Lucha Underground: Ultima Lucha Dos Review

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Following the successful first season of Lucha Underground, anticipation for the second chapter of this arc certainly ran wild. With the ending of season one tying up loose ends but also preparing the show for a future season, you could tell that something big was on the horizon for these stars.

So far this season, we had our fair share of big moments. The reign of Mil Muetres and Catrina followed by the return of Dario Cueto and the debut of Matanza showed the struggle for power between wrestlers. Rey Mysterio making his way to the promotion also provided the star power that the lucha libre promotion was looking for while new stars like El Dragon Azteca quickly became prominent figures.

For me, the storyline aspect of the show was the most compelling thing about it. However, there were a lot of matches that really stood out during the course of season two. Matanza and Cage had one of the best big man matches I’ve seen in a long time, Rey Mysterio was still able to hang with even the greatest of wrestlers at the promotion while Aztec Warfare II was an incredible episode to sit through as well.

However, this four hour extravaganza would be the culmination of another season of storylines and drama. Pentagon Jr would challenge the monster Matanza, hoping to get revenge for Matanza almost breaking his back in their last match. Prince Puma wanted to prove that he was even better than arguably the greatest luchador of all time. There were a lot of matches that was very much looked forward to by the fans, but could the three part show deliver?

 

Part One

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The first episode in this trilogy saw Dario Cueto’s “Tournament 4 A Unique Opportunity” which saw a four man tournament take place. In the first round, Cage faced The Mack in a rematch from last year’s Ultima Lucha while Son Of Havoc took on Texano. Both matches were hardcore matches, with Cage and Mack having a falls count anywhere match as well as Son Of Havoc and Texano having a bar room brawl. I thought the Cage and Mack match was really good, which was expected when considering how great their match from last year was. I don’t think this match was better than last year’s but it was still good. The Son Of Havoc/Texano match was also not bad but I can’t help but think that it would have been a much better match without the hardcore stipulation.

Let me get the big criticism out of the way. I’m sure that hardcore fans loved all of this innovation with weapons but these stipulations took away from the lucha libre style of wrestling that lucha fans tuned in to see. Not to mention that having so many hardcore matches on the first show left the fans feeling less excited for hardcore angles down the line, like the Death match with Mil Muetres and King Cuerno. Regardless, The Mack and Son Of Havoc won. They faced off in a short falls count anywhere match, which Son Of Havoc won.

Dario Cueto came out with two briefcases and gave Son Of Havoc one of two options. Son Of Havoc could choose between $250,000 or a Lucha Underground title shot at Ultima Lucha Tres. Son Of Havoc then claimed that it wouldn’t matter if there were $250 MILLION in that briefcase, he would want the title shot. Now, I understand putting the title over as if this was the most important thing in the world to a wrestler. However, would anyone really pass up on $250 MILLION just for a title shot? It seemed like a ludicrous claim to me, that the Lucha Underground title was worth more than $250 million. That’s probably more than what Lucha Underground is worth. Heck, I’m sure you could start a very strong wrestling promotion with $250 million and make YOURSELF a champion!

Havoc takes the title shot, which of course sprung a trap. Dario revealed that Havoc would only get the title shot if he won one more match. If his opponent won, that opponent would get the $250,000. Famous B then came out to reveal the opponent, who was his new client. It was a pretty big client for Famous B as it was revealed that Son Of Havoc’s opponent was Dr Wagner Jr.

This was a pretty big reveal. Dr Wagner Jr won in about two minutes, much to the delight of Famous B and his girl Brenda. I liked the whole culmination of Famous B’s quest to find the right client and in the end, he found a client that was already famous. I was kind of let down by the fact that I was expecting him to actually show up with a lesser-known name. I get the reveal that he found a client that was already famous, but Famous B’s whole service was about GETTING people famous. Dr Wagner Jr contradicting that was a little disappointing. I guess that’s a heel for you!

 

Part Two

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The “main attraction” of part two was the Gift of the Gods championship match, which was a seven person elimination match. Cage cashed in his title shot a few weeks before so a new champion had to be crowned. Sexy Star, Marty the Moth, Mariposa, Killshot, Night Claw, Daga and Sinestro de la Muerte were the seven entrants. The one thing which really got to me about the match was that the very best wrestlers in this match were eliminated the earliest. Killshot, Night Claw and Daga are all tremendous workers, so seeing them eliminated before the likes of Sexy Star and Marty the Moth felt like a slap in the face to those talents. Night Claw, who was debuting, looked awesome in this match. He eliminated two men and probably was the most over out of the bunch, before being eliminated.

It was down to Marty The Moth, Mariposa and Sexy Star, with the heels ganging up on Sexy Star. Mariposa was eliminated after Marty accidentally punched her in the face. I love how Mariposa’s origin story, according to Marty, was that she was part of a tribe of great warriors, yet she was eliminated her from a mere punch from her brother. Unless Marty has a punch that is equal in power to the Big Show’s WMD, I find it very hard to believe that Mariposa would be done after just one punch.

Sexy beat Marty to win the Gift of the Gods title. I know Lucha Underground wants to promote the idea of the women being just as good as the men, with two of the final three of this match being women. I’m also not totally against the idea of inter-gender wrestling, although I would go forward with extreme caution when booking such a program. If a woman is over enough and talented enough, she can wrestle the very best male athletes for all I care. That’s if the woman IS over enough and talented enough. Sexy Star wasn’t over enough, I don’t think. Sexy Star is not talented enough either. She’s an OK female wrestler but there’s only a handful of male wrestlers on the roster worse than Sexy Star. Every one else is miles ahead, so the idea that Sexy is supposed to be on par with these men is pretty unbelievable… even for Lucha Underground.

Next up was a “death match” between Mil Muertes and King Cuerno, which was essentially a no disqualification match. There was no murdering going on, but Mil sure did destroy King Cuerno. They brawled, with the heel Cuerno being more of a showboater while Mil was all about bringing the power game. Cuerno took a lot of punishment in this match, including rolling down the stairs. Their fight led them to the stage where the band that was playing were hanging out. Mil no-sold his head being thrown into a window. Cuerno put his hands on Catrina, which was the beginning of the end for Cuerno. Muertes put Cuerno through three tables with powerbombs, hit him with a crowbar, hit a tombstone and won. This was a fun no disqualification match, which did a great job with the two characters. Muertes was allowed to be a big, badass heavy hitter and Cuerno sold like crazy during the onslaught.

During the show, Mr Cisco was wired by Cortez Castro and Joey Ryan to meet with Dario Cueto. Cortez re-assued him by telling Cisco that Dario wasn’t going to kill… all the motivation one needs to meet with an sociopath! Cisco was doing this in order to clear himself of all charges. So Cisco meets with Dario, with Joey and Cortez listening in. Cisco claimed that he wanted to be in on whatever Dario was planning. It almost kind of worked with the storyline, as Cisco was so bad when acting here that Dario saw right through him. He asked if Cisco was wearing a wire and it was revealed. He grabs the mic and asks the cops to come get him. He asks if the cops wanted him for murder, quickly following up by saying if they weren’t before they would now. He grabbed the red bull from his office and killed Cisco with it by bashing him in the head. A very good scene which I’ll get more into later when I discuss the final scene of the season.

 

Part Three

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At the start of part three, Vampiro gave Pentagon Jr some last minute training before his match with Matanza. In a scene similar to the Empire Strikes Back moment where Luke goes into the cave, Pentagon Jr went into a similar cave and fought his own demons. He eventually bested Vampiro, who told him that he was ready.

The two-hour final part began with Drago, Fenix and Aero Star challenging Johnny Mundo, PJ Black and Jack Evans for the Trios Championship. A very fun and action-packed trios match as usual. When you put six wrestlers as good as these six together, a lot of great stuff will happen. I would argue that it was a bit too much, especially with Angelico’s return to get revenge on Mundo, but it didn’t bother me too much. Everyone worked well with each other and Drago, Fenix and Aero Star ended up winning the belts. Fenix became the first person to achieve the Lucha Underground Grand Slam, winning the Lucha Underground, Trios and Gift Of The Gods titles. I think that Fenix accomplishing the feat in two seasons, as well as winning all of the belts in the same season for that matter, hurts the prestige of the titles a little. However, at least there were good stories told in the build up to each of his title reigns. Therefore, I don’t really have a problem with it. It wasn’t like complete title hot-shots or anything. A great opener to the show.

El Dragon Azteca faced Black Lotus. Initially, this was a really weird match. It started off as a normal match and then El Dragon Azteca took control. He was the aggressor in this inter-gender match and the fans died down a little. Trying to promote the idea of a babyface male against a heel female in a match is really hard to do, as how are the fans supposed to root for the heroes in that situation? Heck, El Dragon Azteca was shown to be vastly superior to Black Lotus. Then Pentagon came into beat up both wrestlers, causing a no contest. He broke both their arms, and that was the end of this grudge match between Black Lotus and El Dragon Azteca. No satisfying conclusion to their entire program AT ALL. Ended in four minutes by a man that hadn’t had any interaction with either character up until this point. This led to Vampiro announcing that this was not Pentagon Jr, but now Pentagon Dark.

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Pentagon Dark cut an awesome promo in Spanish, which was thankfully subtitled. Even if it wasn’t, you can tell that Pentagon always shows some serious passion in his promos and the fans hang on to every word he says. He told the crowd that he was Pentagon Dark and wanted to fight Matanza now. Matanza came out, meaning that the Lucha Underground title match was the third match on the five-match card for this final part. I personally would have put this in the main-event although at least the position of the match made more sense with the ending of the show in mind.

This was a really great match to watch and I’ll explain why. The whole idea behind this transformation of Pentagon Dark was to show that this was not the same man as before. After training from Vampiro, he has become a totally different person to the man that fought Matanza and got destroyed. Therefore, the rematch was structured much differently than the first match. It’s not like when John Cena gets angry and the announcers say that this was a new John Cena, even though he wrestles exactly the same. Pentagon destroyed Matanza this time around as the training of Vampiro paid off. He destroyed Matanza, had the match won until Vampiro whipped out a bat wrapped in barbed-wire. This barbed wire bat would end up being Pentagon’s undoing as Dario’s involvement caused Matanza to grab the bat and use it on Pentagon. He hit him in the back with the bat, hit his finishing powerslam and just pinned him. I will criticise the ending just a little, as the series had previously shown Pentagon being able to take Negan-like barbed-wire bat shots TO THE HEAD from Vampiro. He took a hit from the back, was hit with Matanza’s finisher and beaten. I thought, after taking 90% of the match, that Pentagon getting beat like that was rather underwhelming. Other than that, it was a great match. Vampiro, who stopped taking his meds after part two to train Pentagon a little more, went back on them after this match.

Taya wrestled Ivelisse. A decent women’s match which saw Taya win and Catrina attack Ivelisse with a jawbreaker of some type. It appears that Catrina will be wrestling during season three, which I’m a little worried about. Catrina, as Maxine in WWE, was still a part of the worst women’s match I’ve ever seen in NXT along with Kaitlyn in 2010. How far Maxine has progressed in more than five years is unknown, but I do pray to all the Aztec gods that she’s good enough to be able to do decent work with the likes of Ivelisse.

The main-event was Rey Mysterio vs Prince Puma. This was an incredible match, with magnificent chemistry and great story-telling aspects to it. It was the up-and-comer Prince Puma needing to do whatever he could to beat the legend Mysterio. The crowd was into every move and the drama was there. This is a legitimate contender for the best Lucha Underground match of all time. There’s just one small complaint I have and it’s Matt Striker on commentary. He was not suited to call a match like this. Firstly, there were a lot of times when he was calling the match more like a fan than a legitimate commentator. Him calling a particular spot the “I’m sorry, I love you” moment felt so tacky and almost unprofessional if you will. Did you really need to tell the audience what was going on between Mysterio and Puma, when Puma found it hard to find the strength to put away this legend? Secondly, after Mysterio won, Matt Striker made an absurd claim about this being the future of Lucha Libre. If Prince Puma won the match, I could buy that line. However, the veteran Mysterio beat the future in Prince Puma! If Rey Mysterio is the future of Lucha Libre, then Lucha Libre is not going to be great shape should Rey retire in the next few years!

At the end of the show, Pentagon Dark attacked Vampiro. Vampiro was off his meds, so Pentagon just simply beat him up effortlessly. It was a pretty bloody beatdown. He did this because Vampiro introduced the barbed-wire bat in his match when he didn’t need to. Along with that, after telling Pentagon that he was ready, Vampiro introducing the bat proved that he still didn’t have enough faith in him so Pentagon was angry. Pentagon came off as such a star after Ultima Lucha Dos was finished.

The big ending saw Dario Cueto arrested and taken away in a police van. While in the back of the van, Dario simply smiled. And that was that…

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Overall, it was a good four hour event. We didn’t get any really good stuff until the Death Match but we did get some really great matches following that. The Pentagon Dark/Matanza match was great and the Rey Mysterio/Prince Puma match was a wondrous match. I thought the ending of the season fell flat to me, considering how great the finale of last season was as it tied up the loose ends. Following this, there’s still a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of stuff that needs explaining. Let’s hope that we get some answers in season three, which begins in September.

Retro Express – Unforgiven 2008

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Coming off their first PG PPV in the “PG era” of WWE, the WWE came up with a new concept for a championship match type. This would be a new match that the WWE, World and ECW titles would all be defended in at Unforgiven, promoting excitement and unpredictability as five men would scramble to try and win the championship. The Championship Scramble saw CM Punk’s World title, Triple H’s WWE title and Mark Henry’s ECW title all in jeopardy. How many titles would change hands? Who would capture the gold? And finally, who would win the unsanctioned showdown between Shawn Michaels and the man that punched his wife at Summerslam? Well, let’s get to it….

 

WWE Unforgiven

Date: September 7th 2008

Brand: RAW, SmackDown! and ECW

City: Cleveland, Ohio

Attendance: 8,700

 

Mark Henry (c) vs Matt Hardy vs The Miz vs Finlay vs Chavo Guerrero in the ECW Championship Scramble match

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Matt Hardy and The Miz were the first two entrants in the match. Both of them got surprisingly big reactions. I know that this pay-per-view took place in Cleveland, where The Miz is from, but it was not like Miz was extremely over at that time. This was when he was with John Morrison and was only just starting to make a name for himself. It’s still nice that he got the big reaction here though.

The first five minutes between Matt and Miz were actually pretty good with not much to report on. There were no falls in the first five minutes with Chavo Guerrero being the third entrant. Chavo immediately pinned Matt with the Frog Splash, to become the interim champion. Chavo was able to pull off a rolling heel kick which was done well. What was not well pulled off was the Miz’s double crossbody on Matt and Chavo, which barely got Chavo. I guess that one could be put on Chavo for not being in the right place but it still came off looking sloppy. Matt ran wild and pinned Chavo with the side effect to become the new champion.

The fourth entrant was Mark Henry with Tony Atlas as his manager. Matt, Miz and Chavo all ganged up on Mark Henry but he pushed them all away. He ran wild and pinned Chavo with the World’s Strongest Slam. He beat everyone up. There was one interesting thing to note as the interim champions tried to retain their titles. Matt Hardy did this earlier in the match but the interim champions wore down the other competitors with long submission holds. Mark got the pin fall on Chavo a minute after he got into the match so we had roughly three or four minutes of Mark Henry putting everyone in bearhugs before Finaly came out. It makes sense for Henry to do that but this completely drained the match of life for a long period of time.

As mentioned, Finlay was the last entrant. He kept hitting Henry with DDTs as he took it to the current champion. Hornswoggle’s distraction led to Finlay hitting Mark with the shillelagh. Finlay and Matt were able to dump Mark over the top rope and out of the equation. Finlay then quickly hit Matt with the Celtic Cross and pinned him to become the interim champion. That’s team work for you everybody!

Matt eventually became the champion again, pinning Miz after hitting the Twist of Fate. Then we got a pretty stupid couple of minutes as we were drawing to a close. Mark Henry is killing nearly everyone in the match with World’s Strongest Slams but Matt broke them up each time. It was the case where Mark hit the finisher, Matt broke it up, Mark moved Matt out of the way and then hit someone else with the finisher. As a fan, I had only one thought in my mind… why don’t you turn around and kill Matt Hardy, so he won’t be able to stop you from pinning these other guys? Mark Henry struck me as someone that was just not learning from his mistakes as Matt kept breaking up the pin! It was just amazing.

There was actually a moment where Mark hit the World’s Strongest Slam on Miz but Miz was up again after like 20-30 seconds! Thanks for the no-sell Miz!

There was a big scramble in the last few seconds of the match with everybody trying to get a pin fall on each other. Matt kept trying to break all of them until the clock expired and Matt was declared the winner. There was a big pop when Matt Hardy won the belt which really lifted the crowd after the last ten minutes of the match really took them out of the scramble. I thought this was an OK Scramble match which did not set too great a precedent for other Scramble matches to follow. It started off exciting and then Mark Henry showed up, which took me right out of the match. Then there was the Matt/Mark incident near the end of the match which made the match seem like a total mess at times. In the end, the crowd was happy so I can’t bash this too much.

Match Rating: **1/4

Jeff Hardy congratulated Matt on his big win and Matt wished Jeff luck in the WWE Championship Scramble match later on.

There was a quick shot of WWE Champion Triple H and World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk warming up backstage. They were the champions going into their respective Championship Scramble matches.

Cody Rhodes (c) and Ted DiBiase Jr (c) vs Shad Gaspard and JTG for the World Tag Team Championship

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The announcers mentioned that Shad was once a bodyguard for “Iron” Mike Tyson. Am I the only person in the world that questions why MIKE TYSON of all people would need a body guard? I watched something recently with him in and he still looked like a pretty mean guy. If I tried to jump Mike Tyson in the street, I highly doubt that he’d need Shad Gaspard watching his back!

This match was a nice little tag team match. Nothing too fancy but it was just your slightly-above-average tag team match which was not really messed up at all. There was a funny incident at the start of the match where JTG was pulled off from Cody by the referee and JTG yelled “What are you doing?” Cody went for the moonsault but JTG moved out of the way. Shad got the hot tag. Cody hit the DDT on Shad while the referee was distracted but Shad would kick out of DiBiase’s pin. JTG and Cody became the legal men in the match. JTG went for the small-package on Cody but Ted rolled it over so Cody had JTG covered. The referee made the pin and the champions retained the titles. The two tag teams got into a brawl. Manu, the son of Afa, made his debut by turning the tide in the favour of the champions. They left and were feeling triumphant.

Match Rating: **1/2

Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho in an unsanctioned match

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Shawn Michaels was shown to be taping up his arm for his big unsanctioned fight with Chris Jericho. They showed an awesome video package to recap the feud between Michaels and Jericho. The biggest thing that I took from this feud was that Jericho was justified in nearly all of his actions during this program. He made the point when he turned on Shawn about how the fans were booing an honest man (Jericho) and cheering a lair (Michaels). He did a tremendous job in making Michaels out to be a villain in nearly every scenario, even when he was supposed to retire at Summerslam 2008. Some of the lines thrown in this angle were awesome.

The WWE were actually just starting out in the “PG era” but there was one “we want blood” sign, which was surprisingly not confiscated by security. It is possible that WWE knew that there might be blood in Jericho/HBK anyway so maybe that’s why it wasn’t taken away. HBK attacked Jericho with punches early on. He took off his belt and smacked Jericho with it. They fought in the crowd. Michaels went for a chair shot on Jericho but he missed. Jericho did a DDT to Michaels on the outside, which looked effective. Jericho pulled out a table and hit Michaels with it. Jericho tried a powerbomb but he ended up launching Michaels into the apron.

Jericho beat up Michaels with a chair. Jericho wedged the chair in the corner. They teased Irish-whipping each other into it. Jericho tried to suplex Michaels through the table on the outside but Shawn got out of it. They then showed Michaels flat-out choking Jericho in the ring with a crazed look in his face. I thought that was a nice touch as it shows just how badly Michaels wanted to hurt Jericho. Shawn went for the Superkick but stopped and then just started punching Jericho in the face! The more I think about it, the more of a good spot this became in my mind. I think it’s changed my opinion because the match itself was a totally different type of match then you were used to from Michaels and Jericho. Therefore, these moments make a lot more sense than if Michaels were to have done it at WrestleMania 19 for example.

Michaels locked on the crossface but Jericho was able to hurdle Michaels face-first into the chair. This obviously added to what happened earlier in the storyline, with Jericho injuring Michaels’ eye. Jericho targeted the eye and with the vision of Michaels impaired a little, Jericho turned it into an amateur boxing match for a while! Jericho did the Irish Whip spot to Michaels, where Shawn did a flip in the corner. It was so great because the flip actually helped Michaels out, as it was done to the same corner where the chair was still wedged in!

Jericho went for the Walls of Jericho but Michaels got the ropes. However, Jericho didn’t have to let go as it was no disqualification. Shawn was able to get under the apron and pull out a fire extinguisher. He sprayed Jericho to get out of the Walls and he hit Jericho with the extinguisher. Michaels took Jericho up the ramp and did a nasty looking suplex on it. It honestly looked like it hurt Shawn more than it hurt Chris!

Lance Cade, who was Chris Jericho’s protege at the time, tried a run in but Michaels cut him off. Cade’s response was to TURN HIM INSIDE OUT with a clothesline! Jericho and Cade targeted Michaels’ taped up arm. Jericho slapped Michaels while Cade helped him. Cade brought in a chair and Jericho smacked Michaels in the arm with it. He planned to break Michaels’ arm by wrapping the chair around it and jumping off the top rope with some move. As he went up, Michaels got out of it and superkicked Cade. Michaels took the chair and hit Jericho with it, causing Jericho to crash into the table. I thought Cade’s involvement was really well done and it led to a great spot with Jericho falling into the table. I thought this was all great.

HBK then unleashed a barrage of one-handed chair shots to Jericho which I thought were great additions to the match. It made Michaels look so great while he was in this state-of-mind. He wanted to beat up Jericho with this chair so much that he decided to do it with one arm! Michaels put Cade and Jericho on the announce table and then hit an elbow drop off the top rope through the table.

HBK then whipped Jericho with the belt. In what was a great moment, HBK then started whipping Jericho in the eye! If you’ll recall, Michaels mentioned in a segment on RAW before this about an eye for an eye and Michaels was legitimately trying to take out Jericho’s. He then laid into Jericho with a number of bare-knuckle blows. Jericho was KO’d and the referee called for the bell. Some of the fans booed and a lot of the fans didn’t get the finish but it was still pulled off really well. In a way, they did contradict themselves with the rules by claiming that it could only end via pin fall or submission beforehand. Then again when thinking about the storyline, the referee probably thought that there was no way that Shawn was going to go for the cover and Jericho couldn’t submit as he was knocked out. When factoring all of those things, the referee calling for the bell does make sense.

HBK still continued to beat up Jericho and he even super-kicked one of the referees. More referees came out to stop Michaels and attend to Jericho. This was all splendid.

The match itself was pretty damn great. I know a lot of people didn’t get how the match was put together. To be honest, I was one of those people when I first watched this. There was parts of the matches which I never really understood until I watched it back recently. It wasn’t a match which everyone got but it was still masterfully put together. It’s unfair to compare this match to other Michaels vs Jericho matches as it was obviously not set out to be like those matches that we saw in the past. However, it was still pretty damn great. The match actually gets better and better the more I think about it. TWO HUGE THUMBS UP FOR THIS!

Match Rating: ****1/4

Legacy were backstage. Cody introduced Manu to Randy Orton and Ted asked if Orton was impressed. Orton said he wasn’t and proceeded to cut an amazing promo on Ted, Cody and Manu. He delivered a great speech about talent and ability, berating them for using tactics that people like Cryme Tyme would use on the street. He was not impressed.

Triple H (c) vs Jeff Hardy vs Shelton Benjamin vs The Brian Kendrick vs MVP in the WWE Championship Scramble match

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This was a championship scramble match mostly revolved around two men – Triple H and Jeff Hardy. At the end of the day, the winner of the match was going to be either one of those two. Therefore, this made everyone else in the match seem irrelevant (except for The Brian Kendrick, which we’ll get onto later). I don’t know if I were to have booked it like this, as the whole point of the match is surely to tease that anyone can win. If you were going to book it as they did, wouldn’t it make for sense for Jeff and Triple H to start off the match? That way, you can get the fans into the match early on and also give Jeff and Triple H experience in wrestling 20 minute title matches with each other, which is important as they would go on to fight each other for the title in the next few pay-per-views.

They went with Jeff Hardy  and Shelton Benjamin as the first and second entrants respectively. It was a decent first five minutes. There was one strange clothesline spot where Shelton went down and it appeared that he thought that they were going to do the double clothesline spot, where they both go down. The third entrant was The Brian Kendrick, who was with Ezekiel Jackson at this time. As he was coming down, Shelton was trying to hit Jeff with a  German Suplex off the apron. Kendrick cut him off. Kendrick was pinned soon after by Jeff Hardy with an alley oop.

This was the part of the show where I thought that the wrestlers themselves really didn’t understand the rules of the match. The Championship Scramble was actually a complicated concept but it was made worse by the fact that the interim-champion Jeff Hardy tried getting a pin fall on Shelton Benjamin. Why would Jeff need to bother getting another pin fall? Why didn’t he do what his brother did earlier on and just wear down his opponents? It wouldn’t have been too big of a deal had it not been for the finish, which we’ll get to later.

Shelton hit the Pay Dirt on Jeff and Kendrick followed it up with “The Kendrick” to pin Jeff Hardy. THE BRIAN KENDRICK became the interim WWE Champion. The Brian Kendrick was really the only one, other than Triple H and Jeff Hardy, that stood out like I mentioned earlier. Kendrick got the pin fall and the entire crowd was stunned as well as the commentators! He then served as the best interim champion in the history of the Championship Scramble! He looked like such a star for the next five minutes or so. MVP was the fourth entrant and ran wild. He went for the dive-by but Kendrick cut him off with one of the most beautiful leg lariats I’ve ever seen. Kendrick then started to do a tremendous job in making himself seem like a legitimate threat in this match. He was the best wrestler in the ring for the time that he was champion and was outclassing everyone! Then Triple H came in as the last entrant…

All of a sudden, things went downhill for Kendrick. Triple H ran wild and pinned Kendrick right away after a Pedigree to become the interim champion. All of a sudden it became the Triple H and Jeff Hardy show, with Kendrick playing the same role as everyone else. Shelton Irish-whipped Triple H into the steel steps. As this was going on, Jeff pinned MVP with the Twist of Fate. There were some boos as this happened, with the some of the crowd seeing where this was going.

In a terrible twenty seconds for Kendrick, Triple H pinned Kendrick again with the Pedigree. Triple H turned around to catch his breath, which apparently meant that Triple H had lost his hearing as well. The reason I say this is because as Triple H was turned around, Jeff hit the Swanton Bomb on Kendrick to a big pop. Jeff then pinned Kendrick to once again become the interim champion. There were only two men that were getting reactions at this point and they were Triple H and Jeff Hardy. If the crowd were going crazy, then Triple H surely should have figured out that Jeff was somehow back in the match and going for something big. Surely that should have forced Triple H to turn around and stop Jeff Hardy from getting the pin, which almost cost him the WWE Championship. But no. Hunter turned around with a shocked look in his face as he was no longer the interim champion.

There was an awesome tower of doom spot with Shelton Benjamin, MVP and The Brian Kendrick. All three men were down. In the closing seconds of this match, Jeff hit Shelton with the Swanton Bomb which was followed by Triple H giving MVP a pedigree. Triple H was going for the cover on MVP with Jeff Hardy stood right in front of him. Did Jeff Hardy try to break up the pin? No. He turned his attentions to Shelton and TRIED TO PIN HIM. Once again, YOU WERE ALREADY THE INTERIM CHAMPION! All Jeff Hardy had to do was make sure that Triple H didn’t pin MVP and he would have won the title right then and there. Instead, he allowed Triple H to get the pin fall and the announcers tried to play it up like Jeff was so close to winning the championship. They were right. He was so close but he failed out of his own stupidity. Jeff Hardy came off looking like the dumbest man alive in this match. He tried to pin other wrestlers while he was already the champion and had no clue of how the match worked in the slightest.

They also tried to go with the angle that Jeff was too hurt to recover and do anything. He was too hurt to break up the pin but he was OK enough to go try a pin on somebody else?

So Triple H got the pin fall at the end, which saw him retain the championship as the last man to get a pin or a submission. Other than the ending, this was a decent Championship Scramble. I would go as far as to call it the best scramble in the show but that is not saying much. It didn’t help the match when everyone involved had at least one moment where they did something stupid or was completely squashed. SmackDown! did not come off looking good following this pay-per-view.

Match Rating: **3/4

Shawn Michaels did an interview with Todd Grisham. Shawn said that he was content with what he had accomplished in his match with Jericho but he did not find closure. He said that if he could, he would deliver the same beating to Jericho every single day of his life. He warned Jericho that the worst is yet to come. For the fans, the best was yet to come as those two would go on to have an incredible match at No Mercy in the following month!

World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk was interviewed by Eve Torres, future Divas Champion. Randy Orton interrupted Punk’s interview. Orton called Punk a fluke champion. They had a back-and-forth until Cody, Ted and Manu all attacked Punk. Kofi Kingston tried to help Punk but he was beaten down too. Orton then ended the beating by punting CM Punk in the head. Orton would tell Legacy that this was impressive. They left.

Michelle McCool (c) vs Maryse for the Divas Championship

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This was not great. Maryse could barely run the ropes in this match. Michelle tried to do a flip arm drag off the top rope but was only just able to land on her feet. They fought on the outside, with Michelle giving Maryse a clothesline off the barricade. The match actually did include a good of bit old ring psychology, with Maryse working on Michelle’s leg. Michelle then worked on Maryse’s leg. The big difference was that Maryse was selling her leg injury while Michelle wasn’t! I then was reduced to uncontrollable laughter after Maryse and Michelle tried a sunset flip. Maryse tried this sunset flip but it ended up with Maryse’s momentum causing Michelle to crush her!

Michelle won with a suplex facebuster for the pin fall. You could tell that the announcers barely cared about this match as about ten seconds after the match, Tazz suddenly just went “ooooh” as if he just realised that the match was over! This was slightly worse then your average women’s match. The only major thing that they messed up was the sunset flip which still brought me a fair amount of entertainment!

Match Rating: *1/4

They then cut to a poll that the WWE were running throughout the night. It was whether the Big Show should have been allowed to be in the WWE Championship Scramble. 77% of the fans said that he should have been in the match. I guarantee that if they ran this poll again in 2016 for whether the Big Show should be in the Elimination Chamber for example, 77% would have voted against having him in!

RAW General Manager Mike Adamle cut a promo. He announced that it looked like CM Punk was not going to be able to make it to the World Title Championship Scramble. He said if CM Punk couldn’t compete, he would find someone else to take his place. He guaranteed that a FIVE MAN championship scramble will take place tonight.

You know what’s funny about Mike Adamle is that I wasn’t really watching wrestling at this time period, so I never watched it during the Age of Adamle. If I was, I totally would have loved him as the general manager of RAW and here’s why. The thing is that I really loved John Laurinaitis, when he was in charge with People Power. I’m a sucker for characters that are so bad that they’re good. Even though he messed up a lot of promos and came out with some unintentionally great moments, there was never a moment where I wanted to turn off the television when Big Johnny came out. Mike Adamle had that same effect where you’re just watching him and you’re waiting for him to come out with a beauty of a line!

He never really messed up anything with this promo but I loved the way that he raised his voice at the end of his promo. Apparently John Cena convinced Adamle that the more you raise your voice, the better your promo will be!

Segment with Vickie Guerrero, Big Show and The Undertaker

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Big Show came out. He was in his singlet. I was about to question why Big Show was coming out in his ring gear when he wasn’t scheduled to compete. As it turns out, he was lobbying himself to compete in the main event and take CM Punk’s place. Then again, Big Show didn’t know that there would be an open spot in the match until Adamle just announced it a minute or so earlier! So again… why was he in his gear?

He started his promo by just saying “Hi” which got some laughs. Big Show offered to be in the main event in Punk’s place as mentioned earlier. He said that at least Mike Adamle wouldn’t have left him out of a scramble match unlike SmackDown! General Manager Vickie Guerrero. This somehow led to Big Show encouraging people to vote in the 2008 elections. I have no idea how he was able to segway into this!

Vickie came out. Vickie told Big Show that she warned him not to cause a disruption or else. She had warned him that he’d either be suspended or fined. He then called him a big, dumb giant and told him to leave. When Big Show refused to leave, Vickie didn’t act on her threat. There were no fines or suspensions. She did not fire him. She basically told him to go away!

By the way, Vickie Guerrero does not fit into the category of “so bad that it’s good.” At this point in her career, she could still barely act. She was god awful with her delivery on this show. At least Big Johnny or Adamle had something to make you want to stay and watch. Vickie was just so bad that it made you think that WWE were actually daring you to turn off the show.

The Undertaker popped up on the titantron as druids made their way down to the ring with a casket. Big Show was just laughing in the ring. Taker said that he promised that he would be coming for Vickie at Unforgiven. He said that the coffin would be her final resting place. He asked her whether she wanted to go voluntarily or by force. Big Show kept her in the ring.

Undertaker got a big pop when he was coming out. Vickie tried to exit via the crowd but Big Show brought her back into the ring. This gave me strange deja vus of Over The Limit 2012, when Big Show brought Big Johnny back in the ring after he tried to escape from the crowd. Anyone that watched that pay-per-view will remember how that went down. As amazing as it is, I got deja vus from a segment that took place in 2012 while watching a pay-per-view from 2008 in 2016!

Taker opened the casket and got in the ring. Undertaker then started taking off his coat and hat. I didn’t realise that Undertaker needed to be in his ring gear in order to take Vickie Guerrero to hell! He grabbed her by the throat and then the Big Show punched Taker in the face. Big Show, did in fact, turn heel on this pay-per-view. It’s just amazing that they did this exact same storyline in 2012 but with Big Johnny replacing Vickie and John Cena replacing the Undertaker. Incredible.

So Big Show beat up the Undertaker in a shockingly agile manner. He then drove Taker into the ring post and threw him into the barricade. He knocked over the casket and then kept punching Taker in the face, knocking him out. Vickie then spit in Undertaker’s face, slapping him for good measure. ALL OF THIS TOOK TWENTY MINUTES OF PAY-PER-VIEW TIME!

Segment Rating: -**

They then recapped a RAW segment with Randy Orton and CM Punk, which led to the attack from earlier.

William Regal tried to convince Mike Adamle to put him in the World Heavyweight Championship Scramble match. Adamle said he’d take his request under advisement.

Batista vs Kane vs JBL vs Rey Mysterio vs Chris Jericho in the World Heavyweight Championship Scramble match

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Batista and JBL started out the match. I was rather shocked and disappointed by the WWE’s decision to have Batitsa and JBL kick off the match. They could have put in Kane or Rey Mysterio, with Mysterio having a history of pulling off good long match performances. However, they decided that it was best for Batista and JBL to work a 20 minute match. Batista looked blown up at around the half-way point.

They also decided to have Batista and JBL start the match by locking on submission holds. Because if there’s one thing I associate Batista and JBL with, it’s submissions! Batista locked on the Figure Four Leg Lock for about a minute. It was much better when these two were just going blow for blow as opposed to just going for submissions. That brought out the best of them. Batista Irish-whipped JBL into the corner. He got into the ring and waited for the third entrant, who turned out to be Kane.

There was a fine back-and-forth between Kane and Batista. They went for finishers on each other but they were countering each other’s stuff. Then there was a nice little sequence between all three men, which saw Kane pin JBL off a chokeslam. The fourth entrant was Rey Mysterio, who brought life into the match for about a few minutes. He and JBL picked up the pace as Mysterio ran wild. Rey went for the 619 on Kane but it was avoided and Kane turned Rey inside out with a clothesline.

Rey and Batista then teamed up to do an elevated splash, with Rey on Batista’s shoulders. They went for it again but Rey turned it into a victory roll pin attempt on Batista. It’s funny that Batista thought nothing of Rey’s betrayal in this match when a year later, he got so mad at Rey for breaking up a pin fall which caused Big Dave to turn heel at Bragging Rights 2009!

JBL then took advantage of the brief squabble that Rey and Batista had. JBL hit a fallaway slam on Rey, which saw him land right on Batista. The fifth entrant was revealed to be Chris Jericho, who came out selling his match from earlier on in the night. Everyone in the ring was shocked as Jericho came out, with Y2J looking wrecked. Batista then speared Rey and Jericho out of their boots.

In a repeat of earlier on, Kane tried to go for the pin even though HE WAS THE CHAMPION. Fortunately, he only did this once. In the last 45 seconds of the match, Batista hit Kane with the spinebuster and pinned him to become the interim champion. Rey then tried a springboard move on Batista but it was countered into a Batista Bomb. This was a sweet reversal actually. As this was happening though, Jericho sneaked back into the ring and pinned Kane. The clock ran out and Chris Jericho won the World Heavyweight Championship!

I’ve got to say that the finish was really well executed. It was not done in such a way that it devalued the title as Jericho had already been beaten up before the match. Jericho was slaughtered by Michaels but still came back out, which put him over. Even if he didn’t do anything in the match, Jericho winning was the whole point of the match at the end of the day. The majority of the match was pretty boring but it did lead to a great finish. It was also not like the WWE Championship Scramble match ending, where Jeff could have done something to break up the pin. Jericho went for the pin as Batista was in mid-move. Batista could not stop what he was doing and go break up the pin. Really well executed finish with a match type which did have its fair share of problems. The finish gets a thumbs up from me!

Match Rating: **1/4

Overall, this was a fine pay-per-view. The Championship Scramble was a complicated concept, as mentioned earlier. Especially with the wrestlers themselves getting somewhat confused by it, it was a very difficult match to get your head around. Despite this, all three matches were different in their layouts and they all provided something different. Matt brought the triumphant new babyface champion, Triple H and Jeff brought the back-and-forth pin falls which lead to an exciting last minute of the match and Jericho brought the shock factor. The best match of the night was Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels BY FAR, but this was not a pay-per-view that delivered a lot of bad matches or anything. With the exception of the women’s match and the god awful Vickie, Big Show and Undertaker segment, this was decent stuff. Thumbs up from me!

Lucha Underground: Aztec Warfare II Review

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NOTE: The following was written several months ago, days after the episode took place. Therefore, no aspects of future storylines after Aztec Warfare II will be discussed.
Season One’s Aztec Warfare match was one of my favourite matches in the first season. It saw the best in the Temple battle it out to crown the first Lucha Underground champion. When the smoke cleared, Prince Puma won the title. In Season Two they brought it back, with Lucha Underground Champion Fenix being forced to defend his title as the number one entrant. Did Aztec Warfare II deliver just like the first one?
As Catrina had declared at the end of the last episode, Fenix was the #1 entrant. He was the first entrant in the first Aztec Warfare match so this was a little case of deja vu. It was also funny, because Lucha Underground had their champion defend the title in a multi-man match that was taped in December. Fast-forward to January and the WWE had Roman Reigns defend the WWE title in a Royal Rumble! Think about that for a moment.
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#2 was the debuting Rey Mysterio. Mysterio revealed that he was in the match the week before but these fans obviously had no idea as they went nuts for Rey. As soon as Melissa Santos said “From San Diego, California,” you could hear some rumblings as if the fans started to figure out where this was going. As soon as Melissa said “Rey,” there was an eruption in the Temple!
I have to say that Rey looked in great shape during the match. Rey was very active throughout the match and he did a tremendous job in lasting the entire match. I remember watching him in the 2013 Royal Rumble and he looked blown up after like a minute. I couldn’t help but notice when I watched that particular Rumble. This Rey Mysterio was nothing like that Rey Mysterio that was in WWE a few years ago. Rey looked great and it was probably helped by the fact that this was in a taped show. If Rey was blown up at times, then Lucha did a great job in editing it out!
Fenix was, by far, the biggest mark for Rey as he came out. He showed respect for Rey and encouraged him to go up to the turnbuckles for his entrance. We started off with a great exchange between the old veteran and the young lion. Great to see and Rey was able to keep up with the pace of Fenix. Number three was King Cuerno. Mysterio, Fenix and Cuerno threw down for a while.
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Argenis was #4, making his return to the Temple as Argenis. He was actually a part of the Disciples of Death. I don’t actually think that the Disciples of Death are done yet though. I’ve seen a teaser Instagram post from Lucha that promoted a trios rematch between Ivelisse, Son of Havoc and Angelico against the Disciples of Death. They might wrap up that trios team after the rematch and let Argenis do his own thing. Argenis was fine in this match but he was really there to be the first of Rey’s victims. He was the first man eliminated after eating a 619. Johnny Mundo came out as #5 and then they went to the adverts.
There was a clever spot where Fenix used Mundo’s foot to boot Mysterio. Joey Ryan was #6 and his plan was to handcuff himself on the rail to keep himself from being pinned. It was a clever spot but all I kept thinking about when I watched this was when Big Show pinned Essa Rios on the wall in a hardcore match! Thankfully, this was not a Falls Count Anywhere match so Ryan was safe… FOR NOW!
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Prince Puma was #7. He ran wild and hit everyone (except Joey Ryan) with a Springboard Shooting Star Press. That was an incredible spot. Jack Evans was #8. King Cuerno tapped out to Rey Mysterio’s cross armbreaker to be eliminated. The luchadors (Mysterio, Puma and Fenix) then teamed up to take out the “rudos” Mundo and Evans. Rudos is another term for heels in case anyone was wondering. Evans and Mundo got together and waited for #9 to come out, who was in fact Taya. Big pop for Taya when she came out. There was awesome spot with the luchadores and the rudos faced off in a six man tag confrontation. Cage was #10 and ran wild, as we went to the adverts.
Cage beat up all the rudos until Mundo threw him into Catrina’s office. If you’ll recall, he turned heel by throwing Alberto El Patron threw the same window. Mundo has a thing for pulling a Shawn Michaels on the luchadors! Mascarita Sagrada was #11. Cage quickly re-entered the fray and hit a big discuss clothesline on Mundo. He hit the Weapon X on the outside and Prince Puma hit the standing moonsault to eliminate Mundo. Marty the Moth was #12. He dominated the match for a while. Drago came in at #13.
Drago went after the “Dragon Slayer” Jack Evans. They brawled into the crowd and Drago spit mist into Joey Ryan’s eyes. Sagrada and Mysterio teamed up to eliminate Marty. The Mack was number 14 and he hit Marty with a stunner for good measure.
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Then there was an awesome moment in the ring, with Mack and Cage having a stare down. As they started trading punches, there was a shot of the ring with the entrance steps behind them. So as Cage and Mack are fighting, Jack Evans starts rolling down the steps and to the floor! It was one of the funniest aspects of this match but it was also one of my biggest criticisms of the match too. There was so much going on during the match that it was hard to keep up. As stuff was going on in the ring, Drago and Evans were doing big spots in the crowd. At least in the Royal Rumble match, they make it clear over who the spotlight was on and who they wanted the fans to focus on at one time. In Aztec Warfare, it just seemed like there was too much going on at once. It was all great but it was all clunked together it seems.
There was also another spot where Fenix threw Mascarita Sagrada into Joey Ryan, who was obviously not in a position to catch him! It was almost like Sagrada hit one of the bouncers on a pinball machine and bounced off him and onto the ground! Poor Sagrada!
Chavo Guerrero was #15. Sometime during all of this chaos, Drago hit a powerbomb on Evans onto with outside benches. Chavo eliminated Mascarita Sagrada with a camel clutch submission, getting him his redemption for losing to Hornswoggle every week on RAW in 2009. Cage was eliminated by Taya, after Mundo hit him with a cinder block. I’m totally expecting a cinder block match between Mundo and Cage, with the winner having to a break a cinder block over the head of the other. Maybe that’s a bad idea for a gimmick match but that’s where it looks like it’s going with all of these cinder block attacks. I don’t know whether that’d work but I’m willing to give it a chance!
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PJ Black came out as #16 and Fenix eliminated Taya with a German suplex. Black double-teamed Drago with his new buddy Jack Evans. He hit a suplex to Drago on the benches. That spot and the powerbomb spot from earlier did not look pretty. Not sure whether all of this was really necessary but the crowd was going nuts for this crowd-brawling. Aerostar was #17, which lead to a tag team battle with Aerostar and Drago battling Evans and Black. There was a double elimination with Aerostar beating Evans and Black beating Drago. Aerostar put Evans away with a top rope Canadian Destroyer-looking move which got a huge reaction.
Dragon Azteca Jr was #18. Here’s the issue with the way that the Lucha Underground shows are put together. We, at home, knew who Dragon Azteca Jr was. We got the big story with Dragon Azteca Jr and Rey Mysterio and by watching the television, it’s easy to understand his stake in Aztec Warfare. However, this crowd had no clue about who this guy was and he was met with little reaction! Vampiro did mention that he recognised the mask but it was not like anybody else in the crowd did. Dragon Azteca Jr did turn the fans around with a few high spots including an awesome dive over the ring post and onto the outside.
Texano Jr was #19. He was running wild and he eliminated PJ Black. Mil Muertes was #20, as declared by Catrina in the last episode. Pentagon Jr, who was not given an invitation to compete, took out Mil with a chair. This got an incredible reaction from the Temple. He threw him back into the ring and Mil was pinned by Rey and Puma. Catrina was angry at Vampiro and slapped him. As this confrontation was going on, the timer was counting down. Then came out Dario Cueto….
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I was beaming with joy when I saw Dario come out! Dario may have possibly gotten the biggest reaction of the night! He declared that he was back in charge and that there was going to be a 21st entrant into Aztec Warfare. He revealed the entrant to be his brother… Matanza!
I like Catrina a lot but seeing Dario back in charge put the biggest smile on my face. Nobody can out-do Dario Cueto as being an authority figure in Lucha Underground.
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Matanza did the big roar spot as he came out, pushing away everybody that was left. I loved what came next. He immediately targeted the champion Fenix, hit a German suplex and pinned him. The fans were all stunned as the champion was the FIRST man to face the wrath of Matanza. It made you realise that this Matanza fellow was not someone to mess with!
The Mack took on Matanza but saw his Stunner on Matanza no-sold. Matanza eliminated Mack and Aerostar to boos from the Temple.
Texano tried to choke out Matanza with a bull rope but he was taken out with a sit-out powerbomb. Matanza then targeted Joey Ryan, who was still handcuffed on the railing. Matanza broke the steel to set Ryan free. He killed Ryan with three rolling gut-wrench suplexes and pinned him. I was impressed at how Matanza was able to pull this off as it would be a very difficult sequence to pull off.
Chavo tried to form an alliance with Puma, Rey and Dragon Azetca but then quickly turned on them all. Matanza and Dragon Azteca battled but Matanza quickly disposed of him. Chavo then tried to form an alliance with Dario Cueto but Dario told Matanza to kill Chavo. Matana eliminated Chavo and Puma until it was down to Matanza and Mysterio.
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They had a great little final two and Rey had done really well to make it this far and looked fine at this stage. Rey hit the 619 but then Matanza caught him with a running powerslam and pinned him to win Aztec Warfare.

Dario then handed the Lucha Underground title to Matanza. It’s almost like Matanza had no clear what to do with this belt until Dario told him to raise it! It would have been awesome if Matanza had tried to eat that belt or something!

I have to say that Lucha Underground knocked it out of the park with this Aztec Warfare match. Rey Mysterio’s debut was well executed. There was rarely a dull moment as there was a lot of action. There were a number of instances where there seemed to be too much action going on at one time, preventing the fans from properly keeping up with everything. Dario Cueto’s return was awesome and Matanza came out of this looking like such a star. He destroyed everyone like few monsters had dominated before. Rarely has a monster been booked as convincingly as this. Brock Lesnar was booked dominantly but it’s not like he eliminated everyone else that was left in this year’s Royal Rumble for example. Matanza eliminated the champion right off the bat and everybody else had no hope in hell of beating him.

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I’ll end this with two things. I do agree with Wrestling Observer’s Bryan Alvarez with the sentiment that “Matanza” maybe should have been a much bigger fellow. It was built up on television that Dario Cueto’s brother was a lot taller as Dario would be shown to be looking up at this monster. Maybe they were planning on having someone bigger but they changed their mind. I’m really sure what their mindset was but I was expecting someone much bigger.
With that said, Matanza was great at being Matanza. He decimated everyone. I was just in awe about this entire ending with Matanza running rough-shot on everyone left in that match. He threw everyone around like it was nothing to him. Nearly everyone was hit with one move and beaten. This dude was able to pull off standing moonsaults among other incredible feats. This guy was something else.
HUGE THUMBS UP FOR LUCHA UNDERGROUND!

Could Kalisto Be A Star In WWE?

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Contrary to popular belief, wins and losses are vital to those in WWE. While those in WWE are working in a kayfabe world were wins and losses are predetermined, those predetermined wins and losses make a hell of a difference to a wrestler’s rise to or fall from stardom. One win can make you a star. One loss can be the beginning of the end. However, there was one victory recently that sparked interest from the WWE universe and myself.

There were a number of wrestlers involved in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament which were seemingly brought in just to fill up the bracket. Nobody never believed that Titus O’Neil was going to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. There was no reason to believe that Tyler Breeze would win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship a month after debuting on the roster. There was no chance in hell that Kalisto from the Lucha Dragons would ever beat Ryback in the first round right? However, the whole idea of anything can happen in WWE can strike when you least expect it.

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There’s no way that Kalisto could possibly beat Ryback right? Well as the gods of unpredictability would have it, Kalisto beat Ryback in the first round for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament. Quite the shocker to say the least, but was there a lot more to the victory than just to provide a big upset?

Someone like Tyler Breeze getting a huge upset would make sense as he’s just arrived on the main roster. Someone like Kalisto though is different. Kalisto first arrived on the main roster in March as part of the Lucha Dragons. It’s not like Kalisto was ever built up to be a singles star. It did seem that WWE was trying to promote Kalisto as the star of the team as he usually the one tagged in for the hot tags and he’s got the more flashy moves in him than Sin Cara. However, there seemed to be no real intent of pushing him to challenge for the Intercontinental Championship or anything serious like that. He was just another part of the roster.

On the other hand, Ryback had just been coming off losing his Intercontinental title and has received a number of pushes since he was repackaged as Ryback in 2012. When looking at things like that, there was no real reason for Kalisto to beat Ryback at all unless it meant that there was something  big in store for the high flyer.

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What does WWE want to do with Kalisto? Do they want him to eventually be their top Mexican representative so they can build a bigger audience in that part of the world? Do want him to join a number of high flyers in WWE to build a Cruiserweight Division? What motivation could WWE have had which would have them put Kalisto over Ryback in the first round of the tournament?

On RAW, Kalisto was beaten in the quarter finals by Alberto Del Rio. As much as I love Del Rio, I had a problem with WWE ending this “Cinderella story” before it even began. The unlikely contender defying the odds was the key story going into that match but it was quickly ended by Del Rio. So it was not like Kalisto was going to make it to Survivor Series as pushing Del Rio as a main eventer is a big priority for WWE. However, there’s obviously enough intrigue for WWE to possibly do something with him. In today’s WWE, having something to do is a hell of a lot better than having nothing.

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I’m going to sort of turn this into a “How I Would Book” post for a brief moment as I believe Kalisto losing to Del Rio actually sets things up nicely for if WWE were to ever try to push him. If you’ve ever watched Lucha Underground, AAA or any form of lucha libre, you’ll know that there’s a lot of pride involved. Kalisto should be portrayed as a proud warrior that seeks to be the best wrestling has to offer. Him beating Ryback and losing to Del Rio teaches him that he does have what it takes to become a star but still lacks something (possibly motivation) to truly unlock his full potential.

That’s Kalisto’s motivation as he requests more singles matches. He loses initially but then is able to pick up that one win again against someone like Kevin Owens or Cesaro. He’s starting to learn from his mistakes and looks better and better every time he’s in the ring. Kalisto then gets on a roll from this win and he and Sin Cara team up again and eventually earn a shot at the tag titles at Royal Rumble or Fast Lane. They come close but they eventually get beat. Kalisto is given an opportunity to compete for the United States Championship at Wrestlemania against the champion Del Rio, but only if he and Sin Cara split up. Cara tells him to go for it and Kalisto earns a title shot on RAW. He is finally able to beat Del Rio at Wrestlemania to capture the gold.

That was just a short idea I came up with in my head but it tells you the potential the WWE have now created with this victory that could make a star out of Kalisto.

 

Wrestling Flashback – The SmackDown! Six

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In 2002, the WWE draft would have a major impact on WWE television. Gone were the days of competition from WCW. With the contracts of WCW talent being bought out by the WWE, it became apparent that all of these stars couldn’t possibly be given the chance to perform. With the entire roster working on all of the TV shows, there was little opportunity for lower-card talent to get an on-screen appearance on RAW or SmackDown! There was simply too big a roster to deal with. The WWE draft came up with a solution… split the roster down the middle creating two separate brands called RAW and SmackDown!

Another potential reason for the roster split was down to the ratings for RAW and SmackDown! taking a huge hit coming off the “Attitude Era”. According to Paul Heyman, who became the head writer of SmackDown! in 2002, SmackDown! was facing cancellation as the writing team was split up to serve both brands. Internally, all eyes were on RAW and Heyman’s job was to “take SmackDown! of their plate”. With the need to feature everybody and pressure on both WWE’s two flagship shows, the brand wars was on.

With all eyes on RAW, Paul Heyman was left with Stephanie McMahon to build up the stars that the “powers-that-be” didn’t see a lot of potential in. When the time was right, WWE could eventually pluck out these stars for their “flagship” show RAW. One of the first examples of this was when Chris Jericho was moved to RAW from SmackDown!, after finishing up a great rivalry with the up-and-comer Edge. Paul protested this move as Jericho was making Edge into a legitimate star on SmackDown! However, Heyman was offered a “compensation” for losing the main-event star Jericho. Heyman wanted Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero (who were, according to Heyman, the “nWo’s whipping boys” at the time on RAW) in exchange for losing Jericho. Heyman saw a lot of potential in Benoit and Guerrero, while the RAW writers didn’t. With the trade agreed and Benoit and Guerrero “stolen” by SmackDown! General Manager Stephanie McMahon, the table was set for Heyman to take these stars to the next level.

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The funny thing about looking back at 2002 is the relaxed booking from Paul Heyman compared to the frankly desperate attempts for ratings on RAW. Heyman didn’t have to resort to featuring HLA or a storyline about necrophilia in order to grab ratings. All it took for Heyman was simple story-telling and build up which resulted in more eye balls watching SmackDown! to see the intensity of these stories build over time. And the reason that’s so funny is because NXT is trumping WWE’s flagship shows right now for the very simple reason. Why do you think the fans of Brooklyn went nuts for Bayley vs Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver while they paid little attention to the Divas Revolution on Summerslam and RAW?

Heyman allowed the action in the ring to tell the stories for the viewers, and the viewers understood the story-telling very well. Michael Cole and Tazz didn’t need to talk about the storylines as much and could refocus the viewer’s attention to the match. That’s what made them such a great pairing.

Heyman’s most notable claim to fame as SmackDown! head writer was the introduction of the SmackDown! tag team division. RAW never really had a strong tag team division of it’s own at the time as it was mostly considered an after-thought by the writers. This was Heyman’s chance to seize the moment. With Guerrero and Benoit now apart of the roster and Rey Mysterio being brought into the company in July, Heyman could bring them together in a tag team environment in order to push them as singles stars. Rey Mysterio was teamed up with Edge, with the both of them being strong fan favourites and possessing a unique chemistry as a tag team. Eddie Guerrero was thrown into the mix too, with his nephew Chavo being promoted up to the main roster as well. These two tag teams naturally clicked together but what about Chris Benoit? Having just turned in face in mid-2002, who could Benoit team up with in this tag team division? Well, in a move that could benefit everyone, Paul decided to interject one of his main-eventers into that tag team scene to team with the “Rabid Wolverine”. That way, it would be more acceptable for all of these men to be featured in the main events on SmackDown! This main eventer… was Kurt Angle.

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Chavo Guerrero vs Rey Mysterio in the main event of SmackDown! would have seemed a bit of a fantasy considering the stars like Brock Lesnar and Undertaker on the show. But Rey Mysterio vs KURT ANGLE would have worked as Kurt already had the star power to justify his position in the main event. Putting him up against Rey, Edge, Eddie or Chavo would also give them the main event spotlight too, resulting in the stock of all these men rising as individuals. That way, their rise to success as singles star moved along in a much faster rate in that tag team scenario.

It was truly masterful to see how Heyman used the tag team division as a means to get these six into the main events of SmackDown! From a business standpoint, the SmackDown! six delivered when it came to ratings and merchandise. There was heavy competition for SmackDown! at the time, including the final season of “Friends”. However, the ratings were holding and everybody in that tag team scenario benefited immensely. While RAW was up against the ropes, SmackDown! was pulling out all the punches.

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The storyline itself was introduced when Stephanie McMahon announced a tag team tournament to crown the first ever WWE Tag Team Champions. Edge and Mysterio were partnered up and Eddie sided with Chavo. However, Stephanie McMahon also decreed that Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle would be a tag team in the tournament too. This wound up both men as they had been feuding at that point. Stephanie ruled that Kurt and Benoit would be suspended for a year without pay if there were any physicality between them. However, Benoit and Angle proved to be a formidable tag team. Despite their differences, they were able to make it to the final by defeating Los Guerreros. At No Mercy, Benoit and Angle defeated Edge and Mysterio in the final to become the first ever WWE Tag Team Champions.

Angle and Benoit would be presented with a trophy to commemorate their tournament win. However, things would break down after Angle and Benoit began arguing about who was the “captain” of the team. This would lead to Stephanie being accidentally smacked in the face with the trophy. Stephanie responded by slapping both men and booking a match for them to settle their differences “the old fashioned way”. However, Los Guerreros would get involved which led to further brawling later that night. Edge and Rey Mysterio were able to capitalize on Angle and Benoit’s troubles, winning a 2 out of 3 falls tag match on SmackDown! to win the tag titles. This led to a triple threat tag team match at Survivor Series between Edge and Mysterio, Benoit and Angle and Los Guerreros for the tag titles. The Guerreros finally got the job done, winning the match and the titles.

Each of these men would go on to establish themselves as singles stars and all of these men would end up winning world titles later on in their careers. Kurt Angle had already been a WWE Championship before the “SmackDown! Six” but did go on to win the WWE Championship again just a month later at Armageddon. Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero won world championships in 2004, with the two of them closing out Wrestlemania XX as World Heavyweight Champion and WWE Champion respectively. Edge and Rey Mysterio would win their first world titles in 2006 and Chavo Guerrero would win the ECW Championship in 2008.

It seems then that Heyman succeeded in elevating all six of these men as singles stars, after grouping them as tag teams first in the tag team division. This was one of those eras in wrestling when tag team wrestling was at its finest. True competition put together with a simple and logical storyline to help elevate the importance of the championship and the tag teams competing for the gold. Heyman’s had a lot of successes as a writer, but the “SmackDown! Six” era was Heyman’s finest hour…

 

How I Would Book… Rey Mysterio vs AJ Styles

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In an interview earlier on this month, AJ Styles spoke to SLAM magazine and he gave the magazine a nice indictiation as to a possible dream match if he were to wrestle any opponent of his choosing. He said…

“Seriously, some (dream matches) for me are with guys that I may never get the opportunity to wrestle. I’d like to wrestle Rey Mysterio, I think he and I could really tear things up. There are definitely some guys in the Fed (WWE) that I think I could have good matches with, that would also be dream matches for the fans as well. But who knows if that ever comes or not.”

AJ Styles vs Rey Mysterio is defiently probably one of the most talked about dream matches in wrestling history. I certaintly would’ve like to seen these two mix it up. I remember in 2006 when Rey Mysterio was the World Champion at the peak of his career and I just started watching TNA and AJ Styles, I’ve paid some serious cash to see these two at the time compete. The quickness of Rey Mysterio, the athletic abillity of AJ Styles. In my mind, this sort of match would have been the greatest match of all time. However, years later I’ve matured. The likelihood of this actually happening is very low considering Rey’s physical well-being and AJ’s stance on joining the WWE. Rey could himself theoretically join TNA, but I just don’t see it. But if a match between these two was somewhat possible… how would you book it?

I mean these are two characters with very different personalities that how would a feud manifest between these two, particularly in this day and age? I personally have one idea about how to book it. I’m not sure if you’re going to like it, but I would like for you guys to send me ideas about how you would book it and hopefully I can actually do a post on it comparing peoples ideas and we can generate a lot of thoughts together. This is a forum for public debate after all. 😄 So tweet them @ArmbarExpress, send me an e-mail tomrobinson5199@gmail.com. Whatever , I’d love to start building relationships with you guys. Anyway, here’s how I’d do it.

It starts off on the RAW after Elimination Chamber. I know that’s already happened (and you can read my review about it on this link) but that’s where I’m starting it in this scenario. Assuming that Rey was healthy, Rey Mysterio is in the ring teasing retirement. He’s saying stuff like “I don’t know if I can do this anymore” and “I’ve done all I can and wrestled everyone there is to wrestle” etc. He’s saying that there’s nothing for him in WWE anymore and he’s about to leave but then Evil Ways by Blues Saraceno hits! Again, this is assuming that WWE is allowed to use the theme! They might actually because they used it for a Undertaker/CM Punk promo before! Anyway, AJ makes his way onto the stage. He has the lone wolf gimmick (which I personally love). He enters the ring and does his hand pose. It’s still dark from his entrance when he and Rey have a little staredown. AJ stares at him and then walks towards the Wrestlemania sign and points at it. He goes back to Rey and offers his hand. Rey accepts the handshake and the match is on… but then AJ delivers the STYLES CLASH!

AJ cuts a promo the next week stating that its his time to take what is his at WWE. AJ says the first step into gaining wrestling immortality is by “putting down old yeller” and cutting Rey’s throat for good. AJ delivers an ultimate heat-generator by saying that he’s going to make sure he sends Rey down to where his buddy Eddie is. This pisses of Rey. This brings out the intensity of the feuding and gets people more involved. It’s now more than just a match. It’s a legit feud that has fuel added to the fire. This eventually leads to Wrestlemania XXX, where Rey beats AJ. AJ offers his hand to Rey and says that he’s sorry. The handshake is accepted but Rey leaves the ring saying I’m finally ready to move on…

 

Royal Rumble 2014 Countdown – Top 10 Rumble Performances

As we enter the road to the Royal Rumble, we can expect one or two tremendous performances from the individuals involved as they look to earn a title shot at the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. They’re going to have to go the extra mile if they want that title shot, like these 10 wrestlers. These 10 pulled spectacular performances out of the bag in the rumble match, but which performance was the greatest?

10. Rikishi (2000)

The Samoan big man made a literally HUGE impact in 2000, eliminating 7 men including the fellow members of Too Cool. Having just came into WWF, this was an impressive showing by Big Kish whose elimination was a result of a combined effort of SIX men. However, this performance was enough for Rikishi to quickly rise as one of the most popular wrestlers in the company.

9. Randy Orton (2009)

Due to him booting Vince McMahon in the head on the RAW before, the Royal Rumble victory for Randy Orton didn’t seem as much of a surprise. But it doesn’t mean that his win wasn’t pulled off well as he lasted 40+ minutes and RKO’d just about everyone in the ring! Orton acquired the victory by throwing Triple H out last to win the 2009 Rumble as the 8th entrant!

8. Bob Backlund (1993)

Having left WWF just before the wrestling industry boomed, Bob Backlund was not particularly well known when he returned as the second entrant of the Royal Rumble. Regardless, Backlund made a tremendous effort in the Rumble. He lasted over and hour and made the final three before being eliminated by Yokozuna. His longevity record lasted up until 2004 and is still one of the longest times in history.

7. Shawn Michaels (1995)

The Heartbreak Kid was about ready to break into the main event picture of WWF. And the first step to that big time was getting through 30 men in the Royal Rumble match. With the entrants coming in every 60 seconds, the match was significantly shorter than usual. However, Shawn was able to go wire to wire and with controversy defied the odds to be the first man in and the last man standing!

6. Triple H (2006)

The Game declared at the top of 2006 that the “King Of Kings” would go back on his throne and his first method of getting there would be to win the Royal Rumble and earn a title shot. However, bad luck was on his side as he drew the dreaded #1 spot in the Rumble match. But that didn’t stop Triple H from being so dominant in the match, eliminating the likes of Big Show, Kane and the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Like Bob Backlund, he made the final three before being eliminated by Rey Mysterio!

5. Steve Austin (1999)

The bullseye was on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the 1999 Royal Rumble, similar to the year before. Vince McMahon set up a $100,000 bounty to whoever eliminated the number one entrant Stone Cold in the Rumble match (which he himself was apart of). Despite every man gunning for Austin, Austin eliminated 8 men and made the final two with McMahon. Ausitn came close to winning the entire thing, but it would be the boss that eliminated Austin with help from The Rock. Austin failed to make it 3 Rumble wins on the bounce, but he came mighty close!

4. Rey Mysterio (2006)

After making the final four of the Rumble match the year before, the Master of the 619 was attempting to go one further and win the entire thing in dedication of his recently deceased friend Eddie Guerrero. Despite being the number 2 entrant, Rey feed off the emotion of the WWE Universe and eliminated Randy Orton last to win the entire thing in the ultimate Cinderella story! His longevity in the match is the longest of any Royal Rumble to date. Could that change at this year’s Royal Rumble?

3. Ric Flair (1992)

Ric Flair walked into WWF declaring himself to be the “real” World Champion of wrestling after many years spent at rivals WCW. He was determined to prove himself to be the undisputed champion. With the WWF Title currently held up, Ric was entered into the Royal Rumble as the 3rd entrant to crown a new champion.  This was a star-studded rumble match, with the likes of the Underaker, Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan and even Shawn Michaels all vying for that title. But it was Flair who stood strong and with help, eliminated Sid last to win the Royal Rumble and his first ever WWF Championship… which was followed by one of the greatest promos of all time!

2. Chris Benoit (2004)

Chris Benoit was spitefully put into the Royal Rumble match by then-SmackDown! General Manager Paul Heyman as the number one entrant. Heyman’s aim was to make sure that Chris Benoit would never win the WWE Championship and the odds was stacked against the 18-year-veteran. However, Benoit survived to the very end of the Royal Rumble when he eliminated the 500-pound Big Show last to become only the second man to win the Rumble match from the very beginning of the match!

1. Kane (2001)

Ah, the Big Red Machine Kane. Despite never winning the Rumble match in his life, Kane’s name is synonymous with the Royal Rumble. When he entered the match as the 6th entrant, he did a great job at making Drew Carey nearly shit himself! After Drew was eliminated Kane, went on a rampage eliminating anyone dumb enough to get in his way. He went to eliminate more than a third of the field in the Rumble match with ELEVEN eliminations including the elimination of The Rock! While finished as a runner up to a certain Texas Rattlesnake, Kane made himself a legend purely on the basis of this match where proved his dominance of nearly everyone in the fold and was unfortunate not to win the match itself!

 

So what do you guys think? What do you think was the greatest performance in Royal Rumble history? And was there any I missed out or you disagree with? Vote in the poll below, leave a comment or tweet the @ArmbarExpress to tell me who you think made the greatest performance in the Rumble ever!