Wrestling Game StArcade: WCW Nitro

by Alex Knapp

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WCW Nitro
Year: 1997
System: PlayStation
Developer: Inland Productions
Publisher: THQ

When WCW caught on fire after the formation of the New World Order (nWo), it not only pulled the wrestling business as a whole out of the doldrums of the mid-90s. It also heralded a new beginning for wrestling video games. For the past couple of years, the gaming output for the struggling WWF had reduced dramatically, while WCW hadn’t released a new game since WCW SuperBrawl Wrestling on Super Nintendo.

But when 1997 began, that all changed. WCW was on top of the world. WCW Monday Nitro was the hottest, most well-produced wrestling TV show around, the nWo was the talk of fans coast to coast, and every Monday night saw Eric Bischoff’s company spanking Vince McMahon in the ratings. Making money hand over fist, WCW was in the perfect position to kickstart the resurgence in wrestling video games for The Monday Night Wars.

They released their first game of this generation, WCW vs. The World, earlier in the year; that game was fairly well-received, but it didn’t really make a big splash either. Then, WCW came up with their next one. Named after their flagship show, WCW Nitro would be a fast-paced experience which would also truly capture the atmosphere of the show we knew and loved on TNT every Monday night.

When you turn on your PlayStation, the game treats you to a pulse-pounding intro FMV showing major WCW highlights, setting up the mood and awakening your markish passions. When you get to the title screen, you hear that old familiar Nitro theme music, and are greeted by Gene Okerlund’s voice. As you go to the character select screen, you see a decent selection of main eventers and midcarders. On top of that, the available characters each have a “rant” option, where you can play a pre-recorded FMV promo by the wrestler in question, challenging you to step into the ring with them!

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This is all pretty cool! I can’t wait to play the game now! If it’s this atmospheric and engaging just on the title and character select screens, just imagine what it’s like when you actually get to the ring!

So I select my characters, start the match and…

Oh.

Wow.

Never mind.

Yes. It’s true. This game suffers from the dreaded “The Best Parts of the Game Are the Parts Without Gameplay” disease. Once the actual match starts, you’re treated to a slew of crap. Blocky, grainy graphics. Jerky and awkward animations and movements.  And the controls. My God, the controls.

The four basic buttons on the PS1 controller allow you to punch, kick, chop or Irish whip. This means that there is no grapple system, which in turn means that in order to execute larger moves, you need to perform button combos that take up either two, three or four buttons. There is nothing intuitive about figuring out which combos work to make you do the moves; if you’re playing the game for the first time and don’t have the instruction booklet, you had better quickly log onto the Internet to look up the game’s controls, because you will not survive with strike moves alone.

On top of that, you need to execute these moves before your opponent does. You can find yourself pressing the necessary buttons to do a move, only for your opponent to unleash it instead, because you were just a split-second too slow. But in order to be in the proper position to unleash the moves, you have to be close enough to your opponent, which makes you vulnerable. Learning how to play this game can be a frustrating learning curve, because the game doesn’t give you time to get used to the controls or become familiar with the usual button combos; you need to know them and be fast with them, or the AI will quickly gain the upper hand. And all the while, you not only have to quickly press the buttons; you also will need to frequently pause the game and look back and forth between it and the instruction manual, so that you can remind yourself what the buttons combos are. It’s needlessly complicated and annoying.

The movesets are a joke. Every wrestler has roughly the same moveset, including moves like suplexes, slams, powerbombs and piledrivers. Furthermore, this game’s idea of variety is to divide the roster up into heavyweights, who can do power moves like gorilla press slams, and lightweights who can do moves like hurricanranas. But what makes this ridiculous is that, apparently, the game concluded that a “lightweight” is any wrestler smaller than Kevin Nash. Thought you’d never get the chance to see Ric Flair or Randy Savage dish out a Frankensteiner? Well, you’re in luck, because these guys are now honorary luchadors, since they’ve been designated as lightweights! At the very least, each wrestler also has a couple of signature moves, and their finisher, but executing them can be difficult, because they tend to involve four buttons in their combos, so you need to build up a lot of rapid button-pressing experience if you hope to use them.

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As you play through the game, you get used to the timing and the controls. Saying this may be damning with faint praise, but: The game is at least playable, eventually. For your match options, you have the basic one-on-one or tag team exhibitions, as well as a singles tournament for the belt. The tournament is how you unlock the game’s hidden characters; beating through 10 opponents as each individual wrestler allows you to unlock a particular hidden character, and in turn, beating five opponents as one of the unlocked wrestlers allows you to unlock another character.

There’s at least some motivation for replayability here, but actually playing through the matches gets to be a tedious process. Because of the redundant movesets described previously, there’s little to no variety in the matches. All you need to do to win is stay on your opponent and beat them until their life bar depletes enough, so the easiest thing to do is to repeatedly use a few moves which you become used to through frequent use and which have button combos which are easy to memorize (like powerbombs and piledrivers). But this makes for monotonous matches that frequently all look the same, and if you want to add what little bit of in-ring variety the game spares, you have to go back and look up move combos all over again. There is very little opportunity to have an interesting match in this game, nor is there motivation to. Combine that with the game’s clunky animations, and it makes for an ugly, dull in-ring product.

Once you do complete a tournament, you are treated to a highlight reel FMV for the wrestler you just won as. It’s fun to see the old WCW footage, but once again, it just proves the point about this game’s central flaw: The best parts are the ones without any actual gameplay.

WCW Nitro may not be the worst wrestling game ever made, but in terms of the in-ring experience it offers, it’s just plain boring and tedious. It’s a lot of shine, with very little substance, and when WCW vs. nWo World Tour came out toward the end of the year, this game was rightfully swept to the wayside. It can be fun to replay it for the nostalgia and atmosphere, but as an actual game, it’s a weak, forgettable outing.

Rating: 2 stars

Photo Credits:

Photo 1: en.wikipedia.org

Photo 2: gamester81.com

Photo 3: mobygames.com

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25 and Under: Vyper Rocks Scotland

by Daniel Johnson

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Vyper vs. Rhia O’Reilly

Vyper is a Scottish born 23 year-old wrestler who debuted in 2008 and has since wrestled for around two dozen wrestling promotions. Trained by the likes of Damian O’Connor and Mikey Whiplash (who themselves are still fairly young being in their twenties and thirties, respectively) Vyper has also gone by the name Big Van Viper. The inspiration from Big Van Vader is clear in her moveset which relies on power moves and her finisher, which is her version of the Vader bomb, the Vyper bomb.

On March 9, 2014 at a live event for the Scottish Wrestling Alliance: ZERO 1 (SWA: ZERO 1), Vyper wrestled Rhia O’Reilly. Despite being slightly north of the 25 year mark, O’Reilly, hailing from Northern Ireland, had debuted more recently than Vyper and had traveled far to be trained by former WWE superstar Lance Storm.

The match is a lot of fun with O’Reilly scoring some cheap heat by coming out with an Irish flag in front of this Scottish crowd and then Vyper getting a cheap Mick Foley-esque pop by waving a small Scottish flag. O’Reilly targets Vyper’s left arm to start the match and as the heel controls the pace of the match. Vyper eventually comes back with two running back elbows followed by a short arm clothesline, but lets O’Reilly get in some more shots before the finish. Vyper sends the crowd home happy by tattooing O’Reilly onto the mat with a Vyper bomb.

The full match can be seen right here:

The next SWA: ZERO 1 show will be SWA: ZERO 1 Battlezone on October 18 in Motherwell, Scotland, United Kingdom. Click here for more information.

For the full results of the March 9, 2014 SWA: ZERO 1 live event click here.

For more in the 25 and Under series featuring outstanding young European wrestlers click here and here.

 

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Wrestling Game StArcade: WWF WrestleMania

by Alex Knapp

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WWF WrestleMania
Year: 1988
System: Nintendo Entertainment System
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Acclaim

By the latter half of the 1980s, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) was the unquestioned king of pro wrestling. Vince McMahon’s ambitious growth had seen the fed lay waste to the territorial promotions of old, neuter the AWA, and eventually defeat the one promotion that could compete with them nationally, Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP). The era of Hulkamania and the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection was in full swing, wrestlers were appearing on MTV, and WrestleMania III had recently generated unbelievable attendance and buyrate numbers, as millions of paying fans witnessed Hulk Hogan slamming Andre The Giant (all 7,000 pounds of him, brother!).

A central component of the WWF’s success was its ability to ride the waves of the evolutions in media going on at the time. The developments of cable television and pay-per-view were instrumental to the WWF becoming a household name. Now, they were turning their attention to another young new form of media: Video games. And thus, the very first licensed wrestling game for the home consoles was created, WWF WrestleMania for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

And my God, did it SUCK.

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Part of me wants to excuse the enormous shortcomings this game has. After all, wrestling games were still new and untested back then, and a lot of game developers were going through unexplored territory. But then I actually play the game, and I am baffled as to how Rare and Acclaim concluded that they were creating a remotely enjoyable, or even playable, video game.

The game features six wrestlers: Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Honky Tonk Man and Bam Bam Bigelow. You get the options of a regular one-on-one match, or beginning a tournament for the title against the five other opponents. To add to the presentation, each wrestler is accompanied by 8-bit renditions of their theme music. Hulk Hogan has “Real American,” Randy Savage has “Pomp and Circumstance,” and Andre has…“Stand Back?”

Ooooooooookay then. Anyway, once the game starts, you quickly see one of the biggest problems with the game. It’s hard to describe, but the ring is viewed from a strange sort of directly-straight side view, while the wrestlers walk straight up and down and to the side as if from an overhead view. Mind-bending as the physics are, it also makes for a very strange and awkward game engine, because the movements are so linear and jerky that it’s hard to get in the proper position to face the opponent. The animation is laughable; although it is technically possible to move diagonally, the wrestlers can only face 90 degree angles, either straight up, down, left, or right, as they waddle around the ring like toddlers who need their diapers changed. It’s impossible to take seriously.

On top of that, it begs the question: Why would I ever want to turn and walk away from my opponent in a wrestling game!? Fundamentally, every wrestling game before or since this one have always kept the player-controlled wrestler automatically facing toward the opponent at all times. It’s the most basic idea of this game genre: You always want to be facing toward the opponent so that you can be in a good position to either maintain offense or go on the defensive. Pro Wrestling for the NES managed to get this fundamental aspect right. And yet in this game, if you want to put some distance between you and your opponent, you literally have to turn tail and waddle away with your back to the other guy, leaving you open to attack from behind, and creating a needlessly cumbersome gameplay system.

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Match participants each have an energy bar to mark whether they’re about to be ready for a 3 count. However, this presents one of the game’s most ridiculous aspects: When the game says “energy,” it literally means “energy.” Your meter can be drained not only by getting hit, but also by missing moves in your attempts to attack your opponent. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem, if it weren’t for the fact that it is often really freakin’ difficult to find the right position to be able to hit your opponent; if you’re awkwardly pushing just a teensy bit above/below your opponent, thinking that you’ll be able to land a punch or a kick on them, you could find yourself inadvertently losing the match, as every time you swing at air in a vain attempt to actually land an attack, you’re draining your own power. You can quickly find yourself eventually defeated and pinned all because you tuckered yourself out by missing attacks. Can you imagine something like this playing out in a real wrestling match? A wrestler getting pinned and losing because he got too tired from swinging and missing their punches and kicks? It sounds like a surreal CHIKARA gimmick, and yet, it’s par for the course in WWF WrestleMania.

The controls make me want to go on an Angry Video Game Nerd-like profanity-filled rant. The game suffers from what I call Acclaim Syndrome: The AI opponents have impossibly superhuman reflexes and are able to execute their moves in the blink of an eye, as opposed to your own limitations within a human being’s reaction time. Wrestler movesets are individualized to an extent: Some are able to do bodyslams, while others aren’t (and, in an admittedly clever touch, Hogan is the only one who can bodyslam Andre), some can do turnbuckle moves, etc. And yet carrying out these more advanced moves is often more trouble than it’s worth. To do a bodyslam, you need to press A and B at the same time, which sounds simple in theory, but the game is annoyingly picky about the timing. Even then, you can’t pull it off if your energy meter is too low, and as I said previously, your meter can get low for some stupidly arbitrary reasons.

But this doesn’t compare to how irritating it is to do turnbuckle moves; you’d think that climbing the turnbuckle would be as simple as walking right to it, maybe pressing the B button at the same time, right? Wrong. To get on top of the turnbuckle, you have to go to the very bottom of the screen and run toward it (or more accurately, do a fast waddle towards it), and then with perfect timing, press B at the turnbuckle to climb on it. Why make it so convoluted!? I don’t care that game developers didn’t have much experience with wrestling games at the time; why would your first instinct be to program turnbuckle moves in such a non-intuitive way!? By the time you figure out how to get the timing just right to get on the turnbuckle, your opponent will probably have gotten up and moved out of the way anyway, so it’s almost entirely pointless to go for these moves.

The icing on the cake is undoubtedly pinning. Remember when I said that movesets were somewhat individualized? Well, for some asinine reason, this includes how you execute pinfalls. Yes, different wrestlers have slightly different button combinations for pinning opponents. Once again, like with the turnbuckle example, they took one of the most basic, straightforward components of a wrestling game, and made it pointlessly complicated. On top of that, the timing is touchy, and I would sometimes find myself running to a time limit draw in a match, all for the sole reason that I couldn’t figure out how to pin my opponent once I had depleted his energy meter; he’d be down for the count, and yet, because I couldn’t get the button combo just right and hit the B button and the right D-pad direction at just the right time, he’d recover and turn the tide of the match. Absolutely, completely asinine.

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What an embarrassing first outing on the consoles for the WWF. The definitive American wrestling promotion of our time, the company that penetrated the mainstream, made pro wrestling cool, and gave us countless childhood memories, and their first representation on the wonderful medium of video games is this near-unplayable crap. As the AVGN would say: What were they thinking!!!???? There are so many mistakes and wrong-headed programming decisions in the game, when even before it was made, there were examples (namely, once again, Pro Wrestling) of games which offered simple, straightforward control schemes and mechanisms. Terrible. Sadly, it would be a while before the WWF was done justice in the video game world; the only consolation is that, considering that WWF WrestleMania was what they were working from, there was nowhere to go but up.

Rating: 1 star

Photo Credits:

Photo 1: en.wikipedia.org

Photo 2: consoleclassix.com

Photos 3-4: casualgaming.bmoviefilmvault.com

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25 and Under: Laura Wellings at PWLE

by Daniel Johnson

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Laura Wellings vs. Queen Maya

Laura Wellings is a 23 year-old talent wrestling out of Switzerland. Wellings trained under Lance Storm and since she debuted in 2006 she has stuck mainly to wrestling for Swiss Championship Wrestling (SCW) where she has held the SCW Ladies Championship on three separate occasions.

Back in 2012 Wellings wrestled for Pro Wrestling Live Events (PWLE) at their inaugural event, PWLE Pro Wrestling Live! and had a match against the Italian born Queen Maya. Maya represented the United Kingdom’s Real Quality Wrestling (RQW) for the bout as she held the RQW European Women’s Championship at the time.

Although this was a non-title affair, the crowd is absolutely insane for this one. The audio quality of the clip is not that great so when Wellings comes out to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana it sounds like the crowd is either going to charge the ring or summon the dark lord Cthulhu. In any event Maya has an obvious height and weight advantage and demonstrates this by shoving Wellings down to start. Up until the last three minutes Maya controls about 95 percent of this one with vicious moves like a headbutt, kicks to the head and grinding Wellings’ face into the mat. Wellings shines in those final three minutes when she attacks Maya with a headscissors takedown, a tornado DDT from the ropes and a bulldog. Maya stops the momentum of the babyface for a while with a stiff forearm, but Wellings wins it with a roll up reversal out of a chokeslam.

The full match can be seen right here:

PWLE isn’t currently promoting any upcoming shows, but held PWLE Pro Wrestling Live! 2 on May 10, 2014. A highlight video of the event can be found here.

I have been unable to find the full results for PWLE Pro Wrestling Live! If you know where to find them or have them drop me a line here.Photos from the event can be viewed here.

For more in the 25 and Under series featuring some of the best young women wrestlers from around the world click here and here.

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Old School Flashback: Ricki Starr in His Heyday in Chicago

by Daniel Johnson

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Ricki Starr vs. Hans Hermann

I logged onto the Freakin’ Awesome Network (FAN) message board on September 30 and was disappointed to see that Ricki Starr had passed away at the age of 83. WWE made a brief announcement earlier in the day and described him as a “British sensation.” SLAM! Wrestling also reported on the death and did perhaps as thorough a job as is possible in detailing the life of someone writer Steve Johnson described as, “[T]he JD Salinger of wrestling.”

According to the SLAM! Wrestling piece, the St. Louis, Missouri born Starr had an amateur wrestling background before immersing himself in ballet in 1951. Although Starr had worked some non-marquee pro wrestling matches in the early 1950s, when he decided to mix some of his ballet skill set into his wrestling performances in 1954 is when he really started to break out. From there Starr enjoyed success in America until 1963 when he moved to the United Kingdom. Starr wrestled in the UK for 14 years and wrestlingdata.com lists his last match as having occurred on July 11, 1977 in Austria.

About 18 years before Starr’s final performance was this two out of three falls match he had with Hans Hermann in the legendary Chicago International Amphitheatre for the NWA on July 17, 1959. Preserved masterfully by Chicago Film Archives through the the Russ and Sylvia Davis Collection, 1932-1970 a real treat in this clip is that before the match, an announcement is made that Gorgeous George could not wrestle due to a broken finger and promoter Fred Kohler will have to book him for a later date. Starr then starts putting his ballet slippers in George’s face before throwing them into the crowd. Commentator Russ Davis points out that this is in response to George handing out Georgie pins to the crowd. In a way Starr and George were similar in that they played larger than life, flamboyant characters, though they took considerably different approaches to how they played this type of character and how they wrestled in the ring.

Despite being billed from Boston, Massachusetts, Starr’s opponent for this match, Hermann played a straight up Nazi and gave the Nazi salutes multiple times in this clip. Yeah, wrestling was a little different back in those days. As least this gave a little more reason for Starr to have the fans in his pocket as the 199 lbs man messes with the big German brute by hiding behind the referee and giving him cheap shots. Davis does a great job of summarizing Starr’s character by saying, “I’ve seen a lot of things in my my time, but this guy Ricki Starr slays me,” Davis continues, “Because believe it or not he’s a real tough wrestlers. He can be tougher than all get out.” Nevertheless Starr only gets awarded the first fall of the match due to Hermann choking him.

The second fall sees Starr make a great comeback for the finish as he claws Hermann’s eyes in one corner than flips backward off of him. Starr takes Hermann down multiple times before finishing the affair with a body press.

The full match can be seen right here:

For more in the Old School Flashback series featuring another match from the Chicago International Amphitheatre click here or take a look at a match from Indiana that took place a few decades later here.

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Evan Gelistico Interview

by Daniel Johnson

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Photo Courtesy of Evan Gelistico.

Interviewer’s Note: Evan Gelistico is a current member of the Submission Squad, a stable which has wrestled across many different promotions including St. Louis Anarchy (SLA), Anarchy Championship Wrestling (ACW) and CHIKARA. The Submission Squad dates back to 2003 when it was launched by Nick Tyson and Dingo. As these two stopped traveling Pierre Abernathy began to team with Gelistico to stand as the cornerstones of the current group. Since then Gary Jay and Davey Vega have joined the Submission Squad and the group even has had an active female wrestler among its ranks in Athena. Although the group fights among themselves from time to time including having a fun tag bout at Old School Pro Wrestling (OSPW) they continue to dominate indie promotions throughout the country. Aside from being in this stable Gelistico has held a number of championships including the ACW Heavyweight Championship on two occasions. Gelistico has also had impressive showings in tournaments including making it to the finals of the ACW Lone Star Classic 2010 and the ACW Lone Star Classic 2012 as well as the SLA Medallion Tournament in 2012. This interview was completed on August 29, 2014. In this interview Gelistico and I focus on his work in the Submission Squad.

Daniel Johnson: How would you describe what the Submission Squad is in just a few words?
Evan Gelistico: Brothers in arms with a common goal.

Daniel Johnson: How did you first come to join the Submission Squad?
Evan Gelistico: Originally it started out as Pierre/Dingo/Tyson. But the former two stopped traveling so on the road I would team with Pierre. From there when the other two retired I would join the Squad in the St. Louis area.

Daniel Johnson: Cool, you still team with Pierre a lot, more than I think you team with any other member of the squad. What do you think about it is teaming with Pierre that makes you guys click and work well as a team?
Evan Gelistico: Honestly? Our friendship and sense of humor make us click a lot. Sure we’re both great wrestlers but it’s our ability to have fun that makes us a great tandem, because people can tell when you’re being fake.

Daniel Johnson: This is a pretty broad question, but what distinguishes the Submission Squad from other stables around?
Evan Gelistico: Well other than in CHIKARA there aren’t too many stables around to begin with. Sure there might be a tag team or trios here or there. But I don’t know of any of them that travel as much or as far as we do. Plus, I think the fact that we can be individuals helps us a lot as well. Vega can go off and do his own thing. Sometimes Gary/I team up and Pierre wrestles a Marshe Rocket.

Daniel Johnson: Like you said one thing that sets the Submission Squad apart from other stables is that they have worked in several promotions. To clarify just how many promotions has the Submission Squad worked.
Evan Gelistico: A lot. Lol.
Daniel Johnson: Lol.
Evan Gelistico: I’ll name five of the bigger ones just for ease. SLA/CHIKARA/ACW/Full Impact Pro (FIP)/Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW).

Daniel Johnson: Cool, the place I have seen the most Submission Squad matches is ACW in Texas. Would you say this is the home of the Submission Squad? If not then could any other promotion be described as the home of the Submission Squad?
Evan Gelistico: I would say that St. Louis Anarchy is the home of the Squad, with ACW being a close second.

Daniel Johnson: Cool, in regards to St. Louis Anarchy, what has been the most memorable match you have had there as part of the Submission Squad if you just had to pick one?
Evan Gelistico: If I had to pick just one it would be Me/Pierre vs. Johnny Gargano/Chuck Taylor. Mostly because it was one of Pierre’s last SLA shows.

Daniel Johnson: Aside from t being one of Pierre’s last shows at SLA did anything else stand out from that match? Also, how is it generally to work with guys the caliber of Gargano and Taylor?
Evan Gelistico: The match itself was outstanding. Working with them was a great experience and a nice reminder of the quality of talent out there.

Daniel Johnson: Going into ACW in Texas a little bit if you had to pick one match in ACW you have had as part of the Submission Squad that you could suggest to readers to check out what would it be and why?
Evan Gelistico: That is a bit tricky as there have been so many, but the street fight Pierre/Gary/I did would be the one.

Daniel Johnson: Cool, speaking of street fights. the Submission Squad has been in a ton of matches of that sort in addition to standard wrestling matches. What gimmick match do you enjoy working the most and do you enjoy that type of match over a standard wrestling match?
Evan Gelistico: Tables, I enjoy putting people through tables. I prefer a standard match but won’t hesitate to put someone through a table.

Daniel Johnson: Getting into another area, the Submission Squad is unique in that it has had a wrestling female member. What are your thoughts on Athena’s tenure?
Evan Gelistico: I think it was a great combination. Vega certainly enjoyed it for the time she was with us.

Daniel Johnson: In a similar vein do you think more stables should have both male and female wrestlers in them? If so why do you think more have not done so?
Evan Gelistico: I absolutely do. I don’t know, maybe not every stable enjoys being able to dominate every division a promotion might have or maybe they just haven’t found the right woman.

Daniel Johnson: Getting into the dynamics of the group, Depending on the promo it seems like different members are the leader of the group. Would you say any one member is the leader of the Submission Squad or is it more just an equal partners kind of stable?
Evan Gelistico: Equal partners kind of stable. Maybe a few years ago it would have been Pierre, but now we are all equals.

Daniel Johnson: Speaking of promos you have a great range in your delivery. I was just curious who has influenced your promo delivery?
Evan Gelistico: Mick Foley, would be the biggest obviously. Eddie Kingston, is another person, he just has this amazing intensity.

Daniel Johnson: Getting back to the squad, Submission Squad members have also wrestled each other from time to time. Is there any one match you have had with another member of the stable that stands out to you?
Evan Gelistico: There are plenty, but one of my favorite matches is from OSPW 21, which you can find on YouTube. It was just a really, really fun match. There is a four team tag from ACW that is very good too.

Daniel Johnson: Although Squad members have wrestled each others it is a little out of the ordinary. Speaking of out of the ordinary CHIKARA has been a company the Squad has worked. Back in June you wrestled for CHIKARA for the first time since it came back from its hiatus. What was it like being able to work for CHIKARA again and what did you think of the hiatus?
Evan Gelistico: I’m always sad when a company I like goes on hiatus. But it was great to finally be on a CHIKARA show again. The last CHIKARA show we were on was actually the last King of Trios where we were kicked out of the building for being late after our car broke down. I was able to watch the match and it was a a really good match and the crowd really seemed to enjoy it.

Daniel Johnson: Oh yeah I remember that Trios tournament. This is a broad question, but how, if at all do you think the Submission Squad has changed over the years?
Evan Gelistico: I think we have only improved, whether it be inside the ring or outside the ring. We just keep getting better and better.

Daniel Johnson: Looking to the future what plans does the Submission Squad have for the remainder of 2014 and even going into 2015?
Evan Gelistico: We are pretty darn full for the rest of the year. And 2015 doesn’t seem to be any easier, which is a good thing.

Daniel Johnson: I also wanted to ask you some questions not directly about the Submission Squad. First, you have held the ACW Heavyweight Championship technically on two occasions. What stands out to you most about holding this championship?
Evan Gelistico: The fact that it took someone a steel cage and a whole year to beat me. I was unstoppable.

Daniel Johnson: Your first reigned ended shortly after it began when Rachel Summerlyn defeated you for the ACW Heavyweight Championship. I was curious what your thoughts are on that happening? Also, what do you think of a top title having both men and women wrestling for it?
Evan Gelistico: Well it wasn’t supposed to be her. I was ready for Jerry Lynn, and in fact Jerry Lynn helped her win the match. I think it’s great, women can be just as accomplished as their male counterparts. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to compete for the top spot?

Daniel Johnson: You defeated Summerlyn to begin 2013. What are your thoughts on that experience?
Evan Gelistico: When I’m prepared there is almost no one I can’t beat.

Daniel Johnson: You worked with Darin Childs and defended the title against him on a couple of major ACW cards. What are your thoughts on those matches and of working with Childs in general?
Evan Gelistico: They were anarchy, anything could happen. I thrive in that environment.

Daniel Johnson: All good things must come to an end and your ACW Heavyweight title reign ended at the start of 2014 when Shawn Vexx defeated you in a cage match. What are your memories of this match and of working with Vexx?
Evan Gelistico: I remember crying before hand, because I knew it was the beginning of the end for one of us. And as time has proven me right, it was the beginning of the end for Vexx.

Daniel Johnson: I like to end interviews by asking a few brief non-wrestling questions then a few more short wrestling questions. To start this chain of questions what is your favorite thing to watch on TV right now?
Evan Gelistico: Well, Doctor Who just started up again, so I’ll say that.

Daniel Johnson: Similarly, what has been you favorite movie to come out in the last year?
Evan Gelistico: Guardians of the Galaxy.

Daniel Johnson: What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Evan Gelistico: Nextwave: Agents of HATE, and yes I would.

Daniel Johnson: Awesome, I actually have read that too haha. What is your favorite song to come out in the last year?
Evan Gelistico: That is a tough one. But I’ll have to say The Band Perry “If I Die Young.”

Daniel Johnson: Have you tried any new foods in the last year? If so what new food did you like the best?
Evan Gelistico: I just recently did an Epic Night, where my friends and I made some food out of the Epic Meal Time Cookbook and it was awesome.
Daniel Johnson: Sounds fun. Any dish in particular from that night you would recommend?
Evan Gelistico: The bacon sushi rolls.

Daniel Johnson: Cool, To get back to wrestling who is one wrestler 25 or under that you think readers should know about?
Evan Gelistico: Thomas Shire.

Daniel Johnson: Do you have any ribs or road stories that you could share?
Evan Gelistico: One time Pierre threw my ICEE out the window, after I just got it and was pumping gas. I just saw it go whizzing by and was there befuddled. I couldn’t process what had just happened.

Daniel Johnson: I always like to find out about what people think are weird in any topic I interview people about. So if anything I was curious what is the weirdest part of being a member of the Submission Squad?
Evan Gelistico: Some of the discussions we have. They are all over the place.

Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to add?
Evan Gelistico: My favorite theme music was “What Would Brian Boitano Do.”

Check out Evan Gelistico in action! In this match from Old School Pro Wrestling (OSPW), Gelistico teams with Pierre Abernathy to take on Gary Jay and Davey Vega as the Submission Squad explodes:

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25 and Under: Jack Gamble at WLW

by Daniel Johnson

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Jack Gamble vs. Elvis Aliaga

Jack Gamble is a 25 year-old man wrestling out of Missouri who was trained by the legendary Harley Race. Gamble started with Race’s World League Wrestling (WLW) in 2009. Since then Gamble has showcased his skills in a few other promotions at shows in the American mid-south. Some companies Gamble has worked for include Metro Pro Wrestling (MPW), ZERO 1 USA and Dynamo Pro Wrestling (DPW).

If you’ve never seen a WLW match before it is important to note how versatile the wrestling can be. Race himself was versatile in his heyday and could brawl just as easily as he could whip out some technical stuff. Of course 450 splashes weren’t so big when Race was in his prime, but now that they are they are at full display in WLW.

At a WLW show on April 21, 2012 Gamble took on Elvis Aliaga. This Elvis may not have been a member of TNA’s The Flying Elvises, but the crowd takes to him just the same. With the fan support behind Aliaga, Gamble plays the heel and does some worthwhile selling throughout the bout. There are some nifty little things to look out for as well like Aliaga being on fire only to be stopped by Gamble with a simple back elbow. It takes me back a little to AJPW in the 1990s when Mitsuharu Misawa or another great talent would be clobbering Jumbo Tsuruta with a variety of offense and Tsuruta would halt it all with a simple move. For the finish Gamble performs one of those aforementioned 450 splashes…but misses it! All in all this was a good show by both men with a surprising finish.

The full match can be seen right here:

WLW is not currently promoting any upcoming live shows. To check out a poster from their most recent show though held on September 27, 2014 click here.

For the full results of this WLW show that took place on April 21, 2012 click here.

For more in the 25 and Under series featuring well trained young American wrestlers click here and here.

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Beyond Wrestling: Anthony Stone Wrestles Dave Cole at a Secret Show

by Daniel Johnson

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Anthony Stone vs. Dave Cole

Anthony Stone and Dave Cole are well known entities in Beyond Wrestling and certainly are not strangers to one another. At Beyond Wrestling Uncomfortable in June the two wrestled in the second match on the card. Before that though Stone and Cole got to know each other a little better at the April 27, 2014 Beyond Wrestling Secret Show.

This match took place in the regular home of the Renegade Wrestling Alliance (RWA), the RWA Chop Shop and those in attendance were in for a treat. Although the match starts slowly with some headlocks before long Stone is diving at Cole with a flying forearm and then calling for a bulldog only to get crotched on the ropes. This bout is well under 10 minutes so there are not a lot of dead spots. Even when things seem to calm down, Cole wakes the crowd up with a fisherman buster. That isn’t your daddy’s fisherman suplex! Well, actually if your daddy was a wrestling fan he probably saw Mr. Perfect who had pretty much the best fisherman suplex ever. Perfect even. Well, at any rate Cole’s fisherman buster is still good too.

The match comes to a close when the two fight in one corner, which eventually allows Stone to hit a modified goomba stomp!

In more recent news for these two, at the upcoming show, Beyond Wrestling Makin’ Movies, Cole will be wrestling Pinkie Sanchez in a grudge match. The two have been feuding as part of the larger Fear and Loathing in New England/Sex and Candy rivalry. Likewise, Cole’s partner Aaron Epic will be facing Sanchez’s partner, Sugar Dunkerton in another grudge match on that show. Meanwhile Stone has been announced for Beyond Wrestling Makin’ Movies, but what match he will participate in is unknown at this time.

The full match can be seen right here:

The next Beyond Wrestling live event will be Beyond Wrestling Makin’ Movies on September 28 in Providence, Rhode Island. Click here for tickets. A promo for the event from current Ring of Honor (ROH) star and former ROH World Champion Adam Cole can be viewed here.

For the full results of the April 27, 2014 Beyond Wrestling Secret Show click here.

For some more action from Beyond Wrestling click here and here.

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WWE Pay-Per-View Roundtable: Night of Champions 2014

by Daniel Johnson, Kyle Childers, Jason Tolland and Martin Bentley

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Editor’s Note: Martin Bentley the founder of ProWres Land returns to make another guest appearance for the WWE Pay-Per-View Roundtable. Also, making up the roundtable this month is Kyle Childers/Hawk Jefferson, author of the Hawkeye’s Hangout series on The Johnson Transcript and contributor to the Freakin’  Awesome Network (FAN) whose work on FAN can be viewed here. Rounding out the table is Jason Tolland who has written The TNA Scouting Report for The Johnson Transcript.

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The Usos (c) vs. Gold and Stardust for the WWE Tag Team Championship

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Daniel Johnson: Goldust and his bro need the win in this one. As illogical as their heel turn has been if WWE wants to get anything out of them, the edge this team has developed really has to be emphasized. Jimmy Uso and Jay Uso have had some pretty good matches, but in current WWE holding the WWE Tag Team Championship for 200 days is more than enough time to spend with these titles. It actually seems a lot longer since there are so few actual teams to go around. Gold and Stardust will likely win this one and the titles though I expect Stardust/Cody Rhodes to continue to not be used to his potential. That is kind of unavoidable for as long as this team exists.

Kyle Childers: Holy acid trip Batman, how kooky are these Rhodes boys? I love it and it seems like I’m not alone. Meanwhile, the brothers Uce(OH!) are still doing their Samoan warrior thing and it’s still relatively fun. We’ve seen this match enough times to know it’ll be solid and it’s happened so many times that the Dust brothers almost have to win.

Jason Tolland: I may be alone in thinking that Stardust is hilarious and Goldust is still on top of his game. The Usos have been great champions since March but I think it’s time to freshen things up a little and give someone else a chance at holding the gold while The Usos potentially chase the gold or feud with a new, fresh team (The Ascension). I really don’t need to see The Usos defeat the Wyatts again in the future…again. Winners: Gold and Stardust.

Martin Bentley: Gold and Stardust, such a ridiculous team name. Remember last year when they were the hottest team in the WWE and were having some of the best matches in the company? Now they’re the latest heel team (and it’s ridiculous they turned too) to challenge The Usos, and considering WWE didn’t put the belts on Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, it’d be kind of crazy to change the belts here. Yet, The Usos have been champions since March, and aren’t as hot as they were in the Wyatts feud, so who knows? I think for change’s sake, they do flip the titles over to the Rhodes brothers.

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Mark Henry vs. Rusev (with “The Ravishing Russian” Lana)

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Daniel Johnson: I’d prefer to see Mark Henry used better preferably in his team with The Big Show destroying stuff as either heels or faces. That being said I get it. As a bonafied American Olympian, Henry makes an obvious target for Rusev. Likewise given that Rusev is a muscle man and Henry is a big dude this match will undoubtedly act as a showcase for Rusev’s freakish strength. WWE has always had to have matches like this since the time of Andre The Giant. Rusev wins this one easy and clean.

Kyle Childers: AMERICA! YEAH! Okay, so that’s out of the way. This angle is really weird you guys. It’s like Lex Luger vs. Yokozuna levels of Americana camp and it’s really wonderful in a nostalgic way. It’s also pretty horrifying from a geopolitical standpoint but you come to Hawk Jefferson for wrestling jokes, not serious politics so I’ll go ahead and say that I think Rusev gets the win so he can co-star in the “How John Cena Got His Groove Back” angle that’s sure to play out this fall.

Jason Tolland: Hey, this got the main event spot on Raw! Good for them. The match should be fine and Rusev should continue winning on his way to a feud with John Cena or another real American, Hulk Hogan. Winner: Rusev.

Martin Bentley: The latest man to stand up for America against the Russian sympathizer Rusev is Mark Henry, who looks to succeed where several have so far failed. Yet only some Olympic high jumper believes in him. If reports are to be believed, Rusev is being groomed for a big program with John Cena (hence this feud’s placing as the show-closing angle on Raw this week), so it seems inevitable that Henry is the latest American monster he slays before he gets to “The champ.”

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Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. The Miz for the WWE Intercontinental Championship

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Daniel Johnson: My interest in this feud has cooled down substantially. Their first match in this program was epic and their WWE SummerSlam 2014 encounter was at least worth a look. Yet, since then nothing has happened to keep me engaged in the animosity between these two or gotten me particularly excited about these two wrestling yet again. That being said Dolph Ziggler is still Dolph Ziggler and could deliver a sleeper hit. Working with The Miz though I’m just not feeling it. Ziggler will retain and hopefully move onto a more interesting opponent.

Kyle Childers: I’m going to confess something, I’m really starting to like The Miz again. This Hollywood stuff is exactly what he should have been doing years ago and it fits him like a glove. On the other side of things, perpetual Hawk Jefferson guy, Dolph Ziggler has stagnated and that’s really sad. It could go either way, but I think Mizdow related shenanigans lead to Miz regaining the title so this feud can keep going another month and WWE can’t seem to book a feud any other way.

Jason Tolland: Why do I have a feeling this match won’t happen, and they’ll swap them out with their stunt doubles? It would be terrible. If the match does actually happen though, I see them keeping it on Ziggler. The reason? Just a feeling. They see both of them as goofs anyway so it doesn’t matter in the long run. Winner: Dolph Ziggler.

Martin Bentley: Their match at SummerSlam was a solid opener, and I think they’ll have another fine match here. The problem is, who will care, and how much will Damien Sandow and R-Truth be involved? The fact that Ziggler has had a couple of wins over The Miz on TV since SummerSlam is pretty crummy booking, and has me feeling pretty detached from this one. Let’s say Ziggler retains, and everyone moves on to something new…or at least Sandow winning the title in the future.

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Sheamus (c) vs. Cesaro for the WWE United States Championship

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Daniel Johnson: Sheamus and Cesaro should have just a no nonsense, hard fought old school wrestling match here. With how the bout has been built up fans are left to expect nothing less. Speaking of the build, it has been pretty quiet hasn’t it? The only thing concerning about this match is Sheamus and Cesaro may not be given enough time to create the match that the two are capable of having with each other. As for the winner, Sheamus has fallen down the card considerably since he got injured in August 2013, but not far enough to where WWE wil put Cesaro over him. At least not on this night.

Kyle Childers: How awesome is it going to be when the crowd chants “USA!”? I’m actually pretty excited to see what we’re going to get from an in-ring perspective here because I have complete faith in these two having a real barn burner of a bout, but the angle leaves a lot to be desired. I’m going to put my entirely irrational prediction hat on and say Cesaro wins and then re-debuts the WWE European Championship for a short run before it’s unified with the WWE Intercontinental Championship at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2014.

Jason Tolland: Now, this should be good! But didn’t I just see this championship match at WWE Payback 2014 a few short months ago? Shame they aren’t consistent with their booking of him. How hard it is to build up a challenger with VICTORIES before his title match? Oh well, I feel this is going to potentially steal the show. Winner: Cesaro.

Martin Bentley: Two more cold characters, yet I like the physical matches these two have with each other. Sheamus is best suited with guys who can take it to him in a clobbering battle, and Cesaro certainly offers him that opportunity. WWE completely dropped the ball with Cesaro following WWE WrestleMania XXX, when it seemed that they were preparing him to be one of the next top stars, only to suddenly cool off on him. Stop-start pushes are the absolute worst, as trust diminishes every time a new push starts. As for this one, Sheamus has done nothing with the United States title (admittedly the previous champion Dean Ambrose never defended it, but he barely lost), so it’s time to give Cesaro the nod…probably so that they continue to beat him again. The way the current world works.

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Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton

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Daniel Johnson: A match between clearly just doing it for the money and exposure, Chris Jericho and we’re lucky if he’s motivated even when he’s main eventing, Randy Orton? Thank goodness the WWE Network exists and those ridiculous pay-per-view prices of yesterday are out the window. Otherwise I’d be even more bothered by this getting any time whatsoever on a pay-per-view. I’ll always be a Jericho fan at heart, but no. Just no. Nothing about this match intrigues me. Orton wins and Jericho leaves until he gets a hankering for another fat WWE paycheck.

Kyle Childers: This is happening because of a few jokes and a couple of attacks. I’m going to put as much effort into writing this as was put into the storyline. Orton wins because Jericho doesn’t.

Jason Tolland: Orton needs the victory. Jericho is leaving. Winner: Randy Orton.

Martin Bentley: The continuation of a recent tradition that is using Randy Orton to write Chris Jericho off TV. Y2J is reportedly off to go on tour with Fozzy after this pay-per-view, and recently dropped a feud with Bray Wyatt (who himself appears to be damaged goods these days), so him going over Orton hardly does anyone any good. Orton wins with an RKO and a punt to send Jericho away for another few months…or maybe for good this time?

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Paige (c) vs. AJ Lee vs. Nikki Bella for the WWE Divas Championship

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Daniel Johnson: Hopefully, Paige and AJ Lee carry this one. Or maybe just have Paige carry the entire thing. Actually, Paige and AJ’s matches haven’t been anything to write home about so far. This is a little baffling given Paige’s skill set and AJ’s ability to have a decent match. Unfortunately, Nikki Bella will win this one through shenanigans.

Kyle Childers: This is a mess. Just a weird mess. Why do almost all the feuds have to be title feuds? Why not just have the Bellas have a personal feud before facing off for a title shot while AJ and Paige settle their differences? Because I don’t see this angle going away soon and all the results can lead us in equally nutty directions, let’s pick Nikki Bella because that’s going to be amazing.

Jason Tolland: It’s really hard to pick against Nikki here. Unless they want to continue the Bella feud without the belt, which is a possibility, there’s no way Nikki doesn’t win here. The AJ/Paige feud is dead in the water and forced lesbianism doesn’t help that cause at all. I’d hate to see that feud continue without the title being involved. What reason would they have for playing mind games anymore? The match should be decent though. Winner: Nikki Bella.

Martin Bentley: The horrifying thought most of us had when the two top divas feuds merged, and we thought they’d make the Bellas rivalry for the title? Some still think that, yet the fact only Nikki is in this match eases my worries. Yes the sucktitude of the Brie Bella/Nikki program has infected the at times promising AJ/Paige feud, and now we have this triple threat match. But for anyone concerned that this will cut Paige off at the knees again, I don’t think so. Brie’s not in the match for a reason (other than sucking). Nikki has the match won, Brie gets involved, and in the melee, Paige sneaks the pin to retain. The feuds then split up hopefully for good.

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Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins

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Daniel Johnson: At last, Roman Reigns sets his sights on Seth Rollins! Actually, can’t say I’m too excited for this match, which is saying something given how well the members of The Shield were built up at one point. However, Reigns needed to come off of his feud with Randy Orton stronger than he did and given the talent of Ambrose and Rollins their feud up to now has been incredibly underwhelming. After Ambrose comes back from filming Lockdown he can resume his feud with Rollins and perhaps keep Reigns involved in it all. In the meantime Rollins will cheat to win this one.

Kyle Childers: I kind of feel like I should be more excited about this but I’m just not. Since The Shield split, the interesting part of Rollins’ character has only really been able to shine in his program with Ambrose. With that being on the back burner for a month, we’ve seen a mostly stripped down Mr. Money in the Bank, just goonin’ around with The Authority. Meanwhile, Roman Reigns is getting huge pops for basically working four spots a match. My big prediction for this one? Major apathy as Roman applies his fourth resthold before Rollins sneaks a win.

Jason Tolland: What? Why? Winner: No match; Ambrose returns to attack Seth.

Martin Bentley: This would have been a nice first time pay-per-view matchup between former Shield members… and then they did the match on Raw, with Reigns winning clean as a sheet. So what purpose does this rematch serve exactly? Well, I believe it’ll be as a device to reintroduce Dean Ambrose. So let’s say Rollins uses Kane to beat Reigns down, and then Ambrose returns, Reigns neutralizes Kane, and Ambrose beats the holy hell out of Rollins, to the point where you think Rollins is done for the night. I’ll call this a disqualification win for Reigns (via the Kane interference), and we’ll move on from there.

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Brock Lesnar (c) (with Paul Heyman) vs. John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

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Daniel Johnson: Brock Lesnar would look like a real chump if he dropped the WWE World Heavyweight Championship right back to John Cena after a month. I fully expect Lesnar to win this match though I expect it to be much more competitive than the mauling Lesnar gave Cena at SummerSlam. Speaking of that match it was kind of neat that Lesnar destroyed Cena (those suplexes!), but that did not make for a great match. Any truly epic match needs to be somewhat competitive so Lesnar is going to have to sell a little in this main event. Perhaps not sell like he did for Shawn Michaels when taking a super kick all those years ago, but at least look somewhat vulnerable. In any event I wouldn’t be surprised if Lesnar carries the strap at least until WWE Royal Rumble 2015.

Kyle Childers: Lesnar wins. You know how I know that? Because if John Cena was going to tie the 16 title reigns WWE acknowledges then you better believe they’d be hammering that home. Instead we’ve got Cena on his heels which is surely going to lead to an absolute mauling yet again at Night of Champions so Cena can beat on the upper midcard for a while longer before ultimately winning the title back in the spring.

Jason Tolland: Oh boy. Depending on the outcome, this will either be absolutely phenomenal or absolutely disastrous. I like Cena a lot but there’s no way he should be winning this match after the beating he took at SummerSlam. Lesnar needs to be the unstoppable force all the way through until WWE WrestleMania 31 so him beating the streak and destroying the face of the company, Cena make sense. If he loses here then it was all a waste and for nothing. Forgetting the result though, this should be a highly entertaining match. I love Cena and Lesnar is probably my favorite wrestler of all time: A realistic badass in the world of the gimmicky WWE. It’s awesome to watch. They’re finally booking him right and it only took two years. Lesnar needs to retain and carry the title into WrestleMania 31. Winner: Brock Lesnar.

Martin Bentley: Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard many pundits say the most surprising and totally dumb thing possible, and sadly it appears it may happen, that John Cena wins the title back. Brock Lesnar’s dominant win at SummerSlam, where Cena barely got sustained offense in, was proved redundant a week later when Cena returned perfectly fine, and since then, he’s been booked like Superman once again. For months, the belief was that Lesnar would be champion until WrestleMania, where in the meantime, they would groom Roman Reigns to be the man to dethrone the man who tore apart Cena and ended The Undertaker’s undefeated streak, making him the top guy for the next decade. So if the belief now is that Cena wins the title back, then does this change WWE’s stock in Reigns? The one reason I can see Cena winning, and WWE actually going ahead with this nonsensical booking, is that after his win, Lesnar tears Cena apart…and then Seth Rollins hobbles in to cash in Money in the Bank briefcase to take the title. This appears to be a massive show of faith in Rollins to be a top main event heel, but when you have Lesnar, you can’t really afford to then go with someone not even half as proven as him on top. Unless this means that WWE aren’t seeing Reigns as the top guy, but another former Shield member. So to cut a long story short, ideally I’d want Brock to retain, but certain recent booking decisions make me think they’ll take the Cena route and then Rollins.

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Photo Credits:

Photos 1-4, 6, 8: en.wikipedia.org

Photos 5, 7: Daniel Johnson / Johnsontranscript.com

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