March 12th – 18th: This Week in Wrestling History

by Neil

Follow me on Twitter: @shootwrestling

Dean Malenko vs. Chris Jericho (c) for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship – Uncensored ’98

Back in 1997/1998 WCW was an exciting place to be. The product was conclusively winning the ‘Monday Night War’ between WCW Nitro and WWF Monday Night Raw. It really is unthinkable in this day and age in 2012 that another wrestling product could get anywhere close to knocking WWE off of the mountain but back then WCW was “where the big boys played” and was pulling in the ratings week after week. WCWs dominance, of course, would not last. As they tempted big stars away from WWF such as Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Lex Luger and Bret Hart, the smaller, younger talent were pushed down the card and given little to no opportunities to grow within the walls of its organisation.

The WCW Cruiserweight division was arguably producing more classic matches than WWF at this time. Young, talented wrestlers brought pure wrestling and high flying to a mainstream American and global audience  in an exciting, refreshing division. Chris Jericho and Dean Malenko were involved in an entertaining rivalry as two of the divisions stand-out stars. What Dean Malenko lacked in charisma, he possessed in pure wrestling ability. An incredibly talented, professional performer – the “Man of a Thousand Holds” helped to provide the backbone of the WCW product at this time. This particular show, Uncensored on March 15th 1998 at the Mobile Civic Center in Alabama, predictably had matches such as Lex Luger vs. Scott Steiner, Sting vs. Scott Hall and a main event of Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan higher on the card. As the “dinosaurs” drew the money and occupied the spotlight, Malenko and Jericho provided the strong wrestling match.

“Lionheart” Chris Jericho, the petulant villain, was another performer looking for his break in WCW. The Cruiserweight Champion succeeded at getting under the skin of Malenko, declaring himself to be the “Man of a Thousand and Four Holds” – a hilarious promo from their feud together and a personal favourite of mine.

Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero (c) for the WWE Championship – Wrestlemania XX

On Sunday March 14th 2004 Eddie Guerrero was enjoying his time on top of the pile. Securing his first WWE Championship the previous month when he defeated Brock Lesnar at No Way Out, Eddie then entered into a feud with Kurt Angle in the build-up to Wrestlemania.

Originally jumping ship from WCW to the WWE with close friend Chris Benoit, the two men who many saw as underused and underappreciated in WCW occupied the main events at Madison Square Garden as Chris Benoit battled for the World Heavyweight Championship in a triple threat match with Triple H and Shawn Michaels.

In a feud that included references to Eddies legitimate issues with drugs and alcohol the Olympian only helped to further establish Guerrero as one of the companys top faces, despite playing the part of a heel throughout the majority of his career. These two men are often referred to as two of the very best in-ring performers of their time and at Wrestlemania 20 they arguably stole the show with an astounding, technically sound wrestling match.

In just a few short hours at TNA Victory Road Kurt Angle will take on Jeff Hardy and if their previous matches, such as their encounter at Victory Road 2010, are anything to go by then it should be a classic. Until then get a taste of exactly how good Kurt Angle can be when he’s on his top of his game. You will struggle to find many better examples of pure class than this one.

March 5th – 11th: This Week in Wrestling History (2)

“If You Smell…”

Rocks Road to Wrestlemania in Years Gone By (Part Two)

by Neil

Follow me on Twitter: @shootwrestling

That’s right folks. I promised a double header this week and thats exactly what we have. I decided that for this particular “Week in Wrestling History” it may be a good idea to take a look at The Rock and the build-up surrounding some of his previous Wrestlemania matches. In my first installment this week I took a look at the build-up for his match with Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XIX as well as his match at Wrestlemania XX teaming with Mick Foley to face Evolution. I couldn’t, however, finish without focusing on one Rock feud that carries with it probably the most significance going into this years Wrestlemania.

This year on April 1st The Rock takes on Cena in what is being called one of the very biggest matches of all time. It’s easy to see why the WWE would bill it as such considering the huge draw this creates, having two of the biggest names in wrestling collide. The Rock is arguably the biggest name ever in wrestling. His roots as a third generation star, following in the footsteps of his grandfather ‘High Chief’ Peter Maivia and his father Rocky Johnson were then eclipsed by success in Hollywood and on the big screen. The Rock has achieved a greater level of success in Hollywood than probably any other wrestler. However if The Great One is the biggest name in wrestling then who, you may ask, could have laid claim to that title before him?

Wrestlemania X8

The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan

In 2002 the WWE saw one of its most anticipated returns in history. The legendary Hulk Hogan returned to the ring after WCW, the company Hogan originally left the old WWF for in 1993, was dissolved following a buy-out by chairman Vince McMahon. In February’s No Way Out pay-per-view fans were treated to a sight they perhaps thought they would never see again as Hogan made his grand re-appearance – and he didn’t come alone.

Once the biggest babyfaces in professional wrestling history, the Hulkster ran wild, urging children to take their vitamins and drink their milk and dominating the WWF throughout the late eighties and early nineties. Hulk Hogan would become a rare household name, something not usually associated with wrestling. After originally retaining the same character in WCW, there came a time for a change. There came a time for a Hogan heel turn. Joining forces with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, forming the New World Order, Hogan enjoyed more success in WCW as that company began to beat WWF in the Monday Night War of ratings in the late 1990’s until it was bought and consequently closed by Vince McMahon. The No Way Out event in 2002 was Hogans first appearance on WWF TV in nine years as Vince McMahon officially unveiled the individuals he said were hired to “inject a poison” into the WWF and fianlly kill the empire that he created.

Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Hollywood Hulk Hogan would run riot through the WWF over the next few weeks, attacking, amongst others, its two biggest babyfaces in Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. After The Texas Rattlesnake had fallen prey to the nWo, The Rock appeared on the March 7th 2002 edition of Smackdown seeking revenge of his own. By this time the match had already been made – The Rock and Hollywood Hulk Hogan would square off at Wrestlemania X8, and three weeks before this edition of Smackdown The Rock was attacked by the nWo. Following an assault on The Peoples Champ, Hogan, Hall and Nash would take control of The Rocks ambulance, locking him inside before running it down with a truck. The WWF really seemed to be trying to make Hogans heel turn as visual and as emphatic as possible. Coming out to the ring The Rock called out the group and challenged Hogan to a match there and thern, before Wrestlemania. Claiming to want nothing to do with an injured Rocky, Hogan backed down claiming to want to save the match until Wrestlemania where he would have no excuses. Accepting on his behalf, a match was made for Smackdown later that night between Scott Hall and The Rock.

A star in his own right in the WWF in the early to mid nineties under his ring name Razor Ramon, Scott Hall came to the ring backed up by Hogan and Nash to take on The Rock in the main event. The match would quickly break down into a brawl and get out of hand as the “pack of dogs” would play the numbers game and team up on an injured Rock. However the odds would be evened up as The Rock had some back-up of his own, leading to a blockbuster announcement from Vince McMahon.

A few nights later, on the March 11th 2002 edition of Monday Night Raw, fans tuned in to witness a huge main event. In just six days Hollywood Hulk Hogan and The Rock, two of the biggest names ever in professional wrestling, would meet in what was being billed as the biggest match of all time – wrestlings past meeting wrestlings future, Icon vs Icon at Wrestlemania X8. In this handicap tag team match The Rock teamed with Stone Cold Steve Austin as they both were out for revenge against Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. Who would get the upper hand before the big show down? Could Hogan, at his age, still hang with the likes of The Great One? Watch the build up to the Wrestlemania encounter from this week in wrestling history right here.