flair vs. Booty Man. All the Horsemen came out to watch Flair’s back, including Arn with his arm in a sling. Heenan finally arrived and said he had been waiting for Bischoff to arrive. Flair put Booty in the figure-four and hooked the ropes. Booty still refused to submit, so the Horsemen hit the ring and attacked. All the wrestlers on the floor just watched, because they were only out there to counter the nWo. Okerlund then interviewed the Horsemen as the attack continued. Arn cut this great promo about how the “good book” said the “new world order” would signal the end of time. OK, one, Arn has violated pretty much every commandment in the bible multiple times in his career. Two, the four horsemen of the apocalypse also signalled the end of the world. Anyway, Benoit and Mongo talked about how pissed they were. Flair said Hogan had attacked his best friend in Arn Anderson, so he had taken out Hogan’s best friend, Booty Man. He laughed at the notion that Hogan had woken up one morning and decided to be a bad guy, saying Hogan had no idea what being a bad guy really meant. This was all so great.

They replayed the nWo attack last week. Not the whole half-hour, thankfully.

We got another paid announcement by the nWo. Hogan noted he was going to beat the Giant on August 10, and then August 11 was his birthday. Halfway through it cut off and we heard a guy in the truck saying Sting and Luger had ordered them to pull it off the air. They put a camera in the truck, and yeah, Sting and Luger were there. “It’s a paid announcement,” a geek said. Sting stole Nash’s line about pot pie and Mountain Dew.

Giant vs. Craig Pittman. Craig’s offense consisted partly of shoot topes to the belly. Giant shrugged these off and hit a chokeslam for the win. Giant chokeslammed Teddy Long for good measure. Teddy totally dead-weighted Giant here, didn’t go up at all, so Giant had no qualms about letting him slam to earth totally unprotected. Okerlund then interviewed Hart and the Giant. As Jimmy was raving, the mysterious limousine returned. Giant said he had never claimed to be a nice guy or a role model, but he was the world champion of the greatest wrestling organization in the world. He said he didn’t feel sorry for anyone, but he defied Hogan and the nWo to try and take his belt away. This is all just great build for the championship match, two unstoppable forces squaring off.

Nasty Boys vs. Sting & Lex Luger. They showed this being set up by Sting & Savage beating the Nastys on Saturday Night, but in the process Mongo and Debra recovered their briefcase full of money. Steiners came out with chairs to watch everyone’s backs. Just a long boring tag match with Sting selling forever. Broke down into a four-way. Sags went to piledrive Luger on the floor, but Rick Steiner broke it up, and then Sting tapped out Sags with the scorpion.

After the break, Gene interviewed Sting and Lex, who were posing with children in the ring. The limo was back, so after some goofball comedy, Luger and Sting decided to investigate, with Okerlund in tow. Sting opened the limo door, then it slammed shut and drove away. Somehow Sting grabbed a bag from out of the car in the process. The show ended, but we got an “after the show exclusive” that showed them finding a Turner broadcasting logo on the bag, and a note inside saying Rey was right, their were four men—or perhaps five. Then it just said “See ya in Sturgis.” The plot thickens.

WWE Raw (8/3/15)

Show opened with a memorial graphic for Roddy Piper and the whole roster on the stage in Hot Rod t-shirts. They did a moment of silence and ten-bell salute. Then they played the bagpipe music and everyone cheered. This led to the memorial video, which, as always, was phenomenal and emotional. I don’t know who did the music for this, but he was singing about not taking your life for granted, and if ever there was a song that fit Roddy Piper, that would be it.

They recapped Seth Rollins’ breaking John Cena’s nose last week. JBL congratulated Seth on retaining his title in that match. His title wasn’t even on the line! They forgot their own storyline in seven days. Seth came out for a promo and the crowd chanted “THANK YOU ROLLINS!” What jerks. He showed video of himself breaking Cena’s nose, and the crowd was very grateful to him. He talked about how disgusting it was hearing Cena’s nose pop and shatter on his knee and everyone cheered. You know who would have enjoyed this promo? Roddy Piper. He said he had smashed faces before and would smash them again, but he had never seen a face like THIS. Then he showed Cena’s face and nearly wretched. He said the match should have been stopped, but when the ref made the mistake of letting it go on, he had felt sympathy for Cena, and Cena had exploited that sympathy and caught him off guard for the win. He promised that would never happen again, and challenged Cena to a title-vs.-title, winner-take-all match at SummerSlam. And if Cena wasn’t tough enough to accept that challenge, he could surrender the title instead. Either way, he vowed to be the first man to hold the WWE and US title belts at the same time. So they’re stealing ROH storylines. That’s not a knock, by the way. He pointed out they were in San Jose, where he won the title in the first place. Wait, they went back there just four months later? He said he could do anything Cena could do, but better, and issued an open challenge for the WWE title, ripping off all of Cena’s catchphrases. I have been a very harsh critic of Seth’s promos, but this was awesome, covering all his points and being entertaining all the way through. It helped that from the time he started talking to the time he went to commercial was less than ten minutes, a short promo by Raw opening segment standards.

After the break, Jojo was in the ring to interview Seth, and she asked if this open challenge was legitimate. His reponse was to ask “DO YOU DOUBT ME, JOJO?” he said the challenge was legit, but there were two caveats: the challenger had to be under 6 feet tall and under 200 pounds. Then he started to cackle. Jojo pointed out thet El Torito met those limits. Seth said that was no bull and cackled, and then he cut a firey promo on El Torito, calling it the chance of a lifetime. Seth was SO GREAT here. The Matadors’ music started, but then it cut off and Neville’s entrance played instead. Seth was thoroughly annoyed by this.

Seth Rollins vs. Neville. Lots of chants for NXT and “LET’S GO NEVILLE!” Neville ran wild early and teased a red arrow, but Seth rolled out of the way. So Neville followed with a Cactus bodypress, then a corkscrew moonsault press from the top rope to the floor. After the break, they showed Rollins knocking Neville off the apron into the announce desk for the heat. Neville’s comeback included a reverse rana and his deadlift German suplex, which is so cool and so silly at the same time. Rollins turned him inside out with a lariat and tried a pedigree, but Neville countered it with a rollup for a nearfall that actually had the crowd pissed off it wasn’t three. Not surprised, not entertained, ANGRY. Neville followed with a top rope rana, then ran across the ring to hit the red arrow and the ref nearly counted three, but Seth got a foot on the rope. Crowd was so happy and then so pissed. This is the best match ever. Then they demanded Neville hit the move one more time. So he tried it, but this time Rollins dodged. He immediately followed with the pedigree for the win. Well that was some A-plus professional wrestling right here. This Raw rules so far. RULES.

New Day & Ascension vs. Matadors & Lucha Dragons. HOLY HOT DAMN THE NEW DAY HAVE A GREAT ENTRANCE. Big E, this week, actually outskipped Kofi. Prime Time Players were doing commentary again and Xavier buried them for not defending their title. Hey, the Ascension are still employed! Announcers talked about Titus feeding the homeless. That dude has really figured out how to make himself marketable. Match was short and all action. Sin Cara got a hot tag and made a comeback, and soon all the masked dudes were hitting dives everywhere, including Cara hitting a hilo to Big E from the ring to the floor. Kofi knocked Kalisto off the top with a trouble in paradise for the pin, pointing at the New Day to indicate they wanted their titles back. This was also a win.

Bellas vs. Charlotte & Becky Lynch. Bellas did an inset promo saying the Divas revolution had been going on ever since Nikki won the title at Survivor Series 200-some days ago. Babyfaces then did an inset dubbing themselves the Submission Sorority, which as you’ve no doubt heard by now is the name of a porn site. What’s funny is if you Google it now, you actually get a bunch of stories about the WWE making a blunder and not the porn site itself. If anything, that site may actually be harder to find now. In fact, I got five pages into a Google search before I gave up. JBL referred to Becky as the “Lass Beater.” You idiot. It’s Lass Kicker. It’s on her shirt. She said during her inset promo and pointed it out. Holy crap this match was long. We got a heat segment and a hot tag, then they cut Becky off and went to commercial and continued with the heat after the match. Charlotte finally got the hot tag and ran wild with chops. Quickly turned into a four-way. Charlotte and Nikki had a fun sequence that ended with Charlotte getting the win with the figure-eight. Last two minutes were great here. Not that there was anything wrong with this before that, it was just very long. This was the first time where it felt like the NXT women were bringing the Bellas up to their level. Jojo then interviewed Team BAD backstage. Naomi challenged Paige to a match tonight. She said they, not Ronda Rousey, were the baddest women on the planet. Yeah, I’m sure if they can get Ronda, she’s going to do something with NAOMI. She vowed to send the Submission Sorority back to Freak Island. No, I am not Googling that.

Miz opened MizTV in a Hot Rod t-shirt, wearing a black wrap around his waist like a kilt. He said MizTV was the second-most must-see talk show in WWE history, and is was second because there would be no Cutting Edge, Highlight Reel, Snake Pit, Body Shop, Flower Shop, Heartbreak Hotel, or MizTV without Piper’s Pit. He forgot the Peep Show. He was total babyface, saying Roddy would be missed and leading cheers of Roddy’s name. He then plugged all of his movies (Miz’s not Piper’s) and called on Ryback to vacate the IC title if he was not healthy enough to defend it. He then brought out his guest, Kevin Owens. Owens said he was a huge fan and owned all of his movies on Blu Ray. They talked about Cesaro, and Owens said Cesaro was jealous. They yammered awkwardly for 20 seconds or so until Cesaro’s music played. Came off like the sound guy missed his cue. Cesaro came out in a suit. All the fans had Cesaro Section signs and chanted his name. He said he was there to hear what Owens had to say. Owens said that for all Cesaro had sacrificed and worked for, he would never be as successful as Owens, because Owens had more natural talent and ability. Cesaro said Owens was disrespectful and an embarrassment every time he walked out of a match. Owens got in his face and said he had accomplished more in three months than Cesaro had in three years. Cesaro said Owens was really good at talking, but he (Cesaro) was good at fighting. Miz was marking out and talking about how great this was. Owens yelled at him to shut up and let the guys who could actually fight take care of things. Then he said he didn’t fight for free, and he and his giant gut turned to leave. Cesaro encouraged the fans to chant “Walk Owens Walk,” which upset Miz, but Owens returned and bowling balled them both down. Cesaro cut him off and went for the giant swing, but Owens escaped. Cesaro removed his tight shirt with great difficulty and dared Owens to fight, but Owens walked. This was fine build for a midcard program, and even midcard programs should have a decent build.

The commercial for Tough Enough was nothing but Billy Gunn unloading on ZZ and making him look fat in his too-tight t-shirt.

They showed Ronda Rousey crediting Piper on Instagram, and then actually showed her postfight promo in the Octagon with Joe Rogan from this weekend. That was surprising. Rusev vs. Mark Henry. HOSSES. They threw each other around a bit, then Rusev hit a pair of superkicks for the win. Yes, with superkicks. Hey, every guy should have more than one way to win a match.

JBL actually held up signs with the price of SummerSlam on standard PPV and on the Network, as if people weren’t aware. By the way, I talked to my lapsed fan cousin a few weeks ago, and he was not aware the Network was available online, and he thought it was just a cable channel you subscribe to. Yeah.

Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper were cutting a spooky promo on Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns when Sheamus appeared in their spooky lair and cut a spooky promo on Randy Orton. Bray noted that he admired Sheamus’ violent ways and said the enemy of my enemy is my friend. They shared an awkward laugh about the notion they were friends.

Wade Barrett vs. Zack Ryder. Wade cut a promo basically burying Zack for being king of the Internet. I have no idea what the point of this was. Then Wade won with the bull hammer in two minutes. I have no idea what the point of that was either.

Paul Heyman came out for a promo. Everyone cheered because he is awesome. He noted that Undertaker had picked a fight with Brock Lesnar, and they showed a video package of Taker appearing at Battleground, emphasizing that he had kicked Brock in the balls. Heyman said Taker had done this because he had never been able to beat Brock, and called Taker a “submissive bitch” when he faced Lesnar. Then he showed the brawl with Lesnar on Raw from two weeks ago. Then he brought out Lesnar, pointing out he is now the one in 22-1. Brock calmly came out, then calmly threw the stairs into the ring and stood on them. Heyman said the last time Taker had faced Brock, he had left the building in an ambulance, spent a week in the hospital, and spent a year out of action. He claimed that Taker had begged Vince McMahon for a rematch with Lesnar at Mania this year, but Vince had turned him down for Taker’s own safety. So Taker had forced their hand by picking a fight with Lesnar, leaving them no option to sanction the fight, because the fight was going to happen somewhere regardless. He dubbed it the match TOO BIG FOR WRESTLEMANIA. He guaranteed that Taker would be going to Suplex City. He said Taker wouldn’t need an ambulance, he would need Last Rites, and began to speak in Latin. Finally he promised that Taker would rest in pieces and Lesnar would win. This was so, so, so, so great, and Brock knew it, smiling and shaking his head and sharing a hearty hand-slap with his manager. This was tremendous.

Paige vs. Naomi. They had a boring third-hour Raw match that went longer than it needed to. Naomi missed a bodypress. Paige tried the PTO once but Naomi fought her off, but Paige went right back to it for the win. That is also a great finish. Why would you quit trying your best move just because it was countered one time?.

They showed Stardust doing an interview with his wife from Facebook. He said Neville had lost tonight because he had been pandering to the crowd. He asked if Neville wasn’t going to be his hero (and then fired an imaginary arrow), who would? Then they said Stephen Amell from Arrow would be on Raw in Seattle (actually Everett) next week.

They re-aired the Piper tribute video. So great. Roman and Dean then cut a promo on Bray Wyatt, aping Piper’s notorious bubblegum line. Orton then joined them and asked them to leave Sheamus for him.

Randy Orton & Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper & Sheamus. Your standard Raw main event. Orton got a hot tag and made a comeback, it broke into a six-way, and Roman got another hot tag and comeback. Turned into a parade of finishers, complete with horrible miscommunication between Ambrose and Harper. It ended with Orton ducking a brogue kick, then watching Roman pin Sheamus with a spear. Despite what he said earlier, he was fine with Roman not saving Sheamus for him.

WWE NXT (8/5/15)

Show opened with a memorial graphic for Roddy Piper.

Charlotte vs. Bayley. There was some horribly edited, horribly written, horribly delivered dialogue from the announcers referencing the appearance of Charlotte and others on Raw. They started out doing handshakes and chain wrestling and very respectful athletic stuff. Then Charlotte got pissed and slammed Bayley around a bit, then started badmouthing her, like it was an insult Bayley thought she was on Charlotte’s level. Bayley fired right back at her, but got cut off and Charlotte started getting rougher with chokeholds and stuff. Bayley made her comeback and things were going great, then they moved to the corner and both women just stopped for a while. Well, it is the developmental show. They recovered and Bayley hit a huge hurricanrana with Charlotte standing on the top rope. That was scary. Announcers called it the “Bayley can rana,” which made me laugh. Charlotte hit a spear, but Bayley kicked out. They found a little girl in the crowd who was going nuts cheering for Bayley. Charlotte hooked the figure-four, but Bayley stopped her from hitting the figure-eight, then reversed it to break the hold. They were fighting over a backslide when Bayley ran up the ropes to flip over Charlotte and hit the belly-to-Bayley for a nearfall. That was great. They fought in the corner, and Bayley snapped off a belly-to-Bayley off the middle rope for the win. Then, in what will for sure be the most adorable moment in wrestling in 2015, Bayley’s young fan was so happy she was actually crying. SIGN THAT FAN. Bayley found her and hugged her and gave her a headband, and the fan gave the camera a double thumb’s up, then bobbed her head to Bayley’s music while wiping away tears. God, now I’m crying. That was amazing. Crowd also gave Charlotte a big ovation. The match was good, but the crowd reaction made it amazing.

Michael Cole did a sitdown interview with Kevin Owens in the ring. This was so clearly in the Raw arena, but they pretended it was in NXT. Owens addressed William Regal saying on camera that he hoped Owens got beaten, and that was a problem, because Regal was an authority figure who might set him up with a crooked ref in his rematch with Finn Balor to set up another “Montreal screwjob.” He also called Regal “a real man’s man,” while we’re listing 1990s references. He asked for a ladder match to ensure he wouldn’t get screwed by a ref. Cole asked him if he could beat Finn Balor, and Owens got disgusted, tore off his mic, and walked up the ramp. Cole was perplexed by all this. That was funny. Good promo.

Bull Dempsey was watching his own Bull-Fit promo from last week on his phone and being sad. Then he determined it was time to get in shape. He entered the gym, taking time to salute photos of Bruno Sammartino and Andre the Giant. He tried to copy what the other dudes there were doing, but overshot his target on the bench press and ended up trapped under a giant weight.

Baron Corbin vs. Steve Cutler. Corbin squashed him in seconds. OK, I don’t know what the point of this is anymore. He’s not learning anything doing squashes, and it doesn’t look like he’s getting a title shot anytime soon. So this isn’t accomplishing anything.

Bayley met with Regal and asked for a title shot in the shyest, most polite manner possible. Regal said she had worked harder than anyone else and earned an opportunity, and booked her vs. Becky Lynch for next week, with the winner facing Sasha Banks in Brooklyn. Bayley was very happy about that.

Tyler Breeze vs. Aaron Solo. Breeze is the most unrepentant 1993 Shawn Michaels ripoff. The persona, the moves, the attitude, everything. He won quickly with the beauty shot, acting upset that he wasn’t getting better competition. Regal then came out on stage and announced Breeze’s opponent at Brooklyn would be Jushin “Thunder” Liger. Crowd chanted “HOLY SHIT!” This led to a Liger highlight package filled with clips from WCW, as he destroyed the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, and Brian Pillman while announcers like Jesse Ventura and Tony Schiavonia and Jim Ross talked about how great he was. You see, it used to be the announcers’ jobs to promote everyone and get them over, not make lame jokes about them. Anyway, this was great.

Uhaa Nation profile video as he talked about his desire to be a champion and be the best. They showed him hitting a thousand moves in the ring, then posing in his gear. He told the fans to expect greatness when he debuted. He did some moonsaults onto a camera. He finally announced that his name was Apollo Crews, and he would debut in Brooklyn. This was good.

Byron Saxton did a sitdown interview with Finn Balor. He talked about the honor of being champion in a promotion that was changing the business. He said Kevin Owens had shown no class, no respect throughout his NXT career, so it was no surprise when Owens got violent at the contract signing. Saxton asked about Owens’ verbal commitment to his family. Balor said he was a man of action, not words, while Owens used a lot of words, but he (Balor) didn’t believe any of them. He vowed to prove that his win Tokyo was not a fluke. They said the Brooklyn crowd would be the largest in NXT history. Well, I’m sure that’s true. They teased an appearance by THE DEMON that night. Well of course he’ll be there, this is a big show. Balor does much better in these quiet backstage environments than in the ring.

Dawson & Wilder vs. Hype Bros. They got the heat on Zack because, you know, he can work a little. Mojo got the hot tag to noticeable boos. At least he didn’t do any MC Hammer spots this week. Hype Bros won with the elevated rough rider. So what was the point of Dawson & Wilder beating Enzo & Cass last week? What a weird show this is. Dawson & Wilder jumped the winners afterwards and laid Zach out with the SHATTER MACHINE. So why didn’t they just win the match in the first place? What a weird, weird show this is.

Regal met with the VaudeVillains. They said they would never strike a woman, but you do NOT exploit chivalry. Regal agreed, and granted them a title rematch in Brooklyn, but he warned them to find a way to “curtail” Alexa Bliss. They agreed and shook his hand.

They did a tale of the tape for Joe and Rhyno and claimed Joe was 6-foot-2. Yeah, good one.

Bull was working out again. He was making progress. Then he eyeballed the big tire and tried to lift it. Everyone stopped to watch, but he couldn’t do it. They all supported him, and he finally got it, then climbed on it to celebrate as everyone applauded.

Samoa Joe vs. Rhyno. What’s funny is that earlier they said Rhyno was 5-foot-10, and here in the ring, Rhyno was clearly taller. Joe busted out the elbow suicida. They had a MEAN GUY MATCH with no heel or face, just two big nasty dudes working each other over. Slowly. Rhyno hit a TKO for a nearfall. He tried a gore, but Joe caught him with a kick to the face and hooked the sleeper. Rhyno escaped and called for a “Rhyno driver.” He went to the middle rope, but Joe cut him off and hit the muscle buster for the win. Just a match. In fact, Charlotte and Bayley was clearly better.

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