Honorable Mention: DOLPH ZIGGLER
Dolph Ziggler Ric Flair Kevin Nash
Coming off of the recent Brand Split (between Monday Night Raw & The New Live Version of Smackdown) and the dominance shown by Brock Lesnar at UFC 200, The WWE has been getting a huge amount of press lately. And based on what I saw on the July 25th edition of WWE Monday Night Raw, it appears that somebody in charge has actually been listening to the moans and groans of it's more traditional wrestling fans. I mean I've gotta say that for the last ten years, the product has been increasingly hard to watch. But as of last night, on the first post-draft edition of Raw, the was a very noticeable air of change in the air. The vibe was darker, there was much more action, the promos seemed less scripted, and most importantly-there was less talking. Period. There is a new title (because the name is pretty corny, we will just leave that part out for now), and there were some really good matches throughout the show-but the most refreshing parts of the show centered around the well booked debuts of now former WWE NXT Talents Nia Jax and Finn Balor. And they even brought back the "squash match!" Finn balor's long awaited move up to the main roster more than exceeded expectations, as he ended the show earning earning a spot in the main event at next month's SUMMERSLAM against Seth Rollins. The best match of the night honors go to Sasha Banks, as she defeated Charlotte Flair for the WWE Women's Championship. Sasha is quite possibly the best female wrestler I've ever seen; and her wild tribute to the dearly departed Eddie Guerrero was hilarious! And for those that don't know Sasha is Snoop Dogg's niece, and Charlotte is the daughter of The Legendary Ric Flair. It will be interesting to see what happens to keep the momentum up on Smackdown Live, and beyond. But for now, let's get you familiar with some other other stars that you may want to check out soon...
Honorable Mention: DOLPH ZIGGLER
Dolph Ziggler Ric Flair Kevin Nash
For years it seemed that A.J. Styles would go down as one of the most talented wrestlers never to step inside a WWE Ring; but alas as fate would have it "The Phenomenal One" finally arrived. Debuting at The 2016 Royal Rumble, A.J. hit the ground running and hasn't slowed down yet. Wrestling with The Ring Of Honor & New Japan promotions since 2013, Styles is most known as the long time face of TNA Impact Wrestling. Not really fitting the traditional mold of The WWE, few ever imagined Styles would ever have his "Wrestlemania Moment;" but undoubtedly the fan reaction he has received has been a huge driver behind The WWE's recent shift into their current "New Era."
As a kid this self-proclaimed "Boss" would beg her uncle Snoop dogg to take him with her to WWE Events, and from there the seed was planted that would she that young girl grow into transitioning The WWE Women's Division away from short eye candy exhibitions to Eye legitimate wrestling. Sasha is still eye candy herself, but with a penchant for stretching out her competition in all sorts of MMA-style holds. She's got style like none before her; and just the night before I wrote this blog, Sasha banks would see years of hard work finally rewarded as she became the new WWE Women's Champion. In the past, the women's matches were considered a chance to get up and go get snacks. But with Sasha, and a few others we will mention shortly, times have certainly changed.
Having built up a huge following wrestling under the name "Prince Devitt" internationally, Finn Balor's made it's way onto the American Wrestling scene after a super successful run as a founding member in New Japan Wrestling's NWO/Type Faction "The Bullet Club." After a memorable run as WWE NXT Champion, balor debuted in spectacular fashion this week on Monday Night Raw. For those not yet familiar, Finn Balor comes to the ring showcasing an exciting combo of high flying moves-with the "strong Style" tactics Japanese Wrestling is most known for. And as far as his entrances, only The Undertaker could claim to rival that. And he saves his best for Big Events...
Savelina Fanene (aka Nia Jax) is a former model, and is the younger cousin of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. She's only been wrestling since 2014; but with the way she throws her competition around in the ring, she did need to stew around on the independent scene for years to get noticed. she arrived, She Conquered, She Excelled...
Like A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe was one of the main faces of both The TNA Impact and Ring Of Honor Wrestling promotions. Currently The WWE NXT Champion, one can only assume that he hasn't promoted to the main roster so as to ensure that there is still a major draw to keep that brand as a viable and growing force that reigns above TNA & ROH. Joe also represents a trend of heavier set athletes that can really move around the ring, just as well as their smaller counterparts. Up until 2015, The WWE would have always passed these guys over. But now they are bonafied main event superstars...
Becky Lynch is a high energy European transport that came over to WWE in 2013. Along with Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Bailey, these ladies became known as "The Four Horsewomen" as they quickly became known for breaking the mold of what Women's wrestling had been up to that point. Not to say that all of their predecessors were wack-it's just that these ladies are that damn good!
Sesugh Uhaa made a name for himself in Japan's Dragon Gate promotion as "Uhaa Nation," before coming over to WWE as Apollo Crews. By all reports, the name is indeed a play off of Apollo Creed and Terry Crews (of whom he does somewhat resemble). At 6'1" and 240 pounds, it is amazing to watch crews do standing somersaults and come crashing down on his opponents. While most Black Wrestlers usually stay on the mid card, it does appear the company has bigger plans for Apollo Crews. Hopefully this will be the case. Especially after The Brand Split...
Not a lot of history to add here. Asuka, formerly known as Kana, doesn't speak much English. But with the way that she smiles her perverted "You Know You Just Fucked Up" grim at you (just before she kicks and twists her opponents all over the ring) she doesn't have to. Period.
Charlotte Flair is the daughter of The Greatest Pro Wrestler of All time. She was voted Pro Wrestling Illustrated "Rookie Of The Year in 2014," and by May of that year, had captured The NXT Women's Title. Charlotte was called up to The WWE Main Roster and quickly captured the then-Divas Champion, and at Wrestlemania was crowned as WWE Women's champion (an honor she held for over a year, until being dethroned by Sasha Banks on the July 25th 2016 Monday Night Raw). While comparisions to her father will never go away, she has done an impressive job of building her own brand-while simultaneously taking advantage of the path that was laid before her. Expect her and Sasha to put on many more spectacular matches well into the next year...
Formerly known as "Kevin Steen," Kevin Owens has been wrestling since the age of 16 years old. Now 32, The former WWE NXT Champion spent most of the past year feuding with the likes of John Cena and Sami Zayn among others. Like most of the others on this list, Kevin Owens displays an impressive and wide-ranging skillset of moves usually not found in a 260+ pound wrestler. Like the others, Owens falls into a category that Vince McMahon would have passed over in times past. And like most of the others, Owens stands to get a major shot at the main event due to the Brand Split.
For most people that grew up in the 70's and 80's Pro Wrestling and Shaolin Kung Fu Movies were two staples that dominated television on any weekend, and for me both of those somewhat guilty pleasures would continue to be a part of my life right up to this day. I don't really get too much into toady's wrestling as much; but can (and do) sometimes spend hours at a time watching the old classics. Figuring I knew just about all there is to know about the different legends and pioneers, I have spent considerable time learning about the Black and Brown Faces of yesteryear that could have been so much more well known-if not for segregation and old racist attitudes in certain territories. People like Ernie "The Big Cat" Ladd, Bobo Brazil, Thunderbolt Patterson, The Junkyard Dog and many others were fan favorites and generated lots of money for the different promotions that they worked for; but were not allowed runs as World champions because by many accounts promoters feared that angry white fans might riot. In fact it wasn't until 1992 that a Black World Heavyweight Champion would be crowned, when College Football Hall Of Famer Ron Simmons would be Big Van Vader for The WCW World Heavyweight Championship Belt.
One pioneering name seems to have fell through the cracks; and it wasn't until watching last week's WWE Hall Of Fame Presentation Show that I first heard the name "Sailor" Art Thomas. Inducted as a "Legacy" entrant, Art Thomas broke into wrestling back in 1943. After finishing up his time in the U.S. Navy, Thomas had already made a name for himself as a Bodybuilder and was asked to wrestle some house shows. Possessing an amazing physique, crazy strength, and 6'5" 265 lb frame he quickly rose up the ranks. Billed as a former seaman, Sailor Art Thomas was also known to showcase much style and flavor-always dressed immaculately in either a business suit or a seaman uniform. As a fan favorite Art Thomas would earn many opportunities to challenge for The NWA World Championship Belt-including several memorable battles with The Legendary "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers. In the 1960's Sailor art would move on to The then-WWWF and battle in Tag Team matches with Legends like Bobo Brazil and Bruno Sammartino. During the 1970's Art would move on again to wrestle in Canada, and would retire in the early 1980's. While working all over the country, Sailor Art Thomas was best known for his time wrestling in Chicago. Sailor Art would succumb to cancer in 2003. He was also known as "Seaman" Art Thomas, "Hercules," and "The Body." Without his hard work and sacrifice, so many others would not be selling out huge arenas today like The Rock, Booker T, and others have in more recent times. #SaluteThePioneers
He Geronimo Pratt served 27 years in prison (8 Years in solitary Confinement) for a murder authorities knew he did not commit. Geronimo Pratt was one of the leaders of the Los Angeles black Panther Party, and in 1968 was convicted of murdering a white school teacher. In a trial filled with Witness Inconsistencies, "Lost" wiretap evidence that would have proven his innocence, Suppressed Documents, Paid Informants, Perjury, and Defense Team Members working with The FBI, Pratt would be convicted-even though authorities knew that he was in Oakland at the time the crime was committed. Despite the efforts of Amnesty International, a great Defense Team, and a groundswell of Public Support, The FBI's COINTELPRO Program succeeded in ensuring that he would be locked away & denied Parole 16 Times. His sentence was FINALLY overturned in 1997; and he would receive a $4.5 million settlement from The FBI & LAPD for suppressing evidence. Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt died in Tanzania in 2011.
HAPPY BORNDAY GERONIMO PRATT!!!
THE TIME BIG VAN VADER WRESTLES ALMOST THIRTY MINUTES-WITH HIS EYE OUT OF SOCKET...
While everyone knows that wrestling matches are scripted, so many Unbelievable Moments can happen while the wrestlers work toward that "Scripted Finish." And in the old days, when wrestlers truly Lived & Breathed the Business, things could often get ugly quick! Case in point, the October 1990 match between Big Van Vader & Cowboy Stan Hansen in Japan's infamous Tokyo dome. Before the bell was even rung, Stan Hansen had already accidentally broken Big Van Vader's nose with an errant swing of his cowbell. Roughly two minutes into the match, things would take an even more bizarre turn, as Vader would suffer breaks to his Orbital Bone & Eye socket. based on the story that leon white aka Big Van Vader tells [here] he was twice thumbed in the eye-the end result was that he would find his Right Eyeball falling out of the eye socket. In the video below, the incident happens at about the 2:30 mark. within the next minute, Vader would be in so much pain that he had to remove his mask & an amazed crowd goes into shock! What's really amazing here, is that he went on to fight for another 15-20 minutes. And I mean into the crowd, all over the concrete floor, etc. Simply amazing!!!
In the aftermath, Leon white aka Vader would have to endure two surgeries to repair the damage to his eye-and one additional surgery for his broken nose. today there are steel plates in his nostrils. Ouch!!! For wrestling enthusiasts, and those not completely grossed out at this point, you can here him tell the full story to Stone cold Steve Austin at by clicking on the Link Below. He tells many great stories; but the Tokyo Eye Incident story begins at about the 19-Minute Mark. http://cdn46.castfire.com/audio/522/3352/24890/2211978/2211978_2014-06-05-012018-7770-0-11-0.64k.mp3?cdn_id=46&uuid=ccb5399d8c5f853eac1dafa042df3c6a&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fpodcastone.com%2FSteve-Austin-Show
No long intro necessary here. Check out the infamous Tiny Lister, aka Deebo, aka Zeus as he sits down with Snoop to discusses "LAST FRIDAY," Wrestling for Vince McMahon as "ZEUS" against Hulk Hogan, The Impact of the original "FRIDAY" Movie, projects that he would love to be involved with, and More...