Did you catch my review of Wednesday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling? If so, you might be interested in this review of last night’s episode of NXT.
It’d be very awkward to sit here and gloat endlessly on how great NXT is, how spectacular the action is, and how near-flawless the creative direction is without noting that this show also suffers from being taped some time ago. Continue reading →
Most will agree hands down that NXT is perhaps the best wrestling show of the entire week. To be fair that is quite the loaded statement given that our pro wrestling world is inundated with options. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are the pro wrestling options I’m faced with each week: Continue reading →
For those of you who frequent our site, it should be no surprise that I’ve chosen to give this review the title you see above. The sad reality is that if this were Monday night I would’ve probably given the same title to whatever it was that came on the USA Network between the hours of 8 – 11 PM, Eastern Standard Time. But alas, it’s Thursday … I’m reviewing IMPACT Wrestling … so let’s stay on topic.
Truth be told I didn’t watch all of IMPACT Wrestling last night, and the little I did catch left me wondering, “Why the hell am I watching this?” Continue reading →
After watching about a month of programming from WCW Monday Nitro (specifically episodes 141 – 144, from November – December 1996, and a few others prior to those), here’s what I learned so far and why it’s important for us to consider today:
The Wrestlers Didn’t All Look the Same
Somewhere we all got caught up in the niceties of seeing six-foot plus, two hundred fifty plus pound behemoths traipse the pro wrestling landscape hither and thither. While we relished in the Bacchanalian revelry of barking like seals at wrestlers that “looked like” wrestlers, the powers that be consistently gave us what we cheered for, all the while conditioning us to become lukewarm to the different styles and abilities of wrestlers that could … you know … wrestle.
Take a look across the WWE’s roster or TNA’s roster at that; everybody looks alike … period. John Cena can be exchanged for Sheamus, Ryback, Mojo Rawley, Titus O’Neil, and whoever else. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger … they’re all cut from the same cloth and manufactured from the same fabric that brought us “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect.” They all wrestle alike, they pretty much sound like one another, and are honestly easily replaceable. If Zack Ryder was released today, would you (a) even realize it and (b) even care?
WCW’s roster towards the end of 1996 was literally chock-filled with wrestlers who didn’t fit into one homogenous mold or style. Each “character” was unique from the next, and had a skill set that expressed that their uniqueness. There were wrestlers of all shapes, sizes, and abilities, and while the action at times may have been choppy and suspect, these characters were irreplaceable. Lord Stephen Regal put on one hell of a losing effort to Chris Benoit one week while Juventud Guerrera was getting owned by Miguel Pérez, Jr. Dean Malenko was cleaning house left and right, and Marcus Bagwell, Scotty Riggs, Brad Armstrong, Tony “Villano IV” Peña, Jeff Jarrett, The Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan, the Faces of Fear, Big Bubba Rogers, Psicosis, Ultimo Dragon, Squire Dave Taylor, Sgt. Craig Pittman, the Nasty Boys, the French Canadians, Madusa, Masa Hiro Chono (as it was displayed on the screen), Chris Jericho, Hardbody Harrison, Jim Powers, Bobby Eaton, Rey Mysterio, Jr., Eddie Guerrero, Hector Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero, Jr., La Parka, Alex Wright, Juventud Guerrera, Mike Wallstreet, The Renegade and Joe Gomez, “Crow” Sting, the Steiner Brothers, and the many members of the nWo filled out the television program nightly. And those are just the people I can remember without watching those four particular episodes of Nitro again.
We can’t even look at the past month of RAW episodes and pretend with a straight face as if the roster is that deep or diverse.
Watching two hours of wrestling didn’t feel like watching two hours of wrestling.
Some time ago I wrote that TNA’s move to live broadcasts was far more tantalizing than three hours of plodding through WWE TV. Two whole damn years later, I can justifiably say this about that:
When watching WCW’s product from the end of 1996, multiple stories unfolded over the course of two hours with an intentionally subtle focus on one main story that wasn’t too overbearing or understated. The ebb and flow of the episodes, however, didn’t drag on or cram storylines down our throats. Everything felt organic, moved naturally from one segment to the next, and I eventually found myself wanting to see how things would culminate at the pay per view at the end of the month (Starrcade ’96).
It was interesting to witness WCW create must-see TV without forcing the issue, which led me to saying more than a few times, “Wait…that’s it? That couldn’t have been two hours.” In reality it wasn’t, as the absence of commercial breaks makes the episodes about an hour and a half long…but still…
At times it feels as if one main story on RAW takes precedence over all things, and that main story gets shoved into our faces constantly by the announcers, backstage segments, in-ring talking segments, and even recaps on completely different shows (SmackDown is pretty much RAW V2.5 at this point…and so is Main Event and Superstars…). There’s nothing subtle about the main storylines and most of the time we end up responding to these segments for what they were at the moment and not for what they are in the overarching storyline. Thus, three hours of isolated segments begin to wear on us mentally, especially if the entire three hours focuses hard on one storyline with everything else being comical afterthoughts.
The World Heavyweight Champion didn’t appear on EVERY episode…and I was okay.
The major storyline at this point in time was a pending match between the WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hollywood Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper, and for at least two straight episodes neither wrestler appeared on television as they hyped the possibility of these two facing each other. When Hollywood Hogan finally appeared, he didn’t even wrestle on the show and, in the grand scheme of things, managed not to overshadow the rest of the episode with his presence. Nowadays we complain of part-time wrestlers holding titles and not being in our faces every week, giving us no real reason to salivate over seeing them when they do make a rare appearance on the weekly televised product. When they do appear weekly, they’re so all in our faces that they might as well be sitting next to us in our living rooms.
The clichéd statement is that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and I felt like I truly wanted to see Hogan face Piper because their interactions on TV were limited to a few spots here and there, even after their first initial face off.
The secondary stories were simple, exciting, and “real.”
While rehabbing a rotator cuff injury after surgery, Ric Flair christened Jeff Jarrett as his heir apparent in The Four Horsemen. Steve ‘Mongo” McMichael and “The Crippler” Chris Benoit vehemently disagreed with this appointment, and ultimately didn’t allow Jarrett to dabble in Horsemen business. Meanwhile Jarrett, along with other members of the roster, were embroiled in a single-elimination tournament to crown a new U.S. Heavyweight Champion after nWo member The Giant commandeered the title.
Chris Benoit was engaged in a bitter rivalry with The Taskmaster over his valet Woman, who at one point was aligned with The Taskmaster. Eric Bischoff, the most senior executive of WCW, was revealed to be a member of the nWo and gave all of WCW’s talent one month to convert their contracts to nWo contracts. While wrestlers began to slowly defect to the nWo, the remaining pro-WCW wrestlers attempted to gain support amongst each other. Caught in the middle of this fight were Sting and Diamond Dallas Page, both straddling the fence for their own very different reasons; Dean Malenko was crushing talent left and right in the Cruiserweight Division while preparing to face Ultimo Dragon, who at this point returned from Japan after successfully unifying eight different junior heavyweight championships.
What’s going on right now in WWE? Exactly.
I was okay with people losing.
I watched at least three episodes before I realized that Juventud Guerrera was being beat by almost everybody he faced, and Juventud was at that point a recognizable name in the Cruiserweight Division. And guess what…I didn’t pitch a fit.
Lord Stephen Regal lost one hell of a match to Chris Benoit after going on a winning streak, and guess what…I didn’t pitch a fit.
This is to say that tons of wrestlers lost matches and I didn’t feel inclined to write scathing commentary about how they were being buried because of a loss or multiple losses. When it comes to pro wrestling, somebody has to lose the match if we expect somebody to win. But in today’s era of trading victories, everybody becomes a fan favorite deserving of an indefinite win streak.
It’s impossible to push everyone as unbeatable Mongols, and if one desires to see a particular wrestler tear through the roster, one has to be able to (a) identify several stars for that wrestler to defeat and (b) craft a believable story to justify why said wrestler is able to tear through the roster like Kleenex at a snot party. Then again, when your main show roster looks like s**t and is ultimately stretched thinly across five hours (three for RAW and two for SmackDown), what can we expect?
Those are just my thoughts so far; perhaps you too should check out WCW Monday Nitro on the WWE Network. Think about all the fun you can have arguing with us here at L.E.W.D. all for the low low cost of $9.99!
I feel bad for Jack Swagger. I’m trying not to be negative when I write wrasslin these days… but honestly I don’t like how guys do jobs, then crowds around the country get behind a guy when he gets booked stronger… then that guy feuds with a guy with more of a long term creative direction. He loses evrytiem. Then he goes back to doing jobs or not appearing on TV at all until people forget about him. Hi Zack Ryder!
Swagger came out and took a clean loss to Cesaro. Who, I’ll remind you, was getting over as a babyface while working heel. Then his direction teased a split with Colter. Then they slapped the Heyman Guy label on him before taking it back. Then he was trying to join The Authority a couple of weeks ago. Forgot about that? Yeah. Anyway… so, to demonstrate “creative has nothing for you, guy” they had Swagger do a job for another guy creative never seems to have any concrete plans for. It stinks.
I’ve found a positive spin on Brock Lesnar as champion and not making many appearances. We’re going to get AJ and Paige main eventing. The IC and US titles will main event. The tag titles will main event. They can do tournaments to determine who Brock kills next. We like tournaments. Grudge matches like Ambrose and Rollins will main event. Speaking of which, I fucking hate falls count anywhere matches that happen mostly in the ring. I understand on the one hand the ring is the safest place to bump, and in terms of crowd heat, having everyone have to watch the match on the tron can be a crowd killer. Again. No point to that stipulation if 90% of the match is going to occur in the ring. THEY WENT FARTHER FROM THE RING IN A MATCH DESIGNED TO KEEP THEM IN THE RING AT ALL TIMES! That complaint aside, it was a highly entertaining match.
Another complaint: is Kane going to help Seth Rollins win EVERY match against Ambrose? These days in WWE you rarely see monster heels like Brock Lesnar, but even rarer than that is the cheat to win heel that does it all by himself. It seems like when a heel is getting that lil extra to win a match, it’s not an eye rake, low blow, grabbing the tights, feet on the ropes etc, it’s always “the numbers game”. Thing about that is… look at what that did for Randy Orton when he feuded with Daniel Bryan. Hell… his whole time on top as champion or fighting for the championship. He may have won one match clean that whole time. WWE seems to overprotect guys like every clean loss just destroys their credibility. While having midlevel guys take mad losses with no story.
Anyway… I’m looking forward to seeing what creative has in lieu of building a main program over the world title. Instantly, just now… it occurred to me you can have a tag title match at Hell in a Cell, in the cell. Minimum of four teams. Say… Usos, Wyatts, Show and Henry and Gold/Stardust. That would be hella interesting. And yeah… I’d expect Henry or Big Show to slam someone through the Cell and an Uso to jump off the top. That’s an idea that’d never occur to me if I thought Lesnar would make all the PPVs, so I can only imagine what the many people that comprise WWE creative can come up with. As much as we shit on them, I’d say they do a decent enough job, as most of us keep watching.
I knew they were gonna go the ‘you always tried to compete with me’ route for Nikki Bella, but it’s still retarded, purely because her logical response to getting beaten up for weeks because her sister had beef… was to help the person that ordered the beatings. Also… AJ and Paige’s program is sooooooo much Trish Stratus = AJ; Paige = Mickie James. For the longest time Mickie was the crazy person obsessed with Trish, then Trish started impersonating her and went over. This is going in that direction. Now AJ loves Paige. And Paige gonna die. I cri. It’s unfortunate that as many Divas exist on the roster, they only get to have one or two programs and you forget the rest of them exist.
Last bit of griping: Why was Rusev’s ankle so hurt but he could explode suddenly and do a wheel kick, or splash etc? Next night, Ziggler’s knee is so hurt but he can do the Zig Zag? Guys gotta adjust their work for the injuries they’re selling like, when Ambrose is selling how hurt his shoulder is, he can’t do Dirty Deeds with that arm, so he does it with the other one. You can sum up all my complaints as: the devil’s in the details.