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The Postgame: Randy Orton, sympathetic figure?

Thousands of words have been written in recent months from any corner of the internet about a WWE star whose run on top has been submarined by bad writing, bad booking and a perceived lack of faith from within the company almost entirely based on what we see on-screen.

I'm going to write some more of those words today, but as you probably figured out from the headline, they won't be about Daniel Bryan.




It's hard to make a strong case that one should feel bad for Randy Orton. He was born into the business and earmarked for success before he even hit the main roster. He's never really drawn significant money but has maintained a lofty spot near the top, if not at it, for 10 years now. He was dreadfully boring in the ring in his first turn as a main event heel even if his character was mildly interesting. He was dull as dishwater- albeit very over with most live crowds- as a top babyface from 2010 to 2013 even if his ringwork was generally proficient in this period. Not only that, but if they followed their own drug testing rules to a tee, he'd have been long ago unemployed. (Allegedly, along with many other backstage miscreant behavior he's been accused of.)

It's not the kind of career Daniel Bryan, CM Punk or most other wrestlers would ever have been afforded the opportunity to have, or more accurately have continue past....any number of points, really. And that's only if we stick to what we know (never drawn money) and leave out what we think we know (the backstage misbehavior) and what we perceive (i.e., any opinion of him as a performer).

Thus, it's a difficult exercise to even imagine Orton as any sort of sympathy case. In the long view, he's certainly not one.

But in the here and now, it's hard to imagine a champion getting any shorter shrift heading into Wrestlemania.

In the beginning, Orton as the flunky avatar for what the Authority wanted to be the ideal WWE champion was a great hook: it was a nifty twist on the old corporate heel champion bit that's been done so many times. But something strange happened that made the perplexing booking that ensued so much worse: he was terrific in the role. As this piece is more a dissection of everything that's been wrong with how Orton has been booked in the last seven months, and less an paean to Orton, I'll direct you to the Masked Man's excellent Grantland piece from two months ago if such an ode is your thing.

From vacillating between dominant corporate champ and the Authority's underachieving whipping boy to cleanly jobbing to almost the entire Elimination Chamber lineup leading up to that show, his on-screen portrayal has been uneven at best, and not meritocratic in the least based on his actual work in recent months.

But in the so-called "Reality Era" of WWE that we now not only view but actively participate in, that's never the whole story, is it?

The tumult surrounding the Wrestlemania build is, of course, well-documented: crowds are becoming more agitated every week that Daniel Bryan is kept out of the main event. CM Punk quit. A very audible fart in church would be received better than Batista's return and instant placement into Wrestlemania's main event has been.

Caught in the middle of this, quietly continuing to do the best he can with what he's been given, is Randy Orton. If you can't get past his background, maybe this is another example to you of Orton being handed something he doesn't deserve. And maybe you're right. But let's say an audible is called for, say, Batista or even Lesnar as the corporate "face of the WWE" to face underdog Bryan at Wrestlemania, a cool-sounding idea that many floated. The part-time star usurping the spot of the guy who's been here every week, doing as he's asked and having good matches pretty much every time out.

Sounds familiar.

Aren't these the circumstances that made CM Punk quit?

Maybe he should be closer to the midcard than the main event in the first place, but we can't blame Randy Orton for Daniel Bryan not being in the WWE title match. We can't blame him for Batista's return, or how poorly he's been received since. Nothing in life takes place in a vacuum, though, and Randy Orton has long ago used up whatever goodwill would have engendered a sympathetic reaction to how shoddily he's been booked since Summerslam.

I guess if there's a lesson to be learned, it's that even an asshole with a spot he never earned in the first place can be unfairly jerked around in professional wrestling. Even if it's all the way to the bank.



Comments

  1. Orton is another victim of HHH inserting himself into the Daniel Bryan angle (as I said he would be at SummerSlam).


    It would be one thing if Orton was portraying an overly protected and pampered corporate champ, but he's not. If anything, The Authority in kayfabe terms has been as hard or harder on him than anyone else. What's worse is that they are constantly dressing him down.


    Would the "Viper" they supposedly wanted back sit back and take a tongue lashing from Stephanie? No. He would've punted her head in. But that would make him the biggest face in the company.

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  2. So why in the hell are they not doing the rematch at Mania?

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  3. Agreed.


    I feel this whole run of Orton's since Summerslam should end with him dropping the title and being verbally dressed down by Huntor~! (at his condescending best) only for Orton to RKO his nose into next week. I know that would lead to yet another HHH/Orton match (I promise I'm not high right now) but Randy really is second only to Jericho when it comes to being cut-off by Mr Levesque's ego, and a decisive win for Orton may salvage his heat somewhat.

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  4. The Masked Man said it better than I could. And it's hard to forget: Orton isn't even close to the only asshole who's been in the main event. Arguably, being standoffish, self-centered, and obsessed with his physical appearance is less harmful than things Steve Austin has done.

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  5. How many women has Orton battered? I'll judge him versus Austin by that criteria.

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  6. For all the love the Freedbirds and Von Erich's feud gets, I don't think they ever had a true classic 6 man. I have the 2 DVDs didn't see anything that great. Correct me if I'm wrong, because I was 2 when that feud started.

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  7. I think Scott hit the nail on the head in his response to a similar comment in another thread.

    The wellness policy was re-written so he wouldn't get fired. He's been overprotected from the start of his career, without ever really making money or being as 'over' as his status on the card would indicate. He's horrible on the microphone. In the ring he's competent and can have a good match with the right opponent, but overall he's boring and not someone who can get a good match out of an average or below-average worker. He has a horrible backstage attitude. Remember the maxim that the best characters are the guy's real life personality amped up? Well Orton has always come off as a spoiled, entitled, brat - and nothing I've seen makes me think that's an act.

    So really, why on earth should I have sympathy for him ?

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  8. And Grizzly Smith was a bigger piece of shit than 99% of not just wrestlers, but people on Earth. That doesn't make anyone less awful than him deserving of pity or sympathy.

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  9. Fine - Orton isn't as bad a person as Austin. There are lots of assholes in wrestling.


    But we've been around wrestling long enough to know that spots on the card and main events aren't based on how nice a guy you are. They're based on how over you are and how much money you can make.

    And after a decade of having Orton shoved down our throats, he still hasn't shown any indication of being able to make money or connect with an audience.

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  10. Two of the Dragon Gate six-mans at ROH shows make any six-man tag out of M-Pro and the Shield/Wyatts match look like shit, especially Blood Generation vs. Do Fixer at the first Supercard of Honor in 2006. And Shield/Wyatts was a great match.

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  11. His character as of late has been awful and to his credit, he has really been trying to make it work. He hasn't necessarily been successful at that, but it's a tall order to fill and he has been trying. In that vacuum, yes, he's sympathetic as a guy.

    Randy doesn't exist in a vacuum, though.

    Overall, Randy is an overpushed failure of a character. Was some of that because his initial face push being a horribly botched disaster? Sure. A lot of it, in my eyes, but it is what it is.

    Beyond that, Orton has had a shitty attitude since his first big push, has like 6 wellness violations under his belt necessitating numerous policy rewrites and loophole exploits to keep him employed and he only seemed to recently have learned his lesson from it (years after the fact), he's got a documented history of treating the divas awfully (though not abusing them, so, you know, +1 on that) and blatantly dogs it in the ring when he's not feeling motivated. What DOES make him feel motivated seems to be remarkably inconsistent and may change day to day.

    So, overall, no, fuck Orton.

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  12. "Maybe he should be closer to the midcard than the main event in the
    first place, but we can't blame Randy Orton for Daniel Bryan not being
    in the WWE title match. We can't blame him for Batista's return, or how
    poorly he's been received since"

    No, but we can blame him for his boring matches, horrible microphone skills, and overall blandness.

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  13. No shit. We needed to have a separate topic for an idea that already got shot down earlier?

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  14. I don't understand the love for this match. Any time Rollins or Harper were in the ring, it was great. Anyone else and this thing was just average at best. The Reigns hulk up in the end was kind of cool but nothing to go crazy about. Usually could care less about star ratings but I wouldn't even put this thing in the 4's.

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  15. to me it wasn't the great six man tag ever... but still a ***** affair.

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  16. Yeah I've said for awhile that Orton is probably hhh's biggest victim over of the years. Still I don't lose much sleep over it because the guy bores me to death. Every wrestler says Orton is phenomenal in the ring but I guess I don't get it. I don't hate Orton as much as other people here but I could take him or leave him.

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  17. Since this is an Orton thread, what the fuck is the deal with all the mini comebacks in his matches. It seems like Orton is never on offense or getting his ass kicked for very long. Its just mini comeback, mini comeback, mini comeback. It hurts the flow of his matches and the crowd participation. It was much worse when he was a face but even as a heel it makes his matches hard to watch at times.

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  18. screw an rko, punt Triple H into retirement.

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  19. Best six man tag tam of all time - the junkyard dog, ricky Morton, tommy rich.

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  20. I could see Harper and Rowan taking on all or two members of the Shield at Mania. Clearly the thing between the teams isn't over yet.

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  21. That seems like awfully long.

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  22. Jean Claude van OverbiteFebruary 25, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    Orton's booking for the last several months has been chicken shit. Maybe there are guys who could have turned it into chicken salad, but Orton's not one of them. At best, he's turned it into chicken shit with diced celery -- and I hate celery.

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  23. Well, I haven't gone digging in the crates for U.S. independent or Japanese stuff (I have watched a little bit of lucha), but I do know some wrestling history. Just trying to see how the BoD community felt about the match since none of the writers had done a recap of the show yet.
    Since we're here, though, what are some 6-man tag matches you'd rank higher that I should find online?

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  24. I dug Orton as a heel IC champ with Evolution in 2004. I dug Orton as a complete psycho in early 2009. I sort of dug Orton as top Smackdown babyface in 2011. And that sums up the times that I liked, or almost liked, Randy Orton.

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  25. What are we basing "deserve" on? Not arguing (yet) but honestly curious. Is it a draw thing? Because no one draws anymore.

    What interests me though, I suppose is redemption (for lack of a better word.) CM Punk is just as much a douchebag, but he gets a pass. Shawn Michaels used to allegedly date rape girls, but he gets a pass. Why does Orton not?

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  26. I was gonna mention that one. The last 10 minutes of that match is just nonstop awesomeness. Everyone needs to see that damn match.

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  27. I guess the quick answer is he's a representation of a status quo that many are unhappy with, being a protected guy and assumed Triple H buddy for so long.


    Your first question is a good one, though, and I don't have a great answer. It's obviously all subjective, and you're right about individual wrestlers not drawing in the same manner we're used to.

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  28. I'll always remember randy Orton like this:

    A few months ago I helped my friend move a pool table from his parents house to his house. When we went to his parents house to get the table his sister (who is mentally handicapped to the point she lives at home and has to be cared for) was watching smack down in the living room. I said hello and watched a few minutes of smack down with her while my buddy was finding something we needed to move the table. I asked her who her favorite wrestler was. She quickly and without hesitation said Randy Orton. I asked her why he was her favorite wrestler. She told me "Because he slithers around like a snake."

    Thats the wwes target audience ladies and gentleman.

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  29. Here's how you answer the question.


    Let's say WWE didn't put the belt on Orton at Summerslam, didn't have him in the last match all the time, didn't water his character down, had him in the Rumble instead of in the Cena match.


    Let's say WWE put the belt on Bryan at SS and kept it on him, or at least kept it on him like they kept it on Austin during his run, where he'd lose to Taker or Kane one month but get it back somewhat quickly while not losing his heat. No Eddie or Benoit or Rey six month crap run.


    Let's also say WWE kept him near the top of the card- second or third from the top, maybe getting one match against champ Bryan in those PPVs, but not being forced upon the audience like he is now.


    Let's also say WWE found just the right balance for Orton- the "Viper" quality that had him connect with the audience really well in the past.


    OK, got this? Now, answer the real question-


    Would he make more money?


    Balance the fact that he wouldn't be at the top of the card with the hopefully better PPV/attendance numbers/merch sales. And remember, this is a guy who's already raking in 7 figures before they made him unified champ.


    I'm betting he wouldn't make as much money short-term, but if they kept the audience interested in him, they might be keeping his character fresher. Instead of the path he's been on- three Dusty job PPVs, a feud against the Big Show, two Cena matches, and now Batista- he might have gotten PPV matches against the red-hot Wyatts or the Shield. Sure, no one wants another Orton-Cena match (even if they tried their best). But would you watch Reigns-Orton? Or Wyatt-Orton? Even keeping Orton at the next level- Orton-Sheamus, Orton-Christian- might not feel as stale as the PPV run he's been on.


    And that's ignoring the one match that actually would be fresh- Lesnar/Orton. Maybe not the best use of Lesnar, but then again, was Big Show/Lesnar?


    Instead, Randy was shoved down our throat with a weak heel character and bad booking.


    I'm not saying he's a saint. He might be paying for bad karma he's earned over the years. But he's been handed a terrible hand, and it probably didn't make him that much more money, and he's dangerously close to X-Pac heat level.

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  30. Yeah, I never got the love Orton gets from his peers in the business, not so much for his in ring work, but they put him over as a guy that's a mainsteam crossover.

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  31. Hitler was worse than Jerry Sandusky. I feel like there's room to disapprove of both.

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  32. Same, though I wasn't watching in 2004. Cena and Batista, as far as top guys, moved the needle in terms of bringing me back to watching but I had no similar curiosity about Orton.


    I was into him when he first turned face in 2010 and was just insanely over, too, and that was the first time I really wanted them to turn Cena heel: do Hart/Austin with Cena/Orton. I thought it was right there, but in hindsight that would have been an enormous mistake.


    He's never been a favorite of mine, but he's never bothered me as much as he's bothered others, seemingly.


    I hate making blanket statements like this, but I think opinion of him among smarks would be MUCH more favorable if not for his second-generation, protected guy preferred status. (He obviously wouldn't be as high on the card with all that, too.) I get being bored by his matches since we've seen them for 10 years, but I don't see how one can say with a straight face that he's flat-out bad in the ring. That's just silly.

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  33. They should've let'm go Pillman-style,let him be a psycho,Punting everyone until HHH see that's enough and brings Lesnar as the new Corporate champion,which was something they were teasing.

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  34. I don't know who "we" is or what was shot down, but this is the first thing I've written on the subject so I'm not sure what you're referring to.

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  35. Fuck Randy Orton. Why are people trying to defend him now? Its like hipster smark...I will defend an insane position because no one else is.

    Randy Orton IS the problem. If he didnt suck so hard, there wouldnt be a Bryan movement. But Bryan is soooo much better than Orton in every way that the crowd is revolting.

    Randy Orton sucks and I wish he would go away forever.

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  36. Sunday night, I thought people were being too blindly optimistic. Now, the rage from people is overwhelming and a little disturbing. Ultimately, I don't fault people for being angry, being fans, having emotions. I do think they should think about letting go of some of that hate.

    What has Orton done that's so wrong or horrible since 2009 (when knocked Stephanie out and planted a wet one on her--creepiest and best thing ever)? From most accounts, he's given the leeway to bitch and moan, but he doesn't really alter booking plans. There was an uninspired stretch in 2012. Is that it?

    Let it go, people. He had a championship feud with Christian throughout the summer of '11 that produced a string of 3.5-4.25 star matches; he made or at least solidified Mark Henry's bad ass run (without those Orton matches, it's just failed monster push #21 for Mark); retired guys and legends nearly unanimously agree on how great and safe he is in the ring; be it Foley throwing him on thumbtacks or Barrett throwing him down a flight of stairs (which legit injured Orton) he's also willing to take one for the team; and his last six weeks have been friggin' amazing--anyone who disputes that doesn't like good wrestling or good heels.

    Still mad about him beating Benoit or the Age of Orton? Let it go. That's not the same kid in the ring anymore.

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  37. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  38. Randy Orton was never, ever, ever, ever insanely over.

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  39. He was crazy over when he turned face against Legacy. I know you don't want that to have happened, and frankly I wish it hadn't either because I'm not a big Orton fan (though I was into him at the time). But it happened.

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  40. I'd put it at 5/5, but I wouldn't rate it as the best six man tag ever. Most of my picks for that have been named.

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  41. While we're talking about free passes ... I've heard the rumor about Randy Savage and Stephanie McMahon, and if it's at all true (especially the part about Stephanie being underage), why does Savage still get a free pass? Not only is he not made into a villain, but whenever the rumor comes up on this board -- most recently during some Hall of Fame arguments, I believe -- people joke about it and act like Savage wasn't a predator. I've even heard live crowds chant "Randy Savage" while Stephanie is in the ring. Can you imagine standing in front of 20,000 people who are gleefully chanting the name of somebody who violated you as a kid? I wouldn't blame Stephanie for trolling the fans with booking decisions.

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  42. so Scott, do we get an EC rant?

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  43. Team Canada vs Team USA:

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4g50s_wwf-hart-foundation-vs-austin-dude_news

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  44. Why use Shawn as a comparison? Unlike HHH, he never made anyone. I'm not sure 'Taker made anyone either, though he's made plenty of guys look good over the years.

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  45. Excuse me, I said, WHAT?!

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  46. I was about to do a search for 'Barely Legal' on TPB, but then better judgement took over.

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  47. Blood Generation vs Do Fixer was the only reason that I bought the DVD. It's a massive spot-fest towards the end, but it's one hell of a match to mark out to.

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  48. AAA has been doing a lot of good six man tag matches of late.

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  49. There's more than meets the eye to that match, as it does have a story lost in the insanity. No one can put anyone away one on one. So they try 2-on-1 moves. That doesn't work, so they try 3-on-1 moves. Simple, I know, but that is a definite trail of psychology.
    Plus, even as a spotfest, it is batshit insane. The athleticism and timing needed to pull off what they did is off the charts.

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  50. Seems doubtful given I have an entire network of every other PPV to watch now.

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  51. Since they weren't six man tag matches, I'm gonna go with no.

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  52. Because John Cena v. Bray Wyatt seemed like a good idea in November.

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  53. Not every good match is *****

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  54. Agree with the 4 1/2 stars.

    Also, Luke Harper is apparently a good wrestler. This is news to me.

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  55. But it'll be on there too in a month, so maybe in like 2016 or so?

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  56. Huh? Dude was a freak on the indy circuit. Look up his match with Michael Elgin on YouTube from some Canadian indy. It's nuts.

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  57. I can think of 2 six man tags in PWG just last year that were better, and one of them even had a woman in it.

    What im saying is let's calm down on overrating these things so fast. I thought the match was awesome, but hell give me the 6man from TLC 2012 and one of the ones from RAW last year with the Shield in it over this one

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  58. It was a tag team match with six men.

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  59. Yea I know but when it's taking practically a machine gun to put down guys who are 5'5 140lbs you really need to suspend belief. These guys were hitting triple team moves that you should be selling paralysis for and they were rolling out of the ring to springboard back in within 10 seconds.

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  60. The star system is so undefined, it's ridiculous. Just enjoy wrestling. Did you get chills? Did you mark out? That's enough. Hogan and Rock is the perfect example of this.

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  61. davidbonzaisaldanamontgomeryFebruary 25, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    Not enough 450 splashes, ** for Rock/Hogan

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  62. davidbonzaisaldanamontgomeryFebruary 25, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    You really fucked up that Braveheart quote.

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  63. Personally i really loved the crowd going crazy for the two teams just staring at each other. A "this is awesome" chant before they even lock up? Nice!

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  64. I had it at 4.5, as well -- higher than the debut for me, since it had a better build and more of a flow to it.

    In terms of historical impact, the Bash at the Beach '96 six-man (five + Hogan) would have to rank higher. But as a (probable) one-off, Shield/Wyatts was a shit-ton of fun.

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  65. I kinda felt like the air went out of the building for a while when they all settled into the corners and started having a normal match before building back up in the middle. That was probably the place to throw out the rules and have an all out war from the jump because when it became a "wrestling match" it sort of killed the buzz for me. Like, these guys are crazy and want to kill each other, but first let us get in our corners and make sure not to come into the ring unless we have been tagged for we have a gentleman's agreement.

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  66. Very true, and considering people get entirely worked up ANY time WWE puts on a good match these days with the level of crap they produce weekly, it doesn't surprise me why this match has many creaming their panties. So I guess it's understandable. A good match in the WWE these days is considered a "great" match.

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  67. 4.5 from me as well. I wonder what exactly are they going to do with the Shield come WM because now more than ever i don't want to see them break up.

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  68. It's pretty obvious when an injury is a work or a shoot.

    It's a shoot if the announcers gloss over it and the camera starts panning to something else.

    It's a work if the announcers can't stop talking about it and they show you a hundred replays, including giving you updates and telling you the person has been taken to a medical facility.

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  69. It wasn't even the best Shield six-man tag match of all time. It was great, but the TLC 2012 six-man was better, IMO.

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  70. Bray hestitated on a punch. Must take a quarter star away.

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  71. For all the booking problems, there has been an absolute GLUT of good-to-great matches in WWE in the last two years.

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  72. davidbonzaisaldanamontgomeryFebruary 26, 2014 at 10:43 PM

    Yeah, matches are the least of their worries. The roster is loaded with guys who can work, it's what the booking is doing with them is the problem.

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