Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Some stuff I noticed watching WWE Network

The other day I was home alone for a few hours so I took the opportunity to do some targeted WWE Network viewing.  For the millionth time, you can't get a better deal so if you're into wrestling I can't recommend it too much.  Even if you don't watch it now it's worth it for the archives, they have major matches from every organization that mattered, save TNA.  So I decided to take a look at a few matches featuring one Stone Cold Steve Austin, and live tweeted the experience (You can check out my storified tweets here.)  The matches hat made up Austin's rise to top dog in the WWE (then WWF) serve as a good point of reference for the decisions that are being made today.  No, I'm not trying to say that Roman Reigns is the next Austin.  Of course not.  But here are a few things to remember:

  • Austin's run almost ended before it began - The Austin character really began to take off in 1997, but he still didn't mature into the Monday Night War winning force that he eventually became until a year later.  And he almost didn't get the chance.  In August of 1997 at Summerslam Austin took a bad bump from an Owen Hart piledriver and suffered a severe neck injury.  Watching that match, you can see that it's fortunate his career survived as long as it did afterward.  The finish had to be performed almost entirely by Hart as Austin could barely move enough to do to very weak rollup that got him the win in the match.  It was one of those endings that anyone who'd been watching wrestling for a while knew was due to a legit injury.  The other thing that's important is to watch how Austin worked before the piledriver; his moveset was significantly more varied (he did a powerbomb during this match, something you never saw from him after) and the level of bumps he could take diminished every bit as much.  For context go back and watch his match against Bret Hart from Survivor Series 1996; you'll see the same level of variance between what he did then vs after he came back.
... -bret-the-hitman-hart-vs-stone-cold-steve-austin.jpg?resize=480%2C360  Thread: 50 Most Important Matches in WWE History
  • He almost couldn't go after he came back - His first match was another match against Owen Hart; almost a do-over of sorts from the Summerslam match.  It was not a good match, and it looked like something you'd run for a guy who was retiring immediately afterward.  It was over in under 10 minutes, absurdly short for somebody with the athletic ability and stamina of Owen Hart.  Austin's offense consisted of punches, kicks, and a Stone Cold Stunner.  It was a foreshadowing of what was to come; Austin's greatest career feat was being able to take that punch-kick repertoire and turn it into something that could give us entertaining 20 minute main event matches a year later.    Watching this match explains everything that went once Austin was champion.  His title defenses in 1998 were against Mick Foley, the Undertaker, and Kane - brawlers whose offense mostly could be done against a opponent who was standing up or laying prone.  Austin's style also made it easier for one Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to rise to prominence.  Austin's first matches after finishing with Owen Hart were with the Rock, and they would hook up again a year later leading up to and in WrestleMania 15.   Rock had a style that meshed well with Austin and the extra flair he added to his pretty basic movset and selling of Austin's offense made for a ideal dance partner. 

  • WrestleMania 14 was a nail-biter - And not in the way you'd think.  It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the main event was Austin's coronation, minus an urban legend that Shawn Michaels notorious penchant for not jobbing when the mood hit put things in jeopardy and the Undertaker was ready backstage to pound him if he acted up.  But given that Austin was only a few months away from not being to work more than a brief match and that Michaels had suffered a severe back injury himself at the Royal Rumble (one that would keep him out of action for the next five years) there was a real chance that a bad bump could have left the company without it's best performer and it's new star.  That didn't happen of course, but that had to leave Vince McMahon scarred in a way that leaves rally apprehensive about putting his eggs in the Daniel Bryan basket. Bryan is almost 35 (not old but an age where an injury history can start catching up to you), just missed over half a year due to injury, and employs a pretty dangerous style in the ring.  Entrusting him as the guy to share top billing with John Cena and maybe  even move ahead of him in the short run isn't a sure a thing as some folks would have you think.

  • Running off Bret Hart was the right move - The Montreal Screwjob is a day that lives in wrestling infamy, but the decision to move Hart out of the burgeoning Attitude Era was the right choice.  Not only was he lacking the personality to captivate an audience during the direction that the company was about to embark on - he was never exciting on the mic as a face and wasn't willing or able to engage in the sophomoric act that Degeneration X made famous - his in-ring style wouldn't have been a good fit for Austin post-injury.  Taking the barrage of suplexes and submission holds that Bret utilized would have been hell for someone with Austin's fragile neck and spine at that point.  Bret was indeed the odd man out so it made sense to let him go.  That doesn't excuse how it happened, but hindsight is 20/20 of course.
So that's what I figured out in one afternoon of WWE Network viewing. 

No comments:

Post a Comment