The wrestling world mourns Dusty Rhodes, Sheamus is the new Mr. Money in the Bank as Owens and Cena have another classic, Brock Lesnar returns, Lawsuits and injuries mount against the WWE, TNA continues to lose talent, GFW, and TNA to team up, Finn Balor’s big push continues in this bumper, better late than never edition of Wrestling Round Up
WWE presented the Money in the Bank event from Columbus, Ohio on June 14th. In the opener, Sheamus won the Money in the Bank briefcase outlasting Randy Orton, Neville, Kane, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston and Roman Reigns. A decent effort from all but way below the standard of previous years. Reigns seemed to have the match won but was attacked by Bray Wyatt setting up a new feud for both men. In addition to a guaranteed title shot within the next 12 months this victory also makes Sheamus and Edge the only competitors to have won King of the Ring, the Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank and the WWE Title, a remarkable feat when you think about it.
Nikki Bella defeated Paige in a Divas Title match with a screwy finish which must have been a tribute to Dusty Rhodes (Paige had won the title after failed twin magic, the match restarted and Nikki won). Ryback beat the Big Show via disqualification after Miz interfered in a terrible match which existed only to insert the Miz into the Intercontinental title picture.
Match quality changed dramatically in the next encounter when John Cena defeated Kevin Steen in a brilliant US Title match. Even better than their contest at Elimination Chamber both men went all out in a match of the year contender. After the match, Steen attacked Cena with a powerbomb onto the apron the keep his heat and their feud (which has been the best of the year in the WWE) going. For all the criticism Cena gets he has treated Steen as an equal in this series and deserves tremendous credit for how over the Canadian has become in a short space of time, his match with Cesaro on the June 29th edition of RAW was pretty tasty too. The Prime Time Players beat the New Day to win the Tag Team Titles in a shock result, I would have bet the house on the New Day to retain.
In the main event, Seth Rollins retained the WWE Title against Dean Ambrose in a good if overly long ladder match. Bereft of the usual stunt show antics they relied on psychology with the champion targeting the knee of Ambrose throughout. Refreshingly Rollins won without any interference from the Authority which has been the norm in recent times.
Brock Lesnar returned the next night and was immediately inserted as the number one contender to Rollin’s WWE Title. Things turned physical the next week with Lesnar destroying the Authority including legitimately breaking two of Jamie Noble’s ribs on the guardrail before succumbing to the numbers game. Lesnar’s next match will be on the Beast in the East special from Tokyo where he faces Kofi Kingston. Lesnar is also penciled in to work dates in London and Sydney this year as part of his new improved deal.
The event in Tokyo will also feature Chris Jericho facing Neville in an inter-generational dream match and Finn Balor challenging Kevin Owens for the NXT title. Balor has been spotlighted in several excellent video packages on NXT recently and could be considered a slight favorite.
The storyline between Rusev, Lana, and Dolph Ziggler is continuing with Summer Rae now accompanying the big Bulgarian, it’s been awful so far. If a wrestling couple has ever had less chemistry than Ziggler and Lana I can’t recall it. Since winning King of the Ring King Barrett’s win/loss record has been atrocious, Sheamus’s has been patchy since winning MITB also.
What’s the point of these victories if they mean nothing. Ratings for Tough Enough have been dismal thus far. This year contestants would be well served to google 2011 winner Andy Leavine to see what their prospects are in the WWE. Since her return Tamina has been worse in the ring than she was before she got injured, a feat I thought was impossible. Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton are said to be dissatisfied with their current status in the WWE, who can blame them. Hall of Famer Bret Hart made some controversial comments in a recent interview claiming that Samoa Joe was at fault for Tyson Kidd’s neck injury calling the Muscle Buster dangerous and also expressing his belief that Daniel Bryan is finished as an in ring performer. The Rock made a surprise appearance at a house show in Boston on June 27th confronting Bo Dallas and drilling the cocky youngster with a Rock Bottom.
Former WWE competitors including the families of Matt ‘Doink the Clown’ Osbourne and Nelson ‘Viscera’ Frazer, Billy Jack Haynes, the Dynamite Kid and Hall of Famers Koko B Ware and Blackjack Mulligan have filed suits against the company alleging fraud and negligence over injuries suffered while in the company. The WWE is confident of the suits being dismissed as the talent mentioned spent only a fraction of their career’s under the companies employ and that the long-term effects were suffered over the course of an entire career.
Tyson Kidd will be out of action for at least a year after suffering a spinal injury in a match with Samoa Joe. Rusev is still recovering from a broken foot and will feud with Dolph Ziggler upon his return. Joining them on the injured list are Jey Uso and Goldust with shoulder injuries and Erick Rowan with a torn bicep.
According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter planning for Wrestlemania 32 has begun with half a dozen matches already decided on. At this point, the Rock vs Triple H with involvement from Stephanie McMahon and Ronda Rousey is penciled in as the main event. The long awaited dream match between Sting and the Undertaker is apparently not under consideration, neither is Daniel Bryan with injury worries being cited. Shawn Michaels has also stated in an interview that he has been offered a large role in next year’s show but has turned it down as he wishes to stay retired. With the 100,000 capacity AT&T stadium in Texas to fill expect the WWE to really push the boat out for the event.
In non WWE news, Jeff Jarrett returned to TNA and won the King of the Mountain (reverse ladder) match at the Slammiversary pay per view. This was the most notable happening from a disappointing show which could prove to be TNA’s last PPV event. Bizarrely the company provided much more excitement and storyline advancement on the July 1st episode of Impact. On the show, the Wolves claimed the Tag Team Titles beating the Dirty Heels and Ethan Carter III pulling off the biggest win of his career by defeating Kurt Angle for the TNA World Title. Magnus, James Storm, Gunner and Austin Aries are among the most recent names to leave TNA, all are expected to resurface in Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling at some stage. Speaking of Global Force Wrestling plans are in place for a GFW invasion of TNA which will feature the likes of Chris Masters, Shelton Benjamin and former TNA talent such as Magnus and Jarrett taking on current TNA stars if there are any left by the time the angle begins. Also, congratulations are in order to Jay Lethal who captured the Ring of Honor World Title from Jay Briscoe at Best in the World to become both World and TV champion, a first in the company.
William Ensor better known to wrestling fans as ‘Nature Boy’ Buddy Landell died on June 22nd aged 53 following injuries sustained in a car crash. Borrowing heavily from the other Nature Boy Ric Flair both in image and ring style, Landell was a star in the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) in the mid 80s. Landell was at one point considered for an NWA title reign by beating Flair in a battle of the Nature Boys, however, personal problems and a falling out with management ended any chances of this happening. After working in Tennessee and Alabama Landell returned to the NWA in 1990 albeit in a much-reduced role.
Rounding out his career Buddy wrestled for Smokey Mountain Wrestling where he faced Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Title and the WWF where he worked mainly as an enhancement talent losing to the likes of Ahmed Johnson and Bret Hart. Landell suffered a freak injury outside the ring in early 1996 tearing his right quadriceps which ended his full-time career. Landell will be looked back at as one of the great could have-beens of pro wrestling. If he could have curbed his drug and alcohol intake I have no doubt the charismatic and talented Tennessean would have been a World Champion.
WWE Hall of Famer and former three-time NWA World Champion ‘the American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes passed away on June 11th at the age of 69. In recent years, Rhodes had been signed with the WWE working mostly with the NXT brand advising young talent on character development and promos.
Indeed, it was these qualities that made Rhodes a star. With his blubbery physique and lisp, Rhodes seemed an unlikely candidate for wrestling superstardom. Born Virgil Riley Runnels Rhodes attended West Texas State University in the mid-60s playing football as a linebacker. After college, Rhodes debuted as a pro in 1966 quickly finding success as part of the Outlaws tandem with Dick Murdoch. After the team split up Rhodes found tremendous success in the Florida territory where his babyface turn on the hated Korean Pak Song and manager Gary Hart made him a hero in the Sunshine State.
Rhodes tremendous selling, comebacks, jive talk interviews, willingness to bleed and common man persona made him a hero to fans. His popularity even spread to new heights when he arrived in the WWWF where he had a famous feud with then champion Superstar Billy Graham over the WWWF Title. This rivalry made Rhodes a national star. Rhodes greatest success came in Jim Crockett Promotions (which would later morph into WCW). Here Rhodes feuded with top names such as the Four Horsemen, the Russians, Terry Funk, and Harley Race among others and held the NWA Title three times winning the belt from Harley Race (twice) and Ric Flair. The rivalry with Flair was a career highlight with the son of a plumber vs the Nature Boy meshing brilliantly on the mic and in the ring and led to the famous ‘hard times’ promo which many view as one of the greatest interviews of all time.
During this period, Rhodes was also in a booking position which led to resentment from many backstage who reckoned he used this power to push himself at the expense of others. It was a fair point, but any booker who didn’t use a star like Rhodes on top would have been thought insane. At the time an all-star cast populated JCP Flair, Race, Arn Anderson, Magnum TA, Lex Luger, Barry Whindam, Tully Blanchard, the Road Warriors, Sting, the Rock and Roll Express and the Midnight Express to name a few. Pushing his luck Rhodes booked an angle in 1988 where the Road Warriors bloodied his eye with a spike violating a no blood policy which existed in the company at the time, this led to Rhodes firing from the NWA and the end of his main event career. Resurfacing in the WWF the next year Rhodes was now bedecked in polka dots and managed by a middle-aged black woman named Sapphire. Despite being a lower card gimmick Dusty made it work gaining great popularity and soon found himself in rivalries with top WWF names such as Ted Dibiase and Randy Savage, an incredible feat for an out of shape veteran in his mid 40s.
After leaving the WWF in 1991 Rhodes returned to WCW in a mostly backstage and announcing capacity making sporadic TV appearances marking the end of his full time in ring career. Dusty would return to the ring in 2001 after the closure of WCW wrestling on the independent circuit and even wrestled for ECW during a break from WCW in 2000. Rhodes had his last match on the 2007 edition of the Great American Bash losing a bullrope match (Rhodes specialty match) to Randy Orton. After this, Rhodes made rare TV appearances usually beside sons Dustin (Goldust) and Cody (Stardust). Rhodes death was acknowledged by the WWE with a WWE Network special and at Money in the Bank and RAW with a 10 bell tribute and a video package. It was a fitting tribute for a star of his magnitude.