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.
As reported on Bleacher Report, Sheamus suffered a shoulder injury recently and is going to be out some time…
Well, we here at L.E.W.D. don’t often dig into the news/dirtsheet business, but I have conformation from HIS MOUTH that he will be out for at least 4 months. A (strategically placed) friend of mine was in Birmingham today and it just so happened to be the day of his surgery!
My friend spotted him at a restaurant and briefly asked him about his shoulder in which she informed him that the surgury was successful and that he would be out for 4 months rehabbing the injury which would set him to return around Royal Rumble time.
He doesn’t know if there will be any repackaging (as many of the IWC blindly beg for), but there will be a new fire lit for him to have success in the future.
Speaking of the IWC…
Let me set this straight….Fierceness and Heat does not a heel make. People get very caught up with the idea that everyone that is talented needs to be a heel…NO! NO! NO! (Like what I did there?)
“Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect” are also strong characteristics of both Gangbangers and Mobsters. It’s a motto that many of them live by.
My point: Much like Vince McMahon has said in the past, “Fans know what they like, but don’t know what they want, and it’s my job to show them!”
Do you really want Sheamus to be a heel, or do you just want him to be more entertaining in a way that satisfies your tastes?
Counting the pre-show match, we were given eight VERY good matches last night, and that’s saying something because through at least 70% of the PPV (okay, maybe 62%) you wouldn’t have guessed it. What was a very, VERY sound PPV with terrific in-ring action and in-ring psychology was also met with an exhausted crowd who only truly popped for a handful of matches and a couple of moments. For once, I can’t blame it on the program though: I blame it on the sequencing. The crowd collectively blew their load after the first match of the actual PPV, following a dangerously exciting pre-show match (interesting how to the two most entertaining matches featured the Shield).
But this is a swift review, because I’m eating fries and watching Pootie Tang (because I most certainly AM about that life) and one match in particular has earned and WILL have a full post all to itself. That being said, let’s rush through.
Pre-Show Match: The Usos vs. The Shield for the Tag Team Championship
Though I came into this match a little late, the match wasn’t just a sign that more Samoans in a contest are better, but that the Usos can hang with the best of them. The back and forths between the teams was fluid, while the false endings and displays of teamwork (which would turn out to be an interesting theme in a later match) were beautiful. We all knew that the Shield would retain but it was a very convincing match between two talented teams. Loved it.
Money in the Bank Match for World Heavyweight Championship contract: Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Dean Ambrose, Fandango, Jack Swagger, Antonio Cesaro and Damien Sandow
Easily the most exciting match of the night (in-ring and otherwise, but not necessarily the most exciting MOMENT), the “up and comer” display wasn’t just terrific but it was amazing to watch. Powerhouse Barrett showed out and beat people with his elbow like they owed him money. Cody Rhodes stole the show and had people chanting “Cody’s Mustache!”. Dean Ambrose could prove to be as essential to the MitB matches as Kofi Kingston was back when they gave a damn about him. Fandango… was there. Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro proved to be the most amazing tag team in the PPV and had the whole arena saying “We! The People!” when they beat folks in unison. And of course Damien Sandow won.
It was a smart maneuver. He’s the smart one. You’re welcome.
There’s a LOT to dissect with this match so I’m devoting a piece to it exclusively. Suffice to say that I enjoyed the match to the point that I was actually dancing around. Money Dance dancing around, not R-Truth dancing around. That’ll be my next piece so look out for it. As for the match, loved it.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Curtis Axel vs. The Miz
A decent match, no more, no less, but a forgettable one. Don’t get me wrong: it was good to watch, but momentum wise it followed something brilliant. So it was just… meh. Crowd was starting to fade out a bit. Okay.
Divas Championship Match: AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn
So yeah, the Divas division has been dealing with an actual storyline, between a pretty brawler and a sexy sociopath. They’ve even put on some decent matches. Can’t say this was any different: the contrast in styles between the pair is apparent and they play to those strengths and weaknesses very well. What’s most impressive is how flexible AJ is when she does… well, anything, really. It’s scary how smoothly she pulls off that finisher of hers. And no woman should be able to beat someone so sexily in Converses. I should know: nothing like defeating someone in something wearing my Chuck Taylors.
But who really stole the show? Layla. With that dress. And The Corbin Macklin can attest (and hopefully, if he does, it’s with a lack of profanity or ethnic slurs) that I was sufficiently not paying attention to anything in the ring when I was paying attention to Layla. It was a good match though. I enjoyed it… what I actually watched, I mean.
Ryback vs. Chris Jericho
Didn’t care to see the match when it was announced. Didn’t care when I watched it. Good match though. They’re really trying to make Ryback look human. Wish that sounded like a good idea, but he needs some serious work on the mic before that even remotely appeals to me. So meh.
World Heavyweight Championship match: Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler
The crowd loves Ziggler. I don’t. The crowd is meh about Del Rio. I’m melancholy. That’s the funny thing: because these two put on a clinic in that ring. It was one of the more technically sound matches on the card and it was honestly something of a highlight. But the people didn’t care. A lot of the blame, I must reiterate, was because of the exhaustion from the opening match, but until AJ came out the crowd was pretty dead in many spots. And even when she came out it was relatively quiet. Not much to say but it’ll be interesting to see if Sandow attacks Del Rio. You’re welcome.
WWE Championship match: John Cena vs. Mark Henry
Everyone said it was TOO obvious that Cena would win. I said that the WWE throws us a curve ball every now and then. We got that with Sandow. It WAS too obvious that Cena would win and sure enough, he did. I direct you to my piece about the WWE being indoctrinated to think Cena is the perpetual underdog. In any case, Henry actual DID do what he said he would do: he beat Cena’s ass, and while he wasn’t busted open it was fun to see Henry give Cena the Cesaro treatment, if you know what I mean. Pretty good match all around, but I could have done without Henry tapping. That’s performing TOO much fellatio on Cena, if you catch my meaning.
Money in the Bank Match for WWE Championship contract: Rob Van Dam, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Christian and Randy Orton
Rob Van Dam came out and the crowd went nuts. Everyone else came out and the match began. Whereas the first MitB match was a stunning display of talent, this match was a stunning display of hilarity. Seriously, it was funny. While Cody Rhodes had the line of the night earlier, Sheamus had the moment of the night when he punched Christian through the ladder. It was funny. A few close calls had it looking like Bryan and Punk would win – and let me interrupt here and say that it was great to see Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and RVD in the same ring – but ultimately the briefcase went to Randy Orton, to a myriad of confused and angry responses.
I’ll put it lightly: Orton is the “safe” choice for winning. Bryan is still considered a bit of a wild card, Punk is in a storyline with Heyman and the crew, Sheamus is… there, Christian is essentially a temp and RVD is EXPLICITLY a temp. Like I said before: I wanted Bryan to win, but I anticipate a feud with Cena in the near future and likely some battles with Punk, the Heyman clan and, maybe, the Wyatts soon. So that’ll be fun. I liked this match.
And that, ladies and not Eva Longorias, is – as they say in the ghetto – that. I’m going to delve into the first MitB match in another piece, and I might go into the second one with some depth too. Until then, blee.
We talk a lot of sh*t around these parts about TNA, but even most of us here have to admit that they’ve had one pretty rough week … so much so that it almost feels wrong to even pontificate on what most fans perceive as “issues.” Please allow me, on behalf of the soldiers here at L.E.W.D., an empathetic video that show’s we’re not completely heartless when it comes to talking about TNA.
Between the unfounded rumors of WWE being “confident” that current TNA Hall of Fame wrestler Sting, the massive number of wrestler releases, Dixie Carter having to pull the Hulkster’s card, and a re-signing of an important figure in the company, the only thing TNA has to brag about this week is the fact that they’re still operating; honestly speaking, that in and of itself doesn’t even seem like a given anymore.
It’s no secret that fans have spent the better part of TNA’s existence attempting to predict the exact date and time when the company will belly-flop into oblivion. In an ironic twist of fate, this family-friendly Christian-filled pro wrestling company receives more apocalyptic predictions than the second coming of Jesus, the difference being that the demise of the former is more likely to happen sooner than the annihilation of life on Earth as we’ve come to enjoy it. Even still the wildly speculated and exaggerated claims persist, and despite their best efforts TNA can not seem to shake the notion that the company is one late-light bill payment away from having their property turned into future sites for abandoned store front churches.
One reason for the persistent speculation is the reality that no one outside of the company can authoritatively say whether or not the company is actually turning a profit. As a privately owned company, TNA is not legally obligated to reveal any financial information to the public whatsoever, which leaves to door open for that very same public to haphazardly speculate on how much money is flowing into the company compared to what they put out. Anyone could make the assumption that TNA is “making” money because they’re still touring and have a television show, but the rationale of such a thought process is flimsy at best when one doesn’t easily dismiss the counterarguments.
Regardless of what you may believe TNA changed its pay per view schedule to free up money to pay for the show going on the road. There was nothing “revolutionary” about moving from 12 pay per views/year to 11 with a special focus on 4; there was no need to change the way one does pay per view (because both the UFC and WWE seem to be doing well with their pay per views, and ROH consistently fails with their stake in the growing iPPV market). Even the added bonus of having 3 whole months to prepare for each major pay per view hasn’t really yielded anything worthwhile or different from what they’ve been offering on pay per view since last year. TNA changed its pay per view schedule to have money to take IMPACT Wrestling on the road. If the company was rolling in dough, why make this decision?
Secondly consider the recent talent released by the company. Some pundits and supporters will argue that the company’s roster is too big given that they only have one major program shown here in the states. I never supported this argument and disagree with it completely; it’s not that TNA’s roster is too big, but rather, their roster is small and they have yet to figure out a logical way to routinely rotate their stars in and out of television. Then again if most of their wrestlers outside of the big-ticket contracts are being paid per appearance as is widely speculated, then it’s makes perfect sense for the company to drop dead weight … which either a) allows them to pick up new talent (“Rampage” Jackson) or b) save money to divert to something else (unplanned X-Division free show and talent).
In that same line of thinking do not forget that several superstars have complained about their pay from the company, including the current Knockouts Championship Number 1 Contender Gail Kim (who left the company, made her money in WWE, quit and returned to TNA).
Thirdly, such measures must be taken in order to keep big ticket stars placated. Hogan isn’t cheap and neither (I would imagine) is Christy Hemme and a slew of others. Their merchandise (DVDs in particular) isn’t sold by major distributors, they have very few advertising deals with big companies, and I’m assuming a good number of their stars have side jobs to supplement their income and not just because “it’s their dream to [insert seemingly harmless "hobby" here].” The company is being bankrolled by Panda Energy, Int., and that’s probably the main reason why they’re afloat now; and that is seriously by the mercy of God’s unchanging hand, because without P.E.I. this company would’ve been DONE two months after it held its first show.
Even after all this, Taz resigns with the company, John “Big” Gaburick of WWE Tough Enough fame gets hired by TNA, and Dixie Carter reminds Hulk Hogan and fans that it’s not his job to be frustrated with a job that’s not his to begin with. Add to the mix the rumor that WWE is heavily courting Sting and is confident that he’ll sign some sort of contract with them, and you’ve got one big ol’ mess of drama that’s far more entertaining than watching another AJ Styles/Frankie Kazarian match on IMPACT.
While we’re on the subject, let’s take a moment to acknowledge this rumor about Sting. It may pain you dearly to know or hear this, but WWE has all the footage of Sting’s storied NWA/WCW career. In order for you and I to get that 3-to-4 disc set, Sting will eventually have to sign that WWE contract. There would be no better way to cap off his career than to have that DVD set plus a true once in a lifetime match against the Undertaker; and before we get emo, it doesn’t matter who wins that match, we all just want to see it happen. If you’re comfortable with the moral victory Sting gains by sticking with TNA through thick and thin, don’t get upset when you have to spend the rest of your life decoding and splicing YouTube videos together of his greatest matches.
If WWE gets Sting, it won’t be long before Hogan jumps ship as well. If Hogan jumps ship, then all hell is going to break loose and we all might as well take bets on how jacked up Invasion II will be; at least we know it can’t be worse than December to Dismember.
I’ll say it like this: TNA is always hailed for being this utopia, an Elysian Field of sorts where wrestlers can go to be happy doing what they do best … or moderately in some instances. There is no such thing as perfection, only the relentless pursuit of it. TNA is no more immune from having internal issues than your Great Aunt Tootie after eating two burritos and a pint of re-fried beans. I’m not predicting the end of the world for them, but it says something about how some perceive the company when the heat (the basketball team and the weather phenomenon) can be blamed for the company’s lack of drawing power in the ratings or at a television taping.
Several former WWE superstars have taken to the airwaves to voice their ill-timed negative opinions of certain aspects of the company. One consistent opinion among several superstars revolves around WWE Developmental trainer Bill DeMott, better known as former WCW wrestler Hugh Morrus.
These ex-WWE superstars, ranging from Derek Foore to Ryan Nemeth (NXT’s Briley Pierce and WWE Superstar Dolph Ziggler’s real life younger brother), have all alleged that DeMott’s training methods are unnecessarily brutal, dehumanizing, humiliating, and perhaps even illegal. Among those things it has also been alleged that the system, as it is set up now, is rife with sexual harassment … particularly coming from any general direction Bill DeMott is heading in or coming from.
If there is any truth in these claims from former WWE employees regarding DeMott’s practices, then it is far past the point where the WWE should have investigated the claims and at least publicly placed DeMott on suspension until things were sorted out. The real problem here, unfortunately, is more difficult to understand than we think.
We’ve arrived at a point in the history of the world that we imagine ourselves as humans to have “evolved” to a certain god-like level of understanding the universe that surrounds us. As Americans living in the United States, we take this understanding to an extreme and applaud ourselves in self-congratulatory pats on the back (a la Barry Horowitz) for being far more intelligent, wise, and skillful than our able bodied ancestors who survived all types of unimaginable hell years ago just so we wouldn’t have to today.
This hubris we embrace comes with a side effect; because we get so full of ourselves at times, we can look past certain pervasive problems that could easily be solved if we were not already convinced (or led to believe) that such problems no longer exist because “times have changed.”
What does it say about our achievements when a multi-billion dollar company like the WWE fails to publicly respond to claims of abuse and sexual harassment in their developmental system, especially when most of the claims are directed at one specific individual? While are they immune to public scrutiny when other, much larger institutions have felt the stinging wrath of society after being outed for hiding sexual harassment and abuse charges and perpetrators?
Again if there is any truth to the claims, then WWE has a duty—especially in this enlightened and transparent age we live in—to make it known to their corporate sponsors, stockholders, and consumers that they have zero tolerance for such things and that until a thorough investigation has yielded specific results, the accused (in this case DeMott) will be suspended until further notice and barred from participating in anything related to the company.
It doesn’t stop there, however; if there have been countless individuals who’ve come forth with these claims after being released from the company, why haven’t they filed formal charges against Bill DeMott and WWE?
As fans of pro wrestling we should be livid that this type of finger wagging and subtle jabbing is taking place on social media, far from the courtrooms and trials that would bring true justice to any individual in the company abusing the talent. This gossip cannon fodder trivializes any and all of the real life demoralizing practices that could be taking place. Why not file formal charges? Why not contact a lawyer? Why not launch a civil suit against the company? The real proof in the pudding lies in a wrestler’s resolve to end the alleged practices of Bill DeMott, not the witty, suggestive, or bitter comments made during an interview or over social media.
Perhaps it’s a situation where individuals inside and outside of the company are afraid to challenge the system, scared they’ll ruin their once in a lifetime chance to become a huge WWE superstar. If this is the reality these wrestlers live in, then these issues with DeMott will never be resolved; the issue won’t be addressed and corrected until an extremely huge and unavoidable scandal happens and forces the company to back peddle in order to survive a public relations holocaust.
The question is: why, in such an “enlightened” time in human history, do we have to wait for such a catastrophe in order to resolve the problem? Eddie Guerrero’s death caused a more well-defined Wellness Policy to be developed; Chris Benoit’s actions caused them to pay more attention to steroid abuse and eventually the lingering effects of concussions. Do we seriously need another life altering event as such just for the company to be transparent about their policy on sexual harassment and abuse? Maybe so; why should the company take these claims seriously when the method in which its being reported (via Twitter or through interviews) or suppressed (allegedly so) makes it seem so … humdrum?
On the other hand it is quite possible that the company has done an internal investigation that has revealed nothing of substance regarding the allegations against DeMott. If that is the case, all the snide and tongue-in-cheek comments from the ex-employees are nothing more than the bitter ramblings of disgruntled individuals, people who want to exact some sort of revenge from the company after they were released. Why not cause a stir before being released? Why not raise allegations before leaving the company? Why not talk to a lawyer before talking to people on Twitter or at an internet radio station?
If these accusers were also afraid of jeopardizing their spot while working with the company, that makes them equally culpable for the same lack of resolve to end the problem as the top brass in the company. If they were afraid of becoming martyrs for standing up to an abusive trainer or system, wouldn’t that martyrdom be worth it just to stop the terrible practices and end the cover-up of said practices?
Bottom line is this: if you know for a fact someone in WWE Developmental is getting away with abusing and sexually harassing wrestlers, stay off of the social media outlets, hire a lawyer, and file formal charges. Bring the practices to the light of day where scrutiny is unavoidable and quit hiding behind slightly ambiguous statements made in 140 characters or less. Real justice lies in the company acknowledging its fault in casually disregarding the allegations and making sure the perpetrator(s) of such actions make restitution for the wrong they’ve done.
Anything other than real progress and change happening on the business side of it all only serves to undermine the problem, enabling us to again turn a blind eye to societal problems as we celebrate the mediocrity of our own intelligence. If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.
I personally have no idea whether or not Bill DeMott is guilty of doing what several ex-superstars claim he has done. I do know that if every other institution and/or business in the United States and the world has to be transparent in outing sexual predators and bringing them to justice, WWE is no different. If one isn’t helping bring real awareness and change to the problem, then one isn’t helping at all, are they?
In less than eight hours World Wrestling Entertainment is poised to present the first ever Payback sports entertainment event LIVE on pay per view!
Tonight’s event, emanating from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois, looks to give fans the signature action that only WWE can provide. How fans actually feel about that action is up for debate, but breathe easy and be confident that whatever happens tonight fans from all over will find a way to be entertained by the action in the ring or in the Twitterverse.
The card tonight is robust enough to hold our attention even though the name of the pay per view is less than thrilling or energetic. With the exception of two or three matches, everything scheduled for tonight meshes well with the “retribution” theme of the event.
A part of me feels that this “retribution” theme is a tad bit weak, but who nowadays sits at home and complains about the theme of a pay per view? I get the feeling that this event will simply serve as a capable and sturdy bridge to next month’s Money in the Bank pay per view, where the real excitement will energize us as we launch into the big summer angles headed towards Summerslam in August.
With all that being said, let’s launch into some predictions:
Business between these two superstars picked up when Sheamus volunteered to participate in Sandow’s intellectual challenges. Frustrated at his inability to solve the challenges, Sheamus did what any normal bully would do and physically attacked Sandow. Does anyone else out there notice that John Cena tends to do the exact same thing when he’s verbally bested by an opponent? I digress…
I suppose the intent here is for Sheamus to silence Sandow and his self-righteous pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness, the goal being to punish Sandow for assuming that everyone else is his intellectual subordinate. It is slightly concerning that the Sheamus character chooses to solve complex brain games by beating a man senseless; keep in mind that Sheamus is the face of this match. What the hell kind of message is that sending to the kids? Be a star, why don’t you?
I would be surprised if this pre-show match up was a precursor for a long rivalry between the two men. I can’t imagine a feud built on such a silly premise would turn into something serious between these particular competitors. This isn’t to say that it can’t happen, it’s just that the thought of it has yet to materialize in my head. I also don’t get the picture that fans yearn to see Sheamus fumble at solving a Rubic’s Cube or understanding the intricacies of the Devils Fork anytime soon.
What is more concerning is that Sheamus’ last few feuds have been superficial at most, which makes me believe that the investment moving forward is (or should be) in Sandow. The “Irish John Cena” has flip-flopped around the upper mid card for some time without solid direction and seems to work best when he’s just as much in danger of a massive beating as the person he’s facing. The only behemoth left for him to face is Big E Langston, which again would benefit his opponent more so than himself.
I expect Sheamus to win this feud and move on to something else while the company figures out what to do next with Damien Sandow.
Prediction: Sheamus wins
Look at the three men in the graphic above and answer two simple questions: do you really care who wins this match, and if that Photoshopped Intercontinental Championship wasn’t present in the picture, would you still care who wins the match?
I’m not saying this to poo-poo entirely on the match; my concern is that the importance of the title has been tossed so far over the horizon that it doesn’t bring a “big fight feel” to the match. Unfortunately the participants in this match don’t do much to make the title at least appear like it’s worthy of attention. What we have here is an unholy circle of mediocrity.
Curtis Axel, the “it factor” of this match, replaced the recently concussed superstar Fandango in this trio of turmoil. Even with the brilliance of Paul Heyman at his side the Axel character is technically still a newborn in the grand scheme of things, lacking the charisma and established persona that would add an element of electricity to the match in the same way that Fandango would have. That electricity is absolutely needed in a bout featuring two great athletes and The Miz.
Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett, in all due respect, has essentially carried the title around as an accessory. The title is Barrett’s large, white and garish purse which he never sits on the floor and keeps others from scrounging around in it without his permission. He gets pissed if it’s taken from him, but could just as easily opt to leave it at home and take a wallet instead if he wants to travel lightly. The Miz doesn’t deserve a paragraph of his own.
There’s just no reason to invest in this match at all. The bout is no where near being deficient in wrestling talent and ability, but as we’ve discussed several times on this site a WWE match is much more than just showcasing great wrestling; that’s what TNA is for. There’s nothing remotely distinguishable about these three men and the significance of the title was lost long before this match, making it unnecessary for anyone to emotionally invest in the action other than to see two of the three competitors wrestle well.
I’m giving the win to Curtis Axel, as a win here would only add to the roll he’s been on with his high-profile victories…although it would make sense for him to fail at winning the title seeing as those high-profile “victories” are questionable. Then again if the man can beat John Cena but fail at beating The Miz…
Prediction: Curtis Axel wins the Intercontinental Title
Tonight will be Dolph Ziggler’s return to pay per view action after being shelved from a concussion. Since stepping back into active competition, Ziggler has been used sparingly in matches as WWE is treading water lightly when it comes to concussed superstars. This is a good thing; it does have some effect on the match and the World Heavyweight Title, but when it concerns a wrestler’s mental health and stability we fans should be understanding enough to allow the company to utilize precautionary methods and booking to ensure the wrestler’s longevity in life and not just in the business.
Ziggler and Del Rio are both accomplished athletes and wrestlers, so the match should deliver for as long as Ziggler sees in-ring time. I sincerely doubt this match will go the distance even though Ziggler has been medically cleared to perform. The company thus far has erred on the side of safely with Ziggler. who’s first real championship reign (not counting his wet fart reign during his time as Vickie Guerrero’s cabana boy) hasn’t been all that spectacular or memorable.
The other side of the coin is that Del Rio as champion is far more lifeless than Ziggler’s reign. The main and major redeeming fact in placing the belt on Del Rio is that you can get longer and more intense matches from a healthy champion than you can the one you’re keeping safe.
Del Rio will win the title in a relatively short match while the company plays it safe with Ziggler.
Prediction: Alberto Del Rio wins the World Heavyweight Championship
To put it mildly, the match between Dean Ambrose and Kane will be great.
The Kane character has seen a revitalization similar to that of Dave Batista’s final run in the company. Ironically enough Kane is also building a WWE legacy that will be remembered as fondly as that of his “brother’s,” The Undertaker. The man behind the mask is a consummate professional and his love for what he does can be easily seen by fans every time he steps through the ropes.
That being said Ambrose is fortunate to share the squared circle with a star of Kane’s magnitude. Ambrose is definitely deserving, having been given this opportunity after surviving his stint in Florida Championship Wrestling and NXT. He easily stands out in The Shield primarily for his mic skills, while his wrestling style is the epitome of the “unorthodox” style that other wrestlers attempt to pass off as a controlled form of flailing all over the place.
The fight between Kane and Ambrose will be ugly in the sense that the passion both men exhibit will easily permeate through their actions. It won’t be hard for fans to become invested in the ebb and flow of the match, as Ambrose’s facial expressions and body language make it simple for fans to say “Damn, I bet that hurt!”
I see Ambrose retaining the title with a little help from his Shield brethren.
Prediction: Dean Ambrose retains
Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan are the stars of this match, which leaves Randy Orton and Roman Reigns as finger cymbals in this symphony of kicks and bodyslams.
The team of Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan is just as volatile, if not more, than Team Hell No. Fans have been screaming for a more edgy Randy Orton, or at least an Orton character that isn’t floating around as aimlessly as Sheamus. I’ve read a lot of commentary that’s placed the blame on Orton for being what amounts to the green or red practice dummies in the Create-A-Move Set option on WWE video games. I myself don’t fault Orton, but creatively it is quite possible that the character has gone as far as it can as a face.
There’s also a concern among fans and pundits that the company won’t go the distance with Daniel Bryan. It’s no secret that WWE has a storied track record of neglecting superstars that are fantastically over with fans, particularly ones that aren’t huge and larger than life. I’m not clear on our expectations for the company regarding Daniel Bryan; do we want him to be handed the WWE Championship now or have him kick his way to the top of the roster within a month?
The perception is that the company won’t do right by the character, but if the character makes money I cannot see them doing anything wrong with it. I’d rather let the company show me they’re going to abuse the character and the wrestler rather than assume the worst from the jump. Keep in mind that many didn’t believe Bryan would make it this far in the company; our expectations can be just as restrictive and condemning as the reality they exist in.
With Jimmy and Jey Uso receiving a renewed push of sorts I expect The Shield will retain due to friction between Orton and Bryan. Reigns and Rollins will move on to defend their belts against established tag teams while Orton and Bryan duke it out in a rivalry concluding at the Money in the Bank pay per view a month away.
Prediction: Rollins and Reigns retain
Last Monday’s episode of RAW saw AJ Lee revealed as Kaitlyn’s secret admirer, which was the result of a cruel joke played on the Divas Champion by Dolph Ziggler’s questionably sane girlfriend. Enraged after being publicly humiliated by AJ Lee, Kaitlyn has gone on rage-filled rampage that Lee will have to contend with tonight if she hopes to win the Divas title.
Kaitlyn won’t be thinking clearly, however; a large part of Lee’s offense includes mind games, similar to that of Goldust during his first run in WWE. With Kaitlyn’s unfocused anger present, Lee with more than likely capitalize on mistakes Kaitlyn will make throughout the match.
What surprised most fans about this match up is the fact that WWE actually devoted energy into giving the Divas a specific storyline. Some fans even commented how AJ Lee’s “crazy chick” persona is a weak version of Mickie James’ initial WWE character. I think this opinion does a disservice to Lee, James and Kaitlyn, however. Mickie James’ character was crazy from an odd infatuation with Trish Stratus, while Lee’s character tends to be a calculated insane, crazy with a purpose and goal … and just plain nuts from the get go.
By comparing Lee to James fans are intentionally disabling themselves from investing in Lee’s character as Lee’s character. By conjuring up the Mickie James character of old, fans negate anything done by James after that and currently. Kaitlyn also suffers because fans will think of her in terms of Trish Stratus even there is no comparing the two whatsoever. The end result is back to square one, looking at the Divas division as something that it once was some 15 years ago; even then our understanding of that era is somewhat stained by inaccurate perceptions and bias.
AJ Lee will win the title, creating a rivalry and furthering the storyline between the two.
Prediction: AJ Lee wins the Divas Championship
CM Punk will hopefully make his triumphant WWE return tonight in Chicago as he looks forward to facing WWE veteran Chris Jericho.
Jericho and Punk have had excellent matches in the past and will not disappoint tonight. The match between them was booked due to Paul Heyman, which could be the foundation for an eventual split between the Straight Edge Superstar and the maniacal mastermind behind the original ECW.
Chicago will go bat sh*t crazy over Punk’s return, fueling rampant speculation around whether or not Punk will be a face or heel moving forward. Plans are always subject to change and I personally have no other reason to look to this match to indicative of where the Punk character is moving next. Instead fans should simply enjoy what will be a near five-star match between two top-tier competitors and allow the story to unfold before our eyes.
The only wildcard in this match is Punk’s status in the company. The superstar has talked very little about the match on the various social media outlets available and has only openly stated his enjoyment of life while not wrestling. There is a slight chance that Punk may not show up tonight, giving us a “surprise” match between Jericho and someone from the Heyman Family. The only other feasible option in the event of a Punk no show would be the debut of the Wyatt Family … but that’s not going to happen.
If Punk wrestles he won’t lose in his hometown and Jericho won’t fall into mediocrity by losing here.
Prediction: Punk wins
Last month’s Ambulance Match between John Cena and Ryback revealed a few things that most older fans either missed or cared very little about.
For one a John Cena WWE Champion has officially done as much as it can and will do creatively. Cena holding the title seems forced, uninspired, and plain flat. He’s rarely booed anymore because his detractors don’t even care enough to boo him. Every time Cena steps into the ring, armed with his killer work ethic and never-say-die attitude, the end result is the same wash-rinse-repeat cycle we’ve seen of him for what seems like centuries. He’s always presented as the underdog even while being the champion, and there’s nothing dynamic about the psychology of his matches or character. Franky he’s just there like a pair of shoes that you really should’ve gotten rid of months ago.
Secondly, Ryback was positioned to be the Doomsday to John Cena’s Superman. The fallout from their stalemate at Extreme Rules, however, has turned Ryback into a tool being used to make fans give a damn about Cena again. This isn’t very different from a number of feuds Cena has been involved in, but it is rather unfortunate that Ryback was forced to become a heel for no other reason than to get fans to organically support Cena as an underdog … even though he’s the champion.
Thirdly, the fact that a gimmick match was used in their first official singles match as well as their second foray against each other is concerning. I find it concerning because most gimmick matches are used when a fight escalates to certain levels and to mask certain deficiencies a wrestler or wrestlers may have. From that perspective what does it say when Cena and Ryback’s first match needed a stipulation?
John Cena will retain his title. There’s nothing else that can really be said or done about that. I expect Cena and Ryback to go at it at least one more time at Money in the Bank, maybe even with a final match in August at Summerslam. Other than that … whatever.
Prediction: John Cena retains
Payback looks good on paper but will only serve as a competent segue to the next pay per view and summer storylines pointing directly at Summerslam. The pay per view won’t be a total bust, but if you choose to spend today doing something else, the WWE Universe will continue to roll on without a hitch. For those of us actually watching the pay per view, here’s to hoping we’ll get some enjoyment out of the action!
That was the exact word I used when I first laid eyes on Sin Cara. It was Monday night, April 4, 2011 when I was seated next to the Rt. Rev. Showtime in Phillips Arena here in Atlanta, Georgia. The Rt. Rev. purchased tickets for us to see the post-WrestleMania XVII episode of Monday Night RAW live. That night the crowd was pumped from the previous night’s wrestling spectacle and extravaganza held in the Georgia Dome.
During the show that night, then United States Champion Sheamus scored a victory over Daniel Bryan and proceeded to pummel him further after the conclusion of the match. With only his music as an introduction, Sin Cara appeared on the stage and sprinted down the ramp to confront the champion.
Sin Cara scored a few moves and managed to knock Sheamus to the apron and off of it. The star then mounted a turnbuckle and soared through the air with a diving crossbody, landing on Sheamus and making an immediate impact on his debut:
I remember sitting there, mouth agape and thinking, “Wow!” I was truly rendered speechless; time literally seemed to slow down as Sin Cara gracefully flew through the air with the greatest of ease. I knew for a fact that he would electrify the fans for years to come, eventually receiving the torch from beloved Mexican WWE Superstar Rey Mysterio to serve as the company’s future crossover Lucha Libre sensation.
Up until that point the company spent tons of money and television spots advertising the debut of a new, masked Mexican superstar. This wrestler, renowned around the world and revered in his home country, was set to bring his unique talents and skills to WWE. The promos and video packages were exceptional, and I for one was excited to see this new wrestler debut with the promotion.
Unbeknownst to me and others at the time, however, the advertising and hype would eventually prove itself worthy of serving as a clever facade capable of hiding the true Sin Cara character, a mask that worked as well as the stylized one concealing his true identity.
Sin Cara arrived in WWE as one of the first talents signed under Paul Levesque’s watch as Vice President of Talent Relations. He initially appeared to represent a drastic change in the way WWE evaluated and hired wrestlers to groom as future superstars. The fact that the company hired a luchador amid the large hulking and semi-immobile behemoths WWE is known for courting suggested a much needed infusion of new blood in the company’s uninspired roster.
Already having some acclaim in Mexico, Japan and China as Mistico, there was hope that this unique character would excite the company’s global audience and appeal to their Latino demographic in the same way as Rey Mysterio. It was very obvious that the company was positioning him to be the new Rey Mysterio as the former WCW star slowly entered the twilight of his career after suffering numerous injuries and personal setbacks.
With an extremely large amount of potential energy surging behind him, Sin Cara exploded onto the scene immediately with the daunting task of “getting over” as quickly as he could. Ironically enough a botched entrance on that fateful April night in 2011 would be an omen of sorts that would describe his entire WWE career to date.
The Lucha Libre style of pro wrestling developed in Spanish speaking countries and embodies a culture of its own that is too storied and detailed to describe in this piece. The hallmark and most identifying feature of this style are the high-flying, high-risk aerial maneuvers performed by the wrestlers. The ring psychology of this style rests in lightning fast strikes and dizzying maneuvers that confuse, frustrate and leave opponents disoriented.
Instead of relying on power and strength, most Lucha stars use their agility and speed to land stunning blows to their opponent’s head and legs. Attacks to the body are minimal, leaving luchadors to work at softening their opponents with rapid blows to specific areas (the head, thighs or knees). A luchador’s finish typically involves a devastating blow to the head or aerial maneuver that serves as the exclamation point to an incredibly action-packed, fast paced match.
Sin Cara brought this same style with him to WWE but was brought up to the main roster without making the necessary standard two year stay in Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). Without that stay Sin Cara didn’t have the opportunity to learn the “WWE style” or adapt elements of his Lucha style to that style, causing a disconnect between the Sin Cara character and the American fans in the United States, the company’s primary demographic in its “global audience.”
The company recognized this shortcoming early and perhaps even prepared for it upon his arrival. Special lighting was used during all his matches (and is still used today) and he was paired with opponents familiar with the Lucha style. A few of his first matches and feuds involved Chavo Guerrero and Primo and Epico Colón. Interweaved in between were high-profile matches and partnerships that involved John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Jack Swagger, Cody Rhodes, The Miz and Ted DiBiase.
Sin Cara also gained a spot in the 2011 Money in the Bank Ladder match, but was unsuccessful in his attempt to receive a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship. In that same match Sin Cara was “injured,” as a quiet way of being removed from television for his first violation of the company’s Wellness Policy.
When he returned a feud was ready for him with imposter Sin Cara Negro (portrayed by fellow Lucha wrestler Hunico). This feud was short-lived as the real Sin Cara suffered a legitimate injury in November 2011 that sidelined him for six months.
He returned in May 2012 and began teaming with Rey Mysterio in a series of matches, most of which were designed to reinvigorate the tag team division. Mysterio would serve as the storyline and real life mentor of Sin Cara, but the two would fall short of their tag team championship goals. Once again Sin Cara suffered an injury that would place him on the shelf in December 2012 for one month.
He returned in January 2013 at the Royal Rumble pay per view and was used sparingly for two months. More injuries kept him out of action until May 2013, where he returned to a nice and comfortable spot in the undercard and remains there at the time of this writing.
To that extent, Sin Cara is officially a lame duck in the WWE hierarchy of superstars.
With only two years in WWE under his mask, Sin Cara appears to be one of the fruits that have fallen far from the WWE Tree of Destiny. He’s more known and celebrated for botching moves/matches than he is for breathtaking moments and jaw-dropping athleticism. No one questions why he does the job for matches when he should be planted firmly in the upper mid-card. No one missed Sin Cara when he was off of television; his returns receive no fanfare and the commentators seem unenthusiastic about his abilities and presence.
In a match against Damien Sandow on Wednesday’s episode of Main Event, even Sin Cara’s body language seemed to be that of a man defeated, a depressed and sterile shell of what once housed limitless potential. Sin Cara no longer embodies the hope of a superstar destined to take our breath away; he’s become the laughing stock of smart fans and an afterthought to a generation that’s content with the same old predictable product.
Contrary to popular thought, Sin Cara is more of a victim in this series of unfortunate events than he is the deserving subject of ridicule and apathy. Sin Cara was set up to fail from the very beginning.
WWE’s developmental territory and “system” at this point in time is a necessary evil. The entire process of hiring a potential superstar is designed in a frustratingly precise way to achieve an insanely specific result. The very style the wrestlers learn is specific to WWE, and even if a wrestler brings a distinct style to the table it is altered to suit WWE audiences.
By allowing (or forcing) Sin Cara to bypass this crucial step in his WWE career, the company inevitably forced him to work a style familiar to him for an audience largely ignorant of anything outside of WWE. At the time Sin Cara was also limited in the opponents he could work with that meshed favorably with his style. This would account for his frequent “botching,” messing up moves with opponents because either his or his opponent’s timing in the ring was off. There was also speculation that Sin Cara spoke very little English upon his arrival in the company, which would naturally lead to miscommunication with opponents in the ring.
His first Wellness Policy violation, as well as a string of injuries, also hindered his growth in the ring. The stop-and-go pace of his journey caused continuous gaps in his rise to the top, which was only confounded by the back-to-back occurrence of these events. A substantial program between Sin Cara and a credible opponent could not be established because of his time off; he also avoided being placed in serious title contentions for the same reason.
Sin Cara was also not allowed time to speak, forcing him to convey emotion through his body language. Further pressure was placed on his body language due to his face being completely hidden by his mask. While this is not a bad thing for promotions that make wrestling a priority (such as in Mexico or Japan), it becomes a MASSIVE albatross around his neck within a promotion that emphasizes microphone skills and charisma. Even with an impressive array of moves and maneuvers, he lacked the knowledge to piece those moves and maneuvers together in a way that invites WWE fans to invest in the character.
The final product in most instances was a dull, lifeless character that moved from one spot to the next with no story told in between spots.
Sin Cara was rarely, if at all, allowed promo time, and the number of hype videos and vignettes featuring him declined over time. His best pairing over time was with Rey Mysterio, a union that showed some progress for his character but was snuffed almost in the blink of an eye.
Because of these things the fans never really got behind him and he slowly turned into one big punch line in a never ending joke. He became ridiculed for his mistakes more than he was appreciated for his work. When his work improved fans were silent about his progress and stayed mired in the filth of reminding others of their own personal ill-informed opinion of him.
To make matters worse the smart fans began to blame him for being the “colossal failure” many believed him to be. Without fan support or reaction from the American crowds, Sin Cara was placed on the back burner as attention was given to more rousing and exciting characters. From this perspective there should be no wonder as to why he wrestles with no purpose or reason for being in WWE; he is currently the only superstar most fans have no issue with watching lose a match consistently.
This is quite possibly the worst form of Hell a wrestler can exist in: being relegated to working in a less than desirable position while being intentionally kept in your company to serve a purpose other than the one you were originally hired for.
There is an often used phrase about abandoning hope at a certain point of no return; it’s safe to say that if this is where Sin Cara currently resides, he would be extremely lucky to have a penny with a hole in it … (see what I did there?)
Sunny days could be in store for Sin Cara, however; depending on how you look at those bright skies could mean the difference between seeing a renewed Mexican luchador or a man liberated from the oppressive gray skies of WWE.
Perhaps there’s truth to the signing of luchadors Amazing Red and Samuray Del Sol; WWE Superstar Hunico, who is an amazing talent and highly prized by WWE, has recently returned to the company after an injury. Rey Mysterio will eventually begin his last run in the company, and must pass his torch to another Latin American performer. Alberto Del Rio has already alluded to retiring in a few years and Ricardo Rodriguez is positioned to be a perennial manager of lackey.
Point being the door is wide open for Sin Cara to make a statement if he earnestly wants to do so. What that statement will be, however, remains to be seen and heard; whatever he decides to do will determine the fate of his WWE legacy, either launching his name high into the upper echelon of amazingly gifted stars to perform for the WWE, or send him spiraling into an abyss of damnation and irrelevance with the likes of Braden Walker, Hade Vansen, Colin Delaney and Arthur Rosenberg.
All is not completely lost for Sin Cara. The faceless luchador from Mexico can prove his worth, but he has to be the one to take the first step towards redeeming his name. For Sin Cara the conversation isn’t about hope; it’s about determination and pride. In some way, even while bearing the load of a mountain of losses, habitual mistakes and repeated injuries on his back, Sin Cara could rise from his trials and tribulations as a standout star in a WWE Sea filled with forgettable countenances.
The moment that happens, you can be guaranteed that one way or another we’ll all be left stunned in our seats gasping for air.
This whole situation with Derek Foore selling copies of his WWE developmental contract unnerves me to no end.
The former developmental star, a standout collegiate wrestler from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, was released from the company in November 2012 after signing with them in 2011. Now only a mere and convenient seven months later, Foore has mustered enough courage to become the burly and athletically gifted Edward Snowden to WWE’s NSA.
Forgive me for being cynical but I just cannot buy into these mythic exploits of St. Chad Baxter of NXT.
Foore has stated that the purpose of his efforts is to expose how WWE exploits its wrestlers, which a first glance frankly doesn’t seem that much different from the way most American companies exploit their workers. We can only guess by Foore’s actions that the extent to which the company exploits the wrestlers (or independent contractors) is extreme enough to warrant a disgruntled ex-employee the wrestler to “take a stand against tyranny and injustice.”
More telling is a comment from one of Foore’s fellow former WWE developmental talents, Dustin Starr. In a response to the news of Foore selling copies of his contract, Starr had the following to say:
I will say this – having signed a WWE contract myself, I read every single page before putting my signature on down. Once I read thru every page, I actually had second thoughts on even signing it because of how much control they have over the talent.
We could spend all year scrutinizing Starr’s comments and dragging Foore’s name through the mud, but the bottom line is that one cannot complain about a particular injustice if one willingly participates in the injustice to begin with.
If Foore, like Dustin Starr, had honestly and earnestly read through his entire developmental contract prior to signing it, why did he not rally against the exploitive practices of the company after turning down the offer? Foore’s attempt at publicly humiliating the company now comes off as the actions of a bitter and cantankerous ex-employee attempting to cash in one final time on a company that at least invested in him as soon as he enthusiastically signed his image and likeness over to them.
That doesn’t make Foore a saint; if anything it makes him just as blatantly opportunistic as the machine he’s raging against. Once Foore begins to sell copies of his contract, he’ll be guaranteed fifteen more minutes of fame before he’s blacklisted by WWE and forced to compete overseas … something he’s apparently already considering, ironically enough.
What do fans stand to gain from this? Another bit of juicy gossip that reveals the truth behind WWE in particular and the pro wrestling industry in general? Will casual fans be inspired to pour through their own work contracts and quit their jobs just to reveal how “terrible” the company they worked for truly is? Will hardcore fans even give this a second thought and pass it off as just another pissed off employee with a hatchet to bury?
What does Derek Foore stand to gain from this? He’s thrust into the spotlight as a wrestling whistleblower, he becomes a topic of conversation among those within the industry; he makes a bit of money from selling the copies, and he has a ready-made persona when he works for promotions that would have, under any other circumstance, dismissed him as just another wrestler.
Foore stands to gain much more than the fans; ultimately in his attempt to show the world how WWE exploits its workers, Derek Foore in turn exploits the fans.
Does Foore have a right to air his grievances against WWE for his release? Yes, he does. Does he have a right to expose the company’s unscrupulous tactics? Yes, he does.
Does he have a right to copy his developmental contract and sell it to fans? Is he legally allowed to publically disclose information in his contract with the public? Is he justified in condemning the exploitive ways of WWE when he himself is pandering their dirty secrets to fans … for a price?
More importantly, can one really side with Foore in good conscious when he agreed to allow himself to be exploited by signing his name on the contract to begin with?
One can only be exploited if one allows himself or herself to be exploited. A different game plan would have been to rally superstars behind the scenes to force a conversation about their rights as employees. A different game plan would be to write or publish a book or article about how wrestlers can protect themselves when faced with a company that aims to control much of your character and your life.
A radical and perhaps more effective game plan would have been to not sign the contract in the first place and then explain why one didn’t.
But alas, all we fans are left with is more speculative dirt sheet cannon fodder that takes away tremendously from the art of wrestling and gives the IWC more to complain about in the never ending WWE versus TNA debate.
Let’s face facts: very few companies in the United States, let alone on the planet, operate with the workers in mind first and the revenue (capital) second. Companies driven by profits will do whatever it takes to cut corners so that they bring in more money than they spend. If a company that specializes in showcasing the talents and skills of independent contractors (i.e. “wrestlers”) wants to see that profit, they’ll more than likely restrict those contractors to a stringent set of rules and rights in order to maintain a particular image and to reduce the amount of money they’ll have to pay to the hundreds of workers that own all the rights to their characters’ likenesses.
Here’s the fun part so please pay close attention … if a particular independent contractor isn’t comfortable with the terms of the contract presented to him or her, that independent contractor can do one of two things: ask to renegotiate the terms of that contract or opt to not sign the contract and find work elsewhere with terms more suitable to their liking.
When it’s all said and done, this isn’t a case of someone unearthing the iniquitous procedures of World Wrestling Entertainment. At its core, this is a case of a decorated collegiate athlete seeking to embarrass a former employer as retribution for terminating his contract without giving a reason. Tweeting about selling copies of it and selling the copies only makes Foore look petty, immature, and vindictive. It’s funny how fans can be conditioned to hate Vince McMahon for those traits, but celebrate others for exhibiting the same thing.
Foore’s better than that; and if he isn’t, then at the least he can aspire to be better than sinking to such a level. With so many real and unreal villains in the world of professional wrestling, we honestly don’t need yet another one added to the list, especially another one that’s pretending to be a hero.
Fellow wrestling enthusiast and occasional L.E.W.D. contributor Ray Bogusz prefers good “pro wrestling” to “sports entertainment.”
In an article penned for The Color Commentator some time ago Ray admonished fans for their slavish devotion to sports entertainment, the very same form of entertainment those same fans will critique and criticize regularly. Ray’s point, in so many words, is that the penultimate expression of pro wrestling cannot be found solely in the world’s two largest promotions (WWE and TNA).
If one truly wants to indulge and consume pro wrestling, one would do best by expanding their knowledge of the sport to promotions outside of the United States. These promotions, each with their own unique spin on the pro wrestling industry, arguably present a product more focused on the art of wrestling rather than the showmanship of a carnival sideshow.
The beauty of Ray’s comments rests in his earnest attempt of encouraging fans to deepen their knowledge, appreciation and experience of wrestling. As vast as the WWE Universe and TNA Galaxy may appear to be, the wide world of professional wrestling is far larger and more important than the limited scope of sports entertainment.
Although it can be quite the daunting task to wean one’s self from the glitz and glamour offered by WWE and TNA, the reward of such efforts are far more pleasing and exciting than a lot of the mainstream mediocrity spoon fed to fans by the U.S.’s two major wrestling promotions. For starters, such a task can enable us to see that the American style of wrestling has specific nuances that, while entertaining, also limit wrestlers as far as building a well-rounded polarizing character or entertaining match.
In the United States there it is extremely necessary for a wrestler to be able to talk, to work a microphone and pull fans into their character primarily through their words. Athleticism and abilities come as a secondary necessary skill, but often take a back seat to the wrestler’s ability to get an audience to respond to what they say.
This facet of a well-rounded wrestler is not necessarily prized as highly in other countries as it is in the United States. As such it’s interesting (or at least it is to me) to watch wrestlers or promotions outside of the United States that place slightly more importance on the abilities of a wrestler than they do the wrestler’s public speaking prowess.
There are several promotions outside (and even a few within) the United States that hold that perspective as the foundation of their product. I am personally fond of British wrestlers and British professional wrestling, particularly the Catch Wrestling style often exhibited by wrestlers from Western Europe and popularly referred to as “Catch-As-Catch-Can” style.
The Catch Wrestling style captured my imagination for a few reasons. Outside of it being drastically different from the pro wrestling I’ve grown accustomed to watching (including how a match occurs in the “One-fall-ten-minute-time-limit” stipulations we hear often), I was drawn to the way wrestlers manipulated their opponent’s joints with maneuvers and holds. A Catch wrestler didn’t necessarily have to be the biggest player in the room, but rather had to have extensive knowledge of the human body (or knowledge of kinesiology) and how to manipulate it into positions that would force an opponent to submit or succumb to an inescapable pinning condition.
By virtue of its nature, the Catch style is more methodical and paced than the style we see most American wrestlers adopt and execute in a match; it should be no surprise that most fans don’t speak highly or often of Catch wrestlers, as the psychology of the match promotes the notion that these highly trained grapplers have to be worn down over a period of time.
Another thing that makes the Catch style intriguing is the brutal striking attacks administered by the wrestlers. Numerous hard hitting strikes executed with the forearms, elbows and knees are used to bludgeon an opponent, making this “ground and pound” offense a way to slowly and painfully whittle away at an opponent’s stamina and resiliency. There’s also the frequent and malicious use of slams and suplexes that also serve to clobber an opponent silly.
With such a dangerous arsenal there is no shortage of well-known wrestlers than have successfully made aspects of the Catch style easily consumable by American audiences.
Former TNA wrestler Doug Williams brought some prominent attention to the style during his run as X-Division champion in January 2010. Prior to this, his first run as X-Division Champion, Williams utilized the style without significance or fanfare in the grand scheme of the intended direction of TNA’s product.
It was with Williams’ run as X-Division champion that he and the company intentionally promoted the style, displaying a character that despised the high-flying, acrobatic antics of wrestlers in the division and commenting that they weren’t “pure” wrestlers.
Initially I believed this stark contrast between styles seemed foolish and boring, thinking that Williams grounding of the high-flying, high octane X-Division action would spell the demise of what made the division popular in the first place. I was proven wrong, however, as Williams’ ability to frustrate the one dimensional athletes with his holds and submissions gave me a reason to care even more about the division than ever before. It became entertaining to watch Williams flip and stretch his opponents, exciting to see his opponents scramble frantically to evade his vice-like clutches.It wasn’t long before I not only looked forward to the day a wrestler managed to survive and win a match against Williams, but also the epic ways Williams managed to pummel and contort the individuals that dared to challenge him for the X-Division title. This character development and X-Division storyline arc was abandoned after Williams was stripped of the title due to his inability to defend it in April 2010.
From that point on the Williams character became more of a brawler than a technical tactician. This isn’t to say it veered completely away from his Catch roots, but rather they were no longer as prominent as they were during his time as champion. As TNA began to quietly transition to a more sports entertainment friendly product, Williams also slowly moved away from being a featured X-Division talent and closer toward a valued enhancement veteran. With so many other technically gifted athletes rampaging through the company, Williams and his style no longer stood out as much as it did when he wrestled exclusively against smaller, high-flying wrestlers of the X-Division.
In October 2009 Desmond Wolfe, also known as Nigel McGuinness, made his debut in TNA by introducing himself to Kurt Angle and attacking him following a brief exchange. Wolfe would go on to bring his especially vicious Catch style to TNA against the amazingly technical prowess of Kurt Angle. Although Wolfe’s career in TNA was short and somewhat uneventful after his feud with Angle, the mean streak that surged through the Nigel McGuinness/Desmond Wolfe characters is unforgettable.
Wolfe’s Catch style was uniquely devious for a relentless assault directed at the head, neck and arms of his opponents. The most dangerous move in Wolfe’s cache had to be his lariat, which always look sickeningly effective in leveling any opponent caught on the business end of the maneuver. In similar fashion to Douglas Williams, Wolfe employed gratuitous use of the head butt and European uppercut when attacking opponents as well.
Wolfe was often paired in TNA with equally savvy technical wrestlers and managed to stand out with a keen focus on specific body parts, something most of his contemporaries did not work into their personas or match psychology. Wolfe’s role and presence in TNA declined over time, with the wrestler eventually retiring from active competition and returning to ROH Wrestling as an on-screen personality.
Click here to see a great match between Wolfe (as Nigel McGuinness) and Doug Williams from a ROH show in the United Kingdom.
Hands down my favorite British Catch wrestler is William Regal. Having wrestled since he was fifteen years old, Regal was established in wrestling well before going to the WWE in 1998. Performing as Steven Regal in WCW, the character excelled as a villain with a developed and pronounced mean streak. The Regal character would often utilize “dirty” tactics, such as eye rakes and biting, to add insult to injury while applying brutal holds to his opponents.
Every single move executed by Regal (Steven or William) was designed to intentionally hurt, cripple or maim his opponent in some of the most excruciating ways imaginable. His character was made all the more sinister with the complex nature of his move set.
For example, if Regal applied a hold to an opponent’s arm he could meticulously grind his knee into a shoulder, hyperextend an elbow, aggravate the wrist and dislocate several fingers all in one maneuver. Regal could also draw the referee’s attention to a particular move while further degrading his opponent with another move (waiting for the five count to break a hold while kicking an opponent in the face). Regal was also never afraid to use knees and kicks to strike devastating blows to his opponent’s torso or head.
Today Regal serves as an ambassador of sorts for the WWE, but also juggles announcing duties with the occasional match on WWE’s NXT program. Regal is at his best when training future superstars in front of the camera and behind the scenes as well.
Click here to see a YouTube video of an 18 year old “Roy” Regal face Catch Wrestling legend Marty Jones. Pay close attention to some of Marty’s maneuvers, as you can easily see where Regal learned some of his very own tricks (Jones actually trained Regal!).
A true conversation about Catch wrestling cannot be had without mentioning Jim Breaks among others. I don’t know too much about the life and times of Jim Breaks, but watching one of matches is akin to watching a world renowned sculptor craft a masterpiece right before your eyes.
Breaks’ selling point, apparently, was the infamous temper tantrums he threw when encountering the referee’s wrath (for his unscrupulous tactics) or suffering a loss in a multi-fall match. This made Jim Breaks a notable character in that his abilities were intricately connected to his persona, making showmanship an important part of his legacy and also earned him the nickname “Cry Baby.”
As one of the preeminent names in Catch Wrestling history, Jim Breaks was also a villain that sold maneuvers and holds applied to him in a manner that helped put over his opponents tremendously. As fans grew to despise the weasel-like “Cry Baby” character, they cheered voraciously when he received his comeuppance from his opponents. Jim Breaks had a legendary career and was an accomplished and highly decorated amateur and pro wrestler.
Click here to see a video of a great Jim Breaks match. Notice how the flow of the match allows you to pay more attention to the actual wrestling that’s taking place within the ring, and give some notice to how “real” the match looks and feels.
The names and characters mentioned here do not make up the sum of Catch wrestling, as there are hundreds of other European wrestlers who work the style and have contributed greatly to the business. There’s Johnny Saint, Marty Jones, Shirley “Big Daddy” Crabtree, The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, David “Fit” Finlay and Dave Taylor. Stars like Antonio Cesaro, Martin Stone (a.k.a. NXT’s Danny Burch) and even fan favorite Colt Cabana wrestle today and keep the Catch style as a part of their repertoire.
Do yourself a favor and check out more of the Catch Wrestling style, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. And speaking of Colt Cabana’s Catch Wrestling, please enjoy the following this epic exhibition of Catch Wrestling.
There wasn’t much hullabaloo immediately made when TNA President Dixie Carter commented in an interview last month with Digital Spy about being “absolutely open” to doing a crossover event with Vince McMahon and his WWE machine.
Believe it or not I share this opinion with Carter much to the chagrin of a few of my L.E.W.D. brethren. With the business on the whole situated in a PG period of stagnancy, a crossover event between the two largest pro wrestling promotions in the United States would bring something new and different to an industry growing increasingly stale.
Americans living in the United States are taught early on that competition among businesses is excellent for growth, development, and success. Carter stated in the interview that although she believes this to be true of the pro wrestling industry, she has justifiable concern that her company’s competition feels differently. To be honest with TNA currently standing second to the WWE in many different ways, the latter company has yet to have any good reason to acknowledge TNA without pretense; there’s no reason the big dog in the yard has to give the pipsqueak pup a chance to compete with them on a level they’ve yet to earn on their own merit.
If the WWE has maintained a vice like grip on the industry for the last 11-12 years, why would they willingly give that position and power up just for another company (Carter also mentioned this same thing, in a way, during the interview)? That honestly is the main reason why a crossover event between the two companies would be out of the question today.
A recent post by blogger Tom G at Gerweck.net has me thinking differently about that seemingly unfathomable event; as numerous sites and blogs are now asking fans to build their dream event that would see TNA wrestlers go head-to-head with the WWE superstars, I can’t help but to wonder how things would work if the wrestling world was perfect and a TNA versus WWE event was scheduled.
Establish WHY the Event Should Take Place
To begin with both companies would have to negotiate the terms of the event and decide how they would and could benefit from working with one another instead of against each other.
The immediate and obvious beneficiary would be TNA, the smaller company that gets scores of publicity and revenue from being attached to the WWE and its global audience. Granted TNA has a large number of fans around the world, but consider the numerical difference between IMPACT Wrestling’s 1.2 million U.S. viewers weekly and RAW’s 3.5 million U.S. viewers before making a stink about semantics. I would consider this a short-term benefit for TNA, as any momentum gained from the event would have to be maintained and capitalized upon by TNA.
There would be no instant gratification for WWE unless there was a specific reason for working with their closest rival (we’ll talk about that in a second). However in the long run, the WWE creative team(s) and booking team(s) would be forced to reevaluate the way they present their product if TNA capitalizes off of the publicity and momentum.
The long term benefit would also be for the business as well, creating a hype and buzz that would bring some new excitement and create buzz for an industry lacking in mass appeal all around. Essentially both companies would be looking at communal and individual success, both companies gaining something far more important by sacrificing personal and hubristic glory or domination over the competition.
If those goals alone aren’t enough to entice McMahon (Carter would agree from the very beginning), perhaps another goal could be to provide funds and support for a relief effort or other charitable causes. A portion of the money raised from the event could be donated to the many non-profit organizations supported by either company. Or, as Tom G. mentioned, perhaps the money raised from the event could benefit victims of natural disasters (Hurricane Sandy or the Oklahoma tornados) or tragic violence (Sandy Hook or Boston Marathon families).
McMahon rarely turns down opportunities to offer financial support to numerous charitable organizations, and an event of such magnitude that brings together an even larger array of fans and media attention would certainly whet his appetite.
Establish Parameters for the Event: The Overarching Story and 5 Year Plan
After both companies come on board and agree to work with each other, negotiations would have to take place that discuss what the event should look like and how it should play out.
Tom G. noted that an independent booking committee would be necessary to hammer out the details of the event, but seeing as most of the writers and booking committee of TNA has already worked with WWE in some form or fashion, such a committee would me more of a desire than a need. A solid crew representing the interests of both companies, in my opinion, would suffice just as well.
Regardless of the participants of the event it’s more important to lay out a plan that highlights the strength and weaknesses of both companies. The resulting storyline would lead to a resolution that tacitly shows fans what makes each promotion worthy of attention and money while also not denying the weaknesses each company suffers from.
The only thing that would frustrate talks at this point is the desire for either company to “prove” that it’s “better” than the competition. That should be a point left for the fans to decide, the result of which would ideally create a new era of prime time wrestling wars.
My particular idea would involve the event spanning over five years, with one specific pay per view show per year. This event, which I have conveniently named Proving Ground, would pretty much be a bi-promotional Bragging Rights that would take place in December each year. Each company would build towards the pay per view in their own unique way, using the three months prior to turn the focus of their major storylines towards the pay per view.
Think of it like this: in the way that TNA builds for Bound for Glory though the BFG Series, or in the way that WWE begins the “Road to WrestleMania” with the Royal Rumble pay per view. Similar things could happen in each company, perhaps with WWE having a “series” of matches to determine Team WWE and TNA having a battle royal to begin the storyline journey leading to the Proving Ground pay per view.
Over the five year period of time each pay per view would be designed to send a specific message to the fans regarding each promotion. These messages would either speak to each company’s strengths or weaknesses in a way that is truthful but not offensive a company and its fans. I imagine that the final pay per view in Year Five would involve a high profile match that would be the ultimate pay off in the series, each company progressing after the event in their own manner.
Keeping in mind that how a wrestler wins a match is more important than winning the match itself, it would be absolutely necessary for TNA to lose the pay per view in Year One.
Now in its eleventh year of operation, TNA has managed to survive financial ruin, booking disasters, and harsh fan criticism with an unrivaled level of skill. The company and its president continuously fight against a heavy tide of criticism and disdain from most fans; they cater to a diehard and rabid fan base that will support and protect it against any and all dissenters, including against ex-employees of the company.
Despite their dogged persistence and spunky nature, TNA has yet to really go beyond a certain point in its eleven year history. It’s questionable whether or not they’re making a profit and their best efforts cannot seem to raise their viewership beyond another specific point. Having acknowledged this reality, how much sense would it make to have the company dominate and defeat the WWE conglomerate on the very first pay per view?
The point of Year One would be to establish TNA as a serious competitor to the WWE machine. It will be highlighted that TNA can beat WWE, not that they have beaten WWE. The point to drive home with each match—win or lose—is that TNA has the heart and persistence to bring WWE to its knees. That can be done even if TNA more matches on the card than the WWE, including the main event match.
Year One would also highlight the differences between the two companies, most notably the difference between “wrestlers” and “superstars,” “Knockouts” and “Divas.” TNA would show consistently that their roster is filled with athletes while the WWE’s roster is brimming with entertainers. I even picture someone from Team TNA commenting that the WWE superstars “talk too much” instead of wrestling.
On the other side of the coin, the WWE reveal their weakness of underestimating the TNA wrestlers while highlighting their prominent position of employing some of the world’s top athletes. Team TNA would assuredly give Team WWE some frustratingly stiff competition, but Team WWE would prove that they cannot be pigeonholed as having a roster filled with flashy fops and doo-lolly dandies.
The main event match would pit WWE Champion John Cena against TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bully Ray, assuming that by the end of the year both men would still be champion in their respective company. Cena would win the epic and brutal bout and bring home the first Proving Ground trophy for WWE.
Year Two: Our Time Is Now
Year Two would see TNA regroup and capitalize off of WWE’s indifference to TNA’s abilities. The idea would be that even after staving off a TNA victory, the company failed to learn from the experience and once again treated TNA as a minor hiccup in the grand scheme of things.
Year Two would decidedly be TNA’s year at Proving Ground, showcasing the company’s ability to grow from one level of operation to another in specific areas. Their weakness, which WWE would exploit throughout the pay per view, would be their tendency to make minor changes in areas of little import in the grand scheme of things.
For example: if a Year One match between Zack Ryder and Robbie E resulted in a loss for TNA, that same match in Year Two would give them a victory between the same two individuals. Perhaps Robbie T would win a match against Mason Ryan, Velvet Sky would be victorious over a Bella Twin or AJ Lee. In Year Two TNA would amass several victories while coming up short in a few of the high profile matches, matches that would “matter” the most throughout the pay per view.
The main event match would see TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles (necessary) defeat WWE World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler (interchangeable with Del Rio, Swagger, or another solid collegiate “wrestler”). The match would easily be a five-star MOTY candidate, with high drama and exhilarating near falls. Styles would win clean, without any interference or excuses, and bring the Year Two trophy home to TNA.
WWE would have an easy out, admitting to the defeat but consistently pointing out that the WWE Champion didn’t lose his match. This approach could potentially devalue the importance of the WHC, but no more than it has already been. Point being the WWE comes to terms with accepting their loss at the hands of the young company, but also maintaining its status at the top of the ladder.
The Year Two pay per view would also set the stages for the Year Five pay per view, providing the stage for the rubber pay per view between the two companies.
Year Three: Death by Honor
The build towards the third annual Proving Ground pay per view would include an invasion from ROH, the small third company ignored largely by WWE and TNA. This build would include honest grievances that can be seen between ROH and both companies.
Stars from ROH would argue that TNA’s most prominent stars made names in their company first, and that TNA greedily snatched up their stars as they became popular. It could be noted how TNA, in all of its pro-fan wrestling based ethics systematically barred wrestlers from competing in ROH, a tactic that makes them no different from the company they claim to be better than (WWE).
In WWE, ROH stars can claim that management sold their souls for money and notoriety as the WWE “paid them off” in order to buy contracts from their remaining top tier talent. They could state how WWE would be nowhere near as popular without ROH stars bringing ROH-like excitement to the company.
In the midst of such claims wrestlers from both TNA and WWE would begin to take sides, either defecting to ROH or staying with their respective company. ROH would over time prove to be a threat that neither WWE nor TNA considered or was prepared for; each company would then work to maintain their rosters as well as prepare for the Proving Ground pay per view. Eventually ROH would work their way into a spot on the pay per view card.
The Year Three pay per view would see WWE and TNA extremely preoccupied with obtaining a decisive victory over each other without truly considering the presence of ROH in the events. Each company would dismiss victories obtained by ROH while remaining focused on attempting to gain victories over each other.
Team ROH would run into trouble gaining victories over Team WWE outside of defectors, but would give Team TNA a heck of a fight similar to the way TNA did WWE at the Year One pay per view. The WWE would maintain a small lead in overall victories, with TNA and ROH battling over second place throughout the night.
The main event match would pit the world champions from TNA (Austin Aries, AJ Styles, Magnus) and ROH against each other and the WWE Champion (Daniel Bryan, CM Punk) in a triple threat match. The finish would come when the WWE Champion (a former ROH wrestler) to ROH allows the ROH champion to pin the TNA champion, the significance being that WWE still remains on top and remains on top as their champion was not pinned or made to submit during the match. The WWE will also point out that even without winning the Proving Ground trophy, they still won the most matches during the pay per view (by one match perhaps).
TNA becomes bitter after having been underestimated and disrespected by WWE a third year in a row. This anger and bitterness will fuel them throughout the year and prepare them for the fourth annual pay per view.
ROH celebrates with the Proving Ground trophy, having “hung in there” with the big dogs and proving that they too should be recognized and taken seriously in the pro wrestling business.
Year Four: United
The build to the Year Four pay per view would begin earlier than usual unbeknownst to the fans. Both TNA and WWE would aggressively train talent in their respective developmental systems. Both companies would also pay attention to high profile names from well-known international or independent organizations such as DragonGate USA, EVOLVE, SHIMMER, SHINE, Resistence Pro, AAA, CMLL, New Japan, etc. These stars, after having honestly been in each company’s developmental system for some time (courted or hired prior/during Year Two) would debut throughout the year in the months right before the actual build to the Proving Ground pay per view.
ROH would once again “invade” both companies, claiming that their victory at the previous pay per view humbled the organizations and weakened their domineering control over the fans. They rejoice at the fact they’ll once again be able to humble each company.
Both TNA and WWE would begin to reveal their teams for the pay per view, each consisting of stars from the independent and international organizations. The pay per view would then feature these stars, plus each company’s “regular” stars, waging war against ROH.
ROH would have trouble gaining victories over these independent stars wrestling, and would maintain a second place position behind TNA and WWE trading leads and vying for the top spot. Even with a common foe in ROH, WWE and TNA would still attempt to gain a lead on the other company. This vying would eventually lead to an ROH victory that squeaks them ahead of both companies by one match.
The main event match would pit a team (tag, 6-man, Vintage Survivor Series teams) against ROH in an elimination match. The wrestlers on Team WWE/TNA would prove to be incapable of working together, with losses coming as a result of the team’s instability. With only two wrestlers left, Team WWE/TNA mounts a comeback and gains the victory from the pay per view when a WWE star makes the last ROH wrestler submit while the TNA wrestler scores a pinfall (far-fetched, but there’s a method to the madness).
With ROH sufficiently dispatched for the moment a debate ensues over just exactly who scored the victory for their respective company. With confusion reigning supreme over the finish, it is eventually decided that both companies can claim rightful ownership of that year’s Proving Ground trophy or award. This dispute will be the foundation for the final Proving Ground pay per view.
Year Five: Winner Takes All
The hype around the Year Five pay per view would focus on the controversial finish to the Year Four pay per view. The stakes are high, and it is noted that technically speaking that TNA and WWE are tied with two victories apiece in the series. The best of the best in all three companies are recruited to represent their promotion at the pay per view, which the stars training and wrestling feverishly to be in the best shape they can be.
The pay per view occurs and ROH puts up one hell of a fight, ultimately falling short of gaining a lead in victories over either TNA or WWE. In the first of two main event matches, they score a well fought victory over either or both companies which cements the idea that they should be respected and taken more seriously among fans as a promotion even though they still have some ground to gain to be at the same level as TNA and WWE.
The second main event would pit The Undertaker against Sting, which would (and could) lead to a second match at the following WrestleMania.
The third main event and final match of the last Proving Ground pay per view would see the WWE Champion face the TNA World Heavyweight Champion to proclaim the winner of the Proving Ground series.
The tricky part about deciding a victor at this point is deciding who should walk away with the bragging rights. All things being equal it can be assumed that five years of crossover events has created a fervor among casual and hardcore wrestling fans that surpasses that of the Attitude Era. Hopefully the goal of the series has been achieved in that all parties involved have benefitted from increased attention and revenue. The writing is better in all three companies, the presentation of the product (especially in ROH’s case) is better, and the fans are excited and thrilled to spend their hard earned money on pro wrestling again.
Regardless of who’s winning the ratings war I would give the WWE a controversial victory that allows both companies to retreat from the series in ways that speak to the realities that exist in each promotion. The finish would be controversial, but not “dirty” or “dusty.”
Think of it in the same way as you would the finish to Triple H’s Extreme Rules 2013 match against Brock Lesnar; even though Brock Lesnar won the match, he limped away from it and disappeared from television. Although suffering from a beating, Triple H still managed to show up to work the next few episodes of RAW.
The win would maintain the WWE’s position as the top dog in the industry, something it had claim two ever since the beginning of the series. Although the finish to the match is controversial, the company limps away from the victory and continues on its way of conducting business as it sees fit.
TNA, on the other hand, suffering from a questionable loss, returns to its business and can rightfully claim that it took the mighty WWE to the limit and even had it on its knees. The point during the loss would be that a) TNA has finally proven to be worthy of consideration as a competitor to the WWE and that b) WWE is not invincible as many believe it to be.
Whatever the finish may be it would involve interference from Vince McMahon and Dixie Carter, perhaps even with Carter landing a shot on McMahon after his blatant attempt to disrupt the match. This would give TNA fans something to cherish as the impending WWE victory creeps up on everyone.
With all that said and done the only thing that’s left is to book the very first Proving Ground pay per view. Stay tuned…
What does it mean to pander to the crowd?
I suppose it depends on the scenario. It can be a positive or a negative, depending on the intent. It can be something to ease the appetites of the audience or something to actually reward them. The possibilities are more or less endless. It isn’t a term that carries the immediate “bad” or “good” label (nor do ANY words outside of “taxes” or “breasts”) yet when it comes up people jump to one side of the bandwagon and scream and shout with the most violent level of vitriol they can muster up. Frankly, it’s disheartening. More than that: it’s lazy.
Let’s take the latest console war; for those of you that don’t know, a console war is a term coined by video gamers when a number of systems from first party developers are released, leading to
friendly competition between the two or more franchises for sales of consoles, exclusive games and the more loyal fan base. One of the earliest “wars” was between Nintendo, Sega and Atari, with the NES, Master System and 7800, respectively. Nintendo sold nearly 62 million consoles, completely blowing out of the water the nearest competition, Sega, who sold just shy of 12 million Master Systems. And the 7800 wasn’t even close to that, selling under four million.
That was the 8-bit era. Between those three companies, only one is still a first party developer: Nintendo. Sega would stay a first party developer for many years, and Atari more or less switched full focus to games at this point. The 16-bit era had Nintendo warring with Sega yet again, but the third party was the TurboGrafx-16, aka the PC Engine (and there was the Neo Geo AES but who remembers them?). Again, Nintendo “won” this war, with 49 million Super NES systems sold. Sega came in a much closer second with 40 million Genesis/Mega Drive consoles sold. And no one remembers the PC Engine, so…
Next we had the 32/64-bit era, which is one of the most storied, because it introduced Sony into the fray with the Playstation, a console that shipped more than 102 million. The closest competition was Nintendo, who was amazed to have been dethroned, with their Nintendo 64 (which could have done better if the damn cartridges weren’t so pricey to make): they shipped 33 million. In third place Sega, with the Saturn, and their nine and a half million.
If we fast forward to now, we have the first party developers of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, and we have the Playstation 4, the Xbox One and the Wii U to show for it. The Wii U is bombing already, but that was to be expected. Nintendo is to the console campaigns now what Sega was to the first few battles. That’s not to say that it won’t sell, but it won’t be anything drastic. A few million, but it’s a console marketed to the Nintendo faithful, and that’s okay. That’s cool.
Meaning the “battle” is between Microsoft and Sony, and it’s already “heated” up, as it were. The Playstation 4 was announced first, teased at first, but the Xbox One was officially revealed first, and the response from the gaming community has been… negative, to say the least. The actual reveal event was criticized for a lack of showing that many games, focusing on the TV feature and the Kinect 2.0. Essentially it was being displayed as an all-in-one entertainment system. Not much longer, the rumors that sparked up when the console was first announced (many, many, many months before) were brought back up, and some even validated, in a way. The console would always be on. It would need to connect to the internet at least once a day to function. The Kinect is required. Used games won’t play. That last one was quickly updated: used games won’t play… unless you pay a fee.
If you’re a heavy gamer, concerned with the state of video games and the like, a journalist either officially or other (shout out to Quinn, who shares my passion for video games), then you knew just where to go to hear how mad the heavy gaming crowd was. Furious. Angry. Seething. Mad. Insane! Wendell! Even now there are scores of people, pissed off and affectionately referring to Microsoft’s abbreviation of MS as M$.
No, they aren’t happy.
Later that day, when the Xbox One reveal went down, Sony offered a backhanded insult by calling the day a “slow news day” and giving the people another teaser of the Playstation 4. It’ll likely be brought to our full and undivided attention at E3 in the coming days, with a press conference to exert a level of superiority over the Microsoft box. As you might imagine, the gaming community is more accepting of the PS4. Aside from boasting more or less NONE of the things that draw people away from Microsoft, it has ALWAYS been the console made for gamers.
When the original Playstation was released, it was marketing in two very distinct ways, two ways that may have been the major deciding factor in it’s success. The first was that it was marketing to an older audience, a teen and late teen and twentysomething audience. It wasn’t pushed as a console for kids to pick up and play their favorite stereotype reinforcing or methamphetamine laced platformer. It was meant to be picked up by the older crowd: the men that made meals out of raw meat, Cambodian immigrants, Mondo squeezers and a spoon of Sweet’n Low. Men that invented the wheel and built the Eiffel Tower out of steel and brawn. The Ron Burgundy types, you know? In laymen’s terms: the generation that grew up playing video games.
The second thing was the how, as opposed to the who. The how was simple. It was marketing as the system FOR gaming. It was listed as the necessity to be fitted with the TV and the VCR. It was a gaming system, pure and simple (as most, if not all, gaming systems were then) but it was made for the gamer who grew up as a gamer.
So of COURSE I had to have one; insert sincere laughter in a silent backdrop here. But I had many consoles from that time and before. This was a successful marketing campaign, and it carried over, the crowd carried over, the market carried over into the Playstation 2. Not so much the Playstation 3, but the crowd, while less powerful, was still supremely loyal.
The Playstation 2 is, by all accounts, the most successful video game console in the history of forever. This can’t be argued: it’s STILL selling millions every year. It was also the first console to go far beyond being just a console, as it played music and DVDs. It could connect to the world wide internets and, if we can call a spade a spade, it was just more inviting than Microsoft’s massive black box and Nintendo’s humble little cube. Sure, Xbox had an internal music storage system, Jet Set Radio Future and the birth of the forever underrated and vastly influential Dead or Alive Xtreme series, and Nintendo had first party exclusives up the wazoo, but Sony had a FRESH legion of fans off of the previous console, and it was just a great console all around. I played mine to the point it ran slow.
My Xbox never did that. Still plays games perfectly. I’d venture to say DOAXBV runs better than that even.
Now, moving back to the current gen, Microsoft pissed off a number of gamers with their reveal, and Sony swooped in (despite how bad swooping is) and responded to the first verse of the console war (again, the Wii U is a Nintendo fan console) with a second verse that can’t be responded to. It’s like that Lupe Fiasco track Mean and Vicious. You know the one.
Marketing is all about pandering. Pandering revolves around audience. Microsoft hasn’t pandered to the hardcore crowd: they’ve been working towards being a media device and a video game console, all in one, and the console stand alone looks good to me. The Playstation has been, from the start, the console FOR gamers who have been gaming for the long haul. To literally have Sony come out and say “The Playstation is for gamers!” isn’t just unnecessary, but BLATANT pandering to the audience that already acknowledges Sony as the gamer’s company.
But so long as the audience is happy then it isn’t pandering, is it? Not unless you’re of a different audience. And by that logic, does pandering truly exist? Yes, but the question remains: what does it mean to pander to the crowd?
*to be continued next week with Part 2: A Knockout without Brandy’s Sibling*
This Sunday TNA will present the 11th annual Slammiversary pay per view extravaganza. While the card is stacked from top to bottom with matches sure to thrill and entertain millions of fans, the biggest news heading into the event revolves around the second inductee to the illustrious TNA Hall of Fame. How important is this second inductee to TNA and its loyal fan base?
Important enough for TNA President Dixie Carter to make a rare and special appearance during the May 30 episode of IMPACT Wrestling to announce that the inductee’s name will be revealed three days later; talk about a cliffhanger!
If things couldn’t get any more suspenseful, leave it to the fans to add one more intriguing piece to this enigmatic puzzle. Most fans place their bets on Jeff Jarrett as the 2013 inductee to the TNA Hall of Fame, making this the second year in a row that there has been an outcry for Jarrett to receive this honor. Realizing that Hall of Fame is only two years old a peculiar situation is created for those intent on figuring out the identity of the next inductee and those speculating that it will be Jeff Jarrett.
From one perspective inducting Jeff Jarrett into the Hall of Fame is a long overdue honor for one of the most deserving people in the company. After all, why would the company decide against inducting the man responsible for the company’s existence? If it had not been for Jeff Jarrett, there arguably might never have been a TNA promotion.
That logic, however, is questionable … questionable in the same way it’s difficult to understand why all the major highways to Hell are paved with good intentions instead of brimstone.
In order to understand why that logic is questionable, one must look to the past to understand the purpose of the recognition and its first inductee Steve “Sting” Borden.
According to Wikipedia the TNA Hall of Fame is an honor bestowed upon professional wrestlers that have contributed to TNA’s history. That fact alone gives the nod for a Jeff Jarrett induction. Jarrett’s major contribution to TNA’s history is being one of the founders of the company. In fact if not for a conversation between Jeff, his father Jerry Jarrett and family friend Bob Ryder, the concept of TNA may never have come to fruition. A significant number of fans credit Jeff Jarrett for being the true energy behind the TNA machine in its humble Nashville, Tennessee beginnings and the first few years of the company’s existence.
That reality, that fact cannot and should not be refuted. We can only imagine the amount of hard work, blood, sweat, gumption and tears Jeff Jarrett put on the line just to give birth to his company. Even the infamous Vince Russo commented in his book Rope Opera: How WCW Killed Vince Russo about Jeff’s passion for his company, painting him as a suffering servant of sorts; a man struggling after putting everything on the line for this company to start and succeed in the shadow of the colossal WWE machine which, by 2002, was the only major pro wrestling company in the United States.
In a sense Jeff Jarrett is almost a revered saint in TNA folklore, a legendary figure in the young annals of the company’s history. That opinion of Jarrett isn’t up for debate, and his efforts are worthy of high recognition and celebration.
However that reality, those facts and opinions are only half of the story. Two months after TNA’s first show in June 2002, the company’s major financial backer pulled out after coming under fire and scrutiny from the federal government. At that time Jeff Jarrett approached Dixie Carter-Salinas, a marketing and publicity executive working with the company, and worked with her to secure financial backing from her father Robert “Bob” Carter, CEO of the Panda Energy International. Through Panda Energy, Carter purchased controlling ownership of the company with Jeff still holding on to the remaining TNA rights. In 2003 Dixie Carter-Salinas was named TNA’s president.
Technically speaking the company that Jeff Jarrett created is not necessarily the same company that Jeff Jarrett built; and although there exists some room to nuance and nitpick over the finer details, it cannot be ignored that two months into its creation TNA was technically no longer Jeff Jarrett’s company. Giving Jarrett the inaugural award for merely creating the company seems somewhat unnecessary and extravagant from a business standpoint.
On the other hand Jarrett was also responsible for signing a lot of the homegrown TNA stars, particularly the ones present from the very first episode up until today. At the same time it still seems unnecessary to award Jarrett a Hall of Fame spot for signing talent, as opposed to honoring the actual talent.
Perhaps Jarrett’s contributions as a performer should be considered reason enough to induct him into the Hall of Fame. With Jarrett having been in the company since its first day (and even prior to that day), his reigns as NWA-TNA World Heavyweight Champion helped elevate several younger wrestlers to prominence and notoriety within the company and around the world.
Take the 2012 inductee Sting for example, who began working with the company on a limited basis in 2003 and has worked with TNA since then on a regular basis. To this day Sting continues to contributes to the growth of the company in many ways, most of which are not limited to performing on air and in the ring. This logic of relevance only applies to Jeff Jarrett if one considers the significance of Sting’s induction in an impenetrable bubble.
Once again there should be no question to the sincerity behind honoring Sting as an inductee to the Hall of Fame. The sincerity of the induction alone is not enough to mask the politics behind the induction.
On January 31, 2011 a mysterious vignette aired on the night’s episode of WWE Monday Night RAW. This simple vignette featured a figure wearing black boots and a black trench coat walking in the rain towards a small shack. As the rain poured down on the muddy dirt road, the images faded and the date “2-21-11″ was etched on the screen. Speculation ran rampant about the meaning behind the video, most fans easily guessing that a new or returning superstar was set to appear on WWE television that particular night.
The ambiguity of the video only furthered fans’ suspicions and speculations as to the identity of the figure in the video. At the time there were only two prominent wrestlers known for wearing black boots and trench coats: The Undertaker and Sting. Eventually the mysterious figure was revealed to indeed be The Undertaker, but rumors continued to circulate that Sting was intended to be revealed as the mystery person in the video; there still exists conjecture as to whether or not this opinion is fact.
The fact that Sting’s contract in TNA ended in 2010 added extra fuel to the fiery notion that the NWA icon was headed to WWE. Matters were not helped when, after Sting returned to TNA television after the Undertaker’s reveal, the company mocked fans and WWE with the notorious “3-3-11″ promo:
With WrestleMania XXVII underway and speculation concerning Sting in WWE dying down, a tidbit of information dropped and was quietly dismissed as wrestling fans continued on their way. Sting admitted in an interview that he was indeed very close, more so than ever before, to signing a deal with WWE in January 2011. He even went as far as to admit that his dream opponent was The Undertaker. Whatever the case may be, TNA had to do something (or somethings) in order to get Sting to sign another TNA contract.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that an inaugural induction into TNA’s Hall of Fame in 2012 was an honor and reward given to Sting for his loyalty to TNA and its mission in the business, especially after he himself admitted being “this close” to signing a deal with their competition.
Note: Sting is featured in the the “Alumni” section under the Superstars tab on WWE.com. Sting is also heavily featured in the several WCW themed DVDs released by WWE. This means that even if Sting hasn’t signed a contract to work in a WWE ring, he has signed some sort of contract with them as they have to pay him for using his likeness on their website and on the DVDs .
Sting’s induction was also used to introduce the company’s fans to the Aces & Eights faction, a group that would ultimately be the driving force in a major storyline that dominates their product a year later.
By comparison Jeff Jarrett’s induction could not solely be a matter of recognizing his involvement in the company as a performer. For the induction to be either political or for the advancement of a storyline, Jarrett would need an excellent reason to still be involved with the company. There is the debatable assumption that he isn’t involved with the company at all, as he has not appeared in a TNA ring since 2011. The difficulty in his disappearance from TNA television is just as ambiguous as the “2-21-11″ video.
Around the same time Jarrett was written off of TNA television he also did a tremendous amount of work in India revolving around his Ring Ka King! promotion and television show. Along with that he spent an incredible amount of time in Mexico performing with the AAA (Asistencia Asesoría y Administración) promotion, creating a relationship between the company and TNA.
Rumors and speculation, however, are like junk food to wrestling fans, fans who believed that the real reason behind Jarrett’s departure from the company had something to do with his marriage to Karen Smedley Angle, the ex-wife of TNA wrestler Kurt Angle.
In 2008 Karen Angle divorced Kurt Angle, and one year later it was revealed that Jeff and Karen had begun a romantic relationship together. Such a thing was not and is not weird for consenting adults (Jeff’s wife succumbed to cancer in 2007), but the odds and ends of their business was aired for everyone to witness and hear. In that same year in 2009 Jeff took a brief leave of absence from the company, with dirt sheets reporting it was at the hands of an upset Dixie Carter.
The rumor mill spread the notion that Jeff and Kurt, who were in a storyline feud during the time, had real “heat” between one another; Jeff’s time away from the company was believed necessary to allow cooler heads to prevail (ironically enough Kurt Angle was more of a commodity to the company at the time than the company’s founder). 2009 was also the same year that Dixie Carter and Panda Energy International purchased the remaining ownership rights of TNA from Jeff Jarrett.
Honoring Jarrett as a Hall of Fame inductee would then be a political appeasement honor if there is any truth to the theory that he was unceremoniously ushered out of the company. That sort of consolation would immediately appear to be patronizing, a way of acknowledging his contributions to the history of the company as something second to those of Sting. At the moment there is no real need to honor Jeff Jarrett to advance any of the storylines going on in the TNA, which isn’t to say that some could not be created specifically for the moment; after all that’s exactly what happened with the Aces & Eights storyline.
All that being said Jeff Jarrett, once again the fan favorite inductee for the TNA Hall of Fame, is still the dark horse in this race to Sunday’s Slammiversary XI pay per view. There is no doubt that Jeff should be honored for his creation of and contributions to the company, but perhaps an award (or a memorial cup?) named after him would be a better way to recognize his significance to the company.
Do not be surprised if Jarrett makes the cut, but do realize that there are several other wrestlers from TNA’s history that could just as well receive the nod. “Macho Man” Randy Savage, AJ Styles, Christian Cage (that’d be interesting), Jerry Lynn, Rob Van Dam and even Hulk Hogan could all receive the induction with sound reasoning.
Let’s hope TNA does the right thing by honoring Jeff Jarrett’s legacy properly; but until then, he can always receive the honor of standing next to Sting as a TNA Hall of Famer.
Speculation regarding WWE Superstar Antonio Cesaro’s status in the company runs rampant these days as internet pundits site his “boringness” as a major factor in his lack of a decent push from WWE writers and officials. These same pundits also claim that while Cesaro’s skills are undeniably hailed and respected by many individuals in the company, his ability to be entertaining is the main cause for his current Zack Ryder-like status on televised events.
One cannot deny the mind-baffling reality of Antonio Cesaro’s losing streak. Towards the end of his 239 day reign as United States Champion (a reign second to that of Shelton Benjamin’s 240 day run in 2008-09), Cesaro gained a string of inexplicable losses that culminated with an unceremonious loss to Kofi Kingston on the April 15episode of RAW. It has been one month since that fateful day and Cesaro has only gained one televised victory (to my knowledge), a win he gained on the May 6 episode of RAW.
It was on that same episode that Cesaro cut a post-match promo and emphatically voiced his opinion on his superior abilities compared to mediocre skills of other superstars in WWE. Simply put Cesaro vowed to dismantle superstars left and right because there were very few wrestlers on the active roster (including stars in NXT) that could hold a candle to him; what makes things funny is that any fan in their right mind had to believe there was more truth in Cesaro’s statements than some would’ve preferred. Unfortunately the efficacy of Cesaro’s “shoot” was immediately nullified with his loss to Randy Orton on the May 13 episode of RAW.
Most adult wrestling fans understand and accept the fact that pro wrestling is staged with wins and losses ultimately having very little to do with competing for a title or rank within the company. To these same fans, wins and losses more so represent a superstar’s status in the company and, to some extent, how officials feel about a particular star.
The thought process sounds something like this: the more “wins” you have, the more you’re well liked in the company; the more “losses” you have, the more disliked you are. Once it has been established that a given superstar is “disliked” in the company, speculation swirls around why that superstar is disliked. In Cesaro’s case, reasoning has ranged from him being boring to Vince McMahon personally hating him.
The problem with this line of thinking is the assumption that rampant losses are inherently bad, that jobbing is a form of punishment for some crime committed against the company or the superstar not living up to a set of unspoken and increasingly random standards.
On the contrary the fact that Cesaro is still on television regularly despite losing frequently suggests that his skills and talents are recognized; perhaps the creative forces behind his character have no idea what to do with him.
American wrestling fans have been trained to believe that “winning” is the main point when it comes to the heavily choreographed pro wrestling matches. Blinded by such an opinion we can at times miss the art of a wrestling match, the psychology and in-ring work that go into making an above average bout. This isn’t to say that “winning” a match isn’t important; rather our understanding of how a superstar wins a match should take precedent over simply winning the match.
In order for one superstar to win a match another superstar has to lose it as well. From that perspective we can infer that the loser of the match has a very important task: feverishly competing to make the winner look convincing in victory. In an era of pro wrestling severely lacking repeat jobbers (Brooklyn Brawler, Barry Horowitz and Chavo Guerrero, Jr.), high profile superstars such as Cesaro (or Zack Ryder) are often tasked with making their opponents look spectacular in victory.
To be placed in such a position, while not necessarily the best or most sought out position, is still a huge compliment and nod to a wrestler’s skills and abilities. Often times the wrestlers that “job” the most are actually the most athletically gifted wrestlers in a given locker room, which is certainly the case with Cesaro.
His high profile losses as of late have been to Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston, both of whom participated in important matches for the May 19 Extreme Rules pay per view. Their victories over a superstar of Cesaro’s caliber are thus made noteworthy particularly to the credibility and momentum they gained by facing him prior to the pay per view.
While there have been instances where superstars were booked to lose as a form of punishment (the most notable being the stage in Triple H’s career immediately following the infamous Madison Square Garden incident), this does not seem to be the case for Antonio Cesaro. After just recently being named the WWE’s Swiss Ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, what is it that Cesaro could’ve done to warrant a jobber’s punishment?
Out of all the reports that have surfaced to explain Cesaro’s string of losses, there have been no explanations as to why he would be punished by WWE officials. It also seems improbable (and not impossible) that Vince McMahon would outright hate Cesaro without reason.
If Cesaro were truly a bane to the WWE Universe, it would make more sense for McMahon to buy out his contract or pay him to sit at home indefinitely. Neither has been the case.
Perhaps Cesaro isn’t liked due to an inability to get over with fans, lending a slight level of credence to the speculation that many believe he’s simply boring to watch. Cesaro’s main selling point is his athleticism, strength and wrestling style, which combined give a nod to an old school type of grappling rarely seen in WWE today or appreciated by the company’s current fan base.
That could explain the difficulty of getting the Cesaro character over with fans. WWE’s so-called global audience can’t take to a character with a gimmick centered on the man’s proficient wrestling abilities. Ever mindful that the WWE produces content for a global audience instead of pro wrestling programming, how likely is it that gimmick was destined to succeed from the beginning?
The easy out would be to put the onus back on Cesaro for not doing enough to get the character over. A character’s success is not only intricately tied to the particular person portraying the character, but also the role that person has to play. In that sense a pro wrestler is an athlete and an actor, combining a specific set of skills to portray a role given to them by someone else.
The Antonio Cesaro character is portrayed by Claudio Castagnoli. In the Cesaro role, Castagnoli plays an ex-Swiss militia member and rugby star that was kicked out of the league for “excessive roughness.” Also at some point in his past, Cesaro learned how to yodel proficiently.
At the beginning of his tenure in WWE, Cesaro was paired with a fellow European named Aksana (portrayed by Živilė Raudonienė). Aksana, who once made waves as arm candy for former Smackdown General Manager Assistant Theodore Long (portrayed by Theodore Long), aligned herself with Cesaro once she became beguiled with his looks and abilities. Cesaro then dumped Aksana after she cost him a match against the Italian Santino Marella (portrayed by Anthony Carelli), which all coincided with the beginning of his reign as United States Champion.
Cesaro’s reign would include several exceptional matches, but it was his feats of strength that seemed to impress fans the most. In two separate and remarkable instances Cesaro was able to lift “The Funkasaurus” Brodus Clay (George Murdoch) and The Great Khali (Dalip Singh Rana) for his finishing maneuver the Neutralizer. Another epic display of Cesaro’s power was shown during his brief feud with The Miz (Mike Mizanin), where he repeatedly swung his opponent by the legs into the ringside barricade:
Impressive maneuvers aside, Castagnoli had (and has) no problem evoking a response from the crowd while performing as the excessively rough Antonio Cesaro. Unfortunately the material Castagnoli was given to work with as Cesaro was questionably … weak.
The excessively rough Swiss wrestler in Cesaro was paired with a sexy Lithuanian gold digger first as a mute boy toy, almost vaguely reminiscent of a 2013 European version of Shawn Michaels and Sensational Sherri. From there Cesaro became pompous, saying one word in five different languages every week that described himself and his abilities.
After Cesaro became pompous and dropped Aksana he began his United States Championship reign by comparing himself to lazy Americans, citing how fortunate fans were to have a stalwart European such as himself representing the United States of America. It many ways it was at this point where the proverbial ball was snatched out of Cesaro’s court and given to someone else.
Recall that when it comes to a wrestling match the winner is only as important in victory as the loser makes him appear. That same courtesy can be extended to feuds and rivalries outside of the actual matches. With the Miz and R-Truth (Ron Killings) being the most notable “high profile” rivalries for Cesaro—both men being more “entertainers” than “wrestlers” at that point in their careers—a series with returning superstar Jack Swagger (portrayed by Jake Hagar) would have done wonders for the Cesaro character. The major problem with that feud is that Swagger would have been forced to return as a face, placing him back in the lukewarm All American role character that went nowhere prior to his departure and return.
Without a high profile, high caliber opponent to bring relevance to the United States title and the Cesaro character, a decision was made to add yodeling to Cesaro’s repertoire. Fans could only assume that such a decision was made because “silly” equates to “entertaining,” and that tiny character nuance would bring attention to Cesaro … if he were able to make the yodeling “work.”
It’s more of an exception to the rule than the rule itself for a wrestler to take a bland character and turn it into gold. More importantly it takes time for a wrestler to establish a character as something more than just a passing fancy.
We live in an era where wrestlers are pigeonholed (or typecast) into debuting one character and portraying that character until the end of their career. Believe it or not the Cesaro character is only one year old (having debuted on Smackdown in April 2012), and already we’ve tacitly accepted the idea that he’s the reason the character hasn’t done well with audiences.
What significant has Cesaro done? What milestones has he reached and surpassed? What notable main event stars or high profile champions has he defeated clean?
Has he even had a rivalry that has come at a career defining moment for him?
No; the Antonio Cesaro character has only spent one year wading through several different personality traits that have all yet to really strike a chord with the global audience. The only thing that has triggered any type of response from some fans (the pro wrestling loving fans) and those in the business is Cesaro’s brutality and prowess in the ring. Although that alone doesn’t make the character resonate in the hearts of the global audience, it does give reason to keep him on the roster for the sake of making other stars look good as well.
All those things considered there hasn’t even been a discussion on what he brings to the company outside of the ring. Claudio Castagnoli speaks several different languages, is well-liked among the other wrestlers (or so we’re told), and is perhaps well-known in his home country as well as other European countries. The man is a commodity and it simply doesn’t make sense for there to be this extreme amount of hatred for him only one year into his WWE tenure.
When it’s all said and done perhaps it’s the fans and the creative team that have truly let the Antonio Cesaro character fall into mind-card purgatory.
What sort of bias exists with us when we can start a brief dance craze for a wrestler because of his theme music, or get a wrestler a small push because of his YouTube show, but can’t get more recognition for a wrestler who actually wrestles in a way we want and expect him to wrestle?
What sense does it make to skyrocket a wrestler to the top so soon into his run in the company (especially when it worked wonders for Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio)?
How just is it to place the blame squarely on Castagnoli for being unable to get the Cesaro character over when he’s only been around for one year and he has yet to have a feud of substance with an opponent of substance?
Barring injuries, an ill-timed joke, three Wellness Policy violations or a DUI arrest, Claudio Castagnoli has a bright future ahead of him in WWE. Fans shouldn’t be too concerned that his current losing streak is something more than a lack of direction from a creative point of view. Unless an official report from the company that says otherwise, it’s better for us to believe that Cesaro is on a slow path to WWE greatness than it is to think that he’s at the top of the future endeavored list.
Let it never be said or assumed that WWE hasn’t earned its fair share of salient criticism over the years. In fact the company’s long and storied history would not be long and storied if not for the trail of broken dreams and disillusioned fans left in the wake of its gargantuan waves of success.
Such is the nature of the business, let alone the nature of a business operating in these United States of America; if one wants to succeed then someone or something will have to suffer for the sake of that success. An omelet cannot be made without cracking an egg or at least opening a carton, and an egg cannot be gathered unless some unfortunate chicken is forced to sacrifice her unborn children…
Regardless of that tried and true fact of life, the sharks have been circling around the latest news out of Stamford regarding Connecticut’s favorite son Vince McMahon and his World Wrestling Entertainment conglomerate. A recent round of talent cuts combined with speculation of even more cuts to come have caused some fans to once again voice their concerns about the way WWE conducts business.
Speculation has it that independent fed wrestlers Sami Callihan, Shaun Ricker and Samuray Del Sol have signed developmental contracts with the company; there is also speculation that ROH wrestlers Mike Bennett and Adam Cole have either come to an agreement with WWE or have had interest shown in them by the company. While it remains to be seen whether there is truth to the speculation about Cole and Bennett, camps for Callihan and Del Sol have already acknowledged their departure from their respective companies (the latter having been “refuted” by EVOLVE Wrestling … sort of kind of).
On the other hand the WWE’s recent focus on the newly christened “Paul Heyman Guy” Curtis Axel combined with The Shield’s control of one-third of the titles in the company, The Ryback’s auspicious rise to prominence and the forthcoming debut of the Wyatt Family suggests that someone in the company is attempting to create tomorrow’s WWE main event stars.
Even still there are tons of individuals within the company that are all agog with the impending opening of the new state-of-the-art training facility in Orlando, Florida in July. WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross has been one of the more prominent cheerleaders of the facility, as well as having recently served as the company’s go-to-guy for talks with the National Football League’s Players Association regarding a working relationship for the recruitment of potential wrestling superstars.
Notwithstanding such advancements there still exists the general feeling and idea that this “fresh coat of paint” is not enough to fix the problems with the product. All things considered, one very important question remains and often seemingly eludes the grasp of those within the business…
As fans what do we “expect” WWE to deliver? The answer to that question has far too many possible answers than can be discussed here in one sitting.
While WWE still remains as the big dog in the yard and the “revolutionary force in sports entertainment,” such self-congratulatory comments must be considered in light of the state of pro wrestling in the United States in general. Simply put pro wrestling no longer caters to the same type of rabid fan base that consumed the product business years ago. Today’s fan is far more casual, passive and fair-weather; and although there is a solid group of hardcore fans they spend far less money on the product and are more often than not in the vocal minority rather than the complacent majority.
It’s this same vocal minority that considers any semblance of progress made by WWE superficial, something that will temporarily placate the always irascible contingent of detractors. The effect of such actions is a steady stream of negativity that will turn any and every conversation into a “They’ll Eff It Up” love fest.
To give this thought some perspective, it’s pretty much the same thing L.E.W.D. members do when discussing anything related to TNA’s success; no matter what the company does, we’ll be the first ones to comment on how ridiculous their efforts are in the grand scheme of things. WWE suffers from the same stigma, albeit more pronounced and oozing venomous barbs than anything hurled at other companies; again, such is the nature of the business for the big dog in the yard.
The interesting aspect of it all is that despite the harsh and justifiable criticisms against the company, it remains successful in the truest sense of the word. If WWE’s purpose is to make a profit from providing a certain type of entertainment to fans, then they do that several ways from Sunday even if a given pay per view or rating isn’t where it was last year or sixteen years ago. They still make that profit regardless of how many blog posts or message board rants we unleash.
That just happens to be the point that sticks in the collective craw of the vocal minority, that regardless of what we do or say the WWE locomotive will continue to chug along its merry little way.
Consider this tidbit from the company’s corporate website:
WWE is a publicly traded media organization and recognized leader in global entertainment. The company consists of a portfolio of businesses that create and deliver original content 52 weeks a year to a global audience. Our platforms include television programming, pay-per-view, digital media, magazines and films. WWE is headquartered in Stamford, Conn., with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Mumbai, Shanghai, Singapore, Istanbul and Tokyo.
In the spirit of fairness, this is from TNA’s IMPACT Wrestling website:
TNA Entertainment, LLC, headquartered in Nashville, TN, is a privately held management and production company that specializes in professional wrestling events, merchandise, apparel, television properties and music. Founded in 2002, TNA primarily develops and promotes original professional wrestling programming for cable, Pay-Per-View specials and live events. TNA is capable of overseeing multiple live or taped productions from creative conception to finished product.
Notice the obvious differences between the two “mission statements” above, differences that are very apparent when you watch anything produced by either company. In WWE’s case the mission statement does not say or even imply that they specialize in professional wrestling events. What they do specialize in is consistently delivering and creating original content from their portfolio of businesses 52 weeks a year for a global audience. If their original content doesn’t speak to their global audience, then that content will be changed to do so. When it all trickles down to the sports entertainment they produce, that content also has to speak to that same global audience; if it doesn’t, then it’s going to be tailored and altered in a way where it does speak to that global audience.
A large part of this dance, this game between the WWE Corporation and its audience is all about perspective. Each side maintains a vice-like grip on their own perspective, unwilling to budge from their respective perches to consider a much more inclusive panoramic view of the business. WWE provides a product for a global audience to consume; the global audience consumes the product because they long to be entertained. As long as the global audience consumes the product, WWE will continue to produce it. The moment the global audience becomes restless, WWE alters the product they produce to satiate the global audience.
What does all of this mean and imply? The global audience does not primarily consist of static, one-dimensional consumers who are diehard pro wrestling fans. Therefore WWE does not produce content solely for static, one-dimensional consumers who are diehard pro wrestling fans.
When static, one-dimensional consumers who are diehard pro wrestling fans (i.e. you and I) approach the product we get pissed off and criticize the product without really understanding why we’re criticizing it.
The criticism is birthed when we can’t understand why we indulge in a product not fundamentally designed for our particular standards, likes and individual tastes. The criticism is birthed when we find ourselves bored with a form of entertainment that once delighted us to no end. Our eyes roll and our palms embrace our faces when a company won’t do what it isn’t, by virtue of its own mission statement, charged to do.
This is why rumors of recent indy signees, a fancy new developmental facility and system, and whatever else fails to mean very little to some fans; the WWE locomotive will chug right along doing the same thing because frankly…it sells. It may be boring to some, it may be groan inducing to most, but the bottom line is that the global audience purchases it by the boatload so there’s no impetus to do anything differently until the money stops flowing.
Everyone knows how terrible fast food is for one’s health, but yet and still people still indulge in it regularly. Such is the same with the WWE and other “pro wrestling” companies in the states.
The ultimate question is this: are there any redeeming qualities in the recent events that have occurred in WWE? The answer could be an unequivocal “yes,” but one has to have a certain level of hope that is grounded in reality and not fantasy.
A new batch of stars opens the possibility for old stories to be told differently or even unfamiliar stories to be reintroduced to the audience. As much as things stay the same, time also forces change to occur and at some point the current regime will either slowly fade away or die out, making way for new blood that could alter the product dramatically from what it currently is.
The business must change in order to stay relevant, speaking to the greatest common factor that will keep the global audience consuming the product. The Golden Era made way for the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Era, which made way for the Attitude Era and was followed by the Ruthless Aggression Era, and finally capped off by the PG Era. Given the types of wrestlers being groomed by the company, who’s to say the next phase won’t be the “Art of Wrestling” Era, where beauty of what happens in between the ropes is highlighted and importance is placed on how a wrestler wins a match and not just who wins the match for whatever reason?
Similar can be said about those released from the company, which gives these men and women ample time to continue to hone their craft in venues outside of the United States and allows them the opportunity to grow as a wrestler, performer and entertainer. Who’s to say that a star released today or tomorrow won’t return in 2-3 years with a bevy of five star matches from Japan, Mexico, Germany or elsewhere under their belt?
Finally, how will this affect us as fans? If we’ve all grown so disillusioned with the way one company operates, will we be willing to invest our money into other companies or promotions that provide us with what we’re looking for? If other companies and promotions can grow from our consumption of their product, will there arrive an era where a major company like WWE is forced to think differently about the product they produce in order to continue to turn a profit?
It’s all about perspective and expectations; if our perspective is so narrow that it limits our expectations of a particular company, then why the entire hubbub? If we expand our horizons just a tad, we can view the larger picture and provide more well-informed commentary on the state of a particular company and its product. Or, God forbid, we open our minds to explore other promotions and find pro wrestling entertainment outside of the established status quo in the business.
Let’s use the perennial L.E.W.D. whipping boy, TNA, as an example; we’ve admittedly spent hours upon hours of time laying into the inconsistencies of the company and its product, but that barrage has died down as of late for several reasons. Anything from yours truly has been altered slightly because the gripe is more so with how fans understand the company’s product as opposed to the product itself.
For TNA the reality is that as long as the pro wrestling is great, everything else is moot. Admittedly TNA produces excellent pro wrestling, because again by virtue of their mission statement, that’s what they do.
The problem comes when they began to squeak into “sports entertainment,” and fans who openly express their hatred for sports entertainment (i.e. WWE) celebrate the company’s seamless and necessary transition. The problem comes when fans can’t recognize that the battle for pro wrestling recognition involves Doug Herzog and Kevin Kay (President of Viacom Entertainment Group and Spike TV respectively) and Bonnie Hammer (Chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group).
However if you like or love pro wrestling, then TNA is the place for you; they supply good pro wrestling, and pro wrestling fans consume it. It’s a similar dance and game with partners who refuse to think outside of their own perspectives.
Such is the nature of the beast.
What else is there to be said? Will this extremely long diatribe make a difference in the grand scheme of things? Tomorrow another piece will be posted on this site and others espousing the good, the bad and the terrible of pro wrestling and/or sports entertainment here or there. Fans and friends will argue with one another about why Samuray Del Sol’s arrival to the facility in Orlando in July means absolutely little, or why this storyline sucks and why this superstar is getting buried. The dance will continue, the money will still be made, and we’ll all go on our own little way.
The only thing we fans really have to look forward to is the promise of a better show the next go around. Whether you prefer John Cena or Bully Ray, you’ll probably be satisfied and dissatisfied one way or another. But in order to maintain a certain level of sanity we must remember that there’s so much more to the picture than who wins what matches for however long they can.
This whole business is about entertaining consumers, and one way or another we’ll all find a way to be entertained; just never lose the sight of the bigger picture that always looms ahead, and never forget that ultimately if it doesn’t make dollars, then it just doesn’t make sense.
I would like to apologize in advance if this post sounds like I’m only repeating stuff I’ve said before; the sad part is that usually when I repeat myself, it’s because I’ve found validation in remarks I’ve already made. Essentially I’m giving myself a congratulatory pat on the back, a lá Barry Horowitz.
As I’ve stated before here, particularly on my last RAW review, WWE creative seems to be spinning its wheels when it comes to crafting provocative storylines and characters for fans to invest in and get behind. They seem to be suffering from the exact same problem that plagues other sports entertainment companies: subjecting fans to seeing the same stars face each other in the same matches each and every week, with the needle of progression stabilized in a comfortably stagnant area. The writing and wrestling in WWE right now just feels like one excruciatingly lingering and cumbersome expression of mediocrity.
It’s not just that the creative writing and execution is terrible, but it’s also the feeling that everything seems uninspired and bland. Feuds and rivalries are rehashed, recycled and reused. Characters feel forced and far from organic. We’re shown wrestlers each week who bust their humps wrestling, and we have no earthly reason or urge to support their cause or wage verbal war against them.
This isn’t complaining at all, but rather an honest critique of one person’s experience watching Monday night’s episode of RAW. In the three hours I spent watching the show I eventually became more enthralled with being on Twitter than I did with paying attention to what was going on in the ring.
Perhaps WWE could benefit from shaking up the creative teams or introducing new characters to the product while phasing out older ones, or give the secondary titles real and authentic value as well as become the means through which superstars can transition to the heavyweight championship and main event scene. In the meantime the company could stand to at least pretend as if they have enough writers and wrestlers to have a vibrant mid-card rife with a mixture of tag team and Diva action involved in captivating stories that entertain instead of lull fans to sleep or coerce us to change the channel.
On the other hand as proactive fans perhaps it’s also wise to walk away from WWE programming for a bit to give our brains a chance to rest from mundane nature of the product. The company is motivated by money, and if any of us truly want them to do better we have to speak with our wallets and not our internet browsing speeds.
But alas, here’s what stood out for me during the show:
- The Awakening of Antonio Cesaro
- Foreshadowing, Dean Ambrose Style
- Mark Henry: The Greatest Man Who Ever Kicked Somebody’s Ass
- Brock Mad, Brock Smash
- John Cena versus Ryback: A Tale of How the Mighty Have Fallen
It wasn’t very long ago that fans began to sour on the prospect of Antonio Cesaro’s run as a WWE superstar. After inexplicably losing several matches as the United States Champion, Cesaro’s run was unceremoniously ended by the foots of “Double K” Kofi Kingston, also known in some parts as the Crown Prince of Mid-Card Excellency (Jeff Jarrett is still the reigning monarch in that kingdom of inadequacy). In a lot of ways Kofi reminds me of Jeff Hardy, but that’s another blog for another day.
Along with his loses Cesaro was also conspicuously left out of WrestleMania XXIX despite having a lengthy and historic run as the United States Champion. It wasn’t long after that fans began to naturally assume that Vince McMahon “hated” him and he was essentially being buried for the unknown and unnamed personal grudge the Irish-blooded McMahon secretly harbored against the Swiss.
On an unrelated note this idea absolutely infuriated me because fans became super vocal about this the night after Cesaro was named the WWE’s Swiss Ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That makes perfect sense; send the guy you “hate” to be the official international ambassador for a foundation that brings joy to dying kids. If that’s the case then McMahon must really hate the s**t out of John Cena…but I digress again.
Oddly enough all of the anti-Vince McMahon pundits were nowhere to be seen when Cesaro cut a pipe bomb-esque promo last night after defeating the modern day Brooklyn Brawler, Zack Ryder, in short fashion. Simply put, Cesaro said he’s a beast and there’s no one on the entire roster that can walk a mile with his jock strap…because Swiss jock straps are nothing to yodel at.
All jokes aside Cesaro made his intentions as loud and clear as a clarion call from the top of the Matterhorn. In fact his promo was one of the few moments during the show that piqued my interest and sent chills up my spine. We all know that Cesaro is a beast and the more prescient fans (i.e. everybody at L.E.W.D.) knew that his losses were only a red herring to his eventual rise to prominence.
Simply put if Vince McMahon didn’t think he was worth a damn he would’ve simply released him (Braden Walker) or taken him off of TV completely (John Morrison) and used him once a month to do the job for someone else (Zack Ryder).
Stay tuned to see where Cesaro’s new found awesomeness will take him; if his promo last night wasn’t proof enough, check out this video done for him prior to this year’s WrestleMania:
Since we were almost on the subject of Kofi Kingston, the current United States Champion teamed with the Uso Brothers on Monday’s show to face The Shield in 6-man tag team action. Kofi ate the pin for his team after dining on Dean Ambrose’s unnamed finishing maneuver. While the WWE’s self-proclaimed arm of justice remains undefeated as a trio, the more interesting event occurred after the pinfall.
For some odd reason the referee thought it necessary to hand Kofi his United States title during the most inconvenient time after a match. For starters Kofi was still slightly incapacitated, lying almost lifeless on the mat while attempting to recover from Ambrose’s maneuver. Secondly the referee held the belt in the middle of the ring right next to Dean Ambrose as he celebrated the victory with his Shield brethren. It was at that time Ambrose gave the title this lingering and desiring glance, long enough for anyone to justifiably insinuate that the man is going to destroy Kofi in the near future.
The slow burn that has occurred with The Shield has apparently arrived at a point where it would make sense that the trio would start to consider chasing after championship gold. Most fans will easily agree that Ambrose stands out the most in the group; I believe it’s his charisma, matched with his body language/facial expressions and ability to work the mic that makes him pop more so than the amazingly athletic Seth Rollins and devastatingly intense Roman Reigns.
While I’m not too sold on an Ambrose/Shield and Kofi Kingston rivalry, I do appreciate the hint at this development for all men involved. The Shield has wreaked havoc in WWE for some time and creative has nothing substantial at the moment for Kingston. Pairing the four men or at least Ambrose and Kingston together gives fans the new feud and mid-card energy we’re craving for. The main problem is waiting for this whole thing to come to fruition if it indeed is meant to be.
Mark Henry deserves to be a WWE Hall of Famer and has most assuredly earned that honor after his 17 years of dutiful service in the WWE. I don’t recall Henry ever working for any other company other than WWE, and at 41 years of age he is one of the last Attitude Era wrestlers still on the active roster (along with notable stars such as Triple H and The Undertaker).
It says a lot about Henry in real life that he’s worked for the company for this long and they’ve made sure to keep him around after a series of injuries have stalled his character’s development at various points of his career. You have to respect the man and I’d be highly upset if some sort of WWE book or DVD wasn’t made highlighting his career and his life.
The Henry accolades don’t stop there, however; Monday night’s episode of RAW didn’t really seem to pick up steam until Henry beat Sheamus silly with a leather belt. Prior to that Henry held the audience in the palm of his hands during an in-ring promo and then, after a verbal exchange with Sheamus, delighted us with his commentary and his verbal abuse of Michael Cole. Everything surrounding Mark Henry last night was pure gold and even got the man trending on Twitter.
This rivalry with Henry is the same exact program they had during their first skirmish. While the program worked well the first time it is disappointing that the writers have returned to the well to give us the same thing over again. There is a saying that goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but I wonder if there’s more they could do with Henry and Sheamus other than having them crash into each other like two rams butting heads in a fine china shop.
“The Celtic Cena” Sheamus is serviceable in this rivalry, but it’s Mark Henry who’s making it sizzle and pop. Their outing at the upcoming Extreme Rules pay per view will be good to watch, but I’m still hoping the company can do right by both men in giving them (and us) this Hulk versus The Thing bout for the second time.
The biggest “shock” of the night came when exclusive footage was aired of Brock Lesnar destroying Triple H’s office at WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. Lesnar’s legal aid and handler Paul Heyman documented their entire mythical journey all on his iPhone.
The whole thing was designed to further their program with Triple H who, after arriving to RAW, didn’t seem pissed at all that Lesnar destroyed his “office” and was allowed to do so by the years’ worth of staff that allowed Heyman and Lesnar to trash said office.
I joked with fellow wrestling fan Tom Bobbitt the entire night about possible storylines that could come from the segment. One included Triple H having Lesnar arrested for vandalism, destruction of property, unlawful seizure and abduction of an individual, trespassing, and reckless behavior and endangerment. Heyman, of course, would be sent up the river for aiding and abetting criminal activity.
Ideally Trips would have his lawyer request that bail be denied for both men, citing their danger to society on the whole. The legal process behind that would be far more interesting and would coincide perfectly with these long drawn out yearlong storylines everyone seems intent on writing today.
The bottom line is that Brock smashed Triple H’s corporate office and the Game wasn’t even phased by his shenanigans. If he doesn’t give a damn, neither do I…moving right along…
WWE Champion John Cena is still set to face Ryback at Extreme Rule in a Last Man Standing Match despite having a bad ankle. Considering the players involved it’s astonishing that we really could not care any less.
Cena’s championship reigns at this point of his career are about as predictable as the likelihood of water being wet. It’s almost moot to nuance or argue about his character right now, mostly because no one will listen and we’re slowly realizing that the man will retire in 40 years the same way he’s wrestling now.
Ryback, on the other hand, has slowly earned our angst due to WWE’s insistence to force him to become the heel in this feud. Ryback went from having a solid core of fans behind him to having fans against him, only to find a resting spot in a place where fans are largely indifferent about him. There was almost no reaction for him when he wrestled in Monday night’s main event, and the crowd didn’t really pop for him during his post-match attack on John Cena.
We’ve all seen this song and dance from Cena and a monstrous opponent before; it’s extremely laughable and disheartening at the same time for Ryback’s character to be pompous enough to believe he can defeat Cena on his own in a Last Man Standing Match given the man’s track record with never giving up. This isn’t to say Cena hasn’t lost a LMS match before, but the odds are definitely in his favor on this one.
There’s only one more episode of RAW between now and the pay per view, so it will be mildly interesting to see what WWE does to add fuel to the fire burning between Cena and Ryback. With The Shield, Daniel Bryan and Kane involved, however, this whole mess looks and feels more convoluted than necessary. Unfortunately I just cannot shake the feeling that when it’s all said and done, this feud will just be business as usual for John Cena; such is life.
But those are just my thoughts on the show…what did YOU think about it?
On Thursday, April 18, 2013 a press conference was held in Orlando, Florida by World Wrestling Entertainment.
It was at this press conference that WWE Executive Vice President of Talent and Live Events Paul “Triple H” Levesque, along with Florida Governor Rick Scott, Full Sail University President Garry Jones, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orange County Commissioner Peter Clarke, announced the opening of the WWE’s state-of-the-art Performance Center. The Performance Center will serve as the home to WWE’s talent developmental system and will also create at least 100 new jobs in Orlando.
The following is taken from the press release about the facility:
“With 26,000 square-feet, seven training rings, a world-class strength and conditioning program and cutting-edge edit and production facilities, the new Performance Center will give WWE the ability to train more potential performers than ever before through a comprehensive program including in-ring training, physical preparedness and character development.
The new center will be the training ground for talent that includes former professional and collegiate athletes, Olympians and entertainers, and will offer a best-in-class sports medicine program creating a central location for all WWE talent to receive the best care both in and out of the ring.”
Among other things this announcement also furthers WWE’s relationship with Full Sail University, which serves as the current home for the WWE NXT taping series and also allows students (such as our very own THE Nic Johnson) of the university to gain “real-world experience” alongside WWE production team members.
The creation and announcement of WWE’s Performance Center is rife with irony, the incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.
The irony of the whole Performance Center project is that most people expect the facility to produce top-notch WWE Superstars when the actual result will more than likely resemble the same crop of superstars already present in the company. Effectively it appears that WWE has partnered with several entities in Orlando to create more modern and efficient methods of producing crap.
That assessment of the situation is a tad bit unfair, particularly seeing as the fruits of the Performance Center won’t be truly seen for at least another year or two from today. As nifty as the bells and whistles sound, however, all the wrestling rings and hi-tech equipment in the world cannot and will not replace some of the most fundamental and rudimentary realities that are necessary for the development of a “true” wrestling superstar.
The phrase “Performance Center” is oddly reminiscent of the same cold and mechanical training regimen used by Ivan Drago in the blockbuster film Rocky IV. Despite the flashing lights, the new age equipment, the meter readings and steroid vitamin enhancement injections, there was no machine or drug vitamin in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that could develop the one muscle Drago needed to defeat Rocky Balboa…heart.
WWE’s hi-tech Performance Center will undoubtedly provide wrestling hopefuls the tools and opportunities necessary to become a WWE superstar, but it will most assuredly lack the proverbial heart needed for athletes to excel as wrestlers with the total package. The skills and tools needed to have the total package cannot be found or taught in a fancy facility in one of the country’s most well-known hot spots for tourists and alcoholic college students.
This facility will not “train” men and women wrestlers to become WWE Superstars; it will eventually breed WWE Superstars flat out, and a WWE Superstar is something very different than a wrestler looking to become a WWE Superstar.
On April 5, a pre-WrestleManiaXXIX interview with WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan was featured in The Washington Post. In the interview, journalist David Malitz had the following to say about Bryan’s journey thus far in his career:
“Bryan’s path to WWE was built on giving his best showing night after night on stages microscopic compared to the scale of that on which he’ll perform Sunday. Over a decade, he has worked for dozens of companies on the sprawling independent wrestling circuit, from Pennsylvania to Japan, and earned a reputation as one of the best technical wrestlers in the world. This means he is someone who can make any move in the ring look devastating, graceful and believable, whether he is on the giving or receiving end — an essential skill for a wrestler.”
According to Malitz’s piece, Bryan—formerly known to wrestling fans by his real name Bryan Danielson—honed his craft for ten years prior to arriving in WWE. In those ten years Bryan traveled extensively all over the United States and even wrestled in Japan on numerous occasions; Malitz implies that it was during this time and not upon his arrival in WWE that Bryan gained a reputation for being one of “the best technical wrestlers in the world.”
What’s missing from the Performance Center is a focus on talent developing their skills as wrestlers before landing a developmental contract with WWE. More telling is the idea, the notion that these men and women (or professional/collegiate athletes, Olympians and entertainers) would have gained this experience on their own which would ultimately lead WWE to giving them a developmental contract. That idea is not necessarily a given, as has been made painfully obvious with certain Superstars and Divas in the past (Kelly Kelly for example).
Fans paying attention to this are witnessing a distinct difference in the execution of a developmental territory as opposed to a developmental system. Wrestlers today looking to make it big in the WWE enter into its developmental territory and spend 2-4 years translating their craft into an easy-to-swallow WWE-esque style, not necessarily gaining any experience from working around the world by being a part of a network of territories in a full-fledged developmental system.
But in those 2-4 years these men and women are picking up the habits, traits and skills that will define their careers in terms specific WWE. These wrestlers will learn one particular style that is honestly suitable for that specific company and its specific audience. As a result the wrestler will only have limited resources to pull from when it comes to putting together a match that energizes and entertains fans.
In the WWE’s case, that is a simplistic style that tends to look and operate like the pro wrestling equivalent to a color-by-the-numbers activity book. This, of course, does not sit well with older fans or those fans that prefer “wrestling” over “sports entertainment.” In the same breath it positions the company to consistently churn out more and more individuals will simply provide the WWE with the same results they’ve been garnering for the past 10-11 years.
Consider Bryan’s words towards the end of the Washington Post interview:
“I don’t consider it wrestling…I’ve done wrestling. Everywhere. And just by being a good wrestler you can become popular. But not here. It’s more important to be entertaining than it is to be a great wrestler. It’s fascinating to me…”
The new WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida is perhaps best equipped to produce entertainers. The problem is that wrestlers can be very entertaining if they’re given the opportunity to add new dimensions and layers to their already vast repertoire (i.e. Bryan Danielson).
On the other hand it is not set in stone that an entertainer will be able to be a convincing wrestler, “someone who can make any move in the ring look devastating, graceful and believable, whether he is on the giving or receiving end — an essential skill for a wrestler.” That’s not something than can be trained or gained in 2-4 years in a stint in a facility in Orlando.
Chris Jericho’s amazing story as a professional wrestler serves as a perfect example of this point. Although Jericho’s journey has been extensively covered in his books A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex and Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps, his path in wrestling was most succinctly described in his DVD “Breaking the Code: Behind the Walls of Chris Jericho.”
Jericho began his trek with two goals: to become a rock star and a wrestler. This started with Jericho getting a degree in communications at 19, wrestling at the Hart Brothers School of Wrestling in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1989. In 1992 he traveled and wrestled in Mexico City until 1994, where he learned how to “work a crowd.” It was in Mexico where he also learned and adopted elements of the Lucha Libre style.
For six weeks after his stint in Mexico City he worked in Hamburg, Germany where he learned how perform mentally a different match every night (as he performed in front of the same crowd every night for six weeks straight). From that point Jericho found himself in Japan, where he learned how to become a technically gifted wrestler and gained the respect of several key figures and wrestlers in the industry. Jericho also learned the Strong style and adopted that to his repertoire.
Also in 1994 Jericho worked for Smoky Mountain Wrestling in Tennessee, where he learned the Southern style of cutting great promos. In 1996 Jericho was able to land a job with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), where he wrestled in front of the country’s most rabid and diehard wrestling fans. From 1996-1999 Jericho worked for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Finally in August of 1999, Chris Jericho debuted in the WWF, bringing altogether 10 years of experience from organizations spread across five different countries in Asia, North America and Europe. To this day Chris Jericho is one of the most well respected wrestlers and veterans still able to entertain fans as a wrestler…and a rock star.
Is it feasible or possible for those same skills to be taught to a young wrestler coming into the Performance Center for a 2-4 year stint before being brought up to the main roster? Even with the guidance and tutelage of veterans in the business, nothing can replace the real life experience of having to perform for different crowds around the world or even the country.
That being said, the WWE’s state-of-the-art facility can only exist to help future superstars add one more element to their skill sets as wrestlers. The real issue, an issue WWE will have to respond to eventually, is whether or not they’re open to hiring wrestlers that have honed their skills over a solid period of time in promotions outside of the United States. Better still, will WWE have the gumption to send all of its developmental stars around the world (or even the country) to adequately hone their skills and talents?
It’s exciting to have a facility in Orlando with seven rings and a team of nutritionists, but all the fancy pants flash in the world can’t make up for a wrestler’s experience in putting on an entertaining and captivating story.
Straight from the “Who Gives a Damn” files of pro wrestling comes a cute story about Ring of Honor Wrestling…
Every Tuesday ROH Wrestling sends out an email to fans called the “Tuesday Rollout,” which is essentially just a weekly note about ROH events and merchandise. What’s impressive about this weekly email is the rate at which the company is able to pump out new DVD releases. Then again when you have eleven years of footage at your disposal, it’s not really a bad thing to put out more than just a PPV on DVD…*ahem*
Tuesday’s ROH Rollout featured a DVD entitled “Colt Cabana: Chicago’s Favorite Son.”
This DVD is a 16-match compilation of some of Colt’s most memorable matches in ROH. Here’s a blurb about the 2-disc set:
The funny man, the man who has given us so many Good Times and Great Memories, he is Colt Cabana and this is a chronicle of his journey in Ring of Honor. Whether it be standing alongside CM Punk & Ace Steel as a Second City Saint, or running solo in pursuit of championship success, Cabana has proven himself a master of the art of pro wrestling.
He can brawl, he can grapple, he can go hold-for-hold with Nigel McGuinness or punch-for-punch with Homicide, Cabana has prided himself on adapting to his opponents and this 2-Disc DVD set is a showcase of his ability. Through 16 complete matches, not to mention several “Good Times, Great Memories” segments, this collection features Colt facing the likes of Samoa Joe, Low Ki, Austin Aries, and more as he shows just why he is Chicago’s Favorite Son!
Sounds like a good deal, right?
On that very same day, Cabana put out this interestingly telling message via the Twittahverse:
While it’s safe to assume that only the plucky and easily agitated members of the IWC were irate at such an occurrence, this whole situation is enough to make even the most apathetic of casual wrestling fans shake their head in disbelief.
We here at L.E.W.D. are not above shameless plugs and promotions (please visit The Color Commentator and The Brady Hicks for more pro wrasslin’ greatness), but it truly is an odd day for pro wrestling fans when a company has to blatantly resort to coasting off of the success of former stars in order to stay relevant; please take that tongue-in-cheek comment in any way you see fit or deem appropriate.
On the other hand this is not a practice that has occurred and is occurring only in Ring of Honor. TNA fans (and some of the wrestlers) have recently accused WWE of copying storylines (AJ Styles/Dixie Carter/Clair Lynch vs. John Cena/AJ Lee), stealing production practices (the “Last week on IMPACT Wrestling” opening videos), and even adding current members of the IMPACT Wrestling roster to their Alumni Page.
In comparison half of TNA’s roster gained notoriety in other promotions and a good chunk of their major storylines have either happened in the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars, or tend to be rehashes of the same hostile takeover programs that have occurred in the company since…well…forever.
What makes Ring of Honor’s situation depressingly sad is that up until Colt Cabana’s tweet (and arguably afterward), very few people noticed or even cared enough to speak about the company’s uncanny ability to release a “new” DVD for a former ROH star conveniently after said star started becoming more of a household name.
This practice honestly came to my attention after CM Punk’s groundbreaking and refreshing Pipe Bomb promo on the June 27, 2011 episode Monday Night RAW. What followed was one exhilarating roller coaster ride that saw Punk win the WWE Championship from John Cena and “leave” the WWE with the title. Soon after that commentators made comparisons between Punk’s actions in WWE and his actions in ROH prior to his departure from the company in 2005.
In February of 2012 ROH released the Summer of Punk DVD…because…well…to show fans how awesome a company ROH was and where CM Punk’s initial disregard for oppressive institutions developed.
From that point on Ring of Honor gained a surge of momentum when it came to churning out footage of former stars, primarily the stars that were making big strides in WWE and TNA.
When Claudio Castagnoli transitioned into Antonio Cesaro and captured the WWE United States Championship, ROH released this DVD:
When Nigel McGuinness trotted out his tear-jerking documentary, ROH managed to pull this chestnut out of the pantry:
When the creative team found something meaningful for Samoa Joe to do:
When El Generico landed a WWE developmental contract:
When Adam Cole got a WWE tryout match:
Although WWE has been criticized heavily and rather harshly for its refusal to create or build new superstars, and in less harsh language, TNA has also suffered somewhat for their inability to deliver fresh matches and rivalries with new talent, Colt Cabana’s tweet ultimately shows that this problem is not unique to one promotion.
It would seem all around that a part of today’s pro wrestling landscape has been shaped by an overall shift in what makes the business profitable. In the process of relying on big ticket names to push or sell the product, the three major companies have all neglected to groom the next generation of main event superstars in their own unique ways.
The WWE uses John Cena, The Rock, Triple H, The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar to get butts into seats; TNA uses Hulk Hogan, Sting, and Jeff Hardy to do the same. ROH apparently resorts to repackaging archived footage to get our attention and our dollars, which is particularly important for a company whose iPPVs last about as long as a case of PBR at Steve Austin’s house.
Everything ultimately falls back on us, the fans; what are we willing to support and pay for? What are we willing to watch on television and on pay per view (despite what some may say, ratings do in fact equal dollars for promotions)? It all ends up being about perspective…
If you truly enjoy and respect Colt Cabana’s work as a person, wrestler, athlete and performer, you’ll purchase merchandise from his site and from places he’s given his stamp of approval on.
If you enjoy pro wrestling and happen to be unfamiliar the stuff Cabana did in ROH (perhaps the work he’s most well-known for), then you’ll purchase the DVD from Ring of Honor without question or regret.
If you’re tired of seeming the same old faces doing the same old things from the same big three companies in the United States, perhaps you’ll invest in Lucha Libre or Puroresu (shout out to Ray Bogusz).
Regardless of how you view the situation, these companies will continue to do these types of things if we, the consumers, are complacent about these things. We can moan and complain all we want via the internet, but to really make a difference we have to start speaking with our wallets and not just with 140 characters or less. It’s not a bad thing if you pick up ROH’s 2-disc set on Colt Cabana, but it certainly won’t help Cabana if more people support the company that deemed him unmarketable rather than supporting the supposedly unmarketable man himself.
The choice is yours.
“I sell the things you need to be
I’m the smiling face on your TV
I’m the cult of personality
I exploit you, still you love me
I tell you one and one makes three
I’m the cult of personality…”