Hayabusa tribute // SABU // lookback
THE ROCK JOHN CENA TRIPLE H
// ISSUE 8
a i n a M e l t s Wre
STRATUS queen of WrestleMania speaks + exclusive images of Trish’s new film!
// DANIEL BRYAN - A RETROSPECTIVE //
NEW RANGE OUT NOW
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SteelChair is now the wrestling section for magazine VultureHound.com
WELCOME FROM THE EDITOR
EDITORIAL David Garlick Editor / Design email@example.com
John Duffy VultureHound Online Editor
ne week to go, one week until all wrestling fan’s Christmas and Birthdays rolled in to one. One week until WrestleMania! To celebrate this we are keeping this issue simple. It’s a WrestleMania special!
We look back at WM3, John Cena/Rock, unnecessary matches, Top 10 Manias, Daniel Bryan Retrospective aka a WM30 hero.
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Most excitingly we spoke to our cover, the Queen of WrestleMania: Trish Stratus! To keep up to date between issues please head over to VultureHound.com, where we’re the wrestling section. David Garlick @davidgarlick
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NEWS: SHANE BAYLISS | MATCHES: JOHN DUFFY
MATCHES OF THE MONTH
FINN BALOR V NEVILLE
NXT 2ND MAR
Remember when Neville was awesome? He reminded us all why was one of the most exciting stars during NXT’s prime during 2014/15. The match was a slick and exciting classic featuring fantastic spots and sequences from NXT’s past and present.
HHH VS DEAN AMBROSE
Great paced and outstanding Championship match that told an excellent story. Although predictable the match did exactly what it was supposed to in terms of delivering a quality main event that put HHH over and confirming Ambrose’s status as a main event star.
MIL MUERTES VS PRINCE PUMA VS PENTAGON JR LUCHA UNDERGROUND
Rapid action saw, superkicks, planchas, spears, topes aplenty in what is easily the best match of the season so far, and definitely in the top five matches in the show’s history.
MIL MUERTES V FENIX LUCHA UNDERGROUND
Wonderfully violent and wonderfully over the top. Fenix v Mil Muertes continued their great feud into season two and once again providing us with an enthralling match, which included blood, brutality and awesome insanity.
THE NEW DAY VS Y2AJ WWE RAW
Excellent match from start to finish that featured awesome action, slick timing and breathtaking near-falls. All opponents went all out to put on a display that is easily the best RAW has seen in long, long time.
06 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
OF THE MONTH DEAN AMBROSE mbrose has firmly established himself as a main event player. He stood toe-to-toe with HHH as the last two men in the Rumble, he was the standout performer in the Triple-Threat match at Fastlane, he sabotaged the WWE Championship scene and took HHH to the limit at Roadblock. In the run up to his Mania match with Lesnar he was passed the hardcore torch by not one but two hardcore legends, Foley and Funk. He is one of the only wrestlers that can stand up to Lesnar due to his maniacal style and ability to take beatings for fun. Ambrose has enjoyed a strong 2016 so far. Long may it continue.
THE MONTH LUCHA UNDERGROUND
AZTEC WARFARE 2
SteelChair is now the wrestling section for magazine VultureHound.com
SHANE O’BACK After Fastlane fell flat on its face, a lot of people would have been questioning what WrestleMania would bring. Thankfully, the following night on RAW the return of Shane O’Mac set everything right in the world, and with a match for control of Monday Night RAW against the Undertaker set for Mania in a Hell in a Cell there is a glimmer of hope for not just the grandest stage of them all, but also the creative future of the WWE. Is Vince finally ready to hand over the reins to HHH? Fingers crossed! There is one thing that is certain, Shane will put EVERYTHING on the line in and you’ve got to imagine will come off the top of the cell at some point.
NEWS THIS MONTH
HALL OF FAME 2016
WrestlemMania season also brings around the next batch of WWE Hall of Fame inductees, 2016 will see Sting, The Godfather, The Fabulous Freebirds, The Big Boss Man, Jacqueline and Stan Hansen pick up the coveted Hall of Fame ring.
THERE’S A DEVIL INSIDE OF NXT
The likes of Bring Me The Horizon, Sleeping With Sirens and Motorhead have provided theme songs for NXT TakeOver events, well add friend of our sister magazine Vulture Hound, Frank
Carter to that list. Frank Carter and the
can read an interview with Frank Carter in
Drew Galloway has been pretty open about his plan for the last twelve months or so, to become the first travelling world champion since Ric Flair. On March 15th he achieved the first part of that plan becoming TNA World Heavyweight Champion cashing in his Feast or Fired briefcase. He’ll now take the the title on tour defending it in independent promotions around the world, meaning that we could well be seeing a defence inside Galloway’s beloved ICW ring.
Rattlesnakes will provide track ‘Devil Inside Me’ for NXT TakeOver: Dallas. You the latest issue of Vulture Hound.
THE BEAST REIGNS
For the first time in its illustrious ten year history (we’ll ignore the three years it was vacated) the ICW World Heavyweight Championship changed hands outside of the promotion’s home town of Glasgow. Beating Chris Refrew in his home town of Belfast, Big Damo became the ninth man to hold the title.
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 07
WORDS: COIRÉ MC CRYSTALL
COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY WRESTLEMANIA MATCHES
duty and winning the title despite, by
charismatic wrestlers to ever lace up
Grandaddy of Them All.
either ignorance or sheer stupidity, that
a pair of boots, yet Cody is gifted with
Where it all begins again.
not being the initial plan for him.
all the aesthetic appeal that his father
Other abandoned taglines. Every year fans look
lacked. Rhodes could have easily been The thing is, it is not the event which
the ying to Randy Orton’s yang. One of
forward to seeing what are ostensibly
makes the match - but rather the
Rhodes main drawbacks is that he has
the most important WWE matches of
match which makes the event. Whilst
never actually had much experience
the year and the wrestlers themselves
WrestleMania matches have the added
outside of the WWE, and as such this
look forward to what is sure to be their
benefit of being promoted more heavily,
has led him to be considered ‘vanilla’ by
biggest payday of the year. The WWE has
having more eyes on them and WWE
fans. Despite this, he has demonstrated
gone to great lengths to have the phrase
pulling out ‘all the stops’ to make a
his ability to turn garbage into gold
‘W Moment’ be accepted into the lexicon
spectacle of the event, the matches
numerous times, whether as a dashing
of the ‘WWE Universe’. Unfortunately,
we adore most in WrestleMania history
metrosexual or masked freak (though
as with disastrous WWE buzzwords
aren’t remembered so fondly solely
many fear his current run as Stardust
like ‘sports entertainment’ and the
because they were ‘at WrestleMania’. The
may have broken him).
aforementioned ‘WWE Universe’ fans
concept of a ‘WrestleMania Moment’ is
have never really taken to the idea of a
so painfully marketed that it can be easy
It is maybe for this reason that Rhodes’
to forget that, much in the way WWE has
5 minute tussle with The Big Show
destroyed terms like ‘legend’ and ‘Hall
is so easy to forget. Really, it’s like a
That isn’t to say that great things don’t
of Fame’, not everything that takes place
perfect equation of bland - take Rhodes
happen at WrestleMania - remember,
at WrestleMania can be a ‘Moment’. This
who, time and time again has been
it is the biggest wrestling event of the
list is here to remind you of some of the
hamstrung just as he’s about to gain
year. Looking back over the history of
more easily forgettable ‘WrestleMania
momentum and pair him with the Big
WrestleMania, there are no shortage of
Show - a wrestler whose later career
unforgettable moments. The Hulkster slamming the seven hundred and eightytwo pound Andre the Giant in front of 112,000 screaming Hulkamaniacs at WrestleMania III. Stone Cold Steve Austin locked in Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter at WrestleMania 13, blood streaming down his face. Daniel Bryan rescuing Vince McMahon and the entire WWE from a potential disaster at WrestleMania 30 by pulling double
08 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
seems to be particularly dedicated
Big Show vs Cody Rhodes WrestleMania 28
to unceremoniously destroying the pushes of midcarders and put them in a match predicated on, of all things, how disappointing Big Show’s career,
Should you ever require an example of someone held down by WWE’s way of doing things, look no further than Cody Rhodes. Rhodes, son of Dusty Rhodes; one of the most
especially at WrestleMania, has been. Make the match for the Intercontinental belt, a belt which the WWE has all but admitted was ultimately unimportant at this time. Do the whole thing over 5 minutes in a match which made no one look good, and you’ve left the audience with a palette so bland, it makes the rest of the show look picante by comparison. Aftermath: They only went and undid the entire title change a month later at
PHOTO: ANTON JACKSON
The Fink is the only person on screen person to have appeared at every WM
Extreme Rules in a tables match where
built in a substantially poorer scientific
do much of note afterwards and left
the Big Show, seriously, lost the match
lab, like a GCSE science classroom, or a
the WWE due to their rigorous travel
because he accidentally put his foot
schedule. While wrestling didn’t really
through the table. A finish which would
work out for Jones, he broke into acting
be called an anti-climax, if the story
It was because of Jones’ greenness in
and has featured in some excellent
leading to it actually threatened to go
the ring that he was removed from this
movies, such as Tony Jaa’s Tom-Yum-
match mere hours before WrestleMania
Goong, and more recently Mad Max: Fury
the contest was made a handicap
The Undertaker vs Big Show and A-Train WrestleMania 19
match. This is a rare instance of the many moving parts around the match possibly hurting it. After all, this match was supposed to be a showcase for
ECW Originals vs The New Breed WrestleMania 23
Some matches are unnecessary due
When considering WWE’s greatest
to their blandness. This match is
failures, the resurgence of ECW as a
unnecessary for its sheer peculiarity - it would have been a better singles match or a tag team match. Harken back to a time when the Undertaker’s winning streak, though certainly impressive, wasn’t really an advertisable ‘thing’. WrestleManias were not sold on who
IF THERE’S ONE THING VINCE LOVES, IT’S BIG MEN
brand doesn’t actually get nearly as much attention as it possibly should. I have a theory for why this might be: ECW, under WWE’s watch was just too boring. If something is going to be a failure, at least let it be an interesting failure, like the XFL, WWF New York, the
the Undertaker would be facing, which
World Bodybuilding Federation, Linda
naturally, gave the powers that be a lot
McMahon’s political career or the myriad
more freedom in how they would use
of other hare-brained schemes Vince
their Phenom. If there’s one thing that Vince McMahon loves, it’s Big Men, as evidenced by the sheer mass of the participants of this match. If there’s another thing Vince McMahon loves, it’s pairing Big MenTM, most of whom cannot wrestle, with the Undertaker, such as Giant Gonzalez, King Mabel or the recent rumours about Braun Strowman. Which brings us to the original fourth participant of this match, The Colossus of Boggo Road: Nathan Jones. Jones was initially planned to be a kind of Hannibal Lecter-type character, possibly inspired by his legitimate experience of being in jail for a series of armed robberies. This was nixed, presumably because Jones didn’t need any help being terrifying. Besides being a convicted felon, Jones also happened to look like he was built in a state of the art scientific laboratory as part of some kind of super soldier programme. Unfortunately, he moved like he was
Jones. If you remove Jones, what do you then have? Well, Undertaker still needs a match, but in that case Undertaker vs Big Show could be a decent WrestleMania match for the time. Undertaker vs A-Train could also be a good, albeit underwhelming match. But a handicap match doesn’t seem to be as memorable as an even contest, and only serves to damage the side with two guys, because it proves they can’t beat an outnumbered man (even if that man is the Undertaker). Fortunately for ‘Taker’s undefeated streak and
McMahon threw money at. The thing is; WWE’s ECW had too much of a bell curve to it - the One Night Stands are generally considered awesome, and ECW was, if not good, then at least watchable for a bit. Then Paul Heyman left, and ECW basically became a place that RAW and
unfortunately for the credibility of A-Train and Big Show, Jones returned to the ring by the end of the match to even up the odds. Aftermath: Nathan Jones was quietly removed from television after this match. He was later reintroduced to the WWE as part of a Survivor Series match. Jones didn’t really
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 09
UNNECESSARY Smackdown could take stars from, until
Dreamer making sporadic returns. The
would be to copy WCW. A fact that is not
they realised that raiding ECW for talent
New Breed would all be released in time,
mentioned very often is how flagrant
just isn’t the same when it’s part of
with the exception of Marcus Cor Von,
WWF was in their pilfering of WCW’s
WWE. At the end though, when most fans
the member with possibly the most
key aspects. For instance, whilst he, for
had given up hope, ECW became a pretty
potential, who simply disappeared into
better or worse, may very much be the
enjoyable show. Good, but not worth
the ether. Matt Striker would become
captain of the ship, Vince McMahon did
a commentator, and can now be heard
not invent RAW in its current form. The
on Lucha Underground. Elijah Burke
RAW we know today is much closer to
It’s notable then that ECW’s sole offering
would go on to TNA where he would do
Eric Bischoff’s Monday Nitro in terms of
to the highest grossing WrestleMania
some of the best work of his career
presentation and structure. This is true
is also perhaps its least necessary
before disappearing for a long time, and
today, but it was especially true in the
match. The ECW Originals vs New Breed
reappearing as a commentator as well.
‘Attitude Era’. Before Nitro, RAW was
match was essentially the WWE pitting any former ECW stars they had under contract against a collection of wrestlers who were in ECW, possibly because RAW or Smackdown didn’t have anything for them. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t care about the individual members of these two factions. The members of the New Breed had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, none of it would be realised, at least in WWE. WWE took 8 guys, most of whom could probably have had a decent WrestleMania singles match, and gave them 8 minutes because I guess we all absolutely had to see Donald Trump appear later in the show. The match itself would be thoroughly unspectacular. At this stage ‘ECW matches’ were basically just ‘matches’ and as such, weapons were off the table. Seeing the Original’s side have to resort to a ref distraction finish to use weapons, something that would have been commonplace were this an ‘Original’ ECW match, is particularly sad. Aftermath: The result of the match would basically be rendered obsolete by even stevens booking. The match would be repeated under ‘extreme rules’ (another abominable WWE marketing spin) with the New Breed taking the win this time. So essentially, the WWE gave away the WrestleMania match for free. The individual members of the teams
generally an hour of primarily squash
Taka Michinoku vs Aguila WrestleMania 14 This match is really unnecessary because of half-heartedness and how little it meant in the scheme of things. If you cast your eye back to 1998 when this event was airing, WCW, despite some questionable programming, was unquestionably doing better than the WWF. It is common knowledge now how Vince McMahon ‘bet the farm’ on WrestleMania 14, by procuring the services of one Mike Tyson to play a role in the main event contest. However; this was not the only play made by the WWF to make the product more appealing. As I noted earlier, Vince McMahon loves Big Men. Michinoku and Aguila however, are not Big Men. Quite the opposite, in fact, at least by wrestling standards. Yet this was a time for the WWF to try new things in an attempt to capture some of the market share which WCW was currently dominating, and one way to do that
would mostly go on to do very little.
performers to close the show. After Nitro set the template of ‘must see TV’ with featured matches, and eventually expanding to 2 hours, RAW would follow suit. This was competition - once WCW did something, WWF usually followed. Which bring us to why this match actually happened - WCW’s thriving Cruiserweight division. Even the WWE, fond of their revisionist history, have pointed out that with the Cruiserweights, WCW had WWF’s undercard snookered. So enter the ‘WWF Light Heavyweights’; or rather, re-enter. The WWF Light-Heavyweight belt, shockingly predates the WCW Cruiserweight belt by at least a decade, though this is misleading. Whilst the belt had the WWF name, it was basically only defended in Japan, in promotions other than the WWF, and interestingly WWF only remembered the belt existed after it appeared on WCW television carried by Ultimo Dragon. To reintroduce the belt, the WWF had a tournament of Light Heavyweights which Michinoku won. The belt was sparsely featured on
The ECW side would leave WWE one by one; with Rob Van Dam and Tommy
10 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
matches with a match between name-
PHOTO: JUSTIN MOODY
Hulk Hogan vs King King Bundy is the only cage match in WM history
television, and this match really shows
even Diana Smith-Hart’s scandalous
how much WWF cared about their new
tome) can tell you, the Hart family can
division. Given only 6 minutes, the talented performers did what they could, but honestly nobody with any authority’s heart was really in this endeavour. The Light Heavyweight title would never be considered a serious deal in the ‘Land of the Giants’, and this match can only really be considered a sign of what was
THE MATCH ITSELF WAS A SAVAGE BEATING OF A MAN IN HIS 60S
be, and frequently are, divided by money. Very frequently, unfortunately. Which is what makes this whole charade come off as unnecessary - the thin veneer of comeuppance. What was the point of this match? Well, that’s an interesting question. The match itself has been criticized for being an overly long, savage beating of a
Aftermath: The title itself would be treated as a joke at the worst of times, and an afterthought at best. The most interesting use of the title would be Scotty 2 Hotty and Dean Malenko’s highly underrated feud; but the title would be best known for spending 15 months around the waist of ‘Gillberg’ as a prop to parody WCW’s Goldberg. Interestingly, though Aguila would be unsuccessful in this outing, he would eventually hold the title under the name ‘Essa Rios’, by beating Gillberg. Michinoku would go on to have a memorable career as part of Kai En Tai, but sadly would not really be taken seriously in the WWF (though his match against Triple H in October 2000 is a really great match).
Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon WrestleMania 26
man in his sixties. A mea culpa perhaps; segment was turned into an angle. But what an angle it was - a gaudy, attention seeking polemic, which tried to capture the ugly feelings of more than a decade into a 2-3 month programme. To make a long story short, Bret returned and bridges seemed mended, until Vince doublecrossed Bret, accepting no responsibility for the Montreal Screwjob. Eventually a match was set between the two for WrestleMania. Here’s the problem though - Vince was well into his sixties by this point. Whilst he had previously been capable of entertaining outings with Stone Cold, Shane McMahon and even Hulk Hogan, this was a good deal later. Adding to this - though I said Bret Hart was one of the greatest wrestlers ever, that was before the tragic combination of a concussion and stroke ended his career. By this time, Hart had no business in
Bret Hart is without a doubt one of the
a wrestling match and every business
finest wrestlers. Ever. No qualifications
enjoying his retirement and looking back
needed on that statement. The moments
at the great canon of work he’d created
he has created in the WWE are genuinely
like he deserved to. Storytelling is one
worth celebration, and he carried the
thing, but neither of these men were
company through much of its darkest
really capable of doing anything physical
days. He was treated unfairly by the WWE
at this stage.
in both the ‘Montreal Screwjob’, and for many years afterwards. When he returned
As such, the match was loaded with
to the WWE in 2010, fans were happy,
many, more able bodied members of the
and felt that perhaps Hart might get
Hart family. The story of the match was
the long overdue apology he deserved.
the McMahon had paid off the Harts,
Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the WWE
but more fool him as the Hart family
without a song and dance show, and
was undivided by money. As anyone who
so what should have been a 15 minute
has read Bret Hart’s book (or dare I say
but this was overkill of the highest order. ‘Pay to see that mean old McMahon get his from Bret Hart’ is really a fantastic selling point; but allegedly McMahon intended for this match to be something of a turn for the Mr. McMahon character. It was apparently his sincere belief that the crowd would start to feel sorry for him, and that this unrelenting mobbing would humanise his character, perhaps even turning him into a fan favourite. The match made the crowd feel sorry alright, but more sorry to be bearing witness to such a vain, unnecessary spectacle. Clocking in at 11 minutes, this match is the longest on this list, for something that could have been done in about 3 minutes, or ideally, not at all. Aftermath: Thankfully, not very much happened to this story after the WrestleMania match. Vince stopped showing up on WWE screens, only making sporadic appearances, such as to install that damned laptop as General Manager, or have another ego stroking ‘match’ with CM Punk in 2012. Bret Hart would continue to appear on WWE TV, and WWE insisted on writing him into situations involving physicality. Though it is easy (and probably correct) to say that Hart ideally should have had no physical role on TV after all he’s been through, having such a character as Bret on TV was appreciable to those who respect his legacy and what he’s done in WWE.
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 11
WORDS: JOHN DUFFY
PHOTO: MEGAN ELICE MEADOWS
BRYAN A RESTROSPECTIVE 12 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
he wrestling world
was rocked last month when Daniel Bryan tweeted that he was retiring from
wrestling with immediate effect due to medical reasons stemming from the many concussions he has suffered throughout his wrestling career. Touching tributes came flooding in to the man that broke down barriers and proved that “indie” guys can make it in the big time. Yes there were those before him that broke the norm, guys like Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, and Rey Mysterio all had successful runs as WWE Champion, breaking down the preconceived bodybuilder mould the WWE has always held so high. And yes CM Punk broke down the barriers that allowed WWE to accept “indie” guys as potential superstars, but Daniel Bryan was different, Daniel Bryan was special, Daniel Bryan was one of us, just a lot better at wrestling. He connected emotionally with the crowds who took him into their hearts and made him their representative and symbol of change from the WWE norm. His look, style and size challenged the established WWE “mould” but it was his character, passion and personality that made him such a huge fan favourite. Daniel Bryan was an underdog and more importantly he was our underdog. “I am not the biggest, I am not the strongest, but I am damn sure the toughest.” Daniel Bryan WrestleMania 30 will forever be remembered as Yestlemania and the moment when, against all the odds, Bryan established himself as a bonafide main event star. It was a stellar achievement but his journey to the top of the hill was far from easy. At 17 he enrolled in Shawn Michaels’ wrestling school before competing
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 13
DANIEL BRYAN ROH AND ‘AMERICAN DRAGON’ BRYAN DANIELSON WERE A PERFECT MATCH FOR EACH OTHER AS THE TWO WOULD TO CHANGE INDEPENDENT WRESTLING PROMOTION WAS INTENT ON PRODUCING THE HIGHEST CALIBER WRESTLING AND DANIELSON WAS JUST AS INTENT ON PROVIDING IT
Spanky and Low-Ki in the ECWA Super 8 Tournament began to get him noticed and respected as a superior stiff-striking, high-flying, in-ring technician. His big break came when Gabe Sapolsky, after the demise of ECW, launched a promotion that would showcase the best indie wrestlers in the United States. On February 23rd 2002 Ring of Honorand a star was born. American Dragon vs Low Ki vs Christopher Daniels in a Three-Way Dance main-evented and stole the show in a card that also featured Eddie Guerrero vs Super Crazy. ROH and American Dragon Bryan Danielson were a perfect match for each other as the two would change independent wrestling. The promotion was intent on showcasing independent wrestling of the highest caliber and Danielson was just as intent on providing it. Danielson would remain a top player within ROH while continuing to hone his craft across the seas for NJPW and many British “holiday camp” promotions that added an array of differing fighting styles to his already impressive arsenal. It was this experience that was to establish Danielson as arguably the best indie wrestler on the planet. This status was solidified as he became independent wrestling’s most sort after talent, he was to wrestle for many of America’s top indie promotions, PWG, NWA, FIP and had stellar matches with AJ Styles, Homicide, McGuinness and his epic feud with Austin Aries in ROH. WWE came knocking and Danielson gladly answer the call. His dream had come true, to wrestle for the biggest company in the world. But he knew as much as everybody else he must overcome a huge amount of obstacles to have any sense of success. FCW would be home for next couple of months to adapt to the WWE style and christened with his WWE moniker, Daniel Bryan. FCW was repackaged NXT and Bryan would face World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho in the inaugural episode of WWE’s new development system and despite losing the match via submission he was to establish himself as NXT’s one to watch. Bryan was included in the Nexus invasion angle, which saw NXT stars led by Wade Barrett destroy John Cena, the WWE ring and anything else they could get their hands on. But according to WWE corporate Bryan took things too far when choked out ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own neck tie and he was fired from the company in 2010. A brief return to the indies
in the training school’s promotion TWA. He was hired by WWF’s developmental program on Shawn’s recommendation and sent to Memphis MCW to wrestle under the tutelage of William Regal and Tracy Smothers. However, this didn’t last long and he was fired after the WWF’s acquisition of WCW. This didn’t stop Danielson and his appearances versus
14 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
followed with companies IWA, EVOLVE, Dragon Gate USA and PWG before he was rehired by the WWE making a surprise appearance at Summerslam helping Team WWE defeat Team Nexus. A feud with his ex-mentor The Miz resulted in Bryan’s first taste of WWE gold when he captured the United States Championship at Night of Champions, holding the belt for 176 days that featured an epic title defense against Dolph
Daniel Bryan won 2 championships in 2 consecutive Manias
PHOTOS: BOBBY MELOK
Ziggler at Bragging Rights.
Championship. A feud that no one, including the wrestlers themselves could have foresaw. Their match for the title at
After losing the title to Sheamus, Bryan went on to win
Over the Limit was a quality main event delivered by two
Money in the Bank 2011 earning him a shot at the World
stellar in-ring wrestlers in their prime and on the verge of
Heavyweight Championship. His chance would come at TLC
superstardom. Fans and management alike were delighted
when the Big Show exhausted in victory after defeating then
with the successful reception of the match as it showed WWE
champion Mark Henry and Bryan ceased the opportunity
that these guys were willing and ready to grab the “brass
and cash-in and win the Big Gold becoming the first NXT
ring” and confirmed to fans that the product was moving
wrestler to win a WWE world championship. The reign was a
in the direction they wanted. Although the feud had WWE
disappointing one only noteworthy for the awful 18 second
elements to it, revolving around the wayward affections of AJ
defeat to Sheamus at WrestleMania XXVIII. There was a
Lee it gave the performers the opportunity to be on television
tangible disgust in the air the following night on RAW after
each week and ultimately made mega stars out of all them.
the result and the crowd let the WWE know. The “Daniel Bryan” and “Yes” chants were continuous and deafening and
Team Hell No revitalized the tag-team division and through
it was the crucial moment when fans showed visible and
their anger management skits they became the most
audible support for Bryan because they all knew how good he
entertaining act on RAW. The bickering miss-matched duo,
was and that he could be so much more.
although working and acting as heels, became incredibly over brought about the face turn that fans yearned to embrace.
“We’re two guys who weren’t supposed to make it. He’s
The dysfunctional two held the titles for 245 days losing
‘skinny fat,’ I am ‘too small,’ we are not prototypical WWE
to the Shield which resulted in the argument of who was the weak link. By now the
who are not supposed to be
crowd were fully behind
here.” Daniel Bryan
Bryan, his in-ring work, his
The WWE took note of the fan’s distain and in order to quell some of the backlash they pitted the internet wrestling communities’ heroes and indie darlings Daniel Bryan against CM Punk for the WWE World Heavyweight
PHOTOS: ROBERT MCGOLDRCJK
Superstars … we are two guys
comedy act, and ultimately his likability factor made him the hottest face in the company. His popularity was unparalleled and when John Cena asked the crowd to pick his opponent for a title match at Summerslam 2013 the ovation was astounding as
> APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 15
DANIEL BRYAN PHOTO: WWE VIDEO
YES fifteen thousand people chanted “Yes”
anything. You have to earn it.” Daniel
by winning the WWE Championship
simultaneously in what has to be one
against all the odds at WrestleMania
of the biggest pops in RAW history.
30 in a victory that was as much as Cena vs Bryan at Summersalm 2013
the fans as it was his. However, the
The Authority were disgusted in
was an epic first-class main event
dream would only be a fleeting one as
Cena’s decision and openly revolted
that saw Bryan win his first WWE
this stellar achievement was over all
against Bryan becoming the face of
Championship. Emotions ran high.
too soon as injuries would render him
the company screwing him over at
The fan’s hand-picked guy had beaten
unable to compete and he was stripped
every turn. The storyline that reflected
the odds, beaten the unbeatable John
of the Championship two months later.
many of WWE’s and ultimately Vince
Cena and ultimately beaten WWE. But
McMahon’s true feelings made fans
the Authority would screw him out of
“Not too many things can make me
fight for Bryan even more, he was
his moment and a pedigree and Randy
look pretty, but this does.” Daniel
their hope against the symbol of fan
Orton cash-in saw Bryan’s title reign
frustration, WWE prototype John Cena.
last a matter of minutes.
If Cena were the personification of
Inevitably the WWE would fall into
WWE then Bryan was the embodiment
Screw-job after screw-job followed as
old habits and the muscle-bound,
of change and it was a change that
Daniel Bryan fought his way back to
meat-heads that Vince loves so much
WWE universe wanted whether Vince
the top despite the Authority putting
returned when Brock Lesnar defeated
liked it or not.
insurmountable obstacles every step
John Cena for the WWE Championship
of the way. But Bryan and his fans
and the Roman Reigns push part one
held strong and ultimately prevailed
was put into action. It was this push
“Around here, no one deserves
16 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
IF CENA WERE THE PERSONIFICATION OF WWE THEN BRYAN WAS THE EMBODIMENT OF CHANGE AND IT WAS A CHANGE THAT WWE UNIVERSE WANTED WHETHER VINCE LIKED IT OR NOT WWE. It was a truly amazing time and one that will never happen on WWE programming again, because there will never be another “Yes Movement”, another person that captured the thoughts feelings and emotions of the fans, there will never be another Daniel Bryan. Plans have been put in place to ensure that it wont, the product is now so controlled and scripted that the fans let alone the wrestlers have no freedom what-so-ever to challenge Vince’s pre-planned storylines and outcomes, the whole Roman Reign’s debacle is testament to that. that again saw Daniel Bryan become the fan’s chosen one in their fight against WWE’s chosen one. They mercilessly booed
“I love hitting the ropes and diving right here, it made me feel
Bryan’s elimination from the 2015 Royal Rumble and then
like Superman and your guys’ reaction to it made me feel like
near on rioted when Roman Reigns won it, this caused WWE
Superman.” Daniel Bryan
to enter Bryan into a number one contender match vs Reigns at Fastlane. But it was clear that WWE were not going to change plans at the fans behest a second time and the match
Bryan Danielson worked with the best wrestlers around
only existed to appease disgruntled fans and to put Reigns
the world to become the best wrestler in the world. He had
over. This was and is Roman Reigns’ only good match.
matches with just about everybody in the modern era of wrestling, on both the independent level and in WWE. He has
Bryan did again capture gold at WrestleMania 31 this time
done it all yet had so much more to give.
the Intercontinental Championship. Pushed as the saviour of
A truly heartbreaking end to a career of a man you could
the once highly esteemed title he was once more forced to
see adored what he did. There only remains two things to
vacate it because of injury. After months on the sidelines his
say. Thank you Daniel Bryan the WWE will never be the same
future in the ring was heavily speculated with many hoping
for a dream return only to have the nightmare confirmed by his premature retirement. Cut off in the prime of his career and the height of his popularity is the saddest part about his story but it must be remembered that he was the face of hope and the embodiment of change, he captured the fans hearts and minds and with them changed the playing field of
JOIN US @STEELCHAIRMAG APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 17
WORDS: JOHN DUFFY | ILLUSTRATION: GOVINDER GABRIA
THE PHOENIX NEVER DIES
R.I.P. HAYABUSA 18 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
Hayabusa promoted a wrestling company called WMF (Wrestlings Marvelous Future)
he sad news broke this month that Japanese legend Ejiki Ezaki, better known as Hayabusa had passed away at the age of 47. Having spent the last 14 years learning to walk again after a horrific in-ring accident, which had left him paralysed from the neck down.
upon his return to Japan. It was in the opening match of the 1994 Super J Cup tournament against Justin Thunder Liger where the two put on a technical, high flying junior heavyweight master-class that would elevate his profile and gain him headline status in FMW, where he would remain loyal despite offers from NJPW and AJPW.
He was a gateway for many fans like myself into Japanese junior heavyweight and hardcore wrestling due to his colourful style, look and incredible presence. Hardcore, high flying and light years ahead of his time, he epitomised Japanese strong style and influenced a whole generation of fans and wrestlers alike. He had one of the coolest looks ever in wrestling, his eye make up and mask and entrance attire made him look like a futuristic ninja master. A truly iconic look of a truly iconic wrestler.
A star of FMW he was a mainstay in many of their hardcore deathmatches, his body crisscrossed with thick, wince enduring scars and burns from barbed wire, nails, drawing pins, fire and explosives that were part and parcel of the garbage match genre. His 1995 match against retiring FMW stalwart Atsushi Onita in a barbed wire, exploding cage deathmatch was the biggest of his career and has to be seen to be believed. It is dramatic, it is emotional, it is f**king insane. It was these extreme matches and reputation that transcended the pacific and generate a cult following through the tape trading networks that were on the rise through out the nineties.
The first time I ever saw the hardcore legend was with Jinsei Shinzaki vs Sabu and Rob Van Dam at ECW Heatwave 1998. What I saw captivated me and I was a fan ever since trailing the internet for any VHS cassettes containing footage of him I could get my hands on. Grainy, washed-out, and almost unwatchable I gathered the maddest, craziest and insane hardcore action Hayabusa had to offer. He was always the first wrestler I would create on my N64 WWF games but could never fully do him justice as the move set was far to tame. He trained at the FMW dojo and quickly established himself as their rising star. However, it was Mexico where he would hone his craft, create the Hayabusa character and work the high flying, lucha libre offence that would make him such an innovative and popular performer
This passing of the hardcore torch to Hayabusa saw him enter brutal, wild and dangerous deathmatches with The Gladiator (Mike Awesome), Masato Tanaka, Terry Funk among many others in which he would gain many of his battle scars that would make him so legendary. His high flying, high risk offensive style saw him suffer many serious injuries throughout his career but in what has to be the worst incident in professional wrestling, Hayabusa would slip while attempting a Asai Moonsault and land directly on top of his head breaking his neck prematurely ending his career and leaving him a quadriplegic.
Hayabusa had carried FMW on his back through its most turbulent of times. Rumours of Yakuza involvement, the suicide of its owner and the loss of its main star after his career and near life ending injury saw its fanbase deplete and the company soon folded. Ezaki would not quit and often attended public appearances and forged a new career as a singer, releasing albums and performing regularly at live shows. He continued working within wrestling for a number of promotions including Dragon Gate and relaunched FMW. It is here that his inspirational road to recovery was solidified in a highly emotional appearance at Korakuen Hall, when last summer he would walk to the ring assisted with a cane, 14 years after the moonsault incident that would leave him paralysed. Hayabusa influenced many of today’s wrestlers, WWE’s Neville wrestled under the name Dark Hayabusa and recently performed a Pheonix Splash on RAW in his honour. ICW’s Mikey Whiplash wore Hayabusa’s face paint in tribute at a recent show in a testament to Hayabusa’s impact on this generation’s superstars. FMW maybe credited to reintroducing the extreme hardcore style to America but Hayabusa singlehandedly introduced a mixture of Japanese strong style, lucha libre, extreme hardcore and technical wrestling that made him such a popular, influential and unforgettable wrestler who legitimately sacrificed his body for the sport he loved. Hayabusa may be gone but the Phoenix never dies, R.I.P.
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 19
20 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
THE ROCK V CENA
t WrestleMania 28, after more than a year of music videos and promos very close to the bone, WWE produced the closest thing to a true dream match in a decade, when The Rock faced John Cena.
As I sat in the crowd in Miami that night, I can honestly say I’d never witnessed an atmosphere like it for any other match. People were along for the ride 100%, but there was the biting undertone that it wasn’t going to have the outcome they wanted. And then it happened. Rock Bottom, 1, 2, 3. The explosion of pure happiness was unparalleled. Random wrestling fans hugging and high fiving each other for an hour. Total strangers acting like school friends, united by old memories. It was surreal. Magical, even. All because Rock > actually won. It’s what wrestling is all about. To be true to the intention of the feud, we got the rematch at 29. But the build wasn’t nearly as good, and there was little effort put in to create genuine drama. It still worked on Pay-Per-View, but the energy was totally different. Everybody saw it for what it was, and the audience emotion was a stark contrast. Would there be interest in a third? Perhaps, but if the second accomplishing nothing for Cena, the third wouldn’t, and the genuine tension was iced after the first match. This is one where it’s best to leave history in the rearview mirror. WORDS: LIAM O’ROUKE PHOTO: ED WEBSTER
TOP 10 MANIAS
WORDS: LIAM O’ROURKE
TOP 10 WRESTLEMANIAS
iam O’Rourke picks his top 10 WrestleManias.
you a desire to drop it down a peg. But judging it on the night,
Read his full Top 30 on VultureHound.com (We
this does belong in the top ten.
hold our hands up and admit that this was written before WrestleMania 31...)
9. WrestleMania 28
The B stands for “Because I Was There”
10. WrestleMania 30
And in truth, that may skew this one slightly for me, edging it into the Top Ten. The build-up for the top two matches on this
The B stands for “BRROOOOCK…”
show was the best job the company has done for a long time, the “Once In A Lifetime” dream match of Rock Vs. Cena, with biting promos, fantastic video packages, and a full year to
The B could actually stand for a few things, “Bootista” being
anticipate it, as well as the rematch from Mania 27, the “End
among them. But the biggest story of the night was the
Of An Era” Hell in a Cell match with Taker Vs. HHH, with Shawn
ending of the Undertaker’s legendary streak at the hands of
Michaels as the wild card as referee.
Brock Lesnar, which, while an absolutely gobsmacking event, and one of my favourite fan experiences in recent years, was
Rock Vs. Cena delivered with a match executed almost exactly
questionable at the time, and is even more suspect in hindsight
as it should have been, right down to the Rock going over in
given the uncertainty of Brock’s future. Not even getting to the
a massive shock that lit up the crowd like nothing I’ve ever
fact that the match itself was a massive disappointment thanks
witnessed before. Critics that think John Cena should have won,
to Taker’s concussion, and a misguided sense of inevitability
believing he deserved it or that this result was an indictment
about the whole experience, as a standalone moment that
of Cena’s run are misguided in that belief in my opinion, and
produced a unique emotion that we may not see again for years,
hey, I’m the biggest proponent of forward thinking. But if you’re
this was extremely special.
going to do this match, with this promotion, in this location, it’s the only result you can do without pissing off the masses,
Daniel Bryan was the other big story of the night, pinning Triple
because a Cena victory wasn’t swaying anybody’s opinion of
H clean in the opener, before winning the WWE Championship
him, as evidenced a year later. Nothing is going to do that, it’s
in the main event against Batista and Randy Orton in front of
been too long, and they’ve tried too much. And besides, while
an incredibly hot crowd, in two tremendous matches, a result
the show was already good heading in the finish of the main
of a landmark negative response to Batista’s babyface return,
event, that decision MADE this show from a live perspective.
Bryan’s popularity and CM Punk quitting. And the video set to the tune of “Monster” to set up the story of the show was
The Hell In A Cell match wasn’t as good as the match a year
earlier, but was still very good. CM Punk Vs. Chris Jericho was the other top match on the card, but to be perfectly honest I’d
Add in the captivating Hogan/Austin/Rock encounter to start the
be lying if I didn’t say I was disappointed by the build-up to this
show and a few other excellent touches sprinkled throughout,
match. Two excellent talkers and storytellers, and whether it
and it squeaks it into the top ten past some tough competition.
was its placement as third match from the top, restrictions or whatever, it didn’t really hook people as expected. The match
Not that it wasn’t without its problems. The build-up on Raw for
itself was damn good, though it took a while for the fans to stir
the matches was disappointing almost across the board. Cena
since it was following Hell In A Cell.
Vs. Wyatt dragged, Brock Vs. Taker was a snoozefest until the finish, and when you view this show in the long-term (Brock’s
The elephant in the room here is that the first half of the show
possible leaving, the poor booking of Bryan’s title run, the
was complete filler, ruined by the 18 second burial of Daniel
follow-up to Cesaro’s Battle Royal win being a mess) it does give
Bryan, losing his World Title in the opener with one move to
22 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
Wrestlemania 2000 was the first ‘Mania to have the heel walk away as champion
Sheamus. Surprisingly, this didn’t go over so well, and the crowd
when Guerrero and Benoit embraced mid-ring, kings of their
seethed to one another for about an hour, looking at Kane Vs.
world. Three and a half years later and the moment had gone
Randy Orton and Big Show Vs. Cody Rhodes like it was a dog
through the emotional wringer, from beautiful to tragic to
taking a slow dump.
The atmospherics were tremendous, and what was promoted
Elsewhere on the show, John Cena is cheered as a babyface
hard delivered to expectations…with one exception. Although it
in New York on his rise to top, as he beats Big Show for the
is funny how this 18 seconds launched Daniel Bryan’s career as
US Title, there’s a fun Cruiserweight Open, 2 Four Way Tag
a genuine top guy.
Title Matches that didn’t accomplish much, and your token throwaway Divas match.
8. WrestleMania 20
There are times I’m tempted to rate this one lower for various reasons, but all things considered, I’m happy for it to sit here.
The B stands for “That Third Guy”
7. WrestleMania 23 In terms of advance promotion, people forget how tremendously well this show was marketed ahead of time. Not only was the
The B stands for “Bald Asshole”
heritage of the show, the number, the location (MSG) all a key part of this, but this was the debut of the logo hanging in the arena for almost a full year heading into the show. The company
From a business standpoint, this was the biggest buyrate
spent $5 million on bilboards, flyering and grassroots cross-
for a WrestleMania of all time, based on the “Battle Of The
promotion. Going in, this show had a massive advantage in that
Billionares” (which also could have been what the B stood
when the first second of this show hit the air, it already felt so
for, but mine was actually true) between Vince and Donald
very, very special. And that does mark it up.
Trump. It’s funny how the two guys who actually performed the match, Lashley and Umaga, ended up meaning nothing for the
Flash forward ten years, and not only is it depressing how
company in the long run. Folks, if you ever wonder why this did
lacklustre the promotion for 30 was by comparison, but it is
so well, watch the build for this on the Raw’s leading up. It was
kind of hard to enjoy this show the way you did at the time,
almost inch perfect, apart from the horrible sketch that started
for the obvious reason that it was built around Chris Benoit
the whole thing. The use of Steve Austin, Vince with his best
winning the World Title for the first time in the main event.
performances in years, the megapush of Lashley, and one of the
Some people may rate this show a lot higher, and there have
best stipulations of all time for public interest. On top of that,
been times when I felt that it should actually be ranked a little
the match, while nothing classic in-ring, was a lot of fun.
lower. Lesnar/Goldberg, which was a well-built match, ended up as a dud thanks to the crowd burying the entire thing due to
In addition, Shawn Michaels and John Cena had a brilliant main
the knowledge that both men were leaving. Undertaker’s return
event (which doesn’t get its due), Batista and Undertaker blew
was hyped extremely well and was a fantastic entrance, though
away expectations with another excellent title match, and Money
the match with Kane that followed was crap. But the Triple
In The Bank was another key highlight, won by Mr. Kennedy,
Threat Match that headlined was possibly the best three way in
a guy who at one point had an incredible career trajectory
company history, with Shawn Michaels especially putting in an
ahead of him, which promptly fell apart. The real theme of this
Mania, beyond the two great title matches that, depending on which way the wind blows, may or may not have had superior
Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero had a very good match for
rematches within a month, is that the guys that were clearly
the World Title, and Evolution Vs. Rock and Foley was wildly
handpicked to lead the company going forward, all crumbled
entertaining with a great finish and perfect performance of
almost everybody in the match (I’ve heard that Foley was down on the fact he was tagging out while Orton was in the ring which
As is a pattern with “The 20s”, the undercard matches were
he shouldn’t have been doing, which is nitpicky but valid).
neither here nor there, with some matches getting some decent build and others serving only to fill a spot on the card, which
The major strength of the show was the warm fuzzy feeling
is perfectly fine, but doesn’t stand out as spectacular either.
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 23
TOP 10 MANIAS Taker’s streak was really picking up steam at this point, and a Batista victory would have been inexcusable.
The top matches didn’t deliver to the standard of the undercard, with John Cena’s win being particularly underwhelming. Much
like 23, both title matches would be done again months later, and done much better.
6. WrestleMania 21
5. WrestleMania 19
The A stands for “Are You Talkin’ To Me?” The A stands for “A Broken Freakin’ Neck” As WrestleMania went Hollywood, it did so by marking a new era, crowning Batista and John Cena the top guys in the
WWE Champion Kurt Angle performs on this show, despite
company with their respective World and WWE Title wins. Before
having a broken neck and having no business wrestling. Steve
anything else is said – I’ve taken my fair share of shots at Triple
Austin performs on this show, despite a broken neck and a near
H throughout this thing, so I’ll give credit where it is due: he
heart attack the night before. Brock Lesnar almost kills himself
made Batista. The slow babyface of turn of Batista was not only
blowing a Shooting Star Press that he’d done before a hundred
perfect paced and brilliantly executed, but Triple H put him over
times, and luckily avoids a broken neck himself. Despite all of
clean in the middle on the big show, then put him over again
this, this show is fantastic.
clean in Hell In A Cell. Contrast this to what Triple H did with Randy Orton, it’s night and day. This PPV did the best domestic
Unfortunately, it was one of the least purchased Manias of this
PPV number in years, and it’s almost all down to the build to
time period, mainly because the top promoted match was, for
some reason, Vince McMahon Vs. Hulk Hogan, in a match that on paper sounds like it could be intriguing, and in the ring was
But ultimately, the two title matches weren’t particularly special
actually a damn good brawl, but it had no legs as a draw. Two
on the show itself. Underneath, Edge won the original and best
old guys fighting over old shit. Steve Austin Vs. The Rock Part 3
Money In The Bank Ladder Match, a bout loaded with fantastic
didn’t work quite so well as a draw as the prior two – this match
talent (and Kane); Eddie Guerrero & Rey Mysterio opened
has to go on top or nothing, and their status as part timers led
things well, though admittedly short of expectations; Undertaker
to a difficult dynamic with heel Rock going over, and almost felt
and Randy Orton was a hot battle between established guard
like a nostalgia retreat. But again, a very entertaining match.
and rising star (and at the time Orton not winning was quite the surprise); and in the best match on the show, Kurt Angle beat
Kurt Angle puts in one of the classic performances while injured
Shawn Michaels clean in the middle with the ankle lock in what
in history, and paid for it by going into shock after the match,
is one of my personal favourite matches of all time. Seems a lot
but ending aside, the match with Lesnar was a clinic, even if the
of people, while giving this massive credit, are reluctant to heap
crowd was somewhat burned out.
praise upon it as they have for other Mania matches, and I’m not really sure why. The pacing is phenomenal, the near falls are
Michaels Vs. Jericho stole the show from an in-ring standpoint,
out of this world, and the finish is one of the most dramatic in
in what was a very difficult show to steal. A lot of people
the history of the show. Listen to the crowd, it’s a masterclass
strongly felt Jericho needed the win, and I don’t disagree, but in
in setting the groundwork, picking them up, settling them down,
the big picture Jericho had been stalled so much at this point
yo-yo-ing them near the end, building to a peak, and sustaining
that it made a negligible difference, and he got to leave with a
that intensity until the perfect moment. Right guy went over as
good bit of heat for double-crossing Michaels on the embrace.
well. One of the best Manias ever with the amount of star power, Fun cameos from Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper go
entertaining or excellent matches, but does have the shocking
over well, though I’d be remiss not to mention Big Show losing
decision to have Triple H bury Booker T for saying that “you
yet another intersport battle at Mania, this time to Akebono, a
people” aren’t good enough to be champion, and then HHH wins
guy well known in his country for his contributions in sumo (and
and turns out to be right. Mysterio and Matt Hardy only going
crossover work in MMA and Wrestling), but known by nobody
6 minutes was a travesty – Mysterio was a genuine star at this
time, and this was the peak of Matt Hardy as a singles player.
24 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
Diamond Dallas Page is the driver of the pink Cadillac at Mania 6
Rob Van Dam being left off the show was bullshit. Taker has one
raises the title as he is announced the winner in an amazing
of his least memorable Mania victories here, beating A-Train and
display of personality unfathomable to those who saw his first
Big Show in a nothing happening affair.
IC Title run.
4. WrestleMania 14
The Dumpster match with the Outlaws and Cactus/Funk is good, and the other standout from the undercard was, seemingly out of nowhere, Sable, who shot to stardom like a rocket (and ended
The A stands for “AUSTIN AND TYSON~! AUSTIN AND TYSON~!”
up falling just as fast) based on her performance on this show, as her and real life husband Marc Mero beat Goldust and Luna in a match that not only got an ungodly amount of heat, but was
We’re getting into the very best Manias ever here, and as a lot of
significantly better than it had any right to be.
the previous shows have had truly classic matches, something this show doesn’t really have, I feel I have to almost justify this
Were the matches “five star classics”? No, and the crowd not
one’s place here.
being electric for the top two matches holds it back from a higher spot, but everything was booked so perfectly, and nothing
For build-up and for historical significance, there are almost
else mattered. If you lived through this, you will understand
none better than this show. This was the night that stamped
what I mean when I say that this show changed the face of the
WWF’s return to ratings form, and cemented Steve Austin as
the biggest star in the wrestling business. The angles leading into this show were fantastic – the 3:16 Machine was at full charge already, but when the Austin/Tyson pull-apart took
3. WrestleMania 10
place on Raw, a wild scene that I saw before it was broadcast on Sky because BBC News ran it the next morning as a lead
The A stands for “And The Fuck-Up Of Mania 9 Is Corrected”
story, it was very obvious that something special was taking place. Shawn Michaels was a great foil for Austin, but the Tyson element was magic. The segment where he “joined DX” on Raw
This is the highest show on the list that had the least
was a phenomenal idea, and when the pictures of Tyson KOing
significance for the business, it was just an incredible show.
Michaels made the back page of The Sun and The Mirror the
Everybody knows why so I won’t belabour the point. This was
day after Mania, it was incomprehensible to a young wrestling
also the first show I ever saw right as it happened, getting the
fan like myself, who lived through the bad years and saw just
tape the following day from a friend at school, and this may well
how uncool the product was to the public such a short time
be the show that made me a fan for life.
before. Times were definitely changing. Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon in the Ladder Match was out That would be enough to place it high, but the six month build
of this world, and I watched that match so many damn times.
to the first Undertaker Vs. Kane match was great as well. The
If you look at it with modern eyes, it probably doesn’t hold up
best monster introduction in company history, and the following
as spectacular as the TLCs, or are as whacky and creative as
six months of perfect booking, gave Kane a lifeline he has ridden
the Money In The Bank matches that have become “show me
to this very day. Even still, people fondly remember Kane of
something new”-fests, but in that time, in that place, it was one
this era as being the best he ever was. Video evidence suggests
of the best matches of all time, and changed the way I looked at
otherwise, as this match really isn’t spectacular, although Kane
tombstoning Pete Rose was glorious. And amazingly, it’s not the only all-time classic on the show, as Everything just came into place at this show. A rising superstar
the opening Bret Vs. Owen encounter is a Match Of The Decade
known now as The Rock, one year after shitting the bed at Mania
contender in its own right. Another brilliant encounter, with the
13, put in a stellar performance with Ken Shamrock, who was
shocking ending of midcard heel Owen pinning top star Bret
in his own right extremely over at this time. Booked with such
clean the night of his title shot, sets this card on a high enough
charm, as the slow burn of Rock and Faarooq being at odds is
pedestal, but the booking of the WWF Title is the cherry on the
paid off here, Shamrock finally beats The Rock for the IC Title,
cake. Not only does Lex Luger, the guy who spent most of 1993
but the decision is reversed when he continues to kick his ass
on the Lex Express being forced down people’s throats as the
after the bell, and Rock, while being carried off on a stretcher,
new Hulk Hogan, get cast aside after he’s shown up as second
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 25
TOP 10 MANIAS best at the Royal Rumble (after a tie-finish, fans vociferously
highlight being an underrated Hart Foundation/Danny Davis
cheered Bret over Lex), but Bret Hart went from losing clean to
Vs. Bulldogs/Tito six man. As a standalone PPV, with modern
his brother in the opener, to winning the WWF Title in the main
eyes there are Manias better, but with the historic slam and
event (never understood what the hell the finish of this match
legdrop, the incredible IC Title match, the huge crowd and the
was supposed to be, by the way), beating Yokozuna (one of the
incomparable feeling surrounding the show, this is almost the
worst WWF champions ever, I don’t care what anybody says)
best of them all. Almost.
to win back the title that he never should have lost the year before. As all the babyfaces celebrate with Bret and lift him on their shoulders (including Lex Luger, whose face looks like he
1. WrestleMania 17
just caught somebody fucking his wife), Owen Hart, the heel that claims he’s better than Bret and never gets the credit, that
This is almost certainly not a surprise to most, and is probably
beat him to start the Pay-Per-View, stands disgusted in the aisle
the consensus best WrestleMania of all time, though it
mouthing “What about me?” Fucking brilliant.
underwent a hell of a fight to get here for me.
The rest of the show was what it was, nothing that stank the joint out or set the world afire either way, though Randy Savage
The best domestic PPV number for a Mania ever was this show,
does have his in-ring WWF farewell here beating Crush in a weird
headlined by Austin and Rock, two genuine megastars riding a
falls count anywhere/Texas death match hybrid.
massive wave of popularity, head-to-head in their best Mania match. However, while Mania 3 defined its era and had the
perfect results top to bottom to help make it what it was, the closing scene of this show, with Austin turning heel and joining
2. WrestleMania 3
Vince McMahon, did a hell of a lot of damage to the promotion. The business was heading towards a downturn anyway, but this was the wrong move at the wrong time, and business
There are clearly two WrestleManias that are a notch above the
plummeted immediately. Since I added in the other factors that
rest, and they, in both cases, they are the definitive shows of
made me rank the rest of the shows as I did, as opposed to
their respective boom periods. It’s very hard to make a call on
simply standalone PPV quality, the external factors surrounding
which one to put at the top of the mountain, and there are great
this one almost made me kick it from its mighty perch.
cases for both. But alas, it’s just too damn good. Austin Vs. Rock was so The build-up to the top feuds on this show was exceptional.
anticipated, everybody will remember the amazing “My Way”
Blatant lying of Andre’s record or not, Hogan and Andre was the
music video forever, and the card itself is superb. Austin/Rock
ultimate mega-match of the time, with the involvement of Bobby
delivered huge, and may well be the most electric main event
Heenan and some incredible Piper’s Pit segments setting this
in the history of Mania. Triple H and Undertaker had a hell of a
up perfectly. The Savage/Steamboat ring bell angle is one of the
match, TLC 2 was an excellent and wild stunt show, Kurt Angle
all-time best in execution, and in how much gravity it was given
and Chris Benoit had a fantastic bout in their first ever PPV
at the time. And don’t sleep on Piper Vs. Adonis, which has a
match, and Shane McMahon and Vince had arguably the best
great series of skits in Piper’s Pit & The Flower Shop.
non-wrestler match ever, filled with twists on turns. The only thing remotely offensive on this show is Chyna’s “offering”, but
When show time came, in front of a packed 78,000 fans (WWF
she was canned two months later, so that worked out okay in the
claimed 93,173 famously, it was the show’s promoter Zane
Bresloff who revealed it was a legit 78,000), WWF put on the perfect show for their audience at the time. Match quality
This was the return to the stadium shows as well after a long
wasn’t the key factor in Hogan/Andre, the atmospherics and
hiatus, and this, more than any Mania I’ve ever seen, felt
the spectacle was. For Savage and Steamboat, one of the
special from the second it began. If the Austin heel turn didn’t
best Mania matches ever, it was a match was for years was
persuade me to rank this lower, nothing could. As the definitive
considered the gold standard, and will always be remembered
show of my favourite period of time as a wrestling fan, with a
as the first true classic in the history of the show.
more consistent level of high quality throughout than any other, this is the best WrestleMania of all time.
Beyond the top three matches, rest of the card is fun, with the
26 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
WORDS: LEE HAZELL | PHOTO: JOHN MCKEON
WRESTLEMANIA III he year was 1987. Wrestling was at the height of its power. Cable television was available to more people than ever before and with it came the rise of the PPV. Wrestling was giving audiences across the country a distinctive mixture of sport and storytelling that made them a spectacle unique and without equal. Wrestling was bringing the battle of good vs evil into living rooms worldwide starring a cast of colourful characters with personalities so large and outrageous they made movie stars look pedestrian. Those characters mesmerised young and old alike, entertaining and enthralling them into a frenzy of excitement. Wrestling held the world in the palm of its hand and on the 29th of March in the Pontiac Silverdome, Michigan, it held a showcase display of what gave them that power and their mastery over it. This is the biggest event in wrestling history. This is WrestleMania III. Yep, this is the one that got two of its hall of famers gold statues outside WWE headquarters in Connecticut. This is the event that tops all the lists with the moment that defined WWE for a generation. Now, because of the inconceivable stupidity of one megalomaniacal performer and the old-fashioned attitudes that wrestling was never unfamiliar with, this event will never be seen in the same light again or spoken about with the same untainted reverence. That is a hell of a shame. Vincent Kennedy McMahon starts off proceedings by introducing Aretha Franklin as she sings America the Beautiful. Twenty years later, WrestleMania 23 would pay tribute to this moment as she would once again recite this patriotic hymn, once again in Detroit. Our voices of the evening are the legendary Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Only King and JR come close to them as a commentary team. But as this is
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THIS IS THE BIGGEST EVENT IN WRESTLING HISTORY WrestleMania, the night where celebrities and superstars mingle, they are joined by Mr. Baseball (that’s a nickname I’m sure. I never caught his real name, I don’t think it was ever mentioned) and Mary Hart. Their inclusion is perfunctory. Only when Baseball – as he shall only ever be known from now on – introduces the main event combatants does he bring something to the table. And if we’re going to talk about negatives let’s get some out of the way. The first hour is adequate enough but has a hard time being anything more than that. Pacing in a wrestling event is still something that promoters have yet to figure out, and while the Can-Am Connection beating the Mr. Fuji lead team of ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton and The Magnificent Muraco is a good way to give the crowd a buzz to get them going, the match needed more time for the teams to really tell a story. As it stood, it was an effective promotion of two up-and-comers over a couple of veteran heels, but both teams deserved better. Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules fight in a contest without stipulation, but both men are determined to outdo one
Shawn Michaels, arguably the greatest WM performer of all time, ironically holds the record for most losses
another with their shared, patented special move, The Full Nelson. You might think that this being more of a desire for both men rather than a rule would flare up passion and add an interesting dimension to the contest. Unfortunately the end – a double count out – squanders the potential of that storyline. Haynes does get in a beauty of a press slam, though. The fact that the next match of the night is also the shortest is a God-given mercy. A match between Hillbilly Jim and King Kong Bundy might have been a great big man match. But after filling the ring with little people, you know that a good match is not on WWE’s agenda. Little people aren’t respected by the company. That much is true when you hear the word “Midget” over and over again by all involved. The way the match ends with Bundy squashing one of them, and Hillbilly Jim carrying his lifeless body around, is more than uncomfortable. Short matches continue to be a theme this night and you can hardly blame them. Harley Race is 44 years old at this point, and not the man he used to be. Still though, in his bout with Junkyard Dog to become King of Wrestling, I’m backing him all the way. Sorry JYD, I love ya, but Race is
King of Wrestling. Also, I know you got screwed, but attacking a man from behind is hardly face behaviour. Too bad the commentary were trying to shove the morality of the characters down our throats. We like to think that the commentator’s confused and hypocritical morality is a modern phenomenon. After all, how many times has JBL called out Michael Cole on his whiney moralising when the faces don’t have any qualms about pulling the same tricks? But Gorilla vs Ventura to see who had the highest horse permeated the entire night. Gorilla would lambast the heels for their behaviour while ignoring it when the good guys did it, leaving Ventura to give us his two cents. Sure, most of the time the faces were giving just
as good as they got. But, there were also plenty of times when they were unambiguously in the wrong. JYD cheapshotting a man with a steel chair in the back of the head for example. All this comes down to is that it isn’t how you behave in the ring that will determine your character, it’s how the crowd likes you. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Here, the WWE had a moment to be ahead of its time. Take the Hot Rod match for example. ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper is a legend in the industry for his mastery of character. With an expression, that man could get a whole crowd on their feet or start a riot. He was especially good at the latter. A legendary heel, even when playing the face, such as now, you can still tell he isn’t a good dude.
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 29
LOOK BACK What then follows is six and a half minutes of one of the best antihero performances in the industry. This is a man who is in the moral right, but doesn’t give a damn about morality and rules. His goal is singular, and he pursues it with tunnel vision. He wants revenge and he commits horrible acts of violence to do it. Sound like any Attitude Era champions we know? Remember when McMahon gave that famous pre-Raw speech about throwing out the old concept of good guys vs bad guys? Well he could have made that speech before this match and WWE would have been a whole decade ahead of the game. Too bad he wasn’t telling that to the commentary through their headsets. Roddy is helped in this match by the efforts of Brutus Beefcake who in an earlier match I guess turned face after getting abandoned by his partner. Now, my problem with this is that Beefcake didn’t do anything to become a face in his own match. He got screwed certainly, but he didn’t have any agency in his own face turn. Things happened to him, not because of him. Also, am I missing something? Why are Beefcake and Piper buddies all of a sudden? Fantastically entertaining match next as The Hart Foundation and crooked ref ‘Dangerous’ Danny Davis have a six man tag match with The British Bulldogs and Tito Santana, the three men Davis helped screw out of their titles. Great in-ring action and storytelling from the get go. Matilda goes straight after The Mouth of the South which is hilarious and really warms up the crowd. The fact that Davis isn’t really a wrestler is one of the few occasions where it isn’t a hindrance at all, it actually helps. The Bulldogs, The Foundation and Santana are five of the best workers of their generation and do 99.9%
30 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
of the in ring action, with Davis only entering at the end to get his arse kicked and to get a cheap victory to really get the crowd riled up. This is what WWE in 2016 are really missing. They don’t want to piss off the audience any more. Bore them? Sure, but just don’t do anything to heighten the emotion. They want every match to give the feeling you get from your home side winning the Champion’s League. But that feeling is diminished when you get it every time. If you want to raise the quality of the product and get the most out of the crowd reactions, then you need to give them a variety of results for them to have a variety of feelings about. They call it a rollercoaster of
STEAMBOAT VS SAVAGE IS WHY GUYS LIKE US WATCH WRESTLING. emotion for a reason. If you keep them on a high they will never get the thrill of going down. After a serviceable, but ultimately forgettable bout between Butch Reed and Koko B. Ware we have the match of the night. No, not Hogan vs. Andre. That might have the popularity, but this match has the quality. For months the build to Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage vs Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat was one of the most
deliberate and calculating build ups to anything in company history. After his initial loss to Savage in November, Steamboat received a continued beating at the hands of the champion that would give him a kayfabe larynx injury that is played off to perfection. In January, Steamboat would make a comeback by taking out Savage before he did the same to George ‘The Animal’ Steele. This set up for the two of them to face off at the biggest show of the year, and theirs would be the longest and best of the matches. Steamboat vs. Savage has gone down in history as one of the greatest fights the company has ever produced. A spectacle of grand storytelling and technical execution, fights like Steamboat vs Savage are what guys like me watch wrestling for. The back and forth action, the attention to detail, use of the weapon that put Steamboat out, and the crispness and execution of the moves and storybeats are all of the ingredients that make for truly memorable wrestling. So influential is this fight, that all of your favourite wrestlers, Bryan, Cesaro, Owens, Ziggler, Zayn try to recreate this magic each and every time they step in the ring. The next two matches have neither the stakes nor the time to be as great as the previous match, but they certainly had the talent. Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, like Roddy Piper, is a legendary bad guy with a score to settle against another bad guy who needs a superior to teach him a lesson in evil. Honky Tonk Man may be a legend in his own right, but he’s no Snake. Almost no one is. Their match is given some much needed blood by Robert’s infamous grip on psychology and superb storytelling ability. Add into the mix the real life heat between the two, and the inclusion of Detroit native Alice
Cooper into the mix (has there ever been a better pairing of celebrity and wrestler in the entire WWE?) and you have a short if effective marquee match at the Silverdome. On a side note, to really get the most out of this match you need to see the Snake Pit segments before-hand. This show, more than any other, really shows us the importance of having a good build up. No viewing of this PPV is complete without watching the Piper’s Pit and Snake Pit segments that preceded them. Context is king in Detroit 1987 and the rush of emotion to be had seeing Jake’s back get legit hurt, or seeing Andre yank the crucifix from Hogan’s chest is key to understanding why this is the most memorable event in company history. The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff go up against the Killer Bees. Nothing gets up the noses of the American fans more than being asked to show respect to a foreign national in their disrespect of the United States. Volkoff and Sheik singing the anthem of the hated Soviet Union will get the crowd angry enough to throw precious beer at the ring. The win by DQ (of all outcomes) really sets up the crowd to go crazy for America in the best way it knows how. Going crazy for the Hulk. Elephant in the room time. A lot has been said about WWE’s decision to disavow knowledge that there was ever a creature known as a Hulk in their history. “Remember when Andre tripped at WrestleMania III?” has been a popular meme to illustrate fans confusion at this decision. Yes, for continuity reasons deleting the history of the man you built the company around makes no sense. But firstly, when have WWE ever cared about making sense? And secondly, it’s the right decision. From a business standpoint, being associated with a racist is death. As well as that, WWE reach an audience of millions every week, many of them small children.
It would be irresponsible of them, not mention morally reprehensible to continue profiting from his image. Also, if you think they should continue alienating a marginalised group of people in order to keep their lore consistent, you need your priorities examining. From a point of pure objectivity though, you can see why this man commanded a fan base of millions. Only a very few individuals have ever held a mic and talked with the kind of passion that Hogan could exude. Even his promo earlier that night, was a captivating piece of work from a man who has convinced me that he was fighting for his very life. For promos to of this kind of intensity to come back to the WWE we would have to reintroduce wrestling back to its old friend, cocaine. Once again, I must stress that context is everything. You have to go back through the vaults to see the deterioration of Andre and Hogan’s friendship. The jealousy, the greed, Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan pouring poisoned honey into The Giant’s ear. Can I say a quick word about Heenan for a moment? About all the managers actually. These days a manager is associated with one lone act or stable. Back then they had multiple clients and here, they are doing double or in the case of Bobby Heenan or Jimmy Hart, triple duty. Without their contributions, tonight wouldn’t have been anywhere near as memorable. Take a bow gentlemen. The crowd have been wound up perfectly. Hogan comes out to a thunderous ovation while Andre inspires the crowd to throw debris. There is a tension in the air as Hogan seeks to do the impossible. The great thing about this match is, the slam that proved the centrepiece was never telegraphed ahead of time. It wasn’t a big thing that everyone was waiting for. It was a complete surprise. So
when it happened, the arena erupted like a volcano. There has never been an event in WWE history that quite so bothered the Richter scale. Hogan goes home the champion and all is right with the world. Sure, the story almost seems to demand Andre’s ascension to the title, but the stars never quite aligned for that to be the pay off. The slam heard around the world is the perfect cap off to as perfect night of wrestling as wrestling can get.
ALL OTHER ‘MANIAS CHASE THE QUALITY OF THIS ONE Yeah, ok. WWE has produced better WrestlManias since. But all of them did so by chasing the quality of this one. The build, the patience, the timing and the consequences of all of this violence made for a memorable night with moments that we could all believe in. That sounds a simple way to define something that takes months of planning and millions of dollars to make. But when you get right down to it, that’s all they need to do to make a great WrestleMania. I hope they can do it again this April.
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APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 31
Taking training to the next level - Never miss a shot with Kornercam www.kornercam.com | Tweet @kornercam | Info@kornercam.com
WORDS: SHANE BAYLISS
PHOTO: ERIN SIMKIN
W E I V INTER
H S I TR S U T A STR
A G O Y D N A S E I V O M , E W W S E S S U TRISH DISC
32 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
t’s been 10 years since Trish Stratus officially retired from in-ring competition, part of a roster of female wrestlers that revolutionised the WWF/E Women’s division. One has to argue that without the exploits of Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria and others, the likes of Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and current champ Charlotte would never have received the opportunities they enjoy today. We were lucky enough to be granted some time with Trish, who was more than happy to discuss everything from coming up through the ranks in the WWE and retiring as champion, to the current situation in the Stratusphere.
we get into meat and bones of the
interview, did you watch
RAW? Do you manage on top of the ‘product’? What do of Shane O’Mac coming back?
I actually missed Fastlane but I did hear about the hoopla on Monday night. I put [my son] Max to bed, and I went to get my phone. There was just a plethora of texts like “OMG” and “Holy shit, did you see that?” so it figures this happens the one time I don’t watch it. I haven’t even been able to catch up yet, we’ve been busy with so many things, but I will be watching it tonight. It’s funny because me and my husband looked at each other and were like, does Shane still have the pop factor? Because the kids are so young now. They’ll be like “Who’s this guy and why are we cheering for him? But everyone else is so we will.”
lot of people on the internet have been
back, but he won’t wrestle.
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 33
TRISH STRATUS elect someone to compete of his behalf.”
and watch some of the old stuff
Shane O’Mac can like nobody else.”
Yeah, when he decides he’s in, he’s 100% in!
in the lead-up to WrestleMania, every PPV is an opportunity to surprise fans and gets fans more invested in the product.
felt, my body was looking slamming, I was like “wow, I need to share this secret with the world”, so I decided to open up Stratusphere.
Stratusphere opened in 2008 and from there all the brands started growing. During my first film I had to be this bounty hunter, but I had a very skinny and lean body, so I realised I had to go and train and re-sculpt to suit the role. So I went back to the dojo
at your website, you’ve got
your fingers in a lot of pies. though you’ve stopped
Even wrestling, it
will put money on him coming off
the top of that
like you’ve slowed down at all.
I am with you on that, for sure.
is the main focus because
is looking better!
you’ve got the film
There you go, mission accomplished. After the segment Monday night, they were hoping people would come away saying exactly what you just said. They’ve done it again!
That scenario would suggest that Vince might be ready to hand over creative control to Shane and this storyline creates an organic way for
to do that.
Oh yeah, and then will be it be HHH or Shane? They never fail to surprise even me! I never know what to expect
which is due out soon, and then the yoga enterprise.
Well my yoga brand is Stratusphere. It started in 2008 and from there it sort of organically grew. I retired in 2006 and I dabbled in some television work, I produced my own travel show so I got my hands in those pies for the television side of things. I did my first film in 2012 called Bounty Hunters. I loved the experience because the go to question when you leave wrestling is always, “are you going to go into acting now?” I love it but I’m not actively pursuing it. I’ve always dabbled in business. So thinking “what’s my future” I fell in love with yoga. During my wrestling career I had a herniated disk in my back which you might remember, I was supposed to have surgery, I decided not to, I went to physio therapy, it didn’t help and then yoga completely cured me. It changed my life, change my career as a performer. So when I retired in 2006 I dived right into it, I travelled around the world and worked with different teachers and just fell in love with it more. I was feeling the best I’d ever
34 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
and learned Krav Maga because that’s what my character learns. I developed this routine which was basically weight training and callisthenic movements and yoga poses that I put into a flow. So that turned into a thing at the yoga studio and I ended up producing a DVD for that. I also created this glove – which was a weighted yoga fitness glove – that had a grip so you don’t slide when you’re practicing, and it is also a weight so you get your resistance training at the same time. That was
PHOTO: ERIN SIMKIN
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 35
TRISH STRATUS PHOTO: WWE, INC.
haven’t taken a vacation in years, I take breaks but I never really feel the need to get away from ‘this’, I love it. I’ve managed to build a great team, and in the meantime, yes I’ve dabbled in movies. That opportunity arose after chatting with Adam (Copeland aka Edge). We were in Halifax and he was filming a show out there. He was on Twitter like “are you here dude?” So we met and he was filming a show called Haven and he said “you should just go for it!” He gave me the name of his agent and we met and connected right away, two weeks later an amazing opportunity presented itself on my agent’s desk before we’d even signed a deal.
I spent my whole career making that title mean something the start of Stratusphere Living, a line of yoga and fitness products, so we have everything form yoga blocks, yoga straps, we have a weight training set; there is a whole set of fitness and training accessories. I have three DVD’s in the range so far, and have a fourth one in production. It was all really organic. The main message has always been to spread health and fitness. We’ve expanded to have personal training services and we have a roster of people to do corporate yoga and retreats, it all turned into a nice business. It kept me busy building the brand and increasing awareness. I’ve had great advantage, especially in Canada where the media always wanted to know what Trish was up to next, so everybody wanted to hear about my new enterprises. There is no such thing as over working for me, I love it, I
36 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
He was like “I have this role, it’s an action film called Gridlocked with Danny Glover and Dominic Purcell, and Stephen Lange, where you play the role for a tough ass action chick. Are you up for it?” and I was like “err, yeah!” I’d never even auditioned in my life before, and I was lucky enough to get the gig and a great opportunity. So I’ve managed to keep my brand going and expand a little bit into the acting world, and at the same time finding enough balance to do the best job that I have which is be a Mom. I had two years with little Max and then I finally sent him off to school in October so now I have a little bit more time to continue being busy.
at the cast for
Gridlocked, Vinnie Jones
He was such a nice guy, everyone was so awesome and I was kind of like the newbie on set which was scary, the only chick on set actor wise. But I thought “you know what I’m used to this” I’ve always been a part of the boys club, I just had to hold my own and show that I belonged.
seems as though it was a very natural move into film,
are you now in a position where if something comes up you’ll look at it, but you aren’t going searching?
You know yeah, I do love it. I love the experience, I love the challenge. What I loved doing in WWE is that you are producing moments, you go and have a ten or fifteen minute segment that you are responsible for in the two/ three hour show. I loved producing moments, and I’d like my move making to the same thing. I love fighting first of
PHOTO: MATT ROBERS
all, and I get fired up talking about it. I loved learning Krava Maga for Bounty Hunters, it was exciting for me to learn a new discipline. The fight scenes are just so sick. When we did the scenes everyone was like “oh my god, are you okay” because they’ve never seen an actor go so hard and all out, usually there is a stunt person and it’s all smoke and mirrors right? I was like “No, this is what I do. I’m good” and they were like “that’s awesome, that looked so real.”
roll back the years a little,
looking at your website you post a lot of links to the
making sure fans can find your matches still.
WWE is my family. We have had a great relationship through my career and post career we’ve had a great relationship as well. I’m considered alumni and I will always acknowledge my past. They are the ones that got me the Trish Stratus name. When I retired I was able to pursue business opportunities that were presented to me because of the notoriety I created in the WWE. I have my fitness fans who don’t care if we post a story about who’s going to be Team Bestie No. 3, but there are some fans that really, really dig that. The first time I had fans was in 1998 which was my first muscle mag cover. So my career began with Robert Kennedy of Muscle Magazine, and he slapped me on the cover and said “this is the newest hottest fitness model” and I was because he said so, I was given the ball and I ran with it. He taught me very early on “you have fans now, we need to capitalise on that” so I created a PO Box and from 1999 started my company Stratus Enterprises. To this day I still get fan mail that I read. I always said to people “I might not get back to you, or it might take a few months, but I
will always read it.” Being down to earth and communicating with fans is key, and being able to relate to them because they are the ones who make me.
What did it mean to you to be Women’s champion, helping to put Women’s wrestling back on the map? Also, what did it mean retiring on that title? Obviously it was an honour, I always thought “is this bubble going to pop?” because I couldn’t believe it, it was too good to be true. It’s funny because it has helped cement my legacy and how you remember me. You remember that final match, my name will be synonymous with the Women’s Championship, and I believe that because of those moments it will be for many years to come. It was really special, I spent my whole career making that title mean something, not that it didn’t before, don’t get me wrong. We knew that when Chyna had left the company there was no women’s division and we were charged with this task of
rebuilding it. Of course, it was put on me for the first time and I was the newbie and the underdog. “Your the women’s champion, show us what you’ve got,” so I had a huge responsibility to live up to people expectations. Luckily I had Fit Finley to work with, and all the girls who at that point were all really excited to make this mean something. We knew what we were capable of as athletes, we just had to re-educate the fans what women were capable of in the ring. There was certainly a preconceived notion of what a female athlete could do. We might not even have been called female athletes! So we had to prove people what we got. It was a big turning point when finally Victoria and I turned the “we want puppies chants” into “holy shit” chants. We were really excited about that. Much like I said in my Hall of Fame speech, I was a part of it, it was something we all did. I didn’t make the division, we had the opportunity to build that and thankfully we had the commitment of the fans that followed us along that journey and stuck with us, and
APRIL 2O15 STEELCHAIR 37
TRISH STRATUS through some of the crappy matches I might have had in the beginning. But they got behind me and knew that I was trying my hardest It’s interesting now when I look back, because I don’t know how the fans knew I was working so hard, there wasn’t social media or some reality show on the side, but people just knew. People could see I was busting my ass, but I don’t know how. Perhaps you could just see my change in the ring. I would like to think week-on-week there was some improvement that people could see, that’s why I had that connection with the fans because they got to grow with me in the ring. I don’t know how many people have had that opportunity to be shitty at first and be vulnerable, you could feel them saying “it’s okay, pick yourself up, dust yourself, you can do this girl,” that was the energy I felt. They watched me evolve and watched me get better, they watched me turn into this character that they knew and understood for the beginning, they knew my determination, they knew how I thought, so it was a pretty unique situation that lets me have this close connection with them. After I retired there was this kind of lull in the Diva’s division. Every interview I did it was like “the Diva’s division is shit right now, what do you think?” There was just something that was not clicking at that point. However, if you sit down and look at the wrestlers, there is was a roster of talent that could work. Maybe there wasn’t the right story lines, but the talent was certainly there. You had Beth, Laycool – those two girls were amazing – you had Nattie teaming up with Beth doing their thing. Who else was there? Melina has always had a strong in-ring presence and I think Micky was there too, so I feel bad when I say it was a crappy time for the Diva’s division. It’s a knock on the girls, they were trying to do their part, they just weren’t getting the time. Like when Gail Kim came back and wasn’t used well at all. She’s awesome and she did some amazing stuff at TNA, and I just
thought “what a waste,” I couldn’t believe it. If you have Gail Kim there and she’s not your number one star dazzling the fans every week on your television show, there is a problem somewhere. My point is, there was a lull, and it was between creative not creating characters and storylines people could get behind. Now Trish Stratus; she had an outfit, she was very established with her cowboy hat and her trench coat, there was a very established look that I had, and Amy had a very certain look. Ivory always wore purple; I wouldn’t dare wear purple that was her thing. Every character has a look and you need to replicate it in a Halloween costume. That’s kind of how I looked at it. Like I would name every move that I did just about. They just weren’t really defining themselves, and the cool thing is that now, that’s what I’m seeing! There is definitely a sense of “this is what she wears, this is her character.” It is a technicolour show in there right now, which is definitely cool. I think that is helping, because you can identify with them, you can pick your favourite one, you know who this girl is, you know what their move set is and I think that is what was missing in that time.
feel like in that period, the women were
protected a little bit.
PHOTO: STEVE APOSTLE
38 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
put you through a
Because first and foremost the PG era wouldn’t allow it, but I don’t know if they were protected. I think it was that they weren’t treating them as equal characters on the show. Back in the day we’d have a hardcore match, but then so would the guys. When we had that hardcore match we knew we were being treated as equals. I remember when I took that chair shot, we were like “we can do what the guys do, watch this.” But in the PG era they were just girls on the show. They weren’t characters or athletes. But now there is a different focus, maybe it is from someone
and the work they
are doing down at
ever considered joining there and imparting
I have not had the opportunity to. We’ve talked about it a couple of times; me going down to NXT but it didn’t work out. It is something I’d love to do. Matt and I have talked about me going down and chatting with the girls and just hanging out for a couple of days. Obviously I’m in Canada, but if I was in Orlando I’d be training with those girls for sure. It is something I’d love to do. During Tough Enough it was fun to be able to pass on the knowledge that I gained as a performer. It’s awesome what they’ve got going on there, to me that’s why the girls are so great. The girls are so good because they’ve had numerous matches with each other, they are solid with each other, they have solid move-sets, no developing a new move everyday where they go out and try in that night. They have their stuff together, they know how to get a reaction, they’ve performed in front of crowds and it definitely shows. They are new girls, but they are seasoned, and it makes a huge difference, so I love what they are doing I think it is amazing, I know they do promo work down there, so the performance centre is just the best idea and the women’s division right now is an example of how well it is working.
we go, a couple of quick
fire questions. moment in
PHOTO: MATT ROBERTS
inside. We know HHH cares about the women’s division right now, which is sometimes what it needs.
Favourite your career?
Probably my retirement. Bitter sweet moment, but retiring as Women’s
Natalya is underrated, underused and undervalued champion, in my home town of Toronto, with my bestie in the match. Didn’t like that I was leaving, but I was excited about my next chapter.
I probably say this in every interview, but I really would love to work with Nattie. I think that she’s an amazing athlete and I think she is very underrated and under used and under valued. I’d love to have the chance to work a kick-ass programme that would get people engaged and people interested, and culminated to some amazing match with a Canadian reference in there, there would be some Sharpshooters and some pink and black, Bret would probably be involved. That would be a kick-ass thing to do, but yeah just wrestling with her would be pretty awesome.
match of you career?
There are two. My last match is one of them because of the meaning behind it, but I’d also have to put mine and Mickey James’ match at WrestleMania XXII. One of my favourite matches, the reaction of that match speaks volumes; just the storylines and characters we had developed and how the fans were behind us. I think the crowd involvement was as high as any of the other matches on the card and I think that is a testament to our hard work. Women didn’t usually have that four to six months of storyline development just to have it culminate at WrestleMania, so it was pretty good. Just a quick third mention, mine and Amy [Dumas’] main event Raw match which was pretty awesome. How about you change the question to top three matches?
there was one competitor past
or present you wish you could have competed against, who would it have been?
Huge thanks to Trish for taking an hour out of her busy schedule to talk to us, and Gridlocked will be distributed via Magnet Releasing in the very near future. Keep an eye on www.trishstratus. com
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 39
WORDS: LIAM O’ROURKE
10 UNDERRATED WRESTLEMANIA MATCHES
ver the years, the WWE’s
short of its desired intentions, there are
two bonafide diamonds in the rough.
has seen a number
The first is the match most consider to
of genuinely classic
be the first great WrestleMania match,
encounters. While there
pitting the British Bulldogs against The
is no question that the atmospherics
Dream Team, a well-paced corker with a
and very nature of the event raises the
rabid crowd going crazy for the Bulldogs’
potential ceiling several notches, and can
offense. The other is this forgotten gem.
elevate the standing of great matches in people’s memories more so than if
Terry Funk puts on a terrific one man
it took place on any other given Sunday
show bumping all over the place with
or Monday, it can’t be denied that some
all your favourite Funk shenanigans at
of the better matches in the history
ringside, and makes what could be a
of the industry have taken place at
throwaway on a card filled with them
into one that warrants a rewatch or two. JYD, flawed as he was, was hugely over
But this works both ways, as there
(and overly huge), and the tag match
have also been a litany of tremendous
setting really suited him perfectly at this
matches that, for whatever reason, are
stage. Not only that, but his partner,
brushed over with a rather standard
Tito Santana, is just fantastic, and
level of praise. With so many striving for
may well be the definition of a “Lost in
perfection on the grandest stage, it only
Translation” great worker that fans that
feels fair to look at the matches that,
came along later in the 80s boom will
lauded or fondly remembered as they
remember as good but nothing special,
may be, don’t get the kudos this writer
based his later efforts. But 1986 was a
feels they deserve. And if you want to
tremendous year for Tito, whose ongoing
look at some other encounters this Mania
MSG series with Randy Savage was
season beyond the most famous main
electrifying and similarly underrated in its
events or heralded epics, try some of
these on for size. Regardless, it really is all about Funk
Terry and Hoss Funk Vs. Junkyard Dog and Tito Santana
for me in this one, and on a show with
WrestleMania 2, 1986
that wasn’t as good as the Bulldogs’
not much to cling to, this deserves better than being grouped with the rest of the schlock as “just another match” championship win. Check it out, I’m
While WrestleMania 2 is largely a poor
confident you’ll feel the same.
show (the first six matches being nothing short of an unmitigated disaster) with an overly ambitious production that fell
40 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
British Bulldogs/ Tito Santana Vs.
Hart Foundation/ Danny Davis WrestleMania III,1987 Tito’s second appearance on the list. Completely overshadowed by the spectacle of Hogan Vs. Andre and the wrestling masterclass of Savage Vs. Steamboat is this six man encounter, which is just a ton of fun. The story was set up so well with Danny Davis siding with the Harts in their controversial tag title victory over Dynamite and Davey Boy, and the pure coincidence of Santana losing his title to Macho Man in shady circumstances with Davis as ref allowed them to shoehorn him into the story as well. Whether you wish to chuckle at Jesse Ventura dognapping Matilda in the funniest standalone three second clip in wrestling history, relish the pure heat of Davis’ classic “walk in, hit two stomps on the downed Bulldog and swagger back out” act, or marvel in the blistering ovations when Davis finally gets caught and absolutely obliterated by Smith, this is the perfect midcard match. A hot story, over performers, fun action, and the crowd goes up and down before they get a finish that keeps the heat. I don’t want this article to be a vehicle to gripe about the modern day by any means, but this match does illustrate that if you dedicate time to a midcard story and build it properly, it will work for everybody. Today, so many of the guys at this level on the card are thrown together without a story being properly set up,
Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar was the first main event at WrestleMania to feature two wrestlers using their real names
PHOTO: JOHN MCKEON
and as a result there’s little emotional
the match itself, and as much as I
talent overcoming the odds again
attachment to the rather random
desperately wanted to not like this
before, of all poetic ironies, Jimmy Hart
matches they end up in. This is one of
match based on Knobbs and Sags being
becomes the reason for the end of the
the matches I feel perfectly sums up what
involved, I can’t deny how fun it is.
Foundation’s final tag title reign.
to be a true classic. Even Mary Hart on
The crowd is rabid for the Harts early,
commentary isn’t bad, believe it or not.
rally behind them when it’s time to get
Ric Flair Vs. Randy Savage
professional wrestling is without having
the heat, and are buying into it all the
Hart Foundation Vs. Nasty Boys WrestleMania 7, 1991 I hated the Nasty Boys as a kid. They were a combination of unentertaining enough for me to not look forward to seeing them, to rowdy and obnoxious enough for me to enjoy them when they took a shit kicking. And bless them, as I’ve gotten older, I can accept they took a good shit kicking, and at rather random points, had a handful of very enjoyable matches. The brawls with Cactus Jack, Halloween Havoc 90 with the Steiner Brothers, and this. Bret Hart is the mastermind behind
way when it’s time to dispense some textbook Foundation double team moves in the home stretch. While I hate that the Nastys were the team to unseat the Harts (it should have been Power & Glory, and was originally supposed to be, before Vince scooped the Nasties after the aforementioned Steiners match, since WCW didn’t bother to get them under contract), at least the Hitman and the Anvil went out with a bang here. Without a doubt, this show belonged to Savage and Warrior, and don’t sleep on Rockers Vs. Haku/Barbarian either. But this is easily overlooked given the participants, and gives you everything you want from the roughhousing, no-talent bums being outshined, cheating to get the advantage,
WrestleMania 8, 1992 This is no hidden gem sitting on the undercard, folks, this is the WWF World Championship match. But when great matches get talked about, the absolute achievement that is this encounter falls by the wayside, and tragically so. Featuring a brilliant set-up, it’s almost as if all the bells and whistles surrounding this match - the “she was mine before she was yours” storyline, the post-match antics and memorable promos, as well as the Elizabeth run-in late in the game and Flair wearing the crimson mask, have swallowed the bulk of the match whole in people’s minds. But the match itself is a breath-taking rollercoaster of near falls.
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 41
UNDERRATED Flair bleeding on his own accord is a famous story, but it again
Steve Austin Vs. The Rock
ignores that the crowd is at a fever pitch for much of the match,
(WrestleMania 15, 1999)
on their feet as Randy comes close several times to toppling the Nature Boy. But Flair brings everybody down to earth with the Figure Four, the fans’ hearts in their mouths as Savage struggles to survive and forges ahead. Even the most cynical fan would see Perfect handing off the foreign object to Flair, who scores with the right hand, as a surefire finish. But it’s not to be, and in a nice thread, Savage grabs a handful of tights to cheat to win, beating Flair at his own game, the Hoosier Dome erupting at the third count. It isn’t the spectacle of Hogan Vs. Warrior, but it’s by far the best WWF Title match of the first eleven Manias, and depending on the day, very possibly beyond that too.
Ahmed Johnson/LOD Vs. The Nation Of Domination
The saving grace of an awful show. 1999 lands smack dab in the middle of a period of time that a lot of wrestling fans hold in high reverence as the all-time peak, and is a stinker of an event, kept from the scrap heap only on the merits of how over Steve Austin and The Rock were, and how perfect this match was for what they wanted to achieve. Cast your mind back, wrestling fans, to the summer long story of 1998, Undertaker and Kane possibly being in cahoots. The story weaved in and out, up and down, until it was finally revealed that, in fact, it was true. Then the match came, Highway to Hell, incredible build and promotion...and it was like the build never happened and didn’t mean a thing. Here, you get everything. The twists, the turns, the ref bumps. Vince’s involvement. Mankind returning to referee the match as
WrestleMania 13, 1997
he’d vowed to do. The corporate heel champion losing to the
This show is pure shit. Feeling like any other Pay-Per-View on
Stone Cold standing tall, one foot on the fallen boss’ chest, title
the calendar, it’s one of the poorest excuses for a Mania card
belt and beer held overhead in victory, the Philly crowd going
you’ll see this side of 9 and 11. But with that said, the general
red-hot Austin, and the night ending with the superb visual of
sentiment that it’s a one match card, a putrid turd of an event saved only by the all-time classic of Austin Vs. Hart, is a bit of a
And beyond the booking that was inch perfect, the match itself
slight to what is a very fun, chaotic Chicago Street Fight.
is largely unheralded, but it’s such a blast. It’s not on par with the excellent WrestleMania 17 main event, but it seems swept
What may harm this in people’s minds is just how commonplace
under the rug along with the guts of 1999 (a year that doesn’t
matches like this ended up becoming over the course of the
hold up well on reflection), and really shouldn’t be. Austin is as
following three years. But Ahmed Johnson’s war with the
intense and on the money as always, and Rock is right there
Nation was a hot issue in early 97, and this is one of only two highlights in this WWF run for the Road Warriors (the other being the Canadian Stampede). It’s plunder, garbage cans, table breaking, fire extinguishers, bodies flying, an absolute clusterfuck of a fight. But there’s a fun, raucous dynamic in play, as it isn’t contrived enough to not feel like a fight, and the gimmicks used were still very novel at this point in time. Is it a classic for the ages? Not even close, but if you ever check out this show on the Network for the obvious five-star match, sit back with a cherry coke and chuckle at the insanity that ensues, including Faarooq taking a ridiculous bump from the second rope to the floor in the background that legitimately injured him, PG-13 taking a Double Doomsday device, and a colossal failure of a piledriver from Animal. But it’s authentic feeling, the Chicago crowd eats it up, and it hits the spot. Oh, and Ahmed coming out in the LOD spikes is a great visual.
42 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
Mr T nearly bottled his appearance at WM 1
Hulk Hogan Vs. Vince McMahon WrestleMania 19, 2003 It’s funny I’d put this here, given how
JESSE VENTURA DOGNAPPING MATILDA IS THE FUNNIEST THREE SECONDS IN WRESTLING
disgusted I was that this match took the lion’s share of the promotion on TV going in, over matches with Rock Vs. Austin and Angle Vs. Lesnar, and as a result is responsible for the most disappointing Mania buyrate of the era (McMahon has historically always under delivered as a Pay-Per-View draw). But the match delivered way above even the loftiest of expectations. While Michaels and Jericho is regarded as the showstealer, and there are a litany of memorable matches scattered throughout the show, without a doubt this was the match that got the most crowd heat. And sure, it’s the match with all the bells, whistles and shortcuts: double juice, table breaking, crooked refs, the surprise return of Roddy Piper and weapons galore, but it doesn’t matter, it works tremendously.
While people will vividly remember the
that they go back to, as Angle gets
incredible camera shot of Vince rising
increasingly frustrated that no matter
from behind the ring apron covered in
how things go, he keeps winding up in
blood in wrestling’s “Here’s Johnny!”
this elementary move. It builds slowly
moment, they’ll forget the rest of the
until Angle forces the referee to pull
effort that went in to make this such a
Shawn into a position where he can get a
fun piece of wrestling theatre. Hogan is
cheap shot, and immediately goes for the
Hogan, but Vince is clearly willing to do
ankle lock, at which point the pace picks
whatever it takes to have an entertaining
match here, and to his credit, it is. The Angle Slam into the ringpost, a first, Is it one step away from the sad attempts
is the perfect hinge point, playing on
at nostalgia we’d see from the likes of
history, and allowing Kurt to rattle off
Hogan and Ric Flair in TNA? Yes, but
suplexes and work on Shawn. But it’s not
it’s not at that level yet. There are other
enough, and Shawn overcomes it, making
examples of the “overbooked mess”
his trademark rally.
type of match in Mania history that are better, but they get their just due. This
there, the sequence of near falls is
one doesn’t, likely because of the names
brilliant, as Shawn constantly seems on
involved, but while it’s no classic, this
the verge of defeat, the Top Rope Angle
was a true miracle.
Slam on the injured back almost certainly the finish, but no. The surprise superkick
Shawn Michaels Vs. Kurt Angle WrestleMania 21, 2005 The polar opposite of the previous match in almost every way. Some people will be surprised to see this, but by the end, hopefully you won’t. It’s considered a great match, after all, how can it be underrated? Because it’s not appreciated just how great this is. Clocking in at more than 27 minutes, we get the wonderful start of Shawn Michaels slapping Kurt in the face, prompting him to go all Olympic on HBK and proving his superiority. Until Shawn grabs a headlock. A simple headlock
and slow kick out is topped in the drama stakes by Kurt locking on the Ankle Lock, and we get one of the best, more tense finishes in WrestleMania history, as Shawn is eventually trapped when Kurt grapevines the leg, and HBK plays puppet master, dangling the fans emotions up and down as he gets closer to giving up, before it’s clear there is no other way, and he taps out. This match came after the first (and best) Money In The Bank and a very good Orton/Undertaker match. What I love about it is that, when it starts, the crowd is with them, but it’s clear they need to be sucked in. As the match goes on, the slow start draws them in enough to when the match explodes, and we get the very
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 43
UNDERRATED original moments and key spots, they’re with everything exactly as they are supposed to be. After 27 minutes, Shawn and Kurt
Money In The Bank
and lying on the mat in the ankle lock, and all Shawn has to
WrestleMania 24, 2008
do is raise his hand to tease the tap, and the crowd is ready to blow. That’s success. Two world class pros doing what they do
The last great Money In The Bank match at WrestleMania. While
perfectly. It’s one of my favourite matches in Mania history, and
the first is lauded as best, and rightly so, this was an absolutely
isn’t talked about nearly enough as a classic.
chaotic affair that deserves a spot on the rewatch list as being underrated. With the litany of Money In The Bank matches, as
Shawn Michaels Vs. John Cena
well as the midcard glut of the past eight years and repetitious
WrestleMania 23, 2007
treatment of the winner, the concept has become redundant. But this was still when the match meant a great deal, a seven
Another great Shawn Michaels performance that doesn’t get
man battle after the originally entered Jeff Hardy (who was
mentioned when great main events get brought up, but damn
scheduled to win) was pulled after failing a Wellness test.
well should. People were very surprised by the chemistry of Undertaker and Batista at this event, and it was a very good
Shelton Benjamin and John Morrison really clock in fantastic
match, but by no means was it better that this.
individual efforts here, and Chris Jericho is great as the glue to keep things together. While the MITB at Mania 21 was
might be that
and 22 was
with both this
and the Angle
this is just a
match, there is no sense of wider relevance to them. The industry didn’t change, and
THE LAST GREAT MONEY IN THE BANK MATCH AT WRESTLEMANIA
spectacular collection of car crash moments, but isn’t as egregious
the effect it had
as it’s later
in being as
negligible in the long run, so these matches aren’t remembered
choreographed and set-up beyond question, and the surprise
as any kind of key moment in Mania folklore.
outcome of CM Punk being the one to lift the briefcase at the end was the perfect capper to a match very easily lost to
But what a match. While athletically, Shawn peaked pre-1998
history, but really does deserve a second glance.
injury, his match layouts were much more layered during the second half, and the finishing stretch of the match is superb,
Shelton Benjamin’s bump over the top rope through a ladder
in particular Shawn landing on his feet for the FU, going for
alone is something that has no business whatsoever being
the Superkick and getting caught in an STF attempt, only to
reverse that with a heart-stopping cradle for a near fall. Despite the outcome feeling like a foregone conclusion in many ways,
In closing, stick these ten matches on a DVD, or pull them up
given the nature of Shawn’s status at the time, there was a
on the WWE Network, sit back and enjoy. You’ll soon realise
great sense of urgency and doubt thrown in that holds up very
that while we all love to point to the legendary matches that
well. Shawn mixing things up with an Asai moonsault and his
are promoted to the hilt after the fact, scratching beneath the
old piledriver on the steel stairs is captivating, as he pulls out
surface ever so slightly brings a lot more depth to things, and
every stop to win the gold.
serves as a lovely reminder of the variety professional wrestling can dish up.
To his credit, Cena does well as the drama unfolds, and really comes into his own during this series with Michaels, and the frequency of his quality performances picks up around this time. If you want to watch a truly great, well crafted World Title match at Mania, this is on the list.
44 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
"Featuring interactive roundtable discussions on prowrestling, including the Monday Night War Timeline series, the SCG Trials, current events analysis and random topics a melting pot of opinion, wisdom and humour"
WORDS: BRENDAN MCELENY | PHOTOS: MIKE KALASNIK
, L A D I C I SU
, L A D I C I HOM , L A D I C O GEN
G N I Y F E D – DEATH
? G N I R E H T F O D N E LEG
U B SA
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 47
G? N I R E H T F O LEGEND
U B A S ’ve been really interested in the idea of the
Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose match at WrestleMania this year and with Dean Ambrose receiving the barbed wire baseball bat from Mick Foley it got me thinking of how
hardcore wrestling has changed on television. The No Holds Barred stipulation works well for both styles of fighter in this WrestleMania match however I’ve recently been debating if we can even call a No Holds Barred match a No Holds Barred match in WWE television especially? If you look at No
ECW by defeating Terry Funk to win the ECW World Heavyweight
Holds Barred matches in the past 10 years they have changed
Championship and the ECW World Television Championship in
massively. I get that it may come down to age ratings and
a title versus title dream partner tag team match. Also, he was
viewership WWE supplies for but in my opinion the WWE has
a part in the three way dance for the ECW World Heavyweight
trimmed the No Holds Barred match or even Extreme Rules
Championship at The Night the Line Was Crossed, against Terry
matches to one kendo stick, one chair, one table, one ladder
Funk and Shane Douglas, which went to a one-hour time limit
and one sledgehammer. Many gruesome objects to be used but
draw and his tag team feud with The Public Enemy in which
if you compare the anything goes matches we see now to the
Sabu and his partner The Tazmaniac captured the ECW World
ones that may have been aired in the late 90’s then there has
Tag Team Championship in a double tables match. Another
been a clear magic stolen from our very eyes. They are indeed
notable event occurred in April 1995 when, after being scheduled
still as more violent than a normal match but a few hits with
for a three-way dance for the ECW World Tag Team title, Sabu
a kendo stick is nothing compared to a full on blood bath with
no–showed the event to accept a booking in Japan for New Japan
barbed wire. If you look at ECW in the late 90’s and one man
Pro Wrestling (NJPW), which led Paul Heyman to publicly and
in particular that set the bar high for the use of weapons in a
legitimately fire Sabu at the event. Sabu stated in the Forever
match I think it is clear to say today’s product has nothing on
Hardcore documentary that he had a career wrestling in Japan
what was seen before. I’m talking of Sabu, a man that changed
yet only wrestled once every so often for ECW; thus, he chose
the landscape of extreme wrestling. There is no doubt that
Japan over ECW.
without Sabu, ECW would not have been able to display its full
After a short stint in WCW, Sabu returned to ECW where he
potential of adult content. His death defying skills and willing
would stay until 2000. One of Sabu’s most infamous matches
personality to destroy his body in the ring for those watching
was the No-Rope Barbed-Wire match with Terry Funk at Born to
gave Paul Heyman more creative control to expand his extreme
be Wired, a match which was promoted as being “too extreme
empire. There is no doubt that Sabu contributed to making the
even for ECW”; both men bled profusely, and Funk nearly lost
hardcore style one of the most must see styles of professional
his life. In one of the most memorable moments in ECW history,
Sabu attempted the “Air Sabu” corner splash on Funk, Terry moved and Sabu ended up colliding violently into the wire
SABU – CAREER HIGHLIGHTS Sabu debuted in ECW in 1993. With his Hannibal Lector gimmick style, Sabu was known as a silent assassin who would refuse to speak in his early days and had an obsession with breaking tables during matches. Despite matches not needing a table spot, Sabu would intentionally break tables with his own body before being restrained by his bodyguard 911. The most significant matches during the early part of Sabu’s career in
which tore open his biceps .He then asked his manager Bill Alfonso for some tape and after Alfonso went to get some Sabu began to tape the gash up which was about 10 inches long. Funk has stated that, to this day, he has never seen anything like what Sabu did that night. The match ended with both men so badly tangled up together in the barbed wire that it took several ring technicians armed with wire cutters to free them from the predicament (on the DVD Bloodsport – ECW’s Most Violent Matches released by World Wrestling Entertainment,
the injury at Taz’s hands; by Brunk’s account, however, he started actively wrestling in Japan with his partner on a short tour a little over two weeks after that injury. Brunk
TOP 5 SABU MATCHES
departed from ECW for the final time in early 2000 after refusing to put over Super Crazy. Sabu spent a year with
WWE between 2006 and 2007 where he would fight Rey Mysterio for the World
VS. SHANE DOUGLAS VS. TERRY FUNK THE NIGHT THE LINE WAS CROSSED
A lengthy match which had nonstop thrills from start to finish.
Heavyweight Championship at One Night Stand, a match that would end in a no contest. Throughout his year with WWE, Sabu feuded with John Cena and Big Show Paul Heyman said that the match was
as well as featuring on the
“so gruesome, I never ever dared to
WrestleMania 23 card alongside the
schedule another one like it”, and that
ECW Originals to take on New Breed
they never had another Barbed-Wire
in a math which saw Sabu’s team win.
match in ECW because “no one could
While ECW, now branded under WWE,
top that one – and in good conscience,
ran on the ScFY network, Sabu was in
I never wanted anyone to try”) but
the main event on the majority of their
Sabu said during an interview that
tapings until his release in May, 2007.
Heyman wanted to do another BarbedWire match, but Sabu would ask for more money each time. Brunk racked up an astounding catalog of injuries during his ECW tenure, including broken ribs, a broken jaw, and breaking his neck twice. The first time he broke his neck was during his match with Chris Benoit at the 1994 November to Remember. Benoit threw Sabu with the intention that he would take a flapjack bump but Brunk attempted to turn mid-air and take a back body drop bump instead, which he was not able to do and landed on his head causing the injury. The other was during a match against Taz in December 1998, when Brunk took a Taz–Plex through a table and landed incorrectly. Brunk was able to recover from the neck injuries and return to wrestling, and he even wore a neck brace in his return match in the United States a month following
WHERE IS SABU NOW? In recent years Sabu has featured on the independent circuit. On January 14, 2012, Sabu returned to the former ECW Arena, when he defeated Justin Credible at an Evolve event in the venue’s final professional wrestling event. In 2013 Sabu completed a UK tour, wrestling for a number of
VS. TAZ BARELY LEGAL
A grudge match which saw Sabu go against one of his best enemies.
VS. REY MYSTERIO ONE NIGHT STAND, 2006
An extreme contest mixed with a hot crowd. Two amazing high flyers paired up brilliantly.
VS. TERRY FUNK BORN TO BE WIRED
A gruesome and memorable match in ECW history which was dubbed ‘Too extreme for ECW’.
the UK’s top promotions. During this time, Sabu would fight for the popular uprising Scottish company ICW in a sold out show in Edinburgh where he would take on ICW’s top star at that time Jack Jester. Sabu would return to ICW for a second match in the near future and fight Jester again only this time in an ICW Heavyweight
VS. SANDMAN ECW HOUSE PARTY, 1998
This match is bloody and brutal and showcases everything hardcore about both wrestlers.
Championship match, which Sabu would go onto lose.
APRIL 2016 STEELCHAIR 49
WORDS: IAN STEWART | PHOTO: WWE VIDEO
hen Paul â€˜Triple Hâ€™ Levesque began to wind down his inring career several years ago, its hard to imagine the COO of WWE would be sitting on top of the current roster going into the 100,000 seat AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas to headline WrestleMania 32. In many ways, it will be one of the biggest weekends of his career. As well as headlining which will surely be the most attended pro wrestling event in company history, he will be running the NXT TakeOver event 2 nights before.
50 STEELCHAIR APRIL 2O16
What is sure to be of interest, is the longterm future of the WWE coming out of Takeover and WrestleMania. On one hand you have a card featuring what could be the next crop of superstars you will be seeing on Raw and Smackdown in 2016. Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, Sami Zayn, Austin Aries and a host of others will be the focus of NXT TakeOver, and will surely be looking for a place on the main roster whether it be the night after Mania or sometime within the next 6 months. At WrestleMania on the other hand, HHH is going up against one of his first graduates from the first
NXT system, Roman Reigns. This isnt a Randy Orton or Chris Jericho type main event for The Game. Reigns is seen by the top brass in the promotion as the next person to carry the good ship WWE. What happens on April 3 will have a major impact on the long term future of the WWE. Will WWE pull the plug on Reigns like they did last year or will they go all the way and hope he catches on? Like his father-in-law before him, Triple H looks to be the puppet master in the modern pro wrestling landscape.
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