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Hounds of Popularity!
April 12, 2014

by PyroFalkon
Master of the PyroFalkon Multimedia Empire, Incorporated
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I've never had a more surreal moment in my life than on Tuesday. I called in to Pure Gold that Internet radio show I often appear on, to talk some post-WrestleMania goodness. When it came to my turn, the hosts unmuted me; we exchanged pleasantries, then they asked me what I thought about 'Mania in general, and about the Hall of Fame class in particular. I started to answer with the second question, specifically that the entire class deserved it and I was glad they all looked good. I had spoken for maybe ten seconds, when the main host cut me off and broke to the listeners that Triple H had tweeted Ultimate Warrior passed away.
Anyone who knows me knows that I talk a lot, maybe too much sometimes. But I was so completely floored by the news, especially in light of what I had just said, that I was rendered speechless and stupid. I wondered, as silly as it was, whether I cursed it; whether I had simply not “knocked on wood” quickly enough after saying it. It put a quick end to the interview on the show, since talking about fake combat pales in comparison, and there was simply nothing for me to do.

For all his faults, Warrior didn't deserve to die at 54 years old; it's the kind of shit that makes me wish I could just trade my life for someone else's, since he clearly still had some fire left, whereas I'm a waste of resources.

I unfortunately don't have many memories of the guy. His peak was before my time (I started getting into WWE at WrestleMania 9). I watched him make his “return” in the Attitude Era, but I don't recall him doing anything of value, and I didn't miss him when he left again. Of course, that was back when I barely qualified as a mark, and I wasn't able to watch professional wrestling with a critical eye like I can now.

It's one of the reasons I'm digging the WWE Network; I can go back and watch his match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 6, or just otherwise appreciate what he did and some of his old (albeit somewhat crazy) promos. I “look forward” to Rick's full write-up on Warrior, since it'll help me find some of his old stuff and hopefully give me better insight on what he meant to the industry.

There is no gentle segue into the recap. Let's get to it.

Rest in Peace: Not only is WWE giving us the usual splash screen in memory of Warrior, but Michael Cole has a voice-over. Of note, this next RAW (April 14) “will be dedicated to Warrior's memory” and legacy. Something tells me that means what I (perhaps classlessly, though I don't mean it as such) call the Owen Hart Treatment, when alignments don't mean anything and we'll open the show with a ten-bell salute. If WWE doesn't open with ten bells, I'll be shocked. [Ed. Note: I just can't even envision the "Owen Hart Treatment." Also, I'd call it the "Eddie," since that's the show I remember WAY more vividly -- the video montage with Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt" is still one of my most visceral wrestling memories. It'd just be weird for WWE do attempt that, when absolutely NObody on the current roster has any direct relationship to Warrior, no stories to tell, no personal anecdotes to share. It sounds like he'll get more than Macho Man did, but I'm having a hard time visualizing HOW much more.]

Segment 1: John Cena hits the ring and recaps WrestleMania and RAW, just in case for some reason we didn't care enough to watch either event but couldn't wait for SmackDown instead. This goes on for seven minutes, though it feels closer to twenty. Cena concludes the whole thing by declaring that he is (essentially) a gatekeeper for all those kids who are coming up in the ranks. Which is a neat idea if that's legit true, since Cena certainly has nothing more to prove.

Regardless, the Wyatts appear on the Titantron to talk some shit. Bray talks crazy, and it basically comes down to the fact that he can't feel pain, and during their WrestleMania match, he saw the monster in Cena's eyes. And he says that he just needs to go to “new EXTREMES” to bring out that monster, and that their feud is “far from over.”

Pre-Segment 2: Cesaro's first match post-Real Americans is against Big Show. How apropos. Paul Heyman talks crap as Cesaro comes to the ring to face Show, and there is no entrance music yet. Hopefully it's as epic as the Real American theme is.

Also: the fans may on board with “king of swing,” but I automatically think of dance moves, and it just doesn't work for me.

Also, Cesaro and Show shake hands before the match. Interesting.

Segment 2 [Singles Match]: Cesaro defeats Big Show by disqualification. Decent match I guess, nothing special, but it helps out Cesaro's character.

Show with all the offense early, but he loses momentum when he tries to get into the ring. Cesaro then pushes himself a little too much and tries an apron-to-ring suplex, but Show isn't having that, so he tries to back body drop Cesaro over the ropes. Cesaro catches himself on the way down, lands more or less on his feet, and tries to turn it into a powerbomb, essentially trying to make it the most dangerous sunset flip ever. Show doesn't feel like breaking his neck though, so while holding onto the top rope, he just sits down on Cesaro's chest, flattening his spine between Show's ass and the apron edge. Ouch... from anyone else, that wouldn't be nearly as impressive.

Ads, and then Cesaro is technically on offense with a rest hold, but Show breaks that quickly and goes for a series of power moves; specifically his five moves of doom. He calls for the chokeslam and goes for it, but Cesaro slips off and transitions to a sleeper hold, which just gets broken as well.

Cesaro gets up first though, and the fans start chanting “Swing! Swing! Swing!” Cesaro is crazy and decides to give it a shot, so he grabs Show's legs.

And that's when Jack Swagger comes down to pearl harbor Cesaro.

Post-Segment 2: Show isn't happy about losing the match, especially since it was Jack flippin' Swagger's fault, so Show just clotheslines Swagger over the west top rope. Show leans on that rope to talk shit, giving Cesaro time to recover and vault over the west ropes while taking Show's head with him, guillotining the big man.

Cesaro slides in the ring and delivers a standing European uppercut to the back of Show's head, then follows up with a twisting uppercut to Show's face off the top rope. He's clearly a heel, but the fans don't care as they keep calling for a swing.

But Cesaro decides instead to do a freaking a Neutralizer to Big Show. And yes, Cesaro dead-lifted Big Show, because the Swiss don't give a shit about their spines.

Segment 3 [Tag Match]: Rybaxel defeats Los Matadores (w/ El Torito) by pin. Uninteresting match, but nothing technically wrong. Curtis Axel looks to be more than just a heel whipping boy.

Segment 4: Renee Young runs into Rob Van Dam in the back, who says a bunch of unrelated things about how awesome he is and how everyone is so totally glad he's back. Okay, buddy.

Segment 5 [Singles Match]: Rob Van Dam defeats Damien Sandow by pin. Solid match, but nothing special.

No feeling out here as RVD gets the early offense, reversing a hip toss to a school boy within about ten seconds of the match. RVD taunts and gets rolled up, but RVD kicks out and hits a couple moves including Rolling Thunder. The match, I must add, isn't more than a minute old yet.

The fight goes outside, where RVD whiffs on a rebound moonsault and faceplants the black mats. Sandow throws him into the barricade, then back in the ring and goes for punchy-kicky offense. He hits the Elbow of Disstain as well, then just straight chokes the guy. Clearly, he's not bothering with technique, here.

RVD gets a hope spot soon. Sandow tries to smack RVD's head into the turnbuckle, but RVD blocks it... and follows up with a physics-breaking roundhouse kick. RVD follows that up with his ridiculously cool scissored drop toe hold-to-pinning combination, which I know has a name but it eludes me. Sandow kicks out and tries a kick, but RVD blocks it and counters with his reverse spinny roundhouse.

RVD wants the frog splash, but Sandow stops him and teases a superplex. RVD fights off Sandow however, then hits the Five Star Frog Splash with no more problems. Goddamn, he still makes it look good.

Segment 6: Hulk Hogan hits the ring to talk. He talks up WrestleMania lightly, but doesn't repeat Cena; instead, he just focuses on Daniel Bryan being awesome. He calls DB down to the ring, and even leads the Yes Fingers as the new champ hits the ring.

A bunch of mutual sucking up follows, but it's not bad or anything. DB finishes by saying that what he really wants to see in person is Hogan doing the “Hogan hand to the ear” deal to Hogan's music. DB watches him for a moment, but then Hogan invites DB to join him; not only does DB do a picture-perfect hand-to-ear thing, but he gets louder cheers. Things go slightly downhill when DB tries to mimic Hogan's other taunts, and even JBL gets in on the fun by joking that if Hogan starts to take his shirt off, DB needs to just haul ass. Cute.

Ever since Shawn Michaels kicked Hogan's face off years ago, I was sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it didn't happen. This was just a feel-good moment, and unless you're a total wanker, you can forgive them. [Ed. Note: Seconded. More so than any other time Hogan's allegedly "passed the torch," he actually seemed to be TRYING to put another guy over, here.]

Segment 7 [Singles Match]: Bad News Barrett defeats Kofi Kingston by pin. Too short to be anything major, the finish nonetheless gives Barrett some momentum.

Barrett tells us that we've got some bad news, and while he blathers, Kofi tries to attack him since the bell, you know, rang. Barrett puts him down, finishes his catchphrase, then does some mounted punches.

But once Kofi breaks out of that, it's the All Kofi Show. The guy doesn't bother downshifting as he hits punches, kicks, corkscrews, and even the Boom Drop. When he signals the Trouble in Paradise, Barrett bails, forcing Kofi to chase him around the ring. When they reenter, Barrett is deliver a couple more shots.

Kofi breaks away and tries Trouble in Paradise, but Barrett counters with a Bullhammer Elbow while Kofi was in mid-spin for his kick. The elbow knocks Kofi to the canvas, and Barrett finishes him off.

Cut Scene: WWE gives us a little thank you montage that features some of their supplies in terms of numbers (like 80,000 light bulbs and 33,000 feet of cable), but it ramps up to the point of Daniel Bryan popping out of gorilla (with no audio) to an empty arena. The point: WWE is nothing without us fans. Which we all know from a business perspective of course, but good lord does the video package look cool. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the cut scene is worth a watch.

Pre-Segment 8: Since I don't pay attention to anything in WWE aside from the main shows, I didn't realize until now that Fandango and Summer Rae broke up. Summer's replacement is Layla, who is passable (thanks to her dancing training as a former Miami Heat cheerleader) but still not great. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we need to get the original Mrs. Fandango back, whose real name (and designated OO Name) I can't remember. I'm clearly shitty with names. [Ed. Note: She was "Fandangirl." But that ship has sailed, because she was just an arts school Dance Major who answered WWE's random casting call last year. She was never in it for the long haul, to my chagrin. But I'm totally on board with Layla. Unlike Summer, she can dance. Unlike Layla, Summer seems to be over of her own accord. Win/win, baby. That's how you book wrestling.]

Layla can do the split however, which makes me imagine her in all sorts of positions not suited to our family friendly audience.

Segment 8 [Singles Match]: Fandango (w/ Layla) extend-squashes Santino Marella (w/ Emma) by pin. Standard comedy match, for whatever that's worth. Santino's only offense came late when he had a hope spot, and he tried to pull out the sock for the Cobra. Layla reacted instantly by stealing the sock, which shouldn't actually accomplish anything. But it did distract Santino long enough to take a schoolboy pin.

The commentators—well, mostly JBL—stressed that Layla did in one night what Summer couldn't do in months (i.e., cheat to help Fandango win). So... yay? Frankly, any way to get the women a little more attention on the shows is all right in my book.

Segment 9: We get a vignette of Paige. I would like to say that I really dig dark-haired goth girls, especially those with British accents. Yummy. And given that Rick says her in-ring skills are solid (which, again, I don't know since I don't watch NXT anymore), that's even better. If Paige is ring-capable, I have no problem with her winning the title... I just hope she can back it up.

The only thing I didn't like about the montage is that she opens up by saying “Divas are supposed to be tanned and have a lot of color. *shakes head* No. That's not me.” Really? Your opening line is about your looks? Shit, just beat the crap out of the divas.

Eh, maybe I'm being too hard on her. If that's a one-off and will just go for workrate or whatever here on out, even better. If she's as good as Rick says, I'm anxious to see a full-length (read: 12 minutes or longer) match between her and AJ in coming events. [Ed. Note: I assure you, everything I said is accurate. Whether or not WWE's booking of Paige backs that up? I will not be held responsible for that!!!]

Segment 10: Kane, Randy Orton, and Batista are in the main event together against Daniel Bryan and the Usos. In the back, the three bicker about who gets to beat the shit out of Daniel Bryan in the match, with each one claiming dibs. Whatever.

Segment 11 [Six-Man Tag Match]: The team of Daniel Bryan & The Usos draw with the team of Kane, Randy Orton, & Batista by double countout, I think. Exchanges of punches and kicks as we get started. When Jimmy, who has his ribs wrapped, tags in, he eats a spinebuster from Batista. Jimmy oversells properly, and the false heel beatdown sequence is on. Orton tags in and goes all punchy-kicky, then tags out, and we get a really bizarre cut as we go to ads.

Back, and Jimmy doesn't have his ribs wrapped anymore, apparently because someone tore them off. But the heels are firmly in control, and they cut the ring in half with rapid tags to dominate him. This goes on for five minutes, which feels like twenty. Yes, I already made that joke once in the recap.

After Orton's trademark powerslam, Jimmy gets a breath by hitting a Samoan Drop out of nowhere. Hot tag to DB, who flips the switch and basically beats the crap out of everyone. This culminates in Yes Kicks to Kane; Kane dodges the last one but gets dumped over the top rope, so DB follows up with a suicide dive. The Usos join in with suicide planchas, and it breaks down to a Pier Six Brawl outside the ring.

The heels gain momentum and... the bell rings? Double countout, I guess?

Post-Segment 11: The heels continue beating the shit out of everyone, with Orton and Batista hitting their respective finishers on the Usos. Outside the ring, Kane tears apart the table and considers a chokeslam on DB through it.

Then The Shield come out of nowhere to make the save, beating the hell out of Kane. Orton and Bats ready themselves in the ring, but when The Shield slides into meet them, the heels bail.

Kane grabs a chair and slides in the ring behind Shield as they taunt the heels. Kane starts to go for it, but then DB comes out of nowhere and hits the Sagat Flying Knee to put Kane down. Reigns kicks the chair out of the ring, then helps out his buddies hit a Triple Powerbomb, then turn back to taunt Orton and Bats, who want no part of it.

Final Thoughts: Sustainable episodic TV mixed with fluff. Not bad for a post-WrestleMania show, but not exactly one that's worth going out of your way for either.

And I've said everything I've wanted to say in the body. Also, it's a quarter after midnight. So it's bedtime for me, and possibly you. Have a good weekend!

Episode Grade: C+


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