Triple H, October 2011:

“When I grew up, I hated Hogan. I thought he was terrible and didn’t like to watch him. I was like Punk in a way. I liked the Steamboats and Flairs and the ones that could go. Would I be right in saying that Hogan was the wrong guy to go with, and they should’ve changed directions and gone with Steamboat because he was the better wrestler? Ludicrous.” - Triple H. October, 2011.

Royal Rumble 2016

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The build is here.

Royal Rumble 2016 comes to you from Orlando.  It is the 27th annual Rumble.

(Dark: Joe d. Devitt, Am Alpha d. Revival)

Your announce is Mauro Renallo and Steve Regal.  It’s Renallo’s 2nd PPV and Regal’s 12th.  For reference, Jesse did 13.

The show starts with a clip package from the weekend in Orlando with Renallo/Regal doing a VO – it’s been 8 years since WWF has run an Orlando PPV and in that time Regal has built Underground into a name brand with Orlando as its base city.  Regal has attempted to make Underground the “home team” in Orlando, with years of community outreach on the ground.  Ideally, that pays off here and it’s a hot Underground partisan crowd, not unlike a wrestler’s hometown.  The complaints about Regal doing so much cheerleading and injecting himself in programs, blurring the lines between his role as WWF’s only commentator and the head of Underground should grow louder after this show.

The package ends with a shot of Regal’s office from earlier in the day, Nemeth and Steen both enter.

 The shot seems to surprise Regal and when Renallo questions why Nemeth, from Underground, and the WWF Champion Steen went to his office at the arena this morning, Regall sidesteps – and then asks Renallo the question that animates much of the discussion of WWF fans over the weekend – what’s going on with Shinsuke Nakamura.

Nakamura arrived on the go home Fight Night, unannounced, teasing something – and if you care about that sort of thing, that’s dominating the buzz in the building.  Renallo, of course, had been the US voice of NJPW, something WWF fans would be aware of as, you may recall, in the months building to Liger’s appearance in what is now called Dark Ride Wrestling, NJPW got a ton of seemingly free promotion, including clips from the AXS show.  That served to introduce Renallo to whatever portion of the WWF audience was unfamiliar with him (before we knew that he’d be taking Joey’s chair) there were also lots of clips of NJPW workers, for example, Nakamura in ways that were designed (before we knew we’d ever see them…er…him…in the WWF) to get those workers over; and there was some intellectual property considerations paid to WWF for all of the promotion for NJPW PPVs – and maybe we’ll find out at some point what those were.

So Regal questions Renallo – with the idea that given his NJPW connection, he would know why Nakamura showed up on Fight Night.  Renallo disavows any knowledge.

How about matches.  It’s a good night.

1. Number One Contender Tables Match:  Usos d. Dudleys/Rhodes’
-Considering NJPW, TNA, ECW and WWF, The Dudleys are 10 time tag champs; they returned at the Rumble, interrupting the Usos/Rhodes match to set up this showdown.  The Dudleys first won the WWF tag titles at the Rumble 17 years ago – three years before that, Dustin won the tag titles with Steve Austin at the Rumble.  You have to assume there aren’t too many more chances for all of those men.  However, for the Usos, they’ve come up short in every opportunity to win the tag titles, so this moment might be even more imperative.  They don’t waste it here, the Dudleys are the first to be eliminated when the Rhodes Brothers put D-Von through a table – they then retaliate with a 3D on Cody that makes for an easy elimination then by the Usos.  Everyone in the promotion jockeying for a slot at the biggest WM of all time with 100,000+ expected in attendance in Dallas – it is the Usos who will wrestle for the tag titles.

2. Loser Loses Identity Parking Lot Brawl: Luke Harper d. Harper
-In the beginning, there was Bray and Harper (Luke was not allowed the identity of a first name), Bray turned/brainwashed/recruited Dustin and then Cena, they gave up their identities to form the Wyatt Family.  They all eventually left Bray, Harper added the first name, won the IC title, lost it to Bray, and became embroiled in this feud with Bray’s most recent convert, Damian Sandow.  Sandow came from Underground; he once led a stable, Douchebags, but had seen himself lose ground recently, the profile of someone who becomes easy prey for Wyatt.  Sandow became Bray’s new Harper, adopting the persona of Luke. Their pre-show parking lot brawl at Survivor Series gets us this match – loser can no longer maintain the Harper identity.

Luke goes over, Harper, who now again becomes Sandow, will be enhancement until he leaves the promotion, so Luke can really break him here – some windshields get smashed in this one.  Bray was supposed to second Harper tonight, he isn’t on the card otherwise – but does not appear until after the fall – Bray’s in the driver’s seat of one of the cars in the lot.  He guns the engine.  Is he going to run Luke over?  Is that the next step in this feud?  He does not – he speeds off, driving right past Luke with Harper not flinching as he goes by.

They’ll meet in the opener tomorrow on RAW.

3. Roman Reigns Uso d. HHH-M
The starcrossed Usos lost to Direct to Video at WM31 leading Roman to pledge to destroy each of the 3 D2V members this year.  That’s what happened – Orton at Summer Slam, Miz at Survivor Series and now Hunter.  The announce notes that Hunter has not been a full time wrestler for a few years now, as everyone knows he is part of the WWF front office – and it’s fair to question how many more matches he has in him after a showing like this.  Shots of the McMahon family box allow for some discussion about the state of the campaign – US Senator Linda McMahon is, of course, running for President in the Democratic Primary.

4. Women’s Title: Charlotte Flair d. Becky Lynch
Charlotte/Becky/Sasha/Paige were 4-Ground, a stable managed by Ric, he and Charlote doublecrossed the group to take the title from Paige; Charlotte then dumped Ric and is now on her own, she pulls a foreign object from her trunks to knock out Becky and get the fall.  Sasha comes down the ramp postmatch, helps Becky to her feet – and then goes nose to nose with Charlotte.

5. Tag Titles: New Day (Langston/Kingston w/Woods) d. Rusev/Dos Caras (w/GHB and Lana)
-Langston was part of The Shield, the longest reigning champions in modern WWF history, albeit largely in a bodyguard/enforcer role; he turned on the group at WM31, joining Kingston and Woods in what was then a heel black militant act.  After this program, however, the babyface turn is complete.  The catchphrase “First of all….check your privilege”…is now a singalong with the New Day opportunity.  Theyre like 30% less comedic than real world New Day.  GHB brought Rusev and Lana into the promotion demonstrating the newly found love between the US right wing and Russian strongmen.  Dos Caras was added to the act, GHB arguing that the wall we need to build around the US should also be aggressively used to boot people out.  Beginning at Survivor Series and then during this build, we’ve seen Lana spend as much time managing Dos Caras as she has Rusev – there was one shot of Dos Caras maybe lingering a little too much in watching Lana walk away – and in this match it breaks down in the way you’d expect, Lana’s on the apron, doing her distraction shtick – she’s inadvertently knocked to the floor – Dos Caras leaves his position at the tag rope to tend to her, meaning he isn’t there for Rusev’s tag – meaning he’s distracting Rusev as he scoops Lana up to carry her to the back – meaning Rusev takes the New Day’s finisher and the champs keep their belts.  Rusev’s fuming at GHB postmatch, where’s Lana – why did Dos Caras take Lana – and he sprints to the back.

6. Mask vs. Mask: Kalisto d. Pac
-The blow off match to their long feud, Pac has turned heel in the program, clearly internalizing the browbeating from Steen that he and Cesaro were trash for being insufficiently aggressive in their losing matches.  Kalisto represents Underground, giving the partisan crowd their first chance to really get behind one of their own – Kalisto has to fight from underneath here, does so successfully, gets the fall and then, with the aid of Regal who, unable to contain his enthusiasm hits the ring postmatch, unmasks Pac.

Pac is clearly crushed, with the Generico and Steen matches still to come and Claudio having vanished, he’s left to make the lonely trek back to the ring.  Renallo, and then Regal when he returns to the announce, talk about how it’s a real stripping of Pac’s identity – that they don’t recall every seeing a wrestler so thoroughly defeated.

7. El Generico d. Chris Jericho
-It’s Generico’s WWF PPV debut, he’s been out of action for about six months from injuries suffered in the War Games match between GDI and Paul Heyman Guys over the summer.  Jericho is now pure veteran babyface – he’s embraced the Bret Hart role as Canadian patriarch; making occasional drop ins in WWF to put over a younger guy.  That happens again here, this is designed to be the best match they can have with Generico getting the fall.  Jericho extends a hand postmatch and the two babyfaces shake.

8. IC: AJ Styles d. Dean Ambrose
-Mystery opponent AJ Styles debuts in the WWF and becomes the 66th IC Champion.

Ambrose was on his second run; the Langston turn on the Shield cost that group their tag titles and put Black on the shelf.  Ambrose pivoted to an IC chase, took that belt from Bray and then challenged the world to try to take it.  That led to the debuts of Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann in this program – and a Mystery Opponent was named for this match.

AJ adds a couple of elements – all the years in TNA have given him an Orlando fanbase, and that adds to the heat for him here.  Two – his IWGP title runs make NJPW the promotion with which he’s most closely associated as of this moment, Regal doesn’t say Nakamura’s name, but there should be allusions/accusations made at Mauro that he knows something he is not saying.

Man, this is a good workrate show.  AJ takes the belt.  He doesn’t go to the back – he goes into the stands to celebrate with the fans and winds up taking a seat in the front row to watch the title match.

9. WWF Title: Brock Lesnar (w/ Devitt/Sombra/Heyman) d. Kevin Steen (w/Generico) /Nick Nemeth (w/Sheamus/Barrett) (Countout)
-No title switch here.  Steen and Nemeth are both counted out in the big angle.

Steen is WWF Champion, he took from Brock at Summer Slam and then kept over Nemeth at Survivor Series. This is a lumberjack match, sort of, and Pac and Generico are supposed to be in Steen’s corner – but there’s no Pac.  The announce says that’s a tough blow to GDI and Steen, but the sight of Pac’s face (and they note his name may not even be Pac anymore) no one can be shocked that he didn’t make it out here.  Generico’s toughness is pointed out, he just won a tough match and now has to go it alone in Steen’s corner.  The Steen/Generico closeness is then noted.

Nemeth is the most recent Triple Crown winner, he’s the leader of Underground so hopefully gets that hometown reaction.  He’s seconded by Sheamus and Barrett, former tag champs who were kept off this show for this purpose.

And then there’s Brock – two time WWF Champ, he lost the title in a controversial fashion at Summer Slam and responded by killing Joey Styles, ending his WWF run and earning a suspension that ends right now.  He’s managed by Paul, obviously, and the other two Paul Heyman Guys, Sombra and Devitt, who we saw Heyman grow close to in Brock’s absence, second him.

The product of that Steen/Nemeth meeting with Regal becomes obvious, they gang up on Lesnar, it’s a 2 on 1 match until they can get Brock forced from the ring, at which point there’s a brawl among the five lumberjacks when they try to get him back inside.  Steen then turns on Nemeth, and they brawl until Brock returns to the ring to get revenge on both men.

And then it happens.

From the crowd come two men who we aren’t supposed to see until they are on top of Sheamus and Barrett.  It’s former IWGP tag champs Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, and very quickly they destroy the two men.  Nemeth, seeing his stablemates in trouble, leaps from the ring, but gets caught and destroyed quickly.

Simultaneous to Nemeth getting destroyed – Shinsuke Nakamura, who teased on Fight Night the following…

“You know who I am…but you don’t…know why…I’m here…”

…appears from the crowd to attack Generico.  Regal is now shouting at Renallo “these are your men– these are your men”.  Steen is in a submission hold from Lesnar and can’t immediately get away even though he recognizes what is happening to Generico, as Anderson/Gallows are able to leave the incapacitated Underground members to join in the beating of Generico.

Steen is able to muster up the crazy strength to break Brock’s hold in a desperate attempt to save his friend, but before he can exit the ring he is hit from behind by AJ Styles, who had been on the opposite side of the crowd, he hits Steen with his springboard flying forearm, then dumps him outside and joins in the beatdown of Steen/Generico, with the occasional shot at the dead Underground members.

The referee, with nothing else to be done, counts both men out leading to Brock’s win but no title change.

It’s chaos, all happening at the same time, all happening quickly – no one entirely sure how to get a handle on it.  Devitt though raises his right hand in the “wait, wait, wait – I know what’s up” gesture.

And then that hand becomes the shape of a gun.  He points it at a confused Heyman and shoots, then quickly whirls and throws Sombra into the steps, incapacitating him – he then leaps to the apron and then off – kicking Heyman in the head, knocking him cold – Lesnar starts screaming but never makes it out of the ring, he’s attacked from behind by Anderson/Gallows/Styles/Nakamura who are all in the ring now with everyone on the outside totally immobile.

Devitt climbs in and all 5 men beat the hell out of Brock, laying him out entirely, Anderson pulls out a Bullet Club t-shirt, hands it to Devitt, Devitt places it over Lesnar’s face and then stands atop Lesnar as the five men pose. The Bullet Club - Prince Devitt, AJ Styles, Anderson and Gallows...and Shinsuke Nakamura...the Bullet Club has come to the WWF.

The announce lays out as the camera focuses on the t-shirt as the show ends.

Back in February with the Road to Wrestlemania 32.  The main event – the debut of the Elimination Chamber.  See you then.

Road to Royal Rumble 2016

Thursday, December 01, 2016

(Two notes – it’s the 11th anniversary of the Counterfactual, thanks for reading.  Two, the real world Trump election has consequences here; when we get to the build for Survivor Series 2016 and my election storyline plays out, I’ll discuss how I changed the finish because of Trump.)

Survivor Series was here.

(Stay to the end.  There’s a twist.)

The Road to the Rumble starts the following night – RAW again opens in Edge’s “office” as his Dario Cueto gimmick continues.  With him is Christian.  Here’s what we learn.

-Christian, who is on a job action, essentially walking out on WWF after Brock killed Joey at Summer Slam, says he is not returning yet. 
-Brock is returning as scheduled, his suspension lifts at the Rumble.
-Joey is not returning at all.  He has recovered from his injuries but is choosing to step away from the promotion.  Renallo is now the permanent lead announcer. 
-Christian refusing to go back to work costs him his job.  Edge fires him. Edge looks like he's aged five years on this job. 

Here’s the card for the Rumble.  It’s a good show. 

WWF Title: Lumberjack Three Way Dance: Kevin Steen (w/Pac and Generico) v. Brock Lesnar (w/Devitt and Sombra) v. Nick Nemeth (w/ Sheamus and Barrett)

IC: Dean Ambrose v. Mystery Opponent

Mask vs. Mask: Pac v. Kalisto

Tags: New Day (Kingston/Langston w/Woods) v. Rusev/Dos Caras (w/GHB and Lana)

Chris Jericho v. El Generico

Women’s Title: Charlotte Flair v. Becky Lynch

Roman Reigns-Uso v. HHH-M

Loser Loses Identity Parking Lot Brawl: Luke Harper v. Harper (w/Bray)

Number One Contender Tables Match: Usos (Jimmy/Jey) v. Rhodes (Cody/Dustin) v. Dudley Boys

WWF Title: Lumberjack Three Way Dance: Kevin Steen (w/Pac and Generico) v. Brock Lesnar (w/Devitt and Sombra) v. Nick Nemeth (w/ Sheamus and Barrett)

Mask vs. Mask: Pac v. Kalisto

Chris Jericho v. El Generico

 -We learn about the parameters of the title match, the mask match, and Generico’s PPV debut during one in ring segment on the opening RAW.  Renee calls to the ring Steen, who is seconded by Pac, and then Nemeth, who comes to the ring with Regal/Barrett/Sheamus, and then Heyman, who arrives with Devitt and Sombra.

Steen kept his title with some aid from Claudio at Survivor Series, we learn that no one has heard from Claudio since he walked up the ramp the night before.  As a result we get this stip, a rematch between Steen and Nemeth in which each will be allowed two lumberjacks, who can get involved in any action on the floor.  Brock, you may recall, has a contractual rematch that necessitates his being placed in this match – his last shot at the WWF Title given his attack on Joey at Summer Slam.
Nemeth will have Sheamus/Barrett as his lumberjacks.  They lost the tag titles at Summer Slam and, demonstrating their commitment to Nemeth’s winning the WWF Title for Underground, don’t have a match at the Rumble to complicate their evening.

Steen will have Pac and Generico – Generico’s still on the shelf from the War Games injury suffered over the summer, but he’ll be cleared for the Rumble.  He’s cleared of all other commitments and now makes his PPV debut against #7, the Triple Crown Winner, Chris Jericho who returns to the WWF in this match.  Pac really heeled on Kalisto at Survivor Series, attempting to rip off his mask in response to repeated taunts from Steen, calling he and Claudio soft, calling them trash – as a result, the rubber match between the two will be a mask vs mask. Regal digs at Steen here – he’s broken Claudio, Claudio should have taken the deal to join Underground, when he left ringside last night he looked like a shell of himself.  Regal says Steen did that – and he did that with Pac as well, he’s broken them down to a state of unrecognizability.   Steen says Regal is scared – scared of what a vicious Pac will do to Kalisto, scared of what a tougher, harder, crueler GDI will do to Underground and the rest of the WWF.    

Brock will have Devitt and Sombra, both of whom have grown closer to Heyman in Brock’s absence.  Heyman dismisses both Nemeth and Steen, Underground and GDI – Heyman says when the unbreakable beast Lesnar returns, the Paul Heyman Guys will again be in control of the WWF Title.

Not a bad deal, right?  Generico's WWF PPV debut - Brock's return - and the blow off match to a hot Pac/Kalisto feud ends in a mask match.

We’ve got 3 other title matches.
 IC: Dean Ambrose v. Mystery Opponent
Tags: New Day (Kingston/Langston w/Woods) v. Rusev/Dos Caras (w/GHB and Lana)
Women’s Title: Charlotte Flair v. Becky Lynch

Ambrose took the IC from Bray at Survivor Series; he’s feeling himself and challenges anyone in the world to try to take it from him.  During the build, we get the debuts of both Rich Swann and Cedric Alexander, both of who lose to Ambrose.  Ambrose will take on another newcomer at the Rumble.

New Day took the tag titles at Survivor Series; their face turn continues against the heel group led by GHB.  GHB blames Obama for New Day holding the tag belts, New Day takes GHBs limo and calls it reparations.  It’s more comedic than not, with New Day presented as more knowing than the broadly ridiculous GHB.  Note, Lana seconded Dos Caras at Survivor Series, and in this build, when they wrestle as singles, she continues to do so – there’s one match where GHB can’t be there with Dos Caras and Lana still goes out there with him, she holds the ropes open for him, does the full valet thing.

Charlotte took the Women’s title from Paige at Survivor Series with Ric heeling on Paige and therefore busting up 4-Ground.  As mentioned in the Survivor Series write up, Charlotte then fires Ric the following night and is now a solo act.  Becky beats Paige definitively in this build as she takes on her former stablemate for the strap.

The mystery opponent options are the highlight in that block - probably lots of speculation about who that might be, particularly given what's coming at the end of the build (told you there was a twist).

And the remaining 3 matches:
Roman Reigns-Uso v. HHH-M
Loser Loses Identity Parking Lot Brawl: Luke Harper v. Harper (w/Bray)
Number One Contender Tables Match: Usos (Jimmy/Jey) v. Rhodes (Cody/Dustin) v. Dudley Boys

Reigns pledged to destroy all of Direct to Video; Orton went down Summer Slam, The Miz at Survivor Series and that just leaves Hunter.  He comes out of the executive suite to take on an asskicking babyface in Reigns. 

Sandow’s turning into Luke Harper’s doppelgänger finally comes to a head; their parking lot brawl prior to Survivor Series impacted both men and leads to this – a parking lot brawl at the Rumble in which the loser can no longer be Harper. It’s unclear the parameters of that, but the announce promises us a full identity tear down, one of these men will look very, very different the next time we see him following this match. 

The Dudley Boys returned to the WWF at Survivor Series to attack both the Usos and the Rhodes Brothers – the three teams will have a tables match at the Rumble – winners to go onto Mania to wrestle for the tag titles.  The veteran Dudleys - multi-time ECW, IWGP, TNA, and WWF tag champs want one last ride - both the Usos and the Rhodes Brothers have some desperation, will they get another shot if this one goes by?

That parking lot brawl is almost certainly a good match, it's another blow off to a long term angle and Luke Harper is a tremendous brawler.

Over on Dark Ride, we've got a multi-tag team feud:

American Alpha - managed by Swagger
The Revival - managed by Arn
Ciampa/Gargano - managed by Noble
Nicholls/Haste - managed by Dean Malenko

And we've got video promos by a man who says he's arriving after the Rumble - Austin Aries.

Aries cuts promos on Joe - says there's another former ROH and TNA champ, Joe's not a snowflake, Joe's not a unicorn - there's another - it's him, Austin Aries, and he's coming to Dark Ride right after the Rumble.

Finally, the twist.

In the last show before the Rumble, the go-home Fight Night, right in the middle of the show, there's an unremarkable match, say Killings v. Epico.

Out of the crowd, wearing streetclothes, without any build or fanfare - he just climbs right out of the crowd and into the ring -


Is Shinsuke Nakamura.

He tells Killings and Epico to beat it.  They do.

He takes a mic out of his back pocket and in broken English says...

"You...know who I am.  But you don't...know why....I'm here."

Nakamura smiles - and exits out through the crowd.

That's the buzz the rest of the night and the rest of the week on the programming on WWF Network (WWF Network has daily programming, think ESPN - there's pretty much always a couple of guys arguing about something).  Why did Shinsuke Nakamura - one of the great wrestlers in the world - show up in the WWF three days before the Royal Rumble?

With that extra kick - this sure feels like a show you do not want to miss.

WWF Title: Lumberjack Three Way Dance: Kevin Steen (w/Pac and Generico) v. Brock Lesnar (w/Devitt and Sombra) v. Nick Nemeth (w/ Sheamus and Barrett)

IC: Dean Ambrose v. Mystery Opponent

Mask vs. Mask: Pac v. Kalisto

Tags: New Day (Kingston/Langston w/Woods) v. Rusev/Dos Caras (w/GHB and Lana)

Chris Jericho v. El Generico

Women’s Title: Charlotte Flair v. Becky Lynch

Roman Reigns-Uso v. HHH-M

Loser Loses Identity Parking Lot Brawl: Luke Harper v. Harper (w/Bray)

Number One Contender Tables Match: Usos (Jimmy/Jey) v. Rhodes (Cody/Dustin) v. Dudley Boys

Call your cable company.  It's Royal Rumble 2016!

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