The Spotlight On Tommy At The Garden- Survivor Series 2002

2002 has to be the most under rated year for WWE, you had the debuts of John Cena, Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar, you had the in ring returns of Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels and you had one of the most impressive mid cards ever to take place in the WWE. 2002 was also a year in which I attended my first live WWE pay per view when a buddy and myself went to the SummerSlam 2002 at the Nassau Colliseum. I’d say it was the year that I also got really into live pay per views because to me there was nothing like a live pay per view. It was just such a great atmosphere. Thus, when I turned 16 that October I was pleasantly surprised when my parents got me two tickets to the 2002 Survivor Series! This would be my first pay per view ever to come live from Madison Square Garden and to say I was excited was the ultimate understatement. The only question left was who I would take with me to the show. I was heavily involved in my own basement wrestling federation (sad I know) at the time and I already had a blast at SummerSlam with my buddy jimmy but I was suddenly now torn over a few buddies who wanted to come with. After much deliberation, I asked my father to come with me. My father’s interest in wrestling had started to wane but he had taken me to my very first wrestling show at Madison Square Garden so I thought he’d be the perfect person to attend my first pay per view at the garden with.

What was also cool about that birthday was that I had also got an autograph ticket from my family to meet Shawn Michaels in Howard Beach at Video Game Central the night before the Survivor Series. This time my mom was coming with as Shawn was always her favorite wrestler. This was Shawn’s first title match since his return to the WWE at Summerslam of that year and, to me anyway, he was the focal point of that event. It was crazy to have Shawn at this autograph signing only 30 minutes from my house and one of the truly starstruck moments of my life. I remember it was pouring rain and blistering cold out in the November New York weather. Despite this and despite my mother just getting out of surgery, my mother stayed on that line with me and my buddy for three hours to meet Shawn.  Ever the professional, I distinctly remember Shawn telling me after I wished him luck, “Thanks bud, many think I’m nuts to compete in such a big match and honestly I don’t know how many more of these I have in me.”  He went on to wrestle for another 7+ years.

As for the event itself, I remember that this was the first show I had attended at the Garden since 9/11 the year before and the security was insane.  I had to remove my hat, people were being asked randomly to remove their shoes and my dad was asked to remove his cell phone and flip it open (remember flip phones?) for some reason.  It took forever to file into the Garden that night, but once we finally did get in, it was sure worth it. The guys at Busted Open Radio (which airs 2-4pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Sirius/XM 92) actually did a live tweeting of this show last year and it reminded me of what a great show this was, despite the fact that there weren’t any traditional survivor series matches on the show.

From the beginning, the crowd was in an absolute frenzy as Jeff Hardy did one of his famous swanton bombs off the rafters through a table and then later in the same match the Dudleys reunited to great fanfare.

One of the other big things about this show was the debut of Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner who debuted for the company that night following the expiring of his contract from WCW (18 months after WCW closed it’s doors I might add).  I know that Scott’s WWE career at Big Poppa Pump didn’t really go anywhere but go back and watch this debut, he was over huge.  Surrounding that debut was also a lot of fun I remember going nuts because I was a huge Matt Hardy fan (always one of my favorites to this day) and I also loved the RNN News skits which featured Randy Orton promoting his return, he was so good even at 22 years old.

From here ya can’t talk about this show without talking about the Smackdown Six.  This was the peak of the smackdown six,to me, which featured Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, Edge, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Chavo Guerrero.  This, in my opinion was the peak of the WWE midcard in any era and it breaks my heart to think two of the six have tragically passed and 5 of the 6 have mostly retired at this point.

If there was one man in WWE in 2002 that defined the year, it’d perhaps be the same man who’s synonymous with WWE in 2014…Brock Lesnar.  I remember the Garden crowd being so into Brock and at the time he was the WWE champion and still undefeated.  This obviously was the night in which he lost due to Paul Heyman turning on Brock.  That turn stunned the crowd and I remember after Brock hit the F5 people started celebrating thinking it was over only to have Paul yank the referee. To this day, it still amazes me whenever Brock lifts the Big Show with such ease and I can tell you I’m looking forward to their match tonight.

In the end, I remember being really excited for the Elimination Chamber as it was the first Chamber match in history on this show and look at the six men in the match.  A who’s who of hall of fame level talent in Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Kane, Booker T and RVD.  This was the match in which RVD landed a five star frog splash and crushed Triple H’s larynx.  I also remember, other than Shawn, Booker T may have been the most over man in the match.  My father and I had a great time doing the “5 Time!” routine in the crowd with our entire section.  In the end, Shawn Michaels (proving to me he was in fact playing me the night before, which I couldn’t be happier about) won what would end up being his final world title reign in WWE.  As the confetti rained down on Shawn it was probably the best live moment for me as a fan until this past year’s WrestleMania.

All in all just a great and enjoyable show from top to bottom that more than holds up today as so much happened on that show it’s unbelievable to even think.  The show for me is memorable as it was the last show I attended live with my dad who’s interest in the product had really fell off then so it was the end of a 16 year era but what a finale we had.  That’s gonna do it for this review but it’s crazy to think we are gearing up for Lesnar and the Big Show some 13 years later on the Network tonight…and it should be great!

The Spotlight On The WWE Network- SummerSlam: Phenom vs. Beast

With just 13 days until their epic rematch at WWE Summerslam, the WWE Network ran a special last night focusing on the history between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker.  The special, which aired right after Monday Night Raw, featured comments from different WWE superstars and legends about their opinions regarding both the Undertaker and Brock Lesnar and their rematch at Summerslam. Let’s get right into some of the highlights from the piece.

Highlights

1) It Was The Day The Music Died–  The 23 minute long, documentary style piece did a good job of starting with a brief overview of the Undertaker’s undefeated streak from Wrestlemania and how much it meant to the show.  Everyone from Edge to the Big Show to Shawn Michaels (all former opponents of the Undertaker at Wrestlemania) were interviewed on the piece and did a great job in explaining that while you would see titles change hands at Wrestlemania, you would never see the streak broken.  I always enjoy the packages focusing on the Undertaker’s past opponents from the different Wrestlemanias if for no other reason, then to see the difference in the Undertaker and how that character has continued to evolve over the years.  This then transitioned nicely into a piece about what happened when Brock Lesnar broke the Undertaker’s streak.  Being their live for Wrestlemania 30, I can tell you that this moment was undoubtedly the most insane crowd reaction I’ve ever seen.  Dean Ambrose says it best here by saying that in one moment an entire stadium full of people’s jaws dropped in unison. They then show the Undertaker walking off at Wrestlemania 30 as they played an eery rendition of his theme song played on the piano, as everyone wondered if it was the last time we would be seeing the Undertaker.  The crowd shots are really what will make that moment live in infamy (here’s to you incredibly shocked bulging eyes guy)

2) Suplex, Repeat-  From here, the piece did a really nice job of going over Brock Lesnar’s reign of dominance in WWE over the last 18 months following Wrestlemania 30.  Everything from Brock’s win over John Cena at Sumerslam last year to the birth of Suplex City at this past year’s Wrestlemania is covered in depth.  I think the Big Show said it best here when he said “At first you didn’t want to see the streak end but as time went on you thought, well if there was ever going to be anyone to do it, Brock Lesnar would be the guy to do it”.  I also really liked that they had interviews with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, guys who’ve face Lesnar over this span and who gave first hand accounts of what it was like to compete against Brock Lesnar.

3) The Rematch- In the end, the piece leads up to the big return for the Undertaker at Battleground and the brawl between the Undertaker and Brock Lesnar the next night on Raw.  They then turn to a few different superstars to get their thoughts on what this rematch at Summerslam means to both Brock and The Undertaker.  Triple H points out how much this match means to the Undertaker because he has to protect his  legacy, while Paul Heyman explains that this will be the final match for the Undertaker and that Brock Lesnar will finish him for good at Summerslam.  This was a really good idea because it gave the rematch between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker that big match feel that it so truly deserves.  After all if all of these superstars and legends are returning to discuss a match of this magnitude, you should believe it’s a match worth going out of your way to see.

Closing Thoughts

In the end, I thought this piece did a great job in building up the main event of Summerslam.  There isn’t any reason with the WWE Network that they couldn’t put together a special like this for each of their big show main events.  It reminded me, to a certain extent, of the UFC packages they put together to promote a big fight.  I liked that rather than having the two men in the match talk about it, you had their peers discussing the match instead.  Tome part of the appeal of both the Undertaker and Brock Lesnar is their mystique and that you don’t see them as much.  Overall, this was a really strong network specialthat everyone should take the mere 20 minutes to go out of your way to check out.

That’s going to do it for me but I also have a review up of last night’s big Raw from Washington, as well as a piece I did on Slipknot’s Summer’s Last Stand Tour from last week, here in New York.  Check out both of those pieces and let me know what you think. Thanks, as always, for all of your support.

All photos courtesy of the WWE Network

The Spotlight On Attitude Era Raw- 12/29/1997

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of the spotlight on Attitude Era Raw where each week we continue our journey through every episode of Monday Night Raw that took place during the famous Attitude Era as listed on the WWE Network’s Attitude Era Raw section.  Remember the hope is to have these listed for you as you’re waiting for this week’s Raw so that if you’d like to wet your wrestling pallet prior to Raw, you can go back and watch this episode.  This week we journey back to December 29th, 1997 in which Raw took place in the Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.  For what it’s worth, the Nassau Coliseum is my favorite venue to watch a wrestling show, at least it rivals Madison Square Garden.  I have been going to shows at Nassau Coliseum since I was all but five years old in 1991.  With that said, however, I hadn’t gone to any television tapings until the late 1990s so I was not present for this Raw taping. Regardless, this was a really fun and eventful episode of Monday Night Raw so let’s get right into it with the highlights of the show.

Highlights
1) Crapper 3:16-   The highlight of highlights on this show has to be the opening segment featuring the brawl between The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust (Coming to a Do you remember section of this blog near you) and Stone Cold Steve Austin.  TAFKA Goldust comes out as the single most annoying character back then, dressed as the new year’s baby as this was the final Raw of 1997.  This leads to Stone Cold Steve Austin showing up and lowering a porta john from the rafters before throwing Goldust into said porta john.  It’s one of the great Stone Cold Steve Austin memories that I feel gets overlooked because it took place early in his run pre-McMahon feud but to me it’s one of my favorite memories of the Stone Cold character, well worth going out of your way to track down.
2) Jim Cornette’s Rant-  This is an interesting episode of Monday Night Raw because in many ways it’s a transition episode.  This being the final episode of 1997, a year in which WWF lost mostly every week in the Monday Night War and lost Bret Hart in well documented controversial fashion, this is right before the WWF started one of it’s most successful year’s in history, that being 1998.  Thus, in this episode you get a heartfelt thank you from Vince McMahon thanking the fans for sticking by the WWF and also to expect big things from the WWF in 1998.  Also on this episode, in a similar vein, you get a pretty controversial promo from Jim Cornette about the state of wrestling of 1997.  It’s worth taking a few minutes to check out and I’ve embedded the video for you guys above.
3) Shawn Michaels Vs. Owen Hart- The war between Sgt. Slaughter and D-Generation X continued this week as Triple H pulled out of his title match with Owen Hart, due to injury, only to have Sarge declare that Shawn would now have to defend his world title against Owen instead.  This is really a packed show as this was also the night that The Undertaker’s casket arrived to scare Triple H only to have Shawn pop out of the casket dancing to start the build for their match at the Rumble.  As for match quality, I’m trying to give you one each week and, even though there’s a screwy finish, it doesn’t get much better than Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart.  Owen was still super hot at the time as it seemed that perhaps he would be getting that major push towards the world title following the Montreal Screwjob.
Do You Remember…
Chainsaw Charlie?!?!?- This episode of Monday Night Raw won’t only be remembered for the great DX and Stone Cold Steve Austin segments, oh no!  This stacked Raw will also be remembered for the night in which Chainsaw Charlie made his debut.  If you don’t remember Chainsaw, this was the character portrayed by Terry Funk during the time period where Mick Foley (Now Cactus Jack) was searching for a partner to help him out in his battles against The New Age Outlaws.  So yes that man with the pantyhose over his face in the picture above is WWE Hall of Famer Terry Funk!
Closing Thoughts
Overall, this was obviously a stacked episode of Raw that’s worth going out of your way to check out.  I really like that not only did they start to put such an emphasis on the Royal Rumble (In December) but they also started to cement some of the seeds for Wrestlemania that year, three months out.  It’s because of long term booking like this that midcard matches at Mania that year like Owen Hart Vs. Triple H and The New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie meant so much more.  That’s going to do it for this week, I’ll be back early in the morning with the spotlight on this week’s Raw and back next week looking at the first Raw of 1998!

The Spotlight on Attitude Era Raw-12/22/1997

Just last month the WWE Network launched a collection of 55 episodes of Monday night Raw that were titled “Attitude Era Raw”. The Raws started with the final two episodes of Raw from 1997 & spanned up until the first Raw from 1999. This means that for the first time since its inception, every single Raw from 1998, one of the most successful years in WWF history, is available in the on demand section of the WWE Network. So beginning today, I’m going to go through every single Raw on that list once a week spanning a full year. The idea with this is not to break down every segment of every Raw, but to do the Spotlight on each Raw like I have everything on here with some highlights of each show & also some overall thoughts.  There will also be a “Do You Remember?” feature which will cover a variety of superstars, storylines or matches that you may have forgotten about, most of the time with good reason. My plan is to release these over a full year and drop these posts at 630PM EST so you have the full 90 minutes to check out these classic attitude era Raws prior to this week’s Raw, if you’re so inclined.  Thus, without any further ado let’s get to Monday Night Raw from December 22, 1997 which took place at the memorial auditorium ins Lowell, Massachusetts.

Highlights 

1) Raw Is Christmas–  I’m a sucker for holiday themed wrestling specials.  I always used to feel like the old Survivor Series events that took place in and around Thanksgiving did a great job incorporating Thanksgiving into the show and getting you into the holiday spirit.  Well this episode of Monday Night Raw is, arguably, the most Christmas themed episode of in history (and this includes the Raw hyped around the good santa vs the evil santa just a couple of years ago).  From the infamous clips of Stone Cold giving Santa a stunner the week before, to Sable coming out first dressed as a reindeer then revealing a sexy mrs claus get up, to vader  claus, to the merry DX mas mooning to start the show to even the entire arena being decked out in red & green while snow fell throughout the night, made this a very festive Raw.

2) D Generation-X in Classic Form– The main story of this episode of Raw was the continuing saga of the feud between DX & Commissioner Sgt Slaughter.  The show starts with Slaughter, offended by DX’s antics mooning the crowd & wearing mistletoe G strings to the ring, forcing World Heavyweight Champion Shawn Michaels to defend his European Championship against Dx counterpart Triple H.  The entire show is then built around this developing tension between Shawn & Triple H with the announcers wondering if this was the end of DX.  Of course in the end DX was in on it and Shawn basically lays down for Triple H as the two laugh at Sgt. Slaughter to end the show, but not before Sarge gets one last jab in on DX by saying that next week Triple H would defend his title against Owen Hart.  I always liked this about Raw back then, they always gave you something to look forward to the following week.  I also felt that DX vs. Sgt. Slaughter was a really underrated feud.

3) The Rock Vs. The Undertaker– From an in ring standpoint the only real match that you were able to sink your teeth into was an often forgotten but solid match between the Rock and the Undertaker.  This was during the time period where the Rock was in the Nation of Domination and still finding his way as the intercontinental champion but still this was a fun match that went about 10 minutes.  In the end, their really wasn’t a finish as Kane showed up.  This was during Kane’s first few months in the WWF and so he was still trying to get The Undertaker to fight him.  Kane was so scary upon his debut, the character was so great.

Do You Remember…

Kurrgan?- This was still during the period of time in which Kurrgan was apart of the Truth Commission, with Snyper, Rekon & The Jackyl.  On this show Kurrgan destroys 8-Ball while The Jackyl cuts a promo throughout the entire match.  While Kurrgan looked menacing, there wasn’t much to this match or the entire Truth Commission vs. DOA feud.

Closing Thoughts

This was obviously a taped show as the announcers are shown in front of a green screen.  This was also during the period of time in which they would separate Raw into Raw is War and the Warzone.  They’d end the show at 9 and then have a separate introductions, theme songs and announcers (Except Jim Ross he called both shows) for each half of Raw which I never understood why they did that.  There were also a ton of video packages and highlights on this show so it looked like they filmed the few matches and DX storyline before or after Raw the previous week.  It was also interesting to see how much the crowd was into the Legion of Doom who were taken out the week before.  I also liked that on a Raw in December you already saw some of the pieces coming together for Wrestlemania 14 with Kane-Undertaker, HHH-Owen and Mankind-Outlaws.  Overall a fun show and they got you excited for the next week by announcing that Owen Hart would finally be able to get his hands on DX following the Montreal Screwjob.

The Spotlight On The WWE Network- 24: Roman Reigns Never alone

This past Monday night WWE launched the latest “24” Mini documentary following Roman Reigns on his road to Wrestlemania on the WWE Network.  First off, let me start off by saying how great it is that the WWE Network is producing more original programming for the Network.  I returned from my vacation Monday and while there I tried to keep up.  I watched Extreme Rules (How cool is that by the way? I watched a pay per view from my phone from my hotel room the same night as the show.  I used to have until the end of my vacation in order to catch the show that I missed but with the network this isn’t the case) and caught some of Jerry Springer’s “Too Hot For TV” but once the wedding craziness took over (my best friend got married and I was his best man) and then my family and I embarked on 3 days at Disney World and 2 days at Daytona Beach, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with all of the new content.  Honestly, I was pleased with this. I want the WWE Network to have so much new programming that it’s hard to keep up with everything.  I would love to see a time when the WWE Network has three hours of original programming each night during the primetime hours like most other networks & I think they’re moving in that direction.

As for the 24 series, it is quickly becoming my favorite series on the Network.  Being that I went to Wrestlemania this year I was intrigued to see how Roman Reigns’ Road to Wrestlemania unfolded from a behind the scenes perspective.  I can tell you now that you should go out of your way to watch this piece.  The piece, at only 33 minutes long, flies right by and even leaves a bit more to be desired.  I think the piece did a good job in showing the man behind Roman Reigns.  I feel like if this type of special were to be released while Reigns was recovering from his injury at the end of last year, then people may have gotten a bit more behind him in going for the title at Wrestlemania.    Let’s get into some of the highlights and lowlights of the piece.

Highlights

1) The Mania of Wrestlemania–  I always love to see the crazy schedules that the WWE superstars go through during Wresltemania week.  Does it look hectic?  Of course it does, but it also looks like such a good time and all of that is featured in this piece.  Reigns is followed going through all of his different media appearances, the hall of fame, his autographs signings and more.  They even show some footage from the Wrestlemania dress rehearsal, as you see Triple H preparing for his entrance.  It’s all really cool material that amplifies how big time Wrestlemania is.

2) I Can I Will- I enjoyed the parts of the piece that focused on Roman Reigns interacting with the fans as he seemed like a guy that you’d want to meet at a signing.  I particularly enjoyed the part where he was talking about being a role model and how he was embracing the role.  I’ve always admired Tim Tebow for the same thing as Reigns explains that he wants to be a role model despite the reputation he knows he has to live up to in being one.   Having kids then explain how the “I Can, I Will” catchphrase inspired them was a great tie in and showed how Reigns was already becoming a role model to many.

3) The Family Man–  All you hear about the famous Samoan wrestling family is how close they are and here you really got to see it.  It was nice to see how much support Reigns gets from his family especially when they showed his mother watching from the rafters at WrestleMania.  I enjoyed the scene which featured his family sitting at the table on the deck relaxing and reminiscing about the past.  Then the stuff with Reigns and his wife and daughter tugged at the viewer’s heart strings to show that he is a pretty good guy and a family man in every essence of the word.

4) “Everyone Stays At The Fairmount”-  Anyone who went to Wrestlemania knows that the Fairmount was one of the busiest places in San Jose that weekend as fans quickly found out that this was the WWE hotel.  If you were able to get into the building, you would have enjoyed the WWE replica chocolate belt but many fans seemed to enjoy waiting outside for a glimpse of their favorite superstars.  I really enjoyed the piece on the Fairmount as it showed that the building had history and gave a nice tour.  One of the first things I remember from Wrestlemania week was when Roman Reigns & Hulk Hogan took to the balcony of the Fairmount to greet the fans, really nice stuff.

Lowlights

Again this was a great piece that flew by and that I would really suggest checking out, I don’t think there were any clear lowlights of the film.  That said, there were a few things that I would have personally changed.  For one, I don’t think it was necessary to show as much of the main event in the documentary.  The match was great but that’s what the show itself was for.  Instead, if they are married to the 33 minute running time, I would have liked to see a lot more of the crowd reactions and maybe some of the wrestler reactions instead.  Where I was seated, on the floor towards the entrance ramp, there were many WWE superstars, NXT superstars and divas enjoying the main event live in person.  I would have loved to see some of those talents’ reactions as it would have added to importance of the match.  I would also have loved to see some of the crowd reactions and hear some of their reactions left in rather than the music.  Being a part of that crowd, I can tell you it was one of the best live crowds I’ve ever seen and the fans passion enhanced the match that much more.  Yes, Reigns was booed a good amount during the match but that’s ok as they established that some of the fans booed him at the Rumble and he’s just going to work hard to win them over.  I believe that Reigns is starting to win people over and pieces like this will only help his cause.  Imagine the story of Reigns getting booed out of the building during Wrestlemania 31 and then coming back to win the title at Wrestlemania 32 to much fanfare and adjulation.

Well that is going to do it for me, another strong documentary for the WWE Network.  Feel free to let me know what you think.