I would like to apologize in advance if this post sounds like I’m only repeating stuff I’ve said before; the sad part is that usually when I repeat myself, it’s because I’ve found validation in remarks I’ve already made. Essentially I’m giving myself a congratulatory pat on the back, a lá Barry Horowitz.
As I’ve stated before here, particularly on my last RAW review, WWE creative seems to be spinning its wheels when it comes to crafting provocative storylines and characters for fans to invest in and get behind. They seem to be suffering from the exact same problem that plagues other sports entertainment companies: subjecting fans to seeing the same stars face each other in the same matches each and every week, with the needle of progression stabilized in a comfortably stagnant area. The writing and wrestling in WWE right now just feels like one excruciatingly lingering and cumbersome expression of mediocrity.
It’s not just that the creative writing and execution is terrible, but it’s also the feeling that everything seems uninspired and bland. Feuds and rivalries are rehashed, recycled and reused. Characters feel forced and far from organic. We’re shown wrestlers each week who bust their humps wrestling, and we have no earthly reason or urge to support their cause or wage verbal war against them.
This isn’t complaining at all, but rather an honest critique of one person’s experience watching Monday night’s episode of RAW. In the three hours I spent watching the show I eventually became more enthralled with being on Twitter than I did with paying attention to what was going on in the ring.
Perhaps WWE could benefit from shaking up the creative teams or introducing new characters to the product while phasing out older ones, or give the secondary titles real and authentic value as well as become the means through which superstars can transition to the heavyweight championship and main event scene. In the meantime the company could stand to at least pretend as if they have enough writers and wrestlers to have a vibrant mid-card rife with a mixture of tag team and Diva action involved in captivating stories that entertain instead of lull fans to sleep or coerce us to change the channel.
On the other hand as proactive fans perhaps it’s also wise to walk away from WWE programming for a bit to give our brains a chance to rest from mundane nature of the product. The company is motivated by money, and if any of us truly want them to do better we have to speak with our wallets and not our internet browsing speeds.
But alas, here’s what stood out for me during the show:
- The Awakening of Antonio Cesaro
- Foreshadowing, Dean Ambrose Style
- Mark Henry: The Greatest Man Who Ever Kicked Somebody’s Ass
- Brock Mad, Brock Smash
- John Cena versus Ryback: A Tale of How the Mighty Have Fallen
It wasn’t very long ago that fans began to sour on the prospect of Antonio Cesaro’s run as a WWE superstar. After inexplicably losing several matches as the United States Champion, Cesaro’s run was unceremoniously ended by the foots of “Double K” Kofi Kingston, also known in some parts as the Crown Prince of Mid-Card Excellency (Jeff Jarrett is still the reigning monarch in that kingdom of inadequacy). In a lot of ways Kofi reminds me of Jeff Hardy, but that’s another blog for another day.
Along with his loses Cesaro was also conspicuously left out of WrestleMania XXIX despite having a lengthy and historic run as the United States Champion. It wasn’t long after that fans began to naturally assume that Vince McMahon “hated” him and he was essentially being buried for the unknown and unnamed personal grudge the Irish-blooded McMahon secretly harbored against the Swiss.
On an unrelated note this idea absolutely infuriated me because fans became super vocal about this the night after Cesaro was named the WWE’s Swiss Ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That makes perfect sense; send the guy you “hate” to be the official international ambassador for a foundation that brings joy to dying kids. If that’s the case then McMahon must really hate the s**t out of John Cena…but I digress again.
Oddly enough all of the anti-Vince McMahon pundits were nowhere to be seen when Cesaro cut a pipe bomb-esque promo last night after defeating the modern day Brooklyn Brawler, Zack Ryder, in short fashion. Simply put, Cesaro said he’s a beast and there’s no one on the entire roster that can walk a mile with his jock strap…because Swiss jock straps are nothing to yodel at.
All jokes aside Cesaro made his intentions as loud and clear as a clarion call from the top of the Matterhorn. In fact his promo was one of the few moments during the show that piqued my interest and sent chills up my spine. We all know that Cesaro is a beast and the more prescient fans (i.e. everybody at L.E.W.D.) knew that his losses were only a red herring to his eventual rise to prominence.
Simply put if Vince McMahon didn’t think he was worth a damn he would’ve simply released him (Braden Walker) or taken him off of TV completely (John Morrison) and used him once a month to do the job for someone else (Zack Ryder).
Stay tuned to see where Cesaro’s new found awesomeness will take him; if his promo last night wasn’t proof enough, check out this video done for him prior to this year’s WrestleMania:
Since we were almost on the subject of Kofi Kingston, the current United States Champion teamed with the Uso Brothers on Monday’s show to face The Shield in 6-man tag team action. Kofi ate the pin for his team after dining on Dean Ambrose’s unnamed finishing maneuver. While the WWE’s self-proclaimed arm of justice remains undefeated as a trio, the more interesting event occurred after the pinfall.
For some odd reason the referee thought it necessary to hand Kofi his United States title during the most inconvenient time after a match. For starters Kofi was still slightly incapacitated, lying almost lifeless on the mat while attempting to recover from Ambrose’s maneuver. Secondly the referee held the belt in the middle of the ring right next to Dean Ambrose as he celebrated the victory with his Shield brethren. It was at that time Ambrose gave the title this lingering and desiring glance, long enough for anyone to justifiably insinuate that the man is going to destroy Kofi in the near future.
The slow burn that has occurred with The Shield has apparently arrived at a point where it would make sense that the trio would start to consider chasing after championship gold. Most fans will easily agree that Ambrose stands out the most in the group; I believe it’s his charisma, matched with his body language/facial expressions and ability to work the mic that makes him pop more so than the amazingly athletic Seth Rollins and devastatingly intense Roman Reigns.
While I’m not too sold on an Ambrose/Shield and Kofi Kingston rivalry, I do appreciate the hint at this development for all men involved. The Shield has wreaked havoc in WWE for some time and creative has nothing substantial at the moment for Kingston. Pairing the four men or at least Ambrose and Kingston together gives fans the new feud and mid-card energy we’re craving for. The main problem is waiting for this whole thing to come to fruition if it indeed is meant to be.
Mark Henry deserves to be a WWE Hall of Famer and has most assuredly earned that honor after his 17 years of dutiful service in the WWE. I don’t recall Henry ever working for any other company other than WWE, and at 41 years of age he is one of the last Attitude Era wrestlers still on the active roster (along with notable stars such as Triple H and The Undertaker).
It says a lot about Henry in real life that he’s worked for the company for this long and they’ve made sure to keep him around after a series of injuries have stalled his character’s development at various points of his career. You have to respect the man and I’d be highly upset if some sort of WWE book or DVD wasn’t made highlighting his career and his life.
The Henry accolades don’t stop there, however; Monday night’s episode of RAW didn’t really seem to pick up steam until Henry beat Sheamus silly with a leather belt. Prior to that Henry held the audience in the palm of his hands during an in-ring promo and then, after a verbal exchange with Sheamus, delighted us with his commentary and his verbal abuse of Michael Cole. Everything surrounding Mark Henry last night was pure gold and even got the man trending on Twitter.
This rivalry with Henry is the same exact program they had during their first skirmish. While the program worked well the first time it is disappointing that the writers have returned to the well to give us the same thing over again. There is a saying that goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but I wonder if there’s more they could do with Henry and Sheamus other than having them crash into each other like two rams butting heads in a fine china shop.
“The Celtic Cena” Sheamus is serviceable in this rivalry, but it’s Mark Henry who’s making it sizzle and pop. Their outing at the upcoming Extreme Rules pay per view will be good to watch, but I’m still hoping the company can do right by both men in giving them (and us) this Hulk versus The Thing bout for the second time.
The biggest “shock” of the night came when exclusive footage was aired of Brock Lesnar destroying Triple H’s office at WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. Lesnar’s legal aid and handler Paul Heyman documented their entire mythical journey all on his iPhone.
The whole thing was designed to further their program with Triple H who, after arriving to RAW, didn’t seem pissed at all that Lesnar destroyed his “office” and was allowed to do so by the years’ worth of staff that allowed Heyman and Lesnar to trash said office.
I joked with fellow wrestling fan Tom Bobbitt the entire night about possible storylines that could come from the segment. One included Triple H having Lesnar arrested for vandalism, destruction of property, unlawful seizure and abduction of an individual, trespassing, and reckless behavior and endangerment. Heyman, of course, would be sent up the river for aiding and abetting criminal activity.
Ideally Trips would have his lawyer request that bail be denied for both men, citing their danger to society on the whole. The legal process behind that would be far more interesting and would coincide perfectly with these long drawn out yearlong storylines everyone seems intent on writing today.
The bottom line is that Brock smashed Triple H’s corporate office and the Game wasn’t even phased by his shenanigans. If he doesn’t give a damn, neither do I…moving right along…
WWE Champion John Cena is still set to face Ryback at Extreme Rule in a Last Man Standing Match despite having a bad ankle. Considering the players involved it’s astonishing that we really could not care any less.
Cena’s championship reigns at this point of his career are about as predictable as the likelihood of water being wet. It’s almost moot to nuance or argue about his character right now, mostly because no one will listen and we’re slowly realizing that the man will retire in 40 years the same way he’s wrestling now.
Ryback, on the other hand, has slowly earned our angst due to WWE’s insistence to force him to become the heel in this feud. Ryback went from having a solid core of fans behind him to having fans against him, only to find a resting spot in a place where fans are largely indifferent about him. There was almost no reaction for him when he wrestled in Monday night’s main event, and the crowd didn’t really pop for him during his post-match attack on John Cena.
We’ve all seen this song and dance from Cena and a monstrous opponent before; it’s extremely laughable and disheartening at the same time for Ryback’s character to be pompous enough to believe he can defeat Cena on his own in a Last Man Standing Match given the man’s track record with never giving up. This isn’t to say Cena hasn’t lost a LMS match before, but the odds are definitely in his favor on this one.
There’s only one more episode of RAW between now and the pay per view, so it will be mildly interesting to see what WWE does to add fuel to the fire burning between Cena and Ryback. With The Shield, Daniel Bryan and Kane involved, however, this whole mess looks and feels more convoluted than necessary. Unfortunately I just cannot shake the feeling that when it’s all said and done, this feud will just be business as usual for John Cena; such is life.
But those are just my thoughts on the show…what did YOU think about it?
I want to take this time out to thank The Ashley Morris and The Ashley Tate for appearing to appreciate my contributions to this blog the most. And thank The Christopher Lamb for inviting me, then posting my writing for me because I was just plain too lazy to create a wordpress. Thank you again.
That out of the way… *cracks knuckles* I got this idea from The Ashley Morris quoting Vince McMahon saying “Fans know what they like, but don’t know what they want.” Because I am a genius and superior form of life, I know what I want. And this is why we’re here.
- I want The Shield to win the tag titles, and stay undefeated until there is a tag team sufficiently built to get the rub of being first to beat them in a tag match. *resists urge to say “We KNOW this is never going to happen, they’ll lose inexplicably to The Usos or Primo and Epico”*
- Also… Dean Ambrose is clearly the star of the group, and a future main eventer. Wouldn’t be mad at the firm of Rollins and Reigns winning the tag titles and him winning the IC strap soon.
- I want Antonio Cesaro to stop yodeling (and jobbing) and start wearing suits and being a Euro amalgamation of Ric Flair and MVP “I’m better than you, because I’m BALLIN’! WOOOOOOOO” and start getting title shots. Don’t think he can “carry the company” yet at all, but dammit WWE needs to start hotshotting people to the top. He’s a blue chipper, for sure.
- I want Randy Orton to turn heel. Randy Orton wants to turn heel. YOU prolly want to see Randy Orton turn heel. Nuff said.
- I can see AJ and Big E swerving Dolph Ziggler in the future. I think that he’d be better as a cocky babyface than The Miz is, who is too douchey to be anything but a heel. Only haters can’t see that Dolph is maybe top five in the company right now.
- I still want Del Rio to go back to driving fly whips. And get a female valet or two. He might could be bigger than Ric Flair as a playboy babyface. He still sucks as a heel. WOOOOOOOO
- I do not need to see a rubber match between Cena and Rock. That is all.
- If WWE has any sense at all Ryback has to go over Cena at Extreme Rules using the ankle as an excuse for Cena losing. We don’t need MORE proof he’s Superman. Of course Cena will miraculously be 100% by the next PPV or so…
- Daniel Bryan needs to be given a WWE Championship win over Cena to cement him as a top tier guy. Of course Cena will win it back, but then…
- CM Punk better come back and take the WWE Championship from Cena.
- I’m in favor of getting rid of the worthless midcard titles if you HAVE to have two world titles. Or unifying the world titles and midcard titles. And I still want to bring back the light heavyweight/cruiserweight division to give smaller guys something to do other than job to the glut of high midcard/main event guys.
- I’d love to see guys like Goldberg, Batista, and Bobby Lashley come back as part-timers.
- Last, but certainly not least… I want Jim Ross and Paul Heyman to get creative control. Let them sign and evaluate talent. Let them have final say over booking. They’re just plain better at it than McMahon/HHH.
I was just on WrassleZone reading about how Antonio Cesaro doesn’t ‘have heat backstage’ or… HHH isn’t pissed at him for grabbing Stephanie’s titty as I postulated Monday while watching Raw. My nigga Quinn Gammon hates the use of the term burial, so allow me to troll him for a second with the following: Antonio Cesaro IS being buried right at this moment. And the reason is simple to my reasoning mind: Wrasslin fans… suck. You reading this… might possibly suck.
I don’t watch ROH. I don’t watch TNA. I don’t watch any other wrasslin but WWE. You will not make me feel inferior as a wrasslin fan that I don’t keep up with lesser promotions. I know nothing of Claudio Castignoli or whatever his name was. I just know that as Antonio Cesaro… they gave him Teddy Long’s girlfriend to get him heat. Then… they took that. Then he became the Unamerican troll champion. Then they took that. Now he is this yodeler who gets NO reaction at all. Please WWE Creative… take that away from us… My point is… WWE has this nasty habit of changing guys characters after seemingly a couple of months. Very little catches on that fast.
Look at Daniel Bryan. That dude won the WHC and screamed ‘YES’ for MONTHS and then it caught on at and after WrassleMania. And… in typical WWE fashion, they turned him heel and made him start screaming ‘NO’. And the audience has spoken in that when Bryan kicks his opponents in the body kneeling or in the corner, the fans scream ‘YES’. Monday, they chanted ‘YES’. Maybe one day they’ll fully turn him face again and he can join his fans. Yes.
Look at my man Alberto Del Rio… a man who dressed well and drove fly whips to the stage area. Got like no reaction from the crowd. Now that he’s babyface, peep the enthusiasm from the fans when Ricardo belts out ‘ALBERTOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO’. This was a guy who every fan of WWE could see has wrasslin talent. All. They. Did. was turn him face and now he’s over. I suppose my point here is Cesaro and even Ziggler would benefit from face turns. Us marks and even casual fans WANT to cheer them.
In my opinion… wrasslin fans SUCK because as I’ve previously written, we do not support the things we love. We take to our twitters and blogs and such to shit on WWE while watching it every week. Fans are buying tickets just to go to shows and chant boring. It doesn’t make sense. Why invest any time or money into something you hate? People places and things I don’t care for? Not on my radar. You hate John Cena… you’re going to hate WWE until he retires because he seemingly will always be the centerpiece and the main event, no matter how insignificant whatever he’s doing is. You know what DOESN’T help build the next star to replace him? Sitting on your hands when guys perform that you know are good performers. Because then you might as well wield the shovel used to bury them. Hi, Quinn. *waves*
On Thursday, April 18, 2013 a press conference was held in Orlando, Florida by World Wrestling Entertainment.
It was at this press conference that WWE Executive Vice President of Talent and Live Events Paul “Triple H” Levesque, along with Florida Governor Rick Scott, Full Sail University President Garry Jones, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orange County Commissioner Peter Clarke, announced the opening of the WWE’s state-of-the-art Performance Center. The Performance Center will serve as the home to WWE’s talent developmental system and will also create at least 100 new jobs in Orlando.
The following is taken from the press release about the facility:
“With 26,000 square-feet, seven training rings, a world-class strength and conditioning program and cutting-edge edit and production facilities, the new Performance Center will give WWE the ability to train more potential performers than ever before through a comprehensive program including in-ring training, physical preparedness and character development.
The new center will be the training ground for talent that includes former professional and collegiate athletes, Olympians and entertainers, and will offer a best-in-class sports medicine program creating a central location for all WWE talent to receive the best care both in and out of the ring.”
Among other things this announcement also furthers WWE’s relationship with Full Sail University, which serves as the current home for the WWE NXT taping series and also allows students (such as our very own THE Nic Johnson) of the university to gain “real-world experience” alongside WWE production team members.
The creation and announcement of WWE’s Performance Center is rife with irony, the incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.
The irony of the whole Performance Center project is that most people expect the facility to produce top-notch WWE Superstars when the actual result will more than likely resemble the same crop of superstars already present in the company. Effectively it appears that WWE has partnered with several entities in Orlando to create more modern and efficient methods of producing crap.
That assessment of the situation is a tad bit unfair, particularly seeing as the fruits of the Performance Center won’t be truly seen for at least another year or two from today. As nifty as the bells and whistles sound, however, all the wrestling rings and hi-tech equipment in the world cannot and will not replace some of the most fundamental and rudimentary realities that are necessary for the development of a “true” wrestling superstar.
The phrase “Performance Center” is oddly reminiscent of the same cold and mechanical training regimen used by Ivan Drago in the blockbuster film Rocky IV. Despite the flashing lights, the new age equipment, the meter readings and steroid vitamin enhancement injections, there was no machine or drug vitamin in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that could develop the one muscle Drago needed to defeat Rocky Balboa…heart.
WWE’s hi-tech Performance Center will undoubtedly provide wrestling hopefuls the tools and opportunities necessary to become a WWE superstar, but it will most assuredly lack the proverbial heart needed for athletes to excel as wrestlers with the total package. The skills and tools needed to have the total package cannot be found or taught in a fancy facility in one of the country’s most well-known hot spots for tourists and alcoholic college students.
This facility will not “train” men and women wrestlers to become WWE Superstars; it will eventually breed WWE Superstars flat out, and a WWE Superstar is something very different than a wrestler looking to become a WWE Superstar.
On April 5, a pre-WrestleManiaXXIX interview with WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan was featured in The Washington Post. In the interview, journalist David Malitz had the following to say about Bryan’s journey thus far in his career:
“Bryan’s path to WWE was built on giving his best showing night after night on stages microscopic compared to the scale of that on which he’ll perform Sunday. Over a decade, he has worked for dozens of companies on the sprawling independent wrestling circuit, from Pennsylvania to Japan, and earned a reputation as one of the best technical wrestlers in the world. This means he is someone who can make any move in the ring look devastating, graceful and believable, whether he is on the giving or receiving end — an essential skill for a wrestler.”
According to Malitz’s piece, Bryan—formerly known to wrestling fans by his real name Bryan Danielson—honed his craft for ten years prior to arriving in WWE. In those ten years Bryan traveled extensively all over the United States and even wrestled in Japan on numerous occasions; Malitz implies that it was during this time and not upon his arrival in WWE that Bryan gained a reputation for being one of “the best technical wrestlers in the world.”
What’s missing from the Performance Center is a focus on talent developing their skills as wrestlers before landing a developmental contract with WWE. More telling is the idea, the notion that these men and women (or professional/collegiate athletes, Olympians and entertainers) would have gained this experience on their own which would ultimately lead WWE to giving them a developmental contract. That idea is not necessarily a given, as has been made painfully obvious with certain Superstars and Divas in the past (Kelly Kelly for example).
Fans paying attention to this are witnessing a distinct difference in the execution of a developmental territory as opposed to a developmental system. Wrestlers today looking to make it big in the WWE enter into its developmental territory and spend 2-4 years translating their craft into an easy-to-swallow WWE-esque style, not necessarily gaining any experience from working around the world by being a part of a network of territories in a full-fledged developmental system.
But in those 2-4 years these men and women are picking up the habits, traits and skills that will define their careers in terms specific WWE. These wrestlers will learn one particular style that is honestly suitable for that specific company and its specific audience. As a result the wrestler will only have limited resources to pull from when it comes to putting together a match that energizes and entertains fans.
In the WWE’s case, that is a simplistic style that tends to look and operate like the pro wrestling equivalent to a color-by-the-numbers activity book. This, of course, does not sit well with older fans or those fans that prefer “wrestling” over “sports entertainment.” In the same breath it positions the company to consistently churn out more and more individuals will simply provide the WWE with the same results they’ve been garnering for the past 10-11 years.
Consider Bryan’s words towards the end of the Washington Post interview:
“I don’t consider it wrestling…I’ve done wrestling. Everywhere. And just by being a good wrestler you can become popular. But not here. It’s more important to be entertaining than it is to be a great wrestler. It’s fascinating to me…”
The new WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida is perhaps best equipped to produce entertainers. The problem is that wrestlers can be very entertaining if they’re given the opportunity to add new dimensions and layers to their already vast repertoire (i.e. Bryan Danielson).
On the other hand it is not set in stone that an entertainer will be able to be a convincing wrestler, “someone who can make any move in the ring look devastating, graceful and believable, whether he is on the giving or receiving end — an essential skill for a wrestler.” That’s not something than can be trained or gained in 2-4 years in a stint in a facility in Orlando.
Chris Jericho’s amazing story as a professional wrestler serves as a perfect example of this point. Although Jericho’s journey has been extensively covered in his books A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex and Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps, his path in wrestling was most succinctly described in his DVD “Breaking the Code: Behind the Walls of Chris Jericho.”
Jericho began his trek with two goals: to become a rock star and a wrestler. This started with Jericho getting a degree in communications at 19, wrestling at the Hart Brothers School of Wrestling in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1989. In 1992 he traveled and wrestled in Mexico City until 1994, where he learned how to “work a crowd.” It was in Mexico where he also learned and adopted elements of the Lucha Libre style.
For six weeks after his stint in Mexico City he worked in Hamburg, Germany where he learned how perform mentally a different match every night (as he performed in front of the same crowd every night for six weeks straight). From that point Jericho found himself in Japan, where he learned how to become a technically gifted wrestler and gained the respect of several key figures and wrestlers in the industry. Jericho also learned the Strong style and adopted that to his repertoire.
Also in 1994 Jericho worked for Smoky Mountain Wrestling in Tennessee, where he learned the Southern style of cutting great promos. In 1996 Jericho was able to land a job with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), where he wrestled in front of the country’s most rabid and diehard wrestling fans. From 1996-1999 Jericho worked for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Finally in August of 1999, Chris Jericho debuted in the WWF, bringing altogether 10 years of experience from organizations spread across five different countries in Asia, North America and Europe. To this day Chris Jericho is one of the most well respected wrestlers and veterans still able to entertain fans as a wrestler…and a rock star.
Is it feasible or possible for those same skills to be taught to a young wrestler coming into the Performance Center for a 2-4 year stint before being brought up to the main roster? Even with the guidance and tutelage of veterans in the business, nothing can replace the real life experience of having to perform for different crowds around the world or even the country.
That being said, the WWE’s state-of-the-art facility can only exist to help future superstars add one more element to their skill sets as wrestlers. The real issue, an issue WWE will have to respond to eventually, is whether or not they’re open to hiring wrestlers that have honed their skills over a solid period of time in promotions outside of the United States. Better still, will WWE have the gumption to send all of its developmental stars around the world (or even the country) to adequately hone their skills and talents?
It’s exciting to have a facility in Orlando with seven rings and a team of nutritionists, but all the fancy pants flash in the world can’t make up for a wrestler’s experience in putting on an entertaining and captivating story.
“I sell the things you need to be
I’m the smiling face on your TV
I’m the cult of personality
I exploit you, still you love me
I tell you one and one makes three
I’m the cult of personality…”
I know burial is an overused expression within the IWC. I won’t call burial here, as Ryback is one of the bigger stars in wrasslin these days… but he’s definitely not being used right. It started when he was prematurely thrust into the main event against God and failed to capture the WWE title like three PPVs in a row. Continued when he couldn’t win a PPV match against the Shield, lost the Royal Rumble, and lost to Mark “THAT’S WHAT I DO” Henry. And will end with his inferiority being proven against John Cena at Extreme Rules. Ryback is being ruined before our very eyes.
“To be the man, you gotta beat the man! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” – Ric Flair
You know why CM Punk is legit the man? Because we can say he has John Cena’s number, by virtue of having repeatedly beaten “The Man”. When WWE wanted to put the title around Sheamus, who did they have him beat for his first world title? John Cena. When WWE wanted us to not really believe in Randy Orton, who did they have own him repeatedly? John Cena. Who made Edge a legit main eventer? John Cena. John Cena is the man, and when Ryback loses repeatedly to him, he will never recover. Like Randy Orton.
Randy Orton was my favorite. He has the look of a superstar. A dope finisher. Kinda wack personality, but ehhh. My Cena hatred started when Orton rarely went over him while I’m thinking Orton is better. I became a CM Punk stan by virtue of him becoming the Cena slayer. Wins and losses fucking matter. Because to be the man, you gotta beat the man.
Many within the IWC aren’t sold on the last two WHC holders, Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio. I’m a fan of both, and believe they are not done any favors by how they are booked. Ziggler is a jobber, and so is Del Rio, based on how they get booked. Ziggler just lost CLEAN to Jack Swagger, after just becoming champion. Ziggler loses A LOT. How can you be the man and everyone beats you? Del Rio lost like 364837 times to Sheamus and Randy Orton and won the title out of nowhere. Of course he’s not as over as he could be.
Ryback was undefeated a few months ago. All he’s really done is lose ever since. He has not had one memorable feud. And losing to the man won’t help.
This review will not be the typical Mr. Morris review you may have grown accustomed to reading. For starters this piece is being crafted with a little under forty-five minutes left in the show. There also won’t be many pictures from the evening, as the WWE has more than likely not published them prior to the show actually ending.
Much like last week a lot of “significant” things have happened on tonight’s episode of RAW, but those things were largely overshadowed by the not-New-Jersey crowd in Greenville, South Carolina and the annual creative reset that happens after WrestleMania.
Before launching into those two spiels, it must be noted that most of the champions that wrestled tonight—with the exception of the Tag Team Champions Team Hell No—all lost their matches. While the Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler suffered non-title defeats to their opponents (R-Truth and Jack Swagger respectively), former United States Champion Antonio Cesaro fell victim to Kofi Kingston’s patented Trouble in Paradise finishing maneuver, giving the Ghanaian athlete the victory and the United States Championship.
As of this point right now (10:25 PM EST), John Cena has yet to appear in the ring with his WWE Title. He did make one appearance in a backstage segment with Matt Stryker, which received no reaction whatsoever from the audience in Greenville…interesting…
This brings us back to one of the aforementioned points; my fellow L.E.W.D. writer Mr. Lamb spoke at length about the necessity of filler. Apparently the same applies for the types of crowds a WWE show appears before. Tonight’s crowd in Greenville, compared to the red hot crowd at the post-WrestleMania RAW in New Jersey, is close to being the one friend who nods off before everyone else at a sleepover. I wonder how much more entertaining this show could be (and could have been) if the crowd tonight had not been the exact polar opposite of last week’s crowd.
The other concerning issue is that the product is in a rebuilding phase right now, setting up entirely new and different feuds than what we were presented with specifically for WrestleMania XXIX. It’s going to take time and some exceptionally great writing to get fans behind these new stories, but the action surrounding said stories feels dry, stale and uninspired. In the same spirit of Mr. Lamb’s piece, perhaps this “phase” is a filler phase for the product, a moment for us to catch our breath before things are kicked into high gear once again.
I wouldn’t go as far as to characterize this as a “bad” RAW, because there have been worse shows than this. However tonight’s episode, while good on in-ring work, was not one of those shows that would cause me to call one of the L.E.W.D. brothers or sisters and enthusiastically scream into my cell phone about the show.
The three major things that stuck out to me in the show (now with twenty minutes remaining):
- The Absurdity of Antonio Cesaro
- The Ryback Has Feelings Too
For those fans keeping count, not only has Antonio Cesaro lost his United States Championship, but he’s also been saddled with a yodeling gimmick. I’m sure someone somewhere in the company thought this would be hilarious and get Cesaro “more over” with the fans. I won’t point fingers or name names, but instead I’ll allow this video to reveal a possible suspect:
Let’s recap the storied history of Antonio Cesaro: here we have a new WWE superstar who was a former Rugby player in Europe, but was kicked out of the sport for being too rough. At some unspecified time in his life, this same former Rugby player also learned how to yodel during his time working on a Swiss farm training St. Bernards, all of which became world renowned rescue animals in their generation under his tutelage.
Update: Nikki/Brie Bella just defeated WWE Divas Champion Kaitlyn (10:49 PM EST)
Truthfully speaking a lot of important things happened on the show, but the live New Jersey crowd far surpassed all the in-ring action and story line development hands down. Random chants, enthusiasm, flat out being LOUD…New Jersey fans definitely had their post-WrestleMania game on point.
As exciting as the live crowd was it could also be said that their self-centered antics took away from the wrestlers plying their craft in the ring, as definitely was the case with Randy Orton’s match against Sheamus. When the fans made their first vocally obstreperous stand against WWE’s questionable booking, words “rude, obnoxious and disrespectful” were used to describe the crowd as well.
It’s no secret that wrestlers work their tails off in order to entertain the fans, but there a fine line between enjoying the show as a fan and sopping everything up like lobotomized sheep. Wrestlers including Shane Helms, Sugar Dunkerton, Matt Hardy, Gran Akuma and Lance Storm all chimed in their varying opinions on the crowd’s activity during the actual show; those opinions ranged from chastising the fans to praising the workers and scolding the promoters.
Despite how one may feel about the raucousness of the crowd last night it cannot be denied that the entire audience—the same audience that paid good money to see a post-WrestleMania episode of RAW live (a feeling the Rt. Rev. Showtime and I know very well)—was engaged in the show completely. The crowd was electric and were way more into the show for all three hours than the NY/NJ crowd at the MetLife Stadium twenty-four hours prior. You only get that type of crowd once in a blue moon and it really made the show.
What’s interesting to note is that the crowd didn’t become obnoxious until someone *cough cough* made the call to have Orton face Sheamus despite the overwhelming number of fans who voted via WWE Fan Active to see Orton square off against Big Show (Orton’s 77% to Sheamus’ 23%). What message does that type of booking give to the fans? How does that promote the “interactive” nature of the show and product if you’re willing to blatantly disregard what they fans said they wanted? What does that do to the performers in the ring who have to perform in front of a crowd that’s just been jilted?
Also consider the little traits that make a big difference between a “good” wrestler and a “great” wrestler. Orton and Sheamus barely acknowledged the crowd’s response outside of a few smirks and annoyed grimaces, but even a slight acknowledgement that either wrestler realized the bee ess of the match would’ve most assuredly gotten the crowd back in the palm of their hands. If you think that’s fluff, look at what Fandango’s acknowledgement of the crowd’s rowdiness did for him last night…
On the other hand, look what Sheamus’ post-RAW acknowledgement of the crowd did for him last night…
There are several ways to entertain a crowd; it’s understandable when a crowd gets out of control, but it’s something completely different for any promotion to flip fans off and expect them to be okay with it. In fact this is a major criticism against WWE while TNA is consistently praised for doing the exact opposite. Then again, there was the time when fans chose Desmond Wolfe as the next in line to receive a World Title shot and Sting was announced as the #1 Contender…
At least WWE acknowledged how into the program the fans were; in the end that’s what everyone wants, right? To leave the show entertained with the experience of witnessing the action of WWE live…
Alas, here’s what stood out to me about the show other than the red-hot crowd:
- Dolph Ziggler: Your NEW World Heavyweight Champion
- Tidbits: Fandango and Wade Barrett
- The Brothers of Destruction Reunite…YES! YES! YES!
- John Cena and the Heels of the 21st Century, ft. The Ryback as Your #1 Contender
With three months left until the expiration of his Money In the Bank contract, WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler cashed in his opportunity on RAW, defeating Alberto Del Rio to begin his second reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Last night was a momentous occasion for Dolph, an occasion that prompted the several fans and wrestlers to send congratulations towards the new champ.
There were a few fans, however, that disapproved vehemently with the this recent turn of events:
Overly dramatic exclamations aside, Ziggler’s victory over Del Rio presents fans once again with the eternal struggle with understanding and compartmentalizing their expectations. For months accusations were launched at WWE for their perceived inability to create new stars or push certain stars deserving of a main event status. Dolph Ziggler was one of those stars who fans began to grow lukewarm about (including yours truly) because of his meandering around the mid-card.
All of a sudden Dolph cashes in his contract and believably defeats an injured Alberto Del Rio to become the new World Heavyweight Champion, and a solid number of fans seem largely underwhelmed by the thought of his second championship reign. It’s lose-lose situations like this that put promotions in weird situations; they’re damned if they do or don’t push a guy at a specific time.
Regardless of how one may feel about Ziggler’s victory, the more exciting part of his victory is the prospect of what lies ahead for him. With Big E Langston’s enforcer role still relatively undefined and AJ Lee’s quirky presence easily ignorable, Ziggler’s reign and role as World Heavyweight Champion still needs meaning a depth. Whether he’s a transitional champion or not, there’s got to be something interesting waiting for him in the next few weeks, if not months. Our best bet is to sit tight and at least give Ziggler a chance to prove us that his status as a main event star is or will be a complete bust.
What a difference a day makes…
Fandango went from being one of the most despised gimmicks to debut in the company in recent times to an instant classic overnight. The gimmick feels to be an awkward and unholy mixture between “The Model” Rick Martel and Simon Dean. Whatever the case may be the fans in the Izod Center in New Jersey effectively made Fandango a star. The overly garishness of the gimmick was one thing, but to see and hear 16,000+ fans solidly behind that ridiculousness is pure awesomeness.
Also last night in one of the many WrestleMania Rematch matches Wade Barrett defeated The Miz to regain the Intercontinental Title he lost the night before.
Very few fans can comprehend why the title was hotshot between these men, but there are two things to consider: this isn’t the first time this has happened before (Kane vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin in a First Blood Match at King of the Ring 1998), and now we’re actually paying attention to what happens with the Intercontinental Title.
This “rivalry” between The Miz and Wade Barrett still feels lifeless and inorganic. Some have argued that Barrett deserves to be in the main event picture, but it’s not quite understandable how one can arrive at that opinion given the character’s development since his return to WWE television.
The Intercontinental Championship, and to some extent the United States Championship, both feel like archaic relics that are kept around simply for the sake of novelty and tradition; fans at this point in the business are largely unaware and indifferent of what these titles represent today and represented in the past. While Barrett can bring some prominence to the championship, he can only do so with the help of a performer we actually give a damn about. Unfortunately The Miz is just not that opponent.
This would be one of those moments where WWE’s annual Spring Cleaning event would come in handy, opening the space for new faces and new rivalries. But outside of that, fans can only hope that some new life and meaning is injected into the Intercontinental Championship now that Barrett’s win has our attention.
At one point in time there was good reason to worry about the intended direction of The Shield. After Monday’s RAW, those worries have been sidelined at least for the near future.
The Undertaker was scheduled to make an appearance at RAW, which was an odd thing for Mark Calaway and The Undertaker to do in the last few years. As The Deadman opened his mouth to speak about his victory over CM Punk at WrestleMania, the now infamous entrance theme for The Shield interrupted him mid-sentence. The treacherous trio consisting of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns made their way to the ring, surrounding The Undertaker for what was sure to be a sound thrashing.
As things began to look hairy for everyone’s favorite legendary wrestler, Kane’s pyro erupted and the superstar rushed to the ring with his tag team partner Daniel Bryan in tow. The Shield thought wisely about their course of action and actually retreated. In that one instant, fans were given what could be the most important feud for The Shield in their early WWE careers.
This tweet from a fan from Twitter pretty much explains it all:
The other thing worth noting is that The Shield’s prominence in the company as a trio has created some of the most interesting and dynamic alliances in the company. From Big Show/Sheamus/Randy Orton to John Cena/Sheamus/Ryback, the trio’s presence in the product has created some interestingly compelling stories. The announcers keep pushing the group’s effectiveness as a team, forcing their opponents to become strange bedfellows that have to work together just to hang with the young up-and-comers. Since most of their opponents have operated more fluently as individuals than they have as tag team members, things always fall apart and work out better for The Shield than anyone else.
Despite their rough beginnings, both tandems of Kane/Daniel Bryan and Kane/Undertaker have worked extremely well given time and the eventual maturation of the groups. Now The Shield has to face all three men at the same time…they are in for one hell of a battle.
To make matters more deliciously awesome you’ve got four hungry, young wrestlers in the ring with two extremely gifted athletes, wrestlers, and future Hall of Famers. What more could a fan ask for…well…may he truly rest in peace.
Fans should not make judgements yet on the outcome of the brewing feud between John Cena and the Ryback. We’ve seen Cena laid out before and he always manages to come out victorious; nothing too new or shocking about the image above.
However…something does seem a tad big fishy.
Dissecting the John Cena character has been one of the foundational tenets that keeps the L.E.W.D. site together (other than our questionable behavior towards Gary the Intern…but I swear he’s cool with everything…honest…). From the unfinished L.E.W.D. Booking 101 series to our WrestleMania XXVIII back-and-forth, Cena’s character still manages to squeak his way back into our pieces on a regular basis. As much as we say we dislike the character, we still talk about him more than anything else…unless we’re talking about TNA.
The odd thing about Cena’s character, the character that so many fans scream at to turn heel, is that he’s honestly displaying tons of heel traits as is. Cena’s not a heel in the sense that half of fans across the country boo him, but a heel in the sense that a good bunch of everything he does screams “heel tactic,” but doesn’t come across that way to most folks who aren’t used to it.
Think back to Vince Russo’s fascination with creating ambiguous characters that exhibit “good” traits and “bad” traits at the same time. For some fans, Cena’s presence is cheered and hailed; he’s got a million-dollar smile, his move set is predictable, and he does nice things for sick kids and has a really great work ethic. John Cena, in that line of thinking, is an All American American that everyone wants to be like when they grow up.
As has been said on this site many times before, the Cena character is that high school All-City Varsity Sports Team Captain that gets what he wants when he wants because he’s that damn good and he brings money and publicity to an otherwise lackluster institution. John Cena is the senior that has received a letter jacket in every single sport in the school, even the ones he had no business participating in.
The girls love him; the freshmen just want him to acknowledge that he exists. All the popular kids have been at his house and have had tons of fun at the killer parties thrown when his parents are vacationing in the Hamptons for three weeks.
The problem with that high school All-City Varsity Sports Team Captain is that in order to stay at the top, he has to stand on someone’s face (see what I did there?)…
John Cena entered the Izod Center last night to a roaring chorus of boos and simply smirked their remarks away. Cena’s speech spat in their faces; despite their dislike of him, he was still the champ and they had to deal with it. He traded in his trademark shirts for one crappy one that pointed to his new championship belt, and when he removed that belt there was another belt printed on the actual shirt. Cena reveled in the chorus of jeers and knew that the fans catcalls couldn’t phase him; all that mattered was that he finally beat The Rock and could move on with his life.
When Mark Henry approached Cena his smile turned into a look of concern, which then turned into snide comments and jokes at Henry’s expense. Cena then condescendingly introduced himself to Mark Henry as the WWE Champion, and a match for Henry’s opportunity as the number one contender for said title was made for later on in the show.
Cena’s look of concern was just for show; he’s already beaten Mark Henry before when the stakes were high. He wasn’t scared of Mark Henry at all…Cena’s tone suggested that Mark Henry should’ve been scared of the champ.
Cena then goes on to face Henry in the main event and wins the match by count-out, something highlyunusual for the man that can withstand leagues of abuse from all types of wrestlers. Once again Cena defied the odds and once again he’s shoved down our collective craw.
This has been the sum and substance of Cena’s character since fans began to vocally show their dislike of him. Yet he returns each night, unfazed by the shouts of his haters, to show off the fact that he knows he’s that damn good and there’s nothing that will change that. He even said it to The Rock prior to their match at WrestleMania XXVIII; it was along the lines of, “I know how this is going to go. You’ll talk smack, you’ll do this, I’ll beat you, and everything remains the same.”
Babyface characters don’t do that; good guys at least pretend that their opponents are threats. Cena can’t even feign intimidation because he can barely fathom that someone in the company actually has his number. Most heels are the same way, that despite their obvious weaknesses they still remain untouchable. More importantly they flaunt that Teflon don status all the time…
All of a sudden Ryback is inserted into the picture, a beast of an opponent that has obvious weaknesses but a beast that Cena has managed to avoid in the past year. Think back to the Triple Threat Match at Survivor Series and Cena’s elimination of Ryback at the Royal Rumble. The Champ honestly wants none of Ryback because out of all his high school conquests from freshman to sophomore year, he hasn’t had to face anyone that could beat him this silly since Bobby Lashley.
Cena’s already a heel, but a new type of heel that doesn’t resemble the Blackjack Mulligans or Bruiser Brodys we’re use to seeing. Ryback will be the face that we will pay good money to see defeat John Cena. Ryback is that force that keeps moving forward, chasing Cena even when The Champ thinks everything’s going to end once he gets a pinfall victory. That (hopefully) won’t be the case here, and we’re praying that the creative heads can keep the story compelling.
Just reflect on those thoughts for a moment, and while you do so check out this meme:
Those are just my thoughts on Monday night’s episode of RAW. What did y’all think of the show?
Anticipation is at a fevered pitch as fans are only a few days away from the biggest sports entertainment spectacle of the year! WrestleMania XXIX is practically here, and we’re all anxious to take part in the majesty of this weekend surrounding the “grandest stage of them all!”
The build for this year’s event has been characterized by some fans as “lacking,” not having that humph that makes the event worth spending so much money for. That is a fair and accurate criticism to make of the event, which questions the rationale for shelling out tons of money just to attend it live or ordering it on pay per view.
If you’ve followed the L.E.W.D. site from its very humble beginnings, you can easily recall that WrestleMania is the anniversary of our first official gathering; this weekend (if not the entire week) represents the first time many of us witnessed the event live and in person. Having paid the money, helped with organizing damn near 20 people from around the country, and visited the many different events surrounding WrestleMania, I can honestly say that the magic of the weekend lies not within the actual event, but just experiencing everything that comes with it.
This year’s WrestleMania, outside of anything WWE is promoting or pandering, appears to be the largest gathering of pro wrestling related events fans have ever seen. Wrestlecon is happening this weekend; our great friends at DragonGate USA/EVOLVE will be doing stuff, as well as Chikara, Shimmer and CZW. Hell, even TNA is cashing in on this opportunity and hosting an event in New York on April 5!
This all goes to say that there is no reason for any fan that prides himself/herself on being a pro wrestling/sports entertainment fan to intentionally pout in the corner because this WrestleMania has somehow failed to live up to the hype and grandeur of WrestleMania X7. There are so many different events going on and ways to see them that WWE’s premier pay per view will literally be the bookend to one hell of a weekend. In that regard, the show cannot fail to meet expectations if you limit your expectations to simply experiencing WrestleMania by itself.
Given the pomp and circumstance of the event it isn’t unreasonable to expect WWE and its superstars to deliver come Sunday. My point is that at this point in the game we have to begin to appreciate what the event symbolizes and not just the event itself. This particular WrestleMania may seem like trash to some, but having experienced WrestleMania XXVII live here in Atlanta…I’ll just say this one is a big step up from that in more ways than one.
I also realize in these economic times we’re all strapped for cash and our finances won’t allow us to indulge in everything offered by the weekend; but if I had a choice, I’d honestly encourage you to purchase one of the iPPVs and locate your nearest Hooters or Buffalo Wild Wings to catch WrestleMania. If push comes to shove, you could also consider rounding up your closest friends and chipping in to order the event together.
Having said that let’s look at the card as it stands now and attempt to make some good ol’ fashioned predictions:
For some time now The Miz has been involved in a series of matches battling against Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett. Ironically enough their placement on the WrestleMania card appears to be a metaphor for their current rivalry: easily forgettable.
I believe their rivalry began with a spat over who was the bigger movie star, with Miz and Barrett speaking highly of their films The Marine 3: Homefront and Dead Man Down, respectively. Once again in a strange twist of fate, I’m not in a particular rush to see either movie or their match.
This match feels as if the men were placed together because in the grand scheme of things both were aimlessly floating around with very little to do. I haven’t been all that thrilled about their matches, which isn’t a slight at either individual’s work rate or abilities. The bottom line for me is that the feud and rivalry is rather dull and the Intercontinental Championship feels like an unnecessary accessory altogether, not even speaking about Barrett’s ho-hum reign.
I expect Barrett to retain in what’s going to ultimately be an over exaggerated exhibition match.
Prediction: Wade Barrett retains.
Let’s face facts: the average wrestling fan believes this match is a waste of time and space on the jam packed WrestleMania card. The average fan would also believe that there are tons of wrestlers (Ted DiBiase and Kofi Kingston maybe…) who deserve this coveted spot more so than Fandango. Those opinions, while valid, also miss the mark when it comes to the whole of Jericho’s burgeoning feud with Fandango.
For starters, Fandango (formerly Johnny Curtis from the fourth season of NXT) is a “debuting” wrestler in the company. That word “debut” can be used loosely here, but he’s new talent relatively speaking. It’s hilarious to see some fans dump on new talent, only to turn around and complain when the company fails to make “new stars.”
Secondly, Fandango is making his “debut” at WrestleMania against Chris Jericho, a soon-to-be-legend that works extremely well with getting over…you guessed it…new talent. The man should be honored twice as much to have Jericho as his in-ring coach and to face him at the company’s biggest pay per view of the year.
This brings us to our third point: the higher ups in the company must think he’s worth his salt if they’ve chosen to (a) not release him, (b) have him wrestle against Chris Jericho at his (c) debut at WrestleMania. This isn’t taking into consideration the tons of money placed into his character with the garishly elaborate sets.
Fourthly despite whatever the fans may feel the need to chant, the man can actually wrestle; there is a HUGE difference between chanting “you can’t wrestle” and “you don’t wrestle.”
All things considered Fandango’s presence at WrestleMania is enough of a big deal for Curtis Jonathan Hussey. He doesn’t need a win here to legitimize himself, so expect Chris Jericho to humble the star Sunday night.
Prediction: Chris Jericho wins, feud with Fandango continues.
The feud between Del Rio and Swagger started off as a red hot rivalry rooted in the controversial subject of immigration. Since Swagger’s return to WWE he, along with his manager Zeb Coulter, have crusaded against the individuals they believe are causing America to decay in the sort of moral turpitude that only “immigrants” can apparently cause. Unfortunately that angle lasted about as long as a Hot Pocket in a college student’s refrigerator; as it stands now the main reason fans are invested in this match is because Jack Swagger beat up Ricardo Rodriguez.
Del Rio’s run as a face has been much better than the latter part of his run as a heel; the sad part of it all is that even with Rodriguez by his side, Del Rio consistently struggles to get the fans to rally behind him. This nagging reality haunts Del Rio to this day, and thus creates a situation similar to that of The Miz and Wade Barrett; yeah he’s going to wrestle Jack Swagger, yeah there’s a title on the line, but do you really care?
I’m hoping that the match will be a clinic between two exceptionally gifted wrestlers, but other than that it probably won’t be anything worth writing home about. Del Rio retains much to
Yosemite Sam’s Zeb Coulter’s chagrin, and Swagger survives only to spend another day frustrated with change.
Prediction: Del Rio retains
The bout between Ryback and Mark Henry is one of those fights that force you to ask yourself, “What took them so long?” Actually, wrestling logic dictates that these two will feud for another month or so, realize that they’re not so different after all, and unite in a formidable team that will rise up the ranks and win the WWE Tag Team Championships. Alas, they’ve already got a Black Guy/White Guy powerhouse team, so that dog won’t hunt anytime soon.
WrestleMania XXIX will also be a huge night for Ryback as well, serving as the star’s coming out party against another WWE legend in the making. Say what you will about Mark Henry, but it cannot be denied that he’s one of the most tenured WWE stars still wrestling today (he debuted in 1996, while Triple H debuted in WWE one year before him in 1995). Despite having gaps in his career due to injuries, Mark Henry has remained a fixture in the company and the man has to be worth something if they haven’t released him yet.
“Two bulls in a china shop” is the best way to describe this match; Ryback will walk away with the rub from Henry, which will bring him one step closer to his eventual run as a main event star in the company. If Ryback is able to lift Henry up for his patented Shell Shock finisher, then WrestleMania XXIX will officially be worth the $55 you’re planning on spending on it.
Prediction: Ryback with the pinfall victory.
It’s amazing how quickly the members of Dolph Ziggler’s stable have managed to fall from grace in such a short time. There was a point where the AJ Lee character was the focus of Monday Night RAW and involved heavily with multiple main event superstars at once. There was also a point where Lee’s heat was translating nicely over to Dolph Ziggler. Things really began to look awesome when the very large and intimidating Big E Langston joined the crew as the silent and brooding enforcer.
Then it all went to hell.
Ziggler is still in possession of his Money In the Bank championship contract and with three months left until its expiration we can only hope he cashes it before becoming the third person (after John Cena and Mr. Anderson) unable to successfully cash in their MITB contract. AJ Lee and Big E have no purpose or direction whatsoever right now because they’re too busy living in Ziggler’s shadow, which in and of itself is a shadow of the spectacle of WrestleMania.
Whatever the case may be these two men are being fed to the WWE Tag Team Champions as neither team really has much going for them at this exact moment. Team Hell No will retain and high-falootin’ hijinks will ensue.
Prediction: Team Hell No retains.
It truly is hard to believe that two years ago we had the extreme pleasure of watching Jon Moxley wrestle right before our eyes; we knew then that Moxley had a try-out match with WWE that weekend, but we never imagined that it’d be two short years later when we’d see him in a marquee WrestleMania match.
The same can be said for Tyler Black, who was scooped up from ROH by WWE seven months before Moxley. Most fans immediately assumed that Black would be “misused” by WWE…but three years later, he’s got a WrestleMania match.
Roman Reigns debuted in FCW Wrestling in September 2010, the same month and year as Tyler Black. As a member of the legendary Anoa’i, the superstar first known as Leakee had massive shoes and expectations to fill. Fast forward three years…well you get the picture.
Collectively speaking The Shield is beginning to show signs of monotony as their justice-leveling antics appear to lack substance and value. They’ve amassed two straight pay per view victories and have proven themselves to be formidable contenders against numerous superstars, including John Cena. At WrestleMania XXIX they face their biggest challenge to date against the team of Sheamus, Randy Orton and The Big Show, but their presence still lacks a solid direction that could make the difference between their match being good and great.
The consensus among some fans is that Orton will turn heel and align himself with The Shield; this would solve a few of the company’s problems: refreshing the Randy Orton character, breathing some new life into The Shield and adding some star-power to their mix. Think of this as WWE’s “Bully Ray-slash-Aces and 8s” swerve.
I have two problems with that rationale: there are already tons of heels in WWE at the moment and I also never saw the trail of breadcrumbs leading to such a drastic shift in Orton’s character. With or without a heel turn from a member of the opposite team, expect The Shield to pull off the victory against Team Non-Compatible.
Prediction: The Shield wins.
The WWE took advantage of Paul Bearer’s unexpected death to concoct a convenient storyline for Taker/Punk match at WrestleMania. Some fans have even gone as far as to question the build to the match prior to Bearer’s death; whatever the case may be, Punk has one hell of an opportunity to steal the show with the Deadman this Sunday.
Ever since Punk’s near mythic year long reign as WWE Champion, the Straight Edge Superstar has fought for the respect he feels he rightfully deserves. If you’ve followed Punk’s WWE career (or watched his 3-disc DVD set), you would realize that he fought tooth and nail just to stay in the company and has amassed quite a bit of stock by now. If Punk manages to give a good show with Taker, he would undoubtedly receive the credit he deserves just by hanging with him in the ring.
The build for this match leaves a lot to the imagination, but do you really care about the build more than you do the actual psychology and athleticism of the match? Here are solid facts: Taker can still go in the ring and Punk can get a five star match from anybody (remember the bout with John Cena from RAW?). Two exceptionally gifted wrestlers, athletes and entertainers going at it for at least twenty minutes…and some folks are stuck on the build for the match? Please.
The safe (and accurate) assumption is that Taker will go 21-0 by defeating Punk. I hope and pray in my heart of hearts that this is the case, but I’m not convinced the “build” was solid enough to give us reasonable doubt about Taker’s chances of losing this year. At the very least, however, I’ve got a feeling Punk will finally gain the “respect” he’s been searching for.
Prediction: The Undertaker defeats CM Punk
Prediction: Tons of Funk & The Funkadactyls
I’m hoping you didn’t drink the Kool-Aid and let the smooth taste fool you…
While a solid and consistent number of fans were up in arms about “Twice In a Lifetime,” I failed to see anyone question the necessity of yet another Triple H “Your Career Is Officially Over…Again…” match at WrestleMania. I swear the last time Trips showed his body at this pay per view the match was billed as the “End of an Era;” but I guess a new era can start when you cut your hair even though you still wear your leather jackets and enter the arena with a Motörhead song blaring through the sound system.
The most recognizable Attitude Era wrestlers that are still going at it are Triple H, The Undertaker, and Mark Henry. Oddly enough each of them have matches at WrestleMania, and even more sinister is the fact that only two of those individuals are in matches where they are in a position to put over other younger superstars. Guess which individual gets the spotlight all on his own…
It was once commented that Triple H has yet to have that “WrestleMania moment,” the one pivotal career-defining WrestleMania moment that serves as the magnum opus of his 18 year WWE career. I’m not so sure his match with Brock Lesnar will be it.
The last match between Lesnar and Triple H wasn’t as enthralling as Lesnar’s match with Cena, which makes getting excited about this one a very daunting task. I expect brutality and a certain level of “legit” from Lesnar (two times the average level of legit, in case you were wondering), and that’s enough to get fans interested in the match. Who wouldn’t want to see Brock Lesnar beat someone senseless?
But again, the focus is on Triple H…the focus is on Trips settling a score with Brock and showing the WWE Universe that The Game still has it. It’s also a way for Trips to try once again to get that WrestleMania moment he’s thirsting for. Even with the tantalizing possibility of Lesnar ripping off Trips’ arm and beating him with it, the reality of seeing Trips’ puppy dog face as he grieves another loss to Heyman’s boy is enough to cause fans to yawn themselves silly until the main main event.
To borrow a quote from our L.E.W.D. brother Corbin Macklin, “I sweafogawd if I see this man lose onemotime…”
I call Trips beating Lesnar, enabling him to keep his wrestling career and perhaps setting up a rubber match sometime in the future.
Prediction: Triple H defeats Brock Lesnar
What more can be said about WrestleMania XXIX’s main event that hasn’t already been said?
There are a ton of possibilities that could come from the finish of the match. At this moment I’m not sure of what future projects The Rock has lined up; I think he’s supposed to be Hercules or start filming the another movie with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker or whatever. All signs point to John Cena regaining the WWE Championship, placing a big thumbs up emblem on the sides where the Brahma Bull logos are at, and mediocrity on RAW ensues for another millennium.
I would actually enjoy seeing John Cena lose again to The Rock; it’s tragic to see any fan yearn to see a character’s downfall, but that’s what makes for compelling television. It’s sickening that John Cena can manage to escape clean losses time after time; everyone has a weakness and dammit someone’s got to know how to keep Cena on the sidelines. For me, seeing a different personality trait in Cena’s character would be gold. He doesn’t have to be a full blown heel, but just something different than the life coach we get each week right now.
The problem with changing something that isn’t broken is that it begins to wear thin on some, particularly those of us that wish for some type of depth to be shown in the character. Depth among shallow-end pool swimmers (i.e. kids and young women) isn’t something valued or sought after, and because of such we’re going to get another Cena WrestleMania victory and everyone for the most part goes home with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside of their stomachs. I’ve been told that ulcers and abdominal pains have that same effect…
There have been reports that seeds have been planted for a Ryback/Cena post-WrestleMania feud (remember the Triple Threat match for CM Punk’s WWE Title and Cena’s elimination of Ryback at the Royal Rumble pay per view?), and that’s something I even hinted at in a previous post. That type of feud will suffice, but it’s the same wash-rinse-repeat cycle Cena’s been placed in before. Hell, I’d like it if they brought back Alex Riley as some young, upstart collegiate so-and-so attempting to assume the throne when Cena’s Jersey City All Pro character get’s ready to “go off to college.” But alas, I’m on the internet writing for you and not the WWE for a reason…I guess.
Cena wins and we’ll get to pout about it in a post-WrestleMania blog post.
Prediction: John Cena redeems himself to himself and wins the WWE Championship for the 800th time
All things considered this action-packed WrestleMania will keep us enthralled all Sunday night. I hope you enjoyed reading the predictions, and stay posted to the L.E.W.D. site all weekend as we indulge in the cavalcade of pro wrestling going on as we speak!
Amidst Easter, the Opening Day of the baseball season and spring breaks, the first week of April brings with it the mecca of professional wrestling, the single biggest weekend of our beloved pastime – WrestleMania. Much like it’s NFL counterpart, the Super Bowl, WrestleMania has expanded over the years to become a weeklong frenzy of events, celebrity sightings, charity work, and all things WWE. While the WWE is certainly the focus of all the spotlights in New York/New Jersey this coming weekend, there is a wealth of storylines outside of the “Grandest Stage of them All”.
As has become tradition with the weekend, the countries greatest independent wrestling companies have begun descending on whatever town is lucky enough to host the Sports Entertainment spectacle that is WrestleMania. This year is shaping up to be especially exciting with the addition of the first annual WrestleCon event. This event will be similar to ComiCon and other conventions for those of us in the …*cringe*…nerd culture, only pro-wrestling themed.
WrestleCon is bringing together every major independent professional wrestling company and putting them under one roof to run shows all weekend. This will give fans a chance to interact with legends, see amazing professional wrestling, and support the underground scene or professional wrestling.
You may or may not have known about WrestleCon and some of the amazing matches going on, and while there are certainly a number of “streaks” being talked about in pro-wrestling this time of the year – one thing I guarantee a lot of people have looked over is one of the more astonishing statistics I have heard in quite some time…take a guess….I’ll wait….
TIMES UP: Johnny Gargano has been DragonGate USA Open The Freedom Gate champion for 507 consecutive days.
Take a second to think about that. CM Punk most recently had the highly touted 434 day reign as WWE Champion; I’m not here to argue which is more impressive or difficult to achieve, rather to shine a light on one of the more impressive feats that has ever been seen in Independent professional wrestling and give kudos to “The Whole Shebang” Johnny Gargano.
Gargano is one of the more captivating stories in pro-wrestling, right now. He got his start with DragonGate after attending one of the tryout’s the company is known to do before it’s ppv tapings. Officials were so impressed with Gargano’s efforts in the dark match before the ppv, that they ultimately signed him to a contract. Gargano would not be ignored. Gargano’s rise to glory started at DragonGate USA’s first iPPV – Bushido: Code of the Warrior. After competing in a four-way match won by Chuck Taylor, DG:USA legend CIMA appeared and impressed with what he had seen, offered Taylor a coveted spot in the Blood Warriors faction. Taylor would disrespectfully turn down the position. However, having just given his all in an excellent, athletic competition – Johnny Gargano offered his services to CIMA and the Blood Warriors, but was denied. Following CIMA’s match later on the card, Gargano would again surface and beg for a spot in the Blood Warrior’s faction. Once again denied entry – Gargano refused to be stifled. A vicious attack would ensure spearheaded by Gargano, Chuck Taylor, and fellow hot-shot Rich Swann. Introducing: Ronin.
Ronin would dominate DragonGate USA for most of the next year before tensions between Chuck Taylor and Johnny Gargano reached a boiling point leading to one of the year’s hottest programs. On November 13 at Freedom Fight 2011, almost one calendar year exactly from his debut, Gargano defeated DragonGate legend YAMATO to win the Open the Freedom Gate Championship.
Over the next year, Gargano would go on to beat everyone in his path to becoming the most dominant champion in DragonGate’s history. Even fighting through a near career-ending back injury that sidelined him for three months.
During his reign, Gargano has defeated a veritable who’s-who of professional wrestling…a list that is intimidating to simply read: Masato Yoshino, Chuck Taylor (x3), Akira Tozawa, Jon Davis (x2), AR Fox, Ricochet, Sami Callihan, Brian Kendrick, and Ryo Saito. Gargano currently has 11 successful title defenses (one less than the combined number of defense of the two champions who came before him, BxB Hulk (426 days) and YAMATO (289 days) – 12 total defenses). Gargano has been a resilient, passionate, fighting champion and his efforts should be commended
What’s most impressive about Gargano’s run, however, is where it’s taking place. CM Punk’s 434-day run in the WWE is impressive because it says something about his stance in the company. It’s no secret that politics play a big part in who’s champion in the WWE, and especially for how long. However, in the Independent scene, promoters and bookers are far more interested in putting on exciting cards for the fans. It’s the only way they stay relevant. That being said, there are guys on WWE’s roster that will never see a main event. However, on the Independent circuit every guy is trying to out do the match before them, and they are constantly rewarded with higher placement on the card and in more intensely competitive, exciting matches. Gargano has defendes his title, for nearly two years now, in a shark tank. Everyone biting at his heels, trying to out do him, and to show that they are the next big thing (sorry, had to). It truly is remarkable.
Johnny Gargano will face, quite possibly, his toughest challenge to date during the WrestleCon events WrestleMania weekend. One of the pioneers of DragonGate, the devastatingly strong Shingo, returns to American soil to reclaim the company he built from the ground up. If you have a chance, order the DragonGate USA: Open the Ultimate Gate 2013 iPPV from WWNLive.com, Gargano vs. Shingo is only one of the possible MOTY candidates on the card.
TNA sucks. Woo woo woo, you know it.
(I didn’t actually have anything else to say. This ship has sailed. So here is a picture of Randy Savage instead.)
The word “compelling” is used often on this site, mostly to describe a must-see character that has ability or potential to easily pique the interests of fans. Some characters are able to evoke fans’ interest without much effort, their motives and actions made to be irresistibly clear and tantalizing to the viewing audience. Other characters grab our attention for their depth, their many layers peeled before our eyes revealing a far more complex individual who relates to us more than we first imagined.
While some characters are far more interesting and intriguing than others, every now and then there’s always one character that stumbles into a situation that ultimately makes them compelling by default; that character, static and flaccid by design, immediately becomes dynamic and fascinating because the circumstances force them to become so.
Such a case can be made for IMPACT Wrestling‘s current general manager, Hulk Hogan. Wrapped in the throes of the Aces & 8′s presence in TNA, Hulk Hogan is once again the linchpin of the company’s major storyline.
The Immortal One’s official stint as the man in charge (as opposed to the Immortal coup d’etat from 2010-2011) has been atrociously laughable from the start, even by general manager standards. Not much has changed from this previously nuanced opinion here on L.E.W.D., but it must be reiterated that the longer Hogan stays in his position of authority, the more likely it is that there is something larger looming on the horizon.
As TNA supporters consistently praise the reality based format of IMPACT Wrestling, logic and reason dictate that Hogan’s ineptitude and questionable decision making skills will ultimately lead to his downfall. Unless an intervention occurs that involves TNA President Dixie Carter (or an unlikely savior in the form of A.J. Styles), the company will be destroyed from the inside out, with Hulk Hogan fearlessly manning the sinking ship straight to hell; this, of course, is speaking strictly in terms of the Aces and 8′s storyline.
The subtle maturation of Hogan’s general manager character is provocative for one of two reasons: everything that makes the character tick and react is either intentional or unintentional. While this is a very juvenile, black-and-white way to describe the character, the truth is that either the writers intended for Hogan to gradually reveal his incompetence or that same incompetence is an unexpected by-product of the Aces and 8′s storyline. Either way there are distinct possibilities that can open up for IMPACT Wrestling moving forward.
Before looking a few of those distinct possibilities, recall Hogan’s actions from the past few episodes of IMPACT Wrestling. Ever since Bully Ray won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship and declared his allegiance to the Aces and 8s at the Lockdown pay per view, Hogan has blamed Sting for coercing him to place unquestioned trust into Bully Ray. Hogan ignored his gut feelings about Bully Ray at the insistence of Sting and his daughter Brooke Hogan, both of whom pleaded with Hogan on several occasions to give the self-professed “Not-a-Nice-Guy” to prove his worth as a decent human being.
When things fell apart Hogan immediately focused his frustrations and anger towards Sting, refusing to even hold a decent conversation with him until their confrontation during Thursday night’s “Open Fight Night.”
During the confrontation Sting called Hogan out for avoiding him and failing to take responsibility for the poor decisions he made as the general manager regarding Bully Ray. Sting pointed out that regardless of who told Hogan what, the final decision on everything was up to him. This fact has been repeatedly pointed out on TNA television, from the many references to Hulk’s unrivaled ability to “always do what’s right for business” and his decision making process during Championship Thursdays, to the process in which he chose Bully Ray as the #1 Contender for Jeff Hardy’s TNA World Heavyweight Championship despite Ray’s complete absence in the matches to determine that same #1 Contender.
Undaunted by Sting’s comments, Hogan proceeded to assert his authority by kicking Sting out of his ring. Tensions were high, causing Sting to challenge Hogan’s authority by staying in the ring and getting in the Immortal One’s face. This prompted security to not only escort Sting from the ring, but also from the arena as well. As a visibly (and justifiably) frustrated Sting left the building, TNA wrestler Matt Morgan taunted him by applauding and simply saying, “Yet again, another Hogan mistake.”
The existence of the Aces and 8s club came about, according to Bully Ray, because of Hulk Hogan’s practices and policies as general manager. With the exception of Taz, D’Lo Brown, Mike “Knux” Knox and DOC, the Aces and 8s members were all jilted and directly affected in some form or fashion by Hogan’s decision making process.
Once the Aces and 8s were able to gain unfettered access to the Impact Zone after winning their match at Bound for Glory 2012, a match that Hulk Hogan scheduled on a huge gamble. Prior to that match Hogan did little and next to nothing to ensure that the group was denied access to the company’s events or televised shows.
Even when members of the production team attacked wrestlers, even when handfuls of faceless “prospects” ran around the tapings and the Impact Zone, there were no security checks in place and the contracted wrestlers and TNA employees were not questioned or scrutinized about their knowledge or possible connections with the club. Simply put, the general manager was not doing his job to the best of his ability.
Wrestlers outside of the Aces and 8s, such as Matt Morgan and Austin Aries, openly complained about Hogan’s inability to run the company effectively by citing their own observations of his managerial skills.
It would also appear that these traits are not limited to Hulk Hogan, as his daughter Brooke has also slowly slipped away from her duties as the TNA Knockouts Executive and only returning to those duties recently.
These things do not include the rationale behind Hogan’s appointment as IMPACT Wrestling‘s General Manager, especially considering the hostile takeover Hogan masterminded with Eric Bischoff two to three years ago:
The point of it all is this: if Hogan is truly out of his league when it comes to being IMPACT Wrestling’s General Manager, why has he yet to come under any performance review or scrutiny from the president of the company or its board of directors? At the moment these questions have no answers, but in an ironic twist of fate they create the circumstances under which Hogan’s character becomes an important figure to watch and invest in as the Aces and 8′s storyline continues to develop and evolve.
Hogan’s character is compelling because there is no logical or rational reason that explains why he’s still employed by TNA; at some point he has to answer to the accusations levied against him by the wrestlers and the Aces and 8s.
This brings us back to the two points made earlier: either Hogan’s character is intentionally inept for a much more intricate storyline or the character is simply what’s leftover from the Aces and 8′s rise to dominance in TNA.
Let’s assume that Hogan’s character is intentionally lacking, which would lead to some sort of competency hearing by a panel of directors or a closed door meeting with the president of the company. Hogan’s methods could be found insufficient, reckless and damaging to the company, which would lead to his “release.” This release would be the Aces and 8′s checkmate in their year long game of chess with TNA, forcing Dixie Carter to create a new strategy to rid the company of the club. That strategy could involve utilizing A.J. Styles, which would place the focus on the company’s most recognizable star and shift attention away from Hogan for an unspecified amount of time.
With Hogan ousted , Carter could appoint a new character (or returning one, such as Jeff Jarrett) as General Manager, and thus begins a new year long storyline.
On the other hand let’s assume that Hogan’s character wasn’t purposefully designed to be inept. Questions surrounding his worth as a general manager will go unanswered and Styles could still be courted as IMPACT Wrestling’s savior. No one will bat an eyelash or think twice about Hogan’s effectiveness as the man in charge, and everything will continue down the path already plotted by the creative team. The only fans that will suffer are the ones who will relentlessly point out Hogan’s horrendous job as general manager.
The difference between these two scenarios is the focus of the product; is it better to have Hogan depart from an on-screen role as to focus more attention on the younger stars of the company or to continue having him play a central and integral role in all of the major storylines? Is Hogan better positioned to bring attention to the company in an on-screen role or as an off-screen consultant and ambassador? Has TNA grown as a company to the point where they no longer need Hogan’s name or face on the marquee in order to draw fans and revenue?
Idealistically he’d be better suited at this point in time to allowing the company’s stars to shine on their own. His presence doesn’t detract from the shows at all, but how much more time could have been given to the X-Division, Tag Team Division, Knockouts or Knockouts Tag Team Division if Hogan did not dominate screen time or major storylines? Would Hogan’s diminished role allow for financial resources to be diverted from his contract and spent on hiring and debuting new stars to the company?
The answers to these questions remain to be seen, but all point back to the compelling character that is Hulk Hogan, General Manager. Whether you think his character is screwing up each and every way he turns, or you don’t really care about him at all, he’s still the linchpin to the Aces and 8′s storyline and he’s still the central figure in pro wrestling and sports entertainment today.
If that’s not compelling, then everything else is just misspent time and energy.
It was only a matter of time before parallels were made between two of the industry’s most prominent and squeaky clean babyfaces.
It wouldn’t take much for any given fan—casual, hardcore, average or “extraordinary”—to recognize that both A.J. Styles and John Cena had terrible stints in their respective companies last year. While 2011-2012 saw the rise of unlikely champions in several pro wrestling promotions (CM Punk, Austin Aries, Johnny Gargano, Eddie Kingston, Kevin Steen, Colt Cabana and Adam Pearce), it also saw Cena and Styles play diminished roles in companies that had at several times in the past ten years relied heavily on their presence and activity.
For A.J. Styles, 2012 was a year that saw him as a suffering protagonist accused of engaging in adulterous and illicit activities with a pregnant “crackhead.” Once vindicated and redeemed, Styles then suffered a humiliating loss to his longtime on-screen friend-slash-rival, Christopher Daniels.
John Cena’s 2012 was mired by his bench-warming role in CM Punk’s historic yearlong WWE Championship reign. After suffering a devastating loss to The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII and surviving a brutal thrashing from Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules 2012, Cena found a sliver of hope in winning the 2013 Royal Rumble, awarding him the chance to face his rival for the second time in a lifetime.
As different as both instances were from each other, the John Cena and A.J. Styles characters (as well as the individuals portraying them) are traveling on similar highways at this point in their professional wrestling careers. Both characters have arguably suffered from severe stagnancy, a type of static complacency that resonated with few and nauseated most. With Cena relegated to inconceivably winning unimportant matches and incessantly spewing promos like a southern Protestant preacher or pee-wee football coach, and Styles meandering around aimlessly in a god-forsaken storyline like Howdy Doody in a Martian whorehouse, each character was on the fast track to irrelevancy.
It would become necessary, at some point, for the creative writers in TNA and WWE to evolve the Cena and Styles characters beyond the straight-laced, doe-eyed do-gooders they’ve portrayed for most of their careers.
It is assumed that the natural evolution of a “good guy” character means that they should inevitably be turned heel, made into a callous and uncaring “bad guy” that is the exact anti-thesis of what they once stood for. That often abused notion of duality, however, is what keeps most wrestling fans in their arena seats and not the plush and cushy creative director office chairs in a promotion’s front office.
Infamous wrestling guru Vince Russo once noted that he believed wrestling characters should mirror the “characters” of everyday life, noting that in life there were no completely “good” or “bad” people. To Russo, all people were a mixture of both good and bad, and if wrestling characters were to remain relevant they would have to resonate in the hearts of consumers. In other words, fans would cheer or boo people they felt were more like them (i.e. Stone Cold Steve Austin).
While Russo’s perception had it’s strengths and weaknesses, it raised a point that has surfaced in the John Cena and A.J. Styles characters. For each character to remain relevant a slight adjustment was all that was needed to provide fans with fresh faces in the stale seas of mediocrity they navigated.
A.J. Styles’ character represents retaliation, a notion of justice that’s needed to right the wrongs inflicted upon an unsuspecting individual who had lived by a disciplined code of morals and ethics. Styles’ character can be easily associated with the “Crow Sting” character from WCW after Hulk Hogan’s heel turn (something I spoke of in this piece); he can also be associated with the biblical character Job, a righteous man that found himself caught in a bet of sorts between God and the Devil.
John Cena’s character represents redemption, a response to an injustice that has occurred at his own hands. Cena’s character can be associated with Michael Vick more so than Donavon McNabb, as Cena’s downfall—the year he spent languishing in nothing in particular—was due to his own irresponsible behavior.
That being said one important question arises from these occurrences: which character has experienced the more compelling shift in evolution and priorities?
John Cena’s segment with The Rock on the March 25, 2013 edition of RAW was brilliant for several reasons, one of which was the brief glimpses of an arrogant, heelish John Cena that we haven’t seen since the rarely mentioned “Ruthless Aggression” Era. Cena was contemptuous in his resolve, admitting that his loss to The Rock was due to one simple-minded act that left him on his back staring at the lights. Cena was vehement in making it known that he defeated himself, which reveals to us a character that truly believes in the hype that has surrounded and dominated his career.
In that sense, the John Cena character is reminiscent of the real life Bret Hart, a man that honestly believes he is the end all, be all when it comes to professional wrestling. The implication from the words that came from Cena’s own mouth is that The Rock never defeated him; John Cena defeated himself.
The only reason The Rock scored the pinfall was because John Cena slipped on the goal line, allowing Rock to take advantage of the fumble to score the game winning touchdown. From this Cena contends that The Rock was never strong, talented or determined enough to truly beat Cena, that The Rock was still a Hollywood sell-out that doesn’t deserve to be in a wrestling ring.
This type of Cena is very different from the Cena that has openly admitted to losing to stars like CM Punk, Sheamus, and countless others. This type of Cena is the All-Star Varsity Team Captain who goes unpunished for violating the privacy and personal space of a cheerleader, simply because “she was asking for it.” This is the Cena that fans despise, that fans yearn and thirst to smack when they see him in the streets.
This is also the type of Cena that could snap when he loses to The Rock again, the type of Cena that could “injure” The Rock during his post-match celebration at WrestleMania XXIX. The injury would sideline the WWE Champion and force the WWE Title to be vacated, thus allowing for a reinvigorated and more edgy John Cena to find his way back into the main event picture while embracing the jeers of the crowd.
A.J. Styles, on the other hand, returned to IMPACT Wrestling two weeks ago after a lengthy hiatus following his embarrassing loss to Christopher Daniels at Final Resolution 2012. In the final moments of the match, Daniels utilized Styles’ own finishing maneuver, The Styles Clash, to gain the pinfall.
Prior to this match, Styles was the unlucky recipient of a pinfall loss in a triple threat match at Turning Point 2012 to determine the number one contender for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. As a result, Styles was locked out of receiving a championship match until Bound for Glory 2013.
Dejected and absolutely humiliated by Daniels’ victory (ironically, a victory gained in the same manner that caused John Cena to lose his match to The Rock), Styles appeared on the December 13, 2012 episode of IMPACT Wrestling and gave a bitter soliloquy in the middle of the ring disguised as an address to the fans.
Styles’ words that day were surprising at most, but effective nevertheless in planting seeds for an A.J. Styles that fans had never seen before.
Styles’ inner thoughts and feelings were revealed for the entire wrestling audience to consider (and are loosely quoted as follows):
I don’t know where I’m is going or what the next step is. I’ve spent too much time being a corporate man and worrying about everyone else that I forgot about myself. (While taking off his Impact Wrestling shirt and hat) I’m tired of cleaning up TNA’s messes and doing the right thing. From now on, I’m going to be doing my own thing (Styles drops the microphone and leaves the ring).*
When the broken and disenfranchised wrestler returned to IMPACT Wrestling on the March 14 episode, he attacked the two men that were the source of his year long consternation (Daniels and Kazarian) and James Storm, the man that pinned him at Turning Point 2012. These actions make him a social outcast, an outsider that has every justifiable reason in the book to walk around with a huge chip on his shoulder.
This A.J. Styles is a shell of the Phenomenal One that captured the hearts of fans for his years of dedication to TNA; this A.J. Styles is only concerned about what’s good for A.J. Styles because it seems that no one else really cares. This A.J. Styles spits in the face of TNA’s beloved authority figures. This A.J. Styles will climb to the top of TNA’s ladder of success just to throw it back into the faces of all his naysayers.
Ironically enough, this A.J. Styles is also the savior TNA will need to rid the company of the Aces and 8′s infestation come Bound for Glory 2013; unfortunately for TNA, he’ll be doing it for himself and not for the company.
So the question remains…which character is more compelling? Which character would you be willing to pay money to see?
I watched Friday Night SmackDown, and I was bored out of my mind. I have no idea why the powers-that-be in WWE are insistent on making SmackDown be where you watch Randy Orton vs Wade Barrett and Kofi Kingston vs Dolph Ziggler etc for the gazillionth time. That’s when it hit me: WWE hasn’t changed up the talent on Raw or SmackDown in about two years. When they made Raw a “SuperShow” it didn’t end the ‘brand extension’. It made it worse. WWE needs to do a draft or end its ‘brand extension’ SOON.
For the last couple of years it became noticeable that people fight allllllllll the time now. I grew up watching wrasslin. Those big, main event matches we remember back before there was so much free wrasslin on TV, were even more memorable because they didn’t fight each other on Raw and SmackDown ten to twenty times a year. WWE is trying to sell PPVs to show us people we’ve seen fight each other several times on free TV. Even when SmackDown was created, there was a sense that guys would feud and move to the next one and it’d be MONTHS before you saw it again. Now, guys barely feud, just fight ten million tag matches and fight every kind of match across now 3 main shows and Saturday Morning Slam AND monthly PPVs.
An argument can definitely be made that they have too much programming on TV to try to sell 12 PPVs a year. I’m a proponent of going back to only having the big four and defending the belts more on free TV. There is enough talent on the roster right now to put on good programming, but the product sucks right now because like I’m trying to point out, they need to either end the brand extension or have another draft.
If they did a draft I think SmackDown would be helped by say, CM Punk coming over. He’d still appear on Raw since he’s one of their top guys, but like I’ve been saying, they need to shake the rosters up. I’m tired of watching the same squash matches. If you’re not trying to do away with having two midcard titles and two world titles and keep the brand extension, you go the draft route.
If you want to end the brand extension, and unify the world and midcard titles, you’re on my side here. There aren’t enough legit main event guys and the midcard is so stuffed it makes the two belt system seem illegitimate. There have been much less title changes LATELY… but some of the most overrated hot periods of wrasslin featured MANY title changes like the Attitude Era. Back then it made SENSE to have multiple shows on TV and then to split the rosters. This ain’t that.
I’ve made clear I’d also bring back the light heavyweight division to give the smaller guys more importance. There would be so much more balance on the shows and there would be more interesting stories if we weren’t ‘forced’ to watch the same guys get squashed all the time. I think ending the brand extension would help.
What do you think… would a draft or ending the brand extension best help the WWE product?
Hey everybody, I’m Chris, and happy day after St. Patty’s Day. I’m back out of character with another pseudo-serious piece and this one is for the children. Rather, it’s for the parents, or the people who care about the children. Question: why are powerful heels such a minority in the realm of the WWE?
For the ill-informed, a “heel” is a character that does villainous things and commits villainous acts as a means to achieve victory. They piss off the crowd, spawn the occasional angry fan who becomes a meme, and at the end of the day they’re just not good people. For long time wrestling fans, smarks, sports entertainment enthusiasts and over-opinionated know-it-alls, a “good” heel can make or break a program and can spawn heat that a feud, rivalry or even a company needs.
When a “good” heel emerges, especially amongst a myriad of baby faces and tweeners, one might rejoice, much like when Mark Henry began a violent streak of destruction, or Randy Orton made a habit out of hurting old people, or CM Punk descended into the messiah of his own twisted, if accurate, world. But when it comes to one of the heaviest audiences of the WWE, the children, the reaction might be little more than an unremarkable: “Meh.”
That’s not to say they “hate” the heel, but they aren’t amused. They don’t love or hate them, they just don’t exactly know what to think. Me personally, thinking back to when I began watching professional wrestling so many years ago, my concept of face and heel was undeveloped: I saw one guy beating up another guy and my youthful love for stylized combat left me feeling very neutral about most scenarios. Examining that now, I asked myself why, and it’s because I wasn’t paying attention to much more than the violence. Had I found myself actually comprehending the face and heel tactics, I would have begun understanding just how watching these characters can affect a developing child.
What do I mean by that pretentious statement? Well, let’s look at what professional wrestlers can represent to a child. Imagine a kid no older than seven or eight, standing at the barricade or sitting on his parent’s shoulders. Loud pyro hits, music begins blaring, the crowd starts to react with cheers and here comes Shawn Michaels. I’m using Shawn Michaels because he’s one of the most universally loved pro wrestlers I can think of. He comes out at the top of the ramp and does his bit, walks out to the ring acknowledging his fans and detractors alike and slides into the ring. To the kid, he’s twenty feet tall, and that’s just as literal as it is figurative. Shawn does his act some more and he stands like something of a god, a creature worthy of worship from a little boy looking for something to look up to.
That child leaves the live show copying the mannerisms and words of the Heartbreak Kid, wanting the pants he wore or the title belt he may have been holding, trying to execute Sweet Chin Music in the parking lot to the point where his parents are apologizing to the unfortunate little girl that “came out of nowhere” when he was trying to kick the air. Her response is executing the infamous DX “suck it” gesture because she understands and suddenly a friendship is formed.
And while that fictional scenario is just that – fictional – it features two very glaring realities: the reality of the kid who idolizes Shawn Michaels, and the reality of the parent who may or may not comprehend it. To the parent, a little boy in the parking lot wanting to be Shawn Michaels is cute, and arguably inspiring. The people that see him may laugh but it’s in appreciation versus chiding. When he hits the girl, it’s bad, but if she’s even half as enamored with the product as the little boy, the parents are going to be mad or regretful, but the kids are simply going to keep it moving because they’ve already found something to bond over. To some, that children’s reality may not make sense. But if you really think about a child, their reality doesn’t HAVE to make sense. Children are a specialized state of mind: the early years of a person’s life are development. Exposition, if you will. A six, seven, eight year old is still trying to figure out life, and it’s very common for them to delve into a world of missing logic and find a role model in a larger-than-life character, i.e. Shawn Michaels, or, in this generation, John Cena.
It’s a slippery slope: children are sponges. They take in everything and how it manifests or displays is anyone’s guess. I ask you: do you remember your first time watching professional wrestling? Your first kiss? Your first broken bone? First foray into film, or music, or something you find to be a great passion today? You may, you may not, but at the end of the day it had some kind of effect, putting a permanent mark on the tabula rasa that was, for lack of a better term, you.
Regarding the parking lot superkick, children don’t always think beyond “this moment”, and as a result they become a lot better at apologizing than asking for permission. One might say that they lack logic as a result, but delve into the mind of the child again: logic will always take a back seat to emotion. The allure of nailing someone with a superkick overshadows who might get hurt. Hitting a jumping Shelton Benjamin with the perfect Sweet Chin Music becomes a goal, a would-be unreachable summit that takes plenty of practice to achieve. So the parking lot foot action comes across as a weak kick to a little girl’s stomach, and instead of cheers and applause at getting his foot high enough to introduce toenails as an unlucky victim’s teeth, it becomes reprimanding of “What the hell is wrong with you?!” Again, very logical, and a child should be punished for kicking someone, intentionally or otherwise, but always take care to comprehend what went through the little boy’s mind: “I think I’m cute! I know I’m sexy! What does sexy mean…? Oh well!”
This is the world of a child, and being a sponge has just as many disadvantages in how it accepts virtually anything as it does advantages to accepting virtually anything. Plenty of people, children especially, take pro wrestling and sports entertainment, a bit too seriously, and that same kid who came out of the arena worshipping Michaels can just as likely come out fearfully acknowledging the bad guy.
It’s a similar concept with people who blame video games or violent media on a person’s behavior, but where it differs is with the intensity and impact of the product. No one with a single-digit age has any business playing a video game like Gears of War, I firmly believe this, but all media can affect a developing mind, for better or worse. That being said, a good outside influence saying “That isn’t good to do” or “Don’t do that, it’s wrong” is just as potent and preventative, but apply this to the powerful heel.
We’ll use Mark Henry, because he stands as my favorite heel right now. He’s big, scary, dark of skin and full of sin (as Uncle Ruckus might imply) and has a very simple ideology: enter, wreck, depart. He enters the ring with the intent of wrecking somebody and after he does he departs. Period. It stands as a terrific template for a good heel. In any case, he carries just as much weight as Shawn Michaels would, especially with the way he draws heat. Suddenly the parking lot scenario, while innocent enough in theory and lawsuit worthy enough in practice, becomes another matter. A failed kick is one thing; picking someone up, slamming them into pavement and screaming “THAT’S WHAT I DO!” becomes the basis for a restraining order.
The thing is, I don’t think there is really a lack of strong heels so much as a basic theme the company follows for the young fan base. As we get older we acknowledge and even take joy in the concept of a bad guy claiming the throne or winning the gold, but as children we’re taught that the good guy always wins, and that evil never triumphs. We’re taught with a degree of morals and ethics that, more than likely, encourage us to be charitable, pleasant and strong, while caring and friendly at the same time, five traits that a heel isn’t privy to actually maintaining. If we take Mark Henry again, he doesn’t display these, unless you twist the meanings around and take “charitable” and “friendly” to mean including people into the Hall of Pain without asking them first (see three-time entry Ryback).
And Mark Henry comes across as a powerful force; big, mean, nearly unstoppable. But therein lies the thing: nearly. As scary as Mark Henry is, he has never been shown to be unstoppable. As a bad guy, a heel, he’s been portrayed as having at least one chink in his armor, and that has often been exploited by the underdog of the week, or John Cena. Because John Cena is the hero that the kids can look up to. No matter the situation (being beaten bloody by an angry Brock Lesnar comes to mind) he overcomes and stands as the Superman the children can turn to for truth, justice and the American Way.
Superman has plenty of enemies, rivals and villains but we have to remember that there are only two things that really manage to harm him: kryptonite and Doomsday. The former is his weakness, as all people have, and the second… well, he’s, uh… just watch:
I offer this rebuttal to the claims of weak heels: I don’t think we have too many weak heels so much as overpowered faces. Because kids love faces. Period. If we get a Doomsday in the WWE, then maybe we can talk about the equal-powered heel, because we must remember: Doomsday DID kill Superman, but he got himself killed in the process. Cena’s Doomsday would be…
I don’t know, don’t even want to think about it. That’s my two cents on it though. You have a nice day after St. Patty’s Day. Hope you aren’t too hungover.
One of my favorite wrasslers growing up was Scott Hall, or as I first knew him, Razor Ramon. He had so much ‘machismo’, Chico. I used to love flicking toothpicks like him. Back then, I wondered why they never put a world championship around him. Now I know, and it’s sad. We should ALL be rooting for The Bad Guy.
When I first saw that story on ESPN, I marked out… and was saddened at the same time. To see one of your ‘heroes’ unable to fucking walk straight is… unsettling. This was the first I heard of him taking a man’s life before he started wrasslin. I know that soldiers go to warzones and see so much death, and cause death, and most never recover from it. Not making excuses, but I’d imagine not a day goes by that Scott Hall doesn’t want to forget he took a life to protect his own.
I’m writing this because I’m happy to learn that DDP is trying to help get Scott Hall clean and sober. I want, right now to ask everyone who believes in Yahweh to pray for Scott Hall and everyone else suffering from any kind of addiction. Addiction affects the person, and everyone who depends on that person, or loves that person. Wrasslin fans are affected because I’ll never forget the time Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were supposed to wrassle at a PPV and Hall came out with a martini and ate a Jacknife and there was no match.
I am of the belief that Scott Hall could be helping to improve today’s product if he were reliable. Same way many of us have loved ones who could be making a difference in the world somehow, but are gone off drugs and drank. Let us be respectful and understanding that not all of them are just “weak and making bad decisions because they don’t care about anything.”
On Sunday, March 17 TNA will tape footage for its Knockout Knockdown “One Night Only” pay per view. Advertised as a Knockouts exclusive pay per view, the event will showcase the several of TNA’s female performers in order to crown one woman the “Queen of TNA.” As thrilling as the pay per view sounds, most of its publicity to date has focused on the women not attending the event instead of the actual event itself.
Bonnie Maxon (Payton Banks/Rain), Sarah Stock (Sarita), Katarina Waters (Winter), Lauren Williams (Angelina Love), Tracy Brookshaw (Traci Brooks), Kia Stevens (Awesome Kong), and Nicole Raczynski (Roxxi Laveaux/Roxxi) have all declined offers to participate in the Knockout Knockdown pay per view special.
That’s seven (7) women that have politely responded negatively to an offer to work with TNA for “One Night Only.” As delicious as the irony may be there are probably several justifiable reasons as to why these women declined the offer, most of which probably have little to do with TNA. Scheduling conflicts, interests outside of professional wrestling, and burgeoning careers in other areas could deter anyone from being available for a one shot, pay per view taping.
These issues don’t begin and end with TNA, however; according to a report from Dave Meltzer the WWE reached out to a few former Divas, offering them an opportunity to return to the company. While it was reported that a few unnamed Divas turned down the offer, the Bella Twins were apparently the first to put their pens to the contracts. This would explain their random appearance on this week’s episode of Monday Night RAW.
At first glance it would seem that these separate incidents in two different companies are not even remotely related to one another. Given the particularly fragile state of women’s wrestling in TNA and WWE, however, these incidents point to a much larger issue that warrants some conversation among fans.
Consider the following piece that offers more insight from Meltzer’s report. Speculation has it that WWE decided not to call up Divas in their NXT developmental system, with reasoning that is hearsay at best:
That’s quite the vote of no confidence in the women in NXT, but almost all of those there with the requisite looks aren’t good enough workers yet to be brought up to the main roster. The Anti-Diva Paige, who has gained a cult following at Full Sail University, is ready, but lacks the swimsuit model physique that WWE management wants from their femme fatales.
Oddly enough this “news” coincides with another report regarding the WWE’s recent efforts in creating its next cadre of Divas:
It is very obvious that the WWE has a specific agenda when it concerns their women’s division and its athletes, an agenda that typically angers the scant number of fans that actually appreciate women’s wrestling. On the other hand, it’s equally damaging to the division for fans to have an unrelenting belief that the division is without women who can actually wrestle.
In fact it could be argued that prior to the aforementioned tidbits, the WWE’s Divas Division was beginning to look a lot like TNA’s Knockouts Division from two years ago; this was something discussed, in some form or fashion, in two separate pieces written for this site which can be found here and here.
The aforementioned tidbits also conflict with two separate Twitter posts from legendary Sara Del Rey, who now works with training the up-and-coming WWE Divas:
The real question is, what is the future of the division looking like if “good work” is being done, considering the fact that former stars such as Maryse Ouellet and Barbara “Kelly Kelly” Blank (also including Kia “Kharma” Stevens, Elizabeth Kocianski “Beth Phoenix” Carolan, and Eve Torres) are being courted for returns to the company?
Things aren’t much better south of Stanford, Connecticut either; TNA’s Knockouts Division, as they are now, is a far cry from what once use to be a stellar women’s division. The lack of star power could put a serious damper on this Sunday’s Knockout Knockdown “One Night Only” pay per view taping, despite former Knockouts’ sincerest wishes to be a part of the event:
Several fans have commented on various sites and blogs that TNA’s women’s division lacks depth; even with some strides being made with the Knockouts via the Gutcheck Challenge segments, very little progress has been seen, accomplished, or (in the best case scenario) “revealed” in the product.
Taeler Conrad-Mellen (Taeler Hendrix), Lucy and Kelly Knott (Hannah and Holly, The Blossom Twins), Lei’d Tapa, and Ivelisse Velez (formerly known in WWE’s NXT as Sofia Cortez) have all attempted to gain contracts with TNA and have had some air time on IMPACT Wrestling to be introduced to the fans. Out of the five women, however, Velez is the only one to “fail” at gaining a contract with the company (an interview with the Blossom Twins revealed that they indeed have a developmental contract with TNA). Most disconcerting about Velez’s “failure” is that it came at the hands of losing the contract to Lei’d Tapa, whom most fans considered to be “too green” to even justifiably gain even a developmental contract.
The only thing that adds more fuel to the fire is the fact that prior to her Gutcheck match, Velez performed in what was received as a stellar, five-star match for the SHINE promotion affiliated with Gabe Sapolsky’s DragonGate USA/EVOLVE promotions:
This of course isn’t taking into consideration the fact that TNA’s current Knockouts Champion, Jamie “Velvet Sky” Szantyr, has been panned by some fans and critics as being least “deserving” of holding the championship over women such as Gail Kim, Mickie James, and Lisa Marie “Tara” Varon. Keep in mind that even Varon’s latest KO Title run was marred by the presence of Jessie Godderz, who’s character turned one of the most dominating female wrestlers in recent times into a starstruck, boyfriend obsessed mess of a heel.
What does all of this have to do with the current state of women’s wrestling in TNA and WWE, besides the obvious shambles that its in?
It may be nothing more than a conveniently timed occurrence, but it is telling that both companies have to look to their past in order to move their company forward. Wrestling fans at large are still very divided on what they expect to see when two women enter the squared circle.
The loudest and harshest critics, as few in number as they are, scream viciously and consistently for what is essentially equal treatment for women wrestlers. They want and expect women’s matches to go longer than one minute; they want and expect the women wrestlers to be competent in the ring. They want and expect their women’s wrestlers to be more than just eye candy doddering around the ring aimlessly.
Other wrestling fans seem content with women’s wrestling being a passing fancy, an intermission giving them a break to hit the concession stands or the bathroom stalls. They don’t expect much from the women wrestlers and are more interested in photo ops with them than they are backdrops and Iron (Wo)Man matches.
If you synthesize both of those expectations you realize that TNA and WWE are unequally yoked in responding to all of their consumers’ wants and expectations. Each promotion only caters to one specific demographic, the demographic that will add significantly to their profit margins. If this is the case, then the most pressing objective for either promotion will be to respond to the immediate concerns of the demographic that spends the most money on the product.
In the case of WWE, most fans are still stuck on the legacy of Patricia “Trish Stratus” Stratigias, who is and was arguably the last “perfect storm Diva” to compete in the WWE. To say that Stratigias was the “perfect storm Diva” is to say that everything aligned to make her 8 year stint in the WWE the Diva stint for future Divas to emulate or surpass. Stratigias’ athletic ability, combined with her particular looks and sex appeal, paired with the incredibly talented Divas surrounding her during her run, created her mythical career that is only second to the legend of Tammy Lynn “Sunny” Sytch.
The WWE has yet to find another “perfect storm Diva” and the fans’ resistance to change keeps them from advancing forward towards altering the way Divas are defined. This is why it would make sense for the WWE to court former Divas or create new ones in the mold of Trish Stratus instead of allowing a new and talented crop of Divas (i.e. Paige) to resonate with fans in their own unique way. Consider also that the company’s product is catered towards children and women (see: John Cena’s 10 Year Reign); if that is the company’s bread-winning demographic, are they the ones openly clamoring for a ten minute match between Beth Phoenix and Natalya Neidhart?
In regards to TNA’s situation, the fans surely appreciate the women’s wrestling offered by the promotion. The division’s lack of depth and focus, however, gives some the implication that the company is not concerned or as focused on the division as they have been in the past. This could be a result of the company’s attempt to define itself in terms that separate it from its closest competitor, which has ultimately caused it to look more like its competition than anything else.
Truthfully speaking the main thing that separates the Knockouts from the Divas right now is the length of their televised matches.
With their flagship show going on the road, TNA is now more in need of athletes and stars that can make their product a household name. The more they move towards this worthy goal, the more the company will look towards men and women that “look good” for media appearances.
In that sense they too are looking for a “perfect storm Knockout,” but they also cannot risk losing their hardcore demographic in the process; they cannot stand to irk their diehard fans that want to see great wrestling from female wrestlers that can go in the ring. Particularly with awarding Lei’d Tapa with a contract over Ivelisse Velez, one can only wonder about the company’s rationale in such a decision, a type of decision that is becoming more and more stereotypical of the company as they progress forward.
TNA is stuck with filling in the very visible gaps within their Knockouts Division while defining the division in the midst of fine tuning the overall vision and mission of the company. Needless to say something is bound to get lost in translation when such things are being juggled by a relatively small board of directors and creative team. The all-Knockouts pay per view on Sunday only complicates matters, forcing the company to also rely on “one-time” performers (as opposed to the “part-time” performers of WWE) to make the division appear more robust than it truthfully is.
All of these things combined leave fans (and some female wrestlers) feeling as if women’s wrestling isn’t being taken seriously by both companies in some form or fashion. Depending on your perspective, that feeling is correct and justifiable in a lot of ways.
Think of entertainment as a reflection of our society; following the events of September 11, 2001 a surge of war themed video games hit the shelves. Even to this day games like “Call of Duty” or “Halo” are best sellers among hardcore gamers. For the past few years the highest grossing movies have been films based off of comic book superheroes, dating all the way back to Tobey Maguire’s stellar performance in Sam Raimi’s 2002 blockbuster movie Spider-Man.
If the two major companies appear to place women’s wrestling as more of an afterthought, what does that say about the fans who support the product? Could it be that, despite the blog posts and YouTube videos of some prescient and super savvy fans, we’re not all that inclined to support women’s wrestling as much as we’d like to think that we would?
It says a lot about both company’s perceptions of its fans when more time is spent reaching out to former wrestlers than pushing and promoting the next generation of female superstars. What do we value if bringing back The Bella Twins, Maryse and Kelly Kelly is more of a priority than focusing on current Divas Champion Celeste “Kaitlyn” Bonin who, by the way, was a professional weight lifter (just like John Cena) before becoming a pro wrestler?
What must we value if even by kayfabe standards TNA felt it necessary to give Lei’d Tapa the contract on television over Ivelisse Velez? What must they think of us if a star like Jason “Christian York” Spence or Wesley “Wes” Brisco can win their Gutcheck challenges and immediately get placed on television and pushed, while the Blossom Twins, Taeler Hendrix and Lei’d Tapa have to report to OVW?
Finally, what can be said about the state of women’s wrestling in both companies if they’re having trouble winning back women that have already worked for them?
I still say this and stand by the point: the day wrestling fans by and large receive the best in women’s wrestling from both major companies is the same day either one of them can pull off what Dana White did with the latest UFC pay per view…
March 11, 2013…a day that shall live in infamy…at least until March 12, 2013. Brace yourself, for the next bit of information will most assuredly knock your proverbial and literal socks off…
Someone from the L.E.W.D. has something mildly positive to say about TNA and IMPACT Wrestling…
Believe it or not it TNA has gained a substantial amount of momentum from their latest pay per view escapade. Even one of the plucky young analysts on this site has to admit that “The Little Company That Could” swung for the fences last night and knocked the 2013 edition of Lockdown clean out of the park. In front of thousands of engaged and screaming fans San Antonio’s Alamodome, TNA delivered what can be viewed as the pay per view event that ushered in a new era for the company, an era that will ultimately (or at least hopefully) turn TNA into a household name as equally recognizable as Tussy or Anacin.
That isn’t just an opinion; that is a fact and a reality that even we here at L.E.W.D. have to face (begrudgingly so).
Candidly speaking, the wave of adulation and fan approval makes this Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling that much more important to watch. It also places the company in the ever-so-stressful “do or die” situation, the point of no return where the entire company will have to fire on all cylinders at all times. Having ended their leasing agreement with Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, TNA will no longer be able to rely on the comfort and safety of the Impact Zone to showcase their product. It has been said that pressure brings the best out of us, and Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling will be must-see TV for that simple fact; it’s game time once again and there’s no hope for anyone in the company still stuck in the past. However if last night’s pay per view is any indication then pro wrestling fans are in store for some interesting things between now and June.
Having now thoroughly patted the company on the back, there still remains one important question: do I want to buy this pay per view on DVD?
For the 2013 iteration of TNA’s Lockdown, the answer from this particular analyst is an emphatic, passionate, and heavily emphasized NO.
Everything that happened last night at Lockdown was no different from any other pay per view offering from the company; if you think that’s a lie or without merit, take a moment to read any review of the show and compare it to any other show TNA has done prior. The matches were “solid,” the matches were “good;” it was “awesome” to see [insert wrestler's name here] do a spot off the top of the cage. Kurt Angle had a great match. That’s honestly TNA’s track record: “consistently” providing “solid” matches with “great” action and in-ring psychology. What did they do different than anything they’ve done before in front of a “hot,” live crowd?
Oh that’s right…Bully Ray “turned” heel. If that’s the only reason for justifiably purchasing the DVD, then by all means knock yourself out. While you’re at it I’ve got a spectacular deal on some ocean front property in Oklahoma you may be interested in looking at.
There was absolutely nothing about the pay per view that was revolutionary, ground-breaking or worth spending between $16.18 and $44.95 on. The matches, while “great,” were largely forgettable and the only…I reiterate, ONLY…thing that made the pay per view worth a damn was Bully Ray being revealed as the President of the Aces and 8′s and winning the World Heavyweight Title, in that order.
If that is a valid reason to celebrate the success of the pay per view then I will gladly do so on one condition: we all admit that pro wrestling fans are incompetent.
Cheering Fans = Success; Analysts Don’t.
Despite everything that happened last night TNA owes an incredible amount of gratitude for its diehard fans. Regardless of our diatribes here and the salient and hate-filled rants of others, TNA fans will support their product no matter what. That is an admirable trait and I would say that 100% of TNA’s success in the pro wrestling industry is due to its fans. All that is to say no matter what disparaging remark is made about the company, their fans will maintain a concupiscent relationship with them. Through good or bad, thick or thin, TNA fans will not be easily separated from their wedded bliss with the company.
Unfortunately this leads to the next lesson we learned last night…
(Some) Fans Don’t Pay Attention to Anything
The obvious star of Lockdown was Bully Ray, who provided fans with some much needed Aces and 8′s storyline progression. Arguably TNA’s biggest star (at the moment and perhaps period), Bully has given the pro wrestling fan universe a reason to care about the promotion and to even create the buzz necessary to carry fans to Thursday night’s live IMPACT Wrestling show hailing from Chicago, Illinois; this was the momentum discussed earlier in the piece.
Three notable things to pay attention to as we sing the praises of Bully Ray and TNA’s Creative Team:
The actual match between Bully Ray and Jeff Hardy for the World Heavyweight Championship was average, forgettable, and had a dusty finish highlighting a very predictable storyline development.
Bully Ray didn’t “turn” heel last night because he was never a babyface to begin with.
Throwing trash in a ring for a predictable storyline development seemed staged and asinine, and should not be used to determine whether or not a star has “legit heat.”
It is rather amusing to here see some comment at length on how awesome the pay per view was, based on Bully Ray’s perceived heel turn, when Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Hans Moleman all saw this train wreck coming a mile away. I was very grateful for the fans that acknowledged this fact on Twitter last night; at least they admitted that the whole thing was predictable.
Once again, however, we’re venturing into that hypocritical gray area; that awkward place where all things great for the goose is discouraged for the gander. Fans whine and complain weekly that certain angles and storylines are too predictable; yet here we all were presented with the second most conspicuous outcome of a match since anything featuring John Cena and the WWE Championship, and everything is perfectly fine. In fact Bully Ray’s alignment with the Aces and 8′s is far more memorable and important in the grand scheme of things than the actual match he won in order to become the company’s new standard bearer.
While we’re at it take that into consideration for a moment…the World Heavyweight Champion of one’s favorite company is a man named Bully Ray, and fans are celebrating that.
Even more despicable than that is the notion that Bully was a babyface at one point. This was a fact brought up by the Rt. Rev. Showtime last night, that Bully Ray has always been a heel. The man even admitted to it last night by saying that he used the hapless (and senile) General Manager Hulk Hogan and his equally hapless (and far more clueless) daughter Brooke Hogan-Ray. In my opinion, that’s where Ray’s heel heat emanates from…a real, seething hatred for a man that worked the system just to get the championship. It appeared as if the fans in San Antonio picked up on that, but the fans
illegally watching at home while tittering away on the internet gave Bully Ray the ol’ thumbs up.
Another point to remember is that Hogan was right the entire time, which then leads us to question just how Brooke Hogan will deal with being married to the man that is the president of a gang that is attempting to ruin TNA (*cough cough nWo*). I still honestly feel this reeks of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, but am willing to allow TNA to pull the trigger on that storyline before commenting on it here and now.
After a lackluster and mediocre match it seemed (to me) a little too convenient for fans to casually toss their trash in the ring. Fact is we live in an era where risque fan made signs are confiscated at the gate, where the fans at the Impact Zone were labeled “cast members,” and where it’s honestly more profitable to present a PG pro wrestling product (seriously…look at TNA’s stuff and say with a straight face that’s it’s not PG). The likelihood of fans being allowed to toss their refuse into the ring without repercussions seems improbably; not impossible, but likely not to happen.
As such it seems even more ridiculous to believe that trash-thrown-by-fans-is-equals-genuine-hate. Following the pay per view a fan asked a rhetorical question, commenting on the last time fans threw trash in a ring. I answered that rhetorical question by citing Jeff Hardy’s TNA heel turn in 2010* which, ironically enough, also led to his first TNA World Heavyweight Championship reign. This isn’t implying or saying that Hardy didn’t have real heel heat at that time; what it is saying is that trash thrown in the ring cannot be used as a barometer genuine heel heat if the idea is that such an occurrence is rare. At this point in the game the major barometer for true heel heat should be the deafening boos coming from the fans; that was an occurrence last night that didn’t get nearly as much press among fans as the trash thrown into the ring.
The point of the matter is this: fans ignored all of those things in order to celebrate the perceived magnitude of the Bully Ray’s actions. That’s all well and good but it does very little to support the company’s claim of providing a solid pro wrestling based alternative to sports entertainment. If anything that logic simply endorses a different type of sports entertainment that “kinda, sorta” feels and looks different than that offered by other promotions. This would explain why the famous “I Want Wrestling,” “We Are Wrestling,” and “Wrestling Matters” taglines aren’t used anymore; the day a storyline brings TNA more notoriety than an actual match is the day TNA steps into its own when it comes to sports entertainment. That day has already come and gone in TNA, but it was damn sure signed, sealed and delivered to us last night.
Then again…cheering fans equals success…
Bully Ray is the Best Thing Smokin’ In TNA (for the moment), and Mike Knox is now “Knux”
Bully Ray is easily the biggest thing in TNA’s pocket right now. I would even venture to say that his run as TNA’s World Heavyweight Champion is about as important to the company as their signing of Kurt Angle seven years ago. In all due respect Mark LoMonaco has worked his ass off in the business and has truly earned the right to carry the title. It says a lot about how far the man has come as a wrestler when anyone can readily say that his name alone has brought credibility and new life to a storyline that has been dead since last year. My hats off to Mr. LoMonaco and his victory last night.
The other thing that makes Bully Ray’s win so important is the possibility of a fight between him and AJ Styles at the June Slammiversary XI pay per view. I won’t drag out the particulars here, but check out my last piece to see my thoughts on Styles’ character development. With three months between now and the pay per view we can only pray that TNA builds a solid story and feud between Bully and Styles, eventually propping up the “Crow” Sting character the company will need to really stay in the game on the road. That goes to say that Bully Ray could possibly be the champion that leads to Styles receiving the push and attention he could’ve received years and years ago.
Then again, that would make Bully Ray a “transitional champion,” which would totally negate everything I just said about his run with the title…
And for those of you that didn’t catch it last night, Mike Knox’s new name in TNA is “Knux.” During the Lethal Lockdown match (which was missing a ceiling…unless they changed that, too…) the commentators went way out of the way in making sure we knew that the man’s name was “Knux” and not “Knox.”
As a matter of fact I could very well be spelling it incorrectly. If this is the case then my sincerest apologies go to “Knucks” and the other members of the Aces and 8′s Motorcycle Club. I surely do not want to incur the wrath of “Knucks” and anyone associated with “Knucks.”
“Knucks, Knucks, Knucks, Knucks, Knucks.” Sounds like Fozzie Bear just told another terrible joke.
So ends my thoughts on yesterday’s Lockdown pay per view. What did YOU learn from the show?
*Note: I incorrectly stated to the fan last night that Jeff Hardy’s heel turn and the ensuing trash volley happened at the 2011 Victory Road pay per view. Both events actually occurred at the 2010 Bound for Glory pay per view. My apologies to that fan and to other fans for that mistake.
Suit and Tie is a pretty good song. If you haven’t heard it, it’s one of Justin Timberlake’s new singles off of his upcoming new album and it features Jay-Z. When I say it’s pretty good, that means I enjoy it and think many people will, Kanye West not included. The backdrop is lively and exciting; JT’s voice and lyrics, save for one or two select lines, offer his traditional level of swag that only he seems to exude, and Jay-Z’s verse doesn’t take away from the song.
Therein lies my critiquing, however. Suit and Tie is pretty good, but it’s not great. A few lines are too grandiose for someone, even of Timberlake’s stature, to take seriously, and Jay-Z’s verse, while taking nothing away from the song, is unmemorable and unnecessary. The true star of the track is Timbaland (Virginia knows music ^_^) and his key role in the production. The blaring trumpets add that terrific little bit of “extra” that pushes the song forward.
But I have to come back to the Jay-Z verse because it follows what feels like a trend of uninspired verses (“Get up out ya seat, Hov” is SO hilarious in that regard) with his guest appearances. Perhaps I wouldn’t harp on it so much if he didn’t sound like he was trying to imitate a certain “good” rapper’s flow; metaphors aside, he sounds like he’s trying to – and not successfully – channel Kanye West’s style, down to the lyrics, and I can only imagine he’s still feeling the sting from Renegade 2.0, or Run This Town if you want to use the official terminology.
The track didn’t need a guest verse, period, may have even been just as good without it (translation: remix) but if it was
doomed destined to have one then I could have just as easily seen longtime Jay-Z rival and current musical winner Nas taking that spot, if we’re set on using legends. His recent experiences and album, all storied for better or worse, put him in a position where he could offer a grandiose and club-ready verse that didn’t just sound inspired, but fitting. A guest verse is a deadly trap on many songs because it could easily result in the guest rapper overshadowing the main star, but it has to add to the song and NOT take away from the main performer either. To Jay-Z’s credit, he doesn’t take away from the song, but that’s about all. Otherwise he comes across as bored and underpaid. Kind of brings Kanye’s rant about not liking Suit and Tie into perspective, doesn’t it?
See what I just did there? That was analysis. That’s what we do here at L.E.W.D., all of us, and we do it with pride, dignity and a little thing called class. Therefore, when we craft some gold (which is normal: it would be better to use the metaphor of platinum or diamond) we like it when people listen, view and respond. Yes, we like it. We like it more than Grand Puba and his track “I Like It” and how he liked the track “I Like It” from DeBarge, who collectively liked Janet Jackson. Just shy of love, but rather high on like.
Some of you may agree with us. Some of you may not. Some of you may like how we talk about possibly bookings. Some of you may not like how we seem to systematically dismantle Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Well again, we appreciate all of these opinions, but at the end of the day it comes down to one simple mentality, as vocalized by this large, scary gentleman here:
That being said, there’s a stereotype that we here at L.E.W.D. headquarters that we HATE Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. This is untrue. It can be said that I, Da Infamous One, hate TNA. That wouldn’t be an untruth. No one here, except for maybe a couple, has shed more tears over the company and it’s tremendous wasted potential than I have, but to their credit they may have shed tears of sorrow. Not
I know what you’re thinking. “So DiZ, you amorous avatar of acceptable avarice, if you hate – and reasonably so – TNA so much, why are you talking about it?” Well to answer you question, loyal serf or dishonorable Smith, I am giving the ill-fated company my attention because there is a PPV tonight. Yes, tonight is the ninth annual Lockdown, live from San Antonio’s scenic Alamodome. After months of build up, we get to see a number of matches that feature… wait, let me give it the proper definition: it will feature professional wrestling matches that involve different wrestlers from pre-existing scripted feuds and storylines. Wrestlers will portray villains, heroes or less distinguishable characters in the scripted events that build tension and culminated in a wrestling match or a series of matches.
And no one cares.
Understand, I was going to put that line in later but here is just as good as there. No one cares. That’s not to say that TNA doesn’t have fans that care (we know my point of view on TNA “fans”), but frankly very little makes sense. TNA comes across as a place where wrestling matters, and nothing else does, not even wrestling. Yes, it’s a contradiction of itself and that’s how it goes at an R. Kelly party.
But the wrestling fan/analyst/bon vivant/world class connoisseur of the booty that is me (Da Infamous One) knows that TNA still has a chance to be something, and that is why I continue to watch the car crash that is Dixie Carter’s establishment. Hopefully it’ll get better in time. I just doubt it’ll be tonight. So while I prepare to shed more tears, I briefly look at the current card and offer a few words of commentary, giving you all a semblance of solace at how my hatred for TNA is nothing compared to the melancholy (total lack of care) that comes from the media:
So onward to the matches!
Robbie E vs. Robbie T
For a long time I had a long time telling who was who, and even now I have a hard time telling. I like the big one; he’s awkward and less annoying. Watching the disruptive destruction of the Jersey Shore knockoffs even new sexy bodied Snookie would find to be annoying is fun, I’ll admit that, but it’s hard to take it anymore than just that: fun. Not even high fun, just regular fun. I find it disproportionate because while big Robbie is enjoyable, little Robbie is like an over groomed poodle: he’s there and he’s little else. Is he good in the ring? Sure. Are they both good in the ring? No doubt. But let’s be honest: TNA excels in putting on good physical action. You will be hard pressed to find anyone on this site who thinks otherwise. But professional wrestling without good storytelling is not a good product. It’s kind of like God of War: Ascension. Sure, it’s a good game, but one bit of blatant misogyny can ruin the experience something fierce, and that’s saying something when bare breasts, horny harems and my absolute favorite (don’t judge me) media representation of the goddess Aphrodite (Venus if you’re part of the Roman crowd) are the norm.
At the end of the day, I expect the big Robbie to win, start “dancing” to dubstep, and continue being as awkward as only he knows how to be. That’s about it.
Joseph Park vs. Joey Ryan
I thought Joey Ryan was fired.
*eleven minutes later*
Seriously, I thought that *edited for the L.E.W.D. audience* was fired a long time ago. As valid as the porn star gimmick is (flies for a male but never for a female; I call that sexism!) it just seemed about as valid as Brad Maddox’s annoying douchebag character did to me. To Maddox’s credit, much like Sandow’s, I enjoy him. Joey Ryan, not so much. This isn’t even talking about Joseph Parks though.
And if you’ve seen some of my older posts, you’ll see that I like Joseph Parks. Hell, I think Parks is better off as Joseph than Abyss. Much like the bigger Robbie, he’s big, awkward and, most importantly, entertaining. Sure, the story of the character is odd. Why someone would willingly give up a job as a lawyer, in this economy, to be a wrestler in the number two company? Again, not logical, but Joseph Parks is still a very enjoyable figure to see go around the ring. You actually see this story of him improving, and frankly it displays a degree of brilliance I’m surprised the writers still have. He’s cool. And he’s likely going to win. Because he’s big. And in this company, big people eat the little people.
Kenny King (c) vs. Christian York vs. Zema Ion for the X Division Championship
Is this an Ultimate X match? If not, was there build up for this? If not… what?!
Don’t get me wrong: I like matches like these. These were, at one point of time, a shining star in the potential that was TNA’s primordial ooze. X Division matches and X Division wrestlers were quick, athletic, spunky and specialized in spots, and you know what? That was a-ok in my book. It made TNA worth watching because it was a part of their identity, along with a respectable women’s division and a six-sided ring, but now I wonder: what exactly IS the X Division? I remember there were weight requirements at one point a la light heavyweight/cruiserweight status, but now I don’t know.
I’m sure it’ll be a good match, but honestly: King JUST won the title from RVD. Where the hell is RVD in this championship match equation? If John Cena had the WWE title and lost in on RAW, I would fully expect him to be in a rematch at the next PPV. If Gillberg won a… heh, sorry, let me try that again. If Gillberg won… HA!
Okay, okay, one more time, I’ll get it this time around. Ahem! If Gillber…
I pick the champ to retain.
The Canadians (Austin Aries and Bobby Roode) (c) vs. Bad Influence (Christopher Daniels and Kazarian) vs. The Mexicans (Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez) for the TNA World Tag Team Championship
I know, I know, Austin Aries isn’t REALLY from Canada, but he’s from Wisconsin and dammit, that’s close enough!
Three-way tag team matches always confused me. Unless they were tornado tag matches, and even that has the potential to get really sloppy really quickly. The good news is that this match of six features six technicians, and every one of them knows how to put on a great match.
Before I talk about how I like a handful of these guys, let me say that this match DOES have some solid backstory. The Canadians are jerks who took the titles off of the Mexicans, and Bad Influence is a pair of overly entertaining jerks (I die every time Daniels calls Jeff Hardy “Jefferson” or Bully Ray “Raymond”) who wants gold. You don’t need a lot for a good story, people, and this is proof. All you need is good entertaining people to tell a passable story and let them do the rest with their ring work. And frankly, Christopher Daniels could do it solo: he has at least three people helping him with it though, so it’s even better.
As happy as I’d be to see Bad Influence win, I see… I see them winning, what a coincidence! While Austin and Roode are a great team, I see Bad Influence getting even “badder” and carrying the gold.
Velvet Sky (c) vs. Gail Kim for the TNA Women’s Knockout Championship
Isn’t it a bit contradictory – or at the very least unnecessary – to say “women’s” and “knockout”? Whatever. Do you know how much I love Gail Kim? Probably not. I don’t know what she does to stay looking so young, what she does to stay so fit (what with a celebrity chef for a husband), or what she does to stay so fresh and fluid in the ring, but she does it and she does it oh so well. God bless you, Gail Kim. Why, I remember going to Bound for Glory one year, my first wrestling PPV, and Gail Kim was in a match with… I don’t remember who and I don’t care. But I stood and cheered, screamed her name and celebrated throughout. While jumbo behind me didn’t find my standing and applauding to be amusing (wouldn’t have hurt for him to stand up himself, but I digress) I swear I saw Gail look my way and give me a wink. Oh, such wonderful memories. My heart went aflutter, my voice went up a notch, my pants felt a bit tighter and…
Er… uh… Gail Kim vs. Velvet Sky. I see Gail winning this one; a dirty win, mind you, with some grade A quality heel tactics, but it’s a good thing! Gail’s a heel right now, she needs to be doing that! At the risk of revealing more of my
lust love for Gail Kim I’m going to just move on now…
Kurt Angle vs. Wes Brisco
Story: Wes Brisco betrayed Kurt Angle and joined the Wild Bill Hickok English Speaking Vernacular. Period. Angle wants revenge. Brisco… I don’t know, he didn’t make the Lethal Lockdown team? Frankly they had to do SOMETHING with this talentless (yeah, I’m underwhelmed) kid.
This is the non-title, non-team cage match, and because cage matches work so well for Angle when the Two Pair Persecution Affinity is involved. Do I expect a good match? Frankly, no. I fully expect Angle to run circle around Brisco until the… bike-less gang interferes, with all their faceless recruits and, of course, D’Lo Brown. Because when you think old west themed biker gangs without bikes, you think a black man like D’Lo Brown!
You know what, I was gonna bring this up at the end but I’ll do it now: what asshole thought making D’Lo Brown part of this was a good idea?!! I think D’Lo was surprised when this was announced! Someone literally sat down and said, “I have an idea! Let’s make D’Lo a part of this!” And D’Lo probably went, “Wha? People don’t even know who the hell I am! Hell, I hardly know who I am! Let me check my underwear…” But it was too late! Not only does the outlaw biker gang sans bikes have yet ANOTHER black guy in it (cultural aspect) but it has someone in it that NOBODY knows! What do you think was the bigger Google search at the time?
Was it A:“Who is D’Lo Brown?”,
B: “Who the hell is D’Lo Brown?” or, my favorite
C: “Who the hell is D’Lo Brown?!!?!!?”
And Vice President?! A while back a conversation on Twitter regarding… a certain member of G.O.O.D. Music that was not Diminutive Anderson drove me away for the rest of the day. D’Lo Brown’s “reveal” as the vice president of this rather local, small-time, should-be-eaten-up-by-the-Black-Tuna-Gang piss pot of a biker gang (Ron Pearlman would NOT be amused) did the exact same thing, except it drove me away from TV, and video games, and made me curl up with my Kindle and read a book. Because I was sad, and nearly cried because TNA achieved the impossible. THAT I will reserve until a later paragraph though.
See that? In any case, I have Brisco winning due to leather vested interference.
Team TNA (The Joker, Richmond’s Favorite Foreigner, Wasted Talent Numero Uno, James Storm and Not-So-Super Eric) vs. Fifth Card Unknown (Pastor D-Von, Mr. Kennedy, Rey Mysterio’s Pimp, Imposter Kane and Diet Bischoff Lite)
I… no, to hell with it. I’m gonna go eat some ribs and cry in the sink. Team TNA is gonna win, happy?! Dammit!
*some time later*
There’s a reason everyone has their nickname, sans James Storm. Sting comes across as more and more psychotic as the weeks go by (not a good trait for a man running a show), Magnus is billed from Richmond, Virginia (which I hold to be a grimy location), Samoa Joe is completely and utterly underutilized, Eric Young was known as Super Eric as one point, Devon played a pastor character in the WWE, Anderson is… the same as when he was in the WWE, Mike Knox pretty much had Rey Mysterio singing Daddy’s Home every time Mike Knox was around way back when, Gallows was once the fake Kane and, finally, there’s Garett Bischoff… and we don’t care.
You may be wondering why James Storm was spared this treatment. Well, he was once allied with Gail Kim, and that means he gets even more respect from me. Now, since I’ve cried and had a few ribs, let’s talk about this match, shall we?
Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Bully Ray for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship
No, there’s really nothing to talk about for the previous match outside of the fact that it takes place in a cage… thing. It’ll be violent and, at the end of the day, pointless. It’s bad when an entire group is referred to as the world gimmick of 2012 (puts a damper on that whole “2013 is the year of Aces and Eights” thing, doesn’t it, Devon?). That thing I was referring to earlier, that I said I would revisit in a later paragraph? TNA has officially become the first company I know of that has systematically jumped the shark THRICE. That means three times. This James Butler Condemnation Affiliate is abysmal in every way, and the only thing that could redeem it now is a nude scene. Yes, a Brooke Hogan nude scene. Tasteless? Very, but you’ve given up on quality, you can at LEAST go for flat out smut.
But whatever. Jeff Hardy vs. Bully Ray for the championship, in a steel cage. What we have is everyone’s favorite redemption story (*holding my tongue*) versus everyone’s favorite friendly bully. It comes across as a bad episode of Recess, combined with an afterschool special with music done by Seth Macfarlane.
Yeah, that bad. But that’s a very basic view: the build-up was okay, at best, and the actual match has potential to be a good one. Bully Ray is a terrific wrestler and Jeff Hardy is a terrific stuntman. That means there will be a lot of jumping and a lot of mat work. It’ll be good, so long as Hardy isn’t drunk; NO! BAD DIZ, TAKE THAT BACK! What I meant to say was that it’ll be a good match so long as both parties are at their peak. That being said, I don’t know who is winning this one.
I have no idea: it’ll be the main reason I watch the PPV. If Hardy wins, then… nothing. That’s the end all be all. His story is one of getting beat up by the Hoyle Deck Society. Should Bully Ray win, nepotism is proven to be alive and well, and Triple H will be a 14-time world champion. Yeah, it was a lame joke, but that’s all Bully Ray’s storyline is right now. He falls in love with girl Hogan, marries girl Hogan, becomes the “future” of the company… it’s Triple H’s story, minus the fun, and the sexy brunette with an ass that just won’t quit. It’s still just a creepy relationship though; on-screen, in the mind, its like something out of a Tecmo game, and if you saw how the first draft of this piece went you’d know EXACTLY why that’s a problem!
But Hardy vs. Ray, or Jefferson vs. Raymond as Christopher Daniels might call it, is an unknown for me. I’ve no idea.
And that concludes my preview of 2013 Lockdown. Do I expect to be amused? Meh. Give me a good match with Gail Kim and a swift end to Wes Brisco’s TNA career, and MAYBE I’ll graduate from “meh” to “okay”. Blee.
My crew is talking about getting together for WrassleMania XXX *giggle*… Man… if I make it? WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Anyway, this year’s WrassleMania card is looking pretty good to me, even if it’s a tad predictable (HHH over Lesnar, Taker over Punk, Del Rio over Swagger, Cena over Rock), there are some WrassleMania moments to look forward to! Being the smark that EYE am, I’m already looking forward to seeing what happens at NEXT year’s WrassleMania!!!
There are really three main threads interwoven through the fabric of the WrassleMania storyline. If you’re reading this, odds are good that you already knew Vince likes to plan everything from WrassleMania backwards. As in, how will a year’s worth of wrasslin culminate in a show worthy of being billed as “The Show of Shows”. Those three threads are Rock/Cena, CM Punk, and The Undertaker.
Let me lead with God himself, Lord CM Punk. If you go back to WrassleMania XXVI, I don’t even remember him being on the card, but according to that recent Raw Active trash, he fought Rey Mysterio. At XXVII he fought Randy Orton. At XXVIII he fought Chris Jericho. At XXIX he gets The Undertaker. All of those men have held the WHC and WWE Championship. You can also see a linear progression there, like he IS ascending in importance. I have to give WWE credit for actually having a plan. MY plan would have him beat Undertaker this year and beat Rock and Cena in the Triple Threat I wanted this year. I’ll come back to that.
Let’s look at The Undertaker. Go back to WrassleMania XXIII, that’s when The Streak really mattered to me. His matches around that time with Batista were thrilling brawls. His match with Edge at XXIV was GREAT. I don’t need superlatives to talk about the quality of his matches with HBK at XXV and XXVI. I thoroughly enjoyed his matches against HHH at XXVII and XXVIII. Now The OldMan will be carried by CM Punk at XXIX. Again, all of those men have been WHC and WWE Champion. Each of those men could end the streak and only lames who don’t know shit would complain. But I’m not sure The Streak WILL be broken as long as they can keep bringing him back to work once a year. Since Brock Lesnar will be under contract the next couple of years, I want to see that next year, even though I’d have rather seen it THIS year.
And in my main event, and WWE didn’t even force it down your throats two years in a row… Rock/Cena. Wait… nevermind. Anyway… the WrassleMania main event picture three years running has been: Cena has Miz beat at XXVII, but loses because of a Rock Bottom. Cena has Rock beat at XXVIII but hotdogs at People’s Elbow and loses to a Rock Bottom. And as I have pointed out in an earlier posting, THEY TOLD THIS EXACT STORY WITH BATISTA: Bad things happen to Cena when he gets in the ring with The Rock. So of course Mr. Never Give Up will FINALLY defeat The Rock and become WWE Champion for the 11th time. As has been well documented, the PERFECT end to this story is have CM Punk go over in a Triple Threat, but ehhhh, maybe next year?
I want to point out, HHH was main eventing WrassleManias in The Rock’s prime. In Stone Cold’s prime. In a sense, CM Punk is the new HHH. Not the STAR Rock and Cena are, but debatably better at telling a story. Wouldn’t hurt anything to repeat that HIStory. We’ll see.
When I tell people I’m an old school guy, there’s a lot of layers going on in an otherwise simple looking sentence. In a broader sense, I admit that personality wise I’m simply from a long gone era (think way long gone…think your great-grandparents and probably earlier).
In a narrower sense—in this case, related to wrestling—it means I like the 70′s and live for tapes of the 80′s. There is a litany of reasons why this is, but it all adds up to this: I simply enjoy the product of the first mega-boom more than that of today, and certainly more than that of the “Attitude Era,” which I happen to have stunningly little love for in comparison to pretty much everyone reading this.
Perhaps nothing better exemplifies this than my hate/sort-of-ok-with relationship with the career of John Cena. For the past five years, I’ve been involved in some way with the business of Internet Wrestling Writing and Podcasting. In some instances, it’s merely been as a consultant, others as an editor, others as a writer, and on In the Room it’s in the capacity of a sports talk host…but for pro wrestling. However, no matter what the capacity it’s been in, my stance on Cena has pretty much never changed.
I like him…sort of. From the very first time I wrote about anything that involved him, I made it clear that I think he’s a serviceable talent who got pushed to the top more out of situational happenstance than any kind of marquee headlining talent. In a way, I’ve always sort of felt bad for his career because no matter how hard he works or how hard he tries, when it comes down to real ability measured against the rest of the wrestling world, he’s simply out of his league when it comes to being at the top of the wrestling world. Sure, those people have been around for as long as there’s been professional wrestling (Nick Bockwinkle anybody?), but in this age of the Internet that talent disparity just becomes that much more abundantly clear.
That leads us to this past Monday night, and the closing match on Raw.
With all due respect to Kevin Steen—and the next roughly nine months left on the calendar—John Cena teamed up with arch-nemesis CM Punk to put on the 2013 MOTY candidate from the United States. And while there’s a long way to go, it’s probably one of the two or three leading candidates for the overall MOTY, at the very least until Triplemania rolls around this summer. Even if you think I’m a bit over the moon here, you’ll be hard pressed to find anybody who was any bit down on the match itself. The reaction was almost overwhelmingly positive, and that sort of leads to the bigger question in its aftermath: what is this feud’s—and by some extension, Cena’s career’s—place in history?
After the match that night, more than one writer or podcaster made the comparison of Punk v. Cena to Steamboat v. Flair.
In some senses, that’s a reasonably apt comparison. Much like Steamboat and Flair, Punk and Cena work well together and are able to do a very good job complimenting the others’ strengths instead of accidentally highlighting the others’ weaknesses. Both sets of men now have developed years’ long feuds, and both in and out of storyline there’s a reasonably good comparison of Steamboat to Punk.
But, there are just as many reasons why it’s a bad comparison. For one, which man is the Ric Flair? It certainly isn’t John Cena, who can’t even get his hometown to do what he needs it to when he’s in the ring (that would be cheer…). Punk and Cena aren’t competing against promotions with the same or better talent depth, and neither man has to compete with the same kind of marquee level feuds within their same promotion.
The biggest difference, however, is in the percieved (and mostly real) talent drop off for Cena. Flair and Steamboat may have had a series of classic matches at or near the zenith of the wrestling world, but neither man is ever going to be talked about in the same disparaging way Cena so often is.
For me, Monday night showed that Cena vs. Punk is a hybrid of two feuds from wrestling’s greatest era…
It’s part Hogan vs. Savage, and part Hogan vs. Warrior.
This past week on ITR, Brady Hicks planted the idea that it was—at least in part—Hogan vs. Savage, with Cena being Hogan and Punk being Savage. I suppose in the overall scheme of things, that’s got some validity, especially because both men compare well to their historical counterparts in a side-by-side. Punk is absolutely Savage, the inarguable more talented individual whom should probably be on top of the roster in comparison to what else is there—especially over Cena. Cena, meanwhile, is absolutely the Hulk Hogan of the feud. He’s the man on top, the man who can draw passion from fans into any feud regardless, and could make money if he were to fight Eugene while also being the man whose talent isn’t bad but, is at best, serviceable.
Meanwhile, Monday night’s match was much more like Hogan vs. Warrior. Nobody could have expected a match of that quality would come forth that night, and it wasn’t just because it was happening on Raw.
When I say John Cena is serviceable but not bad, I’m not necessarily saying he’s much good either. He’s okay enough that good workers can get good matches out of him, but he’s never going to make a classic on his own because he simply has too many deficiencies.
His moveset and style in the ring are clunky limited. Part of it is probably his talent ceiling, but part of it is that he’s simply just not an athletic man…at least not by the standards of top wrestling talents. While he certainly looks the part, there is a difference between having a lot of muscle and being an athletic guy. Cena isn’t by any means unwatchable, but if watching Bryan Danielson is the exercise of watching poetry in motion, watching Cena is more the exercise of watching Celebrity Deathmatch reruns.
His promo ability is narrow and not likely to grow. He’s not necessarily good at making others look good. The beat goes on.
The point here? Punk and Cena’s match on Raw had no business being as good as it was because a man of Cena’s talent level has no business being in a five star kind of match. By and large, that statement has remained pretty true throughout Cena’s career. He’s had some good matches, but not great ones. He’s had some okay feuds, but he’s had nothing of great note, which brings me to the Hogan vs. Warrior analogy.
Hogan vs. Warrior at WrestleMania VI had no business being as good as it was; the reality is that Hogan got a far better match out of Warrior than pretty much everyone else ever did or would (with the exception of Savage one year later). Punk and Cena’s feud—much like that match—is defined by overcoming expectations as much as anything else.
In the world of professional wrestling, Punk’s resumè was already world class before he set foot in WWE. Cena’s was not, and much like Chis Jericho’s feud with the Legends at WrestleMania XXV won’t define his career, The Rock won’t define Cena’s. In fact before this feud with Punk, Cena’s career looked pretty bland.
The Orton feud didn’t really go anywhere; a feud with Batista never developed. Jericho wasn’t around too long, Edge wasn’t always there, Miz fell flat and Big Show was underwhelming as an opponent.
CM Punk, and this now ongoing and established feud with Cena, will ultimately be the defining one of Cena’s career, but maybe not of Punk’s.
And so we reach the final question: what is the place of this feud—and Cena’s career—in the history of professional wrestling? At this point, I think the answer is that it’s safe to say its place is “What could have been?”
We’re not going to get this kind of match at WrestleMania, and there have been long term booking decisions which have made the feud start and stop, stalling just when things could get hottest. When Cena faces The Rock, his arch-nemesis and most iconic opponent will be doing something else, or lost in a three-way never meant for him.
And we’ll wonder, “what might have been?”
Ray Bogusz is the co-host of the In The Room Show and a syndicated wrestling columnist. You can reach him via his Twitter @RayITR. To get his column on your website, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A very profound thought struck me the other day concerning the current direction of AJ Styles and his character on IMPACT Wrestling. In order to accurately express that thought here in L.E.W.D. Booking 101, I have to go back to a conversation that took place several years ago.
I have a very close friend named James* who can best be described as a casual fan of pro wrestling. Although James doesn’t indulge in pro wrestling and sports entertainment as frequently as I do, he follows the product enough to have great and analytical conversations about wrestlers and promotions at any given time. While James was (and still is) fond of WWE, he always favored WCW’s product more, especially during the mythic Attitude Era. It was during this time that he reveled in the many antics of his favorite wrestler, the man they call Sting. Even to this day he gets particularly giddy and filled with girlish glee when discussing Sting; his favorite iteration of the superstar is the “Crow” Sting, a character based off of the movie made famous by action star Brandon Lee.
Seriously; to this day, James can recite the creepy little kid monologue verbatim from the Sting’s theme at that time.
Many years after WWE’s purchase of WCW and several versions of Sting later, I asked James to explain to me his fascination with this dark and brooding Sting character. More specifically I asked him to explain why so many other fans were absolutely in love with this Sting, let alone Sting in the first place. To loosely paraphrase what he said (mostly because he won’t email me what he said):
The thing about it is this: when Hulk Hogan turned heel—and you gotta remember that Hulk Hogan was the epitome of all that was right in the world, “Eat your vitamins and say your prayers” and all that s**t—it completely messed everybody up! The person that took it the hardest was Sting, because here was somebody who did the right thing his entire career, and the only other thing “right” in the universe was Hogan.
With Hogan joining the nWo, and half of WCW doing the same damn thing, Sting was absolutely mind-f***ed. So Sting disappears and when he comes back, he’s literally dead to everything on the inside, and then he just proceeds to brood all over the damn place. And that’s what made it cool, because even though it was a blatant rip off of The Crow, it made perfect sense because a lot of younger fans were feeling the same way because of Hogan’s heel turn.
And besides, that s**t was real cool too.
James’ words resonated in my mind the other day when I started thinking about TNA’s latest M.I.A. wrestler, AJ Styles. One thing led to another, and before you know it I had this epiphany: AJ Styles will be TNA’s “Crow” Sting!
At this point you should brace yourselves, because the next comment coming from yours truly will surely shock and surprise you: out of all the things TNA has conveniently borrowed from other promotions, this character development for Styles is perhaps the best idea they’ve
stolen come up with and will probably create the most compelling and interesting wrestler the company has ever had.
Don’t expect Styles to be phenomenal in the rafters of arenas around the country anytime soon. It is also highly unlikely that the company will attempt to turn Styles into a mini-Sting like they attempted to transform him into Lil’ Naitch Ver. 2.5 when Ric Flair joined the company. What is quite probable is the creation of a neat, tweener Styles character that will operate in the same spirit as “Crow” Sting so many years ago. If my epiphany has any merit, Styles’ new character will be somewhat similar to the heel character that John Cena could have been two years ago.
This epiphany came about when I started to connect the dots between two posts about Styles on the most trusted TNA fan site on the internet. The first post came on February 8 and was nestled quietly in a recap of a Dixie Carter interview during her appearance during a Bellator fight. Apparently the TNA President had an encounter with Styles at the event, an encounter were Carter described Styles as being “cold, distant, and unapproachable.” After careful consideration of this development, I couldn’t find myself to be “mad” or disgusted with Styles’ actions at all.
While Carter’s summation of Styles’ behavior seemed “unusual” (as described by the good folks at TNAsylum.com), one could not feel any iota of sympathy for her given Styles’ craptastic 2012 in TNA.
Without dredging up too many memories of the swerves and storylines that besmirched his year and his good name, we must remember how well Dixie defended Styles during the Claire Lynch debacle. We must remember how she set her husband straight after leveling Styles with the King Mo One Hitter-Quitter. We have to recall how Dixie used her executive powers and prowess to get to the bottom of Claire Lynch’s accusations against Styles in order to exonerate her company’s most decorated and beloved star.
Seeing as all of that stuff didn’t happen it would appear that Styles is somewhat justified in having such lukewarm feelings towards Dixie Carter. Styles, after all, is easily the most recognizable TNA Original still with the company. He gave his all for Jeff Jarrett and Dixie, yet neither offered their on-air unconditional support for him during his series of unfortunate events. In fact if one wasn’t careful, one could easily get the impression that Dixie and her cronies cared very little for Styles during this period of his career; talk about a slap in the face.
The second post that caught my attention was a report on February 20 about a TNA producer’s tweet concerning Styles’ behavior. The producer didn’t explicitly say how Styles behaved, but did comment that in five years he had never “had him act like he did today.” The producer then went on to say that he was “disappointed.” Is it just me or does it sound incredibly pompous of the producer to comment on how he would or would not have had Styles to behave? It’s one thing to say that in five years you’ve never seen a person act in a particular way, but its also very telling to see someone comment that they never had someone act a certain way.
I sure the assumption is that once a vanilla babyface, always a vanilla babyface. For the better part of his career in TNA Styles has played the one dimensional role of stellar athlete and upright model citizen/human being. Styles plays this character well because it’s pretty much him in real life. Everyone has their breaking point, however, and even the most model and upright human being has a breaking point. He arguably reached that breaking point after his demeaning loss to Christopher Daniels at Final Resolution 2012; even after Styles announced to the world on the December 13, 2012 episode of IMPACT Wrestling that he was no longer a “company man,” this plucky TNA producer still found it disappointing that Styles behaved in an unmentionable fashion?
If you’ve been subjected to a person behaving in a particular way, it’s only a matter of time before you begin to expect that behavior to be consistent and synonymous with the person. If the person turns out to be a louse, it’s easy to dismiss them and wish them well in their future endeavors. On the other hand if the person has proven to exhibit exemplary qualities, we have the tendency to abuse and/or neglect that person because no matter what happens we’ll expect them to continue to be “good” people.
The only person to come to Styles’ aid during his trials with Daniels and Kazarian was Kurt Angle. Other than that, Styles was expected to man up and handle his situation on his lonesome, even though the harassment he endured from his coworkers was ridiculously ignored by management. After putting up with that Styles was also locked out of challenging for the TNA World Heavyweight Title for one year, a crushing and heart-wrenching defeat that almost makes his presence in the company worthless for at least 365 days. The fans moved on to Austin Aries, Robert Roode and Jeff Hardy; the only person that cared about AJ Styles, it seemed, was AJ Styles. And even he neglected his own needs, wants and desires for the sake of the company and making Dixie Carter look like one million dollars.
From that perspective, how dare anyone expect Styles to behave a certain way or even tacitly imply and/or demand he behave a certain way any reason. Being himself hadn’t gotten him very far since he lost the TNA World Heavyweight Title to Rob Van Dam in April 2010, so what good will the goody-two shoes bit do for him at this point?
After all that, what does any of it have to do with “Crow” Sting? Simply put, the very man that Styles was should be long gone by now. Having grown bitter and disillusioned with all that he knew to be right in the world, Styles’ character should evolve into a self-serving man justified by the inconsiderate actions of the institution that was once his life and livelihood. He doesn’t have to be overly obnoxious in his disdain for the company (Aces & Eights), and he doesn’t have to be an Attitude Era-esque edgy and cool tweener either (Ken Anderson).
All Styles has to do is be himself minus the concern and care for being Dixie’s golden boy and the fans’ favorite athlete. Styles has to become the wrestler that competes for the company’s top prize while maintaining an eff you attitude towards anyone or anything that represents the institution that snubbed him. Styles shouldn’t perform for the fans, nor should he be the face of a company in need of a savior. Styles does what Styles wants for Styles’ benefit. This was essentially the same rubric for the evolution of Sting’s character in WCW after Hulk Hogan’s heel turn and the creation of the nWo, except there were actual buzzards and crows involved.
Sting’s descent into this depressing and unforgiving darkness revitalized the character and WCW. In the same way that this dark and emo Sting resonated in the hearts of many fans, so too can this new AJ Styles character. How many of TNA’s fans have been abused and taken for granted by their employers? How many fans have felt betrayed by TNA’s sports entertainment-like approach in their product as of late?
If we can be narcissistic for one second, how cool would Styles look with new, darker gear?
This drastic character makeover for Styles couldn’t come at a better time in the company’s history. With the very flat Aces & Eights storyline going nowhere fast (perhaps, in hindsight, purposefully so…) and their almost hostile takeover of the company, TNA needs a familiar face to help drag them out of the social group’s fun house of inequity. With their show being taken on the road after the upcoming Lockdown pay per view, TNA needs a homegrown top star to build their franchise around, a top star that can make the same media rounds as John Cena while drawing interest towards the product instead of away from it. With a concentrated effort to focus on building four pay per views out of the year, TNA needs a star that will increase buyrates at the mere mention of his name.
Personally speaking I would pay money to see a moody, grizzle-faced AJ Styles tan Jeff Hardy’s high-flying fanny six ways from Sunday for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
Even thought I still believe my epiphany to be one unique to my own experience, I’m also sure that most fans have already speculated on Styles’ character development. Whether you’ve considered this level of maturation for Styles or not, the reality is that change is coming for one of the company’s most prized wrestlers. Do not be surprised to see Styles return to the scene as angry and bitter as Sting did in WCW many years ago; do not be surprised if he returns only to rage against the machine with his own agenda instead of defending TNA from the rising tide of the Aces & Eights domination.
Do be surprised if Styles turns out to be the leader of the Aces & Eights, because I for one am expecting this new wrestler to rely on his own abilities and to not trust anyone, anywhere at anytime.
But above all else, expect to be thoroughly surprised and pleased at wherever Styles and the creative heads take his character. As long as the man isn’t inexplicably kidnapped or forced to wear a leather vest, the end will justify the means.
*Note: The moniker “James” was used in this piece because Adam didn’t want me to use his real name.
Most fans won’t readily acknowledge that RAW’s ratings, as of late, have hovered around the 3.1 area. While this means absolutely nothing to the average fan, it means a lot to analysts and pundits such as us.
It doesn’t mean or suggest that the quality of the product is getting better; what it does suggest is that fans are finding more reasons to tune into the show each Monday night. The “Road to WrestleMania” is typically filled with more than enough elements to energize fans and entice them to purchase the WWE’s annual mega-sports entertainment event, but last night’s show offered more than what most probably expected or anticipated. To say that last night’s RAW was knocked out of the park would be a huge understatement. While I would hesitate to say the show was “perfect,” I will say that it was great all around and well above average.
Three things made the show awesome: the hot Dallas, Texas crowd, the opening brawl between Brock Lesnar and Triple H, and the MOTY candidate bout between CM Punk and John Cena. Everything in between seemed to add some depth and volume to the undercard for WrestleMania XXIX. It will be interesting to see how the company can keep up this momentum between now and April.
Here’s the most noteworthy stuff:
- WWE Vengeance: Lesnar vs. Triple H II
- WWE Insurrextion: Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett
- WWE Judgement Day: The Shield vs. Randy Orton
- WWE December to Dismember: Featuring AJ Lee, Dolph Ziggler, and Ryblack
- WWE Bragging Rights: CM Punk vs. John Cena
The evening started out with last week’s proposed fight between Mr. McMahon and Paul Heyman. While it was safe to assume that very few people (right-minded folks, mind you) expected a true fight to take place between the million-dollar geriatric and South Philly’s favorite son, even fewer could have accurately predicted the magnitude of the brawl that followed their slap fight.
Two really cool things happened during the exchange between Heyman and Mr. McMahon; for starters, Scott Stanford sent a tweet question whether Heyman had been robbing homes in Dallas prior to appearing on the show. Secondly, Heyman gave Mr. McMahon “The Pounce,” and no one seemed moved by his perfectly executed, skillful and dangerous maneuver.
Nevertheless the whole spectacle was cut short by the unmistakable sound of Brock Lesnar’s music. The beast of a man approached the ring and prepared to sink his teeth into Vince McMahon’s old and surprisingly muscular carcass. Before Lesnar could get another taste of McMahon’s blood, Triple H’s music blared through the arena and we all knew that a rematch between the two would take place at April’s blockbuster pay per view. The standard brawl took place between the two after McMahon hightailed it out of harms way, and everything that happened afterwards was unintentionally magnificent.
The brawl between Lesnar and Triple H seemed real; it felt real even though it looked phony at times. You could easily tell that Lesnar was using his MMA training against Triple H, who’s experience in body building didn’t seem to help his situation at all. I even wondered if there would be a point in the fight where Trips had to whisper to Brock, “Hey! It’s not real fighting, bro!” Not too soon after I had that thought, Lesnar eased up a bit on the realism and switched back into scripted entertainment mode.
The money moment of the fracas was when Trips sent Brock’s skull sailing into the ring post, busting him open the hard way. Half of Lesnar’s head was soaked in blood as the cameras attempted to avoid showing it on live television. Despite their best efforts the effect of this was necessary to make this rematch between the men mean something. I would venture to say that it was Lesnar’s blood that sold a good number of people on this pay per view alone; the awkward part of it all is that this was only the beginning of the show…
It’s anyone’s guess as to how epic their match will be at WrestleMania, but if their brawl last night was any indication we can expect this grudge match to be more passionate and grueling than their first encounter.
Another thing that stood out was a segment in which Sheamus made fun of Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and his work as an extra in the upcoming movie Dead Man Down, starring Ireland’s second favorite dandy, Colin “Remember Me?” Farrell. A few fans in my Twitter feed commented on how absurd it was for a face (Sheamus) to continue to be a face while making fun of (bullying) someone for their small part in a movie. I started to respond to a few of these comments but stopped when I thought about the lack of angst against John Cena and his many heel-like tactics over the past few years; be a star, everyone.
The eventual exchange between the two was far from being bad, and it actually provided a few chuckle-worthy spots (I particularly LOL’d when Barrett referred to the fans as “idiots;” it was the accent and the air of arrogant confidence that did it). I also site this as being worth mentioning because of a previous post where I stated that the only program decent for Sheamus at this point is a feud with Barrett for the Intercontinental Title. I also stated that spot belonged to Bo Dallas, a spot he was politely pulled out of because of WrestleMania season.
Another thing to consider is the recent “international flair” the title has acquired with its most recent champions. The title has suffered from a lack of importance, prestige, and significance as of late. Having non-American champions gives some sort of meaning to the title even if that meaning is still not all that defined. Another match between Sheamus the feisty fighting Irishman squaring off against Barrett the brutish bare-knuckle Brit is something good for both men and for the title.
Sheamus would make another appearance that night during an in-ring segment involving The Shield. The three members of the so-called “arm of justice” in WWE were busy spouting their manifesto to the audience when they issued a warning to the hapless superstars in the back. Sheamus strolled out in his wrestling gear and responded to their warning, only to serve as a decoy for a sneak attack at the hands of Randy Orton. With Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns advancing on Sheamus, Orton slithered into the ring and leveled Seth Rollins with a surprisingly devastating RKO.
A number of fans have commented that Orton seems to be floating aimlessly at this point in his career. I wouldn’t say a feud with The Shield would invigorate Orton’s character, but it would give the rub to the group of young lions. What’s more interesting about this story is the story of how all three of these young WWE superstars made it to their first WrestleMania. Speaking particularly about Dean Ambrose’s rise to glory, it was only at WrestleMania XXVII two years ago in Atlanta (where we first saw him in person) that he received a try out match with WWE, a match that got him this far in the company. It’s an impressive story, and to share that story with two equally talented young superstars in a match with Randy Orton is pretty big. It will be a thing of beauty to see what comes from this.
Speaking of things of beauty, AJ Lee’s fall from grace has been less majestic than anyone could have ever imagined. When you consider the amount of time and energy that was put into AJ’s character during the latter part of 2012, it’s amazing how dimly her once radiant aura shines now. Ever since being partnered with Dolph Ziggler, AJ has seriously fallen off the radar of relevance; problem is, there’s is no justifiable or logical reason for such a tremendous dip in attention given to her character.
The same thing could be argued for Dolph Ziggler, the current Mr. Money In the Bank contract recipient. Dolph has literally seen several stop and go storylines and at one point looked to be headed towards the main event scene like a bat out of hell. Things looked even better for the bleach blonde superstar when he was essentially given his own little stable to work with. It just seems like after awhile the writers gave up on him and have reduced him to wrestling matches for the sake of simply keeping him on fans’ minds and in our collective consciousness.
All of this could be for a good reason, however; Ziggler has until July to cash in his contract for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship, and a lot can take place in the five months between now and the July 14 Money In the Bank pay per view. The more cynical fans tend to write off wrestlers or storylines that don’t receive immediate attention or payoffs. It remains to be said that patience is a virtue, and Ziggler may be in the midst of being primed to have a major role in the company moving forward.
The question is where does AJ Lee fit in the middle of all of this? At this point in the game she’s barely a skid mark in the frilly unmentionables of the Divas Division, and the creative writers have all but abandoned the idea of making her a credible valet for Mr. Ziggler. The good news for AJ is that she’s an actual wrestler, and given our affinity with Trish Stratus and Lita it would not surprise me at all that AJ’s “sunny days” are ahead of her.
As for Big E Langston, the massive and mysteriously silent monster is playing his role to the tee. Langston is standing in the footsteps of such legendary bodyguards as Diesel, Dave Batista, and Ezekiel Jackson just to name a few. Perhaps Big E will one day serve as the potential grouse in John Cena’s pheasant hunt. But then again, a man can dream can’t he…
Speaking of John Cena, just how exhilarating was his match against CM Punk on Monday night?!?!
Many fans and pundits have said this before already, but Cena seems to be the type of wrestler/superstar that is very capable of having an excellent match if he’s pushed to the limit by his opponent. It’s anybody’s guess as to the pep talk given to either Punk or Cena prior to the match, but whatever was said or done it gave both men the passion and desire necessary to deliver one hell of a battle.
We often condemn the WWE for not having matches like this on the regular, but the truth of it all is that these rare gems should be rare gems, because if matches like this happened all the time what exactly would a rare gem be?
The other thing to pay attention to is CM Punk’s ability to bring the best out of Cena. It’s often said (and ignored largely by fans) that a wrestler is only as great as his opponent makes him look. While the myth of John Cena’s stature tends to overshadow all around him, Punk truly stood out as a performer by showing off his ability to take Cena beyond complacency and mediocrity in the ring. This is why Punk’s legendary 21st Century WWE Title reign is lost among fans today; we miss the significance of all he brings to the product because we’re too busy focusing on the obvious flaws of the company to appreciate the crown jewels in their possession.
I did get truly pissed me off during the match as Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler casually ignored the fact that Punk spent a majority of the match working on Cena’s neck and head. It’s one thing to constantly state that Punk was “trying to wear Cena down,” but he could’ve easily done that by working on Cena’s mid-section, making it harder for him to breath the longer the match progressed. Instead Punk worked over a previously injured area of Cena’s body, making him super vulnerable for a knee to the face or the dreaded Anaconda Vice submission hold. I know understand why people say RAW’s commentary team has gotten awful. The little things always make a difference, and I wish the commentators could’ve at least acknowledged that in their incessant banter.
So what’s the end game for both men? Of course we get another “Once In a Lifetime” match between The Rock and John Cena, but more importantly CM Punk is available for what could be the biggest match of his WWE career against The Undertaker at WrestleMania. We assume Taker will win the match, but what would it say about how the company feels about Punk if he becomes the first and only wrestler to defeat “The Dead Man” at the pay per view? Once again…a man can dream, can’t he?
That all I felt about the show last night. What do YOU think about it?