No Time For Witty Headline: WWE Royal Rumble 2016 Predictions

by BROCK KOLLER

WWE

WWE

It's my favorite event of the year - besides WrestleMania - and SummerSlam - and old school Survivor Series -  and so on and so on - it's the start of the Road to WrestleMania. It's the Royal Rumble!

Everyone has their thoughts on who will win the 30-man WWE World Heavyweight Championship Royal Rumble match. Roman Reigns? Triple H? Daniel Bryan? AJ Styles? Brock Lesnar? Bray Wyatt? A surprise returning from injury John Cena...again?

Here we go, right off the bat...I am telling you my prediction to be the winner of the WWE Royal Rumble and the NEWWWWWWW WWE World Heavyweight Champion-

Kevin Owens.

I was going back and forth between Owens and Dean Ambrose. But I can't see Owens going back to the I.C. title. I see bigger things for Kevin Owens and now is his time. He's the best heel on the roster. He's an authentic personality - no goofy character, no convoluted story around him - he's just a man who will do anything for his family. A man that he we love to hate. 

It's your time Kevin Owens. Of course, I would mark out totally for Daniel Bryan and say I called it too, so in conclusion - I'm excited just as long as something remarkable happens.

Other Matches:

Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens - Intercontinental Championship /Last Man Standing

Since I'm going with Owens to win the Rumble, Ambrose has to beat him in a Last Man Standing Match for the Intercontinental Championship earlier in the night. I'm sure Ambrose will use some crazy device - like a a ladder wrapped in Velcro - to keep Owens down and win.

WINNER: DEAN AMBROSE

Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto - U.S. Championship

I like what they are doing with Kalisto, you know trying to make him a star. He needs to win that title back. Del Rio doesn't need it. Del Rio needs direction, yes, but he doesn't need the title. With WWE sans a cruiserweight title, Kalisto can turn the U.S. division into a nonstop action, edge of your seat destination.

WINNER: KALISTO

Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch - Divas Championship

Evil Charlotte with Daddy Ric still deserves more time with the title - like until WrestleMania. This feud has picked up a bit of steam now that everything is sorted out over who is a heel, who is a face, who is friends with whom, and why Ric Flair is needed. I think Becky can make this a memorable match, but Charlotte will make this a victorious one.

WINNER: CHARLOTTE

The New Day vs. The Usos - WWE Tag Team Championships

We've seen this match before, right? I know I have. Like multiple times. But I feel like I enjoy watching it every time these two teams are in the ring together. This should be no different, as should the champions who walk in and walk out. It's a New Day to start the match and it's another New Day to end it.

WINNERS: THE NEW DAY

KICKOFF MATCH: Fatal 4-Way Royal Rumble Qualifier

WINNERS: Dudleys. Testify.

I am hoping for a Royal Rumble full of surprises - ones that make sense and move along the story.  Surprises for the sake surprises are nice, but we've seen them for years now. DDP, Diesel, Boogeyman, all good, but one and done. If someone unexpected enters the match, it needs to have an effect on the future of the WWE leading to Mania. 

With that said: let's get ready to rumble!

 

 

With a Tear In My Eye: The Greatest Royal Rumble In History

by BROCK KOLLER

This Sunday, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship will be defended for the first time ever in a Royal Rumble match. 1 champion. 29 challengers. The odds are stacked against the reigning titleholder Roman Reigns.

But before I start thinking about my predictions for the first stop on the road to WrestleMania 32, I would be remiss to not bring up the other Royal Rumble match that was for the WWE Championship.

It occurred in 1992. The difference from the 2016 championship Rumble is that 24 years ago, there was no champ. The title had been vacated and it was up for grabs.

The fact that it was for the championship is a reason that made the 1992 Royal Rumble not only the greatest Rumble ever, but one of the greatest matches in WWE history.

Here are a few other reasons why:

1.     The classic opening: “It’s time to Rumble! It’s time for the Royal Rumble!” Vince McMahon’s classic voice-over opens up the pay per view. “WWF superstars compete in the Royal Rumble for the undisputed WWF Championship.” He then – over the much beloved Royal Rumble theme of yore – goes on to name every single competitor.

 2.     Who’s Who: This Rumble had a cavalcade of grade A talent including Jake the Snake Roberts, Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Sid Justice, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, and as Vince puts it, “alleged real world champion” Ric Flair. Yes, there was also stars like Nasty Boys Saggs, The Berzerker, and Repo Man, but it wouldn’t be 1992 without them.

 3.     Future Legends Shine: The Undertaker…or as Vince said in the opening “The Unnnnndertaker”...had just come off his first World Championship, defeating Hulk Hogan at the Survivor Series the previous year. It was because of their rematch’s controversial ending at the This Tuesday in Texas event the title was vacated.  Taker was still young in his WWE career and was about to make his turn to face in the upcoming weeks, but he was still a villainous foe at this time and was a top choice to walk away with the gold.

Then you had a man who just turned heel a week prior to the Rumble and jump-started his Hall of Fame singles career. Shawn Michaels was not considered a main eventer in January of 1992. In fact, announcer Sean Mooney referred to Michaels as an underdog when interviewing him backstage prior to the match. But having both the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels in this Rumble is an amazing fact considering where they end up going in the upcoming years. Also a young HBK and Taker battling an in his prime Ric Flair is something to behold.

4.  Ric Flair’s Quest: Ric Flair walked into the WWE with WCW’s title, claiming he was the real world’s champion. This was Flair’s first opportunity to prove it. While the Royal Rumble match itself is always an exciting match, one to look forward to for months, Flair’s quest inside the ring made this one even more of a must-see. There was Hogan. There was Savage. But all eyes were on the Nature Boy. A lot of WWE fans were just introduced to Flair and did not know what he brought to the table. Outlasting 29 other men would show that Flair talked the talked and walked the walked.

5.  Gorilla & The Brain: The suit makes the man and sometimes the commentary makes the match. In this case, the match was excellent on its own, but the commentating took it to the next level. The legendary duo of Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan – Ric Flair’s adviser at the time - were on fire during this event. They told a story, called the match, and were beyond amusing.

When Flair enters at #3, Gorilla says, “You can kiss it goodbye, Brain.”

Heenan yells hilarious comments throughout the contest including:

“It’s not fair to Flair!”

“Take it easy Ric!”

“The roof’s starting to spin, I’m getting dizzy.”

“Barbarian doesn’t like anybody. When I managed him, he barely liked me!”

“Any schlemiel can win this!”

“I got to go to ringside, Monsoon.”

 “Weasel your way out. I never thought I’d say that.”

“I told you Monsoon! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

And of course, Gorilla is also heard once or twice saying, “Will you be serious?”

So good!

 6.  Jack Tunney: It wasn’t a big deal in the late 1980s and early 1990s unless President Jack Tunney was on the scene. The former WWF on-air figurehead opened the Rumble with a speech where he may or may not have forgotten the words Royal Rumble… “The winner of this event.” Heenan, who referred to the president as “Jack on-the-take Tunney,” was not very patient with Tunney’s speech, exclaiming, “Come on, let’s go!”

7.  The Middle: Any good Rumble has a middle section where the action stops and the focus is one or two – 1990’s Hogan vs. Warrior meeting, as an example. This happens in 1992 when the Big Bossman gets eliminated and Ric Flair is left standing alone. “Flair wins it! Flair is champion of the world!” Heenan exclaims. “Are you kidding? There’s a lot more guys!” Monsoon explains. And then that brings out Rowdy Roddy Piper – a rival of Flair! What are the odds? This was certainly not fair to Flair.

8.   Hulk Hogan’s Final Rumble: Any time Hulk Hogan would enter a Royal Rumble, he would rid the ring of the low and mid-carders. This was Hogan’s final Rumble and though he did throw out the Berzerker in seconds, he also eliminated the Undertaker, which was a surprise.

9.   The Sid Justice Turn: While everyone was hoping for a Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair main event at WrestleMania VIII, the ending of the Royal Rumble laid the groundwork for a Sid Justice heel turn. After Hogan was eliminated by Justice, Hogan put his hand out to Justice to say no hard feelings, but Hogan would not let go and with the help of Flair, Justice was eliminated, giving Flair the win and the title. Hogan and Justice would have a post-match brouhaha.  To many, what Hogan did was heelish, but this moment made Sid go insane and be the heel at Mania’s main event.

10.  Flair’s Victory Speech: The post-game victory speech of all post-game victory speeches. Writing about the speech wouldn’t do it justice (not Sid Justice, just regular justice), so here is what Flair had to say for your enjoyment:

I’m going to tell you all, with a tear in my eye, this is the greatest moment in my life. When you walk around this world, telling everybody you’re number one, the only way you get to stay number one is to be number one and this is the only title in the wrestling world that makes you number one. When you are the king of the WWF, you rule the world. Think about it like that, Mr. Perfect, the Brain. Woooo!
It’s the greatest moment of my life. I want to jump. I want to party. But I got to tell you like this, for the Hulk Hogans, and the Macho Mans, and the Pipers, and the Sids, now it’s Ric Flair, and you all better pay homage to the man.

 Who will walk away champion this year? The man, of course. 

 

Stop Me If You Heard This Before: The Case of Similarly Sounding Songs

by BROCK KOLLER

Stop me if you heard this one before.

And by ‘this’ I mean a particular song on the radio, so you may stop me even sooner than you think.

It feels like more and more these days, tunes on your radio or your Spotify playlist sound similar to ones from the music vault.

Take a listen to 5 Seconds of Summer’s ‘Hey Everybody!’

Now, listen to Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like The Wolf.’

It probably took no longer than five seconds of 5SOS’ mega-hit for your brain to trigger its 1980s’ doppelganger.

But, the boys of the ‘not-a-boy-band band’ thought they created their own original piece of art, as they told Howard Stern late last year on SiriusXM.  

Stern: You actually had Duran Duran, you gave him writing credit, right?

5SOS: We wrote this with Joel Madden from Good Charlotte. Starting playing the riff, and he started playing the melody, and we’re like ‘yeah that’s cool, let’s go with that’ and then everyone was like ‘yeah, it’s Duran Duran.’

Stern: It’s a good song. I love the song.

5S0S: This was like two weeks later. I swear no one said it to me. When I showed them the song, they said ‘it was a great song, should be a single.’ Like a month later, then everyone was like ‘hang on a second.’

Stern: But that can happen, right? You have so many musical influences, you grow listening and it can sound like one other song. 

5SOS: It’s like every melody has been song before. It’s just a matter of not trying to get sued now.

Robin Quivers: Did you guys capitulate and say just give him credit?

5SOS: We tried to come up with something else, but to be honest, this is the best melody.

In this interview, 5 Seconds of Summer said one of the most profound phrases concerning the music industry these days: ‘It’s like every melody has been song before. It’s just a matter of not trying to get sued now. ‘

Robin Thicke and Pharrell may know a thing or two about that. They were ordered last March to pay $7.4 million by a jury who decided their song ‘Blurred Lines’ was too similar to 1977’s Marvin Gaye hit ‘Got to Give It Up.’

As the Hollywood Reporter put it, “In what might now be the landmark legal controversy over songcraft, the jury decided that Thicke and Williams infringed…and had to pay $4 million in damages (essentially accepting the Gaye family's contention that if "Got to Give It Up" was properly licensed, the family would have gotten a 50 percent cut of the $8 million in "Blurred Lines" publishing revenue). On top of that, the two songwriters had to hand back nearly $3.4 million of their profits on "Blurred Lines." The verdict will echo through the ages.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the previous record high copyright infringement suit was the 1994 Michael Bolton/Isley Brothers case. Bolton had to pay $5.4 million for using elements of the Isley Brothers' "Love Is a Wonderful Thing" in his own song titled "Love Is a Wonderful Thing.”

While testifying, to defend himself, Thicke sought out to prove that many different songs have similar chord patterns. So much so, he performed on piano a medley of U2's "With or Without You," The Beatles' "Let It Be," Alphaville's "Forever Young," Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" and Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror," going from one song to another.

In an interview with the New York Times, Thicke said, "I know the difference between inspiration and theft. I’m constantly inspired, but I would never steal. And neither would Pharrell."

The dispute is headed to appellate court.

A case that never went to court was the late David Bowie and the band Queen suing rapper Vanilla Ice in 1990 for his hit ‘Ice Ice Baby,’ claiming it was a rip off of their 1981 hit ‘Under Pressure.’

At first, Vanilla Ice said the two songs were different. Remember the ‘ding-ding-ding’ approach?

However there was a change of heart and Vanilla Ice settled the case out of court, resulting in payment to Bowie and Queen and additional credit on the song.

In 2006, he told the Iowa State Daily, it was indeed the same exact bass line.

“Well, it is. It is the exact same one; that's why I paid them $4 million. Are you talking about that interview I did like a million years ago that I was like saying, "Mine goes 'ding ding ding dingy ding dink,' and theirs goes 'ding ding ding, ding ding?'" No, dude, that was a joke. That was a laugh and a joke. Yeah, I paid them. I sampled that song straight out. That's why when you read the credits on "Ice Ice Baby" now it says Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, because they're on there.”

But whereas Vanilla Ice readily admits his song sounded exactly like another, sometimes the similarities are just touched upon in passing in your personal life, on social media, or on websites and nothing is ever made of it.

For instance, in Maroon 5’s #1 hit ‘Sugar,’ there’s a section of the song that is very reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It,' but there has been no court battle to speak of.

Now, I could try to explain why these songs sound the same using stick figures, Sudoku charts, and rare Microsoft Word fonts, but, thankfully, the website HitSongsDeconstructed.com does a much better job describing the parallels using actual music vocabulary.

“While it’s not a carbon copy, there are key similarities between the two,” the website says. “Both Sugar and Beat It possess a similar chorus structure, consisting of three distinct “parts.” …Both songs feature the lyric “show” at/near the beginning of Part Y…Both songs feature stressed (prolonged) lyrics at the beginning of the first three phases…Both songs also possess a similar melodic range and follow an up/down/up/down flow to a degree…Both songs possess a similar rhythmic flow, consisting primarily of an eighth-note delivery with strategically placed rests and prolonged/stressed notes as detailed above…In addition to Part Y within the chorus, some of [Adam] Levine’s “vocal flourishes” found throughout the song are directly influenced by Michael Jackson.   Prime examples are the “ttt – ah – ah” vocal at the end of the intro, and the high-pitch “oouu!” within the outro.”

Told you there was something there.

For a more in-depth explanation, I strongly suggest you checking out their website. It’s great support for when you tell your friend, ‘See, I wasn’t wrong! It does sound like it!’

Heck, even MTV had ‘Sugar’ on their list of the 6 Best Michael Jackson Soundalike Songs from 2015.

And how about Taylor Swift's new single 'Out of the Woods.' The chorus is extremely familiar to any fan of the 90s pop duo Savage Garden. Chica cherry cola anyone?

As OK! Magazine put it,  "Taylor’s second song from 1989—though not the second single, apparently—is about a relationship that’ll inevitably fall apart. Everyone thinks the tune, co-written by fun.’s Jack Antonoff, is about her short-lived winter romance with Harry Styles so we’re going to go with that. What no one has talked about yet though is the fact that the chorus sounds like the chorus to Savage Garden’s “Cherry Cola.” Are we right or are we right?"

The actual song title is 'I Want You,' but that's not the point. The point is we've heard it before...or something like it.

And how about Twenty One Pilots' hit 'Tear In My Heart?' 

Sounds like The Darkness' 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love,' right? Right? At least in the beginning. I know, right! 

Don't just take my word for it, I found at least one person on Twenty One Pilot's Sub-Reddit who agrees!

She writes, "Am I the only one who thinks this sounds slightly like The Darkness - I Believe In A Thing Called Love in the beginning?? I feel like I've heard this but just can't put a finger on it. Also here's the link to that song, so you can compare."

No need for a link, Redditor, it's right here on my blog! Compare. Contrast. Scratch your head in total amazement.  

But why is this the case? Where's Hitsongsdeconstructed when you need them?

One more recent entry into the ‘hey, I’ve heard this before’ archives is Shawn Mendes’ ‘Stitches.’ Now, its twin-of-sorts is a bit more obscure than the other main stream pop hits mentioned in this article.

The similarity happens when Shawn sings, ‘Got a feeling that I’m going under, but I know that I’ll make it out alive.’

For me – now this is just for me as far I can tell – haven't checked the Mendes sub-Reddit, yet - but it sounds very similar to a part of O.A.R.’s song ‘Almost Easy’ from their King album.

The part of their song goes, ‘What a feeling when it takes control of you, everything you need is back tenfold.’

It may just be that both lyrics have the word ‘feeling’ and the syllable count is almost the same, (10/10 to 11/9) but every time I hear it, I feel like I’m hearing the other song just for that moment.  

Is 5SOS right? Has every melody been sung before? 

Or is that I can’t help myself to think that every song on the radio must sound like another song I’ve heard before.

Yep.

That sounds about right.

 

Undertaker's New Path to WrestleMania Should Be A Rock-y One

by BROCK KOLLER

WWE/Google

WWE/Google

With John Cena out of action, reportedly for months, and barring a SuperCena miraculous recovery by the end of March, questions upon questions are surrounding the landscape of WrestleMania 32.

In my opinion, the match was set - John Cena vs The Undertaker in Taker's last match in front of 100,000 at AT&T Stadium in the Deadman's home state.

The Undertaker and Cena haven't had too many run-ins besides (from what I recall) in the 2002-2004 era, a Raw match in 2006, and a 2007 tag match - which I feel was done on purpose. Keep them away from each other so when they finally do come face to face it will be that much more impactful. Same thing happened with Taker and Shawn Michaels. They kept the two away from each other for 10 years until they were the final two in the 2007 Royal Rumble and that planted the seeds for a feud later on.

I have been waiting for an Undertaker-John Cena match for years. Cena was the only obvious choice left for Taker to wrestle at Mania and especially if it was going to be his last match - the longest tenured superstar vs the face of the franchise.

The match should be happening.

But alas it looks because of a worst time possible injury (is there ever a best time possible?), Cena is out of the picture. This leaves Taker standing in the middle of the ring at the biggest event in WWE history alone.

Alone.

Poor lonely Taker.

Cena was the obvious choice, the perfect choice, the most fulfilling choice – but the show (as it always does) must go on and there must be another choice, right? Taker can't be alone on WrestleMania- he just can't!

So with John Cena on the shelf, who can WWE turn to in their time of need to face the once undefeated WrestleMania stalwart? WWE Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Ross recently blogged his choice - Luke Harper. I agree with JR that Harper is untapped talent and should be given room to grow. But facing the Undertaker at Mania is not the place for that. I am all for pushing fresh talent. I say it all the time. But Undertaker was poised to meet the face of the franchise - a veteran - he needs another veteran to take Cena's spot.

If you smell what I'm cooking.

The Rock is the only man who can stand toe to toe with The Undertaker - make it a believable threat - make it a main event match - make us forget that this was supposed to be John Cena.

Let's look at the rumored WrestleMania picture right now - Triple H vs Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar vs Kevin Owens. Taker already faced HHH and Lesnar to the extent they can no longer wrestle each other anymore - not a match more. Owens could be an intriguing choice against Taker but the anticipation is building for a Lesnar-KO brawl. And a Reigns vs Taker battle just doesn't make sense.

But wait! There's always (it’s gotta be) Kane!

Yes, true. If this indeed is the Phenom's last ride, a final match against his demon brother could be poetic. He's only wrestled Taker twice at Mania, three times isn't out of the question. And while some may say this would be a boring retread - there are ways to set it up to keep it interesting without veering into corny theatrics.

But that's not the best route. The best route is heading down Know Your Role Boulevard and making a left onto Jabroni Drive and booking a room at the Smackdown Hotel! It gets great Yelp reviews.

Fantasy booking time: The Rock can say he's done it all in the WWE, but he has never defeated the Undertaker at WrestleMania. The story of the Undertaker at Mania is now sports lore and the mainstream media will have an easy story to tell when writing up what The Rock is doing back at that big wrestling event this year. The Rock needs a focused match - one where the opponent makes sense, the goal is easy to understand for everyone, and the name recognition is there on both sides.

The Undertaker is to The Rock as The Rock is to The Undertaker.  They are codependent on each other to make their WrestleMania 32 match worthy of each other.

They need one another for this event. If John Cena was not injured, who would The Rock have wrestled? Maybe a Batista? Or a Chris Jericho? Or an Alberto Del Rio, perhaps.

You could throw in a recently signed AJ Styles in either scenario - vs The Rock, vs The Undertaker - and it could work, but it's not the best solution.

Then there's Daniel Bryan. He really wants WWE to clear him and they just might in time for Mania, especially with all these injuries  - from Seth Rollins to the recently announced future WWE Hall of Famer Sting. Bryan could be a great choice to face Taker, but he's still on the shelf as of this writing. 

As for now, this scenario works best for both. The Scorpion King vs. The Prince of Darkness.

Honestly, I’m hoping for a super speedy recovery for John Cena and he makes a grand return on Raw the night after FastLane to challenge the Undertaker.

If not: Mr. Cena it will be difficult to replace you at WrestleMania, but the show must go on.

Can You Survive These Predictions? 2015 Survivor Series Preview

by BROCK KOLLER

WWE

WWE

 

Before reading, check out my article on the 25th anniversary of The Undertaker. 

It’s Survivor Series Sunday - where teams of 5 strive to survive.

Well…two teams of five because as of right now there is only one Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match scheduled for tonight’s event.

Let’s get right to the predictions and then I’ll give the card I would have booked for Survivor Series.

World Heavyweight Championship Tournament

Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens

Roman Reigns vs. Albert Del Rio

The obvious route – meaning the route I thought of and subsequently seen and heard across the web - would be Ambrose vs. Reigns in the finals with Ambrose turning on Reigns and joining The Authority.

With Ambrose as your new champion.

The other option would be put your biggest heel – Owens - in the finals with (in) your (opinion) biggest face – Reigns- so you get a classic bad guy vs. good guy finals.

The point, however, is that Reigns can’t leave this event with the title. He needs to come just close, but have it yanked from him yet again. This will continue the ‘Will Reigns ever be champ?’ story.  

But if Reigns can’t win, and if it’s not an Ambrose heel turn, who walks away champion?

Sheamus.

Mr. Money In the Bank could pull off a copy of Seth Rollins’ WrestleMania run-in and interrupt either scenario and walk away the champ. He could also come out after Reigns wins the title and defeat him, but I’d rather keep Reigns away from the pinfall.

So what would I like to see? A heel Ambrose walking away champion.

What will most likely happen? A Sheamus walking away champion.

The Wyatt Family vs. Undertaker & Kane

Has Bray Wyatt ever won a match? I kid. He has, but they are not as common as his losses. And this has all the makings of another Wyatt loss. But the easy way out would be if Kane takes the loss. OR – here we go again- if Kane turns on his brother.

If this is indeed Taker’s last ride, why not throw in one more Undertaker vs. Kane match at December’s TLC. If this is indeed his farewell tour, why not revisit one of his most memorable and durable feuds?

I want the Undertaker to win. - use his lightning powers and stand victorious! But he has the ability to take this loss and continue on his tour. With another loss, Wyatt might just become a low mid-carder who wrestles Fandango on Superstars.  No matter who teams with Bray – they must win.

WINNER: The Wyatt Family

Dolph Ziggler vs. Tyler Breeze

When Dolph (as Dolph) first entered the WWE he was very similar in character to Tyler Breeze, so it’s kind of like Dolph fighting his younger self. This should be a good match with a feud behind it. It may seem more interesting than it is just because it’s an offshoot of the Rusev-Ziggler feud which most wrestling fans want to forget. But after Tyler Breeze took a loss in the World Heavyweight Championship Tournament, the newcomer to the main stage should get his first pay per view win.

WINNER: Tyler Breeze

Charlotte vs. Paige

This will be a very good Divas match. While all the talk is about this past Raw and what was said during the contract signing segment, the fact is these two women are two of the best on the roster and will put on a great show for the fans. What was said in that closing segment may not be brought up again by the WWE because of the controversy, but that won’t take anything away from the match. And if it is brought up again, viewers should not let it take anything away from the match.

WINNER: Charlotte

Traditional Survivor Series Match

My guess: Cesaro/Neville/Dudleys/Calisto vs. New Day/Stardust/Barrett

WINNER: Cesaro – give the Internet Wrestling Community something to cheer about

Now here is what my Survivor Series would have looked like as I’m an advocate for the 5-on-5/4-on-4 traditional matches. I mean, It’s Survivor Series – when else should we have these matches??

Of course, we would have the finals of the Tournament:

Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose – it would have had a week build to create intrigue

The Divas Match is fine, too: Charlotte vs. Paige

Now here is where the changes would take place:

4-on-4 Elimination Match

The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness: Undertaker, Kane, NXT Champion Finn Balor, Ryback

Vs

The Wyatt Family: Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, Braun Strowman

5-on-5 Elimination Matches

The Team With Kevin Owens: Kevin Owens, Stardust, The Ascension, Alberto Del Rio

Vs.

The Cesaro Section: Cesaro, The Dudleys, Jack Swagger, Neville

The Unicorns: The New Day, Bo Dallas, Miz

Vs.

USO Crazy: The Usos, Prime Time Players, Kalisto  

 

Hmm…it seems the roster was larger back in 1987.

 

Enjoy the Survivor Series! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 22, 1990: Mariah Carey, Primetime Pets, & The Undertaker

by BROCK KOLLER

Billboard/WWE/Fox

Billboard/WWE/Fox

What connects Mariah Carey, Macaulay Culkin, and Bart Simpson? Simple. The Undertaker.

On November 22, 1990, the Phenom, the Deadman, the Lord of Darkness made his debut in the WWE, then known as the World Wrestling Federation, during its Thanksgiving night pay-per-view event known as Survivor Series.

This Sunday, the Undertaker will mark his 25th anniversary at this year’s version of the Survivor Series, now broadcast the weekend before Thanksgiving so you no longer have to fight Uncle Walter over the remote after you eat the turkey.  Give-me-the-re-mote, Uncle Walter!!!

The world was a lot different on November 22, 1990.

Let’s start off with the most essential bit of trivia one needs if he or she is writing a blog about a bygone era: gas prices.

According to Statista – your homepage and mine – the average price of a gallon of gas in 1990 was $1.30. Right now, according to AAA, the average is $2.15. This comparison would have had a lot more of an impact just a few years ago, but still approximately $1 more per gallon is enough of a change for me.

If you have been online in the past few days, you probably heard it’s also the 25th anniversary of a little movie called Home Alone.  Kevin!! The parents’ worst nightmare scenario flick grossed $20.9 million the weekend of Survivor Series 1990 beating out newcomer Three Men and a Little Lady which came in at 13.7 mil, per Box Office Mojo. People just weren’t that interested in seeing the baby as a lady, I suppose.  Why don’t you love her anymore?

That week Mariah Carey had the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts with 'Love Takes Time.'

You don’t remember it? You are in luck. It’s right here -->

Listen to it through your speakers. And while it’s playing say aloud ‘I’m reading a blog about The Undertaker!' Everyone will understand.

Number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts was 'More Than Words Can Say' by Alias.  Not to be confused with 'More Than Words' by Extreme which became a big hit in 1991. Coincidentally, another big hit came in 1991 when the Undertaker tombstone piledrived Hulk Hogan onto a steel chair provided by The Nature Boy Ric Flair to win the WWF Championship at that year’s Survivor Series. So many connections with the Undertaker. So many connections.

But back to November 22, 1990. That night the top show on broadcast television at 8 p.m. is very similar to the Undertaker. That show also debuted in 1990 (minus a few shorts and a Christmas special) and it has been on TV ever since, reinventing itself and staying relevant just like Taker. We, of course, are talking about The Simpsons.

On November 22, 1990, Fox aired The Simpsons' 'Bart vs. Thanksgiving' episode to an 11.9 rating defeating The Cosby Show’s 11.6, Father Dowling Mysteries at 9.1, and even Primetime Pets which only had 6.2.  C’mon man! Why weren’t you watching Primetime Pets?? Look at the video to the left and tell me you now don’t have FOMO.

Did you see that dog dancing? Classic Primetime Pets. 

Well, you can’t say the 1990 Survivor Series didn’t fulfill the animal category itself.

On the same night one of the most legendary figures in sports entertainment history debuted, so did The Gobbledy Gooker – a human-turkey hybrid that had a strange fascination for dancing with announcer Mean Gene Okerlund.

It was Thanksgiving in 1990, after all. And no those weren’t boos you heard in the crowd, they were saying boo urns. They are always saying boo urns.

But this shows you just how rare a character like the Undertaker is. For every Undertaker, there have been dozens and dozens of Gobbledy Gookerz - goofy, off-the-wall characters, that make wrestling fans shake their heads and say, ‘I’m switching the channel to Primetime Pets. Is that a pig on the table? Oh, classic Primetime Pets.'

The Undertaker’s staying power (he does have powers) is more than just impressive, it’s supernatural.

Prior to Survivor Series 1990, the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase boasted about a mystery partner for his Million Dollar Team, along with Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine and The Honky Tonk Man. He referenced an ‘ace’ up their sleeve.

That ace could have gone a number ways – it could have been a Gobbledy Gooker, here today, gone tomorrow. It could have been his bodyguard Virgil -a character important for that time,  but did not last much longer. It could have been Macaulay Culkin – a popular celebrity used for mainstream media attention and then never heard from again in wrestling. (That would be the 2015 route).

But no, it was The Undertaker. A gimmick that could’ve been as cheesy as Velveeta (like that line), but Mark Calaway took the ball - a familiar 1990s wrestler who has another occupation gimmick – and ran with it and has been running for 25 years.

Pretty much since Dibiase said the words ‘I give to you the Undertaker’ that night, the Undertaker has been in the main event picture. As stated before, he won the championship just a year later!

Sure, WWE promoter Vince McMahon liked putting Taker against giants, monsters, and creatures of all kinds, because it made sense to fight weird and odd against weird and scary, but after those feuds, Taker would always return to the championship picture.

However, his late great manager Paul Bearer told WWE Magazine in 2010 that the Undertaker never needed the title.

“Undertaker’s persona is just so powerful that he’s never really needed a title.  Some Superstars need a championship to say on top in the WWE, but not Undertaker. In my book, he’s a world champion whether he has a title or not.”

That pretty much says it all. The Undertaker has outlasted everyone and everything (besides The Simpsons).

He began in an era where he had to scare fans from saying their prayers and eating their vitamins, he went through the era where he had to embalm Stone Cold Steve Austin just to shock fans, to now – an era where as soon the gong of the first note of his entrance music hits – fans chant ‘This is awesome.’

The Undertaker is awesome. His legacy, his WrestleMania undefeated winning streak, his character – it’s all awesome.

On November 22, 1990, the world witnessed wrestling greatness for the first time.

On November 22, 2015, the world gets to celebrate that same greatness for the 25th year.

Back in 1990, in her number one hit, Mariah Carey was singing ‘You might say that it’s over.’

Sorry, Mariah, but the Undertaker’s ride is not over just yet. There’s still more history to be made.




Now What? Rollins' Injury Poses Various Survivor Series Outcomess

by BROCK KOLLER

Seth Rollins was on top of the world. He was main-eventing every Raw, Smackdown, and pay per view. He was feuding with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show and trading barbs with Jonathan Coachman on SportsCenter.

WWE

WWE

Ever since WrestleMania, Rollins embodied what Triple H has called him the past few weeks – the man.

He brought new life into the WWE. It was no longer a John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar world.

Rollins was making a name for himself while bringing a fresh face to the top of the card. But then this past week, the man’s nonstop ride to supremacy hit a roadblock, one not created by a backstage writer or promoter Vince McMahon, but by an injury that will reportedly put him out of action for anywhere from 6 to 9 months.

It’s safe to say the disappointment felt by not only Rollins, but wrestling fans across the world has been immeasurable.  Rollins has been the MVP of WWE for the past two years, even carrying the main heel role last fall when Lesnar was carrying the WWE World Heavyweight Championship off screen for months.  

He was the antithesis of Lesnar. Fighting on every show.  Every show. Whether it was a live event, a Smackdown, or a WWE Network event, the WWE champion was on the card.

Rollins’ absence will undoubtedly be felt. It will be big a hole to fill. While we all wish Rollins a speedy recovery and hope when he returns he can regain the coveted spotlight that is rightfully his, the old adage of 'this is a business and the show must go on' is apt.

Along with the news of Rollins’ injury, WWE announced there will be tournament at Survivor Series to determine a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. 

WWE has a decision to make. Do they go early with their plans they had after Rollins eventually lost the title? Do they throw a curve and crown a champion who has never tasted gold before? Or do they go back to the familiar and award a wrestler who they already have faith in?

There are many different routes the Survivor Series could go. Here are just 10 of them.

As you will notice a couple resemble the last time the WWE title was up for grabs in a tournament at Survivor Series. In 1998, WWE held their Deadly Games tournament. Going into the show, many believed Vince McMahon was prepping Mankind Mick Foley to be his champion. But in a swerve, newly turned fan favorite The Rock turned heel again, aligning with McMahon, and went from the People’s Champion to the Corporate Champion. Remember the Corporate Elbow?

Here’s where I see this tournament going:

WWE

WWE

1.       Heel Roman Reigns. The most interesting characters WWE has created in the PG era have to be The Shield. They were cool. They were different. They were great wrestlers. With one of the former Shield members out, the top 2 candidates to replace him as champion are his former allies. In this case, Roman Reigns. WWE’s apparent heir to John Cena’s throne is certain to become champion soon. But if he is given the title now, he must turn heel and join The Authority. That’s it. If he becomes champion as a face, he will not get over and just anger the majority of ticketholders. It would be the same outcome as when Stone Cold Steve Austin turned heel at WrestleMania X-Seven. It didn’t work. Reigns would have to beat Ambrose in a vicious way and align himself with Triple H ala The Rock and McMahon in 1998.  This would make him get booed – but for all the right reasons.

WWE

WWE

2.       Heel Dean Ambrose. If it’s not a heel Roman Reigns defeating a face Dean Ambrose, it’s a heel Ambrose defeating a face Reigns. Ambrose could finally snap and say he’s had enough being Reigns’ happy-go-lucky, insane buddy. He deserves better and Triple H has promised him better. It would give more sympathy to Reigns on his way to his much-believed WrestleMania title victory. And The Authority will have their new man, so they can continue to cut 20 minute promos to open up Raw every week.

WWE

WWE

3.       Sheamus. Let’s say Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns fight in the finals. It’s a competitive match. Back and forth. Both men give it their all. But a Superman punch later, Reigns is your new WWE Champ. Wait? A face Roman Reigns champion? But I thought…hold up, hold up. It’s not over yet. You see Reigns is spent. Cue Mr. Money In the Bank with The Authority. Triple H pedigrees Ambrose to keep him out of the equation. Sheamus brogue kicks the new champion, covers Reigns, and we have a new WWE champ from Ireland. Sheamus has been champion before, but not recently. He has the briefcase and I can’t see any other time he would be able to use it and not have fans say, ‘No please, go away.’ If it’s a not a heel turn from Reigns or Ambrose, it’s a Sheamus MITB run-in.

WWE

WWE

4.       Rusev. I have to hand it to the guys at Busted Open on SiriusXM for bringing this idea to my brain. This is genius. Rusev needs to be reinvented and to go through a tournament and demolish four or five guys to do it would bring him back to that monster status he was at prior to WrestleMania 31. Plus, we can tie up this Rusev-Lana–Ziggler engagement storyline once and for all. In the semi-finals, Dolph Ziggler could meet Rusev. In the middle of the match, Lana could come down the ring dressed in her Ziggler 1980s jean attire and side with Ziggler, clapping for him. Ziggler would look confused and say to her ‘I thought you were engaged.’ Lana could climb up on the apron and say it was a misunderstanding. She would then kiss Ziggler and then slap him in the face, resulting in Rusev giving Ziggler the Accolade for the win and make it to the finals vs. Reigns where he would be managed by a once again dressed in a red suit Lana. After maybe a misunderstanding between Reigns and buddy Ambrose, Rusev becomes your champ and monster heel.

5.       Kevin Owens. This past Thursday on Smackdown, Owens fought Ambrose. During the match, while applying a headlock to Ambrose, the current Intercontinental Champion exclaimed “My headlock is better than yours.” This is what makes Kevin Owens a must watch. His heel character is very real. Very irritating. It is very reminiscent of the heel Chris Jericho from the late 2000s. He just annoys you. Plus, like Y2J, Owens is a terrific performer. He would change the look of the main event picture, as Rollins did. And going from one former Ring of Honor wrestler to another as WWE Champion isn’t a bad thing at all.

                                     WWE

                                     WWE

6.       Cesaro. Could they? Would they? Will they? Probably not. But what if they did? What if they did? Cesaro may not be the best on the mic, but he may very well be the best in the ring and that’s pretty much what WWE needs in a champion right now. Someone who can look like a true fighter in the ring. The Cesaro section would take over the entire arena should this happen. But it’s more likely Cesaro will feud with Alberto Del Rio in the coming months over the United States Championship than him becoming WWE Champion in a few days.

WWE

WWE

7.       Bray Wyatt. I mean he has the power of lightning – HOW CAN HE BE STOPPED? Seriously. He can control the TitanTron and the pyro. Plus, he has the Undertaker and Kane locked up in his garage fixing his rocking chairs or something. He has power. What’s the phrase? With great power, comes…great tournament wins, right? Wyatt could face Reigns in the title match and then Kane and the Undertaker come down and help Wyatt win because he brainwashed them…because that’s what they were doing while they were kidnapped…being brainwashed…and now we have a new champion. Then lightning goes off. And then there’s a nicely edited video package about Bray Wyatt to end the show. That could happen. Admit it. You want to see some of this. I would like to see his championship celebration the next night on Raw! With druids and monsters and Braun Strowmans and smoke and thunder. Would be a sight.

WWE

WWE

8.       Brock Lesnar. The beast is back. Is he? How many days does he have left to appear this year? If it’s at least one than this could happen. Why not? He can steamroll the competition. Win the tournament. And not be seen again with the title until Royal Rumble. It’s been done before. This time he would only be away for a month. And we would have a credible champion. As I write this, I’m starting to believe this might happen myself.

                                     WWE

                                     WWE

9.       John Cena. Yes, Cena is away on some personal business. I hope it’s a new rap album. But he is the WWE’s Ghostbusters. When there’s something strange (like an injury) and it don’t look good (in need of a champ), who you going to call? John! Cena! But I would hope if he was to make a surprise tournament entry, at least right before the final match of the night, he does a backstage segment with Ric Flair who wishes him luck on tying him for 16 championships. That’s all I ask. Go with what you know, WWE. Go with Cena. That’s fine. I’ve survived it before. But just have that Flair segment.

WWE

WWE

10.   Samoa Joe. Joe has yet to appear on the main WWE roster. He’s doing a tremendous job in NXT and just turned heel on NXT Champion Finn Balor. But many have pulled double duty before and Samoa Joe is no stranger to working hard in the wrestling business. Joe has the look and feel of a big threat and can pose a serious danger to the top faces still standing in WWE after Survivor Series – Reigns, Ambrose, Orton, Ziggler.

These are only 10 of a multitude of options WWE has to ponder as Survivor Series nears. There’s also Ziggler, Ryback, Sting, and Daniel Bryan. But those all are iffy at best.

And what about Big Show?!!

(Crickets.)

So while we continue to be upset over what we lost in Seth Rollins’ injury, there is something to look forward to in what path the WWE will now take. Let’s just hope it’s not as cringe-worthy. 

CELL WE DANCE? WWE HIAC Predictions

by BROCK KOLLER

WWE

WWE

Six-Man Tag Team Match

 

Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, & Neville vs. Rusev, Sheamus, and King Barrett

 

This was on Raw, right?  I remember seeing this six-man tag match (one of many) on Raw. It was a good match, so let’s try for it again. Every time there’re a bunch of mid-carders just wrestling for no reason, I always just want them to pretend to fight as the bell rings and then clap hands and form a new stable. These 6 men could be the United Nations of Pain. Cesaro would be the leader of course.

 

WINNER: Ziggler, Cesaro, Neville

 

U.S. Open Challenge

John Cena vs. Mystery Opponent

 

Names upon names upon names have been filling up the internet over who will accept Cena’s challenge. Some are legends. Some are former WWE champions. My choice? It would be the recently promoted to the main roster Tyler Breeze. With talks that Cena is stepping away for a period time, the leader of the Cenation should ‘make someone’ tonight. While I would love to see any of the rumored surprises I’ve read about, I think Breeze showcasing his talents against Cena, winning the title, and then battling with a motivated Dolph Ziggler over the next few months over the championship, would create quite an interesting feud – a new one, in fact – and one about the gold and not about affairs. But it all starts with Cena, not only putting on a show with Breeze – which is expected – but Cena needs to let Breeze go over on him. Usually, the likelihood of that would be questionable, but with Cena’s looming departure…it’s time to make a star.

 

WINNER: Tyler Breeze

 

WWE Tag Team Championships Match

 

The New Day vs. The Dudleys

 

It’s a New Day! Yes, it is. But it’s time for new tag team champions. The Dudleys’ return needs to be capped off with a title victory. Even if they are only champions until next month’s Survivor Series, it will still give them their 10th reign. And besides, the New Age Outlaws got to be champs during their latest run, why not the guys from Dudleyville? Wazzzup?

 

WINNERS: The Dudleys

 

Intercontinental Championship Match

 

Kevin Owens vs. Ryback

 

Hasn’t this match happened already? What is this feud? Is this a feud? I don’t know. I just want Kevin Owens to win and move on. And I think Ryback should be a special attraction and show up sporadically. Make him feel special. His character has the ability to be that Ultimate Warrior type persona. It’s just preserving him that’s key. We don’t need to see him on every card – which means he does not need to be Intercontinental Champion again.

 

WINNER: Kevin Owens

 

Divas Championship Match

 

Charlotte vs. Nikki Bella

 

Can we believe how close we are to a Charlotte vs. Sasha show stealing match? It’s soooo close. But first - this. Respect needs to be given to Nikki for holding the title for a record length. Yes, Vince wanted someone break to the record, but if that person was not generating a reaction or had a good worth ethic, he would have canceled the mission and found someone new. But with Nikki, they kept at it and had her become the longest reigning Divas Champion in history. That shows what the Bellas mean to the WWE. Will she win the title back tonight? Now, I don’t mean that.

 

WINNER: Charlotte

 

WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match

 

Seth Rollins vs. Demon Kane

 

I know it might not be cool, OK, but I am a Kane mark. Big Kane fan here. This guy right here. I actually wrote a blog on my Tumblr page a short time ago, praising the importance of Kane to WWE and why fans should stand on their feet and cheer when he arrives on stage. But Kane…this storyline. It’s not helping our case. Corporate Kane. Demon Kane. Injuries that are there one minute and not there another. It’s hard to make yourself believe this. Now, Kane and Seth Rollins are both doing the best they can with this storyline. And Kane’s character can go into the mystical Undertaker realm, but I would have rather a ‘reality-based’ storyline where Rollins just told Corporate Kane he’s washed up and doesn’t deserve a title shot because he can’t do what he used to. That’s when he turned into Demon Kane and a la 1997 disrupts matches and tombstones everyone. That would have jazzed me up for this title match more. Instead, the focus is on whether or not Corporate Kane will remain Director of Operations. Someone chokeslam this storyline – both guys deserve better.

 

WINNER: Seth Rollins

 

Hell in a Cell Match

 

Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt

 

I like that this is an actual feud being decided inside the cell. They wrestled multiple times over the past few months and now they need the cell to determine the ultimate outcome. That’s what the cell is for. But why do they hate each other again? Because Roman cost Bray a shot at Money In the Bank right? And then Bray stopped Roman from grabbing the briefcase? Sometimes I get lost after a few weeks of the reason things are happening – but most of the time that’s because there is no reason. This ‘Anyone But You’ story feels like it’s about to end – or should end with this match. These two Superstars are able to put on a great match and I hope the cell helps and does not hinder.  

 

WINNER: Roman Reigns

 

Hell in a Cell Match

 

The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar

 

Almost exactly 13 years to the day of their first Hell in a Cell, Undertaker and Lesnar will lock horns again inside Satan’s structure. At No Mercy 2002, a brash, upstart WWE Champion Lesnar took down the Big Evil version of Taker. This time, I see things playing out a bit differently. Lesnar defeated Taker at WrestleMania 30. One point for Lesnar. Taker defeated Lesnar at Summerslam. One point for Taker It turned out Taker tapped to Lesnar in the same match at Summerslam prior to Undertaker winning. No points for either, but truthfully, Lesnar should be given the point there. Which means the Undertaker needs to win this one. If this is truly his last ride, he needs some decisive victories! And Lesnar will still remain a beast even with a loss.

 

WINNER: Undertaker

 

 

 

 

10.21.15: Back To The Future Day is Here

by BROCK KOLLER

October 21, 2015. Today.

Wow. Since 1989, I have been waiting for this day. Thinking about this day and what it would look like, what it would feel like.

All because of Back to the Future Part II. A movie that is part of a trilogy that has been a part of my entire life.

There is not a day I go without citing a line from one of these movies: From the obvious 'Make like a tree and get out of here' to the iconic 'It can't be you, I just sent you back to the future' to the obscure 'Mom? Mom is that you?'

In fact, my senior quote in high school was Doc Brown's "Your future hasn't been written yet" speech from BTTF Part III.

So yes, these movies have affected me. They have stayed with me throughout my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

But why? What is it exactly about Robert Zemeckis' & Bob Gales' classic films that struck a chord with not only me, but millions around the world?

Is it the crazy time travel paradoxes? The mind-blowing hoverboards? The sleek DeLorean? The catchy Huey Lewis songs?

Yes to all of that, but those aren't the main reasons why I constantly watch these films anytime they are on TV.

In my opinion, just like with any great movie, the Back to the Future films have interesting, well-defined, relatable characters and captivating, thought-provoking storylines. I know exactly what Marty's, Doc's, and Biff's goals are in each movie.

Another big factor in BTTF's popularity has to be its genre crossing. It's a sci-fi movie wrapped in a comedy wrapped in a drama wrapped in a 1) romance, 2) action film, or 3) western.

In one scene, you can be laughing at Doc Brown's facial reactions, pondering over his scientific reasoning, and being on the edge of your seat at what will happen next.

Though 2015 does not look exactly like it was supposed to according to Back to the Future Part II, a whole lot of people  do not care.

But today as we take our pocket phone/camera/internet machines with us to the theaters to watch these movies we love, we may laugh at the flying cars, robotic gas stations, and self-drying jackets, but at the same time realize a lot has changed since 1989.

The world does seem a bit more futuristic than it did back then.

And though Back to the Future Day may come and go, these movies will still be revered and applauded for generations to come.

That's a prediction that will definitely be true in 30 years.

Insert (WWE) Title Here: A Night of Champions Preview

by BROCK KOLLER

When I was a kid, championships in wrestling were the Holy Grails. They were bigger than any of the wrestlers who held them. They were what made storylines happen. One wrestler was jealous of another because he was champion. One wrestler was mad because he never a got a title shot. One wrestler defied all the odds and worked all his life for a shot at the title.

Over the years, titles have become less important to the overall story arcs in pro wrestling. So many times I have heard that they are now just props instead of catalysts for intriguing matchups. But last year, Daniel Bryan’s daunting quest to become WWE Champion coupled with John Cena’s impressive run as United States Champion this year, have bolstered the importance of championships and made them an integral part of the WWE landscape once again.

Now, comes the time of the year where every championship is on the line. This Sunday, it’s WWE Night of Champions and now it’s time for some predictions.

NEVILLE & THE LUCHA DRAGONS vs. THE COSMIC WASTELAND

WWE

WWE

I am a fan of The Ascension teaming with Stardust. It’s like the 1960s' Batman show where every villain had some goons with him. They would always have different ones every time they showed up. Since the Joker could break out of jail every week, why didn’t his previous posse? And there are just endless numbers of goons waiting around for The Joker to ask them to work for him? I don’t get it. Wait, what are we talking about? Oh, yes. After the SummerSlam defeat, Stardust needs a big win.

WINNERS: THE COSMIC WASTELAND

WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS THE NEW DAY vs. THE DUDLEY BOYZ

WWE

WWE

The New Day are hot, hot, hot. They are on fire. They can touch anything and turn into gold – from trombones, to kazoos, to commentary. And yes, it’s awesome the Dudleys are back in the WWE, but I see the potential for a longer feud with these two teams and it would be better if the Dudleys were chasing.

WINNERS (by nefarious means): THE NEW DAY

DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. RUSEV

WWE

WWE

Please, make this feud stop. I like Dolph. I like Rusev. I like Lana. I like Summer Rae. But not like this. This feud is like writing a book report where you didn’t read the book, but have to make it to 15 pages through nonsensical, boring, and illogical means. The characters in the real book are interesting, but in the book report they are used poorly. End this book report already and get the characters back on the right page. See what I did there.

WINNER: RUSEV

DEAN AMBROSE, ROMAN REIGNS, MYSTERY PARTNER vs. THE WYATT FAMILY

WWE

WWE

It worked in 2014 and it’s working again in 2015. The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family. It’s a 2.0 version and some wrestlers were changed in the equation, but it’s still fun to watch. Supposedly, the WWE revealed on their website who the mystery partner will be, but then quickly took it down. I won’t ruin that for those who didn’t see, but whether that person turns out to be the true third member of Shield 2.0, or if it’s another, this match should be slobberknocker. I always feel like I’m saying Bray Wyatt needs a big win, but it always appears to be the case. Let’s let the new Wyatt Family shine and give them the W in this one.

WINNERS: THE WYATT FAMILY

DIVAS CHAMPION NIKKI BELLA vs. CHARLOTTE

WWE

WWE

For months I thought Nikki was going to lose the title, but then when they started comparing her to AJ Lee and AJ’s record title reign, it was obvious she would not lose the title until she broke the record. Well, she has broken the record. Now, she will lose the title. Or because most people will think that, she won’t. But I think it’s time for a new champ and that would be the daughter of the Nature Boy! Wooo!

WINNER: CHARLOTTE

INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION RYBACK vs. KEVIN OWENS

WWE

WWE

Ryback’s reign started off strong, but then took a turn when he was put out of action for a few weeks.  Kevin Owens started off strong, but since his feud with John Cena, it has taken a mid-card turn. Owens should be given the I.C. strap and he can do to it what Cena did for the US title – make it important again. In my opinion, Owens is the best heel in the WWE and he deserves a title for that.

WINNER: KEVIN OWENS

UNITED STATES CHAMPION SETH ROLLINS vs. JOHN CENA

WWE

WWE

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION SETH ROLLINS vs. STING

WWE

WWE

Rollins will do the unthinkable. He will pull off the impossible. I just said that Kevin Owens is the best heel in the WWE, should Seth Rollins do what I hope he will do, he will become the unquestionable best wrestler in the WWE. If he beats the most iconic Superstar in WWE today – John Cena – and the most iconic Superstars in WCW history – Sting – his current run as champion will go up to meteoric heights.

I feel Rollins beating John Cena is a given. Cena doesn’t need the US title anymore and I feel what he did with it was great, but it’s done.

Rollins defeating Sting is a bit trickier. How cool would it be if Sting ended NOC by holding the WWE World Heavyweight Championship over his head in the middle of a WWE ring on a WWE pay per view on the WWE Network?

Historic.

But then what? How would Sting's reign go? And it would be at the cost of Rollins' character. So I’m willing to give up that mark-out, historic moment for a chance to push Seth Rollins into the stratosphere of monster heels and memorable champions.

Seth Rollins has been the ‘it guy’ for the WWE this entire year. This year isn’t over and neither should his title reign.

WINNER of BOTH MATCHES: SETH ROLLINS

 

FANTASY SPORTS, REAL MONEY: THE RISE OF DRAFTKINGS & FANDUEL

by BROCK KOLLER

I have a new friend. His name is Dave Gomes.

I know a few things about him. He likes watching football. He likes the Patriots. He likes fantasy sports. And he recently won a million dollars. Plus, I’ve seen him multiple times over the past few months of my life.  I haven’t seen my best man that many times and he’s my brother.

The truth is, though, Dave Gomes and I have never met. But it sure feels like we have.

If you have turned on ESPN in recent weeks (or any other channel for that matter), you will more than likely know about my friend Dave Gomes and you most likely have seen him as many times I have – whether you were watching NFL games or the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Dave Gomes is that nervous looking backward hat wearing face rubbing dude in the DraftKings television commercial who goes crazy when his fantasy players lead him to a million bucks.

“This is the feeling of turning a game you love into a lifetime of cash.”

You know what I’m referring to - because it plays constantly on rotation during any sporting event on television.

Like many of you, that TV spot was my introduction to DraftKings. (Sure I’ve heard of it prior, but never really paid attention until the 75th viewing of the commercial.)

After seeing the ad, I started seeing DraftKings pop up more and more, especially surrounding Major League Baseball properties. 

From MLB announcing a new mini fantasy game from DraftKings to Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds and the MLB Tonight crew making DraftKings daily picks.

It turns out DraftKings and MLB – at least MLB Advanced Media – have had a deal since 2013.

In April 2015, Jason Robins, CEO of and co-founder of DraftKings, told Sports Business Daily, “Two years ago, MLB and DraftKings signed the first league deal in daily fantasy history, and we are excited to deepen that ground-breaking relationship through this new, league wide, exclusive partnership. MLB has long been at the forefront of embracing new technologies to create superior fan experiences, and DraftKings couldn’t be happier to partner to continue that tradition of innovation.”

DraftKings has become the official daily fantasy game of MLB, but America’s pastime is not alone in wanting to be part of this phenomenon.

Delving into the world of DraftKings and its competitor FanDuel – you’ve seen those commercials too, admit it – you will find a plethora of businesses and sports leagues either owning a portion of these daily fantasy companies or striking deals to make sure they are in the game.

The NBA is part owner of FanDuel. ESPN struck a deal making DraftKIngs the only daily fantasy gaming site allowed to advertise on their network in 2016. NBC Sports and Comcast Ventures own part of FanDuel. The NHL invested into DraftKings.

In November of 2014, NHL Executive Vice President of Global Partnerships Keith Wachtel told Forbes’ Darren Heitner, DraftKings is no different than any of their other “big partners [who] embrace the NHL.”

“In addition to all the content that we are embedding DraftKings in across the league, they are supporting the Winter Classic, All-Star Game, Stadium Series and the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.  They are using those events like Pepsi does, Bridgestone does and Coors Light does.  It’s rare that you get in sponsorships partners that are organic to the sport,” Watchel said.  

Pepsi. Bridgestone. DraftKings. This is the new Americana.

This year, Time Warner, Google, and venture capital firm KKR joined in a $275 million investment into FanDuel.

While the Kraft Group which owns the NFL's New England Patriots has a stake in DraftKings, as does Fox Sports who invested $150 million - this after Disney backed out of purchasing equity, but is still in a relationship with the company in their ESPN deals.

While the topic is fantasy, this is some real big money we are talking about. In fact, according to a July 2015 Re/code article, after the Fox deal, DraftKings was valued at $1.2 billion. That’s billion with a B – as in By gawd that’s a lot of money. Re/code points out that rival FanDuel raised $275 million just two weeks prior.

The Wall Street Journal - who else - has all the numbers

FanDuel, credited with starting the industry in 2009, generated $57 million in revenue in 2014 and awarded $564 million in cash prizes. The company has said it would dole out $2 billion in prizes this year, implying it hopes to more than triple its revenue to about $200 million in 2015. DraftKings, founded in 2011, made $30 million in revenue last year and gave away $300 million in prizes. It has pledged to give away at least $1 billion in prizes this year.

But what about stalwart old guard fantasy sites? You’re talking about Yahoo, right? Well, they are in this business, too. Forbes' Marc Edeleman argues that with its free advertising space on its search engine and its already popular “traditional fantasy sports website,” Yahoo has the possibility to become the number one daily fantasy site.

Edeleman points out - as anyone with a TV would to - that DraftKings and FanDuel have no problem at the moment advertising themselves, spending $9.2 million and $21 million in one week alone respectively.

With the proliferation of daily fantasy sites (and commercials), the question hovering over all of this is – wait, is this legal?

The answer, as it stands right now is yes.

DraftKings, FanDuel,  Hulk Hogan endorsed FanPicks.com, and whatever else comes next are legal because of a law called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which views these sites as a “game of skill” and not a “game of chance.”

In April 2015, Business Insider took a deeper look at this:

In 2006, the federal government passed a law called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that establishes fantasy sports as a "game of skill" and not a "game of chance." The law states that it's legal if it:

 (I) is not dependent solely on the outcome of any single sporting event or non-participant's singular individual performance in any single sporting event;

(II) has an outcome that reflects the relative knowledge of the participants, or their skill at physical reaction or physical manipulation (but not chance), and, in the case of a fantasy or simulation sports game, has an outcome that is determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of sporting events, including any non-participant's individual performances in such sports events

So unlike regular sports gambling, where you purely bet on the outcome of games, the law is classifying fantasy sports as a form of game where actual skills matter to win.

Feel free to read the UIGEA for yourself – it’s a real page turner!

To prove their legality, both companies have explanations on their sites. DraftKings has a link marked “100% Legal” to read their reasoning, which is: 

The legality of daily fantasy sports is the same as that of season long fantasy sports. Federal Law and 45 of the 50 US States allow skill based gaming. Daily fantasy sports is a skill game and is not considered gambling.

 FanDuel goes into it a little longer:

Yes, Fantasy Sports is considered a game of skill and received a specific exemption from the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). FanDuel uses exactly same rules as season long fantasy sports game, the only difference is that our games last only a day. Thanks to fantasy sports being specifically excluded from laws affecting online sports betting, FanDuel is not illegal in any way. Trust us, our lawyers drive very nice cars so that we can keep it that way. We're also members of the The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA).

So the legality of this ‘game of skill’ seems to be decided, for now, which means the companies and their backers can continue to focus on getting more users, which there appears to be many of.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter told the Wall Street Journal in July 2015,  “30 million participants, including one in three males over the age of 15, play some form of fantasy sports online in the U.S. alone. The daily segment is growing within that category.”

So what if you never played on DraftKings or FanDuel before? How does it work?

Here’s a good video explainer from the Journal on that one:

The daily fantasy sports business is fairly new, especially when looking at the top players in the field, but, as the NHL executive alluded to earlier, this is not unlike any other business.

DraftKings is a Boston based company started in 2012. FanDuel is a New York based company started in 2009.  Real companies in the business of fantasy sports. 

While both are growing because of investors and sponsorships, both are also doing a little buying of their own. Recently, DraftKings purchased the reportedly third largest daily fantasy company DraftStreet. FanDuel meanwhile acquired numberFire, a sports analytics company.

So it appears the fight is on. DraftKings vs. FanDuel. Boston vs. New York. That sounds like a good sports rivalry to bet on. Legally, of course.

While it’s anyone’s guess which site will prevail over the other, it's a safe bet we’ll be seeing this battle play out during every NFL timeout, NBA halftime, NHL intermission, and MLB pitching change.

And to my friend Dave Gomes, if you’re in the neighborhood, buddy, let’s grab a drink and talk about who you think will win.

You’re buying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEEL THE HEAT: SUMMERSLAM 2015 PREDICTIONS

by BROCK KOLLER

*BEFORE READING THIS, MAKE SURE YOU READ MY HISTORY OF THE UNDERTAKER AT SUMMERSLAM POST*

WWE

WWE

 

ESPN is covering it. Entertainment Weekly is covering it. Sports Illustrated is covering it.

 

It must be WrestleMania season again...oh, wait...it's August.

 

Wow. Look at you SummerSlam. All grown up like your older brother. Good for you, Slam. Good for you.

 

So let's see what all this fuss is about and get to some Write This Down predictions for WWE SummerSlam 2015. The SummerSlam you thought you'd never see...for 4 hours long but you will now.

 

WWE

WWE

Diva Revolution 3-Team Elimination Match

It's Team B.A.D. vs. Team PCB vs. Team Bella as the three teams try to reign supreme over the new era of women's wrestling. I'm still confused on why the NXT stars had to join teams when they were called to the main roster and why each team name has to have the word 'team' in it but WWE likes to do that (Team RKO, Team Hell No). Though, PCB is without the word team on the website and for that reason I give them the win! Seriously though, Paige, Charlotte, and Becky will get the win because they are talented, but I am looking to seeing this match and the new life these wrestlers are bringing to the division.

WINNERS: PCB

WWE

WWE

Dolph Ziggler with Lana vs Rusev with Summer Rae

This feud feels like it's been going on for months and it has! Usually that's a good thing, but because of injuries, it's been a stalled and slow climb to a conclusion. There have been lookalike valets, Rusev inspired flags, fish with no heads, and a Dog Ziggler involved all to keep this feud moving when the combatants couldn't. Finally, the two will meet at SummerSlam and I hope Ziggler is able to pull off the win.

Winner: Dolph Ziggler

WWE

WWE

Ryback vs Big Show vs. Miz for the Intercontinental Title

Another feud that hasn't been helped by injury. Because of Ryback's staph infection, this match was scrapped from last month's Battleground. But don't fret, you get to finally witness this triple threat. It appears WWE has something planned for this match because they didn't just drop it at the first signs of trouble. Or they just couldn't think of what to do for all three instead - which is plausible, so why not stick with the original plan, right? Well Ryback is back and all three have fought each other in the last few weeks which is an interesting way to sell a match. I feel they need to keep the title on Ryback and continue his reign that was doing well prior to the injury.

Winner: Ryback

WWE

WWE

Fatal 4-Way Match - Tag Team Titles

Nothing is more exciting in the tag division right now than The New Day. (Wait, it's not Team New Day??) When you see Big E doing that crazy walk down the ramp, you know entertainment is on the way. Sorry, Los Matadores, Lucha Dragons, and Prime Time Players, we will have new champs tonight.

Winners: The New Day - New Champions

WWE

WWE

Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper vs Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose

Wasn't Sting in this match or did I get trolled? Well, even without the Stinger, these four can put on quite a show. The Wyatt Family vs. Shield feud from a while back was excellent and this match should continue the trend. I wouldn’t cross out seeing an Eric Rowan return (if healthy) which then could lead to the sighting of…I won’t say it.

WINNERS: Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper

WWE

WWE

Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro

In what could be the match of the night – wrestlingwise – it’s anybody’s guess who will come out the victor in this grudge match. Both are ‘Internet darlings’ and both have an extensive amount of intense moves at their disposal. The Cesaro Section may not like this, but I think Owens needs a win after losing last night to Finn Balor once again. Don’t worry. The Swiss Superman will get a win when they meet again. I’m sure of it.

WINNER: Kevin Owens

WWE

WWE

Randy Orton vs. Sheamus

I know these two put on great matches. Even last time they fought on a pay per view, I said I didn’t want to see it, but that much was one of the best of the night. I’m sure this match will be just as good, if not better since it’s on a grander stage but STOP BOOKING THIS MATCH! We’ve seen this match so many times over the years. Let it rest after this. Maybe come back to it again in two years or so. Let this be the end of their fantastic series of matches for now.

WINNER: Randy Orton

WWE

WWE

Stephen Amell & Neville vs. Stardust & King Barrett

I love everything about this match. I love superheroes. I love comic books. I love the DC Television Universe. I love the Cosmic King character. Though, I have to admit, I’m more a follower of The Flash series than Arrow, so I’m holding out hope for some Grant Gustin or Tom Cavanagh interference. However, to see the Green Arrow in a WWE ring and not in a corny Robocop, Scooby Doo way is kind of unbelievable. For those fanboys who can’t get enough wrestling and comic books, this match is made for us.

WINNERS: Stephen Amell & Neville

WWE

WWE

John Cena vs. Seth Rollins for the United States and WWE World Heavyweight Titles

Cena will one day be a 16 time world champ. I’m sure one day he will be a 17 time, or even 18, heck, probably a 25 time world champ, but after tonight he will still only be a 15 time world champ and he will also be a former U.S. champ. I see, after a very good contest, Rollins walking out with both titles. Since we’re not seeing the Flash in the previous match, I’m thinking we could see some outside interference in this one – in the form of 16 time world champion Ric Flair. Flair costing Cena his shot at history? That’s something to woo about.

WINNER: Seth Rollins – New U.S. Champion

Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar

Undertaker cannot lose. Brock Lesnar should not lose. What to do. What to do. The only way I see this ending is the Undertaker going full out crazy on Lesnar with chairs, stairs, ladders, 2x4s, kitchen sinks, and any weapon he can find. Destroying the Beast with anything not bolted down. This has to be a no-DQ match. It just has to be. Taker gets the win, barely. But is able to slay the beast. Lesnar, of course, would walk away on his own to show he hasn’t been completely put down, but the Undertaker walks away a winner and he will have defeated the 1 in 22-1.

WINNER: Undertaker

And as for Jon Stewart…you will be funny. At least, we hope.

Enjoy the show!

 

 

 

The Undertaker SummerSlam History: Ranking Taker's Other Big Event Matches

by BROCK KOLLER

This Sunday the Undertaker will step into a WWE ring, not at a WrestleMania, but at a SummerSlam. 

A lot has been documented about the Phenom’s incredible WrestleMania undefeated streak and there have been many lists debating his best Mania matches, but the Undertaker’s SummerSlam presence should not go unnoticed.

True, WrestleMania gets all the attention year-round, but SummerSlam has been around for almost as long (Mania – 1985, Slam – 1988) and even WWE is realizing that SummerSlam is worthy of the WrestleMania treatment as they have made it 4 hours long this year and created multiple attractions to in conjunction with the pay per view.

The Undertaker will be making his 18th appearance at a SummerSlam and this will be his 16th match (more on that in a bit). But before we witness the Deadman vs. the Beast, a match that is too big for WrestleMania, this Sunday, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look at the Undertaker’s SummerSlam match history – something that is rarely documented or debated.

Over the past few weeks, thanks to the WWE Network, I have rewatched every Undertaker Summerslam match. First, I will give a recap of each match, highlighting memorable moves, storylines, and commentary. From there, I will give you my list from my least favorite match to what I consider the best Undertaker Summerslam match. Then you can debate.

While Taker’s record at the biggest event of the summer isn’t spotless (9-5-1), he did start off strong.

His SummerSlam journey begins in 1992 at Wembly Stadium in London, England in a classic Undertaker match, but not so much an Undertaker classic. When the word classic is used in pro wrestling it could mean one of two things – it was a classic five-star match as in Ricky Steamboat vs. ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage or it was a classic as in an expected occurrence based on previous examples. Undertaker vs. Kamala falls into the latter category.

You can’t hurt him. He’s not human,
— Bobby Heenan

This 3 minute affair is a typical early Undertaker contest that play-by-play man Vince McMahon predicts ‘is going to be a great match.’  With 80,000 looking on, Undertaker rolls to the ring on a hearse – this would not be the only time he would arrive to the ring via motor – with his manager Paul Bearer leading the way.

At the time, the Undertaker had recently turned face (good guy) earlier in the year and was very much playing a zombie. “You can’t hurt him. He’s not human,” color commentator Bobby Heenan announces. Kamala, billed as a giant from Uganda, will at least try.

Taker uses some of his already trademarked moves – clothesline, chokeslam, and walking the ropes (which was years away from being termed Old School). One of the interesting factoids watching all these matches was to see how successful Undertaker was when attempting Old School. In this match, he was successful in his first try.

This match ends anticlimactically when Kamala’s manager Kim Chee hits Undertaker with his helmet giving Taker a disqualification win and prompting Heenan to pronounce, “We have seen the end of the Undertaker.”

That was not the case and Taker walked into the 1993 SummerSlam with a record of 1-0. 

wwf_summerslam93_takergonzales.jpg

Not only one was Kamala managed by Kim Chee, but he also had Harvey Wippleman at his side. Taker would meet another Wippleman protégé at the ’93 SummerSlam in Auburn Hills, Michigan in the form of Giant Gonzalez. This would be another classic Undertaker match, but not an Undertaker classic. Both matches, by the way, started with Wippleman, spewing into the microphone. Bet you didn’t remember that trivia.

This was a rematch from their WrestleMania IX encounter where Taker got his only DQ win in his illustrious WrestleMania record, however, this time their match was dubbed a Rest in the Peace Match.

The Undertaker’s urn comes into play a lot during his early years in the WWE as it was described to be the source of his mysterious powers. Wippleman has possession of the urn to start the match. How did he get it? As Bobby Heenan quips, “He earned it.”

The Undertaker gets the first hit in the match and Heenan classifies him as a ‘different Undertaker.’ Almost, Bobby. We’ll get to a different Undertaker, shortly.

So it appears a Rest in Peace Match is an early version of a Hardcore/Street Fight/ Extreme Rules match – though it was never clear. Gonzalez, a giant wearing spandex with fur, uses a chair and the steel steps to get the advantage in the match – first use of ringside weapons in an Undertaker SummerSlam contest.

Surprisingly, the giant has control for most of the match - that is until a gong is heard and out comes Paul Bearer with a black wreath. The fans give the biggest pop (cheers) of the match for a returning Bearer! Bearer then clotheslines Wippleman for an even bigger pop!

The Undertaker goes to the top rope and delivers his patent flying clothesline to get the victory.

“Now we know what a Rest in Peace Match is,” McMahon replies.

I don’t know about that, but the Undertaker walks away with a 2-0 SummerSlam record.

A year later, the Undertaker’s enemy was not Wippleman, but the ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted Dibiase. Taker had been missing for months, until Dibiase announced he found the Undertaker and he was now under his power – the power of money. Paul Bearer called Dibiase a liar and said at SummerSlam, it shall be the Undertaker vs. the Undertaker.

The Chicago crowd was in for ‘surely a one of a kind matchup’ as McMahon put it.

The real Undertaker unveils a new purple themed attire and shoots his arms up to bring up the lights, as opposed to bringing them up slowly as he had done in the past and will do again in the future.

This was certainly not a CM Punk-era Chicago crowd as they were in stunned silence or maybe just silence at seeing a fake Undertaker battle a real Undertaker. ‘This is very strange. This is very, very strange,” McMahon describes.

Old School was successful in the first attempt and three tombstones later, the real Undertaker stood tall after 9 minutes of action.

The 3-0 Undertaker walks into Pittsburgh for the 1995 SummerSlam without his urn which had been melted down into a necklace that his opponent now wears around his neck. Kama is managed by Ted Dibiase. This is a casket match, but the camera inside the casket is called the coffin camera. You got that?

For Kama’s defense, he got the most offense of any of the Undertaker’s SummerSlam opponents thus far including suplexing Taker onto the casket and a clothesline from the top rope.

But remember this is the Undertaker and ‘If he was alive, he’d be a sick man,’ color commentator Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler says at ringside, and he fights back. The fans give a rare ‘Rest in Peace’ chant.

Undertaker’s manager Paul Bearer gets involved in the match by thwarting Kama’s attack on Taker and says to the camera, “There’s no rules.” A factual, yet funny statement.  The 17 minute match’s conclusion comes after a chokeslam and a tombstone and Kama is sent in the casket. Taker continues his winning streak.

The closing of the casket in a way closed the era of the classic Undertaker match.

In 1996, the Phenom meets new rival Mankind in a Boiler Room Brawl. In this match, the first competitor to exit the boiler room of the arena, make it to the ring, and grab the urn from Paul Bearer is declared the winner. This was before the days of the Titantron, so TV monitors were set up on all sides of the ring for the fans in attendance to be able to see the boiler room brawling.

This match features the first double feature replay in Undertaker’s SummerSlam history with Mankind falling from a ladder. He retaliates by pouring ‘scolding hot coffee’ on the Undertaker. As analyst Jim Ross also describes, “This looks like a prison riot.”

After Mankind piledrives the Undertaker onto the concrete outside the ring and the Undertaker slingshots Mankind onto that very same concrete, it looks it will be another win for the Deadman.

But this is where the Undertaker story as we know it takes a turn. Paul Bearer does not give Taker the urn, instead, he bashes it over Taker’s head and then hands it to Mankind.

‘Paul Bearer’s laughing, Paul Bearer’s laughing,” Jim Ross says as he introduces us to Undertaker’s newest enemy.

This 27 minute brawl is capped off by the druids making an appearance and removing the Undertaker from the ring.

The next year we have what I consider to be the first Undertaker classic. It’s 1997. East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Undertaker walks in as WWE Champion – defending the title against villainous Canadian loyalist Bret Hart. If that’s not enough, Hart’s sworn enemy Shawn Michaels (on the cusp of degeneration) is the special guest referee.

This match even starts off with a hilarious Lawler pun, “Shawn Michaels is so full of himself when he goes to a funeral , he's upset he's not the corpse.”

At this point in his career, less than 7 years as the Undertaker, it was becoming clear he was a legend in the making.

“He is the Phenom, he is the yardstick, he is the man, the Undertaker,” Jim Ross bellows as Taker now wearing a new leather jacket makes his way to the ring – gone is the purple from last year.  Hart attacks Undertaker with the title to start the match, and the use of weapons will not end there.

And this is a new Undertaker. He is a brawler and using submission holds like the bear hug. The 1993 Undertaker would not bear hug someone.  As the match progresses, interlopers try to interfere – first, the evil Paul Bearer who at the time is claiming the Undertaker’s once thought dead brother Kane is alive, and second, Hart Foundation members Brian Pillman and Owen Hart. None really do much of anything.

Old School is referred to as a ‘classic Undertaker maneuver’ and is reversed by Hart into a picture perfect superplex off the top rope. Taker impressively chokeslams Hart from the outside back into the ring.

To prove his wickedness, Bret Hart grabs a chair and hits Undertaker with it. The Heartbreak Kid ref takes the chair. Hart spits at HBK. HBK aims for Hart with the chair but hits the Undertaker. Hart goes for the pin at 28 minutes, giving Taker his second straight loss in a row at SummerSlam.

The now 4-2 Undertaker is at a weird place come SummerSlam 1998. Not only is he smackdab in the Attitude Era, but he’s showing signs that he may not be the friendly Taker we have known since his SummerSlam debut. He has recently revealed that he is an alliance with his very much alive devilish brother Kane and may use him to take the title from champion Stone Cold Steve Austin in Madison Square Garden.

The red, white, and blue ropes are now replaced by red ropes and the SummerSlam logo that adorned the banners and aprons in years past is totally different, just like our Undertaker who comes to the ring with a new variation of his theme and a brand new jacket with a high collar and back.

“He is the conscience of the WWF,” J.R. explains. A slugfest ensues between Taker and Austin. The match comes to a pause when they collide heads. Old School, here called a ‘patent Undertaker’ move is reversed as Austin pulls Taker off top rope.

Kane arrives but is turned away by the Undertaker. Austin and Taker battle outside the ring and into the crowd. “Are they nuts? This is New York!” Lawler warns.

In an epic moment of the match, Taker chokeslams Austin onto the Spanish announce table and then from the top rope leg drops Austin on the table.  To which J.R. shouts, “My God, they are broken in half” and “Looks like a car wreck out there.”

While Taker has control for most the match, Austin is able to counter the tombstone. Taker counters the stunner. Undertaker tries not yet coined Old School, but Austin low blows Taker. A follow-up stunner gives Taker his third SummerSlam loss in a row.

Undertaker, 4-3, is now full out evil coming into SummerSlam 1999 in Minneapolis. Earlier in the year, he ran amok with his Ministry of Darkness group, but is now happy to just have one follower - the Big Show. Just like the two previous years, this match is tied to his baby brother Kane, but where Kane was missing and an outsider before, he is now one of Taker’s opponents. It’s the Undertaker and Big Show vs. Kane and X-Pac for the Tag Team Championships.

To get the full picture of this incarnation of the Undertaker, who only have to look at him – full on goatee, demonic symbol on his ring gear, once again managed by the sadistic Paul Bearer, and when he brings the lights up with arms – he sticks his tongue out! EVIL!

During the match, Kane and Undertaker trade blows back and forth but there is no ‘Boo! Yay!’ chant back then. Sad.

Taker takes out X-Pac by throwing him midsection first into the steel post and then delivering a tombstone.  We have new champs.

The first SummerSlam tag team match for the Undertaker and his last appearance as a heel at this event ended with a win at 12 minutes. His first win in four years.

A year later, the Attitude Era is still upon us and the Undertaker has reinvented himself yet again. This is the first appearance as ‘Bikertaker’ as he rides into SummerSlam 2000 in Raleigh, North Carolina on white motorcycle (see, there’s the motor again) waring a jean shirt to the tune of Kid Rock. This was not your classic Undertaker.

And just as it has since 1997, Undertaker’s SummerSlam appearance would be connected to Kane. This time he would fight Kane in a match that Jim Ross says no one wanted to officiate. J.R. also says ‘indeed this will be a slobberknocker.’ Well, it most certainly was not a typical match, that’s for sure.

Taker goes right to work on Kane even before the Big Red Machine could get into the ring. Throughout the match, Taker focuses on taking Kane’s mask off. Why? Well, why not. By this point, Kane and the Undertaker had fought so many times, Taker needed new motivation.

Both brothers trade low blows (yes, the Undertaker hit downstairs prior to attacking Brock Lesnar recently, going against popular opinion). Undertaker is able to rip off Kane’s mask, sending Kane scampering off.

“I don’t think this fight ever started. I never heard a bell,” J.R. crows, but, he was mistaken. There was an opening bell, but there wasn’t one to end the match. If there was, it would have come around the 6 minute mark.

This match gives the Undertaker his only no decision at SummerSlam, bringing his record at this point to 5-3-1.

The second tag team match of the Undertaker’s SummerSlam career has so many different facets to it than any other of his matches, we need to take a minute to go over them.

First, he teams with Kane. This will not be the final SummerSlam that Kane is affiliated with his brother, but it will end a 5 year run of the Kane story crossing with the Taker story. The Undertaker, while still in his biker gimmick, does not roll to the ring on wheels this time, though his new entrance music of Limp Bizkit’s ‘Rollin’ would have you think otherwise. And no, he is not managed by Paul Bearer this time, but by his then-wife Sara. Clad in a skit hat, sunglasses, and black pants that read ‘Deadman Inc.,’ the Undertaker was taking his character to brand new territories. Oh, and did I mention, Kane and the Undertaker are WCW Tag Team Champions facing Diamond Dallas Page and Kanyon, of the WCW/ECW Alliance, who are the WWE Tag Team Champions? And that this is all based on a storyline where DDP was stalking Sara? And it is a steel cage match?

Very different than other Undertaker SummerSlam appearance.

 There are shades of the Undertaker of old though when both Taker and Kane are knocked out, and then sit up at the same time. “It was a stereo sit up,” Jim Ross says.

In a very wise move, Taker tells Kane to let Kanyon escape the cage, leaving DDP to fend for himself against the Brothers of Destruction, whose team name is first referenced in this match.

After a few punches and kicks, the Undertaker tells DDP he can also escape, but then grabs the future yoga instructor and chokeslams him from the top rope.

“The Undertaker lied!” color commentator Paul Heyman shouts.

Taker performs his new finishing move the Last Ride powerbomb and gets the pinfall win and we have new unified Tag Team Champions – second time Taker wins tag team gold at SummerSlam.  This 10 minute encounter gives the Undertaker a 6-3-1 SummerSlam record.

I have to be honest, I had to ponder a bit to recall the next two SummerSlam Undertaker matches before searching on WWE Network.

In 2002, with pro-American feelings at an all-time high, the Undertaker, now with the nickname of Big Evil, rides into Long Island, New York on a black motorcycle wearing a bandana to battle the UnAmerican known as Test. As he did going into Survivor Series 1993, Undertaker took the mantle of Mr. U.S.A. to defend the country that he loves against foreign fiends.

2002 Undertaker pulls quite a feat when he leapfrogs Test and delivers his trademark flying clothesline.

“Hello LaGuardia.” Good one, J.R. 

Undertaker grabs Test’s arms, walks the top rope and Ross says, “Undertaker looking for a little Old School here.” First, Old School reference in an Undertaker SummerSlam match, but he is not successful in this attempt.

Test, a big man in his own right, has control for most of the match prompting some “Taker” chants from the crowd.

Old School connects on the second try, followed up by a little Snake Eyes (face to the turnbuckle) and as J.R. calls it “a real red, white, and blue, American chokeslam.” Ameritaker, ladies and gentlemen. Test’s UnAmericans’ allies Lance Storm and Christian enter the ring only to be dismantled by the Phenom.  Out of options, Test brings in a chair, but gets a big boot to the face and a tombstone for his troubles.

The Undertaker wins and then grabs an American flag from crowd. This will be the only time the Undertaker will end a SummerSlam match holding an American flag, in case you were wondering.

This 8 minute match, that is actually worth checking out if you haven’t seen it in a while, brings the Undertaker’s record to 7-3-1.

The Bikertaker has one more SummerSlam match left in him. His opponent at the 2003 event would be A-Train. It would be rematch of sorts of their handicap match from WrestleMania XIX, but instead of A-Train partnering with Big Show, he has Sable in his corner. A tad different.

The Undertaker by now has his ‘Dead Man Walking’ theme with all of the great lyrics we remember today such as ‘You’ve done it now, you’ve gone and made a big mistake.’ Picture 1994 Undertaker coming down the ring to those lyrics! He is also riding a bike with big yellow flames. He will not be riding a bike ever again at a SummerSlam.

The Undertaker comes into SummerSlam with damaged ribs, this gives A-Train a target. Taker is very tentative in this match due to his injury which limits his mobility. However, with that said, he does connect with both a flying clothesline and Old School on the first try.

A rare sleeper hold by Taker is followed up Snake Eyes and the leg drop to the back of the head of A-Train on the apron. And there we get our first, ‘Vintage Undertaker,’ by play-by-play man Michael Cole.

The ref gets knocked out and much like Bret Hart and Test did, A-Train brings a steel chair into the ring. A-Train gets a big boot right into the chair and gets chokeslammed at 9 minutes. Taker is victorious for the 8th time at SummerSlam.

“The veteran gets it done here at SummerSlam,” Cole remarks.

Post-match, interestingly enough, Taker holds Sable until a face Smackdown General Manager Stephanie McMahon is able to take her down. This would be the final image of the Bikertaker at a SummerSlam.

2004 saw the return of the gothic, undead Undertaker that we knew years ago with a touch of cowboy fighter in him. He has the black hat, black trench coat, the graveyard symphony music, but now he comes equipped with a big belt buckle and some kickboxing gloves.  

Toronto is the site for Taker’s second WWE Championship match at a SummerSlam, this time as a challenger.

“'For the past 14 years, no one has been as dominant in the WWE as that man,” Cole tells the audience as Taker prepares to take on WWE Champion John Bradshaw Layfield who is accompanied by his Chief of Staff Orlando Jordan.

JBL blocks the first Old School attempt in this match, but Taker succeeds the second time. Undertaker is a mix of his old self and the biker identity as he stalks JBL as the Deadman would, but is now incorporating new submissions that were not in his repertoire years prior such as the triangle chokehold and a half Boston crab.

A steel chair comes into play in this match as well, as JBL uses it to injure Taker’s leg causing the Undertaker to limp during the match.

While this is going on, it should be noted, the Toronto crowd is doing the wave. Yep, the wave.

“This is total bizarro world here in Toronto. We got a WWE Championship match in the ring and these fans are doing the wave,” color commentator Tazz says perplexingly.

A vintage apron leg drop by Taker is followed by a superplex, spinebuster, flying clothesline, Snake Eyes, and chokeslam. Undertaker victory, right? Wrong! Jordan distracts Taker long enough for JBL to revive and both men deliver a big boot to the other. First double big boot on in this recap. Jordan then gives JBL the title. JBL hits Taker with title, but not good enough for the pin. Taker comes back and delivers a last ride that JBL kicks out of. Yes, JBL kicks out of the last ride.

Again, Jordan brings in the title and Taker grabs it and hits JBL with it. The ref sees that and disqualifies the Undertaker for his first DQ loss.

Because his record is now 8-4-1, Taker takes out his aggression by chokeslamming JBL through the roof of his limo.

By 2005, there was no mistaking that the Undertaker was a legend. But in 2005, there was a Legend Killer by the name of Randy Orton. Orton had already lost to the Undertaker at WrestleMania 21 earlier in the year, but he wanted another opportunity at SummerSlam.

“'For the 14th straight time the Undertaker heads into battle at SummerSlam,” Cole says.

As the match begins, the Undertaker readies himself in his boxing stance ready to strike a punch at any moment.  Tazz exclaims that the Undertaker can use submissions. Bobby Heenan was not saying that back in 1992.

Old School is broken up by an arm drag. A vintage flying clothesline takes down Orton. The match goes back and forth as Orton delivers a scoop slam from the top rope only to be followed moments later by an Undertaker leg drop on the apron.

Orton focuses on Taker’s left leg throughout the match. Even when Old School is successful, it causes Taker great pain. Undertaker is able to push off an RKO. Orton, for his part, reverses a tombstone attempt.

Taker gets in the reversal fun too when he turns a high cross body into a chokeslam.

That’s when outside interference occurs, which has happened multiple times throughout the Undertaker’s SummerSlam history. This time an old man enters the ring. Security is able to get him out, but this distracts the Undertaker.

And then, as Cole calls it, an “RKO from outta nowhere!” for the victory and an L for Taker.

The old man turns out to be Randy’s father – Cowboy Bob Orton. Taker is not happy with this reveal and chases the Ortons to the back.

The Undertaker would not have another SummerSlam match until 2008, which will be his last one until he faces Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2015.

In 2008, the Undertaker steps into Hell in the Cell against Edge. The two had been feuding for months and battled at WrestleMania 24.

There is a good pause before the Undertaker’s entrance begins to build the hype.

As only J.R. could say, “Without a doubt ladies and gentlemen the Undertaker is the yardstick to which every WWE superstar past or present is measured.”

This cell match takes place in the early stages of WWE’s PG era so there was little bloodshed – but both had cuts and bruises by the end. It turns more into a TLC match inside a cell as tables, ladders, and chairs are all used.

Undertaker gets his leg drop from the apron in early and then goes for Snake Eyes on the steel steps, but Edge blocks it. Edge fights back and eventually spears Taker into the steps. He climbs a ladder and in the vein of Mick Foley, nails Taker with a chair onto a table.

One of the crazy moments of this match sees Edge spearing Undertaker through the side of the cell, taking down that part of the cage.

The action spills outside the cell and Edge spears Taker through the Raw announce table (at this time Raw and Smackdown were still separate brands). The hardcore match style continues (or is this a Rest in Peace Match?) when Edge hits Taker with a camera.  The spear, however, is blocked and turned it into a chokeslam. Edge then reverses a Last Ride attempt into a spear.

Edge attempts Old School himself and gets caught on top rope. Taker then chokeslams Edge from that top rope to two tables outside the ring. The Undertaker grabs the camera and hits Edge with it. “That's human devastation if that's the HD you're looking at,” Ross says referencing WWE’s foray into High Definition.

The Undertaker adds insult injury with a conchairto – one of Edge’s signature moves – and a tombstone. He then chokeslams Edge through the ring and makes flames shoot out. Classic Undertaker. 

Taker gets his 9th victory and is 9-5-1 at SummerSlam. But as stated before, this was not the last we’ve seen the Undertaker at SummerSlam.

In both 2009 and 2010, Taker makes surprise returns to confront two threats – CM Punk and Kane (there he is again).  Though he didn’t wrestle a match, he did make an impact on those two occurrences.

But without a doubt he will be making a major impact this Sunday when he returns to a SummerSlam ring for a match for the first time in 7 years as he squares off against Brock Lesnar – the man who ended his WrestleMania streak.

As we just went over, the Undertaker already has a wealth of memorable SummerSlam matches and this Sunday another one will be added to the list.

Speaking of lists, where will the Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar rank in the list of Undertaker SummerSlam matches? Well, to answer that there must first be the list.

So based on all that has been stated above, my memories from rewatching each match once in the past month, my notes, and just how history has treated them – here is my list ranking all of the Undertaker SummerSlam matches  in a particular order going from #15 to #1: 

15. Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez - 1993

14. Undertaker vs. Kamala - 1992

13. Undertaker vs. Kama  - 1995

12. Undertaker vs. Kane - 2000

11. Undertaker & Big Show vs. Kane & X-Pac- 1999

10. Undertaker vs. A-Train 2003

9. Undertaker & Kane vs. DDP & Kanyon – 2001

8. Undertaker vs. Undertaker – 1994

7. Undertaker vs. Test – 2002

6. Undertaker vs. Mankind – 1996

5. Undertaker vs. JBL - 2004

4. Undertaker vs. Stone Cold – 1998

3. Undertaker vs. Edge – 2008

2. Undertaker vs. Randy Orton – 2005

1. Undertaker vs. Bret Hart - 1997

May this debate never rest in peace.

And see, who says WrestleMania has to have all the fun?

Stay tuned for my SummerSlam prediction article coming soon….













BATTLEGROUND: THE START OF SOMETHING BIG

by BROCK KOLLER

Battleground.

It’s not one of the big events of the year, but it is shaping up to be perhaps be the start of something big. Real big.

But let’s not jump ahead just yet. It’s all about the build in pro wrestling. We got to begin with the undercard and match of royal proportions.

KING BARRETT vs. R-TRUTH

WWE

WWE

This feud is fun, isn’t it? Who doesn’t like this feud? Doesn’t this feud make you want to win King of the Ring?

Remember when Stone Cold won King of the Ring? That was an iconic moment. Barrett’s reign doesn’t have the same feel. Maybe because the first thing they have the king do is fight in a pointless feud like this one.

I agree, but it should not be forgotten, ol’ King Stone Cold was in a Kickoff Match (then known as the Free For All) two months after his coronation. But R-Truth is no Yokozuna…even ‘fall from a broken middle rope’-era Yokozuna.  

All hail King Barrett in this one and let’s hope the scepter is broken over the head of this rivalry in Queen Sherri fashion, ending it once and for all. Yes, that made sense.

WINNER: KING BARRETT

PRIME TIME PLAYERS vs. THE NEW DAY – WWE TAG TEAM TITLES

WWE

WWE

I would like Titus O’Neil to commentate this match as he wrestles – a la Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler used to do against jobbers on Saturday morning WWE Superstars. O’Neil’s commentary has been stellar – even his jabbing back and forth with JBL. That would add an extra layer to the very decent wrestling these five competitors will bring to the table. In a quality match, I see the champs retaining.

WINNERS: PRIME TIME PLAYERS

RANDY ORTON vs. SHEAMUS

WWE

WWE

The night after WrestleMania 29, Randy Orton fought Sheamus. The crowd did the wave. There is something about these two former World Champions that when placed face to face inside the squared circle makes wrestling fans want to do the wave. It’s nothing against them personally or professionally. Randy Orton is one of the most talented professional wrestlers of all time. Sheamus is back to being a heelish bully which freshened up his character and made him interesting again. But please stay away from each other! It’s like grape jelly and engine oil. Two fantastic things, just not together.

WINNER: RANDY ORTON

ROMAN REIGNS vs. BRAY WYATT

WWE

WWE

This match is the anti-thesis of the previous one. While the aforementioned pair featured two stars who have been around, this one is a grudge fest with newer blood in a match we have yet to see in this vein. Yes, we have had the Wyatt Family vs. the Shield – epic encounters – but this is the first one-on-one feud between Reigns and Wyatt. The ‘Anyone But You’ story does not only bring a catchy, shiny new phrase to wrestling fans’ vernacular, but who will come out on top of this one is up in the air. Both men need a win. Wyatt has lost his fair share of big time matches. But Reigns is still coming off that loss to Seth Rollins at WrestleMania. If they want to extend this feud to Summerslam they could have Wyatt pull out his old parlor tricks. But how about this: Wyatt tries a trick – maybe the fake Wyatt again – but Reigns figures it out and pulls out all the (Superman) punches to defeat the new face of fear. Believe that.

WINNER: ROMAN REIGNS

The next matches are a combination of the future of WWE going up against the established stars.

JOHN CENA vs. KEVIN OWENS – U.S. Championship

WWE

WWE

It’s 1-1. All tied up in the series. However, Owens is coming into this one a little lighter. Since losing the NXT Championship to Finn Balor in Tokyo, Owens seems to have lost some steam. But he should be able gain back his mojo after what should be another wrestling classic with Cena. Owens right now is in the midst of at least 6 different feuds (Cena, Cesaro, Rusev, Samoa Joe, Balor, Sami Zayne) and nothing will his cement his place on the card more than a brand new title on his shoulder.

WINNER: KEVIN OWENS

SETH ROLLINS vs. BROCK LESNAR – WWE World Heavyweight Championship

WWE

WWE

Since when did we start cheering Lesnar? I mean, we’ve been cheering Lesnar since his return, yes, but now we are supposed to be cheering Lesnar. He’s demolishing villainous vehicles and destroying evil security teams, all while showing his vulnerability, has a city-friendly new Suplex City t-shirt, and is getting outnumbered by an even more vile group. Lesnar went from heelish monster to anti-hero monster this month. He became Venom. Venom was once Spider-Man’s fiercest foe, but then when Carnage came about, a foe even fiercer, Spidey turned to Venom for help. Likewise, the fans have turned to Brock Lesnar for help to take down the Authority. See, same thing.

But Brock Lesnar being champion? Been there. Plus, there are too many outlying factors that might play a role in the outcome of this match. The big something I was talking about earlier.

If you have noticed the past few Kane segments on WWE TV then you realize his family has been brought up a lot. If WWE is in the process of good storytelling, which I hope they are, then these segments are a good foreshadowing of things to come.

I at least believe Kane will play some sort of role in this match. Any other Kane family members would be an added bonus. We shall see.

Regardless, Lesnar is not becoming champion again, but he’s also not going to lose cleanly either. In fact, he will probably win this match via DQ. But Seth Rollins is taking his title to Summerslam; who he will face is a game for another day.

WINNER: BROCK LESNAR, by DQ – Seth Rollins retains title

 

CHAMBER OF PREDICTIONS: WWE ELIMINATION CHAMBER PREVIEW

by BROCK KOLLER

It’s time for WWE Elimination Chamber, which means we are just one month away from WrestleMania! I can’t believe it’s WrestleMania already. It feels like the last Mania was just two months ago…wait, what? Oh, right, it was. So this means the WWE Elimination Chamber event is no longer tied to WrestleMania season and can happen whenever it is needed. I like that.

For this WWE Network exclusive non-pay-per-view pay-per-view, the chamber itself comes into play for two matches. One is for the vacated Intercontinental Championship. The second is for the Tag Team Championships which have holders in the form of The New Day (New Day!).

Is a vacated IC strap a good reason to have a chamber match? Sure. At least it’s a reason. Back when EC was the penultimate event before Mania, they would just have WWE and World Heavyweight title matches in chambers just because it was February. No rhyme. No reason. Just calendar.

As for the Tag Team Championships? It’s never been done before. So that’s reason enough. But they have also made a solid effort to show that each team is a believable threat to the champs – even Los Matadores. I think.

Of course, the main reason (I believe) there is an Elimination Chamber event tonight is because it’s the last day of a ‘Get WWE Network for Free’ month. It’s a pawn in the game of subscribers. But what an enthralling pawn it’s shaping up to be.

U.S. CHAMPION JOHN CENA vs. NXT CHAMPION KEVIN OWENS

WWE

WWE

I want to see this. I’m a wrestling fan. I want to see this wrestling match. No titles need be defended. No satanic structures need be constructed. Just put these two athletes in a squared circle.  Cena, as previously blogged, is more appealing to watch as U.S. Champion than he has been in years. And Owens, whether it was during his rapid rise in NXT or his well-earned push to the majors, is must-watch TV. Not only his ring presence and wrestling style, but his character, his promos, and the way he carries himself. It’s like no other Superstar on any roster. Owens plays the excellent villain because he tells the truth. He is a veteran. He is a father working to support to his family. But he’s still a villain because he cheats and backstabs. It’s Captain America vs. Mr. Freeze, kids.

Because it’s not for titles, Owens has a better chance of winning this one, but I can’t see that happening just yet. And I would not be surprised if Samoa Joe makes his first WWE pay-per-view (WWE Network exclusive non-pay-per-view pay-per-view) appearance to save Cena at the end.

I can’t believe I just wrote a paragraph about Kevin Owens, John Cena, and Samoa Joe. Wow. What times we live in.  

WINNER: John Cena by DQ

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION SETH ROLLINS vs. DEAN AMBROSE

WWE

WWE

By gawd, Ambrose, Ambrose is back in the main event picture! For some reason, I needed to start this out in J.R. voice. But I am thrilled Dean is back vying for the richest prize in the game for a second straight event. He won’t win it, mind you, but at least he’s fighting for it. And he hasn’t looked too silly in this short buildup. Now, I see this ending with an interfering Roman Reigns inadvertently costing Ambrose the match. With that said, and with that short-lived Shield reunion at Payback, I see that much demanded Shield triple-threat match just over the horizon.

WINNER: Seth Rollins

DIVAS CHAMPION NIKKI BELLA vs. NAOMI vs. PAIGE

WWE

WWE

The Divas can continue their momentum and put on quite a show tonight. While Nikki’s allegiances are sketchy – still unclear how she became a babyface again, at least Naomi and Paige are somewhat defined in their characters. Should be a good match. Should be some Tamina trickery. Should be a new champion.

WINNER: Naomi

NEVILLE vs. BO DALLAS

WWE

WWE

A past NXT feud makes it to the big stage. But Neville will prevail this time, too. … What? Ok. Fine. He will win because he’s the new sensation. There, I said it. Let’s move on.

WINNER: Neville

ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH for INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP

WWE

WWE

So let’s do this logically. Rusev is injured. R-Truth seems to be put into multi-wrestler title matches and then vanishes for months. Barrett is doing his king routine. Ziggler is involved in a romantic storyline with Lana. Ryback is Ryback. So it’s Sheamus. Yep, it’s Sheamus. OR it’s whomever replaces Rusev – which could be Bray Wyatt. But Wyatt could just make himself and Ryback disappear in which case Sheamus would still win. It’s Sheamus. Definetly, Sheamus.

WINNER: Sheamus

ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH for TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS

WWE

WWE

The New Day was just in angle on Smackdown with The Authority. No need to discuss this in detail. They will retain the titles, but the bigger question is how is this match going to work?! There will have to be eliminations before all teams enter the chamber, otherwise it will just be too crowded in the chamber. Speaking of crowded – how are two people fitting in those pods? Are they extra-large pods? Is this a new chamber? Help. I need an explanation, right now!

WINNER: The New Day

And there you have it. A WWE Network exclusive event two weeks after one pay-per-view and two weeks before another. Plus, they just gave us King of the Ring (which I asked for last month).

Maybe in 4 weeks, we’ll be getting Cyber Sunday? You heard it here first.

Enjoy the show!

The Song of the Summer of 2015 Contenders

Every summer there is that one song that will overshadow all others.

That song that will be the one you connect with this particular summer for the rest of your life.

It's a mystery why that song becomes the song, but you can't disagree with it when it does. 

Here are the contenders (as they stand now) for the Song of the Summer of 2015:

SEE YOU AGAIN - WIZ KHALIFA featuring CHARLIE PUTH

Right now the Billboard charts say this is the song of the summer. Rapper Wiz Khalifa's collaboration with YouTube star turned pop singer Charlie Puth has the number one spot on the Hot 100 and has the biggest gain in airplay. The tune - a tribute to the late Paul Walker - is off the Fast and Furious 7 soundtrack. It will be a tough task for this sentimental favorite to remain on the top of the charts throughout the entire summer, but it's not out of the question.

Billboard Hot 100 Week of May 30th Ranking - #1  (remained at #1) 

SHUT UP AND DANCE  – WALK THE MOON

This in all fairness should be the song of the summer. It has a catchy beat. A memorable chorus. And a fun band name. The only issue is it debuted on radio stations months ago. Has it lost its luster? Its sheen? Its dance floor polish? With music, sometimes it does take a while to catch on, but this one seemed to be embraced by the masses in no time. It may already be getting into the ‘heard too much zone’ for some. In my opinion, it is not there just yet. But by the end of the summer? Now, that’s a different story.  But is Shut Up and Dance catchy enough to remain appealing and be called the Song of the Summer of 2015?

Billboard Hot 100 Week of May 30th Ranking - #4 (up from #5) 

FIGHT SONG – RACHEL PLATTEN

A summer song should make you feel something. Whether that something is a sense of nostalgia, a moment of pure joy, or a feeling of determination and self-empowerment. This song represents the latter. Rachel Platten performed this song on Good Morning America a few weeks back, so it's out there. The song has already been featured on the Supergirl trailer and it would be a safe bet that we will hear it popping up in other videos throughout the summer. I can already hear it during the Little League World Series promos. But will we be looking for a less intense song to call the Song of the Summer of 2015?

Billboard Hot 100 Week of May 30th Ranking - #28 (up from #53) 

DEAR FUTURE HUSBAND - MEGHAN TRAINOR

She was all about the bass, but now Meghan Trainor is all about talking to her future mate, emphasis on future. This 1950’s era pop tune has the makings of a bona fide hit, but will it be as successful as her breakout single? Trainor sang an acoustic version of this song on The Voice finale – which is an unofficial sign of the start of the summer season. If it has half of the popularity as All About That Bass, Dear Future Husband could grab the title of the Song of the Summer of 2015.

Billboard Hot 100 Week of May 30th Ranking - #17 (down from #16) 

TAKE YOUR TIME - SAM HUNT

How do you feel about hearing talking - not singing - during the beginning of verses? Then Sam Hunt’s Take Your Time is your jam.  (Sam Hunt is not to be confused with Sam Smith, because they are both named Sam and that could be confusing.) Like any good country tune, this song tells a story. In the music video, Sam saves a woman from an abusive relationship. With its important message and Nashville melody, Sam Hunt could have a number one hit on his hands. But is country the way this season will go and Will Take Your Time be the Song of the Summer of 2015?

Billboard Hot 100 Week of May 30th Ranking - #33 (down from #30) 

BAD BLOOD FEATURING KENDRICK LAMAR - TAYLOR SWIFT 

The hit maker herself Taylor Swift has a contender for the battle of the Song of the Summer 2015 and she is not coming alone. Kendrick Lamar brings his hip hop vibe to Swift’s pop realm.  Like every other Taylor Swift song, this will probably get stuck in your head whether you want it to or not. The music video not only features Swift and Lamar, but also cameos from Selena Gomez, Jessica Alba, Lena Dunham, and more. So there is already major celebrity endorsements working for the song. But is Taylor Swift too much of a safe choice for the audience this season? Will we want a fresh artist to claim the title or has Swift yet again re-imagined herself? This song, one that crosses many genres, could cross the finish line first in the race for the Song of the Summer of 2015.

Billboard Hot 100 Week of May 30th Ranking - #53 (was not listed last week) 

THIS SUMMER’S GONNA HURT - MAROON 5 

Okay, so that’s not the true full title, but we’re talking about the clean version of the song. The one Maroon 5 and Adam Levine sang on The Voice (there it is again). This song already has a leg up on the competition being that it is about the summer. So it’s already a summer song, but will it be the summer song? If anything, I feel this song’s title may give us a phrase that will be used over and over again throughout the season.  But this tune is more laid back than the dance party that was Moves Like Jagger a few summers back. Maybe that is what we are looking for - a song with a smooth rhythm that lets us know just how the summer will feel. If that’s the case, Maroon 5's This Summer’s Gonna Hurt has a good chance of being the Song of the Summer of 2015.

Billboard Hot 100 Week of May 30th Ranking - #67 (debut) 

So what will be the Song of the Summer of 2015?

It could be one of these. Or it could be a song yet to have made it to Sirius XM Hits 1.

But the summer is unofficially here and the summer music is officially being heard.

So Song of the Summer of 2015 you better make your move fast or before you know it, you’ll become the Back to School Song of 2015, and no song wants to win that title. 

 

Goodnight Folks: David Letterman signs off after 33 years

by BROCK KOLLER

CBS

CBS

33 years is a long time to be on television. But between two networks, two shows, and two time slots, David Letterman has made 33 years fly by.

After Wednesday's Late Show, Letterman will leave the airwaves for good, taking with him his brand of sarcastic wit, self-deprecation, and observational humor.

For me, I was too young to truly enjoy his Late Night show on NBC. From what I read and watch on YouTube, while Johnny Carson was cementing the foundation of late night, Letterman was revolutionizing it. Take for instance his 360 degree episode when the camera underwent a complete revolution during the course of the broadcast.


I was unfortunately also too young to witness Carson's era. While I have watched countless documentaries and specials on Carson, I just wasn't - what's the word- alive...to truly appreciate him.

But after the reportedly controversial changing of the guard when Jay Leno was announced as Carson's replacement, a now Late Night Letterman took his talents to the Tiffany Network, resulting in a choice for late night viewers.

While most of America chose Leno throughout their 20 plus year ratings war, I was always more of a Letterman fan. I personally felt where Leno was cookie cutter, Letterman was edgier. If only I knew what Letterman was doing back in his NBC days, I would have realized just how edgy Dave could get.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Letterman was appointment viewing for me - yes, I would switch to Leno for Headlines, but who didn't.

I was an admirer of his interview skills - I always hear Letterman saying 'now, wait a minute' in my mind when I picture his interviews. And whenever he had poor Regis Philbin on, you knew Letterman wouldn't let ol' Reege get away without a few zingers thrown his way.

I loved the random, silly, absurd sketches that have always been a part of Letterman's repertoire.

The 'Will It Float' gag was a constant laugh inducer especially when Letterman kept adding unrelated human attractions around the tank of water. The metal chainsaw spark girl, for instance.

His annual Halloween costume segment was always a treat. Seeing kids dressed in preposterous outfits such as a men's shoe bufferer or a recalculating GPS was something you could only get from Letterman's personality.

Then there were his small business owner neighbors. The deadpan responses of Rupert from Hello Deli not only made Letterman chuckle but the audience too.

My favorite all-time Letterman segment showed exactly how wacky and poignant Letterman could be.

The premise was simple - see how many Spider-Men could fit into a Jamba Juice.

Letterman's quickness was on full display when nobody reacted as the first Spider-Man walked in and stood by the window.

"So far nothing. Nobody cares."

After a bunch of guys dressed like Spidey filed in one by one (all different sizes, mind you), Letterman realized they ran out of Spider-Man costumes. So he then sent in a slew of other costumed characters including Superman, a princess, and Moses.

"Oh man this is stupid," Letterman quipped.

Yes, it was. But that's what made it so enjoyable. That's what made Letterman so endearing.

He wasn't afraid to be stupid, to make fun of himself, and to not take the show too seriously unless a serious tone was warranted.

As for that Spider-Man sketch, Letterman has done a variation of that gag for years. In 1997, he tried to find out how many guys in bunny suits could fit into an H&R Block.  

He would go on to repeat the Jamba Juice setting again with guys dressed as aliens, as I just found on YouTube. Finding these videos is a good sign that even though Letterman is retiring, his legacy will live on and there are tons of sketches and interviews out there to be seen for the first (or 50th) time.

David Letterman is the last vessel of a bygone late night talk show broadcast dynasty.

There's a new age now with Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon and all the late night cable shows.

Letterman was that last connection to Johnny Carson and the era when you had to watch TV at 11:30pm or else you'd feel left out. There was no social media to see the most viral moments the next morning. You had to watch it all and you wanted to. 

So thank you Dave for 33 years of your sense of timing, sense of humor and overall nonsense.  You will forever be in the Top 10 of many lists concerning television's history and influence.

And in that favorite Letterman moment of mine, that Spider-Man sketch, as the superheroes stand by the window going unnoticed Letterman chimes in with "Nobody seems to care."

That is the complete opposite sentiment when it comes to David Letterman's retirement.

It would be a rare sight to see a television watcher who doesn't care that David Letterman is leaving. Almost as rare a sight as seeing Moses in your New York City juice bar.
 

Up Front & Personal: My Top Picks for the 2015 Fall TV Season

It’s one of my favorite times of the year – Upfront Season!

Beginning today, the Big 5 will unveil their fall lineups. They will show their sizzle reels and pull out the red carpet for their stars. Schedules will be jumbled and advertisers will be salivating (or not).

After this week, we will have a clearer picture of what the nets have to offer in the upcoming TV season. But like most television viewers, I can't wait to give my opinion.

So without having much information to go on - mostly just a paragraph description - I will give my top pick for each broadcast network, a mock draft for the sport of TV.

It goes without saying, but I am still saying it, that these opinions will change by September and, more likely, will change by the end of the week. 

So let's begin.

THE CW Top Pick - DC's Legends of Tomorrow

Description: When heroes alone are not enough… the world needs legends. Having seen the future, one he will desperately try to prevent from happening, time-traveling rogue Rip Hunter is tasked with assembling a disparate group of both heroes and villains to confront an unstoppable threat – one in which not only is the planet at stake, but all of time itself. Can this ragtag team defeat an immortal threat unlike anything they have ever known? DC’S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW stars Victor Garber (“The Flash,” “Alias”); Brandon Routh (“Arrow,” “Superman Returns”); Arthur Darvill (“Doctor Who”); Caity Lotz (“Arrow”); Ciarra Renee (“Pippin”); Franz Drameh (“Edge of Tomorrow”); with Dominic Purcell (“The Flash,” “Prison Break”); and Wentworth Miller (“The Flash,” “Prison Break”). Based on the characters from DC Comics, DC’S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW is from Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. Television, with executive producers Greg Berlanti (“The Flash,” upcoming “Pan”), Marc Guggenheim (“Eli Stone,” “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters”), Andrew Kreisberg (“The Flash,” “Eli Stone,” “Warehouse 13″) and Sarah Schechter (“The Flash,” upcoming “Pan”).

The CW

The CW

Opinion: Greg Berlanti is a man on a mission and his mission to take over television – one superhero at a time. This mash-up of Arrow/The Flash, both successful shows in their own right, has the potential to make a Berlanti trifecta. But without a main, well-known DC superhero anchor, it could hinder the potential hat trick. However, I don’t think Berlanti would put his name on a project, if he didn’t have a good sense of where it could go. I’ll be watching. 

NBC Top Pick - Blindspot

Description: A vast international plot explodes when a beautiful Jane Doe is discovered naked in Times Square, completely covered in mysterious, intricate tattoos with no memory of who she is or how she got there. But there's one tattoo that is impossible to miss: the name of FBI agent Kurt Weller, emblazoned across her back. "Jane," Agent Weller and the rest of the FBI quickly realize that each mark on her body is a crime to solve, leading them closer to the truth about her identity and the mysteries to be revealed. From Executive Producer Greg Berlanti ("The Mysteries of Laura," "The Flash," "Arrow").

Opinion: Hey look, it’s Greg Berlanti again. But this time it’s more ‘The Mysteries of Laura’ Greg than ‘DC Superhero’ Greg. This show seems interesting - a touch of Fox’s short-lived John Doe with a splash of Memento. It appears it could be a crime of the week procedural wrapped in a clever format, but even the best new show of last season not named ‘Empire’ - ‘The Flash’ - had a villain of the week formula for much of its inaugural year. I’m curious to see where this will go. And if this becomes a hit, this will be a Berlanti grand slam (4 hit shows).  

NBC Honorable Mention - Heroes Reborn

Description: The saga behind the 2006 breakout series "Heroes" will continue this fall as creator Tim Kring returns to the fold and develops new layers to his original superhero concept This highly anticipated 13-episode event series will reconnect with the basic elements of the show’s first season, where ordinary people were waking up to the fact that they had extraordinary abilities. Original cast member Jack Coleman will reprise his role as H.R.G., Jimmy Jean-Louis returns as The Haitian, and Masi Oka will be back as Hiro Nakamura. Also joining the cast are Zachary Levi (of NBC's "Chuck" and the Marvel franchise "Thor"), Ryan Guzman ("The Boy Next Door"), Robbie Kay ("Once Upon a Time"), Danika Yarosh ("Shameless"), Judith Shekoni ("The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2"), Kiki Sukezane ("Death Yankee 3"), Henry Zebrowski (NBC’s "A to Z") and Gatlin Green ("Criminal Minds").

NBC

NBC

Opinion: You have to win me back, Heroes. You have to win me back. After we saved the cheerleader, you kind of lost your way. With the addition of Zachary Levi to the cast and the return of fan favorites HRG, The Haitian, and Hiro, things do look promising. But I’ll let you walk a few steps before I get too excited that you are back on your feet again, Heroes. Win me back. 

ABC Top Pick - THE MUPPETS

Description: The Muppets return to prime time with a contemporary, documentary-style show that, for the first time ever, will explore the Muppets’ personal lives and relationships, both at home and at work, as well as romances, break-ups, achievements, disappointments, wants, and desires.

ABC

ABC

Opinion: Does it get any better than The Muppets? Kermit. Piggy. Gonzo. Fozzy. It’s about time they are getting the spotlight they once had. But, while the documentary style (I’m feeling Modern Family/ The Office type setup) sounds fun, let’s not forget The Muppets work best when they interact with human beings. Muppets need to play off people so they can be at their muppety best. Yes, I said muppety. So hopefully, there will be some recurring human characters to keep the show grounded. But more importantly, is Walter a cast member? 

CBS Top Pick - SUPERGIRL

Description: Melissa Benoist stars as Kara Zor-El, who escaped her home planet Krypton during its destruction. After hiding the powers she shares with her famous cousin Superman, she finally decides to embrace her superhuman abilities and be a hero. Greg Berlanti (Arrow,The Flash) is executive-producing, and Calista Flockhart, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh and David Harewood also star.

CBS

CBS

Opinion: Bradley Cooper is one of the producers behind the new CBS show ‘Limitless’ based on the similarly titled movie that starred Cooper. That sounds like a winner, right? Well, I’m sure it probably is. But the only reason I’m not selecting it as my top pick is because two words – Greg Berlanti. Yes, Berlanti is at again, creating a primetime show based on a DC Comics character. This time on CBS. It will be very interesting to see how the tone changes from his CW shows. Different audience, here. But this series has a lot of hype behind it. Hopefully, Berlanti can pull this one off. And if he does, it could be a grand slam + 1 (that’s 5 hit shows, there's no real baseball analogy for that). It should be noted, Smallville – the story of a young Clark Kent – lasted 10 seasons. So you’ve got a lot to live up to on this one, Berlanti. 

FOX Top Pick - THE GRINDER

Description: How many TV lawyers does it take to try a real-life case in a real-life courtroom? One, and his name is THE GRINDER. Starring Emmy Award nominee Rob Lowe (“Parks and Recreation,” “The West Wing”), THE GRINDER is a new comedy about a famous TV lawyer at a crossroads. When his legal series ends, he decides to move back home and join his family’s real law firm – despite having no formal education, no bar certification, no license to practice and no experience in an actual courtroom. DEAN SANDERSON (Lowe) spent eight seasons playing the title role on the hit legal drama “The Grinder.” Now he’s moving back to his hometown of Boise, Idaho, where his brother, STEWART (Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominee Fred Savage, “The Wonder Years”), is a real-life attorney who is poised to take over the family law firm. It doesn’t take long for Dean to start injecting his TV drama into every aspect of Stewart’s life, both in the courtroom and at home, impacting Stewart’s wife – and Dean’s high school sweetheart – DEBBIE (Mary Elizabeth Ellis, NEW GIRL, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”); their two kids, 15-year-old LIZZIE (Hana Hayes, “Bucket and Skinner’s Epic Adventures”) and 13-year-old ETHAN (Connor Kalopsis, “Days Of Our Lives”); and Dean and Stewart’s father, the law firm’s head, DEAN SR. (William Devane, “24: Live Another Day”). Dean and Stewart don’t see to eye to eye, but when they stop arguing with each other and start arguing together in court…they make a formidable team. THE GRINDER is the story of two brothers, who took different paths, but meet again in the middle – for justice…sort of. Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul serve as writers and executive producers. Nicholas Stoller, Jake Kasdan and Lowe also executive produce. Kasdan will direct. The Grider is produced by 20th Century Fox Television.

FOX

FOX

Opinion: Yes, I could’ve picked Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens, for its dark, satirical humor and event series hoopla, and I’m sure it will get a lot of people talking, but I really wanted to choose at least one comedy on my list of picks and why not one that stars Rob Lowe and Fred Savage! It was a tough choice between this show and the one starring Uncle Jesse – I mean, John Stamos - but I’m choosing ‘Fuller House’ as Netflix’s top pick of the new season, so everyone wins in the end. I think the premise of The Grinder sounds funny – a TV lawyer coming home to join his family’s real-life law firm. But with every sitcom, it’s not really the initial premise that makes the show a hit, but the characters themselves and Lowe and Savage have experience playing believable ones in the past. Despite what the critics say, the sitcom is not dead! At least, I hope not. Plus, nostalgia is really in these days with the kids, i.e. Fuller House, X-Files, Coach, Twin Peaks, etc. And how more nostalgic can you get than Kevin Arnold? 

TO THE EXTREME: WWE EXTREME RULES 2015 PREDICTIONS

by BROCK KOLLER

Remember WrestleMania? That was one whole month ago. It seems a lot longer, doesn't it?

Well, to whet your appetite for next year's WrestleMania, tonight WWE brings you its first pay per view of its new nascent season - Extreme Rules. Here are my predictions as they happen in my mind. 

WWE

WWE

TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: CESARO & KIDD vs. NEW DAY

It's the Kickoff's show favorite type of match - a tag team championship. It's Clap. Clap. vs. Clap. Clap. Clap. Cesaro & Kidd are flying high. New Day is trying to find its footing as the Bo Dallas of tag teams (motivational heels). Leave the titles on the champs. Clap. Clap.  Fact.

WINNERS: CESARO & KIDD

WWE

WWE

CHICAGO STREET FIGHT: DEAN AMBROSE vs. LUKE HARPER

Chicago Street Fights are the worst kind of street fights. Just ask the Nation of Domination at WrestleMania 13. I believe even the kitchen sink was involved in that one! Honestly, there is no difference from a Chicago Street Fight to a Denver Street Fight to a Poughkeepsie Street Fight. With that said, both these men could use a win. But who to give it to? I think with a few victories, Ambrose could return back to the main event picture. Harper needs some more building. Should be a great fight. 

WINNER: DEAN AMBROSE

WWE

WWE

KISS ME ARSE MATCH: DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. SHEAMUS

Terrible stipulation aside, these guys should steal the show. Heel Sheamus is one of the most exciting aspects of the new WWE season. The only downside is that Ziggler will mostly lose. However, I see him outsmarting Sheamus and not having to kiss his...well, you know.  But Sheamus is on fire and perhaps his next opponent will be the man who won the previous match, fella.

WINNER: SHEAMUS

WWE

WWE

INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: BRYAN vs. BARRETT

Daniel Bryan represents the uncertainty of wrestling and why sometimes wrestling fans have to appreciate what they were given  - even if it wasn't enough. Other examples what I'm referring to include Steve Austin & Triple H teaming up to be the Two Man Power Trip and Chris Jericho & Edge finally teaming up and becoming tag champions. Both those teams should have made huge impacts in WWE's history, but because of injuries, their runs ended abruptly and fans could only look back on the short time they had to enjoy. When Daniel Bryan won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship last year, fans could not wait to see what the business would change into with Bryan on top. But because of injury and the uncertainty of the industry, the paradigm shifted and Daniel Bryan was nowhere to be seen.  Fast forward to this year's Mania and Bryan wins the IC Title. 'We'll take it,' the fans said. But even in quicker fashion than last year, the Bryan story is seemingly put on pause. By all accounts, this match will not happen. By all accounts, Daniel Bryan will be out of action for a number of weeks due to injury. BUT by my account, Wade Barrett will not walk out of Extreme Rules champion. No, he will be placed in a title match against the Man that Gravity Forgot, also known as the New Sensation (for some reason), and your NEW Intercontinental Champion - Neville.

WINNER: (After Bryan surrenders the title and a new title match is made) NEVILLE

WWE

WWE

LAST MAN STANDING MATCH: ROMAN REIGNS vs. BIG SHOW

Big Show is getting Big Show heat - as in 'Please Retire.' That's not a good thing. But for Roman Reigns, that is a great thing. Reigns has been trying to win over the WWE Universe for months and with an opponent like Big Show who makes fans of all sizes groan in boredom, Reigns might finally be able to sway the detractors he has left. Give him some rope and let's see what he can do. No seriously, give him some rope, because I'm sure he's going to tie Big Show to the post or to a flatbed truck or an ambulance and get the win.

WINNER: ROMAN REIGNS

WWE

WWE

DIVAS CHAMPIONSHIP: NIKKI BELLA vs. NAOMI

Is Nikki Bella a good Diva now? Because Naomi is definitely a heel. Whatever their moral compass says, this has the makings of a good women's wrestling match. Naomi vs. Natalya on Smackdown was very good. And Nikki has had the title for so long that it's not worth saying she has improved in the ring. The only question  - who walks out champion? 

WINNER: NAOMI

WWE

WWE

US CHAMPIONSHIP RUSSIAN CHAIN MATCH: CENA vs. RUSEV

Do not confuse this with a Chicago Chain Match (is there one?) because this is a Russian Chain Match. In this match, a Superstar must touch all four corners in succession without being interrupted in any way by his opponent who is attached by a chain - which can be used as a weapon - and will be used as a weapon. John Cena has shined as United States Champion. His US challenges on Raw have been some of his best matches in a while - probably because he's facing fresh opponents who aren't Randy Orton or Brock Lesnar. Rusev will have to lose this one, but he's proven his value that he is a monster. I don't see them turning him face for a few years - eventually WWE turns every big man face - Yokozuna, Vader, Big Show - but Rusev, even with another loss to Cena is a monster heel and will move on to another feud. 

WINNER: JOHN CENA

WWE

WWE

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP STEEL CAGE MATCH, RKO IS BANNED, KANE IS GATEKEEPER: ROLLINS vs. ORTON

There is a lot going on in this match. Steel cage. No RKO. Kane. And while it's not an official stipulation on paper, reports say WWE has banned the Curb Stomp, whether it be out of health reasons or creative decision, it's gone. So with no RKO and no Curb Stomp, these two main eventers must use some other tactics from their repertoire. Even without their two iconic finishers, these two will put on a show. The steel cage isn't really needed; plus, in this PG era, it isn't used that often as a weapon.  I actually would rather them not use the cage that often and just have a good, one-on-one match. I'm sure the cage door and Kane will come into play throughout the contest, but hopefully it won't play a factor until the end of the match (hopefully, it won't play a factor at all, but you and I know it will). Along with Kane's surefire (get it) interference, I see some other hocus pocus going on in this one. Just like Hell In A Cell ended with some spookiness, I foresee Extreme Rules going the same route. For you see, Bray Wyatt has been talking in riddles again: 

I see right through you. I know what drives you. I know what motivates you. Cause it’s the same for every man. It’s fear...I will take that one thing from you that you can’t live without. And tell me friend, after all, what use is there for a butterfly with no wings?
— Bray Wyatt, Smackdown 4/23

Just when it looks like Kane is opening the cage door for Randy Orton to win the match - the lights will go out. To me, the quote above means Wyatt will show up - no need for Kane to open the door, he'll let himself in - and Bray will target Orton's arms to take away his RKO for future use. For what use is there for a butterfly with no wings? And just like at HIAC, Wyatt's interference will allow Rollins to walk away the winner of a cage match. This time though, Rollins will make Kane open the door for him. Kane will do so reluctantly. And Seth Rollins will retain the championship and Bray Wyatt will move on to another feud that makes no real sense.

WINNER: SETH ROLLINS

And now onto next month for Payback or Over the Limit or May Madness or... I miss King of the Ring. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Costas, Guinea Pigs, Snapple: Baseball is Back!

by BROCK KOLLER

 

In Switzerland, it is illegal to own only one guinea pig because they are prone to loneliness.
— Bob Costas
MLB Network

MLB Network

With that simmering in your minds there is only thing else to say - Baseball is back!

And that’s not said with sarcasm.

The correlation between the companion-seeking qualities of a guinea pig and America’s favorite pastime may seem arbitrary, but if you were watching the Boston Red Sox – New York Yankees game Friday night, you would see there is a definite connection between the two.

The game lasted 19 innings. Yes, 19 innings.

 But it was during the bottom of the 16th that something magical happened.

Feeling the need to keep the audience invested in the game, Costas resorted to reading the Snapple Real Fact from his Diet Snapple.

It was Snapple Fact #986 to be precise. The one about the lonely guinea pigs in Switzerland.

Now, when I said ‘baseball is back' earlier, I was not saying that in a cynical way, I was saying it in a legitimate excited voice.

But how could Bob Costas reading a Snapple Fact make someone excited for the start of the baseball season?

Because you never know what will happen during a game – on the field or off the field.

Each team plays 162 games in a regular season.

This was only the fourth game for both teams and we already had so many moments to talk about.

On top of the fact that the game went 6 hours and 49 minutes, there was the Snapple Fact.

Some may say – but he was reading it out of boredom because baseball is boring. Homer, I’m looking at you.

But baseball isn’t boring.

Bob Costas reading a Snapple Fact is interesting. It’s different. It’s unexpected.

It made sports and news websites across the internet.

That was not the only noteworthy aspect of the night.

The game’s monumental length made headlines.

Mark Teixera’s birthday became a talking point. Teixera was 34 when the game started Friday night. He was 35 when it ended at 2:13 a.m. Saturday.

There was a delay because of a lighting failure. (Ok, that wasn’t the most interesting thing ever).

But with each of the nine (or 19) innings in every game, there’s opportunity for fascination. Whether it be from an incredible catch – by a player or fan, some mascot hilarity, a crazy interfering animal, or a thirsty announcer with a thought-provoking law.

So while Costas was joking that viewers had already turned their television sets off in the 16th inning, those who really understand baseball were still glued to every word and every at bat.

Because as another Simpsons family member said, baseball is an ‘unpredictable, passionate game.’

Yes, Lisa ends her quote by saying baseball is ‘beaten in excitement only by every other sport.’

But I’m sure she was saying that sarcastically.

Regardless, baseball is back and I’ll drink a Diet Snapple to that.