”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE’s top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a worldwide 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: What was your favorite thing about RAW 25?
Call “humbug” on me if you so desire, but these nostalgia type shows just do not tug at my heart strings anymore. We see so much nostalgia throughout the year – hell, WrestleMania has basically become as much about nostalgia as it has become about putting together the biggest possible card utilizing modern wrestling talent – that attempts by WWE to be nostalgic above and beyond the usual just ring hollow.
That said, there were a couple of moments from RAW 25 that I enjoyed, the first being that it watched to me like Undertaker was done as an in-ring performer. An opportunity presented itself for The Deadman’s return to set-up a rivalry seguing to another WrestleMania match, speculated to be against John Cena. My concern with that rumored decision was based around my desire to see the ending of WrestleMania 33 retained, as the ugly performance against Reigns watches as borderline poetic in conjunction with The Last Outlaw firing the final bullet from his proverbial gun and then riding off into the sunset; without Taker’s send-off, there would never again be reason to watch the last hour of WrestleMania last year. Alas, at least for now, it would seem that Mania 33 is safe and that Taker feeling good and getting himself well will translate not to “one more match,” but to the rest of his life as a functional human-being beyond the squared circle. Let’s induct him into the Hall of Fame immediately, shall we?
I also really enjoyed, sticking with a theme from the past few weeks, that The Balor Club got a nice little spotlight, this time during the 506th DX reunion. The more that Balor, Gallows, and Anderson are allowed to be their too-sweeting selves on WWE programming, the more likely that they will become a substantial commodity for the company and earn better showcases for their talents. The Bullet Club adopted the Kliq’s Too Sweet gesture and catchphrase, so it was fitting to see that as publicly acknowledged by the founders as ever before. It made Balor Club look good and made more relevant the DX thing to fans like me who have nearly drowned in an ocean of WWE’s preference for its past over its present and future.
Basically, you could say that anything on RAW 25 that involved a modern star interacting with a past star in a manner that made the modern star look better from the experience worked well for me, whereas the usage of Steve Austin and comparable events throughout the night did not work for me at all. So, for instance, I also liked Christian’s Peep Show segment featuring The Bar’s interaction with Rollins and Jordan; Captain Charisma played the secondary role there, which is the place that returning talent should play 95% of the time.
If you are not yet on board with Kurt Angle’s “kid” and the act he has going, then it is time for you to open your eyes; whether you like it or whether you don’t like it, Jason Jordan is one of the best things going today. By the way, if Sheamus and Cesaro successfully transfer Angle’s “You Suck” chant onto Jordan, then they deserve a medal for adding yet another layer to his presentation. What an interesting dynamic it would be to hear Angle getting you-sucked out of reverence and Jordan getting it for its original purpose.
The Miz vs. Roman Reigns was the main-event of the night for yours truly. Reigns did well with the title and he’s Roman Reigns, so to have Miz win the title back straightaway, post-movie wrap, was not shocking but still altogether rather surprising to me, especially since it did not require a huge star obliterating Roman for it to happen. It was a good match during which the stakes felt high and, much like they did after Survivor Series, they each rose to the occasion with their performance. I would like to see them wrestle at a PPV one of these days.
I am taking part in a competition in the Columns Forum, where LOP grooms its next main page writers. The stipulation for the first round was to pretend it was December 31, 2000, so I wrote a current events-style piece analyzing the product back then as I would today. It went over well, so I thought I’d share it with you in conjunction with Raw’s 25th Anniversary show tonight and the corresponding “Question of the Day” asked above.
Under The Bright Lights – Matthews 3:16 Says Stone Cold Steve Austin Sucks
Like everyone else, I share the sentiment that 2000, overall, was one of the best years in the history of the WWF, but the fourth quarter was mired in comparative mediocrity thanks to the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin.
It isn’t 1998 anymore, Austin’s act is beyond stale, and the WWF force-feeding us more of the same Texas Rattlesnake toast that made me quit watching wrestling during the build to Summerslam ’99 has completely derailed what had been one of the most engaging main-event scenes of all-time through the first three-quarters of the year. We are coming up on my favorite annual period of wrestling fandom and yet I cannot seem to get excited about WrestleMania Season on account of a dreadful sense of the inevitable having set in. We are heading for The Rock vs. Steve Austin II at the Alamo Dome and the only thing that can intervene at this point is fate.
I consider myself one of the foremost critics of Stone Cold, so please excuse any inherent bias. Granted, if he was half as good as many LOP Forum members claim that he is, maybe I could forgive that sack of crap for brainwashing the world into cheering for him (anti-hero means opposite of a hero – a villain!) and for consequently coercing my childhood hero, Bret Hart, to turn on himself and eventually get screwed out of his WWF glory years, which should have featured The Hitman padding his legacy in WrestleMania main-events with Triple H or The Rock. However, all that he has done since coming back in September is prove what I have been saying for years: that Austin hasn’t been the same since Owen Hart dropped him on his head.
When I go to medical school in a few years, I’ll have to remember that, when a washed up wrestler with a bad neck asks me whether or not fusing his spine will make him not suck anymore, to be blunt with him and remind him of Steve Austin’s case. Triple H was practically the modern version of late ‘80s Ric Flair this year and not even he was able to get a great match out of Stone Cold.
Austin said in a backstage promo years ago, “Bret Hart, on his best day, can’t lace my boots.” On Austin’s best day, perhaps someone might have bought that, but Austin’s best days have long since passed. He will never again be the version of himself that earned his headlining stripes against Bret in 1996 and 1997. It is time to accept that fact. He spent all of 1998 and 1999 sullying the main-event environment ripe with classic wrestling matches that Hart and Shawn Michaels had instilled in the years prior; Triple H and company raised the bar again in Austin’s absence, but Stone Cold’s mere presence since Unforgiven has lowered the ceiling of the main-event quality once more. I, for one, would much rather see outstanding work between the ropes than that which is above average.
At his peak, one could argue that Austin’s above average in-ring performances were permissible because he made Raw so entertaining and because of his influential role in turning the tide in the promotional battle against WCW; without question, he was an important general for Vince McMahon’s army in the war with Ted Turner, but it’s peace time now.
The competition WWF wrestlers have today is against each other and neither Austin’s lukewarm version of the red-hot act he had going two years ago nor his performance hold up against his top competitors; read the dirtsheets, folks, and remember that ratings didn’t go down while Austin was gone and neither did the pay-per-view buyrates. The product improved while he was gone. He was an albatross; getting rid of him set the WWF free to become what it was from January through August 2000. The Rock is the hottest babyface act since Hulk Hogan, with the media appeal to back up my argument should anyone want to throw down on the subject. Triple H is the best heel that the business has seen in at least a decade, if not ever. WrestleMania should be headlined by the best heel and the best babyface, and Steve Austin is nowhere close to being one of those things!
Stone Cold had his time, but his time is over.