Tag Archives: Raw

Spaceman Frank’s WWE Extreme Rules 2017 Predictions

x_njg6by Frank Lucci

Extreme Rules feels like the first proper Pay-Per-View for Raw after WrestleMania, as the previous Raw exclusive PPV, Payback, featured no mention of the Universal title nor did it have an Intercontinental title match. This PPV rectifies this somewhat, and it also has the advantage of not having a House of Horrors match thrown in as well (hopefully). Extreme Rules also does not have an NXT: TakeOver to compete with as well, or more specifically, WWE UK wrestlers to compete with.

Despite all these positives, there is most definitely an air of doubt surrounding this event, as Raw has continued to punish those brave enough to watch all three hours (I wonder what the crossover demographic numbers is for Raw fans and snuff films is). There is some decent action that could and should take place on this card, but if the matches are as painful as the buildup to them, the Spaceman may not be able to fight his allergy pill and watch Extreme Rules in segments. I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my Extreme Rules 2017 predictions.

Rich Swann and Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox and Noam Dar

This match is a positive in my book because it takes three people (plus Alicia Fox) and gives them something to do and a spotlight to showcase why they deserve to be on a higher level. Banks has lost all momentum since WrestleMania, and it seems like a distant fever dream when Swann was Cruiserweight champion. They will make a good team, and if this is what they need to do to get TV time and get over I am all for it.

Fox is a steady but unspectacular hand in the ring, but Dar deserves more of a spotlight. He is very young but one of my boys from before the CWC, so I am praying to the Cruiserweight Gods he gets more than this. Throw him in with Neville and TJP and form a power stable on 205 Live since there’s precious little room for heels on the show not affiliated with the King of the Cruiserweights. Based on popularity alone, I think Banks wins it for her team.

Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries (Submission Match for WWE Cruiserweight Championship)

These two have held down Raw PPV’s since ‘Mania, and once again I think this may be a bright spot on a lackluster card. The stipulation works well for both these men, but having Neville tap to Aries the week before this match was flat out stupid (WWE knows when this happens people expect the winner to lose on the PPV, right?).

I get the feeling the live crowds are starting to catch on that Cruiserweight matches are usually much more exciting than much of the filler on Raw, but again with the show so hard to watch that is like being proud that you hopped over a puddle on the sidewalk.

Aries deserves a run with the belt with all the excellent work he has done to make me forget what a natural heel he is, but Neville is just too good at being bad to drop it. Also again, he tapped out once already (WWE we get it, you have one play in the go-home show playbook. It does not work. We all know what a loss before the PPV means).

Alexa Bliss (c) v.s Bayley (Kendo Stick on a Pole Match for WWE Raw’s Women’s Championship)

Women climbing a pole to get at another pole, did Vince Russo write this?

What the heck has happened to two of my favorite women’s wrestlers??? Bliss was an all-star on SmackDown, and Bayley went from NXT’s John Cena (Joan Cena?) in NXT to a supreme doofus on Raw.

The only positive thing about this feud thus far is Bliss really whacking the hell out of her opponents with the kendo stick, but really it is time to retire the “on a pole” stipulation. Seeing people fart around one corner of the ring for a random object is dull, and it is time to think of something to replace it (I vote for a “Find the Kendo Stick in a Box Under the Ring Match” or a “Kendo Stick Tied to a Greased Pig Match.”). Anyway, Bliss wins because Bayley would not go nuts whacking her opponent with a foreign object due to her pure-hearted nature.

Dean Ambrose (c) vs. The Miz (Intercontinental Championship Match – Ambrose can lose the belt via disqualification )

Hey, kids! Do you know what’s more extreme than tables, ladders, and chairs? Rules!

No clue why of all PPVs, WWE pulls this type of match out at Extreme Rules. It fits the character of The Miz, but do we really expect Ambrose to be so stupid that he loses the belt this way? If anything, WWE should have had this be a no-DQ match where Dean clobbers the Miz, Miz complains that he would win in a regular match and makes this match happen at (sigh) Great Balls of Fire. I think Dean walks away with the belt because he is still a solid number two option as the champion to make up for the lack of a Universal champion on TV, plus both men need somebody new to set their sights on.

The Hardy Boyz (c) vs. Sheamus and Cesaro (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Cage match)

Sheamus and Cesaro have a new fire under them now that they are heels, and their brutal dissection of the Hardys during and after their previous match has me invested in seeing what happens.

Will Jeff dive off the cage? Yes. Will he lose another tooth? Maybe. Will Cesaro swing the entire cage structure in a fit of dizzy rage? Probably. But the biggest question of all: Will Matt get broken? That question will haunt every Hardy feud until they actually pull the trigger (and they will), so while I will watch his PPV matches looking for any and all clues towards him going berserk, overall it does detract from the story being told in the ring.

I am curious what a heel Ces-mus (Sheamaro???) title run would look like, but I think the Hardys still can run up and down the country getting that nostalgia money for a few months more. Jeff throws himself off the cage to get the win.

Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins (Fatal Five-Way Extreme Rules Match for the Universal Championship Number One Contendership)

WWE has finally figured out that, if the Universal Champion cannot be bothered to show up at every PPV, then they should build around who gets the next crack at him. I like this match on paper, and seeing who gets their hands of Borkin’ Heck Lesnar next is far more exciting than anything else, especially with the five men selected. The big downside I have for this match is the rumors that whoever gets a shot at Brock at (sigh) Great Balls of Fire will be one and done since Braun Stroman will be back before SummerSlam. Here is my breakdown of who I think is going to win, from least likely to most likely:

5. Finn Balor – He has had the most hype, even having Paul Heyman put him over. WWE obviously sees money in this matchup, so to have him taken out by Brock and then passed over with little hype is in bad taste. I think this match will set up the Finn-Wyatt feud hinted at before rather than wasting a money matchup on (sigh) Great Balls of Fire.

4. Samoa Joe – Again, Joe vs. Brock is a money matchup and something not to be wasted as a holdover for Braun. These two behemoths squaring off is my biggest dream match of the current roster, and when Jim Cornette on Table for 3 suggested Joe vs. Brock in a submission match at the next WrestleMania, I flipped out. Make Joe look strong here and keep him there for when it is time for the monsters to be unleashed.

3. Bray Wyatt – The feud that almost happened could very well happen here, as Wyatt is WWE’s answer to every top star who needs a throwaway feud. But Jesus man, there is no way WWE can keep kicking Wyatt when he is down. He was WWE Champion earlier in the year before the Orton feud and House of Horrors debacle undid everything his big win did for him. He and Finn take each other out to set up their feud which will probably see Wyatt lose in the end.

2. Seth Rollins – One of two men to have a match with The Beast before saw their previous encounter act as a sideshow to Undertaker’s return. A plucky babyface Rollins vs. Brock is interesting, especially if he shows more fight than when he was the cowardly champ. I can see Rollins taking an absolute beating but refusing to die, rehabbing his image in the process. Yet, he has too much history with too many men in the ring to win. Therefore…

1. Roman Reigns – WWE will have their cake and eat it too. WWE wants Reigns to be a top guy, so they will drum Reigns in here to setup the WrestleMania 31 rematch we have not gotten yet. This will fulfill WWE management’s desire to give Roman a big push, while letting Brock have an opponent he can demolish before Braun takes over. WWE wins, the people win due to Reigns immediately being out of the spotlight after (sigh) Great Balls of Fire, and the other men in the match win by avoiding the big job to Brockjack Horsner. Then Strowman vs. Lesnar for the Universal championship can headline SummerSlam…unless Braun costs Brock the belt and they fight each other while Reigns carries the belt into SummerSlam…OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE???

 

 

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Manopera! Episode 41: Bray Waytt’s House of Payback

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Chris and Spaceman Frank review WWE Payback and discuss current events in Pro Wrestling.

Donate to our Patreon at www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.

Spaceman Frank’s WWE Payback 2017 Predictions

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by Frank Lucci

Oh boy, here we go.

I’m trying to come up with some positives for Raw (and the WWE’s) first post-WrestleMania Pay-Per-View, and they have decided to go in some…odd directions for it. Sure, the Superstar Shakeup was exciting, but since then we’ve seen Raw go from a decent hour and a half (on Hulu) to barely capable of making a compelling top ten moments video on YouTube. At least we have our lord and savior Braun Strowman to give us something entertaining while Universal Champ Brock Lesnar is busy counting his money while consuming an entire buffalo.

It’s amazing how much drop in quality Raw has suffered compared to SmackDown Live and NXT, who have used the Superstar Shakeup and infusion of new talent to gamely keep the ball rolling after WrestleMania. That said, I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my predictions for Payback.

Enzo and Big Cass vs.  The Club (Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson) (Pre-show Filler Bonanza)

While I’m generally pretty happy that The Hardy Boyz are back in WWE, these two teams got pretty screwed over by their arrival. The Club lost their belts at ‘Mania, and Enzo and Cass had what many assumed to be their big moment usurped by the returning Attitude Era team. WWE has now hoofed these two tag teams back to the pre-show where Enzo can waste a few minutes referencing local sports teams and feces while The Club wear nice coats and call people nerds. My preferred route after this PPV is The Club regaining their titles and beat Matt enough so he becomes broken again, where he and Enzo can have a professional debate that simply DELIGHTFUL.

Anyway, The Club wins because Enzo and Big Cass always lose.

Kevin Owens (c) vs. Chris Jericho (United States Championship Match where if Jericho wins, he is transferred to SmackDown Live)

Jericho is getting back to his band Fozzy and not expected to be seen past the week after Payback, so I wonder who’s going to win?

Owens needs some image rehab after losing to a “real” Superstar in Goldberg, and while his WrestleMania matchup with Y2J was decent, I do not see this being a masterpiece like the ending of the Owens  Sami Zayn feud. For one, there is no real stipulation, which seems very odd all things considered. Two, while these guys can wrestle a fine technical match, I’ve lost so much interest in this feud since the Festival of Friendship that I need more to go on besides countering each other’s significant moves. Owens wins and continues to speak french like the dirty Canadian heel he is until WWE remembers Zayn is also on SmackDown and have them start fighting again.

Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries (WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match)

These guys had a damn fine match at ‘Mania, and having them open that show was smart to draw some casual fans into the Cruiserweight style. Now Aries gets his rematch, and I hope they can build on their previous encounter to deliver some real excitement here. Aries has embraced his good guy role, but I really see him more as a bad guy in the long term. Neville is probably the best booked champ in WWE, so I think they will keep him on top of the purple brand while they cycle in different challengers to help them get over. 

Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe

This is a match, and it is happening (that’s all I got for this one).

While ‘Mania probably would have been a better stage for these two to go at it rather than on this throwaway show, Triple H is busy doing whatever COO’s do in real life (concocting shady business deals on a boat while surrounded by bikini clad ladies, perhaps?).  I do not think this match will be bad as long as Rollins’ knee holds up, but this is just a standard singles match so both talents have something to do on the PPV.

While there is a story here, WWE has dropped the ball yet again when it comes to Rollins’ babyface run. This match has the potential to really start a great feud, and I think Joe will get the win in a situation mirroring Rollin’s original injury to get the ball rolling on Joe’s inevitable Universal Championship run.

The Hardy Boyz (c) vs. Sheamus and Cesaro (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match)

Matt “Broken on Twitter Only” Hardy and Jeff “I’m Also Here” Hardy are taking on Sheamus and Cesaro for the Tag Team Championships, but with a bland story and no real build, this is another match that also happens to be happening.

The Hardy Boyz only have a limited time before the nostalgia well runs dry, so considering the recent acquisition of the “Broken” Matt Hardy gimmick from Anthem Sports & Entertainment, hopefully WWE starts planting the seeds of the “Broken” Hardy’s with this match.

Sheamus and Cesaro are really good as a team, but I still want them to split because I think the main event scene could easily use both of these dudes, especially while Lesnar is choking out whatever dangerous beasts live in North Dakota (Bears? T-Rex’s??? Half bears half T-Rex hybrids???). The Hardy’s win while The Dudley Boyz sadly eat their mac and cheese wishing they got this kind of treatment when they came back to WWE.

Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss (Raw Women’s Championship Match)

We get a desperately needed fresh matchup in the Raw’s Women’s division with Bayley taking on Bliss in what should be a pretty fine match.

Bliss came into her own the more SmackDown relied on her, and I think she is a suitable feud for Bayley as WWE continues to delay Sasha Bank’s heel turn for reasons unknown. Raw does not seem to know how to book their Women’s belt, as they went from record-setting reigns to switching the title every few months. Bayley has suffered from this throughout her brief run, so I can definitely see Bliss walking away with the belt to set up some back and forth title switches. However, now that WrestleMania is over I think cooler heads will prevail and Bayley will retain to keep that preteen girl money coming in.

Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt (House of Horrors Match)

What was once Bray’s rematch for the WWE Championship is now an inter-brand match where nobody knows what a “House of Horrors” actually is (did I transport to a Vince Russo era TNA PPV?).

I really want House of Horrors to be a secret tie-in with Swerved Season Three where Bray and Randy are confronted with their real life fears in a locked room for an hour, complete with picture in picture updates throughout the night as they freak out. What will actually happen has been vaguely described as a Boiler Room/ Hollywood Backlot Brawl where the area in question is the Wyatt Compound – which just so happens to be in driving distance of the arena (yes, really). Since this is now a non-title match for reasons unknown, I see Bray winning due to Erik Rowan jumping ship since a solo Rowan still loyal to Bray makes zero sense.

Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman

Because we have displeased some deity, Roman Reigns is here to demolish your hopes and dreams of a watchable Raw by beating up the entertaining wrestlers on the roster with the same three moves over and over and over again.  

The Abominable Strowman is the best part of Raw, and seeing a stupidly large yet agile man throw people around is amazing in itself. He has buckets of charisma (something Reigns wishes he had), making Strowman the Internet’s hatred of Reigns made flesh, and I really, truly hope he gets the win here.

However, WWE has made the baffling decisions to A) have Kalisto beat Strowman the Raw before Payback and B) not make this an ambulance match despite Strowman TIPPING OVER A GODDAMN AMBULANCE IT WAS RIGHT THERE WWE WHAT ARE YOU DOING???

If the rumors of Strowman getting Lesnar down the line are true then I am going with the Monster Among Men here. Reigns has had a rough few weeks personally and physically, but he does not need this win since he already beat Braun at Fastlane. Plus, they can always do the ambulance match later – or maybe an inferno match at Great Balls of Fire, which is a real thing because WWE does not want you to feel cool for watching wrestling.

Manopera! Episode 40: All Shook Up

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We cover a lot of ground as the dynamic duo analyze the Superstar Shake-Up, the growing Mauro Ranallo/JBL situation and more. Chris recaps his experience at the WWE shareholder meeting and reads the news as Dusty Rhodes. Spaceman Frank cuts a promo on United Airlines.

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Matt “Rosey” Anoa’i.

Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.

SSEP: Episode 13 – The World of Sports/This Week in WWE

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by Jon Schorr

Jon and Matt delve into major sports news including the NY Rangers win over the Montreal Canadiens, some NBA playoff news, the beginning of the new MLB season, some major UFC talk and review this week in WWE.

Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.

SSEP – Episode 12: WrestleMania 33 Review and Aftermath

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by Jonathan Schorr

Jon and Matt review the “ultimate thrill ride” known as WrestleMania 33 and tackle the aftermath from Raw and SmackDown Live.

Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.

Spaceman Frank’s Top 10 WrestleMania Moments: #1 – Human Demolition Derby

by Frank Lucci

Welcome to Spaceman Frank’s Top 10 WrestleMania moments! Rather than just create another generic Top 10 list, I will be discussing the greatest moments from WWE’s biggest show of the year and explaining why I consider them the cream of the crop. This is based on in-ring quality, storyline quality, meta quality, as well as my own unique bias. Be prepared to read about triumph, heartbreak, and above all else, some truly unique moments in this unique form of entertainment.

The Moment: TLC II, WrestleMania X-Seven

While writing out this list I have seen some amazing moments in wrestling. I have seen moments that crowned careers and rejuvenated others, I have watched legends go out in a blaze of glory, and I have seen matches that will never be seen again. So how do you top legends, icons, and five-star performances? You lay it all on the line to make a statement, and that’s what happened at WrestleMania 17 with TLC 2.

This match has it all – including death-defying stunts that WWE has wisely chosen to avoid in recent years. You have kayfabe stakes as all three teams are willing to throw themselves off ladders and through tables just to get the Tag Team Championships. It seems inconceivable that WWE would ask tag teams in 2017 to do the same to this degree, which just goes to show how important it was to have any belt in this era. You have meta importance of six men trying to elevate themselves and make them stand out among the Rock’s and Stone Cold’s of the day.

One of the biggest outcomes and legacies of this match is the fact that in the years since half of the people involved have won the top prize in WWE, and five out of six won world championships if you include TNA titles (poor Devon Dudley, but last place here is being half of the most decorated tag team in history and a behind the scenes role in today’s WWE is not too shabby). Finally, you get an emotional roller coaster as you watch three teams that endured themselves for their fans to cement their status as the future of the industry in a match that was never seen before or since.

I could give a blow by blow of this match, but words cannot do justice for what transpires. I cannot fathom how nobody was seriously injured here (besides Spike Dudley who lost a few teeth), and even more amazing  it is that half these guys are still wrestling today. Hell, Edge was the first to retire, and that was a solid decade after this car crash of a match.

The only complaints I have this match are purely aesthetic. There are three extra people that make run-ins during the match, which is three too many. Second, instead of a video package we get shots of production people pulling out ladders and tables for the match, which does not exactly sell people going in cold why they should care. Also, I wish commentator Paul Heyman would be a little biased towards The Dudleys and Rhyno, or at least mention that he was their boss in ECW and sell them more as the killers they are.

Instead of immediately going for crazy spots, everyone builds up slow here. It starts off with some brawling, and the first big spot involves Jeff using his brother as a springboard to dropkick Edge off the ladder. The Hardys then do a tandem splash/leg drop on Christian off the ladders, and it makes sense that the daredevil brothers would be the first to go to extreme lengths to hurt their opponents. Edge and Christian are the cowardly heels and The Dudleys are more likely to just hoof you through a table, so Matt and Jeff setting the bar in terms of extreme risk first is a nice piece of psychology.

The Dudley’s take control, and it’s up to them to set up the toys for future spots later. They make the four table stack as well as three ladders in the center. Soon enough all six men are on the ladders and as flashbulbs go off all six take a dive. A special mention goes to Christian for falling completely out of the ring and view, making it look like he may be the first real-life casualty of this match.

Now we get to the run-in portion of the match. Even these Superstars have gotten a certain amount of respect for their involvement in this legendary match. Spike Dudley is out first, delivering a Dudley Dog to Christian through a table on the outside. Spike is one of my Boys as the excellent OSW Review defines them (one of your favorite wrestlers who never won a world championship), so seeing him get involved always makes me happy. Rhyno is up next to destroy people much more effectively, and being the smart cookie/ future Michigan House of Representatives candidate that he is, he wisely drags his compatriots towards the ladder he sets up in the center of the ring. Finally, to the biggest entrance pop (including for the people actually in the match) comes for Lita, who jogs awkwardly to the ring.

At this point things go too fast to recap properly and you just have to watch it unfold. It is beyond belief what these guys do here, and another special mention goes to Jeff Hardy for being involved in the biggest spot of the match. Sure, he failed in his big leapfrog spot involving three ladders, but considering he jumped off a giant ladder to the floor through two tables about 90 seconds before, I will let it pass. Edge hits the most perfect spear of his career in midair, sickeningly spiking his own head into the canvas. The match almost ends anti-climatically as Christian grabs the belt as Devon just kind of stops trying to climb the ladder.

Somehow everyone walks out of this match, moving gingerly around the debris and human bodies left around the ring. I’m not sure how these six men did it, but they survived something that could have gone much, much worse. Above all else, at the end of the Attitude Era WWE established a future crop of main eventers that not only WWE, but other wrestling companies would rely on for the next decade. Sure, they had to put themselves through hell during this match, but what would you pay to punch your ticket to immortality?

To get to the top of an industry that had just shifted seismically in the wake of WCW and ECW folding, the six men here did what they needed to do to prove they were just as worthy of that spotlight of the legends already in it. For paving the way of the future, delivering something never before seen or replicated, and the physical toll that even the stoniest of hearts can appreciate makes TLC 2 my favorite WrestleMania moment of them all.

For more of Spaceman Frank’s antics, check out Spacemanfrank.com and listen to our pro wrestling podcast, Manopera!

Spaceman Frank’s Top 10 WrestleMania Moments: #2 – Icon vs. Icon

by Frank Lucci

Welcome to Spaceman Frank’s Top 10 WrestleMania moments! Rather than just create another generic Top 10 list, I will be discussing the greatest moments from WWE’s biggest show of the year and explaining why I consider them the cream of the crop. This is based on in-ring quality, storyline quality, meta quality, as well as my own unique bias. Be prepared to read about triumph, heartbreak, and above all else, some truly unique moments in this unique form of entertainment.

The Moment: The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan, WrestleMania XVIII

Whenever two of the all time greats come together and compete it’s always a spectacle that demands attention. Even if it ends up disappointing like Mayweather vs. Pacquiao huge amounts of people dissect every aspect of the contest right up until things actually kick off. What’s even rarer is when the best of different generations come together and have a contest worthy of all the hype, which is why Hulk Hogan vs The Rock at WrestleMania 18 is such a special moment in wrestling. While such contests are either improbable or even impossible, this not only happened but it was a pretty damn good match to boot.

The Rock was inching his way out the door in 2002, and while he would stick around for a little bit after this, it was clear he was moving on to bigger and better things. He guided the WWE through the dreaded Invasion angle and was looking for something to do to follow up his spectacular match at the previous WrestleMania with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

How do you follow up on the match that is widely considered the greatest main event in WrestleMania history and the end of the Attitude Era?

Enter Hulk Hogan. He collected on his guaranteed contract from the now dead WCW, missing the Invasion entirely. This probably helped himself and many other big names from tarnishing their legacies and made sure they were able to pop up in WWE with some actual fanfare and hoopla. When he showed up with the rest of the NWO in tow it was a big deal, and I can only imagine how much this match would have suffered if Hogan and his cronies were forced to plod through the Invasion and kiss up to Stone Cold.

Instead we get Hogan being quite the evil bastard. The video package highlights his cartoon villainy as he blames the fans for making him walk out of the WWE in the early 90’s and running into his ambulance with a freaking semi truck. This match is famous for the double turn during the match that the fans started by cheering Hogan over The Rock, but to be fair Rocky acts like a dick during this hype video. Despite the choral music that accompanies his first appearance in the video he does attack Hogan first, and I can excuse an old man for getting his buddies to help him face off against a man half his age.

Hogan is out first and he definitely gets some cheers, but nothing like he would receive later. At some point people are just happy you’re still around and conceded that yes, you are one of the best of all time. It happened to Hogan, it happened to Flair, and it’s even starting to happen to the greatest heel of all time, Tom Brady. Thankfully, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler do not try to ignore or cover up the fact that Hogan is getting cheered like today’s WWE announcers would (and if we had to listen to JBL yell “THESE CANUCKS JUST LOVE TO HAVE FUN MAGGLE!” during this match I would have shot my television). Poor Rocky again gets a pretty lame pop for the second ‘Mania in a row, and the dude just cannot seem to catch a break.

Then the magic happens. Toronto just goes nuts when both men stare at each other and they never really stop. The two stars know how to work a crowd, and being the pros that they are they milk the reaction for everything it’s got. Hulk has a reputation for not wanting to put people over, but props to him for agreeing to lay down for The Rock here. Hogan pushes Rocky down and crowd acts like Jesus Christ just came down from heaven wearing a Maple Leafs jersey and the sky was raining poutine down like manna. One shove was all it took to people to lose their minds.

I cannot help and have a flashback to Mayweather v.s Pacquiao at this point. I watched that fight expecting a slugfest between two of the greatest of all time, and instead we got a lame duck boxing match. That legitimate sporting event collapsed under the weight of it’s own hype. Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg fell into the same trap when they first wrestled at ‘Mania 20.

Wrestling is a much more forgiving form of entertainment, and due to it’s unique nature we can see the fantasy matches we want and they can be just as good as they were in our head. Hogan was never the best technical wrestler (and neither was The Rock, for that matter), but when you book dream matches for him they look exactly like this.

This match goes back and forth pretty evenly for the first part, and Hogan pulls out some excellent heel moves. He really knows how to cheat in that old-school way that makes the internet lionize people like Kevin Owens and the like. Hogan worked like a bad guy even when he was America’s favorite hot dog in the 80’s so it is no surprise when he pokes eyes, rakes backs, and literally starts choking The Rock. Like Flair’s retirement match, this is essentially a greatest hits montage for Hogan. Rocky being the future actor that he is, bounces around like a cruiserweight.

It is so engaging to see, even if Hogan’s reluctance to leave his feet is stupendously obvious. They work the crowd like the two bosses that they are, and it still feels surreal that this match actually happened. Hogan vs. Michaels and Cena vs. The Rock tried to mimic this match, but they just could not follow in this match’s footsteps. Blame ego, blame age, but this is damn near as perfect of a big time wrestling match as you get. This is the wrestling equivalent of a Mark Twain book. It may not have the pop of modern day writing, but you can appreciate the wisdom and wit on display.

The end is wrestling 101. The referee gets knocked out and misses Hogan tapping out to the Sharpshooter from the People’s Champion. Hulk regains control with a low blow/stolen finisher combo because WrestleMania is one of the few times a year wrestlers resort to stealing finishing moves. Hogan whips The Rock, but Rocky channels his future self playing Black Adam and returns the favor while looking like a menacing bastard. He hits a Rock Bottom but Hogan gets his seizure of strength and we get the moment that lives on in a million YouTube ‘Mania countdowns.

In this moment it does not matter what Hogan has said and done in his personal life, because brother he is coming for Rocky! Rocky sells this like he is having an out of body experience. He has realized that he is the villain in all this, and he is standing across the ring from his childhood hero much like Roddy Piper, Andre The Giant, and Randy Savage have done before him and is staring down at his doom. I cannot say this enough, but the crowd is unreal.

When people talk about suspension of disbelief, this is what they are talking about. There are no crazy athletics or extreme violence to sell you on the fact that these guys are tough. In a vacuum this scene is slightly ridiculous. An actor is staring in fear of an old balding man as he grimaces and shakes his fists, but to wrestling fans, this is like watching The Power Rangers form their Megazord right in front of their eyes.

In the end, Hogan’s comeback is cut short, and the legendary Leg Drop of Doom cannot put The Rock away and The People’s Champ must chain together two Rock Bottoms and The People’s Elbow to put down the old lion. Despite Hogan’s monstrous face pop this was the right call, and we get a sign of respect from both men as the torch is officially passed. This is how it should be, as one man gives his endorsement of the other in front of a stadium of people and millions around the world.

Oftentimes in wrestling, backstage drama and politics get in the way so that these dream moments either don’t happen or are not of this quality. Hogan himself is guilty of doing this many times over his career, and Rocky would leave before he could put his stamp of approval on many of the superstars of the new millennium. I think the decline of wrestling after the Attitude Era can be linked to the lack of these critical transitional matches, as many of the Superstars of old were either unwilling (Triple H, Hogan) or unable (Stone Cold, The Rock) to give their blessing in the ring to a replacement, but for one night the right move is done properly.

Looking back at other singles matches I singled out for this list, most have a No-Disqualification stipulation around them. This may be the biggest non-gimmick match in WrestleMania history, and it certainly is my favorite. These two colossus are bigger than gimmicks, and they did not need the shortcut of weapons or bloodshed to tell the story that they wanted. All that mattered was the two men in the ring, and everything else was just icing on the cake. For delivering a real Icon vs. Icon moment rarely seen in any entertainment medium, Rock vs. Hogan is my number two WrestleMania moment.

For more of Spaceman Frank’s antics, check out Spacemanfrank.com and listen to our pro wrestling podcast, Manopera!

Spaceman Frank’s Top 10 WrestleMania Moments: #3 – The Attitude Era’s Supernova

by Frank Lucci

Welcome to Spaceman Frank’s Top 10 WrestleMania moments! Rather than just create another generic Top 10 list, I will be discussing the greatest moments from WWE’s biggest show of the year and explaining why I consider them the cream of the crop. This is based on in-ring quality, storyline quality, meta quality, as well as my own unique bias. Be prepared to read about triumph, heartbreak, and above all else, some truly unique moments in this unique form of entertainment.

The Moment: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock, WrestleMania X-7

WrestleMania X-7 (or 17 to those who the words “attitude” and “extreme” do not apply to) is regarded as the best WrestleMania of all time, and for good reason. It features several classic battles and marks the distinct end of the Monday Night Wars and showcased the deep WWE roster during their most successful period. No other WrestleMania looks and feels like this one, including the ones that came immediately before and after it. This is the singularity in the center of the WWE Universe, and more than any other event is the reason the company is still going strong today. This is modern wrestling distilled into its most basic form, and at its nucleus is the main event between Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock.

Even though these two faced off two years earlier at WrestleMania 15, circumstances had changed so much in the wrestling world that their previous encounter felt like ancient history. It would be like if the WWE decided to put John Cena vs. The Rock on at WrestleMania 34 after Cena becomes the new Superman in the Justice League movie and it grosses $3 billion worldwide. Both men had reached absurd levels of mainstream success since ‘Mania 15, and I would rate The Rock and Stone Cold as numbers one and three respectively of wrestlers normal people are likely to recognize (two is Hulk Hogan and Cena is a distance fourth due to the memes). If both men stuck around I could have seen a scenario where these guys constantly headline every other WrestleMania until…well today and fans would still be into it all.

It’s unimaginable that WWE would have one super hot megastar on their roster, let alone two, so this is already catapulted into the top ten. It also doesn’t hurt that the crowd for this match is on fire, the story leading into it is on point, and both men happen to be damn good wrestlers. This moment is proof that WWE had the most success when they gave the wrestlers a chance to adapt to what the crowd wanted and let the most talented people on the roster shine on their own merits instead of trying to lead audiences by the nose (makes coughing noises).

We start off with one of, if not the best video packages WWE has ever produced (the fact that I say that with Limp Bizkit playing over it is mind boggling). Stone Cold won the Royal Rumble, The Rock beat Kurt Angle at the next PPV, and here we are. The only two  things I would really change is jamming Debra (Stone Cold’s then real wife) into the picture, and Stone Cold’s look. I know it’s an iconic look, but the dude’s knee braces/shorts combo makes him look like an old man with garters on. Every staredown, every line of their sitdown interview we see, every physical blow between the two is pure gold, and it all revolves around the WWE Championship, as it should be.

Howard Finkel is here to announce this is a No-Disqualification match, and WWE should have him announce the main event of every WrestleMania since he named the damn thing. Stone Cold comes out to the best song Disturbed every recorded (again, licensed music makes wrestlers seem so much more legit) and a massive pop.  Rocky gets a mild pop and his classic movie sounds like call holding music to me. Commentator Paul Heyman reminds us that Stone Cold is a man of integrity which is why Texas loves its native son (not because of the swearing, beer drinking, and ass kicking). Speaking of ass kicking, things immediately break down as the two trade blows. This is how to start a WrestleMania main event, and if Brock Lesnar and Goldberg just stand there after all that has happened between them (as I assume they will headline) I will be pissed. We get brawling around the floor and flurries of punches and kicks with the occasional big move through in. Heyman and JR sell everything so well, and I do not think there has ever been a better commentary team despite their brief tenure together.

Rocky ends up bleeding due to a shot to the head via ring bell and then flops on a table that breaks under his weight. One of the funniest accidental moments in WrestleMania history, and The Rock almost got away with it not being on camera. These guys are such master craftsmen that simple things such as mounted punches makes the crowd go crazy. This is why WWE needs to let their product breathe a bit more. Many “big time” matches these days usually consist of one person hitting a move as the other stands there with a “OMG I can’t believe they hit that move!” look on their face (for an example of this, see Sting vs. Triple H from WrestleMania 31). Here both men work a normal pace, but they exaggerate every move so that it feels like a move that is championship caliber. Just look at the way The Rock flies through the air when taking a simple hip toss and the way Austin flops around when hitting the exposed turnbuckle. When people mention how selling is important to wrestling, this is an essential match that shows why. The only other people I can think of that goes to such lengths to make their opponent look like a million dollars these days is AJ Styles and Sami Zayn.

Steve Austin, perhaps to show Rocky how a real Texas SOB blades, soon has his entire head turn red under the crimson mask. Both men get a turn to grimace under sharpshooters and look like maniacs as they scream and writhe in pain. There are no finishing moves done in the first few minutes, so once we actually get one it actually means something – and in a twist it’s Rocky hitting the Stunner on Austin! It’s one of my favorite moments of the match that for some reason never really gets mentioned.

Fresh off getting beat up by his son and formerly comatose wife (did that come up during Linda McMahon’s congressional confirmation hearing?), Vinny Mac is here to creep on the match. The crowd has gone from booing The Rock to cheering his People’s Elbow, but Vince breaks it all up. Heyman has been hinting that Stone Cold may be up to something dastardly all night, and this is clue number two to what’s going to happen next. Vince hits Rocky with a chair while Austin holds him up. Honestly, I think they could have done the turn better. For example, have the turn come at the very end with a sudden Austin heel turn rather than having him cheat (in a No-DQ match by the way) and selling out to his boss and mortal enemy. The Rock sells a stunner as only he can (acting 101 ladies and germs), but when it does not get the three count Austin just goes berzerk and beats him with a chair until he wins. What should be the biggest betrayal in wrestling history falls slightly flat when the crowd still cheers.

This is like watching Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Judas Priest touring in 1978 with Motörhead as the opening act. This is undefeated 1972 Dolphins vs. undefeated 2007 Patriots in the Super Bowl. This is a blockbuster movie with Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood, Denzel Washington, and Meryl Streep as the main cast. Nothing else comes close to wrestling fans as the holy grail of an event, and this match solidified the evening as one of the greatest. From here we transitioned to The Invasion and the gradual decline in wrestling’s importance, but the match between Stone Cold and The Rock will be the lasting image of the sport for decades to come. The Rock’s career has soared since leaving WWE full time, and Austin has enjoyed plenty of his own success after retiring two years after this (in poetic justice, his last match would also be against The People’s Champion at WrestleMania XIX). Neither man truly passed the baton to a successor who could match them, but their gift to modern WWE wrestlers is a standard that they should all strive for. With the talent WWE has in their wheelhouse I can see a revival eventually happening, and when it does happen I see this match being the one people pointing to as the bar. It replaced Steamboat/Savage at WrestleMania 3 as the showcase match example, and for good reason. For ending an era the right way and giving causal fans, smart fans, and wrestlers themselves a masterpiece on ‘Mania main events this match is my number three pick for WrestleMania moments.

For more of Spaceman Frank’s antics, check out Spacemanfrank.com and listen to our pro wrestling podcast, Manopera!

Spaceman Frank’s Top 10 WrestleMania Moments: #4 – The End of an Era (Almost)

by Frank Lucci

Welcome to Spaceman Frank’s Top 10 WrestleMania moments! Rather than just create another generic Top 10 list, I will be discussing the greatest moments from WWE’s biggest show of the year and explaining why I consider them the cream of the crop. This is based on in-ring quality, storyline quality, meta quality, as well as my own unique bias. Be prepared to read about triumph, heartbreak, and above all else, some truly unique moments in this unique form of entertainment.

The Moment: The Undertaker vs. Triple H – Hell in a Cell (Special Guest Referee Shawn Michaels), WrestleMania XXVIII

WrestleMania 28 was the very first wrestling event I ever watched. The Bonesaw’s very own Chris Butera knew of a showing that was happening on campus at SUNY Oswego and told me to show up. I had zero context for what was happening, and I picked my favorites based on appearance and who had better entrance music. Sure, I knew who The Rock was and he’d be appearing, but beyond that I was going in blind. Most of the event was fairly unmemorable, and I honestly get this PPV confused with WrestleMania 27 frequently. However, one match stuck with me that I can still recall: Triple H vs The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee.

What I remember from watching this match live was several random details. The Hell in a Cell structure looks like something from a video game, there was licensed music during the entrances, which in today’s WWE is nearly impossible to get the company to spring for, and yet I remember thinking “The guy with the Motörhead theme song is cool, but this other guy got Johnny Cash so I’m not sure who to root for.” Hell, even the cell got a Metallica theme song!

Imagine how much more legitimate WWE Superstars would look if the company got a couple of popular bands to make up themes for them? Call up Snoop and have him make a theme for his cousin Sasha Banks, or get metalcore bands from Warped Tour to give Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins proper music instead of the generic dribble they get. Just a thought, but it would probably make all the difference in how the WWE Superstars are presented.

This was head and shoulders the best match on the card, even as somebody with no clue about the story behind it. Re-watching it now as a smarmy internet fan, it’s gotten better with age. Easily one of Undertaker’s and Triple H’s  best ‘Mania matches, there is so much drama in the build and during the match itself it almost feels like a theater production rather than a wrestling match.

To start we get Jim Ross coming out to announce this match, because we cannot have Booker T ruining this moment (side note: RIP Jan Ross). This match is billed as the End of an Era, which has been diminished slightly due to the  fact that neither man has retired nearly five years after this match. Shawn Michaels is then out in his referee shirt and actual pants, which is oddly disconcerting. I am so used to HBK dressing like a stripper who bought his sexy outfit at Dick’s Sporting Goods that seeing him in professional attire is strange. His best buddy Triple H is out next, being barfed out of a weird warrior’s mouth. Triple H has his scary dad bode out, but I wish he cut his hair short much earlier, as he looks older here than he does now. Undertaker has a pretty plain entrance that just has a bunch of pyro shooting out behind him. JR claims they are 50 feet tall, but that seems a little suspect, unless the man in front of them is a whopping 30 feet, which would mean the cell is at least 150 feet high and 75 feet wide (spoiler: they aren’t).

The announcers do a good job of highlighting the story of the match: Triple H lost last year, but he walked out and Taker did not, so here we are with the rematch. Triple H, being the bastard boss, makes his buddy and fellow streak victim Michaels the ref to ensure, in his mind, that he will be the one to give Undertaker his first loss at WrestleMania. Undertaker has short hair, a stubble goatee, and eyeliner on, making him look like an old crossdressing goth that just took off his wig.

The match starts and both men just start slugging it out, and Jim Ross calls Triple H’s punches “carcinogenic,” which is perhaps not the best word to use. The Hell in a Cell cage is closer to the ring here, but that leads to a bunch of cool shaky cam style close ups of the action as the cameraman tries to dodge the two behemoths. ‘Taker shoves Michaels out of his way, and we get the first sign that perhaps HBK might pull something shady out of his playbook for his friend later. I couldn’t understand it back then, but the spectre of Triple H, COO and glory hog looms large here. If anyone was going to end the streak, it was going to be the one who runs the place in real life (who’s been known to use his pull to get what he wants). Going into WrestleMania 30 I distinctly thought that since Hunter didn’t end the streak, nobody ever will (Oops…).

Undertaker moves at a pace that can generously be called glacial, but unlike more recent years he moves well when doing moves and throwing strikes. The match mostly takes place outside the ring, but things pick up soon. We get a cool back body drop off the steps, followed by Triple H giving Taker a sickening spinebuster on the steps. ‘Taker tries to counter with the Hell’s Gate, but Triple H hoofs up the massive man and slams him down. Everything here is downright painful looking, and that’s before Triple H just goes on the warpath and beats Undertaker with a chair for what seems like five minutes. Triple H wrestles like someone trying to win a match in a WWE video game, and it just adds to the high drama on display.

HBK starts panicking, and he begs his buddy to end it by covering The Undertaker. HBK does some great acting here as he’s torn between his friend and the man he respects for retiring him. Shawn literally pleads with ‘Taker to stay down, but The Dead Man speaks and simply says “do not stop.” We need more matches like this, and seeing Triple H bleeding from the head yelling that he will end Undertaker and almost squash his opponent’s head like a watermelon with the hammer is an arresting visual. I still jump when it happens, even though three seconds later I realize there is no way Triple H is going to murder someone on live television.

The amazing moments just keep happening. HBK gets put in the Hell’s Gate to prevent him from stopping the match, but Triple H uses the sledgehammer again when he is down. The Undertaker pays for his hubris when Triple H passes out, but Shawn is still knocked out from before. Finishers start flying as Undertaker hits R1 to Chokeslam Triple H and replacement ref Little Naitch, and when he tries to Tombstone Triple H HBK nails him with the Sweet Chin Music.

This is perhaps Shawn’s greatest piece of work in the world of wrestling. Everything comes together here so well it is re-watchable again and again. He nails the kick to Undertaker, who immediately gets hit with the Pedigree. Watching this five years later, I am convinced every time that the streak is done. The Pedigree is so well protected, and the combo between that and Shawn’s kick would take down an elephant under normal circumstances. HBK goes to count the pinfall, and when Undertaker kicks out Shawn completely breaks down. HBK let out the Shawn Michaels of old, the primadonna who held down and bullied people, and for just one second he let that bastard out to show ‘Taker that he is not someone to get pushed around. He then pulls a 180 and we return to Shawn Michaels the God fearing man, who huddles in the corner and cries knowing that his anger and pettiness almost destroyed one of the most hallowed institutions in WWE. He has changed so much since the days of his wild youth, but underneath the piousness he is just as dangerous and reckless as ever. ‘Taker brought that out before when they tussled at WrestleMania, and whatever leftover angst powered that kick after being disrespected repeatedly by Undertaker, the man he is only trying to look out for.

This is, in my mind, one of the best sixty seconds of wrestling I have ever seen, and one of the moments that drew me into the world of wrestling. The drama, the action, the crowd, the announcers, it all comes together in one perfect moment. I can watch this over and over again, constantly rewinding and hearing Michael Cole yell “Streak’s over! Streak’s over!” again and again and again.

But of course, this is not the end of the streak, and now Triple H is abusing his buddy for showing weakness. Big Daddy ‘Taker sits up and Hunter nearly pees his pants as he begins his rally. A Tombstone Piledriver is not enough to stop Triple H, but the real victim is Shawn. Repeatedly we see him crouched in the corner with tears running down his face as ‘Taker and Triple H slug it out despite being too tired to stand. This match is shortening both men’s lives physically, but HBK must take on the emotional toll for both men as he witnesses the two men he respects the most destroy each other like two massive stars caught in each other’s orbit. Finally, after an exhausting half an hour Undertaker proves he is tougher than The Game by beating him senseless as Shawn cannot even look at the carcass of his friend. Triple H manages to stand one last time and give a crotch chop, but it’s curtains for him. All three men truly have gone to hell and back, and they fittingly leave supporting each other up the ramp as the crowd gives them the standing ovation they deserve.

This match is half an hour long, but it both feels longer and shorter than this. It does not drag like many longer matches, but the journey you go on during this bout feels like the series finale of your favorite hour long drama. This is Undertaker’s best WrestleMania match, period; and most likely the best Triple H match at ‘Mania as well.

Usually when I try to get people to start watching wrestling, I either go for extreme violence (to show how tough and legitimate the wrestlers are), or pure comedy (to show how goofy wrestlers can be). This is the best match to show people how engrossing wrestling can be on an emotional level, and it takes three master craftsmen to show just how special an incredible wrestling match can be. Get a stadium full of crazy fans and plenty of atmosphere to boot and you have plenty of lasting images that sink their hooks into a potential fan’s brain, leading them down the path to becoming a lifelong mark. It worked on me, and I’m sure it worked on many other people as well.

For more of Spaceman Frank’s antics, check out Spacemanfrank.com and listen to our pro wrestling podcast, Manopera!