The X-Factor: Another 2005 List
2005, the year of shocking news stories. Do you remember where you were when you heard of Eddie Guerrero’s tragic and untimely passing? Did you feel “worked” over when you saw Matt Hardy’s shocking attack on Edge, on the July 11th edition of RAW? Were you shocked and outraged when you heard that Jeff Jarrett beat Raven in Canada, and captured the NWA World Heavyweight Title? Did you really expect to see Christian in TNA so soon after his exit from WWE? Did you jump up for joy when Batista power-bombed Triple H through a table?
2005, the year of incredible new books and DVDs from the WWE. The most complete box set of Wrestlemania to date was released a few months ago, setting its buyers back quite a bit monetarily. The Undertaker got the star treatment with an all-new three disc set spanning most of his WWE career. Jake the Snake relived his own demons in interviews on his “Pick Your Poison” DVD set. Meanwhile, Bret Hart participated in his own 3-disc set, while the WWE buried the Ultimate Warrior when he denied participating in any DVD interviews. In the world of autobiographies, Shawn Michaels released his own life story, setting his book next to others like Ric Flair, Steve Austin and Mick Foley. Before his death, Eddie Guerrero took us back to his own life and career, with an autobiography released over a month after his passing.
2005 presented our favorite wrestling shows with major changes all across the wrestling world. WWE RAW ended its five year stay on SpikeTV on September 26th, before re-entering its old home on the USA Network. UPN shifted its schedule to try out some new and returning comedies on Thursday night, moving Smackdown! to Friday nights, where the network has faced consistent failure one of the “dead” nights of television. Since moving, the newly-named Friday Night Smackdown has acquired the vast majority of its Thursday night viewers, and giving UPN more reason to renew the Smackdown contract past 2006. And TNA fans faced a grim future when Fox Sports Network announced it would not be picking up “Impact” for a second season, leaving fans out in the cold for a while. SpikeTV (RAW’s old home) eventually swooped in with a deal and began airing “Impact” on Saturday nights in “WWE Velocity”‘s old timeslot. Speaking of Velocity (and Sunday Night Heat), both shows left their old homes and currently reside on WWE.com every week.
Late in the year, the WWE aired three shows that were special to many different people. In mid-November, in the wake of Eddie Guerrero’s death, the WWE devoted a weeks worth of RAW and Smackdown to his life, as his wrestling friends paid tribute to the legend. The likes of Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, and nephew Chavo Guerrero had nothing but kind words to say about the former WWE champion, and they also participated in matches that carried no storylines. They were simply matches in memory of Latino Heat, and it’ll be difficult to find any Eddie fan with any negative words to say about these shows. WWE did it right, and showed their respect for Eddie.
On December 19th, the WWE continued a tradition that has now went on for three years, when they visited troops overseas. In 2003 and 2004, the Smackdown crew went to Iraq for a Tribute to the Troops, and this year, the RAW talent went to Afghanistan, and entertained the troops with matches that included Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Ashley Massaro, Trish Stratus, and John Cena. The troops were grateful for the time the WWE devoted to them, and the fans found new respect for the company for putting on a two-hour show featured a mix of moments and matches from Afghanistan. You will not find any of these shows on my Best-of list, simply because it goes without saying that the WWE did the right thing with the Eddie Guerrero shows, and with the Afghanistan show earlier this month. These are special episodes that featured no storylines, and thus are not included on my lists. Rest assured that if I did include them, they would be at the top of my Best of the Year list.
Enough about looking back at 2005 as a whole. If you’re a fan of sports entertainment, you already know what you have experienced all year long. You don’t need a Canadian telling you what you already know and remember, so instead, I am just going to single out fifteen moments, matches or events that stick out in my memory as the top and bottom of 2005. I promised it, and now I deliver it. It’s the Best and Worst of 2005!
Here are a few things that made me yearn for the few days that we experienced of Katie Vick. The matches listed make me wish that we had more celebrities like David Arquette entering the wrestling world, so we don’t have to experience the current worst matches of the year ever again. The incidents listed make me wish we could have a Diva Search all year long, that took up 90 minutes of RAW every week. By now, you know that I’m going to present to you the Worst of the Year in WWE.
The Worst of 2005:
5. Diva Search 2 – The first ever Diva Search featured a segment that allowed the divas-in-training to let loose on their opponents, completely uncensored, which created one of the more memorable segments involving Divas in recent memory. In the second edition, the competition was bland and unoriginal. The highlight of the competitions featured a guest appearance by the man himself, Rob Schneider. Why isn’t the second Diva Search higher up the list? Well, it did give us Ashley Massaro, and for that, I can’t possibly place the competition any higher than number five. Love you, Ashley!
4. Batista vs. Coach, Vader and Goldust (Taboo Tuesday) – When a TV show or feature film goes through re-writes and scene re-shoots, you can guarantee that it will end up being a complete mess. When a match is changed almost completely in the WWE just a week after being announced, you can guarantee the exact same outcome. What started as Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Coach, with JR’s career riding on the match’s outcome, ended up being a “special attraction” match, featuring a completely different opponent for Coach, two long-gone WWE veterans, and the stipulation about JR’s career? That was gone, too. Even with the World champion in the mix, the match was a complete and utter joke, and hurt all four men involved. Say what you will about Austin’s decision to not wrestle, but perhaps it was one of the better decisions he has made.
3. Doctor Heiney and Nurse Slobberknockers: A WWE Surgery – Vince McMahon and a busty nurse perform colon surgery on a fake-Jim Ross. If you need more details, then you’re on your own, gang.
2. John Cena vs. Eric Bischoff (October 3rd, 2005) – After a near-perfect two hours of programming for WWE Homecoming, RAW drops the ball with the last hour, especially with this painfully bad main-event, which should have seen the end of the Bischoff/Cena era, a lame attempt to rekindle the fire of the Austin/McMahon era. Sadly, this feud went on for two more months, and didn’t end until Bischoff was fired. Will the new General Manager hate John Cena as well? I sure hope not.
1. Muhammed Hassan vs. The Media – Ever since Hassan debuted in late 2004, there has been very few positive comments about the Arab-American superstar. He had a harsh opinion of America and everything that the country stood for, causing outrage and heat from fans, as well as the media. He was getting massive heat, and that’s bad? He wants heat! And don’t pretend that this is the first time where a character has lashed out against a certain group before. The Anti-Americans attacked the country on a weekly basis. How about the Iron Sheik? Ludvig Bourga, anyone? Hell, how about what Kurt Angle said for the past few weeks on RAW about the troops overseas? Why isn’t he getting any criticism. Oh right, he’s American. He’s not of Arab descent. Everyone knows that he’s only reading the lines fed to him from the writers. That wasn’t the case with Hassan, which led to his release from WWE. I don’t intend to make this sound like one of his anti-America promos, but he was a character on a TV show. I hate to say wrestling is scripted and fake, but it’s no more real than a movie about terrorists. I feel sorry for Mark Copani (the man behind Muhammed Hassan), and I truly wish him the best in Hollywood, where he currently hopes to become an actor. I just hope the media doesn’t attack him if he plays the villain in a James Bond movie someday.
Okay, you can now turn the frowns upside down, as I take a look back at some of the brighter spots in 2005, where the WWE hit it big with some memorable moments, matches and events that I won’t soon forget.
The Best of 2005:
10. ECW: One Night Stand – Set aside that this was basically “WWE Presents: ECW One Night Stand”. Forget that the matches weren’t “Match of the Year” contenders. Just remember the intensity and energy of the event on June 12th. I was never a viewer of ECW, and I felt like I was going to be left out of the loop on that specific date, but the night was so intense, that I enjoyed every second. The highlight of the night was hearing the entire crowd sing along to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, before the likes of Kid Kash, bWo, Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney made appearances prior to the main-event. WWE may have dropped the ball with a heavily edited DVD, but the night firmly remains a strong memory that I won’t ever forget.
9. Joey Styles Replaces Jim Ross – When I heard Joey Styles would be filling in for the Coach at Taboo Tuesday, I was giddy like a 12-year-old girl. I had heard a bit of his ECW work, along with the work he did at ECW: One Night Stand, and I knew instantly that he would provide something different that neither the Coach nor the King could provide. The energy Styles possesses is incredible, and while the shoes of Jim Ross are mighty big shoes to fill, Joey Styles does an exceptional job at the announce table. He is every bit as good as Jim Ross in his own unique way. To be perfectly honest, he is the perfect match for both the Coach and Jerry Lawler, and I no longer mind seeing Coachman at the table on Monday nights. I don’t know who Mike Goldberg is, or what he could have brought to the table, but I’m glad that it ended up being Joey Styles as JR’s replacement.
8. Triple H vs. Ric Flair (Taboo Tuesday) – If you had asked me three years ago what I thought of Triple H and Ric Flair, I would have given the typical response: they suck. I had no use to see The Nature Boy in action with the same moves that he always did, and I had no use to see The Game in action with the same backstage politics that he always did. Typical “internet wrestling fan” response, right? Well, once I actually let that go, I started to respect these two far more than I ever thought I would. Flair is not the greatest talent in history, but he helped put wrestling on the map in his own way. I even asked for his book last year for Christmas, and read it within three days. I enjoyed his story thoroughly, and while I did not agree with his claims about Bret Hart and Mick Foley, I didn’t have to agree. It was his book, his thoughts and his opinions, and I would not have wanted a watered-down autobiography where he complimented everyone he spoke of. This year, I asked for the 3-disc DVD collection of Flair, and I anxiously await watching the man in action when he was in his true prime. I cannot help but respect Flair for what he is doing at his age today.
Triple H is a different story. I always thought Triple H was a great wrestler, but when I found out that he was married to the “boss’s daughter”, I adapted the same opinion of most wrestling fans. I began hating him for what he can do, and what he probably does. But once I got past that, I began to respect him. I respected his in-ring work, his ability to put people over when need be, and his solid mic work. So, when I heard about a clash between these two future Hall-of-Famers, I was anxious to see the end result. Three years ago, I would not have cared. Now, I cared more about this match than many matches all year. I was not let down in this steel cage encounter, and I felt like the match was a roller-coaster ride from start to finish. Blood, sweat, and tears were the end result, and while the match wasn’t pure wrestling at its finest, it was heart and soul at its absolute best. For that, it deserves a spot on any top ten list.
7. John Cena is the First Draft Pick (June 6th; RAW) – If John Cena’s entrance on RAW, on the date of June 6th, could have set the tone for the entire draft lottery, it would have been one hell of a month. There was a ton of excitement throughout the month, but by the very last week, what was left? Batista debuting on Smackdown was about as anti-climatic as it gets. Still, Cena’s entrance on RAW, garnering a huge pop from the crowd, was a lot of fun. It was “off the chain”, as Tazz may put it. But most of all, it was live. RAW may be a lot of things lately, but being live can make the show get away with murder. Here, the feeling of being live really played out well, as the shocking draft pick brought the fans to their feet in a big, big hurry inside the arena.
6. Shawn Michaels vs. Montreal (August 15th; RAW) – Most Canadian wrestling fans are not big fans of Shawn Michaels, Vince McMahon, or Earl Hebner. It’s especially aggravating that the WWE continues to mention the Montreal Screwjob, eight years after the incident. In any event, all fans were guaranteed fireworks on August 15th when RAW rolled into Montreal, as HBK was a temp-heel at the time. When he opened the show, all hell was guaranteed to break loose, and it did. The 15+ minute segment really heated up when Bret Hart’s theme song played, causing the entire crowd to cheer at the top of their lungs for their hero. They were met with HBK’s obnoxious, arrogant parading around the ring, as the theme was quickly cut. A tease of Hulk Hogan’s arrival also ended with a smile on HBK’s face, until finally, the fans chanted “Shut the f*** up!” to the Showstopper. A memorable segment that may have went on 15 minutes too long for the Montreal fans, it will be remembered by me for a while.
5. Stone Cold Stunner to the McMahons (October 3, 2005; RAW) – WWE Homecoming. USA Network. Big names in attendance. What better way to salute the good ol’ days (and by that, I mean the good ol’ not-so-long-ago days) than for Stone Cold Steve Austin to give one stunner to Vince, another stunner to Shane, one more stunner to Stephanie, and a failed attempt at a stunner to Linda? Again, a segment that ran a little too long, but for any fan of the Attitude Era when Stone Cold was kicking ass and taking names, this was a real treat. The highlight of WWE Homecoming.
4. Matt Hardy vs. Edge (Steel Cage; Unforgiven) – Months of build-up culminated into a Ladder match on RAW at WWE Homecoming. Just before that, the feud hit a high point with this incredible Steel Cage match where blood was shed and daredevils soared through the air, when Matt Hardy (whom, as I understand, will not die) leapt off the steel cage with a mighty leg drop to Mr. Money in the Bank (“Money in the Sack” to close friends like Lita). Take that, Hulk Hogan and your pales-in-comparison, puny leg drop! Before Matt was helped by the Boogeyman in a Smackdown match against JBL, he had this personal feud, that climaxed with a Steel Cage match that became my second favorite match of the entire year.
3. Matt Hardy Invades RAW (July 11th, 2005; RAW) – Speaking of Matt Hardy, did you know he was fired in April for doing nothing but being the odd man out in a vicious love triangle? If you knew that, then this “invasion” was sure to shock the hell out of you. A supposed Matt-lookalike attacked Edge backstage on RAW, causing many wrestling fans to chuckle at the sight of a Matt Hardy lookalike, in what was assumed to be a lame attempt to push the off-air feud right into the on-air spotlight. What came as a shock to anyone and everyone with a set of eyeballs was the triumphant return of Matt Hardy just minutes later in the ring, as he attacked a bewildered Edge, plugged his appearance at “ROH”, and was carried out while screaming that the WWE could kiss his posterior. The language from that man! Two more weeks of invasions became old news, but this shocking return for Version 1 was a headline that had fans talking for weeks.
2. Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 21) – If you’ve seen the match, you’ll know why it’s on almost every columnist’s top 10 of 2005 list.
1. Batista Turns on Triple H (February; RAW) – I fully admit that I jumped onto the Matt Hardy bandwagon after his firing. So, I’ll ‘fess up and admit to jumping onto the Batista bandwagon, once the loud and proud “BA-TIS-TA!” chants began in early December 2004. The build-up to this massive turning was done perfectly, with plenty of teases along the way, until finally, a contract signing for Batista ended up being the end of a long relationship between The Animal and The Game. I had no idea that “animals” could play “games”, but The Game was played and The Game was defeated three times by The Animal (Wrestlemania, Backlash, and Vengeance). It’s probable that I wouldn’t call Batista vs. Triple H my favorite feud of the year, nor would the matches top my favorites list either. But this face turn was a long time coming. So long in fact that the fans had already started cheering heavily for Batista, long before he power-bombed Hunter through a table. Long live Batista!
If you feel that a Top Ten list is a stale, unoriginal topic for a column, then you can rest assured that this weekend, you won’t have to read another favorites list from yours truly. 2005 is history. 2005 is now a distant memory in all our minds. 2006 is finally here, and 2006 can only give us more candidates for a Top Ten list of the year. Will Shelton Benjamin’s mama show up anywhere on a Best-Of list? Will she go the way of Katie Vick by the Royal Rumble? Will she be responsible for reuniting Shelton with Charlie Haas? Only time will tell, and my first official 2006 column (as in, not a best-of column) will be coming your way this weekend? Will you be handle it? My sources tell me yes. Yes you will be able to handle it quite well. See you later, everyone.