Bret Hart, UFC on Fox & More- The Daily Spotlight for 2/1/16

Hello everyone and happy Monday to ya, this is the Daily Spotlight for Monday, February 1st! Can you believe it is already February 1st? I sure can’t! My goal for this month is quite simple, to post a daily spotlight update for all 28 days of the month and I’m sticking to it! Of course, for those who don’t know (and how don’t you at this point?) the daily spotlight is a separate entity for the usual reviews you see here on the site and instead is a running blog of my day to day thoughts and adventures. Let’s get right into it.  

-Have to start with a real sad note to start with here, literally as I was piecing together the pieces of the spotlight, word came down that WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart has been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. In a Statement released on Bret’s Official Facebook page, Hart posted the following

 “It is with great remorse that I feel compelled to speak truthfully to my friends, family and my millions of fans around the world. In the past few years, I’ve spent more than enough time paying the price for all those years trying to be the best there ever was as a professional wrestler. I executed excellently and my proudest claim was that I never seriously hurt or injured another wrestler in my 23 year career. I’ve paid a price for all that “fake” wrestling. Aside from a devastating career-ending concussion and numerous surgeries when I was younger, in recent years I’ve had two knee replacements, two hernia operations, surgery on my right elbow, and, just a few months ago, I underwent a four-corner fusion of my right wrist that even now makes it most difficult to write or type.
Mark Helprin wrote: “We are all perfect clocks that Divinity has set to ticking when, even before birth, the heart explodes into a lifelong dance.” I’ve had a great lifelong dance and I’m a survivor of many hard battles. I now face my toughest battle. With hesitation and fear, I openly declare myself in my fight against prostate cancer. In the next few days, I will undergo surgery with the hope of defeating this nemesis once and for all.

My fans have always looked upon me as a hero and I’ve always done my best to live up to that in and out of the ring. I beat the odds when I suffered my stroke in 2002, but it is now yet again, that I draw upon the many adults and young children I’ve met throughout my life who courageously fought and usually lost in their battles against this deadly disease. One year ago, I watched a brave young man named Whesley fight brain cancer to the end. If I can find even an ounce of his courage to stand unafraid and face the tough road ahead of me, I will march toward this destiny with his spirit chanting in my ear.
I make a solemn vow to all of those that once believed in me, the dead and the living, that I will wage my fearsome fight against cancer with one shield and one sword carrying my determination and my fury for life, emboldened by all the love that’s kept me going this long already. Love is my weapon and I’ve got much of it around me all the time, for which I’m truly blessed and eternally grateful. My children, grandchildren, and my loving wife Steph have been and will constantly be at my side. I refuse to lose, I will never give in or give up, and I will win this battle or die trying.

Most important of all, I hope I can take the fight to prostate cancer. To be a leader in awareness and to set the example for men everywhere who find themselves in my very same shoes, that prostate cancer can be beaten.”

Bret Hart is one of the all time greats in the history of WWE and one of my favorite Superstars of all time. I wish Bret a speedy recovery and my thoughts and prayers go out to he and his family during this difficult time.  

– I had a chance to check out UFC Fight Night on Fox Saturday night and let me tell you, when I first looked at this card I wondered how this show didn’t make it to a pay per view. You had one of the most exciting young fighters in Sage Northcutt, you had Josh Barnett returning for just his second fight in two years and you had Ryan Bader riding an impressive 5 fight, 2 year win streak going up against one of the best pound for pound fighters in Anthony Johnson. In the end, Northcutt was handled easily, early in round 2, Barnett tapped out for the first time in his career and Bader was knocked out in less than 90 seconds. It ended up being a pretty good for nothing show but what I will say is that the presentation on fox is a lot of fun (with the classic NFL music), and the highlight of the show for me was Daniel Cormier in the analyst role. He’s got such a natural good guy charisma and I can’t wait to see him and Jon Jones go at it, if and when that fight takes place.  
– We’re on the road to Wrestlemania and that really kicked off for WWE in a big way last week when The Rock made his return to Raw. What a fun appearance by the great one who is simply incomparable. It doesn’t appear that The Rock will be back on television until Wrestlemania and that’s ok in my book as he was able to get his moment in Miami and also establish that he’ll be at Wrestlemania. A few folks seem a little dejected that it doesn’t appear that the Rock will be back in the ring at this year’s Wrestlemania (and that hasn’t been confirmed by the way but that is the widespread belief) but I don’t think it’s particularly necessary for the Rock to be back in the ring. Sure his two Wrestlemania matches with John Cena were a lot of fun but I feel like the Rock has added so much to the show in his non wrestling appearances. Starting with his return as the host of Wrestlemania 27 to the opening of Wrestlemania 30 with Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin to showing up in California last year the night after hosting Saturday Night Live for an unforgettable moment with Ronda Rousey, the Rock always finds a way to steal the show whether it’s in the ring or out of the ring and it’s just great to have him as a part of the show.  
– Lastly, it’s been a busy time with my girlfriend’s family over the past two weeks. Just two weeks ago, my girlfriend’s niece turned 18 and held back to back (and belly to belly) birthday celebrations, culminating with a great meal over at Blend on the Water in Long Island City. Just last night my girlfriend’s other niece and our god daughter celebrated her 3rd birthday in grand fashion with a standing room only guest list of over 60 family and friends (54 more guest than I had at my plenty of seating room birthday party back in October, what’s up with that?). This all leads to tonight where we’ll be celebrating my girlfriend’s sister’s birthday in New york City, taking full advantage of Restaruant Week and trying Nobu (Nobu, Nobu, Nobu, Whoo…what no other Drake fans?) for the first time. I’m excited about that and will report back to all of you guys tomorrow about that experience.  By the way, this is a surprise party so I sure hope she isn’t reading this. 

That’s going to do it for me, but I will be back a bit later on with more fun content right here on thedailyspotlight.com… Until then, let’s knock this week out of this park! 

The Spotlight On The Survivor Series- Pt. 5-2011

I’m going to jump ahead a bit here on the survivor series retrospective and look back at Survivor Series 2011, a show I attended live at Madison Square Garden.  2011 was one of the more interesting times to be a WWE fan.  CM Punk was going through a period of time in which he was the most popular man on the roster following the summer of punk, Daniel Bryan had become world champion for the first time, the Rock had returned to the company and Zack Ryder had an absolute breakout year.  This was also the year that I attended the Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania and the Survivor Series so it was a pretty big year for me as a fan, you could say.

The 2011 Survivor Series was held live from Madison Square Garden and my buddy from work and I were planning on attending the event since the day tickets went on sale which was a first for me as I’m naturally a last minute planner.  I remember on the Friday leading up the Survivor Series there was a huge WWE party in the city, I believe it was in Penn Station.  CM Punk was there for a meet and greet and there was contest running that you could go to the event and win a private bus tour around New York City with Zack Ryder and Jimmy Hart.  My buddy and I were huge Ryder fans as we watched every Z True Long Island Story the day it came out while at work.  Being that our job only had so many employees, however, it was difficult for us both to get the day off together so we agreed to skip the party, though we did spend the day wishing we were there and scouring twitter for updates and photos from the event.

On survivor series Sunday, I remember my girlfriend at the time, begged me not to go.  There was a big time NY Giants game that night and she made up her mind that despite me dropping about $100 on tickets to the event with my friend, she didn’t want me to go to the show.  Though it was a hard decision,  I went to the show and we ended up breaking up two weeks later.

As for the show itself, this was also, to the best of my knowledge the last pay per view to be held at the Garden, to this date and it was a really big deal for us.  There’s something about going a show at MSG that is like none other.  I remember my buddy and I getting there at Penn Station early enough to grab a bite at Roy Rogers and then went down to wait online with the thousands of fans in attendance.  From the second we got there this crowd was all about Zack Ryder.  There were “We Want Ryder” chants in the lobby as many were frustrated that Ryder was not given a US title match against Dolph Ziggler on this show despite both men petitioning for the match on youtube and twitter, and instead John Morrison was given the match on his last night with the company.

In many ways it’s odd the crowd was so into Ryder as this was also the Rock’s first time back in New York and first match back since his return to the company in early 2011.  That said, When Ryder finally did make an appearance to run off Ziggler, this wasn’t only the biggest pop of the nght but the biggest pop I’ve heard in MSG with the exception of John Cena’s Royal Rumble 2008 return.  In fact, after the show when the Rock was making his speech to the live crowd, the Ryder Revolution, was still out in full force as the crowd chanted over the Rock’s speech until the Rock himself had to say “ Hell Yeah love Zack Ryder Woo Woo Woo and all that stuff!” It was probably the pinnacle of Zack Ryder’s career in many ways and it’s a shame he never really took off to the extent, at least that the New York crowd wanted him to on this night.

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Me and my buddy following the Survivor Series 

Follow the show, I remember my buddy and I racing out of the arena, past the idiot fans who were almost arrested for having a hardcore match taking unprotected chair shots to the head with the chair they got from the floor seats of the show, and down the street to a small theater.  We had tickets to a Mick Foley comedy show that were on sale for only $5 the week before.  This was still during the period of time where Mick just wanted to show people what he can do as he was still pretty early into his comedy run.

Mick was really good that night, he’s gotten better since, but with a bunch of diehard WWE fans in attendance following the Surivor Series, he was on fire. I remember there was a small VIP area that had a few Superstars there to watch like Dolph Ziggler and John Morrison.  Unfortunately, in New York City when you’re taking the long island railroad at least on the Port Washington line the trains leaving Penn station run on a schedule of 11:15, 12:15, 1:15 and then 3:15.  Thus, with work the next day, my friend and I agreed that we had to catch the 1:15 train.  What we didn’t think was that Mick would still be on the stage come 1AM.  This led to an embarrassing moment where my buddy and I had to run out of a small theater in an attempt not to be noticed only to have Mick say “Ladies and Gentleman, I’m so bad people are actually running out of the theater. “

When I was getting ready for bed that night, I checked the twitter feeds of some friends I knew were in attendance at the Foley show and at 2:30AM one of my friends tweeted that he was on line waiting to meet Mick.  Two thoughts crossed my mind, 1) Damn I missed a free Mick Foley meet and greet and 2) We probably wouldn’t have gotten out of there in time to catch the 3:14AM train!

All in all though another really fun experience that actually is probably most remembered not only for Ryder’s huge night but also for the first night of CM Punk’s 400+ day title reign.  I’ll end by saying that by reminiscing about this show, above all else, it makes me hope WWE runs the Garden for a pay per view again someday because there really is nothing like it. New York City is a great WWE crowd.

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 E:60- WWE: Behind The Curtain

I had mentioned this special in the daily sports update on Tuesday and got to check it out with my girlfriend last night.  I always like to watch different documentaries about WWE with my girlfriend because she enjoys them and she also offers a different perspective on the documentary as a casual fan of the product.  I went out of my way to avoid any spoilers on the documentary so that I went into the documentary with an open mind, not knowing what to expect.  In the end, I found the documentary very enjoyable and an interesting look on how the developmental process works once a talent arrives at NXT.  The piece included interviews with Triple H, Vince McMahon. Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and The Rock along with NXT talents and their loved ones.  Let’s get into some of the more interesting highlights of the film.
Highlights

1) Ray Leppan–  At some point during the story of Ray Leppan, my girlfriend turned to me and said “I feel awful that I ever hated his character.”  For those of you who don’t know Ray Leppan currently competes as Adam Rose for WWE.  His story is the real highlight, in my eyes, of the piece as it gets into so much of the back story on the man behind the character and the struggle that someone can go through down in NXT if they can’t create a connection with their character.  Ray spent three years down in NXT working as the character Leo Kruger after moving to Florida from his native South Africa after getting the opportunity.  The documentary shows how many of the management level people doubted Ray and felt that he was struggling in creating a believable character.  All the while we get to learn about the real life struggle that Ray goes through with his newborn son who was born with a stomach ailment that doesn’t allow him to eat food and he needs to be fed through a peg.  Ray’s son was only given a life expectancy of two years.  Once you get that connection Ray’s family and the struggles that he goes through to get onto the main WWE roster to support his family, you root for Ray to make it for the rest of the film.  It breaks your heart to see the 35-year old Ray being told by Triple H that he has to reinvent himself.  The piece then does a great job in showing how (over the two years in which the piece was filmed) Ray is able to create the Adam Rose character and find success in making it up to the roster.  I really hope WWE tells this story on Raw because it can do a lot for the Adam Rose character.  I mean who wouldn’t want to root for a guy like that?

2) Behind The Curtain– The backbone of this piece, other than the profile pieces, is the access that is granted to ESPN to film production meetings and other backstage segments.  It was really cool to see how a production meeting is run and the different personalities involved like Michael Hayes, Terry Taylor and Michael Cole.  From there the backstage segments showing Paul Levesque (Triple H) addressing the NXT roster are really well done and give you an insight into the world of the NXT superstar.  These superstars are working all day everyday on every aspect of their character that you can think of (from promo class, to in-ring action, the character development to weight training it all happens for these superstars at the performance center) and it is made obvious that they are competing for a spot that is anything but guaranteed.  I thought it was also cool to see the cameras follow Xavier Woods around all day the day of his debut from arriving to the Nassau Colisseum to his post match critique with Triple H.

3) Matthew Polinsky– Corey Graves was touched on a bit here on the spotlight of the first episode of Culture Shock which he hosts and you get a great look as his tough journey.  Being a lifelong fan who’s mother used to make him birthday cakes with his favorite wrestler on the cake and who then grew up wanting to be a pro wrestler only to be sidelined due to a back injury, Polinsky’s story really hit home with me.  Polinsky is first presented as a can’t miss prospect and the only talent who receives support of all of management involved in the production meeting. Triple H literally refers to Polinsky as “a priority” while hall of famer Dusty Rhodes calls him “A moviestar”.  Then Polinsky ends up medically disqualified due to a number of concussions.  This is heartbreaking for the lifelong fan and his family that he has to support.  I remember when I first heard the Polinsky was going to be doing commentary thinking, wow that was really cool for WWE to allow him to explore other opportunities when wrestling didn’t work out.  This piece gives you insight into the decision and makes you feel that much better for Polinsky watching it all unfold.

Closing Thoughts 

Rather than lowlights here, I’m going to instead list some closing thoughts because again I really enjoyed the documentary.  It made sense from an advertising perspective for ESPN to feature and promote interviews with, arguably, the three biggest stars in WWE history, Hulk Hogan, The Rock & Stone Cold Steve Austin.  That said, their appearances were  pretty breif and didn’t add too much in the way of discussing the topic at hand.  I would have instead preferred to hear from three current stars like a John Cena, or a Roman Reigns or a Seth Rollins, who have both passed through the NXT system.  I also thought Bill Demott, former head trainer at the WWE Performance Center, came across really well.  I know a lot has been said about Demott, and I won’t get into what’s true or untrue because I don’t really know, but it’s clear that in this piece he seems to be genuinely invested in the careers of the NXT Superstars. 

A final thought would be that in both watching the E:60 special and the Roman Reigns 24 special on the WWE network the night before, both of which have been covered here and that I’ve enjoyed, that there is a market for these type of human profile pieces.  Both pieces featured the superstars in their everyday life.  The superstars were shown as regular people with real struggles, the same struggles that we all go through on an everyday basis.  I found that the superstars featured came across as not only likable, but also relatable.  After the 24 special, I want to see Roman Reigns main event Wrestlemania again and win the world title in the process.  Likewise, I want to see Corey Graves, Xavier Woods and, especially, Adam Rose all succeed in their respective careers because now I know them a bit more as people and want to see them do well for their families.  I hope that these “behind the curtain” type specials continue into the future as it’s been a really fun week to be a WWE fan, and I didn’t even get into Raw!

An extra here if you’ve watched the special & wanted a little more, ESPN has realized two extra features on their website dedicated to Tyle Breeze & Colin Cassady, they’re worth checking out.