Best of the WWE Network – 2014

It was recently the WWE Network’s fifth birthday, which is actually pretty mad. The original concept for the Network came bout back in the mid 00s, and it was something that was being worked on for years before finally becoming a reality on February 24, 2014.

WWE spent a lot of time building up their classic video library, buying rights to other companies’ back catalogues and digitising them, in preparation for the Network. But the key selling point has always been the new, original programming. WWE have tried a lot of different show formats over the last five years, some have worked and some haven’t.

With five being a fairly round number, I though I’d take this opportunity to look back at some of the highlights of WWE programming in the Network era year by year. 2014 was a changing of the guard in WWE, both in and out of the ring. So, as I used to say in these posts fairly regularly back around that time, without further ado… Continue reading Best of the WWE Network – 2014

Retro Spotlight: Paige’s Raw Debut

Monday night on Raw there were a lot of surprises, some awesome moments, but there was one moment that stood out for a different reason. Paige took the microphone after Mandy Rose vs Sasha Banks, Rose and Sonya Deville left the ring, and it suddenly took on a different tone. It’s been an open secret since the turn of the year that Paige was not going to be medically cleared by WWE, and this week Paige herself confirmed that, and announced her in ring retirement from WWE.

What has happened here is a tragedy. Paige was a prodigy, signing for WWE as a teenager, becoming a focal point of NXT and becoming champion. It looked like she was going to be the core of WWE’s women’s division for a decade or more. But in 2016 she got hurt and there was a lot of drama also involving Alberto Del Rio, and for all intents and purposes that was the end of her career.

Injury. Controversy. Unfulfilled potential. That could be the lasting memories of Paige. But it shouldn’t be, because as much as WWE wants to call every women of the last 30 years trailblazers, Paige was a huge part of what started the change in perception over these last few years.

And as a tribute of sorts to SmackDown’s new General Manager, I want to go back to that time period. I want to take a look at Paige’s main roster debut, which will possibly go down as the greatest moment of her career. This is my Retro Spotlight for Paige’s Raw debut. Continue reading Retro Spotlight: Paige’s Raw Debut

Retro Spotlight: Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker – Part 2

Last week I debuted a new column where I look at a match, angle or feud of the past and look at the build, the content and the aftermath. There was only one place I could start, and that was with one of my favourite matches: Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker in a ladder match for the Undisputed Title from the July 1st, 2002 edition of Raw. That match is rightly still remembered today, but the two superstars would face off again years later, in an encounter I think is often forgotten – but no less important in the Jeff Hardy story.

I find it interesting looking back at both matches, because there are a lot of differences as you might expect, but there are also a lot of similarities despite both men being at different stages of their career, and their environment having changed significantly too.

From 2002, we’re jumping ahead six years to late 2008. As noted last time, Jeff Hardy had left WWE in 2003 to go to TNA, but he returned to Raw in 2006 to a wave of approval from his fans. He returned to confront the then-WWE Champion Edge, in what was a nice nod to Edge’s feud with Jeff’s brother Matt the previous year. But much as Jeff had failed to reach his apparent potential in 2003, he had to prove that he could be a top guy all over again when he came back. Continue reading Retro Spotlight: Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker – Part 2

Retro Spotlight: Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker – Part 1

So I had the idea for a new column where I take my usual Spotlight format and look at matches, rivalries or superstars of the past. I put up a post on the blog’s Facebook page asking for suggestions of what to write about, but I thought it might be helpful if the first piece was an example of what can be done. So to kick things off, over this two-part column I’m going to be looking at two matches between two of my all-time favourites: Jeff Hardy and The Undertaker.

The first match I’m looking at takes us back 16 years to 2002. And despite this being the early days of the first brand extension, the landscape of the WWE was unbelievably different. When tensions first appeared between Jeff and Undertaker, Ric Flair still owned 50% of WWE, Stone Cold Steve Austin hadn’t taken his ball and gone home, there was a single Undisputed World Champion who appeared on both Raw and SmackDown and the Deadman, well, wasn’t a dead man. Continue reading Retro Spotlight: Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker – Part 1