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Rumor and Reality: Thoughts on the TNA/Spike TV Relationship

SPIKE TV LOGODenial is quite possibly one of the worst expressions of belief that a person can use to convey their feelings on a particular subject.

I say this because denial is a coping mechanism, a way a person can deal with a truth or reality they can’t, for whatever reason, readily accept. The thing that makes denial so debilitating is the fact that it can take many forms; refusing to admit that a problem exists, deflecting attention and directing one’s focus towards a less significant problem or issue, casually dismissing the severity of the problem and overemphasizing the pros or “bright sides” of the topic at hand, or even jumping to a completely different and (sometimes slightly) unrelated problem that exist outside of the topic at hand are a few of the ways denial rears its categorically repugnant visage.

Denial affects everyone, and all people have at one point in time denied someone or something as a way of approaching or handling a problem or issue. It’s natural for humans to deny that certain things are happening and that certain things will happen; it’s how we cope with change, it’s how we defend our way of experiencing life as we know it, and it’s how we avoid acknowledging the fact that the longer we live the more things will not stay the same. Change is inevitable, and no matter how we defend ourselves against it to protect our way of life and how we see it, change cannot and will not be denied.

All this talk about denial comes about after the rumored news that Spike TV has chosen not to renew TNA Entertainment, LLC’s television deal after its expiration in October of this year. Needless to say the internet sharks jumped at the smell of TNA’s blood in the water, with fans and insiders alike ruthlessly launching their opinions on the rumor into the world wide interwebs. What’s interesting about these opinions is not the prevailing thought that TNA’s rumored loss of a television deal is a “good” thing for pro wrestling, but the rebuttal of and arguments against said prevailing thoughts. This is where the concept and expression of “denial” gets pretty damn intriguing.

For every hundred or so celebratory remark made at the rumored demise of TNA’s television deal with Spike TV, there has been at least one well-respected proponent or sound perspective supporting the promotion and its employees. The proponents and perspectives highlight the fact that if the rumors are true, tons of individuals will be affected financially and the pro wrestling business will suffer as a result of a lack of diverse televised products. Because of this very real situation for a substantial number of women and men, these same proponents and perspectives also wag an accusatory finger at naysayers for even reveling in the rumored news. In fact, the exact word used by some to describe this particular glorification of negativity was “sad,” as in it’s sad that some people would have the unmitigated gall to play the fiddle while TNA is seemingly mere moments away from merrily gallivanting into heavy traffic on Crash and Burn Avenue.

Ironically enough while we shouldn’t deny the blatantly obvious truth that preemptively reviling in TNA’s supposed misfortune is a tad bit devious, we should also be wary of focusing too much on such a grand exposition of schadenfreude as a means of deflecting attention from a very serious issue facing the promotion and its ramifications, assuming at some point the news will be verified or disavowed. The problem isn’t that some pro wrestling fans wallow in the muck of TNA’s failures; the problem is that TNA might have lost a television deal with one of the few notable North American television networks willing to broadcast pro wrestling.

Damn whether or not somebody’s laughing at this whole situation; what in the blue hell does this mean for TNA and for the business on the whole??? THAT’S the issue at hand, not how we feel about a few folks here and there pointing at a photo of Dixie Carter in their best Nelson Muntz impersonation.

hatersI don’t feel it’s “sad” that some have chosen to speak favorably of this rumor, as this type of response to bad news is typical of people in this country and perhaps even around the world (see: Bad News Barrett, the heel, as he’s cheered by fans). To speak of some pro wrestling fans as the only type of human being that glorifies the demise of a particular promotion or institution is misleading and only furthers the deluded notion that wrestling fans are some sort of sub-human mythical creature living under bridges, surviving off of Doritos and small woodland creatures. We’ve all been conditioned to celebrate bad things at the expense of denying the truth behind those incidents and occurrences.

Just as most wrestling fans don’t consider the talent and employees that could be affected by the potential loss of TNA’s television deal with Spike TV, most people don’t think far ahead enough to consider anything beyond their own noses. As North Americans we’ll celebrate our war victories in a given country without truly considering exactly why thousands or millions of people were killed on both sides of the skirmish. We’ll talk about our academic exceptionalism even though the average reading and comprehension level of our citizens is on a 4th grade level. I had someone call me just to say that they would lobby against the existence of my job, while in the same breath, acknowledged that rising unemployment was a serious issue in our country. For whatever reason, we all enjoy tap dancing over dead bodies just as much as we like birthday cake with ice cream or a nice frankfurter at a baseball game; that’s something that will not change anytime soon in the human experience, especially as we burn rubber down the road to rampant and unrestricted individualism.

While this rumor hangs precariously over TNA’s promotion and its product, should we really be more concerned with catcalls and heckling?

Following the buzzards in this regard is a futile attempt to direct our collective attention away from the real issue. We’re denying the reality that TNA has been thrashing against the tide of S**t’s Creek without a paddle for quite some time, and this recent rumor is just one more in a string of questionably (in)accurate rumors that point to much larger issues that in almost twelve years have yet to be truly rectified. It’s easy to acknowledge that “fans” have always “hated” TNA for indescribable reasons, and it’s easier to deny that there’s something that gives weight and credibility to some of those reasons. The longer we focus on promoting the insanity of commending negativity, the longer we deny ourselves the opportunity to really talk about what TNA has experienced and is experiencing.

If Spike TV has chosen not to renew TNA’s contract, it’s not solely because the suits at Spike TV “hate” TNA; rather it has something to do with all the internal dealings we are not (and should not be) privy to. One could assume that the ever steady ratings of TNA (which declined slightly upon Vince Russo’s exit from the company) were an issue, or that TNA’s inability to expand its audience beyond an average of 1.4 million people (when several of Spike TV’s home grown shows can provide similar or slightly lower numbers) might have made execs a little hesitant about moving forward with another deal.

Clearly that’s not an issue that’s more important than fans speaking poorly about TNA.

While we bring up the point that several hard-working wrestlers and TNA employees could be without steady paychecks from living their dreams and passions, why not bring up the fact that the promotion — which is believed to be (without any proof either way) making a “profit” — lowballed most, if not all, of its well-known stars on contract renewals, forcing them to make the decision to leave and wrestle elsewhere? If memory serves correctly, tons of fans were actually glad that stars like AJ Styles, Frankie Kazarian, and Chris Daniels were lowballed and blamed them for not kowtowing to the promotion’s brazenly apparent cost cutting measures.

Clearly that’s not an issue that’s more important than fans speaking poorly about TNA.

Let’s ignore the fact that after 12 years TNA is still attempting to solidify its identity, continues to rely on the popularity of defunct promotions or popular wrestlers from other promotions to keep the product relevant, and moves rather slowly when it comes to hiring and promoting hot free agents and talent that don’t reek of the indelible fragrance of other promotions in one way or another.

Let’s completely dismiss the fact that by her own admission, Dixie Carter’s reasoning for investing in TNA had more to do with revenue streams that it does the “art” of wrestling that so many fans wax poetically about. Taken directly from the SI.com article on Dixie Carter and TNA Wrestling, LLC:

When TNA was recommended to her as a client, her father encouraged her to take on the fledgling wrestling company. “Wrestling is big business,” Bob told his daughter. A few months later, with the company floundering and weeks away from shuttering its doors, Dixie would use her father’s own words to get him to invest in TNA.

“I remember calling my dad,” she said. “They’d never invested in anything that was non-strategic, much less this non-strategic, but I definitely had inherited my dad’s sale skills. I knew there was a reason there’s a Lowes across the street from every Home Depot or a McDonalds and a Burger King or an Avis and a Hertz. I saw how passionate this fanbase was. You had this one monster with over a billion-dollar cap and worldwide appeal with tons of potential revenue streams. Even if you just pick up 10 percent, you become a 100 million dollar company. From a business perspective, I just saw the potential.

Let’s shamelessly refuse to consider the threat of Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling (GFW) promotion, which is currently seeking a television deal conveniently at the same time as Spike TV supposedly opted not to renew TNA’s television contract. Let’s renounce the evidence that even if Spike TV has dropped TNA and its programming, the network and its earlier incarnations (TNN – The Nashville Network; TNN – The National Network; and The NEW TNN – The NEW National Network) has broadcast pro wrestling for almost 15 years and could very well continue to do so with GFW and without TNA:

  • ECW on TNN from August 1999 – October 2000
  • WWE RAW is WAR from September 2000 – September 2005
  • TNA iMPACT! from October 2005 – May 2011; TNA Impact Wrestling from May 2011 – October 2014 (???)

Let’s feed into the delusion that WWE and TNA are the only places wrestlers can go as we tacitly imply that wrestlers can’t find good work in indy promotions or fast growing companies like GFW or Ring of Honor Wrestling (ROH).

Of course none of these talking points are more important than dogging out fans who speak poorly about TNA.

I personally don’t want to see TNA fail, but discussing its misadventures and setbacks should not be seen as equivalent to succumbing to the addictive euphoria of watching as things appear to fall apart. That, however, is something completely different from doing a hat dance around a Dixie Carter effigy. While ultimately classless and downright tacky, the end of the world as TNA and its fans know it isn’t coming from the smarmy and snarky comments of keyboard warriors and armchair quarterbacks. The grand revelation of all of the promotion’s issues, TNA’s apocalypse if you will, is coming from the lips of Kevin Kay and Spike TV’s board of directors. Why not focus on that reality instead of woefully shaking our heads at “zOMGs and LOLs” here and there on the internet?

Those that do find some sort of ecstasy and climax in the rumors of Impact Wrestling’s Spike TV cancellation are merely doing what people have done since the beginning of time. Nero reportedly fiddled while Rome burned to the ground, and entire families took pictures around the “strange fruit” of lynched bodies hanging from trees. People even talk of WWE’s recent financial troubles almost as if they’re giddy that the massive company has once again stared down the twin barrels of bankruptcy and financial ruin, and some fans pretend like TNA is the only wrestling promotion that receives an inordinate amount of the IWC’s fiery ire (TNA fans who despise WWE, ROH, and take no notice whatsoever of GFW…we’re looking towards your direction…). Human beings will always talk s**t and find any reason under the sun to gloat when someone or something opposing their own interests faces adversity and difficulty.

When it comes to this situation between Spike TV and TNA Wrestling, LLC, our energy and attention would be better suited towards hoping that in the next three months more than just a television deal can be renewed. TNA as a company has the potential to be something greater than what it currently is; unfortunately, this unrealized or untapped potential is nothing more than wasted energy, and a new television deal to showcase the same old stuff they’ve been doing for years is a major concern that, in the long run, should be the second most important thing.

To TNA, it should be more important to grow the product beyond the safe confines of its steady and consistent demographic. To TNA, it should be more important develop more home grown talent instead of coasting off the fumes of other’s successes and experiences. To TNA, it should be more important to spend more time on developing and promoting their brand and less time catering to the MMA desires of its athletes or other promotions. To TNA, it should be more important to give fans a quality, well-rounded and expertly presented product than it is to allow fans to dictate what type of ring your employees will perform in because “it looks different” as if the identity of the promotion lies solely in what the damn ring looks like. To TNA, it should be more important to find and promote sponsors like Takis, Totino’s Bold, Diet Mountain Dew, Juicy Drop Pop, and Jackson Hewitt instead of relying on 5 Hour Energy and Spike TV’s financial support to fill in the gaps when necessary. To TNA, it should be WAY more important to figure out their taping schedule for the rest of the year now that Universal Studies is no longer their home, particularly since they also couldn’t afford to tour and tape over the long haul as they did last summer.

All of these things are way more important than whether or not someone is filled with joy over the rumors of Impact Wrestling’s cancellation.

We can’t allow the demon of denial to cloud our vision on what’s really happening here. When TNA gets its affairs in order, the same nagging problems, the same awesome action, and the same hyper-cynical critics will exist under the same sun and stars. There’s not much we can do to change the opinion of people on either side of the fence who are themselves unwilling to change, but at least we can collectively raise one another’s consciousness on what’s really important. Without a television deal, without even the hint of viable options outside of Spike TV, TNA would literally have to pull a rabbit out of its ass to remain a fixture in the business. There aren’t enough snarky comments in the world that can make that reality any less real, significant, or relevant than it already is on its own.

There ain’t no denying that reality at all.

 


WWE Future Endeavors Emma (UPDATED)

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UPDATE: 6:45 PM Central Standard Time

Apparently your voices were heard; mere moments after typing this, it was announced via WWE.com that Emma has been reinstated in the promotion.

Well damn…

For the sake of humoring us here at L.E.W.D., read the following because it’s still all relevant somewhere.
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Just in case you haven’t heard the word, we have it on good authority (pun intended) that the WWE has come to terms with the release of notable Diva Emma.  Also known by her government approved name Tenille Dashwood, Emma was also recently arrested for allegedly stealing an iPod case from a Walmart in Connecticut.

Many wrestling fans have taken to the internet to voice their displeasure with the promotion’s decision to dismiss Emma over something that they (the fans) believe to have been an accident or a simple mistake on Emma’s part.  After all if one is working as an independent contractor for the world’s most prominent sports entertainment promotion, there would be no need to steal anything from anywhere when you could easily purchase it yourself or have the promotion purchase it for you.  This also falls square in line with the notion that all individuals placed under arrest are innocent until proven guilty, and clearly Emma can’t be guilty of stealing something worth $21.14.

Reports have it that Emma was sentenced to some community service and upon completion of said service, all charges against her would be dropped.  This form of “punishment,” apparently, isn’t enough for the WWE.

Immediately fans cite the blatant hypocrisy of the WWE’s policy towards the professionalism of its employees outside of the company by mentioning the repeated DUI arrests and Wellness Policy violations of several other superstars (Randy Orton, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Jack Swagger, Jimmy Uso).  There was even a comment that brought up superstars with legal issues prior to their joining the WWE family (Booker T), which was intended to make the point that the ‘E keeps superstars who committed far worse crimes on the roster than this, deeming their decision to release Emma over allegedly stealing an iPod case completely asinine and ridiculous.

Emma’s release also comes at a time when fans have been convinced that the multitude of recent releases within the company have everything to do with the perceived financial crisis the promotion is currently facing.  This leads fans to believe that Emma’s release was simply a cost-cutting measure and that her arrest was an excuse used to poorly justify her termination.

To say it plainly, fans are justifiably saddened at Emma’s release … even though five days ago they were complaining that she and her gimmick were failing to get over with fans … such is the befuddling and ever flexible opinion of pro wrestling fans.  Hakuna matata.

emma2The constant “thing” with each of the theories surrounding the logic behind Emma’s release is dualistic in that it is composed of an emotional response and a stone cold reality.  Deep down we fans actually like Emma the character and Tenille, the woman who portrays the character, and we all honestly have no idea why WWE released her.  

We fans can speculate all day and night, but as spectators hovering around the the situation with our faces firmly pressed against the glass separating us from the odds-and-ends of the business, we can only comment on what we think we know to the extent in which we understand it.  It makes more sense for us to blame the ‘E for responding to Emma’s arrest in the manner they did, and it makes little sense to us to try to understand why they responded they way they did.  We’ve reacted to our superficial knowledge of the situation at hand … nothing more, nothing less.

Very few people have mentioned that this situation may affect the visa that allows her, as an Australian citizen, to work here in the United States.  What would happen if she were still under contract with the ‘E and forced to return home for an indefinite amount of time?  But of course this isn’t sensational enough to consider or speculate on.

Even with discussing the financial issues plaguing the promotion at the time, very few people have talked about the budget cuts from the perspective rooted in the beginning of a new fiscal year (July 1st), where most businesses look to shave expenses from their budget lines.  Instead of looking at the situation as if the ‘E were trying to save money after losing so much, one could view it as if the ‘E were trying to save money by not spending as much as they did the last fiscal year.  There were reports that the WWE cut travel expenses for their superstars (paying for their tour buses), and if you’ve paid attention even the PPV sets aren’t as elaborate as they once were; these cost-cutting measures keep the promotion from spending more money and being as free with their revenue as they were before the massive loss of profits.  Unfortunately the money spent on employee contracts isn’t immune from these types of cost cutting measures.

From that perspective the promotion then becomes a place where superstars have no room or margin for error, especially superstars on the low end of the ladder in WWE.  Whatever Emma did or didn’t do, no matter how small an infraction we believe it to be, was a simple “f**k up” that might have cost her her WWE contract.  Then again, this isn’t sensational enough to consider or speculate on either.

Then there is our comparison of the punishment for Emma’s infraction compared to that of other superstars.  While fans have piled on the bandwagon advocating for Emma by citing the punishments received by other superstars for committing crimes deemed more “harsh” or “serious,” there haven’t been many fans that have spoken at length on the implied misogyny present within the company.  No one has noted how current TNA Knockout Taryn Terrell was released immediately from her contract after being arrested for an altercation with her then husband and former WWE superstar Drew McIntyre, while male superstars arrested for suspected domestic abuse (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin) were allowed to go about their business within the promotion after repaying their debt to society.  Perhaps the issue of discrimination against women would be more important to discuss whether or not a suspected thief should be given the same leniency as someone driving under the influence (which could be anybody over whatever the legal limit is in the state they’re driving in; one doesn’t necessarily have to be “drunk” and driving to be arrested for driving under the influence…).

Whatever the case may be and whatever we choose to believe, it truly stinks that Emma had only scratched the surface of her potential on the main roster before her release.  Only she, her attorney and the prosecutor, and the WWE truly know what happened; as much as we desire to crucify the ‘E for choosing to release her from the promotion, we’re doing so as an immediate, ill-informed response and reaction to the news.  We shouldn’t expect that Emma won’t ever work for the company again, nor should we expect that we won’t see her wrestle again in some form or capacity.  At this point, all we can do as fans is make a loud enough noise supporting her if her arrest was the result of a careless action she unintentionally made when checking out at Walmart.  Until all the facts come out, if they ever come out, we’ll have to find some way to grapple with not seeing her meander through a gimmick that we said wasn’t working for us.

 

 

 

 


The 6-Sided Ring Debate, Pt. 1 – Fans vs. Wrestlers

Photo courtesy of wrestlingrumors.net

Photo courtesy of wrestlingrumors.net

TNA Entertainment, Inc. recently released a poll asking fans to decide whether or not their flagship program, IMPACT Wrestling, will use a 4 or 6-sided ring moving forward, beginning at the scheduled set of TV tapings. Fans are asked to visit the IMPACT Wrestling website to cast their vote, where we’re also told that “this is not a one-off event,” and that “the future of IMPACT Wrestling’s ring is in [our] hands.” For all intents and purposes and according to their website, TNA is allowing us fans to choose the ring “we” want to see their wrestlers perform in as the promotion moves forward. This is a hallmark moment for the promotion and for wrestling fans, as we’re once again expecting this promotion to deliver on a promise to “listen to its fans,” giving us some power to dictate how we want to see what happens in the ring.

TNA’s iconic 6-sided ring was used from the promotion’s inception in 2002 all the way up to 2010, where it was put out of commission at the beginning of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff’s TNA tenure. While the reasoning for axing it varied, the most popular rationale focused on the hexagonal ring making the promotion appear amateurish when compared to other promotions dominating the sports entertainment genre. With a growing and more pressing need to appeal to investors and advertisers, the company opted to bring in a traditional 4-sided ring, a move that received mixed responses from fans but was eventually accepted by and large. Appreciation and fondness for the 6-sided ring hasn’t dissipated completely, as fans have occasionally reminisced on the days of its use and have petitioned to have it make a return at least once a year (primarily during the Destination X pay per view event).

As it turns out, not everyone is keen on returning to action within the confines of the 6-sided ring. Two IMPACT Wrestling athletes, Ethan Carter III and Austin Aries, have taken to social media to express their thoughts on ring’s potential return:

6Side_016Side_036Side_046Side_05 6Side_06

The most interesting thing about their comments is how they disagree with giving fans the power to determine something that has an immediate effect on their safety and well-being. The implication from their comments is clear: people who can’t and don’t wrestle, particularly the fans, should not have the right or choice to dictate the conditions in which wrestlers wrestle. To quote Austin Aries directly, “What’s wrong with wrestling? Letting people who’ve never done it, and never put their bodies on the line, run the show.”

The current generation of pro wrestling fans is entrenched in an Era of Entitlement, where we all feel that our opinions are gospel and that what we say or believe “should be” what’s given to us by promotions. We write blogs and tape video segments that analyze and scrutinize a promotion’s willingness to “listen to the fans,” and any promotion that fails to do so is immediately demonized and characterized as a “failure” or “failing” because it refuses to kowtow to the demands of its fans.

A harsh reality that most fans don’t consider is that our demands at times can be irrational and borderline insane, especially if we’ve grown accustomed to consuming a particular type of pro wrestling product. Our demands don’t seem irrational if we’ve become desensitized to seeing wrestlers grapple in thumbtacks and shards of glass, or if we’re used to seeing athletes jump off of ladders or structures that are 20+ feet in the air. Such activity becomes normal for us, and the moment we stop receiving such action we begin to grouse about how promotions don’t care about what fans want to see (i.e. the bloodless PG Era), never minding at all the fact that the wrestlers no longer have to damage their bodies beyond what’s necessary in order to entertain us.

This is what makes this debate so pertinent; as promotions continue to fight for revenue and fan appeal, the lines that once kept us behind a particular veil of ignorance are being blurred slowly, giving us new and unparalleled access to the inner workings and politics of the business. When we begin to believe we know and understand how the business works, we offer our critiques as dictum or mandates that must be followed lest the business as we know it comes to an end. Promotions that fall victim to this logic assume that mildly entertaining these dictum or mandates will endear them to fans looking to have their “voices” heard.

Our dictum and mandates are varied and often come from a subjective, single-minded perspective devoid of any in-ring experience; we present what we believe to be the best for our entertainment without any acknowledgement of what wrestlers endure for that same entertainment. We disregard the fact that being a fan is about enjoying what’s presented to us, and in the event that things change, we’re still invested some way in what happens because we’re fans. If any promotion has to entice fans to stick around by giving us the “authority” to make pivotal decisions that affects a wrestler’s ability to do his or her job or that could potentially make what they do more dangerous than necessary, then the state of the business is in far more dire straits than meets the eye.

So yes; TNA’s 6-sided ring comes with a flood of beloved memories and exciting expectations that could invigorate the promotion’s fans and inject some much needed energy into the IMPACT Wrestling product. But if all of that comes at the expense of the wrestlers’ health and longevity in the business, and the decision to bring the ring back rests in the hands of fans and not the men and women who must perform inside the ring, then we should have the chutzpah to turn down anything that could potentially make wrestling more dangerous than it already is.

jamesstormbloodyWhether it be a 6-sided ring, bloodletting, thumbtacks and kendo sticks, chair shots to the back, death-defying falls from 16-foot ladders, such things should only be used sporadically at most to enhance a feud or storyline. Such things should also be decided upon by the men and women who have to wrestle under those conditions and their employers. It’s one thing to ask fans if we’d like to see, in this instance, a brief or extended return to the 6-sided ring; it’s another to ask us to do the job of making that decision when we’ll never really get the opportunity to consult the wrestlers for their perspectives on the matter.

As fans of pro wrestling, we constantly offer our respect to those who put their bodies through pure hell to make us laugh, cry, cheer and boo. These men and women work hard for our enjoyment, and if the comments made by Aries and Carter are truly sincere and honest off-the-cuff remarks, we know exactly how we should vote when we visit IMPACTWrestling.com. On the other hand, if we truly enjoy the 6-sided ring and expect it to have a beneficial impact on TNA’s product, then by all means we should prepare ourselves for the return of the hexagonal circle.

*Edit: Wrestler Sean “X-Pac” Waltman has also added his thoughts on the potential return of the 6-sided ring:

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Tweet Credits: Wrestlezone.com


“I’ll Give You What For!” – Gather ‘Round, Children…

IGYWFIf you had the opportunity to write the perfect storyline for two wrestlers in a pro wrestling promotion, what would that story be?  That is a real question, and I’d like some honest answers from you … our faithful L.E.W.D. readership.

We’ve all filled our fair share of message boards with fantasy storylines, and even here in the L.E.W.D.iverse we’ll engage is some knee slappin’ fantasy booking just to pass the time.  What’s interesting, however, is that no matter who you place into a situation the storytelling is what grabs someone’s attention and keeps them invested in your booking.  As much as we complain all the time about how a star is booked or how awful a storyline is, very few individuals can come up with an authentic and gripping story that captures the imagination of a vast swath of people.

I suppose that’s what makes creative writing for pro wrestling so difficult; it’s easy to pop a copy of WWE 2K14 into an XBox 360 or PS3, lock ourselves in a room for six hours, and come up with something that makes us laugh and is eventually downloaded by a few hundred people here or there when we upload it to the WWE Creative Communities.  But imagine having to that on a nightly basis with a team of people, scratching your heads and planning out dialogue and actions for several stars at once, all of whom are important and must appear to the audience a certain number of times to guarantee a particular demographic’s response and financial investment.  Imagine having to rewrite a script at the last minute when a wrestler is injured or has been arrested; imagine having to figure out how to get a Lucha Libre star over with American fans, or having to come up with something to justify a new Diva’s presence in the promotion.  Imagine writing something that works among a small number of fans in one part of the country, but “fails” in front of thousands of fans everywhere else.

We can’t imagine that, because we get to sit in the comfort of our own homes and craft quaint little storylines that make sense to us and only us, and parade them around to our like-minded friends who’ll eagerly tell us, “You should write for [insert promotion here]!”  A few thousand downloads or several hundred “likes” and positive comments, and all of a sudden we’re next in line to get a sitcom picked up by FOX.

That’s all well and good, but our tastes are not necessarily on the pulse of society as much as we’d like them to be.  What looks great to us on paper may come off as absolute trash when executed, and I say that knowing good and well the reason why my WWE 2K14  story editors never make it past my L.E.W.D. brethren and a few obsessively compulsive driven MS Word documents.  To say it as I was told the great Vince McMahon said it, we fans “know what we like, but don’t know what we want,” and Baal save our poor souls, we actually think the two are synonymous.  Good storylines … scratch that; good storytelling isn’t a matter of crafting a questionably epic piece of prose that contains everything we like with everybody we’d like to see doing everything we’d like do if we were in a particular situation.  On the contrary, good storytelling is being able to create characters that resonate with groups of people and individuals in some way, and watching them react to circumstances beyond their immediate control.  Good storytelling, and a good story, is not a matter of whether we like it or not; a good story and good storytelling is good because it simply is, and how it’s executed is what really seals the deal on our investment in it.

We want good storytelling because good storytelling and good stories keep us entertained and invested in the product.  Being entertained and invested is all about the execution of a story: the way it’s told and how it unfolds.  We don’t have to “like” that story for it to be good.  What we “like” isn’t always equivalent to what’s “good” or “entertaining,” and there aren’t enough adjectives of angry tweets in the world that can justify the perception that we have to “like” something for it to be good.

Two examples:

MayorofCasterbridgeThe Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy was a piece of assigned reading I was expected to tackle heading into my sophomore year in high school.  I don’t think I made it past the second chapter before tossing this piece of literary genius to the wayside and opting instead to immerse myself completely in the gripping and utterly fascinating world of doing jack s**t.

For the longest I held quite the grudge against this story and Thomas Hardy, who conveniently succumbed to the unrelenting demands of death some 11 years after my maternal grandfather was born thus avoiding a stern talking to and severe finger-wagging thrashing at the hands of one extremely disgruntled fourteen year old student from the one of the states that almost ceded from the Union.  Needless to say, but important to mention, is the fact that I haaaated this book; in particular the language was difficult for me to read or understand at the time, due to me being largely uncultured and far too impatient to read that book.

So instead of simply trying harder to understand the language, taking a little more time to read and process what I read, I did what every0ne else in my particular section of English that year did … labeled the book as “stupid” and “bad,” and begged the teacher not to test us on it once school began.

It wasn’t until some time later, and I mean much later, that I picked up the book and tried reading it again.  To its credit, the magnificence that is Wikipedia had a lot to do with me picking the book back up again; the brilliant web editors that succinctly described the story in terms that I could actually understand caused my interest in the story to pique.  It also helped that I was slightly more patient in my adult years than I was when I was fourteen, which enabled me to really process what the hell was going on in the story.  With this new perspective on The Mayor of Casterbridge, I was able to see that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the story or the book; it was all in me, I wasn’t entertained or invested in the story because I didn’t take the time to be entertained or invested in it.  In hindsight, the story was a damn good one regardless of how “bad” we all said it was.  After all, if it were that terrible it (a) wouldn’t have been on our reading list and (b) wouldn’t have the word “classic” on the front cover.

Peeples3-585x438Then there’s the sad story of the Tyler Perry supported film Peeples.  I had the extreme fortune of sitting through this entire film as an adult, an adult with an incredibly low amount of tolerance for anything with Tyler Perry’s name attached to it after Diary of a Mad Black Woman.  I won’t go through the synopsis of Peeples here; the point is that the story of Peeples, a story that was done by Ashton Kutcher in 2005 and Ben Stiller in 2004, was executed in a way that didn’t entertain me completely.  That doesn’t make the movie or the story told within it bad, but it did make it uninteresting to me for tons of reasons.

And guess what … that’s okay.  I’m sure plenty of people experienced great joy and comfort in the heartwarming moments and zany situations the lead character Wade Walker found himself navigating throughout the course of the film.  But I didn’t, and if there’s a Peeples 2 in the works, you can rest assured and bet your bottom dollar that at least ONE man in the continental United States will revisit the days of his youth doing jack s**t well before he even thinks about giving THAT film one single solitary chance.

This is all to say that when it comes to pro wrestling, we armchair quarterbacks love to stand on our soap boxes and proclaim loudly and proudly that this story is bad or that story is great, knowing good and well those perceptions are our subjective expressions of how the execution of the stories entertained us.  Lost in translation is that oh so important fact of whether or not we were entertained by the story and if it was entertaining enough to keep us invested.  The gauge of whether a story is good or bad has to do with how its executed and not with the story itself.  Presentation is everything, and if we find ourselves frustrated over stories within a specific promotion, we’re honestly confused and pissed off at how the story is presented, point blank.  A story isn’t really good or bad, but rather, it’s presented well or poorly.  That’s what has us ticked off, and that’s what we really should be discussing here.

Come on, everybody; let’s use our words here: why is the show boring?  Why is a pay per view “terrible” after only one match?  Why is “logical” (as opposed to “understandable”) a prerequisite for “good” storytelling?   WHY don’t we find any of this entertaining???

Case in point: a little person in a bull costume fighting another little person in an imaginary rock band is highly illogical.  But the story surrounding their feud is a classic tale (no pun intended) of one character being wronged by another and seeking to correct the injustice done to him.  That story continues to be played out because kids, believe or not, find it entertaining and are invested in it one way or another.  That story continues to be played out because not ever segment in a wrestling show can be (or should be, for that matter) as serious as a blood feud between Lance Storm and Dean Malenko.  The story of a character seeking revenge for an injustice done at the hands of another character is a good story; it’s logical, it’s understandable, and it’s actually good.  It just so happens that this iteration of the story, complete with wacky hijinks and slapstick shenanigans, isn’t that entertaining to people who would actually pay hard earned cash to see Lance Storm and Dean Malenko wrestle each other for a year.  The story itself is fine; the execution of it is highly questionable.

On the other hand, a few misfits from a traveling carnival “wrestling” to raise money to save their beloved family owned roadside attraction is not only illogical but also highly absurd, even by carny and pro wrestling standards (and oddly enough, pro wrestling got its start as a carnival side show attraction).  The story of a man facing financial hardships and opting to enlist the help of his friends to wrestle his way back into the game, however, is a good story that can entertain fans of all walks of life.  When you throw men walking on stilts, endless carny music, a bipolar clown with balloons and a bike horn, and a sultry vixen who has trouble doing splits on the ring ropes (as anyone would) … all of a sudden we’re back in that highly questionable execution zone.

What does all of this mean to you, dear reader?  We stay invested in pro wrestling because it entertains us, and each promotion under the sun works to entertain more than just one type of person or one demographic of people.  All of the stories crafted for our entertainment may not strike us the same way, and I do think we’re allowed to have and share our opinions no matter how we feel.  But for the love of JBL and Bray Wyatt, we should try our best to avoid using superficial words or superfluous exclamations to express our truly profound feelings for the product.  The writers, producers and wrestlers go through a lot to entertain us, but there is a difference between saying a story or storyline is “bad” and that it’s execution was “bad.”  The moment we can express our dislike for the execution of a story is the moment we can begin to look at pro wrestling again as an established form of entertainment for folks all around the world.

After all, the whole world contains stories waiting to be told … including yours.  How would it make YOU feel if somebody else told you the story of your life was “awful?”

Yep … that’s what I thought.

 


RAW Review 5-26-14, a.k.a. “When Life Gives You Lemons…”

"Woo Woo Woo," said very few about Episode 1096 of WWE Monday Night RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Woo Woo Woo,” said very few about Episode 1096 of WWE Monday Night RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Episode 1096 of Monday Night RAW is in the bag and the stage has been set for Payback, this Sunday’s appropriately themed WWE “special event.”  Normally the go-home show for any wrestling sports entertainment pay per view “special event” would create intrigue and excitement among fans in a way that cajoles us to drop the necessary $60 to order the event from our local cable or satellite service provider.  Unfortunately times have changed since the 80s and much like Zack Ryder’s Last ReZort, interest has waned severely in “ordering” special events and in the WWE’s product.

It’s easy for us to place the blame solely on WWE for producing a lifeless, lackluster product that resembles a post-recognizable-name episode of Saturday Night Live than a pro wrestling broadcast.  Truth be told the promotion has seen better days; the problem is that a lot of us “fans” think of “better days” as being that Attitude Era-ish time period where pro wrestling was on fire for more than the sole reason that it was “great”  There were some great things that happened in that era that showcased the skill of some phenomenal superstars, but it was also during a time period where the concept of an iPod would’ve gotten you sentenced to death by firing squad.  In effect, the Attitude Era drastically altered our expectations as pro wrestling “fans,” and has transformed us into the insatiable brats we are today.

And yes, I used the word “WE” because WE are all “fans.”

Let’s just be real with one another: yes, RAW for the last few weeks has been slightly underwhelming, something that most diehard fans wouldn’t rush home to see.  Then again with the invention of DVR-ing, is there really ever a need to “rush home” to watch anything nowadays?  For yours truly, however, RAW has remained a staple on Monday nights since the very first episode in January 1994.  YES, I am one of those guys who will watch RAW regardless of how the supposed masses review the “quality” of the show.  Some would say fans like myself are mindless and dumb, which seems absolutely ridiculous seeing as the average reading ability of folks living in the United States is at the fourth grade level and strong segment of the population has at least made it to the tenth grade … but I digress.

So yes, RAW has been underwhelming for some time but it is a far cry from being bad or terrible as some have claimed it to be.  The problem is that our expectations of what the show should be don’t necessarily match what’s actually produced on the show.  We still want Attitude Era-ish shenanigans and when we don’t get them, we immediately pan everything they throw at us and label the product as something horrible.  It’s really the equivalent of a temper tantrum from a small league of grown ass fans.

I contend that our expectations are all over the place, relying on our desire to see what we like instead of being specific about what we want, which are two very different things in and of themselves.  We want to see more attention given to the Divas Division and its superstars, but we like seeing scantily clad Divas with big boobs parading around the area.  We want to see compelling and action-packed storylines with drama, twists and turns, but we like seeing simplified conflicts with certain superstars dominating the main event and three hour broadcasts. We want to see new wrestlers and characters, but we like seeing the same old guys doing the same old stuff.  The gray area for pleasing all fans is quite small and tumultuous, and I do not envy those tasked with making RAW or Smackdown or NXT or Main Event or Superstars happen each and every week from a creative direction, because they have to put on a show whether or not we fickle fans like it.

The cool thing about WWE in particular and all promotions in general is that they always provide us with entertainment even as we pick apart the most miniscule of details in the product, and a lot of times they provide us fans with the very thing we want andlike, and we willingly choose to ignore it just to focus on highlighting our opinions and point of views.  We can’t truly enjoy the product because we’re too busy enjoying picking it apart; I’ll be the first to admit here that I’ve been guilty of that often and even wrote to defend such a perspective.  However, it’s one thing to be a “fan” that turns a blind eye to haphazard writing and terrible booking and it’s a completely different thing to trade in one’s perspective as a “fan” for the false glamor that comes with the emptiness of complaining about a lack of substance without offering an alternative solution.

With these things in mind, here’s what stood out to me during Episode 1096 of Monday Night RAW:

  • Wyatt vs. Cena: Missing the Picture
  • Adam Rose and Alicia Fox: Missing the Picture
  • Payback “special event;” Missing the Picture
After months of taunting and battles, Bray Wyatt FINALLY gets the chance to show John Cena how to properly stretch his leg muscles. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

After months of taunting and battles, Bray Wyatt FINALLY gets the chance to show John Cena how to properly stretch his leg muscles. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The ideological feud between Bray Wyatt and John Cena is one of the three top feuds in the promotion at the moment.  I would bet stone cold cash on the fact that most fans have completely missed the fact that John Cena has taken a less prominent roll in the promotion for some time now and has used his energy and charisma to build up younger stars.  In this case, his protege Bray Wyatt has benefited greatly from the rub.

Here’s a tweet that I put out earlier which expresses a part of the confusion surrounding the Wyatt/Cena feud:

5-27-14Tweet_RAWIt wasn’t that long ago when Vince McMahon shocked the pro wrestling world by reportedly stating that there were no more “faces or heels” in his promotion’s product, effectively saying what Vince Russo had been saying all along: there are no good guys or bad guys, just characters who will fluctuate between the moral and immoral depending on the circumstances they are in.  The Wyatt/Cena feud showcases that blurred line of logic to a tee, but its approach seems to be somewhat more cerebral than most can handle.

While it has become slightly inorganic for Wyatt to include his youth-friendly gospel song into each promo or talking segment, his verbal sparring with Cena centers around the notion of one cult of personality battling another.  Bray Wyatt is forthright in saying that the Cult of HLR is filled with empty promises and false hope, while John Cena spends more time defaming the Wyatt Family’s system of belief while once again ignoring anyone who supports or opposes his own tried and true beliefs.  Both men believe in their own ideals, and yet Wyatt is the one saying “join me” while Cena says “eff all y’all, I’m a bawse!”  And somehow, somewhere … we’re being told to believe that Wyatt is the bad guy … at least he has some interest in people believing in him.

All this is to say that the crux of this feud is lost in translation, mired down by the weight of cryptic promos and lofty dialogue.  But this is what we fans wanted, right?  We want those deep, introspective storylines that push the boundaries of what we’re use to seeing, right?  This whole storyline is much more than being about Guy A hating Guy B and wanting to fight; the Wyatt Family has lost a good number of matches against Cena and yet they don’t seem to be bothered with that inasmuch as they are with the fact that they haven’t completely decimated the Cult of HLR …

Look for their match this Sunday to be “bowling shoe ugly” as Jim Ross has said.  After years of listening to John Cena’s spiel and praying feverishly to the wrestling gods for his demise, I can only be baffled as to why someone would not want to purchase the special even to see how this turns out.  If that isn’t your cup of tea, there’s always Matt Hardy and his ICONIC Championship.

Come come now, people! Don't be a lemon ... #BeAStar | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Come come now, people! Don’t be a lemon … #BeAStar | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Pro wresting is based on characters, point blank.  Characters dominate sports entertainment and sports so much that you’d be hard-pressed nowadays to find athletes in the public square that are just as well-rounded and normal as you or I.  Think about it: Tim Tebow made waves not just because he was a standout college athlete but also because his deeply rooted Christian beliefs made him a target of mockery by football fans in our supposed “Christian” nation.  All these behind the scenes shows were created for boxers which show the personality of these “characters” outside of two dudes who are punching the hell out of each other for money and a championship.  Each UFC fighter is a “character,” NASCAR drivers are “characters;” it just is what it is.

When it comes to pro wrestling, however, there is a need for characters that aren’t necessarily your straight forward, “I’m going to wrestle you to death” types of superstars.  This is where Adam Rose comes in to play, a wrestler with a colorful entrance and a wacky entourage that makes you pay attention.  The issue is, however, that this campy gimmick doesn’t sit well with those stoic, emotionless fans who watch Frank Gotch matches all day long.  The same thing applies to Alicia Fox’s character direction, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

For those of you that don’t know, Ray Leppan South African wrestler that portrays Adam Rose, and prior to receiving this Aldous Snow reminiscent gimmick he successfully brought life and meaning to Leo Kruger, his FCW and NXT persona that went from simply boring (along with Damien Sandow, point of fact) to simply intense and intriguing.  The Leo Kruger of NXT is the Kruger I preferred, a creepy South African poacher/big game hunter with a seriously bitchin’ theme song:

When I first heard that Kruger was getting a makeover, the only thing I knew very little about Russell Brand other than the notion that I despised the idea of Kruger being neutered just when he was getting over (with me) as a character.  After seeing Adam Rose debut on NXT, my mind was changed when I realized why this character development happened.  Leppan began his stint in WWE’s FCW developmental promotion in 2010 and stayed during the promotion’s shift to NXT and Full Sail University.  Between 2010 and 2014, the Kruger character was the primary character portrayed by Ray Leppan, which implies that despite development and growth, Leppan had only portrayed one type of character  in four years while signed with WWE.  The Adam Rose experiment, in my mind, was a way to see if Leppan could do more and be more than just an multifaceted yet one dimensional character.

Lo and behold, Adam Rose makes it to the main roster (after 4 years in developmental when tons of stars are lucky to make it to or past two years) after his gimmick does well on house shows and at Full Sail University (*cough cough Hi Emma cough cough*).  With barely a full month in on the main roster, why have fans panned the character as “not working” when he hasn’t even seen a real strong feud yet?  Worst of all, are you seriously telling me we’d opt to see the wrestling poacher than this quirky character and his cast of crazy cohorts?  Seriously, where in the twenty-first century wrestling world is it “okay” for wrestling carnies and not for Adam Rose?

TNA's The Menagerie: (from L to R) The Freak, Knux, Rebel, and Crazzy Steve.

TNA’s The Menagerie: (from L to R) The Freak, Knux, Rebel, and Crazzy Steve.

Also of concern is the direction for Alicia Fox, who has taken to post-match fits of confusion to express her happiness or frustration with a win or loss.  From Diet Coke soda baths to giving members of the ring crew wedgies, fans have voiced their displeasure with Ms. Foxy’s development as a character because it … well I don’t know exactly why they don’t like the direction she’s headed in.

As one wrestling pundit put it online, it does make you pay attention to the Divas and their division.  For years fans have clamored for the division to be paid attention to, and even with the success of the E Network’s Total Divas show, fans still screamed for the division to be more than just a reason to acquire B-Roll for the WWE’s reality show.  Alicia Fox gives you just that with the newly crowned and very young Divas Champion Paige … and that’s a bad thing?

Pro wrestling has always had characters; from Ric Flair to the Macho King, Mr. Perfect to Roddy Piper, Sting to Kerry Von Erich, there’s no escaping the necessity of a persona to add flavor to a fight between two individuals.  There’s a place for the Daniel Bryans and Gail Kims just as there is a place for the Bad Influences and RD Evans.  Everybody can’t be straight forward like Lance Storm and Dean Malenko, and the more we try to pigeonhole our stars into being the next iterations of Stone Cold and Trish Stratus, the more of a disservice we do the superstars who bust their butts to be the first versions of themselves.  Just think about it: everybody is nuts about the way Dolph Ziggler is being treated currently, but how many of those same fans talked down about the name “Dolph Ziggler” when he disappeared from The Spirit Squad as Nicky and as Kerwin White’s caddy, Nick Nemeth?  Exactly.

The Shield vs. Evolution in a No DQ Match at this Sunday's special event, Payback. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Shield vs. Evolution in a No DQ Match at this Sunday’s special event, Payback. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I wouldn’t rate the build up to this year’s Payback as something spectacular and worth writing home about, but we must acknowledge that by its name this special event is directly related to the special event that preceded it … in this case, WrestleMania XXX.  If it seems like a lot of the matches are simply rematches from the last special event, then hey … maybe that’s by design.

We can’t neglect to consider that most promotions seemed hell bent on pushing their television deals, which is something that even TNA really began doing four years ago when Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan joined the company.  If this is true by any stretch of the imagination, it then makes sense for these special events to look and feel like special television broadcasts.  Fans and pundits hate this because we’re accustomed to pay per views being climaxes or blow offs to feuds, or at least explosive continuations of on-going storylines and creative directions.  From that perspective, the TV shows should drive viewers to order the pay per views, and the pay per views should segue in some form back to the television shows.  Such is rarely the case nowadays, as the pay per views (or special events) usually drive people back to the television shows, while the television shows do almost little to hype or push the pay per views (or special events).

The question remains: what is pro wrestling pay per view supposed to be?  Four years ago the suits at TNA tried to convince us that the twelve pay per view per year model was asinine and that promoting four major shows while having seven monthly “special events” (because that’s really what the One Night Only pay per views are if you want to be technical about it) was the wave of the future.  Hell, they even went as far as to promote pay per view themed episodes of Impact.  Other wrestling promotions went the iPPV route, and others are just now walking into the pay per view fray just as WWE settles into its special event format on the WWE Network.  With all of these options and changes to the way pro wrestling is presented, what do we expect a pay per view or special even to be?

If you’re paying $9.99 per month for the WWE Network, what should a special event be to be worth your $9.99 that month?  If you’re paying $60 a month to watch a special event, what should that special event be to be worth your money?  If you’re pirating the special event, what should it be to be worth your time and pirating efforts?  If you’re attending a live show and you paid in advance for your tickets, purchased tons of merchandise at the tables and waited in the special VIP lines to get a picture with your favorite superstar or Diva, what would that special event be to be worth all of your efforts?

The best and only answer is … entertaining.  How that special event is entertaining will depend on the person you’re talking to, but we all have our own reasons for wanting to watch the show even as we move heaven and earth to try to convince other people not to watch it.  If we really thought and believed the special event wasn’t worth our time and money, would I be sitting here writing this post and would you be reading it?  Absolutely not.

Get over it; watch the special event and enjoy the spectacle as it directs our attention back to next Monday night and the road to July’s Money In the Bank special event.

But those are just my thoughts; what do YOU think?

 


A Case for The Briscoes

the-briscoes-are-coming-to-dayto-620x350

Pro wrestling in the 21st Century most assuredly falls under the “entertainment” genre, and while this particular categorization of  “the business” by no means negates or diminishes the athleticism, sacrifices, and dedication of the wrestlers, it does create a certain atmosphere that determines by and large how the business functions.

Despite our insistence that pro wrestling is solely about athleticism and abilities, the business as a form of entertainment is also about presentation.  The way in which the product is presented in this day in age can make or break a promotion rather easily and quickly.

If the way the product is presented has an important and specific effect on the business, then the actual product being presented has to look and feel a certain way as well.  Imagine a roster filled with Bastion Boogers or Rosie Lottaloves invading your airwaves five nights a week …

The entertainment business, therefore, is dominated by image; how someone or something looks is important, and consumers are conditioned to buy into those things they find visually and aesthetically pleasing.  In many ways consumers can’t help being vain or superficial, as most things that dominate our lives appeal to our sight first and everything else afterwards.  Pro wrestling is a form of entertainment, and its fans are consumers; even though we consistently pay a promotion to entertain us in many different ways we also subconsciously pay them to see a product that features talent that looks and performs in a way that is visually pleasing to us on the whole, and fans (consumers) on the whole want to see wrestlers that look good while exhibiting their in-ring talents and skills.

This is the reason why WWE continues to hire males that “look” like wrestlers (because there is a specific image that comes to mind when one thinks of a pro wrestler) and women that are/were models or have model-esque looks as a professional athlete.  This is the reason why some TNA fans make casual references to how “hot” a Knockout looks while detailing their pro wrestling curriculum vitae.  This is the reason why some fans can’t be bothered to discuss Jeff Jarrett’s GFW promotion until they first see the promotion in action. The harsh reality of life in these United States, and perhaps in other parts of the world as well, is that we are completely obsessed with looks.

The problem with being so obsessed with looks, particularly in the pro wrestling industry, is that it limits the possibilities of having greatness displayed on a much larger level.  There are endless stories of great wrestlers—women and men—who have had their abilities and potential dismissed because they didn’t have a certain “look.”  Fans will often rally behind the women and men, making video blogs and creating message board discussions about a promotion’s misguided direction for not hiring or pushing a wrestler because they don’t have that “look.”  Within that fervor, however, there still exists some subjectivity as fans will throw their support behind some of these neglected and denied stars and not others.

Hence building a case for Jay and Mark Briscoe, two twenty-something brothers currently wrestling as a tag team in Ring of Honor Wrestling.  The Briscoes are exceptional athletes and wrestlers, gaining kudos for their work in ROH from several pundits and analysts including Jim Ross.  Why is it, then, that the Briscoes have yet to be picked up by WWE or TNA?

briscoes-return-tag-team-action-tomorrow-night-620x350There could be all sorts of reasons as to why neither promotion has bothered to extend a contract to the Briscoe brothers, but a YouTube video posted in 2011 on the Ring of Honor Wrestling YouTube account shows the Briscoes recalling a story from 2009 of their experience with a WWE tryout.  Long story short, the Briscoes were not offered a developmental contract with the promotion because they were not “cosmetically pleasing to suit the WWE’s programming.”  One can only imagine how disrespected and insulted the brothers must have felt to be essentially told that they weren’t “cosmetically pleasing” for WWE’s fans.

As much as such an occurrence serves as fodder for those who despise all things WWE, it remains to be seen why TNA—the unofficial “alternative” to WWE programming—has yet to offer a contract to the brothers or why TNA fans have decided against rallying for the signing of this team to help boost the promotions lackluster tag team division.  Could it be possible that even TNA and its fans find a team such as The Wolves more “cosmetically pleasing” than the Briscoes while some of the best tag team matches in ROH took place between the American Wolves and the Briscoe Brothers?  It’s very possible that the Briscoes were offered a TNA contract and turned it down (and they had at least one match in TNA’s early days), but news of such an occurrence is scarce on the internet and (to my recollection) received no where near the same amount of press as the reports of tryouts and (re-)signings of other stars.

The Briscoes obviously don’t fit the stereotypical mold of what we envision of pro wrestlers; they do, however, have a unique and intentionally different persona that, coupled with their abilities, would make them immediately stand out in the tag division of any promotion they work for.  With tons of model-esque and “polished” wrestlers dominating the industry at this point, it would be more refreshing to see an upstart tag team rampaging through the system as something very different from the norm.  In this sense, hiring the Briscoes would mean much more than meets the eye (pun intended).

It is quite possible that the top two promotions are intimidated by what the Briscoes represent: an obvious and deliberate departure from the established standard in the entertainment business and pro wrestling industry.  This established standard, a crippling adherence to looks and style over substance, makes the industry slaves to a consumerist’s illogical perception of beauty and looks.  The business as a form of entertainment, ruled by finances and revenue, will only present those things consumers are willing to pay to see.  Fans will not pay to see anything that isn’t “cosmetically pleasing,” and the desire to deviate from that standard is about as enthralling as a prostate exam from an agitated Wolverine …

"Now now now...this is for YOUR benefit..." | Photo: eatsleeppro.wordpress.com

“Now now now…this is for YOUR benefit…” | Photo: eatsleeppro.wordpress.com

In the end (pun intended), the Briscoes and us fans lose out on so much simply because major promotions aren’t ballsy enough to buck the system, a system that depends our our dollars; unfortunately, when it comes to the entertainment industry, we will notpay for anything we don’t like … and people in this country do not likethings that aren’t deemed pretty.

There is nothing “pretty” about what the Briscoes do in the squared circle.

These two blue-collar brothers hail from Laurel, Delaware and are billed as being from Sandy Fork, both of which are located in Sussex County.  According to the Sussex County website, Western Sussex County (in which Laurel is located) is notable for being “the backbone of Delaware’s agriculture industry with more acres of arable land under cultivation than anywhere else in the state.” Both Jay and Mark make no bones about growing up and living on a farm (a chicken farm at that, of which Sussex County is also known for being “the birthplace of the broiler chicken industry”), and the promos from these two tattooed, Confederate flag waving rebels are often laced with profanity and the type of drawl you’d expect from two country boys that grew up in the pre-integrated South:

 

What’s most refreshing about the Briscoes is that they are authentically being themselves; the “characters” they portray as wrestlers are not drastically different from who they are in real life … which could potentially be a PR nightmare for any promotion dealing with family-friendly investors.  While their rough-around-the-edges persona could be “difficult” for business, their work ethic and in-ring abilities speak for themselves and the possibilities for fresh match-ups against other teams in TNA and WWE warrant some consideration of investment from both promotions.  Their no-frills, get-er-done mentality, coupled with their surprisingly finessed and incredibly crisp ring work, could easily remind fans of the Dudley Boyz from ECW, two also not-ready-for-prime-time wrestlers who prior to their time in the WWE were also far from being “cosmetically pleasing.” It also doesn’t hurt that both of the brothers are only peeking at 30 years old.

The issue is whether or not there’s anyone in either promotion that is willing to invest on a long shot in the way they did with other stars (CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Orlando Jordan … ).  A bigger issue is whether or not we fans can collectively stand behind and support the signing of two wrestlers who’ve earned the opportunity to showcase their skills on a bigger stage.  Fans proudly fancy themselves as being decidedly against the superficial politics of pro wrestling (such as in the case of WWE’s alleged issue with Mickie James’ “weight gain” five years ago); we must be aware that we feed into that same superficiality  when our support for wrestlers is unequally yoked from our own superficial subjectivity.

The entertainment business and much of our U.S. society focuses too much on looking good, often times at the expense of substance and quality.  Our spending power and dollars feed the machines that promote the importance of how something looks over how it functions.  If we ever desire for real change to occur in pro wrestling, we have got to have change our priorities which will significantly change how and where we spend our money.  The moment that change occurs, the promotions will see and acknowledge that the quality of the product and the athletes who sacrifice their lives to entertain us are far more important than whether or not they are “cosmetically pleasing.”  That change, however, has to happen inside of us fans … and unfortunately it’s a change that will take some time to happen, unless the promotions themselves choose to buck the system and truly be different in what they do and offer us for entertainment.  Hiring the Briscoes, be it in WWE or TNA, would be one huge step in that direction.

To quote Jay and Mark Briscoe, perhaps is far past time for these major promotions and us fans to “Man Up” and truly clamor for something different than the cookie cutter standard that’s loosing viewers and revenue as we speak.

 

 

 


Time For Real Talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“I’ll Give You What For!” – Daniel Bryan and the Ryder Revolution

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There are some pundits in the wide world of pro wrestling commentary that feel as if the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan is on the fast track to obscurity.  These pundits have cited that Bryan’s feud with Kane is eerily reminiscent of the same feud that derailed Zack Ryder’s momentum some years ago.  Most fans can remember fondly how Ryder only served as the pawn in Kane’s twisted desire to force John Cena to turn to “the dark side,” and how the leader of the Ryder Revolution was essentially demoted back to his obscure position on the main roster.

Truthfully speaking, Daniel Bryan is no where near being in the same position as Zack Ryder was during the Kane/Cena/Eve Torres storyline.  At that time, Zack Ryder was not the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, the WWE Champion or the World Heavyweight Champion; at that time, Zack Ryder was not dating or married to Eve Torres or one of the Bella Twins.  Most assuredly, Zack Ryder was not the focus of the feud or storyline that was essentially designed to benefit John Cena and Eve Torres.  Needless to say but very important to mention is the fact that any similarities between Zack Ryder then and Daniel Bryan now are figurative at worst and superficial at best.

There is one small thing, however, that Bryan shares with Zack Ryder in his current feud … something that the pundits are indeed saying but are quite judicious in mentioning while in the presence of polite company.  To say it frankly, Daniel Bryan (the character) is simply b*tchmade.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, please allow the good folks at Urban Dictionary to provide us with a more than appropriate explanation of this term:

bitchmade

One would be hard-pressed to deny the fact that Bryan isn’t displaying some b*tchmade qualities as he attempts to evade the evil machinations of Kane, but to compare him to Zack Ryder is just plain disrespectful on so many levels.  By doing so, wrestling fans and pundits are once again proving how poorly the educational system in this country is, and that our level of fair-weather fandom does more damage to a wrestler’s credibility and the stability business than any ill-conceived storyline or plot device ever could.

For starters, Daniel Bryan IS NOT Zack Ryder.

Zack Ryder is practically the crown prince of the mid-card, second only to the promotion’s most dominating secondary title holder Kofi Kingston.  No one in their right or wrong mind can regale anyone with tales of Ryder’s superb athleticism subduing the likes of Triple H, Randy Orton, Batista and John Cena in main event and pay per view matches.  Zack Ryder never had the smoking hot girlfriend and never had the chance to wife her down, was never best friends (or even a potential brother-in-law for that matter) with the promotion’s top star, and to this day we can rest assured that if Kane ran across Zack Ryder he’d successfully toss him into a lake of molten lava for no reason other than it being a day of the week that started with a consonant.

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Zack Ryder’s b*tchmadeness was epic in a classy way that made you not only feel sorry for him, but also made you not particularly give a damn about him after seeing him constantly owned by everyone around him.  Eve Torres used him to get to Cena and used Cena to get to the top of the Divas division.  Kane used him in order to play at Cena’s heartstrings as a means to manipulate him towards accepting a lifestyle that was not conducive to his beliefs and ethics.  John Cena was the only person to own Ryder by not using him, because he never cared about Ryder enough to use him in the first place; and even Cena had to physically tell Ryder to “sit his @$$ back down” when he began to get out of pocket.

We must give Matthew Cardona and his acting skills due respect for taking Ryder’s “punk @SS simp” to a whole new level.  No matter how terrible things got for Ryder, he continued to show moxie and trudged forward each and every time he was knocked backwards … and I personally began to tune in each week looking forward to seeing just how Kane intended to toss Ryder from here to there just because.  Ryder was a tool; the more he tried not to be a tool, the more of a tool he became.  Despite how many people cheered for him, rallied behind him, he was still a prop in the three way battle between Eve, John Cena, and Kane.

That type of b*tchmade is completely different from what is being displayed by Daniel Bryan.

Kane was essentially the pawn of The Authority, coerced into suppressing the dark part of himself to fit in with the devious and corporate structure he felt could advance his agenda … whatever that agenda was.  When Kane found it difficult to suppress the antics and meteoric rise of Daniel Bryan, he began to incur the wrath of Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, both of whom soured on his presence similar to the way they did with former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton.  Kane began to lose control, began to feel the pressure of his responsibilities press upon him from all sides.  When The Shield turned against him and The Authority, and Daniel Bryan made it to the top of the mountain, Kane was left wallowing in near squalor and definitely a shell of his former self.

It was through Stephanie McMahon’s continued manipulation that led Kane to return to his dark side, embracing the fire and hatred inside of him as a means of controlling what he thought could not be contained.  He tapped into his anger, his frustration and rage, and was led to direct all of his maniacal energy towards the bane of The Authority’s existence … Daniel Bryan.

In response, Daniel Bryan has become fearful of this monster that is way more sinister than the guy he hugged it out with some time ago.  It’s not that Daniel Bryan is afraid of Kane, but rather is afraid of what Kane can and will do to his new wife.  This has caused Bryan to act out of character, almost irrationally given what we know of him, because his primary concern is that of his wife.  When it comes to someone you love, you’ll think of their protection and safety first before you think of anything else (See: Zack Ryder).

Deja vu...

Deja vu…

Bryan’s actions come off as something odd to fans and pundits that have grown accustomed to seeing him rise above all challenges and challengers.  The difference between pre-and-post marriage Daniel Bryan is his wife, Brie Bella-Bryan.  Prior to any of this, no one actually physically threatened his wife or did so with the exact same intent and malice as Kane.  Daniel Bryan has resorted to the better part of valor for the most part, choosing to retreat with his wife intact than leave her to her own devices as Kane wanders the WWE Universe seeking to eviscerate her.

By retreating from Kane’s ominous advances, fans and pundits immediately label Bryan as “weak,” a b*tchmade character that has been emasculated by the system whom we all truly want to believe wants to keep him under thumb because of his looks.  One long glance around the landscape gives us a different picture; John Cena is masterfully putting over Bray Wyatt, while Evolution (Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista) are giving main event credibility to all three members of The Shield with a keen laser-like focus on Roman Reigns.  Even Sheamus and Wade Barrett are doubly busy making the mid-card division worth a damn.  Which top-tier talent is available at the moment to give Daniel Bryan more credibility and attention at the moment?

With so much going on, Daniel Bryan remains the focus of the feud he’s in.  His reluctance and back-peddling only occurs when he’s attempting to protect his wife, and the writers are doing an okay job of at least trying to explain why a contracted talent (Brie Bella-Bryan)  is forced to stick around in such hazardous and life-threatening work conditions.  All this is to say that apparently, for some, Daniel Bryan is b*tchmade because he can’t (or chooses not to) neutralize the threat of Kane … or hasn’t had the opportunity to do so just yet … Or is that Daniel Bryan is b*tchmade because he wants to protect his wife, and that’s apparently a bad thing in the eyes of fans and pundits …

Please remind us again why Bryan’s storyline is similar to Zack Ryder’s …

One glaringly garish fact is that no matter how much we fancy ourselves as being progressive thinkers, we’re all conditioned in one way or another to accept mediocrity as the standard.  This is to say that when a promotion gives us something slightly different than what we’re accustomed to, we immediately dismiss it and pitch a fit; such is the business of pro wrestling writing/ranting.  What’s curious in this instance is our insistence to witness a one dimensional Daniel Bryan run rampant through the roster with no rhyme or reason.  We complain about his weak mic skills but balk at the storyline that will give him a chance to develop this weakness into a strength.  We scoff at his wife’s terrible acting but turn a blind eye to the character development that will happen by her being placed in a prominent role along with one of the company’s top stars (for the record, has anybody seen Trinity “Naomi” Fatu recently …?).

As the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Daniel Bryan is expected to represent the promotion as it’s top talent.  He is expected to be able to defend his title against all competitors and to do so in a way that does not detract from the dynamic character that is the Daniel Bryan brand.  However, when that same dynamic character is placed in a situation that in all of its simplicity exposes a character flaw in Bryan that suggests a depth we’ve yet to really see from him, the worst that can happen is for us to cast him aside because we’re not willing to follow him along this portion of the ride.  Abandoning Bryan by comparing him to Ryder only succeeds in creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the Bryan character will fail much like Ryder because fans stopped giving a damn long before the feud had a real chance to develop.

I think a quote from the song “We Made It” by Drake is very appropriate right now:

“Kinda makes me wonder why the hell so many people are trying to tell me to slow down; seems like [expletive] should be shuttin’ the hell up and enjoying the show.”

IWasRight

 


“I’ll Give You What For!” – Corbin Stole My Smile

IGYWFIt is a WrestleMania tradition around these parts for us keyboard warriors to engage in an occasional battle of wits and writing when it comes to the year’s biggest show in professional wrestling.  Two years ago we sparred on varying opinions concerning John Cena and The Rock; the following year, we had mild discussions about the true relevancy of the “Once In A Lifetime” sequel.  This year it seems we’re having a friendly disagreement on the outcome of what will more than likely be the main event: a Triple Threat Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship between Randy Orton, Batista, and Daniel Bryan.

The battle lines have been squarely drawn, the “marks” on one side loudly proclaiming the signature rallying cry of the #YesMovement with fervor and excitement.  On the other side stands the “less markier,” triumphantly waving the banner of all that is right, probable and predictable given the WWE’s track record.  I’ll be the first (and probably only) one to admit that I’m on the “mark” side, and as I respect all of my L.E.W.D. brethren I’ll restrain myself from outing the “less markier” of our group here; hashtag: Be A Star.

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This is Shawn Michaels. Reflect on his career for a moment.

Since we’re all friends here we can be honest with one another; our less markier chums are absolutely right when it comes to the type of WWE independent contractor that gets the rub.  Wrestling abilities often come as something tertiary to a person’s ability to be marketable to advertisers and the media and their propensity to entertain a wide variety of individuals at any given time.  That special person also has to be “larger than life” physically and as far as their personality is concerned.  There are varying opinions concerning exactly how a wrestler gets to that “larger than life” point, but the main thing that will get you over with the promotion’s top brass more than anything else is the fact that you’re physically intimidating.  Where I’m from, we’d refer to that as being “big as f**k.”

Any fan with an elbow and an a**hole knows that WWE excels in keeping around and pushing these “big as f**k*” wrestlers, these “larger than life” superstars that can be pandered about to motion picture companies, morning talk shows, drive time radio programs and Make-A-Wish organizations in the hopes of making wrestling appear to be more than just a weekend fancy for toothless hillbillies or overweight millennials that love Cool Ranch Doritos and yelling at their moms from their basement man caves.  This is a given, almost as much as it’s a given that the number three follows the number two and precedes the number four; it’s as obvious as the word obvious.  D’uh, gahdammit.

In 2014, however, we’re all very aware that pro wrestling is a legit form of sports entertainment where the outcomes are predetermined.  Unlike the fans of the highly lauded MMA or the much beloved NFL, there are very few folks over the age of ten (10) that watch wrestling because they’re looking to see a winner in a “real” wrestling match.  Pro wrestling as entertainment is an art form where the winner of the match comes secondary to how the winner obtains his/her victory.  The magic of pro wrestling happens in between the bells; the story told from the opening bell to the closing bell is what captures our imagination and energizes us to rally for or against a given superstar.

So for us “marks,” the story of Daniel Bryan’s ascent to the upper echelon of WWE is entertaining enough to give us good reason to believe he has the ability to break through the glass ceiling despite not being obnoxiously large and not found lacking the wrestling skills of Antonio Inoki or Jim Breaks.  In many ways Bryan has already broken the glass ceiling much like his fellow wrestler CM Punk, difference being that as far as we know at this moment in time, people actually want Bryan in the company.  I digress.

Then again there is pink elephant sitting comfortably in our easy chairs, the fat stinking reality that Dave Batista returned to the promotion to provide a significant financial boost to a WrestleMania XXX card that looks about as exciting as the WrestleMania XVII card that initially brought the L.E.W.D. Crew together three years ago.  Hint: it wasn’t all that exciting.

Make no bones about it, we can all rest well knowing that the WWE Powers-That-Be expected Batista’s return to be the biggest and best thing for business at the moment.  His return had everything to do with boosting revenue for the promotion’s marquee pay per view for the year and very little else.  His win at the 2014 Royal Rumble only set in stone what we already knew …

Side Note: Returning superstars, whether it be from an injury or extended absence, ALWAYS get preferential treatment and main event matches.  Sheamus, Edge, and John Cena all returned from “injuries” to win a Royal Rumble match; Brock Lesnar and The Rock returned to the company to face John Cena, the real “face” of the company.  Christian returned from an injury to walk right into a championship feud.  So this Batista 2014 Royal Rumble thing shouldn’t seem odd to anyone.

Unfortunately for the suits the fans buried Batista’s Royal Rumble win and turned on him with a ferociousness not seen since Vickie Guerrero started screaming “Excuse me!”  To make matters slightly worse for the promotion, the primary reason fans turned on him—and continue to boo him at this current moment—is because he’s simply not Daniel Bryan.  The “marks” don’t hate him because he walked into a main event pay per view spot; the marks dislike him because he’s not somebody else.  Not being completely daft, the big wigs adjusted their creative direction and politely inserted Daniel Bryan into the WrestleMania XXX main event picture in order to keep things from being completely chaotic, because common sense only knows that the people paying to see the product can only take so much stuff before they start to tune completely out…and the WWE Network is too expensive for a decision like that to be casually dismissed by the Powers-That-Be.

Our “less markier” friend(s) contend that the promotion’s main idea still remains: Batista will win the WWE World Heavyweight Title and become the Face of the Company, while Daniel Bryan continues to chip away at that same glass ceiling we believed him to have broken through by virtue of being where he is now.  Simply put, Batista will be the Man and Daniel Bryan will be Daniel Bryan.

Think about it: at forty-five (45) years old, Dave Batista is “everything WWE markets as a top superstar.” I’ll leave you that to think about for a few moments.

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How anyone could say that with a self-respecting smile on their face is about as understandable to me as choosing Ben Affleck to portray Batman.  Nevertheless it is a grim reality that we all have to acknowledge and respect; regardless of how fans reacted to his Royal Rumble win, Batista did not return to WWE to lose at a marquee pay per view; Batista did not return to WWE to be a bit player or second banana to anybody other than John Cena.  Most importantly, WWE did not unload beaucoup bucks into Batista’s bank account to have him breathe new life into the mid-card division.  Can we at least agree that by carting Batista’s forty-five (45) year old frame into the forefront of the promotion that there is something incredibly wrong with the archaic mentality permeating throughout all things produced by WWE?  Or is it simply that we expect the promotion to fall back to the tried and true method of pushing guys that “look like wrestlers” more so than guys we respect as “wrestlers?”

Think back to a thought that I mentioned earlier: the magic of pro wrestling happens in between the bells; the story told from the opening bell to the closing bell is what captures our imagination and energizes us to rally for or against a given superstar.  Whatever happens, be it Batista’s entire a** becoming the WWE Network’s official mascot or him holding the WWE World Heavyweight Title for an unprecedented 800 years, is it so wrong for a “mark” to at least hope that the exact opposite happens and can happen, especially after it has already happened?

Yes, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels received championship runs and were both considered to be the “Man” while holding the promotion’s top prize.  Keeping in mind that the larger than life stars (Hogan, Hall and Nash) didn’t start kicking WWE’s fanny until 1997, and that Hart’s first title run was in 1992 and Michaels in 1995, and that Stone Cold Steve Austin (also a non-typical larger than life star with actual wrestling talent and ability that, while not on par with The Great Muta, was well advanced beyond the solid five maneuvers of Hogan, Andre the Giant and Big John Studd) was also deemed the “Man,” why are we coerced to accept the grimness of a Batista-led WWE?

What about the future?  If we are supposed to believe in the harsh reality that guys like Batista are the only type of stars to be pushed by this promotion, then we cannot ignore the obvious reality that stars like Sheamus (really?), Cesaro (whom it took years for WWE to pick up in the first place and, despite being the typical superstar, has yet to be pushed to the moon like Sheamus because he has discernible wrestling talent), Big E (short and Black, given we haven’t had a “Black” WWE Champion since…never…and The Rock isn’t included because he rarely acknowledges his “Blackness” in public, opting to speak more of his Samoan heritage than anything else), Bray Wyatt (another non-typical WWE wrestler, sent back to developmental after being unable to capitalize off of a lackluster gimmick), and Roman Reigns (bright future but ain’t no way he’s getting a fast track to the “Man” status after similar jaunts failed miserably for Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio) are at least a calendar year away from being catapulted into the main event stratosphere.  Real talk.

What’s left to do?  We can begrudgingly accept Batista as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and as the larger than life superstar the promotion loves to flaunt to the public, but that reality is accompanied with the reality that his transitional reign will ultimately be a stepping stone for Daniel Bryan.  When Batista disappears to promote Guardians of the Galaxy, Daniel Bryan will still be there.  When Alexander Rusev continues to come out, stand on a pedestal, and talk about bread pudding in Russian, Daniel Bryan will still be there.  When Mojo Rawley debuts and bores the crowd to literal tears, Daniel Bryan will still be there.

In that sense Daniel Bryan is already the “Man” in that someone his size shouldn’t have made it as far as he has in the promotion, a path that was ultimately paved by CM Punk who really just followed in the footsteps of the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, and Macho Man Randy Savage.  And those aren’t simply moral victories; they are actual triumphs in an industry that has thrived and failed with the big as f**k stars at the helm (Diesel? Diesel?).

That’s the end of that tale.  The bus-i-ness may never evolve to a point where one’s work rate is perceived to be a more valuable commodity than one’s size and look, but to accept on it’s own merit is to also imply that the fans are just as incapable of evolving as the bus-i-ness is itself.  After all, if a given promotion continues to push guys that “look” like wrestlers (and the ‘E isn’t the only one doing it) instead of guys that “are” wrestlers, and we continue to invest our time and money into them and write scathing blogs about it all…*ahem ahem*…what makes us more pure than the promotions we accuse of being evil?

Speaking of evolution, have we looked at the NXT roster lately?  I do believe Mason Ryan to be one of a handful of stars on the roster that resembles The Ultimate Warrior…and this is the “future” of the company.

drops the mic


The One Thing Daniel Bryan Fans Need Is…

Just Listen and Learn.


Daniel Bryan: A Title, A Legacy & Not A Pokémon

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There exists a minor debate between me and those who will remain unnamed (not due to disrespect or anything; they’re just numerous) regarding Bryan Danielson’s role in the current storyline, in regards to his winning the championship. I’m in the camp that says he should get it at Wrestlemania and others say it should wait until Extreme Rules.  After minutes of exhausting back and forth, coupled with valid points on each side, we all came to a conclusion that satisfied all our minds: Bryan’s story was all kinds of screwed up.

Daniel-Bryana-2656242If anything, you can almost exclusively pin that very blame on Bryan himself: he simply became TOO popular and the company didn’t see it coming.  That’s to say, they knew he’d be popular but at no point – I reckon – did they anticipate that he’d be THIS popular.  They could not have anticipated that he’d have entire arenas chanting “YES!”; they could not have imagined that college teams would be chanting “YES!” to hype themselves up or celebrate victory; they could never have fathomed that the state of Washington would have such an amazing year that only served to make Daniel Bryan’s career all the more potent, and yet it all happened, through fate, divine intervention, chance circumstance or the dumbest of dumb luck.  Bryan Danielson, for better or worse, is the most popular man in the WWE, and with great popularity comes great divisiveness; this may or may not manifest as supporters and detractors though.

When it comes to Bryan, it comes down to the opening paragraph’s conflict.  With Bryan’s popularity came confusion amongst the writers of the WWE product (I assume).  For a company accused of catering to a casual crowd and fumbling any long-term storylines, the fault can’t really be pinned on them as much as we want to pin it on them; we CAN pin a lot of blame on them, mind you.  Writers – and we at L.E.W.D. being writers – aren’t always able to anticipate when something takes off.  Look at South Park for example: Eric Cartman was always a character Trey Parker and Matt Stone could fall back on for humor, but it wasn’t until the infamous episode “Scott Tenorman Must Die” that – and excuse my French – shit hit the fan.  It established Eric Cartman as unspeakably evil and took an already clever show and moved it into a frighteningly dark direction that in my opinion wasn’t replicated until the season two finale of Morel Orel.  Parker and Stone may have had an idea, but to have Eric Cartman compared to Archie Bunker and Tony Soprano was surely appreciated.

So let’s look at it.  First Bryan is chosen by Cena to take him on at Summerslam.  Bryan wins.  Then Triple H and Orton conspire to take the belt from him and succeed.  The storyline begins: Daniel Bryan versus the Authority.  It continued in a somewhat broken pattern, having him directly confront them, then not, then moving him on, then taking on someone else, and perhaps that’s why I’m in the camp that wants him to take the belt at Mania, pulling double duty like they’ve been doing with him pretty frequently.  While it might make more sense for Bryan to win the title against Orton in a third climactic battle come Extreme Rules, my point of view has another battle between the two as fruitless, Bryan having proven that he can defeat the man with and without interference already.

Along that same line of thinking, with Orton being the “face” of the Authority (I hesitate to say the Face of the WWE because I fail to see how anyone can dictate who is and isn’t such a thing), I see the upcoming (still unofficial but watch) match between Bryan and Triple H to be the epitome of physical conflict that could occur in the disjointed battle between the former and the authoritative assembly that has, much to the fan’s hypocrisy, kept people watching.  A win for Bryan over Triple H at Wrestlemania would solidify his stock, a stock which really hasn’t been tested.  Bryan defeated Cena; he defeated Orton; the proof of his relative ease in taking on opponents lies in that he likely would have won that very elimination chamber battle had he NOT let his gripes with Kane push him to attacking the man.  Remember: Kane came out there to berate the Wyatt Family, not to interfere in the match.

All the same, I’ve long since contended that the real mastermind of the Authority isn’t Orton or Triple H but Stephanie McMahon herself, and a match between her and Daniel Bryan would be both questionable and rude.  At the same time, it would be a subtle nod to what Orton had to do to really get Triple H’s respect (and hatred): beat her and molest her, in that order.  As I write this I wonder if Stephanie is in the back, plotting to throw every possible roadblock in Bryan’s path before he gains what he really wants from them: a moment’s reprieve.

I’m not speaking on his habit of two matches a night either: I mean he probably just wants them to leave him alone.  Who wouldn’t?  He’s had everybody and their mothers thrown at him from a psychological perspective, straight up bullying from the authority who for all intents and purposes should follow the anti-bullying campaign more than anybody else.  As a short guy myself, I found it particularly heartbreaking that they called Bryan out on his height; he’s only a couple of inches taller than me really.  I found it even more unsettling that they referred to him as a “B” player, only upgrading to “B+” after a look of sheer disbelief on that man’s face (I can’t find it but if I do I’ll share it on another day).

There are also the promos.  In the latest, Daniel Bryan bumrushed Mr. and Mrs. Pedigree, and it wasn’t Triple H who stepped in front of Stephanie to keep Bryan further away, but Stephanie who stepped in front of Trips and told the bearded submission master off.  Eventually all of that will pay off, but I’ll be damned if I know when.  Maybe it WILL end with Bryan vs. Orton one last time, and like I said: I don’t care to see it, not really.  Triple H is above Orton on that brand of hierarchy and taking him on is like taking on Stephen Colbert in a big time event of cataclysmic proportions, and you get the actual physical proof of such a thing a month later when you take on Jim.  Orton is Jim: he’s a tool for Triple H (Colbert) to use to advance a story.

punk againOf course, it could also be in part due to CM Punk’s departure.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: his leaving screwed EVERYHING up; everything that was in place or set to be in place was thrown into disarray when he pulled an Eric Cartman and took off.  If nothing else it shows just how much impact one man has, and while he wasn’t set to win the Royal Rumble (or was he and something had them do otherwise… no, he wasn’t) his continued presence in the main event scenes meant that he was to play some role, and his continued popularity says that it was to be a larger role than many of us can imagine.  Main event?  Doubtful.  Major?  Most likely.

I won’t go into the implications and new lore of Phil Brooks because frankly another L.E.W.D. writer has done a greater job at it than I thought possible from anybody, so kudos to Corbin Macklin.  You can find those pieces here and here.  My questions go as follows: the match, the implications and the history.  In regards to the match, what would have happened had Punk maintained that match with Triple H and Bryan didn’t inherit it?  Where would Bryan be right now?  I assume he’d be fighting a high profile match that would lead to a title shot at Extreme Rules, to be honest.  But we’ll never know.  Two, the implications, which play more into the depth of the first question.  We’ll leave those implications to wiser men than I.  I apologize for the lack of wiser men than I.

But then we get the history.  Regular conversations with the likes of Mr. Morris, Mr. Banks and Mr. Gammon keep them privy to my thoughts regarding stuff, and one of the things in the category in “stuff” is age.  Not long ago, as I was rummaging through old stuff, I found a few things that brought back some fun memories from high school and college.  Found an old fan I used to keep cool in my smoldering dorm room, a still wrapped pair of CDs I bought from a local artist in the middle of No-Coloreds-In-Sight, Georgia, an earring I thought a friend of mine lost around the time I discovered my second semester of my second year of college would have me in a solo dorm… er… uh… but most importantly I found an old mixtape I put together, one of the two major ones I made back in 2005.  “Da Life and Times of C. Eazy Loot” was one of them and believe me when I say I was in a questionable place when I thought the world wanted to hear me rap; luckily that’s not the mixtape I found.  The other was a playlist I threw together of some of the most hype songs I was hearing at the time, notably Lil Scrappy’s “Head Bussa” and Crime Mob’s “If You Got Ana”, both of which will, if played in public, cause me to go wild.

What got to me was how old this mixtape was.  2005; I have vivid memories of the year, even the slow creation of the playlist, down to where I was sitting and how I was scratching my then-puppy’s belly while I did it, but it was nearly ten years ago.  Ten years.  I felt old.

No, really, I felt like a fossil.  But I was on the phone at the time too, speaking to friends about decades.  Ten years, twenty years (two decades, also known as a score), and with Wrestlemania XXX this year it stood to reason that we spoke on Wrestlemania XX.  That PPV, for me, is one of the standout events in the WWE’s history.  Why?  Not because the event was all that great; it was good but not nearly great.  It was mostly forgettable in fact, at least in my opinion, but it had this moment:

EddieandBenoitWMXX

It was glorious: this was a time where I was just starting to consistently buy PPVs, and dealing with folk growing out of watching the product whereas I was getting deeper into it, and looking back on it now I can say that while the Triple H-Shawn Michaels-Chris Benoit match was terrific the moment Benoit stood with that belt, triumphant after a long, long, LONG road, alongside his friend who had faced a similar road.  It was Guerrero and Benoit’s night, and when I look at that match I said, “Oh crap, they can do it again…”

The circumstances for Benoit were different, mind you.  For one, it was Benoit’s first world title.  For two, he was taking on Degeneration-X, officially or otherwise.  They hyped the man up though: they made you a Benoit fan, down to him entering the 2004 Royal Rumble at number one and winning the whole damn thing.  He DECLARED that he would be the World Heavyweight Champion, and proceeded to do it in the main event in the biggest event in years.

Those are the moments that make Wrestlemania the spectacle is (usually) is.  And the match itself could easily be recreated with Daniel Bryan if they throw him into the main event at WM XXX, but I’m more impressed by how similar it would be.  It wouldn’t be Bryan’s first world title in the WWE, but it would be his first WWE WHC title, for whatever that’s worth.  Bryan also didn’t win the Rumble; as a legion of booing fans will remind you, Bryan wasn’t even in the Rumble itself.  The psychology behind the fans who wanted to see Bryan win the Rumble (not only was he not scheduled to be in it: we KNEW Rey Mysterio was!) and who fell silent and took on “Angry Miz Girl” faces after the Chamber is a 400 level college course in and of itself.

But were Bryan thrown into the match, he WOULD be taking on Evolution, and considering the role Triple H held ten years ago (seriously, TEN YEARS!) as the champion, it isn’t hard to look at the same kind of thing happening were a triple threat to take place as the main event between Batista, Daniel Bryan and the champion Randy Orton.  Even the dynamics are the same damn near.

2e9d6037-e944-4516-9942-d3cc083fd66d_1003Triple H is the powerhouse.  He’s big, he’s strong, he’ll rollout and roll over you like Whitney’s motherfucking Miltank in the Pokémon games.  His strength is undeniable, as are his many title reigns.  Batista fills this role, being a big, strong Miltank that nobody likes; also like a Miltank he is a one-trick pony that can be blown away the second you knock out his momentum and taunt the woman behind him.  Or in Bootista’s (as this guy might call him) case, the woman that he’s in.  You know, because he’s known for doing illicit things to women.  Rather disrespectfully, I might add.

Shawn Michaels is the leaner, swifter pseudo-technician.  He’s big but lanky, strong but wiry; he’ll kick you in the face like Hitmonlee in the Pokémon franchise.  His talent is undeniable, as are his many title reigns.  Orton fills this role, being a lean, tactical Hitmonlee that people underappreciate and, in this case, underestimate; also like Hitmonlee he’s seen as predictable.  Hitmonlee is, as fans of the franchise know, restricted to kicks, and people tend to think they can telegraph Orton’s move set, but examining his little gauntlet let us know that he’s a lot more aware than we give him credit.  Just ask Mr. Morris, who brilliantly laid it out here and here.  If anything, much like Michaels, Orton is the most interesting of the match, the one who can really stop the show, the one who basks in the hate he receives and delivers tremendous quality, even in the midst of people not realizing it.

And that leaves Benoit.  Benoit was THE technician.  He was that man who could outwrestle anybody; competition meant either wrestling himself (insert masturbation joke here) or shadowboxing.  He could work the ring, work the opponent’s body and made it a habit to tell stories in the ring, showing us that the biggest guy didn’t necessarily have to be the most impressive one.  Sometimes the greatest surprises came in the smaller packages.

This is Daniel Bryan.  He doesn’t fill the role: he IS that role.  I may not have said it very often up here, but Daniel Bryan is everything Chris Benoit was, down to his finisher which is only a stone throw away from being the Crippler Crossface.  Much like CM Punk adopted the flying elbow, Daniel Bryan adopted the diving headbutt.  Bryan is more versatile in the sense that he has a more strike oriented move set right now though, such as his aggressive kicks and Busaiku Knee Kick that they refuse to give a name to.  Ignoring the Pokémon metaphor (thinking about Whitney made me mad) the reason his moment would be grand at this year’s Wrestlemania if he won the title would be because it pleased the fans; it isn’t even about the title so much anymore as seeing the man succeed.

As I write this piece, I ask myself if I really want to see him acquire the title right now, but like I said before it was because of how oddly his story has been handled.  Frankly I don’t think it much matters when he wins at this point: it’ll feel anticlimactic because there’s no real path they’ve followed outside of Bryan complaining about the Authority screwing him over.  Without a logical A to Z, Bryan’s road will feel awkward, period.  So sure, he can win at Mania, or Rules, or even the third Main Event of the month of July, but unless the road makes more sense, it’ll feel weird.

Maybe if they didn’t rush his Wyatt storyline it would make more sense, but even that felt like a detour BECAUSE it was cut so short.  Bryan won at Night of Champions (or was it Vengeance? (same difference)) and the title was ripped from his hands, and from then on it became disjointed.  daniel-bryan-compared-to-chris-benoit--watch-out-bellas-3930

That’s another thing that made Benoit’s win so special: it was completely and utterly earned.  Everyone is given a chance to be in the Rumble, but then you’re on your own.  He started from the number one spot and defeated everyone he had to in order to win.  He EARNED that spot; at no point was he given a handout because the people in creative didn’t know of a more substantial entry point.  The fact is that Daniel Bryan’s world title run began when someone said, “I’ll give him a chance”.  Literally.  The set up was John Cena was told to pick his own opponent, and the only consistency of this whole story is that the Authority wasn’t big on him from the beginning.

That isn’t a “taint” so much as an asterisk.  Everything may be an intricate plot to make Daniel Bryan the truest example of an underdog who made the most of his opportunities and got screwed over because the people who gave him those opportunities did not expect him to capitalize on them.

But that’s the gist of the “Yes! Movement”.  I pondered on Bryan being the second coming of Benoit, and that has been more or less founded.  I pondered on him having a similar moment at Wrestlemania XXX, but I don’t even think it’s quite possible anymore.  The reception would be just as massive, and maybe that’s the thing that determines the moment.  Either way we’re getting Daniel Bryan versus Triple H at the grandest stage of them all, and regardless of my feelings towards the possibility of Bryan headlining the program or getting the title, I’m sure Danielson and Hunter will make their conflict a good one.


“I’ll Give You What For!” – A Method to the Madness

IGYWFOn Sunday, February 23, 2014, Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards defeated Robbie E and Jessie Godderz at a TNA Live Event to become the new TNA World Tag Team Champions.  Congratulations to Richards and Edwards on their title victory, their first title run in the company after debuting five weeks ago on IMPACT Wrestling.

I only have one question, an honest question that has very little to do with The Wolves’ victory or the numerous explanations that “justify” why they were thrust in the spotlight so soon in their stint in TNA Entertainment, LLC…

What the *&#! is up with the BroMans???

From our L.E.W.D. offices it seemed as if very few fans gave a good damn about the BroMans losing their titles during a live event match.  To be a bit more accurate, it seemed as if fans were thrilled that the Wolves—a supposedly more marketable and beloved team—knocked off the BroMans at a non-televised event.  Any chase or hunt (pun intended) that could have happened, and the tons of money that could have been made from it, all gone in the blink of an eye in Morgantown, West Virginia.

We get it; the BroMans are already two dance contests deep in being just another set of jobbers used in between thrilling matches on IMPACT Wrestling.  We’ve been given very few reasons to take them seriously as tag team champions, let alone as a tag team in the first place, and at best their 126-day reign was transitional, something to keep the tag team division relevant until a far more qualified tag team that wasn’t Bad Influence showed up.

Over time the pairing of Jessie “Mr. Pectacular” Godderz and Robbie E showed signs of growth, development and maturation that spoke highly of their depth as wrestlers and performers.  It also gave fans a reason to believe that TNA was truly beginning to develop a new era of TNA Wrestlers.  No one will ever…and I mean ever… speak of the BroMans in the same sentence as The Midnight Express, The Rockers, The Road Warriors, Demolition or the Four Horsemen (except for this one instance here), but they grew to be way more competent in the ring than anyone would’ve ever guessed.

To say it differently, these two as a tag team deserve way more credit than what they’re given.

The BroMans (Jesse Godderz on the left, and Robbie E on the right) followed by DJ Zema Ion. | Copyright © 2014 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved

The BroMans (Jessie Godderz on the left, and Robbie E on the right) followed by DJ Zema Ion. | Copyright © 2014 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved

This is why I’m particularly confused and slightly concerned about our reaction to the Wolves’ title victory this past Sunday.  There was so much talk and focus on the guys who won the match more so than the guys who lost, even though the guys that lost the titles put in their fair share of work when it came to adding prestige and value to the titles and the tag team division.

Say what we will about the BroMans, but they held the titles and defended them often in a division that only had enough tag teams to fit into a Geo Metro.  If TNA’s Tag Team Division could be personified as the Land of the Blind, the BroMans were effectively the cycloptic monarchs of all they surveyed, and it says something about the promotion and the division when challengers for the tag titles have to be imported to be competition for your champions.

All that being said, TNA is once again placed in the unenviable “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” position.  The BroMans had a terribly cheesy chickens**t gimmick that they turned into chicken salad, and just when the opportunity for fans to take them seriously popped up, they’re unceremoniously defeated for their titles and fans are instantly more interested in the two new non-TNA guys than the homegrown stars.  Lord knows that if a certain other promotion did something similar half the doggone IWC would be brandishing their torches and pitchforks before the end of this sentence.

I guess that’s the crux of my problem; despite having the titles for four months, despite growing to be a solid in-ring tag team, despite making the media rounds for the promotion, the BroMans get the bum’s rush for a five week old tag team.  The same thing happened during AJ Styles’ first run as TNA World Heavyweight Champion when he was defeated easily by Rob Van Dam, who had only been in the promotion for six weeks at the time.

If a conclusion must be drawn from these two instances, it could be that the promotion stays true to what has been the case for sports entertainment ever since the very first WrestleMania: a promotion will do what’s necessary in order to make money.  When thinking of it all from that perspective, it’s mere elementary to see and know that Rob Van Dam stood to get more revenue for the promotion than did AJ Styles, just as The Wolves stand to make a bigger splash for TNA than the BroMans.  That, regardless of whether we want to admit it or not, is truly depressing; it’s depressing because even when fans think we’re getting what we want, the bottom line always revolves around money.

It’s at times like these, particularly during TNA’s self-proclaimed #RealNewEra, that fans get to witness the rise of the next big thing in “the business.”  As easy as it is to blame the promotion for the title change, we also have to wonder whether or not Robbie and Jessie truly capitalized on the precious opportunity awarded them.  Taking all of their development into consideration, it’s pretty crappy that they weren’t even given the chance to lose the titles after a lengthy and fabulously constructed feud.

Not only that, but they were also defeated for their titles with two more taped episodes of IMPACT Wrestling from the UK ready to be aired  on television, meaning that these two taped episodes will show us whether or not this title change was predetermined well before the Wolves were even introduced to fans in proper fashion.  And if that’s the case, the whole element of surprise that’s coupled with the “anything can happen at a TNA Live Event” chatter is riddled with duplicitous half-truths…but I digress.

The focus of this piece revolves around Robbie E and Jessie Godderz, a tag team given a priceless opportunity to raise the stock of TNA’s tag team division and how they capitalized off of that opportunity.  We can only assume at this point that the spotlight pointed in their direction has slowly dimmed leaving them barely visible in the grand scheme of things; if there is any truth to the speculation surrounding their loss (I heard that the Wolves were more popular in Japan, and seeing as the big Wrestle-1 crossover is looming on the horizon, it would make sense for the more popular team—as opposed to the already established one—to defend the titles against one of Japan’s finest tag teams), these assumptions are generalizations sturdy enough to build a two story house on.  With James Storm currently in the beginning stages of a heel turn while holding a Feast or Fired briefcase for a future tag team title shot (which will inevitably be accompanied by a reconciliation with former tag team partner Robert Roode), there’s no reason in the wide World According to Garp for us to believe a program between the BroMans and the Wolves will grace our screens anytime after Lockdown in two weeks.   And let’s just be honest with one another…do any of you reaaallly want to see a month long feud between the BroMans and the Wolves?  Didn’t think so.

Mr. Christopher Lamb coined a phrase that succinctly describes my perception of the greatest asset of the Attitude Era: “professional competition.”  The Attitude Era wasn’t great because of the rampant nudity, vulgar language and extremely violent matches.  On the contrary, the Attitude Era was great (in part) due to rosters loaded with athletes who were not only passionate about their craft but also determined to be the best in their promotion and in the business.  These wrestlers would approach 9 out of 10 of their matches desiring to not only make their opponent look good, but also raise the bar to show the suits that they should be highly considered among their peers to be the one and only top dog in the promotion.  Very few of the stars were complacent and most of them made great use of the time they were given in the ring, be it forty-five seconds or forty-five minutes.  If there’s anything “wrong” with the current era of the business, it’s that too many stars show that fire inside of the ring and opt to use Twitter to vent their frustrations; that’s honestly just wasted energy.

In regards  to the BroMans, and with no malice or ill-intent towards their work and work ethic, it’s questionable whether they or their tag team cohorts have that same level of professional competition to give the TNA suits a valid reason to have their title change televised instead of taking place at a live event.  It’s one thing to want to give the fans a great show; it’s another thing to want to make TNA the best sports entertainment promotion in the world.  It’s a completely different thing to want to be the best at what you bring to the table and to empower those around you to want to do the same.  The difference between Grade A work and Grade C work can’t be found in terms of what was done correctly or incorrectly; the difference is found in how well one does what one does and then exceeds that level to an unfathomable degree.  The recent and “surprising” turn of events suggests that TNA felt very comfortable with passing the torch to the Wolves as a reward for the BroMans’ average work with the titles.

All of this could change in the upcoming weeks; I’ve read the spoilers and I’m aware of the unique situation both teams are placed in heading into Lockdown.  That being said, the BroMans are trekking to Miami as the former champions, and as of right now they are not slated for a rematch until after the show…unless the titles change hands again at another live event. 

At this point the only thing any fan can do is trust that the promotion knows what it’s doing and wait to see where the ride takes us.  For what its worth, I do still feel as if the BroMans got the raw end of the deal and hope that in the upcoming weeks their foppish chicanery turns into a serious quest to prove their mettle as one of TNA’s #RealNewEra home grown tag teams.


Thoughts on the Death of Nelson “Mabel/King Mabel/Viscera/Big Daddy V” Frazier, Jr.

Nelson-Frazier-With-Glasses

Nelson Frazier, Jr.

On behalf of all the L.E.W.D. admins and contributors, I would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Nelson Frazier, Jr., better known to pro wrestling fans as Mabel, King Mabel, Viscera or Big Daddy V.  For all that are reading this, please know that we join you in mourning the loss of another awesome person that spent a significant portion of his life entertaining us.

We’re never really prepared when someone dies; we tend to shuffle through life not really appreciating the precious moments we have on this earth.  We grow complacent very easily, believing that everything will remain the same from one moment to the next.  That whole mindset changes, however, when someone close to us dies unexpectedly; a death always reminds us that just as quickly as we come into existence, anyone can depart from this life just as fast without a moment’s notice.

After watching a stellar episode of RAW this past Monday night, and after thinking of new ways to complain about any and everything pro wrestling related, I can say without a shadow of doubt that none of us were prepared for the news of Nelson Frazier, Jr.’s death.  I can also honestly say that none of us here at L.E.W.D. were even prepared to process what his death … and life … meant to us.  Nevertheless here we are, pausing momentarily to consider not only the fragility of life but also all of those moments that mean so much to us; without question, Nelson Frazier, Jr. was an important figure in those precious moments, which gives reason for us to show his family and friends how much we respected him and how thankful we are for what he did for us.

Contrary to what we believe as fans, the lives of pro wrestlers aren’t as clean cut and dry as we imagine them to be.  For as much hell as we give WWE’s Divas Division, these women make a conscious decision to place a significant part of their lives on hold simply because they love the business and its fans; whether it be a forty-five second match or an hour long marathon, these athletes deserve just as much respect from us as they do the people who hire, book, train, and write for them.

The male athletes are in the same boat, dedicating their lives to and placing their bodies through hell and back simply for our entertainment.  It’s a heavy burden to bear, one we must remember whenever we feel the need to “go in” on a particular performer or promotion.

I say all this because Frazier was a part of this sacred brotherhood and sisterhood of athletes who, despite the physical toll it was sure to take on his body, lived to perform on a highly rigorous schedule for us.  Throughout the hokey characters, throughout the gimmick changes, throughout the releases and rehiring, Frazier was there to entertain and did so without major complaint (or at least anything that spread to the dirtsheets).  The man deserves our respect and appreciation for that fact alone, if not for anything else.

And that’s another thing worthy of our attention: the “hokey” gimmicks.  Frazier went through five different character changes during his time with WWE.  He started off as Mabel, a member of the trio known as Men on a Mission (M.O.M.) in the early 1990s.  In the mid-90s, Mabel became King Mabel after winning the 1995 King of the Ring tournament.

During the height of the highly lauded Attitude Era, King Mabel was transformed into Viscera, the milky-eyed muscle in The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness stable.  Following his heel run as Viscera, he was transformed into the pajama clad “World’s Largest Love Machine.”  He followed that up as the super intimidating and shirtless Big Daddy V in the WWE’s version of re-visioning of ECW.

Say what you will about five characters in a career in WWE that spanned on and off from 1993 – 2008; it says something about Frazier when he was able to reinvent himself five different times to stay right on par with fans expectations, even when there were (and are) superstars who couldn’t get a handle on one type of character to resonate with fans or add depth to their already one dimensional characters.

For me, Frazier’s most notable characteristic worth celebrating is how well-respected and appreciated he was amongst his peers.  Pro wrestlers from all over the country, and insiders within “the Business” as well, have all shared tweets and thoughts about Frazier, with most noting how nice of a man and true of a friend he was.  Younger wrestlers spoke highly of his willingness to share knowledge and advice, while veterans remembered fondly those moments where Frazier’s charming and endearing personality lit up the room.  It seems Nelson Frazier, Jr. was truly the type of person and man that only comes along once every so often.

We’ve lost another giant in the pro wrestling world today, and we all offer our respects and hearts in memory of a man that entertained millions of fans worldwide.  This isn’t a time to go on about how corny the M.O.M. gimmick was, or how nasty Big Daddy V looked with his shirt off.  Rather, this is the time we reflect fondly on the life of a man who made us pay attention when he was wearing mammoth sized parachute pants and when he wasn’t wearing a shirt.

There are a lot of athletes in the pro wrestling business, but very few of them have the honor of receiving nothing less than the utmost respect from their peers and their fans.  Nelson Frazier, Jr. was definitely one of those athletes.

May his family and friends know we appreciate him greatly and appreciate them for allowing him to may us laugh, cry, cringe, and thoroughly enjoy professional wrestling.

Rest in peace, Nelson.

Viscera-2

 


“I’ll Give You What For!” – An Offer You Can’t Refuse

IGYWF

If you don’t like it, then don’t watch it.

If promotions gained one nickel for every time this phrase was uttered by a disgruntled pro wrestling fan, the industry could survive for years without seeing any increase in viewership, buyrates, advertising revenue or merchandise/ticket sales.

The more you think about that phrase and reflect on it, the more it sounds like a banal ultimatum dished out from the frustration that comes with relentlessly defending a given promotion’s product.  Depending on how it’s said, it can even come off as a threat … if you don’t like it, then don’t watch it … OR ELSE …

One of the cool things about being a pro wrestling fan is that our little community is far more diverse and divided than any other group of individuals supporting a sport or form of entertainment.  Our diversity is what makes our conversations, debates, video blogs and scathing editorials so fun; we can agree to disagree on a lot of things, but very few can deny our (misguided?) passion and love of this form of sports entertainment.

This being said, it is improbable that the breadth and width of sports entertainment fandom will ever be uniform in its thoughts or expressions of such.  However, because we’re conditioned from birth to believe one particular way is THE “right” way, here we are faced with a baseless and futile warning disguised as a declaration of intense and passionate conviction.

The “either-or” debate amongst wrestling fans is old, tired and quite frankly very pointless in this twenty-first century.  It’s foundation is comprised of antiquated notions that assume “hatred” or “dislike” of a product is synonymous with constructive or unfavorable criticism.  The deliciously ironic point of it all is that the more sophisticated a fan we imagine ourselves to be, the more we rely on schoolyard tactics and prepubescent defense mechanisms to support our diverse and subjective opinions.  It’s almost as if we’re constantly teetering over the precipice of ending our diatribes with “Nanny nanny boo boo.”

Screw Hulk Hogan; REAGAN Knows What's Best.

Screw Hulk Hogan; REAGAN Knows What’s Best.

We Americans living in the United States tend to take our constitutional right of free speech very seriously, so much so that we spend an ample amount of time forcing coercing folks to keep their opinions to themselves and adopt the status quo’s perception of life and all things around it.  When it comes to pro wrestling and/or sports entertainment, we’d rather surround ourselves with like minded individuals and, when in times of assault from non-like minded individuals, we circle the wagons and shoo the naysayers away instead of inviting them in for tea, biscuits, and a rousing discussion on our likes and dislikes.

Then again, who has time nowadays to engage anyone in lighthearted palavering to discover the root of our consternation?  I’m right, you’re wrong, now go away! 

We all would love for the world to be more simple than it is, but the reality is that the complexities that dominate life require more than 140 characters or the length of a sitcom to fix.  It’s easy to dismiss someone’s ramblings as “hate,” because one won’t have to confront the truth embedded deep within someone’s criticism of the product or even acknowledge that the “other” has a valid point buried underneath a sea of harsh words and unflattering commentary.  The only logical next step is to dismiss the “hater” by telling them to take their opinions elsewhere, leaving everyone else resting comfortably in the tranquil seas of their own encouraging thoughts.

Here’s the deal: who’s to say one “hates” a product when they speak unfavorably about it (unless they say for themselves that they “hate” it; that’s a different story altogether), and who are we to dictate what they should can or cannot watch?  And get this: the same people we encourage to stop watching a given promotion’s product are also the same people we also claim aren’t watching the product to begin with!  Such is the hypocrisy of being a pro wrestling fan, and the situation is far more intricate than our feeble attempts to nudge a few naysayers out of the building.

Contrary to popular belief, television ratings matter a big deal to wrestling promotions and it all goes back to something I’ve talked about incessantly on this website.  Wrestling promotions are BUSINESSES, and businesses in these capitalist consumer driven United States are in business to make MONEY.  A given promotion convinces a major network or one of its affiliates to give them money to air their product, and in return the network can charge other companies to air commercials for products during the time slots in which these wrestling promotions air their product.

The ratings are a way that networks can gauge how many people are watching a given show at a given time; the networks use those ratings to base how much they charge advertisers off of the type and number of people watching a show at a given time.  The more and more the audience for a particular show grows, the more networks can charge advertisers to air their commercials.  In turn, the wrestling promotions charge the networks more money to air their particular show on that particular network.

All this is to say that it seems ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO STOP WATCHING A GIVEN PROMOTION’S PRODUCT FOR ANY REASON UNDER THE SUN.  If anything, and I mean anything, we’d want MORE PEOPLE TO WATCH A GIVEN SHOW seeing as so many entities (including the promotion) place goo-gobs of money on the number of people watching the show.  I like the way MVP put it recently:

MVPTweet
Then there’s this notion of how we understand the phrase “don’t like.”  What does it exactly mean when someone “doesn’t like” something?  How do we quantify our “dislike” for a given product, especially when a presumed offender never comments on whether or not they actually “dislike” the product in discussion?

If a fan truly hates or dislikes a particular product, that fan won’t need to be told to “not watch it” because they’re not watching it to begin with.  Clearly the phrase “if you don’t like it, then don’t watch it” can’t be directed at that particular demographic.

What about the fans who watch the product just to criticize, the fans MVP mentioned in his tweets?  Despite the criticism a naysayer must like the product enough to be bothered to watch it, even if it is just to complain.  If a naysayer’s criticism about the product is without merit (and ONLY if it’s without merit), then what constructive use of time is it to complain or go in on unfounded remarks or unnecessarily skewed opinions?  I just feel like yelling at mice would yield a more fruitful return than huffing and puffing about someone who doesn’t like a show simply because it exists.

Here’s a suggestion, and it’s only one suggestion: let fans watch what they want to watch and let fans criticize what they want to criticize.  As long as the sun shines, people will always have something to say about something and people are going to do whatever the hell they want to do.  But, as intelligent pro wrestling fans, let’s save ourselves some trouble by focusing our time on getting to the substance of criticism instead of dismissing it altogether in order to keep ourselves coddled in the warmth of an idealized storybook version of pro wrestling fandom.

Instead of encouraging naysayers to disappear, why not encourage them to actually tune in to the product and view it from a different perspective than once before?  If a particular fan finds a given product atrocious and refuses to watch it, why not have a productive discussion about why they hate the product and choose not to watch it?  These things, to me, seem to be a lot more beneficial to our conversations and debates than pouting, frowning, and resorting to the lowest common denominator of being cocooned in our fluffy plush happy feelings.

Then again, what the hell do I know?  I’m just a pro wrestling/sports entertainment fan who’s at least willing to invest in a product enough to speak highly for it or against it; that’s really what it’s all about, right?


WWE Announces Lita Will Be Part of the 2014 Hall of Fame Class

When I was 14-years-old, I felt like no one understood me. I went to an inner-city middle school where I, hot pink hair and all, stood out like sore thumb. I wore Doc Martens, a necklace of soda can tabs, and carried a backpack riddled with music quotes written in White-Out. My teachers all thought I was smart but an underachiever, and could not fathom what kind of parents let their child walk around with crazy hair and a bad attitude.

My home life had been a tad chaotic as of late and my mom had just moved to help my sister with her growing family. My dad knew as much about raising a teenage girl as I did about growing a mustache and his idea of handling my budding hormones and dealing with emotional outbursts was a pat on the head (literally, we are not a hugging bunch) and a bag of Hot Cheetos.

I ended up living with my best friend’s family before starting my freshman year of high school. In times of change or turmoil, watching wrestling with my dad remained my constant. As a kid, I had high dreams and aspirations of becoming a wrestler someday but, much like how I stood out at school, I did not look like any of the women wrestlers I watched on television. I didn’t want to wear a dress and escort people to the ring and be eye candy; I wanted to wrestle.

That all changed the night I saw Amy Dumas, AKA Lita, nail a male wrestler with a moonsault. I was mesmerized and I just kind of sat there with my mouth hanging open. Not only did this woman not look like the other women wrestlers, she was bad ass.

lita_02It’s an almost indescribable feeling when something finally clicks within yourself and you can feel an old passion being reignited. As a young girl, I never resonated with the female wrestlers I saw on television because they did not wrestle. I imitated Shawn Michael’s moves, The Undertaker’s moves, etc. The wrestlers I wanted to be like were all male because that is all there was to look up to wrestling wise.

Lita was like a breath of fresh air in a stale period for women’s wrestling. Her passion and fearlessness inspired me and I finally felt like there was a strong female wrestler who was easy on the eyes, but came out with a purpose and looked like she could actually fight and might just be crazy enough to do so. She was believable.

To me, Lita will always be the best Women’s Champion, followed by Trish as a close second and honestly, both those women really did something special. They fed off of each other and they both just went for it. To this day I have never seen/heard a crowd so into a Diva’s match since they headlined Monday Night Raw on December 6, 2004. When is the last time a crowd, positively, chanted a Diva’s name as loudly and excitedly as they would John Cena or CM Punk?

I instantly became a fan of hers and have remained one to this day. It was announced last night on Monday Night Raw that she will be inducted into the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame and it’s about damn time. I felt like her exit with the WWE was handled poorly (they did her dirty) and I feel like this was a step in the right direction towards making things right. As a fan, I was disgusted with how they let her go out, and to be honest that whole “Diva’s Division” has not been right since.

So congratulations Amy Dumas, and congratulations to WWE for finally getting something right as it pertains to women’s wrestling.


“I’ll Give You What For!” – Politics and Bulls**t

IGYWF

Former WWE Developmental Star and Independent Superstar Chris Hero, a.k.a. Kassius Ohno

Former WWE Developmental Star and Independent Superstar Chris Hero, a.k.a. Kassius Ohno

I almost cried the day Kassius Ohno was released from his WWE developmental contract in November of last year.

My frustration and disappointment at Ohno’s release wasn’t due to my feeling that he “deserved” to be on the main roster, and it wasn’t due to despising the promotion for “holding down” another talented wrestler in order to push someone they deemed more marketable and “controllable,” if you will.

My frustration and disappointment was a result of my feeling that I’d never get to see Chris Spradlin, also more popularly known as Chris Hero, showcase his skills and talents under the bright lights on the WWE’s main roster; and despite his highly positive attitude regarding his release and his optimism towards returning to the company in the future, I could not shake the sneaking suspicion that I’d never ever see him in a WWE ring again.

I relayed these feelings in brief to members of our L.E.W.D. Crew during one of our regular daily conversations.  In so many words Mr. Gammon was the first to offer some profound advice that, although intended to paint the picture in a more positive light, enabled me to explain in more definitive terms the very feelings I expressed about my frustration and disappointment a few moments ago.

To paraphrase Mr. Gammon’s comments, he stated what should have been the obvious … “Life will go on; it isn’t the end of the world or WWE.”

As much as tore at my insides to admit it, Mr. Gammon was right.  The entertainment business is known for cute, pithy statements such as, “The show must go on,” and “One monkey don’t stop no show.”  These phrases tell those in the entertainment business that no matter what happens—when lights cut off, when fans start to boo, and in some cases when the actors and actresses are injured—the production must continue at all costs.  It takes millions of dollars to produce a show and a flub, no matter how large or how small, cannot stop a multimillion dollar project from concluding.  Chris Spradlin’s release from the WWE was a road bump that could not stop or hinder the massive and monstrous sports entertainment machine from barreling down the highway of financial success and popular prominence.

It was astute observation within Spradlin’s comments that gave me comfort and solace as I mourned his release.  Spradlin stated the following, “When things happen that we don’t like, it’s our instinct look for answers. We get sad. We get mad. In this situation, there’s nothing to be sad about! And rather than being angry about what has happened, I want you all to be happy about what’s going to happen! I’ll be back with a vengeance, I assure you. The best way to support me is with positive energy.”  To this very day I still feel especially moved and inspired by Spradlin’s words; in the midst of feeling down and out regarding the situation, here he was—released from his opportunity to wow the world as a WWE Superstar—giving me hope that his best was still yet to come.  I respected Spradlin as a performer and a person before he arrived in the WWE, and had even more respect for him after reading those words.

Spradlin’s words helped me realize that his wrestling career couldn’t be solely defined by a stint in World Wrestling Entertainment, Incorporated.  Just because Spradlin walked away from the ‘E, be it by his own choice or the decision of someone else above his pay grade, didn’t necessarily mean that he wouldn’t be able to entertain wrestling fans all around the globe.  He wouldn’t have the WWE’s marketing machine or stamp of authenticity on his career, but Spradlin chose to face the opportunity with dignity and poise, opting to remain positive about his situation and pushing forward with his career rather than languishing in the hatred and bile that often follows disgruntled ex-employees and pissed off fans.

Much like WWE, Chris Spradlin was determined to let his fans and all of us know that a kink in the plans wouldn’t stop him from being the awesome wrestler and entertainer that he is and will be.  If he remained positive about his situation, who was I to throw pity parties for him when even he desired in some way for me to look on the bright side of it all?

It goes without saying that we fans have a profound respect for the men and women who bust their asses performing for us non-stop almost every day of the calendar year.  We treasure them, look up to them as role models, and aspire to have the same discipline, drive and focus that they exhibit when making their media rounds or even working out at gyms across the country and the world.  Because we hold them in such high regard, it becomes easy for us to feel for them one way or another when something good or bad happens to them in their careers.  We feel connected to them so much that their triumphs and setbacks belong just as much to us as they do to them.  They are our heroes and heroines, and we live vicariously through all they accomplish and all they experience.

It’s a very curious thing; we feel nothing for the single parent that needs government assistance to raise a child or the restaurant workers who make less than minimum wage and get fired because we complained about the temperature of our mashed potatoes.  When our favorite wrestler(s) get released, however, it’s a completely different story …

This is the very phenomenon that is occurring with CM Punk as we speak.  With rampant speculation regarding his departure from WWE spreading like wildfires in the west, fans have taken to the internet to voice their opinions on the state of affairs within the promotion more so than anything Phil Brooks has had to say about the release himself.  To say it plainly, it appears Phil Brooks’ departure from the promotion is largely due to him being unsatisfied with the company he works for.  Our very own Corbin Macklin (also a native of Chicago, by the way) did an excellent job of showing us why Brooks’ may have been completely and utterly frustrated with working for WWE.

As bystanders on the outside looking in, we can understand why Brooks threw up his hands and walked away from the promotion.  Phil Brooks didn’t need the WWE paycheck as he reportedly saved his money wisely.  Phil Brooks doesn’t really need the WWE machine to push or promote him at this point if he desires to continue wrestling.  Phil Brooks, like several wrestlers before him, had accrued enough sway and respect during his time in the promotion to afford him the extremely rare option to simply walk away when he had become bored with the way his CM Punk character was being utilized; that is a privilege and gift that is not afforded to all superstars or divas.

At the heart of it all, Phil Brooks’ chose to do what was good for Phil Brooks, because “one monkey don’t stop no show.”  It was Brooks’ opinion that the dog-and-pony escapades of WWE were too much for him to tow any longer, so instead of wasting the promotion’s time and money he opted to step away while he still had the opportunity to do so.  While it is questionable whether or not his actions were professional or appropriate, we fans cannot forget that Brooks’ sanity and physical well-being are the most important factors to consider.  Brooks also mentioned that he was suffering from a yet to be diagnosed illness that has plagued him for some time, noting that the hectic WWE schedule did not allow time for him or doctors to even figure out what he’s afflicted with.

All of these important factors are at play, but as impassioned fans living in the 21st Century we find comfort in imposing our experiences on others or situations outside of our own reality.  We see the world in a particular way and expect everyone else to see it as we do.  Very few will express their own thoughts as such, and will acquiesce to popular notions that have validity but are strewn about without context or constructive criticism.  So while Phil Brooks talks about his health, about how he’s good friends with Dave Batista, about how Daniel Bryan is a top talent and how he’s faring financially, the only thing we fans have focused on is CM Punk’s opinion of the direction of the company.  It’s CM Punk’s opinion that validates our opinions about the company, justifies our hatred for the company, and feeds into our insatiable need and desire to rage against the WWE machine.

Comments from CM Punk's infamous "Pipe Bomb" segment on the June 27, 2011 episode of RAW.

Comments from CM Punk’s infamous “Pipe Bomb” segment on the June 27, 2011 episode of RAW.

People in general have always had a problem with being told or directed to do something, feel something, or be something they don’t desire to do or be of their own will.  It’s almost as if humans are rebellious by nature; even speaking in biblical terms, the first humans created disobeyed one simple instruction for seemingly no other reason than the notion that they were convinced they knew better than the omnipotent being that created them.

Teenagers disobey their parents, employees disobey their employers, and consumers disregard the piracy warnings issued by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).  This reality of life is seen more clearly in our relationship today with the federal government of the United States, particularly the President Obama Administration.  People truly feel as if the government under the current administration is creeping more and more into the private lives of citizens and civilians, even though this process in numerous ways started well before the current presidential administration (*cough couch PATRIOT ACT*).

It is often said that art imitates life; if this is true, and entertainment is a form of art, the there’s no wonder why the current storyline of choice for the top two wrestling promotions in the country deals heavily with corrupt authority figures and the “victims” of such cruel regimes fighting against the grain that is attempting to hold them down and force them to do things they don’t want to do.  In an extreme case of blurring the lines between the real and scripted, Phil Brooks’ sudden departure from the company, along with the current Authority storyline and the exclusion of Daniel Bryan from the actual Royal Rumble match, feeds into our already deeply rooted suspicions that the company is simply out to control its workers and hold back (or down) certain workers that “deserve” better than what they’re currently receiving.  Brooks’ departure gives us one more reason to despise the machine, to protest violently with ultimatums and coarse language we believe will force the machine to change its ways.

Even Brooks’ admitted in his “Pipe Bomb” promo three years ago that the machine would continue its forward locomotion without him, one spoke on one wheel of a massive contraption equipped with many spare wheels and spokes.  With this one spoke currently gone from the WWE, not much will change especially since it seems as if the fans (and perhaps Vince McMahon) were the only ones who recognized just how important that spoke was in the grand scheme of things.

What we can appreciate about Brooks’ departure is the fact that it calls us fans to task for contributing to the machine, which places us in the all too familiar spot of hypocrisy that wrestling fans vacation in as much as newlyweds visit the Bahamas on their honeymoons.  We hate the machine for what it did to CM Punk and justify the ludicrously high advertising rates paid to the promotion by watching their shows almost every day of the week.  We despise the machine for not catering to our passing fancies and squeal with girlish glee as we wait for the launch of the WWE Network.  We messed ourselves silly when we found out Dave Batista was returning to the company and messed ourselves  angrily when he won the Royal Rumble.  We wrestling fans, collectively speaking, are just big ass buckets of contradictions.

By choosing to walk out of the WWE, Phil Brooks sent a sobering message straight to the hearts of WWE fans worldwide that should be more important than any shoot promo he delivered during a televised WWE broadcast.  The business is not immune from the same politics and bulls**t that we encounter on a regular basis, even to the extent where we know that real change may be impossible to achieve due to the massive nature of the institutions we operate in.  But the thing that defines who we are and where we stand is our activity or inactivity when facing opposition.

If we don’t like being told to cheer for Batista’s main event match at WrestleMania 30, then all of us should make sure that the promotion’s biggest and most important pay per view of the year gets the lowest buyrate and turnout in the history of WWE.  If we don’t like the fact that wrestlers like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler are being “underutilized or buried,” then we should all head over to Shop.WWE.com and purchase as much of their apparel as we possibly can.  If we don’t like the fact that the muscle-bound Greek god-like wrestlers are pushed and promoted more so than the true workers, we should invest more of our time in watching shows like NXT to see how the next crop of wrestlers are actually very far from being the larger-than-life stars that dominated the promotion’s product in the past.

If we truly want to support bonafide wrestlers and superstars like Phil Brooks and Chris Spradlin, we’ll follow their careers outside of the WWE with the same fervor and passion we did when they while they showcased their finely honed skills within the confines of Vince McMahon’s squared circle.

It’s perfectly fine for us to be frustrated and pissed off about the current direction of the product and the release of our favorite superstars.  The bottom line is that if we stay too focused and mired in the mess of what has happened, we are not empowered and inspired to do what we can as fans to look toward the future of the business and the WWE’s product.

Take the following closing thought as you go about your day: while most fans were extremely upset about Daniel Bryan’s exclusion from the Royal Rumble match, they completely ignored the fact that both Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns had very impressive showings during the pay per view.  The departure of CM Punk from the company leaves one hell of a spot open for either Reigns or Wyatt to assume and make the most of …

… but we’d never know, because we’re too busy being pissed off that the machine keeps holding people down … even if the show must truly roll on …


IMPACT Wrestling Review 1-30-14, a.k.a. “Same Ol’ Struggles”

MVP makes his triumphant return to TNA! | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

MVP makes his triumphant return to TNA! | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

For what it’s worth, Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling wasn’t as disastrous as it has been or could have been.  Sure we here at L.E.W.D. give TNA more hell than what seems necessary, but as it was mentioned to me by a dear friend on Twitter, a broken clock is right two times a day.  Backhanded compliments aside, there’s no real reason to be crass when all is right in Dixieland.  The show was aight, as the young people say.

To say the show was “aight,” however, is not to excuse it from critique or constructive criticism.  While one can always nitpick and find reasons to be upset, there’s still the prevalence of unanswerable questions that can plague a product easily, hovering over the landscape like vultures waiting to feast on the carrion decaying below.  And believe you me there’s plenty of dead flesh to go around.

For starters, TNA has chosen to begin its #RealNewEra with a familiar face in pro wrestling history.  As we’re all well aware Montel Vontavius Porter—also known as MVP—was revealed as the company’s new investor.  We can all expect the “TNA is hiring former WWE wrestlers” accusation to follow, but there’s no siding with TNA when they continue to … well … hire former WWE wrestlers.  And here’s where the gift and curse of WWE steps into the arena.

A good number of fans hate the fact that the WWE machine takes indy wrestlers, strips them of the identities they crafted prior to joining the company, and gives them completely different (and sometimes terrible) gimmicks that change the character the diehard fans came to know and love.  Over a period of time, these gifted athletes athletes take these gimmicks and actually make them work.  Unfortunately for fans a wrestler becomes known for his or her most popular gimmick, the gimmick they crafted and honed, becomes just as much a part of them as their very own face; for fans it’s difficult and impossible to separate the character from the real person and their most popular gimmick from the company they utilized it in.

While it’s very true that MVP actually began his nationally televised wrestling career in TNA as Antonio Banks, his rise to notoriety happened as MVP in the WWE’s massive shadow; and even though MVP owns the rights to the name he used in WWE (hence why he can be referred to as MVP in TNA), and even though he’s spent a significant amount of time wrestling and making a name for himself in Japan, most fans will only remember him for the time he spent in World Wrestling Entertainment as Montel Vontavius Porter.  That’s a stigma that can’t be removed easily from a former WWE Superstar/Diva that has spent more than a cup of coffee on one of the main rosters.

On the flip side is the fact that there was no way TNA could’ve filled the new investor’s position with a name that fans weren’t familiar with.  MVP is a great choice, especially given his notoriety in Japan and TNA’s growing relationship with Japan’s Wrestle-1 promotion.  But what we’re seeing, what we’re getting is yet another power struggle storyline that is as intricately woven into the very fabric of the company as the “pro wrestling” they showcase regularly.

So once again the promotion is in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation; fans are told that there’s a #RealNewEra that arrived with the two-part Genesis free pay-per-view, but here we are with a familiar face locked in another power struggle storyline with the company’s president while the asylum’s inmates meander through overbooked dusty finishes and gimmick matches. It seems that only the players have changed and the game is still very much the same.  All things being equal, TNA is still in its #ReconstructionEra more so than anything else, still working feverishly to fine tune its identity as they lurch forward into 2014; one month down, eleven more to go.

Here’s what stuck out to me while watching the show:

  • The Glasgow Crowd and Taking the Show On the Road
  • Samoa Joe Out for Blood
  • Samuel Shaw …
  • We’ve Got the Wrong Idea About Magnus
Hooray, Glasgow! | Photo courtesy of http://www.yachtsandyachting.com/news/138844.  © Christophe Favreau / www.christophefavreau.book.fr

Hooray, Glasgow! | Photo courtesy of http://www.yachtsandyachting.com/news/138844 © Christophe Favreau / http://www.christophefavreau.book.fr

The first stop on TNA’s UK tour was Glasgow, Scotland.  The annual UK tour is typically the highlight of the promotion’s year, as the UK fans tend to be more … shall we say excited … about TNA and its product than North American fans.

We all know why TNA was forced to bring IMPACT Wrestling back to Orlando, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the product comes off far more entertaining and exciting when the promotion visits its fans instead of having make merry jaunts down to Orlando.  It also helped them to have filmed the show in an arena that was larger than somebody’s backyard …

Kudos and thanks to the fans who gathered in the SSE Hydro in Glasgow for the first pro wrestling event in the arena since its completion in September 2013.  You guys were a welcome breath of fresh air from the tourists in Orlando who’d sit on their hands even if Jesus Christ returned in the middle of a Dixie Carter in-ring segment.

SamoaJoe2

Is Joe REALLY gonna kill you? | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

With Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles, and Sting reportedly “gone” from TNA and IMPACT Wrestling, a void has been created for wrestlers eager to grasp the elusive brass ring of main event.  In some ways TNA has also suffered from the same problem that plagues other wrestling promotions, taking far too few steps in cultivating main event talent as time passes on.

Enter Samoa Joe.

Joe’s utilization as of late has been mostly underwhelming, but the absence of hard-hitting heavyweight star power has created a perfect situation for Joe to rise to the occasion, bringing a different type of intensity and seriousness to TNA’s main event scene.

The Samoa Joe character creates an intrigue for me that could not be seen with Magnus’ other opponents on his road to glory.  Magnus versus Jeff Hardy seemed flat, while Magnus versus AJ Styles seemed forced; Magnus versus Sting just honestly felt unnecessary.

But Magnus versus Samoa Joe—a pissed off and relentlessly vicious Samoa Joe at that—forces me to sit on the edge of my couch to watch how violent things could get.  Given how Magnus’ character is being defined (poorly in my estimation, but we’ll get to that later), I find myself wanting to see him escape the seemingly inevitable onslaught of kicks, body blows and submissions that Joe unmercifully barrages his opponents with.  To say it differently, it was easy to believe that Magnus could overcome anything thrown at him by Hardy, Styles and Sting.  Can Magnus overcome an onslaught from Samoa Joe … I want to see him accomplish this even though I have no doubt that he will eventually come out on top of this feud.

That’s the thing that makes pro wrestling and sports entertainment exciting for fans.  While MMA fans often go in on how “fake” pro wrestling is and how much more “real” MMA is, wrestling fans are less concerned with who wins the match and tend to be more concerned with how a particular athlete wins a match.  I’d compare the art of pro wrestling to the “sweet science” of boxing.  Any yahoo can throw a punch, but it takes an artist to know when to throw a particular punch with a certain amount of power and speed that creates those classic KOs or scorecard decisions that give us reason to cheer.

This isn’t to say the same art or science isn’t present or prevalent in MMA, I just personally get the feeling that MMA fights are simply two guys or gals trying to beat each other up.  It’s hard work, it’s taxing on the body and requires years of training and discipline that the rest of us cream puffs can’t even think about doing without having an asthma attack; the same is true for pro wrestling, and one doesn’t have to lust for blood in order to understand that the hows of a pinfall or submission are just as important, if not more, than the pinfall or submission itself.

I think about all of this when I imagine Joe being the man threatening Magnus’ reign as TNA World Heavyweight Champion.  The Samoa Joe character has been stale for some time and hasn’t been involved in too many noteworthy feuds or matches, but taking the character back to basics and unleashing that fury on Magnus is must-see TV for TNA and its fans.  I have to give them kudos and credit for that.

TNA's Stranger Danger, Samuel Shaw | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TNA’s Stranger Danger, Samuel Shaw | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

I have very specific feelings about the Samuel Shaw character, feelings and thoughts that aren’t shared by most fans who enjoy the character and feel as if this type of character is great and refreshing in “the business” altogether.  The Shaw character is different and unique, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying his development is akin to winning $7,000 in a scratch off.

Most fans are all excited that Samuel Shaw is a take off from Patrick Bateman, the character made famous by Christian Bale’s stunning performance in the motion picture American Psycho, and not by Bret Easton Ellis’ classic and controversial 1991 novel.  After seeing the very first video introducing the repackaged Shaw character, I felt that the comparisons to American Psycho,  particularly the Christian Bale depiction of Patrick Bateman in the movie, were superficial at best.

To begin, we can’t ignore the fact that with his hair slicked back and to the side, Samuel Shaw kinda resembles Bale’s Patrick Bateman:

christian_bale_american_psycho_004 Next up, we see that Samuel Shaw’s apartment had a slightly modern, minimalist design similar to Patrick Bateman’s digs.

Other than that … the buck pretty much stops there.

Patrick Bateman, as depicted by Christian Bale in the film adaptation of American Psycho, was a wealthy yuppie investment banker living in 1980’s New York who, after engaging fellow yuppies in conversation about high fashion, business, and elitism, would exact his psychopathic fantasies on unsuspecting colleagues and hookers.  He was obsessed with his looks and his physique, he had a eerily vast knowledge of ’80s pop music and icons, and either wore expensive three piece business suits or trounced around naked as he killed his victims.  Not to mention that often times when he killed people he was loud and made quite a mess.

Excuse the following language, but how the f**k did Samuel Shaw exhibit any of that during his repackaged video???

If anything, and the word anything is highly stressed at this point, the Samuel Shaw character is a hybrid of Christian Bale’s depiction of Patrick Bateman and the Dexter Morgan character made extremely popular by Michael C. Hall’s performances in the Showtime TV series Dexter, which is also based off a series of novels by author Jeff Lindsay.

This is Dexter Morgan, and this is what he wears when he kills people (he's missing his gloves in this picture). SEEE the shocking resemblance here?

This is Dexter Morgan, and this is what he wears when he kills people (he’s missing his gloves in this picture). SEEE the shocking resemblance here? | Photo courtesy of Google.com

If you’ve seen the Dexter series, you’d immediately recognize some of Samuel Shaw’s traits and characteristics.  Blood splatter analyst by day and serial killer by night, Dexter Morgan has a dark history that gave birth to his insatiable desire to kill.

Taught at an early age to channel that thirst in a way beneficial to both him and society at large, Dexter uses investigative techniques and stealth to locate his targets (usually criminals who evaded the long arm of the law), kidnap them, and execute them all while making sure to cover all tracks that could lead to his own eventual arrest and execution.

The way Dexter incapacitates his targets is pretty awesome; after confirming that his intended target is truly guilty of committing an unsolved crime or was not truly brought to justice for committing a particularly gruesome crime, Dexter will make physical contact with the person under an alias in order to learn their habits and scope out a way to kidnap and murder them undetected.

Once he’s completed his reconnaissance, he infiltrates their location and puts them to sleep by using a specific drug delivered to their body using a hypodermic needle …

Yes … Dexter puts his victims to sleep before kidnapping them.  Oh, and he does so by wearing the nifty little outfit you see in the picture to the right of this paragraph … the outfit that looks oddly similar to the get up Samuel Shaw wears during his matches:


It is also worth noting that Dexter is typically calm, cool, and collected when making his kills.  Although prone to sudden outbursts of anger, Dexter typically keeps himself under control when out on a kill or even living his life as a father, widower, brother, and Miami Police Department consultant.

All this is to say that the Shaw character was probably inspired by several different sources, most of which have little to do with American Psycho.  It still remains to be seen if the Shaw character will make highly anticipated waves in TNA expected by some, but at least the promotion is stretching and flexing its creative juices by capitalizing on the creepy and unnerving characters that are more cerebral and calculated in their actions and demeanor.  I’d love to see more of the character, especially in the mid-card division which seems to be lacking direction and attention (hi, X-Division and TV Championship!), but right now the focus is squarely on the main event scene and ending the Hogan/Bischoff/Prichard Era storylines.

TNA World Heavyweight Champion Magnus | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TNA World Heavyweight Champion Magnus | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

I really despise the fact that Magnus is constantly referred to as the “paper champion.”  Logically, I also realize it is a way (as far as the “storyline” is concerned) for characters to taunt and get under the champion’s skin, a method in which they can psych out the champion and force him to make rash and foolish decisions as he attempts to legitimize his championship reign.

If we briefly recall the aforementioned thoughts on how a scripted match is won as opposed to whether or not a win is scripted, it’s the little things in a pro wrestling bout that can make or break an intended storyline or character’s development.  In regards to a “paper” champion, there’s a stark difference between Magnus being given his championship reign and Magnus being protected during his championship reign.  Magnus, for all intents and purposes, is being protected during his championship reign which calls for an entirely different type of heat than what he’s receiving as we’re conditioned to believe he never deserved the top spot at all.

It cannot be denied that Magnus’ climb up the TNA World Heavyweight Title Tournament ladder was riddled with suspicious fluke victories.  It cannot be denied that interference from Rockstar Spud lead to Magnus’ victory over Jeff Hardy to win the TNA World Heavyweight Title.  It can’t be denied that tons of wrestlers helped him defeat both AJ Styles and Sting, enabling him to retain his title and usher both men out of the company for the time being.

The interesting thing about pro wrestling is how we perceive a match or storyline, taking what we hear and see as the end all be all without attempting to understand what we know about what we have heard and seen.   For example: Ladder Matches and Steel Cage Matches are also No Disqualification Matches because authorities acknowledge the fact that wrestlers can use the same tool they need to win the match (the ladder and the cage) as a weapon.  If the combatants in a No DQ match cannot be disqualified, they are extremely susceptible  to outside interference, which is exactly what happened in Magnus’ match against Jeff Hardy for the World Heavyweight Championship.  Hell, Magnus was also attacked in that same match!

When Rockstar Spud pushed Jeff Hardy off of the ladder on the ramp, his actions had more to do with not wanting Jeff Hardy to win more than their desire to see Magnus as the champ.  In the end, Magnus was able to climb the ladder and grasp the title when Jeff Hardy was not; as much as we can say that Magnus would’ve never won the title without their help, we have to remember that “anything goes” in a No DQ Match.  Utilizing help in a No DQ Match is just as “unethical” as smashing a man’s face against a steal cage or smacking him with a ladder.

When Magnus faced AJ Styles it was unbearable to see the Styles character portrayed as the face while Magnus was placed to be the heel defending his rightly earned title.  The AJ Styles character is the one that abdicated his position as champion by leaving the company; the AJ Styles character was the former champion stripped of his title, thus vacating the championship and legitimizing the tournament for that championship.  Yet here Styles is, goading the champion into a match that he (Styles) honestly didn’t deserve and shouldn’t have received by preying on Magnus’ inferiority complex as a competitor and a champion.  Once again, Styles accepts fighting the real champion in a No DQ Match, and fans are “furious” when outside interference occurs.  Exact same situation when Magnus faced and defeated Sting.

Let it be known that I may be one of the few people that like Magnus as champ, as he’s been hailed as the future of TNA since his debut some odd six years ago.  What I find peculiar about his reign is the underlying notion that he hasn’t truly earned his spot or the championship, that he was handed all of his opportunities while the other “hard-working, more deserving” wrestlers fell victim to Dixie Carter’s reign of terror that only manifested as such since she received more on-screen time.  He’s being depicted as a weak champion for sure, leading some of us fans to question whether or not this is good for the character and Nick Aldis’ TNA career.  One can only hope that this direction won’t damage Magnus’ credibility as a main event start.

Take WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan as an example.  A large contingent of fans would and could successfully argue that the way Bryan is being booked now is atrocious, particularly in light of Batista’s Royal Rumble win one week ago.  Many pundits have argued that Bryan is booked as being weak and his character is being buried or misused by WWE top brass and creative.  These accusations have led many to comment that if Bryan doesn’t headline WrestleMania 30 or fails to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion before WrestleMania 30, then all is lost for any hope in the character, the person Bryan Danielson, and the WWE for being something different than what his has historically been for over five decades.

Magnus is in a similar situation.  After cutting his teeth and paying his dues in TNA for some years, the way the character is now portrayed as champion is simply ridiculous.  The Dixieland/New Investor storyline has more weight and prominence than Magnus’ reign as champion, both AJ Styles and Sting were booked as super huge babyfaces on their way out of the company while Magnus was booked as a weak champion, and the magnitude of Magnus’ reign as champion has been dwarfed by the news of people leaving the company, the speculation of where they’ll end up next, and the importance and weight of a name well-known outside of TNA coming into TNA to “set things straight with such a crooked company.”  How does any of this make Magnus look like he deserves to be in the spot that he’s in, and what does it all say about this #RealNewEra where the younger stars are being primed to lead the company into the future?

Again, we can only wait and see how things unfold for Magnus and Nick Aldis.  I just feel like we’re getting a substandard push for Magnus, a push that could’ve started as something far more exciting and jaw-dropping than what it has been so far.  Seriously: Magnus was the first ever British World Heavyweight Champion in 100 years, and people were more flabbergasted about the two falls Jeff Hardy took in their Dixieland Match than they were about him winning the championship.

But alas, those are just my thoughts.  What are yours?


“I’ll Give You What For!” – Give the People What They Want?

IGYWF

I was out on a morning troll when I came across some fantasy booking on a pro wrestling fan site.  A commenter creates a unique storyline for a real-life development occurring in a promotion, and before completing his/her opening statement drops the following jewel in the middle of it all:

… push the guys the fans want to see …

Needless to say this comment and the thought process intrigued me enough to bring it to our lovely L.E.W.D. shores for an insightful and invigorating conversation.

With no offense or ill will intended for the commenter or the site they drafted their opinion on, it’s quite fascinating how people tend to operate more often than not off of their feelings without giving consideration to the context of their feelings or the experiences of those around them.  All that is to say that this notion of “pushing the guys the fans want to see” tends to come off extremely shortsighted because there several underlying assumptions that are never addressed or considered when speaking about pushing the guys the “fans want” to see.

And there it is; the two most important words in that statement are “fans want.”  Whether one stands to admit it or not, our hopes and expectations about a given pro wrestling product are intricately bound by the idea that corporations give consumers what consumers want.  To an extent that is true, but it can be quite misleading for the fan that has quietly assimilated into the Generation ME lifestyle.

Corporations  don’t give consumers what consumers want; corporations  sell consumers what consumers are willing to pay for.  When this process happens long enough, we become “convinced” that the corporation is “giving” us what we “want.”  No matter how many miles one walks and how many pounds one wants to shed, McDonald’s will still continue to sell Big Macs because people are still willing to buy Big Macs.

As we’ve said many times on this site before, it’s all about money.  These United States of America are ruled by the color green; we are all capitalists and there are more companies (and individuals) than not who give more of a damn about profit margins than they do about what you and I want.  Companies provide a particular product or service for a price, and the ebb and flow of their business models shift and surge depending solely on what they can get consumers to buy.  The more money a product or service can bring in, the more it’ll be shoved into our faces accompanied with advertising and marketing intentionally designed to convince us “this is what we want, this is what we need” in order to do x-y-z in life.

The same rule of thumb applies to a given wrestling promotion; a promotion will offer fans someone they’ll pay to see, which sometimes can be the person that fans “want” to see.  When that doesn’t happen, however, a lot of hurt feelings and raw emotions are expressed via the interweb.  The reality of it all is that just because fans want to see a particular star doesn’t necessarily mean those same fans (or other fans) are willing to pay to see that star in a prominent position.

Woo Woo Woo ... Wha happened? | Photo courtesy of cagesideseats.com

Woo Woo Woo … Wha happened? | Photo courtesy of cagesideseats.com

The tragic part of it all is that consumers often “want” something more deeper and intricate than what they’re given or what they’re told they want.

Let’s take everyone’s favorite broski Zack Ryder as an example.  Three years ago Ryder successfully utilized social media to gain a very vocal cult following.  Fans rallied behind Ryder enough to the point where he was given a safe and solid push from the powers that be.  At the time there was no doubt that Zack Ryder was someone that a lot of fans “wanted to see,” and that was never really in question.

The question was whether or not we would pay to see Zack Ryder in a more prominent role higher than the mid-card.  As exceptional a talent as Zack Ryder is, it became obvious that the same legion of fans who rallied for his push were also the same ones who wouldn’t put enough green down for him to have more than a cup of coffee in the upper mid-card.  Our response to such instances is to blame the promotion, but a promotion can’t financially survive off of feeding into the fans’ fleeting emotions.

The other perspective to consider as fans is whether or not we understand completely the vast spectrum of fandom that exists inside of pro wrestling. Not all fans are alike and not all fans “like” or “want” the same thing.  We often speak of ourselves in blanket terms without even thinking of the differences of opinion that are present among us.  Every time a fan chants “Let’s go Cena,” they’re greeted by a resounding chorus of “Cena Sucks!” responses.  As cute and enchanting as the dueling chants can be, it also shows us in very simple terms that wrestling fans don’t always think alike.  We’re a dynamic group of individuals who can collectively enjoy and critique the product while also having uniquely different ideas that explain why we like or dislike the product.

To blithely say or assume that a promotion should push guys “fans want to see” is to also assume, without saying, that all fans want to see one particular wrestler and that all fans will pay to see that same wrestler.  No matter how we look at “the business,” it’s a form of entertainment that moves along with what consumers are willing to pay to see.  With fans having varying tastes that can literally change overnight without notice, the guys fans want to “see” could switch at any given time plus the fact that there may be six to seven different guys that different fans want to “see” pushed.

Fmr TNa World Heavyweight Champion Austin Aries. | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

Fmr TNA World Heavyweight Champion Austin Aries. | Photo © TNA Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

On July 12, 2012, Austin Aries defeated Bobby Roode to become the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion at the Destination X pay per view.  Aries’ reign came after he received a strong push upon his return to TNA which also led to a reinvigorated X-Division.  Aries’ reign, however, lasted all of three months by the time he was defeated by Jeff Hardy at Bound for Glory that same year.

Over one year later in July 2013, well-known X-Division star Chris Sabin defeated Bully Ray to win his very first TNA World Heavyweight Championship.  Sabin’s reign came after his return to TNA in May 2014 after recuperating from his second ACL injury.  Sabin’s reign lasted less than a month as he lost the title to the former champion.

Both Aries and Sabin were fan favorites that fans wanted to “see” receive a push.   With so much fervor behind them, why is it that their combined reigns lasted less than half a year?  Even more sobering is the fact that the combined five reigns of Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray lasted for over a year and two months.

We can assume that Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray had more drawing power as champs, or we could blame the powers that be for not putting their all behind pushing the guys “fans wanted to see.”  Whichever direction we decide to drift towards we cannot deny or ignore that the preeminent names in TNA between 2011 and 2012 were Hardy and Bully Ray; it wasn’t so much that the machine invested in them heavily (which is a part of the situation), but it also had to do with the fact that both men were individuals people paid good money to see and less to do with whether fans by and large “wanted” to see them per se.

To wrap things up, we cannot forget that “the business” is out to make money and cannot realistically operate by floating precariously on the whims of a fickle fan base.  At the end of the day, we are paying (in most cases) these promotions to entertain us, and as a large and varied group of consumers these promotions must put players in place that will generate revenue to keep their businesses barreling towards the black and not moon walking towards the red.  Because our likes are varied and because our likes change as often as folks change their drawes [sic], it’d be completely asinine for any promotion with the good sense given to them at birth to operate solely and completely off of what fans “say” they want at a given minute, especially if that particular fan base is miniscule and fair weather in nature … case in point …

corbintweet
We fans have a right to like what we like; we fans also have a right to expect a promotion to entertain us when we’re paying them to do so.  But we must be realistic when viewing the product, understanding that guys the fans want to see pushed also have to be the guys fans will pay to see pushed.  All the chants and petitions and crowd signs in the world won’t move a promotion’s top brass as much as revenue will.  Period.


Royal Rumble 2014 & The Fallout

WWE Royal Rumble Winners ('88-'13)Consider a silence broken! The Rt. Rev. Showtime is back on the L.E.W.D. Radar after a long…and I mean LONG hiatus!

Before I fill this post with reasons and excuses, I invite you to listen to my thoughts on the 2014 edition of the Royal Rumble as well as the prospect of the upcoming WrestleMania XXX.

Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions in the comment section below.


Wrestling Reality

I was over my best friend’s house a while back, watching the WWE 50 or whatever it’s called documentary. One thing struck me. It started out as a historical retelling of how Vince’s father started the company and how Vince made it international. It told everything from the first champion to like the Attitude Era… then it became this touting of achievements like the company going public and having so many tentacles in so many different things. The reality in wrasslin, like everything is: You can be jack of all trades… but you’ll also be master of none.

WWE wants everyone’s money. They’re a business, I’m not mad at that ambition. However, for a worldwide entity? WWE’s peak was 12 million viewers for Raw. Out of a world of seven billion people. I believe there is a correlation between losing two thirds of your audience and trying to take over the world of entertainment. For wrestling fans, we cringe at being told what we’re watching isn’t wrestling, it’s entertainment. These thoughts all came to me as I thought about how many of WWE’s talents shouldn’t be taken seriously. So many dancing gimmicks and The Great Khali and Hornswoggle and Santino. It’s always been this way, but it’s different now.

I remember in the overrated Attitude Era, Mark Henry fathered a hand. An Asian man wanted to ‘choppy choppy’ Val Venis’ ‘pee pee’. (Which is SOOOOOOOOOOO racist. OMG) You had Too Cool and Rikishi dancing around and stuff. See? It was insanity. But… where it was different, is that the FOCUS was on the wrestling! Pro wrestling in America IS WWE. You can be a better wrestling fan than me and force yourself to watch TNA, ROH and indy/overseas promotions… for me wrestling = WWE. I think for a LOT of people it’s the same thing. This means: WWE’s job is to be everything to everyone. And I think they’re doing an ok job at that. But it would be better for all involved if they focused on the wrestling.

There was a marketing push that someone came up with somewhere that was like “Wrestling Matters”. It was a blatant knock on WWE that the wrestling was no longer what was important or what they wanted you to remember. Flash back to the first paragraph. From the sixties into early 2000s the most important thing in WWE was the moments inside the squared circle. Then it became important to expand the programming and the media. Make movies. Have guys all over tv and radio promoting the product. Sell merch and create apps and all these other things that don’t bother me until I’m fucking watching two people I have no fucking reason to give a fuck about fucking wrestle and the whole fucking time Michael Cole is talking about other sports and making ‘pop culture references’ arguing with JBL and plugging appearances and the fucking WWE App. OH AND WHAT A MATCH WHEN THE PACE PICKS UP AND THERE ARE A FEW CONSECUTIVE NEAR FALLS INDICATING NOW IT’S TIME FOR THE WRESTLING TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ON OUR MINDS!!!

The WWE’s imperialist ambitions bleed through its DVDs and Blurays, its commentary, everything they’re doing. Again… I’m not mad, except that I think they never kill the Daniel Wyatt angle because Michigan State decided to have a stadium wide YES chant if they don’t care too much about their cross-cultural reach. I know many of you have forgotten that the best thing about the Nexus demolition of John Cena and CM Punk and the ring etc… was Daniel Bryan strangling Justin Roberts with his tie, then getting fired for being “too violent” This doesn’t happen if WWE isn’t worried about losing its PG rating and losing sponsors. Which again, I’m not mad at.

What pisses me the fuck off is that WWE doesn’t care about its fans as much as how much money they can make… which is none if it has no fans. Daniel Bryan is not going to be world champion anytime soon, which is what the fans want. If not him, then CM Punk. Rumors persist that at Mania, neither one of them will be in the main event. We’re going to get something involving the likes of Batista or Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton. I like all of those guys. But EYE want CM Punk. Chances are, you reading this want Daniel Bryan… and none of that matters. And we’re still going to go out and buy the WWE Network so we can load up on old content from when wrestling mattered and watch every Raw and SmackDown and bitch about how much it has changed and stayed the same.

Hulk Hogan is my favorite superstar of all time. He sucks. There were so many better WRESTLERS in the company in his day. Sound familiar? I still make the argument that if he never went to WCW, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels have less world titles on their resume. Just like the Cenas, Ortons, Lesnars, Batistas etc are blocking Bryan and Punk. Have you ever thought about all the guys from that era that never rose above the midcard level, like a British Bulldog, Owen Hart, Mr. Perfect, Rick Rude etc? In THIS era they’d all have gotten a few world titles. So in THAT sense, things are better. Where it’s worse is how worthless being in the midcard is.

Earlier, I alluded to how many comedy acts there are in WWE. Santino Marella has been an Intercontinental Champion on multiple occasions. In case you don’t remember, the longest reigning IC champ is some Elvis impersonator called “The Honky Tonk Man”. Anyway… nowadays it isn’t very common to see a guy rise to main event status and go after a midcard singles title. Dean Ambrose hasn’t defended the US title in forever. Big E Langston took the IC title off some jabroni named Curtis Axel and has been defending it against jabronis. They’re talking of unifying the belts by Elimination Chamber. It elevates the title and the titlist if they start defending it against main event level stars who aren’t in the main event at the moment. ie: Daniel Bryan and CM Punk.

Also… I’ve been clamoring for some time now for WWE to create a midcard belt for its smaller competitors… Bryan can win that too. Back in the day, WCW’s best matches featured future world champions like Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, and Rey Mysterio wrestling as cruiserweights. I think this would be a good way to make wrestling more important. An argument can be made that having a little person belt makes more of a delineation between who can and can’t main event… and I call bullshit. Daniel Bryan is short and is a three time world champion.

Overall: When I turn on wrestling, I want to see wrestling. I want the commentators to talk wrestling while the wrestlers wrestle. I think that it would be best for business if WWE stops trying to distance itself from the fact that its chief business is wrestling. Then, I believe business would pick up.


Give Daniel Wyatt A Chance, Dammit!

Because I’m a hypocrite, I’m going to write as though I did not excoriate WWE creative for having Daniel Bryan join the Wyatt Family last week. I’ve been seeing a lot of things echoing the points that I made, but missing the positive spin I tacked on at the very end. Because I am committed to watching five hours of WWE every week, one way or another I will give shit a chance. And I feel as though many are not seeing the bigger picture here.

First off, I’m not backing off of my stance that Daniel Bryan can never be the face of the WWE. That, at BEST he will be Mick Foley, a guy who had a lot of memorable matches and moments but not necessarily remembered as THE guy. Not considered the best. And that’s ok. I’m not one of the binary thinkers who considers everything classic or trash with no in between.

That said, I DO acknowledge that Daniel Bryan has embedded himself as one of the top five acts in WWE today. If the world were a meritocracy, he should be WWE World Heavyweight Champion TODAY. But, alas, our world is NOT fair, so… he’s not. At this moment, he is still a notch below MY guy, CM Punk as that guy who SHOULDN’T get the big push, but will because he’s just that damn good. “Pipebomb” aside, Punk has this edge to him that Daniel does not and THAT is what excites me about this angle!

When CM Punk turned heel at Raw 1000 we all knew what that meant: He was being thrown to the likes of Cena, Ryback and The Rock. Right now, after Randy Orton and The Shield, what top heels are there to work with? The Wyatts are being built up now, but they’re no main eventers. Daniel Bryan IS. Just off association, he raises the level of Bray Wyatt. I didn’t think that WWE was going to have Bryan join the group, but now that he has, it adds to the creep factor. CM Punk has an innate ability to work an audience whether he’s heel or face, so I’m looking to see if Bryan can use this angle to continue his momentum.

A lot of people are saying this ‘heel turn’ is WWE trying to kill his momentum. I am one of those people. The more I think about it, however, the more I realize, CM Punk never stopped getting good crowd heat. This past Monday, the sense that the crowd was still behind Bryan AND felt betrayed by him was portentous of how if this is done right, Bryan will be hotter than ever before! After all, Bryan’s first title reign was as a heel and that’s when the ‘YES’ chants started. Between then and now he has vacillated between heel, face and tweener. Crowd heat white hot. Let’s be real, we wrasslin fans are some complaining ass cynics. WWE has hurt us too many times. But… they’ve done right by us enough times that we keep watching.

My prediction is that this angle may well carry us into SummerSlam where Bryan will likely win the world title again and get screwed Evolution style, irony of ironies, a la Randy Orton. I think it will be cool to see him develop a darker, more twisted edge to his character, and as I have forestated, see Bray rise by association with WWE’s hottest commodity. It’ll be interesting to see if they do an angle where Bryan lays down for Bray, or if they fight and screw him out the belt(s). If this angle blows off by Mania, it was a waste of time. Speaking of which, that’s technically what this is, something to keep Bryan interesting, yet out of the title picture. Not a burial. (Hi, Quinn!)

I wasn’t pleased with how they were booked this past Monday… doing a finish where Harper gets rolled up because he was mad Bryan wanted to get the victory was foolish, in my opinion. Teasing that there will be dissension in the group points towards this breaking down before there can be an appreciable payoff. I’m not saying they should never lose, just it’s too much to have dissension in the ranks WHILE doing the same exact fucking story with The Shield.

Speaking of which, a lot of people are saying Roman Reigns needs to get better at promos to be what WWE wants him to be. I call bullshit. During his entire time with the group, he has been the strong, silent type. In my opinion, it would be a mistake to make him growl or yell Memphis style promos when his soft-spoken yet impactful style fits his look and personality so well. Watch the Piper’s Pit from the Old School Raw and you had Rollins and Ambrose talking cash shit to Piper while Reigns just sat there looking cool, yet intense. When addressed, he told Piper to cut the shit or he’ll beat his ass, more or less. Simple, but effective. Sometimes, less is more.

Related/unrelated: When are we going to see Big E Langston get to unleash this charisma I’ve heard so much about him having on NXT and Twitter? Why does WWE give so much mic time to people who suck at promos for different reasons like Orton (boring, droning delivery) and Del Rio (English as second language, seeming lack of charisma) and none to guys who ARE entertaining talkers? Iono, man. To dovetail these last two paragraphs, Big E and Roman could be future rivals for the top of WWE. The charismatic irresistible force versus the stoic immovable object.

Overall, I feel there is way more to be excited about than there is to bitch about. Batista is coming back. Sheamus returning from injury. RVD may re-sign. Brock Lesnar is in the fold. You can see new stars being made, and potentially, current stars being remade. As Daniel Wyatt would say: YES!


Saturday Morning Fandom: NXT Scouting Report

nxt-logo

WWE.com published an article yesterday that focused on a debate between the website’s editors on the promotion’s next break out star currently wrestling in the NXT Developmental System.  Several notable stars are highlighted, all of whom will eventually make a huge splash in the promotion once they debut on the main roster.  From one fan’s perspective, there is no reason to doubt that each of the wrestlers listed in the debate will make it to the main roster sometime this year.

Future WWE Superstars like Paige, Sami Zayn, Emma, Aiden English, and Alexander Rusev—just to name a few—are spoken of in glowing terms in what will ultimately serve as their initial introduction to the WWE Universe that pays close attention to happenings on WWE.com, RAW, and Smackdown.  Truth be told this list is no where near as comprehensive as it could be, and there are several other NXT stars that deserve mention as fans look forward to the next generation of pro wrestling giants.

The following list, originally compiled on December 29, 2013, is a list of NXT wrestlers that will provide fans with entertaining and exciting action if and when they’re called up to the main roster.  These following stars may or may not be making huge waves in NXT at the moment, but they are worthy of being recognized as the slow and subtle winds of change necessary to keep the WWE relevant and fresh.

The criteria for making this list was extremely simple; the rubric is based on the notion that a given wrestling promotion will hire a wrestler based on necessity or potential.

The notion of necessity is the belief that, in this case, the WWE will sign a wrestler to a developmental contract or bring them up to the main roster because that particular wrestler possesses a quality or talent the promotion “needs” at a given moment.  Such would be the case for NXT’s Enzo Amore, who could easily fill Santino Marella’s spot as a comic relief babyface if the Milan Miracle retired or was forced out of action indefinitely.  This doesn’t take anything away from Amore’s wrestling skills, but his stint so far in NXT has been marked by his quick wit, incredible microphone skills and charisma.


The notion of potential is the belief that the WWE will sign a star or bring them up to the main roster because that wrestler possesses the traits or characteristics to be a future money making cash cow for the company.  NXT wrestler Alexander Rusev fits very well in this category, who at 6 feet and 300 pounds can very quickly become the monster heel that dominates the heavyweight division until a “savior” comes along and defeats him for the promotion’s top prize (see: Mojo Rawley).

Before delving into this list, we also must keep in mind that the weekly NXT show is a must watch for any self-respecting fan living in the WWE Universe.  The promotion’s next top stars are all cutting their teeth and honing their craft within the black-and-yellow NXT arena at Full Sail University, and while the show is very entertaining (sometimes much more than RAW and Smackdown), it also gives fans something to look forward to as far as the future of the company is concerned.  The show is available every Thursday on HuluPlus.com, and you may be able to watch it on Hulu.com without a subscription.

Without further adieu, here’s your L.E.W.D. NXT Scouting Report:

Danny Burch

NXT Wrestler Danny Burch | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

NXT Wrestler Danny Burch | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It’s no secret that someone here at L.E.W.D. has a fond liking of this particular future superstar.  At 6’0, 210 pounds, this brawler from the United Kingdom would remind fans of Fit Finlay with his hard-hitting and relentless arsenal.  The former star, known as Martin Stone across the pond, could be the superstar the WWE needs to build up other wrestlers on the road to WWE fame and fortune.  While Burch has no obvious flaws that would keep him off the main roster, he could suffer from the same fate that plagues most wrestlers released from their developmental contracts: Burch’s talent would be swallowed up by the “system” that dominates the WWE’s product, a “system” that pushes and promotes looks over talent more often than not.

WWE is in dire need of stars that can help build up the John Cena/Hulk Hogan-like stars that have become synonymous with sports entertainment and pro wrestling, but the promotion rarely keeps more than a handful of these stars around as on-screen talent.  Burch could make a future star look like a million bucks in the same way Shawn Michaels has always brought the best out of John Cena.  At this point, however, Burch hasn’t been given the time to develop a character outside of the dependable work horse that he is (see: Chavo Guerrero).

The other down side to a Burch main-show appearance is that the WWE product isn’t currently in “need” of a work horse with Burch’s style and looks.  This isn’t to say that Burch couldn’t be an addition to the main roster, but rather that his ruffian, hooligan look wouldn’t work well with the streamlined, three-piece suit, Hollywood good-looks feel of the current WWE roster.  The Wyatt Family and Daniel Bryan currently hold the distinction of being the promotion’s “rough-around-the-edges” characters, which would leave Burch directionless and jobber material equivalent to TNA’s Fernum and Barnes.  The same logic applies to the WWE’s decision to pass on ROH’s Briscoe Brothers; while incredibly gifted and talented, the team reeks of a swagger that the promotion more than likely doesn’t want at this exact moment.

You can check out one of Danny Burch’s matches here, a match in which he’s in charge of putting over the much ballyhooed Mojo Rawley.

Leo Kruger

NXT Wrestler Leo Kruger | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

NXT Wrestler Leo Kruger | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Leo Kruger was a WWE developmental wrestler that suffered from a terribly average look and gimmick while in the promotion’s FCW developmental system.  After arriving in the newly designed NXT developmental system, this South African grappler benefited greatly from a persona change and some character development in the same way Damien Sandow did prior to being called up to the main roster.  Kruger has the potential of being a big player on the main roster, but his current character may not be as “charismatic” as some may want it to be for prime time television.

Prior to receiving a gimmick as “Adam Rose,” Kruger was billed as a big game hunter from South Africa (i.e. a poacher).  His wrestling style was hallmarked by ruthless aggression, a brutal onslaught designed to maliciously hurt and debilitate his opponents.  The thing that arguably drew fans into his gimmick—besides his mannerisms, maneuvers, and “woots” while approaching the ring—was his theme music which really makes one feel as if this wrestler was a sinister and devious force to be reckoned with.  The thumping bass line and guitar riffs readily let fans know that Kruger is on the hunt for big game:


The awesome thing about Leo Kruger and the Kruger character is being able to marvel at how a wrestler and the promotion can work hand-in-hand when developing a persona that resonates with fans easily, organically and quickly.  The whole idea of creating a superstar is not simple and it’s far more involved than letting a wrestler figure out how to get over a character on his/her own.  Fans in the WWE Universe can and should applaud stars like Kruger for being able to take a character and make it their own, creating someone that appears to be far more than what most people are and can be in real life.  Great wrestlers get our accolades and respect, but superstars get that plus our money and undivided attention.  Leo Kruger can do both with great ease.

Click here to see a Leo Kruger promo and try your best not to get too creeped out.

Sylvester Lefort

NXT Wrestler Sylvester Lefort | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

NXT Wrestler Sylvester Lefort | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

WWE needs a talent like Sylvester Lefort on their main roster.

Primarily utilized as a flashy, money-hungry manager in NXT, the Frenchman known as Sylvester Lefort has a presence that is sure to make you pay attention to whatever happens around him.  Lefort has the charisma and delivery that makes you instantly want to despise anyone and anything he represents.  He also has a fashion sense that will force you to chuckle and give him five minutes of your time easily.

Lefort, also known as Tom La Ruffa, is a graduate of Lance Storm’s Storm Wrestling Academy, which gives him instant credibility when it comes to his in-ring skills and abilities.  While it still remains to be seen whether La Ruffa can give a five-star match, he’s certainly capable of excelling at setting the bar for WWE managers in an era where tons of superstars float aimlessly around the mid-card due to an inability to strike a chord with fans.  Think of him as being somewhere in between Zeb Coulter and Vickie Guerrero.

It may also make you feel giddy inside to think of Lefort as a horribly tanned French Macho Man.


Paige

NXT Diva Paige | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

NXT Diva Paige | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

WWE.com editor Kara Medalis gave a great synopsis of the promotion’s next breakout Diva, so there’s no need to speak anymore about how her potential is needed in WWE.  At the fresh young age of 21, the Norwich, England-born wrestler has honed her craft since her early teenage years.  She’s the first and only NXT Women’s Champion (compared to the three NXT Champions as of June 2012), and it’s safe to say that whatever is currently keeping her from being called up to the main roster is a load of crap.

Paige is one of the few WWE wrestlers that should be allowed to keep their developmental gimmick when called up to one of the main shows.  The “raven haired anti-Diva,” as she’s often called, could very well usher in an era of women’s wrestling that can successfully showcase all those things that Divas are “supposed to” exhibit each time they step in between the ropes or out on the red carpet.  Paige is, first and foremost, a professional wrestler; she also has a unique look and appeal that does not take away from the WWE’s desire for their Divas to look like models while maintaining their athletic edge.

A solid, simple and well-structured (and pushed) feud between Paige and AJ Lee could very well be the second coming of a Trish Stratus/Lita or Trish Stratus/Mickie James feud with waaaay more wrestling athleticism.  In fact, a Paige and AJ Lee feud could be the very feud that could make the seemingly impossible possible

Click here to check out this NXT match between Paige and Natalya for the NXT Women’s Championship.

Bayley

NXT Diva Bailey | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

NXT Diva Bayley | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Bayley is another WWE Diva hopeful that the company needs to bring some athleticism and pure wrestling skills to the beleaguered and model-esque heavy women’s division.  While Bayley doesn’t ooze the sex appeal that most WWE Divas are molded to give off, she does have a “girl next door” vibe that would make her an ideal candidate to do media rounds for the promotion involving kids.  This California born wrestler would do exceptionally well with encouraging kids—particularly young girls—to read, end bullying, and strive to reach for their dreams and never stop working hard until they reach their goals in life.

Bayley’s current character is reminiscent of a childlike, naive “student of the game” caught in the bright lights of living her dream of being a WWE Superstar and Diva.  While the character is very limiting, it doesn’t keep her from executing some smooth and unique maneuvers in the ring.  Bayley’s greatest asset, however, is her passion and desire to be the best women’s wrestler in the promotion and to inspire other young girls who want to do the same to continue to strive to live their dreams.  Other women athletes within the promotion and NXT may feel the same, but Bayley is able to wear that passion on her sleeve and utilize it each and every time she performs for fans.


Tyler Breeze

NXT Wrestler Tyler Breeze | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

NXT Wrestler Tyler Breeze | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Another graduate from Lance Storm’s Storm Wrestling Academy, the former FCW World Heavyweight Champion known as Mike Dalton has also benefited greatly from a character shift.

In the same way Leo Kruger was once a boring, static character, Mike Dalton wrestled as a gifted work horse athlete who gave his all in matches while having his clock cleaned occasionally from other wrestlers who are now on the main roster.  When the shift to NXT at Full Sail occurred, Dalton was eventually transformed into a fashion conscious, selfie obsessed jet setting model who has an unhealthy OCD with being hit in the face.  The beauty of the Tyler Breeze gimmick is that it feels very organic; Mattias Clement, the 25 year old Canadian playing the Tyler Breeze character, has taken the gimmick and made it his own.  A fan could easily get the impression that Clement and Breeze are indeed one person, making it hard to separate the real life Clement from his Breeze character in the same way it’s impossible to separate the John Cena character from the real life John Felix Anthony Cena.  That alone gives Breeze huge potential to be a big deal on the main roster.

Once again, there’s a brilliance to making a WWE Superstar and much credit goes to Tyler Breeze for making the most out of what could easily be a stale gimmick.  Not only does the character feel “real,” but his moves in the ring also match the gimmick, making Breeze a complete package that’s really only in need of the perfect antagonist.  The best way to speak of the Breeze character and Mattias Clement is to compare him to the “Moonchild” CJ Parker character, which honestly feels like a wrestler attempting to portray a hippie wrestler.

Click here to check out Matt Clement’s NXT debut as Tyler Breeze.

Sasha Banks

NXT Diva Sasha Banks | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

NXT Diva Sasha Banks | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sasha Banks is another California born Diva that possesses the potential to be an excellent addition to the WWE’s Divas division.  The Sasha Banks character is currently involved in a NXT storyline with WWE Diva Summer Rae and fellow NXT Diva Charlotte (Ric Flair’s daughter, Ashley) that is pretty much a carbon copy of TNA’s “The Beautiful People” with Angelina Love and Velvet Sky, and WWE’s “Lay-Cool” with Layla and Michelle McCool.  With Banks, however, there is an excellent mix of beauty, athleticism, and spitefulness that creates a character fans would long to see get put in her place.

What’s noteworthy about Banks, as well as Bayley and Paige, is that she’s one of several female professional wrestlers currently signed to a WWE developmental contract.  Banks and most of her fellow NXT Divas break the notion that the promotion is only concerned with hiring models and training them to be wrestlers.

While one would be stupid not to acknowledge Banks’ looks, a conversation about her cannot be had without discussing her in-ring abilities and the way she can make other Divas look like gold in the ring.  To only be 21 years old and have the wherewithal to help create Superstars in the same way as a Danny Burch is an incredible talent to have and to perfect as she gets older.  That’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly or for granted as we wait to see whether or not she’s called up to the main roster.

Check out this match between Sasha Banks (pre-heel turn) and the extremely athletic Charlotte during the latter’s debut in NXT.  Make sure to pay close attention how Banks works with the very green Charlotte throughout the match to create pure magic for the fans with the Nature Boy’s daughter:


That’s it for this particular NXT Scouting Report.  There are tons of other very talented wrestlers that didn’t make this list, which in no way implies that they too aren’t worthy of accolades and attention.  But it’s up to us to take note of the up-and-comers within any given promotion; make sure to visit the NXT website often and to check out their show each week on Hulu so you can pick and choose your favorite future WWE Superstar and Diva!


“I’ll Give You What For!” – Wossamatta U?

IGYWF

Mr. Lamb and I proudly representing our alma mater.  *Note: he's the one that likes football.

Mr. Lamb and I proudly representing our alma mater. *Note: he’s the one that likes football.

As most fans great the New Year with talk about Daniel Bryan’s heel turn and AJ Styles’ “final” match in TNA, leave it to your disgruntled neighborhood analyst to find something to be pissed off about.  Surprise surprise, it’s not all related to happenings in Dixieland!

Say Goodbye to the Bad Guy(s) … and the Good Guy(s)?!?

Vince McMahon made IWC headlines recently by commenting that there were no longer good guys (“babyfaces”) or bad guys (“heels”) in pro wrestling (“sports entertainment”).  Upon hearing this news I immediately thought of Vince Russo’s booking method which, while similar in design, did absolute wonders for the fine people down in Orlando, Florida.  See: sarcasm.

Most folks that have worked with Vince McMahon, whether they love him or hate him, will readily admit that the man is a machine when it comes to putting in work for the wrestling (“sports entertainment”) industry.  The word “genius” has also been used to describe him, and one would be hard pressed to deny the fact that he’s definitely changed the industry into something Frank Gotch would more than likely turn his nose up at.  As much as we may despise evil villains, that still does not take away from the fact they’re way smarter than the average bear.

To hear Mr. McMahon make such an absurd statement, in my mind, is to also attest to his brilliance.  There is one basic premise in any story, be it told within the confines of a wrestling ring, the pages of a book, or plastered on movie screens across the world: someone is attempting to accomplish something, and someone (or something) is trying to stop them.

Because we humans are simple (at best), this basic story element is portrayed in terms of “good” and “bad.”  The “good” guy or gal is trying to get from point A to point B, and the “bad” guy or gal attempts to stop them; period.  We all watch in eager anticipation to see whether or not the “good” guy or gal will succeed.  We cheer them on and we boo the guy or gal attempting to stop them.   For Vince McMahon to deny that such an element is no longer present in pro wrestling storytelling is so insane that it’s absolutely brilliant.

I have a unique theory as to why McMahon’s statement attests to his brilliance: the statement is a cleverly devised ruse that will enable him and his World Wrestling Entertainment machine to squeeze as much juice out of one major cash cow (i.e. John Cena) until the old gray mare ain’t what it used to be.

Look at it like this: if you can convince legions of prepubescent fans and single women that all of the characters in WWE are these weird shades of gray, then there’s no need to hide the fact that the face of your promotion (the John Cena character) is actually a douche.

Cena’s character has done some incredibly heel-ish things for the past few years, and fans still buy his merchandise and cheer him in every grand spectacle of mediocrity he’s featured in.  Male fans over the age of fourteen still long for his heel turn, but dammit he’s honestly already a heel!  To say it in terms that I’ve used constantly over and over again, the John Cena character is that all-star high school athlete that can get away with everything because everyone knows he’s going to take the school all the way to the state championships.  The John Cena character can punt a baby dolphin into a lake of fire and we’ll cheer him like never before.

John Cena stole Zack Ryder’s girlfriend (Eve…remember that storyline?) and then made Ryder apologize.  John Cena lost clean to Randy Orton, belittled him for winning, served up Daniel Bryan just because, and then attacked Randy Orton after the match for no real reason other than Orton intentionally getting himself disqualified.  Hell, John Cena challenged Randy Orton for the unification match for no real reason either.  How long have there been two distinct major champions and he’s just now lobbying to unify the titles?

To be honest this isn’t limited to John Cena.  Daniel Bryan’s recent jaunt to the dark side via the Wyatt Family has fans far and wide considering harakiri as an alternative to watching their beloved bearded savior exchange grooming techniques with the WWE’s version of Duck Dynasty.

The reality of the situation is that the only reason the Wyatt Family was considered to be “heels” was because they worked adversely against the “good” guy, Daniel Bryan.  What happens now that Bryan, a beloved star, joins the fold and the group actively rallies against the machine represented by The Authority?  They instantly become “faces,” even though we’ve all accepted the notion that the faction, as a whole, is inherently evil?

Which leads me to this closing point: as much as McMahon wants us to drink the Kool-Aid and accept the idea that all wrestlers are convenient little shades of ambiguity, the fans will ultimately dictate who the “good” guy is and who the “bad” guy is … even if the promotion wants us to think differently about the situation.  In that sense there will always be faces and heels in pro wrestling, and if anyone thinks otherwise then there are two words for them …

The Further Degradation of the Divas Division

As a human being I felt disrespected by the lack of respect shown to the Divas on the December 30 episode of RAW.  Once again fans were treated to another ninety-Diva tag match that’s necessary only for the purpose of obtaining B-Roll for Total Divas.  It’s ironic when you think about it; they need to show the Total Divas wrestling, so they’re put in arbitrary matches that really don’t showcase their unique talents, skills sets, or personalities.

What bothers me is the perception fans are slowly being conditioned to accept: the only Divas worth mentioning are the Total Divas.  The Bella Twins, the Funkadactyls and Eva Marie were all called by name, while their opponents were simply referenced as “The Not Total Divas.”

The ebb and flow of WWE’s treatment of the Divas division is mind boggling to say the least.  Yes, the Total Divas show has introduced a whole new demographic to the WWE’s product.  Yes, several of the Divas are getting air time they would’ve otherwise not received at all.  But at this expense, being relegated to pointless matches that don’t have a purpose on the main shows or on Total Divas?

Real talk: if you want to see the Divas really wrestle, you must watch the secondary and tertiary shows; I’m talking NXT, Main Event, Superstars … other than that, you’ll only get to see the Not Total Divas bop around on RAW and Smackdown.

I’m convinced the powers that be don’t take women’s wrestling seriously because fans don’t take it that seriously either.   Both the major U.S. wrestling promotions are failing terribly when it comes to offering something substantial with their women wrestlers, but then again, exactly how many people are chomping at the bit to watch a WNBA playoff game?

They could've at least noted that Kaitlyn was with these other "Not Total Divas" ...

They could’ve at least mentioned that Kaitlyn was with these other “Not Total Divas” … Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Aksana, Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes, Summer Rae, and Kaitlyn all have something special to offer the fans besides being ambassadors and practice Divas for Nikki, Brie, Naomi, Cameron, and Eva Marie.  All the Divas train feverishly hard and work their damnedest to get more than just a few minutes to stand on the ring apron or stare up at the ceiling lights.

One would hope and think that a Stephanie McMahon led product would change the game a bit, but I guess the WWE’s limited scope regarding the Divas is nothing out of the ordinary.  It’s just depressing to know that the last Diva allowed to really to bring something to the product was Mickie James.  Well … at least there’s solace in knowing that Paige will debut on the main roster … someday …

Seriously, check out this video about Rosa Mendes’ workout routine that was publicized a bit during last year’s WrestleMania.  I’m not advocating for a workout gimmick for Rosa, but I’ll be damned the woman has a personality somewhere that’s worthy of being expressed in a much more fulfilling way than being confused with Fandango’s dance partner.

Mojo Rawley: Your NEXT Larger Than Life WWE Superstar

Here’s an excerpt from a conversation I had with L.E.W.D. Researcher Asherology 101 that took place on January 2:

Mr. Morris: So, my feeling is tht the only reason McMahon said that [the whole “no face/heel” thing] is to squeeze as many more miles out of Cena as he can until they can get Mojo Rawley on the main roster.

Yesterday, on January 3, Chris Cash posted this on Wrestlezone.com; I’m not saying I’m prescient, I’m just sayin’ …

IWasRight

To be honest I don’t care much for what I’ve seen of the Mojo Rawley character.  Granted I’ve only seen one Mojo match and he’s obviously still new in his WWE tenure (his first match took place in October 2013), so he’s got plenty of room to grow as a wrestler and entertainer.  In that sense it’s a great thing that we can’t always judge a book by its cover (remember Dolph Ziggler’s debut?), but I’m also not silly enough to hold my breath while eagerly anticipating the Rawley character to showcase his five moves of doom and a t-shirt worthy catch phrase.

What do I know?  Judge for yourself by watching the video of his debut; and for the record it is noteworthy that his opponent is Danny Burch, someone I REALLY hope makes it to the main roster and can work a great match like a boss.

Lies, Lies, and Probably Some Half-Truths

Speculation has it that Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards won’t be receiving a developmental deal from Triple H due to several incredibly unbelievable reasons.  The first rumor was that Triple H wasn’t too keen on hiring more “smaller wrestlers,” as he feels that there are enough hobbits warbling around the Performance Center as is.  There was also speculation that Triple H felt there were already enough established tag teams in the WWE.

Another rumor revolved around a blown spot during a match with NXT Tag Team Champions, The Ascension; it seemed as if the misstep was bad enough for Trips to call an audible for the match to end … and apparently the match didn’t end fast enough for the King of Kings.  Guess who has to shoulder the blame for that one?

There’s also this rumor that TNA was very interested in signing Richards and Edwards, a rumor that goes all the way back to the summer of 2013 and gained even more steam with a cryptic message last month at a Pro Wrestling Guerilla show regarding a one-way trip to Orlando.

I find it hard to believe any of these speculated rumors, particularly after the mess with TNA being partially up for grabs.

The internet is a safe haven for all sorts of opinions and unsubstantiated information on anything under the sun and the pro wrestling industry is by no means safe and secure from being inundated with inaccurate information.  Neither Triple H nor Dixie Carter have made concrete statements about Richards and Edwards, so anything regarding their status should be taken with a grain of salt.

Here's one for you: word on the street is that Triple H won't sign Richards and Edwards because he can't find a decent pen to sign their contracts with.

Here’s one for you: word on the street is that Triple H won’t sign Richards and Edwards because he can’t find a decent pen to sign their contracts with.

If TNA was really after Richards and Edwards as some claim, they would’ve already been signed to the company.   Yes, contract negotiations take time and certain obligations must be met before one can simply hope on the Dixietrain and take a ride down south.  But if Mason Andrews can appear during a taped segment on RAW one week and later on in that same week appear on a live episode of IMPACT Wrestling, it goes to show that anything is possible in this industry if people want it to happen.

As far as the bee ess reasons behind why Richards and Edwards haven’t formally received a developmental contract from WWE, there’s no telling what’s going on that could give our impatient nature some satisfaction.  If we can immediately call shenanigans on the speculation of a TNA sale, then we can surely call shenanigans on a Triple H hissy fit keeping the American Pitbulls from receiving contracts.

Well that’s all I have for the moment; expect more ranting this week.  In the meantime, leave your thoughts or at least tell a friend to visit us and tell me I’m off my ass.


“I’ll Give You What For!” – The Balls (or Ovaries) to Be Different

IGYWFThe current pro wrestling tension between TNA and WWE fans revolves around an ill-conceived concept of “originality.”  For whatever reason it has become very important for fans to claim ownership of a concept, storyline, character or idea on behalf of their favorite company.  Fans calculate these “original” ideas, creating a laundry list with hopes of triumphantly stating that one company is more “original” than the other.

The whole process of doing this is cumbersome and overrated.  There is very little “originality” coming from the three U.S. promotions that have television deals and to argue about it is to engage in a fool’s errand.  Truthfully speaking it’s just like arguing over the pros and cons of hanging toilet paper from the over or under position.

People by and large are resistant to change, and the more time goes on the more people desire for things to stay in one static state of dependability where they can remain comfortable as absurdly possible.  Pro wrestling and her fans are not excused from this plight, and in fact may be more susceptible to acquiescing to familiarity more often than not.

But in order for this capitalist consumer based society to continue trudging along the way, we the people have to “believe” that change is happening all around us.  We’re fed fairy tales about how things are getting better when, in reality, it’s pretty much the same mess with a fresh coat of paint.  The very same is true of pro wrestling; a company appears to be on the verge of making a cutting-edge change, but in reality fans are seeing the product moonwalk itself into stagnancy and mediocrity.  Things are only made worse by the fact that we’re all essentially arguing over which promotion is more mediocre than the other.

Real change, serious dynamic moves towards a better and brighter future, is one gigantic pain in the ass.  To enact change is to embark upon a journey that speaks against our desire to be comfortable, a long and tedious expedition that requires the discipline and intent to continue along the path until it ends and the desired results are attained.  That’s what true success is all about, creating a goal and working to bring that goal to fruition.  It the desired results from an intended goal are not realized, then an effort was not successful; end of story.

For any promotion to produce “original” content, their goals from the very beginning must contain an element of change that will not sit well with fans.  Change will alienate people; change will make diehard fans question the product or even turn away from it.  However, if the desired results are necessary, then—be it subtle or overt—change must happen and fans must be conditioned to accept the journey that comes along with adapting to that change.

Real change, however, decreases revenue and profit in the short term.  Real change, however, forces fans to think differently about the way they view the product and choose to support it.  Real change effects everyone, from the top down and bottom up.  Real change hurts, and with fans being as penny pinching as Ebenezer Scrooge, very few people have the testicular or ovarian fortitude to test the waters for fear of failure and alienating consumers who pad their pockets with cold hard cash.

As fans who invest in the product one way or another, let’s be real with each other and discuss what real change means for our favorite companies and how it affects us.  We have to be honest with ourselves: we don’t want real change.  If we did, we would’ve given up on both TNA and WWE years ago in favor of much more fulfilling and authentic pro wrestling.  But alas, our insatiable hunger for sports entertainment is as vicious as our desire for a fast food; we like crap, and we’re content with having more streamlined crap than anything of substance.  And that’s absolutely fine, but we’ve got to admit that’s where we are and that the real debate is on whether we prefer TNA’s crap over WWE’s crap.

To be fair TNA’s crap seems less refined than the mess peddled by WWE only because of the relative infancy in the business.  By comparison, TNA appears to produce a more “original” product than WWE because WWE has produced “original” content for fifty plus years.  That “original” programming has grown stale and is (truthfully speaking) held to a different standard than TNA because of its seniority.  To speak of TNA’s lovable “growing pains” is the nice way of speaking about the WWE’s lackluster and uninspired product.  Dress those comments as we may, it’s all still one big steaming pile of crap.

If both companies are producing crap and we’re content with arguing over who’s crap is more “original” than the other, how can either company truly be different?  How can either company justify bringing real change to the product if we’re too busy discussing or nuancing the ways they can refine their crap?  Simply put, it won’t happen because we’ve been conditioned to accept mediocrity as a norm.  To really push the boundaries of our imaginations, to really invest in a logical and consistent storyline that creates long term fidelity instead of short term satisfaction, is to say something profound to each promotion in a way that will justify changing the product for the betterment of the business overall.

Here’s a thought I’ve promoted over various social media outlets many times before, and I’m thoroughly convinced neither TNA nor WWE have the balls (or ovaries) to be different in this regard: why not create a major storyline with female wrestlers as the leads and showcase them in a main event spot during a pay per view?

Don’t let the hype and speculation fool you; as much as the SI.com article about TNA and Dixie Carter would have you believe that she’s entering a world dominated by men (which she is), Dixie Carter is also among female contemporaries with just as much power and swag (if not more) as she has.  Dixie Carter is in competition with Stephanie McMahon-Levesque and Bonnie Hammer (president of USA Networks).  With McMahon-Levesque being made the “face” of her father’s promotion and touting that forty percent of the WWE’s audience is compromised of women, with Bonnie Hammer continuing to dominate cable network television, and with Dixie Carter stepping out into the fracas, now would be an optimal time for either organization to prove their mettle using such a storyline.

And it’s honestly not that hard a thing to do or accomplish.  Today’s society sees a movement to establish both equality and equity between genders; if the writers can craft a simple and compelling storyline, it shouldn’t matter who plays the part.  The only thing that will inevitably change is the way the protagonist in the story responds to the changing elements around them.  Replace AJ Styles and Magnus with Gail Kim and Brooke Tessmacher respectively; replace Randy Orton and John Cena with AJ Lee and Natalya.  Can we honestly say with a straight face that the storylines involving these women would diminish in quality because of their presence?

Of course there are several reasons as to why such a move would fail horribly; women’s wrestling is a niche market, a large swath of fans really don’t want to see a main event women’s angle, blah blah blah.  But with so many fans complaining of the industry’s lack of originality, wouldn’t it make more sense to push the envelope in this way?  Aren’t fans always complaining about the piss poor way women’s wrestling is treated here?  Wouldn’t you, loyal and true pro wrestling fan,  want to have the opportunity to brag about how your favorite wrestling promotion was the first to pioneer the industry with a successful major storyline involving women?

Nah … we want the same old crap.  We’d rather celebrate the insipid trailblazing of a women’s division that lacks direction and … well … women.  We’d rather sit idly by as the Total Divas are paraded incessantly before our eyes in an endless series of nonsensical matches and segments that are barely related to anything.  We’d rather be the first to complain and whine about how bad one promotion treats its female athletes, ignore how badly the other promotion is treating their women’s division, and utilize any time in between to take pee breaks.  Then we’ll simply turn around and blame the promotions for not doing things the way we’d like to see them, even though we already know deep within our hearts that we honestly don’t want to see either promotion veer too far away from what we know and love about them already.

This is why I say very few people have the balls (or ovaries) to do something different or to be different in pro wrestling.  We’re all slaves to familiarity, and a promotion won’t risk alienating investors and advertisers to placate our selfishness.  We’ll pay very good money to John Cena’s name in a main event marquee, but we won’t drop as nearly as much coin when Daniel Bryan is placed in the same situation.  Argue against that if you choose to, but it is a stone cold fact; he who sells the most merchandise will be justifiably placed in the forefront, and the needle won’t move for anyone else until we create the demand for such a star.  “They” don’t have the balls (or ovaries) to mess with that formula because we don’t have the balls (or ovaries) to be more than barking seals for what’s familiar and comfortable.

Yes it’s a ballsy move to create a network to showcase your vast library of pro wrestling history or continue to funnel money into a film studio that produces a steady stream of B-movies much to the delight of no one.  Yes it’s a ballsy move to go head-to-head with a promotion that has a stranglehold on the business and to continue to buck a system that grows more stifling and hostile with each passing year.  Creating the same type of product, mimicking the product of your competition, and refusing to put serious coin and consideration behind anti-typical wrestling superstar isn’t ballsy; it’s safe, it guarantees profit (be it large or small), and it conditions us all to go along with flow, believing we’re ultimately powerless to truly dictate what it is we like and want.

At the end of the day, the three major promotions aren’t all that different from one another when it comes to being “original.”  There are very few individuals at this point in the game who have the unmitigated gall to push boundaries or at least try to be different and original in presenting their pro wrestling product (thank God for CHIKARA, Japanese wrestling, DragonGateUSA, EVOLVE, SHIMMER, Shine and WSU).  But until we, the fans who pay money to see the action and drama displayed in between the ropes, expand our horizons and ask for something truly and deeply different instead of something superficially aesthetic, then all we’re going to get is what we’ve been getting … the same old mess.  If we get the same old mess, all we’re going to have is the same old pointless complaints and hollow accolades.

So the real question is, how many of us have the balls (or ovaries) to be different?


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