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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.

Road to Royal Rumble 2008 - 3

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Part III.

In Parts 1 and 2 - the following was set up:

IC Title: Porter v. Burke
US Title: Orton v. Noble
TV Title: Yakuza v. Little Warrior
Undertaker v. Juggernaut
LWO v. WMD

4 matches to go.

Once again, the NWA Title will be Nitro, now the champ after taking the strap at the main event of Survivor Series meeting Fit for the title.  Since the launch of Fight Night, Fit and his manager Dean Malenko have been the faces of the new NWA (Where We Fight!) Dean's a former NWA Champ; Fit and Dean were 2/3 (w/ Arn) of the Titan Trust, who served in the decision making role a few years ago - when Fit came out of retirement, it was with Dean, as the sunshine boys, taking one more lap around the track with the goal of winning the IC title.  They did - and upon the split into 3 promotions after Survivor Series '07, Fit won the tournament for the NWA title, retiring Flair at XXIII.  He then set his sights on the younger group of NWA wrestlers - specifically Nitro, who he targeted as too soft, too pretty, too worried about his hair and spray tan to carry the NWA banner into the next decade. 

Fit beat Nitro at Summer Slam, when Nitro quit rather than absorb more of a beating - but Nitro got a rematch by pinning Rey in the big interpromotional match at SNME - and then Nitro took the strap at Survivor Series when, after Dean had been knocked out by an inadvertant Fit elbow, Melina's interference aided Nitro in getting a pinfall.

They play a role in the main event angle, but essentially this is the rubber match - the twist is that there's increased Dean/Fit tension (recall that Dean didn't want Nitro to get the rematch) - Dean is angry, maybe a little embarrassed, that Melina successfully interfered while he was knocked out - and in a nontitle match between Nitro and Orton, when Nitro had the advantage - Dean entered when the referee was distracted to level Nitro and get Orton the pinfall victory.

That leads to the stip for the Rumble - Dean and Melina would be handcuffed together at ringside.

Fit and Nitro, the rubber match for the strap - Rumble '08.

The ECW Title is also a rematch from Survivor Series; CM Punk once again defending against The Blood Dragon Jeff Hardy.  Punk's now been ECW Champ for over a year - he cuts a promo the night after his 30 minute Survivor Series draw with Jeff saying it was a celebration - that he had been world champion for a full year (actually, Punk slips up, he says he's been WWF Champion for a full year) like Angle, like Bret, like Hennig, like Steamboat, like Hogan, like Bruno - he's now an all time great just like he always wanted to be.

Cabana and Maria, recognizing the slip - that Punk is ECW Champion, not WWF champion, give each other sideways glances. 

There will be, later, a backstage moment with the three where Punk will ask how he did.  Colt will say great champ - great - that's why you're the champ.  Maria will look away - Punk makes her tell him - it was great, except for the part where you said you were WWF Champion.

Punk immediately looks to cover - I threw that belt down - I threw that belt down - I could be, is what I was saying, i could be WWF champion if I wanted to, I beat Ric Flair - I'm WWF Champion.  Right?  Right? 

Colt and Maria both say of course - but again give each other sideways glances. 

It's the first mental crack in Punk's armor.

Before we get there though - we have Jeff come out during Punk's promo.  Jeff is now the Blood Dragon, he dresses like Jushin Liger, with mask and all - taking it off to wrestle, at least, for now.  When he enters it's the full Tokyo Dome laser show.  Jeff crashes the promo - says he remembers when those guys held their titles for a full year - Bret and Angle and Hennig - he doesn't recall though any of them keeping their belt with a draw.  Truth is - Punk may have beat everyone who came up against him for a year - but he didn't beat Jeff Hardy.

That will be Jeff's angle.  We'll talk about how Steamboat figures into this in a moment.

Punk has his own angle with Jeff - it's that Jeff isn't as good as Matt (Matt's gone since XXIII, you should really know why; he's a cultlike icon in this world - he's got a Pillman thing going) that really is what's driving Jeff - these fans see you and they chant for Matt -- Jeff's right - Punk didn't beat him at Survivor Series - but a year ago, at Rumble '07, Punk beat Matt - but still - these fans are just hoping, every day they see me come into this ring - that today will be the day that Matt Hardy gets his revenge for Wrestlemania.  I beat Matt Hardy half to death inside that Cell - and every day, these fans chant for him.  And every day, he lets them down. 

But you're the one who is here - Jeff - you're the one who is fighting for the title - and they cheer for Matt.  Isn't the truth that the reason for this new get up - the reason why you became the Blood Dragon - is because you can't stand being Matt hardy's baby brother.

Which is, actually, why he did it. 

So, they each try to get into the other's head.

Leading to Steamboat - Steamboat makes an appearance on GDI.

He's picked up on the Punk/WWF Title dissonance, and unsolicited, he comes to GDI to wish Punk well as ECW Champion.  Says he's beein fighting him for a year, since he threw down the WWF Title belt, and he's giving up.  Punk wins - congratulations.

See - Steamboat's realized that Punk's only the ECW Champion - and he just doesn't need him anymore.

(as to why he doesn't need him, we need to wait a little bit - but something happens in the WWF title match angle)

Steamboat shakes his hand - Punk looks shocked.  He shakes Colt's hand - Colt marks out 'cause it's Ricky Steamboat.  He kisses Maria's hand, checks her out a little bit.  And then he's gone.

That is part of Steamboat's denigrating of the ECW belt - which is in turn part of the larger angle that we'll get to later.  But in this stretch, which we foreshadowed in setting up the TV Title match - Steamboat puts down ECW as essentially a secondary league, a nice enough indie - not really for him or for real wrestlers - but nice enough.  And the ECW title represents a lot of hard work - but come on, they don't really need it anymore, do they?

That will be picked up by Bradshaw on Fridays and Dreamer on Tuesdays, as earlier mentioned.

It'll also be enough to draw Punk over to RAW, where he will make a fateful deal with the Dragon.

But that will have to wait.  For now - we've got Punk v. Jeff for the ECW belt at the Rumble in New York City.  It continues

Road to Royal Rumble 2008 - II

In Part 1, we set up the following:

WMD: Leviathan/Cena v. LWO: Chavo/Carlito
Undertaker v. Juggernaut
US Title:  Orton v. Noble

6 more.

Over on GDI, we start seeing taped pieces about Stevie Richards.  Like real world WWF, the backdrop will be that Stevie's been gone because of a series of painful throat surgeries.  Amplifying that, however, will be Stevie's role in this world - Stevie started the move from ECW to WWF (we're gonna jog ECW around the park one last time) with Stevie's Hardcore Family - first him, then the Dudleys, then Taz.  Stevie managed the Dudleys to the tag titles before losing control of the ECW invasion to Paul E.  Stevie then worked as a way underneath tag with Spike for a few years before emerging as RVD's manager after Van Dam split from Heyman.  Stevie was on the RVD/Sabu side in the last version of the hardcore war - managing them to a tag title - they lost the belts to Sandman/Dreamer (Tommy is now babyface color man for GDI, and after each of these vignettes, he puts over Stevie as a real embodiment of the spirit of ECW) who were backed by the GDI heel tag of Kendrick/Noble (they split in a feud over the Worldwide Title shot that Kendrick got, he lost to Orton - and then further split when Noble turned his back on the hanging of Paul London - that led to Noble's getting peddled for jobber Ulysses Morley (Val Venis).

Stevie disappeared then after Sabu's pre Mania turn, in the run up to the 3 way with RVD/Sabu/Punk for the ECW belt at XXIII - but now we learn why, it's the throat.

We learn two things from these pieces - Stevie's going to have to retire, he will leave wrestling, both managing and wrestling, after XXIV, his throat just is never going to recover, he can barely talk or swallow, and it's too dangerous.  And two - we learn that Stevie's never had a title of any type, either in ECW or WWF - and it's really his only regret.  He tries not to feel sorry for himself - but...but it's just been hard, harder than he wanted it to be.

The third vignette, just as Stevie starts to break down a little - is interrupted, the tape stopped - by Kendrick, who comes out to the ring with The Yakuza (Yang).  Yakuza, incidentally, is feuding with Little Warrior (Shannon Moore) and at this same time wins the right to have the next title shot - of any type - at any time - on GDI Wrestling. 

Kendrick says enough of this walk down memory lane - no one cares about some manager - no one cares about ECW. 

He's not the only person who has expressed this.  Bradshaw, the color man for the NWA, takes the opportunities the Friday after the first two Richards vignettes runs to rip ECW - saying he can't believe it's 2007 and he still has to listen to propaganda about a bingo hall.  They died, their style of wrestling died, most of their fans are dead - give it up.  And even Ricky Steamboat, as part of a bigger angle involving Punk we'll get to later, winds up denigrating ECW. 

Dreamer is the ECW defender - and he defends it now against Kendrick and Yakuza - the full on "the movement will never die" speech - Kendrick and Yakuza tear up an ECW flag - Dreamer gets full hot, is ready to go after them - but Josh Matthews, the play by play guy, makes clear the dictate that if any announcer gets physically involved - he loses his job.

That's another thread.

The following week, Dreamer cuts an in ring promo that goes after Bradshaw and Steamboat and the McMahon family and GDI and everyone else he can think of.  And he says the next week - Stevie Richards is coming to GDI.  And, Dreamer promises some surprises.

Next week - Stevie.  Stevie thanks the fans for the outpouring - Stevie should seem a little weak, a little tired - as if at the end of his road.  Dreamer says some friends wanted to say goodbye - Guido and Crazy come to the ring.  Dreamer says there's more special guests - and WWF announcers Styles and Taz make their first appearances at GDI.  Given Steamboat now digging in against ECW, and the longstanding enmity between GDI and WWF, this is a surprise.  Stevie is touched.  It's a moment.  Dreamer says he has one more surprise.

Bang, bang.

Cactus Jack.

Now, this is less of a surprise than might you think - as Foley needs to have appeared on RAW the night before, maybe the week before, but at least once.  We'll talk about that later - but the payoff from that angle as it impacts this is that Foley left RAW with Steamboat owing him a favor. 

And as the ECW crew stands together - Foley tells Stevie and the GDI fans what that favor is.

Next week - on GDI - there's gonna be a title match - MVP will put up the TV title...against Stevie Richards.

(Another ripple from Survivor Series - with the US Title being severed from the Worldwide belts, and Steamboat then taking some shots at ECW - Foley is positioned, when Steamboat needs a favor, to extract from him this title shot.  MVP is displeased).

The ECW guys are once again in attendance the following week (except for Joey and Taz, who are in the doghouse on RAW - Bradshaw has taken shots at all of this on Fight Night - and Steamboat upbraids them the next week, saying they have been WWF announcers for years - years - and they need to remember in this economy who signs their paychecks).

Stevie fights from underneath - but doesn't have enough - until Porter is attacked by Elijah Burke.

(Burke and Porter were Heat, protegee tag team of Booker, and there's more backstory than that if you are unaware - Porter wound up turning on them both at Summer Slam, punking them out, driving Booker from the company - Burke hasn't made an appearance since then either, gone 6 months - out of nowhere he emerges to take out MVP - allowing Stevie to get the StevieKick and the pinfall.  Stevie Richards is you new TV Champion.  The first title change of any type not on PPV in a quarter century.)

Ideally, bedlam.  This should be in Philadelphia or another traditional ECW city.  I'd do it in the bingo hall.

Stevie wins!  Stevie wins!  It's a full on impossible dream coming true thing.  Stevie Richards has won the TV Title.  Crying and whatnot.

Then emerge Kendrick and Yakuza.

Kendrick says hold it - Yakuza beat Little Warrior - he had the right to the next title match on GDI television.  Any title he wants.  And what he wants is a shot at the TV title.  And when he wants it is now.

And just like that - Yang is in the ring - there's a referee - the bell rings - and before anyone can regroup - Yakuza has pinned Richards and taken the TV title.

Boom. 

That sets up two matches.  It's going to be Yakuza against Little Warrior (Yang v. Moore) in a continuation of their feud at Rumble (Stevie, mammothly depressed, gets the long, slow walk from the building into nothingness) for the TV Title - and Porter will take on Burke for the belt he still has - the IC belt. 

5 matches down.  4 left.  It continues.

Road to Royal Rumble 2008 - I

Survivor Series is here.

The Rumble is comin' at you from MSG in January.

9 matches to set up.  Let's start at the bottom with the opening tag.

On Fight Night, sometime around the holidays, Arn cuts an in ring promo with Charlie at his side (Haas and Shelton were Strong Style, a tag team managed by Arn, since Charlie's return at..what XXII, I think) Arn explains that since Shelton was traded to the WWF (before Survivor Series there were trades, GDI sent Noble to WWF for Morley, then WWF sent Morley, Cena, Kennedy to NWA for Shelton, I mentioned it previously, but its import starts playing a role now).

Arn says since Dusty shipped Benjamin out (we learned that Arn didn't oppose the deal) he's wanted to get back into the tag team picture.  And while he doesn't have anything good to say about what happens on Monday, he kinda liked seeing the tag team title match a little higher on the card at Survivor Series (Michaels and Hunter bigtimed the traditional placement of the tag title match in their successful challenge for the straps, which created a series of butterfly effect consequences we'll see more of here) and he finally has found the right team to bring those belts back to Friday night. 

Arn says he's got two guys who have never teamed together before, two former tag champs - the first - making his Fight Night debut --- John Cena.

(Cena and Orton were underdog, almost comedy babyface champs, then turned almost comedy heel during the run).

Cena does his hyperintense thing and comes to the ring. 

Arn says his partner is not only a former world champion - but someone Arn's managed before - someone who won gold on his own, but never quite made it with Arn - and he wants to change that here.

(You're supposed to assume it's Charlie, as that fits his description - Charlie acts as if it's going to be he who Arn names).

But he doesn't - he names Leviathan.

(Leviathan is Batista, he and Flair were tag champs, then Arn began managing him when Flair seemingly retired to the front office - Flair and Arn swerved Batista and they've been on opposite sides since.  Leviathan beat Miz/Holly at Survivor Series and part of the run up was that he was searching for a tag partner.  And there you go.)

Charlie looks befuddled - Arn says that just like Benjamin, the truth was, he just couldn't cut it. 

Leviathan/Cena wipe him out - their finisher will be the Doomsday Device.  And that's how they'll be booked, no selling bad ass heels.  Gotta use what you have.  They're gonna be called Weapons of Mass Destruction.  They're gonna cut backstage blue screen promos.  They'll shoot bicep poses.  They'll backstroke all the way to MSG.

WMD will meet the LWO at the Rumble in the opening tag, winners get a title shot at XXIV.  That will be part of a larger deal Steamboat/Dusty put together that will be discussed later. 

WMD v. LWO in the opening tag at Rumble '08.

We've also got a match many months in the making - The Juggernaut Eddie Little (Umaga) meets the Undertaker. 

The Juggernaut debuted on the road to XXIII, he's a streetfighter, a combination Kimbo Slice/Necro Butcher, and Steamboat can't keep him in line at all - The Juggernaut has squashed multiple guys on the last two PPVs, really toying with them - he positioned himself against the Rey/Undertaker title match, believing he was the best fighter in the WWF - he ran in to take Rey out during the WWF v. NWA match at Saturday Nights Main Event to give the NWA the win and make its title match the main event at Survivor Series - and then he choked Undertaker out after his loss to Rey.   There's gonna be another big WWF/NWA match on the road to the Rumble that the Juggernaut will play a role in, but we'll get to that later.  Before that match happens, however - Steamboat will send the sneering, no respect Juggernaut home - this is a common role for the Undertaker historically, as clips will show - monsters have come into the company - beaten up lots of guys - and the Dead Man has been dispatched to take them out.  It's essentially his spot - he's the enforcer - he's the legend - he's the cleaner - he takes care of problems.

So - while there's one more piece of business Little has to do before we get there - it's Undertaker v. Juggernaut at Rumble '08.

7 matches left.  All title matches.

Okay - how'd that happen?

At Survivor Series, when Michaels/Hunter pulled their stunt moving themselves up the card, it was the Worldwide Title match that got bumped down.  Orton then didn't bring the US Title to the ring, we find out later that he refused to put it up as the match placement switch was a material distinction from his contract.  An odd catch for him to make.

Orton's called to the ring by Dusty - Dusty rips him, says he's bush league, says the US belt isn't really his.

Orton and Dusty have had problems before - Dusty didn't put him on the big interpromotional team before Survivor Series (he also turned down Leviathan) Orton said Dusty would regret it.

Orton says Dusty should be thanking him.  He still has a belt - his quick thinking - and the thinking of someone in this company who he actually trusts (just throwing down that thread now) got him to maneuver his way out of putting up the US Title - Orton saved the US Title for the NWA. 

Orton says the real problem is Dusty - Dusty's an accomodationist - Dusty's an appeaser - Dusty has taken a subordinate role to Steamboat - we oughta be making strikes against the WWF - not trades with them.

(this theme isn't going away).

Orton says Dusty Rhodes has let down the NWA.  Dusty isn't fit to be commissioner. 

Dusty chews him out, full on "you've got no respect for anything or anyone."

They're gonna do a couple of those dueling promos to establish this theme.  Orton defies Dusty's authority.  Dusty says Orton has no respect. 

Finally, Dusty says he can't just strip Orton - 'cause he hasn't done anything wrong technically - but he can make him put up the US Title at the Rumble.

Orton says there's no one worth defending it against.  That Dusty has ruined the prestige of the NWA, stripped the company of its honor - and now there's no one worthy of holding the US belt but Orton.

To challenge that assertion - Jamie Noble.

Orton dismisses him.  "What have you ever done in your whole career that makes you worthy of a US Title shot?"

Then we roll the clips from 2001 - Noble, in the old NWA (WCW) in a yearlong feud with Lance Storm (who everyone now calls 8, his Hart Foundation hockey jersey number) over the US Title - Noble never won, there's a clip of Dusty Rhodes, as storyline commissioner of the NWA in 2001, telling Noble that he put up a helluva fight at Superbrawl 2001 and deserved a rematch.  He never got one.  The NWA died, Lance took the US Title to WWF, and the US Title was unified with the ECW TV Title and the IC Title at Summerslam (won by Tajiri) to become the Worldwide Titles.

Almost 8 years later - Noble's still waiting for that rematch. 

And look what's happened here - he gets traded to the NWA and Orton's got the belt. 

We've got one more Noble/Orton thing to do before the Rumble - but that's the match, Orton v. Noble for the US Title.

Bringing us to the TV Title.  But we'll do that in part II.

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