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Booking 101

Nothing Personal: The Ballad of Muhammad Hassan

I’m listening to the Steve Austin Show. I love the business of professional wrestling more than any other form of entertainment. I inundate myself with horrible writing on the dirtsheets, lies that sound true nshit. I listen to all these wrassler podcasts on Podcast One. I’m watching all the documentaries and DVDs. Anyway… immersing yourself in something to this degree, smartens you up. When I first started writing on this site, I was closer to being the morons in the IWC I claimed to detest. The Quinn Gammon was right. I wanted everyone to turn heel or face and half the roster to win all the time. I realize now what I always craved was compelling personal issues. And unfortunately, there is a certain limit WWE has. Ask Muhammad Hassan.

After 9/11, some genius working for WWE thought… “What could be more perfect to draw heat, than to play on the sensitivities of the main audience, America… than to have an arrogant Arab Muslim and his homies, beat down The Undertaker of all people, and make it look like a terrorist attack, as their faces are covered and they even kneel to pray to Allah?” And then UPN bitched about all the negative attention it drew. WWE is a publicly traded company and a slave to corporate sponsorship. Compare this to how when Jerry Lawler had Andy Kaufman in his territory, the tv station called him to say they couldn’t show Kaufman’s promos anymore because people were threatening to burn the tv station down. The business is on such a higher level and profile now, that it kind of cannibalizes itself. I see so many people say things now like “WWE won’t do another Nation of Domination because they don’t want to offend anyone.” I remember CNN or someone talked about Zeb Colter’s thinly veiled racist promos building to a match with a Mexican. And you can clearly see that over time, they watered down The Real Americans. The last angle I can think of that really pissed people off, was when CM Punk was the straight-edge savior. Claiming that his lifestyle made him better than everyone. The most fucked up thing about this, is it all built to him fighting a fan favorite who was known to have drug problems! When I watch Bray Wyatt ranting and raving, sometimes incoherently, and the parts that make sense are true… How am I supposed to hate someone that’s telling the truth? CM Punk was mostly a cool heel because he told the truth. When he feuded with Randy Orton, I rooted for Orton despite the fact that when Punk was WHC, Orton and Legacy took him out. At the time Punk helmed the New Nexus and could exact revenge. I feel like there isn’t much money in grey. We need clear black and white.

When HHH was cutting promos building to his match with Bryan at Mania, he said we were in the ‘Reality Era’. I thought that was brilliant because there was such surrealism in the words he used to run down Daniel. My problem with that is… I’m not supposed to fucking agree with the heel. I’m not supposed to go into a big show hoping the heel succeeds at suppressing the upward mobility of a babyface. And there I was, feeling like “HHH is RIGHT. Daniel Bryan is a hell of a talent. But top guy? Naaaaaahhhhhhh.” It worked because, going in, I watched my twitter feed seriously doubt Bryan would even go over on HHH, much less win the main event. Sometimes predictable is good, because wrasslin as a business can only succeed if it makes the fans want to see something and deliver. That doubt that existed was perfect. I saw people @ the WWE twitter account to say they were going to stop watching and not buy the network if Bryan didn’t win. HHH’s heel heat was great. I just wonder if there was a way to sell the match without a part of me hoping either he’d win, or one of his friends would finish the babyface in the main event. Going back five years… Orton terrorized HHH’s family. But I hated HHH for holding Orton back in Evolution. So, similar to his feud with Punk, Orton did dastardly things… but at the same time, you felt like he deserved to get his revenge. And… as I recall, no one enjoyed their matches at that time. There may or may not be a correlation.

These days I think you have to go beyond where WWE is willing to go to really make you want to see someone get their ass beat. No one wants to see Bad News Barrett or Bray Wyatt or Evolution get beat the fuck up. I think more people talk about and want to see wrasslin if you give them a reason to want to see the bad guys lose. If WWE followed through with the Muhammad Hassan thing… not many people were going to hope he went over one on one. And if there was a stip that allowed the terrorists to whip Taker’s ass the show doesn’t go off the air with people singing or chanting or cheering.


Beyond Good and Evil: Titan Towers Tumbling Down

I’ve been going through some things lately, but to quote the great Scott Hall: “Bad times don’t last, but bad guys DO!” I ain’t shit, so I’m going to be alright. I’ve been immersing myself in the world of professional wrestling. My best friend let me borrow the Raw After the Show discs. Entertaining stuff. Some would say, more entertaining than the current product. I hate THOSE fans. The ones that paid for the Network, watch every show and claim it’s all bad. I can get lost in the universe that is the WWE because I love it. I don’t get the people that watch and you can tell they hate it. I love/hate Mark Madden. Love and hate defines wrasslin.

I respect people who are opinionated and stand behind the shit they say. Their ramblings tend to be entertaining at the very least. I won’t talk about how Madden was a trash announcer for a trash wrasslin product, so he thinks he knows everything about how and why EVERYTHING is trash now. (Oops.) I literally read everything he writes on WrassleZone looking forward to reading about how more people used to be wrestling fans than are currently watching. How pretty much every talent in WWE won’t draw a dime, ANNNNNNNND WWE should stop bringing back past stars. Adam Rose has appeared on Raw like three times and I read Madden’s piece saying the gimmick is terrible and he’s another Fandango in the making.

Wrasslin fans have to stop judging talents ceilings based on their current gimmicks. Who the FUCK saw record breaking buyrates, attendance and merch sales when The Ringmaster debuted? Were you electrified by the high flying smiling Rocky Maivia? Did you think the current Dolph Ziggler would be a two time champion when he was in Spirit Squad? So. Many. Examples. I believe I have made my point. Rusev could be a future top guy. He could become the next Great Khali or Ryback too. We don’t know at the moment. (I think, at the moment, he reminds me of Great Khali in that he has a menacing presence but one dumb ass gimmick later and now he’s just that limited guy who debuted strong.) To be perfectly honest, I think WWE has too much talent. If everybody is somebody then really everybody is nobody. In a short period of time, we’ve been introduced to Emma, Paige, Rusev, Adam Rose and Bo Dallas is re-debuting. Guys who were JUST getting pushed or at least booked somewhat strong will be fed to the new guys. It’s an interesting time to be a wrasslin fan.

I believe gimmicks are important to the success of the wrasslers, but if you’ve been reading my shit, you know that I think writing/booking is the most important ingredient. When I look back at Fandango, he was given a debut at the biggest show there is in the sport of professional wrestling. He beat a highly decorated and regarded superstar in Chris Jericho. He danced to the ring with Summer Rae (and that brunette chick The Christopher resents her for replacing). His entrance theme was over. They were going to put the IC title on him. He got concussed. WWE decided to put the title on Curtis Axel. A guy who is average to mediocre at everything. So they slapped the ‘Paul Heyman guy’ label on him and had him lose several times to CM Punk. Then he dropped the IC title to Big E, a guy who literally has had NO storylines. PERIOD. He went from Ziggler and AJ’s heavy… to the black guy whose theme was better before they remixed it. Who needs new ring gear. Bad. He rarely gets to talk, so the most interesting thing about him is that he claps powder upon hitting the stage. He dropped the IC title recently… and is just THERE. See how I tied that all together? Let me advance my point further.

Emotion is everything in wrasslin. The moments we remember… we either remember them for how fucking horrible they were… or because they made us FEEL something. People in the IWC use the words ‘connect with the fans’ a lot. Most WWE superstars don’t make any connection whatsoever. (Hi, Dolph Ziggler!) You can have all the workrate and mic skills in the fucking world… if I have no reason to care about you, one way or the other… you’re just a guy. Personal issues make feuds. Only so far you can go with “I want to be the best, I want to be the champion!” Last summer, there were three major feuds going into SummerSlam. Daniel Bryan versus Cena. Brock Lesnar versus CM Punk. AJ versus Kaitlyn. The only one I remember favorably was AJ versus Kaitlyn.

In case you don’t remember: AJ and Kaitlyn had nearly a year of build. Kaitlyn was the friend that tried to help AJ get over Daniel Bryan dumping her. AJ slapped her on multiple occasions for trying to help. I believe Kaitlyn took the Divas title from Eve Torres before she left, and AJ knew she could get in Kaitlyn’s head and take her title. She had Big E be her fake secret admirer. You really wanted to see Kaitlyn beat the brakes off that girl, even if you were a fan of hers. You would recoil every time AJ sold that spear like she was SHOT. Personal issues. The Divas division, lowest of keys, tells the best stories in the fucking company. THE FUCKING DIVAS DIVISION IS A JOKE AND AN AFTERTHOUGHT AND ALMOST EVERY MATCH HAS MORE BUILD IF NOT MORE IMPORTANCE THAN ALMOST EVERY OTHER MATCH ON THE CARD!!!!!

No one watches wrasslin because these are the best actors or actresses in the world. If you tell a compelling enough story where we have a real reason to feel bad for someone or hate someone, all is forgiven. Kaitlyn is a horrible actress and it did not detract from that story one iota. Fans defecated on the Daniel Bryan and Kane feud because they felt Bryan should not fear for his wife’s safety, he should just beat up ‘the monster’. So the PPV they were building to would have no payoff. You niggas is stoopidt. I don’t watch TNA but the stink of TNA is all over the idea that Roman Reigns should join Evolution. The Shield have been faces for five minutes and you want to turn the potentially biggest star of the group heel. I DID see a good idea that centered around Reigns eventually turning on HHH and winning the gold… just not a fan of that sort of booking. Speaking of booking, The Shield are getting booked too strongly at the moment. Getting a push is one thing, getting pushed off a cliff is another. How are we supposed to believe in The Shield getting beaten down by three men when we’ve seen them beat up half the locker room? HHH actually uttered the words “we accept your rematch to the match you already won” BECAUSE THERE’S NOWHERE TO FUCKING GO WHEN THE BABYFACE DRAWS FIRST BLOOD! The heels are supposed to make you think the face is down and out so you can get into it when they show some fire and ultimately overcome. We kinda just went through a successful version of this, actually. Yes. Yes, we did. ;) ;) Contrary to everything I just said, everything about Cena’s feud with the Wyatts has been compelling to me but the matches themselves. They’ve ‘protected’ Cena too much as he nearly won a 3 on 1 CLEAN. Then lost the cage match because of all the interference in the world. WWE… no… WRASSLIN… has always hyped a cage match as the ultimate in “There will be no outside interference cuz the cage will keep them out” matches. There is no reason to hope that all three Wyatts can possibly keep Cena down for a ten count. I honestly can’t summarize why Evolution and Shield are fighting. The shit seems SO thrown together. The matches are great though. Cena versus Bray Wyatt is all about how Wyatt is a cult leader and Cena doesn’t want us to drink the kool aid, but the matches themselves could use tightening up. Interesting.

I didn’t like how The Shield nullified Evolution’s attempt to stack the deck last week. HHH is COO, so it makes sense that he could make himself guest ring announcer and Orton guest time keeper. Shield’s explanation of “Oh we made Brad Maddox make us guest commentators before we beat his ass” is pure trash. The Shield are over because wrasslin fans are stupid. They could be MORE over if WWE let them get beat the fuck up often so we can feel sympathy. More reason to WANT them to overcome the odds, to use an expression so overused in WWE programming I heard Michael Cole scream that in my mind as I typed it. I want to see more matches between these factions so I hope Evolution gets “Payback” ;) ;) … even though according to logic that’s supposed to be the other way around.

For whatever reason WWE is doing brilliant things to get Divas heat. Alicia Fox is one of the most interesting things going in the company and WWE is doing it wrong if she doesn’t take the belt off Paige just to drop it back to her and then lose the rubber match. It will be a heat killer if she draws all this attention to herself and there is NO payoff, she just loses at the PPV. Ho hum. I think that I know that’s coming. Total Divas is being used to tell simple grudge match stories leading into what is otherwise random pairings on tv. Again… the throwaway division of the show is telling the best good versus evil stories. Raw was in London. Layla is a Brit. The pop for Summer Rae kissing Fandango and taking Layla down was great. Simple story. Layla took her man, who is douchey enough that he dumped her on TWITTER. Fans have a reason to want to see Summer Rae get over on them.

So… why should I care about Dolph Ziggler again?

I can’t write a piece about WWE without saying some words about the WWE stock losing over half its value in like two months because people aren’t subscribing to a service that will let you see every PPV and several shows. Kinda like we’re not given a reason to care, eh? Then, while having the leverage of having their own streaming service, WWE negotiated a new TV deal worth 75% less than what they promised shareholders. WWE lost $340,000,000 in one day. I’ve been arguing a lot lately that it’s killing the business that Bad News Barrett and The Wyatt Family are heels getting cheered for doing heel things. You can like a guy because he’s a good worker… but is it good for business if I don’t cry when the hero dies trying to save me?

RVD is a fan favorite. He got one of the biggest pops of the night on Raw. Barrett cracked him in the back of the head with the belt and got a bigger pop only partially because he’s a Brit. He’s gotten over with a gimmick that condescends on the marks. I listened to fans cheer Bray Wyatt saying he is evil. Cesaro and Paul Heyman got cheered as Heyman laid on his back talking about the death of the Queen and the end of The Streak, then Heyman distracted Sheamus so Cesaro could pick up the win. Applause. These developments MIGHT COULD be why it is nearly impossible for WWE to write compelling stories for the superstars…


Time For Real Talk

I disappeared off the ratchet wrasslin writing planet simply because things I’m seeing in WWE’s product and rumors on the dirtsheets are pissing me off. After a couple of weeks or so of just watching as a fan and not critically I’m ready to get back to complaining about every damn thing WWE does.

Shoutout to The Ashley Morris for his last piece, which I unofficially contributed to. Yes, I’m a egomaniac. Anyway… yeah. Yall gotta stfu crying about Daniel Bryan being scared of Kane as though the feud has been mostly about Kane trying to rape his wife. Crying like Bryan didn’t beat him clean at Extreme Rules. I knew you marks would start turning on Bryan first chance you got. When Bryan loses the belt, you’ll complain no matter who he loses it to, or how. Then want him to win it again. Just to start the cycle of complaining about his booking again. WWE is actually booking him as THE guy, and you’re complaining. You marks don’t understand what a ‘work’ is eh? Lemme hip you to a fact. Kane… has a horror movie coming out soon. What BETTER way to promote a horror flick… than to have a monster chase a pretty white girl, and her man has to save her from him? Bryan has simply been a good hand and helping sell the fact that Kane is a monster. Stay woke, niggas.

The thing that has pissed me off the most? Cesaro’s new theme is complete trash! WWE books him as a heel while wanting to put him over as a face! His manager trolls the fans about Brock Lesnar breaking the streak and NEVER extolls his virtues. All HE gets is “The King of Swing, Cesaro” All of which, predictably, sets up Paul Heyman guy vs Angry Former Paul Heyman Guy Part 2. Look here. I been saying since last year I see future world champion all over Cesaro. He is getting over. He has no merch. (vis a vis a tshirt or something he actually wears) Not one catchphrase. Just a great worker. So, basically, you have a short, muscular bald guy with 1/3 of Daniel Bryan’s tools. And yall know I don’t think that highly of HIM. So… what this stinks of to me, is WWE is going to force Cesaro on us before he is ready for his close up. Then, he will be his old tag team partner, Jack Swagger. Who has no merch, no catchphrase of his own, and can wrestle a broom. WE THE PEOPLE… deserve (a word I hate) to have our superstars built organically. I see that WWE plans to have Cesaro go over on Brock Lesnar, probably as soon as SummerSlam, and I think that is fucking retarded. Let me count the reasons.

- The Undertaker’s Streak, was an attraction in and of itself. Every year at WrassleMania, there were gonna be three or four matches that sell the show. His was one. So you will piss on that legacy by having the guy who ended it… lose immediately?

- Cesaro is not yet at top attraction level yet. Brock Lesnar is top five in the company. Having him do a job to a guy not on the level of Cena or HHH, who he has lost to in his return, diminishes him as a part-time attraction.

- As I type this, Brock Lesnar is 4-2 since his return. Two wins over HHH, one filthy win over CM Punk, broke Taker’s Streak. Lost to Cena and HHH, as forementioned. So. You want to make him a mediocre 4-3?

If you give me the book, I’d have Brock Lesnar beat whomever at the Rumble. Defend the belt in the Elimination Chamber. Drop the belt to the Royal Rumble winner, Roman Reigns at Mania. Then I’d break up The Shield because jealousy and whatnot. Green though Reigns may be, The Shield collectively have feuded with every major star in WWE and not looked the least bit out of place. Reigns is slated to have a match with HHH at SummerSlam. Cesaro is, as I write this, feuding with Jack Swagger and RVD, and though he looks good, he looks at home in that midcard right now. It will piss me off majorly if WWE rushes him from midcarder to main eventer, when Roman Reigns has speared and/or powerbombed every main eventer in the company.

Now, to the hottest topic in WWE at the moment: Evolution. First off, besides Roman Reigns pinning 6-time world champion Batista in the middle of that ring(!)… I’m not a fan of giving the babyfaces the first win in a multi-match feud. Logically speaking, the good guy wins… what does he get from fighting again? If the good guy loses, well, now you can sell that he knows he’s really more skilled than the bad guy and he. WON’T. stop. until he can prove it by pinfall or submission. The story we’re being sold right now is “You got lucky” (not the best way to build your future top star even IF we know you’re lying through your teeth) and “This isn’t over until I’m done with you” which means, logically speaking, either Evolution or The Shield will have to have multiple members shelved. So, when that shit doesn’t happen… now your booking doesn’t make a lick of sense. Here’s your story, beginning middle end: Good guy keeps bad guy from winning the title, bad guy decides to get help to eliminate good guy. Good guy wins. Bad guy says “fuck that shit, son, rematch!” They fight however many times, before the bad guy returns to the original agenda of screwing Daniel Bryan out of the belt, whole time the good guy, with all the reason in the world now to not let it happen… lets it happen. K. Moving on, Batista… has been lied to from the word go. He, and not Bryan, should be world champion right now. AND he says the money is looking funny. Roll that shit up in a ball and I’d say chances are good Batista doesn’t return after he’s done promoting ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. There is absolutely no reason for the Evolution/Shield feud to end soon. So Evolution will replace him.

Dope thing about Evolution was always the “wrestling’s past, present and future” aspect of the faction. At this moment Evolution is one full time 30 something one wellness strike away from unemployment, and two part-time 40 somethings. Wrestling present and past. I’ve previously written that Big E is on his way down because he’s just not over. So, just plug him in to Big Dave’s spot as the heavy. I’d add another guy just because. Look. No one cares about Fandango’s whole gimmick. I’d like to see him repackaged and he and Layla join as a package deal. Futurewise, you can book it like this: Shield and Evolution are fighting bitterly at Payback. Batista gets hurt and carted off. The match continues. The lights go off, and when they come back on, Big E, Fandango, Orton and HHH are putting the boots to The Shield. Oh. Btw… those new Evolution shirts are HORRIBLE. Whose idea was it to dress a group of old dudes in shirts with fossils posing like douchebags on em? So… yeah. I think it would be symmetrical as fuck to have HHH rob Bryan of the belt at SummerSlam again. I want to see Evolution with every belt. So… fuck Paige, Sheamus, notsomuch BNB, and The Usos. I don’t think this will happen. But. my. GOD. would it be dope if it did. Perfect end to the faction: Orton overhears HHH and Steph talking about how they didn’t really see him as the guy, HHH just didn’t want to have to go for the gold himself, but Orton was so weak, blah blah blah and there goes a short feud there.

I’ll be back when I have more pipedream booking and shit to complain about!


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