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 2018 (The Counterfactual Turns 13)

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Hey, first of all, it's December, that means it's anniversary time.  This is the 13th anniversary of the creation of the Counterfactual - that's a long time; if a wrestling promotion lasts 13 years you say "pretty successful, congrats."  It's entirely possible that someone reading these words had never even seen a wrestling match back when I started this in December, 2005. For those of you who enjoy the stuff, I'm glad - labor of love is an apt description. When we hit this point in the year, I do always consider if there's an end point.  I know it's not 2019, because I've got the main event program booked through WM35, which I'd be publishing in April, 2020.  I still enjoy it as much as ever, it still occupies more of my thoughts than it should - I still process all of the IRL big 4 PPVs through a "what guys do I get to use" prism - so I'm not planning on stopping in 2020.  However - 2 years from right now the blog will turn 15 and I'll have turned 50.  There's enough symmetry there that it could be I might shut the lights two years from now after Survivor Series 2019. I'm not planning to do it - but it is something I'll consider. If a month passes prior to that and you don't hear from me...well, that ain't good and you can start fighting over my stuff.  Thanks for reading.  Left to right.  Line after line.  It's fantastic.  

Survivor Series was here.

Royal Rumble 29, the 124th PPV in WWF history, is in January from Philadelphia.

It’s the 5th WWF PPV from Philadelphia:

{Summer Slam ’90 (Hennig kept the WWF Title over Savage in a cage)
WM 15 (Cactus took the WWF Title from Owen in a Pure Wrestling match)
Rumble ’04 (Angle took Eddy’s WWF Title)
Survivor Series ’06 (The pivotal moment of the first decade of the century, Punk took the WWF Title from Flair and then threw the belt down)
Rumble ’15 (Brock took Claudio’s WWF Title)

8 matches on the card.  Let’s start with the IC:


The night after Survivor Series, RAW begins with the announce quickly filling us in, the WWF Title has been held up, an announcement will be made about how it will be filled later tonight; Bryan Danielson suffered a concussion last night and there is no timetable for his return. 

And then Brock Lesnar’s music hits.

With this successful defense last night over Kurt Angle, Brock will go into the Rumble as IC Champ for a full year. 

(Each IC Reign of 1+ years:
Pedro Morales (1 year, 2 mos)
Don Muraco (1 year, 1 mo)
Roddy Piper (1 year)
Randy Savage (2 years)
Bret Hart (1 year, 10 mos)
Shawn Michaels (1 year, 2 mos)
Cactus Jack (1 year)
MVP (1 year, 5 mos)
Sheamus (1 year)
The Rock (1 year)}

Since the moment Lesnar won the IC at Rumble ’17, Heyman has been proclaiming him to be the “real world’s champion” and you can understand, after nearly a year, that when he comes to the ring to begin RAW after a PPV, in what has traditionally been the spot reserved for the WWF Title – that when he and Brock come to the ring knowing the WWF Title is now vacant – you can understand that Paul is going to cut a “I told you so” promo.

It’s full triumphalism for Heyman and Lesnar – even a suspension that has kept Brock from challenging for the WWF Title couldn’t keep Lesnar down – he has overcome everything in his path – CM Punk, gone, Bryan Danielson, gone – heck, GDI got blown to bits.  And now, Brock Lesnar has defeated Kurt Angle and stands alone as the Reigning, Defending, Undisputed, Real World’s Champion. Brock comes to the ring with two belts, the IC - and a belt that Heyman had made "The Real World's Championship Belt"  It's enormous.  

(Brock’s been a babyface for awhile, which means the fans cheer him as opposed to Brock really doing anything differently.  But that extra F5 at the end of the Angle match last night, was a sign that maybe we should shift our Lesnar thoughts – and now Paul reminding us that Brock’s main feuds were against babyface heroes Punk and Danielson – that’s signaling that heel Brock is back in the building)

Paul says Brock’s not going to sit around and wait for another challenge – who Brock wants is Shelton Benjamin. 

Paul does whatever level of “here’s the history of Brock and Benjamin” needed to sell that fight and we move forward.

Beats to hit during the program:

-Benjamin accepts the following week, obviously – the IC is the only belt he’s never won, so, like Angle, he is wrestling for the Triple Crown – that’s the highest honor in the sport, so we just roll the discussion prior to Survivor Series over.

-In the way that Brock, despite all of his accomplishments, still felt a need to vanquish Kurt – Benjamin feels the need to vanquish Brock.  Whether as an amateur wrestler in Minnesota; or from their mutual days on the MTV show Camp Angle, or when Brock overshadowed Benjamin as Kurt’s chosen pupil, or when Benjamin then went to work for Brock as a member of Team Lesnar – it was always (1) Brock and (2) Benjamin.  Obviously, the intervening years have shown much, much more success for Brock – and at this point in their careers, with more fights behind them than ahead of them – this is clearly Benjamin’s last, best chance to rewrite his history.

-Benjamin starts working with American Alpha; we’ll talk about that when we get to the Alpha match, but he serves a mentor role in a couple of vignettes.

-Brock only appears a couple of more times in the build just so Paul can keep beating the appropriate drum.  In the final appearance, a couple of weeks out of the Rumble, Brock is attacked from behind by Benjamin – he hits Paydirt on Brock and then really goes to work on that injured Brock elbow (Brock’s had an elbow thing all year, Angle almost was able to use it to steal a win) stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp. 

-The announce sells this as less a heel move and more a “this shows you how important this is to Benjamin, he will do whatever it takes at the Rumble to beat Brock Lesnar!”


-Virtually every man in the promotion is around the ring or on the ramp for the main event segment of RAW the night following Survivor Series.  The WWF Title is on a stand in mid-ring.  On the video wall, direct from his office in the White House, is HHH-M.  Hunter jokes that given President McMahon signing a bill to dramatically increase the inheritance tax for estates of over a million dollars, both he and Stephanie are hard at work.  Hunter says the Commissioner, Bryan Danielson, is resting comfortably, but there is no timetable for his return.  However, he has put together the following plan regarding the WWF Title:

-Given the controversial double pin finish last night (both Devitt and AJ pinned Joe simultaneously after AJ drilled Danielson with a flying forearm smash resulting in a second referee needing to enter) the WWF Title is held up.

-20 men will compete at the Royal Rumble in a Royal Rumble Warfare Match (modeled after Dark Ride Warfare, a rumble style battle royal in which pinfalls and submissions are also eliminations in addition to being thrown over the top rope).

-12 (it'll wind up being 14) of those men will be announced prior to the event.  No faction will have more than 3 entrants.

-Understandably, that’s perceived as a shot to the Bullet Club. 

-Who also views this entire idea as a shot is Joe, RAW ends with much hubbub around the ring, each man believing, even if for a moment, that he is about to become WWF Champion.  Joe was WWF Champion just 24 hours before, and hearing that he won’t get a rematch, despite fighting a 1 on 2 match a good portion of the night before, causes him to take the tape off his hands and walk up the ramp and disappear as the show ends. 

-The next week on RAW is a taped vignette in which the Bullet Club considers what to do.  They have 4 guys (well, six, but Anderson and Gallows are otherwise occupied, as we’ll find out later) and only 3 spots.  The decision is a tag match, whomever drops the fall drops out of the battle royal. 

-How do they decide who the tag partners will be?  They put a gun on a table (it’s the goddamn Bullet Club after all; I’m deciding that in a taped piece, we can use a gun) Becky spins it, and whomever it points to gets to pick his partner.  It points to Black.  You’d expect him to pick Devitt – but Black says at Survivor Series, Shinsuke stepped up when he needed someone; and now they are brothers. 

-It’s AJ/Devitt against Nakamura/Black the following week.  They have a long competitive match – Nakamura needs a tag, but Black suddenly has a cramp in his leg, hops off the apron – and Nakamura eats a Prince Devitt pinfall.

-The full Bullet Club then gets in the ring, Devitt says that he knows Shinsuke must be disappointed, but he’ll get his chance someday; and since the other 6 members of the Bullet Club all have title matches at the Rumble, Shinsuke will be invaluable as a bodyguard.

-If that feels disrespectful, it’s supposed to.  Nakamura pauses – looks at each member of the Bullet Club, stares hard at Black, who is doing an overly exaggerated rubbing of his quad, and Nakamura quits.

-He drops the mic down and attempts to exit the ring – he’s blocked by Anderson and Gallows; Devitt says wait a second – this isn’t something you quit – this is the Bullet Club, when you’re in the Bullet Club that’s for life. 

-The Club starts to surround Nakamura now; he stares at each of them – tells them they will regret this

-Black takes the microphone; tells Nakamura it’s time someone told him the truth, the reason Black was brought into the Club in the first place is Nakamura was a whiny little bitch who spent month after month in Dark Ride when his squad needed him.  Devitt had a broken skull, AJ was trying to hold onto the WWF Title – and Nakamura was nowhere to be found.  Black gets in his face “the reason you didn’t know I was joining the Bullet Club is I was here to replace you.  You don’t quit this.  This quits you.”

-And then they stomp him out.  AJ is last man in, he and Nakamura grew closer this year, and he hesitates for a moment  - just long enough that you might think what he’s going to do is aid Nakamura in fighting off the rest of the Bullet Club. 

-But he doesn’t – he joins in (Black kicks feverishly, his leg mysteriously healed) and eventually Nakamura has no fight left, goes down – and gets buried under the Bullet Club flag. 2 years after he began the Bullet Club invasion - Nakamura lies in ruins under his stable's flag.

-This brings AJ/Devitt/Black closer together; we see them go over the New Day in a 6 man; we see them cut promos together – their strategy is clear, they will work together, eliminate everyone else, and then let the chips fall.  The WWF Title is coming to the Bullet Club. 

-AJ also cuts a promo on Danielson.  He says, of course his forearm smash to Danielson’s temple was inadvertent.  If it were intentional, he’d clearly be suspended; in fact, he would almost certainly be kept from ever fighting for the WWF Title again.  So, that means it wasn’t intentional.  But it was a helluva good shot, right?  Caught him flush.  You know what you call a forearm that finally – finally drives Bryan Danielson out of the WWF entirely?  The Best Forearm In the World.  

-Each of the dozen men who are named for the Rumble will do promos in the build; the go home Fight Night will be a 4 corners 12 man match. 

Bullet Club: AJ, Devitt, Black (AJ is a former WWF Champ, Devitt has never held a belt in the WWF, Black was part of the longest reigning holders of any WWF belt in the modern era)
Underground: Nemeth, Kalisto, Crews (Kalisto and Crews are an exciting babyface tag team; Nemeth is a heel, but always stands with his Underground comrades regardless of their persuasion.  We see Nemeth in an angle during the build ---- with Broken Matt Hardy.

-The Hardys came back at Mania, won the tag titles, then lost them at Summer Slam and vanished.  But Matt returns in vignettes from the Hardy Compound in North Carolina.  He laments his lack of gold, what will become of his Broken Brilliance?  We see Matt visited by the Ghosts of Hardy Past (anyone from OMEGA, we can get some use from Shane Helms, as he worked IRL Rumble) Ghosts of Hardy Present (ideally the Young Bucks, even if they have to wear masks) and Ghosts of Hardy Future (King Maxel, and ideally someone similar in age) and they all work to convince Matt that all isn’t lost despite the loss of all of his gold. 

-At some point, a couple of segments following a vignette airing on RAW is a Renee interview with Nemeth, unrelated to Hardy.  Nemeth starts talking about whatever he is supposed to talk about and then stops to cut a promo on Hardy “what the hell are we watching here; if Matt Hardy wants to wrestle for this promotion, he should get his ass to this ring.  I am a Triple Crown holder; I am a legend; and I’m here busting my ass week after week while we put some old crazy man’s home movies out on the air? It’s insulting.  I don’t want to see that crap again.”

Random Babyfaces: Kevin Steen, Langston, Bray Wyatt (Steen, in his Kid Canada persona, will appear via video wall as part of a later match; during an interview with Renee, he completely denies being Kid Canada, says he’d never want to cover up such a pretty face). Langston being in this match indicates which two members of the New Day will be in a match discussed later, Bray is really now a bottom card act, he and Harper remain aligned, but Luke can’t stay healthy. 

Random Heels: Claudio Castagnoli, Roman Reigns-Uso, Jack Gallagher (Claudio doesn’t speak a word of English, he and Renee have an act; she’ll ask questions in English, Claudio will answer in any other language, Gargano, standing next to Claudio, yells at the fans who don’t appreciate Claudio, and acts as if he understands what Claudio is saying; Reigns is in this match, telling us who the two Usos are who will defend the tag titles, Gallagher is part of a Dark Ride British Invasion that’s going to get some discussion during the Dark Ride segment later)

In the match, we get the rivalry spots (Claudio/Steen; Langston/Reigns but not Black/Langston, although they jaw at each other; Steen against the Bullet Club, Bray against the Bullet Club).
Devitt eliminates the heel team by pinning Gallagher; Gallagher had a flash nearfall on Devitt, a 2 ¾ situation, that Devitt sold as shocking and angering, and then Devitt pinned him.  Bray eats a pinfall; Crews survives multiple nearfall attempts; enough that the announce plays up his resilience, before he’s finally pinned.

The Bullet Club wins; all 3 men stand alone in the ring – the clear implication that if the Bullet Club can remain together, they’ll be able to overcome the rest of the field. But then the other 9 men all storm the ring and throw the Bullet Club over the top – the implication being that if everyone else were to band together, they’d be able to defeat the Club.  And the show concludes with Claudio attacking Steen, starting a full brawl among those 9 men, because how could they ever possibly all work together?


-We got a taste of this in the big 7x7 go home before Survivor Series; these two cocky heel tag teams going at each other.  That’s the tenor of this build – the Usos say they are the best tag team in the world, they prove it day after day, year after year – and it’s time for Anderson and Gallows to shut up about their IWGP Titles.  Anderson and Gallows say the Usos aren’t even one of the two best teams in the world (they say that wearing Young Bucks shirts).  Usos make a superkick party reference. 

-My rule of thumb – if they haven’t touched, you keep them from touching until the match.  If they have touched, then get them in the ring to build the match.  We’re going to do some 6 man matches; Reigns obviously joining the Usos and it’s going to be Black joining Anderson/Gallows (we continue to see that, post Nakamura, the Bullet Club becomes closer – it’s the two year anniversary of their invasion of the WWF, the Royal Rumble is their event – they say that Philly is a Bullet Club town).  They trade falls; Reigns gets a fall on Black, and in the rematch Black gets the fall on Reigns (Reigns just turned heel, so you want him to get a big pinfall, and since both men are in the battle royal, this helps build some animosity).

-They also do a mixed 6 person tag, Becky and Naomi added to the match, Becky getting the fall.


-American Alpha and Revival came up through developmental together; for watchers of the WWFU livestream, they’ve been able to watch all four men from the moment they signed their contracts to the development of their characters to their rivalry in Underground, to their rivalry on the shows that were the precursors to Dark Ride Wrestling.  And on the main roster, they were positioned against each other when each was added to the Bullet Club/Horsemen program.

They don’t hate each other, it’s not a blood feud – but it is highly, highly competitive as these two are career long rivals.  And one of them will finally get a title shot at Wrestlemania.

This is a series – best two of 3.  Obviously, they split the two matches.  They add a third, a 6 man, with Benjamin joining Alpha and Arn going out to find a third man to join the Revival – winner of the match gets to pick the stip for the deciding third match.  Arn finds Drew Gulak, and while he’s going to eat the fall from Benjamin, the announcers discuss how impressive he was in this spot, and he’ll later be announced as the 13th entrant into Royal Rumble Warfare. 

Alpha says they want a 2 of 3 falls stip at the Rumble – one of these teams is moving to the biggest match of their lives – they want to make sure there’s no doubt at the end of the night which team is best. 

-Becky has held the title since WM33, a win and she’ll be the first woman in the modern WWF to hold the title for a full year.  She rolls through some small feuds with Naomi and Nia Jax; Becky’s doing this by herself, and that’s the story of this build – every other member of the Bullet Club is occupied with title matches at the Rumble, so no one will be in Becky’s corner when she defends the title.

-It’s about ¾ through the build before the challenger is named – it’s not supposed to be surprise, Becky’s baiting the fans “I’ve beaten everyone here – there’s nobody left – who could possibly be worthy of a title shot”?

-The fans wave their “Whatever-0” signs, “Who’s Next” signs – they chant Asuka – Becky no sells every week.  Until finally Becky says “well, I guess I’ll get the night off at the Rumble, no one here can lace my boots.” – the camera cuts the back and we get the Asuka walk, see Asuka come through the curtain, see the Asuka pyro – Asuka, unbeaten Asuka who has captured the imagination of the WWF fans like no woman in history – she makes her way to the ring.  Asuka and Becky go nose to nose – Asuka says “You’re Next” and the people react as they will.

-After nearly 4 years, Rey Mysterio returns to the WWF to face El Generico as part of the Tres Bon Mask Challenge.  Mysterio is a Triple Crown winner; Mysterio was the last NWA Champion before they were taken over by WWF.  Lot of taped packages in the build as he’s not going to appear in person; the thrust is he’s the greatest masked wrestler of all time; there’s a nod to the more culturally significant wrestlers, but in terms of pure work, it’s Mysterio and then there’s everyone else.  So – that he’s returning for one night only to wrestle Generico is  seen as a great honor. 

-Generico gets some workrate wins against Alexander and Tozawa; there’s one taped message on the video wall from Kid Canada – he says if Generico can defeat the greatest masked wrestler of all time he will have reached the pinnacle of his career. 

-The backbone of Dark Ride Wrestling has been the feud between a collection of veteran babyfaces (Somba/Kenta/Hero) and the newest incarnation of GDI (Cole/O’Reilly/Fish) multiple additional members of the roster get worked into that program during the cycle, leading to a couple of large full scale brawls with multiple stables such that a lumberjack match…well, it doesn’t make sense as much as it promises the possibility of altercation.  There are 20 lumberjacks, 18 are announced, 2 are a surprise.  There’s a definite tradeoff to being in this match – if you wrestle on PPV you’re ineligible to compete for the Dark Ride Title for a year, so that’s a chance given up by both Cole and Sombra in order to work the Rumble.  Lumberjacks are not wrestling and therefore remain eligible.

  1. Kenta (He’s mainly programmed with O’Reilly, but there are lots of tag combinations with the two main stables)
  2. Hero  (He’s mainly programmed with Fish)
  3. Fish (see above)
  4. O’Reilly (see above)
  5. Tozawa (Tozawa and Alexander begin tagging, their team is called Blood Warriors International, and its made clear their relationship is due to Dragon Gate)
  6. Alexander (see above)
  7. Dunne (Nigel and Regal are relatively friendly antagonists as color analysts for RAW and Fight Night, but where they overlap is in the influx of British talent which has come to Dark Ride Wrestling.  They can sometimes be seen together just sitting in the crowd during a Dark Ride broadcast.  The Brits have largely been segregated to working each other; those matches increase in intensity during the build to the Rumble; Gallagher, as previously noted, got a spot on the PPV)
  8. Bate (see above)
  9. Seven (see above)
  10. Strong (The Dark Ride Wrestling Champion, also a member of the Four Horsemen, he and Roode work a program with Trash)
  11. Gargano (Gargano is a member of Trash, which currently consists of he and Claudio, he wants to be known as Johnny Trash.  He and Claudio tag against Roode and Strong, that adds to the Strong/Gargano program and gives Claudio and Roode some juice headed to the Rumble, Roode is named as the 14th participant.
  12. Aleister Black (in a program with Velveteen Dream)
  13. Dream (see above)
  14. Ali (in a program with Buddy Murphy and Lio Rush, Rush is the babyface, Murphy is a heel, Ali is in between - Murphy occasionally works in 6 mans with AoP)
  15. Murphy (see above)
  16. Rush (see above)
17-18. AOP (they’ve been working Nicholls and Haste)

-Orton and Cena got a heel tactics win over Sheamus and Mizanin at Survivor Series; we’re going to run that back with the addition of the New Day. 

And that’s your show.  Back in January for Royal Rumble 2018


Booyaka said...

Problem: Cedric Alexander literally never wrestled for Dragon Gate.

Jim said...


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