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The Phantom Of The Ring

A Night at the Circus

This past April 1st I did something I havenít done in years: I purchased a wrestling pay-per-view. The last PPV I saw was an ECW production; in fact, until now, the last four PPVs I saw were ECW creations. With an ECW PPV I liked the fact that I got two solid hours of chair-cracking action, if not wrestling, for the reasonable price of $19.95. In other words I didnít have to take out a second mortgage to buy third-rate entertainment. 

When I ordered this yearís version of the venerable WrestleMania I realized why I donít order PPVs any longer. $39.95! I was promised four hours of "non-stop action" by my cable company, but remember, this is the WWF weíre talking about, and, quite frankly, my cable company would advertise the same thing about a Senate Finance Committee Confirmation Hearing if they could get that price per shot. 

I also admit I was curious about the look and feel of WWF pay-per-views these days. I had not seen one since the Wrestling Forum went down the proverbial poop chute. By the time I stopped subscribing, WrestleMania had deteriorated to a rather stale joke, given the rising price and the wrestling action provided for that price. I used to host a WrestleMania party, but folks had stopped coming to those a long time before I stopped giving them. The allure had worn off wrestling, and the likes of Howard Stern and Mike Tyson took its place. No way was I going to host a get together for one of these. If I thought McMahon wanted a lot, he was downright economical compared to these gonifs. Iíd rather spend my money watching Bret Hart and Diesel attempt a wrestling match than watch Howard and Robin giving me half the content for twice the price. Still, I wasnít exactly made of money, and as the price of WWF and WCW wrestling increased and the quality decreased, I made a quiet exit from the consumer marketplace. It wasnít as if I was missing anything; the results were all announced on the next Raw or Nitro. Also, as I moved into the maze that passes for wrestling history, I found readers were far more interested in my opinions of the Gotch-Hackenschmidt card than the last Halloween Havoc, and I can live with that.

But the set-up for this particular card piqued my interest. I realize itís probably a form of cabin fever at the end of winter, but, given everything else going on in my professional life right now, it just made sense to plunk down the gelt.

Since I am incapable of watching or doing almost anything without sharing it, I have provided below the results accompanied by my commentary. In my reviews I use what I call the "Phantom Index," a letter grade assigned to each match on the basis of performance, and a "Heat Index," indicating how worked up I felt the crowd became during the match. The scientific basis for both measures is simply my opinion and nothing more. Despite what some newsletter editors tell you about their rating system and those supposed to have invented it, this is really what it comes down to: Did I like the match or not? As with any card there were some to like, others to knock, and still others I wish I had never seen.

Jericho Pins Regal to Keep IC Title: Great idea for an opener, as the style of these two brings the crowd right into the ring. Moves and counter moves galore keep the match going to the fansí delight. 
B+   110 degrees.

Tazz and the APA (w/Jacqueline) def. Right to Censor (W/ Steven Richards) as Bradshaw pins the Goodfather:  Disappointing when the pre-match hype is taken in. Frankly, I expected more and got less ? way less. Tazz has little to do I later found out he suffered a concussion shortly after the match began) and this isnít one of Farooqís better nights. Aside from a few flashed of brilliance by Val Venis, Right to Censor is just another boring tag team. Mercifully, Bradshaw pins the Goodfather to end the silly thing. 
C-   55 degrees.

Three Way Dance (Hardcore title), Kane pins the Big Show: The Hardcore Title is the most useless piece of metal to go around oneís waist since boxing came up with the "Super Junior Middle Light Heavyweight Championship" or something like that. Nevertheless gave people such as Crash Holly a reason to wrestle, Raven a reason to dye his hair, and the Big Show a further reason to disappoint whatís left of his fan following. In as Hardcore Match, anything goes . . . anything except wrestling, that is. Hit that mat and you wonít be there long, for the referee knows thereís a good chance youíll use the opportunity to rest. No, a Hardcore Match is all action, both in the ring and outside the ring. Such a match gives us fans a chance for a Ploughmanís tour of the basement of whatever arena Vince is renting that night. And you know what? All the generators look the same in every arena! Wow! Anyway, they make a three-way dance out of the thing to give Raven a chance to provide some comic relief, as the thought of Kane and the Big Show in a continuous action match is too horrible to contemplate. And even though Raven is the champ, he must see to it that one of the big gloms goes home with the belt. One thing for Raven, he knows his damn role as Kane pins the No Show to earn his tin. 
C-   61 degrees.

Eddie Guerrero pins Test for the European Title: Are you beginning to get the feeling there are too many title belts in the WWF? Whatís next, Bradshaw vs. Blackman for the Utopia Title? Eddie is accompanied to the ring by Perry Saturn looking resplendent in Papa John Phillips headgear with a Scott Steiner fu manchu. Saturn taunts, teases and distracts the big guy while Eddie dances around like a reject from the spastic version of Saturday Night Fever. Then its Eddieís turn to distract the ref while Saturn goes to work on the big lug, actually suplexing him while the ref pretends not to notice. What, canít he feel the mat move beneath him? As if all this werenít enough to try to get the fans into this one, guess who comes to ringside? If you said Dean Malenko, you are, unfortunately, right. Dean does absolutely nothing outside of getting pasted and it suddenly occurs to me that if there is another wrestler in the WWF who has fallen as far as Malenko in the past six months, Iíve yet to meet him. Lingering injury, or simply the inevitable result of too many years spent in Japanese strong-style wrestling? As Iím busy contemplating, Eddie pins Test to make the world safe once again for Latino Heat. 
C    45 degrees.

Kurt Angle pins Chris Benoit: A good match that couldíve been great if only the participants bothered to use a little ring psychology. The finish to a match as good as this one must never seem like an afterthought, especially considering the way the match was built up on television and the way it progressed once inside the ring. Benoit and Angle behaved like two guys who donít like each other, hitting each other with holds and counters, relentlessly bearing down on each other. And ? they actually worked the mat! What a rarity. So, to give us an ending that made us wince and say "Thatís it?" just goes against the grain. 
A-   90 degrees 

Chyna pins Ivory for the Womenís Title: Now come on, is there anyone of you out there who actually thought the big moose wasnít going to walk out of that ring with the belt? If so, they need people for the new television version of Ripleyís Believe It or Not. Ivoryís heat was short lived as she attacked Chyna right after the bell. From then on it was all Moosie. In fact, the way Moosie handled Ivory during this match made me think she was p.o.íd about having to wrestle in the womenís division. A cover reminiscent of Jake the Snake Roberts followed her heel lift of Ivory before the 3-count to deliver another finisher. And, frankly, she looked upset. Well, Moosie, if you want to be thought of as feminine, you have to play with the girls. 
C-  67 degrees

The Fighting McMahons ? Shane pins Vince: What we all tuned into see, which tells us more about what the business has become than anything else I can think of.  Vince tipped the ending of this match twice, once when being grilled by Bob Costas on HBO and later before the match when he tells Trish to make sure Linda is double sedated. Oh Boy. They went on to hit each other with everything but the kitchen sink, giving Shane a black eye in the process. But once Trish turns on Vince and Stephanie weíre sure of the ending. And to their credit, the McMahons do not disappoint. The highlight comes when Vince is about to finish off Shane. He brings Linda into the ring to give her more than a ringside seat of the action. He wants to make sure sheís comfortable. And then, just as he goes to apply the coup de grace, Linda rises from her coma and delivers a crotch shot that enable Shane to deliver a fantastic Van Daminator and win the match. I do wish, however, that this is the last match the McMahons work against each other. The simple fact of the matter is that they are just that much better than their co-workers. 
A- 120 degrees

Christian and Edge defeat the Hardys and the Dudleys to Win the Tag Title: Try eating 30 Hershey bars at a sitting next time and youíll know how this match felt to those who watched it. Just too much of a good thing. I also could have done without the outside interference. Oh well.
C   67 

Gimmick Battle Royal: Vince McMahon truly has no sense of shame if he stages this sort of nonsense. I start to have strange thoughts as I see the fiasco unfold: Repo Man, Gobbledly Gooker, Tugboat, Earthquake, ("Is this real or simply gas?"), Kim Chee, Bushwacker Luke, Cornette (Whatís he doing here?), The Goon, Volkoff, Bushwacker Butch ("This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs."), Doink the Clown, Michael Hayes ("Oh, I get it. Iím really at a Cauliflower Alley Club reunion."), One Man Gang, Kimala, Brother Love, Sgt. Slaughter, Hillbilly Jim. Winner: Iron Sheik (even though he can barely walk). Mercifully brief, but not brief enough. 
D-  10 below zero.

Undertaker pins Triple H: Say what you want about Triple H, he knows how to do a clean job. For that he earns my highest praise. Motorhead was at ringside performing Triple HHHís entrance music. It was the least they could do.  Triple HHH played it beautifully, always leaning to the Undertakerís strengths on brawling and keeping up step for step until being caught in the last ride. 
A    135 degrees

Steve Austin pins The Rock to with the WWF Title: Another bout that was tipped to the fans, the problem went from "who is to win?" to "how do we get Austin over as a heel, and in Texas, yet?"  That I can understand. So, they did the only thing they could to get Austin over, and that was to pair him with Mr. McMahon. But as they didnít reveal this until near the end, it seemed like "Heel insurance." Austin and The Rock worked their usual match, but try as he might, the weight of years and angles past was going against Austin. Thus, enter McMahon. This now begs the question of why should they turn Austin in the first place. It seems to be better to keep him in his current role than to lose currency with his fans. Itís as if McMahon, in the rush of vanquishing Ted Turnerís WCW, forgot the lessons heís learned these past four years and turned the clock back to 1993. Now, does this set up the return of Bret Hart as a Face?
A   150 degrees

  --The Phantom Of The Ring, 4/4/01
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