It really hits home with this match that WCW thought they had some kind of moneymaker in Mongo McMichael, which is absolutely bizarre. Hey, I know what wrestling fans want! Stiff guys who don't look the least bit athletic in the ring joining a revered group where they clearly don't belong or fit in. There was some great miscalculation of Mongo's charisma somewhere, too; he was the most forced commentator this side of Shane McMahon, couldn't cut a promo, and mostly relied on pointing at people or objects in a really exaggerated fashion, while bugging out his eyes behind those stupid sunglasses, and maybe saying "baby" a few times and emphasizing random words. I said in that Lawler-Kaufman post that if you take wrestling out of its bubble, it just looks stupid, but that also goes for people outside of pro wrestling trying to dabble or broaden their horizons or live out a fantasy or whatever.
This starts wonderfully as White displays his power, then Mongo does the same and acts like he's seen some heel act at some point, doing jumping jacks in the ring. Mongo likes to get headlocks here and go "Ahhh ha haaaa!" Because apparently Mongo is Mr. Wrestling now. They run into each other twice, and then on a third collision, Mongo hits the mat with sort of a Flair flop of a bump, then hops right back up and is all pissed off. It's as if he has no clue how to act in the ring -- what kind of heel he's trying to be. We've had cocky jumping jacks, laughing headlocks, and then a discombobulated flop right into anger. Mongo draws the line in the sand, takes out White's knee, and does some more cocky posturing in the corner. Now he's screaming at White when White draws the line, goes at his legs, and gets leapfrogged. White does...something or other with his arm, and Mongo goes flying out of the ring, and decides he's going to leave.
In its own hideous way, this is the most inspired work of Mongo's career. I mean he is desperately trying to carry this thing with personality and wrasslin' bullshit. I mean, really, who the fuck is the ring general here? Brian Hildebrand? In a truly desperate moment, Mongo, holding an armbar, says to White, "Jesus may have your soul, but your ass is mine now." White looks up at him and these words, these Jesus-defying words, spring him into action. And his second "clothesline" of Mongo -- again sending him to the floor -- is even worse than the first one. For some reason they go into White working Mongo over with holds. Then Mongo cheapshots him to the balls, and pulls out this remarkable face:
This while taking another shot at White's religious beliefs. Atheist wrestling fans, here's your guy. Mongo makes an attempt at a figure four, but he's "kicked away" and stumbles out of the ring for the third time. Every time Reggie does anything that isn't a hold, Mongo goes flying. Reggie White mounts the world's worst babyface rally. It ends with a wrestling school suplex and a big splash, but Debra distracts the referee and Mongo uses that fucking briefcase for the win. A few things spring to mind trying to sum this up. First off, I guess it could have been worse. Second, Mongo's mild understanding of professional wrestling is absolutely on greatest display in this match. He tries everything he can remember ever having seen on TV. Third, this got 15 minutes, which is psychotic.
The Hurricane v. AJ Styles (2002)
Kevin Kelly keeps rambling about "poison." Jonathan Coachman tries to put over Styles as much as he can, especially after a nice brainbuster. Styles is all over the place on his bumps, and it's awesome. Helms is past when he was trying to do anything more than sports entertain me, which was probably good for his bank account since I don't think Sugar Shane Helms sold many t-shirts, but it'd be nice to see these two really both go hard for their five minutes on Metal. But Styles looks very good here, missing a shooting star press and losing on the vertebreaker. Fun stuff. Kelly and Coach act as if they think they'll be seeing a lot more of AJ Styles.
Simon Dean v. Alex Shelley (June 6, 2005)
This goof is among my least favorite wrestlers of all damned time. But I can imagine having fond memories of this character if he had been around in 1989. What I found funniest, really, is that there were apparently some people all offended that such a GREAT WRESTLER as fucking Nova was relegated to this shameful gimmick crap. They make fun of the fact that Alex Shelley isn't orange. And here's Mr. Innovation Simon Dean using the curb stomp on a guy who's taken one that doesn't suck. Not that the curb stomp can really suck ever. Shelley's on defense the entire match so this is even more like a 1989 match on Wrestling Challenge. All it needs is a picture-in-picture promo from Chuck Palumbo. Marc Lloyd tries to put over Alex Shelley as giving a valiant effort, but he really hadn't put up any fight whatsoever. That's the difference three years made on crappy weekend WWE programming. In 2002, AJ Styles actually put up a fight. In 2005, after Alex Shelley doesn't, they just tell you he did.
Val Venis v. CM Punk (May 9, 2005)
Venis was in the middle of his reign as the King of Heat. People liked to overstate what Venis was doing around this time while Val was out there perfectly happy to go 75% speed in tryout matches and win a few, lose a few, and who gives a shit! I mean yeah, Val could really work, and clearly he's ready to go here. They come to a stalemate, and Val's like, "Wow, this kid ain't bad." Shakes Punk's hand, starts clapping to get the crowd going, and gets blindsided by Punk. Coach, the heel, lets us know that HEY! Listen: I don't like John Cena, but his CD is awesome, and he's got a lot of talent. Fuck that. Coach looks like the kind of guy who listens to bad blues and bad jazz and maybe owns a few Tribe Called Quest CDs. This is a decent match that the crowd is strangely into. Punk's offense is solid, Val's comeback is spirited but the bad knee that Punk has worked over stunts the rally. I mean this is just a wrestling match. Val fights the pain and lands the money shot. As soon as the WWE stops their family friendly nonsense, they should bring back Val for one last match to make it official.
Christian v. Low Ki (January 12, 2002)
Christian is WWF Champion of Europe, but "Loki" is not worthy of a shot at da strap. Ki kills himself flying from the apron to the barricade. I like these matches -- I know what to expect for the most part, but it's also fun to find out who feels like picking up the pace, who feels like really getting nasty with the aggression, who just cruises, and so on. Christian's clearly up for this one, and though Ki isn't his usual 2002 stiff kickin' self, he pulls back and still gets to do his thing for a moment. But Ki goes down for the count after the unprettier.
Essa Rios v. Low Ki (March 24, 2001)
Essa Rios is a real weirdo, doing some sort of Rick Rude by way of Juvi Juice deal on the way to the ring. Rios is enhancement talent himself so he has no reason to not just go out and have a good match with Low Ki, which he does. Ki lays in the kicks more than he got to do with Christian, and he dominates the early part of the match. Rios and Ki are both heeling it up some because who gives a shit? This match is more or less all Low Ki, but Rios wins with a moonsault as they talk about WrestleMania 17.
Raven v. Low Ki (June 30, 2001)
Ki starts fast. Raven has this half-goofy grin when he comes to the ring, and he's clearly not going to be doing a ton. We're ass-deep in the Alliance shit by this point and they're just rambling about defecting to WCW and all this jive. P.S. Hayes wonder what Vince McMahon Sr. might think about what his grandson Shane is doing these days, if he'd be rolling over in his grave. If we really roll over in our graves when we're disgusted by the actions of those we left behind, how many times could Vince Sr. have rolled over in his grave by 2001? Ki drills Raven in the mush with his knee on some flying kick, and that's nice. Almost any time Raven gets kicked in the face is good by me. Hayes goes on a weird anti-WCW ramble, and not the storyline WCW but the real one and the "idiots" who ran it. Ki is all flip, cartwheel, gonna kick, and Raven comes off the middle rope with a crappy clothesline. Here come some crappy Raven punches. There's another crappy Raven clothesline, and his crappy kneelift. Boy Raven stunk by 2001, but his DDT was still nice enough.
Crash Holly v. Low Ki (October 28, 2000)
Ki had to have been the king of these matches. He had a ton of them. Ki actually gets an entrance and music for this one, which was his first match on Metal/Jakked. I never quite got exactly what Crash Holly was, but I do know that the superheavyweight Holly thing ruled, and that the hardcore title was one of the worst things the WWF ever did, so I have mixed feelings on his contributions to the lower midcard of the World Wrestling Federation. As usual, Ki gets enough in that you can clearly see how you could get him over, then loses when the WWF Superstar hits his big move.
TAKA Michinoku v. Christopher Daniels (1998)
Jim Cornette does his absolute best to get over Daniels in the early moments. He's wrestling with the "Fallen Angel" nickname, but in a blue singlet and with short, dark hair, so he looks like some kind of weird mix of Kurt Angle and Scott Taylor if you squint, except he does a springboard out to the floor, where TAKA, waiting forever, is able to easily move. It's too bad that TAKA allowed himself to be fooled into a WWF career. If he had wanted to come to the States, I'm sure he could've done 15 ECW dates and landed a WCW deal, where he could've been a real motherfucker. He was just different enough, but meshed well enough against guys as different as Great Sasuke and fuckin' Brian Christopher, and here he is in there with Chris Daniels, who was probably as old then as some people think he is now, and they're going back-and-forth nicely enough that the WWF crowd, which is ALREADY conditioned to expect these light heavyweight title matches to be kind of a waste of time, gets into it. FUCK YEAH Michinoku Driver.
TAKA Michinoku v. Christopher Daniels (September 19, 1998)
Gorilla Monsoon is on commentary here. He sounds so incredibly out of place, but welcome at the same time. Daniels has a pretty terrific ponytail. They have a little back and forth, and TAKA's uneventful reign as the WWF light heavyweight champion was nearing its forgettable conclusion. Daniels looks solid again, but loses again. By this point TAKA was starting to phone shit in.
Droz v. Christopher Daniels (1998)
Droz is rude, crude and tattooed. :) I hate Michael Cole. He's never said anything that convinced me of anything ever. This is more of a squash than the TAKA matches, of course, since Droz shouldn't be doing anything that Daniels can do to make Daniels look good, since all that probably happens there is still-green Droz risks injury, and that probably sounds like I'm making some tasteless, quiet joke, but I'm not. And not to sound mean to a guy that tragically gave too much of his life to pro wrestling, but boy did Droz not have anything in the ring. He's like every throwaway member of Raven's Flock.
The Brian Kendrick v. Scotty Goldman (August 15, 2008)
It hits you how small time Cabana's personality is without any tweaking when you see it on such a fine network as The CW on such a big-time and serious wrestling show as Smackdown in 2008. He gets a split-screen promo where he tries to do some comedy, and it's just completely flat. I suppose there are probably plenty of people that bitch about how Cabana wasn't used correctly by WWE, but honestly, if you're WWE, with that product, what do you do with him? What would any promotion ever have done with him? ECW was praised for using guys that others couldn't figure out how to use, but if you stick this guy, or a 1996/97 version in ECW, he probably gets the shit caned out of him by the Sandman or shown about "hardcore" by take-no-shit Tommy Dreamer, who now spends all his time crying as best I can tell. Cabana belongs in Ring of Honor, where he serves as fodder to loosen up the shows most of the time, and occasionally gets something more substantial to do. I suppose he's probably funny to a lot of people, but those same people are the motherfuckers that ruin ROH live experiences with their hilarious one-liners. Like when Punk was doing his final ROH show in Chicago, and this dickwad yells out, "BEWARE OF TRIPLE H!" and nobody responded. But since Cabana wears funny clothes and is a wrestler, he can do basically the same humor and people respond like they just saw George Carlin at his peak. These are the people who constantly comment on blogs that comedians run, where the comedians are funny and then you get 379 comments of people doing one of two things. They either say something fucking obnoxious like, "You, sir, made me choke on my Raisin Bran. Bravo." Or, they offer their own "witty" jokes, as if to say, "If Michael Ian Black sees this joke, he's going to think we could be really good friends if we hung out." But that dumbass who yelled the HHH thing is the worst, because whenever someone does something like that, I imagine them pointing their finger in the air like Cathy does.
Steve Austin v. Scott Hall (March 17, 2002)
When the nWo was brought in, I was extremely cautiously optimistic. But it fucking sucked. And as I was a big Scott Hall fan, as well as a big Austin fan, I was excited for this match. I thought Austin was still good enough to drag out Scott Hall's first good match in years. But he wasn't. I'm rewatching it to see if I haven't perhaps changed my mind. This video is the WWE 24/7 version so it has completely lame music for Hall, and that's taking me out of it, so I had to watch a different video first, because the music has to be right. Gotta be in the moment. And the nWo music is about as iconic as entrance music gets, too. It's just not right! It's not right!
Austin starts dominant, but Hall whips him into an exposed turnbuckle that Nash had fucked with. Having Nash at ringside as a key part of the match was probably a mistake. Hall appeared to be in good enough shape, and it's not like he and Austin are so stupid that they couldn't have had at least a passable, dramatic match together. In theory, anyway. I don't think the Toronto crowd, which was filled with smartasses that cheered fucking Hulk Hogan over The Rock, was really going to respond much to this match. And that's booking. It seemed like a complete waste of Steve Austin to have him in with Scott Hall, who wasn't much over after the initial "hey yo" at No Way Out. Hall dominates some, throwing a decent fallaway slam and his trademark slappy punches (which I always dug, and which Austin's punches always reminded me of), but then Austin just hits the stunner in the middle of the match, when the crowd is half-awake at best. He goes to pin, which counts on Kevin Nash to be quick enough to run halfway around the ring and pull Tim White out, and Nash makes it. He decks White, and goes at Austin in the ring. Crowd still isn't responding. Hall gets a chair -- hey, I wonder what happens. Austin blocks the chair, stuns Hall, stuns Nash. Pins Hall, but there's no ref.
Another ref runs in, counts, and Nash flattens him with an elbow. Austin clotheslines Nash to the floor, then Hall inexplicably sets for the Razor's Edge facing the ropes so he can get backdropped out. This match is awful. Awful! An entire team of referees come down to eject Kevin Nash. Austin chases Hall around the ring and beats him up some more.
Nevermind, man. Going back to this, it's even worse than I remembered. Hall stuns Austin, and the crowd kind of wakes up, but they know that can't be it, it seems. Tim White climbs back in, but Austin kicks out. Hall tries another stunner, Austin blocks, hits one, Hall doesn't drop, Austin hits another, Hall flies like a cartoon and that does it. This match is terrible. It's overbooked to all hell, they clearly had no faith in Scott Hall to put on a decent match, not enough faith in Austin to bring one out of him, and there's just nothing good about it. This match is about 57% stunners or stunner attempts, 35% Nash interference and what came of it, and 8% wrestling match. Peeeeeyoooooo.
Diamond Dallas Page v. Stevie Richards (September 15, 1997)
I bet Stevie Richards could write a hell of a book. He was there as ECW grew, there for WCW's peak, there for the WWF standing alone and the beginning of their downfall. It would be a while before Page and Raven had their big thing, so this is just Stevie Richards out there being Stevie Richards against WCW star DDP, who was deeply into the fight with the nWo and feuding with Randy Savage by this point. But there's Raven in the crowd puckering his lips and looking all 1993. Stevie's as he usually is out there and the crowd is absolutely insane for DDP. This match's DDP comes from a fireman's carry. More or less a squash. Raven heads into the ring, stares at Page as they considering banging puffy curly hairs together (not their pubes, just their heads), but Page leaves and Raven kicks Richards out of the ring. I always find Paul Heyman's wide-eyed, spittle-gathering carny act when he discusses how revolutionary and impactful ECW was to be both off-putting and hilarious (in that he's still managing to convince people of that shtick), but I suppose I'd probably be kind of bitter, too, if I put so much of my creative energy into things like the Raven-Richards dynamic in ECW, only to watch it leave and repeat itself in watered-down form in front of millions of people every week, knowing that was my doing and that Johnny Polo and Stevie Richards would probably still be nobody if it weren't for what I gave them as characters.
THE SPOTLIGHT UPON: DEAN MALENKO IN THE WWF
Dean Malenko v. Crash Holly (March 18, 2001)
Usually I try to do the spotlight things chronologically, but it's hard to find a whole lot of Dean Malenko WWF things that aren't people recording and uploading their video game matches for GOD KNOWS what reason (like, that's too nerdy even for me), so I'm just going with what comes up here. This is from Heat and Dean is the light heavy champ. Molly is still the Holly cousin sidekick. Crash comes up for one of those indy stalemate poses and Dean kicks him in the gut immediately. For some reason I lose my focus and try to think of guys I'd love to see prime-versus-prime with Malenko. It's a long list. My love of Deano Machino has come storming back in the last few years. I think right now I'd most like to have seen Dean in his prime against Ricky Morton in his prime, with Dean as a ruthless heel and Ricky being Ricky, the pretty boy who looks like he's dying with every strike, every hold, every single thing. Dean gets the cloverleaf, but Molly hits the apron, so Dean kisses her because he's becoming a big-time ladies man. I'd like to go into how lame that was, but I think everyone knew Malenko was nearing the end of his in-ring career if he could help it, and by all accounts he's got a lot more goofy personality off-screen than he ever did on. Crash rolls up Dean after Molly interferes and wins the light heavyweight title on Heat.
Dean Malenko v. Scotty 2 Hotty (2001)
Scotty is returning to TV after an injury, having come back on Raw this week against Tajiri and something or other happened there. So he gets Malenko, accompanied by Saturn and Terri and Moppy HA HA HA MOPPY, on Smackdown. Malenko and Scotty did have probably the best cruiser match in WWF history at Backlash 2000 (non-Taka/Sasuke division). Malenko targeting the ankle, which was Scotty's storyline injury. Dean gets the cloverleaf, but Scotty makes the ropes easily. Eventually Saturn interferes, puts on Scotty's visor, does the worm, and goes to chop Malenko, so Malenko kicks him in the stomach and tosses him to the floor, setting up the goddamn actual worm from Scotty 2 Hotty. And that's allowed to finish the match. I will move on before I become greatly upset about remembering the worm and falling chop being an accepted finisher.
Dean Malenko v. Essa Rios (July 29, 2000)
Both of these guys banged Lita! Michael Cole is guesting on Jakked, and is all amazed that there's a title match on Jakked. Boy, I suddenly understand why The Cubs Fan and other people were watching these shows, which I didn't have for a long time (or at least I don't think I did). I've watched more Jakked/Metal in this stupid lone internet blog post than I ever had combined in the past. This is a fiery little match, both guys going at it pretty fast-paced and all, but then they finish on an awkward tumble into Malenko getting a roll-up. "Oh what was that move, Michael!" Nothing, Coach.
Dean Malenko v. Essa Rios (August 20, 2000)
This one's on Heat! This match's Malenko hookers are about the nastiest you could possibly find. Apparently on Jakked, Malenko lost a chance at gaining the European title when Rios attacked. Dean's still light heavy champ but it's not on the line. So Dean's all pissed off about Essa Rios and starting hot. Essa gets his comeback and hurls Malenko into the steps. These two had some solid chemistry, but that's not hard to understand since Malenko had worked countless times with a good handful of better luchadors. Actually Essa Rios is a lot better than I remembered him being in the WWF. I did dig the bit of stuff I saw from him post-WWF. Malenko and Essa fight on the top rope, and Malenko winds up shoving him off into the barricade, but Essa is pretty much alright as he's able to leapfrog an attempt at a baseball slide mere seconds later. Rios gets a couple near-falls and then I get this wonderful exchange:
Kevin Kelly: "Did you see TERRI? Gettin' that STINKFACE from RIKISHI?"
Michael Cole: "It was hilarious!"
Kevin Kelly: "It was one of the best things I ever saw!"
And then Malenko wins clean with the Texas cloverleaf.
Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn v. The Hardy Boyz (August 5, 2000)
Dean and Perry are Tag Partners With Issues. This match is 100 miles per hour right from the get-go. The Hardys start fast on Dean, Saturn gets involved and turns the tide. Saturn and Jeff stumble around with each other, then both tag so hopefully the suckage is over. Saturn gets dumped by Matt, then is victim of that barricade run of Jeff's. Malenko reverses the twist of fate into a neckbreaker and Saturn crotches Jeff Hardy, who's up for the swanton. Malenko turns Matt in the cloverleaf, but Jeff is shoved into him by accident, and Saturn superkicks Dean. Jeff with the swanton, and these partners definitely are going to have more issues. This was all go. Almost devoid of any thought whatsoever. What can you do when you have four minutes to have a match and roll out your storyline? Then Guerrero and Chyna run in, so Saturn lays out Eddie, and Malenko drops Chyna, and then here come the officials, and Eddy wants to fight, and then Rikishi's ass and the video ends. I have no idea what I just watched to be honest with you.
Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit & Perry Saturn v. Chris Jericho & The Hardy Boyz (2001)
Dean Malenko, married man, is trying to fuck Lita. And DDT her. JR says that Malenko is "old enough to be her uncle," which I suppose is true, but he's only 15 years older than her. She's a grown woman. She can make her own choices. JR is simply biased against Dean Malenko. He doesn't like Dean Malenko, so it's not OK for them to, conceivably, date. Even fuck on tables and stuff. But I bet if some well-to-do chap 15 years her senior came a-calling, JR would be like, "You never can tell with love, King!" Fuck that. Then Jericho flings Terri to the floor from the apron, and JR just ignores THAT. Lita trips up Dean on the apron after Jericho pins Benoit in a nothing match, so he dumps a giant tub of nachos on her and she runs away. Ha! What a waste of time.
Dean Malenko & Terri Runnels v. TAKA Michinoku & The Kat (June 22, 2000)
Dean suplexes TAKA on the ramp so he gets carried to the back, making this... a handicap match I guess. I mean you'd think that the referee would just signal that the match can't go on, but apparently not! Oh but we're in Memphis, and the King takes over. Which is awesome because the crowd obviously loves the King. And Lawler just does a number on Malenko and winds up pinning Terri. So the King is punished by having Terri do a bronco buster on him. This whole thing is fairly disgusting to be honest.
And that's about as much WWF Malenko as I can deal with.