NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug. 13, 2014) – The Aug. 7 episode of IMPACT WRESTLING, TNA’s flagship program airing Thursday nights at 9/8c on Spike TV, drew 1.6 million viewers (P2+, +3 Rating), the largest audience since mid-February of this year. The episode was also up against six nationally or regionally televised NFL pre-season games, the first of the NFL season.
Historically, IMPACT WRESTLING ratings are highest during Q1, however in Q3 2014, IMPACT WRESTLING has experienced a steady increase in total viewership and key demos that are exceeding ratings from Q1 2014, and rivaling Q1 ratings from previous years. To date, Q3 2014 ratings have attracted more viewers in the highly sought after Men 18-34 demo since Q1 2012, and the highest ratings for P2+, P 18-49 and Men 18-49 since Q1 2013.
This was the headline touted by associates and fans alike who boasted proudly of IMPACT Wrestling’s recent ratings success during the past month. For at least one whole week, a wrestling fan would have to have been living under a rock to have not been privvy in some way, form, or fashion to this blockbuster news. With so much negative press surrouding the company and the rumored demise of its television deal with Spike, it was quite spectacular to hear that TNA’s New York tapings were garnering more viewers than they have in the past five months, but also that they were absolutely smoking the stiff competition (FOOTBALL!!!) they faced on Thursday nights a 9PM Eastern, 8PM Central Standard Time.
And then this happened:
Speculation on both sides of the argument (pro-TNA or anti-TNA) ran rampant on why such a decision was made. Some suggested that the mere thought of WWE moving its B-show Smackdown back to Thursday nights caused TNA to preemptively relocate their flagship program in order to avoid another sound thrashing from the world’s most prominent wrestling promotion, while others countered that the move is reflective of the recent ratings success and the possibility that Spike has indeed renewed the promotion’s contract. Unfortunately at this time, neither one of those things can be proven as a fact or reality.
Through the very words of their president, TNA has given us some insight as to why this move is happening. Per TNA President Dixie Carter via ImpactWrestling.com,
“Moving IMPACT WRESTLING to Wednesday nights gives existing fans and new viewers an opportunity to enjoy both wrestling and live sports even more throughout the week.”
That makes sense; IMPACT Wrestling was moved to Wednesday nights so existing fans and new viewers (not fans; those are two different demographics, trust me) will have the opportunity or option to enjoy wrestling AND live sports … i.e. THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL!!! This is very considerate of the minds in charge at TNA headquarters; to actually think about fans and viewers in order to provide them with a product that allows them to watch both wrestling and football is something that TNA’s competition would probably never ever do.
But one can’t help but to point out the massive pink elephant in the room … if TNA enjoyed so much ratings success on Thursday nights, consideration be damned why in the hell are they moving the program to Wednesday nights?!?!
That’s just it: at this crucial moment in time where “negotiations are ongoing”*, TNA cannot stand to lose any viewers if they are lobbying, through United Talent Agency, to renew their deal with Spike or land a new deal with another network, especially if their leverage lies within the fact that they can get and maintain 1.6 million viewers (and not fans) per week between now and late September. It would clearly be suicidal in regards to landing a new television deal to keep the show up against football and its much more rabid fan base.
The risk in this move, however, lies in whether or not the 1.6 million viewers from last Thursday’s episode of Impact Wrestling, and the 1.4 million viewers they get consistently, will make that move with IMPACT Wrestling from Thursday to Wednesday nights. We always assume that people will make those types of moves easily, but we cannot assume or speak on the viewing habits of 1.4 – 1.6 million people; just because we may make that move doesn’t mean that all of us will be easily inclined to do so as well.
Also, given that one climactic moment from last week served as the hook for the episode, how sure are we that those same 1.6 million people tuned in last night and will also tune in next week without some sort of major or landmark hook? TNA has to ride the momentum of last week’s show into next week on a completely different night, and I’m hopeful that the suits on their executive board know way more than us fans about the competition they face on Wednesday nights; let’s hope that those same 200,000 new viewers from last Thursday are not preoccupied with other shows or events on their Wednesday nights.
Quick comparison as an example: when WWE launched the WWE Network, they promised stock holders and tons of other folks that they expected to get 1 million subscribers by the end of the year in order to recoup the money dumped into the project. It was only a month or so ago that they reached 700,000+ subscribers, also accounting for those that initially subscribed and eventually dropped the network. With hundreds of thousands of hours of content on the Network, as well as the ability to view each monthly pay per view as a part of the $9.99 package, it shouldn’t have been a problem for WWE to land 1 million subscriptions seeing as their viewership for RAW alone always teeters between 3.5 and 4+ million viewers, good or bad episode. Extra incentives and shameless plugging can’t get them to 1 million subscriptions; are we that positive that the viewers will just simply flock to Wednesday nights? Fans will watch the show no matter what night it comes on, but viewers are fickle and one is justified in believing that TNA can expect at least 100,000 viewers to drop from the move alone. The WWE Network subscription numbers show us that “fans” pale in comparison to “viewers,” and I for one am not too sure that all of IMPACT Wrestling’s “viewers” will readily shift to a new night and time in a week.
All in all TNA is once again stuck in a seemingly unenviable position: the move to Wednesdays frees them from facing the competition of live sporting events, but at the same time there’s no solid proof (that we’re privvy to) that says they will keep their numbers by moving to a new day. It is confusing as a fan to celebrate the success of their first set of New York City tapings by moving the show to a whole ‘nother night. But, it is what it is. As was stated before, we can only hope the fans will follow along … because it just seems as if TNA can only go up from where they are now.
*Has anyone else noticed that when commenting on the situation between TNA and Spike, the only thing being said by anyone – including the wrestlers – is that “negotiations are continuing”? I get that it’s standard given there situation, and even the most legal thing they can comment about it, but it just seems weird that they have to add that phrase “negotiations are continuing” verbatim to their responses about the future of the promotion instead of simply saying, “I have know idea of what you’re talking about.” But I guess if they said that, THAT could be used against them by detractors as well. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t …
Well … what is there to be said about TNA Entertainment, LLC that hasn’t already been said …?
It was difficult reviewing this episode of IMPACT Wrestling because of … well … the obvious. Contrary to popular belief I do indeed make it a point to intentionally watch IMPACT each and every week, silently hoping each time I tune into Spike TV (HD channel 1145 with AT&T’s U-verse® service) I will find something strikingly awesome and energizing about the product. The problem is that rarely happens, and each disappointing viewing draws me one step closer to succumbing to the warm embrace of sheer insanity. Insanity, of course, is that invasive habit of repeating the same actions and expecting different results each time; what could possibly be more insane than watching a show weekly and expecting it to be different than what it is?
This is why it was difficult to review IMPACT given all that has (or hasn’t) occurred in the last week and a half. In order to enjoy the show for what it is, as opposed to watching it with an expectation that it’ll be more than that, I had to completely disregard everything I knew or thought I knew about the product and its stars. I had to ignore completely the fact that the show was taped some time ago and that I already knew what was going to happen because of the spoilers; I had to dismiss the hearsay about the promotion’s television deal with Spike. I had to pretend like I didn’t see the closing video package last week that prematurely promoted the end of Dixie Carter’s table dodging days, as well as overlook the angle’s astonishingly similarities to the storied Stone Cold Steve Austin/Vince McMahon rivalry that defined the Attitude Era. Simply put, in order to enjoy the show I had to literally approach it with my mind as clean and clear as a blank slate, reading and willing to absorb everything as it happened and fully appreciate the development of stories and characters as it happened in front of my eyes.
There within lies the problem; I can’t truthfully comment on whether or not the show was “good” based off of that criteria alone, specifically because this show – much like most episodes of IMPACT – featured “good” wrestling … and that’s something that TNA does more consistently than anything else. It is extremely rare when TNA will produce bad wrestling, and even rarer when they produce something that is smash-the-gas-pedal exciting from start to finish. So I apologize in advance for being the Negative Nancy that refuses to celebrate the mediocrity of an “okay” show highlighted by a man slamming his female boss through a table.
No one celebrates an “okay” show; if anything, people rush to their computers to tear apart shows that are simply okay, dismantling every single minute piece-by-piece, noting how certain stars are being further buried and how much more stale the product is becoming as time rushes forward. Every segment is heavily scrutinized, each minor slip up dissected with a fine-tooth comb, and minor inconsistencies magnified and palavered upon prominently on message boards, blogs, and Twitlonger tirades.
Pro wrestling fans long for non-stop action and excitement from beginning to end and it’s those types of shows that receive and should receive our praise, accolades, and adulation. Damn being drawn in for one or two segments here and there; we want the entire show to capture our attention and hold it for its duration. We want something that excites us, something that intrigues us profoundly, and an exhilarating exhibition of athleticism and logically engaging drama that forces us to literally stand up in our homes and scream along with the fans gathered in the arena.
Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling didn’t do any of that for me … at all. But that’s just my little ol’ opinion.
For ever sarcasm drenched comment made here there are at least ten proponents of the promotion who not only loved the show but can also provide you with the minute details on all the things that made the show awesome. Complimenting those thoughts are the legions of perspectives that can go on and on about how great and awesome the New York tapings have been for the company, the first of three sets of tapings scheduled to happen in the Hammerstein Ballroom of the Manhattan Center.
Perhaps the episodes feel fresh and great because they’ve moved away from the dull and lifeless tourists of Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Maybe the brighter lights attract our attention a bit better than the dreary and dim lighting of the Impact Zone; perchance the simple and more focused storytelling captures our imagination differently than it has in episodes prior. It’s quite possible that the moral of the wrestlers has increased, comingling with the electricity of the live crowd and permeating through our television screens in an oddly positive Poltergeist-ish way. Who knows?
What I witnessed and saw Thursday night was no different from the other IMPACT Wrestling broadcasts that were just as “good,” or “phenomenal.” It was an okay show that revolved around Dixie Carter going through a table, something that was revealed last week, discussed about this week (by Bully Ray and Dixie Carter), highly promoted Thursday night and executed at the end of the show. Fans are currently riding high on this singular moment, feeling that the Toss Your Boss moment will give the promotion enough momentum to convince Spike officials to renew their TV contract … but I’m not supposed to consider anything outside of the show, right?
Enough of that; here’s what stood out to me on the show:
Let’s not kid each other and pretend that the episode was noteworthy for much else outside of Dixie Carter going through a table. There were other matches and the wrestlers did well in them, but the whole show – its feel and the execution of everything else in the show – all played third fiddle to highly publicized table spot. In terms of what happened tonight, Bully Ray made good on his promise and along with Dixie Carter provided a huge moment for fans that will go down in the promotion’s history books as one of those moments. The crowd literally erupted when Dixie went through the table, and Twitter was alive with tweets and excitement and the like as soon as “it” happened.
Okay, I’ll cheat just a bit. #ItHappens did remind me of something I’ve seen before …
It cannot be denied that fans ate this moment up, but we have to wonder what’s next in regards to the Dixie Carter evil authority figure story. Where does she go from here, and where does Bully Ray go from here? There are tons of possibilities, but we’ll have to wait until next week to see exactly how the next chapter in the saga unfolds. The major issue facing the promotion is that after such a major television moment, they’re going to have to top it with something as equally massive or ride the momentum of the moment until the next major pop comes along.
Well … there was a video package in the middle of the broadcast that talked about Team 3D facing The Hardyz in what was described as an epic match … but if it hasn’t happened, we can’t speculate on it. With all that being said, however, Dixie Carter going through a table at the hands of Bully Ray during a time where men are being heavily scrutinized and sanctioned for promoting violence against women is one ballsy way to separate one’s company from its competition. *slow clap for TNA*
I’m sure that you’ve got far more interesting things to say about tonight’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling, so feel free to share those thoughts. But as for this particular blog and perspective, we can only look forward to next week’s episode to see just how earth-shattering the ramifications will be for Dixie Carter’s demise. Feel free to leave your thoughts, because this is all I got.
*Honorable mention – Are we fine and dandy at the fact that Rycklon Stephens and Gene Snitsky were hired to work in the promotion for literally three weeks? We’re cool with that? Okie Doke.
A very salient and time appropriate point was recently made by L.E.W.D.’s resident truth telling aficionado Corbin Macklin:
You can make an argument that my generation grew up spoiled by seeing The Rock, Stone Cold, HHH, Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, Undertaker, Kane, Big Show, Shawn Michaels, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho etc every week…
One would be hard-pressed to argue with the fact that thousands, if not millions, of today’s most vocal pro wrestling fans today were indeed spoiled by the capers and athleticism of the aforementioned stars from more than seventeen years ago. These men, along with a bevy of women as well, left an indelible mark on this business we call pro wrestling during the highly acclaimed “Attitude Era,” that legendary and almost mythical time period where it was cool and acceptable to watch and indulge in all things pro wrestling. This era was defined by brash attitudes and vulgar language, rampant soft core pornography, controversial storylines, and in-ring actual that seemingly always ended with someone profusely bleeding. The risqué, “too raunchy for prime time” rated-R product of the late nineties provided countless hours of entertainment for viewers; from the middle-finger flipping, boss beating, beer swilling shenanigans of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to the crotch chopping, anti-establishment antics of Degeneration X, the spirit and ethic of the Attitude Era spat in the face of polite society and took no prisoners as it steamrolled over all things pleasing, polished, and polite.
These things alone did not make the Attitude Era what it was; in hindsight along with Brother Corbin’s point, we can see that the Attitude Era was made possible and popular by a unique cast of characters, scores of wrestlers, writers, bookers, producers and owners from three different organizations (WWF/E, WCW and ECW) who were in the right place and right time as the stars aligned to create a legacy that has yet to be duplicated in any form or fashion. The Attitude Era was truly defined by the brilliance, work ethic, and passion of the men and women who gave their all plus some every time they stepped inside the ring or represented their respective promotion. The Attitude Era, with it’s politics and the unregulated obsession with blood, boobs, butts and four-letter words, was successful because there existed a communal desire among all vested parties to be the best in the pro wrestling world and within one’s own promotion. This is to say that any given wrestler during that period of time not only wanted to be the best in their promotion, but was intentionally committed to doing whatever was necessary to make sure their promotion was the best in the world.
The raunchiness, crassness and politically incorrectness was only a tool of the Attitude Era, which ultimately served as a tool used by the WWE during the Monday Night War period against WCW. Behind those tools, however, was the rich and deep talent pool filled with solid athletes and creative minds. Speaking specifically of the WWE, not only were the main event stars mentioned earlier (Stone Cold, The Rock, Mankind, Eddie Guerrero, Undertaker, etc.) battling one another for ring supremacy, but lower tiered talent such as Val Venis, Mark Henry and D’Lo Brown, Savio Vega, Luna Vachon, Goldust, Droz, The Big Bossman , Crush, Taka Michinoku, Chyna, Sable and Mark Mero, Ken Shamrock and The Godfather also held their own in the ring, providing just as much entertainment and excitement as those superstars heavily featured in the promotion. Everybody fired on all four cylinders and did so for their own good, each other, and to keep the competition from stomping them into oblivion.
The Attitude Era effectively died when that desire no longer existed, ushering in subsequent periods where all vested parties became increasingly interested in their own personal goals and desires. With a communal desire to succeed no longer permeating through the actions of wrestlers or the intentions of the bookers, writers, producers and owners, pro wrestling slowly morphed into the static, spiritless state it is today, where individuals from the bottom to the top appear more concerned with their own varying ambitions and aspirations than anything else. Today’s product is defined by incessant complaining of individual stars being held back, “buried,” mistreated or disrespected by the system, coupled with the constant criticism against the system’s alleged refusal to kowtow to the desires of “the fans.” Communal desire has been replaced with persistent protesting, and that along with a lack of true competition makes a divided roster and hierarchical structure even more uninspired, insipid and lackluster.
There are some fans whose persistent protesting contains the wish to return to the days of the Attitude Era, explicitly seeking to satiate a craving for a more “adult” themed product from days past. There exists the notion than the current product has been watered down too much by the politically correct, family-friendly PG politics of the day, rendering the WWE’s content a shell of the ratings juggernaut it once was. What’s not understood by those clinging to this notion is that the Attitude Era was an anomaly, an aberration of what once was the standard in the world of pro wrestling that coincided perfectly with the culture and circumstances of the time. A product today saturated with swearing, scantily clad women, and socially unacceptable storylines would not and could not float with today’s generation of pro wrestling consumers.
What fans want, however, is the same level of passion and dedication that was expressed by the populace and the promotion several years ago. The magic of the Attitude Era cannot be recreated; the type of change that’s needed cannot be found in the endless cycle of recreating what worked seventeen years ago using today’s generation of wrestlers and wrestling minds for a minority within fans that can’t reconcile with the past long enough to truly appreciate the superstars wrestling today.
There within lies the curse of the Attitude Era; the hype and the euphoria found in reminiscing on those violent, angst-filled nights casts quite the looming shadow over today’s pro wrestling landscape. We want so badly to hear dirty words and to see blood in every match masked as “real wrestling,” all while pretending as if the rosters, creative teams and executives today could carry those principles as a promotion or unit and not as loosely associated entities seeking singular fame and glory. The Attitude Era had writers with their ears tuned keenly on the pulse of society at the time; it had executives who were hell bent on staying in business and thoroughly crushing their competition in skirmishes that determined whether or not revenue and publicity would flow easily into their own promotion. The Attitude Era had endless lists of wrestlers who all wanted their own promotion to succeed and, at the time, did their best to lift up their fellow wrestlers as they attempted to climb the ladder of success. The Attitude Era had fans who were just as passionate about the business as the men and women working in it, and no matter what, would support a promotion and its wrestlers no matter what…especially through their financial support.
Today’s fair weather fans can’t even be bothered to support the WWE Network and feel less inclined to spend their money on anything related to the product no matter whether it’s good or bad. Only a handful of wrestlers stand out among fans as those who are worthy of a main event push, and those wrestlers change as often as a newborn infant needs a new diaper. Some of those stars phone in their in ring performances or tend to “play it safe” as a means to avoid rocking the boat or causing too much trouble for themselves. The writers work with dated material and executives are preoccupied with accounting irregularities and pet projects to truly be focused squarely on the state of the product. A ridiculously violent and vulgar product under or against these circumstances would barely make a dent in the problem that exists today.
It is without question that the Attitude Era changed the business dramatically and had a profound effect on how we view pro wrestling today. But to insist that a promotion returns to that era without considering what truly made it spectacular would be a categorical waste of time and energy. Promotions filled with individuals, from the bottom up, who are willing to work together for the good of the promotion and the passion to succeed as a promotion is what’s needed. A solid roster of talent giving one hundred percent or more at all times is what’s needed. Fans who’ll pay for the pay per views and merchandise and who won’t fall off the radar when an episode of RAW doesn’t feature Titus O’Neil in the main event is what’s needed.
Those things are way harder to come by, but there aren’t enough tables, razorblades, swear words and bare boobies in the world to recreate the magic of what happened almost two decades ago.
UPDATE: 6:45 PM Central Standard Time
Apparently your voices were heard; mere moments after typing this, it was announced via WWE.com that Emma has been reinstated in the promotion.
For the sake of humoring us here at L.E.W.D., read the following because it’s still all relevant somewhere.
Just in case you haven’t heard the word, we have it on good authority (pun intended) that the WWE has come to terms with the release of notable Diva Emma. Also known by her government approved name Tenille Dashwood, Emma was also recently arrested for allegedly stealing an iPod case from a Walmart in Connecticut.
Many wrestling fans have taken to the internet to voice their displeasure with the promotion’s decision to dismiss Emma over something that they (the fans) believe to have been an accident or a simple mistake on Emma’s part. After all if one is working as an independent contractor for the world’s most prominent sports entertainment promotion, there would be no need to steal anything from anywhere when you could easily purchase it yourself or have the promotion purchase it for you. This also falls square in line with the notion that all individuals placed under arrest are innocent until proven guilty, and clearly Emma can’t be guilty of stealing something worth $21.14.
Reports have it that Emma was sentenced to some community service and upon completion of said service, all charges against her would be dropped. This form of “punishment,” apparently, isn’t enough for the WWE.
Immediately fans cite the blatant hypocrisy of the WWE’s policy towards the professionalism of its employees outside of the company by mentioning the repeated DUI arrests and Wellness Policy violations of several other superstars (Randy Orton, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Jack Swagger, Jimmy Uso). There was even a comment that brought up superstars with legal issues prior to their joining the WWE family (Booker T), which was intended to make the point that the ‘E keeps superstars who committed far worse crimes on the roster than this, deeming their decision to release Emma over allegedly stealing an iPod case completely asinine and ridiculous.
Emma’s release also comes at a time when fans have been convinced that the multitude of recent releases within the company have everything to do with the perceived financial crisis the promotion is currently facing. This leads fans to believe that Emma’s release was simply a cost-cutting measure and that her arrest was an excuse used to poorly justify her termination.
To say it plainly, fans are justifiably saddened at Emma’s release … even though five days ago they were complaining that she and her gimmick were failing to get over with fans … such is the befuddling and ever flexible opinion of pro wrestling fans. Hakuna matata.
The constant “thing” with each of the theories surrounding the logic behind Emma’s release is dualistic in that it is composed of an emotional response and a stone cold reality. Deep down we fans actually like Emma the character and Tenille, the woman who portrays the character, and we all honestly have no idea why WWE released her.
We fans can speculate all day and night, but as spectators hovering around the the situation with our faces firmly pressed against the glass separating us from the odds-and-ends of the business, we can only comment on what we think we know to the extent in which we understand it. It makes more sense for us to blame the ‘E for responding to Emma’s arrest in the manner they did, and it makes little sense to us to try to understand why they responded they way they did. We’ve reacted to our superficial knowledge of the situation at hand … nothing more, nothing less.
Very few people have mentioned that this situation may affect the visa that allows her, as an Australian citizen, to work here in the United States. What would happen if she were still under contract with the ‘E and forced to return home for an indefinite amount of time? But of course this isn’t sensational enough to consider or speculate on.
Even with discussing the financial issues plaguing the promotion at the time, very few people have talked about the budget cuts from the perspective rooted in the beginning of a new fiscal year (July 1st), where most businesses look to shave expenses from their budget lines. Instead of looking at the situation as if the ‘E were trying to save money after losing so much, one could view it as if the ‘E were trying to save money by not spending as much as they did the last fiscal year. There were reports that the WWE cut travel expenses for their superstars (paying for their tour buses), and if you’ve paid attention even the PPV sets aren’t as elaborate as they once were; these cost-cutting measures keep the promotion from spending more money and being as free with their revenue as they were before the massive loss of profits. Unfortunately the money spent on employee contracts isn’t immune from these types of cost cutting measures.
From that perspective the promotion then becomes a place where superstars have no room or margin for error, especially superstars on the low end of the ladder in WWE. Whatever Emma did or didn’t do, no matter how small an infraction we believe it to be, was a simple “f**k up” that might have cost her her WWE contract. Then again, this isn’t sensational enough to consider or speculate on either.
Then there is our comparison of the punishment for Emma’s infraction compared to that of other superstars. While fans have piled on the bandwagon advocating for Emma by citing the punishments received by other superstars for committing crimes deemed more “harsh” or “serious,” there haven’t been many fans that have spoken at length on the implied misogyny present within the company. No one has noted how current TNA Knockout Taryn Terrell was released immediately from her contract after being arrested for an altercation with her then husband and former WWE superstar Drew McIntyre, while male superstars arrested for suspected domestic abuse (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin) were allowed to go about their business within the promotion after repaying their debt to society. Perhaps the issue of discrimination against women would be more important to discuss whether or not a suspected thief should be given the same leniency as someone driving under the influence (which could be anybody over whatever the legal limit is in the state they’re driving in; one doesn’t necessarily have to be “drunk” and driving to be arrested for driving under the influence…).
Whatever the case may be and whatever we choose to believe, it truly stinks that Emma had only scratched the surface of her potential on the main roster before her release. Only she, her attorney and the prosecutor, and the WWE truly know what happened; as much as we desire to crucify the ‘E for choosing to release her from the promotion, we’re doing so as an immediate, ill-informed response and reaction to the news. We shouldn’t expect that Emma won’t ever work for the company again, nor should we expect that we won’t see her wrestle again in some form or capacity. At this point, all we can do as fans is make a loud enough noise supporting her if her arrest was the result of a careless action she unintentionally made when checking out at Walmart. Until all the facts come out, if they ever come out, we’ll have to find some way to grapple with not seeing her meander through a gimmick that we said wasn’t working for us.
TNA Entertainment, Inc. recently released a poll asking fans to decide whether or not their flagship program, IMPACT Wrestling, will use a 4 or 6-sided ring moving forward, beginning at the scheduled set of TV tapings. Fans are asked to visit the IMPACT Wrestling website to cast their vote, where we’re also told that “this is not a one-off event,” and that “the future of IMPACT Wrestling’s ring is in [our] hands.” For all intents and purposes and according to their website, TNA is allowing us fans to choose the ring “we” want to see their wrestlers perform in as the promotion moves forward. This is a hallmark moment for the promotion and for wrestling fans, as we’re once again expecting this promotion to deliver on a promise to “listen to its fans,” giving us some power to dictate how we want to see what happens in the ring.
TNA’s iconic 6-sided ring was used from the promotion’s inception in 2002 all the way up to 2010, where it was put out of commission at the beginning of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff’s TNA tenure. While the reasoning for axing it varied, the most popular rationale focused on the hexagonal ring making the promotion appear amateurish when compared to other promotions dominating the sports entertainment genre. With a growing and more pressing need to appeal to investors and advertisers, the company opted to bring in a traditional 4-sided ring, a move that received mixed responses from fans but was eventually accepted by and large. Appreciation and fondness for the 6-sided ring hasn’t dissipated completely, as fans have occasionally reminisced on the days of its use and have petitioned to have it make a return at least once a year (primarily during the Destination X pay per view event).
As it turns out, not everyone is keen on returning to action within the confines of the 6-sided ring. Two IMPACT Wrestling athletes, Ethan Carter III and Austin Aries, have taken to social media to express their thoughts on ring’s potential return:
The most interesting thing about their comments is how they disagree with giving fans the power to determine something that has an immediate effect on their safety and well-being. The implication from their comments is clear: people who can’t and don’t wrestle, particularly the fans, should not have the right or choice to dictate the conditions in which wrestlers wrestle. To quote Austin Aries directly, “What’s wrong with wrestling? Letting people who’ve never done it, and never put their bodies on the line, run the show.”
The current generation of pro wrestling fans is entrenched in an Era of Entitlement, where we all feel that our opinions are gospel and that what we say or believe “should be” what’s given to us by promotions. We write blogs and tape video segments that analyze and scrutinize a promotion’s willingness to “listen to the fans,” and any promotion that fails to do so is immediately demonized and characterized as a “failure” or “failing” because it refuses to kowtow to the demands of its fans.
A harsh reality that most fans don’t consider is that our demands at times can be irrational and borderline insane, especially if we’ve grown accustomed to consuming a particular type of pro wrestling product. Our demands don’t seem irrational if we’ve become desensitized to seeing wrestlers grapple in thumbtacks and shards of glass, or if we’re used to seeing athletes jump off of ladders or structures that are 20+ feet in the air. Such activity becomes normal for us, and the moment we stop receiving such action we begin to grouse about how promotions don’t care about what fans want to see (i.e. the bloodless PG Era), never minding at all the fact that the wrestlers no longer have to damage their bodies beyond what’s necessary in order to entertain us.
This is what makes this debate so pertinent; as promotions continue to fight for revenue and fan appeal, the lines that once kept us behind a particular veil of ignorance are being blurred slowly, giving us new and unparalleled access to the inner workings and politics of the business. When we begin to believe we know and understand how the business works, we offer our critiques as dictum or mandates that must be followed lest the business as we know it comes to an end. Promotions that fall victim to this logic assume that mildly entertaining these dictum or mandates will endear them to fans looking to have their “voices” heard.
Our dictum and mandates are varied and often come from a subjective, single-minded perspective devoid of any in-ring experience; we present what we believe to be the best for our entertainment without any acknowledgement of what wrestlers endure for that same entertainment. We disregard the fact that being a fan is about enjoying what’s presented to us, and in the event that things change, we’re still invested some way in what happens because we’re fans. If any promotion has to entice fans to stick around by giving us the “authority” to make pivotal decisions that affects a wrestler’s ability to do his or her job or that could potentially make what they do more dangerous than necessary, then the state of the business is in far more dire straits than meets the eye.
So yes; TNA’s 6-sided ring comes with a flood of beloved memories and exciting expectations that could invigorate the promotion’s fans and inject some much needed energy into the IMPACT Wrestling product. But if all of that comes at the expense of the wrestlers’ health and longevity in the business, and the decision to bring the ring back rests in the hands of fans and not the men and women who must perform inside the ring, then we should have the chutzpah to turn down anything that could potentially make wrestling more dangerous than it already is.
Whether it be a 6-sided ring, bloodletting, thumbtacks and kendo sticks, chair shots to the back, death-defying falls from 16-foot ladders, such things should only be used sporadically at most to enhance a feud or storyline. Such things should also be decided upon by the men and women who have to wrestle under those conditions and their employers. It’s one thing to ask fans if we’d like to see, in this instance, a brief or extended return to the 6-sided ring; it’s another to ask us to do the job of making that decision when we’ll never really get the opportunity to consult the wrestlers for their perspectives on the matter.
As fans of pro wrestling, we constantly offer our respect to those who put their bodies through pure hell to make us laugh, cry, cheer and boo. These men and women work hard for our enjoyment, and if the comments made by Aries and Carter are truly sincere and honest off-the-cuff remarks, we know exactly how we should vote when we visit IMPACTWrestling.com. On the other hand, if we truly enjoy the 6-sided ring and expect it to have a beneficial impact on TNA’s product, then by all means we should prepare ourselves for the return of the hexagonal circle.
*Edit: Wrestler Sean “X-Pac” Waltman has also added his thoughts on the potential return of the 6-sided ring:
If you had the opportunity to write the perfect storyline for two wrestlers in a pro wrestling promotion, what would that story be? That is a real question, and I’d like some honest answers from you … our faithful L.E.W.D. readership.
We’ve all filled our fair share of message boards with fantasy storylines, and even here in the L.E.W.D.iverse we’ll engage is some knee slappin’ fantasy booking just to pass the time. What’s interesting, however, is that no matter who you place into a situation the storytelling is what grabs someone’s attention and keeps them invested in your booking. As much as we complain all the time about how a star is booked or how awful a storyline is, very few individuals can come up with an authentic and gripping story that captures the imagination of a vast swath of people.
I suppose that’s what makes creative writing for pro wrestling so difficult; it’s easy to pop a copy of WWE 2K14 into an XBox 360 or PS3, lock ourselves in a room for six hours, and come up with something that makes us laugh and is eventually downloaded by a few hundred people here or there when we upload it to the WWE Creative Communities. But imagine having to that on a nightly basis with a team of people, scratching your heads and planning out dialogue and actions for several stars at once, all of whom are important and must appear to the audience a certain number of times to guarantee a particular demographic’s response and financial investment. Imagine having to rewrite a script at the last minute when a wrestler is injured or has been arrested; imagine having to figure out how to get a Lucha Libre star over with American fans, or having to come up with something to justify a new Diva’s presence in the promotion. Imagine writing something that works among a small number of fans in one part of the country, but “fails” in front of thousands of fans everywhere else.
We can’t imagine that, because we get to sit in the comfort of our own homes and craft quaint little storylines that make sense to us and only us, and parade them around to our like-minded friends who’ll eagerly tell us, “You should write for [insert promotion here]!” A few thousand downloads or several hundred “likes” and positive comments, and all of a sudden we’re next in line to get a sitcom picked up by FOX.
That’s all well and good, but our tastes are not necessarily on the pulse of society as much as we’d like them to be. What looks great to us on paper may come off as absolute trash when executed, and I say that knowing good and well the reason why my WWE 2K14 story editors never make it past my L.E.W.D. brethren and a few obsessively compulsive driven MS Word documents. To say it as I was told the great Vince McMahon said it, we fans “know what we like, but don’t know what we want,” and Baal save our poor souls, we actually think the two are synonymous. Good storylines … scratch that; good storytelling isn’t a matter of crafting a questionably epic piece of prose that contains everything we like with everybody we’d like to see doing everything we’d like do if we were in a particular situation. On the contrary, good storytelling is being able to create characters that resonate with groups of people and individuals in some way, and watching them react to circumstances beyond their immediate control. Good storytelling, and a good story, is not a matter of whether we like it or not; a good story and good storytelling is good because it simply is, and how it’s executed is what really seals the deal on our investment in it.
We want good storytelling because good storytelling and good stories keep us entertained and invested in the product. Being entertained and invested is all about the execution of a story: the way it’s told and how it unfolds. We don’t have to “like” that story for it to be good. What we “like” isn’t always equivalent to what’s “good” or “entertaining,” and there aren’t enough adjectives of angry tweets in the world that can justify the perception that we have to “like” something for it to be good.
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy was a piece of assigned reading I was expected to tackle heading into my sophomore year in high school. I don’t think I made it past the second chapter before tossing this piece of literary genius to the wayside and opting instead to immerse myself completely in the gripping and utterly fascinating world of doing jack s**t.
For the longest I held quite the grudge against this story and Thomas Hardy, who conveniently succumbed to the unrelenting demands of death some 11 years after my maternal grandfather was born thus avoiding a stern talking to and severe finger-wagging thrashing at the hands of one extremely disgruntled fourteen year old student from the one of the states that almost ceded from the Union. Needless to say, but important to mention, is the fact that I haaaated this book; in particular the language was difficult for me to read or understand at the time, due to me being largely uncultured and far too impatient to read that book.
So instead of simply trying harder to understand the language, taking a little more time to read and process what I read, I did what every0ne else in my particular section of English that year did … labeled the book as “stupid” and “bad,” and begged the teacher not to test us on it once school began.
It wasn’t until some time later, and I mean much later, that I picked up the book and tried reading it again. To its credit, the magnificence that is Wikipedia had a lot to do with me picking the book back up again; the brilliant web editors that succinctly described the story in terms that I could actually understand caused my interest in the story to pique. It also helped that I was slightly more patient in my adult years than I was when I was fourteen, which enabled me to really process what the hell was going on in the story. With this new perspective on The Mayor of Casterbridge, I was able to see that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the story or the book; it was all in me, I wasn’t entertained or invested in the story because I didn’t take the time to be entertained or invested in it. In hindsight, the story was a damn good one regardless of how “bad” we all said it was. After all, if it were that terrible it (a) wouldn’t have been on our reading list and (b) wouldn’t have the word “classic” on the front cover.
Then there’s the sad story of the Tyler Perry supported film Peeples. I had the extreme fortune of sitting through this entire film as an adult, an adult with an incredibly low amount of tolerance for anything with Tyler Perry’s name attached to it after Diary of a Mad Black Woman. I won’t go through the synopsis of Peeples here; the point is that the story of Peeples, a story that was done by Ashton Kutcher in 2005 and Ben Stiller in 2004, was executed in a way that didn’t entertain me completely. That doesn’t make the movie or the story told within it bad, but it did make it uninteresting to me for tons of reasons.
And guess what … that’s okay. I’m sure plenty of people experienced great joy and comfort in the heartwarming moments and zany situations the lead character Wade Walker found himself navigating throughout the course of the film. But I didn’t, and if there’s a Peeples 2 in the works, you can rest assured and bet your bottom dollar that at least ONE man in the continental United States will revisit the days of his youth doing jack s**t well before he even thinks about giving THAT film one single solitary chance.
This is all to say that when it comes to pro wrestling, we armchair quarterbacks love to stand on our soap boxes and proclaim loudly and proudly that this story is bad or that story is great, knowing good and well those perceptions are our subjective expressions of how the execution of the stories entertained us. Lost in translation is that oh so important fact of whether or not we were entertained by the story and if it was entertaining enough to keep us invested. The gauge of whether a story is good or bad has to do with how its executed and not with the story itself. Presentation is everything, and if we find ourselves frustrated over stories within a specific promotion, we’re honestly confused and pissed off at how the story is presented, point blank. A story isn’t really good or bad, but rather, it’s presented well or poorly. That’s what has us ticked off, and that’s what we really should be discussing here.
Come on, everybody; let’s use our words here: why is the show boring? Why is a pay per view “terrible” after only one match? Why is “logical” (as opposed to “understandable”) a prerequisite for “good” storytelling? WHY don’t we find any of this entertaining???
Case in point: a little person in a bull costume fighting another little person in an imaginary rock band is highly illogical. But the story surrounding their feud is a classic tale (no pun intended) of one character being wronged by another and seeking to correct the injustice done to him. That story continues to be played out because kids, believe or not, find it entertaining and are invested in it one way or another. That story continues to be played out because not ever segment in a wrestling show can be (or should be, for that matter) as serious as a blood feud between Lance Storm and Dean Malenko. The story of a character seeking revenge for an injustice done at the hands of another character is a good story; it’s logical, it’s understandable, and it’s actually good. It just so happens that this iteration of the story, complete with wacky hijinks and slapstick shenanigans, isn’t that entertaining to people who would actually pay hard earned cash to see Lance Storm and Dean Malenko wrestle each other for a year. The story itself is fine; the execution of it is highly questionable.
On the other hand, a few misfits from a traveling carnival “wrestling” to raise money to save their beloved family owned roadside attraction is not only illogical but also highly absurd, even by carny and pro wrestling standards (and oddly enough, pro wrestling got its start as a carnival side show attraction). The story of a man facing financial hardships and opting to enlist the help of his friends to wrestle his way back into the game, however, is a good story that can entertain fans of all walks of life. When you throw men walking on stilts, endless carny music, a bipolar clown with balloons and a bike horn, and a sultry vixen who has trouble doing splits on the ring ropes (as anyone would) … all of a sudden we’re back in that highly questionable execution zone.
What does all of this mean to you, dear reader? We stay invested in pro wrestling because it entertains us, and each promotion under the sun works to entertain more than just one type of person or one demographic of people. All of the stories crafted for our entertainment may not strike us the same way, and I do think we’re allowed to have and share our opinions no matter how we feel. But for the love of JBL and Bray Wyatt, we should try our best to avoid using superficial words or superfluous exclamations to express our truly profound feelings for the product. The writers, producers and wrestlers go through a lot to entertain us, but there is a difference between saying a story or storyline is “bad” and that it’s execution was “bad.” The moment we can express our dislike for the execution of a story is the moment we can begin to look at pro wrestling again as an established form of entertainment for folks all around the world.
After all, the whole world contains stories waiting to be told … including yours. How would it make YOU feel if somebody else told you the story of your life was “awful?”
Yep … that’s what I thought.
Episode 1096 of Monday Night RAW is in the bag and the stage has been set for Payback, this Sunday’s appropriately themed WWE “special event.” Normally the go-home show for any
wrestling sports entertainment pay per view “special event” would create intrigue and excitement among fans in a way that cajoles us to drop the necessary $60 to order the event from our local cable or satellite service provider. Unfortunately times have changed since the 80s and much like Zack Ryder’s Last ReZort, interest has waned severely in “ordering” special events and in the WWE’s product.
It’s easy for us to place the blame solely on WWE for producing a lifeless, lackluster product that resembles a post-recognizable-name episode of Saturday Night Live than a pro wrestling broadcast. Truth be told the promotion has seen better days; the problem is that a lot of us “fans” think of “better days” as being that Attitude Era-ish time period where pro wrestling was on fire for more than the sole reason that it was “great” There were some great things that happened in that era that showcased the skill of some phenomenal superstars, but it was also during a time period where the concept of an iPod would’ve gotten you sentenced to death by firing squad. In effect, the Attitude Era drastically altered our expectations as pro wrestling “fans,” and has transformed us into the insatiable brats we are today.
And yes, I used the word “WE” because WE are all “fans.”
Let’s just be real with one another: yes, RAW for the last few weeks has been slightly underwhelming, something that most diehard fans wouldn’t rush home to see. Then again with the invention of DVR-ing, is there really ever a need to “rush home” to watch anything nowadays? For yours truly, however, RAW has remained a staple on Monday nights since the very first episode in January 1994. YES, I am one of those guys who will watch RAW regardless of how the supposed masses review the “quality” of the show. Some would say fans like myself are mindless and dumb, which seems absolutely ridiculous seeing as the average reading ability of folks living in the United States is at the fourth grade level and strong segment of the population has at least made it to the tenth grade … but I digress.
So yes, RAW has been underwhelming for some time but it is a far cry from being bad or terrible as some have claimed it to be. The problem is that our expectations of what the show should be don’t necessarily match what’s actually produced on the show. We still want Attitude Era-ish shenanigans and when we don’t get them, we immediately pan everything they throw at us and label the product as something horrible. It’s really the equivalent of a temper tantrum from a small league of grown ass fans.
I contend that our expectations are all over the place, relying on our desire to see what we like instead of being specific about what we want, which are two very different things in and of themselves. We want to see more attention given to the Divas Division and its superstars, but we like seeing scantily clad Divas with big boobs parading around the area. We want to see compelling and action-packed storylines with drama, twists and turns, but we like seeing simplified conflicts with certain superstars dominating the main event and three hour broadcasts. We want to see new wrestlers and characters, but we like seeing the same old guys doing the same old stuff. The gray area for pleasing all fans is quite small and tumultuous, and I do not envy those tasked with making RAW or Smackdown or NXT or Main Event or Superstars happen each and every week from a creative direction, because they have to put on a show whether or not we fickle fans like it.
The cool thing about WWE in particular and all promotions in general is that they always provide us with entertainment even as we pick apart the most miniscule of details in the product, and a lot of times they provide us fans with the very thing we want andlike, and we willingly choose to ignore it just to focus on highlighting our opinions and point of views. We can’t truly enjoy the product because we’re too busy enjoying picking it apart; I’ll be the first to admit here that I’ve been guilty of that often and even wrote to defend such a perspective. However, it’s one thing to be a “fan” that turns a blind eye to haphazard writing and terrible booking and it’s a completely different thing to trade in one’s perspective as a “fan” for the false glamor that comes with the emptiness of complaining about a lack of substance without offering an alternative solution.
With these things in mind, here’s what stood out to me during Episode 1096 of Monday Night RAW:
- Wyatt vs. Cena: Missing the Picture
- Adam Rose and Alicia Fox: Missing the Picture
- Payback “special event;” Missing the Picture
The ideological feud between Bray Wyatt and John Cena is one of the three top feuds in the promotion at the moment. I would bet stone cold cash on the fact that most fans have completely missed the fact that John Cena has taken a less prominent roll in the promotion for some time now and has used his energy and charisma to build up younger stars. In this case, his protege Bray Wyatt has benefited greatly from the rub.
Here’s a tweet that I put out earlier which expresses a part of the confusion surrounding the Wyatt/Cena feud:
It wasn’t that long ago when Vince McMahon shocked the pro wrestling world by reportedly stating that there were no more “faces or heels” in his promotion’s product, effectively saying what Vince Russo had been saying all along: there are no good guys or bad guys, just characters who will fluctuate between the moral and immoral depending on the circumstances they are in. The Wyatt/Cena feud showcases that blurred line of logic to a tee, but its approach seems to be somewhat more cerebral than most can handle.
While it has become slightly inorganic for Wyatt to include his youth-friendly gospel song into each promo or talking segment, his verbal sparring with Cena centers around the notion of one cult of personality battling another. Bray Wyatt is forthright in saying that the Cult of HLR is filled with empty promises and false hope, while John Cena spends more time defaming the Wyatt Family’s system of belief while once again ignoring anyone who supports or opposes his own tried and true beliefs. Both men believe in their own ideals, and yet Wyatt is the one saying “join me” while Cena says “eff all y’all, I’m a bawse!” And somehow, somewhere … we’re being told to believe that Wyatt is the bad guy … at least he has some interest in people believing in him.
All this is to say that the crux of this feud is lost in translation, mired down by the weight of cryptic promos and lofty dialogue. But this is what we fans wanted, right? We want those deep, introspective storylines that push the boundaries of what we’re use to seeing, right? This whole storyline is much more than being about Guy A hating Guy B and wanting to fight; the Wyatt Family has lost a good number of matches against Cena and yet they don’t seem to be bothered with that inasmuch as they are with the fact that they haven’t completely decimated the Cult of HLR …
Look for their match this Sunday to be “bowling shoe ugly” as Jim Ross has said. After years of listening to John Cena’s spiel and praying feverishly to the wrestling gods for his demise, I can only be baffled as to why someone would not want to purchase the special even to see how this turns out. If that isn’t your cup of tea, there’s always Matt Hardy and his ICONIC Championship.
Pro wresting is based on characters, point blank. Characters dominate sports entertainment and sports so much that you’d be hard-pressed nowadays to find athletes in the public square that are just as well-rounded and normal as you or I. Think about it: Tim Tebow made waves not just because he was a standout college athlete but also because his deeply rooted Christian beliefs made him a target of mockery by football fans in our supposed “Christian” nation. All these behind the scenes shows were created for boxers which show the personality of these “characters” outside of two dudes who are punching the hell out of each other for money and a championship. Each UFC fighter is a “character,” NASCAR drivers are “characters;” it just is what it is.
When it comes to pro wrestling, however, there is a need for characters that aren’t necessarily your straight forward, “I’m going to wrestle you to death” types of superstars. This is where Adam Rose comes in to play, a wrestler with a colorful entrance and a wacky entourage that makes you pay attention. The issue is, however, that this campy gimmick doesn’t sit well with those stoic, emotionless fans who watch Frank Gotch matches all day long. The same thing applies to Alicia Fox’s character direction, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
For those of you that don’t know, Ray Leppan South African wrestler that portrays Adam Rose, and prior to receiving this Aldous Snow reminiscent gimmick he successfully brought life and meaning to Leo Kruger, his FCW and NXT persona that went from simply boring (along with Damien Sandow, point of fact) to simply intense and intriguing. The Leo Kruger of NXT is the Kruger I preferred, a creepy South African poacher/big game hunter with a seriously bitchin’ theme song:
When I first heard that Kruger was getting a makeover, the only thing I knew very little about Russell Brand other than the notion that I despised the idea of Kruger being neutered just when he was getting over (with me) as a character. After seeing Adam Rose debut on NXT, my mind was changed when I realized why this character development happened. Leppan began his stint in WWE’s FCW developmental promotion in 2010 and stayed during the promotion’s shift to NXT and Full Sail University. Between 2010 and 2014, the Kruger character was the primary character portrayed by Ray Leppan, which implies that despite development and growth, Leppan had only portrayed one type of character in four years while signed with WWE. The Adam Rose experiment, in my mind, was a way to see if Leppan could do more and be more than just an multifaceted yet one dimensional character.
Lo and behold, Adam Rose makes it to the main roster (after 4 years in developmental when tons of stars are lucky to make it to or past two years) after his gimmick does well on house shows and at Full Sail University (*cough cough Hi Emma cough cough*). With barely a full month in on the main roster, why have fans panned the character as “not working” when he hasn’t even seen a real strong feud yet? Worst of all, are you seriously telling me we’d opt to see the wrestling poacher than this quirky character and his cast of crazy cohorts? Seriously, where in the twenty-first century wrestling world is it “okay” for wrestling carnies and not for Adam Rose?
Also of concern is the direction for Alicia Fox, who has taken to post-match fits of confusion to express her happiness or frustration with a win or loss. From Diet Coke soda baths to giving members of the ring crew wedgies, fans have voiced their displeasure with Ms. Foxy’s development as a character because it … well I don’t know exactly why they don’t like the direction she’s headed in.
As one wrestling pundit put it online, it does make you pay attention to the Divas and their division. For years fans have clamored for the division to be paid attention to, and even with the success of the E Network’s Total Divas show, fans still screamed for the division to be more than just a reason to acquire B-Roll for the WWE’s reality show. Alicia Fox gives you just that with the newly crowned and very young Divas Champion Paige … and that’s a bad thing?
Pro wrestling has always had characters; from Ric Flair to the Macho King, Mr. Perfect to Roddy Piper, Sting to Kerry Von Erich, there’s no escaping the necessity of a persona to add flavor to a fight between two individuals. There’s a place for the Daniel Bryans and Gail Kims just as there is a place for the Bad Influences and RD Evans. Everybody can’t be straight forward like Lance Storm and Dean Malenko, and the more we try to pigeonhole our stars into being the next iterations of Stone Cold and Trish Stratus, the more of a disservice we do the superstars who bust their butts to be the first versions of themselves. Just think about it: everybody is nuts about the way Dolph Ziggler is being treated currently, but how many of those same fans talked down about the name “Dolph Ziggler” when he disappeared from The Spirit Squad as Nicky and as Kerwin White’s caddy, Nick Nemeth? Exactly.
I wouldn’t rate the build up to this year’s Payback as something spectacular and worth writing home about, but we must acknowledge that by its name this special event is directly related to the special event that preceded it … in this case, WrestleMania XXX. If it seems like a lot of the matches are simply rematches from the last special event, then hey … maybe that’s by design.
We can’t neglect to consider that most promotions seemed hell bent on pushing their television deals, which is something that even TNA really began doing four years ago when Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan joined the company. If this is true by any stretch of the imagination, it then makes sense for these special events to look and feel like special television broadcasts. Fans and pundits hate this because we’re accustomed to pay per views being climaxes or blow offs to feuds, or at least explosive continuations of on-going storylines and creative directions. From that perspective, the TV shows should drive viewers to order the pay per views, and the pay per views should segue in some form back to the television shows. Such is rarely the case nowadays, as the pay per views (or special events) usually drive people back to the television shows, while the television shows do almost little to hype or push the pay per views (or special events).
The question remains: what is pro wrestling pay per view supposed to be? Four years ago the suits at TNA tried to convince us that the twelve pay per view per year model was asinine and that promoting four major shows while having seven monthly “special events” (because that’s really what the One Night Only pay per views are if you want to be technical about it) was the wave of the future. Hell, they even went as far as to promote pay per view themed episodes of Impact. Other wrestling promotions went the iPPV route, and others are just now walking into the pay per view fray just as WWE settles into its special event format on the WWE Network. With all of these options and changes to the way pro wrestling is presented, what do we expect a pay per view or special even to be?
If you’re paying $9.99 per month for the WWE Network, what should a special event be to be worth your $9.99 that month? If you’re paying $60 a month to watch a special event, what should that special event be to be worth your money? If you’re pirating the special event, what should it be to be worth your time and pirating efforts? If you’re attending a live show and you paid in advance for your tickets, purchased tons of merchandise at the tables and waited in the special VIP lines to get a picture with your favorite superstar or Diva, what would that special event be to be worth all of your efforts?
The best and only answer is … entertaining. How that special event is entertaining will depend on the person you’re talking to, but we all have our own reasons for wanting to watch the show even as we move heaven and earth to try to convince other people not to watch it. If we really thought and believed the special event wasn’t worth our time and money, would I be sitting here writing this post and would you be reading it? Absolutely not.
Get over it; watch the special event and enjoy the spectacle as it directs our attention back to next Monday night and the road to July’s Money In the Bank special event.
But those are just my thoughts; what do YOU think?
Pro wrestling in the 21st Century most assuredly falls under the “entertainment” genre, and while this particular categorization of “the business” by no means negates or diminishes the athleticism, sacrifices, and dedication of the wrestlers, it does create a certain atmosphere that determines by and large how the business functions.
Despite our insistence that pro wrestling is solely about athleticism and abilities, the business as a form of entertainment is also about presentation. The way in which the product is presented in this day in age can make or break a promotion rather easily and quickly.
If the way the product is presented has an important and specific effect on the business, then the actual product being presented has to look and feel a certain way as well. Imagine a roster filled with Bastion Boogers or Rosie Lottaloves invading your airwaves five nights a week …
The entertainment business, therefore, is dominated by image; how someone or something looks is important, and consumers are conditioned to buy into those things they find visually and aesthetically pleasing. In many ways consumers can’t help being vain or superficial, as most things that dominate our lives appeal to our sight first and everything else afterwards. Pro wrestling is a form of entertainment, and its fans are consumers; even though we consistently pay a promotion to entertain us in many different ways we also subconsciously pay them to see a product that features talent that looks and performs in a way that is visually pleasing to us on the whole, and fans (consumers) on the whole want to see wrestlers that look good while exhibiting their in-ring talents and skills.
This is the reason why WWE continues to hire males that “look” like wrestlers (because there is a specific image that comes to mind when one thinks of a pro wrestler) and women that are/were models or have model-esque looks as a professional athlete. This is the reason why some TNA fans make casual references to how “hot” a Knockout looks while detailing their pro wrestling curriculum vitae. This is the reason why some fans can’t be bothered to discuss Jeff Jarrett’s GFW promotion until they first see the promotion in action. The harsh reality of life in these United States, and perhaps in other parts of the world as well, is that we are completely obsessed with looks.
The problem with being so obsessed with looks, particularly in the pro wrestling industry, is that it limits the possibilities of having greatness displayed on a much larger level. There are endless stories of great wrestlers—women and men—who have had their abilities and potential dismissed because they didn’t have a certain “look.” Fans will often rally behind the women and men, making video blogs and creating message board discussions about a promotion’s misguided direction for not hiring or pushing a wrestler because they don’t have that “look.” Within that fervor, however, there still exists some subjectivity as fans will throw their support behind some of these neglected and denied stars and not others.
Hence building a case for Jay and Mark Briscoe, two twenty-something brothers currently wrestling as a tag team in Ring of Honor Wrestling. The Briscoes are exceptional athletes and wrestlers, gaining kudos for their work in ROH from several pundits and analysts including Jim Ross. Why is it, then, that the Briscoes have yet to be picked up by WWE or TNA?
There could be all sorts of reasons as to why neither promotion has bothered to extend a contract to the Briscoe brothers, but a YouTube video posted in 2011 on the Ring of Honor Wrestling YouTube account shows the Briscoes recalling a story from 2009 of their experience with a WWE tryout. Long story short, the Briscoes were not offered a developmental contract with the promotion because they were not “cosmetically pleasing to suit the WWE’s programming.” One can only imagine how disrespected and insulted the brothers must have felt to be essentially told that they weren’t “cosmetically pleasing” for WWE’s fans.
As much as such an occurrence serves as fodder for those who despise all things WWE, it remains to be seen why TNA—the unofficial “alternative” to WWE programming—has yet to offer a contract to the brothers or why TNA fans have decided against rallying for the signing of this team to help boost the promotions lackluster tag team division. Could it be possible that even TNA and its fans find a team such as The Wolves more “cosmetically pleasing” than the Briscoes while some of the best tag team matches in ROH took place between the American Wolves and the Briscoe Brothers? It’s very possible that the Briscoes were offered a TNA contract and turned it down (and they had at least one match in TNA’s early days), but news of such an occurrence is scarce on the internet and (to my recollection) received no where near the same amount of press as the reports of tryouts and (re-)signings of other stars.
The Briscoes obviously don’t fit the stereotypical mold of what we envision of pro wrestlers; they do, however, have a unique and intentionally different persona that, coupled with their abilities, would make them immediately stand out in the tag division of any promotion they work for. With tons of model-esque and “polished” wrestlers dominating the industry at this point, it would be more refreshing to see an upstart tag team rampaging through the system as something very different from the norm. In this sense, hiring the Briscoes would mean much more than meets the eye (pun intended).
It is quite possible that the top two promotions are intimidated by what the Briscoes represent: an obvious and deliberate departure from the established standard in the entertainment business and pro wrestling industry. This established standard, a crippling adherence to looks and style over substance, makes the industry slaves to a consumerist’s illogical perception of beauty and looks. The business as a form of entertainment, ruled by finances and revenue, will only present those things consumers are willing to pay to see. Fans will not pay to see anything that isn’t “cosmetically pleasing,” and the desire to deviate from that standard is about as enthralling as a prostate exam from an agitated Wolverine …
In the end (pun intended), the Briscoes and us fans lose out on so much simply because major promotions aren’t ballsy enough to buck the system, a system that depends our our dollars; unfortunately, when it comes to the entertainment industry, we will notpay for anything we don’t like … and people in this country do not likethings that aren’t deemed pretty.
There is nothing “pretty” about what the Briscoes do in the squared circle.
These two blue-collar brothers hail from Laurel, Delaware and are billed as being from Sandy Fork, both of which are located in Sussex County. According to the Sussex County website, Western Sussex County (in which Laurel is located) is notable for being “the backbone of Delaware’s agriculture industry with more acres of arable land under cultivation than anywhere else in the state.” Both Jay and Mark make no bones about growing up and living on a farm (a chicken farm at that, of which Sussex County is also known for being “the birthplace of the broiler chicken industry”), and the promos from these two tattooed, Confederate flag waving rebels are often laced with profanity and the type of drawl you’d expect from two country boys that grew up in the pre-integrated South:
What’s most refreshing about the Briscoes is that they are authentically being themselves; the “characters” they portray as wrestlers are not drastically different from who they are in real life … which could potentially be a PR nightmare for any promotion dealing with family-friendly investors. While their rough-around-the-edges persona could be “difficult” for business, their work ethic and in-ring abilities speak for themselves and the possibilities for fresh match-ups against other teams in TNA and WWE warrant some consideration of investment from both promotions. Their no-frills, get-er-done mentality, coupled with their surprisingly finessed and incredibly crisp ring work, could easily remind fans of the Dudley Boyz from ECW, two also not-ready-for-prime-time wrestlers who prior to their time in the WWE were also far from being “cosmetically pleasing.” It also doesn’t hurt that both of the brothers are only peeking at 30 years old.
The issue is whether or not there’s anyone in either promotion that is willing to invest on a long shot in the way they did with other stars (CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Orlando Jordan … ). A bigger issue is whether or not we fans can collectively stand behind and support the signing of two wrestlers who’ve earned the opportunity to showcase their skills on a bigger stage. Fans proudly fancy themselves as being decidedly against the superficial politics of pro wrestling (such as in the case of WWE’s alleged issue with Mickie James’ “weight gain” five years ago); we must be aware that we feed into that same superficiality when our support for wrestlers is unequally yoked from our own superficial subjectivity.
The entertainment business and much of our U.S. society focuses too much on looking good, often times at the expense of substance and quality. Our spending power and dollars feed the machines that promote the importance of how something looks over how it functions. If we ever desire for real change to occur in pro wrestling, we have got to have change our priorities which will significantly change how and where we spend our money. The moment that change occurs, the promotions will see and acknowledge that the quality of the product and the athletes who sacrifice their lives to entertain us are far more important than whether or not they are “cosmetically pleasing.” That change, however, has to happen inside of us fans … and unfortunately it’s a change that will take some time to happen, unless the promotions themselves choose to buck the system and truly be different in what they do and offer us for entertainment. Hiring the Briscoes, be it in WWE or TNA, would be one huge step in that direction.
To quote Jay and Mark Briscoe, perhaps is far past time for these major promotions and us fans to “Man Up” and truly clamor for something different than the cookie cutter standard that’s loosing viewers and revenue as we speak.
I disappeared off the ratchet wrasslin writing planet simply because things I’m seeing in WWE’s product and rumors on the dirtsheets are pissing me off. After a couple of weeks or so of just watching as a fan and not critically I’m ready to get back to complaining about every damn thing WWE does.
Shoutout to The Ashley Morris for his last piece, which I unofficially contributed to. Yes, I’m a egomaniac. Anyway… yeah. Yall gotta stfu crying about Daniel Bryan being scared of Kane as though the feud has been mostly about Kane trying to rape his wife. Crying like Bryan didn’t beat him clean at Extreme Rules. I knew you marks would start turning on Bryan first chance you got. When Bryan loses the belt, you’ll complain no matter who he loses it to, or how. Then want him to win it again. Just to start the cycle of complaining about his booking again. WWE is actually booking him as THE guy, and you’re complaining. You marks don’t understand what a ‘work’ is eh? Lemme hip you to a fact. Kane… has a horror movie coming out soon. What BETTER way to promote a horror flick… than to have a monster chase a pretty white girl, and her man has to save her from him? Bryan has simply been a good hand and helping sell the fact that Kane is a monster. Stay woke, niggas.
The thing that has pissed me off the most? Cesaro’s new theme is complete trash! WWE books him as a heel while wanting to put him over as a face! His manager trolls the fans about Brock Lesnar breaking the streak and NEVER extolls his virtues. All HE gets is “The King of Swing, Cesaro” All of which, predictably, sets up Paul Heyman guy vs Angry Former Paul Heyman Guy Part 2. Look here. I been saying since last year I see future world champion all over Cesaro. He is getting over. He has no merch. (vis a vis a tshirt or something he actually wears) Not one catchphrase. Just a great worker. So, basically, you have a short, muscular bald guy with 1/3 of Daniel Bryan’s tools. And yall know I don’t think that highly of HIM. So… what this stinks of to me, is WWE is going to force Cesaro on us before he is ready for his close up. Then, he will be his old tag team partner, Jack Swagger. Who has no merch, no catchphrase of his own, and can wrestle a broom. WE THE PEOPLE… deserve (a word I hate) to have our superstars built organically. I see that WWE plans to have Cesaro go over on Brock Lesnar, probably as soon as SummerSlam, and I think that is fucking retarded. Let me count the reasons.
- The Undertaker’s Streak, was an attraction in and of itself. Every year at WrassleMania, there were gonna be three or four matches that sell the show. His was one. So you will piss on that legacy by having the guy who ended it… lose immediately?
- Cesaro is not yet at top attraction level yet. Brock Lesnar is top five in the company. Having him do a job to a guy not on the level of Cena or HHH, who he has lost to in his return, diminishes him as a part-time attraction.
- As I type this, Brock Lesnar is 4-2 since his return. Two wins over HHH, one filthy win over CM Punk, broke Taker’s Streak. Lost to Cena and HHH, as forementioned. So. You want to make him a mediocre 4-3?
If you give me the book, I’d have Brock Lesnar beat whomever at the Rumble. Defend the belt in the Elimination Chamber. Drop the belt to the Royal Rumble winner, Roman Reigns at Mania. Then I’d break up The Shield because jealousy and whatnot. Green though Reigns may be, The Shield collectively have feuded with every major star in WWE and not looked the least bit out of place. Reigns is slated to have a match with HHH at SummerSlam. Cesaro is, as I write this, feuding with Jack Swagger and RVD, and though he looks good, he looks at home in that midcard right now. It will piss me off majorly if WWE rushes him from midcarder to main eventer, when Roman Reigns has speared and/or powerbombed every main eventer in the company.
Now, to the hottest topic in WWE at the moment: Evolution. First off, besides Roman Reigns pinning 6-time world champion Batista in the middle of that ring(!)… I’m not a fan of giving the babyfaces the first win in a multi-match feud. Logically speaking, the good guy wins… what does he get from fighting again? If the good guy loses, well, now you can sell that he knows he’s really more skilled than the bad guy and he. WON’T. stop. until he can prove it by pinfall or submission. The story we’re being sold right now is “You got lucky” (not the best way to build your future top star even IF we know you’re lying through your teeth) and “This isn’t over until I’m done with you” which means, logically speaking, either Evolution or The Shield will have to have multiple members shelved. So, when that shit doesn’t happen… now your booking doesn’t make a lick of sense. Here’s your story, beginning middle end: Good guy keeps bad guy from winning the title, bad guy decides to get help to eliminate good guy. Good guy wins. Bad guy says “fuck that shit, son, rematch!” They fight however many times, before the bad guy returns to the original agenda of screwing Daniel Bryan out of the belt, whole time the good guy, with all the reason in the world now to not let it happen… lets it happen. K. Moving on, Batista… has been lied to from the word go. He, and not Bryan, should be world champion right now. AND he says the money is looking funny. Roll that shit up in a ball and I’d say chances are good Batista doesn’t return after he’s done promoting ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. There is absolutely no reason for the Evolution/Shield feud to end soon. So Evolution will replace him.
Dope thing about Evolution was always the “wrestling’s past, present and future” aspect of the faction. At this moment Evolution is one full time 30 something one wellness strike away from unemployment, and two part-time 40 somethings. Wrestling present and past. I’ve previously written that Big E is on his way down because he’s just not over. So, just plug him in to Big Dave’s spot as the heavy. I’d add another guy just because. Look. No one cares about Fandango’s whole gimmick. I’d like to see him repackaged and he and Layla join as a package deal. Futurewise, you can book it like this: Shield and Evolution are fighting bitterly at Payback. Batista gets hurt and carted off. The match continues. The lights go off, and when they come back on, Big E, Fandango, Orton and HHH are putting the boots to The Shield. Oh. Btw… those new Evolution shirts are HORRIBLE. Whose idea was it to dress a group of old dudes in shirts with fossils posing like douchebags on em? So… yeah. I think it would be symmetrical as fuck to have HHH rob Bryan of the belt at SummerSlam again. I want to see Evolution with every belt. So… fuck Paige, Sheamus, notsomuch BNB, and The Usos. I don’t think this will happen. But. my. GOD. would it be dope if it did. Perfect end to the faction: Orton overhears HHH and Steph talking about how they didn’t really see him as the guy, HHH just didn’t want to have to go for the gold himself, but Orton was so weak, blah blah blah and there goes a short feud there.
I’ll be back when I have more pipedream booking and shit to complain about!
It is a WrestleMania tradition around these parts for us keyboard warriors to engage in an occasional battle of wits and writing when it comes to the year’s biggest show in professional wrestling. Two years ago we sparred on varying opinions concerning John Cena and The Rock; the following year, we had mild discussions about the true relevancy of the “Once In A Lifetime” sequel. This year it seems we’re having a friendly disagreement on the outcome of what will more than likely be the main event: a Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship between Randy Orton, Batista, and Daniel Bryan.
The battle lines have been squarely drawn, the “marks” on one side loudly proclaiming the signature rallying cry of the #YesMovement with fervor and excitement. On the other side stands the “less markier,” triumphantly waving the banner of all that is right, probable and predictable given the WWE’s track record. I’ll be the first (and probably only) one to admit that I’m on the “mark” side, and as I respect all of my L.E.W.D. brethren I’ll restrain myself from outing the “less markier” of our group here; hashtag: Be A Star.
Since we’re all friends here we can be honest with one another; our less markier chums are absolutely right when it comes to the type of WWE independent contractor that gets the rub. Wrestling abilities often come as something tertiary to a person’s ability to be marketable to advertisers and the media and their propensity to entertain a wide variety of individuals at any given time. That special person also has to be “larger than life” physically and as far as their personality is concerned. There are varying opinions concerning exactly how a wrestler gets to that “larger than life” point, but the main thing that will get you over with the promotion’s top brass more than anything else is the fact that you’re physically intimidating. Where I’m from, we’d refer to that as being “big as f**k.”
Any fan with an elbow and an a**hole knows that WWE excels in keeping around and pushing these “big as f**k*” wrestlers, these “larger than life” superstars that can be pandered about to motion picture companies, morning talk shows, drive time radio programs and Make-A-Wish organizations in the hopes of making wrestling appear to be more than just a weekend fancy for toothless hillbillies or overweight millennials that love Cool Ranch Doritos and yelling at their moms from their basement man caves. This is a given, almost as much as it’s a given that the number three follows the number two and precedes the number four; it’s as obvious as the word obvious. D’uh, gahdammit.
In 2014, however, we’re all very aware that pro wrestling is a legit form of sports entertainment where the outcomes are predetermined. Unlike the fans of the highly lauded MMA or the much beloved NFL, there are very few folks over the age of ten (10) that watch wrestling because they’re looking to see a winner in a “real” wrestling match. Pro wrestling as entertainment is an art form where the winner of the match comes secondary to how the winner obtains his/her victory. The magic of pro wrestling happens in between the bells; the story told from the opening bell to the closing bell is what captures our imagination and energizes us to rally for or against a given superstar.
So for us “marks,” the story of Daniel Bryan’s ascent to the upper echelon of WWE is entertaining enough to give us good reason to believe he has the ability to break through the glass ceiling despite not being obnoxiously large and not found lacking the wrestling skills of Antonio Inoki or Jim Breaks. In many ways Bryan has already broken the glass ceiling much like his fellow wrestler CM Punk, difference being that as far as we know at this moment in time, people actually want Bryan in the company. I digress.
Then again there is pink elephant sitting comfortably in our easy chairs, the fat stinking reality that Dave Batista returned to the promotion to provide a significant financial boost to a WrestleMania XXX card that looks about as exciting as the WrestleMania XVII card that initially brought the L.E.W.D. Crew together three years ago. Hint: it wasn’t all that exciting.
Make no bones about it, we can all rest well knowing that the WWE Powers-That-Be expected Batista’s return to be the biggest and best thing for business at the moment. His return had everything to do with boosting revenue for the promotion’s marquee pay per view for the year and very little else. His win at the 2014 Royal Rumble only set in stone what we already knew …
Side Note: Returning superstars, whether it be from an injury or extended absence, ALWAYS get preferential treatment and main event matches. Sheamus, Edge, and John Cena all returned from “injuries” to win a Royal Rumble match; Brock Lesnar and The Rock returned to the company to face John Cena, the real “face” of the company. Christian returned from an injury to walk right into a championship feud. So this Batista 2014 Royal Rumble thing shouldn’t seem odd to anyone.
Unfortunately for the suits the fans buried Batista’s Royal Rumble win and turned on him with a ferociousness not seen since Vickie Guerrero started screaming “Excuse me!” To make matters slightly worse for the promotion, the primary reason fans turned on him—and continue to boo him at this current moment—is because he’s simply not Daniel Bryan. The “marks” don’t hate him because he walked into a main event pay per view spot; the marks dislike him because he’s not somebody else. Not being completely daft, the big wigs adjusted their creative direction and politely inserted Daniel Bryan into the WrestleMania XXX main event picture in order to keep things from being completely chaotic, because common sense only knows that the people paying to see the product can only take so much stuff before they start to tune completely out…and the WWE Network is too expensive for a decision like that to be casually dismissed by the Powers-That-Be.
Our “less markier” friend(s) contend that the promotion’s main idea still remains: Batista will win the WWE World Heavyweight Title and become the Face of the Company, while Daniel Bryan continues to chip away at that same glass ceiling we believed him to have broken through by virtue of being where he is now. Simply put, Batista will be the Man and Daniel Bryan will be Daniel Bryan.
Think about it: at forty-five (45) years old, Dave Batista is “everything WWE markets as a top superstar.” I’ll leave you that to think about for a few moments.
How anyone could say that with a self-respecting smile on their face is about as understandable to me as choosing Ben Affleck to portray Batman. Nevertheless it is a grim reality that we all have to acknowledge and respect; regardless of how fans reacted to his Royal Rumble win, Batista did not return to WWE to lose at a marquee pay per view; Batista did not return to WWE to be a bit player or second banana to anybody other than John Cena. Most importantly, WWE did not unload beaucoup bucks into Batista’s bank account to have him breathe new life into the mid-card division. Can we at least agree that by carting Batista’s forty-five (45) year old frame into the forefront of the promotion that there is something incredibly wrong with the archaic mentality permeating throughout all things produced by WWE? Or is it simply that we expect the promotion to fall back to the tried and true method of pushing guys that “look like wrestlers” more so than guys we respect as “wrestlers?”
Think back to a thought that I mentioned earlier: the magic of pro wrestling happens in between the bells; the story told from the opening bell to the closing bell is what captures our imagination and energizes us to rally for or against a given superstar. Whatever happens, be it Batista’s entire a** becoming the WWE Network’s official mascot or him holding the WWE World Heavyweight Title for an unprecedented 800 years, is it so wrong for a “mark” to at least hope that the exact opposite happens and can happen, especially after it has already happened?
Yes, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels received championship runs and were both considered to be the “Man” while holding the promotion’s top prize. Keeping in mind that the larger than life stars (Hogan, Hall and Nash) didn’t start kicking WWE’s fanny until 1997, and that Hart’s first title run was in 1992 and Michaels in 1995, and that Stone Cold Steve Austin (also a non-typical larger than life star with actual wrestling talent and ability that, while not on par with The Great Muta, was well advanced beyond the solid five maneuvers of Hogan, Andre the Giant and Big John Studd) was also deemed the “Man,” why are we coerced to accept the grimness of a Batista-led WWE?
What about the future? If we are supposed to believe in the harsh reality that guys like Batista are the only type of stars to be pushed by this promotion, then we cannot ignore the obvious reality that stars like Sheamus (really?), Cesaro (whom it took years for WWE to pick up in the first place and, despite being the typical superstar, has yet to be pushed to the moon like Sheamus because he has discernible wrestling talent), Big E (short and Black, given we haven’t had a “Black” WWE Champion since…never…and The Rock isn’t included because he rarely acknowledges his “Blackness” in public, opting to speak more of his Samoan heritage than anything else), Bray Wyatt (another non-typical WWE wrestler, sent back to developmental after being unable to capitalize off of a lackluster gimmick), and Roman Reigns (bright future but ain’t no way he’s getting a fast track to the “Man” status after similar jaunts failed miserably for Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio) are at least a calendar year away from being catapulted into the main event stratosphere. Real talk.
What’s left to do? We can begrudgingly accept Batista as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and as the larger than life superstar the promotion loves to flaunt to the public, but that reality is accompanied with the reality that his transitional reign will ultimately be a stepping stone for Daniel Bryan. When Batista disappears to promote Guardians of the Galaxy, Daniel Bryan will still be there. When Alexander Rusev continues to come out, stand on a pedestal, and talk about bread pudding in Russian, Daniel Bryan will still be there. When Mojo Rawley debuts and bores the crowd to literal tears, Daniel Bryan will still be there.
In that sense Daniel Bryan is already the “Man” in that someone his size shouldn’t have made it as far as he has in the promotion, a path that was ultimately paved by CM Punk who really just followed in the footsteps of the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, and Macho Man Randy Savage. And those aren’t simply moral victories; they are actual triumphs in an industry that has thrived and failed with the big as f**k stars at the helm (Diesel? Diesel?).
That’s the end of that tale. The bus-i-ness may never evolve to a point where one’s work rate is perceived to be a more valuable commodity than one’s size and look, but to accept on it’s own merit is to also imply that the fans are just as incapable of evolving as the bus-i-ness is itself. After all, if a given promotion continues to push guys that “look” like wrestlers (and the ‘E isn’t the only one doing it) instead of guys that “are” wrestlers, and we continue to invest our time and money into them and write scathing blogs about it all…*ahem ahem*…what makes us more pure than the promotions we accuse of being evil?
Speaking of evolution, have we looked at the NXT roster lately? I do believe Mason Ryan to be one of a handful of stars on the roster that resembles The Ultimate Warrior…and this is the “future” of the company.
Just Listen and Learn.
There exists a minor debate between me and those who will remain unnamed (not due to disrespect or anything; they’re just numerous) regarding Bryan Danielson’s role in the current storyline, in regards to his winning the championship. I’m in the camp that says he should get it at Wrestlemania and others say it should wait until Extreme Rules. After minutes of exhausting back and forth, coupled with valid points on each side, we all came to a conclusion that satisfied all our minds: Bryan’s story was all kinds of screwed up.
If anything, you can almost exclusively pin that very blame on Bryan himself: he simply became TOO popular and the company didn’t see it coming. That’s to say, they knew he’d be popular but at no point – I reckon – did they anticipate that he’d be THIS popular. They could not have anticipated that he’d have entire arenas chanting “YES!”; they could not have imagined that college teams would be chanting “YES!” to hype themselves up or celebrate victory; they could never have fathomed that the state of Washington would have such an amazing year that only served to make Daniel Bryan’s career all the more potent, and yet it all happened, through fate, divine intervention, chance circumstance or the dumbest of dumb luck. Bryan Danielson, for better or worse, is the most popular man in the WWE, and with great popularity comes great divisiveness; this may or may not manifest as supporters and detractors though.
When it comes to Bryan, it comes down to the opening paragraph’s conflict. With Bryan’s popularity came confusion amongst the writers of the WWE product (I assume). For a company accused of catering to a casual crowd and fumbling any long-term storylines, the fault can’t really be pinned on them as much as we want to pin it on them; we CAN pin a lot of blame on them, mind you. Writers – and we at L.E.W.D. being writers – aren’t always able to anticipate when something takes off. Look at South Park for example: Eric Cartman was always a character Trey Parker and Matt Stone could fall back on for humor, but it wasn’t until the infamous episode “Scott Tenorman Must Die” that – and excuse my French – shit hit the fan. It established Eric Cartman as unspeakably evil and took an already clever show and moved it into a frighteningly dark direction that in my opinion wasn’t replicated until the season two finale of Morel Orel. Parker and Stone may have had an idea, but to have Eric Cartman compared to Archie Bunker and Tony Soprano was surely appreciated.
So let’s look at it. First Bryan is chosen by Cena to take him on at Summerslam. Bryan wins. Then Triple H and Orton conspire to take the belt from him and succeed. The storyline begins: Daniel Bryan versus the Authority. It continued in a somewhat broken pattern, having him directly confront them, then not, then moving him on, then taking on someone else, and perhaps that’s why I’m in the camp that wants him to take the belt at Mania, pulling double duty like they’ve been doing with him pretty frequently. While it might make more sense for Bryan to win the title against Orton in a third climactic battle come Extreme Rules, my point of view has another battle between the two as fruitless, Bryan having proven that he can defeat the man with and without interference already.
Along that same line of thinking, with Orton being the “face” of the Authority (I hesitate to say the Face of the WWE because I fail to see how anyone can dictate who is and isn’t such a thing), I see the upcoming (still unofficial but watch) match between Bryan and Triple H to be the epitome of physical conflict that could occur in the disjointed battle between the former and the authoritative assembly that has, much to the fan’s hypocrisy, kept people watching. A win for Bryan over Triple H at Wrestlemania would solidify his stock, a stock which really hasn’t been tested. Bryan defeated Cena; he defeated Orton; the proof of his relative ease in taking on opponents lies in that he likely would have won that very elimination chamber battle had he NOT let his gripes with Kane push him to attacking the man. Remember: Kane came out there to berate the Wyatt Family, not to interfere in the match.
All the same, I’ve long since contended that the real mastermind of the Authority isn’t Orton or Triple H but Stephanie McMahon herself, and a match between her and Daniel Bryan would be both questionable and rude. At the same time, it would be a subtle nod to what Orton had to do to really get Triple H’s respect (and hatred): beat her and molest her, in that order. As I write this I wonder if Stephanie is in the back, plotting to throw every possible roadblock in Bryan’s path before he gains what he really wants from them: a moment’s reprieve.
I’m not speaking on his habit of two matches a night either: I mean he probably just wants them to leave him alone. Who wouldn’t? He’s had everybody and their mothers thrown at him from a psychological perspective, straight up bullying from the authority who for all intents and purposes should follow the anti-bullying campaign more than anybody else. As a short guy myself, I found it particularly heartbreaking that they called Bryan out on his height; he’s only a couple of inches taller than me really. I found it even more unsettling that they referred to him as a “B” player, only upgrading to “B+” after a look of sheer disbelief on that man’s face (I can’t find it but if I do I’ll share it on another day).
There are also the promos. In the latest, Daniel Bryan bumrushed Mr. and Mrs. Pedigree, and it wasn’t Triple H who stepped in front of Stephanie to keep Bryan further away, but Stephanie who stepped in front of Trips and told the bearded submission master off. Eventually all of that will pay off, but I’ll be damned if I know when. Maybe it WILL end with Bryan vs. Orton one last time, and like I said: I don’t care to see it, not really. Triple H is above Orton on that brand of hierarchy and taking him on is like taking on Stephen Colbert in a big time event of cataclysmic proportions, and you get the actual physical proof of such a thing a month later when you take on Jim. Orton is Jim: he’s a tool for Triple H (Colbert) to use to advance a story.
Of course, it could also be in part due to CM Punk’s departure. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: his leaving screwed EVERYHING up; everything that was in place or set to be in place was thrown into disarray when he pulled an Eric Cartman and took off. If nothing else it shows just how much impact one man has, and while he wasn’t set to win the Royal Rumble (or was he and something had them do otherwise… no, he wasn’t) his continued presence in the main event scenes meant that he was to play some role, and his continued popularity says that it was to be a larger role than many of us can imagine. Main event? Doubtful. Major? Most likely.
I won’t go into the implications and new lore of Phil Brooks because frankly another L.E.W.D. writer has done a greater job at it than I thought possible from anybody, so kudos to Corbin Macklin. You can find those pieces here and here. My questions go as follows: the match, the implications and the history. In regards to the match, what would have happened had Punk maintained that match with Triple H and Bryan didn’t inherit it? Where would Bryan be right now? I assume he’d be fighting a high profile match that would lead to a title shot at Extreme Rules, to be honest. But we’ll never know. Two, the implications, which play more into the depth of the first question. We’ll leave those implications to wiser men than I. I apologize for the lack of wiser men than I.
But then we get the history. Regular conversations with the likes of Mr. Morris, Mr. Banks and Mr. Gammon keep them privy to my thoughts regarding stuff, and one of the things in the category in “stuff” is age. Not long ago, as I was rummaging through old stuff, I found a few things that brought back some fun memories from high school and college. Found an old fan I used to keep cool in my smoldering dorm room, a still wrapped pair of CDs I bought from a local artist in the middle of No-Coloreds-In-Sight, Georgia, an earring I thought a friend of mine lost around the time I discovered my second semester of my second year of college would have me in a solo dorm… er… uh… but most importantly I found an old mixtape I put together, one of the two major ones I made back in 2005. “Da Life and Times of C. Eazy Loot” was one of them and believe me when I say I was in a questionable place when I thought the world wanted to hear me rap; luckily that’s not the mixtape I found. The other was a playlist I threw together of some of the most hype songs I was hearing at the time, notably Lil Scrappy’s “Head Bussa” and Crime Mob’s “If You Got Ana”, both of which will, if played in public, cause me to go wild.
What got to me was how old this mixtape was. 2005; I have vivid memories of the year, even the slow creation of the playlist, down to where I was sitting and how I was scratching my then-puppy’s belly while I did it, but it was nearly ten years ago. Ten years. I felt old.
No, really, I felt like a fossil. But I was on the phone at the time too, speaking to friends about decades. Ten years, twenty years (two decades, also known as a score), and with Wrestlemania XXX this year it stood to reason that we spoke on Wrestlemania XX. That PPV, for me, is one of the standout events in the WWE’s history. Why? Not because the event was all that great; it was good but not nearly great. It was mostly forgettable in fact, at least in my opinion, but it had this moment:
It was glorious: this was a time where I was just starting to consistently buy PPVs, and dealing with folk growing out of watching the product whereas I was getting deeper into it, and looking back on it now I can say that while the Triple H-Shawn Michaels-Chris Benoit match was terrific the moment Benoit stood with that belt, triumphant after a long, long, LONG road, alongside his friend who had faced a similar road. It was Guerrero and Benoit’s night, and when I look at that match I said, “Oh crap, they can do it again…”
The circumstances for Benoit were different, mind you. For one, it was Benoit’s first world title. For two, he was taking on Degeneration-X, officially or otherwise. They hyped the man up though: they made you a Benoit fan, down to him entering the 2004 Royal Rumble at number one and winning the whole damn thing. He DECLARED that he would be the World Heavyweight Champion, and proceeded to do it in the main event in the biggest event in years.
Those are the moments that make Wrestlemania the spectacle is (usually) is. And the match itself could easily be recreated with Daniel Bryan if they throw him into the main event at WM XXX, but I’m more impressed by how similar it would be. It wouldn’t be Bryan’s first world title in the WWE, but it would be his first WWE WHC title, for whatever that’s worth. Bryan also didn’t win the Rumble; as a legion of booing fans will remind you, Bryan wasn’t even in the Rumble itself. The psychology behind the fans who wanted to see Bryan win the Rumble (not only was he not scheduled to be in it: we KNEW Rey Mysterio was!) and who fell silent and took on “Angry Miz Girl” faces after the Chamber is a 400 level college course in and of itself.
But were Bryan thrown into the match, he WOULD be taking on Evolution, and considering the role Triple H held ten years ago (seriously, TEN YEARS!) as the champion, it isn’t hard to look at the same kind of thing happening were a triple threat to take place as the main event between Batista, Daniel Bryan and the champion Randy Orton. Even the dynamics are the same damn near.
Triple H is the powerhouse. He’s big, he’s strong, he’ll rollout and roll over you like Whitney’s motherfucking Miltank in the Pokémon games. His strength is undeniable, as are his many title reigns. Batista fills this role, being a big, strong Miltank that nobody likes; also like a Miltank he is a one-trick pony that can be blown away the second you knock out his momentum and taunt the woman behind him. Or in Bootista’s (as this guy might call him) case, the woman that he’s in. You know, because he’s known for doing illicit things to women. Rather disrespectfully, I might add.
Shawn Michaels is the leaner, swifter pseudo-technician. He’s big but lanky, strong but wiry; he’ll kick you in the face like Hitmonlee in the Pokémon franchise. His talent is undeniable, as are his many title reigns. Orton fills this role, being a lean, tactical Hitmonlee that people underappreciate and, in this case, underestimate; also like Hitmonlee he’s seen as predictable. Hitmonlee is, as fans of the franchise know, restricted to kicks, and people tend to think they can telegraph Orton’s move set, but examining his little gauntlet let us know that he’s a lot more aware than we give him credit. Just ask Mr. Morris, who brilliantly laid it out here and here. If anything, much like Michaels, Orton is the most interesting of the match, the one who can really stop the show, the one who basks in the hate he receives and delivers tremendous quality, even in the midst of people not realizing it.
And that leaves Benoit. Benoit was THE technician. He was that man who could outwrestle anybody; competition meant either wrestling himself (insert masturbation joke here) or shadowboxing. He could work the ring, work the opponent’s body and made it a habit to tell stories in the ring, showing us that the biggest guy didn’t necessarily have to be the most impressive one. Sometimes the greatest surprises came in the smaller packages.
This is Daniel Bryan. He doesn’t fill the role: he IS that role. I may not have said it very often up here, but Daniel Bryan is everything Chris Benoit was, down to his finisher which is only a stone throw away from being the Crippler Crossface. Much like CM Punk adopted the flying elbow, Daniel Bryan adopted the diving headbutt. Bryan is more versatile in the sense that he has a more strike oriented move set right now though, such as his aggressive kicks and Busaiku Knee Kick that they refuse to give a name to. Ignoring the Pokémon metaphor (thinking about Whitney made me mad) the reason his moment would be grand at this year’s Wrestlemania if he won the title would be because it pleased the fans; it isn’t even about the title so much anymore as seeing the man succeed.
As I write this piece, I ask myself if I really want to see him acquire the title right now, but like I said before it was because of how oddly his story has been handled. Frankly I don’t think it much matters when he wins at this point: it’ll feel anticlimactic because there’s no real path they’ve followed outside of Bryan complaining about the Authority screwing him over. Without a logical A to Z, Bryan’s road will feel awkward, period. So sure, he can win at Mania, or Rules, or even the third Main Event of the month of July, but unless the road makes more sense, it’ll feel weird.
Maybe if they didn’t rush his Wyatt storyline it would make more sense, but even that felt like a detour BECAUSE it was cut so short. Bryan won at Night of Champions (or was it Vengeance? (same difference)) and the title was ripped from his hands, and from then on it became disjointed.
That’s another thing that made Benoit’s win so special: it was completely and utterly earned. Everyone is given a chance to be in the Rumble, but then you’re on your own. He started from the number one spot and defeated everyone he had to in order to win. He EARNED that spot; at no point was he given a handout because the people in creative didn’t know of a more substantial entry point. The fact is that Daniel Bryan’s world title run began when someone said, “I’ll give him a chance”. Literally. The set up was John Cena was told to pick his own opponent, and the only consistency of this whole story is that the Authority wasn’t big on him from the beginning.
That isn’t a “taint” so much as an asterisk. Everything may be an intricate plot to make Daniel Bryan the truest example of an underdog who made the most of his opportunities and got screwed over because the people who gave him those opportunities did not expect him to capitalize on them.
But that’s the gist of the “Yes! Movement”. I pondered on Bryan being the second coming of Benoit, and that has been more or less founded. I pondered on him having a similar moment at Wrestlemania XXX, but I don’t even think it’s quite possible anymore. The reception would be just as massive, and maybe that’s the thing that determines the moment. Either way we’re getting Daniel Bryan versus Triple H at the grandest stage of them all, and regardless of my feelings towards the possibility of Bryan headlining the program or getting the title, I’m sure Danielson and Hunter will make their conflict a good one.
On Sunday, February 23, 2014, Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards defeated Robbie E and Jessie Godderz at a TNA Live Event to become the new TNA World Tag Team Champions. Congratulations to Richards and Edwards on their title victory, their first title run in the company after debuting five weeks ago on IMPACT Wrestling.
I only have one question, an honest question that has very little to do with The Wolves’ victory or the numerous explanations that “justify” why they were thrust in the spotlight so soon in their stint in TNA Entertainment, LLC…
What the *&#! is up with the BroMans???
From our L.E.W.D. offices it seemed as if very few fans gave a good damn about the BroMans losing their titles during a live event match. To be a bit more accurate, it seemed as if fans were thrilled that the Wolves—a supposedly more marketable and beloved team—knocked off the BroMans at a non-televised event. Any chase or hunt (pun intended) that could have happened, and the tons of money that could have been made from it, all gone in the blink of an eye in Morgantown, West Virginia.
We get it; the BroMans are already two dance contests deep in being just another set of jobbers used in between thrilling matches on IMPACT Wrestling. We’ve been given very few reasons to take them seriously as tag team champions, let alone as a tag team in the first place, and at best their 126-day reign was transitional, something to keep the tag team division relevant until a far more qualified tag team
that wasn’t Bad Influence showed up.
Over time the pairing of Jessie “Mr. Pectacular” Godderz and Robbie E showed signs of growth, development and maturation that spoke highly of their depth as wrestlers and performers. It also gave fans a reason to believe that TNA was truly beginning to develop a new era of TNA Wrestlers. No one will ever…and I mean ever… speak of the BroMans in the same sentence as The Midnight Express, The Rockers, The Road Warriors, Demolition or the Four Horsemen (except for this one instance here), but they grew to be way more competent in the ring than anyone would’ve ever guessed.
To say it differently, these two as a tag team deserve way more credit than what they’re given.
This is why I’m particularly confused and slightly concerned about our reaction to the Wolves’ title victory this past Sunday. There was so much talk and focus on the guys who won the match more so than the guys who lost, even though the guys that lost the titles put in their fair share of work when it came to adding prestige and value to the titles and the tag team division.
Say what we will about the BroMans, but they held the titles and defended them often in a division that only had enough tag teams to fit into a Geo Metro. If TNA’s Tag Team Division could be personified as the Land of the Blind, the BroMans were effectively the cycloptic monarchs of all they surveyed, and it says something about the promotion and the division when challengers for the tag titles have to be imported to be competition for your champions.
All that being said, TNA is once again placed in the unenviable “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” position. The BroMans had a terribly cheesy chickens**t gimmick that they turned into chicken salad, and just when the opportunity for fans to take them seriously popped up, they’re unceremoniously defeated for their titles and fans are instantly more interested in the two new non-TNA guys than the homegrown stars. Lord knows that if a certain other promotion did something similar half the doggone IWC would be brandishing their torches and pitchforks before the end of this sentence.
I guess that’s the crux of my problem; despite having the titles for four months, despite growing to be a solid in-ring tag team, despite making the media rounds for the promotion, the BroMans get the bum’s rush for a five week old tag team. The same thing happened during AJ Styles’ first run as TNA World Heavyweight Champion when he was defeated easily by Rob Van Dam, who had only been in the promotion for six weeks at the time.
If a conclusion must be drawn from these two instances, it could be that the promotion stays true to what has been the case for sports entertainment ever since the very first WrestleMania: a promotion will do what’s necessary in order to make money. When thinking of it all from that perspective, it’s mere elementary to see and know that Rob Van Dam stood to get more revenue for the promotion than did AJ Styles, just as The Wolves stand to make a bigger splash for TNA than the BroMans. That, regardless of whether we want to admit it or not, is truly depressing; it’s depressing because even when fans think we’re getting what we want, the bottom line always revolves around money.
It’s at times like these, particularly during TNA’s self-proclaimed #RealNewEra, that fans get to witness the rise of the next big thing in “the business.” As easy as it is to blame the promotion for the title change, we also have to wonder whether or not Robbie and Jessie truly capitalized on the precious opportunity awarded them. Taking all of their development into consideration, it’s pretty crappy that they weren’t even given the chance to lose the titles after a lengthy and fabulously constructed feud.
Not only that, but they were also defeated for their titles with two more taped episodes of IMPACT Wrestling from the UK ready to be aired on television, meaning that these two taped episodes will show us whether or not this title change was predetermined well before the Wolves were even introduced to fans in proper fashion. And if that’s the case, the whole element of surprise that’s coupled with the “anything can happen at a TNA Live Event” chatter is riddled with duplicitous half-truths…but I digress.
The focus of this piece revolves around Robbie E and Jessie Godderz, a tag team given a priceless opportunity to raise the stock of TNA’s tag team division and how they capitalized off of that opportunity. We can only assume at this point that the spotlight pointed in their direction has slowly dimmed leaving them barely visible in the grand scheme of things; if there is any truth to the speculation surrounding their loss (I heard that the Wolves were more popular in Japan, and seeing as the big Wrestle-1 crossover is looming on the horizon, it would make sense for the more popular team—as opposed to the already established one—to defend the titles against one of Japan’s finest tag teams), these assumptions are generalizations sturdy enough to build a two story house on. With James Storm currently in the beginning stages of a heel turn while holding a Feast or Fired briefcase for a future tag team title shot (which will inevitably be accompanied by a reconciliation with former tag team partner Robert Roode), there’s no reason in the wide World According to Garp for us to believe a program between the BroMans and the Wolves will grace our screens anytime after Lockdown in two weeks. And let’s just be honest with one another…do any of you reaaallly want to see a month long feud between the BroMans and the Wolves? Didn’t think so.
Mr. Christopher Lamb coined a phrase that succinctly describes my perception of the greatest asset of the Attitude Era: “professional competition.” The Attitude Era wasn’t great because of the rampant nudity, vulgar language and extremely violent matches. On the contrary, the Attitude Era was great (in part) due to rosters loaded with athletes who were not only passionate about their craft but also determined to be the best in their promotion and in the business. These wrestlers would approach 9 out of 10 of their matches desiring to not only make their opponent look good, but also raise the bar to show the suits that they should be highly considered among their peers to be the one and only top dog in the promotion. Very few of the stars were complacent and most of them made great use of the time they were given in the ring, be it forty-five seconds or forty-five minutes. If there’s anything “wrong” with the current era of the business, it’s that too many stars show that fire inside of the ring and opt to use Twitter to vent their frustrations; that’s honestly just wasted energy.
In regards to the BroMans, and with no malice or ill-intent towards their work and work ethic, it’s questionable whether they or their tag team cohorts have that same level of professional competition to give the TNA suits a valid reason to have their title change televised instead of taking place at a live event. It’s one thing to want to give the fans a great show; it’s another thing to want to make TNA the best sports entertainment promotion in the world. It’s a completely different thing to want to be the best at what you bring to the table and to empower those around you to want to do the same. The difference between Grade A work and Grade C work can’t be found in terms of what was done correctly or incorrectly; the difference is found in how well one does what one does and then exceeds that level to an unfathomable degree. The recent and “surprising” turn of events suggests that TNA felt very comfortable with passing the torch to the Wolves as a reward for the BroMans’ average work with the titles.
All of this could change in the upcoming weeks; I’ve read the spoilers and I’m aware of the unique situation both teams are placed in heading into Lockdown. That being said, the BroMans are trekking to Miami as the former champions, and as of right now they are not slated for a rematch until after the show…unless the titles change hands again at another live event.
At this point the only thing any fan can do is trust that the promotion knows what it’s doing and wait to see where the ride takes us. For what its worth, I do still feel as if the BroMans got the raw end of the deal and hope that in the upcoming weeks their foppish chicanery turns into a serious quest to prove their mettle as one of TNA’s #RealNewEra home grown tag teams.
On behalf of all the L.E.W.D. admins and contributors, I would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Nelson Frazier, Jr., better known to pro wrestling fans as Mabel, King Mabel, Viscera or Big Daddy V. For all that are reading this, please know that we join you in mourning the loss of another awesome person that spent a significant portion of his life entertaining us.
We’re never really prepared when someone dies; we tend to shuffle through life not really appreciating the precious moments we have on this earth. We grow complacent very easily, believing that everything will remain the same from one moment to the next. That whole mindset changes, however, when someone close to us dies unexpectedly; a death always reminds us that just as quickly as we come into existence, anyone can depart from this life just as fast without a moment’s notice.
After watching a stellar episode of RAW this past Monday night, and after thinking of new ways to complain about any and everything pro wrestling related, I can say without a shadow of doubt that none of us were prepared for the news of Nelson Frazier, Jr.’s death. I can also honestly say that none of us here at L.E.W.D. were even prepared to process what his death … and life … meant to us. Nevertheless here we are, pausing momentarily to consider not only the fragility of life but also all of those moments that mean so much to us; without question, Nelson Frazier, Jr. was an important figure in those precious moments, which gives reason for us to show his family and friends how much we respected him and how thankful we are for what he did for us.
Contrary to what we believe as fans, the lives of pro wrestlers aren’t as clean cut and dry as we imagine them to be. For as much hell as we give WWE’s Divas Division, these women make a conscious decision to place a significant part of their lives on hold simply because they love the business and its fans; whether it be a forty-five second match or an hour long marathon, these athletes deserve just as much respect from us as they do the people who hire, book, train, and write for them.
The male athletes are in the same boat, dedicating their lives to and placing their bodies through hell and back simply for our entertainment. It’s a heavy burden to bear, one we must remember whenever we feel the need to “go in” on a particular performer or promotion.
I say all this because Frazier was a part of this sacred brotherhood and sisterhood of athletes who, despite the physical toll it was sure to take on his body, lived to perform on a highly rigorous schedule for us. Throughout the hokey characters, throughout the gimmick changes, throughout the releases and rehiring, Frazier was there to entertain and did so without major complaint (or at least anything that spread to the dirtsheets). The man deserves our respect and appreciation for that fact alone, if not for anything else.
And that’s another thing worthy of our attention: the “hokey” gimmicks. Frazier went through five different character changes during his time with WWE. He started off as Mabel, a member of the trio known as Men on a Mission (M.O.M.) in the early 1990s. In the mid-90s, Mabel became King Mabel after winning the 1995 King of the Ring tournament.
During the height of the highly lauded Attitude Era, King Mabel was transformed into Viscera, the milky-eyed muscle in The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness stable. Following his heel run as Viscera, he was transformed into the pajama clad “World’s Largest Love Machine.” He followed that up as the super intimidating and shirtless Big Daddy V in the WWE’s version of re-visioning of ECW.
Say what you will about five characters in a career in WWE that spanned on and off from 1993 – 2008; it says something about Frazier when he was able to reinvent himself five different times to stay right on par with fans expectations, even when there were (and are) superstars who couldn’t get a handle on one type of character to resonate with fans or add depth to their already one dimensional characters.
For me, Frazier’s most notable characteristic worth celebrating is how well-respected and appreciated he was amongst his peers. Pro wrestlers from all over the country, and insiders within “the Business” as well, have all shared tweets and thoughts about Frazier, with most noting how nice of a man and true of a friend he was. Younger wrestlers spoke highly of his willingness to share knowledge and advice, while veterans remembered fondly those moments where Frazier’s charming and endearing personality lit up the room. It seems Nelson Frazier, Jr. was truly the type of person and man that only comes along once every so often.
We’ve lost another giant in the pro wrestling world today, and we all offer our respects and hearts in memory of a man that entertained millions of fans worldwide. This isn’t a time to go on about how corny the M.O.M. gimmick was, or how nasty Big Daddy V looked with his shirt off. Rather, this is the time we reflect fondly on the life of a man who made us pay attention when he was wearing mammoth sized parachute pants and when he wasn’t wearing a shirt.
There are a lot of athletes in the pro wrestling business, but very few of them have the honor of receiving nothing less than the utmost respect from their peers and their fans. Nelson Frazier, Jr. was definitely one of those athletes.
May his family and friends know we appreciate him greatly and appreciate them for allowing him to may us laugh, cry, cringe, and thoroughly enjoy professional wrestling.
Rest in peace, Nelson.
If you don’t like it, then don’t watch it.
If promotions gained one nickel for every time this phrase was uttered by a disgruntled pro wrestling fan, the industry could survive for years without seeing any increase in viewership, buyrates, advertising revenue or merchandise/ticket sales.
The more you think about that phrase and reflect on it, the more it sounds like a banal ultimatum dished out from the frustration that comes with relentlessly defending a given promotion’s product. Depending on how it’s said, it can even come off as a threat … if you don’t like it, then don’t watch it … OR ELSE …
One of the cool things about being a pro wrestling fan is that our little community is far more diverse and divided than any other group of individuals supporting a sport or form of entertainment. Our diversity is what makes our conversations, debates, video blogs and scathing editorials so fun; we can agree to disagree on a lot of things, but very few can deny our (misguided?) passion and love of this form of sports entertainment.
This being said, it is improbable that the breadth and width of sports entertainment fandom will ever be uniform in its thoughts or expressions of such. However, because we’re conditioned from birth to believe one particular way is THE “right” way, here we are faced with a baseless and futile warning disguised as a declaration of intense and passionate conviction.
The “either-or” debate amongst wrestling fans is old, tired and quite frankly very pointless in this twenty-first century. It’s foundation is comprised of antiquated notions that assume “hatred” or “dislike” of a product is synonymous with constructive or unfavorable criticism. The deliciously ironic point of it all is that the more sophisticated a fan we imagine ourselves to be, the more we rely on schoolyard tactics and prepubescent defense mechanisms to support our diverse and subjective opinions. It’s almost as if we’re constantly teetering over the precipice of ending our diatribes with “Nanny nanny boo boo.”
We Americans living in the United States tend to take our constitutional right of free speech very seriously, so much so that we spend an ample amount of time
forcing coercing folks to keep their opinions to themselves and adopt the status quo’s perception of life and all things around it. When it comes to pro wrestling and/or sports entertainment, we’d rather surround ourselves with like minded individuals and, when in times of assault from non-like minded individuals, we circle the wagons and shoo the naysayers away instead of inviting them in for tea, biscuits, and a rousing discussion on our likes and dislikes.
Then again, who has time nowadays to engage anyone in lighthearted palavering to discover the root of our consternation? I’m right, you’re wrong, now go away!
We all would love for the world to be more simple than it is, but the reality is that the complexities that dominate life require more than 140 characters or the length of a sitcom to fix. It’s easy to dismiss someone’s ramblings as “hate,” because one won’t have to confront the truth embedded deep within someone’s criticism of the product or even acknowledge that the “other” has a valid point buried underneath a sea of harsh words and unflattering commentary. The only logical next step is to dismiss the “hater” by telling them to take their opinions elsewhere, leaving everyone else resting comfortably in the tranquil seas of their own encouraging thoughts.
Here’s the deal: who’s to say one “hates” a product when they speak unfavorably about it (unless they say for themselves that they “hate” it; that’s a different story altogether), and who are we to dictate what they
should can or cannot watch? And get this: the same people we encourage to stop watching a given promotion’s product are also the same people we also claim aren’t watching the product to begin with! Such is the hypocrisy of being a pro wrestling fan, and the situation is far more intricate than our feeble attempts to nudge a few naysayers out of the building.
Contrary to popular belief, television ratings matter a big deal to wrestling promotions and it all goes back to something I’ve talked about incessantly on this website. Wrestling promotions are BUSINESSES, and businesses in these capitalist consumer driven United States are in business to make MONEY. A given promotion convinces a major network or one of its affiliates to give them money to air their product, and in return the network can charge other companies to air commercials for products during the time slots in which these wrestling promotions air their product.
The ratings are a way that networks can gauge how many people are watching a given show at a given time; the networks use those ratings to base how much they charge advertisers off of the type and number of people watching a show at a given time. The more and more the audience for a particular show grows, the more networks can charge advertisers to air their commercials. In turn, the wrestling promotions charge the networks more money to air their particular show on that particular network.
All this is to say that it seems ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO STOP WATCHING A GIVEN PROMOTION’S PRODUCT FOR ANY REASON UNDER THE SUN. If anything, and I mean anything, we’d want MORE PEOPLE TO WATCH A GIVEN SHOW seeing as so many entities (including the promotion) place goo-gobs of money on the number of people watching the show. I like the way MVP put it recently:
Then there’s this notion of how we understand the phrase “don’t like.” What does it exactly mean when someone “doesn’t like” something? How do we quantify our “dislike” for a given product, especially when a presumed offender never comments on whether or not they actually “dislike” the product in discussion?
If a fan truly hates or dislikes a particular product, that fan won’t need to be told to “not watch it” because they’re not watching it to begin with. Clearly the phrase “if you don’t like it, then don’t watch it” can’t be directed at that particular demographic.
What about the fans who watch the product just to criticize, the fans MVP mentioned in his tweets? Despite the criticism a naysayer must like the product enough to be bothered to watch it, even if it is just to complain. If a naysayer’s criticism about the product is without merit (and ONLY if it’s without merit), then what constructive use of time is it to complain or go in on unfounded remarks or unnecessarily skewed opinions? I just feel like yelling at mice would yield a more fruitful return than huffing and puffing about someone who doesn’t like a show simply because it exists.
Here’s a suggestion, and it’s only one suggestion: let fans watch what they want to watch and let fans criticize what they want to criticize. As long as the sun shines, people will always have something to say about something and people are going to do whatever the hell they want to do. But, as intelligent pro wrestling fans, let’s save ourselves some trouble by focusing our time on getting to the substance of criticism instead of dismissing it altogether in order to keep ourselves coddled in the warmth of an idealized storybook version of pro wrestling fandom.
Instead of encouraging naysayers to disappear, why not encourage them to actually tune in to the product and view it from a different perspective than once before? If a particular fan finds a given product atrocious and refuses to watch it, why not have a productive discussion about why they hate the product and choose not to watch it? These things, to me, seem to be a lot more beneficial to our conversations and debates than pouting, frowning, and resorting to the lowest common denominator of being cocooned in our fluffy plush happy feelings.
Then again, what the hell do I know? I’m just a pro wrestling/sports entertainment fan who’s at least willing to invest in a product enough to speak highly for it or against it; that’s really what it’s all about, right?
When I was 14-years-old, I felt like no one understood me. I went to an inner-city middle school where I, hot pink hair and all, stood out like sore thumb. I wore Doc Martens, a necklace of soda can tabs, and carried a backpack riddled with music quotes written in White-Out. My teachers all thought I was smart but an underachiever, and could not fathom what kind of parents let their child walk around with crazy hair and a bad attitude.
My home life had been a tad chaotic as of late and my mom had just moved to help my sister with her growing family. My dad knew as much about raising a teenage girl as I did about growing a mustache and his idea of handling my budding hormones and dealing with emotional outbursts was a pat on the head (literally, we are not a hugging bunch) and a bag of Hot Cheetos.
I ended up living with my best friend’s family before starting my freshman year of high school. In times of change or turmoil, watching wrestling with my dad remained my constant. As a kid, I had high dreams and aspirations of becoming a wrestler someday but, much like how I stood out at school, I did not look like any of the women wrestlers I watched on television. I didn’t want to wear a dress and escort people to the ring and be eye candy; I wanted to wrestle.
That all changed the night I saw Amy Dumas, AKA Lita, nail a male wrestler with a moonsault. I was mesmerized and I just kind of sat there with my mouth hanging open. Not only did this woman not look like the other women wrestlers, she was bad ass.
It’s an almost indescribable feeling when something finally clicks within yourself and you can feel an old passion being reignited. As a young girl, I never resonated with the female wrestlers I saw on television because they did not wrestle. I imitated Shawn Michael’s moves, The Undertaker’s moves, etc. The wrestlers I wanted to be like were all male because that is all there was to look up to wrestling wise.
Lita was like a breath of fresh air in a stale period for women’s wrestling. Her passion and fearlessness inspired me and I finally felt like there was a strong female wrestler who was easy on the eyes, but came out with a purpose and looked like she could actually fight and might just be crazy enough to do so. She was believable.
To me, Lita will always be the best Women’s Champion, followed by Trish as a close second and honestly, both those women really did something special. They fed off of each other and they both just went for it. To this day I have never seen/heard a crowd so into a Diva’s match since they headlined Monday Night Raw on December 6, 2004. When is the last time a crowd, positively, chanted a Diva’s name as loudly and excitedly as they would John Cena or CM Punk?
I instantly became a fan of hers and have remained one to this day. It was announced last night on Monday Night Raw that she will be inducted into the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame and it’s about damn time. I felt like her exit with the WWE was handled poorly (they did her dirty) and I feel like this was a step in the right direction towards making things right. As a fan, I was disgusted with how they let her go out, and to be honest that whole “Diva’s Division” has not been right since.
So congratulations Amy Dumas, and congratulations to WWE for finally getting something right as it pertains to women’s wrestling.
I almost cried the day Kassius Ohno was released from his WWE developmental contract in November of last year.
My frustration and disappointment at Ohno’s release wasn’t due to my feeling that he “deserved” to be on the main roster, and it wasn’t due to despising the promotion for “holding down” another talented wrestler in order to push someone they deemed more marketable and “controllable,” if you will.
My frustration and disappointment was a result of my feeling that I’d never get to see Chris Spradlin, also more popularly known as Chris Hero, showcase his skills and talents under the bright lights on the WWE’s main roster; and despite his highly positive attitude regarding his release and his optimism towards returning to the company in the future, I could not shake the sneaking suspicion that I’d never ever see him in a WWE ring again.
I relayed these feelings in brief to members of our L.E.W.D. Crew during one of our regular daily conversations. In so many words Mr. Gammon was the first to offer some profound advice that, although intended to paint the picture in a more positive light, enabled me to explain in more definitive terms the very feelings I expressed about my frustration and disappointment a few moments ago.
To paraphrase Mr. Gammon’s comments, he stated what should have been the obvious … “Life will go on; it isn’t the end of the world or WWE.”
As much as tore at my insides to admit it, Mr. Gammon was right. The entertainment business is known for cute, pithy statements such as, “The show must go on,” and “One monkey don’t stop no show.” These phrases tell those in the entertainment business that no matter what happens—when lights cut off, when fans start to boo, and in some cases when the actors and actresses are injured—the production must continue at all costs. It takes millions of dollars to produce a show and a flub, no matter how large or how small, cannot stop a multimillion dollar project from concluding. Chris Spradlin’s release from the WWE was a road bump that could not stop or hinder the massive and monstrous sports entertainment machine from barreling down the highway of financial success and popular prominence.
It was astute observation within Spradlin’s comments that gave me comfort and solace as I mourned his release. Spradlin stated the following, “When things happen that we don’t like, it’s our instinct look for answers. We get sad. We get mad. In this situation, there’s nothing to be sad about! And rather than being angry about what has happened, I want you all to be happy about what’s going to happen! I’ll be back with a vengeance, I assure you. The best way to support me is with positive energy.” To this very day I still feel especially moved and inspired by Spradlin’s words; in the midst of feeling down and out regarding the situation, here he was—released from his opportunity to wow the world as a WWE Superstar—giving me hope that his best was still yet to come. I respected Spradlin as a performer and a person before he arrived in the WWE, and had even more respect for him after reading those words.
Spradlin’s words helped me realize that his wrestling career couldn’t be solely defined by a stint in World Wrestling Entertainment, Incorporated. Just because Spradlin walked away from the ‘E, be it by his own choice or the decision of someone else above his pay grade, didn’t necessarily mean that he wouldn’t be able to entertain wrestling fans all around the globe. He wouldn’t have the WWE’s marketing machine or stamp of authenticity on his career, but Spradlin chose to face the opportunity with dignity and poise, opting to remain positive about his situation and pushing forward with his career rather than languishing in the hatred and bile that often follows disgruntled ex-employees and pissed off fans.
Much like WWE, Chris Spradlin was determined to let his fans and all of us know that a kink in the plans wouldn’t stop him from being the awesome wrestler and entertainer that he is and will be. If he remained positive about his situation, who was I to throw pity parties for him when even he desired in some way for me to look on the bright side of it all?
It goes without saying that we fans have a profound respect for the men and women who bust their asses performing for us non-stop almost every day of the calendar year. We treasure them, look up to them as role models, and aspire to have the same discipline, drive and focus that they exhibit when making their media rounds or even working out at gyms across the country and the world. Because we hold them in such high regard, it becomes easy for us to feel for them one way or another when something good or bad happens to them in their careers. We feel connected to them so much that their triumphs and setbacks belong just as much to us as they do to them. They are our heroes and heroines, and we live vicariously through all they accomplish and all they experience.
It’s a very curious thing; we feel nothing for the single parent that needs government assistance to raise a child or the restaurant workers who make less than minimum wage and get fired because we complained about the temperature of our mashed potatoes. When our favorite wrestler(s) get released, however, it’s a completely different story …
This is the very phenomenon that is occurring with CM Punk as we speak. With rampant speculation regarding his departure from WWE spreading like wildfires in the west, fans have taken to the internet to voice their opinions on the state of affairs within the promotion more so than anything Phil Brooks has had to say about the release himself. To say it plainly, it appears Phil Brooks’ departure from the promotion is largely due to him being unsatisfied with the company he works for. Our very own Corbin Macklin (also a native of Chicago, by the way) did an excellent job of showing us why Brooks’ may have been completely and utterly frustrated with working for WWE.
As bystanders on the outside looking in, we can understand why Brooks threw up his hands and walked away from the promotion. Phil Brooks didn’t need the WWE paycheck as he reportedly saved his money wisely. Phil Brooks doesn’t really need the WWE machine to push or promote him at this point if he desires to continue wrestling. Phil Brooks, like several wrestlers before him, had accrued enough sway and respect during his time in the promotion to afford him the extremely rare option to simply walk away when he had become bored with the way his CM Punk character was being utilized; that is a privilege and gift that is not afforded to all superstars or divas.
At the heart of it all, Phil Brooks’ chose to do what was good for Phil Brooks, because “one monkey don’t stop no show.” It was Brooks’ opinion that the dog-and-pony escapades of WWE were too much for him to tow any longer, so instead of wasting the promotion’s time and money he opted to step away while he still had the opportunity to do so. While it is questionable whether or not his actions were professional or appropriate, we fans cannot forget that Brooks’ sanity and physical well-being are the most important factors to consider. Brooks also mentioned that he was suffering from a yet to be diagnosed illness that has plagued him for some time, noting that the hectic WWE schedule did not allow time for him or doctors to even figure out what he’s afflicted with.
All of these important factors are at play, but as impassioned fans living in the 21st Century we find comfort in imposing our experiences on others or situations outside of our own reality. We see the world in a particular way and expect everyone else to see it as we do. Very few will express their own thoughts as such, and will acquiesce to popular notions that have validity but are strewn about without context or constructive criticism. So while Phil Brooks talks about his health, about how he’s good friends with Dave Batista, about how Daniel Bryan is a top talent and how he’s faring financially, the only thing we fans have focused on is CM Punk’s opinion of the direction of the company. It’s CM Punk’s opinion that validates our opinions about the company, justifies our hatred for the company, and feeds into our insatiable need and desire to rage against the WWE machine.
People in general have always had a problem with being told or directed to do something, feel something, or be something they don’t desire to do or be of their own will. It’s almost as if humans are rebellious by nature; even speaking in biblical terms, the first humans created disobeyed one simple instruction for seemingly no other reason than the notion that they were convinced they knew better than the omnipotent being that created them.
Teenagers disobey their parents, employees disobey their employers, and consumers disregard the piracy warnings issued by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). This reality of life is seen more clearly in our relationship today with the federal government of the United States, particularly the President Obama Administration. People truly feel as if the government under the current administration is creeping more and more into the private lives of citizens and civilians, even though this process in numerous ways started well before the current presidential administration (*cough couch PATRIOT ACT*).
It is often said that art imitates life; if this is true, and entertainment is a form of art, the there’s no wonder why the current storyline of choice for the top two wrestling promotions in the country deals heavily with corrupt authority figures and the “victims” of such cruel regimes fighting against the grain that is attempting to hold them down and force them to do things they don’t want to do. In an extreme case of blurring the lines between the real and scripted, Phil Brooks’ sudden departure from the company, along with the current Authority storyline and the exclusion of Daniel Bryan from the actual Royal Rumble match, feeds into our already deeply rooted suspicions that the company is simply out to control its workers and hold back (or down) certain workers that “deserve” better than what they’re currently receiving. Brooks’ departure gives us one more reason to despise the machine, to protest violently with ultimatums and coarse language we believe will force the machine to change its ways.
Even Brooks’ admitted in his “Pipe Bomb” promo three years ago that the machine would continue its forward locomotion without him, one spoke on one wheel of a massive contraption equipped with many spare wheels and spokes. With this one spoke currently gone from the WWE, not much will change especially since it seems as if the fans (and perhaps Vince McMahon) were the only ones who recognized just how important that spoke was in the grand scheme of things.
What we can appreciate about Brooks’ departure is the fact that it calls us fans to task for contributing to the machine, which places us in the all too familiar spot of hypocrisy that wrestling fans vacation in as much as newlyweds visit the Bahamas on their honeymoons. We hate the machine for what it did to CM Punk and justify the ludicrously high advertising rates paid to the promotion by watching their shows almost every day of the week. We despise the machine for not catering to our passing fancies and squeal with girlish glee as we wait for the launch of the WWE Network. We messed ourselves silly when we found out Dave Batista was returning to the company and messed ourselves angrily when he won the Royal Rumble. We wrestling fans, collectively speaking, are just big ass buckets of contradictions.
By choosing to walk out of the WWE, Phil Brooks sent a sobering message straight to the hearts of WWE fans worldwide that should be more important than any shoot promo he delivered during a televised WWE broadcast. The business is not immune from the same politics and bulls**t that we encounter on a regular basis, even to the extent where we know that real change may be impossible to achieve due to the massive nature of the institutions we operate in. But the thing that defines who we are and where we stand is our activity or inactivity when facing opposition.
If we don’t like being told to cheer for Batista’s main event match at WrestleMania 30, then all of us should make sure that the promotion’s biggest and most important pay per view of the year gets the lowest buyrate and turnout in the history of WWE. If we don’t like the fact that wrestlers like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler are being “underutilized or buried,” then we should all head over to Shop.WWE.com and purchase as much of their apparel as we possibly can. If we don’t like the fact that the muscle-bound Greek god-like wrestlers are pushed and promoted more so than the true workers, we should invest more of our time in watching shows like NXT to see how the next crop of wrestlers are actually very far from being the larger-than-life stars that dominated the promotion’s product in the past.
If we truly want to support bonafide wrestlers and superstars like Phil Brooks and Chris Spradlin, we’ll follow their careers outside of the WWE with the same fervor and passion we did when they while they showcased their finely honed skills within the confines of Vince McMahon’s squared circle.
It’s perfectly fine for us to be frustrated and pissed off about the current direction of the product and the release of our favorite superstars. The bottom line is that if we stay too focused and mired in the mess of what has happened, we are not empowered and inspired to do what we can as fans to look toward the future of the business and the WWE’s product.
Take the following closing thought as you go about your day: while most fans were extremely upset about Daniel Bryan’s exclusion from the Royal Rumble match, they completely ignored the fact that both Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns had very impressive showings during the pay per view. The departure of CM Punk from the company leaves one hell of a spot open for either Reigns or Wyatt to assume and make the most of …
… but we’d never know, because we’re too busy being pissed off that the machine keeps holding people down … even if the show must truly roll on …
For what it’s worth, Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling wasn’t as disastrous as it has been or could have been. Sure we here at L.E.W.D. give TNA more hell than what seems necessary, but as it was mentioned to me by a dear friend on Twitter, a broken clock is right two times a day. Backhanded compliments aside, there’s no real reason to be crass when all is right in Dixieland. The show was aight, as the young people say.
To say the show was “aight,” however, is not to excuse it from critique or constructive criticism. While one can always nitpick and find reasons to be upset, there’s still the prevalence of unanswerable questions that can plague a product easily, hovering over the landscape like vultures waiting to feast on the carrion decaying below. And believe you me there’s plenty of dead flesh to go around.
For starters, TNA has chosen to begin its #RealNewEra with a familiar face in pro wrestling history. As we’re all well aware Montel Vontavius Porter—also known as MVP—was revealed as the company’s new investor. We can all expect the “TNA is hiring former WWE wrestlers” accusation to follow, but there’s no siding with TNA when they continue to … well … hire former WWE wrestlers. And here’s where the gift and curse of WWE steps into the arena.
A good number of fans hate the fact that the WWE machine takes indy wrestlers, strips them of the identities they crafted prior to joining the company, and gives them completely different (and sometimes terrible) gimmicks that change the character the diehard fans came to know and love. Over a period of time, these gifted athletes athletes take these gimmicks and actually make them work. Unfortunately for fans a wrestler becomes known for his or her most popular gimmick, the gimmick they crafted and honed, becomes just as much a part of them as their very own face; for fans it’s difficult and impossible to separate the character from the real person and their most popular gimmick from the company they utilized it in.
While it’s very true that MVP actually began his nationally televised wrestling career in TNA as Antonio Banks, his rise to notoriety happened as MVP in the WWE’s massive shadow; and even though MVP owns the rights to the name he used in WWE (hence why he can be referred to as MVP in TNA), and even though he’s spent a significant amount of time wrestling and making a name for himself in Japan, most fans will only remember him for the time he spent in World Wrestling Entertainment as Montel Vontavius Porter. That’s a stigma that can’t be removed easily from a former WWE Superstar/Diva that has spent more than a cup of coffee on one of the main rosters.
On the flip side is the fact that there was no way TNA could’ve filled the new investor’s position with a name that fans weren’t familiar with. MVP is a great choice, especially given his notoriety in Japan and TNA’s growing relationship with Japan’s Wrestle-1 promotion. But what we’re seeing, what we’re getting is yet another power struggle storyline that is as intricately woven into the very fabric of the company as the “pro wrestling” they showcase regularly.
So once again the promotion is in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation; fans are told that there’s a #RealNewEra that arrived with the two-part Genesis free pay-per-view, but here we are with a familiar face locked in another power struggle storyline with the company’s president while the asylum’s inmates meander through overbooked dusty finishes and gimmick matches. It seems that only the players have changed and the game is still very much the same. All things being equal, TNA is still in its #ReconstructionEra more so than anything else, still working feverishly to fine tune its identity as they lurch forward into 2014; one month down, eleven more to go.
Here’s what stuck out to me while watching the show:
- The Glasgow Crowd and Taking the Show On the Road
- Samoa Joe Out for Blood
- Samuel Shaw …
- We’ve Got the Wrong Idea About Magnus
The first stop on TNA’s UK tour was Glasgow, Scotland. The annual UK tour is typically the highlight of the promotion’s year, as the UK fans tend to be more … shall we say excited … about TNA and its product than North American fans.
We all know why TNA was forced to bring IMPACT Wrestling back to Orlando, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the product comes off far more entertaining and exciting when the promotion visits its fans instead of having make merry jaunts down to Orlando. It also helped them to have filmed the show in an arena that was larger than somebody’s backyard …
Kudos and thanks to the fans who gathered in the SSE Hydro in Glasgow for the first pro wrestling event in the arena since its completion in September 2013. You guys were a welcome breath of fresh air from the tourists in Orlando who’d sit on their hands even if Jesus Christ returned in the middle of a Dixie Carter in-ring segment.
With Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles, and Sting reportedly “gone” from TNA and IMPACT Wrestling, a void has been created for wrestlers eager to grasp the elusive brass ring of main event. In some ways TNA has also suffered from the same problem that plagues other wrestling promotions, taking far too few steps in cultivating main event talent as time passes on.
Enter Samoa Joe.
Joe’s utilization as of late has been mostly underwhelming, but the absence of hard-hitting heavyweight star power has created a perfect situation for Joe to rise to the occasion, bringing a different type of intensity and seriousness to TNA’s main event scene.
The Samoa Joe character creates an intrigue for me that could not be seen with Magnus’ other opponents on his road to glory. Magnus versus Jeff Hardy seemed flat, while Magnus versus AJ Styles seemed forced; Magnus versus Sting just honestly felt unnecessary.
But Magnus versus Samoa Joe—a pissed off and relentlessly vicious Samoa Joe at that—forces me to sit on the edge of my couch to watch how violent things could get. Given how Magnus’ character is being defined (poorly in my estimation, but we’ll get to that later), I find myself wanting to see him escape the seemingly inevitable onslaught of kicks, body blows and submissions that Joe unmercifully barrages his opponents with. To say it differently, it was easy to believe that Magnus could overcome anything thrown at him by Hardy, Styles and Sting. Can Magnus overcome an onslaught from Samoa Joe … I want to see him accomplish this even though I have no doubt that he will eventually come out on top of this feud.
That’s the thing that makes pro wrestling and sports entertainment exciting for fans. While MMA fans often go in on how “fake” pro wrestling is and how much more “real” MMA is, wrestling fans are less concerned with who wins the match and tend to be more concerned with how a particular athlete wins a match. I’d compare the art of pro wrestling to the “sweet science” of boxing. Any yahoo can throw a punch, but it takes an artist to know when to throw a particular punch with a certain amount of power and speed that creates those classic KOs or scorecard decisions that give us reason to cheer.
This isn’t to say the same art or science isn’t present or prevalent in MMA, I just personally get the feeling that MMA fights are simply two guys or gals trying to beat each other up. It’s hard work, it’s taxing on the body and requires years of training and discipline that the rest of us cream puffs can’t even think about doing without having an asthma attack; the same is true for pro wrestling, and one doesn’t have to lust for blood in order to understand that the hows of a pinfall or submission are just as important, if not more, than the pinfall or submission itself.
I think about all of this when I imagine Joe being the man threatening Magnus’ reign as TNA World Heavyweight Champion. The Samoa Joe character has been stale for some time and hasn’t been involved in too many noteworthy feuds or matches, but taking the character back to basics and unleashing that fury on Magnus is must-see TV for TNA and its fans. I have to give them kudos and credit for that.
I have very specific feelings about the Samuel Shaw character, feelings and thoughts that aren’t shared by most fans who enjoy the character and feel as if this type of character is great and refreshing in “the business” altogether. The Shaw character is different and unique, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying his development is akin to winning $7,000 in a scratch off.
Most fans are all excited that Samuel Shaw is a take off from Patrick Bateman, the character made famous by Christian Bale’s stunning performance in the motion picture American Psycho, and not by Bret Easton Ellis’ classic and controversial 1991 novel. After seeing the very first video introducing the repackaged Shaw character, I felt that the comparisons to American Psycho, particularly the Christian Bale depiction of Patrick Bateman in the movie, were superficial at best.
To begin, we can’t ignore the fact that with his hair slicked back and to the side, Samuel Shaw kinda resembles Bale’s Patrick Bateman:
Other than that … the buck pretty much stops there.
Patrick Bateman, as depicted by Christian Bale in the film adaptation of American Psycho, was a wealthy yuppie investment banker living in 1980’s New York who, after engaging fellow yuppies in conversation about high fashion, business, and elitism, would exact his psychopathic fantasies on unsuspecting colleagues and hookers. He was obsessed with his looks and his physique, he had a eerily vast knowledge of ’80s pop music and icons, and either wore expensive three piece business suits or trounced around naked as he killed his victims. Not to mention that often times when he killed people he was loud and made quite a mess.
Excuse the following language, but how the f**k did Samuel Shaw exhibit any of that during his repackaged video???
If anything, and the word anything is highly stressed at this point, the Samuel Shaw character is a hybrid of Christian Bale’s depiction of Patrick Bateman and the Dexter Morgan character made extremely popular by Michael C. Hall’s performances in the Showtime TV series Dexter, which is also based off a series of novels by author Jeff Lindsay.
If you’ve seen the Dexter series, you’d immediately recognize some of Samuel Shaw’s traits and characteristics. Blood splatter analyst by day and serial killer by night, Dexter Morgan has a dark history that gave birth to his insatiable desire to kill.
Taught at an early age to channel that thirst in a way beneficial to both him and society at large, Dexter uses investigative techniques and stealth to locate his targets (usually criminals who evaded the long arm of the law), kidnap them, and execute them all while making sure to cover all tracks that could lead to his own eventual arrest and execution.
The way Dexter incapacitates his targets is pretty awesome; after confirming that his intended target is truly guilty of committing an unsolved crime or was not truly brought to justice for committing a particularly gruesome crime, Dexter will make physical contact with the person under an alias in order to learn their habits and scope out a way to kidnap and murder them undetected.
Once he’s completed his reconnaissance, he infiltrates their location and puts them to sleep by using a specific drug delivered to their body using a hypodermic needle …
Yes … Dexter puts his victims to sleep before kidnapping them. Oh, and he does so by wearing the nifty little outfit you see in the picture to the right of this paragraph … the outfit that looks oddly similar to the get up Samuel Shaw wears during his matches:
It is also worth noting that Dexter is typically calm, cool, and collected when making his kills. Although prone to sudden outbursts of anger, Dexter typically keeps himself under control when out on a kill or even living his life as a father, widower, brother, and Miami Police Department consultant.
All this is to say that the Shaw character was probably inspired by several different sources, most of which have little to do with American Psycho. It still remains to be seen if the Shaw character will make highly anticipated waves in TNA expected by some, but at least the promotion is stretching and flexing its creative juices by capitalizing on the creepy and unnerving characters that are more cerebral and calculated in their actions and demeanor. I’d love to see more of the character, especially in the mid-card division which seems to be lacking direction and attention (hi, X-Division and TV Championship!), but right now the focus is squarely on the main event scene and ending the Hogan/Bischoff/Prichard Era storylines.
I really despise the fact that Magnus is constantly referred to as the “paper champion.” Logically, I also realize it is a way (as far as the “storyline” is concerned) for characters to taunt and get under the champion’s skin, a method in which they can psych out the champion and force him to make rash and foolish decisions as he attempts to legitimize his championship reign.
If we briefly recall the aforementioned thoughts on how a scripted match is won as opposed to whether or not a win is scripted, it’s the little things in a pro wrestling bout that can make or break an intended storyline or character’s development. In regards to a “paper” champion, there’s a stark difference between Magnus being given his championship reign and Magnus being protected during his championship reign. Magnus, for all intents and purposes, is being protected during his championship reign which calls for an entirely different type of heat than what he’s receiving as we’re conditioned to believe he never deserved the top spot at all.
It cannot be denied that Magnus’ climb up the TNA World Heavyweight Title Tournament ladder was riddled with suspicious fluke victories. It cannot be denied that interference from Rockstar Spud lead to Magnus’ victory over Jeff Hardy to win the TNA World Heavyweight Title. It can’t be denied that tons of wrestlers helped him defeat both AJ Styles and Sting, enabling him to retain his title and usher both men out of the company
for the time being.
The interesting thing about pro wrestling is how we perceive a match or storyline, taking what we hear and see as the end all be all without attempting to understand what we know about what we have heard and seen. For example: Ladder Matches and Steel Cage Matches are also No Disqualification Matches because authorities acknowledge the fact that wrestlers can use the same tool they need to win the match (the ladder and the cage) as a weapon. If the combatants in a No DQ match cannot be disqualified, they are extremely susceptible to outside interference, which is exactly what happened in Magnus’ match against Jeff Hardy for the World Heavyweight Championship. Hell, Magnus was also attacked in that same match!
When Rockstar Spud pushed Jeff Hardy off of the ladder on the ramp, his actions had more to do with not wanting Jeff Hardy to win more than their desire to see Magnus as the champ. In the end, Magnus was able to climb the ladder and grasp the title when Jeff Hardy was not; as much as we can say that Magnus would’ve never won the title without their help, we have to remember that “anything goes” in a No DQ Match. Utilizing help in a No DQ Match is just as “unethical” as smashing a man’s face against a steal cage or smacking him with a ladder.
When Magnus faced AJ Styles it was unbearable to see the Styles character portrayed as the face while Magnus was placed to be the heel defending his rightly earned title. The AJ Styles character is the one that abdicated his position as champion by leaving the company; the AJ Styles character was the former champion stripped of his title, thus vacating the championship and legitimizing the tournament for that championship. Yet here Styles is, goading the champion into a match that he (Styles) honestly didn’t deserve and shouldn’t have received by preying on Magnus’ inferiority complex as a competitor and a champion. Once again, Styles accepts fighting the real champion in a No DQ Match, and fans are “furious” when outside interference occurs. Exact same situation when Magnus faced and defeated Sting.
Let it be known that I may be one of the few people that like Magnus as champ, as he’s been hailed as the future of TNA since his debut some odd six years ago. What I find peculiar about his reign is the underlying notion that he hasn’t truly earned his spot or the championship, that he was handed all of his opportunities while the other “hard-working, more deserving” wrestlers fell victim to Dixie Carter’s reign of terror that only manifested as such since she received more on-screen time. He’s being depicted as a weak champion for sure, leading some of us fans to question whether or not this is good for the character and Nick Aldis’ TNA career. One can only hope that this direction won’t damage Magnus’ credibility as a main event start.
Take WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan as an example. A large contingent of fans would and could successfully argue that the way Bryan is being booked now is atrocious, particularly in light of Batista’s Royal Rumble win one week ago. Many pundits have argued that Bryan is booked as being weak and his character is being buried or misused by WWE top brass and creative. These accusations have led many to comment that if Bryan doesn’t headline WrestleMania 30 or fails to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion before WrestleMania 30, then all is lost for any hope in the character, the person Bryan Danielson, and the WWE for being something different than what his has historically been for over five decades.
Magnus is in a similar situation. After cutting his teeth and paying his dues in TNA for some years, the way the character is now portrayed as champion is simply ridiculous. The Dixieland/New Investor storyline has more weight and prominence than Magnus’ reign as champion, both AJ Styles and Sting were booked as super huge babyfaces on their way out of the company while Magnus was booked as a weak champion, and the magnitude of Magnus’ reign as champion has been dwarfed by the news of people leaving the company, the speculation of where they’ll end up next, and the importance and weight of a name well-known outside of TNA coming into TNA to “set things straight with such a crooked company.” How does any of this make Magnus look like he deserves to be in the spot that he’s in, and what does it all say about this #RealNewEra where the younger stars are being primed to lead the company into the future?
Again, we can only wait and see how things unfold for Magnus and Nick Aldis. I just feel like we’re getting a substandard push for Magnus, a push that could’ve started as something far more exciting and jaw-dropping than what it has been so far. Seriously: Magnus was the first ever British World Heavyweight Champion in 100 years, and people were more flabbergasted about the two falls Jeff Hardy took in their Dixieland Match than they were about him winning the championship.
But alas, those are just my thoughts. What are yours?
I was out on a morning troll when I came across some fantasy booking on a pro wrestling fan site. A commenter creates a unique storyline for a real-life development occurring in a promotion, and before completing his/her opening statement drops the following jewel in the middle of it all:
… push the guys the fans want to see …
Needless to say this comment and the thought process intrigued me enough to bring it to our lovely L.E.W.D. shores for an insightful and invigorating conversation.
With no offense or ill will intended for the commenter or the site they drafted their opinion on, it’s quite fascinating how people tend to operate more often than not off of their feelings without giving consideration to the context of their feelings or the experiences of those around them. All that is to say that this notion of “pushing the guys the fans want to see” tends to come off extremely shortsighted because there several underlying assumptions that are never addressed or considered when speaking about pushing the guys the “fans want” to see.
And there it is; the two most important words in that statement are “fans want.” Whether one stands to admit it or not, our hopes and expectations about a given pro wrestling product are intricately bound by the idea that corporations give consumers what consumers want. To an extent that is true, but it can be quite misleading for the fan that has quietly assimilated into the Generation ME lifestyle.
Corporations don’t give consumers what consumers want; corporations sell consumers what consumers are willing to pay for. When this process happens long enough, we become “convinced” that the corporation is “giving” us what we “want.” No matter how many miles one walks and how many pounds one wants to shed, McDonald’s will still continue to sell Big Macs because people are still willing to buy Big Macs.
As we’ve said many times on this site before, it’s all about money. These United States of America are ruled by the color green; we are all capitalists and there are more companies (and individuals) than not who give more of a damn about profit margins than they do about what you and I want. Companies provide a particular product or service for a price, and the ebb and flow of their business models shift and surge depending solely on what they can get consumers to buy. The more money a product or service can bring in, the more it’ll be shoved into our faces accompanied with advertising and marketing intentionally designed to convince us “this is what we want, this is what we need” in order to do x-y-z in life.
The same rule of thumb applies to a given wrestling promotion; a promotion will offer fans someone they’ll pay to see, which sometimes can be the person that fans “want” to see. When that doesn’t happen, however, a lot of hurt feelings and raw emotions are expressed via the interweb. The reality of it all is that just because fans want to see a particular star doesn’t necessarily mean those same fans (or other fans) are willing to pay to see that star in a prominent position.
The tragic part of it all is that consumers often “want” something more deeper and intricate than what they’re given or what they’re told they want.
Let’s take everyone’s favorite broski Zack Ryder as an example. Three years ago Ryder successfully utilized social media to gain a very vocal cult following. Fans rallied behind Ryder enough to the point where he was given a safe and solid push from the powers that be. At the time there was no doubt that Zack Ryder was someone that a lot of fans “wanted to see,” and that was never really in question.
The question was whether or not we would pay to see Zack Ryder in a more prominent role higher than the mid-card. As exceptional a talent as Zack Ryder is, it became obvious that the same legion of fans who rallied for his push were also the same ones who wouldn’t put enough green down for him to have more than a cup of coffee in the upper mid-card. Our response to such instances is to blame the promotion, but a promotion can’t financially survive off of feeding into the fans’ fleeting emotions.
The other perspective to consider as fans is whether or not we understand completely the vast spectrum of fandom that exists inside of pro wrestling. Not all fans are alike and not all fans “like” or “want” the same thing. We often speak of ourselves in blanket terms without even thinking of the differences of opinion that are present among us. Every time a fan chants “Let’s go Cena,” they’re greeted by a resounding chorus of “Cena Sucks!” responses. As cute and enchanting as the dueling chants can be, it also shows us in very simple terms that wrestling fans don’t always think alike. We’re a dynamic group of individuals who can collectively enjoy and critique the product while also having uniquely different ideas that explain why we like or dislike the product.
To blithely say or assume that a promotion should push guys “fans want to see” is to also assume, without saying, that all fans want to see one particular wrestler and that all fans will pay to see that same wrestler. No matter how we look at “the business,” it’s a form of entertainment that moves along with what consumers are willing to pay to see. With fans having varying tastes that can literally change overnight without notice, the guys fans want to “see” could switch at any given time plus the fact that there may be six to seven different guys that different fans want to “see” pushed.
On July 12, 2012, Austin Aries defeated Bobby Roode to become the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion at the Destination X pay per view. Aries’ reign came after he received a strong push upon his return to TNA which also led to a reinvigorated X-Division. Aries’ reign, however, lasted all of three months by the time he was defeated by Jeff Hardy at Bound for Glory that same year.
Over one year later in July 2013, well-known X-Division star Chris Sabin defeated Bully Ray to win his very first TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Sabin’s reign came after his return to TNA in May 2014 after recuperating from his second ACL injury. Sabin’s reign lasted less than a month as he lost the title to the former champion.
Both Aries and Sabin were fan favorites that fans wanted to “see” receive a push. With so much fervor behind them, why is it that their combined reigns lasted less than half a year? Even more sobering is the fact that the combined five reigns of Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray lasted for over a year and two months.
We can assume that Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray had more drawing power as champs, or we could blame the powers that be for not putting their all behind pushing the guys “fans wanted to see.” Whichever direction we decide to drift towards we cannot deny or ignore that the preeminent names in TNA between 2011 and 2012 were Hardy and Bully Ray; it wasn’t so much that the machine invested in them heavily (which is a part of the situation), but it also had to do with the fact that both men were individuals people paid good money to see and less to do with whether fans by and large “wanted” to see them per se.
To wrap things up, we cannot forget that “the business” is out to make money and cannot realistically operate by floating precariously on the whims of a fickle fan base. At the end of the day, we are paying (in most cases) these promotions to entertain us, and as a large and varied group of consumers these promotions must put players in place that will generate revenue to keep their businesses barreling towards the black and not moon walking towards the red. Because our likes are varied and because our likes change as often as folks change their drawes [sic], it’d be completely asinine for any promotion with the good sense given to them at birth to operate solely and completely off of what fans “say” they want at a given minute, especially if that particular fan base is miniscule and fair weather in nature … case in point …
We fans have a right to like what we like; we fans also have a right to expect a promotion to entertain us when we’re paying them to do so. But we must be realistic when viewing the product, understanding that guys the fans want to see pushed also have to be the guys fans will pay to see pushed. All the chants and petitions and crowd signs in the world won’t move a promotion’s top brass as much as revenue will. Period.
Before I fill this post with reasons and excuses, I invite you to listen to my thoughts on the 2014 edition of the Royal Rumble as well as the prospect of the upcoming WrestleMania XXX.
Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions in the comment section below.
I was over my best friend’s house a while back, watching the WWE 50 or whatever it’s called documentary. One thing struck me. It started out as a historical retelling of how Vince’s father started the company and how Vince made it international. It told everything from the first champion to like the Attitude Era… then it became this touting of achievements like the company going public and having so many tentacles in so many different things. The reality in wrasslin, like everything is: You can be jack of all trades… but you’ll also be master of none.
WWE wants everyone’s money. They’re a business, I’m not mad at that ambition. However, for a worldwide entity? WWE’s peak was 12 million viewers for Raw. Out of a world of seven billion people. I believe there is a correlation between losing two thirds of your audience and trying to take over the world of entertainment. For wrestling fans, we cringe at being told what we’re watching isn’t wrestling, it’s entertainment. These thoughts all came to me as I thought about how many of WWE’s talents shouldn’t be taken seriously. So many dancing gimmicks and The Great Khali and Hornswoggle and Santino. It’s always been this way, but it’s different now.
I remember in the overrated Attitude Era, Mark Henry fathered a hand. An Asian man wanted to ‘choppy choppy’ Val Venis’ ‘pee pee’. (Which is SOOOOOOOOOOO racist. OMG) You had Too Cool and Rikishi dancing around and stuff. See? It was insanity. But… where it was different, is that the FOCUS was on the wrestling! Pro wrestling in America IS WWE. You can be a better wrestling fan than me and force yourself to watch TNA, ROH and indy/overseas promotions… for me wrestling = WWE. I think for a LOT of people it’s the same thing. This means: WWE’s job is to be everything to everyone. And I think they’re doing an ok job at that. But it would be better for all involved if they focused on the wrestling.
There was a marketing push that someone came up with somewhere that was like “Wrestling Matters”. It was a blatant knock on WWE that the wrestling was no longer what was important or what they wanted you to remember. Flash back to the first paragraph. From the sixties into early 2000s the most important thing in WWE was the moments inside the squared circle. Then it became important to expand the programming and the media. Make movies. Have guys all over tv and radio promoting the product. Sell merch and create apps and all these other things that don’t bother me until I’m fucking watching two people I have no fucking reason to give a fuck about fucking wrestle and the whole fucking time Michael Cole is talking about other sports and making ‘pop culture references’ arguing with JBL and plugging appearances and the fucking WWE App. OH AND WHAT A MATCH WHEN THE PACE PICKS UP AND THERE ARE A FEW CONSECUTIVE NEAR FALLS INDICATING NOW IT’S TIME FOR THE WRESTLING TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ON OUR MINDS!!!
The WWE’s imperialist ambitions bleed through its DVDs and Blurays, its commentary, everything they’re doing. Again… I’m not mad, except that I think they never kill the Daniel Wyatt angle because Michigan State decided to have a stadium wide YES chant if they don’t care too much about their cross-cultural reach. I know many of you have forgotten that the best thing about the Nexus demolition of John Cena and CM Punk and the ring etc… was Daniel Bryan strangling Justin Roberts with his tie, then getting fired for being “too violent” This doesn’t happen if WWE isn’t worried about losing its PG rating and losing sponsors. Which again, I’m not mad at.
What pisses me the fuck off is that WWE doesn’t care about its fans as much as how much money they can make… which is none if it has no fans. Daniel Bryan is not going to be world champion anytime soon, which is what the fans want. If not him, then CM Punk. Rumors persist that at Mania, neither one of them will be in the main event. We’re going to get something involving the likes of Batista or Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton. I like all of those guys. But EYE want CM Punk. Chances are, you reading this want Daniel Bryan… and none of that matters. And we’re still going to go out and buy the WWE Network so we can load up on old content from when wrestling mattered and watch every Raw and SmackDown and bitch about how much it has changed and stayed the same.
Hulk Hogan is my favorite superstar of all time. He sucks. There were so many better WRESTLERS in the company in his day. Sound familiar? I still make the argument that if he never went to WCW, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels have less world titles on their resume. Just like the Cenas, Ortons, Lesnars, Batistas etc are blocking Bryan and Punk. Have you ever thought about all the guys from that era that never rose above the midcard level, like a British Bulldog, Owen Hart, Mr. Perfect, Rick Rude etc? In THIS era they’d all have gotten a few world titles. So in THAT sense, things are better. Where it’s worse is how worthless being in the midcard is.
Earlier, I alluded to how many comedy acts there are in WWE. Santino Marella has been an Intercontinental Champion on multiple occasions. In case you don’t remember, the longest reigning IC champ is some Elvis impersonator called “The Honky Tonk Man”. Anyway… nowadays it isn’t very common to see a guy rise to main event status and go after a midcard singles title. Dean Ambrose hasn’t defended the US title in forever. Big E Langston took the IC title off some jabroni named Curtis Axel and has been defending it against jabronis. They’re talking of unifying the belts by Elimination Chamber. It elevates the title and the titlist if they start defending it against main event level stars who aren’t in the main event at the moment. ie: Daniel Bryan and CM Punk.
Also… I’ve been clamoring for some time now for WWE to create a midcard belt for its smaller competitors… Bryan can win that too. Back in the day, WCW’s best matches featured future world champions like Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, and Rey Mysterio wrestling as cruiserweights. I think this would be a good way to make wrestling more important. An argument can be made that having a little person belt makes more of a delineation between who can and can’t main event… and I call bullshit. Daniel Bryan is short and is a three time world champion.
Overall: When I turn on wrestling, I want to see wrestling. I want the commentators to talk wrestling while the wrestlers wrestle. I think that it would be best for business if WWE stops trying to distance itself from the fact that its chief business is wrestling. Then, I believe business would pick up.
Because I’m a hypocrite, I’m going to write as though I did not excoriate WWE creative for having Daniel Bryan join the Wyatt Family last week. I’ve been seeing a lot of things echoing the points that I made, but missing the positive spin I tacked on at the very end. Because I am committed to watching five hours of WWE every week, one way or another I will give shit a chance. And I feel as though many are not seeing the bigger picture here.
First off, I’m not backing off of my stance that Daniel Bryan can never be the face of the WWE. That, at BEST he will be Mick Foley, a guy who had a lot of memorable matches and moments but not necessarily remembered as THE guy. Not considered the best. And that’s ok. I’m not one of the binary thinkers who considers everything classic or trash with no in between.
That said, I DO acknowledge that Daniel Bryan has embedded himself as one of the top five acts in WWE today. If the world were a meritocracy, he should be WWE World Heavyweight Champion TODAY. But, alas, our world is NOT fair, so… he’s not. At this moment, he is still a notch below MY guy, CM Punk as that guy who SHOULDN’T get the big push, but will because he’s just that damn good. “Pipebomb” aside, Punk has this edge to him that Daniel does not and THAT is what excites me about this angle!
When CM Punk turned heel at Raw 1000 we all knew what that meant: He was being thrown to the likes of Cena, Ryback and The Rock. Right now, after Randy Orton and The Shield, what top heels are there to work with? The Wyatts are being built up now, but they’re no main eventers. Daniel Bryan IS. Just off association, he raises the level of Bray Wyatt. I didn’t think that WWE was going to have Bryan join the group, but now that he has, it adds to the creep factor. CM Punk has an innate ability to work an audience whether he’s heel or face, so I’m looking to see if Bryan can use this angle to continue his momentum.
A lot of people are saying this ‘heel turn’ is WWE trying to kill his momentum. I am one of those people. The more I think about it, however, the more I realize, CM Punk never stopped getting good crowd heat. This past Monday, the sense that the crowd was still behind Bryan AND felt betrayed by him was portentous of how if this is done right, Bryan will be hotter than ever before! After all, Bryan’s first title reign was as a heel and that’s when the ‘YES’ chants started. Between then and now he has vacillated between heel, face and tweener. Crowd heat white hot. Let’s be real, we wrasslin fans are some complaining ass cynics. WWE has hurt us too many times. But… they’ve done right by us enough times that we keep watching.
My prediction is that this angle may well carry us into SummerSlam where Bryan will likely win the world title again and get screwed Evolution style, irony of ironies, a la Randy Orton. I think it will be cool to see him develop a darker, more twisted edge to his character, and as I have forestated, see Bray rise by association with WWE’s hottest commodity. It’ll be interesting to see if they do an angle where Bryan lays down for Bray, or if they fight and screw him out the belt(s). If this angle blows off by Mania, it was a waste of time. Speaking of which, that’s technically what this is, something to keep Bryan interesting, yet out of the title picture. Not a burial. (Hi, Quinn!)
I wasn’t pleased with how they were booked this past Monday… doing a finish where Harper gets rolled up because he was mad Bryan wanted to get the victory was foolish, in my opinion. Teasing that there will be dissension in the group points towards this breaking down before there can be an appreciable payoff. I’m not saying they should never lose, just it’s too much to have dissension in the ranks WHILE doing the same exact fucking story with The Shield.
Speaking of which, a lot of people are saying Roman Reigns needs to get better at promos to be what WWE wants him to be. I call bullshit. During his entire time with the group, he has been the strong, silent type. In my opinion, it would be a mistake to make him growl or yell Memphis style promos when his soft-spoken yet impactful style fits his look and personality so well. Watch the Piper’s Pit from the Old School Raw and you had Rollins and Ambrose talking cash shit to Piper while Reigns just sat there looking cool, yet intense. When addressed, he told Piper to cut the shit or he’ll beat his ass, more or less. Simple, but effective. Sometimes, less is more.
Related/unrelated: When are we going to see Big E Langston get to unleash this charisma I’ve heard so much about him having on NXT and Twitter? Why does WWE give so much mic time to people who suck at promos for different reasons like Orton (boring, droning delivery) and Del Rio (English as second language, seeming lack of charisma) and none to guys who ARE entertaining talkers? Iono, man. To dovetail these last two paragraphs, Big E and Roman could be future rivals for the top of WWE. The charismatic irresistible force versus the stoic immovable object.
Overall, I feel there is way more to be excited about than there is to bitch about. Batista is coming back. Sheamus returning from injury. RVD may re-sign. Brock Lesnar is in the fold. You can see new stars being made, and potentially, current stars being remade. As Daniel Wyatt would say: YES!