I decided to get into the Royal Rumble spirit the other day and found my self digging through my entire Royal Rumble DVD collection.
Sure enough, I decided to re-watch the entire 2000 Royal Rumble PPV. My favorite superstar at that time won the Rumble, and Cactus Jack put out a hell of a fight against Triple H. The Intercontinental Championship match was also wonderful in its own right. So, I thought, why not go down memory lane.
I realized it was a while since I watched that 2000 Royal Rumble and my wrestling mind, in terms of pure knowledge of the business, had greatly matured since that time. While I was watching the penultimate match on the card, Triple H vs. Cactus Jack in a Street Fight for the WWF Championship, a thought struck me like a lightning bolt.
This was the match that defined Triple H's career.
Yeah, I'll give it to Triple H. He was a very tough S.O.B back in the day, and still is to some extent. I mean, it was solely Hunter's attitude that got him his push. But I still remember my cousin telling me that Triple H was nothing, that he was all talk and hype.
He couldn't hang with the best in the business until he actually proved that he can take major punishment to make a fan happy. My cousin wouldn't accept him as a top dog. I wouldn't accept him as a top dog. The WWF Universe wouldn't accept him as the top dog. After all, whether you believe it or not, fans are what makes the WWE stay in this dog eat dog world. You've got to keep the fans happy. So what was this?
When Hunter won the Championship for the third time, I was infuriated. Even my cousin, the so-called wrestling genius years older than me, was extremely angry, to the point of having veins popping out of his head.
There were people like Mick Foley, The Rock, hell even Big Show, who deserved the championship, and Triple H was the one who got the belt. Hunter didn't deserve the belt. He didn't prove why he deserved it.
As soon as I found out Triple H would meet Cactus Jack—in a Street Fight, no less—I was extremely happy. Mankind vs. The Rock was the main event I wanted to see at WrestleMania 2000. This would be a walk in the park for Cactus.
Nonetheless, on Sunday, January 23, 2000, me and my cousin sat down on the sofa ready to watch the most anticipated event in a while. Tazz defeated Kurt Angle. Okay, not bad. Kurt Angle is still a goof. He's new to the business. The Hardyz defeated the Dudley's, which could have been better. Chris Jericho defeated Chyna and Hardcore Holly. Great match. New Age Outlaws defeated the APA. I couldn't care less.
Opening promo for Cactus Jack and Triple H. Gotta love Jim Johnston and his video editing crew.
The match starts. Okay, mindlessly punching each other. Jack gets the advantage. I predicted that. Hunter was playing in Cactus's turf. As the match progressed, so did the amount of violence. Triple H used a chair on Jack. Alright, no biggie. Jack will get up. Momentum greatly shifted until Triple H gave a low blow. And then soon after more violent things occurred, the thumb tacks and hand cuffs came out. Both men were bloodied.
Hunter used the handcuffs. My face was flushed. Triple H might win this. That was the moment I realized that Triple H was a major force within the WWF. The Rock came out to save Cactus but it was too late at that point. I was already cheering for Hunter. Triple H took a shot from Rocky still came back after a thunderous pedigree on thumbtacks to Cactus. 1. 2. 3.
My cousin and I looked at each other face to face. Triple H was the real deal. He was "that damn good." He proved it that night by beating one of the greatest hardcore legends of all time, and would prove it in Hell in a Cell at the next month's No Way Out.
Triple H defined his career using Extreme Rules.
And it's not only Triple H. The Rock defined his career with his match against Mick Foley in an I Quit Match a year prior. Brock Lesnar established himself with his Hell In A Cell match against the Undertaker and Randy Orton defined his in a brutal match against Mick Foley at Backlash 2004.
Kurt Angle's moment came in the six-man Hell In A Cell, Edge had his gloriously defined after his amazing match against Mick Foley at WrestleMania 22. Stone Cold Steve Austin was defined by his WrestleMania 13 match against Bret Hart. Even John Cena had his defining moment against JBL in an I Quit Match at Judgment Day 2005. Not to mention, the veterans put the younger talent over in every one of those matches.
The fact that Mick Foley is basically in all of those matches is beside the point. All those wrestlers' careers have launched into stardom because of those matches. They proved themselves to the fans. Would we look at them in the same credible manner as we look at them now as those matches not have happened? Unlikely.
Jim Ross even said that you need to prove yourself with moments similar to those to not only prove to the fans that you're a tough man, but to the locker room as well. You have to prove to the locker room that there's a reason you're at the top, that you'd be giving up half of your life to entertain your fans. They need to know if a wrestler deserves to be at the top, and sure enough, those moments proved it to them.
That brings me to my next point. What about Sheamus, The Miz and the new Champions? How are they going to define themselves? I'm not a major hardcore match fan, and I really love that WWE have gone PG and all to protect their wrestlers. But how else is somebody going to look back at, for example, Sheamus' career 30 years later and think how he defined his career. By taking out Triple H in a cowardly attack? By winning both of his WWE Titles as a fluke?
I have to say, despite my dislike of them, hardcore matches are the ones that define a superstar's career. As long as WWE is PG, we won't be looking at Miz and Sheamus as legendary champions anytime soon.
Yes, not everybody needed to define their career by extreme matches. Shawn Michaels went an hour with Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII. That's good enough for me. But really, Sheamus or Miz or any new generation wrestler in an Iron Man match? I doubt they can pull that off.
The moral is this, my friends. As much as I hate to admit it, we need some aspects of hardcore wrestling back in the current WWE product. Not because I like seeing weapons struck to people's heads and blood pouring out of the top of their forehead. It's because as I've said many time throughout this article, those matches define a superstar's career. WWE needs those matches back.
WWE needs hardcore.
This is coming from a person who wholeheartedly agree with the PG guidelines that WWE runs with and would prefer PG to Attitude.