Friday, July 25, 2014

The Polling Place: Rollins and MitB, G1 Climax, Ray Rice

Will he EVER get to cash it in?
Photo Credit:
Welcome to the Polling Place, where I give you multiple choice polls, and you choose ONE answer per poll. ONE ANSWER PER POLL. Oh, excuse me, I don't know what got into me there. Anyway, first up this week, Seth Rollins is sitting pretty with his Money in the Bank briefcase, a veritable Plan 'B' for if the main thrust of The Authority to reclaim the WWE World Heavyweight Championship fails. However, he has an eternally annoying block against any cash-in attempt in former stablemate Dean Ambrose. Questions have arisen whether the Lunatic Fringe will let Rollins cash in his briefcase at all before his year with it is up. The question is, will Rollins cash in his briefcase, and if he does, will he be successful in winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship?

Second, the G1 Climax is raging on right now in New Japan Pro Wrestling. For those who don't know and who didn't read Conor's report on it yesterday, G1 is a round-robin tournament featuring 22 of NJPW's best and brightest wrestlers. The stage is still pretty early right now, but a few favorites have emerged from the pack. I want to know whom you think will win. If your choice isn't listed below, check "The Field" and name your choice in the comments.

Finally, Ray Rice was punished by the National Football League for viciously abusing his then-fiancee (now wife) at an Atlantic City casino and dragging her unconscious body onto an elevator. The attack was caught on videotape. After a shameful press conference where his wife was the only one who apologized, pressure was on the league to suspend the Baltimore Ravens' running back. That suspension came down yesterday in the form of a two game suspension and the docking of a third game's paycheck (at 2013 salary rates, that is, he's since gotten a raise for the 2014 season). The question is do you think Rice's suspension was appropriate enough?

Somebody Beat Up Ziggler and Maybe I'll Start Caring.

Ziggler needs to take a cue from the past...
Photo Credit:
I want to like Dolph Ziggler more.

He’s really fun to watch. He's fast, funny, bumps around like crazy, and looks like something that Michelangelo carved out of marble. I look forward to seeing Ziggler on Monday nights. But after the initial excitement of his introduction, I really have to make an effort to care about him. He’s stuck in a hamster wheel of good matches that don’t mean much. I’m really trying to care about Ziggler, and it shouldn't be this hard.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thank You and Goodnight, Rachel Summerlyn

An absolute icon is leaving wrestling for good
Photo Credit: Kelly Kyle/Texas Anarchy
Sunday in Austin, TX, Inspire Pro Wrestling will be holding its second event dedicated mostly to its burgeoning XX Division, No Turning Back. The present and future of women's wrestling in Central Texas will be on full display. Mia Yim will challenge for the NWA Women's Championship held by Barbi Hayden. Three more competitors will look to punch their cards for the XX Division Championship match. A slew of talented wrestlers will continue on the neverending quest to prove to everyone that wrestling ability is not bound by gender, but the biggest thing to happen on this show will involve one of the pioneers taking a microphone for the last time and saying goodbye.

Rachel Summerlyn wrestled her final match on February 16, 2013 according to Cagematch, defeating Sami Callihan in front of a raucous Upstate New York crowd for Squared Circle Wrestling. Injuries kept her from the ring initially; she stayed on the sidelines to pursue other things in her life in privacy. Even though she never officially retired before her appearance on Sunday, she quietly has been living life on her own terms, outside the wrestling industry and most importantly away from the bullshit politics and personal strife that had haunted her backstage in the final year or so of her active career. Every decent person deserves peace in their lives, and for the last year, Summerlyn has seemingly gotten that kind of tranquility that she couldn't get haunting the same ruts she had at the end of her career. But for someone as influential, as talented, and as important as she has been to Austin and San Antonio locally and independent wrestling on the whole, she deserved some kind of closure as well.

Throwback Thursday: Remember Paper Bags and Ted DiBiase, Jr.?

Three years in wrestling can be a long time. Right now, Stardust is on a fantastic voyage to God knows where with his brother Goldust, but back in the day, he was a vainglorious Cody Rhodes, wearing a protective mask to guard against injuries to his moneymaker and giving out paper bags to put over the heads of people who offended his aesthetics. Of course, obscuring the faces of others can come back to bite one in the ass, especially when former tag partner Ted DiBiase, Jr. was hanging out in the crowd looking for some retribution. God, remember when everyone, myself included, thought that DiBiase was the breakout star of Legacy? Those times were weird, man.

Twitter Request Line, Vol. 86

Hard to have a HOSS division when The Flood has all the members, like the Devastation Corporation
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
It's Twitter Request Line time, everyone! I take to Twitter to get questions about issues in wrestling, past and present, and answer them on here because 140 characters can't restrain me, fool! If you don't know already, follow me @tholzerman, and wait for the call on Wednesday to ask your questions. Hash-tag your questions #TweetBag, and look for the bag to drop Thursday morning. Without further ado, here are your questions and my answers!

Firstly, are you sure it was Loudspeaker or Remsburg who said it and not Leonard F. Chikarason? He has been pretty vocal on Twitter about a potential HOSS division along with the folks who run Absolute Intense Wrestling. Anyway, I'm nominally against weight classes in wrestling because they're prohibitive and take away from the specialness of any matchup being possible in the squared circle. That being said, if people are hell-bent on having a cruiserweight division, then certainly, the BRUISERweights should have time in the Sun too. Far too often is a wrestler, male or female, disregarded because of their weight, and yet many of the best wrestlers out there today either have super height, big muscles, or are, how shall I say, rubenesque? Kevin Steen, Mickie Knuckles, Samoa Joe, and who can forget MARK HENRY all have extra weight and are among the best out there. Chris Masters and Uhaa Nation are jacked to the gills and can still work, and Big Show is one of the most criminally underregarded wrestlers in history just because he's seven feet tall with the weight behind it. The big guys and gals need recognition too.

Anyway, a Chikara HOSS division would be far too dominated by The Flood right now to book properly. The only wrestler who comes close to qualifying on the tecnico side right now is Worker Ant. Everyone else - all three of the Devastation Corporation, Oleg the Usurper, N√łkken, Deucalion - reside with The Flood. Maybe after the big battle is over and things return to normal in Chikara, a decent HOSS division can be formed. Right now, it feels impossible. It should also be noted that two potential HOSS division wrestlers were "killed" this past weekend in the Estonian Thunder Frog and Tursas. WHEN WILL THE VIOLENCE AGAINST HOSSES STOP???

G1 Climax 24 Day One Review

Okada and Shibata celebrate victories during day one of wrestling's biggest annual tournament
Photo Credit:
Day one of New Japan Pro Wrestling's annual G1 Climax took place three days ago and it was a hell of a start. The tournament is kinda like the Wimbledon of Japanese professional wrestling and has gone through several different names and incarnations, but it's probably most well known in its current round robin format. Basically every year the company takes twenty of its top stars, splits them into two brackets and says "fight, fuckers". Everyone wrestles everyone and the two guys with the most wins from either group face off in the final. The tournament has decades of historical importance behind it with past winners including Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Antonio Inoki and The Great Muta. From just looking at those names you can tell that winning the G1 Climax is the company telling the world "you're our guy".

Last year's G1 drew critical acclaim with many proclaiming it as the best in the tournament's history. And although its winner, Tetsuya Naito didn't have the success that New Japan was hoping for, it did produce a string of match of the year candidates and a breakout star in Tomohiro Ishii. This year, the brackets are almost identical so hopes are high for another batch of great shows. If the opening round was any indication of quality, that shouldn't be a problem. Let me break it down for you match by match so hopefully by the end you'll know why you should be watching, if you're not already.

Big Heat's Hot Takes: Get Your World Champ Out Of My Wrestling Show!

BORK LAZER doesn't need to be around every week
Photo Credit:
Wrestling fans, we are seemingly entering an era where the top competitor holding the top prize in the top promotion in the country will become a non-present entity.

It started this past week on RAW, when incumbent WWE World Heavyweight Champ John Cena - The Greatest in WWE History™ - was absent to film a role in a movie. I would love to point out the hypocrisy of this move after Cena had such issue with The Rock always being absent for the same reason during the build to both Once In A Lifetime matches, but I'll refrain for the time being. Scheduling rumors also indicate Cena will be missing the August 4th episode of Raw for more movie stuff.

And SummerSlam will be headlined by Cena defending his world championship against Brock Lesnar. With Lesnar a heavy favorite to capitalize on The Streak momentum and win, does he have enough of his limited dates left to appear regularly with the Championship should he be victorious?

TWB Retro Live Tweet Recap: WCW Sin

You poor, sweet man
Photo Credit:
Last night, an intimate but intrepid group of TWB readers and Tweeters got together and watched the third-to-last pay-per-view event in World Championship Wrestling history, Sin. This group sat through the beautiful trainwreck that was end-of-days WCW and got to see some breathtaking cruiserweight action, more of Reno in one night than is recommended by the Surgeon General in a year, TWO doses of Michael Buffer's overblown ring announcing, and the aftermath of an injury too horrific not to edit out. Like I thought, the show wasn't a complete abomination, but it had the hallmarks of post-Starrcade '96 WCW all over it: plodding old farts clogging the main events, senseless overbooking, and the younger, hungrier wrestlers busting their asses for what would amount to a whole lot of nothing. Of course, watching the event was half the game. The other half? YOUR TWEETS! The following list contains the best of the show:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reference Points: The Usos and the Fantastics

The Usos compare favorably to a classic '80s tag team, but it's not the one you think it is
Photo Credit:
Ever since they became a babyface tag team, the Usos have been a fascinating case study. Why, you might be asking? Because, for right or wrong, there are certain perceptions of how Samoans, or for that matter all of the South Sea Islands wrestlers, are supposed to wrestle. They're supposed to be tough and mean and most of all, big. The Usos are none of these things. In fact, in more ways than I think they would care to admit, they're not the heirs to the Headshrinkers, or even the Islanders tag team of Haku and Tama.

Truthfully, what they are is the heirs to the pretty-boy tag teams that dotted the 1980s like the guys who are aping strong-style dot this decade. And while everyone remembers the Rock N' Roll Express, and rightly so, for what they did as a tag team, I think the team that most reminds me of the Usos were always thought of as not the Rock N' Rolls. And that's not an insult to them. Because, if we're being fair, the Rock N'Rolls weren't the sole great babyface tag team of the 1980s. There were others too. And the team the Usos remind me the most of is The Fantastics.

ACW's From Innocence to Insanity 8 Review

Straight FIRE
Photo Credit: Michael Dupin
I want to state right up front that I will not have anything critical to say about the performances on this show. Every single person on the card, whether in a hardcore match or not, put their bodies on the line for our enjoyment. They all busted their asses (some quite literally, probably). Whether you are for or against the type of matches and spots that occurred on this, the aptly dubbed, "most violent event of the year," you simply can't not, at least, respect the performers.

The booking, however, yeah, I'll have some criticisms of that.

The thing that sucks about having shows outside is that when the air is super thick and humid, it almost makes it unbearable. Letting everyone in the doors fifteen-ish minutes later than scheduled also didn't help. Sure, the show is outside, but we could at the very least had gotten to wait around in the air conditioned bar.

In a slight change, there was no pre-show. I chalk that up to the very, very thin roster that ACW is currently working with. It was even smaller than it had been at recent events.

The Whole F'n Team (Johnny Axxel and Mr. B) vs The Bad Boyz (Lil Tony and Seph Anunnaki)

In a match that was billed as the last ever match between the two teams (thank JESUS!), Franco D'Angelo decided to intervene before it could get started (damnit!). While I was not looking forward to seeing this match for the uptempth time, I did want it to be officially over. I suppose this gives them an excuse to run it again instead of doing something, anything, different with them. It's not something we generally care about, they have nothing to blow-off, so it's okay to just move on.


Steen's whimsy and charisma will fit in perfectly in WWE
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Independent wrestling as a whole has seen some influential and important characters. Bryan Danielson set the bar in the ring, and CM Punk pushed the envelope the furthest outside of it. Chikara as a promotion may have done more to mold the image of storytelling in a promotion than any other company since the rise of the major independent in the wake of Extreme Championship Wrestling's folding. Samoa Joe, Chris Hero, Mickie Knuckles, Low Ki, Super Dragon, Sara del Rey, and scores of other wrestlers paved the way for the scene to have the primacy along with the nationally televised behemoths. However, among the hall of greats, two wrestlers always stood tallest to me - El Generico and Kevin Steen.

Perhaps their standing with me is a function of when I came into following indie wrestling. By the time 2009 rolled around, Joe and Punk were imbued in their respective mainstream companies. Danielson was coming down off his indie prime and getting ready to become Daniel Bryan. The spotlight had shifted to a radical interpretation of strong style within the "super" indies, one that I grew accustomed to disliking. But Generico and Steen felt different. Sure, they had big movesets, but they never executed on them in the rapid-fire, get-my-shit-in mentality that I had grown tired of watching from Davey Richards. Every match they wrestled made sense. When they had to be funny and lighten the mood, they were humorous in a non-embarrassing way. When the time came to draw blood, they brought intensity that may have been surprising given their natures. For the last five years, Steen was the only reason to tune into Ring of Honor some days, and both men made Pro Wrestling Guerrilla one of the most satisfying promotions in the history of wrestling.

WCWC: The Culmination of the DDT Challenge

Photo via WCWC Facebook Page
When you tape a month's worth of episodes for a wrestling show in a matter of hours and devote most of the attention toward a match revolving around a single maneuver, a letdown is bound to occur. Episode 08 of PDX TV featured the DDT Challenge between Danny Duggan, representing The Grappler and Jeremy Blanchard who is wrestling on behalf of Jake "The Snake" Roberts, and the match itself was a methodical affair. Yet the episode did include a promo from Roberts that provided a reminder of why he was such a big star in the WWE.

Prior to the DDT Challenge, Roberts, accompanied by Blanchard, spoke to backstage reporter Pat Kelley. Roberts states that in regard to choosing Blanchard for the Main Event of this episode, "I'm not going to say that I never made a mistake, but this is not one of them". Roberts speaks about how Blanchard can be a "monster" in the promotion if he would focus on being his best and stop concerning himself with other's ideas (such as The Grappler's) and really does a great job of putting Blanchard over.

Your Midweek Links: Sheiky Baby and Battleground

Sheiky baby make Hulk Hogan humble hock ptooey
Photo Credit:
It's hump day, so here are some links to get you through the rest of the week:

Wrestling Links:

- Best of the Iron Sheik's UPROXX Live Discussion [With Spandex]

- Spending an evening with the Iron Sheik at the Roasted Rumble [SB Nation]

- It was tasteless, but no surprise that WWE referenced MH17 [The Independent]

- The Best and Worst of Battleground 2014 [With Spandex]

- WWE Battleground 2014: What We Learned [SB Nation]

- Sting speaks as Battleground approaches [Grantland]

- Wrestling Is... Emotionally Compromising, or, lightning strikes more than twice and we are losing our family [Heinekenrana]

- Facts from Future Pro Wrestling Summertime Brawl, Wallington Hall, July 19, 2014 [The Only Way Is Suplex]

- Wrestler, statesman, hostage negotiator, legend: The life of Antonio Inoki [Grantland]

- A brief and wonderful history of wrestlers dressing like total dorks [With Spandex]

- Don't you want a new Nation of Domination? [the Masked Negro]

- Seven ways WWE can reinvigorate RAW [What Culture WWE]

- The Best and Worst of RAW: Flo Rida vs. Heath Slater II [With Spandex]

- Wrestling about Talking, Ep. 1: Damien Sandow [The Classical]

- Things Lance Storm dislikes [Wrestling on Earth]

- Vintage Best and Worst: Survivor Series 1996 [With Spandex]

- The Art of Gimmickry: The Assimilated Foreign Wrestler [Old School Jabronis]

- TNA Impact (July 17) Review [Voices of Wrestling]

- The Best and Worst of Impact Wrestling: We Want What Now? [With Spandex]

Impact Report: It Makes Me Depressed a Little Bit

"More action and less talking!" said during yet another 20 minute promo segment
Photo Credit:
This week’s episode of TNA Impact is the first coming from the vaunted recent NYC tapings, shows that TNA has sold to us as the best that they’ve done this year and are presented as a creative rebirth for the company. While I think they might have overhyped it a bit, this episode definitely had a lot to enjoy in it wrestling-wise, even if the actual storylines are still stuck in the same position. The episode was bolstered by some great matches that’ll hopefully lead to some interesting things in the future. But I mean, what would an entry in the Impact Report be with a little negativity for TNA??

The Best Moves Ever: Last Chancery

A wrestler needs a lot of dexterity when performing a bridging move. German suplexes and other throw variants with bridges require a certain amount of dexterity and concentration, but having to do a grounded bridging submission? Yeah, the kind of balance needed to keep that move in place for extended periods of time is off the charts. Austin Aries has that kind of balance. And he has a move called the Last Chancery which looks pretty nifty.