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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?

 


Gauntlet of the Predator | Part 2

It is anybody’s guess as to what will happen next for WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton.  Although he successfully survived the series of matches over the last three weeks imposed upon him by The Authority, the Apex Predator did not escape their machinations without succumbing in some way to the toll inflicted on his psyche by the gauntlet.

Orton only won one of the five matches in the gauntlet, which surely will fuel the ever growing sense of insecurity festering within him.  This type of momentum or negative energy surging within Orton could be extremely bad for him as he prepares to defend his title during this Sunday’s Elimination Chamber pay per view.  With it being difficult for Orton to gain even one victory in singles matches against his Elimination Chamber opponents, one can only imagine how much more difficult it will be for the champion to survive in a match pitting him against all five opponents at once.

The prospect of a far more dangerous and vicious Randy Orton makes us eagerly anticipate his actions during the bout; the odds are seemingly stacked against him, placing Orton with his back against the wall and desperate to hold on to the only thing bringing him significance and relevance in this age dominated by “Yes!” chants and speculation on Roman Reigns’ future in the company.  A cornered Randy Orton could potentially unleash a violent and vicious skull-punting Randy Orton, one who’s fire and passion stand to cause havoc and chaos for the five men locked in the chamber structure with him.

Only time will tell whether or not this will be the Randy Orton we’ll see, as it would be slightly disappointing to see any other iteration of Randy Orton traverse the remaining peaks and valleys on the “Road to WrestleManiaassuming he retains his title this Sunday.

The following synopses covers the final matches in Orton’s gauntlet:

Match #4
Cesaro versus Randy Orton
February 14, 2014 | Smackdown
| Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA
Result: Cesaro defeats Randy Orton via pinfall with the Neutralizer

The newly renamed WWE Superstar Cesaro employs a gutwrench suplex (or Russian Neck Drop) on WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton on the Valentine's Day episode of Smackdown. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The newly renamed WWE Superstar Cesaro employs a gutwrench suplex (or *Russian Neck Drop) on WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton on the Valentine’s Day episode of Smackdown. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

*Note: Click HERE for video of the Russian Neck Drop, and HERE for the Gutwrench Suplex.

WWE Superstar Cesaro has done nothing but impress fans since his arrival in the promotion.  Cesaro, who is also occasionally referred to as “The Swiss Superman,” has consistently wowed audiences with his incredible feats of strength and has introduced several different maneuvers from his arsenal throughout his brief tenure thus far in WWE.  Cesaro took fans by surprise when he gained his coveted spot in the Elimination Chamber match, and although many consider him to be a dark horse in the match, he could very well be the biggest threat facing Randy Orton this Sunday.  It’s very hard to make a solid argument against his bright future in the promotion, as his entry into the main event of the last pay per view prior to WrestleMania XXX has led to speculation that a face turn is in his near future.  All speculation, however, should be taken with a grain of salt even though all signs point towards to the great possibility of a face turn for him:

C-Section fans cheering Cesaro during the Feb. 14 episode of Smackdown.  On a side note, you see what I did there? | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

C-Section fans cheering Cesaro during the Feb. 14 episode of Smackdown. On a side note, you see what I did there? | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Orton definitely approached the match with his two defeats firmly planted in the forefront of his mind; nevertheless, Orton did not seem phased or intimidated about facing Cesaro and assuredly underestimated his opponent before even stepping in the ring with him.  This misguided perception of Cesaro would return to bite Orton on the backside by the end of their match.

The story of the bout was all about Cesaro’s sheer power and strength versus Orton’s underhanded and tactical prowess.  Having underestimated his opponent early own, Orton was effectively blindsided by Cesaro’s offense and unique skill set.  Cesaro’s offense was similar to that of John Cena, an arsenal consisting mostly of upper body blows and maneuvers that worked at Orton’s torso and his core.  Unlike Cena’s offense, however, Cesaro’s body blows flow naturally from his technically charged and deliberate offense; Cena is more of a brawler while Cesaro wails on his opponent’s body with intention and not reckless abandon.  It must also be mentioned that Cesaro’s offense was so effective that Orton looked visibly exhausted halfway through their match (major kudos to Orton if he was selling Cesaro’s offense and if he was truly tired halfway through and fought to finish the match).

In response to Cesaro’s attacks, Orton took his assault outside of the ring and used every tactic he could to wear down his opponent using everything he could outside of the ring without getting disqualified.  To be honest, Orton’s offense looked a lot like something a fan would do in the “Defeat the Streak” story mode on WWE 2K14.

When Orton finally tossed Cesaro back into the ring, there was a bit of back and forth action before the two.  One notable moment in the match was Cesaro’s reversal of the RKO into an European uppercut to the back of Orton’s head.  The finish of the match came when Cesaro reversed an attempted superplex from Orton into a sunset flip powerbomb, followed up by a discus European uppercut.  Without wasting a moment, Cesaro applied and executed the Neutralizer, giving him the pinfall victory over the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

Randy Orton applying yet another chin lock to an opponent during the gauntlet. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Randy Orton applying yet another chin lock to an opponent during the gauntlet. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It would be in Orton’s best interest to avoid Cesaro altogether during the Elimination Chamber match if possible.  Survival is a key factor in winning the match, and if Orton cannot be labeled or characterized by his stamina and resiliency, any interaction with Cesaro would essentially shorten the amount of time he would be able to avoid elimination at someone’s hands.

Orton’s best offense against Cesaro would be to not only let superstars like Sheamus and John Cena work him over, but to also utilize as much of the steel structure as he can to weaken Cesaro up for elimination by either of the two other aforementioned superstars.

Cesaro, on the other hand, will set out to prove Sunday that he can hang with the big dogs in the WWE’s main event scene.  We shouldn’t expect Cesaro to win the match, but we can expect him to put on one hell of an impressive show as he literally stands toe to toe with four former WWE and World Heavyweight Champions and the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion.  Cesaro typically has great matches in WWE, but we should especially look forward to him exchanging blows with Sheamus and Daniel Bryan.

Match #5
Sheamus versus Randy Orton
February 17, 2014 | Monday Night RAW
| Pepsi Center in Denver, CO
Result: Sheamus defeats Randy Orton via disqualification after The Shield attacked Sheamus

WWE Superstar Sheamus leaps through the air with his Battering Ram maneuver against WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton on the Feb. 17, 2014 episode of RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

WWE Superstar Sheamus leaps through the air with his Battering Ram maneuver against WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton on the Feb. 17, 2014 episode of RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Facing quite the opponent in the final match of the gauntlet, Randy Orton seemed more focused to assert himself as the “Face of the WWE” heading into the Elimination Chamber pay per view.  The WWE World Heavyweight Champion made it crystal clear that he relied on The Authority to continue supporting him despite his inability to dominate his opponents throughout the gauntlet.  Sheamus, on the other hand, simply wanted to fight.

The match between Sheamus and Orton started off slowly as the champ slithered out of the ring a few times to get his bearings against another powerhouse of an opponent.  The Celtic Warrior’s offense differs from that of Cesaro and John Cena in that it’s more of “beat you silly” approach than anything else.  Sheamus is a powerhouse who simply fights, looking to score his victory by using a debilitating kick to his opponent’s head; he enjoys beating up his opponents as he honestly only needs to kick his opponent’s head off.  Simply put, Sheamus is a sadist.

Orton seemingly learned his lesson from his defeat against Cesaro and once again took the fight to outside of the ring.  The champ was most effective in stalling Sheamus’ momentum while confining his onslaught to the ringside area.  Orton’s most devastating offensive maneuver was undoubtedly suplexing Sheamus through the announcer’s table:

Sheamus lays devastated in a crumpled heap outside of the ring during his match with Randy Orton on the Feb. 17 episode of RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sheamus lays devastated in a crumpled heap outside of the ring during his match with Randy Orton on the Feb. 17 episode of RAW.  |  Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Once the fighting returned to the ring, Orton failed to capitalize off of putting Sheamus through the announcer’s table, giving Sheamus the precious opportunity to get back into the match.  The action went back and forth from that point as Orton attempted to counter Sheamus’ attempts to wail on him.  Sheamus eventually gained the upper hand and after landing two Irish Curse backbreakers, the Celtic Warrior mustered up enough gumption to set Orton up for his Brogue Kick finishing maneuver.  As Sheamus rallied the crowd behind him, the Shield stormed the ring and the match was immediately thrown out by the referee, giving Sheamus the win and Orton his final defeat in the gauntlet.

Does Randy Orton have a solid game plan heading into the Elimination Chamber pay per view this Sunday? | | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Does Randy Orton have a solid game plan heading into the Elimination Chamber pay per view this Sunday? | | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The prospect of winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is important to Sheamus, but it cannot be ignored or denied that the Celtic Warrior would leave the chamber just as happy in defeat if he’s only able to unmercifully throttle an opponent into submission or defeat.  This perhaps makes Sheamus the second dangerous man in the Chamber match next to Randy Orton; armed only with the desire to beat a man senseless, Sheamus will be relentless in his attacks against his opponents.

This pits three men seeking championship gold (Bryan, Christian and Cesaro), one man seeking to retain his position (Orton), and one man seeking to make a point to the rising class of WWE Superstars (Cena) against a man who just wants to kick people’s heads clean off of their shoulders.

All things considered, one could easily see that by the time he was ready to face Sheamus, Orton had all but completely dismissed his embarrassing performance throughout the gauntlet.  By the time the main event rolled around on RAW, Orton cared very little about his wins and losses heading into the pay per view and relied more on the hope that The Authority would continue to protect him and his position within the promotion.  Midway through the gauntlet series Orton switched tactics and his approach on his matches; he transformed from a whiny and insatiable brat into an overly appreciative brown nosing yes man, opting to weasel his way back into the good graces of The Authority instead of actually putting forth an effort to prove to his opponents that he’s not a champion to be reckoned with.

The subtle change in Orton’s demeanor leads me to believe that he will retain his title at Elimination Chamber.  For the duration of the gauntlet fans have been led to believe that Orton doesn’t stand a chance at retaining his title.  Even the way the gauntlet was constructed, including how Orton fared as far as wins and losses are concerned, suggests that Orton will have one difficult time retaining his title.

What we mustn’t forget is that the Elimination Chamber match operates much like the Royal Rumble, where superstars join the fracas at timed intervals until all the participants have entered the steel structure or have been eliminated from it.  Because of his schmoozing and brown nosing, Orton may very well be the last participant to enter the match, which means that at least one of his opponents could very well be eliminated before he even steps into the ring.

The other concept to remember is that out of all the participants in the match, Orton has the most to lose and the luxury of having to offer the least amount of offense in the match.  The Elimination Chamber match participants will claw tooth and nail at each other, and as long as Randy can survive until he is one of the final two participants in the match, the only offense he’ll need to offer will be to keep from being eliminated.

The gauntlet then becomes important because it tells this exact story; if Orton had trouble beating his opponents in singles matches, he also stands very little chance of defeating anyone of them at Elimination Chamber.  However, if Orton’s opponents defeat each other, if he manages to get The Authority to make sure he’s the last man to enter the match (or conveniently place him in a Chamber pod that “malfunctions”), he will have the opportunity to plan his attack accordingly to pick off his opponents one-by-one after they’ve brutalized each other.

With his back against the wall and his conniving ways as a primary weapon, Orton looks to be in a prime position to maintain his spot in a main event (as opposed to “the” main event) at WrestleMania XXX.  Orton survived the gauntlet, and the Viper will survive the Elimination Chamber match.

The only question left is what will happen to the champ during this week’s episode of Smackdown?  We look forward to the show in eager anticipation, with just as much zeal and enthusiasm as we have for the Elimination Chamber pay per view this Sunday.

 

Your WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton. | | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Your WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

To read the first part of the Gauntlet of the Predator, click here!


Gauntlet of the Predator | Part 1

WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

During the opening segment of the February 3, 2014 edition of Monday Night RAW, Stephanie McMahon announced that WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton would face all five of his Elimination Chamber opponents in singles matches in the weeks leading up to the pay per view.  So far Orton has scored one victory and two losses against three of those five opponents, and looks to face Antonio Cesaro this Friday on Smackdown.

Most may not realize that this particular gauntlet is a very important stop on the “Road to WrestleMania.”  With the PG Era essentially neutering the fruition of Eric Bischoff’s sadistic desires, the actual Elimination Chamber match has effectively become just another prop in a glorified cage match.  However, by placing Randy Orton in a series of singles matches against his EC opponents prior to the pay per view, the focus shifts a bit and places the focus of the match on the opponents rather than the structure itself.  There is a huge paradigm change in how we view the match and its significance as the last main event of a pay per view before WrestleMania.

In effect, the wrestlers in the match become the subject of the match instead of accessories susceptible to the whims of an unrelenting and demonic enclosure.  Instead of six wrestlers utilizing the structure to maim and brutalize one another, we’re now lead to witness six distinct wrestling styles clash with each other until there is only one man standing.  With the men unable to escape the chamber, the strategy of each wrestler is essential to their survival and overall victory.  The gauntlet, therefore, gives fans the opportunity to buy into each characters strengths and weaknesses heading into the pay per view, enabling us to see not only what the champion has to overcome, but what each superstar brings to the brouhaha.

We should consider each of Orton’s matches in context of the entire gauntlet in light of his title defense in a little under two weeks.  The gauntlet has given all six men an opportunity to shine, to expose and express those qualities and characteristics that make them worthy of being top stars in WWE.  It also gives us to see the true depth of the Randy Orton character, the way Orton adapts his style to each of his opponents and proves that he’s capable of being the World Heavyweight Champion through his domination over any competitor that dares face him in the ring.

The following synopses of Orton’s first three matches look to give more insight on the gauntlet’s importance as well as to hype the importance of the Elimination Chamber pay per view in two weeks.

Match #1
Daniel Bryan versus Randy Orton
February 3, 2014 | Monday Night RAW
| CenturyLink Center in Omaha, NE
Result: Daniel Bryan defeats Randy Orton via pinfall after the Running Knee finishing maneuver

Daniel Bryan works over Orton's knee during their match on the Feb. 3, 2014 edition or RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Daniel Bryan works over Orton’s knee during their match on the Feb. 3, 2014 edition or RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The rivalry between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan has quickly shaped up to be one of the most storied rivals in recent WWE history.  The two have faced each other countless numbers of times since Orton cashed in his Money In the Bank briefcase on Bryan at last year’s SummerSlam pay per view, and every single one of their encounters have been incredibly enjoyable.  Serving as the opening bout in Orton’s gauntlet, their match last week set an extremely high bar for the rest of the bouts in the series.

As the master technician in the match, Bryan began a relentless assault early on the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and spent an ample amount of time working over Orton’s left knee.  Bryan’s attack was slow, focused and methodical, each maneuver literally whittling away at the sinews, ligaments and soft tissue in Orton’s knee.  Such a devious and calculated attack was surely necessary to debilitate Orton as well as keep him from utilizing both of his signature finishing maneuvers.  With one severely damaged leg, Orton would have found it somewhat difficult to leap for his RKO finisher as well as run for his patented Punt.

Once Orton gained an opening in the match, he began to work on Daniel Bryan’s right arm in the same way his left leg was worked over.  With an injured arm this would obviously have made it hard for Bryan to apply the Yes Lock for an easy submission victory.  Orton’s signature moves (drop kick, Garvin Stomp, DDT from the second rope) were also sprinkled liberally throughout the match, but very noticeable was Orton’s concentrated efforts on hurting and incapacitating Bryan.  Orton spent very little time taunting Daniel Bryan although he did manage to sneak a few smirks and self-congratulatory arm raises into the match.

Both men seemed to seethe with hatred for one another, making all of their movements and maneuvers tug at the fans’ heart strings and emotions.  You could feel the hatred they had for one another with each stomp, kick and punch; the atmosphere simply reeked of their intentions to hurt one another, giving fans the feeling that this fight had less to do with the title and more to do with proving a point: I want to destroy you.

An interruption from Kane, the Director of Operations (or, as I call him, the DOOP) slowed down Bryan’s momentum, but allowed him to capitalize off of a distracted Orton with his running knee finisher, something Orton didn’t count on while working over Bryan’s arm.  Bryan scores a clean victory and receives a chokeslam from Kane as a parting gift while Orton stewed in his first loss of the gauntlet.

Daniel Bryan will be the biggest threat to Orton's title at the Elimination Chamber PPV. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Daniel Bryan will be the biggest threat to Orton’s title at the Elimination Chamber PPV. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Daniel Bryan has been a thorn in Orton’s side ever since August 2013.   With a rivalry and feud that has spanned almost six years, it has been one hell of a fight for Orton to prove his mettle against Bryan without some sort of outside help or interference.  It would seem, in a lot of ways, that Orton physically can’t beat Daniel Bryan without someone giving him the edge.  To make a long story short, Daniel Bryan will be the single biggest threat to Orton retaining his championship come the Elimination Chamber pay per view.

We cannot forget that there will be four other competitors in the ring; Orton stands a solid chance against Daniel Bryan if he or one of his fellow competitors can neutralize Bryan whenever he enters the match.  With resiliency and stamina on his side, however, Bryan will be a formidable opponent to conquer and could easily eliminate his opponents with his ground submission game or a striking blow to the face with his running knee.  It would be best for the champion to make sure Bryan is indisposed or eliminated quickly from the match.

 

Match #2
Christian versus Randy Orton
February 7, 2014 | Smackdown
| Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA
Result: Randy Orton defeats Christian via pinfall with the RKO

Orton scored his first victory in the gauntlet against "Captain Charisma" on the Feb. 7, 2014 edition of Smackdown. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Orton scored his first victory in the gauntlet against “Captain Charisma” on the Feb. 7, 2014 edition of Smackdown. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

After suffering his loss to Daniel Bryan earlier in the week, Orton marched into Smackdown looking to validate his reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion by making a statement with a decisive victory over Christian.

Their match paled in comparison to Orton’s match against Bryan, but told an interesting story nevertheless.  Christian, a former 2-time World Heavyweight Champion, looks forward to Elimination Chamber to establish a credible, long-lasting legacy as a main event player in WWE.  While he didn’t approach his match with Orton using a strategy in the same sense as Bryan, he simply wrestled Orton with the class of a cagey veteran.  Christian opted to simply give Orton a taste of his nineteen years in the business, choosing to use his wits and wily maneuvers to wear away at Orton’s stamina and to discombobulate him in only the way a storied veteran could.

On the other hand Orton matched Christian’s veteran skills with his own signature wrestling style, also choosing to not overly complicate the match by focusing on a specific body part or area of the body.  Unlike his previous battle with Daniel Bryan, Orton’s trademark cockiness and bravado made its way into the match as it was clearly evident Orton thought little of his opponent.

Orton headed into his match against Christian with more to lose than Christian had to gain, thus making him more of a threat than his opponent would’ve guessed or assumed.  In what was a good and solid match, Orton capitalized off of a high-risk top rope maneuver landing an RKO on Christian in mid-air … ironically the same move that gave Orton the victory during Christian’s very first World Heavyweight Champion title defense.  Smackdown goes off the air with Orton standing triumphantly over Christian after a well-fought and clean victory.

Orton did not seem phased or intimidated by Christian during their bout on Smackdown. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Orton did not seem phased or intimidated by Christian during their bout on Smackdown. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

While Orton and Christian are no strangers to each other, it would seem that Orton’s rise to prominence and Christian’s inactivity due to injuries created a huge gap in between the way the stars related to one another and the WWE Universe.  Christian remained humble and patient, waiting diligently for one more chance to become a major WWE champion, Orton’s ego grew exponentially as his career advanced like a bullet train.  This confidence boost surely added to Orton’s lethality as a defending champion, which arguably made him hungrier to keep his title than Christian’s diffident desire to win another big one.

Unfortunately, Christian is placed in an unenviable position of proving his worth in the match.  Orton has less to fear from Christian than he does any of his other competitors, and Christian has to dig extremely deep to unearth the grit to outlast four other devastating competitors just to get his hands on Orton.  One can only guess that Christian also has to prove something to himself by defeating Orton specifically at the pay per view, but I doubt seriously that the former World Heavyweight Champ will have the opportunity to make it out of the blocks before that could even be a possibility.

Match #3
John Cena versus Randy Orton
February 10, 2014 | Monday Night RAW
| Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA
Result: John Cena defeats Randy Orton via pinfall with the Attitude Adjustment

John Cena attempts to make Orton submit via the STF during their match on Monday Night RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

John Cena attempts to make Orton submit via the STF during their match on Monday Night RAW. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The history of John Cena and Randy Orton’s rivalry has already reached mythic proportions.  After last month’s Royal Rumble rematch between the two was universally panned by fans, a suspicion that the two would deliver their typical match crept into our collective consciousness.   That suspicion was quickly allayed as both men delivered a high quality match that, despite its repetitiveness, supplied fans with fresh action and energy.

Heading into the match Orton desired to make amends with The Authority by once again proving his rightful place as the face of the company.  By vowing to do so with a victory against John Cena, Orton looked to cement not only his place but also his legacy, as it has been said that one could not be “anything” unless they defeated John Cena.

Earlier in the day, John Cena tweeted the following:

johncenatweet_feb10-2014
During the Monday Night RAW broadcast, Cena cut a promo regarding his longstanding rivalry with Randy Orton and the new wave of stars rising within the ranks of WWE.  He spoke of the promotion being in the midst of great change, commenting on how his match with Orton was a defining moment for the future of the company.  Cena then promised to defeat Orton and end their storied feud and make the statement that any new star—be it the Wyatts, the Shield, Antonio Cesaro or Daniel Bryan (who, ironically enough has already defeated John Cena clean in the ring)—that desired to carry the company would have to “go through him first.”

Bravado and pride were most assuredly on the line as Cena looked to square off against Orton.  As the match commenced Orton seemed to have applied all he’s learned from past matches in his assault on Cena.  As the two jockeyed for position, Orton escaped from the ring a few times early to stall Cena’s momentum.  Cena’s typical smash mouth, brawler offense is fueled off of momentum; very similar to the Juggernaut, Cena often waylays opponents with a series of body blows and maneuvers that strikes opponents like a wrecking ball.  To counter this assault throughout the match, Orton ducked and dodged each of Cena’s big moments.

When Orton went on the offensive he tended to focus on Cena’s midsection, landing strikes and blows to weaken Cena’s ability to breathe while unleashing his big body busting arsenal.  The caveat to Orton’s offense was, and has always been, Cena’s resiliency and will to never give up.  Nevertheless Orton maintained his strategy and even countered every single thing thrown at him.  Meanwhile the champ oozed confidence and taunted Cena and the live audience constantly.

In one especially poignant moment, Orton delivered a hangman rope DDT from the top turnbuckle, to which he quickly stood up and antagonized the crowd by yelling, and I quote,

“Same old what?! Same old … I’ve never done that before!  So I’ve never done that! It’s not the same old sh…!” *evil smirk*

Randy Orton energizing the live crowd with a maneuver he's apparently never done before. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Randy Orton energizing the live crowd with a maneuver he’s apparently never done before. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

As Orton attempted to whittle away at Cena’s stamina, the former WWE Champ’s die hard will grew and grew, eventually giving Cena the momentum needed to begin a few sets of his Five Moves of Doom.  Orton miraculously countered all of Cena’s offense until the closing moments of the match, where Cena delivered two Attitude Adjustments to gain the pinfall over the champion.

Despite Cena's insistence otherwise, it appears that his feud with Orton is far from over. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Despite Cena’s insistence otherwise, it appears that his feud with Orton is far from over. | Photo © 2014 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The past few years have seen John Cena take a slightly less important role than ever before.  His involvement in the Elimination Chamber match is noteworthy in that one shouldn’t expect him to win the match and rush to WrestleMania as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.  What should be of concern to his opponents, and Randy Orton in particular, is John Cena’s will to remain the bar for future superstars to climb, something that Cena (the character) feels will be much more potent if he also happens to be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.

The hype that surrounds Cena is more intimidating than his actual presence in the match; his opponents are more likely to be thrown off by his resilience than they are his offense, which will make it extremely difficult for everyone else to actually out last him.  This is and should rightfully so be a concern for Orton, but with heavy hitters such as Sheamus and Antonio Cesaro also present in the match, Cena will more than likely be distracted by an opponent looking to prove himself against “The Champ” first, and walking away as the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion second.  While this does take attention away from Orton and the title, it also gives the champ an opportunity to sit back and watch as the lions fight over eliminating the alpha male from the pride.

With two more matches left in the gauntlet, we still have a couple of golden opportunities to get ready for the Elimination Chamber on the “Road to WrestleMania.”  Randy Orton is slated to face Antonio Cesaro this Friday on Smackdown in what will surely be an excellent match.  We look forward to covering the odds and ends of that match and Orton’s eventual match against Sheamus.


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?


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.


IMPACT Wrestling Review 11-21-13, a.k.a. “Now It All Makes Sense”

i sowwyIs there a slight chance that certain fans and analysts tend to be a tad overly critical of Dixie Carter and her wrestling promotion Total Non-stop Action Wrestling, LLC?

Supporters of Dixie and TNA’s product have produced tons of articles and message board posts that analyze and pick apart the criticisms levied against the promotion, often coming to the conclusion that most claims designed to demean and demoralize the product are unsubstantiated and asinine at best.  More often than not the conclusion is that fans who “hate” TNA are just “marks” for World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.; these fans “hate” the quality and consistently solid wrestling and drama produced by TNA and dismiss it for the “crap” mass produced by the “stale and awful” sports entertainment promotion owned by Vince McMahon.

Is there any validity to these criticisms, however?  What is it about the promotion that makes it an easy target for punchlines, one-liners, rumors, speculation, and just all around bullying?  On one hand it could be said that it’s proudly professed position in the pro wrestling hierarchy (the 2nd largest pro wrestling promotion in the world) subjects it to fans’ barbs more so than any other promotion.  Then again the same could also be said of the number one promotion in the world…

Perhaps there is a distinct difference between “hatred” for the product and a genuinely logical argument questioning its practices and programming.  More so now than ever before in the history of things in this country there is a concentrated effort to placate the feelings of one another by avoiding overly harsh criticism unless it’s directed towards someone or something one cares very little about.  It’s like believing one’s child is a complete angel with few behavioral problems here and there, while everyone else remains lax with rearing their demon-spawned offspring.

The bottom line of it all, irregardless of which side of the TNA love/hate fence you sit on, is that people like what they like.  Everyone is entitled to have an opinion based off of their experiences and perception of life; the vicious back and forth between TNA supporters and detractors will continue until the end of time.  And while criticism launched against TNA may be unjustified and unnecessary more often than not, one would be hard-pressed to deny that the promotion has done some boneheaded s**t in the past eleven years with the same consistently solid locomotion that’s propelled them from obscurity to global recognition in such a short span of time…

jenna morasca

Lest we forget…

Again, it’s all about experience and perspective.  TNA and its president, Dixie Carter, are not all bad (though some would disagree; Hi Mr. Gammon!) and they do serve a particular purpose in the cosmos.  Whether one consistently congratulates or reprimands the product depends on their perspective on TNA’s place in the cosmos and their experience in understanding the context of that perspective.

Unfortunately for us pro wrestling/sports entertainment fans, TNA’s position in the cosmos is—and may always be—resting quietly in the massive eclipse produced by Vince McMahon’s WWE Death Star hovering ever so confidently in the spotlight.  In and of itself TNA succeeds at a particular thing: producing good to great pro wrestling (as professed in its mission statement in the corporate section of their website).  That good to great pro wrestling, however, will always be compared to that of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.  Such is the way of individuals living in a culture where there are “options” for almost everything.

This long philosophical diatribe was necessary for this particular review of IMPACT Wrestling because it sets the foundation for my upcoming commentary, some views that are sure to spark a debate somewhere that could take any given conversation about the show or the promotion to a level much more sophisticated than the standard “This show sucks/this show was great/TNA does all things better than dot-dot-dot” debate that’s more regular than baby bowel movements.

Personally speaking I found the Sports Illustrated.com feature article on Dixie Carter and TNA Wrestling, LLC more entertaining and enlightening than I did last night’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling.  Congratulations are in order for Carter and her promotion being featured in Sports Illustrated.  In all sincerity if you haven’t read the piece, I would strongly suggest you do so after reading the piece you’re currently looking at.

What is there to say, however, when an article in Sports Entertainment provides more entertainment than the actual product it speaks of?  I wouldn’t go as far as others to say the show was “bad” (Hi Mr. Lamb!); what I will say that there was very little in the show that pulled me in and made me want to invest more attention and energy into what was happening.  Even the fact that it was the Turning Point themed episode of IMPACT Wrestling and the company’s return to a home base in Orlando made very little difference in my reception of the overall entertainment value of the show.

The Dixie Carter feature on Sports Illustrated.com, on the other hand, did make me want to invest more attention and energy into the promotion.  The feature article gave me new insight and information on Mrs. Carter-Salinas, and even explained in tons of ways why she has made some of the more seemingly ridiculous business decisions she’s made in her tenure as TNA President.  The feature article put into perspective for me why she, and by proxy her company, is truly an underdog in a profession dominated by old men; it also put into perspective why she isn’t an underdog when you consider the fact that she’s also competing for recognition alongside the equally wealthy and powerful Stephanie McMahon-Levesque and Bonnie Hammer.

It’s incredibly bittersweet that an article about TNA makes me far more excited about investing in the company than the actual product itself.  It’s akin to celebrating the fact that TNA, a North American promotion, does better business internationally than it does domestically; the logic is backwards and in some weird, sick and twisted way we fans are expected to understand it and accept it as well.  C’est la vie.

Notwithstanding, there were a few things that piqued my interest when I watched the program:

  • I’m Confused: Free-Per-Views, One Lackluster Homecoming, and an Unscheduled Shark Boy Appearance #IMPACT365
  • What’s Great About the TNA World Heavyweight Title Tournament
  • The Degradation of Joseph Park, Esq.
  • The Demise of the Aces & Eights

TNA_Turning_Point_2013
Last night’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling was broadcast under the Turning Point theme, the idea being that this particular episode of IMPACT Wrestling would showcase pay-per-view quality matches that one could only witness if one had to actually pay to see it.  It’d be a glaring understatement to admit that this concept still confuses the hell out of me, and I’ll gladly accept being called a moron for not getting it as easily as my Ph.D. earning, TNA-loving friends.

What exactly makes these types of episodes different from a regular run-of-the-mill episode of IMPACT Wrestling?  Fewer backstage segments?  More backstage interviews with Jeremy Borash hyping an upcoming match?  Longer matches and less filler in between?  Aren’t those the same things accomplished regularly on TNA programming?

A part of all of this just feels like fans are supposed to get excited because we get to see a “pay-per-view” for “free.”  But if said “pay-per-view” comes on “free” TV, particularly in the middle of the week during the same time as a regularly scheduled episode of IMPACT Wrestling with very little differentiating it from any other Thursday night episode of the same program,…why are we amped about this again?

Let’s not forget this was TNA’s triumphant return to Orlando, Florida, a homecoming of sorts for the promotion.  A lot of fans remained torn over the decision to take IMPACT Wrestling off the road, but there was also a strong consensus that this was necessary for the promotion to maximize its revenue and continue business given the perceived/speculated failure of touring their prime time flagship programming.  All things considered the return to Orlando and a newly designed Impact Zone should’ve been celebrated if it were truly that important and significant of a move for the company.  Last night’s show was anything but that; the presentation of a company returning to its home base came off as business as usual.  Nothing special, nothing ordinary; it is what it is.  One would think the promotion would’ve wanted to capitalize off of this move especially since a it was presented as a magnificently great thing leading up to last night.

Just for one moment, think back to the WWE’s return to the USA Network in October 2005, which was arguably a big and dramatic deal for the promotion, the USA Network and fans alike.  The publicity for the return was ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS; I believe they’re planning on putting the episode on the upcoming RAW 20th Anniversary DVD box set that’s coming out in a few weeks, but hell…they already gave it a DVD of its own:

wwe-raw-homecoming-dvd-wwf-region-free-a319
The return to Orlando probably wasn’t seen as much of a big deal compared to pushing the Turning Point free-per-view last night, so to expect it to have been that plus more is probably reasonable but out of context of what the focus of the show was last night.  Clearly it wasn’t being back in one’s safety zone.

Another thing: why did everyone pretend like they had no clue who EC3’s “legendary” opponent would be even though there existed an Impact 365 video where Shark Boy quit his job and made it known that he was coming to Turning Point?  Maybe that was just some expertly crafted trolling similar to when Dixie Carter announced via Impact 365 videos that a former TNA Champion would be returning to the company and that it was actually Adam “Pacman” Jones.  Everybody thought it was hilarious and guffawed vociferously because they knew it was a joke…up until Pacman actually showed up on IMPACT Wrestling

Unimpressed_01
The way the TNA World Heavyweight Title Tournament is unfolding is quite impressive.  Although it could be argued that the gimmick stipulations added to the matches by the Wheel of Dixie are honestly unnecessary, they do not detract from the action and the story being told so much that the whole deal becomes easily convoluted.  Fans can get the feeling that the men in the tournament are serious about becoming the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion, each with their own reasons for doing so.  The other thing I like about the story being told on the whole is that other smaller stories are interwoven with the main goal of being the top dog in Dixie’s company.

"Darlin' it ain't no way you're gettin' on the Dixie Train with THAT!" | Photo © TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

“Darlin’ there ain’t no way you’re gettin’ on the Dixie Train with THAT!” | Photo © 2013 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The on-screen Dixie Carter character is slowly making progress as well; sometimes she (the character and not Mrs. Carter-Salinas herself) comes off a little too sugary sweet and contrived, almost like the character is being forced.  The best protagonists and antagonists in pro wrestling are merely over exaggerations of the women and men who portray them in the ring and on the microphone.  For the character to work, Dixie has to “be herself,” but not to the point where she’s lampooning herself.  A trip to the Vickie Guerrero School of Excuse Me would do wonders for the character.

Besides all of that it was a pleasure to see the violence between James Storm and Robert Roode return to the same levels that made their feud enjoyable some time ago.  It was also refreshing to see Dixie confront Samoa Joe about comments he made last week regarding winning the tournament and having his first defense as champ to AJ Styles.  This minor development gives me hope that my prediction may actually come to fruition, and I’m personally interested in seeing whether I’m right or wrong.

It’s those types of things that pull fans into a product; to return to some points made earlier in the piece, the feeling of euphoria when one is proven right or wrong about a speculated guess is what keeps this particular analyst invested in TNA’s product each week.  It’s actually fun to be wrong on something, as the new direction is (at times) more intriguing than anything we could ever thing of.  Conversely, it’s always great to be “right” so you can gloat about it.  Nevertheless I still expect Magnus to walk away as the new champion, leading to an eventual confrontation with former TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles.  How Magnus gets to that point is sure to be one hell of a ride.

A match between Joseph Park and his brother Abyss was scheduled to take place last night.  From our lofty and spacious offices here at L.E.W.D. Headquarters, we saw a few fans here and there speculate on how the promotion planned on making this happen.  We all honestly had no clue but waited with bated breath to see how they planned on making this feasible.

Abyss never made it to the ring last night.  Instead of facing his brother, Joseph Park was confronted and verbally dissected by the duo of Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels, collectively known as Bad Influence.  Truthfully speaking it was a little unnerving to listen to Daniels and Kazarian bully the very likeable Joseph Park character (Be A Star, TNA).  From calling him a fat tub of mayonnaise to referring to his great grandfather as “Jurassic Park,” I couldn’t help but feel really sorry for the guy…between laughs, that is (the Jurassic Park thing was funny though…).

Daniels and Kazarian then (correctly) professed their hypothesis that the sight of blood makes Joe Park turn into Abyss; afterwards they proceeded to dump a ton of “blood” on Park, to which the latter responded by meekly leaving the ring as Bad Influence continued to demean him.  Holy s**t I felt reaaaaaaalllly bad for this guy…

20131121_TurnPt_9668

“Darlin’ there ain’t no way you’re gettin’ on the Dixie Train LIKE THAT!” | Photo © 2013 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lord knows where they plan on going with the Joseph Park character and the accompanying Abyss storyline, but this whole segment tugged on my emotional baggage in a way that IMPACT hadn’t done in quite some time.  There have been a slew  of sympathetic characters ever since the humble carny beginnings of pro wrestling; from Eugene to Zack Gowan, Mickey Whipwreck to Tommy Dreamer, and Cody Deaner to NXT’s Bailey…this is something we should be use to.   The lovable scamp of a character that gets tortured and manhandled by everyone else for no good reason…Hi Hornswoggle!

But the Carrie-esque mood involving Bad Influence and Joe Park took that whole sympathetic character to another level for me.  I may be the only one that feels like that, but it was just something about the way that Daniels and Kazarian (Daniels in particular) addressed Park that hurt my feelings…and I was just a fan watching the show!

The Joe Park character is one that, despite his lumbering awkwardness and impressively rotund physique, is quite loveable and innocent in a non-Spongebob-man-child way.  For all intents and purposes he’s a big dude that got an urge to wrestle after attempting to locate his “brother.”  Joe Park ain’t never bothered nobody without reason, and these two friendless, Varsity-team rejects are projecting their frustrations onto him.  Hey Bad Influence, blame your mediocrity on Los Stereotypicos and not Joe Park.  Speaking of which, where the hell are Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez?

Finally, after eighteen months (according to Mike Tenay) of terrorizing TNA and IMPACT Wrestling, the ungodly reign of the Aces and Eights came to a whimpering end when Ken Anderson defeated Bully Ray in the show’s main event.  The conclusion of this yearlong story was underwhelming, and I place the blame of that feeling on my own shoulders.  I should’ve never expected the conclusion of this thing to be obnoxiously big and over the top in the first place.

The entire Aces and Eights bit lost steam long ago, and with the massive budget cuts made by the promotion essentially neutering any efficacy achieved by the group, its demise was a death rattle that most fans were well prepared for prior to the first day of the month of November.  Leave it to me and only me to be the one to expect this domineering faction to at least exit stage left with more fanfare than it did.

It was somewhat poetic that the hammer used to catapult the group into prominence was also the same thing that drove the final nail in their coffin; it’s always been said that if one lives by the sword, one will die by the sword.  I guess the same applies to rubber hammers.

No more Aces and Eights...????

No more Aces and Eights…????

One can only guess where things go from this point as far as the former members of Aces and Eights are concerned.  Bully Ray, arguably one of the top breakout stars in the past few years, may or may not find prominence in the upper echelon of TNA stars now that the wind behind his bread-and-butter storyline (Bruce Pritchard) is no longer employed by TNA.  Ken Anderson and the Ken Anderson character seems lost and coasting in neutral within TNA, and Garett Bischoff and Knux are just…there. At least Brooke Tessmacher can return to the Knockouts Division full force; these other guys…there’s a lot left to the imagination as far as their roles are concerned.

As a fan we have to ask ourselves what do we expect to happen to these characters from now on; the silver lining is that if we leave that question and any preconceived expectations at the door, we may be pleasantly surprised by what the writers and promotion comes up with.  However if we were to view this situation in the same way we would for anyone in WWE, such as The Miz or Kofi Kingston (Hi Corbin!), we can’t really hold our breath for things to be “better” for these guys.  TNA doesn’t necessarily have the best track record either with putting their all behind building “superstars” as much as they do in showcasing “wrestlers.”  We’ll all just have to wait and see how this one turns out.

By the way, before we pull out the streamers and throw the ticker tape parade, Ken Anderson will “bury” the Aces & Eights next week on IMPACT Wrestling.  It’s never OVER until it’s over, folks.

Alas, those are just my thoughts; what do YOU think?


The DiZ Reviews: Summer Wrestlemania 2013 (Summerslam 2013)

“WHAT IN THE WHOLE FUCKMOTHERING FUCK OF FUCK?!!?!??!?!”

Now you know I’m not one to drop the f-bomb too often on this site without the asterisks (any more) but I’m going to exhaust my personal limit of twice a year and half of next year with the above quote that I said when the main event came to a climax.  Actually no, that’s a bit of a lie.  That was the SECOND time I said it: the first was when I saw this sign:

Smarten Up Dixie

Who says there’s no justice in the world?  Yes, I dare say we were treated to one of the finest PPVs the WWE has put on in years last night, and more than that we got something that no one really expected: the best match in John Cena’s career.  We can “argue” about that all we want but to hell with subjectivity: that was the best match of Cena’s career, even better than his brawl with CM Punk at Money in the Bank.  That’s just how good Daniel Bryan is, and after my predictions were more or less accurate (five out of six were right; the Cena/Bryan match I didn’t really call so that’s an asterisk) I feel it is only fair that I, in my greatness, offer a brief review on the show, the segments, and the awesome guy who held up the greatest sign in WWE PPV history.

Let’s start the show!

Pre-show: Rob Van Dam versus Dean Ambrose for the United States Championship

I said it would be a great match.  It was.  Sir Smokes-a-Lot and Mr. Moxley put on a nice little back and forth that eventually involved the rest of the Shield and the mega-pairing that is John Henry and Paul Bunyan.  The end result was an RVD win via DQ, but the future almost screams “another six-man feud?  Dag”, but I have a feeling the Shield is up for something major in the near future, whereas Henry and Show might be in for a tag title run.  And RVD?  The fact that he’s on the road to a feud with Ambrose [citation needed] is a dream for indie fans, and eventually he’ll probably have that belt around his waist.

A lot of people are still bitching about the match being a pre-show event. 

Duly noted. 

Now shut up.

The fact is that this match had no buildup outside of a 20 man rumble and a six-man tag: a main card match NEEDS some kind of emotional content/development BEFORE the PPV, and this has none of that.  Those of you saying that these two talents “deserved” a main card match are sounding more and more like pure pro wrestling marks who turned to sports entertainment and expected it to be a Ring of Honor PPV.  Shame on you.  As the two feud, and if it continues into the next PPV, THEN it will be a main card kind of affair.  Until then, stop bitching.  No one should be that small or myopic: I feel sorry for your dads.

Bray Wyatt versus Kane in a Ring of Fire match

Standard response from the standard crowds: “BORING!”

My response: “Intriguing…”

Gimmick matches always strike me as… well, gimmicky, appropriately enough.  Putting Bray Wyatt in a fire-themed match SOUNDED like a good idea, and the symbolism of fire makes the battle between the Devil’s Favorite Demon and the leader of a backwoods cult FEELS like an awesome concept, but from a pure competitive standpoint it did little to show off Bray Wyatt as the talent that he is.  Again, this is from a purely physical standpoint.  And I think there’s a reason for this, especially considering the brilliance that could come from a battle between Kane and Bray.  Instead we had a fire flare up every now and then when there was a hard slam or a chance at outside interference.

Speaking of interference, I DID laugh when the bald cult follower tried to put out the flames with an extinguisher.  If nothing else, that was funny.  The flame retardant blanket though?  That was actually rather smart, as a safety measure, and it was utilized as such.  The firefighters looked like they were assaulted at one point, but either I missed it or it wasn’t done on cameras I was witnessing. 

And that was the wild card, and perhaps the real star of the match: the Family part of the Wyatt Family.  While the show displayed Bray Wyatt’s (the character’s) flaws, it also displayed his strengths.  For a while I’ve said that the JBL character was one of the most well done characters in the WWE, because as strong as he was he surrounded himself with and utilized his cohorts, to keep his enemies at bay in one instance, but when it came down to it he could throw down too.  I get the same notion with Bray Wyatt, who stands as the man who rules and has his followers do his bidding for him.  Kind of like James Earl Jones’ character in Conan the Barbarian.  Damn shame what he made that virgin girl do.  She could’ve got it…

So as a physical conflict, the fire symbolized plenty but the match itself was pretty standard, at best.  The psychological aspect was intriguing though.  Seeing Harper and Rowan drag the beaten Kane to Bray and beat his head in was fun enough, compounded with the fact that they come across as wholly mindless and only capable of doing Bray’s bidding (see: Festus and bells) was beautifully creepy, as was them dragging Kane away with Bray leading the way.  Spooky.  And intriguing.  Without his mask, Kane looks like he could be in a backwoods cult.  I’m sure he was scary enough as a teacher.

Cody Rhodes versus Damien Sandow

Like I said, it was just a preview for the eventually World Heavyweight Championship bout the two are going to have in the future.  How was it?  Pretty good.  Hardly match of the year but far from a throwaway.  It was rather impressive, but as I said to my L.E.W.D. brethren I also felt it was a short match.  How short?  It was a full minute shorter than the previous match, and whereas the Ring of Fire match felt as if it dragged for a bit, this felt too brief. 

Rhodes won, as expected, and Sandow hugged that briefcase like it was a floatation device in the middle of the ocean (makes for interesting symbolism now if you think about the first briefcase).  End of the day, it was a decent bout all around.  It’s good for making Rhodes look like more of a face and Sandow as more of a heel. 

Christian versus Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship

Not to toot my own horn, but I called it: no one would care about Del Rio or Christian, but they would put on a MONSTER of a match.  And goddammit, they put on a MONSTER of a match.  Let no one say otherwise: these two are two of the best competitors on the roster, but it is SO hard to connect with either one of them.  With Christian it’s a matter of age and a legacy that a slew of casual and new fans don’t know about.  With Del Rio it’s a matter of just not being able to connect with the fans.  So we had a MONSTER of a match, with LOADS of emotional content, and no one quite knowing or caring about how to feel. 

And it’s a shame!  That match would’ve stolen the show if not for the main events!  Every match Del Rio has been in for the greater few years (read: entire WWE career) has been a test of proving himself as a valid competitor for the company as a whole.  It’s truly disturbing that a man with that much talent has so little charisma!  But at the same token, I wonder if that’s not an interesting side-effect of being a masked wrestler.  Do you NEED so much charisma as a masked wrestler?

I say yes, but it relies more on skill and body language.  Maybe if Del Rio could truly rely almost exclusively on his skill and body language.

Natalya versus Brie Bella

Oh.  My.  God.  It is so obvious when a crowd isn’t paying attention.  It’s even more obvious when a crowd is just being a bunch of assholes.  With the first RAW following Wrestlemania 29, we heard a LIVE crowd offering the most random collection of chants ever, all while Sheamus and Orton did battle in the ring.  We were also introduced to Fandangoing, which will be brought up later in this little piece.  But they chanted because the match was boring.  It wasn’t wanted and unless I’m mistaken it was a match that was “voted” for and no one appreciated it. 

This match wasn’t wanted either, but whereas that match was at least given a chance, this one was booed and ignored from the start.  Which is a shame.  While we’re given the rise of Natalya after all these years of playing big sister to the rising Divas, the fans are just yawning and saying “Whoooooooooooooooooooooooo cares?”  And to make it even worse, the match was pretty good!

Say what you will about Total Divas: every Sunday evening the Divas have an hour of development that blurs the line between kayfabe and reality, and it translates into the ring, and guess what?  It SHITS on the development of a lot of characters and stories in other companies, and some even in the WWE.  Just give it a chance, people.  So many already have their mind made up about the Divas division, but to quote a hippie on the Pokemon anime: “If you’re so determined to not change you mind, what’s the point of having one?” 

It’s a decent division, and I believe that even if a lot of people won’t even give it the time of day.  And yes, it’s getting better.

CM Punk versus Brock Lesnar in a NO DQ match

Almost universally seen as the best match of the evening, I stand as that one guy who says, “NO!  It was NOT the best match of the night but the SECOND best match of the moontime!”  That argument aside, it was, like Extreme Rules 2012, a match for the fans.  It was brutal, violent, loaded with some great wrestling, and just as technically terrific as I would have hoped.  Punk reversing that F5 into a DDT was smooth.  Too smooth.  “I know this guy inside and out so I can do this and make it look awesome” smooth.

GogogoAnd it was funny!  At one point Lesnar had a chair and Punk was persuing him.  Punk launched himself from the turnbuckle to the outside and Lesnar held up the chair like Wile E. Coyote held up a little umbrella when a rock was falling.  I died laughing.  Otherwise it was a great “David versus Goliath” match, but Goliath won this one.  Threw that man Peter around like a ragdoll and you know what?  IT WAS FUNNIER THAT THE COYOTE THING! 

I thoroughly enjoyed the match, as I knew I would, and while a lot of people were complaining about Punk losing, I’m just wondering why he lost.  After the match he got an ovation as if he was about to retire or something.  From what I understand he obtained an injury last night, so maybe he’s on his way to a recovery break like Cena, or Tyson Kidd, or Sheamus, or a lot of other cats who seem to be missing right now.

From an emotional standpoint, I like how Punk almost exclusively focused on Heyman when he so much as breathed heavily.  From a fan standpoint, I have to ask this question: were it NOT CM Punk in a match like that… no, never mind.  I open enough cans of worms.

Daniel Bryan versus John Cena for the WWE Championship

BUSAIKU.  KNEE.  KICK!

THIS stands as the best match of the night for me, because not only did we have John Cena show out, but we had Daniel Bryan show out more than usual, and THAT is a treasure.  Not too many can hold a clean victory over Cena, and even fewer can make something as usually innocent as a knee – aka the indie Superstar’s go-to maneuver – and make it look like it can break someone’s face. 

The match was great.  It was full of reversals, true pro wrestling versus sports entertainment, the halting and revivals of momentum and, in what might have been my favorite moment, the two repeatedly slapping each other across the face.  Symbolism and continuity, can you dig it?

Daniel Bryan won.  If you didn’t see it when it happened then you can’t really comprehend how awesome that moment was.  And for a while we forgot one important thing: Triple H was still there.  And as Bryan held that belt up it was clear why…

Randy Orton versus Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship

But to be fair, it was clear why from the moment Triple H was named the special guest referee.  It will literally take longer to read this blurb than to watch the Orton cash-in.  Why?  Because Triple H hit Bryan with a Pedigree and turned heel.  And Orton cashed in.  The match lasted all of eight second.  Literally.

Now, I’ll say this: it was a WISE move.  It makes Bryan both sympathetic AND relatable, even more than he already is, while turning Orton heel (you’re welcome) and sets up McMahon’s going away ceremony from being the primary on-screen bad guy.  He’s on his way out, folks.  Triple H is next in line to run this damn company: he’s perfect as the new bad guy boss. 

Well, that concludes the matches.  Now, for some brief looks at some of the segments in between.

Jojo singing the National Anthem

Why she gotta be so cute?  I mean, seriously, SHE’S FREAKING ADORABLE!  And she can sing?!  She IS single now, right?  No bad intentions or anything, I just wanna give her the business.  I mean… eh…

Fandango and Summer Rae: Summerslam Co-Co-Hosts

I know the Miz was “hosting” but outside of three awkward, if interesting, segments he was just a monkey in a tux saying “Welcome to Summerslam!”.  Meanwhile, Fandango and Not The Brunette came out and danced around him as he looked on, even more confused than when Bryan shut Cena down with his promo a few weeks back.  Three segments occurred: the first just plain confusing, the second with the Miz and Maria Menounos dancing too, and finally we had the Miz hit Fandango.  What was the purpose of this?  Nothing, I’m assuming.  It was okay. 

Bully Rayback

It’s forever funny when a big bully picks on a smaller guy who knows what he’s talking about.  Aside from being able to see Yoshi Tatsu on a PPV (on a PPV and all he had to do was get something to eat.  Suck it, Chris Sabin!) it was Ryback being a bully with a sleeveless vest, angry about the cold soup only to find out that it was supposed to be cold.

It was funny!  Okay?  It was amusing and I find it funny anytime a bully messes with someone who won’t turn suicidal!  Call me a bad guy, I don’t care!  It’s all just a way to make Ryback better on the mic, and it doesn’t seem to be working, but how many bullies do you know who can claim eloquence?

And of course, there’s the sign… look, it’s a great sign, period.  And that’s about all I have to say.

Blee.


Money in the Bank 2013: A DiZ Review

Counting the pre-show match, we were given eight VERY good matches last night, and that’s saying something because through at least 70% of the PPV (okay, maybe 62%) you wouldn’t have guessed it.  What was a very, VERY sound PPV with terrific in-ring action and in-ring psychology was also met with an exhausted crowd who only truly popped for a handful of matches and a couple of moments.  For once, I can’t blame it on the program though: I blame it on the sequencing.  The crowd collectively blew their load after the first match of the actual PPV, following a dangerously exciting pre-show match (interesting how to the two most entertaining matches featured the Shield). 

But this is a swift review, because I’m eating fries and watching Pootie Tang (because I most certainly AM about that life) and one match in particular has earned and WILL have a full post all to itself.  That being said, let’s rush through.

Pre-Show Match: The Usos vs. The Shield for the Tag Team Championship

Though I came into this match a little late, the match wasn’t just a sign that more Samoans in a contest are better, but that the Usos can hang with the best of them.  The back and forths between the teams was fluid, while the false endings and displays of teamwork (which would turn out to be an interesting theme in a later match) were beautiful.  We all knew that the Shield would retain but it was a very convincing match between two talented teams.  Loved it.

Money in the Bank Match for World Heavyweight Championship contract: Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Dean Ambrose, Fandango, Jack Swagger, Antonio Cesaro and Damien Sandow

Easily the most exciting match of the night (in-ring and otherwise, but not necessarily the most exciting MOMENT), the “up and comer” display wasn’t just terrific but it was amazing to watch.  Powerhouse Barrett showed out and beat people with his elbow like they owed him money.  Cody Rhodes stole the show and had people chanting “Cody’s Mustache!”.  Dean Ambrose could prove to be as essential to the MitB matches as Kofi Kingston was back when they gave a damn about him.  Fandango… was there.  Jack Swagger and Antonio Cesaro proved to be the most amazing tag team in the PPV and had the whole arena saying “We!  The People!” when they beat folks in unison.  And of course Damien Sandow won.

It was a smart maneuver.  He’s the smart one.  You’re welcome.

There’s a LOT to dissect with this match so I’m devoting a piece to it exclusively.  Suffice to say that I enjoyed the match to the point that I was actually dancing around.  Money Dance dancing around, not R-Truth dancing around.  That’ll be my next piece so look out for it.  As for the match, loved it.

Intercontinental Championship Match: Curtis Axel vs. The Miz

A decent match, no more, no less, but a forgettable one.  Don’t get me wrong: it was good to watch, but momentum wise it followed something brilliant.  So it was just… meh.  Crowd was starting to fade out a bit.  Okay.

Divas Championship Match: AJ Lee vs. Kaitlyn

So yeah, the Divas division has been dealing with an actual storyline, between a pretty brawler and a sexy sociopath.  They’ve even put on some decent matches.  Can’t say this was any different: the contrast in styles between the pair is apparent and they play to those strengths and weaknesses very well.  What’s most impressive is how flexible AJ is when she does… well, anything, really.  It’s scary how smoothly she pulls off that finisher of hers.  And no woman should be able to beat someone so sexily in Converses.  I should know: nothing like defeating someone in something wearing my Chuck Taylors.

But who really stole the show?  Layla.  With that dress.  And The Corbin Macklin can attest (and hopefully, if he does, it’s with a lack of profanity or ethnic slurs) that I was sufficiently not paying attention to anything in the ring when I was paying attention to Layla.  It was a good match though.  I enjoyed it… what I actually watched, I mean.

Ryback vs. Chris Jericho

Didn’t care to see the match when it was announced.  Didn’t care when I watched it.  Good match though.  They’re really trying to make Ryback look human.  Wish that sounded like a good idea, but he needs some serious work on the mic before that even remotely appeals to me.  So meh.

World Heavyweight Championship match: Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler

The crowd loves Ziggler.  I don’t.  The crowd is meh about Del Rio.  I’m melancholy.  That’s the funny thing: because these two put on a clinic in that ring.  It was one of the more technically sound matches on the card and it was honestly something of a highlight.  But the people didn’t care.  A lot of the blame, I must reiterate, was because of the exhaustion from the opening match, but until AJ came out the crowd was pretty dead in many spots.  And even when she came out it was relatively quiet.  Not much to say but it’ll be interesting to see if Sandow attacks Del Rio.  You’re welcome.

WWE Championship match: John Cena vs. Mark Henry

Everyone said it was TOO obvious that Cena would win.  I said that the WWE throws us a curve ball every now and then.  We got that with Sandow.  It WAS too obvious that Cena would win and sure enough, he did.  I direct you to my piece about the WWE being indoctrinated to think Cena is the perpetual underdog.  In any case, Henry actual DID do what he said he would do: he beat Cena’s ass, and while he wasn’t busted open it was fun to see Henry give Cena the Cesaro treatment, if you know what I mean.  Pretty good match all around, but I could have done without Henry tapping.  That’s performing TOO much fellatio on Cena, if you catch my meaning.

Money in the Bank Match for WWE Championship contract: Rob Van Dam, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, Christian and Randy Orton

Rob Van Dam came out and the crowd went nuts.  Everyone else came out and the match began.  Whereas the first MitB match was a stunning display of talent, this match was a stunning display of hilarity.  Seriously, it was funny.  While Cody Rhodes had the line of the night earlier, Sheamus had the moment of the night when he punched Christian through the ladder.  It was funny.  A few close calls had it looking like Bryan and Punk would win – and let me interrupt here and say that it was great to see Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and RVD in the same ring – but ultimately the briefcase went to Randy Orton, to a myriad of confused and angry responses.

I’ll put it lightly: Orton is the “safe” choice for winning.  Bryan is still considered a bit of a wild card, Punk is in a storyline with Heyman and the crew, Sheamus is… there, Christian is essentially a temp and RVD is EXPLICITLY a temp.  Like I said before: I wanted Bryan to win, but I anticipate a feud with Cena in the near future and likely some battles with Punk, the Heyman clan and, maybe, the Wyatts soon.  So that’ll be fun.  I liked this match.

And that, ladies and not Eva Longorias, is – as they say in the ghetto – that.  I’m going to delve into the first MitB match in another piece, and I might go into the second one with some depth too.  Until then, blee.


RAW Review 5-6-13, a.k.a. “Are You Not Entertained?!?!”

I would like to apologize in advance if this post sounds like I’m only repeating stuff I’ve said before; the sad part is that usually when I repeat myself, it’s because I’ve found validation in remarks I’ve already made.  Essentially I’m giving myself a congratulatory pat on the back, a lá Barry Horowitz.

As I’ve stated before here, particularly on my last RAW review, WWE creative seems to be spinning its wheels when it comes to crafting provocative storylines and characters for fans to invest in and get behind.  They seem to be suffering from the exact same problem that plagues other sports entertainment companies: subjecting fans to seeing the same stars face each other in the same matches each and every week, with the needle of progression stabilized in a comfortably stagnant area.  The writing and wrestling in WWE right now just feels like one excruciatingly lingering and cumbersome expression of mediocrity.

It’s not just that the creative writing and execution is terrible, but it’s also the feeling that everything seems uninspired and bland.  Feuds and rivalries are rehashed, recycled and reused.  Characters feel forced and far from organic.  We’re shown wrestlers each week who bust their humps wrestling, and we have no earthly reason or urge to support their cause or wage verbal war against them.

This isn’t complaining at all, but rather an honest critique of one person’s experience watching Monday night’s episode of RAW.  In the three hours I spent watching the show I eventually became more enthralled with being on Twitter than I did with paying attention to what was going on in the ring.

Perhaps WWE could benefit from shaking up the creative teams or introducing new characters to the product while phasing out older ones, or give the secondary titles real and authentic value as well as become the means through which superstars can transition to the heavyweight championship and main event scene.  In the meantime the company could stand to at least pretend as if they have enough writers and wrestlers to have a vibrant mid-card rife with a mixture of tag team and Diva action involved in captivating stories that entertain instead of lull fans to sleep or coerce us to change the channel.

On the other hand as proactive fans perhaps it’s also wise to walk away from WWE programming for a bit to give our brains a chance to rest from mundane nature of the product.  The company is motivated by money, and if any of us truly want them to do better we have to speak with our wallets and not our internet browsing speeds.

But alas, here’s what stood out for me during the show:

  • The Awakening of Antonio Cesaro
  • Foreshadowing, Dean Ambrose Style
  • Mark Henry: The Greatest Man Who Ever Kicked Somebody’s Ass
  • Brock Mad, Brock Smash
  • John Cena versus Ryback: A Tale of How the Mighty Have Fallen
"Screw you guys, I'm going H.A.M.!" | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Screw you guys, I’m going H.A.M.!” | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It wasn’t very long ago that fans began to sour on the prospect of Antonio Cesaro’s run as a WWE superstar.  After inexplicably losing several matches as the United States Champion, Cesaro’s run was unceremoniously ended by the foots of “Double K” Kofi Kingston, also known in some parts as the Crown Prince of Mid-Card Excellency (Jeff Jarrett is still the reigning monarch in that kingdom of inadequacy).  In a lot of ways Kofi reminds me of Jeff Hardy, but that’s another blog for another day.

Along with his loses Cesaro was also conspicuously left out of WrestleMania XXIX despite having a lengthy and historic run as the United States Champion.  It wasn’t long after that fans began to naturally assume that Vince McMahon “hated” him and he was essentially being buried for the unknown and unnamed personal grudge the Irish-blooded McMahon secretly harbored against the Swiss.

On an unrelated note this idea absolutely infuriated me because fans became super vocal about this the night after Cesaro was named the WWE’s Swiss Ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  That makes perfect sense; send the guy you “hate” to be the official international ambassador for a foundation that brings joy to dying kids.  If that’s the case then McMahon must really hate the s**t out of John Cena…but I digress again.

Oddly enough all of the anti-Vince McMahon pundits were nowhere to be seen when Cesaro cut a pipe bomb-esque promo last night after defeating the modern day Brooklyn Brawler, Zack Ryder, in short fashion.  Simply put, Cesaro said he’s a beast and there’s no one on the entire roster that can walk a mile with his jock strap…because Swiss jock straps are nothing to yodel at.

All jokes aside Cesaro made his intentions as loud and clear as a clarion call from the top of the Matterhorn.  In fact his promo was one of the few moments during the show that piqued my interest and sent chills up my spine.  We all know that Cesaro is a beast and the more prescient fans (i.e. everybody at L.E.W.D.) knew that his losses were only a red herring to his eventual rise to prominence.

Simply put if Vince McMahon didn’t think he was worth a damn he would’ve simply released him (Braden Walker) or taken him off of TV completely (John Morrison) and used him once a month to do the job for someone else (Zack Ryder).

Stay tuned to see where Cesaro’s new found awesomeness will take him; if his promo last night wasn’t proof enough, check out this video done for him prior to this year’s WrestleMania:

Since we were almost on the subject of Kofi Kingston, the current United States Champion teamed with the Uso Brothers on Monday’s show to face The Shield in 6-man tag team action.  Kofi ate the pin for his team after dining on Dean Ambrose’s unnamed finishing maneuver.  While the WWE’s self-proclaimed arm of justice remains undefeated as a trio, the more interesting event occurred after the pinfall.

For some odd reason the referee thought it necessary to hand Kofi his United States title during the most inconvenient time after a match.  For starters Kofi was still slightly incapacitated, lying almost lifeless on the mat while attempting to recover from Ambrose’s maneuver.  Secondly the referee held the belt in the middle of the ring right next to Dean Ambrose as he celebrated the victory with his Shield brethren.  It was at that time Ambrose gave the title this lingering and desiring glance, long enough for anyone to justifiably insinuate that the man is going to destroy Kofi in the near future.

Dean Ambrose suspiciously eyes the United States Championship after leaving Kofi Kingston staring at the ceiling lights. | Photo © 2013 WWe, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Dean Ambrose suspiciously eyes the United States Championship after leaving Kofi Kingston staring at the ceiling lights. | Photo © 2013 WWe, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The slow burn that has occurred with The Shield has apparently arrived at a point where it would make sense that the trio would start to consider chasing after championship gold.  Most fans will easily agree that Ambrose stands out the most in the group; I believe it’s his charisma, matched with his body language/facial expressions and ability to work the mic that makes him pop more so than the amazingly athletic Seth Rollins and devastatingly intense Roman Reigns.

While I’m not too sold on an Ambrose/Shield and Kofi Kingston rivalry, I do appreciate the hint at this development for all men involved.  The Shield has wreaked havoc in WWE for some time and creative has nothing substantial at the moment for Kingston. Pairing the four men or at least Ambrose and Kingston together gives fans the new feud and mid-card energy we’re craving for.  The main problem is waiting for this whole thing to come to fruition if it indeed is meant to be.

Mark Henry deserves to be a WWE Hall of Famer and has most assuredly earned that honor after his 17 years of dutiful service in the WWE.  I don’t recall Henry ever working for any other company other than WWE, and at 41 years of age he is one of the last Attitude Era wrestlers still on the active roster (along with notable stars such as Triple H and The Undertaker).

It says a lot about Henry in real life that he’s worked for the company for this long and they’ve made sure to keep him around after a series of injuries have stalled his character’s development at various points of his career.  You have to respect the man and I’d be highly upset if some sort of WWE book or DVD wasn’t made highlighting his career and his life.

The Henry accolades don’t stop there, however; Monday night’s episode of RAW didn’t really seem to pick up steam until Henry beat Sheamus silly with a leather belt.  Prior to that Henry held the audience in the palm of his hands during an in-ring promo and then, after a verbal exchange with Sheamus, delighted us with his commentary and his verbal abuse of Michael Cole.  Everything surrounding Mark Henry last night was pure gold and even got the man trending on Twitter.

"Sheamus, if you got any pride in that pasty body of yours..." *officially done* | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Sheamus, if you got any pride in that pasty body of yours…” *officially done* | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This rivalry with Henry is the same exact program they had during their first skirmish.  While the program worked well the first time it is disappointing that the writers have returned to the well to give us the same thing over again.  There is a saying that goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but I wonder if there’s more they could do with Henry and Sheamus other than having them crash into each other like two rams butting heads in a fine china shop.

“The Celtic Cena” Sheamus is serviceable in this rivalry, but it’s Mark Henry who’s making it sizzle and pop.  Their outing at the upcoming Extreme Rules pay per view will be good to watch, but I’m still hoping the company can do right by both men in giving them (and us) this Hulk versus The Thing bout for the second time.

The biggest “shock” of the night came when exclusive footage was aired of Brock Lesnar destroying Triple H’s office at WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.  Lesnar’s legal aid and handler Paul Heyman documented their entire mythical journey all on his iPhone.

The whole thing was designed to further their program with Triple H who, after arriving to RAW, didn’t seem pissed at all that Lesnar destroyed his “office” and was allowed to do so by the years’ worth of staff that allowed Heyman and Lesnar to trash said office.

I joked with fellow wrestling fan Tom Bobbitt the entire night about possible storylines that could come from the segment.  One included Triple H having Lesnar arrested for vandalism, destruction of property, unlawful seizure and abduction of an individual, trespassing, and reckless behavior and endangerment.  Heyman, of course, would be sent up the river for aiding and abetting criminal activity.

Ideally Trips would have his lawyer request that bail be denied for both men, citing their danger to society on the whole.  The legal process behind that would be far more interesting and would coincide perfectly with these long drawn out yearlong storylines everyone seems intent on writing today.

The bottom line is that Brock smashed Triple H’s corporate office and the Game wasn’t even phased by his shenanigans.  If he doesn’t give a damn, neither do I…moving right along…

This image looks very familiar... | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This image looks very familiar… | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

WWE Champion John Cena is still set to face Ryback at Extreme Rule in a Last Man Standing Match despite having a bad ankle.  Considering the players involved it’s astonishing that we really could not care any less.

Cena’s championship reigns at this point of his career are about as predictable as the likelihood of water being wet.  It’s almost moot to nuance or argue about his character right now, mostly because no one will listen and we’re slowly realizing that the man will retire in 40 years the same way he’s wrestling now.

Ryback, on the other hand, has slowly earned our angst due to WWE’s insistence to force him to become the heel in this feud.  Ryback went from having a solid core of fans behind him to having fans against him, only to find a resting spot in a place where fans are largely indifferent about him.  There was almost no reaction for him when he wrestled in Monday night’s main event, and the crowd didn’t really pop for him during his post-match attack on John Cena.

We’ve all seen this song and dance from Cena and a monstrous opponent before; it’s extremely laughable and disheartening at the same time for Ryback’s character to be pompous enough to believe he can defeat Cena on his own in a Last Man Standing Match given the man’s track record with never giving up.  This isn’t to say Cena hasn’t lost a LMS match before, but the odds are definitely in his favor on this one.

Ahh, that's right.  This is how it all started...| Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Ahh, that’s right. This is how it all started…| Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

There’s only one more episode of RAW between now and the pay per view, so it will be mildly interesting to see what WWE does to add fuel to the fire burning between Cena and Ryback.  With The Shield, Daniel Bryan and Kane involved, however, this whole mess looks and feels more convoluted than necessary.  Unfortunately I just cannot shake the feeling that when it’s all said and done, this feud will just be business as usual for John Cena; such is life.

But those are just my thoughts on the show…what did YOU think about it?


RAW Review 4-15-13, a.k.a. “Land of Diminishing Storylines”

This review will not be the typical Mr. Morris review you may have grown accustomed to reading.  For starters this piece is being crafted with a little under forty-five minutes left in the show.  There also won’t be many pictures from the evening, as the WWE has more than likely not published them prior to the show actually ending.

Much like last week a lot of “significant” things have happened on tonight’s episode of RAW, but those things were largely overshadowed by the not-New-Jersey crowd in Greenville, South Carolina and the annual creative reset that happens after WrestleMania.

Before launching into those two spiels, it must be noted that most of the champions that wrestled tonight—with the exception of the Tag Team Champions Team Hell No—all lost their matches.  While the Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler suffered non-title defeats to their opponents (R-Truth and Jack Swagger respectively), former United States Champion Antonio Cesaro fell victim to Kofi Kingston’s patented Trouble in Paradise finishing maneuver, giving the Ghanaian athlete the victory and the United States Championship.

As of this point right now (10:25 PM EST), John Cena has yet to appear in the ring with his WWE Title.  He did make one appearance in a backstage segment with Matt Stryker, which received no reaction whatsoever from the audience in Greenville…interesting…

This brings us back to one of the aforementioned points; my fellow L.E.W.D. writer Mr. Lamb spoke at length about the necessity of filler.  Apparently the same applies for the types of crowds a WWE show appears before.  Tonight’s crowd in Greenville, compared to the red hot crowd at the post-WrestleMania RAW in New Jersey, is close to being the one friend who nods off before everyone else at a sleepover.  I wonder how much more entertaining this show could be (and could have been) if the crowd tonight had not been the exact polar opposite of last week’s crowd.

The other concerning issue is that the product is in a rebuilding phase right now, setting up entirely new and different feuds than what we were presented with specifically for WrestleMania XXIX.  It’s going to take time and some exceptionally great writing to get fans behind these new stories, but the action surrounding said stories feels dry, stale and uninspired.  In the same spirit of Mr. Lamb’s piece, perhaps this “phase” is a filler phase for the product, a moment for us to catch our breath before things are kicked into high gear once again.

I wouldn’t go as far as to characterize this as a “bad” RAW, because there have been worse shows than this.  However tonight’s episode, while good on in-ring work, was not one of those shows that would cause me to call one of the L.E.W.D. brothers or sisters and enthusiastically scream into my cell phone about the show.

The three major things that stuck out to me in the show (now with twenty minutes remaining):

  • The Absurdity of Antonio Cesaro
  • The Ryback Has Feelings Too
  • Fan-dahn-NOOOOOOOOOOOO

For those fans keeping count, not only has Antonio Cesaro lost his United States Championship, but he’s also been saddled with a yodeling gimmick.  I’m sure someone somewhere in the company thought this would be hilarious and get Cesaro “more over” with the fans.  I won’t point fingers or name names, but instead I’ll allow this video to reveal a possible suspect:


Let’s recap the storied history of Antonio Cesaro: here we have a new WWE superstar who was a former Rugby player in Europe, but was kicked out of the sport for being too rough.  At some unspecified time in his life, this same former Rugby player also learned how to yodel during his time working on a Swiss farm training St. Bernards, all of which became world renowned rescue animals in their generation under his tutelage.

SMH.

Update: Nikki/Brie Bella just defeated WWE Divas Champion Kaitlyn (10:49 PM EST)
Tonight we also found out why The Ryback attacked WWE Champion John Cena last week, as if wanting to challenge him for the WWE Title wasn’t a good enough reason.  The story told by Ryback made perfect sense, but felt a little too much like the the same overly complicated year long storylines that have been resurrected in sports entertainment since Hulk Hogan’s return to prime time television in 2010.  Sometimes it just feels like wrestling is far more complicated than it should be; again, not a bad thing at all, but a simple “I want the WWE Championship” promo would’ve made sense.  However, that same promo after several high-profile losses would not have made sense, so I guess some sort of convoluted back story was necessary to focus our attention elsewhere.
Lastly, Fandango was not a Fanfavorite with the Greenville audience.  It took hard work for poor Johnny Curtis to get the crowd to even start the Fandangoing, a craze that didn’t occur until he actually left the ring.  Well…maybe things will look better for him during next week’s show from London, England.
And with that we get the show closing in-ring promo from John Cena and the eventual Ryback confrontation that will happen.  Please leave your thoughts on the show below…because I do believe I’m done.

RAW Review 4-8-13, a.k.a. “Thank You, New Jersey!”

Stay Classy New Jersey copyMonday night’s episode of RAW was all about the fans…period.

Truthfully speaking a lot of important things happened on the show, but the live New Jersey crowd far surpassed all the in-ring action and story line development hands down.  Random chants, enthusiasm, flat out being LOUD…New Jersey fans definitely had their post-WrestleMania game on point.

As exciting as the live crowd was it could also be said that their self-centered antics took away from the wrestlers plying their craft in the ring, as definitely was the case with Randy Orton’s match against Sheamus.  When the fans made their first vocally obstreperous stand against WWE’s questionable booking, words “rude, obnoxious and disrespectful” were used to describe the crowd as well.

It’s no secret that wrestlers work their tails off in order to entertain the fans, but there a fine line between enjoying the show as a fan and sopping everything up like lobotomized sheep.  Wrestlers including Shane Helms, Sugar Dunkerton, Matt Hardy, Gran Akuma and Lance Storm all chimed in their varying opinions on the crowd’s activity during the actual show; those opinions ranged from chastising the fans to praising the workers and scolding the promoters.

Despite how one may feel about the raucousness of the crowd last night it cannot be denied that the entire audience—the same audience that paid good money to see a post-WrestleMania episode of RAW live (a feeling the Rt. Rev. Showtime and I know very well)—was engaged in the show completely.  The crowd was electric and were way more into the show for all three hours than the NY/NJ crowd at the MetLife Stadium twenty-four hours prior.  You only get that type of crowd once in a blue moon and it really made the show.

What’s interesting to note is that the crowd didn’t become obnoxious until someone *cough cough* made the call to have Orton face Sheamus despite the overwhelming number of fans who voted via WWE Fan Active to see Orton square off against Big Show (Orton’s 77% to Sheamus’ 23%).  What message does that type of booking give to the fans?  How does that promote the “interactive” nature of the show and product if you’re willing to blatantly disregard what they fans said they wanted?  What does that do to the performers in the ring who have to perform in front of a crowd that’s just been jilted?

Also consider the little traits that make a big difference between a “good” wrestler and a “great” wrestler.  Orton and Sheamus barely acknowledged the crowd’s response outside of a few smirks and annoyed grimaces, but even a slight acknowledgement that either wrestler realized the bee ess of the match would’ve most assuredly gotten the crowd back in the palm of their hands.  If you think that’s fluff, look at what Fandango’s acknowledgement of the crowd’s rowdiness did for him last night…

On the other hand, look what Sheamus’ post-RAW acknowledgement of the crowd did for him last night…

Ash and Sheamus

 

There are several ways to entertain a crowd; it’s understandable when a crowd gets out of control, but it’s something completely different for any promotion to flip fans off and expect them to be okay with it.  In fact this is a major criticism against WWE while TNA is consistently praised for doing the exact opposite.  Then again, there was the time when fans chose Desmond Wolfe as the next in line to receive a World Title shot and Sting was announced as the #1 Contender…

At least WWE acknowledged how into the program the fans were; in the end that’s what everyone wants, right?  To leave the show entertained with the experience of witnessing the action of WWE live…

Alas, here’s what stood out to me about the show other than the red-hot crowd:

  • Dolph Ziggler: Your NEW World Heavyweight Champion
  • Tidbits: Fandango and Wade Barrett
  • The Brothers of Destruction Reunite…YES! YES! YES!
  • John Cena and the Heels of the 21st Century, ft. The Ryback as Your #1 Contender
Dolph Ziggler celebrating his second run as World Heavyweight Champion after cashing in his Money In the Bank contract on the April 8th edition of RAW. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Dolph Ziggler celebrating his second run as World Heavyweight Champion after cashing in his Money In the Bank contract on the April 8th edition of RAW. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With three months left until the expiration of his Money In the Bank contract, WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler cashed in his opportunity on RAW, defeating Alberto Del Rio to begin his second reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion.  Last night was a momentous occasion for Dolph, an occasion that prompted the several fans and wrestlers to send congratulations towards the new champ.

There were a few fans, however, that disapproved vehemently with the this recent turn of events:

Rallo No Like Zig2

Overly dramatic exclamations aside, Ziggler’s victory over Del Rio presents fans once again with the eternal struggle with understanding and compartmentalizing their expectations.  For months accusations were launched at WWE for their perceived inability to create new stars or push certain stars deserving of a main event status.  Dolph Ziggler was one of those stars who fans began to grow lukewarm about (including yours truly) because of his meandering around the mid-card.

All of a sudden Dolph cashes in his contract and believably defeats an injured Alberto Del Rio to become the new World Heavyweight Champion, and a solid number of fans seem largely underwhelmed by the thought of his second championship reign.  It’s lose-lose situations like this that put promotions in weird situations; they’re damned if they do or don’t push a guy at a specific time.

Regardless of how one may feel about Ziggler’s victory, the more exciting part of his victory is the prospect of what lies ahead for him.  With Big E Langston’s enforcer role still relatively undefined and AJ Lee’s quirky presence easily ignorable, Ziggler’s reign and role as World Heavyweight Champion still needs meaning a depth.  Whether he’s a transitional champion or not, there’s got to be something interesting waiting for him in the next few weeks, if not months.  Our best bet is to sit tight and at least give Ziggler a chance to prove us that his status as a main event star is or will be a complete bust.

Remember when people hated the Fandango gimmick...| Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Remember when people hated the Fandango gimmick…| Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

What a difference a day makes…

Fandango went from being one of the most despised gimmicks to debut in the company in recent times to an instant classic overnight.  The gimmick feels to be an awkward and unholy mixture between “The Model” Rick Martel and Simon Dean.  Whatever the case may be the fans in the Izod Center in New Jersey effectively made Fandango a star.  The overly garishness of the gimmick was one thing, but to see and hear 16,000+ fans solidly behind that ridiculousness is pure awesomeness.

Wade Barrett reclaims his title from The Miz and contemplates his bright future in the company. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wade Barrett reclaims his title from The Miz and contemplates his bright future in the company. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Also last night in one of the many WrestleMania Rematch matches Wade Barrett defeated The Miz to regain the Intercontinental Title he lost the night before.

Very few fans can comprehend why the title was hotshot between these men, but there are two things to consider: this isn’t the first time this has happened before (Kane vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin in a First Blood Match at King of the Ring 1998), and now we’re actually paying attention to what happens with the Intercontinental Title.

This “rivalry” between The Miz and Wade Barrett still feels lifeless and inorganic.  Some have argued that Barrett deserves to be in the main event picture, but it’s not quite understandable how one can arrive at that opinion given the character’s development since his return to WWE television.

The Intercontinental Championship, and to some extent the United States Championship, both feel like archaic relics that are kept around simply for the sake of novelty and tradition; fans at this point in the business are largely unaware and indifferent of what these titles represent today and represented in the past.  While Barrett can bring some prominence to the championship, he can only do so with the help of a performer we actually give a damn about.  Unfortunately The Miz is just not that opponent.

This would be one of those moments where WWE’s annual Spring Cleaning event would come in handy, opening the space for new faces and new rivalries.  But outside of that, fans can only hope that some new life and meaning is injected into the Intercontinental Championship now that Barrett’s win has our attention.

Daniel Bryan joins The Undertaker and Kane in yet another attempt to rid WWE of The Shield. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Daniel Bryan joins The Undertaker and Kane in yet another attempt to rid WWE of The Shield. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

At one point in time there was good reason to worry about the intended direction of The Shield.  After Monday’s RAW, those worries have been sidelined at least for the near future.

The Undertaker was scheduled to make an appearance at RAW, which was an odd thing for Mark Calaway and The Undertaker to do in the last few years.  As The Deadman opened his mouth to speak about his victory over CM Punk at WrestleMania, the now infamous entrance theme for The Shield interrupted him mid-sentence.  The treacherous trio consisting of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns made their way to the ring, surrounding The Undertaker for what was sure to be a sound thrashing.

As things began to look hairy for everyone’s favorite legendary wrestler, Kane’s pyro erupted and the superstar rushed to the ring with his tag team partner Daniel Bryan in tow.  The Shield thought wisely about their course of action and actually retreated.  In that one instant, fans were given what could be the most important feud for The Shield in their early WWE careers.

This tweet from a fan from Twitter pretty much explains it all:

Fangasm01The other thing worth noting is that The Shield’s prominence in the company as a trio has created some of the most interesting and dynamic alliances in the company.  From Big Show/Sheamus/Randy Orton to John Cena/Sheamus/Ryback, the trio’s presence in the product has created some interestingly compelling stories.  The announcers keep pushing the group’s effectiveness as a team, forcing their opponents to become strange bedfellows that have to work together just to hang with the young up-and-comers.  Since most of their opponents have operated more fluently as individuals than they have as tag team members, things always fall apart and work out better for The Shield than anyone else.

Despite their rough beginnings, both tandems of Kane/Daniel Bryan and Kane/Undertaker have worked extremely well given time and the eventual maturation of the groups.  Now The Shield has to face all three men at the same time…they are in for one hell of a battle.

To make matters more deliciously awesome you’ve got four hungry, young wrestlers in the ring with two extremely gifted athletes, wrestlers, and future Hall of Famers.  What more could a fan ask for…well…may he truly rest in peace.

The Ryback stands triumphantly as the new threat to John Cena's dynasty. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Ryback stands triumphantly as the new threat to John Cena’s dynasty. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Fans should not make judgements yet on the outcome of the brewing feud between John Cena and the Ryback.  We’ve seen Cena laid out before and he always manages to come out victorious; nothing too new or shocking about the image above.

However…something does seem a tad big fishy.

Dissecting the John Cena character has been one of the foundational tenets that keeps the L.E.W.D. site together (other than our questionable behavior towards Gary the Intern…but I swear he’s cool with everything…honest…).  From the unfinished L.E.W.D. Booking 101 series to our WrestleMania XXVIII back-and-forth, Cena’s character still manages to squeak his way back into our pieces on a regular basis.  As much as we say we dislike the character, we still talk about him more than anything else…unless we’re talking about TNA.

The odd thing about Cena’s character, the character that so many fans scream at to turn heel, is that he’s honestly displaying tons of heel traits as is.  Cena’s not a heel in the sense that half of fans across the country boo him, but a heel in the sense that a good bunch of everything he does screams “heel tactic,” but doesn’t come across that way to most folks who aren’t used to it.

Think back to Vince Russo’s fascination with creating ambiguous characters that exhibit “good” traits and “bad” traits at the same time.  For some fans, Cena’s presence is cheered and hailed; he’s got a million-dollar smile, his move set is predictable, and he does nice things for sick kids and has a really great work ethic.  John Cena, in that line of thinking, is an All American American that everyone wants to be like when they grow up.

As has been said on this site many times before, the Cena character is that high school All-City Varsity Sports Team Captain that gets what he wants when he wants because he’s that damn good and he brings money and publicity to an otherwise lackluster institution.  John Cena is the senior that has received a letter jacket in every single sport in the school, even the ones he had no business participating in.

The girls love him; the freshmen just want him to acknowledge that he exists.  All the popular kids have been at his house and have had tons of fun at the killer parties thrown when his parents are vacationing in the Hamptons for three weeks.

The problem with that high school All-City Varsity Sports Team Captain is that in order to stay at the top, he has to stand on someone’s face (see what I did there?)…

John Cena entered the Izod Center last night to a roaring chorus of boos and simply smirked their remarks away.  Cena’s speech spat in their faces; despite their dislike of him, he was still the champ and they had to deal with it.  He traded in his trademark shirts for one crappy one that pointed to his new championship belt, and when he removed that belt there was another belt printed on the actual shirt.  Cena reveled in the chorus of jeers and knew that the fans catcalls couldn’t phase him; all that mattered was that he finally beat The Rock and could move on with his life.

Cena shows off the hardware to Mark Henry. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Cena shows off the hardware to Mark Henry. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


When Mark Henry approached Cena his smile turned into a look of concern, which then turned into snide comments and jokes at Henry’s expense.  Cena then condescendingly introduced himself to Mark Henry as the WWE Champion, and a match for Henry’s opportunity as the number one contender for said title was made for later on in the show.

Cena’s look of concern was just for show; he’s already beaten Mark Henry before when the stakes were high.  He wasn’t scared of Mark Henry at all…Cena’s tone suggested that Mark Henry should’ve been scared of the champ.

Cena then goes on to face Henry in the main event and wins the match by count-out, something highlyunusual for the man that can withstand leagues of abuse from all types of wrestlers.  Once again Cena defied the odds and once again he’s shoved down our collective craw.

This has been the sum and substance of Cena’s character since fans began to vocally show their dislike of him.  Yet he returns each night, unfazed by the shouts of his haters, to show off the fact that he knows he’s that damn good and there’s nothing that will change that.  He even said it to The Rock prior to their match at WrestleMania XXVIII; it was along the lines of, “I know how this is going to go.  You’ll talk smack, you’ll do this, I’ll beat you, and everything remains the same.”

Babyface characters don’t do that; good guys at least pretend that their opponents are threats.  Cena can’t even feign intimidation because he can barely fathom that someone in the company actually has his number.  Most heels are the same way, that despite their obvious weaknesses they still remain untouchable.  More importantly they flaunt that Teflon don status all the time…

All of a sudden Ryback is inserted into the picture, a beast of an opponent that has obvious weaknesses but a beast that Cena has managed to avoid in the past year.  Think back to the Triple Threat Match at Survivor Series and Cena’s elimination of Ryback at the Royal Rumble.  The Champ honestly wants none of Ryback because out of all his high school conquests from freshman to sophomore year, he hasn’t had to face anyone that could beat him this silly since Bobby Lashley.

Cena’s already a heel, but a new type of heel that doesn’t resemble the Blackjack Mulligans or Bruiser Brodys we’re use to seeing.  Ryback will be the face that we will pay good money to see defeat John Cena.  Ryback is that force that keeps moving forward, chasing Cena even when The Champ thinks everything’s going to end once he gets a pinfall victory.  That (hopefully) won’t be the case here, and we’re praying that the creative heads can keep the story compelling.

Just reflect on those thoughts for a moment, and while you do so check out this meme:

Ryback and Cena

Those are just my thoughts on Monday night’s episode of RAW.  What did y’all think of the show?

 


“Now What Did We Learn…?” – Thoughts on TNA Lockdown 2013

Holy crap, say it ain't so!!!

Holy crap, say it ain’t so!!!

March 11, 2013…a day that shall live in infamy…at least until March 12, 2013.  Brace yourself, for the next bit of information will most assuredly knock your proverbial and literal socks off…

Someone from the L.E.W.D. has something mildly positive to say about TNA and IMPACT Wrestling

Believe it or not it TNA has gained a substantial amount of momentum from their latest pay per view escapade.  Even one of the plucky young analysts on this site has to admit that “The Little Company That Could” swung for the fences last night and knocked the 2013 edition of Lockdown clean out of the park.  In front of thousands of engaged and screaming fans San Antonio’s Alamodome, TNA delivered what can be viewed as the pay per view event that ushered in a new era for the company, an era that will ultimately (or at least hopefully) turn TNA into a household name as equally recognizable as Tussy or Anacin.

That isn’t just an opinion; that is a fact and a reality that even we here at L.E.W.D. have to face (begrudgingly so).

Candidly speaking, the wave of adulation and fan approval makes this Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling that much more important to watch.  It also places the company in the ever-so-stressful “do or die” situation, the point of no return where the entire company will have to fire on all cylinders at all times.  Having ended their leasing agreement with Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, TNA will no longer be able to rely on the comfort and safety of the Impact Zone to showcase their product.  It has been said that pressure brings the best out of us, and Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling will be must-see TV for that simple fact; it’s game time once again and there’s no hope for anyone in the company still stuck in the past.  However if last night’s pay per view is any indication then pro wrestling fans are in store for some interesting things between now and June.

Having now thoroughly patted the company on the back, there still remains one important question: do I want to buy this pay per view on DVD?

For the 2013 iteration of TNA’s Lockdown, the answer from this particular analyst is an emphaticpassionate, and heavily emphasized NO.

Everything that happened last night at Lockdown was no different from any other pay per view offering from the company; if you think that’s a lie or without merit, take a moment to read any review of the show and compare it to any other show TNA has done prior.  The matches were “solid,” the matches were “good;” it was “awesome” to see [insert wrestler's name here] do a spot off the top of the cage.  Kurt Angle had a great match.  That’s honestly TNA’s track record: “consistently” providing “solid” matches with “great” action and in-ring psychology.  What did they do different than anything they’ve done before in front of a “hot,” live crowd?

Oh that’s right…Bully Ray “turned” heel.  If that’s the only reason for justifiably purchasing the DVD, then by all means knock yourself out.  While you’re at it I’ve got a spectacular deal on some ocean front property in Oklahoma you may be interested in looking at.

There was absolutely nothing about the pay per view that was revolutionary, ground-breaking or worth spending between $16.18 and $44.95 on.  The matches, while “great,” were largely forgettable and the only…I reiterate, ONLY…thing that made the pay per view worth a damn was Bully Ray being revealed as the President of the Aces and 8’s and winning the World Heavyweight Title, in that order.

If that is a valid reason to celebrate the success of the pay per view then I will gladly do so on one condition: we all admit that pro wrestling fans are incompetent.

Cheering Fans = Success; Analysts Don’t.

"Yaaay!"

“Yaaay!”

Despite everything that happened last night TNA owes an incredible amount of gratitude for its diehard fans.  Regardless of our diatribes here and the salient and hate-filled rants of others, TNA fans will support their product no matter what.  That is an admirable trait and I would say that 100% of TNA’s success in the pro wrestling industry is due to its fans.    All that is to say no matter what disparaging remark is made about the company, their fans will maintain a concupiscent relationship with them.  Through good or bad, thick or thin, TNA fans will not be easily separated from their wedded bliss with the company.

Unfortunately this leads to the next lesson we learned last night…

(Some) Fans Don’t Pay Attention to Anything

oblivious The obvious star of Lockdown was Bully Ray, who provided fans with some much needed Aces and 8’s storyline progression.  Arguably TNA’s biggest star (at the moment and perhaps period), Bully has given the pro wrestling fan universe a reason to care about the promotion and to even create the buzz necessary to carry fans to Thursday night’s live IMPACT Wrestling show hailing from Chicago, Illinois; this was the momentum discussed earlier in the piece.

Three notable things to pay attention to as we sing the praises of Bully Ray and TNA’s Creative Team:

The actual match between Bully Ray and Jeff Hardy for the World Heavyweight Championship was average, forgettable, and had a dusty finish highlighting a very predictable storyline development.

Bully Ray didn’t “turn” heel last night because he was never a babyface to begin with.

Throwing trash in a ring for a predictable storyline development seemed staged and asinine, and should not be used to determine whether or not a star has “legit heat.”

It is rather amusing to here see some comment at length on how awesome the pay per view was, based on Bully Ray’s perceived heel turn, when Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Hans Moleman all saw this train wreck coming a mile away.  I was very grateful for the fans that acknowledged this fact on Twitter last night; at least they admitted that the whole thing was predictable.

Once again, however, we’re venturing into that hypocritical gray area; that awkward place where all things great for the goose is discouraged for the gander.  Fans whine and complain weekly that certain angles and storylines are too predictable; yet here we all were presented with the second most conspicuous outcome of a match since anything featuring John Cena and the WWE Championship, and everything is perfectly fine.  In fact Bully Ray’s alignment with the Aces and 8’s is far more memorable and important in the grand scheme of things than the actual match he won in order to become the company’s new standard bearer.

While we’re at it take that into consideration for a moment…the World Heavyweight Champion of one’s favorite company is a man named Bully Ray, and fans are celebrating that.

Even more despicable than that is the notion that Bully was a babyface at one point.  This was a fact brought up by the Rt. Rev. Showtime last night, that Bully Ray has always been a heel.  The man even admitted to it last night by saying that he used the hapless (and senile) General Manager Hulk Hogan and his equally hapless (and far more clueless) daughter Brooke Hogan-Ray.  In my opinion, that’s where Ray’s heel heat emanates from…a real, seething hatred for a man that worked the system just to get the championship.  It appeared as if the fans in San Antonio picked up on that, but the fans illegally watching at home while tittering away on the internet gave Bully Ray the ol’ thumbs up.

Another point to remember is that Hogan was  right the entire time, which then leads us to question just how Brooke Hogan will deal with being married to the man that is the president of a gang that is attempting to ruin TNA (*cough cough nWo*).  I still honestly feel this reeks of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, but am willing to allow TNA to pull the trigger on that storyline before commenting on it here and now.

After a lackluster and mediocre match it seemed (to me) a little too convenient for fans to casually toss their trash in the ring.  Fact is we live in an era where risque fan made signs are confiscated at the gate, where the fans at the Impact Zone were labeled “cast members,” and where it’s honestly more profitable to present a PG pro wrestling product (seriously…look at TNA’s stuff and say with a straight face that’s it’s not PG).  The likelihood of fans being allowed to toss their refuse into the ring without repercussions seems improbably; not impossible, but likely not to happen.

As such it seems even more ridiculous to believe that trash-thrown-by-fans-is-equals-genuine-hate.  Following the pay per view a fan asked a rhetorical question, commenting on the last time fans threw trash in a ring.  I answered that rhetorical question by citing Jeff Hardy’s TNA heel turn in 2010* which, ironically enough, also led to his first TNA World Heavyweight Championship reign.  This isn’t implying or saying that Hardy didn’t have real heel heat at that time; what it is saying is that trash thrown in the ring cannot be used as a barometer genuine heel heat if the idea is that such an occurrence is rare.  At this point in the game the major barometer for true heel heat should be the deafening boos coming from the fans; that was an occurrence last night that didn’t get nearly as much press among fans as the trash thrown into the ring.

The point of the matter is this: fans ignored all of those things in order to celebrate the perceived magnitude of the Bully Ray’s actions.  That’s all well and good but it does very little to support the company’s claim of providing a solid pro wrestling based alternative to sports entertainment.  If anything that logic simply endorses a different type of sports entertainment that “kinda, sorta” feels and looks different than that offered by other promotions.  This would explain why the famous “I Want Wrestling,” “We Are Wrestling,” and “Wrestling Matters” taglines aren’t used anymore; the day a storyline brings TNA more notoriety than an actual match is the day TNA steps into its own when it comes to sports entertainment.  That day has already come and gone in TNA, but it was damn sure signed, sealed and delivered to us last night.

Then again…cheering fans equals success…

Bully Ray is the Best Thing Smokin’ In TNA (for the moment), and Mike Knox is now “Knux”

Photo © 2013 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo © 2013 TNA Wrestling, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Bully Ray is easily the biggest thing in TNA’s pocket right now.  I would even venture to say that his run as TNA’s World Heavyweight Champion is about as important to the company as their signing of Kurt Angle seven years ago.  In all due respect Mark LoMonaco has worked his ass off in the business and has truly earned the right to carry the title.  It says a lot about how far the man has come as a wrestler when anyone can readily say that his name alone has brought credibility and new life to a storyline that has been dead since last year.  My hats off to Mr. LoMonaco and his victory last night.

The other thing that makes Bully Ray’s win so important is the possibility of a fight between him and AJ Styles at the June Slammiversary XI pay per view.  I won’t drag out the particulars here, but check out my last piece to see my thoughts on Styles’ character development.  With three months between now and the pay per view we can only pray that TNA builds a solid story and feud between Bully and Styles, eventually propping up the “Crow” Sting character the company will need to really stay in the game on the road.  That goes to say that Bully Ray could possibly be the champion that leads to Styles receiving the push and attention he could’ve received years and years ago.  

Then again, that would make Bully Ray a “transitional champion,” which would totally negate everything I just said about his run with the title…

TNA_DOC

“Wait…it’s ‘Knucks’? I’ve been calling him ‘Crandall’!”

And for those of you that didn’t catch it last night, Mike Knox’s new name in TNA is “Knux.”  During the Lethal Lockdown match (which was missing a ceiling…unless they changed that, too…) the commentators went way out of the way in making sure we knew that the man’s name was “Knux” and not “Knox.”

As a matter of fact I could very well be spelling it incorrectly.  If this is the case then my sincerest apologies go to “Knucks” and the other members of the Aces and 8’s Motorcycle Club.  I surely do not want to incur the wrath of “Knucks” and anyone associated with “Knucks.”

“Knucks, Knucks, Knucks, Knucks, Knucks.”  Sounds like Fozzie Bear just told another terrible joke.

So ends my thoughts on yesterday’s Lockdown pay per view.  What did YOU learn from the show?

*Note: I incorrectly stated to the fan last night that Jeff Hardy’s heel turn and the ensuing trash volley happened at the 2011 Victory Road pay per view.  Both events actually occurred at the 2010 Bound for Glory pay per view.  My apologies to that fan and to other fans for that mistake.

 

 

 

 


RAW Review 2-25-13, a.k.a. “A Change of Pace”

Most fans won’t readily acknowledge that RAW’s ratings, as of late, have hovered around the 3.1 area.  While this means absolutely nothing to the average fan, it means a lot to analysts and pundits such as us.

It doesn’t mean or suggest that the quality of the product is getting better; what it does suggest is that fans are finding more reasons to tune into the show each Monday night.  The “Road to WrestleMania” is typically filled with more than enough elements to energize fans and entice them to purchase the WWE’s annual mega-sports entertainment event, but last night’s show offered more than what most probably expected or anticipated.  To say that last night’s RAW was knocked out of the park would be a huge understatement.  While I would hesitate to say the show was “perfect,” I will say that it was great all around and well above average.

Three things made the show awesome: the hot Dallas, Texas crowd, the opening brawl between Brock Lesnar and Triple H, and the MOTY candidate bout between CM Punk and John Cena.  Everything in between seemed to add some depth and volume to the undercard for WrestleMania XXIX.  It will be interesting to see how the company can keep up this momentum between now and April.

Here’s the most noteworthy stuff:

  • WWE Vengeance: Lesnar vs. Triple H II
  • WWE Insurrextion: Sheamus vs. Wade Barrett
  • WWE Judgement Day: The Shield vs. Randy Orton
  • WWE December to Dismember: Featuring AJ Lee, Dolph Ziggler, and Ryblack
  • WWE Bragging Rights: CM Punk vs. John Cena
Paul Heyman wearing what I lovingly refer to as "The Ol' Dirty." | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Paul Heyman wearing what I lovingly refer to as “The Ol’ Dirty.” | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The evening started out with last week’s proposed fight between Mr. McMahon and Paul Heyman.  While it was safe to assume that very few people (right-minded folks, mind you) expected a true fight to take place between the million-dollar geriatric and South Philly’s favorite son, even fewer could have accurately predicted the magnitude of the brawl that followed their slap fight.

Two really cool things happened during the exchange between Heyman and Mr. McMahon; for starters, Scott Stanford sent a tweet question whether Heyman had been robbing homes in Dallas prior to appearing on the show.  Secondly, Heyman gave Mr. McMahon “The Pounce,” and no one seemed moved by his perfectly executed, skillful and dangerous maneuver.

Nevertheless the whole spectacle was cut short by the unmistakable sound of Brock Lesnar’s music.  The beast of a man approached the ring and prepared to sink his teeth into Vince McMahon’s old and surprisingly muscular carcass.  Before Lesnar could get another taste of McMahon’s blood, Triple H’s music blared through the arena and we all knew that a rematch between the two would take place at April’s blockbuster pay per view.  The standard brawl took place between the two after McMahon hightailed it out of harms way, and everything that happened afterwards was unintentionally magnificent.

The brawl between Lesnar and Triple H seemed real; it felt real even though it looked phony at times.  You could easily tell that Lesnar was using his MMA training against Triple H, who’s experience in body building didn’t seem to help his situation at all.  I even wondered if there would be a point in the fight where Trips had to whisper to Brock, “Hey! It’s not real fighting, bro!” Not too soon after I had that thought, Lesnar eased up a bit on the realism and switched back into scripted entertainment mode.

The money moment of the fracas was when Trips sent Brock’s skull sailing into the ring post, busting him open the hard way.  Half of Lesnar’s head was soaked in blood as the cameras attempted to avoid showing it on live television.  Despite their best efforts the effect of this was necessary to make this rematch between the men mean something.  I would venture to say that it was Lesnar’s blood that sold a good number of people on this pay per view alone; the awkward part of it all is that this was only the beginning of the show…

Triple H posing after leveling Brock Lesnar with a spinebuster. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Triple H squats triumphantly after leveling Brock Lesnar with a spinebuster. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It’s anyone’s guess as to how epic their match will be at WrestleMania, but if their brawl last night was any indication we can expect this grudge match to be more passionate and grueling than their first encounter.

Another thing that stood out was a segment in which Sheamus made fun of Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and his work as an extra in the upcoming movie Dead Man Down, starring Ireland’s second favorite dandy, Colin “Remember Me?” Farrell.  A few fans in my Twitter feed commented on how absurd it was for a face (Sheamus) to continue to be a face while making fun of (bullying) someone for their small part in a movie.  I started to respond to a few of these comments but stopped when I thought about the lack of angst against John Cena and his many heel-like tactics over the past few years; be a star, everyone.

I know this sort of thing is "old news" by now, but still... | Photo of Sheamus © WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I know this sort of thing is “old news” by now, but still… | Photo of Sheamus © WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The eventual exchange between the two was far from being bad, and it actually provided a few chuckle-worthy spots (I particularly LOL’d when Barrett referred to the fans as “idiots;” it was the accent and the air of arrogant confidence that did it).  I also site this as being worth mentioning because of a previous post where I stated that the only program decent for Sheamus at this point is a feud with Barrett for the Intercontinental Title.  I also stated that spot belonged to Bo Dallas, a spot he was politely pulled out of because of WrestleMania season.

Another thing to consider is the recent “international flair” the title has acquired with its most recent champions.  The title has suffered from a lack of importance, prestige, and significance as of late.  Having non-American champions gives some sort of meaning to the title even if that meaning is still not all that defined.  Another match between Sheamus the feisty fighting Irishman squaring off against Barrett the brutish bare-knuckle Brit is something good for both men and for the title.

Sheamus would make another appearance that night during an in-ring segment involving The Shield.  The three members of the so-called “arm of justice” in WWE were busy spouting their manifesto to the audience when they issued a warning to the hapless superstars in the back.  Sheamus strolled out in his wrestling gear and responded to their warning, only to serve as a decoy for a sneak attack at the hands of Randy Orton.  With Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns advancing on Sheamus, Orton slithered into the ring and leveled Seth Rollins with a surprisingly devastating RKO.

Prior to this Orton tapped Rollins on the shoulder, who promptly turned around with the most innocent, "Yes?" looks on his face...priceless. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Prior to this Orton tapped Rollins on the shoulder, who promptly turned around with the most innocent, “Yes?” looks on his face…priceless. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

A number of fans have commented that Orton seems to be floating aimlessly at this point in his career.  I wouldn’t say a feud with The Shield would invigorate Orton’s character, but it would give the rub to the group of young lions.  What’s more interesting about this story is the story of how all three of these young WWE superstars made it to their first WrestleMania.  Speaking particularly about Dean Ambrose’s rise to glory, it was only at WrestleMania XXVII two years ago in Atlanta (where we first saw him in person) that he received a try out match with WWE, a match that got him this far in the company.  It’s an impressive story, and to share that story with two equally talented young superstars in a match with Randy Orton is pretty big.  It will be a thing of beauty to see what comes from this.

Speaking of things of beauty, AJ Lee’s fall from grace has been less majestic than anyone could have ever imagined.  When you consider the amount of time and energy that was put into AJ’s character during the latter part of 2012, it’s amazing how dimly her once radiant aura shines now.  Ever since being partnered with Dolph Ziggler, AJ has seriously fallen off the radar of relevance; problem is, there’s is no justifiable or logical reason for such a tremendous dip in attention given to her character.

Big E Langston carries dead weight with him each time he comes to the ring. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Big E Langston carries dead weight with him each time he comes to the ring. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The same thing could be argued for Dolph Ziggler, the current Mr. Money In the Bank contract recipient.  Dolph has literally seen several stop and go storylines and at one point looked to be headed towards the main event scene like a bat out of hell.  Things looked even better for the bleach blonde superstar when he was essentially given his own little stable to work with.  It just seems like after awhile the writers gave up on him and have reduced him to wrestling matches for the sake of simply keeping him on fans’ minds and in our collective consciousness.

All of this could be for a good reason, however; Ziggler has until July to cash in his contract for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship, and a lot can take place in the five months between now and the July 14 Money In the Bank pay per view.  The more cynical fans tend to write off wrestlers or storylines that don’t receive immediate attention or payoffs.  It remains to be said that patience is a virtue, and Ziggler may be in the midst of being primed to have a major role in the company moving forward.

The question is where does AJ Lee fit in the middle of all of this?  At this point in the game she’s barely a skid mark in the frilly unmentionables of the Divas Division, and the creative writers have all but abandoned the idea of making her a credible valet for Mr. Ziggler.  The good news for AJ is that she’s an actual wrestler, and given our affinity with Trish Stratus and Lita it would not surprise me at all that AJ’s “sunny days” are ahead of her.

As for Big E Langston, the massive and mysteriously silent monster is playing his role to the tee.  Langston is standing in the footsteps of such legendary bodyguards as Diesel, Dave Batista, and Ezekiel Jackson just to name a few.  Perhaps Big E will one day serve as the potential grouse in John Cena’s pheasant hunt.  But then again, a man can dream can’t he…

When's the last time YOU saw a piledriver in a WWE match??? | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

When’s the last time YOU saw a piledriver executed in a WWE match??? | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Speaking of John Cena, just how exhilarating was his match against CM Punk on Monday night?!?!

Many fans and pundits have said this before already, but Cena seems to be the type of wrestler/superstar that is very capable of having an excellent match if he’s pushed to the limit by his opponent.  It’s anybody’s guess as to the pep talk given to either Punk or Cena prior to the match, but whatever was said or done it gave both men the passion and desire necessary to deliver one hell of a battle.

We often condemn the WWE for not having matches like this on the regular, but the truth of it all is that these rare gems should be rare gems, because if matches like this happened all the time what exactly would a rare gem be?

The other thing to pay attention to is CM Punk’s ability to bring the best out of Cena.  It’s often said (and ignored largely by fans) that a wrestler is only as great as his opponent makes him look.  While the myth of John Cena’s stature tends to overshadow all around him, Punk truly stood out as a performer by showing off his ability to take Cena beyond complacency and mediocrity in the ring.  This is why Punk’s legendary 21st Century WWE Title reign is lost among fans today; we miss the significance of all he brings to the product because we’re too busy focusing on the obvious flaws of the company to appreciate the crown jewels in their possession.

I did get truly pissed me off during the match as Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler casually ignored the fact that Punk spent a majority of the match working on Cena’s neck and head.  It’s one thing to constantly state that Punk was “trying to wear Cena down,” but he could’ve easily done that by working on Cena’s mid-section, making it harder for him to breath the longer the match progressed.  Instead Punk worked over a previously injured area of Cena’s body, making him super vulnerable for a knee to the face or the dreaded Anaconda Vice submission hold.  I know understand why people say RAW’s commentary team has gotten awful.  The little things always make a difference, and I wish the commentators could’ve at least acknowledged that in their incessant banter.

So what’s the end game for both men?  Of course we get another “Once In a Lifetime” match between The Rock and John Cena, but more importantly CM Punk is available for what could be the biggest match of his WWE career against The Undertaker at WrestleMania.  We assume Taker will win the match, but what would it say about how the company feels about Punk if he becomes the first and only wrestler to defeat “The Dead Man” at the pay per view?  Once again…a man can dream, can’t he?

That all I felt about the show last night.  What do YOU think about it?


“Now What Did We Learn…?” – Thoughts on the 2013 Elimination Chamber

When you're ready to be good, you can come out of the corner.

When you’re ready to be good, you can come out of the corner.

It’s Monday, February 18, 2013, and fans here in the United States are 24 hours removed from last night’s Elimination Chamber pay per view.  While most analysts, pundits, naysayers and emotionally immature grumps have already trotted out their diatribes, raging against the WWE machine and swearing off supporting sports entertainment forever until RAW comes on in less than 2 hours, I decided to take the road less traveled in order to craft a more paced, temperate review of last night’s pay per view.

I typically judge pay per views using one simple question that encapsulates a wide range of criteria used by others when watching a pro wrestling pay per view: do I want to buy this on DVD?

That question, as simple as it may seem, takes a number of complex views and opinions and crams them all into one nifty little, digestible nugget that’s easy to understand and consume.  Fans can bicker back and forth about the logic behind the booking, or how Wrestler A should’ve beat Superstar B and all that jazz, but the proof in the pudding lies within that one question: would you be willing to spend money to see this show again?

For the WWE’s 2013 iteration of Elimination Chamber, the answer for this analyst is a thoughtful, sincere and stoic no.

This isn’t saying that the show was bad, nor is it saying that the event was great and/or good.  The pay per view last night was essentially a little more than an expensive RAW-like segue, a bridge designed specifically to get us from the 2013 Royal Rumble to WrestleMania 29.   And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; we like bridges.  They help us get across large bodies of water, or small streams.  The covered ones in Madison County are to die for, or so I’m told.

The show also had entertaining moments and all of the wrestlers did awesome in their respective matches.  However for this fan in particular there was only one match on the card that would move me to buy the DVD, and even then that one match wasn’t enough to move me that far; sorry, Best Buy.

In the end the show left fans wide open and ready for what could be a sensational build to the biggest pro wrestling pay per view of the year.  Last night’s event was more about focusing our attention on the bumpy trail leading to New York/New Jersey than it was about the “evil, diabolical and unforgiving” play pen Elimination Chamber.

As such with all things in life, there are several lessons we can glean from having spent our precious time and moments alive watching what Vince McMahon had to offer us this month:

The Rock & John Cena = $$$; You Don’t.

Photo ©  2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“You see that, folks?  That is the sign of inevitability.” | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

There were a ton of fans that were “surprised” that The Rock defeated CM Punk last night to retain the WWE Championship, even though it was already a foregone conclusion that Rock was headed to fight Cena one more time when the latter won last month’s Royal Rumble.

There are a couple of things that should strike fans as being pertinent and important in any discussion involving the second “Once In A Lifetime” match between Cena and The Rock.  For starters, the match makes money.  The WWE has been catering to casual fans for some time now, and casual fans will pay money to see Rock and Cena square off again, this time for something more than that “I’m the better man than you” bravado that gets grown men killed in real life.

The difference between you (generally speaking, not YOU in specific…unless YOU are one of the fans complaining, too) and the casual fan is that the casual fan ordered and paid for the pay per view last night.  YOU, on the other hand, watched it via illegal stream and complained the entire time.  That’s like asking for a cup of water from McDonald’s and getting mad because they won’t give you the supersized gallon jug.

As frustrating as that may be the harsh reality is that people will pay for what they want.  If the WWE’s fan base didn’t want to see The Rock and John Cena that badly, it would not happen; money speaks louder to WWE than internet rants and tirades.  If you truly want to end this “travesty,” purchase as much stock in the company as you can and convince at least 1000 other people to buy front row tickets at each WWE show around the world so they can consistently show off their “We Hate Rocky!” signs to every camera in the building.

If you can’t do those things, save your breath and expert typing skills for a product that is more worth your time.

Another thing to pay attention to is the fact that we cannot pretend as if Rock and Cena have had the only repeat match after their first match was billed as a one-time only shot.  Without naming names there’s at least one other wrestling duo that literally wrestle each other once a month, each time with the same “one last time” tagline limping meekly behind them.

No one blinks an eye at the fact that these two wrestlers have had as many televised matches as the UFC has had pay per views, but I guess that’s okay because they’re not John Cena and The Rock…; whatever.  And surprise, they may have a match at an upcoming pay per view…

It’s no secret that Rock’s return to the WWE last year wasn’t celebrated or highly favored by a number of hardcore fans, and even then there weren’t that many thrilled by their outing at WrestleMania 28.  April’s sports entertainment extravaganza will feature the same two wrestlers with way more at stake, and the crux of this match’s success will all depend on whether these to superstars (because that’s what they are) can tell a drastically different story outside the ring and in between the ropes leading up to their second match.

We can nitpick all we want, but let’s wait until they actually botch the whole deal before we bury it and piss on the grave.

The Rise of the Next Gen Superstars

Photo ©  2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“One day, Seth…one day…” | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

A terrific piece was crafted by fellow analyst Ross Rutherford some time ago that analyzed, in part, the WWE’s inability (or defiance) to create new superstars.  While last night was far from a showcase of new talent, it definitely gave several superstars to prove their mettle and worth to the Titan Tower suits and WWE fans.

From a wrestling perspective Antonio Cesaro thoroughly embarrassed The Miz last night, so much so that I actually felt bad for the man.  There’s a saying in pro wrestling that a wrestler is only as good as his opponent makes him look; if this is the case for Cesaro, Miz deserves ALL the credit left in the United States for his work with the champ last night.

Some would argue that Cesaro should’ve gained a clean win against Miz last night, but in all honesty the finish was smooth, seamless, and protected both wrestlers to continue their rivalry.  As a face Miz has most assuredly won over a number of fans, but his real life return to the WWE has left him floating in this sea of mediocrity.  If the WWE can’t find anything “worthwhile” to do with him at the moment, why not utilize him to help build up Cesaro…you know, help create a new superstar?

It was a thing of beauty to watch Cesaro work Miz like a carny at a traveling circus.  Most fans can easily agree that the current United States Champion has “WHC/WWE Champion” written all over him; let’s hope we’re right.

"Big E Langston doing what he does..." | Photo ©  2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Big E Langston doing what he does…” | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Big E Langston also got a chance last night to do and be more than just Dolph Ziggler’s big, Black friend.  After Ziggler’s impromptu match and victory over Kofi “House Cat” Kingston, Langston used his 3 Moves of Doom to exact some true Afro-Caribbean street justice on the former Intercontinental Champion.  In an eerily yet somewhat similar way as The Miz, Kingston was able to make Langston look more intense than he usually does; given Langston’s size, however, that’s not hard to do when the man’s handshake can burst your appendix.

I also feel badly for Kofi Kingston who, also like The Miz, is languishing in mediocrity for no apparent reason.  The truly disappointing point of it all is that Kofi’s career has gone this kind of up-and-down rollercoaster ordeal before.  At one point he was a possible contender for a major title, then he got bumped off; he had a red-hot feud with Randy Orton, then it got dumped in the Baltic Ocean.  They gave him a catchy nickname and talked incessantly about his crazy and wild offense, and then they stopped giving a damn.

We should expect some sort of feud to erupt between Kingston and Langston, and it will be pretty interesting to see the mix of their styles.  It will also be interesting to see Langston have a sanctioned match in the company, which is long overdue for the man at this point.  As for Kingston, perhaps a rivalry with Langston will show someone that the man can do more for the company if given the opportunity.

Last, but not least, The Shield triumphed against all odds and defeated Ryback last night at the pay per view.

I know what you’re thinking; I should’ve said that The Shield defeated Ryback, Sheamus, and John Cena last night at the pay per view.  If I said that I’d be a liar.

Ryback ate the pinfall for the team after Sheamus was (once again) speared through the barricade and John Cena was busy pandering to the crowd with his Attitude Adjustment finishing maneuver.  There was a lot going on in that finishing sequence, and the entire match, that we should recall and pay attention to:

  • Ryback, unlike Goldberg and John Cena, can be defeated by conventional methods.  The man is not invincible; the man is not without a weakness.  This separates him tremendously from Goldberg, which makes any similarities between the two superficial, at best.
  • The Shield worked like a well-oiled machine, and as my L.E.W.D. brother Mr. Lamb put it, the match ended up being a 3-on-1-on-1-on-1 match, as opposed to a six-man tag match.  It’s quite possible that the story told here worked best for the pay per view and the group, whereas a War Games match would have definitely told a decidedly different and potentially harmful story for The Shield.
  • John Cena avoids being pinned and stays virtually immaculate for another day.  In fact at this point he could not honestly care less about The Shield as his attention is now focused squarely on preparing to face the WWE Champion, The Rock, at WrestleMania 29.
  • The only thing Sheamus has left to do is face Wade Barrett for the Intercontinental Title, but Bo Dallas is already in that spot right now.  Poor Sheamus…
"Roman Reigns reacquaints Sheamus with his old friend, the ring barrier." | Photo ©  2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Roman Reigns reacquaints Sheamus with his old friend, the ring barrier.” | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

All three members of The Shield—Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns—were absolute gold last night.  I anticipate some sort of purpose rising to light for the group soon, but that may be more wishful thinking than anything else.  Perhaps a Freebird like stab at the Tag Team Championships, as someone suggested on Twitter last night, could breathe some meaningful purpose into the group?

Right now is the perfect time for Langston, Ambrose, Rollins, Cesaro, Reigns, and even Ryback to rise up the ladder in the WWE.  In order for them to truly be break out stars at this point, they’ve got to have the same intensity and drive as superstars had during the Attitude Era.  They have got to be hungry for that main event status and they must be willing to fight for that top star status.

This isn’t suggesting that they backstab one another or intentionally discredit their fellow wrestlers; they must, however, do more than just play the roles or read the scripts given to them.  They have got to be willing to go beyond what’s necessary in order for fans to really react to their presence and help catapult their game to the next level.  And I, for one, am glad that these stars are on the cusp of that level of greatness in the WWE.

Do or Die: Jack Swagger, Alberto Del Rio, and Good Ol’ Fashioned Envelope Pushin’

Jack Swagger is going to WrestleMania. | Photo ©  2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Jack Swagger is going to WrestleMania. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

There are scores of fans that have commented on the lack of a solid and consistent main even push for Jack Swagger.  Be careful what you wish for…

My friend Ken Drabek commented that this may be Swagger’s last chance to have a significant presence as a top star in WWE.  And what better way to so than with a gimmick that’s rife with political and social commentary that could easily cross the line between polite rhetoric and flat out bigotry?

Eric Bischoff wrote a book based on the idea that “controversy creates cash,” and that idea has been proven correct more often than not.  The bigger picture is that these Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio, wrestlers, have to have a controversial gimmick stapled to them just to make us give a hoot about their upcoming title match; I’m surprised no one picked up on that sooner.

Alberto Del Rio’s face turn has also been hailed as a roaring success, but the jump from a snooty Mexican aristocrat to a fan favorite was…slightly inorganic.  The best way, in somebody’s mind, to evoke more sympathy for him is to have an uber-American degrade his heritage and humanity; on the flip side, the best way to reintroduce Swagger to the fans is by having him saddled with a grizzled and disillusioned war veteran that can’t accept the fact that America in 2013 shouldn’t look like America in 1779.  This, of course, isn’t even taking into consideration that the whole gimmick is blatantly ripped off from another pro wrestler.  Yep…Swagger has a hell of a ride ahead of him.

So ends my thoughts on yesterday’s Elimination Chamber pay per view.  What did YOU learn from the show?


IMPACT Wrestling Review 1-17-13, a.k.a. “One Wedding and a Funeral”

The numbers are in, and last night’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling pulled in 1.6 million viewers, giving the show a 1.15 ratings share.   This is up significantly from the 1.3 million viewers that gave the show a 1.09 ratings share last week.  What could have possibly brought in 300,000 more viewers to the show Thursday night?

Was it the return of world-renowned wrestler and the 2011 recipient of the Dean Malenko “Iceman” Award, Low-ki?

Nope.

Did Bruno Sammartino win a 30-minute, Triple Threat Iron Man match against the reanimated carcasses of Frank A. Gotch and President Abraham Lincoln?

Nope.

Well what in the blue hell gave TNA a surge in viewership?  Believe it or not it could be one of two different things (or both), depending on your perspective.

You could take into account that TNA’s “competition” also received a surge in ratings as of late, so the increase in viewers could be due to the lack of stiff competition pro wrestling faces with the end of the regular football season.  Or, on the other hand, you could openly admit that the soap opera inspired storyline wedding between Brooke Hogan and Bully Ray brought in 300,000 viewers to a two-hour pro wrestling show that only featured twenty-three (23) minutes of actual pro wrestling…

Sting

Sadly most people will easily agree that the Ray-Hogan Wedding brought in the viewers.

The past three IMPACT Wrestling reviews emanating from the L.E.W.D. site have consistently said the same thing: TNA has overtly delved into the world of sports entertainment.  The frustratingly amusing thing about it is…the fans don’t care and STILL love the product.  To each his own I guess.

The truth of the matter is that TNA’s ability to showcase good “wrestling” died the moment Bully Ray and Brooke Hogan exchanged their vows.  For the “We Are Wrestling” company, where “Wrestling Matters,” whose fans cheered in glee-filled delight when their “We Want Wrestling” prayers and Twitter hashtags were answered, “sports entertainment” took up fifty-four (54) minutes of seventy-seven televised minutes (1 hour, 17 minutes according to YouTube) of the show; and from all accounts, the show was “solid and good.”

It’s very confusing to understand how fans who hate sports entertainment with a passion can admit to enjoying what, by TNA’s standards, Thursday night’s average IMPACT Wrestling show.  The entire show…I repeat, the entire show…revolved around the Ray-Hogan Wedding and whether or not Hulk Hogan would walk his daughter down to the ring.  Once again we must remind ourselves that this storyline, a major storyline in TNA at this point, has yet to involve or contain any wrestling whatsoever.  We also can’t forget that Bully Ray, a suspended TNA superstar per order of General Manager Hulk Hogan, has still appeared on TNA television (a lá John Cena).

Come to think of it, when has Hulk Hogan managed anything in TNA, generally speaking, since this whole mess started with his daughter and Bully Ray?  And why hasn’t he done anything about the Aces and Eights?  I guess to find out the answer to these questions and more we’ll have to tune into next week’s episode of SOAP…err, I mean IMPACT Wrestling.

Oh, and Tazz is a part of the Aces and Eights.

Here’s what stood out to me:

  • Legend Status: Jeff Hardy > Ricky Steamboat
  • Butt Puppets and Three Whole Wrestling Matches
  • Jay Bradley: Welcome to the Show
  • Remember when Don West was an alcoholic?
  • A Synopsis of the Ray-Hogan Wedding and Taz

If you start the video around the 3:30 mark you’ll notice the fans start a “You Still Got It” chant aimed towards the legendary veteran Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.  In the world of pro wrestling such a chant is ofter reserved for wrestlers who are no longer active competitors and have returned to the ring usually for a one-off match with an up-and-coming wrestler and/or superstar.

Why in the hell did TNA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Hardy, very much still in active competition, receive this same chant on the show?

While I’m not the world’s most devoted Jeff Hardy fan, and while I do recognize his contribution to the sport, it seems weird that anyone would give him a “You Still Got It” chant, particularly since there’s yet to be a question of whether or not he lost “it” in the first place.  The moment was awkwardly flattering, the same awkwardly flattering moment when the school’s biggest nerd asks the school’s hottest girl to the prom; she tries her best not to laugh and in the end thanks the dork and kindly replies “…nooooooo.”

Someone could’ve started a “Jeff!” chant, or a “You were awesome!” chant; instead the plucky fans at the Impact Zone essentially told Jeff he’s in the same class of athletes as Vader and Steamboat.  It’s an honor to be in their league, but it’s also a slap in the face to be in their league and still in active competition as a World Heavyweight Champion.

Jeff Hardy defends the WHC against Chris Daniels next week on IMPACT Wrestling. | Copyright (c) 2013 TNA Entertainment, LLC.  All Rights Reserved

Jeff Hardy defends the WHC against Chris Daniels next week on IMPACT Wrestling. | Copyright (c) 2013 TNA Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved

In an opening segment the team of Bad Influence interrupted Jeff Hardy’s speech about his victory at the Genesis pay per view.  Kaz used the word “butt puppet” to demean the fans at the Impact Zone.  I thought that was funny.

What wasn’t so knee-slappingly gut busting was the fact that only three (3) matches took place on IMPACT Wrestling.  I won’t rehash the argument here from above, but it is something to think about if we’re going to be real when talking about the good and solid “wrestling” that only happens in TNA.

IMPACT Wrestling_Jay BradleyThe IMPACT of the Night for me was the hiring of Gut Check Challenge winner Jay Bradley.  Ironically enough it was his solid promo during the Gut Check decisions that caught my attention:

“You [pointing toward Tazz]…talked about guys getting to ‘hump the highways…’ let me tell you…I’ve humped so many highways, I probably owe a few child supports…”

Then Bradley goes on to say this:

“…now I’ve been trained by the best…to be one of the best…”

The promo was far from being the most scintillating mic work in pro wrestling but it was very effecting in selling fans on the potential of Jay Bradley.  In my opinion Bradley showed more promise and potential than any of the other Gut Check competitors and winners that have been featured on IMPACT Wrestling outside of Taeler Hendrix.

From what I’ve seen of his work his match with Brian Cage last week was not his best outing.  However that says nothing against his abilities, as Bradley definitely has the talent, size, presence and personality to bring some much needed life and fresh air into the relatively stale IMPACT Wrestling roster.

My only concern is that Bradley would fall in the same trap as other wrestlers on the roster, getting lost fairly quickly in the shuffle and relegated to the role of putting over Rob Van Dam or Chavo Guerrero.  If he manages to avoid those twin perils, he could easily end up like Crimson and disappear for an indefinite amount of time in OVW, despite having traveled, wrestled and trained all over the world.

Here’s to hoping the company does the right thing with Jay Bradley as he could immediately bring some life and zest into TNA’s product.

This guy...

This guy…

Does anyone reading this remember the time right before Don West’s commentary in TNA started getting really good and his character was an alcoholic?  I liked that Don West character.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with Thursday’s show, I figured it was a good time to reminisce on something random in TNA before we start the discussion about the wedding and Tazz’s heel turn…seeing as that heel turn was just as random as a drunken, on-air commentator.

I guess we can say Tazz let the jailbirds loose...

I guess we can say Tazz let the jailbirds loose…| Copyright (c) 2013 TNA Entertainment, LLC.  All Rights Reserved

Wrestling fans are not strangers to the “let’s get married inside the ring” storyline and angle.  This has been done to death and by now we’re all use to it happening.  Bully and Brooke’s ceremony was no different than any other wedding we’ve seen take place in the ring, including the standard attack and utter destruction dispensed by wedding crashers (in this case, the Wild Bill Hickok Social Consortium).  It’s a waste of time and energy to ramble on about the specifics of the actual wedding segment; it’s a wrestling storyline and it was what it was.

What didn’t make a lick of sense was Tazz’s  arguably shocking revelation.  At the most inconvenient time during the wedding (WAAY the hell after the whole “Does anyone object to this union” part of the ceremony), Tazz interrupts the justice, asks Bully if he’s sure he wants to get married to Brooke, then takes off his tuxedo jacket to reveal an Aces and Eights’ vest.  Immediately the motley crew of bikers swarms the set, lays waste to all the men, and Brooke’s boobs pops out.

…the f*ck sense does that make??!?!

The Rt. Rev. Showtime already elucidated on the logic behind Tazz’s heel turn so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel on that one.   As eloquent as his perorations are, I disagree with anything that attempts to justify the need to be even mildly excited about this latest development involving the Aces and Eights.

The fact is that fans and detractors of IMPACT Wrestling can at least agree that the Aces and Eights storyline is dead weight at this point.  Having Tazz join the group is a sorry ass way of getting fans to at least give a damn about the group once more.  As it stands right now we’ll have to wait until next week to hear and see the logic behind his association with the group, because as of this moment it is simply inexplicable no matter what direction or rose-tinted spectacle you view it from.

A lot of fans were shocked to see Tazz join the group, but the shock ends right there; it’s not shocking because we knew all along, but was “shocking” because we never saw it coming.  Tazz joining the Aces and Eights was unpredictable and in some circles, simply being “unpredictable” is a good thing even if there’s no good reason for being unpredictable.  Because of such the show gets a good review because something unpredictable happened at the end, a poor man’s cliffhanger if you will.

I don’t buy into that one bit because in at least two instances on the show Tazz openly revealed that something was up.  He stated to Mike Tenay and Todd Keneley that he didn’t make Bully Ray’s bachelor party because he had “prior engagement.”  Later on he excuses himself from the announce table to take care of “wedding stuff.”  Those things, however, meant nothing while watching the show; no one would’ve ever expected Tazz to be in cahoots with the gang by those statements alone.

Even with the moment being unexpected there’s still no good reason (that we know of right now) for Tazz to be affiliated with the group, and we can’t get giddy about the future prospects of the group or storyline because of this one unexpected filler.  To be honest, Devon’s involvement with the gang was a far better unexpected development than Tazz’s.   We were all led to believe that Devon was done with the company, and the next thing we know he’s unmasked and back in the company.   That bit of unexpectedness worked because a) we thought Devon was actually done with TNA and b) the storyline was still relatively fresh and new.

To unveil Tazz as a member of the group now, after months of languishing and still having not revealed their intentions in TNA, is just a cheap and easy way to get a rise out of the audience.  It would’ve been more rational and unexpected to have Mike Tenay revealed as a member of the group.

Here are some other things to consider:

  1. Two weeks ago Mike Knox had his mask removed by Kurt Angle after the club’s President made it known that the remaining masked men should keep their masks on at all costs, as “anonymity” gives the group a certain level of power.  One week ago, Knox was mere moments away from being kicked out of the group because he lost his anonymity.  This past Thursday, Tazz openly admits to the world he’s in the group…think about that for a minute…
  2. The interruption and destruction of the wedding would’ve been more captivating and compelling if Tenay and Keneley remained silent as the set and the guests were being destroyed.
  3. When was the last time Hulk Hogan did anything related to his duties as a General Manager?  When asked the question earlier in the night, “Hogan, are you here for the wedding?” Hogan’s immediate response (in the event he chose to make one) should’ve been, “No, I’m here to do my f*****g job, I’ve got a show to run!  Now get out of my face!”
  4. When the cameramen are hiding outside of the trailers, how are they able to get quality audio from the people talking inside of the trailer?
  5. What if the Aces and Eights storyline turns out to be a little more than an up-to-date, more convoluted and excruciatingly longer version of the yearlong Immortal storyline?
  6. Have the Knockouts ever had the show closing main event spot of a pay per view?  If they haven’t, considering how “good” the division is, why not?

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

 

 

 

 


Popcorn Wrestling and their Addicts…NO!

Once you clean your desk and computer of VOMIT then please read this post!

Once you clean your desk and computer of VOMIT then please read this post!

When most people choose to eat popcorn, they eat it as a snack.  I’m not sure many people sit down at the dinner table and prepare a steaming plate of popcorn as their choice meal for the evening.  Also, many people don’t sit down at a restaurant and ask, “I didn’t see the price for the Popcorn Meal on the menu. I was hoping you could locate that for me!” If you meet a person that does either of these things, back away slowly, and run in the opposite direction as swiftly as possible.

This is the same mentality I take with TNA Addicts because they devour Popcorn Wrestling every week on TNA iMPACT.  Total Non-Stop Anticipation is responsible for more ADHD outburst than a fireworks and laser/lights show in a room with tear away walls…wait…that IS the iMPACT Zone…

The Popcorn Wrestling that I’m referring to is the idea that a company can have a product that has a number of pop-up moments that are exhaled by the ADHD (IWC) wrestling fan base. Ultimately these Popcorn moments do not lead to anything.

After last night’s (1-17-13) episode of TNA iMPACT, I realized something very important.  I am not conditioned to watch TNA due to my heightened level of analysis! TNA Addicts watch iMPACT in an episodic manner.  They can celebrate every episode because that’s all they are looking for, a weekly fix.

I, along with many other members of the L.E.W.D. Crew, analyse the product for the value that it brings and the value that it provides for both the past and future product.  Unfortunately, TNA does not present a product that is promising for either the past, present, or future.

SO…Last night, the wedding of Bully/Buh-Buh/Mark (he was referred to as all three last night) Ray and Brooke Hogan was to take place. The wedding went as a wedding is supposed to until it was time for the presiding official to declare them husband and wife. Tazz then proceeded to interrupt them with two points: 1. Nonsensical babbling about whether or not Bully Ray wanted to do this. 2. “Is it just me, or is it hot in here?” Then he removes his tux jacket to reveal that he was wearing an Aces & Eights vest…

This is where the separation between me and the TNA Addicts comes in.  Beyond the fact that it provided a “Moment” that will be talked about in the collective basements of the 40 Addicts convulsing from their overdose of Anticipation, what good came from last night? (I’ll wait……………………………………………………….)

Let’s look at this in the three categories of time.

The Past:

The biggest issue I have with this is that TNA and their Addicts have boasted about how their product is “Cutting Edge,” “Not the WWE” and “Pro Wrestling”…Now maybe I am just…NO!! For almost a month now, the show has been closed out with the “Worst GM in Wrestling” “The Infamous” Hulk Hogan, his ravaged daughter/”Knockout’s GM” Brooke, a suspended talent/”Best heel in the business” Bully/Buh-Buh/Mark Ray (Whom is now a face…), and a band of biker men that don’t have contracts or personalities but can cause chaos for the sake of chaos given that we still don’t know their motives.  Pro Wrestling right?

The most recent episodes have featured the TNA Champion Jeff Hardy (carrying 2 belts) in the opening segments and maybe having a match preceding the dramatic close not involving said championship,  thus making the main event the aforementioned debauchery!

Maybe I’m wrong…NO!!! That is Sports Entertainment be definition!

The Present:

A moment…That’s all it was. (Thanks Da Infamous DiZ)

Tazz took off a jacket, became a public member of Aces & Eights, and this provided a brief moment of WTF.  But as my good friend Mr. Quinn Gammon stated, there are 2 types of WTF’s. One is the expression of Shock and Awe, and the other is the expression of confusion and distaste.  The problem with this “Moment” is that the percentages for the WTF had to be 40%/60%. This would mean that more than half of your live studio audience was confused as to what was going on, and why is the announcer guy joining the other team.

Mr. Ashley Morris brought up a great point as well in a conversation that Tazz is the “Human Suplex Machine” only to those who knew of him in his ECW days. He had a very short (unmemorable) stint as a wrestler in the WWE, so to the vast majority/casual fan, Tazz is no more than the announcer guy, and given that you can’t hear the announcers during a live recording, most of the Addicts in the arena, whom are regulars, will not be familiar to Tazz’s contribution to the product, therefore causing confusion as to why it is important for him to go to the “other side”.

The Future:

Not much of one with this story…

What happens now? What value does the A’s & 8’s get with the addition of Tazz? They already have sponsored segments on the show anyways.  They already have infinite access to the arena. If they can just learn how to wrestle in matches, they may actually make an impa…NO!!! They simply do not matter! We still do not know why they exist. Every other Hostile Takeover that has happened has had an immediately stated motive as to why they do what they do…except this one! That is not innovative or groundbreaking, that’s just STUPID!!!

Popcorn Wrestling is just something that I can not get into simply because I look at wrestling to be thorough entertainment.  There is a big difference between whimsical and nonsensical. I will watch (and sometimes enjoy) the whimsical over the nonsensical any day.  Don’t get me wrong, I love some good old-fashioned wrasslin’, but I like to deal with organization that don’t have an ongoing identity crisis!

What do you think?

Rt. Rev. Showtime


IMPACT Wrestling Review 1-10-13, a.k.a. “Like Sand in the Hourglass…”

This week’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling was nowhere near as frustrating as it was last week, mostly because there weren’t many people on Twitter raving about the show.  Perhaps that’s a good thing seeing as the show seemed to slowly trudge forward in the same direction it took last week.

Well…there was ONE major occurrence that happened…that tidbit will come up later.

TNA’s flagship show also appears to be veering ever so cautiously into the evil “sports entertainment” zone that numerous wrestling fans despise.  Luckily for the fans, however, TNA has created quite the buzz by announcing its brand new pay per view schedule.  The cool part of it is that there were tons of fans talking and writing about, waaay more than they were talking or writing about the pay per view that’s actually coming up this Sunday.

In some circles this would be called a distraction, but in TNA it’s called evolution.

Case in point: the major, most important occurrence that happened during the show was Bully Ray’s proposal to Brooke Hogan…and we’re still very certain that TNA is the company where “Wrestling Matters” with this storyline serving as the show-closing segment?  This isn’t even mentioning the fact that TNA has conveniently borrowed the basics of the storyline from their competition…

As I stated last week there’s nothing wrong with TNA embracing sports entertainment as it continues to progress as a company.  However it’s becoming painfully obvious that at some point fans won’t be able to lean on the whole “this is real wrestling” argument.  And the implied awesomeness of having  7 taped mini-pay per views, while decidedly different, is not revolutionary or ground-breaking enough to justify the flagship show’s descent into the abyss of soap-opera like drama.

That’s honestly besides the point; fact of the matter is the episode was average, not all that bad and not necessarily all that good.  Fans can only hope that more effort will be put into go-home shows to build hype and intrigue for future pay per views, especially seeing as there will only be four major ones moving forward.  While most will celebrate the anticipation of this strategy, you can’t help but to wonder how much different things will be if TNA had no impetus to do better builds for their pay per views prior to this moment in time.

At any rate, here are the things that stood out to me in the show:

  • King and Ion: Better than York/Kash, but still no X-Division Match
  • Robbie T: The Most Entertaining Man in Sports Entertainment Today
  • Aces & Eights: Simply Useless
  • Storytelling: It’s the little things…
  • Bully/Brooke/Hulkster > Aries/Roode/Hardy (in that order)
"Yo wassup! You dissin' the X-Div, son?  You don't wanna piss me and my goons off, mane!"

“Yo wassup! You dissin’ the X-Div, son? You don’t wanna piss me and my goons off, mane!”

The second match in the first round of the X-Division “Tournament” took place on the show, which saw Kenny King face off against former X-Division Champion Zema Ion.  This solid match was arguably way more exciting and riveting than last week’s match with Kid Kash facing Christian York.  King easily stood out in the match as far as presence and psychology is concerned, while Zema Ion played the regrettable role of making TNA’s latest acquisition look like gold.

While the match was good it lacked the “umpf” that made the X-Division what it once was.  Truthfully speaking all of the divisions save the Heavyweight Division have substantially diminished in quality ever since the arrival of Hulk Hogan three years ago.  In regards to the X-Division, these cookie-cutter, by-the-book storytelling laced matches are not really all that worth investing in.  King and Ion worked a great match, but it looked and felt no different than a match between James Storm and Magnus.

Earlier this week Jeremy Borash conducted a sit down interview with Dixie Carter to discuss her plans for the company in 2013.  A portion of that conversation dealt with the present state and future of the X-Division.  Mrs. Carter speaks about the injuries that have plagued and frustrated the growth of the division, mentioning specifically Chris Sabin and Jesse Sorenson in the conversation.  Carter noted that the athletes that compete within the division are at a high risk of injuring themselves just by what they do.

It’s weird to me that there are more high-profile injuries now than there were before the radical shift in the philosophy of the division.  This isn’t to say that X-Division wrestlers didn’t get injured prior to the adoption of a more story-based in-ring wrestling product; it is saying that we’re more cognizant of these injuries today more than likely because the company is openly admitting that their wrestlers are hurt.

As fans we should never look for the wrestlers to do increasingly dangerous maneuvers for our enjoyment.  I imagine that the TNA athletes could perform today just as they did years ago without seriously injuring themselves and each other; it’s just too bad the management doesn’t feel that way, because if they did we definitely wouldn’t have to pull out our Best of the X-Division DVDs to relive the glory of the division.

"That hamsters talkin' about YOU, Bro! YOUUUUUU!!!"

“That hamsters talkin’ about YOU, Bro! YOUUUUUU!!!”

Who would’ve guessed a year ago that Robbie T would be on the receiving end of fan adulation and praise?  After winning last week’s “Bro Off” against Robbie E and Jesse, Big Rob managed to find himself tagging with Miss Tessmacher in an inter-gender match against Tara and her Hollywood boyfriend.  It was a squash match for sure but by far the most entertaining thing of the night.

Robbie T’s antics are hilarious for multiple reasons: 1) he’s big, 2) he’s awkward, and 3) it’s funny to see a big and awkward man be big and awkward.

The only downside to Big Rob’s sudden push is Robbie E’s floundering importance in the grand scheme of things.  Robbie is a solid worker who plays his role well in TNA; on the other hand I couldn’t even begin to tell you what TNA should do with him instead of having him job to Robbie T’s terrible dancing.  Maybe this is just a temporary state for both Robbies while Eric Young is out doing whatever it is he’s doing.  Until his return, however, it should be very entertaining to watch Big Rob goof it up.

acesandeightsQuestion of the day: where in the hell is the Aces & Eights storyline leading to?

The group loses matches routinely and only excel at putting wrestlers on the shelf for maybe a month or so.

The club’s members can’t seem to keep their masks on even though they depend on anonymity as their primary measure of power against TNA.

The club hasn’t even announced an agenda and appears to just be a little more than a group of homeless, shiftless, and useless bikers that hang around the Impact Zone.

At this point we can only hope that this story is going to lead to something worthwhile even though all signs point to no.  Some fans have complained that the storyline is boring and going absolutely nowhere at this point.  This was the same chatter that existed right before the Claire Lynch storyline died its horrible and long overdue death.  Once again we’re subject to watching something that has gotten so bad that it couldn’t possibly get any worse…

jason rivera

Then again there is the possibility that I might be incorrect.

At one point TNA was hailed for doing these little things that made their product different and decidedly better than that of WWE.  One specific instance was made by a fan who commented on the following segment during the BFG Series over 5 months ago:

The fan noted how James Storm had to “tell” someone to go back and find Kurt Angle.  In WWE, a cameraman would conveniently be set up backstage already in place.

Check out this video too:

Pay attention to the particular camera angle and how the segment proceeds as if Sting, Jeff Jarrett and Hulk Hogan are unaware that the camera is on them.  Truthfully speaking a segment would not be filmed this way in WWE.  It’s the little things that make a big difference, right?

Riddle me this: when the Aces and Eights deliberated on Mike Knox’s fate as a club, why did they allow a cameraman and an outsider (Ken Anderson) in on the meeting?  They don’t even let the prospects sit in on a judgment that’s made at the table.  Perhaps fans were expected to pretend as if the cameras weren’t there, or maybe the Aces and Eights were gracious enough to give the entire Impact Zone the heads up on an attack that would take place later in the show.

Speaking of which, why would Kurt Angle insist on fighting Ken Anderson even after the man explained his logic for cavorting with the Aces and Eights?  Anderson basically stated that he owed Angle, Samoa Joe and Sting nothing because they did nothing to help him when he was attacked by the gang.  Kurt’s response was “you’re either with us or we’re gonna fight.”  The logic here is astounding, as Ken Anderson appears to identify with the very people that attacked him instead of the men that could help him, and Angle completely ignores everything Anderson said even though it was all justifiable.

You can witness the exchange here and everything will make sense after you watch the video.

aries roode hardy

The major selling point of this Sunday’s Genesis pay per view is the Triple Threat Elimination Style Match between Austin Aries, Robert Roode and Jeff Hardy.  I’m still excited about this match even though it has taken a backseat to the Bully Ray/Brooke Hogan/Hulk Hogan storyline.  Once again much to our chagrin the World Heavyweight Championship is an afterthought in the programming.

This does not imply that some importance hasn’t been placed on the title, but the feeling among fans is that the World Heavyweight Championship should always be the focus of the product.  When IMPACT Wrestling opened and closed Thursday night, neither segment involved the WHC.  The show, by and large, was not based around the WHC.  The upcoming match itself has more to do with the bickering between Roode and Aries than it does Jeff Hardy and the WHC.

One more time it isn’t a big deal that TNA is doing this, but it does call to our attention how we verbalize our support or disdain for the product or a company.  We can like or hate something all we want, but the bottom line is that a healthy mix of drama, action, and interesting characters is what keeps us interested.  A straight up “I’m-the-number-one-contender” feud in today’s pro wrestling world would be simply boring.  As solid as Roode and Aries are as wrestlers, it takes the enigmatic personality of Jeff Hardy to draw attention to the match.  It also takes Aries’ over-the-top, slightly narcissistic personality to draw attention to the match.

Sadly enough it’s Bully Ray’s upcoming marriage to Brooke Hogan on the IMPACT Wrestling show after the Genesis pay per view that has our attention, mostly because of Bully Ray’s personality and charisma.  It’s ironic that he’s on the poster for the pay per view and isn’t even scheduled to have a match…but if they don’t care about it, why should we?

Anywhoo, those are my scattered thoughts.  What did YOU think about the episode?


IMPACT Wrestling Review 1-3-13, a.k.a. “Thems Fightin’ Words…”

Words can’t even begin to describe the level of frustration that accompanied watching this week’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling.  The average fan will more than likely sit behind his/her computer, type vigorously about the experience and speak glowingly about the developments that took place on the show, all the while highlighting the consistent and strong build towards the January 13 Genesis pay per view.

That same average fan will also more than likely casually ignore all the mind-numbingly preposterous obstacles littered about the broadcast; after all, being a “true” fan means sitting back and enjoying the product for what it is.  Here’s an honest question: what happens when you watch the show as a fan and don’t enjoy it?  The simple answer is this: you complain and complain until someone agrees with you or you inspire the villagers to take up pitchforks and torches against your cause.

There is a such thing as constructive criticism, adding a slightly different perspective that while not necessarily “glowing” or “positive,” enables the recipient of said criticism to grow from the experience that will hopefully lead to a much more favorable outcome.  Believe it or not there is a difference between “bashing” something and giving it constructive criticism.

Blah blah blah, what made the show frustrating to watch was the blatantly obvious sports entertainment nature of the entire broadcast.  It’s not that the company is “wrong” for showcasing sports entertainment, but the fact that it was at the forefront of the entire program in light of the many “THIS IS professional wrestling!” diatribes found in various places on the internet was just damn disrespectful.  Funny part of it all is the frustration is caused by the fans and not the product; we’ll get to that in a minute.

In regards to the show it was primarily filler consisting of video packages and backstage segments.  The matches were forgettable; that doesn’t say they weren’t good, it just says they were forgettable…forgettable in the sense that it’s highly improbable that a month from now anyone will YouTube one of these matches to add to a Bleacher Report list.

Add to this cavalcade of consistently solid programming the fifty-ninth flaccid return of Sting, a return that was hyped for at least a month and was executed in the form of a bat, a post-main event match save, and the unmasking of Mike Knox, a superstar introduced by Mike Tenay as “a familiar face from the WWE.”  Guess what: Taz knows him too!

Even more gripping is the solid storyline drama unfolding between Hulk Hogan, Brooke Hogan and Bully Ray.  Remember folks: this space-stealing storyline that includes one of the hottest “heels/faces” in pro wrestling today, has yet to include any actual wrestling.  Even scarier is the idea that someday down the line this whole thing won’t end until Bully Ray faces Hulk Hogan, gets Brooke Hogan pregnant, or both.  No matter how you look at it, all of this fluff is the same cannon fodder fans use when spewing their hatred for WWE; yet it is guaranteed that the broadcast will get a solid grade-B and yet another consistent 1-point-oh-something ratings share.

Take all of that into consideration while celebrating the following tweet from former American Male, Scotty Riggs:

Scotty Riggs

It’s shocking that tweet was sent in all seriousness around the world…

In the spirit of constructive criticism, here are the things that stood out in the show:

  • Sting returns, avoids getting beat up, and Mr. Morris doesn’t lose a bet
  • Hulk Hogan: Pro Wrestling’s Worse GM Ever
  • What’s an X-Division?
  • Hardy-Aries-Roode at Genesis 2013
Sometimes they come back...again...and again...

Sometimes they come back…again…and again…and again…

As mentioned earlier “The Icon” Sting made yet another vignette-inspired return to TNA, this time under the guise of exacting revenge against the Aces & Eights.  For those of you not keeping tabs the biker gang was responsible for putting Sting on the shelf almost two months ago.  Upon his return Sting, who is at least 20 years older than most of the IMPACT Wrestling roster, was able to stave off all of the members of the group on his own.  Sting was also able to unmask Mike Knox, something that most of the other wrestlers on the roster couldn’t do either.

Most fans probably expected this to happen and so it won’t be a shock to hear that most fans were not let down with Sting’s return (*cough predictable cough*).

I personally and openly lobbied for Sting to make a grand return to IMPACT Wrestling, only to be taken out in a similarly grand fashion by the Aces & Eights.  This honestly was the only logical and unpredictable direction this storyline could’ve taken, and as such TNA chose not to take that direction; Russo swerrrrrrrrrvvvvve!

Think about it for a moment: after successfully gaining unadulterated access to the Impact Zone the biker gang has pretty much excelled in putting TNA wrestlers on the shelf.  They haven’t won matches, they haven’t revealed a master plan, they haven’t shaken the company and forced a ragtag crew of loosely aligned wrestlers to wage war against them.  All they’ve managed to do since arriving in TNA is put people on the shelf.

Logically speaking, particularly since he didn’t show up or make an “impact” until the end of the show, the Aces & Eights should have easily incapacitated Sting and sent him back to the hospital from whence he came.  It’s not like Sting took them off guard, kicked over all their bikes, kidnapped the skanks or even desecrated the club house.  Sting, armed with a bat, came meandering down the ramp and proceeded to own Mike “Rey-cist” Knox after scaring off the entire group…because he’s so damn intimidating, you know?

The main reason we should pay attention to this storyline is because it’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here.  The obvious route is for Sting to take a Cena-Nexus like campaign against the group, hoping that the backstage segments and matches will at least be mildly entertaining seeing as the Aces & Eights have already been established as a stable that can’t win matches.  Other than that, why else would it be intriguing to invest in this storyline?

"Hogan...did you know I liked Spam?!?!"

“Hogan…did you know I liked Spam?!?!”

With each passing episode of IMPACT Wrestling Hulk Hogan proves himself to be, quite possibly, the most inept authority figure in the history of pro wrestling authority figures.  And yes, that includes Mike Adamle.

If we’re lucky this character trait-slash-flaw is all a part of a much larger and more intricate storyline arc; then again, that’s if we’re lucky.

It would not be surprising if this trait-slash-flaw was an unintentional side effect of the intended direction of the story, a story which will more than likely find itself conveniently squeezed into the Aces & Eights storyline.  Since Hulk Hogan’s arrival to TNA three years ago (happy anniversary, by the way), the company has consistently offered year-long major storylines interspersed with minor ones along the way.

Bully Ray’s major issue with Hogan is that the geriatric GM never trusted him, despite living a life style that epitomizes the word “untrustworthy.”  Given that during the episode Bully admitted to breaking an On-the-Road-Code it would appear that Hogan was justified in not trusting the man from the get-go, once again making Hogan the face and Bully Ray the heel in the situation.

In one brilliant swoop, however, Hogan revealed himself to be just as vindictive, unrealistic, and stupid as any other GM we’ve grown to dislike in such a position of authority.  Hogan begged Bully to tell him what was going on betwixt him and his daughter when any other guy (*cough Austin Aries cough*) could’ve easily figured out and justifiably assumed that Ray was busy giving Brooke the ol’ Hell’s Kitchen canoodle.

When Bully admitted to not adhering to the On-the-Road-Code, Hogan suspended him indefinitely…which is apparently grounds for suspension in professional wrestling…

*Side note – Numerous fans have gone out of their way to note how WWE used the AJ Styles/Dixie Carter storyline as a rubric for the AJ Lee/John Cena storyline.  What’s ironic to me, and very apparent, is that Bully Ray was suspended for a supposed relationship with the Knockouts GM, Brooke Hogan, in the same way AJ Lee was suspended for her alleged involvement with John Cena.  I’m curious to see just how many people will besmirch TNA’s immaculate name for “copying” a storyline from WWE, but I guess technically it’s not “copying” because they did it first with AJ Styles and Dixie Carter.  In that case it would be recycling, which could be viewed as something just as lazy, if not worse, than simply “copying” a storyline from another company.  Either way it seems that both TNA and WWE are suffering from a lack of new ideas; the real case must be which company can rehash something better than the other company, which would then in turn give WWE a justifiable reason for emulating something done by TNA…only better…

This would make Hulk Hogan appear senile.

After establishing his diminishing cognitive functions, we can take a look back and see how the slap-and-tickle between Brooke and Bully has dominated most of his waking moments, causing him to seriously lose focus on his duties as a General Manager.  I do believe at one point somebody (*cough Austin Aries cough*) asserted this opinion during a broadcast.

This would make Hulk Hogan appear inept.

With two healthy strikes against him, Hogan also has to face the fact that he did absolutely little to prevent the Aces & Eights from infiltrating IMPACT Wrestling.  He lost a wager against them that gave them access to the Impact Zone (and apparently wrestling contracts with TNA) and prior to that he did absolutely nothing to protect his wrestlers from their random acts of violence.  Hell, he hasn’t even addressed the fact that they viciously assaulted and severely injured several of his employees on live television!  Once more Dixie Carter hasn’t even said squat about it; all of these malicious and premeditated attacks happened under Hulk Hogan and he still has a job!

This would make Hulk Hogan appear ineffective.

So IMPACT Wrestling is managed, generally speaking, by a senile, inept and ineffective authority figure.  With no offense to Bully Ray, Hulk Hogan is easily the most intriguing character in this entire storyline due to the befuddling fact that  Serg Salinas, Bruce Pritchard, Dixie Carter, Sting, or Erik Watts have yet to appear on television to at least publicly reprimand Hogan for being all but rest-home bound.  The bad part about it all is that, as stated earlier, Hulk Hogan is the must-watch character in this triad of sports entertainment “wrestling” story-telling.

xmatch2

I intentionally YouTubed the following match Wednesday night:

Compare that match with the X-Division Tournament Match between Kid Kash and Christian York that aired on the show.  To say that the X-Division is a shell of its former self would be the understatement of the year.

Change is inevitable and there are very few things on this planet that can remain effective if it does not evolve in some way, form, or fashion.  From that perspective it is unrealistic to expect or demand that the X-Division look, feel, and behave the same way it did many many moons ago.  What’s saddens me, and perhaps other fans, is that the division resembles almost nothing of what it once was and barely resembles what it’s actually supposed to look like today.

It’s depressing that a year ago this same type of “tournament” had at least 8-12 people vying for the chance to become X-Division Champion.  It’s depressing that the fast-paced and “spot fest-like” action that the division was known for and excelled at has been replaced with…*sigh* storytelling.  The primary focus of an X-Division match isn’t storytelling; it’s pure athleticism and move/maneuver creativity mixed with high-impact, high-flying action.

Take the DragonGate USA Fray matches: 5-6 men doing ridiculous stuff to one another back-to-back-to-back:

X-Division matches were, and should be, tailored to do similar things.  It’s perfectly fine to interject a solid story into the action (Kenny King attempting to dethrone Bob Van Dam), but for the most part the action between stars striving to gain a title shot is perfect for wrestlers who can execute with near-precision some of the most jaw-dropping things we’ve ever or never seen before.  One should anticipate this being the case with next week’s “tournament” match between Zema Ion and Kenny King.

But it’s damn sure not what we got between Kid Kash and Christian York.  What we saw between Kid Kash and Christian York was a solid, straight-forward wrestling match.  If we didn’t know the men were in a “tournament” to become the #1 contenders for the X-Division title, we would’ve a easily assumed that it was just an exhibition match designed to put over York.  If that’s the case, then the question becomes whether it’s necessary to have an X-Division title if the matches will decidedly look and feel like every other single match in the company.

In comparison the same argument can be used for the kajillion belts currently in WWE; what the hell is the difference between being the World Heavyweight Champion and the WWE Champion especially if the brand-split is non-existent?  Why is the X-Division belt important the wrestlers in that division wrestle look and wrestle just like everyone else, even the Knockouts?

Either way it was a good move to delay King and Ion until next week, giving fans something to look forward to instead of blowing a wad prematurely by having it followed by what we saw yesterday.

Dear Shane: Stop being fancy, it's a 3-Way Dance.

Dear Shane: Stop being fancy, it’s a 3-Way Dance.

The good news of the night was the announcement of an “elimination style triple threat match” for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.  Current champion Jeff Hardy will have his hands full as he attempts to retain his title against the vicious and wily antics of Austin Aries, and the cold and calculated machinations of Robert Roode.  The confluence of styles in this match is a solid way to ensure a consistent number of fans tuning in for the pay per view.

The storyline(s) surrounding this match doesn’t pique one’s interest as much as the wrestling does, which is not a bad thing and pretty much TNA’s modus operandi.  Even though all three wrestlers appeared on the show, they were not in action and instead participated an opening segment and a backstage segment that was more about Hulk Hogan being mad after suspending Bully Ray than anything else.

Other than that…not much to say outside of “This will probably be a great match to watch in two weeks.”

Those are just my thoughts on the show tonight; what do YOU think?


RAW Review 12-18-12, a.k.a. “Haters Gone Hate…”

It amazes me the level of hatred some fans have for the WWE’s product.  I’m not complaining about the hatred, per se, because the barbs thrown at WWE are very reminiscent of the same barbs thrown at TNA.

What amazes me is that whenever WWE does exactly what fans say they want, the hatred only grows instead of subsiding.  We were tired of seeing John Cena dominate the show and the WWE Championship scene, so he’s removed and folks are still mad.  We wanted the face of the company to be an actual “wrestler,” we get CM Punk and folks are still mad.  We wanted new characters and more “wrestling,” better Divas matches and a focus on tag team wrestling…you get the drift.

I’m not sure what fans are expecting from pro wrestling today, but simply put the last two days have been very good for WWE.  The TLC pay-per-view delivered in many ways and was followed up by a RAW that gave us many reasons to be intrigued and invested in the product.   This is what we wanted, right?  We wanted a show that wasn’t predictable, a product that left us hungry for more, a product that features “wrestling” and focuses on “wrestlers wrestling.”

Why, exactly, are folks still grumbling?  *shrugs shoulders*

At any rate, here’s what stood out to me:

  • It was the Slammys episode; why so serious?
  • Ric Flair and Tommy Dreamer visit the WWE; why are YOU mad?
  • John Cena/Vickie Guerrero vs. Dolph Ziggler/AJ Lee: Who are the “bad guys” again?
  • Introducing RyBLACK…I mean…Big E Langston

slammy

A few fans tweeted their disappointment at the lack of “wrestling” on last night’s episode of RAW.  While their disappointment is justifiable, it’s still lacking perspective.

When I say perspective, I mean understanding that for at least one week, if not two or more, yesterday’s episode was advertised as the Slammys episode of RAW.  There have been at least a kajillion Slammys award ceremonies over the years and by now we all know what the show’s going to be like.

If we all know what the show’s going to be like, who’s fault is it then to expect more than the standard slapstick surrounding giving wrestlers semi-valuable trophies?  Once again, it’s like watching an episode of Saturday Night Live and being pissed off that the musical guest takes away precious sketch comedy time.

In comparison, very few fans pitched a fit when the November 22 episode of Impact Wrestling tanked in the ratings.  The low rating was more than likely due to it being Thanksgiving Day as opposed to being completely about the quality of the product. Fans knew and expected the rating to be extremely low because most people were spending time with their families or watching football around 8:00 pm.  What’s more befuddling is that the company chose this particular episode to debut all of its Gut Check winners…but no one blinked an eye or even questioned that logic.

For the most part, however, the episode was largely considered a “throwaway” episode; not much storyline progression or major occurrences took place because everyone knew that most fans would be busy with family obligations.

The same in a sense applies to last night’s episode of RAW; to expect an episode chock full of “wrestling” when then Slammys are literally the focus of the show seems slightly unrealistic.  Then again this seems to be the same, consistent calling card of the “We Want Wrestling” minority.  It’s not that I’m against the notion of a wrestling show having actual “wrestling” on it, but to take such a narrow-minded view of the product on the whole is simply silly.

The Slammys episode of RAW was a throwaway episode, period.  If you’re thirsting for “wrestling,” you’ve always got Impact Wrestling this Thursday or the Smackdown show tonight; don’t have a cow, man.

CM Punk - "Not only does he have old man stink on him, but it's old man stink that reeks of INDY FED!!!" | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CM Punk – “Not only does he have old man stink on him, but it’s old man stink that reeks of INDY FED!!!” | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

In one of the many surprises of the night, former WWE superstars Ric Flair and Tommy Dreamer returned to the WWE.  I’m not holding my breath on either one of them returning to full time competition in the company, but will admit it was pretty refreshing to see them both back in WWE.

This opinion wasn’t shared with all viewers, however; a few fans on Twitter noted that the same folks who panned Flair and Dreamer’s presence in TNA were the same hypocritical nut jobs who cheered for them last night.  At this point it would be more than appropriate to say that “it takes one to know one.”

When news of Flair’s financial calamities while in TNA surfaced, more than a handful of TNA’s faithful spoke at length about how Flair tarnished his image and was dead weight to the company.  When Flair was fired in May of this year those same fans cheered the move, citing that it was done in the best interests for TNA.  No one (at least not from where I sat) spent any substantial amount of time signing petitions or writing open letters to Dixie Carter begging her to resign Flair; NO ONE.

Not until he appeared back in a WWE ring last night…and all of a sudden there’s a problem.  The same thing goes for Tommy Dreamer; the notion of a 15th ECW “One Last Time” reunion overshadowed his purpose and presence in TNA, and when it was all said and done the fans questioned the necessity of him in the company for longer than the standard cup of coffee.  All of that nay saying fell to the side once Dreamer appeared on RAW last night.

All of this intrigues me because it’s all really about perspective; fans can all look at the same side of a coin and swear up and down that they’re not.  Where one can easily point a judgmental and accusatory finger at the fickle WWE hardcore fans, one could just as easily point several back at those who disagree with anything and everything produced by WWE.

I don’t think anyone is expecting Flair and Dreamer to hang around for more than a minute, which is why fans appreciated their presence back in WWE after such lengthy hiatuses.   If the creative direction they traveled down elsewhere was so consistently good, then they’d still be there, right?

I’d also like to point out that Flair, Dreamer, Foley, Booker T, Kevin Nash, and Devon are all superstars that were panned for either leaving TNA or making some sort of disparaging remark about the company well before making any return (or supposed return) to the WWE.  What’s really funny is that a lot of fans shat all over Devon after his contract “wasn’t renewed,” and now folks don’t have much to say seeing as he’s a part of a major storyline…

Dead man walking...| Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Dead man walking…| Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

In the heat of an argument with Dolph Ziggler last night, Vickie Guerrero booked a mixed tag team match that pit her and John Cena against Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee.  I’ll be the first to admit that move was the most confusing thing I’ve seen in this era of pro wrestling and sports entertainment.  Who exactly was I expected to boo???

Earlier in the night Dolph Ziggler attempted to cash in his Money In the Bank briefcase on an incapacitated Big Show, the current World Heavyweight Champion.  Right before the referee was able to have the bell rung, John Cena barreled down the aisle and rang Ziggler’s bell for him.  To be perfectly honest, that was a heel tactic that was exactly the same thing done by Wade Barrett during an attack on Kofi Kingston that took place earlier in the night.

Cena lost his match fair and square against Ziggler at the TLC pay-per-view Sunday night, but found it necessary in all his machismo to keep Ziggler from cashing in on the opportunity he rightfully earned and defended.  Where I come from Cena’s actions would be classified as “a b***h move.”

We’ve complained for years about the lack of complexity in the Cena character.  His actions last night can be added to the list of suspect things he’s done which at least hint to some dynamic shift in the character.  Notice he never explained his actions, never spoke about the attack of after it.  Even with our attention directed towards AJ’s explanation of her actions at TLC, Cena never commented on how he felt about losing to Ziggler and having just as bad a year as AJ Styles.

Hell Cena didn’t even talk about how he felt about tag teaming with Vickie Guerrero; he just went along with the program, didn’t make a sound or anything.

These things add some much needed volume to the John Cena character; it’s not exactly a heel turn as we’re use to seeing it, but it is something that makes us glance at him in a different light.  Instead of being the All-American, clean cut life coach that he’s been for most of his career, he’s now turning into just as big a douche as Alex Riley was in FCW.

Right next to that is the weird, in-between limbo area Dolph Ziggler exists in.  He’s not a heel in the classic sense of the term although he isn’t exactly a face that fans have rallied behind in large droves.  He’s a character that you can relate to while quietly hating most of what he stands for.  We hate him for berating AJ and cheer him for putting Vickie on blast and making John Cena more of a loser than he already is.  It’s a confusing mix of conflicting feelings that makes for a character we can get behind as he rolls into a well deserved main event status in the company.

I won’t get into AJ’s character development outside of directing your attention to Mr. Lamb’s excellent piece on Ms. April Mendez.  The infamous one did an excellent job at explaining all the things that makes AJ the diva to watch in the WWE right now.  My one concern is that AJ’s importance right now comes at the expense of her having make-out sessions with multiple male partners.

I realize that’s not the full extent of her character, but it’s just awkward to note that the more prominent divas in WWE history made their names by canoodling with men.  It’s also noteworthy to mention the same goes for a current female champion who’s reign was accompanied with a Hollywood boyfriend…

Most people thought "Black Ryback." I thought Ice Train...if you get that reference, please comment below and I owe you something special. | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Most people thought “Black Ryback.” I thought Ice Train…if you get that reference, please comment below and I owe you something special. | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

A few things piqued my interest about Big E Langston’s debut last night on RAW

For one his debut reminded me of a piece I wrote at the beginning of the year about adding some spice to Cena’s character if the company refused to turn him heel.  Langston’s debut was a far cry from what I initially suggested but the basics were definitely there: big guy comes into ring and puts Cena on his ass.  In hindsight anyone two wooden nickels and a mimeograph could’ve booked Langston’s debut; I guess there aren’t many mimeographs and wooden nickels floating around…

The second thing that caught my eye was the number of new stars that have suddenly crawled from the FCW/NXT recesses: Brad Maddox, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Big E Langston.  I’m excited at the wave of new faces flooding the scene and can only hope that they’re given creative directions that lead to a reinvigorated WWE product.

I’m also reminded of a piece I wrote at the beginning of the year regarding the usefulness of watching NXT.  If you’re not familiar with any of these individuals and their abilities, then that’s your fault and not WWE’s.  Langston, in all his bigness and resemblance to the cookie cutter WWE wrestler, is a good athlete and can get over with the fans.  The brass must see something in him to put him up against John Cena (same thing happened with Sheamus and look where we’re at now) so all the nasty “Vince’s erection” jokes are completely unnecessary if you can’t even seriously invest time into seeing what the man is all about.

The final thing that stands out to me is his presence.  One commenter made a note that they figured Langston was going to have a “Nation of Domination” type of gimmick because 1) he’s Black, which apparently immediately makes one militant, and 2) because he was wearing an all black singlet with green, yellow, and red colors.

Take a gander at this for a second:

ethiopian flag

 

This is the flag of the African country, Ethiopia.  The lion in the middle is often referred to as the “Lion of Judah,” which is a title for Christ found in the Holy Bible (Rev. 5:5) and the title for Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.  I’m bringing all of this up because all of these things are present on Langston’s singlet.  While Wikipedia states that Langston was born to Afro-Caribbean parents, it’s more than likely one of them is from Ethiopia, which is why the three colors and lion are on his ring gear.

Please…read a damn book before jumping to conclusions.  Wrestlers will often sneak things they hold dear to their hearts into their ring gear.  Bret Hart had three hearts on his gear to represent his kids; CM Punk always has Chicago’s flag represented on his tights.   Kofi Kingston has a Ghanian symbol called “the war horn” on his boots…but alas the average fan wouldn’t know or care about these types of things because “it’s not wrestling.”

SMH

Alas, those are my thoughts on the show.  There were a lot of things that happened last night worthy of conversation, so please tell me…what did YOU think of the show?

 


RAW Review 12-10-12, a.k.a. “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Sho’…”

This isn't pro wrestling!! I KEEL YEW!!!

This isn’t pro wrestling!! I KEEL YEW!!!

As it currently stands the most popular thing to do is bash any and everything produced by WWE regardless of what the end product looks like.  Makes me reminisce about the days when it wasn’t popular to speak ill of TNA and their pre-Bruce Prichard booking.  Nevertheless Monday’s episode of RAW provided the haters with all the ammunition they needed to have a spectacular time.

On the other side of the coin, it’s funny that for once in a long time I was actually entertained by what has been (for me at least) a typically dull three hour sports entertainment cavalcade.  No matter how you look at it, however, this show contained something for everyone; whether you bashed the show, complained about not watching it while watching it, or remained engaged from 8 – 11:03 PM, you were talking or tweeting or texting about the show.  That, much to the chagrin of the company’s detractors, is a good thing.

For what it’s worth RAW was made all the more interesting by two things: the wrestling and the live crowd.  Everything in between, ranging from the mundane or nonexistent storyline progression to the highly entertaining segments, pointed back to the strength of the in-ring action and riding the momentum from an energetic crowd.

We shouldn’t be so quick to shake a stick at those two factors, one of which has been a major criticism of the WWE’s product for sometime now.  Fans clamoring for more “wrestling” in WWE matches have quietly ignored the reality that the three hour format lends itself to allowing for longer, more in-depth wrestling and psychology in matches of some importance to the bigger picture.  Longer matches then give way to building solid feuds and rivalries (a point that Mr. Gammon brought up), as opposed to having two guys face each other randomly because they haven’t done so before and for the sake of it being “different” with no rhyme or reason other than being “different.”

An immature fan, hell bent on being angry for the sake of being angry, would argue that seeing the same match-ups over and over again are pointless and boring.  It could be argued that Sunday night’s 4,000th match between AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels at TNA’s Final Resolution proves that immature perspective to be a) silly and b) chock full of bias.  I highly doubt that most fans yearned to see John Cena and Brodus Clay tear it up in the main event match, so what’s the real reason behind disliking recycled matches?

That stuff aside, this go-home episode of RAW did very little for me to build excitement for this Sunday’s TLC pay per view; but on the flip side it didn’t dilute my interest in watching the pay per view, especially my desire to see The Shield’s official wrestling debut against Team Hell No and Ryback.  I’m sure there are thousands of fans who disagree with that perspective.

Here’s what stood out in the show for me:

  • No Muppets were filmed in the making of this show.  Are you frickin’ happy now?
  • Cody’s Mustache + The Miz’s Face Turn = Unintentional Gold
  • Antonio Cesaro continues to impress
  • Colt Cabana was backstage
  • The Shield finally attacks John Cena…THANK. YOU. JBL.
Hey...where erybody go?

Hey…where erybody go?

Yesterday before the show I crafted a lengthy piece about the Muppets serving as Social Ambassadors for RAW.  I must begrudgingly admit that I didn’t consider the fact that the fuzzy and fun-loving creatures from Jim Henson’s Monster Workshop wouldn’t actually be featured on the show as Social Ambassadors; rather they’d simply tweet here and there about the show, perhaps even be mentioned here and there on the live broadcast.

If you watched the show you could’ve probably counted on one hand the number of times the Muppets were mentioned by Jerry Lawler and Mike Cole.  So in the long run it was hilarious to have wasted an entire blog post on defending stars that didn’t even appear on the show.  What’s even more tickling is the fact that some fans were pissed off at something that never manifested on the show.  As fans we really have to start picking and choosing our battles.

Now the Muppets will be featured on the Tribute to the Troops show coming up in a few days, but it’d be way more ridiculous to see people get pissed off at a variety show done for those brave men and women who serve our country in the armed forces.  If you don’t like Flo Rida, Kid Rock, the Muppets or matches that have very little to do with current storylines, then piss off because the show wasn’t designed for you anyway.

Damien Sandow (left) flanks the right side of Channel 5's Action News Team Anchor Guy Tannen. | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Damien Sandow (left) flanks the right side of Channel 5’s Action News Team Anchor Guy Tannen. | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Cody Rhodes returned to action last night after suffering an injury one month ago prior to the Survivor Series pay per view.  Unfortunately Cody’s return to action was dwarfed by the debut of his new mustache, a debut that garnered at least two boisterous chants from the New Jersey crowd and a Twitter hashtag.  To make matters even more awesome, the Rhodes Scholars (tag team consisting of Rhodes and Damien Sandow) were subjected to an interview with The Miz on MizTV.

The unintentional hilariousness that ensued was enough to at least give the dissenters and advocates a moment of tranquility.

The whole segment easily reminded us of what makes being a wrestling fan fun.  It’s understandable to want solid wrestling matches, but the segments that take place in between those matches are important for a number of reasons; wrestlers prepare for matches, get time to recuperate, get last minute instructions, get checked out by physicians, etc.  Most important the segment served as a buffer in between matches so the fans get a moment to breathe; seriously think about watching two hours of straight wrestling with nothing in between…

This particular set-up not only did a lot to reintroduce Rhodes to the fans that may have easily forgotten about him in his month long absence (in comparison, does anyone miss Mr. Anderson in TNA?), but it also furthered some sort of rivalry between Miz and Sandow, an exchange that initially began some weeks ago.  There may be nothing that comes from it, but it would be peculiar to have Miz constantly egg Sandow without some sort of payoff in sight.

And Cody’s mustache…priceless.

Champion versus Champion exhibition...there's a nifty word...exhibition... | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Champion versus Champion exhibition…there’s a nifty word…exhibition… | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

United States Champion Antonio Cesaro defeated Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston in a long and extremely athletic match.  The highlight of the match was Cesaro reversal of Kofi’s top rope cross body splash into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker.  To say that reversal was glorious would be an understatement.

When speaking of making a mid-level championship relevant one would be remiss by not mentioning Cesaro’s name somewhere at the top of that conversation.  Cesaro has come quite a way since his WWE debut as a defrocked rugby star turned wrestler and consistently shows the top brass in WWE that he’s a worthwhile investment and a future main event superstar.

Kofi Kingston as of late has settled quite nicely into his mid-level role as Intercontinental Champion.  While he doesn’t bring the same flair or notoriety to the belt as former champion Cody Rhodes did during his reign, Kingston seems comfortable in a position that feels to be a grooming session for a main event spot.  What should concern us is that this isn’t the first time Kingston has flirted with the proverbial main event mistress, and there’s much to be said about his appeal to those fans who expect their champions to be “wrestlers” in the Antonio Inoki/Great Muta sense of the term.

I will say this: if there was any chance that Kingston would become a major champion sometime prior to 2014, he’d remind me a lot of TNA’s current World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Hardy…minus the drugs and D.I.L.L.I.G.A.F. attitude.

Everyone’s favorite wrestler, Colt Cabana, was apparently backstage at last night’s show.  Wrestlers always find their way backstage to shows so it’s not all that big of a deal really.  In Colt Cabana’s case, it was interesting to find out that he was backstage at RAW a mere four days after the WWE posted that video on their website.

Colt recently “ended” his tenure with NWA after defeating former NWA World Heavyweight Champion in a series of matches known as the 7 Levels of Hate.  This series, culminating with a steel cage match in Australia, saw Cabana defeat Pierce but not for the NWA Title due to some b.s. that’s too complicated to delve into at this moment in time.  Point being Cabana may be free to do something with the WWE if he and the company choose to enter into some sort of agreement.

Cabana is funny as hell and also one unique athlete that really didn’t get a solid opportunity to do what he does best in a WWE ring.  With stars like Brodie Lee, PAC, Chris Hero and Martin Stone currently making waves in NXT, Cabana could fit in quite nicely with the vast number of “wrestlers” being developed for the WWE.  We can’t jump to conclusions because of a WWE.com video and backstage sighting, but it is interesting that the WWE referenced a former wrestler out of the blue for seeming no reason other than to reference him.  Let’s just hope he’s at least brought in as a trainer (a la Sara Del Ray).

All I could say was...it's about damn time! | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

All I could say was…it’s about damn time! | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

And finally, the WWE once again ripped off TNA by ending the show with a pier 6 brawl initiated by the hijinks of The Shield.  Luckily for us the initial attack was aimed at John Cena, an attack that was long overdue.

It was only a matter of time before The Shield directed their swords of justice towards John Cena.  Some fans questioned the group’s motives for attacking Cena, motives that were literally laid out by Dolph Ziggler at the beginning of the show.  The simple version is this: Cena, despite having had one terrible 2012, still managed to get opportunity after opportunity to wrestle for the WWE Title.  We fans even criticized this for years, so is it really any question as to why The Shield would go after Cena at this point?  Hell, my question is “why’d it take them so long to do it?”

What makes The Shield compelling to watch is their calculated and slightly vicious campaign against injustice in the WWE.  They attack at random and at will, and it still remains to be seen if they’re indeed working for someone or for themselves.  As Mr. Lamb stated in a conversation, they’re like a special ops force within the WWE, striking with intention that’s confusing to anyone outside of the master plan.  The attacks can only go on for so long, but at the least we get to see them perform in an actual match in less than a week from now.

Those are just my thoughts on the subject; what did YOU think of the show?

 


State of Pro Wrestling Address

State of the Union address

We are back again with another Podcast covering the state of the industry.

Topics came from the following:

Vitality of the Pro Wrestling Industry for both WWE & TNA

Champions of the Industry

And various current events.

State of Wrestling Address Part 1

State of Wrestling Address Part 2


RAW Review 10-1-12, a.k.a. “Still Got Something to Prove…”

Gary always knows how to cheer us up around here.

I’ve got to be honest with you guys…I really wasn’t into Monday night’s episode of RAW.  In fact I was so not into the episode that in order to do this review properly, I watched the show again on YouTube.  I actually watched it while typing this review.

In the past few months, pro wrestling fans have flexed their critically cynical muscles by lambasting the WWE for producing subpar programming, particularly with respect to the product offered by other companies.  But this is a RAW review, and we’re not here to compare oranges to crab apples; if we’re going to rake RAW over the coals, we can do it without mentioning who does what better.

My feelings from last week haven’t changed; pro wrestling/sports entertainment seems to be in a dormancy period that is in turn making everything seem boring.  This is unfortunate for the WWE because there are a lot of great things going on for the company right now, most noteworthy being the revitalization of the tag team division.

But everything else is just blah to me.  Fact is that if you missed this show, you could get the gist of it by watching the 40 billion RAW Rewinds that will air on the 900 hours of WWE programming airing between now and Friday.

I’m not one for ultimatums, but I can say that Monday’s RAW  left me anxious for this week’s episode of NXT.  Terrible thing when the flagship show makes you appreciate the show that doesn’t even air in this country.

Those feelings aside, here are three things that stuck out to me:

  • Live from Oklahoma City, it’s Monday Night RAWWWWW!
  • MinoriTEAMS featuring Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara
  • Newfound Respect: Cesaro and Sandow

All that top talent in one segment gone straight to hell. | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I was initially amazed at the talent in the ring at the beginning of the show…and those feelings quickly dissipated once the segment reached its climax.

When conversations begin about the next generation of WWE Superstars (something I’ll hit on in a future post), it’s amazing to consider the abilities and skills of the superstars and divas surging down the pipeline.  As Paul Heyman mentioned during the segment, the “here-and-now” of the WWE was gathered in the ring at once and it was a beautiful sight.  To see CM Punk with Heyman, Dolph Ziggler with Vickie Guerrero, Kane and Daniel Bryan and AJ Lee all in the ring at once…it was quite the sexy sight.

It was when Daniel Bryan interrupted the segment to talk about his looks, his beard, and his reign as the tag team champions that the whole thing just got silly.  What was an interesting back and forth between Team Best In the World and Team Money In the Bank turned into an opening monologue for Saturday Night Live.  It depressed me.

This isn’t to say that all opening segments have to be as serious as a soteriological debate between Lance Storm and Dean Malenko, but the reality of a sports entertainment doctrine was very evident during that opening segment.  I understand and agree with the idea that pro wrestling has to be entertaining, and the segment was entertaining before the introduction of shtick.

It was entertaining for me mostly because of Paul Heyman.  Watching the man work a crowd and turn a phrase is like witnessing Michelangelo craft a masterpiece.  His mannerisms, facial expressions, and poignant comments made the whole thing pop, and to see him verbally spar with the equally abrasive Vickie Guerrero was near perfect.

The whole purpose for AJ, Kane and Daniel Bryan was to set up the main event and that’s fine; but I just really feel like it took the entire segment in a different direction, a direction that really had to do with AJ more than it did the superstars and managers in the ring.

If that truly is the case then we can understand why (kayfabe) CM Punk feels disrespected.  Even with John Cena missing from television, the show is still not about the WWE Champion.  A fan can only hope a payoff to all this is coming in the near future.

“It’s us against the world, Rey…us against the world…” | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

WWE has done wonders to revitalize its dying tag team division. From having a single-elimination tournament to decide the number one contenders, to having the tag teammates dress alike, these minor improvements have gone a long way to show fans that WWE truly “cares” about tag team wrestling…well, at least Triple H does.

Did anyone else notice how the teams made up of minorities were facing each other in the tournament?  Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara faced Epico and Primo Monday night, and on Friday The Prime Time Players will face R-Truth and Kofi Kingston on Smackdown.

That type of wrestling brings back memories…

Disciples of Apocalypse

Los Boricuas

Nation of Domination

And people said they wanted the Attitude Era back.

Antonio Cesaro putting them hoo-has to Brodus Clay. | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Occasionally there are moments in a given company where superstars will go above and beyond what is expected of them.  We can only assume that these superstars have, at some point, become aware of an opportunity for career advancement.  In other words, no John Cena equals prime opportunity to run with the ball.

Both Antonio Cesaro and Damien Sandow showed their asses Monday night by doing some impressive things in the ring.  Cesaro’s moment arrived when he leveled the massive Brodus Clay with his finisher, The Neutralizer.

Ho…leee… | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CRAP!!!! | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Damien Sandow’s spot in the sunshine came during his entire match with Sheamus, where he literally went toe-to-toe with the brutish son of Ireland and held his own for the majority of a very lengthy match.

Sandow: “Say it…say it…SAY IT!!!” Sheamus: “Maaaa-ttteeee!” | Photo © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I won’t sit and predict that either man will hold a major championship before the sun sets on the year, but I can say that both men performed as if they had something to prove to someone watching the show.  Creatively speaking Sandow and Cesaro’s characters have been stuck in neutral for quite some time; their performances injected some much needed life into the two stock, generic characters.

For example: up until Monday Cesaro dominated his competition with relative ease.  While he did not give Clay a sound thrashing, he did manage to lift the behemoth off of his feet for his finisher.  Keep in mind that there are only a select few individuals that put Brodus Clay on his duff.

Meanwhile Damien Sandow shed his typically foppishly dandy demeanor to prove that he could be just as ruthless and relentless as Mankind.  I still think the character is a tool, but kudos to the man and his work by showing that he can hold his own against opponents of substance.

Those are just my thoughts on the show; what do YOU think???


RAW 8/27/2012 (Part 1)

We’ve all had the same question for the last few weeks: will the three hour format work for RAW.  Short answer: it can.  Long answer: it has been.  Going from a two hour show to a three hour show is about the equivalent of going from a long single disc album to going into a double disc that, combined, is still less than 100 minutes overall.  That may not make the most sense to you but it carries significance, believe me.

We started of this edition with Lawler coming up and demanding an apology for Punk kicking him unconscious last week.  While most of us, if not 99% of us, rejoiced at this response to disrespect, the more or less dead crowd wasn’t really into it like they should have been.  Punk came out to respond and proceeded to completely bury Lawler.  COMPLETELY.  I can’t emphasize that enough.  Bringing up the fact that a man’s never won the WWE Championship is one thing; bringing up the fact that his Wrestlemania moment is defined by losing to Michael Cole is another.  Subsequently, I felt very screwed that I had to sit through that match when I went to Wrestlemania and I want either my money back or the promise of Vaseline next time, WWE.

Punk challenged the commentator to a match, emphasizing that Lawler would leave that arena embarrassed: either because he lost against Punk or because he didn’t even accept the challenge.  Be A Star.  A defeated Lawler responded, “I’ll think about it.”  Be.  A.  Star.

The first match was between one-time World Heavyweight Champion Jack Swagger and Goldberg 2.0 Ryback.  You already know who won so I won’t bore you with minor details, but let me ask this question: does ANYONE remember when Swagger was the World Heavyweight Champion?  It wasn’t a really long reign by any means, but it lasted for nearly three months and it was exponentially longer than the World Heavyweight Championship run of former BFF Dolph “I’m Jericho 2.0” Ziggler.  To add more humor to that statement, Swagger won the title OFF of Jericho back then! 

In any case, Swagger’s defiant “THIS IS IT!” shout outside the ring tells me that they’re going to do something with him now.  Anything is better than jobber hell; he can be in jobber nirvana easily.

Our next match was the obligatory Divas match: Natalya versus Layla, the Champion.  The crowd, already dead, wasn’t enthused, and Vickie coming out before the match and actually pushing for the match to be done with throughout was an annoyance more than anything.  Layla wins the match and Vickie quickly shoos both her and the Hart chick out of the ring to scream about her discomfort, anger and disgust with AJ, as well as push that subtle (citation needed) invitation that she should be the GM again.  In response, AJ came out and attacked Vickie.  Aside from Vickie showing herself to take a fall better than a lot of women AND men on the roster, this crowd, which still pissed me off, chanted “Kiss!  Kiss!  Kiss!” repeatedly during AJ and Vickie’s quick scuffle, AJ caught my attention because she displayed some of that crazy she’s become so famous for as of late.  I like that.  It’s sexy.  And crazy chicks are sexy. 

And she’s Latina.  I don’t know if that’s supposed to carry a hidden meaning or anything, but my conspiracy theories on Mexican and Hispanic Superstars and Divas are pretty well known on this blog, and a significant portion of Part 4.

Next we get the first Triple H video package, and the thought process is set in peoples’ minds that he’s set to retire.  Note that this hasn’t been verified in any capacity though.  Nice package, but it lacked something I wanted to see…

Speaking of lacking things I wanted to see, we get to Daniel Bryan in his first week of anger management.  Stop processing what I’ve written for a second and consider this: Daniel Bryan in anger management.  If those words don’t pop out at you and sparkle gold with diamond outlines then something is wrong with YOU.  Daniel Bryan has proven time and time again that he is a god-like technician in the ring and a god-like technician when it comes to working the crowd.  Now he can add the title of god-like technician in working a comedic segment.  Nothing about this was wrong and everything was hilarious, from the small group, to the shirt Bryan wore so proudly, to the COMPLETELY unimpressed look on his face when the camera first focused on his face.  Assaulting the child?  Very Be A Star, and very, very hilarious.  Ironically enough, the most memorable moment in that first segment to me was when that man said his son, wearing the goat mask, was playing a goat in the school’s production of Noah’s Ark.  Why?  Because I never actually considered that the Ark had goats on it.

Oh, and I like Harold.  When you need a good token black guy then you get Harold!  Harold kicks ass!

We come back to the live segment and Lawler accepts Punk’s challenge.  We already know what outcome that’s going to have, but then Cena comes out for his match versus the Miz.  No, this is NOT a Wrestlemania rematch, despite how it may look, you know, with Cena being Cena and the Miz being a champion and all.  Standard match.  Standard everything.  Cena wins.  I’m so shocked.  If only you could hear my intense sarcasm.

Lawler is still gone (not complaining) and Cole announces that the crowd can decide what kind of match Punk and Lawler battle in: tables match, cage match or No DQ match.  Like many of you, I wondered if there was going to be a cage brought in from India or something because I didn’t see one, but there was one later.  Not wondering where the cage was; I have better thing to do than wonder.  Another highlight video for Triple H plays, yay.

But fun times abound when we come back to the anger management class.  They had said that there was one person missing, and sure enough that empty chair was next to Daniel Bryan.  After my new hero Harold spouted his issues, Bryan quickly dismissed them and said that HIS issues were greater, and sure enough, we may agree.  The last member of the class came in and it was (who else?) Kane.  Everyone but Bryan scooted their chairs away; Bryan just looked pissed.  Not even mad, just pissed, almost as if to say, “This some ol’ bullshit, man…”

But my point is proven: Bryan is a god.  And Harold might be too.  Harold kicks ass.  WE LOVE HAROLD!

Our next match was a continuation of jobber paradise with former United States Champion Santino Marella and one-man rock band idol Heath Slater.  Here was my question before it even started: if Slater loses, will that be a bad reflection on Sin Cara?  Yes, the answer is yes, and I already think Sin Cara is underwhelming.  The match was pretty standard until Santino pulled the green sock from his crotch and prepared to put an end to the match.  Here Aksana came out, theme song and all, and the second brand of comedy came about: the kid brand, which is the topic of Part 2. 

No, a lot of people who can remember Ren and Stimpy will not be amused by this.  A lot of kids will, however.  With that in mind, just deal with it.  Kids find this kind of thing to be humorous, and they’ve worked to a more kid-friendly product for years.  It’s worth noting that now they can have a Saturday morning show and can argue that they have found a wavering, if steadying, balance between adult humor and kid humor.  They can make that claim; I’m not entirely convinced.  We’ll see as time goes on.

Oh, and Santino won, hinting at a feud between him and the Swede.  Okay.  It’ll give them both something to do, and it could be SERIOUSLY intensified if Cesaro had the nerve to turn the United States title into the new European Championship.  I know I’ve said this before, several times, but it’s an election year!  Think of the heat!  THE HEAT!

Cole plugged in another Triple H bit before the break.  Rumblings are beginning to erupt on Twitter from people who haven’t watched this product for about ten years.  Worth ignoring for now.  Our next match begins with introductions: Brodus Clay and Sin Cara versus Damien Sandow and the man he claims he can have an intelligent conversation with: Cody Rhodes.  I’ll keep it 100 with you: I didn’t really watch this match too closely.  I saw who won and that was about it.  Honestly I’m only a fan of one of the four competitors: Rhodes, and I tolerate the others because of nostalgia, genuine heat and two fine black women who touch their asses together for our amusement.  You can decipher who is meant by which on your own time.

Clay and Cara win.  Ignoring the fact that Sin Cara can’t dance (helps when you can’t see someone’s face when they try to dance) the third anger management segment began to play, and this was arguably the greatest segment in the history of taped RAW segments in the past few years.  The focus was on Kane, and after taking his mask off (to reveal the other mask), he briefly went through the events of his life, much to Bryan’s chagrin.  What made this the most epic thing of the evening, of course, was the fact that he mentioned Katie Vick.

He wins, bitches.  Aside from being a perfect compliment to Dr. Evil’s group therapy monolog from the first Austin Powers movie (side by side comparisons at the end of the post) this monolog was hilarious AND informative!  Seriously, just READ what the man said:

Well, I grew up locked in a basement suffering severe psychological and emotional scarring when my brother set my parents on fire. From there I sifted around a series of mental institutions until I was grown, at which point I buried my brother alive, twice. Since then I’ve set a couple of people on fire and abducted various co-workers. Oh and I, uh, once electrocuted a man’s testicles. Years ago I had a girlfriend named Katie, but, um… let’s just say that didn’t turn out so well. My real father is a guy named Paul Bearer, who I recently trapped in a meat locker. I’ve been married, divorced, broke up my ex-wife’s wedding and tombstoned the priest. And for reasons never quite explained, I have an unhealthy obsession with torturing Pete Rose.

WHAT?!  No!  After laughing to the point of crying, and significantly appreciating the fact that there was no logical rationale for his torture of Pete Rose (hey Ash, Kane doesn’t need a reason to hate, so why should I?!), I finally advanced into the show.

That’s a lie: I anxiously waited to hear what was next for Kane and Bryan in anger management.  Arts and crafts are coming up next week.  And you know what that means?  MORE HAROLD!

After we have to say goodbye to Kane, Bryan and Harold (*sniff*) we get ANOTHER Triple H video package.  I like them but this is enough.  Our next match has Good Times (Kingston and Truth) come out, the latter in a match, the other in a suit.  Have to say: I like Kofi in a suit.  He comes out with his wife too, he has all the wins a black man can have in the WWE without being named Harold.  Who is Truth’s opponent? 

Why, a fresh out of anger management Daniel Bryan, who in keeping with his anger management going character (reiteration: god-like technician), responds to the heavy “YES!” chants of the crowd with a calm and dignified “No”.  BRILLIANT!  He comes to the ring and shows respect to Truth with a fist bump.  Nice.  After a brief back and forth Truth encourages Bryan to show Lil’ Jimmy the fist bump respect too.  Bryan, still in anger management mode, agrees, and does, and the match begins anew.

But we might need to come to that anger management class again sooner than next week.  Bryan and Truth leave the ring, Truth starts a “Yes!” chant throughout the arena, and Bryan slowly begins to lose his cool, responding with a soft “No” at first and then devolving into a pained, crowd-pleasing, crowd-working, furious “NO!” rant with, I swear, the same son of a bitch from the last few weeks, with the same shirt and everything!  Obviously Daniel Bryan has fallen off the wagon.  I think we need Harold to be his anger buddy.

Truth wins by countout.  Bryan is disheveled and my point, first stated in the Curious Case of Bryan Danielson, is further proven: Bryan is a god.  Next, Triple H is said to be there.  That’s a start.  He comes out.  That’s validation.  His speech is carefully worded and sometimes you can hear the man break up a bit as if about to cry.  While he kept questioning whether or not he was done with the ring, he NEVER explicitly stated that he was done, never.  That’s partly why I was left wanting throughout, even with that douchebag yelling loud enough to shout out TNA (yeah, fool, I heard you!).  He left with no resolution but a heavily implied retirement.  I hope he stays until the next Wrestlemania actually; I want my master plan to play out and yes, YOU WILL AGREE WITH ME! 

That’s not a command so much as an assumption: I think you would really appreciate how I see Triple H going out of the WWE’s in-ring action.  But c’est la vie.  We’ll see what happens.

Next the lights go dim, and the Y2J music hits.  For the two people who honestly thought it was Jericho, shame on you.  It was Jericho 2.0, who can now boast that he retired the Obi-Wan to his Anakin Skywalker (not going into the Episode posts again until I hit 1000 views on one).  He came out and Del Rio followed, the tell-tale signs of a tag match.  Their opponents: who else but Orton and Sheamus?

Decent match.  Good guys win.  At this point (I failed to mention this earlier) Josh Matthews has replaced Jerry Lawler on commentary.  I mention this now because Kane comes out, and as he approaches the commentator table Matthews takes off and Cole stands up, scared to sit next to the big red monster.  Ignoring the possible Heidenreich-Cole comparisons, Kane’s commentary was as epic as Pootie Tang’s hit single.  What was the match?  Zack Ryder versus David Otunga.  Yes, I was the same way: “Oh my God, who the hell cares?!”  It was a match, point blank, and after wards Kane came out and looked as if he was about to chokeslam Ryder. 

That didn’t materialize.  Kane let go of Ryder and chokeslammed Otunga.  Anger management classes ARE working for Kane.  He doesn’t need Harold to be his anger buddy, but I think he would benefit nonetheless.

As we begin to wind down, a cage match has been chosen by the WWE Universe and there was a cage.  I still didn’t question.  First Lawler comes out.  Then Punk.  Punk offers Lawler the first punch, which he promised if Lawler accepted the match, and the first punch is thrown.  The match begins, and sure enough it actually isn’t a bad match.  No one thought Lawler would win, but in-ring psychology suggested that he might, all until Punk locked in that Anaconda Vice.  Lawler tapped.  That ended the last match of the evening.

But the show was not over.  A kid yelled at Punk to show Lawler mercy (I know plenty of people that would jump on that comment too) but Punk found a chain and locked him and Lawler in the cage.  He began the slow, drawn out torture of Lawler all for the purpose of having King admit that Punk is the best in the world.  Eventually Lawler passed out, but the assault didn’t really end.  Cena came out and tried to break the chain, a feat I only remember Mark Henry actually accomplishing, and failed.  He barked at the people to raise the cage, raising the question as to why Superman didn’t just fly over it, but what do I know?  As soon as the cage began to raise Punk bailed.  THAT ended the show.

I never actually said it before, but the three hour format, in my opinion, works because they can utilize more talent and give some worthy stars more time, like Bryan, and now Harold, because we love Harold.  Is there more filler?  Yes.  Does it feel unnecessarily drawn out from time to time?  Yes.  But so did the two hour version.  I’m just spouting my opinion though.  Be easy people, I’m gonna go shout the praises of Harold.

And now, the comparison.  Who did it better, Kane or Michael Myers as Dr. Evil?


RAW Review 8-20-19, a.k.a. “R-E-S-P-U-N-K!”

Cena to IWC – “Once again you diptweeds have to pay attention to me! Pzzzbbblltttttttt!!!”| Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The August 20th episode of RAW hailed from Fresno, California, fresh off the heels of what I was told was one boss SummerSlam Pay Per View Sunday night.  And what better way to cap off an action packed evening of $60 worth of sports entertainment than to allow John Cena to stir the pot, poop in it, serve it up and leave us with yet another reason to hate his character’s guts?

Last night’s episode of RAW was all about respect, particularly the lack of respect shown to the current WWE Champion CM Punk.  One could say that Punk’s career in the WWE has been captured accurately in this one story line.  I’m not one to believe in coincidence; I think everything happens for a reason even if we’re not aware of what the reasoning is.  I can’t be the only one that sees the next few months as the most important and defining in Punk’s WWE career…

He’s the subject of a 3-disc DVD set and he graces the cover of the new WWE ’13 video game (both due out in October).  He’s now placed firmly back into a major story line shoulder to shoulder with John Cena.  He represents a score of superstars rising the WWE ranks that look less and less like bodybuilders and more like professional wrestlers.  I mean, this is what the IWC wants, right?

At any rate a lot of the everything that took place last night was inconsequential; from this point story lines will build up to the Night of Champions Pay Per View, leaving the show in the weird “reset” phase that most fans dislike.  The next big Pay Per View for the WWE is Survivor Series in November, which means that we’ve got both Night of Champions (from Boston)and Hell In a Cell (which will emanate from here in Atlanta) to meander through before we can really say “This is the match I’ve been waiting to see!”

Until then we have to pay close attention to the distinct journey Punk’s character is taking.  Believe it or not it’s very familiar and it’s looking to be reminiscent of another story line from an era that fans clamored for the WWE to bring back.

For those of you that care, Survivor Series will be held in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN.  Here’s a picture:

Okay, so it isn’t the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but I was in Indianapolis this summer and needed a reason to post a picture from my trip.

Here are a few things that stood out to me:

  • Randy Orton: Mercenary
  • David Otunga: Tool
  • Kaitlyn: New Diva Rising
  • Zack Ryder: Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha
  • CM Punk: Wrestling’s Finest

 

Got a problem and need it fixed real quick? Never fear, call RANDY!!! | Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Since his return to the WWE following his 60-day suspension Randy has been used sparingly on WWE television.  Rumor has it that he’s set to leave again soon to begin filming on the WWE Studios feature film, 12 Rounds: Reloaded.  Yep, they’re making another one.

If there is any truth to this speculation, then this role is perfect for Randy because he can easily disappear from TV without anyone questioning it…well anyone other than my buddies @SmkeAndMirrors, @VipersOracle, and the legions of other Ortonites prowling around the interwebs (shameless plug).

It is pretty different to see Randy as someone called in to extract justice for someone else, or to victimize some hapless sap to further a story line he’s not involved in.  I like the general direction of the character at this time, which will do him well until the Barrett Barrage returns to television.  “Hey Randy, can you open this jar of pickles for me???” RKO!  “Hey Randy, I can’t find the derivative of this polynomial; can you help me out here?” Powerslam!  “Hey Randy, I need to put this football between the uprights to take the Browns to the SuperBowl; lend me a hand?”  Pun…err…gentle yet swift tap with the big toe…

 

Be honest; did you even realize he hadn’t been on TV since before Laurinaitis got fired? | Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I swore up and down that Otunga lost a lot of body mass once I saw him sauntering down the aisle.  But in the midst of my speculation, Mr. Quinn Gammon pointed out that he only looked smaller because he shaved his trademark mustache and goatee combo.  That’s a damn shame when your mustache makes you look bigger.

Other than being a swole Carlton Banks, there’s not much worth mentioning about Otunga’s return other than the fact that he was served up to Big Show, who appeared to be more of a face than a heel last night.  What’s even more confusing is the fact that Otunga is useful enough to the company to still be employed with the company; maybe there is some good use from that Harvard Law degree he’s got.

Is it just me or does the ref kinda look like a young Eric Bischoff? What’s scary: that’s more important than talking about Kaitlyn… | Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In other news, Kaitlyn is now the number one contender to Layla’s WWE Divas Championship.  I personally don’t think the fans could have actually cared any less, which is sad for Layla, Kaitlyn, the Divas Championship and the Divas Division.

While most fans take joy in belittling anything and everything the Divas do, their constant complaining causes them to miss the fact that the Divas actually provide some worthwhile matches and entertainment if you’re actually looking for it.  To that end, Kaitlyn is one of the Divas that honestly doesn’t fit the “model-turned-model-slash-wrestler-slash-Diva” mold.

If you’ve seen Kaitlyn do anything in FCW and on NXT, you’ll quickly note that she’s actually a decent wrestler.  Prior to joining the WWE Kaitlyn was a professional bodybuilder, which is very similar to the route John Cena traveled down before landing in the company.  I’m not saying that Kaitlyn is the female Antonio Inoki, but she is far from being a slouch in the ring.

Her impending match with Layla should be interesting enough to watch, but the bigger issue is how that story will be made into something significant for the fans to buy into.  The road to relevance for the Divas is long and rocky, but it is refreshing to see that Kaitlyn and not Kelly Kelly earned the right to fight for the title.

There you go, Ryder; back down in creative hell where you can prosper. | Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Call me weird but I enjoy watching Kane throttle Zack Ryder consistently.  It’s just the funniest thing to me next to The Three Stooges and reading people’s comments on news and pro wrestling websites.  I literally spent at least three months of my life waiting to see just how Kane chose to eviscerate Ryder from one week to the next.

My thing is always this: Ryder KNOWS what will happen when he steps into the ring with Kane.  Why does he continue to do so??  YOU CAN’T BEAT HIM, ZACK!  GIVE IT UP…FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS SACRED IN THIS WORLD, GIVE IT UP!

I guess Ryder’s tenacity is what makes this very minor story line engaging enough.  He seems to be the only one that believes he can get the upper had on Kane, and you have to admire that gumption.  But I’m not gone not laugh when that man gets embarrassed by Kane.  I think I’d lose my damn mind if the Big Red Machine/Monster tossed his Long Island behind into a large body of water.

Punk squats in the ring after giving the King one hell of a ding to the domepiece. | Photo: WWE.com © 2012 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

All Punk wants is a little bit of respect; that’s all the brother is asking for.  But at what cost?

Fans far and wide have harped on how Punk’s current character is a heel, but that really isn’t the case seeing as Punk is pretty much right about not having the respect he deserves as the standard bearer in WWE.  One could even argue the same about WWE on a whole.

Most fans today bitch and complain about WWE and it’s watered down PG product.  The fans who stream the Pay Per Views complain about everything; the fans who won’t buy merch complain about everything.  From a star not winning a match to even the location of their Sunday night spectaculars, it seems as if the popular thing today is to badmouth WWE no matter what the company does to please fans.

But this PG Era that fans complain about is bringing them money despite popular belief and despite popular belief, the company is making more strides by pandering to kids than it would by peddling the smut that made them uber-popular during the late 1990s.  News flash: the smut worked in the late 1990s for a reason; it’s 2012…get over it.

It would appear that some fans have lost respect for the WWE, as Mr. Gammon said to me while watching the show yesterday.  While I don’t necessarily agree with his assessment completely, I understand what he meant: no matter what the WWE provides there will exist a very vocal segment of fans who will complain just for the sake of complaining.

Punk’s championship reign is very similar to the WWE in that regard.  Here we have a champ who has had excellent wrestling matches for nine months, who has kissed babies and made the publicity appearances, who has towed the line for the company three months shy of a year…and yet he still plays second fiddle to John Cena’s major announcement about what he plans on having for lunch next week.  Not only that but the most memorable moment during his rise in popularity goes all the way back to his June 2011 pipe bomb.

Punk has done everything the fans and the company expected and demanded him to do; yet there are no petitions or diatribes to get him to close out a Pay Per View or show.  And after all of that, even when he takes a stand, he’s the one that’s turned his back on the fans according to Jerry Lawler.  Never let it be said that WWE writers can’t incorporate real life drama into their stories.

So where does Punk go from here?  He yearns for the respect of his peers and the people, but demands it instead of letting it just come naturally as he earns with with his repertoire of reigns and wins.  On the other hand, John Cena basically said he doesn’t need the fans to think he’s the best because he believes it himself.  This is like the fiftieth time Cena has all but said “screw what the people think,” and yet he still gets cheered; it’s almost like all the episodes of RAW are being broadcast from Canada…speaking of which, anyone remember the Stone Cold/Bret Hart story line?

Several of us here at L.E.W.D. believe that WWE is on the way to ushering in a new era (perhaps a PG-14 one) that will see young and rising wrestlers become the superstars of tomorrow.  Dolph Ziggler has “retired” Chris Jericho and holds a contract for a guaranteed WHC match; CM Punk can cement his legacy by defeating John Cena next month at Night of Champions.  Sin Cara is less botch-prone than before his injury and there’s an actual tag team division with a very basic and solid feud between two teams.  Daniel Bryan is still entertaining, AJ Lee is still beguiling, and a credible contender for the Divas Championship has stepped up to the plate…

What more can you ask for???

And that’s a serious question.  Please feel free to give your thoughts below…

 


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