Tag Archives: Chris Jericho

The Curse of the Attitude Era

"Hello, Ladies!" | WWE Alumni Val Venis; Photo © 2014 WWE.com. All Rights Reserved.
“Hello, Ladies!” | WWE Alumni Val Venis and X-Pac; Photo © 2014 WWE.com. All Rights Reserved.

A very salient and time appropriate point was recently made by L.E.W.D.’s resident truth telling aficionado Corbin Macklin:

You can make an argument that my generation grew up spoiled by seeing The Rock, Stone Cold, HHH, Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, Undertaker, Kane, Big Show, Shawn Michaels, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho etc every week…

One would be hard-pressed to argue with the fact that thousands, if not millions, of today’s most vocal pro wrestling fans today were indeed spoiled by the capers and athleticism of the aforementioned stars from more than seventeen years ago.  These men, along with a bevy of women as well, left an indelible mark on this business we call pro wrestling during the highly acclaimed “Attitude Era,” that legendary and almost mythical time period where it was cool and acceptable to watch and indulge in all things pro wrestling.  This era was defined by brash attitudes and vulgar language, rampant soft core pornography, controversial storylines, and in-ring actual that seemingly always ended with someone profusely bleeding.  The risqué, “too raunchy for prime time” rated-R product of the late nineties provided countless hours of entertainment for viewers; from the middle-finger flipping, boss beating, beer swilling shenanigans of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to the crotch chopping, anti-establishment antics of Degeneration X, the spirit and ethic of the Attitude Era spat in the face of polite society and took no prisoners as it steamrolled over all things pleasing, polished, and polite.

These things alone did not make the Attitude Era what it was; in hindsight along with Brother Corbin’s point, we can see that the Attitude Era was made possible and popular by a unique cast of characters, scores of wrestlers, writers, bookers, producers and owners from three different organizations (WWF/E, WCW and ECW) who were in the right place and right time as the stars aligned to create a legacy that has yet to be duplicated in any form or fashion.  The Attitude Era was truly defined by the brilliance, work ethic, and passion of the men and women who gave their all plus some every time they stepped inside the ring or represented their respective promotion.  The Attitude Era, with it’s politics and the unregulated obsession with blood, boobs, butts and four-letter words, was successful because there existed a communal desire among all vested parties to be the best in the pro wrestling world and within one’s own promotion.  This is to say that any given wrestler during that period of time not only wanted to be the best in their promotion, but was intentionally committed to doing whatever was necessary to make sure their promotion was the best in the world.

The raunchiness, crassness and politically incorrectness was only a tool of the Attitude Era, which ultimately served as a tool used by the WWE during the Monday Night War period against WCW.  Behind those tools, however, was the rich and deep talent pool filled with solid athletes and creative minds.  Speaking specifically of the WWE, not only were the main event stars mentioned earlier (Stone Cold, The Rock, Mankind, Eddie Guerrero, Undertaker, etc.) battling one another for ring supremacy, but lower tiered talent such as Val Venis, Mark Henry and D’Lo Brown, Savio Vega, Luna Vachon, Goldust, Droz, The Big Bossman , Crush, Taka Michinoku, Chyna, Sable and Mark Mero, Ken Shamrock and The Godfather also held their own in the ring, providing just as much entertainment and excitement as those superstars heavily featured in the promotion.  Everybody fired on all four cylinders and did so for their own good, each other, and to keep the competition from stomping them into oblivion.

The Attitude Era effectively died when that desire no longer existed, ushering in subsequent periods where all vested parties became increasingly interested in their own personal goals and desires.  With a communal desire to succeed no longer permeating through the actions of wrestlers or the intentions of the bookers, writers, producers and owners, pro wrestling slowly morphed into the static, spiritless state it is today, where individuals from the bottom to the top appear more concerned with their own varying ambitions and aspirations than anything else.  Today’s product is defined by incessant complaining of individual stars being held back, “buried,” mistreated or disrespected by the system, coupled with the constant criticism against the system’s alleged refusal to kowtow to the desires of “the fans.”  Communal desire has been replaced with persistent protesting, and that  along with a lack of true competition makes a divided roster and hierarchical structure even more uninspired, insipid and lackluster.

WWE Superstar Dolph Ziggler | Photo: Prowrestlingpowerhouse.com
WWE Superstar Dolph Ziggler | Photo: Prowrestlingpowerhouse.com

There are some fans whose persistent protesting contains the wish to return to the days of the Attitude Era, explicitly seeking to satiate a craving for a more “adult” themed product from days past.  There exists the notion than the current product has been watered down too much by the politically correct, family-friendly PG politics of the day, rendering the WWE’s content a shell of the ratings juggernaut it once was.  What’s not understood by those clinging to this notion is that the Attitude Era was an anomaly, an aberration of what once was the standard in the world of pro wrestling that coincided perfectly with the culture and circumstances of the time.  A product today saturated with swearing, scantily clad women, and socially unacceptable storylines would not and could not float with today’s generation of pro wrestling consumers.

What fans want, however, is the same level of passion and dedication that was expressed by the populace and the promotion several years ago.  The magic of the Attitude Era cannot be recreated; the type of change that’s needed cannot be found in the endless cycle of recreating what worked seventeen years ago using today’s generation of wrestlers and wrestling minds for a minority within fans that can’t reconcile with the past long enough to truly appreciate the superstars wrestling today.

There within lies the curse of the Attitude Era; the hype and the euphoria found in reminiscing on those violent, angst-filled nights casts quite the looming shadow over today’s pro wrestling landscape.  We want so badly to hear dirty words and to see blood in every match masked as “real wrestling,” all while pretending as if the rosters, creative teams and executives today could carry those principles as a promotion or unit and not as loosely associated entities seeking singular fame and glory.  The Attitude Era had writers with their ears tuned keenly on the pulse of society at the time; it had executives who were hell bent on staying in business and thoroughly crushing their competition in skirmishes that determined whether or not revenue and publicity would flow easily into their own promotion.  The Attitude Era had endless lists of wrestlers who all wanted their own promotion to succeed and, at the time, did their best to lift up their fellow wrestlers as they attempted to climb the ladder of success.  The Attitude Era had fans who were just as passionate about the business as the men and women working in it, and no matter what, would support a promotion and its wrestlers no matter what…especially through their financial support.

Today’s fair weather fans can’t even be bothered to support the WWE Network and feel less inclined to spend their money on anything related to the product no matter whether it’s good or bad.  Only a handful of wrestlers stand out among fans as those who are worthy of a main event push, and those wrestlers change as often as a newborn infant needs a new diaper.  Some of those stars phone in their in ring performances or tend to “play it safe” as a means to avoid rocking the boat or causing too much trouble for themselves.  The writers work with dated material and executives are preoccupied with accounting irregularities and pet projects to truly be focused squarely on the state of the product.  A ridiculously violent and vulgar product under or against these circumstances would barely make a dent in the problem that exists today.

It is without question that the Attitude Era changed the business dramatically and had a profound effect on how we view pro wrestling today.  But to insist that a promotion returns to that era without considering what truly made it spectacular would be a categorical waste of time and energy.  Promotions filled with individuals, from the bottom up, who are willing to work together for the good of the promotion and the passion to succeed as a promotion is what’s needed.  A solid roster of talent giving one hundred percent or more at all times is what’s needed.  Fans who’ll pay for the pay per views and merchandise and who won’t fall off the radar when an episode of RAW doesn’t feature Titus O’Neil in the main event is what’s needed.

Those things are way harder to come by, but there aren’t enough tables, razorblades, swear words and bare boobies in the world to recreate the magic of what happened almost two decades ago.

WWE Payback Preview and Predictions

WWE Payback, LIVE on pay per view TONIGHT! | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
WWE Payback, LIVE on pay per view TONIGHT! | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In less than eight hours World Wrestling Entertainment is poised to present the first ever Payback sports entertainment event LIVE on pay per view!

Tonight’s event, emanating from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois, looks to give fans the signature action that only WWE can provide.  How fans actually feel about that action is up for debate, but breathe easy and be confident that whatever happens tonight fans from all over will find a way to be entertained by the action in the ring or in the Twitterverse.

The card tonight is robust enough to hold our attention even though the name of the pay per view is less than thrilling or energetic.  With the exception of two or three matches, everything scheduled for tonight meshes well with the “retribution” theme of the event.  

A part of me feels that this “retribution” theme is a tad bit weak, but who nowadays sits at home and complains about the theme of a pay per view?  I get the feeling that this event will simply serve as a capable and sturdy bridge to next month’s Money in the Bank pay per view, where the real excitement will energize us as we launch into the big summer angles headed towards Summerslam in August.

With all that being said, let’s launch into some predictions:

Pre-show – Damien Sandow vs. Sheamus | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Pre-show – Damien Sandow vs. Sheamus | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Business between these two superstars picked up when Sheamus volunteered to participate in Sandow’s intellectual challenges.  Frustrated at his inability to solve the challenges, Sheamus did what any normal bully would do and physically attacked Sandow.  Does anyone else out there notice that John Cena tends to do the exact same thing when he’s verbally bested by an opponent?  I digress…

I suppose the intent here is for Sheamus to silence Sandow and his self-righteous pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness, the goal being to punish Sandow for assuming that everyone else is his intellectual subordinate.  It is slightly concerning that the Sheamus character chooses to solve complex brain games by beating a man senseless; keep in mind that Sheamus is the face of this match.  What the hell kind of message is that sending to the kids? Be a star, why don’t you?

I would be surprised if this pre-show match up was a precursor for a long rivalry between the two men.  I can’t imagine a feud built on such a silly premise would turn into something serious between these particular competitors.  This isn’t to say that it can’t happen, it’s just that the thought of it has yet to materialize in my head.  I also don’t get the picture that fans yearn to see Sheamus fumble at solving a Rubic’s Cube or understanding the intricacies of the Devils Fork anytime soon.

What is more concerning is that Sheamus’ last few feuds have been superficial at most, which makes me believe that the investment moving forward is (or should be) in Sandow.  The “Irish John Cena” has flip-flopped around the upper mid card for some time without solid direction and seems to work best when he’s just as much in danger of a massive beating as the person he’s facing.  The only behemoth left for him to face is Big E Langston, which again would benefit his opponent more so than himself.

I expect Sheamus to win this feud and move on to something else while the company figures out what to do next with Damien Sandow.

Prediction: Sheamus wins

Triple Threat Match for the Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs.Wade Barrett  (c) vs. Curtis Axel | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Triple Threat Match for the Intercontinental Championship: Curtis Axel vs. Wade Barrett (c) vs. The Miz | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Look at the three men in the graphic above and answer two simple questions: do you really care who wins this match, and if that Photoshopped Intercontinental Championship wasn’t present in the picture, would you still care who wins the match?

I’m not saying this to poo-poo entirely on the match; my concern is that the importance of the title has been tossed so far over the horizon that it doesn’t bring a “big fight feel” to the match.  Unfortunately the participants in this match don’t do much to make the title at least appear like it’s worthy of attention.  What we have here is an unholy circle of mediocrity.

Curtis Axel, the “it factor” of this match, replaced the recently concussed superstar Fandango in this trio of turmoil.  Even with the brilliance of Paul Heyman at his side the Axel character is technically still a newborn in the grand scheme of things, lacking the charisma and established persona that would add an element of electricity to the match in the same way that Fandango would have.  That electricity is absolutely needed in a bout featuring two great athletes and The Miz.

Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett, in all due respect, has essentially carried the title around as an accessory.  The title is Barrett’s large, white and garish purse which he never sits on the floor and keeps others from scrounging around in it without his permission.  He gets pissed if it’s taken from him, but could just as easily opt to leave it at home and take a wallet instead if he wants to travel lightly.  The Miz doesn’t deserve a paragraph of his own.

There’s just no reason to invest in this match at all.  The bout is no where near being deficient in wrestling talent and ability, but as we’ve discussed several times on this site a WWE match is much more than just showcasing great wrestling; that’s what TNA is for.  There’s nothing remotely distinguishable about these three men and the significance of the title was lost long before this match, making it unnecessary for anyone to emotionally invest in the action other than to see two of the three competitors wrestle well.

I’m giving the win to Curtis Axel, as a win here would only add to the roll he’s been on with his high-profile victories…although it would make sense for him to fail at winning the title seeing as those high-profile “victories” are questionable.  Then again if the man can beat John Cena but fail at beating The Miz…

Prediction: Curtis Axel wins the Intercontinental Title

Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Dolph Ziggler (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Tonight will be Dolph Ziggler’s return to pay per view action after being shelved from a concussion.  Since stepping back into active competition, Ziggler has been used sparingly in matches as WWE is treading water lightly when it comes to concussed superstars.  This is a good thing; it does have some effect on the match and the World Heavyweight Title, but when it concerns a wrestler’s mental health and stability we fans should be understanding enough to allow the company to utilize precautionary methods and booking to ensure the wrestler’s longevity in life and not just in the business.

Ziggler and Del Rio are both accomplished athletes and wrestlers, so the match should deliver for as long as Ziggler sees in-ring time.  I sincerely doubt this match will go the distance even though Ziggler has been medically cleared to perform.  The company thus far has erred on the side of safely with Ziggler. who’s first real championship reign (not counting his wet fart reign during his time as Vickie Guerrero’s cabana boy) hasn’t been all that spectacular or memorable.

The other side of the coin is that Del Rio as champion is far more lifeless than Ziggler’s reign.  The main and major redeeming fact in placing the belt on Del Rio is that you can get longer and more intense matches from a healthy champion than you can the one you’re keeping safe.

Del Rio will win the title in a relatively short match while the company plays it safe with Ziggler.

Prediction: Alberto Del Rio wins the World Heavyweight Championship

Kane vs. Dean Ambrose (c) for the United States Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Dean Ambrose (c) vs Kane for the United States Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

To put it mildly, the match between Dean Ambrose and Kane will be great.

The Kane character has seen a revitalization similar to that of Dave Batista’s final run in the company.  Ironically enough Kane is also building a WWE legacy that will be remembered as fondly as that of his “brother’s,” The Undertaker.  The man behind the mask is a consummate professional and his love for what he does can be easily seen by fans every time he steps through the ropes.

That being said Ambrose is fortunate to share the squared circle with a star of Kane’s magnitude.  Ambrose is definitely deserving, having been given this opportunity after surviving his stint in Florida Championship Wrestling and NXT.  He easily stands out in The Shield primarily for his mic skills, while his wrestling style is the epitome of the “unorthodox” style that other wrestlers attempt to pass off as a controlled form of flailing all over the place.

The fight between Kane and Ambrose will be ugly in the sense that the passion both men exhibit will easily permeate through their actions.  It won’t be hard for fans to become invested in the ebb and flow of the match, as Ambrose’s facial expressions and body language make it simple for fans to say “Damn, I bet that hurt!”

I see Ambrose retaining the title with a little help from his Shield brethren.

Prediction: Dean Ambrose retains

Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins of The Shield (c) vs Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan for the Tag Team Championships | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins of The Shield (c) vs Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan for the Tag Team Championships | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan are the stars of this match, which leaves Randy Orton and Roman Reigns as finger cymbals in this symphony of kicks and bodyslams.

The team of Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan is just as volatile, if not more, than Team Hell No.  Fans have been screaming for a more edgy Randy Orton, or at least an Orton character that isn’t floating around as aimlessly as Sheamus.  I’ve read a lot of commentary that’s placed the blame on Orton for being what amounts to the green or red practice dummies in the Create-A-Move Set option on WWE video games.  I myself don’t fault Orton, but creatively it is quite possible that the character has gone as far as it can as a face.

There’s also a concern among fans and pundits that the company won’t go the distance with Daniel Bryan.  It’s no secret that WWE has a storied track record of neglecting superstars that are fantastically over with fans, particularly ones that aren’t huge and larger than life.  I’m not clear on our expectations for the company regarding Daniel Bryan; do we want him to be handed the WWE Championship now or have him kick his way to the top of the roster within a month?

The perception is that the company won’t do right by the character, but if the character makes money I cannot see them doing anything wrong with it.  I’d rather let the company show me they’re going to abuse the character and the wrestler rather than assume the worst from the jump.  Keep in mind that many didn’t believe Bryan would make it this far in the company; our expectations can be just as restrictive and condemning as the reality they exist in.

With Jimmy and Jey Uso receiving a renewed push of sorts I expect The Shield will retain due to friction between Orton and Bryan.  Reigns and Rollins will move on to defend their belts against established tag teams while Orton and Bryan duke it out in a rivalry concluding at the Money in the Bank pay per view a month away.

Prediction: Rollins and Reigns retain

Kaitlyn (c) and AJ Lee for the Divas Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Kaitlyn (c) and AJ Lee for the Divas Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Last Monday’s episode of RAW saw AJ Lee revealed as Kaitlyn’s secret admirer, which was the result of a cruel joke played on the Divas Champion by Dolph Ziggler’s questionably sane girlfriend.  Enraged after being publicly humiliated by AJ Lee, Kaitlyn has gone on rage-filled rampage that Lee will have to contend with tonight if she hopes to win the Divas title.

Kaitlyn won’t be thinking clearly, however; a large part of Lee’s offense includes mind games, similar to that of Goldust during his first run in WWE.  With Kaitlyn’s unfocused anger present, Lee with more than likely capitalize on mistakes Kaitlyn will make throughout the match.

What surprised most fans about this match up is the fact that WWE actually devoted energy into giving the Divas a specific storyline.  Some fans even commented how AJ Lee’s “crazy chick” persona is a weak version of Mickie James’ initial WWE character.  I think this opinion does a disservice to Lee, James and Kaitlyn, however.  Mickie James’ character was crazy from an odd infatuation with Trish Stratus, while Lee’s character tends to be a calculated insane, crazy with a purpose and goal … and just plain nuts from the get go.

By comparing Lee to James fans are intentionally disabling themselves from investing in Lee’s character as Lee’s character.  By conjuring up the Mickie James character of old, fans negate anything done by James after that and currently.  Kaitlyn also suffers because fans will think of her in terms of Trish Stratus even there is no comparing the two whatsoever.  The end result is back to square one, looking at the Divas division as something that it once was some 15 years ago; even then our understanding of that era is somewhat stained by inaccurate perceptions and bias.

AJ Lee will win the title, creating a rivalry and furthering the storyline between the two.

Prediction: AJ Lee wins the Divas Championship

Chris Jericho vs CM Punk | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Chris Jericho vs CM Punk | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

CM Punk will hopefully make his triumphant WWE return tonight in Chicago as he looks forward to facing WWE veteran Chris Jericho.

Jericho and Punk have had excellent matches in the past and will not disappoint tonight.  The match between them was booked due to Paul Heyman, which could be the foundation for an eventual split between the Straight Edge Superstar and the maniacal mastermind behind the original ECW.

Chicago will go bat sh*t crazy over Punk’s return, fueling rampant speculation around whether or not Punk will be a face or heel moving forward.  Plans are always subject to change and I personally have no other reason to look to this match to indicative of where the Punk character is moving next.  Instead fans should simply enjoy what will be a near five-star match between two top-tier competitors and allow the story to unfold before our eyes.

The only wildcard in this match is Punk’s status in the company.  The superstar has talked very little about the match on the various social media outlets available and has only openly stated his enjoyment of life while not wrestling.  There is a slight chance that Punk may not show up tonight, giving us a “surprise” match between Jericho and someone from the Heyman Family.  The only other feasible option in the event of a Punk no show would be the debut of the Wyatt Family … but that’s not going to happen.

If Punk wrestles he won’t lose in his hometown and Jericho won’t fall into mediocrity by losing here.

Prediction: Punk wins

Three Stages of Hell Match for the WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs Ryback | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Three Stages of Hell Match for the WWE Championship: John Cena (c) vs Ryback | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Last month’s Ambulance Match between John Cena and Ryback revealed a few things that most older fans either missed or cared very little about.

For one a John Cena WWE Champion has officially done as much as it can and will do creatively.  Cena holding the title seems forced, uninspired, and plain flat.  He’s rarely booed anymore because his detractors don’t even care enough to boo him.  Every time Cena steps into the ring, armed with his killer work ethic and never-say-die attitude, the end result is the same wash-rinse-repeat cycle we’ve seen of him for what seems like centuries.  He’s always presented as the underdog even while being the champion, and there’s nothing dynamic about the psychology of his matches or character.  Franky he’s just there like a pair of shoes that you really should’ve gotten rid of months ago.

Secondly, Ryback was positioned to be the Doomsday to John Cena’s Superman.  The fallout from their stalemate at Extreme Rules, however, has turned Ryback into a tool being used to make fans give a damn about Cena again.  This isn’t very different from a number of feuds Cena has been involved in, but it is rather unfortunate that Ryback was forced to become a heel for no other reason than to get fans to organically support Cena as an underdog … even though he’s the champion.

Thirdly, the fact that a gimmick match was used in their first official singles match as well as their second foray against each other is concerning.  I find it concerning because most gimmick matches are used when a fight escalates to certain levels and to mask certain deficiencies a wrestler or wrestlers may have.  From that perspective what does it say when Cena and Ryback’s first match needed a stipulation?

John Cena will retain his title.  There’s nothing else that can really be said or done about that.  I expect Cena and Ryback to go at it at least one more time at Money in the Bank, maybe even with a final match in August at Summerslam.  Other than that … whatever.

Prediction: John Cena retains

Payback looks good on paper but will only serve as a competent segue to the next pay per view and summer storylines pointing directly at Summerslam.  The pay per view won’t be a total bust, but if you choose to spend today doing something else, the WWE Universe will continue to roll on without a hitch.  For those of us actually watching the pay per view, here’s to hoping we’ll get some enjoyment out of the action!

WWE Opens “Hall of Doom” Performance Center in Orlando, Florida

"Actual" photo of WWE's Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, slated to open this summer.
“Actual” photo of WWE’s Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, slated to open this summer.

On Thursday, April 18, 2013 a press conference was held in Orlando, Florida by World Wrestling Entertainment.

It was at this press conference that WWE Executive Vice President of Talent and Live Events Paul “Triple H” Levesque, along with Florida Governor Rick Scott, Full Sail University President Garry Jones, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orange County Commissioner Peter Clarke, announced the opening of the WWE’s state-of-the-art Performance Center.  The Performance Center will serve as the home to WWE’s talent developmental system and will also create at least 100 new jobs in Orlando.

The following is taken from the press release about the facility:

“With 26,000 square-feet, seven training rings, a world-class strength and conditioning program and cutting-edge edit and production facilities, the new Performance Center will give WWE the ability to train more potential performers than ever before through a comprehensive program including in-ring training, physical preparedness and character development.

The new center will be the training ground for talent that includes former professional and collegiate athletes, Olympians and entertainers, and will offer a best-in-class sports medicine program creating a central location for all WWE talent to receive the best care both in and out of the ring.”

Among other things this announcement also furthers WWE’s relationship with Full Sail University, which serves as the current home for the WWE NXT taping series and also allows students (such as our very own THE Nic Johnson) of the university to gain “real-world experience” alongside WWE production team members.

The creation and announcement of WWE’s Performance Center is rife with irony, the incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.

The irony of the whole Performance Center project is that most people expect the facility to produce top-notch WWE Superstars when the actual result will more than likely resemble the same crop of superstars already present in the company.  Effectively it appears that WWE has partnered with several entities in Orlando to create more modern and efficient methods of producing crap.

That assessment of the situation is a tad bit unfair, particularly seeing as the fruits of the Performance Center won’t be truly seen for at least another year or two from today.  As nifty as the bells and whistles sound, however, all the wrestling rings and hi-tech equipment in the world cannot and will not replace some of the most fundamental and rudimentary realities that are necessary for the development of a “true” wrestling superstar.

ivandrago01The phrase “Performance Center” is oddly reminiscent of the same cold and mechanical training regimen used by Ivan Drago in the blockbuster film Rocky IV.  Despite the flashing lights, the new age equipment, the meter readings and steroid vitamin enhancement injections, there was no machine or drug vitamin in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that could develop the one muscle Drago needed to defeat Rocky Balboa…heart.

WWE’s hi-tech Performance Center will undoubtedly provide wrestling hopefuls the tools and opportunities necessary to become a WWE superstar, but it will most assuredly lack the proverbial heart needed for athletes to excel as wrestlers with the total package.  The skills and tools needed to have the total package cannot be found or taught in a fancy facility in one of the country’s most well-known hot spots for tourists and alcoholic college students.

This facility will not “train” men and women wrestlers to become WWE Superstars; it will eventually breed WWE Superstars flat out, and a WWE Superstar is something very different than a wrestler looking to become a WWE Superstar.

On April 5, a pre-WrestleManiaXXIX interview with WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan was featured in The Washington Post.  In the interview, journalist David Malitz had the following to say about Bryan’s journey thus far in his career:

“Bryan’s path to WWE was built on giving his best showing night after night on stages microscopic compared to the scale of that on which he’ll perform Sunday.  Over a decade, he has worked for dozens of companies on the sprawling independent wrestling circuit, from Pennsylvania to Japan, and earned a reputation as one of the best technical wrestlers in the world.  This means he is someone who can make any move in the ring look devastating, graceful and believable, whether he is on the giving or receiving end — an essential skill for a wrestler.”

According to Malitz’s piece, Bryan—formerly known to wrestling fans by his real name Bryan Danielson—honed his craft for ten years prior to arriving in WWE.  In those ten years Bryan traveled extensively all over the United States and even wrestled in Japan on numerous occasions; Malitz implies that it was during this time and not upon his arrival in WWE that Bryan gained a reputation for being one of “the best technical wrestlers in the world.”

What’s missing from the Performance Center is a focus on talent developing their skills as wrestlers before landing a developmental contract with WWE.  More telling is the idea, the notion that these men and women (or professional/collegiate athletes, Olympians and entertainers) would have gained this experience on their own which would ultimately lead WWE to giving them a developmental contract.  That idea is not necessarily a given, as has been made painfully obvious with certain Superstars and Divas in the past (Kelly Kelly for example).

Fans paying attention to this are witnessing a distinct difference in the execution of a developmental territory as opposed to a developmental system.  Wrestlers today looking to make it big in the WWE enter into its developmental territory and spend 2-4 years translating their craft into an easy-to-swallow WWE-esque style, not necessarily gaining any experience from working around the world by being a part of a network of territories in a full-fledged developmental system.

But in those 2-4 years these men and women are picking up the habits, traits and skills that will define their careers in terms specific WWE.  These wrestlers will learn one particular style that is honestly suitable for that specific company and its specific audience.  As a result the wrestler will only have limited resources to pull from when it comes to putting together a match that energizes and entertains fans.

In the WWE’s case, that is a simplistic style that tends to look and operate like the pro wrestling equivalent to a color-by-the-numbers activity book.  This, of course, does not sit well with older fans or those fans that prefer “wrestling” over “sports entertainment.”  In the same breath it positions the company to consistently churn out more and more individuals will simply provide the WWE with the same results they’ve been garnering for the past 10-11 years.

Consider Bryan’s words towards the end of the Washington Post interview:

“I don’t consider it wrestling…I’ve done wrestling.  Everywhere.  And just by being a good wrestler you can become popular.  But not here.  It’s more important to be entertaining than it is to be a great wrestler.  It’s fascinating to me…”

The new WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida is perhaps best equipped to produce entertainers.  The problem is that wrestlers can be very entertaining if they’re given the opportunity to add new dimensions and layers to their already vast repertoire (i.e. Bryan Danielson).

On the other hand it is not set in stone that an entertainer will be able to be a convincing wrestler, “someone who can make any move in the ring look devastating, graceful and believable, whether he is on the giving or receiving end — an essential skill for a wrestler.”  That’s not something than can be trained or gained in 2-4 years in a stint in a facility in Orlando.

Chris Jericho’s amazing story as a professional wrestler serves as a perfect example of this point.  Although Jericho’s journey has been extensively covered in his books A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex and Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps, his path in wrestling was most succinctly described in his DVD “Breaking the Code: Behind the Walls of Chris Jericho.”

chris jericho in mexicoJericho began his trek with two goals: to become a rock star and a wrestler.  This started with Jericho getting a degree in communications at 19, wrestling at the Hart Brothers School of Wrestling in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1989.  In 1992 he traveled and wrestled in Mexico City until 1994, where he learned how to “work a crowd.”  It was in Mexico where he also learned and adopted elements of the Lucha Libre style.

For six weeks after his stint in Mexico City he worked in Hamburg, Germany where he learned how perform mentally a different match every night (as he performed in front of the same crowd every night for six weeks straight).  From that point Jericho found himself in Japan, where he learned how to become a technically gifted wrestler and gained the respect of several key figures and wrestlers in the industry.  Jericho also learned the Strong style and adopted that to his repertoire.

Also in 1994 Jericho worked for Smoky Mountain Wrestling in Tennessee, where he learned the Southern style of cutting great promos.  In 1996 Jericho was able to land a job with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), where he wrestled in front of the country’s most rabid and diehard wrestling fans.  From 1996-1999 Jericho worked for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Finally in August of 1999, Chris Jericho debuted in the WWF, bringing altogether 10 years of experience from organizations spread across five different countries in Asia, North America and Europe.  To this day Chris Jericho is one of the most well respected wrestlers and veterans still able to entertain fans as a wrestler…and a rock star.

Is it feasible or possible for those same skills to be taught to a young wrestler coming into the Performance Center for a 2-4 year stint before being brought up to the main roster?  Even with the guidance and tutelage of veterans in the business, nothing can replace the real life experience of having to perform for different crowds around the world or even the country.

That being said, the WWE’s state-of-the-art facility can only exist to help future superstars add one more element to their skill sets as wrestlers.  The real issue, an issue WWE will have to respond to eventually, is whether or not they’re open to hiring wrestlers that have honed their skills over a solid period of time in promotions outside of the United States.   Better still, will WWE have the gumption to send all of its developmental stars around the world (or even the country) to adequately hone their skills and talents?

It’s exciting to have a facility in Orlando with seven rings and a team of nutritionists,  but all the fancy pants flash in the world can’t make up for a wrestler’s experience in putting on an entertaining and captivating story.

WrestleMania XXIX Preview and Predictions

Photo courtesy of www.doublegsports.com
Photo courtesy of http://www.doublegsports.com

Anticipation is at a fevered pitch as fans are only a few days away from the biggest sports entertainment spectacle of the year!  WrestleMania XXIX is practically here, and we’re all anxious to take part in the majesty of this weekend surrounding the “grandest stage of them all!”

The build for this year’s event has been characterized by some fans as “lacking,” not having that humph that makes the event worth spending so much money for.  That is a fair and accurate criticism to make of the event, which questions the rationale for shelling out tons of money just to attend it live or ordering it on pay per view.

If you’ve followed the L.E.W.D. site from its very humble beginnings, you can easily recall that WrestleMania is the anniversary of our first official gathering; this weekend (if not the entire week) represents the first time many of us witnessed the event live and in person.  Having paid the money, helped with organizing damn near 20 people from around the country, and visited the many different events surrounding WrestleMania, I can honestly say that the magic of the weekend lies not within the actual event, but just experiencing everything that comes with it.

This year’s WrestleMania, outside of anything WWE is promoting or pandering, appears to be the largest gathering of pro wrestling related events fans have ever seen.  Wrestlecon is happening this weekend; our great friends at DragonGate USA/EVOLVE will be doing stuff, as well as Chikara, Shimmer and CZW.  Hell, even TNA is cashing in on this opportunity and hosting an event in New York on April 5!

This all goes to say that there is no reason for any fan that prides himself/herself on being a pro wrestling/sports entertainment fan to intentionally pout in the corner because this WrestleMania has somehow failed to live up to the hype and grandeur of WrestleMania X7.  There are so many different events going on and ways to see them that WWE’s premier pay per view will literally be the bookend to one hell of a weekend.  In that regard, the show cannot fail to meet expectations if you limit your expectations to simply experiencing WrestleMania by itself.

Given the pomp and circumstance of the event it isn’t unreasonable to expect WWE and its superstars to deliver come Sunday.  My point is that at this point in the game we have to begin to appreciate what the event symbolizes and not just the event itself.  This particular WrestleMania may seem like trash to some, but having experienced WrestleMania XXVII live here in Atlanta…I’ll just say this one is a big step up from that in more ways than one.

I also realize in these economic times we’re all strapped for cash and our finances won’t allow us to indulge in everything offered by the weekend; but if I had a choice, I’d honestly encourage you to purchase one of the iPPVs and locate your nearest Hooters or Buffalo Wild Wings to catch WrestleMania.  If push comes to shove, you could also consider rounding up your closest friends and chipping in to order the event together.

Having said that let’s look at the card as it stands now and attempt to make some good ol’ fashioned predictions:

Pre-show - The Miz vs.Wade Barrett (c) for the Intercontinental Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Pre-show – The Miz vs.Wade Barrett (c) for the Intercontinental Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

For some time now The Miz has been involved in a series of matches battling against Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett.  Ironically enough their placement on the WrestleMania card appears to be a metaphor for their current rivalry: easily forgettable.

I believe their rivalry began with a spat over who was the bigger movie star, with Miz and Barrett speaking highly of their films The Marine 3: Homefront and Dead Man Down, respectively.  Once again in a strange twist of fate, I’m not in a particular rush to see either movie or their match.

This match feels as if the men were placed together because in the grand scheme of things both were aimlessly floating around with very little to do.  I haven’t been all that thrilled about their matches, which isn’t a slight at either individual’s work rate or abilities.  The bottom line for me is that the feud and rivalry is rather dull and the Intercontinental Championship feels like an unnecessary accessory altogether, not even speaking about Barrett’s ho-hum reign.

I expect Barrett to retain in what’s going to ultimately be an over exaggerated exhibition match.

Prediction: Wade Barrett retains.

Chris Jericho vs. Fandango | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Chris Jericho vs. Fandango | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Let’s face facts: the average wrestling fan believes this match is a waste of time and space on the jam packed WrestleMania card.  The average fan would also believe that there are tons of wrestlers (Ted DiBiase and Kofi Kingston maybe…) who deserve this coveted spot more so than Fandango.  Those opinions, while valid, also miss the mark when it comes to the whole of Jericho’s burgeoning feud with Fandango.

For starters, Fandango (formerly Johnny Curtis from the fourth season of NXT) is a “debuting” wrestler in the company.  That word “debut” can be used loosely here, but he’s new talent relatively speaking.  It’s hilarious to see some fans dump on new talent, only to turn around and complain when the company fails to make “new stars.”

Secondly, Fandango is making his “debut” at WrestleMania against Chris Jericho, a soon-to-be-legend that works extremely well with getting over…you guessed it…new talent.  The man should be honored twice as much to have Jericho as his in-ring coach and to face him at the company’s biggest pay per view of the year.

This brings us to our third point: the higher ups in the company must think he’s worth his salt if they’ve chosen to (a) not release him, (b) have him wrestle against Chris Jericho at his (c) debut at WrestleMania.  This isn’t taking into consideration the tons of money placed into his character with the garishly elaborate sets.

Fourthly despite whatever the fans may feel the need to chant, the man can actually wrestle; there is a HUGE difference between chanting “you can’t wrestle” and “you don’t wrestle.”

All things considered Fandango’s presence at WrestleMania is enough of a big deal for Curtis Jonathan Hussey.  He doesn’t need a win here to legitimize himself, so expect Chris Jericho to humble the star Sunday night.

Prediction: Chris Jericho wins, feud with Fandango continues.

Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio (c) for the World Heavyweight Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio (c) for the World Heavyweight Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The feud between Del Rio and Swagger started off as a red hot rivalry rooted in the controversial subject of immigration.  Since Swagger’s return to WWE he, along with his manager Zeb Coulter, have crusaded against the individuals they believe are causing America to decay in the sort of moral turpitude that only “immigrants” can apparently cause.  Unfortunately that angle lasted about as long as a Hot Pocket in a college student’s refrigerator; as it stands now the main reason fans are invested in this match is because Jack Swagger beat up Ricardo Rodriguez.

Del Rio’s run as a face has been much better than the latter part of his run as a heel; the sad part of it all is that even with Rodriguez by his side, Del Rio consistently struggles to get the fans to rally behind him.  This nagging reality haunts Del Rio to this day, and thus creates a situation similar to that of The Miz and Wade Barrett; yeah he’s going to wrestle Jack Swagger, yeah there’s a title on the line, but do you really care?

I’m hoping that the match will be a clinic between two exceptionally gifted wrestlers, but other than that it probably won’t be anything worth writing home about.  Del Rio retains much to Yosemite Sam’s Zeb Coulter’s chagrin, and Swagger survives only to spend another day frustrated with change.

Prediction: Del Rio retains

Ryback vs. Mark Henry | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Ryback vs. Mark Henry | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The bout between Ryback and Mark Henry is one of those fights that force you to ask yourself, “What took them so long?”  Actually, wrestling logic dictates that these two will feud for another month or so, realize that they’re not so different after all, and unite in a formidable team that will rise up the ranks and win the WWE Tag Team Championships.  Alas, they’ve already got a Black Guy/White Guy powerhouse team, so that dog won’t hunt anytime soon.

WrestleMania XXIX will also be a huge night for Ryback as well, serving as the star’s coming out party against another WWE legend in the making.  Say what you will about Mark Henry, but it cannot be denied that he’s one of the most tenured WWE stars still wrestling today (he debuted in 1996, while Triple H debuted in WWE one year before him in 1995).  Despite having gaps in his career due to injuries, Mark Henry has remained a fixture in the company and the man has to be worth something if they haven’t released him yet.

“Two bulls in a china shop” is the best way to describe this match; Ryback will walk away with the rub from Henry, which will bring him one step closer to his eventual run as a main event star in the company.  If Ryback is able to lift Henry up for his patented Shell Shock finisher, then WrestleMania XXIX will officially be worth the $55 you’re planning on spending on it.

Prediction: Ryback with the pinfall victory.

Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston vs. Team Hell No (c) for the WWE Tag Team Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston (w/AJ Lee) vs. Team Hell No (c) for the WWE Tag Team Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It’s amazing how quickly the members of Dolph Ziggler’s stable have managed to fall from grace in such a short time.  There was a point where the AJ Lee character was the focus of Monday Night RAW and involved heavily with multiple main event superstars at once.  There was also a point where Lee’s heat was translating nicely over to Dolph Ziggler.  Things really began to look awesome when the very large and intimidating Big E Langston joined the crew as the silent and brooding enforcer.

Then it all went to hell.

Ziggler is still in possession of his Money In the Bank championship contract and with three months left until its expiration we can only hope he cashes it before becoming the third person (after John Cena and Mr. Anderson) unable to successfully cash in their MITB contract.  AJ Lee and Big E have no purpose or direction whatsoever right now because they’re too busy living in Ziggler’s shadow, which in and of itself is a shadow of the spectacle of WrestleMania.

Whatever the case may be these two men are being fed to the WWE Tag Team Champions as neither team really has much going for them at this exact moment.  Team Hell No will retain and high-falootin’ hijinks will ensue.

Prediction: Team Hell No retains.

Sheamus, Randy Orton and Big Show vs. The Shield | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Randy Orton, Sheamus and Big Show vs. The Shield | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It truly is hard to believe that two years ago we had the extreme pleasure of watching Jon Moxley wrestle right before our eyes; we knew then that Moxley had a try-out match with WWE that weekend, but we never imagined that it’d be two short years later when we’d see him in a marquee WrestleMania match.

Jon Moxley vs. Arik Cannon at Mercury Rising 2011 here in Atlanta. | Photo © Mr. Ashley Morris.
Jon Moxley vs. Arik Cannon at Mercury Rising 2011 here in Atlanta. | Photo © Mr. Ashley Morris. All Rights Reserved.

The same can be said for Tyler Black, who was scooped up from ROH by WWE seven months before Moxley.  Most fans immediately assumed that Black would be “misused” by WWE…but three years later, he’s got a WrestleMania match.

Roman Reigns debuted in FCW Wrestling in September 2010, the same month and year as Tyler Black.  As a member of the legendary Anoa’i, the superstar first known as Leakee had massive shoes and expectations to fill.  Fast forward three years…well you get the picture.

Collectively speaking The Shield is beginning to show signs of monotony as their justice-leveling antics appear to lack substance and value.  They’ve amassed two straight pay per view victories and have proven themselves to be formidable contenders against numerous superstars, including John Cena.  At WrestleMania XXIX they face their biggest challenge to date against the team of Sheamus, Randy Orton and The Big Show, but their presence still lacks a solid direction that could make the difference between their match being good and great.

The consensus among some fans is that Orton will turn heel and align himself with The Shield; this would solve a few of the company’s problems: refreshing the Randy Orton character, breathing some new life into The Shield and adding some star-power to their mix.  Think of this as WWE’s “Bully Ray-slash-Aces and 8s” swerve.

I have two problems with that rationale: there are already tons of heels in WWE at the moment and I also never saw the trail of breadcrumbs leading to such a drastic shift in Orton’s character.  With or without a heel turn from a member of the opposite team, expect The Shield to pull off the victory against Team Non-Compatible.

Prediction: The Shield wins.

The Undertaker vs. CM Punk | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The Undertaker vs. CM Punk | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The WWE took advantage of Paul Bearer’s unexpected death to concoct a convenient storyline for Taker/Punk match at WrestleMania.  Some fans have even gone as far as to question the build to the match prior to Bearer’s death; whatever the case may be, Punk has one hell of an opportunity to steal the show with the Deadman this Sunday.

Ever since Punk’s near mythic year long reign as WWE Champion, the Straight Edge Superstar has fought for the respect he feels he rightfully deserves.  If you’ve followed Punk’s WWE career (or watched his 3-disc DVD set), you would realize that he fought tooth and nail just to stay in the company and has amassed quite a bit of stock by now.  If Punk manages to give a good show with Taker, he would undoubtedly receive the credit he deserves just by hanging with him in the ring.

The build for this match leaves a lot to the imagination, but do you really care about the build more than you do the actual psychology and athleticism of the match?  Here are solid facts: Taker can still go in the ring and Punk can get a five star match from anybody (remember the bout with John Cena from RAW?).  Two exceptionally gifted wrestlers, athletes and entertainers going at it for at least twenty minutes…and some folks are stuck on the build for the match?  Please.

The safe (and accurate) assumption is that Taker will go 21-0 by defeating Punk.  I hope and pray in my heart of hearts that this is the case, but I’m not convinced the “build” was solid enough to give us reasonable doubt about Taker’s chances of losing this year.  At the very least, however, I’ve got a feeling Punk will  finally gain the “respect” he’s been searching for.

Prediction: The Undertaker defeats CM Punk

Tons of Funk & The Funkadactyls vs. Team Rhodes Scholars and The Bella Twins | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Tons of Funk & The Funkadactyls vs. Team Rhodes Scholars and The Bella Twins | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Bathroom break.

Prediction: Tons of Funk & The Funkadactyls

Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman vs. Triple H w/ Shawn Michaels | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman vs. Triple H w/ Shawn Michaels | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I’m hoping you didn’t drink the Kool-Aid and let the smooth taste fool you…

While a solid and consistent number of fans were up in arms about “Twice In a Lifetime,” I failed to see anyone question the necessity of yet another Triple H “Your Career Is Officially Over…Again…” match at WrestleMania.  I swear the last time Trips showed his body at this pay per view the match was billed as the “End of an Era;” but I guess a new era can start when you cut your hair even though you still wear your leather jackets and enter the arena with a Motörhead song blaring through the sound system.

The most recognizable Attitude Era wrestlers that are still going at it are Triple H, The Undertaker, and Mark Henry.  Oddly enough each of them have matches at WrestleMania, and even more sinister is the fact that only two of those individuals are in matches where they are in a position to put over other younger superstars.  Guess which individual gets the spotlight all on his own…

It was once commented that Triple H has yet to have that “WrestleMania moment,” the one pivotal career-defining WrestleMania moment that serves as the magnum opus of his 18 year WWE career.  I’m not so sure his match with Brock Lesnar will be it.

The last match between Lesnar and Triple H wasn’t as enthralling as Lesnar’s match with Cena, which makes getting excited about this one a very daunting task.  I expect brutality and a certain level of “legit” from Lesnar (two times the average level of legit, in case you were wondering), and that’s enough to get fans interested in the match.  Who wouldn’t want to see Brock Lesnar beat someone senseless?

But again, the focus is on Triple H…the focus is on Trips settling a score with Brock and showing the WWE Universe that The Game still has it.  It’s also a way for Trips to try once again to get that WrestleMania moment he’s thirsting for.  Even with the tantalizing possibility of Lesnar ripping off Trips’ arm and beating him with it, the reality of seeing Trips’ puppy dog face as he grieves another loss to Heyman’s boy is enough to cause fans to yawn themselves silly until the main main event.

To borrow a quote from our L.E.W.D. brother Corbin Macklin, “I sweafogawd if I see this man lose onemotime…”

I call Trips beating Lesnar, enabling him to keep his wrestling career and perhaps setting up a rubber match sometime in the future.

Prediction: Triple H defeats Brock Lesnar

John Cena vs. The Rock (c) for the WWE Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
John Cena vs. The Rock (c) for the WWE Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

What more can be said about WrestleMania XXIX’s main event that hasn’t already been said?

There are a ton of possibilities that could come from the finish of the match.  At this moment I’m not sure of what future projects The Rock has lined up; I think he’s  supposed to be Hercules or start filming the another movie with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker or whatever.  All signs point to John Cena regaining the WWE Championship, placing a big thumbs up emblem on the sides where the Brahma Bull logos are at, and mediocrity on RAW ensues for another millennium.

I would actually enjoy seeing John Cena lose again to The Rock; it’s tragic to see any fan yearn to see a character’s downfall, but that’s what makes for compelling television.  It’s sickening that John Cena can manage to escape clean losses time after time; everyone has a weakness and dammit someone’s got to know how to keep Cena on the sidelines.  For me, seeing a different personality trait in Cena’s character would be gold.  He doesn’t have to be a full blown heel, but just something different than the life coach we get each week right now.

The problem with changing something that isn’t broken is that it begins to wear thin on some, particularly those of us that wish for some type of depth to be shown in the character.  Depth among shallow-end pool swimmers (i.e. kids and young women) isn’t something valued or sought after, and because of such we’re going to get another Cena WrestleMania victory and everyone for the most part goes home with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside of their stomachs.  I’ve been told that ulcers and abdominal pains have that same effect…

There have been reports that seeds have been planted for a Ryback/Cena post-WrestleMania feud (remember the Triple Threat match for CM Punk’s WWE Title and Cena’s elimination of Ryback at the Royal Rumble pay per view?), and that’s something I even hinted at in a previous post.  That type of feud will suffice, but it’s the same wash-rinse-repeat cycle Cena’s been placed in before.  Hell, I’d like it if they brought back Alex Riley as some young, upstart collegiate so-and-so attempting to assume the throne when Cena’s Jersey City All Pro character get’s ready to “go off to college.”  But alas, I’m on the internet writing for you and not the WWE for a reason…I guess.

Cena wins and we’ll get to pout about it in a post-WrestleMania blog post.

Prediction: John Cena redeems himself to himself and wins the WWE Championship for the 800th time

All things considered this action-packed WrestleMania will keep us enthralled all Sunday night.  I hope you enjoyed reading the predictions, and stay posted to the L.E.W.D. site all weekend as we indulge in the cavalcade of pro wrestling going on as we speak!

Elimination Chamber 2013 Preview and Predictions

elimination-chamber-2013-poster Greetings, sports entertainment fans!

We are one day away from the second WWE pay per view of 2013, an event billed as being one of the most demonic and unrelenting structures ever constructed and conceived in the history of professional wrestling.  The Elimination Chamber pay per view (also known as No Escape 2013 in Germany, and you only get one guess as to why) is the first stop on the highly romanticized and hyped Road to WrestleMania.

Expectations for this pay per view seem to be mild compared to that of previous events, particularly previous Elimination Chamber pay per views.  Perhaps this is due to a build that makes the pay per view a  means to an end, a show that in itself is a build to WrestleMania more so than anything else.  That isn’t a “bad” thing, per se, but the show must deliver in order to convince us that another Rock/Cena match is worth paying for.

The other thing that sticks out to me about this pay per view is the fact that the Chamber match is honestly a shell of its former self.  Many moons ago I wrote a piece on Bleacher Report about how the actual chamber was no where near as diabolical as its described to be or once was.

The “21st Century PG Era” (because there have been several “PG” eras in WWE history) pretty much neutered the chamber.  This isn’t to say that the structure isn’t demanding or that it doesn’t pose threats to the athletes well-being and safety.  What it is saying is that without the presence of blood at some point during the match, the fans have to really focus on the stories told by the facial expressions and body language of the athletes.  The sight of blood only intensified the hype about the grueling structure; without it, the fans who’ve seen just how dangerous these types of matches are will have to use his/her imagination, and that’s kind of difficult for desensitized hardcore fans.

Nevertheless I think we’re all looking forward to the pay per view just to see if our predictions for WrestleMania 29 are right.  The lineup consists of paper-great matches, and perhaps a slew of new stars will be groomed tonight for spectacular showings at “the Grandaddy of Them All.”  Without further ado, here’s the lineup:

Pre-show – Brodus Clay and Tensai vs. Team Rhodes Scholars
Pre-show – Brodus Clay and Tensai vs. Team Rhodes Scholars | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Color me simple, but I could’ve sworn that Team Rhodes Scholars broke up a few weeks ago.  Then during a house show circuit and a few media appearances, they teamed back up for “one time only” or for “limited engagements.”  Yet here they are curtain jerking for a pay per view together as a team.  It would seem that the Historical Conservation Department at Titan Towers has snookered us again.

I’ve missed out on a lot of RAWs and WWE shows as of late, so it was really out of left field for me to hear that Tensai and Clay teamed up.  I vaguely remember their interaction on the RAW from Vegas with Tensai wearing the dress and participating in the dance contest, but that’s about it.  On the other hand I do recall that there are a number of fans, and even perhaps some wrestlers, who feel that a comedy schtick for Tensai is beneath a man of his Japanese honed talent and skills.  I personally wouldn’t know what to do with Tensai at this moment in time in his career; be it far from me to suggest that the man should be happy he’s on the card and at least has a gimmick to work with (Hi, JTG!), but it is a good thing that he gets some sort of exposure as opposed to none at all.

I’m not expecting a Harley Race stature match from these four men and neither should the fans.  The plus side is that two tag teams will get the chance to ply their craft on WWE television, and that’s a very good thing considering our collective love fest for all things tag team wrestling.  I imagine that Team Rhodes Scholars will pull off the victory if Damien Sandow hits the Terminus on one an opponent…Brodus Clay perhaps.

Prediction: Team Rhodes Scholars

The Miz vs. Antonio Cesaro ©   for the United States Championship | Photo (c) 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The Miz vs. Antonio Cesaro (c)  for the United States Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Antonio Cesaro has held the United States Championship for an impressive 6-month reign, and The Miz looks to end that streak tonight at the Elimination Chamber pay per view.

As of late The Miz has been on a roll as a babyface, with some saying that his character feels more organic and natural as a good guy.  While that perspective is arguable I’m just not convinced that this Whole Foods Miz can really dethrone the United States Champion.  Miz will have to look for a way to counter Cesaro’s amazing strength and exceptional wrestling repertoire, and that is not a small feat.

Cesaro, on the other hand, will have to contend with the fact that he is wrestling a former WWE Champion.  This gives a slight experiential edge to the Miz, but the only “edge” that could help the Miz in this situation retired back in April 2011; so much for that hope.

I expect Cesaro to retain in what will be a pretty straight forward match; Cesaro will beat the hell out of Miz, and Miz will try not to get hurt or hurt Cesaro while in the process of being beat silly and senseless.

Prediction: Antonio Cesaro retains.

    Big Show vs. Alberto Del Rio (c) for the World Heavyweight Championship | Photo (c) 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Big Show vs. Alberto Del Rio (c) for the World Heavyweight Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Big Show lost his title to Alberto Del Rio one month ago after a grueling and brutal feud with Sheamus.  Since then Del Rio has managed to get over as a face, Big Show attempts to get under Del Rio’s skin have been fruitless, and Ricardo Rodriguez is still the most entertaining person in the entire rivalry.  This rivalry between Del Rio and Show will more than likely culminate at Elimination Chamber, as there is speculation that returning superstar “The REAL American” Jack Swagger will enter into a feud with Del Rio over the championship.

"The REAL American" Jack Swagger | Photo ©  2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
“The REAL American” Jack Swagger | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Since returning Swagger has been “repackaged” as an American badass with a chip on his shoulder.   Mic work has never been Swagger’s strongest suit, so legendary wrestling fixture Dutch Mantel has been given the daunting task of working the stick for him.  Matel works as Zeb Colter, Swagger’s cantankerous manager with an ax to grind against a country filled with what he sees as “illegal immigrants.”

Atlee Greene just wrote an interesting piece about Swagger’s new gimmick and manager over on Gerweck.net.  Check it out, as it’s worth the read and also worthy of some conversation among fans.

All that being said, I think a Swagger/Del Rio feud over the championship will provide for some interesting and colorful twists and turns in a controversial main event storyline for SmackDown.  The only problem I see is that this storyline can’t happen or progress until Big Show is out of the picture…well, that’s not the only problem I see.  I would’ve enjoyed seeing Swagger use this same storyline as a face against Antonio Cesaro for the United States Championship, but perhaps a Swagger/Del Rio feud is best at this moment in time.

Del Rio will put Big Show down tomorrow at the pay per view and move forward to a program with a rejuvenated and pissed off Jack Swagger.

Prediction: Del Rio to retain.

Randy Orton vs. Jack Swagger vs. Chris Jericho vs. Mark Henry vs. Kane vs. Daniel Bryan in an Elimination Chamber Match to determine the #1 Contender for the World Heavyweight Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Randy Orton vs. Jack Swagger vs. Chris Jericho vs. Mark Henry vs. Kane vs. Daniel Bryan in an Elimination Chamber Match to determine the #1 Contender for the World Heavyweight Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This year’s actual Chamber match is the only one that will take place, and the stakes are high for the six individuals who will face each other within the confines of the massively intimidating steel structure.  Also unique is the fact that three returning superstars—Chris Jericho, Jack Swagger and Mark Henry—will try to withstand the offense of their three seasoned and active opponents.

As mentioned in the previous blurb, it’s speculated that Jack Swagger will put World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio squarely in his sights.  If this is the case, we can expect Swagger to storm into the match and walk out as the sole survivor of this year’s Chamber fracas.

We can also probably expect to see more dissension between Team Hell No, while Randy Orton and Chris Jericho will ultimately provide some memorable moments in the match.  Mark Henry is the dark horse (no pun intended) in this match, but he and Kane will provide scores of wanton brutality that will make the match worth a damn.  I’m particularly interested in seeing Swagger and Bryan provide some excellent moments of wrestling that hardcore fans mess themselves over.

Prediction: Jack Swagger with the win to become the #1 Contender for the World Heavyweight Championship

Tamina Snuka vs. Kaitlyn (c) for the Divas Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Tamina Snuka vs. Kaitlyn (c) for the Divas Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

There’s not much to be said about this match other than the fact that once again the WWE is providing fans with something they’ve clamored to see for the longest.  I’m expecting this match to deliver exactly what folks claim is absent from the Divas Division: a wrestling match between two women who are wrestlers and not models trained to be wrestlers.  Kaitlyn has only held the belt for a  month and her reign as champion hasn’t been solidified or heavily emphasized as much as it could have been; I see her retaining the belt against Tamina, perhaps beginning a lengthy program with her in the process.

While I have your attention, there are a few things to say about the Divas Division and women’s wrestling today:

  1. Women’s wrestling will never get the respect some fans (self included) feel it deserves unless we give it the respect it deserves.  As long as we sit on our hands during Divas matches, as long as we don’t celebrate and appreciate the work these women put in to entertain us, and as long as we don’t expose ourselves to other companies that have outstanding women wrestlers on their rosters (SHIMMER, Shine, WSU, etc.), then the two major promotions in the U.S. will continue to push their respective women’s divisions as they do now.
  2. Fans claim that one major U.S. promotion treats its women’s division with way more respect than another particular major U.S. promotion.  While that may have been true prior to 2010, it’s a very debatable point here in 2013.  Bottom line is this: if any promotion was serious or “more serious” about their women’s division, then why haven’t we seen a women’s match main event a pay per view in one of the major promotions?  I’m still waiting for that moment, and any excuse made to explain why this hasn’t happen only leads back to the reality that fans are not as serious about women’s wrestling as they imagine themselves to be.
  3. Will there ever come a time when we’ll see an all Diva Elimination Chamber match, or Extreme Rules match, or Hell In a Cell Match…you get where I’m going with this…

Prediction: Kaitlyn to retain.

The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns) vs. John Cena, Sheamus, and Ryback | Photo ©  2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns) vs. John Cena, Sheamus, and Ryback | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This match might be the most epic ass-whipping in WWE history since the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin.  Three typical big and burly WWE superstars square off against the hyper-aggressive and relentless offense of The Shield.  Damn a slobberknocker, this match is going to be flat out brutal!

Despite the incredible amount of talent present in the group, The Shield is starting to suffer from the Wild Bill Hickok Social Consortium Syndrome; this crippling disorder occurs when a poorly defined heel group becomes insignificant due to their poorly defined status.  The remedy that WWE saw fit to give the group is to place them in a match with two of the most popular superstars in the company…and John Cena.

It’s not just that The Shield is a poorly defined group, but rather they represent a nebulous yet integral part of a much larger storyline.  This form of storytelling, one that literally lasts an entire year, happens at a pace that is frustrating for most fans who have very short attention spans and poor long-term memory.  However its necessary for the group to be mind-numbingly ambiguous right now for a major reveal to occur later down the line.

In order to keep the group fresh and relevant they’ve been placed with three of WWE’s heavy hitters, thus keeping their momentum at the forefront of fans’ minds.  The real question is where do they go after their match Sunday night?

Essentially we’re staring at three bullish monsters facing three bonafide wrestlers.  Seeing as their match is a six man tag team bout, it will be noteworthy to see just how Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose can handle superstars when they don’t have numbers to work in their advantage.  Keep in mind we’ve yet to see any of the men in singles competition, which honestly brings up a lot of questions concerning their presence in the company and how they’re able to have and not have “contracts” at the same time.

The other thing we should pay close attention to is how the members of The Shield wrestle.  Up to this point their wrestling style, collectively speaking, has not been any different that of their opponents, casting them as brawlers more so than technical wrestlers.  I’m interested in seeing whether or not they keep this up as individuals when they face their opponents.

Unfortunately for The Shield, John Cena can’t possibly lose this match and will put an end to this Shield nonsense for the time being.  That sounds super negative but it’s always the case when dealing with John Cena.

Prediction: John Cena to pick up the win for himself, Sheamus and Ryback

CM Punk vs. The Rock (c) for the WWE Championship | Photo ©  2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
CM Punk vs. The Rock (c) for the WWE Championship | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Last but not least is our WWE Championship Match, where The Rock will defend his recently acquired title against the disgruntled and disenfranchised former champion CM Punk.  While a definite rehash of their match from last month’s Royal Rumble, this battle has an added stipulation: if The Rock gets counted out or disqualified, CM Punk will regain the title.

Fans expect Punk to lose this match, which will set up the second “Once In a Lifetime” match between The Rock and John Cena at WrestleMania 29.  I can’t say that I’m thrilled at that prospect, but I’m definitely not totally against it either.  The Rock defending the title against John Cena at WM is a money match all the way and it gives Rock the opportunity to put over Cena in the same way Hollywood Hulk Hogan put him over at WrestleMania X8…as if Cena needed any help getting over at this point in his career…

My particular perspective is this: there are several wrestlers who face each other countless times throughout their careers.  Seeing Rock vs. Cena one more time at WrestleMania won’t do more harm than seem some other stars face each other over and over again.  Also, Rock and Cena are far from being the only two wrestlers who’ve had “one time only” matches…so it’s useless to argue about whether or not the WWE is crossing some imaginary line of hypocrisy by having Cena and Rock face each other once more.

I expect Punk to do most of the heavy lifting during the match, as Rock is obviously not the same performer he was years ago when he moved on to other avenues in the entertainment industry.  I’m not sure if or how interference in the match will play into the finish, but I’m definitely sure that Punk will not walk out of the match as the new WWE Champion.  Anticipate the finish of the match to play an important role in  the development of the storyline for the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania.

Prediction: The Rock retains.

So far on my scorecard I have all the titles being retained as we head into April’s WrestleMania 29 pay per view.  Hopefully the show will deliver and whet our whistles for the biggest show in pro wrestling today.  Thanks for the reading, and can’t wait to catch the pay per view tomorrow!

WWE Elimination Chamber 2013 Prediction Poll

elimination-chamber-2013-poster

Place in your predictions as to who you think will will these matches.  If you have a certain scenario to go with your decision, then put it in a comment for this article.