Induction: The Piñata on a Pole match – Vince Russo, pendejo extraordinario

52 Submitted by on Thu, 31 July 2014, 20:00

WCW, 1999

One advantage WCW always had over WWF was its cruiserweight division. Sure, the WWF had a light heavyweight division, but it paled in comparison to WCW’s, in terms of both match quality and roster depth. Just look at the WWF’s Light Heavyweight Title tournament from 1997 – they needed ringers to fill most of the spots in the bracket.

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By 1999, WWF was the clear #1 company in the wrestling world, but whenever a fan tired of Vince Russo-style crash TV, he could always turn to Nitro and watch some solid in-ring action with the high-flying luchadors. For instance, on November 15th, the wrestling fan not interested in Survivor Series fallout and the question of who ran over Steve Austin could tune in to TNT and see Psicosis, Juventud Guerrera, Silver King, El Dandy, and Villano V, all in a single segment with—

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Vince Russo?!

I mean, Vince Russo’s hand!?

Could it have been? Yes, a month earlier, WWF’s old head writer had jumped ship to the competition. They didn’t mention Russo by name on air, but you could tell it was him by his New York accent and edgy use of insider terms.

Russo offered the five wrestlers, all of them Mexican, the chance at $10,000 — all a poor, work-a-day luchador had to do was smash open a piñata and retrieve the check Vinnie would hide in it. popm03 
popm04 I know the black-on-white-on-Puerto Rican Gang Warz of 1997 didn’t exactly pop the ratings for the WWF, but who was to say transparent racism couldn’t give WCW the edge?
Not that today’s wrestling industry is a bastion of tolerance and sensitivity, but can you imagine such a match, built around an offensive stereotype, taking place in a major promotion nowadays? You’ve never seen WWE put on an all-Jewish “Money in the Bank” match, after all.
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Or, I don’t know, an all-Polish ladder match where the object was to screw in a light bulb.

Note: Now comes the part where I preemptively defend my argument against potential criticism. Your high school English teacher no doubt taught you to do this when writing a persuasive essay to make it as air-tight as possible, but you also probably went to high school before internet writing flipped this concept on its head. After all, the more glaring errors and idiotic arguments in an online article, the more people will rip it to shreds in the comments section, inadvertently driving up the number of page views and the ad revenue earned by the website. Needless to say, Wrestlecrap doesn’t follow such a business model (or any business model, for that matter), no matter what such boners as accidentally inducting Billy & Chuck’s wedding twice (my bad) or sprinkling cheap shots against Triple H throughout inductions (my bad) might suggest. If we did intentionally try to drive up page views, you could also expect this induction to be titled, “This wrestling promotion put on the most racist match you’ve ever seen. You won’t believe what happened next,” and for the site to be flooded with article after pandering article entitled, “18 Reasons Why [your city] is the Greatest Wrestling City in the World.” Also, I would break my inductions up into slideshow format to get 20 page views per reader instead of one.

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Bleacher Report? I hardly know her report!

popm07  Now, you could argue that, sure, the concept of five grown men from Mexico scrambling after a paycheck by whacking a piñata was racist, but Russo and his crew were the bad guys, so it was justified because it gave his character heel heat.
Then again, none of the announcers found anything wrong with the match, either, and we weren’t supposed to buy the idea of an evil Tony Schiavone, were we? popm08
popm09  And of course, there was the fact that Russo’s actual booking philosophy called for the burial of the very Mexican wrestlers his heel persona was degrading. Allow me to take a page out RD Reynolds’s book and… well, literally take a page out of RD Reynolds’s book (The Death of WCW, co-written with Bryan Alvarez and available in a new, 40% larger 10th anniversary edition this October):
   

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But hey, this wasn’t about bigotry or racism. This was about national pride. It’s like the philosophy of “Buy American.” Of course, six days after this match, Russo would put the WCW title on the famously Canadian Bret Hart. Jeez, Russo, even the Hitman never doubted El Dandy popm11
popm11 The alzorca on the pastel was that Russo didn’t even provide his own piñata for the match; Juventud just happened to have one with him, as it was his birthday (in eight days).
There were no televised entrances, since, as we had been told, these guys were mid-carders and not worth your attention, so the match segment started out with all five men in the ring holding sticks. These sticks were for whacking the piñata open, but in order to even do that, they first had to climb the ropes to get to the prize. This process got 99% easier, though, precisely twelve seconds into the match, when El Dandy got whipped into the turnbuckles, unceremoniously knocking the piñata to the canvas. Tony Schiavone pointed this fact out at first, but never brought it up again once it became clear that no one was going to fix it. popm12
popm12.5 With the piñata just lying there on the mat, all five wrestlers (and the announcers) did their best to ignore that fact. The fans tried to point out the mishap, but to no avail. And no, unlike a traditional piñata game, nobody was wearing a blindfold.
Everyone in the ring had to play dumb, including El Dandy, who was the one who knocked the piñata over, and Psicosis, who for over half a minute stared at the very piñata he was supposed to retrieve while selling an injury in the corner. And when he finally did recover, he crawled away from the piñata and the ten grand and waited patiently in another corner. And waited. And waited. Why? So he could hit the next big spot — a spot nobody at home would even get to see, thanks to a second, completely unrelated bit of Wrestlecrap. popm14 
popm15 See, perhaps to minimize the embarrassment, the production truck cut away from the ring, putting the viewers face to face with one of the cavemen from the GEICO ads. Come to think of it, those commercials hadn’t aired yet in 1999, so it may have been “Dr. Death” Steve Williams.
By his side was the debuting Oklahoma, ex-WWF writer Ed Ferrara’s tasteless impersonation of Jim Ross. I’m not saying this mean-spirited jab at the competition’s announcer made WCW look bush league, but you didn’t see WWF trot out a Tony Schiavone parody on Raw in 1999. And they could have easily done that — I’m thinking “Mr. Butts-in-Seats,” and he could have managed Billy Gunn. popm16 
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(Punching your computer screen will not stop this gif)

In his best JR voice (which still sucked), and with his worst bells palsy impression (Note: there is no such thing as a good bells palsy impression), Ed Ferrara took pot shots at Ross and his announcing. This was particularly rich, considering that all three men at the announcers’ table completely ignored the key detail that the freaking piñata was on the freaking mat.
Oklahoma even disparaged JR’s barbecue sauce (perhaps trying to corner the condiment market for WCW’s line of hot sauces) by implying that it would never hit the market. At 14 years of sales and counting, Ross’s barbecue sauce has lasted longer than WCW ever did. popm18 
popm19  Even after a lengthy and painful cutaway segment establishing that, yes, this insufferable jerk was supposed to be Jim Ross and you were supposed to find him uproariously funny, not one of the wrestlers seemed remotely interested in winning the match. Instead, they just concentrated on pulling off spots and stunts, half of which weren’t even picked up on camera.
Referee Slick Johnson, who had nothing to do the whole match but to see who broke the piñata first, didn’t bother trying to hang the piñata back up. popm20
popm21 No, that bit was left to the wrestlers. Rather than break the piñata open and get the money, the exceedingly honest luchadors tried to hang the damn thing up again so that the integrity of the Piñata on a Pole match wouldn’t be compromised.
Juventud was the first to grab the piñata, which he held up in the air, hoping one of his opponents would quickly knock him off the ropes and try to make the match look like less of a farce. After ten seconds of Psicosis standing on the second rope with piñata in hand, waiting for his opponents to cover for him, the production truck finally gave up and cut back to Oklahoma at the announce table. popm22 
popm23  And still, the piñata was just lying there in the corner. Even during long cutaway after long cutaway, nobody at ringside got the message to fix the gimmick.
Villano V was the next wrestler to grab the piñata, and rather than run away with it and fish the check out later, he, too, tried to hang the paper-mache sculpture back up so he could smash it open. Instead, Silver King hit him with a stick, prompting some more terribly unfunny commentary from Ferrara and Heenan. popm24
popm25 Things started winding down when Juventud hit the Juvi driver (off-camera during another pan to Steve Williams). He then executed the People’s Elbow because this was when he was calling himself, “The Juice” and imitating The Rock. Yes, WCW had two WWF parodies in a single segment.
Fortunately, Buzzkill and Asya had other business on this night. (Contrary to popular belief, referee “Slick” Johnson was never intended as a Val Venis parody) popm26
popm27 Finally, Juvi, who, like the other four wrestlers, did not strike the piñata once with his stick, shook it until all its candy fell out. 
He couldn’t retrieve the check, though, because Steve Williams blindsided him and beat up everyone in the match, the bell ringing for longer than a typical title reign lasted under Vince Russo. I’d note that there shouldn’t have been any disqualifications in a match where the only way to win was to break open a piñata and where everyone could hit each other with sticks, but really, was anyone upset to see this match lose another quarter star from Wrestling Observer for the wonky finish? popm28 
popm29 Silver King picked up the check and danced in celebration, but Williams put the boots to him, too (sort of) and pocketed the ten grand. Come on, Dr. Death! Pick on someone your own size –
— or at least Bart Gunn’s. popm30
   

The only positive to come out of this segment was that the humiliation and destruction of five wrestlers at least helped to get Steve Williams over as a monster heel.

He lasted 34 days in the company and lost his debut match to a member of The Misfits.

No, not the Misfits in Action stable.

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The band, The Misfits.

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Yikes. If he’d do that for a quick buck, I guess he needed that check more than the luchadors.

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He currently runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws and Hasbro WWF figures. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
52 Responses to "Induction: The Piñata on a Pole match – Vince Russo, pendejo extraordinario"
  1. RD Reynolds says:

    I rate that disclaimer *****.

  2. Alexandru says:

    Yeah this “match” it made less than zero sense. The fans clearly didn’t care (as most guys in the match were barely used at all/it’s a damn pole match!). The fake JR B.S. didn’t help, as well as the pointless Dr. Death involvement. This whole segment was beyond wrestlecrap as it was completely pointless and hurt the quality of the product as a whole

  3. Peter says:

    Vince Russo is going to read this and be super pissed off. Not because of the actual induction mind you, but because he’s going to be kicking himself for not thinking of an all-Jewish or all-Polish Ladder Match first.

  4. Casey says:

    Amazingly, none of the wrestlers involved in this match took part in that racial discrimination lawsuit against WCW.

    The biggest sign of trouble for me was that rather famous interview Russo gave with wrestleline.com. That’s when all of these guys should have sensed that doom was coming and not in the form of Ron Simmons and Butch Reed.

  5. Dan Sheldon says:

    Who are you to doubt El Dandy?!?!?

  6. The Doctor of Style says:

    Another clever induction, Art. Just wanted to let you know there’s a tech error — “Tony Explains Pinata on a Pole” is used twice.

  7. Sean Bateman says:

    Another Vinny Ru trademarked “X on a Pole” match has made it to the ‘crap. About time

  8. Mighty Vastardikai says:

    I should also point out that Doc legit injured a couple of the luchadores, as well.

  9. "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

    Man, that moment when the piñata immediately falls down really is the perfect metaphor for the last couple of years of WCW, isn’t it?

  10. DeweyDTruman says:

    I swear, WCW was the Sega to WWF’s Nintendo. Amazing concepts, delivered things you’d never imagine from the competition, huge loyal fanbase, blew it all with terrible executive decisions and doing everything too damn fast and burning too many bridges with your fans, tried to fix it when it was far too late and burnt out in the early 00′s.

  11. Mike says:

    Has Oklahoma ever been inducted? If yes I say you should revisit him. But if it hasn’t been inducted, then Oklahoma has been long overdue for an induction

  12. Autrach Sejanoz says:

    Thanks for the warning about not punching the monitor to stop Ferrara. I almost did.

  13. C Boz says:

    I thought in then and think it now… Juventud Guerrera really does look like a luchador Michael Jackson. Maybe his calling himself “The Juice” was a reference to the “Jesus juice” that the self proclaimed King of Pop allegedly served to his young male house guests to drink? Sorry, one should not cast aspersions on the deceased… of which I am referring to WCW of course.

    Great induction. Crap multiple times over. How did Russo keep getting employment opportunities?

  14. Guest says:

    Fun Fact: Dr. Death injured El Dandy and some other Luchadores.

  15. Sir Thomas says:

    Somehow, I remembered Oklahoma and Dr. Death disappearing as quickly as he showed up, but forgot all about this. I guess when poll matches were a dime a dozen, you tend to glaze over them, or switch over to USA and see what the other guys are doing. Either way, good induction.

    • Ed says:

      Yes. Dr. Death disappeared in a blink of the eye, but Oklahoma did stick around through his classic feud with Madusa…

  16. Adam says:

    Even though it was so damn bad I really do miss these days.

  17. Anonymous says:

    “I’m thinking “Mr. Butts-in-Seats,” and he could have managed Billy Gunn.”

    LOL! That’s actually really clever. Nice induction overall.

    Also, one of the worst matches of all time.

  18. John C says:

    I love Russo’s quote about not wanting to sound like a big bigot or racist, does that mean he wanted to sound like a little one instead. “All of you mahks may hate me but you wish you was me da greatest WCW Champion of all time Vince Russo. Now excuse me while I book a New Network for Impact to Appear On Pole Match. Da losing network has to put Impact on there schedule.”

  19. Unknown says:

    Even Ed Ferrara regretted “Oklahoma.” IIRC, when an angry Jim Cornette punched him in the face over it, he admitted it was a bad idea instead of retaliating.

    I think Ric Flair was also pissed off over it.

    Listen to the commentary for Mayhem (the PPV) when Oklahoma comes out to commentate.

  20. Stephen says:

    Not that I’m defending Oklahoma but didn’t the WWE do about half a million JR parodies at various periods? Never as an on-screen character but certainly a throwaway line here and a distasteful sketch there. They all seem to slip under the radar while Oklahoma gets singled out incredibly often.

  21. AJ Petruzzi says:

    Great induction! I confess I found Oklahoma hilarious. I never liked JR on commentary, and he always struck me as someone who took himself too seriously. The bells palsy thing was a bit offside, but watching Ferrara contort his face made me laugh.
    But the character should have been called “Spin Ross.” Or perhaps “Good ol’ PR.”

  22. Downtown OPC says:

    “STICK! STICK! STICK!”

  23. Sorry but... says:

    …that Russo “quote” was debunked years ago. The fact it’s still pulled out is pretty depressing. What Russo ACTUALLY said was that non-Americans have two things against them from before they even get in a US ring.

    1)They don’t speak English. These days promos and interviews are as important as the wrestling. You think of all the greats of the last 30 years, Hogan, Savage, Austin, Flair, Rock…they all gave great promos. In fact, some guys who can’t wrestle worth a damn can get over JUST by giving promos.

    2)Masks. Yeah, in Mexico, there’s a whole mask culture. But there is no such thing in the USA. With all the close-up cameras, the numerous magazines, and the Titan/Nitrotron, facial expressions are a major part of telling a story, and getting an angle over. Again, think of The People’s Eyebrow, Hogan’s Hulk Up routine etc., and their facial expressions played a HUGE role in them getting over. But if a guy’s got a mask on, we can’t see his face, we can’t see his emotions, and there’s a sense of disconnect that means anyone not raise din Lucha Culture will never get behind a guy with a mask the way they got behind Rock or Flair or anyone who was a master of facial expressions.

    So, if a guy who wears a mask and can’t speak English had signed with WCW or WWF then, he had two big handicaps against him going in. Seriously, let’s say The Rock wore a mask, and never cut promos…..would he have been as big as he was?

    But instead, people make the “I don’t want to see foreigners” comments. Which is not what the interview actually said. At all.

    • el disco says:

      Hmmm….I did not know that. Thanks for the clarification!

      • chris says:

        Sorry if this is posted twice, but you’re wrong. The Russo quote is 100% accurate.

        Go to thewebsite DDT Digest. It’s a old website that covered WCW when it was still in business, but it’s still up today. It has reports of old WCW shows that were written and posted just hours after the shows originally aired.

        If you check the report on the October 4, 1999 Nitro episode, prior to the coverage of the show, there’s a few paragraphs about Russo coming to WCW. In it, there’s quotes cut and pasted from that Wrestleline interview, including the one mentioned here. The quote is real.

        • Sorry But... says:

          So what you’re saying is that a website run by guys who dislike Russo posted a report of an interview with him(from another website that no longer exists)?

          Russo explains this in one of his autobiographies(think it was Rope Opera). We don’t really have the exact quote as it was said, because all you’ve got is people claiming what was said later on.

          And we do have various other so-called “confirmed” stories like “Luger was supposed to win the WWF title at WMX but got drunk in a bar the night before’ which are complete bullshit. I’m not saying I trust everything Russo says, not by a long shot, but I’d rather take his word for it on this one.

          • chris says:

            “So what you’re saying is that a website run by guys who dislike Russo posted a report of an interview with him(from another website that no longer exists)?”

            No, wrong.

            www.ddtdigest.com/updates/1999101m.htm

            There’s the link. Keep in mind that it was posted in October 1999, not in 2014 or anytime in between.. It was written and put up on this website hours after that particular Nitro aired and was just a day after Russo had quit the WWF. Read the pre-show stuff that discusses how Russo has left the WWF and will be coming to WCW soon.

          • AA says:

            The DDT Digest report of that Oct. 4, 1999 Nitro episode was written also in October 1999, shortly after Russo gave that interview and just a day after he had quit WWE to jump to WCW. Russo had not booked anything for WCW yet as his first show was the Oct. 18, 1999 Nitro episode two weeks later.

            In one of the quotes posted from the then-recent interview included in that Nitro report, Russo and Ben Miller, the man who conducted the interview, reference a then-recent Sting vs. Chris Benoit, which took place on the Sept. 20, 1999 episode of Nitro. So the Russo interview with Wrestleline took place sometime between that match and his leaving WWE on Oct. 3, 1999.

            • Sorry but... says:

              I think you missed the point. It’s a website run by guys who have a dislike for Russo. And DDT Digest themselves never did the interview. They’re giving a recap/overview of an interview that someone else did. So, it doesn’t matter when the interview itself was done in relation to the DDT Digest article being posted. What matters is that a)DDT Digest have a problem with Russo b)The website that actually did the interview no longer exists c)DDT Digest are giving their summary of someone else’s interview. I thought I had made that clear in my previous post.

              • chris says:

                For the 1,000th time, that link I gave was written and posted October 4, 1999, not in 2004, 2009, 2014, or any other time since. That Russo interview had just happened.

                Russo’s booking of WCW doesn’t even come into play because he didn’t start with the company until the NItro episode two weeks later.

                Also, those were direct quotes from the interview, not a recap in someone else’s words. There’s even a link to the interview (dead in 2014 but not in 1999, which, once again, was when this was posted). Here they are for everyone to see:

                ◦BEN: This is something I’ve always wanted to see in American professional wrestling, have you guys, the TV writing team, ever thought of having the title like All Japan Pro Wrestling where there’s no gimmick matches, no run-ins, no count outs, it’s just two guys in a wrestling match. And not every match to be like that, because I know how it can get boring and monotonous, but just one title —

                RUSSO: I’m going to tell you something right now that you will absolutely not agree with, but I’ve been a wrestling fan my whole life and I will live and die by this – it is hard enough, believe me I write this shit, it is hard enough to get somebody over. You will never ever, ever, ever, ever see the Japanese wrestler or the Mexican wrestler over in American mainstream wrestling. And the simple reason for that is, even myself, I’m an American, and I don’t want to sound like a big bigot or a racist or anything like that, but I’m an American … if I’m watching wrestling here in America, I don’t give a shit about a Japanese guy. I don’t give a shit about a Mexican guy. I’m from America, and that’s what I want to see. Now there are the smart fans that love that type of shit, like you.

                BEN: I agree, but are you saying that something that I thought was just as incredible, I don’t know if you saw the last ECW PPV, but Mike Awesome versus Masato Tanaka and they went out there for a good 13-15 minutes and they had what people would call a **** or a **** ½ match, is that going to be obsolete in the WWF? In that match where they basically stayed around the ringside area, and there’s a clean finish – even though I know they used table and chairs – but there is no in the crowd brawling, is kind of thing going to become obsolete in the WWF you think?

                RUSSO: I don’t want to say obsolete, but I don’t see it going back in that direction. The only reason I tell you that, I’m at every show, I’m there, you put Rock and Mick in that ring with microphones, the people will sit there for a half an hour and be entertained. You put a wrestling in that ring for over ten minutes, they want to know, let’s get to the finish, and let’s go on to the next thing. And you gotta understand from a writing point of view, I am not dictating to these fans. I am basically in the arena every Monday and Tuesday night, I am in the arena, I am listening to the fans. All that I am trying to do from a television-writing standpoint is give the masses what they want. Now, I’m not saying give the smart wrestling fan what they want, I’m saying give the masses, and that’s my job.

                BEN: I see that, and I don’t want to beleaguer it, but some would argue that it’s true, that WWF fans mainly sit on their hands for matches that go more than 10 minutes, but some would argue that it’s because the quality of the in-ring wrestling isn’t as good. Don’t you think that if you put two good wrestlers in the ring, and I know we had talked about the Van Dam – Lynn thing, but I don’t consider Van Dam to be that great of a wrestler, I look more to the Masato Tanaka – Mike Awesome example. Don’t you think if you put two good wrestlers in there, who had a match which could stir the fans emotions, that would … look at what happened with Sting and Benoit? I know they still got killed by Raw when Raw opened, but they kept a much larger percentage than they had been by starting off their show with interviews. Do you think there’s any validity to that?

                RUSSO: No. I think they kept a much bigger number than they did, because that was really a well-booked match where you couldn’t call the outcome. Benoit isn’t going to beat Sting in the middle of the ring, and Sting isn’t going to beat Benoit, so what are they gonna do? That was the appeal to the match.

                BEN: OK.

                RUSSO: Don’t get me wrong, I love to see a good wrestling match, but my job is … I get paid to give the people what they want, and whether I agree or disagree with them is not my job. I’m not writing television to please Vince Russo. I’m writing television to please the masses, and like I say, when I go out in a crowd, and I see the response from a Mick – Rock promo, and response to a wrestling match, I know what they want to see. And again, it’s not Vince Russo writing TV for Vince Russo, I’m just trying to give the people what they want.

                • Ed says:

                  Honestly, I’m more likely to believe DDTdigest than something Vince Russo says over a decade later…
                  But as stated, the recaps were posted almost immediately after the shows. The distaste of Russo wouldn’t have bee built up by then, nor was that website terribly into backstage politics, etc…

    • chris says:

      Once again, sorry for the multiple posts. They weren’t showing up, then all came up at once.

  24. Slipper says:

    After reading the disclaimer, all I can say is thank goodness. Too many hacks over on Bleacher Report, Cracked, GameFront, MSN, Kotaku and others go for ridiculous sensationalism that does more to antagonise and burn out their audience than it does to highlight genuine racism, discrimination and prejudice. Cracked in particular actively seems to go out of its way to be dishonest, knowing that its most apologetic fans will still blindly trust everything they say and do (a bit like TNA).

  25. Rose Harmon says:

    WCW became such a farce towards the end.

  26. MierdaDeLucha says:

    Being mexican, I would have been insulted by this if I would have been there.

    • ElHijoDelBigDickDudley says:

      I agree, but I probably would have been just as insulted if I were Congolese, or Thai, or Martian.

  27. Dan Sheldon says:

    Who are you to doubt El Dandy?!?!?!

  28. Alan says:

    Ed Ferrara DID in fact do a parody of JR on an early 1999 edition of Heat. Dr. Death came out & nearly broke Ferrara’s neck afterwards. Ironically enough, Vince McMahon himself thought the JR parody was funny when Ferrara did it backstage at a show.

  29. Denys says:

    I would pay money to see an “All-Jewish Money In The Bank Match”.

    I would pay even more money to help Crappers sneak this idea into a WWE pitch meeting, because as sure as my butt points backwards, those idiots would use it — and watching the fallout… oh sweet Azathoth, there is not nearly enough caramel-corn and Mexican Coca-Cola for that….

    • Denys says:

      Oh, and another thing.

      For those who think “masked wrestlers can’t emote”: La Parka. ;)

    • Ze Frenchie says:

      Goldberg, Colt Cabana, Barry Horowitz, Raven, Dean Malenko and Billy Kidman, with Lanny Poffo as the special guest referee. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

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