Picture this if you will, June 1998, its Friday night RAW (because it was only shown on Sky Sports on Friday nights in the UK), a young Scott Hammond takes his seat in the armchair in the living room, and as the start of RAW is WAR comes in, the first segment of the show was D-Generation X coming out dressed like the Nation of Domination. Racial stereotypes and politics aside, I watched as X-Pac, who was parodying Mark Henry (cleverly names ‘Mizark’), mentioned that he could smell what the Rock was cooking, and that it smelled like shit. He then proceeded to say that he’d eat it anyway. At the time, I didn’t really understand what that meant. Many years later when I became ‘smart’ to the business, I found out that it was said in response to an alleged incident involving Mark Henry and a shit sandwich (literally).
Whilst this was by no means a ‘pipebomb’, it was certainly the first time I remember seeing an inside joke being used by the boys on television. The ‘shoot’ promo, or as its now known, the ‘pipebomb’ was a very rare occurrence in the world of pro wrestling, especially as the years went on and the WWE especially got more produced.
In 2005, the first pipebomb that I remember being a huge deal to me personally was when Edge was attacked by Matt Hardy, who had been fired from the company. Everyone knows the story so I won’t bother with the details, but hearing Matt grab a microphone whilst being restrained by security and using the name ‘Ring of Honor’ and referring to both parties as their real names made me suspend my disbelief for long enough to think that there was definitely a shoot in there somewhere. Especially given that the WWE didn’t like to give free publicity to other promotions at the time either. But, all the fire Hardy had from the start of this feud was extinguished when he was brought back to the company, shook Vince’s hand on TV, and then lost to Edge in a match he should have won. 2005 and 2020 have some interesting parallels don’t they Matt?
Weirdly before this return, the WWE gave the fans what they wanted and Paul Heyman was given the okay to produce what was supposed to be a one-off ECW event, aptly named One Night Stand. The event was filled with ‘pipebombs’ of sorts, ranging from Joey Styles not being able to let the past go during a Mike Awesome match with Masato Tanaka, to an injured Rob Van Dam saying he’d happily miss WrestleMania to have been healthy for this show. Everyone’s favourite though from this show was Paul Heyman. From the minute he came out and said, ‘I’m not crying, my eyes are red because I was just in the back smoking a joint with Van Dam’, you knew it was going to be great. With a faction of both RAW and Smackdown stars in attendance to ‘invade’ the show, Heyman directed his ire at Edge, with the obligatory ‘hide your wives its Edge’, and my personal favourite towards John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield, stating ‘the only reason you were champion for a year on Smackdown is because Triple H didn’t want to work on Tuesdays’. Even though JBL tried to no-sell that, he most likely needed ointment for that burn.
Joey Styles came on board to the WWE announce team and in May 2006 dropped his own ‘pipebomb’ on Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler and what appeared to be the entire group of people responsible for producing the WWE announce team on RAW. After a worked exchange with Lawler, Styles took the microphone and berated him, and then proceeded to bash the company for firing Jim Ross ‘again’ and being lectured on the difference between professional wrestling and ‘sports entertainment’. He also stated that he was told to ‘ignore the holds and the moves of the wrestlers to concentrate on telling a story’, and that this was ‘damn insulting’ to the wrestlers who leave their families 300 days a year to ply their craft. Styles then quit…to go work for WWE.com.
And then there is the man who coined the phrase ‘pipebomb’. In a weird ‘life imitating art’ situation, in mid-2011, an angry CM Punk was given an open mic to air his grievances with the WWE after a RAW main event that saw R-Truth beat John Cena in a table match (no seriously go check it out). This segment is still the most talked about segments when the mention of ‘shoot’ promos come up but in hindsight, Punk played his part amazingly, blurring the lines between reality and story, because he was simply telling the truth. He was angry that Cena and The Rock had already monopolised the following years WrestleMania main event slot. He really didn’t like John Laurenatis all that much. And yes, he really was going to bury Vince McMahon and his connections with the ‘Be A Star’ bullying campaign before his mic was cut off.
CM Punk was the difference in all the worked shoots that I have discussed here, purely for the fact that by doing his, he created the opportunity to become a bigger star. Matt Hardy may have thought that the same would happen for him, but at the time the companies interest was in Edge, and whether he likes to admit it or not, Punk had a supporter in John Cena, and that went a long way. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of the shoot promo, especially with AEW now on national television weekly, but the biggest impact in my lifetime will most likely stay with CM Punk, who took a bad situation and made himself a top guy.
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Paul Heyman image courtesy of WhatCulture