With all the hullaballoo (such a fun word to type, let alone say) in WWE / NXT of late, it seems I have fallen off the What If Wednesday wagon, so thanks to a suggestion from NAI Fan Friday contributor and host of RealWorldChamp.com Josh Petrie (@jpetrie18), let’s get back on the horse.
Speaking of horses. . .
It’s no secret that I love a good stable (ANOTHER horse reference, HA!), and from the myriad conversations I’ve had on Twitter, so do many of you. Arguably the greatest stable in history, the Four Horsemen set the stage, in many ways, for all the greats to follow: DX or the nWo wouldn’t have existed without the Horsemen, and Evolution was just the Horsemen without the name.
There will be arguments aplenty about this idea, which is good - that’s why I get the big bucks - but I think we can all agree that the “Horsemen build”, stable wise, is as follows.
It might not have been this way every single time, but when you think of the “ultimate” Horsemen, that’s what you had. Flair was the leader, Arn was the enforcer, Tully was the mat technician and Ole Anderson was the veteran. They also benefited from having The JJ Dillon, a manager to help guide the way.
So, using this build as a model, let’s take a look at some prospective Horsemen, shall we?
It’s What If Wednesday, so we’ll be creating our own stories here, hence why Orton and Rollins would be on the same team. Orton provides experience and, being pretty much the only one of these guys to actually share a ring with Ric Flair, Horseman-Pedigree-by-Proxy.
Rollins is the leader, obviously, and Cesaro and Kidd can remain as a tag team. While I doubt Orton would win the IC or US championship (though he could), this is a unit that could easily win just about every major title in WWE.
Obviously we’d need to clean Harper up a bit, but is there anyone else who screams “Enforcer” as much as Luke does? As for Jack Swagger . . . You remember him, right? . . . This guy looks like he’d have been a Horsemen in the late 80’s, if not a member of the Varsity Club.
You can pick either Rhodes or Ziggler to be the leader or the veteran, it doesn’t matter much either way. And for those, like Mr. Petrie, who wonder whether a RHODES could ever be a Horseman, what better way for Cody to get some serious heat than by defying his family legacy and aligning himself with the group so synonymous with Ric Flair?
Cheating a bit here, as Neville isn’t technically on the NXT roster anymore, but I like the fit, and its my column, so he stays. Corbin, like Harper, is an obvious fit for enforcer, even with the total lack of wrestling talent. I’d stick him and Chad Gable (he of the one NXT match and hopefully still the leader of Shoot Nation) as a tag team, letting Gable get experience while doing the lion’s share of the work.
Newer fans are going to tell me that Balor should be trying to duplicate his Bullet Club, not the Horsemen, but again, I submit to you that without the Horsemen, there’d be no Bullet Club.
Ever since I saw the WWE.com piece on the ladies of NXT, I’ve thought that the ‘NXT invasion’ everyone keeps debating and mulling over should happen with the ladies, and the ladies only.
Just imagine, after the Naomi, Paige and Nikki Bella triple threat at Elimination Chamber, we see Sasha, Charlotte, Becky and Bayley (yes, Bayley) run to the ring and take out all three of the Diva’s title participants, no matter who wins. A group of other Divas (Brie Bella. . . Umm. . .Is Alicia Fox still around? I swear, I need to hire D-Jay to write all my women’s wrestling pieces) come out to try to save the WWE women, but are rebuffed. Natalya emerges, one would think to save the day, but she winds up joining forces with the NXT ladies, serving as veteran and JJ Dillon all at the same time.
People keep saying they want to give Divas a chance. People keep wondering if women’s wrestling will ever be taken seriously in WWE. THIS would do both of those things. Give them a storyline that’s solid and some ring and promo time to make it work, and people will buy in, especially once they see the depth of the NXT talent.
I’m on the fence about Bayley, I truly am. She’s good, but I don’t know if she could ever be anything other than the hugger. I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt that she could turn the gimmick around if the need arose.
Also, you could talk me into Paige being the one behind the NXT invasion, and the ladies I mentioned help her win the Diva’s title. That’d be fine, too.
In no particular order, here are some talents I feel would have made great Horsemen.
William Regal - Besides Arn Anderson, could there be a better enforcer than Regal? Tough as nails and will either punch your lights out, throw you around, or twist you into knots. Dear Lord, I love this man.
Shelton Benjamin - Fun fact, friends. There has never been a Horseman of color. . .Ever. . . We’ve had Canadians, we’ve had Italians and we’ve had. . .whatever planet Mongo McMichael was from. . . But never anyone of an ethnic minority. Yeah, sure, Butch Reed was an associate of the Horsemen, but that doesn’t count.
I try not to get into racial issues in my columns, as being a white guy, its not really my position to say anything, but still, that’s an odd stat. Shelton Benjamin would have been perfect for the Horseman - the young wrestler who anchors a tag team or who wins the mid-card titles 10-15 times.
Billy Gunn - This is quickly just turning into “DC’s Favorite Wrestlers”, but that’s OK. Billy Gunn could have been the wily veteran or the enforcer.
Steve Austin - Not Stone Cold, of course, but while watching WCW PPV’s of the 90’s, “Stunning” Steve seemed like a perfect Horseman. Here’s a little mini-What If Wednesday for you - What if he had been one? What if WCW had hung onto Austin a little longer and given him enough to do where he would have been a productive member of their roster? What happens if Stone Cold never becomes Stone Cold?
(Note: I honestly can’t remember if I’ve done a What If Wednesday on that topic or not already. If so, move along.)
Alberto Del Rio - I’m honestly shocked that Del Rio never led a stable of some kind in WWE. He seems like an ideal guy for that. Hopefully he’ll get his chance in Lucha Underground.
Damn, now I’ve got an idea. . . OK, this is the last one.
This wound up just being “Former WWE All-Stars”, but it works. Or so I think.
What do YOU think? If you could re-cast the Horsemen in 2015 WWE / NXT, who would you pick? How would you fill wrestling’s greatest stable? Be Heard.
The year was 1991. America was in the midst of a war in the Persian Gulf. One of our greatest military heroes (WWF’s, at least) had just turned his back on his country and allied with the Iraqi regime. Only a Real American could stand in his way, as DC’s Network Diaries brings you Wrestlemania VII.
Authors Note: I watched this PPV close to 2 weeks ago and in the efforts of full disclosure, I wasn’t paying intense attention. Thus, my column will be more #NAIstalgia than anything else. Apologies to those who were hoping for a real in-depth analysis.
Willie Nelson sang a song of patriotism. Pretty sure that’s the only time I’ve ever seen him not under the influence of cannabis.
Highpoint: What’s not to like? The Rockers were still firing on all cylinders, despite being near the end of their tag tenure. The Barbarian is wearing antlers like he’s King Cuerno from Lucha Underground on steroids. You have Haku, one of my favorite wrestlers from the 80’s, and you have Bobby Heenan, my favorite manager and overall wrestling personality of all time.
Plus, the match was good! How could I NOT love this?
Lowpoint: The fact that this card, generally considered to be among the least popular Manias in history, had such a good match on it. The crowd was hyped and then the rest of the show (with some exceptions) failed to capitalize on it.
So What: Wrestlemania VII featured four separate tag matches with 8 different fully fledged tag teams (though in hindsight, I don’t know if Kitao and Tenryu were established before their brief WWF run). It’s entirely possible Wrestlemania 31 won’t feature a single tag match, especially now that one of the Uso’s may be out for a prolonged period with a shoulder injury.
Woe to the fallen tandem division.
Highpoint: The match was rather mercifully short.
Lowpoint: Within 2 years of this match, both Von Erich and Bravo would be dead, each in their own tragic way.
So What: I’m not an expert or anything, but I do get the sense than the WWE’s Wellness Program seems to be working fairly well. Bravo’s death had more to do with the Canadian mafia (Yes, you read that right) than anything else, but I’d like to think there would be more help for the Von Erich family now than there was back then.
Highpoint: Man, Davey Boy Smith was a good wrestler. I forget that sometimes with all the struggles he had near the end, but he was something else. When does he get into the Hall of Fame?
Lowpoint: I’m not sure if it was the Warlord’s weird “futuristic Phantom of the Opera” mask or his manager Slick’s slightly offensive ranting or just the fact that Terry Szopinski wasn’t all that good in the ring, but let’s just put it all together and say that was the collective nadir.
So What: How many kids (if kids watched the archived stuff on WWE Network) watched Warlord and Slick’s promo before the match and wondered what in the world that strange rectangular box with the metal corded phone was? (Hint: It was a pay phone, you damn whippersnappers. People used them back before everyone had a cell phone. You paid a quarter and could make a quick phone call. #GetOffMyLawn)
Highpoint: A solid match between all four men, but for me, you can’t go wrong with Jim Neidhart’s choice of headgear heading to the ring.
Lowpoint: Comparatively, Jimmy Hart’s Nasty Boys motorcycle helmet needed some work and an explanation.
So What: Both of these teams are not in the WWE Hall of Fame, but in a few days, the Bushwhackers will be. Color me confused.
Highpoint: If someone was ever to offer a graduate-level class on wrestling ring psychology, this would be on the syllabus, believe me. The Lowpoint is that there is very little in-ring action here, but there doesn’t need to be! Jake and Martel together combine to tell one of the better stories inside a wrestling ring that I can think of. Jake’s use of the crowd, pointing in a slow arc until the fans let him know what direction “The Model” is in, Martel acting like the terrified puppy for the entire time - it’s just a work of art.
So What: Dear Jason Albert at the WWE Performance Center - make your trainees watch this match. THIS is how you do it.
Highpoint: I hate to quote Michael Cole, but to hell with him, this was a phrase before he started using it every 5 seconds - This is VINTAGE Undertaker. He’s only 4 months or so into his run, so this is Taker 1.0. The gray gloves, the very pale face, the multiple, multiple choke holds. This is fun.
Lowpoint: I may offend some people here, but I have to ask - What’s the appeal of Jimmy Snuka? Sure, he had a great splash, especially off of a cage, but other than that, was he any good? Really?
So What: If WWE is still trying to figure out what Taker’s outfit for this year’s Mania should be, may I suggest they use his look from his first Mania for inspiration.
Actually, I suggest he become the American Bad Ass once more - that’s what I REALLY want. But if that’s not an option, then totally this.
Highpoint: As if you needed a reason why Randy Savage is one of the top 10-15 in-ring workers in history, I submit this - This retirement match garnered 4.25 stars from Dave Meltzer. Now, I don’t care much about what Meltzer has to say, but he doesn’t give out those kind of rankings often. And this match featured the Ultimate Warrior!
Lowpoint: Realizing we never really saw a good Savage vs. Bret or Savage vs. HBK series of matches.
So What: Allow me to use this opportunity to steer you to another of my columns, my “What If Wednesday” hypothesizing the ramifications if Savage had stayed in WWE. It’s good, I promise!
Highpoint: Knowing that WWF (and WCW, from my quest to watch all their PPV’s) had such a good working relationship with Japanese wrestling. Right now that is really ROH’s purview, but it gives me hope that we could see this again. WWE and New Japan? Go ahead and fantasize, NAIbors!
Lowpoint: The downside of having a match like Savage vs. Warrior, with such an emotional aftermath (which, it occurs to me, I didn’t even cover earlier!) is that whatever follows it has next to no shot of being something the fans care about. If WWF had a Diva’s division in 1991, you know we’d have seen them at this point.
So What: Outside of hoping for increased ties between WWE and Japan? Hmm. . . #GiveDivasAChance, I guess. . .
Highpoint: Two talents arguably in some of their peak years. A decent enough storyline to justify a match. Being given 10 minutes to tell your story.
So What: While I am very excited for the ladder match at Mania this year, I do understand why some people may prefer a traditional 1-1 encounter. They can be quite good.
Lowpoint: The fact that when people think of Big Boss Man, this is not what comes to mind. No no, it’s Kennel from Hell and Pepper Steak. Ray Traylor’s Wrestlemania moment was being hung from a cell. That stinks.
Highpoint: John Tenta could move for a big man. That’s about it.
Lowpoint: Everything other than John Tenta moving well for a big man.
So What: At this point, there doesn’t seem to be any toss-in matches at this year’s Mania. Except for, you know, the entire tag team title scene.
Highpoint: LOD’s promo and entrance, since the match wasn’t even a minute long.
Lowpoint: The match wasn’t even a minute long.
So What: I usually compare The Ascension to Power and Glory, but looking at it again, there’s one difference - Roma and Hercules were at least on this PPV as a tandem. Have fun in the Andre Battle Royal, Konnor and Viktor!
(Quick plug: In another column I wrote, I suggested that one way to rebound these two would be for them to win the Battle Royal as a team. A little outside the box, but why not?)
Highpoint: It’s Ted Dibiase in a wrestling ring; I’m always going to find something to be happy about. Today, it’s that the Million Dollar Dream is such a good move.
Lowpoint: The only African-American at Wrestlemania VII was the former bodyguard / servant who makes good by pretending to be Muhammad Ali. This card, I remind you, took place in 1991.
So What: New Day doesn’t look so bad, do they?
Highpoint: Seeing The Mountie. He’s Handsome! He’s Brave! He’s Strong!
Lowpoint: Not hearing his theme music. He’s Handsome! He’s Brave! He’s Strong!
So What: I really hope none of this year’s matches get shafted, time wise. Jacques Rougeau and Tito could have had an excellent 8 minute match - Instead, it’s over in less than 2.
Highpoint: For me, it was wondering if Slaughter’s lower jaw and chin was ever going to wind up eating the rest of his face. Seriously, I’m not a big fan of this match.
Lowpoint: This got 20 minutes and Tito / Mountie only got 81 seconds.
So What: John Cena should lose to Rusev and then turn his back on America, since the Russian sympathizer is obviously superior.
Ok, since that’s never going to happen, let me say this, and its something I’ve said time and time again - WWE needs to be very careful with their match order at Wrestlemania. Just because a match is on last doesn’t mean the crowd is going to be into it, and while I’m sure the fans at VII obviously were in Hulk’s corner (I wasn’t paying attention enough to say definitively), I’m sure they’d have rather seen Savage and Warrior in that slot as opposed to Hogan and Slaughter.
Look, I know. . . I KNOW. . . that Reigns and Lesnar are going to get the top billing, but I hope WWE, if only for a few minutes, considers going outside the box with their booking placement. Sting and HHH have been building for even longer than Brock and Roman. This is the “once in a lifetime” match that fans can’t get anywhere else. It deserves consideration for the true ‘main event’ slot.
Hard to beat Warrior and Savage, especially when you factor the Miss Elizabeth reunion. That’s as good a Wrestlemania writing as you can find in its history.
Having said that, the only match I go back and watch multiple times from Wrestlemania VII is the blindfold match. Seriously, it made my ultimate Wrestlemania card, it was that good. Yes, its a good column, but no, I won't share that link.
What do YOU think? What are your lasting memories from Wrestlemania VII? Be Heard.
I’d like you all to do me a favor. Close your eyes. . . And take a deep breath.
. . .
. . .
You can smell it, can’t you?
No, I’m not talking about what The Rock is cooking - It’s The Road to Wrestlemania, and it’s getting closer.
In fact, for my money, the first stop on the Road is the best one… Yes, my friends, I’m a Royal Rumble junkie.
I’ve written about the Rumble in the past, so for today’s NAIstalgic look back, I wanted to talk about my personal favorite Rumble match, and why I think it is likely the best one ever.
Step aboard the DC Time Machine, my friends, and let’s take a trip back to the glorious year of 1992. I submit half a dozen reasons why this battle royal was the greatest one of all.
1. In this Rumble, the winner didn’t earn the typical title match at Wrestlemania. Thanks to some fishy officiating (thanks to those crazy Hebner boys), the WWF title was vacant, and so the winner of the Rumble would become champion. This is the only time in history that has happened, which simply by definition sets it apart.
2. Each year, the Royal Rumble is a “Who’s Who” of current roster talent at the time, with a couple surprises mixed in just to keep things interesting. The 1992 Rumble is special simply because looking at some of these entrants is essentially reading off a Hall of Fame list.
Among the competitors:
Kerry Von Erich (as Texas Tornado)
Big Boss Man
Iron Shiek (as Col. Mustafa)
3. In addition, the ‘92 Rumble features some of the all-time bad gimmicks, which to me, are almost as good as the genius ones.
Our original Throwback Thursday, Mr. Barry Darsow himself, this time as Repo Man!
Irwin R. Schyster (poor Mike Rotunda)
The Warlord AND The Barbarian (aka, The Ascension)
Think back to your favorite Royal Rumbles in history. I venture your mind immediately goes to one that either had a memorable single superstar performance OR some sort of unusual ending. This one had both.
4. The 1992 Royal Rumble was, to me, the introduction of Ric Flair to the mainstream WWF audience. He had been part of the company since August of that year, but this was the first time people got to see what The Nature Boy could do. Entering 3rd in the Rumble, Flair became the first competitor in history to last over an hour, an incredible feat that had only ever really been sniffed at by the aforementioned Rick Martel the year previously.
In fact, going a step further, up until ‘92, the winners of the Royal Rumble (Duggan, Big John Studd and Hogan twice) had only ever been in the ring between 10-20 minutes before claiming victory. Flair did three times that. While others have lasted even longer in future Rumbles, Flair, as always, was the originator.
5. When I asked you to harken back to a Rumble memory, perhaps you thought of Bret Hart and Lex Luger eliminating each other right before Wrestlemania X, or the way Chris Benoit eliminated Big Show to win back in 2004. These moments tend to sear themselves into our brains far more than just a “standard” elimination.
In 1992, the final four combatants were Flair, Hogan, Savage and Sid “Not-Yet-Vicious” Justice. Justice eliminated Savage, and then ‘snuck up’ on his storyline-ally Hogan and tossed him out as well. Upset at the backstabbing, Hogan grabbed Justice’s arm, allowing Flair to take advantage of the situation and eliminate Sid, winning the Rumble.
Again, this is the first time (I think) that any sort of chicanery was involved in the ending of the event. We may well see something like this again next month if Dolph Ziggler winds up eliminating Cena, who somehow harnesses the power of #KidsAndTroops to worm his way in after his main event match with Lesnar.
(Also, much like the 92 Rumble, the crowd would go bananas for it if it happened. Unlike 92, I doubt WWE would dub over the crowd reaction, as they did when the New York fans were applauding Hogan’s elimination.)
Finally, the ultimate reason this Rumble beats all others.
6. Bobby Heenan
If you asked me to pick the best wrestling announcer performances in history, Heenan’s mastery of the ‘92 Royal Rumble is right at the top along with JR’s calling of “The Cell”. ‘The Brain’, one of two Flair allies at the time, spends the entire time riding a roller coaster of emotions as Flair fights, claws, begs, pleads and hides his way through the Rumble.
Seriously, go watch that match. By the end, Heenan sounds legitimately exhausted, as if he had been the one to compete for 60 minutes in that very ring. It’s a level of genius I have still yet to see duplicated.
So there you have it. My favorite Royal Rumble in history.
What are YOUR favorite Rumbles of all time? Or are you more of a World War III type? (Kidding, of course, nobody liked those.)
Discuss. Be heard. Get ready for The Road to Wrestlemania