Royal Rumble 1999 – Review

So you’ve all seen the title, and yes this is indeed the one where MR MCMAHON won the Royal Rumble match, and the same one where Mankind took all the chair shots from The Rock in that nights title match… but for more than that I think this is a show that is one that defines everything that made the Attitude Era what it was; and the best way to summarise that is… complete and utter CHAOS! The undercard features names that most wrestling fans would know, but it’s the two aforementioned matches that make this show memorable. For the WWF title we have champion Mankind, having won the title on a Monday Night Raw episode that changed the course of not just the Monday Night War, but wrestling forever (yes it was the one where Stone Cold comes down and helps Mankind win and everyone goes nuts). The Rock at this time was the Corporate golden boy, with his maiden WWF title run having begun with the great tournament swerve at the previous November’s Survivor Series. Two of the biggest names of this time, but this one would be an I QUIT MATCH… Which… well we will get to… And of course the Rumble match itself, which was pretty much entirely built around the fact that number one would be Stone Cold Steve Austin, and number 2 would be… in his first ever match… Austin’s sworn enemy… MR MCMAHON himself! So, without further or due, here is my review of the 1999 Royal Rumble PPV!


The show itself begins with a video package centred around the McMahon-Austin rivalry, the all-time great feud that was a staple of this or any era. What’s funny is both the tagline and theme song of this PPV was the ‘No Chance In Hell’ that would later become Vince’s entrance music. Vince is adamant in the video that Austin will never again be WWF Champion, and so makes sure that Stone Cold enters at number 1 in the Royal Rumble match. Commissioner Shawn Michaels follows this by naming the number 2 entrant, as Vince McMahon himself! Vince also adds a $100,000 bounty on the head of Austin, to go to anyone who can eliminate him from the match.

The show would come to us from Anaheim, California. And a rarity in this era as we have Michael Cole joining Jerry Lawler on commentary (I believe Jim Ross was out at this time due to health reasons).

Our opening match of the show sees the Hardcore Champion in action, but without the title on the line. It was explained that The Corporation (Vince’s heel faction of the time) had ensured the no Hardcore rules, and this was to be a special challenge match. Road Dogg came out first and did his usual speel on the mic, Boss Man got booed as he came out… Boss Man is one half of the tag champions with Ken Shamrock at this time (what an oddball team that is by the way, such was the ever-changing title scene in this time, if you asked me to pick 30 combinations I can’t say I’d of put those two down as having had a tag title reign together).

Big Boss Man defeated Road Dogg

The crowd really liked Road Dogg, and they really disliked Boss Man. Boss Man showed his power early on, as this was a match less about holds and move moves and sequences to get the crowd into it. But it was a fun enough opener to get the crowd into the action on the PPV (having had to sit through Sunday Night Heat before the PPV started). Big Boss Man hit a series of strikes that put him in charge, and Road Dogg had the crowd going whenever he got on a comeback. Big Boss Man got the first nearfall of the match after launching Road Dogg into the corner ring turnbuckles. Boss Man got a bearhug, which Road Dogg got out of via biting… Boss Man hit a knee and then he was back in control. He then removed the top turnbuckle pad (which actually had no influence and wasn’t used up to in the match I think, but oh well). Boss Man hit a slam for a 2 count, and then got the heat on Road Dogg, eventually Road Dogg got a sleeper hold in, which Boss Man got out of by raking the eyes and then hit a backbreaker. Boss Man then went up top, but Road Dogg threw him down. They exchanged strikes which ended with Road Dogg getting a 2 count after a knee drop. Then almost immediately after Big Boss Man hit a Sidewalk Slam and got the 1,2,3 for the win. The finish seemed to come out of nowhere really, which may of been the plan but looked to me like they got told to take it home maybe? Anyway, Boss Man wins in a solid match, but really felt to me like Road Dogg should’ve got the win here (crowd and momentum-wise), but I guess it did give a heel a win on PPV against a babyface title holder…

**1/2

We were shown a video before our next match… In it we see MR ASS (Billy Gunn) showing his… ass… to the “sister” of his upcoming opponent Ken Shamrock on a previous edition of Raw. Shamrock was then shown beating down Gunn in consecutive weeks, and having agreed to a match for the Intercontinental title on this show here…

Ken Shamrock (C) defeated Billy Gunn to retain the Intercontinental Championship

Gunn cut a short promo before the match telling Shamrock to come down and get his… ass… kicked, and he had two words for him… you know the drill… It was quite the visual to see Shamrock with his tag team title belt, and of course the gold at stake in this match too… Always looked like more could’ve been done with the former UFC star in WWF… Gunn started as the aggressor, as the match was more of a fight that a wrestling match to begin with, it went fairly event until a big clothesline and the first nearfall of the match for Gunn. Mr Ass got another nearfall after a delayed vertical suplex, Billy then went into the ring post and Shamrock followed up with kicks to the… ass… Shamrock then slowed the pace of the match down with his kicks, with Gunn now down and on the backfoot. It was noted on commentary that Shamrock won the King Of The Ring the previous year, and was into month 3 as IC Champion. It really was a shame Shamrock never got to that next level in WWF, but with Rock, Austin, Mankind, Undertaker among those at the time battling for the top spots, you can understand why… Shamrock did get a nearfall after a spinning kick, and later Gunn slammed Shamrock and stood on the second rope before hitting him with 10 strikes to the face. Gunn then went over the top ropes to the outside after Shamrock moved and lowered the top rope. He followed up with knees to Gunn before launching him all over the place on the outside area. Eventually Shamrock really began to target the left leg of Gunn that he himself had injured on a previous Raw episode, and after a couple of tries at a front facelock, the two exchanged quick nearfalls before Shamrock invertedly hit the ref and caused him to go down. After this, with both Shamrock and Gunn down also, Val Venus (who too had been involved in ass-related beef with Shamrock’s sister) came down and hit Shamrock with a DDT, but as the ref was slow to recover himself, Billy Gunn could only get a 2 count off the resulting pin. Gunn then went up to the top, but came down having missed the axe handle and landed on his injured leg, Shamrock smelt blood and quickly applied the Ankle Lock submission and got the win with Gunn forced to tap. Shamrock retains in a solid match between two solid in-ring workers.

***1/4

Backstage we would see Shane McMahon and Gerald Brisco hyping up Mr McMahon before he faces off with Stone Cold Steve Austin in the Royal Rumble match later in the show.

X-Pac (C) defeated Gangrel to retain the European Championship

I feel like I don’t need to tell you how awesome Gangrel’s theme music is, if you a real one you already know. His opponent here was rather over with this crowd… The ref for this one was a certain Teddy Long, which was funny. This went just under 6 minutes and was fine whilst it lasted to be fair. Gangrel was the bigger and more powerful of the two and sued this to his advantage, but he could move too. X-Pac was his typical self with plenty of fast paced moves and kicks, on at least 3 occasions he hit great-looking spinning heel kicks.

Towards the end of the match X-Pac hit a Bronco Buster which the crowd popped for, and eventually he went up top and hit a crossbody, which resulted in a pin attempt, which (and they even showed a replay of this after the match to make it worse) the ref counted the 3, but then after signalled a 2… Naturally, the crowd made it clear that they “fucked up”… Gangrel hit a slam for a nearfall, and then not long after that X-Pac got the X-Factor for the 1, 2, 3. A fun match (I noted that there were no ring intros but Finkel did announce X-Pac as the winner at the end of the match… weird.

**3/4

Kevin Kelly interviewed DX (Road Dogg, Triple H, Chyna and X-Pac) backstage. Each of them spoke about wanting to win the Royal Rumble match and collect the $100,000 bounty from Mr McMahon for eliminating Steve Austin.

Shane McMahon came out to the ring. He introduced “the next WWF Women’s Champion”, Luna Vachon… or “the lovely Luna” according to Shane. Shane said that Sable had suffered a chronic back injury, as they showed footage from Sunday Night Heat of Luna attacking Sable. Shane wanted Sable to come out to forfeit her title. Sable did indeed come out, holding her injured back, and got into the ring and “ring the bell”, and so the match was indeed on!

Sable (C) defeated Luna Vachon in a Strap Match to retain the WWF Women’s Championship

Shane joined commentary as the ref attached the strap to both women. This was an old school strap match, in that the winner was the one to touch all four corner turnbuckles first. They exchanged slaps with the strap, Luna sold her ass off to make Sable to look good, Sable touched two corners before Luna got a shot in. Vachon choked Sable with the strap, (and I could definitely see Vachon check on Sable by tapping her back)… Luna hit two turnbuckles, before Sable swung her round via the strap.

Sable got a few shots in with the strap, then some kicks in the corner, Luna took charge and hit a backbreaker, Luna dragged Sable and touched 1 corner (but so did Sable), then the second it was the same, then the third they did it again (Luna touched it, then Sable did as Luna was dragging her away and as she was dragging her behind her back Luna wasn’t aware Sable was touching the corners as well. Finally Sable countered before Luna got her on the floor, and Shane then got onto the turnbuckle which diverted the ref’s attention (pretty dumb of Shane kayfabe wise given Luna was about to win, and surely they could of thought of a better way to create a distraction that actually made sense??? But whatever…)… Anyway, with the ref dealing with Shane that was when Nicole Bass (or at this point she was still referred to as being just a fan) clocked Luna from the apron before escaping through the crowd. That allowed Sable to touch the final corner turnbuckle for the win. Sable retains. This was so so dumb but a sign of the times, thankfully women’s WRESTLING is on another planet to this in 2023.

DUD

Big Boss Man was speaking with Test and Ken Shamrock backstage. Boss Man spoke to them about the Royal Rumble talking about the 100,000 and the title shot at stake… Remember those 3 individuals as this show goes on…

I’ve not watched this next match for a long, long time. For good reason, and nothing to do with who is in it, given they’re two of my all-time favourites… but… we will just get into it…

They showed a video before the match where Rock wanted a rematch for the title and Mankind kept saying no. So every time The Rock would try and sweeten the deal… No countouts, No DQs, No corporation interference, etc. Until finally it was agreed as an I Quit match. The idea was that Mankind has been through so much in his career, and he has never quit… And The Rock, as “great” as he is, simply couldn’t make him do so… so you knew where this one was going…

The Rock was interviewed by Doc Hendrix backstage, with The Rock saying all his usual catchphrases etc.

Mankind had also taken part in a ‘warm up match’ on Heat before this show against Mabel, where The Rock came in to help with a beating.

The Rock defeated Mankind (C) in an I Quit Match to win the WWF Championship

Mankind beat on The Rock early on, and Foley tried to speak into the mic but it wouldn’t work, Rock then returned fire with a punch, but Mankind soon took back charge. Mankind spoke into the mic and asked The Rock if he had something to tell the people, to which The Rock said “The Rock says you can kiss his ass”… Mankind cracked Rock over and over with the mic, as Rock said he’d ‘kick his fat ass’ but Mankind kept up the assault. As they brawled, Rock launched Mankind into the steps to turn the tide, Rock then put on a headset from commentary, as Mankind continued to dominate the match. Mankind gauged at The Rock’s face, and smashed him again over the head with the mic (Rock still trash talking as he was getting his ass beat). Back in the ring Mankind hit a ddt, then got out Mr Socko and used him, Rock seemed to be fading, but said into the mic… well, nothing. Mankind said he’d ‘split open that ridiculous eyebrow’. Mankind threw Rock into the crowd over the barrier and the chase was on, the fans swarmed Mankind, but as he then ran at The Rock, he was countered as Rock threw him with a slam over the barricade. Rock then threw Mankind’s head into the steps, then hit the ring bell with the hammer over Mankind’s head as he sang into the mic something along the lines of ‘that old Foley ringing’ (?), whatever it was it got a laugh from me as he did so again with the bell. Rock was in control now as they were on the Spanish announce table setting up for a Rock Bottom, but the table itself gave way. Rock told Foley to quit and called him a piece of monkey crap, and Mankind… well, he declined… Foley ran after Rock up the entrance way and laid him out with a strike, he threw punches to The Rock, and then after a headbutt Rock and Mankind were into what Michael Cole on commentary called ‘the technical area’, Mankind and Rock exchanged strikes before Rock hit a ddt and he again asked Mankind to quit, to which Mankind declined. Rock took in the crowd reaction and then went somewhere and came back with a ladder, but Mankind countered and Rock went down, Foley trapped Rock on the floor with the ladder, and went for a running elbow drop… only for The Rock to move and Mankind to taker the full force into the ladder. Mankind again declined an offer to quit, Rock had the ladder as he took in the crowd chanting “ROCKY SUCKS”, he then leant the ladder against the stage area and he climbed the ladder towards the fans as Mankind went after him, with both men on a ledge, Rock hit a few punches before Mankind responded with some of his own, and eventually Rock hit a low blow going over the barrier and hitting a big right hand, which sent Mankind falling off the ledge into a load of electrical equipment, and we got some pretty big sparks as a result. The lights in the arena went out to sell the fall, before a spotlight was shone on the action, as The Rock looked down at Mankind still wrapped in electrical wires, Shane McMahon came out as a few crew workers and officials tried to tidy up the mess and chaos caused, Shane wanted to end the match, but Rock slammed that idea saying “that son of a bitch will say I quit…”… As Mankind crawled, Rock grabbed him by the hair and talked some trash, he launched Mick Foley into the crowd barrier, and then into the barrier on the other side, Rock hit some strikes and then rolled Foley into the ring… The Rock then went and got some handcuffs and he put Foley in them, telling the ref Earl Hebner to shut up after he told him to ‘come on’. Rock treated Mankind like punching bag, with kicks and punches and then ramming his head into the turnbuckle a few times, before a low blow by Foley and some kicks, and then he bit The Rock (all with his hands in handcuffs by the way), and Foley followed all that with a knee drop low blow! Foley then wanted Rock to quit (Foley was busted open and you could see it coming through his Mankind mask), Rock hit a clothesline and then took control…

This is the part of the match where… well… look away now kids…

The Rock went outside the ring and got a steel chair… he placed it on Foley’s head and prepared for a ‘Corporate’ Elbow, which he hit. Mankind still didn’t Quit, and he told The Rock to go to hell. Rock said he may but his ‘candy ass’ would go first… and then he hit a horrendous chair shot to the head, then another immediately after, Foley wouldn’t quit, 3rd chair shot, 4th, 5th…

Foley went outside, then number 6, he again wouldn’t quit, 7,8, he didn’t quit, number 9, 10, Rock asked again, saying he guaran-damn-teed he was gonna make Mankind say I Quit, and with blood pouring from his head and him lying on the floor…

We did indeed hear Mankind’s voice say ‘I Quit’, but even if you didn’t know the story, it was very clear that wasn’t Mick Foley saying that live… Michael Cole on commentary sold it saying The Rock made him sick. The Rock wins the WWF Championship for the second time. Officials quickly tended to Mick Foley as Rock posed in the ring with the belt. The crowd was flat as a pancake after what they had just seen, which is amazing to say after THE ROCK had just won the title, but this… yeah this was not fun to watch at all. I’m sure it wasn’t for people in 1999, and it definitely isn’t all these years later. The Hell In A Cell with Mankind and Undertaker is maybe my favourite ever match, mainly because of what Mick Foley was willing to do to create moments to entertain and wow his audience. After the match then, Foley has told the story how Vince McMahon backstage told him after that Cell match ‘You have no idea how much it means to me what you did for this company tonight’, but Vince also told him ‘I never want to see you do something like that ever again’. My god I hope he had a good talk with both Foley and Rock after this match… Foley has also told the story of how for some time there was heat between he and The Rock after this match, with it felt liberties were taken with all those chair shots and the velocity… it’s also worth noting that Mick’s wife and kids were in the crowd for this show. Knowing what we know now in 2023 about things like CTE, there’s a lot of very good reasons we wont ever see anything like the end of this match ever ever again in WWE. Or so I hope. Rock posed with the belt over a fallen Foley, but really event to someone like me who is a HUGE fan of The Rock, it really wasn’t relevant at this point. Foley refused being put on the stretcher, he wanted to walk out on his own just like after that Undertaker Cell match.

My god I love Mick Foley. The fact he is able to go about life as he does still now is some blessing.

N/A (I just can’t give this one a star rating, I’m sorry)

The commentators and then a cool video package told us the story going into the Royal Rumble match, which of course was basically a different way to do Vince vs Austin. We then saw how on Heat before the ppv, Austin was denied entry via the VIP entrance, and so then went and got what was a monster truck and drove that through and then over the barrier and some cars. Once in the ring with Vince and the two stooges (Patterson and Briscoe), Vince gave Austin a slap before he escaped and Austin beat up poor Pat and Gerald.

Howard Finkel told us the rules for the upcoming rumble, not going to lie I love when the ring announcers do this. Proper cool tradition, but nobody did it like The Fink.

MR MCMAHON won the Royal Rumble Match

Austin entered number 1 to a typically huge pop. Vince was number 2, and he looked… typically (possibly not-naturally) jacked.

Austin quickly opens up that can of ‘whoop-ass’ on Vince, and the crowd lose their mind for all of it. He goes to eliminate McMahon, but decides against it and hits a clothesline. Number 3 enters and it’s Golga (?), Austin hits a Thezs Press to Vince, Golga comes in and hammers at Austin before he’s quickly eliminated. In this time McMahon goes under the bottom rope and escapes, Austin gives chase into the crowd, they go all the way up the stands and into the concourse area. All that happens as number 4 Droz enters, we see footage of Austin beating McMahon and that leads them into the women’s rest room, but it turns out it was all a trap. Austin is met in their by the likes of Test, Shamrock, Boss Man who all ambush Stone Cold. Meanwhile an LOD painted Droz is just stood waiting in the ring… Finally number 5 enters and it’s a young Edge, they have a fun exchange of offence until number 6 is… THE MAN CALLED… GILLBERG!!!

He lasts a total of six seconds (thanks to Edge) once he’s done with his… entrance… We see footage of Austin on the floor having been laid out by members of The Corporation. Number 7 is Steve Blackman, and he goes after Droz as we see Austin being tended to and put on a stretcher, Number 8 is Dan Severn (Austin is seen being carried through the concourse, outside past the fans and placed into an ambulance), 9 is Tiger Ali Singh (Austin’s ambulance drives away soon after this entrant comes out), and Number 10 is Blue Meanie. Number 11 is when the whole match takes a turn, as out comes… nobody… when we cut to Mosh being jumped backstage by Mabel, who then enters the Rumble in his place…

Mabel wastes little time and eliminates Severn, Blackman and Singh. Number 12 is Road Dogg as Mabel eliminates Droz and the Blue Meanie. Edge low blows Mabel before going at Road Dogg, but eventually Road Dogg eliminates Edge. Road Dogg and Mabel are then going at it before the lights all go out, when they come back on we see Bradshaw, Faarooq and Mideon have eliminated Mabel and are beating him up the entrance ramp. At the top of the ramp as his music is playing stands The Undertaker and Paul Bearer. Eventually Taker says some… stuff… to Mabel before his Ministry minions throw strikes at Mabel some more and they go to the back… Michael Cole alerts us all on commentary that there was talk of a ‘sacrifice’ being made at the Royal Rumble, and it appears The Ministry of Darkness have set their sights on Mabel (this is how he would transition into being called Viscera)… After all that… stuff… Road Dogg is still just chilling in the ring, until number 13 finally comes out after what felt like an age of waiting, and it’s Gangrel… and then after that wait he’s gone after 26 seconds… Number 14 is Kurrgan (?) and 15 was Al Snow…

47 seconds later, a “Head-less” Al Snow was eliminated by Road Dogg as the two tried to eliminate Kurrgan. 16 was Goldust, not much memorable happened and then out came number 17 The Godfather… with a couple of his… hoes… All 4 men in ring brawled some, before the lights went ahead of the arrival of number 18… KANE! He got a big reaction and came off as a huge star. Very quickly he got rid of everyone (Road Dogg, Kurrgan, Godfather and Goldust).

And that was when the ‘white coats’ all came out to try and take him ‘back to the insane asylum’… and as Kane was beating them all up chasing them off, he decided to ELIMINATE HIMSELF from the rumble by climbing over the top ropes and through the crowd (Yeah… this rumble was… erm… different…)… As the music for number 19 Ken Shamrock played “Hey look who’s here” and as Jerry Lawler cackled with delight, out to eventually join commentary was Mr McMahon… McMahon on commentary said that he had accomplished everything he wanted to, and that Stone Cold was taken away in an ambulance… and “he’s not, coming, back”… Next was number 20 Billy Gunn, and after the match earlier in the show with Shamrock he was limping down to the ring with one shoe on, Shamrock went at the ankle right away, but Gunn somehow managed to hit a slam. Gunn failed to eliminate Shamrock, and then again the ankle was targeted at.

Number 21 was Test, after he entered we saw Mabel getting beaten and loaded into a Hurst by The Acolytes and Mideon, and as this was happening… we heard a siren… and then we saw an ambulance… and you know where this is going… Naturally the crowd absolutely erupts as Austin drives the ambulance right into the arena before making a beeline for the action! McMahon sold it so well on commentary too as did Michael Cole and Lawler. Number 22 was Boss Man, as Austin made his way towards Vince, the chase was on, and Vince escaped as Austin ran into Shamrock, who was quickly despatched… Big Boss Man beat on Austin, trying to choke him out with some form of rope, Austin soon turned the tables… Number 23 was Triple H who got a big pop to the DX music (he was still a few months shy of superstardom really), Vince on commentary sounded increasingly desperate for Austin to be eliminated and happy to pay the $100,000 bounty to someone. Number 24 was Val Venus… Billy Gunn was thrown out by Austin, Number 25 came out as X-Pac, Val Venus came off the top with an axe handle to Austin, and then tried to choke him with his foot, as X-Pac and Test and HHH and Boss Man each battled, Val did force Austin out via underneath the bottom rope (which commentary stressed meant he was NOT eliminated, as did Vince even in kayfabe which was funny to me…). Being on the outside did though give Austin a chance to come off the top himself to down Venus, X-Pac soon after got a spinning heel kick in to down Austin as Mark Henry entered number 26. Number 27 was Jeff Jarrett, he got a big pop which I’m going to presume was as much for Debra who came out with him… well the crowd booed a little when she walked back through the entrance way and to the back… The match was kind of just going along at this point with no eliminations for a little while, Number 28 was D-Lo Brown, Austin threw out Test and soon after Boss Man threw out X-Pac. McMahon was now even more desperate-sounding on commentary, and soon after Jarrett and Boss Man combined to beat up Austin, Number 29 was Owen Hart and he came out just after his tag partner Jarrett was eliminated by Triple H. Soon after Stone Cold made his way out of the ring under the bottom ropes again, he went over to commentary and took a sip from a water jug (I think) and then proceeded to throw the jug and the rest of the water AT VINCE! Which, well was silly given he could’ve just beat him up surely? Ah well… wrestling should be fun I guess… Vince looked livid after so he sold it well.

Anyway… Number 30 was of course the winner of the Corporate Battle Royal to earn the spot of last to enter… CHYNA! She got a massive pop, maybe only Austin got a bigger one I think? She blasted at Mark Henry a few times in the corner, and soon after she threw him out… but just as quickly Stone Cold eliminated Chyna! Triple H naturally went mad at Austin after this, and after an exchange between those two it was Vel Venus who went at Triple H, which eventually led to HHH throwing him out. A stunner was soon followed by Austin eliminating Triple H, and we were left with Owen Hart, Boss Man, D-Lo and Austin… and… Vince… It felt as if the match was kind of plodding along a little here, as it was blatantly obvious it was ALL about Austin given who else was left… and soon enough Austin eliminated Owen Hart from the match. Boss Man beat up Austin, and then D-Lo hit his big splash, but Boss Man then threw D-Lo out. Austin came back up to hit a stunner to Boss Man and then eliminated him from the match. With the crowd in an absolute frenzy, Austin set his sights on Vince, who could run no more. The Rumble would finish as it began, with McMahon and Stone Cold. Austin laid the beating on a helpless Vince (I didn’t need to see ANOTHER chair shot by the way on this show), eventually dragging him into the ring. Austin looked down upon his prey, but Vince hit a big low blow… it didn’t help for too long though, only delaying the inevitable and soon Mr McMahon was on the receiving end of a Stunner… and with it all set up for the biggest of crowd pleasing moments, that was when the newly crowned champion of the World Wrestling Federation made his way out…

As you all reading this know by now, as Austin and The Rock went at it verbally, it was enough of a distraction for Vince to do his thing and ‘eliminate’ his sworn enemy… and yes indeed… the winner of the 1999 Royal Rumble match was MR MCMAHON himself!

Shane and the stooges came out to celebrate after as Rock and Austin brawled to the back, with Shane proudly proclaiming that his father was “GOING TO WRESTLEMANIA!”… As Rumble matches go this has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, watching it back now and going through it as I have done it doesn’t really measure as a wrestling match, more a collection of short stories with the one underlining story threading the whole match together throughout. But naturally this kind of summed up this time period quite well in that everything, and rightfully so but EVERYTHING, was secondary to Austin vs Vince. If you like fun and silly, this was the Rumble match for you.

***

I think this show was a pretty decent summary of this whole time period in WWF; not all that much wrestling, but lots of angles and… stuff… happening. The crowd seemed to be quite into most of it mind, they popped for the big moments anyway, although I don’t know how I feel about the 1A and 1B heels in the company winning the semi and main event, with the top two babyfaces on the receiving end, but nonetheless the ends (basically the WrestleMania main event of ’99) justified the means in this show. And sure the chair shots to Mankind and MC MCMAHON having a rumble win on his CV, when the likes of Jericho, Punk and Daniel Bryan haven’t is beyond a travesty. It was beyond a joke how much of a MEGAstar Austin was in this time, and he had the absolute perfect foils to help give him that spotlight. I can’t say I fully enjoyed the entirety of this whole show, but if you need an nostalgia fix from the attitude era, you can’t get a better summary of that era that the 1999 Royal Rumble PPV.

Josh.

fantasy RE-booking: The Fiend

Bray Wyatt is widely known as one of the most creative minds in all of wrestling. A man who could turn wrestling lemons into the sweetest of lemonade… or he could if he’s allowed to. Others argue that his storylines and promos and gimmicks drag on and border on the ridiculous. In April of 2019, just after WrestleMania 35 the first vignettes appeared that would eventually lead up to the creation of the latest Bray Wyatt gimmick, The Fiend. Visually one of the most awe-inspiring beings we have ever seen in wrestling, one that people all over the world would be terrified, excited or even intrigued enough by to want to see what they are going to do… and what did WWE do with this potential GOLD MINE? For me, and in the eyes of most, they absolutely FLOPPED it and in turn washed buckets and BUCKETS of money down the drain… So… Me, whom as many will know is someone for who Bray Wyatt is my favourite modern day wrestler and character, is now going to say how I would’ve done it… So from the off let me tell you the main headlines: there IS NOT going to be a Fiend world title reign of any kind, there IS NOT going to be any BS hell in a cell match with a dumbass finish, and I’m NOT going to bury him at WrestleMania, gift wrap the gimmick and give it to Alexa Bliss and then fire him… So without anymore talking about it… here is my go at booking of the entire run of THE FIEND!

Before I begin with how I would’ve had things go for The Fiend, let me recap how it really went down…

After months of unique and quite captivating vignettes emanating from the ‘Firefly Fun House’, Bray Wyatt brought The Fiend to Monday Night Raw and set his sights on Finn Balor. An attack to a huge reaction led the groundwork for a showdown at SummerSlam. The Fiend and his spellbinding entrance quickly took Balor apart, and the squash win would be followed up with attacks on a variety of WWE legends from Mick Foley to Kurt Angle. Rumours then began to do the rounds that The Fiend would challenge the Universal Champion for the title at the upcoming Hell In A Cell PPV. A rumour which Bray would actually address on the air during a trip to the Fun House… And so, immediately after Seth Rollins retained the Universal Championship in his match with Braun Strowman, The Fiend struck… and the pathway and career trajectory of The Fiend was about to turn south…

I feel as if I could well self-combust if I go into detail about THAT Hell In A Cell match between the then Universal Champion and our blog topic here, but I guess the one thing WWE did right was immediately after realise they fucked up, and the Universal Title was quickly won (for real this time) by The Fiend at the very next opportunity… And just to reassure everyone we weren’t going to have another abomination of a finish, they also announced that the Falls Count Anywhere match ‘Can’t be stopped for any reason’… whatever that means in WWE… but the end result or yet another match in the all red lighting which became a theme of Fiend matches from the Cell match onwards for some time… was…

The Fiend was the champion. Did the character need it? Absolutely not… but I’ll come on to that later… Upon being Champion, three quite significant events took place in a relatively short space of time… For one reason or another (one possibly being that Paul Heyman was head guy at the time for Raw, and so his on-screen client Brock Lesnar was moved over to Raw, as was his WWE Championship) The Fiend AND The Universal Championship moved to the blue brand of SmackDown. And so a blue brand meant… we needed a BLUE belt… because, of course we did… The first man to step up and challenge for the BLUE belt would be a rejuvenated Daniel Bryan, who was beginning to slowly step away from his heel run and back into the beloved fighting babyface that made him the fan favourite he still is today. He wasn’t quite there yet, but it was still enough for Bryan vs The Fiend to be far and away the best feud this gimmick of Wyatt had by a country MILE… Beginning with a banger match that despite the red lighting, Bryan still proved how amazing he is and carried The Fiend to a very good match in doing the job but making the match great. To distinguish the difference between The Fiend and Bray Wyatt, WWE decided that each of these incarnations would get their own representation of the Universal Championship. And so one of the most derived title belts in recent memory was born… With The Fiend having retained the title at Survivor Series, Daniel Bryan wanted another shot, but before that we had one of the more chilling segments of the character’s whole run. If The Fiend is supposed to be a monster, this was quite the horror movie-esque scene…

But with Daniel Bryan… missing (?), the focus of Bray Wyatt switched over to… The Miz (??), who it appeared had developed a form of respect for his once bitter rival in Bryan, and had become irked at the actions of Wyatt whilst putting together the pieces that anyone who encountered The Fiend was.. changed by him… From here the two would feud to the point of one rather sinister segment involving not only Miz & Maryse’s home, but their CHILD…

In what was quite the… odd… occasion, the funhouse version of Bray Wyatt would defend the Blue Universal title against The Miz at the TLC PPV… But it was the afters of the match that was far more noteworthy, as a newly buzzcut-sporting Daniel Bryan returned to even the score. This led to a rematch between Bryan and The Fiend at the Royal Rumble PPV in a Strap match, but before the show the match would be made official in another horror-movie like scene from WWE’s reigning monster… signing the contract for their match in his own BLOOD… Then somehow, as if his genius as a professional wrestler could ever be disputed before, but Daniel Bryan not only got a pretty great match out of THE FIEND, but he did so in a STRAP MATCH (A sometimes quite limiting stipulation). Nonetheless it was The Fiend who walked out with the title still in his keeping… for now…

And so we move onto another part of this story I don’t really want to spend to much time on (PTSD as a Bray Wyatt fan is a REAL thing), but… well yeah this happened…

But off the back of that monstrosity, we at least got the only thing that made it mildly acceptable…

Of course, it wouldn’t be the spectacle we all thought it would be. But in the most unique of WrestleMania shows, we got the most unique ‘match’ we may of ever seen, and for me, this will be my main memory of the run of The Fiend. A lot of it was less than satisfactory, but this, this was a masterpiece. And then for me, you can kind of split the run of The Fiend in two parts, before and after the funhouse match. The Fiend is a gimmick all based on the spectacle, with no fans (as with a lot of WWE’s booking during this darkest of eras) the run and booking of Bray Wyatt and The Fiend… was… well… there’s a reason I’m doing this blog right?… Having not been seen since WrestleMania, Bray returned and set his sights on the then Universal Champion, and his former Wyatt Family ally, Braun Strowman. At the Money In The Bank ppv, Bray Wyatt was beaten by Strowman, fairly comfortably… And so, as is always the case, Bray went for the mental having lost out in the ring… And he would bring back a ghost to haunt the Universal Champion…

This would eventually take us to The Horror Show (wasn’t it just…) at Extreme Rules ppv, where Wyatt would invite Strowman to face him in a Wyatt Swamp Fight, which was… something… but it was Wyatt and The Fiend who emerged victorious. From there the feud got ever more personal, and again we had another turning point (for better or worse) in the run of The Fiend…

The Fiend chose to not attack Braun’s body, but his heart. And so set his sights on Alexa Bliss. Strowman, not wanting to show weakness, literally threw Bliss aside so as to remain the impenetrable monster. And so the pathway was set for a forbidden battle between the two at SummerSlam, where… you’d never see it coming…

Although The Fiend would win back the Universal title, he would lose it within a week to the returning Roman Reigns, even without taking the pin in a three way with Strowman. This would be followed by a brief feud with Kevin Owens, and the confirmation of the forbidden dark partnership with Alexa Bliss. Soon after the two would move over to Monday Night Raw. And not long after that, the beginning of the end…

And of course, soon after at the TLC ppv, Orton would set The Fiend on FIRE… and that was that for The Fiend in physical form for a while. With Bliss carrying on the feud with Orton on his behalf, The Fiend would return at Fastlane to set up a rematch for WrestleMania. Which Orton won, in bizarre circumstances as The Fiend dominated the match after a spectacular entrance, and then was distracted by the sight of Bliss.

One RKO later and that was the match won for Orton. And then after a stare-down between Bliss and The Fiend, the two vanished. And that was that. They each had promos on Raw the next night, Bliss went on with her dark-fiend run, and Bray went away and then got fired a few months later…

You will note I’ve kind of been abrupt in how I ended my recap. Well that was by design, because that was one of the many issues I have with The Fiend’s run. Aside from Bliss saying (basically) I have the power now and I used The Fiend, and Bray saying he was all good and going to be fine, that was it. Bray got fired and we got nothing to follow it with (for the time being anyway, as I type this we’re still in the early days of the likely Wyatt-Bliss reunion)… But as you have just read, The Fiend definitely had it’s ups and downs… so now… LET ME IN to the booking room and let me re-book the whole entire run of THE FIEND!


So, I think people look back at The Fiend as if it was all a total disaster. In fact, it definitely was not. Some of it in fact, was exceptional. So much so, I would not change a single thing about everything that happened from the very first teaser vignette the day after WrestleMania 35, up until and including the Finn Balor match at SummerSlam. What a perfect way to get over a new gimmick and character.

After this, again I wouldn’t change all that much… The Fiend would sporadically attack various legends, but the order would be crucial. Firstly would be the attack on Mick Foley, where The Fiend would also hit Foley with the Mandible Claw, thus taking the move from him. Next would be Kurt Angle, then Jerry Lawler, and then The Fiend would target Kane. Only this time it would lead the a short feud between the two. My basic idea for my booking of The Fiend is that he would be here to target people who had previously wronged Bray Wyatt. If The Fiend is a manifestation from the darkest side of Bray Wyatt, surely then he should seek revenge on Bray Wyatt’s enemies right? Bray had a feud with Balor, and also his debut main roster feud and match was with Kane. So, here we go again…

Kane would face The Fiend at the Clash Of Champions PPV. No shitty red lighting, Just two monsters in a match. But for that this doesn’t matter. The Fiend would win here in fairly comfortable fashion, make it similar to the Balor match at SummerSlam in that sense. 2 matches, 2 big names fallen to The Fiend. Seth would defend his title against Braun, just as he did at the show, and we would have the same finish with Rollins getting the win. But this time after Rollins celebrates, Strowman is in the ring and slowly gets to his feet, standing ovation from the crowd, and as he’s taking in the adulation, that’s when The Fiend attacks Strowman. Having heroically come up short in his match for the Universal title, Clash of Champions goes off the air with The Fiend standing tall over the fallen Monster Among Men.

I would then have The Fiend and Braun go into a feud. The Fiend would beat Strowman in a regular singles match at the Hell In A Cell PPV, and he would win, but with Braun giving The Fiend more of a match than either Kane or Balor did before him. After this, there would be a rematch at the Crown Jewel PPV soon after. This time it would be some form of wacky gimmick match, maybe a falls count anywhere or last man standing maybe? But again The Fiend would win in a war. Again we continue to give The Fiend big match wins over well established names, whilst also protecting his gimmick by keeping the matches either one-sided, short or gimmick matches. I would also keep up with the FireFly Fun House segments every now and then, those were always great fun I felt, and really helped the feuds that The Fiend/Wyatt were in.

Then, as he did so in real life, The Fiend would move over to a new home…

Immediately after moving over to the blue brand, The Fiend would quickly be met by one of Bray Wyatt’s biggest enemies. In fact, Probably the opponent that gave Bray Wyatt (and The Fiend as it turned out) his best matches…

Given he was still in his tweener phase at this time, I feel it would make most sense to back up his persona, if The Fiend made his big entrance, and then it was that Daniel Bryan would come down and make the challenge. And then as it was, Survivor Series and these two would have an absolute banger. The story being Bryan almost giving in and turning back to the light side, inspired by the Yes chants of the crowd, but ultimately coming up short against the monster. After this I would do the same sort of thing they did in real life, with Bryan cutting a passionate promo on the next SmackDown and wanting a shot at The Fiend once again… and just as in real life I would have The Fiend ‘drag him to hell’, whilst also tearing off his own keep sake…

In that go-between period, the one where Bray Wyatt had a pretty underwhelming feud with The Miz, I would have The Fiend take on Kofi Kingston instead. This would both go along with the theme of The Fiend facing past opponents of Bray Wyatt (The Wyatt Family and The New Day feuded in the past), but also it would give Kingston a big time feud in the immediate aftermath of his tragic WWE Title loss to Brock Lesnar. Kingston would lose again to The Fiend, but I’d be sure to give him plenty of hope spots in the match, similar to that of Bryan in the Survivor Series match. In another slight difference to what actually happened, instead of Bryan making his return after Wyatt’s match at the TLC PPV, I would save that for the next SmackDown.

During the New Day/Wyatt Family feud, it was a theme that Xavier Woods was scared of their opponents and their crepiness. And so here, as Woods was out injured at this time, I would have Kingston come out on the SmackDown after TLC, cutting a typically good babyface promo about how he was down on his luck but would soon turn it around. Then I would have his New Day teammates Big E, and a returning Woods try to motivate Kingston. And just as things looked to be on a positive again, that’s when I’d have The Fiend come out. I would have him take down Kingston, and then really go at Big E. Maybe have The Fiend put him through a table, then the announce table, have E thrown off the stage area maybe? Something that would explain Big E being out for some period of time… and then with Kingston and Big E disposed of, The Fiend would turn back to Xavier Woods. The still injured Woods, all alone and in a no-win situation… and that is when I would have Bryan make his return, buzz-cut and all, to set the scene for their rematch.

Again I would keep the second Bryan vs Fiend match the exact same as in real life, the one alteration of course being it wasn’t for the Universal Championship…

The best match The Fiend ever had. So why change it?

Next up… well, if I’m unsure about any of my RE-booking of The Fiend, it’s this next bit.

I’ll keep it short, but instead of Goldberg vs The Fiend at Super ShowDown… I’m going to do The Fiend, vs the one opponent I always wanted for The Fiend, but didn’t get.

I’m not sure I would do a proper match, but in some way, shape or form, I would do The Fiend vs The Undertaker. I feel like you need to make Taker vulnerable going into his feud with AJ Styles, if we are indeed stripping back The Undertaker gimmick on the way out. And on the other side, given what The Fiend is going to do at WrestleMania, I think getting the better of The Undertaker is the perfect Segway into that… You could set all this up with Funhouse segments, and maybe have one face to face of The Fiend and The Undertaker on the final US SmackDown show before the PPV, just to give fans that visual. Challenge accepted, and maybe a few if any words would be needed at that point. But of course The Fiend would win, and then he moves on and then after AJ Styles and co capitalise on a weakened Phenom leading to their own Mania match.

As for WrestleMania, keep it all the same once again. John Cena. Funhouse match. Keep all the segments they did and Cena’s “shoot” promos and stuff, because I FUCKING LOVED the build to their match, I thought it was some of Cena’s best WWE work for years. And it righted many of the wrongs from the previous John Cena/Bray Wyatt feud.

Coming out of WrestleMania, this is when I would revisit the feud with Big E. I’d have him return to confront The Fiend, get him all fired up, and like nobody before him, really step up and bring the fight. The ensuing feud I would have get really, really personal. I’d go as far as you could in all aspects, have Wyatt mention E’s failure to get into the NFL maybe? Bring Kaitlyn up even? Dolph Ziggler? The 5 count? Whatever, but really have The Fiend/Bray get into Big E’s head. In the absence of fans and a live crowd, you need to find new ways to make things interesting in my opinion. I would do one match with BRAY WYATT and Big E at Money In The Bank, where I would have Big E be so aggressive and unlike his usual happy-go-lucky self, that he actually gets DQ’d. And then for their return match I would do a version of the Wyatt Swamp Fight they did with Wyatt and Braun, only…well I’d do a better one… and Wyatt would emerge as the victor.

After the Big E feud was done, I would have a Firefly Funhouse segment that ends with Wyatt saying “People may think that a story is over. But it is only over, once he says it is…”…

And from there, I would go into a feud with Braun Strowman once again. But with a few differences to their actual 2021 feud. No Universal title for Strowman at this time, and instead we have Braun appearing on a Moment Of Bliss with his good friend Alexa. She would be asking him about what was next after he lost his Universal Championship (he could win it at Mania maybe, but he wouldn’t be champion by the time this feud began either way…). And here I would have the lights go down, The Fiend take down Braun, leaving Bliss on her own…

I’d kind of do what they did here, with Braun trying to shun Bliss in order to both protect her from The Fiend, but also to show he had no weak spot. Only I would have Alexa resent Braun for this, she had done nothing wrong really other than be Braun’s friend. But The Fiend, as he does with so many… changes people… as he would do with Bliss here too…

So The Fiend vs Braun Strowman at MY SummerSlam wouldn’t be for the Universal title and wouldn’t go on last and wouldn’t be a fucking nuts street fight. But it would have a shocking aftermath… The Fiend would still win, but it’s here I would begin the Bliss-Fiend alliance, with Alexa showing up and instead of comforting a beaten Strowman, she would instead stand side by side with The Fiend.

At Payback, Braun vs Fiend again. Fiend wins again, and now the real darker version of Alexa Bliss that we came to know would really come to be. Maybe even have Braun vs Fiend at Payback be another Funhouse match? But as long as you had Fiend win, and Dark Bliss show up, that’s all good with me.

In the autumn and early winter time, I would just have the budding partnership of Bliss and Fiend cause utter carnage. Just have them beat up and batter everyone they can, chaos on every show everywhere they go. The Fiend wouldn’t wrestle, and if Bliss did it would only be infrequently. We can have the odd Funhouse segment where we see the OTT-happy alter-ego’s tell us all that everything is great.

On the other hand, The Fiend and Bliss would destroy everyone that got in their way. And once SmackDown had had enough, The Fiend and Alexa Bliss would indeed, as was really the case, be drafted over to Monday Night Raw.

OK so… I’m going to keep it. I’m going to have Fiend and Bliss go after Randy Orton once they get to Raw.

Orton would of lost the WWE title back to Drew McIntyre by the time we get to the TLC 2020 PPV. And yes, Please forgive me, but I’m going to keep the whole ‘The Fiend gets BURNED ALIVE’ thing. I actually thought it was quite cool, I just think the return wasn’t handled or concluded properly, and it’s that aspect which makes people look back at this whole thing in not a good way.

Naturally, Alexa Bliss in the weeks after this would be crushed. Totally and utterly lost of purpose and direction. Without her guiding… monster… Bliss has nobody to follow and nobody to share her passion for destruction with. but as she did in real life, she soon starts getting a little more cheerful. I would totally alter the segments themselves in this time, because some of this stuff was so goofy and just bullshit. Her tongue getting really long? Yeah we don’t need that. Just have Bliss cut backstage promos, have the scary music they used in the early Bray Wyatt teaser vignettes after Mania 35, maybe have her wondering around the Funhouse, where she speaks to the various characters and they too are all upset. I think I would come up with a way to have one of the puppets give Bliss the word that… HE… was coming back. But also I would make it clear that Orton was the target… And then over time, start having the puppets, and Bliss herself start haunting Orton. Backstage they show up where he does, when Randy is wrestling they can appear at ringside, and then Bliss herself can start showing up and cutting ominous promos, warning Randy of the impending doom. At Fastlane, where they in real time did Orton vs Bliss, I think I would either do Orton vs somebody else, or just do something where Orton is going to confront Bliss. But the conclusion would be the same…

Going in to WrestleMania season, I would have this dark, Fiend-led version of Alexa Bliss become the number 1 contender for the Raw Women’s Championship. Whilst I would also have The Fiend and Orton build for their WrestleMania match be somewhat the same as it was.

So at the showcase of the Immortals, night 1 Alexa Bliss (with The Fiend by her side), has a mega entrance. All the lights and showmanship that The Fiend entrance had, and the theme of the match is that the champion Asuka is distracted and pretty much terrified by the presence by The Fiend. This would lead to Bliss winning the title, and the first half of this evil duo’s plans to dominate WWE is complete.

Night 2 begins as we did in reality as well. The Fiend, and his jack-in-the-box entrance, against Randy Orton. But guess what? THE FIEND ACTUALLY WINS! The Fiend and Alexa Bliss, still together, and collecting Ws.

Coming off the back of WrestleMania, I would have Alexa retain the Raw Women’s Championship in a 4 way with Rhea Ripley, Charlotte Flair and former champion Asuka (similar to the 3 way they actually did) at WrestleMania Backlash. Meanwhile, with The Fiend having taken down everyone in his sights there was just one thing left. Gold… I would have Bray Wyatt do a Funhouse segment where he teases going after the WWE Championship. I’d then have Bliss do her thing as Raw Women’s Champion, The Fiend making appearances with her every now and then… before we go to the Hell In A Cell PPV where Bobby Lashley would retain against Drew McIntyre. And then as The Almighty is celebrating in the ring…

I would make sure in the build up to this match, that Bobby and The Fiend didn’t once touch. These are two seemingly-unbeatable monsters. You want to build this up as a true clash of titans, sure you can have Lashley cut all the fiery promos you want, maybe have him demolish a few people in singles matches in the lead-up, and have Bray and Alexa do their thing in the Funhouse to try and get inside his head… But by the time we get to Money In The Bank, and we have The Fiend vs Bobby Lashley for the WWE title, I want this to be a match people just can’t wait to see!

I’m not quite sure what, but I would have this just be so chaotic that we do a non-finish. If both men come flying off the stage area, or they brawl and get counted out and just don’t stop fighting, or even if you do some weird gimmick with the lights and the spooky stuff The Fiend was known for (I’d try and avoid this if needs be). But somehow we would come out of this match with The Fiend having not been beaten, but Bobby Lashley still as WWE Champion. But one element I would like to add to this, which is CRUCIAL for this and the rest of the story of how I would rebook The Fiend, and is ultimately what would prove to be The Fiend’s downfall. As it was in real life, but this way I think it would be explained and justified in a much better way.

After the match between The Fiend and Lashley, Bobby’s manager MVP would confront Bliss, furious at what had unfolded. Bliss would do a demonic and crazed laugh, but MVP would tell her in no uncertain terms that he and Bobby Lashley would do ANYTHING to keep the WWE Championship. And so over the next few weeks, Lashley and MVP start to focus more on Bliss, noticing that The Fiend can’t go after Lashley and the title to full effect whilst he is thinking of Bliss. And so MVP and Lashley “hire” Charlotte Flair to take out Alexa Bliss. Over the next few Raws we see The Fiend getting the better of MVP and Lashley, before the titantron shows Charlotte attacking Bliss, thus distracting The Fiend and allowing Lashley to hit a spear and really put a beating on The Fiend. For the first time The Fiend has been gotten the better of. The week after the tables are turned, this time Bliss is in action (not accompanied by The Fiend) and when asked earlier in the show about him during a backstage interview, she had no answer. Bliss wins her singles match, with Charlotte on commentary, but after the titantron shows MVP and Lashley in the FireFly Funhouse, tearing it all to pieces, and once Bray Wyatt appears, Lashley and MVP make their exit. Wyatt and Bliss appear on the go home Raw inside the Funhouse and both seem very down, we can see the funhouse is ripped apart, and the puppets appear torn apart also. But only one remains… Rambling Rabbit. He is the one who reminds Wyatt and Bliss who they are, and if they need a friend, they know who to count on… both have smirks on their faces, ominous music plays, before they both transform into their darker personas, Dark Alexa and The Fiend.

But SummerSlam comes around, and Charlotte Flair beats Alexa Bliss to win the Raw Women’s Championship.

And…

BOBBY LASHLEY BEATS THE FIEND TO RETAIN THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP! Why not give The Fiend rub to someone who could do with it? Not Roman Reigns or a Brock Lesnar type, but if you keep someone unbeaten for TWO YEARS, the guy who beats him and the place it happens is going to be such a huge occasion. And also if Big E is to beat Lashley for the title with the cash in some months after, it makes that win even bigger, given Lashley was also the one to beat The Fiend.

After this, I would have Alexa Bliss not appear for some time. I know she did take a break from WWE TV for some time and I think it was after the Extreme Rules PPV that was later in this year, so maybe you could have the Charlotte match they did at that show, and then she goes away for a while and we go from there. But Bliss will go in somewhat of a downward spiral because she feels abandoned, and that all hope has gone and she has now direction or nowhere to turn. And I’d have this the case because…

I would have Bray appear on the Raw after SummerSlam, and I would make this Funhouse segment very similar to that of the Raw after Mania this same year. Only it wouldn’t be about how Bliss had turned his back on him, but more how all good things must come to an end. I don’t feel you need to do a dramatic split, because that would make it more viable for them to do something like what is happening on WWE TV today where they continue to tease a reunion. By leaving things open ended between the two, you leave open the possibility they could one day reunite.

(so imagine similar to this, but more about how The Fiend is gone and he lost, and that him and Bliss need to go their own way now, as opposed to Bliss turning his back on him)

And that would be that. That’s how I would of done the run of The Fiend. This way I feel is… well… much better than they really did. This way The Fiend would be remembered as a monster who took apart everyone in his path, and even when people got the better of him (with Orton) he came back and ended things on top, before he moved on to the next victim. And then once he lost, he was gone. Because for me, The Fiend simply can’t lose. If he loses he loses that aura. And the one time he did lose to Orton he had to be BURNT ALIVE… And even then he came back! And also no need to put a world title on him at any point, my word if any gimmick doesn’t need a world title its The Fiend.

So I hope you all liked this. I will possibly look at doing more of these, I have a few ideas, but any feedback (or suggestions for other subjects) would be much appreciated. I absolutely love The Fiend, and I hope I did it justice.

Josh.

22 Feel Good Wrestling Moments of 2022

Well one word you could use to describe professional wrestling in the year of 2022 is… eventful… And with that sadly there has been A LOT of stuff that I don’t really want to go into detail about. But it certainly hasn’t been all bad, indeed quite a lot of wholesome and generally quite cool stuff has happened too. So to cap off the year, I present to you 22 moments from 2022 that really were feel-good. Moments for us all to look back upon and smile. So sit back, grab a drink, and enjoy a chronological look back at the year that was… and what a year it was too!!!


WHAT A KNOCKOUT – Impact Knockouts World Champion Mickie James enters the Royal Rumble Match

It’s not out of the realm of possibility for something like this to happen at the 2023 Royal Rumble, but for a Vince McMahon led WWE to have the champion of another American wrestling promotion appear at one of the WWEs top shows, in a featured spot, wearing that promotions championship, with their own theme music, and to be openly referred to on commentary as such, and for that wrestler to talk about said appearance in the weeks leading up on the other company’s TV show, and for WWE to do the same… This really was ground-breaking stuff. What a moment this was for a woman who I don’t think is too far away at all from being a WWE Hall of Famer.

BUSINESS PICKS UP – Samoa Joe returns at ROH Supercard of Honor

For weeks, Tony Khan had been telling us all not to either leave or switch off from ROH’s WrestleMania weekend show. Despite the NXT show taking place not long or too far away after, those of us who stuck around to see the conclusion of the first ROH show under AEW rule were not disappointed. After Jay Lethal tried to ruin the celebrations of the new Undisputed ROH Champion, he was confronted by his former mentor, and newly inducted member of the Ring Of Honor hall of fame. And given it was a new entrance theme, none of us knew who it was until we physically saw him, and my god what a pop he got!

The Prodigal Son – Cody Rhodes returns to WWE at WrestleMania

Another of those amazing moments that you will remember where you were when you saw it. One of those we all knew was coming, but didn’t really want to believe it cause it seemed too good to be true. For weeks Seth Rollins on WWE TV had been trying to get a spot on the WrestleMania card, and went to all sorts of lengths to do so… before eventually an on air segment saw Mr McMahon tell Seth he had a match, against an opponent he wouldn’t know of until he was in the ring… And just as all this was going on… one of the co-founders of AEW was leaving. Again for different reasons we all couldn’t quite believe it… But in the end it did indeed happen. And as someone who loves AEW, WWE and Cody Rhodes my overriding emotion was I was pleased for him. Pleased he got back to where he wanted, and that he finally got HIS WrestleMania moment.

OH HELL YEAH! – Stone Cold Steve Austin returns to fight Kevin Owens at WrestleMania

I couldn’t not include this really could I? Seeing Stone Cold Steve Austin get to have one last hurrah, and him do it with Kevin Owens, and in the main event of WrestleMania, in Texas, and it to of been a heck of a scrap… it was just about as feel-good as you could get.

The Bron and the brains – Bron Breakker wins the NXT Championship on the Raw after Mania

Say what you want about the 2.0 era of NXT, but I truly believe it’s one last legacy will be this man. He’s got the lot, natural ability, strong character, and time on his side to get better and better. And to see him win back the title he has pretty much owned in recent times, on the biggest Raw of the year, was a heck of a moment!

Best In The World – FTR beat the Young Bucks on AEW Dynamite

Wasn’t quite sure what FTR moment to initially go for, but I’ve gone with this. Beating The Bucks, just days after beating The Briscoes, is some going. A phenomenal 2022 for Dax and Cash, full of titles and great matches and moments, but this one for me was the peak, it was at this moment for me that FTR truly felt like the very best tag team in the world.

AEW makes it Rain – Kazuchika Okada appears on Dynamite

There were rumours that this wasn’t going to happen, but for me the joint AEW-New Japan show just had to have him on the card. The go-home Dynamite for Forbidden Door featured a whole host of surprises ahead of the PPV, topped off by The Rainmaker FINALLY appearing on an All Elite Wrestling programme. “Nobody better in the world than Kazuchika Okada”, the great Jim Ross proclaimed. And if that wasn’t enough, just LISTEN to that POP!

Shibata pops his AEW… Orange… – Katsuyori Shibata appears at AEW/NJPW Forbidden Door

A legend of the game who’s career was seemingly cut short by a horrific injury, but somehow the legendary Shibata has found a way to return. And so on a night of dream matches and moments, we got another when Orange Cassidy was in need of a helping hand after his excellent match with the United Empire’s Will Ospreay.

The Swiss Roll’s into AEW – Claudio Castagnoli is ZSJ’s mystery opponent at AEW/NJPW Forbidden Door

Man this made me SO happy!!! Seeing Claudio, by far the most underrated wrestler in recent WWE history, get this sort of welcome into his new home was so awesome to see. And since then he hasn’t really looked back, and as I write this he’s currently in his second run as ROH Champion. What a wrestler, what a talent, and what a moment this was!

Time to LIV – Liv Morgan successfully cashes in to become the new SmackDown Women’s Champion

Another moment that felt like it was a long time coming for an underutilised talent! Liv Morgan has absolutely busted her ass last couple of years, and so her finally getting her time, for it to come the same night she won the briefcase, and for her to do it against a name like Ronda… magic.

Like father, like son – HOOK wins the FTW Championship

When I thought about putting this list together, this moment immediately came to mind. Such an amazing moment for so many reasons, and I’m sure it wasn’t by accident that Hook was wearing his dad’s colours, with his dad on commentary, to win his dad’s belt. Hook has organically become such an attraction, and if managed by AEW correctly they’ve a HUGE star on their hands. Look may the reign of the cold-hearted handsome devil continue!

The GIRLS are back in town! – Damage CTRL arrive at SummerSlam

The first ppv of the HHH era was always going to be… different… and right off the bat, after a great Mania rematch between Becky and Bianca kicked off SummerSlam, it was the afters that really got people talking. Bayley made her long awaited return to confront Bianca Belair, but she wasn’t alone… Dakota Kai (previously released by WWE) joined her, as did former NXT Women’s Champion Iyo Sky (FKA Io Shirai)… 3 wild moments within a minute or so, and the rest is history!

Time to Clean AGAIN – Kenny Omega returns to AEW

Another of those we knew was coming, but we didn’t care and we all LOVED it. This one was particularly special for a few reasons, mainly because there were times we weren’t sure this was ever going to happen… but for me it was cool because it took place in the early hours (UK time) of my birthday!!! One of the very best was BACK (for now… but we will get on to that…)…

We turn back to the INDEX – Dexter and Indi reunite!

An underrated one for me, and one made all the better by the sell job from those involved. Say what you want about them but Indi Hartwell and Dexter Lumis, as far as character acting goes, are outstanding. Just look at Indi’s face as she sees her… husband… again. Heartwarming great babyface stuff!

Clash At The Castle in general! – The best WWE PLE of the Year

Hard to pick one moment in particular, but this whole show, the first WWE ple in the UK for over 30 years, was just outstanding. Gunther and Sheamus killing it and the Irishman getting his flowers after, a stadium-round rendition of Edge’s theme song, Broken Dreams getting a cameo during McIntyre’s entrance… what a wonderful occasion this show was!

She has a new house! – Saraya debuts in AEW

The biggest signing to the much-maligned AEW Women’s roster so far debuted at their annual Dynamite show at Arthur Ashe stadium. What a huge pop she got as well, and having since had her first match and a… mixed… run so far, it remains to be seen if AEW really is HER house or not. But as moments go, this was great!

Everybody loves the NEW champions! – The Acclaimed win the AEW Tag Titles

After their brilliant match at the PPV, the organic support for Max Caster, Anthony Bowens and DADDY ASS was reaching its… climax… and so this really felt like one of those magical, right place right time moments… one of the first proper OG AEW acts to be born and bred in the company to win major championship gold. Because really and factually, EVERYBODY loves The Acclaimed!

The White Rabbit… is HERE! – Bray Wyatt returns

What a wonderful chase of the elusive white rabbit this was. A quite unique and captivating multi-media campaign culminated at the end of the Extreme Rules PLE… with the return to WWE of my guy, Bray Wyatt. Not heard a pop for a return, or Holy Shit chants, that loud for a LONG time in WWE. This was glorious.

The Wayward Sons – The Elite return to AEW at Full Gear

So… some stuff happened… and Kenny and The Bucks had to go away for a bit… but at Full Gear, all was made right (ish) once again, as some of the founding fathers of the company came home. It felt very much like a heartfelt sustained roar from an adoring crowd, and a pretty cool entrance as well as the rockstars of AEW came back!

An Emperor meets his Cleaner – Kenny Omega returns to New Japan and challenges Will Ospreay for Wrestle Kingdom

A match made in wrestling dreamland will finally become reality once again in a matter of DAYS, as former IWGP Champion Kenny Omega returns to the land he once conquered, to take on one of his would-be successors. As a match this should speak for itself given it’s two of the best in the world, but the story between the two for those who have followed it has been about as personal as it gets. This one is going to be special.

We are FAMILY – Sami becomes an Uso

Without doubt, the most well told WWE story of 2022 has been that of Sami Zayn and The Bloodline. All the twists and turns along the way, and we aren’t even close to done just yet. But the War Games match with him turning his back officially on Kevin Owens, and the embrace from his longtime doubter Jey Uso after the match, a thing of beauty.

Let’s go Jobber! – Action Andretti beats Chris Jericho

The story here is Jericho saw this guy on AEW Dark some months back, and had a vision. And this was the end result. And to be fair, it got one hell of a pop. A career moment for someone not many of us had heard of prior, all I want to say is well done to the guy, and credit to Jericho for making it happen. This really was the definition of a feel-good moment.

And there you have it, that was the year that was in 2022. One of the more memorable years given the magnitude of events that occurred, but hopefully this look back at the better and happier moments shows you that wrestling can be pretty damn great, and going into 2023, I hope to be able to put together such a list again. Or maybe the year as a whole will be positive enough that I can talk about all the main players without a tinge of sadness or disgust… time will tell… but 2022 as a wrestling fan has been a blast, and here’s to 2023!

And if 2022 is anything to go by… ANYTHING could happen in 2023! …

Josh.

World Cup Flashback – France v Brazil (2006)

The 2006 World Cup in Germany was the earliest one I can properly remember. And no one match captured my imagination that this one. The two previous world champions, two of the most famous football nations of them all, and on this occasion, two all-star line-ups. And as the 2022 tournament is now reaching its climax, it simply had to be this match that I picked to look back upon. From memory it was an extraordinary match simply given the quality that was on display, but on a night of many stars, there was one who shone brightest.

So, before I look at the match itself, let’s look at how these two teams got here… Beginning with the 1998 World Cup winners.

The French have a tendency at major tournaments to either be brilliant, or baffling. And the reign of then manager Raymond Domenech was certainly full of plenty of both. A disaster in defending their world crown 4 years prior to this saw France not score a single goal and leave the competition at the group stage, 2 years after that they exited Euro 2004 in the quarter finals to eventual winners Greece. But going in to 2006 their squad was much stronger than prior years, the likes of Ribery, Abidal and Malouda supplemented the likes of Barthez, Thuram, Vieira, Makelele, Thierry Henry, and of course, Zinedine Zidane. The French’s marvellous talisman was taking part in his final tournament as a player, as he would end his remarkable playing career following this World Cup. Already a star of a World Cup winning team, Zidane still possessed the skills to win any game despite his impending retirement.

To reach the last 8, France had to come through a group made up of Switzerland, South Korea and Togo. But their opener saw produced a goalless draw with their neighbours the Swiss, and that was followed by a 1-1 draw with South Korea where a Thierry Henry goal in the 9th minute was cancelled out by a goal 9 minutes from time by Manchester United’s Park Ji-sung. And so, a 2-0 win in their final group match against Togo (thanks to goals from Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry) was only enough for France to finish 2nd in their group behind the Swiss, which would mean a far tougher route in the knockout stages. And so, it proved, as their last 16 opponents were the winners of Group H Spain, who had won all 3 of their group games only conceding a single goal. This was a Spanish side on the verge of a remarkable period of dominance on the international stage, and still featuring the legendary Real Madrid striker Raul.

France came into this mouth-watering quarter final match off the back of a mixed bag of results, but buoyant by a comprehensive disposal of their toughest test of the competition up to this point…

And what of their opposition? …

Brazil came into this tournament as defending world champions, but with arguably an even more star-studded squad looking to win a 6th World Cup in 2006 than the triumphant 2002 side. Rivaldo had gone, but now Ronaldinho was the top player of world football, and Ronaldo (the hero of 2002) had during this World Cup become the all-time leading World Cup goalscorer. They also had AC Milan’s Kaka and goalkeeper Dida to add to the likes of Roberto Carlos and Cafu who remained key components of the South American’s 4 years on from a 2-0 final win against Germany. Their manager this time around was Carlos Alberto Parreira, whose lengthy coaching career had included taking Brazil to glory at the 1994 World Cup.

It was the original Ronaldo, R9 who took the headlines as Brazil strolled into the last 8. Wins against Croatia (1-0), Australia (2-0) and Japan (4-1) saw them top their group with relative ease. And it was during the last 16 match against Ghana were the man whose brace won the World Cup Final in Yokohama made history once again…

The stage was well and truly set then. A repeat of the 1998 World Cup Final, and a chance for Zidane to once again break Brazilian hearts, or would Ronaldo gain revenge and once again light up HIS tournament? Brazil went into this match off the back of a record 11 match winning run at World Cup Finals, and the final loss to France in Paris was the last World Cup match that Brazil failed to score a goal in. Should France lose this match, it would of course be the last we see of Zinedine Zidane’s glorious playing career.

Both teams were able to put out typically all-star line ups…

The match itself began with smiles from our two biggest stars, as former Galactico teammates Ronaldo and Zidane exchanged acknowledgments. Once the whistle was blown, both teams were feeling one another out, although a sense of nerves and of just how high the stakes were was clear. The World Player of the Year Ronaldinho, who had failed to live up to his billing so far at this World Cup, won Brazil a free kick, that was then hit into the wall and out for a corner by famed free-kick taker Juninho Pernambucano. Dida had his first touch of the ball at the 07:40 mark, such was Brazil’s early dominance of the ball, and soon after Brazil won a corner with a classic explosive run from Roberto Carlos, and soon after the full back fired a shot into… a cameraman behind the goal… With 10 minutes on the clock, the magical Ronaldinho stood over a free kick, which was put into the box and the resulting header put over the bar by R9. Brazil on top so far for sure.

Henry’s shot from distance was blasted at the head of Lucio, who sent it out for a throw in, and stayed down as a result… France had their first real sustained spell of pressure now, with Brazil having to scramble away the ball and give away a corner. Dida flapped the ball away, before Ribery fired a ball way over the bar. Brazil went up the other end as Ronaldinho sprayed a ball out to Ronaldo, whose ball into the box couldn’t find a yellow shirt… France tried for the counter, but eventually Lucio muscled Theirry Henry enough to win a throw in for Brazil. Ronaldinho tried for one of his signature runs inside, but his pass was sprayed out just too far for the on-running Kaka. A nice French passing move was soon cut out by Brazil, who themselves went forward and created a chance for Ronaldo, but that was collected comfortably by Barthez. France were beginning to get more of the ball, but still Dida hadn’t yet come close to being tested as a ball into Henry was flagged for offside. A nice Brazil move by Lucio and then Kaka ended with another ball too long for Ronaldo. But the French did well right up the other end as Henry won a corner up against two Brazilian defenders, but from this Brazil were able to break… but yet again a ball went too far for Ronaldo, this time from Cafu. It was clear the Brazil tactic was to weave their way through and then play in their number 9 past the French backline, but so far it hadn’t come close to coming off… France soon after won a free kick, but after a pass to play him down the line from Zidane, a few stepovers couldn’t be followed up as Malouda dragged his cross dreadfully wide.

As the clock hit 25:00 it was France now who were having much more of the ball, without really posing too much of an attacking threat or end product. Zidane not long after put a France free kick high above the bar, but soon after we had our first bit of real Zizou wizardry as he caressed the ball down under control before lofting it to a nearby teammate, and then again wowed the crowd with a quick switch of feet to get the ball around Cafu and into the path of the on-running Eric Abidal who passed down the line to Malouda, and the then Lyon winger’s cross was turned behind for a corner. Brazil cleared and after a free kick again failed to unleash that final ball to Ronaldo, this time a flick from Ronaldinho was thumped away by the French defense. As we ticked into the second third of the match it was still an even contest so far, and so it continued to prove as the first half went on… Of the 5 shots so far between these teams, just 1 was on target… so far…

Juninho went back to collect the ball for Brazil, and his ball out wide couldn’t find Ronaldinho. To me it was more the French organization around the ‘two ronnies’ that had limited the chances so far, more than anything the Brazil team lacked creatively. Ribery’s run forward was stopped by Gilberto Silva to earn a free kick for France that Zidane played into the box towards Lilian Thuram (another hero of the infamous 1998 final between these two sides), and his header back across goal was fired away by Brazil’s Juan. Both Brazil via Kaka and then France through Henry gave away the ball when they really shouldn’t have in the middle of the field, before Ronaldinho tried his best to spin and weave his way through but a combination of Vieira and Makelele denied him. Malouda then had a chance to cause trouble but the patience of Lucio paid off and Brazil got the ball away. Both teams starting to make more mistakes and the game was moving at a slightly quicker pace as the first half drew to a close. Cafu came down that right hand channel he so often dominated, and showed good strength to push away the French defender coming towards him, Brazil then had a chance again but Kaka’s ball forward was just about cleared. Zidan played Abidal in on the left, but Cafu played that out, before another cross from Malouda went off target. A clearance from Roberto Carlos also went array, and not long after French had another free kick. Zidane’s ball in was headed just over by Malouda, but it was they who remained on top. Vieira did very well to keep the ball for France but they then conceded a free kick themselves. Although with Cafu booked already he would need to be cautious. And it was their 2002 winning captain who swinged in a cross that went too far for everyone, again the final pass letting Brazil down when they have their chances. Zidane again with the smoothest of movements was able to control what some would see as a tricky ball to collect and dispatch with absolute ease, he honestly looks like he could play whilst having a cigarette and a glass of French wine as well…

A nice French move ended with Malouda getting into a shooting opportunity before it was played out by Juan. Not long after from the resulting throw a ball from Vieira was just too long and out it went. And again a couple of moments after Henry’s ball went too long for Malouda, who seemed to be the main threat for the French now. Brazil though did get what looked like a possible chance, only for the move to be halted when Roberto Carlos tried for one of his trademark hammer strikes that went off a nearby French defender and out. Brazil went forward again and again it was caught out from Ronaldinho’s pathway, and they then went down the other side before Cafu’s cross was cleared away by William Gallas. Zidane then lead a French breakaway and delightfully glided past two opponents before playing in Patrick Vieira, but he was then fouled by Juan. A yellow card was awarded much to French protests, who thought a goalscoring opportunity was denied… but I think the referee just about got it right… As we went into the one added minute at the end of the first half the France free kick by Henry resulted in another free kick awarded, this time for a handball by Brazil on the very edge of the 18 yard box (the ball hitting Ronaldo’s hand who was in the wall from the first free kick, he was also booked as a result). The second free kick from Zidane hit the wall, and eventually it was cleared away as the ref blew the whistle bringing to an end a quite intriguing first half, without it being a classic. But having seen it you can safely assume it is the French who are the happier of the two teams with how the first half had gone.

France got a free kick almost immediately in the second half, and from it the header went just wide from Vieira. The former Arsenal man then gave away a free kick himself, but avoided a booking that would rule him out of a semi-final should France get there… Ronaldinho’s corner for Brazil soon after came to nothing, but a cross from Ze Roberto created more issues as France goalkeeper Fabian Barthez was caught in two minds it seemed, and so forced to clear the ball with his feet. Again not long after Barthez was left scrambling in the mix of play again, but did claim the ball and get it away, so minutes into the second half and both teams already applying pressure to try and get an opening goal. A ball thrown out by Barthez let through Henry, who so classically came down the left and got past Cafu before the ball was cleared for a throw in. After some back and forth play, France settled with the ball and Gallas played the ball long to Henry, who unsuccessfully tried to get a free kick for a high boot from Lucio. Sagnol played the ball into Henry, who backheeled to Vieira but it was cleared. Malouda’s corner was cleared and then Ronaldo fouled Sagnol for another France set piece…

The free kick eventually went through to Henry, who did convert but was way offside as was Gallas. A short time after Kaka lost the ball to Thuram before Franc came forward… and from this Abidal played to Malouda out wide and they got a free kick… but in this move we saw a delightful bit of control from Zidane, the touch of an absolute magician as always. It was then their magic number 10 who took a free kick which was whipped into the box, and… played to the far post and volleyed… INTO THE NET BY THIERRY HENRY!!! Poor marking but a wonderful finish.

After the goal Brazil would’ve wanted to settle, and after an acrobatic clearance by Juan it was Zidane again who used his delicate touch to play the ball forward, but eventually Dida was able to collect. The atmosphere in the stadium had audibly changed, and the impetus would surely be on Brazil now to try and unlock this seemingly impenetrable French defence. A shocking backpass from France almost let in Ronaldinho but Barthez rushed out quick enough to clear… and Dida at the other end almost was too late coming out… the goal definitely has livened up the pace and tension of this match. After Ribery had wonderfully got past Lucio, his cross was ALMOST put into his own net by Juan! Zidane’s corner led to nothing, but France were almost out of sight then… Brazil needed SOMETHING… Enter Adriano who readied to come on as a substitute. Cafu’s cross after a free kick was cleared away, and after Malouda failed to clear he gave away a corner. Adriano then entered the match replacing Juninho as the clock ticked into minute 64.

Ribery again had a run at the Brazil defence, but Roberto Carlos was able to stop him in his tracks, Ribery having scored in their last match in the last 16 against Spain, was starting to look a threat in this match. Brazil went forward with a decent passing move, but AGAIN the final ball (from Kaka this time) wasn’t enough. Zidane got the ball into the opposition half, but showed the calm and poise to weave one way then the other before spraying a pass out wide to Sagnol, who’s cross won France a corner. Zidane again there playing with total ease it seemed, just a delight to watch. Ribery’s corner went though everyone and Brazil broke, Adriano played in Cafu who exchanged a 1-2 with Ronaldinho, but Vieira got back and got the goal kick. Ronaldinho’s ball found Adriano, but he lost it and it was cleared away. Again Brazil came, but they again were thwarted. Brazil passed it around, before Ronaldo ran at goal before being brought down with nothing given by the referee. From this France went down the other end, and only a crucially well-timed interception from Dida kept France from a certain second goal. With 20 minutes left the tension was palpable from both sides.

France attacked with a solid spell of possession, and Zidane played in Henry who was brought down, but not enough to warrant a penalty. Ronaldinho lost possession that eventually led to an Henry shot at Dida. Although Henry hadn’t got the better in the Champions League Final a couple months prior, the Brazil number 10 was the one falling short in this match and this tournament so far. After France won back the ball a picturesque roulette from Zidane followed by by a pass and release across the field really dazzled. Henry tried to march through a gap but Lucio stopped that. Sagnol pushed away at Kaka (another who had flattered to deceive in this tournament for Brazil having wowed for his club side), and Sagnol was booked. Lucio came forward and played a pass out wide to Cafu, whose cross in was made a mess of by Thuram but eventually it was kicked away, Ribery and Henry exchanged passes before Lucio fouled the Arsenal man and became the 3rd of the Brazil back 4 to be booked in this match. Sidney Govou came on for France replacing Ribery who was excellent todau, and for Brazil Cafu was replaced by Cicinho.

Cicinho played in Kaka down the right, before coming to the other side to try and find a way through… Robinho then replaced Kaka for Brazil (who now had 4 forward players on the pitch). Roberto Carlos played a huge ball out to the opposite side but it was cleared away, and with a free kick given Brazil quickly got the play moving again… Cicinho’s ball in eventually led to a shot hit wide and another chance spurned for Brazil. Malouda was then replaced by Sylvain Wiltord for France, as Zidane drew a foul from Ze Roberto. Less than 10 minutes of normal time now for Brazil to find a goal from somewhere, a team who hadn’t lost a World Cup match since that 1998 loss to the same opposition. Brazil had a free kick with 7 players in the box, but again France cleared it away. Things seemed to be slipping away for the 5 time World Champions now…

Ronaldo’s shot seemed desperate but Govou was able to stretch and drag it wide. Henry after his goal was then subbed off Louis Saha, they had less than 5 minutes to hang on for a semi final with Portugal. Ronaldinho was able to keep the ball in after to allow Adriano to gain a corner, but from it a ball in led to a foul on Barthez as he went for the ball. Just after Saha was booked for timewasting less than one minute after coming on. Ronaldo then had another run forward and looked to be about to add his own bit of magic with a signature run, before he was fouled just outside the area, and a booking for Thuram followed despite his protests. What a chance this was for Brazil with a host of candidates for the free kick, but Ronaldinho sent it over the bar. Just.

France went forward again with Govou going into the area, but it went out for a goal kick. Brazil restarted right away, Roberto Carlos’ ball looked for Adriano but Sagnol cleared. France came on the counter through Zidane, but the shot from Saha was saved by Dida with only 3 added minutes left for them to find a goal. A shot from R9 at the other end was batted away by Barthez and Gallas cleared after, Brazil were in the most desperate of times now. A flash ball in was put of of play by the heel of Ze Roberto for a goal kick to France. Their manager called for calm, but how could they just minutes from victory? As the time ticked away Ronaldinho could only smile as he gave away a free kick… Brazil with one minute left came forward but Ronaldo was brought down and France cleared. Zidane then played a ball forward but eventually it was a free kick to Brazil. Cicinho raced forward, and the long ball went in… but was caught and held by Barthez and the offside flag also killed any final chance for Brazil. Full time, France 1 Brazil 0.

Brazil just didn’t show up sadly. They came up against a resolute France team and just could find an answer. Time and time again the final ball for Brazil let them down, France’s midfield trio of Viera and Makelele led by Zidane won them the game and deservedly so.

The storied World Cup careers of Brazil’s former champions was over. For one Frenchman in particular, there were still a few more tales to tell.

Player Ratings

FRANCE:

GK 16 Fabien Barthez – 6
RB 19 Willy Sagnol – 8
CB 15 Lilian Thuram – 6
CB 5 William Gallas – 7
LB 3 Eric Abidal – 6
CM 4 Patrick Vieira – 8
CM 6 Claude Makélélé – 8
RW 22 Franck Ribéry (77) – 8
AM 10 Zinedine Zidane (c) – 9
LW 7 Florent Malouda (81) – 6
CF 12 Thierry Henry (86) – 7
Substitutions:
FW 9 Sidney Govou (77) – 6
FW 11 Sylvain Wiltord (81) – 5
FW 14 Louis Saha (86) – 5

BRAZIL:

GK 1 Dida – 6
RB 2 Cafu (c) (76) – 6
CB 3 Lúcio (75) – 7
CB 4 Juan (45) – 6
LB 6 Roberto Carlos – 6
RM 17 Gilberto Silva – 5
CM 8 Kaká (79) – 5
CM 19 Juninho (63) – 5
LM 11 Zé Roberto – 6
SS 10 Ronaldinho – 6
CF 9 Ronaldo – 6
Substitutions:
FW 7 Adriano (63) – 6
DF 13 Cicinho (76) – 6
FW 23 Robinho (79) – 6

If you couldn’t already tell from the blog so far, this match was controlled at it’s heart by one man. There was a movie made that followed him during a match playing for Real Madrid, I am sure if they knew in advance the directors of that would’ve picked this match to show off just how god-like Zinedine Zidane was at times on a football pitch.

Following the match of course, the inquest for Brazil began. And change was afoot, after a golden era of Brazilian football where they reached 3 World Cup Finals in a row between 1994-2002, the run ended here with elimination at the Quarter Final stage. The coach Carlos Alberto Perreira was replaced after the tournament by his and Brazil’s World Cup winning captain Dunga, despite the fact that he had no prior coaching experience of any note whatsoever. And to give an idea of how the players of this amazing run were coming to their end also, only SIX of those in the Brazil 2006 squad came with them again to the World Cup in South Africa 4 years later. Brazil to this day are still looking for their 6th star.

As for the French, they went on to reach the 2006 World Cup Final… and well… you know how that went…

A lot of people remember the match that had the biggest effect on them as a kid. The one that TRULY captured their imagination, I was a football fan before watching this, after I was in love with the sport. Sure this wasn’t the greatest match that’s ever been played, but the stars on show and the stakes and just the whole package, the all-star Brazil vs the Zidane-led France was the match that made me fall for football. And I never looked back.

Josh.

He’s Back!

We knew it was coming by the time it happened, a moment I dreamed of ever since he left us. It compounded my feelings on WWE at the time when on July 31st 2021, Bray Wyatt was released. My favourite WWE superstar, a man and a performer who has so much potential, a true generational talent and mind, once in a lifetime. Gone, just like that.

But since then, things have changed. A LOT has changed. A new man at the helm, or more the old man out of the picture, and suddenly the main obstacle that stopped Bray Wyatt from being everything he SHOULD be in WWE was no longer a factor. Surely then it was only a matter of time. And all else we wanted to return did so… from Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky, to Karrion Kross and Scarlett, Hit Row, Dexter Lumis, Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae, Braun Strowman even decided he had controlled his narrative enough and he joined the long list of returns to WWE. But it seemed the loudest of calls would go unanswered. Questions were asked, answers… didn’t really come. When speaking to Ariel Helwani, Triple H said of Bray Wyatt…

Things are never and have never been as they seem with Bray Wyatt… And the first signs came in a way that even we didn’t know what we were seeing at the time… In mid September 2022, WWE began to play the song ‘White Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane during breaks to the live crowds in arenas, and also dimming the lighting to the colour red towards the end of the song…

So… we had to ‘follow the white rabbit’ I guess… where to? We had no idea… but it became very widely presumed that this would all lead to the return of Bray Wyatt. I will get on to my thoughts on this whole campaign later in this blog… But one thing I can absolutely say about them doing this was it got people intrigued. Note also they did this not on TV, but during the ad breaks to the live crowd during TV tapings, and in intermissions of live shows… Hidden in plain sight you could say…

Then began the next part of the drip to come through the feed… QR code. I’m sure you’re familiar with the symbols that hyperlink to somewhere or something else… WWE had experimented with these recently on NXT to hype up the return of Zoey Stark, but it was a new way for WWE to promote… something… on the main roster… Each QR code would be something you may only really see if it was pointed out, or some would be more prominent (usually in backstage segments, and one-time notable front and center of the screen on a microphone during an in-ring segment with Triple H)…

Here’s a quick recap of all the QR codes (and what they linked to) we got during this chase of the elusive white rabbit…

Raw on September 19th: a video eventually shows us a game of hangman, that asks the question ‘who killed the world?’… The white rabbit (who is playing the game of hangman… just go with it…) incorrectly guesses the letter ‘D-E-M-O-N). The Rabbit does eventually guess the answer correctly… ‘You Did’…

The video then shows a message ‘Come with me’, and a number sequence (9:23)… which seemingly leads us the next Friday Night SmackDown…

SmackDown on September 23: The journey down the rabbit hole continued with a QR code linking to…

Ok… so just in case you, like me, got terribly annoyed by the game you have to play… should you be able to successfully lead the rabbit around the maze and into the door, you would be shown the following image…

This time the key was the coordinates at the bottom. Which lead to Edmonton in Canada… the site of the next Monday’s Raw…

Raw on September 26th: On this occasion, we were linked to a rather interesting Tik Tok (I should also mention, I’m not even coming close to talking about all the little nuggets and easter eggs across this whole ‘White Rabbit’ chase, honestly, I’m just covering the main bits, but the whole campaign was absolutely masterful)… This QR code though was revealed in a very much different way… not in a backstage segment on the back wall, but this time it flashed up fort a split second during a match between Seth Rollins and Rey Mysterio… Slowly but surely, they were making you take more notice of the white rabbit… (should also mention another bit on this tale I’ve thought about… they would tease words or locations here and there such as ‘Belair’ or ‘Gacy’, and then we’d see the next clue during a Bianca Belair or Joe Gacy segment on Raw or event NXT…It was definitely one of those campaigns that gave you as much detail as you looked for. The odd red herring hear and there too, one html code for a link contained the lyrics to the theme song of former WWE superstar Aleister Black, at a time when his AEW future as Malakai Black was in question…)…

SmackDown on September 30th: Another show, another QR code linking to another TikTok… (the video below also features a crowd sign shown during that smackdown, not the only time during this whole thing that WWE had things appear in the crowd as well…)…

Raw on October 3rd: As eluded to, after clues hidden in another teaser prior, we got another QR code during a Bianca Belair segment on this Raw. This link was one you had to know the meaning of to understand… So I will direct you to this article from Cageside Seats … https://www.cagesideseats.com/wwe/2022/10/4/23387075/wwe-raw-white-rabbit-clues-bray-wyatt-extreme-rules

One thing was clear now, was that all roads led to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The site of the upcoming WWE PPV Extreme Rules…

SmackDown on October 7th: This time we had a video which was shown during the show. It very much was made clear where the rabbit hole was ending…

X marks the spot… X for eXtreme rules!

We also had one of our more blatant QR Code reveals… As Triple H cut a rousing promo to open the show, at the very end he made a very clear movement of his microphone to make sure one side was front and centre right in front of the hard camera…

And following that link takes you to the following…

‘LET ME IN’ you say… I’m sure we’ve heard that before somewhere…

It was also at this show where we had a white rabbit in the crowd… yes just wondering around the arena, there was a giant white rabbit…

And so. The day had arrived…

After what was yet another fun PLE under the HHH regime, the main event of the show saw Matt Riddle finally get the better of Seth Rollins… but as Riddle made his way back up the entrance ramp… it was time… the moment we had all been waiting for…

As anyone who knows me can imagine, I was absolutely lost for words. This was EVERYTHING to me.

The buzz that had been created so far was like nothing I’ve seen in WWE for some time. And just LISTEN to that live reaction for him… Amazing doesn’t do it justice.

And so the questions turned to what would he have to say? Why was he back? Well… that led us to SmackDown. Bray Wyatt in a WWE ring with a live mic…

The SmackDown on 14th October was a fun show. But it’ll be one of my most memorable of my entire fandom for what closed the show…

Where to even begin? Firstly, that theme song by Code Orange is a BANGER! Secondly, I tweeted about what this promo meant to me (see below)…

… but yeah… Wow… seemed at this stage as if Bray is telling us he is a tortured soul, hateful of the things he has done before, and looking to show his true and natural self to the world. No longer hiding behind magic or a mask… But it appears… someone or something … has other ideas about WHO Bray Wyatt really is… All very odd, but all super interesting. We all wondered who Bray Wyatt would feud with first upon his return, it appears the answer to that is… himself…

The next week, as the world was still in awe of the Bray’s promo, he spoke backstage during the next week’s show… This time though it appeared to not be as positive and hopeful for the future as before, another side to this Bray Wyatt was revealed…

It appears that Bray admits he has these bad sides to him, and as much as he wanted to just go away he is grateful that WE pulled him back. He’s ready now to confront WHOEVER it is trying to turn him bad, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes… The stuff about being the servant I found interesting, as if he’s still being pulled by some cause or being… Again, very unclear at this stage, but still intriguing…

The next week, as Bray again tried to tell us who he really was, we finally got a reveal of what he was up against…

So what you’re all wondering is who is this ‘Uncle Howdy’?

Is it a manifestation of the internal demons Bray is up against? Is it SOMEONE playing a role as a personification on behalf of the demons of Bray’s mind? All remains to be seen, but Uncle Howdy appears to know all about who Bray Wyatt is… A ghost of his past. He says that Bray killed the world…

He says that (and this bit I LOVED) he (Bray) sent HIM… away…

So Bray is trying to repent, Uncle Howdy wants Bray to revel in what he is…

The final SmackDown before Crown Jewel showed a really interesting development in who THIS Bray Wyatt is… As we saw a real example of Bray trying to contain what was in him, what Uncle Howdy was referring to, as a member of the backstage crew was caught in the crossfire of Wyatt’s personal demons…

Bray talking about how it gets to him when someone interrupts him when he’s trying to open up, only for someone to then interrupt him again, is perfect. It feels like Bray is ready to crack, are the demons going to win already? This is a tortured soul that much is clear, but he will get another chance to talk the next day…

We did get one VERY notable moment during the Crown Jewel show long before it was time for Bray to talk to us… As a certain someone was backstage, a certain symbol appeared…

(Something similar happened later on the 7th November Raw, as Asuka, Bianca Belair and Bliss once again were making their way to the ring, see below…)

So just before the main event of the show, it was time for us to hear from Bray Wyatt. After a quite spellbinding entrance he then spoke about how that previously he would do his upmost to do something to make sure people knew who he was. He went on to talk about how he comes from a very prestigious wrestling family (which is true for those who don’t know, his brother, father and grandfather have all been in the business). he referred to how they could be considered larger than life, and that growing up all he ever wanted was to be great. But that wasn’t enough, and he had to be the greatest of them all. Bray went on that previously he thought the way to do this was making a monster of himself, he wore his ‘mask’ with pride. But now he no longer felt the pain of wearing that mask, no longer would he be afraid, now he felt untouchable, and that felt good. Before he said he was in a kingdom of nothingness, sitting on an island by himself. The monster that he was ran off all that he ever loved and destroyed him he said, and Wyatt added that nobody loves him, they just love the idea of him.

He finished with his strongest words so far… he repeated that “MY NAME IS BRAY WYATT” and that now he would “rewrite my story”. So clearly, he hated what he was, and that this time he was going to do things his way. Which is funny in the kayfabe sense in that he the CHARACTER wants to repent and do things how they should be done, but also could be considered a pot-shot at the creative in a real-life sense behind that Bray Wyatt character at times in the past… Regardless, once Bray was in his flow, Uncle Howdy then appeared once again…

Yeah, this is going to be a slow burner. I’m still really on board with it though. Uncle Howdy (whoever he is) really seems intent on bringing this dark side out of Bray, and Bray seems to be trying to stay as good as he can but is getting increasingly frustrated by the repeated interruptions as he tries to explain his story. I guess the idea is his promos are him repenting his sins, as somebody would in the confessions area of a church to a priest, but in this sense, Bray is talking to us. But with him never being able to really finish what he says, the frustration builds, and so does the anger and the lure of giving in to his demons, giving in to who or what this ‘Uncle Howdy’ represents. As I’ve said I don’t think this is going to conclude anytime soon, so we’re all just going to have to see how it all unfolds.

But a month in, the buzz for Bray Wyatt doesn’t seem to be slowing down. He’s in the featured spot of every show he is on, and whilst I have seen some say they want things to speed up, I think those same people will be all back in once we get more action, if Uncle Howdy shows up in person (played by… someone…) or Bray just goes on a rampage, I think then the buzz will increase even more. We have had so much talk about the Wyatt 6, the characters shown during the initial return, if they are going to be characters that feature going forward and what other WWE names could play those roles. We’ve had names like Liv Morgan and now of course Alexa Bliss be talked about as possibly playing roles alongside Bray, Wyatt’s real life brother Bo Dallas has been rumoured, as has his actual Uncle (and former wrestler) Barry Windham… The speculation and easter eggs for this Bray Wyatt thing has been off the scale, but speculation can only mean people are interested. And there has been A LOT of speculation, so go figure.

Where this all goes, even me as big a Bray Wyatt fan as I am, I don’t have a fucking clue! But I kind of like that, in fact I like it a lot! I trust Triple H to let Bray Wyatt be Bray Wyatt, and I’m so excited to see where it goes. A month in and so far it’s been insane, who knows where it’ll be at in another month, 6 months or a year…

Bray Wyatt is back. And I couldn’t be happier about that.

Josh.

Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar – The Trilogy

Two unstoppable monsters. Two men who came into their respected companies and got the rocket of all rockets. It could well be argued that nobody in WCW’s history got a better push out the blocks, in terms of homegrown talents, than Bill Goldberg. Everybody knows of the undefeated streak, culminating in the legendary title win against Hollywood Hogan. His status as a top name in the industry was unblemished, despite the failings of the company he called home going to the wastelands.

It seemed inevitable then that he would come to WWE. And so, the night after WrestleMania 19, he confronted The Rock, and bill Goldberg’s WWE run began. Naturally people were excited, dream matches a plenty and a classic run could well be about to begin we thought… but whilst it was… OK… It was a 1 year deal. And it was only ever going to be a 1-year deal. And so, really, there was only so much you could do with Goldberg in a 12 month span. You can’t have him just murder everyone (which is what the Goldberg character was all about), because if the guy who beats everyone then leaves, what are you left with? A bunch of losers… And yes he should’ve won the World title at the SummerSlam Elimination Chamber a month before he actually won the title from Triple H, and yes it was cool he then beat Triple H in the main event two months in a row… but he wasn’t going to keep the World Heavyweight Championship for too long… So what next? Well, he would have to go down another route… The Royal Rumble match… where he would enter number 30 and attempt to earn himself a shot at reclaiming his World Heavyweight title that he (rightfully) felt he had stolen from him… It was at this PPV he was confronted by the then WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar…

So, let’s talk about Brock Lesnar. Much like Goldberg in WCW, Brock Lesnar was set up from day 1 to be THE star of WWE. As he was approaching nearly 2 years on the main roster, Lesnar was a 3x WWE Champion, a King of the Ring winner, a Royal Rumble match winner, and had PPV wins against the likes of The Rock, The Undertaker, and over Kurt Angle in the main event of WrestleMania 19. As we came into the year 2004, Lesnar had reverted to being a monster heel. Who could stop him? Who was his equal? Well… what about the other monster? The other unstoppable force? And so we eventually had it set for WrestleMania 20. Madison Square Garden. A DREAM match for the ages… Right? Well…

As good as this hype video is, what it doesn’t do is explain the reality of the situation. Leading up to WrestleMania 20, it became apparent that Goldberg wasn’t signing an extension to his 1 year contract, and so once the show was done, he would be departing WWE. And to make matters worse, WWE were about to lose their own homegrown BEAST. Brock Lesnar had grown tired of the travel, the politics and general lifestyle of a professional wrestler, and stated to WWE that he would be leaving the company in order to try out something completely different… American Football.

So going in… we have a match on the biggest show of the year, between two wrestlers whose futures both lay elsewhere, in front of a raucous New York crowd. What could possibly go wrong…

WRESTLEMANIA 20 (MARCH 14TH 2004, MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK) – Goldberg defeated Brock Lesnar (with Special Guest Referee: Stone Cold Steve Austin)

Austin entered first on his ATV. The crowd’s cheers turned to boos when Lesnar came out after, which given a year prior he won the WWE Championship as the top babyface in the main event is really sad. Goldberg got a better reaction from the crowd during his entrance than his opponent, although both received less than complimentary hand gestures from those in the front row. They had a long stare off to start the match, to a chorus of “you sold out” chants, Austin tried to encourage both men to lock up… they still didn’t as the crowd went into “nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, hey, GOODBYE…”… Goldberg and Lesnar verbally jousted, with even Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary beginning to question the lack of ANY physical contact at the start of the match.

And when they FINALLY locked up, it must have been a full minute of a collar and elbow tie up, which naturally drew more boos from the New York crowd. When then had more verbals, more staring, and more locking up, to MORE BOOS, a “this match sucks” chant, followed by a side headlock by Lesnar, some shoulder tackles, a stare off, a clothesline spot that sent both men down, some stomps from Brock, a quite amazing Gorilla Press by Goldberg into a slam/spear type move, Goldberg then went for the big spear but crashed into the turnbuckle. And after Lesnar threw him into the ring steps on the outside we got some “Goldberg Sucks” chants… Once back in the ring, Lesnar hit a vertical suplex for a 2 count, them another vertical suplex, a side headlock, some long submission hold that was really boring to watch Goldberg try and counter out of, some more really boring exchanges that drew a deserved “this match sucks” chant, some more boring offence, Goldberg hit a spear for a 2 count, which drew an upset reaction towards our guest referee, Brock then hit the F5, but only got a 2 count. Lesnar was then the one unhappy with Austin. Brock charged towards Goldberg but he instead met the turnbuckle, Goldberg then hit the spear, a Jackhammer, and got the pin. AWFUL match.

1/2* (0.5)

Stone Cold raised the hand of the victor, but when the defeated Brock Lesnar stood up, upon hearing the Goodbye song being directed towards him by the crowd, Brock gave the fans the…

After turning them towards Austin, he got a Stunner for his troubles. Goldberg then entered the ring, and he also got booed, but Austin looked to be willing to share his beer-bash celebrations with the match winner… until Goldberg also got a Stunner from Austin. The crowd popped huge for this, maybe the biggest pop of the whole disaster.

And even with maybe the most over babyface figure in WWE history trying to steer it, there can be no debate that the first match of this trilogy was nothing short of an absolute abomination.

A lot can happen in 12 years… Well, one of our topics stayed quietly in the pro-wrestling shadows, the other dominated UFC and then came back to dominate WWE. But one thing that can be said about nostalgia is that it sells. And so it was no real shock then that the pre order bonus character of the new WWE 2K17 game was announced to be…

And who was the COVER star of this same video game?…

It writes itself doesn’t it….?

Appearing on ESPN’s SportsCenter “Off The Top Rope” segment with Jonathan Coachman in October of 2016 when promoting the game, Goldberg was asked about possibly returning to the ring after 12 years away, where he replied stating he was 49 now, and didn’t want to tarnish his legacy. He was asked how much time he would need to be ready? And he said he didn’t know but would need to talk with his family. He then joked he wanted until the end of the year for god’s sake. His final point was the most headline grabbing, saying “I don’t owe Brock Lesnar a rematch”, adding though that if he was to return that would be the match.

So… the first wheels had been set in motion. And on Raw on October 10th, Paul Heyman officially laid out the challenge on behalf of Brock Lesnar…

1 week later, and I remember it clear as day because I stayed up all night to see it. After 12 years away, he was BACK!

So… one last time… One last dance, WCW’s gunslinger was gonna come out one more time to take on The Beast. But this was in the era of SUPER Lesnar, of SUPLEX CITY, BITCH! Not even superman Bill Goldberg could stop Brock… could he..???

Over the next few weeks on Raw, appearances by Goldberg and Lesnar/Heyman hyped up the match and the battle lines were drawn. The hype was unlike anything I’d seen for a WWE match outside of WrestleMania for a long time. On the final Raw before Survivor Series and the long-awaited rematch, the two behemoths came face to face once again…

And so… it was time…

SURVIVOR SERIES 2016 (NOVEMBER 20TH 2016, TORONTO, CANADA) – Goldberg defeated Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman)

When that match ended, when that ref counted the 3, I experienced emotions I have never before or since felt watching professional wrestling. Complete and utter amazement and shock and awe. I didn’t even imagine in a million years that Brock Lesnar would lose to Goldberg, let alone in EIGHTY SIX SECONDS???!!!

The immediate reaction among many was the same utter shock I felt, but others pointed out that WWE built up Lesnar as the man, they gave him THE STREAK, they fed to him John Cena, and more recently Randy Orton at this same year’s SummerSlam… and now they just had him completely DESTROYED by a returning legend in his first match in 12 years??? Whatever people felt, it certainly got people talking… Me personally… I did then and still do now, ABSOLUTELY FUCKING LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS MATCH!!!

As it turns out, Lesnar was NOT in fact LAST… It was felt by those in WWE that the Goldberg hype and run so far had gotten over very well… so they let the adventure carry on… and on… and on… Lesnar became somewhat of a recluse in the time after this. We didn’t see him in fact. We barely even saw Paul Heyman… And when we did… well… we’ll get to him… But to the victor goes the spoils, and so having conquered the conqueror Goldberg wanted more. One last title run in fact. And to do this… he had a plan…

So let’s now see how Paul Heyman would respond to this revelation… We know of the Advocate for the Beast to always be full of confidence regarding his client… well… I guess an 86 second loss does things to people… A shellshocked, dishevelled-looking Heyman would then appear on the episode of Monday Night Raw the following week…

And at said Royal Rumble? Well… Lightning did indeed strike twice…

This time, Goldberg entered, hit one Spear, and then clotheslined Lesnar over the top ropes and OUT of the Royal Rumble match… all just EIGHTEEN seconds after entering the match himself.

From here, although neither man of course won the Rumble, Goldberg would find himself in line for what he had wanted. And at Fastlane 2017, just prior to WrestleMania, Goldberg defeated Kevin Owens to win the Universal Championship. The final chapter of this trilogy would now have an extra added element…

Strap yourself in, because this trilogy goes out with a BANG! And with this match taking place immediately after the abortion of Bray Wyatt losing the WWE title to Randy Orton, I was in need of a pick-me-up… this more than did the trick…

WRESLTEMANIA 33 (APRIL 2ND 2017, ORLANDO, FLORIDA) – Brock Lesnar (With Paul Heyman) defeated Goldberg (C) to become the NEW Universal Champion

(Review taken from my WrestleMania 33 review blog: https://nobodyisready.com/2019/04/02/wrestlemania-33-review/ )

The video package shown was incredible. It was narrated by Heyman so that was a big plus right away, and it just reminded me how perfectly booked Goldberg’s entire 2016-17 run was. Lesnar as the challenger came out first and got a big ovation (with his WrestleMania attire… his trusty black beanie hat…), Goldberg followed with his OG entrance and the chants echoing around the Citrus Bowl. Heyman got a huge reaction doing his introduction for Lesnar and it became clear very quickly that although Goldberg was over this was definitely a pro-Lesnar crowd. So this is exactly what happened move-for-move in the match: the bell rung, Lesnar hit Goldberg with 3 German Suplexes, Lesnar roared, the camera didn’t pick up the oncoming Goldberg though who hit a big Spear, then he hit a 2nd Spear but Lesnar rolled to the outside, then Goldberg speared Lesnar through the barricade, Goldberg hit Brock with a knee to the stomach then rolled him back into the ring, Goldberg tried for the Jackhammer, Lesnar maneuvered into a possible F5, but Goldberg got out of it and hit another Spear, Goldberg hit a Jackhammer, the referee counted 1 then 2 but Lesnar then kicked out as the crowd went wild and loudly did the YES chants, Goldberg set for another Spear but Lesnar JUMPED OVER GOLDBERG and Goldberg went into the turnbuckle, then Lesnar hit SEVEN German Suplexes as the crowd went wild for the 10th, Lesnar roared, the he hit the F5, and then he covered Goldberg and got the pin. The crowd went wild for the finish and Brock Lesnar is the Universal Champion. The match went 4 minutes and 45 seconds AND IT WAS FUCKING BRILLIANT! EXACTLY what it should have been, short and action-packed, it was big moves ONLY and it was just GREAT! It was the pick-up we ALL need after Bray Vs Randy. Do not see my rating as a sign this match was anything short of exceptional, bare in mind this match went less than 5 minutes and it managed to get a rating even this high which is exceptional. If wrestling matches were usually around 5 minutes this would be 5 stars easily. You will never see a sub-5 minute match as good as this!

***1/4

… And we never heard from either man again…

Josh.

Roger Federer – The GOAT

Roger Federer. What can I say really?

As someone who loves the sport of tennis, I can’t say I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a better player in my lifetime. Sure Rafa and Novac now have more grand slam titles, but for me the numbers DON’T tell the full story. For those of us lucky enough to live through this amazing time when we had arguably the 3 greatest to ever do it, all competing for the richest prizes against one another over a multi-year spell… I don’t think anyone can argue that the one who played with the most… magic… was the great man from Switzerland. And just like his beloved FC Basel, more often than not when put up against his peers, nobody could touch him.

There’s just something about the way he played the game of tennis. Maybe only Lionel Messi dribbling past opposing players has ever matched the artistry to which Roger Federer played with. Majestic in just about every aspect of his game, like a gazelle at times such was his elegance. And that’s without commenting at all in his dashing good looks, his ultra-nice guy and charming nature… Oh and the fact he won TWENTY majors.

In this blog, I will be looking back at each of those Twenty major titles across the Australian, French and US open championships, and of course the crème de la crème, the place that Roger essentially OWNED for a time, Wimbledon. As well as recounting my personal memories of being able to witness the glorious career of the greatest to ever play his sport. What an honour and a privilege it was to be able to watch the remarkable career of the man called Roger.


Number 1: Wimbledon 2003 (defeated Mark Philippoussis, 7–6(7–5), 6–2, 7–6(7–3))

Given what he went on to achieve at the home of tennis, it’s kind of appropriate that the grand slam collection of Roger Federer began with him winning the storied Gentlemen’s Singles Championship at the All England Club. Whilst not the level of the classic finals Federer would go on to be a part of, it was still one that showed the amazing natural ability he possessed. 5 years prior Federer had won the Wimbledon Junior title, but before this tournament 5 years later he was still looking for his first senior Grand Slam title. His temperament and temper had previously been questioned, by this point though he was becoming polished and in total control of his on-court abilities. This final was unique for Federer in terms of opposition compared to that he had already conquered… Australian Philippoussis was un-seeded and in just his second ever Grand Slam final, but in the semi-finals to get here Federer had defeated pre-tournament favourite and then World Number 1 Andy Roddick. Roger made the most of his golden opportunity here, and with Pete Sampras calling time on his career later in 2003, Wimbledon now had a new King.

Number 2: Australian Open 2004 (defeated Marat Safin, 7–6(7–3), 6–4, 6–2)

In Australia, Federer found himself up against a somewhat drained Marat Safin (whom had dispatched Andy Roddick AND defending Australian Open Champion Andre Agassi en-route) in the final. Safin had also come through three 5-set matches in the tournament, an extraordinary 48 hours more spent on court than Federer leading up to the final. It seemed in the first set Safin gave it his all, but after losing out in the decider of that, it was all Roger after… or so the scoreline may suggest… Roger wasn’t really at his best in this match, he seemed a little over-eager at times to get winning points… but even still this match was only ever being won by one player, as the majestic Federer claimed his second major title.

Number 3: Wimbledon 2004 (defeated Andy Roddick, 4–6, 7–5, 7–6(7–3), 6–4)

For me, this was really where this era of tennis became that of Federer, as opposed to the man he beat in the 2004 Wimbledon Final. Roddick had been widely regarded as the world’s best player for at least a couple of years up to this point, and finally he faced his only real rival in this era on the biggest stage of all. And although Roddick did win the first set, and the other 3 in the match were all relatively tight, it just wasn’t to be his day. It could well be argued he outplayed Roger in the first two sets, but when it mattered it always seemed to be Roger who won the points at the most important stages. I guess that’s what separates the good from the Great…

Number 4: US Open 2004 (defeated Lleyton Hewitt, 6–0, 7–6(7–3), 6–0)

Federer was really starting to ease himself in these grand slam finals by the time he dispatched with Lleyton Hewitt at Arthur Ashe in 2004. He was dominant from start to finish here, and even an almighty effort from Hewitt in the second set proved to be to no avail. 3 of the 4 Grand Slams of 2004 went to a man who was really cementing himself as THE man of tennis. Little did we know just how far that would go on for…

Number 5: Wimbledon 2005 (defeated Andy Roddick, 6–2, 7–6(7–2), 6–4)

Another year, another Wimbledon final win for Roger, and again against the man who at one stage looked to be his biggest rival for the moniker of the world’s best. In the 2005 final here, it was Federer who glided his way to victory. Roddick, between 2002-2005, only lost 3 matches on grass out of 35 played. All 3 of them were to Federer at Wimbledons… Roddick didn’t play badly at all in this final, but such was the supreme qualities of his opposition, he simply was not close to getting his hands on the trophy on this day.

Number 6: US Open 2005 (defeated Andre Agassi, 6–3, 2–6, 7–6(7–1), 6–1)

“I think Roger is the best I’ve played against”. That was what the great Andre Agassi had to say after he was on the receiving end of another Federer major final win. Even though Agassi was 4-2 up in the 3rd set, Federer was able to turn that around. The final set was somewhat of a formality for Roger as he reigned as the King of Arthur Ashe for a second consecutive year.

Number 7: Australian Open 2006 (defeated Marcos Baghdatis, 5–7, 7–5, 6–0, 6–2)

Federer’s dominance continued into 2006 as he overcame two very even and hard sets against his Cypriot opponent. With this win, he became only the second man in the previous 37 years to win 3 successive slams.

Number 8: Wimbledon 2006 (defeated Rafael Nadal, 6–0, 7–6(7–5), 6–7(2–7), 6–3)

It appeared now, for maybe the first time, Federer had a genuine rival. After losing the final at Roland Garros a few months prior, the man stood on the opposing side of the net was once again the young Spanish sensation Rafael Nadal. And having been stopped once again from completing his own personal set last time out, Federer came back with a vengeance in this Final… But a dominant first set was followed by a much tougher second set, but the result was still another one on the board for the Swiss-man. And although Nadal did get one set back after, Federer proved that the Grass of Wimbledon was still HIS domain.

Number 9: US Open 2006 (defeated Andy Roddick, 6–2, 4–6, 7–5, 6–1)

Just as it seemed a new rival was emerging in Nadal, the first challenger to King Roger returned on his own home court. Andy Roddick remerged to challenge here in the US Open Final, but Arthur Ashe in this time belonged to one man. A man who here won his third straight US Open, and a match that did go to 4 sets, but it was always Roger’s to go and win. It capped off a quite extraordinary year, one where he went oh so close to perfection. Federer in 2006 went 27-1 across the 4 major tournaments, but for the great man it still was not enough…

Number 10: Australian Open 2007 (defeated Fernando Gonzalez, 7–6(7–2), 6–4, 6–4)

The scoreboard will tell you it was one sided, and against a new foe this time in the form of Chilean Fernando Gonzalez it was near perfect for Federer’s magic number 10. In fact, in this tournament, he became the first man in 27 years to go through a full major tournament without dropping a single set. Unstoppable.

Number 11: Wimbledon 2007 (defeated Rafael Nadal, 7–6(9–7), 4–6, 7–6(7–3), 2–6, 6–2)

Once again Federer came into a Wimbledon having won in Australia and lost in the final in Paris, and once again he would have chance for immediate revenge against the Spainard in the biggest match of the year. And for the first (but absolutely not the last) time, the two best ever served up an absolute classic final. Federer remained the King of Centre Court… for now… (I LOVE that shot of Roger with the trophy by the way… just look at the figure out of focus in the background… looking on, waiting for his time…)

Number 12: US Open 2007 (defeated Novac Djokovic, 7–6(7–4), 7–6(7–2), 6–4)

In the first major final meeting between Federer and the only OTHER serious contender to his GOAT status, it was a relatively straight forward route to a 12th major final win against the superb Serbian. He in the process became the first ever man in the open era to win 4 straight US Open titles… But he would now have to be wary of his opponent on this day for the future… Just like Nadal, Djokovic would come again… Looking on and waiting for it to be HIS time…

Number 13: US Open 2008 (defeated Andy Murray, 6–2, 7–5, 6–2)

So, you’ll notice a bit of a gap since his last major win… Indeed, Federer was (at this point) no longer the world’s best player. For so long was he the pretender who could only reign in… Paris… but wins in London (we may get to that one later) and at Rolland Garros for Nadal, coupled with Novac Djokovic breaking his major duck in Australia, and Roger Federer was waiting a full year to win number 13… which he did in relatively straight forward fashion. His opponent this time was still 4 years away from his first major final win, in fact this was his first Grand Slam Final full stop and became the 13th victim of a player who now had to fight to reclaim his throne. I should also point out Between the 2005 Wimbledon and the 2007 US Open, Federer made it to the final of every single Grand Slam tournament. During that incredible run, he won all but two of them (losing the French Open finals of 2006 and again in 2007 to Rafael Nadal).

Number 14: French Open 2009 (defeated Robin Soderling, 6–1, 7–6(7–1), 6–4)

FINALLY! The set was completed with his maiden French Open final win… and as incredible an achievement as it is to win all 4 major titles in a career, the story of the 2009 French Open is surely all about Robin Soderling. Sadly for him, his greatest ever win against a GOD of this tournament (Soderling knocked out Rafa Nadal en-route to the final) could not be followed up with taking home the trophy. Federer finally had the last remaining prize. GOAT status confirmed.

Number 15: Wimbledon 2009 (defeated Andy Roddick, 5–7, 7–6(8–6), 7–6(7–5), 3–6, 16–14)

Of all of his major final triumphs, I think this is my favourite. An old rivalry renewed this time against Andy Roddick, and with Nadal missing the tournament due to injury it really was all set for Federer to continue a renaissance year of sorts. He did in fact reach all 4 major finals in 2009 (he lost to Nadal in Australia and would lose the US Open final to Juan Martin Del Potro the following September, a loss which ended Federer’s streak at Arthur Ashe where he went into the 2009 tournament as FIVE TIME defending champion), but this match may have been his toughest of the entire year. A quite brilliant contest that could have gone either way, but it was another tail of so close so far for Roddick, and glorious glory for Roger.

Number 16: Australian Open 2010 (defeated Andy Murray, 6–3, 6–4, 7–6(13–11))

Again, this was a tournament where Nadal was denied by injury (he retired in the Quarters against Murray), again it was the great white shark of Switzerland lying in wait… The brave brit Murray was still a level below the very best and was swept aside by the great man here. Totally in control all match, only really being pushed in the 3rd set, but by the time Murray came even close to getting a set on the board it already appeared a matter of when not if we would see number 16. And so, it was. Some could argue this was the last win of the real period of dominance for Federer… Around this time Nadal was elite, but Novac Djokovic too was starting to state his claim to be the best of the best. So much so that this would be Federer’s last Grand Slam final appearance for over a year… and he wouldn’t win Number 17 for another year plus after that… which brings us to…

Number 17: Wimbledon 2012 (defeated Andy Murray, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4)

History may not look too kindly on Roger Federer’s role in the 2012 Wimbledon Final, as if there was ever a scenario that would’ve seen the crowd prefer the opponent to win in a match against the great ruler of SW19, it would be the day we at long last got another British man in the final. And although the heroic Murray took the first set, Federer simply proved too strong. Tears for Murray followed, whose time would very, very soon come, but after a gap of 3 years we witnessed another Wimbledon trophy be added to the collection of the great Swiss.

Number 18: Australian Open 2017 (defeated Rafael Nadal, 6–4, 3–6, 6–1, 3–6, 6–3)

Given the utter dominance of Novac Djokovic, the continual injury-defying run of Rafa Nadal, or the emergence of Andy Murray as a serious Major winning player, and a litany of others in that time, it maybe isn’t as much a shock as it looks on paper that it took another 5 years nearly for Federer to add to his Major collection. But it was a case of history repeating in the 2017 Australian Open Final, with Roger winning a 5 set final against his greatest rival. Roger appeared in every single major from 1999 up until 2015, such was his exemplary physical conditioning and injury record. But in 2016 he missed 2, 1 each in 2017 and 18, and eventually 2 each in 2020 and 21… So, the appearances were becoming less frequent, but at this point in early 2017, Federer was not done adding to his collection just yet…

Number 19: Wimbledon 2017 (defeated Marin Čilić, 6–3, 6–1, 6–4)

Back home and back winning… Roger Federer capped off a sublime tournament with victory in the final. Murray and Djokovic both fell in the quarters, and Nadal even earlier than that. Federer though kept his cool and had an incredible tournament, winning every set he played (the first player to achieve such a feat since 1976 and only the second player in Open Era history) culminating in a record eighth title at the All England Club. This also marked the 5th year that Nadal won the French Open, followed by a Federer win at Wimbledon. Totally unparalleled.

Number 20: Australian Open 2018 (defeated Marin Čilić, 6–2, 6–7(5–7), 6–3, 3–6, 6–1)

All good things come to an end. And it was very fitting that the final major triumph of the greatest Tennis player of all time ends with a 5 set win. Cilic was again a worthy challenger, but this was proven to be the last dance. Federer said after his 20th Grand Slam final win ““Winning is an absolute dream come true”… Well, if that is indeed the case, Federer lived the greatest dream of them all.

—————————

I would be remise if I wrote a blog about Roger Federer and didn’t discuss THE match. One that he lost, in a major final, but my word, if this isn’t the single greatest tennis match that has ever been played, I have absolutely no idea what is. This was an absolute thing of beauty, a love letter to the great sport of tennis. So, to finish this blog off… grab yourself a snack and a drink and enjoy the 2008 Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final between FIVE-time defending Champion Roger Federer, and a man looking to finally win his first title at the home of tennis (having lost the two previous finals to the same opponent), Rafael Nadal.

Thank You Roger.

Josh.

WWE 2K22 Universe Mode: Chapter 14 – WRESTLEMANIA!

OK… lets be honest… For a number of reasons, my WWE 2K22 Universe Mode series of blogs has… well, it’s time to end. So rather than waste any more time, I have decided to scrap the chapter where I was going to run through my build to WrestleMania. Instead… Let’s just get right into it! And I am going out with a BANG, with quite the Mania-worthy card I’d say…

So… shall we do WRESTLEMANIA then?!…


So match 1 sees Becky Lynch FINALLY make good on the weird finish to Mania 35 and taps out Ronda Rousey in a proper brawl of a match. Really enjoyed this one, and I’d have it be career vs career so I can send Ronda off to do her own thing, open up another spot for someone else on the roster… and also… begin the build to a huge Mania match I’d have planned for the next year… maybe involving a group of 4 women FINALLY doing what I think would be one of the biggest matches in women’s wrestling history… But for now, this was Becky’s time!

Match 2 was… well… a BANGER!!!

A quite remarkable match! We’ve seen some incredible ladder matches at WrestleManias in the past, and I think this one would be right up there! It ends with a new Intercontinental Champion… The Ring General… WALTER!!!

Next was time for the big opportunity for the Women’s Royal Rumble match winner… She would be taking on the ONLY title holder to hold their championship on Day 1 of my Universe Mode, that is still holding it going into my final show here…

Another big win for Ripley. She completes the entire run of my Universe Mode as champion!

Match 4 is one I had planned from day 1 of this series, and I’m happy I can play it out now. If there’s one way to get a heel over, put them against the ultimate babyface…

It just had to be this way… A win here for Kross over Cena would set him up for big, BIG things following WrestleMania this year… Maybe I’d of had him be a champion by the next year’s show…

Next… well… About as big a match at WrestleMania as you could get… ABOUT… But it is time for a true once in a lifetime match. And after losing the Universal Championship (which in turn probably stopped this match being the main event), the road to redemption for Roman Reigns COULD begin with his greatest threat yet… IF anyone can challenge him to his seat at the table… it’s THE great one…

It is indeed Roman Reigns’ yard after all then…

Next is Liv Morgan’s golden chance. After holding the Money In The Bank for almost a full year, she has chosen the grandest stage to cash in her opportunity… and she does so against the SmackDown Women’s Champion… Charlotte Flair!

Finally… it is LIV MORGAN’s time!!! I saw this as the perfect opportunity to crown Liv, it was something I wanted to do all along in fact. And I thought this was a decent match to get there as well. Say what you want about Charlotte Flair, she always has bangers…

Next is about as much of a ‘dream’ match as you could get… One for the ages that won’t ever happen, but here I see an opportunity to give a legend a MUCH more fitting end to his career than his final ‘match’ actually was…

For a number of reasons, I just had to have this match go this way. HBK can ride off into retirement off the back of a fitting WrestleMania match, and a win too! I also can’t think you have ALL the part timers lose on one show, and this one for me was the one that made most sense to have the legend take the W in.

As my Mania start to wind down now and come towards the end of the show… It is now time for the WWE Championship match…. Can Big E get his moment at last? Or will the Rated R Era continue?…

You knew it was happening right? Now is FINALLY BIG E’s TIME!

My penultimate match was another BANGER! One that sees two groups of friends battle, and two pairs who have really been forged through fighting against one another, but turning it around in the end…

I had to give it to them… Sasha Banks and Bayley really are the very reason we have Women’s Tag Titles. And I felt it was important to put the titles this far up the card, and to let these two women have their moment, and in winning a great match too!

AND FINALLY! THE main event of the evening. I was debating about what match to make the main event… but really, when I factored in the fact Austin had returned AND won the Rumble, and it was Lesnar who had beaten Reigns to win the Championship… on top of what an insane match it would be between these two…. it just had to go on last.

Oh… and I made the match No DQ by the way. I couldn’t do STEVE AUSTIN VS BROCK LESNAR and not allow for them to have a fight…!

Well… that was something right? My logic was I wanted to present Lesnar as a monster, but also Austin as the hero who just wouldn’t give up and kept trying to put The Beast down. But I had a vision of Austin winning the title here and sending Lesnar away, and then having Austin embark on a long run as champion with dream match after dream match. Culminating ultimately with… well… I’ll save that one… JUST IN CASE I ever do a second year… but for now it is well and truly UNIVERSAL CHAMPION 3:16!


And just like that, it’s done. Both my WrestleMania and my WWE 2K22 Universe Mode blog series. I don’t really know what to say other than thank you to everyone who has viewed these, and I hope those that have have enjoyed them. At the end of the day, it’s just a bit of fun that I wanted to do and began at a time when WWE… well… irl it wasn’t quite as fun as it is now 7 months on. It feels like a good place to leave things now, but who knows… maybe one day I’ll do a Year 2 in this game? Maybe I’ll do another series in a future WWE game? But one thing is for sure is that I will continue to write and talk about all sorts of stuff in (and outside of) the wacky and wonderful world of professional wrestling.

Josh.

WWE 2K22 Universe Mode: Chapter 13 – life in the FASTLANE!

Possible Title Match For WWE Fastlane PPV

So no messing about with this one… we are well on the road to WrestleMania now, and this is our final stop! I have this blog on my final PPV before Mania, the next one will be all about my build to the show of shows, and then it’s time! My main matches for Mania are pretty much all set, so I’m using this show just to add that little bit of extra build. And also bare in mind when I go through the line-up that I’d have this PPV take place in Toronto, Canada! So… here is my card for my Fastlane PPV, and a brief explanation of the build and how I’d get to each match…

Roman Reigns (with Paul Heyman) & The Usos (Jimmy & Jey) vs The Rock & John Cena & Rikishi

This was a match I had planned for this PPV for a long time in advance. Mainly because I wanted to give The Rock a ‘tune up’ match before WrestleMania, but also I felt for the story of ‘who is the REAL Tribal Chief?’ needed a match with Roman, The Usos, The Rock and the final element which I wanted to add in some way, and I do think this man will play a part of the real life build to any Roman vs Rock match,… Rikishi. The John Cena part I would add because (spoiler alert) he’s on my Mania card too, and he has history with both The Rock and Reigns. I’d start the build with Rock’s first promo just being him talking, next week would be The Bloodline in the ring before not The Rock, but the father of The Usos Rikishi answer… he’d essentially defend The Rock before he catches a beating. Rock would make the save and we would look like we’re going towards Rock & Rikishi against The Usos… but then I’d have roman get real personal in a promo with The Rock, and this would see Rock want to get his hands on Roman before WrestleMania… That’s how we get to a 6 man tag IF Rock & Rikishi can find a tag partner… And on the go-home show that’s when we get the reveal of John Cena!

Brock Lesnar (C) vs Keith Lee for the Universal Championship

A dream match in every sense of the word. This felt like my last chance to do it, so now is the time to finally get the reinvigorated Limitless one to take on The Beast! I’d have Lesnar come out and trash Stone Cold on the mic, with Keith Lee coming out to respond, and as a great man once said this would be simply ‘Big Meaty Men Slapping Meat’.

Edge (C) vs Rey Mysterio for the WWE Championship

For obvious reasons, it’s tricky for me to book a heel Edge on this show. It’s also why I’ve chosen not to have his WrestleMania opponent Big E or any of The New Day on this show full stop. With Edge going up against a former friend, and a much beloved legend, I don’t feel like a likely Edge-supporting Toronto crowd would do too much long term damage to Rey in this match. And I did want Edge on this show before Mania, so someone like Mysterio felt like a good challenger. The actual build would see Edge turn on his former friend as he starts to become crazed to cling on to his title, with the WrestleMania challenger Big E and his fellow New Day members continuing to get in the head of the Rated R Superstar…

Charlotte Flair (C) vs Bianca Belair for the SmackDown Women’s Championship

Quite the blockbuster match here. One I in fact once had planned for my WrestleMania… but I guess things really do just… change… Although she couldn’t get the job done in the chamber, I feel Belair is the strongest candidate and biggest name to face Charlotte in the lead up to WrestleMania. These two have history in my universe mode over the title, I’d play on here this being Belair’s last chance to get to Mania, and Charlotte being desperate to prove she’s the best of the best, with Miss MITB Liv Morgan waiting in the wings for the winner (having already announced she will challenge for the Championship via her briefcase at Mania).

Seth Rollins (with Murphy) vs AJ Styles

Another huge match-up between two big names. This too is building to WrestleMania… I have a MONSTER of a match planned for the winner of this one…

Sheamus (C) vs Drew McIntyre for the Intercontinental Championship

I feel, given their real life matches, it would be criminal of me not to have these two clash on one of my shows. Sheamus has been on a solid run as IC Champion (at LONG last…) and now he has to defend against maybe his toughest challenge… so far… Got big ideas for the IC title for WrestleMania which should be CARNAGE!

Rhea Ripley (C) vs Mickie James for the Raw Women’s Championship

I’ll be honest now… I wanted Rhea on the card, and Mickie once had a great NXT match with Asuka in Toronto, and she’s a legend who I haven’t given enough love to over the course of my Universe Mode, so I wanted to give her a big match here. It’s another that’s tricky for me with this being just before WrestleMania, but I’m sure irl this would be a real goof match, so let’s see…

Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs Street Profits (Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins)

Can’t book a PPV in Canada and NOT have Owens and Zayn on the card can I? This would be part of a mini series with these two teams, with The New Day on Raw now and the tag tiles currently held by The Usos, it’s out of these two for who will get that last match for the titles before I end the series I think…

So that’s the card. Not bad if I don’t say so myself… NOW… On with the show!


Fastlane (Sunday March Week 4, Toronto, Canada)

We kick off the show with the hometown champion…

Edge marches on to Mania, STILL WWE Champion!

Next we have the SmackDown Women’s title on the line…

Charlotte takes the W and sets up a WrestleMania match with Liv Morgan.

Next it’s time for a great tag team match, with two more Canadians in action…

Owens and Zayn with the win in a good match. Maybe a pathway opens up towards tag team gold…

About as good an in-ring match on paper as you could get next between two of the very best…

Rollins with the win in a literally PHENOMENAL match! Onto Mania Rollins now goes… hmm..

The IC title on the line next in a battle of two men who are good friends, but maybe even better enemies…

So Sheamus keeps his title, but not exactly in the ‘right’ way… Maybe next time he wont have the same get out…

A HUGE match next of two literal titans…

I didn’t want to do this to Keith, but at this stage of the Mode, and with me not doing a second year of it, for me it was all about giving Brock the biggest win possible before WrestleMania… Needs must…

A Chance for a legend to get her shot next…

Not to be this time for James. Ripley retaining, but had this show been in the ‘real’ world, I’d of had Royal Rumble winner Sonya Deville attack Ripley after, hold up the Raw Women’s title belt ahead of their WrestleMania match.

And finally, a GIANT main event match. One that I’ve had planned for a LONG time…

Well… that was a lot of fun indeed! WrestleMania and the end of my Universe Mode is nearly upon us. My next blog will be my final shows (Raw and SmackDowns) before Mania (I thought it was important to tie everything up and end everyone’s stories properly), and then the blog after that will be my full WrestleMania show… So I best get booking!

Josh.

WWE 2K22 Universe Mode: Chapter 12 – UPDATE, & Elimination Chamber!

So… here’s where I’m at with this series… it is A LOT of work to put in to see this game and this mode through to its fullest. And to put in the level of detail I feel I need to in order to do Universe mode justice, it takes me a lot of effort.

My idea for doing this blog series and playing this mode on the game, was to show people how I would book wwe, cause wwe was SHIT. Now… HHH’s WWE is actually REALLY good. So that in turn has made me try and up my game for my own booking, and it’s made me book stuff that has really gone against my own beliefs. So those things and also a lack of motivation has meant I really can’t do these blogs as I have done, booking all the TVs and rosters and PPVs. But also given I’ve just finished my Royal Rumble ppv, I do want to see this blog series and my Universe mode out to at least a full year.

So here’s what I’m going to do… instead of as I did before where I listed each TV shows for both Raw and SmackDown, I’m going to say what happens on my post Rumble Raw and SmackDown tv shows, then I’ll list my new rosters for both brands, then my Elimination chamber PPV line up, then I’ll show you all how my PPV went. Next blog will be Fastlane. I’ll list my Fastlane card and the build I’d of done for those matches. Then I’ll have each of those matches in full (via YouTube). After that I’ll go back to how I was. So the blog after that will be my full build to my WrestleMania. So 4 Raws and 4 SmackDowns where I will explain my full builds to WrestleMania, plus the conclusions to everyone else’s storylines on my roster, for those who didn’t quite make the Mania card. And finally… after that I will have my full WrestleMania card, with each match in full (again via YouTube). This way I can finish the series whilst also not overworking myself to the point I scrap the series altogether. And to do that given how far into it I am, would do all my previous work a disservice.

So… that’s that! And now… on with the show!

Here’s my post Royal Rumble Raw and SmackDown shows, followed by my rosters for both shows going forward!


Raw – Monday February Week 1

Stone Cold Steve Austin in-ring promo, talks about the Rumble match, WrestleMania and that he’s “coming for The Beast!”…

Rhea Ripley defeated Mickie JamesRonda came out after to attack Ripley. Lynch makes the save

Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell backstage… they talk about the Women’s tag titles, Candice says “I know THE WAY…”, the Austin Theory enters… followed by JOHNNY GARGANO!

Karrion Kross (with Scarlett) defeated Rey Mysterio in an Elimination Chamber Qualifying Match

AJ Styles backstage interview… MVP interrupts, followed by Omos!

Ricochet defeated John Morrison (with The Miz)

Edge backstage interview

RK-Bro in-ring interview… then a ‘blackout’… then Retribution attack!

‘The Monday Night Messiah’ Seth Rollins (with Murphy) defeated Braun Strowman in an Elimination Chamber Qualifying Match

Shayna Baszler backstage interview

The Way (Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell) (with Austin Theory & Johnny Gargano) defeated Carmella & Dana Brooke in a WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Number 1 Contender’s Tournament Quarter Final Match

Tommaso Ciampa backstage promo

AJ Styles defeated Omos (with MVP) in an Elimination Chamber Qualifying Match

SmackDown – Monday February Week 1

The Bloodline (Roman Reigns with Paul Heyman and The Usos) are in the ring. Roman cuts a promo: Says this is ‘MY SHOW’, wants to get rid of both The New Day from SmackDown and Goldberg from all of WWE for good, says that tonight it’s Usos vs New Day for the titles, losers leave SmackDown. The New Day then come out, all 3 speak and cut face promos accepting the challenge.

Raquel Gonzalez defeated Bayley – with Dakota Kai’s help (both are heels now). Kai and Raquel attack Bayley after the match, but Sasha Banks makes the save (her and Sasha are now babyfaces)

Bianca Belair & Kacy Catanzaro backstage …

Charlotte Flair in-ring promo… on Elimination Chamber… and WrestleMania… Liv Morgan then comes out, and says she will be cashing in her MITB contract for a title match AT WrestleMania

Sheamus defeated Dolph Ziggler

Kay Lee Ray and Nikki Cross backstage promo…

Drew McIntyre backstage interview

Drew McIntyre defeated Roderick Strong

Bobby Lashley (with Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander) in-ring promo. Says “Enough is enough with this ‘Beast Incarnate BULLSHIT!… I want my rematch!”

Nikki Cross & Kay Lee Ray defeated Kacy Catanzaro & Bianca Belair in a WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Number 1 Contender’s Tournament Quarter Final Match

Drew McIntyre backstage … Apollo Crews (with Commander Azeez) confronts him…

Finn Balor defeated Mansoor

The New Day backstage… The Bloodline backstage…

The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) (c) defeated The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods with Big E) to retain the SmackDown Tag Team Championship – Roman helped The Usos win… as a result The New Day must leave SmackDown.

GOLDBERG comes to the ring and goes face-to-face with Roman Reigns… and says “YOU’RE NEXT!”

RAW ROSTER

WWE Champion: Edge – Heel

AJ Styles – Face / Big E – F / Samoa Joe – F

Karrion Kross (with Scarlett) – H / ‘The Monday Night Messiah’ Seth Rollins (with Murphy – H) – H

Raw Women’s Champion: Rhea Ripley – F

Sonya Deville – H / Ronda Rousey – H / Asuka – H / (Teamed with Asuka) Io Shirai – H / Shayna Baszler – H / Shotzi – H

Becky Lynch – F / Tegan Nox – F / Ember Moon – F / Toni Storm – F / Mickie James – F

United States Champion: Damian Priest – F

Tommaso Ciampa – H / Robert Roode – H / Santos Escobar – H (With Joaquin Wilde – H & Raul Mendoza – H)

Ricochet – F / Rey Mysterio – F

Raw Tag Team Champions: RK-Bro (Randy Orton – F & Riddle – F)

Viking Raiders (Erik – H & Ivar – H) / The Way (Johnny Gargano – H & Austin Theory – H with Candice LeRae – H & Indi Hartwell – H) / Retribution (Mustafa Ali – H & Mace – H with Reckoning – H)

The New Day (Xavier Woods – F & Kofi Kingston – F) / Alpha Academy (Otis – F & Chad Gable – F)

Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate – F & Trent Seven – F) / R-Truth – F / Carmella – F / Dana Brooke – F / Titus O’Neil – F

Pete Dunne – H / John Morrison – H & The Miz – H / The IIconics (Peyton Royce – H & Billie Kay – H) / Akira Tozawa – H

SMACKDOWN ROSTER

Universal Champion: Brock Lesnar – H

Bobby Lashley (of ‘The Hurt Business’) – F / Keith lee – F / Drew McIntyre – F

Roman Reigns – H (With Paul Heyman) / Finn Balor – H

SmackDown Women’s Champion: Charlotte Flair – H

Bianca Belair – F / Sasha Banks – F & Bayley – F / Alexa Bliss – F / Miss MITB: Liv Morgan – F / Kacy Catanzaro – F

Raquel Gonzalez – H & Dakota Kai – H / Kay Lee Ray – H & Nikki Cross – H / Natalya – H

Intercontinental Champion: Sheamus – H

Cesaro – F / Dominik Dijakovic – F / Shinsuke Nakamura – F

Walter (of Imperium) – H / Roderick Strong – H

SmackDown Tag Team Champions: The Usos (Jimmy – H & Jey – H With Naomi – H)

Street Profits (Montez Ford – F & Angelo Dawkins – F) / The Hurt Business (Shelton Benajmin – F & Cedric Alexander – F) / Breezango (Tyler Breeze – F & Fandango – F)

Kevin Owens – H & Sami Zayn – H / Imperium (Fabian Aichner – H & Marcel Barthel – H)

Braun Strowman – F / Dolph Ziggler – F / Isaiah ‘Swerve’ Scott – F / Lucha House Party (Gran Metalik – F & Lince Dorado – F) / Mansoor – F

Otis (with MVP – H) – H / Apollo Crews (With Commander Azeez – H) – H / Happy Corbin – H / Humberto Carrillo – H & Angel Garza – H / Jinder Mahal – H


Elimination Chamber – February, Sunday Week 4 (New York City, New York)

Thought I’d start the show off with a BIG banger and a great contrast of styles…

BIG win here for Keith Lee, who is slowly trying to rebuild himself up after suffering for a while form the shock of losing the WWE Championship… But he’s back on track here with a win to kick off the PPV.

Following that match was our first of TWO Elimination Chamber matches of the show… this one for the SmackDown Women’s title on the line!

A fairly dominant win for the champion here, and it sets up our match for WrestleMania… or does it…? But for now it is Charlotte Flair who is STILL the SmackDown Women’s Champion!

Next is a match I was really looking forward to, 3 of my absolute favourites!

AND NEW! Yes indeed it is Tommaso Ciampa’s time now as my United States Champion!!!

A HUGE match next, a rematch from the Royal Rumble, but this time with NO HOLDS BARRED!

OK… so yes this was essentially a squash, and a domination for Brock at the expense of Lashley who I’ve somewhat protected on my Universe Mode… but my justification was simply I got to build up Brock for the main event of Mania against Steve Austin… which I think speaks for itself…

Match 5 was another blockbuster match, with 4 of the biggest names in the women’s division battling for the Raw Women’s Championship!

A quite chaotic match eventually saw Rhea Ripley’s amazing reign as Raw Women’s Champion continue! A title she won at the previous WrestleMania and looks to take it all the way to this year’s showcase PPV…

The semi-main of the show is another Elimination Chamber match! This time to decide who challenges for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania!

After being denied at the final hurdle during the Royal Rumble match, this was BIG E’s time! Who against is TBD, but one thing for sure is that Big E will be going to WRESTLEMANIA!!!

AND FINALLY… It is time for the main event! A dream match for the ages, and after failing in his quest to reclaim his spot by winning the Royal Rumble, Roman Reigns looks to take out Goldberg once and for all!

I must add, this was the first time I have seen Goldberg’s entrance on this game… and they’ve done a remarkable job with it!

So a win for Reigns, which was to be expected. It gets Roman back into the swing of things, but he was not satisfied as the post match attack shows…

And if I were to get to book this show in real life… Just as Roman was standing over a beaten down Goldberg and the show looked to be over… is when I would have this…

(again use your imagination here and go with me… pretend it’s at this Elimination Chamber PPV, and Roman is in the ring etc etc…)

Yep… I’m doing it! HE IS BACK!

Josh.