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Daniel Bryan Retires From Wrestling

On Raw, Daniel Bryan gave an emotional farewell speech as he explained that his career was over from suffering too many concussions during his time as a wrestler. While his retirement seems earnest, is he really going?

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In September 2005 Bryan Danielson won the Ring of Honor World Championship and brought a very snug, stiff style to the title matches which made for compelling viewing but had many questioning the wisdom of two men hurting themselves in a ‘sport’ where the idea is to pretend to hurt each other. His defences were intense but his series of matches with Nigel McGuinness took things to a whole new level.

Their matches were so stiff that both men ended up working hurt. While both men made names for themselves with the feud, Danielson himself would later say that the price they both ended up paying was too high. Even after the feud was over both men were so beaten up they would go on to suffer further injuries – after a 60 minute match against McGuinness, Danielson would separate his shoulder in a match against Colt Cabana and spend the next 4 months working while injured.

In August 2009 WWE decided to sign both Danielson and McGuiness subject to standard medical testing. Bryan Danielson passed despite the shoulder injury, past concussions, a ruptured eardrum and surgery for a detached retina but McGuinness, having suffered two bicep tears and spinal compression from a botched piledriver failed. McGuinness would instead go on to sign with TNA and debut as Desmond Wolfe but end up having his career cut short when it was discovered that he had contracted Hepatitis B during his time in ROH from bloody matches.

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Once signed by WWE most wrestlers will tone their style down because a. They’ve now made it and don’t need to kill themselves to get noticed and b. Because WWE wants talents to work a safer way in order to prolong their careers and in turn generate money for WWE. The newly renamed Daniel Bryan didn’t adjust his style when he debuted in WWE and after only 5 months was fired for being ‘too real’ when he ‘strangled’ ring announcer Justin Roberts on air with his own tie. WWE advertisers were a little disturbed by the spectacle especially as it came only a few weeks after the third anniversary of Chris Benoit murdering his wife and child by strangulation. WWE let Bryan go and then brought him back 2 months later once the heat had died down. A month later Daniel was the US Champion as WWE’s way of apologising.

From this point onwards Bryan’s intense style would feature in the Money in the Bank match, The Elimination Chamber and others which were high risk matches. Often it felt like any moment Daniel may seriously injure himself with his breakneck pace. Also during this time he adopted the diving headbutt, a move invented by Harley Race but popularised by The Dynamite Kid and then adopted by Chris Benoit. Considering that The Dynamite Kid is now wheelchair bound and Benoit suffered so many concussions, many from the headbutt move, that he became so brain damaged he’d end up killing himself and his family, it seemed a spectacularly unwise decision.

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Dynamite Kid in 2012 posing for Highspots

Daniel without doubt picked up concussions and worked through them as WWE talents are prone to doing as any time off will see them lose their spot and then have to rebuild momentum after time off.

On June 17th 2013 the beginning of the end started as Daniel Bryan suffered a stinger during a match with Randy Orton that had to be stopped as Bryan had lost feeling in both arms. Backstage an irate Bryan exploded at Triple H for calling for the match to be stopped as Triple H had finished a match years earlier with a torn quad.

Less than a year later on May 14th 2014 Bryan had to undergo neck surgery to repair nerve damage in his neck. While the surgery was successful, he refused to have a second operation that doctors wished to perform and concentrated on a return to the ring which didn’t happen until the 15th of January 2015. By this time WWE clearly wanted to avoid building the main event scene around Bryan while he was still freshly back but then bizarrely put him into the most dangerous match of Wrestlemania 31 – a multiperson ladder match.

Shortly afterwards, Bryan would be injured during an April match with a seemingly reckless Sheamus. While the details of the injury weren’t disclosed, Bryan was pulled from all advertised dates and eventually announced that he’d be taking an unknown amount of time off for a concussion related injury.

Daniel Bryan

By May Daniel Bryan was openly saying he was fine to wrestle and was waiting to be cleared by WWE, but WWE wouldn’t clear him. In July Bryan stated during a radio interview that he’d been cleared by a concussion expert from Phoenix who was used by the NFL but that WWE still wouldn’t allow him to compete and wanted to bringing him back in a non-competitive role. He even went on to say that if WWE wouldn’t clear him then he’d return to wrestling anyway, just not for them.

After being cleared by doctors at UCLA the WWE’s doctor Joseph Maroon still refused to allow Bryan to compete. Speculation started to build that WWE was being overly cautious due to the Benoit case or due to legal action between CM Punk and Maroon over claims of negligence.

At the end of the year Daniel Bryan was now telling people he was ready to return including posting on his Instagram pictures of him training for a return. Most WWE talents expected him to return as a surprise entrant at the Royal Rumble last month but yet there was no sign of him.

At the end of last week a number of sources had stated that Bryan had given his resignation to WWE as he fully intended to return to the ring but the resignation was rejected as WWE had frozen his contract months before. WWE contracts have a clause where if a talent doesn’t complete their deal then the contract can be extended; this clause was used against Rey Mysterio to prevent him from leaving after he’d been injured for nearly two-thirds of his contract and WWE had considered using the clause against CM Punk, opting instead to firing him on his wedding day.

Within 48 hours Bryan went from being held hostage by WWE’s contract to retiring. The announcement was made on Twitter presumably to entice a larger viewership for Raw and various talents were told by WWE to post on Twitter using the hashtag #ThankYouDanielBryan

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It seems strange that Bryan was so dead set on returning only to suddenly retire. In an interview yesterday he said that he’d been suffering seizures and has developed a lesion on his brain but there’s still a chance that Bryan is actually following the example of Ric Flair.

When Flair retired in 2008 it was after WWE pressured him to do so while Ric wished to continue. What WWE say goes so Flair retired but by the end of the next year was working in a ring again after leaving WWE and continued to wrestle intermittently for the next 3 years.

It’s possible that Daniel Bryan has staged his retirement so he can exit his contract and make a return to Ring of Honor or TNA at a later date especially considering his battle with WWE in his attempt to get cleared. At 34 years old Bryan is a millionaire who only has 85% of the strength in his right arm and suffers from some brain damage, it’s definitely time for him to put his health above the need to compete before he becomes another Chris Benoit or Dynamite Kid.

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Round up: Axl Rotten Dead, Sunny Adult Movie, CM Punk, NXT

Yesterday ECW original Axl Rotten was found dead in a McDonalds near a hotel he was staying at, aged only 44.

Axl-RottenBorn Brian Knighton, the name Axl Rotten was a combination of names from Knighton’s own musical taste – singers Axl Rose and Johnny Rotten. Debuting at just aged 17, Rotten was mainly known for his long feud against storyline brother Ian Rotten after the break up of their tag team Bad Breed. The feud helped but ECW on the map as the two battled in gruesome gimmick matches throughout the first half of 1995 culminating in a Taipei Deathmatch where both men wrestled with taped fists dipped in glue then broken glass; a gimmick taken from the Jean Claude Van Damme movie Kickboxer.

Rotten would go on to form the tag team The Hardcore Chair Swingin’ Freaks with Balls Mahoney in 1997 and would have memorable matches against the Dudley Boyz until he left the company in 1999. Rotten would then wrestle on the independent scene until the various ‘reunion’ events in 2005 where he’d appear for both Francine and WWE’s shows.

After years of drug addiction and suffering with Bell’s Palsy, in 2005 Rotten was told that he needed urgent spinal surgery but opted to carry on wrestling. In 2014 his L3, L4 and L5 discs spine in his collapsed leading to Rotten losing the use of his legs and being confined to a wheelchair. Chris Jericho initially brought Axl Rotten’s health issues to light in order to help finance the surgery and a documentary was also filmed in which Rotten discussed his health, his career and his recovery. The documentary is free to view on YouTube but contains strong language and blood.

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Another wrestling related personality making mainstream news this week is Tammy Sytch AKA Sunny.

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Sytch’s tumultuous life and struggle with alcoholism has made headlines numerous times over the last few years but after trying to sell her WWE Hall of Fame ring on Ebay, Tammy instead opted to do porn for Vivid Entertainment. Not a massive surprise as she’d been doing “camshows” for fans for a little while.

HollywoodLife has a feature on the movie along with a safe for work (if there is such a thing for porn) trailer for the movie – Sunny Side Up: In Through the Backdoor. The trailer autoplays but can be watched here.

Sytch is also releasing an autobiography which is supposedly a ‘tell-all’ book entitled ‘A Star Shattered: The Rise & Fall of Wrestling Diva Tammy “Sunny” Sytch’. Just runs off the tongue that one…no porn jokes please!

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The book is available now on Amazon. Sytch will also be sentenced on March 28th for DUI charges and will be serving some jail time.
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WWE has parted ways today with NXT talents Bull Dempsey, Marcus Louis, Magno, Peter Howard and Sylvester LeFort.
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CM Punk is in the news again as he cut short an interview for Complex with freelance interviewer Kevin Wong after being unhappy with the line of questioning implying that he didn’t know that MMA isn’t fixed. The interview is actually a very well written piece and worth reading but is a good indicator of how much pressure Punk is under during his transition and the lines of questioning he’s normally subjected to. As with all things related to CM Punk outside the ring, expect strong language.

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5 80’s Boys Toys That Need Bringing Back

With never ending Hollywood reboots and old franchises being resurrected, here are 5 80’s boys toys we’d love to see brought back.

5.  Gobots
Most people are happy to write off Gobots as a poor man’s Transformers but Gobots actually had a lot going for it if you can look past the really bad pun names of Cy-Kill, Cop-Tur and the others.

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While a lack of variety hurt the line initially, it’s hard to deny that the Gobot figures were pretty cool. The cartoon wasn’t great but reviving Gobots with an aimed-at-adults comic like IDW’s Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye could create a good cult following. Masterpiece styled Gobots are in the works as toys already so a full revival would be easy to do. Plus, Gobots was pretty pioneering in that there were several female characters years before Transformers and unlike Arcee, they weren’t pink with feminine features. Both Crasher (above) and Pathfinder (below) were female in the cartoon and feminised somewhat but Pathfinder is still the coolest looking Gobot.

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4. Starcom
Starcom didn’t do well in the US but was pretty well received in Asia and Europe. The toys consisted of small figures, a lot of vehicles and some playsets with various motorized features and gimmicks. While they weren’t mind blowing they were imaginative and definitely fun but were secondary to the juggernaut of Transformers which dominated boys toys in 1987.

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While Starcom definitely had an issue of being a “US Space Force” and needed slightly different branding (like GI Joe) in foreign markets so perhaps a small scale reboot could work if the toys were marketed as an international team.

3. Action Force
This one is a bit confusing. In the US there was GI Joe, in the international market GI Joe was named Action Force but before that there was another Action Force in 1983. As sales of 12″ Action Man figures dwindled due to children being more interested in the smaller Star Wars figures, Palitoy decided to shrink the range down and released 4″ figures based around military figures. The first wave consisted of a German Stormtrooper, a frogman, a British Commando, an SAS soldier and others and sold very very well.

Action-Force
Copyright Vectis Auctions. Series 1 SAS soldier compared to later GI Joe release.

The second series reused a lot of the first figures but now split the figures into a terrorist group, The Red Shadows, along with 4 good guy groups – Z Force, Space Force, Q Force and SAS Force. The second wave of this new lineup heavily mixed in GI Joe figures, some of which were repainted to bolster the massive line.

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The second wave of this second generation really captured kids’ attention with the introduction of Roboskull, a TIE Fighter with a skull as the cockpit, along with other imaginative vehicles. The mini comics and the full comic didn’t shy away for violence and regularly featured terms like “interrogation” and “brainwashing” plus the weapons fired bullets, all of which were departures from the US GI Joe line. The line was merged into GI Joe (rechristened Action Force) in 1985 but we reckon a modern gritty version of the second generation featuring The Red Shadows, SAS Force and Z-Force could be an adrenaline shot for the struggling GI Joe line.

2. Zoids
Big honking robot dinosaurs and animals battle it out. If that doesn’t scream “money” then nothing does! Ditch the pilots, give the Zoids personalities (like Transformers did to the Diaclone toys) and release more than the same 5 kits over and over, then this is a no brainer.

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1. MASK
In 1985 transforming vehicles were all the rage so instead of robots these vehicles transformed into other vehicles. In an idea that was both cool and dumb, MASK fought VENOM with cars that turned into jets or bikes that turned into helicopters – in short a health and safety nightmare.

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Seatbelt is essential

While the first series of vehicles was pretty basic and underwhelming, the idea was definitely a success and captured the imaginations of children for a limited time. The cartoon only lasted for two series and the toy line for only three with the last year being about two different racing teams (?!?!). The line seemed to face two major problems – 1. The toys were smaller than the accepted-as-standard 4″ Star Wars and Action Force figures 2. A lot of the vehicles featured very little in the way of conversion and just looked like a car or bike that had fallen apart. There were some cool designs especially later on like Bulldog/Bulldoze but we feel a new toy range where both modes look good would capture the imagination of kids all over again!

Did we miss one of your favourites? Let us know!

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Wrestlefailure? Have injuries derailed Wrestlemania 32?

In 28 days WWE will hold Wrestlemania 32, the Superbowl of professional wrestling/sports entertainment but this year will be a little light on stars. A lot of fuss has been made about certain fighters missing the upcoming UFC 200 supercard but their problems pale in comparison to WWE’s.

Just to highlight how bad it is – every single person who walked out of last year’s event as a champion is injured and in fact most of the participants from Wrestlemania 31 are on the shelf.

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Wrestlemania 31’s matches were as follows with their current status in brackets:

1. King Barrett (injured) lost his Intercontinental Title to Daniel Bryan (injured) in a ladder match also involving Dolph Ziggler, R-Truth, Luke Harper, Stardust and Dean Ambrose.

2. Seth Rollins (injured) v Randy Orton (injured).

3. Sting (injured) v Triple H

4. Nikki Bella (injured) and Brie Bella v Paige (recently returned from injury) and AJ Lee (retired)

5. Rusev lost his US Championship title to John Cena (injured)

6. Bray Wyatt v The Undertaker

7. Brock Lesnar v Roman Reigns saw Seth Rollins cash in his title shot and win The World Heavyweight Championship.

Seth-Rollins

With a number of stars out WWE had hired Alberto Del Rio along with AJ Styles and the rest of Bullet Club to try and fill some gaps but unfortunately Del Rio got injured by Brock Lesnar and may be out of Wrestlemania.

With Del Rio, John Cena, Seth Rollins, Sting, Cesaro, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, Nikki Bella and Tyson Kidd all injured, Sheamus and Sin Cara both injured but still appearing and then Sasha Banks and Paige only just returning from injuries, that’s a lot of people to book around. So much so that the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion is semi retired wrestler and WWE head honcho in training, 46 year old Triple H.

Bret-Hart

WWE has reached out to numerous former stars and Hall of Fame inductees including The Rock and Dave Bautista to secure appearances though even that has a somewhat dark cloud as Bautista has apparently said no and Hall of Famer Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart has just announced that he has prostate cancer.  As Hart’s late brother, Owen, was expected to be inducted to the Hall of Fame this year by Bret, it’s unclear now what the plans are.

It’s not all bad news though.

While WWE’s roster is lacking star power some of the injured are making good progress with their recoveries and so Wrestlemania 32 may see at least one return. Also the lack of stars means that some talents lower on the card have a great opportunity to elevate their status.

Owens

Right now WWE has a roster of 54 wrestlers, not including the injured ones, so that’s a lot of talent who normally have to fight for screen time. Wrestlemania 32 could be a big day for Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, New Day, Braun Strowman, Kalisto, Neville and others who would not ordinarily be considered for a upper echelon match at Wrestlemania.

There’s also one other man who could make Wrestlemania 32 a must watch…

AJ

AJ Styles was one of the hottest talents in wrestling last year and now he’s landed in WWE at a time when they can’t afford to do the usual routine of breaking down a talent who isn’t home grown and then rebuilding them. Styles has reportedly signed for a massive amount of money; quoted as being a $450,000 or $500,000 per year downside guarantee. At 38, Styles is also one of the oldest men on the roster so presumably WWE will be looking to get a good return very quickly for their investment

AJ Styles is someone who lives up to his ‘Phenomenal’ nickname and is certainly capable of 5 star matches, so with all eyes on him it’ll be up to him to prove he’s worth the money and steal the show.

WWE has a history of pulling a win out of the worst situations and with a roster full of hungry talent looking to get noticed, Wrestlemania 32 may actually end up being one of the best.

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Spider-Man Essential Reading #2

In Part 1 we looked at Denial, in part 2 it’s the turn of ‘The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man’

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The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man – Amazing Spider-Man #248

Roger Stern is a name you’ll be hearing more of in another instalment but his run on Amazing Spider-Man is often talked about to this day, 30 years later. What most people don’t remember is that a lot of it was pretty bad.

Stern started on issue 229 cover dated June 1982 and for the next two years meandered between issues which were either must read or infinitely missable. Issue 247 started a two parter where Wrecking Crew member manages to acquire The Wrecker’s crowbar in addition to his own ball and chain allowing him to become more powerful thanks to the crowbar’s Asgardian power. Issue 248 wraps up the story halfway through the issue with a backup story, ‘The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man’ filling out the rest of the space.

kid-who-collects2While John Romita Jr provided art for Amazing Spider-Man at the time, The Boy Who Collects Spider-Man was drawn by the team of Ron Frenz, Terry Austin and Christie Scheele which initially gives the story a feeling of just being filler. There had been some truly dire issues and heavy featuring of z-list characters in the previous near 2 years so this story completely blindsided every reader especially as Amazing was a ‘kids’ title.

The story features Spidey going to visit his biggest fan, a young boy named Tim Harrison, who has collected whatever Spider-Man material he can including newspaper clippings and video tape reels from the wall crawler’s TV appearances before he turned to fighting crime. Tim gets to hear about the radioactive spider and Spider-Man’s origin along before being shown the web shooters and how they work.

The wall crawler shows and tells Tim of his various abilities before talk turns to the transition from TV star and entertainer to crime fighter. Surprisingly Tim gets to hear the story of Uncle Ben’s murder and Spider-Man’s guilt driving him to fight crime which makes the tone of their meeting more somber. It’s at this point where the change in art team starts to feel like it was deliberate in order to give the story the visual it needs. As good as Romita Jr is, it’s hard to imagine his style fitting the storytelling here.

In an effort to cheer Spidey up, Tim shows him retractions J Jonah Jameson had to publish about Spider-Man along with bullets he had dug out of a wall after the hero had foiled a bank robbery. After realising how long they’ve been talking, Spider-Man tucks Tim back into bed but as he leaves, Tim has one last request. While the original coloured version was powerful, The Essential Collection reprints this issue in black and white giving more gravity to Tim’s question.

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Spider-Man explains that he can’t give away his secret identity because if his identity were to become public it could endanger his friends and family from his numerous villains. TIm promises that he’ll keep Spidey’s secret and after a moment’s hesitation, Peter Parker shockingly reveals his identity and that ironically, he was the one who took most of the pictures Tim has collected and that J Jonah Jameson has been paying Peter to take pictures of himself.

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As they share a hug, rather strangely, Peter cries before putting his mask back on and leaving. Outside, Spider-Man pauses on a wall with his head in hand. As he swings away we see a close up of the sign on the wall and a final newspaper clipping which explains Spider-Man’s surprising decision to reveal his identity and his tears while hugging Tim.

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