THIS WEEK: THE OKAYEST ROYAL RUMBLE, TITUS' TUMBLE, THE BIG GUY IS HUMBLE, AND THE BIRTH OF HARDCORE WRESTLING
1). THE GREATEST... OKAYEST... IT WASN'T BADDEST ROYAL RUMBLE
Last Friday morning at 10am my time, WWE's "Greatest Royal Rumble" was broadcast live from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I can remember almost every non-North American broadcast WWE has put on in my lifetime. From the poorly lit but compelling Monday Night Raw in South Africa, to the first run of RAW episodes shot in the UK, last year's "Beast in the East" show from Japan, to now the first Pay-Per-View level event to be broadcast live from Saudi Arabia, these events have always had a unique feel. The wrestlers act a little differently, the broadcasts are always a tad different, but one thing that really stands out are the fans.
If you look at the current political climate in Saudi Arabia, there are a lot of values that are considered discriminatory and in some cases, archaic by many Western countries. Ignoring those differences is not a solution, but it didn't change the fact that the show happened.
While Saudi Arabia was clearly on a mission to flaunt a "more progressive" society in the works, the one thing I saw was that even with royalty at ringside in cushy chairs, and a clear divide between them and the rest of the fans in attendance, wrestling was what wrestling is - a universal form of entertainment.
It's clear why names like John Cena, The Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, The Great Khali, Hornswoggle, and many others made their faces shown at this event. These are global superstars. Yes, all of them. When names like Goldust, Mark Henry, and other established names came out, they were known, and cheered for. As a regular fan, who is still in a bit of a hangover from WrestleMania mode, the "Greatest Royal Rumble" wasn't a shocker, but I still enjoyed it. Did YOU watch the GRR? If so, leave your thoughts in the comments section!
2. TITUS' TUMBLE BREAKS THE INTERNET AND HAS ITS OWN T-SHIRT
In all honesty, a 5 hour show starts becoming background noise after a while. I think at the exact moment Titus O'Neil was coming to the ring, I may have been folding laundry or something, but when I heard the entire commentary team losing their minds laughing, I knew I had to pay closer attention to what was happening.
Hearing the commentary team take a break during the live show to have some fun was tremendously refreshing and gave the match some new life.
Not since Bret Hart and Lex Luger went over the top rope at the same time in 1994 has a single incident at a Royal Rumble been replayed as many times as Titus' misstep. Nevertheless, it did make a memorable moment, which isnow available to commemorate for about $38 Canadian...
3. RYBACK DELIVERS
It's always interesting when a "name" talent comes to work an independent show. The internet usually takes sides as to whether a talent is worth hiring or not, and is quick to judge before seeing them in action. There have been times where established stars have under-delivered, but these days, there are fewer stories like that.
When CM Punk appeared on Colt Cabana's "The Art of Wrestling" Podcast, he left no gray area, implying that one of the things that caused a series of injuries for him was working with Ryback. A year down the road, and Ryback himself would decide to leave WWE, at first citing a desire for "equal pay".
Since that time, Ryback himself has appeared on Cabana's Podcast, and told his story about his passion for wrestling, as well as acknowledging the type of heat a guy who looks like him can get from fans.
This past Friday here in Regina, "The Big Guy" was a guest performer at Saskatchewan's High Impact Wrestling Spring Meltdown. After putting on an entertaining match with HIW's Mike McSugar, Ryback spoke of his love for wrestling, as well as how he has been able to take care of a major back injury due to his lighter schedule. He was quite gracious to the fans, as well as to the HIW crew. I'll have video of the entire match soon, but this was a perfect example of something I would love to see more of in wrestling - forming an opinion of someone from your own experience, rather than relying on "The internet's opinion".
4).CLASSIC MATCH/PODCAST OF THE WEEK
This week, for the Classic Match, it's actually a post-match brawl which became the template towards a technique which is still used today. Many also consider this the birth of "Hardcore" wrestling, using everything but the kitchen sink as a weapon. According to Jim Cornette, the only thing that didn't get used during the match was the popcorn machine, as the workers were all told to stay away from it. The "Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl" from 1979 happened in Memphis Wrestling. The Blonde Bombers, Larry Latham (later 'Moondog Spot') and Wayne Ferris (the man who most remember most as 'The Honky Tonk Man') took on Bill Dundee and Jerry "The King" Lawler in a brutal match. Lawler and Dundee lost the Tag Team championships that night, but the aftermath is still amazing to watch today.
More notably, word of this incident helped revive the Memphis Wrestling territory, which had lost a large amount of talent and saw business dropping. This would kick off a rivalry that would last for months, and keep the territory going.
"Mustard everywhere!" - Lance Russell
As for this week's Podcast, I love wrestling podcasts that can talk about wrestling, but make me laugh as well. I mentioned it last week in the mention of a Bruno Sammartino story which came from it, butE and C's Pod of Awesomeness has to be one of the funniest yet informative podcasts going.
Adam "Edge" Copeland and Jay "Christian" Reso, along with Producer Matt delve into weekly wrestling, but also offer great conversation to listen in on. The weekly cameos from my favorite superstar, Paul Smackage, the Master of the Small Package will have you in stitches, and the insight from two of the premiere performers of their generation makes you appreciate wrestling in a new way. Recently, they had Bret "Hitman" Hart and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin joined E&C to tell stories from their iconic WrestleMania 13 Submission Match. It's a longer podcast, but once you get into it, you'll be hooked.