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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 2015 (A Decade of..Well, Not Domination Exactly , But The Counterfactual Turns 10 Nonetheless)

Tuesday, December 01, 2015


Survivor Series is here.

(I started publishing the Counterfactual a decade ago.  Holy cats that's a long time.  My life has completely turned over since then. If you've been here since December, 2005 - I mean, I hope it's been a good ten years.  And it has, right?  And awful too.  I lost my house and my job and two members of my immediate family.  Just devastating.  And I got married, got a better job, and my clubs won 3 World Series, an NBA Title and the Niners even had a stretch as the best team in football.  It's a lot; you've had a lot too in the last ten years.  Whatever portion of that you've spent here in an alternate universe, I appreciate.  I don't know when it stops, there's no plan.  I was 35 then, I'm 45 now.  It seems unlikely that I'm still writing this at 55; it sort of seems unlikely that WWE still has its current configuration in ten years such that this still makes sense.  Here's a shoot - I haven't written but I've noodled around a post to be published upon my death - cause things happen, you know, and moreso than any of my other online presences, the one readership that I'd want to know I didn't just quit without notice would be this one.  Here's the deal I can make - if/when I stop, I'll give you warning if I'm able.

You know the other big difference between now and then - I used to say that this is the type of story that I'd want to read; I don't know if that's true anymore.  Not because I don't like the story, it's that I've largely stopped reading; a huge percentage of the time I used to devote to reading is now spent listening to podcasts and producing sports content on my other blog. Most of the sports analysis I consume is in podcast form; I think about that - I can talk a little bit, you don't know that about me but it's so, and sometimes I consider if it makes sense to turn the Counterfactual into a podcast.

My lean is no, not because I wouldn't listen to it (I would) it's that the difference between me now and me in 2005 is I wouldn't start this blog today.  I don't have the time to devote to what is purely a vanity project that I did ten years ago; I'd like to find a small revenue stream doing something that I enjoy, but that doesn't exist here.  It's a labor of love or some equivalent thereof.  If I were 35 in 2015, I think this endeavor would be a podcast, either additionally or exclusively.

But I'm not.  So it ain't.

Anyway, for as long as you've been here; for as many chapters as you've read - thanks.  It's an enormous, weird, satisying, half-crazy undertaking that will probably one day devour me.  And thanks to WWE for never quite staying on the right path.  What If Balor Beat Cesaro?...doesn't have the same level of righteous indignation.)

The Rumble is coming in January from Philadelphia.

Here’s the card.

WWF Title: Claudio Castagnoli v. Brock Lesnar(w/Heyman and Kenta)
Tags: Philly Street Fight: The Shield (Black/Ambrose w/Langston) vs. Booker T’s Mystery Team
Nick Nemeth v. Bray Wyatt
IC: Luke Harper v. Dustin Rhodes
John Cena v. Jack Swagger
Women:  Natty Neidhart v. Paige (w/4Ground)
Tyson Kidd v. Ka$h Kingston
Rusev (w/ GHB and Lana) v. Truth Killings
Usos (Reigns/Jimmy) v. Wade Barrett/Damien Sandow

Here’s how we get there.

The night after Survivor Series we meet the new GDI, Steen/Claudio/Generico/Pac; it’s a vignette, sometimes, I’ll say “promo” and mean vignette, the fewer RAW promos the better (and vignettes, as I’ve mentioned previously, are either verite or speaking directly to camera, as opposed to real world WWE vignettes/backstage segments which are nearly as bad as WWE promos (nearly - that in ring real world RAW promo, particularly to open the show is almost always an automatic FF for me)

They establish that Steen is the new leader of GDI; Steen says these are the nicest guys in the sport, Pac, Claudio, the nicest WWF Champion in history – and Generico, “if something were to happen to me and my wife, the guy under that mask who will raise my kids”.  (Under the mask is not throwaway language)

But, as he explains, that’s the problem – GDI’s too nice and so they get their ass kicked.  

Underground. Paul Heyman Guys. The Wyatts. It's war and GDI needs a wartime commander.  Steen says the GDI he liked was Punk’s GDI – he liked the guys who jumped into the Cell and nearly killed Edge and Matt Hardy at Wrestlemania. 

In the build, Steen cheats to win matches; the lesson being to the other GDI members that they should consider jumping on board.  Kevin Steen's a heel.  He's a heel surrounded by faces and a heel that will get cheered, certainly at the beginning, but he's an unapologetic heel.

In a subsequent RAW, Brock is the guest on Heyman’s Hustle, they do their comedy routine – it’s not serious Brock, Brock only cares about Danielson, no one else gets him going; he's still the only guy in the promotion whose name he knows (only one who has beaten him) they joke about
Paul cutting his commission on Brock’s purse for the Rumble because of his Swagger indiscretion, about where the victory party’s going to be, about how they’ll hold up the promotion when they need to book a title match for Mania.

Steen hits the ramp, says Brock talks like he’s the champ – but when Steen looks in the ring, he sees a guy who washed out of WWF, and New Japan, and the NFL, and UFC, and now is wearing the same number of titles around his waist as SG Ryback. 

Brock thinks this is funny, asks Paul who the fat guy with the jokes is. 

Heyman tells Steen that there aren’t any obstacles between he and the ring, feel free to meet Brock up close and personal.

Steen says nah, says one day Brock will learn his name, but not today – and he exits.

There’s a build for a Generico/Kenta match for the go home show, Kenta wins with Steen at ringside, as Kenta and Heyman go back up the ramp Steen attacks Kenta from behind ('cause he's a heel) that draws Lesnar from the back, and that draws Claudio, Pac and Generico – a full GDI v. Paul Heyman Guys brawl on the ramp, the result of which is multiple WWF referees wind up injured. (That there are fewer Paul Heyman Guys than GDI does not go unnoticed by Heyman)

Claudio, trying to extend his title reign for a full year, defends against Lesnar.

Trying to extend their title reign a full two years is The Shield and that’s their angle on the Rumble match; now that they’re the greatest tag team of all time, the next climb is 2 years – WWF Mt. Rushmore, in the Wrestlemania era only 3 men have two year long title reigns.  Savage.  Bret.  Angle. 

When The Shield keeps their belts at the Rumble and defends them – again – at Mania, that will mean a 2 year title run.  The Shield joins Mt. Rushmore (they’ll have some type of art to show this, their giant heads eclipsing the three legends referenced above).

After a Shield match – a surprise – the return of former WWF Champion Booker T.

Book says he’s heard a lot of talk about the Shield being better than all the past tag champs – but hasn’t seen them beat a lot of those champs.  20 years ago, Book says, he and his brother won the NWA Tag titles (clip) and ten years ago, he and GHB won the WWF tag team titles (clip)  Book says he’s retired, but he’s gonna come to the Rumble with two guys who are also former tag team champs, and in a Philadelphia Style Street Fight – we’ll find out if the Shield can hang with some actual legends.

Now can you dig that…sucka (GHB and Book can do one comedy vignette together at some point, harkening back to their largely comedy based mismatched tag partnership)

Three Wyatt Family matches.

The first thing we find out is that, with the latest example being Swagger/Cena from Survivor Series, if Bray/Luke Harper/Cena/Virgil interfere in any matches, they will not get a Mania slot. 
The second thing we get is a Wyatts vignette where Bray tells Harper he should give the belt to the Family.

Harper says no. “And my name is Luke Harper.”

Bray says he’s selfish, that if he had been Bray’s bodyguard at Survivor Series, then the Family would have the WWF Title, and the four of them could keep control of it for years.  Instead, Harper had to go on his own. 

“Luke Harper.”

Bray says he’s letting his brothers down.

Luke nearly snaps – getting in Bray’s face – says maybe Bray should let his brothers speak for themselves.

Virgil and Cena look at each other, it’s fair to consider that they perhaps are starting to question Bray – and Bray senses that also – he shifts the discussion, tells Harper that he’s right, he worked hard for that IC title and he should not hand it over.

Instead – he should give his brothers a chance to win it for themselves.  They’ve never had a shot at the IC title, either of them, and they’ve been in the WWF much longer than Harper has.  Bray says Virgil and Cena will fight and the winner will take on Harper for the title at the Rumble.

That bait was taken.  Whatever possible suspicion that Cena and Virgil might have felt about Bray becomes a hunger to take the IC belt.  Harper agrees to the match.

Virgil beats Cena.

 In the build, we see Virgil’s desperation; he started in the WWF a quarter century ago, backing up his dad in the Hogan feud.  He’s never wrestled for a singles title.  Through all the permutations, he now sits, having dispatched of both his brother and dad, one pinfall from winning the IC belt.

There’s an end of the build vignette with him quietly talking to camera expressing some version of this story and culminating in his saying that after 25 years, it wont be Virgil stepping inside the ring at the Rumble, it’s gonna be Dustin Rhodes. This draws some chatter, Dustin's been around forever - so even though he's evil, having just ended the WWF tenures of his father and Piper, one recognizes that's driven by an enormous hunger - and after a quarter century in what is clearly his last ever chance at a WWF singles belt, there will be people rooting for him.

That leaves Bray/Cena and Nemeth/Swagger from the feud that’s gone on since the Summer Slam build. Nemeth and Swagger have yet to tag together, except as part of larger teams and even then, they were careful not to physically tag.  That remains true here even as these four wind up together.

There’s one spot where Cena tries to goad them into teaming up against he and Bray, but Wyatt steps in and shuts that down quickly (Cena’s puffed up by Bray, that’s the control Bray has over him, but Bray knows the score, and Division One is portrayed as a little mythical, they started modern day Underground, came right up and won the belts, beat everyone and then broke up – it’s sort of like Foley turning into Cactus Jack).  But there's enough of a tease to generation some D1 buzz, it's not subtle. 

Bray takes on Nemeth; it’s Cena and Swagger one more time – at the Rumble.

As mentioned at Survivor Series, the next night we see 4-Ground (Paige/Sasha/Becky/Charlotte) take AJ out of the company; they put a couple of beatings on Natty in the build, can she keep her newly won belt away from Underground at the Rumble?

Kidd and Kingston started their feud in the build to last year’s Mania; it’s continued, Kidd as the hipster-y heel, with his knit cap and head phones, often worn at the same time; Kingston as the longtime “take any risk” babyface.  That starts to move a little here; Kidd seemingly broke kayfabe at Survivor Series postmatch with Natty, and now while his gimmick doesn’t change he does a lot of crowd pleasing high spots that should drive some cheers his way.

Seemingly unrelated – we get the debut of Dr. Xavier Woods, PhD.; he wears tweed sportscoats and turtlenecks, talks about the exigencies of 21st century sport necessitating rapid structural alteration, in other words, it’s time for “a new day” to dawn in the WWF.

Two more.

Truth Killings apparently believes he's the Iron Sheik and Rusev is Nikolai Volkof and why won't Nikolai talk to him?  They've got to get the belts back from Santana and Beefcake.  Killings goes over one of the Colons who he thinks are the Killer Bees, "B Brian Blair is Jew!" and then they cut his mic.

Killings tries to get Rusev to tag with him to take their belts back from the Shield "We will make Tito and Beefcake humble" - and eventually an irritated Rusev just lays him out.  Killings thinks Nikolai has been coerced by Albano (GHB) and Cindi Lauper (Lana) to turn against him and so we have a match.

Finally - Sandow is on his last possible chance, and with his former rival Barrett returning to action as his partner there's a lot of pressure for him to shake off his year and half long lethargy to beat the remaining Usos (Reigns and Jimmy as Jey died at TLC, furthering the TLC kills guys nature of the stip).

Add in a special show opening announcement from Stone Cold Steve Austin regarding RAW the night following the Rumble, and that's your show.

Claudio v. Lesnar - let's do it.  Royal Rumble 2015!







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