Saturday 4 October 2014

New Year's Revolution 2005 review

All those old wrestling shows. So little time. Let’s jump into the hypothetical time machine and take a trip back to watch an old show with fresh, modern eyes…

This time we’re going back to the very start of 2005 and the first of WWE’s three New Year’s Revolution events. None of them were much good. The most notable thing about them is that the first two hosted Elimination Chamber matches, which would ultimately lead to WWE foolishly deciding that the first quarter of the year should always feature that gimmick. Oh, and the 2006 show featured Edge winning his first WWE championship. But we’re stuck a year earlier than that, with Eric Bischoff still very much in charge of his own RAW roster, Kane and Lita bafflingly being in a relationship, Randy Orton playing the plucky young babyface, and Muhammad Hassan and Eugene being things wrestling fans had to deal with.

All set? Let’s begin…
Opening video

This was an odd one by WWE standards. It saw Eric Bischoff stood in the ring with the Elimination Chamber cage set up around him talking about how vicious the match is. Perhaps to illustrate his point (but perhaps for some other, undisclosed reason) he would occasionally smack the cage with a steel pipe. This was interspersed with shots from previous Chamber bouts, supposed construction of the Chamber itself, and the double finish triple threat match that resulted in the vacating of the World Heavyweight championship and the Chamber match headlining this card.

World tag team championship: William Regal and Eugene (c) v Christian and Tyson Tomko

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler welcomed us into the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan, Puerto Rico for what I believe is the only WWE pay-per-view to not be held in the United States or Canada since SummerSlam 1992. But that possibly inaccurate fact paled in comparison to Ross and Lawler being stationed next to the entranceway, something I’d completely forgotten about. This was one of those moves Vince made in the 2000s that was either designed to freshen up the product (y’know because wrestling fans are all about where the commentary desk is put in an arena) or annoy JR. It definitely achieved the latter, whether that was the intent or not. Ross was always quick to say that he hated being away from the ring.

I think an explanation of Eugene is probably necessary because it’s possible some (lucky) people reading this won’t be familiar with the character. He was originally introduced as Eric Bischoff’s nephew suffering with serious learning disabilities. He was played by the mentally able Nick Dinsmore, a man who’d toiled away in the company’s developmental system for years and presumably agreed to play the character because he was (understandably) desperate for his chance to become a Superstar™.

On the surface introducing a character with learning disabilities was a progressive move for a wrestling company. The initial introduction was good and Dinsmore’s portrayal was believable and sympathetic enough for Eugene to catch on and become surprisingly popular (the lack of fresh stars and the product’s general sense of staleness may have been additional contributing factors). But WWE, being WWE, had to get it wrong eventually. Eugene got mixed up with lead heel faction Evolution, which led to him being exposed as the out of his depth mid-card character he was always going to be.

After that he was shunted into a tag team with William Regal. It was not only a more appropriate placing on the card but also a more appropriate role in general. Regal made an excellent straight man for Eugene’s exuberant antics. They became one of the few decent teams WWE had throughout the entire decade.

That’s the point we’re at now. In the future WWE would make the bewildering decision to turn Eugene heel (having a mentally challenged character that audiences are encouraged to boo is never going to be a good move) and the decidedly less bewildering decision to drop him further down the card when his popularity inevitably waned. Ultimately he would be released, make a very brief return (as Eugene) in 2013, and then be hired as a trainer in 2013 (a role he was coincidentally fired from this week). But that’s all in the future. At NYR 2005 Eugene was still employed and very, very popular for some reason I’ve never been able to work out.

The match started with Eugene emulating Hogan’s posing and JYD's headbutts. He also cocked his leg to emulate urinating on a downed Christian. The crowd went mad for that. Eugene was isolated for a few minutes but managed to tag in Regal (to absolute silence) after Hulking up. Then it was Regal’s turn to get isolated, which made more sense as Eugene was the more popular of the pair.

The crowd exploded when Eugene finally tagged back in. He did a fiery clean-up on the heels before (legitimately) hurting his knee due to overexcitement. The match ended shortly afterwards, Eugene getting the pin via Owen Hart SummerSlam '97 rollup. The match clearly ended a little before it was meant to because of the injury. Eugene was helped to the back by medical personnel.

Poolside with the Divas

Christy Hemme wandered around the pool. She stopped to hand a towel to some random dude and got leered at in return. She seemed to enjoy it. Because the PG rating hadn’t been introduced at this point ‘King’ was in full-on ‘King’ mode, commenting that he loved Christy taking the twins out.

It was the first of many such videos.

Edge, Christian and Tyson Tomko chat backstage

Edge and Christian, while both heels, were not aligned with one another at this point. Which was a nice touch. It makes things seem more believable when heels have problems with other heels based on previous feuds. Edge told Christian he had an idea that would see Christian win the WHC. They walked off, presumably to discuss Edge’s plan in more detail away from the camera crew.

Women's championship: Lita (c) v Trish Stratus

The match was preceded by a video getting everyone up to speed. Lita had gotten pregnant by Kane and lost the baby after Kane fell on her in the ring. Trish made fun of her for this, first laughing about her getting fat due to pregnancy and then about her losing the baby. Which really goes beyond heel heat into the realms of Trish’s character just being awful. Her villainous side was not served well by the writing team.

This pregnancy stuff demonstrates a few things. First of all, it’s not just Vince Russo who writes pregnancy and miscarriage angles for this company. Secondly, WWE was quite happy to use something that would only ever be a tragedy in real life to fuel what was meant to be escapist TV programming. Lita v Trish was the first of two matches on the show that came from this dreadful angle. That we no longer get storylines like is a reason to be in the favour of the PG rating.

This was Trish's sixth women's title win.
The match was pretty quick. Trish was thrown out of the ring and Lita tweaked her knee performing a Thesz Press off the apron. Trish worked the knee for a few minutes in the ring and then pinned Lita after a Chick Kick. It wasn’t as obvious whether or not the injury here was real, but it seemed it. Whatever the case, the match was not up to the standards of the pairs’ reputations. It was basic and lasted less than four minutes.

Chris Jericho gets ready

That’s it. A shot of Chris Jericho preparing for the main event. JR mentioned him being the first ever undisputed champion in an attempt to make it seem like Jericho had a chance at heading into WrestleMania Season as the champ. He didn’t and everyone knew it.

Poolside with the Divas again

Maria got undressed and sat on a sunbed. Jerry said he didn’t know what he was doing while this was filmed but he was pleased the cameras were there to catch it.

Edge, Christian, Tyson Tomko and Eric Bischoff chat backstage

Edge told Bisch that he wanted a World title match but didn’t want it with Shawn Michaels as the guest referee. The future ‘Rated R Superstar’ had convinced himself Michaels would screw him out of the gold (because they were feuding at this point). He suggested putting Christian in the Chamber match in his place, with the winner defending the title against Edge on RAW. Bischoff said no to the proposed changes and, perhaps channelling the 2014 model Batista, told E&C to deal with it.

Edge stormed out of the office and ran into Michaels in the corridor. Michaels said he planned to call the match fairly but that he'd have to react if physically provoked. He did say he'd like to count Edge’s shoulders down though. Which didn’t exactly sound unbiased.

Intercontinental championship: Shelton Benjamin (c) v Maven

Maven had pinned Benjamin in a six man tag match to earn the title shot. Back then a champion being pinned in a non-title match was still enough of a reason for a title match to happen. RAW would be a much easier watch these days if basics like that were still the case.

Proof that WWE could have gimmicked Maven up.
The match lasted a little over six minutes but most of that was house show-level stalling from Maven. He hugged the ropes to escape Benjamin’s formidable amateur background then left the ring to stand on a chair and cut a promo on the crowd. Why didn’t he get counted out? Because he told the referee not to count and the referee obliged. And people think HBK’s a biased official!

Maven basically spent about three minutes telling the crowd to be quiet so he could concentrate. He also pretended he couldn’t speak Spanish then revealed that he could (or at least knew a token phrase). Then he faked a walk out, dashed back into the ring, and got rolled up and pinned with an immediate schoolboy by the champion.

Maven said the loss didn't count and demanded an immediate rematch. So that led to…

Intercontinental championship: Shelton Benjamin (c) v Maven... the long-awaited rematch

Shelton returned, hit a T-Bone suplex and pinned Maven again. The entire sequence seemed designed to kill time in the most unsatisfying fashion possible.

Poolside with the Divas yet again

A woman (who on closer inspection turned out to be Candice Michelle) rubbed lotion into Christy Hemme's back. Jerry didn’t say anything particularly noteworthy, possibly because he’d left the announce desk by this point.

Chris Benoit gets ready

Chris Benoit did some press-ups. JR said he wanted to regain the title and referenced WrestleMania XX. That was it.

Todd Grisham interviews Daivari and Muhammad Hassan

After a recap of JR being choked (like a government mule?) by Hassan and Daviri, Todd Grisham asked an instantly forgettable generic question of the heels. Hassan said it was typical of the American media (which I think meant WWE’s production team) to cut out Lawler calling him an idiot and only show the aftermath. Grish asked if he was nervous for his PPV debut. Hassan said he wasn't and then chatted about Puerto Rico's populace being second class citizens. He also crammed in a line about his own personal revolution. Because that's the name of the show!

For those who don’t remember, Muhammad Hassan was in many ways the other side of the Eugene coin. He was just as much a product of exploitation but he was a vicious heel rather than a (supposedly) endearing babyface. In this case the aspect of reality being exploited was the West’s cultural clash with the Middle East. Hassan would cut promos about being held back because of his ethnicity and make veiled comments about whatever North American city he was in being prejudiced against him. Because he was a heel he wasn’t allowed to touch on these issues without making it clear that he himself was prejudiced against the West, because that’s the way WWE operates.

It was a far more unpleasant character than Eugene, for obvious reasons. Hassan would eventually disappear from TV later in the year after UPN (the channel which aired SmackDown) pressured WWE into not using him after a controversial segment in which Hassan summoned men in ski masks to choke The Undertaker with piano wire before carrying him out of the arena (taped days before the London bombings). Daivari disappeared too, but would return later in the year to manage Kurt Angle.

Muhammad Hassan v Jerry 'The King' Lawler

JR left commentary to accompany Lawler to ringside. That left us with no commentary, which was a peculiar production decision. Especially when Todd Grisham had been shown backstage and Jonathan Coachman would commentate on the show from the next match onwards. Perhaps it was an experiment by WWE to see they could cut costs and operate without announcers.

It was a basic match with the obvious heavy influence from Memphis. For example, fair early on Lawler “had the match won” with a rollup but the ref was busy reapplying a turnbuckle pad. There was also the obligatory pulling down of the strap to signify that ‘King’ meant business.

Hassan put on the camel clutch twice but Jerry wouldn't quit. The crowd changed boring after the second application. Hassan's response was a sleeper. Jerry made a comeback and hit a drop kick and his punch from the second rope but Hassan, not being a jobber from the 1970s, kicked out. Lawler DDTed him but Daiviri put his man’s foot on the ropes to break the count. Jerry chased Daivari around ringside and then, with a little help from scary ol’ Jim Ross, into the ring. But he didn’t get his hands on him. Instead Hassan caught him with the Flatliner for the three count.

Todd Grisham interviews Batista

Batista told Grisham that he was a wrecking machine and his chances in the chamber were “great.” Then Orton appeared and asked if Batista would try to win the title or be 'The Game's' stooge. Batista said he'd take his chance to become WHC.

Fun at the commentary desk

Coach strolled out and joined JR on commentary. He didn’t reveal why he hadn’t done this twenty minutes earlier. Instead he told Ross that he and ‘King’ sucked and that everyone in Puerto Rico loved him. Because Coach was a heel who said stuff like that at this point.

Snitky v Kane

This started with a recap. Snitsky had hit Kane with a chair. Kane had fallen on Lita. Lita had had a miscarriage. Kane had sworn revenge on Snitsky. Snitsky had launched his wildly popular “It wasn’t my fault!” catchphrase in reference to said miscarriage and put Kane out of action. Kane had returned, still angry with Snitsky. Eric Bischoff booked the pair in this match.

This pretty much sums up the entire Snitsky-Kane-Lita saga.
The most exciting thing about the match was Snitsky's music starting with his catchphrase. There were lots of punches and lots of kicks. There was also a fairly unnecessary exposed concrete spot. Kane won with a Tombstone, which is pretty solid evidence that WWE were keen to get the feud and Snitsky over: ‘The Big Red Machine’ only ever busted out that move to put away major threats.

Snitters never got over, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He had a job until December 2008. Which is astonishing when you stop and think about it. He was truly, truly abysmal.

Poolside with the Divas IV: Citizens on Patrol

Stacey Keibler got off a sunbed and into the pool. Maria's footage was replayed. So was Christy’s. "I'm the breast - I mean best - at putting on tanning lotion,” said J-Lawl as we got another look at Candice rubbing her hands all over Christy.

Simon Dean appeared, drinking from a pineapple. JR instantly called him a party pooper. Seconds later Dean proved him right when he pushed a random lad into the pool. The girls were joined in the pool by Rosey, The Hurricane, Rob Conway and Val Venis for a “chicken fight” (the girls were put on the guys’ shoulders and tried to shove one another into the water). This “fun” ended when Christy pulled off Maria's top then pushed her into the pool. Coach said Maria was the winner. Lawler said we were all winners.

Recap video explaining why the World Heavyweight championship was vacated

Reigning champion Triple H defended the title in a triple threat match against Benoit and Edge. That ended when Edge reversed the Crippler Crossface into a pinning predicament but then tapped out just as the final count was made on Benoit’s shoulders. This prompted a return from Vince McMahon a week or two later (there have been so many Vince sabbaticals that I have no idea which one this was), who declared that GM Eric Bischoff would have to decide the title’s fate. Which presumably would have been a part the GM role anyway, but whatever.

Even though the finish made it fairly clear that either Benoit or Edge were the rightful champion Bisch decided the fairest thing to do would be to crown a new champion inside the Elimination Chamber, essentially muddying the waters by adding three names that definitely had no claim to being the World champ.

At the time this all happened I remember thinking that it was just an overly elaborate way of increasing the number of world title reigns for Triple H. Nine years later I still feel the same way.

Inside Evolution’s dressing room

H3 demanded to know why Batista said he'd go for the title. Big Dave clarified, saying he was an Evolution guy and that he had Triple H's back but that he'd go for the gold if Trips was eliminated before he got in. Flair and Triple H did not appreciate the final comment.

Eric Bischoff in-ring promo

Bisch strutted out to tell everyone the Chamber was one of his greatest creations and to remind that a new champion would be crowned. He finished by welcoming the crowd. That this promo happened at all was weird. That it happened before the main event and ended with Bischoff welcoming the crowd was even weirder.

World Heavyweight championship Elimination Chamber: Triple H v Chris Benoit v Randy Orton v Chris Jericho v Batista v Edge

The introductions took an age but the crowd were hot for everyone, which helped a lot. In terms of talent and name value I expected it to be one of the best Chamber matches ever.

Jericho and Benoit started things off with a compelling bit of technical wrestling. Tripper was the second man to enter. He immediately worked over both guys, throwing them out onto the steel. Benoit took the opportunity to blade.

Jericho back dropped Trips onto the steel and suplexed him back into the ring, then got back into it with Benoit as the next countdown rang out. Edge entered, spearing Jericho and DDTing Triple H for a two count. Out on the steel he blocked a pedigree and catapulted 'The Game' into the chains.

Batista's face...
Orton came in fifth and launched into his plucky babyface routine on Triple H. I feel compelled to point out that Orton was only twenty-four at this point. The crowd chanted for an RKO and got one when Orty came up against Jericho. A second attempt on Benoit was turned into a Crippler Crossface, which also met with the crowd’s approval. Triple H taunted Orton while he was in the hold so Benoit released it and put Trips in the Sharpshooter. Orton then recovered and floored Benoit with an RKO.

Edge went for a spear on Orton but Orton moved and Edge ran through Michaels. Moments later he got Orton with the move, but Michaels was still down and unable to make the count. Edge got in his face so Michaels super kicked him. Jericho took the opportunity to give Edge a Lionsault, which was enough to get him the pin and give us our first elimination. Aside from the closing moments this was the only sequence Michaels was involved in.

Benoit suplexed Trips after a Pedigree on Jericho, then followed up with a diving headbutt. The Canadians locked in dual submissions on ‘The Game’ as the final countdown kicked in and – ahem – ‘The Animal’ was unleashed. Batista leapt over the top rope into the ring to save his stablemate. He blasted through both Canadians and Orton then came face to face with Triple H. The other three men recovered and attacked before anything could happen. The tease was well received. It was one of many WWE employed on the path to convincing themselves Triple H v Batista was the direction to take for WrestleMania.

Benoit was eliminated next, falling to a spinebuster from Batista. Jericho fell to a Batista bomb soon after. That left just the two Evolution boys with their former teammate. It was a logical final three considering the history, but the crowd had seemed more invested in Jericho and Benoit.

H3 and 'The Animal' ganged up on Orton. ‘The Legend Killer’ kicked out of a Batista power slam, a Triple H spinebuster and a barrage of punches before firing up for a comeback. He floored Batista with an RKO and Triple H, thinking quickly, opted not to make the save. That was another sign: ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ didn’t want to be left alone with the powerhouse.

Orty and Trips had an energetic tussle. Triple H ate an RKO but Michaels was distracted by Flair trying to get into the cage, letting Batista, who still hadn’t exited, wallop Orton with a clothesline. Tripper hauled up Orton, giving him the highest wedgie in WWE main event history in the process, and smashed him with the match-winning Pedigree.

Evolution celebrated as the commentary gang talked up the bout and Triple H's tenth world title win.

Final thoughts

Further evidence this was all about title reigns.
I remembered this show for the main event but I wasn’t aware until rewatching it how little else there was on offer. It could have been far better than it was. Obviously Snitsky v Kane and Hassan v Lawler weren’t going to amount to much and the opener was about as good as it could get (injury aside) but the Intercontinental and women’s title matches could have been far better. The former was nothing but stalling. In total they had about eight minutes of ring time available. That was enough to have had a solid match. The women’s match might have been hampered by an injury. But if it wasn’t that was another let-down. Given four more minutes they could have had a very enjoyable bout.

The main event was worthwhile though. It actually provides a logical reason for why Batista and Orton got to the top in the first place: both pulled their weight here at a time when they were the junior members of the main event crew. I wouldn’t say it’s the best Chamber match ever, but that’s at least partly because Chambers matches don’t stick with me as much as Hell in a Cell and other big gimmick matches too. It was very good and worth checking out, and saved New Year’s Revolution from being the dreadful misfire it could have been.

That said, it could have worked just as well had Triple H’s title reign not been interrupted. There was no need for that beyond him hitting double figures.

No comments:

Post a Comment