I’ve been watching WWE’s Best of the Clash of the Champions DVD lately. One of the best matches on it is one that I talked about on the blog a few years ago, but now I’ve found it online so you guys can check it out as well. At the August 28th, 1994 Clash of the Champions the United States Championship was defended by Stunning Steve Austin against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, his chief rival in WCW. For a match that the commentary doesn’t even pretend to give half a shit about, it turns into one of the most underrated classics of all time.
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I’ve had this ready to go for close to two months now, but I knew I’d need some content to post during my break so I held off on it. Classic Wrestling Moments 11 features a battle royale to crown the first Heavyweight Champion of Galactic Wrestling’s developmental territory, Championship Wrestling from Evseedub, and this image is from the first panel where we see all twenty guys/monsters in the ring. I found a bunch of old images of Andre the Giant battle royales, which I believe were from the ’70s or early ’80s, and combined bits and pieces of them into this image. Can you spot where Andre would have been in the photos?
I got a new piece of Fan Art from Dead//Life’s Rudi Gunther last week, and have finally gotten some time to get it posted. Check out the Fan Art gallery to see all the other drawings I’ve gotten from fans. If you want your art included there, send it to jeff (at) rentathugcomics.com or hit up @HEATcomic on Twitter.
This drawing is a reference to one of Rudi’s Dead//Life stories which featured Beerman and Rudenstein attending a HEAT match-up that pitted the cyborg Black Decker against Wrestletron 5000, a robotic wrestler that made the journey from my sketchbook to Rudi’s comic. You can read it here!
I just watched this match on DVD earlier today, and HOLY CRAP you guys need to see this.
There’s a little bit of set-up to this match. First, it was the semi-final in the J-Crown 1996 tournament, a tournament in which junior heavyweight champions from promotions all over the world gathered to determine the best junior in the world. The buy-in for the tournament was for each champion to put up his title belt, with the winner of each match gaining his opponent’s accumulated titles (which is why both Dragon and Otani both have two belts during their entrances).
In the first round, Dragon beat Jushin “Thunder” Liger in probably the best two minute match I’ve ever seen, with a magistral cradle. That’s important to know because Dragon and Otani reference that part of the Liger match quite a bit. Otani defeated Negro Casas in a much longer but also good match.
J-Crown 1996 is available on DVD or download from RudoReels, which is where I got it from.
I first saw this match when the Fight Network was airing ’05/’06 ROH (this was in 2008 or 9 or so). They pretty much just cut ROH DVDs into 1 hour chunks and aired them as programming, back when that channel was good. I recently stumbled across it thanks to the folks over at the Old School Wrestling Podcast, and figured a lot of you would appreciate it. If you haven’t seen it before, clear a half hour from your schedule, because this is, in my estimation, the greatest match that ever took place in an ROH ring.
Last week I posted a long article about how the new NXT is the best WWE show. After watching this week’s episode, I decided to just find it online so you guys could see for yourselves how good this stuff is. The video is at the end of this post, but here are some highlights.
Kassius Ohno vs. Trent Barretta. It’s a midcard match that has a storyline behind it. And it’s interwoven with ANOTHER storyline. Also, it’s just a really good match.
Big E Langston kills people, is awesome. Wait, what, another midcarder with a storyline? It’s almost like the team over at NXT know how to write a wrestling show…
Husky Harris is Bray Wyatt now, and somehow that made him ten billion times better on the mic. Seriously, his promo is on a whole other level than anyone else in WWE. Also, Brodie Lee is called Luke Harper now and serves as Wyatt’s redneck killing machine of a henchman.
The four way elimination match for a shot at Seth Rollins’ NXT belt is really good. It could have used more time, but the show’s only an hour so it’s hard to give 30 minutes to a single match.
Watch it. Love it. Track it down and keep watching it.
EDIT: So, the full episode of NXT was embedded here, but WWE had it pulled down from YouTube. Because obviously the pay version of Hulu is totally an option that everyone is falling all over themselves to embrace.
Women’s wrestling in Japan is better than women’s wrestling anywhere else. I don’t think I’m going to get a lot of arguments there.
Normally I’m not a fan of death match wrestling, particularly. I like it conceptually, but for the most part the matches themselves are blood and stupidity for blood and stupidity’s sake, and are usually disgusting instead of interesting. But like any rough, if you dig through it enough you find some real diamonds. Like this one.
I found this match over at Drop Toehold. I’m glad I did, because I’d never even heard of it, and it’s OUTSTANDING. It’s a death match, but it focuses heavily on storytelling and psychology, with the violence being used as the set-pieces that the story was built toward. It starts off a little bit slow, as they build tension because the ropes are holyfuckscary, but in the second half it gets insane. There’s a spot, which should be very obvious when you watch the match, that caused me to recoil and gasp with my hand over my mouth. It was that terrifying, and that’s going into it with the knowledge that both of these women were fine afterward (er, well, not FINE, but they lived and there were no serious injuries that I’m aware of). Also, I now know why Cheerleader Melissa calls her version of the Vertebreaker/Cop Killer the Kudo Driver. Neat! Learning!
What really puts this match over the top for me, though, is that the death match elements are sold like, well, death. Unlike modern death matches where guys will bleed buckets and take 98 light tube shots and probably give themselves cancer to entertain 26 desensitized hyenas in a high school gym, then get up and walk out like they didn’t take any damage at all, the death match elements in this match were sold by the competitors as the most brutal pain felt in their lives. It’s the kind of thing that I wish death match wrestlers nowadays would take to heart.
Just watch it. It has the HEAT stamp of approval.
WWE’s best show isn’t even on TV. Which, considering how much TV WWE airs every week, is completely absurd. I’m talking about NXT, the show that had one season where it was relevant and then spiraled into the depths of sub-Superstars obscurity. The guys on NXT were the ones who only got call-ups to the main roster when they needed somebody to job to the jobbers. Then something magical happened.
WWE higher-ups stopped paying attention to it.
NXT 5, the seemingly never-ending season, ditched the competition format and just became a wrestling show. A really good wrestling show. Then NXT merged with FCW and Triple H took it over, relocating it to Full Sail University in Florida and using the film school there to produce the show, which only airs on the internet in the US but is on TV in several international markets, including on The Score in Canada. And oh man am I glad it does, because in an era of tedious three hours RAWs which routinely feature less than an hour of actual wrestling, NXT is proof that a one hour wrestling show can not only work, but be better than what the main roster’s gobs of money can do.
Full Sail University
Instead of taping NXT before RAW or Smackdown in front of a live crowd of thousands who could not give less of a shit about what was happening with those wrestlers they’d never seen before inside those yellow ropes, the new NXT is in the “NXT Arena” at Full Sail University. And holy crap does that audience give a shit about what’s happening inside those now-black ropes. TNA really suffers from taping its TV in the Impact Zone week after week, but just a stone’s throw away there’s a ravenous wrestling crowd losing their minds. On the episode that aired on The Score today, the fans chanted “FIVE” during Big E Langston’s promo segment with Vickie Guerrero… and not a goddamn thing Big E Langston said even made the slightest bit of sense. He was talking about how he had five fingers on each hand, five toes on each foot, and somehow oozed charisma while jabbering like a mental patient. And the crowd LOVED it.
Need more evidence? Jinder Mahal and Michael McGuillicutty both get reactions. And are GOOD. Yeah.
The Roster and Storytelling
The roster is mostly FCW guys with a few WWE low-carders who aren’t being used on the main shows sprinkled in. I don’t have much to say about the FCW guys that hasn’t been said before, but the way the guys who have been in WWE are used is really interesting. NXT seems to be considered its own pocket universe where RAW and Smackdown don’t really exist, because most of the WWE guys are portraying entirely different characters than they did on the big shows. Jinder Mahal isn’t a member of a ridiculous multi-ethnic rock ensemble, he’s a rich Indian guy who wants to fuck shit up because he came SO close to NXT gold and let it slip through his fingers. His half-English-half-not promos actually work because he actually has somewhere to go with them. Drew McIntyre, Mahal’s nonsensical bandmate, isn’t associated with Mahal at all on NXT, and neither of them acknowledge that their RAW gimmick even exists. McIntyre is a big, tough Scotsman who wants to fuck shit up because he beat Seth Rollins, but Rollins didn’t have the belt yet so McIntyre didn’t get anything out of it. Are you sensing a pattern here? Characterizations on NXT are based on wanting something. Namely, the NXT belt. Also, violencing people.
Kassius Ohno and Richie Steamboat are a great example of characters being developed away from the title scene. They had a match, and Ohno cheated, got himself disqualified, then beat the ever-loving fuckshit out of Steamboat afterward, establishing himself as a right bastard who was a little unhinged. He then proceeded to cut these weird promos where he portrayed himself as an awkward nerd while Steamboat spent most of his time being livid and wanting to commit a homicide. Standard wrestling stuff, but here’s what they did right: they didn’t then have 76 matches on consecutive shows, which is the current WWE booking strategy for midcard feuds. No, they wrestled other people and tried to work their way up the ranks for future title considerations (okay, so I guess they aren’t THAT far away from the title scene. But that’s a good thing), and proceeded to screw each other over at every opportunity. Thus far, they have only had one match since the initial incident of the feud, and it was a perfectly executed feud-builder. Steamboat won clean on a roll-up, but didn’t definitively dispatch Ohno. Ohno then proceeded to thrash Steamboat like he was a wheat field out of frustration. While Seth Rollins defends his belt, Ohno and Steamboat are engaging in a bitter rivalry which is the best on the show.
The way the NXT belt is being used is basically perfect, as far as I’m concerned. The tournament, throughout which the belt sat on a pedestal at the top of the stage, was built as the most important competition in the lives of each of the participants, and once Seth Rollins won the belt, he treated it like he had just found the cure for his lack of mic skills. And by that I mean he treated it like it was important. Hell, look at how many characters’ entire motivations are based on variations of wanting the belt more than anything else. Rollins, for his part, is establishing the title’s importance and the how good the wrestler who wins the belt from him is going to have to be by having consistently high-quality 10-20 minute matches with a variety of guys that looked like turds on the WWE main roster (Mahal, McGuillicutty, McIntyre, Heath Slater… actually, it looks like slamdancing Seth Rollins really hates multicultural southern rock bands).
Oh, and on today’s episode, Antonio Cesaro defended the US Title against Tyson Kidd. It was excellent, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anybody, but it was also interesting that the WWE US Title was shown as being of lower importance than the NXT belt, given that there had earlier been a segment where Mahal, Justin Gabriel, Bo Dallas, and McIntyre argued over who would challenge Seth Rollins next and not one peep was made about being jealous of Kidd getting a US Championship match. It’s subtle, but it’s there: the NXT Title is the most important thing on the show, no matter who else shows up. Even CM Punk’s appearance recently was used to establish that, as he was there to call Seth Rollins’ title defence against Michael McGuillicutty. Rollins holding up the belt and staring down CM Punk was much less subtle than the US Title situation, but it served a similar purpose: on NXT, the guy with the weird-looking belt is the MAN, whether or not the WWE Champ is in the house.
This was a more interesting topic of conversation before JBL and Jim Ross returned to the booth on Smackdown and RAW, respectively. William Regal does the colour with Byron Saxton (or, recently, some other guy) on play-by-play, with Jim Ross joining them to call the main events. Regal stumbles over his words a lot, but the substance of what he says is fantastic. It’s always fun to hear somebody talk about wrestling who actually knows what things are called and can go old-school by explaining WHY moves are being done. Saxton keeps things moving and knows when to let Regal talk and when to step in and make calls, and JR is JR. It’s an excellent team, and was the best WWE had until Jerry Lawler’s unfortunate heart problem led to the restructuring of the announce team.
The Down Side
You probably can’t watch it easily. As far as I know it’s not on WWE.com anymore, and is instead on Hulu Plus, which is a pay service. In Canada and Europe it’s televised, but it’s time slots are pretty terrible. I watch it at 4 PM on Friday afternoon, which is shortly after I get home from school. Because apparently I’m ten. If you can find this show, though, you should absolutely go out of your way to watch it. It’s what WWE TV could be in the future when Vince finally pumps too much bull-shark testosterone into his balls and his brain explodes.
I’m going to be at the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo this weekend (Oct. 20 & 21)! I’ll be at table D06 in the Artist Alley, near the entrance. I’ve got a few special deals cooked up, so if you’ve been looking to pick up the HEAT Volume 1 trade paperback or either issue of Hell, Inc., then you should definitely stop by and check things out.
I’ve also got some new promo bookmarks, hot off the press! Check ’em out!
I stumbled upon this clip while I was on the Botchamania site, and thought you guys might get a kick out of it. I don’t want to encourage the humanoids who constantly pine for the Attitude Era, but in 2000 Smackdown still mattered. In fact, it was still new and a pretty big deal. Also, listen to that crowd! The story here is really simple: Triple H and Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley tried to rig a lottery to get Triple H an easy title defence coming off of a brutal match with The Big Show on RAW. Being the heel champion, that goes poorly for ol’ H, and he ends up defending against the also huge Rikishi, who also happens to be MASSIVELY over. The crowd proceeds to lose their shit over every near-fall that Rikishi gets on the Game, and again when Triple H gets himself intentionally disqualified to save the belt.
That is one thing I miss in WWE nowadays: crowds that give a shit. Rarely will you get a midcarder getting that kind of a reaction when he’s suddenly thrust into a main event, and if you did, that guy would get buried immediately (see Ryder, Zack).
Also, as much as people hate him now, the Triple H of 2000 was a WORKHORSE.
Fun fact: in the opening frame of this clip, I thought Stephanie McMahon was Cactus Jack.