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Posts tagged “Daniel Bryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


A Case for The Briscoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 


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

IGYWF

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

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

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

bitchmade

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

For starters, Daniel Bryan IS NOT Zack Ryder.

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

20120106_kane_c

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deja vu...

Deja vu…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IWasRight

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

drops the mic


The One Thing Daniel Bryan Fans Need Is…

Just Listen and Learn.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EddieandBenoitWMXX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Gauntlet of the Predator | Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


Gauntlet of the Predator | Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earlier in the day, John Cena tweeted the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

IGYWF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Royal Rumble 2014 & The Fallout

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

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

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


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

IGYWF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Further Degradation of the Divas Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mojo Rawley: Your NEXT Larger Than Life WWE Superstar

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

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

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

IWasRight

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

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

Lies, Lies, and Probably Some Half-Truths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Minority Report: Wrasslin VS Entertainin: The Chronicles of Daniel Bryan

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Well, more like dissenting opinion.  Look, I LIKE The Corbin.  I’ve liked him from the moment I saw that he was a ratchet, if understatedly intelligent, wordslinger.  Something that stood out to me: I don’t think anyone else I’ve spoken to in the realm of professional wrestling commentary had a voice like his.  It seemed like everyone else was combining the lingo of Chicago with the false knowledge of wrasslin, but not him.  As a writer he’s come a LONG way since the initial conversation we had.  However, my man Corbin Macklin still has his delusions.

Daniel Bryan CAN be the face of the WWE.  Punk cannot. 

Welp, that was easy.  Now that that’s out of the way, guess I can go home…

Ah dammit, Bryan, you’re gonna make me keep going?  But I’m tired and I wanna bask in the fact that I got to touch Brie Bella before you did!  Wha?  Pics or it ain’t happen?  Well I DO have a pic.  Suck on that, goatboy!   You know what?  Maybe The Corbin is right after all.  Maybe you CAN’T be the face of the company.  It’s bad enough CM Punk is too rebellious to match the current landscape of the company: he can at the most be this generation’s Stone Cold, but not as a poster boy for rebellion in the WWE but rebellion in the current PG Era.  What made Steve Austin stand out was being the most rebellious AMONGST other rebels, and even now his name makes people say: “He IS wrestling!” across a spectrum, whereas when people see Punk they may think, “He IS wrestling… eh… but he’s no Stone Cold.”  And that’s your fate too, Danielson.  You’re nothing more than the Mick Foley of the age, going against the Corporation just like he did against Dwayne.  You just don’t have the look, B.  You’re a goat-faced freak with delusions of being taller and too much natural wrestling ability.  When’s the last time the WWE had more than a handful of people like that?  Not like we have a Light Heavyweight title anymore!  You can’t shine in the main event category!

That’s why that pretty boy Randy Orton is on top.  He’s long, and tall, and handsome.  He’s good in the ring.  He appeals to the casual fan and the hardcore fan, everyone!  He’s even better than Cena: when’s the last time you’ve seen ANYTHING even remotely different out of him?  YEARS, that’s when!  People love his character, that brooding, that “I’m entitled to everything, including the Divas” mentality, that “Last of the Mohicans” look that less and less Superstars seem to have in the company.  You’ll NEVER be that guy, Bryan Danielson.  The Corbin is right!  Because things never change: look at the shelf life of the McMahons and how Triple H has stepped up and exerted his power as the executive vice president of talent and live events, bringing in people like Sin Cara and the other Sin Cara and Kharma and Antonio Cesaro and Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.  They’re monsters of men and Triple H is keeping in line with Vince McMahon’s long-extinct “size and strength” mean everything and not the direction the industry is going in more so.  Danielson, you dick.

I have to disagree with Macklin though: you AREN’T better than Randy Orton in anything.  He’s a better wrestler, a better mic worker, a better judge of who to date or marry, hell, he’s even better at going AWOL!  They don’t want you to be the face, Bryan Danielson, with that scraggly beard and all, they want the man who got discharged from the Marine Corps for bad conduct to be the face of this forever super-patriotic company!  THAT’S why he wasn’t in The Marine 3: Homefront!  It’s so beneath him as an actor: have you SEEN 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded?!  THAT MOVIE WAS BRILLIANT!  Move out the way, Danny Boyle, you can add as much intrigue and as many Rosario Dawson nude scenes as you want, you can’t touch a Randy Orton movie!

Well actually, Rosario Dawson nude scenes galore might actually be the greatest movie of all time… even the excellence of excellence himself Randal Orton can’t quite match Rosario Dawson’s naked magnificence.  BUT HE COMES CLOSE!

And what’s an “it” factor?  You don’t have it.  Orton has it.  He was the little guy in a big pond.  He was the baby in Evolution, amongst a big guy like Triple H, and a bigger guy like Batista, and a legend like Ric Flair, and the whores who constantly went in and out of their limos, crying because they had to deal with stories of impotence and Triple H having a wife.  He was the little guy, I don’t care how tall he is, and he ended up winning with Triple H’s help and promptly being screwed over!  Because Triple H feared his rise to the top: look at him now!  Top of the company and now he’s being hugged by Triple H, and Vince McMahon, and even Stephanie, who damn near sexually assault at one point!  Because he’s the smaller guy: he’s good for business!  He has the “it” factor, a factor he’s always just had, not something he developed over the years with feuds and title runs and interesting concepts!  He’s right up there with John Cena! 

Bryan, why are you even still arguing with me?  Obvious Corbin is completely and utterly right about you.  What are you, a technical wrestler in a sea of other technical wrestlers?  How dull.  Look at Alberto Del Rio.  He’s a technical wrestler too, and he’s a champion.  What are you?  Nothing.  Because the crowd loves you and you reach a wider audience by the virtue of being an indie wrestler who’s taken on the best in the world, INCLUDING the man who claims to be the best in the world?  That ain’t shit.  Look at Christian!  Captain Charisma!  People love him: they don’t even remember that he comes from that cesspool we call Mexico North!  THAT’S greatness!  He hasn’t even changed!  He was a bland, talented but reliable worker before when they fired him, and what happened?  He floated around a bit, went to that company we don’t name, wrestled some people around the world, and came back and for what?  To become a champion.  You just don’t have that kind of charisma, Daniel.  What does it say about a man who can build an entire legion of people around him by chanting one of two words?  That’s not REAL charisma.  Now that Del Rio!  HE has charisma.  He wakes up every morning, brushes his teeth with unicorn-infused toothpaste and takes a dump and every clump is loaded with charisma!  And y’all say they put something in the Mexican’s water… peasants.

And why even bring up CM Punk?  He’s a nobody just like you!  A rebellious, hard PG-13 nobody!  Why else would they put the WWE Championship on him?  Oh, so you could see that someone else could hold the title?  No, because it needed to go to someone not named Cena, and what a boring reign it was.  Beating Alberto Del Rio in his most charismatic form, beating Del Rio and the Miz in a triple threat a month later, taking out Dolph Ziggler, winning arguably the most athletic elimination chamber contest ever, bring Chris Jericho to submission AND beating him senseless in a street fight later, taking YOU out at Over the Limit, then you AND Kane – a REAL Superstar – in the following PPV, then doing it AGAIN – that’s THREE victories – at the next PPV, are you even hearing me, Bryan?!  Anyone can do that!  Punk was just a transitional champion, just a long, 434 day transitional champion.

Hmm?  Don’t try and bring no secondary logic into this, Danielson!  Every champion who holds the title is most certainly NOT a transitional champion by the very nature of eventually losing the belt!  What matters is that your reign MEANS something, and it doesn’t matter if you hold the belt for 400 days or 4 minutes.  Unless it’s you.  Because no one cares about seeing Daniel Bryan as the face of the company.  The posters for Wrestlemania HAVE to have someone terrific on them, or who cares?  Who cares that both world champions now conflict with Vince McMahon’s notion of a marketable Superstar?  And who’s next for the World Heavyweight title?  RVD?  That stoner?!  As champion?!  Ha!  Oh, Bryan Danielson, don’t make me laugh.  And what about you?  A continued rise to the top?  A retribution story?!  WHO WANTS TO SEE THAT?!  Don’t let all these people claiming that it’ll work out confuse you: no one is THAT optimistic.  The world is a cold, dark, dreary place of no goodness and even less compassion: your career is already in the toilet.  We’re just waiting for the McMahons, who should’ve just fired your ass last Monday, to fix the stopper and flush.

Man, see this?  Corbin has more compassion for you that I do.  He says that you’ll win the title at one of the PPVs before or after Wrestlemania.  Like hell: he’s being nice.  I’m gonna tell it to you straight: you’ll NEVER be headlining something like Wrestlemania or even one of the lesser PPVs.  Summerslam?  A fluke.  Nothing more.  Because you’re not worth it.  You’ll be like the Miz, headlining Wrestlemania and then going down and down and down until the most you’re doing is knocking off figures of authorities at future PPVs.  It’s such a step down.  You won’t even get that high.  You won’t win at Wrestlemania like he did.  You certainly won’t usher in an era like he did.  You’re so screwed, and I DON’T mean anything involving Brie Bella’s fine ass.  She could do SO much better.  You probably do nothing but tickle her with that beard and scream “YES!” all night anyway.  Jerk…

You’re just a placeholder for Cena anyway.  That guy, he knows how to treat a lady.  He knows how to be an all-American all star.  He knows the importance of being a class president, valedictorian, A+, star quarterback, Cadillac convertible driving, cheerleader autographing big shot.  He’s never mean and always tells you to never give up.  He fights with unsightly injuries and only hits you when you deserve it.  Like when he slapped you.  Because you deserved it.  He’s the perpetual underdog because that kind of character will ALWAYS be popular!  Look at Jeff Hardy!  Look at how popular he is!  Tens of fans at TNA constantly chanting his name and praising his tired style can’t be wrong, can they?  Oh what would you know.  You don’t watch TNA.  You don’t even have a TV.  I can only IMAGINE how you manage to keep Brie entertained when you and her are home alone.  But John Cena?  Lives like Thugnificent and you know what?  Earned it.  Because when you think of an underdog, you think of a man who lives in a mansion and have a dozen cars and has relations with a woman who may or may not have any feeling in her chest.  THAT’S MY KIND OF UNDERDOG! 

So screw you, Daniel Bryan, as if that’s your REAL name.  I almost shudder to think that at one point I wanted a match between you and CM Punk for the unification of the World Heavyweight and WWE Championships.  The universe wouldn’t even bother to watch, let alone acknowledge you two with imploding in on itself.  I leave you to your thoughts, Mr. Danielson.  Not like you have much else.  Like real Americans we’re going to be busy watching football instead of even THINKING to flip back and forth between the game and that show you wrestle on.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to do something you and fix a pork roast.  Because I am about that life and you’re lucky if you can aspire to mediocrity.

Good day.


The DiZ Predicts: Summer Wrestlemania 2013 (Summerslam 2013)

*Disclaimer: all pictures used throughout are utilized for the purpose of criticism and entertainment*

How much truth can a man stand?  That’s not a question I want you to really answer, it’s rhetorical in your case, reader.  It’s also a lyric to a rather quirky song of the same name.  I’ll answer, however, and say, “Er… somewhere in the vicinity of a little bit and too damn much”.  See, I only acknowledge so many truths right now, in my 24 years and one month of life.  One of these truths is that The Walking Dead really isn’t all that amazing a show.  That’s not to say that it’s bad, but as whole, the episodes are usually C+ to B quality in my opinion.  Another truth: the two best episodes of the show (season one, episode one; season three, episode twelve) owe virtually ALL that status as “best” to one man: Lennie James, who plays Morgan Jones.  Another truth: these brilliant performances are likely why he’s starring in the new AMC show Low Winter Sun.

Yes, truths are fun.  Here’s one that’s directly related to the WWE: this year’s Summerslam is shaping up to be Wrestlemania: Summer Edition.  And that’s saying something.  With the white hot intensity of the Bryan v. Cena feud and the reintroduction of fire in a match, I see few people even ABLE to complain about the card.  But what’s in a card?  What do you think will happen?  Frankly I don’t care: here’s what I think will happen though, and if you agree, that’s cool.  If you don’t, that’s cool too.  I’ll just feel all types of special that you cared enough to read.

Douche…

Pre-Show: Rob Van Dam vs. Dean Ambrose (c) for the United States Championship

Right off the back, a big match.  For the casual fan, this is due to be a treat beyond treats.  For the indie fan, this is a dream match.  For people like us at L.E.W.D., this is two meals at the Varsity, a fresh roll of toilet paper and a second copy of Batman: Hush.  Translation: epic.

It’s no secret that Swatkowski and Good are two tremendous talents, and the idea of them doing battle is terrific, so the question isn’t whether or not it’ll be a good (no pun intended) match, but rather why put such a match in the pre-show?  Well, I wish I could tell you.  So I will.

Fact is we have to remember one thing: RVD is a part-timer.  That’s not to say that he shouldn’t hold a belt or have a feud, however.  He’s a 42 year old man who is noticeably slower than he was in his ECW/WWE prime, or even in his tenure with TNA (earlier on), but he is more than capable of putting on a great match and putting over good talent.  Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley (Jonathan Good)) need something to maintain some relevance as the focus on the Shield has taken a backseat to the Wyatt Family, and a bout with RVD is just what he needs.

There’s something else that’s special about this match: the title that’s on the line.  You can argue that the United States Championship is the spiritual successor of sorts to the ECW Championship, the belt that Rob Van Dam is almost notorious for.  Should he win come Sunday, he’ll have come full circle, and the series he and Ambrose can put on could result in a strong push for the unofficial leader of the mercenary group. 

As for predictions, I see RVD winning, but just barely.  Frankly it doesn’t matter who wins: WE win because it’s sure to be a damn fine match.

Natalya (with the Funkadactyls) vs. Brie Bella (with Eva Marie and Nikki Bella)

Say what you will about Total Divas: the show is a hit.  I like it.  Maybe you do too.  If anything I gained a new respect for most of the Divas, save for Natalya.  I’ve always significantly respected Natalya.  With the canon of the show, Natalya plays the role of the older sister who both does all she can to uplift her younger siblings and yet can’t get a break of her own to really shine.  The way she is on the show, you can’t help but feel for her.  Hell, even ?uestlove was feeling for her, and that man has better things to do than watch TV, like work on the new Roots album, or find a barber.

No hate, ?uest: I wanna fro like you when I grow up.  Anywho, part of me is surprised that it’s Brie Bella vs. Natalya as opposed to Nikki.  Nikki just comes across as more of a bitch, but what I anticipate is a fan favorite crowd response for Nattie as well as her carrying Brie through a lot of the match.  The Bellas are a decent enough pair of wrestlers, I suppose, but Natalya is a Hart: she’s got it in her blood, and I think she’s finally getting that push into being a contender for the title.  We can only hope.  As much as I love seeing AJ with those pigtails and short shorts, er, I mean with that belt, Natalya would bring some class to it, and straight laced prestige.

My prediction: Natalya wins via submission.  Don’t ask why.

Also, this serves as an extension of the show.  I find it harder and harder to say it breaks kayfabe, really.  It’s just as scripted as RAW or SmackDown! as far as I can tell.  That’s why the other four are there.  On another note, I can’t stand Eva Marie.  But I respect her.  Because she called out Jerry Lawler for looking at her a certain way and smacked him.  God bless you, unnatural red head.  God bless you.

Dolph Ziggler and Kaitlyn vs. Big E Langston and AJ Lee

First and foremost, shout out to that guy on Smackdown a week ago who screamed “AMY SCHUMER!” when Dolph Ziggler mentioned ex-girlfriends.  I haven’t laughed so hard at an ad-lib since someone tried to explain that Control was Big Sean’s song.  HA!  BWAHAHAHAHA!  That liar…

What we have here is your standard mixed tag match, and all the parties involved have one thing in common: AJ Lee.  Still.  Hard to imagine but she’s been in the forefront of a major story one way or another for months, and I dare say her rise from nothing to something has been as dynamic as Daniel Bryan’s.  Even now we have a sick kind of love (sic) angle shy of a Nujabes series.  Dolph is an ex.  Big E is a wild card.  Kaitlyn is a lesbian in fan fiction.  And AJ is just soaking up everything, playing the narcissistic woman with zero self-esteem, justifying her existence with that belt and the men she’s ran though (or should I say who’ve ran through HER?  HIYO!). 

But as a whole, I struggle to see the necessity of this match outside of putting together two feuds that could be split apart.  We have AJ and Kaitlyn still, but that’s lost a lot of focus and relevance.  Sure, it’s entertaining, but Kaitlyn is fighting for revenge and AJ is just fighting, playing the role of defense.  With Dolph and Big E, it’s an odd kind of mentor vs. student thing, but Big E’s role as AJ’s friend/Ziggler’s heavy has never been expounded upon outside of a hatred for Ziggler and a “I love her, I love her not” thing with AJ.  Sure, she’s cute, almost adorable, certainly desirable, but Big E himself still stands as little more than a big black guy with personality and a borderline painful-looking finisher. 

I’m not even sure what CAN be resolved with this match outside of a decent showing.  All four of them are impressive enough in the ring, so if nothing else it’ll be a solid exhibition, but as Bruce Lee said:

Kane vs. Bray Wyatt in a Ring of Fire match

Ooh baby, when’s the last time we have a match involving everyone’s favorite element fire?!

Let me wipe the drool from my mouth right quick.  Yes, the Devil’s Favorite Demon is taking on the Devourer of Worlds in a Ring of Fire match.  What does this mean?  It means the ring will be surrounded by fire, and the two will do battle.  As far as gimmicks go, this is the closest the WWE has gotten to blatant sacrilege in a while, and praise Jebus the Jew for that!  We need blatant sacrilege every once in a while, keeps up on our toes, keeps us focused.  The match itself is an extension of the still more or less undefined mugging that the Wyatts committed on Kane way back when, and this match likely serves as a way for Kane to lose his match, join the cult and give the Undertaker someone to challenge in due time, all the while reintroducing the dark, violent man that has been Kane on various occasions in the past.

But here’s the thing: this is a very “adult” storyline, if you can catch my meaning.  Not for the violence or the imagery or anything but because of the symbolism.  I compare it, ironically enough, to the song Hellfire from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Disney version.  As far as Disney songs go, it broke EVERY rule.  The song featured a judge (judge for the Disney movie, archdeacon for the traditional tale) who was essentially singing about a gypsy girl he was in lust with.  Lust in a Disney movie?  Not blatantly!  They usually do that in a subtle manner.

But lust, religious imagery, the mea culpa, fire, DEATH, the song covered it all.  It wasn’t just about his lust, or how evil the woman MADE him as opposed to how evil he himself was, but how he was asking God to either make the woman (kid by our standards, but this was 1400s) his, or give her up to the flame (Hell), all while begging for mercy for himself AND her.  It was deep, and frankly the sequence alone in the film was worth the price of admission.  Don’t let your kids see it though: they WILL be scared and confused.  But since I endorse scaring and confusing kids…

It’s all a big, metaphorical, je… never mind…

Sorry, I got a bit off topic.  I just enjoy that sequence.  As far as Kane and Bray go, it’ll be a welcome reintroduction to the man we once called Husky Harris, and I see him winning, thus dragging Kane into the Wyatt Family.  And yes, I WILL be playing this awesome song if Wyatt embraces Kane as a new disciple.

Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow

You can consider this a prequel for a World Heavyweight Championship match in a near future PPV.  And you can also be mad at the WWE for not being wholly consistent with Cody’s character.  At first he came across as a petty, whiny, sore loser who was wholly unjustified in how he was treating Sandow and his briefcase.  After last week, he ADMITTED that he was a petty, whiny, sore loser who was wholly unjustified in how he was treating Sandow and his briefcase, and to add insult to that he admitted that he would have done the same thing to Sandow if he was in his position.

You may wonder why I have an issue with this.  Simple: after admitting something like he did, his role in attacking Sandow becomes moot.  The idea of Rhodes taking the briefcase is ridiculous, and the notion of Sandow fighting Rhodes first and THEN cashing in adds filler, not content, to Sandow’s first World Heavyweight Championship reign.  Because he WILL win it.  It’s written in the stars, or at the very least MY stars. 

The saving grace is the match itself come Summerslam, which will be a good one, and will almost certainly result in a Rhodes win.  Why?  Just because.  If Sandow wins, which I doubt, the ultimate outcome will remain the same, and I’ll get to it in a little while.

Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio (c) for the World Heavyweight Championship

Let’s address the elephant in the room right now: this match is irrelevant.  Yes, irrelevant.  Completely and utterly.  Never mind my melancholy towards Del Rio or my disinterest with Christian: this match is little more than the equivalent of a place holder for the future title match between the above two.  Now, from a pure wrestling standpoint, this will be a MONSTER.  Seriously, it’ll be beautiful to watch.  Christian and Del Rio are two of the most gifted wrestling talents in the WWE, but one is nearing the end of his career I think and the other is… Del Rio. 

Nothing more to say about it.  The belt?  Who cares?  It’s the World Heavyweight Championship: it hasn’t had meaning for a while, and it’ll stay that way even after Del Rio wins.  Yes, I call Del Rio winning.  But therein lies that “ultimate outcome” I mentioned in the Rhodes v. Sandow match.  So long as Sandow can MOVE after that match, win or lose, and they do battle BEFORE Christian and Del Rio, I see him cashing in during the PPV.  Sandow will be loved as a hated fellow, Rhodes will be looked at as the man to take the belt from him, and MAYBE Del Rio will be thrown into a storyline that’ll make him worth a damn.

Perhaps.

We can only hope.

Meh.

CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman (and likely Curtis Axel))

The Best vs. the Beast.  How poetic.  How appropriate.  Or IS it?  Perhaps another indie favorite is making a solid claim as being “the best”.  But I digress.  It doesn’t matter who is the best.  Trying to determine who is stands as a fruitless test.  A worrisome quest.  In choosing one you neglect the rest.

I apologize: I was having fun at your “This guy is SO corny” expression’s expense.  The story is simple here: CM Punk wants revenge on Heyman.  Heyman chose Lesnar as his champion.  Punk turned one-track minded and stayed focused on trying to hurt Heyman.  Lesnar introduced Punk to a special variation of the F5 I refer to as the F.Y.L. F5, F.Y.L. standing for “f*** yo life”.

Honestly I think Lesnar really tries to hurt people in that ring.  Good for our visceral nature but bad for business.  In any case, this will probably be the second best match on the card, from both an in-ring perspective and a psychological perspective.  Punk is fighting like a man possessed and Lesnar is in his zone, doing what he does best: hurting people.  We like that.  We like it when Lesnar hurts people.  You hear that, WWE?  Resign Shannon Moore!

So here’s the truth regarding me: as fun as this match will be – and it WILL be fun – my only question is “What now?”.  I’m not sure who is set to win, but I’m leaning more towards Punk, because I don’t see HOW this story can progress from this point.  Including Axel is odd, but he’s the third Heyman Guy, and he’ll likely have a role, but it doesn’t answer my only question. 

I’m leaning toward Punk winning, beating Lesnar and Axel senseless, then turning his attention to Heyman, and afterwards getting back into the title hunt.  As I was telling the Right Reverend Showtime the other day, I have a feeling the CM Punk who looked at the new WWE Championship belt and said, “I want THAT one” would be VERY welcome once this feud was over.  And it could culminate in my dream main event for Wrestlemania XXX.  Ah, dreaming…

Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena (c) for the WWE Championship (with Triple H as Guest Referee)

Here it is.  The big one.  The granddaddy of matches this Sunday.  Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena.  What can I say that hasn’t in some way already been said?  It’s the wrestler’s wrestler vs. the sports entertainer’s superman.  We’ve seen promo after promo, funny shirts, a few puns, even a brief appearance by Heel Cena (also known as Jerk Cena, also known as the Dick) and now we even have Triple H as the guest ref. 

Why?  Because.  Because why?  You’re asking too many questions.  Don’t get me wrong: I don’t like him being a part of the match, but with McMahon being a part of the Bryan v. Barrett match on SmackDown! the ref position is “justified”.  Like I’ve said, and will say in a piece that’ll probably be up just before the PPV starts, the McMahon power struggle is a grand storyline that’ll likely end with McMahon being ejected from being the primary figurehead seen on TV.  Don’t ask me about it here, wait until the other piece comes up. 

As for the match, it’s going to be interesting.  Note: interesting.  Good?  Yes.  Great?  Likely.  Epic?  Perhaps.  Five stars?  Remains to be seen.  At the end of the day we have a man who stands as today’s Hogan and a man who would shine the best against someone like Kurt Angle, or the man with no name himself, Chris Benoit.  That triple threat match would have been incredible.  But c’est la vie: it’s impossible now.  Stupid Angle drinking and getting caught…

Now, let’s address some wild cards.  First: Randy Orton.  I don’t know WHY they’re making him out to be this boogeyman, but that’s all he is right now.  He’s constantly reminding Bryan and Cena that he’s there, and in true buzzard fashion he WILL likely swoop in on the victor when they’re out, and… lose.  Well no, that’s not quite right.  I’ll get to that later.

Second: Wade Barrett.  Remember the McMahon power struggle story and how Vince said he didn’t want Cena OR Bryan to hold the belt.  His vision of a Superstar isn’t Orton either though: he’s too lean.  But who stands as big, muscular, clean cut and constantly angry?  Wade Barrett.  Who MIGHT be finally getting his chance to shine.  The hell with a title, I’m happy to just see him pursue it actively.  As I’ve said: I think he’s the most deserving guy on the roster for a title opportunity/run. 

Finally, who I see winning.  This… is a hard one.  There’s what I WANT to happen, what I THINK will happen and what I think is BEST.  They aren’t all the same.  What I THINK will happen is John Cena winning via help from McMahon, but it’s a ludicrous notion too.  It would be further heel momentum for McMahon, confusion for Cena who wouldn’t accept anything like assistance (see: Money in the Bank 2011), and even MORE support for Bryan, who is already dazzling hot (you see what I did there?) as it is.  But what I THINK will happen means little, because I don’t have much faith in that.

What I WANT to happen is even more ludicrous.  I want Bryan to be the first one to make Cena tap.  Only two people in the history of the WWE come to mind when it comes to never tapping out: Hogan and Cena, but there is a third.  Cena would be embarrassed beyond belief, Bryan would be champ, Orton would attempt to cash in AND Bryan would make Orton the second person to cash in AND lose.  That would make me happier than some quality alone time with Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman on a deserted island.

I take that back: that would NOT make me happier than some quality alone time with Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman on a deserted island, but it would come about as close as… forty miles.  Nautical miles.  On foot.

Then, there’s what I think would be BEST.  And this is subjective, I have no problem saying it.  Daniel would win, and he’d force Cena into a position that the third was in.  Cena wouldn’t tap: he’d pass out.  Cena would pull a Stone Cold Steve Austin.  Daniel would get his props, Cena would maintain his respect, and Orton… would stay in the shadows.  He’d strike later, on another day, at another PPV, and be a sneaky son of a bitch as a feud between Barrett and Bryan took the spotlight and Cena took some time off.  That would be fun too.

Well, loyal random interwebz vagabond, those are my predictions and whatnot.  Hope you enjoy the PPV as much as I think I’m going to.  Sleep tight.  Blee.


WWE Money in the Bank 2013: Want vs. Will

WWE Money In The Bank

Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It is prediction time for this year’s installment of the WWE’s Money In The Bank.  This time, I am not only asking you who do you think will win, but who do you want to win as well.  This way, we can see how predictable things may be, but is predictability actually what people want…  With that said, let’s get to the card:

MITB John Cena vs. Mark Henry

Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

MITB Ziggler vs. Del Rio

Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

MITB All-Stars

Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

MITB WHC Contract Match

Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

MITB The Miz vs. Axel

Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

MITB AJ vs. Kaitlyn

Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

MITB Jericho vs. Ryback

Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

MITB Shield vs. Usos

Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to express them!


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!


Sin Esperanza: The Seriously Saddening Story of Sin Cara

WWE Superstar Sin Cara | Photo © 2013 WWE Inc. All Rights Reserved.

WWE Superstar Sin Cara | Photo © 2013 WWE Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Breathtaking …”

That was the exact word I used when I first laid eyes on Sin Cara.  It was Monday night, April 4, 2011 when I was seated next to the Rt. Rev. Showtime in Phillips Arena here in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Rt. Rev. purchased tickets for us to see the post-WrestleMania XVII episode of Monday Night RAW live.  That night the crowd was pumped from the previous night’s wrestling spectacle and extravaganza held in the Georgia Dome.

During the show that night, then United States Champion Sheamus scored a victory over Daniel Bryan and proceeded to pummel him further after the conclusion of the match.  With only his music as an introduction, Sin Cara appeared on the stage and sprinted down the ramp to confront the champion.

Sin Cara scored a few moves and managed to knock Sheamus to the apron and off of it.  The star then mounted a turnbuckle and soared through the air with a diving crossbody, landing on Sheamus and making an immediate impact on his debut:

I remember sitting there, mouth agape and thinking, “Wow!”  I was truly rendered speechless; time literally seemed to slow down as Sin Cara gracefully flew through the air with the greatest of ease.   I knew for a fact that he would electrify the fans for years to come, eventually receiving the torch from beloved Mexican WWE Superstar Rey Mysterio to serve as the company’s future crossover Lucha Libre sensation.

Up until that point the company spent tons of money and television spots advertising the debut of a new, masked Mexican superstar.  This wrestler, renowned around the world and revered in his home country, was set to bring his unique talents and skills to WWE.  The promos and video packages were exceptional, and I for one was excited to see this new wrestler debut with the promotion.

Unbeknownst to me and others at the time, however, the advertising and hype would eventually prove itself worthy of serving as a clever facade capable of hiding the true Sin Cara character, a mask that worked as well as the stylized one concealing his true identity.

Sin Cara arrived in WWE as one of the first talents signed under Paul Levesque’s watch as Vice President of Talent Relations.  He initially appeared to represent a drastic change in the way WWE evaluated and hired wrestlers to groom as future superstars.  The fact that the company hired a luchador amid the large hulking and semi-immobile behemoths WWE is known for courting suggested a much needed infusion of new blood in the company’s uninspired roster.

Already having some acclaim in Mexico, Japan and China as Mistico, there was hope that this unique character would excite the company’s global audience and appeal to their Latino demographic in the same way as Rey Mysterio.  It was very obvious that the company was positioning him to be the new Rey Mysterio as the former WCW star slowly entered the twilight of his career after suffering numerous injuries and personal setbacks.

Sin Cara as Mistico.

Sin Cara as Mistico.

With an extremely large amount of potential energy surging behind him, Sin Cara exploded onto the scene immediately with the daunting task of “getting over” as quickly as he could.  Ironically enough a botched entrance on that fateful April night in 2011 would be an omen of sorts that would describe his entire WWE career to date.

The Lucha Libre style of pro wrestling developed in Spanish speaking countries and embodies a culture of its own that is too storied and detailed to describe in this piece.  The hallmark and most identifying feature of this style are the high-flying, high-risk aerial maneuvers performed by the wrestlers.  The ring psychology of this style rests in lightning fast strikes and dizzying maneuvers that confuse, frustrate and leave opponents disoriented.

Instead of relying on power and strength, most Lucha stars use their agility and speed to land stunning blows to their opponent’s head and legs.  Attacks to the body are minimal, leaving luchadors to work at softening their opponents with rapid blows to specific areas (the head, thighs or knees).  A luchador’s finish typically involves a devastating blow to the head or aerial maneuver that serves as the exclamation point to an incredibly action-packed, fast paced match.

Sin Cara brought this same style with him to WWE but was brought up to the main roster without making the necessary standard two year stay in Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW).  Without that stay Sin Cara didn’t have the opportunity to learn the “WWE style” or adapt elements of his Lucha style to that style, causing a disconnect between the Sin Cara character and the American fans in the United States, the company’s primary demographic in its “global audience.”

The company recognized this shortcoming early and perhaps even prepared for it upon his arrival.  Special lighting was used during all his matches (and is still used today) and he was paired with opponents familiar with the Lucha style.  A few of his first matches and feuds involved Chavo Guerrero and Primo and Epico Colón.   Interweaved in between were high-profile matches and partnerships that involved John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Jack Swagger, Cody Rhodes, The Miz and Ted DiBiase.

Sin Cara also gained a spot in the 2011 Money in the Bank Ladder match, but was unsuccessful in his attempt to receive a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship.  In that same match Sin Cara was “injured,” as a quiet way of being removed from television for his first violation of the company’s Wellness Policy.

When he returned a feud was ready for him with imposter Sin Cara Negro (portrayed by fellow Lucha wrestler Hunico).  This feud was short-lived as the real Sin Cara suffered a legitimate injury in November 2011 that sidelined him for six months.

He returned in May 2012 and began teaming with Rey Mysterio in a series of matches, most of which were designed to reinvigorate the tag team division.  Mysterio would serve as the storyline and real life mentor of Sin Cara, but the two would fall short of their tag team championship goals.  Once again Sin Cara suffered an injury that would place him on the shelf in December 2012 for one month.

sincara_3_fullHe returned in January 2013 at the Royal Rumble pay per view and was used sparingly for two months.   More injuries kept him out of action until May 2013, where he returned to a nice and comfortable spot in the undercard and remains there at the time of this writing.

To that extent, Sin Cara is officially a lame duck in the WWE hierarchy of superstars.

With only two years in WWE under his mask, Sin Cara appears to be one of the fruits that have fallen far from the WWE Tree of Destiny.  He’s more known and celebrated for botching moves/matches than he is for breathtaking moments and jaw-dropping athleticism.  No one questions why he does the job for matches when he should be planted firmly in the upper mid-card.  No one missed Sin Cara when he was off of television; his returns receive no fanfare and the commentators seem unenthusiastic about his abilities and presence.

In a match against Damien Sandow on Wednesday’s episode of Main Event, even Sin Cara’s body language seemed to be that of a man defeated, a depressed and sterile shell of what once housed limitless potential.    Sin Cara no longer embodies the hope of a superstar destined to take our breath away; he’s become the laughing stock of smart fans and an afterthought to a generation that’s content with the same old predictable product.

Contrary to popular thought, Sin Cara is more of a victim in this series of unfortunate events than he is the deserving subject of ridicule and apathy.  Sin Cara was set up to fail from the very beginning.

WWE’s developmental territory and “system” at this point in time is a necessary evil.  The entire process of hiring a potential superstar is designed in a frustratingly precise way to achieve an insanely specific result.  The very style the wrestlers learn is specific to WWE, and even if a wrestler brings a distinct style to the table it is altered to suit WWE audiences.

By allowing (or forcing) Sin Cara to bypass this crucial step in his WWE career, the company inevitably forced him to work a style familiar to him for an audience largely ignorant of anything outside of WWE.  At the time Sin Cara was also limited in the opponents he could work with that meshed favorably with his style.  This would account for his frequent “botching,” messing up moves with opponents because either his or his opponent’s timing in the ring was off.  There was also speculation that Sin Cara spoke very little English upon his arrival in the company, which would naturally lead to miscommunication with opponents in the ring.

His first Wellness Policy violation, as well as a string of injuries, also hindered his growth in the ring.  The stop-and-go pace of his journey caused continuous gaps in his rise to the top, which was only confounded by the back-to-back occurrence of these events.  A substantial program between Sin Cara and a credible opponent could not be established because of his time off; he also avoided being placed in serious title contentions for the same reason.

Sin Cara was also not allowed time to speak, forcing him to convey emotion through his body language.  Further pressure was placed on his body language due to his face being completely hidden by his mask.  While this is not a bad thing for promotions that make wrestling a priority (such as in Mexico or Japan), it becomes a MASSIVE albatross around his neck within a promotion that emphasizes microphone skills and charisma.  Even with an impressive array of moves and maneuvers, he lacked the knowledge to piece those moves and maneuvers together in a way that invites WWE fans to invest in the character.

The final product in most instances was a dull, lifeless character that moved from one spot to the next with no story told in between spots.

Sin Cara was rarely, if at all, allowed promo time, and the number of hype videos and vignettes featuring him declined over time.  His best pairing over time was with Rey Mysterio, a union that showed some progress for his character but was snuffed almost in the blink of an eye.

Because of these things the fans never really got behind him and he slowly turned into one big punch line in a never ending joke.  He became ridiculed for his mistakes more than he was appreciated for his work.  When his work improved fans were silent about his progress and stayed mired in the filth of reminding others of their own personal ill-informed opinion of him.

To make matters worse the smart fans began to blame him for being the “colossal failure” many believed him to be.  Without fan support or reaction from the American crowds, Sin Cara was placed on the back burner as attention was given to more rousing and exciting characters.  From this perspective there should be no wonder as to why he wrestles with no purpose or reason for being in WWE; he is currently the only superstar most fans have no issue with watching lose a match consistently.

This is quite possibly the worst form of Hell a wrestler can exist in: being relegated to working in a less than desirable position while being intentionally kept in your company to serve a purpose other than the one you were originally hired for.

There is an often used phrase about abandoning hope at a certain point of no return; it’s safe to say that if this is where Sin Cara currently resides, he would be extremely lucky to have a penny with a hole in it … (see what I did there?)

WWE Superstars Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

WWE Superstars Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara. | Photo © 2013 WWE, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sunny days could be in store for Sin Cara, however; depending on how you look at those bright skies could mean the difference between seeing a renewed Mexican luchador or a man liberated from the oppressive gray skies of WWE.

Perhaps there’s truth to the signing of luchadors Amazing Red and Samuray Del Sol; WWE Superstar Hunico, who is an amazing talent and highly prized by WWE, has recently returned to the company after an injury.  Rey Mysterio will eventually begin his last run in the company, and must pass his torch to another Latin American performer.  Alberto Del Rio has already alluded to retiring in a few years and Ricardo Rodriguez is positioned to be a perennial manager of lackey.

Point being the door is wide open for Sin Cara to make a statement if he earnestly wants to do so.  What that statement will be, however, remains to be seen and heard; whatever he decides to do will determine the fate of his WWE legacy, either launching his name high into the upper echelon of amazingly gifted stars to perform for the WWE, or send him spiraling into an abyss of damnation and irrelevance with the likes of Braden Walker, Hade Vansen, Colin Delaney and Arthur Rosenberg.

All is not completely lost for Sin Cara.  The faceless luchador from Mexico can prove his worth, but he has to be the one to take the first step towards redeeming his name.  For Sin Cara the conversation isn’t about hope; it’s about determination and pride.   In some way, even while bearing the load of a mountain of losses, habitual mistakes and repeated injuries on his back, Sin Cara could rise from his trials and tribulations as a standout star in a WWE Sea filled with forgettable countenances.

The moment that happens, you can be guaranteed that one way or another we’ll all be left stunned in our seats gasping for air.

06_SINC_09042012sb_0006

 

 


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ash and Sheamus

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rallo No Like Zig2

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

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

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

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

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

What a difference a day makes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However…something does seem a tad big fishy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryback and Cena

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

 


WrestleMania XXIX Preview and Predictions

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.


The Curious Case of April Mendez: Queen of Sanity

You know, looking at her head on like this… she kinda looks like Melina…

What was it I said back when AJ was simply known as “Daniel Bryan’s manager”?  Oh yeah: “She’s cute, but I can’t say what I really want to because she CAN’T be legal.”  Yes, she was a bubbly thing of freshman innocence and barely legal physique, but there was something undeniable about her appeal as well.  Maybe it was her smile.  Maybe it was her obsessive traits.  Maybe it was because the chick was crazy, and as we all know because of this saying that I paraphrase from a Mr. Peter Ian Staker: “Crazy chicks do it better.”

I guess that’s true, whatever “it” is.  I have theories.  Maybe “it” is sports.  AJ is a rather athletic little imp.  Maybe “it” is collecting nerd things.  AJ is something of a video game nerd, a real geek as it were.  God bless the population of gamers that look that good and act that crazy.  Gives this heavy gaming geek hope he hasn’t had since Zoe Saldana broke it off with Keith Britton.  Sure, she’s with Bradley Cooper now but I have hope.  Let’s start this hashtag and get something started: #BoycottBradleyCooper.

Then, at the end of the day, maybe it’s just that she has a magnetic appeal that draws people in.  Maybe that “it” is sheer appeal.  Or straight sex, I don’t know.  But when her power pop music hits and her brightly colored Titantron intro begins, the crowd cheers.  When she skips out from backstage, with her usually tight midriff shirt, impossibly short short-shorts and Converse sneakers, we get that warm feeling along the lines of what Leopold Bloom had in The Producers.  Max Bialystock called it an erection… or Malaria… not that it matters: there’s a shot for everything these days.

And in complete transparency, I have to say that I love the character of AJ Lee.  I love how she rose from being Daniel Bryan’s latest conquest to being the leading woman in the company (arguably sports entertainment (that’s a post for another day)).  I love seeing her come out week after week, from the position of manager to the position of lunatic to the position of power to the position she is in now.  And much like our friend Bryan Danielson, her story is a curious one.  It literally is a story that extends as far back as NXT, Season 3, where she was the rookie to Primo, of all people.  This is my confession: I did NOT watch NXT Season 3 that much at all.

I know it doesn’t really help my “Women’s wrestling is valid!” argument (another post for another day) but I just didn’t care.  My feelings towards NXT were lacking because it wasn’t what it is now.  This lends to the issue of expectation, but I appreciated what it was even then, just didn’t care to watch it.  Season one of the program had Wade Barrett win and shortly after the Nexus came into existence, as well as the rise of Daniel Bryan (funny how these things connect).  Season two featured Kaval, aka Low Ki, aka that guy whose racial makeup is harder to read than Vin Diesel’s, win and, subsequently, get let go.  That guy Alex Riley was there too.  Great how that worked out.  It’s really something when your greatest claim to WWE fame is getting thrown into a wall by the Big Show.

By the time Season three came along I was really “meh” about NXT.  I watched two episodes, saw Naomi kicking serious buttocks, and just assumed everything would end up copasetic.  End of the day, Kaitlyn won – to my surprise – and outside of Jaime the women all had futures in the WWE.  Just to jog your memory, these women are: Kaitlyn, Naomi, A.J., Aksana and Maxine.  You may be wondering to yourself what they’re all doing now.  Well here’s the short form:

Kaitlyn is wrestling at the top of the Divas division right now, a stark contrast to most of the Divas in that she doesn’t come out as a sex object so much as a violent tank of a woman (I like that).  Naomi is paired with Cameron as a Funkadactyl, dancing for Brodus Clay and touching her cohort’s behind with her own (I like that too).  Aksana went through a bout as Teddy Long’s love interest, which was bizarre and unnecessary, but mostly bizarre and mildly amusing as old sexual innuendos are smile worthy, not guffaw worthy.  Maxine was paired with Johnny Curtis, and that’s all that needs to be said about that.  She was released and she most definitely will NOT be Fandango’s dance partner, if you catch my meaning.

And then there’s A.J.  She was paired with Kaitlyn and they were thrown into the tag team fray, one representing power, one representing speed (I’m assuming).  Prior to all of this she was FCW, had the title but gave it up to Rosa Mendes.  That should have been mentioned earlier but I don’t do traditional rules of literary form.  Anyway, paired with Kaitlyn, the team known as the Chickbusters tried to do damage to the tag team division, but kept getting damaged in return by the Divas of Doom (Beth Phoenix and Natalya), a team that was unfair in every conceivable way.  After getting repeatedly beaten up, A.J. focused on a new prize: the then-James Bond of WWE Superstars, former World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan.  Like I said, funny how these things interrelate, eh?

So as some of us pondered on what Jay Lethal was thinking as A.J. was slobbing down his old tag team partner, we saw the dark fall of Daniel Bryan, and A.J.’s degradation as a result.  With Wrestlemania and the 19.3 second loss Bryan suffered, the degradation began to affect A.J. parallel to Bryan.  As he went through his denial of losing the title and began to long process of growing his beard to Bunyan proportions, A.J. was going through the denial of being dumped and, you could argue, was feeding off of the cruelty that was Daniel Bryan’s entertaining anger.  Superstars and Divas alike attempted to calm her.  Her reactions to that comfort ranged from mild to extreme, and the further we went down the line the harsher she was.  She noticeably smacked NXT Season 3 winner Kaitlyn, twice, but the second time came much later.

This was around the time of the turning point, where A.J. advanced from sympathetic jilted sidepiece to sexy violent jilted sidepiece.  Before Wrestlemania the Big Show served as the catalyst to Bryan’s true “feelings” towards A.J. and it became clearer and clearer before TRULY culminating in A.J.’s straight demolition of Kaitlyn.  An amused Daniel Bryan went to the ring following A.J.’s furious assault and further berated the woman who claimed to still hold a torch for him.  Introducing Crazy A.J., who went from cute and bubbly to “Oh my, it appears I’ve been struck with a rigor mortis in my….”  Well, you get the idea.

With this new crazy (as well as sexy (not necessarily cool)) A.J.’s affections turned to the WWE Champion CM Punk.  I remember the first words I said when she cried around him and stopped as suddenly as she began….

Because, of course, I had grown invested in the character at this point, and like an underwhelming episode episode of Days of Our Lives.  I looked at CM Punk the way I would Chad DiMera, confused and questioning the world at large following a major revelation when here comes that bitch Abby Deveraux ready to screw up everything with her… uh…

She seduced CM Punk who famously “digs crazy chicks”, and shortly after Kane was brought into the fray.  Remember this, reader, because it comes back later.  Daniel Bryan began to show signs of jealousy and he and Punk feuded, and then Kane feuded, and as the WWE Championship was being pursued by two new upstarts there was a curious thing going on: A.J.  She was the center of everything, with Punk’s growing attraction to her at one point, Bryan’s confused feelings for her at another, and Kane’s recovering memory of what lust for a living teenager woman feels like at another.  Who was the point of that triangulation though?

I used this pic because it resembles one of my goddess Mya. I love Mya…

She locked lips with the whole of them, Bryan before, Punk later, Kane most humorously as it led him to tag himself out of a match and probably go to the back for a date with Pamela Handerson.  Then everything became about A.J. first and that belt second.  This was when Punk was still an underappreciated face, Bryan was slowly coming around to face territory and Kane was… well, Kane was, as he always is: Kane.  After a while, A.J.’s popularity reached skyrocketing status, and prior to the 1000th episode of RAW, Bryan had made a full turnout to sympathetic face territory.  Punk was slowly going towards heel territory and Kane was, as he always is: Kane.  This, of course, led to the proposal and, subsequently, the wedding on that aforementioned episode.  This was the proposal of Bryan to A.J. mind you, not the one from A.J. to Punk before.  Lunacy was running rampant.  Anyway Reverend Slick, in all his greatness, led us to the most light hearted wedding we’ve seen in the WWE since Kane made a habit out of a assaulting religious figures.  It was nice, it featured the sexy nymph in her Converses even as she skipped out in a wedding dress and…

She said no.  Forget the fact that Daniel Bryan was about to make that word as great as it is now following his successful campaign to make “Yes” Webster’s word of the decade, the fact was that A.J. was about to do what no Diva had done and take over a show.  McMahon came out and introduced the new general manager of RAW: A.J. Lee.  As she left the ring, doing the infamous “Yes!” chant her now ex-fiancé popularized (this was the birth of Daniel Bryan’s equally awesome “No!” chant and tantrum) we could see that a new era had begun.  And only so soon after Johnny Ace introduced People Power too.  At least the new unnamed era of A.J. Lee was easy on the eyes.  She has the touch.

A.J. began to run RAW with a cute, iron fist.  Bryan was reprimanded for his cruel behavior to her and committed (remember how we all wondered about the orderlies on episode 1000?) and Kane was sent to help.  Punk gained a new enemy following a heel turn and began to taunt A.J. with expanded definitions of “best in the world”, if you catch my meaning.  Sure, it was funny.  We all miss the segments with Dr. Shelby and the oh-so-awesome Harold, but it was still all about A.J.  As she ruled backstage and the like, we saw her begin to break down little by little in her finest corporate attire, a look she managed to pull off better than Eve in my opinion.  Eventually it became a little uninteresting to follow, and eventually it turned to Vickie Guerrero to challenge A.J. and constantly refer to her as “little girl”.  By this point I had put aside my underage jokes too so I didn’t find it to be amusing.  And, because I’ve skipped a few minor elements to get to this point, eventually Vickie began a campaign of her own to remove A.J. from power and become the new GM in the same way she wanted to run Smackdown.  This brings us up to her firing from the position of general manager, Vickie’s rise as an emperor to the WWE shogunate.

Oh, and John Cena is involved too.  That’s nice, I guess.

Now back in the Diva role, A.J. is still doing something spectacular, and that’s pushing along what has the potential to be a truly compelling story.  Ultimately what she’s pushing forward is the rise of Dolph Ziggler, which began as a proxy from Vickie’s ambitions and Cena’s unnecessary (at least I think so) inclusion.  Short form: A.J. lost her position because of an alleged affair with John Cena, and now Ziggler is involved because Vickie wouldn’t let up.  The latest real culmination was a backstage brawl that featured Ziggler nearly murder Cena by putting him into and thus through bathroom stalls.  To quote that school therapist from ‘Til Death: “It’s pretty awesome.”

But despite that, let’s look at what’s really interesting here: A.J. is once again leading something of a triangle.  The original was Punk, Bryan and Kane, all fighting for her attention and prepubescent body, NO!  Bad DiZ, no more jokes like that, stop it!  What I mean to say is that they were all attracted to her completely legal persona.  This time we have Cena, Ziggler and, surprisingly enough, Guerrero.  Walk with me as I get into this.

Point one.  It started with Vickie Guerrero.  She’s on a standard power trip but her consistent use of the term “little girl” when referring to A.J. spells blatant jealousy as well.  The necklace she wears, “Cougar”, would normally imply a kind of acceptance or admiration of her age and personal sex appeal but the constant booing from the audience, booing that drowns out everything and sounds louder than almost ANYTHING that the WWE can generate right now, is a definite deterrent to that confidence that she exudes when she comes out.  A.J., on the other hand, is almost on the completely opposite end of the scale, from her physical appearance to her personality.  Whereas Vickie is thick (in a good way, mind you), A.J. is VERY slender, if athletic.  Vickie is in her mid forties whereas A.J. is a spry twentysomething.

At the same time, Vickie could and likely DOES see similar elements of herself in A.J.  The most obvious thing might be the vengeful attitude they both share.  It comes across differently, with Vickie being a bit of a deceptive sort and A.J. being the type to preserve her anger until it explodes, but they share the same kind of mean streak that manifests in SOMEBODY getting messed up royally.  You could also say their desire for men is similar, with both of them going above and beyond their stations as managers to achieve their goals and help their Y chromosomed companions win or maintain their championships or chances thereof.  For Vickie the clear reference is Dolph Ziggler, her longtime “client” whom she has a physical attraction to and has made clear implications to being attracted to, arguably under the guise of maintaining his Money in the Bank briefcase (kind of like the second female voice in Saints Row the Third, who wants to do things to Pierce that I highly doubt are legal outside of Bangkok or Mongolia).  A.J., on the other hand, had Daniel Bryan before, the World Heavyweight Champion, who went further and further down the path of villainy.  A.J. stuck by him before it, during it and after he dumped her, and made any effort she could to maintain that championship run in her man, past, present and future.  Did it not continue with her relationship with CM Punk?

Finally, they are both of Hispanic origins.  I’d make a comment about how they’re both dangerously hot headed, but that would be racist.  And I’m not racist: I drive a Prius.  Wait… no, I mean… damn that The New Adventures of Old Christine logic.  Damn that Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her fine ass…

Point two.  The second person to be introduced into the arc was technically John Cena.  At this point John Cena doesn’t need an introduction or a rationale: he’s John Cena.  He comes out and cuts a promo and there is guaranteed money.  What his inclusion into this story means is likely (A) a result of his aging, (B) utilizing him to put other stars over, or (C) just because.  An affair with John Cena seems to have some element of validity with the sports entertainment world, I don’t know, look at the whole Cena-Ryder-Eve mess from way back (which I CALLED!).  Cena was accused of having an affair with A.J.  He seems to play second fiddle to everyone else involved right now though.  He’s the straight man, the one who wonders aloud what he’s doing and tries to play the good guy despite the temptations around him.  Despite Vickie’s accusations he tries to merely deny them.  Despite A.J.’s advances now he tries to merely remain professional.  His focus, as usual, is on the man standing opposite him in the ring in all his sweaty goodness.  Before you think it: yes, I do think John Cena is a major gay icon.  You know, in the same vein as Madonna, who isn’t gay herself, but has a TREMENDOUS gay following.  Just saying: you got a kid six, seven years old, watches John Cena every week, don’t be surprised if he’s bringing home a male cheerleader for dinner ten years later.  Yeah, I said it.

John Cena also plays the role of the knight in shining armor, the man who protects the damsel in distress (A.J.) and fights the dragon (Ziggler) and the evil witch (Guerrero) for the sake of it being the right thing to do, not anything else.  But despite all this he’s human, and on one hand he attempts to appease the dark forces by actually indulging in the very thing he’s criticized for.  Does he look like he enjoys it?  Not when he initiates it.  Why?  Because he was just making a point.  But when the other side of that fence initiates it, well, it’s a different story.  With a healthy dose of plausible deniability towards beginning a PDA with a co-worker, he indulges, so long as he didn’t start it.  It’s similar to how he was with Eve so long ago.  Remember: he didn’t kiss Eve.  Eve kissed him.  Otherwise his focus was on protecting Eve and Zack from the villainous Dark Lord of the Sith Kane.  But he was kissed, and as a result, when Zack went to the ring to confront him, who came across as the innocent one, even as he stepped to his sidekick as if he was the enemy?  That’s right…

Point three.  The real focus, the man of the hour, Mr. Money in the Bank himself, Dolph Ziggler.  You could make a case that his inclusion into the storyline revolves, in the beginning, around his protection of his manager.  Soon after it becomes an attack on A.J.’s life and personality, even accusations about her motives and intentions.  That’s part of what made the culmination of his and Cena’s brief backstage brawl so compelling.  Recall how it began.  Ziggler made an assumption that A.J. was thinking about him when she was kissing Cena (because it’s PG we can’t say when they’re doodling each other’s no-no regions (remember: it’s the Attitude Adjustment in the ring, the FU in the boudoir)) and Cena, being the boy scout that he was, went to defend the lady’s honor, or get revenge for his “girlfriend” with a Forrest Gump type of focus.  Either way, he ended up messed up.

But Ziggler’s role in this triangle is the most interesting of them all.  When A.J. burst into the men’s locker room and confronted Ziggler, I found it almost divine that he went off on her the way he did.  It wasn’t loud, it wasn’t extra, it was straight up and, in a way, empowering.  April Mendez’s circumstances in life were bad, this is true, and implanting them into a WWE storyline is a questionable tactic, but we watch for the character versus the person behind them, even though oftentimes they blend, something we’ve seen with CM Punk’s family being utilized in his feud with Chris Jericho, or Jerry Lawler’s recently deceased mother when he was feuding with Michael Cole.

We also have to look at what Ziggler he said on both sides of his argument about A.J., berating her in one instance and almost joyously claiming to be the object of her desires in another.  A solid heel tactic, it also shows us Dolph’s confusion towards the woman, likely being just as disgusted by her as he is attracted to her.  What began as a two-sided conflict between Cena and Ziggler over the attack and defense of Vickie’s accusations, respectively, turned into a three-pronged assault for A.J.’s eye following Ziggler’s grand standing statement of “She’s thinking about ME!”  Like I said, normally this would just be a common heel tactic.  When A.J. is involved it becomes a question along the same vein of Lupe Fiasco as Michael Young History: “‘Do I love her?’  Said, ‘I don’t know…'”

Ziggler’s character is that of a big time chauvinist and ego maniac.  What he said to and about A.J. was harsh, enough to spawn a rough silence even in the audience, but behind what seemed like a damning serious of accusations (which, again, were translated into PG territory) was a scary subliminal message of “Do better!”.  As a person, mind you, a character.  When I watched Ziggler and A.J. in that segment, I didn’t get the sense that I was watching a man with an inflated ego talk down to a woman trying to get answers for her friend.  I got the sense that I was watching a concerned elder brother deliver tough love to a troubled younger sister unable to see – or acknowledge – her faults.

It’s weird.  Of course saying brother and sister is a bit of a stretch, but it does paint Ziggler as a more well rounded figure as opposed to just being an asshole (sidenote: Bully Ray is more of an asshole than Mr. Anderson according to Aaron James, Ph.D).  He represents the stark reality of who A.J. just may be.  He’s on the rise to greatness in this company, and it’s great to see his character is more than just a heel with an overactive ego.

But who is at the center?  A.J.  Again.  To make it even stronger, she’s in the center of a storyline with John Cena being a part of it.  That’s like having a Wrestlemania match with the Undertaker* in terms of prestige.  Seeing the two in the ring together, sharing a kiss, I couldn’t help but think about that Cena-Ryder-Kane-Eve storyline that took place so long ago.  As great as that storyline could have been it was ruined by the payoff that was Eve’s “revelation” of using Ryder and Cena for prestige, grandeur, greatness and possibly physical pleasure.  If anything you could argue that SHE was Kane’s protégé the entire time, or the Amanda to Kane’s John Kramer, if you will.  It makes me wonder about A.J.

That’s the second major point of the curious case of April Mendez.  If the first is that she forms triangles around her, the second is a question of her ultimate intentions.  While the kiss with Cena physically resembled the infamous Suddenly (as sung by Billy Ocean) moment with Eve, the cold-blooded words from Ziggler got the cogs in my head turning.  “What does A.J. Lee really want?”  She went from tag team Diva, to Bryan’s latest conquest (maybe it was SHE who invented “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!”, if you know what I mean), to main event symbol of attraction, to general manager, to sharing the spotlight with John Cena.  That’s arguably a step up in power each time.

What does this have to do with Eve?  Eve lusted after power, and she went from top Diva to Ryder’s reason for plunking his twanger to Cena’s fleeting but significant snake charmer, to being Johnny Ace’s head administrator, and yes, I have to admit that it sounds really sexualized but that last part was her official title.  She rose in strength, and last I checked she was Divas’s Champion, again, after a bit as Teddy Long’s assistant.

I say they ruined that storyline with Eve the second they had her reveal her intentions; Cena overhearing was just icing on the nasty cake.  If A.J. is supposed to have some kind of dark element or egomaniacal intentions to her, it can work because she’s believable as a long-term planner.  Eve seemed to use, of all people, Zack Ryder, and John Cena was thrown in later as some kind of twisted “big brother” to the man who made wheelchair violence seem funny.  A.J. can come across as vindictive and sympathetic, and all the while everything can seem organic with her.  If she does turn out to be doing all she’s doing, forming these triangles and such for her own advancement, would it seem wrong?  Would she not have motive and proper motivation?  What if she was really just crazy?  What if she really did just jump from guy to guy because she liked the attention?

This is what makes A.J. Lee such a curious case.  She’s the girl next door but she’s so impossibly believable too.  How can you not love her bubbly personality and, if I am to paraphrase Rich Boy: “Dat ass”?  April Mendez, in all her wonder, is at the top of her game right now, and this is completely unrelated, but she’s not too too bad in the ring either.  All that in mind, I look forward to what’s next for April Mendez, aka A.J. Lee.  She’s the queen of the crazy in the WWE.  The queen of sanity.

Oh, and just because I’m feeling nice, here’s a John Laurinaitis promo:

* denotes hyperbole, exaggeration or drunken assertions


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

Gary always knows how to cheer us up around here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That type of wrestling brings back memories…

Disciples of Apocalypse

Los Boricuas

Nation of Domination

And people said they wanted the Attitude Era back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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