Once an afterthought in the women’s division, Becky Lynch is now the single-most compelling character in all of WWE.
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Becky Lynch’s Concussion Could Alter Plans for WrestleMania
Becky Lynch further solidified herself as “The Man” this week on Raw and SmackDown.
The image of a bloodied Lynch getting the best of Ronda Rousey at the conclusion of Monday’s Raw only adds to the incredible wave of momentum that Lynch is riding. Once an afterthought in the women’s division, Lynch is now the single-most compelling character in all of WWE.
Lynch is unavailable to perform at Survivor Series due to a concussion following an errant punch from Nia Jax at the end of Raw, and Charlotte Flair will take her place on Sunday in the match against Rousey. But this change in plans could affect more than just the top women’s match at the Survivor Series.
Multiple sources close with WWE have confirmed to Sports Illustrated that the Rousey-Flair match was among those being considered for the main event at WrestleMania 35. The last four ’Mania main events have all included Roman Reigns, but with his 2019 status still unknown, the main event is open and Rousey is a favorite among many in the company to headline the show.
The possibility now exists that Rousey-Lynch will main event WrestleMania 35. This is far from a foregone conclusion, but what once seemed out of the realm of possibility is now a legitimate option to close the show. In an era where matches are constantly rushed onto television, a showdown between Lynch and Rousey is one of the few matches WWE can build toward for months.
Flair and Rousey could also deliver such a phenomenal match on Sunday that there is the need for a WrestleMania rematch. Or there could be a three-way match at ‘Mania that includes Lynch, Flair, and Rousey. Although it has happened, Vince McMahon rarely closes WrestleMania with triple-threat matches.
It is possible that the concussion Lynch suffered on Monday could lead to the reconfiguration of the main event for WrestleMania 35.
Daniel Bryan vs. Brock Lesnar Makes Survivor Series a Must-See Attraction
Daniel Bryan defeated AJ Styles last night on SmackDown, reclaiming the WWE championship for the first time since 2014. Then, for some added fireworks, Bryan snapped after the match, cementing a heel turn with a kick to Styles’ head.
A match-up between Bryan and Brock Lesnar has been a longtime fantasy, but it is now set to become a reality this Sunday at Survivor Series.
The decision to turn Bryan is well timed. Bryan has played mostly his greatest hits since his return to the ring at WrestleMania, and the heel turn adds a tremendous amount of sizzle to his character. He can now feud with Styles, Jeff Hardy, and Rey Mysterio. There is even the potential for a storyline with “Best in the World” winner Shane McMahon.
Bryan-Lesnar is a match that would have been easy to predict prior to this heel turn. Either Lesnar would have squashed the babyface Bryan, or Bryan would have overcome all odds to defeat a massive bully in Lesnar. Instead, there will be an entirely new story this Sunday at Survivor Series in the first-time encounter between Bryan and Lesnar.
In other news...
• Extreme Championship Wrestling was known for blood, guts, and gore.
The exploits of most ECW legends do not include a pursuit of cutting-edge meditation and yoga. But Rob Van Dam was unlike most of the ECW roster, and even made his own trail in the wrestling world.
“Even in ’91, when I was in the indies in Florida, I still had my stretch routine back then,” said Van Dam. “When I did my splits on the floor, there was always, always some homosexual remark made from one of the wrestlers. You can guess what those guys said, but my stretching has played a significant part in my longevity and my physical health.”
The 47-year-old Van Dam defeated Jack Swagger this past Friday at Northeast Wrestling’s “Redemption” show. His in-ring style remains enticing, sticking to the tenents that made him a star over twenty years ago.
“I’m at a point in my life now that I find very rewarding,” said Van Dam. “I only wrestle 10-12 matches a year, and I get to pick and choose my matches. I have so much to be grateful for, but I’m still stretching and going through my routine to make sure I’m at my best. When I stretch a few days in a row, I’m limber as f---.”
Van Dam has made a career out of being flexible. But he credits his longevity in pro wrestling to more than just his stretching, sharing that his meditation allows him to center his mind, body, and spirit.
“When I’m on the grind, like I was with WWE’s never-ending tours, I hated all the factors of the job except for showing off in the ring,” said Van Dam. “That’s the flights, the rental cars, and everything else.
“Then, and now, meditation is my escape. It’s an inner-experience. I leave the secular world. I don’t even need to use my eyes.”
Van Dam explained that it took a long time to develop a relationship between his mind and his body.
“I had to teach my muscles to trust me,” said Van Dam. “So when I stretch, it’s about relaxing the targeted muscles. Too often people strain muscles because they’re trying to elongate a muscle, making it contract, so you’re actually working against yourself.”
Part of the beauty of Van Dam’s method is that he does not use it to impress anyone, nor is he doing it for any commercial benefit.
“When I’m stretching, I always hear wrestlers say, ‘Man, I’ve got to stretch with you,’” said Van Dam. “And I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re always welcome.’ But no one ever does. CM Punk and D-Von Dudley are the only two who have their own stretch routine before their matches, but I haven’t seen too many others do it.
“DDP tried to have me make an instructional video, but I think my routine works best for me.”
Van Dam is still asked about a potential return to WWE, which he admits is unlikely, but not impossible.
“I know that my fans want to see me back in WWE,” said Van Dam. “To that, I can say, it’s good to be wanted. I can tell you that I enjoy my days off a lot more than my days on, but I appreciate the fans. It’s because of them I have the life I have. So thank you to the fans, I know they’re going to stick with me for life, and never say never.”
• Kenny Omega and Rey Fenix put on a match of the year candidate this past Friday at Northeast Wrestling’s “Redemption” show at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, New York. New Japan’s IWGP champion defeated Fenix in a 27-minute classic that gripped the entire crowd.
Fenix was presented as the clear underdog in the affair, and the story told in the ring was that, no matter how hard he tried, Omega could not defeat Fenix’s fighting spirit. Despite a flurry of V-triggers, Omega was repeatedly unsuccessful in his attempts to hit his One-Winged Angel finisher, which is one of the rare finishing moves in wrestling to actually signal the end of a match.
Fenix is Mexico-based AAA’s Mega Champion, as well as one-half of Major League Wrestling’s tag team champions with his brother Pentagon. He is also studying diligently to become even more fluent in English.
“I’ve been working on this for a while,” said Fenix. “When I started with Lucha Underground, I knew I needed to learn English. I’ve learned a lot from watching TV shows and movies, like A Beautiful Life and The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith.”
This year has seen some of Fenix’s greatest success in pro wrestling. He was part of the All In main event this past September, holds the top title in AAA, and delivered an unforgettable match with Omega that was high enough in quality to close out a major New Japan show.
“It’s an honor to wrestle in the United States and follow the footsteps of Rey Mysterio,” said Fenix. “This is a big point in my career, and each show is a big opportunity. People sacrifice to buy a ticket to see me wrestle, and I take that very seriously.”
• Acclaimed journalist Jonathan Snowden is working on a new book centered around the life and career of Ken Shamrock.
“Shamrock: The World’s Most Dangerous Man” will provide a look at Shamrock’s life, including his revolutionary work in MMA, his underrated work in WWE, and his return to mixed martial arts.
Snowden’s comprehensive biography will be released in 2019, and he is funding the book through a creative outlet on Indiegogo. The paperback only costs $20, but there are multiple other ways to contribute, such as ordering an illustrated hardcover, donating $75 for a Japanese wrestling magazine bundle, or attending an MMA event with Shamrock.
While Shamrock has a wealth of experience in the ring, Snowden also has an incredible background covering both pro wrestling and mixed martial arts—and the core of Shamrock has been a fascinating subject to explore.
“There’s something fascinating about mixed martial arts pioneers that keeps me coming back to the subject,” said Snowden. “Ken Shamrock was a pro wrestler who took the great leap from sports entertainment into reality fighting. He got on a plane after fighting one of the toughest men on the planet for Pancrase and a couple of days later was stepping into the UFC Octagon with no idea what to expect. He didn’t know if it was going to be a work or a shoot or something in between. But he was willing to step in there anyway. There’s something special about that.”
Books have been written on Shamrock, who first rose to prominence in the 1990s in MMA and made a significant impact in the WWE beginning at WrestleMania 13, but Snowden plans to explore Shamrock from a different angle.
“Ken’s life is fascinating to me,” said Snowden. “He came from nothing and rose to the top. A lot of fans know that story. But they don’t now just how dark things were before he stepped into the spotlight or how bad they got again on the way back down the mountain. Most athletes only want to talk about the highs and hide the lows. Ken and all the people around him were very honest about both, about what it’s really like to be a fighter and pro wrestler. I respect him a lot for that honesty, because I know it isn't always easy to look in the mirror and admit your failings.”
Six years ago, Snowden wrote “Shooters: The Toughest Men in Professional Wrestling”. Undoubtedly, Shamrock is one of the toughest men to ever enter pro wrestling, and Snowden was asked where Shamrock ranks among the toughest competitors.
“So much of the discussion of pro wrestling tough guys is shrouded in legend,” said Snowden. “I don’t think there’s any doubt, for example, that Lou Thesz was an efficient and talented grappler. But he wasn’t tested in actual competition as a professional. It's easy to be a tough guy in theory.
“What’s different about Ken and modern shooters is that there were outlets to prove just how tough they were. And, in his prime, before he was worn down by endless injuries and distracted by the party scene, Ken was one of the best fighters on the planet. We don’t have to guess. We know. He beat Masakatsu Funaki, left Royce Gracie a bloody mess in their second fight, toyed with Bas Rutten and made short work of an Olympic class wrestler in Dan Severn.
“You can argue about exactly where Ken falls on the list of pro wrestling tough guys. But you can’t have that list without him. That says a lot about his abilities.”
The Shamrock book will be noteworthy because of Snowden’s diligence in his research and additional interviews.
“Before Ken’s fight with Kimbo Slice, Bleacher Report sent me out to his training camp in San Diego,” said Snowden. “The eventual story became one of the most read combat sports profiles we’d ever done and Ken and I really hit it off. I think he liked the fact that I wasn’t afraid to challenge him and that I had thoroughly studied his career. At one point I remember him saying, ‘You know more about my career than I do.’
“Fast forward a few years, and I get a call from his manager about helping them with a book. At first, I was skeptical. After all, Ken has already written two books and much of his career was thoroughly documented. Plus, I didn't really have any interest in one of those athlete autobiographies that shares everything but the truth.
“Luckily, instead of saying no, I made them a counterproposal: an all-access biography with complete editorial control that really digs in deep to the story behind the story. We know, for example, that Ken quit in the middle of his fight with Kazayuki Fujita. We don’t really know why. This book fills in a lot of those kinds of gaps, not just from Ken’s perspective, but from the perspective of those around him. I talked to everyone from his training partners to his family to the manager of his favorite strip club. There are few stones left unturned.”
Readers are now presented with the unique opportunity to help directly fund the book they want to read, and 55 percent of the $10,000 goal has already been raised.
“Because it’s Ken Shamrock, I could have written this book with a mainstream publisher,” explained Snowden. “But I had a different idea in mind. I feel like there is an appetite in the MMA and pro wrestling communities for high quality, longform writing and high-energy artwork. Fans are passionate about these sports, but the audience is a little too small for most New York publishing houses to really dive into these topics beyond the most surface level celebrity fighters.
“We created Hybrid Shoot with the idea of making art for fans by fans. We love John Cena, The Rock, and Conor McGregor. But there are stories beyond those mega-celebrities and we want to tell them, even if there isn’t a mass audience. That’s the goal here. We don’t just want to fund this book about Ken Shamrock. The idea is to use the money we bring in beyond our costs to fund the next book and the one after that and get some of the talented creators out there to share their love of pro wrestling and MMA with the world.”
Appreciative of the support, Snowden expressed his gratitude for all of those who have helped support the project.
“I’m profoundly grateful to everyone who has contributed,” said Snowden. “You often hear people say, ‘I couldn't have done it without you.’ In this case, it’s literally true. I was able to employ artists, editors and great translators thanks to the generous support of the community. And I hope this journey is just beginning.”
• The Survivor Series may no longer be a Thanksgiving Day tradition, but it led to the creation of these incredible opens to the pay-per-view:
Led by Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, the 1989 roster for the World Wrestling Federation at the Survivor Series was overflowing with talent. It is interesting to wonder what the weekly programming would have looked like had the company produced live content every week.
There are plenty of notable WWE Hall of Fame omissions. But after re-watching the ’89 Survivor Series, Earthquake is another star that belongs enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
• Conrad Thompson returns for a new “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” this Friday at noon, detailing the 1998 Survivor Series.
“If this was a WrestleMania, people would remember the card a lot differently,” said Thompson. “I don’t think anyone expected The Rock to turn and join the McMahon-led Corporation.”
This year marks the 20-year anniversary of the ‘98 Survivor Series, which saw the crowning of The Rock, who became the youngest champion in company history up to that point on a show that is in the discussion for one of WWE’s best pay per views of all-time.
“We’ve heard Bruce mention before that Steve Austin had been critical of The Rock around this time, and Bruce always notes that is when the real competition started between Austin and The Rock,” said Thompson. “Little did we know, Austin and The Rock would combine to become the most important WrestleMania trilogy ever. So we’ll talk about whether they knew if that was the plan for the upcoming WrestleMania.”
The 14-match card ended with a “screwjob” finish, as McMahon “screwed” Mankind out of the title–which was a storyline version of the events from the 1997 Survivor Series that saw Bret Hart drop the title to Shawn Michaels without his blessing or knowledge.
“This is the one year anniversary of the Mr. McMahon character, and it’s fascinating to see how McMahon turns reality into a story,” said Thompson. “Plus, WWE was still going back-and-forth with WCW for supremacy. It was a gamble to put the belt on a new guy in The Rock. It’s not like now where you can try to get Roman Reigns over for five years, so we will discuss the decision to put the belt on The Rock, and it will be really interesting to see if the plan was for Rock to lose the belt to Austin at WrestleMania.”
Tweet of the Week
Neville—who has returned to calling himself PAC—would make a very interesting new leader for New Japan’s Bullet Club.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.