Category Archives: Wrestling

Retro Rasslin – WWE Royal Rumble (1996)

I did a recap of the 1999 Royal Rumble a few months ago, and decided to break out another one. I’ll probably do one of these every few months just because it’s a lot of words, but I have fun doing them. I went with the 1996 Rumble because it was 20 years ago (so an anniversary!) and because of the odd collection of wrestlers that actually participated in the Rumble that year. The WWF was in this weird sort of metamorphosis where they weren’t quite in the “Attitude Era” yet, but they were somewhat breaking away from their cartoonish act of the 80s and early 90s that had gotten really played out and set the table for WCW becoming the #1 promotion.

TV-14 for violence, so maybe color? (Ed. note: nope. Just good ol’ fashioned violence)

Open to Sunny in a bathtub warning us that there may be content of a graphic nature. Tammy Sytch would sadly give us that graphic nature 20 years later, and from what I’m to understand – you don’t want it.

Opening package plugs the two title matches – Bret Hart defending the World belt against Undertaker (with creepy bone mask), and Razor Ramon defending the Intercontinental belt against Goldust, who was at the top of his heel game here. Oh, right, and the Rumble too.

WE ARE LIVE TWENTY YEARS AGO from the Selland Arena in Fresno, California where we are joined by tonight’s commentators Vince McMahon and – Mr. Perfect? I forgot Curt wasn’t wrestling at this time, though he’d jump to WCW the following year and start wrestling again.

Match 1: JAY-AY-DOUBLE-EFF JAY-AY-DOUBLE-ARE-EE-DOUBLE-TEE (sans Roadie) vs “SHINY” AHMED BLOWNSPOT Continue reading Retro Rasslin – WWE Royal Rumble (1996)

Retro Rasslin – WWE Royal Rumble (1999)

If you know me, you know I like wrestling, and I miss recapping shows like I used to do for Pop Bunker (R.I.P.), and with the recent availability of just about every major piece of pro wrestling video now available on demand via the WWE Network, I keep feeling the need to recap a show from years ago. Today, I’m going to see how far I can get with the 1999 Royal Rumble.

The Rumble has always been one of my favorite PPVs, with just a jumbled mess of a main event that ends up seeing one-shot gimmicks, thought to be retired wrestlers, and shocking debuts along with a card that otherwise is pretty decent most years. I’ve pretty much forgotten anything about this card (outside of the fact that it’s during the WWE “Attitude Era”), so I’ll write as I watch, with recollection and surprise coming through.

Recap package leading in was of the Steve Austin/Vince McMahon feud which was nuclear hot at the time. McMahon screws over Austin by making him #1 in the Rumble, and Shawn Michaels returns the screwjob by drawing #2 for McMahon, meaning we’re going to open the Rumble match with Austin/McMahon. That’s it – that’s all the background. The subtitle for the Rumble is “No Chance In Hell”, so Vince’s theme has been playing in the background through the whole opening package.

WE ARE NOT VERY LIVE AT ALL FROM THE ARROWHEAD POND IN ANAHEIM AND BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM cripes those damn fireworks. I used to go to a decent amount of WWE tapings during this time and the fireworks never failed to be INCREDIBLY LOUD. Fireworks should not be shot off indoors. Tonight’s Rumble is being brought to you by 10-10-220, which was something you’d dial for collect calls or cheap long distance and I’ve already lost anyone under the age of 25. Your announcers are Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler. Continue reading Retro Rasslin – WWE Royal Rumble (1999)

Benoit, part deux

As expected as more and more details come out, the media has jumped all over the Benoit story. And while the evidence that we know of doesn’t position Benoit in any position for sympathy (nor does he deserve it at this point), it’s the stories of the last 48 hours that have reminded me why I knew I would never make it in journalism, and why I can’t stand the vast majority of it to this day. Continue reading Benoit, part deux

Eddy

Funny (well, not really “funny”) how one of the last times I sat down and actually wanted to post something on my blog, Chris Candito was dead.

Now it’s Eddy Guerrero.

Eddy died sometime Sunday morning/Saturday night of an apparent heart attack at the age of 38. According to his wife, Eddy’s heart showed signs of damage, with worn blood vessels and the heart was enlarged (thanks Wrestling Observer site).

I first remember seeing Eddy on the “When Worlds Collide” PPV, back when Eddy and Art Barr were tearing up the house in AAA as Los Gringos Locos in Mexico. It was their mask vs. hair match against El Hijo Del Santo and Octagon that caused people (including one Paul Heyman) to stand up and take notice of Eddy and Art. Art, unfortunately, would never see any of the aftereffects of the match, dying 17 days after the show.

Eddy ended up eventually making his way to ECW, where I got to really see what he could do. Eddy got directed into a feud with Dean Malenko over the ECW TV title, in a feud WWF/WCW promoters would have touched normally. Eddy and Dean, neither taller than 5’8″ and not exactly known for their promo skills (Art drew the heat in Mexico from his words, Eddy more drew heat from associating with Art and renouncing his Mexican heritage by making sure he was properly introduced as being from the United States of America) put together an incredible program, with Eddy adopting Art’s frog splash finisher.

Eventually, Eddy (and a lot of the ECW talent) were sucked in by WCW and signed to big money contracts. Eddy got a few decent pushes in WCW, holding the WCW Cruiserweight Title twice, and held the WCW US Title, which he won in a tournament. Eddy’s run in WCW turned sour though, as he (like many workers in WCW at the time, which would grow as time went along) grew tired of sitting in the midcard, and wanted to make his way up – something that was pretty much impossible with the politics within the company, and Guerrero found himself in a similar situation that kept him out of major American companies in the first place – his size was working against him. Unlike others, however, Eddy went public with his issues (since he did work for a company with a live television show), and demanded his release on live TV. He then formed the lWo (Latino World Order – a takeoff on the New World Order gimmick) which consisted of every single Mexican/Latino wrestler in the company, most of which weren’t getting any push at all and had no gimmick going for them. That ended up coming to an end when Eddie almost died in an car accident.

Soon after the accident, and a lot sooner than anyone expected, Eddy returned to WCW. He looked to be in incredible shape, especially for someone who had almost died and was returning some 6 or so months before anyone had expected him to. He was incredibly lean and cut, and I remember thinking he had to have been on steroids at the time. Steroids wouldn’t be the only thing he ran into as a result of the accident.

Eddy’s troubles with upper management continued upon his return, and an unexpected opportunity arose. When Vince Russo was demoted from his head booking position in WCW and replaced by Kevin Sullivan, numerous wrestlers spoke up against the move – specificly Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, Shane Douglas, Billy Kidman, and Konnan. Benoit’s beef was understandable – he was getting the largest push of the group, but due to his real-life relationship with Sullivan’s ex-wife Nancy, Benoit knew that no good could come of this. WCW VP at the time, Bill Busch (a man who knew a lot about business, but nothing about wrestling), had stated openly to the unhappy dressing room that anyone who wasn’t happy in WCW could ask for their release, and it would be granted. Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko, and Saturn would take up Busch on the offer and got their releases free and clear, and immedately jumped to the WWF.

The WWF jump was unthinkable at the time – earlier, Chris Jericho had made it known he wasn’t going to resign with WCW, and WCW kept him off television for an extended period of time until his contract ended. However, with the Radicalz (as the group would be called in WCW), they would go from being WCW stars one week to WWE stars the next, with Busch’s only condition being that the wrestlers couldn’t badmouth WCW or sue the company. Busch, not learning from past history (see Nash, Kevin & Hall, Scott), didn’t realize that the WWF could easily market the four, and immedately put them in seperate angles. Eddy (now “Eddie Guerrero”) was initially packaged with Chyna, which originated Eddy’s first catchphrase, “Latino Heat”.

The WWF booked Eddy well, as the company smartly packaged their smaller wrestlers in programs together to make their differences less noticable, something ECW had done with great success (due to the fact that 95% of their roster was small) and WCW had failed to do. Eddy was booked in programs with Chris Jericho and Essa Rios, then eventually won the Intercontinental Title from Chyna to tease an eventual breakup, using the Eddie Gilbert psychology of siding with faces and seeming genuine while using heel tactics and looking out for himself over all others. It’s a style Eddy would use often in WW(E).

Eddy’s demons would creep back to him, and he developed an addiction to painkillers that could be traced back to the car accident that almost killed him back when he was in WCW. The turn to painkillers wasn’t unthinkable – so many wrestlers, whether it be because of their backbreaking schedules or fear of being out of the public eye for too long nursing an injury (or especially in more recent years concern for their jobs, with the lack of competing organizations to go to) turn to painkillers and alcohol in order to keep their routine. The results can turn up deadly. Eddy’s problem was not unnoticed by management, and in May of 2001, Guerrero was order to go to rehab for his addiction. Eddy emerged from rehab seemingly changed, but some six months later, Eddy’s problems were made public when he was arrested for drunk driving. Three days later, Eddy was fired by the WWF. Whether it was a public message to the boys, a message to Eddy, or to save face in the public eye that constantly criticized professional wrestling (and Vince McMahon specificly) for turning a blind eye to this behavior, it served as a wakeup call to Eddy (later, William Regal would go through a similar process, and credits it for “saving his life”).

When Eddy came back to the WWE after a brief layoff, he was a “new man”. He became a born again Christian and went back to work. With WWE Champion (Smackdown brand) Brock Lesnar asking to be released from his WWE contract to persue a pro football career, WWE bookers, noticing both a good story (Guerrero’s comeback from drugs and alcohol) and Eddy’s huge popularity swings in areas with strong Latino populations (Eddy was working as a heel and still enjoyed Ric Flair-like heel popularity due to his heel tactics and interviews) saw an opportunity to put the WWE Championship on Eddy. He would win the title from Lesnar in February of 2004’s Smackdown branded Pay Per View “No Way Out”, notable because of Lesnar’s huge size and strength advantage over the much smaller Guerrero. Guerrero would later be booked against larger opponents and play the Ricky Morton “face in peril” often, facing huge odds but still managing to pull out the win. Guerrero’s title run would be shortlived, however, dropping the title to John “Bradshaw” Layfield after four months. This title drop, paired with Benoit’s 5 month long title reign and eventual drop to Randy Orton annoyed many hardcore fans, who respected the hard work of Guerrero and Benoit and didn’t feel that Layfield or Orton were deserving of titles at the time (WWE at the time was attempting to develop “new stars”, and one of the easier ways to do so is to put a major belt on them – sometimes this works, sometimes not.)

Eddy’s WWF/E career was littered with “questionable” gimmicks – while I loved his Gilbertesque faceheel style, I hated the low rider/”mamacita”/lie-cheat-steal image he was generally paired with. I felt it painted him as a huge stereotype, and while it was generally done for comic reasons (because it was so over-the-top), it would still make me a little uncomfortable to see him with these gimmicks, when I felt that he could easily pull off his heel mannerisms without having to simplify his gimmick. Eddy had a natural ability to pull off a heel role, and when put in the face role, he pulled it off well too, whether it be in the underdog role he was in as WWE Champion or as the “cheat to win” ally who you couldn’t trust but you needed by your side to beat the heels. Eddie Gilbert and Ric Flair are the only two that come to mind immedately that could do that as well as Eddy.

Eddy’s enlarged heart doesn’t necessarily shed light onto his cause of death, and we likely won’t know that information for a while, if ever. While steroid use can lead to heart weakness and an enlarged heart, recent studies have shown that painkillers such as Vioxx can also lead to hypertension and enlarged hearts. To think that a wrestler or athlete could completely kick painkillers completely (including things such as Advil or Tylenol) doesn’t seem possible, due to the extent of injuries that take place in the normal wear and tear of an athlete. Eddy’s condition doesn’t even assume that it was a result of something happening currently – damage could have already taken place from the past, and was just waiting to turn back up again.

It doesn’t make it any less sad, though. Eddy, you’ll be greatly missed.

Wrestling

So far, no autopsy results have been released, at least that I could find. I read somewhere “staph infection”, but I only saw it one place, and blood clot seems to make more sense. I’m no doctor, so who knows.

My Candito (or Candido, “to” I believe is his given name, “do” was his ring name) post was actually noted on another website, and surrounded by rips on other blog entries and posts about Chris, mine actually seemed slightly positive:

Yet more Candido sentiment. Thing is, the decent Candido memorial posts seem to come from intelligent fans with true loves of wrestling. They don’t sound “smarky” or have the whole “fuck Candido he was a lifetime doper I have no sympathy for him I’M SO HEEEEEL” anti-sentiment you sometimes get on wrestling sites like this. Hell, people here are being reasonably well-behaved about Candido’s death. God knows people on TheDDT are making more Sytch jokes than anything else. I’m doing it, too – there’s something about contributing to a fund where the only beneficiary is Tamara Lynn Fytch that I don’t like.

It is funny how wrestling fans especially seem to like having an online personna to mirror the attention that their favorite wrestlers achieve. Lots of wrestling fans are attention whores for whatever reason – maybe they weren’t popular in school, maybe they’re a little scary, maybe they’re envious of what wrestlers (and other television personalities) receive just by walking out a door. I used to be a regular on IRC in wrestling chat rooms and those type of things, and there were people there who just couldn’t drop the act. They’re the ones who challenge other online people to fistfights (“Name the place, I’ll be there!”, knowing full well that the two people are 2000 miles apart), saying things purely for shock value, claiming to enjoy things that no one likes (“Dude, I’m such a big Vicera fan!”), and pretty much saying the complete opposite of what more than two people agree with (“You know, Chris Benoit’s an overrated worker. He’s no Paul London.”)

I always thought it was a wrestling thing, but it’s carried over to pretty much any message board or chat room I’ve ever been in. I frequent a message board for a baseball game, and I still see the same stuff (albeit with less frequency).

I wish I could like wrestling now, but I’m pretty much at the point I was at around ’94-’95. The only thing that got me back into wrestling then was ECW, but I sadly don’t see an ECW on the horizon that’s going to get me interested again.

Candito

Chris Candito died Thursday at the age of 33.

Had I written this two years ago, this news wouldn’t have been that surprising. Candito had his demons, and struggled with them as many other professional wrestlers do. The problems he went through with his girlfriend/wife/whatever Tammy Sytch were known my many “smart” wrestling fans. Candito could have easily down that route and had his life end as so many other professional wrestlers have. Candito didn’t though. He straightened himself out.

Candito, unfortunately for him, straightened himself out at a time when the industry didn’t necessarily need him. He had a gig with Titan (the horrible Bodydonnas thing) and made his money that way, but he wasn’t in it for the money – I can honestly believe that. The money was nice, but Candito seemed to really enjoy wrestling. He went back to ECW and he wrestled his ass off on numerous occasions, then eventually made his way over to the slowly dying WCW, where he could have been a real asset, had WCW not been run by complete morons.

He ended up coming back to TNA most recently, clean and willing to work. He broke his leg on Sunday at TNA’s PPV, working a tag match. The injury was a fluke – Sonny Sakai threw a dropkick and apparently landed wrong on Candito, breaking his leg. Candito ended up having pins placed in on Tuesday. He was dead Thursday, the result (apparently) of a blot clot due to his surgery. A completely healthy athlete, finally free of drugs, fallen by a complete fluke of an injury. Sometimes life really isn’t fair.

You could tell Candito loved wrestling. Small guys always get into wrestling for the love of it (unless they’re part of a wrestling family). Big guys are often former football players or just genetic freaks who get into wrestling because it’s an easy way for them to make money. Small guys don’t get any breaks unless they have a look, can cut a promo, and can work their ass off. Candito could do that.

Candito was involved in one of my all time “mark out” moments as a wrestling fan. I made it a habit to go to the ECW Arena for at least a few shows a year, and always the Cyberslam shows. 1999 promised to be a good show, but then again, any ECW Arena show promised to be a good show.

Midway through the card, Taz (then ECW Champ) came out talking about how great he was, how he could take out any of the boys in the back, how he’d beaten everyone in the company, etc. The beauty of Heyman as a booker was that when he got someone to make an appearance or work for the company, it generally didn’t get out, so there was actual surprise. In contrast, someone like Jericho coming to WWF was known months in advance.

Anyway, Taz cut his promo and finished it, standing in the ring. A couple of seconds later, AC/DC’s “Back In Black” pumped through the PA and I heard one of the best pops I heard at the Arena. Everyone pretty much knew about Candito and Tammy’s problems, and they kind of disappeared for a little while, but when the two came out, they looked great. Tammy looked incredible (and half-naked), which looking back is pretty sad, as it’s the last time I saw her as “attractive”. Candito was pumped up (in more ways than one) and the two had a great match, going into the crowd (something that ECW tried to play down more recently due to various lawsuits).

The crowd thing led to the markout. When we’d hit ECW Arena events, we’d leave from Queens as a group, and we’d get pretty good seats, generally in the bleachers on the “TV side”, so that there was a slim possibility that we’d get on TV. I was in the upper left-hand corner (TV-wise) so that you could barely see me – you might see my knees.

Anyway, Taz and Candito started brawling into the crowd, and when you’re in an ECW crowd, you generally move a little bit and let the two midgets fight (neither Candito or Taz was a legit 5’7″). They kept going further into the crowd and going up the bleachers, until they couldn’t go any further – because Candito had pinned me against the wall. Taz and Candito were brawling and going backward until they stopped and were brawling inches away from me – camera right there. For several seconds on ECW TV, I’m standing there like a mark kind of looking at the two of them brawling, trying to get a picture.

It was just a cool experience, and I always figured if I met Candito, I’d tell him about that day. I’ll never get that opportunity.

Dave Meltzer (he of the Wrestling Observer) had some good words. I’ll leave today’s post with him.

There are times when famous wrestlers pass away and everyone starts talking about what wonderful people they were, and sometimes, you almost have to bite your tongue. This is not one of those times.

Through thick and thin, through the bad times, and they were many, I don’t think you’ll find anyone arguing whether Chris Candido was a really nice guy. He made a comeback at a time when everyone in the industry had given up on him. He was recently brought into TNA just as a test to put people over, and wound up winning a roster spot and was liked by everyone. If the circumstances of his death that are stated are accurate, it is one of the greatest tragedies of all. Practically everyone in wrestling who was at death’s door at one point in their lives will say or have their friends say that are reformed. As history has shown, the vast majority of the times, it isn’t true. What a lot of people don’t understand, is for the minority who it turns out to be true about, it is a daily battle, as some, like William Regal and Eddie Guerrero will openly talk about.

Chris loved pro wrestling, even though it came close to killing him at one point in his life. It was more living out his childhood dream than making money. I think he enjoyed it every bit as much when he was barely making ends meet than when he was under a six-figure contract. He was on the road right out of high school. He had a bright future. He squandered that future. But he was determined the end the story of his wrestling career on a high note and with respect of the people in the profession that he had at times let down. He was on the road to doing all that.

What happened is one of those things that happen in life. There is no rhyme nor reason. Life isn’t fair. You can question all you want about a guy who fought back from something that most never come back from, but then suffered a fluke broken leg, and suddenly, with no warning, this happened. Chris was very excited about his future in wrestling, particularly because he was starting to escape from the shadow of his past. The 6/10 and potentially 6/12 (if he was to be allowed to participate) were huge deals for him, and whether he would be able to wrestle or not, he was excited to be part of them.

Candido’s last pro wrestling appearance will air today on the TNA Impact show. I’m told they will do a tribute graphic for him on the show, I believe at both the beginning and the end of the show. Before the show started, Candido came up with his own angle, because in a cruel twist of irony, he had been in a wheelchair at a ruse for the last few weeks on television. Candido came up with the storyline that his real broken leg on Sunday was his karma for the ruse, which led to the tag team title change and what was told to me was the best Impact match in a long time. There was debate whether the match should air at all. Shane Douglas who was his best friend in the company, felt 100% certain Candido would have wanted it to air. So that was the decision.

No death of a people you know at a young age isn’t sad in some form, whether you know them personally, or followed their lives simply watching them work from a young age. Many people followed Chris from when he was a very young man, and some since he was just a teenager But for many reasons, this one is harder than most. It’s not just because it doesn’t appear to have been self-inflicted, but because this was the phone call for years that many people feared we could get at any time. And just when we thought we knew it would never come, it came.

Farging icehole luchadors

From the 1/26/04 Wrestling Observer:

“A reunion show of the old Continental/Southeastern promotion took place in one of its old weekly stops, the Houston Farm Center in Dothan, AL on 1/16. The show, put on by the local American Wrestling Federation, drew an estimated 1750, which is phenomenal for an indie these days, largely built around all five wrestling members of the Armstrong family for Brad’s retirement match. Brad, 42, suffered a bad knee injury, which I think was when he was accidentally hit by a car driven by one of the luchadores in WCW. He had a heavy knee brace on, but looked in great shape and did well.”

Fucking luchadors.