Just Listen and Learn.
There exists a minor debate between me and those who will remain unnamed (not due to disrespect or anything; they’re just numerous) regarding Bryan Danielson’s role in the current storyline, in regards to his winning the championship. I’m in the camp that says he should get it at Wrestlemania and others say it should wait until Extreme Rules. After minutes of exhausting back and forth, coupled with valid points on each side, we all came to a conclusion that satisfied all our minds: Bryan’s story was all kinds of screwed up.
If anything, you can almost exclusively pin that very blame on Bryan himself: he simply became TOO popular and the company didn’t see it coming. That’s to say, they knew he’d be popular but at no point – I reckon – did they anticipate that he’d be THIS popular. They could not have anticipated that he’d have entire arenas chanting “YES!”; they could not have imagined that college teams would be chanting “YES!” to hype themselves up or celebrate victory; they could never have fathomed that the state of Washington would have such an amazing year that only served to make Daniel Bryan’s career all the more potent, and yet it all happened, through fate, divine intervention, chance circumstance or the dumbest of dumb luck. Bryan Danielson, for better or worse, is the most popular man in the WWE, and with great popularity comes great divisiveness; this may or may not manifest as supporters and detractors though.
When it comes to Bryan, it comes down to the opening paragraph’s conflict. With Bryan’s popularity came confusion amongst the writers of the WWE product (I assume). For a company accused of catering to a casual crowd and fumbling any long-term storylines, the fault can’t really be pinned on them as much as we want to pin it on them; we CAN pin a lot of blame on them, mind you. Writers – and we at L.E.W.D. being writers – aren’t always able to anticipate when something takes off. Look at South Park for example: Eric Cartman was always a character Trey Parker and Matt Stone could fall back on for humor, but it wasn’t until the infamous episode “Scott Tenorman Must Die” that – and excuse my French – shit hit the fan. It established Eric Cartman as unspeakably evil and took an already clever show and moved it into a frighteningly dark direction that in my opinion wasn’t replicated until the season two finale of Morel Orel. Parker and Stone may have had an idea, but to have Eric Cartman compared to Archie Bunker and Tony Soprano was surely appreciated.
So let’s look at it. First Bryan is chosen by Cena to take him on at Summerslam. Bryan wins. Then Triple H and Orton conspire to take the belt from him and succeed. The storyline begins: Daniel Bryan versus the Authority. It continued in a somewhat broken pattern, having him directly confront them, then not, then moving him on, then taking on someone else, and perhaps that’s why I’m in the camp that wants him to take the belt at Mania, pulling double duty like they’ve been doing with him pretty frequently. While it might make more sense for Bryan to win the title against Orton in a third climactic battle come Extreme Rules, my point of view has another battle between the two as fruitless, Bryan having proven that he can defeat the man with and without interference already.
Along that same line of thinking, with Orton being the “face” of the Authority (I hesitate to say the Face of the WWE because I fail to see how anyone can dictate who is and isn’t such a thing), I see the upcoming (still unofficial but watch) match between Bryan and Triple H to be the epitome of physical conflict that could occur in the disjointed battle between the former and the authoritative assembly that has, much to the fan’s hypocrisy, kept people watching. A win for Bryan over Triple H at Wrestlemania would solidify his stock, a stock which really hasn’t been tested. Bryan defeated Cena; he defeated Orton; the proof of his relative ease in taking on opponents lies in that he likely would have won that very elimination chamber battle had he NOT let his gripes with Kane push him to attacking the man. Remember: Kane came out there to berate the Wyatt Family, not to interfere in the match.
All the same, I’ve long since contended that the real mastermind of the Authority isn’t Orton or Triple H but Stephanie McMahon herself, and a match between her and Daniel Bryan would be both questionable and rude. At the same time, it would be a subtle nod to what Orton had to do to really get Triple H’s respect (and hatred): beat her and molest her, in that order. As I write this I wonder if Stephanie is in the back, plotting to throw every possible roadblock in Bryan’s path before he gains what he really wants from them: a moment’s reprieve.
I’m not speaking on his habit of two matches a night either: I mean he probably just wants them to leave him alone. Who wouldn’t? He’s had everybody and their mothers thrown at him from a psychological perspective, straight up bullying from the authority who for all intents and purposes should follow the anti-bullying campaign more than anybody else. As a short guy myself, I found it particularly heartbreaking that they called Bryan out on his height; he’s only a couple of inches taller than me really. I found it even more unsettling that they referred to him as a “B” player, only upgrading to “B+” after a look of sheer disbelief on that man’s face (I can’t find it but if I do I’ll share it on another day).
There are also the promos. In the latest, Daniel Bryan bumrushed Mr. and Mrs. Pedigree, and it wasn’t Triple H who stepped in front of Stephanie to keep Bryan further away, but Stephanie who stepped in front of Trips and told the bearded submission master off. Eventually all of that will pay off, but I’ll be damned if I know when. Maybe it WILL end with Bryan vs. Orton one last time, and like I said: I don’t care to see it, not really. Triple H is above Orton on that brand of hierarchy and taking him on is like taking on Stephen Colbert in a big time event of cataclysmic proportions, and you get the actual physical proof of such a thing a month later when you take on Jim. Orton is Jim: he’s a tool for Triple H (Colbert) to use to advance a story.
Of course, it could also be in part due to CM Punk’s departure. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: his leaving screwed EVERYHING up; everything that was in place or set to be in place was thrown into disarray when he pulled an Eric Cartman and took off. If nothing else it shows just how much impact one man has, and while he wasn’t set to win the Royal Rumble (or was he and something had them do otherwise… no, he wasn’t) his continued presence in the main event scenes meant that he was to play some role, and his continued popularity says that it was to be a larger role than many of us can imagine. Main event? Doubtful. Major? Most likely.
I won’t go into the implications and new lore of Phil Brooks because frankly another L.E.W.D. writer has done a greater job at it than I thought possible from anybody, so kudos to Corbin Macklin. You can find those pieces here and here. My questions go as follows: the match, the implications and the history. In regards to the match, what would have happened had Punk maintained that match with Triple H and Bryan didn’t inherit it? Where would Bryan be right now? I assume he’d be fighting a high profile match that would lead to a title shot at Extreme Rules, to be honest. But we’ll never know. Two, the implications, which play more into the depth of the first question. We’ll leave those implications to wiser men than I. I apologize for the lack of wiser men than I.
But then we get the history. Regular conversations with the likes of Mr. Morris, Mr. Banks and Mr. Gammon keep them privy to my thoughts regarding stuff, and one of the things in the category in “stuff” is age. Not long ago, as I was rummaging through old stuff, I found a few things that brought back some fun memories from high school and college. Found an old fan I used to keep cool in my smoldering dorm room, a still wrapped pair of CDs I bought from a local artist in the middle of No-Coloreds-In-Sight, Georgia, an earring I thought a friend of mine lost around the time I discovered my second semester of my second year of college would have me in a solo dorm… er… uh… but most importantly I found an old mixtape I put together, one of the two major ones I made back in 2005. “Da Life and Times of C. Eazy Loot” was one of them and believe me when I say I was in a questionable place when I thought the world wanted to hear me rap; luckily that’s not the mixtape I found. The other was a playlist I threw together of some of the most hype songs I was hearing at the time, notably Lil Scrappy’s “Head Bussa” and Crime Mob’s “If You Got Ana”, both of which will, if played in public, cause me to go wild.
What got to me was how old this mixtape was. 2005; I have vivid memories of the year, even the slow creation of the playlist, down to where I was sitting and how I was scratching my then-puppy’s belly while I did it, but it was nearly ten years ago. Ten years. I felt old.
No, really, I felt like a fossil. But I was on the phone at the time too, speaking to friends about decades. Ten years, twenty years (two decades, also known as a score), and with Wrestlemania XXX this year it stood to reason that we spoke on Wrestlemania XX. That PPV, for me, is one of the standout events in the WWE’s history. Why? Not because the event was all that great; it was good but not nearly great. It was mostly forgettable in fact, at least in my opinion, but it had this moment:
It was glorious: this was a time where I was just starting to consistently buy PPVs, and dealing with folk growing out of watching the product whereas I was getting deeper into it, and looking back on it now I can say that while the Triple H-Shawn Michaels-Chris Benoit match was terrific the moment Benoit stood with that belt, triumphant after a long, long, LONG road, alongside his friend who had faced a similar road. It was Guerrero and Benoit’s night, and when I look at that match I said, “Oh crap, they can do it again…”
The circumstances for Benoit were different, mind you. For one, it was Benoit’s first world title. For two, he was taking on Degeneration-X, officially or otherwise. They hyped the man up though: they made you a Benoit fan, down to him entering the 2004 Royal Rumble at number one and winning the whole damn thing. He DECLARED that he would be the World Heavyweight Champion, and proceeded to do it in the main event in the biggest event in years.
Those are the moments that make Wrestlemania the spectacle is (usually) is. And the match itself could easily be recreated with Daniel Bryan if they throw him into the main event at WM XXX, but I’m more impressed by how similar it would be. It wouldn’t be Bryan’s first world title in the WWE, but it would be his first WWE WHC title, for whatever that’s worth. Bryan also didn’t win the Rumble; as a legion of booing fans will remind you, Bryan wasn’t even in the Rumble itself. The psychology behind the fans who wanted to see Bryan win the Rumble (not only was he not scheduled to be in it: we KNEW Rey Mysterio was!) and who fell silent and took on “Angry Miz Girl” faces after the Chamber is a 400 level college course in and of itself.
But were Bryan thrown into the match, he WOULD be taking on Evolution, and considering the role Triple H held ten years ago (seriously, TEN YEARS!) as the champion, it isn’t hard to look at the same kind of thing happening were a triple threat to take place as the main event between Batista, Daniel Bryan and the champion Randy Orton. Even the dynamics are the same damn near.
Triple H is the powerhouse. He’s big, he’s strong, he’ll rollout and roll over you like Whitney’s motherfucking Miltank in the Pokémon games. His strength is undeniable, as are his many title reigns. Batista fills this role, being a big, strong Miltank that nobody likes; also like a Miltank he is a one-trick pony that can be blown away the second you knock out his momentum and taunt the woman behind him. Or in Bootista’s (as this guy might call him) case, the woman that he’s in. You know, because he’s known for doing illicit things to women. Rather disrespectfully, I might add.
Shawn Michaels is the leaner, swifter pseudo-technician. He’s big but lanky, strong but wiry; he’ll kick you in the face like Hitmonlee in the Pokémon franchise. His talent is undeniable, as are his many title reigns. Orton fills this role, being a lean, tactical Hitmonlee that people underappreciate and, in this case, underestimate; also like Hitmonlee he’s seen as predictable. Hitmonlee is, as fans of the franchise know, restricted to kicks, and people tend to think they can telegraph Orton’s move set, but examining his little gauntlet let us know that he’s a lot more aware than we give him credit. Just ask Mr. Morris, who brilliantly laid it out here and here. If anything, much like Michaels, Orton is the most interesting of the match, the one who can really stop the show, the one who basks in the hate he receives and delivers tremendous quality, even in the midst of people not realizing it.
And that leaves Benoit. Benoit was THE technician. He was that man who could outwrestle anybody; competition meant either wrestling himself (insert masturbation joke here) or shadowboxing. He could work the ring, work the opponent’s body and made it a habit to tell stories in the ring, showing us that the biggest guy didn’t necessarily have to be the most impressive one. Sometimes the greatest surprises came in the smaller packages.
This is Daniel Bryan. He doesn’t fill the role: he IS that role. I may not have said it very often up here, but Daniel Bryan is everything Chris Benoit was, down to his finisher which is only a stone throw away from being the Crippler Crossface. Much like CM Punk adopted the flying elbow, Daniel Bryan adopted the diving headbutt. Bryan is more versatile in the sense that he has a more strike oriented move set right now though, such as his aggressive kicks and Busaiku Knee Kick that they refuse to give a name to. Ignoring the Pokémon metaphor (thinking about Whitney made me mad) the reason his moment would be grand at this year’s Wrestlemania if he won the title would be because it pleased the fans; it isn’t even about the title so much anymore as seeing the man succeed.
As I write this piece, I ask myself if I really want to see him acquire the title right now, but like I said before it was because of how oddly his story has been handled. Frankly I don’t think it much matters when he wins at this point: it’ll feel anticlimactic because there’s no real path they’ve followed outside of Bryan complaining about the Authority screwing him over. Without a logical A to Z, Bryan’s road will feel awkward, period. So sure, he can win at Mania, or Rules, or even the third Main Event of the month of July, but unless the road makes more sense, it’ll feel weird.
Maybe if they didn’t rush his Wyatt storyline it would make more sense, but even that felt like a detour BECAUSE it was cut so short. Bryan won at Night of Champions (or was it Vengeance? (same difference)) and the title was ripped from his hands, and from then on it became disjointed.
That’s another thing that made Benoit’s win so special: it was completely and utterly earned. Everyone is given a chance to be in the Rumble, but then you’re on your own. He started from the number one spot and defeated everyone he had to in order to win. He EARNED that spot; at no point was he given a handout because the people in creative didn’t know of a more substantial entry point. The fact is that Daniel Bryan’s world title run began when someone said, “I’ll give him a chance”. Literally. The set up was John Cena was told to pick his own opponent, and the only consistency of this whole story is that the Authority wasn’t big on him from the beginning.
That isn’t a “taint” so much as an asterisk. Everything may be an intricate plot to make Daniel Bryan the truest example of an underdog who made the most of his opportunities and got screwed over because the people who gave him those opportunities did not expect him to capitalize on them.
But that’s the gist of the “Yes! Movement”. I pondered on Bryan being the second coming of Benoit, and that has been more or less founded. I pondered on him having a similar moment at Wrestlemania XXX, but I don’t even think it’s quite possible anymore. The reception would be just as massive, and maybe that’s the thing that determines the moment. Either way we’re getting Daniel Bryan versus Triple H at the grandest stage of them all, and regardless of my feelings towards the possibility of Bryan headlining the program or getting the title, I’m sure Danielson and Hunter will make their conflict a good one.
On Sunday, February 23, 2014, Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards defeated Robbie E and Jessie Godderz at a TNA Live Event to become the new TNA World Tag Team Champions. Congratulations to Richards and Edwards on their title victory, their first title run in the company after debuting five weeks ago on IMPACT Wrestling.
I only have one question, an honest question that has very little to do with The Wolves’ victory or the numerous explanations that “justify” why they were thrust in the spotlight so soon in their stint in TNA Entertainment, LLC…
What the *&#! is up with the BroMans???
From our L.E.W.D. offices it seemed as if very few fans gave a good damn about the BroMans losing their titles during a live event match. To be a bit more accurate, it seemed as if fans were thrilled that the Wolves—a supposedly more marketable and beloved team—knocked off the BroMans at a non-televised event. Any chase or hunt (pun intended) that could have happened, and the tons of money that could have been made from it, all gone in the blink of an eye in Morgantown, West Virginia.
We get it; the BroMans are already two dance contests deep in being just another set of jobbers used in between thrilling matches on IMPACT Wrestling. We’ve been given very few reasons to take them seriously as tag team champions, let alone as a tag team in the first place, and at best their 126-day reign was transitional, something to keep the tag team division relevant until a far more qualified tag team
that wasn’t Bad Influence showed up.
Over time the pairing of Jessie “Mr. Pectacular” Godderz and Robbie E showed signs of growth, development and maturation that spoke highly of their depth as wrestlers and performers. It also gave fans a reason to believe that TNA was truly beginning to develop a new era of TNA Wrestlers. No one will ever…and I mean ever… speak of the BroMans in the same sentence as The Midnight Express, The Rockers, The Road Warriors, Demolition or the Four Horsemen (except for this one instance here), but they grew to be way more competent in the ring than anyone would’ve ever guessed.
To say it differently, these two as a tag team deserve way more credit than what they’re given.
This is why I’m particularly confused and slightly concerned about our reaction to the Wolves’ title victory this past Sunday. There was so much talk and focus on the guys who won the match more so than the guys who lost, even though the guys that lost the titles put in their fair share of work when it came to adding prestige and value to the titles and the tag team division.
Say what we will about the BroMans, but they held the titles and defended them often in a division that only had enough tag teams to fit into a Geo Metro. If TNA’s Tag Team Division could be personified as the Land of the Blind, the BroMans were effectively the cycloptic monarchs of all they surveyed, and it says something about the promotion and the division when challengers for the tag titles have to be imported to be competition for your champions.
All that being said, TNA is once again placed in the unenviable “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” position. The BroMans had a terribly cheesy chickens**t gimmick that they turned into chicken salad, and just when the opportunity for fans to take them seriously popped up, they’re unceremoniously defeated for their titles and fans are instantly more interested in the two new non-TNA guys than the homegrown stars. Lord knows that if a certain other promotion did something similar half the doggone IWC would be brandishing their torches and pitchforks before the end of this sentence.
I guess that’s the crux of my problem; despite having the titles for four months, despite growing to be a solid in-ring tag team, despite making the media rounds for the promotion, the BroMans get the bum’s rush for a five week old tag team. The same thing happened during AJ Styles’ first run as TNA World Heavyweight Champion when he was defeated easily by Rob Van Dam, who had only been in the promotion for six weeks at the time.
If a conclusion must be drawn from these two instances, it could be that the promotion stays true to what has been the case for sports entertainment ever since the very first WrestleMania: a promotion will do what’s necessary in order to make money. When thinking of it all from that perspective, it’s mere elementary to see and know that Rob Van Dam stood to get more revenue for the promotion than did AJ Styles, just as The Wolves stand to make a bigger splash for TNA than the BroMans. That, regardless of whether we want to admit it or not, is truly depressing; it’s depressing because even when fans think we’re getting what we want, the bottom line always revolves around money.
It’s at times like these, particularly during TNA’s self-proclaimed #RealNewEra, that fans get to witness the rise of the next big thing in “the business.” As easy as it is to blame the promotion for the title change, we also have to wonder whether or not Robbie and Jessie truly capitalized on the precious opportunity awarded them. Taking all of their development into consideration, it’s pretty crappy that they weren’t even given the chance to lose the titles after a lengthy and fabulously constructed feud.
Not only that, but they were also defeated for their titles with two more taped episodes of IMPACT Wrestling from the UK ready to be aired on television, meaning that these two taped episodes will show us whether or not this title change was predetermined well before the Wolves were even introduced to fans in proper fashion. And if that’s the case, the whole element of surprise that’s coupled with the “anything can happen at a TNA Live Event” chatter is riddled with duplicitous half-truths…but I digress.
The focus of this piece revolves around Robbie E and Jessie Godderz, a tag team given a priceless opportunity to raise the stock of TNA’s tag team division and how they capitalized off of that opportunity. We can only assume at this point that the spotlight pointed in their direction has slowly dimmed leaving them barely visible in the grand scheme of things; if there is any truth to the speculation surrounding their loss (I heard that the Wolves were more popular in Japan, and seeing as the big Wrestle-1 crossover is looming on the horizon, it would make sense for the more popular team—as opposed to the already established one—to defend the titles against one of Japan’s finest tag teams), these assumptions are generalizations sturdy enough to build a two story house on. With James Storm currently in the beginning stages of a heel turn while holding a Feast or Fired briefcase for a future tag team title shot (which will inevitably be accompanied by a reconciliation with former tag team partner Robert Roode), there’s no reason in the wide World According to Garp for us to believe a program between the BroMans and the Wolves will grace our screens anytime after Lockdown in two weeks. And let’s just be honest with one another…do any of you reaaallly want to see a month long feud between the BroMans and the Wolves? Didn’t think so.
Mr. Christopher Lamb coined a phrase that succinctly describes my perception of the greatest asset of the Attitude Era: “professional competition.” The Attitude Era wasn’t great because of the rampant nudity, vulgar language and extremely violent matches. On the contrary, the Attitude Era was great (in part) due to rosters loaded with athletes who were not only passionate about their craft but also determined to be the best in their promotion and in the business. These wrestlers would approach 9 out of 10 of their matches desiring to not only make their opponent look good, but also raise the bar to show the suits that they should be highly considered among their peers to be the one and only top dog in the promotion. Very few of the stars were complacent and most of them made great use of the time they were given in the ring, be it forty-five seconds or forty-five minutes. If there’s anything “wrong” with the current era of the business, it’s that too many stars show that fire inside of the ring and opt to use Twitter to vent their frustrations; that’s honestly just wasted energy.
In regards to the BroMans, and with no malice or ill-intent towards their work and work ethic, it’s questionable whether they or their tag team cohorts have that same level of professional competition to give the TNA suits a valid reason to have their title change televised instead of taking place at a live event. It’s one thing to want to give the fans a great show; it’s another thing to want to make TNA the best sports entertainment promotion in the world. It’s a completely different thing to want to be the best at what you bring to the table and to empower those around you to want to do the same. The difference between Grade A work and Grade C work can’t be found in terms of what was done correctly or incorrectly; the difference is found in how well one does what one does and then exceeds that level to an unfathomable degree. The recent and “surprising” turn of events suggests that TNA felt very comfortable with passing the torch to the Wolves as a reward for the BroMans’ average work with the titles.
All of this could change in the upcoming weeks; I’ve read the spoilers and I’m aware of the unique situation both teams are placed in heading into Lockdown. That being said, the BroMans are trekking to Miami as the former champions, and as of right now they are not slated for a rematch until after the show…unless the titles change hands again at another live event.
At this point the only thing any fan can do is trust that the promotion knows what it’s doing and wait to see where the ride takes us. For what its worth, I do still feel as if the BroMans got the raw end of the deal and hope that in the upcoming weeks their foppish chicanery turns into a serious quest to prove their mettle as one of TNA’s #RealNewEra home grown tag teams.
On behalf of all the L.E.W.D. admins and contributors, I would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Nelson Frazier, Jr., better known to pro wrestling fans as Mabel, King Mabel, Viscera or Big Daddy V. For all that are reading this, please know that we join you in mourning the loss of another awesome person that spent a significant portion of his life entertaining us.
We’re never really prepared when someone dies; we tend to shuffle through life not really appreciating the precious moments we have on this earth. We grow complacent very easily, believing that everything will remain the same from one moment to the next. That whole mindset changes, however, when someone close to us dies unexpectedly; a death always reminds us that just as quickly as we come into existence, anyone can depart from this life just as fast without a moment’s notice.
After watching a stellar episode of RAW this past Monday night, and after thinking of new ways to complain about any and everything pro wrestling related, I can say without a shadow of doubt that none of us were prepared for the news of Nelson Frazier, Jr.’s death. I can also honestly say that none of us here at L.E.W.D. were even prepared to process what his death … and life … meant to us. Nevertheless here we are, pausing momentarily to consider not only the fragility of life but also all of those moments that mean so much to us; without question, Nelson Frazier, Jr. was an important figure in those precious moments, which gives reason for us to show his family and friends how much we respected him and how thankful we are for what he did for us.
Contrary to what we believe as fans, the lives of pro wrestlers aren’t as clean cut and dry as we imagine them to be. For as much hell as we give WWE’s Divas Division, these women make a conscious decision to place a significant part of their lives on hold simply because they love the business and its fans; whether it be a forty-five second match or an hour long marathon, these athletes deserve just as much respect from us as they do the people who hire, book, train, and write for them.
The male athletes are in the same boat, dedicating their lives to and placing their bodies through hell and back simply for our entertainment. It’s a heavy burden to bear, one we must remember whenever we feel the need to “go in” on a particular performer or promotion.
I say all this because Frazier was a part of this sacred brotherhood and sisterhood of athletes who, despite the physical toll it was sure to take on his body, lived to perform on a highly rigorous schedule for us. Throughout the hokey characters, throughout the gimmick changes, throughout the releases and rehiring, Frazier was there to entertain and did so without major complaint (or at least anything that spread to the dirtsheets). The man deserves our respect and appreciation for that fact alone, if not for anything else.
And that’s another thing worthy of our attention: the “hokey” gimmicks. Frazier went through five different character changes during his time with WWE. He started off as Mabel, a member of the trio known as Men on a Mission (M.O.M.) in the early 1990s. In the mid-90s, Mabel became King Mabel after winning the 1995 King of the Ring tournament.
During the height of the highly lauded Attitude Era, King Mabel was transformed into Viscera, the milky-eyed muscle in The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness stable. Following his heel run as Viscera, he was transformed into the pajama clad “World’s Largest Love Machine.” He followed that up as the super intimidating and shirtless Big Daddy V in the WWE’s version of re-visioning of ECW.
Say what you will about five characters in a career in WWE that spanned on and off from 1993 – 2008; it says something about Frazier when he was able to reinvent himself five different times to stay right on par with fans expectations, even when there were (and are) superstars who couldn’t get a handle on one type of character to resonate with fans or add depth to their already one dimensional characters.
For me, Frazier’s most notable characteristic worth celebrating is how well-respected and appreciated he was amongst his peers. Pro wrestlers from all over the country, and insiders within “the Business” as well, have all shared tweets and thoughts about Frazier, with most noting how nice of a man and true of a friend he was. Younger wrestlers spoke highly of his willingness to share knowledge and advice, while veterans remembered fondly those moments where Frazier’s charming and endearing personality lit up the room. It seems Nelson Frazier, Jr. was truly the type of person and man that only comes along once every so often.
We’ve lost another giant in the pro wrestling world today, and we all offer our respects and hearts in memory of a man that entertained millions of fans worldwide. This isn’t a time to go on about how corny the M.O.M. gimmick was, or how nasty Big Daddy V looked with his shirt off. Rather, this is the time we reflect fondly on the life of a man who made us pay attention when he was wearing mammoth sized parachute pants and when he wasn’t wearing a shirt.
There are a lot of athletes in the pro wrestling business, but very few of them have the honor of receiving nothing less than the utmost respect from their peers and their fans. Nelson Frazier, Jr. was definitely one of those athletes.
May his family and friends know we appreciate him greatly and appreciate them for allowing him to may us laugh, cry, cringe, and thoroughly enjoy professional wrestling.
Rest in peace, Nelson.
If you don’t like it, then don’t watch it.
If promotions gained one nickel for every time this phrase was uttered by a disgruntled pro wrestling fan, the industry could survive for years without seeing any increase in viewership, buyrates, advertising revenue or merchandise/ticket sales.
The more you think about that phrase and reflect on it, the more it sounds like a banal ultimatum dished out from the frustration that comes with relentlessly defending a given promotion’s product. Depending on how it’s said, it can even come off as a threat … if you don’t like it, then don’t watch it … OR ELSE …
One of the cool things about being a pro wrestling fan is that our little community is far more diverse and divided than any other group of individuals supporting a sport or form of entertainment. Our diversity is what makes our conversations, debates, video blogs and scathing editorials so fun; we can agree to disagree on a lot of things, but very few can deny our (misguided?) passion and love of this form of sports entertainment.
This being said, it is improbable that the breadth and width of sports entertainment fandom will ever be uniform in its thoughts or expressions of such. However, because we’re conditioned from birth to believe one particular way is THE “right” way, here we are faced with a baseless and futile warning disguised as a declaration of intense and passionate conviction.
The “either-or” debate amongst wrestling fans is old, tired and quite frankly very pointless in this twenty-first century. It’s foundation is comprised of antiquated notions that assume “hatred” or “dislike” of a product is synonymous with constructive or unfavorable criticism. The deliciously ironic point of it all is that the more sophisticated a fan we imagine ourselves to be, the more we rely on schoolyard tactics and prepubescent defense mechanisms to support our diverse and subjective opinions. It’s almost as if we’re constantly teetering over the precipice of ending our diatribes with “Nanny nanny boo boo.”
We Americans living in the United States tend to take our constitutional right of free speech very seriously, so much so that we spend an ample amount of time
forcing coercing folks to keep their opinions to themselves and adopt the status quo’s perception of life and all things around it. When it comes to pro wrestling and/or sports entertainment, we’d rather surround ourselves with like minded individuals and, when in times of assault from non-like minded individuals, we circle the wagons and shoo the naysayers away instead of inviting them in for tea, biscuits, and a rousing discussion on our likes and dislikes.
Then again, who has time nowadays to engage anyone in lighthearted palavering to discover the root of our consternation? I’m right, you’re wrong, now go away!
We all would love for the world to be more simple than it is, but the reality is that the complexities that dominate life require more than 140 characters or the length of a sitcom to fix. It’s easy to dismiss someone’s ramblings as “hate,” because one won’t have to confront the truth embedded deep within someone’s criticism of the product or even acknowledge that the “other” has a valid point buried underneath a sea of harsh words and unflattering commentary. The only logical next step is to dismiss the “hater” by telling them to take their opinions elsewhere, leaving everyone else resting comfortably in the tranquil seas of their own encouraging thoughts.
Here’s the deal: who’s to say one “hates” a product when they speak unfavorably about it (unless they say for themselves that they “hate” it; that’s a different story altogether), and who are we to dictate what they
should can or cannot watch? And get this: the same people we encourage to stop watching a given promotion’s product are also the same people we also claim aren’t watching the product to begin with! Such is the hypocrisy of being a pro wrestling fan, and the situation is far more intricate than our feeble attempts to nudge a few naysayers out of the building.
Contrary to popular belief, television ratings matter a big deal to wrestling promotions and it all goes back to something I’ve talked about incessantly on this website. Wrestling promotions are BUSINESSES, and businesses in these capitalist consumer driven United States are in business to make MONEY. A given promotion convinces a major network or one of its affiliates to give them money to air their product, and in return the network can charge other companies to air commercials for products during the time slots in which these wrestling promotions air their product.
The ratings are a way that networks can gauge how many people are watching a given show at a given time; the networks use those ratings to base how much they charge advertisers off of the type and number of people watching a show at a given time. The more and more the audience for a particular show grows, the more networks can charge advertisers to air their commercials. In turn, the wrestling promotions charge the networks more money to air their particular show on that particular network.
All this is to say that it seems ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO STOP WATCHING A GIVEN PROMOTION’S PRODUCT FOR ANY REASON UNDER THE SUN. If anything, and I mean anything, we’d want MORE PEOPLE TO WATCH A GIVEN SHOW seeing as so many entities (including the promotion) place goo-gobs of money on the number of people watching the show. I like the way MVP put it recently:
Then there’s this notion of how we understand the phrase “don’t like.” What does it exactly mean when someone “doesn’t like” something? How do we quantify our “dislike” for a given product, especially when a presumed offender never comments on whether or not they actually “dislike” the product in discussion?
If a fan truly hates or dislikes a particular product, that fan won’t need to be told to “not watch it” because they’re not watching it to begin with. Clearly the phrase “if you don’t like it, then don’t watch it” can’t be directed at that particular demographic.
What about the fans who watch the product just to criticize, the fans MVP mentioned in his tweets? Despite the criticism a naysayer must like the product enough to be bothered to watch it, even if it is just to complain. If a naysayer’s criticism about the product is without merit (and ONLY if it’s without merit), then what constructive use of time is it to complain or go in on unfounded remarks or unnecessarily skewed opinions? I just feel like yelling at mice would yield a more fruitful return than huffing and puffing about someone who doesn’t like a show simply because it exists.
Here’s a suggestion, and it’s only one suggestion: let fans watch what they want to watch and let fans criticize what they want to criticize. As long as the sun shines, people will always have something to say about something and people are going to do whatever the hell they want to do. But, as intelligent pro wrestling fans, let’s save ourselves some trouble by focusing our time on getting to the substance of criticism instead of dismissing it altogether in order to keep ourselves coddled in the warmth of an idealized storybook version of pro wrestling fandom.
Instead of encouraging naysayers to disappear, why not encourage them to actually tune in to the product and view it from a different perspective than once before? If a particular fan finds a given product atrocious and refuses to watch it, why not have a productive discussion about why they hate the product and choose not to watch it? These things, to me, seem to be a lot more beneficial to our conversations and debates than pouting, frowning, and resorting to the lowest common denominator of being cocooned in our fluffy plush happy feelings.
Then again, what the hell do I know? I’m just a pro wrestling/sports entertainment fan who’s at least willing to invest in a product enough to speak highly for it or against it; that’s really what it’s all about, right?
When I was 14-years-old, I felt like no one understood me. I went to an inner-city middle school where I, hot pink hair and all, stood out like sore thumb. I wore Doc Martens, a necklace of soda can tabs, and carried a backpack riddled with music quotes written in White-Out. My teachers all thought I was smart but an underachiever, and could not fathom what kind of parents let their child walk around with crazy hair and a bad attitude.
My home life had been a tad chaotic as of late and my mom had just moved to help my sister with her growing family. My dad knew as much about raising a teenage girl as I did about growing a mustache and his idea of handling my budding hormones and dealing with emotional outbursts was a pat on the head (literally, we are not a hugging bunch) and a bag of Hot Cheetos.
I ended up living with my best friend’s family before starting my freshman year of high school. In times of change or turmoil, watching wrestling with my dad remained my constant. As a kid, I had high dreams and aspirations of becoming a wrestler someday but, much like how I stood out at school, I did not look like any of the women wrestlers I watched on television. I didn’t want to wear a dress and escort people to the ring and be eye candy; I wanted to wrestle.
That all changed the night I saw Amy Dumas, AKA Lita, nail a male wrestler with a moonsault. I was mesmerized and I just kind of sat there with my mouth hanging open. Not only did this woman not look like the other women wrestlers, she was bad ass.
It’s an almost indescribable feeling when something finally clicks within yourself and you can feel an old passion being reignited. As a young girl, I never resonated with the female wrestlers I saw on television because they did not wrestle. I imitated Shawn Michael’s moves, The Undertaker’s moves, etc. The wrestlers I wanted to be like were all male because that is all there was to look up to wrestling wise.
Lita was like a breath of fresh air in a stale period for women’s wrestling. Her passion and fearlessness inspired me and I finally felt like there was a strong female wrestler who was easy on the eyes, but came out with a purpose and looked like she could actually fight and might just be crazy enough to do so. She was believable.
To me, Lita will always be the best Women’s Champion, followed by Trish as a close second and honestly, both those women really did something special. They fed off of each other and they both just went for it. To this day I have never seen/heard a crowd so into a Diva’s match since they headlined Monday Night Raw on December 6, 2004. When is the last time a crowd, positively, chanted a Diva’s name as loudly and excitedly as they would John Cena or CM Punk?
I instantly became a fan of hers and have remained one to this day. It was announced last night on Monday Night Raw that she will be inducted into the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame and it’s about damn time. I felt like her exit with the WWE was handled poorly (they did her dirty) and I feel like this was a step in the right direction towards making things right. As a fan, I was disgusted with how they let her go out, and to be honest that whole “Diva’s Division” has not been right since.
So congratulations Amy Dumas, and congratulations to WWE for finally getting something right as it pertains to women’s wrestling.
I almost cried the day Kassius Ohno was released from his WWE developmental contract in November of last year.
My frustration and disappointment at Ohno’s release wasn’t due to my feeling that he “deserved” to be on the main roster, and it wasn’t due to despising the promotion for “holding down” another talented wrestler in order to push someone they deemed more marketable and “controllable,” if you will.
My frustration and disappointment was a result of my feeling that I’d never get to see Chris Spradlin, also more popularly known as Chris Hero, showcase his skills and talents under the bright lights on the WWE’s main roster; and despite his highly positive attitude regarding his release and his optimism towards returning to the company in the future, I could not shake the sneaking suspicion that I’d never ever see him in a WWE ring again.
I relayed these feelings in brief to members of our L.E.W.D. Crew during one of our regular daily conversations. In so many words Mr. Gammon was the first to offer some profound advice that, although intended to paint the picture in a more positive light, enabled me to explain in more definitive terms the very feelings I expressed about my frustration and disappointment a few moments ago.
To paraphrase Mr. Gammon’s comments, he stated what should have been the obvious … “Life will go on; it isn’t the end of the world or WWE.”
As much as tore at my insides to admit it, Mr. Gammon was right. The entertainment business is known for cute, pithy statements such as, “The show must go on,” and “One monkey don’t stop no show.” These phrases tell those in the entertainment business that no matter what happens—when lights cut off, when fans start to boo, and in some cases when the actors and actresses are injured—the production must continue at all costs. It takes millions of dollars to produce a show and a flub, no matter how large or how small, cannot stop a multimillion dollar project from concluding. Chris Spradlin’s release from the WWE was a road bump that could not stop or hinder the massive and monstrous sports entertainment machine from barreling down the highway of financial success and popular prominence.
It was astute observation within Spradlin’s comments that gave me comfort and solace as I mourned his release. Spradlin stated the following, “When things happen that we don’t like, it’s our instinct look for answers. We get sad. We get mad. In this situation, there’s nothing to be sad about! And rather than being angry about what has happened, I want you all to be happy about what’s going to happen! I’ll be back with a vengeance, I assure you. The best way to support me is with positive energy.” To this very day I still feel especially moved and inspired by Spradlin’s words; in the midst of feeling down and out regarding the situation, here he was—released from his opportunity to wow the world as a WWE Superstar—giving me hope that his best was still yet to come. I respected Spradlin as a performer and a person before he arrived in the WWE, and had even more respect for him after reading those words.
Spradlin’s words helped me realize that his wrestling career couldn’t be solely defined by a stint in World Wrestling Entertainment, Incorporated. Just because Spradlin walked away from the ‘E, be it by his own choice or the decision of someone else above his pay grade, didn’t necessarily mean that he wouldn’t be able to entertain wrestling fans all around the globe. He wouldn’t have the WWE’s marketing machine or stamp of authenticity on his career, but Spradlin chose to face the opportunity with dignity and poise, opting to remain positive about his situation and pushing forward with his career rather than languishing in the hatred and bile that often follows disgruntled ex-employees and pissed off fans.
Much like WWE, Chris Spradlin was determined to let his fans and all of us know that a kink in the plans wouldn’t stop him from being the awesome wrestler and entertainer that he is and will be. If he remained positive about his situation, who was I to throw pity parties for him when even he desired in some way for me to look on the bright side of it all?
It goes without saying that we fans have a profound respect for the men and women who bust their asses performing for us non-stop almost every day of the calendar year. We treasure them, look up to them as role models, and aspire to have the same discipline, drive and focus that they exhibit when making their media rounds or even working out at gyms across the country and the world. Because we hold them in such high regard, it becomes easy for us to feel for them one way or another when something good or bad happens to them in their careers. We feel connected to them so much that their triumphs and setbacks belong just as much to us as they do to them. They are our heroes and heroines, and we live vicariously through all they accomplish and all they experience.
It’s a very curious thing; we feel nothing for the single parent that needs government assistance to raise a child or the restaurant workers who make less than minimum wage and get fired because we complained about the temperature of our mashed potatoes. When our favorite wrestler(s) get released, however, it’s a completely different story …
This is the very phenomenon that is occurring with CM Punk as we speak. With rampant speculation regarding his departure from WWE spreading like wildfires in the west, fans have taken to the internet to voice their opinions on the state of affairs within the promotion more so than anything Phil Brooks has had to say about the release himself. To say it plainly, it appears Phil Brooks’ departure from the promotion is largely due to him being unsatisfied with the company he works for. Our very own Corbin Macklin (also a native of Chicago, by the way) did an excellent job of showing us why Brooks’ may have been completely and utterly frustrated with working for WWE.
As bystanders on the outside looking in, we can understand why Brooks threw up his hands and walked away from the promotion. Phil Brooks didn’t need the WWE paycheck as he reportedly saved his money wisely. Phil Brooks doesn’t really need the WWE machine to push or promote him at this point if he desires to continue wrestling. Phil Brooks, like several wrestlers before him, had accrued enough sway and respect during his time in the promotion to afford him the extremely rare option to simply walk away when he had become bored with the way his CM Punk character was being utilized; that is a privilege and gift that is not afforded to all superstars or divas.
At the heart of it all, Phil Brooks’ chose to do what was good for Phil Brooks, because “one monkey don’t stop no show.” It was Brooks’ opinion that the dog-and-pony escapades of WWE were too much for him to tow any longer, so instead of wasting the promotion’s time and money he opted to step away while he still had the opportunity to do so. While it is questionable whether or not his actions were professional or appropriate, we fans cannot forget that Brooks’ sanity and physical well-being are the most important factors to consider. Brooks also mentioned that he was suffering from a yet to be diagnosed illness that has plagued him for some time, noting that the hectic WWE schedule did not allow time for him or doctors to even figure out what he’s afflicted with.
All of these important factors are at play, but as impassioned fans living in the 21st Century we find comfort in imposing our experiences on others or situations outside of our own reality. We see the world in a particular way and expect everyone else to see it as we do. Very few will express their own thoughts as such, and will acquiesce to popular notions that have validity but are strewn about without context or constructive criticism. So while Phil Brooks talks about his health, about how he’s good friends with Dave Batista, about how Daniel Bryan is a top talent and how he’s faring financially, the only thing we fans have focused on is CM Punk’s opinion of the direction of the company. It’s CM Punk’s opinion that validates our opinions about the company, justifies our hatred for the company, and feeds into our insatiable need and desire to rage against the WWE machine.
People in general have always had a problem with being told or directed to do something, feel something, or be something they don’t desire to do or be of their own will. It’s almost as if humans are rebellious by nature; even speaking in biblical terms, the first humans created disobeyed one simple instruction for seemingly no other reason than the notion that they were convinced they knew better than the omnipotent being that created them.
Teenagers disobey their parents, employees disobey their employers, and consumers disregard the piracy warnings issued by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). This reality of life is seen more clearly in our relationship today with the federal government of the United States, particularly the President Obama Administration. People truly feel as if the government under the current administration is creeping more and more into the private lives of citizens and civilians, even though this process in numerous ways started well before the current presidential administration (*cough couch PATRIOT ACT*).
It is often said that art imitates life; if this is true, and entertainment is a form of art, the there’s no wonder why the current storyline of choice for the top two wrestling promotions in the country deals heavily with corrupt authority figures and the “victims” of such cruel regimes fighting against the grain that is attempting to hold them down and force them to do things they don’t want to do. In an extreme case of blurring the lines between the real and scripted, Phil Brooks’ sudden departure from the company, along with the current Authority storyline and the exclusion of Daniel Bryan from the actual Royal Rumble match, feeds into our already deeply rooted suspicions that the company is simply out to control its workers and hold back (or down) certain workers that “deserve” better than what they’re currently receiving. Brooks’ departure gives us one more reason to despise the machine, to protest violently with ultimatums and coarse language we believe will force the machine to change its ways.
Even Brooks’ admitted in his “Pipe Bomb” promo three years ago that the machine would continue its forward locomotion without him, one spoke on one wheel of a massive contraption equipped with many spare wheels and spokes. With this one spoke currently gone from the WWE, not much will change especially since it seems as if the fans (and perhaps Vince McMahon) were the only ones who recognized just how important that spoke was in the grand scheme of things.
What we can appreciate about Brooks’ departure is the fact that it calls us fans to task for contributing to the machine, which places us in the all too familiar spot of hypocrisy that wrestling fans vacation in as much as newlyweds visit the Bahamas on their honeymoons. We hate the machine for what it did to CM Punk and justify the ludicrously high advertising rates paid to the promotion by watching their shows almost every day of the week. We despise the machine for not catering to our passing fancies and squeal with girlish glee as we wait for the launch of the WWE Network. We messed ourselves silly when we found out Dave Batista was returning to the company and messed ourselves angrily when he won the Royal Rumble. We wrestling fans, collectively speaking, are just big ass buckets of contradictions.
By choosing to walk out of the WWE, Phil Brooks sent a sobering message straight to the hearts of WWE fans worldwide that should be more important than any shoot promo he delivered during a televised WWE broadcast. The business is not immune from the same politics and bulls**t that we encounter on a regular basis, even to the extent where we know that real change may be impossible to achieve due to the massive nature of the institutions we operate in. But the thing that defines who we are and where we stand is our activity or inactivity when facing opposition.
If we don’t like being told to cheer for Batista’s main event match at WrestleMania 30, then all of us should make sure that the promotion’s biggest and most important pay per view of the year gets the lowest buyrate and turnout in the history of WWE. If we don’t like the fact that wrestlers like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler are being “underutilized or buried,” then we should all head over to Shop.WWE.com and purchase as much of their apparel as we possibly can. If we don’t like the fact that the muscle-bound Greek god-like wrestlers are pushed and promoted more so than the true workers, we should invest more of our time in watching shows like NXT to see how the next crop of wrestlers are actually very far from being the larger-than-life stars that dominated the promotion’s product in the past.
If we truly want to support bonafide wrestlers and superstars like Phil Brooks and Chris Spradlin, we’ll follow their careers outside of the WWE with the same fervor and passion we did when they while they showcased their finely honed skills within the confines of Vince McMahon’s squared circle.
It’s perfectly fine for us to be frustrated and pissed off about the current direction of the product and the release of our favorite superstars. The bottom line is that if we stay too focused and mired in the mess of what has happened, we are not empowered and inspired to do what we can as fans to look toward the future of the business and the WWE’s product.
Take the following closing thought as you go about your day: while most fans were extremely upset about Daniel Bryan’s exclusion from the Royal Rumble match, they completely ignored the fact that both Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns had very impressive showings during the pay per view. The departure of CM Punk from the company leaves one hell of a spot open for either Reigns or Wyatt to assume and make the most of …
… but we’d never know, because we’re too busy being pissed off that the machine keeps holding people down … even if the show must truly roll on …
For what it’s worth, Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling wasn’t as disastrous as it has been or could have been. Sure we here at L.E.W.D. give TNA more hell than what seems necessary, but as it was mentioned to me by a dear friend on Twitter, a broken clock is right two times a day. Backhanded compliments aside, there’s no real reason to be crass when all is right in Dixieland. The show was aight, as the young people say.
To say the show was “aight,” however, is not to excuse it from critique or constructive criticism. While one can always nitpick and find reasons to be upset, there’s still the prevalence of unanswerable questions that can plague a product easily, hovering over the landscape like vultures waiting to feast on the carrion decaying below. And believe you me there’s plenty of dead flesh to go around.
For starters, TNA has chosen to begin its #RealNewEra with a familiar face in pro wrestling history. As we’re all well aware Montel Vontavius Porter—also known as MVP—was revealed as the company’s new investor. We can all expect the “TNA is hiring former WWE wrestlers” accusation to follow, but there’s no siding with TNA when they continue to … well … hire former WWE wrestlers. And here’s where the gift and curse of WWE steps into the arena.
A good number of fans hate the fact that the WWE machine takes indy wrestlers, strips them of the identities they crafted prior to joining the company, and gives them completely different (and sometimes terrible) gimmicks that change the character the diehard fans came to know and love. Over a period of time, these gifted athletes athletes take these gimmicks and actually make them work. Unfortunately for fans a wrestler becomes known for his or her most popular gimmick, the gimmick they crafted and honed, becomes just as much a part of them as their very own face; for fans it’s difficult and impossible to separate the character from the real person and their most popular gimmick from the company they utilized it in.
While it’s very true that MVP actually began his nationally televised wrestling career in TNA as Antonio Banks, his rise to notoriety happened as MVP in the WWE’s massive shadow; and even though MVP owns the rights to the name he used in WWE (hence why he can be referred to as MVP in TNA), and even though he’s spent a significant amount of time wrestling and making a name for himself in Japan, most fans will only remember him for the time he spent in World Wrestling Entertainment as Montel Vontavius Porter. That’s a stigma that can’t be removed easily from a former WWE Superstar/Diva that has spent more than a cup of coffee on one of the main rosters.
On the flip side is the fact that there was no way TNA could’ve filled the new investor’s position with a name that fans weren’t familiar with. MVP is a great choice, especially given his notoriety in Japan and TNA’s growing relationship with Japan’s Wrestle-1 promotion. But what we’re seeing, what we’re getting is yet another power struggle storyline that is as intricately woven into the very fabric of the company as the “pro wrestling” they showcase regularly.
So once again the promotion is in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation; fans are told that there’s a #RealNewEra that arrived with the two-part Genesis free pay-per-view, but here we are with a familiar face locked in another power struggle storyline with the company’s president while the asylum’s inmates meander through overbooked dusty finishes and gimmick matches. It seems that only the players have changed and the game is still very much the same. All things being equal, TNA is still in its #ReconstructionEra more so than anything else, still working feverishly to fine tune its identity as they lurch forward into 2014; one month down, eleven more to go.
Here’s what stuck out to me while watching the show:
- The Glasgow Crowd and Taking the Show On the Road
- Samoa Joe Out for Blood
- Samuel Shaw …
- We’ve Got the Wrong Idea About Magnus
The first stop on TNA’s UK tour was Glasgow, Scotland. The annual UK tour is typically the highlight of the promotion’s year, as the UK fans tend to be more … shall we say excited … about TNA and its product than North American fans.
We all know why TNA was forced to bring IMPACT Wrestling back to Orlando, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the product comes off far more entertaining and exciting when the promotion visits its fans instead of having make merry jaunts down to Orlando. It also helped them to have filmed the show in an arena that was larger than somebody’s backyard …
Kudos and thanks to the fans who gathered in the SSE Hydro in Glasgow for the first pro wrestling event in the arena since its completion in September 2013. You guys were a welcome breath of fresh air from the tourists in Orlando who’d sit on their hands even if Jesus Christ returned in the middle of a Dixie Carter in-ring segment.
With Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles, and Sting reportedly “gone” from TNA and IMPACT Wrestling, a void has been created for wrestlers eager to grasp the elusive brass ring of main event. In some ways TNA has also suffered from the same problem that plagues other wrestling promotions, taking far too few steps in cultivating main event talent as time passes on.
Enter Samoa Joe.
Joe’s utilization as of late has been mostly underwhelming, but the absence of hard-hitting heavyweight star power has created a perfect situation for Joe to rise to the occasion, bringing a different type of intensity and seriousness to TNA’s main event scene.
The Samoa Joe character creates an intrigue for me that could not be seen with Magnus’ other opponents on his road to glory. Magnus versus Jeff Hardy seemed flat, while Magnus versus AJ Styles seemed forced; Magnus versus Sting just honestly felt unnecessary.
But Magnus versus Samoa Joe—a pissed off and relentlessly vicious Samoa Joe at that—forces me to sit on the edge of my couch to watch how violent things could get. Given how Magnus’ character is being defined (poorly in my estimation, but we’ll get to that later), I find myself wanting to see him escape the seemingly inevitable onslaught of kicks, body blows and submissions that Joe unmercifully barrages his opponents with. To say it differently, it was easy to believe that Magnus could overcome anything thrown at him by Hardy, Styles and Sting. Can Magnus overcome an onslaught from Samoa Joe … I want to see him accomplish this even though I have no doubt that he will eventually come out on top of this feud.
That’s the thing that makes pro wrestling and sports entertainment exciting for fans. While MMA fans often go in on how “fake” pro wrestling is and how much more “real” MMA is, wrestling fans are less concerned with who wins the match and tend to be more concerned with how a particular athlete wins a match. I’d compare the art of pro wrestling to the “sweet science” of boxing. Any yahoo can throw a punch, but it takes an artist to know when to throw a particular punch with a certain amount of power and speed that creates those classic KOs or scorecard decisions that give us reason to cheer.
This isn’t to say the same art or science isn’t present or prevalent in MMA, I just personally get the feeling that MMA fights are simply two guys or gals trying to beat each other up. It’s hard work, it’s taxing on the body and requires years of training and discipline that the rest of us cream puffs can’t even think about doing without having an asthma attack; the same is true for pro wrestling, and one doesn’t have to lust for blood in order to understand that the hows of a pinfall or submission are just as important, if not more, than the pinfall or submission itself.
I think about all of this when I imagine Joe being the man threatening Magnus’ reign as TNA World Heavyweight Champion. The Samoa Joe character has been stale for some time and hasn’t been involved in too many noteworthy feuds or matches, but taking the character back to basics and unleashing that fury on Magnus is must-see TV for TNA and its fans. I have to give them kudos and credit for that.
I have very specific feelings about the Samuel Shaw character, feelings and thoughts that aren’t shared by most fans who enjoy the character and feel as if this type of character is great and refreshing in “the business” altogether. The Shaw character is different and unique, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying his development is akin to winning $7,000 in a scratch off.
Most fans are all excited that Samuel Shaw is a take off from Patrick Bateman, the character made famous by Christian Bale’s stunning performance in the motion picture American Psycho, and not by Bret Easton Ellis’ classic and controversial 1991 novel. After seeing the very first video introducing the repackaged Shaw character, I felt that the comparisons to American Psycho, particularly the Christian Bale depiction of Patrick Bateman in the movie, were superficial at best.
To begin, we can’t ignore the fact that with his hair slicked back and to the side, Samuel Shaw kinda resembles Bale’s Patrick Bateman:
Other than that … the buck pretty much stops there.
Patrick Bateman, as depicted by Christian Bale in the film adaptation of American Psycho, was a wealthy yuppie investment banker living in 1980′s New York who, after engaging fellow yuppies in conversation about high fashion, business, and elitism, would exact his psychopathic fantasies on unsuspecting colleagues and hookers. He was obsessed with his looks and his physique, he had a eerily vast knowledge of ’80s pop music and icons, and either wore expensive three piece business suits or trounced around naked as he killed his victims. Not to mention that often times when he killed people he was loud and made quite a mess.
Excuse the following language, but how the f**k did Samuel Shaw exhibit any of that during his repackaged video???
If anything, and the word anything is highly stressed at this point, the Samuel Shaw character is a hybrid of Christian Bale’s depiction of Patrick Bateman and the Dexter Morgan character made extremely popular by Michael C. Hall’s performances in the Showtime TV series Dexter, which is also based off a series of novels by author Jeff Lindsay.
If you’ve seen the Dexter series, you’d immediately recognize some of Samuel Shaw’s traits and characteristics. Blood splatter analyst by day and serial killer by night, Dexter Morgan has a dark history that gave birth to his insatiable desire to kill.
Taught at an early age to channel that thirst in a way beneficial to both him and society at large, Dexter uses investigative techniques and stealth to locate his targets (usually criminals who evaded the long arm of the law), kidnap them, and execute them all while making sure to cover all tracks that could lead to his own eventual arrest and execution.
The way Dexter incapacitates his targets is pretty awesome; after confirming that his intended target is truly guilty of committing an unsolved crime or was not truly brought to justice for committing a particularly gruesome crime, Dexter will make physical contact with the person under an alias in order to learn their habits and scope out a way to kidnap and murder them undetected.
Once he’s completed his reconnaissance, he infiltrates their location and puts them to sleep by using a specific drug delivered to their body using a hypodermic needle …
Yes … Dexter puts his victims to sleep before kidnapping them. Oh, and he does so by wearing the nifty little outfit you see in the picture to the right of this paragraph … the outfit that looks oddly similar to the get up Samuel Shaw wears during his matches:
It is also worth noting that Dexter is typically calm, cool, and collected when making his kills. Although prone to sudden outbursts of anger, Dexter typically keeps himself under control when out on a kill or even living his life as a father, widower, brother, and Miami Police Department consultant.
All this is to say that the Shaw character was probably inspired by several different sources, most of which have little to do with American Psycho. It still remains to be seen if the Shaw character will make highly anticipated waves in TNA expected by some, but at least the promotion is stretching and flexing its creative juices by capitalizing on the creepy and unnerving characters that are more cerebral and calculated in their actions and demeanor. I’d love to see more of the character, especially in the mid-card division which seems to be lacking direction and attention (hi, X-Division and TV Championship!), but right now the focus is squarely on the main event scene and ending the Hogan/Bischoff/Prichard Era storylines.
I really despise the fact that Magnus is constantly referred to as the “paper champion.” Logically, I also realize it is a way (as far as the “storyline” is concerned) for characters to taunt and get under the champion’s skin, a method in which they can psych out the champion and force him to make rash and foolish decisions as he attempts to legitimize his championship reign.
If we briefly recall the aforementioned thoughts on how a scripted match is won as opposed to whether or not a win is scripted, it’s the little things in a pro wrestling bout that can make or break an intended storyline or character’s development. In regards to a “paper” champion, there’s a stark difference between Magnus being given his championship reign and Magnus being protected during his championship reign. Magnus, for all intents and purposes, is being protected during his championship reign which calls for an entirely different type of heat than what he’s receiving as we’re conditioned to believe he never deserved the top spot at all.
It cannot be denied that Magnus’ climb up the TNA World Heavyweight Title Tournament ladder was riddled with suspicious fluke victories. It cannot be denied that interference from Rockstar Spud lead to Magnus’ victory over Jeff Hardy to win the TNA World Heavyweight Title. It can’t be denied that tons of wrestlers helped him defeat both AJ Styles and Sting, enabling him to retain his title and usher both men out of the company
for the time being.
The interesting thing about pro wrestling is how we perceive a match or storyline, taking what we hear and see as the end all be all without attempting to understand what we know about what we have heard and seen. For example: Ladder Matches and Steel Cage Matches are also No Disqualification Matches because authorities acknowledge the fact that wrestlers can use the same tool they need to win the match (the ladder and the cage) as a weapon. If the combatants in a No DQ match cannot be disqualified, they are extremely susceptible to outside interference, which is exactly what happened in Magnus’ match against Jeff Hardy for the World Heavyweight Championship. Hell, Magnus was also attacked in that same match!
When Rockstar Spud pushed Jeff Hardy off of the ladder on the ramp, his actions had more to do with not wanting Jeff Hardy to win more than their desire to see Magnus as the champ. In the end, Magnus was able to climb the ladder and grasp the title when Jeff Hardy was not; as much as we can say that Magnus would’ve never won the title without their help, we have to remember that “anything goes” in a No DQ Match. Utilizing help in a No DQ Match is just as “unethical” as smashing a man’s face against a steal cage or smacking him with a ladder.
When Magnus faced AJ Styles it was unbearable to see the Styles character portrayed as the face while Magnus was placed to be the heel defending his rightly earned title. The AJ Styles character is the one that abdicated his position as champion by leaving the company; the AJ Styles character was the former champion stripped of his title, thus vacating the championship and legitimizing the tournament for that championship. Yet here Styles is, goading the champion into a match that he (Styles) honestly didn’t deserve and shouldn’t have received by preying on Magnus’ inferiority complex as a competitor and a champion. Once again, Styles accepts fighting the real champion in a No DQ Match, and fans are “furious” when outside interference occurs. Exact same situation when Magnus faced and defeated Sting.
Let it be known that I may be one of the few people that like Magnus as champ, as he’s been hailed as the future of TNA since his debut some odd six years ago. What I find peculiar about his reign is the underlying notion that he hasn’t truly earned his spot or the championship, that he was handed all of his opportunities while the other “hard-working, more deserving” wrestlers fell victim to Dixie Carter’s reign of terror that only manifested as such since she received more on-screen time. He’s being depicted as a weak champion for sure, leading some of us fans to question whether or not this is good for the character and Nick Aldis’ TNA career. One can only hope that this direction won’t damage Magnus’ credibility as a main event start.
Take WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan as an example. A large contingent of fans would and could successfully argue that the way Bryan is being booked now is atrocious, particularly in light of Batista’s Royal Rumble win one week ago. Many pundits have argued that Bryan is booked as being weak and his character is being buried or misused by WWE top brass and creative. These accusations have led many to comment that if Bryan doesn’t headline WrestleMania 30 or fails to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion before WrestleMania 30, then all is lost for any hope in the character, the person Bryan Danielson, and the WWE for being something different than what his has historically been for over five decades.
Magnus is in a similar situation. After cutting his teeth and paying his dues in TNA for some years, the way the character is now portrayed as champion is simply ridiculous. The Dixieland/New Investor storyline has more weight and prominence than Magnus’ reign as champion, both AJ Styles and Sting were booked as super huge babyfaces on their way out of the company while Magnus was booked as a weak champion, and the magnitude of Magnus’ reign as champion has been dwarfed by the news of people leaving the company, the speculation of where they’ll end up next, and the importance and weight of a name well-known outside of TNA coming into TNA to “set things straight with such a crooked company.” How does any of this make Magnus look like he deserves to be in the spot that he’s in, and what does it all say about this #RealNewEra where the younger stars are being primed to lead the company into the future?
Again, we can only wait and see how things unfold for Magnus and Nick Aldis. I just feel like we’re getting a substandard push for Magnus, a push that could’ve started as something far more exciting and jaw-dropping than what it has been so far. Seriously: Magnus was the first ever British World Heavyweight Champion in 100 years, and people were more flabbergasted about the two falls Jeff Hardy took in their Dixieland Match than they were about him winning the championship.
But alas, those are just my thoughts. What are yours?
I was out on a morning troll when I came across some fantasy booking on a pro wrestling fan site. A commenter creates a unique storyline for a real-life development occurring in a promotion, and before completing his/her opening statement drops the following jewel in the middle of it all:
… push the guys the fans want to see …
Needless to say this comment and the thought process intrigued me enough to bring it to our lovely L.E.W.D. shores for an insightful and invigorating conversation.
With no offense or ill will intended for the commenter or the site they drafted their opinion on, it’s quite fascinating how people tend to operate more often than not off of their feelings without giving consideration to the context of their feelings or the experiences of those around them. All that is to say that this notion of “pushing the guys the fans want to see” tends to come off extremely shortsighted because there several underlying assumptions that are never addressed or considered when speaking about pushing the guys the “fans want” to see.
And there it is; the two most important words in that statement are “fans want.” Whether one stands to admit it or not, our hopes and expectations about a given pro wrestling product are intricately bound by the idea that corporations give consumers what consumers want. To an extent that is true, but it can be quite misleading for the fan that has quietly assimilated into the Generation ME lifestyle.
Corporations don’t give consumers what consumers want; corporations sell consumers what consumers are willing to pay for. When this process happens long enough, we become “convinced” that the corporation is “giving” us what we “want.” No matter how many miles one walks and how many pounds one wants to shed, McDonald’s will still continue to sell Big Macs because people are still willing to buy Big Macs.
As we’ve said many times on this site before, it’s all about money. These United States of America are ruled by the color green; we are all capitalists and there are more companies (and individuals) than not who give more of a damn about profit margins than they do about what you and I want. Companies provide a particular product or service for a price, and the ebb and flow of their business models shift and surge depending solely on what they can get consumers to buy. The more money a product or service can bring in, the more it’ll be shoved into our faces accompanied with advertising and marketing intentionally designed to convince us “this is what we want, this is what we need” in order to do x-y-z in life.
The same rule of thumb applies to a given wrestling promotion; a promotion will offer fans someone they’ll pay to see, which sometimes can be the person that fans “want” to see. When that doesn’t happen, however, a lot of hurt feelings and raw emotions are expressed via the interweb. The reality of it all is that just because fans want to see a particular star doesn’t necessarily mean those same fans (or other fans) are willing to pay to see that star in a prominent position.
The tragic part of it all is that consumers often “want” something more deeper and intricate than what they’re given or what they’re told they want.
Let’s take everyone’s favorite broski Zack Ryder as an example. Three years ago Ryder successfully utilized social media to gain a very vocal cult following. Fans rallied behind Ryder enough to the point where he was given a safe and solid push from the powers that be. At the time there was no doubt that Zack Ryder was someone that a lot of fans “wanted to see,” and that was never really in question.
The question was whether or not we would pay to see Zack Ryder in a more prominent role higher than the mid-card. As exceptional a talent as Zack Ryder is, it became obvious that the same legion of fans who rallied for his push were also the same ones who wouldn’t put enough green down for him to have more than a cup of coffee in the upper mid-card. Our response to such instances is to blame the promotion, but a promotion can’t financially survive off of feeding into the fans’ fleeting emotions.
The other perspective to consider as fans is whether or not we understand completely the vast spectrum of fandom that exists inside of pro wrestling. Not all fans are alike and not all fans “like” or “want” the same thing. We often speak of ourselves in blanket terms without even thinking of the differences of opinion that are present among us. Every time a fan chants “Let’s go Cena,” they’re greeted by a resounding chorus of “Cena Sucks!” responses. As cute and enchanting as the dueling chants can be, it also shows us in very simple terms that wrestling fans don’t always think alike. We’re a dynamic group of individuals who can collectively enjoy and critique the product while also having uniquely different ideas that explain why we like or dislike the product.
To blithely say or assume that a promotion should push guys “fans want to see” is to also assume, without saying, that all fans want to see one particular wrestler and that all fans will pay to see that same wrestler. No matter how we look at “the business,” it’s a form of entertainment that moves along with what consumers are willing to pay to see. With fans having varying tastes that can literally change overnight without notice, the guys fans want to “see” could switch at any given time plus the fact that there may be six to seven different guys that different fans want to “see” pushed.
On July 12, 2012, Austin Aries defeated Bobby Roode to become the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion at the Destination X pay per view. Aries’ reign came after he received a strong push upon his return to TNA which also led to a reinvigorated X-Division. Aries’ reign, however, lasted all of three months by the time he was defeated by Jeff Hardy at Bound for Glory that same year.
Over one year later in July 2013, well-known X-Division star Chris Sabin defeated Bully Ray to win his very first TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Sabin’s reign came after his return to TNA in May 2014 after recuperating from his second ACL injury. Sabin’s reign lasted less than a month as he lost the title to the former champion.
Both Aries and Sabin were fan favorites that fans wanted to “see” receive a push. With so much fervor behind them, why is it that their combined reigns lasted less than half a year? Even more sobering is the fact that the combined five reigns of Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray lasted for over a year and two months.
We can assume that Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray had more drawing power as champs, or we could blame the powers that be for not putting their all behind pushing the guys “fans wanted to see.” Whichever direction we decide to drift towards we cannot deny or ignore that the preeminent names in TNA between 2011 and 2012 were Hardy and Bully Ray; it wasn’t so much that the machine invested in them heavily (which is a part of the situation), but it also had to do with the fact that both men were individuals people paid good money to see and less to do with whether fans by and large “wanted” to see them per se.
To wrap things up, we cannot forget that “the business” is out to make money and cannot realistically operate by floating precariously on the whims of a fickle fan base. At the end of the day, we are paying (in most cases) these promotions to entertain us, and as a large and varied group of consumers these promotions must put players in place that will generate revenue to keep their businesses barreling towards the black and not moon walking towards the red. Because our likes are varied and because our likes change as often as folks change their drawes [sic], it’d be completely asinine for any promotion with the good sense given to them at birth to operate solely and completely off of what fans “say” they want at a given minute, especially if that particular fan base is miniscule and fair weather in nature … case in point …
We fans have a right to like what we like; we fans also have a right to expect a promotion to entertain us when we’re paying them to do so. But we must be realistic when viewing the product, understanding that guys the fans want to see pushed also have to be the guys fans will pay to see pushed. All the chants and petitions and crowd signs in the world won’t move a promotion’s top brass as much as revenue will. Period.
Before I fill this post with reasons and excuses, I invite you to listen to my thoughts on the 2014 edition of the Royal Rumble as well as the prospect of the upcoming WrestleMania XXX.
Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions in the comment section below.
I was over my best friend’s house a while back, watching the WWE 50 or whatever it’s called documentary. One thing struck me. It started out as a historical retelling of how Vince’s father started the company and how Vince made it international. It told everything from the first champion to like the Attitude Era… then it became this touting of achievements like the company going public and having so many tentacles in so many different things. The reality in wrasslin, like everything is: You can be jack of all trades… but you’ll also be master of none.
WWE wants everyone’s money. They’re a business, I’m not mad at that ambition. However, for a worldwide entity? WWE’s peak was 12 million viewers for Raw. Out of a world of seven billion people. I believe there is a correlation between losing two thirds of your audience and trying to take over the world of entertainment. For wrestling fans, we cringe at being told what we’re watching isn’t wrestling, it’s entertainment. These thoughts all came to me as I thought about how many of WWE’s talents shouldn’t be taken seriously. So many dancing gimmicks and The Great Khali and Hornswoggle and Santino. It’s always been this way, but it’s different now.
I remember in the overrated Attitude Era, Mark Henry fathered a hand. An Asian man wanted to ‘choppy choppy’ Val Venis’ ‘pee pee’. (Which is SOOOOOOOOOOO racist. OMG) You had Too Cool and Rikishi dancing around and stuff. See? It was insanity. But… where it was different, is that the FOCUS was on the wrestling! Pro wrestling in America IS WWE. You can be a better wrestling fan than me and force yourself to watch TNA, ROH and indy/overseas promotions… for me wrestling = WWE. I think for a LOT of people it’s the same thing. This means: WWE’s job is to be everything to everyone. And I think they’re doing an ok job at that. But it would be better for all involved if they focused on the wrestling.
There was a marketing push that someone came up with somewhere that was like “Wrestling Matters”. It was a blatant knock on WWE that the wrestling was no longer what was important or what they wanted you to remember. Flash back to the first paragraph. From the sixties into early 2000s the most important thing in WWE was the moments inside the squared circle. Then it became important to expand the programming and the media. Make movies. Have guys all over tv and radio promoting the product. Sell merch and create apps and all these other things that don’t bother me until I’m fucking watching two people I have no fucking reason to give a fuck about fucking wrestle and the whole fucking time Michael Cole is talking about other sports and making ‘pop culture references’ arguing with JBL and plugging appearances and the fucking WWE App. OH AND WHAT A MATCH WHEN THE PACE PICKS UP AND THERE ARE A FEW CONSECUTIVE NEAR FALLS INDICATING NOW IT’S TIME FOR THE WRESTLING TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ON OUR MINDS!!!
The WWE’s imperialist ambitions bleed through its DVDs and Blurays, its commentary, everything they’re doing. Again… I’m not mad, except that I think they never kill the Daniel Wyatt angle because Michigan State decided to have a stadium wide YES chant if they don’t care too much about their cross-cultural reach. I know many of you have forgotten that the best thing about the Nexus demolition of John Cena and CM Punk and the ring etc… was Daniel Bryan strangling Justin Roberts with his tie, then getting fired for being “too violent” This doesn’t happen if WWE isn’t worried about losing its PG rating and losing sponsors. Which again, I’m not mad at.
What pisses me the fuck off is that WWE doesn’t care about its fans as much as how much money they can make… which is none if it has no fans. Daniel Bryan is not going to be world champion anytime soon, which is what the fans want. If not him, then CM Punk. Rumors persist that at Mania, neither one of them will be in the main event. We’re going to get something involving the likes of Batista or Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton. I like all of those guys. But EYE want CM Punk. Chances are, you reading this want Daniel Bryan… and none of that matters. And we’re still going to go out and buy the WWE Network so we can load up on old content from when wrestling mattered and watch every Raw and SmackDown and bitch about how much it has changed and stayed the same.
Hulk Hogan is my favorite superstar of all time. He sucks. There were so many better WRESTLERS in the company in his day. Sound familiar? I still make the argument that if he never went to WCW, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels have less world titles on their resume. Just like the Cenas, Ortons, Lesnars, Batistas etc are blocking Bryan and Punk. Have you ever thought about all the guys from that era that never rose above the midcard level, like a British Bulldog, Owen Hart, Mr. Perfect, Rick Rude etc? In THIS era they’d all have gotten a few world titles. So in THAT sense, things are better. Where it’s worse is how worthless being in the midcard is.
Earlier, I alluded to how many comedy acts there are in WWE. Santino Marella has been an Intercontinental Champion on multiple occasions. In case you don’t remember, the longest reigning IC champ is some Elvis impersonator called “The Honky Tonk Man”. Anyway… nowadays it isn’t very common to see a guy rise to main event status and go after a midcard singles title. Dean Ambrose hasn’t defended the US title in forever. Big E Langston took the IC title off some jabroni named Curtis Axel and has been defending it against jabronis. They’re talking of unifying the belts by Elimination Chamber. It elevates the title and the titlist if they start defending it against main event level stars who aren’t in the main event at the moment. ie: Daniel Bryan and CM Punk.
Also… I’ve been clamoring for some time now for WWE to create a midcard belt for its smaller competitors… Bryan can win that too. Back in the day, WCW’s best matches featured future world champions like Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, and Rey Mysterio wrestling as cruiserweights. I think this would be a good way to make wrestling more important. An argument can be made that having a little person belt makes more of a delineation between who can and can’t main event… and I call bullshit. Daniel Bryan is short and is a three time world champion.
Overall: When I turn on wrestling, I want to see wrestling. I want the commentators to talk wrestling while the wrestlers wrestle. I think that it would be best for business if WWE stops trying to distance itself from the fact that its chief business is wrestling. Then, I believe business would pick up.
Because I’m a hypocrite, I’m going to write as though I did not excoriate WWE creative for having Daniel Bryan join the Wyatt Family last week. I’ve been seeing a lot of things echoing the points that I made, but missing the positive spin I tacked on at the very end. Because I am committed to watching five hours of WWE every week, one way or another I will give shit a chance. And I feel as though many are not seeing the bigger picture here.
First off, I’m not backing off of my stance that Daniel Bryan can never be the face of the WWE. That, at BEST he will be Mick Foley, a guy who had a lot of memorable matches and moments but not necessarily remembered as THE guy. Not considered the best. And that’s ok. I’m not one of the binary thinkers who considers everything classic or trash with no in between.
That said, I DO acknowledge that Daniel Bryan has embedded himself as one of the top five acts in WWE today. If the world were a meritocracy, he should be WWE World Heavyweight Champion TODAY. But, alas, our world is NOT fair, so… he’s not. At this moment, he is still a notch below MY guy, CM Punk as that guy who SHOULDN’T get the big push, but will because he’s just that damn good. “Pipebomb” aside, Punk has this edge to him that Daniel does not and THAT is what excites me about this angle!
When CM Punk turned heel at Raw 1000 we all knew what that meant: He was being thrown to the likes of Cena, Ryback and The Rock. Right now, after Randy Orton and The Shield, what top heels are there to work with? The Wyatts are being built up now, but they’re no main eventers. Daniel Bryan IS. Just off association, he raises the level of Bray Wyatt. I didn’t think that WWE was going to have Bryan join the group, but now that he has, it adds to the creep factor. CM Punk has an innate ability to work an audience whether he’s heel or face, so I’m looking to see if Bryan can use this angle to continue his momentum.
A lot of people are saying this ‘heel turn’ is WWE trying to kill his momentum. I am one of those people. The more I think about it, however, the more I realize, CM Punk never stopped getting good crowd heat. This past Monday, the sense that the crowd was still behind Bryan AND felt betrayed by him was portentous of how if this is done right, Bryan will be hotter than ever before! After all, Bryan’s first title reign was as a heel and that’s when the ‘YES’ chants started. Between then and now he has vacillated between heel, face and tweener. Crowd heat white hot. Let’s be real, we wrasslin fans are some complaining ass cynics. WWE has hurt us too many times. But… they’ve done right by us enough times that we keep watching.
My prediction is that this angle may well carry us into SummerSlam where Bryan will likely win the world title again and get screwed Evolution style, irony of ironies, a la Randy Orton. I think it will be cool to see him develop a darker, more twisted edge to his character, and as I have forestated, see Bray rise by association with WWE’s hottest commodity. It’ll be interesting to see if they do an angle where Bryan lays down for Bray, or if they fight and screw him out the belt(s). If this angle blows off by Mania, it was a waste of time. Speaking of which, that’s technically what this is, something to keep Bryan interesting, yet out of the title picture. Not a burial. (Hi, Quinn!)
I wasn’t pleased with how they were booked this past Monday… doing a finish where Harper gets rolled up because he was mad Bryan wanted to get the victory was foolish, in my opinion. Teasing that there will be dissension in the group points towards this breaking down before there can be an appreciable payoff. I’m not saying they should never lose, just it’s too much to have dissension in the ranks WHILE doing the same exact fucking story with The Shield.
Speaking of which, a lot of people are saying Roman Reigns needs to get better at promos to be what WWE wants him to be. I call bullshit. During his entire time with the group, he has been the strong, silent type. In my opinion, it would be a mistake to make him growl or yell Memphis style promos when his soft-spoken yet impactful style fits his look and personality so well. Watch the Piper’s Pit from the Old School Raw and you had Rollins and Ambrose talking cash shit to Piper while Reigns just sat there looking cool, yet intense. When addressed, he told Piper to cut the shit or he’ll beat his ass, more or less. Simple, but effective. Sometimes, less is more.
Related/unrelated: When are we going to see Big E Langston get to unleash this charisma I’ve heard so much about him having on NXT and Twitter? Why does WWE give so much mic time to people who suck at promos for different reasons like Orton (boring, droning delivery) and Del Rio (English as second language, seeming lack of charisma) and none to guys who ARE entertaining talkers? Iono, man. To dovetail these last two paragraphs, Big E and Roman could be future rivals for the top of WWE. The charismatic irresistible force versus the stoic immovable object.
Overall, I feel there is way more to be excited about than there is to bitch about. Batista is coming back. Sheamus returning from injury. RVD may re-sign. Brock Lesnar is in the fold. You can see new stars being made, and potentially, current stars being remade. As Daniel Wyatt would say: YES!
WWE.com published an article yesterday that focused on a debate between the website’s editors on the promotion’s next break out star currently wrestling in the NXT Developmental System. Several notable stars are highlighted, all of whom will eventually make a huge splash in the promotion once they debut on the main roster. From one fan’s perspective, there is no reason to doubt that each of the wrestlers listed in the debate will make it to the main roster sometime this year.
Future WWE Superstars like Paige, Sami Zayn, Emma, Aiden English, and Alexander Rusev—just to name a few—are spoken of in glowing terms in what will ultimately serve as their initial introduction to the WWE Universe that pays close attention to happenings on WWE.com, RAW, and Smackdown. Truth be told this list is no where near as comprehensive as it could be, and there are several other NXT stars that deserve mention as fans look forward to the next generation of pro wrestling giants.
The following list, originally compiled on December 29, 2013, is a list of NXT wrestlers that will provide fans with entertaining and exciting action if and when they’re called up to the main roster. These following stars may or may not be making huge waves in NXT at the moment, but they are worthy of being recognized as the slow and subtle winds of change necessary to keep the WWE relevant and fresh.
The criteria for making this list was extremely simple; the rubric is based on the notion that a given wrestling promotion will hire a wrestler based on necessity or potential.
The notion of necessity is the belief that, in this case, the WWE will sign a wrestler to a developmental contract or bring them up to the main roster because that particular wrestler possesses a quality or talent the promotion “needs” at a given moment. Such would be the case for NXT’s Enzo Amore, who could easily fill Santino Marella’s spot as a comic relief babyface if the Milan Miracle retired or was forced out of action indefinitely. This doesn’t take anything away from Amore’s wrestling skills, but his stint so far in NXT has been marked by his quick wit, incredible microphone skills and charisma.
The notion of potential is the belief that the WWE will sign a star or bring them up to the main roster because that wrestler possesses the traits or characteristics to be a future money making cash cow for the company. NXT wrestler Alexander Rusev fits very well in this category, who at 6 feet and 300 pounds can very quickly become the monster heel that dominates the heavyweight division until a “savior” comes along and defeats him for the promotion’s top prize (see: Mojo Rawley).
Before delving into this list, we also must keep in mind that the weekly NXT show is a must watch for any self-respecting fan living in the WWE Universe. The promotion’s next top stars are all cutting their teeth and honing their craft within the black-and-yellow NXT arena at Full Sail University, and while the show is very entertaining (sometimes much more than RAW and Smackdown), it also gives fans something to look forward to as far as the future of the company is concerned. The show is available every Thursday on HuluPlus.com, and you may be able to watch it on Hulu.com without a subscription.
Without further adieu, here’s your L.E.W.D. NXT Scouting Report:
It’s no secret that someone here at L.E.W.D. has a fond liking of this particular future superstar. At 6’0, 210 pounds, this brawler from the United Kingdom would remind fans of Fit Finlay with his hard-hitting and relentless arsenal. The former star, known as Martin Stone across the pond, could be the superstar the WWE needs to build up other wrestlers on the road to WWE fame and fortune. While Burch has no obvious flaws that would keep him off the main roster, he could suffer from the same fate that plagues most wrestlers released from their developmental contracts: Burch’s talent would be swallowed up by the “system” that dominates the WWE’s product, a “system” that pushes and promotes looks over talent more often than not.
WWE is in dire need of stars that can help build up the John Cena/Hulk Hogan-like stars that have become synonymous with sports entertainment and pro wrestling, but the promotion rarely keeps more than a handful of these stars around as on-screen talent. Burch could make a future star look like a million bucks in the same way Shawn Michaels has always brought the best out of John Cena. At this point, however, Burch hasn’t been given the time to develop a character outside of the dependable work horse that he is (see: Chavo Guerrero).
The other down side to a Burch main-show appearance is that the WWE product isn’t currently in “need” of a work horse with Burch’s style and looks. This isn’t to say that Burch couldn’t be an addition to the main roster, but rather that his ruffian, hooligan look wouldn’t work well with the streamlined, three-piece suit, Hollywood good-looks feel of the current WWE roster. The Wyatt Family and Daniel Bryan currently hold the distinction of being the promotion’s “rough-around-the-edges” characters, which would leave Burch directionless and jobber material equivalent to TNA’s Fernum and Barnes. The same logic applies to the WWE’s decision to pass on ROH’s Briscoe Brothers; while incredibly gifted and talented, the team reeks of a swagger that the promotion more than likely doesn’t want at this exact moment.
You can check out one of Danny Burch’s matches here, a match in which he’s in charge of putting over the much ballyhooed Mojo Rawley.
Leo Kruger was a WWE developmental wrestler that suffered from a terribly average look and gimmick while in the promotion’s FCW developmental system. After arriving in the newly designed NXT developmental system, this South African grappler benefited greatly from a persona change and some character development in the same way Damien Sandow did prior to being called up to the main roster. Kruger has the potential of being a big player on the main roster, but his current character may not be as “charismatic” as some may want it to be for prime time television.
Prior to receiving a gimmick as “Adam Rose,” Kruger was billed as a big game hunter from South Africa (i.e. a poacher). His wrestling style was hallmarked by ruthless aggression, a brutal onslaught designed to maliciously hurt and debilitate his opponents. The thing that arguably drew fans into his gimmick—besides his mannerisms, maneuvers, and “woots” while approaching the ring—was his theme music which really makes one feel as if this wrestler was a sinister and devious force to be reckoned with. The thumping bass line and guitar riffs readily let fans know that Kruger is on the hunt for big game:
The awesome thing about Leo Kruger and the Kruger character is being able to marvel at how a wrestler and the promotion can work hand-in-hand when developing a persona that resonates with fans easily, organically and quickly. The whole idea of creating a superstar is not simple and it’s far more involved than letting a wrestler figure out how to get over a character on his/her own. Fans in the WWE Universe can and should applaud stars like Kruger for being able to take a character and make it their own, creating someone that appears to be far more than what most people are and can be in real life. Great wrestlers get our accolades and respect, but superstars get that plus our money and undivided attention. Leo Kruger can do both with great ease.
Click here to see a Leo Kruger promo and try your best not to get too creeped out.
WWE needs a talent like Sylvester Lefort on their main roster.
Primarily utilized as a flashy, money-hungry manager in NXT, the Frenchman known as Sylvester Lefort has a presence that is sure to make you pay attention to whatever happens around him. Lefort has the charisma and delivery that makes you instantly want to despise anyone and anything he represents. He also has a fashion sense that will force you to chuckle and give him five minutes of your time easily.
Lefort, also known as Tom La Ruffa, is a graduate of Lance Storm’s Storm Wrestling Academy, which gives him instant credibility when it comes to his in-ring skills and abilities. While it still remains to be seen whether La Ruffa can give a five-star match, he’s certainly capable of excelling at setting the bar for WWE managers in an era where tons of superstars float aimlessly around the mid-card due to an inability to strike a chord with fans. Think of him as being somewhere in between Zeb Coulter and Vickie Guerrero.
It may also make you feel giddy inside to think of Lefort as a horribly tanned French Macho Man.
WWE.com editor Kara Medalis gave a great synopsis of the promotion’s next breakout Diva, so there’s no need to speak anymore about how her potential is needed in WWE. At the fresh young age of 21, the Norwich, England-born wrestler has honed her craft since her early teenage years. She’s the first and only NXT Women’s Champion (compared to the three NXT Champions as of June 2012), and it’s safe to say that whatever is currently keeping her from being called up to the main roster is a load of crap.
Paige is one of the few WWE wrestlers that should be allowed to keep their developmental gimmick when called up to one of the main shows. The “raven haired anti-Diva,” as she’s often called, could very well usher in an era of women’s wrestling that can successfully showcase all those things that Divas are “supposed to” exhibit each time they step in between the ropes or out on the red carpet. Paige is, first and foremost, a professional wrestler; she also has a unique look and appeal that does not take away from the WWE’s desire for their Divas to look like models while maintaining their athletic edge.
A solid, simple and well-structured (and pushed) feud between Paige and AJ Lee could very well be the second coming of a Trish Stratus/Lita or Trish Stratus/Mickie James feud with waaaay more wrestling athleticism. In fact, a Paige and AJ Lee feud could be the very feud that could make the seemingly impossible possible …
Click here to check out this NXT match between Paige and Natalya for the NXT Women’s Championship.
Bayley is another WWE Diva hopeful that the company needs to bring some athleticism and pure wrestling skills to the beleaguered and model-esque heavy women’s division. While Bayley doesn’t ooze the sex appeal that most WWE Divas are molded to give off, she does have a “girl next door” vibe that would make her an ideal candidate to do media rounds for the promotion involving kids. This California born wrestler would do exceptionally well with encouraging kids—particularly young girls—to read, end bullying, and strive to reach for their dreams and never stop working hard until they reach their goals in life.
Bayley’s current character is reminiscent of a childlike, naive “student of the game” caught in the bright lights of living her dream of being a WWE Superstar and Diva. While the character is very limiting, it doesn’t keep her from executing some smooth and unique maneuvers in the ring. Bayley’s greatest asset, however, is her passion and desire to be the best women’s wrestler in the promotion and to inspire other young girls who want to do the same to continue to strive to live their dreams. Other women athletes within the promotion and NXT may feel the same, but Bayley is able to wear that passion on her sleeve and utilize it each and every time she performs for fans.
Another graduate from Lance Storm’s Storm Wrestling Academy, the former FCW World Heavyweight Champion known as Mike Dalton has also benefited greatly from a character shift.
In the same way Leo Kruger was once a boring, static character, Mike Dalton wrestled as a gifted work horse athlete who gave his all in matches while having his clock cleaned occasionally from other wrestlers who are now on the main roster. When the shift to NXT at Full Sail occurred, Dalton was eventually transformed into a fashion conscious, selfie obsessed jet setting model who has an unhealthy OCD with being hit in the face. The beauty of the Tyler Breeze gimmick is that it feels very organic; Mattias Clement, the 25 year old Canadian playing the Tyler Breeze character, has taken the gimmick and made it his own. A fan could easily get the impression that Clement and Breeze are indeed one person, making it hard to separate the real life Clement from his Breeze character in the same way it’s impossible to separate the John Cena character from the real life John Felix Anthony Cena. That alone gives Breeze huge potential to be a big deal on the main roster.
Once again, there’s a brilliance to making a WWE Superstar and much credit goes to Tyler Breeze for making the most out of what could easily be a stale gimmick. Not only does the character feel “real,” but his moves in the ring also match the gimmick, making Breeze a complete package that’s really only in need of the perfect antagonist. The best way to speak of the Breeze character and Mattias Clement is to compare him to the “Moonchild” CJ Parker character, which honestly feels like a wrestler attempting to portray a hippie wrestler.
Click here to check out Matt Clement’s NXT debut as Tyler Breeze.
Sasha Banks is another California born Diva that possesses the potential to be an excellent addition to the WWE’s Divas division. The Sasha Banks character is currently involved in a NXT storyline with WWE Diva Summer Rae and fellow NXT Diva Charlotte (Ric Flair’s daughter, Ashley) that is pretty much a carbon copy of TNA’s “The Beautiful People” with Angelina Love and Velvet Sky, and WWE’s “Lay-Cool” with Layla and Michelle McCool. With Banks, however, there is an excellent mix of beauty, athleticism, and spitefulness that creates a character fans would long to see get put in her place.
What’s noteworthy about Banks, as well as Bayley and Paige, is that she’s one of several female professional wrestlers currently signed to a WWE developmental contract. Banks and most of her fellow NXT Divas break the notion that the promotion is only concerned with hiring models and training them to be wrestlers.
While one would be stupid not to acknowledge Banks’ looks, a conversation about her cannot be had without discussing her in-ring abilities and the way she can make other Divas look like gold in the ring. To only be 21 years old and have the wherewithal to help create Superstars in the same way as a Danny Burch is an incredible talent to have and to perfect as she gets older. That’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly or for granted as we wait to see whether or not she’s called up to the main roster.
Check out this match between Sasha Banks (pre-heel turn) and the extremely athletic Charlotte during the latter’s debut in NXT. Make sure to pay close attention how Banks works with the very green Charlotte throughout the match to create pure magic for the fans with the Nature Boy’s daughter:
That’s it for this particular NXT Scouting Report. There are tons of other very talented wrestlers that didn’t make this list, which in no way implies that they too aren’t worthy of accolades and attention. But it’s up to us to take note of the up-and-comers within any given promotion; make sure to visit the NXT website often and to check out their show each week on Hulu so you can pick and choose your favorite future WWE Superstar and Diva!
As most fans great the New Year with talk about Daniel Bryan’s heel turn and AJ Styles’ “final” match in TNA, leave it to your disgruntled neighborhood analyst to find something to be pissed off about. Surprise surprise, it’s not all related to happenings in Dixieland!
Say Goodbye to the Bad Guy(s) … and the Good Guy(s)?!?
Vince McMahon made IWC headlines recently by commenting that there were no longer good guys (“babyfaces”) or bad guys (“heels”) in pro wrestling (“sports entertainment”). Upon hearing this news I immediately thought of Vince Russo’s booking method which, while similar in design, did absolute wonders for the fine people down in Orlando, Florida. See: sarcasm.
Most folks that have worked with Vince McMahon, whether they love him or hate him, will readily admit that the man is a machine when it comes to putting in work for the wrestling (“sports entertainment”) industry. The word “genius” has also been used to describe him, and one would be hard pressed to deny the fact that he’s definitely changed the industry into something Frank Gotch would more than likely turn his nose up at. As much as we may despise evil villains, that still does not take away from the fact they’re way smarter than the average bear.
To hear Mr. McMahon make such an absurd statement, in my mind, is to also attest to his brilliance. There is one basic premise in any story, be it told within the confines of a wrestling ring, the pages of a book, or plastered on movie screens across the world: someone is attempting to accomplish something, and someone (or something) is trying to stop them.
Because we humans are simple (at best), this basic story element is portrayed in terms of “good” and “bad.” The “good” guy or gal is trying to get from point A to point B, and the “bad” guy or gal attempts to stop them; period. We all watch in eager anticipation to see whether or not the “good” guy or gal will succeed. We cheer them on and we boo the guy or gal attempting to stop them. For Vince McMahon to deny that such an element is no longer present in pro wrestling storytelling is so insane that it’s absolutely brilliant.
I have a unique theory as to why McMahon’s statement attests to his brilliance: the statement is a cleverly devised ruse that will enable him and his World Wrestling Entertainment machine to squeeze as much juice out of one major cash cow (i.e. John Cena) until the old gray mare ain’t what it used to be.
Look at it like this: if you can convince legions of prepubescent fans and single women that all of the characters in WWE are these weird shades of gray, then there’s no need to hide the fact that the face of your promotion (the John Cena character) is actually a douche.
Cena’s character has done some incredibly heel-ish things for the past few years, and fans still buy his merchandise and cheer him in every grand spectacle of mediocrity he’s featured in. Male fans over the age of fourteen still long for his heel turn, but dammit he’s honestly already a heel! To say it in terms that I’ve used constantly over and over again, the John Cena character is that all-star high school athlete that can get away with everything because everyone knows he’s going to take the school all the way to the state championships. The John Cena character can punt a baby dolphin into a lake of fire and we’ll cheer him like never before.
John Cena stole Zack Ryder’s girlfriend (Eve…remember that storyline?) and then made Ryder apologize. John Cena lost clean to Randy Orton, belittled him for winning, served up Daniel Bryan just because, and then attacked Randy Orton after the match for no real reason other than Orton intentionally getting himself disqualified. Hell, John Cena challenged Randy Orton for the unification match for no real reason either. How long have there been two distinct major champions and he’s just now lobbying to unify the titles?
To be honest this isn’t limited to John Cena. Daniel Bryan’s recent jaunt to the dark side via the Wyatt Family has fans far and wide considering harakiri as an alternative to watching their beloved bearded savior exchange grooming techniques with the WWE’s version of Duck Dynasty.
The reality of the situation is that the only reason the Wyatt Family was considered to be “heels” was because they worked adversely against the “good” guy, Daniel Bryan. What happens now that Bryan, a beloved star, joins the fold and the group actively rallies against the machine represented by The Authority? They instantly become “faces,” even though we’ve all accepted the notion that the faction, as a whole, is inherently evil?
Which leads me to this closing point: as much as McMahon wants us to drink the Kool-Aid and accept the idea that all wrestlers are convenient little shades of ambiguity, the fans will ultimately dictate who the “good” guy is and who the “bad” guy is … even if the promotion wants us to think differently about the situation. In that sense there will always be faces and heels in pro wrestling, and if anyone thinks otherwise then there are two words for them …
The Further Degradation of the Divas Division
As a human being I felt disrespected by the lack of respect shown to the Divas on the December 30 episode of RAW. Once again fans were treated to another ninety-Diva tag match that’s necessary only for the purpose of obtaining B-Roll for Total Divas. It’s ironic when you think about it; they need to show the Total Divas wrestling, so they’re put in arbitrary matches that really don’t showcase their unique talents, skills sets, or personalities.
What bothers me is the perception fans are slowly being conditioned to accept: the only Divas worth mentioning are the Total Divas. The Bella Twins, the Funkadactyls and Eva Marie were all called by name, while their opponents were simply referenced as “The Not Total Divas.”
The ebb and flow of WWE’s treatment of the Divas division is mind boggling to say the least. Yes, the Total Divas show has introduced a whole new demographic to the WWE’s product. Yes, several of the Divas are getting air time they would’ve otherwise not received at all. But at this expense, being relegated to pointless matches that don’t have a purpose on the main shows or on Total Divas?
Real talk: if you want to see the Divas really wrestle, you must watch the secondary and tertiary shows; I’m talking NXT, Main Event, Superstars … other than that, you’ll only get to see the Not Total Divas bop around on RAW and Smackdown.
I’m convinced the powers that be don’t take women’s wrestling seriously because fans don’t take it that seriously either. Both the major U.S. wrestling promotions are failing terribly when it comes to offering something substantial with their women wrestlers, but then again, exactly how many people are chomping at the bit to watch a WNBA playoff game?
Aksana, Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes, Summer Rae, and Kaitlyn all have something special to offer the fans besides being ambassadors and practice Divas for Nikki, Brie, Naomi, Cameron, and Eva Marie. All the Divas train feverishly hard and work their damnedest to get more than just a few minutes to stand on the ring apron or stare up at the ceiling lights.
One would hope and think that a Stephanie McMahon led product would change the game a bit, but I guess the WWE’s limited scope regarding the Divas is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just depressing to know that the last Diva allowed to really to bring something to the product was Mickie James. Well … at least there’s solace in knowing that Paige will debut on the main roster … someday …
Seriously, check out this video about Rosa Mendes’ workout routine that was publicized a bit during last year’s WrestleMania. I’m not advocating for a workout gimmick for Rosa, but I’ll be damned the woman has a personality somewhere that’s worthy of being expressed in a much more fulfilling way than being confused with Fandango’s dance partner.
Mojo Rawley: Your NEXT Larger Than Life WWE Superstar
Here’s an excerpt from a conversation I had with L.E.W.D. Researcher Asherology 101 that took place on January 2:
Mr. Morris: So, my feeling is tht the only reason McMahon said that [the whole “no face/heel” thing] is to squeeze as many more miles out of Cena as he can until they can get Mojo Rawley on the main roster.
Yesterday, on January 3, Chris Cash posted this on Wrestlezone.com; I’m not saying I’m prescient, I’m just sayin’ …
To be honest I don’t care much for what I’ve seen of the Mojo Rawley character. Granted I’ve only seen one Mojo match and he’s obviously still new in his WWE tenure (his first match took place in October 2013), so he’s got plenty of room to grow as a wrestler and entertainer. In that sense it’s a great thing that we can’t always judge a book by its cover (remember Dolph Ziggler’s debut?), but I’m also not silly enough to hold my breath while eagerly anticipating the Rawley character to showcase his five moves of doom and a t-shirt worthy catch phrase.
What do I know? Judge for yourself by watching the video of his debut; and for the record it is noteworthy that his opponent is Danny Burch, someone I REALLY hope makes it to the main roster and can work a great match like a boss.
Lies, Lies, and Probably Some Half-Truths
Speculation has it that Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards won’t be receiving a developmental deal from Triple H due to several incredibly unbelievable reasons. The first rumor was that Triple H wasn’t too keen on hiring more “smaller wrestlers,” as he feels that there are enough hobbits warbling around the Performance Center as is. There was also speculation that Triple H felt there were already enough established tag teams in the WWE.
Another rumor revolved around a blown spot during a match with NXT Tag Team Champions, The Ascension; it seemed as if the misstep was bad enough for Trips to call an audible for the match to end … and apparently the match didn’t end fast enough for the King of Kings. Guess who has to shoulder the blame for that one?
There’s also this rumor that TNA was very interested in signing Richards and Edwards, a rumor that goes all the way back to the summer of 2013 and gained even more steam with a cryptic message last month at a Pro Wrestling Guerilla show regarding a one-way trip to Orlando.
I find it hard to believe any of these speculated rumors, particularly after the mess with TNA being partially up for grabs.
The internet is a safe haven for all sorts of opinions and unsubstantiated information on anything under the sun and the pro wrestling industry is by no means safe and secure from being inundated with inaccurate information. Neither Triple H nor Dixie Carter have made concrete statements about Richards and Edwards, so anything regarding their status should be taken with a grain of salt.
If TNA was really after Richards and Edwards as some claim, they would’ve already been signed to the company. Yes, contract negotiations take time and certain obligations must be met before one can simply hope on the Dixietrain and take a ride down south. But if Mason Andrews can appear during a taped segment on RAW one week and later on in that same week appear on a live episode of IMPACT Wrestling, it goes to show that anything is possible in this industry if people want it to happen.
As far as the bee ess reasons behind why Richards and Edwards haven’t formally received a developmental contract from WWE, there’s no telling what’s going on that could give our impatient nature some satisfaction. If we can immediately call shenanigans on the speculation of a TNA sale, then we can surely call shenanigans on a Triple H hissy fit keeping the American Pitbulls from receiving contracts.
Well that’s all I have for the moment; expect more ranting this week. In the meantime, leave your thoughts or at least tell a friend to visit us and tell me I’m off my ass.
The current pro wrestling tension between TNA and WWE fans revolves around an ill-conceived concept of “originality.” For whatever reason it has become very important for fans to claim ownership of a concept, storyline, character or idea on behalf of their favorite company. Fans calculate these “original” ideas, creating a laundry list with hopes of triumphantly stating that one company is more “original” than the other.
The whole process of doing this is cumbersome and overrated. There is very little “originality” coming from the three U.S. promotions that have television deals and to argue about it is to engage in a fool’s errand. Truthfully speaking it’s just like arguing over the pros and cons of hanging toilet paper from the over or under position.
People by and large are resistant to change, and the more time goes on the more people desire for things to stay in one static state of dependability where they can remain comfortable as absurdly possible. Pro wrestling and her fans are not excused from this plight, and in fact may be more susceptible to acquiescing to familiarity more often than not.
But in order for this capitalist consumer based society to continue trudging along the way, we the people have to “believe” that change is happening all around us. We’re fed fairy tales about how things are getting better when, in reality, it’s pretty much the same mess with a fresh coat of paint. The very same is true of pro wrestling; a company appears to be on the verge of making a cutting-edge change, but in reality fans are seeing the product moonwalk itself into stagnancy and mediocrity. Things are only made worse by the fact that we’re all essentially arguing over which promotion is more mediocre than the other.
Real change, serious dynamic moves towards a better and brighter future, is one gigantic pain in the ass. To enact change is to embark upon a journey that speaks against our desire to be comfortable, a long and tedious expedition that requires the discipline and intent to continue along the path until it ends and the desired results are attained. That’s what true success is all about, creating a goal and working to bring that goal to fruition. It the desired results from an intended goal are not realized, then an effort was not successful; end of story.
For any promotion to produce “original” content, their goals from the very beginning must contain an element of change that will not sit well with fans. Change will alienate people; change will make diehard fans question the product or even turn away from it. However, if the desired results are necessary, then—be it subtle or overt—change must happen and fans must be conditioned to accept the journey that comes along with adapting to that change.
Real change, however, decreases revenue and profit in the short term. Real change, however, forces fans to think differently about the way they view the product and choose to support it. Real change effects everyone, from the top down and bottom up. Real change hurts, and with fans being as penny pinching as Ebenezer Scrooge, very few people have the testicular or ovarian fortitude to test the waters for fear of failure and alienating consumers who pad their pockets with cold hard cash.
As fans who invest in the product one way or another, let’s be real with each other and discuss what real change means for our favorite companies and how it affects us. We have to be honest with ourselves: we don’t want real change. If we did, we would’ve given up on both TNA and WWE years ago in favor of much more fulfilling and authentic pro wrestling. But alas, our insatiable hunger for sports entertainment is as vicious as our desire for a fast food; we like crap, and we’re content with having more streamlined crap than anything of substance. And that’s absolutely fine, but we’ve got to admit that’s where we are and that the real debate is on whether we prefer TNA’s crap over WWE’s crap.
To be fair TNA’s crap seems less refined than the mess peddled by WWE only because of the relative infancy in the business. By comparison, TNA appears to produce a more “original” product than WWE because WWE has produced “original” content for fifty plus years. That “original” programming has grown stale and is (truthfully speaking) held to a different standard than TNA because of its seniority. To speak of TNA’s lovable “growing pains” is the nice way of speaking about the WWE’s lackluster and uninspired product. Dress those comments as we may, it’s all still one big steaming pile of crap.
If both companies are producing crap and we’re content with arguing over who’s crap is more “original” than the other, how can either company truly be different? How can either company justify bringing real change to the product if we’re too busy discussing or nuancing the ways they can refine their crap? Simply put, it won’t happen because we’ve been conditioned to accept mediocrity as a norm. To really push the boundaries of our imaginations, to really invest in a logical and consistent storyline that creates long term fidelity instead of short term satisfaction, is to say something profound to each promotion in a way that will justify changing the product for the betterment of the business overall.
Here’s a thought I’ve promoted over various social media outlets many times before, and I’m thoroughly convinced neither TNA nor WWE have the balls (or ovaries) to be different in this regard: why not create a major storyline with female wrestlers as the leads and showcase them in a main event spot during a pay per view?
Don’t let the hype and speculation fool you; as much as the SI.com article about TNA and Dixie Carter would have you believe that she’s entering a world dominated by men (which she is), Dixie Carter is also among female contemporaries with just as much power and swag (if not more) as she has. Dixie Carter is in competition with Stephanie McMahon-Levesque and Bonnie Hammer (president of USA Networks). With McMahon-Levesque being made the “face” of her father’s promotion and touting that forty percent of the WWE’s audience is compromised of women, with Bonnie Hammer continuing to dominate cable network television, and with Dixie Carter stepping out into the fracas, now would be an optimal time for either organization to prove their mettle using such a storyline.
And it’s honestly not that hard a thing to do or accomplish. Today’s society sees a movement to establish both equality and equity between genders; if the writers can craft a simple and compelling storyline, it shouldn’t matter who plays the part. The only thing that will inevitably change is the way the protagonist in the story responds to the changing elements around them. Replace AJ Styles and Magnus with Gail Kim and Brooke Tessmacher respectively; replace Randy Orton and John Cena with AJ Lee and Natalya. Can we honestly say with a straight face that the storylines involving these women would diminish in quality because of their presence?
Of course there are several reasons as to why such a move would fail horribly; women’s wrestling is a niche market, a large swath of fans really don’t want to see a main event women’s angle, blah blah blah. But with so many fans complaining of the industry’s lack of originality, wouldn’t it make more sense to push the envelope in this way? Aren’t fans always complaining about the piss poor way women’s wrestling is treated here? Wouldn’t you, loyal and true pro wrestling fan, want to have the opportunity to brag about how your favorite wrestling promotion was the first to pioneer the industry with a successful major storyline involving women?
Nah … we want the same old crap. We’d rather celebrate the insipid trailblazing of a women’s division that lacks direction and … well … women. We’d rather sit idly by as the Total Divas are paraded incessantly before our eyes in an endless series of nonsensical matches and segments that are barely related to anything. We’d rather be the first to complain and whine about how bad one promotion treats its female athletes, ignore how badly the other promotion is treating their women’s division, and utilize any time in between to take pee breaks. Then we’ll simply turn around and blame the promotions for not doing things the way we’d like to see them, even though we already know deep within our hearts that we honestly don’t want to see either promotion veer too far away from what we know and love about them already.
This is why I say very few people have the balls (or ovaries) to do something different or to be different in pro wrestling. We’re all slaves to familiarity, and a promotion won’t risk alienating investors and advertisers to placate our selfishness. We’ll pay very good money to John Cena’s name in a main event marquee, but we won’t drop as nearly as much coin when Daniel Bryan is placed in the same situation. Argue against that if you choose to, but it is a stone cold fact; he who sells the most merchandise will be justifiably placed in the forefront, and the needle won’t move for anyone else until we create the demand for such a star. “They” don’t have the balls (or ovaries) to mess with that formula because we don’t have the balls (or ovaries) to be more than barking seals for what’s familiar and comfortable.
Yes it’s a ballsy move to create a network to showcase your vast library of pro wrestling history or continue to funnel money into a film studio that produces a steady stream of B-movies much to the delight of no one. Yes it’s a ballsy move to go head-to-head with a promotion that has a stranglehold on the business and to continue to buck a system that grows more stifling and hostile with each passing year. Creating the same type of product, mimicking the product of your competition, and refusing to put serious coin and consideration behind anti-typical wrestling superstar isn’t ballsy; it’s safe, it guarantees profit (be it large or small), and it conditions us all to go along with flow, believing we’re ultimately powerless to truly dictate what it is we like and want.
At the end of the day, the three major promotions aren’t all that different from one another when it comes to being “original.” There are very few individuals at this point in the game who have the unmitigated gall to push boundaries or at least try to be different and original in presenting their pro wrestling product (thank God for CHIKARA, Japanese wrestling, DragonGateUSA, EVOLVE, SHIMMER, Shine and WSU). But until we, the fans who pay money to see the action and drama displayed in between the ropes, expand our horizons and ask for something truly and deeply different instead of something superficially aesthetic, then all we’re going to get is what we’ve been getting … the same old mess. If we get the same old mess, all we’re going to have is the same old pointless complaints and hollow accolades.
So the real question is, how many of us have the balls (or ovaries) to be different?
WWE has been trolling for the last week. First, by not using the word ‘unification’ during a title unification announcement. Then, by having hella polls and articles about people holding two titles, but never at the same time. Lastly, they made sure to close all loopholes and, as usual, book themselves into a corner by having a contract signing and WWE App poll for the title unification. As always, I’m going to complain, even though I’m mostly happy.
For one, doing the title unification NOW means it won’t happen at WrassleMania. We won’t have to throw the Rumble winner in there as the guy with no belt fighting for two belts. Think logically and whoever wins NOW… who can they possibly face at Mania? If Cena wins… do we really want to see him versus Orton, Punk or Bryan at Mania? NO. If Orton wins, Cena and Bryan are out… which leaves Punk. Some guy has been writing for months that the perfect ending to The Authority storyline is Mr. Anti-Authority taking the belt off the corporation’s choice at Mania. That guy knows shit.
I marked out when CM Punk cut his promo about being anti-authority… as I have been wondering forever when he would be inserted into that storyline. Having him get beat up by The Shield is a brilliant way to start his “underdog babyface overcomes the stacking of the deck”… which reminds me… WWE’s heel booking sucks tremendously. Am I saying every heel needs to be booked as a monster and always win clean? No, I’m not, Quinn Gammon. I do not like how WWE books Orton at all. He has always kinda come off as a whiny coward as a heel. It was off-putting as fuck to have him attack Big Show, then complain that no one helped him. To demand help against Big Show, get help, then swear he never needed help. Yes. This IS how a heel should act. Yes. I am complaining simply because I want an 11 time champion to act secure and confident.
Cena is notorious for ‘burying’ guys in his promos. Orton is notorious for having a bad attitude over how he is booked. Which I can’t blame him for. They made him youngest world champion ever… then made him a midcarder for the better part of 3 years! Cena said Orton got lazy and expected to be handed things… nigga are those the abs of a lazy person? Naaaaaahhhhhh nigga… WWE booking is RARELY about work ethic… it’s about how much McMahon excrement you can swallow and call it chocolate. Do I need to remind you about how Daniel Bryan has been world champion twice this year for less than a day or how CM Punk won, then lost, and lost to HHH of all people while in the midcard, all while being as hot as one can possibly be?
Yeah. Orton will win at TLC. He won’t win in a fair one, as Cena has lost ONE match clean this year. I won’t care. (Yes I will. Expect, at some point in the near future, to read me bitching about how in EVERY possible chance WWE has to elevate guys to Cena’s level, they intentionally fuck it up) Between HHH, Kane, and The Shield, SOMEONE will help Orton climb that ladder. The storyline is, was and WILL be… Orton has finally become accepted as the man. (Kinda like when Rock finally got his Mania win over SCSA) I still love when HHH said after SummerSlam “the lump of coal that has become a diamond” which hearkened back to his formation of Evolution promo calling Orton “the next diamond”. IF Cena wins, which he won’t… that shit will be completely pointless.
Speaking of pointless… did you remember that Dean Ambrose was the US champ? Yeah… that belt needs to go away soon. I won’t care if they unify the IC and US belts on Main Event, nigga, that shit needs to happen ASAP. A hidden benefit to shrinking the main event and midcard title pictures, is that the belts will mean more. The WHC had become what the IC belt used to be, and the IC belt became like the Million Dollar belt or Zack Ryder’s Internet belt… yeah.
Cuz I’m contrary… as I write about less belts making belts matter more, I still say the Light Heavyweight or Cruiserweight title needs to come back for Hunico/Sin Cara to truly get his shine on. I have always liked him, and if they can finally make him versus Mysterio at Mania, that match NEEDS to be for the belt. I say bring back Evan Bourne, Justin Gabriel, throw in Heath Slater, Tyson Kidd, Yoshi Tatsu (if they still have him LOL) and whoever the hell else… and have Sin Cara push Rey off the ladder and win the belt and BAM… feud.
Annnnnnnd… nothing else worth talking about, so FIN.
I’ve written here about being for a title unification/ending the brand extension because there aren’t enough top shelf stars to fill a year of main events. Then I changed my mind, and decided that there could be two title pictures, they just need to stop putting the belt around people like my man Alberto Del Rio that kind of dilute the championship. Then John Cena became WHC again, and it seemed like WWE cared about making the WHC legit again. Annnnnnd just a few minutes ago as I type this, HHH announced they will unify the belts at TLC. I finally understand the point of the brand extension and why two titles were necessary, and still may be.
The biggest problem WWE is facing is not that they don’t have enough stars or potential stars. The problem is overexposure plus horrible booking. WWE has a guy like Alberto Del Rio on EVERY episode of Raw and SmackDown and he has fought for a world championship at damn near ever pay per view going back two years. He debuted months before the 2011 Royal Rumble and before he could connect with the audience or develop his character, he was thrust into the spotlight. He doesn’t have any charisma at all, but I think he’d be a legit main eventer with years of winning midcard titles and building real crowd heat. I just wrote about The Miz, who WAS the main event of WrassleMania, and is the inverse of Del Rio, not a technically proficient wrestler, but has charisma and can cut a promo. He has been jobbed out like a motherfucker. I’m not sure he can ever be built back up to that main event level. I hope that he can.
Cynical fans, the so-called IWC, love to say stupid shit about how John Cena and the PG era are destroying wrestling. (Yes, I’m spelling it right, Quinn) What is watering it down is seeing guys like Kofi Kingston lose every week. Before WWE thought it would be a good idea to put all the top stars on Raw every week, you could focus on writing storylines for a guy only being on one show. Now, every week you have to figure out a way for John Cena and Randy Orton to not lose clean twice. I can understand why that is difficult. The entire reason they did the brand extension in the first place… was they put Stone Cold and HHH on Raw, The Rock and The Undertaker on SmackDown. Then, every year just to keep shit fresh, they’d do a draft to move guys from show to show. They broke THAT model circa 2009. SmackDown was arguably better than Raw 2007-2008. The title picture was Batista, Edge, HHH, Jeff Hardy, Chris Jericho, CM Punk and The Undertaker. LOTS of memorable matches there. Then like all those guys went to Raw. SmackDown became an afterthought.
Raw has always been Vince’s baby. Vince seems to need Raw to be the only show that matters. Which is fucking retarded when you have no less than 5 shows on tv and online a week. So all the big stars are on Raw, all the big storylines happen on Raw. Raw is recapped 46533544 times on Main Event, SmackDown, Superstars and NXT. NXT is the developmental show. Superstars is ironically named because it’s for jobbers. Main Event features jobbers and midcard level guys. SmackDown has become where we have matches they’ll repeat on Raw because THEY ASSUME NO ONE FUCKING WATCHED SMACKDOWN! My point again: Raw and SmackDown should have a separate roster evenly balanced, with two world titles.
WWE doesn’t care what its fans want though, so we’re returning to the era where storylines carry from one show to the other, with less talent and worse writing/booking. All I want is for Randy Orton to be put over Cena, and since TLC is no dq it won’t be clean and doesn’t have to be. So this probably means that WrassleMania will be trash but Daniel Bryan and CM Punk might jerk the curtain… *sigh*
Supporters of Dixie and TNA’s product have produced tons of articles and message board posts that analyze and pick apart the criticisms levied against the promotion, often coming to the conclusion that most claims designed to demean and demoralize the product are unsubstantiated and asinine at best. More often than not the conclusion is that fans who “hate” TNA are just “marks” for World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.; these fans “hate” the quality and consistently solid wrestling and drama produced by TNA and dismiss it for the “crap” mass produced by the “stale and awful” sports entertainment promotion owned by Vince McMahon.
Is there any validity to these criticisms, however? What is it about the promotion that makes it an easy target for punchlines, one-liners, rumors, speculation, and just all around bullying? On one hand it could be said that it’s proudly professed position in the pro wrestling hierarchy (the 2nd largest pro wrestling promotion in the world) subjects it to fans’ barbs more so than any other promotion. Then again the same could also be said of the number one promotion in the world…
Perhaps there is a distinct difference between “hatred” for the product and a genuinely logical argument questioning its practices and programming. More so now than ever before in the history of things in this country there is a concentrated effort to placate the feelings of one another by avoiding overly harsh criticism unless it’s directed towards someone or something one cares very little about. It’s like believing one’s child is a complete angel with few behavioral problems here and there, while everyone else remains lax with rearing their demon-spawned offspring.
The bottom line of it all, irregardless of which side of the TNA love/hate fence you sit on, is that people like what they like. Everyone is entitled to have an opinion based off of their experiences and perception of life; the vicious back and forth between TNA supporters and detractors will continue until the end of time. And while criticism launched against TNA may be unjustified and unnecessary more often than not, one would be hard-pressed to deny that the promotion has done some boneheaded s**t in the past eleven years with the same consistently solid locomotion that’s propelled them from obscurity to global recognition in such a short span of time…
Again, it’s all about experience and perspective. TNA and its president, Dixie Carter, are not all bad (though some would disagree; Hi Mr. Gammon!) and they do serve a particular purpose in the cosmos. Whether one consistently congratulates or reprimands the product depends on their perspective on TNA’s place in the cosmos and their experience in understanding the context of that perspective.
Unfortunately for us pro wrestling/sports entertainment fans, TNA’s position in the cosmos is—and may always be—resting quietly in the massive eclipse produced by Vince McMahon’s WWE Death Star hovering ever so confidently in the spotlight. In and of itself TNA succeeds at a particular thing: producing good to great pro wrestling (as professed in its mission statement in the corporate section of their website). That good to great pro wrestling, however, will always be compared to that of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. Such is the way of individuals living in a culture where there are “options” for almost everything.
This long philosophical diatribe was necessary for this particular review of IMPACT Wrestling because it sets the foundation for my upcoming commentary, some views that are sure to spark a debate somewhere that could take any given conversation about the show or the promotion to a level much more sophisticated than the standard “This show sucks/this show was great/TNA does all things better than dot-dot-dot” debate that’s more regular than baby bowel movements.
Personally speaking I found the Sports Illustrated.com feature article on Dixie Carter and TNA Wrestling, LLC more entertaining and enlightening than I did last night’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling. Congratulations are in order for Carter and her promotion being featured in Sports Illustrated. In all sincerity if you haven’t read the piece, I would strongly suggest you do so after reading the piece you’re currently looking at.
What is there to say, however, when an article in Sports Entertainment provides more entertainment than the actual product it speaks of? I wouldn’t go as far as others to say the show was “bad” (Hi Mr. Lamb!); what I will say that there was very little in the show that pulled me in and made me want to invest more attention and energy into what was happening. Even the fact that it was the Turning Point themed episode of IMPACT Wrestling and the company’s return to a home base in Orlando made very little difference in my reception of the overall entertainment value of the show.
The Dixie Carter feature on Sports Illustrated.com, on the other hand, did make me want to invest more attention and energy into the promotion. The feature article gave me new insight and information on Mrs. Carter-Salinas, and even explained in tons of ways why she has made some of the more seemingly ridiculous business decisions she’s made in her tenure as TNA President. The feature article put into perspective for me why she, and by proxy her company, is truly an underdog in a profession dominated by old men; it also put into perspective why she isn’t an underdog when you consider the fact that she’s also competing for recognition alongside the equally wealthy and powerful Stephanie McMahon-Levesque and Bonnie Hammer.
It’s incredibly bittersweet that an article about TNA makes me far more excited about investing in the company than the actual product itself. It’s akin to celebrating the fact that TNA, a North American promotion, does better business internationally than it does domestically; the logic is backwards and in some weird, sick and twisted way we fans are expected to understand it and accept it as well. C’est la vie.
Notwithstanding, there were a few things that piqued my interest when I watched the program:
- I’m Confused: Free-Per-Views, One Lackluster Homecoming, and an Unscheduled Shark Boy Appearance #IMPACT365
- What’s Great About the TNA World Heavyweight Title Tournament
- The Degradation of Joseph Park, Esq.
- The Demise of the Aces & Eights
Last night’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling was broadcast under the Turning Point theme, the idea being that this particular episode of IMPACT Wrestling would showcase pay-per-view quality matches that one could only witness if one had to actually pay to see it. It’d be a glaring understatement to admit that this concept still confuses the hell out of me, and I’ll gladly accept being called a moron for not getting it as easily as my Ph.D. earning, TNA-loving friends.
What exactly makes these types of episodes different from a regular run-of-the-mill episode of IMPACT Wrestling? Fewer backstage segments? More backstage interviews with Jeremy Borash hyping an upcoming match? Longer matches and less filler in between? Aren’t those the same things accomplished regularly on TNA programming?
A part of all of this just feels like fans are supposed to get excited because we get to see a “pay-per-view” for “free.” But if said “pay-per-view” comes on “free” TV, particularly in the middle of the week during the same time as a regularly scheduled episode of IMPACT Wrestling with very little differentiating it from any other Thursday night episode of the same program,…why are we amped about this again?
Let’s not forget this was TNA’s triumphant return to Orlando, Florida, a homecoming of sorts for the promotion. A lot of fans remained torn over the decision to take IMPACT Wrestling off the road, but there was also a strong consensus that this was necessary for the promotion to maximize its revenue and continue business given the perceived/speculated failure of touring their prime time flagship programming. All things considered the return to Orlando and a newly designed Impact Zone should’ve been celebrated if it were truly that important and significant of a move for the company. Last night’s show was anything but that; the presentation of a company returning to its home base came off as business as usual. Nothing special, nothing ordinary; it is what it is. One would think the promotion would’ve wanted to capitalize off of this move especially since a it was presented as a magnificently great thing leading up to last night.
Just for one moment, think back to the WWE’s return to the USA Network in October 2005, which was arguably a big and dramatic deal for the promotion, the USA Network and fans alike. The publicity for the return was ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS; I believe they’re planning on putting the episode on the upcoming RAW 20th Anniversary DVD box set that’s coming out in a few weeks, but hell…they already gave it a DVD of its own:
The return to Orlando probably wasn’t seen as much of a big deal compared to pushing the Turning Point free-per-view last night, so to expect it to have been that plus more is probably reasonable but out of context of what the focus of the show was last night. Clearly it wasn’t being back in one’s safety zone.
Another thing: why did everyone pretend like they had no clue who EC3′s “legendary” opponent would be even though there existed an Impact 365 video where Shark Boy quit his job and made it known that he was coming to Turning Point? Maybe that was just some expertly crafted trolling similar to when Dixie Carter announced via Impact 365 videos that a former TNA Champion would be returning to the company and that it was actually Adam “Pacman” Jones. Everybody thought it was hilarious and guffawed vociferously because they knew it was a joke…up until Pacman actually showed up on IMPACT Wrestling…
The way the TNA World Heavyweight Title Tournament is unfolding is quite impressive. Although it could be argued that the gimmick stipulations added to the matches by the Wheel of Dixie are honestly unnecessary, they do not detract from the action and the story being told so much that the whole deal becomes easily convoluted. Fans can get the feeling that the men in the tournament are serious about becoming the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion, each with their own reasons for doing so. The other thing I like about the story being told on the whole is that other smaller stories are interwoven with the main goal of being the top dog in Dixie’s company.
The on-screen Dixie Carter character is slowly making progress as well; sometimes she (the character and not Mrs. Carter-Salinas herself) comes off a little too sugary sweet and contrived, almost like the character is being forced. The best protagonists and antagonists in pro wrestling are merely over exaggerations of the women and men who portray them in the ring and on the microphone. For the character to work, Dixie has to “be herself,” but not to the point where she’s lampooning herself. A trip to the Vickie Guerrero School of Excuse Me would do wonders for the character.
Besides all of that it was a pleasure to see the violence between James Storm and Robert Roode return to the same levels that made their feud enjoyable some time ago. It was also refreshing to see Dixie confront Samoa Joe about comments he made last week regarding winning the tournament and having his first defense as champ to AJ Styles. This minor development gives me hope that my prediction may actually come to fruition, and I’m personally interested in seeing whether I’m right or wrong.
It’s those types of things that pull fans into a product; to return to some points made earlier in the piece, the feeling of euphoria when one is proven right or wrong about a speculated guess is what keeps this particular analyst invested in TNA’s product each week. It’s actually fun to be wrong on something, as the new direction is (at times) more intriguing than anything we could ever thing of. Conversely, it’s always great to be “right” so you can gloat about it. Nevertheless I still expect Magnus to walk away as the new champion, leading to an eventual confrontation with former TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles. How Magnus gets to that point is sure to be one hell of a ride.
A match between Joseph Park and his brother Abyss was scheduled to take place last night. From our lofty and spacious offices here at L.E.W.D. Headquarters, we saw a few fans here and there speculate on how the promotion planned on making this happen. We all honestly had no clue but waited with bated breath to see how they planned on making this feasible.
Abyss never made it to the ring last night. Instead of facing his brother, Joseph Park was confronted and verbally dissected by the duo of Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels, collectively known as Bad Influence. Truthfully speaking it was a little unnerving to listen to Daniels and Kazarian bully the very likeable Joseph Park character (Be A Star, TNA). From calling him a fat tub of mayonnaise to referring to his great grandfather as “Jurassic Park,” I couldn’t help but feel really sorry for the guy…between laughs, that is (the Jurassic Park thing was funny though…).
Daniels and Kazarian then (correctly) professed their hypothesis that the sight of blood makes Joe Park turn into Abyss; afterwards they proceeded to dump a ton of “blood” on Park, to which the latter responded by meekly leaving the ring as Bad Influence continued to demean him. Holy s**t I felt reaaaaaaalllly bad for this guy…
Lord knows where they plan on going with the Joseph Park character and the accompanying Abyss storyline, but this whole segment tugged on my emotional baggage in a way that IMPACT hadn’t done in quite some time. There have been a slew of sympathetic characters ever since the humble carny beginnings of pro wrestling; from Eugene to Zack Gowan, Mickey Whipwreck to Tommy Dreamer, and Cody Deaner to NXT’s Bailey…this is something we should be use to. The lovable scamp of a character that gets tortured and manhandled by everyone else for no good reason…Hi Hornswoggle!
But the Carrie-esque mood involving Bad Influence and Joe Park took that whole sympathetic character to another level for me. I may be the only one that feels like that, but it was just something about the way that Daniels and Kazarian (Daniels in particular) addressed Park that hurt my feelings…and I was just a fan watching the show!
The Joe Park character is one that, despite his lumbering awkwardness and impressively rotund physique, is quite loveable and innocent in a non-Spongebob-man-child way. For all intents and purposes he’s a big dude that got an urge to wrestle after attempting to locate his “brother.” Joe Park ain’t never bothered nobody without reason, and these two friendless, Varsity-team rejects are projecting their frustrations onto him. Hey Bad Influence, blame your mediocrity on Los Stereotypicos and not Joe Park. Speaking of which, where the hell are Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez?
Finally, after eighteen months (according to Mike Tenay) of terrorizing TNA and IMPACT Wrestling, the ungodly reign of the Aces and Eights came to a whimpering end when Ken Anderson defeated Bully Ray in the show’s main event. The conclusion of this yearlong story was underwhelming, and I place the blame of that feeling on my own shoulders. I should’ve never expected the conclusion of this thing to be obnoxiously big and over the top in the first place.
The entire Aces and Eights bit lost steam long ago, and with the massive budget cuts made by the promotion essentially neutering any efficacy achieved by the group, its demise was a death rattle that most fans were well prepared for prior to the first day of the month of November. Leave it to me and only me to be the one to expect this domineering faction to at least exit stage left with more fanfare than it did.
It was somewhat poetic that the hammer used to catapult the group into prominence was also the same thing that drove the final nail in their coffin; it’s always been said that if one lives by the sword, one will die by the sword. I guess the same applies to rubber hammers.
One can only guess where things go from this point as far as the former members of Aces and Eights are concerned. Bully Ray, arguably one of the top breakout stars in the past few years, may or may not find prominence in the upper echelon of TNA stars now that the wind behind his bread-and-butter storyline (Bruce Pritchard) is no longer employed by TNA. Ken Anderson and the Ken Anderson character seems lost and coasting in neutral within TNA, and Garett Bischoff and Knux are just…there. At least Brooke Tessmacher can return to the Knockouts Division full force; these other guys…there’s a lot left to the imagination as far as their roles are concerned.
As a fan we have to ask ourselves what do we expect to happen to these characters from now on; the silver lining is that if we leave that question and any preconceived expectations at the door, we may be pleasantly surprised by what the writers and promotion comes up with. However if we were to view this situation in the same way we would for anyone in WWE, such as The Miz or Kofi Kingston (Hi Corbin!), we can’t really hold our breath for things to be “better” for these guys. TNA doesn’t necessarily have the best track record either with putting their all behind building “superstars” as much as they do in showcasing “wrestlers.” We’ll all just have to wait and see how this one turns out.
By the way, before we pull out the streamers and throw the ticker tape parade, Ken Anderson will “bury” the Aces & Eights next week on IMPACT Wrestling. It’s never OVER until it’s over, folks.
Alas, those are just my thoughts; what do YOU think?
Things have been particularly slow around these parts from some time, and we thank all of you for returning to the site regularly hoping to see a new piece of whatever it is we do posted here. It’s particularly hard for your L.E.W.D. family to keep content fresh and moving forward we’ll do our best to do so while also taking care of our individual and/or collective personal responsibilities…which, as you can probably guess, keep us way more busy than the average bear; and average bears are pretty effin’ busy.
Those things notwithstanding, here are my *candid* thoughts on a few things that have occurred in the past week, most of which are dated but still fresh enough to force my own opinion down the gullets of anyone reading these words.
Chris Hero Future Endeavored…OHNO!!!
Unlike some I wasn’t sad in the sense that I was pissed off at Vince McMahon for not recognizing the “greatness” of one of the IWC’s indy darlings, nor was I sad in the sense that I believed Hero refused to “play ball in the big leagues” as some sites reported.
I was sad because I was extremely hopeful that it was only a matter of time before Hero debuted on prime time WWE TV as Kassius Ohno. I was looking forward to seeing him flex his skills on RAW or Smackdown. I even created a pipe dream about him being the one to knock John Cena down a peg or two or three.
Well…so much for that.
In wrestling, however, the phrase “never say never” pops up frequently. Hero released an official statement last week following his release, noting that he parted ways with the company on good terms (much to the IWC’s chagrin, because everyone that leaves WWE leaves on bad terms, right?) and the possibility of a return in the future. Hero also noted the following, which I think is possibly the most important for any Chris Hero fan to hear, note, embrace and accept:
When things happen that we don’t like, it’s our instinct look for answers. We get sad. We get mad. In this situation, there’s nothing to be sad about! And rather than being angry about what has happened, I want you all to be happy about what’s going to happen! I’ll be back with a vengeance, I assure you. The best way to support me is with positive energy.
Again, while I am saddened that for the time being Chris Hero is no longer employed by WWE, I can (along with all of his other fans) can take solace in knowing that publicly he’s in positive space about his termination. He immediately took bookings with other promotions (which should be somewhat of a shock for those fans itching about the e90-day no compete clause) and as some analysts have stated, stands to make goo-gobs of money because his stock has climbed exponentially after being employed in the “big leagues.”
With the news of his release hitting the information super highway, it was also only a matter of time before the unavoidable question was asked, “Do you think TNA should sign Chris Hero?” It’s rare when I say “yes” to questions like this (for various and obvious reasons), but in this instance I would say “yes.” Ironically enough, this reason behind my “yes” will serve as a great segue to the next point…
TNA and Ethan Carter III: Great Job
When it was reveled that Michael Hutter was signed to TNA and would debut as Ethan Carter III, TNA President Dixie Carter’s nephew, I literally thought to myself “Hmmm…I want to see how this turns out.” Even though he’s only been in TNA for a month, Hutter seems comfortable and right at home, all while providing a much needed breath of fresh air for the IMPACT Wrestling product.
Debates concerning TNA’s locker room always intrigue me; at one point fans proclaimed that the company’s roster was too large, that it was over saturated with under utilized talent. I never agreed with that idea. I always believed and stated the opposite, that the roster was too small and the product lacked the structures (i.e. divisions) to showcase everyone on routine basis without diluting major storylines or creative directions. To say it another way, TNA’s mid-card sucked.
To complicate matters even more TNA rarely cycled out its main event stars, making the product feel labored and dated despite the stellar wrestling matches that occurred often. For the most part a ton of the main event stars in TNA today were the big dogs in the yard 8-10 years ago. It was this logic that some used to justify the widespread release of talent earlier this year…that and the reality of budget cuts.
These things aside, TNA’s roster paled in comparison to the WWE roster. Given that the latter company has been around for much longer and airs programming almost seven days a week, a roster in Vince McMahon’s hands has to be large to accommodate for tons of programs and public relations duties. As such the rate at which the company farms talent far surpasses that of TNA; superstars and divas come in droves, even though there are only so many precious spots to be filled by a select cadre of individuals.
When you’ve herded individuals into your developmental system while grasping to the “dime a dozen” belief system, some stars are bound to get over looked and under appreciated for their skills and gifts. Even still, others may not stand out because they’re seemingly not all that different from five or ten other stars in their group.
Such is the case for Ethan Carter and even Chris Hero. As WWE’s Derrick Bateman, Michael Hutter competed with numerous other up-and-coming stars for a spot in the company. As Kassius Ohno, Chris Spradlin was swimming against the tide of a system that is reportedly still looking for the next John Cena/Hulk Hogan Bigger-Than-Life Sports Entertainer.
Talents like Hutter and Spradlin are good for TNA because they’ve yet to have the WWE stigma ingrained in their characters. Yes, some will argue that once again TNA is hiring “WWE rejects,” but in reality Hutter and Spradlin have not been encumbered with carrying that burden on their careers. As stars in TNA, where there is a dire need for fresh “home grown” talent, there is tons of space and opportunity to shine and showcase what makes them stand out from any of the other cookie cutter wrestlers.
Hutter has obviously found a perfect spot for character growth and development as EC3 in TNA, and Spradlin could do the same as Chris Hero or by any other name. It all depends on whether TNA chooses to court him and if he’d like to work in the company.
For reasons I can and can’t properly explain, my favorite screenplay is Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. That’s saying something: I believe there are plenty of better movies and better scripts, but Midnight in Paris stands out with its themes and ideas, its eerie habit of being so dialogue heavy and still conveying emotion with what isn’t said, and the way it explores the positives and negatives of being a nostalgic person, something I can relate to more than I ever like to admit.
As a human being, I can’t speak on Woody Allen. Maybe he’s a good person, mayhap he isn’t. Maybe his exploits are worthy of mentioning, maybe they aren’t, but at the end of the day I don’t know him. Unless I gain some form of renown as a Hollywood writer I doubt I ever will. But as a writer, I can look at a number of his films and I get them. I understand them and, relating to some of the main characters, I get goosebumps when I see them on screen or, more powerfully, envision them myself.
Here’s the basic rundown of Midnight. A successful screenwriter goes to Paris with his fiancée, bored with screenwriting and attempting to write a novel, which his lovely bride-to-be and family don’t vibe with because he is VERY successful. After getting drunk one evening he wanders the Parisian streets and runs across an old taxi, where he is picked up and meets a slew of historical figures who inspire him, critique him and one enchanting woman even falls in love with him, and he her. What our main character is, as stated earlier, is rooted in nostalgia. He yearns to live in a time before his own, and only through the eyes of the woman he fell for does he see how dangerous this can be.
Now, I love this story. But what I love is how the story is told. It’s easy to tell a story about a man bored with his life and yearning for something different, but it’s also one of the most basic stories told in the world. Every cheesy romance novel, movie, radio play, comic strip and melodramatic soap opera can do it, but where is it set? Who is the focus? What is the appeal and what does it really explore?
Stories are amazing like that: they are
never not supposed to be anything so simple as Man talked to Woman and they lived happily ever after. Be it 300 pages or no more than five minutes, a story should convey emotions and, depending on the era, a message. Yes, even in the realm of professional wrestling. The WWE has been doing a “Best for Business” storyline for a while now, and despite its ups and downs it’s accomplished something interesting: it’s brought the classic notion of what makes a WWE Superstar back to the limelight and confronted it directly through the WWE Championship race.
At Summerslam there was a nigh-universal showing of praise at Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson (trust not the man with two first names)) even BEING in the title match, let alone defeating John Cena. He’s a smaller guy, not chiseled from stone, loaded with unkempt facial hair and I’m pretty sure he smells like indie spirit. There’s NOTHING about him, save for his taste in women, that would attract the sports entertainment ideal. Note: sports entertainment ideal, not professional wrestling ideal. Thus the higher ups, notably Triple H (who IS the sports entertainment ideal) and Stephanie McMahon (who fits virtually any ideal you might have for a woman, especially her big, juicy… brains) said, “No, he can’t work in this role. The crowd loves him but what do they know? They keep watching us anyway!” Thus they put the belt on someone who DOES fit the ideal. He’s tall, lean, muscular and might well do borderline illegal things to you while you sleep. He’s Randy Orton and he’s the ideal. The company loves him. The crowd wants Bryan back. And while every major player on the Corporate side looks like the ideal, virtually every major player against them does not. This is all intentional, like how the Agents in The Matrix don’t blink, or Stephanie McMahon wearing form fitting dresses and pant suits. Sorry, it’s been a while. I’ll just sum it up:
Writing for wrestling can’t be easy, but I think it can be rewarding (on the outside looking in, that is) and it must be fun to see your words and ideas play out on a weekly basis, all while collecting a paycheck (depending on your company). But what does it REALLY entail? I’ll answer that now: I don’t know. Like I said, I’m on the outside looking in. I’m no Patrice O’Neal, who wrote for the WWE at one point, responsible – I believe – in part for the angle where Shelton Benjamin’s mother played his manager. Admit it: that was funny. But it didn’t necessarily speak to the first part of what writing for professional wrestling – and all writing for that matter – needs: passion. Sure, O’Neal was hilarious and the angle was funny, but was it a passion for wrestling that made it good or a passion for comedy? I’d argue more towards the latter: did you REALLY like Shelton Benjamin any more or less because of her? Were you any more or less on his side? I wasn’t: my feelings towards Shelton Benjamin were the same with or without the comedic stylings of Thea Vidale. Consequently: they were always good feelings.
Good writing sways a person in the direction the writer wants them to be swayed in, and that requires a lot of passion. It was passion in simple storytelling that made the Bible the most purchased (and shoplifted) book in the history of humanity. It was passion in Vince Gilligan’s examination of a man finally deciding to live after learning he was on track to die that made Breaking Bad the powerhouse show it was. It was passion in the pen of Machiavelli that made you think, “This guy’s a dick… but I messes with him.”
Passion. My favorite story in the contemporary WWE is a story that didn’t only not pan out, but ended abruptly in the middle of what was a nice series of rising actions. While everyone loved the long lasting, antagonistic dynamic between John Cena and Edge, I was feeling the feud between Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton. Why? Because Kingston was a nice guy slowly being pushed into doing more and more mean-spirited things to Orton, who had seemed to inherit some serious mind-f****** talents from then-mentor Triple H.
Orton was leading Legacy (back when Ted DiBiase was in the spotlight and the world made sense) and his underlings were kind enough to get him a car as a gift, just because. Did he deserve it? Maybe. Maybe not. It did start a trend though, one Triple H and the staff didn’t pay attention to when they decided to gift him a new vehicle. It wouldn’t have been so funny, but it was vandalized the SAME way. Anywho, Kingston and Orton were feuding, and when Kingston saw this car, [plot hole] which was in the middle of the backstage area with nothing but a cameraman there [plot hole], he was shown on the Titantron and did that car dirtier than Champ Kind would Wes Mantooth’s mother. Keyed it, threw paint on it, jumped on it, and suddenly the (fake) accent was gone and the smile had disappeared. This was no longer the happy-go-lucky, token
Jamaican African. No, this was a man on a mission. It was simple. Let me explain as if I was a voice in his head:
“You: Kofi. He: Orton. Kill his ass.”
The pair had a nice back-and-forth for a while: people were divided over who they loved more, and it was good. It was a nice story, and it stalled far too soon in my opinion, but it was a textbook example of how you tell a story of someone’s rise. It was a wrestler’s story at that: going from being a basic character to being a more multi-dimensional one, while feuding with a developed talent who still had plenty he could grow on too. It was a story full of passion.
There’s no doubt in my mind that every major – and maybe minor – professional wrestling company is always looking for writers, but it resonated with me when I saw that TNA was looking for one. It resonated with me because a “potential” love for the business was listed in the prerequisites. “Potential”? No, I can’t abide by that. Hopefully no one in the company would either, TNA being a company that so passionately puts wrestling first.
Yes, that was a direct shot at TNA, but who gave me hope but TNA’s most loyal fans? I was trolling some websites loaded with TNA fans (read: TNA fans and WWE haters, some of whom can’t praise TNA without disparaging the WWE, which is a terrible quality for anything, much like a primary argument for something beginning with “Well THEY did it and…”) and saw the comments and forums regarding this position, and I won’t lie: y’all made me smile.
Don’t get too excited: a good lot of y’all are still idiots (Smiths) but what can you expect when you openly refer to a base of literally millions? There were plenty of people who showed the utmost passion and desire to write for the company, some to an extreme. Seriously, that video/quote at the beginning of this piece has merit. Say you ARE a good writer: do NOT express the desire to work for ANY company for free unless it’s an internship program, and even then inquire whether or not it’s a PAID internship. Don’t let passion get the best of you, even if you are as giddy as Quentin Tarantino drinking champagne poured down Salma Hayek’s leg.
No, really, it’s been a minute…
But the passion shown in those comments reminded me how much we all love professional wrestling. Spoiler alert: I too, in my undying bashing of Total Nonstop Action wrestling, have applied for that position and I’m more than positive that I won’t get so much as a response, but on the highly unlikely chance that I was called in to work for them, I would undoubtedly be fired for some remarks made to or about the company’s higher ups. And the fact that it’s mad mediocre. Well I guess we can say goodbye to that job now.
To create a good story or character or even just BE a good writer for anything, you need passion, and passion for the business can go a long way… so long as that passion doesn’t cloud your judgment. And that’s what we’ll get into more next time. Judgment.
Apparently so, according to popular belief after fans worldwide witnessed the opening moments and match of Monday night’s episode of RAW. When returning superstar John Cena entered the area as the newly crowned World Heavyweight Champion, fans became ecstatic when Damien Sandow verbally and physically attacked him, using the opportunity to cash in his Money in the Bank contract. In an excellent match it wasn’t very long before the Champ rallied back with the momentum of Juggernaut and claimed victory over Sandow and his failed attempt to cash in his championship match contract.
Some would even venture to say that Sandow’s loss against Cena made him dead on arrival to the main event scene.
To no one’s surprise the word “burial” arose like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of Damien Sandow’s defeat. The creature is currently enjoying a leisurely flight around the IWC, releasing its magical yet harmful droppings on the faces of fans gazing skyward, imploring the wrestling gawds for an answer that will appease and satiate their blank, slack-jawed gazes of consternation and dismay.
There exists a school of thought among these fans that believes Sandow’s MITB opportunity, and the MITB concept itself, was killed off with his high profile loss to a 14-time Heavyweight Champion. This perspective, although a legitimate reaction to Sandow’s loss, seems a bit misguided and just as convoluted as the idea of the MITB contract opportunity.
The Money in the Bank contract is, at its core, a once-a-year opportunity that guarantees its holder one shot at the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship. Several contestants are randomly chosen to (based on certain criteria depending on the time of year the event or match takes place) to participate in a match where the winner must climb a ladder and remove a briefcase from a hook dangling from the rafters.
The praxis of the contest is more involved than it seems, but the basis of the match—the very foundation it rests on—still remains the same; outsmart five to seven other wrestlers and grab a briefcase hanging from the ceiling. One doesn’t have to be championship material or have been a major title holder to win the match; all one has to do is be resilient, ingenious, crafty as hell and lucky.
Upon winning the MITB contract, Damien Sandow joined the pantheon of stars who have all in some way managed to exemplify the aforementioned traits that ultimately led them to snagging their golden ticket to a number one contender’s spot. From that point on, Sandow’s in-ring career reached lows not seen in WWE since The Brooklyn Brawler or Colin Delaney.
Sandow embarked upon an intricately prolonged losing streak and a feud that revealed the simplistic absurdity of the MITB concept. After having his briefcase stolen and tossed into the Gulf of Mexico by Cody Rhodes, the self-proclaimed “Intellectual Savior of the Masses” complained and wept incessantly about his “briefcase.” It became quite ridiculous (and entertaining) to see Sandow resort to unnecessary lengths to protect his briefcase and reclaim the integrity of the MITB briefcase that was sullied by his former best friend.
Realistically speaking, the MITB briefcase was never important; it was what was in the briefcase that was significant. The MITB briefcase simply housed the contract that guaranteed its winner a major title championship match.
Without the briefcase, Sandow was still guaranteed that match by virtue of his capture of the briefcase and the contract. Regardless of whether he was in possession of the case or not, he had a binding claim to the championship match guaranteed by the contract within said briefcase. The only way that binding agreement could have been nullified would have been if Sandow placed the contract on the line during a match; other than that, the briefcase is only a symbol that serves as the outward acknowledgement of a man who could call out a main event champion at any time.
What has happened, however, that is within its eight year history the MITB briefcase became more important than the contract within it. The symbol became more important than the object it stood for. Having the damn briefcase became more of a top priority than having (or seeing) the actual contract.
In that same sense the MITB briefcase, in the eyes of the fans, has become more important than winning the championship itself.
Instead of symbolizing a quick and easy way to a championship match, the briefcase has become something that designates a particular wrestler’s ascent to the main event scene. Due to the fact that a majority of the MITB winners have successfully cashed in their contracts, the briefcase has become a “dead giveaway” of the next WWE or World Heavyweight Champion. WWE has effectively conditioned fans to do three things: anticipate the MITB matches/pay-per-view, revel in the high-risk antics of the matches, and immediately create an imaginary scenario where the winners become main event stars.
Lost in translation amid those three conditions is the story that drives the reality of the contract, the importance of this one-shot-only championship opportunity, and the clout of whoever holds the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship at the time. In effect, most fans believed Damien Sandow should have won the World Heavyweight Championship regardless of who held it, simply because he held the MITB briefcase.
That same logic dictates that the Royal Rumble winner should become a heavyweight champion by virtue of his ability to defeat twenty-nine to thirty-nine other men … not because he can defeat the one person holding the title come WrestleMania.
Damien Sandow’s inability to capture the title, then, looks poorly upon the booking team and all other executive level parties instead of screaming volumes about the Damien Sandow character. The prestige of the title and the holder of that title become less important than the challenger with a lucky break. The fact that Sandow had less than a handful of victories after gaining the contract is moot … him simply owning the briefcase is proof enough to solidify his rightful status as a main event star of championship caliber.
The story surrounding the MITB contract holder is vital to the success of the character and the future of the concept. While it is true that majority of the MITB winners subsequently won their championship matches, very few fans will delve into the intricacies of how they won those matches. Most winners capitalized off of a compromised champion following a grueling championship defense.
In the case of WWE Superstar Edge, also known as “The Ultimate Opportunist,” his second MITB contract came when he defeated Mr. Kennedy for the briefcase. He didn’t even win the MITB match to gain the MITB contract! How does that speak highly of a concept fans believe highlights the credibility of an up-and-coming main event champion? More importantly what does that say about Ken Anderson, good or bad?
Despite our insistence that the MITB briefcase is more than what it actually is the contract is for one championship match. If Hornswoggle captures the briefcase and gains the contract, he gains an opportunity to face a major main event champion.
Ownership of the briefcase does not turn him into a force to be reckoned with a la Batman or Aquaman; rather the contract gives him a chance to face and defeat a heavyweight champion. How Hornswoggle goes about that process will determine the strength and direction of his character, in victory or defeat.
For Damien Sandow, how he attacked John Cena and how he held his own in the match says far more about the character and its direction than a leather bound or metallic briefcase ever could. Sandow was vicious, calculated, determined and forceful in his match; how that translates into a burial of Sandow and the character is beyond comprehension.
If we truly believe that the briefcase made Sandow a threat to the championship, that the prop in his story is the end all, be all to his slow, steady and obviously working rise to main event status, then we’ve totally missed the point of enjoying sports entertainment specifically and pro wrestling in general.
The loss to Cena during the solid and strong opening to RAW isn’t the end for Damien Sandow and his career; it’s actually only the beginning.
And all of this is coming from the L.E.W.D. writer who hates Damien “Effing” Sandow.
Former TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles will defend his title in Guadalajara, Mexico on Sunday, November 3. His opponent will be El Mesias, also known as Judas Mesias from his days in TNA.
The word “former” is used to describe Styles because earlier today it was announced via TNA’s new 24/7 initiative that the promotion’s president, Dixie Carter, has stripped Styles of the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. As early as last week, however, it was also leaked (via spoilers) that Carter would utilize tonight’s Halloween episode of Impact Wrestling to announce a tournament to decide a new TNA World Heavyweight Champion.
As much as this storyline reeks of something done before, most fans welcome this news as a sign of exciting things to come within the promotion. TNA has been beleaguered in recent weeks with more negative news than paternity tests on The Maury Show, so any bit of positivity for the company should be received with open arms and smiling faces … even at the expense of fuzzy logic.
AJ Styles defeated Bully Ray at TNA’s 2013 Bound for Glory pay per view to become the promotion’s new World Heavyweight Champion. Styles successfully defended his title against the former champion on the October 24 episode of Impact Wrestling where, despite constant please and bribes from Dixie Carter, walked out of the company while still in possession of the championship belt. It was during an in-ring interaction with Carter that Styles made it clearly known that he did not have a contract with TNA nor did he intend to sign a new one.
At that moment AJ Styles technically abdicated his position as TNA World Heavyweight Champion, thus vacating the title and giving Dixie Carter the go ahead to vacate said title … which she did today.
When Styles faces El Mesias this Sunday for Mexico’s AAA promotion, what exactly will he be defending?
The TNA World Heavyweight Championship is TNA’s most coveted title, an award given to the promotion’s top heavyweight wrestler. Being TNA’s World Heavyweight Champion implies that you’ve faced and defeated competitors from all around the world on behalf of Total Non-stop Action Wrestling, LLC. TNA recognizes you as their champion and allows you to defend their title in their name against competitors they deem worthy of having a shot at it.
If TNA no longer recognizes an individual as their world heavyweight champion, for whatever reason, that individual can no longer claim the right or authority to be the TNA World Heavyweight Champion; plain and simple.
The title currently held by AJ Styles means very little inside of TNA and even less outside of the promotion. It is a symbol of his last reign as TNA World Heavyweight Champion, but that’s about it. Even more damning is the fact that AAA can’t recognize him as TNA World Heavyweight Champion within the Mexican promotion especially after it was announced by TNA President Dixie Carter that he was stripped of said title.
As far as the storyline goes from this point, AJ Styles will tour the world defending a title and championship devoid of all but sentimental meaning. The title he possesses is no longer sanctioned by the promotion he no longer works for; AJ Styles will literally tour the globe to defend his own personal Global Championship.
Where could TNA possibly go with this storyline?
Dixie Carter will publicly announce the beginning of the tournament to crown a new TNA World Heavyweight Champion on tonight’s episode of Impact Wrestling. This tournament could easily last a month, with Magnus eventually being crowned the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion.
AJ Styles returns after having several awesome matches and “title defenses” around the world, making a claim in TNA that he is still the TNA World Heavyweight Champ because he wasn’t defeated for the title. His claim would be (and should be) immediately dismissed by the real TNA World Heavyweight Champion, who would possess the promotion’s only sanctioned World Heavyweight Championship.
Styles would claim that after defending his “title” against legendary stars around the globe, Magnus could never rightfully claim to be “the man” in TNA because, as the saying goes, he’s yet to defeat “the man.” Styles would go on to insult Magnus by calling him a paper champion, a puppet of Dixie Carter that will get used and abused for years just as he did. Styles would claim that Magnus’ only way of legitimizing himself and his legacy in TNA would be to prove that he can best the company’s de-facto face and a true world champion.
Magnus would have nothing to gain by wrestling Styles, so he refuses to wrestle him for some time. To Magnus, bragging rights for defeating a former champ that left the company means nothing to a champ that climbed his way up the ranks and defeated TNA’s biggest names to gain recognition as their World Heavyweight Champion. Magnus would refuse to face Styles because facing Styles, at this point in his career, would be beneath him.
Styles and Magnus would go back and forth in a war of words for a period of time before a third party steps in and forces them to face each other for the rights and privileges to be called TNA’s World Heavyweight Champion. Magnus wins in a hard fought battle and becomes the “face” of TNA moving forward with renewed vigor.
That’s one way things could go; but alas, what do YOU think?
A particularly nasty rumor has recently surfaced regarding the future of Total Non-stop Action Wrestling, LLC.
Conveniently happening during Sunday night’s 2013 WWE Hell in a Cell pay per view, news leaked on renowned wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer report of the Carter family’s intent to sell TNA. The news literally spread like wildfire, and by the conclusion of Hell in a Cell, several pundits, analysts, defenders and detractors were viciously sparring over whether or not the news was a fact or rumor. Some individuals even went immediately to discredit Dave Meltzer and all sites reporting the rumor as “news.”
While a rumor of this ilk is not something new for TNA, it does seem odd for Dave Meltzer’s name to be unceremoniously attached to it. Even more concerning is that in the midst of the speculation there is no substantial proof either way regarding the validity of the rumor. There’s no concrete evidence that the Carter’s are looking to sell TNA, and there’s no concrete evidence stating that they aren’t interested in selling it either.
There is, however, evidence that would suggest that the company is far from being placed on the auction block.
Details were announced yesterday to nowhere near as much fanfare about TNA’s upcoming UK tour. For the first time in its eleven year history TNA will tape two pay per views (One Night Specials) from the UK. Also significant about this year’s tour is that the promotion will be filming for television during all four shows. The UK market has always been presented as something to be nurtured and heavily supported by TNA, so news of this magnitude is a big deal for the promotion and her fans “across the pond” and here in the states.
The UK fans always come across as being completely engaged in and enthralled by the action presented by TNA, far more so than any American audiences they’ve appeared before. One could easily look at this news and logically conclude that a company on the fringes of being sold would also not be in a place to push forward with such a momentous production in the UK tour.
But the UK tour alone is not enough to discredit the rumor of the Carter family’s intent to sell TNA. The UK tour, if anything, only proves that the company is moving forward with plans of touring the United Kingdom, something that probably was already set in motion after the conclusion of the last UK tour.
Just because a business is up for sale doesn’t imply that the business halts production until the actual sale has occurred.
For example: if a man was to sell his only means of transportation, would he stop using that vehicle until someone purchased it? How would he get to work or to the grocery store? Why would he let the vehicle sit unused for an indefinite amount of time before someone comes along to purchase it? Would he also neglect to maintain it until the perfect buyer comes along? If so, will he be handing over a lemon to an unsuspecting buyer?
Corporations and businesses purchase other corporations and businesses all the time, often times going unnoticed by consumers by and large. When structures and entities as such are purchased, the business continues until a re-branding or restructuring is complete. There is a huge difference between a company going “out-of-business” and a company being “sold.”
Wachovia Bank didn’t go out of business; it was purchased by Wells Fargo. Patrons continued to have their banking needs taken care of all while Wachovia branches across the nation were redesigned and re-branded as Wells Fargo locations.
Black Entertainment Television (also known as BET) didn’t go out of business when it was purchased by Viacom (the parent company of Spike TV, by the way) in 2001. The network remained on air and programming made noticeable changes during its transition from a Black owned station to African-American themed MTV.
The rumor surrounds the Carter family’s intent to sell the company. If they were going to shut down the promotion it would’ve already happened by now. End of story.
However, if the family has yet to see a substantial return on the money they’ve invested in the company over the past eleven years and seeks to regain something from their investment, a much more fiscally agreeable decision would be to sell the company to an interested buyer. This way the venture wouldn’t and couldn’t be seen as a complete failure, but rather as something that no longer fit in with the Carter family’s investment portfolio.
Take the sale of WCW to WWE in 2001 as another example. Fans have it in their minds that the odds and ends of the sale took place the night Vince McMahon simultaneously broadcast himself and RAW on TNT and the USA Network. The actual move to sell WCW began months earlier if not a year in advance when speculation surfaced that WCW was up for sale.
The promotion continued to produce shows while varies entities put in bids to buy the company, most of which ended up being rejected. It is noted that when Jamie Kellner became the CEO and chairman of Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc., negotiations began with Vince McMahon and the WWE on the purchase of WCW; this was after a deal with Fusient Media Ventures and Eric Bischoff went south.
All this is to say that at least for one whole year negotiations between several entities happened before the actual sale of WCW was finalized. In that year, WCW did not cease to broadcast shows or produce a product; they merely went ahead with business as usual until the official announcement was made via Monday Night RAW and the last episode of WCW Monday Nitro. Within that year, contracts were disputed, assets were appraised, debt was discussed, libraries and publishing rights were purchased, and so forth and so on.
It is too absurd or difficult to believe a similar process is occurring between TNA and some interested entities?
Perhaps it is but for various reasons…
There are fans that genuinely prefer TNA’s brand of pro wrestling which, in and of itself, provides a particularly unique form of amusement in the sports entertainment industry. TNA is important to these fans because it is the type of quality pro wrestling desired in an industry flooded with what they deem to be crap. TNA is analogous to eating a daily well-balanced diet as opposed to another promotion’s unhealthy fast food dietary habits.
These fans may also view TNA as the proverbial underdog in an industry lorded over by an evil and soulless, money driven corporation (which, of course, is one highly subjective opinion). In one sense the fans live vicariously through the promotion’s successes and failures, willing TNA to continue to conquer hurdles in its quest to remain a fixture in the industry. If TNA can make it and continues to succeed, they can draw inspiration and strength from the small company standing up to the machine.
Other fans view TNA necessary for competition, stating that having “alternatives” in the business is good for the business as a whole. To these fans it isn’t all that necessary that TNA performs at a level comparable to the WWE, but rather that they exist and are supported to the point where it forces the WWE to get better due to the increased notoriety of TNA’s product.
It’s quite possible that the aforementioned fans view any news of TNA operating outside of its current form and structure as a failure, which isn’t true at all. If anything TNA operating within its current form and structure is more of a failure than the sale of the company could be at this point.
One’s head would have to be buried completely in the sand to miss all of the restructuring TNA has done in the past few months. No matter how we spin the news, the reality is that several decisions made within the promotion have left them with very few options to keep the product up and running.
They’ve had to scale back their touring schedule, take the show back off the road (something I believe wasn’t designed to be a long term plan from the very beginning), and release several wrestlers and company officials from their contracts. Those are all measures companies take to cut costs, and companies cut costs when they’re not bringing in enough revenue to handle operating the company.
Despite our misguided belief as fans that money isn’t a significant factor, it is significant enough for TNA’s parent company to at least consider the option of selling the promotion if the promotion is not performing at an optimal level.
Fans can bicker back and forth for an eternity over the quality of the product and the millions of fans worldwide, but the bottom line is that it is quite possible those numbers aren’t translating into steady revenue streams. The promotion wouldn’t have needed to fire anyone en masse or take their only flagship program off the road if they were truly bringing in more money than they were spending.
Selling the company ensures that a group or entity devoted to the product and pro wrestling can take the helm and revive this beleaguered promotion. Potential investors could be unearthed and take the promotion to even greater heights if allowed to invest in TNA in ways the Carter family and Panda Energy, Inc. no longer can. The sale of the company can be viewed as a great thing depending on how the situation is viewed.
Then again, this is still all speculation on behalf of one Dave Meltzer and tons of overzealously analytical fans.
No one outside of the company and its investors can say definitively whether or not Total Non-stop Action Wrestling, LLC is up for sale. In the event that it is, we can only hope that the promotion doesn’t falls into the hands of an individual or corporation that wants to kill it off.
In the event that TNA isn’t for sale, we can only wait to see if they truly can rise above their challenges and conquer the fans’ hearts and dollars in ways they’ve yet to do.