Happy Thanksgiving from Planet Kayfabe here spinning in the NoDQ Galaxy. The year is nearing an end and what better time to take a step back and reflect on what you're thankful for this year. Before you take on the turkey, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce and Big Bossman's signature Pepper Steak, relax and take a look back on this year in WWE as I share what I'm thankful for in 2017.
Goldberg finally ends his career on the right note:
You may or may not be a fan, but there's no denying that Goldberg was a huge star in his day. For over a decade since leaving the WWE rather unceremoniously in 2004 after one year with the company, it seemed like WWE always downplayed the star that was Goldberg. He wasn't overrated. He wasn't an Austin rip-off. I mean, the comparisons begin and end at them both being bald guys with goatees.
Goldberg's career with WWE and in wrestling ended with a dud with Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 20. At last year's Survivor Series, WWE hit the reset button on Goldberg and entered a new feud with Brock. After twelve years away from the ring many fans were wondering what an almost 50 year old Goldberg could do and the answer was so simple and no one ever thought of it. No, Goldberg didn't have a 30 minute back and forth match with Lesnar he had a classic 1 minute and 26 second match that saw him going over The Beast in dominant fashion and it went over huge like the Goldberg of old.
Instantly Goldberg, in 2016 and going into 2017 was the hottest thing in wrestling. He represented something missing in today's era. No, not polished work. There's thousands of great workers out there and in WWE right now. He displayed a ton of charisma and looked like a legitimate bad ass who could kill someone if he wanted to in an era where a lot of young wrestlers look more like lean physical trainers and compete like a bunch of choreographed acrobats. Goldberg is pretty much the opposite. His lack of polished work is what made his act great. 20+ years ago it was guys like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels who stood out. Today, it's guys like Braun Strowman who stand out on the roster.
Like I said, though, enjoy Goldberg's work or not, it can't be denied he was a star who deserved better and once WWE stopped denying Goldberg's star-power he got the rightful sendoff he deserved. He came in openly saying he wanted to be a hero for the kids again. ANOTHER thing missing in this era of wrestling. He took down Brock, became world champion, had a much better send-off at Wrestlemania and the book was closed on Goldberg. If you watch the 24 "Goldberg" special on the WWE Network the story can't be told better.
Kurt Angle Returns to WWE and is inducted into the Hall of Fame:
This year Kurt Angle made his first WWE appearance since 2006 when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. It seems like the last 7 or 8 years of Kurt's career fans have been wondering when he was going to come back to WWE. After his induction into the WWE HoF, Kurt was named Mick Foley's replacement as General Manager of Raw.
Of course this whole time fans have been wondering when Kurt would wrestle again. On October 20, 2 days before the TLC Pay-Per-View news broke that due to an illness Roman Reigns couldn't compete on the show and his replacement would be the GM himself Kurt Angle. The news shocked fans and helped create a lot of interest in a PPV that didn't had a lot of buzz despite being the advertised reunion of The Shield.
Kurt has been a welcomed lone babyface authority figure on Raw. That was until... yeah, you know. Ugh... After years of Steph-a-mania running wild, Raw didn't come off as a stale chore having to sit through the same exact promo segment at the start of every show and the 50 or so backstage bellow segments from Stephanie peppered throughout. I mean 2017 hasn't been great but it's been better than the last 3 years. I'll say that much. Kurt didn't over-do it. He never overstayed his welcome on a show. Plus being an actual worker he has enough sense not to go out of his way to upstage the talent and steal their heat for no reason at all ugh... UGH... UGHH!!!!!! Okay... Moving on. It's a f***ing holiday dammit.
The middle porton of the year where Stephanie McMahon was off Raw:
Okay, I guess I'm not moving on. From the time Kurt was named GM until October 30 I got to enjoy Raw without seeing Stephanie's stale act or hearing her shitty ass music 5 times a show. God dammit. On the day before Halloween this was all trick and no treat. Of course I knew it was just a matter of time before she came back, but I was enjoying this show just fine...
I don't feel like I fully got to appreciate Raw this Spring/Summer because in the back of my mind I had this psychological complex where I was fearing the time where Stephanie would come back and ruin everything. It's kinda like when you're a kid and you come home from school, show your mom that you failed a test and she says "wait until your father comes home" so during that time you play as much video games as you can knowing that you're going to be grounded the rest of the weekend, but you're not even enjoying yourself because all you can think about is that at some given time later that evening your dad is going to come home and kick your ass and you're in for a boring weekend.
And that's what Stephanie on Raw is. A boring weekend. I spend the day looking forward to Raw. It comes on. The opening sequence hits. I have my snacks ready. I'm excited for the show and..... then Stephanie's music hits to completely ruin my f***ing mood.
So, WWE, if I didn't make it clear, I am thankful for every second of Monday Night Raw that did not feature that tired old bellowing broad's face.
AJ Styles Undercover MVP:
In 2016 AJ Styles was the obvious MVP of WWE. His first year with the company was one of the best years of his career. In 2017 it is slightly less obvious since up until recently, he wasn't in the spotlight of Smackdown much of the year due to WWE pretty much turning the whole show on it's ass in an effort to get Jinder Mahal over. However in 2017, AJ Styles hasn't taken a step back. He would be my pick for WWE's "Superstar of the Year" for the 2nd year in a row.
AJ began his year continuing a great program he had with John Cena the year prior which saw AJ putting over Cena in what would be John Cena's 16 world championship run to tie Ric Flair (at least in WWE mythology since many, including Ric, dispute this number being even higher).
After a pretty lengthy world title run by today's standards, AJ then feuded with Shane McMahon and pretty much pulled the match of the night out of Shane. I know it takes two to tango, but come on. AJ is a recognized world class worker. Shane is a 48 year old executive wearing a baseball jersey. Yet, they still had a great match because AJ can have a great match with anyone. AJ spent the mid-portion of the year floating around the US title scene on Smackdown, but was still the main reason to watch while Jinder and his amazing disappearing voice would struggle to cut a 2 minute promo.
That's where we are now. After one of the worst world title runs I can remember in my time watching WWE or any wrestling promotion, AJ did what really should shock anyone by now -- he gave Jinder Mahal the best match of his career and captured the WWE title and then went on to Survivor Series to have a great match with Brock Lesnar.
It seems the greatness of AJ's 2017 has sort of flown under the radar. He's not even retired and it seems he will likely be voted into the NoDQ Hall of Fame this year, so I guess someone's paying attention.
The era of wrestling podcasts is still strong:
It wasn't the first but the podcast that got me into wrestling podcasts was Steve Austin's. I used to listen to it every week, but this past year my ears have only had so much time for all the podcasts out there... Which almost makes me fear that a bubble could pop in 2018 but the good shows still thrive.
This past year, my favorite has been "Something to Wrestle" with Bruce Prichard and his co-host Conrad Thompson. The chemistry is great. The stories are great. Plus, you get all the inside info you could ever dream of straight from someone who worked closely with Vince and was involved with every show for 20 years.
I still catch The Steve Austin Show/Unleashed sometimes and it's still great. Austin is entertaining whether he's talking about wrestling or hunting or beer or farting. Plus, he's not afraid to be brutally honest when he talks about WWE. I'm not always looking for guys to be negative just to spread dirt, I just want honesty and the fans aren't stupid. They can smell a mile away when someone is being politically correct just because they're afraid of what heat may come with their true feelings. Austin calls it like he sees it.
Jericho's and JR's I used to catch early on, but I never thought Jim Ross' podcast was that good. He's much better as a guest on a show like Austin's for example. Jericho's is fine depending on the guest. Sometimes he can be a little too tickle sack and name droppy, though. Late last year I got into Lance Storm and Cyrus' "Killing The Town". Those two have chemistry and are entertaining. I like their takes on the business and again, both are pretty honest with their own feelings about things, which is what makes a podcast great. No one wants to waste their time listening to spin and PC bullshit.
I tried getting into Vince Russo's and Eric Bischoff's podcast. I think Russo's podcast is dedicated to wiping his own ass and putting himself over saying the same shit every show. Saying things like "bro, tell me where I ever said I take all the credit for the Attitude Era" and while he has never said the exact sentence "I invented the Attitude Era", he takes credit for just about everything the fans have fond memories of and blames Vince McMahon for the the dumb stories that happened during Russo's time with the company. Going back to "Something to Wrestle"... Listen to the Russo episode. Conrad takes quotes from Russo's own book and interviews he's done and Prichard gives his take and his side of the stories.
As for Bischoff's, he's a smart guy... Probably one of the smartest to ever be in a position of power in wrestling yet while he prides himself on calling out bullshit, any time someone has an old gripe with Eric and shoots about it he says something like "ya know, I'm not saying you're lying but I really don't recall. So, what you're saying is probably true but it was a long time ago". Basically he plays dumb to cover his ass, but it's ridiculous because it doesn't take long to see Eric is a smart guy and his memory is fine. However, maybe this is why he's smart. He doesn't waste time digging up old graves and getting other people's podcasts over by responding to their allegations in a more firey and honest manner... Ahh... ya almost had me Easy E.
In my column reviewing the 'Nature Boy' 30 for 30 I said it's great that something like this can be can be made while the actual subject of the matter is still alive to both share his stories himself and appreciate such a tribute. Especially when Ric while 68 and many people live to be 68, in wrestlers of his generation he might as well be 168. It's no secret that Ric has lived every bit of those 68 years. Which brings me to why I added him. We've all witnessed the loss of some of our favorite wrestlers over the years. Some young and tragic and some old who are just called up at their time. Both can be equally as painful. We came very close to losing one of those legends this past summer when Ric Flair was rushed to a hospital (or "medical facility" if you only know WWE jargon)
Two and a half years ago we lost Dusty Rhodes. One of Ric's all-time rivals in the ring and many said after War Games, "if only Dusty were here to see it". Well, you still have Ric, so if you're a fan and appreciate his work, we are in an age where you can tell him so with just a simple tweet. The list of legends of his caliber is a very short list and the list of those who are still alive gets shorter with each year and next year we are going to lose someone else, so by some off chance Ric Flair himself frequents Planet Kayfabe, I'm thankful for you pulling through and I hope you have many more years ahead of you to watch Charlotte continue the Flair legacy.
John "Bradshaw" Layfield leaves WWE's Commentary Table:
Good. Don't come back.
In closing as always I'm thankful that you could join me again for this Thanksgiving edition of 'Planet Kayfabe'. I hope you enjoy your day and spend time with friends and family. It's also a good opportunity to reach out to someone who is alone and make the day of someone who maybe feels they have nothing to be thankful for this holiday.
So, I'm thankful for all of you and NoDQ for allowing me a sweet platform to reach many people with my opinions on this genre of entertainment that I love to a large amount of people. With that, enjoy dinner and I'll see you right here next time.
I'm Paul Matthews for NoDQ.com
Follow me on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe and leave a comment below with what you're thankful for this year.