Thursday, February 28, 2013

Who is Better? Bret "Hitman" Hart or Shawn Michaels?

by Brian Phelps

Back by popular demand after the success of "Who is Better? Sting or Undertaker?" is the newest installment of the debate series. In this post, we tackle arguably the most widely debated rivalry in pro wrestling history... Shawn Michaels... or Bret Hart? I also think this installment will approach the age old debate from some fresh perspectives as well. It might even surprise you. Let's get it on. 

Who is better? Bret the "Hitman" or the "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels? I suppose that depends on what your definition of "better" is and who you ask. This may be arguably the toughest debate in all of pro wrestling. There are so many factors that really blur this debate for the ages but I will do my best to answer this question.

As sports broadcasters say, this is a "tale of two halves". This question though if you think about it is really unfair to Bret Hart since his career ended prematurely. Shawn Michaels wrestled about 8 years longer into the 2000s than Bret Hart did. So Shawn has a much bigger body of work during his main event run than Bret to go on so Shawn has a huge unfair advantage in the debate. This means that this debate has to be tackled a little differently. 

Let's talk in terms of importance. From a historical perspective, which wrestler has a bigger footprint? In other words, who did more to steer or change the course of wrestling history? This may come as a shock but it's Bret Hart. Before you all call me crazy, let me tell you why. 

Most people will automatically say I'm wrong and cite Degeneration-X as more important than anything Bret Hart ever did. For those that think that way you're either too young to have actually watched Bret wrestle or you're simply not giving him enough credit. Don't be so prisoner of the moment. Even though D-X was a big part of wrestling history, Shawn didn't change the course of wrestling history with it. The nWo were the ones who changed wrestling history because D-X were created as a response to the success of the nWo faction. D-X didn't make history, they followed the history that the nWo made. 

Bret Hart is in that group of wrestlers that never quite get the credit they deserve. He joins other wrestlers like Sting, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, and Chris Jericho. Oddly enough 10 years ago, Bret Hart got a lot more credit than he does now. The sands of time have somewhat glossed over Bret Hart's imprint in wrestling history. Newer fans know Bret Hart as simply an old wrestler who got cheated out of the world title by Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels. They don't realize just how important a role Bret played in the course of pro wrestling history in the 1990's. 

People forget that Bret's match with Stone Cold at Wrestlemania 13 is the reason why Austin was known as the toughest S.O.B. in the World Wrestling Federation. Austin trapped in the Sharp Shooter with blood pouring down his face was an iconic moment that wouldn't have existed without Bret Hart. Austin's match with Bret Hart at Wrestlemania helped propel the "Stone Cold" gimmick to new heights at the time.

People forget that Vince's evil Mr. McMahon gimmick was born out of the Montreal Screwjob. So without Bret Hart there may never have been an evil Mr. McMahon character. It was Bret's decision to go to WCW that set in motion the events that would go on to become the infamous Montreal Screwjob. 

People forget that Bret Hart took Shawn Michaels career to new heights in the mid 1990's. At that stage of their careers, Shawn needed Bret a lot more than Bret needed Shawn and that's a fact.

Now don't get me wrong because Shawn is an extremely influential figure in pro wrestling, but you could make a case that Shawn was more influential in a negative way than a positive way. The difference between Bret and Shawn is that Bret's presence in certain key moments altered the course of pro wrestling history more profoundly than Shawn's presence did. Bret played a bigger role in shaping the course of where wrestling went than Shawn even though his career didn't last as long. In other words, if Bret hadn't existed the wrestling world would be effected far more dramatically than if Shawn hadn't existed.

Shawn did quite a bit to negatively impact wrestling in the 1990's. It is well documented that Shawn Michaels utilized backstage politics and political maneuvering to position himself and his buddies Triple H, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and X-Pac at the top of the company. It is well documented that Shawn and the Kliq went out of there way to hold back other stars. Shawn engaged in a lot of dishonorable behavior including the Montreal Screwjob, politicking, and drug use. 

This leads me to the point that I'm just not sure how great Shawn Michaels would've been without the politics. I still believe he would've been a huge star, but I'm just not sure how big. Don't get me wrong. Shawn Michaels had the in-ring abilities to become all-time great, but that doesn't always matter. Just ask guys like Tyson Kidd and Dean Malenko. Bret Hart made it to the top on his wrestling ability and didn't rely on politics. Bret Hart's character was an extension of his actual personality. A no nonsense grappler who let his in-ring ability do the talking for him. In terms of ethics and honor I would take Bret over Shawn every time. 

In Shawn's defense, I believe he has matured tremendously during the second half of his career in the 2000's versus the first half in the 1990's. 

Now that I feel that the debate has some additional perspective I think some of the more basic points can be made.

In terms of mic skills, Shawn Michaels has Bret beat hands down. Shawn is almost a little underrated as far as mic skills. I don't think Bret was terrible on the mic, but he was very average at best. The saving grace for Bret Hart is that talking a lot wouldn't have made sense with his gimmick anyway so his modest mic skills did nothing to hurt his career growth. It fit who he was. Shawn's character was a flamboyant cocky upstart so he needed the mic to help get himself over. I kind of think of Shawn vs Bret as the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird argument. Shawn Michaels like Magic Johnson was a lot of razzle dazzle while Bret Hart was more like Larry Bird in that he was all about no nonsense execution. 

When it comes to in-ring ability, I think it's a stalemate. Bret wasn't as versatile as Shawn was, but Shawn lacked the precision and technical execution that Bret prided himself on. These guys wrestled two different styles. Shawn was quicker than Bret, and more of a flyer. Bret's technical wrestling ability was off the charts not to mention years ahead of his time. I think that Bret Hart's style is more emulated today than Shawn's. Bret Hart paved the way for guys like Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Daniel Bryan, Doug Williams, and Kurt Angle. I think Shawn's influence came more from paving the way for smaller wrestlers to main event rather than for his specific style of wrestling. So, I think it's really in how you look at it.

Shawn's ability to tell a story in the ring is second to none, but Bret Hart is underrated at telling a story in the ring himself. I urge anyone who doubts Bret Hart to watch Wrestlemania 8 against "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Wrestlemania 13 against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in addition to his matches with Shawn Michaels. We all know Shawn can tell some amazing stories. He's probably the greatest story teller in the history of pro wrestling. 

As far as who had "The Look", I'm going to give the edge to Bret Hart. Bret Hart looked like a Hitman. I think Bret Hart the most polished look in the history of pro wrestling. Everything about his character seemed real. I sometimes think of Bret Hart as the James Dean of pro wrestling. Nobody embodied cool like Bret Hart. He had the best overall look I've ever seen. Shawn Michaels had the look for that time period, but Bret Hart's look could be applied today and still work. Shawn Michaels couldn't pull off a mullet today.

Now, it's time to play a little what if game. Earlier, I said that the question of who is better is unfair to Bret Hart because his career was cut short due to injury. Shawn's comeback in 2002 and the 7-8 years that followed completely changed this debate. It's allowed Shawn Michaels to solidify his hall of fame status as well as carve his legacy in a way that Bret Hart didn't have the opportunity. So, we have to fill in the blanks a little bit here. 

Let's say that Goldberg hadn't injured Bret Hart, and Hart's career didn't end prematurely. Well, we all know that it's probably a safe bet that Bret Hart would not have saved WCW from being eventually bought out by Vince McMahon. When Vince bought out WCW that means that Bret Hart would possibly have returned to the WWF in 2001 (assuming that somehow Bret and Vince mended fences over Owen earlier than in our timeline). This means we could've seen Bret Hart take on a new era of WWF stars such as Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Batista, Kurt Angle, and Chris Jericho as well as cross paths with Stone Cold, Triple H, Undertaker, The Rock, and Mick Foley again. This means more Wrestlemania moments, more time to carve out his legacy, and the ability to retire on his own terms which would mean getting a proper send off like Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels did. This would change the ENTIRE complexion of this debate. We may be having an entirely different conversation now if Bret had wrestled up until 2009 for instance. 

In conclusion: I believe that Shawn Michaels at the end of the day will go down as the better wrestler over Bret "Hitman" Hart... but only by default. Shawn Michaels cut corners, played politics, held back other stars, and engaged in dishonorable acts like the Montreal Screwjob... but you can't erase what Shawn Michaels accomplished by hook or crook. You can't take away Shawn Michaels God given talent in spite of all of his questionable ethics and moral compass at certain times of his career. It doesn't change the fact that he is the greatest in-ring story teller of all-time. He really is the greatest in-ring performer of all-time. He is probably the greatest all-around talent in the history of pro wrestling. He wasn't necessarily the best in any one measurable category, but he had the greatest set of intangibles of anyone I've ever watched. 

Had Bret Hart not retired due to injury and got to wrestle another 5-10 years then we may be having a very different conversation because Bret Hart very well may have ended up going down as better than Shawn Michaels. As unfair as it may be to Bret Hart, I really have no other choice than to give the edge to Shawn Michaels by default. Shawn just has a larger body of main event work than Bret. While I don't believe Shawn is the better pure wrestler, Shawn did have the better career. He had the money, the power, the friends, the women, the accolades, and the storybook ending to his career. Bret Hart's story kind of turned into a Troy Aikman/Steve Young kind of story. A guy that was probably better than everyone else, but injury prevented him from cementing his rightful place as the very best that ever was. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Rock vs John Cena II "Twice in a Lifetime" Equals Money Grab

At Wrestlemania 28, we witnessed a dream match between The Rock and John Cena in what was advertised and billed as "Once in a Lifetime". The Rock, arguably the biggest star of the Attitude Era versus the biggest star of the Modern Era John Cena. The posters and billboards told us that The Rock vs John Cena was a one time match... boy we were fooled.

Now, just one year later we are going to see The Rock vs John Cena AGAIN at Wrestlemania 29. This means that the WWE retroactively committed false advertising at Wrestlemania 28. I can't help but feel like this rematch is nothing more than a money grab at this point. There were plenty of other more interesting match-ups for The Rock at Wrestlemania. Why not have The Rock face Triple H or The Undertaker? Why waste The Rock's limited schedule on a match we've already seen at Wrestlemania just a year ago.

Funny enough, this isn't the first time WWE has allegedly falsely advertised at Wrestlemania. Who can forget John Cena on RAW after Wrestlemania 27 stating that Cena vs Rock at Wrestlemania 28 would be for the WWE Championship, but when the match came around it wasn't a title match at all.

Who can forget when WWE advertised a US Title match between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania 27 only to screw the fans who ordered the PPV to see that match because WWE decided to make it a dark match and not tell anybody. Technically, the WWE is able to get away with stuff like this by using the "Card Subject to Change" scapegoat. It just irks me when WWE advertises matches and doesn't deliver. It's one thing if they can't deliver because one of the wrestlers got injured or is in no condition to compete (ex. Scott Hall, Jeff Hardy), but if they are able to compete then don't cheat the fans who paid to see what YOU ADVERTISED. You got to love that "Card Subject to Change" scapegoat. So lets gear up for the "Second Time in a Lifetime".

Once in a Lifetime was a dream match. Twice in a Lifetime is a money grab.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

FAQ: Was John Cena Really a Marine or Military?

Answer: No, John Cena was never a real Marine and he was never actually in the Military. John Cena simply played a Marine in a movie. His military salutes during his ring entrances are just a part of his gimmick.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Official WWE Wrestlemania 29 Theme Song (Angels and Airwaves "Surrender" [Official Music Video])

Official WWE Wrestlemania 29 Theme Song (Diddy - Dirty Money - Coming Home ft. Skylar Grey [Official Music Video])

Impact Wrestling Review 2-21-2013

Impact Wrestling Review: 2-21-2013

Starting off the show, Hulk Hogan comes out and names Bully Ray the #1 Contender for the World Title: This makes no sense. What was the point of having 8 guys fight last week for a shot at the title if Hogan was just going to come out and declare Bully Ray the #1 contender anyway? This is what irks me sometimes about TNA. It's the lack of logic. Also, Bully Ray makes a 6-man tag with him, Sting, and Hulk Hogan taking on 3 members of Aces and Eights in the main event. So, TNA gives away a rare Hulk Hogan match on free tv, but of course we all know Hogan can't wrestle so they'll find some way to weasel out of Hulk actually wrestling.

Normally, this wouldn't be a bad thing if they built up to Hogan's in-ring return (even if he doesn't end up wrestling) over the course of a couple of weeks, but instead they just announced it for later that night with ZERO promotion or forethought. This is a fundamental difference between WWE and TNA. WWE would've built up the in-ring return of Hulk Hogan for at least a week in order to promote it to create buzz which leads to higher ratings. TNA on the other hand, just brings it up on Impact on the fly like it's just another match. In WWE, that could be a Wrestlemania moment... in TNA... it's just an unpromoted throwaway match on Impact.

James Storm, Hernandez, Chavo, and Joseph Park vs Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, Kaz, and Daniels: I actually found myself rooting for the heels because they are just a much more entertaining group. The faces were victorious, but I didn't really care much that they won. The best part of this was just before the match Kaz and Daniels talked to Roode and Aries. Daniels and Kaz threw up the "Fortune" sign and told Roode "Remember this?"

Rock Star Spud vs Robbie E: Throwaway match that Spud won to send the British crowd home happy. Afterward, Robbie T. gets fed up with Robbie E. Is this the end of the Robbie E/Robbie T as a team? Sadly, the build to this Robbie T face turn has been better than most main eventer face/heel turns in WWE or TNA. Just interesting to note that.

Next up: a Knockouts Championship Elimination Match...

Velvet Sky vs Tara (c) vs Miss Tessmacher, vs Gail Kim: This line-up puts WWE's entire Divas division to shame. WWE wishes their Divas Division was this stacked. One thing I've noticed about Velvet Sky is that she's still doing the "Beautiful People" gimmick by herself. In other words, in 5 or 6 years her character hasn't really added any new wrinkles or layers. That's not necessarily a bad thing... just worth mentioning. Tara has reinvented herself recently with the addition of boyfriend Jessie Godderz. Tara is actually a little more interesting now because her character was starting to get a little stale. I give her credit for continuously evolving her TNA character over time. Most Divas/Knockouts never really evolve their characters. Anyway, Brooke Hogan comes out to watch this match for some reason. This match was actually pretty amazing for a women's match. I encourage anyone who hates TNA to watch this match and then look me in the eye and tell me that WWE's Divas matches are better. The WWE Divas matches are not in the same league as TNA's knockout matches. Velvet Sky wins the match and the Knockouts Championship.

Backstage Locker Room Scene with Hulk Hogan, Bully Ray, and Sting: Typical younger star (Bully Ray) in awe of teaming with all-time greats like Hulk Hogan and/or Sting. One thing I noticed about TNA in this scene that makes them come off cheap is that Sting's name tag on his locker room door was a printed off piece of computer paper that said Sting. WWE usually has some sort of plaque or name plate so to see TNA using computer paper for locker room name plating seems kind of 2nd rate.

Video package recapping Wes Brisco and Garett Bischoff turning heel against Kurt Angle: I still don't care about this story arc, but it does make Garett Bischoff more tolerable to watch as a member of Aces and Eights. Aces and Eights may be a 3rd rate gang, but they still make Garett Bischoff seem cooler than he previously was which says more about how boring Garett is/was.

Garett Bischoff of Aces and Eights vs Samoa Joe: I like Garett as a person, but I've never liked how Garett has been pushed since he got to TNA. However, I think Aces and Eights is actually a good thing for Garett because it gives Garett some sort of individual pro wrestling identity instead of being that inexperienced guy who only got pushed because his dad has stroke in TNA. This is a match that I don't really care about because neither character has done anything great in years. Just as Samoa Joe was going to win, Wes Brisco interferes and Aces and Eights start double teaming Samoa Joe. Kurt Angle makes the save as Garett and Wes run way. Maybe it's just me but Wes Brisco in Aces and Eights looks more like a member of Raven's Flock. Anyway, Angle makes a match between himself and Wes Brisco in a steel cage at Lockdown. What is with guys just willy nilly being able to make matches lately? What's the point of having a General Manager if the wrestlers are just making up their own matches as they go along?

Next up X-Division Championship Match...

Rob Van Dam (c) vs Kenny King: I'm still trying to get the big deal the IWC makes about Kenny King. Do I think he is a great wrestling talent? Sure, but for all his wrestling skills I haven't seen much from him gimmick or promo wise. He really has no gimmick. He's just a generic heel with great wrestling ability. He needs to do more gimmick/promo wise to set him apart from all the other generic X-Division competitors. RVD defeats Kenny King with a 5-Star Frog Splash to retain the X-Division title. A decent match... nothing special though.

Main Event Time...

Hulk Hogan, Sting, and Bully Ray vs Aces and Eights (Devon, Mr. Anderson, and D.O.C.): Everytime I see Anderson in Aces in Eights I just think Anderson is better than being an Aces and Eights lackey. Sting comes out to a huge pop. Bully Ray comes out to a mediocre pop. Hulk Hogan's music hits, but he doesn't come out. Mike Tenay erroneously states that Hulk Hogan has never backed down. I guess Tenay forgets all the years Hogan ran away when he was running the nWo in WCW. Aces and Eights try to get the jump on Sting and Bully, but Bully/Sting take control even though the match has turned into a handicap. Just as Sting/Bully are about to win Wes Brisco/Mike Knox bring out Brooke Hogan and Hulk. Hulk Hogan is clenching his knee on the entrance ramp. Despite all of this Sting locks in the Scorpion Deathlock only to be booted in the face by D.O.C. The Aces and Eights pick up the victory and pummel Sting as Bully Ray apparently abandons Sting to go check on Hogan on the ramp. Aces and Eights then celebrate in the ring as the show goes off the air.

In conclusion: This episode was all about putting over Brooke and Hulk Hogan. I saw Hulk Hogan more than anyone else on the show, and the end of the show was all about Hulk Hogan. Where was Hogan? What happened to him? The main event storylines are all about Hulk Hogan right now for some reason. I also guess that on Impact Wrestling any wrestler has the authority to just book themselves to face whoever they want because I watched Kurt Angle and Bully Ray do it. Doesn't Bully Ray and Kurt Angle giving themselves the ability to book matches defeat the entire purpose of a General Manager or authority figure? I also laughed at the end of the show as Bully Ray completely left Sting to get pummeled by Aces and Eights in order to check on Hulk Hogan who was already being tended to by Brooke. If I was Sting I'd be ticked if my partner left me to get beat on by 5 guys. This was just a very sloppy edition of Impact. I always enjoy the Wembley Stadium Impact episodes but that doesn't change the fact that creatively many aspects of this episode of Impact made little to no sense.


Why is Taz in Aces and Eights?

by Brian Phelps

On the January 17th edition of Impact Wrestling during Bully Ray and Brooke Hogan's wedding, Taz interrupted the ceremony to reveal that he had joined the Aces and Eights. Then Aces and Eights attacked Bully Ray, Hulk Hogan, Brother Runt (aka Spike Dudley), and Tommy Dreamer.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm still trying to figure out what was the point of having Taz join Aces and Eights? Taz is just a commentator. Taz joining makes absolutely no sense at all because he can't wrestle and he wasn't involved in any story arcs in recent memory. So, what's the payoff to having Taz join this biker gang? The answer is, there is absolutely no payoff, point, or purpose to having Taz join Aces and Eights.

If the point of Taz joining was to come up with a way to ruin Bully Ray and Brooke's wedding then couldn't they have just had the regular Aces and Eights members ruin it? I mean, Aces and Eights have had beef with Hulk Hogan and Bully Ray for awhile now. They didn't need Taz to do it. It was just really pointless.

So what is Taz doing now as a "villainous" member of Aces and Eights? NOTHING. He is back to commentating, but now he comes off awkward in the booth as he tries to balance commentating with being a heel faction member. Taz often ends up contradicting himself as he calls the matches because he'll be calling the action normally and then suddenly remember he's in Aces and Eights and out of nowhere start talking like a heel for about 5 minutes before going back to normal commentating. It disrupts the flow of the other commentators at times and makes Taz just seem awkward and out of place instead of a credible heel. The only guy I've seen pull off being a credible heel faction commentator was Bobby Heenan back in the WWF.

Why TNA thinks its a great idea to put Taz the commentator in heel factions is beyond me. They pulled this back in 2009 when they had Taz join the Main Event Mafia, and now they're going back to the well again by putting Taz in Aces and Eights. Taz as a commentator is less than useless as a member of a faction. The only non-commentating story arc that worked for Taz in TNA is when he was managing Samoa Joe... but as soon as they joined the Main Event Mafia it was lame.

Please, just return Taz to being a normal commentator again. Let Taz be normal Taz again. He's just goofy and out of place as an Aces and Eights member. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

List of 2013 WWE Pay-Per-View Theme Songs

Here is a complete list of WWE Pay-Per-View Theme Songs for the 2013 PPV season. Check back periodically for list updates.

Click here to view last year's Complete List of 2012 WWE PPV Theme Songs
Click here to view Complete List of 2011 WWE PPV Theme Songs

(Click on links below to listen to 2013 WWE PPV Theme Songs)

WWE Royal Rumble (The Heavy "What Makes A Good Man") January 27, 2013
WWE Royal Rumble (Clement Marfo and the Frontline "Champion") January 27, 2013
WWE Elimination Chamber (Stellar Revival "The Crazy Ones") February 17, 2013
WWE Hall of Fame 2013 (The Script "Hall of Fame" ft.  April 6, 2013 [Wrestlemania 29]
WWE Wrestlemania 29 (Diddy - Dirty Money ft. Skylar Grey "Coming Home") April 7, 2013
WWE Wrestlemania 29 (Young Guns "Bones") [Alternate Theme] April 7, 2013
WWE Wrestlemania 29 (Civil Twilight "Letters From the Sky") [Rock vs Cena II Theme] April 7, 2013
WWE Extreme Rules (Airbourne "Live It Up") May 19, 2013
WWE Payback (Hollywood Undead "Another Way Out") June 16, 2013
WWE Money in the Bank (Jim Johnston "Money in the Bank") July 14, 2013
WWE Summerslam (Clinton Sparks feat. 2 Chainz, Macklemore, D.A. "Gold Rush") August 18, 2013
WWE Night of Champions (CFO$ "Night of Gold") September 15, 2013
WWE Battleground (Fall Out Boy feat. Big Sean "The Mighty Fall") October 6, 2013
WWE Hell in a Cell (Stone Temple Pilots feat. Chester Bennington "Out of Time") October 27, 2013
WWE Raw Country (Florida Georgia Line "Round Here") November 18, 2013
WWE Survivor Series (Flo Rida "How I Feel") November 24, 2013
WWE Slammy Awards 2013 (Kromestatik "Lightweight") December 9, 2013
WWE TLC (Korn "Never Never") December 15, 2013

Official 2013 WWE Royal Rumble Theme Song (Clement Marfo & the Frontline - Champion [Official Music Video])