Older than Twitter. Not quite as profitable.
A pro wrestling counterfactual: What if the World Wrestling Federation was organized around workrate, around the idea that the pivotal word in the phrase "sports entertainment" is the first? Can one Ricky Steamboat pinfall put right what once went wrong?
Go to the earliest archived post; scroll to "it begins" and you're ready to roll.
“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.
-Coming out of this show, Ambrose/Black begin to be referred
to as the Shield, they’ll debut the X arm pose in just a minute. Black pins Hero.
Joey/JR/Heyman is your announce
We open on Foley in the ring for the traditional
Commissioner’s greeting – he announces that 29 is going to be in New Jersey and
references past Commissioners looking to imprint the upcoming year in some way
that reflected on who they are. Foley
says to that end, this is going to be The Year of Living Violently in the
WWF. Wrestling is the ultimate combat
sport and the WWF will lead the way in demonstrating why as we drive to 29 –
when the main event will be a singles match for the WWF Championship that will
feature the hardest hitting action that sports has to offer.
Foley exits – and we’re underway.
1.Colons d. Henry/Santino
2. Kidd/Gabriel (w/Cole) d. Usos
The two opening tag matches make up a seamless first
segment. Right after the opening match
entrances, the soon to be named Shield comes to ringside. After some quick spots Henry hits some type
of monster power maneuver, his momentum slides him out of the ring, he beats
his chest and then is whipped to the ground by the Shield. They make the arm sign (tomorrow will be the
new gear and the new name) and the Kings sprint down to the ring. Instead of attacking the Shield, they yank
Epico from the apron, take him out with a double team, and then begin jawing at
the Shield. Relatively quickly, Primo
gets the fall on Santino and then the two outside teams begin to brawl.
Cole runs down the ramp, waving in Kidd/Gabriel to aid their
Underground comrades – that’s going to bring the Usos to the ring – that’s
going to cause the non wrestling teams to fight their way back up the ramp and
we’re underway with the next match.
Cole stays at ringside to manage; he begins to distract the
official in a way that allows a doubleteam – that brings the third Uso, Roman
Reigns Uso, to the ramp – but before he can make his way to the ring he’s
attacked from behind by two men from developmental, Ryback and Langston
(Underground becoming a main show stable doesn’t end developmental, WWFU.com
continues to stream, and for the past year a new crew, now trained by Finlay
and Rotundo, has taken that spot). They
take him down, fairly quickly we get a finish, Kidd pinning one of the Usos
(let’s say the one who got real world pulled over for DUI). Langston and Ryback are going to hit some
type of monster double team maneuver on Reigns – but from the top of the set
piece (as high as it can be without killing him) comes crashing down the newest
member of GDI – Pac.
(Pac’s gonna wear a mask; it’s hard to say if/when he’s ever
going to be used, but since he doesn’t have to talk for awhile, I want the
ability to take his mask at some point.)
And that’s the first segment.
The second segment is the Clique – let’s say it starts with
a clip package and some sound they were able to get from the guys at
WWF100. Typical too cool for school
3. The Miz d. McIntyre (w/Regal)
4. Legends: HHH-M d. Undertaker
So, Miz is still a babyface, and as you know from the real
world, that’s not a great idea.
One of the interesting interactions is how the real world
informs this one; I know Bryan Danielson is the best wrestler in North America
because I saw him be that guy for years, it doesn’t matter to me what they do
with him in the real world – he’s locked in.
Miz on the other hand is different, I don’t know if he can be a capable
babyface – I knew he wasn’t a believable tough heel, which is why he remained a
chickenshit heel in this world – but now, the real world evidence is that he is
just fundamentally not capable of doing anything but that. That’s okay, even from where we stand now –
Miz has to fight from underneath, and is willing to take shortcuts to escape
danger. He’s a chickenshit face which is
a reasonable extension of the Clique brand.
And that’s how he goes over here, McIntyre is all brawler,
but still a little green, and even with Regal’s aid he gets outsmarted here,
Miz grabs the trunks on the fall but it goes unseen by the official and he’s
given the fall.
As Miz exits – he’s still on the ramp for Hunter’s
entrance. They go nose to nose – but Miz
then offers the Clique handsign which Hunter accepts.
There’s always a McMahon around somewhere at Mania – this
year it’s the Princess, who is identified as both being Hunter’s wife and a
member of upper management. She’s in the
front row and reacting to the Legend’s Match.
It doesn’t get the time, obviously, that the real world analogue did –
but they can do the abbreviated version of that match, this time with HHH going
Stephanie comes to the ring – there’s a hug – and then
entering the ramp is a familiar car.
Driven by Ricardo.
Ricardo, Vicki Guerrero, and Dos Caras, Jr. enter the ring.
Dos Caras says he has been on a long vacation with his now
fiancée Vicki Guerrero (Vicki flashes a giant ring) and now is ready to
definitively prove that he belongs to the greatest wrestling dynasty of all
The Miami fans may chant for the Rock, as he beat Dos Caras
under that same angle – that’s would be fine.
Dos Caras no sells it.
You see where this is going – Dos Caras says there’s only
one wrestling family left to vanquish – it’s the McMahons – and he challenges
Hunter to face him at Summer Slam.
Vickie says something obnoxious to Stephanie – she says
something vaguely derogatory about the Guerrero family that’s designed to get
people who care about that sort of thing super hot – and now we have our first
match for the next show.
The next segment steps things up a little bit.
5. Nick Nemeth (w/Kelly and Regal) d. Jack Swagger
6. ECW Title: CM Punk (w/Steamboat) d. John Cena
The reveal “who will Kelly side with” comes when Nemeth
walks down the aisle. Swagger’s sister
took the full build without deciding with whom she’d come to the ring – she
takes her boyfriend (the next night on RAW Nemeth's going to dump her for taking so long to decide, and that will wrap Kelly)
The story for these two matches is told by Heyman; recall,
in two of his Heyman Hustle segments he directly challenged Swagger and
Punk. He said the problem with Swagger
was not enough hate – and so the story of this match is despite all that Nemeth
has done to him, Swagger wants to beat his ex-partner and not annihilate
him. Nemeth looks to taunt Swagger
throughout the match, there’s also Regal from the outside – and even Kelly
decides to cheat on behalf of Nemeth.
That last one clearly stings Swagger – he’s always been a wrestling robot
– but that type of betrayal clearly gets to him – but as Heyman points out he
can’t turn his pain into hate – maybe he just doesn’t have that kind of
experience or he doesn’t have it in him.
Heyman discusses that’s what’s flawed about Underground – Regal can
teach you how to be a professional wrestler – but when you need to reach down
for something more than that, something you don’t get from a textbook or film
study or a thousand Hindu squats – something you only get from being a man who
has walked a lonely mile, that something
is either there or it is not – and it’s not there with Swagger.
And, Swagger loses.
And sits alone in the ring like a man who lost a match he could not
For those of you who are new, RVD was the last champion in
ECW, when WWF absorbed it, he came over with the belt (Rey did the same with
the NWA belt; in fact, all the tag belts and the main secondary belts also came
over with their final champions to protect the lineage – for about a year I’ve
been thinking about a way to position TNA for some similar result). The belts
were unified under Angle; Punk infamously threw away the WWF and NWA belts
after winning them which led to a brand split – he’d later regain both of those
belts and they were decommissioned.
Heyman was able to get the ECW belt put up in this match in
the build (Cena’s Wrestlemania staple is a light tube match, he took over that
spot from the Undertaker; the ECW brand obviously lends itself to a garbage
match and Cena beat Punk at the Rumble) Heyman argued (and like the Swagger
match, continues that argument here) that Punk’s problem is he isn’t enough of
a prick anymore. The guy who threw the
WWF belt down even though he knew the dressing room was going to shun him
forever is the guy who won 3 WWF titles.
The guy who has taken a step behind Danielson in GDI, who has graciously
accepted second place in the organization he started – that’s the guy who lost
to John Cena.
So that’s the story – and Heyman can use how he was proven
right in the Swagger match when making the case that Punk isn’t enough of a
prick to win this type of match – Heyman tells that story right up until Punk
finds inside what Swagger didn’t – say pulling out some barbed wire, tying
Cena’s hands and legs together, and then smashing him with light tubes until
he’s left pulp in the ring and covers him for the fall.
It should be enough that JR says Punk’s gone too far – that
even a Wrestlemania match isn’t worth that type of brutality – Heyman responds
by standing and clapping – Punk’s handed the ECW title into one of his bloody
hands which he raises high in the air – and as Heyman cheers Punk takes that
ECW title and drops it to the mat with complete disdain.
Punk wipes some blood away, flicks it on the ECW belt –
points at a shocked, just dumbstruck Heyman and laughs his way back up the
ramp, taking Steamboat's white towel from his shoulder to wipe away the blood from his face.
And here come your title matches.
7. Tags: Young Money d. Defiance
Heyman doesn’t talk during the match, conspicuous by his
silence. When the camera cuts to the
announce he just looks shellshocked -
occasionally he’ll mutter something like “that son of a bitch – that’s my belt
– my belt” and after the match he just gets up and leaves the announce for the
remainder of the show.
This is also a garbage match, Foley told Kingston that the
rules would be relaxed if he would reunite with Killings, who is, by all
appearances, a crazy man who has forgotten the last year of his life.
This doesn’t have the intensity of the previous match; not
everything can be the end of the world – Kingston jumps off a ladder, Killings
gets RKO’d on a table, it’s largely spots with subtle teases where we
might see turns from both teams. Orton
has a history of blaming his partners for losses – and if one believed Killings
was faking this amnesia that would make some sense.
But no turn comes – instead Kingston gets the highspot fall on Orton
and Young Money regains the belts.
8. IC: The Rock d. Sheamus (w/Regal) (Mick Foley - guest referee)
Take away the idea of the Rock as super hero and focus on
this actual matchup – what advantage does he have over Sheamus (who is younger,
tougher, and despite cosmetics, clearly in superior athletic condition)?
Experience – so that’s this match; Sheamus has the advantage
for most of the match, he roughs the Rock up, Regal is useful on the outside –
the Rock is outmatched – but what he has (besides the crowd) is experience,
Sheamus has been IC Champ for a year but is still a young wrestler – and the
Rock is not only a vet but a third generation vet – he wins this match with
guile, he uses ropebreaks, he sticks a thumb in Sheamus’s eye, he hits Sheamus
off the break and he wins the match by playing possum, suckering Sheamus in and
rolling him up into a small package. It
is a moment of joy for the Rock – he takes the belt into the crowd – it’s his
first ever singles belt at any level of wrestling and it happens years after
his retirement in his hometown.
The next night on RAW the Rock hands the belt back to Foley
– he says he wishes he could stay but he has commitments for the rest of 2012.
Foley asks what he’s doing next January – Rock says he has a
couple of free weeks at the end of the month.
Foley hands him back the belt and says he should keep it –
and come back in January to defend his IC belt against the winner of an 8 man
tournament, which will start at Summer Slam.
What we’ll eventually find out is those 8 men will be drawn based
on results of the Number One Contender Battle Royal (which occurs every other
year) – the winner will face the WWF Champ at Summer Slam and the last 8 men
eliminated will make up the IC tournament – the winner of which to face the
Rock at the Rumble.
9. WWF: Bryan Danielson (w/Steamboat) d. Chris Jericho
The champ goes over in the best possible match they can do.
Danielson is the top guy at the top of his game; the goal
here, in his first title defense as babyface world champion (at Wrestlemania no
less) is to have a match of the year candidate – Danielson’s fundamental
character trait, and the way he is sold, is based on match quality – watch this
guy and you might see an all time great match. No matter the style. This is showcase for what he can do.
That it’s against Jericho allowed for the bottle breaking
bit in the go home RAW to raise the stakes, and also allows for some continuity
with what is called the Workrate Era, the recent period dominated by
Those guys can’t provide any transition to, what is
hopefully, a new workrate era – but what we do have is Rey (both for his work
and his connection to Eddy) whose Mania unbeaten streak Danielson took last
year (is that Rey’s last Mania?) and Jericho (for his work, his long title
reign, and his connection to Benoit).
So there’s a handoff element here and that requires Jericho,
really for the first time, to face his wrestling mortality. There’s never been a period, maybe never a
match, where Jericho had to admit to himself that he wasn’t good enough – when he
arrived, it was Austin and Foley who were on top – but Jericho could correctly
reason that they wouldn’t be around for long.
He then got slotted behind the aforementioned three workrate stars – but
Jericho could then reason that this was a long game, that Benoit’s and Angle’s
maniacal intensity would burn out, and Eddy’s personal demons would consume
That left Jericho, and while his nearly two year run was
ended by Edge, it wasn’t because Edge was a better wrestler – Jericho’s
admittedly fragile psyche crumbled a little against Edge; he knew that – but it
wasn’t about skill, and with Edge gone – maybe the skies are blue.
But the Jericho story told in this match is his inability to
find anything that gives him a real advantage – he tries to go chickeshit like
the Miz – countered. He tries to find
that dickishness like Punk – countered. He
tries to be the savvy veteran like the Rock – countered. We see Jericho’s frustration, it’s as if he
wants to rip off his own skin (which we’ll see manifested in the stretch after
Mania where his customary suit will be shredded, he’ll still wear it – but now
it’s in tatters).
When Jericho finally submits to cattle mutilation, it’s as much because he has nothing left in
his bag as it is from the pain.
Danielson and Steamboat celebrate – the rest of GDI (including Punk) make
their way to the ring to join in – Wrestlemania 28 ends with the champ holding
the belt aloft while the rest of GDI raise their arms in triumph.