Sunday, 25 October 2015

A Look Back at Hell in a Cell

Back in the day Hell in a Cell was WWE's version of the death match. When commentary crews and old workers said it was a match that changes people it actually used to carry that weight. In recent years it's become an annual event with a hokey fake cage that requires an unbelievable amount of suspension of disbelief to buy into the violence of the structure. Today's roster does their very best with the PG-limitations of working a match that cannot possibly be fully realized in that censored environment, and there have been good PG Hell in a Cell matches, but the days of Hell in a Cell being a death match are over. In lieu of the Hell in a Cell pay per view tonight I've decided to look at all of the Hell in a Cell matches leading up to 2008 before Hell in a Cell became a yearly organized event. 

Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker- Bad Blood- 1997- **** 1/4
The first Hell in a Cell is the only match in this structure to be awarded five stars from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and while it's not that good it's an admirable introduction to the Hell in a Cell gimmick. You'd be hard pressed to find a worker better at delivering in terms of narrative in WWE than Shawn Michaels, and he's tremendous here. The match also served well to introduce a more violent Undertaker, as the match gimmick and his character became synonymous with each other. Both men do good work here with the majority of the narrative being about how much damage Shawn Michaels can take and Undertaker can deliver. There's plenty of blood and the reality of Hell in a Cell as a dangerous match is felt here in spades. The introduction of Kane is also handled well and Michaels gets away with a cheap victory after Kane interferes. Great match and only really brought down by the feeling out process of both men with the introduction of the Cell gimmick. 

The Undertaker vs. Mankind- King of the Ring- 1998- **** ¾ 
This is the match that WWE wants you to think of when they bring up Hell in a Cell, for good reason- It's the best Hell in a Cell match performed to date. Mick Foley is one of the great death match wrestlers and he already had plenty of experience putting his body in complete peril prior to this match so of course he'd be the one to want to be thrown off the top of the cage, and god bless him for it. In terms of death match wrestling narrative Foley is the greatest I've ever seen, and this match tells a simplistic story, but a perfect one. Foley takes a few spots that are completely absurd, but like nothing else in the Hell in a Cell format, and he keeps coming back for more. At the risk of his own health he still wrestles Taker after being off and through the cell, he's obviously not well, but he's Mick Foley so he's going to do whatever it takes. This match is more a test of will, and it's like nothing else in the history of WWE and for good measure. They pushed the format as far as they could here. There won't ever be a Hell in a Cell match better than this one. 

The Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man- Wrestlemania XV- 1999- *
It's a miracle that this match didn't kill the Hell in a Cell format. It's a relic of the Attitude era in the worst way possible, and ends with a mock execution. Everything prior to that moment is just two men punching and brawling each other to no fanfare. The match exists for the mock execution, and appeals to the worst kind of bloodlust of wrestling fans. It's in especially poor taste considering wrestlers have actually died in the ring. 

Triple H vs. Cactus Jack- No Way Out- 2000- **** ½ 
To find a Hell in a Cell match not featuring The Undertaker or Triple H is a near impossibility, and this was Triple H's first one. It was also meant to be Mick Foley's retirement match, but Foley went on to wrestle for years to come in guest appearances for WWE so some of the drama of Foley fighting for his career is nullified here, but otherwise this is a stellar Hell in a Cell match. They recreate Foley being thrown through the cage and Foley and H somehow equal their viciousness of the previous month's Royal Rumble match which was no small feat. Triple H gets put over as hard as Foley possibly could and Foley goes off into retirement for a little over a month. 

Kurt Angle vs. The Undertaker vs. Triple H vs. Steve Austin vs. Rikishi vs. The Rock- Armageddon- 2000- ** ½ 
This match is a huge mess. The big Rikishi spot looks really poor and the camera work cannot contain the action of six men working inside and outside of the Cell for over 20 minutes. Rikishi and Undertaker have no real business being here. The majority of goodwill I have for this match comes from the segments that focus on Triple H and Steve Austin. Austin never had a proper single fall Hell in a Cell match so to see him work in this environment is interesting, and he has fantastic brawling chemistry with H. They would show that again in their remarkable Three Stages of Hell match in 2001. In the end Angle gets the pin. No reason for this to have been performed in the Cell. 

Triple H vs. Chris Jericho- Judgment Day- 2002- ** 3/4
A totally fine, mostly unremarkable Hell in a Cell match due to some weirdly placed overbooking with a referee who later was part of a suicide angle. Never let anyone tell you wrestling is good, folks. Wrestling is very very bad. Aside from that weird bullshit this is a fine Cell match, but doesn't really stick out among the other Cell matches in a good or bad way. I do have quite a few quibbles with the match ending on top of the cell which never feels realistic unless someone is going through the roof of the Cell. The work inside the Cell is solid, but H and Jericho have this weird stilted chemistry that can never quite get things out of gear. 

Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker- No Mercy- 2002- ****
This is the bloodiest Hell in a Cell match which makes me actively worry about what may go down tonight between Undertaker and Lesnar. Lesnar and Undertaker have fantastic chemistry with one another (outside of WM30) and their brawling feels realistic even though they're faking punches. This one is mostly great for the mauling. It feels less like a wrestling match and more like two men just beating on each other until one finally falls. There's some good storytelling here with Undertaker's cast and a fun Paul Heyman bit as well. This is a sneaky pick for most undervalued Hell in a Cell, but I'll get to my pick for that one later. 

Triple H vs. Kevin Nash- Bad Blood- 2003- * ¼ 
As I said on twitter this match more closely resembles two big baby men going "weeehhh" at each other while blood drips down both competitors. Finishers are traded and both men are protected and nothing matters anymore. Kliq forever motherfuckers! 

Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels- Bad Blood- 2004- ****
The longest Hell in a Cell match also happens to be one of my favourites. No one is ever going to call Triple H subtle, and too often he goes for plodding "masterpiece" wrestling rather than actually just fucking going, but Michaels can reel him in, even at 47 minutes. Lesnar/Taker is the better version of this match, because it's more condensed and there's less bullshit around their "life" ending brawl, but sometimes Triple H being overwrought and just bleeding like a beautiful, long haired angel of viscus is something to appreciate. 

Batista vs. Triple H- Vengeance- 2005- *** ½ 
Remember how I said Triple H or Undertaker have competed in like all of these fucking things? Yeah. Batista and H are better suited to wrestling with props, blood and fake violence than actually putting on a wrestling clinic so their styles mesh well here and deliver a hard hitting, physical Hell in a Cell that's missing the theatricality and narrative of previous best of Cell matches to really put it over the top. This is also the Cell match where they started fake-choking each other with a chain! Fun stuff if you're fucked up like me.

The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton- Armageddon- 2005- ** ½ 
This match is overbooked to hell after an otherwise appropriate start. Randy Orton is the "Legend Killer" and this is Undertaker's revenge so he just brutally wrecks him with a steel chair to start. Orton's an underrated bleeder. If there was anything the guys in Evolution did consistently well it was bleeding. Ric Flair taught them something I suppose. But then Orton starts to get some offense in and his dad gets into the ring and the urn is important and it's a huge mess. This one ends up being a big missed opportunity. Their 'Mania match is better. 

D-Generation X vs. Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon and Big Show- Unforgiven- 2006- ***
This match is the jumping the shark moment for Hell in a Cell, but it's fun. It is completely obsessed with butts, balls and cock and Triple H and Shawn Michaels are bleeding EVERYWHERE. The D-X crotch chop and Vince McMahon ass kissing club are the big spots here. Big Show is only here, because he has the biggest ass and Vince McMahon loves him for that reason. Shane is here to die. Poor Shane. This match is bananas though, and I was almost positive I'd hate it, but then it just got so stupid I found it endearing. THREE STARS. 

Batista vs. The Undertaker- Survivor Series- 2007- *** ¼
This is the last TV-14 Hell in a Cell. After this match the blood would be put away and a lot of the more dangerous spots would be minimized. In some ways it feels like a eulogy to the structure in this form, because a Hell in a Cell would never be worked this way again. Curiously it has the same uneasy feeling present in the first Hell in a Cell match. Hell in a Cell becomes cyclical then as Batista bleeds and bleeds, but we changed and the crowd isn't into the bloodletting anymore. WWE would go through some transitional years shortly afterward, and matches like this would rarely be seen again. This match suffers from some unsureness from the workers and a feeling of dead-air throughout the building, but like the Triple H-Batista Cell match it showcased The Animal's greatest strengths and Undertaker got to be appropriately brutal one more time. 

The Undertaker vs. Edge- SummerSlam- 2008- ****
Hell in a Cell has evolved over the years to mean something it didn't mean in the 90s and early 00s, but even with limitations to the brutality of the work it doesn't mean that a Cell match is inherently bad. Undertaker vs. Edge at SummerSlam is the best worked Cell match from a technical perspective and the narrative is beautiful. Edge is psychotic, but terrified of Undertaker coming back. After he destroyed Mick Foley leading up to the event he felt like he was going to take down the Dead Man. Edge comes out guns blazing, dodging Undertaker's offense and laying in his own and for the majority of this match he controls the offense, but Hell is the Undertaker's domain, and the gimmick will always call for Undertaker to be invincible in this structure. Edge pushed Taker too far, and after Taker gained some level of control he gets revenge on Edge by repeating the same moves he did to Taker during the match, the Con-Chair-To (awful pun), the spear, the steps. Then he takes Edge and chokeslams him from the top of a ladder, using Edge's fame-making weapon to his own use and sending him to literal Christian hell, because wrestling is very silly. 

I am hoping that tonight's Hell in a Cell show is a good one. The Cell isn't useless, but workers have to do more with it than its godfathers by proving its destruction without a blood crutch. It has been done before, and I'm optimistic about the 2 Cell matches tonight. Reigns and Wyatt have had a good build, and Reigns has been money on pay per view this year. Lesnar/Taker offers a conclusion to a year long story, but even scarier the possibility of violence. Undertaker is 50 years old and his match shouldn't be happening on paper, but if SummerSlam is any indication he still has something left to prove. It's ironic considering his gimmick is that of a zombie that he'd still be wrestling this late into his life. Oh, and Daniel Bryan might be coming back tonight. That'd be cool.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

A Conversation about Night of Champions

(We here at Push Cesaro apologize for the lateness of this post. We tried to figure out how to display Tweets properly and were to stubborn to admit defeat when this writing might have been relevant. We still didn't figure it out. Please help us. We are so sad about our failure.)

WWE kicked off their fall season last night with Night of Champions. The pay-per-view where all belts must be defended, because reasons. Your overlords at Push Cesaro sat down and had a conversation about the show. Agree or disagree with us? Let us know. We'll be lurking somewhere on the internet.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A Quick look at the G1 Climax: 2015

*This is meant to be a quick round-up or a guide to which matches you should check out from the New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Tournament. I did not watch the tag team matches before the show or most of the matches featuring Yujiro Takahashi (I have no time for the male gaze in my wrestling viewing if I can help it) or some of the lesser important members of the Bullet Club like Bad Luck Fale. All that being said, here are my general thoughts on the G1*

The G1 Tournament is perhaps the purest example of wrestling as sport in this entire industry. This years tournament functioned around a point system where each competitor was separated into 2 different blocks each consisting of 10 wrestlers. Each wrestler was then given 2 points for every victory. The two wrestlers with the most points at the end of an 18 day period of wrestling would square off in the finals to crown a winner. It's all very simple, and if it were easier to acquire in North America it would represent the best possible way to introduce someone to a wrestling company.

The G1 is about the spirit of competition. You'll find less shenanigans here than in WWE or any second tier North American companies. There are factions and wrestlers who are present to offer something different than pure wrestling like Toru Yano or The Bullet Club, but for the most part the G1 is presented as a straight forward wrestling tournament consisting of contests between two men where only one can come out better. What separates it from the types of tournaments present in WWE is the nonexistence of jerkaround booking. We all know how awful Wrestlemania 4 turned out to be and The King of the Ring tournament is largely something WWE will tell you is masterful, but oftentimes pitiful in it's complete dismissal of tournament style booking. G1 is clean. That's what is key here and for fans of wrestling as a pure artform between competitors it is refreshing and while 2015 doesn't have the sheer depth of quality matches present in last year's tournament there is plenty to admire. I'm new to NJPW for the most part, but based purely on the amount of wrestling presented and the respect they treat the tournament the competition appears the be bulletproof. Which is rare in professional wrestling. The G1 isn't without it's problems, but since addressing them in the preface this will only be about what I loved about this year's G1.

When the G1 began it was clear that Block A had more to offer this year while Block B dealt with injuries to Shinsuke Nakamura and the relative uninterest of Kazuchika Okada to work his matches at full speed. All of this meant Block B felt severely limited compared to the impressive work being done in the A block. This would change in the final days of the tournament when Nakamura seemed to be on and when grouping that with raised stakes Okada found his footing as well. Michael Elgin turned into the stealth MVP of the inferior block and Tomohiro Ishii who is always consistently enjoyable turned out some of his best work with the already mentioned Elgin along with perpetual loser Tomoaki Honma. Block A was the sterling example of NJPW throughout this tournament though with Katsuyori Shibata delivering multiple 4 star contests and Tetsuya Naito's new gimmick unleashed a flurry of incredible matches with Shibata, AJ Styles, Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Shibata has a no-nonsense moveset that feels relatively old school, focusing on kicks, forearms and chokes that was always believably violent and essential to being drawn into his work that proved to be magnificent throughout. I suppose one could argue that Tanahashi put out the best work as well, but it'd be easy to pat him on the back since he won the entire thing. God bless Shibata. If only Yano hadn't tricked him. He was never the same after that, and when his chances of winning the G1 went away along with Naito the B block rose up to prominence.

Shinsuke Nakamura's arc throughout the G1 was held up from an apparent elbow injury. He had to forfeit a match he was surely scheduled to win against Michael Elgin, but curiously the elbow injury added some extra depth to a push that was going to position him against ace of the company Hiroshi Tanahashi. The elbow made him vulnerable. His matches were noticeably weaker in the middle stretch of the tournament and his offence seemed significantly muted. The "thwack" that normally echoes through the halls just wasn't there, but he kept finding ways to deliver enough damage to get by. Shinsuke didn't find his confidence again until day 14 against Honma. The whipping post his opponent was gave him enough reason to see if he could let loose, because honestly in kayfabe Honma can't even touch Nakamura, so the King of Strong Style delivered blow after blow and his ability to kill was present once more. He needed it because he was about to face the man he lost to last year in the G1 finals, Kazuchika Okada. In what ended up being one of the best matches of the entire tournament, Nakamura proved craftier than his opponent and he moved on to face Tanahashi. Tanahashi and Nakamura delivered magic. The game plan was set up early when Tanahashi went for Nakamura's legs and that first chink in Shinsuke's armour was exposed. This foreshadowed what was to come. Shinsuke never gave up though and even as his body was covered in sweat and his hair dangled lifelessly atop his head he stared down Tanahashi and gave it his all. He made it believable that he would win. When he landed an armbar on Tanahashi late in the match it signaled his effort and his guile to push forward. Shinsuke did everything he possibly could, but he couldn't beat Tanahashi and moments later after kicking out of Tanahashi's finisher he ate another one that looked like it broke his lungs. He was finished. Tanahashi won. Shinsuke raised the better man's arm and the G1 was over.

Match Scores (matches above 4 stars in bold)

Day 1
  • Katsuyori Shibata vs. AJ Styles- **** ½
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi - *** ¾
Day 2
  • Yuji Nagata vs. Tomoaki Honma- ***
  • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Karl Anderson- *** ½
  • Micheal Elgin vs. Kazuchika Okada - *** ¼
Day 3
  • Toru Yano vs. AJ Styles- *** ¼
  • Katsyori Shibata vs. Tetsuya Naito- **** ½
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan- *** ½

Day 4
  • Satoshimi Kojima vs. Michael Elgin- *** ¼
  • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Yuji Nagata- *** ½
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomoaki Honma- *** ½

Day 5
  • Toru Yano vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan- **
  • Togi Makabe vs. Katsoyuri Shibata- *** ½
  • Kota Ibushi vs. AJ Styles- **** ½
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito- **** ¼
Day 6
  • Satoshi Kojima vs. Kazuchika Okada- ***
  • Hirooki Goto vs. Tomoaki Honma - ***
Day 7
  • Kota Ibushi vs. Katsoyuri Shibata- **** ¾
  • Bad Luck Fale vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - **
  • Tetsuya Naito vs. AJ Styles- **** 1/4
Day 8
  • Michael Elgin vs. Tomoaki Honma - *** ¼
  • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tomohiro Ishii- *** ½
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Hirooki Goto- *** ½
Day 9
  • Togi Makabe vs. Tetsuya Naito - *** ½
  • Katsoyuri Shibata vs. Bad Luck Fale - ** ½
  • AJ Styles vs. Doc Gallows - ** ½
Day 10
  • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hirooki Goto- *** ½
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs. Yuji Nagata- *** ½
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Karl Anderson- ** ¾
Day 11
  • Toru Yano vs. Katsoyuri Shibata- n/a- fun though
  • AJ Styles vs. Togi Makabe- *** ¾
  • Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi-****

Day 12
  • Satoshi Kojima vs. Hirooki Goto- *** ¼
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Tomohiro Ishii- ****
Day 13
  • AJ Styles vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan- *** ¼
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsoyuri Shibata- **** ¾
Day 14
  • Satoshi Kojima vs. Yuji Nagata- *** ¼
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Yujiro Takahashi- *
  • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Tomoaki Honma- **** ¼
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto - **** ¼
Day 15
  • Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Katsoyuri Shibata- *** ¼
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Togi Makabe- ** ½
Day 16
  • Hirooki Goto vs. Michael Elgin- ****
  • Satoshi Kojima vs. Shinsuke Nakamura- *** ¾
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Yuji Nagata- *** ½
  • Tomoaki Honma vs. Tomohiro Ishii- *** ¾
Day 17
  • Doc Gallows vs. Katsoyuri Shibata- ** ¼
  • Toru Yano vs. Bad Luck Fale- * ½
  • Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tetsuya Naito- ** ¾
  • Kota Ibushi vs. Togi Makabe- ** ½
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. AJ Styles- **** ½
Day 18
  • Yuji Takahashi vs. Tomoaki Honma- * ¾
  • Tomohiro Ishii vs. Michael Elgin- **** ¼
  • Yuji Nagata vs. Hirooki Goto- *** ¼
  • Satoshi Kojima vs. Karl Anderson- ** ½
  • Kazuchika Okada vs. Shinsuke Nakamura- **** ½
G1 Finals
  • Young Bucks vs. reDragon- *** ½
  • Kushida vs. Ricochet- *** ¼
  • Bullet Club against The Kingdom & Kazuchika Okada- * ½
  • Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi- **** ¾ 

(Editor's note: The rest of us here at Push Cesaro embrace Toru Yano and think every match is worth viewing. We wash our hands of Willow not even watching all of them. For shame!)

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Top 50 WWE/NXT Matches of 2014: #47. Kevin Owens vs. Adrian Neville (December 18, 2014)

A match that flew completely under the radar as it aired with about two weeks left in the year, but upon reflection is one of the very best matches performed in all of NXT in the past year. Kevin Owens had to get over as a heel here, and he and Neville's main goal in this match was to play up both his violent, dangerous capabilities, and to undo any sort of support the crowd would have for Owens. This wasn't an easy task as Kevin Steen was something of a legend on the independent circuit, but they accomplished everything they set out to achieve in this match, because the crowd would boo upon the referee's ten count at the close.

Owens has been a master manipulator ever since he powerbombed Sami Zayn into the apron at the close of his championship victory. He's a snake, but a very smart snake, and it's pleasurable to see those qualities come through in his ring work as well. Owens refuses to do much with Neville at the beginning of this match. His motto of "I'll fight anyone" works in direct contrast with his near constant retreats at the start. Neville hits a move or gets too close and Owens slides out, but his entire gameplan here was to get Neville to come towards him and become aggressive to the point where strategy goes out the window and fighting ensues. Owens gets exactly what he wants when Neville comes sliding out the ropes to attack, only to have his offense countered with a vicious forearm. Owens takes control after this with a series of chops, and blows to Neville's body that would effect his aerial offense. Owens maintains control until the final moments when Neville's fighting spirit lets him wiggle out of a carry, and land a few kicks. His speed helps him get the better of Owens once more, but right when Neville seems ready to close the match Owens slides out the ring again, and in a dazed state sends Neville into the side of the ring for a countout.

Aside from being a great match the ending is brilliantly booked. By having a countout ending you keep both men strong, and you legitimize Owens because he just went toe to toe with the former champion and nearly won. In a repeat of what he did to Zayn he hit a powerbomb on Neville at the close of the show as well, and now these men have history, and a reason to fight. Adrian Neville is in line for a possible title shot if he can defeat Finn Balor at the next NXT Special event, and if he and Owens win they have even more reason to go to battle with each other, because of this match.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Top 50 Best WWE/NXT Matches of 2014: #48. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks (ALL)

One of the greatest things about NXT is how refreshing it is to see women treated with respect in terms of talent and booking. While many of these women go on to flounder under the thumbs of regressive man children Vince McMahon & Kevin Dunn on the main roster they can at least be proud to know that they are helping carve out a place for women in WWE through NXT, and hopefully one day this translates to the main roster so we do not see the complete hijacking of otherwise talented women (Emma, Paige).

The greatest feud in the women's division in NXT had no one true standout moment last year, but instead used their time wisely in a constantly evolving showcase of progression in counter based wrestling as seen through the perfect heel/face dynamics of Bayley and Sasha Banks. It was a series of matches that was based upon callbacks to previous matches, and since they've wrestled each other so many times there was plenty to build upon. It was always slight variations that brought something new to the table that kept this feud fresh. In April Bayley won with a Belly to Bayley suplex, One month later they wrestled again, but Sasha countered the Belly to Bayley with a backstabber crossface. When they picked their feud back up in August Bayley goes for the Belly to Bayley again, Sasha counters it again with the backstabber crossface, but Bayley, knowing this is coming, ends up countering that move with a roll up. It's little things like this that make watching the two very interesting.

As an aside I would just like to get on my soapbox for a moment and just talk about why these two (and Charlotte) are important. Women's wrestling is not given the respect it deserves in WWE, and to be truthful I'm not sure if it ever has. The closest it has ever come to being equal with the men was in the mid 90s when Bull Nakano, Alundra Blayze and Aja Kong were representing women's wrestling in the company. The attitude era saw the dissolution of this, and the arrival of Playboy matches shortly afterward. WWE has never recovered, but I respect that they are trying with NXT. The Women still aren't equal down in NXT, because if they were they'd be going after people like Athena as hard as they went after wrestlers like KENTA, but it brings me an infinite amount of joy knowing that there's at least one area of WWE programming that's giving women a spotlight. Women have always been as good as men at wrestling, but there's always been a stigma that they can't do it for whatever reason, and I think WWE is a big reason for that stereotype existing. I don't know if things are ever going to change on the main roster, but as a Woman I can at least take solace in knowing that Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte and to a lesser extent Becky Lynch are ushering in what will hopefully become a new era for Women's wrestling in the biggest Wrestling company in the world.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Reflections on a Year as a WWE Fan


And the boos reigned down from the heavens, and I became a wrestling fan. My coming out moment with professional wrestling was born in chaos, and complete disillusionment over Daniel Bryan's absence in the Royal Rumble.  I knew that he was a fan favourite and others were passionate about him, because I recall my boyfriend and my best friend having intense reactions over the ending of SummerSlam. I remember remarking back to my boyfriend that I thought the SummerSlam ending was "stupid:. It was because of those two people that I took an interest in the art as I wanted to get closer to each of them. I never expected it to take over my life, and become one of my favourite avenues of artistic appreciation, but that's exactly what happened.

The 2014 Royal Rumble, as frustrating as it was, may go down as one of the more important events in the history of the WWE as it showcased the power of the fan in a way that completely shifted the gameplan of the company heading into Wrestlemania. It was my first ever pay per view, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way, because I feel like it was the absolute perfect time for a newcomer to come on board. I was watching matches here and there leading up to the Rumble, but I was almost wholly unfamilair with the roster. Most of my education came in going back and viewing matches from Mick Foley, Undertaker, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, but I was ready to love Daniel Bryan, because he was loved by the people I cared about most. His match against Bray Wyatt turned me into a disciple of his work, and now I consider him possibly the greatest North American Wrestler of all time. It still stands as one of best WWE matches of 2014, and it also made me a Bray Wyatt fan. Funnily enough I hate him more than any other wrestler now, but Daniel Bryan has a way of making others look like superstars, and he did there. I understood why we loved Daniel Bryan with that match, and I was ready for him to win the Royal Rumble. I was told he was coming. He had to be win it. There is no way he wouldn't be in the Rumble.

And then he wasn't, and the Titanic happened. The entire match dissolved before our eyes. Everyone became a heel, because these men were not Daniel Bryan, and for that one night he was the only man that mattered. It would only rub salt in the wound further when Batista won the Rumble, after we had collectively settled for Roman Reigns taking out the Animal. After the event was over I was hooked by the drama of it all, and the beauty within the ring recalled another art of movement that I was in love with; dance, and that settled it. I was a fan, and I wasn't going to miss anything from this point forward.

In hindsight I was spoiled rotten with the run from the Royal Rumble up through Payback as the company was extremely hot, had consistent booking, and a wealth of bubbling talent. It's too bad they would squander almost everything that turned me into a wrestling fan in the back half of the year. The Shield imploded with a chair shot, The Wyatt Family crumbled with a whimper, Daniel Bryan gave us all true happiness at Mania only to become injured and miss out on the fruits of his labour, and Cesaro....well, let's not talk about that.  Everything that I fell in love with at the beginning of the year was gone, but then WWE surprised me again, and I became more invested than I have in my entire life even though the good year they had built up was crashing down to earth.

On June 2nd, the new Kings of my Wrestling world, The Shield, were no more. Seth Rollins sold out, and destroyed his family. He broke Dean Ambrose's heart, and mine too. I still shudder at watching the video where he turned on his bretheren as I'm too invested in these characters to relive moments that actually brought me physical pain. Nevertheless, in that moment of tragedy saw a new level of my fandom in a man I now call my favourite wrestler, Dean Ambrose. He was the catalyst for the revenge that was needed on Seth Rollins, and in his attacks on Seth Rollins he started to become a top guy for not only me, but for many others. The Seth Rollins/Dean Ambrose feud was something intricately layered and built upon years of ring chemistry, and story that dated all the way back to FCW, through the Shield, and to the present. They became combustible, and now they can't exist near one another without violence occurring. Ambrose was hurt too much from the attack, as we'd later find out he never had a family. So this was it for him, and that hurt that came from losing his only real blood was too much to bear. He'd destroy Seth Rollins, and I wanted to see him do it. I lived for those moments when he'd charge across the ring and brawl with Seth, turning his trademark sloppy fists into something of pure rage. Suddenly, it all came together for me with Ambrose and I was so deeply in love with professional wrestling, and more specifically him that I'd spend hours watching his matches, reading interviews, and unraveling my hero. When he uttered "We're All Going to Die Tonight" before their match at Hell in a Cell I practically swooned. My fandom was at it's peak. This was the most I had ever loved wrestling, and I needed to see him win. That pinfall was important and as the match progressed I was so ready, and I was loving every second of a PG era Hell in a Cell, something I didn't think possible, and then it cut to black. I didn't understand what was happening, and then I heard Bray Wyatt's voice, and the feud was over, unfinished, cut off, missed, and my heart was torn out.

I'm still chasing that feeling, and I've been disillusioned with WWE ever since. This hasn't been the end of my wrestling fandom though, not by a longshot, because I've grown attached to the indies, and NJPW. I found more to love in SHIMMER, ROH circa the mid 00s, the hopeful future in NXT, and even the women's action in TNA. I'm evolving as a fan, but I wonder if I'll ever feel that rush that I felt with Ambrose and Rollins again, and as the Royal Rumble approaches this weekend I'm doubtful. It seems like Roman Reigns is well on his way to headlining Wrestlemania and it might be with Seth Rollins, and I wouldn't really care, and that bums me out. But as I come into the Royal Rumble one year later I like the symmetry of rooting for Daniel Bryan once more, and this time he's certain to be in the event. It may even end with a parade of boos and taking an eraser to Vince McMahon's Wrestlemania dry erase board like last year. Ironically Roman Reigns would become the man we hated last year, and he'd get the exact opposite reaction he experienced alongside Batista. I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen in WWE in 2015, but I'll be watching even if it stays as wretched as it has been the last few months, because I've seen the highs, and it's unlike anything else in the world of art. I am grateful that those two people I mentioned in the first paragraph as they gave me reason to check out wrestling, because I love it more than almost anything. I don't know how many times I cried watching wrestling this year, but I hope I will be on Sunday, as Daniel Bryan moves on to headline Wrestlemania 31.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Tomohiro Ishii vs Katsuyori Shibata: Camaraderie in Wrestling

Was there a greater moment of camaraderie between rivals in any medium this year then in Tomohiro Ishii vs Katsuyori Shibata at the G1 Climax?