The Best of Ring Posts Xtra: Bloopers & Bleeps
The third and final Ring Posts Xtra, featuring highlights and outtakes with Kevin Eck and Axl Rotten.
The third and final Ring Posts Xtra, featuring highlights and outtakes with Kevin Eck and Axl Rotten.
The second of three videos featuring highlights from Ring Posts Xtra with Kevin Eck and Axl Rotten.
The first of three videos featuring highlights from Ring Posts Xtra with Kevin Eck and Axl Rotten.
It was a little more than four years ago that I launched Ring Posts on baltimoresun.com and began a chapter in my career that has been both fun and gratifying.
This entry will mark the closing of that chapter and the opening of a new one.
I am leaving my job as sports content editor and pro wrestling blogger at The Baltimore Sun to become a member of the WWE creative team.
It’s a bittersweet time for me to say the least. While I am very excited to be going to work for the professional wrestling industry leader – which also happens to be a company that I have been passionate about since I was 6 years old – saying goodbye to a place where I have so much history is extremely difficult.
I began working at The Sun as a part-time editorial assistant in the Sports department in 1986 when I was a 19-year-old college student. I went on to spend 13 years there before leaving to become the editor of WCW Magazine. After WWE bought WCW and I lost that gig as a result, I was fortunate enough to return to The Sun in 2002. That adds up to a total of 22 years that I have been at The Sun – literally half my life.
I can’t thank the powers that be at The Sun enough for allowing me to earn a living all these years doing something I enjoy. While working in the pro wrestling industry was a childhood dream, so was being an employee of my hometown newspaper.
I also fully realize that I would not have gotten my old job with WCW or my new one with WWE if not for the experience and exposure I gained through my employment with The Sun.
I wrote my first article on pro wrestling for The Sun in 1994 – a feature story on Randy “Macho Man” Savage that focused on his minor-league baseball career – and with that I became the paper’s unofficial wrestling writer.
Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to interview just about every major figure in the wrestling business, including Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Ric Flair, John Cena, Eric Bischoff, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Sting.
In 2007, with the Internet changing how newspapers think and operate, some people at The Sun suggested that I write a wrestling blog. To be honest, I was initially lukewarm to the idea of taking on extra work, but once I got started, the blog became a labor of love.
I can’t stress enough how few jobs there are that could get me to entertain the thought of leaving The Sun for even a second. In fact, this opportunity with WWE may be the only one.
I think this is an exciting time to be joining WWE, which is currently in the process of altering its creative approach. I’ve accepted a position that will allow me to contribute from a creative standpoint and also use my skills as a journalist.
Ring Posts became more successful than I ever could have imagined, and I’d like to thank everyone reading this for making that possible, especially any of you who ever took the time to leave a comment. I truly believe the “comments” section – which provided a forum for readers to express their opinions and engage in discussions with me and their fellow readers – was as important in drawing people to the blog as anything I wrote. While some of the debates I had with readers became heated, I ultimately appreciated the fact that we had at least one thing in common: a passion for pro wrestling.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the time to publicly thank Dan McDevitt and everyone associated with Maryland Championship Wrestling for allowing me to become a member of their family over the past several years and furthering my education in the wrestling business.
In addition to being able to serve as a referee and actually getting to wrestle (well, sort of) in a match, the lessons I’ve learned from my association with MCW about wrestling as an art form and locker room etiquette have been invaluable, and I will take that knowledge with me to WWE.
I’ll be moving to Stamford, Conn., and starting with WWE at the end of the month. For anyone who is interested in keeping up with me, feel free to follow me on Twitter (@ringposts) or send me a friend request on Facebook.
In closing, I want to reiterate how incredibly gratifying and humbling it has been for me these past four-plus years to have people actually care what I have to say about a form of entertainment that I’ve been hooked on since I was in first grade.
I only hope that you all enjoyed reading Ring Posts at least half as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Editor's note: The Baltimore Sun plans to continue coverage of professional wrestling. We'll keep you posted.
This is probably old news to many of you, but just in case anyone missed it, WWE released Melina, Chris Masters, Vladimir Kozlov and David Hart Smith on Friday.
Meanwhile, Gail Kim announced on Twitter that she has officially quit her job with WWE.
In what ended up being her final appearance on Raw earlier this week, Kim eliminated herself just a few seconds into a Divas battle royal.
TNA had the right idea on Thursday night’s episode of Impact Wrestling as far as hyping Sunday’s Sting-Kurt Angle match at the Hardcore Justice pay-per-view.
In addition to a nicely done video package, the empty arena match between the two from a couple years ago was shown – with Angle providing commentary – and the final segment of the show featured the official contract signing for Sunday’s match for Sting’s TNA world title.
After signing the contract, Sting and Angle both cut good promos that were designed to make their showdown at Hardcore Justice seem special.
However, the segment wasn’t as effective as it should have been because I was distracted by the fact that “Joker Sting” had slipped into “Sane Sting” in the blink of an eye.
I understand that having Sting do his Heath Ledger/Jim Carrey shtick would have seemed ridiculously out of place following Angle’s serious promo, but after weeks of seeing a mentally unbalanced Sting, it didn’t make any sense in the story line for him to break character like that.
Then again, this is the same creative team that had Angelina Love walking around as a drugged-up zombie who was impervious to pain before abruptly becoming “normal” again.
Other thoughts on Thursday’s show:
While I do think it was a good idea to revisit the empty arena match to show that Sting and Angle were once fierce rivals, I don’t get the sense that it’s the much-talked about classic match that TNA was making it out to be. …
The feud between Immortal members Bully Ray and Mr. Anderson – who will face each other at Hardcore Justice – is happening way too fast. To make matters worse, it appears that Anderson is supposed to be the babyface here. By turning Anderson so frequently, TNA has succeeded in making me totally lose interest in a guy who I thought was one of the most compelling characters in the company not all that long ago. By the way, could TNA possibly make Anderson look any more ridiculous than he did when he fell for Ray’s fake apology? …
As bad as Anderson’s character has been booked as of late, that’s nothing compared to all the damage that has been done to Samoa Joe over the years. After losing by disqualification to “The Pope” D’Angelo Dinero in a Bound for Glory series match (Joe had won by submission but the referee reversed the decision when Joe refused to release the Kokina Clutch), Joe – who now has minus-10 points in the series – cut an angry promo about TNA brass screwing him over and how the blood will be on their hands. I suppose that means that Joe is about to go on a tear, but the problem is that he has done so much whining and complaining over the years and his character has had so many re-starts that I don’t see how any fan could possibly have any emotional investment in him. At this point, he should just ask for his release and go to Ring of Honor, where he can be the proverbial big fish in a small pond. …
The Bobby Roode-Hernandez street fight was the most entertaining match on the show, although I could have done without all the unprotected shots to the head with garbage cans and lids. I also didn’t care for the finish – Hernandez rolled up a distracted Roode for the win – but I understand why it was done. With no one really believing Mexican America has any chance to beat Beer Money for the TNA world tag team title at Hardcore Justice, Hernandez needed to get the win. It’s also being played up that Roode and tag team partner James Storm are both banged up heading into Sunday’s match. …
There were two other good matches: the tag team bout that saw Rob Van Dam and Crimson defeat Scott Steiner and Gunner, and the X Division contest in which Austin Aries beat Alex Shelley. …
Joe doing the Undertaker gimmick of rolling his eyes in the back of his head while choking out Dinero was unintentionally funny. …
I don’t care if it was booked to look like a fluke or not, Devon should not be scoring pinfall victories over A.J. Styles. …
Styles lost the match due to an inadvertent distraction from Christopher Daniels. It seems as if TNA is determined to have Daniels turn on Styles, although for the life of me I don’t know why. It’s not like it’s anything we haven’t seen before. …
What’s with guys spitting in each other’s faces in TNA? On this episode, Ray did it to Anderson, Steiner did it to Crimson, and Angle did it to Sting (in the clip of their empty arena match). TNA has never learned the lesson that less is more. In WWE, it was a big deal when Christian spit in Randy Orton’s face because it’s something that you rarely see there. …
Speaking of Steiner and Crimson, unless I zoned out and missed it, the announcers failed to mention that Steiner was mentoring Crimson just a few months ago. …
While the match between Miss Tessmacher and Madison Rayne (which Tessmacher won) only lasted about 90 seconds, TNA did manage to get six Knockouts some camera time during it. Mickie James sat in on commentary, and she was attacked after the match by Angelina Love and Winter. Plus, Tara accompanied Tessmacher to the ring. ...
Matt Morgan did a decent job on commentary during the Joe-Dinero match. It’s a good move by TNA to keep him involved in things while he recovers from his torn pectoral injury.
I’ve often been asked who my all-time favorite wrestlers are, so I finally decided to really give it some thought and come up with my top 10.
In looking at my list, I think it’s apparent that I tend to gravitate to wrestlers with larger-than-life personas who can cut strong promos. It’s also clear that I have always favored the heels.
To reiterate, this is simply a list of my personal favorites. There are some on the list who I really marked out for when I was a child or a teenager, and others who I became fans of as an adult.
So, here’s my top 10, in descending order. Feel free to share your list.
10. LARRY ZBYSZKO
If I could use just one word to describe Zbyszko from 1974 to 1979 it would be “boring.” As the young protégé of Bruno Sammartino in the WWWF, Zbyszko was the epitome of a bland, white-meat babyface. And then in 1980, he turned on his mentor and instantly became the coolest guy on the planet as far as I was concerned. Suddenly, Zbyszko had a swagger and a mean streak. He was cunning in the ring and sarcastic and condescending on the microphone. He was the ultimate disrespectful young punk rebelling against his elders. As a 13-year-old going through my own rebellious stage, I loved it. After he left the WWF, Zbyszko continued to be an entertaining heel for more than a decade in the NWA, WCW and AWA.
9. RIC FLAIR
Having grown up in a traditional WWF city during the territorial days, I only knew Flair initially from photos and stories in wrestling magazines. Even with that limited exposure to him, however, I could tell that he was someone special. When my family got cable television in the early ’80s and I actually got to see “The Nature Boy” walk the walk and talk the talk, he became must-see TV for me before that term ever entered the lexicon. I finally saw Flair wrestle in person when Georgia Championship Wrestling came to Baltimore in 1984, and he lived up to the hype. Twenty-four years later, I shed a tear while sitting in The Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., watching what I thought at the time was Flair’s final match. Unfortunately, it wasn’t, and seeing what Flair has become since joining TNA makes me sad. But for more than 30 years, Flair created countless wrestling memories for me that cannot be diminished.
8. DUSTY RHODES
During my early years as a wrestling fan, it seemed as if every babyface was humble, honorable and clean-cut. In other words, they were boring. Rhodes, however, was as charismatic as any heel. “The American Dream” was cocky, had bleached-blond hair and used jive talk to cut the best promos I had ever seen. Whenever Rhodes would make an occasional appearance in the WWF in the ’70s and early ’80s, it was a big deal. Several years later, when it became fashionable to cheer for cool heels Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen during their epic battles with Rhodes in the NWA, I remained a steadfast Dusty supporter. Heck, I even loved him when he became a yellow polka dot-clad, dancing “common man” in the WWF in the late ’80s.
7. RANDY SAVAGE
The first time I saw Savage in the WWF I knew that he was going to be a huge star. It wasn’t just the sparkly robes and the gravelly voice that made him stand out, it was his fantastic skills inside the ring. Nobody blended power, speed, agility and technical skills like the “Macho Man” in his prime. Having the lovely Miss Elizabeth as his manager added to his mystique, as no matter how badly he treated her, she remained loyal to him (until that rat Hulk Hogan, with lust in his eyes, lured her away). Savage was effective as both a heel and a babyface, but it was during his two heel runs in the WWF that I marked out for him the most. It’s a shame that he never got a run as a heel world champion in the WWF.
6. SUPERSTAR BILLY GRAHAM
When Graham came to the WWWF in the mid-70s, I had never seen anyone like him. Most of world champion Bruno Sammartino’s challengers were either menacing tough guys with grizzled features, wild men or foreign heels, but Graham had a tan, sculpted physique, bleached-blond hair and colorful tie-dye tights. He also cut boastful, entertaining promos that were reminiscent of boxing great Muhammad Ali. Graham instantly became my favorite wrestler, and while most of the wrestling world was in mourning when he ended Sammartino’s second title reign in Baltimore, April 30, 1977 was one of the greatest days of 9-year-old Kevin Eck’s life. Consequently, Feb. 20, 1978 – when Graham dropped the title to the ultra-bland Bob Backlund – was one of the worst. I wasn’t a fan of Graham’s attempt to re-invent himself years later as a bald-headed karate master, and trying to turn back the clock and put on the tie-dye again didn’t really work either. But from 1975 to 1978, the Superstar, truly was the man of the hour, the man with the power, too sweet to be sour.
5. THE VALIANT BROTHERS
When “Handsome” Jimmy and “Luscious” Johnny burst onto the WWWF scene in 1974, they became the first wrestlers that I was totally obsessed with. I had to have any wrestling magazine that had the cocky, bleached-blond “brothers” on the cover, and I even dressed up as Jimmy Valiant for Halloween (although no one in my neighborhood could figure out who I was supposed to be). Whenever I saw them wrestle in person, I would get goose bumps as the entire arena would be booing and hurling obscenities at them. The Valiants held the WWWF tag team title for a little over a year, a record that stood for 14 years. It was a sad day when they dropped the belts to the rather unimpressive duo of Dominic DeNucci and Victor Rivera. When the Valiant Brothers returned to the WWF a few years later with a third member – “Gentleman” Jerry – the magic was gone. I was never a big fan of Jimmy as the “Boogie Woogie Man” or Johnny as a WWF manager, either.
4. CHRIS JERICHO
I took notice of Jericho when he was a member of WCW’s talented cruiserweight division around 1996 or 1997. He had an exciting in-ring style and a good look, but I remember thinking that it was a shame his inability to cut a decent promo was going to keep him from ever making it big in wrestling. After he turned heel, however, he became one of the company’s most entertaining characters, and I became a diehard Jericho-holic. Since jumping to WWE in 1999, Jericho has proved to be one of best all-around performers in the business and someone who is equally effective as a heel or a babyface. The guy who I once thought didn’t have the mic skills to be a player is now regarded as one of the very best talkers in the business. Jericho is a textbook example of talent winning out in the end.
3. RODDY PIPER
I became a Piper fan before I ever saw him wrestle a match. In 1981, Piper was the heel color commentator alongside the legendary Gordon Solie on TBS’ Georgia Championship Wrestling, and Piper’s quick wit and acerbic comments were the best part of the show for me. What I loved about Piper – beyond the fact that he was wrestling’s most entertaining talker until The Rock came around many years later – was that he was a loud-mouth jerk who no one could shut up. The heat he generated was incredible. After the infamous incident in the WWF when Piper smashed Jimmy Snuka in the head with a coconut during a Piper’s Pit, I remember actually being fearful for my own safety because I was cheering enthusiastically for Piper when he wrestled the wildly popular “Superfly” in Baltimore and used every dirty trick in the book. Piper solidified his status as my all-time favorite heel when he battled Hulk Hogan and tried to take down the Rock and Wrestling Connection. Even though I always preferred the heels, I remained a huge mark for Piper when he became a babyface.
2. THE ROCK
I like to think that I have a pretty good eye for spotting future superstars, but I have to admit that my first impressions of Rocky Maivia were not favorable. He was athletic and had a decent-enough look, but he seemed to be lacking the “it” factor. Of course, when he morphed into The Rock, he set a new standard for having “it.” In my nearly 40 years of watching wrestling, I haven’t seen anyone more charismatic or better at trash-talking than The Rock. You just can’t help but marvel at a guy who gets a bigger crowd reaction raising an eyebrow or dropping an elbow than someone performing a 450 Splash. Whether he’s a heel or a babyface, The Rock has always been the most electrifying man in sports entertainment. Having interviewed him several times both before and after he became a movie star, I’ve also become a fan of Dwayne Johnson for the way he has handled his success.
1. SHAWN MICHAELS
After watching The Rockers – Michaels and Marty Jannetty – for a few years in the AWA and WWF in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it became apparent to me that Michaels was a singles star waiting to happen. He eventually got his opportunity, and it was around 1994 that I was convinced that he was the best all-around performer in the business. It was also at that time that Michaels became my favorite performer. Sixteen years later, when he finished his career with yet another show-stealing performance at WrestleMania, Michaels still was as good or better than any of his peers. As talented as he was athletically, “The Heartbreak Kid” also had charisma, the gift of gab and the uncanny ability to get a reaction from the crowd – whether he was trying to make them love him or hate him. It didn’t matter if he was a crotch-chopping degenerate or a God-fearing family man, Michaels was always The Showstopper whenever he appeared on the card.
New WWE COO Triple H announced at the end of Raw Monday night that WWE title claimants CM Punk and John Cena would meet in a championship unification match at the SummerSlam pay-per-view on Aug. 14.
That was expected. What was less predictable going into Monday’s show was how the crowd was going to react to the two champs. I was expecting the people to be pro-Punk, but it didn’t sound that way to me.
Punk, who was practically begging the crowd to cheer for him, got a good – but not great – pop from the fans in Indianapolis when he came out to open the show, but Triple H got a louder reaction when he made his way to the ring later in the segment. At the end of the show, when Punk and Cena were taking turns playing to the crowd, both received mixed reactions, but it seemed to me that Cena received more cheers.
I’m not sure what exactly to make of that, and it was just one crowd, but when wwe.com ran a poll during the show asking who the rightful WWE champion is, Cena got 54 percent of the vote to Punk’s 46 percent – and that’s with Punk having just beaten Cena clean at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view a couple weeks ago.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but the crowd reaction and results of the poll suggest that Punk’s babyface turn hasn’t fully taken hold with the casual fans, who clearly outnumber the “smart” fans.
If WWE truly wants to get Punk over in a big way – and if they really want to make waves – it should have Cena and Triple H both turn heel and screw over Punk at SummerSlam.
Do I think that will happen? Not really, but I can hope.
Other thoughts on Monday’s show:
The verbal exchange between Punk and Triple H was compelling and both guys did a great job. Even though Triple H said later in the show that Punk playing the “you’re married to the boss’ daughter” card was nothing that he hasn’t been hearing for years, Punk did say things to Triple H that have never been said before on WWE television, such as how he buries talent and used to carry Shawn Michaels’ bags. …
While I still think that Punk returned to WWE too soon, his explanation did make sense, as he said that he couldn’t create change in WWE by sitting on his couch at home. To be the voice of the voiceless, he said he needs a microphone on WWE television. …
WWE executive John Laurinaitis making an appearance during the final segment with Triple H, Punk and Cena was a nice touch. Laurinaitis – who implored Triple H to strip Cena of his title – represents the old Vince McMahon regime, and by Triple H disregarding him, it further establishes that it’s a new day in WWE. It also plants the seed if Triple H and Cena do end up conspiring against Punk. …
The dueling music shtick with Punk and Cena was a little silly, but I thought it worked. …
When confronting Laurinaitis, Cena got in an inside reference to Laurinaitis’ old gimmick as a member of the Dynamic Dudes tag team in WCW, saying that he used to carry around a skateboard. Cena also could have said that Laurinaitis used to carry around the flag of New Zealand. …
The crowd was really hot for the exciting team match that saw The Miz and R-Truth defeat Rey Mysterio and John Morrison. …
The backstage interaction between Miz and R-Truth was entertaining. They played off each other very well. …
I thought for sure that Eve was going to win the battle royal that determined Divas champion Kelly Kelly’s opponent at SummerSlam, but I certainly wasn’t upset to see Beth Phoenix get the victory. After the match, Phoenix turned on KK, which was a good booking decision since WWE needs a strong heel Diva in Kharma’s absence. …
I think Melina lasted about two seconds in the battle royal, and Gail Kim was eliminated a couple seconds after that. It’s obvious that Melina is in the doghouse and is being buried, but it’s a real shame that WWE hasn’t done anything with Kim since she came over from TNA. …
Alberto Del Rio, who needs to get on a roll again to re-establish himself as a threat to the WWE title, got a solid win over Evan Bourne. …
Dolph Ziggler and Alex Riley had a decent verbal exchange. Vickie Guerrero hasn’t had as big of a role lately as she’s had in the past, but she’s still a heat magnet. …
Zack Ryder was over with the crowd, but the fact that he – and not tag team partner Santino Marella – did the job in their match against WWE tag team champions David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty tells you all you need to know about how hard WWE is going to push Ryder. …
Marella wearing the Cobra sock puppet was pretty funny. …
I’m still not sold on McGillicutty and Otunga as champs, but they did show more fire than usual this week.