By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Raven vs Larry Zbyszko
Hair versus Hair Match
In my twenty-five years or so of fandom when it comes to wrestling, I feel like I’ve seen a hell of a lot. When I look back at the days for the 365 project, often it is a case of choosing something that I have already seen – maybe at the time, maybe by recommendation years later – and writing about it. However, as the internet boomed and made wrestling from around the world easier to see, even before the likes of streaming services like the Network, there are naturally going to be things I miss. Generally though, if it happened in the major promotions from around the world (not including Mexico, my one huge blindspot at that time), I would at least be aware of it.
I never knew this happened.
Not only had I never even heard of this angle, feud or match, I am also left questioning why anyone thought it was a good idea to book Larry Zbyszko in a feud in 2006, arguably fifteen to twenty years past his sell-by date? Yet, if WWF had some success in the past booking an authority figure versus a wrestler angles, TNA might as well try, committing to the WWF/WWE-lite feeling they often oozed at the time. Perhaps my mind was just saving me from myself by erasing it from my memory banks, rather than forcing me to remember another dodgy TNA feud?
The hair versus hair match came about after feud that had lasted over six months (another reason I can’t believe I wasn’t aware of it) and had seen Zbyszko move from neutral Director of Authority preaching respect for the values to a man whose flagrant cheating in a Raven versus Sean Waltman match saw him distract Raven and ignore a foot on the rope as he counted the three and sent Raven packing from TNA. The following PPV would see TNA Management put Zbyszko on probation and reinstate Raven, which in turn would lead to a match between one of your biggest stars and a fifty four year old man.
Pre-match, Zbyszko would be interviewed by Borash whilst jogging on the spot, talking about how he had forgotten more about wrestling than Raven had ever wanted to learn. To add a further wrinkle to the feud, Mark ‘Slick’ Johnson arrived, a referee who had been seeking to gain authority within the promotion, and joined in the jogging on the spot. He told Zbyszko that he was the referee tonight and would call it straight down the middle as he made some not exactly subtle shearing gestures.
Decked in a Ribera jacket, Zbyszko was greeted by many signs picturing his fate if he lost the contest. A collar and elbow tie up went nowhere as the match began, though Zbyszko surprised Raven and me by hitting a spinkick to the gut. A spinning toe hold (a move you’d never expect to see on a 2006 PPV) was stopped by a kick to the face, yet Zbyszko would continue to target the leg with kicks and another spinning toe hold. An anaemic Raven chant played out across the sea of silence, with Slick getting bumped after the second spinning toe hold to be stopped with a kick to the face.
With the referee down, Raven would land the DDT, only for his pinfall to go uncounted. Zbyszko landed a low blow behind the referee’s back, good enough to earn a two count. With Zbyszko wrapped up in complaining to the referee about a slow count, Raven would get a two off of a roll-up before Larry had one last chance with a small package. With both men back to their feet and the referee ready, a DDT signalled the end for Zbyszko and this short feud ender.
The post-match shenanigans of Zybyszko trying to leave, getting dragged back and taped to the barber’s chair was at least fun, but it didn’t make up for an awful match that had no real place on a pay per view card. Sure, Raven finally got his revenge, but when it’s played out to noise the level of crickets, who cares? To quote many an internet fan during the storied time the promotion has existed, ‘LOL TNA’, I guess.