I know this is a novel, but I would like to spend a moment to dedicate this blog to those of us who have gone on before this year. Though I did not know any of these personally, I would like to spend a moment to dedicate this blog to JT Lightning, Spiro, Larry Sweeney, The Macho Man & Killer Karl Kox. I’m sure I forgot a few so please add any below in the comments section.
This was a big year in wrestling for me. Aside from attending my local indy promotion (MPX), I had pretty much lost interest in the wrestling business. But then one fateful February afternoon, Larry Stanley of www.bigbadsportsdaddy.com gave me the opportunity to do a live pre-show broadcast at Wings in Euless, TX before the PPV. Then I realized to sound educated, I needed to be prepared for the Elimination Chamber and read up about it. Then to sound educated for the next PPV, I knew I needed to keep up with wrestling. So I began watching Monday Night Raw and Smackdown again. And then I discovered this thing called iPPV where I could get Ring of Honor big PPV events where they understood exactly what I wanted in wrestling and provided me with that product. Until ROH runs Dallas, I really have no way of ever seeing them live other than on iPPV (hint, hint).
This is going to get intensely personal here for a minute, but I began to lose weight this year because my cholesterol number was 4 figures. Ok, so that’s an exaggeration, but my doctor and I did have a “coming-to-Jesus” meeting about my weight and diet. So I took an extensive internal introspection about why I was so heavy. A lot of it was diet and exercise and portion control. But one key thing was that I used food as a motivator. My world revolved around food. I needed to shift my focus from food to something else. Of course, my wife and daughter were at the top of that list. But I needed something to fall back on when my wife was tired and my daughter was sleeping. So I continued to go to MPX, started going to a bar for UFC PPV’s and dove into the world of independent wrestling. There’s no food in independent wrestling when you’re watching it on a DVD (unless of course, your wife brings home Chinese food during the Donst/Aries-UltraMantis/Hallowicked iPPV match <-true story).
So I chose moments that kind of encapsulated the past year for me. I chose a top 10 moments of wrestling over the past year.
10. Sheamus & Beaker-The WWE had some pretty big celebrities this past year. Some didn’t quite get it. And some did. Say what you want about Snooki, but people who thought John Cena was Mark Wahlberg’s stunt double were talking to me about wrestling. And we weren’t expecting Savage-Steamboat from her Wrestlemania match. Instead, we got Dolph Ziggler, LayCool, Vickie Guerrero, a returning Trish Stratus and John Morrison involved in a very quick match that got the WWE their coveted celebrity buzz without destroying any of their long-term characters. Hugh Jackman was also a great host that looked like he was enjoying himself and even had a nice segment with Vickie Guerrero & Dolph Ziggler. And I know the Internet Wrestling Community was divided on their appearances, but I loved some of the Muppet segments. I loved Cody Rhodes putting the paper bag on Kermit, Hornswoggle getting to be involved in the Muppet segments and Kermit calling Vickie grandma. But the moment of the night for me was Sheamus (who is my favorite wrestler currently in the WWE) talking to Beaker. It was a total match made in Heaven.
9. My “in-ring” debut-All I was told was that I was going to be a special guest on the Hot Topics segment (MPX’s Piper’s Pit) and that they wanted my natural reaction. So Kyle Valo called me into the ring and I cut a promo on him, about how he his shirt had buttons and he needed to use them to cover his chest hair (the singular was intended). Then he wanted me to read Twilight (That’s his gimmick, that he’s a Twilight fan), and I was saved by Kristopher Haiden who was fighting later on in the main event (and a personal note: he was an usher at my sister-in-law’s wedding this past November and is the one who first told me about MPX). He thanked me for my blog that put the wrestlers over like champs. Even though I’ve thought about being a manager or referee (and right now my back disagrees with me about doing that), that may be as close as I’ll get to inside a wrestling ring. I brought my wife with me that night and I had her tape it so I could show my wife. I was a happy little smark.
8. Watching MPX evolve-Metroplex wrestling, which you can read about on www.metroplexwrestling.com, has evolved a lot over the past year. Last year, they were just kind of beginning to cement their identity. Then they began to evolve into delivering one of DFW’s best wrestling products. I watched “Headbanger” Gregory James evolve into one of the company’s top names and a dare-I-say-it, their first home-grown star. He is now a solid mid-carder for Anarchy Championship Wrestling. Between BC’s mic skills and Zach T’s ever-present scowl, I’ve watched Cash & Carry evolve into the company’s best tag team. Ben Wylde (with Kyle Davis’ influence) went from tie-dye guy to a serious upper-level midcard babyface (and a fellow member of Team Pasty White). Carrion Arcane added Claudia (one of MPX’s top newcomers) & Viktor Tadlock and had an awesome feud with Kristopher Haiden that culminated in a casket match and then a feud with his brother-in-law Mike Foxx. Frankie Fisher got serious about his conditioning and had watched the pounds fly off. While I think he is the best at playing the doofus heel, I’m curious to see what he can do as the “bad-ass” heel. “Jiggle-O” James Johnson went from happy-go-lucky, talk with the kids during intermission babyface to a main event legitimate heel with one promo. Kenny Steele turned into a top heel pretty much overnight and gave one of the matches of the year against Matt Palmer. Kristopher Haiden turned into the elder statesman who creates stars, the Tommy Dreamer, if you will. $Payday$ has turned into the most beloved wrestler, with little kids bringing their sign for him and shoot, even I have a $Payday$ t-shirt. Seph Annunaki went through several evolutions this year and is now in what should be a very entertaining tag team with James Hawke, Team Live, Fly & Die. And forgive me for tooting my own horn, but I did give Seph the nickname he now uses: The Innovator of Offense (I technically called him “The New Innovator of Offense” out of respect to the late Khris Kanyun, but if The Rock can call himself that without giving props to Don Muraco, we can allow it). And of course, I loved the Scott Murdoch heel turn. Not only that, but MPX has brought better-known names into the company, great names like Doberman, Li Fang, Jason Silver, Zero the Antihero, Barrett Brown (whom I now nickname “The Texas Phenom”), Keith Lee, Andy Dalton and the returns of JT LaMotta, Danny Saint, Matt Palmer and Wally Darkmon. And we also had major names in the national market like Lance Hoyt/Vance Archer, SHIMMER’s Athena, former FCW developmental diva Su Young and Texas legend Mike Foxx. Plus, there are talks of major names coming in the next year. There are rumblings of the powers-that-be trying to bring in Doug Williams or Colt Cabana (I might cry if I ever met either). And of course the biggest evolution was watching WASP lose A LOT OF MASS as he conquered his weight issues and ended up inspiring me as well as others to win the Battle of the Proverbial Bulge.
7. New blogs to write for and new experiences-I had the chance to meet a lot of really great people in the wrestling world this past year. I met Chikara’s Ophidian, who told me he was surprised to find a Chikara fan in Haltom City. I also had the chance to support Athena and Su Young at their merch tables. (And Athena told me I could fit in a large. What a sweetie.) And I had the opportunity to interact with some great wrestlers on Twitter, Rickey Shane Page, AJ Smooth, Cherry Bomb (whom I now have a 13-year-old fanboy crush on), Kevin Kelly, Gabe Sapolsky, Veda Scott (fanboy crush too) and Michael Façade. But I was invited to write for some new great sites, like www.wonderpodonline.com, www.boredwrestlingfan.com, www.wrestlematters.com, www.pwponderings.com and www.prowrestlingnewz.com. With www.bigbadsportsdaddy.com, I went from blogging about MMA to being their featured Monday Night Raw reviewer. They also added me to their live podcast before every PPV at Wings in Euless. And with Pro Wrestling Ponderings, I made my podcast debut. I am very lucky to have been graced with so many opportunities, and I can only hope that I do them justice with what I bring to the table.
6. Discovering new promotions-There is nothing better than that first time you watch a promotion. It’s like a first date. Some you fall in love with and never leave their side again. Some you thank for a lovely evening and maybe never see again, but you remember them fondly. Thankfully, I haven’t had any stinkers yet that I’m never going near again. But I found some very vibrant companies with some great communities out there. Absolute Intense Wrestling (www.aiwrestling.com) is a very vibrant company with lots of great home-grown talent and always gives a great show. Chikara Pro (www.chikarapro.com) gives you some of the most exciting wrestling at a PG level without being “dumbed down” like the WWE product. Pro Wrestling Guerilla (www.prowrestlingguerilla.com) is the closest thing out there to the old ECW. Their fans are loyal, devoted and almost make the show more fun than the actual show itself. Dragon Gate USA (www.dgusa.tv) is where the best of Japan mix it up with the best of US. And 3XW in Iowa, when it was on sale, I found it to be a very solid entertaining show. I also went to another indy in the Texas area called Pro Wrestling Onslaught. I got to see a lot of my MPX guys on a different stage, Ophidian live (and marked out when I bought an Osiron Portal t-shirt), in addition to some of South Texas’ finest, like the next big thing in indy wrestling, ACH. And the most important promotion I discovered this past year was SHIMMER. When I watched the first match ever, between Tiana Ringer and Shantelle Taylor, it was like going into this strange new world where women were respected and fought in an athletic contest. No wet-shirt contests, no 1-minute matches, no Jerry Lawler yelling “Puppies.” This was real women’s wrestling. This was the wrestling I can show my daughter once she’s old enough to know what wrestling is.
5. Discovering new wrestlers-I discovered so many great wrestlers this year, and I’m going to forget a lot of them so this is by no means a comprehensive list. But I discovered Barrett Brown, ACH, The Colony, Ophidian, Tursas, Icarus, Gregory Iron (thanks to CM Punk), Tim Donst, Dasher Hatfield, Chuck Taylor, Johnny Gargano, Michael Façade, Eric Ryan, Marion Fontaine, Kyle O’Reilly, Uhaa Nation, Aeroform, Rickey Shane Page, Ryan Slade, AJ Smooth, Veda Scott, MsChif, Jessicka Havoc, Willie Mack & Pac. I had also heard the names but had never seen matches of Sara Del Rey, Mike Quackenbush, El Generico, Eddie Kingston, Kevin Steen, Sugar Dunkerton, Daizee Haze, Cherry Bomb, Irish Airborne or Portia Perez. Thank you all for working your tails off and abusing your bodies on our behalves. I assure you, it is appreciated and “still real to me, damnit.”
4. Ring of Honor-In many ways, ROH is my ECW. I don’t get ROH tv in my area and don’t always have time to watch it on the Internet. But I have something to look forward to every quarter, much like ECW was for me back in the days of PPV’s. And like ECW, it gives me an alternative to what I watch every Monday night. I have great in-ring action and they’re the closest thing to UFC in the wrestling world I have seen. Shelton Benjamin can be who he is. We get wrestlers we can stand behind. And you remember how Alberto Del Rio won the WWE Championship and it meant nothing? Ring of Honor is not so. ROH built up All Night Xpress when it was time for them to take center stage. Plus, they gave me 3 of the best matches I’ve seen all year. Davey Richards-Eddie Edwards, The 4 Corners Tag Match with The World’s Greatest Tag Team-The Kings of Wrestling-All Night Xpress-The Briscoes and of course, the bloody and brutal ladder match between ANX & Briscoes.
3. Triple H-Undertaker & build-up-In many ways, this goes into the Top 5 for match of the year. I remember the return of the Undertaker. He walked out to “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash and then as soon as he hit the ring, HHH’s music hit and he got the stare of death. The two faced off in the ring, and both simultaneously looked at the Wrestlemania XXVII banner hanging in the arena. I wrote a Facebook status update. “Cut your promo. And if necessary – use words” (which is a take-off of a St. Francis of Assisi quote that said “Preach the Gospel. And if necessary – use words”). And then there was the video package that they put together featuring Arn Anderson, Ricky Steamboat, Harley Race, that when it was done, I said it was probably the best video package I’ve ever seen WWE do. And then there was the match. My mind knew there was no way Undertaker was going to lose, but there were always those lingering doubts that Trips might just book himself to stop the streak.
2. CM Punk’s “The Promo”-Well, I tried to do this blog without mentioning John Cena, but it turns out he’s going to get a mention after all. CM Punk won the #1 contender-ship, sat on the top of the ramp (in what now has become the Punking position), and was told to say why he wanted the belt and wanted to leave and was told that they would cut him off when he went too far. When he first started cutting his promo, I woke up my wife. A few seconds into it, she herself asked incredulously, “What is going on?” Overnight, CM Punk’s t-shirt sold out. Jim Rome invited CM Punk on his show to finish his promo that got cut short. CM Punk transcended the wrestling world and was the topic of every wrestling conversation. I couldn’t sleep that night. My wife went up in my sister-in-law’s room to tell her about the promo. The Twitter wrestling community named that “The Promo.” For a month, wrestling was great. CM Punk said everything wrestling fans everywhere would say in their heads but nobody ever had the guts to say it on tv. Even John Cena was not Shiny Happy Cena but somebody genuine that you wanted to get behind. And then there was the Money in the Bank match. That’s #3 on my Match of the Year List behind Kingston-Quackenbush & Briscoes-ANX in the ladder match. There are very few times I can say this in wrestling anymore. But I genuinely did not know how this match was going to end. I was like a little kid watching wrestling for the first time. Then Punk won and walked out the door with the belt. He appeared at Cubs games with the belt. He showed up at Comic Conventions to ask HHH why Zack Ryder wasn’t on tv. He showed up at an AAW show to put over Gregory Iron. WWE was great for that month.
1. Kingston-Quackenbush. There are so many reasons this match was awesome. Eddie Kingston cut the promo of the year (yes, better than Punk’s) about why this match meant so much to him, talking about his knee issues, the late Larry Sweeney, his years in the business. This match felt bigger than the Wrestlemania main event. Tommy Dreamer accompanied Eddie Kingston ringside. When Gavin Loudspeaker doing the intros said “For those watching here, for those watching on PPV and those watching up above…” the place broke out into a “Larry” chant for “Sweet ‘n’ Sour” Larry Sweeney. As the match started, one by one, wrestlers came out to ringside and leaned on the apron. When Kingston was put in a submission hold, the fans and the wrestlers all chanted “Please don’t tap.” The biggest heels in the company were out there watching. There was no heel or face, just brothers and sisters. Plus, you had Tom Carter/Reckless Youth out there, who some hadn’t seen in years. And then when Kingston won, he was presented the belt by Sweeney’s brother and friend. Very few moments in wrestling have made me cry. Of course, deaths have. But only a few times has wrestling made me cry. This was one of them.
But this isn’t why this match was big for me. My 2-year-old daughter climbed up into my lap just like she always does when she’s watching tv. We turned the tv to Dora or Elmo or whatever she wants to watch. But I kept on watching the match on my laptop. While she was watching tv, she looked over at my screen and saw Kingston putting Quackenbush in a hold. She got this really concerned look on her face and said “Uh-oh.” Rather than go on back to her Dora, she glued her eyes to the screen and watched the match as long as her little 2-year-old attention span could take. My daughter has reacted to wrestling things before. When the Road Warriors were inducted into the Hall of Fame, I started doing the “Oh, what a rush” to my daughter and she said, “Say it again.” (<– Her first full sentence) And I got her to do “Woo woo woo” and even did that one time when we were watching Smackdown when Zack Ryder said it. But this was the first time she’d ever sat down and paid attention to a match. So this was “Baby’s First Match.”
There were a lot of other great moments I forgot: Christian’s & Mark Henry’s first title victories, Sunny, LOD & HBK going into the WWE HOF and the Steen-ROH angle. I know this is long so please forgive the length. This was just a big year for me, and I thanked in the best way I know how. I wrote. What did I forget? Feel free to comment below.