I would like to apologize in advance if this post sounds like I’m only repeating stuff I’ve said before; the sad part is that usually when I repeat myself, it’s because I’ve found validation in remarks I’ve already made. Essentially I’m giving myself a congratulatory pat on the back, a lá Barry Horowitz.
As I’ve stated before here, particularly on my last RAW review, WWE creative seems to be spinning its wheels when it comes to crafting provocative storylines and characters for fans to invest in and get behind. They seem to be suffering from the exact same problem that plagues other sports entertainment companies: subjecting fans to seeing the same stars face each other in the same matches each and every week, with the needle of progression stabilized in a comfortably stagnant area. The writing and wrestling in WWE right now just feels like one excruciatingly lingering and cumbersome expression of mediocrity.
It’s not just that the creative writing and execution is terrible, but it’s also the feeling that everything seems uninspired and bland. Feuds and rivalries are rehashed, recycled and reused. Characters feel forced and far from organic. We’re shown wrestlers each week who bust their humps wrestling, and we have no earthly reason or urge to support their cause or wage verbal war against them.
This isn’t complaining at all, but rather an honest critique of one person’s experience watching Monday night’s episode of RAW. In the three hours I spent watching the show I eventually became more enthralled with being on Twitter than I did with paying attention to what was going on in the ring.
Perhaps WWE could benefit from shaking up the creative teams or introducing new characters to the product while phasing out older ones, or give the secondary titles real and authentic value as well as become the means through which superstars can transition to the heavyweight championship and main event scene. In the meantime the company could stand to at least pretend as if they have enough writers and wrestlers to have a vibrant mid-card rife with a mixture of tag team and Diva action involved in captivating stories that entertain instead of lull fans to sleep or coerce us to change the channel.
On the other hand as proactive fans perhaps it’s also wise to walk away from WWE programming for a bit to give our brains a chance to rest from mundane nature of the product. The company is motivated by money, and if any of us truly want them to do better we have to speak with our wallets and not our internet browsing speeds.
But alas, here’s what stood out for me during the show:
- The Awakening of Antonio Cesaro
- Foreshadowing, Dean Ambrose Style
- Mark Henry: The Greatest Man Who Ever Kicked Somebody’s Ass
- Brock Mad, Brock Smash
- John Cena versus Ryback: A Tale of How the Mighty Have Fallen
It wasn’t very long ago that fans began to sour on the prospect of Antonio Cesaro’s run as a WWE superstar. After inexplicably losing several matches as the United States Champion, Cesaro’s run was unceremoniously ended by the foots of “Double K” Kofi Kingston, also known in some parts as the Crown Prince of Mid-Card Excellency (Jeff Jarrett is still the reigning monarch in that kingdom of inadequacy). In a lot of ways Kofi reminds me of Jeff Hardy, but that’s another blog for another day.
Along with his loses Cesaro was also conspicuously left out of WrestleMania XXIX despite having a lengthy and historic run as the United States Champion. It wasn’t long after that fans began to naturally assume that Vince McMahon “hated” him and he was essentially being buried for the unknown and unnamed personal grudge the Irish-blooded McMahon secretly harbored against the Swiss.
On an unrelated note this idea absolutely infuriated me because fans became super vocal about this the night after Cesaro was named the WWE’s Swiss Ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That makes perfect sense; send the guy you “hate” to be the official international ambassador for a foundation that brings joy to dying kids. If that’s the case then McMahon must really hate the s**t out of John Cena…but I digress again.
Oddly enough all of the anti-Vince McMahon pundits were nowhere to be seen when Cesaro cut a pipe bomb-esque promo last night after defeating the modern day Brooklyn Brawler, Zack Ryder, in short fashion. Simply put, Cesaro said he’s a beast and there’s no one on the entire roster that can walk a mile with his jock strap…because Swiss jock straps are nothing to yodel at.
All jokes aside Cesaro made his intentions as loud and clear as a clarion call from the top of the Matterhorn. In fact his promo was one of the few moments during the show that piqued my interest and sent chills up my spine. We all know that Cesaro is a beast and the more prescient fans (i.e. everybody at L.E.W.D.) knew that his losses were only a red herring to his eventual rise to prominence.
Simply put if Vince McMahon didn’t think he was worth a damn he would’ve simply released him (Braden Walker) or taken him off of TV completely (John Morrison) and used him once a month to do the job for someone else (Zack Ryder).
Stay tuned to see where Cesaro’s new found awesomeness will take him; if his promo last night wasn’t proof enough, check out this video done for him prior to this year’s WrestleMania:
Since we were almost on the subject of Kofi Kingston, the current United States Champion teamed with the Uso Brothers on Monday’s show to face The Shield in 6-man tag team action. Kofi ate the pin for his team after dining on Dean Ambrose’s unnamed finishing maneuver. While the WWE’s self-proclaimed arm of justice remains undefeated as a trio, the more interesting event occurred after the pinfall.
For some odd reason the referee thought it necessary to hand Kofi his United States title during the most inconvenient time after a match. For starters Kofi was still slightly incapacitated, lying almost lifeless on the mat while attempting to recover from Ambrose’s maneuver. Secondly the referee held the belt in the middle of the ring right next to Dean Ambrose as he celebrated the victory with his Shield brethren. It was at that time Ambrose gave the title this lingering and desiring glance, long enough for anyone to justifiably insinuate that the man is going to destroy Kofi in the near future.
The slow burn that has occurred with The Shield has apparently arrived at a point where it would make sense that the trio would start to consider chasing after championship gold. Most fans will easily agree that Ambrose stands out the most in the group; I believe it’s his charisma, matched with his body language/facial expressions and ability to work the mic that makes him pop more so than the amazingly athletic Seth Rollins and devastatingly intense Roman Reigns.
While I’m not too sold on an Ambrose/Shield and Kofi Kingston rivalry, I do appreciate the hint at this development for all men involved. The Shield has wreaked havoc in WWE for some time and creative has nothing substantial at the moment for Kingston. Pairing the four men or at least Ambrose and Kingston together gives fans the new feud and mid-card energy we’re craving for. The main problem is waiting for this whole thing to come to fruition if it indeed is meant to be.
Mark Henry deserves to be a WWE Hall of Famer and has most assuredly earned that honor after his 17 years of dutiful service in the WWE. I don’t recall Henry ever working for any other company other than WWE, and at 41 years of age he is one of the last Attitude Era wrestlers still on the active roster (along with notable stars such as Triple H and The Undertaker).
It says a lot about Henry in real life that he’s worked for the company for this long and they’ve made sure to keep him around after a series of injuries have stalled his character’s development at various points of his career. You have to respect the man and I’d be highly upset if some sort of WWE book or DVD wasn’t made highlighting his career and his life.
The Henry accolades don’t stop there, however; Monday night’s episode of RAW didn’t really seem to pick up steam until Henry beat Sheamus silly with a leather belt. Prior to that Henry held the audience in the palm of his hands during an in-ring promo and then, after a verbal exchange with Sheamus, delighted us with his commentary and his verbal abuse of Michael Cole. Everything surrounding Mark Henry last night was pure gold and even got the man trending on Twitter.
This rivalry with Henry is the same exact program they had during their first skirmish. While the program worked well the first time it is disappointing that the writers have returned to the well to give us the same thing over again. There is a saying that goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but I wonder if there’s more they could do with Henry and Sheamus other than having them crash into each other like two rams butting heads in a fine china shop.
“The Celtic Cena” Sheamus is serviceable in this rivalry, but it’s Mark Henry who’s making it sizzle and pop. Their outing at the upcoming Extreme Rules pay per view will be good to watch, but I’m still hoping the company can do right by both men in giving them (and us) this Hulk versus The Thing bout for the second time.
The biggest “shock” of the night came when exclusive footage was aired of Brock Lesnar destroying Triple H’s office at WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. Lesnar’s legal aid and handler Paul Heyman documented their entire mythical journey all on his iPhone.
The whole thing was designed to further their program with Triple H who, after arriving to RAW, didn’t seem pissed at all that Lesnar destroyed his “office” and was allowed to do so by the years’ worth of staff that allowed Heyman and Lesnar to trash said office.
I joked with fellow wrestling fan Tom Bobbitt the entire night about possible storylines that could come from the segment. One included Triple H having Lesnar arrested for vandalism, destruction of property, unlawful seizure and abduction of an individual, trespassing, and reckless behavior and endangerment. Heyman, of course, would be sent up the river for aiding and abetting criminal activity.
Ideally Trips would have his lawyer request that bail be denied for both men, citing their danger to society on the whole. The legal process behind that would be far more interesting and would coincide perfectly with these long drawn out yearlong storylines everyone seems intent on writing today.
The bottom line is that Brock smashed Triple H’s corporate office and the Game wasn’t even phased by his shenanigans. If he doesn’t give a damn, neither do I…moving right along…
WWE Champion John Cena is still set to face Ryback at Extreme Rule in a Last Man Standing Match despite having a bad ankle. Considering the players involved it’s astonishing that we really could not care any less.
Cena’s championship reigns at this point of his career are about as predictable as the likelihood of water being wet. It’s almost moot to nuance or argue about his character right now, mostly because no one will listen and we’re slowly realizing that the man will retire in 40 years the same way he’s wrestling now.
Ryback, on the other hand, has slowly earned our angst due to WWE’s insistence to force him to become the heel in this feud. Ryback went from having a solid core of fans behind him to having fans against him, only to find a resting spot in a place where fans are largely indifferent about him. There was almost no reaction for him when he wrestled in Monday night’s main event, and the crowd didn’t really pop for him during his post-match attack on John Cena.
We’ve all seen this song and dance from Cena and a monstrous opponent before; it’s extremely laughable and disheartening at the same time for Ryback’s character to be pompous enough to believe he can defeat Cena on his own in a Last Man Standing Match given the man’s track record with never giving up. This isn’t to say Cena hasn’t lost a LMS match before, but the odds are definitely in his favor on this one.
There’s only one more episode of RAW between now and the pay per view, so it will be mildly interesting to see what WWE does to add fuel to the fire burning between Cena and Ryback. With The Shield, Daniel Bryan and Kane involved, however, this whole mess looks and feels more convoluted than necessary. Unfortunately I just cannot shake the feeling that when it’s all said and done, this feud will just be business as usual for John Cena; such is life.
But those are just my thoughts on the show…what did YOU think about it?
On Thursday, April 18, 2013 a press conference was held in Orlando, Florida by World Wrestling Entertainment.
It was at this press conference that WWE Executive Vice President of Talent and Live Events Paul “Triple H” Levesque, along with Florida Governor Rick Scott, Full Sail University President Garry Jones, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orange County Commissioner Peter Clarke, announced the opening of the WWE’s state-of-the-art Performance Center. The Performance Center will serve as the home to WWE’s talent developmental system and will also create at least 100 new jobs in Orlando.
The following is taken from the press release about the facility:
“With 26,000 square-feet, seven training rings, a world-class strength and conditioning program and cutting-edge edit and production facilities, the new Performance Center will give WWE the ability to train more potential performers than ever before through a comprehensive program including in-ring training, physical preparedness and character development.
The new center will be the training ground for talent that includes former professional and collegiate athletes, Olympians and entertainers, and will offer a best-in-class sports medicine program creating a central location for all WWE talent to receive the best care both in and out of the ring.”
Among other things this announcement also furthers WWE’s relationship with Full Sail University, which serves as the current home for the WWE NXT taping series and also allows students (such as our very own THE Nic Johnson) of the university to gain “real-world experience” alongside WWE production team members.
The creation and announcement of WWE’s Performance Center is rife with irony, the incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.
The irony of the whole Performance Center project is that most people expect the facility to produce top-notch WWE Superstars when the actual result will more than likely resemble the same crop of superstars already present in the company. Effectively it appears that WWE has partnered with several entities in Orlando to create more modern and efficient methods of producing crap.
That assessment of the situation is a tad bit unfair, particularly seeing as the fruits of the Performance Center won’t be truly seen for at least another year or two from today. As nifty as the bells and whistles sound, however, all the wrestling rings and hi-tech equipment in the world cannot and will not replace some of the most fundamental and rudimentary realities that are necessary for the development of a “true” wrestling superstar.
The phrase “Performance Center” is oddly reminiscent of the same cold and mechanical training regimen used by Ivan Drago in the blockbuster film Rocky IV. Despite the flashing lights, the new age equipment, the meter readings and steroid vitamin enhancement injections, there was no machine or drug vitamin in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that could develop the one muscle Drago needed to defeat Rocky Balboa…heart.
WWE’s hi-tech Performance Center will undoubtedly provide wrestling hopefuls the tools and opportunities necessary to become a WWE superstar, but it will most assuredly lack the proverbial heart needed for athletes to excel as wrestlers with the total package. The skills and tools needed to have the total package cannot be found or taught in a fancy facility in one of the country’s most well-known hot spots for tourists and alcoholic college students.
This facility will not “train” men and women wrestlers to become WWE Superstars; it will eventually breed WWE Superstars flat out, and a WWE Superstar is something very different than a wrestler looking to become a WWE Superstar.
On April 5, a pre-WrestleManiaXXIX interview with WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan was featured in The Washington Post. In the interview, journalist David Malitz had the following to say about Bryan’s journey thus far in his career:
“Bryan’s path to WWE was built on giving his best showing night after night on stages microscopic compared to the scale of that on which he’ll perform Sunday. Over a decade, he has worked for dozens of companies on the sprawling independent wrestling circuit, from Pennsylvania to Japan, and earned a reputation as one of the best technical wrestlers in the world. This means he is someone who can make any move in the ring look devastating, graceful and believable, whether he is on the giving or receiving end — an essential skill for a wrestler.”
According to Malitz’s piece, Bryan—formerly known to wrestling fans by his real name Bryan Danielson—honed his craft for ten years prior to arriving in WWE. In those ten years Bryan traveled extensively all over the United States and even wrestled in Japan on numerous occasions; Malitz implies that it was during this time and not upon his arrival in WWE that Bryan gained a reputation for being one of “the best technical wrestlers in the world.”
What’s missing from the Performance Center is a focus on talent developing their skills as wrestlers before landing a developmental contract with WWE. More telling is the idea, the notion that these men and women (or professional/collegiate athletes, Olympians and entertainers) would have gained this experience on their own which would ultimately lead WWE to giving them a developmental contract. That idea is not necessarily a given, as has been made painfully obvious with certain Superstars and Divas in the past (Kelly Kelly for example).
Fans paying attention to this are witnessing a distinct difference in the execution of a developmental territory as opposed to a developmental system. Wrestlers today looking to make it big in the WWE enter into its developmental territory and spend 2-4 years translating their craft into an easy-to-swallow WWE-esque style, not necessarily gaining any experience from working around the world by being a part of a network of territories in a full-fledged developmental system.
But in those 2-4 years these men and women are picking up the habits, traits and skills that will define their careers in terms specific WWE. These wrestlers will learn one particular style that is honestly suitable for that specific company and its specific audience. As a result the wrestler will only have limited resources to pull from when it comes to putting together a match that energizes and entertains fans.
In the WWE’s case, that is a simplistic style that tends to look and operate like the pro wrestling equivalent to a color-by-the-numbers activity book. This, of course, does not sit well with older fans or those fans that prefer “wrestling” over “sports entertainment.” In the same breath it positions the company to consistently churn out more and more individuals will simply provide the WWE with the same results they’ve been garnering for the past 10-11 years.
Consider Bryan’s words towards the end of the Washington Post interview:
“I don’t consider it wrestling…I’ve done wrestling. Everywhere. And just by being a good wrestler you can become popular. But not here. It’s more important to be entertaining than it is to be a great wrestler. It’s fascinating to me…”
The new WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida is perhaps best equipped to produce entertainers. The problem is that wrestlers can be very entertaining if they’re given the opportunity to add new dimensions and layers to their already vast repertoire (i.e. Bryan Danielson).
On the other hand it is not set in stone that an entertainer will be able to be a convincing wrestler, “someone who can make any move in the ring look devastating, graceful and believable, whether he is on the giving or receiving end — an essential skill for a wrestler.” That’s not something than can be trained or gained in 2-4 years in a stint in a facility in Orlando.
Chris Jericho’s amazing story as a professional wrestler serves as a perfect example of this point. Although Jericho’s journey has been extensively covered in his books A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex and Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps, his path in wrestling was most succinctly described in his DVD “Breaking the Code: Behind the Walls of Chris Jericho.”
Jericho began his trek with two goals: to become a rock star and a wrestler. This started with Jericho getting a degree in communications at 19, wrestling at the Hart Brothers School of Wrestling in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1989. In 1992 he traveled and wrestled in Mexico City until 1994, where he learned how to “work a crowd.” It was in Mexico where he also learned and adopted elements of the Lucha Libre style.
For six weeks after his stint in Mexico City he worked in Hamburg, Germany where he learned how perform mentally a different match every night (as he performed in front of the same crowd every night for six weeks straight). From that point Jericho found himself in Japan, where he learned how to become a technically gifted wrestler and gained the respect of several key figures and wrestlers in the industry. Jericho also learned the Strong style and adopted that to his repertoire.
Also in 1994 Jericho worked for Smoky Mountain Wrestling in Tennessee, where he learned the Southern style of cutting great promos. In 1996 Jericho was able to land a job with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), where he wrestled in front of the country’s most rabid and diehard wrestling fans. From 1996-1999 Jericho worked for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Finally in August of 1999, Chris Jericho debuted in the WWF, bringing altogether 10 years of experience from organizations spread across five different countries in Asia, North America and Europe. To this day Chris Jericho is one of the most well respected wrestlers and veterans still able to entertain fans as a wrestler…and a rock star.
Is it feasible or possible for those same skills to be taught to a young wrestler coming into the Performance Center for a 2-4 year stint before being brought up to the main roster? Even with the guidance and tutelage of veterans in the business, nothing can replace the real life experience of having to perform for different crowds around the world or even the country.
That being said, the WWE’s state-of-the-art facility can only exist to help future superstars add one more element to their skill sets as wrestlers. The real issue, an issue WWE will have to respond to eventually, is whether or not they’re open to hiring wrestlers that have honed their skills over a solid period of time in promotions outside of the United States. Better still, will WWE have the gumption to send all of its developmental stars around the world (or even the country) to adequately hone their skills and talents?
It’s exciting to have a facility in Orlando with seven rings and a team of nutritionists, but all the fancy pants flash in the world can’t make up for a wrestler’s experience in putting on an entertaining and captivating story.
Straight from the “Who Gives a Damn” files of pro wrestling comes a cute story about Ring of Honor Wrestling…
Every Tuesday ROH Wrestling sends out an email to fans called the “Tuesday Rollout,” which is essentially just a weekly note about ROH events and merchandise. What’s impressive about this weekly email is the rate at which the company is able to pump out new DVD releases. Then again when you have eleven years of footage at your disposal, it’s not really a bad thing to put out more than just a PPV on DVD…*ahem*
Tuesday’s ROH Rollout featured a DVD entitled “Colt Cabana: Chicago’s Favorite Son.”
This DVD is a 16-match compilation of some of Colt’s most memorable matches in ROH. Here’s a blurb about the 2-disc set:
The funny man, the man who has given us so many Good Times and Great Memories, he is Colt Cabana and this is a chronicle of his journey in Ring of Honor. Whether it be standing alongside CM Punk & Ace Steel as a Second City Saint, or running solo in pursuit of championship success, Cabana has proven himself a master of the art of pro wrestling.
He can brawl, he can grapple, he can go hold-for-hold with Nigel McGuinness or punch-for-punch with Homicide, Cabana has prided himself on adapting to his opponents and this 2-Disc DVD set is a showcase of his ability. Through 16 complete matches, not to mention several “Good Times, Great Memories” segments, this collection features Colt facing the likes of Samoa Joe, Low Ki, Austin Aries, and more as he shows just why he is Chicago’s Favorite Son!
Sounds like a good deal, right?
On that very same day, Cabana put out this interestingly telling message via the Twittahverse:
While it’s safe to assume that only the plucky and easily agitated members of the IWC were irate at such an occurrence, this whole situation is enough to make even the most apathetic of casual wrestling fans shake their head in disbelief.
We here at L.E.W.D. are not above shameless plugs and promotions (please visit The Color Commentator and The Brady Hicks for more pro wrasslin’ greatness), but it truly is an odd day for pro wrestling fans when a company has to blatantly resort to coasting off of the success of former stars in order to stay relevant; please take that tongue-in-cheek comment in any way you see fit or deem appropriate.
On the other hand this is not a practice that has occurred and is occurring only in Ring of Honor. TNA fans (and some of the wrestlers) have recently accused WWE of copying storylines (AJ Styles/Dixie Carter/Clair Lynch vs. John Cena/AJ Lee), stealing production practices (the “Last week on IMPACT Wrestling” opening videos), and even adding current members of the IMPACT Wrestling roster to their Alumni Page.
In comparison half of TNA’s roster gained notoriety in other promotions and a good chunk of their major storylines have either happened in the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars, or tend to be rehashes of the same hostile takeover programs that have occurred in the company since…well…forever.
What makes Ring of Honor’s situation depressingly sad is that up until Colt Cabana’s tweet (and arguably afterward), very few people noticed or even cared enough to speak about the company’s uncanny ability to release a “new” DVD for a former ROH star conveniently after said star started becoming more of a household name.
This practice honestly came to my attention after CM Punk’s groundbreaking and refreshing Pipe Bomb promo on the June 27, 2011 episode Monday Night RAW. What followed was one exhilarating roller coaster ride that saw Punk win the WWE Championship from John Cena and “leave” the WWE with the title. Soon after that commentators made comparisons between Punk’s actions in WWE and his actions in ROH prior to his departure from the company in 2005.
In February of 2012 ROH released the Summer of Punk DVD…because…well…to show fans how awesome a company ROH was and where CM Punk’s initial disregard for oppressive institutions developed.
From that point on Ring of Honor gained a surge of momentum when it came to churning out footage of former stars, primarily the stars that were making big strides in WWE and TNA.
When Claudio Castagnoli transitioned into Antonio Cesaro and captured the WWE United States Championship, ROH released this DVD:
When Nigel McGuinness trotted out his tear-jerking documentary, ROH managed to pull this chestnut out of the pantry:
When the creative team found something meaningful for Samoa Joe to do:
When El Generico landed a WWE developmental contract:
When Adam Cole got a WWE tryout match:
Although WWE has been criticized heavily and rather harshly for its refusal to create or build new superstars, and in less harsh language, TNA has also suffered somewhat for their inability to deliver fresh matches and rivalries with new talent, Colt Cabana’s tweet ultimately shows that this problem is not unique to one promotion.
It would seem all around that a part of today’s pro wrestling landscape has been shaped by an overall shift in what makes the business profitable. In the process of relying on big ticket names to push or sell the product, the three major companies have all neglected to groom the next generation of main event superstars in their own unique ways.
The WWE uses John Cena, The Rock, Triple H, The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar to get butts into seats; TNA uses Hulk Hogan, Sting, and Jeff Hardy to do the same. ROH apparently resorts to repackaging archived footage to get our attention and our dollars, which is particularly important for a company whose iPPVs last about as long as a case of PBR at Steve Austin’s house.
Everything ultimately falls back on us, the fans; what are we willing to support and pay for? What are we willing to watch on television and on pay per view (despite what some may say, ratings do in fact equal dollars for promotions)? It all ends up being about perspective…
If you truly enjoy and respect Colt Cabana’s work as a person, wrestler, athlete and performer, you’ll purchase merchandise from his site and from places he’s given his stamp of approval on.
If you enjoy pro wrestling and happen to be unfamiliar the stuff Cabana did in ROH (perhaps the work he’s most well-known for), then you’ll purchase the DVD from Ring of Honor without question or regret.
If you’re tired of seeming the same old faces doing the same old things from the same big three companies in the United States, perhaps you’ll invest in Lucha Libre or Puroresu (shout out to Ray Bogusz).
Regardless of how you view the situation, these companies will continue to do these types of things if we, the consumers, are complacent about these things. We can moan and complain all we want via the internet, but to really make a difference we have to start speaking with our wallets and not just with 140 characters or less. It’s not a bad thing if you pick up ROH’s 2-disc set on Colt Cabana, but it certainly won’t help Cabana if more people support the company that deemed him unmarketable rather than supporting the supposedly unmarketable man himself.
The choice is yours.
“I sell the things you need to be
I’m the smiling face on your TV
I’m the cult of personality
I exploit you, still you love me
I tell you one and one makes three
I’m the cult of personality…”
This review will not be the typical Mr. Morris review you may have grown accustomed to reading. For starters this piece is being crafted with a little under forty-five minutes left in the show. There also won’t be many pictures from the evening, as the WWE has more than likely not published them prior to the show actually ending.
Much like last week a lot of “significant” things have happened on tonight’s episode of RAW, but those things were largely overshadowed by the not-New-Jersey crowd in Greenville, South Carolina and the annual creative reset that happens after WrestleMania.
Before launching into those two spiels, it must be noted that most of the champions that wrestled tonight—with the exception of the Tag Team Champions Team Hell No—all lost their matches. While the Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler suffered non-title defeats to their opponents (R-Truth and Jack Swagger respectively), former United States Champion Antonio Cesaro fell victim to Kofi Kingston’s patented Trouble in Paradise finishing maneuver, giving the Ghanaian athlete the victory and the United States Championship.
As of this point right now (10:25 PM EST), John Cena has yet to appear in the ring with his WWE Title. He did make one appearance in a backstage segment with Matt Stryker, which received no reaction whatsoever from the audience in Greenville…interesting…
This brings us back to one of the aforementioned points; my fellow L.E.W.D. writer Mr. Lamb spoke at length about the necessity of filler. Apparently the same applies for the types of crowds a WWE show appears before. Tonight’s crowd in Greenville, compared to the red hot crowd at the post-WrestleMania RAW in New Jersey, is close to being the one friend who nods off before everyone else at a sleepover. I wonder how much more entertaining this show could be (and could have been) if the crowd tonight had not been the exact polar opposite of last week’s crowd.
The other concerning issue is that the product is in a rebuilding phase right now, setting up entirely new and different feuds than what we were presented with specifically for WrestleMania XXIX. It’s going to take time and some exceptionally great writing to get fans behind these new stories, but the action surrounding said stories feels dry, stale and uninspired. In the same spirit of Mr. Lamb’s piece, perhaps this “phase” is a filler phase for the product, a moment for us to catch our breath before things are kicked into high gear once again.
I wouldn’t go as far as to characterize this as a “bad” RAW, because there have been worse shows than this. However tonight’s episode, while good on in-ring work, was not one of those shows that would cause me to call one of the L.E.W.D. brothers or sisters and enthusiastically scream into my cell phone about the show.
The three major things that stuck out to me in the show (now with twenty minutes remaining):
- The Absurdity of Antonio Cesaro
- The Ryback Has Feelings Too
For those fans keeping count, not only has Antonio Cesaro lost his United States Championship, but he’s also been saddled with a yodeling gimmick. I’m sure someone somewhere in the company thought this would be hilarious and get Cesaro “more over” with the fans. I won’t point fingers or name names, but instead I’ll allow this video to reveal a possible suspect:
Let’s recap the storied history of Antonio Cesaro: here we have a new WWE superstar who was a former Rugby player in Europe, but was kicked out of the sport for being too rough. At some unspecified time in his life, this same former Rugby player also learned how to yodel during his time working on a Swiss farm training St. Bernards, all of which became world renowned rescue animals in their generation under his tutelage.
Update: Nikki/Brie Bella just defeated WWE Divas Champion Kaitlyn (10:49 PM EST)
Truthfully speaking a lot of important things happened on the show, but the live New Jersey crowd far surpassed all the in-ring action and story line development hands down. Random chants, enthusiasm, flat out being LOUD…New Jersey fans definitely had their post-WrestleMania game on point.
As exciting as the live crowd was it could also be said that their self-centered antics took away from the wrestlers plying their craft in the ring, as definitely was the case with Randy Orton’s match against Sheamus. When the fans made their first vocally obstreperous stand against WWE’s questionable booking, words “rude, obnoxious and disrespectful” were used to describe the crowd as well.
It’s no secret that wrestlers work their tails off in order to entertain the fans, but there a fine line between enjoying the show as a fan and sopping everything up like lobotomized sheep. Wrestlers including Shane Helms, Sugar Dunkerton, Matt Hardy, Gran Akuma and Lance Storm all chimed in their varying opinions on the crowd’s activity during the actual show; those opinions ranged from chastising the fans to praising the workers and scolding the promoters.
Despite how one may feel about the raucousness of the crowd last night it cannot be denied that the entire audience—the same audience that paid good money to see a post-WrestleMania episode of RAW live (a feeling the Rt. Rev. Showtime and I know very well)—was engaged in the show completely. The crowd was electric and were way more into the show for all three hours than the NY/NJ crowd at the MetLife Stadium twenty-four hours prior. You only get that type of crowd once in a blue moon and it really made the show.
What’s interesting to note is that the crowd didn’t become obnoxious until someone *cough cough* made the call to have Orton face Sheamus despite the overwhelming number of fans who voted via WWE Fan Active to see Orton square off against Big Show (Orton’s 77% to Sheamus’ 23%). What message does that type of booking give to the fans? How does that promote the “interactive” nature of the show and product if you’re willing to blatantly disregard what they fans said they wanted? What does that do to the performers in the ring who have to perform in front of a crowd that’s just been jilted?
Also consider the little traits that make a big difference between a “good” wrestler and a “great” wrestler. Orton and Sheamus barely acknowledged the crowd’s response outside of a few smirks and annoyed grimaces, but even a slight acknowledgement that either wrestler realized the bee ess of the match would’ve most assuredly gotten the crowd back in the palm of their hands. If you think that’s fluff, look at what Fandango’s acknowledgement of the crowd’s rowdiness did for him last night…
On the other hand, look what Sheamus’ post-RAW acknowledgement of the crowd did for him last night…
There are several ways to entertain a crowd; it’s understandable when a crowd gets out of control, but it’s something completely different for any promotion to flip fans off and expect them to be okay with it. In fact this is a major criticism against WWE while TNA is consistently praised for doing the exact opposite. Then again, there was the time when fans chose Desmond Wolfe as the next in line to receive a World Title shot and Sting was announced as the #1 Contender…
At least WWE acknowledged how into the program the fans were; in the end that’s what everyone wants, right? To leave the show entertained with the experience of witnessing the action of WWE live…
Alas, here’s what stood out to me about the show other than the red-hot crowd:
- Dolph Ziggler: Your NEW World Heavyweight Champion
- Tidbits: Fandango and Wade Barrett
- The Brothers of Destruction Reunite…YES! YES! YES!
- John Cena and the Heels of the 21st Century, ft. The Ryback as Your #1 Contender
With three months left until the expiration of his Money In the Bank contract, WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler cashed in his opportunity on RAW, defeating Alberto Del Rio to begin his second reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Last night was a momentous occasion for Dolph, an occasion that prompted the several fans and wrestlers to send congratulations towards the new champ.
There were a few fans, however, that disapproved vehemently with the this recent turn of events:
Overly dramatic exclamations aside, Ziggler’s victory over Del Rio presents fans once again with the eternal struggle with understanding and compartmentalizing their expectations. For months accusations were launched at WWE for their perceived inability to create new stars or push certain stars deserving of a main event status. Dolph Ziggler was one of those stars who fans began to grow lukewarm about (including yours truly) because of his meandering around the mid-card.
All of a sudden Dolph cashes in his contract and believably defeats an injured Alberto Del Rio to become the new World Heavyweight Champion, and a solid number of fans seem largely underwhelmed by the thought of his second championship reign. It’s lose-lose situations like this that put promotions in weird situations; they’re damned if they do or don’t push a guy at a specific time.
Regardless of how one may feel about Ziggler’s victory, the more exciting part of his victory is the prospect of what lies ahead for him. With Big E Langston’s enforcer role still relatively undefined and AJ Lee’s quirky presence easily ignorable, Ziggler’s reign and role as World Heavyweight Champion still needs meaning a depth. Whether he’s a transitional champion or not, there’s got to be something interesting waiting for him in the next few weeks, if not months. Our best bet is to sit tight and at least give Ziggler a chance to prove us that his status as a main event star is or will be a complete bust.
What a difference a day makes…
Fandango went from being one of the most despised gimmicks to debut in the company in recent times to an instant classic overnight. The gimmick feels to be an awkward and unholy mixture between “The Model” Rick Martel and Simon Dean. Whatever the case may be the fans in the Izod Center in New Jersey effectively made Fandango a star. The overly garishness of the gimmick was one thing, but to see and hear 16,000+ fans solidly behind that ridiculousness is pure awesomeness.
Also last night in one of the many WrestleMania Rematch matches Wade Barrett defeated The Miz to regain the Intercontinental Title he lost the night before.
Very few fans can comprehend why the title was hotshot between these men, but there are two things to consider: this isn’t the first time this has happened before (Kane vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin in a First Blood Match at King of the Ring 1998), and now we’re actually paying attention to what happens with the Intercontinental Title.
This “rivalry” between The Miz and Wade Barrett still feels lifeless and inorganic. Some have argued that Barrett deserves to be in the main event picture, but it’s not quite understandable how one can arrive at that opinion given the character’s development since his return to WWE television.
The Intercontinental Championship, and to some extent the United States Championship, both feel like archaic relics that are kept around simply for the sake of novelty and tradition; fans at this point in the business are largely unaware and indifferent of what these titles represent today and represented in the past. While Barrett can bring some prominence to the championship, he can only do so with the help of a performer we actually give a damn about. Unfortunately The Miz is just not that opponent.
This would be one of those moments where WWE’s annual Spring Cleaning event would come in handy, opening the space for new faces and new rivalries. But outside of that, fans can only hope that some new life and meaning is injected into the Intercontinental Championship now that Barrett’s win has our attention.
At one point in time there was good reason to worry about the intended direction of The Shield. After Monday’s RAW, those worries have been sidelined at least for the near future.
The Undertaker was scheduled to make an appearance at RAW, which was an odd thing for Mark Calaway and The Undertaker to do in the last few years. As The Deadman opened his mouth to speak about his victory over CM Punk at WrestleMania, the now infamous entrance theme for The Shield interrupted him mid-sentence. The treacherous trio consisting of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns made their way to the ring, surrounding The Undertaker for what was sure to be a sound thrashing.
As things began to look hairy for everyone’s favorite legendary wrestler, Kane’s pyro erupted and the superstar rushed to the ring with his tag team partner Daniel Bryan in tow. The Shield thought wisely about their course of action and actually retreated. In that one instant, fans were given what could be the most important feud for The Shield in their early WWE careers.
This tweet from a fan from Twitter pretty much explains it all:
The other thing worth noting is that The Shield’s prominence in the company as a trio has created some of the most interesting and dynamic alliances in the company. From Big Show/Sheamus/Randy Orton to John Cena/Sheamus/Ryback, the trio’s presence in the product has created some interestingly compelling stories. The announcers keep pushing the group’s effectiveness as a team, forcing their opponents to become strange bedfellows that have to work together just to hang with the young up-and-comers. Since most of their opponents have operated more fluently as individuals than they have as tag team members, things always fall apart and work out better for The Shield than anyone else.
Despite their rough beginnings, both tandems of Kane/Daniel Bryan and Kane/Undertaker have worked extremely well given time and the eventual maturation of the groups. Now The Shield has to face all three men at the same time…they are in for one hell of a battle.
To make matters more deliciously awesome you’ve got four hungry, young wrestlers in the ring with two extremely gifted athletes, wrestlers, and future Hall of Famers. What more could a fan ask for…well…may he truly rest in peace.
Fans should not make judgements yet on the outcome of the brewing feud between John Cena and the Ryback. We’ve seen Cena laid out before and he always manages to come out victorious; nothing too new or shocking about the image above.
However…something does seem a tad big fishy.
Dissecting the John Cena character has been one of the foundational tenets that keeps the L.E.W.D. site together (other than our questionable behavior towards Gary the Intern…but I swear he’s cool with everything…honest…). From the unfinished L.E.W.D. Booking 101 series to our WrestleMania XXVIII back-and-forth, Cena’s character still manages to squeak his way back into our pieces on a regular basis. As much as we say we dislike the character, we still talk about him more than anything else…unless we’re talking about TNA.
The odd thing about Cena’s character, the character that so many fans scream at to turn heel, is that he’s honestly displaying tons of heel traits as is. Cena’s not a heel in the sense that half of fans across the country boo him, but a heel in the sense that a good bunch of everything he does screams “heel tactic,” but doesn’t come across that way to most folks who aren’t used to it.
Think back to Vince Russo’s fascination with creating ambiguous characters that exhibit “good” traits and “bad” traits at the same time. For some fans, Cena’s presence is cheered and hailed; he’s got a million-dollar smile, his move set is predictable, and he does nice things for sick kids and has a really great work ethic. John Cena, in that line of thinking, is an All American American that everyone wants to be like when they grow up.
As has been said on this site many times before, the Cena character is that high school All-City Varsity Sports Team Captain that gets what he wants when he wants because he’s that damn good and he brings money and publicity to an otherwise lackluster institution. John Cena is the senior that has received a letter jacket in every single sport in the school, even the ones he had no business participating in.
The girls love him; the freshmen just want him to acknowledge that he exists. All the popular kids have been at his house and have had tons of fun at the killer parties thrown when his parents are vacationing in the Hamptons for three weeks.
The problem with that high school All-City Varsity Sports Team Captain is that in order to stay at the top, he has to stand on someone’s face (see what I did there?)…
John Cena entered the Izod Center last night to a roaring chorus of boos and simply smirked their remarks away. Cena’s speech spat in their faces; despite their dislike of him, he was still the champ and they had to deal with it. He traded in his trademark shirts for one crappy one that pointed to his new championship belt, and when he removed that belt there was another belt printed on the actual shirt. Cena reveled in the chorus of jeers and knew that the fans catcalls couldn’t phase him; all that mattered was that he finally beat The Rock and could move on with his life.
When Mark Henry approached Cena his smile turned into a look of concern, which then turned into snide comments and jokes at Henry’s expense. Cena then condescendingly introduced himself to Mark Henry as the WWE Champion, and a match for Henry’s opportunity as the number one contender for said title was made for later on in the show.
Cena’s look of concern was just for show; he’s already beaten Mark Henry before when the stakes were high. He wasn’t scared of Mark Henry at all…Cena’s tone suggested that Mark Henry should’ve been scared of the champ.
Cena then goes on to face Henry in the main event and wins the match by count-out, something highlyunusual for the man that can withstand leagues of abuse from all types of wrestlers. Once again Cena defied the odds and once again he’s shoved down our collective craw.
This has been the sum and substance of Cena’s character since fans began to vocally show their dislike of him. Yet he returns each night, unfazed by the shouts of his haters, to show off the fact that he knows he’s that damn good and there’s nothing that will change that. He even said it to The Rock prior to their match at WrestleMania XXVIII; it was along the lines of, “I know how this is going to go. You’ll talk smack, you’ll do this, I’ll beat you, and everything remains the same.”
Babyface characters don’t do that; good guys at least pretend that their opponents are threats. Cena can’t even feign intimidation because he can barely fathom that someone in the company actually has his number. Most heels are the same way, that despite their obvious weaknesses they still remain untouchable. More importantly they flaunt that Teflon don status all the time…
All of a sudden Ryback is inserted into the picture, a beast of an opponent that has obvious weaknesses but a beast that Cena has managed to avoid in the past year. Think back to the Triple Threat Match at Survivor Series and Cena’s elimination of Ryback at the Royal Rumble. The Champ honestly wants none of Ryback because out of all his high school conquests from freshman to sophomore year, he hasn’t had to face anyone that could beat him this silly since Bobby Lashley.
Cena’s already a heel, but a new type of heel that doesn’t resemble the Blackjack Mulligans or Bruiser Brodys we’re use to seeing. Ryback will be the face that we will pay good money to see defeat John Cena. Ryback is that force that keeps moving forward, chasing Cena even when The Champ thinks everything’s going to end once he gets a pinfall victory. That (hopefully) won’t be the case here, and we’re praying that the creative heads can keep the story compelling.
Just reflect on those thoughts for a moment, and while you do so check out this meme:
Those are just my thoughts on Monday night’s episode of RAW. What did y’all think of the show?
Anticipation is at a fevered pitch as fans are only a few days away from the biggest sports entertainment spectacle of the year! WrestleMania XXIX is practically here, and we’re all anxious to take part in the majesty of this weekend surrounding the “grandest stage of them all!”
The build for this year’s event has been characterized by some fans as “lacking,” not having that humph that makes the event worth spending so much money for. That is a fair and accurate criticism to make of the event, which questions the rationale for shelling out tons of money just to attend it live or ordering it on pay per view.
If you’ve followed the L.E.W.D. site from its very humble beginnings, you can easily recall that WrestleMania is the anniversary of our first official gathering; this weekend (if not the entire week) represents the first time many of us witnessed the event live and in person. Having paid the money, helped with organizing damn near 20 people from around the country, and visited the many different events surrounding WrestleMania, I can honestly say that the magic of the weekend lies not within the actual event, but just experiencing everything that comes with it.
This year’s WrestleMania, outside of anything WWE is promoting or pandering, appears to be the largest gathering of pro wrestling related events fans have ever seen. Wrestlecon is happening this weekend; our great friends at DragonGate USA/EVOLVE will be doing stuff, as well as Chikara, Shimmer and CZW. Hell, even TNA is cashing in on this opportunity and hosting an event in New York on April 5!
This all goes to say that there is no reason for any fan that prides himself/herself on being a pro wrestling/sports entertainment fan to intentionally pout in the corner because this WrestleMania has somehow failed to live up to the hype and grandeur of WrestleMania X7. There are so many different events going on and ways to see them that WWE’s premier pay per view will literally be the bookend to one hell of a weekend. In that regard, the show cannot fail to meet expectations if you limit your expectations to simply experiencing WrestleMania by itself.
Given the pomp and circumstance of the event it isn’t unreasonable to expect WWE and its superstars to deliver come Sunday. My point is that at this point in the game we have to begin to appreciate what the event symbolizes and not just the event itself. This particular WrestleMania may seem like trash to some, but having experienced WrestleMania XXVII live here in Atlanta…I’ll just say this one is a big step up from that in more ways than one.
I also realize in these economic times we’re all strapped for cash and our finances won’t allow us to indulge in everything offered by the weekend; but if I had a choice, I’d honestly encourage you to purchase one of the iPPVs and locate your nearest Hooters or Buffalo Wild Wings to catch WrestleMania. If push comes to shove, you could also consider rounding up your closest friends and chipping in to order the event together.
Having said that let’s look at the card as it stands now and attempt to make some good ol’ fashioned predictions:
For some time now The Miz has been involved in a series of matches battling against Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett. Ironically enough their placement on the WrestleMania card appears to be a metaphor for their current rivalry: easily forgettable.
I believe their rivalry began with a spat over who was the bigger movie star, with Miz and Barrett speaking highly of their films The Marine 3: Homefront and Dead Man Down, respectively. Once again in a strange twist of fate, I’m not in a particular rush to see either movie or their match.
This match feels as if the men were placed together because in the grand scheme of things both were aimlessly floating around with very little to do. I haven’t been all that thrilled about their matches, which isn’t a slight at either individual’s work rate or abilities. The bottom line for me is that the feud and rivalry is rather dull and the Intercontinental Championship feels like an unnecessary accessory altogether, not even speaking about Barrett’s ho-hum reign.
I expect Barrett to retain in what’s going to ultimately be an over exaggerated exhibition match.
Prediction: Wade Barrett retains.
Let’s face facts: the average wrestling fan believes this match is a waste of time and space on the jam packed WrestleMania card. The average fan would also believe that there are tons of wrestlers (Ted DiBiase and Kofi Kingston maybe…) who deserve this coveted spot more so than Fandango. Those opinions, while valid, also miss the mark when it comes to the whole of Jericho’s burgeoning feud with Fandango.
For starters, Fandango (formerly Johnny Curtis from the fourth season of NXT) is a “debuting” wrestler in the company. That word “debut” can be used loosely here, but he’s new talent relatively speaking. It’s hilarious to see some fans dump on new talent, only to turn around and complain when the company fails to make “new stars.”
Secondly, Fandango is making his “debut” at WrestleMania against Chris Jericho, a soon-to-be-legend that works extremely well with getting over…you guessed it…new talent. The man should be honored twice as much to have Jericho as his in-ring coach and to face him at the company’s biggest pay per view of the year.
This brings us to our third point: the higher ups in the company must think he’s worth his salt if they’ve chosen to (a) not release him, (b) have him wrestle against Chris Jericho at his (c) debut at WrestleMania. This isn’t taking into consideration the tons of money placed into his character with the garishly elaborate sets.
Fourthly despite whatever the fans may feel the need to chant, the man can actually wrestle; there is a HUGE difference between chanting “you can’t wrestle” and “you don’t wrestle.”
All things considered Fandango’s presence at WrestleMania is enough of a big deal for Curtis Jonathan Hussey. He doesn’t need a win here to legitimize himself, so expect Chris Jericho to humble the star Sunday night.
Prediction: Chris Jericho wins, feud with Fandango continues.
The feud between Del Rio and Swagger started off as a red hot rivalry rooted in the controversial subject of immigration. Since Swagger’s return to WWE he, along with his manager Zeb Coulter, have crusaded against the individuals they believe are causing America to decay in the sort of moral turpitude that only “immigrants” can apparently cause. Unfortunately that angle lasted about as long as a Hot Pocket in a college student’s refrigerator; as it stands now the main reason fans are invested in this match is because Jack Swagger beat up Ricardo Rodriguez.
Del Rio’s run as a face has been much better than the latter part of his run as a heel; the sad part of it all is that even with Rodriguez by his side, Del Rio consistently struggles to get the fans to rally behind him. This nagging reality haunts Del Rio to this day, and thus creates a situation similar to that of The Miz and Wade Barrett; yeah he’s going to wrestle Jack Swagger, yeah there’s a title on the line, but do you really care?
I’m hoping that the match will be a clinic between two exceptionally gifted wrestlers, but other than that it probably won’t be anything worth writing home about. Del Rio retains much to
Yosemite Sam’s Zeb Coulter’s chagrin, and Swagger survives only to spend another day frustrated with change.
Prediction: Del Rio retains
The bout between Ryback and Mark Henry is one of those fights that force you to ask yourself, “What took them so long?” Actually, wrestling logic dictates that these two will feud for another month or so, realize that they’re not so different after all, and unite in a formidable team that will rise up the ranks and win the WWE Tag Team Championships. Alas, they’ve already got a Black Guy/White Guy powerhouse team, so that dog won’t hunt anytime soon.
WrestleMania XXIX will also be a huge night for Ryback as well, serving as the star’s coming out party against another WWE legend in the making. Say what you will about Mark Henry, but it cannot be denied that he’s one of the most tenured WWE stars still wrestling today (he debuted in 1996, while Triple H debuted in WWE one year before him in 1995). Despite having gaps in his career due to injuries, Mark Henry has remained a fixture in the company and the man has to be worth something if they haven’t released him yet.
“Two bulls in a china shop” is the best way to describe this match; Ryback will walk away with the rub from Henry, which will bring him one step closer to his eventual run as a main event star in the company. If Ryback is able to lift Henry up for his patented Shell Shock finisher, then WrestleMania XXIX will officially be worth the $55 you’re planning on spending on it.
Prediction: Ryback with the pinfall victory.
It’s amazing how quickly the members of Dolph Ziggler’s stable have managed to fall from grace in such a short time. There was a point where the AJ Lee character was the focus of Monday Night RAW and involved heavily with multiple main event superstars at once. There was also a point where Lee’s heat was translating nicely over to Dolph Ziggler. Things really began to look awesome when the very large and intimidating Big E Langston joined the crew as the silent and brooding enforcer.
Then it all went to hell.
Ziggler is still in possession of his Money In the Bank championship contract and with three months left until its expiration we can only hope he cashes it before becoming the third person (after John Cena and Mr. Anderson) unable to successfully cash in their MITB contract. AJ Lee and Big E have no purpose or direction whatsoever right now because they’re too busy living in Ziggler’s shadow, which in and of itself is a shadow of the spectacle of WrestleMania.
Whatever the case may be these two men are being fed to the WWE Tag Team Champions as neither team really has much going for them at this exact moment. Team Hell No will retain and high-falootin’ hijinks will ensue.
Prediction: Team Hell No retains.
It truly is hard to believe that two years ago we had the extreme pleasure of watching Jon Moxley wrestle right before our eyes; we knew then that Moxley had a try-out match with WWE that weekend, but we never imagined that it’d be two short years later when we’d see him in a marquee WrestleMania match.
The same can be said for Tyler Black, who was scooped up from ROH by WWE seven months before Moxley. Most fans immediately assumed that Black would be “misused” by WWE…but three years later, he’s got a WrestleMania match.
Roman Reigns debuted in FCW Wrestling in September 2010, the same month and year as Tyler Black. As a member of the legendary Anoa’i, the superstar first known as Leakee had massive shoes and expectations to fill. Fast forward three years…well you get the picture.
Collectively speaking The Shield is beginning to show signs of monotony as their justice-leveling antics appear to lack substance and value. They’ve amassed two straight pay per view victories and have proven themselves to be formidable contenders against numerous superstars, including John Cena. At WrestleMania XXIX they face their biggest challenge to date against the team of Sheamus, Randy Orton and The Big Show, but their presence still lacks a solid direction that could make the difference between their match being good and great.
The consensus among some fans is that Orton will turn heel and align himself with The Shield; this would solve a few of the company’s problems: refreshing the Randy Orton character, breathing some new life into The Shield and adding some star-power to their mix. Think of this as WWE’s “Bully Ray-slash-Aces and 8s” swerve.
I have two problems with that rationale: there are already tons of heels in WWE at the moment and I also never saw the trail of breadcrumbs leading to such a drastic shift in Orton’s character. With or without a heel turn from a member of the opposite team, expect The Shield to pull off the victory against Team Non-Compatible.
Prediction: The Shield wins.
The WWE took advantage of Paul Bearer’s unexpected death to concoct a convenient storyline for Taker/Punk match at WrestleMania. Some fans have even gone as far as to question the build to the match prior to Bearer’s death; whatever the case may be, Punk has one hell of an opportunity to steal the show with the Deadman this Sunday.
Ever since Punk’s near mythic year long reign as WWE Champion, the Straight Edge Superstar has fought for the respect he feels he rightfully deserves. If you’ve followed Punk’s WWE career (or watched his 3-disc DVD set), you would realize that he fought tooth and nail just to stay in the company and has amassed quite a bit of stock by now. If Punk manages to give a good show with Taker, he would undoubtedly receive the credit he deserves just by hanging with him in the ring.
The build for this match leaves a lot to the imagination, but do you really care about the build more than you do the actual psychology and athleticism of the match? Here are solid facts: Taker can still go in the ring and Punk can get a five star match from anybody (remember the bout with John Cena from RAW?). Two exceptionally gifted wrestlers, athletes and entertainers going at it for at least twenty minutes…and some folks are stuck on the build for the match? Please.
The safe (and accurate) assumption is that Taker will go 21-0 by defeating Punk. I hope and pray in my heart of hearts that this is the case, but I’m not convinced the “build” was solid enough to give us reasonable doubt about Taker’s chances of losing this year. At the very least, however, I’ve got a feeling Punk will finally gain the “respect” he’s been searching for.
Prediction: The Undertaker defeats CM Punk
Prediction: Tons of Funk & The Funkadactyls
I’m hoping you didn’t drink the Kool-Aid and let the smooth taste fool you…
While a solid and consistent number of fans were up in arms about “Twice In a Lifetime,” I failed to see anyone question the necessity of yet another Triple H “Your Career Is Officially Over…Again…” match at WrestleMania. I swear the last time Trips showed his body at this pay per view the match was billed as the “End of an Era;” but I guess a new era can start when you cut your hair even though you still wear your leather jackets and enter the arena with a Motörhead song blaring through the sound system.
The most recognizable Attitude Era wrestlers that are still going at it are Triple H, The Undertaker, and Mark Henry. Oddly enough each of them have matches at WrestleMania, and even more sinister is the fact that only two of those individuals are in matches where they are in a position to put over other younger superstars. Guess which individual gets the spotlight all on his own…
It was once commented that Triple H has yet to have that “WrestleMania moment,” the one pivotal career-defining WrestleMania moment that serves as the magnum opus of his 18 year WWE career. I’m not so sure his match with Brock Lesnar will be it.
The last match between Lesnar and Triple H wasn’t as enthralling as Lesnar’s match with Cena, which makes getting excited about this one a very daunting task. I expect brutality and a certain level of “legit” from Lesnar (two times the average level of legit, in case you were wondering), and that’s enough to get fans interested in the match. Who wouldn’t want to see Brock Lesnar beat someone senseless?
But again, the focus is on Triple H…the focus is on Trips settling a score with Brock and showing the WWE Universe that The Game still has it. It’s also a way for Trips to try once again to get that WrestleMania moment he’s thirsting for. Even with the tantalizing possibility of Lesnar ripping off Trips’ arm and beating him with it, the reality of seeing Trips’ puppy dog face as he grieves another loss to Heyman’s boy is enough to cause fans to yawn themselves silly until the main main event.
To borrow a quote from our L.E.W.D. brother Corbin Macklin, “I sweafogawd if I see this man lose onemotime…”
I call Trips beating Lesnar, enabling him to keep his wrestling career and perhaps setting up a rubber match sometime in the future.
Prediction: Triple H defeats Brock Lesnar
What more can be said about WrestleMania XXIX’s main event that hasn’t already been said?
There are a ton of possibilities that could come from the finish of the match. At this moment I’m not sure of what future projects The Rock has lined up; I think he’s supposed to be Hercules or start filming the another movie with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker or whatever. All signs point to John Cena regaining the WWE Championship, placing a big thumbs up emblem on the sides where the Brahma Bull logos are at, and mediocrity on RAW ensues for another millennium.
I would actually enjoy seeing John Cena lose again to The Rock; it’s tragic to see any fan yearn to see a character’s downfall, but that’s what makes for compelling television. It’s sickening that John Cena can manage to escape clean losses time after time; everyone has a weakness and dammit someone’s got to know how to keep Cena on the sidelines. For me, seeing a different personality trait in Cena’s character would be gold. He doesn’t have to be a full blown heel, but just something different than the life coach we get each week right now.
The problem with changing something that isn’t broken is that it begins to wear thin on some, particularly those of us that wish for some type of depth to be shown in the character. Depth among shallow-end pool swimmers (i.e. kids and young women) isn’t something valued or sought after, and because of such we’re going to get another Cena WrestleMania victory and everyone for the most part goes home with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside of their stomachs. I’ve been told that ulcers and abdominal pains have that same effect…
There have been reports that seeds have been planted for a Ryback/Cena post-WrestleMania feud (remember the Triple Threat match for CM Punk’s WWE Title and Cena’s elimination of Ryback at the Royal Rumble pay per view?), and that’s something I even hinted at in a previous post. That type of feud will suffice, but it’s the same wash-rinse-repeat cycle Cena’s been placed in before. Hell, I’d like it if they brought back Alex Riley as some young, upstart collegiate so-and-so attempting to assume the throne when Cena’s Jersey City All Pro character get’s ready to “go off to college.” But alas, I’m on the internet writing for you and not the WWE for a reason…I guess.
Cena wins and we’ll get to pout about it in a post-WrestleMania blog post.
Prediction: John Cena redeems himself to himself and wins the WWE Championship for the 800th time
All things considered this action-packed WrestleMania will keep us enthralled all Sunday night. I hope you enjoyed reading the predictions, and stay posted to the L.E.W.D. site all weekend as we indulge in the cavalcade of pro wrestling going on as we speak!
The word “compelling” is used often on this site, mostly to describe a must-see character that has ability or potential to easily pique the interests of fans. Some characters are able to evoke fans’ interest without much effort, their motives and actions made to be irresistibly clear and tantalizing to the viewing audience. Other characters grab our attention for their depth, their many layers peeled before our eyes revealing a far more complex individual who relates to us more than we first imagined.
While some characters are far more interesting and intriguing than others, every now and then there’s always one character that stumbles into a situation that ultimately makes them compelling by default; that character, static and flaccid by design, immediately becomes dynamic and fascinating because the circumstances force them to become so.
Such a case can be made for IMPACT Wrestling‘s current general manager, Hulk Hogan. Wrapped in the throes of the Aces & 8′s presence in TNA, Hulk Hogan is once again the linchpin of the company’s major storyline.
The Immortal One’s official stint as the man in charge (as opposed to the Immortal coup d’etat from 2010-2011) has been atrociously laughable from the start, even by general manager standards. Not much has changed from this previously nuanced opinion here on L.E.W.D., but it must be reiterated that the longer Hogan stays in his position of authority, the more likely it is that there is something larger looming on the horizon.
As TNA supporters consistently praise the reality based format of IMPACT Wrestling, logic and reason dictate that Hogan’s ineptitude and questionable decision making skills will ultimately lead to his downfall. Unless an intervention occurs that involves TNA President Dixie Carter (or an unlikely savior in the form of A.J. Styles), the company will be destroyed from the inside out, with Hulk Hogan fearlessly manning the sinking ship straight to hell; this, of course, is speaking strictly in terms of the Aces and 8′s storyline.
The subtle maturation of Hogan’s general manager character is provocative for one of two reasons: everything that makes the character tick and react is either intentional or unintentional. While this is a very juvenile, black-and-white way to describe the character, the truth is that either the writers intended for Hogan to gradually reveal his incompetence or that same incompetence is an unexpected by-product of the Aces and 8′s storyline. Either way there are distinct possibilities that can open up for IMPACT Wrestling moving forward.
Before looking a few of those distinct possibilities, recall Hogan’s actions from the past few episodes of IMPACT Wrestling. Ever since Bully Ray won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship and declared his allegiance to the Aces and 8s at the Lockdown pay per view, Hogan has blamed Sting for coercing him to place unquestioned trust into Bully Ray. Hogan ignored his gut feelings about Bully Ray at the insistence of Sting and his daughter Brooke Hogan, both of whom pleaded with Hogan on several occasions to give the self-professed “Not-a-Nice-Guy” to prove his worth as a decent human being.
When things fell apart Hogan immediately focused his frustrations and anger towards Sting, refusing to even hold a decent conversation with him until their confrontation during Thursday night’s “Open Fight Night.”
During the confrontation Sting called Hogan out for avoiding him and failing to take responsibility for the poor decisions he made as the general manager regarding Bully Ray. Sting pointed out that regardless of who told Hogan what, the final decision on everything was up to him. This fact has been repeatedly pointed out on TNA television, from the many references to Hulk’s unrivaled ability to “always do what’s right for business” and his decision making process during Championship Thursdays, to the process in which he chose Bully Ray as the #1 Contender for Jeff Hardy’s TNA World Heavyweight Championship despite Ray’s complete absence in the matches to determine that same #1 Contender.
Undaunted by Sting’s comments, Hogan proceeded to assert his authority by kicking Sting out of his ring. Tensions were high, causing Sting to challenge Hogan’s authority by staying in the ring and getting in the Immortal One’s face. This prompted security to not only escort Sting from the ring, but also from the arena as well. As a visibly (and justifiably) frustrated Sting left the building, TNA wrestler Matt Morgan taunted him by applauding and simply saying, “Yet again, another Hogan mistake.”
The existence of the Aces and 8s club came about, according to Bully Ray, because of Hulk Hogan’s practices and policies as general manager. With the exception of Taz, D’Lo Brown, Mike “Knux” Knox and DOC, the Aces and 8s members were all jilted and directly affected in some form or fashion by Hogan’s decision making process.
Once the Aces and 8s were able to gain unfettered access to the Impact Zone after winning their match at Bound for Glory 2012, a match that Hulk Hogan scheduled on a huge gamble. Prior to that match Hogan did little and next to nothing to ensure that the group was denied access to the company’s events or televised shows.
Even when members of the production team attacked wrestlers, even when handfuls of faceless “prospects” ran around the tapings and the Impact Zone, there were no security checks in place and the contracted wrestlers and TNA employees were not questioned or scrutinized about their knowledge or possible connections with the club. Simply put, the general manager was not doing his job to the best of his ability.
Wrestlers outside of the Aces and 8s, such as Matt Morgan and Austin Aries, openly complained about Hogan’s inability to run the company effectively by citing their own observations of his managerial skills.
It would also appear that these traits are not limited to Hulk Hogan, as his daughter Brooke has also slowly slipped away from her duties as the TNA Knockouts Executive and only returning to those duties recently.
These things do not include the rationale behind Hogan’s appointment as IMPACT Wrestling‘s General Manager, especially considering the hostile takeover Hogan masterminded with Eric Bischoff two to three years ago:
The point of it all is this: if Hogan is truly out of his league when it comes to being IMPACT Wrestling’s General Manager, why has he yet to come under any performance review or scrutiny from the president of the company or its board of directors? At the moment these questions have no answers, but in an ironic twist of fate they create the circumstances under which Hogan’s character becomes an important figure to watch and invest in as the Aces and 8′s storyline continues to develop and evolve.
Hogan’s character is compelling because there is no logical or rational reason that explains why he’s still employed by TNA; at some point he has to answer to the accusations levied against him by the wrestlers and the Aces and 8s.
This brings us back to the two points made earlier: either Hogan’s character is intentionally inept for a much more intricate storyline or the character is simply what’s leftover from the Aces and 8′s rise to dominance in TNA.
Let’s assume that Hogan’s character is intentionally lacking, which would lead to some sort of competency hearing by a panel of directors or a closed door meeting with the president of the company. Hogan’s methods could be found insufficient, reckless and damaging to the company, which would lead to his “release.” This release would be the Aces and 8′s checkmate in their year long game of chess with TNA, forcing Dixie Carter to create a new strategy to rid the company of the club. That strategy could involve utilizing A.J. Styles, which would place the focus on the company’s most recognizable star and shift attention away from Hogan for an unspecified amount of time.
With Hogan ousted , Carter could appoint a new character (or returning one, such as Jeff Jarrett) as General Manager, and thus begins a new year long storyline.
On the other hand let’s assume that Hogan’s character wasn’t purposefully designed to be inept. Questions surrounding his worth as a general manager will go unanswered and Styles could still be courted as IMPACT Wrestling’s savior. No one will bat an eyelash or think twice about Hogan’s effectiveness as the man in charge, and everything will continue down the path already plotted by the creative team. The only fans that will suffer are the ones who will relentlessly point out Hogan’s horrendous job as general manager.
The difference between these two scenarios is the focus of the product; is it better to have Hogan depart from an on-screen role as to focus more attention on the younger stars of the company or to continue having him play a central and integral role in all of the major storylines? Is Hogan better positioned to bring attention to the company in an on-screen role or as an off-screen consultant and ambassador? Has TNA grown as a company to the point where they no longer need Hogan’s name or face on the marquee in order to draw fans and revenue?
Idealistically he’d be better suited at this point in time to allowing the company’s stars to shine on their own. His presence doesn’t detract from the shows at all, but how much more time could have been given to the X-Division, Tag Team Division, Knockouts or Knockouts Tag Team Division if Hogan did not dominate screen time or major storylines? Would Hogan’s diminished role allow for financial resources to be diverted from his contract and spent on hiring and debuting new stars to the company?
The answers to these questions remain to be seen, but all point back to the compelling character that is Hulk Hogan, General Manager. Whether you think his character is screwing up each and every way he turns, or you don’t really care about him at all, he’s still the linchpin to the Aces and 8′s storyline and he’s still the central figure in pro wrestling and sports entertainment today.
If that’s not compelling, then everything else is just misspent time and energy.
Several reports have it that wrestler Reid Flair, son of legendary grappler Ric Flair, has passed away. First and foremost on behalf of everyone here in the L.E.W.D., I would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the Fliehr family during their time of bereavement. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
It’s always a devastating thing when someone passes away, and regardless of whether or not we care for or know the person, one can’t help but feel some level of sadness. Despite our best efforts to live, grow, and work as free-thinking individuals, there are some things in life that inevitably connect us to one another on levels deeper than our likes, dislikes and similarities. Death is the equalizer in that sense; those of us left behind to mourn those who have died are never truly ready to say “goodbye.”
Death hits us a little bit harder when those men, women and children who seem to be larger than life itself. Actors, singers, and in this case wrestlers all seem different than us. Their lives played out before us on TV screens and in movie theaters, we assume that these folks don’t live, work, play or even feel on the same levels that we do. They almost seem “invincible” to real life, unable to be affected by the things that confound the lives of “regular folks” on a daily basis. The reality is that behind the glitz and glamor, behind the smiles and red carpets, behind the fireworks and athletic abilities, these entertainers are made of flesh and blood just like you and I, and they too have to face the inevitability of all of life’s triumphs and tragedies.
Reid Flair’s death is particularly hard to grasp or fathom because of his age and potential. At 24 or 25 (different sites have different reports on his age), Flair literally had the entire world before him. He was working for All Japan Pro Wrestling (Chris Jericho stated once that “If you can get over in Japan, you can work anywhere…”), it was speculated that WWE would eventually offer him a developmental contract, and it seemed as if the world was Reid Flier’s to grab by the horns. And in one instant, the endless possibilities expressed to us through the unique gift and person that is Reid Flair, are no longer possible in this lifetime.
I’ve been told that no parent expects to outlive their children, and when the light of a child’s existence has been extinguished well before they’ve had the opportunity to grow, to mature and to experience everything that life has to offer, that type of grief is more overwhelming than words can express or emotions can convey. Today Ric Flair is a grieving father that deserves our heartfelt intentions, our love, our support, our prayers and our well wishes more so than we’ve ever given him before. Today David Flair and his sister Ashley (WWE NXT Diva Charlotte) deserve those same intentions, support and prayers as well.
Today the entire wrestling community and world should know that we fans appreciate all they do for our entertainment, because there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to show them that appreciation tomorrow.
If you’re a religious or spiritual person, please say a prayer for Reid, Ric, and the Fliehr family. If you’re an atheist or an agnostic, raise your glass in a moment of silence for the Fliehrs.
Here’s to hoping that Reid is showing the Big Man Upstairs how to style and profile in only a way the Flairs can do.
Rest in peace, Reid.
It was only a matter of time before parallels were made between two of the industry’s most prominent and squeaky clean babyfaces.
It wouldn’t take much for any given fan—casual, hardcore, average or “extraordinary”—to recognize that both A.J. Styles and John Cena had terrible stints in their respective companies last year. While 2011-2012 saw the rise of unlikely champions in several pro wrestling promotions (CM Punk, Austin Aries, Johnny Gargano, Eddie Kingston, Kevin Steen, Colt Cabana and Adam Pearce), it also saw Cena and Styles play diminished roles in companies that had at several times in the past ten years relied heavily on their presence and activity.
For A.J. Styles, 2012 was a year that saw him as a suffering protagonist accused of engaging in adulterous and illicit activities with a pregnant “crackhead.” Once vindicated and redeemed, Styles then suffered a humiliating loss to his longtime on-screen friend-slash-rival, Christopher Daniels.
John Cena’s 2012 was mired by his bench-warming role in CM Punk’s historic yearlong WWE Championship reign. After suffering a devastating loss to The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII and surviving a brutal thrashing from Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules 2012, Cena found a sliver of hope in winning the 2013 Royal Rumble, awarding him the chance to face his rival for the second time in a lifetime.
As different as both instances were from each other, the John Cena and A.J. Styles characters (as well as the individuals portraying them) are traveling on similar highways at this point in their professional wrestling careers. Both characters have arguably suffered from severe stagnancy, a type of static complacency that resonated with few and nauseated most. With Cena relegated to inconceivably winning unimportant matches and incessantly spewing promos like a southern Protestant preacher or pee-wee football coach, and Styles meandering around aimlessly in a god-forsaken storyline like Howdy Doody in a Martian whorehouse, each character was on the fast track to irrelevancy.
It would become necessary, at some point, for the creative writers in TNA and WWE to evolve the Cena and Styles characters beyond the straight-laced, doe-eyed do-gooders they’ve portrayed for most of their careers.
It is assumed that the natural evolution of a “good guy” character means that they should inevitably be turned heel, made into a callous and uncaring “bad guy” that is the exact anti-thesis of what they once stood for. That often abused notion of duality, however, is what keeps most wrestling fans in their arena seats and not the plush and cushy creative director office chairs in a promotion’s front office.
Infamous wrestling guru Vince Russo once noted that he believed wrestling characters should mirror the “characters” of everyday life, noting that in life there were no completely “good” or “bad” people. To Russo, all people were a mixture of both good and bad, and if wrestling characters were to remain relevant they would have to resonate in the hearts of consumers. In other words, fans would cheer or boo people they felt were more like them (i.e. Stone Cold Steve Austin).
While Russo’s perception had it’s strengths and weaknesses, it raised a point that has surfaced in the John Cena and A.J. Styles characters. For each character to remain relevant a slight adjustment was all that was needed to provide fans with fresh faces in the stale seas of mediocrity they navigated.
A.J. Styles’ character represents retaliation, a notion of justice that’s needed to right the wrongs inflicted upon an unsuspecting individual who had lived by a disciplined code of morals and ethics. Styles’ character can be easily associated with the “Crow Sting” character from WCW after Hulk Hogan’s heel turn (something I spoke of in this piece); he can also be associated with the biblical character Job, a righteous man that found himself caught in a bet of sorts between God and the Devil.
John Cena’s character represents redemption, a response to an injustice that has occurred at his own hands. Cena’s character can be associated with Michael Vick more so than Donavon McNabb, as Cena’s downfall—the year he spent languishing in nothing in particular—was due to his own irresponsible behavior.
That being said one important question arises from these occurrences: which character has experienced the more compelling shift in evolution and priorities?
John Cena’s segment with The Rock on the March 25, 2013 edition of RAW was brilliant for several reasons, one of which was the brief glimpses of an arrogant, heelish John Cena that we haven’t seen since the rarely mentioned “Ruthless Aggression” Era. Cena was contemptuous in his resolve, admitting that his loss to The Rock was due to one simple-minded act that left him on his back staring at the lights. Cena was vehement in making it known that he defeated himself, which reveals to us a character that truly believes in the hype that has surrounded and dominated his career.
In that sense, the John Cena character is reminiscent of the real life Bret Hart, a man that honestly believes he is the end all, be all when it comes to professional wrestling. The implication from the words that came from Cena’s own mouth is that The Rock never defeated him; John Cena defeated himself.
The only reason The Rock scored the pinfall was because John Cena slipped on the goal line, allowing Rock to take advantage of the fumble to score the game winning touchdown. From this Cena contends that The Rock was never strong, talented or determined enough to truly beat Cena, that The Rock was still a Hollywood sell-out that doesn’t deserve to be in a wrestling ring.
This type of Cena is very different from the Cena that has openly admitted to losing to stars like CM Punk, Sheamus, and countless others. This type of Cena is the All-Star Varsity Team Captain who goes unpunished for violating the privacy and personal space of a cheerleader, simply because “she was asking for it.” This is the Cena that fans despise, that fans yearn and thirst to smack when they see him in the streets.
This is also the type of Cena that could snap when he loses to The Rock again, the type of Cena that could “injure” The Rock during his post-match celebration at WrestleMania XXIX. The injury would sideline the WWE Champion and force the WWE Title to be vacated, thus allowing for a reinvigorated and more edgy John Cena to find his way back into the main event picture while embracing the jeers of the crowd.
A.J. Styles, on the other hand, returned to IMPACT Wrestling two weeks ago after a lengthy hiatus following his embarrassing loss to Christopher Daniels at Final Resolution 2012. In the final moments of the match, Daniels utilized Styles’ own finishing maneuver, The Styles Clash, to gain the pinfall.
Prior to this match, Styles was the unlucky recipient of a pinfall loss in a triple threat match at Turning Point 2012 to determine the number one contender for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. As a result, Styles was locked out of receiving a championship match until Bound for Glory 2013.
Dejected and absolutely humiliated by Daniels’ victory (ironically, a victory gained in the same manner that caused John Cena to lose his match to The Rock), Styles appeared on the December 13, 2012 episode of IMPACT Wrestling and gave a bitter soliloquy in the middle of the ring disguised as an address to the fans.
Styles’ words that day were surprising at most, but effective nevertheless in planting seeds for an A.J. Styles that fans had never seen before.
Styles’ inner thoughts and feelings were revealed for the entire wrestling audience to consider (and are loosely quoted as follows):
I don’t know where I’m is going or what the next step is. I’ve spent too much time being a corporate man and worrying about everyone else that I forgot about myself. (While taking off his Impact Wrestling shirt and hat) I’m tired of cleaning up TNA’s messes and doing the right thing. From now on, I’m going to be doing my own thing (Styles drops the microphone and leaves the ring).*
When the broken and disenfranchised wrestler returned to IMPACT Wrestling on the March 14 episode, he attacked the two men that were the source of his year long consternation (Daniels and Kazarian) and James Storm, the man that pinned him at Turning Point 2012. These actions make him a social outcast, an outsider that has every justifiable reason in the book to walk around with a huge chip on his shoulder.
This A.J. Styles is a shell of the Phenomenal One that captured the hearts of fans for his years of dedication to TNA; this A.J. Styles is only concerned about what’s good for A.J. Styles because it seems that no one else really cares. This A.J. Styles spits in the face of TNA’s beloved authority figures. This A.J. Styles will climb to the top of TNA’s ladder of success just to throw it back into the faces of all his naysayers.
Ironically enough, this A.J. Styles is also the savior TNA will need to rid the company of the Aces and 8′s infestation come Bound for Glory 2013; unfortunately for TNA, he’ll be doing it for himself and not for the company.
So the question remains…which character is more compelling? Which character would you be willing to pay money to see?
Hey everybody, I’m Chris, and happy day after St. Patty’s Day. I’m back out of character with another pseudo-serious piece and this one is for the children. Rather, it’s for the parents, or the people who care about the children. Question: why are powerful heels such a minority in the realm of the WWE?
For the ill-informed, a “heel” is a character that does villainous things and commits villainous acts as a means to achieve victory. They piss off the crowd, spawn the occasional angry fan who becomes a meme, and at the end of the day they’re just not good people. For long time wrestling fans, smarks, sports entertainment enthusiasts and over-opinionated know-it-alls, a “good” heel can make or break a program and can spawn heat that a feud, rivalry or even a company needs.
When a “good” heel emerges, especially amongst a myriad of baby faces and tweeners, one might rejoice, much like when Mark Henry began a violent streak of destruction, or Randy Orton made a habit out of hurting old people, or CM Punk descended into the messiah of his own twisted, if accurate, world. But when it comes to one of the heaviest audiences of the WWE, the children, the reaction might be little more than an unremarkable: “Meh.”
That’s not to say they “hate” the heel, but they aren’t amused. They don’t love or hate them, they just don’t exactly know what to think. Me personally, thinking back to when I began watching professional wrestling so many years ago, my concept of face and heel was undeveloped: I saw one guy beating up another guy and my youthful love for stylized combat left me feeling very neutral about most scenarios. Examining that now, I asked myself why, and it’s because I wasn’t paying attention to much more than the violence. Had I found myself actually comprehending the face and heel tactics, I would have begun understanding just how watching these characters can affect a developing child.
What do I mean by that pretentious statement? Well, let’s look at what professional wrestlers can represent to a child. Imagine a kid no older than seven or eight, standing at the barricade or sitting on his parent’s shoulders. Loud pyro hits, music begins blaring, the crowd starts to react with cheers and here comes Shawn Michaels. I’m using Shawn Michaels because he’s one of the most universally loved pro wrestlers I can think of. He comes out at the top of the ramp and does his bit, walks out to the ring acknowledging his fans and detractors alike and slides into the ring. To the kid, he’s twenty feet tall, and that’s just as literal as it is figurative. Shawn does his act some more and he stands like something of a god, a creature worthy of worship from a little boy looking for something to look up to.
That child leaves the live show copying the mannerisms and words of the Heartbreak Kid, wanting the pants he wore or the title belt he may have been holding, trying to execute Sweet Chin Music in the parking lot to the point where his parents are apologizing to the unfortunate little girl that “came out of nowhere” when he was trying to kick the air. Her response is executing the infamous DX “suck it” gesture because she understands and suddenly a friendship is formed.
And while that fictional scenario is just that – fictional – it features two very glaring realities: the reality of the kid who idolizes Shawn Michaels, and the reality of the parent who may or may not comprehend it. To the parent, a little boy in the parking lot wanting to be Shawn Michaels is cute, and arguably inspiring. The people that see him may laugh but it’s in appreciation versus chiding. When he hits the girl, it’s bad, but if she’s even half as enamored with the product as the little boy, the parents are going to be mad or regretful, but the kids are simply going to keep it moving because they’ve already found something to bond over. To some, that children’s reality may not make sense. But if you really think about a child, their reality doesn’t HAVE to make sense. Children are a specialized state of mind: the early years of a person’s life are development. Exposition, if you will. A six, seven, eight year old is still trying to figure out life, and it’s very common for them to delve into a world of missing logic and find a role model in a larger-than-life character, i.e. Shawn Michaels, or, in this generation, John Cena.
It’s a slippery slope: children are sponges. They take in everything and how it manifests or displays is anyone’s guess. I ask you: do you remember your first time watching professional wrestling? Your first kiss? Your first broken bone? First foray into film, or music, or something you find to be a great passion today? You may, you may not, but at the end of the day it had some kind of effect, putting a permanent mark on the tabula rasa that was, for lack of a better term, you.
Regarding the parking lot superkick, children don’t always think beyond “this moment”, and as a result they become a lot better at apologizing than asking for permission. One might say that they lack logic as a result, but delve into the mind of the child again: logic will always take a back seat to emotion. The allure of nailing someone with a superkick overshadows who might get hurt. Hitting a jumping Shelton Benjamin with the perfect Sweet Chin Music becomes a goal, a would-be unreachable summit that takes plenty of practice to achieve. So the parking lot foot action comes across as a weak kick to a little girl’s stomach, and instead of cheers and applause at getting his foot high enough to introduce toenails as an unlucky victim’s teeth, it becomes reprimanding of “What the hell is wrong with you?!” Again, very logical, and a child should be punished for kicking someone, intentionally or otherwise, but always take care to comprehend what went through the little boy’s mind: “I think I’m cute! I know I’m sexy! What does sexy mean…? Oh well!”
This is the world of a child, and being a sponge has just as many disadvantages in how it accepts virtually anything as it does advantages to accepting virtually anything. Plenty of people, children especially, take pro wrestling and sports entertainment, a bit too seriously, and that same kid who came out of the arena worshipping Michaels can just as likely come out fearfully acknowledging the bad guy.
It’s a similar concept with people who blame video games or violent media on a person’s behavior, but where it differs is with the intensity and impact of the product. No one with a single-digit age has any business playing a video game like Gears of War, I firmly believe this, but all media can affect a developing mind, for better or worse. That being said, a good outside influence saying “That isn’t good to do” or “Don’t do that, it’s wrong” is just as potent and preventative, but apply this to the powerful heel.
We’ll use Mark Henry, because he stands as my favorite heel right now. He’s big, scary, dark of skin and full of sin (as Uncle Ruckus might imply) and has a very simple ideology: enter, wreck, depart. He enters the ring with the intent of wrecking somebody and after he does he departs. Period. It stands as a terrific template for a good heel. In any case, he carries just as much weight as Shawn Michaels would, especially with the way he draws heat. Suddenly the parking lot scenario, while innocent enough in theory and lawsuit worthy enough in practice, becomes another matter. A failed kick is one thing; picking someone up, slamming them into pavement and screaming “THAT’S WHAT I DO!” becomes the basis for a restraining order.
The thing is, I don’t think there is really a lack of strong heels so much as a basic theme the company follows for the young fan base. As we get older we acknowledge and even take joy in the concept of a bad guy claiming the throne or winning the gold, but as children we’re taught that the good guy always wins, and that evil never triumphs. We’re taught with a degree of morals and ethics that, more than likely, encourage us to be charitable, pleasant and strong, while caring and friendly at the same time, five traits that a heel isn’t privy to actually maintaining. If we take Mark Henry again, he doesn’t display these, unless you twist the meanings around and take “charitable” and “friendly” to mean including people into the Hall of Pain without asking them first (see three-time entry Ryback).
And Mark Henry comes across as a powerful force; big, mean, nearly unstoppable. But therein lies the thing: nearly. As scary as Mark Henry is, he has never been shown to be unstoppable. As a bad guy, a heel, he’s been portrayed as having at least one chink in his armor, and that has often been exploited by the underdog of the week, or John Cena. Because John Cena is the hero that the kids can look up to. No matter the situation (being beaten bloody by an angry Brock Lesnar comes to mind) he overcomes and stands as the Superman the children can turn to for truth, justice and the American Way.
Superman has plenty of enemies, rivals and villains but we have to remember that there are only two things that really manage to harm him: kryptonite and Doomsday. The former is his weakness, as all people have, and the second… well, he’s, uh… just watch:
I offer this rebuttal to the claims of weak heels: I don’t think we have too many weak heels so much as overpowered faces. Because kids love faces. Period. If we get a Doomsday in the WWE, then maybe we can talk about the equal-powered heel, because we must remember: Doomsday DID kill Superman, but he got himself killed in the process. Cena’s Doomsday would be…
I don’t know, don’t even want to think about it. That’s my two cents on it though. You have a nice day after St. Patty’s Day. Hope you aren’t too hungover.
On Sunday, March 17 TNA will tape footage for its Knockout Knockdown “One Night Only” pay per view. Advertised as a Knockouts exclusive pay per view, the event will showcase the several of TNA’s female performers in order to crown one woman the “Queen of TNA.” As thrilling as the pay per view sounds, most of its publicity to date has focused on the women not attending the event instead of the actual event itself.
Bonnie Maxon (Payton Banks/Rain), Sarah Stock (Sarita), Katarina Waters (Winter), Lauren Williams (Angelina Love), Tracy Brookshaw (Traci Brooks), Kia Stevens (Awesome Kong), and Nicole Raczynski (Roxxi Laveaux/Roxxi) have all declined offers to participate in the Knockout Knockdown pay per view special.
That’s seven (7) women that have politely responded negatively to an offer to work with TNA for “One Night Only.” As delicious as the irony may be there are probably several justifiable reasons as to why these women declined the offer, most of which probably have little to do with TNA. Scheduling conflicts, interests outside of professional wrestling, and burgeoning careers in other areas could deter anyone from being available for a one shot, pay per view taping.
These issues don’t begin and end with TNA, however; according to a report from Dave Meltzer the WWE reached out to a few former Divas, offering them an opportunity to return to the company. While it was reported that a few unnamed Divas turned down the offer, the Bella Twins were apparently the first to put their pens to the contracts. This would explain their random appearance on this week’s episode of Monday Night RAW.
At first glance it would seem that these separate incidents in two different companies are not even remotely related to one another. Given the particularly fragile state of women’s wrestling in TNA and WWE, however, these incidents point to a much larger issue that warrants some conversation among fans.
Consider the following piece that offers more insight from Meltzer’s report. Speculation has it that WWE decided not to call up Divas in their NXT developmental system, with reasoning that is hearsay at best:
That’s quite the vote of no confidence in the women in NXT, but almost all of those there with the requisite looks aren’t good enough workers yet to be brought up to the main roster. The Anti-Diva Paige, who has gained a cult following at Full Sail University, is ready, but lacks the swimsuit model physique that WWE management wants from their femme fatales.
Oddly enough this “news” coincides with another report regarding the WWE’s recent efforts in creating its next cadre of Divas:
It is very obvious that the WWE has a specific agenda when it concerns their women’s division and its athletes, an agenda that typically angers the scant number of fans that actually appreciate women’s wrestling. On the other hand, it’s equally damaging to the division for fans to have an unrelenting belief that the division is without women who can actually wrestle.
In fact it could be argued that prior to the aforementioned tidbits, the WWE’s Divas Division was beginning to look a lot like TNA’s Knockouts Division from two years ago; this was something discussed, in some form or fashion, in two separate pieces written for this site which can be found here and here.
The aforementioned tidbits also conflict with two separate Twitter posts from legendary Sara Del Rey, who now works with training the up-and-coming WWE Divas:
The real question is, what is the future of the division looking like if “good work” is being done, considering the fact that former stars such as Maryse Ouellet and Barbara “Kelly Kelly” Blank (also including Kia “Kharma” Stevens, Elizabeth Kocianski “Beth Phoenix” Carolan, and Eve Torres) are being courted for returns to the company?
Things aren’t much better south of Stanford, Connecticut either; TNA’s Knockouts Division, as they are now, is a far cry from what once use to be a stellar women’s division. The lack of star power could put a serious damper on this Sunday’s Knockout Knockdown “One Night Only” pay per view taping, despite former Knockouts’ sincerest wishes to be a part of the event:
Several fans have commented on various sites and blogs that TNA’s women’s division lacks depth; even with some strides being made with the Knockouts via the Gutcheck Challenge segments, very little progress has been seen, accomplished, or (in the best case scenario) “revealed” in the product.
Taeler Conrad-Mellen (Taeler Hendrix), Lucy and Kelly Knott (Hannah and Holly, The Blossom Twins), Lei’d Tapa, and Ivelisse Velez (formerly known in WWE’s NXT as Sofia Cortez) have all attempted to gain contracts with TNA and have had some air time on IMPACT Wrestling to be introduced to the fans. Out of the five women, however, Velez is the only one to “fail” at gaining a contract with the company (an interview with the Blossom Twins revealed that they indeed have a developmental contract with TNA). Most disconcerting about Velez’s “failure” is that it came at the hands of losing the contract to Lei’d Tapa, whom most fans considered to be “too green” to even justifiably gain even a developmental contract.
The only thing that adds more fuel to the fire is the fact that prior to her Gutcheck match, Velez performed in what was received as a stellar, five-star match for the SHINE promotion affiliated with Gabe Sapolsky’s DragonGate USA/EVOLVE promotions:
This of course isn’t taking into consideration the fact that TNA’s current Knockouts Champion, Jamie “Velvet Sky” Szantyr, has been panned by some fans and critics as being least “deserving” of holding the championship over women such as Gail Kim, Mickie James, and Lisa Marie “Tara” Varon. Keep in mind that even Varon’s latest KO Title run was marred by the presence of Jessie Godderz, who’s character turned one of the most dominating female wrestlers in recent times into a starstruck, boyfriend obsessed mess of a heel.
What does all of this have to do with the current state of women’s wrestling in TNA and WWE, besides the obvious shambles that its in?
It may be nothing more than a conveniently timed occurrence, but it is telling that both companies have to look to their past in order to move their company forward. Wrestling fans at large are still very divided on what they expect to see when two women enter the squared circle.
The loudest and harshest critics, as few in number as they are, scream viciously and consistently for what is essentially equal treatment for women wrestlers. They want and expect women’s matches to go longer than one minute; they want and expect the women wrestlers to be competent in the ring. They want and expect their women’s wrestlers to be more than just eye candy doddering around the ring aimlessly.
Other wrestling fans seem content with women’s wrestling being a passing fancy, an intermission giving them a break to hit the concession stands or the bathroom stalls. They don’t expect much from the women wrestlers and are more interested in photo ops with them than they are backdrops and Iron (Wo)Man matches.
If you synthesize both of those expectations you realize that TNA and WWE are unequally yoked in responding to all of their consumers’ wants and expectations. Each promotion only caters to one specific demographic, the demographic that will add significantly to their profit margins. If this is the case, then the most pressing objective for either promotion will be to respond to the immediate concerns of the demographic that spends the most money on the product.
In the case of WWE, most fans are still stuck on the legacy of Patricia “Trish Stratus” Stratigias, who is and was arguably the last “perfect storm Diva” to compete in the WWE. To say that Stratigias was the “perfect storm Diva” is to say that everything aligned to make her 8 year stint in the WWE the Diva stint for future Divas to emulate or surpass. Stratigias’ athletic ability, combined with her particular looks and sex appeal, paired with the incredibly talented Divas surrounding her during her run, created her mythical career that is only second to the legend of Tammy Lynn “Sunny” Sytch.
The WWE has yet to find another “perfect storm Diva” and the fans’ resistance to change keeps them from advancing forward towards altering the way Divas are defined. This is why it would make sense for the WWE to court former Divas or create new ones in the mold of Trish Stratus instead of allowing a new and talented crop of Divas (i.e. Paige) to resonate with fans in their own unique way. Consider also that the company’s product is catered towards children and women (see: John Cena’s 10 Year Reign); if that is the company’s bread-winning demographic, are they the ones openly clamoring for a ten minute match between Beth Phoenix and Natalya Neidhart?
In regards to TNA’s situation, the fans surely appreciate the women’s wrestling offered by the promotion. The division’s lack of depth and focus, however, gives some the implication that the company is not concerned or as focused on the division as they have been in the past. This could be a result of the company’s attempt to define itself in terms that separate it from its closest competitor, which has ultimately caused it to look more like its competition than anything else.
Truthfully speaking the main thing that separates the Knockouts from the Divas right now is the length of their televised matches.
With their flagship show going on the road, TNA is now more in need of athletes and stars that can make their product a household name. The more they move towards this worthy goal, the more the company will look towards men and women that “look good” for media appearances.
In that sense they too are looking for a “perfect storm Knockout,” but they also cannot risk losing their hardcore demographic in the process; they cannot stand to irk their diehard fans that want to see great wrestling from female wrestlers that can go in the ring. Particularly with awarding Lei’d Tapa with a contract over Ivelisse Velez, one can only wonder about the company’s rationale in such a decision, a type of decision that is becoming more and more stereotypical of the company as they progress forward.
TNA is stuck with filling in the very visible gaps within their Knockouts Division while defining the division in the midst of fine tuning the overall vision and mission of the company. Needless to say something is bound to get lost in translation when such things are being juggled by a relatively small board of directors and creative team. The all-Knockouts pay per view on Sunday only complicates matters, forcing the company to also rely on “one-time” performers (as opposed to the “part-time” performers of WWE) to make the division appear more robust than it truthfully is.
All of these things combined leave fans (and some female wrestlers) feeling as if women’s wrestling isn’t being taken seriously by both companies in some form or fashion. Depending on your perspective, that feeling is correct and justifiable in a lot of ways.
Think of entertainment as a reflection of our society; following the events of September 11, 2001 a surge of war themed video games hit the shelves. Even to this day games like “Call of Duty” or “Halo” are best sellers among hardcore gamers. For the past few years the highest grossing movies have been films based off of comic book superheroes, dating all the way back to Tobey Maguire’s stellar performance in Sam Raimi’s 2002 blockbuster movie Spider-Man.
If the two major companies appear to place women’s wrestling as more of an afterthought, what does that say about the fans who support the product? Could it be that, despite the blog posts and YouTube videos of some prescient and super savvy fans, we’re not all that inclined to support women’s wrestling as much as we’d like to think that we would?
It says a lot about both company’s perceptions of its fans when more time is spent reaching out to former wrestlers than pushing and promoting the next generation of female superstars. What do we value if bringing back The Bella Twins, Maryse and Kelly Kelly is more of a priority than focusing on current Divas Champion Celeste “Kaitlyn” Bonin who, by the way, was a professional weight lifter (just like John Cena) before becoming a pro wrestler?
What must we value if even by kayfabe standards TNA felt it necessary to give Lei’d Tapa the contract on television over Ivelisse Velez? What must they think of us if a star like Jason “Christian York” Spence or Wesley “Wes” Brisco can win their Gutcheck challenges and immediately get placed on television and pushed, while the Blossom Twins, Taeler Hendrix and Lei’d Tapa have to report to OVW?
Finally, what can be said about the state of women’s wrestling in both companies if they’re having trouble winning back women that have already worked for them?
I still say this and stand by the point: the day wrestling fans by and large receive the best in women’s wrestling from both major companies is the same day either one of them can pull off what Dana White did with the latest UFC pay per view…
March 11, 2013…a day that shall live in infamy…at least until March 12, 2013. Brace yourself, for the next bit of information will most assuredly knock your proverbial and literal socks off…
Someone from the L.E.W.D. has something mildly positive to say about TNA and IMPACT Wrestling…
Believe it or not it TNA has gained a substantial amount of momentum from their latest pay per view escapade. Even one of the plucky young analysts on this site has to admit that “The Little Company That Could” swung for the fences last night and knocked the 2013 edition of Lockdown clean out of the park. In front of thousands of engaged and screaming fans San Antonio’s Alamodome, TNA delivered what can be viewed as the pay per view event that ushered in a new era for the company, an era that will ultimately (or at least hopefully) turn TNA into a household name as equally recognizable as Tussy or Anacin.
That isn’t just an opinion; that is a fact and a reality that even we here at L.E.W.D. have to face (begrudgingly so).
Candidly speaking, the wave of adulation and fan approval makes this Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling that much more important to watch. It also places the company in the ever-so-stressful “do or die” situation, the point of no return where the entire company will have to fire on all cylinders at all times. Having ended their leasing agreement with Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, TNA will no longer be able to rely on the comfort and safety of the Impact Zone to showcase their product. It has been said that pressure brings the best out of us, and Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling will be must-see TV for that simple fact; it’s game time once again and there’s no hope for anyone in the company still stuck in the past. However if last night’s pay per view is any indication then pro wrestling fans are in store for some interesting things between now and June.
Having now thoroughly patted the company on the back, there still remains one important question: do I want to buy this pay per view on DVD?
For the 2013 iteration of TNA’s Lockdown, the answer from this particular analyst is an emphatic, passionate, and heavily emphasized NO.
Everything that happened last night at Lockdown was no different from any other pay per view offering from the company; if you think that’s a lie or without merit, take a moment to read any review of the show and compare it to any other show TNA has done prior. The matches were “solid,” the matches were “good;” it was “awesome” to see [insert wrestler's name here] do a spot off the top of the cage. Kurt Angle had a great match. That’s honestly TNA’s track record: “consistently” providing “solid” matches with “great” action and in-ring psychology. What did they do different than anything they’ve done before in front of a “hot,” live crowd?
Oh that’s right…Bully Ray “turned” heel. If that’s the only reason for justifiably purchasing the DVD, then by all means knock yourself out. While you’re at it I’ve got a spectacular deal on some ocean front property in Oklahoma you may be interested in looking at.
There was absolutely nothing about the pay per view that was revolutionary, ground-breaking or worth spending between $16.18 and $44.95 on. The matches, while “great,” were largely forgettable and the only…I reiterate, ONLY…thing that made the pay per view worth a damn was Bully Ray being revealed as the President of the Aces and 8′s and winning the World Heavyweight Title, in that order.
If that is a valid reason to celebrate the success of the pay per view then I will gladly do so on one condition: we all admit that pro wrestling fans are incompetent.
Cheering Fans = Success; Analysts Don’t.
Despite everything that happened last night TNA owes an incredible amount of gratitude for its diehard fans. Regardless of our diatribes here and the salient and hate-filled rants of others, TNA fans will support their product no matter what. That is an admirable trait and I would say that 100% of TNA’s success in the pro wrestling industry is due to its fans. All that is to say no matter what disparaging remark is made about the company, their fans will maintain a concupiscent relationship with them. Through good or bad, thick or thin, TNA fans will not be easily separated from their wedded bliss with the company.
Unfortunately this leads to the next lesson we learned last night…
(Some) Fans Don’t Pay Attention to Anything
The obvious star of Lockdown was Bully Ray, who provided fans with some much needed Aces and 8′s storyline progression. Arguably TNA’s biggest star (at the moment and perhaps period), Bully has given the pro wrestling fan universe a reason to care about the promotion and to even create the buzz necessary to carry fans to Thursday night’s live IMPACT Wrestling show hailing from Chicago, Illinois; this was the momentum discussed earlier in the piece.
Three notable things to pay attention to as we sing the praises of Bully Ray and TNA’s Creative Team:
The actual match between Bully Ray and Jeff Hardy for the World Heavyweight Championship was average, forgettable, and had a dusty finish highlighting a very predictable storyline development.
Bully Ray didn’t “turn” heel last night because he was never a babyface to begin with.
Throwing trash in a ring for a predictable storyline development seemed staged and asinine, and should not be used to determine whether or not a star has “legit heat.”
It is rather amusing to here see some comment at length on how awesome the pay per view was, based on Bully Ray’s perceived heel turn, when Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Hans Moleman all saw this train wreck coming a mile away. I was very grateful for the fans that acknowledged this fact on Twitter last night; at least they admitted that the whole thing was predictable.
Once again, however, we’re venturing into that hypocritical gray area; that awkward place where all things great for the goose is discouraged for the gander. Fans whine and complain weekly that certain angles and storylines are too predictable; yet here we all were presented with the second most conspicuous outcome of a match since anything featuring John Cena and the WWE Championship, and everything is perfectly fine. In fact Bully Ray’s alignment with the Aces and 8′s is far more memorable and important in the grand scheme of things than the actual match he won in order to become the company’s new standard bearer.
While we’re at it take that into consideration for a moment…the World Heavyweight Champion of one’s favorite company is a man named Bully Ray, and fans are celebrating that.
Even more despicable than that is the notion that Bully was a babyface at one point. This was a fact brought up by the Rt. Rev. Showtime last night, that Bully Ray has always been a heel. The man even admitted to it last night by saying that he used the hapless (and senile) General Manager Hulk Hogan and his equally hapless (and far more clueless) daughter Brooke Hogan-Ray. In my opinion, that’s where Ray’s heel heat emanates from…a real, seething hatred for a man that worked the system just to get the championship. It appeared as if the fans in San Antonio picked up on that, but the fans
illegally watching at home while tittering away on the internet gave Bully Ray the ol’ thumbs up.
Another point to remember is that Hogan was right the entire time, which then leads us to question just how Brooke Hogan will deal with being married to the man that is the president of a gang that is attempting to ruin TNA (*cough cough nWo*). I still honestly feel this reeks of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, but am willing to allow TNA to pull the trigger on that storyline before commenting on it here and now.
After a lackluster and mediocre match it seemed (to me) a little too convenient for fans to casually toss their trash in the ring. Fact is we live in an era where risque fan made signs are confiscated at the gate, where the fans at the Impact Zone were labeled “cast members,” and where it’s honestly more profitable to present a PG pro wrestling product (seriously…look at TNA’s stuff and say with a straight face that’s it’s not PG). The likelihood of fans being allowed to toss their refuse into the ring without repercussions seems improbably; not impossible, but likely not to happen.
As such it seems even more ridiculous to believe that trash-thrown-by-fans-is-equals-genuine-hate. Following the pay per view a fan asked a rhetorical question, commenting on the last time fans threw trash in a ring. I answered that rhetorical question by citing Jeff Hardy’s TNA heel turn in 2010* which, ironically enough, also led to his first TNA World Heavyweight Championship reign. This isn’t implying or saying that Hardy didn’t have real heel heat at that time; what it is saying is that trash thrown in the ring cannot be used as a barometer genuine heel heat if the idea is that such an occurrence is rare. At this point in the game the major barometer for true heel heat should be the deafening boos coming from the fans; that was an occurrence last night that didn’t get nearly as much press among fans as the trash thrown into the ring.
The point of the matter is this: fans ignored all of those things in order to celebrate the perceived magnitude of the Bully Ray’s actions. That’s all well and good but it does very little to support the company’s claim of providing a solid pro wrestling based alternative to sports entertainment. If anything that logic simply endorses a different type of sports entertainment that “kinda, sorta” feels and looks different than that offered by other promotions. This would explain why the famous “I Want Wrestling,” “We Are Wrestling,” and “Wrestling Matters” taglines aren’t used anymore; the day a storyline brings TNA more notoriety than an actual match is the day TNA steps into its own when it comes to sports entertainment. That day has already come and gone in TNA, but it was damn sure signed, sealed and delivered to us last night.
Then again…cheering fans equals success…
Bully Ray is the Best Thing Smokin’ In TNA (for the moment), and Mike Knox is now “Knux”
Bully Ray is easily the biggest thing in TNA’s pocket right now. I would even venture to say that his run as TNA’s World Heavyweight Champion is about as important to the company as their signing of Kurt Angle seven years ago. In all due respect Mark LoMonaco has worked his ass off in the business and has truly earned the right to carry the title. It says a lot about how far the man has come as a wrestler when anyone can readily say that his name alone has brought credibility and new life to a storyline that has been dead since last year. My hats off to Mr. LoMonaco and his victory last night.
The other thing that makes Bully Ray’s win so important is the possibility of a fight between him and AJ Styles at the June Slammiversary XI pay per view. I won’t drag out the particulars here, but check out my last piece to see my thoughts on Styles’ character development. With three months between now and the pay per view we can only pray that TNA builds a solid story and feud between Bully and Styles, eventually propping up the “Crow” Sting character the company will need to really stay in the game on the road. That goes to say that Bully Ray could possibly be the champion that leads to Styles receiving the push and attention he could’ve received years and years ago.
Then again, that would make Bully Ray a “transitional champion,” which would totally negate everything I just said about his run with the title…
And for those of you that didn’t catch it last night, Mike Knox’s new name in TNA is “Knux.” During the Lethal Lockdown match (which was missing a ceiling…unless they changed that, too…) the commentators went way out of the way in making sure we knew that the man’s name was “Knux” and not “Knox.”
As a matter of fact I could very well be spelling it incorrectly. If this is the case then my sincerest apologies go to “Knucks” and the other members of the Aces and 8′s Motorcycle Club. I surely do not want to incur the wrath of “Knucks” and anyone associated with “Knucks.”
“Knucks, Knucks, Knucks, Knucks, Knucks.” Sounds like Fozzie Bear just told another terrible joke.
So ends my thoughts on yesterday’s Lockdown pay per view. What did YOU learn from the show?
*Note: I incorrectly stated to the fan last night that Jeff Hardy’s heel turn and the ensuing trash volley happened at the 2011 Victory Road pay per view. Both events actually occurred at the 2010 Bound for Glory pay per view. My apologies to that fan and to other fans for that mistake.
On behalf of the entire L.E.W.D. family, I would like to express our deepest sadness on the news of the passing of William “Bill” Moody, better known to most wrestling fans as Paul Bearer. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Moody’s family and friends during their time of bereavement, and we also pray that may he rest in peace as we will surely miss him.
As scores of fans and wrestlers express their sorrow at William Moody’s passing, I’d like to take a brief moment to discuss the effect this man had on my life and my gratitude for his passion and love for pro wrestling.
I’ve always known Mr. Moody as Paul Bearer, the creepy pale manager for the WWF’s/WWE’s Undertaker. I didn’t become remotely familiar with his wrestling career prior to that until recently, but to a certain extent as far as I’m concerned he’s still the Undertaker’s manager.
I realize he managed Mankind, and sure he was revealed to be Kane’s father/manager; I can’t also forget that he was encased in cement, tortured by Edge and rolled off a precipice in a wheelchair. But despite all of that, to me he’s still The Undertaker’s manager. It was as his manager that I was more drawn into The Undertaker’s character, and ultimately more drawn towards pro wrestling.
I grew up during the late eighties and early nineties when the “internet” was inconceivable and the concept of a weekly primetime live wrestling show was the most revolutionary insane idea out there. It was easier to keep kayfabe then more so than it is now, so everything I saw—everything we saw as kids—we believed.
I say that to preface my next statement…The Undertaker scared the s**t out of me.
There wasn’t just one thing that gave me the chills whenever he appeared or wrestled; I absorbed everything about his character and gimmick, making it somewhat difficult for me to watch him perform without being seized by an irrational fear of him visiting my house in Birmingham, Alabama. A large part of that irrational fear can be credited to the work of Paul Bearer.
Undertaker’s original gimmick relied on him being silent for the most part, uttering short sentences or his famous “Rest…In…Peeeaaaaccceeeee” catchphrase every now and then. In that light his gimmick was almost similar to that of a masked wrestler, an athlete who depends heavily on body language to convey emotion to the fans. Because The Undertaker was such a large, imposingly ominous and semi-mute character, Paul Bearer literally carried the cross of mic work for his client; as the “bearer” of the stick, everything about Paul had to be as equally creepy and ominous as Taker’s character, yet far less intimidating and imposing.
To say that William Moody played this role excellently would be an understatement.
Paul Bearer’s heavily make-upped and melanin deficient face, his weird sing-song whiny voice, those memorably undecipherable facial expressions, the random salutation and adoration of the mysterious urn…it’s hilarious to imagine now that all of these things caused me to fear The Undertaker. Yet they did, and Paul Bearer added volumes to the mystique that was The Undertaker. There aren’t many managers today that can do that, and there are even fewer wrestlers that can do that on their own.
This is why it’s truly difficult to say goodbye to William Moody. We’re not just saying goodbye to a wrestler or a pro wrestling manager. We’re saying goodbye to a man that was able to engage us on levels that even some of our closest friends and family members can’t do. We’re saying goodbye to a man who ran the roads and put his body on the line in the weirdest ways just for our entertainment.
If you know anything about William Moody the person, you’d know that we’re also saying goodbye to a man responsible for helping us say goodbye to our own deceased family members and friends (Moody was a funeral director in real life).
To say it succinctly, thank you Mr. Moody. Thank you for the laughs, the sheer terror, and the comforting shoulder you provided for fans and clients alike.
As you raise a glass today in honor of Paul Bearer’s memory, and as you share your favorite Paul Bearer moments with other fans, please keep in mind that we do these together this day for William Moody and the countless others who lived for pro wrestling and died after sacrificing precious moments in their own lives to giving us their all. Judging from the remarks made by wrestlers and others inside the business, I’m sure that Mr. Moody appreciated entertaining us, and we want him to know that we truly appreciated him.
Mr. Moody…rest in peace.
When I tell people I’m an old school guy, there’s a lot of layers going on in an otherwise simple looking sentence. In a broader sense, I admit that personality wise I’m simply from a long gone era (think way long gone…think your great-grandparents and probably earlier).
In a narrower sense—in this case, related to wrestling—it means I like the 70′s and live for tapes of the 80′s. There is a litany of reasons why this is, but it all adds up to this: I simply enjoy the product of the first mega-boom more than that of today, and certainly more than that of the “Attitude Era,” which I happen to have stunningly little love for in comparison to pretty much everyone reading this.
Perhaps nothing better exemplifies this than my hate/sort-of-ok-with relationship with the career of John Cena. For the past five years, I’ve been involved in some way with the business of Internet Wrestling Writing and Podcasting. In some instances, it’s merely been as a consultant, others as an editor, others as a writer, and on In the Room it’s in the capacity of a sports talk host…but for pro wrestling. However, no matter what the capacity it’s been in, my stance on Cena has pretty much never changed.
I like him…sort of. From the very first time I wrote about anything that involved him, I made it clear that I think he’s a serviceable talent who got pushed to the top more out of situational happenstance than any kind of marquee headlining talent. In a way, I’ve always sort of felt bad for his career because no matter how hard he works or how hard he tries, when it comes down to real ability measured against the rest of the wrestling world, he’s simply out of his league when it comes to being at the top of the wrestling world. Sure, those people have been around for as long as there’s been professional wrestling (Nick Bockwinkle anybody?), but in this age of the Internet that talent disparity just becomes that much more abundantly clear.
That leads us to this past Monday night, and the closing match on Raw.
With all due respect to Kevin Steen—and the next roughly nine months left on the calendar—John Cena teamed up with arch-nemesis CM Punk to put on the 2013 MOTY candidate from the United States. And while there’s a long way to go, it’s probably one of the two or three leading candidates for the overall MOTY, at the very least until Triplemania rolls around this summer. Even if you think I’m a bit over the moon here, you’ll be hard pressed to find anybody who was any bit down on the match itself. The reaction was almost overwhelmingly positive, and that sort of leads to the bigger question in its aftermath: what is this feud’s—and by some extension, Cena’s career’s—place in history?
After the match that night, more than one writer or podcaster made the comparison of Punk v. Cena to Steamboat v. Flair.
In some senses, that’s a reasonably apt comparison. Much like Steamboat and Flair, Punk and Cena work well together and are able to do a very good job complimenting the others’ strengths instead of accidentally highlighting the others’ weaknesses. Both sets of men now have developed years’ long feuds, and both in and out of storyline there’s a reasonably good comparison of Steamboat to Punk.
But, there are just as many reasons why it’s a bad comparison. For one, which man is the Ric Flair? It certainly isn’t John Cena, who can’t even get his hometown to do what he needs it to when he’s in the ring (that would be cheer…). Punk and Cena aren’t competing against promotions with the same or better talent depth, and neither man has to compete with the same kind of marquee level feuds within their same promotion.
The biggest difference, however, is in the percieved (and mostly real) talent drop off for Cena. Flair and Steamboat may have had a series of classic matches at or near the zenith of the wrestling world, but neither man is ever going to be talked about in the same disparaging way Cena so often is.
For me, Monday night showed that Cena vs. Punk is a hybrid of two feuds from wrestling’s greatest era…
It’s part Hogan vs. Savage, and part Hogan vs. Warrior.
This past week on ITR, Brady Hicks planted the idea that it was—at least in part—Hogan vs. Savage, with Cena being Hogan and Punk being Savage. I suppose in the overall scheme of things, that’s got some validity, especially because both men compare well to their historical counterparts in a side-by-side. Punk is absolutely Savage, the inarguable more talented individual whom should probably be on top of the roster in comparison to what else is there—especially over Cena. Cena, meanwhile, is absolutely the Hulk Hogan of the feud. He’s the man on top, the man who can draw passion from fans into any feud regardless, and could make money if he were to fight Eugene while also being the man whose talent isn’t bad but, is at best, serviceable.
Meanwhile, Monday night’s match was much more like Hogan vs. Warrior. Nobody could have expected a match of that quality would come forth that night, and it wasn’t just because it was happening on Raw.
When I say John Cena is serviceable but not bad, I’m not necessarily saying he’s much good either. He’s okay enough that good workers can get good matches out of him, but he’s never going to make a classic on his own because he simply has too many deficiencies.
His moveset and style in the ring are clunky limited. Part of it is probably his talent ceiling, but part of it is that he’s simply just not an athletic man…at least not by the standards of top wrestling talents. While he certainly looks the part, there is a difference between having a lot of muscle and being an athletic guy. Cena isn’t by any means unwatchable, but if watching Bryan Danielson is the exercise of watching poetry in motion, watching Cena is more the exercise of watching Celebrity Deathmatch reruns.
His promo ability is narrow and not likely to grow. He’s not necessarily good at making others look good. The beat goes on.
The point here? Punk and Cena’s match on Raw had no business being as good as it was because a man of Cena’s talent level has no business being in a five star kind of match. By and large, that statement has remained pretty true throughout Cena’s career. He’s had some good matches, but not great ones. He’s had some okay feuds, but he’s had nothing of great note, which brings me to the Hogan vs. Warrior analogy.
Hogan vs. Warrior at WrestleMania VI had no business being as good as it was; the reality is that Hogan got a far better match out of Warrior than pretty much everyone else ever did or would (with the exception of Savage one year later). Punk and Cena’s feud—much like that match—is defined by overcoming expectations as much as anything else.
In the world of professional wrestling, Punk’s resumè was already world class before he set foot in WWE. Cena’s was not, and much like Chis Jericho’s feud with the Legends at WrestleMania XXV won’t define his career, The Rock won’t define Cena’s. In fact before this feud with Punk, Cena’s career looked pretty bland.
The Orton feud didn’t really go anywhere; a feud with Batista never developed. Jericho wasn’t around too long, Edge wasn’t always there, Miz fell flat and Big Show was underwhelming as an opponent.
CM Punk, and this now ongoing and established feud with Cena, will ultimately be the defining one of Cena’s career, but maybe not of Punk’s.
And so we reach the final question: what is the place of this feud—and Cena’s career—in the history of professional wrestling? At this point, I think the answer is that it’s safe to say its place is “What could have been?”
We’re not going to get this kind of match at WrestleMania, and there have been long term booking decisions which have made the feud start and stop, stalling just when things could get hottest. When Cena faces The Rock, his arch-nemesis and most iconic opponent will be doing something else, or lost in a three-way never meant for him.
And we’ll wonder, “what might have been?”
Ray Bogusz is the co-host of the In The Room Show and a syndicated wrestling columnist. You can reach him via his Twitter @RayITR. To get his column on your website, email email@example.com.
A very profound thought struck me the other day concerning the current direction of AJ Styles and his character on IMPACT Wrestling. In order to accurately express that thought here in L.E.W.D. Booking 101, I have to go back to a conversation that took place several years ago.
I have a very close friend named James* who can best be described as a casual fan of pro wrestling. Although James doesn’t indulge in pro wrestling and sports entertainment as frequently as I do, he follows the product enough to have great and analytical conversations about wrestlers and promotions at any given time. While James was (and still is) fond of WWE, he always favored WCW’s product more, especially during the mythic Attitude Era. It was during this time that he reveled in the many antics of his favorite wrestler, the man they call Sting. Even to this day he gets particularly giddy and filled with girlish glee when discussing Sting; his favorite iteration of the superstar is the “Crow” Sting, a character based off of the movie made famous by action star Brandon Lee.
Seriously; to this day, James can recite the creepy little kid monologue verbatim from the Sting’s theme at that time.
Many years after WWE’s purchase of WCW and several versions of Sting later, I asked James to explain to me his fascination with this dark and brooding Sting character. More specifically I asked him to explain why so many other fans were absolutely in love with this Sting, let alone Sting in the first place. To loosely paraphrase what he said (mostly because he won’t email me what he said):
The thing about it is this: when Hulk Hogan turned heel—and you gotta remember that Hulk Hogan was the epitome of all that was right in the world, “Eat your vitamins and say your prayers” and all that s**t—it completely messed everybody up! The person that took it the hardest was Sting, because here was somebody who did the right thing his entire career, and the only other thing “right” in the universe was Hogan.
With Hogan joining the nWo, and half of WCW doing the same damn thing, Sting was absolutely mind-f***ed. So Sting disappears and when he comes back, he’s literally dead to everything on the inside, and then he just proceeds to brood all over the damn place. And that’s what made it cool, because even though it was a blatant rip off of The Crow, it made perfect sense because a lot of younger fans were feeling the same way because of Hogan’s heel turn.
And besides, that s**t was real cool too.
James’ words resonated in my mind the other day when I started thinking about TNA’s latest M.I.A. wrestler, AJ Styles. One thing led to another, and before you know it I had this epiphany: AJ Styles will be TNA’s “Crow” Sting!
At this point you should brace yourselves, because the next comment coming from yours truly will surely shock and surprise you: out of all the things TNA has conveniently borrowed from other promotions, this character development for Styles is perhaps the best idea they’ve
stolen come up with and will probably create the most compelling and interesting wrestler the company has ever had.
Don’t expect Styles to be phenomenal in the rafters of arenas around the country anytime soon. It is also highly unlikely that the company will attempt to turn Styles into a mini-Sting like they attempted to transform him into Lil’ Naitch Ver. 2.5 when Ric Flair joined the company. What is quite probable is the creation of a neat, tweener Styles character that will operate in the same spirit as “Crow” Sting so many years ago. If my epiphany has any merit, Styles’ new character will be somewhat similar to the heel character that John Cena could have been two years ago.
This epiphany came about when I started to connect the dots between two posts about Styles on the most trusted TNA fan site on the internet. The first post came on February 8 and was nestled quietly in a recap of a Dixie Carter interview during her appearance during a Bellator fight. Apparently the TNA President had an encounter with Styles at the event, an encounter were Carter described Styles as being “cold, distant, and unapproachable.” After careful consideration of this development, I couldn’t find myself to be “mad” or disgusted with Styles’ actions at all.
While Carter’s summation of Styles’ behavior seemed “unusual” (as described by the good folks at TNAsylum.com), one could not feel any iota of sympathy for her given Styles’ craptastic 2012 in TNA.
Without dredging up too many memories of the swerves and storylines that besmirched his year and his good name, we must remember how well Dixie defended Styles during the Claire Lynch debacle. We must remember how she set her husband straight after leveling Styles with the King Mo One Hitter-Quitter. We have to recall how Dixie used her executive powers and prowess to get to the bottom of Claire Lynch’s accusations against Styles in order to exonerate her company’s most decorated and beloved star.
Seeing as all of that stuff didn’t happen it would appear that Styles is somewhat justified in having such lukewarm feelings towards Dixie Carter. Styles, after all, is easily the most recognizable TNA Original still with the company. He gave his all for Jeff Jarrett and Dixie, yet neither offered their on-air unconditional support for him during his series of unfortunate events. In fact if one wasn’t careful, one could easily get the impression that Dixie and her cronies cared very little for Styles during this period of his career; talk about a slap in the face.
The second post that caught my attention was a report on February 20 about a TNA producer’s tweet concerning Styles’ behavior. The producer didn’t explicitly say how Styles behaved, but did comment that in five years he had never “had him act like he did today.” The producer then went on to say that he was “disappointed.” Is it just me or does it sound incredibly pompous of the producer to comment on how he would or would not have had Styles to behave? It’s one thing to say that in five years you’ve never seen a person act in a particular way, but its also very telling to see someone comment that they never had someone act a certain way.
I sure the assumption is that once a vanilla babyface, always a vanilla babyface. For the better part of his career in TNA Styles has played the one dimensional role of stellar athlete and upright model citizen/human being. Styles plays this character well because it’s pretty much him in real life. Everyone has their breaking point, however, and even the most model and upright human being has a breaking point. He arguably reached that breaking point after his demeaning loss to Christopher Daniels at Final Resolution 2012; even after Styles announced to the world on the December 13, 2012 episode of IMPACT Wrestling that he was no longer a “company man,” this plucky TNA producer still found it disappointing that Styles behaved in an unmentionable fashion?
If you’ve been subjected to a person behaving in a particular way, it’s only a matter of time before you begin to expect that behavior to be consistent and synonymous with the person. If the person turns out to be a louse, it’s easy to dismiss them and wish them well in their future endeavors. On the other hand if the person has proven to exhibit exemplary qualities, we have the tendency to abuse and/or neglect that person because no matter what happens we’ll expect them to continue to be “good” people.
The only person to come to Styles’ aid during his trials with Daniels and Kazarian was Kurt Angle. Other than that, Styles was expected to man up and handle his situation on his lonesome, even though the harassment he endured from his coworkers was ridiculously ignored by management. After putting up with that Styles was also locked out of challenging for the TNA World Heavyweight Title for one year, a crushing and heart-wrenching defeat that almost makes his presence in the company worthless for at least 365 days. The fans moved on to Austin Aries, Robert Roode and Jeff Hardy; the only person that cared about AJ Styles, it seemed, was AJ Styles. And even he neglected his own needs, wants and desires for the sake of the company and making Dixie Carter look like one million dollars.
From that perspective, how dare anyone expect Styles to behave a certain way or even tacitly imply and/or demand he behave a certain way any reason. Being himself hadn’t gotten him very far since he lost the TNA World Heavyweight Title to Rob Van Dam in April 2010, so what good will the goody-two shoes bit do for him at this point?
After all that, what does any of it have to do with “Crow” Sting? Simply put, the very man that Styles was should be long gone by now. Having grown bitter and disillusioned with all that he knew to be right in the world, Styles’ character should evolve into a self-serving man justified by the inconsiderate actions of the institution that was once his life and livelihood. He doesn’t have to be overly obnoxious in his disdain for the company (Aces & Eights), and he doesn’t have to be an Attitude Era-esque edgy and cool tweener either (Ken Anderson).
All Styles has to do is be himself minus the concern and care for being Dixie’s golden boy and the fans’ favorite athlete. Styles has to become the wrestler that competes for the company’s top prize while maintaining an eff you attitude towards anyone or anything that represents the institution that snubbed him. Styles shouldn’t perform for the fans, nor should he be the face of a company in need of a savior. Styles does what Styles wants for Styles’ benefit. This was essentially the same rubric for the evolution of Sting’s character in WCW after Hulk Hogan’s heel turn and the creation of the nWo, except there were actual buzzards and crows involved.
Sting’s descent into this depressing and unforgiving darkness revitalized the character and WCW. In the same way that this dark and emo Sting resonated in the hearts of many fans, so too can this new AJ Styles character. How many of TNA’s fans have been abused and taken for granted by their employers? How many fans have felt betrayed by TNA’s sports entertainment-like approach in their product as of late?
If we can be narcissistic for one second, how cool would Styles look with new, darker gear?
This drastic character makeover for Styles couldn’t come at a better time in the company’s history. With the very flat Aces & Eights storyline going nowhere fast (perhaps, in hindsight, purposefully so…) and their almost hostile takeover of the company, TNA needs a familiar face to help drag them out of the social group’s fun house of inequity. With their show being taken on the road after the upcoming Lockdown pay per view, TNA needs a homegrown top star to build their franchise around, a top star that can make the same media rounds as John Cena while drawing interest towards the product instead of away from it. With a concentrated effort to focus on building four pay per views out of the year, TNA needs a star that will increase buyrates at the mere mention of his name.
Personally speaking I would pay money to see a moody, grizzle-faced AJ Styles tan Jeff Hardy’s high-flying fanny six ways from Sunday for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
Even thought I still believe my epiphany to be one unique to my own experience, I’m also sure that most fans have already speculated on Styles’ character development. Whether you’ve considered this level of maturation for Styles or not, the reality is that change is coming for one of the company’s most prized wrestlers. Do not be surprised to see Styles return to the scene as angry and bitter as Sting did in WCW many years ago; do not be surprised if he returns only to rage against the machine with his own agenda instead of defending TNA from the rising tide of the Aces & Eights domination.
Do be surprised if Styles turns out to be the leader of the Aces & Eights, because I for one am expecting this new wrestler to rely on his own abilities and to not trust anyone, anywhere at anytime.
But above all else, expect to be thoroughly surprised and pleased at wherever Styles and the creative heads take his character. As long as the man isn’t inexplicably kidnapped or forced to wear a leather vest, the end will justify the means.
*Note: The moniker “James” was used in this piece because Adam didn’t want me to use his real name.
Most fans won’t readily acknowledge that RAW’s ratings, as of late, have hovered around the 3.1 area. While this means absolutely nothing to the average fan, it means a lot to analysts and pundits such as us.
It doesn’t mean or suggest that the quality of the product is getting better; what it does suggest is that fans are finding more reasons to tune into the show each Monday night. The “Road to WrestleMania” is typically filled with more than enough elements to energize fans and entice them to purchase the WWE’s annual mega-sports entertainment event, but last night’s show offered more than what most probably expected or anticipated. To say that last night’s RAW was knocked out of the park would be a huge understatement. While I would hesitate to say the show was “perfect,” I will say that it was great all around and well above average.
Three things made the show awesome: the hot Dallas, Texas crowd, the opening brawl between Brock Lesnar and Triple H, and the MOTY candidate bout between CM Punk and John Cena. Everything in between seemed to add some depth and volume to the undercard for WrestleMania XXIX. It will be interesting to see how the company can keep up this momentum between now and April.
Here’s the most noteworthy stuff:
- WWE Vengeance: Lesnar vs. Triple H II
- WWE Insurrextion: Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett
- WWE Judgement Day: The Shield vs. Randy Orton
- WWE December to Dismember: Featuring AJ Lee, Dolph Ziggler, and Ryblack
- WWE Bragging Rights: CM Punk vs. John Cena
The evening started out with last week’s proposed fight between Mr. McMahon and Paul Heyman. While it was safe to assume that very few people (right-minded folks, mind you) expected a true fight to take place between the million-dollar geriatric and South Philly’s favorite son, even fewer could have accurately predicted the magnitude of the brawl that followed their slap fight.
Two really cool things happened during the exchange between Heyman and Mr. McMahon; for starters, Scott Stanford sent a tweet question whether Heyman had been robbing homes in Dallas prior to appearing on the show. Secondly, Heyman gave Mr. McMahon “The Pounce,” and no one seemed moved by his perfectly executed, skillful and dangerous maneuver.
Nevertheless the whole spectacle was cut short by the unmistakable sound of Brock Lesnar’s music. The beast of a man approached the ring and prepared to sink his teeth into Vince McMahon’s old and surprisingly muscular carcass. Before Lesnar could get another taste of McMahon’s blood, Triple H’s music blared through the arena and we all knew that a rematch between the two would take place at April’s blockbuster pay per view. The standard brawl took place between the two after McMahon hightailed it out of harms way, and everything that happened afterwards was unintentionally magnificent.
The brawl between Lesnar and Triple H seemed real; it felt real even though it looked phony at times. You could easily tell that Lesnar was using his MMA training against Triple H, who’s experience in body building didn’t seem to help his situation at all. I even wondered if there would be a point in the fight where Trips had to whisper to Brock, “Hey! It’s not real fighting, bro!” Not too soon after I had that thought, Lesnar eased up a bit on the realism and switched back into scripted entertainment mode.
The money moment of the fracas was when Trips sent Brock’s skull sailing into the ring post, busting him open the hard way. Half of Lesnar’s head was soaked in blood as the cameras attempted to avoid showing it on live television. Despite their best efforts the effect of this was necessary to make this rematch between the men mean something. I would venture to say that it was Lesnar’s blood that sold a good number of people on this pay per view alone; the awkward part of it all is that this was only the beginning of the show…
It’s anyone’s guess as to how epic their match will be at WrestleMania, but if their brawl last night was any indication we can expect this grudge match to be more passionate and grueling than their first encounter.
Another thing that stood out was a segment in which Sheamus made fun of Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and his work as an extra in the upcoming movie Dead Man Down, starring Ireland’s second favorite dandy, Colin “Remember Me?” Farrell. A few fans in my Twitter feed commented on how absurd it was for a face (Sheamus) to continue to be a face while making fun of (bullying) someone for their small part in a movie. I started to respond to a few of these comments but stopped when I thought about the lack of angst against John Cena and his many heel-like tactics over the past few years; be a star, everyone.
The eventual exchange between the two was far from being bad, and it actually provided a few chuckle-worthy spots (I particularly LOL’d when Barrett referred to the fans as “idiots;” it was the accent and the air of arrogant confidence that did it). I also site this as being worth mentioning because of a previous post where I stated that the only program decent for Sheamus at this point is a feud with Barrett for the Intercontinental Title. I also stated that spot belonged to Bo Dallas, a spot he was politely pulled out of because of WrestleMania season.
Another thing to consider is the recent “international flair” the title has acquired with its most recent champions. The title has suffered from a lack of importance, prestige, and significance as of late. Having non-American champions gives some sort of meaning to the title even if that meaning is still not all that defined. Another match between Sheamus the feisty fighting Irishman squaring off against Barrett the brutish bare-knuckle Brit is something good for both men and for the title.
Sheamus would make another appearance that night during an in-ring segment involving The Shield. The three members of the so-called “arm of justice” in WWE were busy spouting their manifesto to the audience when they issued a warning to the hapless superstars in the back. Sheamus strolled out in his wrestling gear and responded to their warning, only to serve as a decoy for a sneak attack at the hands of Randy Orton. With Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns advancing on Sheamus, Orton slithered into the ring and leveled Seth Rollins with a surprisingly devastating RKO.
A number of fans have commented that Orton seems to be floating aimlessly at this point in his career. I wouldn’t say a feud with The Shield would invigorate Orton’s character, but it would give the rub to the group of young lions. What’s more interesting about this story is the story of how all three of these young WWE superstars made it to their first WrestleMania. Speaking particularly about Dean Ambrose’s rise to glory, it was only at WrestleMania XXVII two years ago in Atlanta (where we first saw him in person) that he received a try out match with WWE, a match that got him this far in the company. It’s an impressive story, and to share that story with two equally talented young superstars in a match with Randy Orton is pretty big. It will be a thing of beauty to see what comes from this.
Speaking of things of beauty, AJ Lee’s fall from grace has been less majestic than anyone could have ever imagined. When you consider the amount of time and energy that was put into AJ’s character during the latter part of 2012, it’s amazing how dimly her once radiant aura shines now. Ever since being partnered with Dolph Ziggler, AJ has seriously fallen off the radar of relevance; problem is, there’s is no justifiable or logical reason for such a tremendous dip in attention given to her character.
The same thing could be argued for Dolph Ziggler, the current Mr. Money In the Bank contract recipient. Dolph has literally seen several stop and go storylines and at one point looked to be headed towards the main event scene like a bat out of hell. Things looked even better for the bleach blonde superstar when he was essentially given his own little stable to work with. It just seems like after awhile the writers gave up on him and have reduced him to wrestling matches for the sake of simply keeping him on fans’ minds and in our collective consciousness.
All of this could be for a good reason, however; Ziggler has until July to cash in his contract for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship, and a lot can take place in the five months between now and the July 14 Money In the Bank pay per view. The more cynical fans tend to write off wrestlers or storylines that don’t receive immediate attention or payoffs. It remains to be said that patience is a virtue, and Ziggler may be in the midst of being primed to have a major role in the company moving forward.
The question is where does AJ Lee fit in the middle of all of this? At this point in the game she’s barely a skid mark in the frilly unmentionables of the Divas Division, and the creative writers have all but abandoned the idea of making her a credible valet for Mr. Ziggler. The good news for AJ is that she’s an actual wrestler, and given our affinity with Trish Stratus and Lita it would not surprise me at all that AJ’s “sunny days” are ahead of her.
As for Big E Langston, the massive and mysteriously silent monster is playing his role to the tee. Langston is standing in the footsteps of such legendary bodyguards as Diesel, Dave Batista, and Ezekiel Jackson just to name a few. Perhaps Big E will one day serve as the potential grouse in John Cena’s pheasant hunt. But then again, a man can dream can’t he…
Speaking of John Cena, just how exhilarating was his match against CM Punk on Monday night?!?!
Many fans and pundits have said this before already, but Cena seems to be the type of wrestler/superstar that is very capable of having an excellent match if he’s pushed to the limit by his opponent. It’s anybody’s guess as to the pep talk given to either Punk or Cena prior to the match, but whatever was said or done it gave both men the passion and desire necessary to deliver one hell of a battle.
We often condemn the WWE for not having matches like this on the regular, but the truth of it all is that these rare gems should be rare gems, because if matches like this happened all the time what exactly would a rare gem be?
The other thing to pay attention to is CM Punk’s ability to bring the best out of Cena. It’s often said (and ignored largely by fans) that a wrestler is only as great as his opponent makes him look. While the myth of John Cena’s stature tends to overshadow all around him, Punk truly stood out as a performer by showing off his ability to take Cena beyond complacency and mediocrity in the ring. This is why Punk’s legendary 21st Century WWE Title reign is lost among fans today; we miss the significance of all he brings to the product because we’re too busy focusing on the obvious flaws of the company to appreciate the crown jewels in their possession.
I did get truly pissed me off during the match as Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler casually ignored the fact that Punk spent a majority of the match working on Cena’s neck and head. It’s one thing to constantly state that Punk was “trying to wear Cena down,” but he could’ve easily done that by working on Cena’s mid-section, making it harder for him to breath the longer the match progressed. Instead Punk worked over a previously injured area of Cena’s body, making him super vulnerable for a knee to the face or the dreaded Anaconda Vice submission hold. I know understand why people say RAW’s commentary team has gotten awful. The little things always make a difference, and I wish the commentators could’ve at least acknowledged that in their incessant banter.
So what’s the end game for both men? Of course we get another “Once In a Lifetime” match between The Rock and John Cena, but more importantly CM Punk is available for what could be the biggest match of his WWE career against The Undertaker at WrestleMania. We assume Taker will win the match, but what would it say about how the company feels about Punk if he becomes the first and only wrestler to defeat “The Dead Man” at the pay per view? Once again…a man can dream, can’t he?
That all I felt about the show last night. What do YOU think about it?
In today’s modern wrestling era, one of the complaints that have been most often uttered is for WWE to become more “cutting edge” and present a sense of “attitude,” only earlier offered to the wrestling fans of the mid-1990s.
Arguably the most vital time in WWE (then WWF) history, Vince McMahon had borrowed an extreme style of wrestling with controversial storylines and characters from Paul Heyman of Extreme Championship Wrestling, and introduced it to a worldwide audience.
This ideology of provocative television that would put fans on the edge of their seat would then be named the Attitude Era.
While the 1980s will always be wrestling’s golden era for putting professional wrestling on the mainstream media map, the mid-1990s would be the launching pad for Vince McMahon to overcome adversary, Ted Turner and his promotion, World Championship Wrestling. It was not until the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, DX, Mankind, and The Rock burst on to the wrestling scene that Vince McMahon was able to not only defeat his longtime opponent, but buy Turner right out of the professional wrestling industry.
Now, some may be asking what this brief history lesson has to do with the topic of my article, being the criticism of the “Real Americans” currently appearing on WWE television. What does WWE’s most controversial period of time have to do with the two men who have returned to television in pursuit of fixing America’s problems in 2013? It’s simple; the purpose of this article is to get many wrestling fans to look deep within themselves and quit being so serious when watching sports entertainment.
Ever since the Attitude Era came to a close in the early-2000s, wrestling fans have yet to quit complaining about the necessity for controversial programming. Making the word “controversial” synonymous with “must see television,” fans have yet to truly be satisfied with WWE’s efforts over the years to spice up their product. But each and every time WWE attempts to do something innovative or something that may potentially strike a nerve with a certain demographic, it tends to go horribly wrong.
If anyone needs an example of particular fans partaking in the destruction of one of these efforts, then look no further than Muhammad Hassan. Portrayed as a Muslim-American who felt ostracized and vilified by Americans following the events that occurred on September 11th, 2001, Hassan would strike a nerve with the American people by criticizing them for being lackadaisical, spoiled with their inherent freedoms that other countries do not have, and for their false generalizations about his people. Nobody in recent years was able to really use a racial gimmick in order to get under the skin of the fans like Hassan, yet he was eventually punished for it.
In real life, Mark Copani was none of the things he was portrayed as on television. As a matter of fact, there was never a single report that questioned his conduct, work ethic, or overall skill in the squared circle. He could wrestle, he could captivate an audience with his words, and he had all of the confidence from WWE higher ups…that is, until a feud with Undertaker would ensure on SmackDown. Being broadcasted on UPN at the time, WWE was consistently directed by the network to essentially have Hassan toned down in fear of potentially “offending” certain audiences.
And then it would all end in the blink of an eye when Hassan would assault Undertaker with a band of masked men in camo pants with a piano wire. Following this assault, the men would carry Daivari to the back in a very eerie fashion. A seemingly beautifully executed feud with one of WWE’s most prominent names was completely ruined by those who witnessed this footage and deemed it to be uncomfortable to watch. The segment garnered mass media coverage and criticism for reflecting what legitimate problems in society were at the time. Needless to say, Hassan would be buried and never seen again following all of the criticism received for this segment. For many, it was the last straw.
And this all leads me to two individuals, who for some reason have garnered similar criticism before being back for nearly three weeks. These men are Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter. Known to many as Dutch Mantel, Colter returned to WWE television alongside Swagger, portraying a “family friend” and a “Real American.” Colter would then cut a promo, in which he criticized Americans for being lazy, illegal immigrants taking “handouts,” and for allowing “border jumpers” into the country to take jobs from American citizens. And right off the bat, Colter was referred to as a xenophobe and a political satirical caricature of a right-wing conservative.
While some wrestling fans appreciated the promo and realized that the presence of a man such as Colter could quickly boost Swagger into the main event scene, others decided to take the approach of deeming it as racist. This is without a doubt just the continuation of the great dichotomy that wrestling fans have struggled with ever since the climax of the Attitude Era. The same men and women who clamored for less “Fruity Pebble” John Cena promos are now deploring WWE’s attempt to not only add some pizzazz to a character that has suffered for nearly three years, but deeming an enhancement to his gimmick as “racist.” It’s just further validation that SOME (this isn’t directed to all, to make that perfectly clear) people just should not be watching the product in general.
Not even one month into the character and Colter has already received great negative attention from the media. Just this week, Breibart.com has a headline entitled, “WWE Scorches Tea Party Character as Racist.” They even provide a link in which several tweets from various people complain about how Swagger and Colter are merely a spoof of their political beliefs. And for the life of me, I can’t help but be anything at furious for those soft people who indicate that a professional wrestling storyline was intended to be racist. Could Vince McMahon be poking some fun at politics? Sure, he’s done it before. However, was this gimmick really intended to gain negative mainstream publicity? Absolutely not.
And as I read through the tweets, the more disappointed in Americans I become. This isn’t the first time a collective group of people have come together to share their dislike of a wrestling angle, or even a television angle for that matter…but it is the most recent and it is one of the most disappointing scenarios in quite some time. Muhammad Hassan at least had a considerable amount of television time before his heavy criticism and eventual departure, but Swagger has been back all but three weeks. It took even less than that for certain people to look past WWE for what it truly is: entertainment.
I can bet my top dollar that these people complaining are the same ones who complained about CM Punk’s heart attack angle, Chris Jericho disrespecting a country’s flag, or Abraham Washington making an ill-taste Kobe Bryant joke on live television. I’ll be the first to admit that some stories WWE has put on television should have never hit our screens in the first place, but when a wrestler is torn a new one for trying to get over with the audience, I just can’t tolerate it. The Attitude Era had a fair share of distasteful angles and characters that shouldn’t have been on television because they truly were lousy…and it is the same for particular gimmicks since. Did we need Mae Young to give birth to a hand or to witness Triple H getting busy with a manikin of a deceased woman? No, and arguments can be made towards letting those storylines get publicized…but these particular cases like Swagger’s irk me to no end.
Have some wrestling fans truly been caught up in their hypocrisy that they truly don’t know what they want anymore? I have to say so. Antonio Cesaro is a foreigner that talks trash about Americans and doesn’t receive so much media attention for it…but when a character even remotely resembles a caricature of a political party, all hell breaks loose. And it’s sad; it’s been proven time and time again that the media’s perception to a gimmick can change the entire plans of WWE. A.W. was fired for one poor joke, Hassan got the boot for a gimmick that struck a nerve, and Zeb Colter is just as susceptible. He’s a new character that can be quickly forgotten and removed from the product. Yet, in the long run there is no good done for wrestling. Jack Swagger will once again be demoted, much like how the Prime Time Players are today. Don’t even get me started on the aftermath of Hassan’s firing.
Again, if you can’t handle a remote satire of something you may consider personal, it is time to come to the year, 2013. The problem with entertainment in various forms today is it is so censored because there are the select groups of people that will refuse to take the slightest jab with a grain of salt. And they ruin it for the rest of us. We are all entitled to how we feel about Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger, but they should not be punished because someone disagrees with the direction their characters are taken in. Jacob Hager and Wayne Keown are not xenophobes that stand in front of the American border each day chasing out minorities….it’s who they portray their gimmick.
Unfortunately, however, the mass media will ultimately decide the fate of both of these men. But to me, if they are removed, it will be a great travesty. Some are just so reluctant to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride that they lose site as to what WWE tries to do on a weekly basis. We can all be critics, it’s in our nature…but to go out and demand something be removed from television because it is not of our taste is unacceptable. To the offended Tea Party members, if it is so horrible, don’t watch the program. If you are incapable of being entertained, don’t ruin it for everybody else. I like Zeb and Jack. They are on the road to WrestleMania 29 and an ascension to superstardom. They have earned this opportunity and whether or not you think this is a political jab towards conservatives that is not what this is about.
This is about wrestling. This is about sports entertainment. This is about WrestleMania. Take your politics, racism, and unjust generalizations elsewhere. I’m all for being a critic and expressing my freedom of speech, but this hypocrisy of wrestling fans needs to stop. If you want to bash WWE, discuss how The Great Khali has a job or how the Divas are poorly mistreated, not your political propaganda. Let’s just enjoy the road to WrestleMania 29 and what Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter bring us.
We the People.
It’s Monday, February 18, 2013, and fans here in the United States are 24 hours removed from last night’s Elimination Chamber pay per view. While most analysts, pundits, naysayers and emotionally immature grumps have already trotted out their diatribes, raging against the WWE machine and swearing off supporting sports entertainment forever until RAW comes on in less than 2 hours, I decided to take the road less traveled in order to craft a more paced, temperate review of last night’s pay per view.
I typically judge pay per views using one simple question that encapsulates a wide range of criteria used by others when watching a pro wrestling pay per view: do I want to buy this on DVD?
That question, as simple as it may seem, takes a number of complex views and opinions and crams them all into one nifty little, digestible nugget that’s easy to understand and consume. Fans can bicker back and forth about the logic behind the booking, or how Wrestler A should’ve beat Superstar B and all that jazz, but the proof in the pudding lies within that one question: would you be willing to spend money to see this show again?
For the WWE’s 2013 iteration of Elimination Chamber, the answer for this analyst is a thoughtful, sincere and stoic no.
This isn’t saying that the show was bad, nor is it saying that the event was great and/or good. The pay per view last night was essentially a little more than an expensive RAW-like segue, a bridge designed specifically to get us from the 2013 Royal Rumble to WrestleMania 29. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; we like bridges. They help us get across large bodies of water, or small streams. The covered ones in Madison County are to die for, or so I’m told.
The show also had entertaining moments and all of the wrestlers did awesome in their respective matches. However for this fan in particular there was only one match on the card that would move me to buy the DVD, and even then that one match wasn’t enough to move me that far; sorry, Best Buy.
In the end the show left fans wide open and ready for what could be a sensational build to the biggest pro wrestling pay per view of the year. Last night’s event was more about focusing our attention on the bumpy trail leading to New York/New Jersey than it was about the “evil, diabolical and unforgiving” play pen Elimination Chamber.
As such with all things in life, there are several lessons we can glean from having spent our precious time and moments alive watching what Vince McMahon had to offer us this month:
The Rock & John Cena = $$$; You Don’t.
There were a ton of fans that were “surprised” that The Rock defeated CM Punk last night to retain the WWE Championship, even though it was already a foregone conclusion that Rock was headed to fight Cena one more time when the latter won last month’s Royal Rumble.
There are a couple of things that should strike fans as being pertinent and important in any discussion involving the second “Once In A Lifetime” match between Cena and The Rock. For starters, the match makes money. The WWE has been catering to casual fans for some time now, and casual fans will pay money to see Rock and Cena square off again, this time for something more than that “I’m the better man than you” bravado that gets grown men killed in real life.
The difference between you (generally speaking, not YOU in specific…unless YOU are one of the fans complaining, too) and the casual fan is that the casual fan ordered and paid for the pay per view last night. YOU, on the other hand, watched it via illegal stream and complained the entire time. That’s like asking for a cup of water from McDonald’s and getting mad because they won’t give you the supersized gallon jug.
As frustrating as that may be the harsh reality is that people will pay for what they want. If the WWE’s fan base didn’t want to see The Rock and John Cena that badly, it would not happen; money speaks louder to WWE than internet rants and tirades. If you truly want to end this “travesty,” purchase as much stock in the company as you can and convince at least 1000 other people to buy front row tickets at each WWE show around the world so they can consistently show off their “We Hate Rocky!” signs to every camera in the building.
If you can’t do those things, save your breath and expert typing skills for a product that is more worth your time.
Another thing to pay attention to is the fact that we cannot pretend as if Rock and Cena have had the only repeat match after their first match was billed as a one-time only shot. Without naming names there’s at least one other wrestling duo that literally wrestle each other once a month, each time with the same “one last time” tagline limping meekly behind them.
No one blinks an eye at the fact that these two wrestlers have had as many televised matches as the UFC has had pay per views, but I guess that’s okay because they’re not John Cena and The Rock…; whatever. And surprise, they may have a match at an upcoming pay per view…
It’s no secret that Rock’s return to the WWE last year wasn’t celebrated or highly favored by a number of hardcore fans, and even then there weren’t that many thrilled by their outing at WrestleMania 28. April’s sports entertainment extravaganza will feature the same two wrestlers with way more at stake, and the crux of this match’s success will all depend on whether these to superstars (because that’s what they are) can tell a drastically different story outside the ring and in between the ropes leading up to their second match.
We can nitpick all we want, but let’s wait until they actually botch the whole deal before we bury it and piss on the grave.
The Rise of the Next Gen Superstars
A terrific piece was crafted by fellow analyst Ross Rutherford some time ago that analyzed, in part, the WWE’s inability (or defiance) to create new superstars. While last night was far from a showcase of new talent, it definitely gave several superstars to prove their mettle and worth to the Titan Tower suits and WWE fans.
From a wrestling perspective Antonio Cesaro thoroughly embarrassed The Miz last night, so much so that I actually felt bad for the man. There’s a saying in pro wrestling that a wrestler is only as good as his opponent makes him look; if this is the case for Cesaro, Miz deserves ALL the credit left in the United States for his work with the champ last night.
Some would argue that Cesaro should’ve gained a clean win against Miz last night, but in all honesty the finish was smooth, seamless, and protected both wrestlers to continue their rivalry. As a face Miz has most assuredly won over a number of fans, but his real life return to the WWE has left him floating in this sea of mediocrity. If the WWE can’t find anything “worthwhile” to do with him at the moment, why not utilize him to help build up Cesaro…you know, help create a new superstar?
It was a thing of beauty to watch Cesaro work Miz like a carny at a traveling circus. Most fans can easily agree that the current United States Champion has “WHC/WWE Champion” written all over him; let’s hope we’re right.
Big E Langston also got a chance last night to do and be more than just Dolph Ziggler’s big, Black friend. After Ziggler’s impromptu match and victory over Kofi “House Cat” Kingston, Langston used his 3 Moves of Doom to exact some true Afro-Caribbean street justice on the former Intercontinental Champion. In an eerily yet somewhat similar way as The Miz, Kingston was able to make Langston look more intense than he usually does; given Langston’s size, however, that’s not hard to do when the man’s handshake can burst your appendix.
I also feel badly for Kofi Kingston who, also like The Miz, is languishing in mediocrity for no apparent reason. The truly disappointing point of it all is that Kofi’s career has gone this kind of up-and-down rollercoaster ordeal before. At one point he was a possible contender for a major title, then he got bumped off; he had a red-hot feud with Randy Orton, then it got dumped in the Baltic Ocean. They gave him a catchy nickname and talked incessantly about his crazy and wild offense, and then they stopped giving a damn.
We should expect some sort of feud to erupt between Kingston and Langston, and it will be pretty interesting to see the mix of their styles. It will also be interesting to see Langston have a sanctioned match in the company, which is long overdue for the man at this point. As for Kingston, perhaps a rivalry with Langston will show someone that the man can do more for the company if given the opportunity.
Last, but not least, The Shield triumphed against all odds and defeated Ryback last night at the pay per view.
I know what you’re thinking; I should’ve said that The Shield defeated Ryback, Sheamus, and John Cena last night at the pay per view. If I said that I’d be a liar.
Ryback ate the pinfall for the team after Sheamus was (once again) speared through the barricade and John Cena was busy pandering to the crowd with his Attitude Adjustment finishing maneuver. There was a lot going on in that finishing sequence, and the entire match, that we should recall and pay attention to:
- Ryback, unlike Goldberg and John Cena, can be defeated by conventional methods. The man is not invincible; the man is not without a weakness. This separates him tremendously from Goldberg, which makes any similarities between the two superficial, at best.
- The Shield worked like a well-oiled machine, and as my L.E.W.D. brother Mr. Lamb put it, the match ended up being a 3-on-1-on-1-on-1 match, as opposed to a six-man tag match. It’s quite possible that the story told here worked best for the pay per view and the group, whereas a War Games match would have definitely told a decidedly different and potentially harmful story for The Shield.
- John Cena avoids being pinned and stays virtually immaculate for another day. In fact at this point he could not honestly care less about The Shield as his attention is now focused squarely on preparing to face the WWE Champion, The Rock, at WrestleMania 29.
- The only thing Sheamus has left to do is face Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental Title, but Bo Dallas is already in that spot right now. Poor Sheamus…
All three members of The Shield—Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns—were absolute gold last night. I anticipate some sort of purpose rising to light for the group soon, but that may be more wishful thinking than anything else. Perhaps a Freebird like stab at the Tag Team Championships, as someone suggested on Twitter last night, could breathe some meaningful purpose into the group?
Right now is the perfect time for Langston, Ambrose, Rollins, Cesaro, Reigns, and even Ryback to rise up the ladder in the WWE. In order for them to truly be break out stars at this point, they’ve got to have the same intensity and drive as superstars had during the Attitude Era. They have got to be hungry for that main event status and they must be willing to fight for that top star status.
This isn’t suggesting that they backstab one another or intentionally discredit their fellow wrestlers; they must, however, do more than just play the roles or read the scripts given to them. They have got to be willing to go beyond what’s necessary in order for fans to really react to their presence and help catapult their game to the next level. And I, for one, am glad that these stars are on the cusp of that level of greatness in the WWE.
Do or Die: Jack Swagger, Alberto Del Rio, and Good Ol’ Fashioned Envelope Pushin’
There are scores of fans that have commented on the lack of a solid and consistent main even push for Jack Swagger. Be careful what you wish for…
My friend Ken Drabek commented that this may be Swagger’s last chance to have a significant presence as a top star in WWE. And what better way to so than with a gimmick that’s rife with political and social commentary that could easily cross the line between polite rhetoric and flat out bigotry?
Eric Bischoff wrote a book based on the idea that “controversy creates cash,” and that idea has been proven correct more often than not. The bigger picture is that these Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio, wrestlers, have to have a controversial gimmick stapled to them just to make us give a hoot about their upcoming title match; I’m surprised no one picked up on that sooner.
Alberto Del Rio’s face turn has also been hailed as a roaring success, but the jump from a snooty Mexican aristocrat to a fan favorite was…slightly inorganic. The best way, in somebody’s mind, to evoke more sympathy for him is to have an uber-American degrade his heritage and humanity; on the flip side, the best way to reintroduce Swagger to the fans is by having him saddled with a grizzled and disillusioned war veteran that can’t accept the fact that America in 2013 shouldn’t look like America in 1779. This, of course, isn’t even taking into consideration that the whole gimmick is blatantly ripped off from another pro wrestler. Yep…Swagger has a hell of a ride ahead of him.
So ends my thoughts on yesterday’s Elimination Chamber pay per view. What did YOU learn from the show?
Today is February 11, 2013. On this particular morning I woke up a bit later than usual, yawning, stretching, groggily going to the newspaper to browse through the classifieds. I had a few frozen waffles and a glass of root beer in a pint-sized glass with a video game theme. My ears listened to CNN on the television while my eyes focused on pictures that may or may not have been safe for work as well as the Grammy won by Arturo Sandoval for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album Dear Diz, and as I considered resuming my month long free trial of Netflix watching Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, something occurred to me.
“Hey… the Pope is stepping down… meh.”
Seven words, and that was the extent of my thought process behind it. Know this: I’m black Catholic with a somewhat pantheistic point of view on things, which sort of puts me in a titular role like that of Sinead O’Conner (heh). I joke about my faith and most faiths honestly. If anything, the only “gripe” I have with any faith practice is that of Scientology, and that’s mostly because I see it as the Hollywood religion for the sexy people. For real, Super Bowl ads and poorly crafted movies aside, seeing the famous people that put money into it make me think I couldn’t be a Scientologist if I wanted to: granted, if I DID want to it would have been to meet Katie Holmes. But she’s Catholic again. Hurray!
But back on topic, that was the extent of my initial reactions. My mother called me around noon and asked me what I thought about it. I responded with one word of the original seven. “Meh”. Why now, she implied, why now when Lent is upon us and all that? I shrugged. Honestly I don’t know, I hardly care, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see it coming. Maybe I’m one of the few people that remembers him saying that he was going to have a short run as the H.C.I.C.
But the world has reacted and the responses are all expected. “Why is he stepping down?” “So the Antichrist is leaving before he dies?” “Good riddance!” “He was a Nazi, wasn’t he?” “I wonder if the next one will be African?” “He looks like the Emperor!” “Why is this happening now?” “I never liked the Church anyway.” “I wonder if Tom was right…?”
Okay, that last one was part of a debate I was having with someone about (500) Days of Summer, but the rest focused around Pope Benedict XVI. From a personal standpoint, I was never – and still can’t claim to be – more than melancholy about the guy. As important as my faith is to my personal development, I never truly dwell on it. It’s just something that I hold to and keep it moving. It’s one of the reasons I can laugh and joke with everyone and not try and pull a J.R.R. Tolkien on C.S. Lewis (oh poppycock, no one is going to get that reference). Long and short: I’m religious without being in your face about it.
As you can guess by now, I’m writing this as Chris Lamb, outside of the DiZ character once again. Conversations about religion or the opposition thereof fascinate me and I love talking about them. Unfortunately, I enjoy actual conversation, and like an idiot I completely forgot about the Pope situation when I logged onto Twitter today. You know what that means? That’s right! Idiocy!
I follow and am followed by a number of people as diverse as four teams of Assassins Creed developers, so I get a good mix of thought processes and lifestyles all the time. Some are black, some are white, some Asian, some Hispanic, some from Parts Unknown. Some are Christian, some Jewish, some Muslim, some atheist, some agnostic, one may even be a practitioner of Shintoism, I don’t know, but the mix is good and if I’m really good with them then our conversations will go beyond the realm of Stupid City, better known as Twitter.
After all these paragraphs, you may wonder where CM Punk comes in to play. Well as you can guess by my job as a writer on this blog, I follow, and am followed, by a number of professional wrestling/sports entertainment people. Recently, as in the past hour or so, I’ve seen way too many tweets related to CM Punk. Normally this isn’t a problem; CM Punk is one of my favorite wrestlers, the Best in the World, one of the finest talents to pass through the WWE’s doors, and I’ve been a fan since he began demanding the spot light (long before the infamous first pipe bomb, mind you). But when CM Punk is retweeted and mentioned so often in my timeline, I’m forced to pay attention to why he’s mentioned so often in my timeline.
Today: the Pope.
According to Wikipedia and, originally, from his tweets, CM Punk is an atheist (and a pescetarian, but that’s not relevant to this). Again, my standard response to “revelations” such as these is “Meh”. You couldn’t pay me enough to give a damn what someone believes or doesn’t believe in, unless it involves ritual sacrifice of farm animals. In which case, invite me over, because I’m pretty sure that might actually be a cookout indirectly sponsored by the Church of the NFL and it’s many denominations. Apparently Mr. Brooks tweeted something about the Pope and his youth as a Nazi (I think they’re called Nazi Youth… or Gremlins).
Sitting in my four-cornered room, staring at hammers (thinking of renovating a bit), that’s about how I have to approach this wave (that’s hyperbole; uncomfortable ripple) of uncomfortable tweets. “And?” They aren’t uncomfortable tweets because of CM Punk’s personal views, but more so the frequency and sheer intensity of most of them, ranging from the hyper religious right wing manifest destiny loving crowd to the hyper non-religious left wing “I say God is dead!” Broadway loving crowd, and it’s unnerving. God (heh) forbid there be some middle ground here, you know, say, a person who nods his or her head and keeps it moving and then decided to write something on a fairly popular blog where he or she normally writes in the character of a lost Mobian with three tails.
I’m not saying I’m better than people (that’s Da Infamous One’s job) but one thing a lot of non-religious people have right is that a lot of religious people get into too much of a tizzy (I thank @64Rallo for that word) when someone says anything that might challenge their faith or views. Frankly it’s annoying. Stop it, Kurt Angle. Normally I’d say Adrian, in all caps and with an exclamation point, but I’m Chris Lamb speaking, not Da Infamous DiZ. I guess my ultimate message comes down to this: if you’re going to be offended by what CM Punk says (and he really didn’t say much at all anyway) then maybe you shouldn’t have, oh, I don’t know, been listening to CM Punk. Ever. Man speaks his mind, I don’t apologize if that offends you. Hell, I’m a huge proponent of free speech; after all, I DID unleash Corbin Macklin onto the internet as a blogger. If that doesn’t tell you something then ask the Ratchet Revolutionary himself.
With my timeline calming down a bit and going into its standard filth flarn filth (nothing really safe for work, and I blame others for it) I can stop with the shoulder shrugging melancholy of Punk’s “latest episode” (?), as one person called it, and go into the real issue: the one that doesn’t exist.
Heh. More pseudo-religious humor. Get it? “The one that doesn’t exist?” Bah, this is just loaded with references that you all won’t be able to appreciate. It’s a gift: I remember when Michael Jackson got in trouble last time (one of the last times before he died). My Boondocks brand of humor went unappreciated then too. Apparently someone under 18 with a t-shirt reading “I Love You, Michael Jackson” is seen as inappropriate. Sue me.
The issue that doesn’t exist is the matter of perception (isn’t it always?). The question that began buzzing around, in the midst of the new “faithful vs. faithless” war I had in my timeline, was whether or not this would reflect on the company. Perception is everything, or so philosophers and marketing executives lead us to believe, and CM Punk is undoubtedly one of the premier faces of sports entertainment, with the premier company no less. Like when Linda McMahon was in the midst of her unstoppable campaign, the WWE is constantly under a microscope, and that means that people are always watching.
Translation: people are always watching and they have their own views and sensibilities. Say one wrong word and one of these people can be on the last train to Paris after foaming at the mouth long enough. If you’ve ever played Mass Effect 2, you might have run across a particular conversation Shepard can have with the asari justicar Samara; one discussing her chosen profession, her opinions on other species and the early possibility of charging up her loading dock. It was profound to me that she said that humans were the most opinionated species she had ever encountered. She said:
“Yours is a very interesting species. For example, if there are three humans in a room, there will be six opinions.”
Wise words from a sexy woman. Alien. Feminine extraterrestrial. It’s not fair to call her a woman when her species is technically monogendered so woman and man doesn’t have meaning to them. They all come across as female. So, wise words from a sexy non-human. Because they wouldn’t be aliens to themselves, or flying through space because they weren’t a factor on the planet Earth.
Sorry, I got lost in thought. I like asari. In any case, a lot of the very people that keep the WWE under said microscope are rooted in a train of thought that may not appreciate comments like those made by Mr. Brooks. Let me first preference this by saying that this is speculation, and I’ll second preference this by saying I’m on nobody’s side. I simply like to add perspective, like I did when I talked Pokemon with some people and introduced them to the notion that it was a colorful expression of sla—
You know why the WWE was under the microscope with McMahon’s failed Senate run? Because anyone – namely opposition – and use even the slightest issue as fodder for a skillful and dangerous attack campaign. Crucify a Superstar? You worship the devil! Hot lesbian action? You don’t support traditional family views! Mexican world champion? You support illegal immigration!
Something as minuscule as a tweet can carry long reaching consequences, in select circumstances. I honestly don’t think CM Punk did anything wrong OR sparked anything, but let’s just assume the worst, shall we? Murphy’s law and all being the mixed bag it is. For someone who is a decidedly low ranking or hardly popular Superstar or Diva, saying something of any significance is low risk. If JTG said that some high ranking member of the WWE hierarchy didn’t like black people right now, who would know? Few. It would get out depending on who spread it, mind you, but it wouldn’t pick up steam for a little while. On the other hand, if John Cena said that the head of the Divas didn’t like black people, it would be a national headline, under the latest news on Seal Team Six and Katy Perry’s cleavage (both things that I find a separate, if unequal, interest in).
But it all comes back to CM Punk, easily one of the faces of the company. Easily one of the most outspoken voices of… well, anywhere. Could his comment on the outgoing Pope negatively affect the WWE?
I doubt it. That’s not to say it couldn’t. That’s not to say it won’t. But I highly doubt it. He’s a man saying what he feels. That kind of thing can only get you in trouble when it so drastically goes against the grain that the company or organization has so painstakingly planted before, and take that with a grain of salt. The long standing perception of the WWE (and many professional wrestling companies with a significant commercial fanbase) is that the wrestlers AND the people running the business are a load of Christians (born again and otherwise) who blur the lines between decency (incest and necrophilia storylines, anyone?) and confusing (it was a hand, man…). Hell, plenty of the biggest wrestlers and/or Superstars are big time Christians; I’m pretty sure TBN devotes Thursdays and the month of September to the born again Christian wrestlers at this point.
I apologize to any I’ve offended with that joke.
I apologize that I just used the previous line to lie about an apology.
Enter CM Punk, however. His very presence is odd in that familiar hodgepodge of Bible Belt types (save for the Catholics; the Bible Belt is quite Protestant). He’s an atheist, non-meat eating, booze-avoiding, drug-free, cigarette-stomping would-be grunge rocker, if Kurt Cobain was a Chicagoan. He has tattoos galore, an attitude that warrants questionable obedience from fans, the backing of Paul “I am what you call great” Heyman and he doesn’t eat meat.
Contrast that to two of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees. Bob Backlund and Bruno Sammartino. Big (so to speak; Backlund was about Punk’s size), clean cut, possibly Christian (citation needed), meat eating, probably booze avoiding, drug free, cigarette stomping would-be rockabilly rockers, if Buddy Holly didn’t die in such an untimely fashion.
Okay, so many the wrestler base isn’t so, so different after all. Talent reaches across all fields. Contrast often leads to advancement. After all, one of the best recent matches is between CM Punk and Chris Jericho, as seen here, and those two couldn’t be more different. I mean, one of them claims to be from Canada. The nerve…
Ultimately the people that make the biggest noise about the pointless things are the smallest denomination of the significant whole. And people like me, who reply to many things with “Meh” and look at the universe as the ultimate ocean, merely comment on it as a means to express themselves. All it takes is a spark and everyone will jump on a particular bandwagon, jumping behind those who agree with them and barking but never biting those who think differently. I’d swear it was like, oh, what’s it called… worship? Not that I’m going to get into the humor of the worship-worthy devotion some have towards those who lambast worship, not today at least.
It all comes down to one mentality though: mine. Because I wrote this. And as I look at the whole “controversy” and wonder if the next Pope will indeed be African or Brazilian (no American Popes in my lifetime, thank God (yeah, I said it)), my thoughts, ideas and queries towards the now-passed issue are as simple as a single word.
DISCLAIMER: This is simply food for thought. I want to make L.E.W.D. put some more wrinkles back on the brain because I’m sure it’s about as smooth as a baby’s backside after the Friday Farces.
On April 4, 2011 (the night after WrestleMania XXVII), many Professional Wrestling fans, I included, witnessed a verbal contract agreement between John Cena and The Rock for a match at WrestleMania XXVIII in Miami, Florida. At some point, I vaguely remember Cena seeking to raise the stakes by carrying the WWE Title to that match…
On May 1, 2011 (Extreme Rules), Cena won the WWE Championship from The Miz in a Triple-Threat Match involving John Morrison. Many fans (I included) were a little peeved about this outcome simply because we had a sinking feeling that Cena was going to be champion from May 1, 2011 to April 1, 2012 and defend his belt against The Rock at WrestleMania. These fans (I included) were DEAD WRONG!!!
On July 17, 2011, just 77 days after winning the belt for the 8th time, John Cena would lose the belt to CM Punk would claim his first WWE Championship and flee the company (Arrival Point).
During Punk’s time away, Rey Mysterio and John Cena would lay claim to the New (Interim) WWE Championship. Upon Cena winning, CM Punk returned to make the statement that HE was the WWE Champion, and Cena was just keeping the seat warm, and on August 14, 2011, CM Punk defeated John Cena to be the undisputed WWE Champion (Arrival Point). Then Alberto Del Rio would cash in his “Money In The Bank” and win the WWE Championship from CM Punk.
Del Rio would hold the belt for 35 days and lose it to John Cena for what seemed like the title reign that would lead to WrestleMania XXVIII…But it wasn’t.
Only 2 weeks later at Hell in a Cell on October 2, 2011, John Cena was both literally and metaphorically locked out of the WWE Championship scene. Alberto Del Rio would regain the WWE Championship. (Arrival Point)
The one question that seemed to stick out from many fans, “Did the WWE really give the belt to Cena just to give him his 10th Title reign?” Maybe the better question was, “Did the WWE change their plans for something and/or someone bigger?”
Del Rio’s reign would last 49 days before he would lose it to CM Punk at Survivor Series on November 20, 2011. (Arrival Point)
This Survivor Series featured a returning Rock teaming with Cena in the “Never Before, Never Again” Tag-Match… Given that Survivor Series is one of the WWE’s Classic 4 PPVs, the WWE Championship can’t just be involved in a Tag Match and not defend it unless the WWE revisits the Shawn Michaels/Diesel vs. Owen Hart/Yokozuna Championship Match (4 Men, 3 Titles, 2 Teams, 1 Match) scenario.
It seemingly felt like we had the answer to our aforementioned question. Cena can’t be champion if he teams with The Rock in this match for one of the WWE’s Classic 4 PPVs, so the WWE hit the reset button and put the belt back on Del Rio.
Now remember that The Rock promised that he was never leaving again…We all (including Cena and I) knew that he would be gone to do more movies, so basically that statement was a lie…or maybe we were taking him to literally… maybe he was saying that he would be in and out, but was going to be involved for a long period of time…maybe the plans were drawn out farther than just WrestleMania XXVIII…
On November 20, 2011, CM Punk would start a WWE Championship reign that would last 434 days. CM Punk was raising the standard of the WWE Title. He was making the belt a Hot Item, and made it more important to hold, even after the fans turned on him when he became obsessed with receiving the proper respect.
Punk was not being respected as the Best In The World even when holding the Title that represented that stature. John Cena and The Rock upstaged him on the first night of him being champion in this historic reign. 434 days later, John Cena wins the Royal Rumble, and The Rock wins the WWE Championship on January 27, 2011. (Arrival Point)
Who was the transitional champion in all of this?
A transitional champion (as defined by Wikipedia.org) is defined as a short-reigning champion who serves to move the title indirectly from one wrestler to a third. They are usually used when the title is to be moved between two faces, to avoid requiring them to wrestle each other.
Based on this definition, one could argue that Alberto Del Rio was a transitional champion; but was he?
I challenge one to think a little more about this situation. Does the arrival point have to be a person or a situation?
What is the big picture?
As mentioned before, The Rock vs. Cena was the main attraction/advertisement for WrestleMania XXVIII. It was billed as “Once in a Lifetime”, but given the recent events, one could believe it may become “Twice in a Couple of Years.”
Given that The Rock promised to be here for a long time, could one also believe that plans were being made and stories were being written for time periods that would span over the course of years. This was seemingly already going on with some storylines. For example, Triple H and The Undertaker and their two matches at WrestleMania’s XXVII and XXVIII. The ending of the first match just short of obviously led to the rematch a year later. Could it be possible that the situation with John Cena and The Rock was written 2 years out, and could that plan have been put in place on October 2, 2011 (Hell in a Cell)?
I remember being on the phone with Mr. Ashley Morris and Mr. Quinn Gammon during that PPV, and when Cena was locked out, we all agreed that the symbolism of that turn of events was too strong to ignore.
Did Del Rio hold the belt to keep Cena from fighting Punk?… Well seeing that Punk was involved in the match that Cena lost the belt, I doubt it.
The last time the belt was in the hands of Cena was September 8, 2011, and The Rock won it on January 27, 2013. There were 507 days between, and CM Punk was Champion for 434 (86%) of them, and if the story was written out to be that John Cena (Royal Rumble Winner) will face The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XXIX, could it be said that CM Punk was given the belt to raise the value, make it a Hot Item, and make it stand for the Best in the World to give it back to The Rock and John Cena’s WrestleMania stint, and would that mean that CM Punk was the man to hold the belt to keep it out of the hands of John Cena?
This is a business right? CM Punk did benefit a lot out of the 434 day reign, but no one is bigger than the business, and if the business is going year to year, then everything in between is just a group of arrival points leading to a big payoff at each year’s end.
Now I am very aware that this argument is only valid if a few things are true: My theory that the WWE is writing in a long-term and full-circle format. and if CM Punk is out of the Title picture by the time WrestleMania XXIX occurs.
Was CM Punk’s reign a transition to raise the value of the belt and to keep it in a high profile?
Tell me what you think.
Hi, I’m DiZ. The following is a rather profane, though dangerously focused, rant from L.E.W.D. brother Corbin Macklin. While L.E.W.D. does not intentionally seek to dilute the potency of brother Macklin’s original piece, it has been edited so as not to greatly offend the audience and to maintain a particular level of professionalism and certain standard maintained by the writers of the site. Nevertheless this piece is fueled by pure emotion, people, and I feel it clearly coincides with a lot of people’s views after the Royal Rumble PPV last night.
I offer this disclaimer though: this is a VERY explosive rant, and in reading it you agree to read some very explicit material. That is your warning. If you are of a weak constitution or find yourself easily offended, I suggest you stick to the other pieces on the site.
It must also be said that the comments and views posted here in the piece, including the language and style represented here, do not reflect those of the other members and writers of the L.E.W.D. Crew and website. To reiterate, this piece is intended for MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY. Reader discretion is advised.
With nothing more to say, I present Corbin Macklin’s rant: “…”
I feel worse right now than I did when my grandfather died, and the chick I loved at the time stopped talking to me the day before he was buried. Somewhere somebody is thinking “Gahdamn this dude Corbin’s priorities are JACKED up! So much emotion over fake fighting…” To those people: screw you.
Screw Dwayne Johnson. Screw John Cena. Screw Vince McMahon. Screw Paul Levesque. Screw Stephanie McMahon. Screw any and everyone that was remotely invested in the fuckery that took place in the main event of the Royal Rumble. Especially screw you if you’re happy Rocky Maivia is WWE Champion.
One of the main reasons I’m mad is because Punk won. Then they Dusty Finished all the smarks by restarting the match. In the space of two or three tweets I went from clicking my heels 3 feet off the ground to laying face down in the floor. One could say: Great job by creative eliciting such emotion from a fake fight. Screw that person. Screw creative. That mess wasn’t creative at all. After that transpired all the hell I saw all up and down my timeline was “EFF CENA AND ROCK II”. Meaning, this stuff is boring and ridiculously predictable.
I called my best friend and sat in stunned silence before he pissed me off by saying “You knew Rock was gonna win”. I screamed “NO” then told him what I opened this rant with. I told him: “You just ended the longest title reign in forever, for a guy who won’t wrestle but two more times before absconding back to Hollywood to make his boring ass movies I’m not going to watch.” Because screw him. Forget building a new star to rival Punk and Cena that will actually wrestle on RAW. Forget giving that rub to someone who needs it.
Things like this is why I don’t believe in the word ‘deserve’. Tell me Rocky Maivia deserved to be in a world championship match after wrestling two matches in eight years and Iswearfogawd I will slap the taste outchu.
Nothing any of you can say to me @CorbinMacklin on twitter or in these comments will convince me that this mess needed to transpire. I WILL curse you out should you be dumb enough to attempt. I quintuple mothereffing dog dare anyone to try to explain to me how the HELL putting a part timer we may not see again in 2013 after WrassleMania over the company’s top two workers makes sense.
Chick Magnet Punk can win the belt back on RAW. I’m still going to be pissed. Chick Magnet Punk can win the belt back at Elimination Chamber. I’m still going to be pissed. Chick Magnet Punk can win the belt back at WrassleMania. I’m still going to be pissed. You know why I’m pissed? BECAUSE EVERYONE READING THIS KNOWS GOOD AND WELL PHIL CHICK MAGNET PUNK BROOKS HAS A SNOWBALLS CHANCE IN HELL OF SNIFFING THAT MAIN EVENT UNTIL AFTER THE ROCK LEAVES AGAIN.
You destroyed a potential classic between Phil Brooks and Mark Calloway, Vince.. Screw you. The table was set to make history. By Mania, Punk would have been champ over 500 days. That streak plus Taker’s streak is a license to print money. We. Would. Actually. Believe. Taker. Could. LOSE. At. Mania. BY SHOW OF HANDS WHO IN THE HELL THINKS CM PUNK IS BEING POSITIONED TO END THE STREAK NOW? FORGET YOU IF YOU RAISED YOUR HAND!
Vince ‘deserves’ to be losing money quarterly for dumb stuff just like this. Nothing they do will be as great as my fantasies of my hometown superstar besting Hollywood’s Champ and the work once a year Satanist in the same year. Nothing. Phil Brooks could win back the belt and hold it ten years and you have still shat on something great.
Show of hands… who thinks Cena is going to pick Alberto Del Rio? Screw you. Get off my website reading my greatness. You disgust me. We all know WWE is going to make Rock – Cena: Twice in A Lifetime now. Dumbest stuff ever. Even if they make it a triple threat and Punk wins, you STILL made your top two guys job to that candy ass jabroni. THE HELL!!!
So all that said, I’m not doing anything drastic like not watching Raw. But I will be pissed when Rock does little more than cut promos. I’m going to be pissed when every tweet that reflects on that result positively trolls me. I’m going to be pissed about this mess forEVER. And… this is EXACTLY why I love this fake stuff.
My memories of the infamous Attitude era of the WWE (then WWF) are lacking. I can remember the bigger things: I remember Brian Pillman (RIP), the sexual overtones, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels’ major feud, ‘Taker and Michaels’ equally significant feud, Tyson, and of course the face of the era himself: Stone Cold Steve Austin.
I suppose you can group the era into seven major factors (hyperbole, but for the sake of this piece we’ll use seven): the rises of Stone Cold and The Rock, the Ministry of Darkness, the Brothers of Destruction, Degeneration-X, the rise of the many faces of Foley and the long-standing war between Austin and McMahon. Up until recently I was looking for a missing link between what I was attempting to write a little while back and what I’ve been trying to scribe here for what seems like several weeks. That link comes from the Attitude era. It comes from the feud between Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Looking at the return of The Rock, I can’t help but immediately return to the why of his return in the first place. His irregular forays into professional wrestling/sports entertainment have been to put someone over on the entertainment side and to bring in reasonable financial gain on the business side. At this point it’s fair to say that he’s more a Hollywood mainstay (which is pushing it a little in my tastes) than a special guest Superstar. Skipping ahead a bit it functions as the reason I’m not for him winning the WWE Championship at the Rumble; he’d fall under the same category of people that Punk criticized recently, i.e. Bob Backlund. Kayfabe, to be sure, but I find it to be an interesting deal. In any case, Dwayne Johnson’s latest foray back revolves around his gripes with the bastard son of Kamino engineering and Kal-El himself, John Cena.
Some might say that that isn’t true. It is. And you may not realize it, but you’re
likely wrong if you disagree. I’m talking to YOU, Adrian. Everything about The Rock’s latest romp has, in some capacity, revolved around John Cena, whether shameless talking about how much he doesn’t like him, to misinterpreting colonial American history and polluting sources of water AGAIN by throwing in Cena merchandise, to mysteriously shutting up after his Wrestlemania victory. Remember, he was relatively quiet after that until CM Punk began to run his mouth more and more heel-ishly. The announcement was made that he would have a WWE Championship match at the Rumble and I don’t think I can invoke my reaction any better than this here. Mostly because it made no sense. Secondly because it was an almost perfect set-up for Once in a Lifetime… Again. Which cheapens a good match from a good PPV. That’s the exposition; now let’s get into the sexy elaboration.
With Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, Wrestlemania, Extreme Rules, Over the Limit, No Way Out, there was a theme. Each match featured a significant match with Cena and someone trying to
murder defeat him. This does not differ from most of his matches in concept, but we were dealing with Kane’s attempt to drag him into darkness, the Big Show living up to his “new” contract with the “fat” bonus and, of course, Brock Lesnar’s violent, and highly appreciated, decimation of Doomsday before being overcome by his equally broken opponent. Again, nothing special about that, except for one thing: John Laurinaitis.
Outside of failed Odd Future philosopher Scorpio “Harold” Sky and the unknown soldier known only as Dr. Shelby (no one can verify that his name is Sam Huntington), there are few out-of-ring talents I immediately appreciated. The chain-smoker voice, the petrified wood chin, the history as a skateboarder, the past with a porn star, the still head-scratchingly confusing WXO promo, he was a godsend. He was great. He had a problem with Cena, just like he did with Punk (foreshadowing) and it showed as Cena became more and more of a nuisance to the executive vice president of talent relations and the general manager of both RAW and SmackDown! Mr. Excitement, as I’m sure Seka called him during their relationship, had a mission: kill Superman. And with this Lex Luthor state of mind, Johnny Ace (as I’m not so sure Seka called him during their relationship) sent out enforcer after enforcer to put him out of his misery. To varying results. All of them failures, save for Over the Limit, which DID feature a John Laurinaitis victory. Not that it put much of a dent in Cena’s momentum.
Big Johnny (as I’m sure Seka never called him during their relationship) waged his campaign silently. Cena was the unstoppable juggernaut and he was throwing everything he could at him, even hairy non-Japanese people. One of my more unfounded, but wholly comprehensible, conspiracies is that Mr. Skillful and Dangerous (as I’m sure NO ONE has ever called him in any situation) attempted to utilize Eve to a succubus effect on Cena and his plucky cohort Jason Todd. I mean Zack Ryder. Both of them died miserably, what’s the difference?
Hmm? Oh, Ryder is still alive? You say you knew that? I didn’t. He’s irrelevant.
With Laurinaitis’ departure there was a void left in the “Let’s Kill Cena!” leadership, but the movement never faded away; it kind of stayed around like an unpaid bill. Cena’s ambition towards the WWE Championship, as well as his failed love life with various women of Hispanic descent (and levels of mental stability), crowded his mind state and at the end of the day the Royal Rumble became his goal. All signs even point to him winning, which is a very reliable indicator as there is only one sign courtesy of unnecessary commentary by pro wrestling/sports entertainment commentators such as ourselves. We all “knew” Cena was going to win at Wrestlemania as well. We (most of us) were happily surprised at how wrong we were too.
People are clamoring for Rock and Cena Part 2 now, and the loudest person calling for this match, even without calling for it at all, is Cena. Yes, Cena. In an interesting inverse to Punk (more foreshadowing) Cena is still attempting to acquire a level of respect and prestige that he doesn’t feel he has. Personally I think it just comes across as greed at this point. Even the best of intentions can be disastrous, if the person doesn’t appreciate what they already have. The character of Felix Anthony is one of accepted opulence: the children love him and he keeps striving for an achievement he can’t possibly reach because it would be backtracking.
For better or worse, the Prototype is at a level of prestige even he can’t acknowledge. He’s a multiple time world champion, a Make-A-Wish maven, a money making jam boy, a platinum selling recording artist, a workaholic, loved my millions, the man responsible for more little boys considering homosexuality than any other man in the United States (citation needed), and at that point there is only one thing a person wants: more.
The hunger for more is a very real thing, and it’s not a fleeting disease like with that somewhat lyrical hip hop guy from New York who ran with half a dollar hanging out of his ass. John Cena can only aspire for more now as he’s at the peak of Mount Everest. He COULD go the Kurt Angle route, which was lazy at best, and say he’s going to the bottom of the mountain so he can rise to the summit again, but why? What does that prove? All it means is that Cena did the same thing twice. And at this point, he’s done is three times. Notice how a hat trick is considered the ultimate in a hockey or futbol game.
And what does Cena really want? “More” is a basic term. He wants more prestige. He wants more gold than a party hosted by Mr. T. and Trinidad James. He wants women (and I bet I had my hand around a Bella before he did). He wants the big screen and Hollywood lights. He’s a horrible hybrid of the two biggest stars of sports entertainment, Hulk Hogan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and so long as they have a place in the mainstream Cena will want more. Again, he’s already at the tip of Everest, but like a European stuntman he seeks greater heights, like perhaps a moving platform that lets him free-fall from the atmosphere to the ground.
Long and short: John Cena wants to be the immortal face of sports entertainment and professional wrestling, and much like Ric Flair says you have the beat the man to be the man he knows he has to beats his only competition, or himself. And I don’t know, I just don’t get the notion that Cena is the kind of guy capable of beating himself. Too infused with steroids, you know? Very uncomfortable I hear. Anyway, like I said, his only “competition” is Dwayne Johnson (who lives the life of Cena’s aspirations) and Hulk Hogan (who lives the life of Cena’s worst nightmares). He doesn’t want to be the king of the mountain; he wants to sour above it.
And that ambition is greedy. Everybody wants to rule the world (says Tears for Fears) but humility is sacrificed every bit of the way, and the ideals of “hustling” for it fall by the wayside and get warped into greed. Greed. Greed.
That’s the word. When it comes to the Rock, you can argue that he sees in John Cena the same thing he sees in his past self, and the Rock, as a result, has two options: let that continue, or put the upstart down before he gets too uppity, or goes from a Red Sock to a Yankee as CM Punk said once before (I haven’t forgotten about Punk yet, don’t worry). Think of it like the plight of lions. See, when a mommy lioness and a daddy lion decide to get together and have little Simbas, Nalas are safe. Females are safe. But males are in trouble. The daddy lion may, in an effort to maintain power, kill and, in some cases, eat the male cub. Isn’t that special? The Rock is the latest enforcer in the quest to dethrone John Cena, by the establishment. However, The Rock has nothing to prove; he’s done his time, paid his dues and kicked plenty of ass along the way. He had his own Wrestlemania moment doing battle with the face of sports entertainment himself Hulk Hogan. He’s the one souring. That’s why he gets the pop he does at this point.
But Cena is hungry. He’s hungry with no right to be. In many ways he’s already surpassed the object of his greedy delusions. And it’s not hard to imagine how clouded your vision gets when your ambitions outweigh your common sense. Some of us call it writing about professional wrestling or sports entertainment. I’m enough of an ass to say a lot of you (i.e. – Smith, Smith, ADRIAN, Scooby-Doo) need to calm down, step back and realize that you’re not that great at what you do. I’m cocky and back it up with humor, wit, shameless attempts at flirting with beautiful celebrities and a keen appreciation for Joseph Ducreux. After all, I am DA Infamous DiZ, not just Infamous DiZ. So to all y’all trying to put your shit out:
So Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has the right to say: “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Cena IS that higher rock, but he’s too blind to see. Blinded by the light, as it were. And personally I have a BIG problem with anyone who directly or indirectly insults the good name of Manfred Mann.
But that takes us to the other end of the scale. The Rock versus CM Punk. The man who is breaking in to fight the champion versus the champion who maintains the epic greatness of the late, great Rodney Dangerfield. That’s not even a full sentence and it spells out the perfection of their conflict.
Hmm, that’s not quite right. There is no perfection with this match or the concept, but there is validity and comprehension. CM Punk has come across as a savior of sorts, a messiah figure, who doesn’t seem to give the slightest damn about the people he’s leading to a promised land. I like to compare him to Moses as portrayed by Seth Macfarlane’s Family Guy. You know: apprehensive to lead his people to freedom, constantly complaining, likely the father of a number of illegitimate children with red-headed rock stars (we’re not finna talk about what I want to do to Christie Hemme (I apologize to Christie Hemme)), etc.
Punk plays the anti-hero, not the good guy or the bad guy, but the protagonist to an age old story, transcending history, and the world. A tale of soul and sword, eternally retold. He’s the greatest of all time, by many standards and according to a number of critics, but he still plays second fiddle to the likes of John Cena, Dwayne Johnson, and of course John Felix Anthony Cena.
Let me ask you, “you” being the reader: have you ever been better than someone, and KNOW that you’re better than them, but they achieve what you put your heart and soul into as opposed to you? The answer is “Yes” because all of us have gone through that. Some people feel it when they deal with work-related things. Some with relationships or the lack thereof. Some do it on forums or following articles or the like; commenters, they’re sometimes called. Granted, nine times out of ten a commenter doesn’t know shit.
I don’t know: it irks me from time to time. What does a number of comments mean when the piece or topic isn’t worth a damn to begin with? I don’t know; frankly I don’t want to know; it’s an answer I can do without. So please, miss me with the notion that a lot of comments means something. Granted, a comment might mean something if it, in and of itself, carries more weight than the piece it is a comment for. That’s logic talking.
See what I just did there? I spoke truth. Truth is what CM Punk is known for. He has two things going for him when he gets on the mic now: truth and opinions damn near impossible to argue with. That’s his appeal. He backs it up with tremendous in-ring performances and the occasional bit at the commentary table. I found it to be very nice that he was disappointed whenever the table was destroyed; he questioned whether or not he was at the Spanish announce table. He also joked (?) about not wearing pants during the third season of NXT, also known as the Divas edition. You and me both, Punk, you and me both.
By all (citation needed) accounts, CM Punk’s only logical competition as the best all-around character in the WWE is Daniel Bryan, and with that in mind you have to ask the question: WHY doesn’t he get the respect he deserves?
Well it depends. In terms of kayfabe: because it’s fuel. In terms of business: I don’t know. He won’t sell as much as Superman; Superman will always sell more than John Constantine does, but people can relate to a John Constantine more as they advance as opposed to an alien who, really, isn’t all that remarkable. Seriously, think about it. What makes Superman so special? He’s not on his home planet, that’s all. Otherwise he’d be another denizen of a destroyed planet, as opposed to the only one left, that they know of.
But that’s CM Punk’s character: striving for respect where he shouldn’t have to. Seeking to grab a gold ring he should already have a dozen times over. Where does the Rock come in to this equation? Simple: he’s another roadblock, another Cena. Punk has had to overcome opponent after opponent, match after match, clean or dirty, and at the end of the day, he gets nothing but hate. No respect. Dwayne Johnson comes back after doing movies only to, and to borrow a word from L.E.W.D. brother Corbin Macklin, abscond back to doing movies after doing a sequence in the WWE. And he already has a title shot. More than that, he has a title shot, period. I have to say: that’s that shit I don’t like.
What does the Rock mean for CM Punk? He means CM Punk has either:
- A title to lose to set up Once in a Lifetime, Part 2, or…
- A milestone to cross that Cena could not.
It seems like a simple fork in the road, but the possibilities are great, what with the Shield, Ryback, Brock Lesnar, Cody Rhodes and his debonair mustache, Damien Sandow and his intellectual greatness, a host of others and of course AJ “I make men cry when I wear actual pants” Lee. Did I mention Ziggler? No, I suppose I forgot. I’ll remember for the future.
At the end of the day, the Rock represents expectation. Anticipation. The standard. The Rock represents today what Hulk Hogan did during his run that culminated with a match with, not surprisingly, The Rock. It’s not really all that complicated, but it is interesting that the mental aspects of Punk and Cena have been playing out for as long as they have. The triangle between Punk, Cena and Dwayne Johnson MAY culminate in a triple threat match at Wrestlemania, but as I stated earlier – or should have if I didn’t – it wouldn’t mean much. Maintaining a feud for a year is hard work, and the feud between Rock and Cena had plenty of low points during the year it took to manifest the actual match, like further polluting New England’s nasty ass waters.
But what do I know? I just talk about stuff. What do YOU think? And by “What do YOU think?”, I mean what do you want to add to the conversation?
When most people choose to eat popcorn, they eat it as a snack. I’m not sure many people sit down at the dinner table and prepare a steaming plate of popcorn as their choice meal for the evening. Also, many people don’t sit down at a restaurant and ask, “I didn’t see the price for the Popcorn Meal on the menu. I was hoping you could locate that for me!” If you meet a person that does either of these things, back away slowly, and run in the opposite direction as swiftly as possible.
This is the same mentality I take with TNA Addicts because they devour Popcorn Wrestling every week on TNA iMPACT. Total Non-Stop Anticipation is responsible for more ADHD outburst than a fireworks and laser/lights show in a room with tear away walls…wait…that IS the iMPACT Zone…
The Popcorn Wrestling that I’m referring to is the idea that a company can have a product that has a number of pop-up moments that are exhaled by the ADHD (IWC) wrestling fan base. Ultimately these Popcorn moments do not lead to anything.
After last night’s (1-17-13) episode of TNA iMPACT, I realized something very important. I am not conditioned to watch TNA due to my heightened level of analysis! TNA Addicts watch iMPACT in an episodic manner. They can celebrate every episode because that’s all they are looking for, a weekly fix.
I, along with many other members of the L.E.W.D. Crew, analyse the product for the value that it brings and the value that it provides for both the past and future product. Unfortunately, TNA does not present a product that is promising for either the past, present, or future.
SO…Last night, the wedding of Bully/Buh-Buh/Mark (he was referred to as all three last night) Ray and Brooke Hogan was to take place. The wedding went as a wedding is supposed to until it was time for the presiding official to declare them husband and wife. Tazz then proceeded to interrupt them with two points: 1. Nonsensical babbling about whether or not Bully Ray wanted to do this. 2. “Is it just me, or is it hot in here?” Then he removes his tux jacket to reveal that he was wearing an Aces & Eights vest…
This is where the separation between me and the TNA Addicts comes in. Beyond the fact that it provided a “Moment” that will be talked about in the collective basements of the 40 Addicts convulsing from their overdose of Anticipation, what good came from last night? (I’ll wait……………………………………………………….)
Let’s look at this in the three categories of time.
The biggest issue I have with this is that TNA and their Addicts have boasted about how their product is “Cutting Edge,” “Not the WWE” and “Pro Wrestling”…Now maybe I am just…NO!! For almost a month now, the show has been closed out with the “Worst GM in Wrestling” “The Infamous” Hulk Hogan, his ravaged daughter/”Knockout’s GM” Brooke, a suspended talent/”Best heel in the business” Bully/Buh-Buh/Mark Ray (Whom is now a face…), and a band of biker men that don’t have contracts or personalities but can cause chaos for the sake of chaos given that we still don’t know their motives. Pro Wrestling right?
The most recent episodes have featured the TNA Champion Jeff Hardy (carrying 2 belts) in the opening segments and maybe having a match preceding the dramatic close not involving said championship, thus making the main event the aforementioned debauchery!
Maybe I’m wrong…NO!!! That is Sports Entertainment be definition!
A moment…That’s all it was. (Thanks Da Infamous DiZ)
Tazz took off a jacket, became a public member of Aces & Eights, and this provided a brief moment of WTF. But as my good friend Mr. Quinn Gammon stated, there are 2 types of WTF’s. One is the expression of Shock and Awe, and the other is the expression of confusion and distaste. The problem with this “Moment” is that the percentages for the WTF had to be 40%/60%. This would mean that more than half of your live studio audience was confused as to what was going on, and why is the announcer guy joining the other team.
Mr. Ashley Morris brought up a great point as well in a conversation that Tazz is the “Human Suplex Machine” only to those who knew of him in his ECW days. He had a very short (unmemorable) stint as a wrestler in the WWE, so to the vast majority/casual fan, Tazz is no more than the announcer guy, and given that you can’t hear the announcers during a live recording, most of the Addicts in the arena, whom are regulars, will not be familiar to Tazz’s contribution to the product, therefore causing confusion as to why it is important for him to go to the “other side”.
Not much of one with this story…
What happens now? What value does the A’s & 8′s get with the addition of Tazz? They already have sponsored segments on the show anyways. They already have infinite access to the arena. If they can just learn how to wrestle in matches, they may actually make an impa…NO!!! They simply do not matter! We still do not know why they exist. Every other Hostile Takeover that has happened has had an immediately stated motive as to why they do what they do…except this one! That is not innovative or groundbreaking, that’s just STUPID!!!
Popcorn Wrestling is just something that I can not get into simply because I look at wrestling to be thorough entertainment. There is a big difference between whimsical and nonsensical. I will watch (and sometimes enjoy) the whimsical over the nonsensical any day. Don’t get me wrong, I love some good old-fashioned wrasslin’, but I like to deal with organization that don’t have an ongoing identity crisis!
What do you think?
Rt. Rev. Showtime