Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Fave Five #2 - Billy Gunn

I think I'm onto something with this whole Fave Five idea and I can't be arsed waiting for the next WWE release in order to write it - plus I have a feeling that kind of mentality will eventually turn me into a psychopath - so I decided to base my next Fave Five list on one of my favourite past WWE Superstars. Monty Sopp aka Billy Gunn, or Kip James for those who followed him in TNA, was one of the best all around athletes WWE ever had. He was one of those guys that could raise you up for a military press and also leap high into the air for a dropkick among other things. He had multiple Tag Team success but sadly never really got the push he deserved in singles competition. Here's my Fave Five moments/matches from the career of Billy Gunn.

5) Holy Matrimony?
One of the most controversial angles in WWE occurred in 2002 (though that was eventually outdone by the even more infamous Katie Vick angle) when Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo morphed from a generic face tandem into a pair of ambiguously gay partners complete with bleached blonde hair, shiny red trunks and various other manly gay behaviours, also gaining a manager in the equally flamboyant Rico. The situation was cranked up to a new height when Chuck proposed to Billy in the middle of the ring...and Billy said yes! The two were all set to have their "Commitment Ceremony" on Smackdown. This whole angle received numerous publicity worldwide and everyone was talking about it. Billy Gunn himself even listed it as the number 1 part of his "Best of Billy Gunn" promotional video that hyped his 2004 return. The entire fanbase was buzzing over the supposed wedding ceremony that would take place. This being WWE it turned out even gay weddings weren't safe from the drama. The ring was set, the groom(s) were dressed for the occasion and there was even a minister. Though moments into the ceremony Chuck and Billy backed out of the deal and shocked the world by announcing that neither of them were actually gay and the whole thing was a publicity stunt cooked up by Rico. Of course this ended up being even more controversial than the fact of actually having supposedly gay Superstars because many Gay and Lesbian representatives had actually been told that Billy and Chuck *would* get married. It was one of the most bizarre and sensational storylines WWE ever came up with (though once again, Katie Vick outdid them) and because it broke all the way into mainstream, it might be what both Billy and Chuck are both remembered for.

4) The One & Only...
Here it is, the one and only prestigious singles title Billy ever held. When he returned from injury in late 2000 he was repackaged as "The One" Billy Gunn and was groomed for a big singles push. It first started by being the last member of his team to be eliminated at the 2000 Survivor Series PPV and it ended by him claiming the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Eddie Guerrero on Smackdown. Unfortunately for him the bookers had no idea what to do with the belt and he dropped it three weeks later to Chris Benoit (who himself dropped it a few weeks later). But Billy G's fans can still cherish that moment when he defeated Eddie Guerrero to win the strap and what a match it was. Billy kicked out of both a DDT onto the title belt and Eddie's Frog Splash finisher. Then after a long and hard fought match he earned his only major singles championship. Personally my favourite incarnation of him was "The One", mostly for the catchy entrance theme, but he could have been a great singles star if the bookers hadn't dropped the ball as they have done with so many others. Though I do take comfort in the fact that the match he dropped the belt in just happened to be the best of his career.

3) A Dangerous Ass Kicking
Before he eventually claimed the IC title in 2000, Billy Gunn got to have a proper shot at it once the year before when he entered into a feud with The World's Most Dangerous Man, Ken Shamrock (yes that one). He got his title match at the 1999 Royal Rumble and that match is only second to his bout against Chris Benoit at Armageddon 2000 as my favourite of his. Naturally being in the ring with Ken Shamrock is going to make anyone up their game and fear for their life so we saw an incredibly intense back-and-forth affair with Billy holding his own quite well against the much superior Shamrock. It's a really cool match to watch, which is why I added onto my list of Wrestling Matches To See Before You Die and of course two of my favourite spots include the facebuster off the apron and the kitchen sink countered into the school boy. Not much else to say about this one, except maybe it's strange that my two favourite Billy Gunn matches ended with him tapping out...

2) Birth of an Outlaw
Chances are if you meet Billy in public and go up to him, you should never mention the words "Rock-a-Billy" or else you may wake up to find yourself breathing through a tube. But one good thing came out of the atrocious Rock-a-Billy gimmick - the end of it meant the start of something truly amazing. After a few weeks of being the prodigy of the Honky Tonk Man, Billy was propositioned by Road Dogg Jesse James to join him and form a tag team. Needless to say Billy smashed his guitar over the HTM's head and never looked back. He and Road Dogg formed the New Age Outlaws, one of the most successful and groundbreaking Tag Teams of the Attitude Era. They were initially meant to be a heel team but Billy clonking his mentor with his own guitar got them cheers from the fans so they were one of many heels who got cheered and turned into faces with attitude in that Era. The Outlaws held five WWF Tag Team Championships between them and Billy would go on to hold another five more with different partners (three times with his kayfabe brother Bart and twice with Chuck). And here's the moment where the magic started.


1) King of the Castle
It seemed like 1999 was going to be Billy Gunn's year - a high profile feud with Ken Shamrock, a run with the Hardcore title, a match at WrestleMania and now the crowner - literally. The 1999 King of the Ring tournament had a whole crop of talented and deserving guys (and girl - Chyna competed in that tournament as well) all of whom would have made a great King. However it was Billy Gunn's night as he first defeated Ken Shamrock and Kane to advance to the tournament finals. There, now going by the crude alias of "Mr Ass" complete with ludicrous theme music and a habit of mooning his opponents, he faced his former DX ally X-Pac with the coveted King of the Ring crown at stake. After a surprisingly short match, Billy scaled the top rope and landed a diving version of his Fame Asser finisher to put X-Pac away and claim the crown for himself. Sadly this push didn't really go anywhere as he was defeated by The Rock at SummerSlam in a corny "Kiss My Ass" match and found himself stuck in the midcard ever since. We'll still have the memories though

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