WWE 2K16 FaM Pandora Review

NOTE: The following review has been written out of passion and respect for the writers and those that make FaM as big as it is. Forever A Movement has always been a league that cares passionately about the fans and this review will highlight some of the brilliance that FaM put together for their Pandora event as well as discussing some of the areas of the writing and booking that could possibly have been improved. The Armbar Express respects the efforts and the man hours that everyone involved with putting the show together puts in, and this is not by any means an attempt to slander the product. We do not wish for anyone to take these comments to heart, as this is simply the views of one fan who is looking forward to seeing Forever A Movement go from strength to strength. Please enjoy the review and feel free to tweet me @TomRobinson5199, @ArmbarExpress or leave me a comment with your thoughts on the show. I will appreciate the feedback on my work and I’m sure the boys at FaM will appreciate your honest thoughts on the future of the clan.

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WWE 2K17 arrived in October 2016, with WWE Games clan FaM saing goodbye to WWE 2K16. The game had previously hosted Survival and a few weeks of content including a Money in the Bank tournament, and had been good to FaM. Before they moved onto the new game though, the league decided to give its fans one last mega event on 2K16 with FaM Pandora.

The show would continue on from the shocking revelations at FaM Survival, building on the grand reveal of Rom Buster’s brother Ranik as the anonymous general manager, the real leader of the SES and the fourth founding member of FaM as a whole. Having destroyed Rom Buster at the end of Survival, putting the fear of god into BlackHeron and beating Gunnz in his FaM “debut,” his past disciple Andy Badwool was the only one left on Ranik’s hit list. In a match for control of FaM, the future of the league was interesting to wonder about as well as the fate of Pandora’s Box, the Money In The Bank briefcase and the FaM World title.

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Pandora stated with a grudge match between Cameron Bash and William Kingdom, a ladder match for the Money in the Bank briefcase. These two had beef with each other ever since FaMniversary III and had both been in a tournament, making it this far. This was the opening match of the show and by god, was this ever a great way to start off the show.

This was a fantastic ladder match, with both men taking the greatest of bumps onto the ladders. There was great brawling from the get-go. Bash did the Big E spear to the outside, which is not something that I’d encourage any wrestler to do in real life! I always fear the worst whenever Big E pulls this off. Bash would try again but Kingdom moved out of the way, resulting in Bash landing onto the big pile of ladders on the outside. It looked like it sucked for Bash on so many levels. They had Kingdom whip out some athleticism, including the handspring cutter that Lucha Underground’s Fenix would normally do.

Kingdom’s punishment to Bash included a small package brainbuster and a sit-out powerbomb on the ladders. Kingdom countered an attitude adjustment into a cutter on the outside. We had an absolutely awesome spot where Kingdom’s spear was countered into a spinebuster through the barricade. It was really executed in terms of the editing and the gameplay, and this looked really good. An innovative spot that FaM should be really proud of.

Kingdom somehow pulled off a coast-to-coast cannonball, which was pretty unbelievable. Kingdom seemed like the better man in this match, hitting the majority of the big moves in the battle. Kingdom caught Bash with a cutter in mid-air onto a ladder. The ending was really well done, with the drama being at its height with the two big men battling on top off the ladder. Kingdom went for a cutter from the top of the ladder but this was reversed into a Bash Bottom off the ladder instead. Bash grabbed the briefcase and won.

A fantastic way to start off the show with a drama-filled battle from start to finish. These two beat the living hell out of each other and even though Kingdom seemed like the better man in the match to me, it’s not like Bash was completely destroyed and then just picked up a fluke win. Kingdom had hit the cutter a few times and when he went for it again, Bash was able to see it coming and countered it. The finish made sense considering how personal this rivalry had become. I’d call it an overwhelmingly great end to the program between these two.

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Rom Buster took on Killswitch. I have all the respect in the world for Rom Buster in terms of the person himself that has done so much for FaM in order for it to evolve. He’s the ultimate worker and is extremely passionate about the product. The CAW himself has a great look and a great moveset. However, at the moment, his character right now is exactly the same as Dolph Ziggler’s character (his character up until No Mercy anyway). Dolph Ziggler’s character is the ultimate worker that puts on all these great matches but can never win. Rom Buster’s character is shockingly similar in the sense that he’s supposed to be one of, if not the, biggest star in FaM but yet he’s a big loser too.

Rom lost to Andy Badwool at FAMinversary II, Rom lost to Andy and BlackHeron at Survivor Series, he lost in the Royal Rumble, he lost to BlackHeron at FaMniversary III and he lost to Ranik at Survival. This dude is in all of the biggest matches and storylines, yet he’s failed to win in a lot of these big matches. He looks great in the ring but as a main-eventer, he’s had barely any success at all. I figured that maybe the plan was for Rom to eventually work his way through Betrayal and all the heels, eventually beating Ranik in the end which would have been great. Rom having to run through everyone that’s beaten him in the past and eventually facing of with Ranik at the end. Maybe he beats Killswitch and then Ranik forces Rom to fight both members of the Skilled Foundation, then Roberto, then BlackHeron, then Darin again and then 2TM and then it’s Ranik at FaMniversary or something. Some big plan which builds up both Rom and Ranik as unbeatable badasses which leads to a match where only one brother can win and rule FaM.

Instead, on the pay-per-view after Survival, Rom is beaten by his former tag team partner Killswitch. I can’t speak for the rest of the FaM viewers but it’s hard for me to feel sympathy for a guy who gets beat in every big match he’s in. He did get beat through shenanigans in this match but he did get beat clean by BlackHeron at FaMniversary and against Ranik at Survival. I don’t understand why Rom had to lose again. Why should I care about the guy after this? According to the storyline, he’s a loser who can’t win when it counts.

It’s very unlikely but in the off-chance that Rom’s done being in the main-event, fine. I have no problem with Killswitch winning if Killswitch is getting a push and Rom’s not in the main-event scene anymore. That’s fine. If the ultimate goal is for Rom to win control from Ranik, then I don’t think it helps Rom for him to lose against Killswitch.

The match itself was actually a good one. The finish saw an awesome spot where Killswitch went for a dive to the outside with Rom catchng Killswitch with an X-Ray. That was one of the spots of the night. Rom brought him in the ring to finish him off. The lights went out and Rom was taken out by a man in a hoodie with a chair. Killswitch hit the Super Switchback and won. It was revealed that the man that took out Rom was Sander, formerly of the SES. A SES Civil War actually sounds appealing in the middle of this conflict with Rom. If the plan is for Rom to be out of the main-event picture for a while, which it probably is with the stipulation of Rom not getting another crack at Ranik if he lost, then I have no problem with this.

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BlackHeron challenged Deaths Angel for the CyberFaM Championship in a steel cage match as selected by the fans. Let me just give you a brief run down of this championship history and explain why Deaths Angel is currently the champion. Cameron Bash, who was the rightful champion, gave up the title as he was in pursuit of the World title instead. Deaths Angel lost in a world title match at Survival. Bash GAVE the CyberFaM championship to Deaths Angel, actually GAVE Deaths Angel this belt. Deaths Angel didn’t win this championship. Bash basically said “I feel sorry for you so here’s my belt while I move onto a different title.” That’s one thing, especially when the heels were apparently so outraged by this. Ranik and Darin were so outraged by this that they somehow forgot that they can surely veto this title transcation or at least force them to have a match as they’re RUNNING the company?

So Deaths Angel is the champion. He defended the title against BlackHeron. They have this match in the cage. BlackHeron beat the crap out of Deaths Angel. He german suplexed him off the top of the cage. BH tried his Black and Gold Powerbomb but Deaths Angel countered with a Yoshi Tonic in a clever spot. BH finally gave him the Black and Gold Powerbomb for a nearfall. Deaths Angel superkicks BlackHeron for a near fall. Deaths Angel knocks BlackHeron down in the battle on top of the cage. Deaths Angel is on top of the cage. Rather than escaping with the title, he tried a HURRICANRANA off the top of the cage. BH catches him, hits the powerbomb and pins him to win the championship.

So not only was Deaths Angel given a championship that he didn’t even earn, he lost that championship after being stupid and jumping off the cage. Rom claimed that Deaths Angel wanted to jump in order to make sure of the victory and to put BH away for good. So apparently, a HURRICANRANA is the best way to do that?

I always hated it whenever a wrestler is about to win a cage match and jumps, especially in a match like this. If you’re in a heated rivalry like the Edge/Matt Hardy cage match from Unforgiven 2005, that’s one thing. This was a random mid-card title match between BlackHeron and Deaths Angel. Didn’t seem like the intensity was high enough for a spot like that.

As this was all confusing enough with the CyberFaM title, things got even more confusing.

BlackHeron celebrated with the championship when of course, Darin buzzed in. He wanted to make sure that the title was firmly within their grasps. Therefore, he ordered that BlackHeron LAY DOWN for him and basically hand the title over to him. Darin came down and BlackHeron allowed Darin to pin him and win the title.

So for the record, the title was vacated by Cameron Bash and given to Deaths Angel for no reason, BlackHeron beat him for the title and now DARIN won the title after BlackHeron laid down for him. Again, with all due respect to Forever A Moment, this title seems so meaningless to me right now. Perhaps a strong Darin title reign could change that.

With that said, this was a pretty good cage match.

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It was supposed to be Sledder, Darin, Nic Virtue and Gunnz in a four kings ladder match for Pandora’s Box. Sledder’s theme was a cover of Voodoo Child and was a pretty damn great one. Ranik buzzed in as it was time for Gunnz to come and talked about how he beat him and what Rafazo did to him. Ranik informed us that Gunnz would not be involved and that his replacement would be Betrayal member Roberto. Gunnz being out of the match was not something I was particular fond of as he would fit in really well in a match like this.

The rules of the match were as followed. This started as an elimination match, with only two men being allowed in the ring at one time. The ruling was that you could enter the match if somebody else was thrown out of the ring or made their way to the outside. No need for a tag-in although Darin and Roberto were tagging each other in as normal. There was an awesome use of this rule when Nic was looking for a dive on Darin on the outside when Roberto cut him off with a huge clothesline. Simple but effective!

Nic Virtue got the hot tag in this match were you didn’t need to tag in order to get involved. Nic hit the superkick to eliminate Roberto. It was at this point when it was made clear that this part of the match was no disqualification. With this in mind, Roberto hit the choke bomb on Sledder and Darin tapped the sheriff out with a STF.

The final part of the match between Nic Virtue and Darin was the ladder match portion of the match. Despite this, Darin tapped out Nic with a STF. Darin hit an insane alley oop on Nic into the ladder and breaking it. That was crazy. Nic did a diving crossbody from the top of the ladder. In one of the best spots of the night, Nic went for a dive but was cut off when Darin threw the steel steps at him and caused him to crash into the ropes. The way that was executed was really well done and Nic’s landing actually made it more effective than it probably should have been. A very well-worked spot from the gamers.

Darin speared Nic through the same barricade that Kingdom was spinebustered through. Rom was on top form in terms of fixing all of the broken barricades at Pandora! They took all kinds of moves on the ladder like Bash and Kingdom in the first match, including a back suplex off the top of a ladder and onto another ladder. Nic superkicked Darin a few times and eventually put him away for good with an elbow drop from the top of the ladder and through the announce table. Nic grabbed Pandora’s Box and was the winner.

Nic Virtue was probably the best option to win this match, although I would have loved a Gunnz victory. Nic is pretty much over with the FaM fan base and has been promoted as a star ever since Survival. I can imagine the FaM live chat popping for this victory and Nic did look really good in this match. He came off as a star and he did some great work with Darin. Roberto and Sledder was just there, not really being major factors in the match. I can’t help but feel as if this would have been better if Darin and Nic just had a regular match. Their ladder match battle was really well done and the drama was there. A thumbs up for the match for Pandora’s box.

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We had the Diamonds Championship match with Middlesbrough’s own Elle facing a mystery opponent. Ranik buzzed in, which was actually pretty important considered what happened at the end of the show. Ranik put over Elle, which was actually surprising as the cold-blooded monster Ranik put over the top female babyface in the company! He claimed that BlackHeron’s girlfriend Eve was never meant to be in the Diamonds match at Survival. He buried her and called her BlackHeron’s crown jewel. Ranik suspended Eve for the forseeable future which was a fine way to get Ranik heat, even though he was suspending a heel (probably a babyface now). Ranik introduced Elle’s opponent who apparently trained under Ranik. Her opponent was Vikel, who had a Russian gimmick. She was the female Rusev and this match further solidified this comparison as she wrestled almost exactly like Rusev!

This wasn’t a complete squash as Elle got some shots in but Vikel nearly dominated this match. There was a class spot where Elle went for a dive but was caught with an uppercut on the outside. Again, the match editors were on top of their game with the matches and some of the spots. Vikel threw her around the ring. She hit several powerbombs on Elle, being a clear shot at BlackHeron. Elle actually got a near fall off a top rope victory roll. Vikel hit the Dominator and won the title. As far as putting over a new star in one match, this was a sound way to do it. Vikel looked great in this match. My only concern at this point in the show was that all the heels held the gold in FaM, which would be rectified later on in the show. A sound showing from the women.

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Tom Cushnie was backstage, trying to win favour with the don that runs the Mafia stable in FaM. Tom wanted revenge on Gore and Perkins after they beat him up at Survival. Tom eventually got the don’s attention when he claimed that Gore and Perkins called them “fake Italians” which is the ultimate insult to the Mafia. The Don agreed to help out and they hatched a plan.

The WWE Gaming YouTubers had a six man over-the-top-rope battle royal gauntlet, with the winner getting a FaM Global title shot in a regular match right after the gauntlet. I’ve really not been a fan of the usage of WWE YouTubers in FaM, although I did enjoy the FaM vs YouTube gauntlet from Survival. To be honest, I enjoy a lot of the content from YouTubers like TonyPizzaGuy, Gore and Perkins, ItsMyYard and SmackTalks. On this show however, I hated all of the YouTubers’ characters on this show. I hated their involvement and how they were utilised here. I don’t want to knock their involvement too much as I do understand why FaM have these YouTubers on their shows but the YouTubers being there does nothing for me in terms of getting me excited about the show. I’m not going to be more likely to watch it if TubbyEmu’s there for example, not that I have anything against TubbyEmu.

The match had managers accompany the YouTubers to ringside, giving us even more YouTubers and people on the screen. Element was #1 and was accompanied by BigRedNY, with his story being that he had to work his way through the YouTubers in order to get a rematch for the title he challenged for at Survival. The first opponent for Element and the second entrant in the match was supposed to be MrBigShowOff with TheGreatOne as his manager. However, TheGreatOne jumped MrBigShowOff before the match began. Somehow, this allowed TheGreatOne to take his place in the match. When has it ever became cool for someone to be able to just attack somebody on the ramp and take their spot in a match? TheGreatOne attacked him and was just simply given the OK to replace him? At least when Erick Rowan jumped Curtis Axel in the Royal Rumble in 2015, it was made clear that Rowan had not entered the match himself.

In the end, this all didn’t matter as TheGreatOne was eliminated in about a minute. The third entrant in the match was 101Gaming, who was accompined to the ring by ItsMyYard and his many dummies. Yard’s big dummy took out Big Red on the outside. Another dummy jumped Element in the ring. In the end, all of this dummy shenanigans didn’t matter as Element eliminated 101Gaming after they fought for a little bit. Why was 101Gaming even there when that portion of the match was clearly designed for Yard to show off his dummies?

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SmackTalks was #4 in the match. He blindsided Element with a springboard dropkick. This was actually a pretty sweet exchange, with a superb little sequence which ended with an enziguiri from SmackTalks. We actually got a bit of action when, of course, more shenanigans took place. A graphic appeared in the middle of the match and it distracted SmackTalks enough for Element to eliminate him. So even when SmackTalks entered the ring, who was awesome in the FaM vs YouTube match, we had to have another random angle in this match?

Perkins from Gore and Perkins was #5 in the match. Of course, due to the segment with the Don and Tom Cushnie from earlier, we had to have even more interferences and shenanigans. Muff E and Puma jumped Gore and Big Red, who was still outside as Element had not been eliminated. Mr Sicko eliminated Perkins from the match, meaning that Element had “went through” four different men in this match. Gore and Perkins took out Sicko with a Gore and a Brainbuster.

So let’s recap this match. At this point, Element had “beaten” four men in a row without barely breaking a sweat. Either he’s destroying these YouTubers or they’ve been eliminated due to the actions of somebody else. The entire “YouTube Division” of FaM has been made to look like fools. Element is one win away from the Global Title shot that he’s been after since Survival. Up next is Grim’s Toy Show with Duhop. After four matches, Element climbs over the top rope and eliminates himself.

Rom, at commentary, explains that the worn out Element selflessly eliminated himself in order to give the fresh Grim a fighting chance against CMPulse. They make it clear that Element doesn’t care who wins, as long as Pulse is no longer the champion. He has “too much honour” to fight Pulse when he’s not 100%. Think about this for a minute. He’s so honourable and such a fighting warrior that he GAVE UP when he was at a disadvantage? When push came to shove, he really couldn’t be bothered to fight anymore after a rather easy time with the YouTubers?

Not to mention, it was stated by Rom that the YouTube Division as a whole hates Pulse and doesn’t want him as the champion. Well if they want to make sure that at least Pulse isn’t the champion, why don’t they all work together by eliminating themselves so Element can face Pulse as fresh as a daisy? Why try to beat up Element and hurt his chances of winning?

So Grim was basically given the match with Pulse for the belt. They fought for a while when Darin buzzes in once again, making the match no disqualification. A massive brawl broke out with TonyPizzaGuy, CMPulse, Element and BigRed. TubbyEmu made an appearance. At the end of the day, Grim hit a 450 and won the match. Despite all that had happened, this was a good-feel moment especially when every other title at this point was held by a heel. Seeing a babyface win a title brought a lot of joy at the end of a hectic, messy YouTuber deal which is a concept I never want to see again.

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They discussed the FaM review competition, with the winner being featured on FaM programming with the possibility of being a full-time member of the show like Rafazo. Thank you again to FaM for the cheeky mention during this! Even though I’m coming off as the biggest hater of FaM with the criticism of that last match, I do respect the efforts of the clan and I do love a lot of aspects about the product. Everyone involved with FaM, including the fans, are all passionate about the show and that’s what makes FaM stand out among the many CAW leagues around. So thanks again, and be sure to get involved with the review competition if you haven’t yet. I think there may be still time to crack out a video review which I’m sure the lads will appreciate!

2TM defended the FaM World Heavyweight Championship against Anarchymus. I’m a strong believer of the titles being the most important things in wrestling. I think the FaM title should be what the show is centred around and treating them with prestige and care. For the last five years or so, its mostly been about whose running the show as the leaders of FaM. As far as protecting the titles, this was not my kind of show. Up until this point in the show, we’d seen Vikel squash Elle to win a championship, we’d seen Darin force BlackHeron to lie down for him so he can win a championship and we’d seen Element destroy four men and then WALK AWAY from a championship opportunity. Anarchymus being in this FaM World title match didn’t help matters.

To be honest, the FaM world title match not being in the main-event hurts the image of the title anyway. However, let’s recap how Anarchymus got this title shot in the first place. Anachymus came out before Pandora and cut a promo about wanting to win a championship. 2TM buzzed in and said “hey, I’ll give you a shot at my title at Pandora.” Everyone was cool with it. This was the entire build for a FaM World Championship match at a pay-per-view. At least Deaths Angel won a 20 man gauntlet on the previous pay-per-view in order to get a shot at 2TM at Survival. Anarchymus didn’t have to do anything. It’s not like 2TM said he’d give him a shot if Anarchymus beat this guy or this many guys. He basically just got the title shot for asking politely.

To add more fuel to this fire, D.N.A even noted during the match that Anachymus shouldn’t even be in this match as he got pinned in the FaM vs YouTuber match at Survival AND HE WAS RIGHT. I do like Anarchymus and I’m sure I noted in the Survival review that he should be a bigger star than he is. Throwing him in this title match out of the blue just doesn’t seem the right way to do it.

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We had the match, which was actually a pretty fine bout. 2TM did the Kevin Owens tease when he went for a dive then simply rolled out of the ring to beat up Anarchymus. These two beat the hell out of each other with Anarchymus kicking out of the Twisted Reaction. This was a hard-hitting match, with a number of hard clotheslines, piledrivers and suplexes being dished out. Anarchymus then took over and hit his finisher when the Skilled Foundation came out. Then Anarchymus was able to take out both members of the tag team on his own. I’m not sure if this was more of an effort to make Anarchymus look really strong or to complete destroy the credibility of the Skilled Foundation. I usually wouldn’t have this much of a problem with one babyface beating two heels except for the fact that he beat up the TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS on his own. I get wanting to put over the number one contender for the world title but did he need to destroy the tag team champions? Anachymus looked great up until this point anyway.

2TM jumped in to make it a three-on-one advantage to the heels when the Resurgence came out. The Resurgence, who the Skilled Foundation beat to win the tag titles, took out the champions out with a double dive to the outside which looked sweet and well choreographed. 2TM busted open Arnachymus with a chair and then hit the Twisted Reaction to retain the title. I enjoyed this match. It was sort of like the AJ Styles/Roman Reigns matches where the Usos and the Club ran in and I liked that dynamic here. I don’t think Anarchymus got over as a main-eventer in my eyes with this match but he looked pretty good. Again, it didn’t do him any favours to just get the title shot out of nowhere but he hung in there with 2TM and looked solid. An enjoyable world title match.

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Thanks to TheWolfMonster for this lovely bit of fan art of Andy Badwool from their DeviantArt page

Ranik put his FaM leadership on the line against Andy Badwool. Here’s the thing I’ve really enjoyed about this Ranik fella being around. In FaM, there always seems to be a certain match-type where a lot of the matches are structured the same. These Ranik matches are so unique in their delivery, their structure, their pacing and their purpose. These matches are must-see in the same way that a Brock Lesnar match is a must-see. It separates him from everybody else, which will make the future of FaM seem interesting with the angle of who can stop Ranik.

We got the next challenger to Ranik’s throne in Andy Badwool. This was a no holds barred match and the match started with Ranik hitting a catapult punch to Andy! Ranik laid into Andy with punches and Andy was bleeding like twenty seconds into the match. Andy went for a GTS but Ranik countered it into one of his own. Andy went outside for a chair but Ranik simply hit a suplex. It tells you something about how unique a match is when the BABYFACE is so desperate that he needs to grab a weapon first. Both men traded spinebusters and Ranik even hit the balling elbow, being a call-back to the initial FaM intro video where Ranik is doing the same thing. Andy hit a pedigree but Ranik was able to kick out at one. Andy battered Ranik with a chair and then hit a Badwool Driver onto the chair. This got a two count but it was not like a near fall or a false finish or anything. Andy hit the move and Ranik got his shoulder up as soon as the referee said two. I honestly thought when I saw that move hit that Ranik had kicked at one!

Ranik did an awesome electric chair into a german suplex. Andy hit the Death Valley Driver for a near-fall. Ranik hit a Sleeping Pill but he was not content with simply gaining the pin. He went to the outside, set up a table and set fire to it. Andy cut him off and hit a suplex from the top turnbuckle to the outside and through the flaming table. In one of the greatest no-sells in FaM history, Ranik gets up from GOING THROUGH A FLAMING TABLE, he takes a GTS from Andy… and simply hits the End Of Days and pins Andy.

I love how dominant and over-powered Ranik was in this match. I don’t care what anyone says, he’s been a tremendous addition to the FaM roster so far and the idea of Ranik going through the rest of the roster until a hero rises up and is able to beat him is fine with me.

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Ranik cut a promo after the match and granted revenge for the people backstage that wanted to beat up Andy. 2TM, BlackHeron and Darin all came out to put the boots to Andy. 2TM beat up Andy, BlackHeron grabbed the chair which wrapped around Andy’s ankle. Darin went to the top rope and BH caught him and hit the Black and Gold Powerbomb. In the first time in what seems like forever, it seems that BlackHeron is a babyface in FaM.

Ranik buzzed in and talked about BlackHeron making the biggest mistake of his life. BlackHeron ran backstage as it was revealed that Eve was out cold in the back. BH went to her and since backstage segments in FaM are usually done with WWE 2K14, BH’s attire dramatically changed into his old 2K14 gear! BlackHeron supposedly borrowed a clothes beam from Dragon Ball Z’s Piccolo! I loved that!

Ranik attacked him from behind and put him through the window. In the ring, Andy laid out 2TM with the Badwool Driver and left. This then brought out Mr Money In The Bank Cameron Bash. Bash cashed in and won the FaM World Heavyweight title. At least they ended the show by showcasing the FaM World title and allowing a good-feel moment to end the show as the babyface became the new champion.

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As negative as I seemed for a few matches, this was overall a great show to sit through. I thought the structure of the whole show was good, I thought the editing of the matches were as slick as ever and the show didn’t seem to drag that much, despite being four hours long. The opening match and the main-event are both must-see matches in my eyes, going down as some of my favourite FaM matches of all time. All the babyfaces winning the Money In The Bank, Pandora’s Box and the FaM World title are all great decisions by the company, and it looks like the guard is changing in FaM. I complained about Rom Buster getting beat but it looks with the majority of title holders having come into the company in the last few years, the future looks bright. The main FaM storyline is really exciting at the moment and that should be the key focus over everything. FaM put on a fine little match to say farewell to 2K16. Roll on WWE 2K17!

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29/08/16 RAW Review – Kevin Owens Wins The Universal Championship, Triple H Turns On Seth Rollins

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How’s it going everybody? Thomas Robinson here with the Armbar Express. Guess what? We’ve got a lot to talk about regarding the August 28th 2016 edition of Monday Night RAW. Indeed this will go down as an historic edition of the “flagship” WWE show, as a new Universal Champion was crowned in a shocking manner.

We had the fatal four way elimination match involving Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Big Cass and Kevin Owens. Big Cass was eliminated after several moves to put the big man down, followed by a big frog splash from Kevin Owens for the clean pin over Cass. Then we had the finish, with an awesome three way battle between Rollins, Reigns and Owens. Reigns had the upper-hand and hit the spear on Seth on the outside, when TRIPLE H came from out of nowhere to give the Big Dog a pedigree on the floor. Triple H rolled Rollins and Reigns into the ring, and Rollins pinned Reigns to eliminate him.

This came down to the two heels in Rollins and Owens. So Triple H rolls Owens into the ring, picks up both men and hits ROLLINS with the pedigree. Owens, with a shocked look on his face, scurries over to pin Seth Rollins and become the champion. Triple H raises Owens’ hand as the fans chant “you deserve it” after Rollins and Reigns were both screwed! Kevin Owens is the new Universal Champion.

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Suffice to say that I was extremely shocked at this outcome. Literally the day before RAW, I told everyone that would listen on Twitter that Kevin Owens would not win and that Seth Rollins would become the champion. I ignored all of the reports of future plans and all that jazz, and stuck to my gut feeling. I thought to myself that there was no way they’d put the belt on Kevin Owens right now. Well low and behold, Kevin Owens is the champion and Seth Rollins was turned into a babyface due to the betrayal of Triple H.

What’s funny about all of this is that WWE posted an interview with Kevin Owens on social media, and Owens seemed so out of character when talking about this being the biggest night of his life. It was not like he was the boastful Kevin Owens character. He was calm and relaxed. During the opening talking segment with all four contenders on RAW, Owens seemed like the only one that was not his usual self. It made me think that possibly something was going to happen, but I still was going with Rollins.

As it turns out, I was wrong. Apologises to everyone on Twitter for me getting this one wrong, although this is one of the situations where I was kind of glad that I was wrong. They did pull off the title victory and the Rollins babyface turn really well. I was so shocked at what I was seeing and the fans were really into the main-event match. As far as the presentation of the whole thing, WWE knocked it out of the park.

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Now let’s ask the million dollar question… was this the right move? Somebody asked on me on Twitter last night about who I thought was going to win. I looked at every one of the challengers and I thought that nobody was really IN a good position to win the title at all!

Big Cass is clearly not ready to be wrestling at that level, although he did fit in and get pretty over last night. No complaints on how he was used and he didn’t seem out of place to me at all. I really didn’t want to see a Roman Reigns title reign right now, as I still feel that he should be as far away as possible from the world title at the moment so he can build himself up again. The Rusev stuff did help him out and to put the title back on him would be unwise at this point, so I ruled him out. As for Kevin Owens, I really didn’t think he was in a good position either. Considering that he’d been doing comedy segments with Chris Jericho for the last month, the idea that he’s suddenly supposed to be the top man in the company is a little far-fetched. Of course, Finn Balor’s injury did change plans for WWE. However, with the knowledge of hindsight, WWE should have used Owens better leading up to the title win. He didn’t even beat Neville clean last week!

Finally, Seth Rollins was also not in a good position either. Seth won the WWE World title at Money In The Bank but was quickly robbed of the title by Dean Ambrose following a cash-in. In Rollins’ title match on the RAW before Battleground, it ended in a draw. In Rollins’ title match on the SmackDown! before Battleground, he got beat clean. At Battleground itself, he was unsuccessful again. At SummerSlam, he got beat clean by Finn Balor. Him winning the title right now would not have made a lot of sense to me.

Then a report came through, before the show, suggesting that Seth was going to turn into a babyface. I thought about it and, with the exception of Money In The Bank and Battleground (where he wasn’t the one pinned), there was no real reason to want to feel sympathy for Seth up until this point. The injury that Finn Balor sustained during Seth’s powerbomb to the barricade spot also didn’t help out. Trying to get across the idea that Seth is now somebody to root seemed strange to me, considering everything that happened.

I still think that Seth will make a really good babyface, but I think that they really should have done this turn sooner rather than later. All the buzz about Seth following his return has came and went to be honest, and it’s hard to find sympathy for Seth according to the story.

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Regardless of this, the fans loved the show last night as well as the conclusion. I would assume that it’ll be Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins at Clash Of Champions. I’m not sure where Triple H and Chris Jericho will stand during all of this. Maybe Owens and Jericho will go their separate ways, although there was nothing last night that would suggest such a thing. Triple H and Seth Rollins could be a match down the road at WrestleMania possibly. I’m not sure that Triple H will be a regular on-screen figure on RAW, as that would lead to three authority figures on RAW. Unless Foley is fired and Triple H replaces him as general manager or something, I’m not particularly sure how this will work.

I will mention one more concern I have for Kevin Owens. I couldn’t help but make this comparison but this title win reminded me of Sheamus’ title win last year. Owens just came off as the right guy, in the right place and at the right time, as opposed to a legitimate champion. Not to mention that Triple H was the one that essentially gave Kevin Owens the championship, according to the storyline. HHH pedigreed Roman and Seth, so it was HHH’s move that beat the two men and not Kevin. Kevin’s only claim to fame was that he pinned Big Cass clean. That doesn’t bode well for his future, I think. At least if he’d hit the pop-up powerbomb, you’d be putting over Kevin’s finisher.

The impression I got from this was that Triple H was viewed as SO superior to everyone in this match, as it was his move that beat the two favourites going in. It’s not necessarily the end of the world for Kevin, but I feel that big wins on RAW and in pay-per-views are needed for Owens to legitimatise himself.

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I’m not sure what the plan is for RAW at the moment, although there’s rumours going around that Lesnar will be challenging for the Universal title at the Royal Rumble. Whether Owens makes it that long as champion remains to be seen but if there’s a chance he’s going up against Lesnar at the Rumble, he needs to get some serious victories under his belt.

Overall, I think this was a shocking start to a brand new storyline for the RAW main-event scene. I’m very thankfully that there’s some new blood in the title picture now, as we’ve really seen enough of Roman vs Seth for the time being. Maybe Roman can challenge Owens down the line but it looks like they’ve got some kind of plan for Owens, Rollins and HHH. I know Balor did get injured but in the week since last week’s RAW, surely they’ve got something in the works.

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Let me know by tweeting me @TomRobinson5199, @ArmbarExpress or by leaving a comment of what you think about the new Universal Champion. Is it the right time for Kevin to be champion? Should Seth’s babyface turn have been done sooner? What do you think will happen in the next few months! Let me know and let me just say this… RAW put on quite the show for SmackDown! to compete with this week!

How I Would Book… Who Ran Over Stone Cold?

SPOILER ALERT from fifteen years ago, but I think it’s a safe bet to assume that nearly every wrestling fan on earth knows that Rikishi ran over Stone Cold with a car. Even if you were not watching wrestling during the attitude era, the WWE have referenced the storyline several times on WWE YouTube videos, the WWE Network and even on episodes of RAW and SmackDown! Many fans and wrestling experts over the years have criticised the WWF’s decision to have Rikishi be behind the attempted murder of the top wrestler in the company. With that said, are there many other solutions that would have been better than Rikishi? Could I have booked the “Who Ran Over Stone Cold” storyline better than WWE? Well, let’s find out!

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Before we dive into the analysis of Rikishi as the culprit, let’s run down the storyline itself from Survivor Series 1999 to Survivor Series 2000.

Stone Cold Steve Austin had been embroiled in a triple threat WWF Championship feud with the champion Triple H and The Rock. A triple threat match was promoted for Survivor Series 1999 and a triple threat match was ended up what we got. Unfortunately, it did not include the Texas Rattlesnake. Triple H provoked Austin during a backstage interview before the match. This led Austin towards the parking lot, where he was ran down by an unidentified assailant.

Austin was sidelined for nearly a year, to take care of actually injuries that he was working with at the time. He returned at Backlash 2000 for a one-off appearance to help The Rock against Triple H and made his full return to the WWF at Unforgiven 2000. He was on a quest to track down the man who had ran him over, even not pressing charges as a means to lure the man out. Austin’s methods of tracking down the attempted killer included interfering in several matches, getting on the bad side of Commissioner Mick Foley. Foley suspended Austin, conducting his own investigation into the crime.

After major suspects like Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Kurt Angle and The Rock were called out, Foley eventually got to the bottom of the case. Stone Cold Steve Austin was actually ran over… by Rikishi.

Rikishi, who had not appeared on WWF television yet when Austin was ran down, admitted to the crime. He claimed that he did it for The Rock, as the WWF had been keeping down Samoans like himself and The Rock for years. Austin was getting in the way of The Rock’s success, leading to Rikishi doing what he did. This led to Austin getting his revenge on Rikishi, destroying the big man in a No Holds Barred match and then trying to hit RIKISHI with a truck.

The plot thickened for the Austin mystery, as it would later be revealed that Triple H was secretly the one that had orchestrated the hit-and-run and put Rikishi up to do it.

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The biggest problem with the official solution is that it almost seemed like the culprit was too random to be a legitimate suspect. Mick Foley even mentioned it during the reveal that Rikishi wasn’t even in the WWF at the time of the hit-and-run. Therefore, it’s likely to assume that the WWF had no idea who the suspect would end up being when they shot the angle. Rikishi’s initial reasoning  for running down Austin seemed very out-of-place, as it didn’t seem enough of a justification to explain Rikishi going after Austin. Rikishi wanting to help out The Rock could be viable but the whole Samoans being held down story had nothing to do with Austin. Yeah, Austin is one of the most successful wrestlers of all time and is a 100% American. However, it’d still seem odd that Rikishi would resort to murder because of this.

Now obviously, Triple H being thrown in as the mastermind behind of the whole thing did sort of write out this explanation a little. Rikishi still could have theoretically felt how he did about The Rock and the Samoan lineage, but Triple H does give Rikishi more of a valid reason for running down Austin. After all, Triple H was the one that led Austin out into the parking lot and hated his guts. Him getting Rikishi to run down Austin makes a lot more sense than Rikishi doing it for his Samoan lineage.

While Triple H being the mastermind does involve someone that was a big part of the story at the time of the attack, Rikishi played no part in the story at all. Rikishi was a joyful babyface that got over with his dance moves more than his ruthless aggression. There seemed to be no hint of Rikishi possibly having a dark side to him, so him all of a sudden being an attempted murder does seem a bit unfathomable. It’s actually funny when watching back Rikishi’s run ins with Triple H and the McMahon-Helmsley regime in 2000. Rikishi feuded with Triple H, and even faced him for the WWF Championship one time, while secretly having conspired with him to commit attempted murder! Then again, Rikishi running down Austin would explain why Triple H would give Rikishi a title shot in the first place. I guess that was Rikishi’s grand reward.

In a way, Rikishi being the culprit was good for attempting to get over the next big star in WWE. Rikishi did get elevated as a main-event heel but ultimately ended up flopping in that role. Sticking your backside in people’s faces doesn’t exactly come off as an evil thing to do. Considering it’s Rikishi’s rear end though, I guess it kind of is! Rikishi really didn’t work as a badass, monster heel and quickly turned back into a babyface just before the Invasion angle kicked off.

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When coming up with an alternative solution, we need to think of people that not only were relevant to the story but were also strong enough to be able to work as a top heel. As much as someone like Kurt Angle being the culprit would make sense, as he would have been someone that would gain from Austin being out of the picture, he would have no real motivation other than that. It’s not like he would have met Austin at the time, as he made his in-ring debut at Survivor Series 1999 itself. As much as fans would believe this to be a fitting irony-pleasing solution, Angle doesn’t work in this role for me.

Then you’ve got to think about the other big culprits that were highlighted as the two prime suspects by Mick Foley. Triple H would have been too obvious of a culprit, even though he wounded up being written into the official solution anyway. Right after Austin was ran down, Vince McMahon immediately accused Triple H and D-Generation X of committing the crime. Him being the culprit would be rather anti-climatic.

The Rock, on the other hand, became the top babyface when Austin wasn’t around. As outlined by Mick Foley, The Rock (as well as Triple H) had the most to gain from Austin being out of the picture. At the time of Austin’s return, The Rock was the WWF Champion. Being the top babyface, his popularity rose to new heights. With The Rock being suspected so heavily leading into the official solution, him also being the suspect would be another anti-climatic reveal. Another reason for the Brahma Bull not being culprit is that the WWF would be passing up on some serious merch sales with The Rock now being viewed as a villain.

Really, we’re looking for someone that you’d least suspect. Someone that had been shown to be sinister enough to pull off devious acts like this in the past. We’re looking for someone that would do something as a means to fulfil a much grander master plan. Who would fill this role? Why it is someone that did feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin in 1999. It is someone that wasn’t actually there at Survivor Series 1999 and was unaccounted for. It was someone that has a history for making his foes rest in peace. The man that should have been the culprit was… the Undertaker.

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This may be a tough pill to swallow. The Undertaker did only come back as a babyface American Badass in May 2000. It would be somewhat of a letdown to see this new babyface run down our beloved Stone Cold. Then again, considering Undertaker would turn heel just a year later anyway, I think we can work a turn into this angle without hurting the Undertaker.

If you think about it, Undertaker is one of the rare people in the Attitude Era that would actually resort to murder so casually. He’s set his brother on fire repeatedly and even hanged Big Boss Man following their WrestleMania 15 Hell in a Cell match. Heck, he’s even faced Steve Austin in a Buried Alive match. I think it’s safe to say that he’d be willing to run over Austin with a corner.

The biggest issue with this is simple, and it’s actually what Kurt Angle mentioned on an edition of SmackDown! when HE was accused of running over Austin. One of the biggest parts of a murder mystery is motive. What’s the Undertaker’s motive? Why would he turn his attentions to Steve Austin? Well I have a question for you in response… why does the culprit’s motivation have to necessarily be focused at the victim? Obviously, some sort of disdain has to be present in order to consider attempting murder and Taker did feud with Austin that same year. However, what if Undertaker’s motivation was not to solely eliminate AUSTIN from the equation. While taking out Steve Austin was an added bonus, Undertaker’s real end-game was to mess with the man that had forced him to leave the WWF. Undertaker’s real end-game was in fact to remove Mr McMahon from power.

In September 1999, Undertaker “left” the WWF after refusing to take part in a Casket match with Triple H. Mr McMahon threatened to take away Undertaker’s spot in the WWF title match at Unforgiven, leading to the Undertaker walking out of the company. Jim Ross specifically stated when Undertaker made his return at Judgement Day 2000 that he was “going after McMahon” when challenging the Faction. Clearly, some hostility still exists between the two men. After all, McMahon losing power in the WWF in 1999 led to the Undertaker losing the WWF Championship and never gaining an opportunity to get it back. This could have been Undertaker’s ultimate revenge, especially after blindly following Vince’s orders when he was the “higher power” of the Corporate Ministry.

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Picture it like this. Mr McMahon was the first one shown to be outraged after Austin was run over… other than Jim Ross I guess. McMahon lashes out at DX following the incident. Knowing how much McMahon hated Triple H at the time and with Triple H’s title match with two other men coming up later that night, obviously Vince would come to the conclusion that DX was behind it. This is the Undertaker being the puppet-master, pulling McMahon’s strings by taking out one of the competitors in the running to dethrone Triple H as WWF Champion. In response, McMahon inserts the Big Show into the WWF Championship match and Big Show wins the title because of Vince. Just prior to his departure from the WWF, Undertaker had been teaming with the Big Show as part of an unholy alliance. It makes perfect sense that Taker would reward Big Show by manipulating events in order to get the title on the big man.

From behind the scenes, Undertaker is causing dysfunction within the McMahon family. Let’s start of with Stephanie, who turned on her dad and aligned with Triple H at Armageddon. Undertaker was the one that had abducted Stephanie, following the orders of Mr McMahon. Little work needed to be done on Taker’s end, with Mr McMahon having pushed Triple H’s buttons by costing him the championship at Survivor Series. McMahon made things personal with Triple H, so Triple H retaliated. Of course, Triple H hatches a master plan with Stephanie. Stephanie wanted to get revenge at her father for the abduction plan from before so she went with the man that Mr McMahon hated the most. Vince is being torn apart as daddy’s little girl has been taken away from him by the enemy.

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Shane and Linda would also get involved, leading to the WrestleMania 2000 fatal four way match with the McMahons in every corner. McMahon would be emotionally torn by having to compete with three members of his family. Not a lot can be said about the Undertaker during this period as he really can’t do much else to mess with McMahon until he comes back. Why not have McMahon regain control with Triple H and Stephanie? If he’s in charge by the time Undertaker comes back, Undertaker can be there to personally remove him from power again. At Judgement Day, his crusade with McMahon begins. He attacks him and the McMahon-Helmsley regime during the big Triple H/Rock Iron Man match. His main intentions when he comes back is to fight the regime, oust McMahon from power and win the WWF Championship. At King Of The Ring, The Rock wins the WWF Championship instead of him during a big six man tag team match but it’s not too much of a loss as at least the regime didn’t win. Undertaker will get back at The Rock, which I will get to later.

Following King Of The Ring, Vince left to become a “genetic jackhammer” while Mick Foley took over. It would have been better to say that the beatings from Undertaker, Rock etc. would force him to leave but as long as McMahon is gone. Now Undertaker can try to win back some gold. He does this initially by going after the tag team titles with Kane and then feuding with his brother. Not a lot happens for the Undertaker at this point, but he does get involved in the WWF title picture at Unforgiven 2000. How ironic, considering that he was initially barred by Mr McMahon from getting a title shot at Unforgiven last year. Here’s where I would change things up. Instead of Undertaker failing to win the championship, he wins the title in a fatal four way match also involving the champion Rock, Kane and Chris Benoit. On the very same night that Taker wins the title, Austin makes his return to WWF.

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Austin coming back is an unexpected and unwanted situation for the Undertaker. With his title reign only just getting started, Mick Foley and Austin beginning their investigations, and The Rock getting his rematch at No Mercy, how does the Undertaker turn the attention and suspicion away from himself? Why simple. Turn The Rock and Austin against each other. It is suddenly played up by Undertaker and a number of other wrestlers about how The Rock had to most to gain from Austin being ran over. This builds up all the way to No Mercy, where The Rock challenges Undertaker for the WWF Championship. Austin was initially suspended by Mick Foley, but Foley reinstates Austin after getting an anonymous tip that the culprit would reveal himself at the pay-per-view.

Up until the main event, we get no word from the culprit. Nobody comes clean. Ausitn doesn’t hear anything. Then the main-event comes around, with Austin coming down and going crazy. He pulls the referee out of the ring and grabs a chair. He sees and targets Taker, going for a chair shot but accidentally nailing The Rock. Undertaker then hits Austin with a chokeslam. Undertaker takes advantages and retains the title when the referee awakes. Undertaker then picks up a chair and unleashes hell on Austin and The Rock. Undertaker grabs the mic and laughs. He then asks the question of who had the most to gain from Austin being run over. He simply replies by saying “me” and that Austin’s search was over. Undertaker was the one that ran over Austin.

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Austin initially challenges Taker for the title at Survivor Series 2000, with it ending in a no contest after Austin takes out Taker in a similar fashion to Triple H in real life. Undertaker retains the title at Armageddon 2000. Then Mick Foley resigns as Commissioner which changes everything. Undertaker would have mentioned in an explanation that he did what he did to remove Austin and McMahon out of the equation and win the WWF title. Now Vince is back and in charge. Therefore, McMahon is going to make Undertaker pay. Undertaker vs The Rock is booked for Royal Rumble, with Vince’s reasoning being to make amends with The Rock after Vince turned on him at WrestleMania 2000. Sure. Whatever works. Undertaker loses the championship following interference from Stone Cold. Stone Cold wins the Royal Rumble itself, leading to No Way Out. Instead of Triple H, Undertaker is the one that faces and beats Stone Cold in a three stages of hell match.

That effectively is when the storyline ends. However, with Steve Austin and Mr McMahon’s alliance after WrestleMania 17, there is a lot more potential with the dynamic of Undertaker, McMahon and Austin. Imagine Stone Cold Steve Austin working with the boss to take out the man that tried to kill him. You could do the Power Trip angle if you’d like, having Undertaker and Kane battle Austin and Triple H. This could also add a lot to the Invasion angle, especially when it comes to Austin and Taker. You could have Austin and Taker initially not trust each and then eventually bury the hatchet (well bury the hatchet as much as you could, considering Taker tried to kill the man). Alternatively, you could have Austin join the Alliance and led the group against the WWF led by the Undertaker. The possibilities are endless.

Or if you’d prefer for the storyline to finish at WrestleMania 17, simply have Undertaker hold the championship all the way to WrestleMania. Austin wins the Rumble and Undertaker is the WWF Champion. This leads to the ultimate showdown in Texas between Austin and the man that ran him over more than a year ago. In the ultimate act of revenge for Undertaker running him over, Austin makes a deal with the devil himself Vince McMahon. McMahon was manipulated by Undertaker for so long, so Vince helped Austin DEFEAT the Undertaker at WrestleMania. The streak and Undertaker’s title reign is ended by Stone Cold Steve Austin.

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That about wraps up this edition of How I Would Book. I have to admit, this one was rather fun to write. I’d seen many different solutions but after thinking of a number of different options, Undertaker being the mastermind actually fits in with the storyline well. I’d love to hear of any other alternative solutions from fans so feel free to leave a comment or tweet me @TomRobinson5199. Don’t just do it for me. Do it… for The Rock. Thanks for reading everyone.

Have any suggestions for a How I Would Book? Simply tweet me at either @ArmbarExpress or @TomRobinson5199 on Twitter with your suggestions. Do also check out the rest of the content on my blog. I do a lot of other cool fantasy booking blog posts with my playthroughs of fantasy booking game Extreme Warfare Revenge. And there’s all sorts of other wrestling content as well. You never know, you might just like what you see!

 

WWE Announces 2016 Brand Split And SmackDown! Goes Live

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How’s it going everybody? Thomas Robinson here with the Armbar Express. BIG NEWS coming from the WWE, with the official announcement that the WWE brand split is coming back. RAW and SmackDown! will once again receive different and unique rosters, with SmackDown! also additionally becoming a permanent live show on Tuesday nights. This may be obvious, but there’s a lot to talk about with regards to this news and we’ll delve right into all of the speculation regarding how many titles we’ll have, who’s going where and the reasons for the brand split in the first place.

Dave Meltzer from Wrestling Observer, addressed this on the Wrestling Observer Live radio show I believe. He explained that one of the main reasons for WWE bringing back the brand split is to help generally increase television ratings, particularly on SmackDown! With SmackDown! previously being taped, the incentive to watch it dropped as wrestling fans could simply read what happened online and lose interest to actually see the show as it airs. This was obviously a big reason for why the decision was made to make it a live show. Jerry Lawler hinted at SmackDown! going live earlier on in the year and now, it’s actually happening.

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This picture was already clearly painted with the announcement made by Stephanie and Shane McMahon, but it is expected that Stephanie and Shane will run each show separately. The interesting thing is that both of them are reportedly expected to be babyface authority figures at first, which is a very unique direction for this brand split. Past brand splits usually saw one brand with the babyface authority figure and one with the heel authority figure. When the first brand split started, Ric Flair (the babyface) controlled RAW while Vince McMahon (the heel) controlled SmackDown! When the general managers were introduced, Stephanie ran SmackDown! as a babyface and Eric Bischoff ran RAW as a heel. Having two babyfaces controlling the show is different and it is a fresh change from the dictatorship we’ve seen since August 2013. I’m not sure whether it is wise to have BOTH brands being run by babyfaces. The purpose of having two different shows and a brand split is to make the audience seem like both shows are unique, in talent and in storylines. I could see why at this stage, they wouldn’t want Stephanie to be a heel going forward. With her upcoming memoirs, it is understandable why the WWE want Stephanie to be perceived better by the public. Turning Shane is possible, but Shane is still a popular babyface authority figure. That would be a hugely risky endevour. I would suspect that if there’s going to be any heel authority figure around, it will be Triple H.

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There are two big names earmarked for being the top guys on both shows, with John Cena and Roman Reigns ruling the roosts. No surprises here. Which superstar will go where is a big question. If the WWE are still banking on Roman Reigns, they may want to keep him on RAW and portray him as the top guy on the main show. However, it is possible that WWE would want John on RAW to get the RAW ratings right back up. John’s got a better ratings track record than Roman, so it would make sense. If Roman is also on SmackDown!, then there’s a lot less pressure on him to succeed on the “B show.”

An interesting note which came out is that it’s not a sure thing that Brock Lesnar will end up on RAW. I wouldn’t have assumed that Brock would be on RAW either as he appeared on SmackDown! a few times in the build up to WrestleMania. I think it is better for Brock to be on RAW than SmackDown! as he does do wonders to the ratings on that show. It’ll be interesting to see where all the part-timers go.

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There is reportedly a plan in place for two world championship in the WWE, one for each show. A lot of people will argue that there should be one main belt but I personally think that you’ve got enough diversity for their to be one for each brand. I argued way back before the titles were re-unified that the roster had become too integrated in order for two world titles to be around. Now though, you have enough talent to be able to keep these two shows separated. Now everyone can have their chance at each of the titles.

The one thing which will initially drive me nuts I think is the proposed idea that the Women’s Champion would be on both shows. I kind of agree with this as there’s not enough depth on the women’s side of things to be able to do two titles. However, I am very much against the idea of seeing Charlotte on both shows. To see her this much would really drive people away, knowing that all you’ll get in women’s angles from now on is just her. I don’t think she’s talented enough to able to undertake that kind of responsibility and pull it off. If Sasha Banks wins the title shortly afterwards, it’d be much more tolerable I think.

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So another big question is when the date of the draft will be? It’s highly expected at the moment that the draft lottery/selection will take place on the July 11th edition of RAW, which will be taking place in Detroit. Funnily enough, it’s a show that’s currently scheduled to feature Brock Lesnar.

I actually think that this makes a lot of sense, considering that this will follow the July 4th edition of RAW, with reportedly a lot of belief within the company that the July 4th edition will see a serious decline in viewers in a similar fashion to a lot of the past Christmas episodes. It’ll be good for them to want to show off a huge increase in the ratings for this big draft, and I think the ratings will be quite huge for this one.

It’s actually interesting, as it’s been reported that a lot of the talent were taken back by this. According to sources, they have no idea what’s going on or where they’ll even end up in the draft. This wouldn’t be the first time, as a lot of the wrestlers had no idea about the draft selections in the past. I remember the 2008 draft, when Jim Ross was drafted to SmackDown! He blogged about it the next day, saying that he had no idea beforehand. This draft may end up causing a lot of morale issues backstage, especially if certain acts are split up. I don’t think acts like the New Day will be broken up, but maybe some of the smaller teams could be done. I can even see a team like Enzo Amore and Big Cass being broken up. They’ve surprised us in the past.

Lastly, Vince McMahon is said to be “really pumped” about the brand split and I’m pretty much pumped up too. I remember blogging about bringing back the brand split last year and how much good it’ll do. Do go back and check it out at this link as there’s a lot of advantages to this.

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Overall, great news for the future of WWE in my opinion. Short term hard work for a long term gain, as Jim Ross once said. What do you think of the news? Tweet at me @TomRobinson5199 or the @ArmbarExpress, or leave a comment below.

 

Cody Rhodes/Stardust Asks For His WWE Release

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How’s it going everybody? Thomas Robinson here with the Armbar Express. I’m here to discuss the Twitter announcement from Cody Rhodes a.k.a. Stardust, who revealed that he has asked for his release from WWE. Coming off the recent releases and MANY rumours of futures departures from the company, this one is quite a big one.

Cody tweeted the news yesterday on his personal account.

Just like Wade Barrett and Damien Sandow, Cody Rhodes had the potential to become a true main-event star. He’s got the blood of a wrestling legend in Dusty Rhodes. He was one of the best workers in the roster, being able to use an old-school in-ring style and adapt it to a vastly different and high-paced style. He has charisma and was dedicated to getting the most out of himself and his character, no matter how badly he had it. He’s got the look of a marketable pretty boy and to my knowledge, had been anything but a pain backstage. I’ve rarely seen stories about backstage heat on Cody Rhodes or any issues he’s had with fellow wrestlers. He’s the ultimate workhorse, even with the last name of Rhodes.

You know, it’s very easy to look at a guy and say: “he deserved to be champion.” We’ve said that about Mr Perfect. We’ve said that about William Regal. We’ve said that about a lot of people. I Googled the term deserve and the definition I got was: “do something or have or show qualities worthy of (a reaction which rewards or punishes as appropriate).” Every one of the qualities I mentioned above describes Cody Rhodes and his actions certainly were more deserving of rewards rather than punishment. Even so, I don’t even think Cody Rhodes has even been given a single world championship program in his entire WWE career.

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Now he’s been in pretty big storylines while with WWE. He was a member of Legacy, with Legacy’s leader Randy Orton being the biggest part of WWE storylines in 2009. He was the one that re-introduced the classic Intercontinental Championship as part of a great run as Intercontinental Champion from August 2011 until WrestleMania 28. He was a key part in a tremendous program with the Rhodes Family taking on the Shield, leading to a classic tag team match at Battlerground 2013. He had the “Stardust” gimmick and still did his very best to make the most out of his character. Even so, he was never considered for a big main event push. After nearly a decade of blood, sweat and tears, Cody Rhodes was never given the main event opportunity.

Being deserving of something and being entitled to something are two completely different things. I may go on Twitter or write something, suggesting that “this guy deserves a push.” There are so many guys that have been lost in the shuffle for many years now, which is detrimental to the product. I don’t want those guys to be wasted, as those guys have qualities that is worthy of a reward. That’s being deserving. I will, however, never say that someone is entitled to anything. Nobody has the right to have x amount of title runs. Nobody has the right to be in x amount of WrestleMania main events. Despite that, Cody Rhodes was as close as a wrestler can be to being entitled to much more than he was getting. What more could Cody do to be “given the ball?”

Cody has the genetics of a champion. Cody has the charisma of the champion. Cody has the wrestling ability of a champion. What more was there for Cody to have in order for WWE to give him a championship run or even a title shot? I don’t understand.

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I’m sure there’s a lot of people already speculating that this is a grand work but I highly doubt that. I know there’s been examples of wrestlers that have tweeted their departure on Facebook or Twitter, only for it to have been a big swerve. A memorable example to me was when Devon tweeted that he was quitting TNA but was back for the 2012 Bound For Glory pay-per-view. However, I don’t think so. I mentioned this during my post about the initial WWE releases. There was just more to come from this and unfortunately, this is it. Brooklyn Brawler’s release was announced shortly after this, with a few more being speculated as well. Cody’s deal is just one of them and he chose to tweet it first himself.

There have been several more tweets of support for Cody. There’s been tweets from Arrow star Stephen Amell and Cody’s wife Brandi Rhodes a.k.a. Eden both tweeted.

It’s a shame because of what I mentioned before. Of course, Cody could easily come back some time down the road. I don’t think that relations between WWE and Cody are terrible or anything, so of course the possibility is there for a return.

Have any favourite memories or thoughts about the release of Cody Rhodes/Stardust? Tweet me @TomRobinson5199 and @ArmbarExpress and give us your thoughts, or leave a comment.

How I Would Book… WrestleMania 32

WrestleMania is the most important wrestling event of the year and this year is no exception. At a place like Dallas, the pressure is on for WWE to perform. With the WWE talent pool reduced significantly due to injuries and other circumstances, WWE have been pushed into a corner with this year’s event. A lot of people have actually given WWE a lot of credit with how they’ve handled it. I’m actually one of those people. However, things can always get better in WWE and here’s my thoughts on how WWE Should Book… WrestleMania 32.

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Let me just state that what we are doing is putting together our own “fantasy card” without going over the top. I must be able to put a show together with the same conditions that WWE have to deal with. We’re not going to throw around absurd ideas like Goldberg vs Undertaker or Sting vs Undertaker for this show. We deal with the stars we’ve got at the moment and use the people that we know for a fact will be able to show up. Therefore, the likes of John Cena and Seth Rollins are ruled out of the equation. We can’t be assuming that certain stars will be able to turn up.

This is merely just a fun way at looking at how we would tackle the event and how we would have planned out WrestleMania. Anyone with “dream cards” of there own should post in the comments. However, here’s how I’m booking it.

 

The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

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We might as well keep up this tradition as it is a great way to use the stars that’ll just miss the cut for the big matches. With that being said, there should also be a winner that could actually get a lot out of winning the thing. Cesaro and Big Show never really amounted to much after winning the battle royal but hopefully we’ll pick someone that should be able to use this win to their advantage. I have two names in mind for the winner of this one. The first name is Sheamus, who can build himself right back up with a win in the battle royal. The second name is Samoa Joe, who is actually rumoured to be appearing on the main roster some time after Wrestlemania. However, there is always the possibility of having the NXT star debuting on the main roster in a big way. WWE will want to have an NXT star in the battle royal, so the best way to do it is to feature someone that would genuinely get something out of being in it. Nothing against Hideo Itami, but he was never really able to stand out when he was in the battle royal last year.

Winner: Either Sheamus or Samoa Joe

 

The Wyatt Family (Braun Strowman, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper vs The League Of Nations (Rusev, Alberto Del Rio and Wade Barrett)

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I enjoy six man tag team matches greatly and it’d make sense to give these two stables a much great purpose at WrestleMania. Why can’t these two teams just battle each other? A part of me really didn’t want to reduce Alberto Del Rio to a multi-man match but at least he can stand out as the stand-out of his team. If he takes it to these three giants and fights his ass off, he can get over tremendously. We’ve seen it time after time. If you’re up against the odds and you fight and fight and fight, you can get over big time. Look at Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13. Del Rio would get the hot tag and run wild but in the end, the Wyatts would overwhelm him. Braun Strowman could also choke out Del Rio in the end if you really wanted to get Braun over. At least Del Rio wouldn’t have tapped out.

Winners: The Wyatt Family

 

Kalisto (c) vs Neville vs Sami Zayn for the United States Championship

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Zayn, Neville and Kalisto could put on a tremendous display in a match for the US title. If Sami does get hurt a bit the night before (wrestling Shinesuke Nakamura at NXT TakeOver: Dallas), at least Kalisto and Neville can do some of the heavy lifting during the bulk of the match. Kalisto would be my winner of this match and this could be a very fun Wrestlemania match that would see Kalisto get over. If Sami is too much of an issue, then there’s always Sin Cara.

Winner: Kalisto

 

Dean Ambrose (c) vs AJ Styles for the Intercontinental Championship

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I’ve actually already covered this match before in a past “How I Would Book”, so there’s not much that needs to be said about how this one. This would have been a great way for AJ to break out on his own as a singles star. The stuff they’re doing with Chris Jericho just doesn’t sit right with me and I feel facing Dean Ambrose would be a much better fit for AJ than facing Jericho once again. AJ wins in what would be one corker of a match.

Winner: AJ Styles

 

“The New Day” Big E (c) and Kofi Kingston (c) w/Xaiver Woods vs Enzo Amore and Big Cass for the WWE Tag Team Championship

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The way I see it, WWE Roadblock is WWE’s way of testing how over Enzo and Big Cass can get on a WWE main roster show. It’s all well and good when they get over in NXT but they want to test and see how they do on the main roster and that’s fine. However, I have no doubt that Enzo and Big Cass winning the tag titles would get an incredible pop in Texas. If anyone should beat the New Day for the tag titles, it should probably be these guys.

Winners: Enzo Amore and Big Cass

 

Charlotte (c) vs Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch for the Divas Championship

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I’m actually very happy with WWE doing this match as it actually makes the whole “divas revolution” angle seem worthwhile. The three women that were brought up from NXT are now fighting for the Divas title at WrestleMania 32. It’s the perfect way for this whole storyline to come full circle. The only winner of this should really be Sasha Banks as she is the most over out of the three women.

Winner: Sasha Banks

 

Chris Jericho vs Dolph Ziggler

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To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t thought of an ideal match for either of these gentlemen. However, it would still be a very decent match to watch. The storyline could revolve around Jericho mocking Ziggler for not living up to his full potential since the last time they feuded. Dolph Ziggler would win this one with Jericho being the heel. Might as well give Ziggler a big WrestleMania win.

Winner: Dolph Ziggler

 

Triple H vs Bray Wyatt

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Of course, you’d have to re-work some of the events of the last few months in order for this match to happen. Unless you were to have Bray Wyatt cost Triple H the title at Roadblock, it’d be difficult to get this match to happen this far into the Road to WrestleMania. The funny thing about this one is that it does tie into the events of the Royal Rumble. At that event, Bray went after Triple H after an intense stare down which saw Triple H eliminate Bray. Bray feuding with Triple H would be an exhilarating feud for him and something different for Triple H to work with. There’s a lot of potential to be had with this one. I would personally put Bray over as it’s about time that Bray gets a big win over a top star.

Winner: Bray Wyatt

 

Undertaker w/Shane McMahon vs Kevin Owens w/Mr McMahon. If Undertaker wins, Shane McMahon wins control. If Kevin Owens wins, Shane will be banned from the WWE forever

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I feel that the idea of Shane McMahon battling the Undertaker for control of WWE is quite bonkers! I do want to involve that stipulation in a match but the idea of Shane fighting himself doesn’t sound very appealing to me. Also, it would make a lot more sense for Undertaker to fight for Shane rather than for Vince. He should be up against a top heel, who’d be given the chance to be involved in a match with huge implications for WWE programming. Enter Kevin Owens. Owens has often mentioned his desire to wrestle the Undertaker at WrestleMania so why not let him do it? Kevin Owens’ motivation to get involved would be a guaranteed WWE World Title shot in the near future. This is not like Money In The Bank. It’d be more like “Gift of the Gods” from Lucha Underground, with Owens having to announce it beforehand. I feel that prize would be enough to entice Owens to fight Vince’s battles.

Winner: Undertaker

 

Brock Lesnar (c) vs Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

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I believe that this is the only way WrestleMania this year should have ended, with Roman Reigns challenging Brock Lesnar once again in a rematch from last year’s fantastic main event. Lesnar vs Reigns II is easy enough promotion for this match and it would be a main event that the fans would more invested in then Triple H vs Reigns. No matter who the winner is, this would be a fantastic way to end the show.

Winner: Either Brock Lesnar or Roman Reigns

 

That’s about it. A lot of the storylines would need tweaking in order to make this work but at the end of the day, I feel that this could be a great way for WWE to prepare itself for the remainder of the year. In my opinion, that should really be the point of WrestleMania.

Have any suggestions for a future How I Would Book? Simply tweet me at either @ArmbarExpress or @TomRobinson5199 on Twitter with your suggestions. Do also check out the rest of the content on my blog. I do a lot of other cool fantasy booking blog posts with my playthroughs of fantasy booking gameExtreme Warfare Revenge. And there’s all sorts of other wrestling content as well. You never know, you might just like what you see!

How I Would Book… The nWo 19th Anniversary Special [2002] [Part One]

The New World Order will go down as one of the most revolutionary and biggest factions in wrestling history. A number of wrestling stables have come and gone. And long before the nWo was formed at Bash at the Beach 1996, there had been a number of stables in the wrestling industry. The Four Horsemen, the Million Dollar Corporation, The Dungeon of Doom, just to name a few. But none of them were as dominant, as risky and as impactful as the nWo. These guys ran the show in WCW, had their own PPVs and proved to be WCW’s biggest gun in the Monday Night Wars. So it’s quite astonishing how disappointing the WWE’s incarnation of the stable was when the group were brought onto WWF television in February 2002.

However, the majority of the failures for this story wasn’t actually down to the writers. There were a number of reasons for the storyline going south including injuries, messy divorces, personality conflicts and a number of wrestlers leaving the company. Had all the members involved been healthy and here to stay, then who knows how WWE would have booked it…

However, it’s time to see how I would book it. Had Hollywood Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall been fit and here for the long-haul, how would I have booked the nWo’s arrival at the WWE in 2002….

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Before getting on with the storyline, I first want to bring up the YouTube video which led to me to doing this particular storyline. It comes from a website I actually used to write for as a wrestling columnist… WhatCulture. WhatCulture have been expanding their output regarding wrestling content and began a YouTube channel with wrestling videos galore. Like a lot of WhatCulture content, most of them are list videos. For example, “10 Shocking Moments in WWE”. Things like that. However, they’ve recently began a fantasy booking series themselves called “How WWE Should Have Booked…”.

The host of this video series, WhatCulture writer Adam Blampied, talks about how he would have booked a certain WWE Storyline himself. A video of his recently caught my attention though. It was a video of how WWE should have booked the nWo storyline in 2002. The video’s down below for you guys to watch and I suggest you do.

As much as I appreciate Adam’s attempt at this storyline, I felt obligated to do my own version of the storyline in a “How I Would Book…” installment. Obligated because 2002 in WWE always felt to me like the Family Guy TV series… a lot of noise but not a lot of development in storylines. That’s not to say that it was a bad year or that Family Guy is bad. Hell, a lot of wrestling fans don’t really care about long-term storylines just as long as they get the action. And it’s not like the WWE were in competition with anyone at the time.

However, I always felt that the nWo should have been immune to this as the stable was of such importance that the program should have been revolved around it. If you’re going to do a storyline with the nWo coming to the WWE, IT HAS TO BE LONG TERM. And that was really the issue with the nWo after Wrestlemania. They had the idea of Hollywood Hogan turning face at Mania and had little idea what to do next, other than add in a few new members. If we’re coming up with an alternative storyline, let’s hopefully have one that has a lot of substance to it and last quite a while…

Like Adam does, let’s run down how the original nWo storyline went down and the state of the WWE around that time…

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That picture is pretty badass isn’t it?

The storyline really began when Ric Flair became Vince McMahon’s business partner when he bought the stocks of the Alliance’s Shane and Stephanie McMahon after the conclusion of the 2001 Survivor Series PPV. Vince had so many problems with having to work with Flair, largely due to him having to share power with somebody else. He wanted to destroy Ric Flair as destroying lives turned on him… I’m not joking. He actually said that! Skip to 1 minute 53 seconds into this video if you don’t believe me!

Ric Flair and Vince McMahon would meet in a street fight at the 2002 Royal Rumble, with Flair picking up the win. Vince McMahon cut an epic promo on a later episode of SmackDown!, stating that Ric Flair was trying to destroy the WWF. Vince said if anyone was going to do it, it would be him. He said he was going to inject the WWF with a lethal dose of poison. He announced he was going to kill the WWF… with the nWo.

The nWo arrived at the No Way Out pay-per-view, with Hollywood Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall arriving on the scene. On their first night, they would cost Steve Austin the Undisputed Championship. On RAW, Hogan was challenged to a classic match-up against The Rock at Wrestlemania, which he immediately accepted. Hogan and the nWo would try whatever it took to injure The Rock before the big match but The Rock would still make it to the PPV at Montreal. In a match which saw the fans side with Hogan, The Rock scored the victory. Following this, Hogan shook the Rock’s hand and would turn face once more….

Oh yeah and Stone Cold Steve Austin beat Scott Hall, in case you were wondering what that Austin beat down led to….

The nWo would then be drafted to RAW in the brand extension and the group brought in a number of new members, including The Big Show, X-Pac, Booker T and even Shawn Michaels. However, with injuries and wrestlers leaving the company, the angle was eventually scrapped in July 2002.

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Needless to say, the nWo didn’t QUITE go as well as we hoped. To be fair, a lot of it was out of the writers’ hands. Kevin Nash getting injured and Scott Hall leaving the company were things they just had to work with. However, there was ONE slight thing which I think we need to re-write. In some ways, it’s a very pivotal moment in the storyline as well as one of the great Wrestlemania moments. It is… Hollywood Hogan turning face once more at Wrestlemania 18. In fact, Hogan wouldn’t have been the loser if I’d booked it – he should have won it.

When looking at this in hindsight, what were the long-term implications of The Rock pinning Hogan at Wrestlemania that night? What exactly happened to The Rock AFTER that night? He left for a few months, came back to win the Undisputed Title and then left once again. At the end of the day, Hogan was going to be there the next month while The Rock wasn’t. So why not give the nWo storyline the added umph by having Hogan going over?… well obviously by shenanigans. But it can’t just be Hall or Nash coming out to help Hogan. It has to be someone special, someone that could give the nWo that added shizzle to their group. In step the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels…

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Shawn superkicking Rock would be the perfect way for Michaels to return to the company. Also, I think Shawn being in the nWo was one of the better decisions with regards to that storyline. Shawn could have been the Deputy Leader of the group, acting as the adviser to Hogan. Hogan’s the King and Michaels is Hand of the King. Hogan can rest easy knowing Shawn is working to make sure his group falls in line. The Chief Whip, whatever you want to call him. And bring him into the fold by helping Hogan beat The Rock.

Now I know what that would do to The Rock’s Wrestlemania record if Hogan went over. He lost to Austin at Wrestlemania 15. He lost the fatal four way at Wrestlemania 2000. He lost to Austin AGAIN at Wrestlemania 17. And now he’s losing again. Worst of all, it’s the third time that The Rock has lost due to shenanigans and outside interference at a Wrestlemania. Well at least he’ll win at Wrestlemania 19…

But I outweigh Hogan’s importance in the nWo storyline as being more of a relevancy to The Rock’s. If Hogan loses, the stable loses credibility. Kevin Nash wasn’t even on the card and Scott Hall lost to Austin. Hogan needed to win this match and in doing that, him and his group are stronger because of it.

So what happens next?

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The next night on RAW, Shawn Michaels cuts a promo about targeting all of the so-called “all time greats” of the WWF. He says that all the so-called greats of the WWF are nothing but frauds compared to the likes of himself and the Immortal Hollywood Hulk Hogan, and needed to be punished by the nWo. Shawn says it takes an all-time great to know one and he knows that the “Great One” The Rock could never hold a candle to himself or Hulk Hogan. Shawn says it’s up to the nWo decide who truly is worthy of being considered a star in the WWF. Stone Cold Steve Austin interrupts the nWo and challenges Hogan to a match on RAW that night. However, Hogan says there’s a better time and place for him to put the rattlesnake in his place. Vince McMahon comes out to make the tag team main event of The Rock and Steve Austin vs The Outsiders, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.

The Rock and Austin take over in that main event when Hogan comes out for the DQ. Hogan and the rest of the nWo batter Austin. Michaels delivers Sweet Chin Music to The Rock and tells Nash to get him a chair. He takes out The Rock with chair shots to the leg and Hogan drops the leg to end RAW standing tall. This little beat down writes The Rock off of television as he takes his sabbatical. I’ve decided to input the real-life absence of The Rock into this storyline as it still works as he is initially taken out by the nWo. When he returns in June, he’ll be looking for revenge for Michaels, Hogan and the rest of the nWo.

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That wraps up part one. I’ll admit, we haven’t covered a lot of time yet with the nWo storyline. However, check out the Armbar Express and follow @TomRobinson5199 for part two of this storyline where things get interesting.

We look at the draft lottery and how that will affects things and what will eventually lead to the Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Hollywood Hogan match we’ve all wanted to see.

Happy 19th anniversary to the New World Order!

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