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By Nicholas Jason Lopez
While its progression to realism from a cartoonish image was evident towards the latter half of 1996, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) still struggled to shake control from its rival organization – World Championship Wrestling (WCW). WCW was in a stretch where it’d dominate television ratings for 84 consecutive weeks.
This show was peppered with potential from a standout opener between Leif Cassidy (now known as Al Snow) and Flash Funk (better referred to as 2 Cold Scorpio), a passable “Armageddon Rules” match from The Undertaker and The Executioner that went all over the arena/set and a good effort from its WWF Intercontinental Championship bout between Champion Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Marc Mero.
The rest was showered in shrouds of ridicule as enthusiastic as the sights of Fake Diesel and Razor Ramon on our screens. Even good ‘ol Jim Ross on commentary couldn’t do much for us. We’ll also investigate the ideological mess that was the WWF World Tag Team Championship match.
In the battle of “Powerbomb Vs. Sharpshooter,” powerbomb emerged victorious, but it was our collective brains that got powerbombed in the end.
You could tell how much the WWF needed a shakeup headed into 1997.
To top it off , the namesake of the show – Vader – wasn’t even on the card. Good riddance to WWF 1996.
By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Off the top of most professional wrestling fans’ crafty craniums, one former World Wrestling Entertainment Ring Announcer named Justin Roberts was synonymous with sharp suits, short black hair and emphatic introductions. There was also that time he was choked with his own necktie by Daniel Bryan in the infamous 2010 Nexus debut angle that resulted in Bryan’s termination.
Roberts released a blog post not long after his termination that complained about WWE’s public image trickeries as they twisted stories around to come off as a kindhearted company whilst they simultaneously talked down to their own talent and overworked them with little time off and insane travel schedules.
The prime example of this was Connor “The Crusher” Michalek – a sick eight-year old boy Roberts noticed at ringside and helped bring joy with constant FaceTime conversations added with daily communication with his father Steve, who noted that his son had little time left.
WWE portrayed the relationship between Michalek and his favorite wrestler Bryan as close in video packages. The two had interacted a few times, but the close relationship was actually between Roberts and Michalek. We’ll get more into that later on, as we hoped for more details.
Also, just the idea of a ring announcer autobiography intrigued us. Roberts’ WWE tenure lasted from 2002 through 2014. In turn, he experienced various company “eras” and it was cool to finally get his full perspective.
By Anthony Zevoteck
Randomly, one Wednesday this past May, WWE shook the wrestling community when Shane and Stephanie McMahon both announced via social media there’d be a roster split to create two completely different shows with Raw and SmackDown.
The news was coupled with another announcement that SmackDown would be moved to Tuesdays and to air live, which would start Jul. 19.
Expectedly, the double bombshell was met with equal cheers and jeers from WWE fans alike. For longtime fans, this wasn’t new territory, as WWE had once split the roster before in 2002 upon a sudden influx of talent from the defunct World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling promotions. It was also due to the fact that at the time, four hours of weekly television time was too little to establish new talent and called for a difference between shows.
By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Payback was christened as the “first pay-per-view of a New Era,” and to a degree, this was true.
With beloved Shane McMahon running Raw lately, we saw an array of main roster debuts (Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, The Vaudevillains, Enzo/Cass), big returns (Sami Zayn, Cesaro) and a main event scene you wouldn’t expect (AJ Styles, Roman Reigns).
One could argue that masking new feuds and NXT call-ups as a “new era” is a tad bit deceiving since that kind of thing happens every year.
However, thanks to the debuts of Karl Anderson/Luke Gallows and having them inserted into the Reigns-Styles storyline, the prominence of the Zayn-Kevin Owens feud, a tag team tournament to determine #1 contender’s, recent storylines and an amped-up Chicago crowd were bound to make this a night to remember.
By Anthony Zevoteck
The wrestling world was shaken to its foundation Apr. 21 when Joanie Laurer (aka Chyna) had tragically passed away. Grief was expressed as worldwide news outlets began to break the news.
When I was first asked to write this piece, I woke up to a text about the idea and hadn’t come “back to Earth” yet. I thought maybe the reason would be that WWE had let her back in the company in some capacity and as I glanced social media feeds, that sadly wasn’t the case.
Despite her recent gripes with WWE, there’s no denying her influence.
She was a major unsung heroine of the Attitude Era ever since she debuted as Triple H’s bodyguard in 1997. Vince McMahon wasn’t crazy about the idea that a woman could beat up men convincingly, but he gave her a chance and she went out to become the first WWE female to be known for her strength rather than looks/attire.
Not to mention that she was a founding member of D-Generation X, one of the era’s most influential factions. She was an integral part of their initial success and after Shawn Michaels left, she stood side-by-side with Triple H as a leader.
During this time, she also broke barriers as an entrant in the 1999 Royal Rumble. This was revolutionary and set a high mark for every woman there after.
After DX broke up, Chyna would leave her real mark in WWE.
She was perhaps best known for her reign as WWE Intercontinental Champion, beating Jeff Jarrett in a controversial “Good Housekeeping” match at No Mercy 1999, showing that women could do anything they wanted, even competing and winning a men’s Title. Even though the idea was criticized, the reign gave us some excellent promos and matches between Chyna and Chris Jericho, who’d defeat her for the belt, jumpstarting his WWE career.
She was also a comedic element in some Attitude Era storylines. Who could forget her time as Eddie Guerrero’s “mamacita” or Mark Henry’s date?
She finished out her WWE stint by becoming WWE Women’s Champion, but tensions with her ex-boyfriend Triple H and his on-screen/real-life girlfriend Stephanie McMahon was too much for her and eventually led to her departure. The true reason behind her departure is still up for debate, but it was clear her WWE time was up.
Lauren’s post-WWE life proved tumultuous, colliding with drugs, alcohol and domestic abuse. It had since overshadowed her in-ring career and despite her attempts to clean up, she never maintained that status.
Although many people have, I won’t speak negatively about her numerous adult films. She was fascinated with the industry and proud of her films. I can’t knock someone for doing what they enjoy. In fact, that makes it even more admirable.
Chyna’s legacy is felt and will continue to do so for many years. She showed an entire generation of girls that it was okay to have muscles and taught all of us that anything was possible if your mind was put to it.
Some day, we’ll see Chyna get inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame. Her in-ring contributions are way too important to let her outside career diminish it. Time heals all wounds and we can only hope that Triple H puts his personal feelings aside so we can honor one of WWE’s most recognized females.
I’m sure everyone fears that Laurer’s death is drug-related, but let’s not think about that. Rather, let’s remember her as a woman strong enough to compete in a man’s world and bodyslam all of them.
There’ll never be another “Ninth Wonder Of The World.” There never could be.
Thank you, Chyna.