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 2017

Monday, January 01, 2018

You'll want to stay to the end.  

Royal Rumble 2017 is in San Antonio, your announce team is Mauro Ranallo (his 6th PPV), Steve Regal (his 16th), and Nigel McGuinness (his third).  16 is a lot of PPVs for a WWF color analyst - only two men have done more:

Cornette 23
Taz 22

(Dark Matches: Joe d. Nakamura, Gargano d. Ciampa)

This is the 28th Rumble and the 120th WWF PPV.

It's Bullet Club Celebration Night here in San Antonio; one year ago the BC invaded the WWF - this show begins with a local boys/girls choir, fully decked in robes, they come out and sing some type of very simple "the Bullet Club is here...the Bullet Club is here" while clapping and lining the ramp.  The video wall plays highlights of the Club running roughshod over the WWF over these past 365 days.

The song ends - the clapping continues, Anderson and Gallows make their way to the ring (they're carrying the flag and AJ's Survivor Series trophy)- and as they walk past each choir member disrobes to reveal Bullet Club t-shirts (so many t-shirts, on sale throughout the arena and where all t-shirts are sold, just dozens of the damn things) as Anderson and Gallows hit the ring, the pyro goes off, its Bullet Club's one year Bullet Club a versary.

Anderson and Gallows stay - they sit at the timekeeper's table as the big night begins.  The announce reminds us of how big last year's Rumble was and speculates what could possibly happen to top it.

1. Crews/Kalisto v. Swann/Gallagher 
-It's a traditional up tempo, high spot laden opening tag match.  We're looking to wake up the crowd and, in this instance, get Crews/Kalisto over as a fun babyface tag act.  The announce puts them over as a possible contender for the tag titles at some point.  Anderson/Gallows stand and politely applaud post-match.

2. Women's Title: 2 of 3 Falls: Sasha Banks d. Charlotte Flair
-The most epic match they can have, it's the blow off to this program and really the blow off to the 4-Ground program which has made up the spine of the entire women's division since it was launched.  At some point (between falls) Becky comes down the ring to exhort her longtime friend Sasha (slapping the apron, that sort of thing).  It works, Banks comes through, regains the belt (Sasha is the 7th women's champion, the second 2 time champion).  Postmatch Becky hits the ring - she and Sasha hug and hug, it's super emotional - Sasha has triumphed.  Due to camera angle, we're able to see what's going to happen next before Sasha does.  During the hug, Becky makes the fingergun  motion behind Sasha's head.  We see it - the crowd sees it - the only person who doesn't see it is Sasha - so she's shocked when Becky turns that hug into an inverted DDT and lays Sasha out.

Anderson and Gallows hit the ring (this is why they're there), they grab Banks and hold her in place so Lynch can wear her out, boots, slaps - then they drop her and Lynch continues to punch the clearly defenseless champ.

Now we focus on Charlotte on the ramp - she decides she isn't putting up with this and she runs into the ring and hurls herself at Lynch.  She gets in some shots - but then is grabbed by Anderson and Gallows - allowing Lynch free shots and then Lynch buries her as well with the inverted DDT.  Charlotte and Sasha are down in a heap - Lynch is tossed a Bullet Club t-shirt and she puts it on - Becky Lynch has joined the Bullet Club!

3. Braun Strowman d. Mike Mizanin
-Strowman's just a bully and he's picking on the underdog babyface Mizanin - Mike gives it all he has, but he is squashed in a five minute match, really pounded down by Strowman, who demands the referee count to 5 before counting the fall.

4. Bullet Club (Anderson/Gallows) d. Bray Wyatt/John Cena (countout)
-Anderson and Gallows return for this one (they didn't stay at ringside for the Strowman match) they take on the reunited Wyatt Family they've been feuding with as the undercard to the Styles/Harper title match.  If it seemed maybe a little too forgiving of Cena to accept Bray in this new role after escaping the clutches of his cult-like control - maybe that was a good intuition.  Because what happens here is, with Cena in the ring, Randy Orton appeared from nowhere the RKO Wyatt off the apron to the floor.  Cena immediately exited - and he and Orton put the boots to Bray while a surprised, but willing, Anderson and Gallows accepted the countout win.  Orton and Cena drape Bray over the guardrail, Orton kicks him in the head - it is a real outside beating.  Orton and Cena, over a decade since they were tag champs, have reunited.

Anderson and Gallows smirk - "we earned our money tonight" - they completely miss American Alpha coming out of the crowd, they've been bullying Alpha since Mania - but Alpha whips them now, Anderson and Gallows have to bail out and scurry back up the ramp.  They leave behind the flag - and AJ's Survivor Series trophy - which Jordan and Gable break in half.

That's the first half of our show.  Lot going on here at Rumble...hey, here comes Shawn Michaels.

San Antonio's favorite son makes an unannounced appearance - he's here to introduce the President and Vice President of the United States - Linda and Vince McMahon!

Big moment for the McMahons, they were just inaugurated earlier in the week and are making their first joint appearance - and it's, of course, right here, in the WWF.

Linda, as you know, has been under the weather, really since the election - but she gives it all she has in a three-four minute speech - talking about reversing the decades long concentration of power in the hands of the few.  Talks about unleashing the power of the federal government, as FDR did, as LBJ did, in a massive, sweeping tide which will democratize the American economy and political system.

 "Let the workers organize. Let the toilers assemble. Let their crystallized voice proclaim their injustices and demand their privileges. Let all thoughtful citizens sustain them, for the future of Labor is the future of America!"

President McMahon's voice cracks - she apologizes - she thanks the WWF fans for their generations of support - and hopes they --

Shes' cut off by GHB, appearing in the aisle - who is soon surrounded by Secret Service.

Linda says he can speak - GHB cuts a promo, she's weak, America needs a strongman who will put the people in their place.  America is a land of haves and have nots, of successes and failures, of the strong who dominate and the weak, like all of these people, who will work at Dollar General and die desparate and alone.  That's America.  And tonight - a Russian will remind everyone of what America is - when Rusev destroys Brock Lesnar - just like he destroyed Skip McMahon - and just like, in 2020, a great Texan like Ted Cruz will destroy Linda McMahon - if she makes it that long.

That's it - GHB is shoved to the back by Secret Service, which also escorts the McMahons from the ring - and we're onto the back half of the show.

5. Number One IC Contender: Three Way Dance: Chris Jericho d. Nick Nemeth d. Roman Reigns
-Elimination match rules, Jericho's last ride will take him all the way to Wrestlemania - he's been doing a creaky, old man, Terry Funk in ECW, gimmick since Mania - and now he'll be wrestling the winner of Rusev/Lesnar.  He's really outgunned here, younger, more athletic opponents - but he uses ring generalship to navigate the match - and gets a break when Nemeth, who had induced Reigns to work with him - then turned on Roman with a superkick (it's sort of Nemeth's thing to do).  But Nemeth can't do it to Jericho - and although it looked multiple times as if the ride had come to an end - #7 pulls it out, gets the fall - and will go to Wrestlemania 33.

6. Dean Ambrose d. Langston
-The third member of the Shield, Tyler Black, hobbles down to ringside during the match, on the crutches he's been using, really, for most of the last two years, given two separate attacks by Langston (well, the last one was maybe Black's own fault).  And the second Ambrose gets the pinfall Black is crawling into the ring and swinging the crutch at Langston - he breaks the crutch over Langston's back - he tries to swing the other crutch at him but it...inadvertantly?....catches Ambrose instead.  Langston does the disappearing act - a furious Ambrose gets into Black's face - they go nose to nose - swearing at each other - yelling at each other - Black and Ambrose start throwing shots - Black and Ambrose throwing blows at each other before they're separated by security (not secret service, just WWF security) Black and Ambrose screaming at each other in the middle of the ring - the Shield has exploded here at the Royal Rumble.

7. IC Title: Brock Lesnar (w/Heyman) d. Rusev (w/GHB and Lana)
-Brock becomes the 69th IC Champ - it's no longer than 10 minutes - each man throws heavy blows - probably some real potatoing going on, it's supposed to be short and stiff and brutal and then Lesnar ends it decisively.  Suplex City.  F5.  Done.  GHB gets on the apron to give Lesnar the badmouth - Brock yanks him in - F5 - Done.  That's the write off for Bradshaw in all of his iterations.  Heyman points to Lesnar's belt "that's the real world championship belt now - this is the real world champion right here."

Prior to the tag match - a clip package featuring each of the 99 WWF Tag Team Championship reigns.

8. Tags: Kevin Steen/El Generico d. Trash (Cladio/Neville)
-Bell to bell, this card really depends on this match to deliver.  The booking of this card is strong, if I say so myself - but for it to be a successful wrestling show, this match has to crack four stars.  Fortunately, we've got exactly the right guys in exactly the right spot.  Steen and Generico take the tag belts from their former stablemates in the very best match they can possibly have - they become the 100th WWF tag champs - Steen adds a tag reign to go with his WWF title run, Generico has previously been IC Champ and adds these tag belts - it's a full on feel good babyface title win here at Royal Rumble 2017.

9. WWF Title: Cage: AJ Styles d. Luke Harper
-So, what has been built as the new Wyatt Family against the Bullet Club is just these two - of course, there's no Devitt, gone since Summer Slam.  There's no Nakamura, he wasn't even around in the build, he spent all of it on Dark Ride Wrestling.  And now there's no Anderson/Gallows, having gotten whipped earlier in the night by Alpha.  Harper also has no backup as Cena turned on Bray, reforming with his long ago partner, Orton.

So it's just AJ and Harper, as it was at Survivor Series - this time in a steel cage.

AJ has to fight from underneath, Harper's bigger and very athletic - AJ gets roughed up, there's a little color from the cage - but the champ is able to turn the tide, and again, he's able to beat Harper, definitively, right in the middle of the ring.

AJ doesn't really celebrate - he's steamed, he takes the belt, shakes his head - this was supposed be the big Bullet Club celebration - but nobody is coming out to the ring, he stands alone - we follow him to the back, AJ hits the Bullet Club locker room, Anderson and Gallows are icing down, Becky is there - AJ loses it "where are you guys - what the hell happened to my trophy - who authorized bringing this girl into the Bullet Club" - AJ yelling at Anderson and Gallows when we hard cut to a limousine in the parking area - there is chaos, someone is screaming - we see that someone is's the President.  Linda McMahon is down...Secret Service  places a hand over the camera and that's how the show ends.

As we (and the country) will learn over the coming hours and days and weeks- Linda McMahon has been struck with an unspecified illness that has been plaguing her for the last couple of months - it leaves her incapacitated to the point where the decision is made to invoke the 25th Amendment making Vincent Kennedy McMahon the 46th President of the United States.  Vince assures the country that he will carry out his wife's policies and that the American people can still, in fact, call him Vince.  He asks that we return to our normal lives, including watching Wrestlemania 33 on PPV.

I told you to stay to the end.

If you recall, back in November of 2016 (real time) I told you that the Trump election was going to have booking impact.  Here's the reveal:

When I first established that the Vince McMahon character here would be a babyface - the plan was always to turn him heel and make him the Mr. McMahon character.  I didn't originally lay out how that would happen, but my broad plan was it would happen when I was ready to stop doing this, Vince would take over the company and we'd align this world with the real world by having whomever the champions were (my assumption was they wouldn't be great, sort of like a Jinder Mahal situation) win titles under Vince's direction and I'd stop writing.  You can't fight city hall forever after all, and I like the idea of ending this story at some point in that way.

However - when Linda first ran for Senate and I decided to make babyface Senator Linda McMahon a character, that plan changed to this - Linda would become the first woman elected President of the United States, Vince would be the VP, Linda would be unable to serve (that real world angle with Linda in the wheelchair in some type of non compos mentis state was my visual inspiration) and Vince would become the President.

But he'd turn heel - he'd be meglomaniacal heel billionaire President Mr. McMahon, unhinged, cutting taxes on the wealthy, starting wars, cutting the safety net, telling the CDC they can't use the word science (okay, I didn't think of that one, but that general character type was the idea - let's make Mr. McMahon President).

And then Trump won.

And so my plan - for years - I mean, for years - for yeeeeaaaaars - then went up in smoke, as having a real world heel President ends the Counterfactual idea of a heel President.

I still wanted to do the Linda thing though - I had invested too many years not to throw her into this coma.  It's a wrestling blog after all, there had to be a payoff for all the politics talk.

So - this is that, Vince is President.  He's the Babyface Billionaire - and while it's unlikely I talk about it a ton going forward, just think of him as the Counterfactual Trump.  It's not what I planned, but it's what makes sense going forward.

And - when I decide to stop writing, probably I'll turn him and do that booking thing I planned originally - so if you're still around then, there's your spoiler alert.

Okay.  We'll split the build for Mania in half - half in February, half March.  The show's in April - here's your spoiler - AJ Styles will defend the title against.....Austin Aries.

See you next month.

Road to Royal Rumble 2017 - Part 2

Friday, December 15, 2017

Four matches set up in Part 1

WWF Title: Cage: AJ Styles v. Luke Harper
Bullet Club (Anderson/Gallows) v. Bray Wyatt/John Cena 
IC: Rusev (w/GHB and Lana) vs. Brock Lesnar (w/Heyman)
IC Number One Contender: Nick Nemeth v. Chris Jericho v. Roman Reigns-Uso

Five left, here are the two remaining title matches.
Tag Titles: Trash (Claudio/Neville) v. Kevin Steen/El Generico
Women’s Title: 2 of 3 Falls: Charlotte Flair v. Sasha Banks

WWF is a workrate centric promotion and this tag title match is why you buy PPVs. Former stablemates meeting for the WWF tag titles.  It’s largely a continuation of the Survivor Series program, Neville swerved the babyfaces, claiming an injury that took him out of that match but then appearing to determine the finish. Gargano and Ciampa continue to be involved as the GDI squad from Dark Ride, but now they pick sides – Gargano aligns with Trash, feeling as if he has been treated badly by the sport, hasn’t gotten his due, his bitterness seeps through – whereas Ciampa sticks with Steenerico; we see those 6 guys in multiple combinations in the build for the match.  The other element that gets a lot of time in the programming is Trash is the 99th WWF Tag Team Champions, meaning, if Steen and Generico take the belts – they will be 100. 

Lots of historical looks at each of the 99 championship reigns, each title change airs on the WWF Network, the talking head shows debate who the greatest team from each decade is with the focus being on an all time top 10 which then gets rolled out in advance of the Rumble.  There is pretty heated debate among everyone about the composition of the list – and there’s anger from Trash that there’s even any talk about the 100th tag team champions when they are the 99th and not planning on losing them any time soon.

10-Tie Division One (Nick Nemeth/Jack Swagger) – the most recent tag team champions in the great amateur lineage of Steiners and Haas/Benjamin, D1 was the 87th WWF Tag Team Champ, taking from Dead Men Walking at Summer Slam ’09 and losing to Young Money at Wrestlemania 26 the following year.
10. Tie Charlie Haas/Shelton Benjamin – two time champs (69th and 71st) who won their initial belts from two legends, Chris Benoit and Eddy Guerrero.    

9. Wild Samoans (Afa/Sika) – the best WWF Tag Champions from the pre-Mania era, Afa/Sika held the belt 3 times (21st, 23rd, 31st) for a total of nearly a year and a half.  They first took the belts from Tito Santana and Ivan Putski in April of 1980 and their final reign ended in November of ’83 when they dropped the belts to Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson. 

8. Road Warriors (Hawk/Animal) – the Roadies squashed the Orient Express at Survivor Series ’90 to become the 44th WWF Tag Team Champs and kept those belts for over a year, at the time, the second longest reign in WWF tag history (they lost to Money Inc at Rumble ’92).  They added a second reign later in the decade (56th) taking the belts from Davey Boy and Owen at Summer Slam ’97 and losing to Rock and DLo at Survivor Series.  Rock and DLo, like Hunter and Shawn, and Young Money, are two time champs who controversially did not make the list.  Mr. Fuji and Professor Tanaka are 3 time champions who were left out. 

7. Dudley Boys (Bubba Ray/D-Von) – competed in some of the best remembered tag team matches in WWF history, held the tag belts twice, first taking from the Hardys at Survivor Series ’99 (62nd) and then from Raven/Taz (66th) at Wrestlemania 17 in 2001, combined, they held the belts for a year. 

6. Edge/Christian – another two time tag champion who competed in many of those same matches with the Dudleys, they were the 64th tag champs, like the Dudleys, they also took the titles from the Hardys.  That was in 2000 – their second reign was 9 years later with a masked Christian joining Edge at Rumble 2009 (85th)  

5. Brainbusters (Arn Anderson/Tully Blanchard) – this half of the Heenan Family only held the WWF tag titles once (39th) but it was for 9 memorable months in 1989 that provided some of the greatest tag team title matches ever against their greatest WWF Rival, the Rockers. 

4. Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott) – another one time only belt holder, but they held the tag titles for over a year (46th) keeping them for all of 1993, like the Brainbusters, bringing a high level of match quality. 

3. Hardy Boys  (Matt and Jeff)- the final third of the trio of late 90s/early 2000s tag teams that revolutionized the division, the Hardys are two time tag champs (61st and 63rd) who pushed the boundaries on extreme tag team wrestling.

2. Hart Foundation (Bret/Davey Boy/Anvil) – the 37th WWF Tag Team Champions held the belts for a more than a year and a half, from Wrestlemania 2 all the way to Survivor Series ’87.  Bret and the Anvil would go on to win the titles without the Bulldog 7 years later, at Survivor Series ’94 – and Davey Boy grabbed Bret’s brother Owen and won them at Rumble ’97. 

1. The Shield (Tyler Black/Dean Ambrose/Langston) – The longest title reign for any champion in any division in the Wrestlemania era, the Shield took the belts at Mania 29 in 2013 and held them for nearly 2 and a half years, until Summer Slam 2015. 

Trash (99th) takes on Kevin Steen and El Generico (100????) at Rumble 2017.

The women’s title is positioned as the blow off to the Sasha/Charlotte program and maybe the culmination of the 4-Ground breakup – the launch of the women’s title was really on the backs of 4-Ground (Charlotte, Sasha, Becky, Paige) with the aid of her dad, Charlotte swerved the group, took the title from Charlotte – then lost it and regained it from Sasha.  Now we’re doing a 2 of 3 falls title match between Banks and Flair – once and for all to see who is the better woman. 

Three matches to go:
Dean Ambrose v. Langston
Mike Mizanin v. Braun Strowman
Kalisto/Apollo Crews v. Rich Swann/Jack Gallagher

The breakup of the Shield storyline continues; Langston turned on Ambrose and Black to end the greatest tag team in WWF – further, it cost Black over a year of his career with the injuries suffered in the turn.  Ambrose didn’t seek revenge, pursuing his singles career instead, that caused a fissure between he and Black.  Black and Ambrose met in the quarterfinals of the Survivor Series – but Langston injured Black again and here we are.

Ambrose and Langston do a face to face on an episode of Heyman’s Hustle.  Ambrose, as mentioned in Part I, turned down an opportunity to compete for the IC in order to get this match – Heyman questions about it – Ambrose says he made that choice once and it cost him his brother – now, he’s coming at Langston with all he has.  Langston asks when does this end – is Jannetty still out chasing HBK?  Langston says Black’s the one who got in his face at Survivor Series – and Langston put him down again and will put him down again and again if Black can’t just let it die.  And if Ambrose can’t let it die, he can get a hospital room next to Tyler.

Chickenshit heel Miz became creepy heel The Cuck and is now babyface Mike Mizanin.  He’s up against it here – Strowman’s got a hard on for Miz, taunting him about being the Cuck, about letting his wife fuck other men – about how he fucked her and maybe will do it again.  Miz is brave and true, stands up to it, and now he’s got to face the wrecking ball. 

No real storyline for the opening tag – Kalisto and Crews tagged together in developmental and Regal’s putting them back together again. 

That’s the show – here’s your update on Dark Ride, Nakamura spends the entire build there, he just avoids the rest of the Bullet Club entirely. He successfully defends the Dark Ride title multiple times – against Roode, against Strong, against Tozawa, against Dorada ---- Nakamura says he’s fighting champion, defending Dark Ride Title against all comers.

The last comer is Samoa Joe – and Joe beats him to regain the title. 

The other thing on Dark Ride is the breakup of BFFs Aries and Ranallo.  A candid picture makes the social media rounds with Ranallo and the Bullet Club (including a couple of members not with the promotion) all making the finger guns.  Regal and Nigel both needle Ranallo about it, but Aries, whose career was ended by Bullet Club attack, is heated.  Ranallo says the picture was taken months and months ago, but Aries won't have it.  He ends their popular podcast - they continue to do the Dark Ride broadcasts, but Corey Graves returns to that booth essentially to serve as a buffer between the men as Aries refuses to talk to Ranallo.

Here’s your show.
WWF Title: Cage: AJ Styles v. Luke Harper
Tag Titles: Trash (Claudio/Neville) v. Kevin Steen/El Generico
IC: Rusev (w/GHB and Lana) vs. Brock Lesnar (w/Heyman)
IC Number One Contender: Nick Nemeth v. Chris Jericho v. Roman Reigns-Uso
Dean Ambrose v. Langston
Mike Mizanin v. Braun Strowman
Bullet Club (Anderson/Gallows) v. Bray Wyatt/John Cena 
Women’s Title: 2 of 3 Falls: Charlotte Flair v. Sasha Banks
Kalisto/Apollo Crews v. Rich Swann/Jack Gallagher

Add in the one year anniversary of the arrival of the Buller Club – and their promise to have a special celebration – add in the appearance of the President and Vice President of the United States – Linda and Vince McMahon, and you’ve got a pretty darn good Royal Rumble 2017, only on PPV in January

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