The Best And Worst Of WWF Royal Rumble 2000

Pre-show notes:

– Welcome to my first ever Best And Worst Of WWE [Insert Older Pay-per-view Show Title Here] report. I asked the column’s regular readers to decide which time-appropriate pay-per-view event I’d cover first, and this show, one of the highlights of WWF’s epic 2000, won with over 42% of the vote. So here we are, getting you ready for the 2012 Royal Rumble with a look back at the year 2000’s.

– Comments are appreciated. Clicking “like” is appreciated, tweets and retweets are appreciated, showing and sharing this to and with the people you know are appreciated. One of the reasons I haven’t done older show reports so far is that nobody’s googling for them, so our traffic goes way down and they take like 80 hours to write, so why bother? But I WANT to write them, so if you support them and make them a success, I’ll keep cranking them out. At least get me to Wrestlemania 23, so I can write about Ashley Massaro.

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– A.J. was not born when this show originally aired, so she will not be featured in the report.

But for now, please enjoy the Best And Worst Of WWF Royal Rumble 2000.

Best: Pre-WWE Kurt Angle And Taz Before The Extra Z

A running theme of this report, somewhat against its own will, is how good or bad someone used to be in comparison to how we see them now. Arguably, no two wrestlers fit that theme better than Kurt Angle and Taz(z).

This was Taz’s WWF debut. That’s what a lot of people remember from this show. Before, he was the Oompa-Loompic king of ECW, a guy who was maybe four feet tall and had the Taco Bell Ingredients of movesets (the same five basic things in different combinations) who seemed like the most bad-ass and important person in the world because Paul Heyman, at least for a few years, remembered that what we’re given in wrestling isn’t important … it’s how we’re convinced to see what we’ve been given. Not tricked. Convinced. WWE does a thing now where they introduce a guy and say “HE’S SO TOUGH OH MAN” and all he does is powerslam guys or whatever and nobody believes it. Taz was doing sh*t like shoving barbed wire into Tajiri’s mouth to choke him out on the reg. There is arguably no greater unpraised ECW moment than Taz getting powerbombed by Bam Bam Bigelow five seconds into a match, completely no-selling it and flipping him off. We were convinced. That’s why Madison Square Garden is chanting WE WANT TAZ while Kurt is doing his “hey guys, how about that Local Sports Team” act.

And Kurt. Poor, baby Kurt Angle. When people look at current, emaciated, bad-on-Twitter ostrich-pitcher Kurt Angle, they compare him to that post-Benoit Angle, the guy throwing rolling German Suplexes and countering 75 of your finishing holds before grabbing you in a grapevine ankle lock and tapping you out. That Angle had worth, despite what he inadvertently did to main-event WWE wrestling (how many more times do you want to see Cena escape something and lock in the STF?), but the Angle I love is the one that came BEFORE that. Before the change. The one who showed up as the only real athlete in WWF history, stopping his armdrag fest with Shawn Stasiak to calmly take the microphone and point out that you don’t boo an American Hero. I liked the Kurt who seemed like Captain America — a shoot nerd who just happened to be imbued with a super serum that made him nigh-impossible to beat at wrestling. The Kurt who would tell you the Knicks have trouble winnning a championship because that’s the only way he can think of to insult you. With sports.

Kurt and Taz are together again in TNA, but it’s not the same. Shortly after this, Taz was Tazz for good, took a candy dish to the face from Jim Ross and devolved into a mob extra whose most marketable skill was going LOOK AT DIS COLE~ as someone was falling. He parlayed that into a career of saying “Velvet Sky, tomater” and then rambling under his breath for five minutes. Kurt’s insides kept f**king up until they were on his outside, and now a guy who seemed like he had the best reason ever to brag about being great (winning a Gold medal with a broken fricken neck) hops on Twitter to passive-aggressively bitch about Randy Orton using an Angle Slam as a transitional move.

Life is weird, and sort of sad.

Worst: Cotton Candy Guy

hey asshole, down in front

Worst: The Debut Of Stupid Kurt Angle Suplex Spots

To my knowledge, this is the first time Kurt Angle took a German Suplex by backflipping onto his face. In fact, he loses the match via Tazmission and there’s “extra footage” on the DVD of Kurt backstage having a penlight shined in his eyes, mumbling through unconsciousness about how chokes are illegal and he’s still undefeated. Is there any possibility that it is canon that Taz’s illegal choke did something harmful to Angle’s brain, which led to his inflated ego becoming megalomaniacal (see: Eurocontinental Champion, saying D’Lo Brown didn’t matter) and forever damaging his ability to discern fantasy from reality? It’s not a huge jump to think “I lost, but I’m still undefeated” could one day translate to “I’m the greatest wrestler ever and Jack Swagger stole my move”.

Don’t get me wrong, I love stupid Kurt Angle matches, at least from that Royal Rumble ’03 time period when he was just going full speed nonstop, throwing himself shoulder-first into every ring post he could find. But in the same way that Toy Story’s greatness begat A Shark Tale and Hoodwinked, Kurt Angle’s excessive Germanic Suplexing begat Jeff Jarrett MMA matches and 30 minutes of Mr. Anderson crawling around in a cage.

Best: So The Internet Knows. So What?

I’ve written for wrestling op boards for years (shout out to Macbeth from Wrestling Uncensored and Dusty The Fat Bitter Cat), but I’m starting to get old and have forgotten what dirt sheets were like back then. One way or another, everyone watching the 2000 Rumble on pay-per-view was ready for Taz. We knew he was here. We expected it, because the Internet (and other wrestling companies) told us. The unnamed opponent’s music started, and it was Taz. Taz wrestled as Taz, and for one night it was pretty glorious.

So … what’s the problem there?

There’s a huge thing now where WWE has “plans” for something, but the Internet finds out about it through a source or just makes up news that comes too close to being what they had planned and things change. I remember that happening with Edge and Christian. Christian was supposed to turn on Edge and the Internet found out about it, so instead of just following through with the logical thing that should happen they turned Matt Hardy on Jeff, a swerve that in retrospect may have been the worst idea in the history of wrestling. I’m not being hyperbolic, I seriously think “giving Matt Hardy a solo push where he feuds with Jeff” is at LEAST as bad as a dancing turkey mascot or a save from RoboCop and in the ballpark of making Brad Armstrong dress up like a f**king colorblind Spider-Man.

Sometimes we know what’s going to happen because we’re paying attention. We read these dirt sheets because we, at least in that moment, really care about what you’re about to do. That’s not a bad thing, jerks, so the next time you’re gonna put the belt on Dolph Ziggler or whatever and Big Dick Johnson or some low-level ROH Program Girl With Her Tits Out-quality WWE employee types “Dolph Ziggler is winning the title” to Meltzer or or whatever just f**king do it anyway. It was a good idea when you came up with it. We will like it, Especially if you convince us to.


Do you rullize how violent this is gonna be? NO.

Oh man, the Hardy Boyz on the microphone. This is one of my favorite, inconsequentially bad WWF promos ever, and revisiting it after a decade or so of quoting it I’m noticing all sorts of weirdness. Why is Matt’s shirt soaking wet? Is it because they’re about to wrestle the Dudleys, and everyone knows that the Dudleys are “a-stream?”. Is Matt Hardy really Air Marshall 50 Cent from Soul Plane 2: The Blackjacking? Why is Michael Cole dressed like a gambler from Red Dead Redemption?

Best: Still The Best Tables Match In WWE History

I love this match, and watching it again, it really holds up. What it does differently from most WWF/E gimmick matches is that it exists outside of the Money In The Bank style “everybody wait while we set this up” thing. The IDEA was to put your opponents through tables, so when they were down, you set up a table to put them through it. There was a reason for the ridiculous construction. Also, it seems like it’s always moving from point A to point B … the wrestlers have a reason to have chairs, they have a reason to go outside. They have reasons to be constantly flying around and jumping off things. It all makes sense, even if “I’m going to put you on a table and then the table will break” is one of the least understandable things pro wrestling saved from ECW.

Everything still works. The Dudleys do all the construction because it’s their game … they stay overconfident as the Hardys, clear underdogs, always fight up from underneath. All of the Hardys major bombs in this match are from out of nowhere… Jeff is only put into a position to jump off the top of the set because the Dudleys took him up there for a spectacular finish. Hubris. My two favorite moments come back-to-back:

1. Matt Hardy setting up a ladder to dive off onto D-Von, jumping off and then OH WAIT SH*T GOD HERE COMES JEFF HARDY FROM ABOVE US. It’s cool, claustrophobic, and the kind of thing that made us go “yeah okay your respeck knuckles are stupid but let’s enjoy the good wrestling match” with the Hardys for years.

2. D-Von’s SUSPENSE DODGE~ of both Hardys. He manages to roll out of the way in time to dodge a leg drop from Matt Hardy, then (with another great off-camera moment) spins out of the way to let Jeff come tope con hilo’ing brain-first through a second table. The match continues, and we’ve found a way to milk two more broken tables out of the story without ending it or being stupid. It makes sense… the Hardys have to give it everything they’ve got or they’re gonna die. So what’s the problem with dying? Air Marshall 50 Cent!

Best: “There’s Only One Jeff Hardy In This World”

Confession: Jeff Hardy was my favorite wrestler in the world for a while.

That’s a REALLY hard thing to admit in 2012, when you’re a guy with a respected-ish wrestling column. I thought he was the best. I had trouble with my weight and self-confidence when the Hardys first became vampires, and here’s this extremely handsome dude wearing skin-tight Gadzooks shirts with crazy-colored hair from more or less where I came from reinventing dangerous North American pro wrestling in the big leagues by flying around with an effortless grace and falling more convincingly and dangerously than anyone I’d ever seen. I thought the Swanton was cool. I didn’t even care that they called it the “Swanton”. At the time, Jim Ross was right — there was only one Jeff Hardy in this world, folks, and he was in the WWF.

And I’m going to pretend he died at some point in late 2001. R.I.P., Jeff, you died and left a beautiful corpse, and it doesn’t change colors when someone turns on a black light.

Worst: Matt Hardy’s Frosted Hair

On the flip side, Matt Hardy can f**k right off. Who has ratty, stringy brown hair and thinks “you know what, this would look better if I sprayed a bunch of fake f**king Christmas snow in it”. It looks like Alvie Singer accidentally sneezed on him before he went out to wrestle.

Man, to think that this goofy cornbred motherf**ker got to sleep with a series of beautiful women with no self-esteem.

Worst: The Reality That Everyone You Like Will Eventually Bail On Life And Disappoint You

I’m gonna try not to dwell on this much longer, but since this is my first Old Show Best And Worst report, I’m allowed a little bit of wistful “man, all these people sure do suck now, huh” time. It’s not true … Bully Ray is the f**king bomb right now. Jeff went on to win the World Heavyweight Championship, and at the very least gave CM Punk a drug-laced reason to worm his way into the main-event. Matt Hardy’s ECW reign led to Mark Henry being taken seriously for the first time in… ever. D-Von shakes like an electrocuted fish when he falls down and runs a wrestling school, so now random people like Robbie E. do the “D-Von sell”. It’s not so bad. The matches are still good.

At least this PPV happened before The Radicals showed up. Jesus.

Best/Worst: Jesus Christ With These Chairshots

I’m the last guy who needs to preach to you about the dangers of unprotected chair shots, and yeah, I’m going to take every opportunity I can to defend blood in pro wrestling as an important cog in telling an emotional sports fighting story, but at some point between the “I Quit” match at Royal Rumble 1999 and Bubba Ray Dudley caving in Jeff Hardy’s skull with extreme prejudice at Rumble 2000 it got pretty f**king ridiculous. Watch ANY of the chairshots in this match. They are NOT COOL.

A little later I’m going to mark out about a guy getting faceplanted in thumbtacks and everything, but there’s a crazy, tangible difference in stabbing yourself with a tiny prick and having a fat guy hit you in your head so hard your mind stops working. Don’t believe me? Ask Reby Sky. She’s familiar with both.

Best: Fred Blassie And Andy Richter Constituting The Same Amount Of Celebrity Judge

The celebrity guest judges for the Miss Rumble 2000 start off terrible and gradually improve until they’re great — things start off with Sgt. Slaughter, but not “Sgt. Slaughter” really, that backstage “third stooge” Sgt. Slaughter who looks just a little too old and is wearing just one too many black items of dress clothing and sorta looks like a guy you’d bump into fleeing a porno theater. Up next is Tony Garea, quite possibly the most forgettable successful pro wrestler in history, looking like a dude who’d try to sell you a Kia on television. Then we get Johnny Valentine, making as secret an appearance as he can make in public as “Johnny V” before quickly moving on, never to be seen again.

But then, “Classy” Freddie Blassie. I don’t care how old you are, if you like pro wrestling haven’t made an effort to cultivate as much knowledge as possible about Classy Freddie Blassie, you’re doing it wrong. Blassie is one of the rare guys who sort of exists as and died peacefully as a Big Important Wrestling Thing without all the dragging through the mud most wrestling legacies get. You can’t remember Hogan without what he’s doing now. You can’t remember Flair without the post-retirement match bullsh*t he’s put us through on Impact. But Blassie … you can remember Blassie however you want. All of it is great.

When everyone sits down, we find out that Andy Richter from Conan O’Brien is also there, and it’s the year 2000. That’s basically the full scale of humanity’s excellence.

Worst: Say What You Will About Hiring Models Instead Of Wrestlers, But…

Okay, so, bikini contests.

One of the biggest complaints I hear about modern WWE women’s wrestling is that they don’t hire actual wrestlers, they hire Hawaiian Tropic models and teach them how to wrestle. This is true. Kelly Kelly and Eve Torres get hired because John Laurinaitis saw them flipping through an issue of Hooters magazine at the grocery store or whatever while women like Madison Eagles and Jessie McKay get passed over and have to work day jobs. It’s bullsh*t, sure, but consider this: What does WWE DO when they have real wrestlers who happen to be female?

Please consult this bikini contest, wherein Ivory, Jacqueline, Luna Vachon and so on wear bikinis and do booty dances or whatever and really cross that line from being respectable people I enjoy to gross looking things I don’t want to see move. Jacqueline in particular is a Brazzers ad on the side of a live pay-per-view. Man, I hate those things. I try to peacefully masturbate to the first five minutes of an Allie Sin video where she’s just kissing or whatever and RIGHT in my peripherals is a guy just smacking the sh*t out of a big nasty beige fake tit and then it’s starwipe to brutal anal. That’s Jacqueline.

I guess the weird thing is that when they employed real wrestlers they put them in nonstop bikini contests, and now that they have bikini models, they put them in nonstop tag matches.

Best: The Kat, Holy Sh*t

The Kat. Miss Kitty. She wasn’t much of a television character, but oh man, as a guy who finds trashy women from the Bible Belt attractive she was as good as it got. Her bubble wrap bikini is the highlight of this, an image that would be both visually and tactilely enjoyable if I hadn’t had the frontal lobe of my brain scorched off by the monster that is fleshtoned Terri Runnels going vag-up on the ring ropes.

True story: I ran into The Kat a few years after this when I was working at an Applebee’s in Naples, Florida. She was super nice, and even brought me a signed picture the next time she was in.

Also a true story: I could’ve married her if I’d put a slaughterhouse hook through my nuts and added a bunch of Zs to my words, or whatever.

Worst: That One Disagreeable Diva

Oh, before I forget, in relation to what WWF/E does with Divas, the very worst thing they do is when they have one of the Divas get “upset” about what’s happening so they can have a talking point for anyone watching who might think “hey, this is bad to women”. Here it’s Ivory, who says she doesn’t want to do this and eventually strips down, and Luna, who refuses to participate even though she’s in the ring in a string bikini and a see-through negligee. They always write in the one “bitch” Diva who doesn’t want to have fun and “entertain the fans”. Molly Holly was that scapegoat for YEARS. And Molly was prettier and better and bettier than any number of Torries Wilson.

Worst: Pre-Crisis Mae Young Is CRISIS Mae Young

Here’s what happened: Because WWF thinks Mae Young being sexual is funny (a thing they still do now and will assumedly do until Mae is cold in the ground… and possibly AFTER that, if they can figure out a way to CGI her into anniversary shows), they put gross prosthetic “saggy boobs” on her and made her “strip” in a sexual frenzy for the enjoyment and/or lulz of the crowd. Mark Henry tried to cover her up, but the old man judges (and Andy Richter, I guess) preferred her nudity to Jacqueline’s interpretive gangbang and awarded her Miss Rumble 2000.

What happened when I watched it originally: Rumble 2000 happened when all my friends were still into wrestling (thanks a lot for reorganizing our priorities, stupid 9/11), and I remember watching it with them live and turning my head to the side when I saw Mae was stripping. I heard them all going OHHHH and UGHHHH and BLEGGHHHHH and so on, but didn’t see it. I didn’t actually see what happened until I rewatched the show yesterday, over a decade later.

What I thought about it: It was sorta like that opening scene in Ghostbusters. When I was a kid, I always covered my eyes so I wouldn’t be scared, because that was the scariest part. I watched it a few years ago and thought, “oh, that’s not so bad, it looks like a gay ape”. So what I’m saying here is that Mae Young’s boobs look like a gay ape.

Best: lol mark henry

Young Mark Henry is so adorable here. I remember Sexual Chocolate and all that horrible stuff, but actually seeing him as a small, helplessly ineffective loser who may or may not be able to bench 2,000 pounds is so confusing and charming. I want to go back in time and hug him and tell him It Gets Better.

Worst: Co-Intercontinental Champions

Here are five terrible ideas:

1. Letting Chyna wrestle, either against men or women

2. Letting Chyna win the Intercontinental Championship

3. Introducing the idea of “co-champions”, where two people hold on title belt, especially on what used to be your most prestigious title

4. Allowing Chyna’s wrestling and co-champion thing to overshadow Chris Jericho, who hadn’t been around very long and was supposed to be a big thing

5. Bob Holly pay-per-view matches

With that said,

Worst: Chyna As A Co-Champion, Overshadowing Chris Jericho, Wrestling Bob Holly

I’ve often preached about the dangers of fast-forwarding through a wrestling show because you just assume you aren’t gonna like something, because that means you’re never around for that moment when the bad thing gets good but you’re still around to argue about how it’s bad. Yeah, I fast forwarded the sh*t out of this. All I can compare it to is the three way dance between Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels at TNA Unbreakable in 2005, replacing Joe with Bob Holly, replacing A.J. Styles with a store mannequin given life and way too much self-confidence and making Daniels wrestle in quicksand.

It’s not the worst match ever or anything, but it’s #1 on my list of matches there’s no way in f**king hell I’m watching again.

Worst: WWF’s Attempt At WCW Chris Jericho

WCW Chris Jericho, at least the top-knot Conspiracy Victim “armbar” Chris Jericho, is my favorite wrestling character of all time. People like to remember his awesome WWF debut, with the big JERICHO on the tron people going apesh*t for him, then jump right to him wrestling Benoit or Guerrero or whoever and winning the Intercontinental Championship. Sometimes they jump from the debut to the Undisputed Champ thing. What they forget to mention is that Jericho’s first like… two years in WWF were a terrible retread of the stuff he’d been doing so well in WCW, from making Mr. Hughes dress up as Gotch Gracy to trying to tie up Chyna and smash her thumb with a hammer. It wasn’t great.

So when you remember WWF Jericho, remember what a blessing it was for the Radicals to show up and help him out a little, and for Angle and Benoit to become a thing and need a third guy. All that “CM PUNK IS IN THE DOGHOUSE” stuff we’ve dealt with for the last few years is NOTHING compared to watching future Best In The World Chris Jericho run over Stephanie McMahon’s dog as a Wrestlemania plot point.

Best: Crash Holly And Headbanger Mosh As Threats

The Rock’s original, lengthy babyface run is a dark period for me because it turned one of my favorites into a guy who says stuff like “what in the blue hell” for laffz, but I revisted his Rumble 2000 promo and laughed pretty hard at him saying the only two people in the Rumble who’d be a challenge are Crash Holly and Headbanger Mosh. Just referring to somebody fully as “Headbanger Mosh” like it’s their first and last name outside of identifying them in a tag team match is the best.

Best: Michael Cole When He Was Josh Mathews

Another Best goes to Michael Cole for following up Rock’s obvious joke with, “well wait a minute, THOSE guys aren’t very good, shouldn’t you be MORE worried about someone like THE BIG SHOW?” It launches Rock into his less-funny catchphrase bingo, but it’s a pleasant reminder that Michael Cole was once a guy we hated because he was a boring nerd, not because he wouldn’t shut up about boring nerds. Maybe Josh Mathews’ incessant badgering of people backstage will be a fun Best in ten years.

Worst: Shut Up Juice (Oh God)

You know those Rock promos when he’s coming back where it’s all IF YOU SMELLLLLALALALALALALOW/I BRING IT/BOOTS TO ASSES/IT DOESN’T MATTER/FINALLY catchphrase videos, and you’re like “wow, Rock sure had a lot of memorable sayings!” He did, but he also said sh*t like “have a tall glass of Shut Up Juice” that were stupid and we forgot. I can’t wait to go through these old shows and find all the terrible catchphrases that didn’t stick. Bob Holly’s “HOW D’YA LIKE ME NOW” comes to mind.

When did Rikishi start trying to put a little ass on it?

Best: The Only Thing Worse Than The Road Dogg Is People Cheering For The Road Dogg

These guys are so awesome. Nice WWF New York hockey jersey, guy. The camera cuts to them calmly mouthing along with the Road Dogg’s monologue, then crotch-chopping sorta inadvertently as their voice picks up. Nothing says Attitude Era wrestling like “memorizing long-winded speeches that are always the same”. I would be f**king shocked if either of these guys still watched wrestling.

Worst: Pre-Crisis Bradshaw

My favorite WWE title match of all time, at least now that Benoit did that thing he did with those people, is JBL vs. Eddie Guerrero at Judgment Day 2004. It’s probably my favorite match ever. Eddie bleeds to the point of surrealism and exemplifies almost every single thing that is or can be good in fake fighting, largely in part to the work of Bradshaw, who sorta anchors the affair and not only gives Eddie Guerrero the impetus to act, he beats the dogsh*t out of him.

So I don’t like looking back on the Bradshaw before JBL, where he was just this big, sorta fat-bodied guy with crop circles on his manboobs and pentagrams on his pants because he was super vanilla boring and needed to enjoy Undertaker’s heat by proxy. The Acolytes are one of my least favorite teams of all time because they just never seemed like wrestlers… they seemed like “tough” guys who just kinda picked you up and dropped you, and there was no athleticism or real power or real oomph outside of working stiff for stupid reasons to anything they did. A team like the Road Warriors had a spirit behind their hoss violence. Williams and Gordy looked like they could legitimately kill you if you crossed them. Faarooq and Bradshaw were just there.

Pre-PRE Crisis Bradshaw was even worse. The guy royall f**ked up “cowboy” and “occultist”, which are like the two easiest wrestling gimmicks. Thank God he didn’t f**k up “rich guy”, too.

Worst?: All 45 Seconds Of This Tag Titles Match

All I can remember from the Acolytes vs. New Age Outlaws match, even after watching it a second time, is how fast it goes by. That’s usually a compliment for a match, like how Samoa Joe vs. Kenta Kobashi goes 25 minutes or whatever and plays like it ends in 10. That’s not the case, here. This match is sorta the “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something of wrestling matches. It’s so boring, you may forget wrestling is even happening.

It’s better than I remember it, though. The Outlaws are crazy over for almost their entire run, and Billy Gunn and Road Dogg really do play out like a modern day R-Truth and Dolph Ziggler team, with Dogg doing his dumb moves that don’t hurt and Gunn having blonde hair and a famous ass.

Worst: Have A Bad (DX) Day

At least now we have a precedent to explain why Inside Out was so bad.

What the hell kind of accent is he going for there, Groucho Marx or Boss Hogg? This video is proof that even WWF/E’s best pay-per-view buildups involve a lot of extrangeous bullsh*t we could live without. The pay-per-view itself opens with a great THEY SAY YOU’RE TRIPLE H, THEY SAY YOU’RE CACTUS JACK, THEY SAY YOU’RE HARDCORE, THEY SAY YOU CAN’T BE BEATEN thing that instantly sets the mood for a bloody war between a guy who can take all the punishment in the world and a guy who won’t stop destroying, and STILL there’s Triple H in a fake nose and glasses as a … what, as a jew? Yelling at Mideon as Mankind in insider termz.

Wrestling has NEVER been good, everybody.

Best: Stephanie McMahon, Before That One Guy Made Her Feel Bad

She was adorable. And I’m not up on my Internet gossip or anything, but if that story about her getting a boob job because a guy in the crowd had a sign about how her natural boobs were saggy (or she was fat, or something stupid) is true, I want to put that guy in handcuffs and use the inside of my legs to force his head into thumbtacks.

Best: The Last Ride Of Cactus F**king Jack

I mentioned earlier how JBL vs. Eddie Guerrero at Judgment Day 2004 was my favorite WWE Championship match, but this one would have to come in at a close #2.

It’s even better when you go back to it, because it represents to important peak periods, and one of the most important to me: Catcus Jack as real actual Cactus Jack. Not Mick Foley wearing the shirt and yelling bang bang before somebody hiptosses him into razorwire. Not Mick Foley +100 pounds +sock hitting Ark Of The Covenant Ric Flair in the face with a rubber barbed wire bat or dildo or whatever and making him meltsplode. Real f**king Cactus Jack, the guy from the Nasty Boys match, the guy from ECW, the guy from those grainy ass tape-to-a-tape-to-a-tape Japanese death matches, in a WWF ring against the WWF Champion. That is real. That is danger.

Going back to the “everyone bails and disappoints you” talking point from earlier, it’s easy to rag on a guy like Jeff Hardy for ruining his life with drugs and beat painting, and even easier to make fun of MATT Hardy for eating grapes on YouTube and drunk driving his Maserati or whatever Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies would’ve driven had be been alive and a hillbilly asshole in 2011, but Foley doesn’t really deserve it. He destroyed his body to the point of no return and there’s a good grace about why he’s not still doing it, which makes it weird when he shows up and SORTA does it, and you’re all “yeah this is fine or whatever but please just go hug your daughter”.

There was none of that here. He was tight, his ear was gone, he was as fit as he could be and he was ready to rip Triple H’s face off and sh*t in his skull hole. That’s the Best.

Best: When HHH Still Looked Like Video Games Make Him Look Now

The second peak period is Triple H, who still had the giant shoulders with the tiny waist and the cobra muscles going up the side they give him in WWE ’12, because I guess it’s in H’s contract somewhere that he can’t be rendered like a human being. This was right in H’s glorious wheelhouse, a moment when he got to show how tough and important he could be against the most tough and the most important. A lot is said about H’s run between his title victories and the first quad injury (which happened to him in my old vote for very favorite match of all time, the May 21st Raw tag match against Benoit and Jericho), and he really earned it — he gets a puncture wound in the leg, bleeds like a pig from just about everywhere and gets carried away on a stretcher, but it’s not until the very very end that you accept he won’t pop back up and start throwing hands because he’s the f**king champion.

That’s what makes this all so good … it’s Cactus Jack in his last true moment as Cactus Jack against Triple H in one of his only true moments of being the Triple H we’re asked to believe happened. Also, there is a lot of punching.

Best: Ultraviolence, In Moderation

Things get gross in this match. As I mentioned, Triple H gets a wooden spike driven into his leg by accident, so he wrestles the last half of the match with a golf ball-sized hole in his leg. The finish, as you probably already know, involves several minutes of Foley being handcuffed, leading to several minutes of Foley destroying H’s face with a barbed wire bat, building to thumbtacks and leading to not only a pedigree, but a pedigree ONTO the thumbtacks. It is hard to watch in an enjoyable way.

That’s the opposite of how I feel about ultraviolent matches. Call me a pussy if you will, but I don’t enjoy seeing Masada put skewers in a guy’s cheek and stomp on them. I don’t like seeing a guy get a pair of scissors jabbed into his arm. I can’t present a defined line of what qualifies as theater and what steps too deep into human dogfighting, but I think a lot of it has to do with context, and the people around me, and why we’re watching it.

For example, this stuff happens in the main-event of a WWF pay-per-view during boom period at Madison Square Garden between the toughest wrestler ever and the guy who wants to BE the toughest ever. Situationally, it makes sense that they could take it a little far. In contrast, I’ve seen way too many instances of CZW playing Minecraft with a bunch of ladders and tables and prop boxes full of broken Christmas ornaments or whatever in a tiny arena for the enjoyment of what, 150 of Philadelphia’s worst fans? It’s not worth it. It’s not what you do, but when you do it. Foley talks about that in his book, about how Undertaker makes more money doing one dive a year than a guy like Jody Fleisch makes in a lifetime doing 720 DDTs in the middle of a match. It’s not that Takers is “better” or whatever or that Fleisch’s crazy innovation doesn’t have a place, it’s just F**K dude, pick your spots. Break your body when you HAVE to, not because you can.

Best: Hugo Savinovich With Barbed Wire

Presenting this without comment.

Okay, one comment. Who gave him that glittery ass shirt, Chris Jericho?

Best: A War, Actually Played Out Like A War For Once

The next time Randy Orton hits somebody with a kendo stick and Michael Cole call it a “war”, I’m putting in this match.

Worst: WWF New York + The Coach + Linda McMahon

Additional true story: Back in 2001, I went to Madison Square Garden for the WWF’s post-9/11 tribute to New York City firemen. Rock vs. Austin was the main event. The less cool memory of that trip is that I paid a visit to WWF New York and ate an entire plastic bucket of hot wings. It was the worst. The place was set up like the most bare-bones Ripley’s Believe It Or Not ever, where the entire experience is “hey, wanna see how big Andre the Giant’s hand was? Okay cool, now give us 25 dollars for this McDonald’s play bucket full of horse meat”. I have a WWF New York magnet on my fridge now.

Now quick, name the two least entertaining WWF characters who have made more than 30 appearances on WWF television. If you said “Linda McMahon” and “Jonathan Coachman”, you’ve won! Here’s a souvenir cup of “Pibbo”, half Mr. Pibb, half Mello Yello.

I’m trying to think of the best thing either of them has done. I guess Linda’s shining moment was kicking Vince in the balls at Wrestlemania, which was pretty cool in an afterschool-special-you-can’t-believe-is-making-this-point sort of way. Getting tombstoned by Kane and selling it with a neckbrace despite the fact that she clearly had her face buried in his brimstones and missed the stage surface by like four feet was pretty good I guess. Coachman’s greatest moment is being at point-blank range when Too-Fat-For-TV Vader tried to get out of the ring on Raw and fell on his ass.

Best: Brian Christopher, The Most “Eliminated From The Royal Rumble” Wrestler Ever

oh hey, is a royal rumble happening

Brian Christopher is all of the following:

1. The guy I’d answer with if an SB Nation-style “who is the most ____ player ever?” situation about being eliminated from Royals Rumble. Because seriously, look at him.

2. A guy I’m glad isn’t around anymore, because he’d contribute at least two paragraphs about racism to every Best and Worst column.

3. Somehow the less talented guy in the popular late-90s WWF wigger tag team.

4. Having a great life.

The other guy in the picture is

1. The real deal

2. The actual most “misused” wrestler in WWF history, and when someone asks you that you should say “D’Lo Brown, probably” instead of Colt Cabana

3. Awesome

4. Extremely sorry for that thing he did to Droz

Guess which person lasts longer?

Best: Rikishi, Shoot Bad-ass

Somebody call my mama!

Enter: the original Funkasaurus, Rikishi Fatu, the guy from the streets makin’ a difference who just happens to be a legitimate, dynamic, fat Samoan bad ass. He’s remembered mostly as the guy in the diaper who stuck his butthole in peoples’ mouths, and sure, doing that sorta makes him deserve the reputation, but rewatching shows like this it’s not hard to remember why he was so popular — in addition to being a fun-lovin’ wacky dancing guy, he was also a 400 pound guy who would karate kick you in the face and suplex you to death. I’m in no position to say what push he deserved or whether or not turning him heel and making him run over Steve Austin in a car because RACISM~ was a terrible idea (it was), but dude is the best here.

He gets the “early guy who would win if he’d come in later” role in this Rumble, showing up and eliminating all the refuse, including a Headbanger and that awkward, older version of Christian when he and Edge were trying to figure out if they were vampires still or what.

Best: The Climax Of Too Cool

The most unbelievable moments of the show, besides someone diving off the set and the barbed-wire-and-wooden-spikes bloodbath and the nude old weather-balloon-titted lady, is how over Too Cool is. You remember it for the New Age Outlaws, but some strange combination of timing and a well-booked Rumble finds Rikishi, Grandmaster Sexay and Scotty 2 Hotty doing their Funkasauric dance routine in the middle of Madison Square Garden and EVERY SINGLE PERSON is on their feet clapping along. Lawler can’t believe the reaction on commentary, and I know Lawler well enough at this point to know that when he repeats something like four times he’s desperate for a response because he really means it. Rikishi started off as a mindless savage and was given a gimmick where he was basically an extra on ‘A Different World’. Taylor and Christopher started off as the funny gay tag team who was gonna get married and wore pink helmets when they rode mopeds the ring. Here, they are Gods. It’s probably the greatest moment of their lives. You know, besides having children or whatever.

Rikishi dumps them both after the dance routine, but they stay friends. Rikishi is pretty stupid for having done that, because he eliminates the next three guys by himself, and if he’d had his two pals in the ring with him he might’ve won the whole damn thing. This may or may not be the plot of Step Up 4.

Worst: Time To Get This Thing About The Headbangers Off My Chest

I’ve been needing a place to say this for years: I hate the Headbangers. HATE them. Part of it was how bad they were at wrestling (Beaver Cleavage, New Jersey Fun Haver Chaz and “Low Down” are all examples of this), but it was mostly because they were called the “Headbangers” and had ABSOLUTELY GOD DAMN NOTHING TO DO WITH HEADBANGING. They came out to a drum machine, wore skirts, painted their faces and had no hair. They never even banged their heads. I encourage you to watch any of the 80,000 episodes of Headbangers Ball and tell me if one dude, ONE DUDE who looks like f**king Thrasher shows up. He’s wearing a CONE BRA for Christ’s sakes. Anybody got a picture of Cliff Burton in a cone bra?

They should’ve just called the “The Punks”. Or better yet, “the late 90s punks who think Green Day is cool”. Or better still, “old billionaire’s idea of youth culture”.

Best: Steve Blackman Is About Chicks And America

Old Rumbles are easy to enjoy ironically. It’s also fun to watch with someone who has either never watched wrestling before or hasn’t watched in a while and try to explain to them who a person is and why they existed in two minutes or less. Steve Blackman is a fun one. “He was a karate guy with the outward personality of a desk drawer and he could legitimately kill you, probably, but he couldn’t fake fighting kill you to save his life and eventually they made him wear cheese on his head and fired him. Last time we saw him he was going HEY I AM ALSO A WRESTLER to get on Benoit-obsessed judgmental Republican shows.”

The thing I like about Blackman is that he never stopped wrestling like Dennis Rodman. He knew one move (Rodman knew the clothesline, Blackman knew the bicycle kick) and always seemed like he was waiting for you to give him the okay to do it. Like, you’d punch him in the back or whatever and he’s just kinda look at you with his eyes bugged out like “NOW?” and you’re all NO and kick him in the stomach, and he looks right back up at you like OKAY SHOULD I BICYCLE KICK YOU NOW and eventually you either go NO STOP ASKING and pin him or UGH YES and let him bicycle kick and pin you.

Rikishi chooses the first option and throws out him like 40 seconds into his apperance. Blackman hit the arena floor and disappeared, joining Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock in Sovngarde.

Worst: Battle Royal Fat Guy Showdowns

I go back and forth on whether or not I like when WWE sets aside a clear moment in every battle royal or Royal Rumble for two of the fat guys to stare each other down and have a standoff. As far as I can tell, it formally started with Big John Studd and William “The Refrigerator” Perry at Wrestlemania 2. They do it almost every single time, and 2000’s fat guy standoff (at least the first one… they do it later with Big Show and Kane) is pretty low rent.

It doesn’t help that one guy’s in a diaper and the other guy is wearing a studded trashbag and is more or less named “bowels, the wrestler”. Viscera gets dumped (get it) and we move on with our lives. Either that, or they merged into one dude and have hid out as Brodus Clay for the last ten years.

Best: Big Swat Main Ain’t Care

Sometime in the 90s, Big Bossman stopped being a Georgia police officer/prison guard and became a sociopathic swat team guy, commandeering the Blues Brothers car to kidnap a corpse and using sh*t like tear gas to fight The Big Show backstage. It was weird.

Anyway, he gets the awesome “heh, too smart to rush in” spot heels do sometimes in Rumbles. The year before this, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon entered numbers one and two and just fought outside the ring for an hour before stepping back in and finishing up. Theoretically almost EVERY wrestler should use that precedent to stand outside until absolutely necessary. If everybody did it it’d be like one of those TNA battle royals where you eliminate guys by throwing them IN, because they’ve then accepted the reality that they may be thrown out.

Loosely related note: I love Big Bossman for innovating the Cody Rhodes/Christian/Goldust “do a whole lot of unnecessary stuff that could probably hurt me before punching a guy” move.

Worst: Test, In All Forms

No wrestler on old shows makes me go OH GOD TEST quite like Test, who enters shortly after Bossman and tries to beat him up and get him in the ring. The girls scream when Test takes off his shirt, for some reason. A guy in the crowd has one of the best signs ever: “Nice Teeth, Test”. Right behind “RDV” and “Bells Palsy Retard” as my favorite WWF signs ever.

Test doesn’t do much, and gets eliminated when Big Show kicks him in the ass. Seriously. He didn’t even make it to Albert.

Worst: There Sure Are A Lot Of Dead Guys Out Here

There are only four dead guys in the 2000 Royal Rumble (five if you count Chyna, because she’s got two months left, max), but three of them enter in a row: Big Bossman, Test, British Bulldog. Crash Holly shows up a few entrants later, and is quickly eliminated with a suicide dive.

Best: Bob Backlund = Always A Best

If the Best And Worst Of Things That Have Happened In The Past becomes a regular feature, get ready for every single Bob Backlund appearance to warrant a “Best”. Playing chess with Jonathan Taylor Thomas at Wrestlemania and telling him not to “exacerbate” him? Check. Looking like the biggest nerd of all time standing next to prime era Ric Flair? Check. Exiting through the crowd when he gets eliminated from the Royal Rumble? Come on.

Bob Backlund is one of those wrestlers you hate when you’re a 13 year old wrestling fan and your grandma gives you a BEST OF GOLDEN AGE WRASSLIN VHS or whatever and everything is slow and full of headlocks and matches end on dropkicks. When you get older, your taste starts to evolve, and Backlund is like a fine wine … he’s like John Laurinaitis’ general manager character put into the body of early WWF Kurt Angle. He’s the anti-wrestler, the anti-Hogan before Hogan was Hogan, the most whitebread Bruno Sammartino ever. He’s hilarious and just the absolute best.

Fun fact: I learned the names of the U.S. Presidents in order, just in case I ever meet Backlund and want his autograph.

Best: Random Royal Rumble Run-Ins

WWF had so many guys at this point that they could book repeated run-ins from guys who weren’t in the Rumble (which is weird, because they let people from the undercard in in their place, but whatever). These were:

1. The Mean Street Posse’s magnificent asses running in to attack the Acolytes for reasons I don’t completely remember and being promptly eliminated.

2. Kai En Tai running in to attack … well, almost anyone, and getting eliminated in spectacular fashion. In fact, after “Tazz debuted” I think the most identifiable and remembered moment of this show was TAKA Michinoku flipping over the top rope and faceplanting on the concrete. They showed it like a hundred times. Here:

They always made sure to say sh*t like SAYONARA TAKA~ so you knew that they weren’t just eliminated, they were Oriental. FUNAKI ELIMINATED WITH A THUNDEROUS CHING AND CHONG, KING.

Worst: Great, More Chyna—Chyna-Lyrics

Don’t feel bad, Joanie, I’m making that same face.

Since I’ve already talked about Chyna way more than I’d like, her entrance theme (which is not by Lisa Stansfield, sadly) says: “Don’t treat me like a woman. Don’t treat me like a man. Don’t treat me like you know me. Treat me for just who and what I am.” That, and “I’m so much more”, are the only lyrics in the entire song, leading us after ten years of seeing her train wreck to conclude that:

1. Chyna is gender non-specific

2. What Chyna is is unable to be known

3. Chyna is so much more than this

with “this” being… a wrestler, I guess? Does “being able to blow two dudes at once” constitute “so much more”?

Best: Road Dogg Playing Road Opossum

Road Dogg apparently gets injured during this match, but he has to stick around long enough to be eliminated by Billy Gunn to start THAT alternate timeline of horrendous bullsh*t, so instead of walking/standing/royal battling he just lies down near the corner and wraps his arms and legs around the bottom rope. In addition to being sorta precious, it is effective, and he hangs in there for almost twenty minutes.

If he shows up in the 2012 Rumble and does the same thing, I’ll give him a best.

Worst: Al Snow’s Lady Singlet

Way to let Shawn Michaels pick out your wrestling gear for the night, Al, you look like one of the f**king Jumping Bomb Angels.

Best: Giant Bernard!

I love Albert almost as much as I hate Test. WWF/E does one of two things with big men:

1. They hire untalented big guys and put them on TV as soon as possible and hope for the best, because hey, maybe they’ll turn out to be good at this. Sometimes it works (Batista) and sometimes it doesn’t (Mason Ryan, Jackson Andrews).

2. They hire talented big guys and DON’T do anything with them, expecting them to somehow become successful and popular on their own, which doesn’t make any sense because that is your job (Albert, Mike Knox).

Thankfully Albert has found another life as New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Giant Bernard and left the world of arriving in and suddenly leaving the WWE on loop behind, but I just wanted to put this here to remind you that at one point in time WWF hired a 6-foot-7, 350-pound monster with a college education and decided his gimmick should be “dick ring”.

Best: This Specific Whore

My quick thoughts on the Godfather: “I sure do love being socially and emotionally controlling to these women!” is probably the least okay WWF gimmick of all time, or at least on the list between “guy in ball gag” and “Muslim wrestler ordering beheadings”, and if you cheered for the Godfather you have bad taste in wrestling and should be ashamed of yourself.

That being said, look at this whore:

If you are or know who this specific prostitute is (a New York area stripper, I’m guessing?), please contact me, because I have thought you were hot for like a decade and need some masturbatory closure.

Worst: Big Show’s Southern Rock Hair

Way to let Shawn Michaels braid your hair before you entered the Royal Rumble, Big Show.

I thought seeing Kurt Angle with hair was gonna be a notable thing, but seeing Big Show with show dog hair is way worse. Going bald was one of his better decisions.

Worst: That’s Gotta Be… That’s GOTTA BE Kane’s Nipple

And speaking of guys who

1. Haven’t gotten any better in 12 years

2. make bad decisions

here’s one of the worst of Kane’s outfits, the one where he put just enough mesh in the chest so you could see his nipples.

I know they eventually just came out and said that his scarring was “emotional” or whatever and not physical, but they hadn’t established that here, and they spent the two years or whatever before this and like five years after it slowly taking off Kane’s clothes. At first it was just an exposed arm, then it was exposed arm with mesh chest, then a mesh tanktop. I thought they were gonna have him come out in a headband and some transparent Mr. Ass pants at some point.

Worst: We Messed Up The Finish, Let’s Just Mess Up The Next Three Months Too

I’m not the NetCop. I’m not even a NetSecurity Guard. I don’t know if The Rock actually messed up by letting his feet drag on the ground when Big Show tried to eliminate him or if they used that as an excuse for a story they were gonna tell anyway, but Rock not cleanly eliminating Big Show from the 2000 Royal Rumble led to my second or third least favorite Triple H-centric Wrestlemania main-event ever: H vs. Show vs. Rock vs. Mick Foley, a month after Foley had “retired”, featuring a heel victory and Mick taking one of the worst elbows to the side of a static table failure bumps ever.

It’s a good reminder that on even the best shows, featuring even the best matches, happening during the best time period for one of the most popular wrestling companies in the world, wrestling is bad. Stuff happens that unknowingly sets up years and years of sadness. Rock’s feet dragging leads to a bad Wrestlemania. Jeff Hardy getting bashed in the head leads to him painting quadrants of his face in pastels so he can battle Jeff Jarrett for supremacy of whatever. Kurt Angle takes a cool bump, then takes that same bump in decreasing coolness and increasing life danger for a decade.

So what does that leave us?

I guess I don’t know. But I know that Triple H vs. Cactus Jack match is worth at least a few years of bad main events. I know that the tag team tables match will always play well for me, no matter what Matt Hardy does to his hair. I know that Brian Christopher was the most popular person in New York City for a night, that Big Show once had a glorious head of hair and that even a prostitute can be beautiful. So wrestling can’t be so bad, can it?

Can it?