The Spotlight on WWE’s United Kingdom Championship Tournament 

Well the world of WWE never stops, that’s for sure. Following three straight days of programming on the USA Network, touted as “WWE Week” and capped off by the annual “Tribute To The Troops” special last night, WWE held a press conference live in London, England this morning. At that press conference, WWE COO, Paul Levesque (Triple H) announced that WWE would be crowning it’s first ever United Kingdom champion as a two day, 16 man tournament will be taking place between the weekend of January 14th and 15th. The tournament will air live on the WWE Network and take place at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool, England (Home of NXT Commissioner William Regal) and will feature the following 16 competitors Trent Seven, Jack Starz, Pete Dunne, Wolfgang, Roy Johnson, Sam Gradwell, James Drake, Jordan Devlin, Tyler Bate, Joseph Conners, Tyson T. Bone, HC Dyer, Dan Moloney, Chris Tyler, Saxon Huxley, Ringo Ryan, Tiger Ali and Tucker. It would appear that two of these men will be alternatives, though it was not announced who.  
Probably the coolest announcement, at least to me, was that former Ring of Honor Champion Nigel McGuiness would be brought in to co host the tournament and work with Michael Cole on calling the event. For those unfamiliar with Nigel’s story, he was seen as one of Ring Of Honor’s biggest stars having unbelievable matches with Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) from 2005-2009. In September of 2009, it was announced that both McGuiness and Danielson would be leaving Ring of Honor as they had agreed, in principal, to a deal with WWE. The two had one last match against one another at Glory By Honor 8 on September 26th, 2009 before the two left for WWE, a show I attended live and was one of the most emotional shows I ever got to see live. In the end, Danielson would sign his deal with WWE but WWE never did offer the deal to McGuiness due to a biceps injury that came up during his medical pre screening. Thus, for me, it’s really great to see Nigel getting a shot to work for WWE in this capacity.  
No official press release has been released as of this writing as the press conference just ended a few hours ago but you can see video of the press conference including Levesque’s announcement as well as comments by Finn Balor, who attended the conference along with Leveque and William Regal on both WWE’s official facebook page and on their twitter @WWE.  
You have to give WWE credit for always looking for new and unique ways to offer something for everyone, particularly on the WWE Network. Last year the WWE launched the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic which aired on NXT and lead to WWE bringing in independent talent to compete in the tag team tournament, including current NXT Tag Team Champions, DIY! This past year has seen WWE launch the Cruiserweight Classic tournament featuring 32 of the best cruiserweights from around the world. This ended up leading to the return of the cruiserweight division on Raw and a show dedicated to the cruiserweights, 205 Live, that airs on the WWE Network live on Tuesday nights. At the end of the day, wrestling in the UK is a completely different style that really hasn’t ever fully been seen in WWE and so it will be nice to see WWE put a focus on this brand of wrestling and provide the platform for the UK’s wrestling scene through this tournament.  
There is no word as to what the future of the UK champion will be following this tournament but we will update that information as soon as we know anything. 

The Mania of March- The Spotlight on Wrestlemania 4

WrestleMania 4:

A lot of people don’t seem to look back as fondly when it comes to  Wrestlemania 4, for whatever reason, but to me it was great for a few reasons.  First, obviously I’ve said in the past what a big fan I am of gimmick matches and these include tournaments.  To me, there was always something pretty cool about seeing a wrestler have to compete three or four times in one night especially if that wrestler was versatile like a Bret Hart or, as was in this case, a Randy Savage.  From there, I also think that in looking back at this show, it was pretty cool to see Randy Savage get the spotlight.  It was all about Hulk Hogan in late 1980s WWF and so it had to be pretty shocking to see him and Andre get eliminated early.

As a bonus gimmick match there was also a battle royal on this show and I’m a huge fan of battle royals.   I remember the first time I saw this show, which was not live as I was still just a toddler, being surprised Bret Hart made it all the way to the final two and got a chance to shine.  Bret was still a part of the Hart Foundation for a few years after this and it was rare that a tag team specialist would get a chance to shine on his own at the time.

As a bit of a personal story related to Wrestlemania 4, as many of you know, the show was four hours long (This, just like the tournament, was one of the real promotional points of the show). Since it was so long, the coliseum home video of the show featured two different video tapes to accommodate the length of the show.  One day I was at a friend’s house and I offered to trade him one of my tapes for his copy of Wrestlemania 4, we were probably about 7 years old at the time, as I had never seen Mania 4.  I had heard that there was a tournament and a battle royal on this show and thought immediately that this would be the show for me.  Well, he gave me the tape but it ended up being only the first part of Wrestlemania 4.  I never realized this until I got home and watched the show only to see the second half was missing entirely and what’s funny is I didn’t know about this until the tape abruptly shut off midway through the show.   I kept rewinding the tape and cleaning assuming that there must have been something wrong.  Where were the finals of the tournament?   I actually had my mother call his mother to tell her son he gave me a broken tape.  Suddenly my friend laughed and admitted he didn’t give me part two and was screwing me.  And you thought the Montreal Screwjob was bad? He admitted that he wanted both my tape and the only parts of Wrestlemania 4 to really mean anything, the semi finals and the finals of the tournament.  Even though this upset me a bit, I still watched the first part of that Wrestlemania dozens of times if for nothing else but the Battle Royal.

What I also remember during this time was that I got my first ever WWF board game (This may have been a year or two later but it focused a lot on the time period of Wrestlemanias 3 and 4).  It was called the Wrestlemania VCR board game and it was pretty cool.  You would move around the game board and in doing so would eventually end up on a VCR square.  You would then turn on the tape and there would be able a 30 second clip of a match.  Whoever landed on the square would get to choose which wrestler they wanted in the clip and then whichever wrestler gained the upper hand during the clip, that player would get to move space.  So let’s say it was Hulk Hogan for the red team and Randy Savage for the blue team so you pick Hulk Hogan and in the clip he hits a legdrop and gets a pinfall victory, you would move up 10 spaces.  I played this game with my poor mother at least 100 times until we eventually memorized the tape inside and out.

Well that’s going to do it for me today but be sure to check out my review of Wrestlemania 5, coming up later today.  Until then take care and please feel free to share some of your favorite moments of Wrestlemania 4!

All Photo Credit: WWE

The Mania of March- The Spotlight On Wrestlemania 3

Wrestlemania 3:

This was the first Wrestlemania I was alive for but I’ll admit that I never saw the full show until I rented the tape from a wrestling store here in Queens in the late 90s. That said, I probably have seen Hogan and Andre as well as Steamboat and Savage so many times I can’t even remember.  These two matches are the perfect example of how two matches can be so different but both still be so memorable in entirely different ways.  I feel like depending on the type of fan that you are, you either remember Wrestlemania 3 for Savage-Steamboat or Hogan-Andre.  If you’re more into the classic moments, it’s Hogan and Andre, whereas if you’re more into the classic matches, then its Steamboat-Savage.  There are so many of today’s wrestlers from Chris Jericho to the Hardys that have credited that Savage and Steamboat match as being an inspiration.

Aside from those two great matches, Wrestlemania 3 cannot be mentioned without talking about the 93,000 + plus fans that were in attendance.  I remember specifically that if you watched the home video they showed the fans as they were running to the arena or filing in after a long tailgate, which sadly isn’t on the network).   It really made Wrestlemania feel like a massive event.  Then of course when they brought you into the arena you were immediately him with that great screenshot of the crowd that just looked incredible.  I can’t imagine how amazing it must have been to be in that arena.  When I went to WrestleMania back in 2011 in Atlanta, I remember sitting way up in the nosebleeds and looking out going, “wow it’s amazing to see a wrestling show in such a large venue.  Well there were at least 20,000 more fans live for WrestleMania 3 and with the show taking places in the middle of the day, you could probably look out and see everyone, it had to be incredible.

From here I loved how the show started with Vince McMahon in the middle of the ring, welcoming the crowd to WrestleMania 3.  If you remember the risk that Vince took with the first WrestleMania, just two years earlier, it was nice to see him being able to soak in the massive success that the event had become.  I always thought it would be cool for Vince to kick off every show like but obviously that would have been hard to do as he became the villainous Mr. McMahon.  I remember that at some point a few years back WWE put out a history of WrestleMania DVD and a pop u video like version of WrestleMania 3.  Hearing Vince on those sets get choked up when talking about how he was thinking about his dad when he was welcoming the crowd to WrestleMania and how he knew his dad would be proud   This makes it mean that much more and is definitely something I can relate to.

Lastly, I also really get nostalgic for the motorized carts that brought the superstars to the ring because the aisle way at the Silverdome was so massive.   This just made the superstars look larger than life.  I also love the idea of Greg Valentine leaving Brutus Beefcake off the cart while the announcers ponder how he would get to the back, was walking not an option?  In any event,  I wish they would bring those carts back for like an old school Raw some time.

Well that’s going to do it for me but be sure to come on back tomorrow where we will take a look at WrestleMania 4!

All Photo Credit: WWE

The Spotlight On WWE Week On The USA Network

Hey guys normally in this slot, I would do a spotlight on the week ahead for WWE but I thought it would fun to preview WWE week on the USA Network that will be premiering next month.  WWE sent out a press release late last week announcing that WWE week will launch on the USA Network beginning Sunday, December 20th. Let’s get into some of the highlights of what you can expect to see on WWE Week.

Highlights:

Santa’s Little Helper- We mentioned on our “The Week Ahead For WWE” piece last Monday, that the latest WWE Studios release was going to be released this past Tuesday, November 17th. Well now Santa’s Little Helper will air on the USA Network from 8-10PM on Sunday night December 20th. Santa’s Little Helper is actually the third Christmas film released by WWE Films and stars Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, WWE Diva Paige & former 90210 star, Annalyn McCord. I’m always a fan of Christmas flicks and I can tell you that you can absolutely expect a review on Santa’s Little Helper once it airs on the USA Network.

The Slammys Are Back- Sadly the Slammys won’t be a black tie affair nor will Todd Pettengill be hosting the show but the Slammys will return to Monday Night Raw on 12/21. The Slammys are always a good time. I remember back in 2009 they actually started the build to the Wrestlemania rematch between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker at the Slammys. Most of the old Slammy Awards Shows are available in the on demand section of the WWE Network if you’re looking to get excited for this year’s big show. Once the ballots are released, we’ll be back with our picks here on the site.

Live Smackdown- WWE Week will continue with a live Smackdown on December 22nd and it will take place on the USA Network, not the SYFY network. I always enjoy when Smackdown goes live and will be tuning in that night for sure. Smackdown will officially premiere on the USA Network regularly beginning on January 5th and so I’m sure this will be a good promotional tool for the show. Even though Smackdown being on Thursday spaces out the WWE television programming throughout the week, I would love to have back to back live WWE programming. I just feel like anything can happen when you’re live.

Tribute To The Troops- The annual WWE week concludes with the traditional Tribute to the Troops special that WWE has been doing over the last decade plus. This year WWE will be heading to the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. They will also have the band Train on hand to perform for the troops. I can’t say enough about how cool I think it is that WWE continues to bring their product to the men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. You don’t see the NBA, NFL or any other sports and/or entity bringing their product directly to our troops. To me this is the single most important event of the year for WWE and there’s something about this special that I find synonymous with the holidays.

Closing Thoughts

Obviously this will be a pretty big week of programming for WWE as they close out the year. Pretty much right after this week, it’ll be time to prepare for the Royal Rumble.  I should also add that WWE superstars and divas will be appearing live during USA’s daytime programming from 11AM-3PM Monday thru Friday. My word of advice would be that, l if you’re only interested in the WWE programming, DVR the block of programming and fast forward through it all so that you can catch the interviews with WWE superstars and divas.  That’s going to do it for me today but I’ve attached the official press release below if you would like to check it out for yourself.

“WWE® WEEK” TO KICK OFF DECEMBER 20TH ON USA NETWORK, FEATURING THE 2015 WWE SLAMMY AWARDS AND WWE TRIBUTE TO THE TROOPS®

NEW YORK and STAMFORD, Conn., – November 19, 2015 – USA Network and WWE will kick off the holiday season with an action-packed “WWE Week.”  The week begins Sunday, December 20 with SANTA’S LITTLE HELPER, followed by MONDAY NIGHT RAW®; the 2015 WWE SLAMMY AWARDS on Monday, December 21; a live SMACKDOWN® on Tuesday, December 22; and a two-hour WWE TRIBUTE TO THE TROOPS special on Wednesday, December 23. The week will also include a daytime roadblock featuring interviews with WWE Superstars and Divas.

On Sunday, December 20, from 8pm-10pm ET, USA will air SANTA’S LITTLE HELPER, an original comedy from WWE Studios and 20th Century Fox.  The film follows a fast-talking businessman who is given the opportunity of a lifetime to become Santa Claus’ second-in-command.  SANTA’S LITTLE HELPER is directed by Gil Junger and produced by Richard Lowell and features WWE Superstar The Miz® and WWE Diva Paige®.  AnnaLynne McCord (“90210,” “American Heiress”) and Eric Keenleyside (“Godzilla,” “The Interpreter”) star.

On Monday, December 21, from 8-11pm ET, USA will air MONDAY NIGHT RAW, live from Minneapolis, MN, featuring the annual fan-voted SLAMMY AWARDS, the WWE’s biggest awards event of the year, honoring the best of the year with its own golden statue.  On Tuesday, December 22 from 8-10pm ET, USA will air SMACKDOWN live from Des Moines, Iowa. Both RAW and SMACKDOWN  will showcase a star-studded cast of WWE Superstars and Divas, and deliver a shot of adrenaline to viewers with over-the-top action, feats of athleticism and high- octane drama.

On Wednesday, December 23, from 8-10pm ET, USA will air the 13th annual holiday special, WWE TRIBUTE TO THE TROOPS.  In the tradition of Bob Hope, WWE brings together the best of sports entertainment and pop culture with celebrity appearances and performances from music’s most popular acts — performed for our servicemen and women, to honor their commitment and dedication to our country. This year, Grammy Award-winning rock band Train will perform.  WWE TRIBUTE TO THE TROOPS has become a holiday tradition and is considered TV’s most patriotic and heartwarming show of the year.  It will chronicle WWE’s visit to Florida’s Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena for military personnel and their families stationed at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Naval Station Mayport and Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base.  While in town, WWE Superstars and Divas will spend the day giving back to those who serve and their families with visits to each base, a Be a STAR anti-bullying rally, and military outreach.

WWE also takes over USA DAYTIME from 11am-3pm Monday, December 21 – Friday, December 25, as host Cat Greenleaf conducts interviews from her iconic stoop with WWE Superstars and Divas.

MONDAY NIGHT RAW on USA is the most-watched, regularly scheduled, year-round program on cable, with a live three-hour block every Monday night, 52 weeks a year.  RAW has been a cable mainstay for more than 20 years and is consistently a top ten show on television. The three-hour block on USA averages 1.9MM P18-49, 2.0MM P25-54 and 4.3MM total viewers P2+.  RAW and SMACKDOWN have reached 48.2 Million viewers in 2015.

With more than 800 original episodes, SMACKDOWN is the second longest-running weekly episodic program in U.S. television history, only behind MONDAY NIGHT RAW. Over the past 15 years, SMACKDOWN has been broadcast from 170 different venues, in 148 cities, in seven different countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Iraq, Japan, Italy and Mexico.

Follow the social conversation with #Troops on @WWE @TRIBUTETOTROOPS @USA_NETWORK.

 

The Spotlight On The 2015 WWE Survivor Series

The 2015 WWE Survivor Series just went off the air not too long ago and I actually just got back from a connection flight from the site of the Survivor Series, Atlanta, Georgia.  Since I’m arriving late and starting the show at 11:15PM,  I’m going to get into the big finish of the show and my thoughts on that before I get into the highlights of the show.   If you haven’t seen the show and don’t want it to be spoiled stop reading now…..

 

OK so obviously tonight Sheamus cashed in his money in the bank briefcase on Roman Reigns following Reigns winning the title from Dean Ambrose in the finals of the WWE World Title Tournament.  In theory I have no problem with this as the person carrying the money in the bank briefcase should cash in after the champion has fought two matches.  Here are my two problems with the cash in.  First, this is way too similar to the cash in from Summerslam 2013 where Daniel Bryan beats John Cena clean, confetti falls as Bryan stands triumphant with Triple H raising his hand.  Of course on that night Triple H turned on Bryan to start the authority as Randy Orton cashed in and won the title right in the middle of the confetti.  Sound familiar?  Well yeah because it’s basically what happened tonight.  Next and it’s my even bigger problem with Sheamus winning the world title, he was made out to be a huge goof in the beginning of this show.  He comes out with the New Day rapping terribly to the point that they want nothing to do with him and to the point that the announcers joke that he should cash in his money in the bank briefcase for a new personality.  Then he loses his traditional survivor series match to Jey Uso, Ryback and Kalisto.  This is not the same as Seth Rollins losing to Randy Orton the  same night he cashed in at Wrestlemania because Orton was a clear number one contender for Rollins after that.  With all due respect to Jey Uso, Ryback and Kalisto I don’t think either of those guys is getting a title shot at TLC, so it just made Sheamus look bad.  Don’t get me wrong, I love badass Irish ass kicker Sheamus and if the idea here is to bring that Sheamus back then great but if not then what is the point?  As for Roman Reigns, I think we’re building to Reigns and Triple H at Wrestlemania and that’ll be great but I really think they oughta just see what they have in the guy instead of just pulling the carpet out from under him ime and time again.  Otherwise, they may pull that carpet out one too many times that people may think he’s a loser.  Reigns should also never cry like he did at the end of the show but instead get angry.  I’m interested to see were it goes from here.

Aside from that finish, which again I thought could have some positives if this brings back the badass Sheamus, I thought there was a lot to like about the Survivor Series so let’s get into it.

Highlights

1) The Golden One Returns- It was a really cool way to start the show with a bonus Traditional Survivor Series match.  It was a good way to get everyone on the show, in particular seeing my boy Bo Dallas getting a spot on the kickoff show.  Of course the big story here was the return of Goldust that came out of nowhere and got a great reaction from the crowd, coupled by the great reaction by Stardust.  This was so good that I wished it had taken place on the main show as it got a great reaction and there weren’t any surprises during the main show traditional survivor series match.  I am still holding out hope that Stardust and Goldust get to have a big blow off match at Wrestlemania as, if tonight was any indication, people would be into it.  Goldust looked great by the way and seemingly gets better with age.  One last note on the kickoff match, it really seems like Titus O’Neil is being featured more prominently as a single.  He got to survive here, got a tournament match, and got an elimination in this match.  I wonder if he will silently be pulled away from the prime time players or if maybe Darren Young is just taking some time off, time will tell.

2) The Tournament Semi-Finals-  Starting with Roman Reigns and Alberto Del Rio, this makes Roman Reigns two for two on great matches this week, first with Cesaro and now tonight with Alberto Del Rio.  He gets the 50/50 reaction but works real hard in the ring and I thought this match was really good.  Roman’s one arm lifting sitout powerbomb was just nasty and I really liked how they teased the spear with Alberto constantly finding a way to get out of it several times.  Alberto has been a great addition to the roster since his return. As for Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose, such a great hard hitting match and I also enjoy watching Owens talking to the referee and crowd.  It was really nice to see Dean Ambrose get a big win because I honestly can’t recall too many big match clean wins he gets.  Owens was also great in his backstage promo with Reigns and I hope to see those two down the line.

3) 25 Years Of Undertaker- This entire show was built around the Undertaker and WWE did a great job in making everything about him seem like a big deal.  From the video packages throughout the show, it almost felt like this could very well be it for the Undertaker. Of course, it likely isn’t it but I think we are getting down that road.  Perhaps he’s got one more Wrestlemania in him and he goes into the hall of fame this year?  Just speculation…In any event I think JBL summed this entire match up best when he said to take it all in now because it isn’t gonna last forever.  This was pure nostalgia with the highlight for me being the Brothers of Destruction entrance.  Kane setting the Undertaker symbols on fire as The Undertaker slowly made his way to the ring, such a spectacle that had to be incredible to see live.  As for the match, it was like the greatest hits of both the Undertaker and Kane and the fact that I see people on twitter complaining that the Wyatts lost makes no sense.  This was the Undertaker’s 25th Anniversary, there was no way that he was going to lose, nor should he have.  The closing scenes here were both very cool.  Kane giving the Undertaker the ring to acknowledge the crowd was so unique and as close as you’ll ever see to the Undertaker breaking character.  It also definitely seemed like this was the swan song for the Brothers of Destruction as a team with the two slowly walking together and classically turning back to acknowledge the crowd.  One of the Undertaker’s greatest legacies in WWE is actually Kane when you think about it.  Here’s a character, in Kane; who’s been around for over 18 years and it’s spun directly off of the Undertaker.

4) Reigns Vs Ambrose-  To me this match felt really fresh and was nice to see a completely new 1st time ever match in the main event.  The two are obviously good friends and left it all out in the ring.  I liked that, unlike in the Del Rio/Reigns match the crowd wasn’t split with “Let’s Go Roman/Roman Sucks” Chants but rather “Lets Go Roman/Lets Go Ambrose” Chants.  To me that shows that people are paying to see both of these guys as opposed to the first chant where it’s all about Reigns.  That was always the problem with the Cena chants.  The crowd either wanted Cena to win or lose but it didn’t matter who beat him because there was no emotional connection to the guy who beat Cena, just that he did it.  My favorite moment in the match came when both guys sat up and started to first slap and then straight up punch each other.  It showed that both men were putting their friendship behind them and worrying about winning the title.  No problem with the finish here as Ambrose simply got caught with a spear at the very last second so both stayed strong and showed each other the respect at the end.  They obviously want to keep Ambrose and Reigns together for now and I have no problem with it.

Well that’s going to do it for me tonight as it’s nearly 2:30 AM in New york.  I hope you enjoyed all of the Survivor Series material up here on the site over the weekend.  For now, what did you think of the finish of the Survivor Series?  Wat were your favorite moments from the show.  Let me know in the comments section below or on twitter @Daily_Spotlight