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Has Vinny Mac lost his touch? Royal Rumble 2015 Preview

It’s been a long journey filled with Fandango reboots and Nursery Time with Roman Reigns, but we’re finally here. The Road to WrestleMania begins this Sunday. There should be a noticeable difference in the quality of WWE programing in the next few weeks. After all, this is the time of year when writers will employ slightly more long term booking, as WrestleMania is only two months away.
 
You’ll have to excuse me if I’ve been a little down on the product lately, as CM Punk’s podcast with Colt Cabana was disheartening. Vince McMahon’s surprise appearance on the Network with Stone Cold was even more worrisome. We’ve been saying it for years, but I think it’s finally true; the 69 year old Vincent K. McMahon is out of touch. He no longer knows what the audience wants. I’ve had to get my wrestling fix outside the confines of Monday nights. Not like that’s been a bad thing.… Read more...

WWE Battleground 2014 Preview

There was only one PPV big enough to get me to come back and write another column. And that PPV is WWE Battleground.
 
I’m just kidding, I’m on summer vacation and really, really bored. Free advice to all my Cena fans out there (people 12 and under), go into the public education field. You get summers off, just do something productive with your time unlike me who has pretty much just been taste testing different brands of salsa. Back to wrestling, I’ve fallen victim to the post Wrestlemania lull. Yes, I’m still watching RAW, but the whole Daniel Bryan situation has gotten me pretty down as a fan. Hopefully Battleground will be a good show and the WWE will have some strong momentum going into Summerslam. On to the preview.… Read more...

Growing the WWE product through Wrestlemania: Do “special attraction” matches work?

Brock Lesnar is done as a MMA fighter. His UFC career was limited to a handful of matches (8 official bouts to be exact), in which his meteoric rise was strangely counterbalanced with an almost anonymous fall from grace. In a strange brew of bizarre injuries and generally being a supreme asshole, Lesnar retired from his third sport, four if you count the wonderful world of sports entertainment. Brock Lesnar is 35 years old.
 
His Wrestlemania and now Extreme Rules opponent Triple H has seen a similar fade into off-screen anonymity, though for the real-life Paul Levesque, he’s never been more invested in the professional wrestling business. Married to the daughter of the WWE Alpha and Omega Vincent K. McMahon, Triple H now represents one part of the Holy Trinity behind the world’s leader in sports entertainment. He has a legitimate role running the everyday operations of the company, even going so far as to cut his legendary locks that made him look like a cross between Clay Matthews and Saul Goodman. Hunter is semi-retired from the in-ring competition, only participating in four matches over the past 12 months. Paul Levesque is 43 years old.
 
The match proceeding Hunter and Brock’s featured the legendary Undertaker. Mark Calloway, as he’s known to his friends and anyone that wants to get their ass kicked, just embarked on his 24th year cashing in a check penned by Vince McMahon. He’s played the part of a cartoonish “Dead Man” for a significant portion of his adult life, tweaking his character by adding nuances as small as MMA-style fighting gloves and as substantial as riding a motorcycle to the ring while shaming the WWE audience into cheering during Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit theme music. Taker has been a consistent main event player since his inception during the November 1990 Survivor Series, staying relevant long after all his contemporaries charge $10 for a picture at a Philadelphia Comic Con. As he’s aged well into his 40s, Calloway has become more and more the Dead Man than ever before, now needing no makeup to accentuate his naturally sunken eyes and sharply gaunt cheekbones. The Undertaker is 48 years old.
 
The Rock continued his sporadic two year return to the company jettisoned him into mainstream superstardom with a WWE Championship matchup with John Cena. Is it counter-intuitive to think that as Dwayne Johnson moves further away from the daily grind of the highly physical life of a professional wrestler that he’d actually get into better shape? Now equipped with more money than any of his sports entertainment brethren, Rocky is has been blessed with the best trainers, personal chefs and fitness consultants he can buy. For a man of his age, Johnson is in tremendous physical shape, so much so that he was emboldened to come back to the WWE after not wrestling a match for six years. The Rock is 41 years old.
 
Throughout all their journeys out of and back into the WWE ring, these four legendary wrestlers—some moreso than others—have one way or another managed to stay within the fan base’s consciousness long enough to take four of the six spots in the three most bankable matches at the biggest pay-per-view of the  year. The Wrestlemania main event picture is a complicated formula, with the Holy Trinity deciding on matches based on criteria varying from how it could elevate an unknown wrestler, to how much mainstream attention the match will create to how badly the weekly watching WWE Zombieverse wants that particular bout. Seeing as the McMahons put over 80,000 fans in stadium seats on … Read more...

Fifteen Random 2013 WWE Predictions

Wrestlemania 29 is in our rear view mirror. That can only mean one thing…the Road to Wrestlemania 30 has begun! I haven’t written anything in a while and RAW has been uninspiring as of late, so we’ll change gears. I am going to provide you guys with fifteen Bleacher Report MAMBINO-style predictions for the upcoming year. Some will be obvious, others ridiculous. Let’s get weird.
 
1. We have not seen the last of Stan Stansky and Arthur Rosenberg.

 
I haven’t seen a heel tag team work a crowd into that much of a frenzy since the Dudley Boyz at Heatwave ’98. The WWE always has a need for “enhancement talent” and these two jobbers should provide fodder for superstars for years to come. Just remember that “two is better than one.” Even Dolph Ziggler would be allowed to get a clean victory over this rhyming tandem.
 
2. Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose will win the tag straps.

 
This is one of the more obvious predictions. To be fair, I started writing this column last week before they held up the tag straps on Smackdown. I’m just really busy….or lazy (it’s definitely one of the two), so I was unable to get this piece up in time.  Having wrestled the main event two weeks ago against the Undertaker, this past week’s main event against Kane, and this week’s match up with Daniel Bryan, it appears as though the WWE has chosen Dean Ambrose as their favorite Shield member. Back to back matches against the Brothers of Destruction is a big show of faith in Ambrose by the creative team.… Read more...

Wrestlemania 29: Review and Live Thoughts

credit: WWE.com

Wrestlemania 29 is officially in the record books. It’s time to sit back, ignore your office work and reflect back on last night’s event. Yours truly went 7 for 8 on his Wrestlemania predictions…and the one outcome I got incorrect saw Ryback standing tall with his music playing after the match was over. Even though the PPV as a whole was predictable, did the Granddaddy of them all deliver? Depends on who you ask. Despite taking zero chances and booking in the laziest, safest way possible, Wrestlemania 29 was still a pretty good show. Not great, but it definitely had it’s moments. Below are my comments on the event, and some live commentary from KOBEsh, who was in attendance last night.

(note: I arrived at my Wrestlemania watching destination just as the Miz/Barrett match was ending so I will not be reviewing that match. The Miz won. Joy.)… Read more...

MAMBINO’s Wrestlemania 29 Preview, Part 2

credit: whatculture.com


 
Welcome to part 2 of this year’s Wrestlemania preview. In yesterday’s column KOBEsh and I broke down the undercard. Today, we tackle the main events. Some complaints have been made that the outcomes seem far too determined. We’ll continue to address the predicted outcomes as well as what might be a better direction to take. Without further adieu, let’s get at this thing.

 

 
Alberto Del Rio vs. Swagger (World Heavyweight Championship)
 
Why does Del Rio retain?
 
The Raw Librarian: Finally, what we’ve all been waiting to see. A millionaire Mexican aristocrat cheerleading for America against a Kurt Angle rip-off and his Uncle who holds Tea Party meetings in his basement. In all honesty I am the more excited about this match than any of the others if only for the fact that there is some unpredictability in the outcome.
 
Depending on where this match gets placed on the card will determine the finish as well. Another factor in this match is Jack Swagger’s real life DUI and possession of marijuana arrest that has seemingly gone unpunished. That’s a slightly different reaction than when the SAME EXACT thing happened to Rob Van Dam in 2007 and he was forced to abandon two titles and was suspended for 30 days. If it wasn’t for Swagger’s DUI, I’d say there was a pretty decent chance he would have won the title. But I think that would send the wrong message to the locker room, therefore I don’t see it happening.
 
Why does Swagger go over?
 
KOBEsh: MAMBINO’s resident librarian and Philadelphia’s own is obviously still seething because ECW alumni Rob Van Dam was thrown deep, deep into the doghouse for a pot bust (and never recovered), while Swagger has gone largely unpunished.
 
That being said, Swagger’s ascent has been so strong and rapid that I find it hard to believe that the WWE would simply Heisman his progress when it feels the natural ending point would be a title win at Wrestlemania. I’ve never been a fan of Jack’s, but he’s always been a decent ring technician (but not necessarily a great pro wrestling storyteller, ya dig?) and that lisp simply kills any momentum his physicality gives him. However, with Zeb Coulter and an extremely controversial anti-immigration gimmick, Swagger’s character has been stronger than I’ve ever thought possible. He’s riding such a hot button issue right now and to the chagrin of the non-believers, has been getting insane heat. The WWE has bet big on Swagger thus far–I don’t see any reason why they don’t just go all-in.
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Wrestlemania XXIX Prospective Main Events – Who Will It Be? Part 2

(Yesterday, The Raw Librarian and I covered several different prospective main events that could headline Wrestlemania XXIX, emanating live from MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on April 7th, 2013. We’re both so fired up that new pants are entirely in order. Check out Part 1 right here)

THE ROCK

Most Likely Match and Best Match For Business

KOBEsh: We covered this largely in our John Cena section yesterday, but it’s clear that Rock-Cena II is going to be in the cards. The only factor that’s somewhat murky is what the stipulations are going to be for the match itself. Will it be for the title? Will it be fought under the pretenses of No Holds Barred? Will there be a Special Guest Referee? Does any of that matter? 


IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE. This match is going to blow the figurative roof off of MetLife Stadium.

Dream Match


TRL: The Rock vs HBK Shawn Michaels
These two had real life animosity going back to the Kliq days. HBK was aware of how over the Rock was getting and knew it meant bad things for his real life best friend HHH. He gave a shoot promo or two where he talked about “the Rock always trying to steal the spotlight from Hunter.” IF this match were to happen, it’d have a solid backstory beyond two of the greatest ever going toe-to-toe. 

But.

This match will never happen. Neither men are interested (especially the retired HBK) and the WWE wouldn’t want to blow all this money getting the Rock to wrestle again knowing that there are bigger bouts out there (i.e. Cena-Rock).


 
RYBACK

Most Likely Match


TRL: Ryback vs. The Shield

Whether it’s in tag team format or Ryback vs Dean Ambrose with Roman Reigns as enforcer, everything points to Ryback being involved with the Shield at ‘Mania. I don’t see any other obvious matches right now. I like Ryback, but I like the Shield a heck of a lot more. I need to praise WWE creative for some rare long-term booking and development here. They have yet to screw up any of these young performers. Look for these men to be involved in a match together in some capacity.

KOBEsh: Ryback vs. Big Show

Until I went and saw for myself in person, I couldn’t discern on television whether or not Ryback’s ascent to the main event picture was more manufactured than it was actual fan sentiment. It seemed to me that the volume was turned up all around the former Ryan Reeves in nearly every segment he was featured in. His music blared so loud that it obscured how much fans actually were applauding for him. When he threw smaller men around the ring, they landed with such force that the actual buckling of the squared circle elicited a reaction from the crowd, but more in the vein of awe than affection. As he chanted “Feed Me More”, the audience of course chanted along with him, but as CM Punk echoed this past Monday on Raw, the WWE fan base are like trained dogs–they’ll chant just about anything as long as it’s delivered to them with the same measured vocal pacing. Did people actually like Ryback? Or was the audio emanating from and around him manufacturing his hype as much as the WWE could muster? 

After watching the man fight The Shield in a TLC match in Brooklyn, I can attest that Ryback is more than hype. He’s the real deal Holyfield. The crowd eats him up, as if “Feed Me More” becomes more than just an infectious catchphrase. He’s physically imposing, brutal and pure charisma. He made a believer out of this jaded fan. 

That all being said, Ryback’s strengths are best shown not as actual feRead more...

Wrestlemania XXIX Prospective Main Events – Who Will It Be? Part 1

I love the NBA Finals. No matter who’s playing or how lopsided the matchup, I watch with full attention as a new titlist etches their name into an exclusive fraternity. It’s the sport I pay most attention to and the title history most meaningful to me as a lifelong fan of YOUR…16-time champion Los Angeles Lakers. 

I love the Stanley Cup Finals. As a novice to hockey, I’m consistently amazed at how enveloping the NHL playoffs can be for any sports fan, regardless of whether they understand off-sides or that “power play” isn’t just a business term. Arguably, it’s the most exciting postseason in all of the major professional sports.

I love the NFL playoffs. One loss and you’re out? In a professional league? My God. Not growing up with a local football franchise, I’ve come to appreciate the fanaticism tied into these four weeks in January after living in New York for two years. I’ve completely bought in, watching every game, even though I have no rooting interest, except the ever-present burning desire I have for Tom Brady to fatally collide with a well-placed flying cleat to the throat. 

I love the World Series. I grew up playing baseball, understanding the incredible difficulties of the sport even as men who could be my father still dominate the game. I find the unpredictability of the playoffs completely fascinating, with matchups and momentum being more integral to baseball than to any other postseason.

But today….we’re talking about the Road to Wrestlemania. This my friends–not the NFL Playoffs, not the Stanley Cup round, not the Fall Classic–represents the best time of the year. The three month build to professional wrestling’s crown jewel event is some of the best drama anyone could possibly manufacture.

The question, as it is every time in early January, is who will own the right to main event Wrestlemania? Unlike the other sports, the matchups in sports entertainment are predetermined by World Wrestling Entertainment grandmaster Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Simply owning a headlining spot, regardless if the wrestler is slated to win or lose that night, is tantamount to winning the Superbowl or hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy. 

As of today, we’ve got several revolving pieces hurtling towards Wrestlemania 29. The Rock. John Cena. CM Punk. Brock Lesnar. The Undertaker. Triple H. Ryback. Sheamus. Even, perhaps…Stone Cold Steve Austin

With all these names tumbling around in Vince McMahon’s menagerie of gladiators, there’s a million possibilities heading into Metlife Stadium on April 7th. The Raw Librarian and I have been tossing around e-mails for weeks, trying to speculate who will make it through the rocky Road to Wrestlemania and emerge as the top dogs. As MAMBINO often does, we’re going to break down the possibilities piece by piece, one wrestler at a time. Here….we….go!

DANIEL BRYAN

Most Likely Matchup

The RAW Librarian: Team Hell No Friendship vs Rhodes Scholars

You have to give credit where credit is due; HHH has to some extent revitalized the tag team division. However, it’s still no where near the Hardyz/Dudleys/Edge and Christian era of the early 2000’s. After all, that was tag team wrestling at its apex. I also have to give Kane major credit for improving every facet of his game in 2012. He dramatically revamped his character and added a great deal of credibility to tag team wrestling.  His backstage segments with Daniel Bryan (and Read more...

"The Top 50 Finishing Moves in WWE history" Review – Part 1

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, so needless to say, I’ve been getting the itch. I’m still far too busy finishing up my last semester of grad school to write consistent RAW reviews, but hopefully this will suffice for the time being. A couple things upfront, I will only be reviewing disc one. Discs two and three are filled with old matches from the likes of Sergeant Slaughter, Bob Backlund and the Wolfpac. I skimmed through that content, even finding an RVD vs Too Cold Scorpio match that I’ve never seen before (and really was not worth watching), but this review will primarily be focused on the 50 best finishers discussed on disc one.

One more thing, I will be listing the finishers in reverse order here and briefly discussing what merits their placement on the list. If you want to be surprised at what is included, stop reading now.

Spoiler Alert: John Cena’s “Attitude Adjustment” makes an appearance. Thankfully this glorified fireman’s carry was not in the top 10. Here we go.

50. JBL’s “Clothesline from Hell” 

A strong start. In my opinion, this may be the most devastating maneuver on the entire list. There’s ways to prepare for a top rope splash or a submission move, but there is no avoiding getting absolutely destroyed by the “Clothesline from Hell.” Listed at number 50, this may be the one finishing move on the entire list that I would least want to take. I mean, it would be an honor to get Stone Cold stunned and sell it like The Rock. Taking Hulk Hogan’s immortal leg drop would be a crowning achievement in my life. However, I would never in a million years volunteer to take JBL’s Clothesline from Hell. Bradshaw already had a reputation for being stiff in the ring, and this finisher did nothing to dissuade that way of thinking. JBL took a routine clothesline every wrestler performed and turned it into one of the most fearsome moves in wrestling history. 
49. Vader “Vader Bomb”

“The Vader Bomb was a pretty unique move because it showed the athleticism of a 400 lb guy” -Jim Ross
I could not agree with JR more. Even though he’s only dropping from the 2nd rope, it’s 400 lbs directly on your chest. I would imagine breathing properly after that one would be a challenge. Unfortunately for me, Vader was at the very beginning of my wrestling watching career. I recognize him more as Frankie’s dad on “Boy Meets World” than as the agile big man for the WWF and WCW. I loved seeing him come out and destroy Heath Slater during his last appearance on television.

As big and tough as Vader was, my money is on Mr. Feeny. His Vader Bomb was a cool move, made even more impressive by Vader’s size.

48. Dusty Rhodes “Bionic Elbow”

Dusty Rhodes is well before my time. The only time I’ve seen the American Dream on screen was well after his in-ring days were over. My only real memory of Dusty was during his brief time in ECW when he feuded with Steve Corino. Rhodes had that ravenous audience’s respect, so I knew he must have been a big deal back in his day. He certainly did not look like the prototypical wrestler, with his physique definitely left something to be desired. As for the finisher itself, not my favorite, but it certainly deserves a place on the top 50. It could look good if sold correctly, and it may have inspired Wade Barrett’s new elbow finish. Properly placed near the bottom of the list.
47. Million Dollar Man “The Mill
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WWE Summerslam Recap



Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Announcers: Jerry “The King” Lawler, Michael Cole

United States championship
Santino Marella (C) vs Antonio Cesaro w/Aksana 

This match took place on the Youtube pre-show. Odd to see two wrestlers of foreign descent battling over the United States championship, but it’s not like it means anything anyway. We finally saw the Cobra effectively countered as Cesaro knocked it away and then proceeded to rip it up. His valet Aksana provided the distraction on Santino after he pulled out a back up cobra. Front piledriver from Cesaro and we have a new United States champion. I don’t know much about him other than the fact that he can speak five different languages and he doesn’t use a sock puppet as a finisher. Consider me a fan. 


Chris Jericho vs Dolph Ziggler

Great choice for an opening contest. Jericho had his ribs taped up selling his injuries from Smackdown, but he didn’t really sell the injuries too much in the match. I enjoy matches that employ “ring psychology” such as wrestlers targeting the arms or legs to wear down their opponents, but I really just wanted to see these two guys go all out in the ring. For the most part, this is what happened. Great looking Walls of Jericho applied for the victory. It wasn’t quite the Liontamer because Jericho never put his knee in the small of Ziggler’s back, but Y2J really arched it and Zigs sold it well (obviously).

 It was a very good match between the two, but far too short in my opinion. Both wrestlers looked crisp in the ring and the two had great chemistry together. The match reminded me somewhat of the Jericho/Shawn Michaels Wrestlemania match a few years back. However, this time Jericho was the face and Ziggler wasn’t exactly looking for respect from his idol growing up. Both wrestlers had their share of fans in the crowd and at one point there were dueling “Let’s go Ziggler/Y2J” chants. Because this match went first, there was much speculation that Ziggler would cash in his Money in the Bank contract later on. (Spoiler Alert) That never happened. Besides the main event (which we’ll get to later) this was the only disappointing part about the night. 

Kane vs Daniel Bryan

Daniel Bryan is without a doubt the most over person on the entire roster. The announcers’ attempts to try and convince us that the crowd is against Daniel Bryan is laughable.


Michael Cole: Listen to these fans mock Daniel Bryan by chanting “Yes!” at him.

Thirty seconds later there was a very loud “Daniel Bryan” chant which must have had Cole very flummoxed and confused since the audience was just “mocking” him a moment ago. 

Pretty solid match between the two. Daniel Bryan has shown that he can work with any wrestler, heavyweight to cruiserweight. Kane also has similar adaptability. For a “big man” he is very agile and moves around quite well, even at his age. These guys also worked well together in their feud over AJ, so I was not surprised that this match was good. On a side note, I really like when wrestlers actually wrestle Kane and aren’t scared that mid match he’s going to open up a portal to hell or something. 

Daniel Bryan beat Kane with the roll up Kelly Kelly uses to pin Beth Phoenix. It was a quick ending to a match that never really got any build up. Hopefully DB can use this PPV victory as momentum and get back into the World title picture. He’s earned it.

Backstage Josh Mathews tried to get a word Read more...