Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Then, Now Whatever: The Worst Tournament Ever? The WCW Title Tournament, October-November 1999

Hello everyone,

Sorry it's been a while since I did one of these. Hope you've all been enjoying the podcast in general.

Having covered how Kyle became a fan in our previous episode, it was now time to delve into the story of how my fandom started. As covered in Episode 6, going off my memories of seeing a Sting vs Goldberg match on WCW Worldwide I figured out that WCW Mayhem 1999 was the first Pay Per View to occur after I became a fan.

The backdrop to this show was a 32 person tournament for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship. I'd like to reiterate my recommendation you check out "The Death of WCW" by R.D. Reynolds & Bryan Alvarez for their take on it. However, I have taken the trouble of watching every match from the tournament prior to Mayhem, and as a companion piece for our Mayhem 99 episode, I've reviewed them all for you here. These matches were spread over the course of the four episodes of Nitro between Halloween Havoc and Mayhem. The brackets were split into four groups, each group winner going on to the semis at Mayhem.

 October 25th

Group 1 Round 1 - Norman Smiley vs Bam Bam Bigelow

In a pre-match promo Smiley promised to show off his technical skill. This is the "Mayhem Match of the Week" - if you can remember the winner, you get the chance to win tickets for "WCW Nitro New Year's Evil" from the Houston Astrodome December 27th!
ONE MATCH in to this tournament & it has already descended into bollocks, as Bam Bam decides to challenge Smiley to a hardcore match, since he's "such a scientifical wrestling technician". So the wrestlers can just decide the stipulations to their matches?
The finish: Thoroughly idiotic, as Bam Bam covers Smiley's head with a trash can and accidentally bumps into said trash can, which supposedly keeps him down long enough for Norman to do his "Big Wiggle" dance & cover for 3.
Winner: Norma Smiley @ 1:24
Verdict: DUD

Group 1 Round 1 - Perry Saturn vs Eddie Guerrero

Saturn got tonnes of smoke for his entrance. Brain: "Who started wrestling, Cheech & Chong?". Perry tells Eddie's fellow Filthy Animals to leave ("Hit the bricks jabronis"). In the distraction Eddie attacks Perry's leg. Are those Eddie sucks chants? But he's the babyface!? Eddie's got busted ribs, so Saturn's offence focuses on that, including a cool suplex and a dive taking him & Eddie off the apron.
The finish: David Flair sneaks out to crowbar Eddie in the ribs & Saturn locks in the Rings of Saturn back in ring for the tap out.
Winner: Perry Saturn @ 3:40 via submisson
Verdict: 3/10. They did what they could for the time given, but why the need for the run in?

Group 2 Round 1 - Madusa vs Meng

I've just noticed Dave Penzer's rainbow cummerbund! 

Tony upon finding out Madusa's wrestling Meng: "That's gotta be a rib, right?" Madusa fires up lots & Meng no sells like crazy, not going down despite Madusa getting a dropkick & enzughiri.
The finish: Meng mares Madusa off a sleeper and locks in the Tongan Death Grip  for the pin.
Winner: Meng @ 2:33
Verdict: 3/10. Madusa showed good fire & frustration at being unable to knock down Meng.
Evan Karagias flirtily checks on Madusa post match.

Group 2 Round 1 - The Total Package vs Rick Steiner

Immediately Jeff Jarrett comes out to join commentary. Steiner controls, and after a belly to belly Jeff sees his chance to stalk Liz. This somehow results in Jarrett accidentally whacking Steiner with the guitar (the old "El Kabong"), so he groggily chases Jeff to the back & gets counted out.
Winner: The Total Package @ 2:59 via count out
Verdict: DUD

Group 1 Round 1 - Billy Kidman vs Konnan

Both men were too distressed about Torrie Wilson being held captive by The Revolution to cut a coherent pre-match promo, yet Konnan's still happy enough to do his little pouncing out to the ring. And he needs to pull his trousers up! After a rolling clothesline by Konnan & BK Bomb by Kidman we get a ref bump, yay! Harlem Heat arrive to clubber them both. Eddie & Rey Mysterio chase them off & Kidman covers for 3.

Winner: Billy Kidman @ 1:53
Verdict: DUD

Group 2 Round 1 - Sting vs Brian Knobs

Sting wins in 13 seconds after walloping Knobs with the baseball bat.

Group 2 Round 1 - Diamond Dallas Page vs David Flair

Incensed at Page for injuring his dad last night, David sneak attacks DDP with a crowbar before the match can even begin. It's not obvious what the result is & naturally they just cut to the next segment in 1 second. More on next week's episode.

Group 1 Round 1 - Goldberg vs Bret Hart

Bret supposedly has a "hairline fracture" in his ankle & gave his Tito Santana "I'm gonna do my best" promo earlier in the night. This match is also for Goldberg's United States Championship because why the heck not. After a Gorilla Press Powerslam Goldberg gets a pair of leg grapevines - the first Bret scrambles to the ropes immediately, the second Goldberg lets go of willingly!  Bill: "You gotta stop." Bret: "I ain't stopping for nothing!" Goldberg mared out of Bret's sleeper, causing another ref bump wohoo!
The finish: Bret get shit canned outside, The Outsiders & Sid Vicious arrive to hit their trademark moves on Goldberg & Bret rolls in to get the 3.
Winner: Bret Hart @ 7:52
Verdict: 2.5/10. More angle than match.

* Notable signs from that show: "Saturn Slangs Bean Pies", "That Was Weak!", "Russo, Where's The Gambler?", "Jericho 4, Greenberg 0"

Thanks prowrestling.wikia.com for the tournament brackets

November 1st

Group 4 Round 1 - Vampiro vs Berlyn

Berlyn's bodyguard "The Wall" evidently didn't have a name at this point, while Vamp only had eyeliner, no facepaint. Berlyn controls early, hitting a nice Saito suplex. Vamp replies with a decent mule kick. Rock band The Misfits arrive and guess what? There's a ref bump. Yay! Cue brawling between The Misfits & The Wall.
The finish: The Misfits sweep Berlyn's leg away during a slam attempt & hold his limbs down so Vamp can get the 3.
Winner: Vampiro @ 4:11
Verdict: 2.5/10. Sloppy but watchable before the shenanigans dragged things down.

* It turns out DDP was awarded the victory last week, but is unable to compete through injury, so The Total Package gets a bye to the Quarter Final.

Group 3 Round 1 - The Cat vs Lash LeRoux

Tony puts over that Cat returned from his knee injury 2 weeks early for this. So, naturally, his leg buckles on an Irish whip & Lash hooks an Indian Deathlock variant for the submission.
Winner: Lash LeRoux @ 0:56 via submission
Verdict: ANGLE

Group 4 Round 1 - Buff Bagwell vs Stevie Ray

LOL you can see the camera man encouraging the crowd to "raise the roof" when Stevie arrives. He informs Buff The Powers That Be have made this a Strap Match. TPTB hate Buff. This match is basically just choking & clubbering.
The finish: Creative Control enter the ring & the bell rings(!?) as Buff runs away (he got unstrapped quickly). DQ IN A STRAP MATCH FFS.
Winner: Buff Bagwell @ 2:49 vis disqualification
Verdict: DUD. This was hot garbage.

Group 4 Round 1 - Curt Hennig vs The Disco Inferno

In a pre-match promo Hennig referred to "The Powers To Be" and "Disco Infurro". Yep, he ain't Perfect any more. The show is in Curt's home state so his Dad Larry "The Axe" is front row, refuses Disco's handshake & levels him (no DQ?) between a nice brisk rope run routine by Curt. Disco's able to block the Hennigplex but Tony Marinara arrives & informs Disco "it's time to collect", so he abandons the match & Hennig wins by count out.
Winner: Curt Hennig @ 3:30 via count out
Verdict: 3/10. Nice, pacey & competent before the daft finish.

Group 4 Round 1 - Jeff Jarrett vs Booker T

Jarrett jumped Book during his entrance & the ref actually prevents a guitar attack! Of course Creative Control arrive. Book rolls through a crossbody for 2. They trade sleepers, then Book gets the Book End, Scissors Kick & Harlem Side Kick, but Creative Control's distraction allows Jeff to "El Kabong him for 3.
Winner: Jeff Jarrett @ 2:38
Verdict: 3/10. Loved Booker's offence. Jarrett's selling? Less so.

Group 3 Round 1 - Madusa vs Evan Karagias

Yep, Madusa gets another chance for some reason. They basically just flirt all match long. Madusa gropes Evan & slaps his cap off, then he frisks her escaping a headlock (Tony: "Keep yo' miind on yo' business boy."). Fucking hell Madusa just thrusts her crotch towards Evan in the corner.
The finish: Madusa sort of Thesz Presses out of a hug & kisses Evan for 3.
Winner: Madusa @ 2:11 via sexuality.
Verdict: BOLLOCKS. Totally went against Madusa's story of wanting to be seen as a peer and not just a model for perfume or evening gown matches.

Group 3 Round 1 Steel Cage Match - Chris Benoit vs Dean Malenko

Not sure why this is a cage match. These two wrestled in a Last Man Standing Match the week before so maybe it was to maintain the same level of violence?

Ha, Penzer introduces Malenko, who's already in the cage, as we see Benoit come out, so it looks like he messed up. Neat spot where Benoit Alley Oops Dean into the cage & immediately powerbombs him. Dean gets crotched climbing up & dropkicked into the cage, but counters a second with a catapult to the cage. Benoit climbs after a Tombstone but gets Electric Chaired.
The finish: Saturn climbs up & tosses a chain in the ring, but falls off when Malenko's knocked into him, allowing Benoit to punch Dean with the chain & hit an amazing headbutt from the cage top for 3.
Winner: Chris Benoit @ 4:29
Verdict: 5.5/10. A super efficient match with some good spots.

Group 3 Round 1 - Scott Hall vs Sid Vicious

TROLLOLOL a Fingerpoke of Doom reference sees Hall trick Sid into a roll up for 2. Fans chant Goldberg to taunt Sid as he backbreakers Hall. He cuts off a Hall comeback with a chokeslam.
The finish: Bret, on crutches, comes out, hits Sid with a crutch to prevent a powerbomb, misses his crutch shot to Hall, and Hall scootches around the other side of the ring to get the 3.
Winner: Scott Hall @ 4:53
Verdict: 2/10. What a whole lotta blah.

* Notable signs: "Buff is the real people champion", "Last Call for Alco-Hall"

November 8th

* It's revealed an injury to Meng means Sting gets a bye to the Quarter Final next week, where he'll face The Total Package.

Group 1 Round 2 Hardcore Match - Billy Kidman vs Norman Smiley

Smiley's all in hockey gear & Brian Knobs is on commentary. Norm spanks Kidman while holding him in a wheelbarrow.
The finish: Knobs attacks Smiley on the outside with a hockey stick (for some reason Jimmy Hart felt the need to distract the ref from this) & Kidman covers back inside for 3.
Winner: Billy Kidman @ 2:12
Verdict: DUD

Group 3 Round 2 - Madusa vs Chris Benoit

Benoit outwrestles Madusa with ease in some decent exchanges. She hits a Frankensteiner but Benoit chops back. Evan comes out & brawls with the ref!? Jarrett arrives & brawls with Benoit too, so Madusa's DQed I guess?
Winner: Chris Benoit @ 1:49 via disqualification
Verdict: 1/10. Felt like the tentative opening exchanges to a good match and then bollocks ensued because it's late 99 WCW.

Group 4 Round 2 - Buff Bagwell vs Vampiro

A Misfit greets Buff on the ramp in a TRAP. Vamp's somersault misses & Buff gets a neckbreaker, then knocks all The Misfits off the apron.
The finish: Berlyn attacks Vamp with a chain while the ref was still groggy from (take a guess) a ref bump. The Buff Blockbuster gets the win.
Winner: Buff Bagwell @ 1:22
Verdict: 1.5/10. So little of note, and ANOTHER run in? Jesus.

Group 1 Round 2 - Bret Hart vs Perry Saturn

Shane Douglas is on commentary, calling Saturn "a jack of all trades" & Bret "a washed up has been". Decent wrestling to start & a big springboard kick by Perry gets 2. He focuses on the "injured ankle" & scores a T-Bone suplex but the Asai Moonsault missed. Bret comes back with his five moves of doom. Douglas sneaks a cast shot when Bret goes for the Sharpshooter & Saturn gets the Death Valley Driver! But it only gets 2!
The finish:  Benoit arrives to brawl with Douglas, & after Perry dives onto both, his Sunset Flip is beautifully countered to the Sharpshooter for the submission.
Winner: Bret Hart @ 5:01 via submission
Verdict: 5/10. Maybe I've just become desensitised to all the run ins, but that was a pretty good effort for the time allotted.

Group 3 Round 2 - Scott Hall vs Lash LeRoux

Kevin Nash, who's kayfabe retired, has gained a license to manage Hall so he's out dressed as The Grand Wizard.

Thanks legitshook.com for the gif & earlier tournament brackets

It's interesting to hear Bobby Heenan so full of praise for Lash. He somersaults out of a hammerlock after being slapped around but Hall quickly returns to raggin' on heeyum & hits the Chokebottom.
The finish: Lash comes back with more basic flying strikes but falls pray to the discus punch, Fallaway Slam & Outsider's Edge for 3.
Winner: Scott Hall @ 6:14
Verdict: 4/10. Decent layout and fun in general but Lash's offence was so cookie cutter.

Group 4 Round 2 - Curt Hennig vs Jeff Jarrett

Hennig suffers a load of roll ups early & complains to Heenan about the ref being out to get him. Creative Control arrive again. Hennig blocks the Figure 4 & counters the Stroke leading to ANOTHER ref bump! The Hennigplex gets Curt the visual 3 but Creative Control beat him up & slam him through the announce table. Realising they've fucked up & that TPTB's edict was Curt only retires when he gets pinned, they scramble to get him back in the ring but can't beat the count.
Winner: Jeff Jarrett @ 5:19 vis count out
Verdict: 2/10. Nothing leg work by Jarrett followed by a nothing comeback by Hennig.

* Only notable sign from this show "World Wussie Federation".

November 15th

Group 3 Quarter Final - Chris Benoit vs Scott Hall

Bret's out with Benoit to counteract Nash being with Hall. Benoit snotted on Hall after having the toothpick thrown at him. Ew.  Hall teased a test of strength so he could thumb the eye but still gets outwrestled, then he starts chopping Benoit because he has no common sense. The ref somehow misses sneak attacks by Nash. Where's Bret to get on his case? A Fallaway Slam & sleeper wears Benoit down but he comes back with a lariat, backbreaker and baseball slide. Bret saves Benoit from a slam by Nash, and while the ref tries to separate them Sid comes out to powerbomb Hall.
The finish:  Benoit get the flying headbutt but has to fend Nash off again. Hall tries to attack with some knucks in the distraction but winds up in the Crossface for the submission.
Winner: Chris Benoit @ 9:38 via submission
Verdict: 3.5/10. Too much stalling & shenanigans, not to mention poor selling by Hall surviving both Sid & Benoit's finishers.

Group 1 Quarter Final - Bret Hart vs Billy Kidman

Bret smothers Kidman early with an atomic drop & clothesline, then rolls through a Sunset Flip ala his match with Saturn, but Kidman blocks the Sharpshooter, so Bret slingshots him over the top instead! Kidman comes back with a Tornado Bulldog for 2. The Outsiders arrive to sexually harass Torrie Wilson. Seriously. While The Animals brawl with them, Bret blocks a Frankensteiner into the Sharpshooter for the tap out.
Winner: Bret Hart @ 3:46 via submission
Verdict: 3/10. Outside of the wicked catapult, call back to the Saturn match & the finish there wasn't much to this.

Group 4 Quarter Final - Jeff Jarrett vs Buff Bagwell

Buff gets a neat leapfrog & dropkick followed by an atomic drop, clothesline & dance. Guess who's here? No, not Jushin Thunder Liger, but Creative Control! After dodging an El Kabong, Buff El Kabong's one of Creative Control only to fall prey to the Stroke for 3.
Winner: Jeff Jarrett @ 2:05
Verdict: 2/10. Buff's offence was actually decent but my God how many "Jarrett does nothing but wins" matches do we need in this tournament?

Group 2 Quarter Final - Sting vs The Total Package

Luger looked surprised Sting was able to come out. Apparently he tried to get some tainted brownies to Sting but WCW Janitor Hacksaw Jim Duggan intercepted them. I shit you not.


Sting whacks Lex in the leg he claimed he hurt last week slipping on a wet floor. Sting's really fired up. He blocks Package's attempt to atomic drop out of the corner ten punch, hits a pair of Stinger Splashes & hooks on the Scorpion Deathlock, but Luger trips the ref up & Liz maces Sting!
The finish: With the ref still down Package applies the Torture Rack, but Meng arrives to Tongan Death Grip Luger, dragging Sting on top of him for 3.
Winner: Sting @ 4:03
Verdict: 3/10. I always love Sting when he gets all fiery but besides that this was a poor match.

* One final sign of note: "Sid fears box".

Final Thoughts: You can probably tell from all the ratings for these matches that the company wasn't in the best of form going into Mayhem 99. Nitro was still 3 hours long at this point yet the vast majority of these matches were squeezed into 2-5 minutes. Only having tournament matches on Nitro was a big mistake for me. You still had Thunder and Saturday Night on the air at this point - both of those shows could have easily accommodated some of the matches involving lower card talent.

Not only were the wrestlers in these matches hampered by a lack of ring time, they also had to accommodate CONSTANT BOLLOCKS such as run ins, mystery DQs or lack there of and random stipulation changes. For some reason 6 of these matches weren't regular wrestling matches. There were only 7 clean finishes and  (counting all of the people involved) an incredible FORTY EIGHT (48) instances of outside interference over the course of the tournament so far.

So in general, the matches from the tournament before the Pay Per View offered up nothing I can categorically recommend. If there are any unusual pairings which make you think "Oh I've always wondered if they'd wrestled" & feel like watching out of curiosity, knock yourself out. If there's anything I've described here that's made you think "It can't be THAT bad surely?" & want proof yourself, again, go ahead. But I seriously can't remember a set of matches put together with one central "focus" that has been as terrible as the matches collected over the course of these four Nitros.

Is there anything redeemable to come from the Semi Final and Final matches? Well, you can check out our episode on Mayhem 99 in full below to find out for yourself, and look out for the blog edition with "director's commentary" etc in the near future.

In addition, you can come follow us on Twitter and Facebook and Soundcloud, where you'll find all of our episodes so far, or subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher radio (search tnwpodcast). See you soon.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Then, Now, Whatever Episode 5: 'Member WWF Unforgiven 1998?

Hello again everyone. It's been a while but we're back! Episode 5 of Then, Now Whatever is in the books. As usual, we've put together this lovely blog edition with additional production notes & visual references to compliment what we discussed on the show.

After spending all of our previous episodes (barring the pilot I made) discussing current wrestling as a way of getting ourselves into a groove, so to speak, we were very keen to take a look at some older stuff. So we thought, as a little "getting to know you" exercise, we'd go back to when we both started watching wrestling. and look at the first Pay Per Views to happen after we became fans. Kyle has been watching for longer than me - he's been watching since April 98 - so it made sense to start with that and look at the WWF's PPV from around that time, Unforgiven: In Your House.
We'll get to the PPV relevant to when I first got into wrestling in the next episode - more on that later (although if you were paying attention to my first guest appearance on the Raw Is Nitro Podcast, you may have an idea of what that might be), but first, let's delve into Unforgiven!

Seeing as this was our first opportunity to look back at some older wrestling, and with this current season of South Park having such a focus on nostalgia, I had to use the 'Member Berries in our intro (and if you look at our episode artwork, Undertaker is actually holding one). Luckily the wonderful Mike Hansen had made a wrestling themed version of their schtick for a recent edition of Botchamania, so I used that.

Since we'd been away a fair while Kyle suggested we use "The Boys Are Back In Town" by Thin Lizzy as the bed for our introductions. I found an instrumental version and it sounds really great.

You can find Triple H recruiting X Pac into DX below, which was the promo Kyle was referring to in his discussion on his early memories of wrestling.

"You sounded like Captain Black then" - Captain Black was the Spectrum agent the Mysterons took under their control in Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons. If you have no idea what that show is then you've had a very deprived childhood. On the other hand, I'll forgive you for not knowing what Masked Rider was - a failed attempt by Saban to bring Kamen Rider to the West Power Rangers style.

6 Man Tag

I'm sure you'll have noticed I referred to every match on the card as a Main Event. This is in reference to WWE having the "Main Event" of No Mercy as the opening match and also their epic butchering of announcing then backtracking on Sasha vs Charlotte being the headline match for Hell in a Cell. Mick Foley stated the WWE Universe themselves could decide what the main event of a show is, so I decided every match should be a main event. :)

Poor old Steve Blackman got it in the neck for just being "meat in the room" at this point in his career...

Oh, and just to reiterate, Ken Shamrock's theme music is awesome.

European Title Match

The circumstances of Owen's passing are truly tragic. His accident occurred before I got into the WWF, so I never got to experience any of his work "first hand"/during the time and it is only through watching his work on DVDs/watching old matches on the Network etc that I grew to love him. I seriously encourage anyone looking to learn more about Owen's story to check out How2Wrestling's episode on his career.

"If only they knew" - a butchered attempt to reference Chyna's book, actually called If They Only Knew.

Here's that infamous call by Joey Styles that was the only thing I could think of that was more awkward in retrospect that JR's "Chyna ascending to the heavens" call.

"Aloha Triple H can't block the sunset flip" - of course reference to one of OSW's greatest running gags, "Aloha Arn", based on Arn Anderson's strategy of waving your hands to block a sunset flip.

Owen's enzughiri was in storyline what caused Shawn Michaels a concussion in late 1995, playing off a real life incident in Syracuse where he was beaten up by some marines. "Poop mouth" is of course an Anchorman reference.

NWA Tag Title Match

There was a fair bit of "Howard Finkel introduces someone only for them to introduce someone else" on this show...

Evening Gown Match

Seriously, Luna's cadence sounds a spot on match for lots of monsters from Power Rangers, especially those voiced by the person voicing the villain in this clip here.

Half Time Question Time

As Kyle mentioned, if you have any ideas for questions we could use in this segment, feel free to tweet them to us (@tnwpodcast). Kyle's comic book themed answers gave me a perfect excuse to use 90s Marvel cartoons themes as the bed for the segment this time out. Also if anyone from the UK ever called the WWF Superstar hotline, please do get in touch.

WWF Tag Title Match

In our previous episode we were debating why the ref wouldn't let The Revival tag in via hand/foot contact, which is why we were a bit bemused that tagging in via groin/face contact is grand.

I think the references to how ridiculous Sunny's outfit was got cut, by it WAS ridiculous.

"Her breasts are HUGE" - seriously, how could you miss them?

Double J's Concert

"The country band of the 90s" - incidentally, Sawyer Brown actually formed in 1981! Although they did actually win a couple of awards around the time period of this show, so fair dues. This is once again another appearance for Random Steve, just filling out the card.
Changing Rooms was a decorating/home improvement show that used to air here in Britain on BBC One. A few of the designers on that show, like Laurence Llewelyn Bowen were quite famous for their fancy shirts. Jarrett wouldn't have looked out of place on that show too come to think of it.

Inferno Match

The Kane vs Vader "Mask vs Mask" match Kyle alluded to also happens to be the match where Vader referred to himself as "nuthin' but a big fat piece of shit" after losing.
Taker's posing in the flames looked so cool.

"It looked very fake towards the end" - see for yourself here.

Kane and Undertaker did indeed wrestle in Smokey Mountain Wrestling when Kane was Unabomb, as well as in the WWF when Kane was Isaac Yankem AND when he was Fake Diesel too!

WWF Title Match

I swear somewhere back home I have a picture I drew of myself as the Hardcore Hotshot! I will have to try and find it the next time I'm over there.

Seeing as Kane was the person that most pleasantly surprised Kyle watching this show back, I figured his music was a good choice for the outro.

That'll just about wrap things up then. Remember, you can follow us on Twitter @tnwpodcast, like our Facebook page and come follow us on Soundcloud. There you'll find a handy playlist of all our episodes so far, as well as Duncan's guest appearances on the Raw Is Nitro Podcast, who you should also check out on Twitter and Soundcloud.
We are also on Stitcher Radio and iTunes, so you can subscribe to us through there if that's the way you get your podcasts.

We will return next time out, looking at the first Pay Per View to happen after Duncan became a fan...

WCW MAYHEM 1999!!!

Oh yes, get's who's got two thumbs and was unfortunate enough to get into wrestling via late 1999 WCW? *Points to self with thumbs* This moi!

This show saw WCW about two months into Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara's run as showrunners for the company, so this show is Russo-rriffic as fuck! To take advantage of this, we have a fun way you can get involved with the show. I've made a little tally sheet of the line up for Mayhem 1999. If you dare endure want to watch the Pay Per View before we review it, you can print this out or screenshot it and scribble over it to keep a track of three key tropes of Russo's WCW tenure and one trope Russo's tenure was sadly lacking in. The four things you should look out for whilst watching the show are:
  • Instances of outside interference - here I'm counting the appearance of one person not legally in a match as one instance of outside interference, so for example if a stable of four wrestlers all run in to interfere, that counts as four instances of outside interference.
  • Guest commentators - anybody who grabs a microphone and joins the announce team especially for a certain match.
  • Attempts to repeat past successes in the WWF - Russo seemed to take the attitude of "whatever worked in the WWF would work in WCW", often to his detriment. If there's anything in this show that SCREAMS 1998/99 WWF, note it down. For example, to give you a hint, Russo seemed very keen to find a WCW equivalent to Chyna - a female wrestler who was treated as equal to the men.
  • Clean finishes - these are instances where matches end without any cheating or interference. So for example, a wrestler pinning their opponent after using their finishing move is a clean finish. However, if a wrestler is only able to pin their opponent because someone outside of the match is distracting them, that is NOT a clean finish. Be warned: do not expect many of these.
So, if you watch the PPV and keep a tally of those tropes using the Google Doc below, Tweet us your totals or put them in the comments of the Doc. The person who gets the totals closest to my own will get a mention in the next episode!

So get the Google Doc below downloaded and keep an eye on our Twitter account for when we're due to record. We'll see you next time!


Saturday, 20 August 2016

Then Now Whatever Episode 4: WWE NXT Takeover - The End

Hello everyone. I appreciate how late this is, but I figures since (as of writing) we're mere hours away from the next NXT Takeover, this would be a very timely moment to get this blog edition all sorted. So here we have our most recent episode covering NXT Takeover - The End (...Of The Beginning) along with all kinds of visual treats and extra notes to compliment it.  Click on the links to the match names to skip to the audio for that match.

  • This episode is basically one big Shinsuke Nakamura love in, so I thought it was appropriate to open up with his entrance music from New Japan (which I absolutely adore) and close things off with his NXT theme (which I think I'm starting to adore even more than his NJ theme, which I didn't think possible). 
  • We were back in the studio for this one, and owe a great deal of gratitude to our producer Edd who helped us out of several problems with overheating and the CPU of the equipment overloading.
  • Kyle was being pretty modest about his operation. Hearing about about it actually made me wince.
  • Seeing as we had some more guys from New Japan being brought up for discussion for the first time on the show I couldn't resist bringing out my New Japan Ring Announcer impression. For anyone wondering what was going on with Anderson's I've found this video to help you out - since his moniker was "The Machine Gun", they'd actually play the sound effects of a machine gun over the PA & he'd mime shooting one. 

  • Since we've recorded, Cody Rhodes has actually made his Evolve debut against Zack Sabre Jr. And of course, Lesnar won his fight against Mark Hunt, although the latter's claims about the 'roids appears to actually have some merit.
  • As we mentioned, Kyle had a great time watching NXT at Liverpool. Here are some of the great shots he got.

  • Once more, be sure to check out our friends at the WEnxt Podacts here.
  • Manchester United's ground, Old Trafford, is often referred to as "The Theatre of Dreams".
  • "It'd be nice to see if NXT commentators get the push up as well" - and funnily enough Kyle's thinking aloud actually came to pass, as Phillips & Graves both have very prominent roles on Monday Night Raw post draft.
Perfect 10 vs Almas

Back to the fashion parade here. Here we have Tye's ridiculous collar deal.

Meanwhile here's Andrade Almas' "European Gigolo" outfit

And that SWEET dropkick he surprised Tye with.

The easiest way to check out the look on Graves' face when Lita was essential unsure about whether 10x10 is 100 is to check out this episode of Botchamania.

Tag Title Match

So this was categorically the spot of the night.

For the benefit of any non-football fans, Robbie Savage is a former Birmingham, Blackburn and Derby County midfielder famous for his long golden locks of hair. Hopefully the resemblance to Blake & Murphy becomes clear seeing him.

"You're just a shit Blake & Murphy"

Half Time Question Time

Here's some pretty cool fan footage of that Undertaker entrance from Wrestlemania 29...

...as well as Kyle's pick of Triple H's Wrestlemania 30 entrance.

I wasn't joking about Yoshi Tatsu's Triple H routine either.

Shinsuke vs A Double

"Stop, my penis can only get so erect" is of course a reference to Archer.

"Brother Nero, it is ovah!" - Broken Matt Hardy has been tremendous really. We recorded a few weeks before the infamous Final Deletion which is just a fascinating bit of work.

You think I'm kidding about generic chopsticks themes? Check out Orient Express' theme tune when they were in the WWF.

So yeah, Shinsuke's package...

Thankfully I'm not alone in noticing that area of his anatomy, as a week or two after recording, How2Wrestling released their one year anniversary episode and came to the same sort of conclusion.

"The blow job clean break" is when Shinsuke breaks a hold with his opponent against the ropes and he rests his head against their naval.

Anyway, this match was just tremendous. Here's Aries' awesome suicide dive.

And the devastating Death Valley Driver to the apron.

On top of that, here's the awesome Shinsuke coplayer in the crowd.

Women's Title Match

Here's Nia's scary looking ragdoll spot.

Although I should apologise, it was training with Asuka where Dana got injured.
Of course since recording, Nia has been called up to Raw and is being presented really well in quick squash matches. I'd be interested in seeing what her and Sasha can do together down the line.

Another thing to happen since recording is BOBBY... ROOOOOO has indeed officially signed on for NXT and his introduction to the promotion has been GLORIOUS!

Main Event

We probably breezed through this a little quickly, but our overheating problems had reoccurred a few times in a row by this point so we wanted to get as much done as possible.

You can actually watch Finn's appearance in his Joker get up for Progress for free here. Of course, Finn is now set to face Seth Rollins for the "Universal Championship" and Shinsuke is challenging Joe for the NXT title as I mentioned.

Friday, 27 May 2016

"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" - Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Manchester Etihad Stadium, 25/5/16

Well, another year, another opportunity to see Bruce I couldn't pass up. His "quick jaunt" around the US at the start of the year to get the band together before he finishes a solo record turned into a pretty extensive tour that has now reached Europe (and beyond that will hit the US stadium circuit at the end of the Summer).

Originally the tour was to feature The River in full, but by the time the band came to Europe Bruce had had enough of playing the same songs in the same order for so long and dropped that aspect of the show. Which is fair enough, but you have to question why they made the initial US leg of the tour so extensive, even adding extra dates in some cities. While I was a bit sad to miss out on hearing one of Bruce's albums live in full, I knew the show would be great even without this quirk. In fact there were plenty of other quirks to come...

Manchester had been lovely and sunny these for weeks, so of course come the day of the show it just had to be bloody raining! This was my third Springsteen show and I've been rained on at them all - even in Australia (albeit very briefly). "Wouldn't have it any other way" claimed Bruce upon arrival. I dunno mate, if you'd have seen what it was like before...

The show started a bit late due to chaos on the trams, apparently including some idiot driving onto the tracks in Droylsden (more time waiting in the rain, yay!). There was no playing about in the ball pin when the band came out, however. The opening stretch of songs proved a great reminder of how blistering they are in their stride; the first seven songs were literally non-stop, each carrying on into the next. This stamina and fortitude never ceases to amaze me.

After sandwiching a terrific rendition of rarity "Murder Incorporated" between the more familiar "Atlantic City" and "Badlands" (naturally met with rousing "WO-OAH-OAH-OAH"s), the first half of the show saw a strong focus on chronologically showcasing most songs from the first disc of  The River. "The Ties That Bind"/"Sherry Darling" and "Hungry Heart"/"Out In The Street" were both excellent, sprightly one-two punches just like on the record. "Hungry Heart" of course saw the crowd sing the entire first verse solo, but it also saw Bruce walk RIGHT BY ME! Look how close he got!

Look! Bruce!
In fact, a fan request for "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" aside, the songs running from "Hungry Heart" to "Point Blank" were all played in the exact sequence featured on The River. This captured a large portion of the "party" element of the album while also covering the point where things begin to hit a starker note. The pairing of "I Wanna Marry You" with the title track is a particular bit of genius; the former being "a daydream of a love song" in Bruce's words, an attempt to find "a love without consequence... that's why it's a song of youth"; the latter bringing that daydream crashing down with a tale of love purely through consequence (family legacy, pregnancy, redundancy).

This was hands down my favourite part of the set. Even the lightweight "Crush On You" sounded gritty and great, right at home with many of the headstrong sing alongs also featured. "Point Blank" was augmented with an intro that added a great sense of drama and gave it the feel of something from The Wild, The Innocent... For me, though, the highlight  was definitely "I Wanna Marry You", in large part thanks to the wonderful "Here She Comes Walking" intro that has been reprised for this tour. Roy Bittain's gentle keys are enough to send hearts a-flutter, while the vocal interplay between Bruce and Steven Van Zandt is simply phenomenal, soulful and touching. This is probably my favourite vocal performance from Stevie - it's exactly this kind of material where he is in his element.

It felt kind of odd to cut the overarching feel of The River off at "Point Black" when there were plenty of moments like "Fade Away", "The Price You Pay" or "Wreck On The Highway" that would have brought the poignancy of the tail end of the album to a more natural close. But then again, the weather was miserable, so I think the motivation was to keep the cheerier stuff coming to keep our spirits up. It was definitely "mission accomplished" as far as that was concerned, especially when it came to the whole host of knock about Born In The U.S.A. era anthems littered through the set, such as the crowd pleasing "Working On The Highway" and "Glory Days".

And make no mistake about it, Bruce was in a sure fire crowd pleasing mood here, constantly getting in amongst the audience, making frequent use of the little walkways and platforms they'd set up for him, and seeking out signs in the crowd. He was spoilt for choice too, there were loads. I have to give props to the people with ones for "Tougher Than The Rest" and "Racing In The Street (78)", you guys have taste! Then, when it came to picking a youngster to join in on "Waiting On A Sunny Day", he had to pick the most wonderfully shy little girl with a sign proclaiming it was here "first Brucie concert".

It wasn't as if the set was lacking in poignancy or deftness once the material from The River ran dry either (I know, I'll get my coat...). As a huge Darkness... fan I was delighted that "The Promised Land" made an appearance, as well as a rendition of "Because The Night" where Nils Lofgren played like a man possessed, including undertaking a huge 360 degree spinning solo a man with his hips really shouldn't be able to pull off. Meanwhile, images of dearly missed saxophonist Clarence Clemons and organist Dan Federici during "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" drew a truly touching groundswell of affection from the audience, and a fan requested performance of "Backstreets" was absolutely spellbinding.

The ultimate piece of fan interaction, however, came much earlier on in the set. In a real Springsteen & I moment, some dude dressed as Santa Claus was spotted in the crowd. I suppose they got the day of the month right at least. "Is it like a perverted attempt at a request of some sort? Damn." quipped Bruce. So, as you do, Bruce invited him on stage ("He can't be shy, he's got the Santa suit on") for the band's version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". Santa himself would hilariously fluff Clarence's "better be good for goodness sake" lines (he got the pitch right, he just couldn't keep time to save his life). This really did happen! I have video evidence and everything.

Anyway, as has become a tradition of sorts at Bruce's shows, after seemingly closing the show with a cracking cover of The Isley Brothers' "Shout" and a joyous performance of "Bobby Jean", Bruce lingered on stage for one last acoustic number to properly wind things down for the night after nearly 3 hours 20 minutes of hard rocking, pants dropping, booty shaking, history making and (allegedly) Viagra taking. With the rueful, reflective "This Hard Land" rounding the show off, it was time to join the near 50 minute queue for the tram home (get this, if you were lucky, they'd even find a DOUBLE CARRIAGE service to cope with the thousands leaving the show, how revolutionary). The long wait for the journey home couldn't dull the feeling I get having spent another truly wonderful night in the company of a once in a lifetime artist.
You might say it was like all my Christmas' came at once...


1. Atlantic City
2. Murder Incorporated
3. Badlands
4. The Ties That Bind
5. Sherry Darling
6. Two Hearts
7. No Surrender
8. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
9. Hungry Heart
10. Out in the Street
11. Darkness on the Edge of Town
12. Crush on You
13. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
14. I Wanna Marry You
15. The River
16. Point Blank
17. Johnny 99
18. Darlington County
19. Working on the Highway
20. The Promised Land
21. Waitin' on a Sunny Day
22. Because the Night
23. The Rising
24. Thunder Road


25. Backstreets
26. Born to Run
27. Glory Days
28. Dancing in the Dark
29. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
30. Shout
31. Bobby Jean

Encore 2:

32. This Hard Land

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Then, Now, Whatever Episode 3: WWE Wrestlemania 32

We're back again, with the culmination of our coverage of Wrestlemania season 2016: Wrestlemania itself.

General production notes: As I mentioned in my introduction, we had a bit of a technical boo boo and my laptop used its own mic to record the show, not my Blue Yeti. I'm still not quite sure what happened there. So yeah, apologies if the audio goes a bit wishy washy on occasion. I did everything I could in the edit to eliminate any noise between us talking. Thankfully it was still clear enough to make out what we were saying to each other. Even though Mania itself was disappointing, we still had loads of fun with the material it offered us.

Anyway, below are some little footnotes, visual aids and time stamps for coverage of specific matches which I hope you find useful.


With my love of the intro music of Manias VI to VIII and my addiction to my Vince impression, I thought I'd pastiche the old style of Wrestlemania intros. I had to stand away from the mic to record that, I was loud enough to distort the audio on previous attempts!

WWF WRESTLEMANIA 7 by sportsvipwiner

PROGRESS Wrestling are an independent promotion here in Britain. They're London based but have been running shows in Manchester every couple of months as of this year. I've been to two of those shows now and both have been full of great wrestling. If you'd like a sample of what they're capable of, their Chapter 13 show is available for free on Youtube here.

Going back to what Kyle mentioned about the fans turning face on Triple H out of respect for coming back from his first quad tear, just check out his return to Raw in Madison Square Garden. One of the most phenomenal ovations I've ever seen. Jim Cornette can talk all he wants about Hunter being "the guy that was there with the guys that drew the money" but the fans were clearly desperate to see him return at this point.

US Title Match

Just to give you an indication of how empty the stadium was when the match started

And here's the ref for the match

Look at the pythons on that zebra!

10 Diva Tag

Notice Emma's gloves.

For the benefit of anyone who doesn't follow football, John Terry is the captain of Chelsea. When they were last in the Champions League Final, he was suspended. However, he still turned up for the presentation of the trophy, in his kit and everything, to claim it as club captain. This turned into a meme where people would photoshop Tezza into other trophy and awards ceremonies to claim the awards himself.

Usos vs Dudleyz

Kelsey Grammer is of course most famous for playing Dr Frasier Krane in Cheers and Frasier.
"Legends who bankrupted Gawker (brother)" - just in case you've been living under a rock...

IC Title Match

This is going to go a bit "Oscars" looking at the parade of outfits here. So, we have...

Sin Cara in a banana thing
Ryder in a great overcoat

Sami in his "golfer lad" get up

Miz in his solar panel
First Trimester Question Time

Normally I'd have put the promos we talked about here, but I spliced a couple of them (most of Austin's awesome Whataburger promo and the concluding back and forth between Jericho and Rock on Jericho's debut) into the actual episode to give you a break from the "Skype from 2010" quality of our recording. Kyle also alluded to DX invading WCW (but it got edited out for time) and Shawn superkicking everyone. Going back to the Whataburger promo, January 2002 was one of my favourite times for promos. Austin, Rock and Angle were all brilliant in this time period. Rocky especially, taking the piss out of Coach and cameramen.

AJ vs Y2J

I think this is a good shot for illustrating our confusion at Y2J's tights...

"Stick it in Hermie!" - at some point in 2000 Rock thought Kevin Kelly was a hermaphrodite and started calling him Hermie. At one point he made him pick his own nose.

As he promised, Zack found Razor and grabbed a photo.

New Day vs The League

New Day's outfits were incredible (White Ranger and Dragonball Z inspired). I used the "Wild Pokemon Battle" music for the bed as I talked through their entrance.

Also, that sell of the Stunner by Rusev...

Brock vs Dean

I'll just leave this here...

Women's Title Match

Here's Lita, overwhelmed by the weight of her microphone.

Great side by side comparison of Sasha and Eddie's gear here. I'm sure you'll know by now because commentary brought it up, but Eddie was Sasha's favourite wrestler and she was actually in the Cow Palace to see him win the title at No Way Out 2004.

"Would you like a schmoke and a pancake Shasha Banks?" - Austin Powers Goldmember reference, naturally. Harping back to my DVD reviews, I'd use him in the verdict because his I always wind up using his "That's a keeper!" line.

Sign Watch

The opening bed was the theme tune to BBC show Crimewatch. "You can't sit with us!" as I mentioned is a line from Mean Girls (one of my favourite movies). Again, for non-sporting people, Bobby Zamora is a striker who plays football for Brighton & Hove Albion. Owen Coyle is a former manager of Bolton Wanderers. He was in the midst of getting Burnley promoted to the Premier League for the first time at the time of Wrestlemania 25.

Hell in the Cell

Linda at ringside!

"Shaaaane. Jump off the fucking ceeeeellllllll."
Incidentally, the next episode of Raw after recording, Shane was given control AGAIN, so I've really no idea what they're doing.

Andre Memorial

It was August 2009 they had Shaq guest host, it's so strange to think they've been waiting all this time to pay off his interaction with Show.

 I can't be the only one who thinks if you take the rosy cheeks of Bo Dallas...

...and add the saucer eyes of Edge...

...then you get Baron Corbin (or Barry Corbz for short - hi WEnxt Podcast)

"Rock vs Rowan"

Just look at Cena's neck!!

Rock = beast, Cena = old man neck
And yes, The Wyatts genuinely were at the New York Stock Exchange to ring the opening bell.
The fastest match in Mania history before this was actually Chavo Guerrero vs Kane at 24. Bundy's match at Mania 1 had actually been bested several times since it happened (including by Bryan and Sheamus actually).

Main Event

"Unless they were saying boo-urns"

The Simpsons Season 6 "A Star Is Burns"
"He was flanked by loads of Ingobernables types" - the skulls and suits combo reminded me of New Japan's Los Ingobernables de Japon faction, headed up by recently crowned IWGP Champion Tetsuya Naito.

As far as Steph's outfit goes, I'll just leave this here...

Next Time

As we mentioned at the end, our next episode will rewind things to 10 years ago, as we check out Wrestlemania 22. Clearly there are a lot of comparisons to be made with the main event of that show and this one, but maybe we'll find they have even more in common with each other.

So we'll be with you again very soon. But in the mean time you can keep in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook. We are now also on Stitcher, where you can find all our latest episodes as they are released, just as you can by subscribing to us on Soundcloud.

See you soon.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Then, Now, Whatever: WWE Roadblock 2016

Hello everyone. Welcome to Then, Now, Whatever: The Wrestling Podcast Blog. Yeah, we were going to cover Roadblock in a proper episode originally but we couldn't find a time when we were both free to meet up and record. So instead I've taken my notes and turned them into a written review. Kyle will also show up with his thoughts along the way too. Alright, let's get crackin' with the knackin'!

WWE Roadblock 2016
March 16th 2016
Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, Ontario Canada
Attendance: 9,333

* Yes, another house show converted into a Network Special because Brock is there. As such, the show still shows lots of the traits of house show I'll highlight with my HOUSE SHOW KLAXON.

* Quote used in the opening video: "It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness" Seneca the Younger. Fun fact: he was a Roman Stoicist who was forced into committing suicide for allegedly being complicit in an assassination attempt on Emperor Nero. Loads of shots of Toronto's roads and mountains are spliced between hype for the lead two matches.

* Fuck yeah the theme song is Royal Blood's "Out of the Black". Also HOUSE SHOW KLAXON the set is the same as they use at regular house shows.

* The New Day are out to cut a fun word association promo and unveil a genuine box of Booty-Os! It turns out it's bundled with their latest T-Shirt.

Big E role plays being a kid refusing to eat his cereal until he realises he could end up like the League of Booty (they couldn't think of an insult for Rusev, pretty funny).

Match 1: WWE Tag Team Championship Match - The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston w/ Xavier Woods) (C) vs League of Nations (Sheamus & King Barrett)

It's weird hearing Americans saying "lads". Does Wade have some grey in his hair? Sheamus again thinks the crowd are saying New Day look stupid, not him.

Kofi & Sheamo work nicely together to start. HOUSE SHOW KLAXON Kofi slaps Sheamo while in control. Sheamo & Wade have very generic teamwork considering Cole is putting over how long they've known each other. The crowd popped big when Big E tagged in, impressively catching Wade in mid-air. Unicorn Stampede time! The League get control of Kofi with a HUGE Winds of Change and Irish Curse. JBL shoehorns in a Six Nations reference - we get it, you like rugby - and fans chant "You can't wrestle". At who?

Barrett's punt gets a big near fall - I love that. Sheamo's top rope jump is dropkicked out of mid-air & E gets the tag! He hits an impressive series of belly to bellies. Barrett replies with a tornado suplex(!). Nice double jump crossbody by Kofi gets 2 on Sheamus, but Trouble in Paradise is countered to a cloverleaf. An SOS allows E to tag in again. Kofi doesn't leapfrog Sheamo's Big Ending counter properly - his feet land on Sheamo's shoulders & his head on the mat, drawing "Botchamania" chants.

 A kneeling superkick by Wade got a phantom pinfall as Xavier distracted the ref & lures Sheamo into a bulldog off the steps by Kofi. E then finishes Wade with the Big Ending for 3.

Winners: New Day (still champs) @9:49
Verdict: 6.5/10. Good fun. It was nice seeing Wade wrestle again - while Kofi & Sheamo had decent chemistry, it was him & Big E who impressed me most. Other than Woods' distraction, New Day seem to have transitioned to the babyface role smoothly.

* Backstage, Paul Heyman declares Toronto the capital of Suplex City. How can a city have a capital? HOUSE SHOW KLAXON this is basically the antithesis of the "your local sports teams suck" promo as Heyman sucks up to the Toronto Raptors.

* Recap of Y2J turning on AJ, stuffing the Y2AJ shirt in his mouth, then burning one on Smackdown (in his jacket with no shirt again! You need a layer under that thing Chris, and no, that scarf doesn't count!).

What not to wear

* Jericho comes out for ANOTHER promo HOUSE SHOW KLAXON. Why show clips of the Smackdown one if he's cutting a fresh one now? JBL: "AJ Styles should have shut his Southern Fried mouth". Who's he to talk? Y2J: "You had your chance to chant for me [well, not these specific fans], instead you chanted for AJ." Fans: "AJ STYLES!" Y2J: "I am the greatest living icon in the history of the country." Fans: "We want Bret!"
Kyle's thoughts: Ouch! Jericho going hard on Canada with the "You want Bret? You're never getting him again" speech. Jeez that could have gone so wrong. 
Great Canadian twang on the "aahsshole" chants. Nicely, Jericho ties in his opponent to his current feud, as he calls Swagger another flavour of the month who beat him.
Kyle's thoughts: Who, why and what is the point of Jack Swagger? It didn't make sense for his All American face character to come and save the day against a heel Canadian. because heel or not everyone loves Jericho.
Agreed. Imagine at a UK TNA show with Spud trying to cut a heel promo on England, then out comes Galloway with the Saltire plastered all over his Titantron and getting announced as "a proud Scotsman".

Match 2: Chris Jericho vs Jack Swagger

HOUSE SHOW KLAXON Y2J slaps Swag, but gets knocked down and Jack hot dogs to the crowd. Cole: "It's Wrestlemania season folks!" He lists the Canadian promotions Jericho worked for! Network Special Cole = Intelligent Cole. HOUSE SHOW KLAXON Jack gets a corner ten punch, but Y2J sneak attacks around the ref to regain control with HOUSE SHOW KLAXON punch kick offence and RESTHOLDS ("ASK HIM!"). A nice dropkick looked great on the replay & got 2. A random CM Punk breaks out, and weirdly the fans seem to turn on Swagger more and more the more he wrestles.

Y2J gets his feet up from the Swagger Bomb and hits the bulldog, but the Lionsault misses and the Swagger Bomb gets 2. Both try their submissions and Jack blocks the Codebreaker with the amateur spinebuster for 2. This is much more like it. The Patriot Lock is applied, but Y2J grabbed the ref to help get the rope break, allowing him to hook the Walls for the tap out.

Winner: Chris Jericho @7:54
Verdict: 5/10. Bland punch kick first half but a much better closing stretch with the counters.

* JBL's post match "You've still got it" chant is super annoying. Jericho goes full on heel ripping up a fan's "Get Well Bret" sign.

* A Wrestlemania commercial airs focused solely on The Rock. What's he actually doing though?

* Smart move here, as a video package airs showcasing the rivalry for the NXT Tag Title match and putting over The Revival's old school tactics and Enzo & Big Cass' togetherness.

* Enzo & Big Cass get a GREAT reaction coming out and doing their schtick. Lots of "How you doin'?" chants. One guy in a leather jacket marks out for them while two kids behind him look stone faced, unsure what's going on. Carmella quotes Drake and Cass says there's only ONE WORD to describe Dash & Dawson. S-A-W-F-T. Cole is great going over the rivalry, sounding really invested in NXT.

Match 3: NXT Tag Team Championship Match - The Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson) (C) vs Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady (w/Carmella)

Great headscissors by Enzo to start. Cole calls it a "hurricanrana" then describes Enzo as "unorthodox". If everyone is unorthodox then WTF is an orthodox style? Cass is HUGE. JBL says he's from Queens like Trump. Way to put him over! He gets a big sideslam (a "side suplex" according to JBL) and backdrop. For once the ref didn't call a tag between the heels he didn't see! Cass throws his own partner around, press slams Dash into Dawson then LAUNCHES Enzo over the top onto the champs. This is what teamwork looks like League of Nations.

The champs get control working Enzo's arm. Barely a minute after he's isolated fans are desperate for Enzo to tag. He tried to scurry away but a brilliant flying cut off by Dawson prevents the tag. Great "Enzo Amore" chants to the tune of "Seven Nation Army". Cass gets the hot tag, running wild with simple, fast big man offence. He nearly got rolled up after choking Dawson over the top but scores a GIANT East River Crossing. Tag to Enzo to try the rocket launcher but he's still knackered from being isolated & Dawson takes him out, hiding behind Carmella. She slaps him (DQ?) but Cass gets taken out with a Shatter Machine on the outside! Great hope spot for Enzo as he jumping DDTs Dash & rolls up Dawson for 2, but gets finished off with the SUPER Shatter Machine for 3.

Winners: The Revival (still champs) @10:17
Verdict: 7.5/10. Really good match. I loved the way the champs isolated Enzo, they do the little things so well. Enzo & Cass' teamwork was good and I liked the story of Cass taking out the champs too quickly for Enzo to have recovered enough for their finisher.
Kyle's Thoughts: I loved how Dash & Dawson put over Enzo & Big Cass, the four worked really well together.

Post match you can see the fan who had their Bret Hart sign ripped up still try to hold it together. Bless.

* Natalya dedicates her match to Bret in a backstage interview. The Flairs interrupt, Charlotte calling her a warm up and below her level. Nattie successfully goads them into putting the title on the line by calling them cowards. HOUSE SHOW KLAXON "Local sports teams suck" cheap heat from Charlotte. I thought the Maple Leafs were good?

Match 4: WWE Divas Championship Match - Charlotte (w/ Ric Flair) (C) vs Natalya

Native is SO thin. Like "push me now" thin. Cole recalls their NXT Women's Title match (it was ace) and mention's Nattie's experience in Stampede, England & Japan!

Pretty solid wrestling to start as a Sharpshooter gets teased early. Charlotte proclaims "I'm the champ now!" & Nattie promptly chops the fuck out of her. She hooks a surfboard that gets the loudest pop for a surfboard I've ever heard. Cool spot where Nattie runs up Charlie's back to dropkick her. The champ calls Nattie a has-been and goes through her headscissor routine. Cole: "The thing I like about Charlotte is she's always in control [sees Naitch jitter & strut]... unlike her Dad." Nice neckbreaker counter to the discus lariat. Charlie works the leg to prep for the Figure 8, but getting posted by Nattie causes her to lose focus and brawl instead.

Great Russian Legsweep and discus lariat by Nattie. Both girls try their submissions and Charlotte has to settle for a regular Figure 4. At one point she hung from the apron with the hold applied. Natural Selection by Charlotte gets a near fall & JBL points out that's how she beat Nattie for the NXT Women's Title. Naitch: "Give her the old Moonsault, baby!" But it's blocked with a Powerbomb for a CLOSE near fall. They trade submission counters & Nattie finally hooks the Sharpshooter! Charlie grabs her Dad's hands crawling for the ropes, which is somehow enough for Nattie to break the hold, jaw-jack with Naitch and get rolled up for 3.

Winner: Charlotte (still champ) @13:37
Verdict: 7/10. Probably Charlotte's best wrestled main roster match. Sound technical work to start and a pretty good built to the false finishes. Despite the lame finish this was very enjoyable.

* A video package recaps the Wyatts eliminating Brock at the Rumble, then, HOUSE SHOW KLAXON, Bray cuts a promo on the walk to the ring. Brock may have conquered Rock, Cena & Taker, but he's never conquered Bray. He's "made a deal with the Devil himself" (Triple H?) to make this a handicap match teaming with Harper. Brock looks huge. Fans are so hyped for him they pop just for him hopping on the ramp. Cole: "John, we've been sat nearly 20 years at ringside." Er, no. Paul introduces Brock again.

Match 5: Handicap Match - Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper vs Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman)

Bray immediately tags out & leaves the apron. Brock slaughters Luke with shoulders & Germans, but Harper actually got a nice bit of shine, hitting a Suicide Dive, BLOCKING a German, then getting a big boot, superkick and discus lariat in quick succession. Brock soon dominates again though, with a total of seven Germans then the F-5 dispatches Harper quickly for 3.

Winner: Brock Lesnar @4:03
Verdict: 5/10. While Harper did get a decent flurry of offence, I'm getting a bit bored of the Suplex City gimmick really.

Brock follows Bray up the ramp & Bray RUNS AWAY WTF!?
Kyle's thoughts: Did not fighting Lesnar do Bray Wyatt some harm? Is he scared? Surely not!
In reality Bray had a bit of a back injury they were trying to protect, hence the bait and switch, but you categorically cannot have the super evil Walking Dead swamp villain run away from ANYONE, it kills his gimmick.

Match 6: Sami Zayn vs Stardust

I'm still not sure how I feel about Sami's "golfer lad" entrance gear. Fans chat Cody at Stardust and he hisses at them - I love it. Cole name drops Sami's spell in IWS & explains the "Ole" chants are due to his "former persona". Kayfabe Michael! Generico's looking after the orphans in Mexico, remember?
I love Sami's arm wringer counter and wacky arm drag.

Stardust gets control by punching Sami mid-springboard. He cartwheels & grimaces. Cole to Byron: "I can see you and Stardust getting along." Byron: "He's an acquired taste." Cole: "As are you." Stardust is literally doing nothing of note to control, so fans chant "JBL". He positions his legs on a bearhug like he's trying to bum Sami, then a weird inverted crab gets "This is awkward" chants. A side effect and massive run up superplex get near falls between a Zayn roll up. Cody takes his glove off & slaps Sami with it, ha.

FINALLY Sami makes a comeback, including a HOUSE SHOW KLAXON corner 10 punch. We then see the SIGN OF THE NIGHT, as two fans walk across screen with Trump/McMahon 2016 voting tickets! Awesome. Sami lures Cody out for a big Tope Con Heelo and gets a Blue Thunder Bomb for 2. Some nice switches as the Queen's Crossbow is countered only for Zayn to eat a Disaster Kick for 2. This is a bit more like it. Oh, wait - exploder in the corner & Helluva Kick get Sami 3.

Winner: Sami Zayn @12:33
Verdict: 4/10. Congratulations WWE, you've succeeded in making Canadians bored during a Sami Zayn match. Sami's usually at his best working from underneath, but you can't have him do that against someone at Stardust's level, especially when he was so boring working Sami over. When they finally started working in some trademark stuff the match just ended.
Kyle's Thoughts: This was nothing special. I really like Zayn but felt match was wasted. Please bring back Cody.

* Man, the Photoshopping of the title onto Triple H in the match graphic for the main event is terrible. Anyway, the video package covers Dean promising to hijack Wrestlemania, H beating him up at the announce table and Dean laying him out with Dirty Deeds.

Main Event: WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match - Triple H (C) vs Dean Ambrose

H's lip wobbles so much when he does his water spit pose. Another neat sign: "When it Reigns it bores". The crowd are very vocal, mostly for Dean but some for Triple H.

Hunter schools Dean with chain wrestling early, ala Mania 22 with Cena. Blatant bullshit from Cole: "Triple H, I don't know if he's ever looks better, at least from a physical standpoint." He then calls his match with Sting "legendary". Dean gets some nice arm work before HOUSE SHOW KLAXON he slaps H's head & lazy boys in the corner. Another random CM Punk chant actually gets some boos. Dean does the "got your nose" pinch & tries to split H's fingers. H then makes the mistake of letting Dean pick up the pace and hitting the apron spin clothesline.

Dean targets the leg (after working the arm?). Cole & JBL point out it's unusual for Dean to have a gameplan. Byron thinks they're on about how he got the title match rather than what he's doing in ring. He sounds equally clueless trying to correct himself. This is what you get for years of teaching people to focus on storylines over in ring action. A desperation Pedigree outside is blocked, but Dean winds up sent to the steps & H zones in in the midsection with Gordbusters & the Crossface - in Canada! Risky. He turns it into the Rings of Saturn too.

Lovely spinebuster for 2. Dean hits an elbow then gets the better of a slugfest (JBL: "Haha, these guys are just hitting each other in the face.") and HOUSE SHOW KLAXON corner punching. A running theme is Dean has loads of counters to the Pedigree (like the jackknife here), like Batista in 2005. They repeat the Facebreaker to the rebound lariat spot from the Rumble. Cole: "Dean Ambrose says... it's my time." No, that's what Hunter's old music used to say.

Trips punches away Dean's Suicide Dive ala Mania 30 with Bryan, but his injured knee gets driven to the steps & Dean goes for the tap out with a Figure 4 & a Sharpshooter. H gets the ropes & tries to spit, but it kinda stays hanging from his lip. Dirty Deeds by Dean! THE REF COUNTS 3!!! But apparently Dean's feet were under the ropes. That gets some "bullshit" chants. H then rolls Dean up with his feet ON the ropes... for 2! Fans bought that. Dean fights back with a Suicide Dive & elbow to the outside, then mocks the crotch chops.

Cole says the phantom pin proves Dean can beat Triple H, but JBL says H stayed down because he knew Dean's feet were under the ropes. Dean tries to elbow H through the table from the barricade, but H moves! Dean BARELY answers the 10 count to get back inside, but when he does he scurries right in to a Pedigree for 3.

Winner: Triple H (still champion) @24:43
Verdict: 8/10. I loved this match. It was great to have Dean try to throw Hunter off by actually wrestling with a strategy for once, and how it took him focusing on breaking the count out for him to have no reply to the Pedigree. The references to H's past funds were all great too. Dean really rose to the occasion & H showed once again that he can still mix it up with the younger talent.
Kyle's Thoughts: Loved the main event, and not because HHH won.
... No actually, that's exactly why haha! It's great how Ambrose keeps getting these "should have won the belt" moments.

Kyle's Final Thoughts: Mediocre show but it was good enough to keep us hungry for Wrestlemania.
Duncan's Final Thoughts: Inconsequential though this was, I think I enjoyed this a smidgen more than Fastlane. All the in ring work was solid to the point where the worst parts of the show were "just there" rather than actively bad. Watch the NXT tag match, the Divas match and the main event - everything else was perfectly skippable.

We should be with you again soon covering the Grand Daddy of them all, the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment that refuses to admit its age, Wrestlemania. Be on the look out for us in all the usual places (Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud). We are also now available on Stitcher for those who like their podcasts on the go, so go find our channel here.

See you soon.