Old School Flashback: Bearcat Wright Ties Up with Big Moose Cholak

by Daniel Johnson

oldschoolflashbacklogoBearcat Wright vs. Big Moose Cholak

Remember the “Where’s the beef?” advertising campaign from Wendy’s  from the 1980s? Well, perhaps if Clara Pellar watched a little more of Fred Kohler’s NWA territory she would have found the answer to that question a couple of decades earlier. Weighing in at 254 lbs and 365 lbs, respectively, Bearcat Wright and Big Moose Cholak were two of the massive hosses to pass through the Chicago International Amphitheatre. These cats were different from later big men like Samoa Joe, Bam Bam Bigelow and Big Van Vader, but had a moxy all their own.

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25 and Under: Mike Verna Tears Up Staten Island in 2014

by Daniel Johnson

25andunderlogoMike Verna vs. Riley

Mike Verna is a wrestler from Brooklyn, New York who has put on some good showings for Warriors of Wrestling (WOW). In March 2014, WOW co-promoted a show with Fighting Spirit Wrestling (FSW) entitled WOW/FSW Fallout, which featured Verna wrestling on the fifth match on the card against the always charismatic “Rude Boy” Riley.

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25 and Under: Jayke Jacobs Goes Insane

by Daniel Johnson

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Jayke Jacobs vs. JV Insanity

Jayke Jacobs is a fresh faced indie worker so new on the scene that cagematch.net features him, but doesn’t list any matches he has had. Debuting in 2013, this young talent has worked for West Virginia Championship Wrestling (WVCW) where at a WVCW television taping in 2014 in the town of Princeton he took on veteran masked performer JV Insanity.

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Wrestling Game StArcade: WWE 2K14

by Alex Knapp

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WWE 2K14
Year: 2013
Systems: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Developer: Yuke’s
Publisher: 2K Sports

Well, folks, another WrestleMania has come and gone. Whatever your thoughts are on what transpired Sunday, I feel it appropriate to, in the spirit of the season, follow up on it with a game review centered on the showcase of the immortals and its long, eventful history. Without further ado, I present you: WWE 2K14.

With the reigns of WWE’s game series passed on to 2K Sports, the WWE’s flagship game series has since been slightly renamed to the WWE 2K series. However, Yuke’s continued on as developers, and even though THQ was no longer with us, 2K, deciding not to fix what wasn’t broken, decided to leave the game mechanics, image and design of its predecessor entirely unchanged. All that was left was to decide what to do for the presentation.

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Clearly, they realized that they were on to something with WWE ‘13’s Attitude Era mode in the series’ most recent outing. The nostalgia and the ability to take part in some of the biggest mark out moments in wrestling history excited the passions of gamers everywhere. To say nothing of the opportunity it offered to present a stacked roster of legends and famous names from the past. What other subject matter could they explore to present an even better experience? Would it be as fun, engaging and addictive?

The answer? Well, WWE 2K14 decided that several years in the late 1990s wasn’t enough history. No, this time their campaign mode spans several decades, as it is entitled 30 Years of WrestleMania. Players would now have the chance to relive the most prominent and memorable matches ever to grace the showcase of the immortals. Each and every installment of WrestleMania up to 2013 is presented, representing the evolution of the WWF/WWE through the Hulkamania era, the New Generation, the Attitude Era, the era of Ruthless Aggression and the current Universe era. Beginning with the first WrestleMania in 1985, featuring the bodyslam challenge between Andre The Giant and Big John Studd, and concluding with WrestleMania XXIX, headlined by John Cena vs. The Rock II, we now have four different decades of WWE wrestling represented, and the great moments therein are there to be recreated.

Just like with ‘13’s Attitude Era, each featured WrestleMania match has a checklist of historical objectives, requiring you to perform certain moves and actions consistent with the real-life event being depicted. Doing so is your key to unlocking most of the game’s extra wrestlers, attires and arenas. And once again, these often trigger dramatic scenes of the legendary moments that have lived in fans’ memories for years. There’s the classic bout between Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage. Hulk Hogan slamming Andre. The Ultimate Warrior defeating Hulk Hogan. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon in the WWF’s first major ladder match. Bret Hart and HBK going the distance in the iron man match (don’t worry, it’s abbreviated in the game). “Stone Cold” Steve Austin refusing to submit to Bret. Austin selling his soul to Vince McMahon in order to beat The Rock for the WWF Championship. The dream match between The Rock and Hollywood Hulk Hogan. HBK retiring Ric Flair. The Undertaker putting his streak on the line against Shawn Michaels’s career.

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So, once again, you have the chance to recreate the same amazing spots and mark out moments you remember from the past, and take part firsthand in those good times. You can’t fault 2K and Yuke’s for going back to a formula that worked so well previously. And, indeed, there is quite a bit of nostalgia and drama to be enjoyed.

And yet, when you look at it as it plays out, the way this campaign works out in practice is a mixed bag.

Don’t get me wrong, there is quite a bit to enjoy about 30 Years of WrestleMania. Many of the moments do capture a similar mark out feel as the Attitude Era mode. And the wrestlers featured in these WrestleManias allow you to unlock a dream roster of legends spanning years upon years. Yet in other ways, the concept of 30 Years of WrestleMania stumbles in its execution. There are three particular reasons for this:

1. The story ends up retreading over very recently explored territory. It’s pretty novel when you start off and play through the 1980s and 1990s, but when you reach the Attitude Era, things start looking very familiar. You end up playing through WrestleMania XIV and XV, the exact same events which you just experienced in WWE ’13. And with all due respect to 2K14 and the quality of its gameplay, at the end of the day, it’s pretty much the exact same game as ’13. Midpoint through the campaign, you’re playing through recycled material, throwing off the campaign’s momentum.

2. The key to the success of WWE ’13 was nostalgia, the chance to relive long ago events in a sophisticated modern wrestling video game. Again, this works out great as you’re fighting your way through the eras of Hulkamania, the New Generation and Attitude. But once you enter the new millennium, things start to quickly lose steam. You end up playing through events that are way too recent to have that warm and fuzzy nostalgic feeling, and they simply didn’t make me as passionate as the earlier chapters.

3. The very concept of 30 Years of WrestleMania undermines the page turning, “Can’t wait to see what happens next” feel which made Attitude Era mode so engaging. Being that the chapters are each annual events with one years’ difference in storylines between them, they don’t flow as well into each other. It doesn’t have the same character and storyline-driven appeal showcased in WWE ’13. To illustrate: I ended up staying up all night and into the wee hours of the morning to finish ‘13, because I was so hooked by the flow of the Attitude Era chapters. With 2K14, I pretty much had no qualms about completing a couple of WrestleManias at a time, shutting the game off and picking it back up a couple of days later when I felt like continuing.

If this had been the first nostalgia-driven campaign mode released in a WWE game, I probably wouldn’t be too concerned about these issues. But unfortunately, this game has the tough act of WWE ’13 to follow, and, while an intriguing idea in theory, 30 Years of WrestleMania as a concept is not as good as the Attitude Era when it comes to execution. Not to say that it’s bad, because there is quite a lot of fun to be had with it; however, it pales in comparison to its predecessor.

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That being said, that’s not all there is to 2K14. The main chapters of 30 Years of WrestleMania are accompanied by a side game: The Streak, where the focus is on The Undertaker and his, at the time, undefeated streak on the biggest stage of them all (remember when that was still a thing? God, what a difference a year can make). There are two parts of this game. You can play Defend the Streak, in which you take control of The Phenom and engage in a gauntlet against a perpetual stream of individual opponents, trying to rack up as many defeats before one of them finally takes you down. It’s basically the Slobberknocker match, like we saw in the early SmackDown games, and it can be pretty fun to run roughshod and rack up as big of a count as possible.

The other part presents a balls-to-the-wall challenge called Defeat the Streak. Here, you choose any wrestler to take on a supercharged, extra-difficult Undertaker in a no holds barred match. ‘Taker brings his A-game to this match; not only does he have extremely fast reaction time and reversal capability, but he also has a slew of superpowers that can snatch away your victory just when you think it’s within your grasp. He can suddenly grab you for a chokeslam or lock in Hell’s gate if you approach him while he’s lying prone on the mat, and when you’re close to having him beat, he can turn off the arena lights and reappear behind you with an instant finisher stored. You can’t slack off, and you can’t pull any punches to beat him; your reversal skills will need to be finely honed, and you’ll need to put aside any qualms about fighting dirty and pulling out weapons. But once you finally do defeat him, you feel like a wrestling game god. Hell, with how triumphant this accomplishment feels, you may even feel on par with Brock Lesnar himself!

…It doesn’t get any easier to wrap your head around, does it?

Both Streak games are score-based, so your best performances will be recorded, and you’ll be able to share them online. On top of that, Universe mode has additions and further options, and there continues to be a great list of options for exhibition fights. Gameplay and graphics remain as smooth as ever.

All in all, WWE 2K14 is by no means a bad game. It continues to maintain the standards of quality of the series, and the Streak mini-games offer a unique challenge. But I can’t say it’s as good as WWE ’13. 30 Years of WrestleMania has its merits, but falls short of the standard of fun set by its predecessor. 2K and Yuke’s would go back to the drawing board to try to figure out a different approach to its campaign, which they would unveil in their next installment, WWE 2K15.

But wait! That is a story for another time.

Rating: 4 stars

Photo Credits:

Photo 1: en.wikipedia.org

Photo 2: geeknation.com

Photo 3: thekoalition.com

Photo 4: wwe.com

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Indie Flashback: Before Dean Ambrose Made WWE WrestleMania Ultraviolent

by Daniel Johnson

indieflashbacklogoJon Moxley vs. B-Boy

If you started this week off by watching WWE WrestleMania 31 then you saw Dean Ambrose take one hell of a bump through a ladder that left his head bloodied. While it’s true that when Ambrose worked as Jon Moxley he was involved in more ridiculous spots, it is still amazing that about 24 hours later he was wrestling John Cena in a heck of match.

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WWE Pay-Per-View Roundtable: WrestleMania 31

by Daniel Johnson, Kyle Childers and Dave Pendleton

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Tyson Kidd and Cesaro (c) (with Natalya) vs. The Usos (with Naomi) vs. Big E and Kofi Kingston (with Xavier Woods) vs. Diego and Fernando (with El Torito) for the WWE Tag Team Championship

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Daniel Johnson: There are a lot of good workers in this match and it’s a shame some of them aren’t on the main card. I was hoping the second WWE Tag Team Championship reign of Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso would’ve lasted longer, but WWE seems behind Cesaro and Tyson Kidd to an extent. Don’t get me wrong, WWE really bailed on pushing Cesaro as a singles star, but this attempt to revive him could’ve been worse. I’m banking on Cesaro and Kidd to retain.
Kyle Childers: I love tag team wrestling you guys. I really love multi team matches too so this is great for me especially since I genuinely like all the teams in this match. That being said, why are Los Matadores and The New Day involved here? I get trying to get more guys on the card and putting together a match that’s not just The Usos against The Brass Ring Club again, but it seems forced. Either way, even though I wish we were getting tag team turmoil, it should be a great match to kick off the show with the Brass Ring Club retaining.
Dave Pendleton: I really hope Cesaro and Kidd keep the titles in this match. The Usos have had the tag championship for the better part of a year and a half and no one really cares about The New Day or Los Matadores. This will be a good, entertaining match with The Usos and Matadores doing plenty of flipping and flying and I expect Kidd or Cesaro to use some kind of shenanigans to catch a quick pin on probably one of The New Day members.

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Indie Flashback: Brodie Lee (Luke Harper) Wrestles Michael Elgin at C4 Wrestling

by Daniel Johnson

indieflashbacklogoBrodie Lee vs. Michael Elgin

Although the most anticipated WWE WrestleMania debut taking place at tomorrow’s event may be Sting’s match, he is not the only one wrestling for the first time at the grand daddy of them all. After more than 11 years as an active wrestler, the 35 year-old Luke Harper, formerly known as Brodie Lee, will wrestle in a match on the biggest show of the year for the first time at WWE WrestleMania 31.

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Wrestling Game StArcade: WCW World Championship Wrestling

by Alex Knapp

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WCW World Championship Wrestling
Year: 1989
System: NES
Developer: Nihon Bussan
Publisher: FCI Inc.

Who would’ve thought that the competition between the WWF and WCW on the video game consoles extended all the way back to the ’80s? Well, it’s true. Long before The Monday Night Wars saw WCW and WWF compete for supremacy both on TV and on the home consoles, WCW took their first crack at making a licensed video game in the 8-bit era with WCW World Championship Wrestling.

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25 and Under: Owen Knight Heels It Up at AWE in Georgia

by Daniel Johnson

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Owen Knight vs. Marko Polo

Owen Knight is a 20 year-old wrestler who has appeared on shows in Georgia for a few different promotions. One such promotion is Atlanta Wrestling Entertainment (AWE), which just opened last year. In November, Knight wrestled a man perhaps named after everyone’s favorite aquatic version of hide and go seek, Marko Polo.

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