From Russia with Love: The extraordinary story of the Rise and Fall of FC Anzhi Makhachkala

Firesale and licence stripped - Anzhi Makhachkala's incredible demise since  defeat to Newcastle - Chronicle Live

Ever heard the one about the Russian football team that had never won a top level major honour, not been in existence much more than a decade, and only in the top flight for a couple of years or so… who then suddenly had a legendary former World Cup winner and is one of the most recognizable footballers of all time, a multi time champions league winner, a world renowned and legendary manager, Oh and they also had a former France international once rated as a top prospect, and a Brazilian international who would go on to play in the English Premier League for 8 years after… Oh and a 6 foot 8 Ivorian international forward… Sounds like quite the fantasy story right? Well… Billionaire Suleyman Kerimov decided that he wanted this humble Russian team to become the talk of world football for a couple of years and invested heavily and quickly to get them there… and then just as quickly decides upon severe budget cuts… and within 3 years of then shocking the football world with the signing of Roberto Carlos, the team finished bottom of the Russian top flight and were relegated.

This is the extraordinary story of Rise and Fall of FC Anzhi Makhachkala.

Russia protests ​arrest of billionaire playboy Suleiman Kerimov on  suspicion of French Riviera tax fraud

In January of 2011 Russian Billionaire Suleyman Kerimov (pictured above) purchased the football club most local to his home of Dagestan, FC Anzhi Makhachkala… But it was not quite as it seemed, as it emerged later that he was in fact given a 100% stake in the club by the Dagestani President (including 50% of the shares of the club’s former owner). This was to be in exchange for financial support and backing of the club, presumable the idea was that if the Billionaire was running the club he would invest into it heavily. And indeed that was the idea, with Kerimov planning investments of up to 200 million towards the club infrastructure (the main focus of which being a new stadium that would meet UEFA requirements).

Dynamo Stadium (Makhachkala) - Wikipedia

Anzhi’s home at that time was the Dynamo Stadium. A modest venue with a capacity of just over 15,000. However given the uncertainty of the region, where clashes between the military and insurgency fighters meant that many of the club’s more matches were played in Moscow… a nearly 2 and a half hour flight and 1200 miles away…

Kerimov wasted no time in investing in the playing squad of Anzhi, and in the winter transfer window of 2011 the club made their first major signing…

Roberto Carlos, Samuel Eto'o & Bugattis: Whatever happened to Anzhi? -  Planet Football

The legendary former Brazilian World Cup winner Roberto Carlos shocked the world by joining the club following his departure from Brazilian club Corinthians. Following him in came Midfielder Jucilei from Corinthians for 10 million euros and Mbark Boussoufa from Anderlecht for 10 million.

In the summer of 2011, Anzhi stepped up a gear recruitment wise… Highly rated midfielder Balázs Dzsudzsák from PSV for 14 million, and also Russian international Yuri Zhirkov from Chelsea. And then came… THE big one, the real deal that put Anzhi on the map… in their entire run of big spending no other transfer garnered the headlines of this one…

Samuel Eto'o signs for Anzhi Makhachkala - Planet Football

Samuel Eto’o , the striker formerly of Barcelona and Inter Milan, a 4 time African footballer of the year and a two-time treble winner, joined the club on August 23rd 2011. The finances of the deal were extraordinary… not as much the 28 million euro transfer fee (a fair rate for a top forward at that time), but the reported world record salary of 20.5 million A YEAR… At the time a wage of just under 400,000 a week was the most anywhere in world football. Just bare that in mind.

Guus Hiddink resigns as Anzhi Makhachkala coach - BBC Sport

The legendary arrivals kept coming at Anzhi, and in February of 2012 the club appointed Dutchman Guus Hiddink as their new manager. His first signing was defender Christopher Samba from Blackburn, a solid defender in the premier league at the time yet Anzhi managed to get him. And later that year Anzhi’s spending continued… Lacina Traore (the towering Ivorian forward) and Lassana Diarra came in from Real Madrid. And the next February another now familiar face came in…

Liverpool to splash the cash on Anzhi star Willian | Football | Sport |  Express.co.uk

Samuel Eto’o and Lassina Traore up top, Willian providing for them, Lassana Diarra controlling the midfield, Zhirkov providing crosses and patrolling the left… Hiddink as manager, and renowned coach René Meulensteen as his assistant for good measure…. FC Anzhi Makhachkala looked quite the outfit right? Success could only follow right? Right…? …

Lets start at the beginning of the Kerimov era at Anzhi and look at the results on the pitch. The first season of his ownership was 2011-12. The playing squad underwent a huge turnover with the new investment throughout the season (a total of THIRTY ONE players joined the club, with a similar number departing at various points), and as a result the players often took time to adapt and develop as a team. They lost just once in their first 9 games of the first phase of the Russian top flight (away to Zenit the defending champions), but a disappointing later half meant they finished in the final spot for qualification to the next phase. Now they would be mixing it with the biggest clubs in Russia, however a 5th place overall finish did mean qualification for the Europa League the next season. European football being achieved was a big step in the development and progression of the club. A mixed bag of results did mean a number of changes of management along the way…

Gadzhi Gadzhiyev was dismissed as manager on September 29th 2011, with Yuri Krasnozhan appointed his permanent replacement on a 5 year contract later that December… however, before he could take charge of a competitive game he also left the club. This time an unstable relationship with the players was given as the reason… Anzhi and their new found finances would now flex their muscles in the managerial realm with their next appointment… Former PSV, Russia, Holland, Real Madrid and Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink became the club’s new manager on February 17th 2012. As previously mentioned, Hiddink led Anzhi to 5th in the league and sealed qualification for the next season’s Europa League.

By this point, Roberto Carlos has retired from playing to become an official at the club. Lacina Traore and Lassana Diarra were notable arrivals in the summer transfer window, as well as Willian the following winter. Success followed in the league for Anzhi as they lost just twice in their first 19 games and finished the season in 3rd place, behind only long time Russian giants CSKA Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg. Heartbreak also came in the Russian Cup… After beating Zenit in the semi finals they suffered a loss on penalties in the final against CSKA. The most notable and telling sign of the club’s progression though would be in their debut foray in European club football, in that season’s Europa League. After sailing through three rounds of qualifying (without conceding a goal), Anzhi made it to the lucrative group stages… were they would be drawn in the same group as one of the game’s true giants…

UEFA Europa League group stage draw | UEFA Europa League | UEFA.com

After a mixed bag of results in their first three group games (a win, a draw and a loss, of which included a 1-0 defeat at Anfield), Anzhi would take on Liverpool in their 4th group match… it turned out to be arguably the greatest night in the club’s history…

Anzhi Too Good For Liverpool | Scoop News | Sky News

A lobbed finish from Lacina Traore gave Anzhi a 1-0 win over Liverpool to balance out their previous defeat. And as expected both teams advanced to the knockout rounds. Anzhi would first face german club Hannover…

A 1-1 draw in the return leg sealed Anzhi’s progression. And in the round of 16 they would face another English club in Newcastle United.

Anzhi Makhachkala FC v Newcastle United FC: You rate the players -  Chronicle Live

A 0-0 draw in Russia meant it was all to play for in the 2nd leg at St James’ Park…

And so a 93rd minute header put an end to Anzhi Makhachkala’s European adventure for that season. But given their experienced coach, ever-growing quality of players and huge transfer and recruitment budgets, it was presumed they would be back sooner rather than later… and possibly even in the Champions League in years to come…

Or so we then thought…

The 2013/14 season began for Anzhi Makhachkala in similar fashion to what we had come to expect… Russian international captain Igor Denisov arrived from Zenit, and Christopher Samba returned from QPR. Aleksandr Kokorin came in also from Dynamo Moscow… and then in a surprising turn of events, the beginning of the end of this Russian love story began…

Rene Meulensteen coaching sessions - Elite Soccer

On the 22nd July 2013, after just two games of the league season, Guus Hiddink resigned. He stated that he had taken the club as far as he could, having achieved European qualification two seasons in a row. His assistant, former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen was given the role… but only lasted until August 7th when Gadzhi Gadzhiyev was re-appointed. It was the day before his return though that the club was given it’s final call… as owner Suleyman Kerimov effectively read the club it’s last rights.

Ремчуков Константин Вадимович — Компромат

On August 6th Anzhi announced, via their president Konstantin Remchukov that “a lot of expensive players will leave” after Kerimov decided to make DRASTIC cuts to the budget for the team. And my word did we see some exodus…

Yuri Zhirkov, Aleksandr Kokorin and Igor Denisov ALL left for Dynamo Moscow. All three had only joined the club in the last two years for over €50 million. Remchukov would comment on these departures saying that it was as a result of a “sharp deterioration in the health of Suleyman Kerimov, because of worries about the club’s lack of success”. The Russia Today news outlet would back this up by stating that:

“The decision to slash spending could be more closely connected with Kerimov’s finances, amid speculation that the billionaire may need to raise cash to cover stock market losses.”

Dynamo Moscow also acquired Samba, Vladimir Gabulov and Aleksei Ionov. Lassana Diarra, Mbark Boussoufa and Arseniy Logashov went to Lokomotiv Moscow. João Carlos was sold to Spartak Moscow and Oleg Shatov to Zenit Saint Petersburg.

Samuel Eto'o almost joined Arsenal but instead chose Mallorca in 2000 |  Daily Mail Online

The real headline departure was that of Samuel Eto’o to Chelsea. Given he was their marquee signing it was maybe no shock that he left given the budget cuts and his huge wage. Willian also joined Chelsea, which was not a shock given how rated he was during his time at Shakhtar Donetsk before joining Anzhi. Departures continued the following January with Jucilei joining Al-Jazira and Lacina Traore leaving for Monaco.

As a result of the dramatic drop off in quality of the playing squad, the team’s results nose-dived… Anzhi lost in the first round of the Russian Cup, and after scrapping through the group stage of the Europa League (despite two heavy defeats against Tottenham Hotspur) Anzhi would eventually go out in the last 16 to AZ Alkmaar. The league campaign for 13/14 was a whole new level of disaster…

Once super rich, Russian club Anzhi struggling to survive | Taiwan News |  2018-10-26 20:15:00

With an extraordinarily BAD record of just 3 wins from 30 games, and just 20 points amassed, Anzhi were relegated. Quite fall from grace you could well say.

They did gain promotion back the next season, and just about stayed up after that by narrowly avoiding the relegation play-offs. In December of 2016 Kerimov sold the club, and they were relegated once again at the end of the 2017/18 season. . But they somehow sustained their place in the Russian top flight after FC Amkar Perm stated that their season license had been recalled by the Russian Football Union (as a result of financial issues that eventually dissolved the whole club), and as a result Anzhi were NOT relegated. In the 18/19 season though this time Anzhi didn’t get any sort of revoke and were relegated once again.

Things went from very bad to even worse for them… In May of 2019 the club general director Absalutdin Agaragimov revealed that they had no been granted a license by the Russian Football Union. And later that month it was announced that the club’s appeal had been rejected and thus they would NOT be in the second-tier Russian Football National League in the 2019–20 season either! The club at that point had two options; apply to be in the Russian third tier, or face bankruptcy. Eventually, in June, they finally got their license and thus were playing in the Russian Professional Football League for the 2019–20 season, albeit they were not permitted to register new players due to outstanding debts. They took a squad of mainly youth players in to what was the third division in Russia, finishing a modest 15th when the season was halted due to the global pandemic. The club finished 6th in the 20/21 season ran from August 2020 to June this year, and so it looks like another stint in the third tier for the once uber-rich Dagestanis.

In 2021 though the sports world takes more note of another famous descendant of that part of Russia, rather than it’s once famous football team. Anzhi even made headlines once again more recently with club officials stating the door would be open should Dagestan’s favourite son wish to become a professional footballer. Maybe the days of Anzhi at the top of European football as the big spenders are over, but maybe the spotlight could return one day, should The Eagle say so…

UFC News: Khabib Nurmagomedov presented with an honorable memento during  soccer match in Dagestan

Josh.

Thank You Wyatt: A look back at the WWE Career of Bray Wyatt

On Saturday 31st July, in the evening UK time, not for the first time and certainly not the last, WWE broke this wrestling fan’s heart. It was announced that Windham Rotunda, or better known as Bray Wyatt and more recently The Fiend, had been released by the company. And thus the run of my favourite WWE superstar was over. A run with many ups and downs, and as a fan I was with him every step of the way. From the moment I first saw this character, as I was getting back into WWE in 2014/15, I was infatuated with it… I saw what I thought was a genius. A master of his craft at talking them into the building, a man who carried entire builds to WrestleMania feuds with names like John Cena and The Undertaker no less… I was in awe… He later turned into a monster, but to me he was the ultimate hero. So in this blog, in what will be my final WWE related blog for quite some time (I’ll get onto that), I’m going to take a trip down memory lane and run through the highs and lows (there were plenty of both) of Bray Wyatt’s WWE run, and give you some memories and my thoughts at the time along the way too.

This hit me so hard when this news broke, feel free to give my podcast episode on it (The NobodyIsReady Podcast Episode 8)… I was truly heartbroken. But that turned into two things that I will go into now, I’ll talk about the foul company that rid me of my own real-life favourite monster later… for now let’s take a look back at the story of Bray Wyatt…

The story of Bray Wyatt began where all recent WWE dreams begin, a true land of hope and opportunity… (before they are sent off like a lamb to eventually be slaughtered)… it began to properly take flight, in NXT.

After an initial run in FCW, the character of Bray Wyatt went over to the new WWE developmental territory of NXT. Sadly Wyatt not long after suffered a torn pectoral muscle, but was still a part of the TV show… In that time he created the Wyatt Family faction, bringing in Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Harper and Rowan had one reign as NXT Tag Team Champions in that time, but not long after loosing the titles.. it was time for the Wyatt Family to take their message elsewhere…

Bray Wyatt presented himself and his family as a dark savior from the evil of the world. You can’t helped but be intrigued by this guy surely? Well soon enough… The Wyatt Family made their presence known…

The thing I take most from that video is just how unique the whole presentation of The Wyatt Family was. And just listen to that pop when they came out. And that wasn’t just anyone they went after first, that was KANE.

Soon after, at SummerSlam 2013, Kane would have to face off with Bray Wyatt… in a Ring Of Fire match!

After a feud with Kofi Kingston, culminating in a win at Battleground for Bray, The Wyatt Family moved on to CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, with this then turning in to a focus on solely Bryan. On the last Raw of 2013 Daniel Bryan took part in a gauntlet match against both Harper and Rowan in order for him to be able to face Bray Wyatt 1 on 1. The match ended in a DQ, with Harper and Rowan attacking Bryan after the match.. In shocking fashion a frustrated Bryan decided to finally give in and JOIN The Wyatt Family…

The Wyatt Family Should Target John Cena After Daniel Bryan's Addition |  Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

But still the Wyatt’s couldn’t achieve what they wanted… They suffered another loss in a cage match against The Usos… After that Bray wanted to take this out on Bryan, leading to one of the best babyface (re)turns of all time… LISTEN to this pop…

The feud would culminate at the 2014 Royal Rumble PPV… And in one of the finer Bray Wyatt matches of his WWE career, the two opened the PPV with a classic.

After a ****1/2 match, later that night The Wyatt’s set their sights on their next target… JOHN CENA! After costing Cena his WWE world title match against then champion Randy Orton, a match was set for the January 27th Raw, with Wyatt, Harper and Rowan attacking the team of Daniel Bryan, Sheamus and John Cena during their qualifying match for the upcoming Elimination Chamber match against The Shield. This of course meant The Shield lost their title shot, leading to a 6 man tag match FOR THE AGES at the PPV…

Classic Match: The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family, Elimination Chamber 2014 -  RondaRousey.com

The Wyatt’s won a widely acclaimed match, and later in the night again they cost John Cena in the world title match. From there it was set… Bray Wyatt vs John Cena! Now, I could tell you about the story and the build to this match… Or I could just show you one of the best pre-match hype package WWE have ever made… This was exceptional…

Now… it was around this WrestleMania show that I myself once again got big into WWE as a fan. And with Bray Wyatt, I had my favourite. I thought he was so unique in every way, so talented, so different,. And here he was going up against the biggest name of them all. I was excited… A win for Wyatt in this match would signal a huge change of the guard… and could sky-rocket Bray Wyatt to the moon… Or not…

John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt: photos | WWE

Cena didn’t give in to the hate. He beat Bray Wyatt pretty much clean in the middle. This was Bray Wyatt’s first pinfall loss on the main roster.

Despite what felt like a really big speed bump in the rise of Bray Wyatt, his feud with Cena continued after and towards Extreme Rules in a steel cage match… when Wyatt, in an attempt to show how he was claiming Cena’s own fanbase, utilized the help of several of Cena’s biggest supporters… in a way I’m not sure any of us ever thought we’d see…

Spellbinding isn’t it? Like nothing we’ve ever seen before… At times this was Bray Wyatt, at his darkest and greatest.

And indeed… at Extreme Rules we got what SHOULD of happened at WrestleMania 30… A Bray Wyatt win. Sure with the help of one of one of his youngest new friends.. but it fit the story. And ANY Wyatt win over Cena I gladly accepted by any means…

John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt - Steel Cage Match: Extreme Rules 2014 | WWE

But of course… as seems to become a pattern of his career in WWE, the fun only lasts so long for Bray Wyatt. Cena won the feud blow-off match at Payback the next month in a Last Man Standing match. From there Wyatt was a part of the ladder match at Money In The Bank for the vacant world title, of course he didn’t win. His next major feud seemed like a bit of a fever dream in hindsight… who knows we may see it again in the future… but Wyatt lost the first, won the second at SummerSlam that year and then won a steel cage match on the September 8th episode of Raw that year… Whatever happened to Wyatt’s opponent I’ll never know…

WWE SummerSlam 2014 Results: Power Ranking Every Match at PPV | Bleacher  Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

In was after this we had our first parting of the ways of the Wyatt Family… as Bray would set Rowan and Harper free…

Why they booked this I don’t know? Who it benefitted I don’t know… but yeah… noticing a pattern yet?…

Wyatt made his return in the main event of Hell in a Cell in October 2014, coming out of the mist and smoke to attack Dean Ambrose (who?). The next few months saw Wyatt try and ‘fix’ Ambrose, and the two had matches at Survivor Series, TLC and then finally on the Raw’s of December 22 2014, and January 5th 2015… For once, it was Bray Wyatt who came out on top… an underrated feud between tow stars at the top of their game, just before they would both become breakout megastars… Within the next two years both would be WWE Champion…

Dean Ambrose Will Be an Ideal Opponent for a Feud with Bray Wyatt |  Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

From there, after an impressive near 47 minute appearance in the Royal Rumble match of 2015, Wyatt began a series of vignettes, in which he called himself ‘The New Face of fear’… At the Fastlane PPV just before WrestleMania, Wyatt made his intentions clear…

And all my wrestling Christmases came at once…

(EXCUSE THE DOUBLE SCREEN, WAS THE ONLY VERSION I COULD FIND ON YOUTUBE)

Want another brilliant Bray Wyatt match at WrestleMania pre-match hype package…

(Eddie Hearn voice) ‘Oh go on then’

And so it was on… My favourite of today vs my favourite of all time. A year on from the impossible defeat, The Undertaker returned. Would Wyatt claim his place as the new face of fear? Well…

UNDERTAKER VS BRAY WYATT 22-1 - YouTube

No.

Taker beat Bray in a match I thought at the time Taker looked old and slow in. In hindsight it was not too bad, but still… Why did Taker need to win this? A win here, much like a year prior against Cena, catapults Bray Wyatt into the top of the WWE… but not it was to be on the grandest stage of them all for him… again…

Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt have a sit-down discussion: Raw, October 19,  2015 - YouTube

Later that year, in the summer months, Wyatt sought the allegiances of his former Wyatt family allies… At Money In The Bank during the ladder match of the same name, Wyatt cost Roman Reigns the match. From here Bray and Roman feuded across 4 PPVs:

Bray won the match with Roman at Battleground after help from Luke Harper.

Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper vs. Dean Ambrose & Roman Reigns: photos | WWE

Reigns would enlist the help of his former Shield brother Dean Ambrose for a tag match at SummerSlam. The Wyatt’s took the loss, but the next night Bray showed he wasn’t done with the pair, bringing in another MONSTER of destruction…

The Wyatt Family combined to defeat Ambrose, Reigns and Chris Jericho at Night Of Champions, before at Hell in a Cell the next month… Roman and Bray finally settled their feud…

It was something that Wyatt got the win here. Roman was well on his way to being THE guy, and would compete in the world title scene from here on out… But of course Bray needed to look good here, given his night was not over after this match…

Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt Feud Must Lead to the Deadman Passing the Torch |  Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

Following a brutal Hell in a Cell match with Brock Lesnar, the legendary Undertaker was taking a moment to take in the adulation of the crowd… when the Wyatt Family made their move. With the group now back to full strength, the four men viscously attacked The Phenom, before eerily carrying him away.

From here The Undertaker would get some back up in the form of his brother Kane. And whilst it was cool to see The Wyatt Family feud with The Brothers of Destruction, it was purely done to set up a match at that year’s Survivor Series PPV that celebrated the 25th Anniversary of The Undertaker’s WWE debut. In the match itself it ended up being Harper and Bray actively invovled, as both Strowman and Rowan were taken out with double chokeslams, and Taker and Kane would get the win following a Tombstone by Undertaker to Luke Harper.

The Brothers of Destruction vs. The Wyatt Family: Survivor Series 2015  (Full match - WWE Network Exclusive) | WWE

After a brief feud with a team of ECW originals, which saw the Wyatt Family defeat the team of The Dudley Boys, Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno in an 8 man elimination tables match at the TLC pay per view, the next major Wyatt Family story (or so we thought) would be set up in the 2016 Royal Rumble match…

Brock Lesnar meets The Wyatt Family: Royal Rumble 2016 - YouTube

After Brock Lesnar entered the Royal Rumble match and cleared house, Bray Wyatt entered at number 27… and after a great faceoff… the rest of the family would target The Beast… and chaos would ensue…

This appeared to be setting up somewhat of a dream feud, with the combined forces of The Wyatt Family up against the all-conquering Lesnar… but it didn’t quite turn out that way… At the Roadblock show just prior to WrestleMania 32, Lesnar was scheduled for a handicap match against both Bray and Luke Harper… the match itself ended up being Harper taking a beating and Wyatt stood aside for most of it. In actuality Bray had suffered a severe back injury that put him out of action, so after a big tease of something special and long term, we never got the big singles match we (Me included) craved… another what could of been for The Eater of Worlds… Lesnar would end up facing Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania in a very underwhelming bout, whereas Wyatt featured in a cool segment, but not one that helped put him or the Wyatt Family over in anyway, and certainly not poor Erick Rowan…

I did get this image though out of it… which for this Rock fan was a dream moment for sure…

Backstage Latest On The Rock And The Wyatt Family, Cathy Kelley – 'Shocked  Undertaker Guy', RAW In LA | PWMania.com

The months that followed WrestleMania 32 were very much up and down for Bray and The Wyatt Family… On the Raw after Mania they attacked the heel group The League of Nations, seemingly turning face. From here they aligned with former enemy Roman Reigns, but all this was cut short when Bray suffered an injury on a European tour that kept him out until mid June. Although out of this brief run we did get one of the more iconic Gifs in recent WWE history…

The Wyatt Family returned on the June 20th episode of Raw, where they set up a feud with another of WWE’s major groups…

I hated this as a Bray fan. By default it appeared The Wyatt Family were now heels again given they were in a feud with The New Day, yet none of what New Day did here was very babyface at all… And listen to how the crowd responded when Wyatt asked if they missed him? It seemed people were now ready to cheer for Bray Wyatt, but they weren’t allowed to again… From here the Wyatt Family and The New Day had a fairly short but fun feud that had moments such as New Day dressing up and mocking the Wyatt’s, the cool ongoing story where Xavier Woods was scared and kind of drawn in by Bray and his powers, and the scene of New Day going to the Wyatt Compound to confront the Wyatt’s. Although the last one of those was seen by many as WWE ripping off the recent Final Deletion stuff TNA were doing at the time… but this all culminated with a 6 man tag match at Battleground in July of 2016 which the Wyatt’s won.

And after that… With Bray seemingly trapped in the mid card… was when it all changed… The 2016 Draft took place in July, and with Braun Strowman going to Raw and Rowan to SmackDown, the Wyatt Family of old was no more. Bray Wyatt would land on SmackDown… And it was now when he’d get more of a chance to shine, now out of the shadow of the likes of Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar, The Era of Wyatt began to slowly take a hold on the blue brand of oppurtunity.

The 2016 Draft was one that changed the landscape of the company. It was seen as very much a changing of the guard, given that NXT’s Finn Balor was drafted before the likes of John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton. But also it gave many who were in the middle of the show when the rosters weren’t split, a chance to now be top stars on their respective brands… The likes of Kevin Owens went on to be the world champion for an extended run on Raw, AJ Styles the same on SmackDown. But the brand extension was also a gamechanger in the career of Bray Wyatt. Now over on SmackDown Live, Bray’s run got the shot in the arm it needed, and he quickly became one of the key and featured players on the show.

After splitting away from Erick Rowan, Wyatt set his sights on the “damaged” Randy Orton (who was fresh from a bloody loss to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam), and this led to a match between the two at the SmackDown exclusive Backlash PPV.

After a real-life injury not long before the show, they ran an angle where Wyatt attacked Orton before the match took place. And so instead Wyatt made a challenge, which was answered by Kane. Wyatt then lost to Kane in a No Holds Barred match, after interference by Orton. Eventually we got the actual match between Bray and Randy at the No Mercy PPV the next month. In fact, as a result of a presidential debate taking place at the same time as the later part of the show, the WWE title match on the show went on FIRST, and this resulted in Wyatt vs Orton closing the show. Bray would end up having a helping hand in the match from a familiar face…

As a result of the distraction from the returning Luke Harper, Wyatt beat Orton, and he was really now off to the races.

No Mercy" Reaction: Luke Harper's Return Could Hurt Bray Wyatt's Position  on SmackDown - WrestlingRumors.net

But not long after this, Randy Orton would show once again why you can’t trust a snake… and on the October 25th SmackDown, in a match between Kane and Bray Wyatt, Orton showed where his allegiances lay…

Randy Orton had joined The Wyatt Family.

WWE News: Randy Orton on working with The Wyatt Family

With the newly formed Wyatt Family trio thriving (although with an underlining tension between Harper and Orton) going in to Survivor Series, Bray and Randy were the remaining members of the victorious Team SmackDown in an outstanding 5v5 match (****3/4). From here they moved on to the SmackDown Tag Team Championship, and finally at the TLC ppv in December 2017 they got their moment with a win over inaugural champions Heath Slater & Rhyno.

WWE Profile Page - The Wyatt Family

This marked Bray Wyatt’s first championship reign of his WWE Career.

The Wyatt Family would utilize the freebird rule as champions, and so the disfunctional team of Orton and Harper defended the titles on the December 27th edition of SmackDown Live…

As much as Bray Wyatt tried to keep the peace the chaos between Orton and Harper became too much, and going in to the 2017 Royal Rumble the two faced off on the go-home SmackDown…

And so with Wyatt watching on it was Orton who got the win… and after initially helping Harper to his feet, Bray hit him with a Sister Abigail as punishment.

The 2017 Royal Rumble match would prove to be a defining moment for this troublesome trio…

Bray Wyatt entered at 21. Orton followed at 23 and the two allies aligned… Luke Harper entered at 25 and it appeared all had been forgiven… Until…

Harper hit the discuss Clothesline to Bray and then attacked Orton. Before turning his attention to his former leader…

Of course Harper (after attempting a Sister Abigail to Bray) got an RKO for his troubles and was later eliminated form the match by The Undertaker. But Wyatt and Orton faired much better… in the end it came down to those two and Roman Reigns as the final 3… Wyatt was eliminated by Roman to the horror and LOUD boos of the San Antonio crowd… Who then roared even louder at the finish… Roman went to spear Orton, Orton popped up with an RKO, picked his spot, and clotheslined Reigns over the ropes. Randy Orton was going to WrestleMania.

WWE: Royal Rumble (2017)

Elimination Chamber the next month would also prove pivotal in the dark story of these three…

To finally settle their score, Randy Orton faced Luke Harper one on one…

It what was a great match (****) and what many saw as a breakout performance for Harper, Orton got the win… but what of Bray Wyatt… well… he had his eyes elsewhere… The main event of the PPV saw a chamber match for the WWE title… with newly crowned champion John Cena being challenged by AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, The Miz, Dean Ambrose and Bray. And well… it finally happened…

Bray Wyatt wins first WWE Title inside the Elimination Chamber | WWE News |  Sky Sports

Orton would come out to face off with Wyatt from the top of the stage, we didn’t know what this meant, but for now at least Bray Wyatt finally had the whole world in his hands. It was a moment for me I’ll never forget, I was very close to tears, all my wrestling dreams had come true. After all these years of suffering and falling just short of the ultimate triumph… FINALLY on the last stop before… Bray Wyatt would head to WRESTLEMANIA as the WWE Champion…

Later that night Wyatt would defend the title against former champion Cena and AJ Styles in a triple threat match…

With Wyatt now the WWE Champion heading in to WrestleMania, the winner of the Royal Rumble Randy Orton was presented with a choice… fight against the man he follows, or give up his WrestleMania title match…

What followed over the next few weeks was one of the most convoluted, over-booked, at one point brilliant yet somehow by the end completely and utterly ruined, storylines we’ve seen…

To cut it short… Orton would pledge his allegiance to Wyatt and refuse to face him at WrestleMania. And at different points it looked like it could maybe be AJ Styles, maybe Luke Harper in that spot… But on the February 28th SmackDown… The Viper showed his true colours, and revealed his masterplan all along…

I actually loved this segment and reveal. It was the bollocks of the actual match, the booking of that and everything that followed between Orton and Bray that I hated. And we got the now iconic visual…

Randy Orton burns down the Wyatt Family Compound: SmackDown LIVE: Feb. 28,  2017 - YouTube

And so… Oh boy… on we went to WrestleMania 33… Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt for the WWE Championship…

Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton - WrestleMania 33 - Official Promo - Vídeo  Dailymotion

Now because it fills me with so much pain, I’m going to copy and paste my thoughts on this match from my review of WrestleMania 33 I did for a previous blog. As a Bray Wyatt fan I’ve never felt more pain watching a match of his (with one notable exception which OH BOY will I get too)…

Randy Orton defeated Bray Wyatt (C) to win the WWE Championship

This was the one where all the weird graphics of bugs and stuff appeared as part of Bray Wyatt’s “powers” and then Randy beat him anyway… They had… a match… and at one stage Bray did his Spider Walk thing and then suddenly we cut to an aerial shot of the ring as maggots/footage of maggots appeared on the ring canvas and everyone was confused… then the lights came back on and the match carried on… then later Bray did it again and this time we had worms… then he did it a 3rd time and cockroaches appeared… then straight after Bray took his time with Randy and was smiling and then Orton hit the RKO and pinned him and won the title. You’ll note I haven’t said much about the wrestling, that’s because A. it kinda sucked and the wrestling bits kind of just plodded along and then B. the graphics stuff REALLY overshadowed the match and even Tom Phillips on commentary noted “70,000 plus people have no idea what to make of this” … and he was not wrong. This was an ALL TIME terrible WWE Championship/WrestleMania/ANY WWE match fuck up.

DUD

After that disaster at WrestleMania, Bray Wyatt went back to being just… a guy… He was moved over to Raw in that year’s Superstar Shake-up…

His rematch with Orton ended up NOT being for the title (and the less said about the AWFUL House of Horrors match the better), although Wyatt did beat Orton, with help from a certain Jinder Mahal…

Opinion: Why The "House of Horrors" Match Didn't Work - WrestlingRumors.net

At Extreme Rules in June that year, Wyatt was unsuccessfully part of a Fatal 5 way to crown the next challenger for the Universal Championship. After that Wyatt’s next focus was Seth Rollins…

After a win over Rollins again on Raw, Wyatt moved next towards Finn Balor… And on the August 14th Raw just before SummerSlam, Finn was pushed to a point where he had no choice but to prepare to bring out his darker side…

And at SummerSlam… The Demon Cometh…

And well… now came what was a familiar pattern for Bray Wyatt over what became a miserable few months…

SummerSlam vs Demon Finn, he lost. No Mercy vs Finn Balor, he lost. Then Wyatt had to miss the TLC PPV where ‘Sister Abigail’ was due to face Pumpkin Balor… Oh yeah… this was a thing they were close to doing… and if this happens I don’t know if The Fiend ever does because I think Bray is fired or he leaves… this was such utter garbage…

No, they didn’t hire some indie wrestler woman, or some girl from NXT, or LIV FUCKING MORGAN MAYBE to be the infamous Sister Abigail character Bray Wyatt had always told us about… No THEY WERE GONNA STICK BRAY WYATT (A FORMER WWE CHAMPION, WHO HAS WRESTLEMANIA MATCHES AGAINST JOHN CENA AND THE UNDERTAKER ON HIS CV) IN A FUCKING WIG AND DRESS ON PAY PER FUCKING VIEW…

OH… AND WHILST WE ARE AT IT, WHY DON’T WE TAKE THE DEMON KING AND PAINT HIM UP LIKE A FUCKING PUMPKIN (AS WE ARE ALMOST AT HALLOWEEN ANYWAY)…

WWE 2K18 - Sister Abigail vs Demon Finn Balor (Gameplay) - YouTube

I have never wished injury or illness upon anyone and I never will… But an outcase of the mumps in WWE kept both Bray Wyatt, and Roman Reigns, off the TLC ppv and also the following WWE European tour (which meant I missed out on seeing both during the Raw TV taping in Manchester which I was gutted about)… But we got from that AJ Styles vs Demon Finn and the WWE in-ring return of Kurt Angle, so it wasn’t all bad.

Bray returned in November on Raw and faced Jason Jordan… oh and he lost.

But then… finally a bit of light. As my hopes as a Bray Wyatt fan were at an all-time low, a bit of magic came about, and we got one of my personal DREAM feuds… and it was absolutely… WON-DER-FUL!!!

On the November 27th Raw Bray Wyatt faced Matt Hardy. This was a Matt who had become increasingly frustrated in recent weeks following a number of losses. Irked further by a loss to Wyatt here he led the DELETE chants of the fans as he sat screaming and moaning slouched in the corner of the ring… The next week Bray Wyatt asked who Matt Hardy really was… and Boy did he tell us as one of my top WWE dreams at the time FINALLY came true…

This began a very surreal, and at times bizarre feud between WOKEN Matt Hardy and The Eater of Worlds. Although I did find it fun as wacky as it was at times. After weeks of attacks and jousting back and forth, the WOKEN one finally made his presence known on the Christmas Day Raw.

Wyatt would make a similar run in of his own the week after on Hardy. Finally it was set up for the Raw 25 Years special that the two would finally face off in a match.

Both men entered The Royal Rumble match that year but eliminate done another simultaneously. At the next PPV Elimination Chamber Hardy beat Wyatt. And with them tied now at 1-1 they need to finish this… and so WOKEN Matt made the ULTIMATE challenge.

And so we were set… And now here it is. Sit back and enjoy this absolute Masterpiece, that was the MAIN EVENT of Raw that week by the way. WOKEN Matt Hardy vs Bray Wyatt in the Ultimate Deletion match.

From here, Wyatt wasn’t seen again until WrestleMania 34 that April, when he reappeared in surprising circumstances

Talk about a WrestleMania moment, one I personally will always hold dear to my heart for sure.

Ranking Bray Wyatt's 5 best WWE WrestleMania matches

From here the two formed the most unlikely of alliances…

The newly formed ‘Deleters of Worlds’ tag team entered the tournament for the now vacant Raw Tag Team titles. They would end up beating Cesaro and Sheamus to win the titles.

What tag team titles? - Cageside Seats

Sadly, this didn’t last all that long… they lost the titles in their first PPV defense and after losing the rematch it was time for Matt Hardy to take some time off to deal with a series of injuries. As a result the team quietly disbanded… Wyatt would not be seen on tv for a very long time afterwards… And when HE came back he definitely was not the same…

I did write a blog last year about the run of Bray Wyatt and The Fiend up to that point (entitled 30 Day Wrestling Challenge: Day One = Favourite Current Male Wrestler; https://nobodyisready.com/2020/04/11/30-day-wrestling-challenge-day-one-favourite-current-male-wrestler/ )… But I will do my best to summarize it all here again now for you. The run of The Fiend from April 2019 and the very first vignette, right up until WrestleMania this past April and his final match… It may well of been the most invested I was in a character’s run in WWE history. I still can’t believe it’s over to be honest… I’m not sure until he appears in another promotion it’ll really sink in for me The Fiend in WWE is no more…

I’m not sure anything in recent WWE history has captured the imagination like the Firefly Funhouse vignettes. From the very first one to the final one before The Fiend attacked Finn Balor… The ‘original’ Funhouse run was some of the absolute BEST shit that company has made for a long time for me. The ones that happened after all had their magic moments, but those first few were absolute magic. Below I’ll talk about some of my favourite funhouse memories from those first few videos…

The very first one… so simple… so effective… This is exactly how you intrigue and excite and make people want to tune in next week to see what is next.

The first time we got a glimpse of… HIM... My god mine, and the rest of the wrestling world’s, jaws DROPPED!!!

It wasn’t just the quality and uniqueness of the clips I liked, it was the inside references and jokes and call backs to Bray Wyatt’s past. Which I as a fan very much appreciated…

DO THE MUSCLE MAN DANCE… Now this… this was different for sure… My favourite part of this was the very very brief peek of darkness… Erase YOUR mind…

And finally… the final one before HE showed up in the flesh… I still get goosebumps watching this video…

And so it was time… HE made his first target known…

WATCH: The Spine Chilling Debut Of "The Fiend" On WWE RAW -  EssentiallySports

SummerSlam 2019. The debut of The Fiend. Time for revenge. I can’t quite describe my emotions whilst watching this match… and particularly during the entrance of Wyatt…

The Fiend defeated Finn Balor

The match was what it was, and what it should have been, a glorified squash match designed to make The Fiend come across as exactly what he is intended to come across as, a monster. But it was all about the presentation of The Fiend here. Finn awaited his foe in the ring, and the opening to the Firefly Fun House vignettes played, before the words ‘Let Me in’ appeared, the lights went dark and then from the shadows emerged… him… a rock/electric guitar sound played before a remixed version of Bray Wyatt’s previous theme song played as The Fiend made his way through the darkness. The camera work here was outstanding and really made it come across as something unique. It should also be noted The Fiend came to the ring holding a lantern that was dressed up with what appeared to be a severed head of Bray Wyatt in his previous form. The firefly’s from the crowd were out in full force, and as The Fiend stood in the ring he got probably the loudest reaction of the whole show. At this point watching with my Yowie Wowie t shirt on, I was nearly in tears, and the match hadn’t even started. Simply the most unbelievable entrance I’ve ever seen, it blew away all expectations I had. As I’ve said the match was essentially a squash. Finn showed some signs of life but Bray no-sold most of it and batted him down with ease at others, although at one stage a seemingly conflicted Fiend went for the Sister Abigail, but Finn got out of it and hit multiple slingblades, before a double dropkick sent The Fiend crashing into the corner. Finn then went up top looking for the Coupe de Grace but was caught as he came down by The Fiend with the Mandible Claw. After valiantly fighting Finn was done, and with the hold in The Fiend pinned Finn for the win. After the bell the lights went dark again, as The Fiend stood in the ring posing, they then went dark again as we heard the ominous Bray Wyatt laugh and then the eerie noise that had become signature of The Fiend attacks by this point, as the monster stood at the top of the entrance ramp and looked back at the destruction he had left. Before the lights went out and back on again and The Fiend was gone. As a beaten Finn was just coning round back in the ring, chants of “that was awesome” echoed around the arena. Yes, yes it was awesome indeed.

** (****** for the whole presentation of The Fiend) 

After SummerSlam The Fiend spent some time acting as a dark shadow looming over Raw. Week after Week either in the Funhouse or in a surprise attack, Bray Wyatt reigned in terror…With an array of victims in his way…

Kurt Angle

The Fiend targets Kurt Angle: photos | WWE

Jerry Lawler

The Fiend attacks Jerry "The King" Lawler: photos | WWE

Kane

The Fiend confronts Demon Kane in main event shocker: Raw, Sept. 16, 2019 -  YouTube

Mick Foley who was the first to be targeted by The Fiend. And it was from him he almost absorbed the mandible Claw as a finish. I LOVED this, was almost like a passing of the sword. Beautiful stuff.

Mick Foley hopes 'The Fiend' Bray Wyatt finds happiness after WWE exit |  Metro News

So what now for The Fiend… Well in a rarity for WWE, they addressed online rumours on the TV show directly… And so the next move for Bray Wyatt became clear, in the lead up to the Universal Championship match between champion Seth Rollins and challenger Braun Strowman.

So after Seth Rollins had retained the Universal title against Braun Strowman at the Clash of Champions ppv… The Fiend struck…

WWE Clash of Champions results: The Fiend targets his next victim -  Hindustan Times

And that wasn’t to say that Braun Strowman had dodged the eye of his former ally… as we saw the next night on Raw after Seth faced The Monster Among Men once again…

From here the pursuit and torment of Seth Rollins began in the lead up to Hell in a Cell…

More Footage of Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt From Last Night's WWE Live  Event | 411MANIA

And then… well… It was time for Hell in a Cell… Now those of you reading this will probably know my feelings on this match… I’ve now done both a podcast (https://open.spotify.com/episode/4zZJWJQLPXf0a42O4hkdxU?si=fSv6XSz7S2OdlNCF3H-lYg&dl_branch=1 ) and also a previous blog review on the match… and you could say I didn’t like it…

WWE Hell In A Cell 2019 Results: Fans Chant 'AEW,' 'Refunds' For Fiend Vs. Seth  Rollins Main Event

Seth Rollins (C) defending the Universal Championship against ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt ended… WHEN THE REF RANG THE BELL TO END THE MATCH AFTER ROLLINS USED A SLEDGEHAMMER FOR A NON FINISH IN A FUCKING HELL IN A CELL MATCH?!?!?!?!?!

For the whole match they had this red lighting in the whole arena, which was… interesting… Bray no sold everything Seth did for the whole match pretty much, and Seth sold like heck whenever The Fiend was on offence. Towards the end Seth used every weapon you could think of to try and keep The Fiend down, but he kept getting up. Rollins hit Curb Stomp after Curb Stomp and the crowd booed VERY LOUD. Rollins hit the Pedigree but Bray kicked out and the crowd cheered. Rollins hit a load more Stomps and the fans booed VERY LOUD. Bray was just laying on the floor motionless, Seth grabbed a chair and hit Bray in the face for a nearfall. Seth put a chair on Bray’s face and used a ladder to smash the chair into his face, for another nearfall. Rollins went under the ring and got a toolbox and smashed Wyatt with that too. He then put everything on top of The Fiend and got a sledgehammer from under the ring. The referee begged Rollins not to use it and told him that wasn’t who he was. Fuck off ref I thought, this is HELL IN A FUCKING CELL?!?! Rollins eventually did hit Bray with the hammer…

AND THE FUCKING REFEREE RANG THE FUCKING BELL!!! YOU CAN USE ALL THE WEAPONS THEY DID BEFORE: LADDERS, CHAIRS, TOOLBOX, A GIANT FUCKING MALLET THAT THE FIEND BOUGHT OUT (the one that Bray smashed the rabbit up with), YOU HAD THE WOMEN USING A CHAIN EARLIER, MANKIND USING THUMBTACKS 20 ODD YEARS AGO, CACTUS JACK PULLING OUT A BARBED WIRE BAT AND SETTING IT ON FIRE IN THE YEAR 2000… BUT THE REF FELT A SLEDGEHAMMER WAS ENOUGH FOR A DQ IN A HELL IN A CELL MATCH AFTER ALL THAT HAD HAPPENED BEFORE?!?! YOU FUCKING WHAT!?!?!?

The fans booed this loudly and chanted ‘BULLSHIT’ and ‘AEW’ as a load of medics and officials ran in to try and treat THE FUCKING FIEND as they raised the cell. Rollins stood over The Fiend and he suddenly sat up and put Seth in the mandible claw. He then gave Rollins a Sister Abigail on the exposed floor outside the ring. The fans chanted ‘RESTART THE MATCH’ (GOOD LUCK GETTING THESE MOTHERFUCKERS TO LISTEN TO THEIR FANS). They chanted ‘AEW’ again as Bray hit another Sister Abigail. The Fiend put the claw in again and blood came from the mouth of Seth. The show closed with the behind shot of The Fiend with the lights flashing (as was after the Balor match) and the lights went out as we heard Bray laughing as the show closed. The fans were booing very very loud.

WHY COULD HE NOT HAVE DONE THAT BEFORE WHEN THE MATCH WAS STILL GOING????????

WHY DID WE HAVE THE MAIN EVENT FOR THE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP INSIDE HELL IN A CELL FOR THE SECOND FUCKING YEAR IN A FUCKING ROW END WITH NO FINISH?????????

This would’ve been insane but acceptable had you done ALL OF THIS, but NOT rung the bell and kept the match going and then as Seth stands over a lifeless Fiend he gets put in the claw again and match ends and Wyatt wins the title. That would’ve been great. Instead we got THIS UTTER FUCKING BULLSHIT.

This was WCW 2000 levels of idiocy booking. HORRIFIC beyond comprehension. A good match with a really unique and fascinating story utterly MURDERED, BRUTALIZED AND CASTRATED by an ABORTION of a finish. Seth looks stupid and weak as he used a GAZILLION FUCKING FINISHERS AND THEY DID FUCK ALL BECAUSE BRAY KEPT GETTING UP, THE FUCKING FIEND (the ONE the ONLY guy on both shows right now who the fans ADORE) looks like an idiot because he was dead and then when the bell rang and after that he got up and beat Seth up as if nothing had happened, and you utter FUCKING MORONS have absolutely KILLED Hell In A Cell FOREVER.

DUD 

So after the literal HELL of their previous match, WWE looked to right the wrongs of The Fiend vs Seth Rollins. And although not in the setting, or more the country, I as a Bray Wyatt fan would’ve liked… The moment did come. I don’t and never did feel The Fiend character, much like The Undertaker of the past, needed a world championship… However they booked themselves to the point where they simply HAD to put the belt on Bray Wyatt…

At Crown Jewel, Rollins vs. Fiend 'Can't Be Stopped For Any Reason' -  Cageside Seats

And so in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, this Monster gave me the best Halloween present EVER!

After a quite remarkable title win, The Fiend and the Universal Championship went over to SmackDown… and with that a change was in order for Big Red…

WWE have re-created the Universal Championship belt with a blue strap |  GiveMeSport

So on a new show, and as it’s champion it was wondered what next? And what we did get was a continuation of a theme of The Fiend’s objective to go after those who had wronged Bray Wyatt… So we had another case of a dark reunion…

From here we got a number of attacks from The Fiend on Daniel Bryan, who wasn’t a babyface at this point and was resisting the urge to unleash the YES movement once again. At Survivor Series Daniel Bryan, angry and fired up by the attacks, marched in to battle against the monster.

After retaining his title in the best match of The Fiend so far, Wyatt wasn’t done with Bryan, and the attacks took a more sinister turn..

With Bryan now gone to whatever part of hell The Fiend dragged him to, Bray Wyatt himself focused his attentions on The Miz, who given his history with Daniel Bryan found himself involved in this twisted tale. It seemed to me as just a stop gap to get them to the Rumble and Bryan’s return, but it added a sinister side to the Funhouse character. It wasn’t the best but it was what it was… we went to the TLC PPV where Wyatt faced The Miz…

After beating Miz, Wyatt didn’t have too long to bask in his win… As a much changed Bryan made an explosive return with an attack on Wyatt and a sharp new look…

So THE Daniel Bryan was BACK! Just as The Fiend took a personal hold on the Universal Championship belt (FYI if anyone wants my heart forever they will get me this belt)…

Bray Wyatt Reveals The Fiend's New Universal Title On WWE SmackDown -  YouTube

Given the intense nature of their feud, Daniel Bryan said the he wanted to hurt and get personal with The Fiend, so their match at the Royal Rumble was made into a STRAP match. And in making that match official we saw the true horror of The Fiend…

Now the run is over, I can say without a shadow of a doubt this next match was BY FAR the best match The Fiend ever had! Such is the genius of Daniel Bryan…

It seemed at this point we were destined for The Fiend vs Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. But, of course, plans change. I can’t even write too much on it, it still does not sit right with me, but as I’m sure you all recall Goldberg came in to face The Fiend for the title in Saudi, because they wanted to do Goldberg vs Roman at Mania. And sure I can’t say that isn’t a HUGE mania worthy match, and of course it meant we could have what we got with The Fiend at Mania (which I did say was something I’d be ok with)… but… did they need to do The Fiend like that? No. Will I ever forgive them for it? No. Was The Fiend ever the same after? No not really.

Goldberg Spears Wyatt 4 times: WWE Super ShowDown 2020 (WWE Network  Exclusive) - YouTube

On the SmackDown after, which I think was one of the final WWE shows pre-pandemic, The Fiend made the challenge to some jobber…

WWE deletes John Cena promo slamming 'entitled' wrestlers ahead of  WrestleMania 36 match vs 'The Fiend' Bray Wyatt

As we moved into the Pandemic era, the promos back and forth between John Cena and Bray Wyatt, especially given their history I fucking loved. Cena is the master, but their was a very forward nature to his promos on Wyatt. But such is the magnificence of Cena, it all served a purpose. The go home for Mania was the best of the bunch for me…

There was also a somewhat controversial ‘shoot’ promo by Cena that WWE even deleted from their social media platforms… But as I said Cena is a genius, and it all was for a purpose…

So on we went to the most unique WrestleMania of all time. And maybe the most unique match in the history of WrestleMania… And in John Cena went… to the Firefly FunHouse…

So that was something wasn’t it? I personally thought it was a masterpiece. Of all the things I’ll miss when I end my WWE Network subscription, I will miss my inability to watch this match whenever I want the most.

So after this… with WWE and the world in uncertain times… Wyatt returned to challenge another face from his past… and this one was now in possession of something HE wanted back…

Wyatt did his best to insight and torment Strowman, but Braun was resistant… going in to Money In The Bank Wyatt tried to make Braun an offer he couldn’t refuse to come back home…

WWE Might Have Huge Plans For Bray Wyatt With "Swamp Fight" Against Braun  Strowman - EssentiallySports

Braun though saw through it, and he beat Wyatt to retain his title. And Wyatt was gone for a short time after… Until he came back in yet another form to torment his black sheep with…

This led to one of the low lights of the run of The Fined… The ‘Horror show at Extreme Rules’ PPV was just that for most parts… a HORROR. The main event of which was a Wyatt Swamp fight, a cinematic match where Braun and Wyatt battled in various forms and settings with The Fiend coming out at the end victorious. The feud ramped up after that, with Strowman beginning to give in to the more dark temptations… And in what was a defining moment in the run of The Fiend, things got personal… Wyatt in his monster form hit Braun where it hurt…

Two weeks later after this, Bliss tried to speak to Braun to try and get him to ‘wake up’. Strowman, wanting to show he had no weaknesses, instead Gorilla press slammed Bliss out of the ring. And from here we went towards SummerSlam for a final battle between The Fiend this time, and Strowman for the title… but now an extraordinary relationship had begun…

The Fiend and Strowman had a quite unbelievable brawl, and in the end we got a new Universal Champion…

The Fiend" Bray Wyatt Wins WWE Universal Title At SummerSlam

But that wasn’t the story… ‘You’ll Never See It Coming’ was the show’s tagline… and we really didn’t…

Roman Reigns makes shock WWE return at SummerSlam and FINALLY appears to be  a heel

The Payback PPV was just 7 days later, and it seemed a lay-up for the inevitable…

WWE Payback 2020 - The Fiend Bray Wyatt vs Braun Strowman vs Roman Reigns  (Universal Championship) - YouTube

And indeed it was the case. The Fiend was a transitional champion. He was champion for 7 days…

Roman Reigns | WWE Payback 2020: Roman Reigns wins Universal Championship  title after dramatic clash | Sports News

Even with Alexa Bliss now by his side, a teased feud with Roman was not to be, and soon they were both off to pastures new…

The Fiend comes to Raw as the WWE Draft continues: Raw, Oct. 12, 2020 -  YouTube

Now on Raw, the partnership between The Fiend and Alexa Bliss became fully fledged. Bliss became a completely different person, and a dark paring blossomed…

Alexa Bliss Reacts To Bray Wyatt's Release - Wrestling Inc.

Towards the end of 2020, The Fiend teased getting in the middle of the WWE title feud between Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton… and going back to the original purpose of the character, it was his former foe Randy Orton who became the focus.

It would culminate at the TLC ppv… and we all know how that ended…

Did The WWE Finally Go To Far? - KEE On Sports Media Group

With The Fiend gone, the story carried on through Alexa Bliss. So much craziness went on between the two in those intermeddling months I wouldn’t know where to start…

And so we went to Fastlane… Yes indeed we did get Randy Orton vs Alexa Bliss…

HE was back… and given what was around the corner, it could only go one place…

Randy Orton Beats 'The Fiend' Bray Wyatt at WWE WrestleMania 37 | Bleacher  Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

They opened night 2 of WrestleMania. As we anticipated, and after being denied it the year prior, we got a quite incredible entrance from The Fiend…

WWE WrestleMania 37 Results: Roman Reigns Retains Universal Title, Rhea  Ripley Claims RAW Women's Championship

I’m sure you all recall, but after a match that went a few minutes and that The Fiend dominated… we got the turn…

Details On Alexa Bliss' Special Effects At WrestleMania 37

One RKO and a confused Fiend later, and the match was over… Orton made a quick getaway… The Fiend looked up at Bliss seemingly in confusion… The lights went out, and when they came back on both Bliss and The Fiend were gone… The live crowd booed, more out of the fact we didn’t get any sort of explanation and this all seemed very out of the blue… I for one was unhappy of course as a fan of The Fiend, but willing to let it play out so we at least got a story out of it afterwards…

Alexa Bliss Costs The Fiend Against Randy Orton at WrestleMania 37 (Clips)  | 411MANIA

Little did we know of course at the time, but this was the last time we would ever see The Fiend…

The next night on Raw, Alexa told us all that essentially she was done with The Fiend. That their alliance had served it’s purpose and now she had gained all the dark powers from him that she needed. It was a very bullshit explanation and apparent end to the story by WWE… And that really odd and VERY abrupt ending only continued with Bray Wyatt’s response to what had happened the night prior…

My god how eerie and ominous is the ‘see ya’ at the end of the vignette knowing what we know now?

This would end up being the final appearance on WWE TV for Bray Wyatt.

There was a huge amount of speculation over the next few months; some saying that Vince was unhappy with Wyatt’s physique when he returned, some said Wyatt had some personal issues to deal with, he also became a father again in the time he was off, as well as losing one of his best friend’s Jon Huber (Luke Harper/Brodie Lee) in December. But with WWE getting back on the road and heading towards SummerSlam , there was increased speculation that Wyatt would be back on TV soon. There was even a rumoured date of the August 9th Raw for his scheduled return… but of course it was not to be…

On July 31st 2021, my world as a wrestling fan was well and truly rocked. The unthinkable, my worst nightmare came true.

You can find my podcast reacting to the news immediately after it happened here:

It’s also available on most other podcast platforms.

So now I guess we wonder what next? Well… It’s hard to say because much like with Braun Strowman and his release I only ever saw Bray Wyatt in WWE… so I can’t even imagine him anywhere else… But I know for sure wherever he goes my support will go with him.

And Maybe I should be grateful… This was the final nail I needed in the coffin, the one thing that would ultimately end my abusive relationship as a fan of WWE. After this weekend is over I will be unsubscribing from the WWE network, and doing a big review of where my wrestling fandom is at. Not just in terms of what I watch or follow, but also in what I cover in blog or podcast form… Maybe I’ll do just AEW, with the likes of Impact and NJPW thrown in from time to time… who knows… I am DONE with WWE, I know that for sure.

But let me finish on a positive… The run of Bray Wyatt through all the ups and downs has hooked me emotionally more than any other character has ever done. Wrestling is one of the things in my life that is always there when I need it, and ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt has been at the forefront of that.

Thank You Wyatt. I will be eternally grateful more than you will ever know.

See Ya!

Josh.

WWE Money In The Bank (2011) – Review

Cartelera – WWE Money in the Bank – 17 de Julio de 2011 | Blog de Lucha  Libre y Wrestling de Trev

A one match show… on a gimmick-based PPV… where neither ladder match is the headline story. Sounds odd right? Well if that has made sense it was for this show, on one famous night in Chicago. At this time in 2011 we were still well in the era of John Cena as THE guy in WWE, but people were starting to want something different… The names in both Money In The Bank matches showed that WWE were trying different things at this time, and on top of that we had Christian (previously a pure tag team guy) facing perennial ‘top guy’ Randy Orton for the World title… But of course, nobody remembers this show for any of that. July 17th 2011 was about one match, and in particular one guy. One guy who proclaimed himself as ‘the Voice of the Voiceless’ and looked to be the one to go up against everything that he perceived to be wrong with WWE. Personified in these two roles or… different ways of thinking… On the side of WWE as the company man, trying to fight for Hustle, Loyalty and Respect was WWE Champion John Cena. And going against him was a man who made a sinister yet confident series of claims in the run up to the show… It was a time where the lines between reality and fiction were blurred an awful lot, and although the aftermath of this night maybe underwhelmed, the build to this show and this match demonstrated not only some of the best storytelling the company ever has put out, but was the time for a true genius and a sadly lost star of Professional Wrestling…

(APOLOGIES FOR THE LACK OF QUALITY, BUT THIS INTRO VIDEO FOR THE PPV IS WAY TOO GOOD TO LEAVE OUT)

So the stage was set for one of the most historic nights in company history… But did it deliver… Well, let me tell you how it went down with my review of WWE’s Money In The Bank PPV from 2011.


Your commentary team for this show was Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and Booker T. Tony Chimel and Justin Roberts split the ring announcing duties.

Daniel Bryan defeated Kane, Sin Cara, Wade Barrett, Sheamus, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater & Cody Rhodes to win the SmackDown Money In The Bank ladder match

raw, smackdown and ppv matches: WWE Money In The Bank as of now!!

Surprisingly big pop for Sin Cara coming out first. Most others got lukewarm reactions at best, even Daniel Bryan who Michael Cole called a nerd when he came out.

I can’t say the start of the match was spectacular, but I can say everyone worked very hard and took some heavy bumps. Booker T calling Daniel Bryan a superhero was hilarious. The crowd really appreciated the high flying of Sin Cara, Gabriel and Bryan. It was very even with nobody getting a real advantage on the rest, but it was really fun as it went on. Sin Cara with the Spanish fly on Bryan off the top got a deservingly big reaction, they really dropped the ball on that guy didn’t they?… Tremendous few minutes of the match in the clip below…

The crowd were on fire during this match. They cheered Sheamus loudly after he obliterated Sin Cara. They stretched the luchador out after that. Kane, who had won the match the year prior, looked favourite after taking down Sheamus and later both Rhodes and Bryan, only for Barrett, Slater and Justin Gabriel to stop him form climbing up the ladder. Cody tried to take advantage of the opening they left, only to then be stopped himself. Daniel Bryan tried to sneak up after, but again the former Corre teammates all went at him together,… Wade Barrett then tried to layout a plan to Slater and Gabriel for them each to watch a side so that eh could then climb the ladder… but of course they both eventually pulled him down and then laid in strikes on him. Cody later pushed the ladder over with both Slater and Gabriel on it… The crowd really helped this match on, they cheered most people in it and made a decent match into a good one. We had a crazy spot where Bryan was on Sheamus’ shoulders, then Kane came off the top rope to clothesline Bryan! Kane dished out a couple of chokeslams, before Bryan went after him and eventually countered a potential chokeslam into an armbar and then a ddt that sent Kane out the ring. Bryan and Slater went at it on the ladder, with Bryan taking a neckbreaker from Slater that sent them both off the ladder. It seemed this good crowd didn’t want to see Slater win, as they booed poor Heath whenever he even got on a ladder. Sheamus took down almost everyone, and then finally made his way up the ladder, but it was Kane who put a stop to that, hitting a chokeslam that sent Sheamus bouncing off a ladder that had been stacked between the ring corner and the ladder that was up. A whole host of guys stopped Kane climbing after, with Rhodes and Barrett hitting big moves to keep the Big Red Machine down, before Gabriel hit a crazy 450 splash off a ladder that was on the top turnbuckle to Kane right below him. Wade Barrett soon after seemed to be the man in charge and made his climb, with Cody Rhodes dragging him down and taking him out the ring. Daniel Bryan climbed the ladder, Cody went after him but with both men on one side at the top of the ladder, Wade Barrett went up the other and we eventually had Bryan knock Rhodes then Barrett down, and Bryan grabbed the briefcase. Massive crowd pop. On a night all about one of the indie scenes legendary figures, another of those legends wins the opener. This was a fun match to begin the show, credit to all involved. They maybe did the best they could of done.

WWE: 10 Best Opening PPV Matches Ever – Page 8

***3/4

We were shown a shot from earlier tonight of Mr McMahon and John Laurinaitis arriving in a limo. With them also was someone commentary said was an Attorney for WWE. The idea being he was here to try and help them get CM Punk to, last minute, sign a new WWE contract tonight, and for Mr McMahon to avoid the embarrassment of Punk winning, leaving the company when his current contract expired at midnight, and taking the WWE Championship with him. We were told they were in a meeting with CM Punk ‘right now’.

Kelly Kelly (with Eve Torres) (C) defeated Brie Bella (with Nikki Bella) to retain the WWE Divas Championship

Kelly Kelly vs. Brie Bella Money in the Bank 2011: WWEMatchGraphics

This was horrible. I didn’t need Jerry Lawler being… Jerry Lawler on commentary during this. And I didn’t need the less able in-ring of the Bellas up against the epitome of everything wrong with the DIVA’s division in this era. It went only 5 minutes or so thank god, wasn’t much actual wrestling during this but more throws to the outside and throws back into the ring after, really poor-looking submissions, Kelly kelly’s offence looked awful, Brie’s was a tad better-looking… Crowd didn’t care all that much… but this really wasn’t a good era of women’s WRESTLING in WWE… this boring, basic match from the women in 2021 would be absolutely panned. Kelly Kelly got the win after her K2 move, which was a form of leg drop. Nikki Bella said to her sister after “Look at her Brianna she doesn’t even eat how can you not beat that?” which was… odd…

*

They billed our next match as the ‘Battle of the Behemoths’, and the pre-match video put over how destructive and monstrous both Henry and Big Show can be. It seemed from the video that Henry had repeatedly slammed and battered Big Show leading to this match, with all stemming from a Big Show attack on Henry that seemed to light a fire in the World’s Strongest Man. With Big Show saying he lit the fire and he can put it out. Henry said that Stronger was better than Bigger. I’m underselling this video to be fair, it certainly made this match seem like a great battle of the monsters.

Mark Henry defeated Big Show

raw, smackdown and ppv matches: WWE Money In The Bank as of now!!

Henry got a decent pop when he first came out. The match went 6 minutes, but given it was two big guys and what was still to come on the show, maybe it was wise it was kept short. It was a proper big man match, but they both really went for it right from the off. It wasn’t slow as you’d think it might be, these two giants gave it everything and every move and strike they did looked impactful. Big Show was on top at the start having took Henry outside he then took him down with a clothesline, but Henry kicked the steps into Big Show’s knee. Mark Henry targeted the knee after, and kicked Big Show down for a 2 count. Henry slammed Show’s leg down after, then used a single crab on the injured knee and leg… Big Show eventually got to the ropes to break the hold, and got himself a moment to recover after by kicking Henry away… Until Henry splashed Show in the corner, Show kicked away a second time then came off the second tope with a diving shoulder charge… but seemed to land on the hurt knee… Show called for the Chokeslam after, but Henry kicked at the knee and then hit a World’s Strongest Slam, but only got a 2 count. The clip below tells you how Henry finished the job, and then didn’t stop there…

I liked this for what it was.

**1/2

After Big Show was stretchered out following the post-match beating from Henry… we then had Mr McMahon and John Laurinaitis backstage. Vince said about how they’d been negotiating with Punk all week long and how it was almost surreal. Josh Matthews then came in and asked if they had worked out a deal with CM Punk, to which a very solemn McMahon said No. He called Punk the biggest ingrate he had ever dealt with, that he’d offered the most lucrative contract he had ever offered anyone and he turned it down. He said the CM Punk fans shouldn’t blame him as he did everything he could to keep him on the roster. He was asked what Punk said and McMahon said Punk pointed at the door and told him to get out. McMahon said John Cena was the blame for all of this for wanting this match, and that if CM Punk leaves with the WWE Championship then god should have mercy on John Cena’s soul. From the crowd reaction during this interview (as if it wasn’t obvious), they cheered every mention of the possibility of Punk winning.

Alberto Del Rio defeated Alex Riley, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, The Miz, R-Truth, Rey Mysterio & Evan Bourne to win the Raw Money In The Bank ladder match

WWE money in the bank 2011 match card and promo - YouTube

I can’t stand Alberto. I hate him with a passion. Horrible human-being, bang average pro wrestler and I’ve no idea how he has as many accolades as he had or how he was ever such a big character in WWE programming. So I really can’t say I’m going to talk too much about this match. Feel free to check it out for yourself as it was a good match, maybe even better than the previous ladder match… but given who won the match… yeah I was checked out from the start I can’t lie… Everyone armed themselves with a ladder to begin the match (and they said about how Truth was scared of heights… because of course he is…)… Heel Michael Cole was in love with The Miz, which was too much at times.

As I said the match was great fun, but I absolutely despise Alberto so I can’t bring myself to talk too much about it, I’m not sorry. The finish came when Rey Mysterio and Alberto were both on top of ladders going after the briefcase, when Alberto tried to take Mysterio’s mask off, and then he pushed Rey onto another ladder which went over and both feel to the ring floor. Alberto got himself together first and then climbed back up to grab the briefcase. Evan Bourne (who hit a shooting star press from on top of a ladder to everyone else in the match whilst on a ladder outside the ring) and Kofi Kingston deserve special praise for being the MVPs in this match, and also the crowd who were on fire during this one.

****

Next was a match that was part of one of the better feuds of this era…

Christian defeated Randy Orton (C) when Orton got himself Disqualified. As a result of the pre-match stipulation (that a title change could happen if Orton got DQ’d), Christian was crowned the new World Heavyweight Champion

Daniel Bryan won the SmackDown Money in the Bank Ladder Match | WWE

Not a shock given it’s RANDY ORTON and CHRISTIAN, but this was a very good match just like all the others these two had in this feud. Christian early on tried to bait Orton into using a chair, where he would then lose the title should he use it, but Randy chucked it away despite saying ‘he’d love to’. Orton took out his anger on Christian with strikes and kicks, as the crowd seemed really in to the match (seemed some sections favored Christian mind). Orton later sent Christian into the steps, later back in the ring Christian took charge and got a couple of nearfalls, they exchanged strikes and Christian continued to get the heat on Orton. Randy got a roll up nearfall but soon got hit with a spinebuster, and Christian got a nearfall again… It seemed Christian was now the one getting frustrated, and he tried to set up the Killswitch, but soon Orton took both men to the outside with a clothesline over the ropes. Back in the ring Orton soon got another nearfall from a jackknife cover after Chrstian came off the top and it was countered, and it seemed to be a series of counters and counters so far… Orton got a great Dropkick for a nearfall, and Christian went up high again where the two exchange punches, eventually Orton was pushed off and Christian got a flying headbutt, but Randy kicked out at 2. Both tried their finisher, Orton his series of clotheslines, again tried an RKO but Christian got the Killswitch… but Randy kicked out at a very close 2 count. Chrsitian was now the one frustrated, and he looked to be setting for a Spear… but Orton moved and soon after hit a crazy looking neckbreaker type move for another close nearfall. Match was really getting hot now, crowd was on fire. Orton looked to set for the punt kick, but got a scoop slam… and off the back of that came the shocking finish, as you’ll see in the video below…

I actually loved this match and the finish. Played in to the story so well. And at the end Christian again won the belt, and the crowd went wild. Usually this kind of finish is ASS, but this time it made so much sense.

Christian def. Randy Orton (New World Heavyweight Champion) | WWE

Orton went ape shit on Christian after and destroyed him, hitting him with a monitor and then eventually putting him out with an RKO on the announce table, despite pleas from the officials and SmackDown GM Teddy Long. A still fuming Orton eventually left the ringside area, but decided he wasn’t done yet as the crowd went berserk, he RKO’d him on to the announce table again and still looked livid as he screamed at Christian. He furiously marched up the ramp… and looked back on the chaos he had caused.

****1/4

Commentary spoke about the next PPV event, and asked if the WWE Championship would even be on that card, as now finally… it was time…

I always go on about pre-match hype videos, but this one below is THE best ever in my opinion. It’s this or the My Way one for sure…

CM Punk defeated John Cena (C) to win the WWE Championship (as a result John Cena must be fired)

Random Network Reviews: WWE Money in the Bank 2011 | 411MANIA

And after an incredible hype video, came one of the all-time great entrances…

Naturally when Cena came out it was thunderous Boos. There was no Cena playing to the crowd, he walked to the ring with a stoic look on his face, the title around his waist.. the crowd sign below showed the general mood of most in the crowd leading up to the match.

♤RJ Cruz on Twitter: ""If Punk loses we riot..." Well, are you ready to  start the riot? #CMPunk @TeamCMPunk #RoyalRumble = #ArizonaScrewJob  http://t.co/TTwJymWW"

You can say whatever you want about John Cena, but contrary to what some believe he CAN indeed wrestle and wrestle he does very well. I’m going to say it right now, I think this is the best WWE main roster match of all time. It had absolutely EVERYTHING!

John Cena vs. CM Punk - WWE Championship Match | WWE

As tends to be the case in long John Cena matches they had a bit of a stalemate early on, hilariously Punk asked the crowd if it was he who they were chanting ‘couldn’t wrestle’ but it was of course Cena. Cena then reversed a possible Anaconda vice into an armbar, and from there back on their feet they went into Cena getting a shoulder tackle, but again it was 50/50 stuff so far. Cena got a shoulder tackle but punk then got a hip toss and took Cena down to the delight of the crowd. Punk had a neck hold on Cena, Punk mocked Cena after and both tried for their finisher but couldn’t get it. Punk hit kicks to Cena, and stomped on him in the corner, Cena after though hit a bulldog and got a nearfall. Booker T on commentary rightfully called this a chess match so far, Cena hit a hard clothesline for a nearfall and again went right back to a rest-hold after. Punk got a nearfall for himself, we had loud dueling ‘let’s go Cena’ – ‘Cena sucks’ chants, another Punk nearfall, Cena after got a Fisherman’s Suplex for another nearfall, he tried for an AA but punk got a ddt for the counter and a 2 count from the pin. CM Punk went right back in with a form of triangle neck hold, but Cena powered up until Punk threw Cena out the ring. CM Punk went after him and eventually had Cena draped over the apron and then came off the corner turnbuckle with a dropped knee to the back of Cena’s neck. Another Punk 2 count followed… Punk went shoulder first into the corner post after Cena moved out the way, and after another exchange Punk again had Cena down in a hold… and eventually Punk came off the top with a crossbody for a nearfall, they played up to it on commentary as if Cena was hurt after in his knee, and Punk tried to suplex Cena over into the ring, but it was Cena who hit the move with a suplex to the floor below. John Cena dragged Punk back into the ring, but got a 2 count. Cena got a fisherman’s suplex, and hit an elbow drop for another 2. He picked Punk up after and hit a slam, but again only got 2. They had a stiking exchange after with Cena’s punches booed, and Punk’s kicks and then punches loudly cheered, from here Cena caught Punk off the ropes in an abdominal stretch (which is a move I can’t say I’ve seen Cena use that often, although he always pulls out unique moves in big matches),… Punk got out with a hip toss but then took each other down. Cena hit the running shoulder tackles and tried to drop Punk, but was counted and rolled up and CM Punk got a nearfall. Cena moved out the way of a knee to the corner and then did slam Punk to the floor, the crowd booed loudly as he set for a 5 knuckle shuffle, but cheered as Punk kicked Cena in the face and sent him outside. Punk then hit a dive through the ropes to Cena on the outside (crowd going wild all match by the way), CM Punk broke the referees count and then tossed Cena in, Punk went to the ropes and tried for a springboard crossbody but Cena moved, he again set for a 5 knuckle shuffle… and this time got it… then tried an AA but Punk landed on his feet, he then hit a series of kicks to takedown Cena and got a 2 count after. Punk picked Cena up for a GTS but got a gutwrench suplex for his troubles, but only a 2 count. Cena waited for Punk and then went for the AA, again Punk countered with a couple of hard knees right to Cena’s jaw and then a bulldog… Punk hit a springboard strike, but Cena just about got out of the pin in time. Punk hit a number of kicks to Cena, who waited and picked his moment to lock in the STF… Punk tried and eventually reached the ropes to the delight of most of the crowd. Cena went after Punk, who responded with a hard kick to the head, and got another nearfall. Punk went to the top rope, and from there hit a crossbody but Cena caught him and tried an AA, Punk countered into a GTS, but Cena countered from that into another STF (tremendous exchange of moves there, and rightfully the crowd loved it)… After Punk tried for the ropes, Cena pulled him back to the middle of the ring… but Punk somehow countered into an Anaconda Vice! Crowd were losing their mind it was incredible… from here Cena soon powered up, and hit a huge AA… but only got a 2!!! Cena then went to the top rope in a rarity for him, although Punk just about caught him in a powerbomb for another nearfall. Punk tried to will himself back up and gee up the crowd as he signaled for the Go To Sleep… He got Cena up but Cena used the ropes to knock Punk down. John Cena again came off the top and got the leg drop to the back of Punk’s neck, but again only a 2… Cena somewhat laughed such was his disbelief he couldn’t get the job done… Cena took his time and waited for CM Punk… and finally he went for an AA and again got it… and again a 2 count (maybe the closest all match)… and again crowd went wild. Cena even argued with the ref about the call, which given it’s JOHN CENA says it all… Cena got Punk up and in the corner got him to the top rope, both men looked exhausted and Cena seemed to try for a 2nd rope AA, but Punk fought out of it with elbows the the head of Cena, and Punk then took charge with a hurricanrana off the top. From here Punk hobbled at Cena in the corner and hit a running knee, then got him up for a GTS and got it but hit Cena in the ribs and from here Cena fell to the outside… Punk tried to go after him, but he himself was so exhausted… Punk somehow got Cena back in the ring… and this was when Mr McMahon and John Laurinaitis were shown at the top of the ramp… with everyone a little confused and looking on John Cena took advantage and got Punk in another STF… This was when McMahon instructed Laurinaitis to get the bell rung… another ‘screwjob’ looked to be happening… but it was CENA who stopped it by punching out Laurinaitis before he could get to the timekeeper’s area to ring the bell. Cena spoke towards McMahon and told him it wasn’t going to go down that way… and that was when Cena’s own pride made Mr McMahon’s nightmare and the dreams of Chicago come true… Cena rolls back into the ring, Punk pick’s him up, GTS, 1… 2… 3! When I say this crowd went absolutely fucking wild I can’t state that enough… Mr McMahon as you’ll see in the clip below looked devastated. CM Punk had done it, and now in less than 2 hours he was leaving WWE with it’s holy grail in hand.

This match was fucking incredible. I can’t really put it any other way. So it deserves something I’ve now only done 3 times in over 230 blogs…

****** (yes, that’s SIX)

Match Of The Day: CM Punk VS John Cena Money In The Bank 2011 -  StillRealToUs.com

McMahon, funny enough wasn’t up for celebration, and soon called for Alberto to come out and cash in his briefcase… Put as the Mexican ran out Punk soon put a stop to McMahon’s last ditch effort with a swift kick, and then realizing he had finally done it, Punk did exactly what he said he’d do…

Going through his loyal Chicago fans, CM Punk blew the WWE and it’s chairman one last kiss goodbye…

WWE CM Punk vs John Cena Money In The Bank 2011 Full Match on Make a GIF

And we were left with the unthinkable… Now two things… we all know irl that CM Punk had actually signed his new WWE deal during this show and then of course came back two weeks later, the WWE version of the summer of Punk flopped, and we later got his legendary title run which was ended by The Rock of all people… and from there CM Punk in WWE was never really the same and he went down a path that eventually saw his walkout for real in January of 2014.

But I will say that if CM Punk is one of professional wrestling’s true artists, then this night was his Mona Lisa. Overall this show was great, but when a match is a one match show and then that one match is everything this was it certainly doesn’t do any harm. A good show with an unbelievably good and well done ending. And 10 years ago WWE proved they can do exceptionally cool shit when they went to… On this night everything related to CM Punk was what he said he was… The Best In The World.

Page 5 - Money in the Bank: Top 5 moments in the PPV's history

Josh.

10 Ways for WWE to Capitalize on the return of FANS

TODAY is the day. Tonight’s Friday Night SmackDown will be the first WWE show in front of a full arena of fans in well over a year. And with a PPV this weekend, and SummerSlam in a stadium next month, WWE is going HARD to try and make the most of a return to some form of normality. There’s a lot of special things WWE could do to make the most of this, and to try and turn the tide from what has been a largely stale and criticized product in recent months. So here is 10 ways I think that WWE could make the most of the next few months…

WWE 'Looking At All Options' To Bring Live Fans Back To Television

Make it a Celebration

Reasons For WWE Fans To Be Happy - WWE Wrestling News World

AEW’s first PPV with fans back, above all else, was FUN. Everybody in the crowd seemed to be having such a good time, and I for one watching loved it too. One thing WWE did well with the WrestleMania last year at the start of the pandemic was give us all stuff to be happy about, and this return of fans needs to be somewhat of a celebration. Give us stuff to be happy about. I’m not saying WWE should just have all the babyfaces go over, but don’t book stuff that you know is just going to piss people off. WWE have a habit sometimes of just doing stuff to get heat and hate, now is NOT that time. People are going to be so excited to get back in arenas watching WWE, they’re going to WANT to cheer and have a good time, so give them stuff to cheer. It’s not rocket science!

Memorable Moments

Becky Lynch | WWE

It really is a special and unique time and opportunity in WWE history. No other time, maybe before or ever again, will their be a more appropriate time to create memories. So do it. Sure if you have plans for later down the line, don’t rush anything… but as I’ve said to people and on my podcast WWE have A LOT of stars on the bench at the moment, a lot of big names that we haven’t seen for a long time… I can’t think of a better time than now to do some crazy stuff. And not just the big returns but also maybe have some people go over in certain matches and situations that have either been a long time coming, or a shock… Imagine say a Liv Morgan or a Nikki Cross winning the women’s ladder match at Money in the Bank, or Ricochet winning the men’s… Make the most of this unique opportunity WWE…

Cutting the Crap

Lilly Haunts Shayna Baszler After She Refuses To Apologize

Some of the stuff WWE have put out in certain segments in recent weeks and months has been fucking ASS! In particular that horrid, cheap-horror film scene with Shayna Baszler and Lilly the doll… Imagine that in front of a live crowd… They’d crucify it… And after waiting so long for fans to come back, them then coming and booing an important part of the show would not be a good look. It makes everyone involved look bad, and it’s not even their fault. Imagine that Rhea-Charlotte finish from the PPV, where Ripley was disqualified for taking apart the announce table… A live PPV crowd would HATE that finish, again not a good look. So don’t take the piss WWE!

SummerMania

SummerSlam 2021 | WWE Travel Packages

Given it’s at Allegiant Stadium I think it’s going this way anyway, but SummerSlam this year should really be as big (card wise) as any normal year’s WrestleMania. Just go mental, make this line up the biggest line up you could possibly make, call EVERYONE and get everyone you can: Cena, Lesnar, Lynch, Sasha, The Fiend and more. Build a card of dream matches, why not? You’ve got to sell out a stadium of that size so you’re going to need to build a strong line up. They should… and I think they will…

“You Deserve It”

Killian Dain Reveals That Nikki Cross Created New WWE Gimmick Herself |  WrestlingWorld

There’s been a lot of people on the main roster who have been KILLING IT in the absence of fans… and I really want to see those people rewarded. They’ve not had that recognition and adulation that they’d of got in normal times from live crowds, and they deserve that credit. So I hope WWE give the likes of Kofi & Woods, Riddle, Nikki A.S.H, The Usos chances they may not of usually got. Push people or someone to the moon, look at Lashley now… had a gradual push and now fans are coming back he’s the top man on Raw as WWE Champion… Why not give someone else a shot like he had and flourished with… worth a shot right?

Utilize the Draft

WWE Draft Dates Reportedly Changed, WWE To Air Milestone RAW Season  Premiere - Wrestling Inc.

So it had previously come out that another Draft would take place not long after SummerSlam, however recent updates suggest that will now take place in October time in line with previous years and the ‘season premier’ of each show. But regardless a draft brings a number of possibilities to change things, and set up some new feuds and matches that live crowds can get in to. With all the releases, a few rumored/confirmed NXT call ups, and recent pushes it appears the roster is going to change a lot across Raw, SmackDown and even NXT in line with the return to touring. So I hope WWE make the most of it and build two strong and balanced rosters full of fresh potential match ups and possibilities. Imagine say Drew McIntyre (Raw since his original main roster call up) on SmackDown against Roman Reigns? Or Big E and Kevin Owens going to Raw to face off with Bobby Lashley? The possibilities really are endless.

LONG TERM BOOKING

Backstage Reason Why WWE Is Failing At Long Term Booking

This might go against a lot of what WWE will do in the next few days and weeks, given a lot of it will be trying to just do big moments and shocks, but any moment shouldn’t be at the detriment of the show or the stories you’re telling… Say for example you want to bring back Brock Lesnar… cool, but is it really worth brining him in and having him beat Lashley or Roman? You really want to sacrifice all the work you’ve done building up your world champions just to get Brock on the card? There has to be a balance. I hope the likes of Vince and Bruce remember that, and don’t get too excited with all these shiny toys to play with and big stars they’re able to book and use again…

Make The Fans Feel Important

Is WWE's Daniel Bryan inspiring mainstream sports? Yes!

This goes along similar lines to points I’ve raised before. But what I mean in particular with this one is PLEASE WWE I FUCKING BEG YOU, LISTEN to the fans on stuff. If they over the course of a long period let it be known they don’t like something… then just stop doing it and come up with something else. Don’t insult fans intelligence with BS stuff, and don’t just go along with stuff and pretend the fans aren’t reacting one way or the other. We’ve seen so many times when WWE have altered their course and took fan opinion into account (Daniel Bryan and Becky Lynch come to mind) that it almost always turns out for the better. It has previously been said that writers in WWE are often writing stuff for an audience of one… With the fans now back in the arena I hope they realize who the REAL most important people are…

Use what’s NeXT

I actually wrote these 10 points before the recent run of NXT personnel on Main Event, doing dark matches and now most recently with the 3 NXT women on SmackDown. But one thing that can be said is that Toni Storm, Nox & Shotzi will only add to the SmackDown women’s division. In football there is an idea that if you’re good enough then experience doesn’t matter, and yes none of the three women I’ve mentioned have had consistent runs in front of big live crowds… but A. they are GOOD and B. they will get people to react to them I’m almost assure of it. I love NXT, there’s a tonne of talent in NXT, and Raw and SmackDown given how many talents have been released recently NEED injections of… will numbers for sure, but quality too. The three new SmackDown additions are a great start, and the names that have also been mentioned as possibilities to come up in the near future I’ve no doubt will all be great assets to either main roster show.

(Start Building) The Road To WrestleMania

WrestleMania 38 Still Reportedly Set to Be a One-Night Event |  WrestlingWorld

You think they’ll need to put on a big card to sell out Las Vegas Stadium… how about AT&T in Texas next year with over 100,000 seats needed to be filled… I would say they should start planning for that show ASAP… If you can sew seeds at SummerSlam or sooner then great, if you’ve got your line up or some matches planned already then bare that in mind when you’re booking people and stuff… If you want to… for example… have The Rock appear in a match, why not set up the angle for that at a huge PPV and build and build to something at SummerSlam? There’s been talk Rock will be at Survivor Series in November, GREAT idea. Say Cena is going to be at SummerSlam and he’s not available to appear in WWE again until Mania or Rumble next year… why not have him do an angle on his way out to set up who he’s going to face whenever he can comeback? It’ll give a great rub to a full time talent whilst setting up anticipation for stuff later down the line… Maybe they’ll do stuff like that, let’s see…

One thing for sure is it’s an exciting time to be a WWE fan. Lets hope they make the most of it…

Josh.

WWF King Of The Ring (1998) – Review

WWF King Of The Ring 1998 Poster - WWF King Of The Ring 1998 Photo  (39273293) - Fanpop

When I think about this show, I can’t quite believe it has taken me this long (this will be blog number 232) to talk about this show. Everyone that’s a wrestling fan has their match, their wrestler, their moment, their PPV. There is a match on this show, and I’m sure you know which one I mean, and this match to me… is Everything. I’ve maybe watched it more than any other match in the history of wrestling, and it still gives me goosebumps even now. I will of course talk more about that when I get to that point in the show itself…

But going back to the event itself, King Of The Ring is of course the show where the King was once crowned. A tournament that I can maybe best describe as the Money in the Bank equivalent of it’s day. Past winners include Steve Austin, Triple H, Brock Lesnar as it was a starting point to their superstardom. When looking at the names in the semi finals of the 1998 tournament, only 1 of them became a world champion in WWE. But of the others one is in the WWE Hall of Fame, another is in the halls of both the UFC and Impact Wrestling, and the other is in the hall of fame of the NWA… Not bad right? Elsewhere we have a show with your usual mix of attitude era characters, some you will remember, some you’ll find utterly bizarre and some you wished you could forget.

Going in to the show, the match that this show will forever be remembered for wasn’t even the main event. When you read it on paper you may get why… the main event was Kane, who was less than a year into his run and was this indestructible monster taking on the World Wrestling Federation champion Stone Cold Steve Austin (who we of course now know as one of the biggest stars in the history of the business, but at this time he was only just beginning his first run as champion). With Mr McMahon running the show the stipulations for this much anticipated title matched was set as first blood (tough on Austin given his opponent wears a mask and covers most his body with his wrestling attire), and also Kane himself said those famous words “If I don’t win the title, I will.. set myself on Fire!” … Yep… Oh and there was a certain match in a certain structure that took place just before that huge title match… that happened too… So as this show was so incredibly top heavy I’ll talk briefly about the undercard of the show first (and this whole show was very decent so I fully recommend watching it), and then I’ll talk about the unforgettable end part of this pay per view. So… FINALLY… Here are my thoughts on WWF’s King Of The ring PPV from 1998.


To open the show we had a video package on our two headline matches. The GOAT duo of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were on commentary for the show. And the equally legendary Howard Finkel is the ring announcer.

The Headbangers (Mosh and Thrasher) and Taka Michinoku defeated Kaientai (Funaki, Men’s Teioh and Dick Togo)

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Quick match but fun. Nothing wrong with it at all, but again not one people will remember. Finish came when Mosh and Thrasher threw Taka onto Funaki. He then hit a Michinoku Driver for the win.

*3/4

Sable came out next… ok then… She got a huge reaction as she always did from the crowd. Her job for the night was to introduce Mr McMahon. The stooges came out with him, as as they motioned for Sable to get out of the ring, Pat Patterson earnt himself a slap after patting Sable’s backside…

Mr McMahon then cut a heel promo on the crowd. And talked up the possibility Kane winning later…

No idea why this segment needed to be in ring… maybe it was just to break the show up… maybe they didn’t like backstage interviews at this time…

Ken Shamrock defeated Jeff Jarrett (with Tennessee Lee) in a King of the Ring semi-final

Shamrock was super over here. Another fairly quick one but Shamrock looked like superman, and credit to Double J who played his role well. Finish came when Shamrock countered and transitioned into the Ankle Lock and Jarrett tapped out right away. Crowd loved it when Shamrock won.

*3/4

The Rock defeated Dan Severn in a King of the Ring semi-final

Rock, still some months from his transition to main eventer, was over here even as a heel. Mark Henry and The Godfather came out with their Nation leader, but were quickly sent to the back, but for the finish D’Lo Brown (who Severn had previously injured) came out when the ref was distracted and frog splashed (with his chest protector on) Severn, allowing for The Rock to get the win.

**

Too Much (Brian Christopher and Scott Taylor) defeated Al Snow and Head – Special Guest Referee: Jerry Lawler

Yes this really happened… Lawler was hilarious as the over the top ref in favour of the heels. The finish was… I don’t know if it was magnificent or horrific… as HEAD was legal, Brian Christopher got a bottle of HEAD & SHOULDERS and attached it to HEAD, and then got the pin… Head’s SHOULDERS were then down and that was the pinfall.

I don’t know what more to say…

*

X-Pac (with Chyna) defeated Owen Hart

Good solid match this, not a surprise given who was in it though. Finish came about when Vader came out to counter the threat of Mark Henry who tried to help Owen. Meanwhile Chyna, as the officials were busy trying to break up Henry and Vader, hit Owen Hart with a dtt and this allowed X-Pac to get the win.

***

Paul Bearer then waddled out to the ring… is this Raw? What is it with these promos in the ring on PPV?? Anyway he spoke about Undertaker beating him up in his home prior to this show (I think on the previous Raw), and spoke more of the same stuff he used to chat about how Kane would watch Taker on tv when he was a kid and want to be like him, and how bad Kane’s childhood was and how proud he’d be later when Kane won the title…

This is something WWE/F do time and time again… they tell us something is going to happen to the point where we think they’re making it far too obvious surely it won’t happen… then it does anyway…

The New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn and Road Dogg) (C) (with Chyna) defeated The New Midnight Express (Bodacious Bart and Bombastic Bob) (with Jim Cornette) to retain the WWF Tag Team Championship

Very standard tag match, but again nothing bad about it. Biggest pop of the match came when Chyna low blowed Cornette after he tried to interfere. The Outlaws got the win just after.

**1/4

Ken Shamrock defeated The Rock to win the King of the Ring

Daily Pro Wrestling History (6/28): Bow down to "King" Ken Shamrock; AWA  Battle By The Bay

Really fun match here. Even against Rock there was still a decent level of support for Shamrock. Triple H and Chyna joined commentary before the match began. Tonne of nearfall towards the end, finish came when Rock argued with the ref after again not getting the win, which allowed for Shamrock to hook Rock’s leg and get the Ankle Lock. Rock tapped to a big pop and you’re 1998 King Of The Ring was crowned as Ken Shamrock!

***3/4

Eerily Jim Ross suggested we may need to call the Red Cross ahead of our next two matches.

If you’re watching this show… strap yourselves in for history…

Mankind comes out carrying a steel chair, goes to get into the ring, but then comes out and throws his chair onto the Cell roof… and quickly ascends to the top of the Cell structure… The Phenom comes out next to a thunderous ovation. And he in turn accepts Foley’s invitation to join him on top of the Cell…

Mankind vs. The Undertaker - Hell in a Cell Match: King of the Ring 1998:  photos | WWE

The Undertaker defeated Mankind in a Hell in a Cell match

Foley pulls Taker up but is hit with punches, and now Taker is up with him the two brawl. Mankind hits Taker with the chair twice, the cell roof almost gave in as they walked across…

and then… it happened…

If there’s an event more replayed in WWE or wrestling history than this one, aside from maybe Hogan slamming Andre, I’m yet to see it.

You’ve all heard the incredible commentary from Jim Ross time and time again, but my word he sold this so well. With Taker still on the cell roof, Terry Funk was the first to the scene of his fallen rival, then came a tonne of referees and doctors. Still all these years later this is indescribably every time. I cannot imagine how this was to witness at the time, when we hadn’t seen anything close to this before. Mr McMahon and Commissioner Slaughter came out also to see to Foley, the concern for him seemed to be very much real. They then raised the cage in order to get the medical assistance and stretcher to Mankind, despite poor Undertaker still being on top of it.  What he must be thinking in this moment I can’t imagine… They began to stretcher Mankind towards the back… and then suddenly as we looked at Taker on the cell roof again…

Mick foley GIF - Find on GIFER

And this crowd went wild… it was not over… what happened next… more horror…

He went back up… and quickly went down again.

Wwe hell in a cell GIF - Find on GIFER

Now this one certainly WAS NOT planned. As I earlier referred to this Cell roof was not the strongest… so it gave way as Taker did the chokeslam… and for good measure the steel chair falls as well, smashing Foley in the face on the way down. This bump might be the nastiest in wrestling history.

‘Good god, good god’

‘That’s it he’s dead’

Goosebumps listening to Lawler and Ross on the call here…

The Greatest Hell in Cell match of all time - The Undertaker vs Mankind

Taker climbs down through the break in the roof created, and lands flat on his already broken ankle (oh yeah, Undertaker came into this match with a very much hurt ankle, just for good measure).

Terry Funk and all the refs and officials were already in the ring at this point seeing to Mankind.

Funk was berating at Taker, and took a chokeslam for his troubles. I’m guessing he did this to try and buy Mick more time to somehow recover.

Mankind got up and took a punch from Taker. Taker went for Old school put got knocked down as Foley feel into the ropes. They locked the cell door… and then we got another legendary shot…

Mankind sent Taker into the cell wall, he then got the steps but couldn’t lift them it seemed. Taker could though, and he did three times smash Foley with the steps. Undertaker his a few big punches to Mankind, before then going for a dive through the ropes but went into the Cell wall after Mankind moved out the way. Mankind rammed Taker into the cell wall a few times, as Taker was now busted open. Mankind raked Taker’s face across the cell wall, and as Taker staggered up into the ring again, Mankind set up a chair and gave Taker a Piledriver onto it. This got him a nearfall, oh yes this was a wrestling match by the way. Mankind rained shots in, and then placed the chair onto Taker’s face and hit a leg drop. Another 2 count. Mankind hit his form of DDT, and then… he rolls out the ring to get…

A bag of thumbtacks… Because that was needed after what we’ve seen already…

Mankind tried time and time again to knock Taker onto them, but eventually after an exchange Mankind got the Mandible Claw locked onto Taker… but just as it seemed Taker was fading, he suddenly shows life… and then…

Taker drops Mankind back first onto the tacs… My lord…

Foley had all these thumbtacks stuck in him… and then just for good measure Taker hits A CHOKESLAM TO Foley onto the tacks…

He then signaled it was the end and…

hit the Tombstone for the 1,2,3.

WWE Classic of the Week: Remembering Undertaker vs. Mankind in Hell in a  Cell | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

Jerry Lawler said on commentary “Mercifully, this is over”.

And it was.

JR later added how these two men gave you their soul here tonight.

And they did.

I can’t quantify my love for this match. For what Mick Foley did on this night can never be thanked enough. He and Taker changed wrestling forever. Both these men had Hall of fame careers without question, but on this night alone, particularly Mick Foley but they both cemented their legendary status. I will never ever ever not think of this match when I’m asked for my favourite ever and which match makes me feel things no other does whilst watching, and neither will wrestling history ever forget this match. The story of this match and its legend will outlive every single one of us. And that I think is the biggest compliment it could possibly have.

UNLIMITED

Incredibly of course, as history kind of forgets, that was NOT the end of the night… we still had another small matter to deal with…

They played a great promo video before the match which told the story of the build… Mr McMahon set up Kane vs Undertaker in a number 1 contender’s match that Kane won. Austin would have to take on McMahon’s hand-picked monster. And how Mankind and Undertaker also pictured in the Austin – Kane feud. And of course we had McMahon making the challenge for Kane that this would be a first blood match… and the infamous segment where Kane used his voice device to declare that he’d set himself alight if he didn’t win the title. Austin of course was well up for the fight. This video made this match seem like the biggest match ever, but given what we’d just seen it was nearly impossible to be as close to as hyped as we maybe should’ve been.

To use a comparison from another world it was like when the mixed double final at Wimbledon takes place AFTER the men’s singles final. Or how the 100 meters final isn’t the last event of the Olympic Games.

There of course were Gasoline canisters at the ringside area, I presume to start the fire was Kane to lose…

Kane (with Paul Bearer) defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin (C) in a First Blood match to win the WWF Championship (If Kane lost he would’ve set himself on fire)

Page 6 - 10 Best WWE King of the Ring PPV matches

Austin was hugely popular with the crowd as always. He had his elbow heavily tapped after suffering a legit staph infection. And he immediately took the fight to Kane, but the monster got up again and again from belt shots and punches. Austin exposed the top turnbuckle and tried to use that, but Kane fought back. Kane was on top after this, with Austin only briefly getting moments of offense. Austin dragged Kane around ringside as they brawled… when the Hell in a Cell structure began to lower… As it did Kane dropped Auston on the crowd railing and then into the steps… Kane then tried to crush Austin beneath the cell after throwing him into the wall… but Austin got out in time. Kane launched Austin into the cell again, it had now fully lowered… so this was a first blood match inside Hell in a Cell. Stone Cold again was thrown into the wall by Kane, and then again into the steps… Austin did have blood from his back, but commentary did a good job covering that up by explaining that the ref had earlier said it would take a significant amount of blood loss to end the match. The cell was now raised again with Kane teetering on the cell, Austin eventually caused him to drop from it… They brawled up the entrance ramp with Steve Austin throwing Kane into each side of the crowd railings. Austin tried a piledriver but Kane dropped Austin on his back, as we got a shot of Mr McMahon who was high in the luxury box with Sable watching on. Kane rained down elbows to Austin, Austin tried for a suplex but Kane got the suplex on the rampway instead himself. Kane was in charge now, as he chucked Austin all over the place and launched a security railing at him after. They came back towards the ring next, with Paul Bearer alongside them… back in the ring Austin again tried to ram Kane’s head into the turnbuckle, but still it didn’t have the desired effect. Austin again tried to wear Kane down, as he rammed Kane’s head all over the place at the ringside area, then hitting Kane in the head with a small fan. After though Kane sent Austin into the railing again and this took out the ref Earl Hebner also… back in the ring Kane came off the top with a big clothesline from the top rope. He then tried to send Austin’s head into the exposed turnbuckle, and with Austin down Kane went up top again but Austin moved and then stomped away at Kane. Austin then stomped on Kane in the corner, and also rammed Kane’s back of the head into the turnbuckle… and then… of ALL PEOPLE…

Mankind (chair in hand) comes into the ring… Austin then goes at him… as the Cell is lowered again. The finish of the match I absolutely adore as it plays into many things that were to come in the future…

So Austin gives Mankind a Stunner. Kane grabs Austin for a Chokeslam, but Austin counters into a Stunner to Kane. Austin goes outside to get a chair of his own… when who else shows up…

So we are left with Taker on one side, Austin on the other, Mankind the target of both in the middle, Mankind ducks, Taker swings his chair into Austin’s and Austin goes down… but…

Everyone else is then taken out of play… Taker takes Kane out the ring, Taker then punches out Mankind, Taker tries to revive the referee, Kane by this point is back up and he takes Taker out with a chair shot… Austin then kicks away at Kane and takes him down with a clothesline off the top. He takes the chair from Kane and then smashes him across the face with it… but now the referee is up… he sees Austin and the bell is rung…

Kane, despite being flat out on his back after the chair shot from Austin, is announced as the NEW World Wrestling Federation Champion.

The Rattlesnake looks on in disbelief, and the PPV closes with a shot of a pleased Mr McMahon in his sky box…

****1/2

Now of course after this show, we had Raw the next night, where a rematch is set up as Austin’s argument is that Undertaker busted Austin open and not Kane. Austin won the title back… but my word the significance of what took place on this night in wrestling history will never be diminished

But sadly for Kane, winning his first and only WWF/E Championship, the night won’t be remembered for him. But for one moment that as I’ve said might be the most replayed and memorable in the history of the business.

20 years ago today The Undertaker threw Mankind off Hell In A Cell, and he  plummeted 16ft through an announcer's table. : SquaredCircle

Josh.

WWECW One Night Stand (2006) – Review

Tazz – Scotts Blog of Doom!

Well… this was an odd time wasn’t it? Every now and then in pro-wrestling, often in the run up to a major event, we get a series of events and happenings that doesn’t quite seem… normal… Immediately I think of the build to the 2019 Survivor Series when we had NXT guys add girls dominating those of Raw and SmackDown before they won the show… and then nothing much was said again after. And across the independent scene in the build to the start of AEW, lots of stuff happened that was… different… and most of it cool, but we knew it wouldn’t happen again long term deep down. Well… let me take you back 15 years… When Vince McMahon decided to revive one of the most beloved ‘underground’ wrestling promotions in history, but under a WWE banner (first red flag right there…). After the HUGE success of the one off ECW One Night Stand PPV a year prior (which I also reviewed for my blog so go back and take a look at that), it was decided that they’d do another one here, but not just that… Off the back of the show’s success and the sales of an ECW DVD released at the time, ECW was coming back. It would be it’s own show alongside Raw and SmackDown, with its own roster and Championship. They would have a lighter schedule and run smaller arenas.

The initial creator and head guy at the old ECW Paul Heyman would be the on screen figure head for the brand. And in real terms creatively he would have a lot of say also, but of course everything that Heyman wanted for the ‘new’ ECW would have to be ratified by Vince (red flag 2). Of course as it was 2006 and it was WWE (a publicly traded company, and a family-friendly organization and product), so ECW would need to… well… there were a lot of things that ECW did that WWECW just wouldn’t get away with (red flag 3).

RVD's greatest rivalries: photos | WWE

Going in to the show there would be an official WWE Draft, but only for the new ECW brand. Paul Heyman would get to pick one superstar from Raw and one from SmackDown to come over and become a part of ECW. The Raw pick would be ECW original Rob Van Dam, who at that time was the holder of the Money in the Bank briefcase that he won at that year’s WrestleMania. Van Dam announced going in to the event that he was cashing in his contract to get himself a match against John Cena for the WWE Championship to take place at the Hammerstein Ballroom at the ECW PPV. RVD added that when he won he would re-christen the title as the ECW Championship. We then had a brawl after between a number of ECW originals and the superstars of Raw who had come to defend Cena, leading to a Raw vs ECW TV special airing a few days prior to One Night Stand. On That show a match between Cena and Sabu ended when The Big Show came out to attack Cena, revealing himself as the newest addition to ECW (that famous ECW star BIG SHOW… red flag 4?)….

Another match set for the show had an interesting build… After their incredible Hardcore match at that year’s WrestleMania the Hardcore legend Mick Foley seemed to form a bond with opponent Edge, and over the course of a few weeks Foley turned his back on ECW alumni Tommy Dreamer and long term associate Terry Funk. Foley as a heel was quite odd to see, but he was quite convincing in his bashing of ECW and the ‘cheap, Mick Foley rip-offs’. Weeks of build led us to an extreme rules intergender 6 person match with Foley teaming with Edge and his girlfriend Lita against Funk, Dreamer and Dreamer’s wife Beulah McGillicutty.

Shitloads Of Wrestling — Mick Foley, Lita, and Edge An unlikely alliance,...

Elsewhere on the card we had Rey Mysterio (formerly of the original ECW for a time) defending the World Championship against ECW legend Sabu… A match that seemed doomed to fail as they’re never putting the WWE World Title on SABU, and beating him on this show infront of this crowd even to a popular guy like Rey is surely never going to go down well… We did also have Kurt Angle (who was the SmackDown draft pick chosen to be a part of WWECW) against Randy Orton. Two great talents and I’m sure Angle will be popular, but a singles match on an ECFW show between two guys who never stepped foot in an original ECW ring… Hmmm… So it was all set up to be one… well it was going to be memorable that’s for sure. As with ECW you didn’t quite know what you were going to get… After the show the year prior the expectations were high… 2005 One Night Stand felt very much like an ECW show… but now WWE were doing THEIR version of ECW properly now, this was not a one off event, this was the start of a brand revived. I already can tell from odd things I know of the show that this one felt VERY different from the 2005 version, so let’s see… So here we go then, wish me luck… Here is my thoughts on WWECW One Night Stand from the year 2006.


A packed out Hammerstein Ballroom opened the show with a load of “EC-DUB” chants.

Paul Heyman then came out to open the show properly.

We then had the PPV opener for real as Bodies played and Joey Styles on commentary welcome us to the rebirth of ECW.

Tazz came out with what sounded like dubbed over music (and loud ECdub chants) on the network version? He was also wearing a big baseball shirt. Lawler was heavily booed of course. He played a tremendous heel as the crowd chanted “YOU SUCK DICK”… Lawler slapped Joey Styles as he made his way to the ring.

Tazz defeated Jerry “The King” Lawler

Joey Styles came to the ring and tried to choke Lawler, but he got him off. Tazz then applied the submission and Lawler passed out. They went 25 seconds.

N/A

Joey Styles led into footage from the ECW vs Raw special. The big angle from that show was Big Show leaving Team WWE to join ECW. We also saw John Cena vs Sabu in an extreme rules match for the WWE title. That ended with a big brawl.

Tazz had by then come over to join Joey Styles on commentary.

Kurt Angle defeated Randy Orton

ECW One Night Stand (2006)

Naturally the WWE born and bred Randy Orton was not very well liked by the crowd. Orton has his signature pyro, which Styles and Tazz hated as they put over the anti-WWE/pro ECW stick. Orton had recently returned from kayfabe injury/irl suspension. The Wrestling Machine Kurt Angle here in his later days in WWE was AWESOME. Kurt was VERY over. The crowd chanted for Angle to “fuck him up”.

Orton rolled out the ring and the fans called him a pussy. Kurt tried the submission but Orton desperately tried to get out of it, eventually crawling to the outside. This crowd were very very vocal in who they wanted to win… let’s just say that… Again after Angle tried to wrestle Orton, and Randy would scramble and try to escape. Orton told the rabid crowd to shut the fuck up (bleeped of course)… Angle threw Orton over him to get him down, he was really taking him to school. The crowd loved it as Angle slapped away at Orton as he maintained the neck hold, … eventually Angle even let Orton try and get a neckhold in but Angle twice just kept mugging him off after. Man this character is cool. Things seemed to change after Angle collided shoulder first with the ringpost, and then Orton seemed to takeover with strikes… Until Angle just “dump tackled” him down… Orton got a back elbow after for a nearfall … the crowd called Orton a “knock off Cena” which was hilarious given he was always the number 2 guy of that era to Cena… Orton had a rest hold in, although Angle reversed it quickly… Kurt kept control and got a couple of nearfalls, Orton bit angle and then elbowed him to try and get out. The crowd told Orton that he swallows… Orton had a neckhold in and the crows chanted “BORING” loudly… Not going to lie but the crowd are starting to detract from this match a little for me (it’s more about them than either Angle and definitely Orton at this stage)… Angle got out and tried a belly to belly but Orton countered twice … until he went into the corner and Angle got a German suplex. After a striking exchange Angle got a standing clothesline and a trio of German suplexes. He waited on Orton to get up but Orton countered the angle slam with an arm drag then got a great dropkick, and got a nearfall after. Angle got a belly to back suplex and took down the straps, he then got the Angle slam for a close 2 count. The crowd chanted for him to “break his ankle” and Angle got the ankle lock, only for Orton to send Kurt into the corner and get his signature neckbreaker for another close nearfall. Orton looked for the RKO… Angle went after him but got a back elbow, Orton went to the top rope, Angle went up after but got pushed down, Orton got a great crossbody but Angle rolled through for a nearfall. Then Orton took Angle down with a big clothesline. Orton waited… but Angle waited and countered, Orton then rolled him into a nearfall pin, Kurt then got a single leg takedown and rolled into the ankle lock for the win after Orton tapped. Crowd were very happy. Solid match.

***3/4

The F.B.I. (Little Guido and Tony Mamaluke) (with Big Guido) defeated Super Crazy and Tajiri

TJR Retro: WWE ECW One Night Stand 2006 Review (RVD vs. Cena) -  TJRWrestling - WWE, AEW News, TV Reviews, PPVs, More!

Super Crazy was very over.

The crowd were changing “where’s my pizza?” Early in the match… Jesus… Tajiri running in and kicking and then quickly leaving the ring was hilarious. Match was good and the crowd seemed to have fun, I just can’t pretend I cared too much about it personally. Tajiri was very over when he and Little Guido tagged in… They said mid match that Tazz had left SmackDown the previous week. …There was a Great handspring elbow spot from Tajiri. I also really liked the Double Tarantula spot as did the crowd. Big Guido later got in ring and was taken down with kicks by Crazy and Tajiri… Both members of FBI hit clotheslines and then combined to hit a double fisherman’s buster on Tajiri for the win.

**

After the finish Big Show came out… and went face to face with Big Guido… Show kicked away everyone, side stepped a flying Super Crazy, hit a knee to Tajiri, super crazy was sent out of ring, Tony mamaluke was taken out , big guido was kicked out. Crowd cheered… ok then…

After Joey Styles and Tazz on commentary spoke to camera about the two world title matches tonight, and how Paul Heyman said both titles would be brought over to ECW and be “re-christened”… we heard the dulcet tones of one John Bradshaw Layfield.

Now… if you know the story of JBL from ECW One Night Stand the year prior, combined with the fact he’s naturally a twat, you can imagine what the crowd thought of him… strap yourselves in for this promo…

The crowd chanted “You Suck Dick” as he spoke. The promo I thought myself was decent. It went as follows:

(PLEASE EXCUSE THE PICUTRE QUALITY. THE AUDIO IS UNEFFECTED WHICH IS THE MAIN THING)

Sabu vs Rey Mysterio (C) in an Extreme Rules match for the World Championship went to a No Contest

Sabu (carrying a chair) came out to a decent pop, he also had to turn around to do his pose facing the hard camera… Mysterio also had a chair with him and was booed a little (having ECW on his mask clearly not enough for these fans). The referee made both men put their chair down to ring the bell. And right there if ever something signified that this was WWECW and not Extreme Championship Wrestling it was the referee (wearing SmackDown colours) telling both guys to put down their steel chair, so that he could then ring the bell… oh boy… this match seemed doomed to fail from the start. The match itself was fine, both men tried a lot of spots assisted by a chair and both did various acrobatic moved, which the crowd appreciated. At one point after a pretty hard bump Sabu took, the ref put up the X with his arms to signal he was legit hurt. Before that we had a mad spot where Sabu literally threw a steel chair at Rey’s head and it made the most almighty sound. The finish… oh man…

10 Relatively Unheralded Matches Worth A WWE Network Revisit – Page 6

So… Rey was outside on a table, Sabu did a springboard DDT off the ropes to put Rey through the table he was on. Both men were in a heap outside the ring, Joey Styles on commentary did the big “OH MY GOD”, the he crowd chanted “HOLY SHIT”, and a load of officials and doctors came out to see to both guys. The doctor then called the match off and the bell was rung. Crowd hated it with lots of boos and “BULLSHIT”. I can’t say I blame them, non finishes in gimmick matches seriously pisses me off. This was about as WWE ECW as it gets. Fine match with a dog shit finish.

**3/4

We had a tremendous video promo for the supposed Mick Foley & Edge vs Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer match.

It was very odd seeing this crowd boo Mick Foley. He had a black/busted eye, and took a mic and say a couple of great lines such as “I did sell out [in response to crowd chants]…I sold out Madison Square Garden” and also he wanted to praise the great former owner of ECW… “let’s hear it for Stephanie McMahon… long live the alliance.”… massive pop from me for that.

Edge and Lita came out next with the Hardcore title that Foley had given to himself and Edge as co-champions after their WrestleMania 22 match. Edge cut a promo slamming Paul Heyman and the ECW fans. Lita spoke after calling Tommy Dreamer the “innovator of Silence” and that when she sat on Tommy’s face [she did so during a match between Edge and Dreamer helping Edge win]… she said in that he got more action than any of the fans get in a lifetime. And with the “skank” he hangs around with it’s better action than he’ll ever get also.

Dreamer, Funk and Beulah came out after. Beulah took the mic and said a line about trash coming out her mouth and her putting trash in it too. She said something about Lita liking threesomes they should make this tag match a 3v3 and include the two women.

Edge, Mick Foley and Lita defeated Beulah McGillicutty, Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer

10 Car Crash Wrestling Matches That You Absolutely Adore – Page 3

This match was beyond wild. Early on it was Dreamer and Edge brawling, and Foley & Funk. Edge later smashed Dreamer in the face with a ladder, and after Dreamer moved out the way of a spear and Edge went into the ladder. Once the ladder was set up Dreamer climbed it looking for an elbow, but Edge pushed the ladder down and Dreamer crashed and burned. Foley and Edge got a barbed wire covered wood board out, and dropped it onto Dreamer. Terry made them drop the barbed board onto both of them, mainly foley… … dreamer picks it up and placed it in the corner, they both tried to send Foley into it but he stopped them , took a load of punches, and then they smashed foley into it! Dreamer and Edge went at it on the outside, before Funk went after Edge again. Foley put the barbed wire board onto Funk, … Lita passed a load more barbed wire to foley, he wrapped it round his arm and waited for Funk behind dropping it onto Funk who was absolutely covered in blood now. Foley rakes away at Funks face with the wire , the doctor tried to check on Funk as the crowd booed, the docs took funk away who was an absolute MESS to be fair. Dreamer was left on his own… the crowd chanted for Sandman… Dreamer now took a barbed wire bat shot from Foley, and with Beulah looking on Foley and edge placed the bat on dreamers balls and then lita kicked it. Ouch. Foley got out mr socko who got booed maybe for the first time ever… but he went for Beulah instead which brought out a rage from dreamer but Edge soon took him down. Dreamer got the claw from a foley, then took a spear… but edge has another idea… he wanted Beulah… the three heels stalked her like a pack of Wolves, edge pulled her by the hair, simulated banging her from behind, as a wrapped up and bloodied Funk came through the crowd with a barbed wire piece of wood… dreamer gave low blows to edge and foley, Beulah chased after lita as foley took a shot from funk as did edge with his weapon. And then… my god… funk lit a flame … and the barbed wire bat was on FIRE… foley took it to the back and chest, and he went falling into the barbed wire board… edge smashed funk causing him to fall onto foley. Dreamer got a ddt to edge, and then tried to choke him with the barbed wire… lita kicked dreamer, and then Beulah went after her… crowd went mad for the cat fight… dreamer pulls Lita away and gave her the big move… only for edge to choke him down with the wire… as Beulah tended to dreamer, Edge gave her a spear and then pinned her by simulating having Sex with her… yeah…

Ecw one night stand GIF - Find on GIFER

The heels win. Ofc they did. Cause WWE ofc…

Edge helped foley up from his heap after the win.

Can’t pretend I’m a deathmatch fan… this was almost too much for me. I will credit everyone involved for sacrificing themselves for our entertainment.

Dreamer got a standing ovation as he carried Beulah out the ring.

***1/2

Cena pictures inside arena… GWs booed ofc

Rvd seen in the arena… he’s ofc cheered

Balls Mahoney defeated Masato Tanaka

10 Tag Teams You Forgot Were ECW Tag Team Champions

These two were former ECW tag champions. They had a basic 5 minute match and it was perfectly fine, we did need something to go between the last match and the main event and this was it. Tanaka was in an infamous match with Mike Awesome at the previous years one night stand. As I said this Mach was fairly basic, nothing bad mind you. The crowd LOVED chanting “BALLS” whenever Mahoney did a big move, or any move for that matter. They beeped put on the network Balls saying “oh shit” as he was weren’t over the ropes and landed on the apron. Mahoney got a beer from the crowd and had a drink before shams hung the cup into hmTbaka , he got another beer and did the same (swig and then to the face). Tanaka got a water into balls’ face, and tried to get a chair into him to but Balls aidetlsreped it and tanaka smashed himself with the chair. Balls went up high, Tabaka went after him and a big superplex followed. Tanaka went up high, balls went after him, and he got a super led of his own. Tanaka kicked out the pin at 2. Tanaka got a chair, Balls got his and they had a chair fight, Mahoney won. And got the 123.

*

And now … it was time for THE match…

As we were set for the main event we got a segment that… well I can’t quite find the words to describe it, so I’ll just include a clip as I’m honestly speechless. THIS right here sums up why WWE and ECW are just two different planets. (Not that THE ZOMBIE a few days later was any better…)…

And now… it really was time!!!

Rob Van Dam defeated John Cena (C) in an Extreme Rules match to win the WWE Championship

Interview with Rob Van Dam - Kung-fu Kingdom

Tazz put over how this would be an environment John Cena can’t deal with…

RVD came out to an obvious hero’s welcome. He made effort to high five everyone in the front rows too.

Cena… well he wasn’t quite as beloved…

To say this crowd was a little excited and hyped for this match would be putting it just a tad lightly…

They did a big zoom on the iconic crowd sign …

The Ultimate Heel - The Ringer

After Cena was introduced we of course had the iconic scene of Cena having his hat, then shirt thrown back to him by the crowd… the shirt came back again… then again… and again… and… again… Shout out to the guy who threw it back and gave Cena the double bird too… Cena got a couple of white plastic cups thrown towards him as RVD got right into his face and did the classic “Rob-Van-Dam” gestures, and Cena finally gave up on the shirt idea. Toilet paper was thrown towards the ring as the match FINALLY got underway with the bell being rung.

“fuck you Cena” they chanted. They locked up at last with Cena powering RVD into the corner, before hitting shots as the crowd booed. Cena hit a big suplex for a nearfall as the crowd tried to tell Cena he can’t wrestle… Cena tried to smirk at the crowd… Cena then hit the first shoulder block, but soon took a kick from RVD to send him outside which the crowd liked a lot. I’m tired of talking about the crowd at this point so I’ll just talk about the match, as they went nose to nose and exchanged strikes… RVD took advantage, but Cena hit a powerslam for a nearfall… he soon sent Van Dam to the outside. Cena went to the top and leapt down to Van Dam on the outside. Cena went after Van Dam with punches and rammed his head into a table, before holding up his WWE title belt to the array of the crowd. RVD got back into it with a moonsault press off the apron. Van Dam got a chair but Cena hit a hard lunch and sent RVD into the barricade, but responded with a punch as Cena sent RVD into the crowd. They fought into the crowd area and Cena moved a sign saying “fuck you cena” before hitting RVD. Brave of them to send John Cena into this crowd even with the ref and a security guy near them… they soon went back towards the ring, RVD got Cena with a spinning leg drop off the apron as Cena was laying on the crowd barricade. Back in the ring after, and RVD hit a sliding dropkick then a leg drop to Cena. RVD got a chair, and with Cena in the corner RVD dropkicked the chair to his face for a nearfall. Van Dam hit another leg drop then a rolling thunder onto the chair on Cena. Rob Van Dam crawled to a cover, but only got a 2. RVD dropped Cena then got the chair again and placed it on Cena, he went for the moonsault but Cena got the chair up before coming back with a ddt on the chair for a nearfall for Cena. Cena placed the chair in the corner before slingshotting RVD into it! Cena went for the pin after, but got a 2. Cena waited for RVD to get up, and for the backdrop, before setting the 5 knuckle shuffle, which he got. An FU looked to be coming next… but Van Dam fought out and then spun both feet at him for a headkick. Cena hit RVD and sent him to the corner but Van Dam got a strike back, and Cena then chucked RVD off the top for another nearfall. Eventually RVD tried to place Cena on the ring ropes, and he just fell to the outside… what that was meant to do I don’t know, but anyway RVD dropkicked Cena to the floor after. Van Dam got a table, and got that into the ring… he leaned it in the corner, but Cena took him down and locked the STFU in…

RVD willed himself to the ropes… the ref counted him and pulled him off after (Cena) which… in an extreme rules match??? Ok… Cena argued with the ref and pushed him, the ref pushed back so JOHN CENA laid out the ref! RVD had gone to the top rope at this point but Cena soon struck him down, Cena went up to and hit a big superplex. Cena went out to get the steps after, and then hit RVD with them. This lively crowd weren’t so happy now Cena was well on top. A SmackDown ref now came in and counted a nearfall for Cena (who looked to be reveling in his rare role as heel here). Cena looked in shock… he tried to FU RVD again, but FU’d him over the ropes… a man dressed in black then appeared in the ring wearing a motorbike helmet and this guy Speared Cena through the table in the corner… The guy unmasked as… EDGE!

It was hilarious to me how this same crowd who 30-40 minutes earlier HATED Edge for what he did his match now were chanting “thank you Edge” for helping RVD win the title…

Anyway after he took out the ref and left the scene, RVD hit a 5 star, then scrambled over to cover… but waited for the ref… out came PAUL HEYMAN who made the count. RVD WINS!

Crowd of course went ape shit, the ring announcer announced him as the new ECW Champion. Van Dam went into the crowd to celebrate …

Rob Van Dam | WWE

After he came back to the ring, all the ECW roster came out to toast their new champion. Great stuff.

****1/4

Say what you want about WWE or even WWECW, but much like another show that I’ll be covering involving John Cena in a few weeks, when it’s a one match show and a crowd are DYING to see the main man lose, he ain’t afraid to do the right thing. And I’m can’t say that… others… (*cough cough* the man with 3 H’s… *cough cough* a man with 2 H’s… BROTHER) would do the same.

This was a solid show, not quite the wrestling purest ECW tribute as 05, may more a WWE show that was sadly a sign of things to come… but last years one night stand was about ECW… One night Stand 2006 was about 3 other letters…

R V D.

WWE Classic of the Week: Rob Van Dam vs. John Cena at ECW One Night Stand  2006 | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

Josh.


WTF is going on with WWE?

WWE Logo | 6 Nostalgic Designs From WWF To Today

Imagine this… There’s a wrestling show on tv that you’re going to watch, or that you’re attending live… and the card looks like this:

No Way Jose vs Mike Kanellis (with Maria Kanellis)

AOP vs Alexander Wolfe & Eric Young

Mickie James vs Ruby Riott

Murphy vs Lio Rush

Kassius Ohno vs EC3

The Revival vs Gallows & Anderson

Deonna Purrazzo & Chelsea Green vs The IIconics

Big Show vs Braun Strowman

Samoa Joe vs Kurt Angle

Andrade (with Zelina Vega) vs Rusev (with Lana) vs Aleister Black

Some card that right? Something for everyone I think.

Now imagine a wrestling company willingly releasing all those people, and thus allowing them to go elsewhere and ply their trade with rival companies.

Before anyone says about budget cuts or any bullshit like that, they secured a deal with Peacock for the American rights to the WWE Network worth a reported ONE BILLION DOLLARS recently. And add to that from WWE’s OWN earnings report (https://corporate.wwe.com/investors/sec-and-other-documents/financials) they made a a revenue of 263 MILLION DOLLARS for the first quarter of 2021. This was in fact down 9% from the same period the year before, which the company said was “reflecting the absence of the Company’s ticketed live events and a large-scale international event, partially offset by the upfront revenue recognition related to the delivery of certain WWE Network intellectual property rights”.

That translates as no touring live shows with fans, and no Saudi Arabia show. But was helped somewhat by the Peacock deal.

WWE announced recently they’re going back on the road NEXT MONTH. Naturally that will bring in more money.

Saudi Arabia recently announced they were now accepting incoming flights from a number of countries again, providing they follow certain criteria. The United States was among those countries. (Source: https://www.arabnews.com/node/1866886/saudi-arabia).

Imagine WWE, THE single biggest professional wrestling company in the world, who make more money than any other promotion BY A MILLION MILES, and either factor isn’t even close… You’d imagine they need quite big group of office staff, social media, production, digital, and more… right? Apparently not. All the areas mentioned and others had heavy staff releases by WWE in recent weeks.

May 27th. The Wrestlevotes twitter account said the following:

“After yesterday’s layoffs, I’m told WWE hosted an internal conference today with most of the “power players” including Nick Khan. While the meeting was said to be organized well, it contained nothing of real substance. So status quo”

Sounds about right doesn’t it…

WWE also cut key members of some of their international staff in the UK, Japan, Germany and India. With international tours potentially returning in late 2021 or likely some time in 2022…

I’ve been reviewing the Friday Night SmackDown shows in recent weeks. I’ve stopped now so I can have a bit of time away from blogging before the pandemic hopefully ends… But I’ve watched every SmackDown since WrestleMania… so I’ve got a pretty good idea of what the show tends to look like and who features and against who…

AT THIS TIME (June 3rd 2021) the CURRENT SmackDown roster is as follows:

Universal Champion Roman Reigns (with Paul Heyman), along with Jey and Jimmy Uso ‘with’ him (an ongoing storyline since around this time LAST YEAR)

Cesaro and Seth Rollins (who have been feuding since before WrestleMania 2/3 months ago)

Intercontinental Champion Apollo Crews (with Commander Azeez) with contenders Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Big E (all of who each of have featured in or around the IC title since way before WrestleMania. There has been some form of ongoing rivalry involving at least 2 of those 4 for many months now and it’s still going). You could possible throw Corbin and Nakamura into that mix as well somewhere…

The Tag champions are Rey & Dominik, below them you have the Street Profits, Roode and Ziggler, and Gable and Otis. THAT’S IT. That is the ENTIRE SmackDown tag division. Oh, and they’ve all wrestled each other at least once in recent weeks.

Bianca Belair is the SmackDown Women’s Champion. Natalya and Tamina and the women’s tag champions. SmackDown also has Bayley, Carmella and Liv Morgan. Sonya Deville has solely been an on screen authority figure since her return to TV. Sasha Banks has been off tv for months. Bayley and Bianca have already had their PPV match. Carmella literally got beat clean by Belair on the most recent SmackDown, and lost a PPV title match to Sasha Banks shortly after her return in early 2021. The number of women’s tag teams on SmackDown (Aside from the champions)… NONE. ZERO.

Both Slapjack (Shane Thorne) and Reckoning (Mia Yim) formerly of Raw’s Retribution group have been rumoured to of been sent to SmackDown following the group’s split. Both have yet to make a single appearance on SmackDown TV.

SmackDown is WWE’s premier show ever since the FOX tv deal. On July 16th the edition of SmackDown will be WWE’s first show of their return to regular touring events with fans in arenas. The show is a little over a month away. At the All Elite Wrestling PPV this past Sunday, around 30 performers appeared in matches on the show’s main card (excluding the battle royal match they had). There are now a TOTAL of around 25 performers on the ENTIRE SmackDown roster who wrestle regularly.

WWE releases Tom Phillips weeks after removing commentator from Raw  announce team - Future Tech Trends

In this image is the Raw commentary team for most of 2020 (Tom Phillips, Samoa Joe and Byron Saxton. A very credible and pretty decent team) and up until as recently as March/April this year. In June 2021 only 1 of the three men in this picture are still employed by WWE. Since after WrestleMania Adnan Virk (formerly of ESPN) was made lead commentator for Raw, having had no previous experience calling pro wrestling. Joe and Phillips were released. Corey Graves was moved over from SmackDown. Adnan Virk lasted a matter of weeks and has since been replaced by Jimmy Smith (formerly of Bellator and UFC). Tom Phillips has commentated on every single WWE TV show currently on air at least once before. Smith and Virk combined had commentated on ZERO professional wrestling tv shows before their Raw debuts.

NXT (WWE brand) - Wikipedia

Now the natural fit the fill the gaps on the Raw and SmackDown rosters would be to call up people from NXT… right? Makes sense right? Well yes perhaps… But, what about this… We can all use the narrative about NXT talent being booked incredibly poorly on the main roster (Keith Lee for one was NXT’s first and only ever DOUBLE champion last year.. for whatever reason he wasn’t even on the WrestleMania card…). But one thing that is a notable FACT is this… Of the in-ring talent released by WWE since the pandemic began 3 tag teams, 8 singles competitors. All previously held NXT gold. Chances of NXT talent going to Raw and SmackDown and having success? Slim at best You’d have to say…

Without even going into the talent let go at the start of the pandemic, lets just discuss those let go since WrestleMania…

Braun Strowman def. Shane McMahon (Steel Cage Match) | WWE

Braun Strowman was in a PPV match for the WWE Championship less than THREE WEEKS ago. He beat Shane McMahon at WrestleMania.

Aleister Black had recently returned to tv after 7 months. He had a number of vignettes with a new character before making his proper return at the finish of a tv main event. May 21st they did the angle for his return with him kicking Big E. June 2nd he was released.

Lana was on TV on MONDAY. On WEDNESDAY she was released.

Ruby Riott was on TV FRIDAY. On WEDNESDAY she was released.

Billie Kay was on Night 1 of WrestleMania. She was released FOUR DAYS later.

Samoa Joe called commentary for WrestleMania. He was released FOUR DAYS later.

SCREAMS of the left hand not even acknowledging the right hand exists. Yet at the end of the day, EVERY decision goes through and has to go past ONE guy. If Vince doesn’t want something to happen, it wont. Don’t ever forget that.

Sure, I think a lot if not all of those let go will be fine. They’ll all find other gigs in different promotions, and they’ll shine. You only have to look at the likes of Deonna Purrazzo, Rusev and Anderson 7 Gallows as examples… All were let go by WWE ta the start of the pandemic, all have since gone on to claim championship gold elsewhere and be presented as big stars. But that’s exactly the point… It’s not as if WWE’s creative is firing on all cylinders at the moment, yet here they are willingly letting people go who go and be big stars and help the product of other companies.

WWE executive Nick Khan on rumors about company being sold

There’s really a lot more I could say… I guess the question is WHY are these things happening? Well… the unthinkable story that people have gone to is that new WWE head guy Nick Khan is doing all these things to prepare WWE to be sold. It’s a theory sure, but I can’t say I’ll believe it until it happens. It is incredibly odd though that they’re letting people go all the time now, when prior to COVID they were shit scared of AEW and EVERYONE was getting multi-year big money new contracts to keep them at WWE. WWE not so long ago was stockpiling talent, and people would have to claw and claw and wait and wait for their release. Things have changed clearly. AEW, Impact, ROH all seem to be taking on more names, WWE (the biggest game in town) can’t stop letting people go… Something doesn’t add up does it?

I try and defend WWE best I can. I try and see the good in their product and accept what I can of what I like. But time and time again they let you down, they build stuff up for bullshit endings, and hen they do horsecrap like letting HUGE stars like Braun Strowman go just a MONTH before they begin touring in front of fans again. I had him down as a WWE lifer. I’m blown away that WWE let him go. He’s for me, the biggest name let go by WWE since Dean Ambrose. I just… I don’t know, but I will find it so odd seeing him anywhere else but in a WWE ring. I’ve previously spoken out against AEW signing way too many people, and I still believe they have to many to an extent… Although they’re getting another TV show soon, and lets hope with that they refine their roster a little, and lets see… but for All Elite Wrestling, for Impact, for ROH even New Japan… Braun Strowman, Aleister Black, Samoa Joe… There’s names that WWE HAVE WILLINGLY LET GO that i would say most companies should ABSOLUTELY go out of their way to sign. It’ll be very interesting to see who signs who and who goes where, but for me… in all this there can only be many winners, and the one loser… will, I’m almost sure, be WWE.

You’ve got my support hanging by a thread right now WWE. PLEASE don’t let me and everyone else down again… Please…

Josh.

WWE One Night Stand (2008) – Review

WWE One Night Stand 2008 | Results | WWE PPV Event History | Pay Per View

Although 2008 might not be a time most WWE fans would immediately look back upon with great fondness, it was a time when I myself was watching as a kid. And looking back at the card for this show, my goodness me what a card!!! There was a lot on the line at this PPV, and although it came in that tricky spot in the calendar between WrestleMania and SummerSlam, it still felt to me like a huge show. There is an argument to be made that every person on this card should and might one day go into the WWE Hall of Fame, and a few are already there since (Edge, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Beth Phoenix to name a few). So given how stacked this show is I should get right into it… So here, on the 13th anniversary, is my review of WWE’s One Night Stand PPV from 2008.


Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were the Raw Commentators, with Lilian Garcia the ring announcer. Michael Cole and Mick Foley along with Justin Roberts did the SmackDown side of things.

Jeff Hardy defeated Umaga in a Falls Count Anywhere match

Falls Count Anywhere Match: Jeff Hardy vs. Umaga | WWE

In the same way a modern day Shane McMahon match is more like a big build up to one spot, at times in his career it has been like that with Jeff Hardy. But as I’ve said this really was THE year of Jeff Hardy. And Umaga at this point was a serviceable mid-card heel monster for the popular babyface to try and overcome. Umaga himself has his big year in 2007, so he was on the down a little as Jeff was almost at the top. Crowd were hot for this opener. Commentary, I don’t know if intentionally or not, made sure to be clear that ‘Falls Count Anywhere’ really did mean ‘anywhere’… wonder if that foreshadows the finish…?

The crowd really were hot for this one, they popped big for an early nearfall from Hardy after a whisper in the wind, and then more so when Hardy kicked out of a pin from Umaga after a blackhole slam. They had a pretty fun match with spots and nearfalls as they went from the ring to the outside, and then into the crowd after Umaga threw him into the barrier. Umaga beat down on Jeff as he shouted at the crowd, Jeff tried to fightback but his opponent was a monster, and sold little of his offence. He hit a big thrust kick for a nearfall after no selling getting a traffic (something) thrown at him. Hardy used a fire extinguisher after Umaga missed his running move, they brawled into the inner part of the arena, and up some stairs, Hardy then used the rail to slide down to collide with Umaga, and he got a nearfall from it. Really creative stuff. They went up the stairs into what looked like the concourse area of the arena, and continued the brawl with Umaga dragging Hardy… from there they went outside the arena, into San Diego… Umaga launched Hardy into a big case, and then smashed his head on a forklift for another nearfall. Then Umaga smashed Jeff into the bank of a WWE truck, and continued with the punishment. Jeff came back by smashing the backdoor of a truck into Umaga and using some truck ties to choke him for a nearfall. They brawled again towards another truck, and Jeff climbed to the top of one of the trucks up a ladder, but Jeff kicked Umaga off the ladder… and you knew what was coming next…

Yep… Swawton off the top of the truck. They were clever with how they shot it as they had some boxes of some sort and basically shielded where Umaga was and where Jeff landed so we didn’t actually see the impact. So I’m guessing they hid from shot whatever protection they put in place. They played it off as if it was on the concrete. Anyway a fun opener, and the babyface got the win which is always a good start.

**3/4

Next up was our WWE ECW match of the show, Tony Chimel ring announcer and on the call… Oh god…

OH GOD.. it’s Mike Adamle…

So WWECW match time next I guess… as if anyone at this point could care about that shit show…

As if they didn’t wanna dumb down on WWE’s ECW knockoff anymore, Adamle said that Singapore Cane matches were a staple of the old ECW but now not so much, but tonight we’re bringing back the past…. With a little twist he added, that 5 former ECW champions would be in the match (Dreamer was the only former ECW champion, not WWECW). The stip was the winner would face the ECW champion at night of champions for the title (why this was on a ppv I’ve no idea, and why CM Punk who was Mr MITB was in the match also I’ve not a clue… but hey… WWECW I guess…).

They played clips from the last two weeks of ECW where Big Show each week battered everyone. And played on a face to face between Show and ECW champion Kane… so I guess we have our favourite.

We showed shots of people putting up poles with Canes at the top.

And that was where my interest died. Anything on a pole in a match gets a big NOPE from me.

Tommy Dreamer vs. Big Show vs. John Morrison vs. Chavo Guerrero vs. CM Punk One  Night Stand 2008 : WWEMatchGraphics

Big Show defeated Tommy Dreamer, CM Punk, John Morrison and Chavo Guerrero in a 5 way Singapore Cane match to earn an ECW Championship match at the next PPV

Adamle called CM Punk “CM” not ‘Punk’ but C FUCKING M… I can’t… Chavo had Bam Neely with him (basically a big heavy they got in to be the heater for the smaller heel). Morrison was one half of the WWE Tag Team Champions at the time, I’m guessing with Miz… Show came out last… imagine after all this he doesn’t win… he was smiling as he came out so I THINK he’s a babyface…

Big Show beat everyone up. That’s how you could describe the start of the match. Mike Adamle calling Punk just “CM” is KILLING me not in a good way… Everyone teamed up on Big Show then each got a cane, then they all took turn smashing Big Show with their cane before “CM” and Dreamer got Show out the ring. Chavo went after “CM” as Morrison and Dreamer (or John and Tommy as Adamle would say) brawled. We had a bizarre moment where Chavo swung his cane at Punk who moved, and Chavo hit a fan instead… I’m guessing it was a plant but still that was interesting… Punk missed a few cane shots at Guerrero but then catapulted him over the announce table. The fan who Chavo hit was cheering Punk on, and then after encouragement the fan was given the cane by Punk… and the “fan” hit Chavo with the cane! It appears the fan was a local NFL player who they referred to earlier in the show, my apologies I had and still don’t know who that man is… ANYWAY… Big Show was beating up Morrison, and so to his tag partner Miz who tried in vain to make the save. Morrison saved Miz by hitting show with a cane, so Show went head first into the steel steps he was about to hurl at the Miz. Back in the ring Punk got the first nearfall of the match on Chavo after a Randy Orton like (I can’t think of the name but it’s the move where he catches the oncoming opponent and throws them to the floor). Morrison and Dreamer then came back in each with canes and Dreamer hit him and then used his cane to assist an overhead suplex which was impressive. Dreamer tried his move, Punk tried for a GTS but Dreamer countered into a Texas cloverleaf until Morrison smashed him over the back with a cane.

They showed a close up shot of Big Show who had a NASTY cut on his head…

Anyway the in ring stuff after was good, but that Big Show cut really took me out of it. The finish after some good action, came when a furious blood-drenched Big Show smashed everyone in site with a cane, (suddenly there was a tonne of canes at ringside in a trashcan), and Dreamer took a chokeslam… and then show made him get up again and he grabbed a cane and absolutely smashed Dreamer over the head. He put one foot on his chest and got the pin.

So yeah… the odds on favourite and the man who they made so incredible obvious was winning, did in fact win…

Kane was seen watching on from backstage laughing at what he saw. So they set up Kane vs Big Show for the ECW title at the next PPV… oh the joys… a proper ECW match right there… Jesus…

*3/4

Todd Grisham spoke backstage interviewing Mr McMahon. And he spoke about the Million Dollar Giveaway…

Oh Boy… I’ll let you all do your own research on that and how it went…

John Cena defeated JBL in a First Blood match

John Cena vs. JBL One Night Stand 2008: WWEMatchGraphics

It was odd seeing a John Cena match in this era be in the middle of the show… JBL undid the turnbuckle pad and in turn Cena undid the pad on the opposite side. They brawled as the match got properly underway, with the crowd chanting and making lots of noise for everything Cena did. Although JBL dominated most of the start with hard and stiff offence as usual, he then tried raking Cena’s face on the crowd barrier, Cena fought back with punches until JBL went at Cena’s eyes and hit a big boot. Cena got out the way of disaster as JBL swung a chair at the ringpost, although he did hit Cena not long after with a mic and then again after in the ring. After some punches Cena hit all his signature moves (the shoulder tackles then the 5 knuckle shuffle) but JBL escaped from a potential FU (AA). JBL got more moves in and he sent Cena into the post, but he still didn’t bleed. JBL got the steps but Cena moved, JBL then ripped the protection from the barrier and then sent Cena head first into it. Cena (with chants cheering him on from the crowd) blocked a ddt on the steps, Cena then got a mic and smashed JBL in the head with it, then raking JBL’s head on the steps. Cena had a chair but JBL kicked him down and then sent him head first into the exposed turnbuckle. JBL set for the Clothesline From Hell but Cena hit a bulldog to JBL onto the chair, but still no blood. JBL soon got a chain and hit Cena in the ribs… eventually Cena tried an FU but JBL again got out of it after kicking Cena… cena then was trapped in the ring ropes…

First Blood Match: John Cena defeats JBL | WWE

JBL then went and pulled out a whip that looked like something Indiana Jones might use. Luckily for Cena he kicked himself out of trouble and soon after used the nearby chain to to apply a modified STFU.

John Cena def. JBL (First Blood Match) | WWE

As a result JBL bled from the mouth and that was the win for Cena. It seemed a sudden ending to me but a good enough match.

***

Backstage Randy Orton approached his former Evolution partner Batista with a proposition…

Beth Phoenix defeated Melina in an I Quit match

So as you can see the full match for yourself above… YES Melina did THAT entrance (they also showed a replay of one of her fake paparazzi falling over which I’m sure was a Vince call from backstage), both women were very aggressive in their offence but sadly the crowd weren’t that into it or not as much as I was anyway, a power move by Phoenix was reversed by Melina and this sent Beth crashing into the turnbuckle, Melina targeted Phoenix’s arm/shoulder and some great transitions led to an armbar into a cross-armbreaker, although Phoenix powered up and slammed Melina down. She then hit a Glam Slam, and locked in a really strong looking submission, and as a result Melina eventually but very reluctantly quit.

**3/4

We had a very odd backstage segment where John Cena and Mickie James were flirting, and Mike Adamle interrupted… I don’t even know what to say or how to describe it, but I know it took up a few minutes of my life I’m never getting back.

They played this video ahead of our next match…

Batista defeated Shawn Michaels in a Stretcher Match

Stretcher Match: Batista defeats Shawn Michaels | WWE

So I THINK Michaels is the babyface here… if he should be or not I don’t know… this feud started after Batista was angry at how HBK retired his hero Ric Flair, and then as you saw in the pre match promo video Michaels used questionable tactics to get his win over Batista at Backlash… Both guys looked focused and intent on hurting the other before this one, so they did a great job of making this come across as a big grudge match.

The size difference here is absurd really… Batista was by far the more aggressive of the two out of the gates. He threw HBK onto the stretcher, but then was launched into the steps himself. HBK got into it again after with a kick to the head, and he then picked up the stairs and sat the far bigger man on them before ramming the nearby stretcher into the body of Batista. Michaels again used the stretcher after wheeling it into Batista, but The Animal fought out after being placed on the stretcher… Batista soon after tried a Batista Bomb on the outside but Michaels countered locking in a form of a guillotine/chokehold to try and wear the big man down… Michaels after got Batista on the stretcher and tried to wheel him towards the finish line, but Batista fought out and off the stretcher. Batista countered after by launching Michaels into the ringpost, he then sent Michaels spine first into the apron, and again after into the barricade. Batista hit a huge clothesline that sent HBK flying, and then sent him into the corner and following that up with a clothesline in the corner. Batista hit a big running powerslam, and looked to be waiting to hit a Spear after, but Michaels side-stepped and went Batista into the corner spine first. The two went back and forth after with Michaels doing a kip up and looking for the big elbow, and hitting it but looked like he did damage to himself too. Michaels tuned up the band after, but Batista hit a clothesline. Batista wanted his big move after, Michaels fought out and hit the superkick, which sent Batista flying over the ropes and onto the stretcher outside the ring. The crowd chanted for HBK as he tried to drag the stretcher, Batista clinging onto the ring apron, but Michaels tried again only for Batista to fall off… Michaels again dragged Batista up, but Batista punched out only to get a stretcher to the body once more, then again and a third time Batista was able to hold it off and he won the power battle, flinging the stretcher into Michaels’ face and then smashing the stretcher into HBK knocking him down. Batista sent Michaels into the ring, and then did hit a big Spear. Batista signalled it was over, set for the Batista Bomb, and hit a big one. Michaels was flat out, Batista dragged Michaels out the ring and eventually placed him on the stretcher… only for then Chris Jericho (who was a part of this story as he was made guest ref for their backlash match, and he tried to stick up for Michaels after, only to get a superkick for his troubles. Batista also beat Jericho to get this match with Michaels). Anyway… Jericho spoke to Michaels to try and will him on it appeared, Batista waited and watched on, the refs eventually backed Jericho away… Batista looked not to know what to do after, and taking his time he waited for HBK to crawl back up…

Michaels tried a superkick but just didn’t have the energy left… Batista picked him up and spoke to Michaels then hitting a huge Batista Bomb. Commentary told us that Batista in fact echoed what HBK had famously said to Flair “I’m sorry, I love you” before hitting his big move. Which was a real cool bit of storytelling I thought. Batista after dragged Michaels to the stretcher and put him on it, and wheeled it towards the finish line, only for Jericho to re-appear and try and will Michaels up, even going as far as stopping the stretcher when it neared the finish line. Batista let Jericho take HBK off the stretcher, and he then walked towards the ring and got the steel steps… he placed them down and picked HBK up, he then hit a spinebuster onto the steps… before finally putting Michaels on the stretcher and sending it across the line for the win. Shawn Michaels absolutely took a BEATING in this match. A fairly dominant win for Batista, despite Jericho’s cheerleading… the replay of the close up showed is Batista in fact said “I don’t love you, and I am not sorry”… which again is really cool stuff.

***1/4

We then went back to JR and The King ahead of the WWE Championship last man standing match with Triple H defending against Randy Orton. Now even from memory I recall what happened at the end of this match… basically Orton suffers a legitimate injury here that ends up being quite serious. He actually broke his collar bone which kept him out for a little while. This was a feud they had running from the later part of 2007 onwards to this point between these two over the WWE title and it would continue after when Orton returned, the two main evented the next year’s WrestleMania in fact. So I’m expecting a good match with a possibly abrupt ending… let’s see…

The pre match video was super cool. Looking back at Orton’s 6 month reign as champion previously where Orton beat Cena, Jeff Hardy, Jericho, HBK, and Triple H. It ended the previous month in a multi man match won by The Game.

Orton was unwilling after to accept that the age of Orton was dead, and so set a last man standing match as his rematch. Given that was the same match he won the title in in the first place.

Triple H (C) defeated Randy Orton in a Last Man Standing match to retain the WWE Championship

Last Man Standing WWE Championship Match: Triple H vs. Randy Orton | WWE

An amazing stat from JR as Orton came out that the WWE title had changed hands once in 25 years in a last man standing match, that being Orton’s previous win against Triple H. This for me, aside from his run in 2020, was PRIME Randy Orton. He is legitimately one of THE greatest of all time and don’t let anybody else tell you any different.

HHH sends Orton into stairs as he does after him on the outside. HHH dominates the start. HHH strikes and stomps to Orton in the ring. It’s really all Triple H so far. Orton is then sent shoulder first into the ringpost. And then again right after. Triple H then gets a series of strikes in on Orton. Orton finally gets something with his signature great dropkick, although Triple H soon sends Orton to the outside. Triple H sends Orton head first into the steps and after a punch he starts to clear one of the announce tables… With both men on the table Triple H lays in punches, and it really looks like we’ll get a Pedigree… Orton tries to get an RKO… and eventually Orton gets some punches and the big draping ddt onto the floor, as the ref starts his count on Triple H for the first time in the match… He just gets up at 9… and Orton goes right to work again with big punches, Orton goes and exposes some of the floor outside of the ring by pulling back the mats… He gets Triple H and looks for an RKO… but HHH sends Orton into the ringpost to escape disaster. Orton back in the ring gets a series of big stomps to Triple H after a big blow to the back of the head got him down. With Triple H down Orton gets the steps from outside and gets them into the ring… and he smashes HHH in the face with them! The ref counts… but HHH is up at 9 as Orton goes outside and gets some form of extension cord as HHH fights back… but Orton soon chokes Triple H with this long cord… the ref counts again after, as Orton stalks HHH but as he goes to hit the RKO Triple H lifts Orton up and over the ropes to the outside. And he really went flying over the ropes which for a guy of Orton’s size looked a nasty fall to take.

Last Man Standing WWE Championship Match: Triple H vs. Randy Orton | WWE

Orton is seen in real pain as he mouths something, the ref counts as Jerry Lawler says on commentary that Orton said he broke his collarbone. As the ref Mike Chioda is counting he holds up the X (the universal sign that a wrestler is hurt for real)… Triple H breaks the count after by gently lifting Orton up and giving him a punch (I’m going to guess to see if he was Ok…)… Orton gets to his feet again and HHH gives him a punch. He then goes and gets the sledgehammer after… Now at this point you’re probably wondering why they didn’t stop the match… Well HHH and Orton and the ref maybe thought that they need to have a proper finish, one worthy of a Last Man Standing match. So a sledgehammer shot will do it… Should they of just gone home after the fall? Maybe… would it of sucked as a finish? Perhaps… Anyway he hits the sledgehammer shot and after the ref counts and he gets to 10 and that’s that. Triple H retains but really that isn’t the story here.

Orton was helped to the back by a load of officials after HHH had celebrated and left.

The match was fun, about as good as Last Man Standing matches can be, the finish felt of course it came early, I think they had another 5-10 minutes to go as a guess. But they did a fine job.

Wrestling really is NOT fake.

***3/4

After an advert Orton was led away, he got a big crowd reaction but he tried his best to heel it off. Ever the professional. Even with a broken collarbone that prematurely ended a WWE title match he’s still got his mind on the job.

And from one extreme to another…

Strap yourself in boys and girls… this next one could be a classic…

Today In Wrestling History Via WWE Network (06/01/2018): One Night Stand  2008 | WWE Network News

This hype video was incredible by the way. Given these are my number 1 and number 3 faves of all time I of course loved it.

Ok so the story here was…

Taker beat Edge for the title at mania

Taker wins the rematch

After Edge passed out and was bloodied from the mouth and stretchered away after the Hell’s Gate submission, SmackDown GM and Edge’s fiancée Vickie Guerrero puts a ban on the move and strips Taker of the title. At Judgement day for the vacant title it ends in a countout win for Taker, but Guerrero enforces the rule of ‘no title changes by countout’… so that’s the set up for this TLC match. Oh and if Taker loses he has to leave WWE (they get round that one down the line in a very funny way…).

I implore you to watch this one…

Edge defeated The Undertaker in a TLC match to win the vacant World Heavyweight Championship (Undertaker must leave WWE)

My word what a match. Just everything that a great TLC match should be. We had every aspect of what made Edge in this era so good, and The Undertaker looked like superman. A great match that I absolutely loved.

****3/4

So yeah eventually Vickie brings Taker back after Edge is caught cheating on her with their wedding planner (who was played by a young Alicia Fox), and the two have a legendary Hell in a Cell match at that year’s SummerSlam.

But this was a fun show overall. Not a classic and aside from the main event the matches on their own were just OK. But my word this main event was MEGA, and if nothing else this show is worth watching just for that. This was a golden era for Taker but more so for SmackDown heel, world champion Edge. One of the best heel runs of ALL TIME.

The Undertaker vs. Edge - World Heavyweight Championship TLC Match: One  Night Stand 2008 - YouTube

Josh.

Ronaldinho: Football’s Smiling Genius

Well… here we are… Well over 200 blogs in and I have finally broken my golden rule… I am writing a blog post about FOOTBALL! It’s always been a topic that for many reasons I just haven’t wanted to write about, but now I feel it’s just something I want to do. So what to focus on? Well certainly not anything current (I just can’t be doing with the debates), but I do want to talk about things that mean a lot to me within the game. Things that interest me and maybe things I don’t think are talked about enough. So I’ve intentionally left that quite open, and after this if I never write another football related blog then I can’t think of a better topic than this one. So here is my… I don’t know if it’ll be a tribute, a career overlook, or even a written love letter of sorts to… well an artist, a magician, a maverick, an entertainer, but the one I like to give him above all else, genius.

Messi or Ronaldo? Ronaldinho was more talented than both | Goal.com

Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, AKA Ronaldinho Gaucho, and more commonly just ‘Ronaldinho’, was born on the 21st March 1980 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. His Mother studied to be a nurse, his father played football locally whilst working in the shipyards. Their family life would change when Ronaldinho’s brother Roberto signed for Brazilian professional club Gremio. As a result the family moved to a much better area of Porto Alegre to a house given to them by the club to incentivize Roberto staying with them. The family would sadly be struck tragically when not only was Roberto’s blossoming playing career was ended prematurely by injury, but their father Joao struck his head and drowned in a swimming pool.

Ronaldinho was 8 years old.

In a theme that seems to carry throughout his whole career, football was always there for Ronaldinho, and he was always there for the game. It was at such a young age that Ronaldo was anointed with the name that he would become famous as. ‘Inho’ means small, and given the young Ronaldo was the smallest of his youth team the nickname would stick.

Le jour où Ronaldinho a marqué 23 buts en un seul match | Football étranger  | 7sur7.be

Given the country’s beautiful beaches, combined with the often cramped nature of the favelas that many Brazilians live in, beach football and futsal or more games where there isn’t much space to move and so ball control is far more important. This down the years is a large explanation as to why Brazilians can often be associated with trickery, ball control and speed of attacks and movements. The young Ronaldinho was no exception to these sort of surroundings, and his first real exposure came when he was playing a local futsal match. The famous story is that, aged 13, he played in an incredible 23-0 victory for his team.

Ronaldinho scored all 23 goals.

In 1997 Ronaldinho was picked to represent Brazil at the Under 17 World Championships in Egypt. Along the way he scored twice including in the semi final. Brazil would win the tournament, with a squad featuring the likes of Geovanni (who would go on to play in the Premier League for Manchester City and Hull City) and goalkeeper Fabio (who still in 2021 plays for Cruzeiro in Brazil aged 40, and has made well over 800 appearances for the club). Also in the same year Ronaldinho played in a victorious Brazil side at the South American Under 17 Championships. They were the first honors of the young footballer’s career. They would be the first of MANY.

Cult Kits - A CAREER IN KITS: RONALDINHO

Ronaldinho began his professional club career with Gremio, making his debut in 1998 but seriously emerging as a major talent the next year when he finished with 22 goals in 47 games. It was during that season he had one of his first major breakout performances.

Ronaldinho starred as Gremio beat an Internacional side featuring former Brazil World Cup winning captain Dunga (look out for his remarkable skill in the video above) to win the State Championship final.

Goals and star performances for his club side meant that a place in the prestigious Brazilian was in his future. He would be part of the Brazil Copa America winning side in 1999, and also won the Golden Ball (as the best player) and Golden Boot (for the most goals) at the 1999 Confederations Cup. It was during the aforementioned Copa America that Ronaldinho scored a memorable goal against Venezuela. Michael Owen had the goal against Argentina, and Ronaldinho a year later did this…

This goal might look simple. It isn’t. To pull this off in an international match is remarkable. The first touch in receiving the ball from Cafu, to then immediately see how close the defender was coming towards him and then flicking it over as simple as anything, to then take another deft touch to take it away from another defender and giving himself a far easier shot at goal, and then hitting a finish past the keeper to the NEAR post (not smashing it far as maybe most would’ve tried and likely failed to do due to overcompensation). He came off the bench to do this at NINETEEN years old for BRAZIL (and this was THE Brazil featuring Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Cafu, Roberto Carlos).. Incredible.

By 2001 a potential move to Arsenal collapsed due to a failure to obtain a work permit, and a surprising loan move to Scottish side St Mirren fell apart also… But with goals, trophies and his famed skill and eye catching performances already becoming a symbol of his game, a big move to Europe wasn’t far away for Brazil’s next superstar. In January of 2001 that move would come.

Former PSG Player Reveals Ronaldinho Only Trained Once A Week

Paris St Germain were not the European giant we know them as in 2021, but 20 years prior they were still a reputable side in France. and to sign Ronaldinho (who was linked with a host of other European clubs) was a big deal for them. All was not so smooth at the start, as a result of disputes with Gremio meant that Ronaldinho didn’t officially join the team until the start of the 2001/02 season. With the World Cup at the end of it, the precocious Brazilian would need a big first season playing in a foreign league for the first time.

Ronaldinho was joining a PSG squad with plenty of talent (Jay-Jay Okocha, Nicolas Anelka, Gabriel Heinze, and a couple of guys called Mikel Arteta and Mauricio Pochettino), but one that was underachieving. They had finished 9th the season before having come 2nd the year before that, and they had sent Laurent Robert to Newcastle to make way for Ronaldinho, but one PSG played did take a shine to the new arrival.

Jay Jay Okocha With Ronaldinho - YouTube

One of the great entertainers of slightly different climates (Bolton) said of Ronaldinho “He was like my kid brother. I realised he was just so talented and he just needed someone to guide him” (Jay-Jay Okocha, quote taken from FOURFOURTWO article ‘The making of Ronaldinho – how the Brazilian superstar broke through at PSG’).

With a FIFA enforced ban behind him (after the ongoing dispute over his signing between PSG and Gremio), Ronaldinho finally was able to pull on the PSG jersey, but the team continued to struggle and by the quarter point of the season the team were 8th and Ronaldinho was largely restricted to substitute appearances, and when he did play he was laboured with a reputation for overelaborate play… in a similar fashion to another Ronaldo when he showed up in a new country, and he turned out ok too…

On This Day in 2003: Remembering When Man Utd Signed Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldinho’s coming out moment for PSG would come in a match in October of 2001 against Lyon. A week after he was left on the bench against Bordeaux he would this time get his chance, and he would mark it with a pass to a teammate that resulted in a foul and a penalty awarded. Ronaldinho stepped up to take the crucial kick…

Ability can only get you so far in sport. What separates those who achieve greatness from those who are just talented is mentality. Big game players. When the going gets tough who shows up? 10 minutes to go, his underperforming team trailing, coming off the bench having not had the best time of it himself personally, Ronaldinho showed the player he was. A winner.

The penalty was Ronaldinho’s long-awaited first goal for Paris St Germain.

Dazzling and match winning displays would become a theme of Ronaldinho and PSG for the next few months (highlights being a glorious performance against Rapid Vienna in a UEFA Cup tie, and helping his team come from 1-0 down to beat reigning French champions Nantes). His performances combined with circumstances (Okocha was off to play for his country for 6 weeks in the Africa Cup of Nations, and Anelka was shipped to Liverpool) meant that by the new year, Ronaldinho would be the main focal point of the PSG attack. and from there he flourished, ending the 2001/02 season with 13 goals in 40 appearances to be PSG’s top scorer. He was also voted into the Ligue 1 team of the season, despite starting just half of the league games, such was he impact his performances had. His performances earned the recognition of someone else too… as Luiz Felipe Scolari named him in the World Cup squad to go to Japan and South Korea in the summer of 2002.

After coming from behind in their opening group game against Turkey to win 2-1, Brazil were far more dominant in their other two group games with 4-0 and 5-2 wins against China and Costa Rica. After starting the first two games and scoring a penalty against China, Ronaldinho was an unused substitute in the final group game, with Brazil having all but secured their last 16 place before that. In the first knockout stage Brazil would take on a plucky Belgium team devoid of the star power they have in the modern day, and the Samba men ran out 2-0 winners. In the quarter finals the opposition was an England team featuring the likes of David Beckham, Michael Owen… and of course David Seamen… It was a game almost the whole of England seemed to watch, many of my own generation will remember watching the game in school assembly halls across the country, such was the desire of people to see the game against the almighty South American side. It really was a prime Brazil line up with Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Cafu, Roberto Carlos and of course Ronaldinho all featuring.

Ronaldinho not only scored an infamous free kick lobbing David Seaman, but was also sent off less than 10 minutes later…

Ronaldinho cannot believe referee Felipe Ramos Rizo has shown him the red card

In the years since the incident (as you’ll see in the video above) Danny Mills, who was kicked at by the precocious Brazilian, commented on the sending off. And the former defender said:

“He came in, it was a late challenge, he caught me, I went down and I was about to get up and Scholesy came over and tapped me and said ‘stay down, ref has got a card out, stay down’… He pulled a red card out, it was never a red card, he caught me slightly, it was a booking at worst… What did I do wrong? It was a foul, I was on the floor, all he said was to stay down, I didn’t roll around squirming and squealing, I just stayed dead still.” (Taken from Mirror.co.uk article entitled “Danny Mills reveals how England got Ronaldinho sent off in 2002 World Cup – with the help of Paul Scholes”).

So without Ronaldinho it was Turkey who were again victims to the star-studded Brazil side in the semi finals, going down 2-1. Before then on to the final against Germany. And just as in the semi final, the hero again was another Ronaldo, R9. Ridding the demons of 1998 Brazil were once again on top of the football world. At the age of 22 Ronaldinho had followed in the footsteps of Pele, Zico and Carlos Alberto as he too now was a World Cup winner.

From allegations of fraud to bigamy... A tale of how Ronaldinho ended up in  jail — All Football App

For the 2002/03 season, upon returning to club duty he was given the number 10 shirt at Paris St Germain that would become a signature of his in the years to come. The season though was not as successful for him as the previous, although there were some highlights. A particularly notable one saw him score twice against rivals Marseille in a 3-1 win in October of 2002, and in February of 2003 he scored what was voted as goal of the season against Guingamp, against demonstrating his genius.

The close control to keep and lift the ball from the oncoming defender, the blistering pace to get past those in his way, and then the dink over the goalkeeper. Genius.

He also scored twice in the semi final of the Coupe de France in a 2-0 win against Bordeaux to take them to the final itself.

His first goal of a brace was great finish after gliding past a few defenders with his signature dribbling and dropping of the shoulder to throw them off. The second a majestic chip over the keeper from the edge of the box. Ronaldinho received a standing ovation from the crowd (not for the last time) for his efforts.

When in the final though, they capped off a very disappointing season for the team in losing 2-1 to Auxerre. This combined with an 11th place finish in Ligue 1 set the table for Ronaldinho to look to pastures new in pursuit of European club football.

He seemed the hot property, or at least one of them that summer, in 2003. Manchester United were interested. They themselves were about to lose David Beckham to Spanish giants Real Madrid, who themselves beat off competition from Barcelona to the Englishman’s signature. Beckham’s move to become the latest Galactico was somewhat of an embarrassment for the Catalan club, who’s president had promised to sign the then England captain as part of his mandate to be elected. Instead Barcelona’s superstar signing would be Ronaldinho. Manchester United, after missing out on Ronaldinho, signed a young man from Sporting Lisbon instead, so maybe it all worked out ok for everyone. But after parting with £21 million and getting a 5 year deal signed, Barcelona had their man.

Man Utd almost announced Ronaldinho transfer and shirt number, says Paul  Scholes - Mirror Online

Barcelona at this time, with a new president and manager, were just beginning to become the ‘super club’ they went on to be. Among a string of player personnel changes that included Victor Valdes and Andres Iniesta being promoted from the youth team, Rafa Marquez being signed from Monaco, and of course Ronaldinho coming in, a competitive squad were looking to once again compete at the top end of football. The genius from Brazil would start as he meant to go on in the stripes of Barcelona…

Taking the ball on the halfway line after a throw from Rustu in goal, gilding through the Sevilla midfield as if they weren’t there, and then smashing it in from 30 yards. Sublime. A goal typical of Ronaldinho’s excellence. Sadly an injury mid way into the season cut his good start short, and the team suffered in his absence. But when he returned the goals came with him, and in the end after being in the bottom half of the table without him, Barcelona would finish 2nd in La Liga, only behind Rafa Benitez’s outstanding Valencia side (who also won the UEFA Cup that season), but above champions league semi finalists of that season Deportivo and the Galacticos of Real Madrid. Speaking of their fierce rivals… El Classico, 25th April 2004, Ronaldinho’s first visit to the Bernabeu saw Ronaldinho provide an assist for Xavi’s winning goal. A first win their for 7 years for Barcelona, and maybe a game that gave them the belief that they COULD do anything they wanted…

Ronaldinho ended his first season with Barcelona as the club’s top scorer, with over 20 goals and 11 assists in all competitions. He was well and truly the main man. And as he would continue to shine, so would his team, as both Barcelona led by Ronaldinho began to be recognized as the world’s best.

Ronaldinho — A Retrospective Look At the Flawed Legend | by Benjamin  Dalusma | thelibero | Medium

2004-2006 was probably Ronaldinho’s prime years. To begin the 2004/05 season Barcelona (now a heavily changed squad that had replaced Cocu, Kluivert, Reiziger, Overmars and Luis Enrique with Guily, Belletti, Henrik Larsson, Deco and Samuel Eto’o) flew out the blocks in La Liga, losing just one league match before the winter break. Progression in the Champions League group stages was balanced with humiliation in the Copa del Rey by being knocked out by local Catalonian side Gramelet. Ronaldinho’s most memorable moments of that season came firstly against Chelsea in the Champions League, where (having won 2-1 in the home leg) they travelled to Stamford Bridge for what turned out to be one of the more memorable games in Chelsea, Barcelona, and Ronaldinho’s history up to that point…

So Barcelona were wounded, but were still in charge of the La Liga title race. On April 10th 2005 we had the second El Classico of the season. Earlier in the campaign Ronaldinho had starred as Barcelona convincingly won 3-0 and that set the tone for what was to come. However by the time of the return game that next April that match was a different story. Ronaldinho scored a free kick in a 4-2 loss for Barcelona, but they were not deturbed and that was their only defeat after going out of the champions league. And at the end of the season Barcelona were crowned Spanish Champions for the first time in six seasons, with their magical number 10 the star.

Lionel Messi – Messi's Career Honours | Genius

2004/2005 had two career defining moments in the story of Ronaldinho. The goal against Chelsea with the hip swivel seemed like something from another planet, but as if Barcelona had enough in one genius they spawned another.

On May 1st 2005 Barcelona faced Albacete. A man would make his mark that day… but this time Ronaldinho was more than happy to be the provider…

TWICE the best player on the planet was happy to try and assist a youngster to score. An exquisite chip to play him for the first goal that was cruelly ruled offside… and then Ronaldinho allowed for his young apprentice to have another go with another chipped pass, and this time it was allowed. Ronaldinho had helped introduce the world to a 17 year old who was then Barcelona’s 2nd youngest ever goalscorer, Lionel Messi.

Adama Traore lifts lid on playing with Messi and Ronaldinho and how  Barcelona legends' winning mentality drove him on

In the summer of 2005 Ronaldinho travelled with Brazil for the Confederations Cup, the traditional ‘warm up’ tournament for the World Cup the next year. From the last group game onwards Ronaldinho took the captain’s armband as he and striker Adriano led Brazil to yet another trophy. The final was somewhat of a walk over for Brazil, beating their great rivals Argentina 4-1 with Ronaldinho scoring their 3rd goal. Not only was he the star man, Ronaldinho was now an established leader.

Ronaldinho & Legends of Soccer Weekend - 33 Days To Go ... - Mount Royal  Soccer

2005/06 season, aside from elimination in the quarter finals of the Copa del Rey, was almost a perfect season for Barcelona. In La Liga they won the title by 12 points, and went on a run between October 29th and January 29th where they won 14 league games on the bounce. Their most famous victory in La Liga that season was arguably our blog topic’s greatest ever night. Barcelona travelling to the Bernabeu for El Classico on the 19th November 2005.

Ronaldinho had the most amazing career and won just about every honour you can win. But a standing ovation from the Real Madrid fans having destroyed their team for Barcelona might be right up there with the most special of them all.

In the Champions League Barcelona swept all that came before them. After finishing top of their group they then came up against Chelsea in the Last 16, looking to gain revenge for the previous season’s heartbreak. In the first leg at Stamford Bridge (playing on a surface that resembled closer to a beach than a football pitch) Barcelona played their best football and came away with a 2-1 win to take back to Camp Nou in the second leg.

12 minutes to go in a tight game, Ronaldinho takes over… Picking up the ball outside of the 18 yard box and gilding towards goal with his typical close control and majesty, he gets past some of Chelsea’s players like they don’t exist and fires past Petr Cech to give Barcelona the lead. A particular mention to him not being deterred in his run when he collided with the defender just before his shot. Ronaldinho was not to be denied. The game would finish 1-1 leaving Barcelona as 3-2 winners on aggregate. The champions of Spain had got revenge on the champions of England.

Ronaldinho continued to shine as Barcelona went past Benfica in the quarter finals (Ronaldinho scoring one of the two goals), and then they won a close tie with AC Milan in the semi finals as Ronaldinho shined again, providing an assist for Ludovic Guily to send Barcelona to Paris. When there they would face final debutants Arsenal with the Catalan club looking to win European football’s top prize for the first time in 14 years.

Ronaldinho had now won the World Cup with his country, and the Champions League with his club side. He ended the 2005/06 season with 26 goals and 24 assist in 45 games, in helping his club win both the league and Champions League. An ELITE footballer.

Ronaldinho Claims Barcelona Could Have Scored More in 2006 Champions League  Final Against Arsenal | 90min

As a reward for his contributions to the best club team in the world, individual honours came along too. Towards the end of 2005 Ronaldinho won the FIFA World Player of the Year award for the second consecutive year, and also in 2005 he won the illustrious Balon d’Or award. Undisputedly in this period of 2004-2006 a young man who grew up in not exactly the best area of Port Alegre, Brazil, a man who tragically lost his father at 8 years old, who only moved to Europe 5 years prior, was without question the best footballer in the world.

Ronaldinho 'doesn't want to pay the price of being a professional athlete',  claims former manager of Barcelona star | Daily Mail Online

Off the back of an amazing season individually and at club level, the world’s best player then went with his national side to Germany for the 2006 World Cup, with Brazil looking to defend their crown as world champions.

It was another all-star Brazil squad that headed to Germany (Ronaldinho joining Ronaldo, Kaka, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Adriano to name a few), and they sailed through their group with wins against Croatia, Australia and Japan. After a comfortable win in the first knockout phase against Ghana, Brazil then faced France in the quarter finals. France also featuring a host of household names (Zidane, Henry, Vieira etc.) played a superb game of solid defensive play combined with blistering attacks. On this occasion though it wasn’t Ronaldinho who ran the show, but another famous number 10 led his side to a 1-0 win, and he wasn’t a bad player either.

Zinedine Zidane 2006 World Cup Performance And Highlights

Following on from a disappointing World Cup for his national side, Ronaldinho’s club side Barcelona went into the 2006/07 season with no major signings, and more like for like squad changes (Gudjohnsen, Lilian Thuram and Zambrotta came in with Van Bommel, Larsson and Maxi Lopez leaving). A comfortable win in the Spanish Super Cup against city rivals Espanyol was followed by an equally one sided defeat to fellow Spanish club Sevilla in the European Super Cup. Barcelona also that season lost in the FIFA Club World Cup Final, and went out in the semis of the Copa del Rey. And to compound things they were disappointingly eliminated in the Last 16 of the Champions League by Liverpool, and lost out in the La Liga title race to Real Madrid as a result of an inferior head-to-head record with the two teams level on points. After seemingly conquering all that came before them the previous season, Barcelona ended 2006/07 with just the Spanish Super Cup to their name. Which by their lofty standards represented a poor season.

On a personal point of view, our main man did have some personal highlights along the way… He scored a spectacular goal, even by his standards, on November 25th 2006 against Villarreal…

He would also finish in 3rd place in 2006’s FIFA World Player of the Year award. And to end the 06/07 season he scored a career-high 21 league goals… but as mentioned Barcelona from a team perspective had a disappointing campaign. Ronaldinho would miss the summer 2007 Copa America for Brazil citing to fatigue having played a full part for both club and country from 2005-2007 with almost no extended rest.

The summer of 2007 was a big one for a Barcelona team looking to rebound from the previous season… out went van Bronckhorst, Guily, Belletti and Thiago Motta, and in came Yaya Toure, Eric Abidal, Jose Pinto, Bojan and Dos Santos came up from the B team, and above all else the headline grabber of maybe the world football transfer window that summer… came the arrival of a certain Frenchman via North London…

Five goals to remember the 10 years of the signing of Henry by the Barça

Barcelona’s squad resembled somewhat of a ‘dream team’, and they started the season fairly well to the point that going into a December El Classico, Barcelona were 2nd in La Liga, only behind a dominant Real Madrid team who had been top of the table for the entire season to that point… and it didn’t stop there for them with Madrid winning 1-0 at Camp Nou. They would eventually be knocked out of both the Copa del Rey and Champions League at the semi final stage by the eventual winners (Valencia and Manchester United) , and a 4-1 humiliation in the second El Classico of the season led Barcelona to a disastrous 3rd place finish in La Liga. 18 points behind champions Real Madrid, and almost as embarrassing they finished 10 points behind Villarreal who came 2nd. They just about squeezed into Champions League football by 3 points as well… All of which meant major changes were on their way at Barcelona from top to bottom…

Ronaldinho too struggled. He had many injuries’ during this season, and a torn right leg muscle ended his season early at the beginning of April 2008. There had also been much talk at this time of his focus waning, having won and accomplished everything there was for him to do in the game, an interest in partying increased and perception was a focus on training and preparation lessened.

Ronaldinho could join Real - Eurosport

Something had to give…

Changes were indeed afoot at FC Barcelona. Frank Rjikaard was OUT as manager, and up from the Barcelona B team came a former midfielder at the club… Josep Guardiola no less… Pep came with a remit looking to take the club back to it routes, playing good football and promoting from within. From the B team with him came Sergio Busquets and eventually Pedro, back from Manchester United came Gerard Pique, Daniel Alves came from Sevilla. But maybe more notably was the departures. Pep wanted to not only build his new team around Messi, but felt to do that both on the pitch and off it certain individuals would need to leave. Deco was sent to Chelsea, Dos Santos and Edmilson and Zambrotta all left, Thuram retired. And up the forward end of the pitch Pep wanted a refresh. Thierry Henry, having only arrived the previous summer, was kept on, Samuel Eto’o was another Guardiola wanted to move on but who would fight for his place in the team for another year before his eventual departure. But what of our blog topic? He was out. To allow Messi to flourish on the pitch, and not be possibly led down another path off it, Ronaldinho had to go for Pep. Just two years after leading them to glory off his back, Barcelona wanted to transfer out their former Balon d’or winner. He had a big offer from a Manchester City team who were still two years away from the arrival of Sheikh Mansour, but instead chose to join another of Europe’s elite clubs.

Ronaldinho signs AC Milan - Planet Football

Before beginning his adventures in Milan, Ronaldinho was off to the Olympics with Brazil. He was named Captain as Brazil went on to claim the Bronze medal.

So Ronaldinho made his way to AC Milan to join the likes of Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf under the management of the great Carlo Ancelotti. With Seedorf already the club’s number 10 Ronaldinho instead took up the number 80 shirt, after the year of his birth.

His first major mark in the red and black would come in the Milan derby against Inter on September 28th 2008. With Jose Mourinho in the opposition’s dugout now they would pose a great threat to the Brazilian’s natural flare. Milan played a 4-2-3-1 formation with a flat midfield three and Ronaldinho in the two (left side to Kaka) behind the main forward. In what was a very tight game the magician showed he still had something to offer…

Some time to score your first goal for your new club! Milan would win 1-0 with Ronaldinho’s 35th minute header proving decisive.

IMPERADOR VS BRUXO - Inter de Milão X Milan Serie A 2008-09 - YouTube

The highs of that win would sadly not be the story of Milan or Ronaldinho’s season. They finished 3rd in Serie A, and went out in both the Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup. Ronaldinho ended with 10 goals in 32 appearances but made many of those from the substitutes bench. It appeared from many reports and things said that his fitness was declining again and his love of nightclubs that had been previously spoken about whilst at Barcelona was continuing.

With Milan now managed by Leonardo the team changed formation for the 2009/10 season, with Ronaldinho now on the left side of an attacking front three in a 4-3-3 formation. He thrived as a result, and on January 10th 2010 he had arguably his greatest night in a Milan shirt… against fierce rivals Juventus.

0-3 to Milan. 2 goals for Ronaldinho. His hot streak continued in Milan’s next game where Ronaldinho scored a hat trick in a 5-0 win over Siena. In February of that year they went out of the Champions League to Manchester United, adding to their Coppa Italia elimination the previous month. Against United Ronaldinho scored the first goal early in the first leg, but Milan would eventually lose that match 3-2 and the second leg 4-0. Although Milan would slip away in the Serie A title race, Ronaldinho finished with a league-best number of assists, and signed off the season with another brace in the final match of the season, another 3-0 win against Juventus. It was to be Leonardo’s final game in charge.

With Massimiliano Allegri now Milan manager, the team had a new front three of Ronaldinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho. The team did tremendously well and were top of Serie A by the time of the winter break, and they had also progressed into the knockout stages of the champions league. By that stage Ronaldinho had made 16 appearances, scoring 1 goal and making several assists. But by winter of 2010 the time had come for a separation. Ronaldinho would be leaving Milan during the winter transfer window (although his efforts would be enough for him to get a Serie A winner’s medal as Milan went on to win the title in his absence). It appeared the former World Player of the Year’s time at the top of European football was drawing to a close. By this point in time too his place in the Brazil squad let alone team was a rarity, even his good form in the previous season didn’t see him make it to the 2010 World Cup.

So what next for Ronaldinho? Well he was linked with a wide variety of teams; Blackburn Rovers in England, The MLS with LA Galaxy, and a few teams back home in Brazil including former club Gremio. But on January 13th 2011 around 20,000 fans turned out to see his unveiling by his latest club, Flamengo.

He went on to feature prominently for Flamengo in his first season at the club, making 52 appearances and scoring 21 goals. He also helped his side win the Taça Guanabara with a delightful free kick in a 1-0 win…

Form temporary, Class very much permanent.

On July 27th 2011 Ronaldinho showed there was absolutely still life in his magical feet in a quite extraordinary match between Flamengo and fellow Brazilian giants Santos…

That kid who stars for Santos sure looks familiar doesn’t he…

Ronaldinho’s club form earnt him a place back in the Brazil squad in the autumn of 2011. He played in 5 games including the full game against Ghana at Fulham’s Craven Cottage, and games against Argentina (twice) and Mexico who he scored a free kick against. Sadly though relations with his club began to sour, and it seemed his time at Flamengo would end under dark circumstances. After a disagreement between club and player regarding payment, on May 31st 2012 Ronaldinho cancelled his Flamengo contract.

Ronaldinho 'very motivated' to succeed at Atletico Mineiro | Goal.com

4 days later Ronaldinho was presented as an Atletico Mineiro player. This time he again took up a different shirt number, with his favoured number 10 occupied, as he was given 49, the year of his Mum’s birth.

He seemed to rediscover his best form in his first season in Belo Horizonte, with the team finishing 2nd in their league, qualifying for the prestigious Copa Libertadores. He was also voted as best player for that season in the league. The King was back… maybe…

Best ronaldinho gaucho GIFs - Primo GIF - Latest Animated GIFs

The season after the number 10 was his again, and Ronaldinho’s good run of form carried on… For his team Atletico Mineiro it was all about the Copa Libertadores. After sailing through the group stage they went into the knockout stage as the top seeded team, and then faced fellow Brazilians Sao Paulo where they went through with a 6-2 aggregate win. In the Quarter Finals they took on Mexican side Tijuana, and advanced on away goals after a 2-2 draw in Mexico in the first leg followed by a 1-1 draw back home. If that wasn’t tight enough their next round saw them face Newell’s Old Boys of Argentina in the semi finals…

How would Mineiro come back from that… well, with their inspirational magician playing anything is possible…

Drama of the highest order… Ronaldinho with the final penalty for his side, a goalkeeper save after coming after a late, late equalizer in the game. Amazing.

Dramatic? Yes. Now onto the final, again over two legs… Against Olimpia of Paraguay. Again a 2-0 loss in the first leg meant they had it all to do again to achieve their dream in front of their own fans…

Atletico Mineiro had done it. Far from the biggest club in Brazil, they were now champions of South America. After all his success in Europe with Barcelona, Ronaldinho had come back home and had HIS last dance. Part of me, a large part in fact, wished he had called time on his career after this win…

Other Clubs - Ronaldinho

As the voted 2013 South American Player of the Year, Ronaldinho played himself back into the Brazilian national team. He made what was his 100th cap in a prestigious friendly at Wembley Stadium against England, where sadly he saw a penalty saved by Joe Hart in a 2-1 defeat. He was also later named Brazil captain for a friendly match against Chile in the spring of that year, but was not in the Brazil squad for their home Confederations Cup that summer. He also missed out on the World Cup 12 months later.

By winning their continental title, a place in the 2013 Fifa Club World Cup awaited Atletico Mineiro in December of 2013. Mineiro would lose the semi final to Raja Casablanca 3-1, with Ronaldinho scoring a consolation free kick. In extraordinary scenes at full time the opposition players swarmed Ronaldinho, rushing to the legend in pursuit of souvenirs. Quite the scene, but such was his star power even to fellow players.

Mineiro would then face Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande, managed by legendary Italian manager Marcello Lippi in the third place match.

After helping his side win the 2014 Recopa Sudamericana (effectively South America’s equivalent of the European Super Cup) in July 2014, Ronaldinho agreed with his club to cancel his contract. His latest adventure, arguably one of the better spells of his career, was over.

What Can Queretaro Realistically Expect from Ronaldinho? | Bleacher Report  | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

Mexico and Queretaro was his next destination. And with admirable success in his first few months, his premier game came away to reigning Mexican champions Club America at the famous Estadio Azteca Stadium in April of 2014.

4-0. Two goals for Ronaldinho, and just as he got from the Real Madrid fans almost a decade prior, he received a standing ovation from the stadium when he came off as a sub. An incredible gesture from an incredible footballer.

Ronaldinho con Querétaro: El día que humilló al Club América en 2015 -  Mediotiempo

Queretaro would end their season with a 5-3 aggregate loss in the Liga MX play off finals to Santos Laguna. And not long after in June 2015 Ronaldinho announced his departure from the club.

Sem marcar gols, Ronaldinho Gaúcho rescinde contrato e deixa de ser jogador  do Fluminense | Jovem Pan

Back home again to Brazil, this time with Fluminense was next for Ronaldinho. But it was a sad end to an incredible career after 3 months, in which he made 9 appearances without scoring or assisting, he left the club by mutual agreement. The club’s sporting director said of the split “Ronaldinho asked us for a meeting. He respectfully told us he didn’t feel he was able to perform as good as he wanted and that it was a bad situation for him,” he told reporters. “He asked us our opinion, we were straight with him and told him it wouldn’t work for us, so we decided releasing him was the right thing to do.” (Quote from Goal.com ‘Fluminense: Ronaldinho felt he couldn’t perform’ https://www.goal.com/en-us/news/3296/brazil/2015/09/29/15842312/fluminense-ronaldinho-felt-he-couldnt-perform).

And that, was essentially that. Aside from a futsal run in 2016 and the occasional charity match appearance, Ronaldinho’s incredible playing career in professional football was over.

Sure the last couple of moves were not ideal, but the legend of Ronaldinho is unparalleled. I feel kind of sad writing this final paragraph after just writing about how his career tailed off at the end… So instead why don’t I leave you with the rgeat man at his peak. So here to finish off is the full match of proably Robnadlinho’s finest night, when in the biggest game in club world football, Ronaldinho proved to us all what he was…

A smiling genuis.

Josh.

WWE SmackDown (21/5/2021) – Review

After a week break for the last SmackDown, due to me being… a little busy…, since then we’ve had WrestleMania Backlash… where indeed Roman Reigns did beat Cesaro in a great match where Cesaro just came up short, but it was pretty much a clean win with no Uso interference… the interesting thing for me at least, which hopefully is talked more about at some point, was after the match… as Roman was once again being recognised as THE Tribal Chief following another big win, Seth Rollins came out… the two engaged in a brief stare down, before Rollins then attacked his long-term rival Cesaro… now… that could’ve been just a “thing”… but… what if it wasn’t…

The other major headline this week from WWE came yesterday with a return to touring announced for July. The Friday Night SmackDown before Money In The Bank looks to be the first WWE show with a proper audience (aside from the small number at NXT shows and of course each night of WrestleMania) since March last year. I for one cannot wait!!!

Oh and maybe a blessing I missed last weeks SmackDown… in that it meant I didn’t have to talk about Tamina (T A M I N A) and Natalya (Zzzzzzzzzzzz) win the women’s tag titles… All the joys in the most boring feud in recent WWE history…

Anyway… on that happy note… here’s my thoughts as I now watch this week’s edition of Friday Night SmackDown!!!


We opened from the Thunderdome with a parade of champions on the entrance stage: NEW tag champions Rey and Dominik Mysterio, SmackDown Women’s Champion Bianca Belair, IC Champion Apollo Crews with Commander Azeez alongside him, and the aforementioned Women’s Tag champions Natalya and Tamina… they also advertised the IC title 4 way tonight with Crews defending against Zayn, Owens and Big E.

Sonya Deville was in the ring… she spoke about the news that broke today of WWE leaving the Thunderdome in July and said they would return back to where they belong, to YOU! She then congratulated the parade of champions one by one on the stage. Seems a very feel good episode of SmackDown this, I bet you can’t imagine how happy they are to be going back on the road again.

After Azeez got the music stopped, Crews cut a promo saying that tonight he would be retaining his title, and said the odds were against him as he doesn’t have to be pinned. He added he would unleash total annihilation. Deville then carried on as she was going…

Finally… Deville introduced our Tribal Chief… who used his OLD music???????? Heyman then came out… He mocked the parade of champions saying it was a parade of title holders. He said Roman Reigns was a champion, not just a champion but the champion. He said he was THE champion of WWE and all sports entertainment. He said Reigns wasn’t one of his many, but there would be a parade of Champion later, at Roman Reigns’ leisure. Deville then got another round of applause.

Bayley then got into the ring and wanted acknowledgment… she bugged herself up and said she should be thanked for putting this company in her back. She then slagged off the Mysterios and Tamina and Natalya, she showed respect to Apollo and Azeez, and called Bianca a cheater. (Belair used her hair to pin Bayley in their match at the PPV). Bayley called her a criminal… Belair took exception and went to the ring, Bianca told her to just take the title if she wanted it, Bayley said she’d do so on her time, and as Bayley went to leave Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax attacked Belair from behind… and of course Natalya and Tamina tried to save but Tamina was double teamed by the former champions. And we just cut to the ad break… so we getting a 6 women’s tag then… (I’m so absurdly OVER this Natalya/Tamina vs Nia/Shayna feud PLEASE end it!!! I still don’t get why it didn’t end after the heels won CLEAN to start the feud at Mania… Can’t be based on a few cheers they got at Mania surely…).

Yes we can back from break to the 6 woman’s tag…

Bayley and Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler defeated Bianca Belair and Tamina & Natalya

So… fuck sake… I forgot that Tamina and Natalya won the rematch on Raw… WHY IS THIS FEUD STILL GOING??? Oh I know… it’s because the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships have been consistently the worst booked titles in WWE history. Often neglected, an afterthought, with dead feuds almost since it’s inception. Look how fun the titles were when Sasha and Bayley had the belts on all THREE shows against different teams all the time? Kairi and Asuka the same… yet we’ve the SAME FUCKING FEUD for WEEKS now… bore off…

Anyway this match… it was so so until Belair came in and looked like a star… she took down everyone and then hit a big flip dive to the outside, but she seemed to hurt her knee as we went into an ad break. When we came back Bayley was in the ring working at the left leg of Belair. Bianca tried to fight up and did get Bayley out the ring, but Bayley came back in to stop the tag and she hit Natalya off the apron. A forward roll past Bayley allowed for Bianca to tag in Tamina… Tamina battered Bayley and then took down Nia and Shayna. Tamina hit a power slam and tagged in Natalya, who soon hit a German and tagged out again. Tamina got a super kick but Bayley held the bottom rope to stop the pin. Natalya came back in, but Bayley tagged to Baszler. Natalya seemed not to realise the tag was made and Shayna hit a knee to Natalya… Tamina broke up the pin and hit a headbutt, before Natalya tried for a sharpshooter on Baszler… but she fought our, Bayley tried a Bayley-to-Belly but Natalya hit a discuss clothesline, Jax then took her down, Tamina came in and kicked Nia, Shayna took out Tamina, Bianca took down Shayna, Bayley pulled Belair out and hit a Bayley-to-Belly on the floor… and after Natalya hit out at Bayley it was Shayna who came from behind and locked in the Kirifuda Clutch, and Natalya tapped out… BECAUSE THIS FEUD MUST NEVER FUCKING END… AAAAARRRGGGHHH!!!!

Kayla Braxton spoke backstage with Big E. He said tonight he stood in the ring with dogs, men who doggedly pursued their craft. But he said he was happy as this was what he wanted to prove he was the very best. He said tonight he’d walk out the arena in no doubt he was the rightful Intercontinental Champion. He seemed very positive!

They again used Roman’s old music during an advert… WTF is this all about!?!?

They promoted the news being reported about WWE going on the road again.

IT’S ALEISTER BLACK TIME!!!

I LOVE THIS SHIT SO MUCH!!! Cannot wait already for him to whup somebody’s ASS!!!

We returned for King Corbin… he was without his crown after Nakamura took it last week… Michael Cole said he didn’t realise Corbin was that bald… my god… so after Corbin beat him last week, Nakamura gave him a Kinshasa and took the crown, hence the match. Corbin cut a promo and said he was going to let his actions do the talking, but then he saw that (referring to the social media post they showed on the Titantron of Nakamura taking the crown everywhere with him since pretty much). Corbin talked and looked (briefly) right into the camera (a odd rarity in WWE but one I like), he said it was the most disrespectful thing he’s ever seen, he said Nakamura may call himself the king of strong style but he’s no king. He also said in his promo that a real king (after listing all the other things a “real king” does) owns dogs of war, not a shabby tabby cat (has Corbin always had THE MOST awful trash talk? Well yes, aside from NXT Corbin and the one time he told Seth Rollins “what are you gonna do you piece of shit?” After he hit the End of Days to Becky Lynch… yeah King Corbin is such a waste of this guy…)… anyway… after Corbin finished this boring promo about a fucking crown, Nakamura finally came out… or not…

An electric guitar was played by the former Eric bugenhagen of NXT at the top of the ramp … this might be the most random main roster call up of all time… Corbin asked who he was and he said he was Rick Boogs… He spoke into a mic on a stand, and he said he came to rock with the real king of SmackDown, Shinsuke Nakamura… he then played his theme on his electric guitar… which to be fair sounded cool as fuck as a crown-sporting Nakamura came out after. We even had Cole and Pat do awful air guitar!!! Boogs was awesome at this guitar to be fair… I was sceptical when I saw him but if he can play Nakamura’s theme on his electric guitar every week I’d be very happy. This was very cool. In a full arena of fans they’d of gone ape shit for that.

Shinsuke Nakamura defeated King Corbin

Boogs was at ringside hyping Nakamura during the match. Corbin began with hard offence to Shinsuke, Nakamura came back with hard kicks until he was caught with a powerbomb, but Shin kicked out at 2. Corbin again laid a beating in the corner, included mockingly doing Nakamura’s good vibrations move. Nakamura powered out a rest hold but soon was took down with a high elbow. Corbin continued on the attack, but Nakamura hit a spinning kick and then a backstabber, then a running knee, and got a nearfall after another move. Nakamura went to the corner, and looked for the Kinshasa but Corbin got out the way then hit a suplex, for another nearfall. Corbin tried for a chokeslam but Nakamura kneed him away, but then Shinsuke ran into a Deep 6… but Corbin only got a 2 count. Boogs then got on top of the announce table and played the chorus chords of Nakamura’s theme song on his guitar, Corbin was briefly distracted and went for the End of Days, but Nakamura rolled through then got a small package and the pin! Boogs played guitar again, Nakamura still has the crown.

I want to hate it, but Boogs playing guitar and Nakamura winning is a combo I never knew I needed but I really do!

Sonya Deville was on the phone, when she was met by Jimmy Uso backstage. He said the best tag team in SmackDown history were back together and ready to run up on some fools. Deville was surprised and asked if he’d checked with his brother Jey, as last she checked he was still with Roman. Jimmy said he wouldn’t be here if he didn’t know he had his back. He said they were ready and they wanted the smoke, Street Profits. Deville said a match of that calibre needed to be advertised and built and so made the match for next week. Jimmy was pleased and said Ok giving Deville a fist bump. OK!!!

Roman Reigns came out next, with his NEW PROPER music THANK GOD! So is his old theme just for Heyman now that’d be jokes… Anyway, our Head of the Table came to the ring with Heyman and Jey Uso. I never thought I’d see the day Roman Reigns had my favourite act in WWE, but here we are… Never has a champion looked like a bigger star and came across as such than this guy right now. And his matches consistently have been CLASS! Total package for sure. When they got in the ring, the Universal Champion got his own Parade of champion.

After an ad break THE LORD (I’ll never forget or be thankful enough for what he did at Wrestlemania) Kevin Owens cut a promo from backstage. He spoke about how in his first two years he was called the prizefighter as he won so many titles. He said he’d get back to being that guy tonight. It was such a good promo. Fired up KO is the best.

Back to the ring after that, and after we had a replay of what happened at Wrestlemania Backlash (Roman beat Cesaro in an epic back and forth match, before Jey’s recognition of Roman and then Rollins beating Cesaro down) Roman said he believes himself to be a humble man, and says he tries to teach his sons about humility. He said he’d take this opportunity to allow his social counsel to celebrate him. Heyman smiled as he said it was a unique surprise, he then spoke about how he (Roman) was undefeated since his return to WWE, how he scared The Fiend over to Monday Night Raw (hmm, I’ll let you have that one Paul as it was a fun line, but not totally true…), he spoke also how he beat Strowman, how he baptised his cousin back into the championship bloodline, KO’d Kevin Owens, scored the most dominant pinfall in the history of Wrestlemania main events, he caved in Edge’s face and we may never see Edge again, Banised Daniel Bryan, and then took on the most talented grappler in Cesaro on his own with nobody’s help at Cesaro’s own game (Roman made Cesaro pass out with the Guillotine). Heyman said it was a career highlight for him tonight to not only celebrate but acknowledge THE pre-eminent champion in all of WWE and sports entertainment, Roman Reigns. He asked what else Roman wanted him to do for him, and Roman looked puzzled and asked for his cousin. He asked for Jimmy Uso’s music to be played, but Cesaro then came out with an arm in a sling. Roman said to cut this bum’s music. Cesaro said he wasn’t in the mood but he couldn’t find Seth Rollins in the back, but what he could hear was this annoying yapping in his ear. Roman asked what he was gonna do, Cesaro said they should do it one more time at Hell in a Cell. Roman laughed at the idea, and then Rollins attacked Cesaro from behind. Rollins really beat him down as officials ran out to stop him. Rollins screamed “when are you gonna learn”? Rollins ran back out and again attacked Cesaro, ending with a stomp. He focused on the arm. Reigns and co had exited the ring by this point. Rollins was led away from Cesaro, but again jumped the barricade and hit yet another stomp. A stretcher then came out for Cesaro as we went to an ad break.

I’m going to predict Cesaro doesn’t face Roman, but instead Rollins at and INSIDE Hell In A Cell!

We were shown replays of Rollins attack on Cesaro when we came back from the break. Backstage Rollins was interviewed and asked why he did that? Rollins said he didn’t know what happened and he blacked out, as Cesaro went by on the stretcher Rollins went over to him and grabbed him saying “why do you do this to me… why do you make me this person”? … Is Rollins going crazy? Might be nothing but could be something in this… let’s see…

The NEW tag team champions Rey and Dominik Mysterio came out next. I’m yet another sponsored replay we saw how they beat Dolph and Roode for the titles at the PPV, even after Dominik was attacked on the kick off show and then even being injured eventually joined his Dad in the match and ended up getting the win for the family. Dolph and Roode came out after, Roode cut a promo saying he hoped that big win on Sunday didn’t go to Dominik’s head.

Dominik Mysterio (with Rey Mysterio) defeated Robert Roode (with Dolph Ziggler)

Roode took most the early part of the match with strikes and suplexes. With both on the top rope Dominik pushed Roode off and got a nearfall after a crossbody. Dominik tried a tornado DST but was pushed away, Dominik set for a 619 but Ziggler distracted him… until Rey made him pay. Dominik got a nearfall after reversing a pin, Roode ran into the ring post, got hit with a 619… Dominik got the frog splash and the win. Short but decent stuff. Repeat of the PPV finish, this feud has to be done now I don’t see why it would carry on…

Jey Uso found Jimmy backstage. Jimmy was trying to put over how happy he was about their match next week, Jey wasn’t happy he didn’t ask him first. Jimmy again tried to say it wasn’t about Roman but about us. Jey said he still had to tell Roman about the tag match…

They again told us all via different media reports that WWE was going back on the road in July.

Roman was in his room. Jey tried to put across it wasn’t him that made the match, Roman spoke very softly but basically it was him saying he and Jey and all that was the family stuff. And that his tag match with Jimmy wasn’t important. Jey seemed puzzled.

Street Profits cut a promo on The Uso’s. It was typical stuff from them, but that’s absolutely not a bad thing.

Sami Zayn was interviewed by Kayla. Sami was his erratic, paranoid self. Good stuff. I hope they properly release his documentary at some point. Zayn then made his entrance for the match.

I really just want to watch this match, so I’ll see it through and then give you my thoughts after.

(For Raw they advertised yet ANOTHER women’s tag title match… OF COURSE THEY DID)

Apollo Crews (C) (with Commander Azeez) defeated Big E, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a Fatal 4 Way match to retain the Intercontinental Championship

Really fun match. It must have gone over 20 minutes (not sure we needed 2 ad breaks during the match with both coming right after big spots… but meh…), and given it was the TV main event maybe it was better in this spot than being forgotten in the middle of a PPV. All 4 guys really put on a good showing. Azeez took E out when he looked to have the win, but E reversed and sent Azeez into the ringpost… then the lights all went out and a bright light filled the screen… and out from the fog -and mist emerged ALEISTER BLACK!!! He went face to face with Big E and hit a Black Mass, and then left the ring. This allowed Crews to get the pin. Black vs Big E… SIGN ME UP!

A good SmackDown, building blocks towards HIAC… and the road BACK to normality begins!!!

Josh.