Rest in Peace, Ultimate Warrior
Back in the summer of 1989 I began to follow the exploits of a group of over-the-top colourful characters. I’d only had a passing interest in their world before, mainly because of the somewhat low-key exploits of their British counterparts.
The realm in question was that of the World Wrestling Federation, and one of the characters that got me hooked was the Ultimate Warrior.
He may not have been the best pure wrestler in the world but he was certainly one of the most charismatic. There was just something about the guy that made you want to watch him, and although he was a polarizing character, and although his life and career was full of controversial moments you couldn’t argue that he didn’t have “it”, that indefinable thing that makes you want to watch him perform time and time again, that made him one of the most memorable performers of his generation.
It was great that he’d patched up his relationship with WWE, and that they’d inducted him into their Hall of Fame. After years of controversy and back and forward snipes it was great to see the man happy with life, receiving the adulation from the fans on the biggest stage of all. Now, just a few days later, it just doesn’t seem right that the Ultimate Warrior has been taken from us.
How many of us have already said to themselves “but I only saw him on television a couple of days ago”? I know I did. But that’s the nature of this world. It can be a very cruel place at times, that those who seem to have found peace in their lives are taken from their loved ones.
The Ultimate Warrior was given his place among the immortals of the wrestling world a few days ago. Now he’s found his place among the angels. Thank you for all the memories, and may you rest in peace.
WWE Wrestlemania XXX on Sky Box Office – TV Review
It’s the biggest show of the year, the grand-daddy of them all, but did it live up to the hype? That’s what I’m hoping to find out by reviewing WWE Wrestlemania XXX, shown live in the early hours of this past Monday morning on Sky Box Office here in Britain.
The show began with a great in-ring segment featuring Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and the Rock, and after those three legends shared a few beers it was on to the first match of the evening as Triple H, accompanied by Stephanie McMahon, faced Daniel Bryan for the third spot in the main event title match.
As far as opening matches go this wasn’t too bad. Hell, it was pretty damn good! Bryan came into this one with his shoulder heavily bandaged, and although he was able to control the early going it wasn’t long before Trips was matching him in the wrestling department.
It was an altogether different type of game Trips was playing here. Bryan’s bandages were like a red rag to a bull as he worked over his man’s shoulder with a variety of holds, even invoking the spirit of the great Bob Backlund at one point when he applied a crossface chicken wing.
But no matter what Trips did he just couldn’t put Bryan away. With the Yes movement firmly behind Bryan kept coming back, giving as good as he got, and even when Trips took him out with the pedigree he kicked out of the ensuing pin.
It was turning into a veritable war of attrition as both men tried everything, and when Bryan managed to avoid a second pedigree it was the beginning of the end. After escaping from the Game’s back suplex attempt he connected with the flying knee. A three count later and he had booked his place in the main event.
Needless to say that the billion dollar princess was none too happy with the situation, because as Bryan celebrated in the ring Stephanie stepped in and delivered a few slaps before Trips attacked him from behind, ramming his injured shoulder into the ring post before clobbering it with a chair.
Six man action followed as corporate stooges the New Age Outlaws and Kane faced the Shield.
I suppose the best way you could describe this one would be short and sweet, because what we had here was a dominant performance from messrs Ambrose, Reigns and Rollins.
The corporate team never really got out of the gates as the Shield boys took them down at every turn, with the all hell breaking loose segment coming after just a few moments. The bad guys got in a few good shots, but when the Shield took both the Road Dogg and Billy Gunn down with a powerbomb at the same time that was it as the Shield boys picked up another win.
Then it was on to the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, with 31 superstars battling out for the prize.
Long-time readers will know that although I like watching battle royals I don’t really like reviewing them. There’s always too much going on for anyone to take in, especially during the early going when you’ve got so many arms and legs flying about all over the place.
Which is why I prefer it when the numbers thin out a little and you finally get to see the stand-out performances. As expected the Big Show made it to the final four, as did Sheamus, Cesaro and Alberto Del Rio, and after Sheamus and ADR went over the man from Switzerland brought back memories of the Silver Dome (or is it Super Dome) all those years ago when he picked up Show and body slammed him over the top rope to win the trophy.
Then it was on to the big grudge match as Bray Wyatt, with his boys in his corner, took on John Cena.
This one was all about psychological warfare. From the moment the match started Wyatt goaded Cena, trying to get him to release his “inner monster”. There were times when Cena looked almost reluctant to engage his opponent, fearful that he would get too aggressive, and when he did he quickly put the demon back in the bottle.
So as they took each other down time and time again Wyatt continued his mind games. Indeed, there were times when there were more verbals than actual wrestling, but all of this made for a very interesting story.
The creepy moment of the match came when Cena took his man down and then went for the five knuckle shuffle, but when he came off the ropes he found Wyatt on reverse fours, staring back at him from his crab-like position.
Eventually normal service resumed as Cena continued to fight Wyatt’s attempts to release his demons, and when Wyatt brought a chair into the equation and tried to get Cena to use it against him he refused, instead using it to knock Erick Rowan off the ring apron before he took Wyatt down with the attitude adjuster for the winning pin.
After an appearance by this year’s Hall of Fame Class (rest in peace Warrior) it was on to the next match as Paul Heyman guy Brock Lesnar faced the Undertaker.
The slow and methodical approach was the order of the day in this one as these two behemoths beat the proverbial out of each other. At times it was brutal, but throughout it was riveting.
Although the dead man had a good start it was Lesnar who controlled the majority of this bout. Unlike the other matches since his return he wasn’t able to throw his opponent around the ring like a stuffed toy. Instead he just brutalized him, showing that even the biggest dog in the yard doesn’t have it his way all the time.
Taker got in some good shots, but these were few and far between, and when Lesnar connected with the F5 it looked all over until Taker kicked out.
A short time later it was Lesnar’s turn to feel the pain when Taker went for his hell’s gate submission hold. Lesnar managed to slam his way out of danger, and when the dead man went for the hold again Lesnar slammed his way out again.
We then saw an excellent exchange of submission holds as Lesnar eventually went for the kimura, only for the Undertaker to apply a kimura of his own. Neither man could get the job done, not even after another F5 and a couple of the dead man’s signature moves.
Then Taker played the trump card when he went for the tombstone, and even though he managed to connect with the move Lesnar, to the amazement of just about everyone in the stadium, kicked out of the pin. However, when Taker went for the move a second time Lesnar countered with a third F5, and when he went for the cover what many thought was impossible happened, Lesnar pinned the Undertaker, ending the Wrestlemania streak.
To say that those in attendance were shocked would be an understatement, but it was the reception the Undertaker got from the fans afterwards as everyone in the stadium gave him a standing ovation, and if this is the last time we’ll see him on the big stage then he certainly went out in style.
The penultimate match was the Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational, with champion A.J. Lee facing the challenge of the rest of the Divas roster, with the first fall deciding the winner.
This kind of had a battle royal feel to it. You had all the Divas in the ring doing their thing at the same time, but unlike the earlier battle royal there weren’t any real stand out performances here, with the only really interesting scenario being the brief confrontation between the Bellas.
The end came when most of the girls were scattered around ringside recovering. A.J. came back into the ring and locked in that submission hold of hers on Naomi, with the referee calling for the bell when he saw Naomi’s hand tapping the mat. But what he didn’t see was that it was actually A.J. tapping Naomi’s hand to the mat. But hey, you know what they say, a win’s still a win.
The main event saw Batista and Daniel Bryan challenging Randy Orton for the WWE World title in a triple threat match.
As far as main events go this was well played out, with countless twists and turns and good performances from all those involved, and I’m not just talking about the three wrestlers here.
Needless to say that Bryan came in as the massive underdog, mainly because of his shoulder injury, but that didn’t stop him from putting on a good fight at the beginning until the former Evolution running buddies tossed him to one side.
From there things progressed nicely. Orton and Batista put together some good exchanges, with Bryan playing the role of spoiler on more than one occasion. But when it looked like the leader of the Yes Movement was getting the upper hand Triple H and his lovely bride arrived on the scene the spoil the party, pulling out the referee and replacing him with their own crooked official Scott Armstrong.
Things didn’t exactly go to plan for the powers that be though. Armstrong took a rollicking for not counting a pin fast enough, and after Bryan took advantage of the no DQ stipulation by kicking the official out of the ring he then took all of his detractors out, Stephanie included, with a suicide dive. Trips then tried to use his trusty old sledgehammer, but even that failed when Bryan got his hands on the weapon and clobbered the Game in the head, and it wasn’t long before the big wigs and their special referee were being helped to the back.
The match continued with the original official back in charge of things, and a few moments later came the Joey Styles Oh My Gawd! moment of the night. Orton and Batista finally decided to work together so they could take Bryan out of the picture, and this involved putting him through one of the announcers tables with a Batista bomb into an RKO. Bryan crashed through the wood, and with the brief alliance officially disbanded the match continued as the medics put Bryan on a stretcher.
It didn’t stay as a one-on-one match for long. As Batista and Orton attempted to put each other away Bryan got off the stretcher as he was about to be wheeled up the ramp, and he almost got the win with a couple of yes locks. But the big boys kept breaking up the hold before they sent Bryan packing again.
Within seconds Orton took Batista down with the RKO, but that didn’t get the job done, and when it looked like Orton was going to punt his man in the head Bryan came back yet again and took him down with his running knee. Batista then sent him packing once again, but he was unable to pick the carcass as it were when Orton kicked out of his pin.
Then, right after Batista had taken Orton down with the Batista bomb Bryan came back yet again and took him out with another running knee. He then applied the yes lock, and it wasn’t long before the animal was tapping out to give Bryan the title winning submission win, much to the delight of everyone in attendance.
In conclusion – I think the best thing to say here is what a show!
Wrestlemania XXX certainly ticked all the right boxes. From the opening segment with Hogan, Austin and the Rock, through all the matches, the backstage skits, including where Roddy Piper finally hugged it out with Mr. T, right up to the main event, this show delivered, and then some, and it may well go down as one of the best Wrestlemanias of the past few years.
As for my match of the night no-prize there’s quite a few to choose from, and while I was extremely tempted to go for the Undertaker/Lesnar war my vote goes to the Orton/Batista/Bryan main event, a match filled with drama and tension, and a great performance from the man of the moment.
So with all of that out of the way there’s just one more thing left to do, and that’s to give Wrestlemania XXX the big thumbs up.